Justified

December 22, 2013

Out Of The Furnace

PERFORMANCES

Perhaps it is because I’m a black man born and raised in a city environment that the world of the country gangster interests me so much.  Their world is an entirely different world than the one I’m used to, and it’s just a short ways up the highway.  I watched The Dukes Of Hazzard religiously as a kid…before I realized that them Duke boys were driving ’round with a big “Go F%*k Yourself Black People” flag on their car.  It is no secret that Justified is my favorite show on television. (SCREW YOU GOLDEN GLOBE COMMITTEE)  Even Roadhouse tickles the hell out of me.  Especially the absurdity of that final scene.  So, Out Of The Furnace seemed like a film set directly in my entertainment wheelhouse.  Unfortunately, the film has an overly simple and predictable plot that merely serves as a platform for its real asset.  The thoroughly stellar PERFORMANCES.

Out Of The Furnace comes from Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper.  Crazy Heart also ended up being a film with an unremarkable plot but extremely remarkable and Oscar winning PERFORMANCES.  Furnace is about the chaos that happens after two brothers get mixed up with a psychotic mountain man gangster.  That’s it.  Okay, there are some other secondary facets to the story.  This includes a regretable accident, an awkward love triangle, and a combat veteran’s hardship.  However, hardly anything happens that you will not see coming or have not seen before.  Because the premise is this simple and familiar, the moments that connect the important plot elements feels like overly long and extraneous padding.  You could easily cut forty minutes from this barely two hour film and still not miss a thing.  A very unfortunate problem, seeing as those padded moments have some of the film’s better acted scenes.  This makes me think they were kept in, not because the story needed it, but because of how good the actors were in it.  You never want to have a film where great PERFORMANCES are playing defense with your story.

Scott Cooper and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi are real artists when it comes to framing and light.  I think Cooper could make a terrific western if he wanted to.  The western genre is centered on confrontation, tension and the anticipation of violence.  That is maybe what he was trying to do here.  A modern day western.  If that is the case then the pacing of the film makes sense.  However, there are still some elements that don’t serve the build up of confrontation.  Though, Cooper should be credited for once again getting what he got from his actors in this film.

People still forget how great of an actor Christian Bale is.  Even after his recent Oscar win for The Fighter.  In The Fighter, Bale played a larger than life character that required his usual body transformation.  It was a character that gave him many things to do and many things to play with.  His character Russell Baze is precisely the opposite of Dicky Ward.  Russell is more subdued and still.  Most of Bale’s PERFORMANCE is internalized.  And yet, the PERFORMANCE is tremendous.  A scene with him and Zoe Saldana on a bridge is probably some of the finest acting you’ll see this year.  Yeah, Zoe Saldana is in this.  She isn’t in it for a long time, but long enough to give a strong PERFORMANCE.  Bale’s brother Rodney is played by the Affleck brother who can act.   (You’re an awesome director Ben, but Casey can act circles around you)  Again, the dynamic between the two brothers is nothing new.  However, Casey and Bale elevate the relationship in every scene they share.  You would never think Casey could display an intensity that rivals the always intense Bale, but he does.  And speaking of intense, the real standout of this movie is Woody Harrelson.  From the first scene, you know that Harrelson is going to steal this film.  He is tough, funny, and scary as hell.  He is such a great character, I wish there was a little more time dedicated to him.  His inevitable showdown with Bale struck me as a bit anticlimactic.   Cooper might have meant to keep his character Harlan Degroat (What a great name) simple and vague.  However, I would have appreciated a little more time with the character and see the behind the scenes of how he ran his organization.

I’ve focused on the main stars, which really short changes the fine work done by the supporting cast.  From Forest Whitaker, to Willam Dafoe, to Sam Shepard.  Every actor brought their A game.  Sadly, the story surrounding them is simply just a B-.  Grab your rifle…and your boxing tape…don’t let Woody Harrelson serve you a hotdog…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

August 20, 2013

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard

On August 20th, 2013 we lost one of the masters of the modern crime novel, Elmore Leonard.  The voice behind classics like “Rum Punch,” (which was turned into the Tarantino classic “Jackie Brown) “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight” and the short story, “Fire in the Hole” (which was turned into the FX TV series “Justified”) passed away today at the age of 87.  For future reading, here are our reviews on “Justified” and “Jackie Brown.”

He will be missed……

Elmore Leonard
1925-2013


April 2, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Sweet 16 Results: TV BAD

BOYD CROWDER (5) 
CERSEI LANNISTER  (8) WINNER

The one thing you have to admire about Cersei is her survival instincts.  She seems to always get her way.  She can get more done with a goblet in her hand than Boyd could with a gun.  Even in defeat, Boyd could still probably respect that.

BEN LINUS (2) WINNER
TRINITY KILLER (6)

Ben Linus may not have the flare for the dramatic like T.K., but he always gets the job done.  He is relentless and getting his way and sometimes without even getting his hands dirty.

March 29, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round Two Results: TV BAD

JOFFREY BARATHEON (1) 
CERSEI LANNISTER (8) WINNER

The only lady that could open hand slap the king and get away with it was Cersei Lannister.  Killing him isn’t that far a step.  And seeing as she already has one king on her kill resume, it would be easy for her to kill another.   Sadly, its less depraved killing Joffrey than explaining the circumstances of how he was conceived.  (SHIVER)

BEN LINUS (2) WINNER
ANGELUS (7)

People underestimate Ben Linus at their own peril.  He’s stared into the eyes of the smoke monster and lived.  A vampire is small potatoes to this master manipulator.  

RUSSELL EDGINGTON (3) 
TRINITY KILLER (6) WINNER

Much props for Edgington reminding us how an ACTUAL vampire is supposed to act. (I’M LOOKING AT YOU TWILIGHT).  However, serial killers, unlike vampires, can hide in plain sight.  No one sees them coming.

BOYD CROWDER (5) WINNER
NINA MYERS (4)
In the battle of smooth talking snakes in the grass, Boyd Crowder wins hands down.  He’s a man that uses twenty words when three will do.  Sometimes to confuse you.  Sometimes to buy himself time to outwit you.  But always to win.  There isn’t a con you can lay on him that he hasn’t seen, done himself or done better.  
March 29, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round Two Results: TV GOOD

JACK BAUER (1) WINNER
TYRION LANNISTER (9)

Well, you can add midget to the magna carta long kill list of people Jack Bauer has sent to the next world.  All he needs is a wizard, a dinosaur, and a unicorn and he gets a free smoothie.

BUFFY SUMMERS (2) WINNER
SHERLOCK HOLMES (7)

Much to the objection of fellow British smarty pants Giles, Buffy takes care of the world’s greatest detective with relative ease.  Somewhere Moriarty is slapping his forehead muttering, “You’re telling me all I needed was a stake?!”

TITUS PULLO (6)

RAYLAN GIVINS (3) WINNER


Pullo has Raylan beat physically, but Raylan could easily out think the rugged Roman warrior.  Knowing that Raylan has to deal with people as big and physically imposing a Titus F%*king Pullo on a daily basis makes me NEVER want to go to Kentucky.

XENA (5) WINNER 
OMAR LITTLE (4)

Omar may have been warring on the mean streets of Baltimore for his entire life, but Xena has been warring around uncivilized lands filled with wizards, gods, and god knows what else.  Oh and speaking of warring, it has been speculated that Xena’s father was actually Ares.  Ares as in THE GOD OF F%*KING WAR.  Sorry Omar, its all in the game.

March 26, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round One Results: TV BAD

JOFFREY BARATHEON (1) WINNER
ATTI OF THE JULII (16)

Atti gets whatever she want by using the gift god gave her.  Her potent sexuality.  However, brat Baratheon usually doesn’t take kindly to people using sex as a weapon on him.  Just as Tyrion and those badly beaten whores he sent Joff’s way.  Baratheon wins…Atti dies.

BEN LINUS (2) WINNER 
THE GOVERNOR (15)

The Governor is a brutal master manipulator.  But where he has to juggle the wills of men and zombies, Ben Linus has even more on his plate.  Smoke monsters, polar bears, shapeshifting evil beings, time traveling islands,  and enough flashbacks to make a Vietnam vet blush.  On top of the fact that The Governor wasn’t coldhearted enough to let his zombie daughter go.  Linus let his human daughter get her head blown off for his own purposes.  Linus wins and The Governor lost.

RUSSELL EDGINGTON (3) WINNER
GUS FRING (14)

When you get down to brass tacks, Russell Edgington and Gus Fring are both businessmen.  Only one wants to rule the human race and drain the blood of every non-vampire like cattle, and one wants to sell chicken and meth; easy enough to understand.  While both these bloodsuckers are master manipulators, Fring forgot one thing;  Edgington is FU*KING IMMORTAL!  Maybe if that meth was laced with silver nitrate and oak he would have had a chance, but Russell takes his battle easily.

NINA MYERS (4) WINNER
SYLAR (13)

There isn’t a superpower out there that can compete with the evil of the 24’s biggest snake in the grass, Nina Myers.  The thing that makes her so deadly is that you never see her coming.  Jack Bauer didn’t and Sylar wouldn’t either.  Time runs out for the power sucker.

BOYD CROWDER (5) WINNER
ROBERT QUARLES (12)

A sadist versus a slick, smooth talking, hustler from the south.  Robert Quarles has many a trick and pistol up his sleeve.  However, not enough to out wit and out battle the man I like to call The Redneck Joker.  Boyd manages to get his enemies to do his work for him and disarm Robert Quarles quick and simple like.

TRINITY KILLER (6) WINNER
PRESIDENT CHARLES LOGAN (11)

If there is one thing you can count on its this;  never trust a politician, especially a sniveling liar-of-a-president like Chuck Logan.  I mean, this guy killed our first black TV president for crying out loud!  But how does one sniveler defeat another sniveler?  Giving the Secret Service and the CIA a day off, the Commander in Chief doesn’t have a chance against the Trinity Killer.  Using his patented “bludgeon a man to death with a hammer” routine, Trinity wins, and goes off to enjoy a scalding hot shower while crying.

ANGELUS (7) WINNER
SHANE VENDRELL (10)

One of the most dangerous things in this world is a desperate man.  And they don’t get more desperate than Shane Vendrell.  However, desperation is exactly the thing a vampire like Angelus would prey on.  Sad thing is, that family Shane is always trying to protect would be an hors d’oeurve for our favorite vain vamp.   Hand grenade won’t work this time Shane-O.

CERSEI LANNISTER (8) WINNER
STRINGER BELL (9)

Cersei Lannister knows how to manipulate; just as anyone from the Stark family, if you can find one.  Stringer Bell on the other hand, is a sucker.  While West Baltimore is no King’s Landing, Cersei reigns supreme in any domain.
March 23, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round One Results: TV GOOD

ARYA STARK (16)
JACK BAUER (1) WINNER

If this matchup was based on potential badassery, Arya (SPOILER ALERT FOR THINGS TO COME) would win hands down.  However, Arya is just scratching the surface of being a badass. She’s a survivor akin to Matilda in Leon: The Professional (Even here I had to refer to it).  Jack Bauer, on the other hand, has been a badass survivor for years.  Since the closest our country thought we’d get to a black president was the Allstate guy.  And if you think Bauer doesn’t have what it takes to put young, sweet Arya down, I recall a time where Jack shot a suspect’s wife in the leg in order to convince said suspect to give him a lead.  A lead that didn’t even pan out.  He’d have no trouble wiping the floor with our favorite wayward Stark.

MAL REYNOLDS (15)
BUFFY SUMMERS (2) WINNER


In the matchup I call “The Whedon War” our favorite space smuggler…um okay…our second favorite space smuggler Mal Reynolds found himself up against the vampire slaying extraordinaire Buffy Summers.  With their equal wit and back up partners thrown out the window, it would come down to physical prowess and resume.  Buffy has Mal beat with the physical.  And With Firefly lasting barely a season, Mal’s body count can’t compare with Buffy’s resume of a thousand vamps slain, including her true love and DRACULA, hellmouths closed, demons decapitated, werewolves whacked, cyborgs stopped, inter-dimensional beings beaten, singing succeeded, and a triumph over the first evil EVER.  Buffy stakes her claim to victory.  And no the result have nothing to do with the fact I’ve had the hots for Sarah Michelle Gellar since I Know What You Did Last Summer. 

RAYLAN GIVENS (3) WINNER
DARYL DIXON (14)

Nobody loves a redneck good ol’ boy until the zombie apocalypse hits.  When it does, it pays to have an ass kicking guy like Daryl Dixon by your side.  However, someone like Daryl Dixon is the type of guy US Marshall Raylan Givens HANDLES on a day to day basis in Harlan County.  I’d love to see the snark off before the shoot out alone.  However, Raylan dispatches Daryl lickety split.

OMAR LITTLE (4) WINNER
B.A. BARACUS (13)

Really?  The only two black guys in this conference go against each other?!  As the lone black reviewer for Simplistic Reviews, I would be offended if it wasn’t for the fact THIS IS THE ONE MATCHUP I’D ACTUALLY PAY TO SEE.  Baracus is, by name alone, a badass.  However, he still has the discipline to follow Hannibal’s orders.  Omar Little don’t follow no one but Omar Little.  Hell, even the President loves him.  Now, you can either be a soldier, or you can go out to the streets and get into some real gangsta sh*t.  In the immortal words of Omar Little himself, “Indeed.”

XENA (5) WINNER
RICK GRIMES (12)

Seeing as for the first three seasons of Walking Dead, all Rick Grimes did was get run over and guilt tripped to death by his despicable wife, how long do you think he’d last against A WARRIOR F*%KING PRINCESS.  Xena doesn’t eat his brains but does eat his lunch.

TITUS PULLO (6) WINNER
RON SWANSON (11)


One is a savage,  no nonsense, barbarian of a man who is more comfortable wielding an axe in an ancient Colosseum than listening to the dodderings of the heads of state.  The other is Titus Pullo.  Ron Swanson was a man born in the wrong century for sure.  However, Pullo is more man than even Ron could handle.  The mustache did give him a fighting chance though.  

KARA “STARBUCK” THRACE (10)
SHERLOCK HOLMES (7) WINNER

Man, I hate to see two of my favorite TV characters go at it.  Starbuck is seriously one of the most groundbreaking female characters television has seen in a while.  She doesn’t nearly get the recognition she deserves.  The best thing about Kara, however, is the worst thing.  She leads with her emotions at all times.  Something the world‘s greatest detective could easily exploit.  And unless your last name is Adler, your feminine wiles aren’t working on good ol’ Sherlock.  Sherlock wins…no sh*t. 

TYRION LANNISTER (9) WINNER
MICHAEL WESTEN (8)

The conferences first and only upset comes from the House of Lannister.  Michael Westen and Tyrion Lannister are great at thinking on the fly and surviving with whatever means they can muster.   However, Michael has been a sucker for manipulation from the beginning.  And no one manipulates better than Tyrion.  I’m not even gonna think of what he’d do to Fiona.  With the betting public in a frenzy this month, it is a good thing that a Lannister always pays his debts. 

March 12, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast Late Edition: February 2013

Like the old cliche; “better late than never” The Simplistic Reviews Podcast is back, and we’re just as cliched as we were back in January.

In this February edition we wax poetic on the failings of non-Marvel Studios films, pass judgement on Bruce Willis’ latest John McClane adventure, “A Good Day To Die Hard,” and rip Seth MacFarlane a new one.

Plus, this time Matt is in the hot seat with another edition of “Word Association.”  From Harrison Ford to breast milk, nothing is off limits to Matt’s rage, while Justin and DJ have their feelings hurt by our cybernetic robo-babe, Julie.

All this and much more in our “late” February podcast, right here on Simplistic Reviews.

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

Show Notes

Boycotting Non-Marvel Comic Films
A “Good” Day to “Die Hard”
Why Seth MacFarlane Sucks

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

Check us out on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest
September 8, 2012

Simplistic TV: Longmire

GENERIC

Do you want to see a terrific cable television show that is a modern day western starring a cowboy hat wearing, no nonsense lawman who is based on a character from a best selling novel?  Yeah?  Then watch Justified on FX.  Do you want to see a cable television show that has all those same attributes, but only manages to come off as a cheaper alternative?  Yeah?  Really??  Then watch Longmire.  Longmire, a freshman show on A&E, just exudes that feeling you had when you were 10 years old and your parents bought you the GENERIC Apple Dapples instead of the name brand Apple Jacks.  And while I admit to having a personal bias of favoritism toward Justified, there is no question that Longmire, as a whole, is simply just plain.

The cast and their performances are pretty plain as well.  Katee Sackhoff, most known from Fox’s 24 and SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica, is the lone bright spot on the show.  Sackhoff seems to always bring to her characters something captivating and real.  However, she is only a costar here.  The titular role of Longmire is played by Robert Taylor.  You know, the guy from that thing with the other guy…no?  Okay, yeah, I don’t know him from anything other than his role as Agent Jones in The Matrix.  And his personality is about the same here.  To be a star of a western your main character has to be a little fun.  He can be dry and badass but still wink at the camera a bit with his coolness.  Eastwood got this.  Timothy Olyphant gets this.  Taylor doesn’t.

What makes a western feel like a western is not just that it takes place out west.  As I’ve said before, westerns are mythical.  They are fairy tales about rich characters stuck in extraordinary situations facing off with one another.  They possess style and fun and don’t ever take themselves completely seriously.  That’s why Inglourious Basterds feels like a western.  Why The Way Of The Gun feels like a western.  Serenity, No Country For Old Men, Justified…they all give off that air of western.  But Longmire lacks style, rich characters, and the friction of a great face off.  Its just a very dry police procedural based in a western town.  It tries to copy the atmosphere and the gimmick of Justified, but forgets it’s most important quality.  The magic.  Kick your boots up, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 20, 2012

Justified

CHARACTER

Elmore Leonard has made a career out of creating great characters.  So much so, they tend to pop back up again in other stories and films from time to time.  This cross film character appearance thing Marvel is doing with their superheroes…it was done before with Ray Nicolette in Out Of Sight & Jackie Brown.  That said, two of Leonard’s characters get more airplay than the rest.  Karen Sisco of the previously mentioned Out Of Sight and Raylan Givens.  Givens made his first appearance in a tv movie based on the Elmore Leonard book called Pronto.  He then made his reappearance on his own show Justified.

So, what makes Raylan special?  The same thing that makes the show special.  He has CHARACTER.  From his trademark cowboy hat and southern charm, to his always simmering rage and quick trigger finger.  Played brilliantly by Timothy Olyphant, The Deputy US Marshall of Harlan County is layered with CHARACTER.  But he’s just the anchor of the show.  Justified, in it’s brief stint on tv has become the show to watch if you want to see uber interesting characters and interesting performances to boot.  It might be the only show I can remember seeing where the hero’s arch nemesis is probably just as beloved as the hero himself.  That arch nemesis being Boyd Crowder.  Brought to life by Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder is the Joker to Raylan’s Batman.  However, you respect and love his wit, his brains, and his rapport with Raylan.  The character was supposed to die in the pilot but was so good they made him a staple on the show.  Raylan and Boyd’s relationship is the life blood of Justified.   
Justified at its core is just a modern day Western set in a country town.  But the plot of the show isn’t what makes it great.  Its the placement of the amazing CHARACTERS in different situations and seeing how they react to one another.  One moment Raylan or Boyd or Dickie Bennett or Wynn Duffy or Robert Quarles or Limehouse could be smiling and laughing with you.  Then, at the drop of a hat, shoot a dozen holes right through your chest.  Its a CHARACTER driven show that is easily my favorite show on tv right now. You won’t be able to watch just one episode.  Go ahead.  Watch one…then tell me I’m wrong. 
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