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Monday, June 30, 2014

I Saw The Devil

RELENTLESS
I Saw The Devil - Relentless

There are so many things that, for lack of PC sense, the Orient had given us; pasta, dim sum, Akira, Nintendo, "The Interview," and so much more. Speaking of Korea, the South, not the North variety, they haven't gotten very good the past decade or so at creating outlandish and truly disturbing cinema. While I still hold Japanese horror (and no, I'm not counting J-horror) in high esteem, it's Korean horror/revenge fare that continues to give me what I want; horrific violence, creepy characters, and satisfying endings. "I Saw The Devil" is a relentless exercise in how long you can watch without squirming in your sit or questioning why you decided to sit down and watch; and that isn't a knock at all.

"Devil" is simple enough. The daughter of a secret agent and a police officer is brutally murdered by a nefarious serial killer. As the agent tracks the killer it leads him down a road where he will never be the same. I know it sounds melodramatic, but the since K-drama is so big these days, I thought it appropriate.

While Korean actors might not be household names, by now most people have heard of Min-sik Choi who plays the main antagonist Kyung-chul. Choi most will know from his roles in "Oldboy" "Lady Vengeance" and the upcoming Luc Besson flick "Lucy." Like he does in "Oldboy" Choi does a balancing act of mania and composure and he might be the most memorable on-screen serial killer since John Doe in "Se7en."

One complaint many people might bring up is the lack or character development and/or plot. I agree on the way the characters are handled, and I didn't really figure out that the protagonist Kim Soo-hyeon, played by Byung-hun Lee, was a secret agent until I read the film's synopsis afterwards. It made sense since he was very good at hand-to-hand combat and had an array of gadgets, but it was still generally vague for the most part. Being this is a foreign film, I'm sure a few things were lost in translation for me.

Another thing that might seem off to most people not familiar with the Korean Revenge Drama genre is the motive of the killer and the relentless violence that is seen throughout the film. The violence is brutal and it does go a little over the top in some scenes. Being a gore-hound, it really doesn't bother me too much, but even I, a believer in ultra-violence, found myself saying under my breathe ".....jesus." There is also a lot of violence against women in "Devil," including an attempted rape, who seems to be an underage girl. That might be enough to make people pump the breaks as well.

However, outside of the violence, and the simplistic narrative, the performances, direction and production design are fantastic. The atmosphere is eerie, and there is a haunted house feel throughout that never quite relents. Along with the atmosphere, the sense of dread is incredible and adds to the unease of "Devil." Bottom line, it's a horror film without being a horror film.

"Devil" is a must-see if you're into either horror films, splatter films, or serial killer films. If you've seen "The Vengeance Trilogy" from Chan-wook Park, and can handle the type of blood-letting you might have seen in a Takashi Miike film, "I Saw The Devil" is right up alley.

Fun Fact: The surnames of Kim, Park, and Lee account for nearly 50% of all Korean surname.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Escape From Tomorrow

LYNCHIAN
Escape From Tomorrow - Lynchian

I'm not like most of my friends; I like to work for my movies. To me, I'm happy to take on a film and see if I can find something different from what other people might catch. I get that a lot when I watch anything by David Lynch, Terrence Malick, or Alejandro Jodorowsky; I do it both for the challenge and my overall enjoyment of film. However, there are times when I take something on and I'm kind of left with a feeling of bewilderment that I'm bewildered that I have....follow? Well don't worry, because I'm having a hard time myself after still trying to digest "Escape From Tomorrow," an extremely Lynchian take on the hidden horrors of The Happiest Place on Earth; Walt Disney World.

"Escape" is the tale of a family trip to Disney that takes a strange turn when Jim, the patriarch of the family, finds out that he has just lost his job on the last day of the trip. Things are harmless enough to start the day, but Jim begins to slowly lose his grip on reality as the day wears on. Between a pair of potentially underage French girls, secret Disney scientists, and Japanese businessmen that pay top dollar for Disney Princesses, this isn't your typical day at Disney.

I'll start with the merits of "Escape." For one, it takes balls to pretty much lampoon and make a dark film about Disney World. The "guerrilla-style" film-making approach also hits home for me because I can remember all the time I went to Disney World and my dad would film the entire trip, even when rides specifically told people not to film while on the rides. The black-and-white technique also adds an eeriness to the proceedings and reminds me a lot of what Lynch did with "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man."

Overall, the performances are decent enough. Jim, played by Roy Abramsohn, leads the way, and the performances by his two children, Sara and Elliot, played by Katelynn Rodriguez and Jack Dalton, respectively, are also very strong. However, "Escape" isn't so much about the performances, but what is going on around the actors. Repeated viewings, if you can handle more than one viewing, would be suggested in order to understand the narrative and how many different things are happening in the background; just like any other film that prides itself on being thought of as Lynchian.

What I also enjoyed is the the use of imagination as a main theme. When you're young, you go to Disney and think all of the characters are real and your young mind runs away with you. Now imagine what an adult might think about when they are walking through Disney, and think even more what an adult might think or see after they've lost their job, and think even more when that adult is drunk. A lot of interesting things could be happening. Too many times in films, the focus is always on the imagination of a child, and it's an interesting decision to delve into the mind of an adult who is having a very bad day in a place where everything should be Disney Princesses and over-priced food.

While being Lynchian might be one of it's greatest attractions, it's also the biggest weakness for "Escape." It's truly a hard film to get your head around. Instead of being a film, "Escape" is also a series of vignette's that happen to be taking place around Disney World, so there is a lot of disjointed narrative and you can easily be lost if you're not paying attention. "Escape" definitely isn't for the passive film fan. I'd like to bring up more about the plot and where the film goes, but as I said before, if I like to work for my films, why would I expect anything less from others.

All in all, "Escape" is a journey that might not be for everyone, but it is an interesting film from both a film-making perspective and the fact that the film is pretty much doing what a lot of people get thrown into Disney Jail for; making a mockery out of "god" who is Walt Disney and his apostle, Mickey Mouse.

Fun Fact: In 2009, a 60-year-old man named John Moyer was convicted of misdemeanor battery for groping Brittney McGoldrick, who was wearing a Minnie Mouse costume at Disney World. See more creepy stuff here

Monday, June 23, 2014

Batman

Batman: Quintessential

1989/126mins/Action

There are only a couple films that I can pick from that have influenced me at a very young age. Back to Future is one and the other is today's review.

Batman is pretty much a perfect film even though its a film plagued with errors.

Vicki Vale entering the Batcave. (Say What?! Thanks Alfred)
Batman killing the Joker. (Wait... Batman just killed the Joker?)
The Joker killing Martha and Thomas Wayne. (Wait what?)
Batman creating the Joker. (Ugh you made me first)
Batman being a mass murder. (I think Batman kills more than the Joker)

These are big issues, yet Batman continues to be the best Batman film to have ever been made. How is that possible?

Because Batman 89 has everything to make a summer blockbuster and everything to make a staple of a film for a young boy’s mind.


Lets start with the cast
The cast is absolutely perfect. Of course at the time everyone had issues with it, but overtime the film holds up with help from its characters and actors. Michael Keaton is Batman! He will always be a favorite for us 80's and 90's kids. When I first met Neal he asked me about who I thought was the best Batman. I said Bale comes close but hands down I have to say Keaton. Keaton brought Batman from a joke to a icon. I am a big fan of the comedy of 66’s Batman but it will always piss me off. Batman was not that, he is what Keaton showed us. Keaton’s ability to pull off Batman and Bruce is something we really haven’t had since. Bale again is the only one that comes close, but falls short with that voice. Keaton got it. Keaton went to that dark place in his voice and for that he will always be the Batman/Bruce of the big screen.

Jack Nicholson as the Joker is hands-down one of the greatest castings in film history. He as a actor that took that role and stole each scene he was in. Vicki Vale played by Kim Basinger has always been my favorite Batman love interest since maybe Andrea Beaumont. No female since has been able to pull off her part. The cast is a classic and I hope we get another Batman film with a fantastic cast like this in the future.

The story is a simple telling of the origin while using flashbacks. It’s very well written, and the structure is fantastic. I’m amazed what Sam Hamm did with this script. I'm more amazed Sam Hamm didn’t become a well known writer. Right now Hamm’s IMDB page shows 9 credits. How is that possible? He really did a great job with this film. When Batman Returns came around he kind of was given the shaft. He gets credit for story but if you ever get a chance to read his script you’ll find a good read. In fact I really wish they went more with his then Daniel Waters.



That score and soundtrack, WOW!
Danny Elfman! Elfman created the greatest theme ever! Sure Superman has a good one, Star Wars is cool but Batman! Come on its amazing and why the hell did we not bring it back. Elfman created a score that just fits perfectly. It’s dark and beautiful. Yet it’s very strange and exciting. I want to feel this again in the theater and I hope we get this theme back, come on Zimmer DO IT! I double dare you! Now Prince created a period of time that will forever be playing in my ears. I listen to this soundtrack almost every week. The film gets watch almost every week too, yep I’m not joking. Happy or angry I will queue up that soundtrack and play the hell out of it.

Art direction is incredible. Something you will never see anywhere else. When I look at that set I think to myself this is a once in a lifetime experience. That suit is my favorite version ever to be done. Zack Snyder is coming close, still we haven’t seen it in color yet, but you can never go wrong with full black and that yellow belt and logo.

Tim Burton pulled off one of the greatest feats in film history. He was a kid at the time. A kid with the most expensive film riding on his back and he pulled it off. I don’t think he really tries anymore, which sadness me. His early work is far superior and is something I dearly miss. But what Burton gave me makes up completely for his recent films. He gave me a childhood, which I reminisce about once and awhile. Batman was and is everything to me. Without this film, things could be different. I might of not of been that little boy with the black towel attached with those clothes pins running. And for that I can only think of a simpler time and say thanks for the great film.

Happy 25th Birthday!

Oh and...


I'm Batman!

22 Jump Street

COMFORTABLE
22 Jump Street - Comfortable

Taking a chance on a film that really doesn't need to be made is one thing, but taking a chance on a film that was a surprise success is another thing entirely. In there lies the beauty of "22 Jump Street," a film that is so comfortable with how good it is it's willing to take itself entirely unserious (a word?) during its entire run-time. I usually would save this for the end, but this will possibly be the best comedy of 2014.

"22" once again stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Detectives Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, as they try to stop a new(er) designer drug called "WHYPHY" being spread across college campuses. Basically, it's "21 Jump Street" with a different drug....in college....and a bigger budget. The film's self-awareness and the chemistry between Hill and Tatum are once again the highlights of a film that could have easily been a mockery and easy cash-in, but both Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were also responsible for stellar "Lego Movie" earlier this year, find just enough originality and heart to make this sequel equal, if not better, than it's predecessor.

What differentiates "22" from "21"is also the pacing and the use of ancillary characters from the first film. You have some great cameos, and the use of Ice Cube in a larger supporting role yields some of the funniest moments of the film, including a twist you probably don't see coming. Speaking of Cube, it's interesting that when he actually gets good material to work with, he's a real good actor. Yes, I didn't see "Ride Along" but it's hard to forgive films like "Are We There Yet?" Sorry Cube, maybe I'm playa' hating a little bit, but it looks like you're back on the right track.

While most of the performances are very funny and memorable, not all of the performances are memorable for the right reasons, namely Jillian Bell, who might know from "Workaholics." Now I'm not saying she isn't funny, she just happens to be the least funniest part of this film. Her schtick wears thin pretty quick and while she ends being a bigger part of the film come the end, she really wears out her welcome with her brand of comedy. Will Bell doesn't ring all that well for me, Wyatt Russell, the son of the legend Kurt Russell, and the Lucas Brothers, give some memorable performances and balance out the zaniness of both Hill and Tatum.

With self-aware comedy, Hill and Tatum at the top of their game, and some real great action set pieces, "22" is a winner for all the right reasons. Granted, I will say if you're a fan of the first film, I'm pretty sure you won't enjoy the sequel, even though this sequel makes sure that even if your didn't see the first film it provides you with a handy "previously on" segment to start the film, which I think was a stroke of genius that only a film this comfortable with itself would be able to provide.

Fun Fact: Across the United States there are five 22 Jump Street address; include two Florida.

SR Podcast (Ep. 25): June 2014 - Batman 89 Movie Commentary

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
 

It's June and it's Podcast time! But this one is special. Today we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of 1989's classic, Batman. So we decided to try something new, join us today as we give you a SR Movie Commentary! Our first commentary and very possibly not our last commentary ;)
So queue up those VCR's...hmmm wait sorry....DVD's, Blu-rays and this Podcast and have a blast to the past with us. You can watch our YouTube video, listen to the Podcast or stream the commentary with the full film on dropbox!

Click here for the Dropbox Stream

Show Notes:

Wait did Julie Kill someone?!

Music Notes:

Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul

Batman: The Video Game Composer(s) Naoki Kodaka, Nobuyuki Hara

Batman OST by Prince


 


Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Letterboxd, Pinterest and Grab the SR App

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 5

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY


Simplistic Sneak Peek is back and better than ever.  In this episode the boys take a look at some animated features and some 80s action stars WITH animated features.  Sinbad, The Ultimate Warrior, Dane Cook and a Holocaust amusement park all come up in this irreverent return of Simplistic Sneak Peek.  You can watch this episode's trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin's thoughts on them in real time.

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Expendables 3

Bonus Trailer

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

App Release!

 Introducing the Simplistic Reviews App!


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Batman Vs. Superman: Special Simplistic Reviews Op-ed Edition (3-5)

Batman Vs. Superman:
Special Simplistic 
Reviews Op-ed Edition

Part Three: 
Wonder Woman

The follow contains neither official information nor photos. Only fan made photos, onset snaps and my thought on the rumors.

Batman might be the only thing I personally care about in life, but not for this film.

When we found Wonder Woman was going to be included I was extremely happy. I don’t like a film with too many characters, but this character is different. She can be utilized and give us a strong female presence in the film. In Man of Steel, Lois Lane to me felt flat. I like Amy Adams, but her performance in that film is just flat. Her emotions are dull and every time she spoke I cringed. You may not agree, I’ve brought this up many times before including in the podcast with disagreement opposing me. For me Wonder Woman could change this, but that’s not the main reason for my liking of her in this ever so sounding bloated film.

My reason is because Wonder Woman hasn’t ever been on the big screen and the last and only appearance was Lynda Carter in the late 70’s. Yes we had the 2011 never aired TV Pilot with Adrianne Palicki, which we hear was embarrassing. If I were a Wonder Woman fan like I would be with Batman, I’d be jumping like a kid on Christmas. This is big for the character and hopefully leads to a Wonder Woman film. DC could win this by making it to the finish line by bringing a female driven film, sadly Marvel has missed this. If this film is done right and this character comes through it will be paradise for comic book fans.

That costume is going to be very important. We already talked about the Bat suit, which I think they got right. Thou those ears would be nicer a bit longer and the logo is taking time. I get they're going for the Miller look but it seems too much. With Wonder Woman I'm sure they will go down more with the New 52 road and that would be the smart option. There is no way I can see the shorts making its way into the design.

Now let's take about her, the new Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot has drawn big criticism, possibly more then Ben. But if she can do a fine job, it will magnify as BIG. Why because we haven’t seen this before. If she blows it, it will echo loud. She has a lot riding on her back, and I don’t think she should have a problem. She hasn’t acted much, but from what I have seen she could do a okay job. Her ability to do her own fight scenes is a win and her voice can add a nice twist on her amazon roots Her beauty is key as well. Watching a clip from Fast and Furious 6 during my research I can see the Wonder Woman, I can see Diana Prince.

She might not be the first choice for everyone; my first was Jaimie Alexander from Thor. She would be perfect but we don’t live in a perfect world, Gal Gadot should do fine and if she does a great job the treat we as comic fans will fall head over heels seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on he big screen.
Regarding her being too skinny. She is very skinny and this could be a issue. But luckily from what we hear she's been hitting the gym and adding some muscle just like Ben. So there is a sigh of relief.

Right now I'd rate Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman a B

But that can change fast once I see the costume.

But the scariest thing for me, where muscle does play a big part in is our next post.

Coming up

Part 4 - Lex Luther


Friday, June 6, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

THROWBACK
Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he knows how to make entertaining films.  Yeah, yeah.  There are some Knight & Day and Rock Of Ages anomalies in there.  However, you would be hard pressed to go through his filmography and find a film of his that you didn't at least think was fun.  From the grossly underrated Oblivion, to the pulpy Jack Reacher, to the exhilarating Ghost Protocol.  Tom Cruise STILL can make films that are exciting and fun.  Edge Of Tomorrow is no different.  It is a THROWBACK to some of the balls to the wall sci-fi action films I grew up watching as a kid.  Aliens, Total Recall, Terminator, etc.  It takes a sci-fi concept and blends it with great action set pieces and smart dialogue, hello Christopher McQuarrie, to create a film that gets you munching popcorn in the theater like a rabid woodchuck.

Edge of Tomorrow, based on the way better titled book All You Need Is Kill, tells the story of a cowardly soldier forced onto the front lines of a war against an alien invasion.  Through a miraculous set of circumstances, he gains the power to reset the day every time he gets killed.  With every reset, the soldier learns the skill and the courage he will need to defeat the aliens and save humanity.  And yes, I'll be the one millionth person to use the analogy...IT'S GROUNDHOG'S DAY WITH ALIENS AND MACHINE GUNS!  Although, I see Edge Of Tomorrow as a little less complex than that.  In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character becomes a better person on the inside through use of the recycling days.  Edge Of Tomorrow uses it's time traveling concept mainly for the goal of defeating the enemy.  Some personal growth is there, but most of it takes a back seat to the mission at hand.  You might think that I'm saying that this is a bad thing, but I honestly think it works here.  The movie never slows down and the repeated timeline gimmick never becomes tedious or, ironically, predictable. 

Tom Cruise's performance in this is...well...very Tom Cruise.  He doesn't break ground on any particularly new territory here.  But this is a film where he doesn't really have to be anything other than Tom Cruise.  The biggest range of acting we get from Cruise is seeing him actually portray a coward.  Despite his long history as a leading man, this is something we rarely get to see him play and he does it quite well. 

The biggest weak spot for me in Tom Cruise's other recent sci-fi film Oblivion was that the connection he has with actress Olga Kurylenko didn't feel that strong to me.  Their chemistry just wasn't right.  On the other hand, Emily Blunt is literally chemistry personified.  By that I mean she seems to just have amazing chemistry with every leading man they put her up against.  Whether it's the chemistry she has with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper, or the insane amount of chemistry she has with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau.  Seriously, watch that film again.  The bathroom scene between her and Damon is a textbook example of what onscreen chemistry looks like.  Blunts powers once again come into play because every scene with her and Cruise is great.  Surprisingly, some of the scenes where they are just talking are as entertaining as the scenes where they are blowing things away.  Maybe it would have been better if Blunt was in Oblivion and Olga was in Edge, seeing as Oblivion is more dependent on the chemistry between the two leads than Edge Of Tomorrow is.  But I digress.

The rest of the supporting cast fill in their roles well.  Bill Paxton is just as humerus as he needs to be, and the members of Cruise's J Squad are memorable and entertaining enough in their limited screen time to stick with you.  I was so hoping for Paxton to appear later in the film during an airdrop into alien territory so as to assuage my Aliens similarities fetish, but alas.

For as competent of an action director Doug Liman is, he really flies under the radar. This is likely due to him focusing more on producing than directing as of late.  However, this is still the man who brought Jason Bourne to the silver screen.  Hell, his romantic action comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith is the reason that there is such a thing as Brangelina.  Liman can do action, and he does it well here.  There is nothing as eye jarringly exhausting as Neill Blomkamp's other exosuit extravaganza Elysium.  Just solid set pieces with thrilling, coherent action beats.  This saddens me because Edge Of Tomorrow will probably be the last action film I'll see before Michael Bay's new Transformers movie maces my eyeballs.

Edge Of Tomorrow fully embraces the summer popcorn flick philosophy while still delivering enough smart dialogue and concepts to keep you guessing.  It isn't interested with hitting you over the head with social commentary or a heavy handed message.  It just wants to entertain you over and over again.  Grab an extra mag...an extra battery...don't get injured anywhere near Emily Blunt...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

MYTHIC
Godzilla - Mythic

Sometimes the Devil is in the details and films need a high brow plot that grows right in front of an audience. Characters need to be fleshed out and there is a need to feel an attachment. Sometimes you need that in a film. Sometimes in a film, however, all you need are giant monsters punching, biting, and clawing each other until only one is left standing. Sometimes you need......."Godzilla." 2014 marks the return of everyone's favorite "kaiju" who loves to climb out of the sea, destroy buildings, or a few monsters, and after he's done, walk back into the sea. You don't need Matthew Broderick, you don't need baby Godzillas, because there's a twist we didn't see coming, and you don't need a twist where there is always one more egg left. What you do need is a mythic monster that destroys things. You get all of that, and more, in "Godzilla."

If you've seen any of the Japanese import "Godzilla" films, you might have a good idea of what you're in for this time around. Basic premise; there are rumblings in the Pan Pacific area......and for sake of spoilers and other important plot points, I'll leave it there. Yes, Godzilla is in this film, and there are a lot of moments of nostalgia that I got excited about, and overall I got to see the mythic rebirth of an icon.

Gareth Edwards honed his craft with the underrated, and little seen indie, "Monsters," and just like "Monsters" there is a lot of build-up to the eventual return or sighting of a giant monster. This might be a turn-off to some members of the audience who might be expecting most of the film to be starring "The King of the Monsters." Instead, we get a plot that involves a soldier (Aaron Johnson) and his father (Bryan Cranston) seeking the reason for the disturbances in the Pacific and the possible conspiracy between the Japanese government and the Monarch Corporation. You also have Elizabeth Olsen floating around as a nurse who is maybe trying to save people, and trust me, I like Olsen, I think she is an actress on the rise, but its plot and exposition for the sake of plot and exposition, and while the film might lag a little bit, it's well worth the lead-up to the return of Godzilla.

The one comparison that you won't be able to get away from will be the inevitable comparison to "Pacific Rim." First of all, "Godzilla" is not "Pacific Rim." The only comparison is that there are giant monsters that fight. It stops there. From a storytelling and world building perspective I would still give "Rim" a leg up. However, with "Godzilla" there is a sense of nostalgia and a lot of little odes to films of old. Being that this is the last collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. it could be a while before we see another "Godzilla" flick grace the screen for a while.

At the end of the day, it's great to see "Godzilla" back and in the capable hands of people who understand what "Godzilla" is at heart. Sure, some of the plot points are a little corny and ham handed, but when you finally get passed the mandatory exposition, the action is well worth it, and to be honest, quite convincing, for a giant monster film that is.

Fun Fact: Ironically enough, Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pacific Rim" was the first choice to direct the "Godzilla" reboot.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 24): May 2014


It's May, and wouldn't you know it, we're on time this time! The Simplistic Reviews Podcast is once again....ON TIME!

This month we recap all that was the month of May, with a special guest appearance from America's OTHER favorite black guy, the DC Fanboy himself, Neal DaSouza. The quartet discuss the hidden beauty behind Grace Jones in "View to a Kill", where Marvel is finally showing the chinks in their armor, and all take part in a rather "arousing" rendition of "Kill, F*ck, or Marry." We also get a little literary, literally, when the guys talk about which graphic novel, book, or comic book arc should be adapted for the big or small screen in this month's "Simply the Best."

All that and so much more in their May Edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

Note: I realize that I switched between speaking in the first and third person, but that's just one of the benefits of being a little, how you say.......insane.

 Show Notes:
Christopher Walken Freaking Out
May Day
The End of Marvel?
Zohan Catches Bullet
May Day Sleeps With Bond

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
Word Up By Cameo

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