Posts Tagged With: film

Django Unchained

Tarantino’s latest outing might also be his best, or at least his best since Pulp Fiction. If you’re like me, then Tarantino’s film outings over the last years have been hit or miss, usually both in the same film. Working backwards we have Inglourious Basterds which was extremely entertaining until you get to the part of the story centering on the French girl’s theater. Before that we had Death Proof a wildly self-indulgent snore fest, and Kill Bill which was more fun, but also self-indulgent. It goes on, the common theme is ‘Tarantino-ism’ at any cost, even if the cost is telling a good story. Not quite to Shyamalan levels, but disappointing to say the least.

The point of all this front-loaded complaining was because Django Unchained defied all of those issues. Was it stylized? Yes. Did it hurt the story? Not even a little bit.

Dealing with slavery right on the cusp of the Civil War, this is the story of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Initially a simple business arrangement, the two become fast friends and partners, and later try to free Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from slavery.

Absolutely a film that rests on the strength of strong characters, Django Unchained is wild fun. Now bear in mind that it does deal with slavery, and while not meant to be realistic by any means, it can still be hard to watch. Tarantino indulges his love of gore and bad people, with both present throughout. We also are treated to great music, wonderful scenery, and a sprawling story. Clocking in at nearly three hours, this movie never feels long, but does feel full.

For such a fun character romp, I would be remiss if I failed to single out some of the actors who went above and beyond. Naturally, Jamie Foxx was exceptional as the titular Django, delivering a performance that was soulful and only verged on being ‘too cool for school’ once or twice. Considering how badass he is in this film, that’s a great achievement. Samuel L. Jackson plays the head house slave (they don’t call him slave, I’m being polite) as an unrepentantly evil bastard. It’s pretty ballsy to put an evil black person in a movie about slavery nowadays. Also be sure to keep an eye out for some really fun cameos and smaller roles by famous actors, including: Don Johnson, Bruce Dern, and Jonah Hill to name a few.

With such awesomeness abounding, there are two people who take my prize. Leonard DiCaprio as southern ‘gentleman’ Calvin J. Candie, and Christoph Waltz as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Both play their characters with hidden depths, with DiCaprio being all charm and flash over a brutally evil core, and Waltz charmingly brutal over a good heart. It’s tough to choose who I think did a better job, but in the end I picked Waltz. While both were wonderful, it was the relationship that we see grow on screen between Django and Schultz that was the emotional core of the film. If not for that then it would have been another Kill Bill, a fun revenge flick, all flash and no heart.

It’s probably still too fresh in my head to fairly claim this was my favorite movie of the year, especially in a year that included The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises. Don’t go see this expecting a measured discussion of slavery, go see this expecting a great story. You’ll laugh, cringe, and cry. In the end what else can we ask of our entertainment. Django Unchained is absolutely worth seeing, don’t miss it.

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The Amazing Spider-Man Editorial

The Amazing Spider-Man is a good film. Let’s get that out of the way right at the beginning. I thought there were many things it did well, and the things it didn’t do well were still decent. It never dropped the ball and brought home a good Spider-Man movie. Considering how disappointing the last installment was I call that a win. So if that’s all you’re looking for, then go see this film, it’s worth the $80 ticket price nowadays. If you’re looking for a little discussion of the issues that led to this film, with some minor spoilers, then continue.

Okay, so many people seem really focused on why they are rebooting this franchise when it’s only been about five years since the last one. In fact this is probably the beginning of a trend in Hollywood. Now we don’t go see Spider-Man, we see Raimi’s Spider-Man or Webb’s Spider-Man. It’s not surprising when you consider the exalted position of the director in Hollywood, versus the craftsman-like nature of a comic book writer working for one of the big companies. Comics are all about standing on the shoulders of giants and adding your own tiny part of the existing narrative. Directors like everything to be their own, and so you’ll usually never see a ‘name’ come into a pre-existing franchise. Don’t like reboots? Well get used to it, with the current explosion of comic book movies we’re probably going to be seeing them for a long time.

The other issue is that, usually, it is much easier to make an exciting intro to a character than a continuation of the story. Sometimes that is not the case, as with The Dark Knight or The Avengers where those films tend to be more well-regarded than their predecessors. In those cases they lived by upping the ante, in The Dark Knight we finally got the Joker, who is the ultimate Batman villain, and in The Avengers we united a disparate group superheroes to form a team. Also, The Avengers is only partly a sequel in the traditional sense, and is more of a mash-up or crossover. We all know those tend to be more exciting, when they don’t fall on their face, so it’s still not a completely fair comparison.

It is much harder to keep the excitement of a franchise up around the fourth installment and beyond. Trilogies are popular for a reason. Film is not television, audiences want a pay-off for their pay-out. So we see reboots of reboots. The X-Men franchise had a similar issue with the release of X-Men: First Class after the horrible X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s not all director vanity either, would you want to be the guy who had to revive the franchise after the last crappy film?

So now we have The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters. Say what you will about Spider-Man 3, because I certainly did, it did well in theaters. This new film needs to do well also, and I hope it does because despite some faltering steps they did one thing very well: Spider-Man. I really liked the him this time around. The actor, the look, the character arc; it was all very well-done. The new Spider-Man makes me realize all the things I disliked about the old one: too weepy, not sarcastic enough, bad jokes. Common sense says that superhero films live or die on the quality of their villains. Generally this is true, like most common sense, but fails to take into account the exceptions to that rule. While Loki was a fun villain, he was hardly original in concept, yet The Avengers was awesome. Batman Begins lacked a strong villain presence, even Ra’s al Ghul was off-screen most of the time, and I loved that film. Unfortunately, the villain in the newest Spider-Man film is not particularly engaging, he gets the job done to be sure, but lacks that spark which makes a great nemesis. He feels like a placeholder for the next guy to come along and really make a mark on Spidey’s life.

Really that’s about all you need to know about the new Spider-Man film. The hero was well-crafted and the villain fell short. It’s an origin story, so I think a strong villain is not as necessary as in later films. Hopefully The Amazing Spider-Man will do well enough to get a sequel where they can use a better nemesis, otherwise we might be seeing the next reboot sooner than we thought. Either way, go see it, if you like Spider-Man then you’ll enjoy the film.

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