Disney

March 14, 2017

Disney’s Direct to VHS Legacy

With another live action Disney remake on the horizon; “Beauty and the Beast,” I thought it would be interesting to look at another thing that Disney used to do before they decided it was a good idea to remake and/or create live action spin-offs of some of their most well-known films.

Many people consider the late 1980s and early 1990s the Renaissance of Disney Animation. And that’s a fair point. From “The Little Mermaid” to “The Lion King,” from 1989 to 1995, you could throw a rock and hit a great Disney Animated Film. But with great box office, comes the need for more money! Normally the first step was to release it on VHS in the giant clam-shell case and warn everyone that if you don’t buy it quick it will go into “The Disney Vault.” Their next step was something that no other studio did, at least at the time; Direct to VHS Sequels!

Looking back at the 90s, these direct-to-VHS (and later DVD) were being fired off left and right. Between 1994 and 2008, over 40 sequels were released straight for home consumption. Normally these sequels never lived up to their predecessor and in 2011 production ceased for all future direct-to-home sequels since executives said that these sequels were inferior to their originals. Kooky…

One of the most memorable offering was “The Return of Jafar.”
After the success of “Aladdin” in 1992 it only seemed natural to release a sequel, and to be fair, “The Return of Jafar” isn’t that bad and it marked the first Straight-to-VHS sequel that Disney had released. The one drawback was the lack of Robin Williams, but that was later rectified in the inferior 2nd sequel, “King of Thieves.” 

To not take the piss out of this post, I can honestly say that I haven’t seen another Direct-to-Home Video Disney film, but here are just a few of some of the other winners that you can still find in those giant clam shells.


Not exactly a Murderer’s Row of Disney excellence, but they are still an important part of Disney history. Fun fact, “Toy Story 2” was originally supposed to go Direct-to-VHS, but in a late decision, it was released to the theaters. Consider what could have been if the decision was to actually relegate such an early Pixar film to what I would consider “film purgatory.”

Bringing this back around, will the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” be any good? Who knows, but in all honesty, was “Maleficent” and good? Was “Cinderella” really any good? This seems to be the new normal for Disney at this juncture and only time will tell if this new wave of live-action remakes will go the route of the doomed Direct-to-VHS experiment.
December 19, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Matt’s Take)

Rogue One – Tough

TOUGH

2015 brought about the resurgence of a franchise literally dragging itself out of the fiery pits of Mustafar. “The Force Awakens” was a worldwide phenomenon; it bridged the gap between successful animated fare like “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” and washed the taste out of the mouths of fans still angry and beating their plastic lightsabers on the dead horse that were the Star Wars prequels. Since the Lucasfilm/Disney purchase that was so highly touted/publicized/argued, everything has been coming roses for the Star Wars Universe and its fans. Plus, now anything that can be Star Wars, IS Star Wars. Pet clothing, lawnmowers, coffee pots, I”m sure there are even Star Wars-themed Fleshlights out there. I mean come on, one can dream, can’t they?

My point is that Star Wars has taken over again. Add in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Disney is literally printing money with pictures of Mickey Mouse on it, hey, in a couple of years, the way we are going, that might end up being a legit form of currency.

Oh it’s a great time to be alive if you’re a fanboy of fangirl.

With all the success that Star Wars has had since it came out of the wilderness following the perceived failure that were the prequel films, there are many that wondered; “When will they slip up?” Much like the MCU, there have been many films where people though the shine was coming off, “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” and even “Ant-Man” were films that many can point to where the chinks in the armor were starting to show. And unlike “Star Wars” this was bound to happen with Marvel when introducing characters that were so fringe that it’s almost impossible to find a captive audience, of course “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the exception and not the rule.

This brings me to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” the first in what is bound to be many stories, and the 2nd film in the “One-Star-Wars-Film-A-Year-Until-The-Day-We-Die” series. Of course that might sound a little snarky, but in this day and age if you aren’t snarky you aren’t a member of this horrible, horrible Internet that was been created.

So was “Rogue One” good? Yes……and no. As a “Star Wars” fan, of course I loved this film. It finally brought the “War” to “Star Wars.” Sure, you get to see “The Clone Wars” in the “Prequel-that-won’t-be-named,” and who really wants to relive that….

The premise is simple. A band of bad-ass ruffnecks are tasked with stealing the plans to a planet-destroying weapon and thwarting an evil army. It’s really as simple as that, The only difference between this film and any other action or sci-fi film that has the same exact plot is that it takes place in the Star Wars Universe. I know….it sounds bad to equate it that simply, but that is exactly what we have here. If this was any other film franchise people would be bashing this film into the ground, but since it’s the holy grail of science fiction mythology, the literal scared cow of cinema, the bashing will be light by most reviewers.

With the finished product that is “Rogue One” we can see why the production might have been a little troubled. This is a dark film; this is a war film, and coming off “The Force Awakens” you can see where they tried to lighten the mood with some cameo appearances that I won’t spoil, the gallows humor of K-2SO helps, but nonetheless, this is still a dark film that of course brings up the comparison to “The Empire Strikes Back,” which in the scheme of things, chronologically, works very well for the canon where you have “A New Hope” now book-ended by two very dark entries.

One of my biggest gripes, and this is similar to a gripe that I have with the MCU as well, is the need for audiences to know EVERYTHING about the universe in order to grasp all the intricacies and “wink-wink nod-nod” moments that fans will love, while casual fans will be left out in the cold. I understand that you have to include fan service, but “Rogue One” is the victim of too much fan service without providing an explanation to crucial plot points. One of the biggest is the use of Kyber Crystals and why they are so important to the universe. Never once, in the history of the FILM universe have Kyber Crystals been spoken about, unless I’m mistaken. Yes, I know, they are used to power a Jedi or Sith’s lightsaber. I know that because I KNOW “Star Wars” and do the research. But this is explained more in the prequel book to “Rogue One,” “Catalyst” where Kyber Crystals are explained to a larger degree and how they do more then just power lightsabers.

Characterization was also lacking for the most part. We see glimpses of motivations for characters like Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and the duo of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus (who I would LOVE to see a Star Wars Story about them) are my highlights. But in a film where you pretty much know the end result, I assume this was done on purpose because, SPOILER ALERT, a lot of people don’t make it. With that, to truly understand the motivation for these characters is pretty inconsequential, but that to me, is also a shortcoming of “Rogue One.”

Even with the run-time being two hours and 15 minutes, there were plenty of times where the action could have been dialed back, and we could have gotten to know these characters a little better. Gareth Edwards knows how to do a lot with a little, “Monsters” is a great example of how he was able to generate tension without having to show anything, but with “Rogue One,” he chose to go the route of “let’s blow up a lot of shit” instead of getting intimate with his wonderful characters. Maybe he felt like he was only going to be able to play in this sandbox once so it was balls-to-the-wall, which is understandable, and I might be in the minority of the person liking bigger and better booms and out-of-this-world CG, but characters come first, especially for a film universe that prides itself on it’s mythology.

Overall, for being the first “Star Wars Story” this is a worthy effort despite it’s flaws. This is a Star Wars film for fans, made by fans, and that might be one of the biggest issues. Even with the oversight of Disney, I think the inmates ran the asylum a little too much in “Rogue One” and caused this film to feel disjointed, rushed, and wasted the chance to flesh out new characters and instead chose to do it with a different medium, namely a book and cartoon series, “Catalyst” and “The Clone Wars,” respectively. I can’t knock Disney for trying to tie in their collective mediums, shit, I’m sure there are tons of people buying the e-book or the hardback for “Catalyst” today or binge-watching “Clone Wars,” but I don’t like having to study for a test in order to understand a film as a whole.

I’ll likely give this film another shot in the theater, but unlike my seven screenings of “The Force Awakens” in the theater in 2015/2016, this will be so I can catch all the things I missed. I want to like “Rogue One,” but this was a tough film to get behind, even for the die-hard in me. “Rogue One” is the blueprint, which despite it’s flaws, is still very watchable and will make fans happy as we finally know what happened to the rebels that gave their lives to help the rebellion.

October 14, 2016

Trailer Hot Take: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer #2

Full disclosure: Up to this point, I had really only seen the teaser trailers. I’m trying to go into this newest, or older, Star Wars experience with as little information as possible. Of course, many of us know the fate of the people we are going to meet in “Rogue One” but it’s going to be the journey and emotional attachment that we fell when we all watch this one, two three, four, or however many times you’re going to decide to see this in the theater (I’ll dial it back from my seven times in the theater for “The Force Awakens”).

Without further adieu, let’s breakdown some of the highlights from this newest trailer for “Rogue One.”

It’s always cool to see a moisture evaporator with an Empire transport ship in the background

Looks like Mads is filming a sequel for both Valhalla Rising and Doctor Strange at the same time
Jyn in a cage with an alien friend
Jedi Rock Formations…but on what planet?
Rogue….Rogue One
Krennic speaking with the Dark Lord of the Sith himself
We have hope….Rebellions are built on hope…
This still doesn’t do true justice to what is actually happening here…
Definitely reminds me of a young Zev Senesca
The goosebump moment that we all knew was coming, but still….
Overall, a bone-chilling trailer that should put to sleep most of the bad publicity this film has been getting the last few months. This trailer plays to many emotions, and yes, while some of the dialogue and catchphrases will come off as a tad bit contrite and cliche, that doesn’t mean this is going to be a bad film, not one bit. Is it a Hollywood Blockbuster? Of course, but this trailer sold to me the notion that the people making this little “one-off stories” care about the lore, fans, and the universe that has been expertly crafted, most of the time, since 1977.
April 7, 2016

Trailer Hot Take: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Teaser Trailer)

All the Interwebs is in a tizzy today and having a collective nerd-gasm over the reveal of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” the first in what is to be many one-off stories that will fill in the gaps in Star Wars canon.

With so much to talk about, let’s go to the stills and analyze this bitch!

Look at that title card…LOOK AT IT!!
Here is our first look at Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) She’s got a little Ellen Page going on there….
Erso being led away with a mighty fine X-Wing hanging in the back.
A little Mon Mothma anyone….
Diego Luna looks on while Mothma gives Erso the 3rd degree it seems….
Now here’s the money shot…putting the finishing touches on the Death Star
A high ranking Imperial, but who could it be?
Forest Whitaker strutting his stuff….friend, foe, or something in-between?
Donnie Yen about to go all “Blade 2” on these Storm Troopers.
Now here is the good stuff…Royal Guards seemingly guarding a tube. Could Vader be in the tube, or is that Vader walking up to the tube…or is it something different all together?
AT-AT’s going to war against the Rebels
This will certainly raise speculation, especially with the VO behind it. Is Erso a true blue Rebel, does she betray the cause, or something in-between….again…..
A lot to speculate in just a trailer just shy of :90, but we’ll have much more to talk about when a full length trailer appears soon enough.
February 23, 2016

The Simplistic Reviews 2016 Oscar Prediction Podcast (Ep. 65)

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

You’ve heard from the experts…now hear from the madmen from Simplistic Reviews as they predict who will and who should win at the 2016 Oscars.  Don’t worry, the boys do their best to skate around the #OscarsSoWhite issue.  What, are you kidding?  They tackle it head on with enough irreverence that even Spike Lee flinch.  They also tackle other topics like R rated animation, Jennifer Lawrence on the precipise of being hated, and Harvey Fierstein…a lot of Harvey Fierstein.  All that and more on the Simplistic Reviews Oscar Prediction Podcast

NOTES
Harvey Fierstein in Independence Day
Morgan Freeman Car Accident

MUSIC
Hot Shot By Saun & Star
Across 110th Street By Bobby Womack
Strawberry Letter 23 By The Brothers Johnson

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June 20, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

WEEPY

Inside Out – Weepy

So this past week Justin, DJ, and I put our top five Pixar films up over on Letterboxd. Most of our picks overlapped as we all seem to have the same sensibilities when it comes to Pixar Films. “Car” is trash, “Brave” is overrated, and both “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story 3” all have special places in our hearts. Of course we all know where this is going; now where does “Inside Out” fit into that list. Well, for me, it’s a tough call. And I’ll just put it out there; this film made me weep…..in public…..in front of my wife…..TWICE! What other Pixar film has done that to me so far? We’ll let’s get into it.

“Inside Out” is a story so relateable, it’s scary. It’s the story of an 11-year old girl named Riley, who is uprooted from her home in Minnesota and relocates to San Francisco. That’s pretty much the story, on the surface, but of course what would a Pixar film be without something magical. Inside Riley’s head resides her emotions, namely Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. While all five of these emotions try to work in tandem of course hijinks pop up and we end up going on an adventure that follows Joy and Sadness as they try to cope with Riley.

This might not be the best synopsis, but it’s the best I can do without giving up too much of the story and of course the adventure.

There are a few nitpicks I have to get out of the way first. One, and this is a quibble, this isn’t a film for kids. While it’s colorful and vibrant, the pace is frenetic, and unless you are of age to appreciate what is going on inside Riley’s head and/or have gone though something similar, the story will be lost on younger kids. Which again, is fine by me. Let the kid’s have the colors, I’ll take everything else.

Two, while Amy Poehler and Lewis Black are great as Joy and Anger, respectively, I feel like the rest of the cast gets lost in the shuffle. Fear, voiced by Bill Hader, seems underutilized, and Disgust, voiced by Mindy Kaling is just kind of there.

So, this is where things get heavy. This film is heartbreaking. Not only is it personal, but it’s just so damn on the nose. We’ve had our spats with our parents, we’ve been angry with friends, we’ve had to deal with being the new kid in school. There isn’t a thing in this film that you can’t find some level ground with, and it’s just so beautiful. The ideas are simple, but so very effective, especially the 3rd act which will rip your soul apart.

Pete Docter, who was also the madman behind “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” knows how to just get under your skin enough to make your rethink your childhood and adulthood, but he also knows how to make a film with pathos, heart, and plenty of smarts. The idea, which is so simple, that you need sadness to make your appreciate the joy in your life is maniacally effective and will reduce you to a wad of bubblegum.

All in all, “Inside Out” not only lives up to the hype it’s getting, but it far exceeds anything else that Pixar has made on an emotional level. For a film based on raw emotion, I don’t think many films really come close.

Fun Fact: During Riley’s first dream sequence about her new house, you can hear the Haunted Mansion ride music in the background. The more you know.

January 12, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 36) January 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

It’s a brand new year and a brand new episode of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  This month the boys are not just joined by a Vern…they are joined by The Vern from The As You Watch Podcast and The Vern’s Video Video Vortex.  They pop his Simplistic cherry with a good ol’ game of Kill, F&%k, Marry.  And like all guests, the boys decide to go Inside The Podcaster…yes…it’s as gross as it sounds.  Also…Julie and Vern admit their feeling for each other.  All this and more on this January 2015 edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast

Show Notes
Bill Cosby
Deadpool Dead
No Bourne Crossover
Wolverine Dead
Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch No Longer Mutants
Fantastic Four Josh Trank Set Report
Batman v Superman Split

Music Notes
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
G.I. Joe Theme
Thundercats Theme
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
Action In Memphis By Johnny Pearson
My Flows Is Tight By Lord Digga
Inside The Actors Studio Theme Angelo Badalamenti

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January 7, 2015

Simplistic TV: Agent Carter Premiere Episode

SPIRIT

Maybe it’s because I’m an unapologetic Marvel “fanboy”.  Maybe it’s because strong female heroines like Ellen Ripley, Beatrix Kiddo, and Sarah Connor have always been more interesting to me than their stereotypical square-jawed Dudley Do-Right male counterparts.  Maybe it’s because several other shows in the same genre, including its parent company predecessor, underwhelmed out the gate.  Maybe it’s because my male physiology reacts to seeing the flawless Hayley Atwell by raising my endorphin levels to a staggering amount.  Hell, it may be all of those reasons combined which resulted in my enjoyment of the premiere for Agent Carter. 

Agent Carter, a spin-off of Marvel’s best One-Shot short film of the same name and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., takes place about a year after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger and follows that film’s standout character, Agent Peggy Carter.  Carter, a war hero of the highest order, is now forced to find her way and try to do her job as a spy while stuck in a chauvinistic, male driven world keen to keep her serving coffee and answering phones.  So yeah, it’s like Mad Men meets Alias.  Truthfully, the series gives Marvel a real opportunity to flesh out the Peggy Carter character.  Thus, bringing more understanding as to why Cap’ still pines for her and why she would be the one chosen as the first Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Carter has got the no nonsense determination of a Nick Fury and the beautiful but deadly charm of Black Widow.

“Love The Hat.”

In defense of Agent Carter’s less enjoyable programming peers, shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Constantine, and even (gulp) Gotham have story arcs meant to be spread across the normal 20 to 26 episode season structure.  Agent Carter is meant to be a strong, short arching, cinematic punch of 8 episodes; much like a standard UK television series.  (Which is why UK television is of a higher quality than American television in my opinion.  Although, that’s a conversation for another day)  However, it is clear from at least the first two episodes that showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas are confident in what they are doing, know what their show needs to accomplish, and know how to SMOOTHLY insert elements of its comic book and MCU source material in a way that enhances the experience instead of hindering it.  (Ahem!  Gotham.  Ahem!)  And really, it’s just plain fun.  The 40s era SPIRIT and charm has always been a great vessel for any absurd or unbelievable concepts the show wants to try.  (See: Indiana Jones)  And don’t worry about punches being pulled either.  Agent Carter may not be Boardwalk Empire in terms of graphic violence, but it is not from a lack of trying.  There is death and brutality in this female led, 40s era, 8 o’clock, comic book show, owned by Disney that may surprise you. 

Hayley Atwell seems to be born to play this role.  You can see why Marvel had the confidence to give her a big showcase show like this that she has to practically carry alone.  She not only nails every countering line to the volley of sexist insults hurled her way, she seems to have the ability to share an instant chemistry with whichever actor they put across from her.  She fortunately gets to separate herself from Scarlett Johansson and Ming-Na because they both play very guarded characters.  Peggy Carter is guarded in a different way in my opinion.  While Melinda May and Black Widow use lies to protect themselves, Carter, armed with truth, almost dares anyone wanting to crack her shell to step up try.  Her confidence as a character and Atwell’s portrayal of that confidence is perfect.

Dominic Cooper, although having a minor role, is still great as Howard Stark.  He does not take the easy way out by doing a Robert Downey Jr. impersonation.  He leans more toward the Howard Hughes/Citizen Kane type of billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist.  My one tiny gripe would be the Edwin Jarvis character, played by James D’Arcy.  D’Arcy is a great choice for the role and plays Jarvis well, but I hope the writers turn up his snark a bit more.  I realize I am contaminated by Paul Bettany’s brilliant A.I. version, and I know they are utilizing the role reversal of Peggy being tough and Jarvis being foppish.  I just want the banter between the two of them to be a little more biting, much like it is with Downey Jr. and Bettany.  It is there between the two…but I’m greedy for more. 

The rest of the supporting cast is fine in their roles, more or less not getting in the way of the story.  I say that hoping the Lyndsy Fonseca waitress character Angie either amounts to something much bigger or falls a little more to the wayside.  Shea Whigham’s character Roger Dooley is a preferable boss to Peggy Carter than Bradley Whitford’s Agent Flynn from the Marvel One-Shot.  Dooley seems to fit better in the era than Whitford’s Agent Flynn did.  Now, that may just be because I’m used to seeing Whigham on Boardwalk Empire.  However, I like to think it’s his gruff and unapologetic use of chauvinism as apposed to Flynn’s snarky approach.  Whigham is clueless to Carter’s activities, but I don’t see him as a cliched idiot. 

While staying up to see a humdrum Ant-Man trailer, I managed to find something even better cooking right under my nose.  Agent Carter is a show that hits the ground running with a quality to it that might catch you off guard.  It is a welcome addition to the Marvel universe and seems to bring hope that Marvel shows to follow will also learn from its predecessors mistakes.  Scan yourself for vita-rays…have someone tie you to a chair…turn on some Benny Goodman…oh and tip generously…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 26, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 7

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this episode of Simplistic Sneak Peek, the boys take a look at three trailers with dark subject matter and one trailer a bit on the lighter side.  During which time, Matt shows off his Terry Gilliam impersonation(s), while Justin and DJ touch on the age old stereotype of black people in horror films. 

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.

Big Hero 6

Horns

12 Monkeys The Series

Ouija

June 20, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 5

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

Simplistic Sneak Peek is back and better than ever.  In this episode the boys take a look at some animated features and some 80s action stars WITH animated features.  Sinbad, The Ultimate Warrior, Dane Cook and a Holocaust amusement park all come up in this irreverent return of Simplistic Sneak Peek.  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.

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Expendables 3

Bonus Trailer

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