one word reviews of Movies and TV

Sunday, May 20, 2018

DJ Rambles About Revenge (2017)

INSUFFICIENT
Of all the subgenres in film, I'm kind of a sucker for a good revenge flick.  The Count Of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, The Crow, Django Unchained, John Wick, Gladiator, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  They are all films that are the quickest to grab my attention in terms of understanding the needs of the character.  A tale of someone seeking justice without the hindrance of rules or morals.  One of the granddaddies of them all is the 1978 exploitation film, I Spit On Your Grave.  The film I'm reviewing here, Revenge, does not come close to the gory exploitiveness of an I Spit On Your Grave.  However, one can't help but feel that Revenge is a bit of an echo to what I Spit On Your Grave left, for better or worse.

The glitzy colors mixed with the minimalism of narrative makes Revenge feel like a Jonathan Glazer film (Sexy Beast, Under The Skin) by way of the late great Tony Scott (Literally every film in the '90s).  It actually comes to us from French director, Coralie Fargeat.  It tells the tale of a "party girl" named Jen who, while on vacation with her married boyfriend, suddenly finds herself attacked, left for dead, and miraculously saved allowing her to seek her vengeance.  And though it seems like I'm being vague to avoid spoilers, Revenge's plot doesn't get much more intricate than that.  Since we come directly into the middle of a pretty cliched situation between the characters and don't know or learn much about them, there really isn't much for me to cling to in terms of their goodness or badness.  This is a big part, for me at least, in getting the intended catharsis of any revenge film.

We know how good of a man and how despicable of a person Maximus and Commodus are respectively before the inciting incident and quest for revenge takes place in Gladiator.  Characters do nothing but talk about the character of John Wick and the reasons he got out and why it's really bad that he's coming in his film.  Same with William Munny in Unforgiven, or the Bride in Kill Bill, or John Creasy in Man On Fire, or Khan Noonien Singh in Wrath Of Khan.  Because we know so little about Jen her man and her man's friends, we are left to just focus on the incident and titular revenge, weakening the overall catharsis.  In short, you care less because you're given hardly anything to care about.  A stripped down revenge flick was likely Fargeat's intention, along with the idea of just having a normal victimized female brutally confronting her attackers. (A clear commentary on the social climate we are living in today with victims of physical and psychological abuse fearlessly fighting back against their abusers.) 

As I alluded to before, the visuals of the film are really well done, as well as the accompanying synthy score by Robin Coudert.  Fargeat has a great eye, a flair for symbolic imagery and a bright future ahead of her.  As far as debut feature film outings go, Revenge is not bad at all.  It just left me feeling unfulfilled near the end, making it an INSUFFICIENT tale of revenge, in my opinion.  Maybe I have to watch it again.  Maybe you have to watch it too...and then tell me I'm wrong.

Monday, May 14, 2018

DJ Rambles About Terminal

WASTE
What exactly...is Terminal?  No, no...that wasn't some highfalutin or artsy attempt to start this review.  I seriously don't know what this film is.  Is it an exercise in the limits of neon lighting cinematography?  Is it another neo-noir vehicle starring Margot Robbie that stumbles at the starting gate and never fully recovers? (I see you Suicide Squad) Is it a love letter to an era where Hollywood spit out movies like this seemingly every week, but comes closer to being a love letter written using cut out pieces of various periodicals, making the reader/viewer feel uncomfortable and frightened?  It is likely all of those things.  In short...though longer than our one word review...Terminal is a cavalcade of mistakes, wheel-spinning WASTES of time trying to masquerade as crafty foreshadowing, and performances given by actors I love that bounce around in tone and coherence like an annoying child's pink rubber ball.  What is this film?

Terminal stars the aforementioned Margot Robbie along with the great Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, and Guy Ritchie vet, Dexter Fletcher.  It is about a femme fatale named Annie, played by Robbie, as she manipulates several seedy characters into playing a dangerous game of sex, death, and double-crosses.  It comes to us from writer/director Vaughn Stein from...from...well...nothing really. (At best I could find was Third Assistant Director for World War Z.  Yeah, that's a thing.)  I'm doing my best to avoid spoiling a plot that, if you see Terminal, will likely frustrate you into wondering why I even bothered.

I remember after Pulp Fiction became a cultural phenomena in the mid '90s, copy cat films sprung up like wild fire trying to capture the same magic.  Terminal feels like one of those films.  Not Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead or Go type quality.  More like The Big Hit and 2 Days In The Valley type quality.  The overly written dialogue with segues that seem innocuous until later.  The twists that feel more confusing and convoluted than clever.  The hyper-stylized visuals used to distract from the lack of substance.  The overly heavy-handed symbolism regarding a previous work of fiction.  I'm sure the early twenties version of me might have had the DVD of Terminal in my dorm room and plopped it on after coming home from some drunken rager.  It might have even garnered a cult following like some of those films over the years due to nostalgic blinders.  However, the older me, the one that kinda sees the strings a little better, just watched Terminal with this apropos expression on my face:
To Terminal's credit, there is a literal side mission, in terms of the plot, that involves Simon Pegg's character that comes off as vaguely interesting.  If only it were the entire plot of the film.  If it were expanded to be all of Terminal, leaving aside the main cat and mouse hitman mystery, this might have been something.  But before you know it, the side mission ends and we are thrust back into a main plot that makes little to no sense and amasses little to no interest.

Margot Robbie has recently proven with I, Tonya that she brings more to the table than roles like this.  This is paint by numbers for her in this, with little to no meat for her to chew on that she hasn't devoured before in better stuff.  I appreciated that Mike Myers seemed to want to branch out of comedy and take some roles that showed off all of his talents.  This role is hardly it.  Simon Pegg is always charismatic and fun to watch.  However, despite an interesting story arc, I think Pegg is terribly miscast in this film even taking into account his chemistry with Robbie.  If he had, again, some more room to expand and grow this character, you might buy where his character goes...but he doesn't and you don't.  Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons (son of Jeremy inexplicably) are saddled with such disposable material, it's hard for me to remember anything about their characters other than they are British and have the lion share of the f-bombs.

Terminal is a WASTE.  A WASTE of talent, time, and effort to apparently tap into a type of filmmaking of the past that is best suited to staying in its era.  If you watch it, I'll bet it is going to be hard for you to tell me I'm wrong.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

DJ Rambles About Avengers: Infinity War, A Quiet Place, Atlanta Season 2, & Apple Hard Drives

I haven't written a review for a while.  This is mainly because I wanted to focus my attention on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast and guesting on some of our friends' shows to promote The Simplistic Reviews Podcast. (Have you heard it? Justin Polizzi...Matthew Stewart...moi? It's pretty dope.) Anyhow, a fateful occurrence involving a spontaneously combusting Apple hard drive suddenly hampered my ability to broadcast my random ravings. (Damn you, Steve Jobs.) However, thanks to the grace of God, Buddha, Vishnu, and two Tennesseans that I consider my family, I got back a computer and thusly my outlet for expositing my inner most thoughts on film and television. (Blame them.  It's their fault for this.) So, I saw this as an opportunity to get back to writing stuff for our lovely site again.  So...um...what have I missed?

Avengers: Infinity War - BALLSY - I was an avid comic book collector from the early '90s until around 2007.  And out of all those comics I bought and read, Infinity Gauntlet was the event book that stuck with me.  It was my introduction to many characters, including Thanos.  It was also the first time I had seen many of the heroes I grew up reading actually killed in comic book form.  Suddenly...brutally...unapologetically.

So when Thanos popped his head out at the end of the first Avengers film, I knew what was coming and I thought I was prepared for it.  I wasn't.  The altering of Thanos' motivations from book to screen (From wanting to impress a girl to wanting to balance the universe because of the destruction of his planet.) not only strengthens the character but ramps up the drama of his destruction.  Each death changed from just pure shock value, which it was in the comic book, to a heartbreaking and moving loss. 

And yes cynical MCU disparager, I am fully aware Kevin Feige, the Russo Brothers, and whoever else can resurrect the fallen at will.  That doesn't make the performances of the actors perishing or the performances of the actors reacting to their friends perishing less moving or well done.  When Indiana Jones seemingly falls off a cliff while riding a tank in The Last Crusade, I knew Indy would somehow survive.  However, Sean Connery's quivering shock while delivering the line "I never told him anything" and his gasping relief while telling his newly resurrected son "I thought I lost you, boy" still reaches in and pulls at your heartstrings despite having the knowledge Indy would likely be fine.  
The ability to bring characters back from death isn't something invented by the MCU, Marvel Comics, or comic books in general.  It is a tool often used by creators in the medium of fiction.  Just ask Jon Snow...or Spock...or Gandalf...or Sherlock Holmes...or Robocop...or Jesus H. F%*king Christ.  So stow all that, "Who cares?  They're all coming back anyway" myopic thinking and try to appreciate the journey.  

Apart from all things snap related, Infinity War is a blast.  This is a cinematic universe that knows their secret weapon is the interactions of their characters.  And that secret weapon is on full display here.  Is it my favorite MCU film?  No. (*COUGH!* Civil War *COUGH!*) But it is easily a top five for me.
  • SIDE NOTE: Thank You Taika Waititi for what you did with the character of Thor in Thor: Ragnarok.  It's like Waititi rebuilt the engine of a car and the Russos took that car for a joy ride on the autobahn.  Waititi deserves so much credit for making the previously 'meh' Thor one of the MCU's most entertaining characters. 
Atlanta Season 2 - CONFOUNDING - My Donald Glover love stretches back farther than most.  I was a fan of his comedy troop, Derrick Comedy.  I watched their oddly funny film Mystery Team and came away hoping Glover would get the chance to do more projects.  Because of his comedy roots, I found myself searching to find the punchline when Glover started his rap career.  I quickly began to realize that Childish Gambino was a legit avenue for another facet of his talents.  When he left Community to make a Twin Peaks-esque "comedy" on FX, I was skeptical.  But after watching the first season of Atlanta, I was convinced that Glover was something special.  My expectations were high for Season 2, which is probably why "Robbing Season" left me a bit underwhelmed.  The biggest standout of the season is easily the unofficial Get Out sequel episode featuring the titular Teddy Perkins.  Glover's star is shining bright with Lando, an SNL appearance, and "This Is America" grabbing headlines.  I just hope the next season of Atlanta brushes off the sophomore slump it seems to be on and gets back to knocking my socks off.
  • SIDE NOTE: Lakeith Stanfield is astoundingly good.  I'm as interested in his future as I was with Glover's.
A Quiet Place - ELEGANT - Michael Bay took something I held dear and made it into nothing less than a joke. (Nope...never letting it go.) However, Bay's Platinum Dunes studio gave me something this year that is a step towards an apology.  I was rooting for A Quiet Place because I really like John Krasinski and am creepily infatuated with Emily Blunt. (Sorry John.  You're married to her.  You should understand my infatuation.) Thankfully, I might have never heard of either one of them and still be impressed by the quality of the filmmaking in A Quiet Place and its clever simplicity.  People have tried to tear it down as of late with petty nitpicks.  My retort is...and I say this with all due respect...Shhhh!
  • SIDE NOTE: I've been hearing the rumblings of a John Krasinski/Emily Blunt respective casting for Reed Richards and Sue Storm in the MCU's relaunch of the Fantastic Four...and I honestly can't say I don't love that suggestion.
Those are just a few things I've seen that I missed the opportunity to ramble about.  I could get into the stupidity of Rampage or the sloppy storytelling of Altered Carbon or the chilling feeling that ran up my spine throughout You Were Never Really Here, but I'm gonna try to pace myself.  As one of my favorite Avengers once said...



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

(Ep. 103): House 2: The Second Story - Movie Commentary: May 2018


House II: The Second Story

PG-13 1987 ‧ Adventure/Horror ‧ 1h 28m
A man (Arye Gross) and his friend (Jonathan Stark) exhume an ancestor (Royal Dano) in the house 
where his parents were killed.
Initial release: August 28, 1987
Director: Ethan Wiley
Budget: 3 million USD
Producer: Sean S. Cunningham
Production company: New World Pictures
 
Well you can't say we don't love you. Today Matt and Justin watch a movie from the Lister requested submissions. Sometimes we find fun and enjoyable films, that ether we never watched or never heard of. But that isn't always the case. Ep. 103 we cross off another one, House 2: The Second Story. A film not watched by the two in a collective 30 plus years. What we found out is its not as good as we once remembered.

House 2 is under the horror genre which is a lie. Eventhough it is a sequel to the 1986 film House, House 2 does not involve the storyline and character from the first film, including the horror feel. House 2 is supernatural fantasy "comedy". 

Frankly its a mess of a film. If you haven't already watched the first House then skip this and check House.







Friday, April 6, 2018

(Ep. 102): The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: April 2018

This isn't a joke...the boys are back on the airwaves with another edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast...or are they? You be the judge of whether you think they're back or not. I might be telling you here that they are back, but are they truly "back." And if they're back, where are they back from? The Future, School, Training, To Back, In Black, Rubs, In The Habit, For The First Time, again, it's up to you to decide...

This month, the shenanigans range to these nincompoops yelling about whether Spielberg or Scorsese did it better, and by IT they mean holding the camera and making millionaires do things on camera, to the merits of Justin actually discovering he's North African and how we can us that to our advantage.

There is also the return of Simplistic Switcharoo where the fellas tackle the big questions of whether Nicolas Cage could be replaced by John Malkovich in Face/Off and after a long a sordid history, Matt might finally come to terms with the concept of Anne Hathaway.

All this, and of course your monthly dose of dick and fart jokes, on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, if you SMELL.....what THE CROCK.....is cookin'!!



 

 NOTES
Anne 'Cat'haway
ASMR Porn
Nic Cage and Peaches
Macho Madness
Diplomatic Immunity

MUSIC
Neon Love by Jeff Dale, Gavin Harrison and Tim Reilly
Hit the Jackpot by David James
80s Killed The Radio Star by Bobby Cole

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Friday, March 23, 2018

(Ep. 101): Undefeatable - Movie Commentary: Match 2018

Undefeatable

R
 1994 ‧ Thriller/Action ‧ 1h 35m 4.1/10 · IMDb
The boys of Simplistic Reviews are back! Let's be honest you never believed Ep. 100 was our last... did you? No we can't stop with all these crappy movies out there. Plus the current world we live in needs some terrible grotesque jokes.

So sit back, turn off the lights and enjoy some undefeatable puns...no...they suck...its pretty sad.



Kristi Jones (Cynthia Rothrock) who, along with her gang, take part in Mafia-run street fights to earn money for her sister's college education. Kristi's sister hopes to become a doctor and pay for Kristi's education.

Meanwhile, an underground fighter by the name of "Stingray" (Don Niam) is left by his scared wife, Anna, after raping her, and vows to find her. Stingray has suffered from abandonment issues since early childhood and this new trauma triggers a psychotic break from reality. He begins to kidnap women who resemble his ex-wife, and subsequently tortures them and gouges their eyes out before returning their bodies to the crime scene. Kristi's sister becomes one of the victims, so Kristi tracks down Stingray with the help of police officer Nick DiMarco (John Miller), who might just be falling for her, alongside her sister's psychiatry tutor Jennifer (Donna Jason) and Nick's partner Mike (Gerald Klein).



They eventually track down Stingray, who has kidnapped Jennifer, and fight in a warehouse where he escapes after shooting and killing Mike. Jennifer's injuries, though relatively minor, require that she be admitted to the hospital where she is again kidnapped by Stingray who is impersonating a doctor. Kristi and Nick chase him to a storage area where the three do battle, mostly through hand-to-hand combat. Stingray is bested by the pair, having both eyes gouged out in the process. He's then suspended by the eye-sockets with a meat hook, killing him.



The final scene shows with Kristi and her friends visiting her late sister's resting place to inform her that Stingray has finally been defeated. It is revealed that Kristi has somehow enrolled her former gang in college to give them a chance at a better life, and that Kristi has also been enrolled in college by Nick. The film ends with the group engaging in an impassioned four way high-five.





















Saturday, March 3, 2018

Movie Review: Annihilation


What do extra terrestrials have in store when they finally come to Earth to check the place out, enslave us and take over for us since we've done such a great job. That's a question that's been asked in books, radio theater, video games and films for over a century. Whether they are benevolent visitors like "E.T.", curious visitors from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," or killing machines on the hunt in "Predator," the idea of aliens and and their relationship with Earth has been an interesting one to say the least.

Our latest odyssey into extra terrestrials and their fascination with the Earth comes in the form of "Annihilation" directed by Alex Garland, who brought us our impending nightmare we'll face with Artificial Intelligence in "Ex Machina."

Based on the "Southern Reach" trilogy of books by Jeff VanderMeer from 2014, in which a meteor lands and the land surrounding begins to re-claim itself and continues to expand. "Annihilation" is based on the first book in the series where a squad of tough women enter what is called Area X to explore and find the reason for the expansion of what is called "The Shimmer."

What works for "Annihilation" is that it never holds your hand or tells you what is happening. You also have some very strong performances for the entire cast which includes Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, all of which comprise most of the squad who enter "The Shimmer" for answers on why previous expeditions have disappeared to never return with the exception of one person, played by Oscar Isaac.

The female leads all come from different background, yet share a commonality; they are flawed in either a physical or psychological way, which eventually leads to their breakdown and eventually succumbing to "The Shimmer" There are a lot of blink and you miss it moments which gives you a reason to watch this film over and over to pick up the subtle nuances that Garland throws in.

Where "Annihilation" might lose some people is once again, the same way it will bring people in. Garland isn't interested in spelling things out for the audience. None of the characters are painted as either protagonists or antagonists, they are all searching for meaning, just like us, the audience.

"Annihilation" can be read into as much or as little as you feel necessary. Is it a standard sci-fi film where aliens are taking over slowly? Sure. Is it a film about becoming one with nature again, becoming self-less, and giving yourself up to something that might be bigger than you? Sure. There are so many ways to read this film, and that's what makes it great, and where it leaves the audience come the end opens up more conversation for, hopefully, the next two films to complete the trilogy.

While I love the bright shiny colors and psychedelic trip Garland took me on, I especially love the attention world he creates and the conflicts it creates within the characters. It reminds me of what I love about "The Thing," Sure, the creature effects are great, but give me conflict and something with stakes.

As far as I'm concerned, Garland is two-for-two in the directors chair and if this trilogy is allowed to be seen through, I could see it as some of the most epic science fiction in the last 20 years or so. So please don't judge "Annihilation" yet as it's still incomplete week as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

(Ep. 100): The One Hundredth Simplistic Reviews Podcast: February 2018



It’s here!
  No, not your tax return…
No, not another government shutdown…
No, not an actual picture of Venom…

It’s the 100th episode of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast!  We got a guest list so prestigious and respected, it should run for president…please…someone…anyone…run for president.  So if you’re going on a short drive on a long road or a long walk off a short pier, stick this in your ear holes and enjoy the bad comedy styling of Matthew Stewart, DJ Valentine, and Justin Polizzi for the 100th time…and then…for the love of God…run for president.




MUSIC
Triumph March By Verdi
Neon Love By Jeff Dale, Gavin Harrison & Tim Reilly
Dark City Beats By John 00 Fleming
Utopia In Peril By Chillout
Plain Jane By Sid Phillips





















Tuesday, February 6, 2018

(Ep. 99): Killer Workout - Movie Commentary: February 2018

Killer Workout
1987 ‧ 1h 25m
Killer Workout, also known under the original title Aerobicide, is a 1986 American slasher film written and directed by David A. Prior. It stars Marcia Karr, David James Campbell, Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, and Teresa Van der Woude. Wikipedia
Initial release: 1987
Director: David A. Prior
Screenplay: David A. Prior
Music composed by: Todd Hayen

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Killer Workout
 
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