Top 5 Sci-Fi Summer Movies of 2014

With September in the rear view mirror, I had thought time for reflecting on my favorite summer Sci-Fi films with some of them finally transitioning to DVD and Pay-Per-View. Along the way, I had watched The Amazing Spiderman 2GodzillaInto the Storm, Transformers: Age of Extinction and a few other non-genre films. Of the those aforementioned titles, adjectives like overindulgent, slow and derivative had come to mind. Then, there were movies worthy of paying full price of admission on opening weekend. These five movies had encapsulated great elements of Sci-Fi with sophisticated special effects, highly choreographed action sequences, exploring mature themes of “What does it mean to be human?”, humor, drama, and more.

5. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

After X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Wolverine films, this franchise had started heading into a downward spiral toward mediocrity; however, building on the First Class prequel, Days of Future Past had placed the X-Men brand back in the proper light. This film had continued exploring the conflict of interests and relationships between Magneto, Charles Xavier and Mystique. These characters had provided the centerpiece for which action flows. The three big takeaways were Quicksilver’s scene stealing moments, the end, and post credits teaser for X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

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This colorful entry was nimble at shifting tone from the sublime to serious and back. With characters like Rocket Raccoon emulating a cat, Groot grooving, and Drax the Destroyer’s literal nature, I hadn’t remembered a Sci-Fi picture working so hard in commanding my attention with humor and action. With an antagonist like Ronan The Destroyer, a movie watcher wasn’t required to know a lot about comics, just knowing the difference between good vs. evil would suffice. The movie was also strong closer with a final musical number. Though, the post-credit scene had left me with a “What the frack?” moment but, smiling all the way out the theater.

3. Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

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Action, action, and more action had epitomized this sequel. With the theme of conspiracy, the story had changed the rules for victory. During first half of the film, Captain America had articulated,”This isn’t freedom. This is fear!” This social commentary on government encroaching on personal privacy had elevated the story into contemporary pop culture, recalling recent stories of the NSA. With an equally matched bad guy in the Winter Soldier, Cap’s victory was hard fought leaving open questions for a Captain America 3.

2. Rise of Planet of the Apes

“Rise” had invoked a primal response by blending acting and special effects. Emotionally investing into Caesar’s survival was easy when forgetting the line between real and fantasy. The opening and closing shots on Caesar’s eyes had sealed the deal for #2. Putting aside how guns undercut a natural order, the story had depicted the story of two leaders, one human and one ape. Both, despite their best attempts had tragically failed at avoiding a broadening conflict between species. With two great plot twists and CGI hair, I had learned to “Like apes, more than humans.”

1. Edge Of Tomorrow

With Tom Cruise playing against his action hero archetype, I had found this movie a pleasant surprise. With an alien invasion and a time loop, this film had delivered a flurry of action sequences. With an ending leaving my head bent, this story had explored different elements of this genre exceedingly well. A surprise why? I hadn’t believed possible such a satisfying Sci-Fi film with Tom Cruise cast despite his other films like Minority Report or Oblivion. Hmm, maybe it was the joy of watching Cruise’s numerous death scenes or the futuristic combat gear?

Read More:

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (rottentomates)

Guardians of the Galaxy (rottentomatoes)

Captain America 2: The Winter Solder (rottentomates)

Dawn of Planet of the Apes (rottentomates)

Edge Of Tomorrow (rottentomates)

Review: X-Men Days Of Future Past

Rating: Worth a matinee

Summary: The story had opened in a future with mutant existence sliding toward extinction at the hands of machines named the Sentinels. These machines were the government’s answer to wiping out mutants as a threat. In a final ditch effort to change their fortunes, the older Magneto and Xavier had constructed a plan to stop the creation of the Sentinels by sending Wolverine into the past.

The main attraction for this iteration of X-Men was the relationship between the younger versions of Magneto, Mystique and Charles Xavier with the backdrop of the 1970s. This timeline had picked up about 10 years after the First Class film. The movie’s most engaging minutes were when these characters pivoting against each other emotionally or physically toward defeating the origination of the Sentinels.  In contrast, the best comedic moments of the DOFP had centered around Quicksilver, a hyper fast moving mutant. Another hallmark of the film was the colorful CGI laced action with the demise of several familiar X-Men; however, in the same breadth, some of those character depictions had also started to wear a bit tiresome. On the flip side, one of the great treats of movie were the number of character cameos across the entire franchise. A final surprise was also provided after all the credits. This audience treat was a visual tip-off to the next installment in the X-Men series which includes Apocalypse.

To answer my question from my last post regarding the best summer sci-fi movie of 2014 thus far, that was still Captain America 2: Winter Solider. If keeping a score, X-Men Days of Future Past had come in second. In relation to the X-Men franchise, X-Men 2 was still the most satisfying from my perspective of all the entries then First Class and rounding out with DOFP.

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Summer Scifi Movies so far 2014

On the verge of watching X-Men Days of Future Past, I had some thoughts on the first three major scifi releases of 2014; Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Godzilla, and The Amazing Spider Man 2.

Starting with Godzilla, while a decent effects outing, this most recent release was a more an exercise in emulating the slow tempo and exposition of films of Saturday afternoon reruns of my youth. The grandeur and spectacle of this film had wore off quickly on a second viewing. If looking for an exercise in auditory effects I had suggested checking it out in a good theatre. To see far better updated rendition of mega monster film, I had recommended checking out last summer’s macho charged Pacific Rim.

With The Amazing Spider Man 2, this entry into this superhero franchise had communicated the complexity of human relationships against the backdrop of being a savior to the common man. With excellent choreographed action sequences, it had missed one big note. It had lacked a fully fleshed out performance by Jamie Foxx as Electro. His performance was muted and flat. Considering his comedic ability, thoughts of Jim Carrey’s improvisation as the Riddler had floated through my mind.

That had brought me to Captain America 2: The Winter Solder, which so far after two separate viewings had provided the best story and mix of action. Captain America 2 had continued effectively the theme of the first film of “just a boy from Brooklyn.” Chris Evans as Cap had continued emoting a vulnerable charm worthy of seduction of Black Widow incognito. The bigger surprise here was the pointed contemporary political commentary on public safety, freedom, and fear. If all that wasn’t enough, toss in Robert Redford’s stage presence to seal the deal. On a second pass, this movie had continued to entertain with great dialogue and cast chemistry.

So the question now is,”Can X-Men Days of Future Past out perform Captain America 2?” Guess I am about to find out!

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Review: Thor – The Dark World

Rating: Worth matinee of $6-$8 bucks

Summary: Thor – The Dark World had provided a lot of cgi eye candy with staggering scenes of Asgard and the other 9 realms. The film had provided a new villain in Malekith, leader of the dark elves. Malekith had intended on returning the galaxy back into darkness with an intergalactic alignment of Asgardian realms. During the process of pursuing his goal, Malekith had attacked Asgard in hopes of collecting a dark power called the Aether. Unfortunately for Jane Foster, she had accidentally fused with the Aether. She had then become the target of the dark elves plan. Joining forces in preventing the cataclysm, Loki had provided an escape for Thor and Jane Foster. For good part of the build to confronting Malekith, Thor’s supporting cast had warned Loki to avoid betraying him In the end, the dark elves had provided Loki this chance. Without providing any spoilers, this sequel had delivered plenty of action, humor and Loki. All these elements had made the 1:55 run-time whiz by. If you had enjoyed the first installment, check it out!

Read More:

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World (Marvel)
Thor: The Dark World (IMDB)

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Review: Ender’s Game

Rating: Worth a matinee of $6-$8 on a big screen with good audio.

Cast heavy weights, Harrison Ford, Colonel Graff, and Ben Kingsley, Mazer Rackham, had portrayed characters hardened by the military threat of an alien race, the Formics. Viola Davis as Major Gwen Andersen and Asa Butterfield’s, Ender Wiggin, had served as emotional counterpoint to the psychology of war. At beginning of the movie, a school bully had corned Ender into a violent situation. Using brutal force with strategy, Ender’s response had caught the eye of Ford’s Graff. Deciding to mentor Ender, Graff had started throwing different challenges at his prize horse.

With each level of success, Ender had faced increasingly more complex moral dilemmas. At one point, he had decided to quit his military training after an injury to a peer; however, his sister, Valentine, had convinced him to continue on, despite his misgivings regarding Colonel Graff. After completing his training, Ender had faced his greatest challenge, a genocide. Coping with this reality, he had searched for more substance behind his actions and a means of atonement.

The film had explored a sea of adult themes like leadership, mentoring, teamwork, genocide, and ego. Despite the youthful perspective, the movie had delivered serious points of the rational behind going into battle blindly. If you had enjoyed science fiction genre, definitely get out to see this on a big screen with great audio.

Read more:
Ender’s Game (IMDB)

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Review: Appalachian Impressions

Rating: Worth a spin for anyone considering a lengthy hike.

Wrapping up a Appalachian Trail Conservancy membership drive, the documentary, Appalachian Impressions (2005) had painted a pragmatic picture of hiking the A.T. It had started in Georgia showing the crowds starting in early Spring. Then the film had progressed through all 14 states. It had earnestly detailed some of the hardships from wear and tear on feet through overpacking gear. It had also highlighted the mental toll on hikers moving through different physical landmarks. It had detailed the charity of various individuals and organizations providing “trail magic.” “Trail magic” had simply meant food or drink for free for hikers. The film had offered witness to the community between hikers. If you had considered a protracted hike on the AT, check this film out.

Read more:
Appalachian Impressions (IMDB)

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Review: Bad Grandpa

Rating: Worth $5 – $8 matinee

The draw of this film was a twist on familiar jackass themes of bathroom humor and over the top action. This go around, Johnny Knoxville had transformed into an elder gentleman mourning the death of his wife. The new perspective had come in the form of small boy as his grandson. The device of a grandson had provided a unique freshness on gorilla style comedy routines.

As a pair, these two actors had delivered two of the four big setups in the movie. One scene had started out in a restaurant with farting. The other had used a child beauty pageant as a backdrop. The last two setups had delivered Knoxville with intriguing situations at a gas station and a bar.

Bad Grandpa hadn’t tried to be high class art. It had focused on entertaining with visceral reactions. If you had liked previous Jackass outings, check this out for matinee.

Read More:
Bad Grandpa (IMDB)
Johnny Knoxville (Wikipedia)

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Review: About Time

Rating: Worth a matinee of $8 bucks.

From director and writer, Richard Curtis, a story about a family of men that had shared a secret of time travel. Curtis’s previous works had included Notting Hill, Love Actually and the Notebook. Playing the family patriarch, Bill Nighy of Underworld fame, had revealed the time traveling talent to his son, Tim. The film had explored the variations on Tim’s romantic encounters culminating in marriage to love interest Mary, actress Rachael McAdams. The story had then progressed into more serious territory regarding addiction, death and a family’s response to both.

With vulnerable charm, the movie had espoused living in the present regardless of the tragedies in life. It had also captured the subtle nuasances that go along with courtships and life long relationships. Bill Nigh’s scenes had provided the film’s emotional center. His scene stealing performances had made the two hour runtime worthwhile. The draw for me, time travel, had taken a back seat to the theme of script. It had communicated the point of savoring life every day.

About Time trailer (YouTube)

Read More:
About Time (IMDB)
Richard Curtis (IMDB)
Bill Nighy (Wikipedia)

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Review: Gravity

Rating: Worth a matinee on a big screen.

Summary:  In the second week of release, I had wanted to originally skip this movie like a rogue asteroid. This rational had surrounded the casting of two Hollywood heavyweights, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Their collective science fiction offerings had provided an abysmal to non-existent track record. For starters, George Clooney’s last voyage in space, Solaris (2002), had embodied the metaphor as lifeless as the vortex of a black hole. On the other hand, Sandra Bullock hadn’t necessarily worked successfully in any dramatic performances since Speed (1994).

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Upfront, Gravity’s tempo had dispensed immediately with exposition by thrusting into space Dr. Ryan Stone, Sandra Bullock. Providing calm, George Clooney had depicted Matt Kowalski as the practical and ego-centric veteran. The opening sequence, many thereafter, had demonstrated the film’s ability in composing on the edge, dramatic excitement. At times, you had figuratively felt yourself falling into the chaotic action. Rotating camera angles and zoomed out views had reinforced the remote perspectives of the script’s characters. Another element, audio had focused on the astronauts’ experience of breathing, the silence of space, and radio communications. Along with selective application of the music score, audio had further underlined the emotion impact of the action. Anchoring the other two elements, the theme of man versus nature had driven the story. With that theme, the characters had explored their own responses to adversity. In exploring that frailty, the film had reaffirmed a theme of mine, “What’s inside you?” In the context of the life’s impromptu challenges, we had not known the answer without challenging ourselves or getting up when knocked down.

While leveraging core elements of great cinema, Gravity had changed my opinion of Bullock and Clooney. Gravity’s expansive shots of the earth and space had rightfully deserved the canvas of a large movie screen. In the end though, the merits of the story had won me over.

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Read More:

Speed (IMDB)

Solaris (IMDB)

Gravity (IMDB)

Review: Riddick

Rating: Worth full price for any scifi or action fan.

Summary: With $38 million budget and 7 years of production, Vin Diesel had made another solid, yet smaller entry into the Pitch Black anthology. On a desolate world with a mixed ecosystem, featuring wolf like predators and a water born menace, Riddick had started his journey to reasserting his animal instinct. With a new domesticated pet, Riddick had evolved into a more sophisticated man, despite statements to the contrary; However, Riddick’s dark pragmatism had still endured with quotes like “Leave God out of this, he wants no part of what comes next.” In an effort to escape the planet’s surface, he had enabled an emergency rescue beacon. In pursuit had been two different teams of mercenaries initiating the “body count.” The story had leveraged the best aspects of the two previous installments, the “Mercs” and the monsters. The movie had delivered on key attributes of the franchise with grotesque wounds, unique kills, misdirection and adult humor. One of the highlights had been roll reversals between the members of mercenary teams. Drawing on connections to the first two installments, the script had provided adequate character development and few twists along the way. While lacking the grand scope and climax of Chronicles of Riddick (2004), I had been very satisfied with the brutal action sequences and sarcastic dialogue. At close, the audience had been left in Riddick wake’s leaving the door open for another adventure.

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More information:

Vin Diesel: ‘I leveraged home to make Riddick film’ (Herald Sun)

Riddick (IMDB)

Riddick Official Website

Review: Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy Reconfigured

Rating: Worth a spin at $1 per track

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Summary: When pre-ordering Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (2013), I had stumbled across this other release. What I had discovered, a new steady for working out at the gym. Some of you had known Daft Punk from this summer’s  “Get Lucky” (2013) and others maybe from their older club hit, “One More Time” (2001); However, between Tron Legacy (2010) and Random Access Memories (2013), Daft Punk had been missing a certain quality. The Tron Legacy soundtrack had been precise and mechanical to a fault, perhaps the influence of the film’s German producers. In contrast, this year’s Random Access Memories had been over indulgent with certain rifts. Tron: Legacy Reconfigured (2011) had embodied the balance of keyboard fills, syncopation and climaxes. A few stars of 1990’s house and trance, like Paul Oakenfield, Moby, and Crystal Method, had made noteworthy appearances. The best up-tempo entry had been the Teddybears‘ “Adagio for Tron”. In contrast, I had wanted to add Moby’s slow tempo version of “The Son of Flynn” to every summer home movie. With respect to critical acclaim, Photek’s remix of “End of Line” had been nominated for Grammy for “Best Recording Remix, Non-Classical.” The only song that had been disposable, “Arena” from The Japanese Popstars. Despite reading mixed critical reviews, I had loved this album from first play, maybe you will too!

For a quick auditory summary,  Disney Music had posted 9+ minutes of highlights of the whole 1:17 minute runtime: TRON: Legacy Reconfigured – Album Sampler (YouTube)

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1. “Derezzed” The Glitch Mob 4:22

2. “Fall” M83 vs. Big Black Delta 3:55

3. “The Grid” The Crystal Method 4:27

4. “Adagio for Tron” Teddybears 5:34

5. “The Son of Flynn” Ki:Theory 4:51

6. “C.L.U.” Paul Oakenfold 4:35

7. “The Son of Flynn” Moby 6:32

8. “End of Line” Boys Noize 5:40

9. “Rinzler” Kaskade 6:52

10. “ENCOM, Part II” Com Truise 4:52

11. “End of Line” Photek 5:18

12. “Arena” The Japanese Popstars 6:07

13. “Derezzed” Avicii 5:03

14. “Solar Sailer” Pretty Lights 4:32

15. “Tron Legacy (End Titles)” Sander Kleinenberg 5:04

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Daft Punk album collage courtesy of CS version of Photoshop & GarzaFX

More information:

Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy Reconfigured available on iTunes and Amazon
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tron-legacy-reconfigured/id426251101
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tron-Legacy-Reconfigured-Various-Artists/dp/B004M20YDU

TRON: Legacy Reconfigured – Album Sampler (YouTube)

“The Grid”-The Crystal Method from TRON: Legacy Reconfigured (YouTube)

Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy Reconfigured Facebook Page

The film, Tron: Legacy (IMDB)

Review: Jobs

Rating: Worth matinee of $8.75

Summary:  The appeal of the picture had stemmed from Ashton Kutcher’s spot on performance and the inspirational message of “thinking different.” After skipping this title on the first week of release, I had grown more curious about the Jobsian mythology, after watching the documentaries Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2011) and Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (2012) .  Capturing the mercurial powder keg of this visionary, Kutcher had believably pivoted from calmness to madness and back. For Ashton Kutcher, his role had been transformational from comedian to actor. Outside of the film’s cheap production values from style, set and film stock, his ability to sell through Steve Jobs made the movie worthwhile. Highlighting his genius, Job’s ethos had been marketing a great idea to finished product. His ability to direct talent has been transcendent among many of his contemporaries. Jobs’s relentless ability to see past the present and non-believers, had set him apart but, at a personal price. At one point, Steve Wozniak had eloquently stated “The product is about you… It must be very lonely in there.” Those small moments had taken a backseat to pop culture history of the Apple I, Macintosh and iMac. With every opportunity, Jobs had always seemed ready to apply his business pragmatism. Those visions had been rooted in ability to stay hungry and stay foolish. Fitting Kutcher had ended the film with the following, “Those crazy enough to want to change the world, are the ones that do.” When you finish watching this dramatization, you might had thought you can too.

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More information:

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2011) available on Netflix
Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (2012) available on Netflix
Jobs (IMDB)

Opinion: Ben Affleck as Batman! Was Kermit the Frog unavailable?

Ben Affleck as Batman, I don’t think that had any ability to invoke intimidation for any audience, Bane, the Joker, let alone Missy Piggy. There had been a reason Warner Brothers had offered Christian Bale $50 million dollars to reprise his role. Christian Bale had been a psychotic killer in American Psycho. Now that had brought some gravitas to the role. As matter of fact, look at some of Christian Bale’s cinematic pedigree that he had brought to the Batman franchise.

The Fighter 2010

Terminator Salvation 2009

3:10 to Yuma 2007

The Prestige 2006

The Machinist 2004

Reign of Fire 2002

American Psycho 2000

If you had wanted a cardboard puppet performance perhaps, Ben Affleck.

Daredevil 2003

The Sum of All Fears 2002

Reindeer Games 2000

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Perhaps, I had lost my mind like Kermit the Frog, but just your average American film viewer.  If you think I had been on the money, sign the online petition with Warner Brothers. Otherwise, fire away.

Online Petition from Change.Org

More comments from around the web:

How Shatner and 18 more celebs reacted to Affleck’s Batman casting (BLASTR)

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From God (FaceBook)

Review: Mile … Mile and A Half

Review:  For any naturist, worth $10 and drive to Deland, FL

The Florida Trail Association had sponsored a screening of  the The Muir Project’s new film, “Mile … Mile & A Half” at Athens Theater.  This film had followed a group of hikers’ 30 day experience through California’s John Muir Trail.  The great thing about this production, nature had been the star backdrop from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. The documentary explored the physical challenges of the terrain, supplying, endurance and recording on the participants. Despite the hardships on the team,  the bond of survival had brought them a greater reverence for life and the environment.  During the question and answer session, the producers had mentioned their previous longest trek being 4 days.  Another aspect of the movie had been the impromptu moments of humor and music.  The story put forth had been nothing less than inspirational when thinking about your next summer vacation. The documentary had a limited run, so your best bet will be the DVD release.

More Information:

The Muir Project

Mile…Mile & a Half Trailer 1

Mile…Mile & a Half Trailer 2

Athens Theatre

Florida Trail Association

Review: Kick-Ass 2

Rating: Worth $5 on PPV or a matinee, but no more.

Summary:  Lacking the sharp sarcasm and focus of the first installment, Kick-Ass 2 had been derivative with empty violence, gratuitous cursing and sexual overtones. Superhero films have been hard to follow-up with successful and engaging sequels. Ensemble pieces in any genre had been equally challenging, less the Avengers, Big Chill, X-Men 2 and some classic Star Trek and Star Wars. With teams of superheroes and villains, too many character introductions had scuttled the pace of exploring the conflict of reality vs. fantasy.  Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Colonel Stars and Stripes had some fun moments with his vicious dog Eisenhower; however, this rigid performance had fallen short of Nicholas Cage’s previous insanity and vulnerability as Big Daddy. The best scenes of the film had been Hit Girl and Mother Russia expressing their raw violent abilities.  Kick-Ass 2’s theme “that reality has consequences” had reinforced that sequels usually just suck “Motherfucker!”

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For more information:

Kick-Ass 2 (IMDB)

Kick-Ass 2 Featurette, Hit Girl vs. Mother Russia

Review: National Geographics’s America’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail (2009)

Rating: Worth 57 minutes for any nature buff (Available on Netflix)

Summary: National Geographic’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail had provided different perspectives of the 2,000 mile trail in the United States. The documentary had opened with a network administrator moving through first leg of the A.T.  The film had underscored the challenges at the onset for many travelers. Many hikers had packed too much food or gear (i.e. bear spray, books, etc.) , weighing down their daily 12 hour haul. Another revelation, many hikers that had attempted a hike through of the trail, gave up after four days. Then the focus had shifted describing  ecological pollution on bird and fish wildlife with Acid Rain. The documentary had continued with history of the Appalachian Trail, the organic experience of 4-6 month pilgrimage and climaxing with the end of the A.T. in Maine.

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If lacking a Netflix subscription, I had found individual excerpts of this inspiring look  off the Nat Geo website. This had definitely peaked my sense of adventure away from technology, hoping it can do the same for you!

1.  The Not So Lonesome Trail

2.  Acid Rain: Invisible Menace

3.  This Trail’s for the Bird

4. An American Pilgrimage

5. The Final Summit

More information:

National Geographics’s America’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail

Review: Elysium

Rating: Worth Matinee $5 -$8

Summary: In 2154, the wealthy and privileged had abandoned an overpopulated Earth in favor of the Elysium station.  Under the protective eye of Secretary Delacourt Rhodes (Jodie Foster), the Elysium population had prospered living free of illness (i.e. cancer, leukemia, etc.) and the scourge of poverty. Max (Matt Damon), a former convict, had worked the line at manufacturing plant for robots.  In his youth, Max had obsessed about voyaging to Elysium. Raised by a nun, he had been challenged to remember his roots in LA.  Opening the film, Secretary Rhodes had been summoned to address illegals heading toward their secured habitat. Delacourt’s brutal response had placed her in direct conflict with Elysium’s political leaders, including President Patel. Unwavering in her quest for expedient results, the Secretary had assembled a plot to consolidate her power. The struggle between Max and Rhodes had kicked off by his coincidental hijacking of Delacourt’s plan. In pursuit of Max had been Rhodes’s military agent, Kruger (Sharlto Copley of Distract 9 fame). A hardened operative on the edge of madness, Kruger had used violence at every opportunity for fear or death.

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The script’s political commentary on US immigration, while timely, had periodically weighed down the overall pace of the film. The gritty, industrial vision of the future had produced a believable familiarity with military transports, guns, drones and overpopulated slums. Several action sequences had included different rounds of  ballistics with jarring, unique effect. The grotesque result of one explosion on a victim had almost been worth the price of admission.  Jodie Foster‘s Cheneyesque performance had been a welcome contrast to her idealistic role in Contact. Matt Damon and Shalto Copley had provided range of fun moments from desperation to sarcasm. Director Neill Blomkamp‘s first outing since District 9, while not a classic, had been one of the more visually interesting pieces of sci-fi film this year.

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More Information:

Elysium (IMDB)

District 9 (IMDB)

Review: Breaking Bad (Seasons 1-5)

Rating: Worth every bit of the $8 bucks for one month of Netflix.

Summary: With a few weeks before the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad, a friend’s recommendation had gotten me to take a second look at this Emmy winning series. The suggestion had been viewing Season 1, Episodes 1-3, of this dark suburban drama. Just past his 50th birthday, Walter White, a high school teacher, had been confronted with terminal lung cancer. Walter’s response had been a relentless desire to posthumously provide for his family. This motivation had driven him to establishing a business relationship with a local drug dealer, Jesse Pinkman.  Walter’s incremental transformation into Eisenberg, his alter ego, had been the core appeal of the show. With every violent and criminal act, Walter had gone deeper into the shadows, losing his humanity. Unsatisfied without an empire or enough money (i.e. $5 million), he had continued to tempt fate, regardless of the danger to friends and family. Pursuing Walter had been various players from the drug underworld and law enforcement, including Hank Schrader, his DEA brother-in-law. As counterpoint, his wife, Skylar, and son, Walter Jr., have provided personable moments, periodically grounding Walter as the family man (i.e. making breakfast, driving lessons). In Season 3 and Season 4 , Walter’s relationship with his wife and crime boss, Gus, had been hitting rough seas. In a moment of vulnerability, Walter had stopped by Hank Schrader’s office for counsel. He had started to explain to Hank, “Skylar no longer loves me.” Walter had proceeded to breakdown emotionally, tearing up and head facing down. Upon Hank leaving to get them coffee, Walter had immediately pivoted to bugging Hank’s wedding picture and work pc. At Hank’s return, Walter had pushed the frame of the wedding picture back together emoting loss, versus his true deviant purpose. This scene had encapsulated the whip neck performances of Bryan Cranston, and the jarring ability of the series as a whole. The setup for the final season, Walter had begun running out of business partners, trust and time. Walter White had been “the man knocking at the door”; however, the inertia of bad choices had established his final descent.

If unsure about stomaching this show, I had seconded my friend’s advice for watching Episodes 1-3 of Season 1. Test drive that portion of the series, that had been a good measure of what to expect. iTunes had just posted a Sneak Peak scene from the premiere of the final season. You can pre-pay iTunes to auto-download the rest of this final season or just DVR AMC Channel starting Sunday, August 11, 2013 Sundays 9/8C.

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More Information:
Breaking Bad
http://www.amctv.com/shows/breaking-bad

Review: The Wolverine

Rating:  Wait for PPV (i.e. Amazon, iTunes, on-demand)
Summary: This entry into the franchise was like selecting the last options in a Japanese love house. Had you wanted “the dungeon”, “the doctor’s office” or “Mission to Mars,” great, but fresh non-stop action, look elsewhere. Of the X-Men branded films, this had been the least enjoyable due to an inability to deliver on elevated imagery of mutant conflict. There had been a lot of elements that should work like ninjas, sexy mutants, swords, Japanese architecture, and Logan cursing (i.e. shit, mutant bitch, and dick). In this installment, the body count had also increased considerably with deaths by impalement, nuclear denotation, kisses and arrows. A possible great theme, the duality of women in misogynistic tradition, had been introduced; however, once it had been capitalized, how under empowering. For a story exploring emotions, it had lacked a certain attraction and charm. If you had been going for an edge, let the blood fly. Periodically, superheroes (i.e. Thor – 2011, Superman II  – 1980) have confronted loss of their powers. From a point of drama, that contrast has been a great tool. The hero in the these movies had struggled to overcome normalcy but, somehow find justice by leveraging courage, intelligence or both. The Wolverine had made a lot half-hearted attempts to be edgy, emotional and dramatic. The most powerful scenes were the opening bar showdown, the train-top sequence, and the airport metal detector. Those three moments of focus had accounted for about 30 minutes of over 2 hour running time. After that, I had started contemplating Hugh Jackman’s workout regime to transform into a monster.

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More information:
The Wolverine (IMDB)

Art and music from the film Pacific Rim

Part of Pacific Rim’s spectacle had been the pounding string and guitar work from the soundtrack. The majestic walk of the Jaegers’ had seemed to match the tempo quite effectively. These specific tracks had driven my purchase for the gym:

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1. Pacific Rim (feat. Tom Morello)

2. Gipsy Danger

3. Canceling The Apocalypse

4. Jaeger Tech (feat. Tom Morello)

5. Physical Compatibility

6. Go Big Or Go Extinct (feat. Tom Morello)

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7.  Passages (From “Pacific Rim Trailer 2013”)

Soundtrack for Pacific Rim available: Amazon, ITunes

Music from trailer Passages (From “Pacific Rim Trailer 2013”) by Evolve available: Amazon

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Artwork in hardcover available: Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, and Monsters (Amazon)

Fan artwork available: Get ready to rumble with 15 ferocious Pacific Rim fan art posters (Blastr)

More information on soundtrack: Tom Morello Marches With Ramin Djawadi on ‘Pacific Rim’ – Song Premiere (Rolling Stone)

GarzaFX: Review: Pacific Rim

Review: Pacific Rim

Rating: Worth matinee ($5-$8)

Summary: Earth has been invaded by wave of alien monster attacks from the Pacific ocean. Man’s response was led by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, Captain Janek from last summer’s Prometheus) with the Jaegar program. The tide of the war has turned against Pentecost’s program with smarter and more frequent opposition.

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Humanity’s survival has only the coastal wall project and four more Jaegar teams to go. The movie’s emotional response had been paced by the action sequences grinding through Alaska, Honk Kong and the Pacific floor. Showcasing scale and loud effects, the movie has a big escalation with second act in Hong Kong. Pacific Rim has encapsulated the childhood joy of watching Godzilla, or any other monster movie for the first time. Critical art no, explosive action that had deserved a big screen and great audio, yes.

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Pacific Rim – “Destroy All Kaiju” Featurette : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0G6mXiA33Y