Quentin Tarantino won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for a film that used some form of the N-word more than 110 times. Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; both roles were in Tarantino films. Sam Jackson returns for his sixth go-round with Tarantino dialogue. There’s so many cool aspects of this Southern/Western flick, we forget that Jamie Foxx kicks ass as Django. It’s not worth denying, Tarantino movies are events. You know from the opening credits, he’s going to jump genres and produce a smart film that transcends. Or in the immortal words of a film critic who made movie reviews interesting to read, Roger Ebert, “Tarantino has an appreciation for gut-level exploitation film appeal, combined with an artist’s desire to transform that gut element with something higher, better, more daring.” Two Thumbs Up, Roger, and Tarantino makes another one that’s really worth a watch.
“This is 40”
Judd Apatow is another iconic writer/director/producer. His reach goes back to the early ‘90s, too. He got noticed writing for “The Ben Stiller Show.” But his work on “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” showed what you could do with comedy chemistry when you added in the right elements. He’s done it repeatedly since. But his last directorial effort, “Funny People,” was long and flat. He returned to tried-and-true material here with an almost sequel to “Knocked Up.” It highlights that film’s co-stars, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and the kids, Iris and Maude Apatow (Yes, Mann is Apatow’s real-life wife and these are his kids). Jason Segel reprises his role. Apatow throws in his female protégé, Lena Dunham, and the Megan Fox addition is unexpected. There are laughs but the movie runs for more than two hours and the middle-aged marital discontent begins to wear thin soon after the first hour. Apatow doesn’t make terrible movies because he trusts stars like Rudd to carry weak scenes and he does. But the best parts of his films are beginning to be the gag reels. It’s worth a watch, but barely.
Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky won a Best Foreign Film Oscar back in 2007 for “The Counterfeiters.” That film opened up the opportunity for him to make this tense film noir about a Thanksgiving dinner – OK, it’s actually about a robbery gone wrong, but a Thanksgiving dinner does play a pivotal role in the plot. Starring Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde – Wilde does a decent job, while Bana nails it. Co-starring Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek and Charlie Hunnam from “Sons of Anarchy” – Hunnam is distractingly bad, but Spacek and Kristofferson show why they’re still getting quality work at an advanced age. Ruzowitzky displays some directing chops, but it doesn’t shine like “The Counterfeiters.” Even though it falls into predictability, it still has enough juicy deadpan action to keep it interesting – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge