Month: May 2013

May 27, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra: Fabulous 

118 min  –  Biography | Drama  –  2013

I know its shouldn’t come as such a surprise that HBO hits another home run, but they seem to have their shit together then most of TV (and as well as a few movie studios).

Brief History
At first Steven Soderbergh was having a hard time finding a studio who would back this film. Everyone’s reasoning was that “it is too gay”. Sadly that’s the world we live in, lucky for us HBO threw its hat in and said we’ll back it. First it was rumored to have Robin Williams set to play Liberace, then came Douglas. Soon after in 2008; filming was put on hold. In 2010 Michael Douglas began his treatment for throat cancer which put the film on hold.

The Film
Casting is heavy on talent. With Michael Douglas as Liberace, Matt Damon and Scott Bakula join in. Also Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd and Debbie Reynolds who plays Liberace’s Mother.
The acting is what stands out in this film. First off Matt Damon really holds his own opposite Douglas. Toward the end during his character (Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson) downward spin, you really feel the power of anger and love his character had. My favourite part of his, is when he screams at Liberace during a fight about another “young boy” Liberace may or not be sleeping with.
Rob Lowe plays a Doctor, creepy yet fun at the same time. He is part of this club but it takes time as a viewer when you first seem him onscreen. It’s very creepy in a way I haven’t seen before. Dan Aykrod is Dan Aykroyd and that not bad. I thought he was perfect for his role as was Scott Bakula and Debbie Reynolds.
Liberace himself is the reason I love this film. Michael Douglas give one of his best, if not his best performance. He kills it with such ease. The look and voice just worked so well, that I could without a doubt, believe him as Lee. I’m amazed by Douglas’s career as I write this. I’ve never not like him in a role and he always brings something that makes watching movies so damn fun. I’m always taken away by how far he jumped over his father in the art of acting, not to say Kirt isn’t good, he’s damn good but he just seems to be a whole different Douglas and I love that. I hate not seeing him in more films and it seems that will be changing soon. I have a feeling we will be talking about Reykjavik where he plays Ronald Reagan, with Christoph Waltz (who we all love here at SR) and Frank Langella whose not playing Nixon and yet I believe the whole time I’ll be thinking of that. 
Soderbergh did a good job with this one, he makes up for The Girlfriend Experience which I have a ton of issues with. He says this is his last film, thou he has said that more times then I can count with my hands. But if this is really the last one, then I’m glad he’s going out like this!   

May 24, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Terrible

100 min  –  Comedy  –  15 March 2013 (USA)

It always amazes me that films like this get made.

Listen.

During the process of making a film, a lot of people read the script…a lot. So you mean to tell me NOT ONE person raised their hand and said, “Guys this is very weak. I think we should try again”.

With a cast like this…

Steve Carell
Steve Buscemi
Olivia Wilde
Jim Carrey
James Gandolfini
Alan Arkin

and at the end of production, they make one of the worst movies (if not the worst) of the year!
Never in my life did I fall asleep watching a feel, when I sat down to watch one. Guess what? The record has been broken.
P.S. Olivia Wilde is still a babe!
May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (Matt’s Take)

Star Trek Into Darkness – Something

SOMETHING


The Summer Movie Season has finally kicked into high gear.  Sure, you might have called “Iron Man 3” the start of the Summer Movie Season, but it left some people, including me, to an extent, underwhelmed.  And while you aren’t supposed to be moved or left with a feeling other than adrenaline after walking out of a Summer movie, there are times where you are left with a feeling where you can still get Summer Blockbusters with a little heart; just a little something extra that you wouldn’t get out of your typical Summer fare.  That something is “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Now the extent of my “Star Trek” knowledge only encompasses “Wrath of Khan,” and the 2009 re-boot, but to be honest with you if you have that knowledge already, there is no way that you won’t enjoy this film.  Even to a lament of the “Trek” universe, I jumped right into the re-boot and enjoyed it for what it was; a sci-fi epic with familiar names of characters and a cool cast that fit the characters, from what I know them as, to a tee.

“Into Darkness” is more a celebration of the series, whereas the re-boot was more of a way of getting footing and setting up a world, that while familiar, was brand new to people that either didn’t grow up watch the 1960’s TV show or familiar with any of the films.  In this adventure, The Federation is under attack by a rogue Starfleet Member names John Harrison, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  After the attack, Capt. James T. Kirk, and his crew of The USS Enterprise take on a mission to bring Harrison to justice for his crimes.  Of course nothing goes right for the Enterprise crew who face overwhelming odds, pissed off Klingons, and angry ancient warriors out for revenge.

What makes the film work for both devotees of old school and new school “Trek” is the direction.  What happens when you take a geek and have him geek out in a giant geek-fest?  You get a giant geek orgasm with fan service to spare, and tissues are included, which are for dual purposes.  The casting is once again spot on with everyone returning, and as a bonus, you even get Peter Weller.  Yes, Robocop is in this movie and he is awesome, as he is everything he does.  He meaning Robocop, but Weller is pretty good too.

If you were letdown by “Iron Man 3” and thought the newest Marvel adventure was a misfire to start the Summer, have no fear; the Summer has “officially” begun with the arrival of “Into Darkness.”  Set Warp Speed for the cinema, and set Phasers to “Fun.”

Fun Fact:  The first appearance of Khan Noonien Singh was in the “Star Trek” TV show episode titled, “Space Seed” in 1967.

May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (DJ’s Take)

FUN

Look.  I’m going to make this fast.  One, because I’m on the way to go watch this movie for a second time.  Two, because I want to try and stay as spoiler free as I can.  With a little introspection brought on by something well put from MovieBob Chipman in his own negative review of this same film, I’ll admit my duty and privilege as a reviewer is to tell you if I thought a movie was good or not and to tell you why in either case.  It is not to preserve secrets, not to geek out, and not to just relegate myself as a proverbial cog in the already powerful marketing machine of said movie.  However, my objectivity sometimes waivers when a movie manages to personally effect me either emotionally, nostalgically, or both in this case.  So, I’m hesitant to just come out and say that Star Trek Into Darkness is the most FUN I’ve had in the theater since Skyfall.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen since…you know what.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it gave me everything I wanted and so much more.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it will probably be the best summer blockbuster you’ll see this year…PERIOD.  Hesitant not because it isn’t all of those things.  Hesitant because if I do you’ll chock it up to just tiresome Trekkie hyperbole.  But I’ll risk it because…Star Trek Into Darkness is worth the risk.

To get into plot points of Into Darkness would ruin some of the films best moments.  So, I’ll put it like this.  Into Darkness takes the best parts…THE BEST PARTS…of the original franchise’s BEST films and literally puts them all into one balls to the wall action sci fi space adventure.  AWESOME!  It takes those nostalgic moments that fans loved from the originals… cleverly and surprisingly turns them on their ear…which somehow makes it suddenly into a new and equally rewarding experience.  BRILLIANT!  It managed to give me the FUN and the humor that Iron Man 3 gave me, but also give me the stakes and gravitas that Iron Man 3 didn’t.  THANK YOU!   It surpasses all the best moments of the 2009 remake, which I loved by the way, in under twenty minutes.  STUNNING!  It, despite my  preconceived notions to the contrary, has some of the best 3D conversion shots I’ve seen…um…ever.  BEAUTIFUL!  And flatly, the film just works.  No matter what nit-picky flaw you could conjure, no matter what prejudices against Star Trek you carry, the film just works.  I attribute this to two overall things.  The cast and the director.

Whenever I see a tv show or film where the cast just doesn’t fit or when I’m trying to explain actor chemistry to someone, I seem to always bring up Star Trek 2009.  When you have perfect casting in not just a film, but an iconic franchise, your stories can be literally about anything.  Hell, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had the original crew go back in time and save whales for crying out loud.  And it was the highest grossing Trek film until 2009.  Why?  Mainly its because you just want to see these guys hang out and share their adventures.  That is why casting for the new franchise was, ironically, paramount.  With Into Darkness, the cast has bonded even more.  Even the tiniest interaction between two characters, whether it be Kirk and Spock, Bones and Sulu, or Uhura and Scotty, just seems to hit the mark every time.  The uninitiated can’t help but feel the chemistry and the die hard Trekkie can’t help but smile at the homages.  That is a testament to Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe, Karl, Simon, John, Anton and Bruce.  They understand their characters and have totally made them their own now.  It’s house money the writers are playing with, and thankfully they don’t just rest on their laurels with it.  The story and the dialogue is strong enough for each of the characters to shine brightly.  What about the newbies?  Well, Mr. Cumberbatch was an addition that I knew would be amazing, due to his previous efforts as Mr. Holmes.  Any amount of screen time for him is always going to be too little for me.  However, it is the performance by Peter Weller that is really going to stick out after you watch this.  Robocop himself, is so very strong here that  I found myself wondering why he doesn’t work more.  Its a small role, but he totally knocks it out of the park.

I figured that this was going to be JJ Abrams mic drop as he exits the franchise for a galaxy much farther away.  And boy you can tell.  For those of you who were worried he’d sleepwalk through this after being given the reigns to Star Wars, fear not.  Abrams throws so much into this film it is amazing.  The action is flabbergasting.  Especially because I didn’t figure there’d be so much of it.  However, Abrams does manage to let you catch your breath for the comedy and some really solid emotional moments.  He brings…I don’t believe I’m saying this…balance…proper balance to this film.  My colleague Matt Stewart did say that this was going to be our best first look at what JJ will have in store for us in Episode VII.  And if that is true, The Force has nothing to worry about.

Star Trek Into Darkness is not only a great Star Trek film, but an action blockbuster that can hold it’s own against any blockbuster film that has come before it (Sorry Iron Man 3) and will come after it (Your move Man Of Steel).  My favorite film of the year so far.   It has a lot of moving parts but never forgets to stay true to the thing that James T. Kirk covets above all things.  FUN.  Set course for it…maximum warp…chase it ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

May 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines: Powerful

‎2hr 20min‎ – ‎Rated R‎ – ‎Drama‎

Going into this film I wasn’t really expecting much but that default Ryan Gosling film we seem to get anymore. The silent romantic killer type, which I don’t mind. He does a good job in his films and yes this is another one, but it’s damn good. The story is simple, Guy sees a girl he had a past with. Guy finds out he has a child, guy has no money but wants to help. This is mostly the first hour of the film. Ryan and (in real life girlfriend) Eva Mendes are a great onscreen couple. They play off of each other nicely. The film also is shoot beautifully and the film as a whole just feels tight and well made. There are these shots with Ryan on his bike that are not anything special but it comes off just fantastic.

The only real issue with this film is the running time. For a 140min film the first hr and a half go quite fast, its the last 50mins of what kills the film for me. 

Look at the film like this, its 3 in 1. The first film is all Ryan. The second is with Bradley Cooper, the third-well lets keep that under wraps.  If I told you any of it, I would spoil something that you should find out when watching the film. Bradley Cooper does a great job as well with his screen time  I think I was more impressed with him here then his past films. He also shares the screen with Ray Liotta, who, yep you guessed it plays… a baddie.

There is this “silver lining” (If I can) throughout the film which helps this film wrap up nicely. But like I said earlier could of been a bit shorter. The ending could of lost a solid 20mins. The whole film is nicely packaged till this point. But then feels as if they jammed every idea they had and couldn’t let any of it go. Otherwise it’s a lovely film, one I think a lot of people will like.

Acting is great. Directing and DP are great. Running time just needs to be shorten a bit.

May 15, 2013

Simplistic TV: Family Tree

ODD
I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.   HBO’s new show Family Tree, on the surface, is very ODD.  The same could be said of most of the works of show creator Christopher Guest.  However, Guest always makes sure that underneath the surface of the strange is really funny, warm, and ODDLY relatable themes.  The man behind This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, and A Mighty Wind brings his considerable talents to television in this ODDLY off beat mockumentary.  Those talents could be said to be Guest’s mastery of manipulating and showcasing the ODDITIES of the world while still making the ODD people he puts in this world feel genuine.  Anyone can be the over the top cooky relative who says funny things through a goofy puppet.  However, Guest’s famous use of subtlety makes a character like Bea Chadwick be funny and yet still totally believable.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Family Tree is about a brother and sister searching through their family history after receiving a mysterious box from a deceased great aunt.  As the show’s sizzle reel displays,  it will become more about a man finding himself and really getting to the root of what truly is family.  Now, you’re probably wondering how on earth can such an unremarkable and somewhat overdone storyline be fresh and funny.  It is the characters makes this show bloom.  Every interaction between any character is like a brand knew treat for the viewer.  You never know where a conversation is going to go.  This is accomplished through the use of improv for certain.  However, the way the characters are so fleshed personality-wise makes you anticipate the hilarity eagerly before it unfolds.  
I first saw Chris O’Dowd in Bridesmaids.  He stood out as a surprisingly funny and charming performer.  His small but hilarious role in This Is 40 had me hoping that the guy would get a starring vehicle in the future.  I’m thankful and fortunate that Family Tree is it.  His comedic timing and unflappable reactions as the shows straight man/lead are terrific.  The character that most will probably be talking about is Bea, played by comedian/ventriloquist Nina Conti.  Mel Gibson may have done the whole, use a puppet to express your feelings thing first.  However, Nina makes it more of a realistic quirk her character has than a slapsticky gimmick her character is using for comedic effect.  Don’t get me wrong.  Monkey is funny and is used for comedy.  Just not to the point where it gets annoyingly in your face about it.  He is explained in literally three sentences and then you just find yourself accepting it as apart of Bea.  That, again, is comedy through subtlety.
With a strong lead, a funny concept, and a litany of Christopher Guest all-stars like Michael McKean and Fred Willard, Family Tree is poised to be another winner for HBO.  Sharp, clever, and yes…ODD.
Pay close attention to the six fingered man…watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.  
May 12, 2013

Iron Man 3 (Matt’s Take)

CHUCKLES

Iron Man 3 – Chuckles

The one thing I didn’t expect was that I was going to be laughing more than saying “Wow, the MK 42 Armor just blow an entire shipyard up!”  In there lies the rub with Marvel/Disney’s newest blockbuster superhero epic, “Iron Man 3.”  While great at times, I couldn’t help but think I was watching “Lethal Weapon,” “Predator,” and “The Last Boy Scout” all at once, and oh yeah, there happened to be some superheroes doing some superhero-type stuff.

When I first heard that Shane Black was taking over for Jon Favreau with “Iron Man 3” I thought it was really interesting. I know Black from the “Lethal Weapon” series and of course as Hawkins in “Predator.”  There were moments in “Iron Man” that I thought Jim Rhodes was going to lean over and tell Tony a joke about his sister, but sigh, it wasn’t meant to be.  Anyway, but with Black at the helm you get a totally different take on a Marvel movie, it’s dark, funny, twisted, and bombastic, even more so than “The Avengers” at times.

The sequel picks up about a year after the events in New York in “Avengers.”  Tony Stark is suffering from post-traumatic and has become obsessed with building new Mark Armor, preparing for humanity’s next big threat.  Jim Rhodes has taken his role as War Machine in stride, now becoming to overly-patriotic American savior, The Iron Patriot.  Of course things don’t stay quiet for long as The Mandarin, a mysterious new terrorist with a Baptist preacher drawl, begins his reign of destruction, which brings Iron Man back into the fold, ready to stop this newest villain.

Stark’s newest adventure draws inspiration from the “Extremis” storyline from 2005-2006, and throws in The Mandarin for an added bad guy, which works, but you might be surprised by way he is ultimately used come the end of the film.  While the first two “Iron Man” films focused on Stark and his shortcomings, there is more of a sense that while Tony is still a loner at heart, he is broken down emotionally after “Avengers” and relies more on Pepper Potts, Rhodes, and his trusty robot buter, J.A.R.V.I.S.  The film talks a lot about demons, and while it could have been said and forgotten about, this theme plays well into what Tony is fighting with, both internally and externally.

The casting is once again pitch perfect, and the additions of Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce give the film more clout, especially Pearce, who is great and fills the void that Sam Rockwell vacated when Justin Hammer was essentially written out of the Iron Man universe, sadly.

Like Jon Favreau said, it’s Kiss, Kiss, Clank, Clank.”  For some that might not be what you were looking for in the newest Iron Man film, but Black has set the tone for Marvel’s “Phase 2” plans, by adding more humor and a few big twists that should hopefully carry over to “Captain America 2” “Thor 2” and what I’m waiting for the most “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Fun Fact:  Between “The Last Boy Scout” and “Last Action Hero” Black made a pretty penny; netting over $3 Million dollars for his scripts.

May 8, 2013

The Lords of Salem

GROWTH

The Lords of Salem – Growth

There are certain people that like to co-opt the horror genre and whore it out for their own needs (Michael Bay, I’m looking at you) and others that have a feeling for the genre and try to pay homage while trying to create something new that either hasn’t been done before, or hasn’t been done for decades.  Rob Zombie is a little bit of both.  Overall, I like Zombie.  White Zombie was a kick ass band, his solo efforts were solid, even if they were a little more on the industrial rock side, but when I first heard he was getting into the horror movie making business I thought about films like “Monster Dog” “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein” and other assorted crappy movies that happened to have musicians associated with them.  Out comes “House of 1000 Corpses” while not perfect, was still entertaining and was instant nostalgia.  Fast forward 10 years and we have Zombie’s newest, and most mature effort, with “The Lords of Salem,” once again starring Sheri Moon Zombie’s ass.

“Lords” plot revolves around a Salem disc jockey, played by Moon Zombie, a recovering drug addict who begins to have strange, demonic visions.  After listening to a mysterious record from a new band ironically-called “The Lords” her visions begin to intensify complete with giant hairy monsters, bleeding walls, and perverted priests (well, the last one very well could have been real).  Complete with witches and a town conspiracy, “Lords” is a modern day Dario Argento film, very similar to “Suspiria” or “Deep Red.”

There’s no doubt that director Zombie has an eye for film.  His shot compositions are put together very well in “Lords,” he knows just how long to linger on a shot, and I commend him for being very practical with his special effects, I have a hard time forgiving him for his “fake blood and bullet hits” in “The Devil’s Rejects” but it looks like he has finally moved beyond that and gone back to basics.

The acting is still a struggle, as it usually is in his movies.  There is overacting, underacting, and everything in-between   I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the best acting in a Zombie film so far, which isn’t saying a lot, but it’s not as bad as “Halloween 2.”  While I understand it, I don’t think Sheri Moon Zombie is a leading lady.  She’s a scream queen at this point, and always will be, but I don’t think she is strong enough to hold together an entire picture, but she does a decent job as the disturbed lead, Heidi Hawthrone.  As is normal for a Zombie film, you get plenty of cameos by some great genre actors, namely Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, and the almost unrecognizable Meg Foster from “They Live.”  It’s almost like she was channeling Grima Wormtongue from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Overall, if you like Rob Zombie, you won’t be let down by his latest effort.  Like I said, it’s his strongest since “1000 Corpses,” but don’t go in expecting blood and guts all over the wall.  While there is gore, it’s more nuanced and the film relies on sense of dread instead of buckets of blood.  Also, as a warning, if you are bothered by excessive amounts of weirdness and hate music videos, you might want to skip the end of the film…..it gets……odd, to say the least.

Fun Fact:  During the Salem Witch Trials, which lasted from 1692-1693, 27 people were killed by the means of hanging, pressing, and while detained in prison.

May 6, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: April Edition

It’s that time of the month again, take that as you may, but you won’t need any tampons to listen to April’s Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

In this month’s edition we ponder who is more evil, Red Skull or Adolf Hitler, Sheri Moon Zombie’s ass, and Justin tries to sell Matt on Mad Men, and the P-word gets thrown into the mix.

The guys also test their movie quote knowledge in the new segment, “Simply Quotable,” and do a little Summer movie preview of their own with Iron Man already making waves.

If you like good wholesome family fun, well, find another podcast.  If you like three guys talking out of their ass for over an hour, well, now you’re on the right track with The Simplistic Reviews podcast.

Also, May 6th is National Nightmare Day, a Day to celebrate the 1984 horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  Check over at SlaughterFilm.com for more information.

Show Notes:

Hannibal Review
Summer Movie Preview
The Benefit of Mad Men
National Nightmare Day

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

Check us out on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

May 6, 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Catchphrase

A Nightmare on Elm Street – Catchphrase

Say what you will about the horror genre, but from Dracula to Jigsaw, no other genre has given the movie-going audience more endearing, beloved, and downright frightening characters in the history of film.  Some of the most recognizable characters come out of the 1980s Slasher Film boom, and without a doubt, while I give Jason Voorhees a heaping helping of blood-soaked credit, you still have to give it up to Wes Craven and his greatest creation, Freddy Krueger from 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“Nightmare” is the tale of a group of high school friends, including a young Johnny Depp, as they are plagued by the vengeful spirit of child murderer Freddy Krueger, who haunts their dreams.  One by one the teens are dispatched in often-graphic ways while they sleep.  While the plot might seem a little more far-fetched than your standard slasher film, that was the touchstone for “Nightmare.”  While still in it’s infancy, the slasher genre received a huge shot in the arm and deviated from the traditional “killer in a mask” scenario that was popularized by “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.”  It was fresh, new, and terrifying.

What John Carpenter did to William Shatner masks, is what Craven did to fedoras and Christmas sweaters, he made them scary.  What also works for Craven was the timing of creating Freddy.  While Michael Meyers and Jason were scary, they didn’t talk.  With Freddy, we got a walking, talking boogey man who haunted us in our most sacred of places; our bed and dreams.  Dreams are supposed to be a safe haven, especially for kids.  We should be able to control our dreams, and escape from the daily grind of life.  But Freddy pretty much takes a piss on that notion, and whether its beds that eat you, or stairs that give way to quicksand, the Springwood Slasher was always there to haunt you.

Craven, usually known for some type of social or political statement in many of his films, created “Nightmare” with a fairly basic premise, by horror movie standards, but he did just enough to separate it from what people had been used to from the previous six years (using 1978’s  “Halloween” as a landmark).

While the sequels got goofier and goofier, and Freddy pretty much became the poster-boy for bad horror movie puns, the original “Nightmare” still stands as one of the most lasting horror films produced in the last 25 years.  The later sequels, including the fantastic “Freddy vs. Jason,” tried to really squeeze out a plot about a town conspiracy involving Freddy, the use of the sleep drug Hypnocil, and of course “A Dream Child,” worked for the jokes, but nothing else.  While I do appreciate the fact that the writers attempted to make sense and legitimized the series, what people really want is for Freddy to say a line or two, whip out his clawed glove, and killer teen stars from the 1980s.

On this “National Nightmare Day” (actually famed psychologist Sigmund Freud’s birthday) pop in your Blu-Ray, or even better, your VHS, slid on your favorite Christmas sweater, shout a one-liner, and enjoy “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  And after you get done with that, creep over to Slaughterfilm.com for more hot Freddy action with their video review of the genre classic.

See you in your nightmares!

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