The Raid 2 Review

Posted: September 16, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

raid-2_675x1000Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The Raid was one of 2012’s great surprises. Director Gareth Evans introduced himself to the world in a big way, crafting a very brutal martial arts film full of tons of creativity, energy, and violence. The film may have been simplistic, but the execution was top-notch with damn near every seen having a memorable element to it. I’ve been curious by what Evans might put out next, and became excited when that project became The Raid 2, a sequel which promised more gloriously choreographed and visually inspired violence with everyone’s favorite Indonesian rookie cop.

The film picks up shortly after the events of the first film, with Rama (Iko Uwais) delivering his prisoner to his superiors. Rather than go home though, Rama is asked to continue his efforts against organized crime in Jakarta. Specifically, Rama is asked to go to prison undercover in order to get close to a man named Uco (Arifin Putra). Uco is the son of mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). By getting in with Bangun, it is hoped that Rama will be able to expose corruption in the police force. But bubbling tensions and other gangs threaten to explode the situation.

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Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

“When it comes to movie franchises, Star Trek is one of my major blind spots. I have a bit of experience with the series; I’ve seen the Abrams’ films, Wrath of Khan, and even an episode of the original television series for class. But for the most, I’m a novice, and it’s a bit surprising when a sci-fi/adventure series seems right up my alley. I’ve decided to finally rectify this, and thought it be interesting to chronicle my experience through the films, not unlike what I did for the Harry Potter and Batman films. The major difference being that those series’ were ones I had a lot of experience and a strong emotional connection to, unlike Trek. I will be reviewing all twelve theatrically released films from now until late August (at the very latest). With that said, allow me to begin with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

This was the first paragraph of my review for The Motion Picture back on May 3rd of this year and served as an introduction to my “Star Trekking” series. I’ve kept my word, watching every film in the series in chronological order and writing a series of lentgthy reviews (though it took me a bit longer than I expected). Despite some less than stellar entries, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Star Trek. There’s some really enjoyable films in this series, and even the weaker films offer some interest. Not only that, but I really felt like I’ve aquired a fairly strong understanding of this world and why it’s so beloved. However the trade off to this is that I view the Abrams films in a very different light now. While I still enjoyed 2009’s Star Trek as a summer action film, but it lacked the magic and imagination of classic Trek. Because of this, I was a bit apprehensive to revisit Abrams’ second foray into the universe, Star Trek Into Darkness.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Posted: August 22, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life in the best possible way, a colorful and energetic confection of action, heart and humor that’s hugely entertaining and surprisingly involving. In terms of tone, it feels like it has more in common with Joel Schumacher’s two Batman films than the more gritty and serious-minded superhero movies of late. That sentence most likely has the majority of you already asking, “But, Michael, isn’t that a bad thing?” by now, but my answer is no. Now, I’ve never been a comic reader, but I know enough about the character of Spider-Man as presented in the comics to know that he’s a more lively hero, always ready with a sarcastic quip or observation and unafraid to taunt his foes in the face of danger. This sequel, like Spidey himself, captures an almost playful quality, but manages to be much more successful than the two aforementioned Batman debacles because it is able to carefully balance out its playfulness with some effective emotionality. The end result is a film that’s a hell of a lot more involving than I was expecting it to be.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has become perfectly happy balancing his personal life with his superheroic responsibilities. He’s also chosen to ignore the dying wish of Gwen Stacey’s (Emma Stone) father and has started a relationship with her. But said relationship becomes strained when the guilt of Peter’s actions starts haunting him, and it becomes even more strained after Gwen receives an offer for a scholarship at Oxford University. Meanwhile, Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to the city to take over OsCorp Industries from his dying father (Chris Cooper, in a cameo role). In so doing, though, Harry discovers that the crippling disease killing his father is hereditary, and Harry’s time is ticking away. In his desperate attempts to find a cure, Harry discovers that Spider-Man’s genetically modified blood may hold the answer for him. While all of this is going on, an OsCorp electrician named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who idolizes Spider-Man after his life was briefly saved by the web-slinger one day, is turned into a blue, pulsating human electric generator after a fatal accident. Calling himself Electro, he needs to feed on electrical power to remain strong, and this turns him into New York City’s latest threat. Between Electro and an increasingly maddening Harry Osborn, the work of Spider-Man is never done.

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star_trek-newposter3Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In the wake of the “Next Generation” films, it was clear something about Star Trek wasn’t working. It’d be easy to pin the failure on the critical and financial disappointment that was Nemesis, but I think the problems run a lot deeper than that. The fact is, the TNG crew had never taken off on film the same way the original crew did. Even the most financially successful of the four (First Contact) only out-grossed the last two films from the original run, and the overall quality of the TNG films was generally lacking. The only one I even like is First Contact, and it’s not even in the same league as films like The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, or The Undiscovered Country. Personally, I would have been interested in seeing Picard and his crew back for a proper finale, but the cast did seem tired, so I can’t really blame Paramount for abandoning them. The question then became, what next? I’m sure it was suggested that a film be made about one of the other “Trek” series, but I can see why that never materialized. While the other shows were successful, none had the pop-culture impact that “TOS” and “TNG” had. Beyond that, with so many different shows, mainstream audiences likely weren’t able to keep up. Thus, the decision was made to return to square one, by making a film about the younger versions of Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of The Original Series cast. That film became Star Trek, and it would go on to be one of 2009’s biggest hits with both audiences and critics.

The year is 2233, and the USS Kelvin is investigating a lightning storm, which soon reveals itself to be a portal of some kind. A massive Romulan ship emerges, destroying the Kelvin and many of its crew. The damage is minimized due to the efforts of first officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), who manages to save many including his wife and newborn son, James, though George himself is killed in the attack. Many years later, and James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is a direction-less young man in Iowa, who is eventually convinced by Star Fleet Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to enlist. Kirk decides to do just that, and excels in Star Fleet academy through the next few years. Eventually he, finds himself on his first real mission, on the Enterprise with the likes of Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Scotty (Simon Pegg). However this mission involves investigating a lightning storm in space in essentially the same circumstances the day Kirk was born and his father died.

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22 Jump Street Review

Posted: August 18, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

22-jump-street-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

21 Jump Street was something of a pleasant surprise back in 2011. Despite likely being conceived as another cash grab remake, the film ended up being surprisingly funny. It had a great cast, tons of great jokes, energy, and even a decent story. Directors Chris Miller and Phill Lord had seemingly done the impossible. The essentially did the same thing earlier this year with The Lego Movie, another property which really should have been a cheap and uninspired cash grab, but ended up being hilarious and smart. Still, I had reservations about 22 Jump Street, which seemed a very forced sequel and had generally weak marketing. Well, the film is better than I would have expected, but it isn’t really the same surprise success the way it’s predecessor or The Lego Movie was.

Shortly after the first film, Jenko and Schmidt (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are still working as undercover cops, but are not exactly performing well. The department believes it’s because they aren’t following the same formula as they did in the first film, and that if they just do the same thing, everything will be fine. So of course, the two are sent on a similar mission where they need to infiltrate a school, find who’s supplying a new drug to students and take them down. The twist is this time they’re in college instead of high school.

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Release Date: June 21st, 2002

Running Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes

Written by: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

Great science fiction always has the ability to make us ponder about the implications and ideas behind the world it creates while simultaneously entertaining us with all the cool toys inherent. In that regard, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is most definitely a piece of great science fiction, brimming with thought-provoking ideas that are infused with intense and exciting action sequences, but most importantly, the film contains a real emotional hook at its center that makes it an even more gripping experience. This is quite frankly a masterwork from Spielberg, who’s certainly no stranger to genre films, but in Minority Report, there’s a clear mindset on display from Spielberg for a desire to elevate the material past its straightforward genre roots and deliver something much more rewarding, and it’s successful. After every re-watch of this movie, it always makes me long for another Spielberg film this great made these days.

Set in the year 2054, Minority Report follows John Anderton (Tom Cruise), chief of the highly controversial Precrime Task Force in Washington, D.C. The Precrime unit’s mandate is simple: to stop crime — specifically murder — before it happens. This is achieved through the use of special individuals known as “PreCogs”, who have the ability to foresee such horrific acts, and it’s said that they’re never wrong. Anderton is an avid supporter of the system, but his faith is tested after he witnesses the latest PreCog vision, which shows Anderton himself carrying out the murder of a man he’s never even met. This supposed hiccup comes at a critical juncture when the PreCrime division is being audited by the watchful Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), a representative of the U.S. Justice Department, so the government can get a glimpse of the unit’s effectiveness. Of course, Anderton is compelled to go on the run and prove that this is all some kind of elaborate set-up, but in order to do so, he’ll need to do a few questionable things. And one of those involves stealing Agatha (Samantha Morton), one of the PreCogs, so Anderton can find the minority report, i.e. the potential future where a predicted killer could do something different.

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Boyhood Review

Posted: August 12, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

6a00d83451d77869e201a3fd3de7ad970bWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Richard Linklater has long been one of the great, under appreciated American filmmakers. Since the early 90s, the man has made a string of films catered for adults which tap into very relatable human drama. He’s done more commercial fare too, such as The Bad News Bears and School of Rock, but most of his career has been defined by movies about intimate human relationships like Dazed and Confused, and especially his Before trilogy. His newest film, Boyhood, is in many ways the cullmination of this type of storytelling. Filmed over twelve years and chronicling the fictional story of a boy growing from age 7 to 19, Boyhood is the film Linklater is worked towards throughout his career.

Boyhood opens in 2002, with the image of a seven year old boy looking up at the clouds. That boy is named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), and the film will proceed to follow him as he grows up for the next twelve years. At the start of the film, he is living with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Another important family member is Mason and Samantha’s father (Ethan Hawke), who maintains a relationship with his kids. As we move through time, we see the family move from place to place, coming in contact with many different people how affect their lives in interesting ways.

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Release Date: July 15th, 1994

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Written & Directed by: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Art Malik

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

I seem to have an interesting relationship with writer/director James Cameron’s movies. The ones that are almost universally hailed as great, such as Terminator 2 and Aliens, are films I certainly like, but don’t love. Then there are those like Titanic, of which opinions have gotten either subdued or middling over the years, yet I respond to more strongly. His 1994 action flick, True Lies starring everybody’s favorite Austrian action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, falls somewhere in the middle. To start off with, this movie isn’t quite as good as I remember it being (of course, I last watched it in my late high school years, a time when admittedly most action movies I saw seemed pretty awesome, dude), but it’s still a helluva good time, basically the kind of movie we expect to get once the pitch of, “it’s a big, inconsequential spy action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by James Cameron,” is uttered. I’ve certainly seen better offerings from both mentioned parties, but True Lies doesn’t really have high aspirations to begin with, and it achieves those it does have quite well.

Schwarzenegger plays Harry Trasker, an operative of some vague secret spy organization called Omega Force — we learn this only because in one scene, the camera tilts down at the floor of their headquarters to show the seal, which contains the sub-line “The Last Line of Defense.” As the film opens, Harry, aided by his wise-cracking partner Gibson (Tom Arnold) is in the middle of a mission that seems right at home in a James Bond movie: he has to crash the black-tie party of an arms dealer in order to gain information about the latest deal, which involves a terrorist organization known as the Crimson Jihad, led by the elusive Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik). But Harry’s life isn’t all about covert affairs; he’s married to a woman named Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has no idea about Harry’s spy life, thinking that her husband is merely a computer salesman. But, to Harry’s great surprise, Helen soon gets caught up in his other life in a most unexpected fashion, right as he learns that Crimson Jihad is in possession of nuclear warheads, which, in true terrorist fashion, they plan to use against the U.S. unless their demands aren’t met. All of a sudden, the boring and ordinary life Helen believed her husband to lead doesn’t seem so boring or ordinary anymore.

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Star Trekking X: Nemesis

Posted: August 5, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

star_trek_nemesis_ver2Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s kind of amusing how the first three “Next Generation” films have oddly mirrored the original Star Trek films. You have a first film which is a daring and divisive entry, a more action-packed and well-liked sequel where the captain faces a villain from their past, and the third film being a more restrained adventure akin to what might be seen on the TV show. This is probably coincidence, and each does require a fair bit of generalization, but it’s still an interesting pattern, one which suggests the fourth entry should be a more light-hearted and more off-beat romp. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Star Trek: Nemesis is a dark and very violent film, at least by Star Trek standards. Given how Insurrection underperformed, it makes sense that the filmmakers would try to return to some of the elements which made the best “Next Generation” film, First Contact, so good. Were they successful? Given that Nemesis killed the franchise for seven years, what do you think?

On the planet Romulus, a military coup has occured which has put the second class citizens known as Remans and their leader Shinzon (Tom Hardy) in charge. They claim they want peace, though it is quickly revealed the Romulans have only allowed them to lead because Shinzon is planning war with the Federation. Picard and the Enterprise are sent to negotiate with Shinzon, where it is revealed Shinzon is actually a clone of Picard. The two talk, and Picard wants to believe that Shinzon’s peaceful goals are accurate, but he suspects something more sinister is going on. Of course, he’s right, and conflict between the two soon breaks out.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Posted: August 4, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Guardians_of_the_GalaxyWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it’s probably closer to a like-don’t like. In general I like that they’ve built a universe of related characters and I’ve enjoyed most of their films, but I also think they play things very safe and formulaic. That said, I had high hopes for Guardians of the Galaxy. The film looked a departure from the typical superhero film and was filled with all sorts of strange elements, like a talking raccoon and a tree/humanoid thing being two of the main characters. I had hoped Guardians would be a fresh take on a very over saturated genre, and the early reviews seemed to indicate just that.

In 1988, a young boy named Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by a mysterious space shift. Jump ahead 26 years and Peter (Chris Pratt) is an intergallactic thief who goes by the alias Star Lord. On an abandoned planet, Quill attempts to steal a valuable artifact sought after by many powerful forces. Quill succeeds, though he barely makes it out alive. Soon he finds himself being hunted by many, including the powerful alien warlord Ronan (Lee Pace), who himself has ties to Thanos, the villain teased during the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, played here by Josh Brolin. Eventually, this will lead Quill to a collection of oddballs; the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the warrior Drax (Dave Bautista), and the bounty hunter pair of Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Though they will start off at odds, they soon form quite the team.

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