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Entries in Samuel L Jackson (7)

Monday
Mar092015

We Can't Wait! #13: The Hateful Eight

Team Experience is counting down our 15 most anticipated for 2015. Here's Michael...

Who & What: Fresh off the biggest box office hit of his career (and a second Oscar for writing) Tarantino returns for another go at the western genre. This story set in Wyoming a few years after the Civil War, involves eight outlaw types holed up in a mountain pass to wait out a blizzard.

The auteur promises The Hateful Eight will be no less than a cinematic event with exclusive 70mm engagements explicitly designed to remind people of the power of the theatrical movie experience and stave off the tide of digital projection. So, yeah, not lacking for ambition.

Why We're Excited About it: Love them or hate them, it is hard to deny Tarantino’s films are always worth seeing, discussing, dissecting. It's worth noting that while everyone has been focused on Quentin's film’s flashier, button-pushing aspects, the jittery auteur has managed the neat trick of getting mass audiences to line up for some daring, experimental filmmaking. On top of which he can always be counted on to give movie stars the material to reach new career high points. This time out the cast is a thrilling mix of old Tarantino favorites (Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Sam Jackson, Michael Madsen) Django bit players with beefed up roles (Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins) and Tarantino newcomers who could do wonders with the right role (Demian Bichir, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum). 

Samuel L Jackson tweeted this photo in November from a rehearsal. From left to right: Dern, Jackson, Leigh, Tarantino, Bichir (back to camera), Russell, Goggins, Madsen, and Roth

What if it all Goes Wrong? The loss of Tarantino’s brilliant, longtime collaborator, editor Sally Menke, was felt in Django, particularly in that film’s shaggy final act. Here’s hoping he manages to regain the sharpness this time. Also, if you are one of those fading fans who believe it’s been all downhill since Jackie Brown, there is no sign that Hateful Eight is anything like a return to maturity. On the other hand, a story about criminals holed up together told through a series of interlocking flashback does give off a strong Reservoir Dogs vibe. 

When: Currently slated for November 13 by The Weinstein Company. (Will it stay there? Django Unchained didn't open until Christmas.)

Tuesday
Feb242015

Black History Month: Pulp Fiction (1994)

Our Black History Month through the lens of Oscar continues with Jason on Samuel L. Jackson...

If you'd like a master class in screen-acting (not to mention a Minor in Pronouncing Vulgarity in New & Unique Ways) then you couldn't do much better than by studying the two times Sam Jackson's called upon to recite his character's favorite Bible scripture, Ezekiel 25:17, in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The scenes essentially bookend the film with Jules holding an audience captive through just the conviction of his delivery. Hardly the last time Sam would manage that feat.

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Sunday
Feb222015

Review: 'Kingsman' is a Toxic Stew of Tone Deaf Mayhem

Michael C here with a question: When did it stop mattering if the hero saves the day?

Recently, it seems as long as the protagonist gives it the old college try that’s good enough to get rounded up to a victory. If a few thousand innocents die before he gets the job done, eh, nobody’s perfect. I started noticing this trend right around the time Man of Steel had to be careful to keep the piles of dead Metropolitans out of frame while Superman kissed Lois Lane on a pile of rubble.

Now we have Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service which ups the ante by not only having the hero fail to stop the villain from causing an outbreak of mass violence, but by lingering lovingly on the mayhem, including a mother who is brainwashed into attempting to murder her own baby. With previous examples of this trend, one could chalk it up to blockbuster inflation, with each movie trying to top its predecessors until the implications of all that destruction became unavoidable. With Kingsman, however, it feels like the showing of true colors, dropping the pretense that the film is about anything more than unashamedly reveling in a mass bloodletting. Vile stuff.

I realize I risk coming off as a prude and a scold by taking to task a film which wants only to be giddy escapist entertainment. [More...]

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Friday
Dec142012

Hats Off to Mr. Jackson

Michael C here to sound some trumpets for a fine actor's return from the wilderness. There are many pleasures to be found in Django Unchained, but for me the most satisfying was being able to unambiguously love a Samuel L. Jackson performance for the first time in what feels like forever. 

Let's be frank, Jackson has always been a guy who would cheerfully say yes to just about any script that was correctly formatted. But at least back in the 90’s he would throw in an Eve’s Bayou or a Jackie Brown every once in a while. Over the last decade, however, his time has been divided between coasting on his star presence in blockbusters or squandering his considerable talent in straight up dreck like The Man or The Spirit. What attempts he has made at meaningful work have largely been dumped directly in the straight-to-video bin. (Home of the Brave anyone?) The last performance of his that left any impression on me was 2000’s Unbreakable, although your mileage may vary. Black Snake Moan had its fans, as did The Caveman’s Valentine. Whatever the case, there’s no denying the internal compass he possesses for choosing projects is severely miscalibrated.

But now there is his work in Django and damn does it feels good to seem him nail it in a big way. Jackson gave what is basically one of my favorite performances ever in Pulp Fiction and Tarantino has handed him another winner. He plays Stephen, the most trusted slave of Leo’s malevolent plantation owner and the two of them share a terrific, twisted chemistry. In terms of thematic weight Stephen's importance to the story is second only to Foxx's Django, and Jackson makes a meal out of every second of screen time. It’s a devious, deceptively simple performance. A late in the film monologue in particular should have Oscar voters second guessing whether DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, who were both Golden Globe nominated, are really the Django performances to unite behind in the awards game.

Jackson may very well turn around and follow this up with another decade of crapola (the XXX sequel listed on his IMDb page doesn’t bode well) but for now I’m pleased to see he has another performance that can stand proudly alongside Jules Winfield, Gator Purify and Sean Nelson’s alcoholic, chess playing father from Fresh (Rent it!)

Wednesday
Nov142012

Skarsgård, Lord of the Apes

Last week I hoped (in vain) that they'd go with an unknown when they finally attempt a reboot of the long dormant Tarzan franchise. Instead, word is, they're interested in going with the very known but still big screen underutilized Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood fame. 

Careful Skarsgård. In Tarzan pictures, there's always an alligator in there!

Though I think the discovery themes of the Tarzan franchise warrant a more "who is that?" choice, Skarsgård deserves more big screen opportunities (I was sad when he missed out on Thor since he's the closest thing that showbiz has to a Norse God) and his Swedishness and comfort with nudity are surely good signs for the exotic vine swinger. Variety says the concept goes like so:

Years after he's reassimilated into society, he's asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a warlord who controls a massive diamond mine. 

I'm super pleased that they're skipping an origin story. Lord (of the Apes) knows more franchises should try it since origin stories so rarely reward on multiple viewings, let alone multiple iterations of said origins! But Warner Bros interest in Samuel L Jackson for the Williams role is, if you ask me, a very bad omen. Jackson is a fine actor but last time I counted he had already starred or co-starred in over 12 franchises or would be franchises. He's where Jeremy Renner will be in three years if he keeps saying "yes" to every big budget project in existence.  Jackson is arguably a sign that no one on this project is remotely interested in doing something fresh, but just churning out another regular revenue stream for studio coffers and Jackson, being at home in the big budget franchises, is the only person who even came to their minds. When you use the same faces for everything, all franchises feel yet more homogenous.

The animals already love him!

I suppose this is the same problem I have when they cast my beloved Streep in everything involving an older woman and I'm forced to be frustrated at the monotony rather than be thrilled to see her, the latter of which should always be the case. It comes down to this realization: I'm just not at all monogomanous when it comes to the movies but shamelessly slutty. I need a vast array of faces, a huge collection of movie stars and character actors to entertain me.  I wish, given the state of modern cinema, that this was not so, that I could be happy with only a handful of faces to entertain me, but I am who I am. 

Will you gladly swing with Skarsgård and Jackson in a year or two or do you think the Lord of the Apes should stay retired?

Tuesday
Oct232012

Curio: Cine with your Wine

Alexa here.  I recently got my husband an anniversary gift of Will Ferrell's mug on a wine glass; romantic, I know, but it met with so much success (and an endless stream of Anchorman quotes over our bottle) that I thought I should post a plug for its maker.  Tara Hamlin specializes in painting celebrities on wine goblets, and she is talented enough to pull off what seems at first like a silly concept.  The selection in her shop is immense, but she will also do custom work: I spied that she is completing a custom Tom Hardy goblet for a lucky someone.  Here is a sampling of her more interesting film stars.  Drink up; they're only $20 each!

Dunaway and Beatty as Bonnie and ClydeA glass Gosling

Click for Tracy and Hepburn, Richard Dreyfuss and more...

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