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Friday Flicks: Django Unchained

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Movie poster

Warning: Anything you have heard about Django Unchained is true.  It’s bloody, gory, full of the “n” word, and REALLY LONG.  This is a Quentin Tarantino movie from the beginning.  Yes, he’s even in it for about 5 minutes or so.  But, in true Tarantino fashion, he doesn’t have problems taking himself out of the movie as well.

The basic premise is Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a previous  dentist turned bounty hunter, seeks out a slave named Django (Jaime Foxx) to assist him in identifying some bounties.  The hunt goes well, and the doctor decides to take on Django to be his partner for the rest of the winter.  Django agrees to be his partner with the agreement that Schultz help him find his wife come spring.  The two seem to get along very well and have a very prosperous winter, including geting the drop on a very high value gang.

Spring comes and Schultz and Django head to Mississippi to try to find Broomhilde (Kerry Washington).  They find out that she’s been bought by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and brought to his plantation.  As a matter of approach, Schultz and Django decide to play the roles of men looking to buy mandingos, or slaves that are fighters.  Their hope is that by distracting Calvin from seeing their true purpose they would be able to buy Broomhilde from out under Calvin.  Once they get to Candyland, they find that Broomhilde has tried to escape again and was being kept in the hot box.  Schultz is able to get her out under the pretext that he wants her company.  Django and Hilde are reunited, but it is short lived.  The main house slave Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) sees something’s up and alerts Calvin to the apparent plot.

Schultz and Django

This starts a very long cascade of people dying.  Calvin dies.  Shultz dies.  Most of Calvin’s men die.  Stephen dies.  Calvin’s sister dies.  Things do not look good for either Hilde or Django.  But things start going their way at the end.  And of course the movie ends in a literal “bang”!

Calvin

I have left out much of this movie due to its graphic nature.  There is so much blood and gore in this movie that it is beyond gratuitous.  This is VERY much Tarantino’s style.  Think “Inglorious Basterds”.  Actually, that movie put a bit of a damper on my opinion of this movie.  After seeing “Inglorious Basterds”, I was pretty ruined by Christoph Waltz.  He was such a terrible character that I kept thinking of him as the Jew hunter.  But his character in “Django Unchained” was the complete opposite.  This movie he shows so much more depth in character.  He starts the movie as not wanting to be involved or understanding the slave business.  But he learns very quickly all about it and seems to do the right thing by the slaves he meets.

Stephen and Hilde

All in all, you are going to have to WANT to see this movie.  While I LOVE Kerry Washington, especially in her performances during Scandal, but she really did nothing for me during this movie.  On the other hand Jaime Foxx seems to be choosing better roles that are actual real acting roles.  He’s not my favorite actor, but this was a good job by him.  The movie is over 2.5 hours long, so this is not a movie you can just breeze through.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Friday Flicks: Silver Linings Playbook

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I hope I’m the only one that hasn’t seen this movie yet.  I know I’m not, as I called my husband and mother IMMEDIATELY after seeing it.  This was one of those movies.  Ones that you’ve heard was good and actually lives up to its expectations.  I only had a basic understanding of the movie.  The main male character was “crazy” and he meets someone else who is also a bit “off”.  I also knew that the EAGLES were involved and that Robert Deniro was in the film…  Again, all good things.

While the basis of this movie is a sort of romantic comedy, the “comedy” can be very uncomfortable as it is so close to being so true.  Pat Solatano played by Bradley Cooper, is bi-polar and has been ordered into psychiatric care due to an incident.  Pat caught his wife Nikky having an affair with the History teacher at the high school Pat also worked at.  Pat spends four months in a hospital before his mom comes to get him out.  In an agreement to get him released Pat must go to therapy daily and take his medicines.  The problem is that Pat refuses to take his meds as they make him foggy and dull his senses.

Pat striking a deal…

Pat is invited to a dinner party at his friend Ronnie’s house (played by John Ortiz).  Along with Ronnie and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles), Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) was also there.  Tiffany is a young widow who is very blunt with everything she does.  As she still sees Nikky occasionally and all Pat wants to do is reconnect with her, Tiffany negotiates with Pat.  If she gives a letter from Pat to Nikky, then Pat has to learn to dance and become her dance partner for an upcoming dance competition.  He reluctantly agrees, and begins to learn to dance and builds a strong relationship with Tiffany.

Parents

Pat slowly gains a new semblance of life, though it’s not easy.  He does eventually get to see Nikky and compete in the dance competition.  I won’t tell the ending, but it’s good, if slightly predictable.  What is great about the movie are the interactions and nuanced performances the “supporting” roles give.  I do think Jennifer Lawrence deserves an Oscar for her performance.  It’s not a flashy sort of role like her “Hunger Games” role is.  It’s much more subtle, like her work in “Winter’s Bone“.  Bradley Cooper does crazy really well.  It’s not comical crazy.  It’s a very in your face very uncomfortable and very realistic crazy.

Dinner party

But most of all, I loved Robert DeNiro.  His role as Pat’s father was played with such a slight hand and a professional’s job that it was absolutely amazing.  He was BANNED from the Linc!  OMG!  It is hilarious.  But ultimately he just wants to connect with his son.  He gets the other one, but Pat has always seemed to ellude him.  Watching the relationships grow in this movie is well worth the price of rental.

Dance!

Rating: 10 out of 10

Friday Flicks: Friday Night Lights

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Movie poster

I know I’ve talked before about watching movies specifically due to the actors/actresses in the film.  Well, I also have movies that I watch specifically because of the music as well.  Some of these movies are oldies like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Annie“.  Then there is one that is much newer, called “Friday Night Lights“.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie’s not bad.  I actually really like the performances of Billy Bob Thornton and Connie Britton.  He definitely plays this piercing sort of father/coach figure.  Actually, the most surprising performance of the cast has to be Tim McGraw.  Yes, that Tim McGraw.  The wholesome country singer plays the father of a current football player.  But he’s really damaged.  He spends most of his time drunk and berating his son.  It’s slightly disturbing seeing him be that bad, but he does it so well.

The actual football scenes are shot so well.  When the action scenes are going there is an ambiance to them that you feel drawn into the plays.  The boys do such a great job of telling their stories and their ambitions.  It’s a very compelling story from start to finish.  Unfortunately it’s a sad ending, but it does fit with the theme of the movie.  I’ve never seen the tv show, so I have no idea if it is similar in any fashion. 

On to the music.  In many movies, the music is really just the background, getting you to the places in the story that the director wants you to be.  Most of the time it’s tones or some unnamed melody.  Or it could be like “The Graduate” and be full out composed songs.  Well, I don’t know how, but the people who created “Friday Night Lights” found a quartet from Texas that play amazing music called Explosions in the Sky.  Now this isn’t any old music, but this is an explosion of sound without any words.  The sheer sound and  and magnitude of their sound will literally suck you in.  In a VERY good way.  I saw them live a few years ago (they opened for The Flaming Lips), and I think they were even better than the main band.  We were in an outdoor venue and to hear them with their sound and so many other people, it was a very moving experience.

Band Pic

I highly recommend the band.  They have multiple albums out, and they are all excellent.  But, I also recommend the movie.  It was very moving and the music made it all that much better.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Friday Flicks: Once

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Once Poster

I actually haven’t seen a movie in a bit.  Nothing has really piqued my interest lately.  Plus, I’ve been REALLY into the books I’ve been reading lately.  I hope to write up something about them pretty soon.  So, I decided to dig into my “repertoire” for a movie that I’ve enjoyed.  It also just happens that I’m trying to convince my mom and sister that going to see the Broadway version of Once would also be a good idea.

When asked by my sister to describe what the story is about, what I could succinctly remember was that there was this guy and girl who made BEAUTIFUL music together and develop an unfulfilled love for each other.  I think what draws me to this movie and keeps doing it, is the raw emotion that it invokes.  The potential for love that the two share, and yet they both return to relationships that have given them so much pain in the past.

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself a bit.  The basic story is fairly simple.  Boy meets girl.  In this case, the main character is just named “guy”.  He’s a musician trying to make it on the streets of Dublin, while working for his father in a vacuum repair shop.  Girl sees guy on the street and asks him about his music.  She also is a musician, and the two go to the piano store where she occasionally plays.

Guy and Girl

She plays very well, so the two of them decide to write and make music together.  The guy reveals that much of his music is about his long term love who cheated and left.  The girl in turn reveals that she is in fact still married (he found out when he went back to her place and saw she had a daughter), but he is still in the Czech Republic.  He decides that he wants to officially record the music, so the two of them get studio time and a few back up singers and officially make a demo that he is going to take with him to London.

Beautiful scene

What’s great about the movie is that their music is intertwined with the story line.  It’s not just them singing at the demo sessions, but the songs are sung at a party, on a bus, etc.  I also love the anonymity or generality that the characters are given.  The two aren’t given names, so they really could be anyone.  All in all, this is a great movie due to the chemistry the two have together romantically and musically.

Youtube of Once

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Friday Flicks: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Movie Poster

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is truly a great movie for many reasons.  But first off, I must confess I like old people.  I think old people are interesting and have interesting perspectives.  But I especially love older British actors/actresses.  Well, this movie is a boon of old people and very good actors/actresses.

The premise of the story is that seven older people in England travel to Jaipur, India to live in a hotel for older people.  The seven people all come for different reasons.  Evelyn (Dame Judi Dench) came to find a cheaper place to live after her husband passed and left her with lots of debts.  Graham (Tom Wilkinson) comes to India to seek out an old flame from his youth.  Norman (Ronald Pickup) is there to find himself a new lover.  Muriel (Maggie Smith) has come to get low cost hip replacement surgery.  Madge (Celia Imrie) is in India to land herself a wealthy new husband.  Lastly are Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) who invested their retirement funds with their daughter and had to find a cheap place to live in the hopes that they would eventually recoup the money.  The hotel is run by Sonny (Dev Patel).

The Dame

Well, the guests arrive and the place is not what they were expecting.  Sonny is eager, but is not a great manager.  He’s much more in love with the idea of the hotel and what the vision of it that his father had than by the actual running of a business.  To complicate matters, he is in love with a lovely girl Sunaina (Tena Desae), but Sonny’s mom does not approve of the modern woman that she is.  Evelyn seems to thrive in India.  She gets a job for the first time in her life.  Graham spends so much time looking for his past lover.  He finally reveals that he is gay and that the person is a man.  It takes awhile, but then Graham finally gets to see his old friend.  He is old and living with his wife, who incidentally knew the whole story of Graham and her husband.  But just as they reconnect, Graham dies.  Apparently he had a heart condition and knew that he would not be returning to England.

Sonny and Muriel

Muriel doesn’t seem to like the country at all, but the woman caring for her and cooking her meals takes a liking to her.  Not only does she seem to like her, but invites her to her home to meet all her family.  It’s a hilarious scene.  And lastly the couple of Douglas and Jean…  They could not approach their situation in completely different ways.  Douglas seems to really love India.  He spends his days visiting different temples and various sites.  Jean spends her days at the hotel.  She is so bothered by the sights and sounds that she insulates herself and becomes a bit of a bitch.

Tom Wilkinson

In the end, things work out of the best.  Those seeking companionship end up with someone.  The nice thing is that Jean admits to Douglas that things were not working out, so she goes back home.  He stays and ends up starting a relationship with Evelyn.  Sonny is finally able to convince his mother that Sunaina is the woman for him.  And the best part is that Muriel ends up convincing the bank to fund the hotel and she stays on as a manager.

Billy Nighy

While this may not be the best description I realize, you really should watch the movie.  It’s visually delightful.  The cinematography is wonderful.  You get to see the loveliness of India and the people.    What’s also super fun is that Douglas and Jean were husband and wife in another movie.  If you can guess which one it was, you win a prize :).  Mostly this movie is about relationships and creating new experiences.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10.

Official Trailer

Friday Flicks: Oz the Great and Powerful

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Movie Poster

I was going to avoid reviewing movies that are currently out in the theaters, but I had been super excited to see this movie.  Not sure if you caught the past tense.  I am a HUGE fan of the Wizard of Oz and I read the book “Wicked” a few years ago.  So, I’m a fan of the Oz genre if you will.  The casting is great, so again, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t like the movie more than I did.

Zach Braff as monkey side kick

The premise of the movie is that Oscar Digs “Oz” (James Franco) is a circus magician and lothario.  In trying to escape a jealous boyfriend Oz hops on a hot air balloon and into an oncoming tornado.  He wakes up in a new land.  There he is greeted by Theodora (Mila Kunis) who tells him of her father’s death and the coming of this great wizard, which he agrees to being due to promises of wealth.    Once they arrive in the Emerald City, they meet up with Evanora (Rachel Weisz).  Evanora is not who she seems and manages to convince Theodora that Oz is not a good guy and has cheated on her.  This causes Theodora to go crazy and go to the dark side with Evanora.  She eats a piece of fruit and “bam” she turns green and becomes truly wicked.

Theodora/Wicked Witch

As this is going on Oz goes out in search of Glinda (Michelle Williams) who is falsely accused of killing her father.  Oz and his sidekick monkey (voice by Zach Braff)  and the China girl realize they’ve been duped and join Glinda and the people of Oz to fight back.  They use Oz’s ingenuity and know how along with the help of the people to mis-direct and terrify the wicked witches.  Their plan works and sets up the future of Oz as the wizard.

I saw the movie in 2-D, so it didn’t have the pop and wow of 3-D. There were some scenes of the movie that I recognized were specifically shot for 3-D.  I do realize that I probably missed out in the full experience of the movie, but if I can’t enjoy it as 2-D, then I would not have enjoyed it at home later.  It allowed me to fully appreciate everything going on in the movie with the characters.  And I just didn’t feel like there was a whole lot to be overly excited about.  I did absolutely LOVE the acting and the surprise actor that I had no clue was in the movie.  For all you “geeks” out there Mr. Bruce Campbell has a very small part in the movie.  You could totally miss him, but he’s the gatekeeper at the entrance to the Emerald City.  I totally geeked out at the movie when I saw him.

Bruce!

It’s not that I’m NOT recommending this movie, it’s just that if you go see the movie, I’ve heard that it’s MUCH better in 3-D.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Official Trailer

Friday Flicks: MIB 3 and a PSA

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MIB 3 poster

I wasn’t able to get in a film review for last week, so hopefully my TWO reviews this week will help make up for it.  The first movie I want to review is Men In Black 3.  I happened to catch this  on Sunday afternoon and thought “why not”?  The movie was both better and worse than I expected it to be.

The premise of the movie is that Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is erased in the future because an alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) goes back in time and changes an interaction they had.  Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time to the day before the interaction in an effort to try to kill off Boris before he has a chance to kill K.  J is not supposed to make himself known to K, but of course things go awry.  J gets brought in for questioning and almost neuralized.  He eventually convinces K of his mission and the two of them go after Boris with the help of Andy Worhol (he’s an agent!) and Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), an alien who sees all possibilities in time.  Eventually they succeed in defeating Boris, but there is a cost.

Jemaine!

What was bad about the movie?  Will Smith.  He plays the same character in almost all of his movies.  He’s the fast talking black guy.  It’s getting old.  And he’s getting too old to be playing that young guy part.  I kind of liked his character in Persuit of Happyness, but that’s been the exception for him lately.  What’s weird was that I didn’t hate Tommy Lee Jones in this.  He’s playing the same character, but I guess I have just liked enough of what’s he’s done to appreciate this role of his.  I just feel like Will Smith never does anything else except Will Smith movies.

What I did like was the ending of the movie.  The twist was original and very heartfelt.  The interactions between the characters and the addition of Emma Thompson as Agent O are also very good in this movie.  I loved Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal.  Any time I can see Jemaine is a good time.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10

Bonus: I also watched Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence recently.  I know I’ve discussed my love of Nicholas Cage before.  But this movie was too much.  No matter how much you may love terrible acting by terrible actors, this movie goes even farther to just plain AWFUL.  Do NOT watch this movie.  It is not worth it at all.

Rating: 1.0 out of 10

TERRIBLE movie