Matthew McConaughey

April 5, 2017

The Resurrection of Michael Keaton: Three Phases

Going through the news today, something caught my eye; Disney is remaking “Dumbo.” Yeah, the animated movie about a bullied elephant that wants to fly with the help of a feather and a talking mouse.

But the more interesting part is a bit of casting regarding the film’s villain that will possibly be played by Michael Keaton.

In case you haven’t noticed the past couple of years, Keaton has been a pretty busy guy, and has enjoyed a career resurgence much like Matt McConaughey did a few years ago. He’s starring as the villain in this year’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and including his Oscar nom for “Birdman,” Keaton has found his stride again after nearly a decade in the wilderness.

Let’s take a look at Three Phases of Keaton:

1982-1992
From “Night Shift” to “Batman Returns” you can’t poke a lot of holes in Keaton’s roles from the early 80s to the early 90s. His partnership with Tim Burton made him one of the most successful actors at that time, but with the relative failure of “Returns” and the films to follow, there were dark times ahead.

Highlight: Beetlejuice
Lowlight: The Dream Team
People Forget About: Gung-Ho

1993-2009
These, to me, are the wilderness years for Keaton. Outside a few quality performances like “Jackie Brown” and “Live From Baghdad” there was a lot to be desired.

Highlight: Jackie Brown
Lowlight: First Daughter
People Forget About: Multiplicity



2010-2017
Starting with “Toy Story 3” the writing was on the wall that Keaton was back in the game. Sure you had “Robocop” and “Need for Speed” but he rose like Jesus in flicks like “Spotlight,” “Birdman,” and a possible “Beetlejuice” sequel and other things on the horizon, it’s a good time to be a Michael Keaton fan.

Highlight: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowlight: Need For Speed
People Forget About: The Other Guys

March 2, 2014

Simplistic Reviews Picks (on) The Oscars!

It’s that time of year again.   The time of year where overprivileged stars get together, shake hands, say how much they appreciate each other, attend the Vanity Fair after-party, get smashed, and yeah…win awards.

Our job here at Simplistic Reviews, besides being jealous of these actors, is to decide who will win, and who will lose.  It’s Oscar time ladies and germs!

The 86th Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, March 2nd, and to commemorate this special occasion DJ, Justin, Neal, who has been dubbed “The Voice of the People”, and Matt are picking the winners.

To make things easier, we are color coding their picks.  In the event of the same picks multiple colors will be added per winner.  Throughout the night, this post will be updated with the winners along with a running total of who has the most correct picks.  The boys will also be live tweeting the awards in an effort to mock every horrible outfit and every clunky acceptance speech.  Follow @srblogspot@chezitman and @tryingtobedjv for all types of hilarity.

Justin is RED
Neal is BLUE
DJ is GREEN
Matt is ORANGE 


Best Picture

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a SlaveWINNER
  • The Wolf of Wall Street 

Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)WINNER

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)WINNER
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ironically, the two black guys pick the white chick, and the white guys pick the black chick)
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)WINNER
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

 Best Animated Feature

  • The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson)
  • Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Chris Meledandri)
  • Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner, Didier Brunner)
  • Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)WINNER
  • The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki)

Best Cinematography
  • The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd)
  • Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)WINNER
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
  • Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
  • Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Best Costume Design
  • American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson)
  • The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping)
  • The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)WINNER
  • The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Best Directing
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)WINNER
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Best Film Editing
  • American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten)
  • Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)WINNER
  • 12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews) WINNER
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Stephen Prouty)
  • The Lone Ranger (Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua-Casny)

Best Original Score
  • The Book Thief (John Williams)
  • Gravity (Steven Price)WINNER
  • Her (William Butler, Owen Pallett)
  • Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
  • Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
  • Happy (Despicable Me 2)
  • Let It Go (Frozen)WINNER
  • The Moon Song (Her)
  • Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Best Visual Effects
  • Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)WINNER
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds)
  • Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Dan Sudick)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton)
  • The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier)

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)WINNER
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

Best Original Screenplay
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)WINNER
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson)
February 2, 2014

DJ Simply Loves Robert Downey Jr.: Iron Man

REBIRTH

This is it.  This is the movie.  This is the actor.  This is the moment.  Before the recent meteoric rise of Matthew McConaughey and before comic book movies became the most unstoppable form of genre films in Hollywood, there was Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel’s Iron Man.  It is ground zero for Marvel’s entire cinematic universe and also the vehicle that gave one of Hollywood’s most talented, charismatic, entertaining actors a much needed career REBIRTH.

It’s hard to imagine now, but Iron Man was a completely fringe comic book character six years ago.  And that was with comic book fans.  Sure, the character has been around since the 60s.  Sure, he had some famous and groundbreaking storylines.  But I’m not going out on a limb by saying that no one gave a good goddamn about Iron Man in 2008.  And now I almost feel silly explaining to you the plot of his first film.  (A playboy industrialist who is mortally wounded and abducted by terrorist builds a suit of armor to save/liberate himself, then keeps building more advanced armors until he becomes a bonafide superhero.) The fledgling Marvel Studios was taking a risk pushing out a summer blockbuster about Howard Hughes in a robot suit.  However, with most of their surefire properties like Spider-Man, The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four belonging to other studios, Marvel was kind of without options.  So, who would they get to helm this tricky endeavor?  Nick Cassavetes.  Yeah, you read me right.  The director of The Notebook was set to direct a summer action blockbuster comic book film.  Before him was Joss Whedon at New Line. (Whoops!)  Before him was Quentin Tarantino. (Interesting.)  Before all of them was Stuart “Re-Animator” Gordon. (Wuh?)  Finally, Marvel settled on hiring an up and coming actor turned director to right the ship.  A guy named Jon Favreau.

Jon Favreau, and all of the other people considered to direct Iron Man, gave me my first clue of how Marvel Studios were going to run things from now on.  Where everyone’s mind at the time would go to hiring a traditional action director like a McTiernan or a Cameron or a Bay, Marvel was picking guys who ultimately understood characters.  Guys who would bring something tangible and real to these characters in the capes and suits of armor.  (Take a gander at the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy to see my point.)  Favreau was lucky because he had a pretty clean slate when it came to the character of Tony Stark.  Other than the basic information that I brought up before, the character could have portrayed in any way.  That is why casting him was going to make or break the film and the studio’s future.  Cast an actor who can create something original, entertaining, believable, and iconic, you cement him into the lexicon of film characters forever and truly put your studio on the map.  Cast an actor who is unable to grab the public and give them something they hadn’t seen before, your film becomes a marginally successful yet forgotten outing along the lines of a Daredevil and Ghost Rider.  Marvel sought out everyone from Tom Cruise, to Clive Owen, to Justin Timberlake for Tony Stark.  To Favreau’s credit, credit I personally think he does not get enough of by the way, he knew the actor who could reinvent this character.  An actor who was in need of a reinvention himself.

Robert Downey Jr. is part of a long list of immensely talented actors who became detoured in their personal and professional lives by substance abuse.  Heath Ledger and the recent tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman shows us the commonality of Hollywood’s best and brightest skirting the edge of self-induced oblivion.  I chose Robert Downey Jr. as the actor I simply love the most because, like Ledger and Hoffman, Downey Jr. has always captivated me while equally entertaining the hell out of me despite his personal weaknesses.  He has gone through the rabbit hole of self destruction and used his experiences to not only make himself a better actor, but a better person as well.  Thankfully, Jon Favreau saw some of the same things in Downey Jr..  But how the hell do you pitch a felonious, drug abusing, career burnout as the title character in Marvel’s first big cinematic shot?  You explain that Robert Downey Jr. eerily IS Tony Stark.  And that is exactly what Favreau did.  Stark is a genius at his craft, a celebrity by his birthright, and substance abuser by his own hand who suffers a horrific experience which motivates him to change his life.  Though, breaking in and passing out in a stranger’s bedroom isn’t exactly synonymous with taking a chest full of shrapnel, you can still appreciate the similarities.  Favreau put his foot down for Robert Downey Jr., Marvel reluctantly agreed, and Tony Stark became a household name.

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark is completely magnetic.  I had an experience with an audience during the scene below that I hadn’t felt in some time.  Watching Downey Jr. humorously ramble and strut in the Afghan desert was like watching Indiana Jones trying to switch a bag of sand with a golden idol, or Detective John McClane cracking wise on a walkie talkie in Nakatomi Tower.  Tony Stark was introducing himself to the cinematic world, and we could not get enough of it.  We still can’t.  Spider-Man uses humor as a guise for his darker nature.  However, Peter Parker can only get so dark.   That is because Peter Parker is a genuinely good person.  Tony Stark does the same thing.  But his darker nature can really be dark.  I mean really dark.  Watch the scene where Tony starts angrily blasting up his lab after watching the news and tell me you can’t see the blackier parts of his conflicted soul bleeding through.  Downey Jr. brought that with him.  That isn’t on the page.  Mainly because there weren’t a lot of pages actually finished on this script when the film was being shot.  The way you hide that problem is by making sure your characters are strong and by making sure the actors playing them are equally so.

That is another forgotten thing about the first Iron Man.  The casting, from top to bottom, is practically perfect.  Want proof?  Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson made his first appearance as a throwaway character here.  And now he is practically the MCU’s mascot.  Favreau cast actors who knew how to hold their own with Robert Downey Jr.’s constantly adapting approach to the material.  The best example of that casting was with Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s Assistant/Counselor/Love Interest Pepper Potts.  I always hear how Marvel films don’t have strong female characters.  Short of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in Thor, I think Marvel has some of the most underratedly badass, strong willed, well rounded female characters in this genre.  From Peggy Carter, to Black Widow, to even Maria Hill.  Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is easily the best one of them all.  Every 95 mile per hour argument or flirtation Paltrow and Downey Jr. have is an automatic injection of life into a scene.  It is the truest illustration of onscreen chemistry I can think of.  One cannot exist without the other, which is why Downey Jr. persuaded Joss Whedon to put Paltrow in Avengers.  There is only one “feel good” couple for me when it comes to comic book films, and maybe films in general.  It’s not Bruce and Selina, or Clark and Lois, or Peter and MJ.  It’s Tony and Pepper.

The casting of Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane was also a stroke of genius.  Putting an actor up against Robert Downey Jr. who is just as fearless and creative and charming as him really makes for some great moments.  Watching these two practically create a scene out of thin air is a sight to behold.  So, behold it!   Tony Stark’s biggest flaw as a hero has always been his lacking list of enemies.  However, even I have to admit that the actors who have been cast as his adversaries are always top notch.  Bridges, to date, has been the best of them.

Embarrassing confession, but the first Iron Man also has the best depiction of Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes for me.  Now, I love Don Cheadle.  I like his version of Rhodey a lot.  However, I am a bit skeptical of his depiction because I’m so used to how playfully charming Cheadle is as an actor.  Rhodey is the other half of Tony Stark’s grounding force in his life.  But where Pepper is the spirited verbal sparrer of Tony, Rhodey is typically the more stern and stubborn big brother figure.  I believe Terrence Howard nailed that tone of the character more in Iron Man.  Whatever fallout he and Downey Jr. and Marvel had has always been a tough set of circumstances for me to take.  

If the 900 pound gorilla that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe was an actual living thing, Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. would be its heart.  With Downey Jr.’s days playing the genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist numbered, let’s hope Marvel Studios can find a suitable transplant before he’s gone for good.  Suit up…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  Why?  Because that’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.  To Peace.

January 27, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: January 2014 Edition

Welcome to 2014!  It might be a new year, but we can guarantee that the boys will still be as juvenile as ever.  In the first full podcast of the year, the gang has some fun with words as Matt takes on “Word Association.”  From Shia LeBouf to the latest Warner Bros/DC calamity. No one is safe.

Neal also regales the gang with his adventures with rednecks at his local Monster Truck Show, and Justin mistakenly believes Shaquille O’Neal starred in “Hanging With Mr. Cooper.”

This is just a taste of what you’re getting into with this month’s Simplistic Review Podcast.

 Show Notes:
Most Anticipated Films of 2014
Hanging With Mr. Cooper
GraveDigger
Son-UVA Digger
Bobby Digital

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
I Dream Of Jeanie (Remix)
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
The Best By Tina Turner 

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
Click HERE to listen to podcast

Check us out on FacebookTwitter, YouTube, Letterboxd, and Pinterest

January 10, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club – Breakout

BREAKOUT

It’s funny when you follow the career of certain actors.  Some start strong, and fizzle out.  Others start weak, and grow to have a great career.  Others decide to confound you for years and suddenly make you open your eyes and realize, “Wow, so that’s what they could do?”  Two actors in particular have shown that in recent years.  One is Woody Harrelson.  Sure, he plays a goofy white guy most of the time, but after an Academy Award nomination a few years ago, and a string of hits at the box office, you can say Harrelson is one of those guys who’s come a long way from where he started.  The other actor is Matthew McConaughey, another Texas hick who was mostly known for chick flicks early in his career.  But after two straight years of critically acclaimed films, you can say he’s one of those guys that definitely can act.  See “Fraility” and “Lone Star” for early proof.  Now you have, “Dallas Buyers Club” a breakout for McConaughey, and for one my money, one of the best performances in all of 2013.

“Dallas” is the true story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler who might come off a bit racist, homophobic, and womanizing.  All in all, he’s one of the worst human beings you’d be unlucky enough to meet.  Woodroof contracts the HIV virus which eventually turns into AIDS and leads him down a road of not only self-discovery, but also redemption as he fights the FDA while trying to bring in unapproved medicine from out of the country to not only help himself, but an entire sub-community in the Dallas-area suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Within the first 16 minutes of “Dallas” I was drawn in by McConaughey’s performance.  I found myself both hating him, and feeling extreme sympathy for his situation.  His portrayal of Woodroof was haunting and his dedication to the characters was on the level of Christan Bale’s performance in “The Machinist” which is a parallel that a lot of people are currently making.  The difference between Bale and McConaughey’s performances is the characterization.  I never felt anything really for Bale’s Trevor Reznor, whereas with Woodroof I found myself hating him, and come the end, complete compassion.

Aside from McConaughey’s standout performance, I’d also go as far as saying this is Jennifer Garner’s best acting since “The Kingdom” and it’s nice to see that Steve Zahn is still getting work.  But, you also have a star-making performance by Jared Leto, who plays Rayon; a transgender man with AIDS who befriends Woodroof and helps him open The Dallas Buyers Club.  Leto, who also fronts the band “30 Seconds to Mars,” is the perfect foil to Woodroof and his acting really surprised me.  I’m left to wonder why he doesn’t try his hand at Hollywood films more often, but I guess band groupies are more lucrative.  The relationship between Rayon and Woodroof is the heartbeat of the film and you’ll be crushed by Leto’s performance.

“Dallas” is a film that depends on it’s actors’ performances, and it won’t disappoint.  It explores one of the unsung “heroes” during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and casts a light on how there really isn’t any money in the CURE for diseases, only the medicine that is “HELPING” the disease.  There is no doubt that McConaughey will be a heavy favorite when the Oscars are announced later this month, along with Leto in a supporting role.  Acting doesn’t get much better than in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Fun Fact:  “Dallas” is Jared Leto’s first film in four years, since 2009’s “Mr. Nobody.”   

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