Movie Review: Django Unchained [2012]

Django Unchained [2012]

Django Unchained [2012]
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Action/Drama/Western
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time: 165 minutes

Django Unchained is an homage to many genres — the Spaghetti Western, Blaxploitation, revenge flicks — but at its core it is a Quentin Tarantino film. And no one makes movies like QT.

Set in 1858, three years before the Civil War, the film tells the story of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) — the “D” is silent. While being transported across the vast state of Texas with a group of other slaves, Django becomes a free man after they run into Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter. Schultz hires Django to aid him in finding and identifying the Brittle brothers, a trio of wanted fugitives. Their partnership works out rather well, and they end up working together throughout the winter, raking in good money by collecting bounties.

Django Unchained [2012]

We learn that Django had been sold away from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), shortly before meeting Dr. Schultz. After their successful season of bounty hunting, the two men discover that Broomhilda is now the property of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a very wealthy businessman known for his brutal “Candie Land” plantation. With a target now in sight, the unlikely duo head to Mississippi to bring her back alive.

If you are familiar with Tarantino at all, you will have a good idea of what to expect here. Violence is plentiful, the soundtrack is eclectic, and there are winks/homages to countless other films (even Franco Nero, the star of the 1966 film, Django, has a small role here). The man has no fear when it comes to directing, and he does things his own way. Want to include a bass-heavy Rick Ross song while Django walks across the screen? Sure, why the hell not? Some may question the use of modern rap during an 1850s film, but somehow it works surprisingly well. Tarantino’s soundtracks have always been favorites of mine, and Django Unchained does not disappoint in this regard.

Django Unchained [2012]

Of course, there has been a great amount of controversy with the film, most of which stems from its gratuitous usage of the “n-word” (most notably from Spike Lee, who refuses to even watch it). At times, it is uncomfortable watching all of these white actors rattling off racial slurs, but we must remember that this was what it was like during that time period. This isn’t a light subject matter, and quite frankly it would have been a mistake to stray away from this language.

It’s somewhat ironic that in a film named Django Unchained about a character named Django, that the actor portraying him has been receiving the fewest accolades. That’s unfortunate because Jamie Foxx really does a stellar job here. Django comes a long way during the film, and much of the character’s growth can be attributed to Foxx. Of course, it’s easy to be overshadowed when the rest of the cast is as good as it is. Christoph Waltz is the perfect complement to Django’s fiery character, and the two actors play off each other quite well.

Django Unchained [2012]

Leonardo DiCaprio is just as fantastic as the brutal, yet oddly charismatic, plantation owner. It is Samuel L. Jackson, however, who steals every scene he is in as Candie’s loyal head slave, Stephen. Jackson stated that he wanted to make Stephen the most hated black character in the history of cinema, and he makes a damn good case for that title. And, of course, because this is a Tarantino flick, there are a ridiculous amount of noteworthy cameos, with everyone from Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, James Parks, Jonah Hill and even QT himself making an appearance.

Even with its lengthy running time (nearly three hours!), Django Unchained never fails to entertain. Once again, Quentin Tarantino has proven to be a master at recreating history as only he can.

9/10

Movie Review: Due Date [2010]

Due Date [2010]

Due Date [2010]
Director: Todd Phillips
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

Due Date is a haphazard road comedy starring two unlikeable characters, a film that could have been far greater than its outcome. Robert Downey Jr. is Peter Highman, a high strung businessman who is trying to make it from Atlanta to Los Angeles in order to be there for the birth of his first child. At the Atlanta airport, he runs into Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), an annoying aspiring actor who inadvertantly causes a scene and causes both men to be put on the no-fly list. The moment that allows this to happen is not as funny as you would expect. With his bags (and wallet) still on the plane, Peter has no way to rent a car and drive to LA so he begrudgingly rides along with Ethan. Yes, this is a road trip movie.

I had fairly high expectations for this film, especially considering director Todd Phillips had a major comedy hit immediately before this in the form of The Hangover. I like Downey and Galifianakis, and the trailer made this look pretty funny. While Due Date has a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, it tends to rely too heavily on its weak script and trying-too-hard-to-be-funny scenes. It doesn’t help that both of the main characters are just so unlikeable. Zach G. is a very funny guy, but he isn’t given anything to work with here. His character, Ethan, is an annoying little twat who has nary a likeable trait. Downey’s character isn’t much better due to his holier-than-thou asshole tendencies, although he does provide the “best” moment in the movie when he knocks out a child.

Due Date [2010]

A big problem is that the obligatory “gross out” scenes are stupid and unnecessary. Who thought including a random segment with a masturbating dog would be funny? Apparently the dog learned this from Ethan, who has to masturbate at night in order for him to be able to fall asleep. WTF? I don’t get how someone thought this was a good idea.

What helps keep the movie watchable is its assortment of random cameos. RZA, Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis and Jamie Foxx all have bit roles in the movie, and they do their best to keep things fresh at crucial times in the movie.

It’s unfortunate that such a talented cast was given a poor script to work with. This is a fairly simple concept — two guys with opposite personalities taking a cross country road trip — and it is a premise that could easily provide hilarious obstacles along the way. Yet it is hard to get behind the unlikeable main characters that Due Date throws at us. Still, this isn’t a terrible movie, or even a bad one. It’s just that it could have been so much more.

6/10