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300 Rise of an Empire - Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) assembles his troops to fend off an invading Persian army led by the immortal Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and the vindictive Persian navy commander Artemisia (Eva Green) in this sequel to 300 based on the graphic novel Xerses by Frank Miller. In the wake of the Persians’ victory over King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, the God King Xerxes (Santoro) appears poised to conquer Greece. As the ruthless Artemisia (Eva Green) assembles a massive fleet of ships and sets sail for conquest, Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) strives to rally his countrymen to fight for freedom, and he manages to gain the upper hand over the invaders by confronting them at sea. Meanwhile, Leonidas’ former advisor and wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) is reluctant to sacrifice any more Spartans in a fight that appears to be unwinnable. When the Greeks enjoy an early victory over Artemisia and her soldiers, however, it appears that Themistokles’ unconventional tactics are more effective than the Persian Empire’s formidable brawn. But later, after Artemisia’s attempt to seduce Themistokles to her side proves unsuccessful, the spurned naval commander deals a devastating blow to her Greek opponents. In the aftermath of that skirmish, Themistokles is presumed dead and Athens falls. The Persian Empire seems on the verge of victory, though when Xerxes and Artemisia learn that Themistokles lives, they realize the fight won’t be over until he takes his final breath. Author: Jason Buchanan

Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham; Directed by Noam Murro; Warner Bros.; Rating: R; 103 minutes; 2014


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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - The web-slingin’ wall-crawler hits the screens once again in this follow-up to Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot of the series. Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker, who squares off against the villainous Electro, played by Jamie Foxx. As the film opens, we find Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davitz) stealing away with some crucial Oscorp files while leaving young Peter in the care of Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben. Flash forward about a decade, and Peter (Garfield) is swinging into action as Spider-Man; having successfully thwarted the hijacking of an Oscorp truck by notorious Russian criminal Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), Peter ditches the costume just in time to meet up with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) at their high school graduation. Despite his deep love for Emma, however, Peter remains haunted by his promise to her late father not to get emotionally involved with her for fear that she could be targeted by Spider-Man’s enemies. Meanwhile, young Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) inherits OsCorp and a deadly retrovirus from his father Norman (Chris Cooper), and brilliant but timid OsCorp scientist Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) gets infused with a powerful dose of electricity while attempting to fix a faulty power circuit in the lab. Upon regaining consciousness, Max discovers that he has the power to harness electrical currents - the higher the voltage the more powerful he becomes. When a battle with Max in Times Square shorts out Spidey’s web-shooters, Peter goes to work on developing a more reliable model of his signature weapon while Harry grows convinced that Spider-Man’s blood is the key to his survival. Later, villainous OsCorp chairman Donald Menken (Colm Feore) steals the company out right out from under Harry, driving the vengeful youth to break Max — now Electro — out of the heavily-guarded Ravencroft Institute for a two-pronged attack on Menken and Spider-Man. The stage for that battle is set when New York City goes dark just as Peter declares his love to Gwen, plunging the wise-cracking web-slinger into a fight that could forever alter the course of his life. Author: Jeremy Wheeler

Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, Campbell Scott; Directed by Marc Webb; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: PG-13; 142 minutes; 2014


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Bridesmaids - Director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow team up again for this comedy that stars Kristen Wiig as Annie, a romantically unattached failed bakery owner who fears she’s losing her BFF, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), the best thing in her life, when Lillian announces she’s gotten engaged. Annie’s anxieties deepen as Lillian grows close to Helen (Rose Byrne), a wealthy and beautiful new friend who quickly assumes control of planning all the pre-wedding festivities. On top of the main storyline of a female friendship being torn apart, the movie adds a romantic storyline for Annie, who starts the film answering a booty call from the casually cruel yet undeniably handsome Ted (Jon Hamm), but develops a lovely flirtation with an Irish cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) after he pulls Annie over one night thinking she’s driving drunk. As the low-self-esteem Annie sabotages this new possibility for love, she also feels the most important friendship in her life slipping away. Author: Perry Seibert

Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy; Directed by Paul Feig; Universal Pictures; Rating: R; 125 minutes; 2011


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Divergent - In a world where the population is divided into factions by personality types, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is classified as Divergent. When she uncovers a conspiracy to eliminate all Divergents, she teams with the mysterious Four (Theo James) to find out what makes the powers-that-be so frightened of them. Kate Winslet also stars in this action thriller adapted from the novel by Veronica Roth, and directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless). Author: Jason Buchanan

Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Miles Teller; Directed by Neil Burger; Summit Entertainment; Rating: PG-13; 140 minutes; 2014


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Easy A
- Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is re-imagined as a contemporary high school comedy in this tale of a scheming student who plots to give her popularity a boost by painting herself the easiest lay in school. Like most high school kids, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) just wants to be popular. So much so than when her best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), asks Olive how her weekend went, the bored teen decides to whip up a spicy white lie just to make things interesting. But that minor exaggeration begins to take on a life of its own when it reaches the ears of motor-mouth gossip Jesus freak Marianne (Amanda Bynes), and in no time the entire student body is abuzz over unassuming Olive’s unrepentant weekend of debauchery. Of course not a word of it is true, but that doesn’t stop everyone in school from talking, and an amused Olive from deciding to go with the flow. Playing the role of the hussy to the hilt, the girl who used to be invisible begins dressing provocatively and turning heads in the hallways. The students aren’t the only ones taking notice, either; Olive’s English teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), is concerned that the kind of attention she’s receiving isn’t healthy for a developing girl, and his wife (Lisa Kudrow), the school guidance counselor, is in full agreement. The only people who seem remotely interested in the truth are Olive’s trusting and open-minded parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson). As Olive takes note of the parallels between her own situation and the plight of the Scarlet Letter heroine Hester Prynne, she realizes that she may be able to manipulate her newfound notoriety to give fellow classmate Brandon’s (Dan Byrd) popularity a much-needed shot in the arm. Olive never thought her little game could possibly have any negative effect on anyone but herself, but when loose lips start sinking ships all around her, she realizes that it’s high time for the truth to come out. Author: Jason Buchanan

Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson; Directed by Will Gluck; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: PG-13; 92 minutes; 2010


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Half of a Yellow Sun - Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are glamorous twins from a wealthy Nigerian family. Upon returning to a privileged city life in newly independent 1960s Nigeria after their expensive English education, the two women make very different choices. Olanna shocks her family by going to live with her lover, the “revolutionary professor” Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his devoted houseboy Ugwu (John Boyega) in the dusty university town of Nsukka; Kainene turns out to be a fiercely successful businesswoman when she takes over the family interests, and surprises even herself when she falls in love with Richard (Joseph Mawle), an English writer. Preoccupied by their romantic entanglements, and a betrayal between the sisters, the events of their life seem to loom larger than politics. However, they become caught up in the events of the Nigerian civil war, in which the lgbo people fought an impassioned struggle to establish Biafra as an independent republic, ending in chilling violence which shocked the entire world.

Chiwetel, Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, John Boyega, Joseph Mawle, Onyeka Onwenu; Directed by Biyi Bandele; Monterey Media, Inc.; Rating: R; 113 minutes; 2013


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Matilda
- Based on the book Matilda, by British children’s author Roald Dahl, this film moves the setting from the U.K. to the U.S.; otherwise it follows the original closely. Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is an extremely curious and intelligent little girl who is very different from her low-brow, mainstream parents (Danny DeVito and real-life wife Rhea Perlman), who quite cruelly ignore her. As she grows older, she begins to discover that she has telekinetic powers. Not until a teacher shows her kindness for the first time does she realize that she can use those powers to do something about her sufferings and help her friends as well. Villains from the awful Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), headmistress of her miserable school Crunchem Hall, to her parents and older brother begin to feel her ire. Look for Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) in a small part as an FBI agent investigating Matilda’s shady father. Author: Clarke Fountain

Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Mara Wilson, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Paul Reubens; Directed by Danny DeVito; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: PG; 98 minutes; 1996


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Oculus - Two siblings haunted by a childhood tragedy learn that the source of their horror is a mysterious mirror with a dark history. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) were merely teenagers when both of their parents were brutally butchered. Convicted of the killings and sentenced to protective custody, Tim serves his time while Kaylie drifts into a deep despair. Years later, a newly free Tim does his best to lay the past to rest. Meanwhile, Kaylie is certain that her brother was innocent all along, and that the antique mirror their parents used to own holds the answer to her darkest questions. Upon locating the long-lost looking glass, Kaylie’s deepest fears are confirmed — a menacing force inhabits that mirror, and it has plagued every owner who has come into possession of it. Now, as curious Kaylie reacquires the mirror, the nightmarish cycle of horror returns with a vengeance. Author: Jason Buchanan

Brenton Thwaites, James Lafferty, Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso; Directed by Mike Flanagan; Relativity Media; Rating: R; 105 minutes; 2013


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Pitch Perfect - Beca is that girl who’d rather listen to what’s coming out of her headphones than what’s coming out of you. Arriving at her new college, she finds herself not right for any clique but somehow is muscled into one that she never would have picked on her own: alongside mean girls, sweet girls and weird girls whose only thing in common is how good they sound when they sing together.When Beca takes this acoustic singing group out of their world of traditional arrangements and perfect harmonies into all-new mash-ups, they fight to climb their way to the top of the cutthroat world of college a cappella. This could wind up either the coolest thing they’ll ever do or the most insane, and it will probably be a little of both.

Anna Kedrick, Skylar, Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Ben Platt, Rebel Wilson; Directed by Jason Moore; Universal Pictures; Rating: PG-13; 112 minutes; 2012


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The Pretty One - A young, socially awkward woman (Zoe Kazan) who’s never struck out on her own assumes the identity of her confident, outgoing twin sister following a tragic accident at their birthday celebration, and wrestles with the decision to maintain her elaborate ruse in this poignant comedy drama from writer/director Jenée LaMarque. Author: Jason Buchanan

Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, John Carroll Lynch, Ron Livingston, Shae D’Lyn, Frankie Shaw; Directed by Jenée LaMarque; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: R; 90 minutes; 2013


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RoboCop
- A powerful multinational conglomerate attempts to bring robotic law enforcement to the United States by transforming a critically injured police officer into a cyborg cop in this remake of the subversive 1987 sci-fi classic. The year is 2028. For a long time, cutting-edge robotics company OmniCorp has been supplying the U.S. military with drones for use overseas, though their repeated attempts to bring the technology stateside has met with fierce resistance. When devoted family man and upstanding Detroit policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is grievously wounded in the line of duty, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) attempts to innovate by recruiting top scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to transform Murphy into a prototype half-man/half-robot crime-fighter. When initial tests fail to provide the results OmniCorp had hoped for, Norton reprograms Robocop to operate strictly on software rather than human emotion. Later, Robocop finally hits the streets, and the citizens of the crime-ridden city welcome him with open arms. But as Murphy’s emotions begin to interfere with his programming, he sets out to find the criminals who nearly killed him, and ensure that justice is served. Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, and Jackie Earle Haley co-star. Author: Jason Buchanan

Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley; Directed by José Padilha; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: PG-13; 108 minutes; 2014


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Stalingrad
- (SUBTITLED) The bloodiest battle in the history of modern warfare serves as the focus of this sweeping war film from director Fyodor Bondarchuk (9th Company, Obitaemiy Ostrov). The year is 1942: The German army has devastated the city of Stalingrad in the Soviet Union, prompting a band of brave Russian soldiers to make their last stand in a strategic building on the bank of the Volga. When the cornered soldiers encounter a pair of Russian women who failed to flee before the German assault, an unlikely romance emerges against the backdrop of the defining battle that will ultimately become a crucial victory for the Allied forces — but not before five months of ferocious fighting. Thomas Kretschmann, Petr Federov, and Yanina Studilina star. Author: Jason Buchanan

Thomas Kretschmann, Petar Zekavica, Petr Fedorov, Yanina Sudilina, Andrey, Smolyakov, Maria Smolnikova; Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Rating: R; 135 minutes; 2013



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