Film Review: Django Unchained

Django Unchained directed and written by Quentin Tarantino (The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures, and Brown 26 Productions, R, 165 minutes) Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson. Revisionist History Don’t we all have the desire to rewrite history? To take back something said? Something done? Something that hurt others? What steps would you tack to right the wrongs either personally or globally? With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino certainly enjoys using the medium of film to fulfill these grand retribution schemes, but I contend that his stylistic tendencies will keep this film from winning Best Picture. Bounty Hunting The film’s eponymous character, Django (Jamie Foxx,) is a bounty hunter. He earned his freedom working with… Read More →

Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal (Annapurna Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Alliance Films, R, 157 minutes) Starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, and Chris Pratt. The Plateau Have you ever experienced that plateau? The moment after a long-awaited goal is accomplished. You feel relief. Excitement. Even joy as you look back on the hard work it took for you to achieve this step in life. Sometimes during these moments, the next step seems ever the more daunting. Sometimes, an accomplishment equals disappointment because it means there’s no more work, no more opportunity within the specific sphere of focus. Interestingly, Zero Dark Thirty uses the manhunt of Osama bin Laden to represent themes of dedication… Read More →

Film Review: Bernie

Bernie written and directed by Richard Linklater (Castle Rock Entertainment, Collins House Productions, Deep Freeze Productions, PG-13, 104 min) Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey. Justice and Utility If an action resulted in the happiness of an entire community, you would support it, right? Stated as an ethical position, this idea is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism suggests the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. If someone commits a crime, they have negatively affected others. Thus, the greatest good is to punish them for the benefit of others. But what if everyone likes the person who did the wrong? Should justice be distributed by order of how much we like the defendant? Most often, people don’t need… Read More →

Film Review: Les Misérables

Les Misérables written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, directed by Tom Hooper (Working Title Films, Cameron Mackintosh Ltd., PG-13, 157 minutes) Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. The Airing of Grievances Before I go into the general plot summary and the merits of this particular musical, I need to air my grievances Seinfeld style. I love music, but I don’t like musicals. Music is very genuine, raw, and emotion-filled by its very nature. To me (I realize most don’t feel this way), it feels very disingenuous and hollow-hearted when someone randomly bursts into song whilst talking the rest of the time. Musicals usually create a new kind of world where reality doesn’t permeate, where song is the standard,… Read More →

Film Review: Total Recall

Total Recall written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, directed by Len Wiseman (Total Recall, Original Film, and Rekall Productions, R, 118 minutes) Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston. Before and After In this film, unlike its predecessor, Earth is uninhabitable except for two areas: The United Federation of Britain and the Colony (Australia). Workers from the Colony travel to the Federation to provide cheap labor. Douglas Quaid’s (Colin Farrell) job is to tighten screws on robots that could probably do it themselves. They travel there through “the fall”, which is more or less a big giant tunnel through the middle of the earth. The trip includes a full-on gravity reversal. I’ve always felt that we live in an age where no new stories are being told in cinema…. Read More →

Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook written and directed by David O. Russel (The Weinstein Company and Mirage Enterprises, R, 122 minutes) Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Making Light of the Dark There’s nothing more difficult than creating comedy out of mental disorders, failed marriages, and gambling. These themes are dark; they force the viewer into introspective spaces. The narrative can’t make light of such scenarios because too many people have dealt with the deep pain associated with these occurrences. But Silver Linings Playbook gives it a shot, and it is mostly successful. To Starting Over—or Staying the Same Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he seeks to pick up the pieces of his broken life…. Read More →

Film Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb (Preferred Content and Sundial Pictures, PG, 81 minutes) Starring Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Talent or Hard Work? What makes a successful person? It seems as if “born with it” is a common perception. We see unmatched athleticism in sports, celeritous musicianship, or a brilliant thesis, and we praise the talent behind such work. But do people rise to the highest levels of their profession on talent alone? I’m not convinced. As the great Seattle poet, Macklemore, proclaims in “Ten Thousand Hours”: “You see I study art / The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint / The greats were great cause they paint a lot”. As Macklemore implies, success… Read More →

Film Review: Lincoln

Lincoln written by Tony Kushner and Doris Kearns Goodwin, directed by Steven Spielberg (DreamWorks Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Reliance Entertainment, PG-13, 150 minutes) Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tommy Lee Jones. The Suspension of Disbelief There’s something odd that occurs for A-list superstars. There comes a point in the actor’s life where, no matter the role, the actor overshadows the character. When Brad Pitt stars in a movie, we are watching Brad Pitt playing a character. The real-world Brad Pitt seeps into the character. Pitt’s relationship with Angelina Jolie, his outspoken views on social justice, and his constant appearances in the tabloids become a part of the film. We can’t help ourselves. That’s what popular… Read More →

Film Review: Brave

Brave written and directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 93 minutes) Starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson. High Expectations The Pixar production company did it to themselves. They created a world of high expectations, of high groundbreaking moments one after another characterized by original films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and UP. Parents and adults have loved the cheeky stories which integrate a lovely plot as well as some slightly hidden adult humor. By setting the bar so high, however, they’ve set themselves up for failure. Brave, sadly, is the beginning of the failure. The Story Unfolds A traditional Disney storyline is presented in Brave, where a princess, king, queen, and three young princes are a slightly… Read More →

Film Discussion: Skyfall

Skyfall written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan; directed by Sam Mendes (MGM, Danjaq, and Eon Productions, PG-13, 143 minutes) Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Bérénice Marlohe. We Meet Again, Bond Skyfall finds James Bond (Daniel Craig) presumed dead after a mission gone wrong. M (Judy Dench) makes the call to fire upon a mercenary whom Bond has tracked down. The catch, however, is that Bond is in the crosshairs of another agent. Battling this mercenary, there is no clean shot for Bond’s fellow agent, Eve (Naomie Harris). Upon taking the shot on M’s order, she hits Bond. A few months later and connected to the mission leading to Bond’s MIA… Read More →