Monday, December 30, 2013

PCP on DVD - Oblivion

If you couldn't tell from my two week series of posts this summer on science fiction, I am a big fan of the genre. This past summer was a great one for sci-fi, with a ton of new films in theaters that are now coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray. I had the chance to catch one that I had missed in theaters recently, the Tom Cruise flick Oblivion.

Oblivion - 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Oblivion is a futuristic post-apocalypse story set in the year 2077, about 60 years after an alien invasion devastated much of the planet. Tom Cruise is a maintenance man working on the drones that protect the energy harvesters pulling resources out of the planet, to send to a colony of survivors on the Saturn moon Titan. But as weird things begin occurring, he starts to question who he really is and what is the truth behind his mission.

I'd say more on the plot but I don't want to spoil anything, although an alert viewer of the film can figure out what is really going on quite quickly. The plot of the film is somewhat weak though, due to its predictability. But I didn't see this film for its plot. I saw it for the cool tech and nifty visuals, and on that front the film does not disappoint.

Like the recent Star Trek reboot, Oblivion seems to be set in a future where Apple has taken over all design influences for any gadget. The floating house that Tom Cruise calls home, the drones, and his nifty airship are very sleek and awesome. The film's action sequences are pretty well done too, although the film missed an opportunity for some awesome spectacle. The moon in this future was destroyed (and is visible in orbit as more of an asteroid belt around the planet) which set off the destruction of the planet due to changes in plate tectonics and tides. This is all told through Cruise's narration and we see the after effects, but it would have been cool to see some of this destruction actually unfold on screen. Maybe they didn't have the budget?

Overall, I thought the film was above average, and worth a watch, especially if you're a fan of Tom Cruise. He's been doing pretty well lately despite having questionable material to work with, between this film and his other recent one, Jack Reacher. Basically, he's been the best part of both of those two films. Hopefully, he'll have some better material to work with in whatever film he tackles next, as he's one of my favorite actors to watch on screen.

Alright that's it for this one, thanks for dropping by and reading! Did you see Oblivion? Tell me what you thought in the comments. Also, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

PCP on DVD - Zero Dark Thirty

Twelve years ago was the darkest day in American history since Pearl Harbor, with the tragic events of 9/11. A war in Afghanistan (that still is going on) was the direct result, as well as a massive manhunt for the man responsible for 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, a manhunt that ended in his death in 2011. Zero Dark Thirty is the film that chronicles that manhunt, and as I am a student of history, I knew I had to see this film.

Zero Dark Thirty - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The film opens in probably the most horrifying way possible. It is a pure black screen, no titles or credits, and all you hear is audio. It doesn't take long for it to sink in what exactly you are hearing: real audio recordings of emergency calls from within the World Trade Center, on 9/11. Hearing the audio on a black screen is actually worse than seeing images of the terror attacks, because it forces your brain to both populate those images into your head (because they're seared into all of our memories), but also it puts you into the fear and terror the victims of the 9/11 attacks went through in a way that just showing those familiar images does not.

From there we are introduced to Maya (Jessica Chastain) who is a young CIA analyst witnessing with disgust her first "enhanced interrogation" by Dan (Jason Clarke). A good chunk of the start of the film focuses on torture sequences of various detainees captured in the early days of the War on Terror. Some of the criticism of this film stems from the fact that it almost embraces the torture (or shows it to be effective) but really that isn't the point of showing it. The point the film makes is that the torture is not effective, as Maya gets far better and more accurate intel from other sources than those that are tortured; and also the film uses the torture sequences to show how Maya is becoming more and more hardened to the process and willing to go to ever greater lengths in her hunt for Bin Laden, even at the cost of her own moral center.

These torture scenes ruined the film for my wife, and nearly ruined it for me as well. She stopped watching, leaving me to finish the film on my own. I am glad I stuck with it. The film itself is technically excellent in its execution, slowly ratcheting up the tension as the hunt goes on and on. It is beautifully shot and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (the Oscar winning director behind the Iraq War film The Hurt Locker), Interspersed with the excellent acting sequences from a great cast of talented actors (James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, & Chris Pratt, amongst many outstanding performances in this film) are brief bursts of action, usually additional terror attacks, all of which happened in real life. These action sequences help ratchet up the tension even more. Ultimately, the film culminates in the raid on Bin Laden's Pakistan compound, which was apparently shot to take place in real time with the actual duration of the raid. The raid was surprisingly slower and more methodical than I had imagined. If nothing else, the film is worth watching for this sequence alone, just so you understand just what went down on that May night a year and a half ago.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is a film that I would strongly encourage you to watch, although it definitely is not for all audiences. It absolutely is not a date movie. But guys, if your wife is not home one day, pop this one in and check it out. Hopefully you won't be disappointed!

Monday, December 23, 2013

PCP on DVD - Scary Movie 5

Sometimes I watch a movie because there's really nothing else better on. In some cases, that pays off and I find a good flick. Other times, like with Scary Movie 5, I find I just wasted an hour and a half of my life that I'll never get back. Not even drinking with friends could improve this train wreck to something even approaching entertaining.

Scary Movie 5 - 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating: 2.5 out of 10.

Anna Faris has left the franchise, and with her departure goes any last redeeming quality about this tired series of increasingly worse films. Also, for a film franchise called Scary Movie, why on earth are your primary films parodied in this movie the non-horror Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Black Swan, and the not very scary horror flick Mama? Seriously, that was the best you could come up with?

About the only funny part of this film was the extremely self-aware cameos by Charlie Sheen & Lindsay Lohan at the beginning and post-credits in this film, making fun of their drug troubles and problems with the law. But sandwiched between those 5 minutes of semi-funny is 80 minutes of crap. Don't take a bite of a crap sandwich, just walk away now and thank me later.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PCP on DVD - Wreck-it Ralph

Some animated movies are clearly geared very much towards children, like Bambi. Others are targeted squarely at adults, like South Park. Then there is the rare combination film (usually from Pixar) that successfully targets both generations. Wreck-it Ralph, while looking like a Pixar film (it isn’t), joins that pantheon of animated films that are entertaining for all.

Wreck-It Ralph – 2012, rated PG.  My rating: 9 out of 10.

Wreck-It Ralph was a film that I had been eagerly anticipating ever since seeing the first trailer. By combining new characters designed by Disney for the film with real life video game characters, the trailer and the film become a game of searching for Easter eggs and shout-outs, of which there are many, so many that even a hardcore gamer might miss several of them.

The plot reminds me a little bit of Toy Story, in the sense that the video game characters turn out to have real lives outside of their video games, like the toys that come to life when humans aren’t around. Here, they are able to travel to and from other games when the arcade is closed at night, through the power lines connecting the games. The titular Ralph, as the trailer explains, is a villain that is tired of being a villain, after 30 years of being stuck as one inside his game. So he leaves his game to try and find acceptance and belonging, and to prove that he is a hero that the characters within his game can respect. Unfortunately, his journey sets off a number of unintended consequences that threaten the lives of characters not only in his own game, but all of the other games in the arcade as well.

Ralph is voiced by the excellent John C. Reilly, who really handles the role well, making you feel the emotions that Ralph feels with his voice, from melancholy to happiness. His journey from villain to hero is heartfelt and touching, and also very funny. 

Overall, this movie is a lot of fun, and probably the best non-Pixar Disney animated film in years. Whether you have kids to see it with, or just want to indulge your inner child, Wreck-It Ralph is a fun flick, so see it and have a blast!

Monday, December 16, 2013

FML - Today's my birthday, & Thursday my son will be 2

Just in time for my birthday, grad school has ended for the semester. So, my blog is back with some new content, yay! Thanks for your patience!

I'm 32 today. Holy crap. I don't like getting older very much. I find myself having more and more gray hairs in my facial hair, or on the sides of my head. I feel like I am way way way too young to be graying. I'm sure it's probably my son Jackson's fault :-D.  He'll be two years old on Thursday. I really can't believe that time is flying by that rapidly. It feels like just yesterday he was this tiny, fragile thing in my arms, waking me up several times a night with his cries. Now he runs, plays, and talks, and like all two year olds, he is starting to be a bit of a pain in the rear. He's got his last 2 teeth growing in now, and gone is my adorable baby who slept all day. Here now is a hyper kinetic ball of energy that never seems to slow down, unless you flip on Bubble Guppies or another show onto the TV, which stops him in his tracks & puts him into a trance.

Part of me is really dreading the terrible twos. We've heard such awful things from people for so long, that I'm starting to feel a little nervous. Our son has been such a good boy for so long, that I wonder if our luck will hold and he'll continue to be a little angel, or will he turn into a destructive psycho soon enough? I guess we'll find out in the coming months. He's already started acting out and being more hyper than normal, so I suppose they started a little bit early for him.

I guess the only good thing about getting older is that my son is getting older too. As much as I'd like him to stay a child forever, I'm also looking forward for him getting a little bit older so he can start to take part in some of the things I'm eager to share with him.

But really, getting older sucks. Having your birthday be on a Monday really sucks. But oh well, such is life!

Oh, guess what my son got me for my birthday? He spent yesterday puking his guts out all over the house. So my last day as a 31 year old was spent cleaning up vomit and washing massive amounts of laundry. What a fantastic and thoughtful gift he decided to give me!

Alright, that's all for today. Thanks for stopping by! It feels good to be back and blogging again!  I'll have 2x a week posts for the next few weeks until grad school starts up again, so check back Mondays and Thursdays for new content!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blog returns next week

My posting has been sporadic lately due to grad school, but winter break is here, so I've got some posts coming your way over the next few weeks, 2 posts a week through my winter break. Hopefully I'll have some time to write a bunch of posts in advance over winter break so that I can schedule automatic updates and won't have to go on full hiatus next semester also. But in the meantime, thanks for your patience! Check back 12/16/13 for a new post!

Friday, November 22, 2013

PCP in Theaters - Ender's Game

My wife and I are good friends with another couple, Ryan and Amber, and they reached out to us about going to see Ender's Game in theaters. They are both big sci-fi and fantasy fans (and Ryan has a similar but geekier blog called Skillpoint Station which I encourage you to check out) and had bonded over their enjoyment of the book. Meanwhile, my wife and I hadn't read the book, but we were always up for a fun night out, so we agreed. I read the book rapidly in the week before we saw the film, so I could judge the film while having the book fresh in my mind. I wonder if that made it better or worse?

Ender's Game - 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 7 out of 10.

Ender's Game is set in the future, on an Earth different from ours. Humanity has defeated an alien invasion, and are working towards preparing for round two of the war versus the alien invaders, the bug-like Formics. Humanity has started a program of testing of their children to find those that have tactical & strategic genius, and then shipping them off to a special school called Battle School to hone their combat abilities. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is our protagonist, a super-genius that the leaders of the school Col. Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) believe may hold the key to humanity's survival versus the Formics, a species that vastly outnumbers humanity.

Ender's studies in the school consist of tactical games in the zero-g battle room, which was pretty nifty to see on the big screen. He learns to deal with frustration, learns even more brilliant tactics, makes friends with most of his peers, and learns to lead on the battlefield. Before long he is graduated to the Command School, where he now commands fleets of ships in a virtual reality simulation against the Formics. As he faces ever more insurmountable odds, he has to find more ways to win, lest he flunk out and fail his teachers. In terms of the plot, I'm going to stop there until later in this post in the spoilers section, so as not to give anything away now.

Having the book fresh in my mind, I was slightly disappointed in the film, but I also had low expectations. I knew that there was no way the film would be able to show all of the battles that the book contained, without being significantly longer than its two hour running time. In the book, Ender went through some 50 odd battles, but in the film he has only a handful, which really doesn't give the audience the chance to see just how outside the box his ideas were and how much more advanced than his peers he really was. I think if the film was maybe about 20 minutes longer and had a few more battles then it would've been better. Also, I didn't like that the film (or the book for that matter) didn't really comment on the idea of training children for war or have anything to say about just how awful of a thing that is.

Visually, the film was pretty well done, with great visual effects including the zero-g combat of Battle School, and the immersive virtual reality of the massive battles of Command School. The effects were better than I expected them to be, with the film only having a budget of $110 million. Overall though, the film is a lot of flash and not a lot of substance, and I thought it was good but disappointing. I think I would've liked it better had I not read the book. Of the four of us that saw the movie that day, my wife was the only one that hadn't read the book and she liked the film the best. So, when this film comes out on blu-ray, rent it from your local library or Redbox now that Blockbuster is toast, or stream it. It's still worth seeing, but you don't need to rush out and see it while it's still in theaters.

Ok if you don't want spoilers, stop here. After the jump I'm going to be talking about changes from the book to the film and discussing some of my beefs with the plot of the film in greater details. So again, from here on out, SPOILERS AHEAD after the jump! --->

Monday, October 21, 2013

POS - What People Just Aren't Getting About the Debt Fight

Ok so as we all know, the government just went through a messy hissy fit fight over the debt ceiling and spending levels, which was only ended thanks to a temporary solution that likely guarantees we’ll be having the exact same fight again in early 2014. I just wanted to weigh in on a few things that get lost in the shuffle on the fight over spending, some hard truths that either people don’t understand or are willfully ignoring. Too often people just say the soundbite “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” Unfortunately, that soundbite is wrong; we do have a revenue problem. And until the folks in D.C. on both sides of the aisle (this is a problem facing both Democrats and Republicans, and both parties aren't facing up to these facts) are willing to face that truth, nothing is ever going to change.

What are we spending our money on?

Yes, we currently have been operating without a budget in Washington for some time now, because both sides cannot come to an agreement on a long term budget. Instead, we get these piecemeal continuing resolutions that agree to fund the government at a set amount for a short period of time. Right now, that funding amount is at the levels set forth in the sequester, for a budget on discretionary spending by the government of $988 billion, if the budget were extended out to a twelve month period. What people don’t realize is what that means. Discretionary spending is money the government is choosing to spend, so that covers the following: our military, education, veterans’ benefits, health (the Centers for Disease Control & National Institute of Health), the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, NOAA, and many more. This slice of our budget is approximately 30% of what the government spends, and these were many of the services that were halted by the government shutdown. But all the focus is on this 30% instead of on the other 70% of where the government spending goes.

So what is the other 70%? 6% of it is paying the interest on our national debt (currently ~17 trillion dollars), and the other 64% is on mandatory spending programs. The lion’s share of that 64% is Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which combined are 87% of the mandatory spending. In other words, about 55% of the total federal budget goes strictly to those three programs. So, unless changes are made to those three programs, all the other cuts in the world aren’t going to amount for squat, really.

Keep reading after the jump, there's more! --->

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back on hiatus, sorry

Grad school has started up again for the semester, and I wasn't able to build up a buffer of content before classes resumed. I don't have the time now to write a lot of new stuff, but I hope to be able to crank out a bunch during winter break so that way next semester I can have some content for ya. I might check in with a random post here or there, if something major happens, so drop by like once a week or so just in case. Thanks for dropping by! Sorry to go dark for awhile though :-(

Monday, September 16, 2013

PCP on TV - 2013-2014 TV preview - What's on my DVR?

Once again I present to you my longest, and one of my more popular, annual posts – my 3rd annual fall television preview. I’ve got a lot of new shows on the DVR this year, so read on and see what I’ll be watching, and maybe you’ll find some shows you’ll want to watch yourself! Note on formatting – all times listed as XE/XC means X time Eastern / X time Central, but you probably are smart enough to realize what I mean.

Debuting shows for the DVR: (11)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – Let me think about why I’d want to watch this show.  Hmm…  Oh yeah, it’s from Joss Whedon. Really, that’s reason enough, but it also looks really darn good. Looking forward to seeing this expanded take on the Marvel Universe, plus Clark Gregg returns as Phil Coulson, despite having supposedly died off in The Avengers. I’m looking forward to seeing how they explain that, as the trailer for the show makes it look like that will be a mystery within the series. The adventures begin on Tuesday 9/24 at 8E/7C over on ABC.

Almost Human – Although not making its debut on Fox until midseason, so some time in 2014, I am very much looking forward to this sci-fi police show about a pair of cops – Karl Urban & Michael Ealy, one of which is human, and one is an android. It has a lot of potential. Plus Karl Urban is awesome, so I’m pretty much sold right there.
Betrayal – This is a show my wife is more interested in watching than I am, but I owe her considering how much sci-fi there is this year. It is a soapy tale of powerful families and double crosses, or something. Debuts on ABC on Sunday 9/29 at 10E/9C.
Dracula – I really enjoyed Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ performance as the debauched King Henry VIII on The Tudors, so I am also very much looking forward to his portrayal of Dracula this fall on NBC. Too bad I have to wait until October 25th for the show to debut, it airs Friday nights at 10E/9C.
Hostages – This limited run show (only 15 episodes, I think) about a doctor who has her family kidnapped, right before she goes to operate on the President, looks like it is going to be a pretty taut thriller. The great cast (Toni Collette & Dylan McDermott) help as well. Premieres for CBS on Monday 9/23 at 10E/9C.
Ironside – NBC is trying its luck again at the reboot well, bringing back a popular show from the late 60s/early 70s about a paralyzed cop and his team that helps him solve crimes. Blair Underwood stars as the title character, and the show debuts on October 2 at 10E/9C.
The Originals – This spinoff from the Vampire Diaries, a show we already watch, is a no-brainer to add to the schedule. Even if the show doesn’t do as well as its parent, you can bet that some of the events here will impact the events in the other show, so you kind of have to watch both anyways. It debuts October 15 at 8E/7C over on the CW.
Reign – A soapy show set in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, this show looks like it’s going to be The Tudors with less sex and nudity, for a younger crowd.  My wife and I will give this one a shot, but we’re already kind of meh on it, so if it isn’t good it will be cut from the rotation pretty quick. Debuts on October 17 at 9E/8C on the CW.
Sleepy Hollow – The wife and I always enjoy a good supernatural show. I hope it’s good! Debuts September 16th on Fox at 9E/8C.
The Tomorrow People – Yet another show on the CW, our most DVR’d network, this one is set in the future and focuses on youth that have evolved to have new abilities and powers. It is based on a popular British series, apparently. It comes out on October 9th at 9E/8C.
Trophy Wife – Malin Akerman stars as a trophy wife in a very dysfunctional family. She’s pretty funny, so I hope this ABC comedy works out for her. Premieres 9/24 at 9:30E/8:30C.

Continue after the jump for more new shows, and what's returning!

Monday, September 9, 2013

PCP on DVD - Goon

I like to enjoy the occasional sports movie, as a sports fan myself. This entry into the sporting films pantheon is actually quite enjoyable, and at 92 minutes isn't that long either.

Goon - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 7 out of 10

Goon tells the story of an unlikely hockey player, Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott), loosely based on the true story of pro hockey player Doug Smith. Glatt is a bouncer at a bar, who happens to be able to fight better than pretty much everyone, and can also take a pounding himself. He is recruited onto a minor league team despite the fact that he can barely skate, after getting into a fight (and winning) with players on the team. He goes through a training montage to learn how to actually play hockey, but he has been primarily recruited to the league for one reason and one reason only, to be a goon, aka the enforcer for the team that fights players on the other team, brought onto the ice to fire up his teammates and help them win.

Along the way he encounters Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a soon to be retiring goon that Glatt looks up to on the ice, and you know pretty obviously (since they're on different teams) that sooner or later the two of them will have to have an epic hockey fight. And epic it is, along with all of the other hockey action scenes. The film is also very funny. Overall, if you are a sports fan I strongly encourage you to check this one out!

Friday, September 6, 2013

PCP on DVD - Journey 2 the Mysterious Island

I don't remember where I saw it online, but somewhere I saw Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson referred to as "franchise viagra" due to him being added to franchise films and them enjoying more success than the original film. He's been added to the GI Joe, Fast & Furious, and the Journey franchises just within the past couple of years. As a former pro wrestling fan, I'll pretty much watch anything that he shows up in. Unfortunately, sometimes that winds up being a waste of my time.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - 2012, rated PG. My rating: 5.5 out of 10

Journey 2 picks up after the previous film in the series, Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser. This time Fraser is nowhere to be found, & The Rock has replaced him as the action hero father figure at the center of the movie, taking care of Josh Hutcherson as his new stepdad. They have to go and try and find Josh's grandfather, Michael Caine, who has stranded himself on a lost island.

The film is definitely a family film, with its low stakes plot and action-packed sequences that were designed to be viewed in 3D, but without any overt violence or gore. My son is a bit too young for it now, but I'm sure he'd enjoy this when he gets older. For me though, it was just too predictable and boring to be a winner, but it wasn't absolutely horrible either. It was just mundane. I wouldn't watch it again, unless it were with my son when he is old enough. You could probably miss this yourself and you wouldn't miss much.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

No post today, I'm too busy celebrating the holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day! Check back Wednesday for more content! In the meantime, maybe take some time on this Labor Day to write your Representative in Congress or the Senate to tell them to raise the minimum wage? The whole point of the minimum wage is to keep people out of poverty, something the current rate is failing spectacularly at.

Friday, August 30, 2013

PCP on DVD - G.I. Joe: Retaliation

I’m wrapping up my week of Channing Tatum posts here on the blog.  Ladies – I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a Tatum fix, I’m sure my wife did.  Today’s post is a review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Originally slated for a 2012 release, the film was pushed back until 2013 apparently for a 3D conversion, and reportedly for more scenes for Tatum as well, since he was blowing up last year between Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street. On with the review!

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating: 7 out of 10.

On paper, G.I. Joe: Retaliation (hereafter GIJR) is a direct sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. However, this film jettisons quite a lot of the deadweight of the first film, and it is as much a reboot as it is a sequel. Gone is nearly all of the original cast, returning only Duke (Tatum) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) on the side of the Joes and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey, replacing Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), & Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) on the side of Cobra, in addition to the President of the U.S. (Jonathan Pryce) who was replaced by a Cobra duplicate at the end of the first film. Also gone is a majority of the campiness from the first film, with this film playing things more straight.

Newcomers to the cast include Firefly (Ray Stevenson), a bomb loving Cobra killer; Jaye (Adrienne Palicki), the Joes’ main female member; Roadblock (franchise Viagra Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), the new star of the Joes; and Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), a retired general allied with the Joes.

As the trailer makes rather obvious, Tatum’s Duke isn’t around for much of the film, after a surprise attack wipes out all of the Joes save for Jaye, Roadblock, & one other inconsequential guy, plus Snake Eyes who is off on a separate mission, maybe 15 minutes or so into the movie (sorry ladies, you’ll have to get your Tatum fix elsewhere). The survivors have to regroup, figure out who struck them and why, and strike back hard, all while stopping Cobra’s nefarious plot to take over the world.

Overall, the film is far superior to the 2009 original (although that isn’t exactly saying much, considering how weak the first one was). The action sequences are better, the effects less cheesy, and the story more realistic. Seeing London getting destroyed was pretty cool too, it was nice to see it not be New York City or Paris as it usually is in big summer blockbusters. Overall, the film is really The Rock’s film, not Tatum’s, and he shines here in a solid action role. I’ve always preferred him as an action star than a family film star, so it was nice to see him taking names and kicking ass all over the screen. But as The Rock’s action films go, this one doesn’t even stand up to some of his earlier films, such as my favorite of his The Rundown. So, I’d recommend that one over this, but this one wasn’t too bad, all things considered.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

PCP on DVD - Side Effects

So, continuing with the Channing Tatum theme for this week’s reviews, here is my review of Side Effects, supposedly the last film Steven Soderbergh is planning to make any time soon.

Side Effects – 2013, rated R.  My rating: 8 out of 10.

Side Effects marks the third pairing of director Steven Soderbergh and actor Channing Tatum. Unlike their pairing Magic Mike which is a lead role for Tatum, here his role is more like in their other collaboration, Haywire, a smaller role within the film. Haywire is really more Jude Law and Rooney Mara’s film. This is also Soderbergh’s third pairing with Catherine Zeta-Jones, his others being Traffic and Ocean’s 12.

Rooney Mara plays Emily, wife of Channing Tatum’s recently paroled Martin, who has just gotten out of jail after committing insider trading. Emily is feeling depression and attempts to kill herself, resulting in her being placed in the psychiatric care of Jude Law’s Dr. Banks. Banks prescribes various anti-depressants to no effect in Emily, so on advice of her former doctor, Dr. Siebert (Zeta-Jones), he puts her on a new antidepressant that has a side effect of sleepwalking.

While sleepwalking, Emily gets herself into trouble, trouble severe enough to have disastrous consequences for her and Martin, and on Dr. Banks’ career.  I’d say more but the plot gets rather twisty and conspiratorial at this point and I don’t want to give away the ending, except to say that I enjoyed this film very much. All of the actors turned in great performances, and the film flows well through the twists and turns of the plot. Also, unlike many movies, this one actually got a lot of the mental health and psychiatry stuff correct, something my wife says is very rare in film. She's a mental health professional, so she would know.  Overall, I definitely recommend this film, it makes for a pretty good thriller.

Monday, August 26, 2013

PCP on DVD - 10 Years

Man, it seems like Channing Tatum, aka Charming Potato, is everywhere these days. I’ve seen him in Magic Mike, Haywire, The Vow, & 21 Jump Street all on DVD, and White House Down just hit theaters this summer as well. The guy seriously needs to take a vacation! I’ve got three other Tatum movies that I’ve caught on DVD recently, so I’m going to make this week have a Channing Tatum theme, with reviews of 10 Years, Side Effects, & GI Joe: Retaliation.  To start the week, here is a review of a lesser known Tatum movie that came out last year, the indie flick 10 Years.

10 Years – 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

10 Years is an ensemble dramatic comedy about a group of high school friends reuniting for their 10 year anniversary out of high school. The cast includes Channing Tatum, his real life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Justin Long, Kate Mara, Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, & Rosario Dawson, amongst many others. The friends reunite for the party, but find that in some ways they have changed dramatically since high school, in other ways they are still holding on to old feuds, loves, and slights from a decade ago. Will old romances rekindle? Will new ones form? Will everyone just get too drunk and pass out? Those are the sort of questions answered by the movie.

As a coming of age story that I saw not long after the time for my own 10 year reunion, I definitely felt I could identify with what a lot of the characters were experiencing as they struggled to adjust to adulthood responsibilities and starting families. All members of the ensemble cast turn in great performances. I think if you are of the age of your late twenties or early thirties that you will enjoy this film. If you fall outside that age range though, this film isn’t really for you. If you have an hour and a half to kill though and want a good quiet film to enjoy, then you’ll probably like this one though and I recommend you check it out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Raid: Redemption

Sometimes I'll check out a movie strictly based on a recommendation from someone whose opinions on films I value. I hope that for you readers I have become one of those people. If so, I strongly encourage the action film lovers among you to go check out The Raid: Redemption immediately.

The Raid: Redemption - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 9 out of 10.

As I said in my intro, I picked up TR:R on a recommendation. The recommendation came from Gordon McAlpin, the genius behind the awesome webcomic Multiplex. And I am very glad I listened to him when it came to checking out this film.

TR:R is an Indonesian action film, so what dialogue there is will need to be read off the screen in subtitles, but there isn't exactly a ton of dialogue anyways in a film like this. The plot is somewhat similar to last year's Dredd (review here) but unlike that future sci-fi dystopia, this film is strictly grounded in realism and real-world physics. The plot is an elite SWAT-like unit of cops is sent to dispatch a crime lord that has taken over a slum building. Unfortunately, they lose the element of surprise, and have to fight their way out of the building or they face certain death.

One of my favorite things about foreign films (and I've said this before) is that since you don't know who the big name actors are, you don't know who is most likely to survive and who is really just a red shirt. That really helps build the tension here, as not all of the twenty men in the SWAT unit survive the day, and it gets so grim for them that at one point you're wondering if anyone will get out alive. As I said, the film is really realistic, and unlike most action flicks with bottomless ammo magazines in our heroes' guns, here both the good and bad guys actually run out of ammo, leading to incredible hand to hand combat scenes.

Overall this film easily has some of the best action sequences and fight choreography that I have ever seen in a movie. The film really dials the HSQ (Holy Sh** Quotient) up to eleven, showing me things I have never seen in a film before. I heard that a sequel is in the works, and I can't wait for that. Oh, and if you are a Linkin Park fan, bandmember Mike Shinoda did the score for the film, and he did a great job with it.

Here's the trailer for the film, if you need more persuading that this is a movie you can't miss!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

PCP in Theaters - The Wolverine

You can tell I've been busy when I saw a movie in theaters awhile ago and it took until now to get the review up onto the blog.  Normally I try and get reviews done for in-theater films up within a couple days of watching the movie, but after I saw The Wolverine on August 2, I was then on vacation for the next week, so I am just now getting around to writing my review of the film.  Sorry for the delay, but at least this is going up while you can still catch the film in theaters!

The Wolverine – 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating:  8.5 out of 10.

The Wolverine picks up some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (thankfully ignoring X-Men Origins: Wolverine), with Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) weary, scruffy, and still dealing with lingering trauma for having had to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in that previous film. An old, dying friend of Logan’s from Japan is wanting to see him before he dies, so the film shifts to Japan after the first couple minutes and remains there for the duration of the film. This gives Wolverine the chance to fight against those ever present enemies in Japanese films: Yakuza thugs & stealthy ninjas. However, something has happened to Wolverine’s healing factor, and he doesn't bounce back from injuries as rapidly as he had in the past, slowing him down and making him more vulnerable.

The plot is far more simple than previous films in the X-Men franchise, with significantly fewer mutants in the film than normal – you can count the number of mutants in this one on one hand. This actually helps out the film a lot, because it allows the focus to remain on Logan without having to do too many standalone scenes for any other characters that show up. And while some comics purists might be rather upset with how they changed the portrayal of the Silver Samurai, among other changes to the comics characters, it didn't bother me that much at all. Really, I was just watching this movie to see Wolverine mix it up with Yakuza and ninjas, and the film did not disappoint here on my end.

The action and fight sequences were outstanding, especially the one on top of a bullet train. Normally fights on top of a train are clichéd, but by doing it atop a super high speed bullet train, and actually paying attention to most of the laws of physics, the sequence was probably the best part of the film. Too bad the weak ending doesn't live up to this great example of awesome from the middle of the film.

Overall though, the film was fun, if you've enjoyed Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine through all of the X-Men films so far, you’ll enjoy this one. Make sure you stay after the credits too for a scene that sets up the next X-movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past quite well, especially if you know what the name Trask Industries means. That scene alone was worth the price of admission to this movie for me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

PCP on DVD - Evil Dead

Most terrifying? Close, but not quite.
The original Evil Dead movies are some of my all time favorite horror films. When I first heard they were doing a remake, I was upset, as I didn't want my memories of the originals tarnished. But then I heard that original director Sam Raimi would be producing this remake, so my fears were somewhat assuaged by his involvement. So, I decided to check the film out and see how they did updating the material.

Evil Dead - 2013, rated R. My rating: 8 out of 10.

The original Evil Dead films starring Bruce Campbell were super-low budget horror films that were both gory and campy at the same time. This version of the film skips all the campiness and plays everything completely straight. The story is the same: a group of teens at a remote cabin in the woods accidentally awaken powerful demonic forces that make their lives hell. This time though the gore is significantly amped up, showing horrifying bodily traumas in extremely brutal detail.

Seriously, just watch the red-band trailer for this film and try not to be horrified by the gore (NSFW).

The film definitely delivers on the scares and gore, and you might wind up watching a lot of this film while cringing. The characters themselves however are rather irritating. Most of them are too dumb to live, especially the moron that activates the spell within the evil book in the first place, but all of them really spend a lot of time being extremely stupid, so in some way I guess their suffering is deserved.

The one nice thing is that the film does not make it clear who will live and who will die. They didn't telegraph anything by naming any of the characters Ash, for example, so you never know who will bite the dust and when, which does add to the tension and suspense. Overall, it is easily one of the better horror films I've seen in the last few years, but unlike the original trilogy I doubt I'll be watching it again any time soon. I think I maybe have gotten too old for this much tortuous gore.

Friday, August 16, 2013

PCP on DVD - For A Good Time Call

I'm wrapping up naughty girls week today with the sex phone line comedy For a Good Time, Call...  Happy Friday everyone and have a great weekend!

For a Good Time, Call... - 2012, rated R. My rating: 6 out of 10.

This film is the story of two roommates, Katie (Ari Graynor) and Lauren (Lauren Miller, who also co-wrote the film). Lauren has to move in with Katie due to the fact that she cannot afford to live in her old apartment after splitting from her boyfriend. When she moves in, she learns that Katie has a second job as a phone sex line operator to make more money. Soon, Lauren is helping her run the business and starts taking calls of her own, and the two frenemies actually become close friends, and discover new things about themselves that improve their lives.

The film is pretty funny in some places, but it is not as funny as I had hoped. There were some great cameos from Seth Rogen (Lauren Miller's real life husband) and Kevin Smith as callers to the girls' sex line. Those parts were probably among the highlights of the film. The film has its raunchy moments, but it could have gone even further and was kind of tame in places, given the subject matter. It's worth a watch if you've got nothing better to do, or haven't yet seen Bridesmaids, but if you miss this indie film you won't be the only one who does.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

PCP on DVD - Spring Breakers

It seems I'm running a theme this week of girls gone bad. Monday was Bachelorette, today is Spring Breakers, the Disney Girls Gone Wild movie.

Spring Breakers - 2013, rated R.  My rating: 4 out of 10.

I call this the Disney Girls Gone Wild movie because it stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, two former Disney stars, as well as Ashley Benson from another Disney network show, Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family. The three of them, plus relative unknown Rachel Korine, travel down to Florida on Spring Break from college. Along the way, they meet up with drug dealer James Franco, start a crime spree, and spend pretty much the entire film in bikinis. I guess they wanted to break their goodie-two-shoes images really badly, in order to make this film.

Overall, the film is really not worth watching. The characters have odd motivations and are really poorly written, with next to no backstory or development. It seems hard to believe they would go from party girls to murderesses in such a short time. Also, the film has the extremely annoying habit of having random gun cocking or gun firing sound effects occur between nearly every scene in the film. I guess it is supposed to be foreboding, but really it's just annoying. Bottom line, unless you have a major obsession with Gomez or Hudgens, there's really no point to this film, and you'd just be wasting an hour and a half of your life.

Monday, August 12, 2013

PCP on DVD - Bachelorette

Hollywood is trying to cash in on the success of Bridesmaids by making films with female casts doing raunchy things usually done by men on screen. Bachelorette is one of those films attempting to ride the Bridesmaids wave. Unfortunately, it falls far short of that excellent film.

Bachelorette - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 6 out of 10

Look at the poster to the left. It looks like the movie is going to be fun, right? It will be non-stop laughs all movie long? Yeah, that poster is extremely deceptive. Bachelorette balances its moments of laughter with moments of heavy drama, including delving into buzzkill topics like date rape, suicide, bulimia, abortion, and overdosing, but not in a humorous way. Yeah, I'd say that's false advertising for the film.

The actresses turn in great performances in the film, but I was left more bummed than tickled having watched this. The story is one of four friends reuniting for the wedding of one of them, Rebel Wilson, the fat one of the group (who is also horribly misued in this film as the non-funny one). The other three friends were the queen bees of their high school. My wife came up with a great analogy for this film: It's like Mean Girls 10 years after high school. Kirsten Dunst is Regina - the queen bee and snooty bitch, Lizzy Caplan is Gretchen but jaded after a personal tragedy (and ironically Caplan was Janis in Mean Girls), and Isla Fisher is super stupid like Karen. But the trio is out of high school now and dealing with life in the real world, and they have to come to terms with the messes that are their lives the night before their friend's wedding.

Overall, the film has its moments, but it was not what I was expecting and I turned off the film feeling disappointed. It was as if the movie didn't know what it wanted to be - a gross-out comedy or a serious melodrama, and it failed trying to combine the two. It should have just chosen one path and stuck with it, it probably would have been a better movie.

Friday, August 9, 2013

PCP on DVD - Movie 43

Awhile back I made my list of the worst film’s I’ve ever seen (link here). If I were to update that list, I’d have a new #1 worst movie ever.

Movie 43 – 2013, rated R.  My rating:  1 out of 10.

Movie 43 is the warped brainchild of a guy who I usually like in comedy, Peter Farrelly. Here, the film is attempting to be a sketch comedy film, like Kentucky Fried Movie, except despite a ridiculous amount of talent involved, is not funny at all. Substituting gross-out gags for any sort of witty writing does not make for a funny movie, not even remotely. The only reason I bothered to see this film is the huge cast of actors I admire, including Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Naomi Watts, Elizabeth Banks, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet, and oh so many more. This movie can easily be listed on their resume’s as the worst film they were ever involved in. Seriously, check out the cast for this film on IMDB here. Or just look at the poster to the right.

I have no idea what the cast was thinking, agreeing to be in this movie. In the final Saturday Night Live this past season, host Ben Affleck joked in a sketch that he always wanted to be involved with a movie worse than Gigli. Too bad he wasn’t in this, he’d have his wish. That line of thought could explain why Halle Berry was in this, to replace Catwoman as her worst film.  Otherwise, maybe Farrelly has some major blackmail dirt on each of them. All I know is that the only thing this movie is good for is the movie trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thanks to the huge cast. Otherwise, this hour and a half abomination of a film should never be watched by anyone ever again. Seriously, if you never saw this, don’t go see it. Trust me. Or, if you don't believe me, check out Richard Roeper's brutal review of this film here: (link) But whatever you do, don't watch this movie!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

PCP on DVD - Jack Reacher

Prior to seeing this film, I had never heard of the character Jack Reacher or read any of the novels by Lee Child that the film was based on. So, I walked into the film with zero preconceptions about the character, which probably helped.

Jack Reacher - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 7 out of 10.

To some people he isn't.

I hadn't really heard too much about this film before it came out, aside from a lot of complaining from fans of the book series that Tom Cruise is the wrong guy for the role. I can definitely sympathize with that feeling, as I mentioned in my Alex Cross review earlier this week, the casting there was terrible. I also hated the casting in the Dirk Pitt movie Sahara a few years back, so I get their complaints, especially since the character of Jack Reacher is supposed to be 6'5" and 250 pounds of solid muscle, something Tom Cruise definitely isn't.

Casting complaints aside, the film is actually a pretty decent movie.  It was definitely a lot better than I thought it would be. The film is based on the novel One Shot, which is the ninth in Lee Child's series of novels. It is about a sniper shooting spree, and Jack Reacher is brought in to get to the truth. Reacher is an investigator, a former military policeman who now wanders the U.S. and sets wrongs to right. He has a connection from his military past to the accused sniper from this shooting, so he is motivated to get to the truth.

For an action movie, this one is very low key and grounded in realism. No sky-high monsters or aliens here, this one takes place in the real world and mostly obeys real world physics. The fight sequences are well done and in one case very funny (in a confined space two characters learn that swinging weapons isn't the best idea), as are the other action sequences and shootouts. The truth behind the shooting is also a good and twisty conspiracy, which heightens the film above just a straight shoot 'em up. Cruise is also actually pretty great in the lead role here, in a performance that reminds me of his incredible role as a hitman in Collateral.

Overall, this film inspired me to go and read the book series from the beginning. As of this writing (in the beginning of July, I'm writing ahead for my blog), I'm reading book # 10 in the series which has 17 books and counting. I've now read One Shot, the book that this film was based on, most recently. I don't have any complaints with how they adapted the book to the film. Basically they streamlined things a little bit, eliminating minor characters to cut down on the film from being bloated.

I'll be adding Lee Child to my list of authors that I read everything they write, that's for sure. The book series is excellent and I highly recommend it to all. On top of the books, the film is pretty good too, so go check it out, especially if you're a fan of Tom Cruise.

Monday, August 5, 2013

PCP on DVD - Alex Cross

The character of Alex Cross, as conceived by James Patterson in his popular book series, is one of my favorite characters. I've read every book in the series, and I am always game for a big screen adaptation. I was curious to see how this film would be, with Tyler Perry taking over the titular role from Morgan Freeman (Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls), not an actor I usually associate with an action film.

Alex Cross - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating:  3 out of 10.

Wow, this movie was weak. It's not as bad as my rating of 3 indicates however. It would have a real rating of 5, were it not for the fact that it ruined the canon of a great character. If this film had been a generic cop thriller by any other name, or were I not familiar with the character of Alex Cross, it would've gotten a 5. However, I have read all of the books in the Alex Cross series. And the character portrayed in this film is not Alex Cross.

Here's a sampling of some of the many ways the film deviated from the canon of the books: 1) It is set in Detroit. Cross grew up in and operates in Washington DC.  2) Cross' best friend and partner in the film, Thomas Kane, is a white guy played by Edward Burns. In the books, his best friend and partner is a 6'8" black man named John Sampson.  3) While he's gone over the line towards questionable ethics in the books before in the name of justice, here Cross goes full on vigilante in the film, which feels like a major departure from the character.  Those three changes are just a small sample of the departures from the book series (I found one website that had 25 differences between the two), but they irked me greatly. Again, had the film had any other sort of title and name for the main character, it would've been a five, because it was a moderately entertaining cop thriller. But since it tarnished the name of a popular character I rather enjoy, I'm downgrading it to a three. Either way, this film isn't particularly that good, so don't waste your time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

PCP on DVD - Les Misérables

Just because I'm a straight male doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good musical. Plus, I try and always eventually watch every Oscar Best Picture nominee, because I figure the film had to be nominated for a reason.

Les Misérables - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 8.5/10.

I have seen Les Mis before in a theater production here in the Chicago area, but it was at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, which is a theater in the round style of stage, so this film adaptation of the Broadway musical didn't really resemble my previous experience with the material. I went in to the film not really knowing what to expect, but I had high hopes for the film given the talented cast, Anne Hathaway's Oscar win, and it was directed by the same director that had just won the Oscar the year before for The King's Speech, Tom Hooper.

Overall the film did not disappoint. The actors all gave great performances especially Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, she deserved her Oscar win.  The younger stars in the film were great as well, some serious talent in the second tier of this film's cast. I had heard bad things about Russell Crowe but his performance was not as bad as I had feared. He was definitely a step up over another actor in a musical adaptation, Pierce Brosnan who was just awful in Mamma Mia. But his singing performances were definitely the weakest of the film. The sets and costumes were extremely well done, it felt like I was in 1830s France believably.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PCP on TV (& in Theaters!) - Sharknado

Some movies are so bad they're good. Movies like this make me wish Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still in production. Sharknado is one of those movies. And remarkably, after airing repeatedly on SyFy in recent weeks, Regal Cinemas is airing midnight showings this week only on August 2nd, so if you missed it on TV, catch it in theaters and laugh along with the crowd at what has to be one of the most ridiculous films ever made.

Sharknado - 2013, rated TV-14.  My rating: 1 out of 10 as a film, 8 out of 10 as a laughable experience.

A massive hurricane is driving towards the California coast, and a huge swarm of sharks is being pushed ahead of the storm. The hurricane causes severe flooding all throughout L.A., and the flood contains lots of sharks. Those cheesy CGI sharks (combined with shots of real sharks in deep water which is clearly ocean footage) go on a rampage, killing scores of L.A. residents in a bloody mess of dismemberment and destruction. The film concludes with the hurricane forming three water spouts, aka tornadoes, which suck up sharks from the water, turning into the super deadly sharknado of the film's title.

A film with as ridiculous a concept as Sharknado cannot be judged fairly on a normal scale, compared to other films. The CGI is cheesy, the acting is awful (although I wasn't expecting much from Tara Reid or Ian Ziering), for a hurricane it stops raining rather frequently, and the plot has holes so wide you could run a sharknado or two through them. So that is why it is an awful film from a film making standpoint.

From a fun experience standpoint though, Sharknado excels. This is the type of film you watch with a bunch of your friends, cold sudsy beverage in hand, and laughing all the way. Sharknado is tailor-made for a MST3K style bashing from the peanut gallery. Thanks to all the reasons why Sharknado sucks as a film, it is that rare piece of entertainment that falls into the category of "so bad it's good."  That label was made for this movie. It is easily one of the lamest, worst movies I've ever seen, yet at the same time it was also a ton of fun.

Overall, I wouldn't necessarily recommend seeing Sharknado in theaters later this week, unless you get a group of your friends to go with you. You're probably much better waiting for SyFy to rerun it for the umpteenth time and instead watching it then with friends for free. Plus, you can't watch it with a beer in hand in most theaters. But it is a film that everyone should see once, just because of how completely ridiculously awful it is, it is something you have to see to believe. Plus, that way you're prepared for the sequel coming next year too!

Monday, July 29, 2013

PCP on DVD - Ted

I'm not a huge Seth MacFarlane fan but I do typically enjoy his work. I'll watch Family Guy if there's nothing else on, but I don't go out of my way to watch it. I did think he did a decent job on the Oscars and SNL last year though, and I usually will watch anything with Mila Kunis in it so I picked up MacFarlane's foray into live action with Ted to give it a whirl.

Ted - 2012, rated R. My rating: 8 out of 10

Ted is the story of a man-child, John (Mark Wahlberg), who wished upon a star as a child, causing his teddy bear Ted to come to life. Ted is voiced by MacFarlane, and he is foul mouthed, crass, and a heavy pot user, and he drags John down to his level. Mila Kunis plays John's fed up girlfriend, Lori, who is sick of Ted's antics.

One of the funniest things about Family Guy is their off-beat pop culture references. Ted definitely channels MacFarlane's obsession with arcane pop culture, with Flash Gordon being a recurring element of this film. Unlike Family Guy, Ted actually has a rather coherent plot and it doesn't jump all over the place with crazy tangents, which helps with the movie's flow.

The movie is somewhat predictable, like so many romantic comedies - the woman wants the man in the relationship to grow up and be more responsible, but the man just wants to keep having fun. But despite its predictability, Ted works as a film. It works because it is absolutely hysterical, and it works because at its core it has a lot of heart. The relationship between Ted and John is fully realized and developed in depth, even though one of the two is a plush animal come to life. The side plot with a creepy father and son duo that want to kidnap Ted is entertaining as well, thanks to the dad's portrayal by Giovanni Ribisi.

Overall, if you were one of the few people that didn't see this movie last year (not many missed it, as it was the highest grossing original R rated comedy of all time), then I strongly encourage you to check it out. It was a lot better than I expected it to be, and it cracked me up repeatedly.

Friday, July 26, 2013

PCP on DVD - Skyfall

James Bond returned (finally, after a 4 year hiatus due to MGM's financial woes) to the big screen last year with Skyfall, the third Bond film starring Daniel Craig. I've always loved a good bond movie, and although Quantum of Solace was disappointing, Casino Royale was one of the best Bond movies, so I went in to Skyfall with high hopes that the franchise would redeem itself.

Skyfall - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating:  8.5 out of 10.

Skyfall is somewhat unique amongst Bond films, as this one is directed by an Academy Award winning director in Sam Mendes. To my knowledge (although I could be wrong) this is the first time that an Oscar Winner is directing a Bond film. In fact, Skyfall has a lot of Oscar cred, with Oscar winners Judi Dench & Javier Bardem, as well as two time nominee Ralph Fiennes and five time nominee Albert Finney in the cast supporting Daniel Craig. Skyfall itself took home 2 Oscars this year (best original song and best sound editing) out of its 5 nominations. So this Bond film is not like a lot of its predecessors, this one is far more serious and filled with much better acting than any prior film in the franchise.

Bond has to fight against a threat from M's past, a super creepy Javier Bardem. Seeing him here reminds me just how much I need to go and see No Country for Old Men when I have some free time. Bardem is trying to take down MI6 and take out M herself in a massive plot of revenge. It is up to Bond to stop him.

Just like the two previous Daniel Craig 007 movies, Skyfall is far more grounded in realism than some of the goofier earlier entries in the franchise. Wounds have consequences that the characters have to deal with, and not every one of the mooks' bullets miss their targets. In addition to the realism, the film is gorgeously shot, with a lot of scenery porn, especially in the scenes set in Scotland.

Overall, Skyfall was a great movie, and one of the top Bond films ever. It definitely restored the franchise to rights after the disappointing Quantum of Solace, and I can't wait for the fourth Daniel Craig 007 film, as well as seeing where the series goes from there whenever he's ultimately replaced by yet another actor.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

PCP in Theaters - Pacific Rim

Back at the start of the summer, I had highlighted Pacific Rim on my summer movie preview as one I really wanted to see in theaters. I got that chance last week. Despite mixed reviews and a disappointing opening weekend box office, I did not come away disappointed with the film itself.

Today we are facing the monsters at our door. Today we are cancelling the apocalypse! - Stacker Pentecost.

Pacific Rim - 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating: 8 out of 10.

Pacific Rim is an alien invasion story set not too far into the future. A rift between our dimension and another dimension has opened at the bottom of the ocean. A giant monster, called a Kaiju, has come through that rift, and lays waste to San Francisco. It takes our conventional military six days to take down the monster. Then more monsters come through the portal, laying waste to other cities along the Pacific Ocean. So the governments of the world build giant robots, called Jaegers, to fight the continuing appearances of the Kaiju.

The war between the forces of humanity and the endless onslaught of Kaiju has been going on for years when the film starts, and the war is not going too well for us. The last few Jaegers, under the command of Stacker Pentecost, have a plan to stop the Kaiju once and for all. If they're not already too late...

Continue with the review after the jump -->

Monday, July 22, 2013

PCP on the Page & on DVD - Savages

When I first saw the trailers for Savages last year, I was excited to see the film. Oliver Stone directing a violent action movie? One that reminds me of Natural Born Killers? Sign me up! Then I found out it was based on a book, so I decided to read the book and watch the film, and do a comparison review for the first time here on the blog.

Savages - by Don Winslow.  2010.  320 pages.  My rating:  A.

Savages is a crime thriller from Don Winslow, an author I had never heard of before learning about the film being made on his work. Having read the book, I am glad that I read it. He has an extremely unique narrative style, changing up the formatting of the chapters between traditional narration and more interesting forms of writing. For example, characters imagine what the scene would be like as an email, or as a screenplay for Hollywood. It is not a narrative format that I have seen before, but it worked with the source material here, making the story come to life very vividly. The story is about a pair of pot growers and dealers in California, Ben & Chon, who have a Mexican cartel encroach on their turf to violent ends. Their girlfriend (it's complicated) is kidnapped to try and force them to sell out to the cartel, and the two retaliate in a series of raids to raise money to pay her ransom. Of course though, things are far more suspenseful and intense than I could hope to describe here. It is a crackling read, and at only 320 pages it is also a very fast read. I highly recommend this book to all.

Savages - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

Unlike the book, I cannot recommend the film as strongly. Despite having a stellar cast, including John Travolta, Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, and one of my all time favorite actresses in Salma Hayek, the film just doesn't crackle with as much life and wit as the book. The film also has a lot less action, condensing multiple raids against the cartel into just one shown on the screen. The film also changes the ending from the book, probably to appease the Hollywood studio bankrolling the film. In fact, the book's original ending is filmed as an ending in the movie, and then the movie goes and pulls the "it was just a dream/vision" stunt and then shows us the Hollywood ending. I like the book's ending better, plus a lot of the best parts of the book just don't translate well to the silver screen.

Overall my recommendation is to skip the movie and just go read the book. You'll enjoy it a lot more. The movie isn't terrible, so if you will never read the book, then go watch the movie, you'll have fun. But if you read the book first, you will likely be disappointed by the film, as I was. I probably would have given the film a 7 instead of a 6 had I not read the book first.

Friday, July 19, 2013

PCP on DVD - Dredd

Judge Dredd is an extremely dark and violent comic book, or so I've been told, having never read the source material. I also never saw the reportedly awful Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone back in the 1990s. But I was willing to give this version of the film a shot, based on the fact that I like Karl Urban, and frankly I didn't have anything else rented worth watching at the time.

Dredd - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

As mentioned, Dredd stars Karl Urban in the title role. You wouldn't know it, however, as you never see Urban's face without his helmet once during the entire film. In fact, for all of the Judges, the only one to go without a helmet is the rookie that Dredd is in the field with, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), because she has psychic powers and the helmet interferes with them.

The film is set far in the future, in a post-apocalyptic future where society as we know it today has completely broken down, thanks to nuclear wars. The Judges oversee the population of Mega City One, a sprawling metropolis that spans from Boston to Washington D.C., according to Dredd's opening narration. It is a sprawling hellhole of 800 million inhabitants, with thousands of violent crimes occurring daily. The police force known as the Judges have the power of police, judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one package. And as the opening chase sequence shows us, Dredd is not shy about using his authority to kill criminals guilty of serious crimes.

Dredd is tasked with taking Anderson out in the field with him, to assess whether or not she will make a good Judge. Along the way, they wind up getting stuck inside a 200 story tenement building controlled by drug kingpin Ma-Ma (played by a nearly unrecognizable Lena Headey, aka Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones). Ma-Ma has plans for expanding production of the latest drug, Slo-Mo, and she doesn't want the Judges to interfere. So, she basically throws everything she has at Dredd and Anderson in the hopes of taking the Judges out.

Visually, the film is gorgeous, but the slow motion shots get annoying after awhile. They get used every time a character is shown taking the drug Slo-Mo, which apparently makes your brain feel like time is passing at 1% of normal speed. Really, it's just an excuse to justify slow motion shots that look cool in 3D for the film's theatrical release. But fortunately, the slow motion scenes happen only a handful of times, and they don't bog down the film too much.

I definitely am getting old, because me 10 years ago would have loved this ultra violent film. I give it a 6, as a 31 year old. 21 year old me would've given this an 8. The action sequences are great, but the plot is straightforward and predictable. But if you're looking for plot in a film like this, you're watching the wrong movie. As action flicks go, this one is serviceable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PCP on DVD - Rock of Ages

I'm a sucker for 80's hair metal, so a movie musical based on that era's music is something I wanted to see. Unfortunately, there are plenty of better jukebox musicals out there (both on screen and in live theater), and this movie was a disappointment. I have not seen the stage musical, so I don't know if it is better or worse than this film, but the film version was a disappointment.

Rock of Ages - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

The movie is set in the 80's in Los Angeles' rock and roll club scene, and features a ton of great 80's music, including tracks made famous by Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Journey, Poison, & many more. The film's take on these rock hits is cheesy in some places, but highly entertaining in others, especially when Tom Cruise takes the mic as rock star Stacee Jaxx.

The plot has a couple overlapping storylines, but primarily revolves around the small town girl that comes to L.A. to follow her dreams, and how easy it is to lose yourself and lose your way in the music industry in the pursuit of fame and glory.

Rock of Ages has a great supporting cast, including Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, and Alec Baldwin. Too bad the leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, have poor chemistry and also lack the gravitas to carry this film. They're not bad singers at least, so there's not someone like Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia sucking the life out of every musical number with his terrible singing voice.

Despite how much fun 80's music can be, the film isn't as much fun as it should be. Honestly, you're probably better throwing on an 80's channel on Pandora and singing along with that channel than you would be watching this movie. You'd definitely have more fun. Really the only thing saving this film from catastrophe is Tom Cruise's performance. He's the best thing about this movie, and pretty much the only reason to watch this film.

Monday, July 15, 2013

PCP on DVD - Magic Mike

Sometimes I have to watch a movie that I don't particularly want to watch. A movie about male strippers usually tops this list. However, I knew that a) I'd be able to write a review of this for my blog, so yay - more content and b) this one is a good IOU movie to my wife since she has to put up with crappy action movies that she hates (plus she totally loves Channing Tatum), so it's a win-win. At least I got to watch this at home on DVD and wasn't forced to watch this in theaters.

Magic Mike - 2012, rated R. My rating: 8 out of 10.

For a movie about male strippers, it turns out that Magic Mike was actually a lot more bearable than I expected. In fact, outside of the stripping sequences that I as a hetero male did not appreciate, the film was actually downright good. This is probably mostly due to the fact that the film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, a pretty damn good director. Also, aside from lots of buttocks, there is not much in the way of nudity, there is no full frontal from Tatum or any of the other strippers (fortunately), plus Olivia Munn is topless in the film too, which was a nice surprise.

The film tells the story of Mike (Tatum), a stripper who has dreams of getting out of the stripping business and opening his own professional company building handmade furniture. But he is stuck for now working for club manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a shady businessman who wants to expand his strip club business. Mike takes under his wing a young man, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and shows him the ropes of the skin business because he sees something in Adam, and also he wants to get in Adam's sister's pants. But Adam turns to the dark side of the skin industry in a hurry, getting into trouble with drugs and falling in with the wrong crowd, and Mike needs to save his bacon.

The film is your typical underdog story that just happens to be set in a strip club. Soderbergh does a great job with the plot sequences, and the actors themselves do a pretty impressive job with the dance sequences. Seriously, I wish I had half of Tatum's moves (but it's not surprising that he can dance, he was in Step Up, and he used to be a stripper before he was an actor). Anyways, unlike the other two movies I've seen about the skin industry, Showgirls and Striptease, Magic Mike is something those two films aren't: an actual good movie. Not a movie I'll ever watch again in my life, but it wasn't as bad as I feared either.

Basically guys - if you're in the doghouse with your lady friend, buy her this movie, and you just might get back in her good graces. And if she forces you to watch it with her, don't worry, it's nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

Friday, July 12, 2013

PCP on DVD - Dark Shadows

I had never seen any original episodes of the old TV show Dark Shadows. So, coming in to this film, I had no preconceptions as to what the plot or characters were supposed to be or how they were supposed to behave. So keep that in mind as my review would likely be different if I was more familiar with the source material. (For example, in my review of Alex Cross, I dinged it 2 points for massively deviating from the source material).

Dark Shadows - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Gee, a movie directed by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp as a weirdo character. Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, every Tim Burton movie ever. Also starring in the film is Helena Bonham Carter, another frequent Burton collaborator (as well as his real-life significant other). The two of them (Depp & HBC) play oddballs here, just like they do in pretty much every Burton film ever. Seriously people, branch out and do something different for a change!

Aside from my gripes about those two, who are actually enjoyable to watch despite the fact they keep playing variants on the same character, the rest of the cast is pretty solid, especially former Bond girl Eva Green as a villainous witch and Kick-Ass star Chole Grace Moretz as a bratty teen descendant of Depp's character.

As the previews gave away, Depp is a vampire from the 1700s who is freed from imprisonment in the 1970s and has to deal with massive culture shock. Some of those jokes are quite funny, especially a few good ones about cameo rock star Alice Cooper. He has to restore his dysfunctional family to their former glory, while fighting off the immortal witch that cursed him with vampirism in the first place.

The film has its moments, and has the usual grand Tim Burton visual flair, but the film also has plenty of hollow moments and dull spots as well. Those come in especially when the movie has to do an exposition dump to explain a character's history or actions, which drags down its overall score. It leaves open a possibility of a sequel, but I doubt the film did well enough at the box office for that to get greenlit. Too bad, because having gotten the characters' backstories out of the way, a sequel to this film could have actually been pretty good.

Bottom line: if you are a Depp or Burton fanatic, you've probably already seen this film. If you're not, it's serviceable but there are better vampire movies out there than this one.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Raven

Edgar Allen Poe was one of the first poets and first horror writers I read when I was growing up. I still have in my book collection a copy of his complete works that I peruse from time to time. So a mystery thriller based on his work starring John Cusack as Poe? Sure, I'll give that a shot.

The Raven - 2012, rated R.  My rating:  6 out of 10.

The Raven is a story set in the waning days of Poe's life. Someone is murdering people using methods described in some of Poe's writings, and the police call him in to consult (after first thinking he is a suspect). If that plot sounds familiar, it is because that is basically the plot of the pilot episode of the TV show Castle.

Cusack is a good Poe, he is probably one of the best things of this film. Visually, the film is gorgeous, but it is also somewhat boring and dull in places as well. The resolution of the film is not as satisfying as it could have been either.

Overall, the film is pretty middle of the road average. You wouldn't have missed anything by missing this film. But if you like Cusack (like I do) then give the film a shot because he does his best to redeem it here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Lorax

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is a classic fable about the dangers of environmental destruction in the name of greed. The hour long animated movie version from the 70's is still shown in schools today as a teaching lesson. The modern update is more of a corporate cash-in, ironically, given how it was used in advertising for a number of real-life corporations.

The Lorax - 2012, rated PG. My rating: 6 out of 10.

The new version of The Lorax features more musical numbers (which makes sense given stars Zac Efron and Taylor Swift) than the original, but despite the flashiness of the updated animation, the film feels hollow and empty. Unlike many animated films, there is also less here for adults than for kids.

While the film still has the message of environmentalism is good and corporate greed and destruction of the environment is bad, the film just lacks a lot of the heart and joy of Seuss' original work. I'll still show this to my son Jackson when he gets older, but I'll make sure to show him the classic 70's version first.