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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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: Breaking Bad – Final Season, Episode “Buried”

Rating:  Watch it now!

Summary:  This episode had immediately focused on Hank and Walt racing to contact Skylar.  Hank had gotten the upper hand confronting Skylar at a local restaurant. With Skylar’s unstable emotional state, the White facade had seemed on the verge of unraveling in one moment.  Gaining her composure after Hank’s questioning,  Skylar had interrupted Hank, “Am I under arrest ?” With that statement, Skylar had left the restaurant with Hank empty handed. Without being able to reach Skylar, Walt had sought Sal’s legal consultation. Walt had initiated a “CYA” plan for moving their hoard of cash from storage. Sal immediately had suggested sending Hank on a vacation to Belize like Mike. Responding with restraint, Walt had espoused the virtue of family. With the cash hidden away, Hank had suggested to Skylar turning himself in an effort to preserve his family legacy (i.e. money). Skylar had responded with revelation of knowing his relapse of cancer and keeping quiet for now. The whole theme of this episode had been Hank Schrader searching for the evidence to put Walt away, despite being “family.”  The irony aside, Hank had been provided access to Pinkman by coincidence, fresh off the streets of Albuquerque. If you had waited all week to watch this episode, like me, power on your DVR or download it from the Internet already!

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For folks missing the broadcast or a DVR, you can pick up new episodes on iTunes:
Inside Breaking Bad: Episode 602, “Buried” (posted 8/19/2013)

“Buried” (posted 8/18/2013)

AMC had scheduled a rebroadcast of “Buried” on Sunday, August 25th  7:57 PM (Eastern)

Next episode, “Confessions”had been slotted for Sunday, August 25th, 9 PM (Eastern)

AMC’s Breaking Bad airing schedule: http://www.amctv.com/schedule#series/Breaking-Bad

AMC’s website for more information: Breaking Bad

If you haven’t seen the rest of the series, checkout 1-5 on Netflix.

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: 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)

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

Prokofiev + Sting + James Horner

In November 1985, the Police front man, Sting had released the single Russians. This political commentary had borrowed a melody from Lieutenant Kijé Suite by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Thanks to Sting’s proper crediting at the time, I had borrowed a copy of Prokofiev’s work from the public library. There I had listened to Fritz Reiner’s conduction of the Chicago Symphony rendition of Lieutenant Kijé Suite and the film score to Alexander Nevsky. Alexander Nevsky had provided an unexpected surprise with the piece “Battle on the Ice.” This portion of the film score had seemed familiar in name and themes to James Horner’s “Battle of the Mutara Nebuala” from Star Trek 2: The Wraith of Khan.

What do you think?

Battle on the Ice – YouTube

Battle In The Mutara Nebula – YouTube

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Regardless of your point of view, Prokofiev’s rich score had reached maximum potential with Fritz Reiner’s interpretation.

Itunes: Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky

Film: Alexander Nevsky – YouTube

More information on film maker: Sergei M. Eisenstien (IMDB)

Review: Now You See Me

Rating: Worth full price

Summary:  Street magicians had gone big time through a series of three acts with the FBI and Interpol in pursuit. Hollywood perennials Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman had delivered performances with their usual charm and weight. Cast members Mark Ruffalo, Jessie Eisenberg, and Woody Harrelson had dialed in sharp performances recalling previous works (i.e. The Social Network, Natural Born Killers, Shutter Island). The script had opportunity for greater slight of hand but, kept the mind busy with slew of distractions jumping through different locations of  Vegas, Paris, New Orleans and New York. Like any good stage performance, the film had ended leaving the audience wanting more.

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More production information: Now You See Me (IMDB)

More card tricks: Card Tricks – how to articles from wikiHow

Review: World War Z

Rating: Worth matinee price ($5-$8)

Summary:  The film’s opening sequence had started with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family fleeing New York at the onset of a zombie outbreak. In New Jersey, Lane had called in a helicopter evacuation from his former employee.  After a UN rescue, Lane had been forced to exchange his services to protect his family’s place on secure naval fleet. After signing on for the investigative team, Pitt’s journey had embarked to South Korea and then Israel. Both excursions had climaxed with hoarding undead pursuing Lane with few answers in return.  With PG-13 rating, this zombiefest had lacked  most of the normal gore and dark overtones expected in an outing like 28 Days Later. The movie World War Z  had focused on the frenetic pace which chaos unravels as its’ strength.

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Production details: World War Z (IMDB)

More concept art available: World War Z: The Art of the Film

Review: Man of Steel

Rating: Worth Full Price

Summary: Updated depiction of Superman combined solid action and brisk pacing. Performances from Kevin Costner (Jonathon Kent), Russell Crowe (Jor-El) and Michael Shannon (General Zod) provided the movie’s emotional hooks. Zack Snyder’s interpretation was effortless at a runtime of 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Production details: Man Of Steel (IDMB)

Concept art: Man of Steel artist shares 15 awesome concept images (BLASTR)