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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Know Your Spidey History: Homecoming and The Green Goblin's Last Stand

We are right on the cusp of the Summer Movie Season and are being hit left and right with a barrage of studio tent-pole films. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably seen the latest trailer for "Spider-Man: Homecoming." We get to see more snarky Spidey, more Tony Stark, more Vulture, even a little tiny glimpse of Shocker. Sure, we get two villains in the same film, something that doomed "Spider-Man 3," but you could argue other things killed that movie as well.

But one thing that intrigued me while I was digging around the Internet was something that I'm sure plenty of people know about, but I just thought it would be a good idea to bring it back into the public's conscientiousness. 25 years ago we were treated to a little film called "The Green Goblin's Last Stand," and you might call it one of the first "fan films." Sure, with the rise of social media, better equipment and the insatiable fandom that does with comic book characters, this is a pretty rough outing, but just check out the trailer below. You have J. Jonah Jameson, Mysterio, and even Bullseye. Who wouldn't want to see a movie with Mysterio and Bullseye, especially back in 1992!

But, spoiler alert, the trailer isn't a fair representation of the film, just to warn you,...


As time has gone on, we've seen the likes of "The Joker Diaries," "Power/Rangers," and numerous Batman related shorts, and in no way am I comparing this year's "Homecoming" to the Troma-like quality of "Last Stand" but it's compelling to see how far we've come in the history of Spider-Man and the evolution of quality in fan-made films. Click HERE for a great list of some of the best.

Am I excited to see "Homecoming?" Meh, of course I'll see it, but it's getting harder and harder for me to really get hyped for anymore comic book films. My saturation point has been reached. Every year, going back to"Iron Man" way back in 2008 (wow, nearly a decade at this point) we've seen at least two Marvel movies a year, and now that DC is in the mix, that ups the total, and if you throw in Fox properties like X-Men, and Marvel and DC shows on Netflix and Network TV...you see where I'm getting at...

Oh, I nearly forgot, if you haven't seen the "Homecoming" trailer yet, click HERE and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Matt's Take: The State of Marvel's Netflix Universe

What an age of wonder we continue to live in! Superheroes, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, *cough* dc *cough* and so much more. Every comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy nerd is living their wildest dreams with the arms-race continuing at a pace never before seen in modern pop culture. If you dream it, and there is a market for it, it will surely be adapted in some form or another. But are chinks starting to form in the armor of Netflix/Marvel/Disney's after a pretty rough take on their latest hero, "Iron First."

Full disclosure, I've yet to dive into the newest Netflix Marvel series, "Iron Fist," but man, based on those reviews, which I normally take more serious then a fortuneteller in a strip mall next to the Chinese Take-Out, there has to be something to them, well, because there are so many bad ones.

But in comparing Season One of "Daredevil" that many people thought pretty much changed the game for Marvel, where are they starting to go wrong after it's Second Season? Sure, "Jessica Jones" upped the storytelling and introduced the strongest female character that Marvel has put on the screen yet (sorry Black Widowers), but there has been a noticeable drop in consistency.

Perhaps the seasons are a little too long...for me. Some would argue they aren't long enough, but 13 episodes, with maybe about six of the episodes being of substance and moving the plot along, 10 episodes seem like the way to go.

This brings me to "Luke Cage,' currently the highest rated Marvel TV show, at least on Rotten Tomatoes, the "be all, end all" of Movie, TV, blah blah blah reviews. As a whole, the show is good. It takes on a lot of issues that scare conservatives and white people, and show that no matter what color you might be, corruption is universal. That might be reaching a little too deep into "Cage" but it does show the social climate of a predominate African-American neighborhood, and is no doubt the most politically charged of the TV MCU so far.

Mike Colter IS Luke Cage. He's physically imposing, tender at times, but still a reluctant hero who thinks more about his situation than the events happening around him. He's the anti-thesis to Daredevil in many senses. Whereas Matt Murdock seeks justice and protects his neighborhood, Luke stands on the sidelines and lets his native Harlem fall victim to elected officials and criminals. He knows what he has to do, but prefers to hide and let the neighborhood rip itself apart. Of course, as in most of these superhero origin stories, he sees the error of his ways and with the help of some well-written female characters, and of course the introduction of a villain that can tear his world apart, comes to his senses and decides to save the day.

Unlike "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," this series also lacked an actual villain with a super-powered background. No mind-control or extreme ninja skills with an option to come back from the dead. It was, at first, a fight between a super-strong, yet reluctant hero, and a crime boss, and turned into a super-strong, now active hero, against a crime boss, but now a crime boss is in a super-suit. I do like the re-inclusion of the almost long forgotten Hammer Industries back into the MCU, and it re-opens the doors to maybe get Sam Rockwell back into the mix, which is always welcome.

With the positives, comes the negatives. I really wasn't a fan of the final fight between Cage and the season's big bad, Diamonback. It was underwhelming, there just wasn't much there, and even though some people might think the build up was just enough to give the final fight some pathos, but just fell flat, just like many fights and bad guys in the MCU. To this date, Kilgrave, aka, The Purple Man, is the only villain that really comes to mind that posed a great threat, as well as it being the most personal and tragic.

And while this might make me a traitor to all of my musical sensibilities, considering I love Wu-Tang Clan, I really could have done without the Method Man "freestyle" about Luke Cage during a segment of Sway in the Morning. I don't know, it seemed so forced and just kind of an out of nowhere element of the show. Now listen, I love Method Man and everything about Wu-Tang Clan, but....why? Why include a musical interlude about Luke Cage in the middle of an episode. No sir, I don't like it.

Where they'll go with Season Two of "Luke Cage," I don't really know, and will they go the route of releasing the next season before "The Defenders" is finally released, and will the less-than-favorable reviews of "Iron Fist" effect said "Defenders."

Sure, I haven't gotten started on "Iron Fist" just yet, but I honestly do feel my enthusiasm waning for these more mature Marvel hero(ines). Yeah, it looks like Frank Castle will be returning sooner rather than later, but just like Roman Times, the crowd is fickle and will boo without mercy if they don't like something. That, or in fact, "Iron Fist" really is that bad.

People also tell me "Hey, 'Agents of SHIELD' has gotten better." Meh, I'm sure it's fine, but first impressions are everything, and with the "Winter Solider Oki-Doke," as I'll call it, and a character who was as insufferable as Skye (who I also hear got better with time) I pretty much tuned out. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Marvel, TV-wise, has had it's share of ups-and-downs, and ebbs-and-flows, and should be able to bounce back from a couple of sub-par, ie, not able to meet the lofty expectations of "fans," outings lately.

What we all need to remember is that while we all waited with bated breath for these Marvel shows to come to Netflix, how high were the hopes for "Daredevil?" I'm sure a lot of people would raise their hands and yell out, "Oh, I knew the whole time!" Puh-lease! After the letdown that was Ben Affleck's "Daredevil," and the juggling of show-runners, will you honestly tell me without laughing that you had 100% confidence in Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock and the kid from the Mighty Ducks as his sidekick? You...are a liar.

We were spoiled with "Daredevil" and it ultimately lead to unrealistic notions that everything that Marvel would put on Netflix would be diamonds. This is their first lump of coal, according to "highly qualified" reviewers, but the real test will see how this effects future seasons and the chance that Marvel is willing to take on even more fringe characters. Personally, I'm waiting on Moon Knight, Marvel's version of Batman pretty much, but it worries me now because of the backlash of "Iron Fist." Thanks critics, this is why we can't have nice things...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Disney's Direct to VHS Legacy

With another live action Disney remake on the horizon; "Beauty and the Beast," I thought it would be interesting to look at another thing that Disney used to do before they decided it was a good idea to remake and/or create live action spin-offs of some of their most well-known films.

Many people consider the late 1980s and early 1990s the Renaissance of Disney Animation. And that's a fair point. From "The Little Mermaid" to "The Lion King," from 1989 to 1995, you could throw a rock and hit a great Disney Animated Film. But with great box office, comes the need for more money! Normally the first step was to release it on VHS in the giant clam-shell case and warn everyone that if you don't buy it quick it will go into "The Disney Vault." Their next step was something that no other studio did, at least at the time; Direct to VHS Sequels!

Looking back at the 90s, these direct-to-VHS (and later DVD) were being fired off left and right. Between 1994 and 2008, over 40 sequels were released straight for home consumption. Normally these sequels never lived up to their predecessor and in 2011 production ceased for all future direct-to-home sequels since executives said that these sequels were inferior to their originals. Kooky...

One of the most memorable offering was "The Return of Jafar."

After the success of "Aladdin" in 1992 it only seemed natural to release a sequel, and to be fair, "The Return of Jafar" isn't that bad and it marked the first Straight-to-VHS sequel that Disney had released. The one drawback was the lack of Robin Williams, but that was later rectified in the inferior 2nd sequel, "King of Thieves." 

To not take the piss out of this post, I can honestly say that I haven't seen another Direct-to-Home Video Disney film, but here are just a few of some of the other winners that you can still find in those giant clam shells.


Not exactly a Murderer's Row of Disney excellence, but they are still an important part of Disney history. Fun fact, "Toy Story 2" was originally supposed to go Direct-to-VHS, but in a late decision, it was released to the theaters. Consider what could have been if the decision was to actually relegate such an early Pixar film to what I would consider "film purgatory."

Bringing this back around, will the live-action "Beauty and the Beast" be any good? Who knows, but in all honesty, was "Maleficent" and good? Was "Cinderella" really any good? This seems to be the new normal for Disney at this juncture and only time will tell if this new wave of live-action remakes will go the route of the doomed Direct-to-VHS experiment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Some of Our Favorite Ladies on IWD 2017

On this International Woman's Day we at Simplistic Reviews would like to take a little time and thank all the women in our lives; from moms, to wives, to girlfriends and sisters, as 2Pac said "you are appreciated."

But since we are technically, at least some would say, a movie, TV, and pop culture blog, let's take a look at a few ladies that we appreciate from the large and small screen:

Buffy Summers
You can pretty much pick from any show that Joss Whedon has either created or worked on and find a memorable female character. While Kristy Swanson created the roll in the 1990 film, Sarah Michelle Gellar perfected the vampire-killing cheerleader from Sunnydale.


Leslie Knope
Nevertheless, she persisted...


Black Widow
 Joss Whedon does it again in creating and fleshing out the Russian Secret Agent that works for SHIELD, Tony Stark, or anyone else she sees fit. Without the popularity of Black Widow, film adaptations of Captain Marvel and even Wonder Woman would have still been a pipe dream. And let's not forget Agent Carter.


Daria and Jane
 Even 20 years later, the duo of Daria and Jane are as relevant as ever, and are the patron saints of smart and sassy chicks.


Gail
 Like a lioness, or in her case, a Valkyrie, Gail is the protector of Old Town in Basin City and shouldn't be fu*ked with


The Bride
Beatrix Kiddo would not be denied revenge after the massacre on her wedding day. Throw in her maternal instincts, like Gail, she is another not to be fu*cked with.


Kagero
A bad-ass female ninja with a deadly touch. Her duality of whether she is good or bad is alluring and she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save a man's life. Would Jubei have the balls Kagero had?


Gloria
Gloria is a woman on a mission; to be on Jeopardy and tell people what foods begin with the letter Q. No matter what, she sticks by her man Billy, until she's fed up and leaves. A refreshing reminder that if you fu*k up too many times, a girl like Gloria will Rollerblade off into the sunset.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Movie Review: Get Out

*This is a pretty spoiler-free review that leaves a lot to be debated about.*


A lot of you know that I'm a horror guy. But these days there really isn't much to offer outside the possession, found footage, creepy ghosts sub-genre. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse every time I say that, and I say it so often it's exhausting, but it needs to be said. Unfortunately Jason Blum has tapped into something that people love and keep coming back to for some reason. The irony doesn't escape me that "Get Out" is a Blumhouse Production. Sometimes you just have to put your hate on the side burner.

As far as a film that combines high concepts, social commentary, and elements of horror and thriller alike, you're not going to get much better than "Get Out." Not to mention the fact that it makes white people uncomfortable to talk about is an added bonus. Most reviews coming out are about how the film is great, injects something special into the horror genre, yada yada yada. But I guess the thing at this point is that talking about the plot could spoil the intentions of the film and the sizable reveal in the 3rd Act.

So here's the long and short of "Get Out." Chris has been going out with Rose for a few months, so naturally the next step for Chris is to meet Rose's parents. Chris and Rose load up and head out of town for a weekend in the country with her family, the Armitages'. What follows is a weekend that shows the sinister intentions of the family, despite their demure social front and fondness of being worldly liberals who would have voted for Barack Obama a third time.

You can sum this film up to the friend that you know, who is white, that feels he understands the condition of minorities by trying to relate with them at a base level, ie, taking an accent with their speech, telling them you would have voted for their leaders again, etc. Speaking from the white perspective, I'll never understand the plight of someone who is Afro-American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and so on, understanding isn't the key, the key is letting them explain their situation without the injection of white-splaning. Also, just because you have friends who aren't white doesn't give you the ability to understand. As a white person you'll never understand the struggle.

Now that I got that out of the way, what is there to like about "Get Out?" Tons!

Peele has created something that while not pure horror, is the horror story of our time, especially for any non-white. It's also a slow burn to a nice 2nd act twist that while you might have seen coming, when it does hit, it's a true kick in the face. But the most interesting thing might be who you actually TALK TO about the twist. From the white perspective, you might hear an audible gasp, or a "wow, that's crazy." If you ask anyone who isn't white, you'll likely hear, "I knew it." or "that's fucked up." That's because it is fucked up, but it might also be a fact that white people wouldn't believe a white person would do something like that, and in there lies why we still have a lot to do in terms of race relations and how we perceive our own race and the lengths, and depths, they are willing to go.

There is also some humor sprinkled in with what some people are calling the best supporting character in modern times in Rod, Chris' friend that works for the TSA, played by LilRel Howery. He's a great character that is self-aware of the situation that Chris is in, intelligent, but also looked down upon when he presents evidence about the trouble his friend is in; by the police no less. It's just another thing to remind you of the times we live in, or what's been going on for the between part of the last century.

"Get Out" is a film best served re-visiting at least twice, maybe even three times. Sure, the "twist" is gone upon multiple viewings, but the journey to how it gets there can get lost in the details. The Armitage estate is surrounded in mystery, and relics from other countries and cultures are scattered around the house. A conversation early in the film between Chris and Rose's father. Dean, sets the tone of the family's legacy and even gives a "what-if" if history was just a little different. It's actually pretty chilling.

Considering I'm staying as spoiler-free as possible, I'm going to stop this review right here, But the point is that this film will appeal to the passive viewers as just a straight up psychological horror film but if you want something with a little more meat on it's bones and something to say, "Get Out" is the first great film of 2017.

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