Tag Archives: Action

Mystery Men (1999)

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How many movies can it be said are actually so bad they’re painful to watch? There have certainly been quite a few throughout film history, but I tend to watch movies that I like, or at least can tolerate. Oh, I’ve seen my share of stinkers, but seldom have I seen a comedy like “Mystery Men” where joke after joke falls pitifully flat; where even admittedly creative ideas (a superhero who can only turn invisible when no one’s watching) are executed with cringe-worthy ineptitude.

If you go onto Imdb, you will find people desperately exulting “Mystery Men” as ‘hilarious’ and ‘underrated’ and ‘unfairly maligned by the critics.’ Okay. To say something is ‘underrated’ is to imply it has value. Even Ben Stiller hates this movie, which is funny, because he’s one of the worst things about it. The biggest ‘mystery’ is how they got actual actors like William H. Macy and Geoffrey Rush to play in it.

Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller,) The Shoveler (William H. Macy,) and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) are desperate superhero wannabes operating in the futuristic Champion City. Their ‘powers’ are debatable- Blue Raja hurls forks at people (nicked from his mama’s silverware drawer,) Mr. Furious gets mad… really, really mad… to no particular effect, and The Shoveler, well, hits people with a shovel, but not particularly well, because superhuman ability isn’t a strong suite with this trio.

They are overshadowed by Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear,) a snarky, arrogant a-hole as well as the the city’s champion (harkening to the insufferable Captain Hammer and the later- and much more preferable- “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” The problem is, Amazing doesn’t have any villains to fight to make himself look good, so he poses as his lawyer alter ego Lance Hunt (unrecognizable when he puts glasses on- a contrivance of Clark Kent absurdity) and single-handedly releases maniacal supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush, sporting one of the most ridiculous accents- German? Austrian?- in film history and armed with razor-sharp fingernails) from an institution for the criminally insane.

When Captain Amazing reaps what he sows and ends up in Casanova’s evil clutches, it’s up to Champion City’s three affable superhero-wannabe losers- joined  by some fresh faces- to save the locals from a disastrously malignant machine and a plan for world domination, courtesy of Casanova and his two disco-dancing sidekicks. Although this movie is terrible, William H. Macy doesn’t totally embarrass himself and Hank Azaria is tolerable (how cute were Blue Raja and his mother together?- “Cheerio, Mummy!”)

It just seems like “Mystery Men” is going for very obvious, broad gags (like Paul Reubens as a repulsive little weirdo with a severe speech impediment whose superpower- shall we call it that?- is atomic flatulence.) Hate to break this to the studios, but farts are not quite as funny as they are imagined to be. I mean, I don’t break into hysterical laughter every time someone rips one. The jokes featured in “Mystery Men” are about 1/10 as funny as the writers presume they are, with actors that seem like they are playing an extended game of dress-up on their off time and accidentally got filmed.

Which is too bad, because some of the ideas are pretty good. I thought routinely, “This joke could be funny, if it was put in a funnier context and refined a little.” Champion City was an interesting setting, and the premise could work with a drastically different approach. But ultimately “Mystery Men” is hard to watch, filled to the brim with ludicrous dialogue, insipid characters, and wasted talent. On the up side (?), this movie would make amazing blackmail material– “Send me 50 grand or this gets sent on disc to all your potential employers.” Oh, the horror. But seriously, AVOID. If you rent this travesty, you’ll be sorry.

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Cold in July (2014)

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An ordinary man undergoes extraordinary duress that has the potential to break him or change him forever. This is the basic premise of “Cold in July,” a bloody Southern-fried thriller that is undeniably slick in execution yet nevertheless manages to maintain a higher level of realism than many films of it’s ilk. But “Cold in July” still managed to surprise me, going in a direction I had never expected and growing twistier by the minute.

Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall, Dexter) is an average schmoe who kills a home invader accidentally-ish and must protect his wife (Vinessa Shaw) and son (Brogan Hall) when a man who appears to be the intruder’s father (Sam Shepard) threatens their lives. But just when you think the grizzled old goon’s going to be the lead antagonist and pull the conflict toward a predictable conclusion- Bam!- the plot swerves another direction entirely. It’s surprising and actually really cool to see Ben (Shepard,) Richard (Hall) and a slick-as-ice good ol’ boy named Jim Bob (who ‘knows a guy who knows a guy,’ to quote Breaking Bad‘s Saul,) played by Don Johnson, join forces to fight a greater evil.

The effect of this movie is not dissimilar is digging into a happy meal to find a prize that totally isn’t what you expected, but hey, looks pretty good on your bureau after all. The color scheme is wild and crazy, and above all, striking– most scenes are shot with a filter that seem to cloak the environment either in orange and yellow or an intense cyan color. This is a daring move on the cinematographer’s part, although sometimes it doesn’t quite work- the colors are at times so turned-up that it’s hard to focus on anything else.

The Electronica-heavy soundtrack might turn off some potential viewers and drive others to agitation, but it was just fine by me. Another radically unique way they set up the movie is the atypical portrayal of action hero Richard. Unlike most of these kinds of movies, it doesn’t seem that Richard enjoys killing, although he feels compelled to do it later on in the film. The killing of the burglar is messy and violent, but neither Richard nor the filmmaker seem to particularly take glee in it.

After the event, Richard seems visibly shaken, which is a powerful anecdote to all those testosterone fueled protagonists who take pride in their first kills. When Richard kills again, it is a out of a sense of duty to his companions, but he still doesn’t seem to get any enjoyment out of it. He’s not the quipping, sneering hero of 80’s action movies. He is you. He is me. He doesn’t really know how to handle a gun, but he wields one anyway because it is what is expected of a Southern father and husband. Whether it serves him well is ultimately up to you to decide.

There are unrealistic moments in “Cold in July” (like Richard dodging machine gun shells towards the end of the film, I mean come on!,) but if you’re looking for something quite different from your average, run-of-the-mill action flick, I suggest you give this solid little thriller a try.

Warning– As the stream of violence is continual and gruesome (and because of a scene of violence against women,) weak stomachs may want to steer clear of  this gory, gutsy revenge flick.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Quipping, self-aware superheroes save the day in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a fun if somewhat overhyped action/sci-fi helmed by James Gunn, the director of dark comedies such as “Slither” and “Super.” “Guardians of the Galaxy” never takes itself too seriously, which is a good thing, but there are some painfully standard characters and set-ups, such as Zoe Saldana playing the sexy fantasy femme fatale who doesn’t take shit from anybody for about the hundredth time, and to some extent even Chris Pratt as the stoic, smart alecky muscle bound protagonist.

These aren’t bad characters, we just feel like we’ve seen them and their kin before, in many, many blockbusters. And we have haven’t we? That doesn’t make the experience not fun. Bereaved kid turned intergalactic crook Peter Quill (Pratt) acquires a artifact of overwhelming power, but he doesn’t realize it’s significance until a genetically engineered raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper,) his tree companion (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a deadly female assassin (Saldana) try to take it from him.

Together the four of them must escape from a secure prison in the recesses of space and make the decision to work together- despite their complete dislike for each other- and defeat Ronan (Lee Pace,) a maniacal dictator who wants to wipe out an entire race of people as well as anyone who stands in his way. Accompanied by his three former adversaries and an angry extraterrestrial named Drax (Dave Bautista) who is determined to kill Ronan in retaliation for the death of his wife and daughter, Peter goes on an epic adventure that could result in new lives for he and his four companions- or their deaths.

I’ll be honest- this movie didn’t rock my world. I guess I was just expecting more than what I got considering all the hype. That said, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a shamelessly fun and entertaining film that bears up to multiple viewings. Is it particularly unique in the universe of superhero movies? Sadly, no. But it’s well-done for its kind of movie, although it doesn’t break spectacularly out of the confines of it’s genre. The performances are charming, the special effects stunning, and the humor fresh, frenetic, and funny.

The Rocket Raccoon-Groot duo comes off best out of a buoyant if sometimes standard cast of characters, although the romance between Peter and Gamora (Saldana) is beyond predictable. I liked the look of Ronan, the main villain (although he himself could have been a bit more compelling) but Ronan’s superior baddie looked beyond lame with his obviously CGI features and massive chin. Although “Guardians of the Galaxy” is not a great film, it is a good one, and it doesn’t take an outstanding critic to see that it is a fun one. I only hope that the upcoming sequel will be up to par.

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Batman (1989)

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Tim Burton’s “Batman” is often overlooked in favor of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but the 1989 version is in many ways better, not to mention more light-hearted and fun. I think “Batman”‘s charm lies in the fact that it doesn’t try to be anything more than a goofy, campy superhero movie. It’s dark, sure, as is Burton’s incarnation of a bleak, crime-ridden Gotham, but it doesn’t try to be as ‘gritty’ and ‘edgy’ and ‘realistic’ as Nolan’s series.

Plus, Jack Nicholson as Joker! Now, I am not going to hate on the late Heath Ledger (it is Chris Nolan who kind of lost me after “Memento,”) but Nicholson is really boss as Batman’s nemesis and owned the role in a way that Ledger couldn’t quite muster (to be fair, picking between the performances is kind of like comparing apples and oranges.)

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) is an eccentric millionaire who uses his massive fortune to fight crime as Batman. Jack Napier (Nicholson) is a thug who is two-timed by his boss (Jack Palance) and left for dead, emerging from a vat of chemicals as the deformed, maniacal joker. Bruce is pursued by newspaper photographer and Batman enthusiast Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger,) who doesn’t know his true identity.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t know the first thing bout relationships- and the Joker is on the prowl,  promising, in the spirit of generosity, to make Gotham’s 200th anniversary an occasion to remember (whether that memory will be regarded fondly is an entirely different matter.)

Michael Keaton is enjoyable as an obtuse vigilante who doesn’t know how to balance his love life and his self-appointed job as a crime-fighting superhero. I wasn’t too impressed with Vicki Vale. Kim Basinger was not too bad, but as with many superhero’s girlfriends, I felt very ‘meh’ about Vicki’s character. Unlike, say, Mary Jane Watson in “Spider-Man”, I never really felt like Vicki cared about either her boyfriend or his heroic alter ego. She seemed to only be after a good story for the newspaper.

She was also constantly doing stupid things like just standing there in the museum Joker besieged when she has an opportunity to get away (why don’t you take the oxygen mask with you) and reaching for the Joker’s hand to pull her up when he and Batman are dangling from a building (because the bad guy’s going to have a road to Damascus right halfway through trying to kill you, mmm-kay.)

Whereas Vicki is typically lifeless, passive female lead who suffers vague but persistent sexual threats from the baddie, Nicholson’s Joker is terrific- a villain worth cheering about (if not for.) His performance is a triumph of black comedy while still being frightening and sinister (I remember being scared by the “Love that Joker’ sequence with the smiling corpses of the models  when I watched this movie as a kid.)

Keaton proves to be a more fun, lighter, and  less self-serious Batman than Christian Bale (another plus the compete lack of Bale’s annoying growly Batman voice.) “Batman” features creative sets, great humor, and an outstanding turn by Jack Nicholson. I remain unsure whether to watch the sequels, as I’ve heard repeatedly that it’s all downhill from here, but the original should go down in history as a effective superhero movie that’s a cut above the rest.

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The Boondock Saints (1999)

“The Boondock Saints” is an extremely over-hyped vigilante thriller that contains no depth beyond its initial macho revenge fantasy, but, despite moments of painful camp, doesn’t have the sense to go all the way as a comedy. It would better serve as a satire on America’s obsession with Machismo posturing and the view that violence is the best way to solve problems than the self-important bloodbath it becomes.

I’m not adverse to revenge movies, even extreme ones. “Taxi Driver” featured Travis Bickle blowing away pimps and thugs, but it was more of a character study than a vigilante movie. “God Bless America” trivialized violence, but it was a satire, and a good one at that. “Dead Man’s Shoes” was a powerful statement on the consequences of violence.

I don’t have any problem with violence in the media at all, except when it is portrayed as an easy way to solve real-life problems. People, I cannot stress this hard enough — there are consequences to violent retaliation and vigilante justice.

If this movie had taken a closer look at the psychological effects of murder on the perpetrators, it might have earned an extra star. But Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) treat their new vocation like a new video game.

Now that I’m done beating you over the head with my Liberal values, let’s talk shop.  “The Boondock Saints” is the story of the McManus twins, two Irish-Catholic brothers who, after killing two Russian mobsters in self-defense, take it as a calling from God to clean the scum out of their crime-filled Boston home town, one criminal at a time.

The way they go about this is utterly unbelievable- they just purchase a bunch of guns and knives and off they go, blasting away thugs like they came straight out of “Duke Nuke’m.” There’s no depth to the McManus boys here — they don’t have a thought in their heads other than the initial need for justice in their crime-filled city.

The only character with any depth is Paul Schmeck (Willem Defoe), an arrogant but brilliant gay cop who hates and fears his fellow homosexuals, even as they find themselves in his bed. I fear this happens far too often, when “straight guys” find the need for man-love, but still aren’t willing to take on the stigma of being gay.

Initially, Schmeck wants nothing more to catch the McManus brothers, who the sympathetic masses have dubbed the “Saints.” But as the Russian Mobsters start dropping like flies, Schmeck starts to believe that maybe the “Saints” aren’t so detrimental after all. This could be an interesting revelation, except for the way it’s done, which is just silly.

Along with Schmeck’s arrogant brilliance and the brother’s gleeful responses to the bloodletting, a lot of hyperkinetic fight scenes proceed. I just didn’t buy our protagonists as badasses, and I’m not a fan of stylized violence unless it is directed by one man: Tarantino. The Russian characters were extremely stereotypical and one of them, Boris, had the corniest lines.

I know I’m going to offend a lot of people with this review, but “The Boondock Saints” wasn’t my cup of tea. Many people may really like it, but I felt it was a simplistic, shallow, and meaningless excursion into something we’ve all felt like doing (vigilantism), but without the courage of its convictions to make us care about it’s characters. And don’t even get me started about a cross-dressing Defoe passing as a woman. Just… don’t.

Double Jeopardy (1999)

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I remember “Double Jeopardy” as one of the first R-Rated films my parents let me see. I was allowed to watch it in its entirety save for the brief sex scene between Ashley Judd and Bruce Greenwood. Revisiting it years later, I must admit it seems unfair to me that the critics hated on it so much -although the set-up and payoff are fairly standard for Hollywood fare, the plot is entertainingly fast-paced and fun. It’s no masterpiece, I’ll give you that much, but nevertheless “Double Jeopardy” is a perfectly effective film and accomplishes much of what it sets out to do. Its ambitions are modest, which seems to work in its favor.

Libby (Ashley Judd) appears to have it all- an adorable son (Benjamin Weir,) a lovely house, a devoted best friend (Annabeth Gish,) and a husband (Bruce Greenwood) who’s loaded. But her outwardly idyllic life frays at the edges when her husband frames her for his murder and disappears, and Libby is sent to prison. Befriended by two rough-hewn female convicts (Roma Maffia and Devenia McFaddem,) Libby refuses to let the news of her husband’s betrayal break her, and instead focuses on a legal factoid on of the convicts clued her in on- no one who has allegedly committed an offense can be convicted of the same crime twice.

Determined to get her son back and maybe exact some ass-kicking revenge against her husband on the way, Libby gets out on parole a changed woman, and vows to find the secret location of her good-for-nothing spouse. Her grumpy parole officer, Travis (Tommy Lee Jones, in standard grouch mode) has other ideas. So there’s your conflict, laid out for you as plain as day. This movie’s strength isn’t in its complexity, but in the slick twists and turns scattered like bread crumbs along the way.

Ashley Judd did a fine job- not award material, but believable enough, and Tommy Lee Jones is okay playing a role very typical of him. Bruce Greenwood’s Nick is a slippery little fucker, and I bought his portrayal of a manipulative psychopath (though I had trouble believing that Libby saw no hint of his true self in the years of their marriage before he faked his death and screwed up her life- really Libby?!)  The movie has a feminist vibe- Judd really does kick ass, but the feminism at play is cool and empowering rather than the annoying hysteria of many bra-burning progressives.

One flaw I do see in the films’ script is that the emotional and moral center of the film was a little too obvious and I was never really moved by the script. I really had trouble with the fact that *MASSIVE SPOILER* Libby could just kill her husband and the customary happy ending would be ensured, considering that Nick raised Libby’s son and it seems there would be some emotional ramifications for the kid since his mom offed his dad. I guess she’ll save it for his 20th birthday. *END OF MASSIVE SPOILER*

“Double Jeopardy” is not a masterpiece or anything (watch “Blue Ruin” for a truly great picture on the consequences of revenge) but it is good entertainment and an effective popcorn movie for a film night between family or friends. If you want total realism and psychological depth look elsewhere. For a fun thriller that doesn’t make you throw things at the screen too much, look no further.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Okay, confession time- this is my first “Planet of the Apes” movie. I have never seen the Charlton Heston original. Hell, I haven’t even seen the crappily reviewed Tim Burton film with Helena Bonham Carter and Mark Wahlberg.

But I have to say, despite my lack of experience with the “Apes” franchise, this one grabbed my attention right away. This is up there with Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” as science fiction at its most emotionally charged, tinged with social commentary.

This is a star-studded cast — James Franco, John Lithgow, Tom Felton of the “Harry Potter” films — and yet the film belongs to the apes. These CGI wonders are incredibly realistic, and through the magic of modern technology, given the facial expressions of actors.

The plot: Will (James Franco) works for a scientific research facility, where he is trying to create a serum that will help the brain repair itself, curing maladies such as Alzheimer’s and other mental disorders. His heartache and his inspiration is his father Charles (John Lithgow) whose mind is in the grip of the disease.

For reasons I will not go into here, Will is put in charge of raising Caesar, a highly intelligent ape. Caesar’s expressions are contributed by Andy Serkis, the face behind Peter Jackson’s Gollum and King Kong. Will quickly gets attached to Caesar, but Will’s veterinarian girlfriend, Caroline (Frieda Pinto) wisely advises him that Caesar will not be young and cute forever.

Caesar’s presumed of abandonment at the hands of Will and abuse perpetrated by cruel ape handler Dodge (Tom Felton, mustering every bit of his meanness from his Draco Malfoy days) is upsetting but crucial to Caesar’s development as a character. But rather than make Will (Franco) into a villain, the film makes him a essentially good character who grows to care for Caesar deeply, but cannot take charge of his fate.

It hurt me to see Caesar abandoned and abused by the humans, so watching him break free and command a legion of primates in the ape revolution is gratifying. Most of the time, the movie makes you believe in its characters and happenings 100% percent, which is hard to do in a super-intelligent-apes-take-over-the-world movie. Caesar is an amazing character who grows so much throughout the movie, reaching a peak of development that some human film characters never even aspire to.

You don’t have to be a “Planet of the Apes” fan to see there is some kind of genius at work here, and this timely and relevant film will thrill and engross you. See it. Trust me.

I, Robot (2004)

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‘Inspired’ by a short story collection by science fiction author Isaac Asimov, “I, Robot” is a fun action movie that owes a lot to Will Smith’s charismatic star power. Det. Del Spooner, an overly paranoid cop with a major case of survivor’s guilt, hates and distrusts all the robots who have become standard servants of man in the near future. So when Del has reason to believe that ‘Sonny’ (voiced by Alan Tudyk,) a highly intelligent and inquisitive robot (most robots are drones that exist only to serve) murdered apparent suicide victim and creator of robots Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell,) he’s all over the case.

Alfred Lanning created a set of rules within every robot for the safety of humanity, but it seems that Sonny, whether a killer or not, has the ability to bend or break the laws of robotics. Smart-ass Spooner teams up with an uptight robotics employee, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan,) to uncover the plot behind Alfred’s death. Meanwhile Spooner finds himself being attacked by groups of robots, but as an distrusting full-fledged technophobe with a long history of hatred towards our cyborg friends, who will believe him?

“I, Robot” is an entertaining and action-packed adventure that occasionally hints at something more, although it is no doubt not as thought-provoking and pensive as the book on which it was based. People seem to pan the movie for that reason. ‘Why can’t it be more like the book?’ seems to be the common criticism. As someone who hasn’t read the book, I say that “I, Robot” does a perfectly good job presenting interesting ideas, but the result is more mainstream than philosophical.

Spooner isn’t really that far a cry from the other sarcastic action-heroes Will Smith has played, but the upside to this is that the role fits Smith like a glove. Spooner is cocky, very flawed guy with a pretty bad attitude, but you don’t really dislike him. For one thing, he makes you laugh, and for another when you find out his backstory you’ll feel for him. The moments between him and his grandmother Gigi (Adrian Ricard,) who loves him fiercely but absolutely doesn’t take any shit from him, are also poignant.

The special FX are effective, with another strong point being the voice and presentation of Sonny. Things have come a long way since “Star Wars” when R2-D2 was a midget in a blinking metal costume. Sonny is just human enough to be sympathetic while still being slightly unnerving. Props to bringing Susan and Spooner from mutual dislike to respect and possibly, romantic interest without any irritating flirtatious banter or unnecessary sex scenes.

“I, Robot” is a popcorn movie for sure, but it’s a fun, exciting popcorn movie that doesn’t insult your intelligence too much. Quite simply, if you like Will Smith’s “Men In Black” type character with his one-liners and sarcasm, you’ll like this movie. If you like good special effects and a decent story that keeps you guessing, you’ll also like it. People who are looking for excess depth or a totally creditable plot look elsewhere.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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First off, I’m an unabashed fan of Tarantino. I’ve liked pretty much all his stuff, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Django Unchained” to even his segment in “Four Rooms” ( which no one likes.) I think the guy’s brilliant. So it should come as no surprise to you that I consider “Pulp Fiction” a masterpiece of dialogue and plot.

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“Pulp Fiction” tells the interconnected stories of two chatty hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) who may or may not be on a collision course with fate, an aging boxer (Bruce Willis) who is paid to throw his last fight, and two cheap criminals (Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth, two of my favorite actors) who set out to rob a cafe.Nothing turns out the way it was planned in this ferociously violent, witty, and genre-defying masterwork.

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Don’t go into this movie looking for touchy-feely romance or particularly sympathetic characters, because you’ll get none of that. But as my dad likes to say, “It’s not the violence, it’s the dialogue.” The conversations between various eccentrics is rich in it’s insistent oddness.  I tend to be a little bit emotional, so certain scenes in this got to me (strangely, the rape scene wasn’t among them.)

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One was the scene in which Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) corners the kid, Brett (Frank Whaley) who made off with Jules’ boss Marcellus (VIng Rhames)’s briefcase. The whole sequence was very funny in a way (what ain’t no country I ever heard of!) and my family was laughing throughout, but I dunno. I guess I felt a little sorry for ol’ Brett. It takes a lot of nerve to take a man’s burger and his life the same day.

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The second scene was where Butch (Bruce Willis), the boxer, goes off at his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros) for leaving behind a family heirloom. I get it, the girl screwed up, but it seemed so much like something I would do that I felt sorry for her. Uma Thurman also figures into this movie as Marcellus’ girlfriend, Mia, and I had so much of a girl crush on her in this movie

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. I think “Reservoir Dogs” nearly stands up to this in terms of quality, especially since “Reservor Dogs” had a certain emotional quality that “Pulp Fiction” couldn’t copy (“…Fiction” is, like most of Tarantino’s work, cold as ice.) But “Pulp Fiction” has a certain muchness “Reservoir Dogs” can’t beat. The dialogue crackles,  the non-linear timeline is well-conceived, and the cast does a great job as well.

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Everybody who isn’t squeamish about violence should watch this movie to see one of the most influential films of the early 90’s. It’s unique, intense, and in it’s own way, weirdly hilarious. I’ve seen most of Tarantino’s films (sans “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill Volume 2,” and “My Best Friend’s Birthday,”) and this is my favorite so far. Modern cinema at it’s most memorable!

Django Unchained (2012)

“Django Unchained” is a blood-soaked, blackly funny, slavery-era extravaganza of a film, compliments of Quentin Tarantino. It is a movie populated with great actors delivering great dialogue, with some great gore and not one but two epic shoot-outs at the end to top it off.

Django (Jamie Fox) is a slave who was separated from his wife, Broomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) as punishment when the two tried to run away together from their plantation. Forced to walk shackled to a horse, under harsh winter conditions, Django is surprised to encounter eccentric “dentist” Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who turns out to be a skilled bounty hunter.

King Schultz acquires Django under strange and bloody circumstances, and offers him a proposition: Django will earn his freedom if he helps King to identify three slavers who are wanted dead or alive. Thus begins a blood, unusual adventure as the two seek out outlaws and ultimately attempt to save Django’s wife from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a sadistic and insane slaveowner.

Christoph Waltz, who proved his acting chops playing opportunistic SS officer Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds,” shines here as charismatic and mysterious King Schultz, who seems to have his own strange code of ethics.

Jamie Foxx is good and Kerry Washington excels playing a fairly uninteresting character, but the biggest surprise is DiCaprio. Nothing of 90’s heartthrob Leo is present as slimy, venomously evil Candie, like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” It’s a total transformation.

Some people might be disgusted by the sixth character: Stephen, a manipulative and subservient slave (Samuel L. Jackson), but I thought it was brave of Tarantino to introduce a black villain into a slavery-era film and show the shades of gray in race relations of that time.

There were certain parts of the movie I felt were a little excessive, for instance the KKK scene, which I felt dragged a little. The blood, too, could be a little excessive, but Tarantino without blood? Where would we be? Simply put, this will be a delight for fans of Quentin Tarantino, but people looking for a gentler, kinder, more sensitive movie will best look elsewhere.

Tarantino delivers as he always does: clever dialogue, creative shots, and gallons of blood. On a side note, although no movie could accurately portray the horrors of slavery, this film gets pretty far out of people’s comfort zone, which is more responsible for the controversy than any alleged racism. If you like Tarantino, you will like this strong entry into his cinematic universe.