Tag Archives: Christoph Waltz

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained really and truly feels like the old school exploitation epics that he was going for in everything from style, music, dialogue and especially pacing. Movies were longer back then in more ways than just length, which sounds odd so I’ll try and explain: Django has a great big laconic violent narrative that takes its time like a talkative houseguest and lingers for a while, until it seemingly ends. Then after that ending, there’s like another forty minutes of movie after, as if somehow with this one we discovered that staying past the credits magically extends the film into further, hidden acts. Seems crazy now but that’s the way some movies were back then. People have said that that feels lopsided and is a downfall for Django, but I disagree and think it gets a lot of it’s charm from that structural padding, no doubt purposeful on QT’s part. It’s also some of the most colourful, flat out ballistic and fun pieces he’s ever done. Post Kill Bill, he really delved into the past for some specific genre stabs at various key time periods, in some cases even rewriting history to meet his pulpy, shock ‘n awe oeuvre. Unchained tells the story of intense self freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx), jovially verbose bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, the soul of the picture), bratty, psychopathic plantation baron Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio refreshingly cast against type), and a whole sweaty myriad of other cowboys, slaves, businessman and opportunists in a very vivid Old West. Django and King aim to free his imprisoned wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from Candieland, a hellish property ruled over by traitorous head house slave Steven (cantankerous Samuel L. Jackson) and hordes of vicious, tumbleweed thugs. To say violence ensues is a big old understatement; the blood flows like Niagara here, the heads get shot off in double digit count and bullets tear through people like they’ve got barbed wire on them. Hyper stylized, yes, but never a case of style over substance, as QT’s scripts always see to. The friendship between King and Django is allowed to percolate like their tin campfire coffee pot long before any serious chaos ensues, these two make a stalwart pair. DiCaprio is a grinning antagonist whose heinous personality is obvious in Waltz’s gradual revulsion, a setup ripe with gleeful, knee slapping suspense. Joining them is an all star supporting cast including James Remar in sly dual roles, James Russo, Zoe Bell, Miriam F. Glover, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, M.C. Gainey, Walton Goggins, Laura Cayouette, Dennis Christopher, Dana Gourrier, Franco Nero, Don Stroud, Bruce Dern, Michael Bowen, Robert Carradine, Jonah Hill, Lee Horsley, Tom Savini, James Parks, QT himself with a horrendous Aussie accent, a Michael Parks cameo and Don Johnson as a hilarious plantation pimp called Big Daddy. The soundtrack samples everything from Rick Ross to Morricone to Johnny Cash to amp up the proceedings, and cinematography traverses rough hewn deserts, snowy peaks and buzzing bayous to provide sharp, succinct atmosphere for this extreme yarn to play out in. QT’s career comes in two halves for me: The hard boiled, present day set gangster flicks that segued into Kill Bill, still set in our times. For the second half he’s gone historical and turned up the dial on violence, characterization, action and colour, and Django can arguably be called the showcase picture in latter day Tarantino. It’s big, bold, audacious,

unapologetic and I love every second of it.

-Nate Hill

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing

I was very pleasantly surprised by Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, an intelligent, methodically high concept social sci-fi satire that takes the Honey I Shrunk The Kids template and plays it for thoughtful, heartfelt laughs while thinking big, thematically speaking. Matt Damon turns on the dim witted charm as a regular joe who decides to undergo ‘downsizing,’ a radical procedure patented by the Norwegians in which a human is shaved, sedated and shrunk down to the size of a tennis ball. Why, you ask? It’s scientist’s answer to the growing issue with humans ruining our planet, and they figure having an itty bitty carbon footprint instead of a big ol’ one will do this rock some good. This is but one of a group of very ambitious ideas that Payne explores, and whilst he doesn’t quite have time to thoroughly wring our every theme and thesis, it’s nice to see such thought and care put into a concept that could have easily gone the brainless Dwayne Johnson route. Damon settles down in a mini hydra dome called Leisureland, where the inflation rate is minuscule and things cost a fraction of what they did topside. He’s got two hilarious neighbours in snarky Serbian playboy Dusan (Christoph Waltz alllmosttt has the accent down) and his fellow hedonist, salty Konrad (really nice to see veteran Udo Kier back in the Hollywood game in more than just ironic cameos). These two are his introduction to the way this procedure has affected everything in the world from commerce to social relations, but it’s not until he meets feisty Vietnamese maid N’goc (Hong Chau) that he realizes the same problems which have always afflicted humanity have followed them down to their pint sizes, and even become worse. Chau is so good she pretty much walks off with the film, her blunt nature and hilarious accent contrasted by a bruised heart beneath. There’s some.. oddly placed plot points in the third act and I could have done with a bit less of the preachy climate change chatter, but for the most part this one stimulates and goes for laughs, milking the ‘shrunk’ concept in ways Hollywood never before. Watch for peripheral work from Kristin Wiig, Rolf Lassgard, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, Don Lake, Margo Martindale, Mary Kay Place and Joaquim De Almeida. Neat stuff.

-Nate Hill

Once Upon A Time In Nostalgia Occupied France: Revisiting Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds


Having rewatched Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds the other night for the first time in years, I’d since forgotten what a fuckin rip snorting good time at the movies it is. It used to rank fairly low on my Quentin-metre, but not only has it aged quite nicely since 09′, it’s even better than I remember it being in theatres. I think that one of the reasons I didn’t hold it in such high esteem right off the bat is that I wasn’t prepared for the blunt revisionist history approach, which at the time I think felt very silly and fake. I get now what he was going for and appreciate it tenfold more than I did then. From the opening chords of a Morricone piece that signals the portentous arrival of Christoph Waltz’s terrifyingly affable Jew hunting SS nutbar Hans Landa, this film is a near perfect ballet of extended dialogue, shocking musical cues and sporadic bursts of satisfying and graphic violence. It’s an episodic roundtable outing that spins around to focus intently on specific scenarios for quite a bit of time before jarringly shunting off to the next. Young Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) runs a quaint cinema in rural France that garners the attention of a pesky German war hero (Daniel Brühl). Evil Landa and his corps doggedly hunt enemies of the state whilst preparing to act as a security force for a bigwig film premiere attended by the Fuhrur himself, et al. Elsewhere in Germany, a plucky band of double agents led by Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger await instructions on a small tavern, commissioned by Winston Churchill and Austin Powers to carry out their mission. This sequence is a textbook example on how to whip up vice grip suspense until one can barely breathe, then cut the cord loose all of a sudden, brilliantly structured, written and acted scene all round. Brad Pitt also leads his merry band of Nazi killers all over Europe creating havoc and delivering some of the best dialogue that the Q-Man has ever penned. The sequence where Aldo Raine (Pitt) and his crew must be ‘fake Italian’ to blend in at the film premiere is the single funniest thing in a Tarantino film to date. The cast is layered with all kinds of wonderful work, standouts from August Diehl, Richard Sammel, Eli Roth, a priceless Til Schweiger, as well as quick snippets from Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel. Waltz made a name for himself with the Landa character, and is a simultaneously freaky and funny villain who steals the film each time he shows up to smarm and charm the pants off of everyone else. Funny beyond words, brutally exploitive in the best possible ways, whip smart in writing and characterization and just a hell of a good time, Basterds has held up and even improved excellently since it’s release, and will likely stand as one of Tarantino’s key films in years to come. Gorlami. 

-Nate Hill

Top Ten Quentin Tarantino Characters: A Write Up by Nate Hill

Quentin Tarantino’s career has been vividly defined by all the beloved qualities which we hold dear in film: visuality, music, dialogue, emotion, conflict and especially character. His films contain some of the most captivating, idiosyncratic and unique people to ever grace the screen, played by an incredible lineup of actors, some of which he would go on to use time and time again. Below you will find my personal top ten picks from the rogues gallery of individuals who have appeared in his stories. Please keep in mind these are characters from films he has both written and directed only, not just ones he has written. Enjoy, and if you do, please share!

10. Zed, played by Peter Greene in Pulp Fiction. 

  

      Greene refused this part multiple times, causing Tarantino to hunt him down like a dog and basically beg him to play the role. When the director has a face in mind for a role and won’t quit like that, you’d better believe he’s gonna make magic with it if he ever manages to sway the actor. He does, and so does Greene, an actor with a distinct, sinister look who plays the absolute hell out of the character, spinning a small supporting turn into one of the most terrifying movie villains ever, and certainly the scariest character in Tarantino’s career. Everyone’s favourite redneck rapist sheriff, Greene leaves quite the unsettling impression with his work. 

9. Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, played by. Michael Parks in Kill Bill, Grindhouse and From Dusk Till Dawn

  

Tarantino casted underrated acting chameleon Parks as this character several times, each appearance resulting in pure gold. My personal favourite has to his bit in Kill Bill Volume 1, where he’s called to the El Paso wedding chapel massacre. Parks can literally play any part thrown his way, be it melodramatic French Canadian drug runner, neo-nazi hit man or the laconic southwestern lawman archetype, which he nails down to the detailed mannerisms here. McGraw is a lynchpin of Tarantino lore and an absolute pleasure to see every time he pops up. 

8. Captain Koons, played by Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction

  

Walken balances weirdness and gravity like no other, often blurring the lines between the two to amusing and touching effect. When given what is perhaps the juiciest monologue ever written by Tarantino, Walken gives us a mesmerizing account of his time in the war, and his efforts to protect a coveted family heirloom which he then presents, with much ceremony, to a young Butch Coolidge. The film halts the momentum dead in its tracks to allow Walken to do his thing, completely off the leash and inhabiting his own special corner of the beloved film. He’s unforgettable, and makes a two minute appearance speak the volumes of eons.   

7. Bill, played by David Carradine in Kill Bill

 

There’s a scene in Kill Bill Volume 2 where Uma Thurman discovers Bill waiting for her outside the wedding chapel, playing his pan flute. There’s an epic passage of Morricone music, and he looks her dead in the eye. Upon reviewing a rough cut, Tarantino turned to Carradine and said “I think this is your best moment of the film.” Carradine’s response was, “Hell, I think it’s the best moment of my whole career!.” Bill is a mythic, titular antagonist who is built up no end for the duration of the films, the ultimate badass villain, and when the climax arrives in the eleventh hour, Tarantino writes an exodus for the character that is far more personal, emotional and grounded than I imagine anyone saw coming. It’s a gift to Carradine and fans alike, a villain with depth and purpose who exists in a surreal comic book world where the people couldn’t be more human or real. Carradine purrs his way through the role of his career and on into legend. 

6. Budd, played by Michael Madsen in Kill Bill

  

Tarantino brings out the best in Madsen, a purely charismatic dude who unfortunately makes a lot on unwatchable junky poo movies these days, squandering his obvious talent. This is is shining hour, playing Budd as a bitter backwater kid and younger sibling, nearing the end of his road and fermenting in bitter loneliness way out in the California desert. Madsen channels tough guys of the golden age as Budd, a rotten son of a bitch with a glint of humanity showing through his booze-dimmed eyes. 

5. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds

  

Quite possibly the most entertaining villain in Tarantino’s work, due the the exuberant and absolutely committed performance of Waltz, in a trailblazing turn that would put him on the map in a big way. Beaming from ear to ear in almost every scene with a charming grin that dissipates occasionally, showing traces of the spider beneath, he’s a wonder in the role, a nazi A-hole rotten straight to the core. He doesn’t even possess any constitution or debt of faith in the cause which his smartly emblazoned SS uniform advertises; he’s in it for himself only, which is one more despicable quality to add to the list of traits one might use to define him. Perhaps the biggest Basterd of them all, and a joy to watch. 

4. Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction

  

Pulp Fiction kickstarted Travolta’s career back into gear in a huge way, and it’s easy to see why as we watch his Elvis-esque slickster prance about the screen with effortless, heroin addled coolness and one hell of a dance sequence. His hair deserves its own spinoff film, he steals scenes by simply laying low and playing the dude with flair that never makes itself overly known. 

3. Mr. Blonde, payed by Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs

  

A stone cold psycho to the bone, Madsen relishes in brining this cop killing sadist to life, and dancing his way through one of the most iconic Tarantino scenes to date. Madsen has a rumbling threat to his work, a paced, portentous vibe that suggests the onset of a dangerous storm, but always seems to veer on the edge. With Mr. Blonde he crosses that line and shows us what a true madman looks like, without even raising his voice above a willowy growl. A class act in violent behaviour that laced with the blackest humour that we feel bad for laughing at. Mr. Blonde all the way. 

2. Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction

  

A rain of hellfire awaits any viewer who has the privilege of seeing Jackson bellow forth biblical fury in his first collaboration with Tarantino. He’s the life of the party in Pulp Fiction, an articulate, relentless loudmouth with a character arc that amusingly negates his belligerent nature and makes Jules all the more fascinating for it. Jack sonics at his most magnetic when he’s in Tarantino films, and this is mile zero, baby. Not for a second does the spark leave his eye, or the threat of violence evaporate from his wake. Criminals who ruminate on life, love and cunnilingus have become a goldmine for writers post Tarantino, and one which he only mined the first nuggets of. Jackson is ground zero for the character type, and fires it up in a way which none of us will ever forget. 

1. The Bride a.k.a. Beatrix Kiddo, played by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

  

Tarantino’s muse has been Uma Thurman since the days of Pulp Fiction, and here he writes a titanic revenge epic in which the actress gets to bare her claws and sink her teeth into the single most affecting and arrest in female role that he has ever written, also forging the best, or at least my favourite performance from any actor or actress in his films. The Bride is the revenge archetype, an angry blonde angel forsaken by her lover and dead set on a bloody warpath. Tarantino isn’t above writing in moments of stirring emotion, including the final twenty minutes of Volume two which is Thurman’s showcase piece as an actress and an achingly appropriate send-off for The Bride, as well as the one which she deserves. 
Thanks for reading, more to come!

SPECTRE – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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SPECTRE is the James Bond film that a lot of us have been waiting for: the Daniel Craig film that is his own. I have very much enjoyed the Craig series, but the films have been muddled in each of their own respects. CASINO ROYAL was the unnecessary franchise reboot, QUANTOM OF SOLACE was the adrenaline fueled action film, and SKYFALL was the epic blanket film that absolutely everyone could love. SPECTRE did a brilliant job of building off all the archetypal elements of the previous three Craig films, and made this film as seminal as YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE or ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this will be a divisive film, especially coming off of SKYFALL. This is a film that a lot of the more recent Daniel Craig Bond fans won’t fully understand. But for those of us who have been waiting for this film, this film excels with everything. The gun barrel sequence opens the film, the cheeky humor, Dave Bautista as the classicly eccentric henchmen, the macho alpha respect Bond has with M, the flirty tension with Miss Moneypenny, Q and his gadget room, a fantastic opening credit sequence, an excellent title sequence, and above all: a be-all-end-all Bond villain.

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The ambiguous timeline of the Bond films as a whole is an interesting beast. The plot points and ending of SKYFALL certainly meshes with the Connery films. Why Bond respects M, why Bond has a flirty affinity for Miss Moneypenny, and now in SPECTRE, we’re given the wonderful homage to the main villain’s secret volcanic base, the inevitable scar over his eye, and why the villain hates Bond so very much.

Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter John Logan walked a fine line with with SPECTRE. They delicately and retroactively connected the previous three Bond films into the heart of SPECTRE, yet they kept true to Bond form by making a contemporary film about global chaos and digital espionage. SPECTRE has made the previous Bond films better, by connecting them in the way the Connery Bond films (including Lazenby’s singular film) were all connected by one thing: a shadow conspiracy.

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There is no doubt, regardless of all the tabloid games that have been played recently, that Daniel Craig will return for at least one more film. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam Mendes returned for the next film as well. Sam Mendes, John Logan and Daniel Craig knew exactly what they were doing and have struck gold with SPECTRE.

Full disclosure: I have owned every Bond film, sans NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, from VHS to Blu Ray, and I will quadruple dip on the 4K Blu Rays next year.

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