Reel Critics: Tarantino 'Unchained'

Quentin Tarantino fans won't be disappointed in "Django Unchained," a crazy mess of ideas from spaghetti westerns, "Roots" and "Blazing Saddles" jangled up in a tale of pre-Civil War slavery and revenge. Tarantino borrows from the best, even from his own past.

Cristoph Waltz unchains slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to become a fellow bounty hunter. There's goofy laughs (Klansmen who can't see through their hoods) as Waltz and Foxx become buddies on a blood-soaked road trip. Leonardo DiCaprio makes evil elegant, as Waltz did so memorably in his Oscar-winning role in "Inglourious Basterds," which was a much better movie.

But Tarantino is self-indulgent and his "more is more" style doesn't work here. Had he omitted some lush lingering shots of period details and geysers of blood (plus the heavy use of the N-word), "Django" could have been about 30 minutes shorter, like those classic oaters the director so loves.


'Promised Land' leaves empty feeling

Matt Damon and John Krasinski both starred, produced and wrote "Promised Land," a well-meaning film about companies seeking natural gas drilling rights from struggling farmers. 

With the potential for the farmers to become millionaires, is it their one chance for salvation from "self-delusional mythology," or should they consider the environment? Is it any worse than being dependent on gas and oil?

Krasinski and Damon are sympathetic as they use David vs. Goliath tactics to win over a small town to their side.

But while I admired "Promised Land," it seemed too timid; there was no thrill of validation in the big finale. Only Frances McDormand, as Damon's colleague, seemed to be devoid of any moral conflict, and her energy is the film's most precious resource.


Kids, take your parents to this one

"Parental Guidance" is a charming, cheesy and campy movie that will spread joy and laughter across three generations of any family. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler team up to play old school grandparents. They are not plugged into the modern high tech world so familiar to their grown up offspring.

They are called upon to supervise their grandchildren for five days while the kids' parents take a well-deserved vacation. The habits and values of the new generation cause a major collision with the old folks' view of life. Several funny mishaps follow until all the players are changed for the better.

It's not high art, but it delivers sentimental laughter and tears in all the right places. It's the most family-friendly movie in theaters right now. The packed house and applause at my screening proved it's a crowd-pleaser for young and old alike.SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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