Thursday, October 23, 2014

PCP - Mark your calendars now

Updated 10/29 with the Marvel announcement of their slate yesterday. Picture has been updated.

There are a lot of superhero movies coming out in the next few years, thanks to all the different studios that own various different properties. This handy infographic from the folks at can help you to plan your calendars now, in case you need to take time off to be there for these on opening day. Some of these I'm very excited for, some not so much, but I know I'll wind up seeing all of them anyways. I'm most pumped for Avengers: Age of Ultron and for Captain America 3. What are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 13, 2014

PCP on DVD - Planes

The other movie I watched while I was home sick with my child was nowhere near as fun as The Lego Movie. Instead it was thoroughly disappointing, and it is 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Planes - 2013, rated PG.  My rating: 4 out of 10

Pixar's Cars is probably one of the weakest films from that studio, and I never saw its sequel but heard it was terrible. When Pixar refused to make a 3rd film in the series, Disney decided they were going to go and do so themselves. Set in the same world as the Cars movies, the film is nothing but a shoddy merchandising cash grab and nothing more. It is not surprising, considering how much money the Cars series made Pixar and Disney that they would want to cash in as much as possible, because there is nothing that Hollywood likes more than beating a dead horse for every last dollar.

The film is totally predictable and lame. This is what happens when Disney makes a movie without Pixar's magic, it just sucks. As soon as I learned that the film was about an around the world race, I already knew who was going to win it, and what plot "twists" would happen along the way. The film was ridiculously formulaic and completely unoriginal. Even my son got bored, checking out at about the half way point of the movie, unlike The Lego Movie which kept him enraptured.

Bottom line, stay away from this one. If you haven't exposed your kids to this one yet, don't, in case they do like it. It's not a movie you want to be stuck watching on repeat.

Monday, October 6, 2014

PCP on DVD - The Lego Movie

So, my son is getting old enough to watch movies now, as he's almost 3 years old. Recently, he was home sick for a few days because he had Hand, Foot, & Mouth disease, and had to be kept quarantined from his daycare so as not to infect everyone else. We spent the time watching a few movies and some of his favorite television shows, and surprisingly, one of the movies we watched for him turned out to actually be quite fun for me as well.

The Lego Movie - 2014, rated PG. My rating: 9 out of 10.

I had heard good things about this film from some friends who had seen it with their children, but I was skeptical when it first was announced. The movie seemed like it would be a 90 minute commercial for a children's toy (albeit, the best toy ever), and I didn't think that there was any way this film could be that good. Man, was I wrong.

The Lego Movie turned out to be very funny, both for kids and grown ups, and it was surprisingly way better than I expected. It turns out that it is from the same writer/director duo that helmed the also funnier than I expected 21 Jump Street, (and its sequel that I haven't seen yet), as well as the quirky yet funny animated series Clone High. Given that the things I've seen them do before had me in stitches, it should be no surprise that this film was also quite hilarious.

The film works on so many levels. It is a straight forward action film, your typical hero's journey, with a plot that is simple and easy for children to understand, obviously, because it is primarily a kid's flick. However, there's a lot going on at a deeper level for adults as well. There's a lot of jokes that primarily adults will get that will fly over the heads of some of the kids, and the film also serves as a deconstruction of many action film tropes, similar to how 21 Jump Street also made fun of many of the film tropes that it employed. One of the funniest jokes in this one, on a meta level, is the interactions between the characters of Superman and Green Lantern. Superman finds Green Lantern to be annoying and lame, and does what he can whenever possible to get away from him, which is funny for the kids, but for the adults it is even funnier, when you realize that Superman is voiced by Channing Tatum, and Green Lantern by Jonah Hill. There is something about that casting gag that just cracks me up, every time I've watched this movie (which is many times now as my son loves it). The rest of the voice cast is outstanding as well, including Morgan Freeman, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Charlie Day, & Will Ferrell in major roles.

I don't want to give away any of the plot details, especially the third act plot twist, but I do recommend you go out and see this film yourself. Even if you don't have kids, there's a lot in this film for you to like as well. So, go out and pick this up on Blu-Ray if you haven't seen this yet, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Monday, September 29, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I've been so swamped lately, as you've probably heard me lament a few times on the blog now, that I haven't been able to write a review of a movie I saw in theaters in July, until now. It might still be in theaters, at the cheap ones, by the time this goes up, but otherwise it'll probably be out on home video soon.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 9 out of 10.

The sequel to the prequel that doubled as a reboot of a classic franchise hit theaters earlier this summer, an event that would probably be considered unbelievable to the stars of the original Charlton Heston classic, but obviously Hollywood works way differently these days than it did 45 years ago. The reboot/prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes was actually a pretty good sleeper hit 3 years ago, but it was dwarfed at the box office by that summer's biggest hits, finishing in 11th that year in total box office behind Harry Potter 8, Transformers 3, Twilight 4, Hangover 2, Pirates 4, Fast & Furious 5, Mission Impossible 4, Cars 2, Sherlock Holmes 2, & Thor 1, and finishing a mere 100 grand ahead of Captain America 1.  <side note - wow, that was a lot of sequels that summer> So, if you missed Rise 3 years ago, you weren't alone, but it is still a good film that I encourage you to check out. (I gave it an 8/10).

Fortunately, even if you never saw Rise, you can still check out Dawn without being too lost. It's set a few years after a plague released at the end of the previous film has wiped out a majority of humanity, and the group of Apes living in the mountains outside of San Francisco has grown tremendously. Meanwhile, there is a small band of humans living in San Fran, and everything is quiet until the two groups encounter each other. Problems ensue, obviously.

I don't want to say too much more without spoiling the plot, but the film is quite fun and filled with some great action scenes. It also has some incredible motion-capture work and some of the best CGI I've seen in a film. The various primates are so well rendered, they come across as completely believable on the screen. No lame rubber masks like the prior films in the series, here the technology is seamless and gorgeous. The film is also pretty touching and has a lot of heart. Overall, the film is very enjoyable, and I am already looking forward to the next one in the series. Already, the reboot series has already surpassed the original series in terms of quality of storytelling. If they keep it up, they can keep making Apes films as long as they want.

Monday, September 22, 2014

PCP on TV - 2014-2015 TV preview - What's on my DVR?

It's fall now, so it is time for the return of my annual TV preview. Sorry this is late, some shows have already begun, but I've been swamped at work lately. Welcome to the 4th edition of this post! Wow, I can't believe I've been running this blog for that long. Anyways, once again, here's my recap of all the shows that I'll be watching this fall, plus what is returning from last year, and what got cut. If you're not watching some of these shows, you're missing out! Also, you may notice some formatting changes from last year's post, I tried to streamline things for you to make things simpler.

Making their debut this year:
I think this year is our smallest additions to the DVR in a long time. That's probably a good thing, as it was starting to get a bit overwhelming with how many shows we watched.

Black-ish - This comedy focusing on an African-American family in a multicultural America is a big risk for ABC, but some are calling it an updated Cosby Show. It'll be interesting to see how Laurence Fishburne does in a comedy, something he hasn't done in a long time. Anthony Anderson should be pretty funny in the starring role at least. It makes its bow on September 24th.

The Flash - Arrow is already one of my favorite shows on TV, and it really got great during its 2nd season. During last season, it introduced the character that would become the Flash, and they are expanding the universe with this spin off. Considering there will be crossovers between the two shows, it's a natural fit to add this one to the DVR. Plus, it looks pretty good. The Flash speeds on to our TV on the CW network on October 7th.

Gotham - Although it is not tied to the same television universe as Arrow and The Flash, Gotham City is obviously a big part of the DC universe. This prequel show on Fox focuses on a young Detective Gordon, long before he becomes commissioner, and a Bruce Wayne that's still a child. The early buzz on this show is that it is the best new show of the fall, so that sounds pretty promising. Gotham begins on Monday September 22nd.

Marvel's Agent Carter - Marvel continues to expand its universe, and unlike DC is still keeping things tied together (they also have shows on some characters like Daredevil coming to Netflix in the near future). Agent Cater is the female agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. back in the founding days of the organization in the 1940s, played by Hayley Atwell, and she was Steve Rogers' (Captain America) love interest back in his films. This retro show should be pretty fun, but still tie in to the overall Marvel universe of films and television, so in a sense it is required viewing. It is only going to be a partial season show, filling the gap of the two halves of its corporate sibling Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when that show goes on a production break. It's debut date is TBD at the present time, but look for it in 2015 probably, or in December of this year.

State of Affairs - Katherine Heigl, who used to be one of my biggest Hollywood crushes a decade ago, returns to television as a CIA agent in a new series involving espionage, and with the US President played by Alfre Woodard. It'll be interesting to see if Heigl can play someone tough, after playing someone neurotic in practically every movie she's done lately. It could be good, and it could be terrible, but this is one my wife wants to watch, and considering I'm adding three comic book shows this year, I kind of owe her one. It doesn't make its start until November 17th on NBC.

After the jump, read on for what's returning to the DVR and what got cut! --->

Thursday, September 4, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Guardians of the Galaxy

It's been more than a month since Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters, and it has been even longer since I saw the film, but I'm finally getting around to writing my review. Better late than never right? Besides, it was still the #1 film at the box office on Labor Day weekend, so obviously a lot of people are still watching it. Probably because the film is frakking awesome!

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 10 out of 10.

Look, I know I'm a bit of a nerd and a Marvel movies fanboy. So, take this review with a slight grain of salt. That being said, the characters in GotG are ones that I was not familiar with before seeing this film. I have never read any of the issues of the comic, and couldn't tell you anything about any of these characters before seeing the film. When I first heard that Marvel was going to make this film, I couldn't believe it. With such a deep roster of characters in the Marvel universe, this was the film they were going to make? Would Marvel have its first flop on its hands since it started making its own movies? I was concerned.

I shouldn't have been worried. The film is a ton of fun, despite having to do some major plot expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Marvel is using this film to greatly expand the universe inhabited by their Avengers, and a lot of items introduced in this film were done to make it so people understand when they show up in future Avengers installments, especially the powerful Infinity Stones and the character of Thanos. For the completely comic book ignorant, like my wife, she got confused at times as to who characters were and what were their motivations. For example, she has no clue the difference between a Skrull and a Kree, and doesn't know Nova Squadron from Thanos. So, her perspective on the film was different from mine, and she didn't enjoy the film as much as I did.

As I've said, I had a lot of fun with this film. The film has plenty of humorous moments, it is very obvious that this film is not taking itself seriously at all. Which, in the case of these characters, really works. In addition to many laugh out loud moments, the film also has a ton of heart. You wouldn't believe that a barely talking tree-creature could be the heart of a movie, but Groot pulls it off.

While the film gets slightly bogged down a couple of times from too much information and new characters being dumped on the audience, its hyperkinetic energy quickly brings the film back up to speed. The action sequences are pretty awesome and the CGI really makes this expanded universe believable. As a comic book film in the MCU, it is just as good if not better than anything that has come before. As a science fiction film, it is the most fun I had in space since seeing Serenity many years ago. It's not every day that a great space adventure comes along, and GotG really delivers as a space epic.

Bottom line: if you haven't seen Guardians yet, I can't encourage you enough. It easily was the best movie of the summer. I can't wait til its sequel in a few years!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sorry it has been so quiet around here

How busy have I been lately? Quite a bit, obviously, since I only had 1 post in August go up here on the blog. We did a weekend getaway vacation, work has been crazy, & my son came down with Hand, Foot, & Mouth disease, which was a royal treat to deal with. My projector at home also recently bit the dust, meaning I now have to watch movies on a mere 42" TV like a savage. (#firstworldproblems). So, I haven't had time to write lately, which is unfortunate, since I love writing these posts and sometimes I feel like I am letting those of you that actually read this stuff down with a lack of content. I once again have a backlog of reviews to crank out, including 2 movies that I've seen in theaters somewhat recently. I'll try to get those up first, along with my huge annual fall TV preview post. So, look for those posts in the coming weeks. Work is going to continue to be busy, and grad school is resuming again, so posts will be sporadic, but I'll try to get some done when I can. In the meantime, if you haven't already, follow the blog on Facebook if you want to be kept in the loop when I update, as well as get bonus content not featured here on the blog. The link to do so is here --> LINK

Anyways, sorry I've been not posting, I'll try to get some stuff up soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

I was all set to sit down and write a couple new blog posts on the 2 most recent films I saw in theaters, Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but I find myself unable to focus on those movies after getting the tragic news about the passing of Robin Williams yesterday. His work in films and TV had such an impact on so many people, which was plainly evident by the massive outpouring of shock and grief on social media yesterday and today. My timeline in both Facebook and Twitter were filled with comments from people, including myself, expressing their memories of Williams and how he had impacted their lives, as well as sorrow over his lifelong struggle with his personal demons.

My earliest memories of Williams were from watching episodes of Mork & Mindy as a young child, which was his primary exposure to many of my generation. We also knew him as the lovable Genie in Aladdin and the hilarious Mrs. Doubtfire, amongst many other roles. For me, the pivotal role that really touched me more than any other Williams role was his Oscar nominated turn in Dead Poets Society. I know I’m not the only one who was impacted by that classic film, as at least half a dozen others in my timeline updated their status with “Oh Captain My Captain” upon hearing the news. As an actor, Williams had incredible versatility, whether he was playing a zany, manic goofball, a serious hero, or an off kilter psychopath like he did in Insomnia and One Hour Photo.
Too many of my generation know him from film and television, but forget that he was also an incredible stand-up comedian. His stage sets were filled with his trademark energy, and fortunately many of those performances live on the internet thanks to YouTube and other video hosting sites. There is an edited version of the first stand up performance I ever saw him in, back in the telethon Comic Relief VI, 20 years ago, that you can easily find on YouTube. I didn’t realize until that performance that I saw when I was 12 that he was a stand-up comic in addition to being a film and TV star, and he was hilarious. The clip online is only 8 minutes, which is a shame because the whole set is hysterical and I can still recite portions of it to this day.

My son now is only two and a half, but when he gets a bit older, he too will be introduced to the incredible performances of Robin Williams. He’ll see Aladdin, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire & Jumanji, and the Night at the Museum series in his childhood, and when he gets older I’ll make sure to show him Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting when he is old enough to appreciate the lessons from those films

I am still in shock today. I still cannot believe that he is gone. Having struggled with depression myself in the past, I know how hard of a demon that can be to deal with. My deepest condolences go out to his loved ones and friends in this tough time. I hope he has found the peace in death that he didn’t have in his life. So long Mr. Williams, and thank you for all of the great memories. You will be forever missed.

Lastly, if you yourself are struggling with depression and you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Like CRAPOLA on Facebook!

I've finally gotten around to making my blog have its own Facebook page. It only took me 3 years. So, if you haven't already, go and like the blog on Facebook. You'll get notification of new posts, plus lots more content as I'll be updating that more frequently than the blog here, especially for breaking news. Here's the link:

PCP on DVD - Pompeii

Sometimes when I watch a movie, I realize I've made a horrible mistake. Pompeii was one of those films. So, rather than waste even more time with a real review, I'm going change things up for this one.

Pompeii - 2014, rated PG-13.  My rating: 3.5 out of 10. 

From a visuals standpoint this film was decent, with cool destruction sequences at the end. Otherwise though, it was a pretty bad movie with a plot ripped off from other films I've seen before. Overall, it was pretty much a waste of an hour and forty-five minutes.

Things I'd wish I'd done rather than watch this movie:
  • Listen to Bastille's Pompeii on repeat for 1 hr 45 min. It's a good song, but I'm sure after listening to it that long I'd probably grow sick of it.
  • Watch the parts of Titanic again that this film stole the plot from
  • Watch the parts of Gladiator again that were again stolen by this film
  • Watch star Emily Browning's prior film Sucker Punch again (and I gave that one a 4 when I reviewed it)
  • Get spoilers on star Kit Harington's show Game of Thrones directly from George R.R. Martin
  • Watch star Kiefer Sutherland's 24 series while being waterboarded
  • Spend time with my wife and son
  • Spend time working on other reviews for my blog
  • Do pretty much anything else
Bottom line - don't waste your time on this movie.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PCP on DVD - Veronica Mars

Whenever people talk about great shows that were cancelled too soon, one of the ones regularly mentioned is Veronica Mars. The series only lasted 3 seasons on TV (2 on UPN, 1 on the CW) from 2004-07, yet it managed to build a very loyal and devoted fan following. Creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell had always wanted to do a film, but were unable to convince Warner Brothers to greenlight the movie. Then came the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. Thomas had the idea to use Kickstarter to gain funding for the show, showing the WB that there was indeed an audience wanting to see the movie get made. The film set records on Kickstarter, hitting their goal of $2,000,000 in less than 10 hours and overall receiving over $5,700,000 in donations from over 91,000 fans to get the movie made. So, Thomas and Bell had their film, now the question was, would the fans of the show actually enjoy the movie they had funded?

Veronica Mars - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 8 out of 10.

I was a big fan of the show Veronica Mars, unfortunately not discovering it until after it had already completed its run on the air. For those of you unfamiliar with the show or movie, Kristen Bell starred as the titular character, a (then) teenager who moonlights as a private eye in her dad's PI firm, while facing the challenges of high school and college, but never losing her extremely sarcastic outlook on life. The show (and movie) have a ton of great one-liners, both from Mars and her on and off again boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). The show was a noir-ish mystery series, and that mood and feel carries over to the movie very well. Even if you haven't seen the show, however, the film is still actually rather well done, and can stand alone as a good way to spend your time, with a nice character-driven mystery. You might not get all of the in-jokes and shout-outs to the series if you haven't seen it, but since the film is set nine years after the final season of the show, it still does a pretty solid job of reminding viewers who is who and introducing all of the important characters in a clear way.

This time around in the movie, the case revolves around Logan being accused of murder, and Veronica, who had gotten out of the PI life and had just passed the bar exam, being pulled back in in order to help save her ex from jail time. The mystery was actually pretty good, and I had fun trying to solve the case along with the characters in the movie.

Overall, it was nice to inhabit the universe of these characters again, and the movie will have a place on my shelf next to the TV series that spawned it. If you're looking for a good mystery film, I do recommend this. And if you never watched the TV series, I strongly encourage you to do so, as it was easily one of the better TV shows of the past decade.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PCP on DVD - About Time

Before my wife had added this to our Netflix queue, I knew nothing about the British film About Time. Upon learning that it was another romantic movie involving time travel and starring Rachel McAdams, who also was in The Time Traveler's Wife, I didn't have high expectations that this film would be any good. It turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.

About Time - 2013, rated R. My rating: 9 out of 10.

As I learned from when I was hunting for the poster image to use in this blog post, About Time is from the writer of a few other great British rom-coms: Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings & a Funeral. This movie stars upcoming Star Wars Episode VII star Domnhall Gleeson (real life son of the outstanding actor Brendan Gleeson) as Tim, a young British lawyer, who meets and falls in love with an American, Mary, (Rachel McAdams). But Tim has a secret that he doesn't share with Mary, a secret that is only known to the men of his family. When he turned 21, his father, named in the film only as Dad (Bill Nighy), lets him in on the family secret: the men of the family can time travel, back to any point in time they have personally lived before. Tim uses his powers to correct mistakes he makes in wooing Mary, and to lead a better, more fulfilling life, helping out his friends and family members along the way to also lead better lives.

I liked About Time's use of time travel, as it was a novel way I don't recall ever seeing portrayed in a film or book before. I also liked how Tim's dad explicitly points out that it can't be used to kill Hitler, giving a small shout out to the common joke about what one would do if they could time-travel. The film is also really funny, with Tim having some great one-liners and jokes. The time travel is also used to comedic effect, most notably in one montage where he cycles through possible best men at his wedding, based on their awful speeches.

Overall, between the funny dialogue, great chemistry between Gleeson & McAdams, and great life lessons imparted by the film to the audience, I found About Time to actually be a surprisingly good romantic comedy. I can definitely see this film being added to the rotation of rom-coms my wife and I watch when we are in the mood for a good romantic comedy, and I want to make sure it is a film that doesn't make me want to puke. This one definitely would be on that list. So, if you're looking for a good date movie, check this one out, I doubt you'll be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PCP in Theaters - X-Men: Days of Future Past

It has been an insanely busy last few weeks at work for me, and busy on the weekends as well, so it was nice to finally have a chance to get to the movie theater again for a new flick on the big screen. Although it came out a month ago, we finally got a chance to see X-Men: Days of Future Past in theaters this past week. And fortunately, unlike the Amazing Spider-Man 2, this summer's second (third if you count April's Captain America 2) major comic book franchise film did not disappoint.

X-Men: Days of Future Past.  2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 9 out of 10.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (hereafter referred to as XM:DFP) has a very challenging act to pull off. The film has to combine the characters from six previous X-Men films, and also find a way to paper over the continuity errors and other problems with the preceding films, which is especially difficult because originally the timeline of X-Men: First Class was not designed to match up perfectly with the original films (as noticed most readily by Emma Frost being younger in the 1970s in X-Men Origins: Wolverine than she was in the 1960s in X-Men: First Class). It also has to do justice to one of the most popular story-lines from the comic books, when the franchise already botched a different popular story-line (the Dark Phoenix) in X-Men 3. So, going in to this film, I was hopeful that it would be able to pull this off, but I was worried that the deck was stacked too much against the movie for it to be a success.

I was very glad to be completely and utterly wrong. The movie wound up being a ton of fun and was very entertaining. The film starts out in a bleak dystopian future, where mutant-killing robots known as Sentinels have slaughtered millions, not only mutants but humans that were carriers of the mutant genes and due to have mutant children or grandchildren. There is a great action sequence following characters we have never seen on film before, including Blink and Bishop, and some we have in Ice-man, Colossus, and Kitty Pride, as they fight to survive against the Sentinels. Their group links up with Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and Storm, and come up with a way to send Wolverine's consciousness back to his body in the past, to prevent the Sentinel program from ever getting off the ground, thus preventing this dark future from ever coming to pass. From there, the film switches focus to the 1970s, where Wolverine has to bring together the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage), because his death actually causes his robots to be put into production.

The film is very heavy on action, but it also has quite a few funny moments as well, and many shout-outs to the other films within the series or events that readers of the comics will understand but might be missed by those that have only seen the films. The film makes no allowances for new viewers, as it expects you to have seen the prior films and know who is every character on the screen. So, if you haven't seen at least X-Men 1-3 and First Class, you might be a little bit lost. The best action sequences are Magneto's escape from prison in the past (filled with some very funny moments thanks to Quicksilver), the battles with the Sentinels in the future, and Magneto's battle with the Sentinels in the past. The movie clearly spent a large portion of its $200 million budget on special effects, and they look fantastic. And while the film is not quite perfectly able to iron out the myriad continuity issues from having to fix the narrative errors of the previous six films, they do a good enough job to make the film work here.

Overall, XM: DFP was a very enjoyable movie, and easily the best in the series since X-Men 2. We got to see many familiar faces from the prior films, as well as some awesome new mutants too. The film also ends with a scene after the credits that makes fans of the comics very excited, and sets up the next film in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse coming in 2016. I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PCP on DVD - Yet Another Backlog Clearout

Once again, I found myself facing a giant pile of films that I needed to write reviews for, but not the time to do it justice. So, like my many prior backlog clearouts that I have done, here's a quick burst of 12 mini-reviews for some movies that I've caught on DVD since last fall, in alphabetical order.

42 - The Jackie Robinson biopic was extremely well acted, especially by the star, Chadwick Boseman, who I don't recall seeing in anything before this. He did such a great job here though, and he's been tapped to star as James Brown in that legend's upcoming biopic as well. The film does a great job of showing the challenges that Jackie Robinson had to face in breaking the MLB's color barrier. A fitting film for an American hero. My rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Argo - What can be said that hasn't been said already about the Oscar Winner for best picture from a year ago? The acting was outstanding by the incredible cast. Ben Affleck has really matured into an incredible director, he hasn't had a misstep in a few years now, and has fully redeemed himself for Gigli. My rating: 10 out of 10.

Carrie - It's been too long since I saw the original, so it is hard to compare the remake to this one. Thanks to modern technology though they were able to do some really cool things with her telekinetic powers though. But like many Stephen King adaptations, the film was only meh at best, and this remake was probably not necessary.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

Despicable Me 2 - I liked the first one a whole lot better than this one. The first one was a pleasant surprise, this one was a bit of a repetitive retread. Hopefully the spin-off film starring the minions will be funnier. My rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino is the man. I love his movies, and Django Unchained was probably his best yet. Outstanding film. Everyone involved, but especially Jamie Foxx, Leo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz were a blast to watch in this film.  My rating: 10 out of 10.

Monster's University - While not as good as the original, it was still nice to inhabit the universe of these characters again. It wasn't as big of a disappointment as Despicable Me 2 was, but it was still somewhat of a let down. Pixar might be starting to lose some of its magic. My rating: 8 out of 10.

Now You See Me - Visually this film was very striking, and it was entertaining thanks to the charismatic performances of the extremely talented cast, combined with some pretty cool magic tricks. Too bad the film squanders a bit of the goodwill on a "twist" ending that the film doesn't really truly lay any groundwork for, resulting in a somewhat unbelievable ending. My rating: 7 out of 10.

Oz the Great and Powerful - I thought this film was a lot of fun and it was way better than I expected. I especially liked some of the little Sam Raimi touches such as debris flying at James Franco in a way that reminded me of the Evil Dead series. While it could have been better, it was a fun ride that I enjoyed. My rating: 8 out of 10.

R.I.P.D. - This comic book adaptation about a supernatural police force had a lot of potential, as well as two great leads in Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. Too bad it was really just a weak Men in Black ripoff, just with demons instead of aliens as the opposition. My rating: 4 out of 10.

Silver Linings Playbook - Another film worthy of all of the praise it has received. It was filled with outstanding performances, including a surprisingly great turn from Chris Tucker in a tiny role. I had this reaction upon seeing him in the film as well. Overall, a very entertaining and touching film. My rating: 10 out of 10.

This is 40 - The spin-off from Knocked Up was very funny for me and my wife, as Paul Rudd's and Leslie Mann's relationship on the screen reminded us quite a bit of our own and had us in stitches for much of the film. My rating: 8 out of 10.

World War Z - The book that this was based on was way better. Also, I'm sorry but they aren't zombies if they move fast. Also, this film was extremely unbelievable. Any viral plague that goes to full fatal infection in 12 seconds after exposure, combined with fast-moving zombie carriers, would lead to the total extinction of humanity as a species. Simply based on exponential growth, the population of a city like New York City would be completely overrun in a matter of minutes. So, points off for major unrealism, but otherwise the film was fun and had good scares. My rating: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PCP on DVD - Iron Man 3

I am really a big fan of the linked Marvel Cinematic Universe, but because they are making so many films all tied together, it sometimes becomes hard to see all of them in theaters. Iron Man 3 was one that I had to wait until home video for, because my wife & I were kind of turned off to the character after the disappointing Iron Man 2. Thankfully, the third entry in the series was far stronger than the 2nd.

Iron Man 3 - 2013, rated PG-13. My Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Iron Man 3 takes place in the aftermath of The Avengers, with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) suffering from PTSD from the events of that film. He faces down a new threat, known as the Mandarin, a terrorist responsible for acts of brutality around the globe. He also faces a second threat, an attempt at making Captain America-like super soldiers from a program called Extremis. Little does he know that the Extremis program and the Mandarin are linked in hidden ways.

RDJ is great as usual as Stark; honestly Marvel knocked the casting for this role out of the park when they hired him several years ago. He delivers the sarcastic one liners very well, but he also does a great job of showing us Stark's pathos and despair after the traumas he faced in his last outing.

Also great in this film are the action sequences. The sequence with Iron Man having to rescue people in free fall from an explosion on Air Force One was incredible, even if not realistic (for one thing, you can't hear anyone yelling at you in free-fall, something I learned when I jumped out of a plane a few years ago). The finale showdown between a whole slew of Iron Man armor suits and an army of Extremis soldiers was also quite awesome and spectacular.

Overall, the film was definitely a step up from the 2nd in the series, and it helped revitalize the character quite a bit. I'm looking forward to seeing how they use him in the next Avengers film, hitting theaters in 2015. I know that for that film, I won't be waiting until DVD to see it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

PCP on DVD - We're the Millers

I'm always looking for a film that can make me laugh. When a film comes along with a pretty solid comedic cast, I always give it a shot, even though the cast of a film is never a guarantee of it actually being a good movie - case in point, Movie 43. Fortunately, We're the Millers was better than I expected and had me cracking up in several places.

We're the Millers - 2013, rated R. My rating: 7.5 out of 10.

We're the Millers tells the story of a drug dealer, David (Jason Sudekis), who has to become a drug smuggler after his stash and money is wiped out in a robbery, putting him deeply in debt to his supplier, Brad (Ed Helms). Brad orders David to become a drug mule, or be killed. In order to avoid suspicion at the border, David comes up with the brilliant idea to use a fake family taking a vacation in a RV to get the drugs through, thinking that a family would be less likely to face scrutiny at the US-Mexico border. So he recruits his neighbors to pose as his fake family: stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as his wife, and homeless runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) and local geek Kenny (Will Poulter) as his children. The film tells the story of their crazy road trip and the various cartel villains and federal agents they encounter, especially the hilarious Nick Offerman as Don, head of another RV driving family they encounter, who just so happens to also be a DEA agent. Along the way, the fake family is transformed into a real one, while still bringing the laughs at a pretty steady clip.

Last I heard, they are considering doing a sequel to this film. If they are, then I am on board with spending another few hours with this wacky family. The film entertained me quite a bit, and the outtakes in the end credits were actually quite funny as well, so make sure you stay tuned for those, including a pretty good practical joke played on Jennifer Aniston. Overall, I recommend We're the Millers, as it was one of the funnier films I've seen in awhile.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

POS on the Page - Going Clear

I have never used my blog to discuss religion before, but it is something that I enjoy studying in my spare time. One religion I was always curious about was Scientology, not from a standpoint of wanting to join that faith, but from the standpoint of wanting to know how and why a science-fiction author was able to create a religion, a religion that many view as either a) a cult or b) a scam. One of my earliest exposures to Scientology was the epic South Park episode, Trapped in the Closet. It did such a great job skewering the religion that it made me want to know more. Then along came this book, and I strongly encourage everyone who is curious about Scientology to read it. One of the best endorsements for this book is that the Church of Scientology is pissed off that it got written.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. 2013, 448 pages (hardcover)

Lawrence Wright is a respected journalist, and one of his prior books on the origins of Al-Qaeda won the Pulitzer prize for nonfiction. Going Clear started as an article for The New Yorker magazine, from his interviews with former Scientologist and Hollywood director Paul Haggis. For the book, Wright expanded the scope to delve deep into both the history of the faith's enigmatic founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the faith that he created. The book comes about from interviews with over 200 current and former Scientologists, and it contains some pretty explosive allegations of abuse within the church, some of which have played out in courtrooms around the world.

Reading through this book, I was blown away by the scams that L. Ron Hubbard pulled off as he built his faith, preying on the weak and insecure for money and status to build his cult. He was a con artist and liar with a P.T. Barnum level of hucksterism. Questionable labor practices, child abuse, sexual impropriety, financial scams, cutting members off from their families (just like a cult), and many more allegations get revealed in all their sordid details. It also reveals some of the core teachings of the church, teachings that are usually only presented to those that have given hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, to the church (although you can find them online now thanks to Google). There are teachings that show the clear sci-fi origins of the faith, including their belief that aliens are real and that all humans are infected with alien souls that cause us problems in our lives. Reading this book leaves you wondering how anyone could possibly believe in this religion, much less think it is a religion at all. As Paul Haggis says: "I was in a cult for thirty four years. Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't."

For a taste of what the book covers, here is a link to the original The New Yorker article that started it all, based on Wright's interviews of Haggis. I strongly encourage you to check it out. LINK  Overall, if you've ever wondered how a cult can flourish in this society, or are just looking for an interesting read, I encourage you to check out Going Clear. You'll never look at John Travolta or Tom Cruise the same way again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PCP in Theaters - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

As I said in my Summer Movie preview post, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a movie that I wanted to see in theaters, but I had some concerns about there being too many villains but that I'd see the film anyways. So I did see the film, and I both liked it and disliked it at the same time, if that is possible.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 7.5 out of 10.

I'll start with what I liked about this one, and then move on to my problems with the film. Visually, the film was gorgeous, especially the scenes of Spider-Man in flight. Those were always a lot of fun when they were happening on screen. Also great were the many fight sequences. Whether he was fighting the Green Goblin or Electro, the fight sequences were very well done and worth the price of admission.

Andrew Garfield was also great as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. The funny quips and sarcasm from the character brought many laughs to the film, which were needed. I think Garfield is better as Parker than Tobey Maguire was in the prior Spider-Man trilogy. Garfield also has great chemistry with his real-life girlfriend Emma Stone, playing the character of Gwen Stacy. Their scenes together had much better chemistry than any between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the first trilogy.

The downside of this film was that it was seriously disjointed. It felt like too many movies all shunted into one, and the film didn't know what type of movie it wanted to be. And, as I feared, there was a little bit of too many villains all for one film. They don't do enough to establish the villains, with each given about half of the time that it would take for them to properly tell each one's story. It would've been better to have these films separated out into separate ones, one film with Electro and a separate one with the Green Goblin. Since they combined too much into one film, it left the plot feeling convoluted, and often filled with too many contrivances and gimmicks that just harmed my enjoyment of the film. With the next film in the series looking like it's going to have even more villains (the ending of this one sets up the Sinister Six), I worry that this series will become even more flash and less substance than it has already become. Time will tell, I guess.

Overall, I give this film a B, basically. It is entertaining and fun, but if you're a stickler for a coherent plot, this probably isn't the film for you. For a more detailed breakdown of some of the many plot holes in this film, check out this link, they do a very thorough take-down of all the plot holes and contrivances that the film is stuffed with. Warning though, before you follow that link, there are obviously a ton of spoilers in there.

Speaking of SPOILERS - SPOILER WARNING It is a shame we won't be seeing Emma Stone in the next film in this series, because of her great chemistry with Andrew Garfield. Gwen's death was not surprising to those that know their comics, since her character was killed by the Green Goblin, and this film had both Gwen and the Green Goblin so I figured it was coming. The film did a great job with the way that they handled it though. It was a nice touch that she was wearing the same outfit as the one she was wearing when she was killed on the page over 40 years ago.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

PCP on DVD - Fast & Furious 6

Last year's tragic death of Paul Walker made me extremely sad, because although he wasn't one of the best actors, like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, I always looked forward to a new film in his big franchise, The Fast & the Furious. Walker starred in 5 of the first 6 films of this ongoing franchise, and they are delaying the seventh so they can re-work the script to account for Walker's death. I finally had the chance to catch the 6th installment of the series recently on Blu-ray, after not having the time to catch it in theaters last summer.

Fast & Furious 6 - 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 7.5 out of 10.

The F&F franchise is the definition of a popcorn movie. It's got action, funny lines, and a whole bunch of eye candy. F&F6 takes the series up to a new level of audacity, with crazy insane action sequences that break every law of physics repeatedly. It is easy to forgive the film for doing this though, despite the number of times I thought to myself "oh, come on!" when something ridiculous occurred, simply because even though it was completely implausible, it still looked cool as hell on screen.

F&F6 brings back everyone important from F&F5, including my favorite former WWE star, the tank-sized Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and adds Gina Carano (Haywire) as The Rock's sidekick, and Luke Evans (Immortals, The Hobbit) as the villain, Shaw.

Shaw is a psychotic military expert and former special forces soldier, known for doing vehicular mayhem on a grand scale, similar to the crazy heists that our heroes specialized in. Now, Shaw has set his sights on an extremely valuable piece of military hardware, so government agent Hobbs (The Rock) calls upon the heroes crew to take Shaw down. What follows is a number of crazy, over the top car, tank, and plane chases that have far more mayhem than any other car chase scene ever committed to film.

Overall, the film delivers on its promise of massive quantities of vehicular insanity. There's also a post-credits scene that sets up the next film in the series, as well as redefines a key scene from Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift (the 3rd one in the series). I can't wait to see what happens in the next film in the series. Hopefully I'll be able to catch that one in theaters this time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Summer Movie Preview 2014

So, the summer movie season is upon us, and with it comes two things: the end of my grad school hiatus and the resumption of my regular posting to the blog, and my 2nd annual Summer Movie Preview! Although, summer movie season seems to start earlier and earlier every year. We already had Captain America: The Winter Soldier back on April 4th, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a week and a half ago, but those are both considered to be "summer blockbusters" in terms of their content.

Just like last year, I'm going to go through the entire lineup of films from May through August, and break them down into one of three categories: those I want to see in theaters, i.e. the blockbusters that I'm most excited for; those that can wait until Blu-ray (which isn't that much of a loss for me, since I have a hi-def projector so my house is practically a theater anyway); and those I'll only see if I find a way to start getting paid to see movies. I have managed thus far to not see any of the movies from that last category from last year's list as of this writing.

Also, a quick formatting note: all films' release dates listed are approximate and subject to change based on the whims of the movie studios, and I am also just listing the Friday of the week that they come out, in some cases the films might actually be released on Wednesday or Thursday of that week.

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

In theaters movies: (so many blockbusters, so little time. I just hope all of these are good and not a waste of money!)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2) - Although I'm starting to worry a little bit that the film is going to have too many villains, it's a comic book movie so I'm pretty much guaranteed to see this film. Early buzz (as of me writing this on April 21) suggests that the film might not be worth seeing in theaters after all, but I'm sure I'll still see this eventually.
  • Godzilla (May 16) - It looks like we're finally going to get a Godzilla film worthy of the name, unlike the last time they tried to make one for American audiences. My wife doesn't particularly want to see this though, but maybe I'll be able to talk her into it.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23) - The latest installment in the X-Men franchise looks pretty bad-ass, and I'm looking forward to their take on one of my favorite comic book stories. Plus, it has Peter Dinklage in it (Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones) so that alone makes it worth watching.
  • Maleficent (May 30) - I like Angelina Jolie on screen, she's one of my favorite stars, so I know I'll be seeing this dark fairy tale related to Sleeping Beauty. Plus, my wife is really excited for this one, so we'll be seeing it for sure.
  • Edge of Tomorrow (June 6) - I enjoyed Tom Cruise's last sci-fi outing, Oblivion, and this one looks like it'll be a very interesting trip as well. I like sci-fi that makes you think, and this film, based on its trailer, looks like it will be a twisty and unpredictable journey.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11) - I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes quite a bit, so I'm looking forward to the sequel set a decade after the virus released at the end of the prior film has decimated the human population.
  • Jupiter Ascending (July 18) - I'll give pretty much any film from the Wachowskis a shot, and this one looks pretty epic visually. I just hope it's entertaining, like their best film The Matrix, and not just all style and no substance like their worst, Speed Racer.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1) - If this one is a hit, it will prove that Marvel is minting money, since this is a property that most people aren't familiar with, yet somehow it all ties into their ever expanding Avengers universe. The first trailer was witty and made the film look like a lot of fun, so a super-hero movie that doesn't take itself seriously will probably be a success.
After the jump the post continues with what I'll watch from the comfort of my couch, and what I'll try to avoid ever seeing. --->

Thursday, May 8, 2014

10,000 page views!

My blog just crossed the 10,000 page views mark, and I just want to say thank you to all of you for coming by and reading what I'm posting. It's nice to know that at least someone is reading this, considering that I just started this as a hobby. It makes it worth it for me to keep posting, knowing that some of you are enjoying this. So, thanks for coming by and reading! In the future, please also comment more on my posts, I'd love to have more interactions with those of you that read this to know who you are and if you agree or disagree with my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FML - Celebrating Star Wars Day

So this year my family celebrated Star Wars Day for the first time. My son & I were both decked out in Star Wars shirts, and my wife and I sat down to watch Episode IV: A New Hope. She had never seen any of the original trilogy of films before, somehow managing to avoid seeing them until now (although she has seen the prequel trilogy). Since my son is not yet two and a half, we knew that he wouldn't really be all that interested in the movie, nor able to follow it at all. In fact, he checked out from paying attention and went back to playing with his toys about 15 minutes into the movie. But initially, he was very excited, especially every time that C-3PO and R2-D2 were on the screen. The Star Wars tshirt he was wearing had the two droids on it, and he recognized them whenever they were on the screen, excitedly pointing to the screen and yelling "Robots! Robots!"


My wife thought the film was better than she expected it to be, but she still doesn't understand how some people are so pulled into fandom of the saga. I guess since she didn't see it at a young age, she'll never fully understand the passion this series has instilled in so many people. But I look forward to celebrating Star Wars Day in the future, especially as my son gets older and will be able to appreciate the films for more than just a few minutes.

Hope you all had a fun Star Wars Day yourselves, and may the force be with you, always!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Happy Star Wars Day!

Happy Star Wars Day to everyone! May the Fourth be with you! My son is all properly attired for the occasion, are you?

Also, my blog returns to regular posting next week, since this week I have finals for grad school, so check back on May 13th for my Summer Movie preview!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

As a comic book fan, I'll see pretty much any superhero film, no matter how good or bad. Fortunately, when the films wind up actually being good, it's a nice bonus for me because at least I didn't waste two hours of my life by seeing the film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 9 out of 10.

Marvel Studios has done a great job of building up the characters in their film universe tied to The Avengers. CA:TWS is Cap's (Chris Evans) first film since the events of The Avengers, and it is a far better film than his first one, since we now know the character a lot better than we did a few films ago.

Here he's back, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Scarlett Johannson's Black Widow and Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury, in a story that if you strip away the superheroes and special effects, is really almost a cold war spy thriller. Something sinister is going on within the halls of S.H.I.E.L.D. (man that is annoying to type out all the periods), something that will have far reaching consequences for both the cinematic Marvel universe, as well as it's TV expansion Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Externally to the agency, Cap also has to deal with the mysterious Winter Soldier, a bad-ass that can go toe to toe with Cap in a fight. I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil the plot on the off chance that you haven't read the spoilers on the internet already, and instead encourage you to go see this film in theaters. It was easily better than Iron Man 3 or Thor 2, (which I've seen but won't be posting the reviews for until this summer), and is the best film in this universe since The Avengers itself.

I will say that aside from the great thriller plot, and the awesome and fun action sequences, including a memorable one in an elevator, I also enjoyed the little shout-outs and moments of humor. Black Widow had some very funny moments in the film, especially her running efforts to find Cap a date. There was also a Stephen Strange mention, and an awesome shout-out to Samuel L Jackson's Jules from Pulp Fiction late in the film. The film also has not one but two post-credits sequences, one setting up the events of The Avengers 2, and the other for Captain America 3. Given the success that Marvel has had with the characters in this universe, I'm looking forward to this August's Guardians of the Galaxy, just to see how that all fits in with the story they have planned. But while you're waiting for Guardians, go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if you haven't already. It's definitely one of Marvel's best films to date.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Divergent

My wife and I went to the movies for her birthday, and since nothing particularly interesting was out yet (we saw this the week before Captain America: The Winter Soldier hit theaters), we went to see yet another film based on a young adult book series. At least this film, unlike the recent Vampire Academy, was actually not too bad. Actually, looking back at my last four in-theaters reviews (this, Vampire Academy, Catching Fire, and The Hobbit part 2), I've gone to four straight young adult fiction adaptations in theaters. I guess I'm still a kid at heart.

Divergent - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 8 out of 10.

Apparently young adult fiction these days falls into one of two categories: it's about the supernatural such as vampires, werewolves, or witches (Twilight, Harry Potter), or it is set in a post apocalyptic future (Divergent, Hunger Games). If you write a successful book in one of these two genres, it's pretty much guaranteed to be turned into a film (although whether or not that film will be successful is another story).

Fortunately for this film, and the audiences that watch it, it is one of the better entries in the pantheon of young adult novel adaptations to hit theaters recently. I haven't read the book series the film is based on, so I cannot comment on how close or divergent the film is from the novel. What I can tell you is that the film does a decent job of explaining the new world the series takes place in, and it helps that the actors in this movie are some pretty talented ones, including Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd.

Shailene Woodley stars as Tris, the heroine of our story. Set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, society is split into five distinct castes based on the personal attributes that you most identify with at a very advanced personality test. Upon taking the test, Tris learns that she does not have one clear-cut attribute, but is instead divergent, having multiple attributes. Apparently this is not a good thing and she has to keep this fact a secret, lest she be targeted for death. She decides to join the military caste, Dauntless, and the film shows her training to be a soldier in this society.

I don't want to go into too much more plot detail, in part because it's kind of hard to explain without watching the film or reading the books, and in part because I don't want to give away any spoilers. What I can tell you is that I did enjoy exploring this unique society, and I am looking forward to visiting it again in its inevitable sequel, thanks to the film's box office success. I really only have one quibble with the film, which I don't know if this will be addressed in a future film in the series or if it was covered in the books that I have not read. My quibble is they never explain how the apocalypse in question came to pass, or what kind of apocalypse it was. Also, the film is set in Chicago, and there are some parts of that setting that are unbelievable to me as a resident of the Chicagoland area. In one establishing shot, they show the majority of the skyline is still intact, but all of the outer sprawl is completely gone, turned into a grassland. I know just how dense that sprawl around Chicago is, and how many tall buildings the suburbs also hold. I just don't understand what kind of apocalypse lays waste to the entirety of suburbia but leaves the skyline intact. If you know the answer to this riddle, feel free to tell me in the comments.

Other than that minor complaint, over all I enjoyed the film, and can't wait until the next one in the series, Insurgent. Fortunately, I won't have to wait long, as that one is scheduled for next March. I guess I know what my wife and I will be seeing on her birthday next year!

All right, that's all for today, thanks for stopping by! Check back soon, I'm hopefully going to see Captain America: the Winter Soldier this weekend, so I'll try to get a review up for that soon!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PCP in Theaters - Vampire Academy

As I said back on my "I'm going on hiatus again" post, I knew I'd be seeing a couple movies in theaters before the blog returns full-time in the summer. Well, I saw Vampire Academy in theaters, all the way back on Valentine's Day, but I've been so busy that I wasn't able to write my review in detail until recently. At this point, you probably can't find this film in theaters anyway except maybe at the dollar theaters, because it didn't do too well at the box office anyway. But, it'll be on DVD soon, so if you really want to watch this movie, you'll be able to do so from the comfort of your own couch.

Vampire Academy - 2014, rated PG-13. My rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Marketing pro tip: don't mention the phrase "they suck" in the context of your film's advertising, as it makes it way too easy to mock the film itself if it isn't that good of a film.

I hadn't read the teen book series that the film was based on, and based on this film I don't have any intent to go and do so either. Like many films lately, VA was an attempt to find the next Twilight or Hunger Games franchise, but unfortunately for every hit at the box office, there's a flop or two as well, like this or Beautiful Creatures or the Mortal Instruments. All I knew about this film going in was that it was from the writer of the teen classic Heathers and the director of Mean Girls, so I figured that a film set in a high school couldn't be that terrible with that pedigree.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. The film wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. Working in its favor was the fact that it created a new variety of vampire mythology, compared to traditional vampire films (and hey, no sparkling either, a joke pointed out by the film itself in one of its funnier moments). Zoey Deutch stars as Rose, a half-human, half vampire known as a Dhampir. Dhampirs are the bodyguards of the good vampires, the Moroi, who have witchcraft like super powers but are not great at fighting. Rose specifically protects her best friend, Lissa, a princess of the Moroi nobility, from those that want to harm her, including the "bad" vampires, the Strigoi. Also working in the film's favor, in addition to the new mythology, are some of the scenes set at the school, especially in the cafeteria. Those parts of the film were some of the better scenes, which is likely due to the writing from Daniel Waters.

Too bad they couldn't stay at the school cafeteria all of the time since those, scenes were some of the best, but the film couldn't decide if it wanted to be a teen high school movie or an action/horror movie, so it felt uneven and schizophrenic. The CGI was also pretty weak looking, but the film did have a microscopic budget so that makes sense. Also, because of the unique mythology of the vampire hierarchy in this series, the film had to rely on way too much voice-over from Rose to explain what is going on to the audience, which hurts the film significantly. And, the film telegraphs it's bad guy in an extremely obvious way, so you can see the "twist" coming a mile away.

Overall, the movie ended on a nice sequel hook with a nasty looking army of Strigoi not far from the school, but based on how this bombed at the box office, we'll never get to see that attack happen on screen. If you want to find out what happens, I guess you'll have to read the books, but I don't plan to do that myself. If you do read them, let me know if they're worth the time.

Alright, that's all for today, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grad school hiatus again

Grad school is back on for me, so the blog is back into low-posting mode until May. I have a few movies I've caught on DVD lately I want to write about, but I'll probably just post those reviews in the summer, so things are probably going to be pretty quiet for awhile, sorry. I do plan on seeing a movie in theaters on Valentines' Day with my wife (she wants to see Vampire Academy so it'll be that), so I'll get that review up in February, and I also want to see Veronica Mars when that comes out in March, so look for that review then also. Otherwise though, yeah, it's gonna be pretty quiet around here. Thanks for dropping by!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

PCP in Theaters - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I said back in my review of the first Hunger Games film that I hadn't yet read the books before seeing the film, a rarity for me. Since the first movie did so well that sequels were inevitable, I went out and read all of the books before seeing Catching Fire, the 2nd film (and book) in the series.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The second film in the series picks up a few months after the events of the first. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, who seriously never takes a day off because she's in like every movie these days) & Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the winners of the previous year's Hunger Games, find that their defiance of the Capitol in the previous year's games has resulted in rebellions and riots forming and spreading throughout the twelve subjugated districts. When their victory tour, forced upon them for having won, fails to suppress but instead foments additional riots, the President of the Capitol is extremely displeased. He changes the rules for the next year's Hunger Games, forcing the duo back into the gladiatorial arena against their will, in a Hunger Games comprised solely of previous winners. In other words, all 24 people competing in the games have won the grisly fight to the death, so there are no newbies that have no clue what they are doing when the fighting begins.

The first two-thirds of the film focuses on the emerging rebellion, the Capitol's brutality contrasted with its wasteful decadence and shallowness, and Katniss' growing discomfort with herself becoming the symbol of a rebellion. The final third brings us back into the arena, but it shows far less of the combat than the previous film, for reasons that I am not going to spoil here. The film ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which makes sense as it is the middle book of a trilogy (but in this case the films are going to be a foursome, as the final book Mockingjay is being split into two parts). But overall, if you liked the first film in the series, you'll enjoy this one more. Having gotten the character introductions primarily out of the way in the first film, the second film flows a lot better and doesn't drag as much as the first film did in places. I'm looking forward to parts 3 and 4, when they come out in November of 2014 and 2015.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

PCP in Theaters - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

As I mentioned in my review last year for part 1 of The Hobbit, I am a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, so seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters for me was a given. I finally had a chance to catch it recently and here are my thoughts on the film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 9 out of 10.

Once again, Peter Jackson knocks it out of the park with his creation of Middle-Earth. Just like the previous films in the series, the production design is excellent, with amazing attention to detail on all of the various towns and buildings created for the film. He really brings to life all of the places from the novel, with breathtaking results.

The film itself continues the journey of hobbit Bilbo Baggins and a company of 12 dwarves to attempt to reclaim the dwarves’ home from the dragon, Smaug, that has taken it over. We finally see Smaug in this film, voiced by the great Benedict Cumberbatch. His voice brings a malevolent but regal power to the dragon, who is also beautifully rendered by the CGI animators for the film. Hearing him talk as the dragon reminded me a lot of his performance as Khan in Star TrekInto Darkness from earlier in the year.

Just like the first Hobbit, it is hard to rate a film that is inherently incomplete. This middle bridge of the trilogy does a great job of getting the characters where they need to be, the Lonely Mountain, but it ends on a cliffhanger because the book it is based on is not yet finished. This one was better than the first one though, with less expository dialogue and far more action than the first film contained. Most memorably, the river barrel escape sequence combined great action and thrills with some very funny moments as well. This film also contained a lot of departures from the book though, including a character made up by Peter Jackson and not Tolkien, Tauriel, played by Lost's Evangeline Lilly.  I for one do not mind the changes that Jackson has made, however, as I find they add more depth to the book than Tolkien had originally written. The changes better flesh out the world and make it feel more complete. I also like the fact that the film shows us more in detail the trials Gandalf faces that were only hinted at in the book but never shown.

Overall, part 2 of the Hobbit was an improvement over the first film, and I really hate the fact that I have to wait until the end of 2014 for the conclusion of this gorgeous trilogy. I know that I’ll be there in theaters when it comes out, however, as I am looking forward to the conclusion. The film ends on a great place for the final act to begin, one that seems like it is going to be chock full of action throughout. I can’t wait!