JJ Abrams

February 16, 2016

Simplistic TV: 11/22/63

PROMISE
11/22/63 – Promise

Not many reviews of any kind grace the pages of the site much anymore, mainly because we either get around to talking about it on the podcast, log them on Letterboxd (on occasion), and the fact that every other site on the Internet talks about the same stuff over and over ad nausea, so what’s the point? However, since the Grammys are on, and who really gives a crap about seeing 1,000 cut-aways to Taylor Swift being “happy” for every single artist that has ever stepped in front of a microphone, I thought I’d dust off the old writin’ fingers and give a few thoughts on the surprise Hulu Original, the James Franco-led “11/22/63.”

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this eight-part series features a time-traveling portal that takes the user back to 1960. Al (Chris Cooper), the proprietor of the diner in which the portal resides, convinces Jake (Franco), a schoolteacher, to travel back into time and stop the assassination of John F Kennedy. With hesitation, Jake enters the portal and is transported back to 1960 and travels to Dallas, Texas.

Most of the time, when King’s works are put to TV or celluloid, the results are mixed. Most of the miniseries’ that aired on network TV back in the 1990s and early 2000s had solid starts, and quickly fizzled out (I’m looking at you “Storm of the Century”). And of course for every “Stephen King’s It” you have duds like “Dreamcatcher,” but being that this is the golden age of TV is almost seems time to see more of King’s work on platforms like Hulu; they can take chances, there are no limits, and with audiences moving to cutting the cord and watching shows on their own time, this might be one of the biggest success stories for any of King’s works and could lead to a revival of “The Stand” or any other work of his that at one time was seen as unfilmable and too big for TV. If anything, at this point in time, in order to tell the story completely, his stories are too small for the silver screen, and perfect for the small screen.

In the first episode, you really get a taste of things to come in this short series. The world seems fully realized in recreating the 1960s with a combination of small town rural and big city Dallas. The creepiness factor moves in with Kevin J O’Connor as the so-called “Yellow Card Man” and the reoccurring comment to Jake; “You shouldn’t be here.”

The early comments are me are as follow; How are they going to show how time travel affects the present, and will eight episodes be enough to tell this story? To the first comment, that is a resounding, “we’ll see” it was partially explained within the first 20 minutes or so, but I’m interesting to see how the bigger implications come into play. As far as the eight episodes, the novel was 800+ pages, so if you figure 100 pages an episode, hopefully it should work, take into account that I’ve never read the novel, so hopefully people loyal to the book will agree on that.

Lastly, you can’t talk a Franco-led show or film without some pretty funny Francoism, and this episode has two whoppers. Early in the show, when Jake first enters the portal, he mentions that there better not be any spiders, and later on, while in 1960, he’s eating pie and mentions how the pie is. Of course this could all be coincidence, but I like to think that Franco is making a concerted effort to relive/make fun of his days in the “Spider-Man” series. Speculation of course, but I like to think that’s what Franco was trying to do.

Overall, from a production, acting, and story standpoint, “11/22/63” is almost unsurpassed. I love the look, I love the tone, and I simply think this is a well crafted and well made adaption of a novel (of course, like I said, I haven’t read the novel, but it looks good) that might have eagles eyes on it from die-hard fans, and TV people alike. Hell, if this works out, we might be looking at more King work going to a studio that knows exactly what to do with it. Don’t mess this up Hulu!     

December 24, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Matt’s Take) Round 2: Four Viewings Later….

I’ll still keep this one spoiler-free for now, since there still seems to be a handful of people in this galaxy far, far away that still haven’t been able to get to the theater and watch “The Force Awakens.” With that being said, I’ll just chronicle my last three viewings of the newest “Star Wars” installment before I actually release a spoiler-filled review later this week.

Viewing #2 December 18th

Not even 24 hours had passed before I was in the theater for my 2nd go at “The Force Awakens.” This time I went with a buddy from work. The highlight of this viewing was his excitement when a certain character made his triumphant return.

Viewing #3 December 19th

Back in the theater, this time I was with fellow Simplistic Reviewer, DJ Valentine. DJ had also seen the film the night before, so he was going into this film for the 2nd time while I was on round 3. As usual DJ brings some good insight to the film while at the same time being the guy in the theater having fun, namely during the lightsaber fight near the end of the film.

Viewing #4 December 21st

I finally get around to seeing this film with my wife, Nicole, along with her sister and her husband. What I learned that day is that Nicole’s sister had never seen any of the “Star Wars” films outside of maybe a few scenes. I guess sister like sister, because Nicole had never seen a “Star Wars” film before we started dating. The highlights for me on this viewing was seeing my wife’s reaction to a certain shocking bit of the film and of course when we were leaving the theater and she said “again, again, again.” I felt proud that I was able to bring her into this universe and seeing her excitement was worth the price of admission.

Viewing #5 December 22nd

I know this is getting old, and you’re probably saying “What the F*ck is your problem?!” but hey, the movie event of the year…..you know. This time around I went with another friend and his wife, with my friend already having seen the film on the 18th as well. Nothing really noteworthy on this viewing, but this might actually be the first time that I’ve seen a film five times in the theater.

That’s about it for this little mini review.

December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Matt’s Take) Round 1, Opening Thoughts

*This will be more of an experience, as opposed to any type of review/critique of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Pardon some of the course language*

As I plan on seeing this film multiple times over the course of the next few days, I’ll be reviewing this film to varying degrees over the next few days, so just stay with me, as well as my fellow reviewers DJ and Justin, as I’m sure they’ll have plenty to say about this film as well.

Myself and two friends caught the 8:00 pm showing on Thursday, December 17th, and needless to say, the butterflies were pretty heavy for me. The theater was at capacity and there was a lot of energy; you could feel it, like the Force, it was flowing through you.

With a packed theater you expect a lot of cheers; there was one set for the Lucasfilms logo, and to be honest it was a little weird to not hear the old 20th Century Fox fanfare, thinking about it now, it was actually kind of sad.

Silence…..”A long time ago…..in a galaxy far, far away….”

Goosebumps……Episode VII……
……Enter the kid next to me who decides to read the entire scroll……pardon my french….but shut the fuck up kid (more on this kid later)…..
Most of this film I held my hand to my face and was transfixed by what I was watching. I imagine this is what people felt like back in 1977.
New faces; old face, “The Force Awakens” truly is something special and brings so many people together. Of course there were cheers when characters showed up, and much to my chagrin, BB-8 got some of the bigger pops in the audience, but I guess people are suckers for cute robots.
Back to that kid, at one point he moved to a sit next to him that was unoccupied; great. But than he had the gall near the end of the film to ask, “is this almost over?” Again, pardon me, but go fuck yourself kid, don’t you have school tomorrow?
So in a nutshell, this is my completely non-review of “Star Wars” The Force Awakens” and I’ll be back tomorrow with something with a little more meat on it. My friends seemed to enjoy the film as well, and we had a small discussion about what the future might bring, but of course nothing too specific.
With that said; May the Force be with you……and hopefully kid-free.
April 16, 2015

Simplistic Talk: Things to take away from the newest Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser #2

Sorry “Batman V Superman” you lose again. Sure, it’s over a year until your film is released, but there is only so much dick teasing people can take before they are going to forget about you and move on to the next best thing; and that “next best thing” is obvious; the unveiling of the newest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer, and awakens is a perfect term for this; it awoke my inner child, and while I’m still a huge cynic, which so many people can attest to, and I’ll still troll to get a rise out of people, that doesn’t take away the fact that next to this year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” this Jew can’t wait for this Hanukkah gift come Christmas.

Moving on from fan boying, which I really hate to do, the real purpose of this article is to point out some of the more obvious, and maybe one not so obvious thing from this newest trailer, which you can check out right HERE. So here we go:

One of the main things that we learned today is that the desert planet that we thought was Tatooine, is in fact the desert planet of Jakku. Will Tatooine still make an appearance somewhere in this film, or the other two films in this newest trilogy, I’m sure.

As you can see from the picture above we have both a downed X-Wing and a downed Star Destroyer. What we don’t know is when and where this takes place. As we know the Rebellion took place all over the galaxy and there are likely downed ships on every planet. Is this Jakku, Tatooine, or some other unnamed desert planet we don’t know about yet?

We also get our first look at charred remains of Darth Vader’s helmet above. The last we saw of this helmet was during the funeral pyre scene on Endor in “Return of the Jedi.” Was Vader’s helmet found by someone, is it being used in some sort of propaganda by the newly re-formed Galactic Empire, or is it in some sort of war museum.

Next we see our old friend R2-D2, and a metal hand. Conventional wisdom would say this is obviously Luke Skywalker seeing his old friend again. As we know, JJ Abrams likes to play with people’s heads, so could this be a misguide. I’m sure a lot of people lost hands and arms during the Rebellion.

Here is one of the most interesting scenes in the trailer. On the surface we see a lightsaber being handed to someone off screen. If you look closely, however, you will notice that this is some type of alien being handing a lightsaber to someone off-screen. Knowing the species might go a long way in explaining what is possible in this scene.

Here is a better shot of one of our principle characters, Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issac. It’s clear he is still fighting the good fight for the Rebellion, and having a hell of a time doing it.

Here is our best shot so far of the newest “Sith” threat, Kylo Ren. I especially like his Kanye West glasses, and he pretty much looks like Snake Eyes from “G.I. Joe.” Conventional wisdom would say Ren is a Sith, but could be be something else?

Now, this could just be speculation, but I find this frame to be very interesting. Here we have the newest version of the Galactic Empire symbol overlayed with one of our newest character’s Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. We all think that Rey is supposed to be one of our newest heroes joining the fight against evil, but could this all be a ploy and she is actually a villain, maybe even Kylo Ren? Or could she be a former member of the Empire looking for revenge or penance for her crimes against the Rebels?

In this scene we see Finn, played by John Boyega, in a Stormtrooper uniform with what seems to be a bloody hand print on his helmet. Are Stormtroopers nothing more that roving death squads going from planet to planet exterminating any rebel sympathizers? 

This is one of my favorite things in the teaser; a bad ass silver Stormtrooper with what looks to be a red cloak. It almost seems like a mash-up between an Imperial Guard and the conventional Stormtrooper. The interior also resembles an Imperial Star Destroyer with some cave-like attributes. Has the Empire gone underground?

Here is a better shot of Finn in what resembles either a fly-ass Michael Jackson jacket, or see below:

Could Finn be related in some way to General Panaka from “The Phantom Menace” or be the son or nephew of Gregar Typho, the nephew of Panaka. I know a lot of people want to forget about the prequels and any and everything to do with them, but just going off the fresh gear that Finn is rocking, could he have been an officer in Naboo’s military, or is he incognito while hiding on Jakku.

Here’ a better look at our new TIE Fighter pilots. The red on their helmets and uniforms make we think that the Sith have a tighter grip on the new Empire and have pretty much become one.

Of course here is the still when all the fanboys lost it and creamed their pants; the first look at Han and Chewbacca. 30 years seem to have treated Han well, for the most part, and it’s just an awesome thing to see both of these guys back. The still doesn’t say much but when Han says “Chewie……we’re home….” its not only chilling, but is he talking about being back on the Millenium Falcon, or maybe back in Mos Eisley Cantina. Either way, I’m cool with it.

So that’s about it. What do you guys think. Personally, I’m probably talking out of my ass about most of it, but I’ve provided you with plenty of ammo, so fire away, and may The Force Be With You…

November 19, 2013

Simplistic TV: Almost Human: Premiere Episodes 1 & 2

FLASHY

I’ve been a fan of Karl Urban since The Bourne Supremacy.  His portrayal of Dr. McCoy in the new Star Trek franchise is practically perfect, he made Judge Dredd a bad ass again, and he was my pick for Batman before the character eventually got Afflecked.  So, my expectations were perhaps a bit too high for his new FOX television show that is essentially an I-Robot spin-off/rip-off/remake/re-imagining.  I’m sorry, that jibe was a little unfair.  The similarities between I-Robot and Almost Human are numerous, but they aren’t exactly the same.  I-Robot was murder mystery, while Almost Human is a cop drama.  The major similarity they do share is that both are FLASHY while lacking a whole lot of substance.

Almost Human comes from JJ Abrams and Fringe collaborator J.H. Wyman.  The show follows a tough as nails, cybernetically enhanced cop in the not-to-distant future solving crimes alongside an android partner.   The aesthetic of the show is FLASHY, almost unsustainably expensive looking, and imaginative.  However, all the pretty distractions and visual spectacle thrown at us may just be a smokescreen hiding the fact that the show is nothing more than another police procedural.  Almost Human seems set up to examine the relationship between androids and humans and whether programmed emotions constitute an actual soul.  An interesting subject that has been explored hundreds of times before, but always leaving room for more inventive analysis.  Urban’s character has an ongoing mystery involving his past that will sometimes get in the way of that.  A little part of me wishes the show would have went with a more Blade Runner feel instead of the colder Minority Report vibe.  Though, audiences now a days are more captivated with shows driven by cool CGI effects than ones with creative cinematography and atmosphere.

On paper, Karl Urban is a great choice to play a hard nosed grumpy cop.  Urban does good grumpy.  His Dr. McCoy is funny grumpy, his Judge Dredd is intimidating grumpy, but his Almost Human character John Kennex is kind of just boring grumpy.  From episode one to episode two, the writers seemed to remember Urban’s comedic chops and gave him some humorous material to play.  I only hope they can round out his character a little more and give us something else compelling about him other than the stereotypical “closed off emotionally cop” schtick.  Michael Ealy does just fine as Dorian, the android with feelings.  (Little strange that the older model android seems newer than the newer model androids…but whatever.)  His chemistry with Urban is very good at times and he knows just how much emotion to display.  However, the rather heavy-handed allegory the show wants to make about race relations gave me a bit of pause in regards to his casting.  Choosing a black actor to play an android who will make statements about mistreatment that draws comparisons to racial prejudice…a little on the nose.  My thought is that if they are going to go there, go all the way with it.  Although, it seems Almost Human is a bit too fluffy of a series to delve any deeper into that sort of subject matter.  

Urban and Ealy’s clearly apparent chemistry is a relief because their supporting cast is marginal at best.  The best being quirky forensics specialist Rudy Lom, played by Mackenzie Crook.  Crook, better known for his character Ragetti in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, has the only interactions with the two leads that has any real life or resonance.  Everyone else appears to just be cardboard exposition outlets that get the main characters from point A to point B.  The worst being the forced romantic love interest Detective Stahl, played by Minka Kelly.  Don’t get me wrong.  Minka Kelly is a beautiful lady, but she is about as believable as a police detective as Denise Richards was as a rocket scientist.  Unless there is some “big bad” on the horizon that’ll be played by someone who isn’t half asleep, Almost Human will be carried solely by Karl Urban and Michael Ealy’s relationship.

With a litany of lackluster to god awful new television shows this season, Almost Human falls in the unremarkable, yet, harmless part of the spectrum.  My only hope is that its FLASH doesn’t distract from its direction so much, that it prevents us from getting good stories.  Strap on your prosthetic super leg…make sure your android partner isn’t scanning your testicles(Yes, they do that on this show)…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (Matt’s Take)

Star Trek Into Darkness – Something

SOMETHING


The Summer Movie Season has finally kicked into high gear.  Sure, you might have called “Iron Man 3” the start of the Summer Movie Season, but it left some people, including me, to an extent, underwhelmed.  And while you aren’t supposed to be moved or left with a feeling other than adrenaline after walking out of a Summer movie, there are times where you are left with a feeling where you can still get Summer Blockbusters with a little heart; just a little something extra that you wouldn’t get out of your typical Summer fare.  That something is “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Now the extent of my “Star Trek” knowledge only encompasses “Wrath of Khan,” and the 2009 re-boot, but to be honest with you if you have that knowledge already, there is no way that you won’t enjoy this film.  Even to a lament of the “Trek” universe, I jumped right into the re-boot and enjoyed it for what it was; a sci-fi epic with familiar names of characters and a cool cast that fit the characters, from what I know them as, to a tee.

“Into Darkness” is more a celebration of the series, whereas the re-boot was more of a way of getting footing and setting up a world, that while familiar, was brand new to people that either didn’t grow up watch the 1960’s TV show or familiar with any of the films.  In this adventure, The Federation is under attack by a rogue Starfleet Member names John Harrison, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  After the attack, Capt. James T. Kirk, and his crew of The USS Enterprise take on a mission to bring Harrison to justice for his crimes.  Of course nothing goes right for the Enterprise crew who face overwhelming odds, pissed off Klingons, and angry ancient warriors out for revenge.

What makes the film work for both devotees of old school and new school “Trek” is the direction.  What happens when you take a geek and have him geek out in a giant geek-fest?  You get a giant geek orgasm with fan service to spare, and tissues are included, which are for dual purposes.  The casting is once again spot on with everyone returning, and as a bonus, you even get Peter Weller.  Yes, Robocop is in this movie and he is awesome, as he is everything he does.  He meaning Robocop, but Weller is pretty good too.

If you were letdown by “Iron Man 3” and thought the newest Marvel adventure was a misfire to start the Summer, have no fear; the Summer has “officially” begun with the arrival of “Into Darkness.”  Set Warp Speed for the cinema, and set Phasers to “Fun.”

Fun Fact:  The first appearance of Khan Noonien Singh was in the “Star Trek” TV show episode titled, “Space Seed” in 1967.

May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (DJ’s Take)

FUN

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.

January 29, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: January 2013

Our first podcast of the year, and we’d like to thank all the fans and readers for making 2012 a success for us.  Right out of the gates we discuss how J.J. Abrams will balance his responsibilities between “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”  We judge the HBO original series “Girls” in our newest segment, “Open & Shut” where we channel our inner Jack McCoy and Atticus Finch.  And we debate what is the Biggest Bad-ass 80s Action Film in “Simply the Best.”

All of this, and much more, including a beer can with no manners, Bill Murray getting hand jobs, and our longing for Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Click on the link below to download the podcast and enjoy folks!

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Show Notes:

Matt’s take on Girls
The Force is strong with Abrams
Great courtroom scenes
The best of 80s Action

 Click HERE to listen to podcast

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