Archive for the Tarantino Films Category

Quick Cuts Presents: BEST TARANTINO MOMENTS

Posted in 2013, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, LL Soares Reviews, Martial Arts, Michael Arruda Reviews, Quick Cuts, Tarantino Films with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTSQuentin Tarantino’s Finest Moments
With MICHAEL ARRUDA, L.L. SOARES, and COLLEEN WANGLUND

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) on December 25, we’re asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to name their favorite Quentin Tarantino moment.

Is it a specific scene?  A line of dialogue?  A scene he appeared in?  Or an entire movie?  In other words, when you think of Tarantino, what image/scene/linecomes to mind?

Okay Cinema Knife Fighters, what’s your favorite Quentin Tarantino moment(s)? 

 COLLEEN WANGLUND:  I love Quentin Tarantino’s films, even if they are outright remakes.

My favorite scenes both come from KILL BILL VOL 1 (2003). The first is the awesome fight scene between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and the Crazy Eighty-Eights in the nightclub in Japan. The extreme nature of the fighting and blood spray is glorious in its recreation of fights from Hong Kong martial arts and Japanese chanbara films of the 1960s and 70s.

Kill Bill Volume 1

Kill Bill Volume 1

The second is the final battle between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) on the roof in the snow. The music is incredible and the fight between the two ladies and their katanas is a beautiful homage (or an outright copy?) of the Japanese chanbara/rape revenge film LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) directed by Toshiya Fujita.

ARRUDA:  It’s pretty straightforward for me.  Whenever I think of Tarantino, I always think of PULP FICTION (1994) which was the first film of his I saw.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but since it was the first one I saw, it’s the one I always think of when I think of Tarantino.

Pulp-Fiction

But whenever I picture him, I see him as the weirdo rapist bank robber Richard Gecko in the Robert Rodriquez vampire flick FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996).  Sure, this is a vampire movie, but it’s Tarantino’s performance as George Clooney’s insane brother that always stays with me after watching it.  He gets under my skin, far deeper than any of the vampires in this one.

L.L. SOARES: Tarantino wrote the screenplay to FROM DUST TILL DAWN as well.

For me, every Tarantino movie has a “punch to the gut” moment. Many movies have more than one. Usually, these include some killer dialogue, as well. Here are just some of my favorite Tarantino moments, but I could list a few from each of his movies:

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992):The discussion of Madonna’s song “Like a Virgin: at the beginning of the movie, and of course the “Stuck in the Middle with You” scene with Michael Madsen cutting off a cop’s ear.

PULP FICTION (1994): The scene towards the end where Sam Jackson gives a long speech that revolves around a quote from the Bible. Also, the scene where they have to plunge a needle of adrenaline into Uma Thurman’s heart to save her from an overdose, and of course the “Gimp” sequence.

It's the GIMP from PULP FICTION!

It’s the GIMP from PULP FICTION!

KILL BILL VOLUME 2 (2004): The scene where David Carradine gives his explanation why he believes Superman despised mankind. Brilliant dialogue!

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009): The beginning sequence where Christoph Waltz, as a Nazi officer, interrogates a family in a farmhouse.

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) The scene where Leonardo DiCaprio, as Calvin Candie, gives a scary speech involving a skull and a hammer.

ARRUDA:  And that wraps things up for another edition of QUICK CUTS.  Thanks for joining us everybody!  Good night!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, Colleen Wanglund and L.L. Soares

THE BEST MOVIES OF 2012 by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2012, 2013, Anthology Films, Best Of Lists, Comedies, Comic Book Movies, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Science Fiction, Tarantino Films with tags , , , , on January 1, 2013 by knifefighter

THE BEST MOVIES OF 2012
By L.L. Soares

This time around, Michael Arruda and I decided to write two separate lists listing our favorite films of 2012. It was just getting confusing trying to do both of our lists in one column. So, without any bells and whistles, here are my Top 10 Movies of 2012:

NUMBER ONE:
DJANGO UNCHAINED

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It’s funny how the last movie I saw in a theater in 2012 (and the movie I was most looking forward to all year long), also turned out to be my favorite film of the year. I’m a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, because I love his style of filmmaking, and he hasn’t let me down yet. A new Tarantino movie has become something of an event for me, and I had a great Christmas afternoon sitting in a movie theater, watching DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Intense, gory, violent, often funny, terrifically acted, wonderfully scripted and directed, I just can’t praise this movie enough. Tarantino mashes up two staples of 1970s grindhouse cinema—the Blaxploitation film and the spaghetti western—and in the process transcends everything that inspired it. At its heart, it’s just a great revenge drama and a love story. With Jamie Foxx as the biggest badass of 2012.

NUMBER TWO:
THE KILL LIST (2011)/MOONRISE KINGDOM (TIE)

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Technically, THE KILL LIST is a 2011 film, but it got a limited release in America in 2012, and that’s when I saw it, so it’s going on this list. A hitman drama with a very strange twist. This movie was also incredibly violent, but also incredibly satisfying. Beyond that, I don’t want to say much about it, except that it was one of the most original flicks I saw in 2012. It was going to be my Number 1 choice until I saw DJANGO UNCHAINED. Directed by the very talented Ben Wheatley.

Moonrise

We didn’t review MOONRISE KINGDOM here, the latest movie by Wes Anderson (who also directed some other movies I love, like RUSHMORE (1998) and THE ROYAL TANENBAUMS (2001)), probably because it didn’t fit in the with the usual genre-driven stuff we focus on here, but it was easily one of my favorite movies of 2012. A strangely innocent movie about two young teens who run away from home to live in a tent together, it was chock-full of quirky characters and terrific performances (from people like Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand,  Bob Balaban and Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray). I loved every moment of this wonderful, whimsical, original movie.

NUMBER THREE:
JOHN CARTER

John Carter

JOHN CARTER had to be the most criminally underrated film of 2012. It will go down in history as one of the biggest box office flops of all time, and it cost some Disney executives their jobs, but I still say it’s one of the best movies of the year. Based on the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created Tarzan, John Carter of Mars is a character who should have been adapted for the movies decades ago, but something always went wrong, preventing that from happening. The biggest obstacle was always bringing Burroughs’ world of Mars to the big screen without looking cheesy. Modern-day special effects finally made this possible, but by the time this came out, a lot of people thought it was derivative of science fiction epics like STAR WARS, when in fact, the original books were the forerunner to hundreds of movies that stole –er, paid homage –to them.

This was the real deal, and it captured the spirit of adventure in Burroughs’ novels (the book this movie was based on, A Princess of Mars, was first published in 1912!). Unfortunately, most theater-goers had no idea, because the marketing campaign for this movie was abysmal. If anyone is responsible for this movie’s failure at the box office, the biggest burden of guilt has to fall on the publicity department at Disney. First off, removing the OF MARS part of the title left most people scratching their heads and wondering “Who the hell is John Carter?” And none of the promotional material linked JOHN CARTER with its creator, who also gave us Tarzan.

The movie is pretty faithful to the source material. The acting is really good, especially Taylor Kitsch in the title role. And this movie should have made him a star. Directed by Andrew Stanton – his first live-action film after helming animated movies for Pixar like FINDING NEMO (2003) and WALL-E (2008). Everyone involved deserves high praise.

NUMBER FOUR:
THE AVENGERS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES  (TIE)

There are going to be a few ties in this list, since there were so many good movies that came out in 2012, and it was tough to fit them into 10 slots (there are also a bunch of Honorable Mentions, as you’ll see).

TheAvengers.jpg

2012 was, without a doubt, the year of the superhero. And as a long-time fan of Marvel Comics, it was a thrill to finally see THE AVENGERS hit the big screen. I grew up reading the adventures of Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America (by themselves and as members of THE AVENGERS – even if the Hulk only appeared in the first few issues) and Joss Whedon gave us a movie version of “Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes” that was a ton of fun from beginning to end. As a Hulk fan, I was thrilled to finally see him done right in a movie, and the big green guy stole every scene he  was in. The main villain could have been a bit more menacing (we’d already seen Loki in the THOR movie and I would have preferred someone else facing off against the Avengers besides him and a bunch of generic space aliens), but all in all, it was a really enjoyable experience. Kudos to director Joss Whedon.

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THE DARK KNIGHT RISES started off on a depressing real-life note, when a nut shot up a movie theater in Colorado during one of the first screenings, and I thought this would doom the movie, but DARK KNIGHT RISES was able to endure and get the praise it deserved. Darker and more introspective than the lighter AVENGERS, I think DARK KNIGHT was the better film, capping off Christopher Nolan’s above-average Batman trilogy. Tom Hardy turned out to be pretty terrific as the main bad guy, Bane (even if I still think they could have made his voice more understandable with that mask on – you had to really listen to decipher some of his dialogue), and Anne Hathaway was a kick-ass Catwoman. The thing about this movie that impressed me most was that it stayed with me after I saw it, where THE AVENGERS was like a great feast of junk food that was almost forgettable once the credits rolled. DARK KNIGHT haunted me, and I found myself thinking about it more as time went on. I even think it’s the best of Nolan’s Batman movies.

Two very different takes on the superhero story. Both successful in their own way.

NUMBER FIVE:
THE RAID: REDEMPTION and THE COLLECTION (TIE)

Two indie films make up my number five choice.

The_Raid_Redemption

THE RAID: REDEMPTION was my favorite action film of the year, featuring cops invading a multi-story building full of criminals, to arrest the kingpin on the top floor. But to get there, they have to survive being under attack, continuously, floor by floor. Not big on plot (although there are a few twists along the way), THE RAID was pure, undiluted action. Nothing like the (often disappointing) brainless big-budget blockbusters it competed against. And the fight scenes were amazing pieces of choreography. Made in Indonesia and directed by Welsh director Gareth Evans, THE RAID was like a bullet-ridden, bone-crunching ballet.

The Collection.jpg

THE COLLECTION was that rare sequel that transcended the first film (in this case, the 2010 movie, THE COLLECTOR). Without the hypocritical moral “message” of the SAW movies (this one was made by some of the same guys who made a bunch of the SAW films), THE COLLECTION was a non-stop journey through a house of horrors, courtesy of a sadistic bad guy who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when he had to. So violent and gory that it pushed its R-rating to the limit. Sure it got dismissed by a lot of critics as just another “torture porn” flick, but they missed the boat on this one. THE COLLECTION was suspenseful, and entertaining as hell. I just had a helluva great time watching this one. Directed by Marcus Dunstan.
Two movies that seemed like adrenaline-stoked roller-coaster rides from start to finish.

NUMBER SIX:
SINISTER

SINISTER-POSTER

One of the best horror movies of 2012, SINISTER actually had some disturbing plot points and intense imagery, and it made me like an actor I’m not always a fan of, Ethan Hawke, a little more.

Hawke plays a true crime writer who brings his family to a house where the horrific murders of another family happened not long before. He thinks it will inspire him to write the book of his career. Then he finds a box of home movies in the attic. They’re actually snuff films of the murderer’s past crimes. Hawke can’t stop watching the movies, and they’re driving him mad. A great idea, done very well. And one of the few truly creepy horror films of 2012. Directed by Scott Derrickson.

NUMBER SEVEN:
THE COMEDY and CLOUD ATLAS (TIE)

Another tie of two very different movies.

TheComedy.jpg

THE COMEDY is more of an anti-comedy as Tim Heidecker (of the “Adult Swim” series TIM AND ERIC’S AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB!) plays a completely obnoxious bastard who offends everyone he meets and somehow doesn’t get his teeth knocked out on a daily basis. Despite the fact that the lead character is almost completely unlikable, I found myself really impressed with the fearlessness of this one. Directed by Rick Alverson.

CloudAtlas.jpg

CLOUD ATLAS couldn’t be more different than THE COMEDY. It was an epic involving multiple characters in multiple time periods (with several actors playing multiple characters, led by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry), ranging from the 1800s to the post-apocalyptic future. The movie jumps constantly between stories and time, yet you never get confused, and it’s fascinating throughout. It did poorly at the box office and most critics attacked it. I thought it was terrific. Directed by Tom Tykwer (RUN LOLA RUN) and the Wachowskis (Andy and Lana, who gave us THE MATRIX movies) and based on the novel by David Mitchell. Along with JOHN CARTER, CLOUD ATLAS was one of the most (unjustly) underrated films of the year.

NUMBER EIGHT:
KILLER JOE and V/H/S (TIE)

Yet another tie.

Killer Joe poster

KILLER JOE features probably the best performance of Matthew McConnaghey’s career (so far), as a crooked cop who moonlights as a hitman. A family of hick morons hires him to knock off the estranged mom for the insurance money, then try to stiff him. Joe then has to set them straight. Along the way he takes their daughter as sexual “collateral” and they fall in love. Directed by the legendary William Friedkin from Tracy Letts’ play (and screenplay).

VHS.jpg

There have been a lot of horror anthology movies lately – which is fine by me, because I’ve always enjoyed them – but V/H/S might just be the best of the bunch so far. Featuring five films by different up-and-coming directors, I found all of the tales to be pretty satisfying (not one real clunker in the bunch) and the movie as a whole to be very enjoyable.

NUMBER NINE:
SAVAGES

Savages.jpg

In some years past, a movie like SAVAGES would have topped my list, showing just how good 2012 was in cinema. SAVAGES is Oliver Stone’s best movie since the 90s, based on the book by Don Winslow, with Taylor Kitsch (from JOHN CARTER), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (from 2010’s KICK-ASS) and Blake Lively as three very different stoners in a ménage a trois, trying to get through life growing and selling the best pot in the land. And the Mexican cartel that decides to make a hostile takeover, led by drug kingpin Salma Hayek in one of the best roles of her career, and terrific performance by Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta.

NUMBER 10:
THE GREY/BRANDED (TIE)

TheGrey.jpg

Liam Neeson may seem a little old to be an action star, but that’s the way his career decided to go, and he is damn good at it. THE GREY might be the best action flick he’s made so far. After a plane crash in Alaska, a man named Ottway (Neeson) who was hired to keep wolves away from an oil company camp, has to use his wits to stay alive against some brutal fellow survivors, the harsh elements, and a hungry pack of the same kinds of wolves he used to hunt. With an intense final scene that some people didn’t like, but I thought was perfect. Directed by Joe Carnahan.

Branded-2012

BRANDED is a really strange movie about an advertising guru, working in Russia, who has a strange epiphany and is able to see marketing brand names and logos as grotesque monsters fighting for control of the populace. This movie was so damn weird and different that it just caught me completely by surprise. Based on the trailers, I was expecting some kind of “alien takeover of Earth” story – but it has nothing to do with that. By the time we get to Misha (Ed Stoppard) building an altar he saw in a dream and slaughtering a red cow on it (which allows him to see the “real” world as it truly is) we’re entering some serious Alejandro Jodorowsky territory.  Co-starring Leelee Sobieski, and directed by Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulrayn. This one was so strange, that, looking back, I’m shocked it got a theatrical release at all (I actually saw this in a multi-plex!), even if it was a limited one.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (Yep, there are a lot of them):

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THE MASTER
Paul Thomas Anderson makes the best unwatchable movie of 2012. What do I mean by this? The story of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a confused, violent young man, fresh out of the Navy who comes into the orbit of a larger-than-life L.Ron Hubbard-type religious guru named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Quell wants desperately to take control of his life, and Dodd wants someone totally disconnected from the world to use as a guinea pig for his new religion. Hoffman and Phoenix deliver some amazing performances in this one, especially Phoenix who I think should be a shoe-in for an Oscar Nomination. They why isn’t it in my Top 10? Because it’s incredibly long, slow, and hard to sit through. When I saw it, I left the theater angry because it had been such an endurance test. But I can’t deny its moments of brilliance. A movie I want to praise, but I find difficult to recommend.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Really low-budget flick about a company that seeks to infiltrate the human mind. I couldn’t tell if it was a brilliant movie that was hampered by its budget, or an interesting idea that was just done badly. I’m prone to believe the former, as this movie really stayed with me over the months. With some really great imagery. Directed by Panos Cosmatos.

HOLY MOTORS
A very strange film from France about Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), who travels around Paris in a stretch limousine and pops out now and then, in full make-up, as a variety of odd characters. But he’s not some prankster playing games; he takes this all very seriously. From an old woman beggar, to an assassin, to a monster who kidnaps model Eva Mendes from a photo shoot (after licking her armpit) and drags her down to the sewers. This is one messed up movie. And I loved it. Written and directed by Leos Carax.

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KILLING THEM SOFTLY
Brad Pitt as hit man Jackie Cogan, sent to wipe out three guys who robbed a Mob-connected poker game. With terrific performances by Pitt and James Gandolfini, as another hit man on his last legs (Gandolfini is amazing here), and a solid cast that includes Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins. Based on the novel “Cogan’s Trade” by crime fiction legend George V. Higgins (who also wrote “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”). Directed by Andrew Dominik.

GOD BLESS AMERICA
I’m a sucker for very dark comedies, and Bobcat Goldthwait has become a really great director of this kind of stuff. This one is about a man who finds out he is dying and decides to spend his final days ridding the world of obnoxious reality television stars. An indictment against the horrible crap we try to pass off as entertainment, and popular culture in general, this one will have you thinking long after it’s over. Starring Joel Murray (Bill’s brother) and Tara Lynne Barr.

CabinintheWoods.jpg

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Joss Whedon’s spin (he wrote the screenplay with director Drew Goddard) on the clichés of all those “kids go to a deserted cabin and are picked off by madmen” movies that we’ve seen a hundred times before. With some interesting twists and even some laughs. Not a perfect movie, but a really entertaining one. With memorable performances by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as two corporate drones behind the scenes, and Fran Kranz, who steals every scene he’s in as Stoner dude Marty.

LOOPER
One of the best science fiction movies of 2012, I was completely surprised by this one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a guy who kills criminals sent back in time from the future (talk about disposing of the bodies!), until the day when his intended victim is an older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis)! One of the smartest movies about time travel in a long time, with great performances and a suspenseful script. Directed and written by Rian Johnson.

CHRONICLE
Another of those “found footage” faux documentaries, this time about three high school kids who gain incredible mental powers after coming into contact with a meteor. With moments early on that are pretty funny as the kids learn to use their powers, becoming more scary as one of the kids starts to go insane and use his powers for violence. A really effective little film, directed by Josh Trank.

THE TALL MAN
Pascal Laugier, the genius who gave us the horror masterpiece MARTYRS in 2008, makes his first English-language film starring Jessica Biel in a surprise-filled plot about a mysterious figure who steals children in a small town. Not as good as MARTYRS (how could it be?), but fascinating in the way that nothing is as it seems to be by the time we get answers at the end.

THE MOTH DIARIES
At an exclusive all-girls school, Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) slowly comes to the realization that her new roommate, Ernessa (Lily Cole) is a vampire. A lot more interesting than it sounds, with some really nice imagery and some truly spooky moments. Another movie that stayed with me long after I saw it, and that grew on me more and more over time. Directed by Mary Harron, who also gave us 2000’s AMERICAN PSYCHO.

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COMPLIANCE
A great little movie based on a real crime, concerning the manager of a fast food restaurant who gets a phone call from a man claiming to be a policeman, who tells her one of her employees is going to be arrested for stealing. The caller claims to be unable to get there in person for a while, and gets the manager and some fellow employees to do some pretty awful things. A movie that really questions blind obedience to authority. Disturbing stuff, with great performances by Ann Dowd as the manager and a fearless performance by Dreama Walker as the abused employee. Directed by Craig Zobel.

PROMETHEUS
This was one of the most ambitious films of the year. Ridley Scott’s prequel of sorts to his film classic, ALIEN (1979), it was one of the movies I was looking forward to most in 2012 (probably the movie I most wanted to see other than DJANGO UNCHAINED). I gave it a decent review when it came out, but it really didn’t live up to my high expectations. While it’s well made, smart (except for a few odd missteps) and visually arresting, it just was nowhere near as memorable as ALIEN, and the more 2012 went on, the more I realized how many other films I enjoyed a lot more.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

The Final CKF Review of 2012: DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Plot Twists, Revenge!, Tarantino Films, Vengeance!, VIOLENCE!, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Django-unchained-131112

(THE SCENE: A saloon in the old west. L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA sidle up to the bar. The bartender is washing glasses and suddenly looks up at them and his eyes bug out of his head)

BARTENDER: You boys are from that Cinema Knife Fight gang, aintchoo? We don’t want no trouble ‘round here.

LS: And there won’t be any trouble, as long as you bring us a bottle of whiskey and two glasses.

(BARTENDER grabs a bottle and puts it in front of them, with two glasses)

MA: Wow, what fast service! Thank you, my good man!

BARTENDER: Sshh-sure (goes to the other end of the bar)

LS (pours whiskey): And here we are, doing our last Cinema Knife Fight review for 2012, and it’s probably the movie I’ve been looking to most all year, Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED.

MA (lifts his glass): Why don’t you tell the fine people in the audience what the movie is about.

LS:  Sure thing, pardner!

DJANGO UNCHAINED opens two years before the Civil War, and Django (Jamie Foxx) is one of a group of slaves being transported across some rough terrain, when along comes a traveling dentist, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who rides a wagon with a big tooth on top. But Schultz stopped being a dentist five years earlier. Now, he’s a bounty hunter, and he is after the reward for three outlaws named the Brittle Brothers, but he doesn’t know what they look like. Instead, he’s tracked down one of the slaves from the plantation they were working at, Django. Schultz offers the man his freedom if he will help him identify and capture the Brittles.

Django would like nothing better than to hunt down the men who beat him and sold his wife and himself  to separate buyers (when they tried to escape from the plantation), so he readily agrees. When the men transporting the slaves (which include Django) protest, Schultz makes short work of them. Soon, the two men are making their way to small town in Texas, to discuss their partnership, and to kill the local Sheriff (you’ll find out why when you see the movie).

Schultz finds out that Django is desperate to get his wife back, so he makes him a deal. If they get the Brittle Brothers, Django will become a free man. But if he continues to work for Schultz, collecting rewards for outlaws who are wanted dead or alive (and they just about always bring them in dead) throughout the winter months, Schultz will help him track down his wife in the spring, and help him free her.

Their hunt for the Brittle Brothers take them to the plantation of a man called Big Daddy (Don Johnson), and Django relishes the chance to get revenge. This begins the partnership between Django and Schultz, which turns out to be quite profitable, since Django is a natural shooter and the fastest gun Schultz has ever seen.

Come spring, their journey takes them to the plantation of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a sadistic Southern Gentleman-type who treats his slaves viciously, especially the men he buys to participate in fights to the death for his amusement. Schultz pretends to want to buy one of his fighters in order to get close enough to confirm that Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) is indeed on the plantation, and he and Django plan to get her out. Django pretends to be a “black slaver” who is there to be Schultz’s consultant, and everyone is astounded to see a black man who rides a horse and acts like an equal to the white men around him.

The odyssey Django undertakes to free his wife parallels the German legend of Sigfried and Brunhilda, where Sigfried traveled through hellfire and slew a dragon to free the woman he loved. What Django goes through is just about as dangerous, once Candie gets wind of what is really going on, thanks to the keen observation skills of his right hand man, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

DJANGO UNCHAINED is a violent, but highly stylized revenge drama set in the old South. And it continues Tarantino’s streak of making great movies, as far as I’m concerned.

MA:  I hated it.

(LS spits out his whiskey.)

MA (laughs):  Just kidding.  You just looked so happy talking about the movie, I couldn’t resist.

LS:  You scared me.

MA:  There’s a first time for everything.

LS:  A new Tarantino movie has become s0mething of a big event for me, and I was more than happy to check it out at the matinee on Christmas Day (when it was released). However, I was shocked to find the theater packed so early in the day. I thought most people would be home with their families, but the theater appeared to be sold out at the showing I saw. It was a good crowd, though, and it was nice to see that there are so many Tarantino fanatics.

MA:  I saw it this past Friday night, and the theater was packed then too, and it was a very enthusiastic lively audience.

(YOSEMITE SAM gets up from the table where he’s playing cards and approaches the bar)

YOSEMITE SAM: So you varmints think you’re tough, huh?

LS: Yup.

MA: Well, to be honest,  we never actually said that.

YOSEMITE SAM: The last hombre who spoke to me that way is now six feet under…

LS: Is that where Bugs Bunny lives these days?

YOSEMITE SAM: Why, you!

(MA pulls out his gun and fires at SAM’s feet, making him dance as LS claps his hands)

LS: Hey, this is fun!

MA: You tired yet?

YOSEMITE SAM (breathing hard): Damn you, Knife Fighters.

(MA stops shooting and YOSEMITE SAM topples over in exhaustion)

LS: Rats! I wanted to see more dancing.

Anyway, back to our review.

Nobody makes movies like Quentin Tarantino, and DJANGO UNCHAINED is just another in a long line of powerful epics. Not only is DJANGO the tale of a man yearning for freedom and the freedom of the woman he loves, and thus there is a love story at the heart of this film, but it’s also a chance for Tarantino to recreate American history in his own image. Because his movies are not so much set in certain point in time as they are events that unfurl in a world of Tarantino’s creation. In his world, things don’t happen exactly like they did in ours. For example, in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009), his last film, a rag-tag group of soldiers actually succeeded in assassinating Hitler.

Tarantino also has a sense of style that sets him apart from everyone else making movies today.

MA:  That’s certainly true.

DjangoUnchained

LS:  It’s a mixture of art (because there is an artistic eye to the way his movies are filmed) and pure grindhouse adrenaline. Even though DJANGO is over two and a half hours long, I never once felt bored, and it never dragged—in fact, I wanted even more. For once, every scene was necessary, and expanded upon what came before it, like the petals of a flower in bloom. There are several reasons why his movies are so satisfying. First off, there’s that artistic eye of his. Tarantino pays attention to detail and, in so doing, he fleshes out his world quite nicely, and makes it feel like a real place.

MA:  I would argue that it feels less like a real place and more like the world seen through an artist’s eyes, which doesn’t make it any less satisfying or believable.  Watching DJANGO with its rich imagery and fine attention to detail was like looking at an artist’s painting, only this artist is also a helluva writer.

LS:  Which brings me to my second point, his dialogue, which is second to none in modern cinema.

MA:  It’s great dialogue. I could listen to Dr. King Schultz all day.

LS:  There are also his soundtracks, which treat music as a character in the film, and he draws from everything from the music scores of other films (the opening song, “DJANGO” is from the 1966 spaghetti western of the same name, and it works just as well here), obscure pop songs, and music written just for his movies.

MA:  I agree.  The soundtrack is second to none.  My favorite part of the soundtrack is the variety he uses, the combination of pop songs—which amazingly don’t seem out of place here—with traditional film music.

LS: My favorite songs, aside from the title song, included ones by John Legend and Brother Dege. Hell, Tarantino even uses a Jim Croce song (someone I normally don’t like) to maximum effect in the middle of the film.  (And this is probably a good time to mention that the soundtrack album is pretty damn cool, too.)

And then there’s the casting. Tarantino’s movies always seem to have amazing casts, and DJANGO UNCHAINED is no exception. I wasn’t a big fan of Jamie Foxx before seeing this movie, but I consider myself a fan now. Foxx turns in a terrific performance here, full of anger, heart, and frustration with the world his character finds himself in.

MA:  Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of Jamie Foxx either, but he is excellent here.  He really brings Django to life, and pretty much everything he does with this character in this movie is spot on.  He makes Django one bad-ass bounty hunter, yet he never sacrifices the sympathy we feel for him as he tries to rescue his wife.  It’s a very satisfying performance by Foxx, and I enjoyed him here much more than I did in RAY (2004) and DREAMGIRLS (2009).

LS: Alongside him is Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz. If you remember, Waltz won an Oscar for his role as a Nazi officer in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, and he’s just as mem0rable here. Waltz is fascinating to watch as the self-assured and morally righteous Schultz, and he and Foxx play off of each other really well.

MA:  Waltz is great.  Not quite as mesmerizing a performance as he pulled off in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, but it’s a much different role and is satisfying in a different way.  Dr. Schultz is a much more enjoyable character than the intense Nazi officer Waltz played in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

LS:  I’m not a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, either, and I still don’t understand why so many directors want to use him so much (Martin Scorcese comes to mind), but he is brilliant here, playing against type as a sadistic villain.

MA:  Directors want to use him so much because he’s a terrific actor!  Admit it, he’s a great actor!

LS:  I’m not admitting anything!  But I will say that it may be the best performance I’ve ever seen DiCaprio give, and one scene where his Calvin Candie makes a point with an old skull and a hammer is especially intense.

MA:  Very intense.  That’s a testament to both DiCaprio’s acting skills and Tarantino’s direction.  I mentioned that I saw this movie with a very lively enthusiastic audience.  There was definitely a buzz in the theater before and during the movie, but during this scene, you could hear a pin drop.

(Sheriff QUICK DRAW MCGRAW and his deputy BABA-LOOEY enter the saloon and walk over to the bar)

QUICK DRAW: I hear you gents are disturbing the peace in my town.

BABA-LOOEY: Yeah!

LS: So what if we are?

MA: Actually, we’re trying to mind our own business and review a movie here.

QUICK DRAW: Why, you! How dare you speak back that way to a lawman!

BABA-LOOEY: Yeah!

LS: A law-horse you mean. Make him dance, Michael, I want to see the funny horse dance!

QUICK DRAW: I think you need to be taught some manners. (reaches for his gun)

(LS fires first, and a fountain of blood spurts out of QUICK DRAW, splashing all over BABA-LOOEY)

QUICK DRAW: I’m shot!

BABA-LOOEY: I’m getting out of here!

LS: Someone call the glue factory.

MA: Back to our review, after being so rudely interrupted.

While my favorite performance in the film belonged to Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz, I wouldn’t say he gave the best performance in the movie.  That honor goes to DiCaprio.

DiCaprio delivers a riveting, delicious performance as Calvin Candie.  He’s the perfect antagonist for Waltz’s and Foxx’s protagonists.  And as you mentioned, once you get to that scene with the hammer and skull, he’s one scary guy.  It’s the best DiCaprio performance I’ve seen since THE DEPARTED (2006) and BLOOD DIAMOND (2006).

LS:  Sam Jackson is just as villainous as Candie’s sidekick Stephen, a man who appears to be a fussy old “Uncle Tom” type, but who is, in reality, Candie’s confidante and pretty much his equal behind closed doors. And he’s just as vicious as his “master.”

MA:  It’s my favorite Jackson performance in years.  Stephen is one aggravating, vicious son of a bitch.

LS:  Kerry Washington is perhaps the heart of the film as Broomhilda, a slave who speaks German as well as English (which Schultz finds delightful and which they use in their plan). She’s undergone much brutality by the time Django finds her again – the first time we see her in a scene that isn’t a flashback, she’s being pulled naked out of a hotbox, where she’s being punished, and screams when a bucket of water is splashed on her—and you immediately want him to succeed in his plan to rescue her from the hell that is Calvin Candie’s plantation, called Candieland.

MA:  Yep.  Washington is great and does a terrific job evoking our sympathy throughout the film.

LS:  And those flashbacks are pretty potent. There are several times where Django’s mind wanders during their journey and he sees fleeting images of Broomhilda behind a tree, or bathing next to him in a stream, and you can feel Django’s yearning for her. His passion. And his remembrances of the abuse inflicted on him and “Hildi” (as she’s called) keeps him focused throughout to exact the vengeance he so rightly deserves.

The use of flashbacks in this movie is another plus. The cinematography in these scenes looks different from the rest of the movie—kind of dreamy—and evokes the way flashbacks were used in the best movies of the 1960 and early 70s (MIDNIGHT COWBOY comes to mind).  I loved that effect.

(DEPUTY DAWG enters the saloon)

DEPUTY DAWG: Dang it, you shot Sherriff McGraw!

LS: Yeah, what of it?

DEPUTY DAWG: Y’all think you can come into this town and shoot our sheriff in cold blood?

MA: He’s just a cartoon. So are you.

DEPUTY DAWG: Just a cartoon? Do we not cry if you hurt us? Do we not bleed if you shoot us?

(CLOSE-UP of DEPUTY DAWG’s face, as tears stream down his cheeks)

MA: If you put it that way, I feel kind of bad.

LS: Me, too.

DEPUTY DAWG: You two are so lucky that I wanted to be Sheriff of these parts, otherwise I’d take you in. But since QUICK DRAW’s dead, now I can take his job. Barkeep, drinks for everyone! Put it on my tab!

SALOON PATRONS: HURRAY!

BABA-LOOEY (hiding behind a barrel of beer): Looks like I better make like a banana and split (runs away).

DEPUTY DAWG: Let’s get back to your review. I want to see how this ends.

LS: What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the cast. The rest of the cast in DJANGO UNCHAINED is top-notch, and there are lots of really great actors in small roles here.

MA:  Which is always a lot of fun.

LS:  Just some of them include: Walton Goggins (from THE SHIELD and more recently the FX series JUSTIFIED) as a cowboy on Candie’s crew with a mean streak; Franco Nero (the Italian star of the 1966 DJANGO, you can identify him by his piercing blue eyes) as another slave owner who pits his man against Candie’s in a brutal fight scene that is going on when Schultz and Django first meet Candie. James Remar (Dexter’s father on DEXTER) as both one of the Speck brothers who are transporting the slaves in the beginning of the movie, and later as Candie’s hired gunman, Butch; Tom Savini as a man who handles Candie’s vicious dogs;  Bruce Dern in flashback as Django’s former slave owner; Jonah Hill in one of the movie’s more humorous scenes as a complaining Klansman – with Brad Dourif as another one of that gang;  M.C. Gainey (one of the more memorable “Others” from the TV series, LOST) as one of the Brittle Brothers; and Lee Horsley as a corrupt sheriff. The only actor here who seemed a little off was Tarantino himself, in a role as an Australian mercenary. But considering how great a job he’s done here as a director, it’s easy to give him that. (besides, rumor has it another actor backed out at the last minute, and Tarantino had to fill in for the scene, because it was the easiest solution).

MA:  It was fun seeing Bruce Dern, even for just the one scene.

And don’t forget Don Johnson in a memorable bit as Big Daddy, a southern plantation owner who serves as a sort of precursor to Calvin Candie.

LS: You’re right. Don Johnson is terrific in this movie as well. I loved him in every scene he’s in.

MA: I also enjoyed seeing Dennis Christopher as Candie’s lawyer, Leonide Moguy.

I’m not quite sure what Jonah Hill was doing in this movie.  He seemed a bit out of place, even if he did appear in the film’s funniest scene.

LS:  DJANGO UNCHAINED is gory. When bullets enter flesh, there is a fair amount of blood.

MA:  And it’s not of the CGI variety, which is a good thing.

LS:  During a big shootout towards the end, things get messy. But there’s a kind of visceral authenticity to it.

MA:  Yeah, but I thought things got a bit carried away at the end.  It seemed unnecessary, and didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the movie.  I could have done without the big concluding bloodbath.  I don’t have a problem with the fates of any of the principal characters, but to have an army of nameless gunmen riddled with bullets nonstop while spewing blood showers all over creation did nothing for me.

LS:  Between the top shelf acting, terrific script and dead-on direction, DJANGO UNCHAINED is easily one of the best movies I have seen in 2012. I just wish I didn’t have to wait all year long to see it. I give it four and a half knives.

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MA:  I liked it too, but not as much as you.  I agree that it has phenomenal acting, directing, and a top-notch script.  All three of these things are equally terrific.

One of my favorite parts of the script is that it runs the full gamut of emotions.  It’s  a love story, an actioner, a revenge tale, a statement on the evils of slavery, and the moods range from that incredibly tense scene near the end where Candie delivers his spiel with the skull and hammer to the funniest Ku Klux Klan scene in a movie this side of Mel Brooks.  It’s laugh out loud funny, and not of the nervous laughter variety.  It’s simply hilarious.

LS: It’s also a western—Tarantino’s take on the spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s, to be exact—as well as a homage to the black empowerment films of the 1970s. Two genres with their feet firmly planted in grindhouse cinema. Tarantino takes these elements and uses them to transcend his inspirations with something new and epic in scope. But the grindhouse elements here mean this movie is also entertaining as hell.

MA: There are lots of well-crafted scenes.  I thought the initial meeting scene between Dr. Schultz and Django, which comes right at the beginning of the movie, is one of the film’s best sequences.   It sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

The “Mandingo” fight sequence is a particularly brutal scene, as is the scene where a slave is torn apart by dogs.  These scenes aren’t overly gory, but they’re tough to get through.  Tarantino does a nice job with reaction shots of his characters.  You don’t need to see what’s going on.  You can tell by looking into the pained eyes of Dr. Schultz, for example.

But the film’s not perfect.  While I would agree with you that the pacing is very good throughout, I did think it lost momentum towards the end.  The movie reaches an obvious climax when the plot to rescue Hildi comes to a head, but from there, as the story continues, I thought it lost a few steps.

It’s not that I didn’t like the ending to this movie.  I did.  It’s just that I thought the last twenty minutes or so didn’t have the same edge as the rest of the movie, and I didn’t find the final few events of the film as believable as all that had come before it.   And once it became obvious where the tale was headed, it didn’t have the same sense of unpredictability towards the end as it had during the beginning and middle.

LS: The only moment in the film that seemed to strain believability for me was the outcome of the deal between Candie and Schultz for the freedom of Hildi. It seems that Schultz could have resolved it much easier, and that his motives were almost forced to take the movie where Tarantino wanted it to go. I can’t fully complain, because what happens afterwards is so spectacular, but it just seems that Schultz was a little unnecessarily stubborn in that scene for the sake of the plot.

MA:  See, I didn’t find what happens afterwards all that spectacular.  To me, the film hit its peak during that scene where Candie and Schulz make their deal, and what followed, while good, was less intense.

It’s tough to keep up the kind of intensity found in DJANGO UNCHAINED for an entire movie, and I think, as this one made its way to the finish line, it slowed down somewhat.  I don’t mean the pacing slowed down, but the story did, if that makes any sense.

Still, I liked DJANGO UNCHAINED a lot, and it’s also one of my favorite movies of this year.  I give it three and a half knives.

LS: That’s all you’re giving it? What are you, insane?

MA:  I’ve only given a handful of movies more than a three knife rating this year, which puts DJANGO UNCHAINED in the upper echelon of movies I’ve seen this year, where it belongs.

Hey, bartender!  How about another round of whiskeys?

BARTENDER:  S-sure.  Then you folks’ll be leaving?

LS:  We’ll be leaving when we’re good and ready.

BARTENDER (pouring whiskey, nervously spilling some):  No hurry.  Take your time.  You’ll get no trouble from me.

LS (downs his drink):  I’m good.

MA:  And I’m ready.

LS:  Let’s blow this watering hole.

BARTENDER:  Please!  Don’t blow up my bar!

MA:  It’s just an expression.  Keep your shirt on.

BARTENDER:  Why would I take off my shirt?

MA:  You don’t get out much, do you?  Let’s get out of here.

LS:  So long folks!  We’ll see y’all next year with lots more movie reviews! So stay with your pals here at cinemaknifefight.com for 2013!

MA:  Adios, muchachos y muchachas!

BARTENDER (scratches his head):  You’re Mexican?

(CLOSE-UP of DEPUTY DAWG who’s asleep at the bar, snoring loudly)

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives DJANGO UNCHAINED ~ THREE AND A HALF knives (out of five)!

LL Soares gives DJANGO UNCHAINED  ~ FOUR AND A HALF knives!

Cinema Knife Fight Coming Attractions for DECEMBER 2012

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Fantasy Films, Murder!, Tarantino Films with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2012 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
DECEMBER 2012
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(THE SCENE: A prairie somewhere in the Deep South.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES ride in on horses and come to a stop under a tree.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to this month’s COMING ATTRACTIONS column. The column where we preview what movies we’re reviewing for the month.

L.L. SOARES:  And we’re riding in on horseback, I reckon, because we’re on our way to Mississippi to review the big movie of the month—and the one I’m most looking forward to—Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED.

MA:  Which takes place in Mississippi just before the Civil War.  But this highly anticipated movie doesn’t open until the end of the month, and so we have a few other movies to review first.

LS: Dang it!

Well, the weekend of December 7th, I’ll be reviewing the movie DEADFALL starring Eric Bana as a criminal on the lam after shooting a cop. It looks like it might be pretty good, but I think it’s in limited release, which means Michael won’t be able to see this one. That’s okay, because I can take the following weekend off.

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MA:  Yep, the weekend of December 14th, I’ll be reviewing THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012), Peter Jackson’s follow-up to his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.  I’ll either be reviewing this one solo or with a guest reviewer, as L.L. here will be sitting this one out.

LS:  Yeah, I’m allergic to hobbits.

MA: Really? You’re physically allergic to them?

LS: Okay, not really. But  I hate ‘em. They’re annoying little bastards.

(Little hobbits run by and toss some cream pies at LS.  He ducks out of the way, and the pies hit MA in the face.)

LS (laughing):  Sucker!

MA (licking cream off his fingers):  It’s okay.  I love cream pies.

I also loved Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS movies, so I’m looking forward to THE HOBBIT, even though I’m not quite sure I’m ready for a trilogy based on Tolkien’s book “The Hobbit.”  I mean, it’s not like “The Hobbit” is an epic 1,000 page book.  But THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies were nearly flawless in their attention to detail, and I was thoroughly captivated by all three movies, enjoying the journey into Middle Earth, and I believed it, every step of the way.

LS:  Gullible fool.

MA:  Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, reprising the role he played in the three LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and Martin Freeman will be playing Bilbo Baggins.  Peter Jackson directs once again, and is also one of the four screenwriters, in a group that includes Guillermo del Toro.

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LS:  I wasn’t a big fan of the LORD OF THE RINGS s movies. The first one was okay, the second one bored me to death, and I didn’t even bother seeing the third one, so I’m not the best person to review THE HOBBIT, and I’m more than happy to sit this one out.

MA: It’s too bad you missed the third one.  It might be the best of the three.

On December 21, we’ll be reviewing JACK REACHER, an action thriller starring Tom Cruise.  I’m not really a Tom Cruise fan so I can’t say I’m all that excited about this one.  The trailer makes it look like an updated variation of the Dirty Harry movies, and seeing Cruise in this tough guy role is about as convincing as if he were being played by Justin Bieber.  Nuff said.

It does have a decent supporting cast though, including Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins, so at least we’ll have those guys to watch.

It’s written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the guy who wrote VALKYRIE (2008) the OK Nazi thriller starring Tom Cruise, and way-back-when he wrote THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), a film I liked a lot.

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LS: I’m actually more excited about this one than you are. I think the trailer for JACK REACHER looks pretty cool. I’m not a big Tom Cruise guy, either, but he’s good at playing these cold-blooded hitman types. I enjoyed COLLATERAL (2004) a lot, for example, where Cruise played a hired killer opposite Jamie Foxx as a cabbie who drives him around.

I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of Foxx – the movie I’m looking forward to most is Quentin Tarantino’s new one, DJANGO UNCHAINED, coming out on Christmas Day. A new Tarantino movie is always a reason to celebrate, as far as I’m concerned. I love all his movies, and I expect to love this one, too. He delivers the goods.

This time around, Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave who bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, who was so terrific in Tarantino’s last film, 2009’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) takes under his wing. Django has information about some guys Schultz is hunting down, and in return for his cooperation,  Schultz agrees to set Django free and help him find his wife. With Leonardo DiCaprio as an especially sleazy bad guy named Calvin Candie, this one looks like a lot of fun.

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MA:  Yep, I’m really looking forward to DJANGO UNCHAINED as well.  It’ll be fun to see a new Quentin Tarantino movie, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Jamie Foxx, I do like Leonardo DiCaprio a lot, and I also remember really enjoying Waltz’s performance in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

It should be a strong way to finish the month, and—since this is December—the year as well.  I think 2012 has been a good year for movies.

LS:  Yeah, it’s been pretty good. Speaking of which, don’t forget to look for our BEST OF and WORST OF columns at the end of December, or early on in January. I’m sure both of those lists will be pretty easy to write this time around.

MA:  That’s right.  And that’s it for now.  Thanks for joining us everybody!  (to LS) Shall we ride off into the sunset?

LS:  Sure (hits the back of MA’s horse, and the animal panics and tears away with MA trying to control it.)  (LS smiles)  I’m such a basterd.

(Hobbits reappear and throw more cream pies as LS and his horse.)

LS:  Now you went and done it. My horse hates cream pies!

(LS and horse chase the little hobbits up the hill in zany fast motion while BENNY HILL music plays.  Meanwhile, MA finally slows his horse down just in time to be trampled first by the frightened hobbits and then by LS and his horse.)

—END—

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (Now on DVD)

Posted in 2009, LL Soares Reviews, Tarantino Films with tags , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by knifefighter

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (Solo Review) by L.L. Soares

(NOTE: I originally hesitated posting this on the Cinema Knife Fight site, because it’s not a horror or sci-fi movie. But there are certainly some horrific elements (gory violence) and, like a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, there is a total 1970s grindhouse feel to it, which kindof makes it a genre of its own these days. (Besides, I remember Fear Zone had ads for it on their site back when this column ran there.) And for the record, if I had included this on my Top 5 Best Movies of 2009 list for Cinema Knife Fight, it would have placed very high (probably number 2, just below MARTYRS. Barely missing the number one spot).

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS recently came out on DVD and Blue-Ray.

Here’s the original review I wrote when it first opened in theaters.)

At almost three hours long, some people might find going to see INGLORIOUS BASTERDS a little daunting. And I’m sure there are people who will hate it. My reaction, though, was that I wanted more time with these characters. I couldn’t get enough. There are so many well-drawn and fascinating characters here. A lot of the best ones don’t even get half the screen time they deserve.

The story? That’s simple. Brad Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine (a beyond-obvious homage to Aldo Rey, a great character actor who was in tons of war movies). Raine is the hillbilly-talking head of a special group of soldiers in World War II, called “the Inglorious Basterds” (who knows why). He hand-picked this team of Jewish soldiers (mostly American) who hate Nazis and want to kill them. This includes such characters as  Sgt. Donny Donowitz (director/actor Eli Roth) who beats Nazis to death with a baseball bat and has earned the nickname “The Bear Jew.” There’s also Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) a former Nazi who was jailed for murdering his own men. When Raine gets wind of this, he just knows Stiglitz is perfect for the Basterds. As Aldo Raine says when he first gathers his team, he doesn’t just want them to kill Nazis, he wants them to fill the Germans with terror. Part of that terror comes from the demand that they scalp all Nazi corpses.

There are other plotlines, including the “antics” of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), also known as “the Jew Hunter.” Landa is a master detective, and a Nazi, who is legendary for being able to track down and kill Jews. He’s the villain of the piece, and his mixture of charm and brutality makes him one of the most fascinating characters in the movie. Waltz received the Best Actor award at Cannes when the film premiered, and rightly so. He steals every scene he’s in. And he’s the perfect adversary for the Basterds, because he is just as ruthless as they are.

There’s also Shosanna Dreyfus (French actress Melanie Laurent), one of the few people who ever escaped from Landa. She now runs a cinema in Nazi-occupied Paris and unfortunately becomes the object of desire for Nazi war hero Frederick Stoller (Daniel Bruhl), who seeks to impress her by convincing Joseph Goebbles (Sylvester Groth) to premeire the film of Stoller’s life at Shosanna’s theater. This at first terrifies her (partly because it also bring Landa to town – the man who killed her family), but then it becomes part of a plan to kill all of the top Nazis at the same time, as even the Fuhrer himself (played by Martin Wuttke) is rumored to be coming to the premeire.

The film is shown in five chapters – and seems almost like five separate short films about these characters. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about that, but as it went on, it really worked for me.

Now first off, disregard any of the real history you know. This movie has absolutely no interest in reality. Tarantino is not striving for authenticity here. Secondly, this movie is classic Tarantino, which means there is a lot of dialogue (that is how he develops his characters) and lots of bloody violence. If these aren’t your bag, then you should skip this one. The movie begins with a long, very suspenseful scene where Landa interrogates a French farmer about a Jewish family he may or may not be hiding. It unfolds at its own pace, and may just separate the patient moviegoers from the ADD audience members right off the bat. But it’s also one of the most amazing scenes you’ll see in the movies this year. Landa is incredibly watchable.

And now for the acting. I already mentioned how great Christoph Waltz is. There’s already buzz that he deserves an Oscar nomination, and I’m in total agreement. Brad Pitt is pretty damn great in this one, too. His character is played a lot for laughs (I know I laughed a lot), and he’s enjoyable as hell here. The women (Melanie Laurent as Shosanna and Diane Krueger as German movie star and double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark) are strong, and terrific. And there are even some entertaining cameos by people like Mike Myers (as a British officer) and Rod Taylor (as Churchill). But there are some characters who really deserved more screen time, the most obvious one that comes to my mind is Til Schwieger as Nazi-hater Hugo Stiglitz. With a perpetual sneer and a deep-seated hatred, Hugo is a brilliant character who also had me laughing a lot. Almost every time they show him, they show flashbacks to scenes where he is either being tortured by the Nazis, or more-likely, killing them. That’s all this guy thinks about! And the way Tarantino presents him is really funny at times. I really wish he’d been in the movie a lot more.

Then there’s Eli Roth. Most of you know I’m a big fan of his HOSTEL movies, and I liked him when he acted in Tarantino’s half of GRINDHOUSE (the movie DEATHPROOF). Here, Roth has some pretty funny scenes, especially toward the end, that justified his being part of the cast.

At the end of the showing I went to, the audience cheered when it was over. How often does that happen? I was pretty happy I got to see it with such an appreciative crowd in the middle of major college town.

If you love great dialogue, really entertaining acting, and you don’t mind a little gore, then this movie is going to blow you away.

Go see it already!

© Copyright 2009 by L.L. Soares