REVIEW: CHASING MAVERICKS

 

CAST

Jonny Weston (John Dies at The end)
Gerard Butler (300)
Elizabeth Shue (Hollow man)
Abigail Spencer (Cowboys and Aliens)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Scott Eastwood (Fury)

In 1987, an 8-year-old boy in Santa Cruz, California, Jay Moriarity, is saved from drowning by his next door neighbor, surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). This ignites his passion for the sport. One morning, Jay (Jonny Weston), now 15, sees Frosty leaving early and hitches a ride on his van. He sees Frosty and three of his friends riding a gigantic swell known as Mavericks, which with El Niño coming in will be at its height in three months’ time. Reluctantly, Frosty agrees to teach Jay how to surf Mavericks, but insists that Jay learn about the “foundation pillars of surfing”. These involve him learning to paddle board 36 miles from Santa Cruz to Monterey Bay, treading water for 40 minutes and being able to hold his breath for four minutes.While training, Frosty encourages Jay to write essays to focus on the task. His first essay is about Kim (Leven Rambin), his crush, whose dog he saved when he was 8, which caused him to nearly drown. Jay gets closer to Kim as he trains, partially encouraged by Frosty’s wife, Brenda (Abigail Spencer). A few weeks before the biggest swell of the season hits Mavericks, Brenda has a stroke and dies. A few days later, distraught from Brenda’s death, Frosty paddles out into the bay. Jay follows him, and using the knowledge from his training, he helps Frosty back to shore. Frosty realizes that Jay is ready to ride Mavericks. Frosty takes Jay to Mavericks at Half Moon Bay and watches with his three friends as Jay treads water against the tide. The group agrees that Jay is ready to ride with them. For Jay’s 16th birthday on June 15, 1994, his mother (Elisabeth Shue) gives him a radio so he can listen to the weather broadcasts and track the swell. Frosty gives him a custom-made “big wave gun” (a long surfboard especially designed for riding big waves). Kim reveals her feelings for him and they share a kiss.Frosty had wanted to keep Mavericks a secret, but Jay’s notebook that he had been using for preparation ends up in the hands of his rival (Taylor Handley). When Jay and Frosty go to Half Moon Bay, there is a large crowd and boats taking surfers out. Many of the newcomers wipe out before getting to surf Mavericks. Jay wipes out at first, but then retrieves his board and successfully rides Mavericks. A title card reveals that he married Kim and died at age 22 while free-diving in the Maldives. The film ends with Frosty, Kim, and an assemblage of others holding a surfers’ memorial service for Jay.I really liked this movie. I know nothing of the surfing world but the story drew you in and you really cared about these people. Gerard Butler was the reason I bought this movie and he didn’t disappoint he was really believable in the role as Jay’s mentor.

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REVIEW: PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS

CAST

Logan Lerman (Fury)
Alexandra Daddario (Texas Chainsaw)
Douglas Smith (Big Love)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Stanley Tucci (Easy A)
Jake Abel (Love & Mercy)
Anthony Head (Buffy: TVS)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Brandon T. Jackson (Fast & Furious)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express)
Robert Knepper (IZombie)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Robert Maillet (Hercules)
Paloma Kwiatkowski (Bates Motel)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (Flashforward)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Yvette Nicole Brown (500 Days of Summer)
Derek Mears (Hatchet III)
Alisha Newton (Heartland)

While in Camp Half-Blood, Percy recounts the story of Thalia and her sacrifice. A young Annabeth, Luke, Grover and Thalia are running to Camp Half-Blood while being pursued by monsters. Thalia sacrifices herself to get the others into the camp, and her father Zeus transforms her into a pine tree, creating a magical border around the camp. Soon a Cyclops passes through the border and is revealed to be Tyson, Percy’s half-brother. The camp is later attacked by a Colchis Bull who breaks through the border and ravages Camp Half-Blood. Percy defeats it with the help of Tyson, Annabeth, and Clarisse. Following this, Luke (who had survived his and Percy’s battle in the previous film) appears and confronts Percy, trying to convert him to his cause. When Percy refuses, Luke disappears.The campers realize that Thalia’s tree has been poisoned by Luke and they are vulnerable to attacks. Percy visits the Oracle, who tells him of a prophecy of a half-blood of the eldest gods either saving or destroying Olympus. Chiron tells Percy that he is the only living, human half-blood of the eldest gods, so the half-blood in the Prophecy may refer to him. Annabeth and Grover learn about the Golden Fleece, which has the power to heal anything, and propose a quest in which they retrieve the Fleece and use it to heal Thalia’s tree. Mr. D chooses Clarisse to lead the quest, much to Annabeth’s and Percy’s dismay. Percy convinces Grover and Annabeth to accompany him on the quest, and Tyson joins them. Annabeth hails the Chariot of Damnation, and Percy threatens the three drivers (the Graeae) to tell him of his prophecy, giving him coordinates for the Sea of Monsters (the Bermuda Triangle) before ejecting the group from the cab in Washington D.C. because they lack money.While walking down the street, Grover is kidnapped by Chris Rodriguez and taken to Luke. Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson first locate Luke with the help of Hermes, then ride a Hippokampos to his yacht, the Andromeda. Luke reveals his plan to revive Kronos using the Fleece so Olympus will be destroyed. Percy and they are then locked in the brig, though they later escape when Percy uses his ability to manipulate water. The group is consumed by Charybdis, and they discover Clarisse in the monster’s stomach. Percy and Clarisse work together to escape Charybdis by shooting a hole through its gut, and soon they arrive at Circeland, Polyphemus’s lair. Percy finds Grover, and the five escape Polyphemus, retrieving the fleece and trapping him in his cave. Afterwards, Luke arrives and demands the fleece from Percy, who refuses. Luke shoots a crossbow bolt at Percy, but Tyson takes the bolt in the chest and falls into the water below.Luke begins reviving Kronos and Annabeth encourages Percy to take leadership. The team escapes captivity, and Percy grapples with Luke over the Fleece, like the prophecy said they would, but Luke easily gains the upper hand. Luke is suddenly thrown away by Tyson, revealed to have survived his wound due to the water healing it, as he is Poseidon’s son. Kronos rises from the sarcophagus and consumes Luke and Grover before battling Percy. Percy realizes that Riptide is the “cursed blade” of the prophecy and slices Kronos into pieces imprisoning Kronos in the sarcophagus once again, causing him to regurgitate Grover and Luke, the latter landing in Polyphemus’s Lair. Their victory is short lived as Annabeth is stabbed by the Manticore, who is killed in turn by Clarisse and Grover. Annabeth dies in Percy’s arms but is resurrected by the Fleece. Percy then gives the fleece to Clarisse, and they return to Camp Half-Blood. Clarisse places the fleece on Thalia’s tree. The group returns the next day to find Thalia alive, as the fleece returned her to human form. Percy realizes that Thalia, as a child of Zeus, is another possible child of the prophecy about either preserving or destroying Olympus. The film ends showing the sarcophagus with Kronos’s remains in it glowing, implying that Kronos still has some degree of his power, and is still planning to return.Exciting fantasy film with excellent effects and light hearted banter, great for all ages, sequel to Percy Jackson and the lightening thief.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 1 & 2

SarahConnorChronicles

MAIN CAST

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (Heroes)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Richard T. Jones (Godzilla)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Garret Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone)
Shirley Manson (Knife Fight)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Dean Winters (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Charlayne Woodard (The Crucible)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Jonathan Sadowski (Friday the 13th)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Catherine Dent (Taken)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Tiya Sircar (The Vampire Diaries)
Andy Umberger (Angel)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Neil Hopkins (Lost)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Bruce Davison (High Crimes)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Jon Huertas (Sabrina: TTW)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (Supergirl)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Concflict)
Stephanie Jacobsen (Alex Cross)
Adam Busch (Buffy)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel)
Carlos Jacott (Firefly)
Samantha Krutzfeldt (A Mann’s World)
Connor Trinneer (Stargate: Atlantis)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)

When we first heard that FOX was making a Terminator series, we mostly groaned and rolled our eyes. It just sounded like a bad idea and a cynical ploy to capitalize on a flagging movie property. What’s more, when you think of Terminator, you think of big movies with huge effects and action sequences that set new standards. You don’t think of “Terminators of the Week” battling on smaller screens with tighter budgets.

 It was the first regular episode after the pilot that I feel the show really came into its own. That’s when the tone of the series was established, the more deliberate and introspective pace. Summer Glau’s performance as Cameron changed a bit.
 It’s the mark of a good show when, one by one, all of your issues are accounted for. In the episode Heavy Metal John does what he has to do despite Sarah’s overprotection. He’s becoming the leader he needs to become, and when Sarah says it’s too soon, Cameron says something to the effect of “Is it? The world ends in 4 years…” At the same time, Sarah came to value Cameron’s strategic value. She might not trust her (and should she?), but she no longer denies her the tactical advantage they have when using her.
As for the missing Terminator parts, the show picked up the ball there and ran with it. Agent Ellison finds the missing hand, and destroying the Terminator Cameron disabled becomes a great scene and establishes the use of thermite. When a show proves to you that it’s got the bases covered, and that it isn’t being sloppy with its storytelling – it gains your confidence and makes tuning in each week that much more satisfying. Terminator pulled this off in just nine episodes – which is remarkable considering they had only so much time and never planned on having such a short season because of the writers strike. There were a number of stylistic flourishes throughout the show that demonstrated how the series was different from the movies, and that this wasn’t going to be a show that was afraid to strike out on its own. Sarah’s dream where she assassinates the creators of the atomic bomb was particularly inspired. Bruce Davison (as Dr. Silberman) describing in awed rapture the events from T2 was a terrific bridge between this series and one of the most famous sequences of the entire franchise. The series ended on a high note, with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” playing while a Terminator does what Terminators do. Only this time it’s done in a stylistically original way. It’s another scene that serves as an example of how the show stepped out on its own. It shows a level of creative maturity not usually found in franchised properties.
Then there’s the introduction of Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. This was a decision that had us – and other fans – concerned that the show was making a big mistake. Why Green? It seems there could have been dozens, if not hundreds of other actors to take on this role. Actors who didn’t play the keyboard wielding dweeb on Beverly Hills 90210. Yet, again, the show proved worthy of our confidence and trust. Green did an excellent job, and played Reese not as your standard badass, but instead a man of emotional depth who had been turned into a soldier because the world around him fell apart.
Green’s best moments came in the finale. First, he uses a little girl to creatively settle a hostage situation. Then, he takes John to the park to celebrate his birthday. Without getting specific, there’s a touching moment, playing on the time travel device. “Happy Birthday,” Derek says, and leaves it at that. It’s an emotional note that was never quite achieved in the movies – and proof that the episodic format allows for greater complexity and character development than we’ve seen in the franchise. It’s also encouraging that the characters had become so resonant in these early episodes – and bodes well for the future.
No one likes to see a good show go under, especially just as it’s approaching new heights, and the recent cancellation of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) proved almost equally disheartening. At least the latter had a fighting chance, though: the mid-season replacement pulled down great numbers at first, but its popularity rapidly declined during the initial nine-episode run. Higher production costs didn’t help matters, either…yet Chronicles was renewed for a full-sized second season, where it expanded the series’ mythology and tossed in a few stand-alone episodes. Featuring plenty of terrific characters, tense action and special effects on par with Hollywood blockbusters, there was plenty to like…but roughly a month after the season finale aired, it was confirmed that the series wouldn’t return.
Nonetheless, this second and final season stands as one of the better stretches of television in recent memory. In an accompanying behind-the-scenes featurette, creator Josh Friedman admits that the cast and crew had no idea that Season 1 would end where it did—but you’d never know from watching, since the series stops and re-starts so seamlessly. Opening adventure “Samson and Delilah” kicks things off in a major way, punctuated by a gripping slow-motion sequence set to a musical cover by Shirley Manson of Garbage fame. Speaking of Manson, she’s front and center this season as Catherine Weaver, the mysterious leader of ZeiraCorp, a growing corporation with an interest in advanced technology. She’s eventually joined by former FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones); Ellison acts as her head of security and a mentor to ZeiraCorp’s experimental computer, who’s known as “John Henry”. Though more intelligent and efficient than the world’s greatest minds put together, this powerful entity is still a child learning about the the world and the humans in it.
Naturally, such a vague company—especially one with its hands in high-tech gadgetry—soon ends up on the radar of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), who continues to forge onward with her son John (Thomas Dekkar), John’s uncle Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green) and Cameron, a Terminator sent from the future to aid them. New to the crowd are Jesse Flores (Stephanie Jacobsen) and Riley Dawson (Leven Rambin); both serve as love interests to Derek and John respectively…but like Catherine Weaver, they seem to have somewhat questionable pasts. Far more than the typical good-versus-evil formula that typically dominates modern sci-fi, The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes a decidedly different approach: it focuses on human existence and emotion as much as firefights and chase sequences. The formula works amazingly well during this season of 22 episodes.
 After the blistering “Samson and Delilah”, things don’t let up for a while. “Automatic for the People” introduces Riley and takes our heroes inside a nuclear power plant—but a major clue is unearthed, as Sarah discovers a list of events, places and other clues about Skynet, the company that Sarah believes will bring about Judgment Day. “Mousetrap” is a standout episode for a number of reasons: not only does it push the story further onward, but it’s one of the more suspenseful and exciting episodes in the bunch. “Allison from Palmdale” stands tall as a solid origin story for Cameron, while the extended “Goodbye to All That” sends John and Derek on a field trip with a Terminator model 888 in hot pursuit. These episodes—and several others, of course—show how much Season 2 has expanded the story’s scope. Well over half the episodes are shot on location in various parts of California and beyond—and with the vague threat of ZeiraCorp looming overhead, tension remains high throughout the first half of the season.
As the season’s second half approaches, things start to get a little cloudy…both for the narrative itself and the show’s ratings, which gradually slid as the season progressed. “Self-Made Man” and “Alpine Fields” are two stand-alone episodes designed to draw in new fans, as the creative team felt that a continuous thrust forward would hurt the series’ chances of survival. Unfortunately, these two episodes are some of the least impressive: while decent enough on their own terms, they feel completely out of context and arrive at the wrong time. These may have added a few viewers, but I imagine they probably confused and frustrated those expecting the series to continue its steady pace forward. Nonetheless, “Earthlings Welcome Here” gets things back on track…but within the context of the series’ original broadcast dates, it may have come too late. This would be the last episode before the holiday break, with Chronicles returning two months later in the dreaded Friday night timeslot…which television fans refer to as “the kiss of death”.
It’s sad, really, because The Sarah Connor Chronicles really got back on its feet from that point onward. “The Good Wound” was much better suited to draw in new fans than a stand-alone episode: taking several cues from Terminator 2, this Sarah-centered adventure re-acquaints us with an important figure from her past. The next several episodes flesh out story elements introduced earlier in the season, as Sarah, John, Derek and Cameron set out to solve a mysterious factory explosion in the desert. After “Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep”, Chronicles sprints to the finish line: Jesse and Riley’s pasts begin to unravel, John Henry and ZeiraCorp’s true intentions are revealed, Sarah and company head off into unfamiliar territory and several major characters meet their doom. It all culminates with “Born to Run”, which ends the series on a high note, tying up several loose ends but leaving others to the imagination. Poignant, clever and almost hopeful, it’s a fitting farewell to a series that was killed off too early.

Regardless, Warner Bros. has given The Sarah Connor Chronicles a strong send-off on DVD, as this second season arrives in a fully-loaded six-disc collection. The series’ crisp cinematography and ambitious sound mix—both of which feel more like big-screen efforts than typical TV fare—are supported by a solid technical presentation, while fans can also look forward to a collection of entertaining and informative bonus features. Though Friedman’s excellent series now joins the gone-too-early ranks

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Serena)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Toby Jones (Your Highness)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Leven Rambin (Terminator: TSSC)
As punishment for a past rebellion, each the twelve districts of Panem are forced by the victorious Capitol to annually select by lot two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. In District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers when her younger sister Primrose is initially chosen. She and the male tribute, Peeta Mellark, are escorted to the Capitol by chaperone Effie Trinket and their mentor Haymitch Abernathy, a past District 12 victor and alcoholic. Haymitch impresses on them the importance of gaining sponsors, as they can provide gifts of food and supplies during the Games. During part of a series of televised interviews, Peeta publicly expresses his love for Katniss, which she initially takes as an attempt to earn sponsor favor, but later learns his love is genuine. While training, Katniss observes the Careers, Marvel, Glimmer, Cato, and Clove, tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who have been training for the Games from a young age.
At the start of the Games, Katniss ignores Haymitch’s advice and grabs supplies from the ground around the Cornucopia, the structure where the contestants start, and narrowly avoids being killed; about a quarter of the tributes are killed in the initial melee, and only eleven survive the first day. Katniss tries to stay as far away from the other competitors as possible, but Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane triggers a forest fire to drive her back towards the others. She runs into the Careers, with whom Peeta has seemingly allied, and flees up a tree. Peeta advises the others to wait her out.
She notices Rue, District 11’s young female tribute, hiding in an adjacent tree. Rue silently draws her attention to a nest of poisonous tracker jackers. Katniss drops it onto the sleeping Careers, killing Glimmer and forcing the others to flee, though she herself is stung and becomes disoriented from the venom. Peeta yells at her to run away. Rue helps Katniss recover from the poison; they become friends. Katniss devises a plan to destroy the cache of supplies that the Careers have been hoarding. After Katniss succeeds, Marvel finds them and kills Rue before Katniss can shoot Marvel with her bow. Katniss comforts Rue; after the girl dies, the grieving Katniss places flowers around her body. The people of District 11 watch and then riot, leading President Snow to warn Crane that these Games are not turning out well.
Haymitch persuades Crane to change the rules to allow two winners if they are from the same district, suggesting that this will quiet the unrest. When this change is announced, Katniss searches for Peeta, finding him wounded after fleeing from the Careers. After she moves him to safety, they hear an announcement that what each survivor needs the most will be provided at the Cornucopia. Despite Peeta’s strong opposition, Katniss leaves to get medicine for him. Clove attacks and pins her down; she then boasts about her part in Rue’s death. Katniss is saved when Thresh, District 11’s male tribute, kills Clove. He spares Katniss’s life — once — for Rue’s sake. The medicine heals Peeta.
Thresh is killed by wild beasts unleashed by Crane; Katniss and Peeta race to the roof of the Cornucopia, just ahead of the animals. There they find Cato. After an intense fight, Peeta manages to throw Cato to the ground, where the beasts attack him. Katniss then ends Cato’s agony by shooting him with an arrow. Katniss and Peeta think they have won, but Crane cancels the rule change: there can be only one victor. Katniss then convinces Peeta to eat poisonous Nightlock with her. Just before they do, they are hastily named co-winners of the 74th Hunger Games.
Afterward, Haymitch warns Katniss that she has made many enemies by her acts of defiance. Snow has Crane locked in a room with Nightlock. As Katniss and Peeta return to District 12, Snow ponders the situation. Katniss encourages Peeta to forget what happened between them in the Games, devastating him.
Jennifer, with her honesty and rebellious attitude has become the fan favorite and our favorite because she is the only contestant that we know. She lacks the killer instinct…until she must. Alliances form and everyone wants to get the fan favorite aka Rambette Jennifer Lawrence, who did an excellent job to give girls a heroine being both a compassionate woman and a huntress. Like all reality TV shows, when the drama starts to fade the program directors add an element to push it in the direction that they want. An excellent film.