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Tag Archive: Django Unchained


   

Review by C.J. Bunce

The second of the new TKO Studios titles we dived into this weekend is The 7 Deadly Sins.  Yesterday we reviewed Sara, which conjured scenes from Sands of Iwo Jima, and now The 7 Deadly Sins feels like a modern twist on the John Ford/John Wayne classics Stagecoach (celebrating its 80th anniversary this year) and The Searchers.  Despite the basic story building blocks from a John Ford movie, this isn’t a John Wayne film or Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western, or something like more recent Western comic book series like Dynamite’s The Lone Ranger.  This is a far less traditional Western–far from Classics Illustrated, this is a story that could wrap up the trilogy of Quentin Tarentino’s bloody violent modern Westerns The Hateful 8 and Django Unchained. 

1867.  A post-Civil War frontier “cowboys and Indians” era tale, the story introduces readers to a white man raised as Comanche whose signature is a unique style of scalping homesteaders and U.S. Cavalry soldiers.  A priest wants to broker an unholy peace with the Comanche, and a black ex-Union corporal named Jericho Marsh is trying to find his daughters.  Marsh finds himself in jail and breaks out with a pregnant ex-slave, a cannibalistic ex-Confederate soldier, a Chinese prisoner, a well-known crack shot, and a woman mistaken for a man, and they bring on an orphaned mountain boy and a Comanche child along the way.  The story pulls from Three Godfathers and The Magnificent Seven–not so much derivative, it pulls on the strings of plenty of Western tropes.  A handful of strangers, all outlaws, must join to fight off the Cavalry, a wealthy landowner, and Comanches, and it’s anyone’s guess who might make it out alive.

The 7 Deadly Sins comes from writer Tze Chun (Gotham, Once Upon a Time), artist Artyom Trakhanov (Undertow, Turncoat) and if the color work looks familiar to Western readers that may be because it’s created by Giulia Brusco (Scalped, Django Unchained).  Letters are by Southern Bastards’ Jared K. Fletcher.  Parts of Trakhanov’s panels are drawn similar to the very traditional, archaic layouts of Stan Sakai’s Japanese motif Westerns, landscape shots reminded me of the stark feel of Moritat’s work on the Jonah Hex book, All-Star Western, and choreographed action sequences carry the more stylized influence of Frank Miller’s interiors later in his career.

Take a look at these great preview pages:

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DjangoZorro010-Cov-A-Lee

Last year long-time comic book fan Quentin Tarentino used the original version of his Academy Award winning screenplay to create an unprecedented eight-issue limited series from Dynamite Comics of his acclaimed film Django Unchained.  Tomorrow Tarentino teams up with writer/artist Matt Wagner and artist Esteve Polls to release the first ever sequel to one of his films with the Dynamite crossover series Django/Zorro.

Django returns years after the events of the film as a bounty hunter out in the Old West.  He has settled his wife safely in Chicago, and meets up with the legendary Diego de la Vega, that masked man with the sword known as Zorro.

DjangoZorro010-Cov-B-Francavilla

Django joins up as a bodyguard for the tough de la Vega and begins their first adventure together protecting the interests of the innocent.  It all begins tomorrow.

Courtesy of Dynamite Comics, check out this preview of Django/ Zorro, Issue #1:

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Django Unchained trade paperback cover

He’s a unique, visionary filmmaker of his generation.  And he really likes Western comic books.

In the foreword to the graphic novel adaptation of his Academy Award winning film Django Unchained, Quentin Tarentino gives credit where credit is due, and why the comic book format is squarely appropriate for a director’s cut of his screenplay–the screenplay that won him a second Oscar for a screenplay after his win for Pulp Fiction.

Vertigo Comics’ Django Unchained was originally released last year as a six-part comic book adaptation of Tarentino’s four-hour long, first draft of the screenplay, later spread out over seven issues.  It’s a long narrative and by the end of part seven you will understand why editors exist.  That said, it’s a good tool for story writers, as his opening scene, measured pacing, and character development provide a window into the creative process of this singular screenwriter.  It features an adaptation of Tarentino’s work for the medium by Reginald Hudlin and most of the interior art was rendered by Serbian artist R.M. Guéra (who also served as artist on Jason Aaron’s Scalped) providing his own Western style.  Plenty of covers are featured, too, including one of Alex Ross’s best, Django walking from the burning house, which served as the cover to the final issue.

Alex Ross Django Unchained

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Django Unchained - Still A

By C.J. Bunce

How does a Western get nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in 2013? As recently as two years ago the remake of True Grit was nominated for Best Picture and nine other nominations—but did not net a single win.  But would it have been nominated if it hadn’t been directed by the quirky directing duo of Joel and Ethan Coen?  Five years earlier Brokeback Mountain, a film with a Western—or at least a cowboy– theme was also nominated for Best Picture, winning three of eight nominations.  It took director Ang Lee and a completely non-Western plot for that to happen.  Then you have to go back to Unforgiven in 1992, which actually won Best Picture and four of nine of its nominations, to find the last major, critically acclaimed Western.

What made Unforgiven win?  Certainly by supplying one of the two most popular Western actors of all time as the film’s lead helped, even if it was one of his more bland performances, with Clint Eastwood also serving as director. (Yes, John Wayne still remains the #1 most popular Western actor ever).  But more importantly, like the few notable Westerns since, it had a very non-standard plot for a Western.  With its gunfighter-turns-farmer-turns-gunfighter-one-last-time story, it was basically a dark sequel to John Wayne’s Angel and the Badman.  You could keep going—back to Dances with Wolves in 1990, an example of the “epic Western” which seemed to reward the director and acting efforts of rising star Kevin Costner more than the movie as a Western genre masterpiece.  Or back to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid in 1969, probably the last classic era Western to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, winning five awards, including a key win for the script by William Goldman.  Then go back to the also-quirky Cat Ballou in 1965 starring Jane Fonda—the rare Western notable for featuring a female lead.

Going back even further gets you into the classic era of Westerns, and throws you into the strange era of “epic Westerns” getting recognized by the Academy.  These were movies that in hindsight are really not as well done as many smaller pictures of the period, but their huge all-star casts and expensive sets made the films hard to ignore, such as How the West Was Won, The Alamo, and Giant.  Surprisingly you have to look back to the adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s Hondo starring John Wayne in 1953 to get back to the era of the “hero Western” as recipient of an Academy nod, a film up there with Shane and High Noon as successful and admired Westerns receiving acclaim by the Academy.

Schultz and Django

But if you put aside the classic Western and look at what has been selected by the Academy since the 1960s it makes a lot of sense that Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained is not only a Best Picture nominee this year, but a real contender for the win.  Set in the South two years before the Civil War, the film follows a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) whose past owners lead him to meet up with German-born, dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).  Schultz’s next target is the wanted-dead-or-alive Brittle brothers, and only Django can help him literally recognize his bounty.  Schultz serves as mentor in survival and pursuit skills for Django who is squarely focused on rescuing long-lost wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  The search ultimately leads to a more complicated than necessary scheme to buy Broomhilda from infamous plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), if only his loyal house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) will not stand in the way.

So what is the formula for a successful Western in the 21st century and why should Django Unchained make the cut?

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Argo film about a film wins Best Motion Picture Golden Globe 2013

It probably makes sense that the Golden Globes allows for more genre win opportunities than the more drama-oriented Academy Awards.  Still, the Globes didn’t go as far as they could with the best of what is on TV and in movies.  Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield not winning in the comedy categories for New Girl is a big miss.  Kevin Costner is a great actor but I don’t see how anyone was a better actor on TV or film this year than Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock.  Fans of genre fave show The Big Bang Theory will be bummed to see that show slighted for best comedy series.  The BBC’s drama The Hour was the best of television for the past two years so there is another miss.

So here is what they got right:

Argo as Best Film.  Check.

Ben Affleck as Best Director for Argo.  Check.

Brave as Best Animated Film.  Check.

Adele for Best Original Song for Skyfall.  Check.

Quentin Tarentino for Best Screenplay for Django Unchained.  Check.

Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained.  Check.

Brave wins Best Animated Film Golden Globe 2013

Although we’re having a hard time getting excited about Homeland‘s slow building second season after its great first season (but we plan to be caught up soon), it’s great to see Homeland lead the TV awards with best drama and acting nods for the always great acting of Daniel Lewis and Claire Danes.

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The Hobbit gets a few but not enough Oscar nominations

In a year where we saw Hollywood market the worst titled movies to us–Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and yes, Silver Linings Playbook, it’s probably no surprise the Oscar nominations were going to be strange this year.  Like always there are really glaring oddities, and after a lot of speculation that we’d see more of the same with the new round of selections, Oscar again fell into its normal traps.

The key problems with the Academy Awards include the marketing barrage that occurs, productions pushing advertising to encourage votes, and even the desire to position the Oscars toward a new, younger audience that becomes evident in more popular than critical nominees.  Over the course of several years of Oscars you see unmistakable patterns that develop and the Academy Awards nominations, if not by design then at least as a result, is its own club that favors past nominees over new entrants.  Same old news this year and more yawns than excitement.  So let’s see what they got right.

Affleck in Argo

Argo for Seven Nominations.  Argo was nominated for seven categories, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing.  So this is all fitting for such a brilliant film.  But no nomination for director Ben Affleck?  You look at his work on Argo compared to the ultimate films up for best director and you really have to shake your head.

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Django Unchained comic book 1 cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the latest word from the various Django Unchained websites is that despite the cancellation of its world premiere it will be released on Christmas Day as planned.  Yesterday Vertigo Comics released Issue #1 of 5 of the Django Unchained comic book adaptation, including the entire first draft script of the film written by director Quentin Tarentino.  Tarentino provides a forward where he lists his various Western comic book inspirations behind the story and reveals that, like his several other films, much of the story must be edited and left on the production floor.  His fanboy status with the Western comic book genre is obvious and engaging.  With the new five-issue comic book series, both he and Scalped artist R.M. Guera include not only what we’ll see on-screen but all the scenes deleted from the film.

Already nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, Django Unchained has offered us a great “D” is silent” marketing campaign, including trailers revealing the plot of a slave in the Civil War-era South named Django who is enlisted by a bounty hunter who needs Django to identify three wanted men.  It’s an uncomfortable setting and premise by design, and the comic book offers up the introduction of the main characters and initial story conflicts, which include some real-world 1800s violence and prejudices.  The Django Unchained blog offers up what it was like for the actors to be bombarded daily with the “n” word, for example.  In light of the dark world explored in the comic book, it does seem like Tarentino would be lying to viewers by not including 1800s prejudices and language.  So be ready for that if you check out the comic book or movie.

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If you missed Season One of Showtime’s TV series Homeland, now is a good time to catch up, as Season 2 begins September 30, 2012.  I didn’t watch Homeland until the season wrapped, but once I started, it was really hard to walk away.  It’s nothing like anything I normally like–it’s a real-life drama, which usually I find boring and not “escapist” enough for me.  But tight writing and good actors made this one stand out.  Like Django Unchained this year, Homeland was last year’s biggest promoted new thing at Comic-Con–its banners were almost billboard sized and could be found everywhere you looked.  Why promote something that is not “genre” at Comic-Con then?  I think it goes back to the actors.

The lead is Damian Lewis, star of the short-lived but brilliant two-year series Life, where he co-starred with Sarah Shahi, who went on to star in USA Network’s successful series Fairly Legal.  Lewis is British, but you wouldn’t know it from his roles in Life or Homeland.  In Life he was a cop wrongly convicted of a crime and jailed for it, to later get off and come back to the force after winning a giant settlement against the state.  In Homeland, he is an American soldier held captive in war in the Middle East.  In captivity he converted to Islam, and when he returns to the States he is a hero, but was he “turned” to become a double agent?  We find out answers to several questions in Season One.

His co-star is the award-winning actress Claire Danes (Stardust, Terminator 3, Princess Mononoke, Shopgirl), who is brilliant as a CIA agent who is tracking a message from an informant that she believes points to Lewis’s character as a spy.  She is a mess.  She has a mental disorder that she takes medicine for and this contributes to what may be paranoia or an incredible insight into the reality of what is happening.  She uses illegal and uncommon methods to make her case, which land her out of the system and left to sign up for electric shock therapy to try to repair herself.

Then you get to the two key supporting actors.  None other than Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin (Alien Nation, Castle in the Sky) plays Danes’s character’s boss, who looks after her but only so far, has his own life problems by being overly devoted to his job, and commits a strange and unthinkable act toward the end of Season One.  Firefly’s own Morena Baccarin (V, Stargate SG-1, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League) plays Lewis’s character’s wife, who waited for her MIA husband to return before becoming romantically involved with his best friend, leading to much of the conflict at home for Lewis’s character.

So the actors alone–familiar in several ways to genre fans–are enough to give Homeland a try.  Once you do, you will probably get hooked, too.  And if you don’t believe me, trust Jonathan Frakes, who recently commented that he and his wife get excited about each episode of the series.

Here is a brief trailer for Season Two of Homeland, released by Showtime (the original version was pulled by Showtime from YouTube for some reason):

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Has Quentin Tarentino won any big mainstream awards since he won the best screenplay Academy Award for Pulp Fiction?  So what’s going to be his next big winner?  He was nominated for best director for Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds.  I think Jackie Brown is one of the best and coolest retro films ever made.  His Kill Bill series and Grind House films I could probably take or leave.

What about Leonardo DiCaprio?  He has garnered Academy Award nominations for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator and Blood Diamond.  He won a Golden Globe Award for The Aviator.  But no Oscar yet?

Inglourious Basterds was an incredible, bloody violent Dirty Dozen meets Guns of Navarone World War II epic, bizarre, parallel history (?) action film (the one where Brad Pitt leads a group of American soldiers scalping Nazis).  The standout performance was Christoph Waltz as the most vile Nazi fiction character in movie history, maybe second only to Ralph Fiennes’ performance as a similar real-life villain in Schindler’s List.  But where Fiennes didn’t win the Oscar, Waltz walked away with one for Inglourious Basterds, and rightly so.  So it is awesome he will be co-star of the new film Django Unchained, along with Jamie Foxx, best actor Oscar winner for playing Ray Charles brilliantly in the movie Ray.

At Comic-Con this year, writer Jason McClain shared with me that the Django Unchained promotion booth offsite was informing people if you found one of the “Django girls” in red shirts throughout San Diego and you recited the key phrase “the D is silent” you’d get a coin that you could exchange for a free T-shirt.  We each ended up with two coins, thanks to Jason’s scanning of the crowds.  As Jason says, T-shirts are top-level swag.  For future reference, here are the shirts given away, and if you got one hold onto it, as I think Django Unchained may actually be a big Christmas release hit film this year.

I have a seen a few trailers for Django Unchained, but this is the first trailer that confirmed I will see this movie.  It clearly lays out what the film is about (rare for trailers these days):  A Civil War era bounty hunter (Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Foxx) who can help him track down his bounty in exchange for Django’s freedom and freeing Django’s wife, apparently sold to a rich Rhett Butler type, played by DiCaprio.  Starting with Johnny Cash singing over a slave driver… An unexpected highwayman confrontation…  Bounty hunters?  A western with 1970s soundtrack that sounds like the theme to Shaft?  Think Quentin Tarentino and it all makes sense.

Enjoy this really, really good trailer for Django Unchained

This one is certain to get Oscar nominations in the spring and maybe land a few wins for Foxx, DiCaprio and Tarentino.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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