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February 8, 2017

SR and The LAMB Devour The Oscars: Best Director

Check out more posts over at The LAMB as we DEVOUR the Academy Awards!

It’s that time of the year again when every movie blog, podcast, expert, and everything, and one, that falls in between pontificates over who should win and bitches and moans when their favorite art-house film is snubbed or a specific movie just goes in and steamrolls the competition.

In this edition, we take a look at the nominees for Best Director. Unlike previous Oscar seasons, this year’s crop features a wide assortment of talent and comebacks. From Canadians to up-start wunderkinds and throw in a few grizzled veterans, this is one category that is sure to divide as well as surprise when the winner is announced February 26th.

Damien Chazelle – La La Land (WINNER)

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

This could be a lot tighter than most people think, but I think the smart money is still on Chazelle to win. Again, “La La Land” is about Hollywood and the Hollywood Dream, and I think sentimentality will play a key role in the win. Plus, it takes a lot of coordination and “direction” to make those dance numbers happen and look as perfect as they are.

The one thing that could play in some of the other nominees favor, namely Barry Jenkins, who could steal this one away, is the over saturation of “Land” and the high that “Moonlight” is riding. Would the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dare make a statement so huge as to award Jenkins, who would be the first African-American to win the award, and the first African-American to be nominated since 2013, and only the 4th since 1991, the Oscar for Best Director? For one, it would be well deserved as “Moonlight” is possibly the greatest film of the year, it just so happened to be released the same year there happened to be revival musical that captured the imagination of millions.

I might also be a little impartial to Jenkins just because of the fact that he’s local to Miami, my hometown, and he created a film about what he experienced growing up in inner-city Miami. Much like John Singleton with “Boyz in the Hood,” Jenkins is covering what the mainstream media likely don’t care to cover and make light of even though it affects thousands in similar situations. It’s master class work.

As for Gibson, Lonergan, and Villeneuve, it’s pretty much better luck next time, but I would like to bring up Gibson’s return to the grand stage. This is Gibson’s first nomination since 1995’s “Braveheart,” which he won for, but also his first nomination since becoming a pariah to the human race, and hey, I’m not excusing anti-Semitic remarks, drunken rants, and just overall disgusting behavior, but hey, those things just might make you the next POTUS. I don’t think there’s ever been an issue with Gibson’s eye for direction. “The Passion of the Christ” might be painful to watch, but it’s still artfully directed. And say what you will about “Apocolypto,” but it’s an exciting and interesting look into a culture that we know so little about. Much like “We Were Soldiers” Gibson takes what he learned from that film, I feel, and injected heart, grit, and soul into a true story that is often looked over.

With all this being said, look for Chazelle to take home the gold, but don’t be surprised if Jenkins is able to strip it away at the last minute.

May 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road


Mad Max: Fury Road – Clenching

Finally, the movie event of the year that everyone should enjoy; oops, nope, “Pitch Perfect 2” came out and everyone went to go see that….oh well. Anywho, this is for everyone who actually went to go see “Mad Max: Fury Road” and this is going to be a gushing review of how awesome it is, how great it is, and how important it is to modern film not only for artistic purposes but socially as well. Full disclosure, I really like the first “Pitch Perfect” but I never expected the buzzsaw it would become with the sequel. Enough of that crap, let’s go to the Max.

“Fury Road” is easy to explain on the surface; there is a tyrant who is holding all the resources from a down-trodden people in a post-apocalyptic future. Resources are stolen from tyrant who goes on the hunt for his resources across a vast wasteland. Hero who steals resources becomes unlikely allies with other people who have similar ambitions and goals. Come the end, justice prevails and evil is vanquished. Of course, just explaining “Fury Road” this way is an injustice of how great a film we have right in front of us that people will likely overlook in a crowded summer full of other action popcorn flick, girls singing, and superheroes the size of ants. Again, I’m not pooping on “Pitch Perfect” I am simply making a point here.

Tom Hardy plays the titular Mad Max, a nomad in a hostile land on the run from marauders looking to turn him into a resource for overlord, Immortan Joe and his War Boys. On the other side you have Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, in a role that will studied by scholars and film snobs alike. Furiosa is a trusted driver of Joe who takes it upon herself to take his “property” or his five wives, to a place that may or may not exist, The Green Place. Along for the ride is a wayward War Boy named Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult, who goes from the gates of Valhalla to finding his own redemption.

As holds true with the Mad Max series, the villains standout as insane despots with tons of style and a great mythic quality that deserves more fleshing out. Immortan Joe and his family, including Rictus Erectus, are a sight to behold, as well as The Bullet Farmer and The People Eater (just the names alone are worth the price of admission). The only villain that comes close personality wise is Lord Humungus from “The Road Warrior” and while the villains are villainous, there is also a certain understanding and sadness to their evil. Good and evil isn’t black and white in this film, there are many shades of grey.

My one tiny little gripe, okay, two gripes, are as follows; if you are the normal moviegoer who isn’t into too much critical thinking, this film might put you off. Yes, there are tons of explosions and chases, but without much dialogue, a lot of the characters and their motives aren’t spelled out. The performances are nuanced, and the dialogue scarce, so when something is said it’s normally important and deliberate, which might be a turn off to some people. The other gripe, and this is more of a style choice, is the blatant 3D effect used at the end of the climatic chase sequence. Like I’ve said time and time again, 3D is not needed in film, it adds nothing to the story, and is a gimmick that needs to go away. I almost feel like this was a studio decision that director, George Miller, had to abide by in order to get his film funding. Hopefully, since the scene is so terribly cheesy, this was Miller’s middle-finger to making him put a goofy 3D image to cap off an awesomely awesome chase scene.

Speaking of chase scenes, and action, holy crap does “Fury Road” pack it in. Real stuntmen, practical cars, a low reliance of CG is what makes this film a marvel to behold. You can sense the danger behind every scene, the use of camera speed and lighting makes everything pop. It’s pure old-school Ozploitation at it’s finest. Miller still knows how to shoot an action scene even 30 years after “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and this film shows he hasn’t lost a step. Needless to say, they don’t make these like they used to.

While the action is amazing, the talk of this film is something you wouldn’t have thought, and it’s got feminists and meminists all in a tizzy; is “Fury Road” a feminist action film. Well, it has tons of strong-willed and minded females not only surviving in a wasteland, but they are also free-thinking, open-minded, and loving. It’s hinted that “man” is the reason why the world has been killed, and of course men rely on women to survive. Sure, the film is called “Max Mad: Fury Road” by Max is essentially a blunt instrument which is wielded by the metal hand of Furiosa. Outside of one character, all characters portrayed by women have a purpose and something important to do throughout the film and it’s great that we don’t have to sit through the same old damsel in distress routine. Miller has created one of the most important characters in not only action film history, but film history, and it should be celebrated, not picked apart by the vulture of social medial looking for click bait. One of the complaints might be that the characters are underdeveloped….sure, on screen yes, but that doesn’t mean they have a story to tell or history. Use some critical thinking and you can decide for yourself.

I know you might think “geez Matt, you gush over all the female characters in “Fury Road” yet you railroaded the female characters in “Pitch Perfect 2.” Not really….I am making a point of noting what is obvious, and perhaps this is just an American thing. As Americans we like safe thing; fast food, fast casual food, mini-vans, and so on…we like the familiar, and we like happy. “Fury Road” is none of those things. It doesn’t spoon feed you, while it’s fast, it’s not fast food, and it’s the anti-summer blockbuster. The chases and action are simply a means to an end, a blunt instrument, similar to Max himself, to serve a higher purpose in storytelling and social studies. Similar to other films, “Fury Road” will make it’s money overseas, far from the sheepish herd that is the American moviegoer. I’ll make you guys a deal, sure, go and see “Pitch Perfect 2” or “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or even “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” but at least go and give “Fury Road” a chance. These movies are needed in a world this Mad.

Fun Fact: Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays Immortan Joe, also played Toecutter in Miller’s orignal “Mad Mad” from 1979.

July 26, 2014

Early Returns: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3: Bloated
On one hand The Expendables 3 is a bloated mess that does nothing to earn your money nor time.  We have nothing but a shit ton of yesterday’s great actors thrown into a film where they will not be used accordingly.  The problem with this film is really the fact that it is an Expendables film.  The first one wasn’t great but it was fun.  The second again wasn’t great but it had a lot of action.  The third is just bloated, with editing and script problems beyond fixing.  Scenes going on for far too long and dialogue that’s completely unneeded again bloats this film.  The addition of Ford, Gibson, Banderas and Snipes is why I really wanted to watch this.  However, their characters were extremely underused.  Ford isn’t in the film that much and Wesley’s character is completely useless.  There is a scene in the beginning where he shaves his beard off with a knife.  A giant f&$king knife.  He shaves it so clean, I stopped what I was doing and texted my Simplistic Reviews partner DJ to confirm what I just saw.  Not a great sign starting off. 
Since we are talking about things that were absurdly lazy, lets get into the effects for this thing.  Now the CGI in The Expendables films are typically very bad.  The common thing most point to is the fake CGI blood.  This film doesn’t seem to have CGI blood, thanks to its new PG-13 rating.  But there are still a slew of cheap and horrible looking CGI explosions, muzzle flashes, helicopter chases and one amazingly crappy parachute deployment shot.  It is laugh inducing.  
But back to the bloat.  After an Expendable gets severely injured, Barney Ross goes out to put together a new team out of fear of getting his old team killed.  All of them young, and one of them a woman.  The woman, Ronda Rousey, is the only person I recognized out of all the new recruits.  So now, a film I watch for the nostalgic actors forces me to follow its “plot” with people I’ve never heard of.  A team I couldn’t care less about.  Expendables 2 did this a bit, but it’s much worse here.  The old team eventually comes back after the young guns screw up badly.  At least I think so.  I honestly started to play on my phone at this point.  Stallone’s character Barney Ross is so stupid in this film.  Tactically, emotionally, grammatically stupid.  His motivations make no sense throughout this film and then they switch on a dime for absolutely no reason.  I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why the leader of a team called THE EXPENDABLES is afraid of his men getting killed.  Kinda undermines the entire premise of your franchise there Sly. 
The acting?  You don’t care about the acting.  You do?  Really?  Fine.  It’s like watching a sleepwalking documentary on Discovery Channel hosted by Ben Stein.   Only one or two of these guys (Banderas and Gibson eventually) show any sign of life in this thing.  This is something I can understand with the old vets, but the new blood is just as lifeless.   Here is a SPOILER filled example of everything wrong with this film combined.  There is a scene where Gibson and the bad guys set the team up in a building with C-4 all around them.  They have around 45 seconds to get out.  One of the new Expendables says he can try and block the signal.  He stupidly explains this plan while Gibson listens via a video camera.  But Gibson stupidly does nothing to capitalize on hearing this plan.  So, the scene culminates with these action icons that I grew up with just haplessly standing there for 45 seconds shouting, “Come on, Come on you can do it” to a guy I don’t care about pushing buttons.  They shout their encouragement with all the enthusiasm of a thirteen year old boy forced to play dress-up with his baby sister.  They all say it and say it horribly.  Rousey delivers the line so badly, it made me cringe.  I’m pretty sure I saw her cringe from it too!
On the other hand, anyone who purposefully goes to see this film already knows what they are going to experience.  Nonsensical action, cheesey writing and actors you loved that have seen better days…months…decades.  The Expendables 3 just like the others.  Nothing new, just a lot of bloat.  Is it worth your $9.45 at the theater?  No, nor is it worth your time.  Wait for it to come onto TV…network TV.
July 7, 2014

SR Podcast (Ep. 27): July 2014 – Lethal Weapon 2 – Movie Commentary


Alright folks, it’s time to dust off your flannel, feather your mullet and bust out the VCR again because it’s time for another Simplistic Reviews Movie Commentary. We return to 1989 with another classic; “Lethal Weapon 2.” The sequel to another classic,”Lethal Wepon,” “Weapon 2” pretty much ups the ante over it’s predecessor and exceeds and it some ways. This time around Riggs and Murtaugh are on the trail of a group of South Africans who are into some shady dealings, including a guy who might be David Warner.

Whereas “Weapon 1” was a pretty dark film, “Weapon 2” is a the perfect balance of humor, bombastic action, and gritty cop drama. With that said, sit back, strap yourself in (if you’re into that type of thing) and get ready to yuck it up with three guys who make Jones, Mahoney, and Hooks look like legit cops with “Lethal Weapon 2.”

June 20, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 5


Simplistic Sneak Peek is back and better than ever.  In this episode the boys take a look at some animated features and some 80s action stars WITH animated features.  Sinbad, The Ultimate Warrior, Dane Cook and a Holocaust amusement park all come up in this irreverent return of Simplistic Sneak Peek.  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.

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Expendables 3

Bonus Trailer

July 19, 2012

Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo: Entertaining

Mel Gibson kinda lost it the last few years, in film and well…real life.

But this film clearly shows he truly hasn’t lost it, well mostly in film anyways. Gibson’s acting is a gift to viewers, because when you watch him perform it’s pure fun! He brings back that Lethal Weapon fun that so many of us miss. Mel Gibson is a damn good actor, enough said… Just don’t piss him off or he’ll slap you!

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