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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Savages

Savages - C'mon

There are times when a film comes around that you hear about, wait to see it, finally see it, are extremely pleased with the results, but come the end of the movie you're thinking to yourself, "What just happened?" That's the film "Savages," where come the end of the film, or what you think is the end of the film, you scream out, "C'MON!"

When you think about Oliver Stone you have to think about the amount of directors that he's influenced;  I would bet one American dollar that there isn't a director, living or dead, that would say they weren't influenced by either the writing or directing talents of Stone.  He uses spiritual imagery in an effective way, loves to show sex and violence, but there is still a tongue-in-cheek element when he goes to the extreme, especially in his post-"Platoon" work.  Lately he's had his ups-and-downs, trying to cash in on old ideas ("Wall Street"), but when "Savages" was announced I was a little excited.  It looked and felt like old-school Stone, circa "Natural Born Killers."  Gritty, bloody, sexy, and violent.  Even the cast was young and hip.  So why was "Savages" a let down?  Let's take a walk.

"Savages" stars Blake Lively as O, or Ophelia, who is "shared" by two independent pot growers/sellers, played by Aaron Johnson and "Mr. Chicken Burrito" himself, Taylor Kitsch.  Everything is going swimmingly for the three until they turn down a request from Baja Cartel Mistress, Elena.  Things go from bad to worse for the three as they find themselves at war with the Cartel.  The violence is brutal at times, but what would you expect from a vicious Mexican Cartel.  Just read or listen to the news and I'm sure you'll read, or hear, much worse.

Lively is the backbone of this film, and rightfully so.  I think she kind of gets a raw deal in Hollywood due to her "Gossip Girl" ties, but she holds her own in "Savages" and gives a pitch-perfect performance of a girl who is both the "damsel in distress" and the "strong heroine."  If you want to see Lively in another good performance check out "The Town."  For someone who you would take a quick glance at and write her off as just eye-candy, she can act, and takes chances.  We need more Blake Livelys and less Brooklyn Deckers and whoever that girl is who can't close her mouth in "Transformers 3."

The plot twists and turns and keeps you on your toes throughout.  You really never know who is the next person to get killed or get caught in the crossfire, and the stakes are pretty high throughout the film.  That is until the "end."  If Stone had more balls he would have ended the film ten minutes earlier.  The "end" is what you would have expected the whole film, but I guess that's the whole point.  You expect something Shakespearean, but you get a curveball that really makes you say, once again, "C'MON!"  Like "Hamlet" you expect a tragedy, and you get close, but I of course won't spoil the fun, because all in all "Savages" is actually the best Oliver Stone film since probably "Killers" or I might even go as new as "Any Given Sunday."

The one thing you'll take away from "Savages" is that Stone still has it.  He can still make a film just as visceral as he did in his younger days.  After years of dealing with George W Bush, September 11th, and going back to "Wall Street" there was a question as to whether Stone wanted to deal with darker subject matter. We all know that he's an intellectual, and a thinking man's filmmaker, but it was great to see him go back to his hungrier and darker ways with "Savages."

Fun Fact:  As of 2012, according to the U.S. Government, the largest and most dangerous cartel in Mexico is Los Zetas, which is an off-shoot of the Gulf Cartel.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: January 2013



Our first podcast of the year, and we'd like to thank all the fans and readers for making 2012 a success for us.  Right out of the gates we discuss how J.J. Abrams will balance his responsibilities between "Star Trek" and "Star Wars."  We judge the HBO original series "Girls" in our newest segment, "Open & Shut" where we channel our inner Jack McCoy and Atticus Finch.  And we debate what is the Biggest Bad-ass 80s Action Film in "Simply the Best."

All of this, and much more, including a beer can with no manners, Bill Murray getting hand jobs, and our longing for Saturday Morning Cartoons.


Click on the link below to download the podcast and enjoy folks!

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
Show Notes:

Matt's take on Girls
The Force is strong with Abrams
Great courtroom scenes
The best of 80s Action


 Click HERE to listen to podcast

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: House of Lies

House of Lies - Deceiving

Slowly but surely, Showtime is catching up to it's big brother, HBO, with some of the best programming since "The Red Shoe Diaries."  I kid, I kid!  Jokes aside, between "Dexter," "Homeland," and "Shameless" the network that tells you to "Hold on Tight" is showing a pulse when it comes to funny, subversive comedy, and intriguing, dramatic work.  But what happens when you take a good idea, in theory, add a great cast around it, and try and make it your replacement for "Weeds?" Well, you get "House of Lies," a breezy dramedy series made of pure fluff.....or is it, deceiving you?

This isn't to say that I don't enjoy fluff and hijinks;  I thoroughly enjoy the fluff of "Parks and Recreation," and the madcap insanity of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  What you get with "Lies" is a group of Managing Consultants from Galweather & Stearn, based in Los Angeles,  led by the sociopath/corporate headhunter, Marty Kaan, played brilliantly by Don Cheadle. (who earned a well-deserved Golden Globe this year)  Kaan (get it) is the Polaroid of the modern American working professional; failed marriage, single father, a compulsive sexual appetite, especially for his equally damaged ex-wife, and some serious mommy issues.  However, when its time for Marty and his team to put their game-faces on, they never fail.  Well, they fail until their figure out a way to win, which is the ongoing theme of "Lies."

To put it in perspective,think "Entourage" having relations with "Californication" and "Weeds" deciding to pull their pants down and join the party as well.  What I enjoy about "Lies" is the banter between Marty's team, or his "Pod," which includes Kristen Bell in probably her best work since "Veronica Mars" and Ben Schwartz, who you might know as Jean-Ralphio from the aforementioned "Parks." The young cast is perfectly anchored by Cheadle who is excellent in everything, but you really get to see him show a darker, and very much damaged, side to his acting.  If there's any reason to watch the show it's to show his deceiving nature destroy his enemies but nevertheless have him get caught in the crossfire as well.  While the show started out breezy enough, as the first season progressed it started plunging into darkness, and while there are still a few zingers that will tickle your ribs, you also have a pit in your stomach and think to yourself?  Am I supposed to be rooting for these characters, or wagging our fingers at them and saying, "See, that's what you get."

Another gimmick of the show, but it still works pretty well, is Marty breaking the 4th wall.  One of my favorite comic book characters is Deadpool.  One of his actual powers IS breaking the 4th wall.  But in reference to Marty, its usually a way to move the story along and remove any doubt from the viewers' mind what exactly is going through HIS mind.  It's effective one two fronts; 1) Marty knows he is the smartest guy in the room and feels he controls his team, but you'll notice that he is only totally in control when he is in his comfort zone; his work. 2)  Sometimes the situations of the show do get a little convoluted so it does help to have someone quarterback you through the situation, and who better than a slimy Management Consultant.  What could be said negatively about these scenes is that the show is not allowing the audience to put the pieces together themselves and treating them with kid gloves, which might come of as insulting to some viewers.

Overall, "House of Lies" is a fun show in the vein of "Entourage" minus the big time celebrities, the best you're going to get is Cat Deeley, for all you SYTYCD fans out there. (if you have to ask what it means, well, you're probably better off)  With a definite lack of comedy on HBO, this might be Showtime's foothold to take some audience away from them, unless you like "Girls," and if that's the case you should really ask yourself, "Why?"

Fun Fact:  According to Vault.com in 2013, McKinsey & Company was ranked as the number Management Consulting firm in the world.  Oddly enough, the number one Consulting firm in "Lies" is called "Kinsley." Close enough.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: The Following, Series Premier

The Following - Literate

FOX takes chances, and that's what I like about them, and that includes their sister channel, FX, which has been putting out quality TV for over a decade.  Another thing I like is Kevin Bacon, not just because he is awesome, but he also takes chances, yet, doesn't get enough work.  Back when I was in middle school I really loved Edgar Allan Poe.  He wrote about murder and betrayal, and just his life intrigued me; dead at 40, penniless, and this work is still some of the most respected in all of literature.  Take everything I like, shake it up, dump it out, and you have "The Following" a literate modern Gothic thriller with potential.

Two things about "The Following," 1) The show relies heavily on the works of Poe, from "The Black Cat" to "The Tell-Tale Heart."  If you aren't a Poe fan, or are lacking in Poe-knowledge, you might feel a little lost throughout the first episode.  2) The show isn't as gory as you might think.  There has been a lot of talk about an excessive amount of violence in a post-Newtown world, but to be honest, most of the excessive violence happens after the fact and only the aftermath is shown.  That's not to say, however, the show isn't violent, but any show where a women shoves an ice pick into her face you might have to say Parental Discretion Advised.

"The Following" follows Ryan Hardy, an ex-FBI agent with a history with Joe Carroll, a professor-turned-serial killer who murdered 14 college students before his capture by Hardy.  In typical fashion to the genre, Hardy is left with a scar caused by Carroll that continues to haunt him, which turns out to be a clever nod to "The Tell-Tale Heart."  Hardy has become an alcoholic since the incarceration of Carroll and once his former quarry escapes in the opening sequence of the episode, Hardy finds himself drawn back into the dark work of Carroll and his obsession with Edgar Allan Poe.  James Purefoy, who you might remember as Marc Antony in HBO's "Rome," stars as Carroll, who does his best Hannibal Lecter impersonation with relatively decent results.  He even keeps his British accent, which I appreciate.  We don't get to see enough British serial killers on TV for crying out loud.

The show moves in a reasonably predictable manner until the end where the show's first cliffhanger kicks in. What does Carroll have in store for Hardy?  Will Hardy's demon's finally catch up to him, if they haven't already?  What is Carroll's master plan?  What happens in the Sorority House?  Being that "The Following" already has an order of 13 more episodes gives me faith that we'll get to see the characters evolve and the story progress with the dynamic between Hardy and Carroll given the spotlight.

Aside from the cast, the fact that Kevin Williamson has his fingerprints all over this show gives me hope that FOX will give it a solid chance.  Williamson has proven to write good genre pieces such as the first three "Scream" films and "The Faculty," and he's got a good track record of making money for networks. (see "The Vampire Dairies" and "Dawson's Creek")  "The Following" is a combination of "The Hannibal Lecter" films (Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal), "Criminal Minds" and the works of Matthew Pearl, namely "The Poe Shadow."  It has all the right pieces in place, but will audiences be literate enough to give it a fair shot?  Hey, FOX is counting on it, this will hopefully be the show that replaces "Fringe" as it's number one drama.

Fun Fact:  Edgar Allan Poe was a native of Baltimore, MD, which is also home to the Baltimore Ravens, who are named after a work published  by Poe in 1845.  "Nevermore!"   

Holiday Hangover: A Haunted House

A Haunted House: Comedy?
2013, 86mins, Comedy/Horror

There comes a time, when a moviegoer just gives up after watching a film like this at their local theater.


Keep in mind please, ticket prices are pretty high these days. I believe it cost me something like 15 bucks to see this movie. I could use that cash on a few good blu-rays then a shitty film... Did I want to see this film, NO.

Did the group I was with, in a democratic vote choose, "A Haunted House", YES.

Is this film good, Nope.

Better then the last Scary Movies, Sure, Maybe who the hell knows?
Really who the hell cares at this point?

I don't know, shit like this kills the joy of going to the theater with friends anymore.

Is it a comedy? Yes it is, but its not funny, so is it still a comedy? Hell I have no idea anymore. They spent $2.5 million on making a script that has no reason to be made. A 8 year old kid with that money could draw up a better film on there tablet then Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez "wrote" on paper.

Just skip it...please save your money and time.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: Girls, Season One


Girls, Season One - Polarizing

*The following is a wrap-up, of sorts, of Season One of "Girls" as well as an op-ed, or sorts.  Sorry if this offends anyone, but don't take it personal, I'm sure you're all lovely people.  There also might be a few spoilers, so tread carefully*

Hooray!  The Hipsters won!  They finally won!  Oh wait, they really don't care, they were too busy drinking PBR, waiting for their parent's monthly check, and hitting up the vintage clothing store looking for a blazer with padded shoulders.  Yes, I'm talking about "Girls" which I might call the most polarizing show I've ever started watching.

Let me start from the beginning; I ended up watching the premier episode when it first aired on HBO last April.  I figured, give it a chance and see what comes of it.  I knew from what I read about the show it was going to be "Hipsters in the City.....and Sex."  Of course, that was the show in a nutshell.  Did I really want to watch the type of people I normally don't like on TV?  No, that's why I gave up after the one episode.  Turn the clock almost a year and we have "Girls" winning Golden Globe awards, a show that glamorizes being privileged, lazy, submissive, and sad.  Of course I only had one episode to go off of so I decided to take the plunge and really give the "Girls" an opportunity to redeem themselves in my eyes.  Watching the entire first season over the course of a day and a half did prove one thing; I still don't like these characters, any of them, and I blame a growing group of viewers that think this is how you are supposed to act if you are a struggling 20-something living in the big city.  Maybe I sound like a really old f*uck (I'm only 29 by the way) but I feel like I'm a generation removed from Hanna, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshana, all privileged white girls who want to think their life is so bad, but really do nothing to improve it.

Climbing off the soapbox now, and getting into the brass tacks of the first season of "Girls."  Throughout the season we follow our "heroine" Hanna as she navigates Brooklyn after her parents cut her off financially. This is the one idea of the show that I thought was great.  Yes, finally, something that does happen in real life. After a certain point you have to go into the big bad world on your own and the fact that you chose one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, how long do your parents have to support you?  Good start, but then we meet Hanna's friends; Marnie works in an art gallery and acts the part of the prude who knows what she wants, yet doesn't know what she wants.  Jessa is the free spirit and least responsible member of the group.  But I ask, since when did being irresponsible and not caring become so cool?  Oh another thing, and this is a very important lesson for you Hipsters in training out there, everything will be all right in the long run, because as long as you act like an arrogant shit you'll find YOUR "Mr. Big" and you won't have to worry about looking for a menial job while living in your cousin's paid-for apartment, because acting like a shit will get you everything you've ever wanted in life.  This is Jessa's lesson to you.

The Hipster mentality is both a fad and a state of mind.  I know people that fashion themselves as hipsters, or call themselves hipsters (whether that is ironic or not you’ll never know because Hipsterism is founded on irony....ironic, don't you think?)  The conflict in "Girls" is that the girls really aren't Hipsters, sure they dress in vintage clothing and constantly complain about their situation even though they are probably better off than most of us who are really struggling in this world, but it's pretty much a Hipster in Carrie Bradshaw's clothing.  To be fair here is another article that is a little nicer to the Movement.

What's so polarizing about the show is that while you might get a few chuckles here and there because these "real" life experiences by show creator, writer, and star, Lena Dunham, are so out of left field you have to laugh; all the characters are as unlikable as unlikable gets.  I return to the character of Jessa, and I didn't even mention Shoshanna yet, but I'll get to her shortly.  I keep going back to being a responsible adult in the big city.  Yes, for the record, when I was 24 I didn't have an idea what I really wanted in life, but I did have a job that supported me while going to school and actively seeking better employment.  A prime example of what vexes me about Jessa is her high and mighty attitude while remaining willfully irresponsible and blaming her irresponsibility on children, please see Episode Four for an example.  I know this is supposed to be for comic relief, but in reality, is this the type of behavior that people enjoy and tolerate?  I could talk about a character like Adam, Hanna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, but he’s the only reason to watch the show and not want to throw your lace-less Converses at the TV.


Shoshanna is an interesting character because she lives a pretty good life, she's in school, and wants to live the "Sex in the City" lifestyle while still living in Williamsburg.  She is a walking, talking, contradiction.  It's assumed that she is wealthy, doesn't work, and only goes to school, so why does she decide to slum it? Well, because it's cool, and settling is way better than trying hard.  Out of all the female leads Shoshanna seems the happiest with who she is, despite being the only virgin in the group.  Her quirky attitude is welcome respite from Hanna's self-destructive behavior, Marnie's constant indecision, and Jessa, well, being Jessa.  If I was to liken her to another character on TV, I might say Ralph Wiggum from "The Simpsons."

People also have a problem with the nearly-All White Cast.  I personally don't care about this gripe, but the fact that the Brooklyn-area is supposed to be a melting pot, hell, all of New York City for that matter, is a little troubling.  The show becomes an exercise in "White People Problems."  Even though the strife that the cast deals with is pretty much universal (pregnancy, unemployment, rent, relationships) the fact that it's coming from an all white-leading cast neglects the fact other races have the same problem.  Personally, the people that complain about this aspect of the show need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that just because a white cast is depicting struggle doesn't mean they don't understand that other social and racial groups are experiencing the same thing.  I don't remember a lot of people complaining about "Seinfeld" and their all-white cast, or "Mad About You."  Don't worry though, Donald Glover showed up in Season Two, which started last week.  While I love Glover, it's still a feeble attempt by the show-runners to introduce a black member to the cast.  Glover is about as urban and black as Urkel from "Family Matters."  Sorry Donald, I love you, but it's the truth.

The last person I'll blame for the polarizing affect of "Girls" is Judd Apatow, the Executive Producer.  Once again, I usually love Judd, and he's been a driving force in some of the funniest comedies in the past 10 years.  But the one thing that you'll notice about most of his later work, starting with "Knocked Up" is that he really likes to make women look like bitches.  I never gave credence to what Katherine Heigl said after "Knocked Up" came out, and that it made women look like shrews, but looking at "Girls" now, he likes to do two things now;  make girls look like bitches, and supports the Hipster agenda.  I appreciate the fact that he supports young artists and comedians, but as time has gone on his subject matter has gotten dark and again, bitchier.  Some people might say it's maturation in his art; I call it giving a dog a treat after it poops on the carpet.

So "Girls" are you a fad, or are you the real thing?  I'll tell you one thing, you sure have a lot of people talking, and in recent memory I really can't remember a show that had this many people polarized.  I was reluctant to watch the show after a long hiatus of watching, but I did finish the whole season within two days.  Did it captivate me?  No.  Is it exasperating an already obnoxious and silly subculture?  Yes.  Will I keep watching?  Probably.

Fun Fact:  Fun Fact?  No Fun Fact!  Go get me a PBR and my Member's Only jacket.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone - Break

We all know Jennifer Lawrence is Hollywood's new sweetheart, and rightfully so.  She is young, talented, attractive, and someone you would want to hang out with.  She is Julia Roberts without the toothy grin.  She is the girl that all the other girls want to be and all the guys want to be with.  She's a revelation if you will. When I first got a glimpse of her on the red carpet of the Oscars about two years ago, I really didn't know what to make of her. She was this young new face with a smart mouth.  Sorry, but I kind of took her for a bitch, like she was too good for the Oscars.  I look at her now, and she is down right adorable and so self-deprecating, it's irresistible.  I also appreciate the fact that she takes chances, and makes the role her own.  For a perfect example of what made her a star before she became a star was her first major role in 2010's "Winter's Bone."

You can call "Bone" a "White Trash Noir."  Lawrence plays Ree, a 17-year old girl taking care of her two younger siblings without the help of her drug-affected absentee mother and meth-dealing father.  After her father skips town, she finds out that he put their house up for bond and the whole family could be homeless within a week.  Ree takes it upon herself to track down her father and navigate a neighborhood full of drug dealers, murderers, and crooked cops.

The story is simple, but the themes of innocence lost, family responsibility, and loyalty run deep in this film.  In Lawrence's portrayal of Ree you can see the reason why she was chosen to be the lead in "The Hunger Games" as Katniss Everdeen.  She is a strong female protagonist, probably the strongest female character I've seen in years who isn't a superhero, but she still has a vulnerability to her as she navigates her dangerous world with two younger siblings in tow.  You want to grab her and tell her to stop in her quest for her father, especially when you see some of the people that she has to deal with in trying to find the answers.

While Lawrence is great, I also have to tip my cap to John Hawkes, who plays crystal meth dealer, and Ree's uncle, Teardrop.  Think Walter White if he was from rural Arkansas, only scarier.  He's the last guy that you want to ask help from, and the last guy you want looking for you if a deal went south.  Hawkes is one of those guys that's in a lot of stuff but he never reallygets credit.  I remember seeing him for the first time as the Liquor Store Clerk in "From Dusk Till Dawn," and he pops into movies every now and than and leaves an impressions every time.  I like to think of him as the poor man's Walton Goggins.  Hawkes was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal in "Bone," and rightfully so.

If you haven't already, there's no reason to not check out "Winter's Bone." It's the genesis of Jennifer Lawrence; where she got her break if you will.  She commands every scene she is in, is a natural, and strikes the perfect balance between tough and fragile.  You never get the sense that she is doing anything for herself, mother or father, she knows that they are all beyond redemption.  Her only care is the welfare of her brother and sister, which in a time where everyone is so wrapped up in their own world, is a welcome relief in film.

Fun Fact:  In the year that "Winter's Bone" was nominated for Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards, it had the smallest production budget at only $2 Million, compared to the budget of "Toy Story 3" which was $200 Million, the most expensive film nominated that year.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Silver Linings Playbook

CRAZY
And I mean that in a good way.  Silver Linings Playbook, besides having one of the strangest titles for a film ever, is probably the CRAZIEST love story I've seen since Punch Drunk Love.  From the very beginning, it snatches you up on a manic roller coaster ride of mental disorder, football, ballroom dancing and strangely enough, romance.  And it completely knocked me over.  We've had a pretty great year when it comes to great films and great performances.  Silver Linings Playbook has the distinction of possessing both of those traits.

The film is a Matthew Quick novel adaptation from director David O. Russell.  It centers around Bradley Cooper's character Pat.  A man with a bi-polar disorder who is desperately trying to better himself in order to get back with his estranged wife.  More than that though, it is a film about acceptance.  Whether that be acceptance of one's fate or acceptance of one's illness.  Now, this is not slow burn psychological study.  The film is handled much differently.  The pacing of this film is noticeably frenetic.  The veracity really puts you in the head of someone who has bi-polar disorder.  You are immediately thrust into this world with these characters and barely have time to react to each strange fit of rage or absurd situation.  And it is completely captivating to watch.

It must suck to be Bradley Cooper.  Well, not really.  Ladies love him, his films do well, and he seems to be pretty well liked by his peers.  However, he's just now starting to get recognized and rewarded for his acting ability.  Pretty boy douchebag roles are now being replaced by roles like this on his resume.  He portrays his disorder in such a realistic and grounded way.  A misconception for playing someone with a mental disorder is to do it over the top.  But its actually the subtleties that really sell it.  And while Cooper has his share of over the top outburst, he nails the small moments where his illness tortures him.  For as good as Cooper is, Jennifer Lawrence steals this film from him.  Its a welcome change to see an actress who can do the schlocky youth fueled films like Hunger Games and X-Men, but also have the range to do deeper, meaningful films like this.  YOU HEAR ME KRISTEN STEWART!?!  CLOSE YOUR MOUTH!  Lawrence is amazing, her chemistry with Cooper is magical, and she pretty much eats Robert De Niro's lunch acting-wise in a climactic scene.  And not a lazy Rocky & Bullwinkle Robert De Niro.  A trying, solid performing Robert De Niro.  I'd hold up the performances by Silver Linings Playbook's ensemble cast to every film it'll be nominated against.  Even Django.

David O. Russell is infamous for being a bit of a hard ass to work for.  However, his abilities as a director are unquestionable.  Especially directing films like this.  Films where the main characters are severely flawed.  Realistically flawed.  But still likable characters all the same.  The way he lets his scenes just play out must be catnip for actors.

Silver Linings Playbook might be lost in the CRAZY award season mix because it isn't as fun or escapist as its competition.  But I think it will stand the test of time because it is well made, well performed and just a feel good movie.  Slap on a DeSean Jackson jersey...put some money on the Eagles...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Holiday Hangover, Special Guest Reviewer Edition: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies - Surprising

 *This review is being provided by guest contributor, Kayleigh Brown, aka, Kayleighkill.  Thanks for the submission Kayleigh, and we look forward to having more guest submissions.  You can find Kayleigh on YouTube through the following link.  She is also on Twitter and Tumblr.* 

I won’t lie, going into Warm Bodies, I couldn't help but mentally notice the Twilight parallels. After all, both movies come from Summit Entertainment, it's a love story about a girl and her monster, and there's people trying to kill them; not to mention, one very familiar "laying in a field" scene. The similarities stop there.

Where Twilight failed, this movie picks up the pieces, and then some. It isn't just your typical 'girl meets monster' flick. Yes, its central theme is based on love, but its much broader than that. It isn't just "I want to die to be with you" love. It's love in the form of acceptance, family, friends, and memories. It's looking past differences and accepting someone for who they are. I'm looking too far into it; you have to watch the movie to understand that analysis.

I won't spoil any secrets in regards to Warm Bodies, but it definitely is a paving stone for completely reinventing the zombie image. It offers not only ridiculously funny quips at times, but touching moments with some serious overtones, and sometimes even a cringe-worthy scene or two. The romantic development of the main characters is almost placed on the back-burner, as the rest of the story unfolds around it. They really took a fairly predictable plot (from the trailer) and turned it into something more. The likeability of the characters is also a huge factor as to why I enjoyed the movie so much. It helps with great actors such as Rob Corddry and John Malkovich supporting the upcoming talent that spotlight the movie. (Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer)

Overall, the movie was a surprising hit, right down to the creepy antagonists of the movie, the 'Bonies'. I wouldn't want to run into a flesh eating skeleton in an alley anytime soon. Even the soundtrack is amazing. Bob Dylan? Guns N' Roses? M83? I'll take it.

*This review is based on a sneak preview that took place on January 10th, 2013.  "Warm Bodies" will be widely released on February 1st 2013.  Thank you Regal Cinemas for the FREE tickets for this event.  This movie will be revisited upon it's actual release.*

Friday, January 11, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad - Bite

Its been a while since there's been a straight-up cops fighting the mob type of film.  The last one I can really think of  was "American Gangster."  The problem with this genre is that it's been done to death, and how can you really re-invent the wheel.  Sure, you can make it more modern and take it out of the 1920s or 40s, but that's half the charm of these films.  I like to see big Cadillacs, bright lights on buildings, and usually, extraordinarily bad acting.  Well guess what, "Gangster Squad" is more than happy to bite off of all these cliches, and more.

If you take "L.A Confidential," "The Untouchables," and "Dick Tracy" you pretty much have "Squad" in a nutshell.  The story follows a group of LAPD officers who are tasked by Nick Nolte's police chief to take down East Coast-turned-West Coast mobster Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn.  The story is basically "Hey, Cohen is a bad guy doing bad stuff.  Let's shut his operations down!"  Stock story, stock characters, and very little room for characters to develop.

I personally like the way the film was shot.  I thought it was stylish, even though it did use an obscene amount of slow-motion camera work, and the fact that nearly all the shootouts and action set-pieces were shot practically, I appreciate that even more.  Ruben Fleischer has a knack for the quirky, and has a real grip on filming practical effects, but I don't think he has a knack for filming drama.

While the action kept me in the film, the acting and writing left a lot to be desired.  Not even a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Penn can save a paper thin plot that is so predictable, it was almost laughable.  In a film that had room for a few twists here and there (one again, think "L.A Confidential") they decided to go the big budget action romp route.  While I was in the theater I started to think about the video game "L.A Noire."  They both have similarities in the time frame (Post World War II) and really harped on the fact that Los Angeles was at "war" and soldiers are needed to win wars.  I wanted to know the war storied behind John O' Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Gosling) but I got nothing of the sort.

While this movie might have been something to look forward to, it received a lot more publicity after the shooting in Aurora, CO in July 2012.  "Squad" had to go back and completely re-shoot an entire scene that featured a movie theater shooting as well.  While there are plenty of bullets flying throughout the course of the film, I'm puzzled why a re-shoot was necessary.  Whether it's a movie theater or not, shooting and killing people is still shooting and killing people, no matter the venue.

Overall, "Gangster Squad" is a movie that will come and go through the theater, and probably make it's money back, but it's not changing the genre in any way.  The cast is good, the direction is good, but the story and characters are down right criminal.

Fun Fact:  This isn't Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, or Nick Nolte's first go around as cops.  All three have played Johnny Law in "American Gangster," "End of Watch," and "48 Hours," respectively.

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