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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: James Russo

Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Donnie Brasco (1997)

Forget about it?

New York mobster Lefty (Al Pacino) walks into his usual diner, starts talking up a storm with some guy named “Don the Jeweler” (Johnny Depp), figures out that the ring he just bought his girlfriend was a Fugazi, takes him out to find the guy, gets his money back, and badda-bing, badda-boom, the deal is done. However, Lefty doesn’t want to just say “bye” to Don and be done with him forever – he wants him to be apart of his mob, walk him through the ranks so that one day, Donnie will be the new crime boss that everybody obeys and looks up to. Donnie has those aspirations too, but the problem is that his real name is Joseph Pistone and he’s not all that he seems to be. Rather, he’s an FBI informant that’s been working the streets for about two years now, and he’s getting more and more tied into this underground life, and leaving his other life, the one with his wife (Anne Heche) and kids, on the back-burner as if it almost doesn’t exist.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. I want to say the perfect, rounded-up amount is probably ten-and-a-half times, but I can’t be too sure because it’s probably a whole lot more than what I can remember. Hell, probably a couple of drunken-views may have happened in there as well. Either way, whatever the total amount is, doesn’t matter, because each and every time I’ve watched this flick, not only have I liked it even more, but I get to see more and more about it, especially since, as a film fanatic, my eyes have been opened a bit wider to what makes a movie work, and what doesn’t.

"Ew, fugetaboutit!"

“Ew, fugetaboutit!”

However, I still have yet to call this movie a “favorite” of mine, and here’s exactly why: The problem I have with this movie is that, after all of the times I’ve seen this and plenty other movies of the same nature, I’ve come to realize that the “FBI-informant” story has all been dead by now. We get it; whenever you take a regular, FBI agent, throw him into a world where he has to have that one identity and nothing else, then most likely, that dude’s going to get thrown in there too deep. It’s what we see with every undercover-cop flick, and it doesn’t make it all the better or more original. It’s just there.

But there is that one aspect to this movie that makes that problem sort of go away: The drama involved here between the characters and the situation we have on our hands here. Everybody in this flick is essentially a cliché of what it’s like to be apart of the mob. Greased, slicked-back hair? Check. A bunch of Italian, mobster slang used that makes no sense? Double check. Paying for a coffee or a drink with a wad of cash? Way too many checks. An over-the-top scene of an act of violence to prove how much you do not want to get all tangled-up in with the mob? You got it. People getting whacked? Well now, would it be a mobster movie if it didn’t at least have one or two or more scenes that include that act?

I’ll allow for that last, hypothetical question to rest in your mind.

So, with all of that said, you see where I’m going with this? If not, follow through. The aspect behind this movie that makes it work, despite all of the obvious conventions and happenings of the usual mobster movie, is that there’s actual, real-life emotion involved with this story and the characters that inhabit it. Rather than making Joe, or “Donnie”, the type of FBI informant that’s way too in over his head, is a bit of a bastard for throwing his family to the side and focusing a little bit too much attention on the task at hand, the movie shows him off as being a troubled-soul, yet, one that knows what mission he has to complete, and to do it by any means necessary. Sure, he has to get his hands dirty a couple of times and may even have to pull off some risky moves of his own, but he knows that he has to get the job done and the movie paints him more as a regular-guy, who just so happened to stick to his guns, in more ways than one. I don’t want to call him a “hero” per se, but I do want to call him an inspiration to most people who feel like they can’t go through something because the shit’s too deep or too dangerous. And I’m not just talking about FBI informants – I’m talking about anybody, dammit!

Then, something strange with this movie begins to happen: You start to feel a bit wrapped-up in this world just as much as Joe does. Once Joe realizes that not all of these mobster-figures are as bad or as dastardly as they may seem from the outside, he begins to wonder whether or not he should fully go through with it, and if he does decide to actually say, “Yeah, arrest all their asses”, he still wonders whether or not it’s the right thing to do or if he should leave a couple people out of it. It’s a problem for us, almost as much as it is a problem for Joe, and it gets you more and more involved with the material, regardless of if you know how it all turns out. Obviously no major Hollywood production is going to fund a movie where the real-life protagonist gets killed, but you still feel like any chance the dude has to lose his cover, he will, and become a victim of it so.

Don't worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Don’t worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Very smart writing and directing on both sides of the camera, but in front of it all is the two stars we have on our hands here, none other than Johnny Depp and Al Pacino themselves. This was the first movie where I think Johnny Depp really broke-out of his shell, showed us that he could actually “act”, and, despite what his good looks may have you believe, make it seem like he’s a real person, with real problems, marital ones and whatnot. Depp’s character may go through the usual trip of where he gets in way too deep and can barely get out without keeping his hands clean, but it’s Depp himself who keeps his head above the water, allowing us to believe in him no matter how scary certain situations may get for him. There’s a real sense of likability and regularity to Depp here, that I wish he would just go back to, at least one more time. That is, before he gets back together with Gore Verbinski and starts acting all nutty and cuckoo again. Why Johnny?!?! Why not come back to the real world?!?!

As great as Johnny is here, though, he’s definitely not the one who walks away with the flick. Leave that recognition to Al Pacino, playing, yet again, another mob boss that has a bit of anger-issues and problems on the inside, but keeps them more bottled-in than what we’re used to seeing with this type of character, or even the way Pacino usually plays them. What’s so great about Pacino playing Lefty is that, we get that this guy is not perfect and definitely has some control issues that get in the way of his better-judgement at times, but we still feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the phis-age and all. In fact, we know it, it just rarely comes out in the most obvious, hackneyed way you’d expect from a movie such as this. Pacino yells and hollers at times, but he keeps it surprisingly subdued and quiet as well, and that’s probably some of the best parts of this movie. Actually, mainly the ones with Depp and Pacino together, because you can tell that they form a bond that’s like a father-son combo, but also one that feels like it could be best friends as well. It’s sad to see them together, but you can’t help but feel something for them both, especially Lefty, who feels like an old man who will just never, ever get it right in the world that he lives in. Poor guy.

Same can sort of be said for the rest of the rag-tag mobsters that these two hang with. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, and James Russo all play members of their mob and all do great jobs with the roles, especially Madsen who gives us his bad-boy charm that we all know and love, but also shows a bit more sympathy underneath it all, as if he too has something to prove to the people he surrounds himself with and aspires to be in the same shoes of one day. They’re all characters you’d expect to hate right off the bat, but they surprisingly have more heart and charm to them then you’d ever want to see in a flick like this. Just like the character of Joe’s stay-at-home-wife, played to perfection by Anne Heche, who not only shows us a real hard-edged woman that isn’t taking any shit from her hubby, but is also easy to sympathize with, despite her being a bit of a nag for bothering her husband about a job that not only pays the bills and gets the kids to school, but she knew about when she married him. She should be the vain of your humanity, but she’s written very realistically and performed very well by Heche herself, an actress who doesn’t get as much credit as she should.

Consensus: Though on page, Donnie Brasco should not work and be considered as conventional and predictable as they come, it surprisingly becomes a more emotional, compelling trip about what happens when a man gets too deep, can’t quite get himself out right away, but still has the screws in tight enough to get through it all. Sounds corny, but in the hands of Depp, Pacino, and the rest of the cast and crew, it’s very far from.

8.5 / 10

"I'm serious. Just forget about it."

“I’m serious. Just forget about it.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Ninth Gate (1999)

No babies and nobody named Rosemary. Just books.

A rare-book dealer named Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired by bibliophile Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to validate a 17th-Century copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Dean takes it because it’s a lot of money, a lot of honey, and a lot of time to go sight-seeing, however, the only sights that he actually gets to witness are murders, crime, and some sort of Satanic-worship; all of which, he has no idea about until they all start pile up.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, any time you bring up Roman Polanski in conversation it’s always the same old stuff: “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he raped that little girl, and then fled the country. Wow.” Now, I know that last sentence may seem like a satire and in a way, it is, but the fact of the matter stands is that having sex with any girl, under the age of 18 when you are way above that, is just wrong. A lot of people will defend Polanski and say that he just had a messed-up life stemming from his early days during the Holocaust and because of what the Manson’s did to his family, but it doesn’t matter. Rape is rape, and that’s just how it is.

Yet, whatever side of the discussion you may be on, you still can’t deny that Polanksi is one hell of a director. As a fan of film, I myself usually have to be able to create a seperate wall from the artist, from the person, and sometimes, it’s a lot easier said then done. But in the case of Polanski’s, it’s a lot easier because his movies are quite good and he always finds exciting ways to show the world that he can try something new, even at his age.

And like any other of Polanski’s flicks, the Ninth Gate starts off with a load of intrigue and wonder. A simple, everyday man is assigned a task that may baffle him, but at the same time, is almost too appealing for him to deny, so he takes it, and only finds out until it’s too late that he’s in way, way in over-his-head. That’s the way most of Polanski’s flicks play out and that doesn’t make it good, bad, or anything – it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Polanksi and the guy at least does that aspect of his story very well. He sets up the plot, the story, the characters, and the setting that we’re supposed to get used to and always allows us to fully drop our expectations of what may come next, and just expect the unexpected to happen.

However, that same idea is sort of what killed this movie.

"It says I have to act normal?"

“It says I have to act normal?!?!?”

Where I think Polanski loses himself is somewhere around the middle-act. Before all of that, he had me on-edge, wondering where this story was going to go, how it was all going to go down, and what type of twist and turns Polanski was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next. That all went away once the flick gets a little too ahead of itself, and then got a bit too over-the-top. There were so many scenes in this movie that made me feel like Polanski was going for some sort of dark comedy, but then the next scene would come around and have something so serious, something so strange, and something so dramatic that it almost seemed like both scenes were done by two entirely, different directors that either weren’t on the same page, or just didn’t know where to go with the story. Either way, something was screwed up with Polanski’s direction here and no matter how much the guy gave me to feast my eyes on, I never felt as compelled as I felt like I should have. Especially, when I think about how this is the same guy has made movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Ghost Writer, and a slew of other, tension-filled flicks.

Still, I don’t know whether or not I can blame Polanski’s direction, or just that the writing wasn’t there. It feels like the movie had a clear idea of what it wanted to do with itself from the first hour or so, but then had a change of heart and went with the wacky, supernatural thriller route that can either make or break movies. For Polanski, in the past at least, they have been able to make him, but for this movie right here: It just about breaks him.

Now, that’s not to say that this whole movie is terrible, because it’s actually relatively entertaining for a long while. There’s just a moment in time during this movie, where it feels like all points for originality were gone, and then Polanski put on the auto-pilot, doing weird and strange shenanigans with his story, but being able to get away with it because it’s what we expect of him. That can be all fine and dandy if it’s compelling and feels like it’s going somewhere with it, but it never does feel like that. It just goes on and on and on, and meanders until you feel like the movie is just about over. And then, it once again continues to go on and on and on until you really feel like it’s over. And then, it meanders once again.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a long movie, and it shows.

Actually, this DID creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Actually, this did creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Whenever there is a will, well, there is always a way and thank the high heavens that Johnny Depp was that way. In today’s day and age of the Sweeney Todd’s, the Jack Sparrow’s, and the Tonto’s, it’s always nice to get a slick reminder that Depp can still play low-key, and play it very-well. His performance as Dean Corso is pretty damn good, not just because it’s Depp being more subtle with his facial-expressions than he usually is, but because the character he is playing is more distasteful than likable, yet, Depp changes our perception of the dude by just being himself. I didn’t love the hell out of this guy by the end, but I do feel like his character goes through enough of a transformation that is not only somewhat believable, but pretty cool in how no matter how crazy stuff gets around him, no matter how close to death he seems, he still stays cool, calm, collective, and always like himself. It’s just another day for Johnny Depp, and we’re just there to sit back, relax, and have a good time watching him.

Frank Langella is as sinister as ever as the mysterious millionaire that hires Corso, Boris Balkan, and does what we always expect from the guy: Just be a bad-ass dude. Langella loves these types of roles and it’s pretty damn easy to see why, because he’s so good in them. You never know what this guy is up to next and for the most part, you never know if he’s being bad or not. All you do know is that he’s not the type of dude to trust and one that shouldn’t definitely be dealt with more through the phone, rather than in real-life. At least that’s how I’d handle my business meetings with the dude. Lena Olin is quite gorgeous as the wealthy widow that wants exactly what Corso has, and will stop at nothing to get it. Olin is a quality actress, I just feel like her role was a little too tame and could have went further into the depths of hell, much like I was expecting from a gal of her talents. Polanksi never seems to have a problem with his actors, it’s just more of the fact that he has a problem with keeping his story up and running for the whole time is where he hits a dead end.

Consensus: Since it is Polanksi and you know that whenever you walk into a film his, you are there to expect thrills, chills, twists, turns, and loads of craziness unlike any other director, there is some fun in watching all this craziness spill out over time, but The Ninth Gate is one that sort of goes on and on, without much reason or rhyme, just strangeness.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks THAT good.

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks that good.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Django Unchained (2012)

DjangoUnchainedPosterNo way the dirty South could have been this dirty. Could it have been?

Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character named Django, who is an escaped slave who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Let’s just get it all out in the open and out of the way for everybody to see and understand before I jump any further into this review: this was my most anticipated flick of the year. Obviously, I’m not much different from others out there in the movie-world, and it’s probably no shock to any of you out there who know that Quentin Tarantino is one, if not my favorite writers/directors working today. This has been a passion-project of his since day 1 and it only seems right that after knocking-out homers left-and-right over the past 20 years, that he finally get to do, what he does best: showing us a little piece of his sick, but original mind.

Everything you see in this flick is exactly what you would expect from a Tarantino flick: crazy characters, wacky dialogue, oodles of violence, ironic use of pop-music, homages to classic flicks that only he and about 5 others actually “get”, and a huge deal of suspense, that almost seems to come out of nowhere. These are the staples of Tarantino’s flicks and as much as they have came-out to be nothing short of expected by now, that still is in no way, shape or form an insult or negative about Tarantino and this movie, because it’s still freakin’ awesome and probably the most original flick I’ve seen all year.

The topic of racism is what really stands in the front of the line with this movie and even though the flick basically takes place during 1858, in the South where slavery runs high and mighty amongst rich, white men, the topic is never used to be thoughtful, or even used as a metaphor for the world we are in now. It’s basically used as another tool for Tarantino to show loads and loads of gruesome/graphic violence and actually give it meaning, rather than throw it at the screen and hoping that it will make sense in the grander scheme of things. Nope, Tarantino’s not all about that and anybody who complained about Inglorious Basterds not being the action-packed, gore-ride they were expecting from QT, then he will definitely shut you up with this one because every piece of violence here, is bloody, gory, and ever so stylized, as we can always expect from Tarantino. Sometimes it’s almost too vicious to watch but hey, that’s not a bad thing considering this is coming from a movie who’s director had 15-minutes of a movie dedicated to a chick hacking-up people, all-over-the-place, with a samurai sword, of all weapons to choose.

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858....

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858….

The violence in this movie definitely stands-out among the rest of what Tarantino uses here, but the script is even better and is classic-Tarantino, at it’s finest. As usual, we get a lot of the witty, catchy-banter between characters that seems almost too energetic to be true, but Tarantino really works himself hard as a writer, especially with this movie, because he actually goes somewhere we never really expected him to in the first-place: comedy. Yeah, it may seem like a bit of a head scratcher that I would talk about how much comedy Tarantino uses and how it surprised the hell out of me because with the flicks that he’s done over the years, it would seem like he’s been doing comedy forever. To be honest, Tarantino has always had a knack for incorporating a great-deal of humor into his scripts, but not as obvious and not as important as it is used here. There are so many scenes here that just had me laughing, not just because Tarantino is doing something that only I, as a movie-geek, actually get, but more or less because he is actually trying to make me laugh and it worked so, so very well.

However, as much as he may put the emphasis on comedy this time-around, Tarantino still never forgets to switch things up and make it more dark and serious, and the tonal-changes are swift, unnoticeable, and always deserved. You know once Tarantino gets into his “serious mode”, then all of the violence and, in a way, more comedy actually comes about since this is the type of material that Tarantino strives for and always seems to have a blast with. Certain scenes would really catch me off-guard because here I would be expecting it to be a scene where a couple of people are sittin’ around, shootin’ the shit, and basically being a bunch of goof balls, but then would all of a sudden change into this very dark and tense scene, where all hell is about to break-loose and anybody you actually care about in this movie, could be gone as quick as you can say the word, “dead”. Seriously, just that snap of a finger, and all of a sudden a scene does a total 180 where we don’t even know what to expect. That sure unpredictability is exactly what I come to expect from Tarantino and it’s put to good-use here, so many damn times that I was literally sweating with tension at-times. The idea of not knowing where a film is going to land next, is always my favorite-aspect of a movie and here, it’s only better because it’s Tarantino and this guy always seems to have a blast with just fucking around with the audience, their minds, and their moods. That damn Tarantino! He’s always so snarky.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, btw.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, by the way.

Even if Tarantino seems to be having a ball with this movie, he’s not having the most fun. Actually, that utter sense of joy and pleasure goes right to the ensemble cast, who are all amazing, well-picked, and having the time of their lives just doing what they do best: act their asses off. When I first heard about Jamie Foxx’s casting as Django, I thought it was a tad unoriginal, and just another-way for Foxx to go around, acting all cool and jive, while wearing a cowboy hat. You know, in an ironic-way. I wasn’t really-looking forward to seeing him play this role, but you know what? Foxx kicks-ass in it and it’s a huge wonder as to why I ever doubted the dude in the first-place. Foxx isn’t as front-and-center with this story as you may think, but whenever he does get the time to shine and do his own thing, he owns it, and doesn’t even have to say anything. Sometimes the emotions on his face tell it all and as easy it is to make us feel something for a slave that wants to be free and get his wife back, it’s even easier to make us feel something for a character that we know can fight his own battles and not ask for sympathy. Django, in terms of the actual-character, is the perfect, Spaghetti Western cowboy, because he’s soft-spoken, cool, but always has something witty to say on his mind. And Foxx owns that role to a T.

In the past 3 years, ever since Basterds hit the theaters and made Christoph Waltz a bona-fide star, it seems like Hollywood has never been able to capitalize on the guy’s real talents as a serious and dramatic actor. However, Tarantino knows how to use the guy best and shows that with every-line of dialogue that comes out of this man’s mouth. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, the nicer-version of Hans Landa, but still is just as sadistic and smart. What makes Schultz such a great character is that the guy is always one-step ahead of everybody else around him. He always knows to act in every situation, he always knows the right things to say, he always knows how to keep his cool, when shit starts to get heavy, but the most-important factor of his character out of all, is that he always knows how to kill anybody that stands in his way. He’s a violent bastard that seems like the type of guy you want to be bounty hunters with, but as time goes on and he starts to have heavier obstacles thrown in his way, Schultz starts to fold under pressure and show how sometimes, Django is better-suited for certain situations. It’s a great dynamic the two characters have, and it’s heightened even more, mainly because of the pitch-perfect chemistry between the two that always seems to feature the best lines in the whole movie.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

I was mainly looking forward to this movie for many, many reasons, but I think the most, out of all, surprisingly, was the fact that this was Leonardo DiCaprio’s first, main-role as a villain in lord only knows how long, here as Calvin Candie. I’ve always been a huge fan of Leo and all that he’s been able to do in the past decade or so, but even I will admit, his act seemed to get a little stiff by the 10th time he played a confused, and troubled victim of something bad being played against him. It was the same-old routine in almost every movie he seemed to sign-up for and even though the guy did awesome with that routine, it started to become glaringly old, and a role as a campy, over-the-top slave owner, in a QT film, sounded like the perfect-way to spice things up in the dude’s career. And damn, was I ever so happy that I was right about that sweet, soothing sound.

DiCaprio is, well, how should I put it? Perfect in a role like this. Calvin Candie is cunning, funny, campy, and very, very sly in his way of handling himself through every situation he’s put into but you can always tell that there’s something darker lying beneath the surface and the way DiCaprio handles all of that, is probably the best-acting he’s done in awhile. DiCaprio doesn’t just explode with anger, rage, and energy whenever the camera’s on him. No, he just lets it sit there, watching him, letting us know his character, all that he is, all that he does, and all that he can be, if he has to turn the other-cheek and be an evil asshole like we all expect him to be. Eventually, Candie does turn into that evil asshole we expected to see from him right-away, but DiCaprio is so good and so masterful at portraying it, that you really cannot take your eyes off of him. No matter how hard anybody else around him actually tries, DiCaprio is the one that steals the spotlight in every scene he has, and it’s just perfect to watch, especially coming from a guy who’s been wanting a role like this for Leo, for the longest-time. When he loses his shit, he loses it in the most-hardcore way of all and demands your attention, rather than simply asking for it, in the kind-way, Candie likes to fool people with. I really don’t think I can hit the head on the nail as much as I have already, but I’m just going to leave my whole two, orgasm paragraphs on Leo by saying this: that motherfucker deserves the Oscar this year. I’m done, I’ve said it, and yet, I still feel like I haven’t said enough! Aaaaahhhh! Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect. End. Of. Story.

"Listen, bitch!! I'm Samuel L. Jackson, and I'm just loud! Get used to it!"

“Listen, bitch!! I’m Samuel L. Jackson, and I’m just loud! Get used to it!”

Now that that is over with, let me move onto everybody else that deserves a bit of a shine from the spotlight as well. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be another-one in this cast that’s having a ball as the head house slave Stephen, a total Uncle Tom from head-to-toe in terms of appearance, and mental-state also. From the first-shot of the guy, Samuel L. is almost unrecognizable as Stephen, but as time goes on, you get it in your head that it is Samuel L., doing his funny-as-hell, loud yelling and screaming that we always expect from the guy and it’s just so great to watch, especially since it seems like Samuel L. in his comfort-zone. I don’t know if the guy ever left to begin-with, but watching him just have a blast with a role and take over the screen like he does, is always a joy to watch in my book.

Kerry Washington was a bit of a disappointment to watch as Django’s baby girl, Broomhilda Von Shaft (trust me, see the movie and you’ll understand), not just because she isn’t featured in the movie a lot, but mainly because she doesn’t have as much of a screen-presence as everybody else in this flick seems to have. And that’s especially weird to have coming out of my fingertips, considering this is a QT movie and the guy always has kick-ass, female characters to show off. Don’t get me wrong, Washington is still good with her role but doesn’t really get much to do other than cry, yell, and looked terrified the whole-time. There’s so many more faces and stars in this cast that are worth mentioning and bringing to your attention but seriously, just go see the movie for yourself and realize that Tarantino is not only perfect when it comes to writing and directing, but also casting. The guy’s just got it all and all of these rumors of a possible, early-retirement has me scared shitless. Oh well, let’s just hope he keeps on churning out movies until he can’t no mo.

Consensus: Some trimming of the fat needed to be done here and there with Django Unchained, but for a movie that is 2 hours and 40 minutes and is never, for a second, ever boring or uninteresting, I have to say that’s pretty damn a-okay with me, especially if it’s a Tarantino movie, where fun, violence, comedy, cheekiness, homages, and pop-culture references all come together, in one beautiful, original blender of ideas.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy it and enjoy the presents you may or may not get from Santa!