Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First Impression: Django Unchained

Cinephiles love the summer for more than just the box office: teaser trailers for the fall and winter are popping up and making us wish for cooler weather. Last week, the trailer launched for Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, slated to hit theaters this Christmas. I'm once again joined by my buddy Stephanie of Classified Cinema Club to talk trailer. Here are our thoughts on the preview, as well as our prediction for Tarantino's next picture.

Jess: I admit that I was skeptical when I first heard the concept and read about all of the production issues.
Stephanie: I agree, I just felt like it would be a spaghetti western version of Kill Bill, and it kind of is in some ways. Now that I've seen the characters and more of the plot, I'm somewhat intrigued.
Jess: I thought it would be more of a blaxploitation/Jack Hill kind of movies, but I was pleasantly surprised at how he avoided being too gimmicky.
Stephanie: Good point. I had that fear as well. And you can tell at some moments that Tarantino restrained himself some. But then again, it might be more gimmicky in its full form. (I sure hope this is not the case)
Jess: He did manage to include blood spatter on cotton in the trailer. Somehow, that came across as witty instead of exploitative -- maybe because it was a small spray instead of the classic Tarantino drench.
Stephanie: That's true. Someone should do a paper on Tarantino's use of blood splatter. I'm looking forward to seeing Christoph Waltz in another Tarantino film. Love that guy.
Jess: His accent is a bit off, so I'm hoping there's some explanation for that, like his character is a German immigrant or something.
Stephanie: I feel like I could forgive that if his character is interesting enough. But you're right, hopefully Tarantino provides us with an explanation. Leo's character feels a bit like he was rehearsing for a Scorsese film on drugs.
Jess: But in the best way possible.
Stephanie: Exactly. I meant it as a compliment.
Jess: Like Colonel Sanders meets the Departed.
Stephanie: That is so perfect!
Jess: I actually laughed hysterically at his line delivery. It's so refreshing to see him have some humor in his acting.
Stephanie: Totally! He has a sense of humor, but we never get to see it.
Jess: I was a bit concerned when he was cast, but it seems like he really brought it.
Stephanie: Yeah, I didn't know how he would hold up in a Tarantino world. But he clearly seemed to enjoy it.
Jess: I'm interested to see a Tarantino film without as many pop culture references.
Stephanie: Stripped down Tino? I don't think it's possible. But I agree, it gets a bit tedious at times.
Jess: I love that about Tarantino (probably because I have similar taste to him), but I know it's a sticky issue for many people.
Stephanie: Well, I feel like you either love or hate Tarantino. You kinda have to be all in to really appreciate his work. But even if you aren't crazy about his films, you have to admire his dedication and enthusiasm.
Jess: Most definitely. I'm excited to see where he goes with something historical.
Stephanie: For sure. I'm looking forward to it in general. Surprised there's no role for Uma Thurman though.
Jess: Maybe she has a cameo as a woman of ill repute!
Stephanie: One can only wish. That would be amazing!
Jess: Also, I must admit to being a bit resistant to the casting of Jamie Foxx, but he really seemed to nail it in the trailer.
Stephanie: Yeah, he's totally got this under control.
Jess: Of course, this isn't Tarantino's first time around the historical bush. He did take down Hitler in his last film.
Stephanie: Very true. No easy task either, that's for sure.
Jess: Next stop: Revolutionary War?
Stephanie: Too bad he didn't snatch up Hatfields and McCoys. Totally his style - so much revenge happening at once.
Jess: And so many people to maim! 
Stephanie: So, so many. So many potential blood splatters.
Jess: I guess HBO didn't have the budget for that one.
Stephanie: nope, spent it on Judd Apatow and Girls.
Jess: Overall, I think we can agree that Tarantino isn't hurting, and Django Unchained will make for an interesting Christmas romp.
Stephanie: Definitely. Perfect synopsis. Am I counting down the days to see it? Not exactly, but it will certainly add some spice to the Christmas movie season.

Unlike Stephanie, I may just have an alarm set for Christmas, but I count myself among the firmly pro-Tarantino crowd. What do you think of the trailer? Is Django Unchained a must see, maybe, or skip?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Summer of Box Office Nostalgia

It's become cliche to point out how unoriginal Hollywood has become. The countless remakes have damaged the American entertainment industry's reputation. But this year is a little different. Instead of remaking classics or Asian horror films, Hollywood's crop of summer blockbusters is capitalizing on nostalgia.

Memory is critical to this. Two of this summer's most heavily promoted films, Prometheus and Men in Black III, add to series more than 15 years old. These aren't just reboots, though; these movies are designed to spark your imagination and reinvigorate interest. Instead of creating new franchise opportunities for the future, they allow us to rediscover the original films while introducing them to a brand new generation.

But the true king of nostalgia this year is the superhero. This summer has more comic-fueled films than ever: Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spiderman. These movies have all been bolstered by popular recent film series. More importantly, though, these films target people who have been these characters for generations. Each hero has decades of comics, TV series, video games, and films associated. Audience members carry these years of fond memories with them as they purchase movie tickets and sit in the darkened theatre.

In a way, these films boost the audience's self-esteem. They tap into our interests in order to reach out emotional cores. When movies concern our favorite older films or characters, we feel validated. Obviously, this is an excellent strategy for Hollywood. Instead of forcing unwanted remakes on us, they are expanding upon our pre-existing interests and rewarding our years of acquired knowledge. Of course, this technique will get stale quickly -- nobody needs another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series -- but for now, it's just what the doctor ordered to breathe life into the box office.