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 »

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Posted: May 4, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

*Editors note: This review contains no spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It does however contain spoilers for earlier Marvel films The AvengersIron Man 3, and Captain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers-Age-of-Ultron-Official-Movie-Poster-2015Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The original Iron Man was a big hit and while I always knew the film would surely spawn successors, I never would have imagined Marvel studios to gain total dominance over the blockbuster season. Multiple Marvel properties come out every year which always perform well at the box-office and are generally liked by audiences. The most popular and successful film of the lot (though not the best) is almost certainly The Avengers, the film that brought together the team of superheroes for the first time and capped off Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the wake of The Avengers, Phase Two has trucked along smoothly, more or less. Captain America: The Winter Soldier pushed the limits of how good these films can be, Thor: The Dark World pushed the limits of how bad, and then Iron Man 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy sat comfortably in the middle. With this Phase winding to a close, writer/director Joss Whedon has returned to close out Phase Two while ushering in what is yet to come with the highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The film opens in the heat of the action; the titular Avengers are engaged in combat in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia. The team is trying to take a secret military base run by evil organization HYDRA, and regain the sceptor used by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in The Avengers. Upon finding the sceptor, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) realizes he can use it to power a new A.I. program called Ultron, which can act as a safeguard for the Earth that will supersede The Avengers themselves. With the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the two secretly begin developing the A.I. However upon awaking, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) sees humanity as needing to be saved from themselves. This, the robotic creation, aided by superpowered siblings Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), launches a violent campaign against The Avengers and the world guaranteed to bring destruction and chaos. Naturally, The Avengers can’t allow this to happen. Read the rest of this entry »

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Posted: May 2, 2015 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for eight years now, and in that time, we’ve gotten eleven movies from the behemoth studio, and that’s just from them. Take into account other properties from other studios, and we truly live in the Golden Age of Comic Book Films. With so many on the market, though, fatigue is bound to set in sooner or later, and it’s a fact I have to consider when talking about the latest flaming-hot release, Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer/director Joss Whedon’s follow-up to his Hulk smash of a superhero movie, 2012’s The Avengers. Now, before most of you get up in arms, am I saying that I don’t like this movie? No, not at all. It’s good; I had a fun time. What I am saying, though, is that for me personally, I’m sort of becoming numb to this whole Marvel formula in general, and for whatever reason, that feeling has been most prevalent in these two Avengers films, in spite of how much I’ve legitimately enjoyed them. So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

The movie starts out, appropriately, with a bang as we see The Avengers back in action and attacking a Hydra base, where the nefarious organization is performing questionable experiments, most notably on a pair of Russian twins: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The source of those experiments turns out to be none other than Loki’s Scepter, which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sees potential in for use in an A.I. peacekeeping initiative codenamed Ultron. From there, Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) create such an artificial intelligence (perfectly voiced by the awesome James Spader), but as all A.I.’s inevitably do, Ultron decides that the human race is no good, and the only way to improve it is to first destroy it. On his side, Ultron has not only Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, both of whom harbor deep-seeded intentions of revenge against Tony, but also an entire army of robots that all share Ultron’s dangerous consciousness. Of course, this is a threat large enough to require The Avengers, the likes of whom include Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), to re-assemble as they race to stop the monster created by one of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Furious 7 Review

Posted: May 1, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

furious 7Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The Fast and the Furious franchise is all kinds of flawed, but if nothing else it’s been fascinating to see this series evolve. The first film, released in 2001, was a humble little movie about drag racing which turned into a surprise hit. From there came two sequels which both suggested the series was heading straight for the direct-to-video bargain bin and plummeting fast. Then, inexplicitly, the series was save by 2009’s Fast & Furious, a substantial hit, and followed by Fast Five, which actually brought some level of legitimacy to the series, at least on the level of schlock action films. Now, The Fast and the Furious is one of the biggest move series around, with each entry proving a huge blockbuster. Personally, I’ve been pretty critical of these movies, but I’ve slowly had a change of heart. I still think they’re problematic, but there’s fun to be had in these movies, including the most recent, and most ridiculous entry, Furious 7.

After defeating international criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) have been able to return safely to the United States and pursue their lives as they see fit. For Brian (Paul Walker), this means settling down with his wife (Jordana Brewster) and young son. However these plans are put on hold when Han (Sung Kang) is killed by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who is seeking vengeance on the crew that crippled his brother. Dom vows to avenge Han’s death, and is approached by covert ops leader Frank Petty (Kurt Russel), who can give Dom in his crew the resources they need to bring down Shaw provided they bring in a hacker captured by mercenary Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). What follows is a globetrotting adventure of action and insane stunt work. Read the rest of this entry »

It Follows Review

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

It-Follows-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In the last few years, it seems a lot of the genre films that receive a lot of praise are ones that are self-conscious genre deconstructions. In the realm of horror, the poster child for this is The Cabin in the Woods, but it’s a trend that can be spotted in other films as well and I’m growing tired of. It’s not the deconstruction of genre that bothers me, it’s the smug attitude these films have about pointing out genre conventions which annoy me. Horror’s most recently acclaimed film, It Follows, certainly seems like it could be such a film at first glance. The film certainly plays with conventions of the genre relating to sexual promiscuity, and it’s also a pretty clear throwback to the horror films of the late 1970s and 80s (namely John Carpenter), but it’s not defined a sense of “irony”. Instead, this is an interesting little horror film which chooses a unique angle and is made with conviction.

Jay (Maika Monroe) is a young girl living with her single mother (Debbie Williams) and sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe). Jay has been seeing a boy named Hugh (Jake Weary) and after a few dates the two have sex. After this, Hugh explains to Jay that he has been being stalked by a supernatural entity which can take the form of any human being (someone known or a stranger) which kills by touching the victim. He inherited this affliction by having sex with someone also “cursed”, and the only way to remove it is to pass it to another through sex. Naturally, Jay doesn’t believe him, but it soon becomes apparent is words are true as various forces only she can see have been relentlessly pursuing her. Her options are to flee, or to try and pass it on to someone else. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Films Which Didn’t Live Up to Their Opening

Posted: March 22, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

First impressions are important. The opening scene of a film is one of the most crucial. Filmmakers need to grab the audiences’ attention right from the start while establishing certain elements which will run through the film, such as tone, characters, story, setting, etc. A lot of filmmakers have come up with some ingenious openings and I’ve wanted to do a list of my favourites for a while. However in my research I thought of another idea; movies that started really strong, but were never able to match their first scene. These movies listed aren’t necessarily bad, some I’d even call straight-up good, but each opened with a promise that wasn’t really met. The rankings of the list are based on two factors: how the excellence of the opening and how disappointing what follows is. Read the rest of this entry »

MovieBuff’s Top 10 Films of 2014

Posted: February 23, 2015 by moviebuff801 in Lists

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

Another year, gone.  So that means that it’s time once again to recount the films from the past year that had the most impact on me, and when I look over this line-up, I realize just how strong 2014 was overall for movies.  Without further ado, here is that line-up:

10. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal has sure had some interesting roles in the past few years, and Nightcrawler keeps that ball rolling with Lou Bloom, a dark, unsettling individual at the center of an equally dark and unsettling, but ultimately fascinating film. Gyllenhaal is at the top of his game as Bloom, a disturbingly driven man who finds work as a “nightcrawler,” i.e. someone who prowls the night with a police radio looking for accidents and crimes horrific enough to document to then sell that footage to any local news station. Bloom is creepily good at getting such footage, and most of the time, all it takes on Gyllenhaal’s part is just a widening of his eyes to communicate the fact that we should be sort of scared at his calm, calculating detachment in these kinds of circumstances. But that’s only a small facet of what’s overall a towering performance. The rest of what Nightcrawler has to offer is a sharply-written screenplay by Dan Gilroy, who also directs, and it’s a script that examines the various questions of moral and ethical issues that come with showing such graphic footage on television, and it really says a lot about how such questions can twist the people involved and it also shines a light on just how macabre the idea of “good news” has become. First-time director Dan Gilroy captures the nightlife of L.A. extremely well, along with the grittiness of the violence, culminating in a gripping car chase towards the end of the film. Dan Gilroy is of course related to Tony Gilroy, notable for Michael Clayton and his work on the Bourne franchise, and it would seem storytelling talent runs in their family. Read the rest of this entry »

15 Times the Academy Got it Wrong (and Right) in the Last 15 Years

Posted: February 22, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The Academy receives a lot of flak, much of it for good reasons. They’ve certainly made some head scratching decisions in the past, and will likely continue to do so for as long as there is an Academy. Still, for all their mistakes, they usually get a few things right each year. With that in mind, I present the last fifteen years at the Academy, with presenting an egregious mistake, but also a smart choice which holds up well. I’m strictly looking at the winners here. You wouldn’t see any list entries specifically focusing on what was and wasn’t nominated. Read the rest of this entry »

PG Cooper’s Top Ten Films of 2014

Posted: February 15, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists, PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson PGCMA 2014*The above image represents 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

There are two signs of a good year when might notice when compiling a top ten; reshuffling of the top choices, and having to make some tough cuts. There were lots of movies worthy of making this list and while it hurt to cut some, I’m really satisfied with the list assembled. Additionally, the top choices are all excellent and I put a lot of thought into where everything goes. So, to conclude my awards series, as always, my top ten films of the year, with my top five acting as my nominees for Best Director and Best Picture, with the number one film being the winner of the aforementioned awards. Thanks to everyone who read through my awards and without further ado, I present my choices for the top ten films of 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

PGCMAs: Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Cast (2014)

Posted: February 14, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” SimpsonPGCMA 2014*The above image represent’s 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Best Actress

Marion Cotilard, The Immigrant: Despite playing a character that’s a little too saint-like, this really is a strong performance from Marion Cotilard. She depicts Ewa as a caring woman gradually beaten down by an unjust world and she really nails some big emotional moments.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nymphomaniac: It must have been tempting to play the sex-addicted Joe in some over the top, maybe even depraved way, but that’s not at all what Charlotte Gainsbourg does. Instead, she plays Joe as essentially a normal person. She bears some regret for the pain she’s caused, but there’s also a sense of pride and self-confidence to her work. Read the rest of this entry »