Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Review] – The Man with the Iron Fists

11 Nov

Title: The Man with the Iron Fists
Year: 2012
Director: RZA
Writers: RZA and Eli Roth
Starring: RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Byron Mann
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence, strong sexuality, language and brief drug use
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Metacritic: 54

Everything about The Man with the Iron Fists sounded just deliciously insane and just prime for my enjoyment. It’s the directorial debut of the RZA, the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan who most recently had an arc in Californication, he also co-wrote the film with Eli Roth which is a weird pairing that yet somehow makes a lot of sense to me. Then you find out that it’s actually a martial arts film set in 19th century China about a group of lone warriors who are forced to unite against a greater evil to save their village? I was sold.

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[Trailer] – Django Unchained

10 Oct

Not that anyone needed to get any more excited about this one but a new trailer for Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained has just been released and you can watch it below.

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[Trailer] – Django Unchained

6 Jun

It’s finally here: the first trailer for Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained has arrived, and you can watch it after the cut.

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Midnight in Paris

6 Jun

Title: Midnight in Paris
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: 
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Corey Stoll, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Léa Seydoux
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some sexual references and smoking
Runtime: 
100 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
92%

The first five months of 2011 have already passed as I write this review on June 5th, and I still haven’t watched a single perfect film with a 2011 release date, not one worthy of an A+. However, I’m an unapologetic fanboy of Woody Allen, I’ve watched every single one of his films and his is one of the most unique voices in modern cinema, and one that really resonates with me, so I had high hopes going into his latest, Midnight in Paris, which was the opening selection for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

People haven’t been exactly kind towards the films Mr. Allen has made in the past decade, or at least certainly not as embracing as they have been with his past efforts.. And I can definitely see why, even though I have personally loved quite a few of those. I mean, the decade started off with 2000’s Small Time Crooks, which was actually pretty good. Then came 2001’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which was okay at best. 2002 saw Hollywood Ending, which was just as mildly decent. In 2003 he did Anything Else, which I actually sort of loved and was listed by Quentin Tarantino as one of his 20 favorites films since 1992, but that most critics didn’t really embraced. 2004 was Melinda and Melinda which was totally forgettable. So, you see, his first five films of the decade were all just okay, nothing spectacular, and people started wondering if the master had lost his touch.

But then came 2005’s Match Point. This would be the first in his string of collaborations with Scarlett Johansson, and would be his best received film in years, both critically and commercially. I absolutely adored that film, it was actually my fourth favorite film of 2005 (behind Sin City, The Squid and the Whale and V for Vendetta) and it seemed to me as though that film reinvigorated Mr. Allen, and as though changing his beloved New York City for London was a great move for him. It also seemed as though he was of the same opinion, going on record to say that Match Point could arguably be the best film he’s ever made (which it isn’t, but it definitely is pretty perfect) and choosing to venture outside of New York for the most part of his career since.

He stayed in London and with Ms. Johansson for 2006’s Scoop. Now, that film is actually one of the few of his I just don’t seem to get, and I felt it was a huge step down from Match Point. 2007 saw him release Cassandra’s Dream, yet again staying in London and now employing actors mostly from the UK like his leading men, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, and even though most critics were lukewarm towards it I actually thought it was excellent, and since I saw it in 2008, when it was released in the U.S., I ranked it in that year-end best-of list and it came in at #47.

But on that very same 2008 list there was another effort by Mr. Allen, his terrific Vicky Cristina Barcelona which was my 12th favorite film of that year and saw Mr. Allen now choosing to go to Barcelona, reteam with Ms. Johansson and add Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz to the mix. The result was superb, I gave it one a perfect A+ and loved absolutely everything about it, as did most of the world, with the film grossing a very respectable $96 million on a $15 million budget, the film getting great reviews, and Ms. Cruz winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the volatile María Elena. After that was 2009’s Whatever Works, which saw him going back to New York to team up with Larry David and which was unimpressive. And last year saw him release You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which saw him going back to London and to which I gave a B to.

The above was an exhaustive review of the last decade of Woody Allen films, and if you’re still reading this then thank you for bearing with me on that, it’s just that I wanted to illustrate two things. One is that even if some people have been critical of his last decade, I still think that the guy has turned in two perfect films in that ten year span (Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and another seriously good one (Cassandra’s Dream). And two is that, more importantly, for the last ten years the guy has released a movie a year (and that streak actually goes all the way back to 1982), no matter what, and even if they haven’t been entirely consistent in quality there’s not one in there that’s an all-out disaster. All of this coming from a guy that started directing films in the mid-sixties and that turned 70 during the last decade, it’s just tremendous stuff.

I’ve spent pretty much the usual length of one of my reviews just talking about the past decade or so of Mr. Allen’s films and not saying one word about Midnight in Paris. I started out this reviews saying that I was still looking for my first perfect film of 2011, and saying that I had hopes for Midnight in Paris to become just that. Now, it wasn’t, but it came seriously close. Honestly, if you had been clamoring for another extremely good Woody Allen film, this is the one for you. Even if for some reason you weren’t as huge on Match Point or Vicky Cristina Barcelona as I was, you can count on this one to really win you back. Midnight in Paris is just Woody Allen being Woody Allen and working his usual magic in the best of ways, delivering a film that’s funny and charming and everything you’d want it to be.

And really, what else do you want? Woody Allen is not one of those writer-directors you want going and experimenting new ways, they guy doesn’t have to reinvent himself because he’s still the very best at what he does, and he’s being doing that for over four decades now and if Midnight in Paris shows one thing is that he’s not even close to slowing down. Yes, the font he always uses for his title cards is still there, jazz music is still there, and the main character is still ultimately some sort of version of Mr. Allen himself, but it feels fresher than it has in quite some time.

Owen Wilson plays the Woody Allen role of Gil here, a wealthy screenwriter who actually doesn’t like writing the superficial stuff he does and would much rather be a novelist. He visits Paris with his fiancée, played by the stunning Rachel McAdams, and while she’s totally just all about the shopping and superficial stuff, he falls in love with the city, like anyone would, and wonders about the artistic greats that once walked its streets. What Mr. Wilson does incredibly well is making Gil his own character to play, and not playing him like some sort of Woody Allen imitation like so many have unfortunately done before him, he instead makes Gil a very Owen Wilson character with the Woody sensibilities that were written for him, and it seriously works.

The title of the film comes from the most magical moments in it, when Gil discovers that at midnight he can somehow unexplainably go back to the 1920’s Paris he has loved so much for all of his life. Shot by Darius Khondji (an Oscar-nominee for his brilliant work on Evita) Midnight in Paris feels like a terrific homage to the city of lights, and when you see Mr. Allen go back all those decades you find him producing some of the exquisitely funny and pensive scenes that he’s produced in a while. And when you look at the cast he has lined up for Bop Decameron, his next, you can’t help but smile and think that the master’s back firing on all cylinders.

Grade: A

Buried

26 Oct

Title: Buried
Year: 2010
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Writer: Chris Sparling
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ivana Miño, Anne Lockhart, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Erik Palladino, Heath Centazzo, Joe Guarneri, Warner Loughlin, José Luis García
MPAA Rating: R, language and some violent content
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards: 1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

Buried is a dam good film and, pending my viewing of the upcoming 127 Hours, is the most claustrophobic film of the year, just a tremendous film experience I will be recommending to everyone. The film starts with Paul Conroy, a truck driver who suddenly wakes up in a coffin, with nothing but a cellphone and a zippo lighter. And it takes it from there, actually getting an amazing amount of seriously riveting drama out of its premise and, most of all, getting out of Ryan Reynolds a performance that’s unbelievably good.

I think everyone has thought about how it would feel like to be buried alive. I personally have, it’s thought that makes everyone shudder and try to think about something else. The scenario already embedded into modern pop culture by Quentin Tarantino, first in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and a year later in the fifth season finale of CSI which he wrote and directed that was just terrific. It has to be one of the most horrible situations one can imagine, and Buried adds to that notion.

Just imagine being Paul Conroy, a regular guy, a truck driver working in Iraq, and waking up in a dark place, feeling around until you find a lighter, and when you turn it on realizing you’re in a coffin. And after using the phone, realizing that you’re being held hostage and that your captors want money from your government for your release. What’s amazing about Buried is that you connect with Paul so much that you kind of get to be one with him, get to think what he thinks, get frustrated with him, it’s seriously an amazing effect to have when watching a movie, and the kudos for that go to Mr. Reynolds.

And another whole lot of kudos have to be given to the director, the Spaniard Rodrigo Cortés, and to the writer, Chris Sparling, because they are the ones that gave Ryan Reynolds the material he works with. They are the ones that crafted this intense ride we’re on so damn well, and it’s amazing that the whole hour and a half we’re inside that coffin with Paul, we don’t get to see the faces of the 911 operators he calls, of his wife, of no one, it’s just us being Paul, only getting to hear their voices, further deepening our connection to him. We, like him, are trying to picture the faces at the other end, and, like him, we are getting more and more desperate as the time goes by, thinking about just how long the oxygen inside the coffin will last.

Buried is, simply put, a very thrilling film, claustrophobic pretty much throughout its entirety, but never boring, we never think about getting out of that coffin to see what’s going on outside, we just want him to go through it alive. I won’t go ahead and spoil the stuff that happens inside that coffin, the events with which Mr. Cortés fills the hour and a half are all very good, and they’re all very real, and we get to go through it with Mr. Reynolds, who, though always charismatic, I had never really thought of as an especially good actor until I saw his performance in this one. His is a performance that works tremendously, he won’t get an Academy Award nomination for it, but you have to give him props for working it like he did, this is a very limited performance because the guy was stuck in a coffin, but he delivers, the performance is exactly what it should be.

I thought the script was wonderful, Mr. Sparling, who so far had only done a short and a small film I haven’t seen, definitely has the goods to be a sought after writer in the industry. His next film will be called ATM, directed by David Brooks in his feature-length debut, and will be about three co-workers who go to an ATM late at night and become trapped by an unknown man, so yeah, it seems like really tight spaces are the specialty of this guy. Alice Eve from She’s Out of My League, Josh Peck from The Wackness and Brian Geraghty from The Hurt Locker are currently filming that one.

As for Mr. Cortés, this is also his first big break, previously having done only shorts and a small film in his native Spain. But the guy already has his next project in line, with a 2012 release date, and it’s one I’m interested in, called Red Lights the flick is to be a psychological thriller starring Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver, so count me very much in.

What I mean by this is that this is a very skilled group of people, pretty much all having their first shot at something this big. And that great teamwork shows, Ryan Reynolds in his best performance to date giving life to a wonderful script under the direction of a guy that certainly knows what he’s doing and has a great future in front of him. Not to mention that the cinematography, by Eduard Grau who worked on last year’s remarkable A Single Man, is also terribly effective, he, much like Mr. Reynolds, did the most out of what he had to work with, the shadows cast by the lighter, the light from the cellphone, it all just works so damn well.

Buried is a helluva film, I personally loved it, it’s a film that gets one fully involved as an audience member, a film that boasts in Ryan Reynolds an actor giving the perfect performance this role required, and in Rodrigo Cortés a filmmaker that certainly knew how to handle this and make the hour and a half pass by really easily. And that’s no small feat considering those ninety-five minutes were spent inside a coffin, but the guy worked it, he had seven different coffins made to get different camera angles, and it all works beautifully thanks to some sharp editing work done by Mr. Cortés himself. Simply put, this is a work well done through and through.

Grade: A-

Machete

26 Sep

Title: Machete
Year: 2010
Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Writers: Robert Rodriguez and Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Shea Whigham, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

When I grade movies there are two factors that come into play, obviously the first one is how I personally liked that movie, if it played to my individual taste in films, but the second decisive factor is how I thought any one particular film performed in regards to the film it presented itself as and it aspired to be. And, because of the latter decisive factor, I think Machete was a success, because it was exactly the sort of film it wanted to be, and that’s something that can really be said about pretty much every Robert Rodriguez film out there, like it or not. And that’s because Machete was just completely shallow in a cool B-movie sort of way. This is just one weird and violent ride, that’s enjoyable in the most ludicrous sort of way, the definition of a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, and a film that never wants you to do that, either.

Though the gore and nakedness is all there (and in rather large quantities, at that), I guess I understand why some people have started calling out the race card, because this film is obviously incredibly pro-immigrants and anti-americana, but honestly, you have to be dumb to take that out of a film like this. Yes, there are political messages thrown around in all their glory in this film, and yes they’re probably the very exact feelings of Mr. Rodriguez, but this is a film for people to go and enjoy and laugh at it’s excess-everything approach, and not to start taking aim at it from a political stance.

With the politics off my review now, I can focus on the film. As some of you may remember, the concept for Machete came from one of those really nifty fake trailers that were made for Grindhouse some three years ago, that one being the double-feature exploitation film made by Mr. Rodriguez in collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. If you liked the style of Grindhouse, and liked how the fake trailer for Machete looked, then you’re in for a treat, because this is just essentially an elongated version of that, highly stylized gory stuff with body parts flying around and a fun screenplay that will deliver some solid laughs out of its one-liners.

Danny Trejo is a fixture of Mr. Rodriguez’s films, but it’s just now, at 66 years of age, that he’s the lead actor in a film, and his performance is exactly the sort of performance it had to be, just plain out fun, it’s not good, but it’s good for what this film wanted to be, and, really, so is every other performance in it. Mr. Trejo stars as the titular character who flees to Texas after a Mexican druglord wants him dead, and in Texas he clashes with a senator owned by said druglord, that senator being played by Robert De Niro in a performance that, while fun to watch, takes direct aim at those in politics who support the dumb new immigration laws, but seriously, it’s just awesome to see a guy like Mr. De Niro just play a role full of exaggeration.

I repeat, however, that Machete wasn’t made as a satire of any kind, there are political elements by the dozens, but that wasn’t the aim of this movie at all, and you have to be a very close-minded person to think that that’s what it’s all about. Because Machete is just simply a very fun film, with Mr. Trejo being pitch perfect as the titular character who looks at everything, whether its the massive killings sprees he goes into or the women who lust after him, with the same expression full of indifference, this was just a B-movie made for audiences to have fun, and as such it’s a tremendous success.

And it’s a success because everyone involved was game for it, from Mr. Trejo to Mr. De Niro to Lindsay Lohan, who appears as the slutty daughter of Mr. De Niro’s character’s right-hand-man (who lusts after his own daughter) and who’s seen in a nun’s attire, underneath which she conceals a fully loaded machine gun. And yes, that’s the sort of ridiculously awesome things you will see aplenty in Machete, appreciate it as such.

So yes, to recap, Machete is a film done with the style of an exploitation film, complete with a laughably cool plot, a script full of ludicrous one-liners, and actors doing their exaggerated best, completely going along with all of the cartoonish mess that’s revolving around them. If you don’t like the sort of film that just concentrates in getting the most amount of bloody and gory stuff out of a gun fight then don’t go see Machete, but you really should love that, especially because the actors are all so good at making this fun, and just completely letting loose and being ridiculous, and as such, you should get a kick out of seeing this one. And please don’t make a huge deal out of the political commentary in this one, yes, it’s there in full force, but there’s a helluva lot of other stuff going around as well, and that stuff’s even louder and bigger.

Grade: B