Friday, December 8, 2017

Movie Review of “Django Unchained”. Reviewed by Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: (R)
Runtime: 165 mins

“Django Unchained” is a 2012 western film and the seventh full length feature from director/writer Quentin Tarantino. While “Kill Bill” included some elements of the “spaghetti westerns,” this marked Tarantino’s first time completely delving into the genre. The movie pays particular reference to Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film, “Django” and includes a cameo appearance from Franco Nero, who played the titular character. “Django Unchained” went on to become Tarantino’s most financially successful film, raking in over $425 million at the global box office, according to Box Office Mojo. It also won him a second Academy Award for Best Writing following 1994s “Pulp Fiction,” in addition to yet another Best Supporting Actor victory for Christoph Waltz, who also achieved the feat for his performance in 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

In “Django Unchained”, Jamie Foxx plays a former slave named Django who is freed by a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz). The two quickly form an alliance as a bounty hunting team; starting off by setting out to find and kill three slavers known as the Brittle Brothers. Eventually, their journey leads them to Candyland, another slave plantation owned and operated by the ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django and Schultz learned that Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) was sold to Candie, so they come up with a plan to try to rescue her from the plantation.

This western fits right in with the rest of Tarantino’s filmography, handling its serious subject matter with an incredibly controversial blend of humor and extreme violence. 

Personally, this lighthearted approach does not bother me at all and I think the result remains Quentin Tarantino’s most enjoyable movie. It is clear to me that he and everyone else involved in the project had a great time working on “Django Unchained”; which is highlighted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s incredible energy in his unnatural role as a villain. He was absolutely electric, completely stealing the show during the Candyland sequence. While Waltz was great too, I think that this remains DiCaprio’s best work to date and he would have earned the Oscar had he been granted a bit more screen time. 

That aside, Foxx’s lead performance also cannot go unnoticed here, as he was totally bad-ass, playing a man who will stop at nothing to save the woman he loves. Overall, “Django Unchained” provides a perfectly acted and exciting story that stands amongst my absolute favorite movies. Watch out for my updated thoughts on Tarantino’s latest film, “The Hateful Eight” (2015) as I finish this tour of the director’s work.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Movie Review of "inglourious Basterds" by Daniel Kilgallon

Runtime: 153 mins

“Inglourious Basterds” is a war movie (of sorts) and the sixth feature film from Quentin Tarantino. He wrote the initial script all the way back in 1998 and it remains one of the filmmakers most ambitious projects to date. However, Tarantino couldn’t come up with a proper ending for it at first, so he decided to work on “Kill Bill” and “Death Proof” before he finally finished what he started and released “Basterds” in 2009. The result was Tarantino’s highest grossing project to date ($321 million worldwide) before being surpassed by “Django Unchained” in 2012. “Inglourious Basterds” also racked up eight Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor win for Christoph Waltz.

“Inglourious Basterds” is an incredibly satirical film which tells a fantasy alternate ending to the Second World War. The story revolves around two separate plots to kill the Nazi leaders (including Adolf Hitler) at a grand movie premiere. One of the schemes is devised by the owner of the theater, a young French Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), whose family was killed by Colonel Hans Landa (Waltz) and his Schutzstaffel soldiers. The second plan is implemented by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his “Basterds,” a team of Jewish American soldiers who are “in the killin' Nazi business.”

While much of Tarantino’s work is driven by extended scenes of dialogue, no film of his provides a finer example of this than “Inglourious Basterds”. From the opening interrogation at the farmhouse to the long sequence in the basement tavern, this movie maintains tight- rope-like tension through every single word spoken by the characters. By the time the outbursts of violence occur, it is practically relieving to be freed from the stressfulness of sheer conversation. 

While Quentin Tarantino crafted an absolute beauty of a script with “Inglorious Basterds”, the acting talent on display cannot go unnoticed here. Christoph Waltz was more than worthy of his Oscar win, as he completely owns each and every scene he is in. The composure he maintains while remaining one step ahead of everybody else is an absolute joy to watch. Brad Pitt also delivers an exceptional performance and his one-liners are amusing enough to keep “Inglorious Basterds” just as whimsical as Tarantino intended it to be. This depiction of the subject matter coupled with the excessive violence may not suit everybody’s taste, but the end result is near perfect for those who can stomach it. Tarantino was not that far off when he used Brad Pitt as a microphone in the film’s closing line, “This just might be my masterpiece.” My review of “Django Unchained” will be on the way next.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: “Death Proof” (R). Reviewed by Daniel Kilgallon

Runtime: 113 mins

In 2007, frequent collaborators Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released a double feature called “Grindhouse” - a homage to the same named genre of B-movies that dominated drive-in theaters of the 1960s and 70s. While the filmmakers worked together on each portion of the project, Rodriguez was the director of “Planet Terror” and Tarantino took the reins for “Death Proof”. The pair of movies are not directly related in their plots, but are intended to be watched together in order to simulate the experience of the so called “grindhouse” cinema, even including fake trailers and advertisements between the films.

“Death Proof” stars Kurt Russell as an aging Hollywood driver named “Stuntman Mike” who rides around in 1970 Chevy Nova, which is “death proof” . . . for the driver. The film consists of two separate instances of Mike attempting to murder young women in car accidents that he sets up; the first taking place in Austin, Texas and the second in Lebanon, Tennessee. In the later half, Mike ends up driving a 1969 Dodge Charger as he is pursued by a tough gang of girls that decide to fight back with a vengeance.

As I have worked my way through this marathon of Tarantino’s filmography, I am yet to doubt his vision as a director and can confidently say that this remains true with “Death Proof.” Simply put, in each of his projects, it is quite evident that Tarantino made the movie exactly the way he wanted to. 

With “Death Proof”, he primarily set out to pay homage to previously discussed “grindhouse” 
cinema, particularly this specific muscle car segment of the genre. In order to add extra effect and emulate the time period, Tarantino used many jump cuts throughout and physically scratched the film to achieve a dirty, grainy look.

Between the obnoxious, over-the-top story, ridiculous chase sequences and overall film style, it is clear that Tarantino didn’t want to make a groundbreaking masterpiece here (for once). That being said, “Death Proof” is a lot of fun for what it is, highlighted by an amusing performance from Kurt Russell and a couple of long, entertaining chase sequences. However, this is not a movie I’ll be rushing to watch again, as it is simply not on the superior level of storytelling quality as the rest of Tarantino’s work. 

From my interpretation, “Death Proof” is all about this time-machine like experience of simply having a couple hours of fun with an intentionally not-so-good movie. Tarantino changed direction quite a bit in 2009 when “Inglorious Basterds” was released; watch out for my thoughts on that soon.