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Month: April 2015

April 29, 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (DJ’s SPOILER FREE Take)

CELEBRATORY

Now, I’m not a psychic or anything.  I’m not from the future or possess some mutant power over probability or telepathy or the space time continuum.  However, I know…without a shadow of a doubt…that The Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to be taken for granted in the next coming months.  Oh, we’ll all see it, for sure.  But cynics and critics who get paid a dime a word to say such cliched things as “this comic book movie craze is wearing thin for me” are going to crap on this film.  Hell, even some fans of the property are going to take for granted how great this film is.  The main question these groups of people will ask is if it is better than the first Avengers.  My answer to that is…no.  After hearing that, everyone will rush to judgement and think the film is a disappointment or even a failure.  It is astronomically far from that.  What you have to realize is that even before Age of Ultron was made, it was going to be impossible to make it better than the original.  The original Avengers is literally a dream come true.  It is a film that is the first ever culmination of years of planning and set-up for something that was thought to be impossible to pull off.  More so than Sin City.  More so than Watchmen.  The Avengers was not supposed to happen…but it did…and it was great.  Flawed?  Sure.  But despite whatever criticism lobbied toward it, it will forever have that glow of the first time.  All you realistically can hope for in a sequel is for it not to squander its predecessor’s steam or lose its way.  For it to continue exploring and expanding on the things that worked well in the original while managing to fix whatever mistakes the original suffered from.  Thankfully, Avengers: Age Of Ultron does that and then some.

Avengers: Age of Ultron centers around the assemblage of Earth’s mightiest heroes as they try and fend off a global assault from a self-aware computer program called Ultron.  The program itself is accidentally created by Dr. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark.  The team must fight for their lives and fight to stay together while the world is on the brink of total annihilation.  But I don’t want to really talk about that.  I want to talk about the real reason why this film works and why it will continue to work going forward. 

What is the best parts of any Tarantino movie?  Is it the ultra violent action scenes?  Is it the cool soundtrack?  Is it the story?  Not for my money.  It is the scenes where characters are talking to one another.  Their witty verbiage in their interactions.  What was the best parts of the new Star Trek films?  Was it the space battles?  Was it the phaser shootouts?  Was it the lens flares?  Not for my money.  It was the scenes where characters are talking to one another.  Their palpable chemistry.  Their understanding of who each of their characters are.  The same can be said of the first Avengers and thankfully of Age of Ultron.  Don’t get me wrong, the action scenes and set pieces in all these films are crazy good.  However, these team-up Marvel films go as far and will continue to go as far as the characters’ chemistry and interactive dialogue will take them.  Action scenes are easy to pull off compared to the task of assembling a large cast of characters that you have to make lovable in different ways and believable in their conversations with one another.  Special effects are a cinch compared to writing a character so well that fan boys geek out about them as much when they are out of their super suit having a normal conversation as they would seeing them in their super suit battling murderous megalomaniacal robots.  Avengers: Age of Ultron’s chemistry is its superpower.  The story has its flaws, but you are willing to forgive them because you love these characters and you love to be a fly on the wall in their superhero lives. 


The original players that return…Tony, Cap’, Thor, Widow, Banner, Hawkeye…are just as good if not better than before.  Robert Downey Jr. is the rockstar of the group without managing to overshadow the others.  Chris Evans’ ability to be honest and vulnerable as Steve Rogers yet stern and leader-like as Captain America is a marvel to watch. (See what I did there?) Hemsworth’s Thor seems to work best when he is allowed to be humorous and play up the fish out of water trope, which he does again here.  Hawkeye gets a much talked about backstory, but in my opinion, he also gets much better material to work with as a team member.  The Banner/Widow “thang” does take some getting used to, but ScarJo and Ruffalo make it feel genuine.  Scarlett Johansson is also given a scene in the middle of this film that was almost out of place in its subject matter and the dramatic power in which she plays it.  Kudos and whoa.  

Hey Widow.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes Called…

To be honest, the new players are the ones that I really spent my time focusing on.  Getting inserted into a world where the chemistry of characters is so important is no easy feat.  3 out of the 4 newbies manage to slide in with ease.  Elizabeth Olsen really does a fine job with Scarlet Witch, proving that she is keeping all the talent in the Olsen family.  Paul Bettany’s jump from voice over J.A.R.V.I.S. to live action Vision is so good that it is a flaw in the film that we don’t get more of him.  Andy Serkis even steals a scene as a character who may or may not be the nemesis in the upcoming Black Panther film.  But my one standout from the Avengers: Age of Ultron is predictably James Spader’s titular character.  The thing you have to prepare for, which will catch you off guard as it did me, is how funny and alive Ultron is in this film.  Some who have seen this performance already have been put off by this, believing a robot wouldn’t possess this much personality.  However, if you take the time to understand that this is a robot with the soul of one Tony Stark, it makes sense.  Ultron would of course be as eccentric and comically quirky as its genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist father.  Fans of James Spader will be amazed by how many of the actor’s signature mannerisms and facial ticks are alive and well in Ultron.  Getting back to my point about dialogue scenes, Ultron’s verbal interactions with Vision are possibly my favorites in the film.

Quicksilver is the new player that I had the most issues with.  The largest praise I can offer Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance is that it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  He and Olsen’s accents are not even as bad as I thought they were going to be.  Taylor-Johnson is not really bad at all.  It is just a bit of a low-key performance for a character that had so much more personality in X-Men: Days of Future Past.  And I freely admit that I thought Taylor-Johnson would be the superior Pietro Maximoff.  However, Evan Peters, much like what his character would do, steals Taylor-Johnson’s lunch in comparison.

Here I’ve been waxing poetic about character and dialogue and chemistry and I have neglected to talk about the popcorn action moments in this film.  I apologize.  Rest easy.  There are many. 

PUNY AFFORDABLE SEDAN!

Soooooo many.  So much so, that the biggest action scene in the first Avengers is merely the opening scene to this film.  Whedon, having written great set pieces in comic books for years, seems to have finally come into his own creating them as a director in his films.  The television show composition and cleanness of the first Avengers, a topic of criticism in the past, is gone thanks to the addition of cinematographer Ben Davis.  Davis, fresh off his stint on some film called Guardians of the Galaxy, really makes the film appear more cinematic while keeping its vibrancy. (Sorry DC)  Both know exactly what we want on a base level in an Avengers film, and both generously spoon feed us battle after battle with a wink and a smile. 

NERDGASM!!!

Speaking to the flaws of the film, I will say that there are some very hurried and even skipped over moments of exposition and character development in spots.  You can almost feel when a scene has been trimmed down for time.  This is why I was initially happy when the film was reported to be 3 hours long at first.  Film length never bothers me if there is a lot of story to tell or character development to get through.  You have not one but two beings of artificial intelligence whose motivations come at you at breakneck speed.  This is something in which Marvel appears to recognize, considering their announcement of an extended cut Blu-ray with alternate endings coming our way in the future.  Long films do limit their own box office receipts, so I understand the give and take that Marvel/Disney are up against.  Fans of the stand alone films Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World will also be saddened to see little to nothing being carried over from those two films into Age of Ultron.  Most importantly, why Tony is back to being Iron Man after appearing to give it up in his last cinematic outing.  

Avengers: Age of Ultron is probably the best summer popcorn flick you’re going to see this year…the best you’ve had in two years…and the most fun you’ll have in the theater until the end of the year.  No, I don’t think it surpasses its predecessor on a comic book movie level, but that should not prevent you from CELEBRATING it or the fact that we got TWO of these films that were an unrealistically optimistic fantasy in our minds a little under a decade ago…with TWO MORE on the way!  Have some Vision…get tangled in strings…don’t drink from Thor’s flask…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  

April 24, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 46): Late April 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES

You might be asking yourself, “What?! Another Simplistic Reviews Podcast?  You mean these guys are actually getting off of their ass and putting out content for the public to consume?”  Yes, it might sound crazy, but…..uh….yeah….another podcast….from us…..Simplistic Reviews.

As we get closer and closer to our grandest episode so far; Number 50, we look back at our lives and search for meaning, apparently that means we bring up Bill Cosby again, the fact that Iceman is now gay, Donatello is dead, and fantasize about Moira Quirk in that sexy referee outfit…mmmmmm…..

All this, and our newest segment, Simply Say Anything, where we hold a radio over our head and praise the likes of Lena Dunham, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, and explain why Quentin Tarantino is actually the worst director in modern cinema.  Have we lost our minds…..maybe….but we’re not telling, and you’ll just have to listen to this month’s SIMPLISTIC REVIEWS PODCAST!!!!  WHY AM I YELLING…IN PRINT?!?!?!


 SHOW NOTES
Moira Quirk
Spider-man Shortlist
Tarantino in Sleep With Me
Donny is Dead
Iceman Gay?
Mark Summers’ non-Double Dare accident

MUSIC NOTES
My Flows Is Tight By Lord Digga
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place By The Animals
Birds And Brass By Sort Of Soul
In Your Eyes By Peter Gabriel
Nickelodeon GUTS theme
Human Beings By Van Halen

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April 24, 2015

Simply TV: Marvel’s Daredevil Episode Three: Rabbit in a Snowstorm (Matt’s Take)

Daredevil: Rabbit in a Snowstorm – Breather

After two exciting episodes, how can Marvel’s Daredevil keeping upping the ante; easy, have a third episode silly. While the first two episodes seemed to concentrate on stand alone arcs and character development, episode three, entitled “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” starts to shape what we are going to see the rest of this season.

Matt and Foggy are still trying to find their groove with their law practice when their first big case falls into their lap; a murder in a bowling alley involving a man named Healy who seems to be well connected with James Wesley, a man we meet in episode one who works for a mysterious benefactor.
Matt is suspicious of Wesley and the reasoning behind hiring himself and Foggy.

Elsewhere, we meet Ben Urich, an old newspaper writer who is interested in a man in black taking on the Russian Mob. Urich, once a respected reporter, has seen the decline of the printed page and the rise of blogs, and has been relegated to writing fluff pieces instead of hard-hitting news.

As Healy’s case goes to trial, Matt uses his enhanced senses to remove jurors that seem to have been tampered with, but is dismayed to learn that even with that juror gone, the case still ends with a hung jury and Healy is back on the street, but is met by Daredevil who beats a name out of him; Wilson Fisk.

This episode is treated almost like a setup and is more filler than anything else. That isn’t to say it’s a bad episode, quite the opposite, it’s just that the previous two episodes were so good that this one “pales” in comparison. What we do get however is the introduction of Ben Urich, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, who I’m sure is going to play into the grand scheme of things in a big way, especially since we are teased that both he and Karen Page will likely be working very closely together.

The other big reveal is of course the “rabbit” himself; Wilson Fisk, or in comic book parlance, Kingpin, played by Vincent D’onofrio. While we only catch a quick glimpse and only a few lines of dialogue, we see an icy, yet thoughtful man. As far as his look, and the complaint about his size, look people, to find someone the size of Wilson Fisk would be nearly impossible and not likely, so get off that, and listen, he’s the perfect look, and another thing; it’s Vincent F’ING D’onofrio.

The only real Easter egg of sorts in this episode would be a newspaper article that we in Ben’s off with the byline of “Battle of NY” which is an obvious nod to the events in “The Avengers.” It’s still a nice little shout-out of course.

The last thing I’ll bring up in this episode is the elevation of the violence this time around. We have a broken arm with a bone poking out of the skin, a head based with a bowling ball, another broken arm with the sound effect being the payoff, a stabbing with a shard of glass, and the coupe de grace; a suicide via a shard of metal through the eye.

While “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” might not be the strongest effort so far this season, in no way is it lacking; it’s merely a formality where new story lines need to be opened up and characters developed.

Fun Fact: Wilson Fisk’s first appearance was in The Amazing Spider Man #50 in 1967.

April 22, 2015

SR Podcast (Ep. 45): Slaughter High – Movie Commentary: April 2015

Movie Commentary Time!

Slaughter High

1986 – 90 mins – Slasher/Horror

Today we watch and make fun of the 90 min B-Slasher film, Slaughter High. We know what you are saying, “It’s finally here!” Since the Podcast gang has been talking about Slaughter High numerous times on Podcasts and even a episode on Unboxing/Reviews.

Slaughter High is about eight people that are invited to their 10-year high school reunion at their now-closed down high school where a former student, disfigured from a prank gone wrong, is there to seek revenge. Simple and to the point but it’s got its issues.

Slaughter High is a fun, entertaining film of which everyone should see. If you haven’t this is the perfect time to watch!

Also this Movie Commentary is sponsor by Tide Stick!

Remember kids, if you go on a murderous rampage bring along a Tide Stick!

April 20, 2015

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Commando

QUINTESSENTIAL

I’ve covered quite a few obscure and strange action films here with the “Action Movie Time Machine”, but I feel that I’ve neglected the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure I reviewed Jingle All the Way for Christmas, but the name “Arnold” is synonymous with the Action genre. So, over the next few reviews we will be celebrating the films of Arnold. 
The year is 1985. The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America and changed home gaming forever. The first Blockbuster Video opened in Dallas Texas. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T took center stage at the very first WrestleMania and Jefferson Starship “…built this city on Rock and Roll”.

THE SKINNY
Commando” begins with John Matrix, Arnold Schwarzenegger, yep that’s his real name. John is a former elite Black Ops Commando who has settled down in the Californian mountain tops where he is raising his twelve year old daughter Jenny, who is played by Alyssa Milano. This is long before Alyssa grew up and chose to show her bewbs in “Embrace of the Vampire”. But I digress.

One day John Matrix is visited by his former commanding officer, Major General Franklin Kirby, who informs him that the men from his old unit are being systematically killed off by someone who they can’t identify. Soon after this warning, the Matrix family are ambushed by a para-military group and Jenny is kidnapped before John save her.

As it turns out, this group knows about John and his combat record. John is one of the most accomplished tactical fighters in the world, and after eliminating the only men who could help John, his team, they kidnap his daughter to force John into working for them. The plan is for John to assassinate some South American president so Arius, Dan Hedaya, can take over in his place. Arius has given John a deadline of only so many hours to fly to South America, assassinate the president and return or else his daughter will be killed.

Arius is a ruthless dictator and would torture and kill his own people in order to keep his power and John knows that he will have to think outside of the box if he is going to keep the peace in South America and get his daughter back.
Working for Arius are four main bad guys. We have Jackson, Sully, Cook & Bennett. Sully escorts John and Jackson to the airport. Once on the plane John manages to snap the neck of Jackson. He then covers him with a blanket and tells the flight attendant not to disturb his friend, “he’s dead tired”.
John then escapes the plane just as it’s wheels leave the ground. He follows Sully to learn where his daughter is being held. The film takes a detour when Sully goes to a near by shopping mall where a shootout occurs which evolves into a ten man brawl between John and mall security. John follows an escaping Sully and soon after, catches up with him and drops him off the face of a cliff. This is, of course, not before he gets info that leads him to Cook.
John has a run-in with Cook at Sully’s hotel room. Soon Cook has been murdered and John learns that Arius is living on an island off the South American coast and this must be where Jenny is being held captive. John, recruiting the help of Cindy, a helpful stranger, breaks into a local gun store and loads up on some heavy duty military weaponry including claymore mines and a rocket-launcher. Why does this small business owner have all these dangerous weapons you ask? Well he’s a gun nut and the Second Amendment gives him the right to do whatever the hell he wants. God Bless America!
John & Cindy then steal a plane and fly to this coastal island where the film goes from 0 to 60 in no time. Left and right, John is blowing soldiers away and after an incalculable number of bullets have been fired, all are dead, even Arius, except Bennett, Vernon Wells.

 

This hand to hand battle is personal between the two men and proves to be one of the more interesting fights, not only for it’s action but for it’s dialogue. There is a whole lotta strange goin’ on here. Bennett threatens to shoot John between the balls before John wallops Bennett an incredible 15 times with his massive hammer fists before impaling him with a pipe. This allows steam to escape from some sort of boiler, through the pile and also through Bennett’s body. “Why don’t you let off some steam Bennett?” is the final one-liner delivered by John Matrix before he, Jenny and Cindy fly home from the tropical island to go on living their normal lives. The End.
THE VERDICT
What makes “Commando” work is, first and foremost, it’s machismo. This is something that a lot of other action films try to emulate but fail hard in their attempt. Arnold portrays a man so well trained that he can’t be seen as helpless and when his training fails, he has his sweet Arnold Muscles. Who needs training when you can rip bucket seat out of a car with your bare hands? He is bad-ass!
The next thing that “Commando” has going for it is “one-liners”. Sometimes when I offer up a “Memorable One Liner” in these reviews, and they aren’t even one-liners. They might just be a funny piece of dialogue that stands out to me because they’re aren’t any one-liners in the whole damn film. “Commando” has SO many one-liners, I had to do some serious soul searching to pick the one I felt was the most ”Memorable”.
And last, but not least, “Commando” has gay overtones. Something every great action film must have. Why? I don’t know, because that’s how they did it in the ’80s, so that’s how it should always be done. It’s kinda like the Bible. When you hear someone say “turn water into wine”, you might be reminded of the Bible. And when I see a big pile of gay in my action movies, I’m reminded of the ’80s and that’s a beautiful thing.
Where is “the gay” to be found in this film? Between John and Bennett. John kicked Bennett out of his team because he liked killing too much and now Bennett will have his revenge by killing Jenny and watching John suffer. The way this is portrayed comes off like some strange steroid fueled romance gone awry. With lines like; “Come on, let the girl go, just between you and me, don’t deprive yourself of some pleasure, come on Bennett, let’s party! ”, that just add gasoline to the sadomasochist gay fire.
While the story takes some detours, it remains simple enough to be believable. The same goes for the acting. There aren’t any award winning performances here, but the subject matter doesn’t  offer many opportunities for emotion. Let’s face it, there is no room for emotion when there is a shirtless Arnold holding a rocket launcher. One more thing, the soundtrack. It sports a recurring steel drum theme that is pretty catchy.
 


“Commando” is a blood dripping, bullet ridden, explosion filled blast that will leave you fist pumping for victory. They don’t make ’em like this anymore and that is just the reason “Commando” is the quintessential ’80s action flick.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!
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!
April 17, 2015

Simply TV: Marvel’s Daredevil Episode 2: Cut Man (Matt’s Take)

Daredevil: Cut Man – Heart

HEART

As we continue season one of “Daredevil” on Netflix, I’ll say this; after one episode of the show I was nearly floored by how serious the content was being taken, while still show signs of heart throughout the pilot. We legitimately cared by Matt Murdock and Karen Page and hung on every moment. With that being said, episode two, entitled “Cut Man” does in fact cut, and it cuts deep. We get further insight into the Murdock family, and the tragedy that befalls Matt. We also get one of the best fight scenes in the MCU’s history, the only thing that comes close is the Steve Rogers and Winter Soldier fight in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

The episode begins with Matt Murdock being found in a dumpster bloodied and beaten. A nurse, named Claire, takes him to her apartment and tends to his wounds. Meanwhile, Foggy and Karen go out of a “date” to blow off some steam.

As Murdock and Claire get to know each other, the back-story of Matt and his father, Jack Murdock, is further revealed. We learn that Jack is a down-on-his-luck boxer who is throwing matches for some local gangsters. On the eve of a big fight with young up-and-coming fighter, “Crusher” Creel, Jack reneges on his deal and wins the fight, and pays the ultimate price.

The end of the episode closes the lone cliffhanger from the first episode with Matt finding the young boy who was kidnapped by Russian gangsters. Again, another episode that pretty much wraps up much of it’s story beats but of course leaves you wanting so much more.

Once again the acting is above the material it’s being given, and the introduction of Claire, aka, Night Nurse, played by Rosario Dawson, is great. You can tell that Dawson likes material by Frank Miller considering her participation in Miller’s other work, “Sin City.”

There are three things to take away from this episode in particular;

1. The relationship between Matt and Jack Murdock is a beautiful thing, and it reminds me a lot of the opening of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s a tragedy that isn’t something just brushed underneath the carpet and is something that affects our hero to this day.We see hints of how this affects Matt in the pilot, but we understand the true nature in this episode. Whether we see more background on their relationship is pending, but the way it’s wrapped up is both engrossing, and heartbreaking.

2. Something that a lot of people might miss as well is the introduction of Carl “Crusher” Creel. You’ll notice a poster in the gym in episode one of a boxing match between Jack Murdock and “Crusher” Creel. This is something I actually overlooked the first time watching the pilot. Of course, this is the fight that actually costs Jack his life, so it will surely become more of a plot point in the future. This brings me to that ramifications of this fight and the eventual introduction of the super-villain; Absorbing Man. While he has already been mentioned in the “Agents of SHIELD” TV show, I would love to see a fleshed out villain who could rival Bullseye or even Wilson Fisk himself.

3. The third aspect of episode that stood out, and in a huge way, was the final fight scene. An obvious nod to”Old Boy” with aspects of “The Raid” series, we see the fighting of Murdock on full display. Whereas the fights in the first episode were done in darker conditions, it was difficult to see what was really going on, which I’m sure was done on purpose considering that Daredevil is blind. Not only is the fight brutal, but the fact it was done in a single-shot format makes it even more epic.

Where will “Daredevil” go from here; anywhere it wants. After two episodes needless to say we are in store for a series that is only only going to give us great storytelling, but unbelievable action, and I’m sure some incredible acts of violence.

Fun Fact: Frank Miller began his Daredevil run in issue #158 in 1979.

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