Posted: November 2, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews
Written by Daniel Simpson
In 2014, I was pleasantly surprised by a little horror film called Oculus. What I initially dismissed as just another lame haunting movie turned out to be more clever and inventive than I would have thought. I don’t want to oversell the film as it does have some missteps, but it is pretty good, and I remember wanting to keep an eye on young director Mike Flanagan. Well, the way things are going the man seems posed to be one of the next major horror directors. His direct-to-Netflix horror/thriller Hush was enthusiastically received back in April, his Ouija: Origin of Evil is regarded as being vastly superior to the original Ouija, and Flanagan is currently working on an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game. Clearly, the man is finding a lot of success and I’m happy for him, but my enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by my own disappointment with Origin of Evil, which seemed to be the kind of clichéd horror movie I expected Oculus to me. Still, the craft on display has remained mostly solid and as such I was more than willing to give the well-reviewed Hush a shot.
Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) is a young deaf woman who lives alone in her isolated home in the woods. Maddie is an author currently struggling with the end of her second novel one evening when inexplicably a masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.) begins to attack her. Maddie is able to keep him outside, but it quickly becomes clear that he can find a way inside if he really needs to and is largely toying with Maddie. What follows is a type of cat and mouse struggle between the two adversaries. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 31, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
A few days ago, I watched Ouija: Origin of Evil, a prequel to Ouija, which ended on a post-credits stinger that teased further follow-ups. We also already have three Insidious movies, two Sinisters, two Conjurings, a spin-off called Annabelle, and a bunch of Paranormal Activity movies. Clearly, there is a lot of sequelization going on with horror films, which is distressing when you consider most horror sequels suck. There are however some exceptions and with today being Halloween, it seemed appropriate to celebrate five best horror sequels ever made.
5. 28 Weeks Later
Making a sequel to Danny Boyle’s well-regarded zombie movie 28 Days Later would not seem very intuitive given that film’s highly specific style and ending, but director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s follow-up proved more than worthy. The filmmaking on display is still sharp and the use of real film as opposed to digital is also a welcome change. The film opens like gangbusters with a really awesome chase sequence and the rest of the chaos which ensues is also well-rendered. The film also serves as a solid little analogy for the military mismanagement of the Iraq war. Great final shot too. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 31, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews
Written by Daniel Simpson
I think one of the dumbest ideas for a horror movie in recent years is basing one off a board game. That was the attitude I had when Ouija was released in 2014 and its abysmal 7% on Rotten Tomatoes more or less told me I was right. I continued to look down on the concept even as I heard that solid up and comer Mike Flanagan would be helming the prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. I was surprised then to see the film be released to pretty solid reviews and an 82% score on Rotten Tomatoes. That certainly caught my interest, but more than anything I think I just wanted to see a new release. It’s been a pretty terrible month for the movies, with the most worthwhile releases (namely The Birth of a Nation) not getting a release in my city. So, screw it, even without seeing the original, I thought I’d take a chance on Ouija: Origin of Evil. I had serious doubts that a haunted Ouija board could scare me, but I didn’t think a haunted mirror could work as a horror movie either and Mike Flanagan proved me wrong with Oculus.
Set in 1967, Ouija: Origin of Evil focuses on Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser), a woman who, with the help of her two daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson), hosts staged séances for customers wanting to talk to their deceased loved ones. Alice does not view what they are doing as a scam, but as a service that actually helps people. The family themselves are grieving the loss of the family’s husband and father. With business faltering, Alice decides to buy an Ouija board to use in her practices. However after Doris uses it alone one night, the family learn she really is channelling some supernatural powers. Alice is at first thrilled to use this in her séances, but it starts to become clear that whatever force is at work has malicious intent. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 25, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
We’re near the end of the Presidential race and America is dangerously close to electing a hate-mongering, prejudiced cry baby with no political experience to their highest office. As you can probably guess, I’m no fan of Donald Trump. Donald has proven himself to be a hateful monster completely unfit for office time and time again. For all his failings though, I do think he represents a serious threat to the world. To illustrate that, I’ve chosen five dystopias that I think are likely possibilities if this pathetic pile of human filth takes power.
5. Fascist Government, V for Vendetta
The governmental structure in Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s iconic graphic novel V for Vendetta is highly similar to how I imagine a Donald Trump presidency might look. The fascist government which enforces law with iron rule, silences media that questions policy, and strives for purity by eliminating non-whites, the LGBTQ community, and anyone with a disability definitely speaks to the hateful rhetoric that has defined Donald and his campaign. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the fascist leader in V for Vendetta, Adam Susan, is described as being a self-obsessed crazy person unable to make reasonable connections to other human beings. While his personality may differ from Donald in other ways, those traits are strikingly similar. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 18, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
Two big films are coming out this Friday; Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Neither look particularly good, but both are interestingly sequels (technically Ouija is a prequel, but whatever) to an original film that have changed directors. Often a different director on a sequel film is a bad sign, but there are some examples of films which traded directors for the better and I decided to look at five films that helped improve their respective series by coming on board. As a rule, I’m only looking at the first time a director was replaced in a series, so something like J.J. Abrams taking over Mission: Impossible after Brian De Palma and John Woo each had a crack at the series wouldn’t be eligible. John Woo taking over after just De Palma though could make the list (spoilers, he doesn’t).
5. The Empire Strikes Back, Irvin Kershner
I think there’s a misconception by the general public that up until The Force Awakens, George Lucas directed all of the Star Wars movie. Most geeks however know that to be false. After the mammoth success of Star Wars, Lucas stepped into a producer role so he can be more well-equipped to handle the business side of things and he was also involved with ILM in pushing special effects forward. Taking over as director was a fella named Irvin Kershner. Kershner’s resume outside of Star Wars is a little scattered, but there’s no denying his work on Empire. The cinematography is richer, the mythos is expanded, the characters feel deeper, the stakes are higher, and the climax is more emotionally charged. It’s a sequel that goes a different direction than its predecessor while simultaneously improving on the foundation. It might even be the best film in my list, but it’s also clear that Lucas still had a major role creatively. That’s not a bad thing, but for this list the emphasis is on the directors who brought a new creative vision to the series and while Kershner surely brought that too the details, the big picture was still Lucas. Read the rest of this entry »
Written by Daniel Simpson
2014 was a pretty interesting year for movies. It was the year Alejandro González Iñárritu made a triumphant return with Birdman, that Marvel soared their highest yet with the two-punch of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, that director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won a Palme d’Or for Winter Sleep, and the year Richard Linklater released his potential magnum opus, Boyhood. In the West however, all of these stories seem to be overshadowed by a little mystery/thriller from David Fincher. That film was of course Gone Girl, a movie which performed very well with critics and audiences and went on to generate a slew of think-pieces across the next few months. It’s reasonable that studios would want to replicate that success, and the new thriller The Girl on the Train seems a deliberate attempt to be, “the next Gone Girl”.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic whose life has collapsed since the messy divorce from her husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), who now has a new wife named Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and the couple have a child. Every day Rachel passes by Tom and Anna’s house and in doing so as developed something of an obsession with one of their neighbors, a young woman named Megan (Haley Bennet). One morning, Rachel sees Megan with a man who isn’t her husband and grows suspicious. She tries to confront Megan one evening, but blacks out and in the morning remembers nothing. This is problematic since that same evening Megan disappeared. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 11, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
Written by Daniel Simpson
This Friday a movie called Max Steel is coming out. It’s a superhero film based on a toy, which sounds tremendously lame. Of course, anyone who knows superhero movies knows the genre is no stranger to lameness. There has been some laughably bad superhero movies over the years and today we’re gonna look at five of the worst. Two caveats to this list; the film has to be based on a comic book and I won’t be including Batman and Robin. Regarding the latter, it’s just too easy to pick on the Schumacher Batman films (I won’t be including Batman Forever either) and to be honest the internet has beaten on those movies enough. Let’s beat on some other ones!
5. Green Lantern
Before Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds starred in a string of really awful superhero movies and this is one of the most notorious. A lot of people will say the movie’s failing is the source material is just too dorky (what with aliens and powerful rings) but I disagree. I think the concept of a group of people who can conjure anything their mind can conceive and serve as intergalactic cops is pretty cool, the problem is the execution here is just terrible. Despite a $200 million budget, the special effects look like crap and the filmmakers don’t do much creative stuff with Green Lantern’s powers. The jumbled plot all boils down to some generic CGI infused battle between Reynolds and a big cloud, or something. Also, while the cast does have some decent work from some of the supporting cast (namely Mark Strong and Geoffrey Rush), the only performances that stand out are Reynold’s non-performance, Blake Lively as generic love interest, and Peter Sarsgaard as annoying villain. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 5, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews
Written by Daniel Simpson
Last year, a movie called Sicario came out that tons of people loved. The film didn’t exactly light up the box-office and I expect most general audiences still aren’t familiar with it, but the film was something of a sensation in the film community, receiving rave reviews and showing up on a lot of year end top ten lists. Personally I wasn’t so fond of the film. I admired director Denis Villeneuve’s craft, but found the script to be cliché and half-baked. Now, that same screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan, has penned a new crime movie called Hell or High Water which has once again been enthusiastically greeted by the film community. Overall, I would say I like this film more than Sicario, but once again I find myself respecting the craft of the director more than Sheridan’s screenplay.
The film is set in modern West Texas, a part of America which has been beaten down by a rough economy. The focus is on a pair of brothers trying to raise money who turn to robbing banks. Eldest brother Tanner (Ben Foster) is a wild card with an impulsive streak and a criminal record, while the seemingly clean younger brother Toby (Chris Pine) serves as the brains of the operation. The pair have an organized system for robbing banks, but are by no means experts. The soon find themselves hunted by Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a Texas Ranger nearing retirement and his partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 4, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
Written by Daniel Simpson
It’s October, which means it’s time to start watching some horror movies. There are of course a ton of classics to watch, from Nosferatu to Halloween, or you could take a look at some modern horror greats like It Follows or The Witch. However there are other great horror films that, for whatever reason, haven’t garnered the reputation of the genre’s more notable classics. These gems are well worth your time however, and today I’ll be drawing attention to five lesser-known horror films that you should watch this Halloween. Keep in mind my goal isn’t to find the most obscure horror films possible. Rather, the movies I’ve highlighted here definitely have a following, they’re just not celebrated to the degree I think they deserve.
5. The Haunting (1963)
The Haunting was a modest success back in 1963, but it’s only in recent memory that the film has garnered more serious praise. The film revolves around a group of people visiting a supposedly haunted house and conduct a social experiment to see if it really is haunted. This could have been another B-ghost movie in the vein of House on Haunted Hill¸ but instead Robert Wise really elevates this into something special. Using camera lenses that cause distortion deliberately, Wise creates a disorienting move which feels like slipping into another world. Julie Harris gives a great performance as a woman slowly losing her mind and Wise leans on minimal suspense and mystery rather than overt terror. The film has started to receive prominent praise in the last few years, no doubt aided by Martin Scorsese listing it among the scariest films of all-time, but I still feel like this is underseen. Hell, the fact that when you google “the haunting” the shitty remake from 1999 comes up before this is enough of a reason to want the original to get more love. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 27, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists
Written by Daniel Simpson
This Friday sees the release of a new Tim Burton movie called Miss. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Watching the trailer though, the film fees less like a Tim Burton film and more like yet another generic young adult adaptation about an ordinary kid who finds out their special and there are other special people just like them. The visuals do have a somewhat gothic tone and I suppose outsiders are a reoccurring theme in Burton’s work, but the whole thing just looks like Burton-lite. Whatever the quality of that film turns out to be, I do have a fondness for classic Burton and I thought it an appropriate time to look back on some of the filmmaker’s best films. I should note from the outset though that this list will only be considering films Burton directed, so The Nightmare Before Christmas (technically directed by Henry Sellick) doesn’t count.
5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
For me, Sweeney Todd is Tim Burton’s last really strong film and it also seems to be the last one to develop a really passionate fan-base. He’s certainly made higher grossing films since then, but none have inspired the fandom Todd has. Part of what sets the film apart is the sheer novelty of an R-rated musical about a serial killer. That’s certainly neat and Burton brings his Gothic sensibilities to the project perfectly. This film looks awesome and the way blacks are juxtaposed with moments of bright colour (typically reds if you follow) is stunning. The music is also quite good with the lyrics being really clever and fun. The only thing holding the film back from greatness is the actual story, which is very stage-bound and prone to some uninteresting digressions. Still, this is a very strong film and one of the best modern musicals. Read the rest of this entry »