Friday, June 28, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Darkest Hour

Survivor horror and alien invasion films are very common.  It is hard to bring something new to the field of alien invasion movies, but The Darkest Hour at least comes up with some nifty new aliens for their invasion, so I figured I'd give this film a shot.  Turns out I wasted my time.

The Darkest Hour - 2011, rated PG-13.  My rating:  4 out of 10.

Pretty much the only original thing about this movie is the design of the aliens.  Everything else has been done better before.  Aliens show up, start killing almost everyone in their path, and humanity has to find a way to fight back before we are all wiped out.  It is a standard alien invasion plot, but it usually works better if we actually care about the characters.  Here they are just so one dimensional, not to mention utterly stupid in their behaviors, that there is rarely a moment we care when one of them gets ripped apart by the aliens.

As I said, the design of the aliens is the film's redeeming feature.  Rather than your typical green or gray skinned monster, this time the aliens are nearly invisible balls of energy.  When they come in to contact with a living being, they quickly disintegrate them nearly instantly, ripping them apart at what appears to be a molecular level.  The effects shots of that happening are about the only cool thing in this film.  Otherwise, the film is very predictable and linear, the characters asinine, and the scenery dull and drab.  Don't waste your time on this one, I wish I hadn't.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

FML - My plans for my son's sci-fi development

So yesterday I mused on whether or not I am a nerd. Whether I'm a nerd or not, I love sci-fi and I want to make sure to pass that on to my son. So, this is my action plan for my son's sci-fi development. If you have any additional suggestions that I am missing, let me know in the comments!
  • Start him out on sci-fi with cartoons. Star Wars: Clone Wars, X-Men, & Spider-Man cartoons to start. With those latter two, I'll go with the DVDs of the awesome 90s cartoons I grew up with myself.
  • Dress him in sci-fi stuff as often as possible. As I mentioned yesterday, I have an adorable Star Wars hoodie for him, but he also has stuff for Spider-Man, Star Trek, the Avengers, Superman, Batman, & many more that I dress him in whenever possible. (And when he's not wearing these he's usually clad in Maize & Blue to build up his Michigan love).
  • When he gets older, start him on the Star Wars films. The proper viewing order is Episodes 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. Episode 1 is dead to me and I want to avoid Jar-Jar in his life for as long as possible. When he's older he can go back and view that one later. For more on why this is the proper viewing order - go here and read this outstanding article I came across.  As to the new ones they are planning on making, obviously those would be added to the viewing order for where they fall in to the universe's timeline.
  • Start him on sci-fi television when he's young with the more kid friendly Star Trek: TNG when he is about 10, maybe a little younger.  After TNG I'll have him watch Star Trek DS9 and the JJ Abrams Trek films.  I'll introduce the more serialized Lost and Babylon 5 when he is a little older.  
  • He'll start on comic book movies once he is old enough (10 maybe?), especially the Marvel films of the past couple of years, and the Chris Nolan Batman movies. 
  • I'll have him read the works of JRR Tolkein as soon as he is old enough to understand them, as well as watch the Peter Jackson films once he is old enough to not be disturbed by the violence in the films.
  • Game of Thrones can wait until he is deeper into his teenage years, due to the sex and nudity on the show and in the books.
  • He'll be exposed to board games at family game nights, and once he is old enough to understand some of the more complex games we can move into strategy and fantasy games. I have never played D&D but I would be okay with him doing this in his early teens (and if he took to this I'd love to play it with him). I'd love to play Magic the Gathering with him as well, I started that game myself when I was about 12.
Ok so that's my plan.  Fellow sci-fi loving parents, if you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

PCP - So am I a nerd or no?

So I am midway through my second week of all sci-fi content here on the blog. It got me to thinking, am I a nerd or no? By some classifications, I am totally a nerd, but by others I am not. For example, I would never be able to be on a show like King of the Nerds, as I am not nerdy enough to qualify for that type of nerd. On the other hand, I love sci-fi and fantasy pop culture. So, let's take a look at the evidence for and against whether or not I am a nerd, and I'll leave it to you to decide just how nerdy I am. If I am to be considered a nerd, I think that I am more of a jack of all trades kind of nerd, as I have nerdy interests but I don't go full nerd for anything in particular.

Points in favor of my nerdship:

  • I have watched the following sci-fi/fantasy shows in their entirety: Star Trek TNG & DS9; Battlestar Galactica (the 2000s version not the original); Fringe; Babylon 5; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Highlander, Game of Thrones, Stargate Universe, & Lost. I have watched at least half of the episodes of: The X-Files, Stargate Universe, The Walking Dead & Star Trek Voyager.
  • In my old bedroom I had movie posters on the wall for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, Hellboy, & Army of Darkness.
  • I have attended a Star Trek convention, and I want to go to Comic-con.
  • I read comics in the Marvel universe, as well as The Walking Dead.
  • I watch a lot of sci-fi movies, as evidenced by my reviews the past two weeks. I rarely miss a sci-fi film that comes out. Ditto with comic book movies, I have seen every single one, and own almost all of them, even the bad ones like Daredevil.
  • I used to play Magic the Gathering and still own several decks of cards.
  • I love tabletop board and card games, and I own some games that are only sold at comic book stores such as Zombies, Guillotine, & Munchkin.
  • I own four working video game consoles, including an old NES that I still play from time to time. I used to have six, but one broke (my Genesis) and one I gave away to my sister-in-law (my N64).
  • My favorite outfits for my son include his Star Trek onesie, Star Wars hoodie, and several superhero outfits.
  • I read a lot. Typically, I read at least one book a week.
  • I am really really good at trivia.
Points against my nerdship:
  • There are plenty of sci-fi shows that I haven't watched, most notably the original Star Trek, the series Enterprise, and also Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Also, as much as I loved Serenity, I still haven't seen every episode of Firefly.
  • In addition to the movie posters (I did work in a theater so they were free and awesome), I also had my walls decorated with tons of sports memorabilia, especially Michael Jordan stuff.
  • I have only gone to one Star Trek convention, and that was over 15 years ago. Also, I did not do any cos-play for it, and I do not have any cos-play stuff for any geeky subject matter.
  • While I read comics, I only read some of them, and I only read them when I am killing time at my local Barnes & Noble. Also, I am not a big fan of DC comics so my knowledge of DC characters is far lower than my knowledge for Marvel. I haven't bought a comic in a decade.
  • I don't just watch a lot of sci-fi or comic book movies, I watch a ton of movies period, as evidenced by my blog here and the 150+ movies I've reviewed here in two years.
  • I sold the majority of my Magic the Gathering collection a couple years ago, only holding on to my most valuable and best cards, to either sell them in the future or pass them down to my son Jackson.  
  • I have never played Dungeons & Dragons. Instead, I played varsity football and lacrosse in high school.
  • Despite owning several video game consoles, I rarely actually have time to play them. Of the 8 games I own for my Xbox 360, I have only beaten 3 of them thus far, and only played 5 of them.
  • You can't blame me for getting my kid cute geeky outfits. They're just so adorable. Just look at the hoodie pictured here, and imagine a baby inside it. Once Jackson grows into this, he's going to be so adorable. Even though he won't fit in to this until this fall, even huge on him this was so frakkin' cute it is unbelievable.

  • Yes I do read a lot, but the majority of what I read is mystery, action, and spy novels. I actually read sci-fi/fantasy as less than 5% of the books I read.
  • Yes, I am really good at trivia, but that's because I have a really really good memory.

OK so those are the points and counterpoints of my nerddom. So tell me, am I a nerd or no? I won't be offended either way. Hit me up in the comments!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

PCP on DVD - Battleship

Sometimes I wonder how films get greenlit, or even how Hollywood comes up with its ideas. Making a movie based on a board game seems like seriously scraping the bottom of the ideas barrel. So, going in to Battleship, I had set my expectations bar extremely low. It didn't help that the movie bombed domestically (although it did very well overseas so it wasn't a total loss) and also that it had Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker, two beautiful women not known for their acting, as a part of the cast. So, I went into this film expecting very little, and because I had set the bar so low, I was actually surprised by this movie.

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

Battleship tells the tale of an alien invasion that has to be fought off by a plucky group of naval sailors on a gunboat. Yeah, because that has so much in common with the board game. It could have been called so many other things besides Battleship, but I guess they wanted to tie in to the board game they stole the title from, no matter how tenuous the connection. Also, the majority of the action takes place on not a battleship (as there are no active battleships as a part of the US Navy) but on a guided missile destroyer. A battleship doesn't even get involved in the film until the end (see the spoilers section below).

The film stars Taylor Kitsch as a hotheaded Lieutenant who suddenly finds himself in charge when the alien invasion cuts off most of the Pacific fleet from the alien ships, because of the aliens' force field technology. 2012 wasn't a good year for Kitsch, as all three films he starred in - this, John Carter (my review here), and Savages (review coming soon) - all were not box office smashes. He's dating Brooklyn Decker, the daughter of the Admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet (Liam Neeson). Kitsch is good, and he's reunited here with director Peter Berg, creator of Friday Night Lights, and his FNL costar Jesse Plemmons (Landry), but he's not quite ready to carry a blockbuster film largely on his own just yet. He's not helped here by his costars, as mentioned Rihanna and Decker, who are there more for audience eye candy than anything particularly else.

The film itself is largely predictable, as are most alien invasion films, so you know which side is going to win in the end. This results in not a whole lot of tension or suspense. That doesn't mean the film isn't worth watching though. The action sequences and special effects are well done, and the ship battles are rather cool. It is especially awesome for action once they dial things up to eleven when the titular battleship joins the fray late in the film. Overall, the film is a brainless summer popcorn film. It won't make you think deep whatsoever, and the plot is silly and has one massive glaring plot hole (see spoiler space below after the jump) but what it does well it does very well. If you've got absolutely nothing better to do, enjoy the film. If not, you won't really miss much of anything if you don't see the film either. If you keep your mental bar set low for the film, you might come away surprised, just like I did.

Ok, read on only if you don't mind reading spoilers after the jump. You've been warned!

Monday, June 24, 2013

PCP on DVD - Total Recall

The original Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of my favorite films from his career. It is cheesy, but entertaining with its mind bending plot. When I learned they were updating the film, I was intrigued, because it looked like it would be way less cheesy than the original in terms of the visual effects. But I had concerns about how they would handle the plot, and whether or not the film would live up to the original. It turns out my concerns were valid.

Total Recall - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 5 out of 10.

The update of Total Recall stars Colin Farrell in the role of Quaid, filling Arnold's shoes. As good as Farrell is in action films, he's no Arnold, but at least he's a far better actor. Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale are both upgrades from the leading ladies of the original film, Rachel Ticotin & Sharon Stone, both in tems of acting ability and action skills, as well as looks. But unfortunately, the three leads all represent the biggest problem with this remake: it has far more style than the original film, but less substance.

Total Recall is the story of a bleak future, one where most of the world has been wiped out in some sort of nuclear war. The two remaining world powers are at odds with each other, and the stronger United Federation of Britain wants to take over the weaker Colony, in order to take its land and living space. Quaid is a factory worker who lives in the bleak Colony and is dissatisfied with his life. In an effort to inject some thrills into his life, he goes to Rekall, a facility that directly implants exciting memories into your brain so you live in a fantasy for a brief time. As he goes to Rekall though, the workers there discover that his current personality isn't what it seems, and apparently he is a spy who had his memories previously wiped, and the Rekall process reawakens his action hero talents. Or did it? One of the mysteries of the plot is whether all of the events of the film are merely in Quaid's head, or if they are really happening. I won't reveal what I felt the outcome was here, so as not to spoiler the ending for anyone.

As I said, the film has a lot of flashy style, with gorgeous visual effects. However, the film feels hollow and empty, lacking something. I can't quite put my finger on it, but this film just didn't sit right with me, and that doesn't include the massively preposterous abuse of physics with "The Fall," the elevator that runs through the center of the Earth. In one sequence, some characters manage to exit this massive elevator system while it is travelling through the center of the planet. Considering the massive speeds that this system of transportation would have, based on the transit time described in the film, there is no way that they would be able to hang on to the outside without being blown off the side of it, much less even take a breath successfully.

Overall, this film is perfectly average. There wasn't anything particularly awful about the film, but there's nothing particularly redeeming about it either. Unless you have a major obsession with one of the stars of the film, I'd recommend you go watch the Arnold original instead of this remake.

Sci-Fi week extended

I had so much fun doing the posts for sci-fi week last week that I decided to extend it another week.  So, just like last week, we'll have new content daily all week long related to Science Fiction.  If you don't like sci-fi, sorry!  I promise that next week we'll be back to normal content.

Friday, June 21, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Watch

I wanted to see The Watch because it had a cast of people I tend to like in comedies:  Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, & Jonah Hill, amongst others. Turns out, just because a movie has a bunch of funny people, it doesn't mean it is a good movie.

The Watch - 2012, rated R. My rating: 3 out of 10.

The Watch takes a fun premise -what happens when a bunch of bungling morons get stuck trying to stop an alien invasion - and it goes and messes it up with way too much product placement and too many stupid crass dick and bodily fluid jokes. For a film with the cast that this film has, there should have been plenty of laughs. Instead, the laughs are less common than the product placements for Costco and its merchandise. Don't get me wrong, I love Costco, but I don't need a movie about how Costco has everything and how cool it is. I already know that from shopping there. What I need from a comedy is laughs, and The Watch fails to deliver those. If you haven't seen this movie yet, don't waste your time. Avoid it like the plague. If you have seen this movie, my condolences. Seriously, Battleship was way more enjoyable than this film (as you'll see when my review for that comes next week).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

PCP Top 10 - My favorite Sci-Fi films

So I haven't done a Top 10 in awhile since they are very time consuming to write, and with it being sci-fi week here, I thought now would be a good time to break one out. So in honor of sci-fi week, these are my Top 10 favorite science fiction films. A few things I'd like to point out about this list: 1) I am omitting fantasy films from this list to focus just on sci-fi, otherwise Lord of the Rings would be on here. 2) I am also omitting superhero films, because those would also dominate the list otherwise, and I plan on doing a future Top 10 superhero films another time. 3) I am lumping some films in the same franchise together, so as not to have them take up too many spots on the list. 4) There are two films on my secret shame list of unseen films, Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner, that I am still hoping to find time to watch, hence that is why they are absent from this list when I suspect they'd be on it. Now, on with the Top 10!  Remember, these are my favorites, the ones I can watch over and over, not necessarily the best of science fiction.

10. Avatar - Avatar still ranks as the most incredible thing I have ever seen on the big screen. I have still to date yet to see a film that does 3D better than this movie. While it might not have the most original plot (Fern Gully and Pocahontas seem to be major inspirations), and the bonding thing the aliens do with the animals of the planet borders on bestiality, you don't think about it at the time because the visuals and scope of the film are completely breathtaking, and the 3D was so immersive that I truly felt like I was on Pandora. I already can't wait for the return trip to that world, whenever James Cameron gets around to filming the sequels.

9. Back to the Future - The first adventure of Doc Brown & Marty McFly is the best of the series, and it is a ton of fun. While many of the jokes went over my head when I first saw this as a kid, it remains a beloved classic tale of time travel and the dangers of meeting your parents in the past. Also, to a little boy, the DeLorean is probably one of the coolest cars I had ever seen at that point in my life (although now I realize why Marty was just so shocked that was Doc's choice for the time machine). This will probably be the among the first science fiction films that I expose Jackson to once he is old enough, so I can't wait!

8. Akira - My first exposure to anime was my best, I have yet to come across an anime film that impressed me as much as this one did. While I have never really gotten into manga, it is tempting because apparently this film didn't incorporate the whole book series that it is based on, a whopping 2100+ pages of graphic novel. The story of secret governmental programs tampering with humans is common to a lot of genres, but Akira does it very well. If you could only watch 1 anime movie, make it this one. Hollywood keeps talking about making a live action version of the movie, but it seems to have been stuck in development purgatory for a decade or so. I doubt it will top this anyways, even if they did ever get it off the ground.

7. District 9 - I think one of the most incredible things about this South African film was the fact that the budget was a mere $30,000,000. In blockbuster terms, that is a drop in the bucket. Its visuals, especially the alien creatures' design, comes across like a film with a much higher budget. It is an allegory for the apartheid struggle in South Africa, but it also is a great thrill ride of a story of a really crappy day in the life of a human exposed to the aliens' technology. The second most incredible thing about the film is that it is the writing & directorial debut of Neil Blomkamp. It is one of the best debut films since Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. His 2nd film, Elysium, comes out in August, and I can't wait to see it. In the meantime, if you never saw this District 9 you made a huge mistake, it is outstanding. Go see it now!

Find out the top 6 after the jump!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PCP on the Page - Robopocalypse

I hadn't heard of the book Robopocalypse until I heard that Steven Spielberg had acquired the rights to make it into a movie, and in January this year he announced he was halting production on the film so they could work on the script some more before it goes into production (if it ever does).  The fact that Spielberg was even attached to a project with such an interesting and scary sounding title got my attention, and made me want to check out the book.

The author of Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson, has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, so he is able to write this book from a position of knowledge and authority about what could potentially be possible with robots in the future.  This enhances the novel and in fact makes it scarier as the gloomy future described in the book could be more likely than many realize.  He also wrote previously the tongue in cheek survivalist book How to Survive a Robot Uprising (which I have not yet read).  So clearly this is something he has given a lot of thought.

The story is similar to that of many other robot uprising films: an artificial intelligence becomes smart enough to be self aware, and it turns on humanity by taking control of many of the technologies that humanity had come to rely on and using it against them, including smart cars and military robots.  The war goes very poorly for humanity in the beginning before they are able to rally and fight back.

The book follows a more unique structure than your traditional novel.  Rather than sticking to one or two character's point of view throughout the entire conflict, the book acts as more of a chronicle of the robot war.  In the opening chapter it is explained that the humans have discovered a memory core computer that has surveillance footage of the incidents that the novel relays, so they are chronicling the wider war for future generations to learn what happened, based on the facts recorded by the machines.

It actually reminds me quite a bit of the novel version of World War Z, in terms of its structure and pacing.  Just like how WWZ was a chronicle report written by a UN employee, here the book is a chronicle written by a soldier in the aftermath of the war.  And given the production difficulties that World War Z faced in adapting its massive structure to a feature film, I can understand why Spielberg put this one on hold in order to get the script right before beginning production.

Overall, it was a pretty interesting read, one that might give you some chills if you fear where technology is going in our world.  If you like your sci-fi with a side of cataclysm, then go check out this book.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PCP on DVD - Looper

After Prometheus, the other big sci-fi film that I was most looking forward to from 2012 was Looper.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite actors working today, I'll gladly watch anything starring him.  Add in Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, and an intriguing plot involving time travel, and I am there.

Looper - 2012, rated R.  My rating:  9 out of 10.

"I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we are going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws."

The quote above highlights one of the problems with any film that deals with time travel, the potential for massive paradoxes and confusing circular reasoning.  Considering the whole plot of the film has to do with time loops and how actions in one time can impact the other, it is actually a pretty funny quote uttered by one of the characters, because your brain can hurt a little bit trying to sort out the temporal mechanics of the time travel paradoxes created by this film.

I do not want to spoil the film too much, so I will stick to basics without going into too many details.  In the far future, time travel has been invented and it is outlawed, so of course the mafia has access to the technology.  In that future, technology has gotten so advanced that it is literally impossible to get away with murder.  So to solve their problem, the mob sends people they want whacked back in time to the not so far future, where they can be killed and disposed of by specialized hit men called loopers.  JGL is one of those loopers, and he has a massive problem on his hands when one of his targets, Bruce Willis, gets away from him.  The catch:  Willis is JGL, just 30 years older.

There are some interesting twists and turns along the way in the film, directions the plot takes that I do not want to discuss here so as not to spoil the film for anyone that has not seen it.  What I can say is that this was a very interesting and unique film, and it tried its best to solve the troubles with time travel in novel and creative ways.  The acting performances are pretty solid, especially from JGL and Emily Blunt.  I'm really glad I watched this movie, even if trying to sort out all of the time loops gave me a bit of a headache.  If you haven't seen this already, I strongly encourage you to go check it out.

If you want to discuss the plot in more spoilery detail, hit me up in the comments and we can discuss it there.

Monday, June 17, 2013

PCP on DVD - Prometheus

Prometheus was a film I had circled on my calendar as soon as I heard it was coming out.  Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against me to prevent me from seeing it in theaters, so I had to wait until it came out on video.  By then, a lot of the outcry and controversy about whether or not the film was any good had died down and was forgotten, which allowed me to view the film with much lower expectations than I would have had were I to have seen the film when it first came out.  I'm glad I waited, I think I liked the film much better than I would have otherwise.

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

"But you don't understand.  You don't know.  This place isn't what we thought it was.  They aren't what we thought they were.  I was wrong.  We were so wrong."

The reasons I had circled Prometheus on my summer 2012 film calendar were primarily because of the people involved on the project.  First off, there was director Ridley Scott, making his return to science fiction.  Ridley is already one of my favorite directors, and since he directed the first Alien film, I was super excited for this film set in the same universe.  Secondly, Lost writer Damon Lindelof, a very funny guy to follow on Twitter, was involved in the script.  And last, I loved the cast assembled for this film, especially Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender.

As I mentioned, for those of you not aware, Prometheus is set in the same universe as the Alien films.  It is not a direct prequel to Alien per se, but it ties in some of the same mythology, especially primarily that of the powerful Weyland corporation.  It does take place some time before the events of the Alien films though, but it also shares those films' spirit of a strong heroine, with Rapace filling in for Sigourney Weaver, as well as those films' dark tone and mood.

The film follows the crew of the ship Prometheus as they travel to a distant world in search of a species of alien that was potentially responsible for creating life on Earth.  When they arrive, bad things start happening as they encounter weird and dangerous things on the planet.  I'd say more but I don't want to go into spoilers in case you haven't seen the film yet.  But the film raises a lot of questions and some interesting ideas, the only problem is that not all of them are resolved fully to the viewer's satisfaction.  A sequel is supposedly in the works though, with the promise of answering the questions this film leaves open.

Overall, despite some of the plot holes and unanswered questions, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  The acting was outstanding from all of the cast, and the film is visually gorgeous and breathtaking, with some incredible vistas and shots of the ship.  In the end it is a pretty good science fiction film that stands well on its own, separate from the Alien films.  I already can't wait for the sequel.

It is Sci-Fi week here on the blog

This week is going to be Sci-Fi week here on the blog.  Why?  Because I feel like it.  Also, with Man of Steel coming out this past Friday, and World War Z dropping this coming Friday, this is the perfect week to fill with sci-fi content.  There will be a fresh post every day this week covering something having to do with science fiction, including reviews of the films a few films and books, as well as a top 10 list.  So check back daily for fresh material!

Friday, June 14, 2013

PCP on DVD - Think Like a Man

Think Like a Man is an ensemble comedy based on a self help book, Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. The film is basically the dating version of last week's review, What to Expect When You're Expecting. And just like in that film, an ensemble comedy based on a self help book is a difficult thing to pull off.

Think Like a Man - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

Think Like a Man is a rather shallow film. Each of the film's main characters is having struggles with the opposite gender, until the women in the film discover Harvey's magical advice tome, and suddenly they know what to do. Except the men discover that the women have read the book, and adjust their own game accordingly. None of the characters are particularly well developed, most are just common character types: the lonely power woman, the single mom, the maneater, etc.

Pretty much the only redeeming thing for this film is that it has some funny moments, mostly courtesy of stand-up comic Kevin Hart. He's the only thing that saves this movie from being a complete disaster. It's still largely a predictable waste of time though.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

PCP on DVD - The Five-Year Engagement

I always enjoy a good romantic comedy.  I also tend to enjoy any film set in my favorite town on Earth, Ann Arbor.  The Five Year Engagement manages to combine both, with a large portion of the film set in Ann Arbor, and they actually took the time to film in town and on Michigan's campus.  Seeing some of my favorite sights & places incorporated into the movie was a nice bonus.

The Five-Year Engagement - 2012, rated R.  My rating:  8 out of 10.

The Five-Year Engagement is the story of an engaged couple, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, who keep delaying their nuptials due to various obstacles that pop up in their lives, but in reality they are just making excuses.  The film has a lot of funny moments, especially Segel's descent into an extremely odd woodsman lifestyle after being uprooted to Michigan from San Francisco to stay with Blunt.  Blunt herself is great in the role, showing a far more relaxed and funny side to herself than she has shown in some of her other work, and Segel is funny and self deprecating as usual. 

Overall, the film is decent and entertaining, and for any Ann Arborite there is plenty to see including most of Michigan's central campus as well as Zingerman's Deli.  My one beef with the film is that Segel's character is a chef who has a hard time finding work in Ann Arbor.  I found that to be a bit of a stretch, simply due to the sheer volume of awesome restaurants on Main Street, as well as the proximity of Detroit and its suburbs within easy driving distance.  Aside from that logistical script hole however, I enjoyed the rest of the film quite a bit and I recommend it for viewing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

PCP on DVD - Conan the Barbarian

There is really only one reason I took the time to see this film.  Conan the Barbarian is played by Jason Momoa, better known to me as Khal Drogo from one of my favorite TV shows, Game of Thrones.  I wanted to see how he would do in a starring role.  While I watched the film I realized that one of Conan's sidekicks in the film was the same actor as Xaro on Game of Thrones as well, so now there were two actors from GoT in this movie.  Would it be enough to save the film from being a total waste of time?

Conan the Barbarian - 2011, rated R.  My rating: 5 out of 10.

To answer my previous question, no, not really.  Conan has gore and violence aplenty, as well as the requisite hammy acting from any remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  Stephen Lang (Avatar) & Rose McGowan (Planet Terror) totally ham it up as the film's villainous duo, and while they have their entertaining moments, they are mostly rather cheesy.  Neither they nor Hellboy himself Ron Perlman nor the opening voiceover of Morgan Freeman can help the film overcome the terrible script and wooden acting.  Overall, the film left me feeling rather meh about the whole experience, and wishing I hadn't tainted my memories of Jason Momoa's run on Game of Thrones with having watched this movie.  It's not the worst movie I've ever seen, but it isn't particularly anything to write home about either.

Friday, June 7, 2013

PCP on DVD - Wrath of the Titans

Despite being only so-so (read my review here), the 2010 remake Clash of the Titans made just enough money at the box office to warrant a sequel, Wrath of the Titans.  Was it worth watching?  Surprisingly, it sort of was.  At least it was better than the first one, though only marginally.

Wrath of the Titans - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating - 7 out of 10.

Wrath of the Titans picks up a decade after Clash of the Titans ends.  Gone is Perseus' (Sam Worthington) love interest, Io, killed off before the film begins, but otherwise the core cast from the first film returns, especially Liam Neeson's Zeus and Ralph Fiennes' Hades. Once again, the Gods of Mount Olympus need the help of the demigod Perseus to save ancient Greece, this time from the boss Titan himself, Kronos.

The film is more action than the first one, in part because we don't need as much backstory or introduction to the characters because the writers presume the audience has seen Clash.  The acting isn't really any better than the first film, but at least the film looks better than Clash, as the special effects were better designed.  This time the CGI baddies include chimeras, cyclopses, a minotaur, Makhai, and Kronos, seen in the poster as the giant lava monster thing.  At least the film sticks closer to Greek mythology than Clash of the Titans did, but it still bastardizes a lot of the mythology, killing off several major Greek deities for the film.  I'm not sure how they are going to do yet another sequel in this franchise having killed off so many of the Gods, but apparently one is in development.  On the other hand, the God of War videogame series killed off plenty of Gods yet they kept finding ways to make that franchise expand, so I guess the writers can come up with a way to make a sequel.  Maybe with the 3rd one in this series they'll finally make a great one, but it is unlikely due to the law of diminishing returns.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

PCP on DVD - Pitch Perfect

I am a sucker for a cappella music.  I grew up a big fan of the genre, thanks to my dad loving that kind of music and playing it for me a lot when I was young.  It obviously has had a bit of a popular resurgence lately, between the shows Glee, the Sing-Off, and now this film. When I first heard about Pitch Perfect, I thought to myself "that could be good, or it could be horrible."  I didn't catch it in theaters, but I saw a lot of my friends list it as one of their favorite films of 2012.  So, I decided to check it out, and I was very pleased with that decision.

Pitch Perfect - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating:  9 out of 10.

Oh, where to begin with this review.  This movie has so much positive going for it.  It stars the incredibly talented Anna Kendrick as Beca, a college freshman who gets coerced into joining an a cappella group at the behest of Chloe (Brittany Snow).  The group, the Bellas, is a rebuilding group, having blown their big shot at nationals the year before, and has to turn to girls that don't meet their conventional norms to find members.  They want to return to nationals to take down their rivals, the Treblemakers, the defending national champs.  It is your typical underdog story, basically.

The film is incredibly predictable, but that doesn't ruin the film.  In fact, part way through the film, Beca and her love interest Jesse (Skylar Astin) have a discussion about whether or not a film can actually be good even if you see the ending coming a mile away.  This film is definitely one of those types of movies.  But the journey is what makes the film worth watching.  The arrangement of the musical numbers is outstanding, especially the Bellas' final number that combines pieces of 6 songs into one seamless, gorgeous a cappella performance.  The movie is worth watching for that sequence alone. 

Also making the movie worth watching are the outstanding supporting players.  Several of the side characters steal every scene they are in, especially Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Lily (Hana Mae Lee), & Donald (Utkarsh Ambudkar).  Also, some familiar faces pop up for brief moments of glory, most notably Turk from Scrubs, McLovin, and Elizabeth Banks (who also produced the film).

Overall, the film is a ton of fun.  Between the great jokes, sarcastic tone, and incredible musical numbers, this film is a blast, and easily the 2nd most fun I had watching a 2012 film (behind the Avengers).  I only have a few quibbles, and I will discuss those after the jump as they contain spoilers.  So read on if you have seen the film, if not come back after watching it and read them then.  Either way, thanks for stopping by today!

After the jump - spoiler section, so read on if you've seen the film.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FML - Parenting achievements unlocked

I play a lot of videogames, and many of them have achievements you can unlock by accomplishing a specific task.  If life were a videogame, these would be some of the achievements I've unlocked so far in my short time as being a dad:

Artful Dodger - Evade a stream of bodily fluids leaving your baby without getting any on yourself.
Immunity - Stay home from work and take care of a sick baby without getting sick yourself.
Long Hauler - Survive a 15 hour flight with a baby without pulling the emergency exit handle on a plane door or getting thrown off the plane.
Ninja Apprentice - Change a diaper without waking a baby.
Ninja Master - Change a diaper, lotion baby head to toe, and dress in pajamas a sleeping baby without waking him.
Ninja Ultimate - Transfer baby from carseat in garage to bedroom upstairs, remove baby's jacket and clothes, change diaper, lotion head to toe, dress in pajamas, and place in crib a sleeping baby without waking him.
The Working Dead - Go in to work on less than an hour of sleep, despite feeling like a zombie.
World Traveler - Get your baby a passport & bring them to another continent before they turn two.

Okay, that's just eight that I came up with, I'm sure there are more but I cannot think of them now.

Fellow parents: what achievements have you unlocked in your lives? Let me know in the comments! Can you come up with any to add to the list?

Monday, June 3, 2013

PCP on DVD - What to Expect When You're Expecting

Hollywood lately has seemingly had two odd trends:  creating a massive intertwined ensemble film (New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day) or adapting a property that had seemed previously un-adaptable (Battleship).  What to Expect When You're Expecting manages to pull off both in the same film.

What to Expect When You're Expecting - 2012, rated PG-13.  My rating as a new dad:  7.  My rating had I not just had a child: 5.

Like the other massive ensemble films, WTEWYE tells the stories of several women that are pregnant or adopting all around the same time, women whose lives are linked in some ways that are tenuous at best.  With an all-star cast, the people involved in the film help to make it very likable.  The stories are touching, funny, heartwarming, and tragic, depending on the character.  This film is designed to pull on the heartstrings (or maybe on the ovaries?) of its viewers, and I'm sure it was more successful in reaching women and new dads.  Were I not a new father (I saw this film when my son was 9 months old, even though this isn't going to post to the blog for several months), I probably would have found this movie to be overly saccharine and cheesy.  But as a new dad not far removed from the trials of pregnancy and fatherhood, I found the movie to be funny and entertaining.  I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age?  Anyways, if you're a parent to be or a recent parent, go watch this film.  If you're under 20 and have no plans on having a kid any time soon, wait to watch this until you are on this journey, otherwise you'll hate this movie.

Interesting note that my amuse only me:  This is my 100th post under just the PCP section of the blog. Wow I can't believe I've hit that many posts already. Sweet. I do need to work on my balance though, the PCP section has about triple the combined posts of the other two categories.