Star Lord

Check this out.

Well done, Mr. Pratt.  How do you not like this guy?  Summer's biggest hit movie.  Already has a huge fan base of kids from his "The LEGO Movie" earlier this year.

I keep thinking Chris Pratt's movie career may be at the same point we found Tom Cruise back in 1983 with this gem--about to skyrocket into one of the most demanded actors in Hollywood.

If you haven't seen Pratt yet in "Guardians of the Galaxy" you're missing out.  Go see it!

Lincoln Laywer2

'The Lincoln Lawyer' (2011)

No, I don't remember Matthew McConaughey taking off his shirt--thankfully, sorry ladies. He does, however, defend clients from his Lincoln Town Car in a way that would make old "Columbo" TV fans proud--finding the truth hidden under one lie at a time.

Based off the bestselling novel by Michael Connelly, this 2011 thriller marked the first time I stood up and took notice of Matthew McConaughey's acting talent.  And, by now, we all know just how good this Oscar-winner is on the big-screen.

This film will keep you glued until the credits roll while William H. Macy and Country singer Trace Adkins round-out a great cast that includes Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei ("My Cousin Vinny" in 1992) and Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston from TV's "Breaking Bad".  I rest my case.

Grade: A-

Available to rent at Amazon, Apple TV's iTunes, Google Play, and Netflix.  "The Lincoln Lawyer" is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 58 minutes.

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Let's see...we've got boys trying to survive but can't seem to put their testosterone or egos aside for the greater good.  Then a girl enters the picture and things start happening and getting done.  Geezus.  Sounds exactly like an episode of Discovery's "Naked and Afraid" TV show to me.

Here's the trailer....

I'm curious about the maze and the runner, but more interested in the Grievers--the creatures.  Based upon the best-selling novel by 41-year old James Dashner, which I've only heard good things about his paper-turners. In fact, "The Maze Runner" was on the New York Times' Bestseller List for over one year.  Dashner's other The Maze Runner Series books include; The Scorch Trials (2010), The Death Cure (2011) and The Kill Order (2012).

"The Maze Runner" movie is rated PG-13 and stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter.  You can learn more about these kids "Gladers" here.

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Photo courtesy of MilitaryFactory.com

Only 2 months into flying the Air Force’s Cessna T-37 primary jet trainer, I learned one of my biggest lessons from the 52-week journey known as Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT); flight discipline.

***

On this day, October 12, 1994, I was a student pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma about to fly with my seasoned instructor pilot, who sat directly to the right of me in the side-by-side, cramped T-37 cockpit. With a 4 a.m. show at the squadron earlier that morning, taxiing out for takeoff at 11 a.m. felt like it was already late afternoon.

Tweet cockpit

Photo from Wikipedia

The flight’s objective was to give the instructor pilot a demonstration of my acrobatic flying prowess in the skies just north of Enid, Oklahoma. The mission profile would include; loops, aileron rolls, split-S, Cuban 8, cloverleaves, barrel rolls and the Immelmann maneuver.

After we cleared our working airspace of stray civilian aircraft, I climbed our T-37 to above 20,000 feet to begin the required full spin & recovery procedure. I pulled both twin engines to idle power while raising the jet’s nose higher and higher into the air—all the way until the T-37 nose was pointed straight up. The rudder and ailerons were then neutralized. As airspeed dwindled down and the wings ceased to provide lift, the nose suddenly dropped off to my right, pointing the jet violently down towards the ground. As expected, the aircraft entered a full spin, wrapping us up faster and faster into tighter turns while the windscreen filled with images of cotton fields from the farmland circling below.

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Photo courtesy of tasoscorsair @ youtube.com

It’s important to note here that instructors and students have handshake agreements on when to “punch-out” (eject) of the aircraft in case of an emergency. We discuss these potential problems on the ground at zero airspeed, zero altitude and time to think. Therefore, when split-second decisions must be made in the air, muscle memory kicks in and proper--yet timely--reactions occur. The better prepared you are, the more options you always have. To quote Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Flying is about creating your own luck through dedicated study and continued improvement…something that’s been instilled into me since I began flight lessons at the age of 14.

My instructor and I had agreed that if we’d descended below 10,000 feet and the spinning aircraft could not be stopped, we were going to eject from the T-37. As a result, we’d only have a few ticks below 45 seconds to get this aircraft under control. This afforded me two, maybe three, chances to successfully regain control before my instructor gave it a shot or two, himself. If we could not regain control of the jet and were forced to eject, this 1950s aircraft would be prematurely retired into a smoking hole on a northern Oklahoma farm.

“Needle right, spinning right,” I confirmed. Full left rudder applied! Control stick abruptly pushed full forward--and then the spinning suddenly stopped. Flight controls neutralized. And recovery was successful. Whew.

Following the spin, we immediately went into the rest of our flight profile: all the aerial gymnastics you’d see at your favorite airshow. Just after I executed the Cuban 8, I began to feel some nausea set in. I continued to fly, however, and started my next maneuver, the cloverleaf.

I felt the nausea worsening and recognized that it might have severe consequences regarding my training; not only this flight's training, but my continued existence in the program. Airsickness for student pilots meant the possibility of being disqualified and "washed out" of the flight training. A classmate, struggling with airsickness earlier in the program, was sent to flight medicine for evaluation. Treatment for him consisted of sitting in a “Barany Chair”, and being spun around until he threw up. He endured this “treatment” twice a day for 3 straight days. When he came to visit us during one of his “chair” days he didn’t remotely resemble the smiling, jovial lad I had known prior “the chair”. Instead, he reminded me of the animals at the dog pound with that 1,000-yard stare.

In mid-cloverleaf maneuver, the nausea became overwhelming. My instructor was monitoring my flying and yet had no idea I wasn’t feeling well. Unfortunately, just as I completed the cloverleaf, the Lucky Charms and turkey sandwich I’d put down earlier that day reemerged with a vengeance. The hacking noises I made were easily discernible through the intercom system, forcing my instructor to immediately grab his control stick and uttered “My aircraft!”  At the same time, I too, took some immediate actions of my own.

I trapped the vomit in my mouth and kept it from entering my oxygen mask. At which point, I was left with two unpleasant choices; 1) pop my mask open and throw up into the white plastic bag—stashed for regurgitation or, 2) put down my breakfast and lunch for a second time.

I made the split-second decision for Option #2. Only after I had put down my breakfast and lunch a second time did I pop my oxygen mask open from its right side. My instructor peered over at me, completely shocked not to see any remnants of airsickness. In disbelief, he scrutinized my clean flight suit and oxygen mask. He was certain that I’d ‘blown chow’ a moment earlier but now he had no hard evidence, minus the loss of coloring in my face.

“Are you alright?” he questioned me. Yep. He let my answer soak in for a few seconds before deciding our next move. “Ready to fly?” he finally asked. You bet!

We finished the profile with a split-S turn before heading back to a full-stop landing at Vance Air Force Base. My instructor debriefed the entire flight and gave me good grades overall on my flying skills. In hindsight, I might have downgraded my situational awareness for not seeking his assistance in my compromised state. However, I’d give myself top marks for putting back down the puke and not stalling my flying career.

BTW, I’ve never again experienced airsickness while flying. And best of all, I’ve never had to endure the “Barany Chair”.

(This was an excerpt from the unpublished novel titled 'My Wild View Yonder - Memoirs of an Air Force Officer & Pilot' by Patrick King)

**

King was commissioned in 1990 at Oregon State University and retired from active-duty in July of this year. During his career, Colonel King flew a number of U.S. aircraft, to include the C-130 and EC-130 aircraft. He is an expert in electronic attack and cyberspace warfare.

 

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Certain movies and directors challenge viewers’ intellect, daring to take the path less traveled on the cinematic screen in order to make audiences actually have to think.  Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) about hijacking dreams and 2012’s survival challenges in “The Hunger Games” are two thought-provoking success stories.  We can now add “The Giver” to the list of films requiring moviegoers to think outside the box and ponder the role of individuals in society.

Based upon Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel by the same name, “The Giver” depicts a utopian world without individual freedoms or personal choice.  A society of sameness, minus any differences amongst the populous, is required because we’re told; “When people have freedom to choose, they choose wrong”.  Absent in the community are the memories of its past and roots of disorder; times marked by anger, death, happiness and love.  The community elders’ concerted effort to keep a lid on individualism and defiance results in only one person, The Giver (Jeff Bridges), having complete knowledge of history.  When the elders need guidance, it’s The Giver who must provide them with the wisdom, using the memories of the past to sidestep current problems.

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Meryl Streep effortlessly plays the shrewd, calculating Chief Elder—a portrayal the record-nominated (18 times) Academy Award winner (won 3) has mastered over her 37-year film career.  However, it’s Jeff Bridges’ performance that stands heads and shoulders above all others in this movie.  The Oscar winning best actor (2009’s “Crazy Heart”) steals every scene he’s in and single-handedly takes “The Giver” from an interesting look at humans in a petri dish to a hugely successful movie on humanity’s individual liberties.

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At only 1 hour and 40 minutes in duration, “The Giver” missed a golden opportunity to showcase competing emotions in the characters after it had gained momentum from the film’s flawless start.  The hasty end voided any chance to sharply delineate the colorless world from the colorful, or to glimpse reactions to newfound freedoms—the ultimate gift from The Giver.  Australian director Phillip Noyce, though, deserves credit for sparking discussions on humanity’s role in balancing basic freedoms and individuality with society’s need for conformity and rule following.

“The Giver” is not only about the way things look in society, but the way things are. Both themes are very different and give audiences plenty of food for thought.  Jeff Bridges’ performance shines bright and carries the message and film throughout.  He guides and teaches a young apprentice (Brenton Thwaites) and moviegoers on how our past impacts our future.  “The Giver” makes the case that harmony comes with a very steep price; the loss of individual choice and emotion replaced by sameness and blandness.  It’s the delicate balance between the rule of law and individual freedoms that Noyce captures brilliantly in the film--and that’s the greatest gift from “The Giver”.

Grade: B+

"The Giver" is rated PG-13 and the running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes.

 

Director Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight" trilogy) teams up once again with his younger brother, Jonathan, for what looks like another splendid cinema adventure;

Christopher Nolan's inspiration for "Interstellar" were a trifecta of classic films; "Star Wars", "Blade Runner" and "2001: A Space Odyssey".  This new wormhole movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as space travelers is sure to be an instant blockbuster for one of Hollywood's most successful directors of the 21st Century ($3.5 billion from only 8 movies).  Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer ("The Lion King") scores the music for "Interstellar".

McConaughey.  Nolan.  Wormholes.  Hathaway.  Yeah, I'm down with this movie.

"Interstellar" comes to theaters on November 7th but is still not yet rated.

Girl Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Daniel Craig stars alongside a girl--not only sporting a dragon tattoo--but piercings, and a knack for hacking computers with a photographic memory. Flick starts off slow, but by halftime you'll be 'tied up' in the action and wonder which of these 2 stars is the real James Bond. Read the book, if nothing else, to assist with the thick accents. If you can tell the Kardashian clan apart you'll have no problem keeping up with the suspects and family dynamics in this thriller.

GRADE: A

The movie trailer...

This movie was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Mara Rooney for Best Actress, and won for Best Film Editing.  It also earned MTV's movie of the year (2011) and hailed as one of the best films in 2011 by the American Film Institute.

'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' is rated R with a running time of 2 hours and 38 minutes. It's available to rent at Amazon, Google Play and Redbox.

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Saw this trailer a month or so ago and was left underwhelmed by it.  However, just seeing it again today, the trailer is not quite as lethargic as my first impression indicated.

I'll let you be the judge...

"Fury" does have several landmines to avoid as it opens in theaters later this Fall (October 17); the most notable hurdle will be the easy comparisons to the more recent blockbuster WWII movie benchmark "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) and the epic HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" (2001).  Today's audiences will remember these great productions--and that poses a difficult bar to clear for "Fury".

Likewise, an overused sub-plot involving a young soldier unwilling to initially engage in the fight has been hammered home to moviegoers.  Additionally, many of the Brad Pitt quotes come across in the trailer as mere clichés, spoken so slowly that only a handful of fine actors can deliver them with believability (like Clint Eastwood). Lastly, I'm not sure what America's taste will be for war films in 2 months when the movie opens if real fighting continues to escalate and deteriorate in the numerous hotspots around the world.  We will have to see.

Maybe my WWII European-theater Army movie bias is too strong in favor of the best of the best; "Patton" (1970), which earned 7 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and "The Dirty Dozen" (1967)--which the American Film Institute ranked #65 in their "100 Years...100 Thrills" list of the top 100 suspense/thriller movies in American cinema since 1901.

But truthfully, I'm more excited to see Mrs. Brad Pitt's film on Christmas Day...Angelina's movie looks fantastic.

'Fury' opens October 17th.  Thoughts?  Excitement?  Or crickets.

GG

The film version of Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel of the same name comes to theaters on October 3rd.  Be prepared readers, according to Flynn, the movie will stray some from the book and be told in a "different manner".

Here's the trailer...

Hits Theaters on October 3, 2014

This mystery, suspense thriller is rated R with a running time of 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Two Sides

'Gone Girl' stars Ben Affleck, Blake Lively, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris.

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It's not too late to pick up Flynn's book at Amazon and get the page-turner read by October 3rd!

Entourage

My second favorite dramatic television series of all-time (#1 is 'Breaking Bad') is set to hit theaters in June of next year.  A plot teaser, as provided by Entourage's own Turtle himself:

Meanwhile, cast member Jerry Ferrera teased fans with the possible plot of the film. Since in the series, it was always about Chase pursuing spotlight on the screen, this time, according to Ferrera, Chase, played by Adrian Grenier will be trying for the Director's chair.

"The Vincent Chase character is kind of going the Ben Affleck [in his film Argo] route where he's kind of writing, directing and starring in his own movie." Ferrera told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens: Live.

Ben Affleck?  [insert my worried face here].  Let's hope the comparisons between Entourage's Aquaman and the next Batman end there.  You can read the entire article here.

And here's a TMZ behind-the-scene look at filming from earlier this year of the "Entourage" movie...complete with the lethal mixed martial arts and current UFC Bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey:

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