Ray Liotta

September 11, 2018

(Ep. 110): The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: September 2018

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast is back from our August break and raring to go. And since we thought the show could use more of a fangirl touch, we got the biggest and best fangirl of them all, Jeanette Ward from The Mundane Adventures Of A Fangirl. And as gracious hosts, we immediately put Ms. Ward in the hot seat during another edition of Questions From The Crowd. The gang also go against their better nature while playing Say Anything. Shane Black, Cardi B Nicki Minaj Beef, and midichlorians…all things discussed on the latest episode of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

NOTES
Ray Liotta Commercial
Nicki Minaj & Cardi B Fight
Glass Noodles
Blockbuster Video 

MUSIC
60’s Blues Rock Kinda Thing By Aaron Tosti
Gold Medal By Sounds Like Sander
Fast Times Club By Idols

July 23, 2018

A Simplistic Review: Hannibal

One day, we’ll look back at the fact that “Hannibal” is actually very very good despite what book snobs might consider an inferior ending, but do most people know how the book actually ended, and could you believe the uproar! Oh, and btw, Gary Oldman…is well…great…

I’ll even go as far as saying I enjoy this more than “The Silence of the Lambs” but again, the more gore, the better, and “Hannibal” has crimson stuff to spare.

August 10, 2013

True Stories: The Iceman

RUSHED

The thing about reviewing films based on a true story is you’re usually limited to technical aspects of the film.  Barring some historical inaccuracy, the only fair thing to harp on is how the story is told.  Essentially because it all really happened.  You can’t complain about an ending that really happened.  You can’t complain about character choices that really happened.  You mainly hope that the way the filmmakers tell the story is compelling and that the actors give strong and truthful performances of their real life counterparts.  The Iceman, sadly, is a film that seems to fall just short of doing both of those things.

The story of The Iceman centers around the real life story of cold blooded mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski and how he keeps his murderous career a secret from his family.  Essentially, what if No Country For Old Men’s Anton Chigurh on his off days was Danny Tanner from Full House.  It is as terrific a set up and interesting a story for any film.  Just as the plot for that gets started, just as you are ready to see the rise of this hitman through the mob ranks and the elaborate lies he must concoct in order to remain the unassuming patriarch of his family, the film starts a two hour journey to RUSH past both elements clumsily.  And it doesn’t stop.  Both selling points the movie has are handled either through stunted montages or RUSHED time jumps.

One minute, Richard has just entered the world of contract killing.  The next minute, he is a seasoned pro.  All the ins and outs of being an effective hitman and rising through the ranks as the number one mob soldier are skipped over or RUSHED.  A counter to that criticism could be that the film isn’t about the contract killing.  Maybe it is about the family dynamic throughout.  Fine.  One minute Richard is a brand new father struggling to get he and his wife a better place to live.  The next minute, he has a second teenage child and they’re all living in a house in the suburbs.  All his lies to his wife and kids and all of the moments you want to see from a guy leading a dubious double life are skipped over or RUSHED.  Maybe the film isn’t supposed to be about the double life stuff either.  Maybe it is about Richard’s cold blooded nature and the horrible past that leads to the apropos title of this film.  A true character study of a sociopath.  Well, the structure of the film short circuits that by being mum about his upbringing until a sudden exposition dump in one scene.  There is a pivotal part where the normally cold blooded murderer Richard discovers a young teenager has witnessed him killing someone.  He decides to let her go.  Why?  It is alluded to later, but to that point the film had done nothing to hint at this character having a conscience.  Basically the opposite, in fact.  It hadn’t earned that moment.  My point is that if these dynamics of Richard Kuklinski’s life were focused on or fleshed out more instead of sped through, the film would have had a clearer direction.

The cast for The Iceman is of a particularly high quality but a bit misplaced.  Michael Shannon, or as I like to call him, Willem Dafoe 2.0, is the centerpiece of this film.  As much as I do like him as an actor, I am not certain of him in the part of Richard Kuklinski.  Now don’t get me wrong.  The lack of anything but intensity behind his eyes make him perfect as the murderous hitman.  He has made a career of playing people like that.  However, Shannon is somewhat unconvincing as a loving husband and father.  I mean ladies, are you really going home with THIS GUY?  This goes again to my previous dilemma of criticizing true stories.  Perhaps Kuklinski was as stoic a dad as he was in this film.  I’m not sure.  However, I can’t help but wonder how better the movie would have been served if someone like a Thomas Jane, a Josh Brolin or a Mickey Rourke was cast as Kuklinski.  Someone you can buy portraying both facets of the man’s life.   Winona Ryder plays the oblivious wife Deborah.  Ryder is fine here but her chemistry with Shannon is marginal at best.  And though the film wants to split time between home life and mob life, Deborah’s relationship with Richard still feels too short changed.  Right when we start to get a solid emotional scene between the two of them, it ends unceremoniously.  The cast is rounded out by an odd Chris Evans, an almost unrecognizable David Schwimmer, a very recognizable James Franco, Stephen Dorff, and Ray Liotta.  Liotta, a man who’s best role was in a film that had the structure I wish this film would have had.

As true stories go, The Iceman isn’t a particularly high ranking one.  The disjointed and RUSHED method the story is told really hamstrings what this film could have been.  The story of Richard Kuklinski is still best told by the man himself in the HBO documentary Confessions Of A Mafia Hitman.  However, if you happen upon the story’s one dramatization, try to keep up…look out for ice cream trucks…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

May 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines: Powerful

‎2hr 20min‎ – ‎Rated R‎ – ‎Drama‎

Going into this film I wasn’t really expecting much but that default Ryan Gosling film we seem to get anymore. The silent romantic killer type, which I don’t mind. He does a good job in his films and yes this is another one, but it’s damn good. The story is simple, Guy sees a girl he had a past with. Guy finds out he has a child, guy has no money but wants to help. This is mostly the first hour of the film. Ryan and (in real life girlfriend) Eva Mendes are a great onscreen couple. They play off of each other nicely. The film also is shoot beautifully and the film as a whole just feels tight and well made. There are these shots with Ryan on his bike that are not anything special but it comes off just fantastic.

The only real issue with this film is the running time. For a 140min film the first hr and a half go quite fast, its the last 50mins of what kills the film for me. 

Look at the film like this, its 3 in 1. The first film is all Ryan. The second is with Bradley Cooper, the third-well lets keep that under wraps.  If I told you any of it, I would spoil something that you should find out when watching the film. Bradley Cooper does a great job as well with his screen time  I think I was more impressed with him here then his past films. He also shares the screen with Ray Liotta, who, yep you guessed it plays… a baddie.

There is this “silver lining” (If I can) throughout the film which helps this film wrap up nicely. But like I said earlier could of been a bit shorter. The ending could of lost a solid 20mins. The whole film is nicely packaged till this point. But then feels as if they jammed every idea they had and couldn’t let any of it go. Otherwise it’s a lovely film, one I think a lot of people will like.

Acting is great. Directing and DP are great. Running time just needs to be shorten a bit.

December 29, 2012

Crappy Holidays: Killing Them Softly

FRUSTRATING

Hey, have you ever watched a film that has great characters, great performances, great dialogue, and creative visuals, but still ends up being a totally FRUSTRATING mess?  If not and if that is your cup of tea, go ahead and watch Killing Them Softly.  A crime noir film by Andrew Dominik based on the George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade.  I haven’t been this FRUSTRATED after seeing a film in a while.  FRUSTRATED because it is a good film that seems to do everything in it’s power to be a bad one

The film stars Brad Pitt as a ‘Fixer’ of problems for an organized crime organizationWhen two petty criminals hold up an illegal card game, Pitt is brought in to make sure the right people pay and clean up the damage.  It is a simple premise that is drawn out by terribly slow pacing.  Killing Them Softly plays out more like a play than a novel.  With little to no surprises to be had throughout, you will find yourself wondering why it took so long to get to their payoff.  However, the largest criticism of the film, for me, is it‘s methods in attempting to deliver a message. 

This film is about the realistic methods of capitalism in our society today.  How we actually fight and claw to make a dollar in this world, and what consequences we suffer for our efforts However, Aaron Sorkin himself would blush at the heavyhanded way this allegory is forced down our throats.  From beginning to end, while the plot of the story tries to play out, we are audibly and sometimes visually interrupted by speeches from Barack Obama and George W. Bush talking about American society, the American dream, and the separations between the rich and the poor.  No, really.  A gangster film that doubles as a documentary for MSNBC.  The clumsy way they place these clips in the film completely took me out of the movie.  I might be stereotyping here, but I didn’t think many mafia thugs listen to NPR right before tuning up a guy.  They don’t make their message the elephant in the room.  They make it the animated flying elephant in the room, complete with magic feather and racially insensitive talking crows to boot.  It is a distraction, not a backdrop that hurts the picture through its unsubtly.

I threw up my hands many times while watching Killing Them Softly because it is very good when it isn’t preaching to you.  Performance wise, Pitt is excellent.  James Gandolfini delivers one of the better performances you’ll ever see him do.  Richard Jenkins puts me at ease, performance wise, like a confident pilot on the intercom of a turbulent flight.  His scenes with Pitt are great, but belong in a better movie.  Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn round out a cast that all seem to have brought their A game.  Unfortunately, I feel that they’re all wasted on a film that I could only recommend to 1980s republicans and wannabe cinematographers. 

Director Andrew Dominik’s visual style is one of the most underrated in Hollywood.  He can make you exclaim “That was cool!” with a scene as simple as someone getting out of a car.  His camera trickery, however, never gets too overbearing.  He brings a richness to the dreary city environments and an intimacy to every setup.  The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford put him on the map.  However, I’d love to see him do something even more ambitious than an indie and get him more exposure.  This film definitely won’t help matters.

Killing Them Softly proves that even the perfect arrangement of film circumstances can still produce a lackluster movie.  A result that FRUSTRATES the person anticipating the the film for months and the oblivious audience member equally.  Watch it…reevaluate your political outlook on society…pay me…then tell me I’m wrong.

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