Relationships Minus the Side of Cheese

Below is a wonderful article about non-cheesy relationship stories. Elizabeth originally sent it to me to put up before Valentine’s day, but there were technical delays. Yes, they were very technical. Still, it’s a good article and I hope you enjoy it. MB

Relationships Minus the Side of Cheese

a guest post by Elizabeth Eckhart

Whether or not you’re in a relationship, there are a group of us who, for reasons unknown, dislike Valentine’s Day. Sometimes it’s a haunting memory from a past Valentine’s Day, other times, it’s simply a dislike of the Hallmark created holiday, or it might even be the belief that showing affection when obligated somehow taints the action. Whatever the cause of any anti- Valentine’s Day sentiment, you’ll appreciate the list below, which consists of less cheesy films and books to celebrate (or ignore) February 14th.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Featuring the dramas of growing up, this book-turned-film tells the story of 15 year old Charlie as he deals with love, his best friend’s suicide, and mental illness as he searches for friends that will stick by his side. The book, published in 1999, maintains autobiographical elements of author Stephen Chbosky’s teenage years as it begins with a series of letters to no one and contains some strong connections to the Catcher in the Rye.

The Rules of Attraction

In this famous film, everyone is in love – although, unfortunately, all of it is unrequited. Roger Avary’s 2002 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel consists of cheating, raping, rejection, drugs, and more! Essentially, no one is happy. Luckily for you, the film is streaming from Direct TV.


Revolutionary Road

Reuniting America’s favorite heartbreakingly in love Titanic movie couple, Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet appear again, albeit this time with less sweetness. The two play a married couple at the end of their ropes, pregnant, and stuck in a relationship fueled by hatred. Cheesy romance it is not but, perhaps because the film is based on Richard Yates’ debut novel of the same name, cinematically and story-wise it is excellent.


Crap Dates: Disastrous Encounters from Single Life

In this modern age, it seems every Hollywood “fairytale” is plastered across social media. Add that to the endless string of “Man Crush Monday” and “Woman Crush Wednesday” instagram posts, and it becomes obvious why another picture of a happy couple might make us nauseous. Thankfully, writer Rhodri Marsden has done us all a favor and collected the best tweets describing horribly gone-wrong dates in his book Crap Dates. From finding eerie stuffed animals, being invited to terrifying apartments and even wine-dousing dates, this book displays the best of the worst date tales to exist. Marsden also offers his own advice between tweets on how to avoid the crazies, the already-married, and other undateables during your search for love.


Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

This movie, based on a short story collection by the late David Foster Wallace, follows grad student Sara around as she conducts a series of interviews to find out why none of her relationships have worked out. While the movie has received mixed reviews, it is a humorous film focusing on the interviews Sara conducts that range from wild to boring and are conducted with an array of men.

ElizabethElkhartAviElizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment writer and blogger born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has a penchant for high fantasy, and loves anything that involves an epic battle of some sort. She can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.

Horror Season is Upon Us, and Elizabeth Elkhart Gives you a Great Start. #GuestPost

With the recent bout of mainstream horror novels hitting the shelves, the general populace seems to again have picked up an interest in the darker sides of storytelling. Devil’s Knot is one of the more recent stories to make the jump to film, which has helped reinvigorate the horror/mystery genre, proving that one doesn’t have to love gore and slasher films to partake in a well-done mystery or eerie tale. It’s also true that filmmakers and novelists alike have rediscovered the fear that can shake nearly everyone – true stories. Like Devil’s Knot, which follows the murders of three young boys and the mishandled trial of their accused killers, that unique sense of fear a true story creates is something fiction can’t fully accomplish. It might be exactly why the tales listed below are still pinpointed as some of the most chilling today:

The Girl Next Door

This novel by Jack Ketchum and the subsequent film were based loosely on the true tale of a young girl from Indiana, Sylvia Likens. Sylvia’s parents worked for a traveling circus, leaving Sylvia and her young sister with a temporary caregiver until their return. While there, Sylvia became the victim of her guardian Gertrude Baniszewski’s abuse, which then led to Baniszewski’s children being encouraged to also torment, physically harm, and even sexually assault Sylvia. She was found on October 26th, 1965, with evidence of multiple beatings, burnings, scalding baths, and further torture, which her body could no longer withstand. She is said to have died specifically from a brain hemorrhage, shock, and malnutrition.

The Amityville Horror

The film, and the novel it was based on; The Amityville Horror: A True Story by Jay Anson, tell the story of the real-life paranormal experiences of the Lutz family – though the truthfulness of the tale is still widely debated. The family, headed by George and Kathy Lutz, claim to have moved into 112 Ocean Avenue, a home in the idyllic town of Amityville, New York which had previously been the home of the DeFeo family, and the scene of Ronald DeFeo’s tragic and ruthless slaughter of six of his own family members. The Lutz family claims to have experienced swarms of flies, vivid nightmares, furniture moving, doors slamming, physical wounds, and demonic sightings among other things during their brief time living in the home. There have been two film versions made, one in 1979 and one in 2005 (as well as a slew of spin-off films). Both are equally as chilling but versions of the 2005 film are more readily available for viewing on Netflix and DirecTV (click here).

Dead Ringers

David Cronenberg’s film following two twin brothers who succumb to drugs and depression was influenced largely by the novel, Twins, by Bari Wood. The novel itself was based on the real-life story of identical twin gynecologists in New York City, Stewart and Cyril Marcus, who shared everything from women to addiction to drugs. In 1975, their bodies were found in their East Side apartment. Both the novel and film explore their shared journey into madness, and then their final death, which they could not do apart. Lucky for those interested, Amazon Prime has the full video available to stream.

The Exorcist

The story of a possessed girl, before it was a horror film icon, was actually a novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty. Blatty was inspired by the exorcism case of Roland Doe, a false name given to the victim who was left anonymous for his own privacy. An attending priest present at the exorcisms, Fr. Raymond Bishop, diligently tracked the happenings of Doe’s possession in a diary. His writings, along with the testimony of Fr. Walter Halloran, who was one of the last surviving eyewitnesses to the events and a participant in the exorcisms, described the horrors of Doe’s affliction. Furniture moved of its own accord, the boy would respond to questions in Latin (a language he did not know) claiming to be the devil, and of course, he had seizure-like body movements. Perhaps the only story on this list with a happy ending, Roland Doe was cured, of possession or whatever else might have ailed him, and went on to begin a family of his own.


Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment writer and blogger born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has a penchant for high fantasy, and loves anything that involves an epic battle of some sort. She can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.

Unaccompanied Sonata And The Dystopian Movie Genre – #GuestPost by @ElizEckhart

The dystopian film and novel genre has become increasingly popular as of late. It seems as if audiences are both terrified and intrigued by the notion of a world not too far from their own, yet lacking the government restraints they have now. Perhaps this is because of the the widespread fear most people harbor of, at some point, losing their freedoms to an overly controlling system. Building on previous dystopian film success such as Road Warrior, Blade Runner and Hunger Games, Orson Scott Card’s short story, Unaccompanied Sonata, will also attempt to attract dystopian-loving crowds.

Already, Mr. Orson Scott Card has received a fair bit of publicity for his popular novel-turned-film, Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game, which failed to garner the attention such a widely admired novel should achieve when debuting on screen, was a victim of both poor timing and the very open political views of its author.

Card, who has long been clear regarding his opinions on gay marriage, the current president, and other notions, never had issues continuing to sell his written works. However, leading up to the premiere of Ender’s Game, Card’s statements made a resurgence into the public eye – resulting in a widespread LGBT boycott by Geeks Out against the premiere. Card’s response was to point out that people were “not getting the true picture of me from these comments, and they’re certainly not getting anything to do with Ender’s Game.”

Opinions aside, it’s true that Ender’s Game did not address Card’s controversial views on marriage. It would also be difficult to determine if it was solely Card’s statements which had an adverse affect on the release, since the film also premiered on the same weekend as Thor: The Dark World, and Card and others may have overestimated the number of older fans who would see a film starring children, and the number of younger fans the novel had accrued in recent years. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely Ender’s Game had the box office success it needed to convince producers to make the sequel – it was quickly pushed to DVD and local Direct TV channels for streaming, in search of a sales bump from home viewing.

Which is why it’s wise that Mr. Orson Scott Card and his film-producing fans have opted to move on from the series, and his next work will be a short story that has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Short Story in previous years. Unaccompanied Sonata leans more toward the artistic end of the film spectrum, making it fitting that Yaron Zilberman has signed on to write and direct the film. Zilberman made his feature directorial debut with 2012’s A Late Quartet, a film following a world-renowned string quartet as they struggle to stay together during their final performances. The film received good reviews, and did well in its attempt to simulate the struggle and power within musical groups – which makes Zilberman an excellent choice to bring Unaccompanied Sonata to life.

Unaccompanied Sonata tells the tale of a young boy raised to be a musical prodigy. He is kept isolated and oblivious to other music in order to create uninfluenced works of his own. After some time, the boy hears Bach’s “Unaccompanied Sonata,” and afterwards is barred from making music due to the belief that his works will be impure.

Many themes are explored in the tale, which was originally published in 1979 in Omni Magazine, including the origin of creativity, the corrupt potential of dystopian governments, and the unbearable torture that is being told to never again do what you love. Card considers the story his best ever, which is why, as with Ender’s Game, the author found it difficult to approve a film version. Zilberman’s A Late Quartet, however, convinced Card it could be done. He said of the upcoming film, “I hope I get to see the Zilberman version of Unaccompanied Sonata. It is my best story, in the hands of the only director I know of who could possibly make it live as a visual and musical experience.”



Elizabeth EckhartElizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment writer and blogger born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has a penchant for high fantasy, and loves anything that involves an epic battle of some sort. She can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.

Godzilla Lives On – Return of the Ever-Popular Gorilla Whale (A Guest Post by Elizabeth Eckhart)

Godzilla Lives On – Return of the Ever-Popular Gorilla Whale

It’s not hard to understand the enduring appeal of the Gojira franchise: an enormous lizard-like life-form lays waste to an urban landscape (occasionally with the help of other, equally rubber-suited, reptilian pals) and has radioactive fire-breath to boot. Add elements of our increasingly strained relationship with the planet, and the story’s principles seem as fresh today as they did in 1954, when Godzilla was just a scaly stand-in for the H-bomb. Godzilla considers the possibilities lurking just out of sight, taking viewers to a place where fantasy and fear commingle with what we know as reality.

This past weekend, Gareth Edwards riffed on the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla, serving up his own version of the 60-years-and-running kaiju monster classic. While the early 50’s work by Toshiro Honda primarily played upon Japan’s neuroses relating to atomic warfare, today’s Godzilla has been updated to embody a fear of similar gravity; nature, as a result of our mistreatment, has begun to forcefully evict us as tenants. Be it through tsunamis, earthquakes, or M.U.T.O.s (an acronym used in the film for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), we are made aware that this planet is much less hospitable than it was before we began leaving carbon footprints.

The opening sequence harkens back to the dawn of the nuclear age, hinting at the impact of America’s Castle Bravo tests and clandestine attempts by the government to quiet a previous monster scandal. Godzilla is introduced as a long-standing aquatic mystery, and it isn’t until halfway through the film that we finally get a good look at him. Edwards teases out the arrival of his star, using small, Spielbergian close-ups to signal impending doom. When he finally rises from the watery depths, the audience gets an eye-full of monster goodness that connoisseurs of the kaiju cult will no doubt be satisfied with. For those looking to reconnect with old favorites, most films are available to viewers via Netflix, Hulu, and occasionally as DTV specials or on demand.

The human protagonists however, despite being of world-renowned and Oscar-winning quality, struggle against a one-dimensional script to appear as “real” as their towering mythical counterpart. Inevitably, the film becomes a spectacle in which its actors, regardless of international acclaim, hardly matter. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (of Kickass fame) and his wife, Elizabeth Olsen (sister to the famous twins), lead the CGI epic to its climax in the city of San Francisco, where Godzilla converges with a cockroach king for an epic monster showdown.

As someone personally terrified of cockroaches of any and all proportions, these mantis-like terrors had me rooting for Godzilla in the same way I cheer for the Orkin man. Ken Watanabe, as nuclear scientist Ishiro Serizawa, asserts that the green giant might be our only hope. “Let them fight,” he says, advising nature to take its course.

As with our own attempt to upend the natural order of things, ultimately we’ll know that we got what we deserved.


Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment writer and blogger born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has a penchant for high fantasy, and loves anything that involves an epic battle of some sort. She can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.

Guest Post – Elizabeth Eckhart – Divergent vs. The Hunger Games

The March 21st release of the film Divergent saw crowds lining up to catch what is only the latest in a series of films based on YA dystopian book series. Looking at the $54 million it took in on opening weekend, it’s probably safe to say the public hasn’t tired of the genre yet, but in a sea of so many films, how does it stack up to it’s most obvious competition: The Hunger Games, and is the opening weekend success a sign of more to come?

When The Hunger Games series of books were released, they were a breath of fresh air for vampire fatigued YA readers. Based on the massive success of the Twilight films, it was a logical step to turn the books into films, and after only two films (out of four) the series has brought in an astonishing $832 million. Given the similarities between the two series, it seemed logical that when Divergent was first published, it became a best-seller and was adapted into a film. In fact, none of the books in the series had even been published when author Veronica Roth sold the film rights to all of them.

Given the numerous parallels between the books, but also their identical target audience, pinpointing which one is going to come out on top isn’t easy. The Hunger Games (which you can watch through streaming services or video on demand on many TV packages) was the first to the punch, so THG’s Suzanne Collins wins in that regard, since her series will always be the go-to point of reference for further YA dystopian films. However, Roth became something of a young prodigy when she wrote the first book at the tender age of 21 while attending Northwestern. Her perspective as a woman barely out of her teens is noticeable when it comes to the inner struggles the main character, Tris, faces. While THG’s Katniss comes across as bold and selfless by volunteering to put herself in the Hunger Games instead of her little sister, many teens today simply can’t identify with that kind of selflessness. They’re much more likely to identify with Tris’ rebellious decision to leave her family and home faction (the city is broken up into five factions based on personalities) in order to pursue her own interests.

When it comes to the way the films were put together, again their differences become apparent. Divergent features a run down, gritty looking Chicago, complete with decaying landmarks like the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and Hancock Tower. However, a common complaint in reviews of the film is that it was filmed mostly in a state of permanent gray fog, meant to symbolize a post-apocalyptic type of world. It was an interpretation from the book perhaps taken too literally. THG meanwhile relies heavily on the outdoors and CGI, and is visually dazzling in that respect.

Like so many other novels and films, the battle between these two teen dystopian franchises comes down to personal preference. While there are good and bad things about both films, their surface similarities belie the deeper plot points that make them so different – differences which will only become more apparent as the rest of the films in each franchise are released. That being said, the comparisons between the two will likely never stop; it’s simply human nature to compare. The best advice that be given on this is to simply see (or read) both, and then decide for yourself.


ElizabethElkhartAviElizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment writer and blogger born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has a penchant for high fantasy, and loves anything that involves an epic battle of some sort. She can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.