Survivorman Fan Challenge 2015

Today I’ll be writing about my experience appearing in the Fan Episode of Survivorman with Les Stroud. Where to begin?…..I guess a little background on my outdoors experience is in order. For the past 10 years I’ve backpacked extensively around Europe but at the end of the night I’d always end up at a hostel, cabin or campground, so my survival camping skills were quite low. I didn’t have a fear of sleeping under the stars going into the Survivorman show and I knew that most likely….I’D ACTUALLY BE SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS because I didn’t have the necessary skills to create a functional shelter. I’d watched the show for years, so some of the survival concepts were in my base of knowledge, but I’d never had the practical experience. And apart from my irrational fear of bear attacks, which has now subsided, I was comfortable with a trial by fire situation. Though….I wasn’t remotely aware of how uncomfortable I’d actually get.

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First off, for those of you Survivorman fans and/or haters who have been wondering all these years…Yes, Les Stroud is the real deal. The show is NOT faked. Working in the film/tv business I’m always a bit skeptical of reality shows because sometimes shows are bogus (though I was never skeptical of Survivorman for obvious reasons). There were times when I would’ve loved if the show was a farce and some production assistant would’ve come out from behind a tree and given me a piece of fried chicken…but no. Not a chance. It was real. And being on Survivorman was one of the most amazing and most awful experiences I’ve ever gone through. Hanging out with Les Stroud in the woods was amazing….but still, it’s survival and come dawn on the last day….I was so exhausted, defeated, cold and starving that I just wanted to get out of there, eat a hot meal and sleep in a warm bed. Entering into it I knew there’d be some hardships, but I never knew that hunger would’ve had such a detrimental effect on me (as I’m sure you’ll see on the show). I’d gone without food before for about 36 hours, while sedentary, so being deprived of food while physically exerting myself and depleting calories was no easy feat. I got to the point where my brain just said, ‘Hey. You’re starving and tired. But you’re on this tv show. Do a good job. Use what skills you have. Put your eye in the viewfinder and just keep filming’. Hunger was by far… the worst part. Being alone, having anxiety from lack of sleep, being freezing cold at night, struggling to make fire, hurting my knee while hiking, getting soaking wet in the cold, getting sick….those were bad…yeah. But the lack of food just made those other problems even worse because I couldn’t think straight.

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There were good times and opportunities for growth, for sure. And I’m going to focus on those good moments as opposed to giving a linear rundown of the journey. Because that’s why you’re going to watch the show, right? To see the journey. One of my favorite off-camera moments which still makes me crack up, is on the last morning, probably around 4-5am, I woke up to see Les staring at me. He said, ‘Did you get some sleep?’ to which I replied, ‘Yeah. Maybe about 15 minutes’ and he goes, ‘Come on! You slept for like an hour. And you weren’t kidding. Your snoring is world class. Do me a favor. If you ever get married, please get that surgery’. My backpacking buddies have told me for years that I sound like a dying caribou when I snore…and having Les Stroud agree with that sentiment is pretty funny to me. This is part of the reason I feel so bad staying in dorm room hostels (see snoring blog here). At least I don’t have to worry about wild animals sneaking up on me at night because….they’ll think I’m one of them.

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Another great off-camera moment was after one of our long hikes. Les and I got into really thick bush and it seemed we were on an endless trek. I felt like we were Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings traversing unholy terrain. The trees were thick and spaced inches apart. The footing was horrible. There were huge swamps blocking our path, followed by boulders and small cliffs. We just kept hitting obstacle after obstacle and we were getting turned around and lost in the woods. This is when I started complaining and Les looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you signed up for this’ and I said, ‘I know. It’s ok. I’m just bitching’. After getting soaked crossing this huge beaver dam, Les and I climbed up on this rock and sat down. We didn’t say anything to each other. Just sat there looking at the beauty of that lake that the beavers helped create. It was a beautiful, crisp sunny day. I had the thought to take out my camera and snap a photo but no….it was too perfect to photograph. A remote spot in the Canadian wilderness that only a handful of avid hunters might see. It was unbelievable. And then after 15 minutes of admiring the scenery, Les and I stood up and continued the unending journey in the thick bush. Moments. That’s what we live for. Moments like that.

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Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. I made mistakes. I faltered in areas where I didn’t think I would. I was overwhelmed at times and let fear make decisions for me rather than strength. I felt ashamed for letting such little things get to me…but that’s what it’s all about. Survival. Testing yourself. I don’t regret any of it because I learned so much on that journey that I can add into my already large wealth of backpacking knowledge and I had a remarkable experience. And now….I’ve got so many more skills to bring with me in any hiking/backpacking situation. Why did I apply to the contest and accept the invitation? Well, it’s Survivorman….duh! But also, what’s the point of life if you’re not willing to take chances and greet opportunities with open arms, however crazy they may seem? Maybe I did this to prove to myself that I was stronger than I thought. Maybe I did it because I missed my dad and just wanted him to magically come down from the skies and give me a handshake and say, ‘Good job. I’m proud of you’. Maybe I was just bored and wanted to do something wild. Maybe I was thrilled to hang out with Les Stroud and go on an adventure with him! Or all of the above! Either way, I’m just a regular dude who made a good video and was lucky enough to get chosen by Team Survivorman to be on the show. And that’s AWESOME! And I am and will be eternally grateful to Les, Laura, Ian, John, Max, Wendy, Lauren, Web Girl & the rest of the crew for inviting me into their world and giving me an experience of a lifetime.

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We shot a lot of footage so I’m just as excited as you are to see the final product. I honestly have no idea what the episode looks like….and I’m pretty stoked for it. I think this season of Survivorman is going to be one of the best. And maybe after the episode I’ll put up another blog of more of my experiences and anecdotes. As always, be good to yourself. Be good to others. People, animals & plants alike. Do your best. And follow The Golden Rule. Thanks for reading. Have a great day!

And don’t forget to tune in. Saturday November 7th 2015 @ 10pm/eastern on the Science Channel.

 

 

Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS3

It’s kinda pointless writing a blog about Dragon Age: Inquisition because Kotaku has provided several stellar reviews of the game, which makes it unnecessary to read any others. That being said, it’s hard to find good information about a new blockbuster game on a last generation console….hence why I am writing about Dragon Age: Inquisition for the Playstation 3. I won’t go too in depth regarding the plot and storyline because well, read Kotaku’s blog if you want to get the full review. All else aside… this post will be helpful for people who still rock the PS3 that are on the fence about buying this game. And so we begin…

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First off, YES THE GAME IS WORTH THE MONEY!! If you’re a fan of the franchise already, a fan of the fantasy genre or just a fan of RPG games…buy this immediately. I’m about 35 hours into my first play through, I’m extremely engaged and there’s no end in sight. It’s rumored that this game can take almost 250 hours to complete if you do all the side quests along with the main storyline and that’s a pretty awesome deal for $50-$60 bucks. Of course, the graphics don’t look as good as the PS4 but they’re still good. There’s no drop off from Dragon Age: Origins (the original game in the series) and the scope of the game is huge. So what?….it’s not gonna look as pretty on the PS3 but it’s still going to be a lot of fun.

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Secondly, the writing is spectacular. Friggin’ Phenomenal. The writing and dialogue in the previous 2 games was great but this one just blows them out of the water. Nice job Bioware. In DA:I the gameplay is great, the storyline is fantastic and the plot twists will make hollywood screenwriters jealous. Seriously….this game is like playing an epic movie. It’s amazing. I actually got misty eyed at one point (during a plot twist that I did not see coming AT ALL)….I felt like I was sitting back watching a great film. Technically you don’t notice any sound issues or drop-offs on the PS3, some cut scenes (which I gather look awesome on PS4) can look kind of crappy on PS3….but there’ve only been a few that I’ve noticed. Bugs? Yeah….there are bugs. I don’t know if this is exclusive to the last generation consoles or the whole game in general….but you will need to save often and keep different save files open. Occasionally there will be some severe gameplay glitches but nothing that removes you completely from the story or action. Your screen will freeze and the system will shut down occasionally….which REALLY SUCKS! But I think that’s due to the huge amount of memory running on the old console. It’s nowhere near the amount of bugs in Fallout: New Vegas. It can be annoying, but not detrimental to the flow or your focus in the game….most of the time. Just save every 15-30 minutes and you’ll be fine.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition has made some improvements in terms of mixing an action rpg game with a bit of strategy simulation (creating your castle and making improvements to it etc. etc) but I think there’s still more to be desired out of it. Not a bad thing at all. I wrote about the Dragon Age: Origins-Awakening expansion, which I really liked, and Bioware incorporated some of that detail into Inquisition and I think it goes over well. But…there’s always going to be room for improvement, which I’ve noticed briefly and read about extensively in reviews on the game. I’m not sure if some features in this part of the game are exclusive to PS4 though….either way, it’s still fun.

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M.A.V.B.L.O.G. SCORE- 9.5 out of 10.

To keep it short….Is Dragon Age: Inquisition worth a purchase on a PS3? Absolutely. I think the game plays well on the last generation consoles….and if you don’t have the money right away to buy a PS4, definitely don’t wait on it. Have fun and play Dragon Age on PS3. You can always replay it a few years down the line once you’ve picked up a PS4. I mean, Bioware will probably have worked out all the bugs by then and probably added some more cool DLC’s. So, if you’ve got time to dick around playing video games….pick this one. It certainly is not a waste of time.

As always. Be good. Be great. Be better! And follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day! …..oh yeah, and don’t forget to exercise once and a while….video games can turn you into a zombie. Right?

A Backpackers Mind

Life….a series of seemingly significant or insignificant moments that are strung together throughout time forming an individuals very essence, one who will interact with tens, hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of other humans that inhabit this vast and mysterious world that we constantly try to control and understand. Interactions that on the surface, one might think are inconsequential, but possibly lead to events that bring into being the treasures of a life well lived and/or the foundations for opportunity and growth. Life….can you tell me what it is? Can the worlds most renowned scientist, spiritual authority, politician, mystic or philosopher tell you or I the ‘reality’ of what is going on in the world? What does it all mean? Why are we here? What is my purpose? Can anyone answer for you the largest questions that have ever existed?  Absolutely not. They’re questions that only you can answer. And that brings us to the backpackers philosophy and the travelers mind, which I feel is important to cultivate, with whatever label you may give to it. Because it can help you answer those questions that everyone is bound to have and help to improve your life. What I’m saying isn’t entirely new…..it’s just coming from a different person.

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What is backpacking? What is travel? It’s just seeing new places, having fun and experiencing different cultures, right? Yes…..at first. What it really is, is a lesson in risk-taking. A constant lesson (depending upon how much you travel and/or if you can maintain that mystical energy field one can foster around oneself while you travel). Something happens to the adventurer that embraces the fact that he or she isn’t in control of anything. That they are at the whim of the world that they’re about to experience. You’ve got to let go of your plans and travel books and pre-conceptions of what a vacation ‘is’ to tap into that field. You take risks. Risk after risk. Large and small. Why? People who travel are escaping something. A stressful job. A life without flavor. A death in the family. A chance to recapture their youth with friends. A break-up. An overbearing spouse. A dead end job. On and on. People are escaping. What they can unlock when they start to take risks is…. their true essence. The absence of fear. Their human potential. Each moment they will transform into a better version of themselves. Travel is not just about sitting on the beach sipping margaritas. That is fine and it has it’s place…especially if you’ve been hiking for the past 2 weeks. But to find the travelers mind, one must move outside of their comfort zone, in small and in large leaps.

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What am I talking about? I’m talking about those moments where you can ‘follow the white rabbit’. Those moments when you can push yourself. An opportunity gets presented and you can walk through the door, or not. Do I cancel my trip to Austria because the cute girl who was drawing a sketch of me on the train is going to Poland? Do I follow her there? Do I go with the guy to an absynthe bar? Do I cancel my flight to see this once in a lifetime concert? Do I stay in a hostel, even though I’m terrified of sharing my space with complete strangers? Do I walk alone at night for 3 miles through this part of the city or do I take the tram? Seemingly insignificant moments that can have a huge bearing on what you are about to become. Me? I didn’t follow the girl. Maybe she and I would have fallen in love. I did follow the guy, drank absinthe, had wild hallucinations and spoke fluent French to strangers when I was lost, although I don’t speak French (I only studied it briefly in school). I did cancel my flight and had a spiritual experience at the concert, which stirred up emotions from memories past that I needed to re-asses and cleanse. I stayed in the hostel (and many, many others) and broke down my misconceptions that we all live ‘the exact same way’. I walked through the city, in the quiet hours of the night when no tourists are clouding the truth that lay there, and got to observe what it’s like to be a homeless drug addict.

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Are those few moments that I’ve shared from my life really what amounts to cultivating the travelers mind that I talk about? Yes. However unremarkable as they were, they led to hundreds of other instances, where I could have chosen the familiar road or the unfamiliar road. And as you grow and enjoy it….you begin to take more risks into unknown territories. You may even find peace…without meditation. Your meditation was your risk taking. The adventure was your drug. Because that’s what we’re all after too, right? Peace. A life without stress. A life without fear. Complete freedom. That’s why we read so many self-help books, are members of organized religions, take so many pharmaceuticals, go to therapy and exercise like maniacs…..because we want to quiet our mind. Our mind….that is the root of all our problems. Because it’s our mind that is or isn’t afraid, that is or isn’t sad, that is or isn’t accepting of situations. Our mind….is also our greatest ally and given the proper shift, is capable of transforming your perspective into a perfect, dream-like life, where next to nothing can rattle your cage.

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Then comes the hardest part for a backpacker… you realize that the journey has to come to an end. As do all things in life. That’s the second most important thing you learn. How to say goodbye. On a whim you went to a country that you knew next to nothing about…and you found a place that was like a childhood dream. It was a place without equal. And you only had two days to enjoy it. You knew in your present situation, it may be years, if ever, that you return to this place. So you do something that’s harder than a break-up, maybe even harder than putting your favorite pet to sleep…..you say goodbye to perfection. You let go. Constantly. You say goodbye to the great friends you made at the hostel in Prague. ….will it really ever be the same if you meet up with them again? You travel and you keep moving. You say goodbye hundreds of times, to people, to places, to things that you fell in love with. You cultivate a giant garden of fantastic moments. Moments that never would have happened unless you took those risks. And each place you go to….you find more things in this world that you fall in love with…..another town, another city, another person, another bar, another restaurant, another meal, another church, another farm, another mountain, another tree, another hostel, another beer, another wine……and you think to yourself, ‘How can there be so many beautiful things in this world? If I were to see it all, how could I even comprehend how vast and amazing this world is?’ (A blog is a poor excuse I know). You start to let go of all the horrible things you’ve seen and read in the news and start to realize that……for every bad thing…..there are 100 indescribable things that overcome it.

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And however many times you have to say goodbye, is how many times your heart breaks. You get filled up with joy and then torn apart so many times….that nothing can harm you anymore. Your ego explodes and reassembles continuously in the self analysis that inevitably happens as you step outside of your comfort zone…that you forget who you are. You forget where you are. You forget why you were so damned afraid or so damned shy. You burn up and then rise like a phoenix out of the ashes…over and over again. It’s as if you’d been asleep your whole life….and all of a sudden you’re filled with energy and alive. You can become so addicted to this energy, that you yearn for it constantly. It’s not a drug addiction. Or an adrenaline addiction or some other man made disorder. It’s an addiction to life. What life really is. And once you experience it….you want it again, and again, and again. Just like Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988). Because who wants to go back to being afraid and boxed in once they’ve been set free? It’s like a hell in it’s own way to return from a life changing experience. How can one come back to their former life….when their life, rather their perception of it, is no longer the same? How can you be stagnant…living in one place….when you’ve stayed in a different bed in a different city every night for months? It is something that I’ve struggled with each time I return from a journey….

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And ‘an’ answer, not ‘the’ answer, in keeping that favorable aura about yourself, is that there’s always another journey. Even if you’ve been gone backpacking for 2 years…..the coming year upon your return home is another great journey. What is home? There’s no need to be miserable, living in bitterness because you left a great expansive adventure behind you, but to be happy because you know deep inside that nothing is set in stone. Nothing can be controlled. Nothing can be answered but with the answer that you give to it. Nothing is irrational or unrealistic or impossible. Because there is no answer that you can contend with, that is any better than your own answers. You become so in touch with your emotions, your spirituality, your morals & ideals that you feel a step above the rest, but you know that you’re no better than any other human being….you can just see it clearly, is all. And there’s always a new adventure to be had. Sure, you’ll go back to a ‘normal’ life and a ‘normal’ set of ideals, laws and societal expectations. But when you’re there, in the travelers mind frame, you can just sit back and laugh at it all….because it’s all man-made. And the knowledge that you gained….is probably more valuable than all the power in the world. Your family & friends will think you’re the same old person and will treat you accordingly. The rules will pretty much be the same….but you won’t. It’s like The Wachowski’s described in The Matrix…you’ll start to see the code, in a sense. And songs like this will start to make sense to you.

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Gratitude. The third most important thing for a backpacker. Do you know how amazing it is that you were born? That you were formed into the person that you were? That you positioned your life to have the opportunity to travel? That you picked those certain places to travel to? That you met the people you did and experienced very strange synchronicity’s in those places you went to? Do you think a football player like Ryan Tannehill (Go Dolphins!) could just hit the road, backpack Europe, have fun and get crazy without being recognized and criticized the world over for it? Do you think a movie star like Tom Cruise or Jim Carrey could have that same experience? No way! I mean…maybe they could try…..but it’s highly unlikely that they’d go incognito for more than a few days. Do you know how lucky you are to backpack and how unimaginable that escapade is to most people? Be grateful for each second. For each good and bad experience. Each girl kissed and each ankle sprained. Backpacking makes you realize, however slowly for some, that life is REALLY F$*%ING PRECIOUS!! And AMAZING! Just look at it! And if you can transform yourself….each time that you return home you’ll become a better version of you, with a new lease on life. Of course you’ll tell your boss that he’s an @$$hole and get fired. Of course you’ll ask the girl out that you were always shy around. Of course you’ll call an estranged friend that you haven’t seen in 5 years. Of course you’ll tell someone that you love them. Because it’s such a laugh, isn’t it? All those shortcomings and imaginary fears. We all die. It’s inevitable. And we have this gift of a life……to live… and to be free. Truly free. Not the freedom that George W. talked about.

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No matter how perfect you feel after the journey ends. No matter how clear headed you’ve become. You’ll always get dragged back into human drama, pain and suffering (greatest movie ever, watch it). You’ll spin in the same circles that you’ve spun in before. You might make mistakes….but you’ll know why. You’ll take the risks….knowing that things may end poorly….and you’ll do it because you’ll know that there’s no point to life unless you take risks. Big ones. You’ll keep stepping outside of your comfort zone because you won’t want to become stale….so you’ll try to be a little unpredictable, just to hang on to that travelers mind. And you might pull stunts to keep that feeling. And it might leave you. For a long time. Who knows…you might turn into who you once were before the journey began. But if you’re looking for it….it’ll come back around. The winds always change.

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You might be saying, ‘Great. You feel awesome. I’m happy for you…weirdo. You’ve got a good lease on life. Why do I need to save my money and allocate all this time to travel just to find….a better outlook on life? What if I don’t find it? What if I don’t need it?’ Well, you might not find it. I’ve traveled at times and didn’t have the same explosive experience as others. It has a lot to do with your head space when the journey begins. But if you’re open to it….there’s a good chance that you’ll have a great experience. It’s entirely up to you. The meaning of life is your own meaning. Your purpose in life is the purpose that you give to yourself. I can’t tell you who you are. I can’t tell you what to do. Neither can your boss, or your lover, or the President, or the Pope. It’s your call. Always. I’m just a guy sharing my experiences. And I’m sure that you’ll do the right thing for yourself….but I hope that some of my words have rubbed off. And maybe you will go backpacking, however close to or far from your home. And maybe you’ll open your mind to see just how unbelievably amazing this world is, how unbelievably amazing you are and how important you are to this world that you live in. And here I am….trying to push you off the cliff.

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Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G and learning about the backpackers mind. As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. And follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day.

Tiggers Back

We’ve all had our favorite pet……well most of us.

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Mine wasn’t a fuzzy bunny rabbit, but you’ll get the picture. Here’s an experimental short film I made years ago (not exactly sure- mid 90’s I think).

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Thanks to the new Vimeo Pro for providing an awesome resource to filmmakers. I hope you’ve enjoyed this super short M.A.V.B.L.O.G.

Have a great night! Be good to yourself and all those you encounter.

Oblivion (2013)

Ok. So I went to see Oblivion (2013) last night, starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough. I was REALLY excited to see this film, mainly because I’d watched the behind-the-scenes documentary and was impressed, but the film falls flat. It’s a really cool concept and story, the casting was great, the acting was great (except for when Morgan Freeman’s character is wounded-you’ll see why and laugh out loud like I did) and the artwork and special effects were done well. Unfortunately though, overall…..it’s just not that good.

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Now, I’m not condemning the film. It was entertaining for a once over viewing. I have respect for the director, Joseph Kosinski, because I really enjoyed his first film Tron: Legacy (2010). And I’d cover anyones house in raw sewage to be able to direct a film or even work on a film with such seasoned actors and such a large budget….but that’s beside the point.

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Tom Cruise, however you feel about him, is a great actor and works hard. It shows in all his films. I’m a big Cruise fan…..and he makes this movie worth watching. He’s got good chemistry with the two female leads and there’s a nice love story, even if a bit overdone. The twists in the film are less ‘aha’ moments and more ‘oh…ok’ moments. I have no intention of spoiling the film because it just opened in theatres, but if you’re looking for the next 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), you won’t find it in Oblivion.

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I really like what Kosinski did with the work tower. Instead of putting up massive green screens for the actors to work in front of (with them having to imagine their surroundings), the director surrounded the set with giant projector screens, so that the actors could actually see the image of the world they were living in. That’s pretty cool. And it looks pretty cool too.

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Pros: Good acting. Great scenery and cinematography. Interesting concept. Good execution. Good chemistry between leads. Great artwork and special effects. Entertaining. Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough are very attractive and nice to look at.

Cons: The love story is played out too much. Flashback sequences get old and make the film boring. The twist elements aren’t that exciting. Script is a little….eh whatever.

Worth a rental? Yes. Worth going to the movies to see it? Yeah… Worth a purchase? I don’t think so.

M.A.V.B.L.O.G. Score- 7 out of 10. Hey, it’s an entertaining film. Just don’t go looking for the next groundbreaking sci-fi movie when you see it.

If you’d like to go see Oblivion check out fandango for showtimes in your area or head to the films website.