REVIEW: Django Unchained

"The 'D' is silent, hillbilly."

Bounty Hunter Dr. King Schultz is looking for a gang of outlaws worth a pretty penny, but seeing as how he doesn't know what they look like, he enlists the help of  Django, a slave he frees and who just so happens to know what these men look like.  A partnership is formed and Schultz agrees to help Django find and free his wife in return.

Quentin Tarantino has been talking about making a spaghetti western for nearly a decade now so it comes as no surprise to me that DJANGO UNCHAINED is entertaining as hell.  Tarantino's been rather sloppy lately in my opinion--this coming from a true QT fan--and although DJANGO feels rushed and uneven at times, this could possibly be due in part to the fact that QT has promised a five hour director's cut when this baby hits Blu-ray.  I know what you might be thinking, 'five hours, are you kidding me', but trust me, for a flick that runs around the three hour mark as it is, you'll find yourself wanting more by the time it all ends.  I guarantee it.

Jamie Foxx is brilliant as Django, that is, once he comes into his own.  The film does take a fair amount of presumptions and leaps of faith when it comes to his character though, mainly, how he goes from a rough around the edges slave, to a smooth talking killing machine that would make Billy The Kid nod his head in admiration.  This transformation reminds me of one in THE MASK OF ZORRO, though it felt like Anthony Hopkins schooled Banderas much more than Schultz did Django.  Perhaps this will make up a significant amount of that two hours we've been promised and I hope so, because as nit picky as it sounds, you can't help but notice.

The true magic of this movie comes from the rich characters, most notably Christoph Waltz as Schultz, Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie and Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen.  Waltz is such a well versed actor, I love the guy, he's a pure delight to watch.  I didn't care for INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, but I can't deny his awesomeness in the film.  I also didn't love (or loathe) GREEN HORNET, but for my money, Waltz's villain was what made the film watchable.  He and Candie have an epic battle of words that redefines the fact that Tarantino--for all his faults--is still a master when it comes to dialogue.  DiCaprio was phenomenal, the speech he gives about the brain was both intelligent and chilling.  Jackson's Stephen was a hoot, brought to life with sweet perfection.  It's a shame these characters don't get more screen time as they're the highlight of the adventure.

DJANGO UNCHAINED definitely makes it's own cattle brand mark on the wild west and takes quite a bite out of the race war of old.  I'll admit hearing the 'N' word so often is a bit jarring at times, but I suppose it's unavoidable given the circumstances.  Despite the uncomfortable feeling one gets when dealing with this subject matter, QT never really goes over the line, meaning we never get anything that we didn't expect to see given the nature of his films.  The one thing I didn't understand was how fleeting a moment the whole 'Brittle Brothers' subplot was.  This was the deal that sparks Django and Schultz's arrangement, but it's over before you get a chance to blink.  Don Johnson's character and involvement also felt rushed and ultimately pointless (not sure why Jonah Hill signed on for his meager role either).  These are small complaints however, and by no means take away from the film as a whole.  This was a brilliant ride into the sunset that should be enjoyed in the theater, and I personally can't wait for that five hour director's cut.



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REVIEW: Jack Reacher

"Cruise is at the top of his game as Reacher."

When five random people are gunned down via sniper rifle all evidence points to an unbalanced military sniper whose faced a similar charge before.  Claiming he's innocent, the soldier asks for Jack Reacher, a military investigator whose been MIA for two years.  Having seen the news, Reacher blows into town to put the guy down, but finds himself unable to do so when new evidence comes to light.


I had the chance to meet and chat with Lee Child (author of ONE SHOT, the novel in which this film is based) last summer during ThrillerFest in New York.  The guy was a true delight and we discussed the idea of Cruise as Reacher among other things.  He was happy with the choice and I must say I am too.  For my money, you can't do much better than Tom Cruise in an action vehicle.  This man is action ready and delivers every time.  Sure, he's not the hulking monster Jack Reacher is in Child's novels, but he nailed the character down with ease, making his wisecracking, intelligent dialogue a pure delight and fantastic beat downs loads of fun.

The opening killings hit home pretty hard in light of recent news events, but the tone eases up fairly quickly once the film starts rolling.  The action is top notch, leaving me feeling this wasn't actually a PG-13 flick (which it was) and that's always a good thing.  I'm happy to see Jai Courtney getting his due (Varro from SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND.  I'm sure Andy Whitfield is looking down on you with a big smile on his face, brother) here--even if he is the villain--and in the upcoming DIE HARD flick as McClane's son.  Rosamund Pike was a feast for the eyes (especially in the cleavage department) and grizzled veterans like Robert Duvall are always a smart addition.  The cast was stellar and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

JACK REACHER is film I'd love to see turn into a franchise and with Cruise at the helm, it's definitely a good possibility.  The novels will always be better, but Jack Reacher is a fun character to root for with a keen intelligence that rivals Bruce Wayne himself.  Reacher always has something to say and is ready to kick your teeth in if you don't like it, making him my kind of anti-hero.  The good news is, we root for him anyway because at his core he's fighting the good fight and that's something we can all get on board with, despite his methods.  I did feel the man behind the madness was a touch weak (not literally though as anyone who can chew off their own fingers is a certified badass), as his end result, beyond a creepy presence and cool accent, didn't make for much a epic end game.  That said, this is a thrilling action title and Cruise at his very best so I have no problem recommending you see this bad boy in theaters over the holidays.

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TRAILER: Spartacus: War Of The Damned

I love this show. It pains me to know this will be the final season, just as it pains me that Andy Whitfield is gone. That said, this looks like a ferocious ending to a series that's reinvigorated not only a legendary figure, but Roman history in general. I can't wait to see how it all plays out and then look forward to watching the entire series back to back.

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TRAILER: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

I'm not sure how laugh out loud funny this is going to be, but I'm down for Jim Carrey in a comedy that doesn't feel like a run down gimmick. Magic is always fun and it's a concept I can't get enough of. Maybe I'm a big kid, but part of me wants this to be funny even if I doubt it will be.

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TRAILER: This Is The End

Okay, I have no clue where this came from, but damn does it look funny. The end of the world thing's been done to death and by the looks of the lazer beams this might include aliens (also done to death), but the fact that the boys are playing themselves in what feels like a PINEAPPLE EXPRESS meets TROPIC THUNDER means this is bound to be funny as hell on an epic scale. I could be wrong, but I really hope not.

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TRAILER: Pain And Gain

"I'm hot. I'm big." I love it. This Michael Bay led extravaganza looks fantastic and I for one am pumped to see it. The Rock and Wahlberg are enough to get me excited but this is a great reunion for Bay and Ed Harris as well. This is pretty out there for Bay considering what he's used to, but I'm excited to see something in the vein of BAD BOYS. If that's what we're looking at here, it'll be awesome.

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TRAILER: Pacific Rim

I'm loving the concept here, but I would've been so much more pumped had this been a trailer for VOLTRON. Instead we get Charlie Hunnam (SOA's Jax Teller) piloting giant robots to kick the hell out of those pesky interdimensional aliens from THE MIST. I'm down. I loved REAL STEEL and that was a kid's movie, so this one should knock it out of the park.

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REVIEW: The Hobbit

"A well rounded revisit to Middle Earth."

Sixty years before the events surrounding the LOTR trilogy, a young Bilbo Baggins is reluctantly convinced to join Gandalf and a party of dwarves in their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a vicious dragon who killed their kinsmen and ravaged their homeland.

I didn't read the Rings books, but I'm an avid fan of fantasy.  Fans like me go out of their way to find 'passable' fantasy flicks where we can, often times taking the awful with the good.  It's a great genre to read, but film hasn't exactly been kind.  Peter Jackson changed all that.  Aside from the ridiculous amount of endings in RETURN OF THE KING, I loved the extended versions of the LOTR trilogy and would count these three films as not only the best fantasy film has to offer, but also how to "do it right".  That said, who better than PJ to bring us back to Middle Earth for another three part adventure?  Do I think we needed three films to convey this story?  Probably not, but the pacing of this one was fine by me (and trust me, I was expecting otherwise) and if the other two fair as well as this one did in that department, I'd have to say I agree with this decision.

So the pacing was fine, but what about the 48 FPS you ask?  Again, I went in expecting the worst, but I have to say I was blown away.  The best way to explain 48 FPS (frames per second if you didn't know) is as follows: if you've bought one of the newest brands of TVs over the past year, a Quattron for example, then you've experienced the overly defined, camcorder/soap opera 'look'.  I'll admit it takes some getting used to, but I've grown to like it.  The 3D 48 FPS takes that technology and throws it into overdrive with a smoother, much more colorfully-vivid transition that makes you feel like you're actually there.  Seriously.  When they were being chased under the mountain by all those goblins, it felt as though they could leap off the screen at any time.  I highly recommend you see it like this, but sadly, if you haven't had the opportunity to 'get used' to this technology and are hitting it for the first time, you'll no doubt be a little bothered by it at first.

The next issue is the acting and or actors involved.  The returning cast, led by the always awesome Ian McKellen, were a real treat.  For years, continuations of films and TV shows have been plagued by new faces playing the original characters, and sure, ten years isn't that long of a gap, but I've seen it happen and it sucks.  Not so here (for the most part) as Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and Gollum are played the by same actors who all look fantastic (Cate Blanchett was looking especially delicious).  Hell, we even get to see Ian Holm (old Bilbo) and Elijah Wood (Frodo) for a little at the beginning.  This added tremendous flavor for me as a fan of the series.  I particularly loved watching Christopher Lee (can you believe he's ninety years old) acting all innocent like he has no idea what's going on in Murkwood--priceless.  I enjoyed Martin Freeman's Bilbo (especially his scene with Gollum) and the dwarves weren't nearly as annoying as I thought they would be, Thorin in particular was a cool as hell leader.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY falls short by comparison to the original trilogy in only one department.  The tone.  I remember trying to read THE HOBBIT when I was in grade nine and after one page put it down thinking it sounded too childish.  The movie isn't that bad, but at no point did I ever feel anyone was in mortal danger and considering some of the things they had to endure, I should have.  This is only a minor complaint, as I'm not sure how this story ends or who dies (if anyone), but aside from that, the scenery was breathtaking (especially Rivendell, the dwarven city and the goblin cavern), the makeup and effects were stellar, the story was fun and the action scenes were epic.  There isn't much to complain about here as far as I'm concerned, so this makes the perfect flick for the holidays and I can't wait to see the next one.  PS: It would've been nice to actually see Smaug.  Damn you for making me wait another year Peter Jackson.  Damn you.

  

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REVIEW: Skyfall

"Not the best, but a still a damn good time."

In a failed attempt to recover a hard drive containing the names of fellow agents, Bond is shot and presumed dead.  In his absence, M and the entire MI6 are targeted as M's past comes back to haunt her.  A burned out Bond must overcome self doubt and demons from his own past if he hopes to make things right.
 
There's no question that Daniel Craig has reinvigorated the Bond franchise and I'd even go a step further by adding that he's raised the bar far beyond where I thought this series could go.  Obviously it's not all him, he's had some great writers, directors and fellow cast members to help this process along, but all in all he's one hell of a Bond.  Some are praising this installment as the best yet and thought I'll agree it's a great film, the best of the franchise?  Probably not.  The best Craig Bond film?  No dice there either.  I'm still very partial to CASINO ROYALE, but make no mistake SKYFALL still delivers the goods.

I find it interesting that no one's picked up on the fact that this storyline is (in some ways) similar to DIE ANOTHER DAY.  Now before you take my head off, I did say in some ways.  DIE ANOTHER DAY was campy as hell, but it had a dark edge with Bond being presumably killed off in the beginning, just like he is in SKYFALL.  The resurrection, if you will, may not come across in the same fashion, but similarities are there.  Eve/Jinx are both hot African American chicks who help him along the way, and the two villains even have their similarities.  That said, there's no ice castle in this one (it was pretty badass despite being literally impossible) and SKYFALL is the better film, but as far as originality goes I can't give it all out praise, even though it was a good story.


My only real complaint is that Javier Bardem's Silva wasn't in the film all that long.  He was a fantastic villain, played to perfection by an amazing actor, yet we barely see him and then he's gone--I also would have loved a better hand to hand combat fight in the closing moments of their final battle.  What we see of Silva is spectacular (that pistol/scotch scene was awesome and who else in history can say they threw a train at someone), I just can't help but feel he got cheated with limited screen time.  We did see more Judi Dench this time around which is always a good thing--she does come off rather cold and maniacal--  and I enjoyed the new Q as well as Ralph Fiennes being added to the team.  The cast was magnificent and Sam Mendes did a terrific job behind the lens.

SKYFALL is bond at his worst by way of feeling old, defeated and obsolete at times (I loved how he failed his field test and they put him through anyway), but his character is still as rich as ever and what we get is essentially him giving his all in his most desperate hour.  Make no mistake this is entertainment at its best for the Bond franchise so there's no complaints there.  I'm anxious as hell for the next installment, but for God sake, make a better theme song next time before the one in this movie was atrocious.  The writing was excellent, the scenery jumping impressive and I liked the clever use of the title--long time Bond fans might have picked up on what Skyfall was, but I guess I'm not hardcore enough because I had no idea.  It's a drag hearing Craig in interviews with a "ho hum" impression of the Bond character, but here's hoping there's more greatness to come from him and this franchise.  


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GAME TRAILER: Dark Souls 2

Very rarely does a game come along that changes the way we game. DEMON SOULS started this transition but it's follow up, DARK SOULS, established this level of greatness. If you know nothing about either of these games, that's not surprising as the appeal lies in it's difficulty, hence the catch phrase: Prepare to die. Remember some of those mind numbingly difficult Nintendo games whose difficulties were beyond the realm of reason? Well it is within these dark waters that DARK SOULS resides. I couldn't be more excited by this news and will bring you all updates as they become available.

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TRAILER: The Lone Ranger

I vaguely remember The Lone Ranger cartoon (I was more into BRAVESTARR as a kid), so like INSPECTOR GADGET, GARFIELD and SMURFS, I just don't get the need for this a generation or two later...aside from a lack of ideas and money that is. I don't mind a good old fashioned western from time to time, and as much as I hate to say it, this isn't looking all that bad. Time will tell, but seeing as how they had to shrink the budget a couple times during filming, they better pray it's not a flop.

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TRAILER: Man Of Steel

Part of me still feels that another Superman origin story is beyond ridiculous at this point. I mean hell, if you don't know who Superman is you're not going to see this movie anyway. SMALLVILLE did for Superman what no film will ever be able to do, and that's humanize Clark Kent and tell his magnificent story in awesome detail. That said, I have faith in Zach Snyder, Chris Nolan and Henry Cavill. I sincerely hope this film does well, and with any luck it'll help the JUSTICE LEAGUE movement.

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TRAILER: Oblivion

I love Tom Cruise. The man is phenomenal when it comes to work and films, he gives it his all and it shows on screen. He's been fantastic in runaway Sci-Fi flicks (MINORITY REPORT being my personal favorite), and OBLIVION looks like another home run in that department. With that and JACK REACHER coming later this month, Tom looks like he's got a great year ahead of him.

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TRAILER: Star Trek: Into Darkness

One of the most compelling things that hooked me about the STAR TREK remake was the trailer. J.J. Abrams knows his stuff and they cut a mean trailer then, and a slick one this time as well (and this is only the one minute teaser). The first film was going to be great or it was going to be a huge flop. I think we all know how it turned out so here's hoping this installment lives up to its predecessor.

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TRAILER: Gangster Squad

This is THE UNTOUCHABLES with some serious anger attached to it and I'm loving every second of it. I'm not much for Sean Penn, but he's a fantastic villain. Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin aren't exactly the bottom of the barrel either. For the most part these flicks all start and end the same, so the ride is what counts. So far, I'm down for some of this action.

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TRAILER: Snitch

I love the Rock and since redeeming himself back into the action world, I have nothing but respect for the ass kicking he's been unleashing. This may be a worn tale of undercover action, but I'm liking the father/son dynamic and the cast is pretty damn solid (haven't seen Barry Pepper in awhile and it's cool to see Jon Bernthal as well). Looking forward to this one.

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TRAILER: Dark Skies

Most alien abduction flicks have that "been there, done that" look to them, but this one feels like it's got an edge. It's part PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and part INCIDIOUS (not surprising as it's by the same producers) with J.K. Simmons as the alien guru. I'm liking this so far, lets hope it doesn't disappoint with a lame/predictable ending. I hate that.

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TRAILER: Now You See Me

Just the other day I was watching ZOMBIELAND and wondering what Jesse Eisenberg was up to and now I know. He and Woody are teamed up for this magic extravaganza that looks like it's going to blow our minds. It feels like a revamped PRESTIGE (and even has Michael Caine), so I'm pumped as hell to say the least.

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TRAILER: Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

Now this is more like it! When I think supernatural thriller this is the type of film I have in mind. Again, we're treading PG-13 territory here and the cast are relatively unknown (I hope it's not another ERAGON), but if there was a flick to surprise me in a good way, I would want it to be this one.

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TRAILER: Heavenly Creatures

At first glance it almost feels like TWILIGHT with witches (I'm assuming this is loosely based upon witchcraft). I'm sure this will be written a little better, but that's the vibe I'm getting. Either way, this is one of those flicks that looks like it could go either way. Who knows, maybe it'll surprise me, but I doubt it.

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TRAILER: Hitchcock

This trailer and overall concept doesn't interest me in the slightest. Do we really need an inside look at how Hitchcock put PSYCHO together? No, we don't. Do we really need to see Anthony Hopkins looking like he ate every copy of psycho on the planet? No, we don't. Hollywood's reaching with stuff like this and maybe there's a demographic for it, but I'm not part of it.

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TRAILER: Warm Bodies

More zombies, but in a comedic ZOMBIELAND type fashion which is interesting to me, but a tad sketchy seeing as how it's rated PG-13. I'm all for a dark, edgy zombie comedy, but again, it does feel a little like Hollywood pushing the genre simply because of THE WALKING DEAD. Lets hope that doesn't lead to rushed scrips and lazy writing.

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TRAILER: World War Z

I didn't read the books, but heard they were alright. Zombies are big right now with WALKING DEAD running rampant in TV land so I'm not surprised these guys are trying to cash in for a piece of undead pie. That said, it feels like I AM LEGEND with zombies and the whirlwind zombie CGI is weak to say the least. With Brad Pitt on board I have hope, but I'll wait for a more solid trailer before I decide.

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