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.