Month: August 2014

August 4, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 28): July 2014

 FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

As Summer continues, the guys from Simplistic Reviews get a little hot under the collar. This month DJ and Matt rip into Kate Mara for her contempt of comic book films and their fans, while also paying their debts in a new segment where they FINALLY review the 2004 Ice Cube motorcycle classic “Torque.”

The guys also go over what they took away from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and get their quote on with another addition of Simply Quotable with the stakes even higher this time around.
All this, and so much more, on this month’s edition of the Simplistic Review Podcast.

Show Notes:
Kate Mara on FF4

August 2, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy (DJ’s Take)

REWARDING

The road to Guardians Of The Galaxy has a been a strange one if you think about it.  When Marvel’s cinematic universe potentate Kevin Feige announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con that the next big film coming down the pipeline was going to be Guardians, many were floored.  It was supposed to be a victory lap for Marvel after The Avengers changed the comic book movie genre forever…but they decided to come out with Guardians Of The Galaxy next?

Most didn’t even know who the hell the Guardians Of The Galaxy were.  I, being a comic book reader since I was seven, knew who they were and still was confused.  The balls on Marvel.  The balls indeed.  This WAS their victory lap.  The Avengers success allowed them to take a chance on a property that no one knew, and have it fly under the radar pressure free.  And it did.  Until that trailer came out.  A trailer that played up the film’s unfamiliarity with audience for a laugh.  A trailer that showed us why Feige was so confident in the property to begin with.  Guardians Of The Galaxy looked like it was going to capitalize greatly on one of the strengths of Marvel.  That strength being their films are fun.  It also looked as though Guardians was going to take advantage of the growing desire for a lighthearted sci-fi space adventure before even their Disney brother Star Wars Episode VII could.  I mean look at this poster

If Only Serenity Came Out Now

Trailer after trailer came out, each looking better than the last.  Excitement grew.  Critics fawned.  DC pouted.  Then about two weeks before release…rumblings of worry began about Guardians Of The Galaxy possibly not living up to the hype.  A film about characters no one knew four years ago was now being thought of as too good to be true.  The whole thing reminds me of another risky venture that Marvel took back in 2008.  And we remember how that turned out don’t we?

THE TANK = COMIC BOOK FANBOYS’ MINDS

Guardians Of The Galaxy is merely another risky venture by Feige and the boys at Marvel.  The verdict?  Not only does it live up to the recent hype you’ve been hearing, it is possibly the most REWARDING experience you’ll have in the theater all year. 

So, what is Guardians about?  It’s about a group of emotionally scarred kindred spirits coming together to become a family.  What?  It is.  The kindred spirits just happen to be raccoon, a tree, an earthling, a deadly alien chic, and a crazed warrior.   Sure there is a plot revolving around the retrieval of a mysterious macguffin (A Favorite Trope For Marvel) and various quests for revenge.  However, this is really about the unity of these characters amidst their differences and obstacles.

You may think that I am crapping on the plot of Guardians, but I’m not.  I merely want to bring attention to the real accomplishment of this film.  That accomplishment is the quality of these characters themselves.  Each one of them are so rich and fleshed out, the story almost feels inconsequential.  You’ll fall in love with them equally and so deeply that you’d be willing to watch them regardless of their journey.  The Guardians are as uniquely lovable as Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2 or Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, River, Book, Kaylee, Simon, and Inara.  And that is just on paper.  You still gotta cast the thing.  Thankfully Gunn and Feige knocked that out of the park as well.

Matthew McConaughey is an actor that has taken a meteoric rise over the past few years.  However, his McConaugh-sance has smoke screened most from the arrival of Chris Pratt.  This guy has been in projects ranging from Parks and Rec, Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Lego Movie and has crushed his performance each time.  Peter Quill now might very well be Pratt’s Han Solo role, while his part in the new Jurassic Park might be his Indiana Jones.  Pratt is that magnetic and the magnetically charming throughline for this entire film.  Quill could soon become a Marvel favorite after audiences get a glimpse of Star-Lord, even with Robert Downey Jr. still walking the earth as Tony Stark.  It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this character from his very first frame on screen, much like how we did with Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is not as entertainingly devilish as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  However, she has the tough task of being the film’s straight man or woman as it were.  Saldana is solid in the role and has undeniable chemistry with Pratt.  Whenever she is given a scene to carry, she delivers.  Dave Bautista was the one character that I was worried about.  He essentially plays the Thor role of the team, which could be bad if done poorly.  However, Gunn plays into any stilt and stiffness that Bautista could of have had and uses it as a character trait.  A decision that makes Drax possibly the most humorous characters in the film.  A stroke of genius if you think about.  Bautista’s acting, which is still quite good in this, is now nearly immune from criticism.

Diesel and Cooper make icons of their two CGI characters.  Cooper especially lends something to Rocket that I never expected.  He is the fan favorite master of wisecracking, of course.  However, there is a very terrific and subtle thread of emotional trauma that Cooper brings to Rocket.  Just one of the many examples of the detail and time that went into creating these characters.  A feat completed through the writing and directing of James Gunn.

I think Gunn might be Marvel’s new golden boy.  I understand why there were rumors of him taking over Avengers after Joss Whedon.  Gunn and Whedon’s thematic voices are different, but they seem to approach the material in a similar way.  They both never forget to service their characters first.  They both embrace fun without letting it get too silly.  And they both seem to love the material they are working with.  (Trust me…that is not always a guarantee…ahem…Marc Webb…ahem…Michael Bay)  Gunn brings so much life to this world, I’m amazed the budget was as low as it was. ($170 million)
With the freedom Marvel seemed to have given Gunn with Guardians and the success that I think it will be, I can only imagine what we will be in store for in the sequel.

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a high risk, but ended up becoming a high REWARD.  We should all go out and claim this REWARD, and by doing so, prove that strange and different is not automatically box office poison.  Hop aboard the Milano…grab a prosthetic leg…never call Drax a thesaurus…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  And if you don’t…Peter Quill has a message for you.

August 1, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine: Showdown in LittleTokyo

ATYPICAL

In celebration of the upcoming “Expendables 3”, the guys here at Simplistic Reviews and I are getting familiar with some of the earlier films of past and present Expendables cast members, in a little thing we like to call “Battle of the Tough Guys”. Now gather ’round while I set the coordinates on the “Action Movie Time Machine”! And remember, keep your arms and legs inside the time machine at all times. It’s a time machine, not a damn merry-go-round.

The year is 1991. The United States and it’s allies are engaged militantly with the Iraq army in a little thing called “Desert Storm”. Sgt Slaughter has won the WWF Championship Title from the Ultimate Warrior & Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” reaches millions of disaffected youth through it’s music video that is growing in popularity on Music Television. Imagine that, MTV showing music videos.

Among the chaos that is this new decade, Brandon Lee & Dolph Lundgren team up to show the Yakuza whats-what in, “Showdown in Little Tokyo”.

THE SKINNY

Chris Kenner, Dolph Lundgren, is a hard boiled detective from the Los Angeles Asian dominated “Little Tokyo”. Kenner’s father was a serviceman during the WWII occupation of Japan. As a child he witnessed the murder of his parents by a Yakuza hitman. There he was raised in an orphanage and taught the native language and customs – including Bushido. Now as an adult, his fluent Japanese and deep understanding of their culture have suited him perfectly for working on assignment with the L.A.P.D.’s “Asian Task Force”.

Johnny Murata, Brandon Lee, has been recently assigned to be Kenner’s new partner. A team-up neither is thrilled about being a part of. Johnny is the opposite side of the coin in this odd couple. He is the wise cracking optimist who isn’t looking for trouble. Johnny, though he is half Japanese, doesn’t care much for traditions of the old world.


Kenner and Johnny have been assigned to investigate the death of some floozy named Angel. Her death catches the attention of the Asian Task Force when it is discovered that her head was expertly removed from her body with a katana, and was found in an area where the Yakuza have been known to frequent. The ulterior motives of the Yakuza are apparent when toxicology test the floozy’s blood and find that before being decapitated, she took a lethal dose of meth.

Kenner and Johnny question Minako, Tia Carrere, a friend and co-worker of Angel. They learn that the new owner of the nightclub the two girls work at is Yoshida, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, a Yakuza mob boss, who also happens to own the local Red Dragon Brewerie. Minako informs them that she watched Yoshida kill Angel for talking openly about his drug related business plans. Yoshida is going to use the brewerie distribution network to secretly transport meth in beer bottles.

It is also around this time that we learn that Yoshida happens to be the hitman who killed his parents. What a coincidence!



Kenner decided that Minako would be safer if she hid out at his mountain cabin with Johnny and himself. He and Minako share some sexy “getting to know each other” time in a hot tub, followed by some sexy “having sex with each other” time in Kenner’s bed, before a small army of Yakuza attack. Because, somehow they know where Kenner’s secret mountain cabin just so happens to be located.

Kenner and Johnny do what they can to defend the cabin but are out numbered and Minako is kidnapped. That is, not before a healthy dose of strange occurs. As our heroes prepare themselves for a fight, Johnny mentions that he saw Kenner strip naked as he hopped into the hot tub. He then tells Kenner; “You have the biggest dick I’ve ever seen on a man”. This line has no place and it made me wonder that purpose it served. But more on that later.



So, Kenner and Johnny head after Yoshida. They infiltrate the Red Dragon Brewerie by hi-jacking a beer truck and driving it through a brewerie wall. All hell breaks loose and before long the Yakuza are dead and the brewerie is on fire. Johnny rescues Minako and Kenner chases after an escaped Yoshida on foot.

Now I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but when your a police officer, isn’t it important to collect evidence and arrest suspects? Ya can’t just go around setting drug operations on fire and blowing people up.

The foot chase leads to a festive night time parade in “Little Tokyo”. Kenner and Yoshida draw swords from a couple of Japanese war re-creationists and begin to battle. Yoshida gains an early upper hand, but soon Kenner turns the tables and avenges his parents death by plunging his katana into the heart of Yoshida. But that’s not all! He then throws Yoshida onto some sort of giant decorative pinwheel, which the sword lodges into. Fireworks on the pinwheel begin to light and it, as well as Yoshida attached to it, begin to spin as it bursts into a firework explosion. Those crazy Japanese sure know how to throw a party.


The films ends with Kenner, Johnny and Minako walking along the parade route, discussing how they are going to explain to the Chief of Police what happened as the credits begin to roll.

THE VERDICT
 
“Showdown in Little Tokyo” isn’t a great film. It’s not ever a great action movie, but it does have it’s moments. For better or worse.

What is interesting about Kenner and Johnny’s “odd couple” relationship and how it plays against stereotypes.

In the scene were Kenner and Johnny meet, Kenner is kicking the asses of some Yakuza goons who are trying to extort a neighborhood diner. Johnny shows up, expecting to meet a fellow police officer, and sees this 6ft. tall Swede in a leather jacket, smashing up a Japanese diner and assumes that he is the one who is up to no good. When Johnny walks through the door, Kenner immediately assumes that Johnny, an Asian man in a suit, is another Yakuza member and the two begin to fight.

We later learn that Kenner has been formally trained in Bushido and has an extensive knowledge of Japanese culture from having been raised in Japan. Johnny, who is half Japanese and was born in America, has little ties to his ancestors other than also having been taught Bushido. Johnny even says; “Look champ, I was raised in the Valley. My dad is a white who is a dentist. I know about malls, MTV and driving my dad’s car down Mulholland.”. They are each atypical characters, making their partnership even more atypical.

The way the “odd couple” dynamic is played with and used to counter predictable stereotypes is really what this film is about, aside from the good guys bringing the Yakuza to justice.

A similar juxtaposition is presented with the tradition of the Japanese “old country” and Bushido training placed in the neon lights and sandy beaches of Los Angeles.

These two elements, had they been built stronger into the story, could have really given “Showdown in Little Tokyo” character and made for a very memorable film. Unfortunately, these ideas are pushed aside and the movie is memorable for other reasons; “You have the biggest dick I’ve ever seen on a man.”

Action movies have often had a reputation of being laden with homosexuality [“Blood Sport”]. Buff, cocky and wise cracking men, often shirtless, standing face to face as they do battle with one another, grunting and sweating. Add some shitty ’80s synth music and you have a subliminal gay porno. But this “biggest dick” line is just so out there and in your face, no dick pun intended. It made me second guess Johnny’s playful—smart ass nature. I started to wonder if Brandon Lee’s character instead had been flirting with Kenner this whole time… but I digress.

The acting is pretty good. The fight scenes are less than mind blowing and are often hindered by Dolph’s size. He is too big to be fast enough to sell some of the martial arts moves. The story itself is standard fare for this type of film. The soundtrack, at times, sounds like it was lifted from an old “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoon and I’m sure you would have guessed, the relationship between Kenner and Johnny is the real star of the show.



All in all, “Showdown in Little Tokyo” is worth checking out if you are an action movie aficionado. Or if you just like watching normal movies get a little weird. Some day we should take the time machine back to the ’20s, pick up Sigmund Freud and make him watch “Showdown in Little Tokyo”. Seriously!

I’m Cory Carr, and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

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