Django Unchained Review

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Quentin Tarantino can not be defied. He is a brilliant director and there’s just no arguing that. He has a defined and beautiful vision for his stories, his characters and his films as a whole. Django Unchained is simply another result of his blood, sweat and prowess. He knows how to make films better than most and Django Unchained was flawless. Had this not been the greatest year in film I could easily see myself calling this my favorite movie of year, it does come close because yes Quentin Tarantino has done it again.

The man even has a way of entertaining me during the opening credits just by the way the entirety of the beginning of the film plays out. From the title slides to the perfect beginning scene, in which our hero is released from his chains, I am captivated  and moment by moment I continued to be captivated until the end. The film does for slavery what Inglourious Basterds does for National Socialism, while each film is wholly unique and perfect in its own right.

From the moment his destined mentor, partner and friend, Dr. King Schultz unshackled him, Django embodied his part as a freed slave and vengeful hero. Dr. Schultz is a german bounty hunter who teaches Django a lot. They both end up learning a lot from one another though and together they stand for all that is right and just in a world with something as savage and heinous as slavery. As representation as opposition to our heroes we find the despicable plantation owner, Calvin J. Candie and his hateful house slave, Stephen.

Every character in the film is given potent justice. Django is a badass, that’s all there is to it. He is not the kind of man you mess with and he’s the kind of hero you want on your side. Jamie Foxx sells it perfectly. Having now seen the film, there is no one I would’ve rather seen in this role. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio are equally brilliant in their roles. Candie is a sadistic bastard and DiCaprio doesn’t hold back. Christoph Waltz really astounds in his role as King Schultz, a kind and wise old man whose weary of this harsh world he’s living in and keen to help Django in his plight. Samuel L. Jackson even portrays his unique part masterfully.

Watching Django Unchained is a blast all around. It’s fun and yet touches on some real emotion. The tension rises as a spaghetti western would and explosive bloodshed is usually the result. With the help of other artists, Tarantino has created a Southern. This  is just another film he poured his heart and soul into. He had a blast making it and subsequently it’s impossible for me not to have a blast watching it. Django Unchained is a beautiful piece of art, it’s Quentin Tarantino’s Southern and it’s a masterpiece.

Grade: A+

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Top Ten Movie Actors

The art of performance is an art form that’s hard not to find an appreciation for if you love movies. As a result of this appreciation, this is a list that has been in the works for a very long time. To preface this list of the people I consider the greatest actors in existence I’d like to make a few things clear. This is a list of actors that are all around the greatest performers, but it’s also a list of actors whom, on a personal level, I just enjoy watching. Along with the names of my favorite actors I’ve also listed three films in front of each actor. I want to make it apparent that these three films aren’t necessarily the three best films to come out of that actor’s career, it’s a list of that actor’s three best performances. This is a broad list so I’d like to start with a list of Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

Honorables

  • Brad Pitt
  • Edward Norton
  • Jim Carrey
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Ralph Fiennes
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Liam Neeson
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • George C. Scott
  • Marlon Brando
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Morgan Freeman

And here we go…

10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Most, if not all, will be surprised to find actors like Morgan Freeman, Marlon Brando, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt on a list of Honorable Mention while Joseph Gordon-Levitt is right here at number 10. There’s never a need to justify or rationalize one’s opinions when it comes to discussing something as subjective as film. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s aura of charisma any time he’s on screen. He knows how to do what he does and he does it perfectly. I respect him a lot.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

2. Brick

1. Looper

9. Robert De Niro

This list would be incomplete without the great Robert De Niro. He deserves every ounce of praise he gets for any role he plays. There is certainly an intensity to the way he becomes engrossed in his characters and like any brilliant actor, he really does have such a broad range. Whether he’s playing the awkward and psychotic Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver or the calm and collected crook in Heat, he always manages to put a very raw touch on any performance. The industry wouldn’t be the same without him.

3. Taxi Driver

2. The Deer Hunter

1. Raging Bull

8. Michael Fassbender

Whether he’s playing a robot or even the main character in an X-Men movie, Michael Fassbender always has such a powerful presence. He first caught my attention when I saw him in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, Inglourious Basterds. He didn’t play a huge part in the story, but couldn’t help but command the screen. He has such a naturalism to the way he acts making every single one of his actions feel completely real. If you want to watch truly flawless performing watch Michael Fassbender become his character in Shame.

3. Inglourious Basterds

2. Prometheus

1. Shame

7. Tom Hardy

Its slowly starting to be realized by all with each movie he’s a part of, but Tom Hardy is a truly masterful actor. Its a sight to behold anytime he acts. He makes such lucid choices and stays absolutely consistent. Any character he plays becomes so ridiculously defined due to his flawless work as an emotive performer. At this point I can expect nothing less than greatness anytime he chooses to act in a film. It’s always enjoyable to watch him do what he does regardless of the part, be it a charismatic action hero or a feral and emotionless monster of a man.

3. Warrior

2. Bronson

1. The Dark Knight Rises

6. Al Pacino

I feel as though there’s an unspoken competition when it comes to the legendary actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I would have to go with Al Pacino. Every character he plays is made so intensely human due to a dedication to his work. Realism is what it seems to be about with Pacino. Whether he’s chewing apart the screen in Scent of a Woman or playing a more cool-headed ex-con in Carlito’s Way, with confidence he always manages to bring out the humanity in the men he becomes. Al Pacino is a true master at what he does.

3. Insomnia

2. Dog Day Afternoon

1. The Godfather (Part I + II)

5. Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman is a brilliant character actor who is more than capable of playing the leading man as he sees fit. He has one of the widest ranges of any actor who has ever performed. He can play a ferocious villain in an action movie such as Air Force One and he has the ability to play a more subdued protagonist in a complex drama like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With maturity and grace, Oldman makes everything he does so completely memorable. Gary Oldman is still working today, but he’s already left such a lasting and magnificent legacy with the fascinating ways he takes on the vibrant characters he plays.

3. The Professional

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

1. The Dark Knight Legend

4. Jack Nicholson

Ever since I fell in love with the art of film, I’ve always considered Jack Nicholson one of my favorite actors. It’s hard not to love the actor when you look at his track record. He is extraordinary, that’s all there is to it. Due to his work as a magnificent performer he is partly responsible for some of the masterpieces fundamental to the progression of cinema. He’s always having fun just doing exactly what he does best, perform flawlessly. Jack makes you feel it no matter what it is. When he laughs, yells, cries, breathes, it’s not him,  it’s his character. Jack Nicholson is an incredible artist and one of the best there is.

3. The Departed

2. The Shining

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

3. Christian Bale

There is something so miraculous to the way Christian Bale completely throws himself in his roles. Regardless of the character, he makes you believe it. As Batman he’s heroic, as Patrick Bateman he’s psychotic, as Dicky Eklund he’s pathetic, as Alfred Borden he’s enigmatic and I could easily go on. It’s as if he just has some kind of vast knowledge on exactly how to tap into the mind and shoes of the characters he portrays. Christian Bale defines a generation of actors who have learned a lot from a long, long history of film and excels because of that knowledge.

3. The Fighter

2. American Psycho

1. The Dark Knight Legend

2. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is a phenomenal artist and the greatest actor working today. He is incredibly deliberate in the choices he makes and I don’t just mean in the ways he chooses to portray a character, but also in the characters he chooses to play. He’s touched on such a broad spectrum of emotions and he does so flawlessly. No one does it the way Daniel Day-Lewis does it. You want to talk about intensity in performance, just watch him tear through the scenery as the violent villain, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is coming soon and I just can’t wait to see what Day-Lewis does with it.

Daniel Day-Lewis blows me away any time he takes on a performance, but it’s in There Will Be Blood where he really hits his stride and shows just how extraordinary a performance can be. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an epic character study about consumption, greed and the American nightmare. At the heart of the film is the complex and depraved oilman, Daniel Plainview. Rarely does the film have a scene without its black-hearted protagonist. It’s one of the juiciest roles in all of film and as always, with precision and dominance, Daniel Day-Lewis plays the character to perfection.

3. Gangs of New York

2. Lincoln

1. There Will Be Blood

1. Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger is the greatest artist to have ever acted in film and its a shame to think about what could’ve been. The Australian actor was only 28-years-old when he passed away and all we have of him is an enigmatic and extraordinary career that was tragically cut very short. Even since a very young age, Heath showed great promise when he took on any role. No matter what it was, be it an rollicking adventure movie like A Knight’s Tale or a serious drama like The Patriot, Heath Ledger showed more than potential to be one of the greats.

A turning point that marked the career of a mature and defiant actor was Heath Ledger’s performance of Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. This was a role that needed a powerful and honest performance and Heath Ledger responded with a portrayal that exceeded those necessities. Heath Ledger is an extraordinary actor who never needed to prove anything, but if he did, he proves it here. You’d be hard-pressed to find other performances that are as touching and real.

Heath Ledger is the kind of actor who just seems to have fun with whatever he’s doing. He loves doing what he does and just happens to be the best at what he does. Never did he have more fun with a role than when he gave not only the greatest performance of his career, but the greatest performance in the history of film. In The Dark Knight, Ledger was universally praised for his realistic portrayal of one of the most iconic villains in the history of stories. In The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger crafted the greatest character in film, which is in part due to a landmark performance that cements Heath Ledger as the greatest actor to have ever performed.

3. The Patriot

2. Brokeback Mountain

1. The Dark Knight

Inception Review

After watching Inception, I had a thought. This thought comes to me occasionally when watching a movie, but it’s actually quite rare. Its a thought you have to work towards, one you have to earn as a filmmaker. Because its a thought that I’m sure many have had after watching a movie, but it may not occur as often as you’d like so you really have to savor it. My thought was this: “Wow, now that’s a movie.”

Inception is the story of a man named Dom Cobb who is able to tap into people’s dreams so he can extract secrets, but the movie turns to masterpiece when asked to perform the seemingly impossible task of Inception. Instead of extracting an idea, Cobb and his team must instead plant one in. It’s a tale that is fascinating, memorable and some what beautiful.

On top of that, it’s cast so exceptionally well. DiCaprio, never ceases to amaze me anymore, Marion Cotillard was fantastic, and Joseph Gordan-Levitt was such a thrill to watch. He’s certainly got a career ahead of him. Honeslty though, every actor is fantastic in his or her role. Everyone just fits so perfectly, it doesn’t even seem like you’re watching a performance, you’re just watching that character and the story around them unfold.

Christopher Nolan has never let me down, I love, with a passion every single movie he’s made so far. Especially The Dark Knight and Inception. A year ago, when Inception teasers were being released, people had absolutely no clue what was going on. Neither did I. I didn’t care, I knew that in a year I’d be watching another Nolan masterpiece. Guess what happened… I was right!

I love all of his movies, but not since Memento has he ever been this original. It was inspiring really to watch such a perfect movie that wasn’t a sequel or remake or based on a book, cause so often movies are. No, Inception came from an idea of the director and was put on screen exactly the way the director saw fit, but this isn’t just any old director. This is one of the greatest directors of all time. Making Inception undoubtedly one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. Every single ounce of me is in love with this movie, no other word can describe it best other than, masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Top Ten Tarantino Characters

The original minds of the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Their love for violence, their fantastic and memorable writing and their ability to never let you down, just to name a few. But I think Quentin Tarantino tops the Coen Brothers in his creation of some of the most memorable characters in film. Tarantino puts such a graceful brush stroke on every single one of his characters, making each one (no matter how manner) just plain awesome.

As always it was a difficult list to make because I love practically every character Quentin creates. I unfortunately was not able to make room for many characters I would love to find on a top ten such as this. Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde are my favorite criminals from Reservoir Dogs who weren’t able to make to list. I wish I had room for Shosanna Dreyfuss of Inglourious Basterds, but she just missed the cut. Anyways, here they are, my favorite Quentin Tarantino characters…

10. Calvin J. Candie (Django Unchained)

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If Candyland is the mountain surrounded by hellfire that Dr. King Schultz describes in his german legend, than Calvin J. Candie is the fire breathing dragon. Leonardo DiCaprio never fails to show off his chops as an actor and he really shines here as a sadistic, savage and charismatic plantation owner. He’s the kind of villain you just despise from the moment you meet him and DiCaprio sells out. It’s a brilliant character that deserved a brilliant performance.

9. The Bride (Kill Bill)

The Bride is my favorite female hero in all of film. Period. Her determination and bloodlust drive the epic force that is Kill Bill. I love every moment of the four hour movie and it tells the tale of her escapades. Of course I love her. She puches her way out of a coffin buried 6 feet under, kills “88” people (not really, but still a large number) with out breaking a sweat and gouges out a rivals eye with her bare hand. Black Mamba is a samurai and the deadliest woman in the world.

8. Lt. Archie Hicox (Inglourious Basterds)

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He only makes it in three scenes of Tarantino’s WWII masterpiece, but one of them just so happens to be almost a half hour long and quite possibly the best scene in the movie. Hicox is an english officer bent on helping the Allies in any way he can. What makes him a shoe-in for this list for me is a scene when he’s told of his imminent death. With pride he sucks down his cigarette, picks up his glass of scotch and says one of my favorite lines in film, “There’s a special rung in hell for people who waste a good scotch and since I may be wrapping on the door momentarily…(finishes the glass)… I must say, damn good stuff.”

7. Stuntman Mike (Death Proof)

I absolutely love Death Proof. Is it that good of a movie? Most would say no probably, but I have a blast with every single time I’ve watched it. I think for the most part I love the movie because its driven by a character I love. The psychopathic killer, Stuntman Mike. A sweet talkin’ charmer who happens to kill girls with his car. He has played many bad asses in his illustrious career, but I don’t enjoy watching Kurt Russell nearly as much as I enjoy him as this bad ass.

6. Bill (Kill Bill)

Bill is simply what he calls himself, “a murdering basterd”. Look deeper though and he’s still a murdering basterd, but also a wise samurai with a broken heart. Every single line Bill has is uttered with sauch subtle grace and beauty by David Carradine. Every single moment is made quite epic by his presence. We don’t even see his face for the first half of the movie. Instead, we get a few shots of his hands, his sword and his cowboy boats slowly walking over to the half dead corpse of the woman he loves and is about to shoot in the head. Bill has a way a about him that makes him hated and loved by all he’s touched by. I for one just love the guy.

5. Dr. King Schultz (Django Unchained)

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I like to imagine that Tarantino sees a bit of himself in Dr. King Schultz, a man who could never truly understand Django’s pain and struggle, but who would never the less help Django in any way he could. Dr. King Schultz walks into Django’s life very suddenly and they instantly hit it off. He says it himself, Schultz “despises” slavery and he sees to the freedom of a man he was meant to meet. Together they form a bond willing to stand up against the atrocious tyranny of slavery. He’s a charming man, a wise mentor and a friend.

4. Lt. Aldo Raine (Inglourious Basterds)

Known to his enemies as Aldo the Apache is a nazi-scalping aficionado and the leader of the band of renegade jews sent to do as much damage as they possibly can against the Third Reich. He bares a lynching scar across his neck and we don’t know why, but I love it. Aldo goes through no transition or arch as a character and that’s the reason I love him. We know what to expect out of him. We know what he loves and we know he’d like to be doing it till the day he dies and that is “killin’ nazis.”

3. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)

Jules Winnfield is by far one of the greatest movie characters of all time. A notorious hitman touched by the grace of god and changed spiritually forever. This is by far Samuel L. Jackson’s best and most iconic performance. “Hmm, that is a tasty burger.” I love every single violent and philosophical induced moment with this “Bad Motherfucker”. You can’t talk about Quentin Tarantino movies and not mention the awesomenous that is Jules Winnfield. From the bible verse he recites before killing somone to his rightfully stitched wallet, I can never get enough of him.

2. Django (Django Unchained)

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In Django Unchined, you’ll find the greatest hero Quentin Tarantino has ever created. I never want anything bad to happen to Django and his love, Broomhilda. From the moment he is released from his chains I am rooting for him. He’s the definition of a badass and he’s a righteous man, a hero looking for retribution. Django is reminiscent of a mighty knight riding in to save the woman he loves. You love him and his woman and his journey, you hate the villains that stand in his way and to watch his wrath unleash when it goes down is nothing short of breathtaking.

1. Col. Hans Landa (Inlgourious Basterds)

“The Jew Hunter” is one of the greatest characters in film and by far the greatest character Quentin Tarantino has ever created and probably ever will create. It took him 15 years to top the character Jules Winnfield. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be able to top Hans Landa. A nazi is probably the most hated figure in history, but finally someone had the guts to give one some depth, and Col. Hans Landa is the result (played to nothing short of perfection by Christoph Waltz).

Col. Landa is actually a man who doesn’t buy into the nazi propaganda and instead is just doing his duty and he’s damn good at it because the S.S. officer is also a detective. It really doesn’t get much more interesting than an intelligent nazi colonel who intertwines through the threads of the events and people around him, eventually betraying his country in order to secure his survival and happy future. Col. Hans Landa is a despicable mastermind with no cap on his malevolence.

Shutter Island Review

Shutter Island is a pretty difficult movie to review. First of all, it’s hard to express into words exactly how much I loved this film. Second of all, there’s so much going on in this story and its hard to talk about loving this film with out risking giving something away. I’ll try my best though. First, let me start by saying that Martin Scorsese is among the three directors working today (others being Tarantino and Coen Brothers) that I truly can not and will not let me down by. That opinion is once again justified by his release of this masterpiece.

I absolutely love when each character in a movie is able to give a great performance, even the minor ones. That is exactly the case here. Each character realized his/her importance and expressed that in their performance. The main characters were the stand outs though of course. Mark Ruffolo was fantastic as the partner, but even better was Ben Kingsley as the mysterious owner of the institution, he was subtly, but surly able to chew up every moment he was on screen. The masterful performance here was DiCaprio’s though. He really threw everything he had into this one. I’m going to have to re-watch some of his other movies before officially stating this, but this might be the greatest performance he’s ever given.

This isn’t the horror movie that the trailers are making it out to be, and to tell you the truth, I really wasn’t really expecting it to be. What it was, was an intense and almost draining psychological thriller, and possibly the best I’ve seen. The movie really takes a lot out of you because of its edge-of-your-seat intensity. That’s not a bad thing though, it was really an adrenaline rush at every turn, a roller coaster ride of the mind, which is exactly what the main character Teddy goes on.

!!! SPOILER !!! !!! ALERT!!! !!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, DON”T READ THIS PARAGRAPH!!!

!!! SPOILER !!! !!! DON’T READ !!!

I love this movie because it starts off with such a simple story. Two U.S. Marshall’s looking for a dangerous patient who has escaped from her cell. Then it takes you in so many different directions and you never know what to expect. There are so many questions circling your head because you have so much information to work with and really no answers. You are brought on a journey with Teddy and you feel every bit of insanity he does. Shutter Island is really the greatest depiction of insanity ever put on screen.

!!! END OF SPOILER PARAGRAPH !!!

Shutter Island is directed so mind-numbingly well, its hard to believe. But that pretty much goes with out saying, it’s Scorsese. Even for this masterful director, this film was an amazing feat in story telling. I truly think this film stacks right up there with all of his other masterpieces. Shutter Island isn’t just an unforgettable film, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Grade: A-

Body of Lies Review

While watching Body of Lies, there will be a point where you will think to yourself, wow, this is a great movie. For me that point was car/helicopter chase about 20 minutes in. I agreed with that thought the second the movie ended. When watching Body of Lies, you realize that what your watching is an intricately plotted drama with a lot of entertaining action thrown into the mix. Body of Lies was a fictional story about two CIA agents attempting to end a rising terrorist group.

Roger Ferris (Dicaprio) is a rising member who knows the score, hates all the deception, but at the same time knows he has to accept it. Ed Hoffman (Crowe) is a senior member whose so full of himself that he thinks he can play god and toy with the lives of others, and sometimes does, but only “for the good of the country”. Don’t get me wrong though, Hoffman isn’t the villain of the film, he’s just a good man he sometimes does bad things. Everyone in the film is on the top of their game especially Crowe, who plays a very different character, as he plays a fat arrogant prick who you can’t stand at times.

Body of Lies is a very realistic and intelligent movie that deals with topics that are political, technological, and most of all deceptive. Body of Lies sort of reminds me of a Global version of the movie The Departed. I’m not saying this movie was as good as The Departed by any means, but what I am saying is that it’s no that far from it.

Grade: A