Monthly Archives: January 2013

Django Unchained

The spaghetti western has been a long-awaited addition to Quentin Tarantino’s plethora of ultraviolent cinematic awesomeness.  What better to have an ex-slave turned bounty hunter?  I find the idea quite perfect myself.  Add an act of vengeance and you’re golden.  Needless to say, Django Unchained fits the bill.

These guys.

These guys.

To sum things up quickly, Django is spectacular.  Period.

It's so strange seeing Samuel L. Jackson as an Uncle Tom.

It’s so strange seeing Samuel L. Jackson as an Uncle Tom.

I think it’s fair to say that this is the quintessential Tarantino movie: it’s brutally violent but still entertaining and original.  The rumors are true – Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio give intense performances which are absolutely buzz-worthy.  Let’s not forget Jamie Foxx of course – I feel like it’s been a while since he’s been around in anything this big.

Of course there’s lots of controversy surrounding a project such as this, especially from a certain prima donna director.  But you know what, history isn’t pretty, and neither is this film.  By combining the seriousness of the topic of slavery and early America with spaghetti western kickassery (with an awesome soundtrack to boot), Tarantino has created a new breed of cinematic monster which combines grit, shock, and awe with tantalizing entertainment.  I can honestly say I think this is one of his best.

Final Grade: A

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Les Misérables

It looks just like a Christmas card.

It looks just like a Christmas card.

Ah, the award-winning musical Les Misérables – that is pronounced, as Pee-wee Herman would say “LAY MIZERABLAH” – but for the average lazy type such as myself, let’s just call it “Les Mis,” as it is so often called.  Anyway, to those unfamiliar, Les Mis takes place at the cusp of the French Revolution, a trying time of political oppression but also of hope and resilience against the odds.  Our tale focuses on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-con who spends his life running from a ruthless officer called Javert (Russel Crowe), and finally finds redemption when he takes in the ailing daughter of a victim of circumstance named Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

You just want to hold her and tell her everything's going to be okay.

You just want to hold her and tell her everything’s going to be okay.

As mentioned, Les Mis is an ambitious and timeless piece, so really it was about time that the musical in all its entirely was presented on the big screen.  Frankly, I don’t think performance-wise it couldn’t have been casted better.  Jackman and Hathaway give powerhouse performances – honestly if Hathaway doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her performance I’ll be shocked.  Do you know how hard it is to cry and sing at the same time – and well at that?  It’s just a shame she didn’t get more screen-time than she did, but what she gave was truly unforgettable.

Also did anyone else forget Russel Crowe could sing?  I knew he could but it’s just been so long.  Watching him size up Jackman was really impressive as well.  Additionally, I feel that the pairing of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers was a breath of fresh air in this dark and dreary setting.

Classy.

Classy.

 

I think my only real complaint on the performances was in regards to Cosette and Marius – Amanda Seyfried’s too shrill and Eddie Redmayne’s too…odd.  I don’t know, his voice was strangely guttural and he just looks like his face got stretched or something.  Quite honestly, the young couple bothered me the most in this whole production.  I know that them meeting across the street and doing the love-at-first-sight thing is how it’s always been, but it’s just so painfully cliche it’s infuriating.  I was really hoping they would’ve added more detail into their relationship to make it more realistic, but they just kept it going like they knew each other for years.  I call shenanigans.

On the note of various irks and the like, I seriously wanted to slap the camera folk in the face once or twice.  The idea of doing absurdly close close-ups is interesting at first, because it does a great job of capturing the intensity of the moment.  However, when you have a static shot of every vein in Hugh Jackman’s forehead for three minutes, it gets a little draining.  Then when the camera wasn’t static it was sloppily moving about and seemed to be struggling to focus on the right parts of people’s faces.  Then sometimes it would do random things, such as one scene where Valjean’s having a conversation with Marius: before they begin speaking, the camera’s tilted slightly for a good few seconds – sure it’s a minute detail, but it was so sudden it was very confusing, especially because there wasn’t any reference to anything like this before – did the camera operator just get bored?  I really wouldn’t blame them, with the amount of static takes.  I suppose sloppy is the ideal phrase when describing the camera work in this movie, which is terribly unfortunate because the production design is so incredibly gorgeous.  That and I adored the framing in The King’s Speech, so I really wonder what went so awry for Tom Hooper on this production.

Oh man, why can't they just be married?

Oh man, why can’t they just be married?

Les Mis is a two and a half hours of pure entertainment – filled with gorgeous design and heart-wrenching performances, like any decent Broadway show.  Now if it wasn’t for the cliches and the frustrating camera work, Les Misérables would be A-worthy.  Regardless, this film is a great way to start off the new year.

Final Grade: B