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Month: December 2013

December 31, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: The 2013 End of the Year Blowout Spectacular Jimmy – Jam

In the blink of an eye, 2013 is over and we look towards 2014 here on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  In this special edition of The Podcast, DJ, Justin, Matt, and Neal give their two-cents on the best and worst of the year in film and TV, and I’m sure a lot more.

Will “Grown Ups 2” stand alone as a worse mistake than Greedo shooting first, or will “White House Down” prove that Barack Obama is funnier than Jamie Foxx?

All of this and so much more on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  Happy New Year and see all you clowns in 2014.

Show Notes:
Best Films of 2013
Worst Films of 2013
Best TV of 2013

Music Notes:
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” By Chicago
“Your The Best” By Joe Esposito
“Background Music” By Seeburg
“Auld Lang Syne” By Kenny G

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
Click HERE to listen to podcast

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December 30, 2013

Let’s Get Real: Blackfish

Blackfish – Sickening

SICKENING

Let me get the comedy out of the way before I get to what “Blackfish” is really about; Good God killer whales have giant wieners!  That’s it folks, I’ll be here all night.

However, if you take away manually masturbating killer whales in the documentary “Blackfish” you will still be shocked by the exploitation of not only the majestic orca, but also the exploitation of their trainers; humans.  Of course, human and/or animal exploitation is nothing new.  Look at slavery, mineral mining, and pornography, and you can see that humans love exploiting other human beings for their own gain, add in giant six-ton wild animals, and you really have a sickening wonder to behold.

“Blackfish” tells the story of numerous sea-focused amusement parks, namely the now closed, Sealand of the Pacific, and SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida and one whale in particular, Tikikum, who has been responsible for the death of three separate trainers.  There are several questions raised in “Blackfish.”  One, should we keep animals, namely gigantic mammals like killer whales, in captivity?  This is the central debate in the film.  As long as there has been man, and as long as man has been able to capture animals and put them on display, and as long as man can make money doing this, the capture and exploitation of animals will never go away.  I go back to the whale’s penis; that thing is worth a fortune!  You know why?  Because that penis will continue to make orca whales, and whales are worth millions of dollars, and tourists will continue to pay $75 to enter a park, pay $10 for a plush toy, and pay another $5 for the Popsicle that is shaped like that new orca whale that came from Tilikum’s……cum.  Sorry to be graphic, but I couldn’t pass up that winning wordplay.

The other question “Blackfish” ponders is whether trainers are properly trained and/or made aware of the risk of their jobs?  Being told from the perspective of the trainers, “Blackfish” is told through a rather biased perspective.  I understand that representatives from Seaworld wouldn’t want to be a part of a documentary that is essentially demonizing the way that they’ve done business for over 40 years.  But as a trainer of killer whales, you have to be aware of the risk of working with “wild” animals.  However, if a company is withholding information from you about how dangerous one of these killer whales really is, that is another story all together.

Will “Blackfish” keep people away from the gates of Seaworld, or any other zoo/aquarium that exhibits giant animals that sell tickets and can turn on someone at any given moment?  Of course not, but you can rest assured that wild animals will continue to act out when they are threatened, scared, or angry.  Just like humans can have bad days, animals can have them as well, I’m sure Tilikum’s victims would second that opinion.

Fun Fact:  SeaWorld Orlando, FL was opened on December 15th, 1973.

December 29, 2013

The Wolf Of Wall Street

DEBAUCHERY

 I have previously joked about how I’d watch the trailer to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street in the morning because visually it was like doing a line of cocaine.  Little did I know that the feature length film would be the best example of truth in advertising since Pacific Rim.  The Wolf Of Wall Street is literally a three hour high, filled with every form of despicable DEBAUCHERY, decadence and self-destructive devilishness you could possibly think of.  This film was easily one of the most anticipated films of the year on our site, and I can confidently say that it lived up to every expectation.  Is it a perfect film?  Not necessarily.  But it is unquestionably a must see film.  Hell, I could end the review right there.  For the skeptics still unconvinced, allow me to talk about some of the aspects of The Wolf Of Wall Street that surely make it great.

The story?  Based on the autobiographical novel, The Wolf Of Wall Street tells the tumultuous life story of stock broker slimeball Jordan Belfort.  This film and Michael Bay’s film Pain & Gain tell two stories that will shock you with their hilariously absurd events.  Then shock you even further when you discover that so many of those events were absolutely true.  It is closer to being a modern day remake of Caligula than a story about the stock market.  I give the real Jordan Belfort credit for still allowing the darker parts of his life to remain in the film and not be played up for laughs.  Although, you never really hate the guy even after you see them.

The structure?  The film has been shorthanded into the familiar Scorsese format, leading people to quickly describe it as the Goodfellas version of Wall Street.  And…well…it is.  Writer Terence Winter practically admitted as much.  For as herky jerky of a style it is, this format always seems to work for Scorsese and be entertaining enough for the audience to forgive it.  Much in the way audiences did for The Departed.  I bring up the structure because it may be the only criticism I can find in this film.  When it is all said and done, The Wolf Of Wall Street may only be remembered as just a collection of jaw droppingly great scenes instead of a well crafted story.  The Lemmon Quaalude scene, the goldfish scene, the midget parameters scene, the yacht chop scene, and every scene where Leo delivers a stump speech to his troops.  After seeing the film, however, I can’t imagine the story being told any other way.  The structure sets the fast pace and humorous tone this film needed.

The performances?  Are you kidding?  Even if you are one of those inexplicably strange Leo detractors, you’ll still be in love with the job he does as the wolf Jordan Belfort.  The enthusiastic vulnerability DiCaprio consistently displays in his roles continues to make me appreciate him as an actor.  His co-star Jonah Hill steals literally EVERY scene he’s in, which is a tough task for a film like this.  His performance is something deserving of an award, but will probably fall short of acclaim like his stellar one in Moneyball.  Virtual newcomer Margot Robbie holds her own with both of them.  She is the Lorraine Bracco of this film and is no less brilliant.  Honestly, every actor in this film knocks it out of the park, no matter the amount of screentime they get.  Matthew McConaughey is amazing again.  Jean Dujardin, who I didn’t even know was in this film, is terrific.  Kyle Chandler shines in the first role I’ve seen him have fun in.  Jon Bernthal is thankfully a long ways away from his Shane days.  Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Joanne Lumley, P.J. Byrne and countless others hit every note they need to perfectly.  

The Wolf Of Wall Street is a fiery car accident you can’t look away from.  No, it’s a seedy fling with your ex girlfriend after you both came to the agreement that you’re bad for one another.  No, it’s an insane night on the town with your more irresponsible high school buddies that ends in the police drunk tank.  Who am I kidding?  It’s a cinematic drug high.  The rush of the hit and the crushing darkness of the side effects.  And with all these metaphors aside, it is a truly excellent film that is well worth your time.  Sell me this pen…go downstairs and get the ‘ludes…remember your safe word…watch it…exhale and wipe your brow afterwards…then tell me I’m wrong.

December 27, 2013

Forgotten Gems: 50/50

SEEDS

50/50 – Seeds

Can a film about cancer be funny?  Normally, it’s one of those topics that Hollywood tends to stay away from when it comes to comedy.  Sure, you have “Terms of Endearment” which is thought of as one of the best films in the last 30 years, but cancer doesn’t always equal comedy.  While I won’t consider “50/50” in the same class of “Terms” it’s still a film that takes the subject of cancer, and disease in general, and combines it with humor, though sometimes crass, and hope.  It also plants the seeds for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where you really get to see him act in a big time way.

“50/50” is the story of Adam, a twentysomething working at a NPR-like radio station in Seattle. Cutting to the chase, after visiting a doctor for some unexplained aches and pains he learns that he has a rare type of cancer (isn’t it always a rare type of cancer in any film?)  With the help of his friend Kyle, Adam tries to look on the bright side of life even with his personal life crumbling around him as well as his well-intentioned mother’s constantly harassment, and father dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease.  When it rains it pours, I guess?

The film also stars Anna Kendrick as Adam’s psychologist, Katherine, who I think does a fine job and adds something special to “50/50.”  What I will add is that I’m a little confused about all the hate that Kendrick gets for the roles she takes.  I mean she’s no Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s just as awkward as J-Law, but people take her as a bitch for some reason.  She only has a handful of roles to her credit, including an Academy Award nominated performance for her first *real* role in “Up In the Air” but I’m not sure why so many people complain about her acting.  She has her own style, and despite the fact that several of the characters that she plays are moody or quirky-outsider types in the early 20’s, I think she does the best she does with the writing that is provided for her.  As for her performance in “50/50” Kendrick continues to show that when given material she can really shine, see “End of Watch” for further evidence that she has a bright future as a new type of “the girl next door.”

Moving away from my Anna Kendrick rant and back to “50/50,”  the other thing that struck me with the film is the honesty in which cancer is dealt with.  While at heart the film is a “comedy” there are some real human elements to the film, namely unexpected loss, coming to grips with situations you have no control over, and re-establishing old relationships, and building new ones.  Gordon-Levitt conveys an honest performance and is still able to pull a few decent laughs from a situation that rarely leaves room for humor.  Seth Rogen, usually the funniest guy in the room, manages to still be the comic relief of the film, but he shows some of his acting chops as a friend who is trying to turn his friend’s tragedy into his own gain, but still show some compassion as a best friend.

Overall, “50/50” is a fine film that shines a light on a disease that most people try to stray away from.  To be honest, I think there are more films about the plight of people suffering from AIDS then people suffering from cancer, a far more relatable disease to be honest with you.  I’m sure in our lives we have met someone, been friends with, or have had a family member that has fought cancer.  Of course I’m not taking anything away from people who suffer from HIV/AIDS, but Hollywood seems to make have a “mythic” obsession with the AIDS virus, while cancer is almost a dirty word to most people.  So, if you’ve yet to see “50/50” it’s certainly worth a watch just to see some young actors dealing with, and executing some of the heaviest acting that most of them had to deal with up to that point.

*I don’t consider anything “Twilight” related a real role by an actor or actress that wants to be taken serious.

Fun Fact:  Actors Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall have both played cancer patients in previous films Watchmen and Magnolia, respectively.

December 25, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: December Holiday Edition

‘Tis the season to talk movies and TV…and R.Kelly…and…um… Jolene Blalock’s disappearance…and Lara Flynn Boyle?  I’m pretty sure that’s not how the song goes.

An oddly optimistic Justin Polizzi makes his triumphant return and unveils his latest character impression.  Neal DaSouza joins us again to talk some anime and take dictation.  DJ is confused over the midseason finale of The Walking Dead and discovers he has some sort of Die Hard Tourette’s Syndrome.  Matt starts an all out war between people of the Jewish faith and jolly ol’ Saint Nick in a new segment called Dear Santa.  And a crippled little boy is able to walk again at the end.  It’s a Christmas Miracle!  Sorry, that last bit I made up or partially stole from Charles Dickens.  But I swear, the rest of that stuff does happen on the holiday edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

Show Notes:
Ellis From Die Hard
Police Academy
R.Kelly Cookie Song
Detective Quentin Lance
Akira
Jolene Blalock
Lara Flynn Boyle Is Melting

Music:
“Holiday Road” By Lindsey Buckingham
“Christmas In Hollis” By Run D.M.C.
“Christmas Time Is Here” By Vince Guaraldi
“The Best” By Tina Turner
“Let It Snow” By Vaughn Monroe


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

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December 22, 2013

Out Of The Furnace

PERFORMANCES

Perhaps it is because I’m a black man born and raised in a city environment that the world of the country gangster interests me so much.  Their world is an entirely different world than the one I’m used to, and it’s just a short ways up the highway.  I watched The Dukes Of Hazzard religiously as a kid…before I realized that them Duke boys were driving ’round with a big “Go F%*k Yourself Black People” flag on their car.  It is no secret that Justified is my favorite show on television. (SCREW YOU GOLDEN GLOBE COMMITTEE)  Even Roadhouse tickles the hell out of me.  Especially the absurdity of that final scene.  So, Out Of The Furnace seemed like a film set directly in my entertainment wheelhouse.  Unfortunately, the film has an overly simple and predictable plot that merely serves as a platform for its real asset.  The thoroughly stellar PERFORMANCES.

Out Of The Furnace comes from Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper.  Crazy Heart also ended up being a film with an unremarkable plot but extremely remarkable and Oscar winning PERFORMANCES.  Furnace is about the chaos that happens after two brothers get mixed up with a psychotic mountain man gangster.  That’s it.  Okay, there are some other secondary facets to the story.  This includes a regretable accident, an awkward love triangle, and a combat veteran’s hardship.  However, hardly anything happens that you will not see coming or have not seen before.  Because the premise is this simple and familiar, the moments that connect the important plot elements feels like overly long and extraneous padding.  You could easily cut forty minutes from this barely two hour film and still not miss a thing.  A very unfortunate problem, seeing as those padded moments have some of the film’s better acted scenes.  This makes me think they were kept in, not because the story needed it, but because of how good the actors were in it.  You never want to have a film where great PERFORMANCES are playing defense with your story.

Scott Cooper and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi are real artists when it comes to framing and light.  I think Cooper could make a terrific western if he wanted to.  The western genre is centered on confrontation, tension and the anticipation of violence.  That is maybe what he was trying to do here.  A modern day western.  If that is the case then the pacing of the film makes sense.  However, there are still some elements that don’t serve the build up of confrontation.  Though, Cooper should be credited for once again getting what he got from his actors in this film.

People still forget how great of an actor Christian Bale is.  Even after his recent Oscar win for The Fighter.  In The Fighter, Bale played a larger than life character that required his usual body transformation.  It was a character that gave him many things to do and many things to play with.  His character Russell Baze is precisely the opposite of Dicky Ward.  Russell is more subdued and still.  Most of Bale’s PERFORMANCE is internalized.  And yet, the PERFORMANCE is tremendous.  A scene with him and Zoe Saldana on a bridge is probably some of the finest acting you’ll see this year.  Yeah, Zoe Saldana is in this.  She isn’t in it for a long time, but long enough to give a strong PERFORMANCE.  Bale’s brother Rodney is played by the Affleck brother who can act.   (You’re an awesome director Ben, but Casey can act circles around you)  Again, the dynamic between the two brothers is nothing new.  However, Casey and Bale elevate the relationship in every scene they share.  You would never think Casey could display an intensity that rivals the always intense Bale, but he does.  And speaking of intense, the real standout of this movie is Woody Harrelson.  From the first scene, you know that Harrelson is going to steal this film.  He is tough, funny, and scary as hell.  He is such a great character, I wish there was a little more time dedicated to him.  His inevitable showdown with Bale struck me as a bit anticlimactic.   Cooper might have meant to keep his character Harlan Degroat (What a great name) simple and vague.  However, I would have appreciated a little more time with the character and see the behind the scenes of how he ran his organization.

I’ve focused on the main stars, which really short changes the fine work done by the supporting cast.  From Forest Whitaker, to Willam Dafoe, to Sam Shepard.  Every actor brought their A game.  Sadly, the story surrounding them is simply just a B-.  Grab your rifle…and your boxing tape…don’t let Woody Harrelson serve you a hotdog…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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