Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Gone Girl Leaves You Speechless

posted by jtotey
Ben Affleck is looking for his wife in "Gone Girl." (New Regency Pictures)

Ben Affleck is looking for his wife in “Gone Girl.” (New Regency Pictures)

“Huh.” That is what I said at the end of Gone Girl. I couldn’t really believe that that was the end of the movie. Like many others who hadn’t read the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), I was left speechless. Gone Girl is a well-made movie, but not really an enjoyable one.

The basic premise of the story is that Amy Dunne has gone missing and may be murdered. Her husband, Nick, is the main suspect. The mystery slowly covers the five year marriage of the two with flashbacks and the reading of Amy’s diary. The two sources prove not to be the most reliable narrators.

Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) are both writers. Amy’s mother is the author of a string of “Amazing Amy” children’s books, which supposedly tell of the exploits of Amy’s life, but they are more or less an exaggeration of facts. Always the dutiful daughter, Amy goes along with her mother’s wished to promote her books, but she resents her for it as well.

On the morning of the Dunne’s 5th wedding anniversary, Nick visits his bar that he co-owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and basically states how terrible his marriage is. When he goes home, he finds the glass coffee table in the living room is smashed and his wife is nowhere to be found. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) arrive to investigate the scene of the crime who find more questions than they find answers for. As it turns out, both Amy and Nick had their own hidden secrets and one by one, they get exposed to the light. Tyler Perry plays a high profile lawyer who doesn’t seem to care if Nick is guilty or not and Neil Patrick Harris plays an old flame of Amy’s, who appears to not have much significance to the story…at first.

The film is a great example of how one might try to bury the sins of their past never really works and how one little lie can lead to another and another and you end up with a whole web full of them.

Gone Girl is a long movie, but definitely one that grabs your attention. The story is pretty unbelievable, but that isn’t the problem with it. The movie is way too graphic, but not just in violence. The characters are fairly vulgar – do real people talk like that in real life? The “romance” scenes show too much as well. It appears that the filmmakers tried to see how far they could go with some scenes and still keep an “R” rating. Note to filmmakers: the audience isn’t stupid. We don’t need to see such graphic images and dialogues to understand the story.

The biggest problem with this film is that there is nobody to root for. They are all awful people pretending that they aren’t. By the end of the movie, you can’t help but think of better ways to end the story.

‘Kelly & Cal’ is a Sad Self-Absorbed Tale

posted by jtotey
Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and Cal (Jonny Weston) celebrate their missed proms by spray-painting the inside of a high school in 'Kelly & Cal.' (Spring Pictures)

Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and Cal (Jonny Weston) celebrate their missed proms by spray-painting the inside of a high school in ‘Kelly & Cal.’ (Spring Pictures)

Though the title says Kelly & Cal, this indie film focuses a lot more on Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and her postpartum depression than it does Cal, her 17-year-old wheelchair-bound neighbor. Kelly has recently moved to a location that is close by her husband’s work and his relatives. She is in a funk and has a hard time meeting the neighbors. She finds a “mommies’ group” at the park, but they basically give her the cold shoulder. Her pre-occupied husband, Josh (Josh Hopkins) somehow knows the magic formula on how to get their baby to sleep. This would seem helpful, but it only makes Kelly feel like a failure as a mother.

One day when Kelly can’t handle the sounds of her crying baby, she sneaks out for a smoke and meets the abrupt and incredibly rude Cal (Jonny Weston). Kelly is initially disgusted with the guy, but comes back to Cal’s garage-turned-bedroom daily to hear more of Cal’s rants about life. The two build an awkward friendship that appears to work well for both of them and the more time Kelly spends with Cal, the better she feels about herself.

Kelly is a former punk-rocker and Cal was an artist before his accident that caused him to surrender his life to the wheelchair and lose control of fine motor movements. The two share beers together and Kelly tells herself that the budding friendship is only that, but Cal seems to be taking things a bit more seriously.

To help with his wife’s depression, Josh recruits the help of his mother Bev (Cybill Shepherd) and sister Julie (Lucy Owen). Bev is quirky, but seems to love Kelly as much as her own daughter. She isn’t rattled by any of Kelly’s odd behavior. Julie on the other hand puts on a good face, but thinks the worst of Kelly and resents her. At one point she tells her sister-in-law that she has everything that Julie wants herself, so why isn’t Kelly happy? Kelly just says, “I don’t know.” Meanwhile, the more Kelly learns about Cal, the more she realizes that maybe his troubles are bigger than he lets on.

Kelly & Cal is considered a comedy, and there are a few comedic moments, but to call it a comedy is a bit of a stretch. It is a movie that focuses on unhappy people. Both Kelly and Cal live each day regretting what they used to have rather than embracing what they currently do. As a Christian, it is easy to suggest that all these people need is Jesus in their lives, and that is true. However, even though this story becomes fairly far-fetched, it isn’t something that would never happen to Christians as well. Sometimes we Christians struggle with unhappiness just as much as non-Christians and sometimes we make the same bad choices despite what the consequences are.

Kelly & Cal is rated “R” for a reason. There is a lot of coarse language, swearing and even some nudity that will turn many viewers off, but the film does have a happy ending for one of the two main players, so if you can make it till the end, you’ll be rewarded.

Why Remake ‘Left Behind’?

posted by jtotey
Nicky Whelan and Nicolas Cage star in "Left Behind" which opens in theaters October 3, 2014. (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Nicky Whelan and Nicolas Cage star in “Left Behind” which opens in theaters October 3, 2014. (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

In 1994, Paul LaLonde served as executive producer of Left Behind, which was intended to be used as a documentary to those people “left behind” after the biblical rapture. Included in the cast was Hal Lindsey who was there to explain what had happened. In 2000, LaLonde helped produce the original Left Behind movie that starred Kirk Cameron. Now in 2014, he is producing yet another version of the movie, this time starring Nicolas Cage. In-between these dates, LaLonde has produced over eight other end-of-the-world features. The end times are a big deal to this guy, but why make the remake?

The original Left Behind, and its sequels, had a very limited budget and were sent straight to DVD. “The first book in the Left Behind series is really quite an enormous book and we tried to do the whole book in one movie. And it really didn’t do justice to, especially to the rapture but also to the whole book because there was no time to get to know the characters. And there was no time to really appreciate the enormity of the event,” says LaLonde during a recent press conference. “Basically the [new] movie is based on, you know, 25 pages of the first book, so it’s really a remake of about three minutes of the first movie.”

Lea Thompson stars in "Left Behind." (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Lea Thompson stars in “Left Behind.” (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

LaLonde had no intention of making another low budget movie so the he stepped up his game with A-list talent cast and crew. The fairly small cast includes Nicolas Cage as pilot Rayford Steele, Lea Thompson (who is currently a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars) as his Christian wife Irene, Cassi Thomson as their daughter, Nicky Whelan as Hattie, the stewardess he is having an affair with and Jordin Sparks as a young mother trying to outrun her troubles at home. LaLonde also chose Vic Armstrong to direct the thing. “If you go on IMDB and look up Vic Armstrong, you’ll, you’ll think he’s faking his resume. He’s been part of some of the biggest movies that there are,” says LaLonde. “He’s exactly what the movie needed and he didn’t disappoint me.”

Armstrong is better known as a stunt director, so this movie was a different experience for him. “As a stunt director, you’re still telling stories. In some ways I think it’s even harder because you’re trying to tell stories with mime language if you’d like,” says Armstrong. “The only reason stunts are in a movie are to progress the storyline and the movie itself so you do have to adhere to storylines…If you get a good script it’s very, very easy.”

“I was absolutely thrilled when I read this script,” says Armstrong.  “Seeing how character-driven it was and what a fabulous story-line it had was a thrill to me. When I first met Paul, the first thing I said to him was, ‘Well I’ll tell you what, I love the script so much I can’t see a word in it I’d like to change.’ [It’s an] adventure story full of wonderful characters, fabulous performances and a great look. You still have the other side of it, you have the rapture. You have the believers, you have the followers and I felt very conscience of the fact that they were trusting me to deliver what they wanted to see as well.”

Cassi Thomson stars in "Left Behind. (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Cassi Thomson stars in “Left Behind. (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Not only was LaLonde thrilled to be working with Armstrong, but so was Nicolas Cage. “I’m very comfortable working with Vic. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him on another movie that we made, called Season of the Witch. And it was a good experience and I thought that he directed me to a good performance and something that I was very proud of and wanted to work with him again,” says Cage. As for his own reasons for wanting to do a faith-based film, Cage was a little more mysterious.

“If you look at my filmography, there’s no secret to the fact that I am drawn to movies that aren’t afraid to take on spiritual themes. And you know, without going into my own personal, you know, spirituality which is very sacred to me and not something that I think is, you know for public consumption or to be put on or in the media but, but I like to let my work speak for me. I like to find movies that allow me to explore these inner or outer worlds through the work without having to really talk too much about it.”

Fair enough. As for some of the other actors, here is what they had to say about the matter:

Cassi Thomson, who plays Chloe Steele: “When I read [the script] it was very much character-driven, which is something you don’t really see that often in a movie that has so much action. It is also is a very strong female character which unfortunately aren’t that many of, nowadays. I honestly thought I would never book it because I’m not a big A-Lister name. Luckily they gave me a chance to be a part of something that was one of, really the most memorable times of my life. And, you know, I had always wanted to do a film like this. And it just, it was great. I mean Vic was great. Nicolas Cage was great. Everybody was really amazing to work with.”

Jordin Sparks stars in "Left Behind." (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Jordin Sparks stars in “Left Behind.” (Stoney Lake Entertainment)

Jordin Sparks, who plays Shasta: “It was really interesting for me because, I was like; I’ve never played a mother before. Shasta’s is trying to take her daughter to a safer place, and in her head that’s what she thinks she’s doing. They’re not going through great things at the moment so she’s taking her daughter and she’s just very leery of everybody on the plane. ..She kind of thinks everything is a conspiracy, that everyone’s out to get her. When I was younger, I read all of the Left Behind teen series and I just remember being, you know, so affected by the thought of ‘Wow, what if, what if my closest friends just disappeared one day. What if they just weren’t here?’ It was just really interesting and as a kid that’s definitely very scary. It’s something that’s like, ‘Ah well, okay, that’s very scary. It’s just in a book.’ But you know, when you read the bible and you take those things to be truth, you know it is definitely something that you can think of and go ‘Wow, that, that could actually happen.’

Nicolas Cage, who plays Rayford: “If there’s anything for me, I want that to come across that people realize [that]we all make mistakes but in a moment of crisis what we really want, what we really go to is the love we have for our families. And that’s what pulled me into this project. That, and also how you make such an extraordinary set of circumstances authentic and how do you make that real and that was a tremendous challenge for all of the actors… I’ve always been attracted to movies that aren’t afraid to venture into the unknown.”

Nicky Whelan, who plays Hatti: “I hadn’t read the books before I had started filming. I wasn’t familiar with this story. I just read this cool action-packed movie with great cast in it, and then sort of learned more about it as I got more involved…It’s clearly obvious why [Hatti] doesn’t get taken in the rapture. However, Vic and I did discuss making this character as human as possible…It was quite a challenge. I’ve got to be honest because, there was nothing to build from or anywhere to go from and we really had to be careful with Hattie. I really think that we brought it to life, and so I hope that everyone sees that, and enjoys it.”

Left Behind opens in theaters everywhere October 3, 2014. Click here to watch the film’s preview.

CBS’ ‘Stalker’ not Worth Staring at

posted by jtotey
Pictured: Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q (Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS)

Pictured: Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q (Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS)

While many people have no desire to watch a TV series with a title like Stalker, the CBS show won its time period in viewers and key demographics last night. Despite the good ratings, that doesn’t mean that the show will stick around for very long. Curiosity in the show is probably the biggest factor for the show’s ratings success and the fact that it aired after the popular and similar Criminal Minds helped as well. Now that people have seen it, will they come back next week? This viewer won’t. It has less to do with the show’s subject matter and more to do with the dynamics of the show.

Stalker is a psychological thriller about detectives who investigate stalking incidents. It stars angry actor Dylan McDermott as Detective Jack Larsen, transferred to L.A. to work with Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q) who quickly realize that neither likes each other. The biggest problem with the show is that the audience won’t like them either. Beth is not a warm person and Jack tries too hard to make a good impression. Both of them know their stuff as one is a former victim of stalking and the other wrestles with their own stalking desires. Both are not afraid to work outside of the law to get what they want, making the two morally ambiguous. I could be wrong, but I think most people like their “good guys” to be good through and through. In the pilot episode it becomes clear that those who wear the white hats also wear the black hats from time to time. But some people seem to like that sort of thing given the ratings for both Dexter and Hannibal which also feature antiheroes.

Another problem with the show is that within its 60 minute timeslot, which comes to about 40+ minutes in total length, the show not only focuses on one stalking, but two others as well. Those will no doubt continue throughout the season. While the main story is way over-the-top and unbelievable, other shows like CSI have told similar outlandish tales with better flair. Finally, the really should have been more scary than it was.

If you missed last night’s show, CBS is giving you another chance to watch it this Friday at 10:00 p.m. Stalker airs weekly on Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.

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