Eclectic Pop

where "pop" culture gets "eclectic"

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Movie Review: 'The Choice' (2016)

Cheating is not romantic. If you agree with that premise, “The Choice” will more than likely leave you colder than a snowman in Antarctica. Since it is at the crux of Nicholas Sparks’ latest drama about people falling in love with each other and overcoming incredible odds to be together, there is little ground to invest in with his latest star-crossed pairing.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

Predicted Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
If there is one lock this year it is Leonardo DiCaprio. “The Revenant” marks his sixth acting Oscar nomination and after losing every time and being looked over for countless other worthy performances, it appears 2016 will finally be his year. Twenty three years after his first Oscar nomination for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, DiCaprio has given the Academy a performance they really can’t ignore this time around.

He took “suffering for your art” to a whole new level on the arduous filming of “The Revenant” and there’s nothing the Academy loves more than a grueling transformation. DiCaprio has been nominated and won the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and the Critics Choice Award – there’s no way he’ll be going home empty handed…again.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Predicted Winner: Brie Larson, Room
Like DiCaprio; Brie Larson is an absolute lock to win for her role as a kidnapped mother in Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of “Room”. An early favorite since the movie premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, Larson has maintained her winning momentum throughout the awards season. Having garnered the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Critics Choice Award, it would require a ginormous upset for Larson to lose the Best Actress prize.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Winner: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
This is another category that is truly a toss-up. Given the way previous awards have swung, the race appears to be between Stallone and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance. This is a very complex category to judge because Rylance secured nominations at the Golden Globes, SAGS, Critics Choice Award, and the BAFTAs. However, he’s only won the BAFTA. Meanwhile, Stallone was only nominated at the Globes and Critics Choice Award, where he won both awards. That means Stallone beat out Rylance in the only two match-ups they had.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Winner: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
In an unpredictable 2015 race, Vikander appears to be the favorite going into Sunday night, having secured the Critics Choice Award and the SAG for her role as Gerda Wegener in Tom Hooper’s glossy drama “The Danish Girl”. Her stiffest competitor is Kate Winslet, who won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe for her work in “Steve Jobs”. On the surface it sounds like there’s a deadlock between the two, however upon closer examination it becomes clear Vikander has the edge.

TV Rundown: Week of Feb 14 | 'Vikings' Returns, 'Pretty Little Liars' Confuses & 'Blacklist' Paints it Red

Vikings returned with a vengeance...literally. Picking up right where it left off at the end of season 3, Ragnar, Lagertha, and Rollo were all put in a position to exact revenge in "A Good Treason," and how they chose to respond rather shocking. Let’s back up a little bit, though, and add…

Let's Talk About: 'War & Peace' -- From the Finale To The Miniseries Overall

"War and Peace” concluded with love, death and two marriages. Before getting there, the final hours found a gravely injured Andrei (James Norton) moved into the path of his ex-flame Natasha (Lily James), the latter of whom would claim a bit of redemption as she cared for the man she’d spurned…

Movie Review: 'Sicario' (2015)

On a technical level, Denis Villeneuve’s cagey thriller is a mesmeric spectacle of near perfection. Taut with a laser precision and deafening focus, “Sicario” revolves around the work of a government task force, policing the war on drugs at the U.S./Mexico border and their reluctant new recruit Kate Macer (Emily Blunt).

TV Rundown: Week of Feb 7 | Mona Returns to 'Pretty Little Liars', Red Surprises on 'The Blacklist' - Plus, 'Teen Wolf'

Pretty Little Liars finally gave viewers a glimpse of its most underutilized character: Mona Vanderwaal. In her one scene with Spencer, she gave the season its biggest energy jolt to date. Mona is a character that has time and again proven to be incredibly valuable to the show. She’s run the gamut of archetypes, from outright villain to redeemed heroine, a lot of times within a single season. Why the show hasn't used her more is beyond understanding at this point.

Best Music of 2015: From the Pop Waves to Indie Raves

Pop Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift

Whether she was assuring a paramour their coupling would never go out “Style”, reeling over the betrayal of a close friend in “Bad Blood” or experiencing her “Wildest Dreams”, Taylor Swift was reigning supreme as the hits off her 2014 smash record ‘1989’, kept rolling in. Swift’s chart topping singles each gleamed with a distinct sonic luster, demonstrating her knack for trying on different genres with equal success.

Best Television of 2015: 'Bates Motel', 'Vikings', 'Reign', 'Narcos', 'The Flash' & more!

A full year of television has come and gone, and after watching a plethora of series – the time has arrived for Eclectic Pop to recognize the best and brightest. 13 series made the cut to be mentioned among the year’s best. They span the contributions of cable, streaming and network broadcasting. Below you will find zero straight-up comedies, loads of dramas (set in both the past and the present), a single superhero series and two horror programs. It’s an eclectic mix and we begin with the selection for the year’s #1 show…
Best Show: Bates Motel
For the third straight year in a row, “Bates Motel” proved to have no equal. The latest season of the A&E series focused on the escalation of Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) unraveling psyche, as his protective mother (Vera Farmiga) and vigilant brother (Max Thieriot) struggled to come to terms with what to do about it.

Mental illness is something a lot of shows vaguely discuss and fewer explore on a deeply seated level. “Bates” is unwavering in its pursuit of the topic as a significantly silenced issue facing families. While the domino effect of Norman’s affliction touched every character on the canvas in a unique way, the season also gave its characters a chance to explore themselves outside of their connection to him.

Balancing the overarching umbrella that connects them and the smaller nuances of their individual development is essential to the entire series and writers Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse kept the ball rolling in explosively compelling ways.

“Bates Motel” gave viewers moments of dark humor, tragic drama and heartening romantic quests. It continued swimming in taboo thematic waters with its signature grace, careful to never push the envelope for the sake of sheer shock value.

“Bates” finds its power in restraint. In exploring the manifold of psychological layering that comprise a complicated and all-encompassing characterization.

Led by the remarkable talents of Vera Farmiga, it is a testament to the strength of its ensemble that every cast member can stand toe-to-toe with her and capably hold their own. The collective performances of Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nestor Carbonell and Kenny Johnson, comprised the best work an entire cast contributed to TV in 2015.

The critical apathy for this phenomenal series is frustrating. There’s nothing this show is doing wrong to explain the indifference. It is flawless. In a climate where there has been an increasing call for female led series, “Bates Motel” is ferociously captained by one and not just any one either.

Norma Bates is a complex buffet of human emotion; a mother and entrepreneur trying to take care of her family under harrowing circumstances and Farmiga portrays her struggle with a stunning clarity that awes in every episode.

For that reason and many more, "Bates" earned the top spot on this list for the third consecutive year. Simply put, no other series deserves it more.

Best Horror Series: Penny Dreadful
The first season of Showtime’s horror series made a strong first impression and its second season managed to build on that sound foundation by striking a sleek balance between gothic gore, mystical mystery and towering romance.

Boosted by the phenomenal central turns of Eva Green and Josh Hartnett, “Penny” shined brighter than one could’ve ever anticipated. Of furthering surprise is that “Dreadful” is has proven to be a horror show with heart, a weird dichotomy that sounds strange on paper and only makes sense when watching.

Proving that point was the stand-alone episode “The Nightcomers” featuring guest star Patti Lupone, which catapulted the series to a newly realized creative pinnacle. A powerfully moving hour of television that earned a spot among the best the medium has ever presented.
Most Underrated Show: Tyrant
Another show ignored by critics, FX’s exotic Middle East drama brought the heat in a follow-up season that extended its attention from the inner conflicts of the Al-Fayeed family to the fight over their homeland in Abbudin. An aspect “Tyrant” manages to consistently get right is how it balances an operatic arc like Barry’s "death" with the larger real-life picture of geopolitics.

Backed by one of the most underrated ensembles on television, Adam Rayner, Moran Atias, Ashraf Barhom and Jennifer Finnigan continued giving incredible performances that sold all of the show’s big moments alongside its small ones. While showrunner Gideon Raff kept up the enthralling pace of its freshman season.

Best Comeback Series: The Blacklist
“The Blacklist” had an interesting 2015. In the midst of an undeniable sophomore slump, it managed to fight back and reclaim its former glory; proving it’s not impossible to surmount a second season slip-up. Anchored by the venerable James Spader as the series’ enigmatic protagonist and Megan Boone as its endearing heroine, “The Blacklist’s” comeback was not entirely unexpected.

Showrunner Jon Bokenkamp has proven to be highly adept at delivering what viewers want and succeeding at exceeding even those expectations. The reunion of the feisty/made-for-each-other Keens, proved to be one such example of long shot hopes that were rewarded in 2015.

Best Summer Series: Scream
When MTV announced it was making a television adaptation of the hit movie franchise, you could practically hear the chorus of skepticism ring out amidst the universe of pop culture. My how “Scream” proved the naysayers wrong.

By assembling a young cast of relative unknowns and pairing them with the highly familiar scenario of the slasher genre; MTV hit an unexpected home run.

Best New Drama: Bloodline
A picturesque location gives way to ugly secrets in this Netflix original. Charged by the tour de force performance of Ben Mendelsohn as the black sheep member of the Rayburn family; “Bloodline” simmers for quite a while before reaching the last half’s explosive boil.

For those missing the family drama ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” supplied, “Bloodline” has the dose you’ve been missing. Just be warned that when the Rayburns get together for dinner, it’s a much graver affair.

Best New Historical Series: The Last Kingdom
BBC challenged “Vikings” and “Game of Thrones” by throwing down the gauntlet with their own historical drama. Well-paced, engrossingly directed and engagingly acted, “The Last Kingdom” did not outperform its rivals but made for an appealing entry to the genre, all the same.

TV Rundown: Week of Jan 31 | The Penultimate 'War & Peace,' A Red Wedding on 'The Blacklist' - Plus, 'PLL'

War and Peace hurdled towards its conclusion with a penultimate installment that saw turmoil at the home front reach a fevered pitch. Natasha made the life-altering decision to break off her engagement with Andrei so she could hook up with Helene’s devious brother, Anatole.

Despite vowing to remain loyal to Andrei, following his father’s demand for a year-long engagement, she blew everything just a few months shy of being able to marry him. Falling under the smarmy influence of the dastardly Anatole meant Natasha wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to make her see sense.

Best Movies of 2015: 'Far from the Madding Crowd', 'Water Diviner', 'Southpaw' & more!

2015 was an interesting year for movies and when it came to selecting the best and brightest, most of the top choices made themselves known pretty early in the year. There are just over 25 titles mentioned below, each categorized to hone in on exactly what they succeeded at.

So without further ado, these are Eclectic Pop's picks for the best movies of 2015. We begin with the #1 movie of the year...

Best Movie: Far from the Madding Crowd

This sensational adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel of the same name is a sweeping example of phenomenal film-making at every level. Released in late April, “Far from the Madding Crowd” fought off all of the year’s subsequent contenders to remain the perennial favorite.

TV Rundown: Week of Jan 24 | 'Pretty Little Liars' Ramps Up, 'War & Peace' Reaches Week 2

Pretty Little Liars cleared up some misconceptions from last week by revealing why Emily was seeing a doctor and Spencer was sharing flirtatiously darted looks at Caleb. It turns out Emily is donating her eggs and Spencer’s crush on Caleb isn’t unrequited.

The monumental decision to donate DNA to create a child she may never meet was pretty much brushed over and while Emily sold the idea to Hanna without any hesitation, the fact she didn’t want to share it with her mom says she might be a little more conflicted.