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 »

Moonlight Review

Posted: December 8, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

moonlight-posterWritten by Daniel Simpson

Recently, I worked on a project which, in part, dealt with the significance and proliferation of coming of age movies. Thing is, while there are a lot of coming of age movies, most tend to deal with the same demographic. Namely, straight middle class white dudes. I’m not dismissing these types of people or their stories, in fact there are several films which match this description that I love, but such a narrow focus does limit story possibilities. There are a lot of other experiences you only get when telling the stories of other groups. Some films have tapped into this recently, perhaps most notably Blue is the Warmest Color, which drew a very interesting portrait of a young woman struggling with her sexuality while going from teen to young adult in Paris. Now, we have another coming of age film about a young person struggling with their sexuality while growing up, this time the focus being on a young black man living in the Miami lower class. This film is called Moonlight and it’s one of the year’s best.

The film is divided into three episodic sections, each detailing a different part of the protagonist Chiron’s life. The first depicts Chiron when he is a young boy (played by Alex Hibbert) with an absent and neglectful mother (Naomie Harris). By chance, Chiron comes into contact with a low-level drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali). Juan takes on a father-type role for young Chiron, who is shy and underestimated by his peers thanks to his small size and quiet personality. The next timeframe of the film focuses on Chiron’s high school years (played by Ashton Sanders) where he is a victim of bullying and is also beginning to experiment sexually. It is best to leave the events of the third act vague, but suffice it to say it picks up with an adult Chiron (played by Trevante Rhodes) and we finally see what sort of man has been made by the upbringing witnessed. Read the rest of this entry »

Noirvember – Top Five Film Noirs

Posted: November 29, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

A lot of film people consider this month “Noirvember”, and use the occasion to celebrate and watch Film Noir. I’m no noir expert, but I certainly have some favourites and that seemed like a perfect way to close out “Noirvember”. I should note that the rankings here are not just based on what films are better or worse, but rather, for the ways in which they embody what it means to be a Film Noir. Also, for the purposes of this list, I’m only considering classic noirs. Modern, neo, or revisionist noirs like Chinatown, Blade Runner, or Sin City don’t count.

5. Touch of Evil

touch-of-evil

Much of noir is dedicated to creating a world which feels bleak and hopeless. I can’t think of any noir that nails this quite like Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. This isn’t just a world without hope, it’s a full on nightmare where seemingly every goodness in the world is compromised. The film pushes the twisted angles and dark shadows of noir to the extreme and the characters are often bitter and hateful. This is most emphasized in Welles’ Police Captain Quiplan, a hardened bastard who has been made bitter after years of living in a dangerous place. That might sound like clichéd material, but Welles presents the material in such a way that it feels fresh while also being very personal in a sense. Read the rest of this entry »

The Handmaiden Review

Posted: November 27, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

the-handmaiden-poster

Written by Daniel Simpson

It’s easy to judge a film based on genre or other trappings and that often leads to films being mislabeled. Take the career of Cronenberg, who started his career by making some really perverse body horror films which explored identity and change with movies like Videodrome and The Fly. As his films went on, the premises read like more standard movie plots; a family man’s violent past confronts him, a crime tale involving Russian gangsters, a movie about Sigmund Freud. However on closer inspection, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method were just as perverse and challenging as the overt horror movies Cronenberg built his name on. I bring all of this up because a similar thing can be noticed with Park Chan-wook’s newest film, The Handmaiden. Though the film has the trappings of a more traditional prestige period piece, the film is every bit as twisted as the thrillers that made him famous.

The Handmaiden is set around what I’m guessing is the 1930s during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Specifically, the focus is on a pair of Korean con-artists; the pickpocket Sook-he (Kim Tae-ri) and a man posing as a Japanese Count named Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo). Fujiwara has chosen his next mark: wealthy Japanese heiress Lady Hideko, who has been restricted to her large estate by her domineering uncle. Fujiwara plans to seduce Hideko and marry into her fortune, then declare her insane and have her locked in a mental institute. Sook-he will pose as Hideko’s handmaiden, and is to help push Hideko into loving Fujiwara. The two begin their scheme, but overtime Sook-he grows increasingly fond of Hideko. As their bond grows more intimate, Sook-he has reservations about the con. Read the rest of this entry »

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

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

fantastic-beastsWritten by Daniel Simpson

Right before seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two in theaters, I remember having a conversation with a friend who was a huge fan of the series. While she was excited to see the final film, she also lamented the fact that it meant the end for the movies. I sympathized with her, but I also pointed out that it was pretty cool the series would actually end. Most movie series see endless sequels or reboots until becoming unprofitable, whereas Harry Potter would get to close out with some dignity. Little did I know Warner Bros. had to go make a fucking liar out of me. The same year that they dusted off and rushed Batman back onto the silver screen, WB decided to not only release the Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but they also announced that film to be the first in a five part series.

I’m not going to lie, I went into Fantastic Beasts with a pretty skeptical outlook. The Harry Potter franchise was a billion dollar industry for Warner Bros. for a decade and I’m sure it was even more crushing for that gravy train to cease just a year before Christopher Nolan’s wildly successful Dark Knight trilogy finished up. Disney has also proved with Marvel and Star Wars just how profitable a shared cinematic universe can be. A shared “Potterverse” seemed like a desperate attempt to capture a similar trend. The fact that the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts would be written by J.K. Rowling was of little comfort to me given that Rowling’s post-Potter efforts have generally been met with apathy. In short, all signs pointed to Fantastic Beasts as being made less in an effort to expand the mythology of the series, but more to recapture the glory and success of yesteryear. All that said, I did try to go into the film with an open mind. The reviews were fairly solid after all and in the thick of a busy semester, some magic and escapism seemed like a good way to spend an evening. Read the rest of this entry »

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Review

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

billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-poster.jpgWritten by Daniel Simpson

Is Ang Lee the most underappreciated director of his generation? That seem an odd statement given the dude has won three Oscars, many of his films have been critical darlings, and cumulatively his films have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, but whenever the discussion of who the best working directors are, Lee’s name is seldom mentioned. Perhaps it’s because Lee is something of a chameleon. His three most famous films; Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi, all have very different stories and styles. His films do possess common themes of spirituality and repressed emotions, but Lee doesn’t necessarily have an obvious auteurial stamp. On a more general level, one of his defining features might just be his willingness to take bold risks with his projects. Such is the case with his newest work, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Shot at 120 frames per second rather than the conventional 24, and the film also explores the Iraq war in a fairly novel way. The film has received very mixed reviews, and it’s certainly a flawed work, but as is always the case with Lee, there’s definitely some interesting elements to Billy Lynn.

The film opens with news footage of Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), a young American soldier in Iraq, defending his sergeant (Vin Diesel) during a battle. The sergeant dies, but Lynn and the other members of his troop are celebrated as heroes and are brought back home from a promotional tour. The bulk of the film is centered on the last day of this tour, where Lynn and his comrades will be featured during the halftime show of a football game. As the film comes closer to the titular long halftime walk, the film observes Lynn and his troops many interactions with others at the game, while flashbacks tell how Lynn came to serve and what his war experiences were like. Read the rest of this entry »