The Three Musketeers (2011)

The_Three_MusketeersStarring Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Expectations: Low, but I’m fairly excited.

On the general scale:
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On the B-movie scale:
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I won’t even try to pretend that I knew what was going on throughout most of The Three Musketeers, but I never really cared. The movie is chock full — and I mean CHOCK FULL — of imaginative, wild shit, so something as mundane and boring as an understandable plot just simply had to fall by the wayside. Sure, this is sure to add fuel to the detractors’ fire, but those who accept what the film is trying to do will enjoy it rather well. And those who stumble in looking for a traditional re-telling of the classic story will be absolutely crushed.

But I’m honestly not deeply familiar with the original tale, so really I don’t know how good of an adaptation this is. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any airships in the Dumas original, though. 🙂 What I can comment on was how much this particular adaptation reminded me of a Shaw Brothers wuxia film. I don’t know if it was the swords, or maybe the over-the-top fantasy of the character’s actions in the action sequences, or the complicated plot involving various factions all jockeying for supremacy, or the exaggerated villains typified by broad strokes of melodrama, but all throughout the film I kept coming back to how much it felt like a Western version of an old-school wuxia film. It’s not nearly as entertaining as one of those, but seeing as there aren’t a lot of Western-made wuxia films, I have to give this one some slack, just like I did the same for some of the really early Shaw films.

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Django Unchained (2012)

django-unchained-movie-poster-teaserStarring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, Don Johnson, Laura Cayouette

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Expectations: Very high. Tarantino is a big western fan, so there’s no way this can’t be great, right?

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In a single word, Django Unchained is excessive. Excessive in every possible way. Some movies that trade in excess get by because the excess is fun, or in some way in service of the story, but in Django it’s neither (not that an unflinching slavery movie should be fun). Instead it feels more like Tarantino is simply throwing everything he has at the audience when he should be carefully crafting a tale worth telling. I’ve always had something of a love/hate relationship with Tarantino and his films, but coming off of the expertly crafted Inglourious Basterds I thought for sure he would deliver something truly memorable. And Django is memorable… for all the wrong reasons. Where the script for Basterds was honed over something like 10 years, Django Unchained was written in a few months and thrown into production soon after. This may be a three-hour “epic,” but it definitely feels a lot closer to Death Proof than I would have liked, at least in terms of the quality of the writing.

As the film opens, a couple of slave traders transport a small group of slaves across the rocky hills and the frozen fields “somewhere in Texas.” They are stopped by a jovial man named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who is specifically looking for a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) in hopes that he can help him find a trio of wanted men. Thus begins the tale of Django, a freed slave on his way to becoming a fearsome bounty hunter. Or really, that should read: Thus begins the tale of King Schultz and how he frees Django, but not really.

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