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Kathryn Bigelow

May 1, 2016

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 68) BONUS CONTENT


If you listened to the cold open to Episode 68 of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, guest starring Matty Negs from Negs Best Thing and Al Pacino, you might have heard Julie in the background taping something in the recording studio.  In this Bonus Content clip, you can hear exactly what she was saying on her side of the glass.

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October 4, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1987: Near Dark


Near Dark – Decent

It was only a matter of time before I’d sneak a vampire review in here, and I tried to think of one of the most obscure ones I could. This brings me to “Near Dark” and if you pay close enough attention, or use your imagination you might think this is a vampire sequel to “Aliens”

Out tale begins with Caleb, a cowboy on the prowl for a lady love; he finds one in Mae, a mysterious girl who needs to be home before dawn. Caleb bites off more than he can chew after he asks for a kiss and soon finds himself turning into a vampire. He is kidnapped by Mae’s “family” which includes Severen (Bill Paxton) and Jesse (Lance Hendrickson). Jesse tasks Caleb with making his first kill within two days or the family will kill him.

Meanwhile, Caleb’s father, Loy, along with his sister are on the hunt to find him and find him they do, while they narrowly escape from the family with Caleb in tow. At the end of the day Caleb figures out a way to stop the vampires and lives happily ever after.

There are a lot of interesting things about this film. First is the cast, which is pretty much half the cast of James Cameron’s “Aliens.”The other tie-in is the director, Katheryn Bigelow, who was married to Cameron at the time. I almost feel like as soon as “Aliens” wrapped Paxton and Hendrickson walked over to a set right across the street and started filming this.

Speaking of Paxton, he steals the show as Severen, the most loony of this vampire family. His antics in the bar scene make the film and show his comedic timing as well as his acting mania. People might give him crap for his overacting in “Aliens” but his overacting in “Near Dark” is exactly what is needed in this film.

Overall, “Near Dark” is a fun film and you can see the tidbits that shows like “True Blood” stole from this offbeat look on our favorite onscreen bloodsuckers.

Here are some other awesome flicks from 1987:

Bad Taste
Creepshow 2
Evil Dead 2
Nightmare of Elm Street 3

September 15, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Point Break

Now that my love letter to John Carpenter has come to a close, I was unsure what film, or group of films I should visit next. Should I board the “Action Movie Time Machine” and venture to the ‘80s to track down ol’ Chuck, finally, or maybe the ‘70s for “Dirty Hairy“? Then it dawned on me. Not to long ago I sat down with a few friends to watched “Point Break”. They wouldn’t shut up about how great it was. I hadn’t seen it before, but it was a film who’s reputation I was familiar. A gang of presidential mask wearing bank robbers gain a reputation for their handy work while surfing between jobs. Oh, and Nick Frost’s character, Danny Butterman, absolutely LOVES “Point Break” in “Hot Fuzz”. Well I guess If I wasn’t interested before, I now have my seal of approval. In short, I watched it and liked it, so “Point Break” it is.
The year is 1991. Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee Herman, was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater. Accusations of sex abuse and steroid use drew all kinds of heat on to Hulk Hogan and the WWF. All this and Keanu  Reeves learns to surf.
The film begins with Special Agent Johnny Utah, Keanu Reeves, who has recently graduated from the FBI academy and been assigned to work band robbery detail in southern California. Upon his arrival he is partnered up with veteran agent Pappas, Gary Busey. Pappas is one of the older members of the team. He’s seen and heard it all, and as a result he’s both jaded by his job, and regarded as a bit of a nut by his co-workers.
Together the new partners pick up where Pappas left off on a case involving a group of bank robbers who go by the “Ex-Presidents”. They call themselves this because they chose to wear presidential masks during their heists. There’s a Nixon, Carter, Johnson, and Reagan. If you were ever confused by some joke or parody from the ‘90s that involved a mask of a president, this movie is it’s inspiration.
The Ex-Presidents have acquired quite the reputation for being professional. No one is ever injured, they only take what money is in the teller drawers and they are in and out in ninety seconds. They leave no clues and few witnesses, and have successfully robbed twenty-seven banks in three years. The only info that Pappas has been able to assemble about they group is that they may be surfers. A security camera caught one of the Ex-Presidents mooning, which revealed a tan line. Later trace elements of wax was in a footprint left by of the robbers and may be board wax. And finally, the Ex-Presidents only rob during the summer months, when the waves are the best for surfing.

For this thin but compelling theory Pappas’ co-workers give him shit. To them, Pappas might as well be talking about the Kennedy assassination or aliens or something. But Utah is convinced. The two devise a plan to send Utah undercover and into the ocean. He will learn to surf and in doing so he will make surfer friends who he will, hopefully, get some hot information out of. This plan works pretty good, if you overlook almost drowning and getting his ass handed to him time and time again by other more experienced surfers.
Soon Utah meets Tyler, Lori Petty, a tough surfer chick who agrees to show him the surfing ropes and later they fall in love. Tyler becomes Utah’s window into the local surf community and introduces him to Bodhi, Patrick Swayze. Bodhi is a bit of a local surfing guru. He has a crew of young men and women who cling to his devil may care lifestyle. Bodhi isn’t just some thrill seeking adrenaline junkie, which he is, he is someone who has a rich understanding of what being alive truly is and how everyone should push the boundaries to better live their lives and experience freedom. There is a moment in the film when Bodhi reminds his crew just why they took on this lifestyle by saying; “This was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.”

As Utah starts surfing more with Bodhi and his crew, he begins to understand the more spiritual connection the guys have developed with each other, as well as nature (the surf) and thrill seeking. Bohdi gets Utah to open up and in turn gains his trust and later mutual respect and admiration. This friendship later gets between Utah and his duty when he makes the discovery that Bodhi and company are in fact the Ex-President, and now he has to bring ‘em in.
A lot happens between the middle and end of the film, none of which is bad, but I feel obligated to skip over some so I don’t get too carried away with this synopsis. Consider it self-censorship to prevent spoiling plot. However, I do feel compelled to mention the often referenced “scream while shooting in the air” scene made popular by “Hot Fuzz“. Utah can’t yet prove anything but suspects Bodhi is involved with the robberies. Well one day Utah happens to cross paths with the Ex-Presidents while they are knocking over another bank. This leads to a foot chase. Utah follows Reagan/Bodhi down a hill and blows out his knee in the process, which is an existing high school football injury. Utah can’t follow any further. He pulls his gun and takes aim, but the idea that he may be shooting his friend is too much for him to handle. Instead Utah lets out a scream and unloads his gun into the air. It’s a little goofy, but it illustrates just how much he respects Bodhi.
As the chase drags on, Utah gets close to capturing Bodhi. He finds himself on a plane flying over Mexico and Bodhi has just jumped from the plane in an escape attempt. To catch Bodhi, Utah follows him. He screams “Fuck it!“ and jumps from the plane. Without a parachute… WITHOUT A FUCKING PARACHUTE! The first time I saw this I was genuinely, “What the fuck?!”, surprised. Utah manages to float down to Bodhi, pull his parachute cord and hang on for dear life until they reach the surface of the Earth. Upon landing, Utah blows out his knee, again, and he can’t continue the chase.
Over the next few years Bodhi continues robbing banks in several different countries to afford his freedom seeking surfer lifestyle. Consider these crimes bread crumbs and Utah follows his trail all the way down to Australia. Australia is known for it’s ideal surfing coasts, not to mention there happens to be a ”Fifty Year Storm” approaching. One that is guaranteed to make the most hardened surfers wet in their pants and Utah knows Bodhi will be there. 
When Utah finds Bodhi on the beach they have words and then they have fists. As the local police move into position, surrounding Bodhi, Bodhi begins pleading with Utah — telling him that he won’t make it in prison without his freedom. Utah grants him his freedom, temporarily, to catch a ride on one of the death defying fifty foot waves. After all it’s a once in a life time event, and as a friend, he understands just how much it will mean to him. As Bodhi paddles out into the waves, Utah quietly walks back to his car. Utah overhears a police officer say; “Okay, we‘ll catch him when he comes back in”, to which Utah replies “He‘s not coming back“. The End.
What makes this film great and highly recommended to both action movie fans as well as people who typically thumb their nose at action movies, is that there is more here than just car chases and gun fights. “Point Break” is a hidden gem within the vast wasteland that is action cinema.
It is wonderfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker &Strange Days, who, in my opinion, perfectly captures the beauty, freedom and danger of the surf and skydiving. Not to mention, she was able to weave the Utah/Bodhi friendship in just the right way, allowing it to become the focal point of the film. Similar to “Heat”, “Point Break” becomes more about the relationship between the cop and robber, than the actual crimes themselves.
Utah and Bodhi develop a bit of a bro-mance. They each appreciate the others freedom seeking nature and grow to admire each other, which later becomes the center of the films conflict. Utah is forced to hunt down his best friend and Bodhi is driven to break his own personal rules and even kill in order to ensure his escape. In fact Bodhi is even willing to die then be locked up. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was buyin’ what both of these guys were sellin’.
On a similar note, Bodhi is a total bad-ass with an existential life philosophy. Hmm sounds a lot like Swayze’s character from “Roadhouse”. Another action movie must see, if I do say so myself.
The only negatives I found in this film is its goofy surfer lingo and the acting. Not all of the acting, but there are a few deliveries Reeves gives that are less than what they should be. But hell, people have been saying that about his acting for years. On the other hand, Busey’s intense over acting, no matter how wild, is just great.
If you‘re willing to overlook its flaws, you will see that “Point Break” is a great film, let alone great action film.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. And remember, freedom isn’t free. Semper Fi!
For more from Cory, check out his website, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!
January 8, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Zero Dark Thirty (Matt’s Take)

Zero Dark Thirty – Resolution

It’s fun to follow the career of a director; take my recent reviews on Quentin Tarantino as an example.  Take a director like Kathryn Bigelow.  If you look at her career you can say she’s done it all.  Horror movies (Near Dark), crime films (Point Break), neo-futuristic noir (Strange Days) and war (The Hurt Locker).  You can honestly say she’s grown-up from genre films to Academy Award-winning fare, and of course it doesn’t hurt that at one point you were banging James Cameron, but I digress, as I do so often.

I remember the day 9/11 happened; I was a senior in high school sitting, or probably sleeping, in AP Psychology class.  We had someone run into our classroom and tell our teacher to turn on the TV.  The next thing I see is one of the World Trade Center towers on fire.  It was a little perplexing and it almost seemed like a prank, albeit an extremely odd prank.  Next thing I know a plane runs into the 2nd tower, and shortly after the first tower succumbs to the fire and collapses.  This was my “JFK” moment.  If you were alive when John F. Kennedy was assassinated you remember where you were at that moment, the same goes for the generation that saw the Twin Towers fall and coat Lower Manhattan in a cloud of dust.  A surreal moment in World History.  The following 10 years we were haunted by the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated many terror attacks that cost the lives of thousands of people around the world.  It wasn’t until May of 2011 that another moment occurred that you may remember; Barack Obama would appear on TV and tell the world that bin Laden had been killed in a compound in Pakistan.  I personally felt relatively unchanged.  Sure, a terrorist leader was dead, but did it make us that much safer?  That is a question you have to ask yourself when you finish watching “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Bigelow has cornered the market on dramas that include both the Middle East and our never ending “War on Terror.”  Despite some shortcomings, “The Hurt Locker” was a well done film centering on a bomb disposal team and the stress of the job.  “Zero Dark Thirty” lacks the action, and luster, of “Locker” and focuses on the daily grind of select CIA officials as they cut through government red tape, and personal tragedies, to finally target, and eliminate, bin Laden.  If you’ve watched the trailers and expect a slam-bang, balls-to-the-wall action thriller, you’re watching the wrong film.  This film is a grind, but there is resolution.

“Thirty” follows CIA operative Maya who has just been sent to Pakistan to oversee the CIA’s Detainee Program a few years after 9/11.  Told through a series of vignettes, the film navigates through many of the tragic events that lead to the eventual whereabouts of Usama bin Laden from the London bombings in 2005 to the bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad.  The movie isn’t as much of a mystery as it is a procedural, similar to something that you might see on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”  The one difference is that you see the toll a grueling manhunt can take on the human psyche and how the government can be a hindrance when it comes to completing a mission.

People are complaining about two things in this film; the torture scenes and how information was gained for the making of the film.  Look, every country that has been involved in some sort of war theater over the past 100 years has probably been involved in some type of interrogation efforts that weren’t in the Geneva Conventions.  It’s not just America to blame for abuse of these Conventions, and I don’t think “Thirty” took it too far, they just called it like it is.  I’m sure there have been grave abuses during our “War on Terror” but to play Devil’s Advocate, the “War on Terror” isn’t really a war, it’s more of a mantra.  We have not declared war in this country since 1942 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered World War II.  Is this an excuse for torture, of course not, but we can’t get upset when we know practices such as waterboarding have been used on terror suspects and detainees.  As far as classified information obtained by the makers of the film, I’ll just leave it at that, I don’t need anyone knocking on my door after reading this.

What bothered me about “Thirty,” weren’t the torture scenes or acts of violence carried out by the terrorists, it was the relative lack of character development.  We gain from the film the fact that Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, has been on the hunt for bin Laden since she left high school and it’s the only thing that she has worked on while with the CIA.  We know it’s personal, to a degree, and that her obsession has led to her leaving a daughter and possibly an entire family, or maybe even losing a family member during 9/11.  As she comes to the end of her search we see her first real emotion, as she cries.  Her tears can mean many things; the fact that bin Laden has finally been killed, the fact she is finally going home, or just maybe the fact that her search is over and she is left with nothing, and nobody will know her sacrifice.  She has to go back into a world that will never know her work, and she has nothing left to work for.  Her life came down to one man, who is now gone.  It’s deep stuff, if you take the time to look at it from all perspectives.

Aside from the character development, “Zero Dark Thirty” is an epic retelling of the 10 years after 9/11 and the eventual killing of Usama bin Laden, the boogeyman who had been haunting the lives of Americans since that fateful day in September.  Has Bigelow done it again, and will she capture Oscar gold again?  Only time will tell.

Fun Fact:  SEAL Team Six, a branch of the US Navy, carried out Operation Neptune Spear, the operation which eliminated their target, Usama bin Laden, in May 2011.

January 6, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Zero Dark Thirty (DJ’s Take)


Zero Dark Thirty is not just a film.  To me, it is a bookend to one of the greatest American tragedies in history.  It serves as our first real glimpse into the events leading up to May 2, 2011.  Some may argue that Zero Dark Thirty, as a film, is overrated.  Some may argue that Zero Dark Thirty, as a historical chronicle, is inaccurate.  However, you would be hard pressed to say that Zero Dark Thirty is not IMPORTANT.

Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatic account of the decade long search and capture of Osama bin Laden.  A subject that IMPORTANT was a cinch to rile up a debate on how to properly portray it.  Some might expect a kick-ass, romanticized war epic leading to a balls to the wall Seal assault on that compound in Abbottabad.  Thirty isn’t that type of film at all.  It is about the slow, grueling process government officials had to go through in order to finally pull the trigger on bin Laden.  It isn’t romantic or fun.  It isn’t fast paced or action packed.  And as recent criticisms have suggested, it is controversially disturbing right from the beginning.  But that is the film’s point.  The steps our government and military take to accomplish their goals are almost unfathomable for a regular person.  Especially when you account for the small amount of fanfare or celebration they enjoy when a mission is actually accomplished.   The nuances of governmental decision making, puzzle solving, tactical strategies, and yes, torture, are the compelling pieces to this compelling film. 

The moment I heard the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death, I knew a film about it had to be made.  And as more of the details about the mission’s circumstances surfaced, I knew how great of a film it could be.  My mind immediately went to hoping Kathryn Bigelow would helm it.  Bigelow had already made and been honored for her stellar film The Hurt Locker.  As chance had it, she was already developing a film about the search for bin Laden before he was killed.  And after watching Zero Dark Thirty, I can’t think of anyone who could have handled this film better.  Bigelow just knows how to shoot this material.  Much like the way Scorsese knows how to shoot gangster films or Tim Burton knows how to shoot…um…weird films.  She immerses the audience in this world and doesn’t give them room to flinch.  Every scene, every interaction between characters feels like she’s pulled the covers off of something we shouldn’t be allowed to watch.  The fact that she has already won an Oscar for directing the similarly styled Hurt Locker is the ONLY REASON she isn’t a frontrunner again for Zero Dark Thirty. 

Jessica Chastain is a revelation in this film.  Especially for me.  I had only recently been familiar with her work in Lawless and The Help.  However, my unpreparedness worked well for loving the main character of Maya.  She is a stone cold, no nonsense, sh*t kicker that takes everyone by surprise from start to finish.  It is so hard to portray that type of woman in a film and not come off as wooden or boring.  See January Jones for further evidence.  Despite Chastain’s cold demeanor, however, you can tell that there is still an angry, emotional wreck underneath.  Chastain allows it to peak out at just the right moments.  Even with a cast of constantly solid actors like Mark Strong, Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, and Chris Pratt, Chastain shines the brightest.

As the award season approaches, Zero Dark Thirty is starting to pull away as a favorite in many categories.  Despite my praise, I don’t think it is the best picture of the year.  This is only due to entertainment reasons.  It isn’t paced or put together the way an audience might find traditionally appealing.  Though, Zero Dark Thirty is undoubtedly a must watch.  A film that we will look back on and debate for years as to whether it properly captured such an IMPORTANT time in our nation’s history.  Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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