Month: October 2013

October 7, 2013

New Release! Gravity

MIND-BLOWING

Gravity – Mind-Blowing

I never start a review this way, until now of course; “Gravity” is amazing, emotional, groundbreaking, revisionist, wonderful, innovative, and of course, mind-blowing. There hasn’t been a movie since “2001: A Space Odyssey” that has elicited so many emotions over the course of 90 minutes until “Gravity.”  If the genius of Alfonso Cuaron hasn’t been noticed yet, this is the film that puts him in the lexicon of Spielberg, Lucas, Kubrick, and other luminaries that have re-defined cinema for a new generation.  Cuaron is this generation’s Stanley Kubrick.

“Gravity,” at heart, is the tale of survival, redemption, and the power of belief.  Most of Cuaron’s films all have an undertone of hope found within utter despair, see “Children of Men as a prime example.  Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski, respectively, two astronauts on a routine mission to repair a shuttle.  Before you know it the two are adrift after space debris strikes the shuttle, and a battle for survival begins.

While I was in the theater so many emotions came over me.  Based on the trailers, you know shit is going to hit the fan, but I didn’t know the context in how said shit hits the fan. The set pieces are wonders to behold, and while CG is heavily relied upon, I never felt that I had to suspend my disbelief and realize that all I was watching was make believe.  Cuaron has officially blurred the lines between reality and fiction.  I was blown away.  Add in his trademark long takes, the first scene lasting roughly 15 minutes with no cuts, and you are sucked into this vision of space that hasn’t been seen since “2001.”

While I’m not going to say politics were involved, it’s interesting to see three superpowers (USA, Russia, and China) mentioned in a film about space and how one said superpower is to blame for the problems that occur throughout the film.  I’m not saying the Cuaron has an agenda, but it seems clear that he either has a distrust or distaste for the the Space Program, or perhaps his entire allegory in “Gravity” is that the Space Program is dead or needs to die.

There are quite a few references to death and rebirth in “Gravity.”  One is pretty clear, where, SPOILER, Bullock enters the International Space Station, strips her suit off, and curls into a fetal position.  After being in the vacuum of space for a long time, she finally has a place to feel safe, and regresses into a child-like position of safety.  Later on in the film we pretty much see the death of the Space Program, with once again, SPOILER, a US, Russian, and Chinese space module destroyed, with the latter plummeting to Earth.  Is Cuaron saying, “Look, space doesn’t want us anymore, it’s time for us to return to Earth and take care of things domestically before we deal with the vastness of space.”  I tend to think this is a very important, and timely, message for people all over the world.

For over 50 years, the world has been obsessed with visiting space, “landing” on the moon, visiting Mars, sending probes to the far recesses of the solar system, while the Earth continues to become over-populated, natural resources are slowly running out. climate change is a creeping death, and pollution chokes us.  Why is the space program a viable option anymore?  Yes, we use satellites for communication and surveillance, but why do we need to keep sending probes into space to hopefully meet E.T?  With NASA finally ending their Space Shuttle Program in 2011, “Gravity” tells us two things; good riddance to the program, and two, lampoons the program with the disaster that you see in the film.

Politics aside, “Gravity” is a technical marvel that lets us experience space from a perspective we’ve never seen, before in a realistic way.  Should you see it in 3-D?  My answer is always no to 3-D.  People might argue that it puts you INTO the film, but why do you need to be in the film when you can watch the film in
2-D and still feel like Cuaron is holding you hostage for 90 minutes, and that’s a compliment to the director.  I haven’t felt at the mercy of a director in a long time, where you can’t escape what you’re experiencing until the director lets you go.  If “Pacific Rim” was the action film you couldn’t take your eyes off of, “Gravity” is the mind-blowing, technical marvel that you can’t take your eyes off of this year, and maybe the past decade.  “Gravity” pulls you in, literally.

Fun Fact:  Ed Harris, who you might remember as Flight Director Gene Kranz in “Apollo 13,” reprises the role, in voice form, of “Houston” in “Gravity.”

October 7, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 04

Welcome back fiendish freaks to another edition of Simply Horrifying.

“Cutting Cards” the third episode from Season Three stars Lance Henriksen, who you might remember from “Aliens” and “Pumpkinhead” and Kevin Tighe, who you might remember even better from “Road House” and who played Locke’s Daddy in the TV series “Lost,” as two high stakes gamblers with a love/hate relationship with each other.

Of course you know how gamblers get once the stakes get high; first you lose some money, then you lose your dignity, next thing you know you’re playing Russian Roulette and are starting to lose fingers.  Hey, have you even been to Vegas?

This is Walter Hill’s second episode as the director, his first since the show’s inaugural episode, “The Man Who Was Death” which starred William Sadler, who also starred in the first “Tales From the Crypt” themed film, “Demon Knight.”

While the episode is silly, it’s still unnerving because you have to believe that there are plenty of people in the world that really do go this far when it comes to gambling.

Check out the full review above, if you dare…….

October 6, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 03

 Welcome back gore-whores, for another edition of Simply Horrifying.  Leaving season one behind, we now embark into season two of “Tales from the Crypt” where things really start to pick up steam.  Being that the first season only had six episodes, it’s pretty jarring to see that the sophomore season had a whopping 18 episodes.  Furthermore, a lot more celebrities (or at least celebrities from the early 90s) were showing up to star in episodes, as well as a few surprise directors, namely, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who directed the episode titled “The Switch.”

All in all, season two was a huge jump for the series and set the tone for seasons 3-4 (which I personally think are the two strongest seasons).  Dead Right, starring Demi Moore and the almost unrecognizable, Jeffrey Tambor, is a ghoulish little story about one woman’s desire to get rich quick.  The only problem is that she has to marry Charlie Marno, a loud, obnoxious, overweight man who might hold her key to a vast fortune.

Dead Right is a fun episode that ends with a nice twist that you should be used to if you’ve read the comics or are a veteran of the first season of “Tales.”

Click the link above for the full review, if you dare…….

October 4, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 02

As we delve deeper into the “Tales from the Crypt” catalog, I need to make an amendment to the above review.  In the review I state that Mary Harron was the only female to direct a “Tales from the Crypt” episode, and that isn’t entirely true.  While there was a disproportionate ratio of male to female directors on the show, there were actually a few females to direct on the show, including Randa Haines, who directed a season two episode entitled, Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today.  I just wanted to put that out there.
Now, as we forge a-dead (yes, I will be using puns from time to time), we come to an tale called “Collection Completed” directed by the aforementioned Mary Harron.  The story is fun, and reminds of something that might have been better suited for “Amazing Stories” but there is just enough gore and implication of terror to truly make the story creepy and memorable.
Check out the video companion above and prepare to enter “Tales from the Crypt.”  If you dare…….
October 3, 2013

Here Comes Halloween: Phantasm II

Phantasm II – Look-a-like

LOOK-A-LIKE

Naturally it would make sense to review the first “Phantasm” before I get to it’s sequel, but there is a logical explanation; I simply enjoy “Phantasm II” better than it’s predecessor.  An odd way to begin a review, I’m sure, but I just wanted to get the semantics out of the way before I get into this review.  Welcome back to October, and an entire month of scares, frights, masks, blood, gore, inferior sequels, and more blood.

Phantasm II” is the 1988 sequel to the 1979 cult classic, “Phantasm,” written and directed by Don Coscarelli.  If you’re unfamiliar with “Phantasm” here is a quick refresher; A kid named Mike begins experiencing strange happenings around his town, with a sinister figure called The Tall Man behind said happenings.  As things begin to reveal themselves Mike finds himself stalked by The Tall Man in nightmarish visions involving corpses, metal flying balls with a taste for blood and a body full of embalming fluid and dwarves created from the reanimated corpses of the town’s dead.  Throw in a Bruce Campbell look-a-like named Reggie, and you got yourself “Phantasm.”

The sequel picks up right where the original leaves off, so for the purposes of this review, and if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though these would be 34, and 23 year old spoilers, respectively, tread lightly.  Mike is about to be taken away by The Tall Man but is rescued by Reggie.  We skip ahead roughly 10 years to an adult Mike who is being released from the local mental hospital.  After tragedy besets Reggie, the two spring into action to track down The Tall Man and end his reign of terror, forever.  Joined by a young girl, named Liz, with a psychic link to Mike, the trio head out to, once again, stop The Tall Man’s devious plans, including the creation of more zombie dwarves and to rescue Liz’s grandmother.

What I love about “Phantasm II” is the excess.  You can see clearly that the sequel takes a lot of it’s cues from another famous cult classic sequel; “Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn.”  While the original “Phantasm” relied on real scares and it’s tone to convey a feeling of dread, just like “The Evil Dead,” it’s sequel relies on banter between Mike and Reggie and a lighter tone, which includes a chainsaw fight and the creation of a quadruple shotgun, smells like “Evil Dead II.”  Consider the time frame between all the films as well.  “Phantasm” was released two years before “Evil Dead” and you can see some similarities in the tone, but that was also the sign of the times in the late 1970s and 80s.  Fast-forward to 1987, when “Evil Dead II” is released with a more comedic tone, and a year later “Phantasm II” is released with a lighter tone as well.  I’m not saying that “Phantasm” and “Evil Dead” share much with one another, but in comparing the two, you can see where there are similarities and the fact that each franchise borrowed a little from one another.

Now back to the “Phantasm II.”  I’m sure purists who love “Phantasm” will kill me for saying the sequel is superior, and I’m not actually saying that, I’m just saying that “Phantasm II” is more accessible for non-fans than the original.  Just as he was in the first film, Angus Scrimm literally stands out, again, as The Tall Man, the series’ main antagonist.  While The Tall Man never received the fanfare of Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers, there was still something very creepy about an old supernatural man who steals corpses to create evil dwarves.  I liken The Tall Man to Henry Kane from the “Poltergeist” series as they both share a similar, skeletal look.

Like most sequels in the late 1980s, there is an extreme case of style-over-substance in “Phantasm II” with more special effects, spotty acting, and plot holes big enough to throw a million of those killer metal balls into.  However, the cheese doesn’t take away from the fun.  There are some excellent creature effects, done by a than relatively unknown Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman, now of “The Walking Dead” fame.  And of course, it’s no surprise that Nicotero also did effects on “Evil Dead II.”  The comparisons continue!

While not exceptional, “Phantasm II” is a fun little sequel that lives in the zeitgeist of horror during the late-1980s.  It’s over indulgent, silly, campy, and not as good as it’s original.  But, it gives horror and gore fans what they wanted; MORE!

Fun Fact:  For even more The Evil Dead/Phantasm fun, take a look at one of the bags an undertaker is filling up and you might catch the name on the name.  That name being Sam Raimi.  Meta!!!!

October 3, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 01

October is here and now is the time for the creeps and ghouls to infest your web browsers, and I”m not just talking about those adult sites that you frequent when your wife or husband aren’t around.  No judgement.  But October is that time of the year where things get a little spooky and Simplistic Reviews welcomes everything creepy with open arms, paws, claws, webbed-feet, anything else that some mythical or murderous creature might have to grab things with.

HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” was a show that paid homage to the EC Comics from the 1950s.  Grisly images, paired with tales of morality which caught the ire of the US Government who went as far as to hold Senate Hearings about how comics were corrupting the nation’s youth and driving a hearse straight to Hell.  Sounds like my type of comic books.  William Gaines, creator of the Tales from the Crypt comic line, was a pioneer in the industry and you can call him the Stan Lee of Horror Comics.  Come 1989, the geniuses at HBO decided it was time to pay tribute to EC and create a weekly half-horror horror show every Sunday, aptly named, “Tales from the Crypt.”  Running nearly 100 episodes, from 1989 to 1995, “Tales” were comics come to life way before we had the Marvel Comics films.

As this series progresses, your host, Matt, will present his favorite episodes from all seven seasons.  The episodes will not be ranked and will only be classified by the season in which they appeared.  It’s like trying to pick your favorite child, unless its the child that cries in public, throws food on the floor, and wets the bed.  That one is a winner!

So, in this first installment, “And All Through the House” is explained away.  There are a lot of cool aspects to this episode, namely, director Robert Zemeckis helmed this episode, and this is the only episode from the series that uses Christmas as the backdrop.

Check out the video companion above and prepare to enter “Tales from the Crypt.”  If you dare…….

October 1, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Cinema and Suds, Unforgiven and The Wild Bunch/Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter

Who hasn’t dreamed of being a cowboy at some point in their lives?  Riding the open plains, looking for outlaws, or even being a outlaw.  Upholding or breaking the law.  Getting drunk in bars, enjoying the company of a young lady on the 2nd floor of a saloon, or even shooting the gun at the feet of someone yelling at them to “Dance!”

In the case of cowboy/western films, there are three eras of great westerns.  In the 1950s and 60s you had the John Ford and John Wayne epics.  The late 1960s and 70s ushered in “The Man with No Name” trilogy and the cowboy anti-heroes in “The Wild Bunch” with it’s ultra-violence being the trademark.  After the late 1970s, the western genre was dead, until the early 1990s with a little film called “Unforgiven,” a modern classic that dissected westerns from the 60s and 70s and re-ignited people’s love for classic Westerns.

Now, it’s no mystery that drinking is a huge part of Westerns, case in point, William Munny from “Unforgiven.”  It’s not until he goes back to the bottle during the climax of “Unforgiven” that you see the “real” William Munny.

So in this edition of Cinema and Suds we have the modern classic Western, “Unforgiven” and the classic classic Western “The Wild Bunch.” and a big bottle of Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter, which is plenty for this double feature.

Enveloped with Texas Mesquite, this smoked porter, which clocks in at 6.8% ABV, is bold beer with an old school taste perfect for a former-gunslinger.

Check out the video companion above for a more fun and cowboy-like hijinks!

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