Tarantino, ‘Django’, and the Beast That is Christoph Waltz

Posted in Movies on January 11th, 2013 by Nick

jamie-foxx-600Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s latest bloodfest, explores slavery, revenge, love, loyalty, and friendship. It’s a pre-Civil War Western set in the times of slavery when Northerners had very different viewpoints about race and freedom than their Southern counterparts. There’s heaps of violence, stellar acting (more on that later), classic QT quips, diverging dialogues, and beautiful cinematography. It’s quite possibly everything one could ask for in a Tarantino flick. So why am I left feeling underwhelmed?

The story follows a newly freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), and his bounty hunting partner, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), as they tour the country finding and killing wanted criminals for handsome bounties. With money lining their pockets, Django and Schultz set out to rescue Django’s wife (Kerry Washington) from the cruel hands of a perverse plantation owner (LEO!) and “mandingo fighting” enthusiast (it’s like cock fighting except with male slaves – no big deal).

The film has lots working in its favor. Partly shot in Louisiana and Wyoming, the rural settings used in the film produced some really breathtaking exterior scenes. With violence percolating left and right, Tarantino remains dedicated to giving the audience a visually stunning, light-hearted (given the subject matter), and quite entertaining film. You never watch the same gun slingin’ shootout twice because the camera is always doing something quirky and unique. The director’s style never fails to leap off the screen.

And the acting! It’s refreshing to see Leonardo DiCaprio taking on a villainous role so completely different from his staple gigs – especially since he knocked it out of the park. As the two-faced Calvin Candie, DiCaprio transformed from charming Southern gentleman to an evil, maleficent torturer like some sort of nineteenth century Jekyll and Hyde, flashing a devious smile that hides the many secrets of his slave-ridden plantation. Samuel L. Jackson is also excellent as Stephen, Candie’s right hand man, who seems more loyal to his white owner than his fellow servants. Jackson plays the miserable, tattling curmudgeon brilliantly – and it looks like he had a blast doing so.

As for Christoph Waltz, his Best Supporting Actor nomination says it all. Dr. Shultz is the direct opposite of Waltz’s other Tarantino character, Colonel Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds). He’s kind-hearted, logical, and you know, not an elitist, racist, egotist, or Nazi. Schultz frees Django, taking him into his command, returning his freedom, and even becoming his trusted ally. Schultz’s allegiance to Django throughout tugs subtlety at your heartstrings and makes you love the character and love the man portraying him. Many are hailing Jackson as the star here, but I digress.

Though enjoyable, Django didn’t really rustle my feathers. Jamie Foxx was just OK as the taciturn lead character, and Django’s story wasn’t as vengeful or exciting as say, The Bride’s in Kill Bill, or Shosanna’s in Basterds. Perhaps there lies my struggle: Tarantino’s resume is mindfuckingly amazing. Maybe the passion and excitement I felt walking away from Death Proof and Bill can’t be topped. Is it fair of me to critique this film based on the director’s other works? Probably not. Django didn’t feel incomplete, nor unworthy to sit amongst the Bills, Fictions and Dogs of the past, but it certainly didn’t resonate any deeper than surface-level entertainment with this QT fan.

But those performances, man. Wow.

Grade: B-

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Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ Hulk-Smashes the Shit Out of the Box Office

Posted in Movies on May 10th, 2012 by Nick

Although everyone and their adoptive mother’s third cousin has already reviewed Marvel’s latest superhero soiree, I would still be so, so remiss if I didn’t comment on the super-mega-ultra blockbuster. I’m somewhat remiss by posting this nearly a week after the powerhouse raped and pillaged the box office and made it its bitch, but dammit, here I go.

Given my occasional Joss Whedon fanboy tendencies, I’m sure it’s of no surprise when I tell you that I absolutely loved The Avengers, and support it with every fiber of my being. Now that the world has all of a sudden jumped aboard the Whedon train, I’m fighting the urge to do a grotesque, insanely awkward “I told you so” dance, even though Whedon more-or-less told me to. Putting my various biases aside, the movie really did work on so many different levels.

Having also written the script, Whedon did a great job of properly serving and balancing each superhero’s side story. Since most of the characters already had their origin stories told in previous films, I’m sure the ability to soar right over that aspect really helped us firmly plant ourselves in the world of The Avengers rather than backtracking or rehashing. The screen time balance for such a large cast is a tricky tightrope to navigate, but Joss’s resume proves he has experience in doing just that (Firefly/Serenity, for one).

The action scenes were also extremely well done: they were intense and well shot, really accompanying the 3D aspects of the film nicely. But even when our heroes were simply hanging around and talking shop, well, Alex Pappademas from GQ said it best: “It’s the rare superhero movie that doesn’t flatline when its characters are just standing around talking, because in Whedon’s work that stuff is the meat, not the bread.”

There can’t be a good movie, nay, a blockbuster without a solid script. Isn’t that the difference between John Carter and The Hunger Games? Between Pearl Harbor and Jurassic Park? A shitty script makes a shitty movie and no amount of action or wowing CGI or 3D mumbo jumbo can ever fix that. Luckily for us, Whedon had all of these elements on lockdown;  he was aware of the necessary measures in order to successfully pull off not just any ol’ blockbuster, but one that combines multiple beloved series in a well-written and intelligent way. It’s a difficult feat, and simply stated, he nailed it.

So back to that huge “I told you so”…tempting, but I’ll hold off. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be said. Even though only one week has passed, there’s no question:  The Avengers is a huge success. Sure, with fame and success comes more hype and possibly more pressure for Whedon’s next outing, but as some of us have known for more than a decade, he’s more than capable. And his army will only continue to grow.

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Swoon Over This ‘Avengers’ Trailer

Posted in Movies on March 1st, 2012 by Nick

Joss Whedon. Sam Jackson. Robert Downey, Jr.  ScarJo. Jeremy Renner. The list goes on and on.

The Avengers hits theaters on May 4 in epic digital 3D glory. Lets all take two and a half minutes out of our Thursdays to bask in the light that is this trailer.

Not only will The Avengers likely be the summer season’s first major blockbuster, it could go down as one of the best for 2012.

First Cabin in the Woods and then The Avengers? It’s a great time to be a Whedon fan.

I saw this trailer first on Monster Popcorn. Check it!

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No Words Can Describe How Radical the ‘Avengers’ Trailer Is

Posted in Check It Out!, Movies, things I like that you should like too on October 12th, 2011 by Nick

I’ll let it speak for itself:

 

GEEEEEEEK OUUUUUUT!

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