Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015

“EMMY AWARDS” – 2015 – QUICK PICKS

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Just throwing out a quick roll on The Emmy’s for some of the main categories only. I always do well for my Oscar picks..but not so much on The Emmy’s. I’m guessing it’s because most of the time I haven’t seen all the shows being as I don’t have Netflix or Amazon accounts and I don’t illegally bootleg anything because good shows get cancelled because of it and people lose jobs and money. In other words.. My choices mean nothing..ha!
My picks are bolded & italicized. I probably won’t do well on this.. 😀

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
“Better Call Saul” – not my favourite new show..Some people are ranting and raving over this, I was just meh on it.

“Downton Abbey” – I mean it’s Downton.. It’s not what it once was, but it’s still very watchable.

“Game of Thrones” – This was a slow season on GOT. Just like season 2, it was very mixed with only a good episode thrown in here and there.

“Homeland” – Everyone thought this show would just go down the toilet without ‘Brody’ (Damien Lewis) instead..it was.. dare I say it..almost better. It’s all about Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend).

“House of Cards” – Only have seen an episode of this way back when..

“Mad Men” – Tis the season of Mad Men for me. This really should sweep and it’s final season proved to be hands down, one of the best ever on TV. Just truly a show to sit back, watch and be awed by.

“Orange is the New Black” – N/A

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES I just don’t have a pick here but if I had to guess…

“Louie” – I know this is a critical darling, but it’s just not my show.

“Modern Family” – it’s never bad, but it’s also rather ZZZzzzz now.

“Parks and Recreation” – I never got as hooked into this show as some did..but I did like it.

“Silicon Valley” – N/A
“Transparent – N/A
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” N/A

“Veep” – Again, another critical darling, and I watch it on occasion.

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” – in Breaking Bad I found Saul rather humourous – in his own show..I just really didn’t gravitate towards the character at all.

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline” – N/A – though I’ve been a Kyle Chandler fan since ‘Early Edition’..yes I said ‘Early Edition’ 😀

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” – N/A

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” – This is Jon Hamm’s year. It has to be. His performance in this last season was just sublime. And that finale..come on!!!

Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Love this show..Love the character and the acting.. But again, it’s all Jon Hamm for me this year.

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan” – same as above..I love Liev..but. yeah..it’s just all about Jon Hamm.

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire” – this over-the-top show and character are amusing if nothing else..

Claire Danes, “Homeland” – Again, fantastic season and performance by Claire, but she’s won before..and the faces..oh those faces!! 😀

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder” – I love Viola as an actress.but this show is sorely lacking and I can’t for that reason alone.

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” – oh Tatiana..I love you and this show equally..I do..and you so deserve this nomination.

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men” – But I gotta go with Peggy Olsen. And not just because she is a ‘Peggy’ in this too..but because I still have that totally badass episode of her from 2014 on my DVR with her and Don.. plus her ciggie eps. She was just incredible.

Robin Wright, “House of Cards” – N/A

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish” – I enjoyed this show from the beginning and I’m a big Anthony Anderson fan from way back but I did sorta lose steam for it.. It’s an ‘on occasion’ show for me now.

Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes” – Matt playing over-the-top Matt..is so fun.

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies” – Not a fan of this show..

Will Forte, “The Last Man On Earth” – I gave this one 2 eps. and then I was done..

Louis C.K., “Louie” – yeah..not my fav. in any way, shape or form.

William H. Macy, “Shameless” – Love Bill Macy – so-so on the show.

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent” – N/A

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback” – It’s Valerie Cherish – do I need to say anything more?

Lily Tomlin, “Grace And Frankie” – N/A

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer” – comedy’s ‘It Girl’ of the moment right now..and I LOVE her.

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie” – Oh Jackie..I will miss you. No one’s ever had a nurse like you.

Amy Poehler, “Parks And Recreation” – Love Amy.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” – Julia is comedy gold..

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul” – Big fan of Banks, but again, the character that worked so well for me on Breaking Bad, doesn’t work for me here.

Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline” – Ben Mendelsohn is a fantastic actor that can truly play almost any role. Wish I could see him in this..truly.

Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey” – I think everyone likes Mr. Carson just not enough for a win here.

Peter Dinklage, “Game Of Thrones” – Dinklage was a highlight of a slow season.

Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife” – When does Alan not bring it on this show? Even with an uneven season..he’s always spot on.

Michael Kelly, “House Of Cards” – N/A

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” – last years surprise winner to almost everyone but me.. 😀

Lena Headey, “Game Of Thrones” – Lena gave it her all.. literally..

Emilia Clarke, “Game Of Thrones” – another fav. character for me from the show.

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” – Hands down, my winner. Christine is priceless.

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” – Joan really gave it to us for the final season. Stepping up into her own and really giving us an insight into what the fight for equal rights for women possibly entailed. I won’t be mad if she wins.

Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is The New Black” – N/A

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – for me, this is the funniest show on TV..And Andre just brings it to this role.

Adam Driver, “Girls” – don’t really like the show and not an Adam Driver fan so..

Keegan-Michael Key, “Key & Peele” – they have some damn funny skits.

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family” – ZZZZzzzz oh..sorry..I like Ty but I’m pretty over their run.

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” – N/A

Tony Hale, “Veep” – I’ve just not got a thing to say here..ha! I just haven’t watched the show enough to really say yay! or nay!!

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory” – not my show, just never got the ‘ha ha’ from it.

Niecy Nash, “Getting On” – Never seen this show. and I’m fine with that!

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family” – See ‘Ty Burrell’

Allison Janney, “Mom” – I’ve watched this show a few times trying my best to get into it.. I just didn’t succeed, but I do love Alison

Kate McKinnon “Saturday Night Live” – She’s just a gem all the time, every character.

Gaby Hoffmann, “Transparent” – N/A

Jane Krakowski, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” – N/A

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep” – I like ‘out of the box’..this is a good ‘out of the box’ character for Anna.. but just not enough for me.

That’s it!! Wish I had more time to get in-depth on these and more categories..Just pressed for time. Let’s just hope that the Emmy’s aren’t the same ol’ same ol’ that they can sometimes be and pick some new different and I might add, much deserving winners.
Cheers all!!

REVIEW: “EVEREST” (2015) Universal Pictures

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CourageFearPainStrength – all the words used in the trailer to describe this film based on a true story. Though after watching this movie I can’t help but think they might have skipped a word – Insanity – because truly one must have a bit of this to even attempt to climb this mountain. To know going in that there is a 60/40 percent chance you might not come down..would and does deter most.

In ‘Everest’ we get brought back to 1996 when the big mountain had been actually been conquered enough times that it was no longer the specter it once had been. That didn’t stop people from wanting to climb it, instead it ended up turning it into a business. Leader of the trend is the New Zealand business team “Adventure Consultants” with partners Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) & Helen Wilton (Emily Watson). The teams that head to the summit are a mix of seasoned pros and moneyed amateurs, forking over fortunes to earn both killer views they get momentarily and probably most importantly thing of course, the bragging rights. On one team you have the clients – ‘average’ guy, mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), the big Texan, Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and the one small Asian woman, a 47 yr old climber of 6 of the tallest peaks in the world, Yasuko Namba (Naoki Mori) along with guides Hall, Andy “Harold” Harris (Martin Henderson) & Michael Groom (Thomas M. Wright) – on the other team “Mountain Madness” you have the college frat guy guide Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) & Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) who refuses to use oxygen even though they will be at a level noted by Hall as ‘Humans aren’t meant to function at the cruising altitude of a 747’
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Having reached the summit and literally touched the peak — their moment of triumph – though problematic as issues with roping and lateness of the afternoon make the timetable of descent turn into a dire situation. A storm sweeps in before certain climbers have turned back. What follows is a brutal waiting game. Among those stranded in the inhospitable climate is Hansen, Harris & Hall – who finds himself curled up in a nook, patiently, almost inhumanly biding his time as numerous attempts to save him come and pass him by due to more storms.
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Having years ago read Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” I hadn’t realized this was going to be that story told so vividly so I recommend you go in with little knowledge of the body count as Everest plays a bit in the vein of Apollo 13, as you know the story history wise – but in this one there’s only a slim chance the ones in trouble will make it.

The film truly focuses on the brutality of this type of climbing and what we now know was the beginnings of what the business end of this all is. All these climbs-for-hire have literally created a trash bin of Everest as what goes up, doesn’t always come down. And of course the body count of those left up on the mountain has also increased exponentially since this first tragic event. And let’s not ever forget all the sherpas with whom without them, most of these climbs could never be done.
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So what’s good about this movie? The 3-D is very good. Throughout most of the film you can’t discern between what is the real on-location shots and what is sound-staged. Brolin & Clarke really have the lead acting roles here and both do well. Sam Worthington also comes on well more towards the end as Guy Cotter. Overall it will prove to be a rough watch with it’s ending for some, but it’s a good film nonetheless.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, September 18, 2015

REVIEW: “MAZE RUNNER: SCORCH TRIALS” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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Assuming that you have a good enough memory to remember where the first film finished as before reading my own review from the first one, the only thing I truly remembered was the main characters Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) & Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and along with the fact one of my fav. characters Gally (Will Poulter) died.
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Here in Scorch Trials we’re thrust straight away into Thomas and company’s bust from the World Catastrophe Killzone Department aka WCKD; (side note: seemingly no one realized the connotations of the acronym until after the business cards had been made *eyeroll). Missing his memories and suspicious of anyone over the age of 21, before we can even blink an eye..Thomas is once again leading a breakout from the complex he and his buds are being held in after being rescued from the maze. This includes newcomer to the group Aris (Jacob Lofland) and a new mean guy Janson (Aiden Gillen) who is up to something, but before we can find out any answers as to why kids are being “harvested” and what the purpose of the maze was and Thomas’s role in it, poof!! they’re out into ‘The Scorch’, a desolate wasteland and busted-up city that uses must have used the leftover sets from Insurgent – hey..I’m all for budget saving. 🙂
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As noted in my review of the original Maze Runner, this one too borrows heavily from not only other popular YA films (think Twilight, Insurgent etc), but also every other popular trope lying around. Suddenly we’ve got Walking Dead type zombies – we’ve got running up buildings – we’ve got a political resistance with no clear aim – And we’ve got more questions asked than a 3 year old at the playground. Despite the bum-numbing (ouch!) running time, as again with all this type of genre film they could easily cut out 30-40 minutes from each one, every new character Thomas and his nameless mates encounter exclaim, “There’s no time to explain, we have to go!” to the point of where you just want to scream “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
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There’s also little time given to reintroducing some of the characters that barely made it from the first film. We know Thomas and Teresa, and that guy from Game Of Thrones, but the supporting cast are essentially just there to be dispensed with to provide some sense of jeopardy. At one point, the boys reminisce about their fallen numbers; “Aww, do you remember Chuck? And Winston? They were definitely here.” No, I do not remember them; I don’t even remember what my life was like before I started watching this film. At one point, Theresa tells Thomas a story about her mother slowly turning mad to the point she plucked out her own eyeballs. After two hours and 11 minutes, I think I felt her pain..

Which is a huge shame because the first installment was so promising I truly thought that the second would be better. And it almost was for a bit..sadly it didn’t remain moving in that right direction. Though I will cough up to the fact that O’Brien is a fairly charismatic lead when all he had to do was jump around the maze, but now he’s given precious little to do other than run around with that chicken head cut-off syndrome.
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Teresa who when in the maze, set the whole chain of events into motion, is literally carried throughout by the boys and her relationship with Thomas, both before and after the maze, is not ever really touched on. A brief flirtation between Thomas and resistance fighter/soon-to-be-zombie Brenda (Rosa Salazar) has little consequence; same with what her father figure Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) who I’m still not sure if he is the ‘Right Arm’ they were so desperately trying to find or not. Throw in Vince (Barry Pepper) or Mary (Lili Taylor) as possible Right Arm leaders also and truthfully I was just a bit confused or maybe tired by that point. The whole film, while not bad, made me wonder if you would be any the wiser if you read the books as early on director Wes Ball dispenses with the original story and gives us a sadly DSAPPNTNG ending to this second installment of the sage.

Grade: D
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 – Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide release: Friday, September 18, 2015

REVIEW “PAWN SACRIFICE” Q & A w/TOBEY MAGUIRE – Bleeker Street Media

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The story of chess great Bobby Fisher is definitely a complex one as we watch Bobby as a young child (Young actors Aiden Lovekamp and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who play Fischer as a boy and teenager, are respectively completely convincing) growing up in the Washington Square area of Brooklyn already showing chess greatness but also showing how his paranoia builds with his mother Regina Fisher (Robin Weigert) holding secret communist party get togethers in their small apartment.

Director Ed Zwick does well making this tense and gripping story which is for the most part set during the Cold War era between the U.S. & U.S.S.R. (aka Russia), Pawn Sacrifice is a very well acted and quite accurate portrayal of the oft demanding, arrogant, completely unstable and preening chess player Bobby Fisher, as it puts Tobey Maguire in the main role of Fisher when he was in his twenties. pawn sacrifice 2

The film opens on Fischer in a state of disarray, panting and pacing around a hotel room, ripping open telephones to check if there are microphones inside. He is going slightly mad, and Fischer will not leave his room. He is paranoid from what is happening outside as the Cold War paranoia that is getting to the American chess grandmaster will be his downfall from life as we know it.
As you watch his crazy decline of mental cognizance with Maguire truly inhabiting and embodying this character showing how he had a mind both incredible and dangerous as on the one hand he loved gloating to the public, on the other was a nuisance and nut in private.
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With the aid of two companions, lawyer Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Father William Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard), Fischer plans a trip to Iceland to play against the Soviets.
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Out of fear and apparent madness, Fischer does not show up for a world title match against his Russian foe, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), who is effortlessly cool in his portrayal here mostly just with looks as he doesn’t have much dialogue.
The fact that this film is quite historically accurate and with spectacular locations perfectly welded together, the scenes in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills being some of my favourite as they got the essence of the era down perfectly and beautifully, showing how these two guys were somewhat the rock stars of their respective countries in such a time of turmoil between the two countries.. along with the fact they make chess almost exciting makes the title perfectly fit with the reference to the sacrifice Bobby Fischer had to make, but because of his almost sheer genius, had the game going and ending how he wanted.
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Although the physical resemblance with the real chess players isn’t spot on, that fact proves to be almost a moot point and unnoticable with these hands down enveloping performances and truly, once the movie gets a hold of you, just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

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POST Q & A WITH TOBEY MAGUIRE & PRODUCER GAIL KATZ:
Tobey noted what interested him most and attracted him to the role was seeing what Fisher’s childhood had been about.. Noting that by age 15 he was already at the top of his game, but mentally, what he was doing was telling people his hotel room wasn’t perfect or making crazy demands for quiet. It was mostly this that attracted him to the role.
He & Gail delved into many long and lengthy stories about how the film got to be made most notably that they first had director David Fincher attached when they first started putting the picture together 9 yrs. ago and then when it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do it when Tobey was ready to do it, he had a conversation with Ed Zwick who stepped in and did a fine job. He noted that it is somewhat a sports story but more a life story time capsule of what was going on in the world at the time.

Screening: Landmark Theatre Westside ~ Thursday, September 10, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media and Producers Guild of America
Nationwide release: Wednesday, September 16, 2015

REVIEW: “A WALK IN THE WOODS” (2015) Broad Green Pictures

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A Walk in the Woods is essentially a two-hander piece between Robert Redford’s Bill Bryson, a travelling writer who teams up with his old companion Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) for a hike along the 2,000 mile-plus Appalachian Trail.
Bryson is a sarcastically funny cynic who has his life in a certain order that has become mundane for him, whereas Katz is a grumpy recovering alcoholic who still tries to re-live and remain in his more youthful days. Their contrasts can appear a tad caricature like, but their acting ability, charm, and on-screen chemistry binds the film together well.
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Its a nice witty, little jaunt of a film and while some could be of the opinion that Redford might have wanted to make a bit of an environmental statement here (I disagree), Nolte keeps us entertained all through till the end. Seeing Emma Thompson is always a delight as Redford’s wife Catherine Bryson, but it’s truly Kristen Schaal as Mary Ellen, the annoying, obnoxious fellow traveler whom talks endlessly and knows all, that brings the most to her small, albeit scene stealing role.

DF-03247_R (l to r) Nick Nolte stars as Stephen Katz, Kristen Schaal as Mary Ellen and Robert Redford as Bill Bryson camping along the Appalachian Trail in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, A WALK IN THE WOODS. Credit:Frank Masi, SMPSP/ Broad Green Pictures

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(l to r) Nick Nolte stars as Stephen Katz, Kristen Schaal as Mary Ellen and Robert Redford as Bill Bryson camping along the Appalachian Trail in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, A WALK IN THE WOODS.
Credit:Frank Masi, SMPSP/ Broad Green Pictures


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As you might expect, yes there are a few lullsy moments throughout the film but A Walk in the Woods is no Wild nor does it try to be.. it’s more ‘The Odd Couple’ on a roadtrip – buddy type film with Redford as Felix and Nolte as Oscar.
It’s a safe bet that will appeal to a older audience, though they might be a bit surprised with some of the language by these two wonderful actors and while very sweet..I would definitely put it in the category of “sweet & nice” which is a perfectly okay way to spend a few hours!!

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Landmark Theater Westside – Wednesday, August 26, 2015 – Courtesy of Broad Green Pictures & LAFTV meetup group
Nationwide release: Wednesday, September 2, 2015