family

January 11, 2014

August: Osage County

FAMILY
Of all the films being discussed during award season, August: Osage County seems to be the one being forgotten.  It has the award recognition somewhat, but it is hard to hear anything about it over the publicity noise of films like Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle, and Gravity.  And this is a film with Meryl Streep and Julia f@%king Roberts!  Two of the most iconic female actresses I’ve watched in my lifetime.  What was it about this film that keeps it flying under the radar?  Then I thought about the subject matter.  It isn’t as captivating as a sexy scheme set up by quirky con artists in the 70s.  It isn’t as outrageous as a cocaine fueled crook living to excess in the 80s and 90s.  It definitely isn’t as thrilling as watching a woman struggling to survive in an endless abyss in the present.  It is merely about FAMILY.  All the love and hate and insane dysfunction of FAMILY.  It isn’t a two hour long dose of good ol’ escapism.  It shines a light on an all too familiar life that most would try and have tried to escape from.  
Don’t get me wrong.  This is not a fun for the whole FAMILY film.  August: Osage County is the film adaptation of writer Tracy Letts’ play of the same name.  It centers around a small town FAMILY reuniting after the sudden disappearance of the FAMILY‘s patriarch.  And the fact that this film was a play will not come as a shock once you watch it.  At the end of several scenes, you’ll catch yourself waiting for the curtain the drop and the applause to start before you realize you’re still sitting in a cineplex.  I made a critique of the aforementioned Wolf Of Wall Street in my review a few weeks back.  That critique was that the film seemed more like a collection of amazing scenes instead of a well structured story.  Yet, I wasn’t sure if that was entirely a bad thing for me.  August: Osage County made me start to feel the same way.  But that way of storytelling works fine for a novel or a play.  That is what’s tricky to me about adaptations.  Do you want them to stick with the same format the novel or play or television show had at the expense of structure?  Or do you want to mold it into something more film friendly?  I personally don’t know.  It changes for me on a case to case basis.  I do know I loved both Wolf Of Wall Street and August: Osage County because of the TREMENDOUS scenes and TREMENDOUS performances in them.  I just feel that their previous roots show a little too much for me to call them perfect “film” adaptations.

I’ve been watching John Wells work for a majority of my life.   Shows like ER and Southland and now Shameless really show how the man can make real people just feel real on screen.  How he can create dramatic tension through stillness and subtlety instead of jarringly acrobatic camera moves or set ups.  One might assume that his visual technique for this film was just a “point the camera and walk away” style because of the actors he had it his disposal.  However, there is a slick sense of simplicity and sneakiness in how he shoots these scenes, puts you in that house, and puts you in those moments.  For a film like this, it is all about creating an environment where actors can flourish and bring their characters to life.

Who are the actors at his disposal?  Holy crap!  Well, I’ve already mentioned the two cinema Godzillas of Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts.  And trust me, it is their film to own.  But the top notch performances here are ubiquitous.  Yeah…I said ubiquitous.  It means “everywhere”.  I looked it up because I wanted to find a word that could properly illustrate how great everyone is in this film.  I haven’t seen Roberts this strong and fearless since Closer.  And Streep literally roars reminders at you that she is the best actress walking the planet.  But then you have Chris Cooper chewing scenery throughout the film, with Margo Martindale chewing it up right alongside him.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Juliette Lewis show up out of nowhere and devour every line they have.  Abigail Breslin knocks one out of the park for kicks.  Ewan McGegor and Dermot Mulroney slides in great showings too.  Hell, Sam Shepard gets one scene and delivers some of the film’s best lines in that time.  It is practically a smorgasbord of acting on display.  Though, I wanted to single out Julianne Nicholson’s performance because it may be the one overlooked the most.  She isn’t the biggest name in the cast but she holds her own with everyone.  Before you know it, Nicholson will be the one you feel for the most and the one who will pull your heartstrings the hardest.

August: Osage County is not only deserving of its praise, but deserving of more attention.  It might be better suited as a play than a film.  However, there is no doubt that the writing, directing, and acting are still good enough for you to enjoy the hell out of it.  Sit down with your FAMILY…if you dare…watch it…hope to God that your FAMILY isn’t as crazy as theirs…then tell me I’m wrong.  

  

November 1, 2013

This is Halloween: The Haunted Mask

The Haunted Mask: Fun
22mins each/44mins Total/Horror/1995

The Haunted Mask is the 11th book and episode 1 and 2 of season 1.

It’s about a girl, Carly Beth who gets picked on because she’s easily scared. She’s the joke of the school and because of that is pushed into buying a mask that will turn her weakness into her ultimate revenge.
This book stands out as of of the more popular stories. I became a big fan when the 2 part episode was released on VHS. As a kid this was one of the films that I would play ever year for Halloween. 
The acting is what you would expect from a 90’s children’s TV show. The real reason this is a staple of 90’s kids is the story. It works almost too good. It’s not just about a girl who wants revenge, but the mask Carly picks changes her, it attaches to her and takes her over.

The Mask
The “unobtainable, unloved ones” all look pretty cool. In fact I find that I like some of the others more then the one she picks. But that’s not to say the one she picks isn’t good, it really is badass looking. The issue is the lighting. They should of made it a bit darker because the mask doesn’t work as awesome in the brighter night shoots. But the voice and the darker scenes really make the mask work, especially when she begins to get angry and the mask begins to sweat.
These episodes aren’t the scariest of the show. But they’re very enjoyable and have a deeper meaning of excepting ones self and not trying to be different for anyone else.
Thanks for reading guys and girls!
Happy Halloween!
October 23, 2013

This is Halloween: Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus: Immortal

96mins/Family-Comedy/1993

As a kid growing up in the 90’s things were pretty awesome in the world of film and TV. Disney had a gold mine of 90’s kids movies that became instant classics to us of the 90’s and we still hold that to ring true to this very day. If you go to a flea market, I can almost guarantee you will see a flood of Disney VHS for sell. They were cranking them out every single week, sure a few kinda suck but a good majority of them are classics children films that as a “adult” now I still find myself watching every now and then.

Hocus Pocus is one of them. And every year in October this is a film I pop in and watch. Why because its fantastic. It holds up well and still allows me to dive into a bit of excitement that a children’s Halloween film should. They don’t make films like this anymore. Halloween films are made mostly for teens and adults these days. The younger children don’t get the focus anymore. Sure when I was 7 I was watching Freddy frighten teens in their nightmares and Leatherface doing what he does best with a door and hammer, but that’s that. Some kids can’t do that. And honestly shouldn’t experience that stuff at such a young age. But hey I turned out somewhat… decent.

After 300 years, Three sister witches are resurrected in Salem Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it us up to two teenagers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches reign of terror once and for all. (IMDB)

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Park and Kathy Najimy star as the three sister witches, who steal the souls of children! Omri Katz, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw are the hero’s who go up against the witches. The three witches steal the show with their goofy antics and song, “I Put a spell on you” that will be stuck in your head. Thora Birch’s acting stands out good. She’s young and doesn’t turn in to one of those annoying forced line delivering children actors can sometimes bring.  The cast works pretty well and only add to the wonder of a story Disney put out.  

Hocus Pocus is a incredibly well-made film that brings the scary part and fun part together and a well wrapped candy bar for a kids eyes and mind. It single handle brings back the excitement that seems to have been lost anymore during Halloween. It’s a simple story about putting a end to the witches, which is place on top of a brother and sister relationship that I find mean more to me then any other film when I watch with my sister. Sure if you might not have watched this film before then it might be hard to understand now as a adult. But when you watch this when your young and grow up from it, then it becomes something more. Its a fun film to watch that doesn’t get made as much but luckily its immortal and seems to last forever. 
December 15, 2012

Crappy Holidays: The Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

*This is purely a commentary on the tragedy in Newtown, CT.  In no way do I condemn the 1st and 2nd Amendment, or any amendment of the Constitution.  Now is the time to reflect and be with friends and family, especially during this holiday season.*

This is Matthew Stewart from Simplistic Reviews.  On behalf of Simplistic Reviews and my two friends and co-reviewers, DJ Valentine and Justin Polizzi, I would like to send my heartfelt sympathy and compassion to all the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends affected by the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  This is another tragic reminder that we continue to live in a dangerous and jaded society where it’s not only easy to obtain a gun (either through theft or legal means) and that mental illness and its treatment are sadly undervalued in this country.

Yes, people have drive and desire, and will do anything to get their point across, no matter how sick and deplorable it might be. However, you can’t tell me with a straight face that Adam Lanza, the individual that carried out an atrocity that killed nearly 30 people, including 20 children between the ages of 5-10 years old, wasn’t in need of some help. Yes, I do not know the facts of the crime at this point, and none of us will ever know what was going through his mind before, during, and after his crime was committed, but when will Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, see that we obviously have a problem in this country with the ability to obtain guns so easily and with our healthcare system for the mentally ill.

*Link to Review for Elephant*

I recently had my grandfather pass away nearly two weeks ago and I attended his funeral last Saturday.  It was a sad day for my family.  It always hurts to lose a love one, but imagine losing your child, at school, during the holiday season.  Imagine you get a call from an emergency official that you need to hurry down to the school you just dropped your son or daughter off.  You gave them a kiss and a hug before they jumped out of the car and handed them their lunch.  “I love you, I’ll see you at 2 o’clock.”  No, that parent will never see their child alive again.  No more walks to the park to play on the big yellow slide or fly a kite.  You won’t get to see their face when they open their gifts on Christmas or Hanukkah, or ride their bike for the first time.  You won’t see them walk down the aisle at their high school and college graduation, or their wedding.  Families have been broken, forever.

This isn’t the time to discuss politics, we need to have respect for the families and friends who have lost their innocence and loved ones.  Reporters also need to have respect for the children and families and lay off the old adage “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Will we have another tragedy of this magnitude in the future?  Unfortunately, we will.  Its sad to say that, but if you’re prepared to accept the truth, the action will be just a little easier to swallow.  I’m not a father or a brother to a much younger sibling (my sister is 24 right now) and in no way can I comprehend the gravity of this horrific event, but as a society we can’t let this stop us from living our lives.  We can’t shut ourselves off to the world or stick our head in the sand.  Our kids will continue to go to school, we’ll continue to go to the movies, we’ll continue to live.  Hug your kids, love your family, but also tell them what happened.  Make them aware of the world that they live in is a dangerous and at times, unforgiving place.  Be honest with them, and treat them like kids, but with a little more respect.  Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, even the ones that run into plate glass windows and blow spit bubbles.  Be the parent that will tell them the truth and prepare them for the world they are going to inherit one day.  The tragedy is that the parents of 20 children will not be able to tell their children the same.

If you would like to help the families and the community of Newtown, CT, please click here to find out how to assist. 

July 29, 2012

Cloak & Dagger

Cloak & Dagger: Imaginary

Cloak & Dagger came out in 1984 (a fantastic time in movie and music history) and it holds up over all this time, even with the weak dated graphics. This is one of those films that you watch when you where younger and it sticks with you…Forever!

Why watch this film? Well…Do you like video games? Do you like 80’s films? Do you like good kickass films? This film is a good reason films are made. And today if you want to escape from the real life and sit down and enjoy a solid 101 minutes this film is for YOU!

It’s a fun kid’s film to watch. Yep thats right. It’s a family film even though people get shot and killed, especially from the 11 year old main character. When people say they don’t make them like they used too, here is a example. Could you imagine a kids film today with kids shooting spys? Yeah I too was totally born at the wrong time.

Without spoiling the story, it’s simply about a 11 year old kid named Davey (I know, such a dated name) who stumbles onto classified information hidden in a game cartage. And spys chase him down to retrieve the cartage.

This film also has one of the greatest scenes you will always remember. After seeing these two older people help this kid, that no one believes including his own father, your nightmares begin. I won’t even try to write it…
Watch this clip to see what I mean!

Trust me you will love watching this film!

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