While normal people were spending time with their families on Christmas day, I went to see two movies that were the polar opposites of one another. Those two films, Django Unchained and Les Miserable are two films that were creating a lot of buzz due to their large budgets and their release date of Christmas day. So lets get started…
First up Django.
Django Unchained is the newest film from everyone’s favorite foot enthusiast/director Quentin Tarantino and stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave named Django who works with a German Dentist/Bounty Hunter, Dr. King Schultz played by Christopher Waltz. The rest of the cast is made up of great bit part actors that most film fans could point out such as Michael Parks, Jonah Hill and even Tarantino himself.
The plot revolves around Foxx’s and Waltz’s friendship/partnership as they collect many bounties and later try to free Django’s wife from a plantation owner played by Leonard DiCaprio. While this may seem like a simple plot, the film fast pace and great direction takes the audience on a fun ride.
The first 45 minutes of the film was some of the most fun that I’ve had watching a movie in a while. The film moved quickly and featured enough funny and over the top moments that Tarantino is known for.
While the rest of the film isn’t bad, it just slows down a great deal from there. The pair figure out a plan to find Django’s wife and try to buy her from the DiCaprio but in true Tarantino fashion things go bad and an over the top gun fight breaks out. The fast pace of the movie picks up again soon after.
One thing that helps keep the film together is its soundtrack. While there are a number of songs that you would expect to hear in a western, i.e. a classic sounding theme song about the title character, it’s the songs that don’t match that make it great, the best being the inclusion of the Jim Croce song “I Have a Name” which is played as Django starts his journey as a free man.
The violence is a major theme of this film as well. Much of the killing, much like in Inglorious Bastards, is quick and bloody. While there are a couple of disturbing scenes here and there, much of the film is spent without blood shed. But when there is blood, there’s a lot of it.
Overall, I loved this film. I’m a fan of Tarantino so it goes to show that I’d like this one, but there is something about this film that is so impressive. Tarantino has watched so many spaghetti westerns that he makes directing one look like childs play with plenty of snap zooms, long scenic shots and lots of close ups off people placing their hands on guns.
On thing that may jar people is the use of the “N word.” While it was a word that was said a great deal during that time period, it’s a bit off putting to hear it so often. That being said, the scene with Johan Hill and a group of white Supremacists was one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen, it would make Mel Brooks proud.
You should see this one.
Next Les Miserable
So…it was a dumb idea to see these two back to back. These two films are soooooo different that I think it may have affected my opinion of the movie.
Les Miserable is the newest film from Mr. rule of thirds himself, Tom Hooper, the director of the Kings Speech and other such films. The film is based upon a famous musical that was based upon a novel written in the 19 Century. The film really stars Hugh Jackman as the parole breaking criminal Jean Vajean (and the fifty other characters he pretends to be) and Russell Crowe as the cop that chases him name Javert. The rest of the cast is introduced later but these two really are the central characters.
I went into the film with little idea of the plot, and having only heard a few songs. And what I found was it’s hard to tell a story if all you do is sing.
As fans of the musical will know, the musical/movie features little dialogue that isn’t sang and with that, the film feels like were just moving through the greatest hits of pop stars.
While all the songs, with the exception of a newly added one, are all very good and strong it doesn’t due the plot of the film any favours.
In most musicals the plot is moved forward by the singing but the dialogue between make the plot make sense, Les Mis moves very quickly with large areas of time moving twice (the film ends up skipping about 20 years, but I’m sure nothing important happened then, just the begins of the revolution that is poorly introduced into the plot half way through) it’s very jarring.
However, the real story of the movie is the live singing. Ever take that the actors did in the film was sung live with the actors singing at a pace they choose. This is very cool as at times it makes scenes with multiply characters talking to each other feel more realistic but it also makes some songs feel weird and out of time.
Another odd thing about this film was its direction. As I mentioned in my intro Hooper loves rule of thirds in his films. This means that there are a number of scenes with people sitting down next to a blank wall, while their framed on the extreme edge of the screen with a lot of empty space. Couple that with the fact that some songs were just long shots of an actor singing in front of a wall, it’s kind of boring at times.
Also Hooper used a number of Dutch angles and I hate Dutch angle for some reason. It just feels like a director gives up on a scene and just puts the camera on an angle (at least Thor felt that way).
Despite this, he does do a number of scenes quite well with a lot of moving hand held shots, for example when Jean when leaves his old identity behind and starts a new life (for the first time). But these interesting moments are few and fair between.
The acting and singing during the film is very good. All of the actors are talented and give interesting performances, but with an at times flat direction it almost hurts the performance. However a number of songs do stand out. Namely Master of the House (sang and acted by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), I Dreamed a Dream (Anne Hathaway) and just about anything that Russell Crowe sang.
It’s difficult for me to judge this one. Is it a good movie? Yes. Is a great movie? No. Could it win an Academy Award? Well they gave one to the Hurt Locker so yeah. While there are a number of good things about it, there are just as many things that I don’t like or even hate.
I can’t really recommend seeing this film to everyone. If you’re a fan of the musical, I’d expect that you’ve already seen the film and think I’m a moron for not getting the complexity of the plot, but if you’re not and your looking to see a movie with a date , I hear the This is 40 was ok.