Django Unchained: a German bounty hunter frees a slave, then partners up with him to make some cash and rescue his girl from a flamboyant plantation owner. As expected, Waltz absolutely steals the show with what’s essentially a re-write/reprise of his intelligent, oddly-humorous ‘Jew-hunter‘. Everyone else turns up and does their thing entertainingly enough. While the film pokes a lot of fun at the stupidity of racism (KKK mask scene & Sam Jacksons rant about Foxx sleeping in the house), for me the ‘N-Bomb’ is dropped far, far too often: which may have been accurate of the period, but it’s such a loaded word that drags the tone down – taking it way beyond any ‘light-hearted’ Blazing Saddles similarities. Clocking in at 2hr 45, it’s also far, far too drawn out, for such a simple revenge tale, especially once Dicaprio pops up: some scenes seem to go on forever with rambling, empty, dialogue and plodding shot after shot. While they’re all quintessential Tarantino scenes, it also suffers from his trademark lack of self-censorship. Finally, although, stylistically, most scenes are undeniably QT -and this isn’t really his fault – his style’s been ripped off so many times (funky music, uber-gore and back-and-forth dialogue) that it no longer packs the punch it once did. As a stand-alone film, Django Unchained is a decent film dragged down by its ‘epic’ runtime and the difficult task of balancing racism and comedy. It’s only when you step back and hold it up against a film like Inglorious – equally long, but crammed with great, tense and cinematic moments – that you realise how ordinary Django Unchained is.
Justified: after killing a mobster in Miami, old-fashioned US marshal Raylan Givens is re-assigned back to his home turf, Harlan County, Kentucky – where his past comes back to bite him. At the heart of the show are scores of larger-than-life characters, all of whom are well-developed over the season(s) and who’s intricate, interlacing, backgrounds are slowly revealed as the show rolls forward. When Raylan (Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Goggins) are in the same scene, it’s TV Dynamite – not to mention other great leads in Arlo, Art, Mags, Dickie, Doyle, and supporting cast members like Gutterson, Johnny, Duffy, Bo, Helen, Ava, Loretta, Dewey… and although the show hangs mostly on Givens, there are very few characters that you’d want to write out. It stands out against most TV shows by channeling an old-fashioned western, redneck, lawless, gun-slinging vibe. It’s also focused more on entertainment, over just drama: sure, the story can be a tad on the ridiculous-and-conventient side (how many criminals are there in this district? How many men can one man kill? etc, etc) but the writers seem to understand that this is what makes the show so watchable. The script and story-writing is solid, and there’s a lot of comedy one-liners that you could easily miss. Season one went for the ‘one case per episode’ format with bits of backstory mixed in, whereas season two gambled with the larger, holistic end-to-end story arc and a few one-off cases thrown in – and when coupled with better production, writing, and a bigger budget, it really improved the show. There aren’t too many shows that blend drama, tension, action, wit and succeed in keeping it entertaining. Justified is a gem.
Season 1: 7/10
Season 2: 8/10
Con Air: a released prisoner (former U.S. Ranger) gets caught up in a plane hijacking carried out by the criminal cargo. This is one of the best examples of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films (homage to 80s). There’s something about the huge fiery explosions, big loud action and epic weeping / heroic guitar licks that plunges me right into these films. Cage, despite being laughably shit and doing THE worst accent in the history of cinema, holds the film together surprisingly well. Malk is the perfect villain – whose calmness only makes him more terrifying – and his band of crazy henchmen are all gratuitously evil. Cusack is good, but his dashing young looks always make him feel miscast as an authority figure. Everything towards the end of the film (In Vegas) is beyond excessive, ludicrous, and poorly cut – but I guess that’s Vegas for you! Held together by the supercast this is a solid, big action, big entertainment, film that still holds up well.