Django Unchained (2012)
Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers. However, his recent films have left me wanting more. It’s not that they were necessarily bad, mind you, but they didn’t have the creative spark present in his earlier work. All of that changes with “Django Unchained.” Although the movie delves into uncomfortable areas of American history, the film is much more entertaining than I thought it would be. Django’s quest to save his wife from the clutches of a flamboyant slave owner is powered by a number of strong performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christoph Waltz. However, it’s Jamie Foxx’s turn as the title character that keeps you glued to the screen. His transformation from broken man to six-shooting hero is slow and steady and an utter joy to watch. While the flick may not have the depth of “Jackie Brown” or “Pulp Fiction,” “Django Unchained” is just as memorable. I can’t wait for this thing to land on Blu-ray. Repeat viewings are required. Dark, bloody, and brilliant.
Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s 2008 dark comedy “In Bruges” is one of my favorite movies of all time. No joke. It’s one I’m quick to recommend to just about everyone, regardless of their taste in cinema. Although McDonagh’s sophomore effort doesn’t reach the heights of his directorial debut — then again, how could it — “Seven Psychopaths” is a wonderful motion picture in its own weird way. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, an alcoholic screenwriter who gets entangled in his friend’s dog kidnapping scheme. When the goofball snatches a local gangster’s Shih Tzu, all hell breaks loose. Like “In Bruges,” McDonagh balances the on-screen carnage with a surprising amount of heart, depth, and emotion. There’s just as much enlightenment by the end of the film as there is bloodshed. Even the most despicable characters are somewhat sympathetic, including Sam Rockwell’s severely misguided Billy. “Seven Psychopaths” at times reminded me of a Coen brothers movie, which is definitely a compliment. Had I made a top 10 list last year, this definitely would have been towards the top. Damn near perfect.
Author Briane Keene’s 2007 novel “Ghoul” is a touching tale of friendship, growing up, and monsters that live in graveyards. Although these themes are present and accounted for in director Gregory Wilson’s 2012 adaptation of the book, it doesn’t come close to packing the same punch. The film tells the story of three friends who often play together in a secret underground chamber they discovered in the woods. When something starts killing residents of their sleepy hometown, they band together to stop this menace before it kills again. Instead of adopting the disturbing nature of the source material, Wilson and company constructed a feature that strongly resembles a made-for-TV movie designed as filler on ABC Family’s Halloween line-up. The performances from the adults are shaky, the monster is cheesy, and there’s nary a scare to be found. My advice: take a trip to your local library and see if they can find you a copy of “Ghoul.” It’s a much more satisfying experience overall.