"RESTREPO" - Documentary

MOVIES.COM SYNOPSIS:
Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington pay a visit to Afghanistan's Korengal Valley to spend a year with the Second Platoon, a besieged squadron who dubbed their stronghold Outpost Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. An al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, Korengal Valley sees some of the fiercest fighting in the War on Terror. At Outpost Restrepo, every shot fired is personal, and every target hit a gift to a fallen friend.

ERIC SAYS:
This film had me riveted from start to finish. Rarely do you see this kind of access to war-time combat situations. I mean, the filmmakers are in the trenches with the soldiers as bullets are flying overhead in the firefights! Restrepo is nominated for "Best Documentary" in this year's Academy Awards. If you have a Neflix membership, you can watch it free with your online streaming account, but I have also seen this on the NatGeo Channel, so check your local listings.



 

"EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP" - Documentary

MOVIES.COM SYNOPSIS:
Exit Through the Gift Shop marks the feature-film debut of notorious street artist Banksy. The documentary's focus is French-born L.A. thrift-shop owner Thierry Guetta, whose apparent compulsion to videotape every moment of his life led him to document the phenomenon of contemporary street art. Guetta's cousin, a street artist known as Space Invader, allowed the avid cameraman to tape him as he illegally spread his artwork, and Space Invader also introduced him to other street artists, whose work Guetta captured on tape. Eventually, Guetta hooked up with Shepard Fairey, who was best known (before he created an iconic Barack Obama campaign poster) for his widespread stickers featuring an image of the late wrestler Andre the Giant over the word "OBEY." Guetta soon hears about the mysterious street artist/prankster Banksy, and becomes obsessed with finding him and videotaping his exploits. Thanks to Guettta's growing reputation among street artists, the two eventually meet and form a sort of partnership. Guetta even videotapes Banksy's infamous "Gitmo" prank at Disneyland, wherein a handcuffed, hooded figure in an orange jumpsuit is placed beside one of the rides. They get along quite well until Banksy suggests that Guetta stop shooting, take the countless hours of footage he's accumulated, and start assembling them into a documentary. Banksy eventually takes over the documentary project, and inadvertently pushes Guetta's creative energy in a new direction, as Guetta becomes a kind of street artist himself, with shocking results. Exit Through the Gift Shop, narrated by Rhys Ifans, had its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. While it was very well received, there was much speculation as to the documentary's veracity and the provenance of Guetta, his videotape, and his artwork. Given Banksy's reputation, that should not come as a surprise.

ERIC SAYS:
I was surprised by how laugh-out-loud funny this film was. Banksy and Guetta are both hilarious personalities; Guetta less intentionally. The film also provides a crash course in the evolution of street art, which was especially entertaining. Exit Through The Gift Shop is nominated for "Best Documentary" in this year's Academy Awards. If you have a Neflix membership, you can watch it free with your online streaming account.


 

"THE TOWN" - Drama

IMDB SYNOPSIS:
As he plans his next job, a longtime thief (Ben Affleck) tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists, as well as the FBI agent (Jon Hamm) looking to bring him and his crew down.

ERIC SAYS:
Another great Boston crime drama. If you enjoyed "The Departed" and "Gone Baby Gone" (also directed by Ben Affleck), then you'll love this fast-paced heist film. If they could have somehow managed a cameo by Matt Damon and at least one Wahlberg, this could have been a perfect film. Jeremy Renner is nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at this year's awards. The Town is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Pay-Per-View.



 

"TRON: LEGACY" - Fantasy/Adventure

MOVIES.COM SYNOPSIS:
The Master Control Program is booted back up in this revamped Tron continuation that sees the return of original star Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, the brilliant computer programmer whose disappearance leads his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), to search for him in and out of the computer world. Original director and co-writer Steven Lisberger produces the new film, which is helmed by commercial director Joseph Kosinski. James Frain, Olivia Wilde, Beau Garrett, and Michael Sheen also star, with Bruce Boxleitner returning as Alan Bradley and Tron, the heroic protagonist of the original film.

ERIC SAYS:
I saw this in theaters in 3-D, and while the glasses may have been unnecessary, I felt like my jaw was open throughout the entire film. The special effects and neon lighting are breath-taking. Fueled by a kick-ass score created by Daft Punk, this was one of the coolest "event" movies I've seen in a long time. I really enjoyed it, mainly because it brought me back to my youth by resonating with me long after I had left the theater, just like movies did when I was a kid. Note: It definitely helps to see the original Tron, since this is a direct sequel and features many characters and references from the first film. Tron: Legacy is currently in theaters.



 

"SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA" - Action/Drama (STARZ)

IMDB SYNOPSIS:
Before Spartacus struck down his first opponent in the arena, there were many gladiators who passed though the gates onto the sand. "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" tells the story of the original Champion of the House of Batiatus, Gannicus, in a more ruthless time before Spartacus' arrival, where honor was just finding it's way into the arena.

ERIC SAYS:
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" is a prequel mini-series to the breakout hit "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", which airs Friday nights on the Starz network. After the show's lead actor portraying Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) fell ill battling Cancer before the filming of Season 2, the producers decided to create this prequel series to tide fans over until Andy could make a full recovery. Unfortunately, Andy's Cancer returned and he had to drop out of the show completely, which has forced the producers to recast the lead role of Spartacus once filming resumes next year. However, this prequel series has not fallen off in the least, with almost all of the original actors involved in the first series returning to reprise their roles in younger form. The show is not for the faint of heart, since the extreme violence, sexual situations, and language are really pushed in an attempt to create a more accurate depiction of life in ancient Rome than we've ever seen. This is not a Kirk Douglas sword-and-sandals epic, but rather an edgy, fast-paced tale of corruption, betrayal, greed, and ambition. The action is often shot in the slow-to-fast cut style of movies like "300", with an enthralling storyline about slaves trying to rise above their oppressors by fighting for honor and fame, similar to the film "Gladiator".



 

"THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY" - by Suzanne Collins

AMAZON BOOK SYNOPSIS:
In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like 'Survivor' and 'American Gladiator.'

ERIC SAYS:
Although geared towards young adult readers, this series has quickly taken ahold of older readers as well, much like the Harry Potter and Twilight books. The first book was definitely my favorite, since I really enjoyed the life-or-death struggle told from a first-person perspective by the main character as she fights to survive the Games. This is not kid's stuff, since the violence is depicted quite realistically and there are many deaths. You simply won't be able to put this book down. The sequels are also good, but the action shifts more towards the citizens attempting to rebel against their oppressive government in the Capital. This series has garnered much critical acclaim and received very favorable endorsements from authors such as Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer. A series of films based on the books are currently in development, the first of which should be released sometime in 2011 or 2012.



 

"THE PASSAGE" - by Justin Cronin

SUMMARY FROM BOOK BROWSE:
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse. As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

ERIC SAYS:
This is a must-read for fans of epic, post-apocalyptic sci-fi tales such as "The Stand" and "The Road". The author doesn't beat around the bush about referring to his "Virals" as vampires, but these are not the brooding Twilight-variety heartthrobs. These things are horrific monsters that tear people apart as they hunt the few remaining humans left alive for food. I loved how the story spanned hundreds of years to show how people had adapted to such a world-altering event. Apparently, Ridley Scott's production company bought the film rights to the book before it was even completed, and are planning to put the project into development. This is the first book in a planned trilogy. The second volume is scheduled to arrive in 2012, with the third and final installment coming in 2014. The Passage received high praise from well-established authors, such as Stephen King, and critics alike.



 

"WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN" - Written by Mark Millar, Pencils by Steve McNiven

COMIC BOOK BIN SYNOPSIS:
Fifty years ago, the villains of the Marvel Universe banded together and waged a singular, unified assault against the heroes and, when the dust had settled and the bodies had fallen, there were no more heroes. This is the world Wolverine, now calling himself simply “Logan,” inhabits. He is many things now: a farmer, a father, a husband and, somehow, a pacifist. He keeps his head low, scratches out a meager existence from the barren land and keeps his family fed. So one day the Hulk gang comes knocking, saying that the rent is due. To make payment, Logan heads east with Hawkeye (the only surviving Avenger) to deliver a mysterious package, collect a payday, and keep the Hulk gang from killing his family.

ERIC SAYS:
I'm a huge fan of Mark Millar. He's responsible for some of the biggest comic hits in recent years, including Kick-Ass, The Ultimates, and Wanted. This was easily my favorite comic from last year. The story is very original and the artwork has a grand feel that really sucks you in, almost like you're watching a movie. There are many twists, turns, laughs, and jaw-dropping surprises throughout. Rumor has it, Mark is currently hard at work on a sequel.



 

KANYE WEST - "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW:
Fans who sifted through the official singles, televised short film, and free downloads that Kanye West released this fall are already familiar with most of the songs contained on his fifth album. Even so, students of pop culture will be missing out if they don’t listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in its finished form. West has tricked out these tracks with sharper verses and grander instrumental interludes, then lined them up in a sequence that demands to be heard from start to finish. Songs that might have felt self-indulgent or tossed-off in other contexts are now essential components of a soundly built structure—easily his most consistently compelling full-length since 2005′s Late Registration.

ERIC SAYS:
Love him or hate him, Kanye put out a great album. A definite improvement over his previous album's AutoTune-heavy influence. This album features more guest appearances than a season's worth of Saturday Night Live shows. It's a virtual Who's Who of the best hip-hip artists working today. If you put his troubled public persona aside, there are simply few artists who work harder than Kanye West. He refuses to let his creativity rest on its laurels and constantly strives to be the best showman in the game. Rolling Stone rated this album 5 out of 5 stars.



 

CHROMEO - "Business Casual"

THE COUCH SESSIONS ALBUM REVIEW:
he tandem of P-Thugg and Dave 1, the Montreal, Quebec natives known as Chromeo began their pop rise taking the simplest of elements and mashing them together for underground domination and mainstream success. The quirky voice box aided funk and synth stylings of acts like Zapp and The Gap Band alongside electro dance production formula is not shocking or unusual, but in a group as well steeped in the aural traditions of 80s funk and soul as this duo, the songs sound great, so the blatant ripping of a decades old musical concept is easily forgotten. On most recent third release Business Casual the duo strip down the formula somewhat, and in attempting to shed the hipster conceptualization from their sound and just become a solid funk pairing succeed. In continuing to solve the nagging issues that halt their development as a truly fully formed act, they have the opportunity to carry the torch carried by the likes of Morris Day and Charlie Wilson well into the 21st century for a brand new faction of sexy, party loving funk devotees.In final, this is a solid album. The pop singles here show the direction the band can comfortably take for a career. Mirror top 80s electro funk tracks that were enormous hits, and infuse them with solid songwriting and perfect mixing (Phoenix’s Philipe Zdar behind the boards has Chromeo’s sound down to a science) to extend their life and take them in a slightly different, yet reverential direction. Chromeo has legs to succeed for many years to come. In slowly putting the pieces together to craft a formula that will succeed for them “night by night” for years to come, their search for longevity is refreshing and their development a continuing story to watch unfold and appreciate.

ERIC SAYS:
This is a great, upbeat party album filled with 80's synth nostalgia. Pure and simple boogie music that will make you feel good. I think it's impossible not to move while this album is playing.



 

PENDULUM - "Immersion"

IGN ALBUM REVIEW:
As its title suggests, the third album from Australian electro-rock band Pendulum is a dense work that completely envelops you. Blending electro sheen and industrial grit, this seven-member outfit craft one hell of a banging club rock experience, full of thundering beats, fuzzed-out synth and swarming riffs. The album opens without a word being uttered for the first ten minutes, but you will not miss the vocals one bit thanks to the over-caffeinated instrumental eruption "Salt In The Wound", steadily ramping up and exploding like a heart attack. The last few tracks end things on a down note but as it stands it is a slightly excessive, but ultimately fantastic album.

ERIC SAYS:
This album is great to drive to. Just put it on and try to keep your foot off the gas. I felt this album's singles weren't as strong as some of their previous club bangers, but all-in-all, this is good from start to finish. This album is currently available in wide release and Pendulum will be playing at The Wiltern in LA on February 25th. Also check out their previous albums "Hold Your Colour", which features the song "Slam", and "In Silico", featuring the song "Granite". Easily my two favorite Pendulum tracks because their energy is just insane. Never, ever play this music in a crowd of rowdy drunks or you could have full-scale bedlam on your hands.



 

"CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS" - First-Person Shooter

GAME SYNOPSIS:
The biggest action series of all time returns. Call of Duty: Black Ops is an entertainment experience that will take you to conflicts across the globe, as elite Black Ops forces fight in the deniable operations and secret wars that occurred under the veil of the Cold War.

ERIC SAYS:
I didn't start playing the Call of Duty series until last year's Modern Warfare 2 game came out, but I haven't looked back since. These games are incredibly addicting and exhilerating to play. Not only that, but they seem to outdue each other with every new release. Black Ops is set primarily during the Cold-War era, with the Vietnam War providing a major backdrop for locations, weapons, and technology. The game's single player campaign is well produced and fun, but the longevity of these titles is a direct result of their amazing online multiplayer gameplay. Choose one of several modes of combat and take on other player from around the world, earning points to buy new weapons and perks that will help you along the way. The game offers free-for-all games, as well as team-based campaigns where you'll need to communicate with your other team members to capture flags, protect an objective, or deliver a bomb into the heart of the enemy's headquarters. A really cool new feature added to Black Ops is the ability to customize your own unique callsign with various graphics, numbers, and symbols, which appear in the game lobbies for other users to distinguish themselves. The creators recently released 5 new maps for the XBox platform, with content soon to be available for PS3 and PC users.



 

"RED DEAD REDEMPTION" - 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:
If you're a fan of Westerns, especially darker tales like "Unforgiven" and the Spaghetti Western variety, then this game is simply a must-own. The environments are so expansive and and rendered in such detail, it's unbelieveable. Created by the folks behind the Grand Theft Auto series, this game offers the same freedom to roam the world and be as good or evil as you choose, with rewards and penalties issued based upon your choices. If you get tired of doing the game's cool storyline missions, you can participate in some of the other plentiful chanllenges, such as capturing bounties, hunting game, finding hidden treasure, or just exploring the beautiful countryside throughout. There's also a pretty expansive online multiplayer feature that allows you to form posses and gangs to fight other players in various modes of combat. Since it's initial release, the creators have also put out some cool downloadable content, especially the Undead Nightmare pack, which turns the entire world into a zombie-filled Hell with new missions and challenges to complete. This game earned vast critical acclaim, including a "9.7 - Amazing" rating on IGN.com. Word has it that there's a film in development based upon the game's enthralling storyline.



 

"BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM" - Action

GAME SYNOPSIS:
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum. Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme. Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

ERIC SAYS:
Being a huge fan of all things Batman, I thought this game perfectly blended all the coolest elements of the character from comics, movies, and the animated series. The atmosphere is creepy, dark, and extremely Gothic; exactly where a Batman story belongs. The gameplay is extremely easy and fun to pick-up, and the awesome fighting action is done in a slow-to-fast cut style, like you see in a lot of films now. However, what will really keep you wrapped up in this game are all the hidden treasures to find and puzzles to unravel. Bonus points to the creators for using the voice talent from the animated series, specifically Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hammill as The Joker. Fans have long since associated these actors' voices with these characters, and it was extremely welcoming having them back in the mix. This game earned crazy amounts of critical acclaim, including a "9.3 - Amazing" rating on IGN.com. The sequel, "Batman: Arkham City" will be out this Fall, and is supposed to feature Dr. Hugo Strange as the main villain, although I'm sure we'll get plenty of appearances from the rest of the Rogue's Gallery. Can't wait!