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Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” takes us back to the year, 1858, two years before the Civil War.  I appreciate any attempt to bring back Westerns. It’s a genre ripe for a resurgence.  The setting works:  A bounty hunter (Christof Waltz) teams up with a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) to capture criminals & ultimately help find & free Django’s slave wife. (Kerry Washington)

There are excellent scenes within the film. You’ll enjoy textbook Tarantino dialogue exchanges. Leonardo DiCaprio turns in an excellent performance as a savvy & sinister slave owner, the callus Calvin Candie.

As a whole however, this wasn’t one of my favorite Tarantino films.  Going back a few years, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ was utterly brilliant.  The Hans Landa character played by Christof Waltz, in my opinion, should have remained inside the world of ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ Instead, I kept seeing Hans resurface in ‘Django Unchained.’  I know everyone else did too, but won’t admit it.  Let’s compare.  In ‘Basterds’ he was dubbed ‘The Jew Hunter.’ Here he’s The Bounty Hunter. For some reason I can’t explain, he also hails from Germany.  Oh, & he speaks at least (3) languages, just like Hans Landa.

This is just nit-picking now.  Why do certain directors always feel compelled to hurl themselves into their own movie? It stymies me. Why does Quentin do this?  My first thought every time I see him onscreen in one of his own films is: What is Quentin doing?  It catapults me out of the movie! No one in Hollywood will admit this. They all want to work on one of his movies. I’m not an actor. So again I ask Quentin, Why insist? Why?

Final note, “Django Unchained” is still better than 85% of what’s out in theaters.  It’s worth watching. You can follow me on Twitter @leoquinones




Lincoln Movie Review

When it comes to studying U.S. History, some students (myself included) were more interested in hearing the lunch bell ring.  Don’t get me wrong, certain times in U.S. history were fascinating. Abraham Lincoln was the architect of one of those times. Steven Spielberg avoided Lincoln movie cliches by focusing primarily on the last four months of his life.

For too many reasons, Daniel Day-Lewis is my favorite actor.  Maybe it’s because he’s only done five films in fifteen years.  I love his pursuit of minutiae & total immersion.  No one goes deeper or does more when it comes to really trying to embody a character.  Production designer, Rick Carter said it best, “I haven’t gotten over the first time I saw him. Daniel Day-Lewis was not who I saw in front of me.  I saw the man who was President of the United States in 1865.  I saw Abraham Lincoln.”

Spielberg shied away from encroaching Day-Lewis on set. It was quite the opposite. “I never asked Daniel about his (acting) process.  I never questioned it.  I never looked a gift-horse in the mouth.  I just received it with tremendous gratitude….I was constantly saying to myself, ‘Don’t get in the way; Celebrate these words, Capture these performances, Get it in the best way you know how. And let the actors cast their long shadows.”

I believe that’s exactly what happened.  The 1865 Congress, in this application, was the place where young America formed a more perfect union.  The method seemed madness. There was shouting, name-calling, back-stabbing & shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs debating of the issues. Most prominent: Slavery was the law of the land.  The passage of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution would abolish slavery forever.

The Civil War was on the verge of it’s fourth Spring. Hundreds of thousands of men were dying. Lincoln employed shrewd political tactics to bring both sides together on an issue that still, in my opinion, divides this great country. In 1865, Democrats believed slavery was an essential cog of their thriving economy.  Republicans at the time wanted to take literally the words, ‘all men were created equal.’

Always at the center of the politics, the strife, the casualties of war was Abe Lincoln.  Daniel Day-Lewis for whatever brief moment in time seemed to carry the burdens of our 16th President.  You can see it in his face, you can witness it in his walk.  It’s there in a magnificent scenes with Sally Field as Mary.  Suddenly Lincoln’s not a statue, but a man consumed in marital chaos. You’ll come away with a feeling not like reading a history book, but a feeling that you were right there seeing history happen.

For a guy who wasn’t big on history in school, I love being transported back in time to learn & possibly gain insight to what may have happened in Lincoln’s last days.  I also enjoyed the comedic & primitive lobbying tactics of James Spader, Timothy Blake Nelson & John Hawkes.  They provided the perfect balance to the often time heavy material.  To that I must add, Daniel Day-Lewis played Lincoln as having a keen sense of humor.  His obvious gift storytelling, whether the troops, a crowd of citizens or the intimate gathering of family draws you in completely & never lets you go. Watching, ‘Lincoln,’ that school lunch bell never even entered my mind.

You can follow me on Twitter @leoquinones


End of Watch Movie Review

As Mel Gibson’s character Porter grumbled in “Payback,” “Dirty Cops. Do they come any other way?”  Cop movies most always thrive on Bad Cop Syndrome.  They’re either on the take through organized crime or confiscating cash to send their kids to college, ripping off drug dealers or at the very least hiding behind badges as bullies. Those are the reasons why ‘End of Watch’ is such a fresh look at the cop movie genre.  The story’s about two partners in the Los Angeles Police Department.  Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) & Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) get up every day & do the job.  What I loved about the movie is, these guys weren’t looking to score a huge payday & retire. It was quite the opposite.  Their idea of ‘hitting it big’ is always in the form of a big bust.  These LAPD officers are the good guys.

What I also enjoyed was the balance between action on the streets & verbal action between buddies in the squad car.  Spending endless hours on patrol, Brian & Mike talk about virtually anything from sex to Starbucks.  These scenes just tick away until the moment something happens.  When they get the call, it’s on.  NO SPOILERS.  I live in Southern California. What happens in Downtown Los Angeles seems a million miles away.  It is dark, desolate & dangerous.  The actors playing gang members are a constant reminder: Make sure your GPS works, respect their space & stay out of alleys.

On the first night of prep for this film, Jake was on an LAPD ride-along.  It’s there where he witnessed a shoot-out between gang members and one person was murdered right in front of his eyes.  Gyllenhaal did express experiencing intense moments of fear out in the field.  How could you not? The point of exposing yourself to such violence & potential life peril, is to simply funnel all that energy into a performance, which he most certainly did.  When they do go out an those calls, I had to remind myself to breathe.

Finally, a cop movie where you’re rooting for cops. The only problem: The bad guys are just too well-funded, too many in numbers, too armed & way too murderous. “End of Watch’ is rated ‘R.’          You can follow me on Twitter @leoquinones

CAUTION: This is the RED BAND Trailer for “End of Watch”


‘LAWLESS’ Movie Review

I love when a movie takes me back in time.  Such is the case with “Lawless.” It’s a true story based on the novel, “The Wettest County In the World.”  The Bondurant Brothers were bad-asses during prohibition in the remote mountains of Franklin County, Virginia.  Making illegal moonshine was big business for the brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeuf) Forrest (Tom Hardy) & Howard (Jason Clarke).  The trouble always starts with “The Law.”  Kudos to Guy Pearce who plays Agent Charlie Rakes who plays this big-city lawman with undeniable smirks & utter creepiness.  Charlie’s haircut is worth a thousand words.  Guy was completely entertaining. I also enjoyed Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner.  It’s classic Oldman, changing his physical appearance yet again. He’s a true cinematic chameleon.

There’s a great divide between Tom Hardy’s Forrest & Shia LaBeuf’s Jack.  Forrest is the string silent type, while Jack is eager to a fault.  To exist in that period, you had to comply to “The Law.”  The Bondurant Brothers would not bow to any man, group or gang.  During this time, their legend grew to the point of immortality.  The film steadily builds with a steady performance by Jessica Chastain who plays Maggie, a Chicago girl looking for a quieter life. By the end of the film, the booze, bullets & blood are flowing.

It’s a good film & I highly recommend it. “Lawless” is Rated ‘R’ for violence.If you follow me on Twitter @leoquinones I’ll do my hair like Agent Charlie Rakes. Watch

Film Freak Movie Report 6.27.2012

Brave Movie Review

Disney Pixar jumps into the summer box office fray with “Brave.”  It’s the story of Princess Merida, a spirited lass from the Highlands of Scotland.  Animators first journeyed to Scotland way back in 2006.  They then returned in 2007 to immerse within Scottish culture.  Their research included taking in stories steeped in the Scots culinary habits, foggy weather, wildlife, trees & rich ancestry.  These steps are what make the animation is as good as what you’d expect from Pixar.

Merida’s journey revolves around a universal theme of most teenagers throughout the ages, ‘Let me live my own life!’  The conflict comes from within the family must be resolved with family.  The story involves witches, potions, ferries & thundering horseback rides.  Young girls all over the world will absolutely love watching ‘Brave.’  The movie is being pushed as 3D, but you can save a few bucks per tickets by watching it in 2D.  It’s just as fun.

I think Brave is a wee bit scary for kids under the age 6.  There’s classic Disney villains & there’s things nightmares are made of.  Hit a bullseye like Merida & Follow Leo on Twitter @leoquinones.  The Film Freak iPhone App is %100 FREE. Just search Film Freak.

Rock of Ages Movie Review

The year: 1987.  Mullets were the rage.  I know, I had one.  On the upside, I had my share of fun & frolic on the famed Sunset Strip.  It’s literally a Miracle Mile for Blackouts.  Such is the time and backdrop of ‘Rock of Ages.’  The Broadway Musical’s now a full-fledged, star-studded feature film.  so I sit down & when the movie started I was genuinely lost.  What’s happening here?  Why is everyone singing?  After 10-15 minutes, I was struck by the obvious hammer: It’s a musical.  I know, I’m a genius.

So I settle in for a rock n’ roll journey.  Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is a small town girl.  Drew (Diego Boneta) is a city boy, born & raised in South Detroit.  You get where I’m heading.  She dreams of being a singer.  He wants to be the next Rock God,  Stacee Jaxx.   Their fates intertwine at The Bourbon Room, a fictitious Rock N’ Roll sanctuary on the Sunset Strip.

The bread & butter of “Rock of Ages” is the music.  It’s funny how a few actors in the movie were not really into the music. Alec Baldwin, who plays Dennis Dupree owner of The Bourbon Room, says he remembers “switching off the radio in the 80’s.”  Russell Brand who plays Lonnie, Dennis’ right hand man freely admits he wasn’t into pop-rock at all, but The Cure. Be that as it may, the music drives the movie.

Tom Cruise should get alot of credit here for taking on the role of Stacee Jaxx.   The love story of Drew & Sherrie revolves around the surreal rock star existence of Stacee Jaxx, longtime lead singer of the rock band, Arsenal.  Jaxx is at a crossroads in his life and career.  The thing about Cruise that I appreciate most is his work ethic.  Unlike many actors, he doesn’t inhabit a role without first doing his homework.

The result is out there on the “Rock of Ages” soundtrack, forever. The guy spent months getting his voice right for the part, before ever stepping on set.  Two highlights were his versions of Bon Jovi’s anthemic, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and a duet of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” with Malin Ackerman.

NON SPOILER FACTS:  When I saw the movie, I thought they’d closed part of the Sunset Strip.  I was about 3,000 miles off the mark.  The crew scouted locations as far away as Sydney Australia.  The mock Sunset Strip is actually located in Miami in the neighborhood of Overtown.  Built in 6-weeks, the set included The Bourbon Room,a Guitar Center, The Roxy, The Comedy Store, The Sunset Grill, Duke’s Filthy McNasty’s which is now The Viper Room and of course, Frederick’s of Hollywood.  If you look closely, you’ll see a Shell gas station where a gallon of gas was just $1.31.

Dressing the set, you’ll also see vintage cars of the period like Corvettes, Pontiac Fieros, Jeeps & even a 1985 white Cadillac Fleetwood limousine used by the one & only Stacee Jaxx.  You’ll also see a blow-up, 20-foot balloon of a chick sitting spread-eagle atop the Tower Records building.  But my favorite piece of background dressing is the DeLorean sitting in front of the Venus Gentleman’s Club owned by Justice. (Mary J. Blige) I’ll have to confirm later if that was a tip of the Hoverbaord to Doc Brown & Marty McFly.

I do have to state, with all these 80’s pop songs driving the plot, there’s a definite cheese level at play here, but ultimately that’s the fun.  Cynics take caution:  The tone of Rock of Ages doesn’t ever make fun of the music, the high hair or the huge shoulder pads. It celebrates it.  Who’s in for the ride?  I see cougars simply loving this movie & anyone who wants nuthin’ but a good time.

Directed by Adam Shankman, Rock of Ages is Rated PG-13.  Hey man, Follow me on Twitter @leoquinones. I mean why not, Stacee Jaxx & Heyman do do and they’re my Rock N’ Roll brothers.



Film Freak Movie Report 5.17.2012

Leo heads down to the Four Seasons to talk about the latest in movies!

Movie Review: Battleship **NO SPOILERS**

Battleship is getting torpedoed by movie critics. It’s what they do.  The movie is far from perfect, and is a lot better than I thought.  I’m fully aware the dialogue in the movie had challenges.  But here’s one of my pet peeves: Rudeness in movie theaters.  When a lousy line is uttered, I just kinda roll my eyes & think to myself, “That was so cheesy.”  But again, this is me, thinking to myself.

I can’t stand when someone, who gets to see these movies for FREE has the tenacity to outwardly laugh at bad dialogue. It’s the most selfish thing you can do in a movie.  It serves 2 purposes: (1) You’re attempting to show everyone how smart you are & you know a bad line when you hear it. (2) It pulls anyone out of the film who’s enjoying it.

Regular movie going folks with enjoy Battleship. Based on the 1931 Hasbro game,  it has less to do with real strategic war at sea & more to do with aliens taking over Earth.  I will say the sound design was perfect.  On the other hand, it feels like whole scenes were lifted from other movies like, “Officer & A Gentlemen,” “Independence Day,” and of course, “Transformers.”

Battleship is a long journey from perfection, but I still had fun.  My favorite thing about the movie were the ‘Old Salts,’ World War II vets who actually served on the battleship USS Missouri was very cool.  Rated PG-13.  You can follow me on Twitter @leoquinones


Movie Review: Dark Shadows

As a kid, I barely remember the TV soap opera, “Dark Shadows.”  The eerie theme song is forever seared in my memory.   Tim Burton, Michelle Pfieffer & Johnny Depp were also Children of the Corn-y soap.  Leave it to Tim & Johnny to pick ‘Shadows’ as their vampire vehicle.

I can’t really compare the two, meaning the movie & the TV series.  I did not go back & revisit the old material.  It’s widely known, that, for better or worse, this is now Tim Burton’s vision.  As seen in the trailers, Barnabas Collins is a vampire buried alive for almost 200 years & released in the year 1972.  This juxtaposition is supposed to the springboard for comedy situations.

But I found the film to be much darker than funny.  You know that old saying, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?’   Angelique (Eva Green) plays a servant who loves Barnabas Collins. (Johnny Depp) When the relationship goes south, things are compounded by the fact that she’s a witch.  Hence the evil curse she places, which transforms Barnabas into a vampire, doomed for eternal damnation.  She’s gives him the extended dirt nap too.

That’s the central theme at play here.  This rivalry is the films’ beginning, middle & end. The bulk of the humor stems from the way Barnabas reacts to the tackiness of the times.  Johnny Depp is indeed very interesting to watch on screen.  He’s playing alot of this through his extended fingers & eyes.  His  makeup application was very extreme. A bit too much I’m afraid.

I always like to go over Vampire Rules.  Barnabas casts no reflection in the mirror, (1) Point.  Resistance to silver. (1) point. He seeks darkness, (1) point.  Sunlight sizzles his skin & fingertips, (1) point.  Original coffin brought in for slumber, (1) point.  His ability to walk around in broad daylight, MINUS (5) points!   It’s a bloody wash, folks.

Hardcore fans of the ‘Dark Shadows’ TV show have been left for scrap.  It is what it is.  This is signature Tim Burton: Weird & creepy right down the line.   I liked this world, I just wish there were more laughs.  Either it’s a dark vampire movie or it’s an out-and-out comedy. Tone is so tough.  As you’ll see, it’s just about impossible to combine the two. Dark Shadows is rated PG-13.

Barnabas Collins is getting with the times. He’s now following me on Twitter. You can too @leoquinones


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