Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Bloody Bounty of Bullets

Jamie Foxx teams up with the legendary Quentin Tarantino to deliver a bullet-riddled tale of lost love redeemed in Django Unchained


ARTH VADER (AV): Following in the footsteps of the spaghetti western of the same name, the 1966 Django was known as one of the most violent movies ever made. The wildly successful movie inspired a wave of copycat movies in the 1970's to the mid 80's. Christmas Day of 2012 saw yet another variant make it's on-screen debut. Django Unchained propels almost as many stars as bullets at the viewer and is a real homage to the violently graphic original and is in complete step with Tarantino's style of violent storytelling. This makes for a great way to introduce Tarantino's re-imagined Django, the freed-slave-turned bounty hunter on a quest to find his true love. 
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Slavery was not one of the finest moments for our country, but it happened and is a part of our shared history. I’m not an expert of every detail of every incident and situation during slavery, but this film surely has accuracy in some parts... and embellishment in others. This film pays homage to the original by having a cameo of Franco Nero... the original Django.


AV: The villains, oh Pontificator, the villains are this movie's DNA. The casting of the list of antagonists in this film was better than that of any movie in recent memory. From Don "Miami Vice" Johnson (yes I went there!) as the pompous "Big Daddy", the convert evil of house slave Steven in Samuel "Nick Fury" Jackson, the sadistically sinister Walton Goggins as Billy Crash and let's give a hearty Boxed Office standing ovation to Leonardo DiCaprio in his role as the stunningly sadistic Calvin Candie. Even Tarantino himself holds down a hilariously twisted cameo of an Aussie gun-for-hire that has a rather explosive demise. And lest we forget the riveting beauty and seasoned portrayal of Django's captured wife by the stunning Kerry Washington. This movie had more vile villains and twisted characters as spent bullet casings. Pontificator, I was delighted at the intricate twists and turns of this array of villains and anti-heroes. Would you think old friend?

TP: Excellent casting and acting kept me glued to the screen. The directing of Quentin Tarantino is a singular talent, and always keeps you just off center and always on edge. Jamie Foxx submerges himself in the role of Django and sells every bit of his hatred and urgency. Christoph Waltz was just as integral as Foxx, but really carried the screen whenever he was on it. The combination, when working in tandem, was truly magnetic. Leonardo DiCaprio remains one of the greats and along with Samuel L. Jackson, really nails home the vileness of villainy...and as you pointed out Vader, there was plenty of that to go around.

AV: You know, Ponty, we don't get to talk much about good old-fashioned stage sets and make-up anymore and Django Unchained is a rich outpouring of clothing, attitudes and styles from pre-civil war America in the 1950's. Lot's of cowboys and Southern Belles, slaves and slave traders, Sheriffs, Marshals and Saloon keeps, all ere abundantly represented in this bullet-zipping tale. Lest we forget, the over-the-top blood-letting gives us plenty of brains and blood spattering as the movie shows no effort to restrain itself from the violence of the story. 

TP: This isn’t a big budget science-fiction movie, but the special effects are still outstanding. They come in the form of gore and the occasional explosion... but everything looks real, and in the final analysis, that is what every filmmaker wants to achieve. The costumes and props certainly propelled me into another era, Vader.


AV: I am a huge fan of the Quentin Tarantino brand of shoot first and shoot-often-style of movie making. Django is a fitting addition to Tarantino's heavy-handed violence and deplorable people doing heroic things, despite themselves a world that couldn't possibly allow any of us to go through unscathed. Django shows us how a single-minded focus on even a seemingly unattainable goal makes almost anything worth pursuing–even true love. Redemption, even for the most horrible deeds, is often found in the achieving of one's final goal. The ends may not always justify the means, but we sure do applaud when the bad guy gets a face full of buckshot. Gritty, gruesome and grounding. Ponty? 

TP: Oh where to begin, since there was so much to look at. Controversy... I’ll start there. Racism, slavery, the use of the “N-Word”...all controversial. To tell this story with the impact of a crashing plane, all these elements had to be represented in the truest way possible. I sat in a mixed audience, and everyone found the same uncomfortable scenes... uncomfortable. Yet within all of this was a base story as old as stories... that of the noble hero. It wasn’t told with glitz, but with a finger on the hot button of our humanity. It was a journey that led a former slave to question gunning down a man in front of his child, to having no question at all about where he is going, and how he is getting there. Indeed, it was gritty and gruesome... but I dare say many left the theater very grounded.


AV: Whilst the original spurred and inspired scores of offspring, also-rans and sequels, this latest version may be a bit hard to follow. And while Tarantino's movies don't exactly fit the Hollywood mold of trilogy franchises (the From Dusk till Dawn series notwithstanding) – the viability of a Django follow-up could be cool, just don't call it "Django 2". 

TP: I can see where a sequel could go, given that this film took place a few years before the Civil War. Honestly though, this film does more than enough to twist some screws loose and provoke profound thought and a second part that encompasses the Civil War won’t break any new ground... just provoke a comparison to the first, at the risk of some degradation to what is shaping up to be a masterpiece.


ARTH VADER rates Django Unchained: High hopes, high impact and high body count make Django a blistering tale of redemption, love and innocence lost. Smart and gritty with more action and violence than you could handle in a 2 hour and 20 minute tale, this is a must-see movie for the western, the action hero lover and those of us drawn to stories of righting all wrongs, no matter how many bullets it takes genres. I load up 9 busted blocks into the barrel for Django Unchained. 

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Django Unchained: There is a lot going on in this film, and it hits every point a great film needs to, in order to be great. The action is intense, the humor alleviating, and the drama provoking. There isn’t a safe moment to take your eyes off the screen, and every bit of dialogue is meaningful. Django unchains 8 blocks, and busts them in a hail of bullets. 

Django Unchained: 8.5/10 Busted Blocks
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