Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Talk About...5 Things Concerning "Gone Girl"

Ever since seeing the much buzzed about and highly acclaimed “Gone Girl”, there were some lingering issues that stood out, negatively affecting the film’s quality, including when compared to other movies. In Eclectic Pop’s review there were limits for how detailed the criticisms could be. Hence this companion piece which digs into spoiler territory and lists 5 specific things that, personally, hindered the movie. The following article contains spoilers about “Gone Girl”, “Malice” and “To Die For”.

#5 The Whispering: Maybe it was the sound mixing or an overpowering soundtrack; nonetheless the result was garbled dialogue. It’s hard to fathom a person softly speaking to someone at a loud party or in a quiet bedroom where there’s no need for privacy. Amy and Nick’s measured vocal patterns detracted from the emotional variability throughout the movie. Making an audience pay close attention to dialogue is good; making them strain to hear said dialogue is not. 

#4 Sticking so Close to the Queasy Similarities in Headline Making Cases: It’s one of the stickiest aspects of the movie. The glaring similarities to real-life cases (i.e. Laci Peterson) are unavoidable and the storyline it culls isn’t one that acknowledges the women in those crimes as true victims. Casting doubt on the legitimacy of such specific cases is alarming. There are issues worth discussing that the movie points out. The media’s lack of accountability as they fan the flames of hysteria amidst a progressing investigation and the public’s virulent judgement of suspects, are relevant concerns that need to be taken to task. However, building a story that so flagrantly uses confirmed horrors as a foundation makes for an uneasy entry point.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TV Rundown: Oct 12 - 17 | Vengance on "Arrow", a Coronation on "Reign", Plus "Vampire Diaries" & more!

Arrow | As the team attempted to mourn and avenge Sara, the sentiment was difficult to empathize with. For one, she had strolled into Starling City last season acting superior to every member of team Arrow and had especially been a pain in Felicity and Laurel’s derrieres. Interestingly both women were shown to be the most outwardly shaken by her demise. Sara’s smug self-righteousness, lack of remorse and smug attitude should have made for few mourners. She betrayed her sister, killed people for a living and was a compulsive liar, not much to miss there. She lived by the arrow and died by the arrow. The biggest mystery of the hour was how Laurel managed to carry Sara’s body all the way to Verdant.

Revenge | A filler episode that provided little plot development saw Charlotte brought together with David, Victoria scheming to reclaim her financial bearings and Daniel complaining about his misfortunate. The near reunion of Emily with her estranged father was the cliffhanger tease at the end of the episode. What will be interesting to see is if David’s loyalty to Victoria bothers Emily at all. It is because of her father’s betrayal and fixation on a married woman that has lead to the destruction of her life. 

The Blacklist | Red is a recognizably multi-faceted character, complete with mysterious layers that make him morally ambiguous at times. Last season, the show teased that Liz might share that in common with him. During “Madeline Pratt”, she told a story that sounded convincingly honest about how she’d robbed a store by seducing the manager. It was the first hint that Liz might have a dark side and another hint came in this week’s episode when she spoke of what she desired to do to her estranged husband, Tom. There is more to Liz than meets the eye and “The Blacklist” has cleverly been scraping the surface.

Dancing With the Stars | The partner switch-up provided the show with the “what if” of differentiating pairings. What made this week’s episode particularly confusing and lacking any cohesion was that each couple performed a different dance style. Comparing which couple performed better was next to impossible to tabulate because there was no consistency in the routines. In the early seasons, half did Latin and the other half Ballroom. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. More after the jump...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review | Gone Girl (2014): "What do you get when two unlikable characters are embroiled in a mystery?"

What do you get when two unlikable characters are embroiled in a mystery? The answer is a story that boasts hardly any emotional stakes. “Gone Girl” opens on the day that Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) disappears. Her bitter husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), goes to his bar to blow off steam with his sister. It his and his wife’s fifth wedding anniversary. From the tone of the sibling’s conversation it becomes rapidly clear that it is a disintegrating union, filled with resentments that’s generalization lies with the core accusation that Amy is simply a retched human being.

Throughout the first half, the film flashes through the highs and lows of their relationship as told by the entries of Amy’s diary. When the couple first meets they enjoy the haughty banter of two hollow individuals circling each other in a yuppie mating ritual that’s underpinnings are deeply rooted in the other “l” word, lust. Amy struggles to overcome the perceived expectations of her parents and throughout the course of her and Nick’s relationship they weather their share of hardships, finances and personal accountability chief among them.

Is this account everything it seems though? A concerned call to the cops turns into a crime scene and the court of public opinion is soon weighing in. Where is Amy? Is Nick involved in her disappearance? From the outset the answer seems obvious. The speculation as to Nick’s guilt is a miniscule aspect to the story and as viewers slog through his every misdeed the movie’s perspective never wavers from who’s corner it's standing in.

Rooting for Nick is next to impossible and Amy is so emotionally distant that investing in her is equally difficult. The film’s tension doesn’t exist because the tightrope has nothing to fasten to. The cinematography’s grainy golden tones offer a visually discombobulating whiff of something grave. Similar to this year’s “Enemy” the overuse of mood lighting and the yellowish tinge that harkens to the after effects of UV damage, adds nothing to the film. It only serves as a nuisance. To its credit, David Fincher’s direction gives the film a stylistic movement that keeps things engaging.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Let's Talk About...A Double Dose of Guilty Pleasure Movies

A great thing about movies is that sometimes, even if it isn’t going to win Oscars or be a hit with critics, it can still be an entertaining experience in its own right. These movies are more commonly referred to as guilty pleasures and for the next two weeks, the box office will have two back-to-back entries that aim to satisfy that criteria.

Nicholas Sparks’ latest movie is “The Best of Me”, a romance that spans the teenage years of young lovers (Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato) who are eventually torn apart by a concerned parent, only to rekindle their flame as adults (James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan). Sparks’ movies are the definition of a guilty pleasure. They are highly emotional affairs where sweeping soundtracks, lush scenery and larger than life storylines carry audiences through the sorrow and heartbreak of love. In 2002 it was the cult weeper “A Walk to Remember” that would set teen hearts aflutter with its forbidden romance that’s transformative properties would set a troubled guy on the path towards redemption. 10 years later the pop culture impact of “The Notebook” is still being felt. Sparks’ movies have struggled to land the same blow of that film, though they have cleaned up at the box office. “Dear John”, “The Lucky One” and “Safe Haven” all bare the distinction of financial success.

“The Best of Me” is poised to possibly join their ranks. It boasts a roster of young talent (Liberato and Bracy) as well as familiar faces (Marsden and Monaghan). Viewers might remember Liana Liberato from her fantastic work in “Trust” and her supporting role in the charming indie “Stuck in Love”. For those who might’ve noticed that the younger and older versions of the male lead (Dawson) don’t bare a strong resemblance, there is a reason for that. Paul Walker was originally set to play the older Dawson. Instead of casting a similarly featured actor, Marsden was cast and instead of recasting Luke Bracey, he remained; hence the lack of semblance. Whether a casting snafu is enough to throw off the entire film remains to be seen. What is far more knowable is that if you know what to expect, the delicious pathos of a romantic guilty pleasure, this is worth a look. More after the jump...

TV Rundown: Special Soap Edition | It's Ridge vs. Rick on "Bold" & Billy Miller Debuts as Jason on "GH"

The Bold and the Beautiful | The Ridge/Caroline/Rick/Katie quadrangle has taken flight and the results have been awkward to put it mildly. Ridge is Rick’s half-brother/ex-stepfather and Katie (Ridge’s fiancĂ©e) is Rick’s aunt/soon-to-be-sister-in-law so the relationships in this romantic quandary are…complicatedly tangled to say the least. As Katie watches idly by with her red string “engagement ring”, her passive reaction has lead her into door mat territory again. Ever since Caroline began working as Ridge’s creative surrogate the looming romantic fallout was inevitable. Coming off the worst in all of this is Ridge, who appears to be destroying his brother’s marriage just to get the position as Forrester Creations' CEO. Knowingly hurting Katie for a career ambition seems out of character. The good news out of the storyline is Rick has had a larger presence and a more distinct storyline.

General Hospital | Jason is back and Billy Miller’s much anticipated debut has been worth the wait. It is already apparent that the Jason of years past (sullen, emotionless and dull) is in the rearview mirror. The “hit man with a heart of gold” routine had grown stale by the time of the character’s departure and at this juncture, a reinvention is a must. With Miller’s version of Jason being a blank slate, it’s given the show an intriguingly refreshing avenue. As fans have clamored for the return of Jason Q, this new incarnation offers hope that if not a complete return of the original character, the “Morgan” version might not be returning completely either. One thing is certain, having the super talented Miller on the show has brought a new range of excitement for the potential of “General Hospital” and that is a marvelous thing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

TV Rundown: Oct 5 - 10 | "Vampire Diaries" Goes Back, "Arrow" Returns, "The Flash" Premieres & more!

The Vampire Diaries | While it is understandable that Elena is distraught over Damon’s “death”, the timeline of it only being 4 months later is a rather brief time for her to spend attempting to cope without taking drastic action. Especially when she's faced similar circumstances before and successfully brought loved ones back from the dead. It was nice to hear her finally admit how long her feelings for Damon have existed though. For years viewers have been left to speculate the exact origin of her affection and now we know. The highlight of the episode was Damon and Bonnie’s banter in 1994. Their acerbic repartee has always been fun and now it’s getting a stellar showcase.

Arrow | The season premiere delivered a slightly more jovial Oliver, more of a-dork-able Felicity and the minting of Diggle into a family man. Brandon Routh’s debut worked as a marvelous counterbalance to Oliver and provided Felicity with an equal to share her brainy dialogue with. The season is off to a good start.

Revenge | Another episode with Conrad MIA meant another episode that fell short. David Clarke continued railing over the injustice he suffered without taking any accountability for his part in the whole ordeal. Charlotte learned the truth about Emily and her ensuing behavior was surprising. Charlotte has never been the most evenly written character and her bold descent into madness, exemplified that.

Reign | If it’s possible, this show just keeps getting better. As Mary faced the consequences of her actions, the dash to save Nostradamus and his helpers was a tense one. Whether or not they’d make it in time didn’t feel predictable in the least. Major kudos for the casting of Craig Parker as the villainous Narcisse, he brought a certain je ne sais quoi to “Legend of the Seeker” and it’s a great to see him back in action. 

The Flash | The series premiere blasted the highly anticipated new comic book series into the stratosphere. A stand out performance from Jesse L. Martin as Detective West, Barry’s paternal figure, imbued the show with the perfect amount of heart. Levity, action and likable characters; “The Flash” has it covered. 

Dancing With the Stars | An emotional night of the star’s “most memorable year” meant a lot of tears and uplifting inspiration.

The Blacklist | In a parallel storyline to an episode from last season, Liz was faced with the dilemma of taking in a bad guy who’s ultimate goal was saving children. Her decision to let the suspect finish saving the child and arrest him afterwards was the right move. For some reason she didn’t do the same thing last season. To this point, whatever became of the boy she opted not to save; remains frustratingly unknown.

Once Upon a Time | Putting the timeline plot hole aside, there was a more alarming red flag during “White Out”. When David told Anna the sad tale of his alcoholic father, she derided his dad for being “weak”, after David revealed his dad’s fatal battle. If a family show is going to tackle such an adult issue, sensitivity is a must. Kids are looking up to these characters, the “Frozen” sisters in particular and to have Anna display such a cold lack of compassion for a man suffering from a disease was a bad precedent to set.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quick Hit Movie Reviews | "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit", "The Protector 2", "Rage" & "Open Grave"

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit | Chris Pine takes on the title role of Jack Ryan in this poorly formulated action-thriller. From one ludicrous action sequence to the next, plausibility is thrown out the window as Jack performs one hard to believe rescue after another. In the minor role of Jack’s loving paramour is Keira Knightley, who is wasted in a clichĂ© jaded girlfriend arc, looking in from the outside on Jack’s professional travails. Seeing Knightley underutilized when the trailer hinted at a meatier role for her is one of the most disappointing aspects of the film. Another major problem plaguing this over-the-top actioner is the sound mixing, which gives the proceedings an exceedingly garbled and hazy vibe. To its credit, it approaches its high tech marveling and cheesy bravado with abandon. Rating: 6/10

The Protector 2 | The standards set by an outstanding original film are always difficult to live up to and in the case of “The Protector 2”, this sequel comes nowhere close. Tony Jaa’s highly anticipated comeback, finds the action star struggling to take down villain after villain, in exhausting fight sequences that trend more towards lethargic than energetic. In this struggling sequel, Kham (Jaa) must once again save his beloved elephant from capture. Instead of handily dealing with his nemeses (as he did in the first film), Kham struggles with each and every adversary. It is a startling descent, when you consider the spectacular spectacle the first installment offered to dazzling effect. There is nary a standout sequence in “2”. As one splashy scene attempts to embroil viewers in a motocross inspired standoff, it only serves to further crush the action under its gears. Rating: 5.5/10
More movies after the jump...