Monday, December 30, 2013

PCP on DVD - Oblivion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

PCP on DVD - Zero Dark Thirty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

PCP on DVD - Scary Movie 5

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PCP on DVD - Wreck-it Ralph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blog returns next week

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