Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movie Review: Django Unchained (2012) -- Overall Rating 3.75 / 5

Starring Christoph Waltz & Jamie Foxx
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Rated R (for excessive screen time to scrotum ratio)

Story: 4 / 5
Direction: 3 / 5
Acting: 4 / 5
Visual: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.75 / 5
Explanation of rating categories appears at the bottom of each review posting.

I am not a Quentin Tarantino fan. He intrigues me, but I am certainly not one of his raving fanboys, believing every frame that passes beneath his camera’s lens is made of gold. With that said I’ve seen all of his films--so much for describing myself as not being a raving fanboy.

I was thoroughly entertained by Django Unchained, more than I’ve been by any of his films since Pulp Fiction. The story is extremely basic: A bounty hunter named Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) to assist him in tracking down three plantation workers whom Schultz would be unable to identify on sight. During their travels Schultz learns that Django’s wife is held by a vicious man named Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Schultz and Django scheme to buy the wife from Candie, and violence ensues.

Like all of Tarantino’s films, the direction is something of a mess. The film’s tone shifts aggressively between scenes. There’s a lot of funny stuff here, but everything is played straight. Some would say this is a strength, but as time goes on Tarantino insists on shooting B-material films with A-caliber talent. The two just don’t mesh. If you gave Da Vinci a Crayola water color kit he’d still turn out something amazing, and that’s the problem. You know Da Vinci, if given the right tools, can paint the Mona Lisa, so why is he pissing around with Crayola water colors? Tarantino has proved over and over again that he can make gripping, serious films. So why isn’t he?

As was the case with Inglorious Basterds, Christoph Waltz steals the show here. He has the same quality as Javier Bardem, where every moment he’s on the screen you don’t want to look away because you’re transfixed. Jamie Foxx is decent, and Di Caprio gets to shout near the end so even he gets my approval. Sam Jackson manages to play an Uncle Tom caricature of himself, hardly a stretch, but it’s not Mace Windu so points for that.

Tarantino still shoots on film, uses sets, and when someone gets shot “real” fake blood sprays all over the place (as opposed to CGI blood). This same film 20 years ago wouldn’t impress me visually, but now it’s really refreshing. Everything now looks so cold, sterile, or over-saturated with computerized color correction. This is the kind of material that begs for the forgiving warmth of the traditional film camera.

Would I recommend this film? Whooo, not if you don’t like ultra-violence. If you’re not a child (physically or mentally) this is a great time and I highly recommend it.

Explanation of Ratings

All ratings are on a 5 point scale where 1 is the lowest possible score. A score of 3 indicates the film was simply effective in this regard. A score of 5 indicates perfection in a given category. The overall rating is a simple average of the four scores.

  • Story -- How well the film was written?  Did the story make sense?  Were there plot holes?  Was the dialogue natural for the style/genre?
  • Direction -- How well was the film put together?  Did all of the elements come together properly?  How was the pacing?  Was the tone consistent and effective?  A subcategory of this would be editing, but for the purpose of these reviews it is combined into one category.
  • Acting -- How good were the performances?  In a drama did the lead actor/actress draw the audience in?  In a comedy where the performers funny?  This is an amalgam score of all the performances in the piece. A single great performance can elevate the entire score, but a bunch of bad performances can just as easily bring it down.
  • Visual -- How did the film look?  If there were visual effects were they used appropriately and did they look good?  Did the overall look enhance the telling of the story?


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