Monday, October 28, 2013

"Dancing With the Stars" recap: Drama, drama and more drama!

At this point in the "Dancing With the Stars" competition, things get dramatic, and that showed this week. Everybody's pre-dance package was full of controversy, injuries and, of course, tons of drama! That's what happens, I guess, when D-listers have been dancing for this many weeks in a row.

So let's not wait another minute! Onto the DRAMA:

Movie Review: 'The Counselor' should have worked but it really, really doesn't

This movie review originally appeared at KPC Media Group's website and in its daily newspapers. Read the original review here. Reprinted with permission.

On paper, "The Counselor" isn't just a good movie. It's a great one.

It was written by the legendary Cormac McCarthy. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. How could it go wrong?

Oh, but it went wrong. Startlingly, disappointingly, upsettingly wrong.

The movie follows a lawyer addressed only as Counselor (Michael Fassbender), who enters the fraught and dangerous world of drug trafficking from Mexico and almost immediately screws everything up and endangers everybody around him, including the man who brought him in on the scheme, Reiner (Javier Bardem); Westray (Brad Pitt), the middleman; and his fiance, Laura (Penelope Cruz).

Even the plot sounds pretty good, right? I love the idea of telling the story of a man dealing with the terrifying repercussions of one very ill-advised decision made out of greed. That is a great idea for a movie!

Unfortunately, "The Counselor" never comes together. It's obvious where McCarthy and Scott were going with it, trying to make an artistic character drama examining the consequences of greed. But apparently they overthought their strategy, because instead they made a winding, piecemeal movie with a plot that often was incredibly vague. I fancy myself a pretty smart person who can follow a movie that doesn't spell out the entire plot and makes the audience think, but I was utterly lost at several points, and not in a fun way. After all, sometimes it's great to wait until the end of the movie for everything to click into place. But "The Counselor" just plodded along, showing seemingly unrelated scenes with characters from other scenes occasionally wandering in and out of them. "Inexplicable" is probably the best word to describe the whole bewildering experience.

"The Counselor" is a very talky movie, too, which is not inherently a terrible thing either. But the dialogue is often unnatural, and it didn't feel like that was an artistic decision. The characters also have a weird propensity to break into strange, stilted soliloquies. They were an attempt to insert a Very Important Lesson into the proceedings, I think, but they just came off as pompous and self-important. Even worse, they were dull and, often, not very well-acted. If even a great actor like Javier Bardem or Michael Fassbender can't make it work, you have a problem, and when Cameron Diaz, who isn't quite so talented as her costars, attempts one, it's just painful to watch.

Even the occasional ultra-violent beheading and awkwardly graphic sex scene can't spice up "The Counselor" too much. I wasn't offended by the scenes - in fact, the violent scenes especially were important to the story that I think they were trying to tell - but they just even more brought to the forefront what a mess the whole movie was. They could have been so effective if the audience cared about the characters or the plot made a lick of sense.

"The Counselor" is an exercise in wasted opportunity. There was so much talent involved both on camera and behind the camera, and there is such a wonderful, interesting plot in there somewhere, buried by self-important mumbo-jumbo and bad writing. Muy high expectations walking in made "The Counselor" just that much more of a major disappointment.

Jenny's Take: See it on TV during a bout of insomnia.

(Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language. Runs 117 minutes.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review of "The Counselor" on KPC Media Group's website

Ya know, I didn't think a movie that started out with Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz in bed together would be so darn boring and inexplicable - especially when it was written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott! Alas, "The Counselor" is a stinker. Read my full review at KPC Media Group's website by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Midweek Mancandy: Chris Evans

In honor of the new "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" poster (which you can see here) and upcoming teaser trailer (due online TOMORROW!), we just had to feature the superhero himself ... Chris Evans!

Let's make sure we have a view of his best side:

Oh ... sorry, you wanted to see his face?

Well, that ain't bad either.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" recap: "Girl in the Flower Dress"

After last week's great episode of "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," which showed what the show could really be, I was looking forward to this week's episode more than I have since the pilot aired.

And, you know what? It didn't disappoint.

This week, we were introduced to a new baddie, an annoying boyfriend and several overarching plot elements. Oh, and the Bracelets of Shame, but I'll get to that later.

Five Reasons You Should Be Watching "Sleepy Hollow"

The first week of "Sleepy Hollow," Fox's new supernatural drama, I was a little skeptical. (You can read my somewhat lukewarm snap judgement here.)

But five episodes in, I've gotta say that the show has grown on me, and I'm downright hooked. 

If you've missed "Sleepy Hollow," never fear - the first five episodes will be aired on FX Saturday afternoon from 1-5 p.m.

Not convinced you should set your DVR? Here are five reasons you should:

Monday, October 21, 2013

'Dancing With the Stars' Week Six: Flailing D-Lister Crazy Dance Night O' Fun!

Whew! Competition is getting fierce on "Dancing With the Stars." Last week, a couple that received a 10 - from the very picky Len Goodman, no less - went home. We're not screwing around anymore. 

See? Not screwing around. No siree.

OK, that's not true. "Dancing With the Stars" is always a little screwy. But it's halfway through the competition, and in addition to the first round of regular old dances there is a second round of IMPROVISED DANCES. They called it the Switchup Challenge. Four couples have to dance on the floor at one time, and the music keeps changing. They have to keep time and interpret the music, but they don't have to actually dance a certain dance. They get tapped out, and the longer they stay in, the more points they get.

Alrighty ... it's time for DANCING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Movie Review: What's the point of remaking classic 'Carrie'?

This column was originally published in the KPC Media Group newspapers and online at Read the original column here. Republished on The Pop Tarts with permission. 

I understand the desire to remake horror movies. So often, the special effects in movies from decades ago fall flat, and for horror movies, bad special effects can be the kiss of death for modern audiences.

However, the really great horror movies of years past, like other classic films, hold up well, and 1976's "Carrie" is a great horror film. If you don't believe me, go back and watch it again. It really is one of the great ones.

I'm not saying that the new remake isn't good, too, because it is. In fact, if it were the first version of "Carrie" to hit theaters, it would probably feel like a pretty darn good movie, because it is. But because it's so faithful to both the original movie and the book, and it's solid and well-made with no huge changes, it feels like a case of "been-there, done-that."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Movie Review of "Carrie" posted now at KPC Media Group

No Oscar-worthy movie here this week! I didn't hate "Carrie," but ... let's just say I didn't give it a glowing review, either.

Read my review on KPC Media Group's website by clicking here, and I'll post the full review on Monday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Midweek Mancandy: Zac Efron

This morning, Internet-land woke up to some headlines about a red-band trailer featuring a certain former "High School Musical" star and his bare butt.

And while the movie, "That Awkward Moment," looks pretty terrible, there is a shot or two in the trailer that perfectly features just why our Midweek Mancandy for this week is ...

Zac Efron!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recap: "Agents of SHIELD" - Eye Spy

About halfway through Tuesday night's episode of "Agents of SHIELD," I turned to my husband and said, "This is easily the best episode of this show so far."

"Eye Spy" represents the episode that really showed the true potential of this show, and I am more excited than I've been since the pilot.

"This is my excited face."

In "Eye Spy," Coulson and his crew faced off against a former SHIELD agent who disappeared after a supernatural-seeming diamond heist. It turned out there was more than meets the eye (HAR!) to her, and it was up to our team to trace the threat back to its source. 

And, fellow nerds? The episode worked, from beginning to end. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dancing With the Stars Week 5: Celebrity Sob-Fest

It's another week of "Dancing With the Stars!" And this week is the week when we got to hear all of the celebrity sob stories, because everybody danced a dance relating to their most memorable year. There will be lots of sweet, sweet celebrity tears.

Sorry, that's my cynical side again. I have actually historically liked this week of dances, because it humanizes the celebrities and they tend to put a lot into these dances. I'm just sad that several of my favorites from this season are already gone, because I would have loved to have seen what they would have done.

Alas. Here are what the surviving D-listers did tonight:

Movie Review: Thrilling 'Captain Phillips' tells intimate, realistic tale

This column was originally published in the KPC Media Group newspapers and online at Read the original column here. Republished on The Pop Tarts with permission. 

By this time, it shouldn't be surprising when Tom Hanks gives a fantastic performance. He's won numerous awards for a variety of roles, and he is arguably one of the most recognizable actors working today.

And yet, in "Captain Phillips," Hanks managed to stun me again with a raw, intimate portrayal of the real-life ship's captain kidnapped by Somali pirates.

Hanks plays the titular Captain Richard Phillips, the captain of the American cargo ship Maersk Alabama. If you remember your recent history, you'll remember that the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates and Phillips was taken hostage on a lifeboat on its way back to Somalia. The movie follows Phillips through his terrifying ordeal.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Charlie Hunnam drops out of "50 Shades of Grey" - The Pop Tarts cast the movie!

The news Saturday was devastating, at least for anybody who was really jonesing to see Jax from "Sons of Anarchy" naked on the big screen.

Charlie Hunnam has dropped out of the "50 Shades of Grey" movie. But never fear ... The Pop Tarts have picked the Christian Grey they'd like to see!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Netflix Review: Sons of Anarchy season 1

Over the summer, I (Kel) made the momentous decision to cancel cable and only have internet and Netflix. So while Jen has been busy watching all the new shows, I have been busy watching shows on Netflix in an effort to catch up on the tv that I never got around to watching when it aired/started.

The first show I decided to focus on in Sons of Anarchy. I chose SoA for three reasons: 1) since it started airing back in 2008, I've thought it looked like a good show; 2) I have had it recommended to me by a friends; 3) Have you seen Charlie Hunnam?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Movie Review of "Captain Phillips" posted at KPC Media Group

Another week, another Oscar-worthy movie. It's going to be quite a race this year! After last week's terrific "Gravity" (read my review here), I saw another tense, well-acted and thoroughly amazing movie this week: "Captain Phillips!" Read my review on KPC Media Group's website by clicking here, and I'll post the full review Monday morning!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Marvel Agents of SHIELD" Recap: "The Asset"

After a slightly underwhelming second episode of "Agents of SHIELD," Coulson & Friends were back in fine form for episode 3, "The Asset."

This episode was another "Problem of the Week" episode, as I assume most of them will be, but, like the first episode, there was an actual person involved along with a weird & wacky piece of technology. I think that is what is really going to work for this show - not just hunting down weapons and weird objects, but facing off against real people.

TV Snap Judgment: Super Fun Night

I really wanted to love "Super Fun Night," ABC's new sitcom created, written by and starring Rebel Wilson.

Ugh, but I really didn't love it. In fact, I kind of hated the whole experience of watching it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dancing With the Stars Week 4: The Prodigal Daughter Returns (As A Judge)

It seems like only a week ago we were saying goodbye to Bill Nye the Science Guy, but despite my deep disappointment that my favorite goofy-uncle contestant was gone too soon, I'm a professional and must soldier on in my recapping of The Glitteriest Show on Network Television. (There are much glitterier shows on basic cable, of course.) 

Tonight, Len Goodman was gone (probably off shaking a cane at whippersnappers on his lawn - if they told us why he was actually gone, I missed it, because I don't listen to all of the blather before the dancing) and in his place to judge was Julianne Hough, a former DWTS pro. 

At first I was a little upset by this (as upset as I get over "Dancing With the Stars," anyway), since Julianne's brother, Derek Hough, is a pro (paired with Amber Riley), and she and Derek lived and trained with another DWTS pro, Mark Ballas (who is paired with Christina Milian this season) when they were kids. Then I remembered that the scores mean jack crap on this show and figured it was probably OK that she was judging. Plus, as Kel pointed out, the world of ballroom dance is small and full of people who know each other and trained together. Also, it turned out that she was a pretty good judge, with lots of constructive criticism and no apparent favoritism except for Brant when he took his shirt off. Thumbs up, Julianne!

So, here's what happened:

Movie Review: Terrifying 'Gravity' a filmmaking triumph

This column was originally published in the KPC Media Group newspapers and online at Read the original column here. Republished on The Pop Tarts with permission. 

As much as I love science fiction, and as much as I support scientific exploration of the universe, the idea of outer space scares me. There's something incredibly unnerving about floating with very little between yourself and an airless void. One mistake can lead to instant death.

In "Gravity," that beautiful, oppresive expanse of space is the setting for a story that's as old as storytelling itself - one person's determination to overcome nearly unsurmountable odds to live just a little bit a longer.
"Gravity" tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a specialist on a space mission. During a spacewalk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a disaster destroys their ship and forces them to try to find a way to stay alive and return to Earth.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Movie review of "Gravity" posted at KPC Media Group

This week I saw the tense, transformative and moving film "Gravity." It was the best movie I've seen so far this year - it's seriously incredible.

You can read my full review right now on KPC Media Group's website by clicking here. I'll post the full review on Monday!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Midweek Mancandy: George Clooney

Another Wednesday means it's time for a steaming plate of delicious, nutritious Mancandy! And today, we're featuring a super-sexy man who is in a film, opening Friday, that is getting some fantastic buzz.

Star of "Gravity" George Clooney!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" review: "0-8-4"

I wasn't going to recap "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," but, darn it, I have opinions after watching the second episode!

"0-8-4" didn't quite live up to last week's premiere, but despite several issues that I hope they get under control soon, I was overall pleased with the second episode.