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By Charles On 31 Dec, 2012 At 05:11 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWell, that’s that: the curtain falls on 2012. An interesting year, in many regards: the WiiU finally gets released (and no, I don’t have one), portable gaming enters a new phase, and gigantic film projects see the light of day.

I spent most of it traveling. Cons, cons and more cons- I hit 14 this year- distracted me from much of the nerd-sphere in 2012. But I still managed to experience a few notable contributions to the geek canon this year. Quality over quantity, I would hope.

wreck-it-ralphWreck-It Ralph: What kind of world do we live in today? A few years ago, Pixar was at the forefront of Disney Animation, producing some of the best animated films in this country, and destroying Dreamworks right and left. (Dragons? pssh, not when we got Buzz Lightyear to save the day!) Then chief creator John Lasseter was pulled out of Pixar, given full control over Disney’s entire animation department, and set loose to change the future of the company. In 2011, Pixar gave us Cars 2, and Disney unveiled Tangled.

In 2012, Pixar gave us Brave, and while that was a heartwarming, beautiful fable about the love between mother and daughter, it didn’t hold a candle to what Lassie threw at us in November.

Like Toy Story before it, Wreck-It Ralph was a loving tribute to the bond between man and machine, gamer and game, player and toy. But it was so much more than that. It was an open greeting to gamers from any generation, be it the old arcade days, or the new shooter co-op networkers. It was a massive in-joke, targeted at both the children flocking to see the huge-handed antihero save the day, and the parents “dragged” along to chaperone. It was an alternative to the father/daughter dynamic that Disney championed all through the 90s. It was by far the BEST VIDEO GAME MOVIE EVER MADE! Why? Because unlike any adaptation or “re-invention” of a classic story, Wreck It Ralph wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t-  it was a film about games, for the people who play them. It wasn’t even a video game movie, really, it was a movie about the love and power of video games themselves.

My only question now is, “When Can I See You Again?”

the-dark-knight-rises-vs-the-avengersSummer Superhero Blockbusters: I refuse to acknowledge Avengers vs Dark Knight Rises. That’s just not a fair comparison. Both films embodied their respective “genres” and “publisher” perfectly, from Avengers’ bombast and pitched battles, to the cerebral brilliance of Bane. Both films managed to conjure powerful emotions, and keep me rooted to my seat through multiple viewings. Both films left me feeling infinitely satisfied, and yet yearning for more More MORE.

If last year’s crop of hero films set the bar high, this year’s made it impossible to reach. That’s really all that can be said, now that the dust has settled (and the BluRays are on repeat). Given Marvel’s track record these past two years, the sequels might live up to the newly wrought hype, but if not, it doesn’t really matter either. And despite there being news of a new Batman franchise (to lead into a Justice League counter to Marvel’s majesty), I’m in no rush to see how that turns out. Seriously, if this is the last I ever see of these series, I’m happy.

Oh, and Amazing Spider-man was pretty good too.

cwhlv_1Children Who Chase Lost Voices: While this film was technically released last year, it received little real fanfare among the anime-watching demographic. Which is a shame, since this film highlights many of the reasons why director Makoto Shinkai is being called the next Miyazaki. Lush settings, developed characters, silent gods and terrifying monsters abound in this fable about death, loss, the afterlife, and learning to cope. Not since Spirited Away has a film managed to evoke so much emotion, while still remaining  firmly in the realm of whimsy and fantasy. This one is not to be missed.

Nintendo 3DSXL: I resisted buying a 3DS pretty much since it was released. Either the 3D hurt my eyes, or the price was too steep, or there were no games I wanted to play on it- take your pick, I just stalled on buying one for most of the past year, and most of the previous one as well. Finally, seeing a very generous discount on the newly released, gigantic 3DSXL over the holidays, I had to finally buckle down and grab this monster.

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but this unity managed to fix every issue I had with the older model. While I still don’t use the 3D very often (or on a very high setting), its clear that with the XL, Nintendo wanted to prove it was more than just a simple gimmick. A pleasing interface, larger screens that display better resolution than the DS LL ever did, and a worthy selection of new titles have helped convert me into a believer. I still don’t think the 3DS was a necessary release by a long shot, but as an upgrade to an aging DS unit, it’s a more than worthy successor.

Revolution: Since the planet seems to be on the verge of some type of impending armageddon (and definitely NOT the Mayan one, since you’re alive to read this), it’s little surprise all the shows devoted to doomsday- from series about real life preppers to fears of nuclear annihilation to zombies feasting on flesh. Even co-creator Eric Kripke dabbled in the end times during his last two seasons on Supernatural, and JJ Abrams spend a chunk of LOST waxing philosophical about the state of humanity.

BLACKOUT -- Season: Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie, Graham Rogers as Danny, Tim Guiee as Ben, David Lyons as Bass Monroe, Billy Burke as Miles, Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie, Andrea Roth as Rachel, Maria Howell as Grace, Zak Orth as Aaron, Giancarlo Esposito as Lt. Neville  -- (Photo by: Nino Munoz/NBC)But in Revolution, there’s more than just a dystopian alternative future to look forward to. In a world where technology has failed, and electricity just a memory, it is the deeds of the humans living during these trying times that drive the “story” of us all. But whereas other shows rely on aliens, gods and other unreal critters to take us down and force our survivalist instincts to kick in, on Revolution we are our own jailers, as much as we are our only hope. Humanist, provocative and more than a bit surreal, this is a dytopian show about a very real possibility, and it asks more of us the viewer than it asks of its characters.

Psycho Pass: I could easily wax endlessly about the virtues of this series, but I already did a few weeks ago. Let me simply state that the more of this show I see, the more adamant I am about this being the best anime of the past 5 years. If you’re not watching Psycho-Pass, you’re doing it wrong.

NonNonBa: Sometimes fans of manga forget that there’s more to the medium than shounen fights and girls falling in love. NonNonBa is one of those times. Equal parts autobiography and exploration of the hidden world of youkai, Shigeru Mizuki manages to lend a healthy dose of both realism and humanity to his landmark gekiga book, giving  a strong emotional tie to its young hero, and highlighting the “quaint” mannerisms of pre-war Japan, family ties and the realms of mystery that only youth can conjure up. NonNonBa is a splendid example of what manga can accomplish, and does it without big battles, shirtless fighters or swooning ladies.

lobby1Otakon: I never thought I’d be writing these words, but Otakon was my favorite convention this year. Out of a personal-record-breaking 14 cons attended in 2012, Otakon has managed to stand out as the best weekend I had. Not to say that this was a landslide opinion of mine- it faced stiff competition from at least 2 other cons- but it goes to show that sometimes I’m wrong. In this case, my insistence that the biggest anime con on the East Coast could never top the smaller affairs I prefer was proven dead wrong.

Otakon did everything right. Solid guest offerings, decent merchandise variety, wide panel selections and intriguing official programming. It also seamlessly executed the weekend, with no real stumbles (at least in my humble opinion). But what really worked was a flawless melding of fandoms and people, bereft of “annoying” quirks/memes and “holier than thou” attitudes. This was my fourth Otakon, and while I thought last year was the experience I had been craving, it will be 2012 that will go down as the year it all came true.

Cards Against Humanity: Anyone who has ever played Apples to Apples knows this tale- eventually, after hours of seeing the same cards and questions roll around, one player will inevitably look at the question at hand, and drop the Helen Keller card, despite it being terribly inappropriate for the situation. Some people around the table will laugh, some will stare blankly, and some will admonish the person for “being disgusting.” And the game will roll on.

cards_against_humanityNow imagine a game of Apples to Apples where EVERY card is pretty much that situation. That, my friends, is “Cards Against Humanity.” Or, as many of my fellows refer to it, “Apples to Apples for Horrible People.” This game, an early success story courtesy of crowd-sourcing juggernaut Kickstarter, became a mainstay of game rooms and lobbies during the 2012 con season, in some cases pulling together people off the street for a few hours of completely inappropriate fun, at the expense of political correctness, tact and often sleep. The incredibly simple concept of pairing up questions like “What is there a ton of in heaven” and “White People Like_____” with answers ranging from “The 3/5 Compromise” to “Assless Chaps” crossed “boundaries” between attendees (and in one case, non-attendees who happened to know of the game) and led to some very interesting stories over the course of the weekend.

While technically released in 2011, this game will go down as one of the biggest card games of 2012, simply because of its simplicity and appeal. Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to play this game, just go to their website and download the free PDF version, print and go. You will not regret it (at least not the “acquiring part”).

supernatural_8-2Supernatural: I wanted this show to end two seasons ago. I couldn’t understand why the series had to go on after saving the world from the Apocalypse, returning Lucifer to his cage and setting things right, aside from the desire for more $$$ on the part of the producers. What followed after the standout 5th season were two hot damn messes of broken plots, throwaway characters and a whole lot of straw-grabbing (albeit with some true gems mixed in from time to time) that lacked much of the appeal and strong narratives that made the first seasons pure gold. Blame was tossed around, the showrunner was canned at the end of season 7, and fans just hoped for one last chance at glory before their favorite series went the way of the dodo.

Season 8 has completely wiped those feelings away. A return to sharp writing, experimentation and appearances by fan-favorite guests have breathed a new life into the fading series about brothers battling the forces of darkness. While not plodding back into familiar territory, or retreading past story lines, Supernatural has managed to set itself apart from contemporary shows like Grimm and Fringe, once more showcasing why this series has managed to gather such a rabid fan base and cult favorite status among a television landscape full of such shows.

If this is the last season, it will surely go out with a bang. But a part of me hopes its not.

Some honorable mentions:

Skyfall: James Bond + The Dark Knight + Skyrim = BEST BOND EVAR!!!! It’s hard to believe that Sam Mendez directed this, and not Christopher Nolan.

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Django Unchained: Too late to be included here, this is the best spaghetti western since…well…okay, this is the best spaghetti western of all time.

Pokemon White 2: This can be summed up simply- 147 hours. That’s how much time I’ve spent playing both White 2 and Black (since the White 2 release), all in the name of breeding the “perfect dragon.” Right now that title goes to a Dragon Dance Haxorus named Nidhogg, but there’s a Garchomp with Outrage breathing down its neck.

ConnectiCon: Otakon’s closest competition this year  is fast becoming the blueprint for how future fan conventions will play out. This Massively Multi-Genre event crossed boundaries while increasing its profile and experiencing growingpains with stride.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia: While the series can lack focus at times, and has a hilarious copout of an ending, episode 10 is the hands down creepiest thing I’ve seen in an anime aimed at the younger demographic.

By Akodo On 30 Dec, 2012 At 08:30 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarDjango Unchained“D J A N G O… The D is silent!” That line alone should make you want to go see Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Django Unchained. If that’s not good enough, the roster of actors and actresses should: Jaime Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and the list continues. The movie is set roughly two years before the breakout of the Civil War, so its set during a time in America’s history where owning other people as property, manual labor, and many don’t want to acknowledge as this is a part of the history of the United States of America.

Django Unchained follows the hero, Django, played by Jaime Foxx, who is thrown into the world of Bounty Hunting due to him knowing the identities of three of the other hero’s bounties, the German Doctor, Dr. King Schultz, played by the amazing, Christoph Waltz. And the bond between the two beings, quickly forms from there on out. That takes me into the acting throughout the film. And by every acting God upon the film sets, every actor or actress brought their A++ game. Each character, completely believable; each character, you would swear, “Yup these people could have existed in that time period, and acted just as they did.” Foxx’s and Waltz’s on screen chemistry was amazing, and Waltz’s delivery on various idioms or comments on the current situation, were simply astounding. Foxx’s character, Django didn’t talk as much, but when he did, the character command the respect of those involved in the exchange. And in classic, Tarantino style, the funny moments, are poignant, and just down right, awesome. You’ll definitely have moments to laugh your ass off.

Calvin CandieThis brings me to the second half of the movies, super stars, Samuel Leroy Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though they were just supporting actors to Django, they, in my opinion, stole the second half of the movie from Foxx and Waltz. The veracity of Calvin Candie delivery of his suave, southern debonair, and Stephen, his oldest slave and confidant, that even has the enormous respect from the entire household, but still knows, he’s a slave, and even though he is a slave, he uses, every ounce of his power throughout the household, while Calvin is away. And always, with a Tarantino movie, he makes his appearance and something fantastical happens by time he leaves screen.

The story, as I mentioned before, it’s set during pre-civil war times, roughly two years before. And for the historical set piece that Tarantino has created. You honestly believe this is what the young United States of America was like with slavery as the World’s most profitable commodity during that time. Just as it is set during that time, the use of the N-Word, is frequent, as many would expect since that was what the slaves were called, not black, not african, not african-american, not colored. To slave owners, and those who were pro-slavery, they were property and the N-Word. But I digress, as the journey with Django and Schultz, continues and Schultz is willing to teach Django the ways of bounty
Bounty HuntersThe movies scene where you are introduced to Calvin Candie, in the upstairs New Orleans Townhome, you can just see that, this man, is subtle evil, and simply amazingly evil. But that scene from the door opening for Django and Schultz to when they finally leave, you can see how over the top and in love with his lifestyle Candie is. And with all revenge movies, the plan goes awry, and the heroes are found out, but I won’t spoil the rest of the story beyond that, because this movie is worth the money for a ticket nowadays.hunting, and even pay and free him once its complete. Django says in response to the proposal, “You get to shoot white people, and get paid for it? What’s not to like about it.” The story even gives a slight glimpse into the mind of a bounty hunter, that you’re killing people and collecting money, but it does take a toll upon the human psyche, but when that bounty has killed and marauded across the state, it makes it slightly easier. But the main story of the movie is both one of revenge, and rescuing the damsel, Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington from the clutches of the unknown villain.
Jaime in Blue

Visually, the movie is spectacular. The cinematography is especially amazing, from the snowy mountains in the west to the plantations in the south, it feels like, “Yup, this is what it would looked like during that time.” The costumes for every character, simply period perfect, nothing seemed out of place, or more so, they didn’t wear that in 1861, ever, at all. The most memorable costume was Django’s, riding to the plantation of Big Daddy, and him wearing a super blue suede outfit, for him being a valet to Dr. Schultz. And all the while, Django, looked good throughout the subsequent scenes while on the plantation. This brings me to the Tarantino style of movie making, hyper violent, and raw scenes that are bound to come. During certain scenes, the violence is extrapolated, by leaps and bounds. One scene, as they are approaching Candyland with the caravan that is Calvin Candie’s entourage and such, we come upon D’Artagnan, an attempted runaway, but was caught, and what happens next is something, not for the squeamish. So, if you don’t like things like that, then you may want to pass it off until it comes on cable TV with tons of edits.

Schlutz & DjangoDjango Unchained, a classic in the stable of movies created by Quentin Tarantino. If you love any of the actors in the movie, the style that Tarantino delivers, from the violence to the funny, or to just see a great movie. This one is worth the money and surely will have nominations for many of the people attached to the movie. But as I stated, above, if you’re not for the use of the N-Word, in an epic, during slavery, and over the top violence, I’d pass if I were you. But if not, GO! And I’ll leave you with this random fact: Tarantino wrote this movie with Will Smith in mind to play Django; funny how things work out for the better in movie land.
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By otakuman5000 On 16 Dec, 2012 At 11:20 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Previews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarRemaining Oscar Hopefuls 

Hyde Park on Hudson (R)

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West

Directed by: Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes)

(December 7th)

Didn’t get enough of a protagonist with polio in The Sessions? Need a follow-up dose of a stuttering king after 2010’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech? How about a storyline that seems strikingly similar to My Week with Marilyn? Judging from the trailer, all this and more can be found in Hyde Park on Hudson, the tale of a weekend shared between FDR (Murray) and the King of England. Expect the hallmark sentiment, light humor, and uplifting messages that films of this sort aim for around this time of year. The Academy eats that stuff up. It’s likely the film will garner various acting nominations at the least (especially Bill Murray).

 

Zero Dark Thirty (R)

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

(December 19th)

This is Bigelow’s first film since her Best Picture-winning The Hurt Locker. While the narrative was initially about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, it later included his capture and assassination, as he was actually found during the shooting of the film. With a solid cast, timely subject matter that we all care about, and Bigelow at the helm, this one should please audiences and critics alike. Based on twitter buzz and early critics’ screenings, it may also be a polarizing film come year-end roundups. It’s been uniformly assessed as a clinical work with little-to-no emotional resonance, but is equally admired for its storytelling craft and affect. Regardless, it’s currently holding a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and sitting pretty for a strong Oscar presence.

 

The Impossible (PG-13)

Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor

Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage)

(December 21st)

This one will likely walk a thin line between harrowing realism and schmaltzy weepy. Based on a true story, it follows a vacationing white family that gets caught in the catastrophic tsunami inThailandat the end of 2004. The father (McGregor) and two of his three sons get swept one way, while the mother (Watts) and the other son get washed in an opposite direction. The film documents their struggle for survival and reunion, as they try to get on with the people around them. Acts of compassion, commiseration, and diversity ensue. If the film follows suit with its trailer, its greatest flaw may be an Anglo-centrism that ignores Thailand’s natives—the trailer has a single shot of non-white disaster victims.

 

Les Misérables (PG-13)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfreid

Directed by: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)

(Christmas Day)

If you don’t know the songs and/or haven’t read the lengthy book, you’re probably at least familiar with the iconic image of a forlorn-looking little girl and the title that most of us inAmericaaren’t quite sure how to pronounce. Tom Hooper is hunting for some more Oscars to put on his mantel, and he chose solidly beloved material and a stellar cast to back him up. Judging from the trailers, this seems to be the kind of musical that you don’t have to be a senior citizen or a lit major to love.

 

For the Nerd Herds 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13)

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen

Directed by: Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Dead Alive)

(December 14th)

After all the hubbub of seeking and swapping directors, New Line ultimately wound up with Peter Jackson returning to Middle Earth. If you don’t know The Hobbit is J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you should exit this website for a while and consider yourself shamed. First splitting the adaptation into two films, Jackson eventually decided to make it another trilogy. The rumored inclusion of supplemental material from other Tolkien writings is hopefully true, otherwise Jackson will really be stretching the source material to turn a singular and otherwise straightforward novel into three lengthy films (the subsequent installments are subtitled There and Back Again and The Desolation of Smaug). While these films may feel atmospherically different and more minor in scale (we already know what happens), it’s pretty much a guarantee that this prequel trilogy has no chance of suffering a Star Wars-like fate of heartbreaking disappointment and incongruities in the films’ world. Oh yeah, and this one will also have a 3-D release, but the more interesting technological innovation to look out for is its filming in 48 frames per second.

 

Jack Reacher (PG-13)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie (writer for The Usual Suspects, The Wolverine)

(December 21st)

Jack Reacher, a character from a series of Lee Child novels, is incarnated onscreen by a self-assuredly-badass-mode Tom Cruise. It looks like he’ll spend most of the movie walking around with a straight face and clenched fists, dispensing snarky one-liners through unflinchingly stiff lips. The entire thing’s tone will hinge on our ability to buy such a thing. The second trailer (below) is a much more assuring sign than the initial teaser. Reacher is a military homicide investigator who has to clear his name by delving into the case of a captured sniper. The film may fall victim to camp and failed attempts at slick stylishness, but the clever sequence at the end to this trailer should be enough to get people in the theater.

 

Django Unchained (R)

 

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill)

(Christmas Day)

 

What better way to celebrate Christmas cheer than with slavery, bloodshed, and Western-style revenge? Tarantino dabbled in history revision with Inglorious Basterds, and he’s up to it again with Django Unchained. Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave whose wife has been taken from him by a band of evil-doers known as the Brittle Brothers, and sold to a plantation owner played by DiCaprio. Waltz is a bounty hunter who recruits Django to help him track down the Brittle Brothers in exchange for returning him to his wife. At one point it seemed like half of Hollywood had been added to the cast. We’ll see how many of them remained, and whether their cameos will be enriching or just distracting. Early critic buzz on twitter is very good. Jeff Goldsmith (@yogoldsmith) tweeted: “The runtime of Django Unchained is around 2 hours & 40 mins & I wanted it to be longer.”

 

Conventional Holiday Comedies

 

The Guilt Trip (PG-13)

Starring: Seth Rogan, Barbra Streisand

Directed by: Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, Step Up)

(December 19th)

 

Seth Rogan plays an inventor who needs to travel the country and go door-to-door to sell his invention. Are you still reading after that first sentence? Okay, well Barbra Streisand is his mother who is able to guilt him (hence the title) into taking her along on the road trip. Plan on a handful of funny jokes and scenarios, with the first 80 minutes of arguing and humor culminating in a final 10 minutes of mother-son bonding and attempted heartstring pulling.

 

This Is 40 (R)

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks

Directed by: Judd Apatow (The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up)

(December 21st)

 

This one is in the “conventional holiday comedy” category solely based on form. While the rom-com story beats may play out in traditional fashion, we all know Judd Apatow is peerless when it comes to deft modern comedies about American suburbia. We go for the jokes, the insights, and the heartfelt payoffs. This Is 40 is a semi-spin-off to Knocked Up, this time focusing on Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann), previously side characters to Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. The plot is plain and revolves around mid-life crises and middle-class family life, but the execution should be rich and poignant.

 

Parental Guidance (PG)

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Directed by: Andy Fickman (She’s the Man, You Again, The Game Plan)

(Christmas Day)

 

So far, the most interesting thing about Fickman’s filmography is that if you look at his IMDb page, the poster images for She’s the Man, You Again, and The Game Plan (the three films the site selected for what he is known for) are strikingly similar. Parental Guidance had two writers and two re-writers, which isn’t all that promising. A holiday family comedy like this is generally predictable and clichéd so its jokes and setups will make or break its overall success. Crystal and Midler come to town to visit their daughter (Tomei) and her family, and their parenting style begins to clash with their daughter’s.