Love and Friendship Review

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

love_and_friendshipWritten by Daniel Simpson

2016 saw not one, but two (relatively) major Jane Austen film adaptations that also diverged from your typical Austen film. The most obviously different would of course be Pride and Prejudices and Zombies, a film I skipped on the grounds that it looked like stupid trash and also because zombies are played out. Comparatively, Love and Friendship, Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Austen’s lesser known novel Lady Susan seems pretty conventional. There are no flesh eating monsters after all, and Stillman also stays true to the source’s period setting and characters. That said, this is also a much more humorous adaptation of Austen’s work and that seems to have helped the film stand out. While the film is perhaps only a modest success in the grand scheme of things, Love and Friendship has received some very strong reviews and was one of the more interesting fixtures of many mid-year best of lists.

The film is set in the 1790s and focuses on Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), a sophisticated woman who is essentially part of the upper class, but does find her financial situation in jeopardized following the death of her husband. Wanting to secure wealth, Lady Susan begins to seek a wealthy suitor for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark), as well as a rich husband for herself. She soon comes to Churchhill estate and begins scheming various relationship plans involving the married Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin), the young and handsome Sir Reginald DeCourcy (James Fleet), and the dimwitted Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). Though her exact plan is unclear, some insight can be found in her frequent meetings with fellow widow and schemer Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny). Read the rest of this entry »

The Conjuring 2 Review

Posted: December 25, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

conjuring-2-posterWritten by Daniel Simpson

Back in the summer of 2013, James Wan’s The Conjuring was something of an event horror film. It had the veneer of something more sophisticated than your average horror film, it was a big hit, and it even received some really strong reviews. It was in this environment that the film ultimately let me down. It was a well-made movie, but ultimately one that did nothing new with the haunted house formula and also featured some very dull characters. This summer, Wan’s sequel The Conjuring 2 opened to even greater worldwide box-office, but made a little less domestically than its predecessor and the reviews, while still positive, were notably less enthusiastic than the critical praise for the original. I’d say I skipped The Conjuring 2 in theaters, but in actual fact, I sort of didn’t realize it was even in theaters until it was already gone. Now I’ve caught up with it at home and I feel like I could just copy and paste my review for the original The Conjuring because I more or less feel the exact same way about the sequel.

The film is set in the mid-1970s and once again follows the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), based on the real life paranormal investigators. After a particularly draining experience at the Amityville house, Loraine Warren finds herself feeling particularly drained and fearful for her family. She advocates they take a break, but the pair soon finds themselves drawn to another haunting, this one involving the Hodgson family in London who begin to experience strange occurrences. It soon seems to be the case that the ghost of a former occupant is haunting the current family. Read the rest of this entry »

Manchester by the Sea Review

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

manchesterWritten by Daniel Simpson

They say less is more, but I’m not sure people really believe that when it comes to cinema. For better or worse, the films which are celebrated tend to be the more showy pieces, the ones with the bold styles, long tracking shots, and the grandiose performances. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that style of filmmaking as there is definitely a place for it, but there is also a place for more subtle explorations of the human condition. A lot of these films get rave reviews, but they also have trouble breaking through to a wider audience or receiving significant awards intention. It is for this reason that much of Richard Linklater’s work has been overlooked by the greater film community despite many of these films being brilliant and possessing a passionate audience. There’s a lot of insight that can be gleamed from these smaller scale works. We saw that earlier this year with Barry Jenkins’ astute character study Moonlight and we’re seeing it now with Kenneth Lonergan’s excellent new drama Manchester by the Sea.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a janitor living a solitary life in Quincy, Massachusetts. His life consists mostly of work and basic routine, he doesn’t seem to have any close friends, and he lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment. One morning, Lee receives a call informing him that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) is in the hospital due to his severe heart condition. Lee goes to the hospital as fast as possible, but by the time he arrives Joe has already passed away. With Joe’s ex-wife’s (Gretchen Moll) location unknown, Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) without a guardian. Lee is shocked to learn that Joe named Lee as Patrick’s guardian in his will. This is distressing as it will involve Lee moving back to his hometown (the strangely named) Manchester-by-the-Sea, where his ex-wife and lots of painful memories reside. The bulk of the narrative comes to focus on how Lee and Patrick process their grief while also slowly rebuilding their relationship to each other. Read the rest of this entry »

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

Posted: December 19, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

rogue-one-posterWritten by Daniel Simpson

I think it’s fair to say Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a massive success for Disney. I wouldn’t call The Force Awakens a masterpiece, I wouldn’t even call it a great movie, but it did successfully show that the franchise was in good hands and indicated a positive future for the main storyline. And of course, it also made a billion dollars. For all that success though, Disney still has some other tests to pass. In addition to making new episodes in the main Star Wars narrative, Disney has also opted to make spin-off films in the years between films that tell other stories on the universe. On one hand, this could lead to some really cool and unique stories that don’t quite fit in the main narrative but nonetheless offers some interesting stories worth telling. On the other hand, one can’t help but be suspicious that these spin-offs just offered a way for Disney to make a quick buck while maintaining brand loyalty between the “real” Star Wars movies. Because of this, a lot of responsibility falls on the first of these spin-offs, titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The film is set very shortly before the events of the original Star Wars at the tail end of the construction of the Death Star. The chief architect of the project (Mads Mikellsen) was coerced into working with the empire following threats against his family. His young daughter Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has become a petty criminal who is in captivity when the movie starts. Given her close connection to the Death Star, the Rebellion sees fit to bust Jyn out in an effort to get close to her father. She’s partnered with rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the two begin a mission that will culminate with efforts to seize the blueprints to the Death Star. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Dory Review

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

finding-dory-movie-posterWritten by Daniel Simpson

Ever since it was announced, I’ve watched from a distance as much of my generation has clamoured in excitement for Finding Dory. I was especially surprised by comments along the lines of, “we’ve been waiting thirteen years for this” as if Finding Nemo had ended on some cliffhanger. Really though, my detachment stemmed largely from the fact that I’ve never been big on Finding Nemo. Even as a kid, the movie always seemed like more of a “baby” movie than a lot of Pixar’s other films. It’s also important to consider that nine year old me was very much into action movies at the time. In 2003 I remember having my mind blown by stuff like X-Men 2, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In that company, a cutesy movie about some talking fish just seemed lame. I did revisit Finding Nemo over the summer and my feelings on it are still pretty average. The father-son bond is really strong, but the humor is really lame and the film feels a lot more like a kid’s movie to me than Pixar’s better work. Needless to say, I was not going in to Finding Dory with much expectations, but to my shock this is actually a pretty enjoyable movie.

The film is set one year after the events of Finding Nemo and our three central fish of Marlin (Albert Brooks), Nemo (Hayden Rolence), and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) are all living comfortably. However a chance incident sparks a memory of Dory’s family, whom she was separated from as a child. This puts Dory on a quest to find where she comes. This journey soon leads her, Marlin, and Nemo to a Marine Life Institute. There, Dory soon meets a disgruntled octopus by the name of Hank (Ed O’Neil), who has his own goals, but is willing to meet with Dory if it means he can get what he wants. Read the rest of this entry »

Nocturnal Animals Review

Posted: December 15, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Nocturnal Animals.jpgWritten by Daniel Simpson

When it comes to high profile filmmakers it tends to be their directorial career that typically defines their legacy. Orson Welles may have been known as a wunderkind of the stage and radio, but it is his directorial films that are probably most associated with him. More recently, John Carpenter has been experiencing a renaissance as a sort of cult musician, but he’s still gonna be remembered as the dude who made Halloween and The Thing. There are some exceptions to this. Clint Eastwood’s on-screen persona is perhaps more significant than his directorial career (both are staggering), but at least both of those aspects of his career are tied to film. It is in this regard that Tom Ford is unique. While his 2009 freshman film A Single Man was highly acclaimed and greatly regarded, Ford’s legacy is still undeniably that of a famed fashion designer than a famed filmmaker. As a fashion designer, Ford has established his own brand, famously saved Gucci from bankruptcy, and continues to work in the fashion industry today. His film career is really something of a side project. After seven years, Ford has finally returned to filmmaking with an interesting little thriller called Nocturnal Animals.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner living in Los Angeles. Susan is successful and wealthy, but finds she is doubting her newest work and is also questioning the strength of her current marriage. It is in this headspace that Susan receives a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Edward has dedicated the book to Susan and has also titled it “Nocturnal Animals”, which is a nickname he had for Susan when the pair was married. The book is a violent story which involves a man named Tony (also played by Gyllenhaal) whose family is attacked by a group of psychos led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tony is assisted by a detective (Michael Shannon) who takes the case personally. The more Susan reads the more the book dominates her thoughts and simultaneously she begins to reconsider her life decisions as her marriage to Edward ended badly. Read the rest of this entry »

Cafe Society Review

Posted: December 14, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

cafe-societyWritten by Daniel Simpson

The conventional wisdom about Woody Allen is that he is a great writer and director with many great movies to his name, but that his frequent output has led to Allen being really inconsistent. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that narrative. While it’s true that the sheer quantity of Allen’s work has led to a lot of middling films amidst his masterpieces, the fact is most of Allen’s work is pretty solid and at the very least prove to be an enjoyable watch. At this point I’ve seen 22 of Allen’s directed works and I wouldn’t say I full-on dislike any of them. Even his lesser efforts have still been rewarding in one sense or another. Allen’s newest film, the period drama Café Society, is also probably destine to go down as one of Allen’s lesser works, but there’s still some good to be found here.

The film is set in the 1930s and follows a young New Yorker named Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) who travels out to Hollywood seeking a change. He takes a job as a glorified errand boy for his talent agent uncle Phil (Steve Carell) and in the process meets a charming young secretary named Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Bobby is smitten with her and Vonnie starts to return those feelings despite seeing someone else. The film observes the two as their relationships unfold and their lives change. Read the rest of this entry »

Central Intelligence Review

Posted: December 13, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

centralintelligenceWritten by Daniel Simpson

Over the last few years Kevin Hart has gone from being a successful comedian to being one of the biggest comedic actors of the day. He plays the lead in multiple films each year and he’s also become a pretty bankable movie star. Even something like Get Hard, which was negatively received and seldom talked about, made over $100 million dollars worldwide. I’ve watched Hart’s ascension from a far since none of his movies seemed like they’d be really worth watching. To be blunt, I thought they all looked terrible and critics tended to not really be on board either. I did catch a good chunk of Ride Along on TV once and it more or less confirmed my thoughts. Still, I am willing to give Kevin Hart a chance. He doesn’t seem to be going anywhere after all so I should probably get further acquainted. Central Intelligence seemed like my best bet. The reviews were a bit better after all, and I also think Dwayne Johnson is a really strong comedic personality, so I thought I’d give Central Intelligence a shot.

The film opens by juxtaposing two different students. The first is Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart), who is popular and ambitious, as he is named the student most likely to succeed. The second is Robbie Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson), an overrated and socially awkward student who as the movie opens is embarrassed in front of the entire student body, with only Calvin extending kindness. Cut to twenty years later and Calvin’s life hasn’t really panned out. He married his high school sweetheart and he also has a well-paying accounting job, but he finds himself unfulfilled. Comparatively, Robbie has become extremely muscular, good looking, has changed his name to Bob Stone, and works as a secret agent for the CIA. Bob has become embroiled in a scheme involving the selling of satellite codes to some terrorists and enlists Calvin for his accounting skills. Read the rest of this entry »

Keanu Review

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

keanuWritten by Daniel Simpson

Of all the comedies to come out of Hollywood in 2016 Keanu seemed like one of the more interesting. For one, it didn’t feel like a generic studio comedy, but actually seemed to be coming from a specific vision, specifically that of comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The film also had a weird little premise, taking the form of a sort of action parody about two normal dudes who got involved with gangs in order to retrieve their kitten. The film had a solid little trailer too, but ultimately I passed on it, in large part because I’m mostly unfamiliar with Key and Peele’s sketch comedy series and thus I felt like I was not equipped to right about them. I still feel that way, but I’ve been looking for good comedy lately and thought this might be a good choice.

Rell (Jordan Peele) is a movie geek suffering from a bad break-up when a kitten named Keanu waltzes into his life. This adorable little ball of wonder raises Rell’s life considerably, but little does Rell know Keanu was previously owned by drug dealers and gangsters. Sure enough, Rell’s home is broken into when he is out and Keanu is taken. Wanting his kitten back, Rell enlists the help of his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), a middle-class father and husband living comfortably in suburbia. Though ill-suited to a gangster life, the two go undercover has hardened criminals to retrieve their kitty. Read the rest of this entry »

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Review

Posted: December 11, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

popstar poster.jpgWritten by Daniel Simpson

Earlier this year, I watched with detachment and moderate disappointment when the movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping became a box-office bomb. I mean, I didn’t bother to go see it either so I guess I didn’t care that much, but the idea of a modern Spinal Tap focused on the modern pop industry seemed a pretty solid comedy presence and I also tend to like The Lonely Island. As far as 2016’s major comedies go, Popstar actually seemed among one of the more promising entries, though it’s largely been a weak year for comedies so I guess that isn’t saying much. In any event I did look forward to catching up with Popstar when it hit my local library, though now that I have, I get why it didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

The film takes the form of a documentary revolving around the fictional Conner 4 Real (Andy Samburg), an ignorant and arrogant popstar whose music is entirely vapid nonsense. Conner started as a member of a pop trio called The Style Boyz but had a falling out with band member Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Conner has now gone solo, tapping other Style Boyz member Owen (Jorma Taccone) to be his DJ. Conner’s first solo album was a big hit and Conner is all set to drop his sophomore effort. The film picks up at the height of Conner’s fame and hubris, but as his new album and tour begins to fail, Conner begins to rethink his career. Read the rest of this entry »