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.