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Christian Bale

July 13, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 6

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this episode of Simplistic Sneak Peek, the boys get a glimpse of two films starring two different Batmen and a TV movie sequel about a shark apocalypse.  Well, I guess all three films deal with some kind of cataclysmic event.  Christian Bale deals with frogs and locusts falling from the sky in Exodus, Ian Ziering deals with sharks falling from the sky in Sharknado 2, and Ben Affleck deals with co-starring with Tyler Perry.  See?  All horrible things.

You can watch this episode’s trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin’s thoughts on them in real time.

May 25, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast Batman 75th Anniversary Special

In honor of The Dark Knight’s 75th Anniversary, the Simplistic Reviews Podcast got the whole gang together to talk about the legacy of Batman.  Now you’re probably wondering…what makes that different from any other show?  Ummmm…not much.  Although, the boys do hold an NFL style Draft of Batman villains who they think could kill the Caped Crusader.  Afterwards the draft grades are given out by a very special guest arbiter brought in to class up and beautify the proceedings…Matthew’s very own lovely wife Nicole Stewart.  No, she does not show any favoritism.  Yes, their marriage nearly comes apart at the seams.  No, Justin, DJ, and Neal don’t try to help matters.    The boys discuss Batfleck’s new Batsuit and also pick out their own favorite versions of Batman and Joker on a very special Simply The Best segment.

Grab your cape, your cowl, your shark repellant, and your Bat credit card and enjoy the show!

Show Notes:
Bat Shark Repellant
Batman Scares Deadshot
Batfleck Suit
Mr. Freeze Saying Nora
Trailer For Batman TAS Episode Over The Edge
Batman Rogues Gallery Pre-Draft Rankings

Music Notes:
The Best By Tina Turner
Batman ’89 Theme By Danny Elfman
Batman Begins Theme By Hans Zimmer
Batman ’66 Intro Theme By Neal Hefti
American Idol Theme By Cathy Dennis
Monday Night Football Theme By Johnny Pearson

January 10, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club – Breakout

BREAKOUT

It’s funny when you follow the career of certain actors.  Some start strong, and fizzle out.  Others start weak, and grow to have a great career.  Others decide to confound you for years and suddenly make you open your eyes and realize, “Wow, so that’s what they could do?”  Two actors in particular have shown that in recent years.  One is Woody Harrelson.  Sure, he plays a goofy white guy most of the time, but after an Academy Award nomination a few years ago, and a string of hits at the box office, you can say Harrelson is one of those guys who’s come a long way from where he started.  The other actor is Matthew McConaughey, another Texas hick who was mostly known for chick flicks early in his career.  But after two straight years of critically acclaimed films, you can say he’s one of those guys that definitely can act.  See “Fraility” and “Lone Star” for early proof.  Now you have, “Dallas Buyers Club” a breakout for McConaughey, and for one my money, one of the best performances in all of 2013.

“Dallas” is the true story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler who might come off a bit racist, homophobic, and womanizing.  All in all, he’s one of the worst human beings you’d be unlucky enough to meet.  Woodroof contracts the HIV virus which eventually turns into AIDS and leads him down a road of not only self-discovery, but also redemption as he fights the FDA while trying to bring in unapproved medicine from out of the country to not only help himself, but an entire sub-community in the Dallas-area suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Within the first 16 minutes of “Dallas” I was drawn in by McConaughey’s performance.  I found myself both hating him, and feeling extreme sympathy for his situation.  His portrayal of Woodroof was haunting and his dedication to the characters was on the level of Christan Bale’s performance in “The Machinist” which is a parallel that a lot of people are currently making.  The difference between Bale and McConaughey’s performances is the characterization.  I never felt anything really for Bale’s Trevor Reznor, whereas with Woodroof I found myself hating him, and come the end, complete compassion.

Aside from McConaughey’s standout performance, I’d also go as far as saying this is Jennifer Garner’s best acting since “The Kingdom” and it’s nice to see that Steve Zahn is still getting work.  But, you also have a star-making performance by Jared Leto, who plays Rayon; a transgender man with AIDS who befriends Woodroof and helps him open The Dallas Buyers Club.  Leto, who also fronts the band “30 Seconds to Mars,” is the perfect foil to Woodroof and his acting really surprised me.  I’m left to wonder why he doesn’t try his hand at Hollywood films more often, but I guess band groupies are more lucrative.  The relationship between Rayon and Woodroof is the heartbeat of the film and you’ll be crushed by Leto’s performance.

“Dallas” is a film that depends on it’s actors’ performances, and it won’t disappoint.  It explores one of the unsung “heroes” during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and casts a light on how there really isn’t any money in the CURE for diseases, only the medicine that is “HELPING” the disease.  There is no doubt that McConaughey will be a heavy favorite when the Oscars are announced later this month, along with Leto in a supporting role.  Acting doesn’t get much better than in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Fun Fact:  “Dallas” is Jared Leto’s first film in four years, since 2009’s “Mr. Nobody.”   

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.

December 6, 2013

Early Returns: American Hustle

SILKY

American Hustle – Silky

The name David O. Russell can evoke a lot of emotions, especially if you talk to either George Clooney or Lily Tomlin.  The man has the special talent to bring both the best, and worst, out in people.  While there is no doubt Russell can be called a total prick, there is also no doubt that the guy has been putting out quality films since “Spanking the Monkey” all the way back in 1994.  Almost 20 years later, Russell has released his most refined, and silky, film to date in “American Hustle,” starring the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Russell’s newest muse, Jennifer Lawrence.

“Hustle” is the tale of two con artists (Bale and Adams) who are forced to join forces with an FBI Agent (Bradley Cooper) who has entirely too much to prove. The unlikely trio set out to uncover corruption that involves a fake sheik, members of Congress, the Mafia, and a local mayor of Camden, New Jersey, played by Jeremy Renner.  Throw in a nagging wife, played wonderfully by Lawrence, and those are the basics of “Hustle.”

While I might have just simplified the plot for spoiler’s-sake above, the film is much more than your standard grifters-on-the-run-from-the-law story.  I’d liken “Hustle” very much to “Goodfellas” in it’s storytelling and use of the 1970s as the backdrop.  I also mention “Goodfellas” in it’s use of a very interesting cameo that I won’t mention, again, for spoiler’s-sake.

While I will commend Russell for his direction and vision, the acting really shines in “Hustle.”  I have no doubt in my mind that all four main actors, Adams, Bale, Cooper, and Lawrence, will be up for Oscars come February.  I’ll even go as far as saying that this will be Adams’ Oscar year.  Her turn as Sydney Prosser is magical, and proves that Adams is one of the best actresses in the business that still seems to be overlooked.  Lawrence steals the show in the scenes she’s in, and the same goes for Cooper.  Bale is the rock of the film however, and provides a calming cool to the insanity that seems to swirl around him.  Renner is fine in his role as Mayor Carmine Polito, but one of the best unsung performances will go to Louis C.K, who plays the brow-beaten boss of Cooper’s unhinged FBI Agent.

Like I mentioned before, this is Russell’s “Goodfellas.”  Loosely based on actual events, Russell weaves a story that has you guessing until the very end, and much like Martin Scorsese does in most of his films, music plays a major part.  Russell picks some of the best music from 70’s, and makes Duke Ellington, and his music, one of the points of attraction between Bale and Adams’ characters, and it makes sense in the scheme, no pun intended, of things.  Jazz artists like Ellington had to improve all the time, it’s the heartbeat of jazz, improvisation, and you can say the same thing for people running cons; constant improvisation.  The allegory is fantastic, if you catch it, but it’s not entirely relevant to the overall plot, just a cute little thing that Russell throws into his film.

At it’s core, “Hustle” is a caper film in the spirit of “Jackie Brown” and “Catch Me If You Can.”  It has spunk, heart, and like I said before, is silky smooth, with plenty of style to spare.  Best film of the year?  Let’s not quite go there yet, but if “Hustle” is any inclination of the films to come the rest of 2013, we should be in store for plenty of treats the rest of the month of December.  Christmas comes early with “American Hustle.”

Fun Fact:  The story of “American Hustle” is loosely based on the events of ABSCAM, in the late 1970s and 1980s.    

September 21, 2012

Cosmopolis

TOUGH

Cosmopolis is TOUGH to get through.  Cosmopolis is TOUGH to understand.  Cosmopolis is TOUGH to review.  But ultimately, Cosmopolis is TOUGH to dismiss.  The story of a twenty something billionaire asset manager journeying into the city in search of a haircut presents itself as anything but that.  This is something that did not bother me initially.  At first glance, I thought Cosmopolis would be this generation’s American Psycho.  A controversial film that seems to be about one thing, but actually touches on deeper and unexpected subject matter.  However, where American Psycho veils its messages to allow them to spring naturally into the viewer’s minds, Cosmopolis beats you over the head with it.  This does not necessarily make Cosmopolis a bad film.  It is just doing it’s own thing and doesn’t give a damn if people have a TOUGH time getting it.

Here is a drinking game you can play.  Take a shot whenever someone in this film answers a question or makes a statement in a drawn out pseudo intellectual/overly metaphorical response.  You’ll be passed out drunk before your popcorn is done popping.  No one talks to each other the way people do in this film.  That criticism should fall mostly on the novel Cosmopolis is based on.  A 224 page maniphesto-like tale by Dan DeLillo that must have been an extremely TOUGH enterprise to translate to film.

At the center of this world is Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson.  If I haven’t stated it before, my opinion on all things Twilight has been…ahem…less than kind.  However, for some reason I always thought that Pattinson was the only one of the three leads that could rise up as a true actor if given the right vehicle.  Now, the right vehicle to prove one’s acting ability, more often than not, is the risky vehicle.  So, kudos should go to Pattinson for taking on a role that all but eliminates his huge built in fan base.  Lets be honest.  The concepts of a piggy bank would probably be lost on the Teen Beat crowd.  Let alone, a film that rambles on incessantly about leveraging exchange rates of the yuan, funny ideas for new monetary units and stock depreciation for two hours.  Suffice to say, Pattinson is actually pretty good here.  So good that director David Cronenberg has cast him again in his next film.  The role of Eric Packer could have easily gone to Leo.  However, we would still see some warmth behind those eyes no matter how cold he’d play it.  Pattinson, on the other hand, can do cold.  His New York accented stoic delivery is perfect for Eric Packer, just as Bale’s almost infomercial style manner of speaking was perfect for Patrick Bateman.  In both cases, you don’t know what either character will say or do next.

I’ve grown to appreciate David Cronenberg.  His always peculiar framing.  His “don’t look away” tension building long takes.  But more famously, his knack for inserting into rather normal scenes amazingly visceral moments of sex and/or violence, then moving on as though nothing has happened.  It worked well in The Fly and History of Violence and Eastern Promises.  However, it feels somewhat out of place here.  But everything feels out of place in Cosmopolis.  There is this feeling throughout that something is off.  If the argument is that this is on purpose, then mission accomplished.  But it still lends to the point that the film isn’t an easy sit.

Some critics have labeled Cosmopolis as pretentious.  And it may very well be.  Though, I get the feeling that five or six years from now, it will become a cult success just like American Psycho did.  Put on a suit…get a haircut…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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