While We’re Young Review

Posted: July 26, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

while we're young posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Hipster film fans may have accepted Wes Anderson as their filmmaking god, but the real director who has continually spoke to the American hipster experience is Noah Baumbach. Not only does Baumbach make stripped down, low-key dramas which the hipster audience gravitates towards, but films like Frances Ha actively depict hipster lifestyle. The thing is, Baumbach is actually a man in his forties; not exactly among the demographic his films often depict. I would think this contrast would be a key influence on his newest film, While We’re Young, which attempts to comment on the relationship between hip twenty somethings and middle-aged adults who don’t realize they’re ageing.

Josh Schrebnick (Ben Stiller) is a college lecturer and semi-failed documentary filmmaker comfortably married to his long time wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts). The couple had tried to have a baby earlier, but it never quite worked out. They act like it doesn’t bother them, but recently one of their couple friends have had a baby and the change has had an impact on Josh and Cornelia. However the two find themselves re-invigorated by younger couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Jamie is an aspiring documentary filmmaker and a fan of Josh’s. The two couples strike up a friendship, as Josh and Cornelia find themselves drawn to how the younger couple spend their time. However as more time goes by, the pair moves from merely spending time together, to collaborating on a documentary together. Read the rest of this entry »

Ant-Man Review

Posted: July 22, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

antmanWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Though Marvel has been very successful with their cinematic universe, they have not been above criticism. One of the most common criticisms is that Marvel’s films don’t really give the directors much room to breathe or express themselves creatively. Each film seems to have the same look, tone, and structure regardless of who’s behind the camera, giving the films an assembly line feel. There was however hope when it came to light that Edgar Wright would be co-writing and directing a film based on one of Marvel’s lesser known characters; Ant-Man. Wright is not only a good director, but he has a distinctive voice and visual style which permeates through all of his films. If anyone could give the Marvel Cinematic Universe a more unique outing, it was him. And then it was announced that Wright had left the project due to creative “differences” with Marvel. Though no one has officially announced the exact details, the jist of it seemed to be Marvel wanted to force Wright into doing things with Ant-Man he didn’t want to, so they fired him. To make matters worse, Marvel’s choice of replacement director was Peyton Reed, whose most noteworthy film is probably the early Kirsten Dunst vehicle Bring It On. Clearly this was not an auteur with something to say, but a workman who would comply with the studio’s wishes. Wright and Joe Cornish screenplay was also rewritten by frequent Will Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay. Even if all of these behind the scenes shenanigans didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, all the evidence pointed to Marvel making a broader, less interesting movie that would follow their formula. I did consider boycotting the film, but ultimately I’m a bit too invested into the MCU at this point and wanted to remain up to date in the continuity. Plus, nothing really interesting has come to my theater since Inside Out and I was kind of just itching to go see a movie.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a former thief being released from prison as the story starts. Scott is determined not to fall back into a life of crime, instead wanting to be there for his young daughter. However his burglary skills attract the attention of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who invented a suit which can shrink to the size of an ant many years ago. Pym is kept his breakthrough a secret since its creation as he fears the damage his technology can cause. Pym’s former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is on the verge of discovering the secret on his own. Pym can’t have this, and so he entrusts Scott with his suit and powers in order to infiltrate Cross’ base and steal his technology. Scott rises to the challenge and attempts to become the Ant-Man. Read the rest of this entry »

Inside Out Review

Posted: June 22, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Inside OutWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

If one were to discuss the film landscape in the last twenty years or so, the subject of Pixar Animation studios is inevitable. Pixar made its first splash in 1995 with Toy Story, a film which has become a modern classic. In the following years, Pixar proved their debut was no fluke with a series of highly regarded films like Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Up. These films were beloved by children, but also by adults due to their clever writing, creativity, smart comedy, and emotionally resonant stories. 15 years after Toy Story, Pixar brought a close to the trilogy with Toy Story 3, an excellent film and one of 2010’s best. However the film also marked the end of Pixar’s golden era. The next film from the studio would be Cars 2, a sequel to Pixar’s most uninspired film to begin with and an all-around terrible movie. Next was Brave, which came and went to little fanfare, and a Monsters Inc. prequel which wasn’t bad, but was also quickly forgotten. Pixar also have a plethora of sequels in the works, including Finding Dory, Cars 3, and Toy Story 4. All pointed to signs that the classic Pixar which took ambitious risks with new ideas and well-rounded films would be giving way to a more safe and conventional animation studio. There was however a ray of hope; Inside Out, an original IP with an enticing high concept which promised to explore emotions and the human mind. Early reviews indicated this was indeed a grand comeback for the studio. I had some reservations based on the trailer, but I still went into the film with the utmost optimism.

Inside Out follows Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), a young girl who lives with her loving family in Minnesota. Like most kids, Riley is governed in large part by her emotions, which in this film are personified as characters which live inside of her head, operating a control room influencing her actions. These emotions are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). For most of Riley’s life, Joy has been the dominant emotion, but this is challenged when Riley’s family are forced to move to San Francisco. Struggling with the move and leaving her old friends, Sadness begins to take a more prominent role in Riley’s life. Joy attempts to resist this, and such a struggle threatens to throw all of Riley’s emotions into chaos. Read the rest of this entry »

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

Posted: June 21, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Kingsman-The-Secret-Service-2014Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s been interesting to watch Matthew Vaughn’s directorial career grow over the last few years. His debut film Layer Cake may have been a pretty obvious riff on the Tarantino crime film, but one of the better examples of the subgenre. I was less fond of his fantasy follow-up Stardust, but his subversive superhero film Kick Ass proved a lot of fun despite some major flaws. Vaughn’s best work, and breakthrough as a major talent is almost certainly X-Men: First Class, a film which harnessed Vaughn’s stylistic abilities and combined them with a mature and emotionally resonant story. I couldn’t wait to see what Vaughn would do next, and a spy film based on a Mark Millar comic seemed a promising project. However the trailers for Kingsman: The Secret Service struck me as incredibly dumb, and a massive step back for the director. The early release date also scared me off. However the film opened to very positive reviews and I found myself curious to eventually catch up with Kingsman at home.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young man from a low income family in London. He shows a lot of potential physically and mentally, but has fallen into a life of petty crime. After Eggsy is arrested, he finds himself saved by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a well-dressed middle-aged man claiming to be a tailor. However Harry actually belongs to an organization known as the Kingsmen, a group of highly trained spies who operate above government and nationality. The group is looking for a replacement after one of their members has been killed, and Hart has put forth Eggsy as his candidate, in part due to guilt over Harry’s relationship with Eggsy’s father 17 years earlier. Simultaneously, internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has launched a secret plot which involves kidnapping famous and wealthy individuals, while Harry investigates. Read the rest of this entry »

Jurassic World Review

Posted: June 18, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

jurassic-world-poster-mosasaurusWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

A few weeks ago saw the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, a return to a much loved franchise. Of course, the franchise part is a bit misleading in that it isn’t really the series loved so much as one specific film; Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. The original Mad Max is more of an admirable “little movie that could”, while Beyond Thunderdome is a neutered mess no one really cares for. And yet, in spite of an only 1/3 ratio, fans were tremendously hyped for Fury Road. A similar, more extreme version of this is occurring now with an even bigger blockbuster; Jurassic World. While Steven Spielberg’s original film is much beloved and a modern classic, the sequels haven’t fared as well. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is generally seen as dumb, and a pointless sequel, while Jurassic Park III is completely subpar and forgettable. While all of the films have been financially successful, each grossed last than the previous film. The third in particular may have been a respectable hit, but not gargantuan production previous entries were. And yet, in spite of this underwhelming history, Jurassic World has been one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, to the point of shattering box-office records. Could we finally have the first good Jurassic Park sequel?

The film ignores the events of the sequels and instead just uses the original as a building block. In the years since John Hammond developed the technology to recreate long extinct dinosaurs, the island of Isla Nublar has been repurposed as an amusement park of sorts where people come to see real dinosaurs. The island is popular, but as the years have gone by, the masses have become accustom to dinosaurs. In an effort to maintain public excitement, scientists have taken to creating new dinosaurs which never previously existed. The newest addition is the Indominus rex, a hybrid of several dinosaurs meant to be big, loud, scary, and profitable. However said creation comes back to bite them when it breaks loose and begins causing chaos in the park. Much of the responsibility falls on Jurassic World’s park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is doubly concerned as her young nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are out in the park on their own. She finds an ally however in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a park employee who aids Claire in saving her nephews and finding a solution to their mutual problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Poltergeist (2015) Review

Posted: June 8, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

poltergeist_1sht_vera1_largeWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The horror film landscape is almost always dominated by various trends. In the last few years, the haunted house films have become exceedingly profitable and popular between the Paranormal Activity series, The Woman in Black, the Insidious series, Sinister, and The Conjuring being some of the most well-known. Though the subgenre has existed since the early days of cinema, the modern haunted house movies all owe a certain date to Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film Poltergeist, which saw an average family afflicted by spirits from their home while paranormal experts attempt to save the family. I can’t say I love the film as much as some, but it is a very good movie which has rightfully earned a place in pop culture. Given how successful drawing the recent haunted house movies have been, it really isn’t surprising that Hollywood has decided to cut out the middle man of being inspired by Poltergeist and just straight up remake it instead.

The film opens with Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) meeting with a Real Estate agent to look at potential properties. Eric has recently been laid off and is looking for a cheaper home to accommodate his family. The couple find such a home, and move their three children in quickly. The teenage Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is angry at having to a move, while young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is frightened by most everything in the home. The only child who seems at peace is the youngest; Madison (Kennedi Clements).However shortly after moving in, odd things begin to occur. Inanimate objects move on their own, animals behave erratically, and the family’s electrical devices go haywire. The parents initially chock most of this up to freak occurrences and young Griffin’s fearful nature, but they come to realise a supernatural presence is at work when the children are attacked and young Madison is taken into the spirit world. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Fifteen Xbox 360 Games

Posted: June 3, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

xbox360Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

When the Xbox One and PS4 first hit, I was mostly content to just enjoy playing my Xbox 360. However with my console slowly dying and I slate of epic looking new titles exclusive to the new generation of gaming, I decided it was time to upgrade. I’m very excited to say that in a few weeks, I’ll be picking up a PS4. However before I embrace the new, I wanted to take some time to formally eulogize the gaming console I’ve invested the most time in by listing my top favourite games. It’s worth noting that I’m not nearly as big a gamer as I am a cinephile, and as such there are a lot of major titles I never got around to. Read the rest of this entry »

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: A Conversation

Posted: May 31, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Conversations

20131113230605!Marvels-logoMichael Dennos: When does enough finally become enough?  This past weekend marked the release of the much-anticipatedAvengers: Age of Ultron, the latest entry into the ongoing “cinematic universe” that Marvel has had going for the past seven years.  In that time, we’ve had eleven films set in said universe, but the connection running through each extends beyond just that simple fact.  As my blogging colleague, Daniel, and I each expressed in our respective reviews of the Hulk-sized blockbuster, these Marvel movies have mostly fallen into a pretty repetitive pattern, a formula that nearly all of these movies have been following for a while now, and in both our cases, “Marvel fatigue” has begun to set in.  But can the same be said for all comic book adaptations in general?  Today, we thought it’d be interesting to sit down together and discuss that very topic as it relates to Marvel, DC and the genre as an entirety.  Dan, would you like to get us going? Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Posted: May 23, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

madmaxfuryroadposterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The plethora of remakes, reboots, and sequels to long dead-franchises in the last ten or so years has been the fuel for many angry film fans who flock to the internet to complain. Of course, such outrage hasn’t stopped many of these same fanboys (and girls) paying for movie tickets and turning these films into hits, but a tangible resentment toward many of these films does clearly exist. And yet, there never seemed to be any grievances with Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth in a series which hasn’t seen an instalment since 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Perhaps it was because Fury Road was not a cheap grab by the studio, but an effort from series creator George Miller, who had been trying to get the project off the ground for years. My theory though is that while the Mad Max trilogy does have a following, only one of the films really lived up to series potential (The Road Warrior of course), and the notion of a film striving to capture that yet again seemed more promising than an already accomplished franchise seeing a forced sequel. Sure enough, Fury Road has proved to be an inspired and creative film which breathes new life to the Mad Max franchise.

The film opens on archive footage, along with narration from the titular Max (Tom Hardy), revealing what has become of the world in this desolate future. Essentially, society has collapsed, with water and oil becoming primary resources for warring gangs. Max is a former cop who lost everything in the fall, now just trying to survive through the wasteland. Early on, he is captured by a gang who use Max as a “donor” for blood and organs. This gang/make-shift society is led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who controls a fleet of vehicles and possess a group of “wives” he uses to continually reproduce. These wives plan an escape with one of Joe’s key soldiers, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Driving Joe’s “War Rig”, Furiosa escapes, inviting a large scale chase with Joe leading an army of eccentric followers. One such follower, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), needs a “blood pact” to keep him going, and this brings Max into the chase. Read the rest of this entry »

Ex Machina Review

Posted: May 13, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

ex machinaWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s always a little nerve-wracking when a film industry professional turns the focus to directing for the first time. Sometimes, this can result in the emergence of a bold new talent, such as Ben Affleck’s recent success as the man behind Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Other times however, the results are a total failure and embarrassment. Last year for example, top-notch cinematographer Wally Pfister made his directorial debut with the horrendous Transcendence. Ex Machina is the latest example of a prominent figure in film making their directorial debut, and coincidentally is also a high concept science-fiction film pertaining to A.I. This time, the freshman director is Alex Garland, a screenwriter best known for the Danny Boyle helmed sci-fi films 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Of all the professions that transition to a director, the screenwriter to director has always struck me as the most logical path. The technical aspects differ, but the overall goal of storytelling is the same, a fact which gave me hope Garland would be able to make a smooth transition from scribe to filmmaker.

Ex Machina is set in what I presume is a not too distant future and follows Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer for search engine company Bluebook. As the film starts, Caleb receives an email that he has one a company contest to spend one week at the estate of CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon arriving, Nathan informs Caleb that his estate is not merely a home, but a research facility for top secret and cutting edge technology that Nathan would like Caleb to test. This turns out to be the development of an A.I. known as Ava (Alicia Vikander), whom Caleb is to gauge the humanity of. However through his interactions with both Ava and Nathan, Caleb begins to suspect there is something more going on. Read the rest of this entry »