Straight Outta Compton Review

Posted: August 28, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

straight outta comptonWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I had some serious reservations going into Straight Outta Compton. Biopics are commonly formulaic and bland, and this seems doubly true of musical biopics. Adding to my doubt was the fact that Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E’s wife all served as producers on the film. These people all struck me as being too close to the events who’d either me unable to see events honestly, or admit to the less savoury aspects of their lives. Finally, F. Gary Gray didn’t exactly strike me as a tremendous filmmaker who could bring the important story to the screen. He’s not a bad director, but he always just seemed workman-like. In spite of these concerns, I did have a great interest in Straight Outta Compton. The trailers were quite strong and as we came closer to the film’s release it became clear this was gonna be one of the bigger films of the summer.

The film opens in 1986, focusing on Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell). We see their backgrounds and environments which include lower income, crime, and police brutality. Cube and Dre convince Eazy-E to invest in their fledging music careers. E is convinced and takes a very active role in the group which will come to be N.W.A. The group finds early success with their single “Boyz-n-the-Hood”, which attracts music producer Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). Jerry will help propel the band to new heights with albums like Straight Outta Compton, but will also sow the seeds for the group’s end. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

This week’s biggest film news is actually just a rumour, though a very major one; that Mad Max: Fury Road helmer George Miller has been tapped to direct the next solo Superman film. The claim comes from Jon Schnepp, director of The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?. So far, no one else has confirmed or denied the statement, but it seems reasonable. The Fury Road director has a comfortable relationship with Warner Bros. and at one point was slated to direct a Justice League film back in 2008.  I’m curious what his Superman would look like, but I also like the world and tone Zack Snyder established with Man of Steel. If Miller is to contribute to the DC cinematic universe, I’d rather he start fresh with DC characters who haven’t had their own movies already. The space bounty hunter Lobo, in particular, seems like a perfect fit for George Miller’s sensibilities.

Seriously, this dude looks like he strolled right outta Mad Max.

Seriously, this dude looks like he strolled right outta Mad Max.

So far neither Warner Bros. nor Miller have commented on the rumours, and it is also unknown when the next Superman film is expected to hit theaters. If the rumour is true, it’s also unknown how it will effect WB and Miller’s plans for more Mad Max movies. Much is unknown at this point, but it will be interesting to see how things play out as we get closer to Batman v Superman.

This week also saw the trailer for Victor Frankenstein, the newest take on Mary Shelley’s classic novel. The film is told from Igor’s (Daniel Radcliffe) perspective as he comes to know the infamous doctor (James McAvoy). I wasn’t very impressed by the trailer, which is a lot more over the top and silly than I would prefer. You can view the trailer here; the film is scheduled for release on November 25th. Speaking of hip reboots of literary characters, a new Zorro reboot is in the works, when set in the Post-Apocalypse. So far no director or actors are attached. My gut reaction to this film is negative, but until more comes to light I’ll reserve judgement. Period horror film The Witch also got it’s first trailer. The film won Best Director for first-timer Robert Eggers at the Sundance film festival and is eagerly anticipated for an unspecified date in 2016.

Michael Mann’s biopic of Enzo Ferrari, a long-time passion project of the director, has begun to take form as Christian Bale has been cast in the lead role, with the film set to begin shooting next year. Making matters more interesting is that another Ferrari biopic is in the works, with Robert De Niro in the lead role and Clint Eastwood interested in directing. Back in April, De Niro claimed they were pushing for a 2016 release, though it is unknown whether or not this is still the case. I don’t know much about Enzo Ferrari, but I’m very interested in all of the talent attached to these two films. In other news, Hugh Jackman has been approached to play Odysseus in an adaptation of The Odyssey. The casting is certainly intriguing, but I’m less enthused by the creative team behind the film which consts of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Peter Craig.

Following the immense critical and financial success of Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube and son O’Shea Jackson are looking at an action-thriller set around the L.A. riots, to be directed by Donovan Marsh, though Ice Cube has said the film is by no means a sure thing. Straight Outta Compton dominated the box-office for the second week in a row, taking in another $26.8 million for a total gross of $111 million while spy-sequel Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation held onto the number two spot in it’s fourth week, bringing in $11.4 million for a total gross of $157.5 million. New releases Sinister 2American Ultra, and Hitman 47 all opened to underwhelming returns. Opening this week is No Escape, War Room, We are Your Friends, and Z for Zachariah.

The Water Diviner Review

Posted: August 20, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

the water divinerWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Clint Eastwood. Mel Gibson. George Clooney. Ben Affleck. Angelina Jolie. These are just a few quick examples of actors who made quite a name for themselves with their transition to director. You’ll also notice that not only are each of these individuals actors, but also major movie stars who had a lot of power long before formally stepping behind the camera. In that respect, it’s pretty easy to see why so many famous movie stars make a successful transition into directing. These are people used to getting what they want, and have spent enough time in the business to know what will work. The latest star to attempt to break into directing is Russell Crowe with his old-fashioned war drama The Water Diviner.

Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) is a farmer/water diviner living with his wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) in Australia just after World War One. However their marriage is strained by the loss of their three sons at the Battle of Gallipolia. Compounding onto the pain is the ambiguity surrounding the boys’ disappearance. It is unknown how they were killed, in fact the bodies have yet to be discovered. Eventually, the pain become more for the couple to bear, so Joshua embarks to Gallipoli to uncover what happened. Along the way, he will cross paths with Australian and Turkish soldiers, along with a Turkish woman (Olga Kurylenko) who has also suffered tremendous loss through war. Read the rest of this entry »

Much of this week’s film news was dominated by Disney’s “D23” event, with interviews and photos from Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel all being released. As far as news, the biggest item is the announcement that Episode IX of the Star Wars saga will be directed by Colin Trevorrow, fresh off the success of Jurassic World. I only had a middling reaction to Jurassic World, but most of those problems stem from the script, not Trevorrow’s choices. He is a logical choice to take the reigns of the epic space opera. The film is set for a 2019 release. Also in Star Wars news; the cast of the spin-off film Rogue One, due in 2016, has been revealed. Focusing on the rebels who stole the Death Star plans R2-D2 carried in the original film, Rogue One‘s eclectic cast includes Felicity Jones, Forest  Whitaker, and Mads Mikkelson, among many others. You can see the full cast here.

New poster for The Force Awakens, designed by Drew Struzan.

New poster for The Force Awakens, designed by Drew Struzan.

Also at D23, Pixar teased several of their new movies, including Finding Dory and The Incredibles II. It has also been revealed that Toy Story 4 will focus on the love story between Woody and Bo Peep. Toy Story 4 is scheduled to be released June 16th, 2017. Disney also announced a new animated film titled Gigantic. Based on Jack and the Beanstalk, the film follows a Spanish explorer who meets a 60-foot tall eleven year old, in the process discovering a world of giants. Directed by Nathan Greno (Tangled) and with the songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), the film is due out in 2018.

For myself, the highlight of the week was the first trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. The trailer has the energy and style one expects from a Tarantino production, along with some glorious music, beautiful imagery, and a colourful cast. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a link. The film hits theaters December 25th and I can’t wait. Between this and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant, it’s going to be an awesome Christmas. Bryan Cranton’s biopic of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, simple titled Trumbo, also received it’s first trailer. The film looks very Oscar-baity, but the cast is really strong so I’ll give it a chance. Directed by Jay Roach, the film is due for a Oscar season release of November 6th. Rounding out our trailer news is the new Bradley Cooper vehicle Burnt (October 23rd), the Anton Corbijn directed James Dean biopic Life (Fall 2015), and the action thriller The Keeping Room (September 25th).

Acclaimed team Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will be reuniting for an adaptation of The Devil in the White City, the true story of American serial killer H.H. Holmes, who will be played by DiCaprio. The pair’s last collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street earned both men Oscar nominations along with a Best Picture nomination. In other casting news; Naomi Watts will lead Collin Trevorrow’s Book of Henry, from an original screenplay by Gregg Hurwitz. No release date is set, but it is reasonable to believe the film will be out before Trevorrow’s Episode IX. Aaron Eckhart has joined Clint Eastwood’s yet untitled biopic of Captain Sully. Eckhart will play co-pilot to Tom Hanks’ Captain Sully. Patrick Stewart has also confirmed he will have a substantial role in the upcoming Wolverine film, and not merely a cameo. The film, set to be Hugh Jackman’s last outing as famous mutant Wolverine, will be released March 3rd, 2017.

Closing out the week is the weekend Box-Office. NWA biopic opened to a highly impressive $60.2 million gross. This is another major financial win for Universal studios this year, whose other victories include Furious 7Minions, and Jurassic WorldThe Man from U.N.C.L.E, by contrast, opened to a disappointing $13.5 million, far less than expected. Perhaps people are still riding high on comparable spy movie Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. In it’s third week, the Tom Cruise action film scored another $17 million for a domestic total of 138.1 million thus far. However perhaps most notable is Fantastic Four‘s continuing failure. After opening to an underwhelming $25 million it’s first week, the Superhero movie has dropped a whopping 69%, grossing just $8 million. It seems unlikely the film will earn back it’s $120 million budget domestically.

The Gift Review

Posted: August 17, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It isn’t really a surprise that most of the actors who become directors are major movie stars before they move into filmmaking. These are the kind of people who have the power to start calling the shots behind the scenes given how much influence they already have. However there are a few exceptions of lesser known character actors who became prominent filmmakers in their own right. The most notable example of this is John Cassavetes, who transitioned from playing supporting roles in Hollywood productions to directing his own psychological films on the independent level. A similar parallel can be drawn with Joel Edgerton, who is also a character actor who has played supporting roles in a number of Hollywood productions, making his directorial debut with a low-budget psychological drama called The Gift.

Husband and wife Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, respectively) have just moved into a new home in Los Angeles. Simon has been moving up quickly in his job and things seem to be looking up for the couple. While at shopping, the pair run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old acquaintance of Simon’s from high school. Gordo is socially awkward and not someone Simon considers a friend, but he seems well-intentioned. However his strange behaviour and the constant gifts he bestows to the couple start to become unnerving, while Robyn starts to uncover a dark secret between both men. Read the rest of this entry »

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation Review

Posted: August 16, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

mission impossible 5Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The mid 2000s were not the best time for Tom Cruise publically. Between his association with the Church of Scientology, his controversial statements, and infamously jumping on Oprah’s couch, Cruise became more associated with being a weird person than an actor. One of the first Cruise films to be caught in the crossfire would be Mission: Impossible III. The film was well-reviewed and did make a profit, but it was less successful at the box-office than both of its predecessors. However any concern that the franchise was on its way out was alleviated when the fourth entry, Ghost Protocol, opened in 2011 to high box-office and unanimous praise. Four years later and the series has returned yet again with Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, which has likewise opened to praise and financial success.

After an action-packed prelude, IMF (Impossible Mission Force) secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) finds himself attacked by a mysterious spy organization known as The Syndicate. He soon learns the group is made up of highly trained individuals who are using their skills to bring down governments and cause chaos. Naturally, Hunt must stop them, but this is complicated by the fact that the IMF has recently been disavowed by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and Hunt has been made a fugitive. He does however find allies in his fight; including Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames). There’s also a mysterious femme fatale (Rebecca Ferguson) who is working with the Syndicate, but may or may not actually be an ally. Read the rest of this entry »

Chappie Review

Posted: August 15, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

chappie_ver2Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In 2009, a little film called District 9 was released in August and left a big impact. This was an original IP made in a unique setting which had tremendous political undertones. It was a huge breath of fresh air which made enough waves to even nab an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It also really launched the career of director Neil Blomkamp, who previously had nothing but shorts under his belt. His follow-up, Elysium arrived to high expectations but was seen as something of a disappointment. Personally, I quite enjoyed Elysium, but it is certainly a flawed work and a step down from District 9. Still, while that film was at least expected with enthusiasm, the same cannot be said for Blomkamp’s third effort, Chappie. The film generally had look warm receptions from the trailers, its release was met with near immediate critical dismissal. I didn’t have enough interest in the film to justify a trip to the multiplex, but I’m still curious about Blomkamp so I decided to give it a shot at home.

The film is set in a near future where a robotic police force has proven highly effective in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. The engineer behind these robots is Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), whose real passion is developing an artificial intelligence. However his boss (Sigourney Weaver) sees no practical end in such research. Thus, Deon steals one of the defective police robots and installs his new A.I. programming. This robot will come to be known as Chappie (Sharlto Copley). Things are complicated when Chappie is kidnapped by a group of gangsters who want to use the robot to perform a heist. However Chappie’s brain is very much like an infant’s. He is still learning about everything, and thus he finds himself torn by the influence of his creator and the gangsters who stole him. Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Holmes Review

Posted: August 12, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

mr-holmes-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Sherlock Holmes has historically been one of the most famous characters in popular fiction. Even those who have never read one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories or seen any of the adaptations can probably describe a few characteristics of the famous sleuth. Today, Holmes’ popularity is as strong as ever with several successful adaptations. The best example of this is almost certainly the highly acclaimed BBC series Sherlock, which has made stars out of its two leads. There’s also the American series Elementary which has also been well-received. And then of course we had the Guy Ritchie directed films starring Robert Downey Jr. just a few years back. Each of these adaptations (particularly the British ones) I’ve been aimed at a young and hip demographic. Such as not the case for the newest take on the world’s most famous detective; Mr. Holmes, which looks at the titular character’s twilight years.

The film opens in 1947, with a retired Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) living in his secluded country home in Sussex. Holmes as become a legend due to the stories written by his friend and colleague Dr. John Watson, however these stories paint a fairly inaccurate picture of the real Sherlock. This is especially true of Watson’s last story which depicted Holmes’ final case; the one which forced him to retire. Holmes as decided to set the record straight and rewrite the story, but the trouble is his failing memory makes it difficult for Holmes to recall what did actually happen. He is however aided by his housekeeper’s young son Roger (Milo Parker). Read the rest of this entry »

Clouds of Sils Maria Review

Posted: August 11, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Clouds_of_Sils_Maria_poster-e1427734333561Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

As a cinephile, the early months of the year can be frustrating. I don’t hate studio movies or big blockbusters, in fact I love them when they’re done well, but it can be a bit exhausting when that is all is released week after week. It usually isn’t until September that we start to get the artful, quieter releases. We have been lucky this year though with fairly large releases for indie films It Follows and Ex Machina. Both good films I was very happy to see, but one of the biggest independent films that I never got was Clouds of Sils Maria. Unlike the aforementioned indie releases which had certain genre elements to help attract a crowd (horror and science-fiction, respectively), Clouds of Sils Maria is more of a straight-up drama, which likely made it hard to break through to larger groups. It did however receive some high praise for critics and I had a good feeling this would be something special.

Famous international actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged actress who got her start as a young actress in a play called Maloja Snake, in which she played a young woman who has an affair with older woman which ultimately destroys the former. The role helped launch Maria into super stardom, starring in everything from plays, to prestige dramas, to big-budget Hollywood fare. As the film starts, Maria is travelling to Switzerland with her assistant Val (Kristen Stewart) to accept an award on behalf of the playwright behind Maloja Snake. However this ceremony takes a darker path when said playwright unexpectedly dies. It is during this emotional time that Maria is approached by stage director Klaus Diesterweg (Lars Eidinger), who wishes for Maria to star in a revival of Maloja Snake, this time playing the elderly woman while popular teen actress Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes on Maria’s old role. Maria is reluctant, in part due to her own anxieties about ageing, but eventually accepts. Read the rest of this entry »

Raging Bull Review

Posted: July 30, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

raging-bull-poster-6Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I haven’t written a full review for a non-contemporary film in quite a while. I used to do at least one non-modern review a day, but I gradually stopped years ago and I’ve never really returned to it. Part of this is because of the role of the website Letterboxd in my life. For anyone who doesn’t know, the site is basically a social media hub for film geeks to review and discuss films. As such, I’ve had less incentive to write full reviews for non-contemporary stuff here. However a recent rewatch of Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, the story of boxer Jake La Motta’s (Robert De Niro) rise and fall in the 1940s and 50s, inspired me to write a lot more than the typical Letterboxd review. However this won’t follow the same format as most of my other reviews here either. I won’t spend too much time discussing the craft of the film, what I liked, and what I disliked. These things will come up here and there, but Raging Bull is widely considered a masterpiece that has been praised endlessly. As such, I don’t feel they need to really dwell on how good the filmmaking is. Instead, I’ll be focusing more on meaning and new insights which come to me on this viewing. As such, this will be a spoiler filled review, one I wouldn’t recommend reading unless you’ve seen the film.

I’ve seen Raging Bull many times now, and yet the movie still sits heavy with me after every viewing. This is a raw, powerful, and challenging film which does not hold back at all. I don’t know if there’s ever been a dramatic protagonist as openly unlikable as Jake La Motta. The man is so vicious and obsessed that he destroys everything around him. He should be easy to hate, but it isn’t as simple as that. Scorsese and De Niro present the character in a way that is…maybe not totally sympathetic, but perhaps understandable. Beneath some of the monstrous things Jake does are real human feelings which Scorsese and De Niro tap into. I think everyone has felt jealousy, self-loathing, anger, and obsession at varying levels and at various points in their lives. Most of us may not act on these feelings the way Jake does, but we still have them all the same. It is these emotions which influence Jake throughout the film. Read the rest of this entry »