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Johnny Depp

June 21, 2016

3 Simplistic Things: May 2016

May came and went, and with June on the way out as well, it seemed only natural to talk about stuff that happened almost a month and a half ago, so we are go with another 3 Simplistic Things that happened in May.


For a show that could have easily failed, there really isn’t anything bad to say about AMC’s newest graphic-novel-to-TV adaptation, “Preacher.” Dominic Cooper encapsulates Jesse Custer, and showrunners, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg obviously have a love for the source material, and anyone who thought, how are they going to do Arseface…well, they did it.

Apocalyptic Blowback 
It almost seems like this one was bound to fail. Yes, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is a huge mess on screen, about three movies rolled into one, confusing make-up design, odd voice modulation, numerous extreme close-ups, and just some overall weird choice, but while this film has problems, it’s still pretty watchable despite it’s flaws.
Depp Trouble
The creepy smile says it all.
Til next month….kthnxbye.
September 20, 2015

Black Mass


Johnny Depp was never really on my radar of great actors until he put on the gold teeth and somewhat affected swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Oh, I had seen him in films like Donnie Brasco and Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.  However, I never really appreciated him as my kind of actor until he disappeared into the role of Captain Jack.  A role that truly made him an icon.  Then Depp began to make choices, mostly prompted by his friend and frequent collaborator Tim Burton, that turned his unique ability to disappear into a role a bit of a criticized trope.  Odd because the more he did what we kind of wish all of our actors would do, disappear into a role, the more we criticized.  Whether that be Dark Shadows, Alice In Wonderland, Mortdecai, The Lone Ranger, or Into The Woods.  It has been a somewhat unfair appraisal of Depp because it is obvious in hindsight that those films as a whole are the main problem.  The common denominator of those films and criticized Depp performances are also that they are light hearted tales.  People who still championed Depp hoped for him to do what he does best in more serious films.  The totally unremarkable Transcendence was not light hearted, but the film seemed to neuter every bit of personality or nuance Depp has.  Depp’s career seemed to be in critical limbo.  Fortunately for Depp, the film Black Mass has come along to not only break him out of that limbo but remind us how talented of an actor Depp is when put in the proper project.
Black Mass is the not-so-thorough true story of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and how his shady alliance with members of the FBI made him one of the most powerful criminals in the country.  If you have seen The Departed before going into this film, you will realize coming out how much director Martin Scorsese and actor Jack Nicholson borrowed from this infamous gangster’s life.  Since the backstory of Nicholson’s Frank Costello took kind of a backseat to Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters, I was delighted to hear that a film about the real Whitey Bulger was coming out and would hopefully fill in all those gaps.  Regrettably, As you can tell from the “not-so-thorough” descriptor in my opening sentence, Black Mass does not really flesh out Whitey as much as I or most would like.  Black Mass feels more like a collection of scattered moments, very well shot and well performed moments, that serve to drive the point home as to how scummy and terrifying Whitey Bulger was.  
What Black Mass lacks in specificity, it makes up for in its performances.  Johnny Depp certainly is the standout.  A performance that is worth the price of admission and worthy of Oscar consideration.  Thankfully, Depp is not alone.  Joel Edgerton, who is having a pretty good year with his earlier sleeper hit The Gift, matches Depp’s seductively slimey performance with an entertainingly sad and humanized one of his own.  Where Matt Damon’s character Colin Sullivan comes off as more a comically wormy character in The Departed, Edgerton’s version of a corrupt and desperate law enforcement official under Bulger’s thumb comes off as more real and relatable.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s brother Billy, impressed me since I was a little wary of how he would fit into this film and how well his Boston accent would hold up.  Cumberbatch nails every scene he is in, which left me wanting more insight into him, given how compelling a story it is to be the legitimate brother to a illegitimate gangster.  But the big names aren’t the only ones who shine.  Rory Cochrane, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple and even Dakota Johnson are compelling in their limited amount of time in the film.  
Whether it be Out Of The Furnace, Crazy Heart, or Black Mass, Scott Cooper seems to be making a career of helming films where the performances are stellar but the films themselves end up being only so-so.  It shows that as a director, Cooper knows how to get the best out of his actors, especially Johnny Depp.  He just needs a bit more polish and terms of telling a complete story in my opinion.  He knows how to create the tense and UNEASY atmosphere Black Mass needs.  I just hoped for a more indepth look at the man Depp creepily embodies.  Cook up your steaks, don’t give away the family secret, don’t put your wet fingers in the peanuts, don’t tell Whitey Bulger that you’re coming down with something, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.   
September 20, 2014

Tusk or How a Fat Man is Changing Hollywood for the Better


Tusk – Movement

Way back when we first started Simplistic Reviews, my first review was of “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Of course when we first started it really wasn’t so much reviews as it was merely talking about a specific scene that we enjoy. It was more, for lack of a better term, simpler in those days. In the years since, the site has expanded and the reviews have become a tad more insightful. I only bring this up because it made me feel nostalgic to think that my first review for the site was for a Kevin Smith flick, and now today I’m proud to review his latest film, the Canadian-inspired horror film “Tusk,” which I feel a real sense of connection with for some reason. While “Tusk” is kind of new, and kind of fresh, there was something in my gut where I felt a little weird kind of already knowing what was going to happen and almost felt guilty about that. More on that later.

“Tusk” is the tale of two podcasters, Wallace and Teddy, who host the  “Not-See Party Podcast.” Wallace is a fun-loving dude who has found success as a podcaster after years of failing as a comedian. He’s got a smoking hot girl friend and gets to travel around the country finding strange and unusual Internet sensations to interview for the podcast. After busting out in his travels to Canada, Wallace finds an intriguing ad telling of the adventures of a man named Howard Howe. Upon arrival at Howe’s home, Wallace is taken in by his calm demeanor and his tale of survival at sea with the help of a walrus, whom Howe befriends. As it turns out, Howe isn’t the pleasant old man that he appears to be, drugging and kidnapping Wallace with a nefarious end-game.

Kevin Smith’s latest effort is a radical departure from anything he’s ever done before, and I’m even including Red State. There is nothing View Askew-y at all, no Snoochie Boochie, no overally clever dialogue, not dick and fart jokes, “Tusk” is pretty much a squirm-fest with some Canadian melodrama thrown in, which might be the one thing that is recognizable from Smith’s previous work.

In case you don’t know the story of “Tusk” it all started as a podcast conversation on Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s SMODcast in Episode 259 “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Being an avid listener of the podcast I was laughing at the scenario they were creating based on an article they found in Gumtree where a room was for rent, but only if the tenant was able to perform some menial tasks, ie, dress in a walrus suit for two hours a day and only act as a walrus would. It would later be revealed that the classified was a prank, however, I would have never of thought that a conversation on a podcast have been made into a feature length film. With DJ, Justin, and myself as podcasters as well, who go off on long and incredibly strange tangents, it’s crazy to think that a tangent can lead to something like this, but this brings me to what sort of irks me about the film.

While I truly did like “Tusk;” I mean it’s weird, thought-provoking, gruesome, and the acting is well done, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself in the theater; what am I watching? While there are already comparisons to “Human Centipede” and other torture porn in the same vein, “Tusk” is both a film with ideas about the savageness of man, and how far are we truly evolved as a species, and a strange love triangle that is briefly touched upon. I understand the Smith likes to borrow a lot from his other films, and I couldn’t help but think that “Tusk” was a cross between the weirdness of “Red State” and the drama of “Chasing Amy.” However, this isn’t a knock, this is just something that I’m sure a lot of people in the crowd who go into this movie cold will probably say to themselves. It almost seems that “Tusk” is an inside joke that only listeners of SMODcast will truly understand, which is cool, it made me feel like part of an exclusive club; a film made just for me, if you will.

The campaign of “Tusk” is almost as interesting as the film itself. After SMODcast 259, Smith posed a question on his Twitter and Instagram account; basically if you want to see a film about a guy getting turned into a walrus, hastag WalrusYes. The response was enormous and with enough up-votes, if you will, “Tusk” was made based on the response. This is what makes Kevin Smith so endearing, and dangerous, for old Hollywood. Old Hollywood relies on suits, and people in high places, to get films made. All Smith needed was a push from his audience and some brave investors, and he made a film that not only looks as good as films done at double, if not triple, the budget, but he was also able to bring in some pretty decent star-power, including Johnny Depp in another over-the-top, yet understated, performance. Like how Smith trolled Hollywood years ago when he screened “Red State” at Sundance and proceeded to purchase his own film, he’s doing something similar by creating a film for his fans just because he could, and people wanted to see it. When you think about it, it makes you think “wow, I can do that…….”

So “Tusk” should you see it or not? For morbid curiosity sake, the film is a no-brainer if you are into horror, and/or a Kevin Smith fan, however, if might throw you off, because this is not your typical Kevin Smith film. This is a new direction, no pun intended, for Smith who I think is at a point in his career where he has reached a self-actualization point where he is not only making films for himself anymore, but for the fans that support him, and that is something that should be applauded. #walrusyes

Fun Fact: While Smith wasn’t able to get Greg Nicotero to design the walrus suit, he was able to nail down Robert Kurtzman, a member of Nicotero’s KNB Efx Group.
May 6, 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


A Nightmare on Elm Street – Catchphrase

Say what you will about the horror genre, but from Dracula to Jigsaw, no other genre has given the movie-going audience more endearing, beloved, and downright frightening characters in the history of film.  Some of the most recognizable characters come out of the 1980s Slasher Film boom, and without a doubt, while I give Jason Voorhees a heaping helping of blood-soaked credit, you still have to give it up to Wes Craven and his greatest creation, Freddy Krueger from 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“Nightmare” is the tale of a group of high school friends, including a young Johnny Depp, as they are plagued by the vengeful spirit of child murderer Freddy Krueger, who haunts their dreams.  One by one the teens are dispatched in often-graphic ways while they sleep.  While the plot might seem a little more far-fetched than your standard slasher film, that was the touchstone for “Nightmare.”  While still in it’s infancy, the slasher genre received a huge shot in the arm and deviated from the traditional “killer in a mask” scenario that was popularized by “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.”  It was fresh, new, and terrifying.

What John Carpenter did to William Shatner masks, is what Craven did to fedoras and Christmas sweaters, he made them scary.  What also works for Craven was the timing of creating Freddy.  While Michael Meyers and Jason were scary, they didn’t talk.  With Freddy, we got a walking, talking boogey man who haunted us in our most sacred of places; our bed and dreams.  Dreams are supposed to be a safe haven, especially for kids.  We should be able to control our dreams, and escape from the daily grind of life.  But Freddy pretty much takes a piss on that notion, and whether its beds that eat you, or stairs that give way to quicksand, the Springwood Slasher was always there to haunt you.

Craven, usually known for some type of social or political statement in many of his films, created “Nightmare” with a fairly basic premise, by horror movie standards, but he did just enough to separate it from what people had been used to from the previous six years (using 1978’s  “Halloween” as a landmark).

While the sequels got goofier and goofier, and Freddy pretty much became the poster-boy for bad horror movie puns, the original “Nightmare” still stands as one of the most lasting horror films produced in the last 25 years.  The later sequels, including the fantastic “Freddy vs. Jason,” tried to really squeeze out a plot about a town conspiracy involving Freddy, the use of the sleep drug Hypnocil, and of course “A Dream Child,” worked for the jokes, but nothing else.  While I do appreciate the fact that the writers attempted to make sense and legitimized the series, what people really want is for Freddy to say a line or two, whip out his clawed glove, and killer teen stars from the 1980s.

On this “National Nightmare Day” (actually famed psychologist Sigmund Freud’s birthday) pop in your Blu-Ray, or even better, your VHS, slid on your favorite Christmas sweater, shout a one-liner, and enjoy “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  And after you get done with that, creep over to for more hot Freddy action with their video review of the genre classic.

See you in your nightmares!

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