Cinepub


2012 BEST PICTURE ROUND UP: Django Unchained by Jamie

Finally the UK has the chance to see the latest revenge epic from Quentin Tarantino. It’s a formula that we should all be pretty familiar with at this point. Take an established genre and weave a stylised revenge narrative through said genre’s filter. It was the kung-fu genre in Kill Bill, the World War 2 genre in Inglorious Basterds and it’s the turn of the Western (or Southern as it’s being promoted) in Django Unchained.

The film essentially follows the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave freed by the German dentist/bounty hunter Dr King Schulz (Christoph Waltz). Schulz frees Django because he has need of his help hunting down some of his targets. Along the way Schulz makes Django his partner, training him in the ways of the bounty hunter with the promise that, when the winter passes they will go and free his enslaved wife who Django became separated from as punishment for trying to escape from a former owner. In order to rescue her they must travel to the Candyland plantation owned by Mandingo fighter trader Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

That’s probably about as bare-bones as I can keep the synopsis without giving away too much away so let’s get in to the meat of the proceedings. Django Unchained is Tarantino at his Tarntino-est. That’s probably the best way to sum up this film in a simple, single sentence. Basterds was the film that showed what he could get away with up to a point and Unchained is his next logical evolution. It’s the kind of film that no one else in Hollywood could get away with. In fact, if anyone else had tried to make this film it probably would have resembled something more like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a low budget affair which would have gone largely unwatched and rightfully so. With Tarantino at the helm, this is pure unadulterated awesome. Everything is over the top and it’s beautiful to revel in.

It has everything we’ve come to expect from the director. Gratuitous violence, excessive bad language, extreme nods to exploitation cinema (including an appearance from the actor who originally portrayed Django) and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s all here. Again, these are all elements that could add up to nothing more than a shitty B-movie under the eye of anyone else but amongst all these elements, Tarantino also manages to include an incredibly engaging story that’s beautifully shot and a joy to watch.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about this film is that Tarantino removes one of his most common reference points by the time period this film is set in: cinema. Now obviously the film is still peppered with cinematic references throughout but this time it’s merely through style. There’s no dialogue referencing film as there is in everything else. Hell, even Inglorious Basterds has it in spades. And yes, overall I think this makes Unchained all around a better film with Tarantino really having to focus on the script without having the particular crutch of characters just discussing film and film philosophy for minutes at a time to fall back on.

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the film. Yes, the word ‘nigger’ is used a lot in this film. It’s uttered 110 times to be exact. I can see how some people would find this offensive and it’s probably that style that I mentioned earlier that would make it seem that way. If this were a sedate, “serious” movie like Amistad which gets a sheen of legitimacy because it’s based on an actual historical event and portrays the horrors of the slave trade without the filter of exploitation film making. It’s because Tarantino makes his movies in this particular style that his decision to use the word so many times can be seen as gratuitous as his use of violence. It’s in this film, however, that the bad language does serve a purpose. It’s a representation of what the South was like during that time. Would it be OK to show white people treating black people as nothing more than property but not have them using racial slurs? It’d be unrealistic. Yes, you can be politically correct and all that jazz but what you can’t do is whitewash a politically incorrect past. To do so is to belittle the suffering of the people who lived through those times and to learn absolutely nothing from that shameful past. It also helps from the point of view of the film in making the revenge aspect that much more satisfying.

Hell, this review is getting all over the place a bit now so let’s try and wrap things up a bit succinctly. This might just be Tarantino’s best film yet. The music is, as always, great particularly that opening theme. It looks amazing with the kind of beautiful shots that often make Westerns just incredible to look at. The performances are all pure class. I was going to say that Waltz and Jackson in particular stand out but honestly everyone is on the top of their game with DiCaprio playing the charming yet sadistic slave owner Candie with almost mustache-twirling finesse and Foxx playing Django slightly subdued, yet with dreams of vengeance always simmering beneath the surface, which is a nice counterbalance to everything else that’s going on. (Jackson is great though. It’s nice to see him playing someone other than Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson.) This might also be the funniest film the director has done is a while with the proto-KKK scene in particular standing out. If I do have one criticism, it’s Tarantino’s cameo. His Australian accent is fucking terrible. I mean, really, really bad. But thankfully it’s a small scene.

So yeah, in summation, fuck me this film is great. It’s really fucking great. It absolutely deserves it’s best picture nomination. Go and see it. See it now. Five pints out of five. Fuck me, what a great fucking film. Laterz.

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Review: The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble) by Jamie

This review is spoiler-free.

For around five years or so now, Marvel has been laying the groundwork for what many had hoped would be the greatest comic book movie event of all time. I speak, of course about The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK so that our simple British minds don’t confuse it with the Patrick Macnee starring series from the 60s of the same name).

From Iron Man in 2008 all the way up to Captain America last year, everything has been leading up to this and the question on everyone’s lips was could a film of this magnitude, bringing such a wide cast of characters, possibly live up to the hype?

Well, the answer in this humble comic book and movie geek’s opinion is an emphatic yes. I don’t think it could be a more emphatic yes if I had taken some kind of emphatic-enhancing drug that gave me powers of emphacy far beyond that of a mere mortal man. Is emphacy even a real word? I don’t give a fuck. That’s just how emphatic I am.

So where to begin with a film that I find hard to express in words the level of awesome that it was? Well one of the major advantages that this film has over other comic book films is that it doesn’t have to waste much time explaining any of the characters origins. It starts assuming that you’ve seen the films that preceded it and so get’s on with the job it’s there to do, dealing with the origins of the team itself which is a far more entertaining kind of origin story due to the interplay of the characters involved.

This interplay is where much of the humour in the film comes from. This is undoubtedly a Joss Whedon film. It’s as witty as any of his work before and he once again proves that he is possibly one of the best directors going when it comes to putting together an ensemble cast and making it work. Some of the characters do get a little less to do than others, Hawkeye and Maria Hill for instance, but as a whole it’s incredibly well balanced.

There is one character who does stand out and nearly steals the show, the big green bastard himself,
The Hulk. On his surface The Hulk is a deceptively simple character. Mild mannered scientist gets mad and turns into a giant jade rage monster. It’s Jekyll and Hyde for the modern age. Most portrayals of Bruce Banner have played the tortured and tormented aspect of the character to the fullest but Mark Ruffalo does something a little different with him. Yes, he is still haunted by the green spectre of his other self but this is a Banner who’s been living with this for a good few years now and seems to have somewhat accepted his curse, even being able to control it somewhat, and can banter wittily with Tony Stark with the best of them. He also seems to be somewhat glad to have found a place for himself amongst the other Avengers whilst still being rightfully afraid of what his alter-ego would do if he emerged hundreds of feet in the sky on the Helicarrier.

The rest of the actors are all on fine form as their respective characters as well. Tony Stark is still his arrogant, funny self whilst still seeming to have matured a lot since his first film outing. Captain America is still coming to terms with being a man out of time, finding himself frequently frustrated by the phrases and technology around him and perhaps even a little freaked out by Agent Coulson’s hero worship of him. Thor is the same Thor we saw at the end of his film, a little more humble and a little more understanding of humanity whilst being conflicted about his brother’s treachery. And Loki is still as greasy and Machiavellian as he’s always been.

It’s the two main SHIELD agents who perhaps get the most revealed about them. We finally see the people that Nick Fury has to answer to and just how much he is willing to disobey them and just how far he is willing to go to prove his team worthy. Black Widow is also far more fleshed out here than she ever was in Iron Man 2 and we are given several hints about her dark past and her ties to Hawkeye.

Speaking, as I was, of The Hulk and the Helicarrier earlier, it’s probably good to mention the effects here. They are, in a word, incredible. The Hulk looks like he’s there and actually looks like the actor portraying him. Every CGI shot in this film is beautiful and just helps to build a believable world where these characters could exist and these events take place. As for the 3D, it’s good as post-conversion jobs go but doesn’t really add anything to the experience. There’s also the issue of the glasses making things kinda difficult to make out when scenes take place in dark places.

The only real weak spot in the entire film is Loki’s army and the story itself. The army are really nothing more than an obstacle for the heroes to fight and smash and the story is your basic alien invader story but for once, that doesn’t really matter. What’s important here isn’t so much the story but the things that surround that threadbare story skeleton. The meat is the characters themselves, their interactions and how they grow individually and together over the course of the films 143 minutes running time.

Well, that’s about all I have to say without getting in to spoiler territory. If you enjoy comic books, comic book movies and in particular the Marvel movies that have come before this go and see it. Go and see it now. If you are working, scream I quit at the top of your lungs, walk out and see it. I’m sure once you explain your actions later you’ll be able to get your job back. Just see it. Five pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Iron Man 2 by Jamie

Yes, I finally got around to seeing Iron Man 2. I really, really wanted to see it earlier but I’m a busy man, damn it. So yes, here is my review, several weeks later than everyone else’s and probably long after everyone stopped caring about it. I don’t care I’m writing this anyway and you can’t stop me. Go on, try. I dare you. Ooh look, I’m still writing. You’re pathetic… I really should stop insulting my readers. It doesn’t do much for reader loyalty. I apologise.

Anyway, Iron Man 2. There are going to be spoilers ahead so, you know, keep that in mind if you’re one of those few people who haven’t seen it. Still, I‘ll try and keep them as minimal as possible. Let’s begin.

The first Iron Man film, I think it’s safe to say, was one of the surprise hits of 2008. I say this because, well, it’s Iron Man. Who really cares about Iron Man apart from die-hard comic book fans? I consider myself a comic fan and even I can’t say I really give two shits about Iron Man. I’ve read the odd issue here and there but it’s not like he’s a Batman or a Spider-Man. He’s one of those heroes who I’d never thought would ever permeate the consciousness of the mainstream.

Still the film came and it hit big and I feel that the main reason for this is really because of Robert Downey Jr. The man just got Tony Stark and brought the character to the screen in a way that was fun and believable. I suppose something also has to be said for the fact that it was also the first film in Marvel’s planned ‘Avengers’ series and the fact that, hey, Superheroes are just pretty damn popular at the moment. Still, I feel that the fact that it hit in the way it did is indeed down to Mr. Downey Jr., an actor who appeals to both men, due to his flat out awesomeness, and women, due to his flat out panties moistening awesomeness.

And so we waited for two years, patiently looking forward to the next part in the Iron Man saga. Now that it’s finally here, was it worth the wait? Can it possibly live up to the first film?

Well, yes and no. I didn’t hate it but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first film. I was certainly entertained for the majority of the film but there were elements which really seemed to drag or that I really, really hated.

The biggest problem for me was, surprisingly enough, Robert Downey Jr, particularly early on in the film. It seems as though he was taking everything that made Tony Stark likeable and pushing just a little too far. It seemed almost as though he was playing a parody of the character from the first film. Yes, some will say there’s a reason for his behaving in this manner but really? That first film rested heavily on your ability to like Tony Stark despite his arrogance and too immediately remove that likeability straight away makes literally no sense to me. Unfortunately you still want to like Tony and, due to the way he behaves, no one around him seems to like him very much which makes it hard to like them which pretty much leaves you having a hard time relating to or liking anyone and leaving you with no anchor within the reality of the film.

Another big problem with the film is the fact that they are trying to bring too many elements from the Marvel Universe and weave them into the plot of this film in order to help set-up the forthcoming Avengers movie. You get the feeling that this was the studios decision rather than director Jon Favreau’s and it seems as though he tries hard to make these elements fit as best as he can but it often ends up making the film a bit messy and meandering. You kind of end up wondering if maybe they should have left Iron Man 2 for a year or two more and let some other Marvel films come out first so that they could have spread out the Avengers set-up a little more evenly.

Still, as I say, I didn’t hate the film. Most of the actors involved did do a pretty good job, even Downey Jr. eventaully managing to turn things down and make Stark likeable again. Sam Rockwell was especially good but then he always is, though I must admit I do find it a bit of a shame that he will forever more be a villain in the Marvel Universe. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Scarlett Johansson looked particularly fuckable in this film. Crass, perhaps, but ultimately true.

Some people have lamented the lack of large set-action pieces in this film and whilst it’s true that they are a bit few and far between in this film, I for one don’t mind that. For me these films are really more about Tony Stark then they are about his metal-plated alter-ego so it makes perfect sense to me that he would be the focus of the film rather than the massive superhero/super villain clashes. What I will say though is that I’m really fucking sick of the final battle being between the hero (or heroes) and a villain (or villains) with powers equal or greater than those of the heroes. That seems to have been the major problem with the last Iron Man film, the last Hulk film and now that’s been pretty much repeated here as well. Still, as I say it kept me entertained for what it was and it was nice to see Captain America’s shield without it just being a part of the set decoration and the post credits sequence gives you a brief shot of Mjolnir so, yeah, stick around for that if you really wanna sit through the entire credits for a slightly obscured view of Thor’s hammer.

Overall I give Iron Man 2 three pints out of five. Laterz.




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