Thursday, January 3, 2013

The "D" is Silent!

Django Unchained  (Columbia Pictures, 2012)

Before the Camera:

Jamie Foxx  (TV's In Living Color)
Christoph Walsh  (The Green Hornet)
Leonardo DeCaprio  (TV's Growing Pains)
Kerry Washington  (The Fantastic Four '05)
Walton Goggins  (TV's Justified)
Dennis Christopher  (Fade to Black)
James Remar  (48 Hours)
Don Johnson  (A Boy and His Dog)
Samuel L. Jackson  (The Avengers)

Also, look fast for:

James Remar  (he plays two roles!)
James Russo  (Beverly Hills Cop)
Don Stroud  (Licence to Kill)
Tom Wopat  (TV's The Dukes of Hazzard)
Russ Tamblyn  (Phantom Empire)
Amber Tamblyn  (The Ring)
Bruce Dern  (Silent Running)
M.C. Gainey  (TV's Lost)
Cooper Huckabee  (The Funhouse)
Jonah Hill  (The Watch)
Lee Horsley  (The Sword and the Sorceror)
Michael Bowen  (Jackie Brown)
Robert Carradine  (Number One with a Bullet)
Zoe Bell  (Death Proof)
Ted Neeley  (Jesus Christ Superstar)
Tom Savini  (The Ripper)
Michael Parks  (Ffolkes)
John Jarratt  (Wolf Lake)
Quentin Tarantino  (Grindhouse: Planet Terror)
Franco Nero  (the original Django!)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Produced by Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Reginald Hudlin, and 5 other assorted producers

Written by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s latest is another high energy blend of several genre films he’s enamored of – in this case spaghetti westerns. Not satisfied with merely doing the cowboy equivalent of Kill Bill, this time QT throws racism and slavery into the mix, and as might be expected, not everyone feels he’s the right filmmaker for the job.

In 1858 Texas, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), ostensibly a traveling dentist, comes upon a slave drive one night. In trying to question one of the slaves about some men he’s interested in – Dr. Schultz reveals himself to be a man of learning, humor, and manners; and also a very fast hand with a gun. Dr. Schultz takes the slave, a man named Django – with him, and reveals the truth: the traveling dentist wagon is a cover – although he is a licensed dentist, he no longer practices – instead he is now a bounty hunter. His current quest is for the Brittle brothers, a trio of ne’er-do-wells wanted for various violent crimes. Dr. Schultz doesn’t know what the men look like, but he knows that Django does. The men make a deal – if Django helps Schultz find the Brittle brothers, then the doctor will in turn help Django find his wife – who’s been sold off to a plantation owner as punishment for she and Django running off. As the two men pursue this violent avocation – tracking down the Brittles on the plantation of Big Daddy (Johnson) and then on to other violent criminals with prices on their heads – they form a bond – as their travels take them from Texas to Tennessee and back again. Eventually they find out that Django’s wife Broomhilda is now the property of Calvin Candie (DeCaprio) and she now works on his plantation, Candyland. Schultz and Django infiltrate the estate as a couple of slavers, with Django finding this guise particularly repulsive, as a black slaver is the lowest of the low. But he plays the part, and they go to work on Candie - telling him they want to buy a fighting slave for gladiator matches, and during the negotiations the men find themselves under the scrutiny of Candie’s henchmen, and the house servant Stephen (Jackson), who’s definitely not on Django’s side despite their shared race. As their situation goes sour, the men realize it’s going to take some cool moves and hot lead to get out of this one.

What the well dressed bounty hunter wore in 1858...

This is standard issue QT – and that’s a compliment. Opening with a pre-1976 Columbia Pictures logo given some “old print” discoloration, and featuring the theme song from the original 1966 Django over the opening credits, Tarantino gets this movie off to a good start. The first hour moves like lightning – with Waltz proving a hell of an actor in one of the year’s most entertaining performances. He’s matched by Foxx, who takes Django through an interesting arc – from subservience through unease at Schultz’s casual acceptance of him to confidence in his newfound manhunting skills. The rest of the cast is typical for a QT flick – a constant and most welcome stream of familiar faces, though director Tarantino lets actor Tarantino try an Australian accent that’s fairly epic fail, especially sharing scenes with real Australian Jarratt. But it’s all in good fun – with funny lines and ingratiating character moments mixed with incredibly graphic violence and dialogue featuring enough n-bombs to make Simon Legree blush. This of course has caused some consternation across the media – with Spike Lee and Tavis Smiley showing open displeasure with the film and its creator, among others. But the presence of Reginald Hudlin as producer would seem to indicate that there’s no problem here – even if Hudlin’s presence as producer was specifically sought out to indicate there’s no problem here. I don’t think Hudlin would be viewed as a sellout – but I’m also no expert on any of this.

Leo goes DIY with his villainy. By the way,
legend has it that's really his blood on his
hand - apparently he slammed it down on
some broken glass but never broke character.
Stitches were needed after the scene ended.

I will say the movie is very entertaining – with the light tone a most welcome turn of events for a movie with such dark subject matter. At no point is the seriousness of slavery held up to ridicule – the humor comes in from other sources. The film is long – and after that lightning paced first hour there are some signs of bloat in the next hour and forty five minutes – I’m not sure what I would cut – but some kind of trimming – 10-15 minutes even - would probably help. Thankfully the climax gets the movie back on track for a bright finish. It’s also very cool how Tarantino has brought in pieces of music composed for earlier spaghetti westerns throughout – I heard pieces from Two Mules for Sister Sara, They Call Me Trinity, His Name was King, Day of Anger and additional pieces from the original Django soundtrack - in addition to some incongruous music from the 70’s – but I guess it wouldn’t be a QT movie if he didn’t get in some funky somewhere. I give this one a high recommendation – and a theatrical viewing would best serve to highlight the gorgeous 2:35:1 anamorphic cinematography so get out to the theater and check it out!

Oh, and Quentin? Dynamite wasn't invented until 1867.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At very roughly 1:05:00, Christoph Waltz is thinking a strategic retreat might be in order, and around 2:45:00, Jamie Foxx knows the movie is over.

Eye Candy ?

Despite the usual Western lack of showcase - all those long dresses - two ladies make the list:

Nichole Galicia - as the only woman allowed any glamour in the film - you're in!

Zoe Bell - for being Zoe Bell (and never mind that you have to work hard to spot her in the movie) - you're in!

Welcome to the list, ladies!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Django Unchained is a QT of a movie!"

Thank you Buddha Man! Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Quibbling over dynamite? You sound like me when I watch some of these Hollywood historical films and they clearly have a case of Wrongitis... Vikings with scimitars, Romans with glass windows...yeah directors do like their fantasy.

    I can't wait to see this. I know I'm going to love it and I can't wait to see my Lee Horsley aka Matt Houston again.

    1. Well, I can't say I've ever caught a sword mistake - but as you'll see - dynamite plays a big role in the movie - nine years early. That's a pretty big error. I would like to watch one of those historical movies with you and experience you running roughshod over it!

      I'll be completely honest with you - I recognized every single one of those "look fast" actors up there - EXCEPT Lee Horsley - and I too am a fan (probably not for the same reasons) - from Sword and the Sorceror to the rather forgotten but really fun Matt Houston series. (I smell a trip into the Video Vault of Mora Tau for Mr. Houston soon!) I'm not sure how I missed him in DU - but I did!

  2. A WOOP-WPP-DE-WHOOP! Craig, my friend, you have no idea how excited I am for this! Awesome review mate!

    1. I hope you get to see it soon - I very much enjoyed it! And thank you for the kind words!

  3. Looove this movie!

    And c'mon! No Eye Candy love for Kerry? She is ADORABLE.

    1. Meeeee too!

      You know, she's a fine actress and plays the role very well - but she doesn't float my boat - at least not in THIS movie...

  4. Looove this movie!

    And c'mon! No Eye Candy love for Kerry? She is ADORABLE.

    1. Meeeee too!

      You know, she's a fine actress and plays the role very well - but she doesn't float my boat - at least not in THIS movie...

  5. Sorry, I'm going to miss this one after Foxx's comments on SNL. If he didn't make light of killing white people and that it was okay to do so, I'd probably check it out. Not even going to watch it in cable.

    1. Well, that's certainly your choice. I do have to say - as someone who bristles at racism in any direction - Foxx's jokes didn't rub me the wrong way. But I can understand why they would - so I support you in your anonymous non-watching of this movie.

  6. Awesome review! I saw this twice in the theatre and am going again before the run is over. One of the best films of the year, imo. Bruce Dern? I knew that was him! Where was Ted Neeley? Tarantino's Aussie accent = not good. He should have tried Italian (LOL). I agree it was a tad too long. But for me I didn't even notice, I was so enthralled with the story.

    1. Thank you Luana! It seems to be your year for seeing movies in threes! Skyfall, and now this one! It was Laura's Dad - yes ma'am! Ted Neely was in the group of baddies that had the veiled woman in with them. Yeah, QT's Strine was NOT fair dinkum, let me tell you!

  7. Sweet review Craig. This looks like a fun movie and Quentin loves to mess with genres.

    1. Thanks, Maurice! It was a very fun movie - and he smears his genres around pretty good!

  8. Seen it and loved... no, ADORED it. Seriously, this is undoubtedly Tarantino's best movie to date. It blew me away. SO funny, so entertaining, so brutal, so gory, so emotional, so political... hell, this is a fucking masterpiece!!!