A Spaghetti Western With Very Bloody Sauce
Hollywood’s reigning master of “artsploitation” may be running out of inspiration. After toying extravagantly — and, according to many, offensively — with the historical truth of the Second World War in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has put his creative energies into a lurid portrayal of slavery in 1858 America. The gory and sometimes-cartoonish result, Django Unchained, has provocative moments but is mostly an exuberantly verbose mash-up of spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation flicks.
Basterds’ Oscar-nominated star Christoph Waltz here plays Dr. King Schultz, a chatty but ruthless bounty hunter who is tracking down a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) because he can help him identify three bad dudes who are worth several thousand dollars, dead or alive. King, who despises slavery, frees Django and takes him on as his deputy. Aside from enjoying the work — “You mean I get paid to kill white folks?” — Django proves to be a dab hand with both six-shooter and rifle. The bounties prove bountiful, and Django soon declares his intentions to free his lovely wife (Kerry Washington) who had recently been bought by a particularly nasty plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Although the United States has done little to acknowledge the more sordid aspects of its slavery traditions, Django is a perverse way to start the conversation. Tarantino’s main goal, as always, is to shock the audience with an audacious mix of bloody violence, crass humour, and outrageous characterizations (ranging from Samuel L. Jackson’s poisonous role as a vicious “house negro,” to numerous white-trash hillbillies). Even when we see two black slaves fight each other to the death as entertainment for decadent whites, Tarantino is more interested in grotesque spectacle than historic injustice. But it’s impossible to imagine anyone else who would — or could — have made this movie.
Django Unchained ★★★
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Christoph Waltz; Jamie Foxx
14A – 165 minutes
Continues at Odeon & SilverCity
Tom Cruise Stands Tall
Thriller writer Lee Child’s hero, Jack Reacher, has been standing tall through a dozen or so novels. An ex-army cop, Reacher is a drifter who moves from town to town. Although he doesn’t go looking for trouble, Reacher is an old-fashioned knight errant who never backs down when confronted — something that happens on a regular basis. In the screen debut Jack Reacher, the hero (Tom Cruise, who’s a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the character in the books) gets called in when an ex-army pal is charged with mass murder.
The guy looks guilty as hell, even to Reacher. But after looking under a few rocks it seems possible that the man may have been framed. But why? Reacher’s efforts to answer that question gradually uncover a tricky trail of corruption and intrigue — and also spark a few murders, an electrifying car chase, several beatings, and an encounter with a sinister mastermind who, while sentenced to the Russian Gulag, chewed off his own frost-bitten fingers to prevent life-threatening gangrene. Yum!
Cruise plays Reacher as a bit of a smartaleck, which may be jarring to fans of the books. But the movie is slickly directed, has strong supporting performances, and the smart plot has more than enough twists and turns to keep the audience hooked. We’ll just have to see if enough tickets get sold to turn this into an action franchise. M
Jack Reacher ★★★
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring Tom Cruise
PG – 130 minutes
At the Capitol, Westshore & SilverCity
Manly movies demand a manly libation: bourbon. Synonymous with the American South and Kentucky in particular, bourbon is a barrel-aged liquor made mostly from corn. Sweeter than scotch, bourbon can taste of butter pecan pie, spice, honey, and toffee. Jack Daniels is particularly famed — maybe because Keith Richards is often seen clutching a bottle when not clutching his guitar. There are many other fine bourbons on the market, though, ranging from those in the $25 range (Jim Beam, Wild Turkey) to more serious sippers like Maker’s Mark ($43), Buffalo Trace ($40), and Knob Creek ($46).
★★★½ RUST AND BONE -(Odeon) Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for La Vie en Rose) stars in this unusual and rather bleak romantic drama from France. Starts Fri. See review.
★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Odeon/SilverCity) Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a gory tale about a freed slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) tracking down the brutal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has bought his wife. This mash-up of spaghetti western and blaxploitation flick is clever, but many people will find the idea of Tarantino riffing on a holocaust for his own movie-making amusement rather offensive.
THE GUILT TRIP -(Odeon/Uni 4/Caprice) Seth Rogen plays a hapless inventor who is embarking on a lengthy road trip to flog his latest invention — and has the possibly terrible idea of inviting his mother (Barbra Streisand) along to keep him company.
★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) This long-expected Lord of the Rings prequel has a young Bilbo Baggins head off with a posse of dwarves to reclaim some treasure stolen by a mean old dragon named Smaug. Hobbit fans will love it, people with less of a passion for those with hairy feet should merely be entertained. With Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, and Andy Serkis as the perfidious Gollum.
★★★ JACK REACHER -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Tom Cruise stars in this cleverly plotted and smoothly directed screen debut of author Lee Child’s manly and admirable knight errant, Jack Reacher, an ex-military sniper and MP who has become a drifter with a knack for finding trouble. In this tale, Reacher helps an army acquaintasnce who has been framed for a mass murder. With Rosamunde Pike, Robert Duvall, and Richard Jenkins.
★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Odeon/SilverCity) Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) helms this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger.
★★★★ LINCOLN -(Odeon) Stephen Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony (Angels in America) Kushner’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s darkest days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s black slaves. The superb cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
★★★½ LES MISERABLES -(Odeon/SilverCity/Uni 4) Victor Hugo’s sweeping tale of love, poverty and an obsessed policeman stalking a reformed criminal in 19th century France inspired the best of the mega-musicals, and now makes a stylish migration to the silver screen. This elegant, emotionally powerful film manages to be both epic and intimate. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway.
MONSTERS, INC. -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Ten years ago the Toy Story team cut loose with a cavalcade of cuddly ghoulies in a popular romp, which was funny and gorgeous to look at but a bit thin in the plot department. Here is the 3D re-release.
★★ PARENTAL GUIDANCE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Caprice) Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents who agree to look after their grandkids, only to get into trouble when their old-style parenting approach comes into conflict with that of their progressive kids. Lame but harmless, and occasionally good for a giggle.
★★★ RISE OF THE GUARDIANS -(Capitol/SilverCity) Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other magical icons come together to save childhood innocence after a very evil spirit named Pitch starts making trouble. This animated lark is voiced by Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin.
★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Odeon) A bi-polar man (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) is trying to put his life — and his marriage — back together when he meets a fascinating woman (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) with problems of her own. This quirky romantic comedy is directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter).
★★★★ SKYFALL -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore/Caprice) The latest James Bond spy thriller features cool gadgets, exotic locales . . . and a villain with a vendetta against poor old M. Easily one of the best Bonds ever, this has all the usual thrills but also an elegiacal tone and some unexpected drama that will leave the audience shaken and stirred. Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and Ralph Fiennes.
★★★ THIS IS 40 -(Odeon/SilverCity) This sequel to the raunchy Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up shows an older Pete and Debbie, complete with two kids, who now find themselves colliding with a mid-life crisis. Despite some sloppiness, this is an insightful, touching, and very funny movie.
★★½ TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 -(Caprice) This most underwhelming vampire-werewolf soap opera finally comes to an end. The good news, such as it is, is that this is the best of a lame series, mostly because droopy emo-girl Bella has now transformed into a kick-ass vampire.
★★★ WRECK–IT RALPH -(SilverCity/Caprice) John C. Reilly provides the voice for a video-game villain who tires of being a bad guy and sets out on a quest that throws an entire video arcade into chaos. This occasionally-inspired animation lark includes the voices of Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.
AIR RACERS -(2 pm, 6 pm) Paul Walker narrates this pulse-pounding documentary about the world’s fastest race, as amazingly nimble planes negotiate a tricky course at 500 MPH.
THE LAST REEF: BENEATH THE SEA -(11 am, 1 pm, 4 pm)
MYSTERIES OF EGYPT -(10 am, 3 pm)
SKYFALL -(7 pm)
TO THE ARCTIC -(noon, 5 pm)
MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening NFB’s Passage, a stylistically innovative recreation of how, in 1851, a Scottish doctor with the Hudson’s Bay Company discovered the grim fate of Lord Franklin and solved the final puzzle of the Northwest Passage. By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca
AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -is screening two self-explanatory docs: Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood and Play Again: What Are The Consequences of a Childhood Removed from Nature? Also includes a post-screening discussion. WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9, 7 pm, Edward Milne Community School theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd.
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com. NOTE: Cinecenta is closed from Dec. 22 till Jan. 1
CHASING ICE -(Wed.-Thurs, Jan. 9-10: 7:15 only) Here’s a documentary about the work of a National Geographic photographer whose quest is to take photos of the glacier melts related to global warming.
★★★ SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS -(Wed.-Thurs., Jan. 9-10: 9:00 only) A struggling screenwriter accidentally gets mixed up with some really nasty criminals and lots of people die. With Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken. Not to all tastes, but this is a smart, darkly funny black comedy from the writer-director of In Bruges.
★★½ CLOUD ATLAS -(Fri.-Sat., Jan. 11-12: 3:00, 7:00) German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) combines forces with Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) to take us on an exotic, wildly ambitious trip as characters lead parallel and contrasting lives in six different storylines in the past, present, and future. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant.
★★★★ RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK -(Fri.-Sat., Jan. 11-12: 10:20 pm) Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure tale with whip-cracking Indian Jones remains a delightful tribute to those old-fashioned Saturday afternoon serials.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(Sat.-Sun., Jan. 12-13: 1:00 matinee) A hotel where vampires and sundry other monsters hide out from humans gets a big scare when a backpacking dude shows up looking for a room. This animated comedy features the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Andy Samberg.
★★½ SAMSARA -(Sun., Jan. 13: 3:00, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon., Jan. 14: 7:00, 9:00) This exotic documentary spans five continents as it visits sacred spots, diaster zones, natural wonders, and industrial complexes — all the geographic marvels and contradictions of our planet.
★★★★ REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE -(Tues., Jan. 15: 7:00, 9:15) James Dean is superb in this Nicholas Ray’s dramatic tale of teenage romanticism thwarted by an indifferent adult world. Costarring Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Dennis Hopper.
TABU -(Wed.-Thurs., Jan. 16-17: 7:00, 9:10) This elegant romantic drama, shot in black and white, features an old woman in Portugal remembering a dangerous love affair decades ago in Africa, during the dying days of Portuguese colonialism.