Marvel Studios

November 1, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 32) Halloween Edition 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this Spooktacular Halloween edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys welcome back JD Duran from Insession Film.  Other than further corrupting this classy professional podcaster…the boys talk about Marvel’s HUGE announcements, DC’s HUGE announcements, gush over The Flash, bitch more about Gotham, comment on the Boardwalk Empire finale, Walking Dead premiere, and consider NBC’s Constantine.  JD also gets to moderate our second ever draft, which this time involves the boys trying to make their best monster squad.  It’s a razor ‘blade in the apple’ sort of show that you don’t want to miss.

SHOW NOTES
Insession Film
Cenobites
The Monster Squad
Marvel Film Slate
DC Film Slate
Age Of Ultron Teaser
Age Of Ultron Extended
Ever See Chinatown Motherf@%ker?!
Skinny Zach Galafanakis
Jason Biggs pissing on Chelsea Handler

MUSIC NOTES
“Nightmare On My Street” By DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
“Autumn Thunder” By Sam Spence
“My Flows Is Tight” By Lord Digga
“Inside The Actors Studio” By Angelo Badalamenti

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August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (Matt’s Take)

ANTI

Guardians of the Galaxy – Anti

Usually once a year, there is that one movie that you know is a foregone conclusion. I won’t dance around it, it’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” this year. But before I get into the meat of this review, a brief story; the night before I was all set to watch “Guardians” the next morning, a sense of dread washed over me. I thought, “what if this movie isn’t as good as I thought it would be?” “What if I walk out feeling slighted?” “What if everyone else is walking out happy and I’m walking out disappointed?” I would have to really take a look into my soul and see what was wrong with ME? Alas, that wasn’t the case, “Guardians” was wonderful, it was great, it was down-right groovy. For me, “Guardians” is the anti-Marvel movie. It plays by it’s own rules, and for the first time in Marvel’s Phase Two films I wanted more, got more, and wasn’t letdown, and before you attack, I also loved “Captain America 2” but “Guardians” has taken that big step forward that Marvel was lacking; it’s expanding the universe to places you wouldn’t believe.

“Guardians” tells the tale of Peter Quill, aka, Star-Lord, a space pirate working with Yondu, leader of the Ravangers. While exploring the desolate planet of Morag, Quill stumbles upon a mysterious orb and is attacked by Korath the Pursuer, but escapes. Needless to stay an adventure plays out that features Quill teaming up with a living tree named Groot, a sexy, green, ass-kicking assassin with a past, Gamora, a gun-toting, wise-cracking raccoon called Rocket, and Drax, a tattooed convict with nothing left to lose. Together the “Guardians of the Galaxy” have to save the planet of Xander from Kree extremist, Ronan the Accuser. It’s typical comic book storytelling with a rebellious and anti-Marvel bite that we haven’t seen since “Iron Man.”

Since day one, it just seemed that “Guardians” would succeed, but only with those that were willing to give it a chance, and after it’s first weekend $160 Million international haul, plenty were willing to give something new a chance. The cast is one of the best, but one of the oddest that you might ever see. Led by Chris Pratt, who so many know as the former Pawnee City Hall shoe shiner Andy Dwyer in “Parks and Recreation”, makes it known he’s ready for Hollywood in a “star” making performance, and the cast only gets better. From Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, and even Glenn Close, the cast is the perfect mix for a film this eccentric.
While the parts played by humans are great, it’s the CG characters that really steal things and create an unexplainable emotional connection with the audience. Who would think that a raccoon and a humanoid tree creature would create some of the most emotional scenes in film this year. It’s a testament to direction, which I’ll get into shortly, script, and performance. You believe that Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is real, and his implied tragic back-story brings the feels in a major way, and this leads me to his relationship with Groot, his bodyguard/whipping tree, if you will. At heart, their relationship is simple; Rocket is a raccoon, who lives in a tree. The beauty is in the simplicity. The most human emotions out of the entire film are from the film’s two non-human characters.

However, nothing would work in “Guardians” if it wasn’t for one person; director James Gunn. From humble beginnings working with Lloyd Kaufman at Troma Studios to his first directing gig on the ultra-underrated throwback creature feature “Slither,” and now as Marvel’s golden child directing what could be the high-grossing film of the year. It’s been quite a road. What Gunn brings to Marvel is a rebel mentality. He’s never been a guy to conform, but at the same time he knows how to strike the perfect of pleasing the fans, while still creating something that fits his twisted sensibilities. Plus, he cares about the material. While on the media trail, all Gunn would talk about is how everyone is going to love what he called “the raccoon.” Normally, directors will build up their biggest stars and the big action set pieces, but all Gunn went on about is how Rocket is going to steal the show…..a raccoon….was going to steal a nearly $200 million dollar space epic produced by Marvel and Disney in the middle of the Summer movie season? Well, Gunn was right, he….was….right.

So many things could have gone wrong with this film too. One, not many people know about the “Guardians” outside of hardcore comic fans. For the normal reader I’m sure the idea of talking trees and other misfits might be a little “alien.” Two, this was a huge gamble for Marvel/Disney. Taking a chance on Gunn as a director and trusting in Pratt as the lead wasn’t something on anyone’s radar, except for Kevin Feige. Three, creating another comic book team up, but only doing it in two hours as opposed to three movies (I would count “The Incredible Hulk” but for some reason people don’t see that as canon now). Comparing “Guardians” to “The Avengers” is natural; their both team-based films fighting a big bad, oh, and they argue a lot. What sets “Guardians” apart however is the heart it has. I’m not saying that Joss Whedon doesn’t have heart, hell, he’s one of the biggest fanboys working in film today and Marvel wouldn’t be where they are without him, but Gunn not only created something out of what could have been considered nothing, and surpassed “Avengers” in my opinion. And yes, “Guardians” has become a huge comic commodity recently but only if you are a true die-hard comic reader could you say with a straight face that you’ve been a “Guardian” fan from the jump. That, or you’re almost 50 years old at the time of this reading.

This might sound sacrilegious, but “Guardians” is better than the “Avengers.” Yes, it is. On first viewing I still had “Avengers” in the lead by a little bit, but sitting down the second time, this time with the wife, I felt so much more emotion watching it again. First, I could relax a little more and simply enjoy the film this time and not worry about the overall story. I had the chance to focus on the little things that made the film special. Gunn has a habit of including little tid-bits for fans of his older films, including the always entertaining cameo by his mentor Kaufman. The other thing was watching this with my wife. At heart, we’re both nerds; however, we butt heads when it comes to things like Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, but this is one of the films that we were both looking forward to this year. Not only is “Guardians” great fun, but it also brings my wife and I closer together. We cried in the same parts, we cheered when our heroes finally came out victorious, and most importantly when we walked out of the film we both looked at each other said, “let’s see that again!” That’s a win in my book, and something I’m sure a lot of people are doing around the world.

Finally, and this is for the cynics. I understand your stance on comic films. They are campy, fairly vapid, and maybe worst of all, don’t add much to the film landscape in terms of increasing awareness of women’s rights, the plight of those overseas, or contain some sort of message that is supposed to make us better people. Well, maybe it does, at least with the last point. When a person walks out of a film and wants to see it again, or that little kid falls in love with a gun-toting raccoon, maybe that’s their way of changing the world. It’s making it a better place to live when we can all be together in a darkened theater and enjoy what is happening on the screen and feel like we are one community sharing a goal; to have fun. Look, I enjoy art-house film as much as the next person, but in a world that is this shitty, and hard to live in, why not have some fun with a wise-cracking rogue, a walking thesaurus covered in tattoos, a genetically engineered killer looking for redemption, a tree that gives flowers to little girls, and of course the raccoon. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is everything it was meant to be; a fun, balls-to-the-wall space adventure that gives cynics the finger and allows someone who I consider the “anti-Michael Bay” to show the world what he can do on the grandest of all stages, and its worthy of your love, admiration, and at times, tears.

Fun Fact: After you put the kids to bed, make sure you check out James Gunn’s “PG Porn.” It’s arousing.

July 26, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 7

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this episode of Simplistic Sneak Peek, the boys take a look at three trailers with dark subject matter and one trailer a bit on the lighter side.  During which time, Matt shows off his Terry Gilliam impersonation(s), while Justin and DJ touch on the age old stereotype of black people in horror films. 

You can watch this episode’s trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin’s thoughts on them in real time.

Big Hero 6

Horns

12 Monkeys The Series

Ouija

November 4, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (DJ’s Take)

MIGHTY

The first Thor film was a charming and clever way to introduce the idea of gods and monsters to the relatively grounded Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Director Kenneth Branagh didn’t shy away from the absurdity of gods/aliens from a magical kingdom visiting our planet/realm.  He dove headlong into it and used dry humor to take some of the edge off the skepticism. (Are you paying attention DC execs still trying to make a Wonder Woman film?)  After Thor’s moderate box office success and a great deal of believability groundwork laid by Branagh and Joss Whedon in 2012’s The Avengers, audiences were prepared to pull back their cynical blinders to see even more otherworldly spectacle.  Alan Taylor, an untouchable don from HBO’s Game Of Thrones, grabbed the reigns for the sequel Thor: The Dark World.  And I am happy, and relieved to say that Taylor keeps the character and the series on an upward track.

Thor: The Dark World brings back The MIGHTY Avenger Thor and pits him and the people of Asgard up against a race of creatures called Dark Elves who intend on bringing back infinite darkness to the galaxy with the help of a mystical substance.  To put it more simply, Thor: The Dark World is a mcguffin film.  It is a mcguffin film much in the same way Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers was.  However, I appreciate that Alan Taylor and writer Christopher Yost used the trick of turning a character, who would be useless otherwise, into the mcguffin.  Jane Foster would typically serve the purpose of being the character who asks questions that trigger all of the expository explanations.  But here, her reasons for asking are vital to her character’s immediate survival.  (I’m looking at you Man Of Steel)  The stakes are high, the action is intense, and the scope is much bigger than before.

Alan Taylor is right at home on a medieval battlefield, and it shows.  There is an invasion scene that began to remind me of the one in the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles Of Riddick.  However, the danger and destruction seemed to hold more weight.  The battle was more visceral and imaginative.  Taylor offers the same comforting feeling to the Asgardian material as Branagh did.  The only place where Taylor seemed a little out of his depth was in the scenes shot on modern day earth.  The scenes with normal people.  It was reported that Joss Whedon was flown in to help fix a few scenes in the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they involved Dr. Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy Lewis mucking about.  Thankfully, these scenes are minor bridges in between the battles and bedlam of the story.  Taylor should also get credit, though I’m not sure how much, for the great performances in the film.  None more so than that of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.          

Here is a little peek behind the curtain.  I usually choose a picture for my reviews that best personifies what I hated or, in this case, loved about what I’m reviewing.  Those two Asgardian gentlemen up above, and the arc their relationship takes, serves as the main reason to go see this film.  Their chemistry was a bit clumsy in the first Thor film.  Something I attribute to the rush in explaining the origins of these strange characters.  Since then, Thor and Loki’s scenes together have become better and better.  This film displays the apex of their relationship thematically and performance-wise.  There is so much subtext in every interaction and argument they have.  It is obvious that these two actors not only have a perfect rapport, but they actually enjoy working with one another.  Natalie Portman’s character of Jane Foster is less ditsy and naive then she was before.  However, Portman’s talents still feel a bit wasted with this character.  If we didn’t live in the generation of impatience, another half hour could have allowed more time to focus on Jane Foster’s hinted rivalry with Lady Sif for Thor’s affections.  All the other supporting characters come to play and seem to revel in every moment of screen time.  

Now don’t let my praise of the Thor: The Dark World lead you to believe it is perfect.  There are a few flaws the audience has to get through.  The story takes a minute to truly get going, some of the well delivered dramatic moments and gravitas are occasionally short circuited by an ill timed joke, and there are some minor plot holes to navigate.  But the biggest weakness of the film, and I never figured I’d say this, is its antagonists.  The villain of the first Thor film was primarily Loki.  An almost perfect morally gray character with varying complexities and nuances.  A villain so rich in character, most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now cheer for him.  Hell, he all but dominated Comic-Con in a way usually reserved for people with the initials RDJ.  Malekith is a menacing and believable threat to Thor and even Odin.  However, he has about as much complexity and nuance as Inspector Gadget’s nemesis Dr. Claw.  He’s evil for evil’s sake.  We learn little about him other than he and his people want the universe draped in darkness.  I may just be a bit bitter because with a character as deadly as Malekith, played by an actor the quality of a Christopher Eccleston, I expected more depth.

Thor: The Dark World is a rare sequel.  A sequel you’ll love if you loved the original, and a sequel you might be more inclined to like even if you hated the original.  The characters are more focused and free to be who they are, the plot is more daring, and the scale is much larger.  Coming off of the mildly disappointing and geek enraging Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World is a terrific cleanser of your comic book movie pallet.  Prepare for battle…watch out for rock monsters…and nude scientists…behold it…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 26, 2013

Simplistic TV: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

TIE-IN

Agents of Shield – Tie-In

What do you do when you have a billion dollar IP and you are a billion dollar network?  Well, you try to make few billion more.  Just like what Justin Timberlake said in “The Social Network;”  “A million dollars isn’t cool anymore…..You know what’s cool?…….a billion dollars.”

The same holds true for what Disney is trying to do with Marvel.  If you go back 20 years ago, the Marvel name was essentially worthless.  The comic book market wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on and there didn’t seem to be any hope in sight.  Sure, you had Dolph Lundgren’s “The Punisher” and who could forget Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four,” but those attempts to translate comics to celluloid were busts.  Fast forward a decade, where “Spider-Man,” with Toby Maguire as the aforementioned web-slinger, hits the theaters and everything changes.  With the help of “Spider-Man,” comics are once again viable options, sales went up, and every major studio snatched up as many comic properties as fast as they could, just ask Jay and Silent Bob.  While it was the catalyst, Marvel Studios was also the outlier compared to Fox and Sony.  It always seemed that Marvel Studios had the comic fan’s best interest at heart.  It wasn’t until 2008 with “Iron Man” that you saw what Marvel Studios really had up their sleeve, and what DC Comics wishes they could even get close to sniffing.

But I’m not here to knock DC Comics, I’m here to praise Marvel’s newest tie-in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” the next step in both Marvel Studios’ and Disney’s passive takeover of our minds and wallets.  “Agents” follows the unsung heroes of the Marvel Universe, secret agents who work under S.H.I.E.L.D, or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (no wonder Tony Stark had a hard time remembering them when he first met Agent Coulson).  In the first episode we find out that Chitauri technology has been stolen and is now being sold on the black market.  There is an unknown hacker group known as The Rising Tide hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D’s databases obtaining classified information, and guess what, Coulson is back!  His death was apparently faked in “The Avengers” and he was sent into hiding by the Agency.  Oh comic book logic….

While the show will be eaten up by comic book fans and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I can see this show becoming a niche.  I say a niche mainly because of the way topics are brought up in the pilot.  To the lament who has never seen any of the Marvel films, especially “The Avengers” you will be lost.  The Battle of New York is brought up casually, the reveal that Agent Coulson is still alive is made to seem like a major revelation, and if you haven’t seen “Iron Man 3” the term “Extremis” will likely go right over your head.

The concept of having a tie-in being this tied-in, is a double-edged sword.  Yes, on one side of the coin, if you love the Marvel Universe, you will hang on to every plot point, reference, and every little detail to see if you can find out how “Agents” will fit into the upcoming Marvel films.

On the other side, this show is catering to one audience; the die hard comic head, whereas the lament will be left to ask questions to his friend who loves comics and it might result in the murder of said lament……maybe.  But, Disney is genius at marketing.  Even if you haven’t seen any, or very few, of the Marvel films this will be an extremely accessible show.  One, because it’s on regular network TV, and you don’t have to have cable to watch “Agents.”  Two, if this show interests you, wouldn’t it be enough for the newbie to seek out the past Marvel films and maybe even start buying comics?  I’d have to say so.  And three, well, Disney has more money than God, so even if this little experiment doesn’t succeed all the way, at least Disney knows where it’s bread and butter is; at the multiplexes.

Overall, “Agents” has huge upside, and it’s a calculated risk that will likely payoff, mostly because this show is going to be a launching point for more niche heroes.  I’m just spit-balling here, but you could end up seeing the likes of Luke Cage, Iron First, The New Warriors, Hercules, and other heroes that could find their place in the Marvel Universe, even if it’s on the small screen.  As most pilots can be, “Agents” is uneven, but will leave nerds wanting more and more each week, just as “Heroes” did nearly a decade before, but hopefully “Agents” doesn’t suffer the same fate as the lack-luster show that preceded it.

Fun Fact:  DC Comics and Batman legend, Jeph Loeb, who wrote classics such as The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, is an Executive Producer for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,”

July 30, 2013

The Wolverine

REDEMPTION

The Wolverine – Redemption

It would be such a beautiful thing to one day have Sony, 20th Century Fox, and Disney to all sit down, enjoy a beer and say, “Hey, let’s all work together and share these wonderful, and lucrative, Marvel Comics characters will own, and get Oprah rich!”

That will probably never happen, but being the optimist and a person who believes in the mantra “Money Talks, Bullshit Walks,” one day it will happen and we will see Spider-Man joining up with Wolverine to fight Hulk while the Fantastic Four are fighting Thanos while Galactus and The Watcher look on.  Sure, it’s going to take millions, if not billions of dollars, but the bottom line for studios is seeing their bottom line in the black.

Fox has a sordid history with their Marvel properties,  Sure, “X-Men: First Class” was a surprise hit, but there are more “Fantastic Four II:  Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” and don’t even get me started started on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but that brings me to Fox’s latest X-Men offering, “The Wolverine” the redemption that Fox needed in order to gain momentum and hype for the much anticipated “X-Men: Days of Future Past” film in 2015.

Once again Hugh Jackman is back as Logan aka, Wolverine.  We pick up after the events of “The Last Stand” where Logan is living alone in the Yukon wilderness still haunted by visions of Jean Grey, whom he killed when she descended into the madness that was Dark Phoenix.  While in town to teach some hunters a lesson in proper bear disposal, he is confronted by Yukio, a young mutant with the power to tell the future, even though odd enough you never see her use her power, but she is a bad-ass with a samurai sword.  Yukio convinces Logan to come with her to Tokyo to pay respects to a man that he saved in the bombing in Nagasaki during World War II.  Sure enough, Logan is forced to embrace his savage nature once again fighting off Yakuza and members of The Black Clan (I wish they would have just used The Hand, but you take what you can get).  During the course of his Japanese vacation, Logan loses his healing powers, finds redemption, and fights Silver Samurai.  Not all fun in the sun for our hero, but for fan boys that follow the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine Japanese adventures, you’ll probably geek out a few times.

This isn’t to say “The Wolverine” is without problems.  There are plot holes, characters that either go unused or underutilized, and in a few scenes some really bad shaky cam.  Being that this film was directed by James Mangold, who I have tremendous respect for, I expected some better camera work, but considering this is his first superhero movie, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  Mangold is able to bring a good balance to this film by combining a lot of genre elements that work.  The allusions to ronins works really well in Logan’s case since for all intensive purposes he is a ronin; a man without a master who is forced to live forever and be on his own.

“The Wolverine” gives some extra depth to the character that “X-Men Origins” fumbled with.  We know that Logan is having a difficult time dealing with the death of Jean Grey while trying to create a new life in Japan with another woman.  We also see his struggle with trying to keep his feral side contained while also dealing with the lose of his biggest mutant asset; his healing factor.  But the loss of his healing factor makes him feel something he’s never felt before; humanity.  Logan has never had a fear of death due to his mutant ability and for the first time we see a vulnerable super hero who is trying to build a new life in a foreign land.  Hugh Jackman, who I give tons of credit to for returning time and time again to portray Wolverine, gives a nuanced yet complicated performance this time around.  Jackman was born to play Logan, just like Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Iron Man, and his love for the character really shines through this time around, and that’s not to say it didn’t in “X-Men” or X2: X-Men United” but “The Wolverine” lives up to it’s name and you get wall-to-wall Wolverine from the get-go.

With “The Wolverine,” Fox finally seems to be getting back on track with their super hero/X-Men properties.  Of course it takes more than just one movie to settle a fan-base down, and while “First Class” was a solid start and “Wolverine” continues the trend, “Days of Future Past” is a huge gamble and the “Fantastic Four” re-boot is still developing.  The problem with studios that own Marvel properties aside from Marvel Studios themselves, is lack of long term awareness.  For Sony and Fox it seems to be more of a cash grab than giving the source material a chance to shine, or simply bastardizing the source material to appeal to tweens, case in point “The Amazing Spider-man.”  With “Wolverine” Fox took a chance and told an X-Men story that not many people outside of the comic book reading community would know, and judging by the box office in the first week, both domestic and foreign, the film is being received well.

I’m not going to say the “Marvel Studios Method” was used for “The Wolverine” but the fact that source material was used in an effective way while adding to the X-Men mythos while prepping for the most ambitious X-Men film to date, it finally seems like Fox has a game-plan.  Of course it’s not as ambitious as what Marvel Studios is doing, but its a hell of a lot better than Warner/DC.

Fun Fact:  Wolverine’s first appearance was in The Incredible Hulk #180.

July 19, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

DESPERATE 

DESPERATE to keep the property at Sony to thusly prevent a possible Spidey sighting in Avengers 2, which would thusly lead to Marvel Studios earning an estimated BAGILLION dollars. (I Rounded Up)

DESPERATE to win over the hipster/Twilight audience with its emo, big haired, recluse, douche hero and his “Ready To Turn My Back On Everything, Including My Own Self Worth” love interest.

DESPERATE to make the film grim and dark like The Dark Knight, but sadly only accomplishing to make it poorly lit and soulless.

DESPERATE to be special and different with a highly promoted yet LAME half-baked Spidey secret origin, which they abandon before the film’s midway point.

DESPERATE to not be like the first trilogy while poorly attempting to steal things from it.

DESPERATE to cast great actors but then relegating them to being only exposition spewing wallpaper.

DESPERATE to redefine the hero’s core mantra but only managing to debase it into a vague, poorly delivered shrug of a purpose.

Some say the greatest inspiration is often born through desperation…good words.  I, however, don’t see inspiration here.  I see a middle aged hoodlum, who managed to get a gun, trying to hold up a liquor store.  Unfortunately the cops showed up too fast and he is now using an old Korean woman as a human shield, desperately holding on to what little semblance of hope he has of escaping.  A slew of dumb ass decisions piling up to result in a chalk outline on a splotchy linoleum floor.  THAT is The Amazing Spider-Man.  If you waste your time and watch it, you’ll be hard pressed to…tell me I’m wrong.

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