Posts Tagged ‘christoph waltz’

Big-Eyes

In 1958, Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) escapes an abusive husband with a daughter in tow, and settles in withthe beatnik crowd in San Francisco, where she becomes a street artist, and meets a charismatic street artist named Walter Keane. (Christoph Waltz)After a whirlwind romance, the two get married.  Walter tries to get Margaret’s art in a gallery, by passing it off as his own, but the gallery owner, a man named Ruben (Jason Schwartzman) is only enamored with  abstract art, he is not impressed with the doe-eyed children, so Walter makes a deal with a bar owner named Banducci (Jon Polito) to hang Margaret’s art in his bar, again he takes credit for her work, which annoys her, but since he is an extraordinary salesman, and she prefers to paint, she relents and gives tacit agreement to Walter putting his name on her paintings. The partnership works, Walter is a master marketer, instead of selling one painting for 500 dollars, he mass produces prints of her work, and makes them both wildly rich.  But Margaret is not happy, and when Margaret paints a self-portrait, and puts her own name on it, Walter gets verbally abusive, and tells her to keep painting her doe-eyed children.  But one day, Margaret discovers something about Walter that is unforgivable.  What is his secret?  What effect does the revelation have on their marriage, and their business arrangement?

I wanted to like this movie.  I like Amy Adams, I like Christoph Waltz, but I did not like this movie.  My dislike starts almost immediately with the narration that accompanies this film minutes after this movie begins, this movie does not need narration right from the start, it does not need narration at all.  Moreover, the narration is done by a tangential character and that makes it all the more confusing.  The story starts off encouragingly enough, with Margaret Ulbrich finding peace in the pre-hippie days of San Francisco, with a seemingly kindred spirit, but soon enough the story goes off the rails and becomes as exaggerated as the eyes on Margaret Keane’s paintings, and since I didn’t know how much is true and how much is cinematic puffery.  The whole movie has the feel of a Lifetime Network movie, complete with laughably predictable ending.

The acting is shockingly bad from two such talented actors.  Amy Adams dons a blonde fright wig, and a bad Southern accent, it’s shocking to me that she was considered an Academy Award nominee for this role.  I expected more from Waltz, but he too struggles with an American accent and lays the ham-handed performance on thick with his portrayal as the mercurial manic Walter Keane.  I understand he has to show the duality of the character, but a little subtlety would have gone a long way here.  And Delaney Ray who plays the younger version of Keane’s daughter is precocious to an annoying extent, why must children be wise beyond their years, every single time?

This was a Tim Burton movie, but only one scene really had the look of a Tim Burton film, otherwise it was conventionally bland.  Why have Tim Burton direct if he can’t add visual flourishes to his films, the pacing was dull.  The movie lasts longer than it should by about 10 minutes, and Burton only gets mediocre performances from his cast.

Big Eyes:  I wasn’t too keen on it.

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horriblebosses2_

Nick (Jason Bateman) Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) want to start their own company and have a new product, The Shower Buddy.  They take it to one of the biggest catalog companies in America, and Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) offers to buy them out, but his father, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) has a better offer.  But when Bert double-crosses the boys, Nick, Kurt and Dale hatch a plan to kidnap Rex, and use the proceeds to buy back their company.  Does their plan work , or does something go awry?

The first half hour of this movie has a few jokes and I thought this movie had potential.  But then, this movie goes into a non-comedic black hole and does not come out.  The first movie was pretty funny, but the whole premise of making a sequel is to make a movie better than the first one, this movie is not better, it’s the same movie with slightly different circumstances, and that is not good enough for a sequel.  It’s too long, and most of the ideas are not even funny.  Case in point, there’s a train scene that is interminably long, and it just goes on and on and on.

I like Jason Bateman, his low key understated style has made him a star of many underrated films, like Dodgeball, Extract, and the first Horrible Bosses movie, but lately he’s made movies like Identity Thief, This Is Where I Leave You, and, this movie.  He needs to go back to low key roles in low budget movies and maybe he can get his mojo back.  I also like Charlie Day, especially in Pacific Rim, but too much of him is not a good thing, his voice can be grating, and in this movie, he annoyed me.  Jason Sudeikis is funny, but  he has the same role as before.  Jamie Foxx has a funny cameo, as does Kevin Spacey, there should have been more of them, and less of the bumbling principals.  Jennifer Anniston is not funny, she should stop trying to be.  Chris Pine tries comedy and fails, epicly.  Is that a word?  No?  You get the idea.  Christoph Waltz isn’t given anything funny to do, and I still like his performance, it must be residual Tarantino love.

If there is an ideal length for a comedic movie it is 90 minutes, if the director could have cut it down to 90 minutes and gotten better performances from Pine and Anniston, maybe this movie would have been better, but the poor quality of the film has more to do with bad writing, than bad direction.

Horrible Bosses 2:  Writers, you’re fired!

django-unchained

In 1858, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) part-time dentist, part-time bounty hunter is riding through Daughtry Texas looking for the Brittle brothers.  Trouble is, Schultz has no idea what the Brittle brothers look like.  To find out who the Brittle brothers are, Shultz enlists the help of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who Shultz frees from bondage.  Django not only finds the Brittle brothers, but kills two of them.  Schultz wants to make as much money as possible as a bounty hunter.  Django has a mission of his own, to rescue his wife, Hildy (Kerry Washington) from a sadistic slave owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Shultz assures Django that if Django helps him over the winter as a bounty hunter in Texas, he will go to Mississippi, and try to rescue Hildy from Candie.  The two bounty hunters make a lot of money over the winter and hatch a plan.  Shultz is going to feign interest in buying a slave from Candie for Mandingo fighting purposes, and Django pretends to be a free man who also owns slaves. The two unlikely friends head to Mississippi.

As soon as Django and Schultz get to Candieland, Candie’s plantation, Candie’s house slave, Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) is immediately suspicious of Django and Schultz and convinced that Django and Hildy know each other.  Will Django and Schultz execute their plan?  Does Stephen share his suspicions with Candie?

Let me preface this section of the review by stating that I am a big Quentin Tarantino  fan, I can find something good to say about most of his movies, except perhaps  From Dusk to Dawn, which was generally a waste of celluloid.  I thought that my Favorite Tarantino movie was Inglorious Basterds, but now it is Django Unchained.  It’s a big, bold western, which is a conglomeration of a lot of movies, it’s a western, it’s a buddy movie, it’s a revenge fantasy, and it’s all very well made.  Django is reminiscent of Ethan Edwards, John Wayne’s character in John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers.  Neither Django or Ethan are very nice,  they both are on a very personal mission, Django to find his wife, Ethan to find his daughter, and neither really cares who gets in their way, they will go around over, and through anyone who stands in their way.

Sure it’s violent, but much of that violence is illustrative of the inhumanity associated with slavery, and for that, this movie deserves to be lauded.  Slavery was a violent business and the brutality of the trading of human beings should never be sanitized.  Django  Unchained is also a very funny movie, but people never remember the humor in a Tarantino film, choosing to emphasize the violence.

The acting is superb.  Before I saw this movie, I wondered if Christoph Waltz was really deserving of another Oscar, he absolutely was.  He gives a joyous performance, a lot of the fun, the personality, the chemistry in the movie came as a result of Waltz’s performance.  Leonardo DeCaprio’s performance is remarkable, smiling one moment and snarling the next, he really should have been nominated for an Oscar, this was his best performance ever, and it is coming off a clunker as Hoover in J Edgar.  Samuel L. Jackson was also superb, in heavy makeup to make him look older, his character is seething, at the idea of being a slave, he is incredibly jealous of Django, and the fact that he has to bow and scrape to a free black man. This is truly Jackson’s best performance since Pulp Fiction.  I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Jamie Foxx, but I can’t, he just didn’t fit this movie.  There were other actors who could have done this role better, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, even Will Smith, who was offered this role, could have done better.  I liked Foxx in Ray, but not any role since then.

Tarantino is at the height of his writing and directorial powers with this movie, it is literally an epic. The characters are on a quest, a journey, and Tarantino knows how to write and direct an epic adventure movie, something as simple as the interplay between action and music makes this movie so much more enjoyable than the average movie. And the choice of music is spectacular, everything from classical to Richie Havens to rap music, just an outstanding soundtrack. There is an earlier version of Django, but I don’t think it had the scope or vision of Django  Unchained.  Unchained took on issues such as slavery and racism, head on.  The earlier Django was a spaghetti western with Franco Nero.  It might have been the inspiration for Django Unchained, but that’s all.

Django Unchained.  Liberate yourself from ordinary filmmaking.

inglorious

In 1941, a dairy farmer is hiding Jews under his floorboards.  The dairy farmer is visited by Nazi colonel Hanz Landa. (Christoph Waltz) Landa lets a Jewish girl escape from the dairy farm, and live.  In 1945, in Nazi occupied France, the little girl named Shoshana (Melanie Laurent) has grown up to be the owner of a successful movie theater.

She is stalked by Fredrick Zoeller, (Daniel Bruhl) a hero to Nazis, who is besotted with Shoshanna. Zoeller is so famous for his role in one battle where he killed hundreds of Allied soldiers that German propagandist Joseph Goebbels wants to make a movie about Zoeller and his exploits And Goebbels wants to show the film in Shoshanna’s theater. Shoshana can’t stand Fredrick and has hatched a plan to blow up the theater with her boyfriend and kill as many Nazis as they can pack into the theater.  Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt) heads a group of Jewish American solders, called the Inglorious Basterds, who not only kill Nazis, they scalp Nazis.  The Basterds know about the gathering of the top Nazi brass through German double agent and actress, Briget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) who is working with three Brits pretending to be Germam trying to infiltrate the propaganda movie premiere. The operation is codenamed Keno Raine finds out through Von Hammersmark that none other than Hitler will be at the theater, so Raine sends two of his men into the theater with bombs.  But guess who starts unraveling the details of Operation Keno? None other then Colonel Landa?  Does Colonel Landa kill ll the conspirators or does operation Keno succeed?

This is a fun movie, fast paced, action packed and bloody like most Tarantino films.  The first scene does drag a little, but that’s needed as part of the plot exposition.  Brad Pitt is as funny as I’ve seen him in anything, and the two women, Laurent and Kruger do star turns as integral characters to the plot.  The viewer really wonders are the many pots going to dovetail, or is it going to all blow up n the Allied soldiers faces.  OK the history is way off, there is no way the Nazis would put Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, and  others of the top brass all in the same room, but relax it’s a movie, not a documentary.  Much of the film is in German and French with subtitles and the subtitles moved a little fast even for me, and I read a lot of subtitles, but hearing people talk in their own languages adds to the authenticity of the film.  I also like how most of the anti Nazi group has something to do with the film industry. Von Hammersmark is an actor, Shoshanna runs a movie theater, her boyfriend is a projectionist, a nice touch.  This is easily Tarantino’s best work since Kill Bill 1.

Inglorious Basterds.  Glorious fun.