Django Unchained (2012)

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films.  Argue about that.

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films. Argue about that.

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (we could argue over what his “best” movie is, but the safe bet will most likely always be Pulp Fiction)

Written by: Tarantino

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar, Kerry Washington, Laura Cayouette, Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson.  Also, check the tags for many actors that basically filmed cameo roles.

What it’s about: in 1858, a former slave becomes a bounty hunter and searches for his wife

B-Movie Alternate Title: It’s a pretty B-Movie title already

Movie Mash Up: Inglourious BasterdsTombstone + probably hundreds of blaxpoitation movies that Tarantino has watched

What I liked: I have to admit, Jamie Foxx ruled in this movie, and I hate having to say that.  Tarantino wrote such a great character in Django, and knew exactly how he wanted the character to appear and succeeded on all levels.  I would argue that Christoph Waltz deserves to be nominated in the Best Actor category, rather than the Supporting Actor category for his performance in this movie, but whatever.  It is a fun movie, dealing with some super serious themes, and it may be Tarantino’s funniest movie yet.  Argue some more about that too, if you want.  The movie looks gorgeous, and flows fairly well (see below), so well that at points it doesn’t exactly feel like a near three hour-long movie.  DiCaprio was amazing in it as well, particularly the scene in which he actually accidentally cuts open his own hand, bleeding profusely all over himself, and continues acting.  Don’t know how Kerry Washington felt about having his blood smeared all over her face, though.

What I disliked: The running time of nearly three hours is fairly daunting, Tarantino movie or not.  You could make arguments about trimming the fat and lessening the homages to whatever obscure movie Tarantino was referring to with whatever camera angle or sound cue, but you don’t have the same movie then.  I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable movie fan, but I probably don’t know half of the references Tarantino is making, even in regards to certain actors and actresses he ends up casting for whatever reason.  There were some scenes throughout that I thought were misplaced or came from some wacky sitcom script (the Jonah Hill cameo scene springs to mind), and while they weren’t terrible, they did put me off a little.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: While it is pretty great, the exceedingly long running time and excessive (but totally in context) usage of the word “nigger”, probably means it isn’t for everyone.  Tarantino fans will eagerly lap it up, though.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

I am surprised this .gif hasn't been Hasslehoff'd.

I am surprised this .gif hasn’t been Hasslehoff’d.

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J. Edgar (2011)

Sometimes I sit down to write these things and have no idea where to take them.  I know how I feel about the movie, at least in a ranking sense, but I don’t know really how to equate that to words.  Well, maybe fully formed interesting sentences would be a better descriptor.  Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar is a biopic of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), Director of the FBI and the man most instrumental in turning the FBI into a world class crime fighting organization.  As well as Big Brother.

The acting is fairly good to great all around, although there is a tendency by DiCaprio to sort of devolve into tics to either remind himself or the audience that HE IS J. EDGAR HOOVER.  However, the storyline of the movie plays out in a somewhat flashback format, allowing us to see the major players at various crossroads in their lives.  Hoover and his co-worker/possible life partner Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) are shown as bright young men, and then doddering old men, in various levels of plastic make-up.  It’s disconcerting at best, laughable at worst.

There are numerous name actors throughout the picture, and despite what IMDb says, I swear that’s Gerald McRaney as the judge in the Charles Lindbergh’s (Josh Lucas) baby kidnapping trial.  Stephen Root gives probably his most serious performance ever, and hell, I didn’t even know it was Naomi Watts as Hoover’s personal secretary, Helen Gandy, until I saw the cast list.  I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or a damning indictment of the make-up.

Ultimately, J. Edgar feels like it wants to be one of those prestigious biopics that garner numerous awards and accolades.  It rings a bit hollow, which is unusual for an Eastwood picture.  I liked it, and though I’ll probably never watch it again, it is a historically significant portrayal of a man that really did change the world, and should be watched by many.

4 / 5