Great directors make good movies – ‘Django’ and ‘This is 40’

  • Django Unchained Samuel L. JacksonBoth Quentin Tarantino and Judd Apatow serve as important voices in the modern cinema landscape. Nobody makes movies quite like they do, so any new release, however flawed or overlong, is worthy of attention.

    “Django Unchained” may be Tarantino’s most structurally conventional movie of his career. Aside from a few flashbacks and abrupt shifts in tone, the film tells the linear story of a freed slave (Jaime Foxx) who, alongside a skilled bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), sets out to rescue his wife from a sadistic Mississippi plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

    The movie has the rapid-fire, ultra-clever dialogue you would expect from Tarantino, as well as a rather controversial dose of brutal violence and social commentary.

    “Django” is lengthy at around 2 hours, 45 minutes, but Tarantino knows how to click the action along. The performances are all strong, especially from Waltz, Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson in a sinister supporting turn as a man with even more hatred in his heart than the film’s white slave-owners. Did I mention the movie was controversial?

    Debate the depiction of slavery and whether the film’s funny and thrilling moments gel with such a dark aspect of American history. Regardless, “Django Unchained” is virtuoso filmmaking.

    Judd Apatow produces numerous movies in a given year, but he only occasionally steps into the role of writer-director. When he does, the results are unlike any other comedies around, for better or worse.

    Continuing a trend of mixing drama and raunchy humor that began with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and veered out of control in “Funny People,” his new film “This is 40” examines the longtime marriage between Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who appeared as supporting characters in Apatow’s “Knocked Up.”

    Faced with recent economic hardship (for upper-class white people anyway), Pete and Debbie struggle to keep communication lines open as financial and family crises begin to pile. Pete’s mooch of a father (Albert Brooks) doesn’t help matters, and their teenage daughter discovers what we all already know about social media – that it’s cruel and pointless.

    There are very funny segments of “This Is 40” and a surprising amount of insight into the daily challenges of married life. Apatow has found his most balanced ratio of comedy and drama to date, but the man can’t seem to avoid pointless and meandering subplots, this time in the form of Megan Fox as an employee at Debbie’s struggling clothing store.

    “This Is 40,” is 30 minutes too long. Still, Apatow continues to fill a niche in the comedy world. One of these days he’ll get it just right.
    Grades: Django Unchained: A-
    This is 40: B+

     

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