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Quentin Tarantino
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson , Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, David Steen
Writing Credits:
Quentin Tarantino

Life, liberty and the pursuit of vengeance.

With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

Box Office:
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$30.688 million on 3010 screens.
Domestic Gross
$162.691 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 166 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 4/16/2013

• “Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horse and Stunts of Django Unchained” Featurette
• “Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained” Featurette
• “The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis” Featurette
• “20 Years in the Making: The Tarantino XX Blu-ray Collection”
• Soundtrack Spot
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Django Unchained [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2013)

After Pulp Fiction became a breakout hit in 1994, Quentin Tarantino struggled to make the same kind of impact. His next few films – 1997’s Jackie Brown, 2003’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2 - all found a niche audience, as none of them boasted the broad appeal of Pulp.

Commercially – and probably artistically – Tarantino hit his nadir with 2007’s Death Proof. Part of a double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, the Grindhouse package tanked at the box office, as it barely cleared the $25 million mark. Maybe no one should’ve expected two throwback 70s-style action flicks to score big bucks, but given both directors’ prior successes, it had to go down as a flop.

After the failure of Grindhouse, it started to look more and more like Tarantino would go down the Kevin Smith path: a director with a loyal but small following who rarely produces work that appeals beyond that niche. That didn’t mean Tarantino didn’t create good movies; it just seemed to indicate that he couldn’t make anything that went beyond his cult audience.

In 2009, Inglourious Basterds changed that. While its $120 million US take didn’t break any records, it became Tarantino’s highest-grossing flick to that point, as it passed the $107 million of Pulp. It also snared Tarantino his first writing and directing Oscar nominations since Pulp - and got a Best Picture nod, too.

Could Tarantino continue this trend with 2012’s Django Unchained? Yup – and he improved on it. Not only did Unchained earn a solid $162 million – 33 percent more than Basterds - but also it got Best Picture and Best Screenplay nominations. Alas, Tarantino didn’t earn another Best Director nod, but at least he took home a trophy this time, as he won the Best Screenplay award.

Remarkably, Christoph Waltz snagged Best Supporting Actor prizes for both Basterds and Unchained - perhaps he deserves a lot of the credit for Tarantino’s renewed success. Whatever the case, it’s good to have QT back on top, as it was a shame to see such a talented filmmaker fade from the spotlight.

Set in 1858, a bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) seeks someone who can help him find prey called the Brittle brothers. He encounters a line of chained slaves and inquires if any of them can assist. A slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) states he can identify the Brittles so Schultz offers to buy him, but his owners don’t care for the doctor and they resist. This doesn’t go well for them in the face of the quick-shooting Schultz, so we end up with some corpses, Django as the doctor’s partner, and a bunch of freed slaves.

We follow the adventures of Django and Schultz as dual bounty hunters and also see how Django’s backstory influences their affairs. Once married to Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), they tried to escape but got caught and sold to separate owners. Django wants to reunite with his beloved, so we see how his bounty hunting leads him back to her – and her owner, Southern dandy Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

If I didn’t think so before I saw this film, Unchained convinced me that Tarantino is arguably the best director in movies today. As I noted when I reviewed Zero Dark Thirty, Tarantino takes flawed material and makes it great. There’s nothing in Unchained that screams “Oscar-nominated epic”, but darned if Tarantino doesn’t create the proverbial silk purse.

This can be a sight to behold, as Tarantino’s touch rarely fails him. His eye for captivating visuals remains intact, as demonstrated frequently here. Take one sniper scene, for example. Django aims at a rider on a horse and shoots off his target. In the hands of most directors, this would become an ordinary, shoot-hit-fall sequence.

But not Tarantino. As the segment progresses, he doesn’t show us the rider. Instead, he focuses on the horse, so when the bullet hits, the camera doesn’t change perspective; we simply observe as the rider spill out of view.

Tarantino packs the film with other inventive touches and continues his traditional skill in terms of musical choices. Tarantino doesn’t shy from seemingly anachronistic selections, all of which work. If almost anyone else would inject hip-hop into a pre-Civil War film, the result would look silly, but Tarantino pulls it off with ease; one never even becomes conscious of the disconnect between period and music. Nothing here dazzles quite like “Cat People” in Basterds, but the songs suit the film – and often elevate it.

As do the actors. As mentioned earlier, Waltz won his second Oscar as Schultz, though I’m not quite sure he deserved it. While I feel Waltz does well in the role, I don’t know why the Academy singled him out; his Schultz is an involving performance, but he feels like an alternate “good guy” flavor on Basterd’s Colonel Landa.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Waltz’s award comes from the fact it meant others who may’ve been more deserving got ignored. In particular, DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson could claim to get the shaft, as both offer excellent work with no Oscar love to come their way. Indeed, both offer more impressive work than Waltz; I suspect the Academy may’ve looked his way because he gets the most noble character of the three. They’re better, though.

One could argue Jackson gets the most challenging role of the bunch because he plays the character with whom we feel the least sympathy. When we go into a film of this sort, we expect to see White People Behaving Badly, but to view an African-American who shows such antagonism toward his own people, it becomes a more startling sight – and it must be tougher for an actor to take on such a part.

At no time does Jackson attempt to soften the edges of Stephen, Candie’s lifelong chief house slave. He digs into the role with all the necessary “Stockholm Syndrome” glory and turns the part into a cruel, vindictive piece of work without a single gesture to wink at the camera or tone down the darkness. It’s a remarkable performance that the Academy should’ve recognized.

At its core, Unchained operates as a 19th Century variation on Inglourious Basterds: a wild, bloody revenge fantasy. As was the case with the earlier film, Quentin Tarantino takes drive-in fare and turns it into art. I don’t like Unchained quite as much as its immediate predecessor, but it still offers a vivid, satisfying adventure that reminds us that few filmmakers today can match the mastery shown by Tarantino.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Django Unchained appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently pleasing presentation.

Sharpness looked positive. A couple of shots looked a smidgen soft, but those weren’t a distraction. The vast majority of the movie boasted nice clarity and delineation. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. As for print flaws, they stayed away here. I noticed no signs of any defects in this clean and distinctive image.

Colors looked solid. The movie tended toward an amber/yellow palette, with occasional exceptions. Though it didn’t present the world’s broadest palette, but it included a good enough range of hues that consistently came across as tight and vibrant. Black levels seemed deep and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated fine clarity and never became too thick. This was a good transfer.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Unchained seemed pretty positive. The mix offered a broad and engaging experience. Music showed nice delineation and spread, and the effects created a good sense of atmosphere. Effects seemed appropriately placed and blended together smoothly. Those elements moved cleanly across the channels to demonstrate a fine feeling of place.

Surround usage was strong. A fair amount of information – from bullets to explosions to music -–popped up from the rear, and the back speakers acted as an active aspect of the mix. The track didn’t often dazzle and present a stunning surround mix, but it provided a consistently engaging affair.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech was distinct and concise, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music was fairly vibrant and dynamic, as the disc displayed the score with vivacity and solid clarity.

Effects were clean and rich, and they never suffered from any signs of distortion or other problems. Bass response was deep and firm and brought good punch to the package. I liked this track and thought it merited an “B+“.

Despite the film’s success, the Blu-ray lacks a lot of extras. Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horse and Stunts of Django Unchained goes for 13 minutes, 46 seconds and provides comments from writer/director Quentin Tarantino, stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw, producers Pilar Savone and Stacey Sher, stunt men Nick Dashaw and Freddie Hice, boss wrangler Rusty Hendrickson, special effects supervisor John McLeod, quick draw expert Thell Reed, and actors Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. As expected, we learn about the film’s use of horses and stunts as well as influences and some effects and weapon topics. A lot of praise comes along for the ride, but we get a decent array of good details here.

Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained lasts 12 minutes, 50 seconds and involves Savone, Foxx, prop master Hope Parrish, production designer J. Michael Riva, supervising art director David Klassen, producer Reginald Hudlin, set decorator Leslie Pope, and actor Walton Goggins. We get info about sets, props and visual design along with a tribute to Riva, who passed in June 2012. The latter elements are respectful but not dominant, which is appropriate. The program covers its subjects well.

Another featurette, The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis occupies 12 minutes, three seconds with notes from costume designer Davis, Foxx, Savone, Sher, Waltz, Goggins, and actors Kerry Washington, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Laura Cayouette, Don Johnson and Leonardo DiCaprio. Obviously, we concentrate on costumes here, and the piece does so nicely. Davis gives us good insights into her work and this turns into a useful show.

The disc comes with ads for Tarantino XX Blu-ray Collection and the Django soundtrack. No trailer for Django shows up here.

A second disc delivers a DVD copy of Django. It includes the “Riva” featurette and some ads.

Quentin Tarantino reminded us of his genius with Inglourious Basterds in 2009 and he continues that revival via 2012’s Django Unchained. The movie comes with minor flaws but delivers a powerful, exciting adventure that capitalizes on its director’s cinematic talents. The Blu-ray presents very good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. The absence of copious bonus materials disappoints, but the movie itself makes this a solid release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4444 Stars Number of Votes: 36
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