17 January 2013

Unconventional Top 10

2012 was an odd year for films.  As with every year, there are the shamelessly overseen (Twilight), and the criminally underseen (see numbers 10 and 8).  This year, I call this the Unconventional Top 10 because at the beginning of the year, I did not expect to have so many tentpoles and sequels.  As the year played out, I expected many of these films to make this list.  Some were surprises.  Some made it by default.  A few films disappointed , and missed the top ten (The Dark Knight Rises).  And then there were the few that barely missed due to late Oscar contenders (Ted, Wreck-It Ralph, John Carter)  Anyway, without further ado, here they are.

10. Cabin in the Woods – As I mentioned above, this is one of the criminally underseen films of 2012.  I get that it is not for everybody, but lovers of horror films and haters of the genre alike should give this movie a watch.  Not to mention, fans of Joss Whedon.  Cabin in the Woods blew me away.  The story was amazing.  It was well crafted and well executed.

9. Django Unchained – Not Quentin Tarantino’s best film, but certainly one of the best of 2012.  Tarantino will eventually make the best film of the year.  He has to be getting tired of winning Best Screenplay awards without the Best Director and Best Picture.  Sadly, Django Unchained will not be the one for him.  It is a great, but not his best work..

8. The Raid: Redemption – Going along with what I said about Cabin in the Woods, this is the best action movie I have seen in years.  It is intense.  The plot is simple and reminiscent of old school video games.  An elite team of police officers enter a building in the first floor, and try to make it to the top floor to get the ultimate bad guy.  Gareth Evan’s direction is superb.  The action is top-notch.  The publicity and advertising were absent, and really hurt what could have been a mid-level hit at the box office.

7. 21 Jump Street – Wow.  Talk about a surprisingly awesome movie.  I had no desire whatsoever to see 21 Jump Street.  I don’t find Jonah Hill funny.  I am not a fan of Channing Tatum’s “acting.”  Somehow, this film made the best of both of them.  The only thing that made me mad about 21 Jump Street was it ended.  I could have just sat there and watched it again as soon as it ended.  There is just something about the comedy and the action that weaved together flawlessly.

6. Skyfall – After 50 years, Bond still has it.  And by has it, I mean, this is the best Bond film, maybe ever.  I do not take that statement lightly.  I have seen every Bond film many times each, but Skyfall flat out rocked my world.  I cannot believe how awesome it was.  Not only was the story amazing, the acting was excellent and the action was inventive.  I look forward to where they take 007 next.  It is setting franchise records across the globe.  If you haven’t seen it, I only ask, why not?

5. Zero Dark ThirtyThe Hurt Locker blew my mind back in 2009, and because of that, I had too high of expectations when entering the theater to see Kathryn Bigelow’s latest, and for that, Zero Dark Thirty suffered.  She once again crafted a tense thriller, but it just paled in comparison to the vastly superior The Hurt Locker.  Zero Dark Thirty is a good film.  Jessica Chastain’s performance is totally worth seeing this film for.  She is amazing, to say the least.

4. The Hunger Games – I loved the books.  I tried to get as many people as possible to read this series.  When the movie was announced, I was hesitant.  It is a Lionsgate film, and they typically do horror movies and Tyler Perry films.  This is neither.  As casting rolled out, and screenshots started appearing, things looked good.  When the trailer hit, things looked even better.  When I saw the final product, I was in awe.  It was a perfect adaptation.

3. The Avengers – "In Joss We Trust" has become a geek credo.  I have been a fan of his since Buffy, The Vampire Slayer days.  I followed on to Angel, and then to the ill-fated, cancelled much too soon Firefly.  It is too bad that Joss did not wait until now to make Serenity.  I feel that his solid fanbase is greater now than ever, and Serenity might have made enough money to constitute a franchise.  Anyway, we are here to discuss The Avengers.  Only a true geek at heart could possibly pull off what Joss Whedon did.  He wrote his own script, and then directed from it.  His attention to each member of the team, and keeping with the tone and character developed in their stand-alone film is what made Marvel’s culmination film work so well.  The only down side to The Avengers comes by way of the bar being set extremely high for this next round of films, being dubbed Phase Two.

2. Looper – I really had modest to low expectations when entering the theater to view Looper.  I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the best young actors working today, but time travel films rarely work.  Let alone work so well.  I loved this movie.  The story was just intricate enough, the acting was excellent, and the action and direction was fantastic.  I did not think that anything else would surpass this as the best film of the year.

It took two weeks.

1. Argo – I said it before, back when I saw it, Argo is the best movie of the year, hands down.  Ben Affleck has redefined his career.  He used to be the butt of a lot of jokes, cough**Daredevil**cough, but he has since become one of the best directors out there.  Argo is a beautifully directed, tense, thriller, that (pardon the cliché) keeps you on the edge of your seat.  It has already picked up many awards, most recently the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama.  Despite his Oscar nomination snub, Affleck has taken the Critics Choice and Golden Globe for Best Director.  If you only see one more movie from 2012, Argo should be it.

I know that I left off a few of the bigger players making waves out there, but I have not seen them: Lincoln, Les Miserable, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook.  I will eventually see these, but I just didn’t have time yet.  Too many good movies come out at the end of the year all at once.

The worst of 2012

04 January 2013

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino has a fan base.  Their loyalty can be questioned, cough**Death Proof**cough, but for the most part, he has a solid fan base.  He is a film aficionado who likes to make movies for movie lovers.  His last few films have been “meta films.”  Meaning, they have drawn from all the genre tropes to make an “ultimate” genre film.  Kill Bill Vol.1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 started this kick of his.  He took your typical samurai, martial arts, kung-fu film, and dissected it, and spun it on its head.  They were amazing fun films.  Next up, he took on war films with Inglourious Basterds.  Again, it was a great film.  This time around, Tarantino tackled one of my favorite genres, the western.

Django Unchained follows the adventures of Dr. King Schultz (Chistoph Waltz) and his freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx).  Schultz buys Django at the start of the film because Django knows what the wanted Brittle brothers look like, and Schultz is a dentist turned bounty hunter.  They make a deal:  if Django helps Schultz find the Brittle brothers, Schultz will set him free.

While on the search for the three brothers, Django and Schultz become friends, and Django tells of his missing wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  After catching up with and cashing in on the Brittles, a new deal is struck between our two protagonists.  If Django is willing to stay on with Schultz, he will be paid a percentage of the bounties collected over the winter.  After the snow melts, they will head south to find Broomhilda and free her, too.

The bounty hunters find themselves at Candie Land, a feared plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  He is into slave fighting, and Schultz and Django pose as buyers for a fighter.  The house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) catches onto the duos real intentions leading to a dispute between the factions in the house.

Now, I cut a lot out and trimmed the plot down for space purposes.  I could have gone on and on, but for the sake of time, I will leave it at that.  Trust me, there is a lot more in play here.  Where Django Unchained excels is in the directing and the acting by everyone involved.  Samuel L. Jackson brings a necessary complexity to his house slave character.  Jami Foxx is very charismatic as Django.  Leo is spectacular as the sadistic slave owner.  Christoph Waltz is charming again, but I do not see another golden statue for him this time around.

Tarantino has developed a complex layered story, but as per his usual, he has few extra scenes.  He has also assembled a great cast with so many actors in small to less than small roles, which it would drag this review on for too long.  But, here is a short list anyway: Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, M.C. Gainey, Walton Goggins and Tom Wopat.  And as is his norm, Tarantino built a great soundtrack and score to encompass his story.

So, the big question is, Is Django Unchained worth your time and money?  I would say absolutely.  I had the pleasure of watching this in the recently renovated AMC West Olive 16 theater.  If you are 21 or over, this is an experience you should give a try.  It is not cheap, but it is different.  They have a full kitchen and bar.  I loved seeing this movie this way, as it is long and really gave me the time to enjoy my experience, and the leather recliner.

RATING: 8/10