Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PCP on DVD - Veronica Mars

Whenever people talk about great shows that were cancelled too soon, one of the ones regularly mentioned is Veronica Mars. The series only lasted 3 seasons on TV (2 on UPN, 1 on the CW) from 2004-07, yet it managed to build a very loyal and devoted fan following. Creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell had always wanted to do a film, but were unable to convince Warner Brothers to greenlight the movie. Then came the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. Thomas had the idea to use Kickstarter to gain funding for the show, showing the WB that there was indeed an audience wanting to see the movie get made. The film set records on Kickstarter, hitting their goal of $2,000,000 in less than 10 hours and overall receiving over $5,700,000 in donations from over 91,000 fans to get the movie made. So, Thomas and Bell had their film, now the question was, would the fans of the show actually enjoy the movie they had funded?

Veronica Mars - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 8 out of 10.

I was a big fan of the show Veronica Mars, unfortunately not discovering it until after it had already completed its run on the air. For those of you unfamiliar with the show or movie, Kristen Bell starred as the titular character, a (then) teenager who moonlights as a private eye in her dad's PI firm, while facing the challenges of high school and college, but never losing her extremely sarcastic outlook on life. The show (and movie) have a ton of great one-liners, both from Mars and her on and off again boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). The show was a noir-ish mystery series, and that mood and feel carries over to the movie very well. Even if you haven't seen the show, however, the film is still actually rather well done, and can stand alone as a good way to spend your time, with a nice character-driven mystery. You might not get all of the in-jokes and shout-outs to the series if you haven't seen it, but since the film is set nine years after the final season of the show, it still does a pretty solid job of reminding viewers who is who and introducing all of the important characters in a clear way.

This time around in the movie, the case revolves around Logan being accused of murder, and Veronica, who had gotten out of the PI life and had just passed the bar exam, being pulled back in in order to help save her ex from jail time. The mystery was actually pretty good, and I had fun trying to solve the case along with the characters in the movie.

Overall, it was nice to inhabit the universe of these characters again, and the movie will have a place on my shelf next to the TV series that spawned it. If you're looking for a good mystery film, I do recommend this. And if you never watched the TV series, I strongly encourage you to do so, as it was easily one of the better TV shows of the past decade.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PCP on DVD - About Time

Before my wife had added this to our Netflix queue, I knew nothing about the British film About Time. Upon learning that it was another romantic movie involving time travel and starring Rachel McAdams, who also was in The Time Traveler's Wife, I didn't have high expectations that this film would be any good. It turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.

About Time - 2013, rated R. My rating: 9 out of 10.

As I learned from when I was hunting for the poster image to use in this blog post, About Time is from the writer of a few other great British rom-coms: Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings & a Funeral. This movie stars upcoming Star Wars Episode VII star Domnhall Gleeson (real life son of the outstanding actor Brendan Gleeson) as Tim, a young British lawyer, who meets and falls in love with an American, Mary, (Rachel McAdams). But Tim has a secret that he doesn't share with Mary, a secret that is only known to the men of his family. When he turned 21, his father, named in the film only as Dad (Bill Nighy), lets him in on the family secret: the men of the family can time travel, back to any point in time they have personally lived before. Tim uses his powers to correct mistakes he makes in wooing Mary, and to lead a better, more fulfilling life, helping out his friends and family members along the way to also lead better lives.

I liked About Time's use of time travel, as it was a novel way I don't recall ever seeing portrayed in a film or book before. I also liked how Tim's dad explicitly points out that it can't be used to kill Hitler, giving a small shout out to the common joke about what one would do if they could time-travel. The film is also really funny, with Tim having some great one-liners and jokes. The time travel is also used to comedic effect, most notably in one montage where he cycles through possible best men at his wedding, based on their awful speeches.

Overall, between the funny dialogue, great chemistry between Gleeson & McAdams, and great life lessons imparted by the film to the audience, I found About Time to actually be a surprisingly good romantic comedy. I can definitely see this film being added to the rotation of rom-coms my wife and I watch when we are in the mood for a good romantic comedy, and I want to make sure it is a film that doesn't make me want to puke. This one definitely would be on that list. So, if you're looking for a good date movie, check this one out, I doubt you'll be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PCP in Theaters - X-Men: Days of Future Past

It has been an insanely busy last few weeks at work for me, and busy on the weekends as well, so it was nice to finally have a chance to get to the movie theater again for a new flick on the big screen. Although it came out a month ago, we finally got a chance to see X-Men: Days of Future Past in theaters this past week. And fortunately, unlike the Amazing Spider-Man 2, this summer's second (third if you count April's Captain America 2) major comic book franchise film did not disappoint.

X-Men: Days of Future Past.  2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 9 out of 10.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (hereafter referred to as XM:DFP) has a very challenging act to pull off. The film has to combine the characters from six previous X-Men films, and also find a way to paper over the continuity errors and other problems with the preceding films, which is especially difficult because originally the timeline of X-Men: First Class was not designed to match up perfectly with the original films (as noticed most readily by Emma Frost being younger in the 1970s in X-Men Origins: Wolverine than she was in the 1960s in X-Men: First Class). It also has to do justice to one of the most popular story-lines from the comic books, when the franchise already botched a different popular story-line (the Dark Phoenix) in X-Men 3. So, going in to this film, I was hopeful that it would be able to pull this off, but I was worried that the deck was stacked too much against the movie for it to be a success.

I was very glad to be completely and utterly wrong. The movie wound up being a ton of fun and was very entertaining. The film starts out in a bleak dystopian future, where mutant-killing robots known as Sentinels have slaughtered millions, not only mutants but humans that were carriers of the mutant genes and due to have mutant children or grandchildren. There is a great action sequence following characters we have never seen on film before, including Blink and Bishop, and some we have in Ice-man, Colossus, and Kitty Pride, as they fight to survive against the Sentinels. Their group links up with Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and Storm, and come up with a way to send Wolverine's consciousness back to his body in the past, to prevent the Sentinel program from ever getting off the ground, thus preventing this dark future from ever coming to pass. From there, the film switches focus to the 1970s, where Wolverine has to bring together the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage), because his death actually causes his robots to be put into production.

The film is very heavy on action, but it also has quite a few funny moments as well, and many shout-outs to the other films within the series or events that readers of the comics will understand but might be missed by those that have only seen the films. The film makes no allowances for new viewers, as it expects you to have seen the prior films and know who is every character on the screen. So, if you haven't seen at least X-Men 1-3 and First Class, you might be a little bit lost. The best action sequences are Magneto's escape from prison in the past (filled with some very funny moments thanks to Quicksilver), the battles with the Sentinels in the future, and Magneto's battle with the Sentinels in the past. The movie clearly spent a large portion of its $200 million budget on special effects, and they look fantastic. And while the film is not quite perfectly able to iron out the myriad continuity issues from having to fix the narrative errors of the previous six films, they do a good enough job to make the film work here.

Overall, XM: DFP was a very enjoyable movie, and easily the best in the series since X-Men 2. We got to see many familiar faces from the prior films, as well as some awesome new mutants too. The film also ends with a scene after the credits that makes fans of the comics very excited, and sets up the next film in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse coming in 2016. I can't wait!