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!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

PCP on DVD - Movie Backlog Clearout

Since I haven't had the time to write reviews because of grad school, but have still had the time to watch movies, I have once again developed a backlog of movies that need to be reviewed. Like I have in the past, I'm going to do a clear-out post of my backlog by posting really short reviews of 23 movies I caught within the past 6 months that I don't want to write more than a paragraph about. There were some good movies in this batch, some bad ones too, but I just want to get their reviews done so I can focus on longer posts on the movies I actually want to write about (i.e. the really good ones).  So, without further ado, here are the quick reviews in alphabetical order.

21 & Over - 2013, rated R. My rating: 5 out of 10. It's a college drinking movie about a 21st birthday celebration. It has its funny moments but nothing particularly original really. Basically, it's a lot like The Hangover retold for a new generation.

About Cherry - 2012, rated R. My rating: 4 out of 10. A lame girl moves to California and gets into the skin industry. Probably the most pointless well acted film I've ever seen. Lame ending left me asking "what was the point?" Don't waste an hour and a half of your life.

A Good Day to Die Hard -2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 5 out of 10. Were this named anything else and not part of the Die Hard franchise it'd probably warrant a 6 or 7, but it gets points off for sullying the name of the greatest action flick ever. Please stop making films in this franchise, thanks.

Beautiful Creatures - 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 6.5 out of 10. Yet another young adult novel adaptation hoping to be the next Twilight franchise. It has cool effects for the witchcraft moments, and fun scenery-chewing performances, especially from Emmy Rossum. I don't think it did well enough for them to continue the series though.

Celeste & Jesse Forever - 2012, rated R. My rating: 8 out of 10.  Funny but touching, but also majorly depressing. It's not a romantic comedy date movie, it's more sort of like PS I Love You in the fact that it's a depressing love story. Rashida Jones & Andy Samberg are awesome though.

Hanna - 2011, rated R. My rating: 6 out of 10.  Well done action sequences offset by sucky plot meant that I found it hard to care about any of the characters. But, as I said the action sequences were pretty bad-ass, so that prevented the film from being a total waste.

Keep reading! There's more after the jump! --->

Monday, January 6, 2014

PCP on DVD - The Hangover Part III

The first Hangover film was one of the more enjoyable comedies of the past decade. It's first sequel was derivative, telling the same story but set in Bangkok instead of Las Vegas. For The Hangover Part III, they are back in Vegas, but without the massive memory loss story line of the past two films. Does a new story idea result in an enjoyable movie? Not really.

The Hangover Part III - 2013, rated R. My rating: 4 out of 10.

The Wolfpack returns for what I hope is their final adventure. I say that I hope that it's the end, because after this one I don't want to spend any time with these characters again. This time they are dealing with inadvertent consequences of their misadventures from the previous two films. The plot isn't really all that believable though, in reality a crossed mob boss would've just capped them and the movie would've been over after 10 minutes.

While it was nice to hang out with these characters for the third time, their stories were pretty played out and tired. All of the best jokes from the film were in the trailer too. Really, there's not a lot we haven't seen before. Zach Galifianakis is weird, Ed Helms is increasingly fed up with Zach's antics, Bradley Cooper the man in charge, and Justin Bartha missing for the majority of the film.

Really, unless you're a diehard Galifianakis fan (because he's the best thing of this movie), don't waste your time on this one. There are far funnier comedies out there than this mess.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

PCP on the Page - John Grisham & Stephen King Go Back to the Well

Recently, two authors I really like, Stephen King and John Grisham, released sequels to books they had written many years ago. This was a new thing for both of them. While King has written direct sequels before, specifically with his Dark Tower series of books, and has linked the locations and events of his books together, he hasn't really written a direct sequel to one of his "standalone" novels. Likewise, outside of his series of young reader novels set around the character Theodore Boone, John Grisham had never written a direct sequel to one of his books either. So, I found it interesting that both authors had direct sequels to two of their most popular novels come out right around the same time as each other this fall. I guess that I have gotten used to Hollywood's endless sequel machine, because I'm actually somewhat surprised that these two authors hadn't done this before and waited so long to do so.

For John Grisham, the well that he goes back to is the character of Jake Brigance, the southern lawyer from Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, published back in 1989. Set three years after the trial that freed Carl Lee Hailey who killed the Klansmen who raped his daughter, Brigance is desperate for a flashy case and eager to fight a tough fight. He gets one when a wealthy local recluse kills himself, but right before doing so mails Brigance a brand new, extremely controversial last will and testament. Brigance has to figure out why this multimillionaire is leaving 90% of his estate to his Black housekeeper, instead of to his children and grandchildren, and to defend this will in court from the legal challenge by the man's family.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sycamore Row. It had a crackling energy that had been somewhat lacking Grisham's work of late, perhaps because he was going back to a highly popular character. Unlike A Time to Kill however, I don't see them adapting this one into a film, even if Matthew McConaughey wanted to reprise the role. The book doesn't lend itself to a film the way some of Grisham's earlier works did. That doesn't mean it's not a good read, because it is, it just doesn't have as many thrills or the life and death stakes of some of his other works.

Continue after the jump for the review of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep -->