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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Pale Rider (1985)

I’m getting kind of Westerned out now, so I might put the other three Westerns I was going to be watching next on the backburner.  However, there’s still the matter of this movie to talk about.  I think I’d only seen Pale Rider once before, and that was on VHS.  Somewhen along the way, I picked up the DVD to replace the VHS but just never watched it again until now.

It’s pretty much High Plains Drifter Lite.. no, probably UltraLite because that movie was darrrrrrk.  Maybe we’ll go with Unforgiven Lite.  This came out the same year as Silverado, and neither of those movies really brought the Western back to movie screens in a big way.  It’s a solid enough Clint Eastwood-directed-starring movie, though nowhere near as great as Unforgiven.  Eastwood’s character is pretty much The Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone Trilogy back in the day, although a bit more mythical and with numerous religious overtones.

It’s not the most well-made movie ever, or I’ve been spoiled by how much better movies have become since then.  There’s a scene where Megan (Sydney Penny) picks up her dead dog and it’s clearly a prop.  Not that I’m suggesting a dog should have been killed to make it authentic (dogs should never ever be killed ever), but a dead animal doesn’t look the same as an animal in a plaster cast which is exactly what her dog briefly looked like.  Enjoyable enough movie, with some decent performances, and it’s always good to see all-time movie villains like Richard Kiel and Billy Drago as bit players.

3.5 / 5

True Grit (2010)

I’m tempted to write another hate diatribe rant about The King’s Speech not deserving its Best Picture Oscar for 2010, but I already did that in my Social Network review.  However, as I look at the list of the rest of the Best Picture nominees for that year – this movie among them – I realise that of the ten movies nominated, I would put King’s Speech at number ten.  I put the lesbian family dramedy The Kids Are All Right at nine, and I don’t believe that deserved a Best Picture nom either.  SPOILER ALERT the rest of the nominees I would most likely rate as 4.5 – 5 star movies, including this one.

First of all, I’m an unabashed Coen Brothers fan, and as a film snob, that’s probably expected of me.  However, sometimes I have a contrary opinion to that of other film snobs (I think Stanley Kubrick was boring/overrated, same for Terence Malick, Martin Scorcese is hit or miss with me, etc.) so I just wanted to make it clear beforehand that I love the films of Ethan and Joel Coen.  Even the least praised ones are worthy of a watch, and damn anyone who tells you otherwise.

I still haven’t seen the original John Wayne version of True Grit (nor have I ever seen a single John Wayne movie), so I can’t comment on how they compare, nor should that matter.  There is nothing that could enhance my watching of this movie, as it is already a high quality story, a gorgeously made Western, and a well-acted film.  It’s got it all, dark humour, drama, tension, aside from being a Western, it’s pretty much a Coen Brothers movie.  The acting is all around great, from the well-deserved Best Actor nomination for Jeff Bridges, to the talented newcomer, Hailee Steinfeld.  Just an excellent all around movie and worthy of multiple viewings in my opinion.

5 / 5

Silverado (1985)

Re-watching a movie that I viewed numerous times as a kid (thanks mom, for dubbing all those VHS tapes) is sometimes a harrowing experience.  You have all these precious memories in your head from your previous viewings, but you’re also taking the chance that just maybe the movie didn’t age well.  Or you’ve become a jaded movie snob, and now there’s aspects to the film that grate on your critical nerves, forcing you to decide whether or not you still love it for the memories, or that you have to downgrade it because it wasn’t as good as you remember it being.  That’s what Silverado has ended up becoming for me.

I’m a fan of a solidly made Western movie, as you’ll see in the coming days, and Silverado is a fairly .. well, it’s alright.  It’s got a huge, talented cast that clearly enjoyed making the picture.  However, the writing at times seems to be full of itself, like it’s trying to be all deep ‘n shit when all we want is cowboys shootin’ shit.  So to speak.  The conversations between Paden (Kevin Kline) and Stella (Linda Hunt) seem to hint at a long forgotten past between the two of them, but it’s mostly just air.  Then there are the storylines that start and stop abruptly, as if no one would believe Paden would get together with Hannah (Rosanna Arquette) so they just picked one of the other dudes that wasn’t the black one.

It’s a gorgeous-looking movie for sure, with the classic Western visuals we’ve all grown accustomed to.  Bruce Broughton’s score is at times perfect and at other times pointlessly thematic, if that makes any sense.  When he’s shooting for an anthem, Broughton seems to just shoot for the moon and this movie didn’t end up being the epic tale of a golden city that everyone perhaps mistakenly thought they were making.  I still have great fond memories of it, but those are clouded over with the realization that I don’t love it the way I used to.  It’s not down to the level of a guilty pleasure… yet.

3.5 / 5

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

I have decided to go back in time.  Once you have read this, it will have changed, unless the Internet really is forever.  I’m going back in time to convince studios to make nothing but Paul Newman / Robert Redford films directed by George Roy Hill, forever.  When I have done this, the cinematic history of the world will have changed and every movie ever made will be awesome.  Redford as Luke Skywalker, Newman as Han Solo, then Indiana Jones, though Redford could never pull off Short Round.  You can put Newman and Redford in any co-male leads in pretty much any movie ever and I will gladly plunk down money to watch it.  A Night at the Roxbury starring an elderly Redford and Newman?  HERE IS MY MONEY.

I realise that my opening paragraph may seem crazy to some readers, and those are readers that have probably not been lucky enough to watch The Sting or this movie.  The movie partnership of Redford and Newman is nothing short of excellent.  The dynamic the two of them have together defies my words for description (IS GOOD!).  And George Roy Hill has impressed me so much as a director that I wish I had seen more of his films.  This is a man that is an underrated genius in my eyes.  Seriously.  Fuck Stanley Kubrick, give me a George Roy Hill movie ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

This review is just nonsense gushing, but let me assure you that it is all deserved.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid deserves every word of praise ever given it, and I’m curious if Roger Ebert would change his negative opinion on it if he were to watch it again.  Goddamn such a great movie.

5 / 5

Meek’s Cutoff (2011)

Finally, someone adapted Oregon Trail to the big screen!  I mean hell, if Battleship is going to have a movie “adapted” from it, I’d say everything is fair game.  Pong: The Pongening in theatres 2015!  Checkers: The Revenge.  Paper, Rock, Scissors 3D: The Motion Picture event of 2013.  This write-up is featuring more unnecessary snark that most entries because I have very little to say about the movie.

The beginning 20 minutes to half an hour moves almost glacially slow, and then they pick up an Indian (Rod Rondeaux) and the tension sorta picks up.  It’s a great cast, though for the most part they just seem to be part of the scenery.  However, Bruce Greenwood is virtually unrecognizable in his role as Stephen Meek and that’s pretty amazing.  For a movie about an historical event, there’s very little background and follow-up provided.  If you played Oregon Trail though, you kinda know how it’s going to end.

You have died fording the river/of dysentry/etc.  Decent movie, but most people won’t be into it.

3 / 5