Dredd…Let’s Hope For A Sequel

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In My Humble Opinion: Dredd, starring Karl Urban was a violent, gritty adaptation that captured the essence of the comic book character.  As always, I will be up front and honest and say that I didn’t read much Judge Dredd, but was turned onto the character by the god awful movie starring Sylvester Stallone.  The movie was horrible, but the concept was intriguing.  Thank goodness my good friend Travis Becker was a Judge Dredd fan and assured me that the movie was so far off the mark it wasn’t funny.  This led to many conversations between the two of us and lots of research online with regards to the character.

Once the movie Dredd was announced I was pretty stoked to see what it would be all about.  When I first I heard the movie would predominantly take place in one building, a la Die Hard, I was a little disheartened.  I wasn’t sure how the movie would be able to keep the suspense going all while taking place in one building.  Then of course I remembered that the buildings in Mega City One were referred to as “blocks” and were immense structures spanning an entire city block…not to mention 200 stories high.  First viewing I was somewhat split, but upon watching it a second time I really gained an appreciation for it.  Karl Urban seemed to have Dredd down to a T, not to mention he had this perfect chin quality that allowed him to fill the characters helmet perfectly lol.  Another performance you need to be on the look out for is Ma-Ma played by Lena Headey.  If you think she’s bad ass in HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’ll be blown away by her performance in this movie.

The movie was violent sure, but it also had some great cinematic scenes (Ma-Ma being forced to inhale the drug Slo-Mo towards the end of the film springs to mind)  The film unfortunately wasn’t a strong performer at the box office, but has found an audience on Home Video and is now being labeled a “cult film.”  Despite the underwhelming box office results, Dredd received very favorable reviews and currently sits at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Talks of a sequel have been going on since the films release in Sept. 2012 but no final decision has been made as of yet.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the word of mouth and strong following the film has received since being released on DVD / Home Video will garner another installment.  If for anything else, because Karl Urban’s chin is just too perfect to be denied another outing as Judge Dredd!

 

Read More At:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dredd

 


Blast Off With Rocket From The Crypt

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Travis Becker offers up his Humble Opinion.

Saturday April 5, 2014, legendary San Diego band Rocket from the Crypt wrapped up the east coast dates of their reunion tour in Washington DC in front of a capacity crowd of about 700 fans at Black Cat in Washington DC’s U Street neighborhood. While this may not really qualify as a pop culture event in the broadest sense, Sean and I were in attendance, so here are a few of my humble opinions about how it went down.

Rocket from the Crypt certainly isn’t a household name musically.  Formed in the early 90’s, the band released a prolific output of music, much of it on limited edition vinyl singles released on many different independent labels.  They almost broke through in the mid-90’s with a pair of releases on Interscope Records (Scream, Dracula, Scream and RFTC), but it was not to be and the band continued on in obscurity until 2005 when they disbanded to allow Speedo, ND, Petey X, Apollo 9, JC 2000 and Ruby Mars to pursue other projects.  The band’s influence, however, never really diminished among those in the know.  Eventually, the band reunited for an appearance on the children’s television show, Yo Gabba Gabba, a show on which band singer, guitarist and found John “Speedo” Reis had previously appeared as a character known as, “The Swami” .  A few dates in Europe followed and then, to the joy of their legion of devoted fans, a tour of the U.S.

Personally, I discovered Rocket from the Crypt around 1996.  I was working at a music store while attending college and in one shipment of cut-out product (CD’s discontinued by record labels that are then sold to retail stores at a discount to be sold in bargain bins and such), I found a CD with a gnarly-looking scorpion on the front.  I hadn’t heard of the band, but the cover was enough for me.  As soon as I played Scream, Dracula, Scream for the first time I was hooked.  The power and density of the sound was like nothing I had ever heard.  It was a wall of guitars, drums and to my great surprise, even horns.  It wasn’t long before I owned all of their records I could find and even had a tattoo of their logo done, my first tattoo experience.  The one thing that continued to elude me, however, was the live power of Rocket from the Crypt, and when they disbanded in 2005, I just assumed that seeing them in concert was a dream I would have to put away forever.  Until one fateful date last December, that was, when I saw the tour dates for the East Coast come through on an Internet presale.  I didn’t hesitate at all, even though the show was a couple of hours away in Washington, I knew I was going, no matter what.

Saturday’s performance did not disappoint the eighteen years’ worth of lofty expectations I had built up.  The band hit the stage following a short performance by opener Dan Sartain, an entertaining Rockabilly and Blues singer who recalled Dick Dale, Chuck Berry and the Ramones in equal measure through his set.  Resplendent in matching black and white outfits, Rocket from the Crypt wasted no time, launching immediately into a group of songs from their 1995 EP, the State of the Art is on Fire.  They segued into many of their better known songs from Circa: Now! right up through their most recent studio offering, Live from Camp X-Ray.  Highlights for me included the desperate sounding Young Livers, and the show closer, Glazed, which I half expected them to jam out and extend, but which worked just as well in the tight arrangement they went with.  The band played like the seasoned vets they are and the in-house sound was spot-on, but there was a loose, fun feeling throughout.  Adding to this was Speedo’s between song banter, which had me cracking up all night.

I hadn’t been to Black Cat in years, and the neighborhood has certainly grown up in the time I’ve been gone.  The lonely Domino’s Pizza I remembered was gone, replaced by a Trader Joe’s and at least a dozen restaurants that looked out of my price range and dress code.  Perhaps the only disappointment for me was the DC crowd which seemed fairly sedate for the joyous revival happening in their midst.  This is, of course, with the exception for the one guy in front of Sean and I for the first few songs who was either the most enthusiastic air-guitar player I have ever witnessed or was having some kind of seizure.  All things taken together, in my humble opinion, a great time was had by all, and in Speedo’s words, “Everybody say yeah!  Alright, the concert was a success!”  Hopefully this little reunion was successful enough to keep Rocket from the Crypt around for a few more tours and dare I dream – a new record down the road sometime.


Holiday Season Viewing…Memories And Entertainment

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In Travis’ Humble Opinion:  The holidays are a special time of year for many people, a time full of friends, family and good cheer.  Everyone has their own traditions from big meals to tree decorating, all tied to certain sights, sounds and smells that recall the happy times we’ve spent around yuletide.  For me, the scent of fresh pine or a baking pumpkin pie, the twinkle of multi-colored lights strung about people’s homes and the gentle piano notes immediately recognizable as Vince Guaraldi’s score for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, all transport me magically to those few weeks at the end of the year when everyone just seems to be in a better mood, at least when they’re not elbowing each other in the head for the best deals at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Something that often gets left out of nostalgic ramblings (like this one) about this time of year, is the quality time we spend in front of television and movie screens catching up with our favorite holiday-themed programming.  People are so busy trying to DO things around Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year, I think they often try to sweep under the rug these more mundane holiday rituals, even though a great many people take part.  Sure, sitting and watching your favorite Christmas cartoons isn’t as beautiful a memory as sitting in front of a roaring fire, sipping egg nog and singing Christmas carols with the family…but maybe it’s a more realistic one for most people.
To my mind, there are essentially 3 categories of memorable holiday viewing.  The animated Christmas special, the Christmas movie, and the hyped-up-non-holiday-but-aired-during-the-holidays-for-big-ratings, special TV event.  They all have a place in our hearts and the importance and quality of each has declined quite a bit over the years, but here’s a rundown of a few that I enjoy from each category.
Perhaps the most sacred of all holiday TV-watching remains the animated special.  Once upon a time, these specials were just that, special.  They aired on the three (at the time) major networks and were shown once a year.  If you missed How the Grinch Stole Christmas to go watch Aunt Sally and Uncle Bert get hammered on holiday cheer at their annual Christmas party, you weren’t seeing it again until next Christmas and that was almost too much to bear.  Certain shows were absolute must-see viewing for me.  From Charlie Brown to Frosty, from Rudolph to the afore-mentioned Grinch, I always made sure that my parents knew when these were set to air and planned my holiday activities accordingly.  More than any of the others, though, Mickey’s Christmas Carol was utterly essential for the holidays.  It doesn’t get as much love today and it’s a lot tougher to find (and nearly impossible with its original accompanying cartoons featuring Donald, Chip N Dale and Goofy), probably because of the scene featuring a cigar-smoking Pete sending Scrooge to hell for a minute or two, but it’s absolutely a beautifully-made adaptation of the Dickens classic.  I also always looked out for a less well-known entry into the canon, Twas the Night Before Christmas, a musical number featuring some clock-repairing mice and a strangely vindictive Santa Claus.  Nowadays, ABC Family shows most of these specials ad nauseam and a new spate of more recent features that mostly exist as some sort of marketing tie-in to some movie that’s coming out in theaters (or came out last year and is hitting DVD this year).  I would be remiss, however, in not mentioning the series of American Dad Christmas episodes that have aired over the duration of that series.  They’re probably the best episodes of the series and easily among the best new Christmas content out there.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with a solid holiday movie.  I’ve seen Christmas Vacation so many times that the scenes are starting to meld with my own memories.  You have the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, and the vaguely holiday-related films like Gremlins and Die Hard (or even more violent affairs like Home Alone).  Probably the modern classic of our time, though, is Will Ferrell’s tour-de-force, Elf.  Some pretty funny stuff, mixed in with just enough seasonal sentiment makes Elf a perfect movie to watch with the family after a tough day of shopping or seeing relatives.  To this day, I always answer my phone, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” and turns of phrase like “son of a nutcracker!” feel absolutely natural this time of year.  Predictably, there haven’t been many classics to add to the lexicon lately.  Clunkers like Fred Claus and Four Christmases (sorry Vince Vaughn, you’re still money) don’t even hold a candle to such gems as Jingle All the Way…I guess.  Honorable mention to Scrooged, yet another classic retelling of A Christmas Carol with the incomparable Bill Murray.
The last category is perhaps the toughest to nail down.  The super-hyped holiday seasonal release of X movie or TV special, be it a mini-series, TV movie, whatever.  Essentially, the concept is this.  Movie studios like to release movies around the holidays.  People are off of school or work and they need a break from holiday stuff and especially from their insufferable families, so they go out and see a movie for a just a couple hours to themselves.  That’s the theory, anyway.  It used to be more prevalent in TV as well, I assume based on the same idea that people just have some free time to dedicate to entertainment they might not otherwise possess.  Just as an example, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.  Neither film series have the least bit to do with the holidays, but both were released primarily during the peak holiday season and were billed as “the holiday event of the season.”  Despite the fact that there is no relation between holidays and these movies, the two things are wedded to some degree nonetheless and I know I personally associate them.  Going back several years and over to TV, there are two examples worth noting.  Both the Rankin and Bass animated version of the Hobbit (1977) and the Ewok Adventure (1984) were released on Thanksgiving weekend.  The Hobbit predates me just a bit, but I remember anxiously anticipating the Ewok Adventure and I remember the Hobbit being re-shown around the same time.  Again, studios essentially using the holidays to promote non-holiday content and unintentionally (or intentionally, who knows) wedding the two.  Seems like you see this less and less, although I’m certain the advertising dollars are more available than ever.  There just doesn’t seem to be as much “event” viewing as there used to be, probably because the amount of content is so much greater.
So, I guess what I’m saying is this:  Don’t let anyone tell you to get off the couch during this season and engage in more holiday-themed chaos.  Sit yourself down and cozy up with the TV and movies you remember and relax for a change.  Let Clark Griswold, Charlie Brown and what the hell, Harry Potter, make your memories for you.  If you’re like me, these pieces of entertainment lore are part of your holiday-consciousness – embrace them!

 


Blockbuster Bites The Dust

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In My Humble Opinion:  It’s with a heavy heart that I report all Blockbuster stores will be closed by the end of the year (yes there were some still open).  This will include any and all kiosk’s that offered DVD rentals as well.  Blockbuster had once been a shining light when it came to my movie viewing.  I remember going in and grabbing a few DVD’s for the three-day weekend or a day I was off work while my wife still had to work.  I was there to experience the changes the store went through; offering 2 day rentals, reducing late charges, and yes the kiosk experience.

Guess this is just a sign of the times and the video streaming world we live in where movies are available in a number of other ways.  One of the most popular of which is Red Box (though I find peculiar that every Red Box I come across is actually blue) which offers DVD’s in a way the Blockbuster kiosk’s once did.  Of course this one alternative cannot be given sole credit when it comes to Blockbuster’s demise.  Others like; Netflix, Cinemanow, Vudu, On Demand, Hulu, and probably a whole gaggle of others I’m not yet familiar with are to blame as well.  As easy as a lot of these alternatives are, I will miss going into the store and scrambling to find what new releases had come out and browsing the older titles to see if one warranted a repeat viewing.

I guess this was inevitable though.  I can still trace my movie viewing experience back to the local Movie Time when I was renting VHS movies and paying 50 cent rewind charges.  Eventually these smaller movie rental locations were put out of business by the large Blockbuster chain.  Now Blockbuster is experiencing the same fate it bestowed on those smaller, more intimate stores.  My fear is that the next casualty in this changing world will be movie theatres.


Count Chocula Should Be More Than Seasonal Treat!

1980s Count Chocula Pouring Milk

In My Humble Opinion:  Count Chocula cereal should be available year round, and not just during the Halloween season!  To only have Count Chocula available during Halloween is a crime against humanity.  Okay, Okay, it’s not that serious, but still, it’s a crappy business model that needs to be abandoned.  And yes, I’ll even say that the other flavors in the monster cereal line should be available year round as well.  Though I still believe Chocula to be the best, I’m sure there are those that are just as passionate about; Boo Berry, Franken Berry, Fruit Brute, or Yummy Mummy.  So, join me!  Share this, like this, hash tag this, tweet this, whatever the hell we do in social media nowadays.  Together we will get the powers that be at General Mills to hear us and give in to our demands…ha ha ha ha. (In my best Count Chocula laugh)

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Gravity Plot Summary Revealed…CAUTION SPOILERS BELOW

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In My Humble Opinion:  George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are out of this world…..get it?  Enjoy !!!!

Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first space shuttle mission, accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk, debris from a satellite crashes into the space shuttle Explorer, destroying most of it and leaving them stranded in space with limited air. The debris continues to hit other satellites, causing a chain reaction of destruction until the satellites necessary for the two astronauts to communicate with Mission Control in Houston are also destroyed. Nevertheless, both Kowalski and Stone continue to transmit “in the blind” to Mission Control, in the hopes that Mission Control can hear them, regardless of whether or not they receive messages from Mission Control.  Stone tumbles out of control after separating from the shuttle’s cargo bay arm. Kowalski, who is wearing a thruster pack as part of his spacesuit navigates to Stone and retrieves her. The two tether together, and make their way back to Explorer, where they discover the shuttle has been damaged beyond repair, and the rest of their crew are dead. They then decide to use the thruster pack to make their way to the ISS, which is nearby in orbit. Kowalski sets the timer on his suit for 90 minutes, estimating the debris that destroyed Explorer will orbit the Earth and come back around in that amount of time. 

Kowalski is ever calm and efficient in the crisis, continuing to reassure Stone that they will both make it back to Earth safely. En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s life back home and the death of her young daughter in a schoolyard accident. As they approach the ISS, it is clear that the ISS crew has evacuated due to the debris field causing damage. One Soyuz module for delivering ISS crew and returning them to Earth is missing, used by the ISS crew to evacuate the station. The other Soyuz module has been damaged, and its landing parachute has been deployed as a result. It becomes clear that the remaining Soyuz module cannot return them to Earth safely.  As they approach the ISS they realize they have almost no air left and only one thruster burst remaining in Kowalski’s pack. He fires the thruster, and Stone is able to grab onto the ISS, however, Kowalski’s momentum pulls Stone away from the ISS, causing her to lose her grip. Kowalski asks Stone about her minimal piloting training, and instructs Stone to use the Soyuz capsule to travel to a nearby Chinese space station. Hopefully she will be able to get help there. Kowalski says that even if the Chinese have evacuated, she can use a return module that is based on the design of the Soyuz, and Stone’s limited training will get her home safely. Kowalski then disconnects his tether from Stone, sacrificing himself so Stone can get aboard the ISS safely.  

Stone boards the ISS, which has been damaged but still has breathable air. Stone makes her way to the Soyuz module, but a fire starts from sparking wires aboard the ISS. She tries vainly to put out the fire, and finally gets aboard the Soyuz. Once aboard, Stone tries to thruster away from the ISS, but the parachute cables are tangled and keeping the Soyuz from getting free. Stone puts on one of the Soyuz spacesuits and spacewalks outside to release the parachute cables from the capsule. During the spacewalk, the satellite debris has orbited the earth, impacting with the ISS and the Soyuz. Stone barely makes it inside the Soyuz and escapes, just as the debris field impacts and destroys the ISS.  Stone goes over the emergency manual, and uses the thrusters to line the Soyuz up with the Chinese station. She attempts to fire the main Soyuz rocket to navigate to the Chinese station; however, the fuel tanks are empty. Stone tries to use the Soyuz radio to contact earth, but she is only able to reach a farmer who does not speak English on a short wave frequency. Stone resigns herself to her fate of dying, and turns off the oxygen flow in the cabin to hasten her eventual suffocation. She begins to fall asleep, running out of oxygen, when she sees a vision of Kowalski outside the capsule. Kowalski enters the capsule, to Stone’s amazement. Stone tells him that there is no fuel left for the main rocket, but Kowalski, ever the optimist, tells Stone that the capsule still has re-entry rockets that cushion the landing of the capsule before touchdown on land, and that they will use those to navigate to the Chinese station.  

Stone begins to thank Kowalski, when she suddenly understands that she is actually alone in the capsule. Stone realizes she hallucinated Kowalski in her oxygen-deprived state. She turns the oxygen flow back on in the Soyuz, and, using the information about the landing thrusters she remembered from her hallucination, fires the thrusters and makes her way to the Chinese station. Realizing she is going to miss the station by several dozen meters, Stone picks up a fire extinguisher and opens the Soyuz hatch while the capsule is still pressurized, blowing her across the distance. She navigates to the Chinese station using the fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster. Stone boards the Chinese capsule just as the entire Chinese station, having been pushed out of its stable orbit by the satellite debris, starts to burn up on the upper edge of the atmosphere. Stone successfully enters the re-entry commands in the Chinese capsule’s computer, and the capsule begins its descent towards Earth. On the way down, Stone hears Mission Control over the radio tracking the capsule while rescue teams are being dispatched.  The capsule splashes down in a lake in an uninhabited part of the Earth. Stone opens the capsule hatch, but the water rushing in nearly drowns her, pinning her against the wall. Once the water pressure equalizes, she slips out of her spacesuit and swims to the surface, where she swims to shore. While the remains of the Chinese space station and other satellite debris streak high in the sky overhead, Stone takes her first shaky steps on dry land, acclimating herself back to existing in the earth’s gravity.


Gaming And Grand Theft Auto V