New Releases Double Reviews: Jack Reacher & Django Unchained

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Thanks to Ted for these reviews as I was on vacation when the screenings took place.

Jack Reacher

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Tom Cruise continues his “comeback” on the big screen with another action thriller after the success of last year’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this time he’s playing another super-spy type in Jack Reacher. It’s based on one of Lee Child’s popular series of novels, One Shot. The film starts out with a mysterious person who randomly shot and killed five people in a public place with a sniper rifle. With the recent tragedies in real life, this opening sequence was a bit eerie, so just a warning if you’re still too upset about what happened in Connecticut, I don’t recommend you go see this movie. Now the scene was well shot and staged and to me it didn’t glamorize the violence but I can definitely understand if someone can get upset when they see it. Later an ex-marine sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) was arrested for the crime and during an interrogation he asked the detective on the case Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to get him Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).

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Director Werner Herzog as the Russian mobster known as ‘The Zec’

Emerson and Rodin decided to look up Reacher but couldn’t find anything on him. A few moments later Reacher showed up at their office and asked to see Barr. But Barr is in a coma because he got beat up badly by some other inmates while in custody. So Reacher met with Barr’s lawyer Helen (the gorgeous ex-Bond girl Rosamund Pike). Reacher told her that he’s there just to make sure Barr is behind bars because he believed Barr did the shooting, he and Barr had a history together back when they were in the army. But Helen convinced Reacher to help her investigate what really happened and as both of them dig deeper into the case, they got in trouble with some local thugs, Charlie (Jai Courtney aka John McClane Jr.) and his mysterious boss known as The Zec (the great director Werner Herzog).

Performance wise, I thought everyone did a good job. Especially Cruise who was in the command of the role. I’ve never read any of the books but I know some fans weren’t too thrilled that he was cast as Reacher. But I think many of them will find out that Cruise did well here.

The film is a straightforward procedural thriller; there aren’t any major surprises that will wow you. The humors are well-placed and they didn’t feel forced into each scene. The action sequences were pretty great, I’m so glad that the filmmakers decided to shoot action scenes where we can actually see them. Some directors tends to forget that when we go see action films, we want to SEE the action, not trying to figure what’s going on during a scene or get dizzy from it. Christopher McQuarrie who wrote and directed this film, did a tremendous job with his sharp dialogues and action sequences.

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The climatic shoot out was probably one of the most meticulous action scenes I’ve ever seen. The way he laid out each sequence and edited were quite astonishing to me. Then the mano-a-mano showdown between Reacher and Charlie was well staged and looked like a “real” fight between two grown men. Of course this being an action film, it needs a car chase scene and it was well done too. It reminded me of the chase scene from Bullit but I kind of wish it ended similar to that film, if you saw the trailer then you know how the chase ended. I thought it’s too cheesy and didn’t really make sense.

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

4 out of 5 reels

Django Unchained

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Having read the script last year and loved it, I was very excited to see this film. (Read my script review here.) Surprisingly the film is very close to the script, only a few scenes didn’t make it to the screen. Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with spaghetti westerns and he tends to pay homage to that genre in some of his films, particularly Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Well now he’s finally made a film that truly pays homage the genre but he also mix in another genre, blax-ploitation, mostly the slave related subject that were popular back in the 70s, the most popular film from the genre was called Mandingo. Anyone who likes 70s films as much as I do will probably have seen some of these films; even though they were considered “trashy” by most critics, I somehow enjoyed them. It also burrowed a lot of elements from Sergio Corbucci’s films, especially Django and The Great Silence; if you’ve seen either of those films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The film opens with a “dentist” named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) looking for a slave who can identify three fugitives for him. We then meet Django (Jamie Foxx) who said he knows these three fugitives, so Schultz decided to buy Django from his owners but they refused. Well, Schultz being an educated man tried to reason with these clowns but they still won’t budge. So he used his skills with a pistol to convince them. Django is freed and both of them set out to find the three fugitives. After they hunt down the fugitives, Schultz was quite impressed with Django skills so he asked if Django would like to be a bounty hunter like him and join him in the hunt. In return Shultz will help Django with anything he wants. Django agreed and said he wants to find his wife who’s been taken away from him. The first half of the films was about Schultz teaching Django how to become a good bounty hunter and sharp with a pistol.

A few months later, Schultz found out where Django’s wife is being kept. She’s at a plantation known as Candieland which owns by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). So in order to rescue her, Schultz came up with a plan by pretending to be a rich German who’s interested in purchasing a Mandingo fighter and Django is his Mandingo expert. The rest of film took place at Calvin’s Candieland plantation.

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I thought the performances by the lead actors were great, especially Waltz and DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx surprised me, I was skeptical when he was cast in the title role but he did a good job. Apparently QT wrote the part specially for Will Smith but Smith turned him down, I was hoping QT would cast someone like Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba. Also, the cinematography by Robert Richardson was excellent, from the snowy landscape of Montana to the muddy streets of Mississippi, every shots looked spectacular. The action sequences were great, there’s a shootout scene that’s similar to the carnage scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Bride took down the Crazy 88s.

Now I’m going to talk about why I was very disappointed with this film. As mentioned earlier, I read the script (which I reviewed here) and loved it, but somehow the actual film just didn’t deliver in my opinion. It’s clear that QT really needed his long time editor the late Sally Menke to work on this film with him. I thought the first half of the film was sloppily-edited and just wasn’t coherent. The music selection was kind of odd too. I always love the music QT used in his films but when you hear a Tupac song during a shootout scene in this one, it sort of take you out of the film. Now I understand why QT cast a not so well known actress in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s wife, she hardly spoke in the film. She either screams, cries or look scare in each scene she appeared in.

This was one of the films I most looking forward to see this year and unfortunately it was a major disappointment to me. Now I plan to see it again soon since I saw it almost a month ago, so I might change my mind when I see it again. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, it just didn’t lived up to my expectations. I know that I might be in the minority since after the private screening, many people in the theater thought it was great. If you’re a huge QT fan, you might enjoy it. Just a warning though, the film is violent and very bloody. The N-word were uttered constantly by pretty much everyone in the film, so if you’re easily offended, I don’t recommend you go see this film.

In an interview, QT mentioned that he might release a longer extended cut of the film down the road. At one point his producer Harvey Weinstein tried to convince him to split the film into two parts like they did with Kill Bill but QT vetoed that idea. I assume he shot many scenes that were in the script but decided cut them out. I don’t know if a longer version will improve the movie, I mean most of the scenes left in the cutting room floor were probably just violent and rape scenes. I’m assuming here of course because those sequences were in the script.

2.5 out of 5 reels

– reviews by Ted S.


What are your thoughts on these films? Did they live up to your expectations?

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30 thoughts on “New Releases Double Reviews: Jack Reacher & Django Unchained

  1. Good reviews. I passed on Django mainly due to my feelings that QT is a decent director who gets a lot of free passes. I did see Jack Reacher (review probably Tuesday). I also enjoyed although I was a little more mixed on several things in the film.

    Anyway, great reviews as always.

    • Thanks Keith.

      I’m one of the biggest fans of QT and defended a lot of his previous films but I can’t for Django, I think his self indulgent got the best of him.

  2. Agreed on Jack Reacher. Very cool thriller. Interesting to hear your verdict on Django Unchained. Still a couple of weeks till it’s released here in the UK.

    • Yeah I was very surprised how much I liked Jack Reacher, probably because I didn’t have any big expectations from it. Django on the other hand I had high hopes since I loved the script and was expecting something special but somehow QT didn’t deliver. Hope you’ll enjoy it when you see it though.

  3. Here’s a post for you Ted… Who has the bigger ego in Hollywood? Cruise or Tarantino.

    Even though I’m from Pittsburgh, where Jack Reacher was shot, I won’t being seeing it. It’s a Cruise thing. For me I just can’t separate the person from what they do for a living from how boorishly they act as a person in society.

    Django I’m only mildly curious to see it. I’ll probably see it on DVD or streaming though. What’s your take on the whole N-word controversy? Spike, his 40 acres and his mule are all upset again, Katt Williams has threatened to beat QT up yet Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Donnell Rawlings from The Chappelle Show thinks everybody should just chill.

    • That’s an awesome idea Dave, LOL. I think that’s the reason why both Cruise and Tarantino haven’t worked together yet, they’d probably get in a fist fight since both of them have huge egos.

      Ah yeah I totally understand your feelings about Cruise but I’m the type that can separate their personal beliefs from their work. I don’t care what Cruise say or does in his private life but I always like that he’d give 100% in most of his films. Same with Mel Gibson, I don’t agree with his beliefs or politics but he’s a good filmmaker and actor and so I would see his films. I also would include Clooney and Penn on this list too, I don’t always agree with their politic beliefs but they’re good actors.

      As for QT’s use of the N-word in Django, I don’t really have any problems with that but I’m not a black person so I can understand if some African Americans might have issues with it. As I mentioned in my review, I thought QT’s indulgent got the best of him. Had Sally Menke was still alive, she might’ve told him to trim some of the fat from the film. I think Spike Lee should see the film before making any judgement but he seems to just hate QT for using the N-word in most of his films.

      If you do see the film, love to hear your take on it.

      • QT indulgent? Nooo. Not again. lol. I just don’t get where Spike “Do The Right Thing” Lee thinks he’s above it all? I mean did he or did he not write this incendiary scene?

        – Mookie: Dago, wop, guinea, garlic-breath, pizza-slingin’, spaghetti-bendin’, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, nonsingin’ motherf*cker.
        – Pino: You gold-teeth-gold-chain-wearin’, fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eatin’, monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast-runnin’, high-jumpin’, spear-chuckin’, three-hundred-sixty-degree-basketball-dunkin’ titsun spade Moulan Yan. Take your f*ckin’ pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.
        – Stevie: You little slanty-eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics ’88, Korean kick-boxing son of a bitch.
        – Officer Long: You Goya bean-eating, fifteen in a car, thirty in an apartment, pointed shoes, red-wearing, Menudo, mire-mire Puerto Rican c*cksucker. Yeah, you!
        – Sonny: It’s cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, “How I’m doing,” chocolate-egg-cream-drinking, bagel-and-lox, B’nai B’rith Jew assh*le.
        – Mister Senor Love Daddy: Yo! Hold up! Time out! TIME OUT! Y’all take a chill! Ya need to cool that sh*t out! And that’s the double truth, Ruth! (that’s not directed at you personally Ruth… that’s just in the script… lol.)

        Ironically it was Sam Jackson as Mister Senor Love Daddy that was telling everyone to chill out yet again. lol. Spike should heed his own dialogue. While I get his point of pointing out the racist stereotypes that we hold in society is it really that different than the use of the N-word in the south during the Civil War era? I guess Blazing Saddles, a comedy no less, has to be considered by Spike the most egregious travesty ever put on film even though Mel Brooks got support for its use from none other than co-writer Richard Pryor and lead actor Cleavon Little.

        I don’t have a problem with anyone’s politics or even religious beliefs. Gere, Damon, Clooney, Penn want to be political… fine. That’s not what my objections are about. For me there are too many good actors around to support guys like Mel Gibson and the bigotry, homophobia and domestic abuse that surround his character. Charlie Sheen exhibited such deplorable behavior that even a porn star left him (LOL) and yet he gets a US tour and a prime-time comedy on FX. Lastly it’s not Cruise’s belief in Scientology that rubs me the wrong way it’s his arrogance that anyone who doesn’t believe what he believes are just plain wrong. Ego and arrogance at it’s finest… and this one’s not even as good as the leaked Scientology video on You Tube:

        Not to put you on the spot but let me put this more extreme example to you Ted. Would you be able to separate Victor Salva (the Disney produced Powder, Jeepers Creepers) and Roman Polanski’s work from their public behavior? A lot of people have. I just can’t. What it comes down to is not some moral high ground but the reality is that I can’t suppress what or who they really are enough to enjoy their work.

        Now to cleanse the palate… I saw Lincoln the other day. It was some of Spielberg’s best work ever and Daniel Day Lewis gave a staggering performance for the ages. Highly recommend.

        • Yeah, I think Spike Lee is total hypocrite, it seems to me that if a non-black director uses that word, he’d have problems with it. But if he or some other black director uses the word, he doesn’t have any issues at all. Not sure if you read an interview with Antione Fuqua (who’s black) who said Lee should see the movie first before making any judgement.

          I remember that video of Cruise on the Today show and I agree, I couldn’t stand that either. But I guess it doesn’t bother me too much to not see his work. I don’t know Victor Salva’s story so I can’t comment on that. But I do think Polanki’s should have gone to jail with what he did, I have a problem with him because he wouldn’t man up to what he did and fled the country to avoid jail time. But I’m not a big fan of his so I don’t know if my feelings would change if he happens to be one of my favorite directors.

          I want to see Lincoln, it’s been a while since Spielberg made a good film in my opinion.

    • Yeah Jack Reacher might be my most surprise film of the year, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Might be because I miss the old school style of action film making, it really reminded me of the first Lethal Weapon film and some other action films from the 70s and 80s. Most of today’s action films just tried to be too edgy and of course I can’t stand the hand held, shaky-cam and fast editing style on action sequences.

  4. Hi, Ted and company:

    Interesting, detailed reviews!

    I had my fill of Army “Action Man” Officers, Warrant Officers and NCOs with Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines in “Off Limits”. And John Travolta in ‘The General’s Daughter” and “Basic”.

    Still think Cruise should be sitting on a phone book behind the wheel of his cliched, vintage Muscle Car.

    Is that wrong?

    Tarantino lost a lot of luster with “Inglorious Basterds”. Call me old fashioned and set in my ways. But I’d rather opt for Ken Norton, Pam Grier, Yaphett Kotto and Warren Oates in the low budget, deep south sweat fest, “Drum” from 1976.

      • LOL, funny you mentioned that about Cruise Jack. Actually there’s a chase scene in the film that was kind of funny because they put the camera right in front of Tom’s face and you can see that he’s kind of looked scared since he insisted on doing his own stunt driving. It was kind of an awkward scene. Thankfully it only lasted a couple of seconds, if it lasted longer people might start laughing.

        Oh I miss Warren Oates, such a great actor. He was great in Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. A film I do think would benefit from a remake, if done right, which was supposed to happen a few years back but the studio just couldn’t get over the violent script.

  5. I’m with you on being happy to see more of Jack Reacher in the future (if there is any)…

    But I’m sad to hear you were disappointed by Django. Most of the reviews that I’ve come across, (including mine) were really really positive :( Sorry to hear you didnt enjoy it.

    • Hey Fogs, I do wish this first Reacher film earn enough money to warrant a sequel. I mean it was relatively low budget for a Tom Cruise film ($50mil to produce). If makes close to $80mil or more, we might see another one. Heck they’re coming out with another Riddick film and the second tanked big time.

      I didn’t hate Django, was just more disappointed. I thought the second half of the film was more enjoyable than the first. I’ll see again and maybe I might change my mind, it’s been almost a month since I saw it so I’ll need to check it out again soon.

  6. I enjoyed these reviews, Ted. and am also very glad to see another reviewer give props to Jack Reacher. (So many people avoid Tom Cruise movies because its Tom Cruise…but they miss out on some good ones like this one).

    Great review on Django Unchained. I was thinking about it again today and found that it seems highly anti-climactic. Several nigh-climactic scenes but all in all it does lack in that, and I think that is something that bothered me too with the movie and took away from its score in my review.

    • Hey T., I agree if not for Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher might be more popular but if not for Tom Cruise, the movie would never happened. LOL. I think TIME magazine did a cover story on how long the film’s been in development and no studio would green light the project until Cruise came on board.

      Yeah, the last 20 minutes of the film was very close to the script and in my review of the script, I said I wish QT would fix that but he didn’t. Oh well. The ending really felt rush to me and that’s part of the reason why I was quite disappointed with the film.

  7. Hi Ted, I was quite surprised when I saw your review that you didn’t rate Django higher. That is a bummer since you’ve been anticipating that quite a bit. Well on the other hand, seems like Jack Reacher meets your expectations (or perhaps exceeds it?), so that balances things out a bit :D Great review man!

    • Yeah, like I said earlier, I didn’t think I would enjoy Jack Reacher more than a QT’s film. But Reacher really exceeded my expectations, which I didn’t have much to begin with. I’ll see Django again this winter and maybe I might like it better the second time around.

  8. I’m not really interested in seeing Jack Reacher, but I’m definitely looking forward to Django – sorry you didn’t like it more! I didn’t read the script so I really don’t have anything to compare the movie too, which may help.

  9. I think that’s part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy Django as much, having read the script and so I was expecting some great outcome for the actual film but it didn’t happen. Hope you’ll enjoy it more than I did though.

  10. Loved Django, which I think will only improve with a second viewing. Wasn’t that excited for Jack Reacher, but I might have to see it now. Great reviews, Ted!

    • Thanks Josh, I’m going to see Django Unchained again soon and maybe I’ll change my rating just bit. It’s been almost a month since I saw it so I might like it better the second time around.

      I think if you like the action films of the 70s and 80s, you’ll enjoy Jack Reacher. Like I said in the review, it wasn’t trying to be anything more than an action thriller and it didn’t take itself seriously. I say it’s a mix of Lethal Weapon and Bullit.

    • I think I’m in the minority for not liking Django as much, like I said earlier I’ll check it out again and maybe I might change my mind. But compare to other QT’s films, it’s was a letdown for me. I’d rank it just above Death Proof (which I thought was QT’s worst film) and below Resevior Dogs.

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