FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
If you’ve been following our podcast since it’s inception, you know we like to rant, rave, and go on intense tangents. Well this month we decided to take an entire unaired section of our May Podcast and turn it into a bonus edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast.
In this little nugget of joy we take on Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and you get to hear Matt sink lower and lower into drunkenness. It’s really a thing of beauty……and sadness. On top of that we also delve into Peter Weller’s filmography and imagine if Robocop decided to police Hogwarts.
Look. I’m going to make this fast. One, because I’m on the way to go watch this movie for a second time. Two, because I want to try and stay as spoiler free as I can. With a little introspection brought on by something well put from MovieBob Chipman in his own negative review of this same film, I’ll admit my duty and privilege as a reviewer is to tell you if I thought a movie was good or not and to tell you why in either case. It is not to preserve secrets, not to geek out, and not to just relegate myself as a proverbial cog in the already powerful marketing machine of said movie. However, my objectivity sometimes waivers when a movie manages to personally effect me either emotionally, nostalgically, or both in this case. So, I’m hesitant to just come out and say that Star Trek Into Darkness is the most FUN I’ve had in the theater since Skyfall. I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen since…you know what. I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it gave me everything I wanted and so much more. I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it will probably be the best summer blockbuster you’ll see this year…PERIOD. Hesitant not because it isn’t all of those things. Hesitant because if I do you’ll chock it up to just tiresome Trekkie hyperbole. But I’ll risk it because…Star Trek Into Darkness is worth the risk.
To get into plot points of Into Darkness would ruin some of the films best moments. So, I’ll put it like this. Into Darkness takes the best parts…THE BEST PARTS…of the original franchise’s BEST films and literally puts them all into one balls to the wall action sci fi space adventure. AWESOME! It takes those nostalgic moments that fans loved from the originals… cleverly and surprisingly turns them on their ear…which somehow makes it suddenly into a new and equally rewarding experience. BRILLIANT! It managed to give me the FUN and the humor that Iron Man 3 gave me, but also give me the stakes and gravitas that Iron Man 3 didn’t. THANK YOU! It surpasses all the best moments of the 2009 remake, which I loved by the way, in under twenty minutes. STUNNING! It, despite my preconceived notions to the contrary, has some of the best 3D conversion shots I’ve seen…um…ever. BEAUTIFUL! And flatly, the film just works. No matter what nit-picky flaw you could conjure, no matter what prejudices against Star Trek you carry, the film just works. I attribute this to two overall things. The cast and the director.
Whenever I see a tv show or film where the cast just doesn’t fit or when I’m trying to explain actor chemistry to someone, I seem to always bring up Star Trek 2009. When you have perfect casting in not just a film, but an iconic franchise, your stories can be literally about anything. Hell, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had the original crew go back in time and save whales for crying out loud. And it was the highest grossing Trek film until 2009. Why? Mainly its because you just want to see these guys hang out and share their adventures. That is why casting for the new franchise was, ironically, paramount. With Into Darkness, the cast has bonded even more. Even the tiniest interaction between two characters, whether it be Kirk and Spock, Bones and Sulu, or Uhura and Scotty, just seems to hit the mark every time. The uninitiated can’t help but feel the chemistry and the die hard Trekkie can’t help but smile at the homages. That is a testament to Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe, Karl, Simon, John, Anton and Bruce. They understand their characters and have totally made them their own now. It’s house money the writers are playing with, and thankfully they don’t just rest on their laurels with it. The story and the dialogue is strong enough for each of the characters to shine brightly. What about the newbies? Well, Mr. Cumberbatch was an addition that I knew would be amazing, due to his previous efforts as Mr. Holmes. Any amount of screen time for him is always going to be too little for me. However, it is the performance by Peter Weller that is really going to stick out after you watch this. Robocop himself, is so very strong here that I found myself wondering why he doesn’t work more. Its a small role, but he totally knocks it out of the park.
I figured that this was going to be JJ Abrams mic drop as he exits the franchise for a galaxy much farther away. And boy you can tell. For those of you who were worried he’d sleepwalk through this after being given the reigns to Star Wars, fear not. Abrams throws so much into this film it is amazing. The action is flabbergasting. Especially because I didn’t figure there’d be so much of it. However, Abrams does manage to let you catch your breath for the comedy and some really solid emotional moments. He brings…I don’t believe I’m saying this…balance…proper balance to this film. My colleague Matt Stewart did say that this was going to be our best first look at what JJ will have in store for us in Episode VII. And if that is true, The Force has nothing to worry about.
Star Trek Into Darkness is not only a great Star Trek film, but an action blockbuster that can hold it’s own against any blockbuster film that has come before it (Sorry Iron Man 3) and will come after it (Your move Man Of Steel). My favorite film of the year so far. It has a lot of moving parts but never forgets to stay true to the thing that James T. Kirk covets above all things. FUN. Set course for it…maximum warp…chase it ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.
I was watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and suddenly an Iron Man movie broke out. I’m sorry. That was rude. Okay, let me be clear. I love Iron Man. I love Robert Downey Jr.. I love Shane Black. And I’ve admitted many times that RDJ could spew out Black’s dialogue in a film about recycling Coke bottles and I’d watch. It’s just that Iron Man 3 does everything it can to test that loyalty. Is it as good as Avengers? Of course not. Is it the best film of the trilogy? Not in my opinion. Is it better than Iron Man 2? I’m not so sure I can say that. To be honest, Iron Man 3 is a different genre than Iron Man 2 and even Iron Man 1. And that is where my hesitance to tout it comes from. When I first heard that Shane Black was doing part 3, I was psyched. The man has made a living of making great action comedies for years. Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout, and Long Kiss Goodnight, to name a few. However, the things I loved about those films is that despite the humor and comedic interactions, you could suddenly find yourself in a gritty, bloody, hardcore shootout. Humorous scenes suddenly turned on their ear by a visceral murder. A suicidal breakdown. Revenge at any cost. And Black could weave these things effortlessly. Even though those films had the help of an R rating, I had faith that Black could still come close to delivering a little taste of this in Iron Man 3. Especially with the threat of Tony Stark’s biggest comic book nemesis, The Mandarin, looming over the storyline. The tone from the commercials also seemed to hint at the darkest plot we’d seen for the character. However, Iron Man 3 turns away from Martin Riggs, Charly Baltimore, and Joe Hallenbeck and leans more toward Gay Perry and Harry Lockhart. In other words, Iron Man 3 is not an action comedy. It is a comedy with action in it.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite films. However, the tone wouldn’t be the first I’d use to fit this superhero film. Take for instance the handling of the film’s villain. Director Shane Black does something with The Mandarin, that I won’t spoil, which comic book fans will either love or absolutely despise. This…um…how should I put this…’reinvention’ fits the tone of a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but not any Marvel film we’ve seen thus far. Now, don’t get me wrong. The jokes in Iron Man 3 are very funny. But they far outnumber any action you will see in it. I, for one, thought the balance of this action comedy franchise was preparing to shift. I was just misled as to which direction it was shifting. A direction I thought was reserved for Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man or James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.
The performances by the returning cast are solid once again. They are the one constant of the franchise. As I’ve said before, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. He captures the essence of that character better than any actor has any comic book character ever. Though, this is the lightest lifting Downey Jr. has had to do performance wise. They touch on Tony’s post traumatic stress disorder brought on from his experiences in The Avengers. Unfortunately, it is not fully explored and eventually brushed away through jokes way faster than Stark’s self destructive tendencies were in Iron Man 2. This film is probably the funniest Tony Stark has ever been. However, the best performance Robert Downey Jr. has given as the character is still, ironically, in Avengers. Even though Paltrow is disliked in her public persona, she is adored as Pepper Potts. Keeping serve opposite an actor such as Downey Jr., in four films now, is something she deserves enormous credit for. Cheadle, though almost an afterthought in this film, also has proven that he can hold his own against Downey Jr. in a scene. More so than Terrence Howard did in Iron Man 1. I just wish these two could get more screen time together. Because when they do interact, the relationship of Tony and Rhodey just sings.
I had high hopes for Kingsley as The Mandarin. Sexy Beast proved to me how much of a badass he can be. However, Black’s risky reinvention of his character limited what Kingsley was allowed to do. Speaking of missed opportunities, Guy Pearce’s abilities were also minimally tapped in this. His flippancy, though amusing, didn’t really seem to present a viable danger to our hero. Even through the climax. Love or hate Iron Man 2, there was no question as to the danger and threat that Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko gave Tony. The villains in Iron Man 3 don’t scare you as much as Vanko, Stane, or even Hammer did.
After all that, you’d think I hated the film. I don’t. Iron Man 3 is not a step backwards for the franchise or for Marvel. It, to me, is just a risky step sideways. A step in a different direction. A direction, as The Mandarin warned, I didn’t see coming. Suit up…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a crime comedy of mistakes and unusual circumstances. Very similar to, but not as blissfully odd as The Big Lebowski. A funny coincidence, seeing as the stars of both starred together in the 1st Iron Man film. Instead of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Downey Jr. plays a petty thief with an affinity for magic who is mistakenly recruited to solve a mystery. Trust me, the journey you take to get there is so worth the trip. You will find yourself laughing one moment and riveted the next.
The Monster Squad – Nards
The time of VHS was magical. Along with HBO, nearly all my horror upbringing came from one or the other. Growing up I would go to Blockbuster Video (RIP) every Friday and I was allowed to get one video. I always found myself in the horror section, watching any movie I could get my hands on. From cheesy B-movies to typical slasher fare, I ate it all up. Growing up in the late 80s early 90s, I was also a huge fan of “The Goonies” and any coming-of-age movie where kids went on an adventure. With that said, the day I saw “The Monster Squad” from 1987 is the day my interest in more classic horror began.
If you think about “The Monster Squad” as “The Goonies” of the horror genre you’ve hit the nail on the head. The rundown goes like this; a group of young horror fans, who call themselves “The Monster CLUB,” stumble upon a plot by the newly resurrected Count Dracula. The Count plans to obtain a mystical amulet used by Abraham Van Helsing to banish evil from Transylvania 100 years ago. Only the Squad, a Scary German Guy, that kid* from “Kids Incorporated,” a “virgin,” and Frankenstein’s Monster stand in Drac’s way for world domination.
What I always thought was cool was the fact that Dracula was able to bring together a group of monsters to fight for him, which included The Wolf Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon (or The Gill Man if you will), and The Mummy. Seeing that as a kid was astonishing, and considering that the late, great, Stan Winston did the creature effects was even more amazing.
Aside from Stan Winston, there were some really creative minds behind “Squad,” including Fred Dekker, who directed the underrated “Night of the Creeps” which is pretty much the predecessor to the also shamefully underrated “Slither.” And Shane Black, who you might have heard from that low budget movie that’s coming out next year called “Iron Man 3.” This film has class written all over it.
The one complaint that I have about “Squad” is that upon watching it now, it does seem dated. It’s super 80s, in the same way that “The Lost Boys” seems dated. Most movies, and this is especially true for the horror genre, all seem to be trapped in a time warp in the decade they were made. Keep this in mind, I’m not saying dated is a bad thing, but this brings me to an important point. Maybe this is the reason why all of these hack filmmakers want to re-do all these old horror movies for the new, hip (and stupid) “horror” audiences. The good news with “Squad” is that it was PG-13 back in the 80s so they won’t have to turn an R-rated movie into an audience friendly, and money making, PG-13 version.
“The Monster Squad” isn’t all blood and guts, its actually a fun little movie and something I would show my kid(s) and not feel like I was corrupting their soul(s). As October, and Halloween, comes to a close, take a break from the gore-fests that you might be enjoying and check out “The Monster Squad,” and remember……”Wolf Man’s got nards.”
*that kid is Ryan Lambert
Fun Fact: Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” and Boris Karloff’s “Frankenstein” were both released in 1931 by Universal Pictures.