Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Posted: September 3, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

kuboWritten by Daniel Simpson

Laika is an animation company I’ve observed with a sort of detached respect for the last few years. Their debut film, Coraline, is a great little film with some impressive animation, a dark edge, and a certain cinematic ambition. I skipped ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, mostly because I was bogged down with other stuff, but I still felt a certain admiration for their commitment to stop-motion animation and their refusal to produce the bland animated fare that typically bombards children in multiplexes. In short, these were movies that seemed to have a real identity and passion behind them. All of this is also true of their newest effort, Kubo and the Two Strings, but this time I actually made the effort to see the film in theaters. What’s different this time? Well, it certainly helps that the film is receiving the best reviews of Laika’s history, but more than anything I was really pulled in by the trailers, which featured some pretty stunning imagery and a certain sense of ambition that really drew me in.

Set in ancient Japan, the film follows the titular Kubo (voiced Art Parkinson), a young boy and a gifted storyteller who was saved from evil forces by his mother when he was still an infant. The attack left Kubo with only one eye and without a father, but since then he has lived in peace and happiness. However that all changes one night when Kubo stays out after dark and the forces which plagued him at birth return. Kubo finds himself hunted by a pair of witches (both voiced by Rooney Mara) for reasons he does not understand. Kubo however does find an ally in a talking monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) brought to life by Kubo’s mother’s magic. Monkey is a fierce warrior, and the two are also joined by an amnesiac talking beetle (Matthew McConaughey) who is also a samurai. The three embark on a quest to find a mythical samurai armor set and sword, the only items which can help Kubo fend off the evil which seeks him. Read the rest of this entry »

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Posted: August 30, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

ghostbusters_ver6_xlg-1Written by Daniel Simpson

It’s probably impossible to talk about the Ghostbusters reboot without talking about the online shitstorm which has been brewing for months. There was controversy from the moment the new Ghostbusters film was announced to be a reboot but it wasn’t until the film’s trailer hit that things really got out of hand. The trailer went on to become the most “disliked” of any movie trailer in Youtube history and received a ton of negative flack. It was here that the narrative began that most of the haters were angry, sexist fanboys who just couldn’t get over the idea of women busting ghosts. That attitude certainly does exist in certain circles. Anyone looking for misogynistic comments regarding the film can find them pretty easily and the recent attacks against film star Leslie Jones are certainly appalling. Having said that, I also think that internet culture was far too quick to simplify the backlash and draw extremes. Hollywood’s obsession with remakes has been criticised heavily in the past decade and the fact that the original in this case is one of the most beloved comedies of an entire generation only makes it worse. More to the point, the initial trailer was indeed pretty awful and all subsequent marketing did little to make up for that.

Again, I’m not trying to dismiss the accusations of sexism which have been made toward the film’s haters and in many cases I do think it was apt, but there are a lot of other factors which influenced the negative reaction to the new Ghostbusters and that nuance should be noted. The controversy has been so great that the film itself hardly seems to matter and has been almost totally overshadowed. That’s been frustrating for me, but it was also the primary reason I eventually went out to a theater to see the new film. I am one of the many who think that the marketing for Ghostbusters has been awful and was content to skip Ghostbusters’ theatrical run entirely. I might have seen it at home if the film garnered strong word of mouth, but this wasn’t anything I felt I needed to rush out to see. However as the film has become such a staple of film discussion this year, I felt like as a critic, even an amateur one, I had a certain responsibility to comment on the film too. And so, here we are. Read the rest of this entry »

Sausage Party Review

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

sausage_party_ver2Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

R-rated animated comedies are not exactly unheard of and there is a ton of animated content for adults on television, but it’s still somewhat rare to see millions of dollars invested into an animated comedy which is completely aimed at adults. That alone helps Sausage Party stand out from the annual crop of raunchy comedies, but the film is further set apart from other R-rated animated comedies by the fact that the film is deliberately emulating the Pixar model, wherein a group of inanimate objects/animals/feelings are personified and their setting is translated to a world which somewhat resembles are own. The film’s trailer plays into this, with the fact that’s actually a film for adults being something of a twist. It would be easy to see this trailer and awesome Sausage Party be nothing more than an R-rated spoof of Pixar films, but there’s actually much more going on here.

The film takes place primarily in a grocery store called Shopwell’s where all of the food items are personified, though they’re talking and walking around goes unnoticed by the human characters. These food items believe the various shoppers are Gods who take them to “The Great Beyond”, an act the food look to with tremendous excitement. The sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) is even more excited as it means you can finally enter his girlfriend; the hotdog bun Brenda (Kirsten Wig). One fateful day, both Frank and Brenda’s packages are chosen by the same woman. However an accident prevents Frank and Brenda from joining their packages in “The Great Beyond”, and in fact sets Frank on a path of learning that everything he’s been brought up to believe could be false. Read the rest of this entry »

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Review

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

Whiskey_Tango_Foxtrot_posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a film which didn’t make much of a splash with critics or audiences when it was released in theaters back in March, but it’s a surprisingly solid film that’s worthy of your time. The film tells the true story of Kim Barker (Tina Fey), a low-level TV journalist who took a correspondence job in Afghanistan in 2004. Isolated and not fully prepared for her situation, Kim quickly strikes up friendships with her Afghan partner Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott) and BBC correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). After some time though, Kim begins to adjust to her situation and even excel at her work, slowly earning the respect of Marine General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thorton) while also slowly developing a relationship with Scottish photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).

That plot description isn’t exactly the most exciting, and to some extent the story here is the weakest aspect of the film. Kim’s character arc is fairly predictable from the outset; she starts off in something of a rut but finds new purpose when placed in an extreme setting. We’ve seen that character arc before and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t do too much to shake things up. Around the second half, the film does start to suggest that Kim might become dependent on putting herself in dangerous situations, but this material is basically just a lighter version of the main character arc in The Hurt Locker. In spite of these shortcomings, I do think the story here works pretty well, mostly due to the low-key honesty with which it is presented. The screenplay, based on the real Barker’s memoir, avoids overdramatizing Kim’s story and accepts it as the humble little tale it is. As such, it is rewarding to see Kim better herself just a little bit. Also crucial to this arc working so well is Tina Fey, who does a very good job creating a likable presence you want to see succeed and she also handles the subtleties of the arc well. Read the rest of this entry »

Suicide Squad Review

Posted: August 17, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

suicide-squad-movie-2016-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s been pretty obvious for a while now that DC has been trying to catch up to Marvel in regards to building a shared superhero cinematic universe. Man of Steel would serve as their Iron Man, a self-contained story that works as our first glimpse into their universe. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is their Iron Man 2, an over-bloated effort more concerned with cramming as many characters and universe connecting elements into the film than actually telling a coherent story. After Iron Man 2, Marvel made solo films for Thor and Captain America before slowly building to their Phase One climax; The Avengers. DC on the other hand has decided to skip all that entirely, at least for now, and go straight to their version of Guardians of the Galaxy. Like Marvel’s off-beat success, Suicide Squad is all about an eccentric team of misfits forced to come together and defeat a greater threat. The main difference being that with Suicide Squad the team’s members are not just misfits, but full on murderers and supervillains.

The film picks up shortly after the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. With Superman “dead” there is concern over who can protect the world from other super powered threats. With that in mind, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has decided to assemble a team of convicted super villains as a sort of “Dirty Dozen” for black ops missions. The team includes the master assassin and marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), the insane former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Australian bank robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyro technique former gang member El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the mutated Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), American soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), and the extra-dimensional witch The Enchantress (Carla Delevingne). Things quickly go awry when The Enchantress escapes Waller’s control and hatches a plot to destroy mankind, prompting the “Suicide Squad” to come together and bring her down. This is however complicated by the group’s general villainy, and the fact that Harley’s boyfriend, a fella named The Joker (Jared Leto), is trying to take her back. Read the rest of this entry »

Hardcore Henry Review

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

hardcorehenryWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

2016 has been an interesting year for videogames adapted to film. The year has already given us Ratchet and Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, and Warcraft, while an adaptation of Assassin’s Creed is due this December. Granted, in keeping with the tradition of videogame movies, all of these films (save for the still unreleased Assassin’s Creed) received abysmal reviews and are of almost no interest to me. Still, it is interesting that so many videogame movies are coming out right at the same time and it’s also interesting that the film which stylistically feels the most like a videogame actually isn’t based on one at all. That film is Hardcore Henry, and is notable for being shot almost entirely from a first-person perspective and mimicking the feel of a first-person shooter videogame.

The film opens on the laboratory of an airship flying over Russia where we meet our main character and viewpoint into this world; a cyborg named Henry. There, Henry is greeted by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett), a scientist claiming to be Henry’s creator and wife. It isn’t long however before the ship is attacked and Estelle is taken by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) a telekinetic being who also controls an army of mercenary. This puts Henry on a violence infused path to rescue Estelle, aided only by a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). Read the rest of this entry »

Sing Street Review

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

sing streetWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In 2014, a low key music film from John Carney slipped under my radar in theaters despite generally being really well-liked by most everyone that saw it. That film was Begin Again, and when I finally caught up with it at home I too was quite charmed. The film was maybe a little too minimal to really leave an impact or make my top ten list by year’s end, but it was a highly enjoyable film that I wish I would have been able to catch in theaters. I bring all this up because almost the exact same thing happened this year with John Carney’s newest music film Sing Street. Like Begin Again, I was totally oblivious to the film when it was released theatrically and only got a sense of what it was and how much it was loved after its theatrical run has finished. This isn’t quite the same as my experience with Begin Again though as my reaction to Sing Street is a lot more neutral.

Sing Street is set in 1985 in Dublin and follows Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the youngest son in a struggling Irish family. As the film opens, Connor is being pulled out of his expensive private school and sent to a public school. Connor quickly meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a slightly older girl who lives at the girl’s home across the street from Connor’s school. To impress her, Connor says he is in a band and asks if she’d be interested in starring in one of their music videos. Shockingly, she agrees and so Connor most throw together a band. However the impromptu group he assembles, which come to call themselves Sing Street, turns out to be pretty good and actually start becoming pretty successful as Connor and Raphina grow closer. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Room Review

Posted: August 10, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

green-room-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s always exciting when great filmmaking talent emerges seemingly from nowhere. That’s how I felt two years ago when a crowd sourced film called Blue Ruin became one of the best reviewed films of the year and simultaneously announced Jeremy Saulnier as a director to watch. I didn’t quite love Blue Ruin like a lot of people did, but it was a very strongly made film and demonstrated Saulnier’s fine handle on tone. Blue Ruin wasn’t technically Saulnier’s first film but most certainly was his breakthrough and gave him access to more money and a more famous cast for his new film; a horror/thriller of sorts called Green Room.

The film opens following a modern day punk rock band called The Ain’t Rights (or The Aren’t Rights, they later say) comprised of bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole), and singer Tiger (Callum Turner). The group follow the old-school ethos of punk in that their severe efforts to avoid selling out to “the man”. This has made them somewhat obscure as they have no social media presence and has also led to some very lackluster gigs. In something of a tight spot, the group agrees to perform at a skinhead bar for a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s. Despite not sharing their views, the show goes fairly well. However things go south when the band returns to their green room and stumble across the murder of a young woman. Now The Ain’t Rights are trapped in the back of this bar as the owner and skinhead leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart) tries to dispose of them the most efficient way possible. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lobster Review

Posted: August 9, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

colin-farrell-in-the-lobsterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Whether you’re a film critic, internet fanboy, or casual moviegoer, the phrase “originality” is one that is inevitably mentioned a lot when discussing cinema. Sometimes it’s used in a very technical sense, wherein “original” simply refers to an intellectual property that isn’t based on pre-existing source material. Other times, the adjective is used in a more qualitative sense, sometimes referring to a film with a unique high concept, or a familiar concept with a creative spin or style which makes it seem fresh. However when it comes to plots, there are schools of thought which suggest that when you really break it down there are only so many different kinds of stories and any work, no matter how seemingly “original”, will still fall into one of these types. I bring all this up because originality is one of the primary aspects at the heart of Yorgos Lanthimos’ newest film The Lobster. With its insane high concept, absurd dystopian future, and bizarrely deadpan style, The Lobster is one of the most original films I’ve seen in a long time and I mean that in every sense of the word.

The film is set in a future where adults who are single are sent to a resort called The Hotel, where they have 45 days to find themselves a partner. If they not find themselves a partner within that time, they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. Our entry point into this world is David (Colin Farrell), recently divorced after discovering his wife’s adultery who has decided to become a lobster if he fails to find a partner. David does not wish to be an animal, but he does not connect with any of the women at The Hotel at instead sparks a friendship with a man with a limp (Ben Whishaw) and a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly). However as the clock ticks down David will eventually make a series of crucial decisions which will radically change his stay and indeed his life. Read the rest of this entry »

Midnight Special Review

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

midnight-special-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The other day I was thinking about who the great North American directors to emerge in the last ten-to-fifteen years are and the answers were somewhat disappointing. Most of this continent’s best films this decade have come from filmmaking veterans like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Richard Linklater, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes Anderson, along with old masters like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Still, a few young filmmakers have shown a lot of promise like Denis Villeneuve, Damien Chazelle, Ava DuVernay, Jennifer Kent, Ryan Coogler, and Robert Eggers. Among these directors is Jeff Nichols, who already has a handful of really solid efforts like Mud and especially Take Shelter. I don’t think Nichols has made a truly great film yet, but I think he has one in him and 2016 might be the year we finally see it, as he has both the high concept science fiction film Midnight Special and the historical drama/romance Loving. Today we’re looking at the former.

The film opens seemingly in the middle of the story as we learn young Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has been kidnapped by his biological father (Michael Shannon) and his friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Alton does not seem to be in distress however, in fact the two men are acting more as protectors than captors. Meanwhile, the U.S. government are trying to track down Alton as the boy possess some unexplainable powers which allow him some form of psychic communication and also force a strange white light to emit from his eyes. A key member of the search is scientist Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) whose goals seem a bit nobler than the rest of the G-men in pursuit. Read the rest of this entry »