Star Trek Beyond Review

Posted: July 24, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

startrekbeyondposterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

A few years ago, I started a journey to watch and review every Star Trek film, most of which I was seeing for the first time. It was a very rewarding series which gave me a firmer grasp on one of pop culture’s most important titles and also introduced me to some really good films. That series also gave me a new perspective on the rebooted Trek universe, and specifically, why a lot of fans really don’t like these new movies. There’s a lot of reasons, but at the core it’s that the films don’t feel like Star Trek, they feel like summer action movies. The storylines aren’t as ambitious in their science-fiction or as politically sharp and the characters seem off too. In short, they are films that lean towards violent action than the intelligent and optimistic values Trek was built on. I still think the new films work pretty effectively as blockbusters, but my opinion of them has certainly dipped.

Most signs indicated that Star Trek Beyond would continue the trend of Trek films which don’t feel like Trek. Justin Lin was tapped as the director of the film, a troubling prospect given he is most known for his work on the Fast and Furious movies. No disrespect to those films, but that action heavy touch is not what most fans wanted from Star Trek. These fears seem more or less confirmed when the film’s bombastic trailer hit, promising a lot of flash but nothing substantial. There was however one glimmer of hope in the fact that Simon Pegg co-wrote the screenplay. Pegg is a pretty credible voice in the geek community and his screenplay collaborations with Edgar Wright always showed a strong mix of intelligence, heart, and humour. Read the rest of this entry »

Lights Out Review

Posted: July 23, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

lights-out-poster-imageWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

When people talk about the current horror renaissance, they typically refer to independent and smaller films like Kill List, The Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch. Indeed, that seems to be where the best horror filmmaking is happening today, but the studios are not totally devoid of good ideas. One of the best studio horror movies of recent memory was Oculus, a neat little movie with a strong concept based on the director’s previous short film. Now, we have Lights Out, another studio horror film with a neat concept based on a prior short film from another young director.

As a young girl, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) was driven away by her mother Sophie’s (Maria Bello) mental health issues and the abandonment of her father. Now living independently, Rebecca is drawn back into her family’s world when her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) begins to experience the same problems Rebecca experienced as a young girl. More importantly, both he and Sophie seem to be plagued by a dark entity which Rebecca had previously associated as the result of nightmares. Now, Rebecca aims to save her family and to uncover what exactly is behind the aforementioned creature afflicting them. Read the rest of this entry »

The Legend of Tarzan Review

Posted: July 21, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

the-legend-of-tarzan-movie-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Of all the recent adaptations of public domain literature adaptations we’ve seen lately, Tarzan seems like it would be the most promising, at least on paper. This character has a long history in novel form and while his adventures have been adapted for the screen many times, there isn’t really a definite cinematic portrayal of Tarzan. Disney’s animated film from 1999 is probably the most famous, but it doesn’t define the work the same way Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz or Disney’s Cinderella seem to define their source material in the popular culture. So, is The Legend of Tarzan step up as the ultimate cinematic portrayal of the legendary hero? Not even close, but it is slightly better than the film’s marketing would lead one to believe.

The film takes place in the late 1800s following the Berlin conference which divided the Congo among Belgium and Great Britain. Working on behalf of King Leopold of Belgium, Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is sent to the Congo to exploit the country’s diamonds through slavery and coercion. The city of Omar is rich in diamonds, but the tribe leader Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) will only offer them if Rom can provide him the legendary Tarzan, whom Mbonga seeks vengeance on. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has since returned to England and has been living as an English lord under his birth name; John Clayton III. Rom extends what seems to be a diplomatic invitation to visit the Congo. Clayton is hesitant, but his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) is eager to return as she misses old friends and feels that is where she really belongs. Aided by American envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), the group make the journey where they are quickly attacked and Jane is kidnaped by Rom. Tarzan must return to his roots and save her while he and Williams fight against the atrocities occurring in the Congo. Read the rest of this entry »

Deadpool Review

Posted: July 18, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

deadpool poster

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In February, I watched from a far as Deadpool became not just a successful move, but something of a phenomenon. Despite being based on a cult comic book character and spotting a hard R rating, Deadpool still managed to be a huge hit with audiences and would go on to gross well over $700 million at the global box-office. The excellent marketing campaign, both traditional and viral, certainly had a lot to do with the film’s success, but I think more than anything the time was simply right for a movie like this. The “superhero movie fatigue” has been discussed a lot but in the last few years it’s really hit a new level. Audiences are more likely to accept a more obscure comic character and, more importantly, are familiar enough with the tropes and clichés that they’re ready to see the genre torn down.

Deadpool starts very similarly to the leaked test footage that led to the film; with the titular super powered vigilante (Ryan Reynolds) making quick work of some goons on a freeway in violent fashion, all while spewing a plethora of witty one-liners and pop-culture references. Eventually, Deadpool addresses the audiences and starts to explain how he got to this point. Before he was Deadpool, he was merely Wade Wilson, a low level mercenary and former Special Forces member. After he is diagnosed with cancer, Wade agrees to an experimental mutation treatment which might save him in order to spend more time with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The experiments are run by a dangerous mutant known as Ajax (Ed Skrein), who, after considerable torture, is able to unlock a healing factor which cures Wade’s cancer, but not without turning his flesh hideous and disgusting. Feeling he is now a monster, Wade breaks from Vanessa and swears vengeance on Ajax, taking the name Deadpool. Read the rest of this entry »

Hail, Caesar Review

Posted: June 28, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

hailcaesarposter

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The Coen Brothers have always been respected auteurs, but even by their standards, these last few years have been extremely successful artistically. No Country for Old Men is widely considered to be a modern classic, Burn After Reading is an excellent application of their comedic sensibilities that boasts a ton of laughs, A Serious Man is an interesting little character study with an unexpected narrative, True Grit is a prime example of escapist filmmaking that improves on the original film in every way. The capper to this amazing streak was Inside Llewyn Davis, the seemingly simple and modest film which is also one of their most rewarding and fascinating efforts made with the technical precision and wit that has defined much of their work. That’s five major works in just six years and it seemed for a while that the Coens were unstoppable. However their streak had a major snag with the release of their latest film, Hail, Caesar!. The film received a questionable February release date (historically a dumping ground for studios, though there are exceptions) and reviews were more mixed than the Coen’s previous efforts. Don’t get me wrong, Hail, Caesar! does sit at a respectable 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, but there seemed to be a lot more negativity and disappointment, and even the film’s positive reviews rarely evoked the same sense of praise their last few films had garnered. I’d like to say that Hail, Caesar! overcome any of my doubts and continues the Coens great success of late, but sadly I do see this as something of a stumble.

Set in 1951, Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the head of physical production for Capitol Studios. Essentially, Eddie’s job boils down to fixing tough situations, mostly managing the stars at Capitol and downplaying scandals. Most of the film is set over a single day which depicts Mannix doing just that. Some of his tasks include handling the pregnancy of actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), whose lack of a husband would spell disaster for her and her series of highly successful mermaid pictures. Another subplot looks at the forced inclusion of Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a costume drama, much to the chagrin of director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). However Mannix most pressing case involves the disappearance of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), star of the studio’s biggest prestige picture, Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ. With limited time and an influx of smaller problems, Mannix must get Whitlock back to finish the film and keep business running smoothly at Capitol Pictures, all while contemplating an offer to leave the film business entirely for a more secure and leisurely career. Read the rest of this entry »

X-Men: Apocalypse Revew

Posted: June 2, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpsonxmen apocalypse

My friend and I were having a discussion the other day which basically boiled down to asking why it is the X-Men film franchise doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The first film of the series helped launch the modern wave of comic book films and its first sequel still stands as one of the genre’s best. Yet the actual first film is rarely discussed in and of itself and X2 tends to be overlooked by the other critically acclaimed superhero movies of the time; Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins. From there the series went through some rough patches in the form of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the series did get back in its feet thanks to the prequel film X-Men: First Class and the film that bridged the young and old X-Men: Days of Future Past. While these films didn’t quite have the pop-cultural impact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had, they were known the less very well-received films which continued the quality output of the franchise. However that enthusiasm seems to have crashed and burned with X-Men: Apocalypse, which has received some of the worst reviews of the series and genuine hatred from fans. Well, the film certainly has its problems, but it does not deserve such levels of scorn.

The film is set in 1983, ten years after the Paris Peace Accords and the attempted assassination of Bolivar Trask. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has formally opened his school for young mutants attempting to control their powers. Among these mutants are a crop of new students like Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smitt-McPhee). Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has gone underground, disillusioned that Mutants are still treated as second class citizens. Finally, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has retreated to a low-key life in Poland with a wife and daughter. However all of these characters are about to be brought back together with the emergence of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaacs), an ancient Mutant with god-like powers who has returned to conquer civilization through mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nice Guys Review

Posted: May 23, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpsonnice-guys-poster-600x889If there’s one good thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done its help bring writer/director Shane Black to prominence. Black became known as a major screenwriter in 1987 on the heels of hits like Lethal Weapon and Predator and would go on to make a lot of money penning action screenplays into the 90s. However after The Long Kiss Goodnight, Black largely disappeared. In 2005 Black would make his directorial debut with a solid little movie called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and while it certainly has built a cult audience over the years, the film was only modestly successful critically and financially. However for the third entry in their Iron Man franchise, Marvel tapped Black as a co-writer and director. I didn’t necessarily love Iron Man 3, but Black’s witty voice did come through strong and more importantly the film proved to be a billion dollar success. Since then, a lot more work has come Black’s way, including the next film in the Predator franchise set to come in the next few years. Black’s first film post Marvel is The Nice Guys, a buddy-crime noir that does everything you’d expect from a Shane Black film but does it pretty well. Read the rest of this entry »

Captain America: Civil War Review

Posted: May 12, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” SimpsonCaptain America Civil War Poster

Who would have expected the Captain America films to generally be the most consistent and interesting films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Certainly not me, in fact of all the Phase One characters he seemed the hardest to create a movie around. I can’t say Captain America: The First Avenger was a perfect attempt, but it was a fun film which made good use of its period setting and was generally better than I was expecting it to be. However the real treat would be 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film which managed to function as a pretty effective allegory for American foreign policy and surveillance state while still being an exciting action movie with an engaging storyline. For my money, The Winter Soldier is easily the best and most well-rounded film of the MCU and as such the prospect of that creative team returning for a follow-up film was always going to be enticing. As it turns out, not only is Captain America: Civil War a continuation of the Winter Soldier’s storyline, but also an adaptation of the comic storyline which famously pitted the good Captain against his old friend and former ally Iron Man.

The film opens with a group of Avengers thwarting the efforts of a terrorist group to steal a biological weapon. In defeat, the terrorist leader attempts to murder Captain America (Chris Evans) in a suicide bombing. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Wilson) is able to use her powers to save Cap, but the blast is eventually released, killing innocent civilians and wounding many more. At the same time, there has been increasing concern regarding the collateral damage caused in various battles involving the Avengers. As such, General Ross (William Hurt) has come with an ultimatum; that the Avengers sign an accord which will forego the team’s independence and favour of obeying a UN panel. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a huge advocate for this initiative, as he feels tremendous guilt for the innocent lives lost and for the destruction he caused in creating Ultron. Steve Rogers feels differently, arguing that the unknown agendas of individuals could lead to the team being unable to help those in need if the panel decrees it, or being sent on morally objectionable missions in order to further the interests of those in charge. This disagreement splits the Avengers in two sides, a problem worsened when the UN is bombed and the leading suspect is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Rogers’ old friend who was tortured and brainwashed into becoming an assassin. This further splits the lines between the Avengers and leads to all out conflict. Behind the scenes however is the mysterious Zemo (Daniel Brühl), an individual who is manipulating events for his own ends. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody Wants Some!! Review

Posted: April 26, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson
everybodysmall

I think it would be fair to say that Boyhood was a pretty big deal when it was released in 2014. The film was one of the most acclaimed and discussed films of the year, being placed in many year-end lists and being nominated for a slew of awards. The film also represented a certain artistic peak for director Richard Linklater. While I don’t think it’s his best film, Boyhood was certainly a highly ambitious project and a great film, one which, in many ways represented the culmination of Linklater’s style and themes. I was very curious how Linklater was going to follow-up such an achievement and the answer is Everybody Wants Some!!. Though the film is a lot more low-key than the aforementioned Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some!! does fit well within Linklater’s ability to tell humble stories about relatable characters in an entertaining and insightful way.

The film opens in the fall of 1980 with college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) moving into his home for the school year the Friday before classes begin. In addition to being a student, Jake is also a pitcher for the school’s baseball team and will be sharing the home with his fellow team mates. Quickly, Jake meets many of these team mates, including older students like Finnegan (Glen Powell), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Dale (Quinton Johnson), Jay (Juston Street), and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), along with fellow freshmen “Beuter” (Will Britain), Plummer (Temple Baker), and Brumley (Tanner Kalina). The group engage in a weekend of social bonding, drinking, partying, baseball, competition, and trying to pick up girls as the beginning of the semester counts down. Read the rest of this entry »

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

Posted: April 22, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson Jungle-book-poster-600x857

Back in 2010, I never viewed Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake with anything more than groan-inducing disdain. The film struck me as yet another disappointment from the late career of Tim Burton with an over reliance on visual effects, an incoherent narrative, some awful characters, and was generally plagued by baffling decisions. The critical community seemed to mostly agree, but the rest of the world didn’t see it that way. The film made $330 million in North America and worldwide brought in a total gross of over one billion dollars. The film’s success has prompted a whole slew of live-action fairy tale adaptations, often with a darker spin, including an upcoming sequel to Burton’s Alice, Snow White and the Huntsman (and its sequel), Maleficent, Cinderella, Jack the Giant Slayer, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Pan, and a plethora of others still to come. I’ve mostly observed this trend from a far, and the few films I have seen as struck me as being “moderately decent” at best. I was pretty much ready to right off Disney’s live-action version of The Jungle Book as just another in this long line of mediocrity, but then the trailers started coming out and it looked like this could be a pretty legitimate blockbuster. The effects looked good, the action seemed exciting, and the more dangerous tone seemed appropriate to the story and film. The final push I needed were the films highly positive reviews and I thought this might be something worthwhile.

The film sticks pretty closely to the original; a young boy who lives in the jungle and interacts with a bunch of talking animals. That young boy is Mowgli (Neel Sethi), who has grown up amidst the wolves. He was raised by the wolf Raksha (Lupito Nyong’o) and watched over by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). Though Mowgli struggles with acting like a proper wolf, he remains content and happy in the jungle. This contentment is threatened by Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a violent tiger who views humanity with vengeful hatred. Knowing Khan is willing to kill countless wolves who stand against him, Mowgli decides it is best he lives the wolf tribe. He and Bagheera begin a journey to the man-village for Mowgli to live, but this journey is sidetracked by various perils and new characters, including the lovable and light-hearted bear Baloo (Bill Murray). Read the rest of this entry »