The movies I’m anticipating in 2015

Posted in movies, personal, Star Wars with tags , , , on January 23, 2015 by Paxton

Okay, I’ve showed you the best and the worst movies I watched last year. What about this year? I thought I’d throw out a few movies that I’m looking forward to in 2015. Now, I’m not saying the movies I list here are going to be the best movies of the year, these are just the movies that I personally am super excited to see as they have something about them that flips that switch in my wheelhouse.

First things first, let’s get the obvious blockbuster ones out of the way. You know the ones:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Superman v Batman
Furious 7
Jurassic World
James Bond: Spectre

Of course I’m anticipating these movies so I’m not going to elaborate any further than that. I’ll do everything I can to see those movies in the theater. Those are a given for me. So, with those out of the way, let’s take a look at some other movies I’m anticipating that may not even be on your radar.

Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland – This looks amazing. Brad Bird is awesome and he got Clooney for this so the script has got to be good.  And check out that awesomely atmospheric teaser.

Hateful Eight
Hateful Eight – Tarantino’s new picture. It’s a western. And it stars Kurt Russell, Sam Jackson, Bruce Dern, Walt Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum. So, yes, I’m in.

tom-cruise-mission-impossible-5
Mission: Impossible 5 – I loved Ghost Protocol and this entry will be directed by Christopher McQuarrie who last worked with Cruise on the awesome Jack Reacher.

victor-frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein – Not a part of Universal’s planned Monster-verse movies that started with Dracula Untold, this particular movie is from 20th Century Fox, is directed by Max Landis and stars James McAvoy as Victor and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor.  The movie is told from Igor’s point of view.  Cast and plot sound AWESOME.

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Worst Movies I saw in 2014

Posted in movies with tags , , on January 21, 2015 by Paxton

Movie Board

On Monday I gave you my favorite movies of 2014. Here are the worst movies I saw in 2014.


I Frankenstein (2014) – I watched this hoping for a “so bad it’s awesome” schlock-fest.  What I got is a non-sensical mish-mash genre picture that isn’t sure if it wants to be taken seriously or be completely tongue-in-cheek.  And that inability to commit ruins the final product.  And I love Aaron Eckhart, but he’s not a very good Frankenstein’s Monster.


Pain & Gain (2013) – I watched this based on the word of mouth and the cast.  I thought it was going to be funnier.  I didn’t realize it was going to be as dark as it turned out to be.  It just lost me, I guess.  Ed Harris, as usual, is GREAT, but the rest of the cast, just lost me.  I came out the end not really liking the movie or any of the characters in the movie.


A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) – I watched this against my better judgement.  I felt the last Die Hard movie was a good movie on its own, but was a sh*tty Die Hard movie.  And that’s where this falls.  Except, this is even a less interesting story than the last one.  I think Willis has forgotten how to be John McClane.  These last two movies are really just Willis being Willis.  He’s too stoic.  Loosen up, dude.  McClane is an everyman policeman.  Not super bionic cop.  This character discrepancy is especially evident if you watch the first two Die Hard movies in a row and then watch this movie the next night.  Which I did.


Non-Stop (2014) – This is more of a mild “not recommend” as opposed to the other movies in this list.  I was more disappointed here.  I thought it would be so much better plus it had a pretty good cast with Neeson, Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery who plays Mary on Downton Abbey.  This movie sort of reminded me of Neeson in Unknown, another B-level thriller that was more miss than hit.  Neeson has been racking up roles since he took off in Taken and he’s mostly awesome, but the law of averages is a vicious bitch and this will tend to happen.  Want a different, better Neeson movie from last year starring an actor from Downton Abbey?  Check out A Walk Among the Tombstones.

The Best Movies I saw in 2014

Posted in movies with tags , , on January 19, 2015 by Paxton

Movie Board

Here I am again to list out my favorite movies of the last year.  This time it’s for 2014. *Insert jokes/comments about how quickly time has passed.*

Today, I’m not only judging movies that I watched that opened last year, but ALL movies I watched for the first time in 2014.

I think I’m going to split this list into two categories. I’ll start off with a list of my favorite movies that were released in 2014 and I’ll finish up with movies that were released in other years but I only saw for the first time last year.

It’s amazing how good 2014 was for movies.  I had a hard time picking, so I think I’m going to extend my usual five picks to eight.  Here they are:


John Wick – Wow. Just…WOW. This movie is balls out intense and action packed. Keanu crushes it. I can’t recommend this movie enough.  Wall to wall action and gunfights. Brutal.  GREAT.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I loved the first Cap movie, but this one blew that one out of the water. In this movie, you see why Cap is a BAD ASS. Great, great movie with lots of amazing action and a great cast.  I also love that it turns out to be a conspiracy plot that changes up the makeup of the Marvel Movie-verse a bit and not just Cap defeating some super baddie.  We also get a pretty great scene of Nick Fury being bad ass Nick Fury.  Something we don’t get to see enough of.  And now I want to see a Captain America and Falcon movie.  Right now.


Draft Day – I love the sh*t out of this movie. And it’s a testament to how good it is that it’s the only movie in this list that I’ve seen THREE times. And I love it every time I watch it. Kevin Costner is awesome and I’ll watch him in most anything.  Plus, there’s some gratuitous Jacksonville love at the end.


The Equalizer – OMFG this movie is balls out awesome. Denzel is a MAN in this. I really hope this turns into a series of movies where we see Denzel helping out people in need. So. Fu**king. Good.  Intense. Smart. Great action scenes.  In many ways this is as brutal as John Wick, but it also has a lot more to think about.


X-Men: Days of Future Past – I’m a big fan of the original X-Men movies (as you heard on the Nerd Lunch Podcast) plus I’m a huge fan of X-Men: First Class. Combine those franchises and I was ALL IN. And it turned out pretty great. I was very happy with this movie and watching Jackman, Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence tear it up was just awesome.


Guardians of the Galaxy – Against all odds this movie turned out pretty great. The eclectic cast and sly humor completely won me over. Not to mention the awesome sci-fi set pieces and I am 100% in love.  And I’m glad it caught on with everyone else because now we’ll get more of their adventures sooner rather than later.


Maleficent – Here we are again with Disney.  I love these reimagining/retelling from a different point of view type stories.  I thought this movie was going to be good but it was SO GOOD.  Angelina is great as Maleficent and you really get a sense of her character in the movie.  It’s a great companion piece to Sleeping Beauty.  And the movie looks just unbelievable.  Such great visuals.


Into the Woods – Jeez, Disney again.  Obviously I’d seen the trailer for this but knew nothing else about it going in. Not even that it was originally a Broadway show.  And it blew me away.  I’m a big fan of Broadway shows anyway, so having this be an actual interpretation of a Broadway show didn’t bother me at all.  And I hadn’t seen the original show so I didn’t really know what I was missing.  I’d love to see the show now.  This movie is awesome and fun with great songs and a fun way to intertwine several different fairy tales into one long form story.  And Meryl Streep kills the witch.  She is so good.  As is Emily Blunt as the Baker’s wife and Chris Pine as one of the princes even has a few great moments.  So good, especially if you’re a fan of musicals to begin with.

Now those are the best movies I saw that were released last year. Now, let’s look at the best of all the other movies I watched for the first time in 2014 that weren’t released that year.


Frozen (2013) – As you can probably guess, since I’ve mentioned it once or twice, I’m a big Disney musical fan. Plus I have kids. Both my son and daughter LOVE this movie and all of the songs. I’ve probably watched this movie upwards of 50 times but I still like it. And all the songs (except the troll song).  Both the movie’s story and the songs are written so well and all of the voice cast is amazing.  Is it overexposed?  Yes, but deservedly so.  It’s still a great movie.


Blackfish (2013) – I had read about this documentary online so I gave it a shot on Netflix streaming. WOW. Horrific. Sad. Scary. It’s a tough one to watch but it’s totally worth it.


Saving Mr. Banks (2013) – Wow, 2013 must have been a great year for movies as well.  Look how many showed up in my list this year that I didn’t even watch.  Like I said, I love Disney, the movies and the whole atmosphere of the man and the company.  And Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies.  So combine all of that and give us the “behind the scenes” story of how that movie was created?  YES.  Hanks and Thompson knock it out of the park.  This is such a great movie.


Somm (2012) – This was another documentary I loved this year. Recommended to me by my good friend Stephen Dupuy. My wife and I love all things wine.  So this was right up our alley.  It follows several people who are studying and preparing to take the Master Sommelier test.  A test that is so all encompassing and so difficult that in the last 40 years of its history less than 200 people have passed.  A look into the mind of why someone would want to do that.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – The sequel came out in 2014 and I saw it in the theater.  But I hadn’t watched the first one at the time so I watched it the day before I went to see the sequel.  I had very little expectations.  I don’t love Planet of the Apes and have no particular nostalgia for the franchise so I wasn’t really looking forward to watching it.  But I was wrong.  The movie is pretty great.  It’s amazing the performance you get out of Ceasar.  Kudos to Andy Serkis for that.  This is truly a great movie.  The sequel is good too.  Not as good as the first one, but it’s definitely a worthy sequel to this movie (It just missed making the list above).  I look forward to more Caesar movies.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2014

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2015 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

I can’t believe I’m doing these year end wrap up reports again.  Where does the damn time go?!

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.

Looking at that log it looks like I read about 78 books/comics this year.  That total includes not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time this year.

And I actually have four books on this list that were released in 2014.  That ties my total from last year.  It’s rare when I get to read a currently released book, but I’ve done it four times each in the last two years.  Amazing!

On to the lists!

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  All that I read for the first time this year.  Enjoy.

Books

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (2014) – Joe Schreiber – I predicted at the end of my 2013 Best Books I Read article that this book would be on the list for 2014.  And, as you can see, I was right.  Joe Schreiber really hit it out of the park with this one.  A prison thriller that has Maul locked up in a prototype prison that pits its prisoners in gladiatorial matches and broadcasts those matches on pay-per-view.  Very brutal and lots of fun we get lots of awesome Maul in this book.  However, to be honest, the last third of the book sort of goes WAY bananas in a weird way.  It’s still really good, but the book sort of becomes super-gonzo and you’re left scratching your head wondering, “What the f**k is going on?  Did THAT just happen?!”.  However, overall, still one of the best books I read this year.


Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger #1) (1993) – Stephen Hunter – I was not aware of this book until I saw the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter, which is based on this book.  I love that movie and finally picked up the source material this year to give it a go.  And it’s AMAZING.  Even better than the movie.  A bit more story to sink your teeth into and a bit more of an epic bad guy for Swagger to focus his revenge on.  Great action packed book.  I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s Swagger books in the future (there are several).


The Shining (1977) – Stephen King – This Halloween I decided to fill another hole in my Stephen King reading list.  Two years ago I had finally tackled The Stand and just last year I read The Talisman.  So, I thought, let’s continue that trend this year and I decided to read ‘salem’s Lot.  I enjoyed it more than I expected, plus it left me wanting to read more early Stephen King, so even though I only had about a week left in October, I picked up The Shining on my Nook for like $2 and dove in.  And discovered probably the scariest book I think I have ever read in my life.  The Shining is big on plot and character detail as early King likes to be, but once the stuff in the hotel starts happening, it gets seriously scary.  Like several nights I had trouble sleeping it was so scary.  So here it sits on my list.  But as much as I loved this book, I really saw no need for a sequel so I have little to no desire to read Doctor Sleep.  I even tried reading a sample and I couldn’t even finish it.


Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007) – James Swanson – Earlier in 2014 I got into an American History phase.  I read Walter Isaacson’s epic Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and was all wrapped up in the days of the early Revolution.  I then watched Spielberg’s Lincoln and loved it before starting this book.  This book is a fascinating account of the days leading up to and the 12 day manhunt that occurred after President Lincoln’s assassination.  Lots of inside stuff I never knew about.  And it’s written in a very modern way that keeps events interesting and not like reading events out of a history book.  Right after reading this book, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator to complete my unofficial “Lincoln trilogy”.  So now, I’m on the lookout for Swanson’s other books he’s written, most specifically the one about Kennedy’s assassination.  But I highly recommend this book.


Star Wars: Tarkin (2014) – James Luceno – This last slot was tough. I had a few REALLY good books I could have put here.  Most notably The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussRed Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and When March Went Mad by Seth Davis.  But I went with my gut and chose this book.  The second Star Wars book on my list.  I really love what they’ve been doing with the Star Wars novels the last few years.  They’ve really been changing it up and getting really good stories out there.  Luceno wrote one of my favorites from a few years ago, Darth Plagueis, and he looked to do the same thing here.  But this is a more intimate story than the galaxy wide epic that played out in the pages of that earlier book.  Luceno really fleshes out the character of Tarkin in this book and investigates a bit more his relationship with Vader and even the Emperor.  Lots of Star Wars-y goodness to be had.  It gets me excited to see what comes next for the Star Wars expanded universe.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels


Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (2006) – Greg Pak (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist) – Oh, man, this book is epic.  It’s bad ass.  It’s just awesome.  Hulk is deemed “too dangerous to stay on Earth” by a think tank of Marvel’s smartest so they devise a way to shoot him off to another world so he can’t hurt anyone.  The only problem, something happens en route and Hulk crash lands on the wrong planet.  A planet that enlaves Hulk and forces him to compete in gladiatorial games until he decides he’s had enough and stages a coup to take over the planet.  So much awesome contained within.  I can’t recommend this enough.


Savage Dragon Vol. 1 (1993) – Erik Larsen (writer/artist) – Back in September I decided I wanted to read the first 10-20 issues of all the original launch titles of Image Comics.  Most of them were forgettable.  However, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was not only readable, it was GREAT and deserves a spot on my list.  I was surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and I look forward to catching up on all that I missed with this character.


Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) – Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist) – This was suggested to me by several people but I never listened.  But the more I heard how good it was the more I became intrigued.  So I grabbed the first volume of Matt Fraction’s series for cheap and read it.  And loved it.  This is minimalist storytelling at its finest.  Sort of a “between the panels” look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger.  Quirky, but it’s charming and lots of fun.  I’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.


Thief of Thieves (2012) – Robert Kirkman (writer), Nick Spenser (writer), Andy Diggle (writer), James Asmus (writer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist) – I’ve actually read the first three volumes of this title which cover the first 19 issues of the series.  And it’s pretty great.  Master Thief (retired) Redmond is called back into the life in order to save his estranged son.  This is a pretty great comic with some pretty great writers.  It’s also a nice change from all the super hero books I normally read.  Just a regular guy, trying to get on with his current life but his previous life and his reputation won’t let that happen.  Great book.


Krampus! (2013) – Brian Joines (writer), Dean Kotz (artist) – I think I’ve talked about this book before.  This is such a fun read.  It makes great references to all the Santa/Christmas iconography you can imagine and even makes someone like Doc Holliday, that has nothing to do with Christmas, fit right into the story.  Great art, fun story.  I really hope this gets picked up for some sequels.  So much potential awesome to be mined out of these characters.  GET IT AND READ IT NOW.

That’s my best of list for 2014. It was really hard to pare some of that list down as I read some really good stuff this year. But I also have some good stuff lined up for myself next year. I plan to continue my Stephen King reading by possibly tackling Needful Things as well as possibly It.  There are some good Star Wars books coming out next year featuring Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi) as well as two of our favorite Lords of the Sith.

The Disney Goofy Challenge is here.

Posted in life, personal, running with tags , , , on January 9, 2015 by Paxton

Walt-Disney-World-Marathon-Weekend2015

Well, TGIF everyone.  By the time you are reading this, I should be off traveling to Orlando to participate in Disney’s Marathon Weekend 2015. The Disney Marathon is a huge deal where tens of thousands of people come from all over the world to Walt Disney World (and Disney Land) to compete. There are several different races run, one each for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The race I’m doing is called The Goofy Race & and a Half Challenge.

goofy challenge

It involves a half marathon on Saturday morning and then the full marathon on Sunday morning.  I was actually going to do the Dopey Challenge which involves all three races that weekend; a 10k on Friday, the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday, but it was sold out back in June when I signed up so I had to go for the Goofy.

The courses are pretty cool, you run through the parks early in the morning, starting and finishing at Epcot.  There are character stops along the way where you can get pictures with Disney characters.  Plus, like I said, you’re running through the parks so it should be a pretty awesome course.

I officially started training back in September.  I’ve done a few back-to-back 10mi/20mi runs on consecutive days, so I hope I’m ready.  I don’t plan on busting any personal bests I just want to finish and have fun.  I’m very much looking forward to this.  Next week, I’ll let everyone know how it goes.

A review of The Master Key, An Electrical Fairy Tale by L Frank Baum (1901)

Posted in books, Frank Baum, reviews with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2015 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Well, it’s been a while since I did an L Frank Baum review.  The last Oz book I reviewed was the first post-Baum Oz book The Royal Book of Oz (#15 in the series) back in September 2013.  I then reviewed Baum’s non-Oz The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus back in December 2013.  Unfortunately, now, I see I’d not done a Baum review in 2014.  And that’s a shame.  Really sorry about that.

So I thought it was time to check out another of Baum’s non-Oz tales.  There’s a short novel Baum wrote that always sounded interesting and has intrigued me ever since.  So I thought I’d do that book today.

In 1901, one year after Baum published the first Wizard of Oz book, he released the short novel The Master Key, An Electrical Fairy Tale.

frank-baum-the-master-key

The book was illustrated by Fanny Young Cory who also illustrated Baum’s The Enchanted Island of Yew in 1903.  It’s a short boy’s adventure novella with some early elements of science fiction.

The story concerns a young boy, Rob Joslyn, who likes to experiment with electrical devices.  He spends his time in his workshop creating electrical inventions that spread all throughout the house.  One night while tinkering with his switchboard, he is assaulted by a bright light and sees a being made entirely of brilliant light appear.  It’s the Demon of Electricity.  Apparently, Rob has touched the “Master Key” and has earned the right to command the Demon.  For this honor Rob will receive three gifts from the Demon for the next three weeks to total nine gifts.  Over the next few weeks Rob takes the gifts from the Demon and has several adventures all across the globe.

master key 09

The gifts that Rob receives are all based on electricity and are supposed to show Rob how electricity can be harnessed in nature to do wonderous things.  Rob receives a transportation device that uses electrical and magnetic energy to physically transport someone swiftly over great distances.  He also receives a tin of food tablets that provide all the nutrition a human body needs for 24 hours (that is somehow based on electricity).  He also receives glasses that read a person’s electrical aura to tell if they are good, evil, wise or kind and a small tube that shoots out an electrical signal that knocks a person unconscious for 1 hour.  Rob uses these gifts to travel across the globe and help out people like the Kings of England and France, two shipwrecked sailors and a group of middle eastern peoples in a war with each other.

It’s a fun, fanciful read.  Typical Baum.  Rob winds up getting into a lot of his mischief because he falls asleep at inopportune moments but he’s able to use the gifts and his own ingenuity to get out of the situations.  The story reminds me a lot of Aladdin with the Demon of Electricity as the genie and Rob as Aladdin.

Baum makes a few good predictions with his gifts.  Especially considering he was writing in 1901.  The electrical tube that incapacitates people for an hour is strikingly similar to a Tazer.  In a later passage, Baum comes very close to describing intellectual piracy with another gift the Demon bestows on Rob.  It’s a small device that can look in on any event that is happening throughout the world.  At one point Rob watches a brand new play being performed and is suddenly filled with guilt because he didn’t pay to see the performance.  Rob goes on to think that if these little devices become more common then people would sit at home to watch the performances and the actors would all starve to death.  Very prescient if you ask me, Mr Baum.

Fanny Cory’s illustrations are simple yet fit the story well. Below are two of the color illustrations. There are also numerous smaller black and white illustrations throughout the chapters. The picture on the left showcases the first time Rob uses the electrical transporter to fly away from his house in front of his family. The right picture shows Rob after encountering a tribe of cannibals on an island. Click the images to see them bigger.

master key 06 master key 04

I love the cover to the book, it has always intrigued me. It comes from an illustration on the inside. Here’s that illustration from inside the book.  It is the first time the Demon of Electricity appears to Rob in his workshop.

master key 05

Considering the Demon is the main thrust of the story, I’m surprised there are not really any big illustrations of him. He is only showcased a few times in some of the smaller black and white chapter drawings.

master key 08 master key 07

Overall, yes, I can recommend this book. It has the typical Baum charm and is fun to read. Very much a journey story where the protagonist learns a lesson and essentially figures out that he was better off before the fantastical events of the book started.

The book is in the public domain and can be read in its entirety here.

Nerd Lunch Episode 161 – Expendables of Other Genres 3

Posted in movies, podcast, pop culture with tags , , on December 30, 2014 by Paxton

Nerd Lunch Podcast

This is the last episode of Nerd Lunch for 2014. So enjoy this, bitches. We have no guest, it’s a three way dance in which CT, Jeeg and I discuss teacher movies.

Teachers

More specifically, we form a super team of actors who have portrayed teachers in movies. Expect typical mentions of stuff like Stand & Deliver, Dangerous Minds and a few other surprises.

After we milk the teacher movie genre for every last drop of awesome, we then turn our gazes towards forming a team of actors that have portrayed sports players. Of course Kevin Costner gets mentioned but listen in to see who else we pull out of our asses to add to our super team of sports players.

Download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher or listen to it on Feedburner.

Or listen to the episode online right here.

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