You got snubbed, yo! – “Seven Psychopaths” & “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D”

Now I know what the two of you are probably thinking right now – when, Matthew, WHEN are you going to review both the films that won Golden Globe Awards last Sunday, and the nominees for the upcoming Academy Awards? Well, my original plan was to review the Best Picture Golden Globe nominees before the ceremony itself, but I found myself watching “Les Miserables” and “Silver Linings Playbook” for the first time, right before the ceremony aired on television. Shame on me, I know! Then I decided to try my luck after the post-Golden Globe hype died down (most of which was based on Argo’s shocking win in the Best Picture category) but that didn’t work due to lack of time. And in case you were wondering, yes. I too was fucking shocked that Ben Affleck’s film won for Best Picture and Best Director (who’d have thought it was able to beat both “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty”? Wow!).

 

But then I remembered the movies from last year that I haven’t seen, have heard and read good and bad things about (depending on the film, of course) and have been collecting virtual dust on my hard drive for weeks. One of these movies was the second feature film from British playwright, screenwriter and film director Martin McDonagh: the dark comedy “Seven Psychopaths”. Film critics and audiences praised the film, making specific mention to the performances and screenplay. It even managed to find its way onto certain top 10 best films lists. Unfortunately for the cast, crew and fans of “Seven Psychopaths”, the film didn’t even get nominated for a Golden Globe or an Academy Award. Now, I’m not saying that EVERY film that gets good reviews deserves a Golden Globe or Academy Award nomination to accentuate its “goodness”, but it is a shame that “small” films like “Seven Psychopaths” get overshadowed by bigger-budgeted and over-hyped films that become the subject of Oscar buzz and debate (*cough*”Les Miserables” *cough).  So I decided to review this film and acknowledge the fact that it was technically “snubbed” (or should I say blatantly ignored) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

And then one morning….actually it was last morning…..I noticed a familiar movie title on my favourite torrent site. Like Resident Evil: Retribution, the title was based on a popular, horror-themed video game franchise. And like Resident Evil: Retribution, it was critically BUTCHERED by many reviewers. However, unlike Resident Evil: Retribution (note: legend has it that if you type the title ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’ THREE times in a paragraph, there will be another sequel. Oops.), it wasn’t even nominated for a Razzie Award (i.e. the shitty-movie equivalent of the Academy Awards). Milla Jovovich rightfully earned her nomination for Worst Actress, although many people are “rooting” for The Twilight Saga’s own Kristen Stewart to win (and who can fucking blame them?).  But it is funny – not a shame like “Seven Psychopaths” ….just funny – that the unwanted and unnecessary sequel known as “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” didn’t even get nominated for one Razzie. Maybe it’s because nobody gave a rat’s ass about it initially, or because moviegoers who actually wasted money to see it on the big screen either underwent lobotomies or committed mass suicide.

 

And thus sparked my ULTIMATE IDEA – for this post, that is. I will review a Golden Globe/Oscar snub AND a Razzie snub, and I shall give this post a special ebonics-inspired title: “YOU GOT SNUBBED, YO!”  (not to be confused with “YO, YOU GOT SNUBBED!”). And not to worry, lady and gent, I will review the Oscar nominees very soon (hopefully before the ceremony and not…ahem…afterwards. Shame on me, I know!)

 

So without further ado, it’s time for the first (and probably last, depending on how I feel) episode of “YOU GOT SNUBBED, YO!”

 

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“SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS” –  Los Angeles screenwriter Marty Faranan (played with his authentic accent by Irish-born actor Colin Farrell) is struggling to finish his latest screenplay “Seven Psychopaths” (hey, that’s the name of THIS movie!). As the title suggests, the script is about seven psychopaths (or should I say, serial killers), but Marty finds difficulty in finalizing his ideas due to his regular bouts with alcoholism. As you’ve already gathered, Marty is the literal poster boy for most, if not all, Irish screenwriters. Anyhoo, he finds inspiration in stories about real-life serial killers and, quite recently, a newspaper article on the mysterious “Jack of Diamonds”, a gun-toting killer who leaves a Jack playing card on the body of his dead victim. Marty’s best friend, Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), an unemployed actor turned kidnapper of dogs just to return them to the owners and get cash rewards for them (BEST…JOB…EVER!), assists him – and annoys him – during his brainstorming phase. One day, Billy, with the help of his partner-in-crime Hans Kieslowski (played by the iconic Christopher Walken), steals a Shih Tzu. They later realize that the dog belongs to Chris Costello (Woody Harrelson), a violently unstable gangster. Chris, of course, wants his Shih Tzu back and he plans to kill the person(s) responsible for its kidnapping. Through his friendship with Billy, Marty becomes entangled in Chris’ violent search for his dog. And so begins Marty’s adventure, involving dogs, psychopaths, the “Jack of Diamonds” and his yet-to-be-completed screenplay, that’s anything but normal.

 

At first glance, “Seven Psychopaths” looks and feels like a blend of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue-heavy crime films (“Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” quickly come to mind) mixed with Guy Ritchie’s Cockney gangster comedies (like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”). But in its bare-bones essence, the film is actually about screenwriting and the process of brainstorming. Anyone who’s ever written, or tried to write, a script knows that it’s hard to come up with a concrete idea for a film when you have so much related ideas swimming in your brain. And the temptation of putting all of these ideas into one story runs through the mind of many screenwriters. The film’s narrative feels like the subconscious of a screenwriter playing “connect the dots” with ideas related to the story that he/she wants, or should I say hopes, to tell. There’s the story about Marty wanting to complete his script, and that’s connected with the ideas he has for the script (which are periodically visualized in the film with doses of blood, bullets and fucked-up humour), the ideas are connected to the psychopaths (dead or alive) who inspired them and so forth. As a result, the narrative appears to be disjointed and unfocused at times. But that simply adds to the film’s unpredictability, uniqueness and, dare I say, fun.

 

Apart from the film’s concept of a work-in-progress screenplay come to life, “Seven Psychopaths” is a celebration of the psychopaths and serial killers that graced the silver screen (I’ve always wondered if the screen itself is really silver, or is it dingy from dirt, dust and cooking oil from popcorn kernels being thrown onto the screen over the yearsthroughout the years, and a clever deconstruction of the conventions of serial killer-themed films. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, and just when you think a character will say or do something that you expect, the film takes a deliberately unexpected turn. This results in an odd mix of humour and bloodshed. Of laugh-out-loud moments and “HOLY SHIT! Did that just happen?!!” moments, Of “Okay, I can relate to him” characters and “Okay, he is really fucked up” characters. And through the careful hand, and creative vision of Martin McDonagh, this mixture works!

 

Martin does a fantastic job writing and directing “Seven Psychopaths”. The story feels consistent and fresh, with an overall neo-noirish vibe. The acting is top-notch, with standout performances by Sam Rockwell (who steals the show as the kooky-ass, outrageously over-the-top Billy Bickle) and Christopher Walken (who acts like a funny and fully-realized character instead of a parody of himself and his distinguishable acting style). Amidst the blood and violence (and there’s a substantial amount of both), the film boasts gorgeous cinematography, a great soundtrack and enough dialogue and hilarity to have you laughing from start to finish. “Seven Psychopaths” may feel a bit too unconventional to the casual viewer, but if you love your movies with great performances, a great screenplay, and a sense of self-reflexivity, then you will find much to appreciate with this film. And if you’re a dog lover, the film has some REALLY cute dogs! And don’t you worry:- none of them were shot, stabbed or incinerated during the making of this film. 🙂

 

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“SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D” –  And now we have “Silent Hill: Revelation in the Third Dimension” or “Silent Hill R3D” or whatever the fuck you want to call it. For those who actually care, it’s a continuation of the first “Silent Hill” film of 2006 which I forgot – and I presume 90% of the world’s population forgot as well. Continuing from the events of the film which I can’t remember, Christopher (played by “Game of Thrones'” very own Sean Bean) and his daughter Sharon (some chick named Adelaide Clemens) are on the run from an evil cult from Silent Hill, a town set in a ghostly alternate dimension. Sharon’s mother Rose (Radha Mitchell) is trapped in Silent Hill, and Christopher seeks to rescue her. Anyhoo, Sharon is burdened by nightmares and nightmarish visions involving Silent Hill’s demonic denizens. Though Sharon has no memory of what occurred in the first film (like I do), Christopher clearly does, and he warns his daughter to never go to Silent Hill. But when her father mysteriously disappears, and a message (“Come to Silent Hill”) is painted on the living-room wall of her home,  she disobeys her father’s warnings (OBVIOUSLY) and heads over to good ol’ Silent Hill. Helping her on her ill-advised quest is Vincent (played by “Game of Thrones'” very own Kit Harrington), a classmate at the school Sharon is shown attending for about five minutes in the film. When the two members of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated arrive at Silent Hill, a LOT of weird, bizarre shit takes place, all of which involves the demonic denizens from Sharon’s dreams, and the cult itself (led by “The Matrix Trilogy’s” very own Carrie-Anne Moss of all people) that already has plans for Sharon.

 

First of all, I don’t remember enjoying the first Silent Hill film. Secondly, I NEVER played the Silent Hill video games (which are hailed as some of the most genuinely SCARY-ASS video games ever made) and I have no intention of playing these games at any point in time in my existence. So I’m not judging “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” as not being faithful to the source material or anything like that. I’m judging it as a film and nothing more. With that being said, “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” is a piece of shit and nothing more!  The story, if any, is weak, poorly written, uninteresting and fucking boring. Yes, I said it! BORING! The film relies too much on jump scares and bizarre imagery to try to disturb (I can’t even say scare) the viewer. And I will admit there is a lot of freaky-ass imagery in this movie. But when you have a story that’s incomprehensible and uninteresting from the get-go, this imagery makes little to no sense. The acting feels forced and uninspired. The talents of Sean Bean, Kit Harrington (who were both excellent in “Game of Thrones”) and Carrie-Anne Moss (who played Trinity in “The Matrix Trilogy” if you already forgot) are completely wasted in this film. There’s even a cameo appearance by Malcolm McDowell (whom older audiences will remember from the timeless dystopian satire “A Clockwork Orange” and younger audiences will remember from the HBO comedy-drama series “Entourage”) that’s incredibly, and ashamedly, awful. In the end, “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” is a pathetic, lackluster attempt to capture the horrific feel of a now-legendary horror video game franchise and translate it to the screen. And it solely succeeds at becoming yet another example of why video game movies suck balls. Long story short, do not see this movie. Do not even attempt to see this movie, unless you’re a sucker for punishment like I (unfortunately) am. But if you, like Sharon, choose to disobey my order, you WILL regret it. And trust me, you’ll want a lobotomy done to you after you see it. It’s either that or suicide. Take your pick, my friend.

 

MY RATING:

“SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS” – 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Worth a look”)

“SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D” –  1/2 out of 5 stars (“Burn this movie….literally”)

– Matthew

Definitely see this movie – “Django Unchained”

And here we are, ladies and gentlemen: the 60th post in my blog and the 1st post for 2013! It is truly amazing that this movie review project of mine (that I’ve always wanted to do, by the way) lasted for so long. And it’s even more amazing that I wrote 57 reviews (excluding the Halloween and end-of-the-world-related “special announcement” posts, which weren’t reviews to begin with) during the course of nearly a year and a half. But I must say that this accomplishment (astounding by even my standards) wouldn’t have been possible without the kind assistance of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting…..

 

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…. and from contributions from viewers like you. Thank you.

 

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Come on! I was just bullshittin’! I was simply poking fun at those PBS TV shows which, ever since I discovered “Sesame Street” at an early age, were always “made possible” by the CPB and “viewers like you” (whoever the hell they are). But whether you understood that joke or not, “A Legally Black Blog” couldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for you, the diligent readers of my posts. Had it not been for your support during the past 16 months, my reviews, and my blog as a whole, would have been meaningless. Thank you so much.

 

Wait a minute. Are those man tears in my eyes?

 

Anyhoo, we begin this year’s proceedings with a film that I’ve been dying to see last month, but was unable to since it wasn’t released in Trinidad at that time. Of course, I’m referring to one of the most highly-anticipated films of 2012: “Django Unchained”, Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the western genre that I bet will NEVER be aired on the Encore Westerns cable channel for the next four decades, for reasons that I’ll state later on in this review.

 

Without further ado, let’s begin!

 

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“DJANGO UNCHAINED” –  Set during the Pre-Civil War Era, this film follows the exploits of Django (pronounced “Jango”; “The D is silent” according to the man playing the role, Jamie Foxx), a freed slave who forms an unlikely partnership with a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz). Django agrees to help Schultz in his bounty hunting business, provided that Schultz helps him locate and rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was sold to an unknown buyer at a recent slave auction. The two learn that her new owner is Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a gentlemanly yet brutal Mississippi plantation owner. Django and Schultz’s plan to rescue Broomhilda becomes complicated when Calvin’s head slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) gets involved. Will Django ride away into the sunset with his wife, or will they spend the rest of their lives in chains? And how much blood will be shed by the film’s conclusion? And did Samuel L. Jackson really have enough with the motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane (or as they say on network television: “monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane”)? I swear that line gets funnier and funnier every time I hear it. Anyways, these questions will definitely be answered in “Django (The D is Silent) Unchained”!

 

When the film opens with the theme song from the 1966 spaghetti western “Django” (the primary influence of “Django Unchained”), and 60’s western-style opening credits, you know you’re watching a Quentin Tarantino film. Tarantino is a film buff in every sense of the term, and all of his movies are visual and thematic homages to the films that he loves, understands and appreciates. He also takes risks in revamping, or should I say resurrecting, film genres of the 1960s and 1970s like blaxploitation (1997’s “Jackie Brown”) and martial arts/chanbara (2003/2004’s “Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2” ). “Django Unchained” is no different. The film is a stylish, entertaining, and dare I say, wickedly funny take on both the spaghetti western and the blaxploitation western genres.  I say wickedly funny because in the world of Quentin Tarantino, there’s always a funny, memorable line of dialogue being spoken or a moment of random violence that you can’t help but laugh at – and then feel ashamed that you did laugh in the first place.  And this film delivers both, in equal volumes. The dialogue is expertly conceived by Tarantino himself, with enough lines to quote for days after you’ve seen this film. Tarantino has earned his legendary status of being both a great screenwriter and director, and apart from the dialogue, the film also boasts magnificent direction from the man himself.

 

As this is a Tarantino film, you’re bound to expect some sort of violence. And I can safely say that this shit is FUCKING VIOLENT! The violent content in this film winds up in two categories: gleefully pervasive violence that will make you laugh, cheer or drop your jaw; and shocking acts of brutality that are sure to bring you back to reality when it comes to the topic of slavery. “Django Unchained” is set during the slavery era of America’s history, and it always reminds you of the barbaric treatment, and verbal and mental dehumanizing, of African slaves by white Americans. But thankfully, the film never glorifies slavery or the brutality involved in it – and with its emphasis on story and character, it completely avoids hammering into the skulls of the audience the harsh realities of slavery.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Spike Lee (who ranks among my list of favourite directors, along with Tarantino, of course) refuses to see this film. Upon the film’s release on Christmas Day, Spike tweeted “American Slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a Holocaust”. And while I won’t go into any debate on Spike’s view of “Django Unchained”, I will say that I do understand his stance on the matter. Slavery, regardless of country, era or situation, is not something to glamorize. However, Tarantino is NOT glamorizing slavery in this film. Like I stated earlier, the film is a homage to the blaxploitation western, and in that sub-genre of westerns, the heroes were black and the villains were white. In this film, Tarantino presents just that, but instead of presenting all the white characters as racist, there’s one sympathetic white character: Dr. King Schultz. Like “Inglourious Basterds” before it, the film doesn’t present history as it actually was. This is American history through the eyes of Quentin Tarantino and no one else. He’s not presenting an account of slavery, but an American Western within the context of slavery. That’s the way I see it. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Moving along….

 

Viewers may be turned off by the extensive use of the word “nigger” in the film, and in actuality, this isn’t the first Tarantino film to spark this controversy. Spike Lee was famously pissed off at Tarantino for his inclusion of the word “nigga” in the dialogue of “Jackie Brown” (spoken by the black actors in the film, including Samuel L. Jackson). But from what I gathered from its use in “Django Unchained”, the word isn’t used to insult the black viewers watching the film, but to show ironically how the use of the word “nigger” was just as commonplace back then as the use of the word “nigga” is in today’s society.  It’s easy for a black individual today to use the term since it has become the norm, but I won’t be surprised if seeing white people use it in the film will make him or her re-consider the demeaning history behind it.

 

The acting in “Django Unchained”, like all other Tarantino films before it, is TOP-NOTCH! Jamie Foxx shines as Django, and Christoph Waltz (who won a Best Actor Academy Award for his role in “Inglourious Basterds”) gives another Oscar-worthy performance as Dr. King Schultz. Like I stated above, his character is surprisingly sympathetic to Django, which is ironic since most, if not all, of the white characters in the film are unsympathetic to the plight of the black slaves. He delivers some of the film’s best lines of dialogue and steals every scene he’s in. But it’s both Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio that ultimately steal the show. DiCaprio was fucking brilliant as the film’s villain (who’d have thought?!). His character switches from a charming Southern gentleman to a cold, frighteningly brutal son of a bitch with such ease that you can’t help but like and hate him at the same time. Samuel L. Jackson plays arguably the greatest “Uncle Tom” ever put to celluloid – and I mean that in a good way. His character of Stephen is the epitome of what an Uncle Tom is: he despises black people (and subconsciously himself for being black) while literally kissing the ass of the white man.  The rest of the cast were great as well, including a couple of cameo appearances that will have you laughing, and one cameo that’s clearly Tarantino’s way of honouring the film that started it all: the original, and still classic, “Django”.

 

If there is one downside to the film, I would say it is the story’s structure. Now don’t get me wrong – the story is well-crafted. But it feels more like a four-act structure than the customary three-act structure that we’ve come to expect from any film. Not to spoil anything, but there’s a moment in the film that you will assume is the climax of the film, when it’s actually a plot point leading to the final act. In other words, your expectations will be raised as you expect the film to end at that point, only to have them slightly disappointed when you realize there’s more to go. As a result, the film feels longer than it actually is – and yes, this movie is ridiculously long (165 minutes to be precise). But this is a minor peeve, considering the great story, great performances, great dialogue and great sequences that make up the entire duration of this film. Yeah I said it, ENTIRE!

 

“Django Unchained” is, from start to finish, a masterful work from Quentin Tarantino, and undoubtedly one of his best films. And as you may have gathered, I LOVED this movie! It was everything that I expected from a Tarantino film, and so much more! Had I seen it last month, I would have easily included it into my Top 10 Best Films of 2012 list. And I know it’s 2013, but fuck it! I’ma say it! “Django Unchained” is, without a doubt, one of the best movies of 2012. If you haven’t seen it, get on your horse and ride to the nearest movie theater and check it out! But be forewarned that the film is ridiculously violent, and unflinching in terms of its depiction of slavery, so watch with caution. However, if you’re one of many who STILL don’t understand the genius and awesomeness that is Quentin Tarantino, then stay home and watch PBS. At least your viewership will help keep their shows on-air.

 

MY RATING:

“DJANGO UNCHAINED” – 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Definitely see this movie”)

 

– Matthew