Skyfall

August 16, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 53) August 2015

                                                           FOR MATURE AUDIENCES

Alright!  Alright!  The world can keep on spinning, cuz The Simplistic Reviews Podcast is back!  The irreverency level of the podcasting universe has just gone up as the boys barrel back into the world of movies and television once again.  First they catch up with some of the stuff they missed with our annual segment Can You Dig It.   Then the boys do a postmortem of True Detective Season 2 and sell Justin on the USA Network Show Mr. Robot.   The boom boxes are held high to close off the show as they once again play the game Simply Say Anything.

Hulk Hogan is dealt with, Sesame Street is repurposed, Hateful 8 is dismissed for legal reason, and The Fantastic Four is laughed at…all on this return episode of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.

July 20, 2013

Only God Forgives (DJ’s Take)

BLANK

All my cards on the table.  I love the film Drive.  I own the dvd, I own the soundtrack, I own the poster, and to be honest, I was a second thought away from owning that satin scorpion racing jacket.  I get really frustrated when the now overly cynical, “If something is trying to be cool I’ll automatically hate it” film critic says they despise Drive.  It is a perfect example of minimalism done right.  Minimalism used in an action/drama film that made it into something fresh and different.  So, when I heard that star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn were teaming up again, I was excited.  However, after watching their new film Only God Forgives, I have to say that this is an example of minimalism done wrong.  When word got out of audience members booing and walking out of the premier at Cannes, I was very puzzled.  I can always understand not liking a film afterwards, but booing and walking out during, baffles me.  What could be so bad?  Well, within the first ten minutes there are certainly reasons to warrant a conservative audience uprising.  As a whole, the film has subject matter offensive and violent enough to have me second guess the rating.  However, the film’s biggest crime for me was the emptiness of it.  Only God Forgives provides little in the way of plot and character development.  And the crime is, that it is set up to give you so much more.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking.  How could you criticize Only God Forgives for using a style that Drive also uses?  Well, Drive was originally intended to be another cliched action vehicle much like The Transporter.  There was nothing really there originally that we hadn’t seen already in regards to the story and characters.  A mysterious rebel who wants to do good but is pulled back into a life of crime to protect the woman he loves.  Winding Refn’s decision to pull back on the cliche and make Drive more dramatic and serious and realistic separates it from the rest in the genre.  Only God Forgives, on the other hand, is not a traditional action/drama set up.  Yes, you could say there is a revenge angle going on.  However, the setting of the film, the symbolism of the film, and the creepy family dynamic of the film are all begging to be explored.  It really isn’t.  In Drive, despite Gosling’s man of few words gimmick, the supporting characters give you something to chew on.  Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, and the amazing Albert Brooks fill in the gaps the film’s stoic hero leaves.  In Only God Forgives, we are left with only one character that does that.  The deplorably offensive Crystal, played to perfection by Kristin Scott Thomas.  Unfortunately, she can only fill so many BLANK spaces before you’re left wanting.  In Drive, the BLANKS were there but in fewer frequency.  When they did show up, because it was material you were familiar with, your imagination could fill them in.  So, an uncomfortably sweet conversation in the hallway with Gosling and Carey Mulligan isn’t as jarring.  The world of Only God Forgives is very unfamiliar.  The characters are very unfamiliar.  The situations are very unfamiliar.  So, when you’re searching for the motivations and thoughts of a character, you’re just left with a BLANK.

If you think Gosling’s Driver said and expressed little in Drive, just wait until you see Only God Forgives.  Julian Thompson feels like a stranger to us throughout.  Gosling’s perpetual sphinx-like expression hurts the character more than adds to his mystery.  One could assume this was done to heighten the effect of Julian’s later emotional outbursts as was done in Drive.  However, Winding Refn’s stripping down of his personality and emotion seems to have passed the breaking point.  Though it may be the dialogue fiend in me, but he just seemed like a character that would be better suited talking a good game.  He’s a fight promoter for crying out loud!  I personally think Gosling is a very good actor and when given more things to do emotionally and expressively, he usually knocks it out of the park.  He’s grasping at straws here.  The…um…villain I guess (He’s more reactionary if you think about it.  And God himself if you REALLY think about it.), played by Vithaya Pansringarm, is another great character with sadly minimized background.  It works more for him seeing as the mysterious villain is a familiar concept.  However, when the protagonist and antagonist of your story are both practically mute, their dynamic suffers.  Drive, again, didn’t have this problem because Albert Brooks filled those BLANKS.

The one true positive and apparent focus of the film is the stunning cinematography.  I got a hint of this during the trailer, but it barely scratches the surface of the amount of breathtakingly beautiful shots you’ll see.  I haven’t seen scenes this colorfully vibrant and skillful composed since Skyfall.  Props should be given to acclaimed cinematographer Larry Smith of Eyes Wide Shut fame and Winding Refn himself.  However, the look of the film seems to be the only place where Winding Refn spent his time.  There really could have been some great material fleshed out of that script if he wanted.

It is thought to be a good thing to leave the people wanting more.  However, a film with too much of too little can run the risk of appearing unclear, disjointed, and lazy.  Now, I know Nicolas Winding Refn isn’t lazy.  He’s a terrific filmmaker.  The style of Only God Forgives seems to be a choice.  In my opinion, it wasn’t entirely the right one.  Crank up the karaoke machine…roll up your sleeves…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

December 9, 2012

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: November 2012

Welcome all to the inaugural Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  This is something that we had been planning for a while, and we finally got it done.  This edition we talk James Bond, namely, his newest adventure “Skyfall,” and remember some of his greatest villains and which James Bond theme song speaks to us.  Not in that creepy way that your uncle used to when he was drunk during Thanksgiving.

We also talk TV, where DJ explains why “Arrow” is his newest guilty pleasure, Justin talks about balls dropping, and why Jewish people aren’t allowed to watch “Mad Men,” while Matt asks “Why is AMC so stupid!”

We also wonder “What is it about Ghost Dad that gets our motors revving?” And “What was Morgan Freeman really doing during his voice over sessions on “March of the Penguins?”

All this and more on The Simplistic Reviews Podcast for November 2012.

Click on the link below to download the podcast and enjoy folks!
FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

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November 13, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (DJ’s Take)

STIRRING
See what I did there?  But no, my above one word review of Skyfall is not a joke.  Well, maybe a little bit.  Bond 23 is easily the most dramatic Bond film of the franchise.  It finishes an origin trilogy of Bond, M, MI6, Q branch and many other elements of Ian Fleming’s universe.  Yes, a nutshell synopsis of Skyfall has fairly been labeled, “What If Bond, Not Batman, Had To Stop The Joker?”  I personally think that concept is an interesting one.  The events of The Dark Knight and Skyfall are similar.  However, the two heroes in it are not.  Bruce Wayne is not James Bond.  Bruce is a bit of a softer character than Bond.  That doesn’t make Bruce weak by any means.  That just shows you how hardened Bond actually is.  Where Bruce’s childhood trauma made him somewhat bipolar, Bond’s made him somewhat sociopathic.  He is way closer to the line than Bruce.  So much so, that his constant defiance is the only thing that keeps him from crossing it.  That dynamic is what differentiates the two films. 
It is a pleasure to see such an accomplished director like Sam Mendes and a living legend cinematographer like Roger Deakins take on James Bond.  This is a franchise that thrives on creativity and style.  Something that is totally brought to the table here.  Both men show off how excellent action scenes and films can be when they are put in capable hands.  Deakins displays such a mastery of composition, color, and shadows, you’ll want to gorge yourself on each well painted frame.  That is a little too technical for a film review, so let me just say your eyes experience is all the better for having this duo at the helm. 
I sort of guessed beforehand as to the ultimate role of Naomie Harris in Skyfall.  However, she still makes her part feel surprising and memorable.  Her chemistry with Craig is great and provides some of the lighter moments of the film.  The other buxom Bond girl, Sévérine, does not make that great an impact unfortunately.  Her story, though interesting, is rushed.  This was assuredly done to make room for the biggest Bond girl narrative of Skyfall.  That is the M, played by Dame Judi Dench.  I may just be showing my bias toward the franchise here, but I wish people could recognize the absolutely perfect performances Dench has been delivering as M since Goldeneye for crying out loud.  This is the heaviest lifting she’s had since her arrival and she does not disappoint.  I would bet green money there was a hesitation at first to focus a large part of the film around M.  A hesitation quickly followed by the chuckling realization that M wasn’t being played by some minor character actor, but Dame Judi f*#king Dench!  Casting  a women as M was unheard of back when Goldeneye came out.  Now her presence is as comforting as a warm blanket.  
This brings me to the Joker of this picture, Raoul Silva.  Javier Bardem needs to do another comedy immediately.  If he continues to convincingly play these raving psychotics, he’ll be typecast forever.  Silva is easily the best villain Craig’s Bond has faced and possibly one of the creepiest Bond has ever faced.  His path, his plan, his will is frighteningly focused.  Bardem’s choice to make Silva always appear friendly on the outside while hinting at the extensive damage underneath is terrific.  Unpredictability is the ultimate foil for any hero.  
Some critics have also been wary of the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw.  Mainly, because he is younger than Bond.  However, I think it represents the new generational dichotomy of modern technology.  In the 60s and 70s technology was stereotypically run by the old and lost on the young.  Nowadays it is the complete opposite.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your parents to input their name and number into your smart phone.  As long as Bond has zero respect for the effort Q puts into his work, the age swap doesn’t matter.  And besides, Whishaw is great in the role.  His lecturing of Bond feels just as natural as when Desmond Llewelyn did it. 
Skyfall will critically be a victim of its own hype.  It will be harshly judged because of its 300 commercials a day, its 10 beer related contests, and bold claim to be the best Bond ever.  Resentment towards hype should not influence what you see in Skyfall.  It is action packed, surprisingly moving, franchise faithful, and most of all, fun.  Renew your license to kill…sing along with Adele the song that is a lock for a Best Original Song Oscar nod…take the bloody shot….watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.   

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember, Skyfall (Justin’s Take)

Skyfall: Beautiful
(143mins, 2012, Action)

Beautiful both visually and story.

Lets just get this out and say, Skyfall is the most beautiful looking film I’ve seen this year and I might even say within a few years. Roger Deakins has made a stunning looking film that wowed me at the theater. Thanks Roger you made the best looking Bond film in years.

Skyfall might not be the best Bond film ever like a lot of people are saying, I believe From Russia With Love holds that title, but Skyfall is in the top 10.

Why? Because it is a different side of Bond. To make films that span 50 years and each one touches a fan in its own way is a remarkable thing. You might remember the first Bond film you saw. You might have a favorite film and maybe you have a film that touches your life. Each Bond film has one of these toward a person who views a Bond film. But when you do the formula like what Bond has used so many times it will at one point get a bit tougher for new ideas. We can all pick a point where Bond films got weak but believe it or not there isn’t a bad Bond film. They’re all good in their own way.

Skyfall takes a completely different approach to the formula and I stand up and applaud it. Yet, it never goes off the formula that we all have come to love.

Spoilers

The star of Skyfall is M. I didn’t mind M being the star. I enjoyed it, but we also got Bond’s backstory. I always wanted to touch on Bonds family in a film, but I felt it was slightly wasted for Skyfall. But then again it was nice to see that finally. Daniel Craig gives his best performance as Bond. Q works well and I can see an awesome future with him. M shines and it was great to see that. Silva is Craig’s best Bond villain. That might of been the one weakest part of Craig’s Bond films. Sure CR and QOS had okay villains but we really got a great, classic Bond villain for Craig this time. We also have a new composer which was refreshing. Sam Mendes did a great job and I hope he comes back for another one. And I look forward to having Ralph Fiennes in the future Bond films. Always loved the guys acting.

I liked Skyfall’s Bond girls but for Sévérine I thought she was underused. I would of like to have seen more of her instead of making her a throwaway. Eve was good and I’m curious to see her evolve in the next few films.

When I reviewed The Dark Knight Rises I said this was made for Batman fans, well Skyfall was made for Bond fans. There are a ton of Bond references in this film that came off really badass.

A older couple was sitting to the right of me and they just kept telling me how they have seen all the Bond films at the theater since the start. They said Skyfall remind them of that early time period and they liked that about it.

Speaking of the ending as a fan, this is the ending we needed. We are now back to the classic formula. Moneypenny, a new M and Q is finally back. That scene at the end in the office gave me chills because we haven’t had that in such a long time. Even the set design with the dark wood and coat hanger just got me excited. I even kept hoping that Bond would throw a hat onto that hanger.

It felt so awesome.

Skyfall is a wonderful film. It’s fantastic film with a few issues, but hey almost all films have some nitpicks.

I didn’t like how the story of the film was about the lost drive and Bond was trying to track it down. Then half way into the film after making so much fuss about it not a word comes up on it again and it becomes protecting M. I understand why, but I just would of like a better transfer of the two parts.

I felt the komodo dragon scene was okay on till the eating. I know they went for that classic Bond death but it came off a bit odd.

And the last thing was all about Bond being old…Might be my most hated thing about this great film. Two films before it, it was the rage that he was all young and new. Now he just too damn old. And I like the old storyline but maybe in a few years when Craig is ready to say goodbye. Not now. Sorry I felt that was out of place and it got to me.

The Skyfall scene was fantastic. It felt so different but yet so Bond-ish. And I just can’t get over the beautiful look of this film. Really beautiful lighting and composition. The song by Adele was great, felt like the great classic Bond themes we all love!

All in all I thought it was a great film. It looks amazing in IMAX even taught it didn’t use IMAX cameras and even the Sony 4k viewing I saw in the small theater looked fantastic. (even though their audio sucked. Theater’s fault not the film.)

Go see Skyfall its a good time and a damn good Bond film.

October 3, 2012

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Music Matters

Does the music you hear along with the film trailers you watch really effect your opinion of them? They boys at Simplistic Reviews put that question to the test in a new segment for the upcoming podcast called Music Matters.

July 22, 2012

Quantum Of Solace

MISUNDERSTOOD

Now I think Dark Knight Rises is a good film.  But the real highlight for me when I saw it was the IMAX Special Skyfall trailer that played right before it.  Now I love James Bond films.  I especially love ‘Daniel Craig as James Bond’ films.  His stint as Bond, Skyfall seemingly included, shares a particular theme as Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  They are both exercises in the tearing down and rebuilding of iconic characters in a different form than the preconceived notions of the mass fan base.  Much like Dark Knight Rises will be panned in the coming days by critics who didn’t see it as a satisfying display of their expectations, Quantum was panned for that very reason.

Casino Royale is amazing.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Adjective after adjective synonymous with good.  I loved how Craig portrayed Bond.  His attitude.  His wit.  His determination.  He really got to the meat of the character.  A good man.  A man who wants to do whats right.  A man who will not accept defeat.  And a man who’s feelings about resorting to extreme violence to accomplish his goals rival that of even Dexter himself.  The film gave you everything.  Great action.  Great acting.  Great villains.  Great set pieces.  Bond girls.  Mystery.  I could go on.  The film, however, ends on a cliffhanger.  An acceptable one, but a cliffhanger none the less.  That fact is where Quantum of Solace comes in.  That fact is why I think Quantum of Solace is MISUNDERSTOOD.

Dark Knight Rises is not a stand alone film.  It is the culmination of an arc.  Its a cog in a giant machine.  Accept it for that and any negative opinion you have may sway a bit.  That said, Rises takes place YEARS after The Dark Knight.  It at least has that bit of a buffer between stories to start fresh as a film.  Quantum gets similar criticism because people say it doesn’t feel like a complete story.  And I don’t blame people for thinking that.  They are right.  Quantum of Solace is not a stand alone film either.  It is just the very long final act of Casino Royale.  Quantum is a direct sequel.  Its the ONLY direct sequel in the Bond franchise.  And the damn thing takes place mere MINUTES….MINUTES after Casino Royale.  If you view it in that light, it makes more sense as to why it is the way it is.

I wish they would do a version where they stick Quantum at the end of Casino and play it out, much like what Quentin did with Kill Bill.  The movie would be Lord Of The Rings long but it would be one grand arc of Bond’s origin story.  Quantum is about Bond’s rage.  Its the result of what happened to Vesper at the end of Casino.  That is not a stand alone theme for a movie.  It is a great theme for a final act.  I watch it with that in mind and always enjoy the hell out of it.  I mean, its not like it has horrible acting…its still Craig as Bond…and he’s perfect.  Its still Dame Judy Dench as M.  Still Jeffrey Wright as Felix.  The cinematography is beautiful.  The action is still crazy good.  And I love the lurking idea of some evil organization controlling everything.

For as good as Skyfall looks, it owes whatever ease of making it and success it has to Quantum Of Solace.  Quantum did the dirty work of finishing off a storyline that Skyfall can choose or not choose to hint back to.  By the end of Quantum, Bond is finally a complete character.  He is finally the Bond we remember.  Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace just showed us how that transformation happened.  Watch it again…then tell me I’m wrong.  

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