Friday, May 31, 2013

PCP on DVD - Bel Ami

My wife loves films set in the past, especially historical romances like Pride & Prejudice.  This caused us to pick up the film Bel Ami to see if it was any good.  With a promising cast including Uma Thurman & Christina Ricci, I held out hope that the film wouldn't be a waste of 102 minutes.  Too bad my hopes were mostly dashed.

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

Bel Ami is apparently a film adaptation of a famous French novel from 1885 (something I didn't know until researching for this review).  It is the story of a former soldier, Georges (Robert Pattinson), who lusts for more in his life than his low station due to his poor birth.  He decides to improve his lot in life, which he does by sleeping his way to the top, taking on a number of rich and powerful women as his mistresses, especially Ricci & Thurman.  Along the way though he is exposed as the conniving schmuck he is, a man with absolutely no morals or compassion for the women he is using.

The film itself has the great period costumes of the turn of the century, and the cast looks great in the well-crafted clothes.  Pattinson shows that he actually does have some acting talent when not weighed down by the crap that is Twilight.  Unfortunately, the film itself is just rather dull.  It is extremely hard to root for his character, you actually want to see him fail, not succeed, yet he keeps moving up in the world and becomes a bigger and bigger douche the more power he gains.  This film can be skipped by most people unless you are really a big Twihard or just love period piece films.  It wasn't the biggest waste of time I've had this year, but it really isn't anything to write home about either.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

PCP in Theaters - Star Trek Into Darkness

I finally got a chance to catch a film in theaters for the first time since last December's The Hobbit. Although I haven't yet seen Iron Man 3, I wanted to see the movie that I was most looking forward to for this summer, Star Trek Into Darkness. Fortunately, I was not disappointed in the film at all.

Star Trek Into Darkness - 2013, rated PG-13.  My rating: 9 out of 10.

I've always been more of a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan, but I was never really a fan of the original series growing up, as I grew up on Star Trek TNG and DS9. I'd seen some of the episodes of the show, but not the entire runs of the series like I had with the latter two franchises. But when JJ Abrams rebooted the original series in 2009, I fell in love with this new Star Trek universe. By having the universe be an alternate reality from the Trek-verse I grew up on, it allows for new adventures and new possibilities without damaging the canon of the universe too greatly. While there are some fanboys that will never forgive JJ for this, I personally thought it was a great idea and a brilliant way to inject new life into a franchise that had somewhat run its course.

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up 6 months after the previous film, meaning it still technically takes place in a time prior to the events of the original series, as the Enterprise has still not yet begun it's 5 year mission of deep space exploration. The film jumps right into the action, with a tense sequence set on a planet with an erupting volcano, and the crew of the Enterprise having to save a stone-age civilization from the eruption. Unfortunately, they violate the Prime Directive in the process (don't interfere with pre-warp travel species), causing Kirk to get busted back down to first officer and Admiral Pike retakes command of the Enterprise back on Earth.

While there, a bomb goes off in London at a Starfleet Office, followed up by an attack on Star Fleet HQ in San Francisco, terrorist acts perpetrated by a rogue Starfleet officer named John Harrison, played excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch. Kirk & the Enterprise are tasked by Starfleet's Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to track down Harrison and take him out. But things are not everything that they seem, and along the way the Enterprise will face its toughest challenges ever.  I'd say more about the plot here but I don't want to get into spoilers now. At the bottom of the post I will discuss the plot in more detail, but for those that haven't seen the film yet I do not want to give anything away.

Overall though the film is a ton of fun. The reboot cast is all excellent, and each has their moment to shine, whether it's Sulu briefly taking the captain's chair and issuing a great threat against Harrison, McCoy's sarcastic quips, Uhura's badassery, Scotty's funny antics, or Chekov's heroic actions in engineering. But the core focus is as always on Spock & Kirk and their relationship, which is deepened here greatly. Chris Pine & Zachary Quinto play off each other very well, and as long as the two of them continue to star as the leads in this series, I will always be there in theaters to watch them. The action in this film is relatively non-stop as well, with a ton of great action setpieces. The quiet moments are great too, developing the relationships between the crew, and allowing Cumberbatch to use his baritone voice to great menacing effect.

Bottom line, I strongly recommend this film to all, it is a perfect summer movie - big spectacle but a big heart as well. Go forth and have fun!

After the jump --> my thoughts on the film with spoilers on the plot, so stop reading here if you don't want to know the plot twists.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

PCP on DVD - Wanderlust

Some times I will pick up a film just because I like who is in the movie, without really knowing anything about the film.  In some cases, I pick up a great film that I missed.  In other cases, I pick up a dud that I wish I had missed.  Wanderlust is closer to the latter category than the former.

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

I picked up Wanderlust because I like Paul Rudd a lot, and Jennifer Aniston can be good in some roles as well.  The film is the story of two New Yorkers who through a series of unfortunate events wind up spending some time living on a hippie commune.  The film has a few laughs and some heartwarming moments between Aniston and Rudd, but in general the film relies way too much on stereotypical hippie jokes, without a lot of originality.  Only the charisma of the stars as well as the great supporting cast (Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, & Alan Alda, amongst many) save the film from being a total disaster.  As it is though, the film is only so-so, and nothing particular to write home about.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PCP on DVD - Project X

Continuing my run of low budget indie films here at the blog, today I take on the party film and probable new cult classic Project X.

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

This movie looks like it was a ton of fun to film.  If filming the party was half as fun as the party turned out in the movie, it would've been a blast to be an extra in this production.

Project X is trying very hard to top Superbad, and it steals a lot of it's plot:  3 nerdy kids try to throw the ultimate party to make themselves cooler in the eyes of their peers.  The primary differences between Superbad and Project X is that Superbad is significantly funnier and the characters have far more heart.  Here they are kind of abrasive, especially the character of Costa, who's kind of a douche. Also, Project X is shot first-person style, like a number of other movies lately (Cloverfield, Chronicle, & many others).

I must be getting old because I didn't like how the film glorified drug use as much as it did. I think it's perfectly possible to have an epic party with just booze without having to bust out ecstasy as well.  The party itself was well shot and looks like it was a ton of fun (as I mentioned earlier) but the film itself is kind of hollow - it's a party movie without a movie, it's just a party.  The plot is super shallow, the characters are more like caricatures, and the acting is sub-par.  The only saving grace of the film is that the party is so epic, you stay tuned to see how it will escalate next.

I'm glad I saw the film, but it won't be getting added to my DVD collection because I don't really see myself seeing the movie a 2nd time.  It seems like a one-time thing for me.  I guess I'm old now.  Now get off my lawn!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

No new real blog post today. In honor of Memorial Day I just want to say thanks to all who have served in our armed forces, or have family that have served. Thank you for your sacrifices that allow us Americans to have the freedoms that we have, like our freedom of speech, or even the freedom to go on an unregulated and uncensored internet so we can be bloggers and speak our minds. Have a great and safe holiday everyone!

Friday, May 24, 2013

PCP on DVD - Friends with Kids

I'm apparently on a small indie film streak here at the blog, with reviews of Perfect Sense and Young Adult this week, today it is Friends with Kids getting the DVD review treatment.

Friends with Kids - 2011, rated R.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

Friends with Kids is an indie rom-com from writer/director/star Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), along with an outstanding comedic supporting cast including Maya Rudolph (SNL, Up All Night, Bridesmaids); Adam Scott (Parks & Rec); Jon Hamm (SNL frequent host, Bridesmaids), & Kristen Wiig (SNL, Bridesmaids).

The plot centers around 3 couples:  Wiig & Hamm, Rudolph & Chris O'Dowd, & platonic BFFs Westfeldt and Scott.  The first two couples already have kids, and Westfeldt wants kids but can't find a good man to have them with.  So she turns to her BFF to have a child without all the attachments of a relationship to get in the way.  The other two couples think this is a horrible idea for obvious reasons, but Scott & Westfeldt are able to pull it off despite their friends' fears.  In typical, predictable rom-com fashion, you can guess what is going to happen between the two platonic friends by the end of the film.

Just because it is predictable though doesn't mean it isn't funny.  The film has a number of laugh out loud moments, as well as a ton of heart.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but it has some shortcomings in terms of predictability, and some of the dialogue can be a little clunky.  For the most part though the good overcomes the bad, and I do recommend the movie to all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PCP on DVD - Perfect Sense

Continuing my habit of renting indie films on a whim sometimes when they catch my eye (like Attack the Block, amongst many others), this time I picked up Perfect Sense, an indie from the U.K. starring Ewan "Obi-wan Kenobi" McGregor and Eva "Bond Girl Vesper" Green.  Perfect Sense is a true indie film - low budget, no special effects, slow pacing, heavy on the drama, and a unique quirky premise.

Perfect Sense - 2011, rated R.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

Perfect Sense is a very unique love story, as it is a love story set in the midst of a chaotic global pandemic.  And this isn't an ordinary pandemic either, but a world changing event unlike anything ever captured on film.

Green is an epidemiologist trying to fight the pandemic, and McGregor is her love interest, a chef who she turns to for comfort as the world falls apart.  

And fall apart the world does, in stages.  The mysterious epidemic, that can't be identified or fought by scientists with any success, starts robbing people of their senses, one sense at a time.  The film shows what happens as people around the world lose their sense, how the people adapt to the new reality, and then how life goes on (if it can) after each sensory deprivation.  By the time the film progresses to where the characters lose their ability to hear, the film goes completely silent for the remainder of the film, immersing the viewer into the soundless world.

It is a very interesting, slow moving apocalypse, and at the center of the story is how the two characters turn towards each other more and more tightly to deal with the world as it falls apart around them, ultimately leaving them in a world where all they have is touching each other, the perfect sense of the title.

If you like quirky indie romantic films, then check this one out.  It is definitely interesting.  There aren't a lot of films like it, that's for sure.

Monday, May 20, 2013

PCP on DVD - Young Adult

Is it possible to really like an actress' performance in a film without particularly liking the film itself?  The answer to that question is yes, proven here in Young Adult.

Young Adult - 2011, Rated R.  My rating:  6 out of 10.

Young Adult is the story of Charlize Theron's character being stuck in immaturity.  She was the queen of her high school, and got out of her podunk town to make it in Minneapolis as a writer of teen fiction novels.  Because of both her career and also her own being stuck in the past, she is extremely immature and selfish, despite being in her late 30s.  As a character study the film is great and Theron turns in an outstanding, fearless performance.  Her role in this film is so unlike all of her prior roles.  Between this and Snow White & The Huntsman, it is great to see Theron show she actually has some amazing acting range.  Patton Oswalt is also outstanding as the voice of reason for Theron's character, one of her classmates that had been on the social outside looking in on the popular crowd that Theron was a part of in high school. 

Aside from the great acting and the witty dialogue from writer Diablo Cody (Juno), I think my problem with this film stemmed from the fact that it was extremely bleak.  Since we are seeing a character who is stuck in their life and going through a downward spiral, it isn't exactly what you would call a fun movie, despite being marketed as a comedy.  It is much more of a black comedy, and I personally just haven't really liked too many of those.  That's why I gave this movie a six out of ten, because the overall mood and tone of the film just proved to be too much of a buzzkill to overcome the outstanding performances on the screen.  It's still worth watching though, just for Theron's performance.  Hopefully you'll like the film better than I did.

Friday, May 17, 2013

PCP on DVD - Lockout

I've always enjoyed watching Guy Pearce as an actor, he's turned in some of my favorite performances in the past, especially in Memento and L.A. Confidential - two of my favorite movies of the past 15 years.  I've never really seen him as an action star however.  In Lockout, he tries to become one and he relatively succeeds. 

Lockout - 2012, rated PG-13 (though I watched the unrated version).  My rating:  6 out of 10.

I feel like I've seen this movie before.  Let me think on the plot... former government operative turned convict has to go and rescue a member of the First Family from a fortified maximum security prison environment.  Hmm...where have I heard this one before?  Oh yeah, when it was called Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.  This film might as well have been titled Escape from Space.  Guy Pearce stars as Snow, the alternate version of Snake Plissken from the Escape films.  He has more snark to him than Snake though, and his lines in the film are funny and entertaining.  He has to infiltrate the space station prison that has had a prisoner uprising in order to rescue the President's daughter, played by Maggie Grace.

The film is pretty straightforward and predictable, and some of the characters are too dumb to live (and don't) but at least it pulls off its action sequences well.  Pearce handles himself better in the actions sequences than I would have expected, so maybe he'll have a second career as an action star similar to Liam Neeson.  Overall, the film is okay, nothing spectacular but nothing terrible either.  It butchers physics however, so science nerds will hate this movie.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

POS on the Page - Bailout by Neil Barofsky

So in my MBA program, we were discussing the sorry state of the economy and who is to blame for the mess our country still is in, 6 years after the housing bubble burst and wrecked things. This book came up in the conversation as a great read, so having read it I thought I'd share my thoughts.

Bailout by Neil Barofsky.  My recommendation: Must Read!

Bailout is an inside account of the TARP program and what went on within the Treasury Department in the waning months of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama one. The author, Neil Barofsky, has a unique insiders perspective as to what went on in that time. He was appointed to be the Special Inspector General in charge of Oversight of TARP, aka SIGTARP. In his role as SIGTARP, he was supposed to monitor how Treasury was using TARP monies to help the economy and to protect the money from fraud. During his time in DC, he saw how programs ostensibly designed to help those of us down on Main Street instead wound up helping Wall Street while screwing over the rest of us.

This book will make you angry, very angry, at the massive incompetence and blatant asskissing of Wall Street by those in power in DC. It makes me want to grab a torch and pitchfork and form a mob to storm the Treasury in protest and outrage. The book pulls no punches, and regardless of your political affiliation you have to read this book. Just like I recommended the works of Matt Taibbi in a post a while back (which you can read here), I absolutely recommend this book for all to read. (Additionally, you can read Taibbi's thoughts on the book at this link here). It really helps to explain the financial crisis in clear terms, and it also makes you realize how another financial crisis wrecking the economy is not a matter of if but when, thanks to the government's continued worshiping of Wall Street.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PCP on DVD - Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises is an older movie that I'd always wanted to watch.  It narrowly missed being on my list of 15 movies I'm embarrassed to have not seen, but it was something that I'd always wanted to watch.  My wife is not a fan of gangster movies however, so I had to wait until I was home on a sick day with my son to finally catch this one on DVD. Even though the plot twist had previously been spoiled for me, it was still worth the wait.

Eastern Promises - 2007, rated R.  My rating:  9 out of 10.

Eastern Promises is a story about a mafia that is very rarely the focus of gangster films, the Russian mob.  It is a complex character study about the rise of a low level mobster, Viggo Mortensen, the right hand man to a powerful London mob boss' son (Vincent Cassel), up the food chain of the Russian mob.  He crosses paths with a nurse, Naomi Watts, who has obtained evidence that can be potentially very damaging to the mob boss, evidence that is so hot it is very hazardous to her health.

I don't want to discuss the plot more because I do not want to give away the twist in the final act of the film, one that turns the whole film up to that point completely on its head.  Suffice it to say, it was a pretty good whammy that I probably wouldn't have seen coming had I not had it spoiled for me previously.  The film is so good though, the acting performances so excellent, that even though it was spoiled for me I still enjoyed the film very much.  Mortensen's Golden Globe nominated performance seriously delivers, it is probably the best role he's ever had.  His mobster is downright chilling in his undercurrents of malice, and his tattoos (as seen partially on the poster) are very intimidating.  His performance makes the film, and without it the film would be rated far lower.

A funny story from filming: one day Mortensen went to a London Russian bar after filming without going through the makeup process to remove his tattoos.  The place apparently grew very silent, as his tattoos spell out his character's criminal history to those that know their meanings, and there were many in the restaurant/bar that were frightened by his presence until he explained who he really was.

Anyways, if you like great acting performances, mobster movies, movies with twist endings, or have ever wondered what Viggo Mortensen looked like naked, then go see this movie, it is not to be missed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors.  Seven and Fight Club are two of the best movies of the 90s, and his last film The Social Network was outstanding (my review here).  He is great at doing dark and twisted films, and also great at getting excellent performances out of his actors.  So even though I had already seen the Swedish version of this movie (my review here), I was excited to see his take on the franchise.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 2011, rated R.  My rating:  8 out of 10. 

I really wanted to love this take on TGWTDT.  I did like it, but I found myself continuously comparing it to the Swedish version.  Also, having seen the Swedish version, I already knew who the killer was going to wind up being, (I never read the books), so that took some of the suspense out of the film.  Also, I mentioned in my review of the Swedish version of the film that not having familiar faces increases the suspense because you have no idea who the killer may be. Knowing who the killer was here killed a lot of the tension, so perhaps I would have liked this movie better had I not seen the Swedish version first and been comparing it to this one at every turn.

This version of TGWTDT is pretty good though, and if you haven't read the books or seen the Swedish versions, I do recommend it.  Fincher again isn't afraid to go dark on the film, showing some rape sequences that are horrifyingly brutal. Relative newcomer Rooney Mara is outstanding in the titular role, coming very darn close to if not surpassing at times the take by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version.  All in all though, this film is good albeit bleak and depressing due to the violence and stark nature of the subject material.  The movie is definitely worth checking out, but not on a date night, that's for sure!

Monday, May 13, 2013

PCP in Theaters - Summer Movie Preview

Alright, my blog is finally back from hiatus, so thank you for your patience.  To reward you for coming back, here's a great long post to kick off my summer blogging season.

With the release of Iron Man 3 two weeks ago, it's official, summer movie season is here. So, in the spirit of my fall TV preview posts, I bring you my first ever summer movie preview. I'm going to break the films down into one of three categories:  those I want to see in theaters - i.e. the blockbusters that I am most excited for; those that can wait until home video; and those I'll pass on altogether. Unfortunately I don't have the time or the money to see all of the ones in theaters that I want to see, but whenever I do see one of them I'll be posting a review ASAP.

Disagree with where I put something? Let me know in the comments!

Formatting note:  All dates listed are the Friday of the week they are released, according to the upcoming releases tracker on I'm sure many of these will be moved around to Wednesday or Thursday releases, but for simplicity's sake I'm just putting the Friday date.

In Theaters movies: (So many blockbusters, so little time. I just hope all of these are good and not a waste of time and money.)
  • Iron Man 3 (May 3) - RDJ is the man, best hero in the Marvel film stable at the moment. Can't wait for this one, it has to be better than Iron Man 2.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17) - The Star Trek reboot is my favorite version of Trek. I can't wait to see what JJ Abrams does with the sequel.
  • Fast & Furious 6 (May 24) - The 5th film in the series was the best since the first, so I can't wait to see where they go with #6. As a car nut this series is like manna from heaven for me.
  • After Earth (June 7) - Will & Jaden Smith's sci-fi action flick looks like it could be really good. Plus, Will Smith is the king of summer action movies, so count me in. On the other hand, this film might be dropped down to the watch at home category, considering it is directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who hasn't had a good film in more than a decade.
  • Man of Steel (June 14) - A Superman reboot produced by the Dark Knight's Christopher Nolan? Yes please. If this movie is any good, we might get a Justice League film before long.
  • World War Z (June 21) - The film looks promising, even if zombies are supposed to be slow. Even in the source book (a great read) this is based on, they're slow. Why did they have to speed them up?
  • Pacific Rim (July 12) - Skyscraper sized giant robots fighting giant monsters? Directed by Guillermo del Toro? Oh yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun. Even if it's bad, it'll still be awesome.
  • The Wolverine (July 26) - Hugh Jackman once again dons the claws in a standalone film outside of the X-Men franchise. Should be pretty good.
  • Elysium (August 9) - Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley, this sci-fi story from District 9 writer/directer Neill Blomkamp looks like it has a ton of potential. District 9 took me by surprise when it came out for being unexpectedly awesome. Let's hope lightning strikes twice!
After the jump - see what movies didn't make the must-see list!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blog returns with a bang next week!

Thank you to everyone for your patience during my extended hiatus thanks to grad school.  With the completion of finals yesterday, I can now resume blogging on a more regular basis.  And a regular basis it will be.  I've got a bunch of posts already written that have been sitting waiting to go live to the blog for about half of a year now, so check back next week for a slew of new posts coming!  There will be fresh content on the blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30 AM through the summer until grad school picks up again in the fall, and possibly I might add in some bonus stuff at other times as well, so keep coming back all summer long!  Next week has 5 posts coming for sure, including my summer movie preview.  Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by today!