"WARRIOR" - Action/Drama

STUDIO SYNOPSIS:
Haunted by a tragic past, Marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte) to train for Sparta, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship while his brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), an ex-fighter-turned teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin. But when Brendan’s unlikely, underdog rise sets him on a collision course with the unstoppable Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soaring, soul stirring, and unforgettable climax that must be seen to be believed.

ERIC SAYS:
I loved, loved, loved this movie. I went in expecting a bunch of over-the-top MMA fights, but never expected to get drawn in to the characters and their family struggles. Speaking of the fight scenes, they are incredibly well-done and believable. You'll almost forget you're watching a movie at times and think you've tuned in to the monthly UFC pay-per-view. Tom Hardy got absolutely ripped for this film; he's an animal in his fight sequences and obviously spent considerable time training for the role, as did Joel Edgerton. Nick Nolte's performance as a recovering alcoholic struggling to reconnect with his family is absolutely heartbreaking. He's nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Academy Awards.



 

"MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL" - Action

MOVIES.COM SYNOPSIS:
Academy Award-winning director Brad Bird (Ratatouille) makes his live-action feature directorial debut with the fourth installment of the massively successful Mission Impossible series. The Kremlin has been bombed, and the blame has fallen on the IMF. As a result, the president initiates Ghost Protocol, and accuses Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of placing the bomb in an attempt to incite a global nuclear war. Now, in order to clear the IMF of terrorism charges, Ethan assembles a new team to uncover the truth by using every high-tech trick in the book. But this time they're on their own, and should they be caught, the entire world could be plunged into a nightmare from which there is no waking up. Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg co-star.

ERIC SAYS:
Great action flick...probably my favorite in the Mission series to-date. Tom Cruise once again proves he's willing to go above and beyond what most actors are willing to do in terms of performing their own stunts. The sequence where he scales the world's tallest building in Dubai made my palms sweat and had me squirming in my chair. When he lost his footing and almost fell, I audibly gasped in the theater. The film is perfectly paced and the action never lets up from start to finish.


 

"HOMELAND" - Suspense/Drama (Showtime)

IMDB SYNOPSIS:
Homeland centers on Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, and Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a driven (and possibly unstable) CIA officer who suspects he might be plotting an attack on America.

ERIC SAYS:
This show is like a down-to-Earth version of 24, only much smarter. I've enjoyed Damian Lewis' work since he played Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers; a role which, in my opinion, probably helped him solidify the image of an "American hero" in the minds of Homeland viewers before the show even began. This show will constantly keep you on your toes and have you guessing until the very last excruciating moment. I think the most important thing that Homeland achieved was showing us both sides of the war on terror. It's easy to lose sight of the actual reasons behind why terrorists commit such heinous acts against our country, but this show did a great job of humanizing the "bad guys" without being unpatriotic. Both of the show's two lead actors, Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, were nominated for Golden Globes, with Claire Danes taking home the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Drama).



 

"SONS OF ANARCHY" - Action/Drama (FX)

IMDB SYNOPSIS:
Fons of Anarchy, aka SAMCRO, is a motorcycle club that operates both illegal and legal businesses in the small town of Charming. They combine gun-running and a garage, plus involvement in porn film. Clay, the president, likes it old school and violent; while Jax, his stepson and the club's VP, has thoughts about changing the way things are, based on his dead father's journal. Their conflict has effects on both the club and their personal relationships.

ERIC SAYS:
This show is like Hamlet with motorcycles, with a bit of the Sopranos thrown in for good measure. A real soap opera for dudes. You'll have an impossible time waiting between episodes to find out who lives, who dies, and how much deeper in trouble the gang can get. I missed the boat on this series when it first came out, but recently caught up by watching seasons 1-3 on Netflix, then purchasing Season 4 on iTunes, which was totally worth it. Season 5 is set to begin airing this fall, and the show was just picked up for a 6th and 7th season.



 

"HELL ON WHEELS" - Western/Drama (AMC)

IMDB SYNOPSIS:
Set in the 1860s, Hell On Wheels centers on former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount), whose quest for vengeance has led him to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.

ERIC SAYS:
Hell On Wheels is the dark, gritty Western that television has been sorely lacking for quite some time. Bohannan is the classic anti-hero; a man immersed completely in his violent quest for vengeance and feelings of self-loathing, yet somehow allows managing to hang on to his last shred of human decency. The series started a bit slow, but certainly gained momentum and built to an exciting conclusion. Any fan of darker Western tales such as Unforgiven and Deadwood will love this show. Season 2 is set to air in Fall 2012.



 

"JUSTIFIED" - Action/Police Drama (FX)

FX PUBLICITY SYNOPSIS:
U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is a modern day 19th century-style lawman, enforcing his brand of justice in a way that puts a target on his back with criminals and places him at odds with his bosses in the Marshal service. That conflict results in a reassignment for Givens to the U.S. District covering the town where he grew up. He is an anachronism - a tough, soft spoken gentleman who finds his quarry fascinating, but never gives an inch. Dig under his placid skin and you'll find an angry man who grew up hard in rural Kentucky, with an outlaw father, who knows a lot more about who he doesn't want to be than who he really is.

ERIC SAYS:
With the character Raylan Givens, Justified revived the gritty, no-nonsense anti-hero that we've been sorely lacking since the 1970's. He's Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, John Wayne, and Steve McQueen all rolled up into one. He's charming and witty, but flawed by a viscious mean streak that often drives him to shoot first and ask questions later, much to the annoyance of his superiors. Having grown up in rural West Virginia, I find the seedy redneck characters completely believable, and the show's storylines of Crystal Meth dealers, domestic violence, and "Hillbilly Mafia" bring light to what is happening to many small, isolated towns across the country. Justified is currently beginning it's third season on FX Network.



 

"SOUTHLAND" - Police Drama (TNT)

TNT PROMOTIONAL SYNOPSIS:
From Emmy Award winners John Wells, Ann Biderman and Chris Chulack comes a raw and authentic look at a police unit in Los Angeles. From the beaches of Malibu to the streets of East Los Angeles, "Southland" is a fast-moving drama that will take viewers inside the lives of cops, criminals, victims and their families.

ERIC SAYS:
If you're a fan of movies like "Training Day" and procedural shows like "Law & Order", then you'll really enjoy Southland. As a citizen of LA, it's cool seeing familiar locations pop up in the storylines, and although the show is scripted, it totally feels like you're participating in a ride-along with the officers and detectives. This is a great, great show that will have you instantly hooked. Be forewarned, the show's producers are not afraid to kill-off important characters to illustrate the real-life danger cops face every day on the job.



 

"NO ANGEL" - by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

AMAZON SYNOPSIS:
Here, from Jay Dobyns, the first federal agent to infiltrate the inner circle of the outlaw Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, is the inside story of the twenty-one-month operation that almost cost him his family, his sanity, and his life. Getting shot in the chest as a rookie agent, bartering for machine guns, throttling down the highway at 100 mph, and responding to a full-scale, bloody riot between the Hells Angels and their rivals, the Mongols–these are just a few of the high-adrenaline experiences Dobyns recounts in this action-packed, hard-to-imagine-but-true story. Dobyns leaves no stone of his harrowing journey unturned. At runs and clubhouses, between rides and riots, Dobyns befriends bad-ass bikers, meth-fueled “old ladies,” gun fetishists, psycho-killer ex-cons, and even some of the “Filthy Few”–the elite of the Hells Angels who’ve committed extreme violence on behalf of their club. Eventually, at parties staged behind heavily armed security, he meets legendary club members such as Chuck Zito, Johnny Angel, and the godfather of all bikers, Ralph “Sonny” Barger. To blend in with them, he gets full-arm ink; to win their respect, he vows to prove himself a stone-cold killer. Hardest of all is leading a double life, which has him torn between his devotion to his wife and children, and his pledge to become the first federal agent ever to be “fully patched” into the Angels’ near-impregnable ranks. His act is so convincing that he comes within a hairsbreadth of losing himself.  Eventually, he realizes that just as he’s been infiltrating the Hells Angels, they’ve been infiltrating him. And just as they’re not all bad, he’s not all good. Reminiscent of Donnie Brasco’s uncovering of the true Mafia, this is an eye-opening portrait of the world of bikers–the most in-depth since Hunter Thompson’s seminal work–one that fully describes the seductive lure criminal camaraderie has for men who would otherwise be powerless outsiders. Here is all the nihilism, hate, and intimidation, but also the freedom–and, yes, brotherhood–of the only truly American form of organized crime.

ERIC SAYS:
This book provided a riveting glimpse into a strange and violent world that most people will never experience. Jay is brutally honest as he describes his immersion into the outlaw biker culture and the effects it takes on his family and friends as he gets pulled deeper in to this alternate persona. It's difficult to imagine putting yourself in the shoes of a deep undercover agent, but Jay's story is incredibly relatable. I think this book resonated much more with me at this point in my life as a young father, since Jay also had a wife and small children at home during the time frame of the operation. This is a quick and fascinating read, which you simply won't be able to put down.



 

"PACKING FOR MARS" - by Mary Roach

AMAZON SYNOPSIS:
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

ERIC SAYS:
An incredibly interesting and funny read. This book answers a lot of the weird questions about the space progam that we've all probably wondered about, but were too afraid to ask. There's an especially awesome chapter devoted to a storage room in a Houston NASA facility that houses stool and urine samples for every astronaut that's ever been into space. A bizarre page-turner!



 

"DEEP STORM" - by Lincoln Child

AMAZON SYNOPSIS:
On an oil platform in the middle of the North Atlantic, a terrifying series of illnesses is spreading through the crew. When expert naval doctor Peter Crane is flown in, he finds his real destination is not the platform itself but Deep Storm: a top secret aquatic science facility, two miles below on the ocean floor. And as Crane soon learns, the covert operation he finds there is concealing something far more sinister than a medical mystery—and much more deadly.

ERIC SAYS:
This is a great summer beach reader. I remember one of the first "grown up" novels I ever read was Michael Crichton's "Sphere". I read that book during a summer vacation to the beach, and it was the perfect setting for such an action-packed underwater adventure. Fans of underwater sci-fi tales like "Sphere" and "The Abyss" will totally enjoy Deep Storm. The ending gave me chills and resonated with me long after I finished the book. Another quick page-turner.



 

COWBOYS & ALIENS - "A Trip to the Stonehenge Colony"

ERIC SAYS:
Cowboys & Aliens are not to be confused with the 2011 film of the same name. These guys are heavy-duty "stoner rock" in all its glory. The perfect driving music for flying through the desert at 100 mph on the way to Vegas. This album will almost make you want to sell all your stuff, buy a chopper, and live life full-throttle on the open road. Almost.



 

SASQUATCH - (Self-Titled)

BAND PROFILE FROM BILLBOARD.COM:
Having escaped the bitter winters of Philadelphia and Detroit headed for the sunnier climes of Los Angeles, CA, vocalist/guitarist Keith Gibbs, bassist Clayton Charles, and drummer Rick Ferrante came together to become hard rockers Sasquatch in 2001. Extensive gigging on the local club scene followed, and after cutting their teeth with like-minded retro-rock acts such as Nebula and Unida, the members of Sasquatch felt their skills were sharpened enough to take the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, TX, by storm. This proved a fitting warm-up engagement prior to the recording of their self-titled debut, which emerged from Small Stone Records in August 2004.

ERIC SAYS:
Let Sasquatch provide the soundtrack to your next whiskey bender. This is just great bar-rock, and an excellent album to drive to.



 

VIKING SKULL - "Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey"

ALBUM REVIEW FROM BILLBOARD.COM:
Brawling, ugly biker, art rock-metal might be an oxymoron in some universes but not, thankfully, in ours. And if the description might be a bit flowery it's still fairly accurate for Viking Skull, who on their third album, Doom Gloom Heartache & Whisky, are clearly dedicated to that most noble of goals: riffs that collapse skulls and hooks that roar with swagger. (Given the title, this is truly a stellar example of truth in advertising.) Not to mention solos, because that's what this kind of music best requires, thus the excellent break on "Start a War" -- not merely in the heroic mode but the everything-drops-out-except-for-a-dying-burst follow-through. While the template established doesn't really change much at all for the rest of the album -- a notable exception being the acoustic guitar start on "Shot Down" a handy break for breath -- it's a formula handled well and the band collectively know how to deliver the material. The lead singer's ear for good shout-alongs intriguingly tempered by a tendency to disappear into the mix a bit -- he's not commanding the vocals, more urging the music on with them. Any number of subtle nods to classic hard rock and metal abound (and sometimes unsubtle nods, as with the wink-and-nudge reworking of "Iron Man" on "In Hell," but Viking Skull are a band that knows its history and is out to have a lot of fun with it -- which they do.

ERIC SAYS:
'Nuff said.



 

"BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY" - Action

GAME SYNOPSIS:
Batman: Arkham City builds upon the intense, atmospheric foundation of Batman: Arkham Asylum, sending players soaring into Arkham City, the new maximum security "home" for all of Gotham City's thugs, gangsters and insane criminal masterminds. Set inside the heavily fortified walls of a sprawling district in the heart of Gotham City, this highly anticipated sequel introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe, as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight.

ERIC SAYS:
I didn't think they could improve upon Arkham Asylum, but this sequel completely blows its predecessor out of the water. It's bigger in scale in almost every aspect; tons of new Riddler challenges, a gigantic free-roamable city to explore, and scads more henchmen to take down. The biggest improvement added to Arkham City is the ability to hanglide and dive through the city, which adds an entirely new element to the series. It helps to have experienced Arkham Asylum first, but not essential. Beginners can easily jump into this game and have a blast, while simultaneously being drawn into the story and side missions. The creative team at Rocksteady simply got every aspect of the Dark Knight's world perfect. This game's storyline is easily better than most of the live-action Batman films and cartoons. Be sure to play the story mode clear through...the ending will shock you.



 

"UNCHARTED 3: DRAKE'S DECEPTION" - Action

GAME SYNOPSIS:
America, early 1900's. The era of the cowboy is coming to an end. When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is sent across the American frontier to help bring the rule of law. Experience intense gun battles, dramatic train robberies, bounty hunting and duels during a time of violent change. Red Dead Redemption is an epic battle for survival in a beautiful open world as John Marston struggles to bury his blood-stained past, one man at a time. Developed by Rockstar San Diego, Red Dead Redemption is now available for PlayStation3 and Xbox 360.

ERIC SAYS:
Nathan Drake is the contemporay Indiana Jones, only hipper and with a better sense of humor. The Uncharted games play more like a big-budget movie than a videogame. You'll find yourself anxious to complete the challenges and puzzles simply to see how the story progresses. The game environments and settings are breathtaking, whether you're trying to escape from a capsized cruise ship, or scouring an ancient temple for treasure. You really feel totally immersed in the world and grow to love the characters. Rumors about a live-action movie have been building for years, so I'm definitely hoping to see the adventures of Nathan Drake in theaters soon.