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.



Review: Predators by Jamie

Remember ‘Predator‘? It was a film made in 1987 that rocked your world. It rocked it and it rocked it hard. Remember those iconic scenes like a group of badasses shooting the shit out of a jungle or Billy staying behind on the log to take the Predator on alone? Well the writers (Michael Finch, Alex Litvak), producers (Robert Rodriguez, John Davis, Elizabeth Avellan) and director (Nimrod Antal) of ‘Predators’ certainly remember those scenes and are happy to show you half-assed versions of them because, hey, doing something original would just be too much bother.

Now there are things here which weren’t just ripped wholesale from the original ‘Predator’ and those things, for the most part, were incredibly, incredibly dull. It was mostly scenes of people walking through a jungle and when they weren’t walking through a jungle they were spouting some of the most terribly written dialogue ever committed to film.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. Maybe the problem is that I decided to watch the first and second Predator films before going to see this. Maybe all those scenes which were taken from the original seemed more like a nice, nostalgic homage to those who hadn’t seen the first one that day. All they did was reminded me of a far better, far less boring film. There’s none of the snappy dialogue that made even some of the slower scenes of that first film so fun to watch.

Again, maybe that’s not entirely fair. There were a few moments when I perked up and thought that something was finally going to happen. Generally anytime Topher Grace was on screen was quite fun as was the short time that Laurence Fishburne. They seemed to have the most developed and engaging characters which is a shame because they didn‘t get enough screen time and the rest of the characters just seemed to be stock characters who got barely any development whatsoever.

In the first film they managed to achieve character development through the interactions and dialogue of the characters as they trek through the jungle. You get an idea of who those characters are even though they do little more than trek through the jungle trying to hunt the hunter. In this film most of the dialogue seems to serve as little more than exposition especially the lines of Adrien Brody’s character who only seems to be there to figure out what’s just happened or what is about to happen and then explain those things to the rest of the crew.

There’s even a scene where Alice Braga relays the plot of the first Predator film. Why? Why does this need to happen? She could have explained that humanity had encountered these creatures before without essentially reading a synopsis of the first film. Like so much of this film, it just ends up being boring.

‘Predators’ also manages to piss me off by introducing these new, bizarre Predators which are apparently bigger and badder than the crab/vagina faced beasts we’ve come to now and love over the years. These new ones have slightly different faces with extended lower mandibles and as I say are apparently bigger though that’s kind of hard to ascertain during the film. Also they capture the Classic Predator’ types and hunt them as well. Why does this piss me off? Well because it just doesn’t make sense in the context of the series. Remember Jurassic Park 3? In that film a group of people go back to the same island that was in Jurassic Park 2 but this time there’s a bigger, badder carnivore there in the form of Spinosaurus. In the very beginning of the film it kills the T-Rex, beloved favourite dinosaur of many a human being. That was a dick move and it doesn’t make sense because that Spinosaurus probably should have shown up in Jurassic Park 2 if it was such a dominant carnivore on such a small island.

I have similar feelings about these new Predators. If they are so much more badass than the original Predators, how come we’ve never seen them before? I suppose you could say that these Predators do all their hunting by gathering specimens and bring them to game preserve planets but if this blood feud is as intense as it is implied in the film than how would the classic Predators get any hunting done without fear of being hunted themselves by these new Predators. It makes much more sense that one type would wipe out the other before resuming their normal hunting practices. Sigh. I guess I’m just over-analysing things as usual but I can’t help the way that my mind works.

Still the biggest problem with this is that the final showdown feels very Alien Vs Predatory. This time though you don’t have Xenomorphs, humans and Predators going at it. It’s Predator, human and Predator and that sucks just as hard. All right, it didn’t suck as much as Alien vs. Predator but it still wasn’t anything interesting.

So yeah, overall I was pretty damn disappointed with this film. I was so looking forward to it and it was just boring and that’s the worst crime a sci-fi, action film can commit. A lot of people have been saying that this is finally the worthy sequel that ‘Predator’ has been so deserving of. I’m sorry folks but I just don’t see it. Sure ‘Predator 2’ wasn’t a perfect film but it’s a helluva lot less boring than this tired, plodding piece of shit that does nothing we haven’t seen before. Even the Predator’s hunting dog things looked like someone had seen those dog things from ‘Avatar’ and said “Yeah, that’s what Predator needs. Let’s just add some spikes that would make their evolution and survival literally impossible.” Oh, and the less said about Adrien Brody’s American version of Jason Statham’s voice, the better.

Still it is better than both AVPs… I’ll give it that. Overall I rate Predators two pints out of five. One for some of spine-ripping scenes which were kinda cool and a half each for Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne. Laterz.




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