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Quentin Tarantino’s 10 best movie scenes

- March 26th, 2013

qt

A video store clerk with an encyclopedia-like knowledge of Hollywood gets his first screenplay in the hands of a veteran character actor. The film is a hit, and leads to a 20-plus year career with two Oscar wins.

That sounds like it was ripped from the pages of the discard script pile. But it’s actually the very abridged story of writer-director Quentin Tarantino, who turns 50 this week.

Prior to the release of his most recent feature, Django Unchained, QT announced his plans to quit making films after he completes his 10th feature. That leaves him with three films left in his storied career.

Of course that could change, but in honour of Quentin’s 50th, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of his greatest scenes – of which there have been many. And it goes without saying, most of these clips contain graphic language, so they ain’t safe for work.

Quentin Tarantino and the real meaning of ‘Top Gun’

QT famously dissected Top Gun in a cameo in 1994’s Sleep With Me, revealing that the testosterone-fueled action film is really about Maverick’s struggle with his sexuality. I don’t know if it was improvised, but it was literally the only thing I remember about this movie.

Opening scene of ‘True Romance’

The whole film is near perfect and it stands as Christian Slater’s best performance. Personally, I preferred QT’s original ending, but the opening sequence features Slater’s Clarence Worley riffing on Elvis and trying to convince a woman he’s just met to go to a Sonny Chiba triple feature. Single dudes, don’t try this.

Stuntman Mike kills Pam in Death Proof

If this film is as weak as QT can get, then his directorial batting average will be pretty hard to beat. Death Proof, his portion of the Grindhouse double-feature he shared with Robert Rodriguez, has some truly great scenes including this one with Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike: “… Honey, you really need to be sitting in my seat.”

The KKK wardrobe malfunction in ‘Django Unchained’

This is gallows humour at its best. As a group of Klansmen, led by Don Johnson, get ready to blow Django to smithereens they experience some, er, issues with their hoods. It’s one of the funniest scenes QT has ever written.

Sam Jackson and Robert De Niro: ‘Your a—used to be beautiful’

QT’s third feature Jackie Brown was an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch and I’ve loved re-watching this film every couple of years since its release in 1997. I especially dug the interplay between Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, and the way that this scene in particular was filmed from behind. Putting us in the backseat as the two argue over getting ripped off was a nice stylistic touch. Jackson’s line to De Niro after shooting him, though, is a classic.

The Sicilian Scene in ‘True Romance’

It’s always a treat to watch as two acting heavyweights square off. This scene, set to the famous Flower Duet, is one of Tarantino’s personal favourites. Hopper knows he’s a dead man walking, but instead of fighting, he asks for a cigarette and then proceeds to insult Walken in the most political incorrect way. Ouch!

Hans Landa’s opening scene in ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Christoph Waltz’ Hans Landa is perhaps QT’s most vile creation. Sure, he got some stiff competition from Leo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, and Sam Jackson’s Steven from Django, but I think he’s Tarantino’s most terrifying villain. Yet each time he’s onscreen in Inglourious Basterds, I found myself utterly absorbed.

‘Like A Virgin’ from ‘Reservoir Dogs’

Tarantino’s debut had a litany of set pieces that have been studied by aspiring writers and directors, but for me, this opening was brilliant. Here, we see criminals taking on pop culture, with QT’s Mr. Brown debating the meaning behind Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin.’ Naturally, the conversation morphs into what she’s really taking about in ‘True Blue.’

Jack Rabbit Slim’s Twist Contest and Ezekiel 25:17 from ‘Pulp Fiction’

C’mon, you knew there had to be at least two clips from Pulp Fiction included on this list. We could have just gone with 10 scenes from this film alone: The gimp, Christopher Walken and the watch, and the shot of adrenaline. Should I continue? But nearly 20 years later, I still love Uma Thurman and the reluctant John Travolta’s dance scene at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Ditto the Ezekiel 25:17 speech, Jules Winnfield (Sam Jackson) recites just before he executes Brett (Frank Whaley).

The Bride vs. Gogo and The Crazy 88’s in ‘Kill Bill’

He’s not exactly known for choreographing drawn-out action sequences, but this blood-laden 10-plus minute slash-fest marked a high point in QT’s Kill Bill opus. It’s almost as if he was trying to prove he could out chop-socky the Wachowskis. Wait a minute, he did. I triple-dog-dare him to make a third instalment.

Didn’t like my picks? Let us know which scenes you’ve loved best from the films of Quentin Tarantino in the comments. Here’s hoping he lives another 50 years, and reneges on that promise to quit.

Oscar 2013: Watch the trailers

- January 10th, 2013

In news that will come as a surprise to no one, U.S. presidential drama Lincoln scored 12 Oscar nominations on Thursday including nods for best picture, director, actor and supporting actor and actress.

Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi ran a close second with 11 noms.

Joining those two films in the best picture race are: Les Miserables, Argo, Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

If you haven’t seen them all yet, check out the trailers below and let us know who you think was snubbed and who you think will win.

The Oscars air February 24.

Amour

The French-language film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes last year. Haven’t seen this one yet. It’s on my list.

Argo

Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage drama, in which Canada co-starred, was considered a lock for best picture nod. But the fact that Affleck was snubbed for director came as a bit of a surprise. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour. The performances are top notch and the story shines a light on Canadian heroes you may not have heard of.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The is the little indie film that could. Coming out in a summer that was dominated by The Avengers, a lot of eyes will be on Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, who becomes the youngest ever best actress Oscar nominee.

Django Unchained

QT’s slavery revenge film is hard to watch. There are scenes that will revolt you. But if you stick it out, you’ll be treated to a master class in acting. Christoph Waltz is masterful, but Sam Jackson and Leo DiCaprio turned in seductively evil performances that rank alongside Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Shame about Tarantino not getting a nod for best director.

Les Misérables

We all knew that Hugh Jackman could sing his way through Jean Valjean, but what about Russel Crowe as Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Oscar certainly likes the adaptation of the long-running stage play. In addition to a best picture nod, Jackman and Hathaway were nominated in the acting category.

Life of Pi

Many thought a big screen adaptation of Yann Martel’s prize-winning novel about a boy adrift on the Pacific with a Bengal tiger was impossible to film. Director Ang Lee proved everyone wrong.

Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis is considered a shoe-in for best actor and the film is considered a front-runner for best picture. Spielberg has already won twice, so I wouldn’t bet the house that he’ll win for director. Between us, I’m more excited for Robopocalypse.

Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell’s direction makes this film a visual treat. There’s no CGI trickery, but I loved how the camera played a supporting role in a movie that is chock full of excellent performances. De Niro makes us forget about the Fockers, and Chris Tucker reveals there is life after Rush Hour. The best surprise, though, is Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who both prove they aren’t just a one-trick pony.

Zero Dark Thirty

It hasn’t come out in Canada yet, but Kathryn Bigelow’s film based on the 10-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden is shrouded in controversy. It comes just months after the unsanctioned book, No Easy Day, and Peter Bergen’s fascinating Manhunt.

Quentin Tarantino would ‘love to work’ with Johnny Depp

- December 31st, 2012

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Quentin Tarantino has resurrected the careers of Hollywood has-beens like John Travolta and Pam Grier, and he has worked with A-listers like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Bruce Willis. But fresh off his recent announcement that he plans to stop making films after he completes his 10th feature (that’s approximately 10 years away), the Django Unchained director has revealed a few more actors he’d like to collaborate with between now and the end.

Top of that list? Well, it’s none other than Johnny Depp.

“We would love to work together. We’ve talked about it for years,” Tarantino said in a recent interview with Charlie Rose [via The Playlist]. “We’re obviously fans of each other. It just needs to be the right character. I just need to write the right character that I think Johnny would be the right guy to do it with. And if he agrees, then we’ll do it. And then it’ll be magical. I haven’t written the perfect character for Johnny Depp as of yet. Maybe someday I will, maybe someday I won’t. We’ll see.”

Johnny has previously worked with Tarantino’s pal Robert Rodriguez, turning in a scene-stealing performance as Sheldon Sands in 2003′s Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

During the Charlie Rose interview, Tarantino was also asked to name-drop others on his collab wishlist. The director revealed that in addition to Depp, he hopes to work with Meryl Streep and Michael Caine.

“I’ve always been a huge Michael Caine fan,” Tarantino said. “And I’d love to work with Meryl Streep. I actually think we’d get along like a house on fire, even though I don’t really know her.”

Honestly, while I can see Caine and QT getting on, I can’t picture Meryl spewing a symphony of f-bombs.

You can watch the whole interview below. In the meantime, let us know: Would you like to see Tarantino and Depp make a film together? Is there another actor you think should be part of Quentin’s three remaining films? Should QT even retire?

Samuel L. Jackson: M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a good movie since ‘Unbreakable’

- December 19th, 2012

unbreakable-samuel-l-jackson

Sam Jackson is not one to mince words.

After New York Times film scribe A.O. Scott gave The Avengers a bad review last May, the actor tweeted:

Now, he’s taking a non-too subtle dig at director M. Night Shyamalan, with whom he made 2000′s Unbreakable.

While promoting this month’s Django Unchained, he was asked by The Huffington Post whether fans could expect a sequel. Jackson replied: “There were supposed to be three. I don’t know… You’ll have to ask the brilliant director who wrote it and didn’t do the rest of them.”

HuffPo mentioned that instead of sequels to Shyamalan’s superhero fable, the director went on to make films like The Last Airbender and The Happening.

“I mean, he hasn’t made a really good movie since then,” Jackson replied.

He then contrasted Shyamalan’s filmmaking approach with his frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino, who directs Jackson in Django. “…There’s, you know, ‘I’m smarter than everybody coming to watch my movie.’ Quentin’s not that. He’s just, ‘I want you to love my movie. I want you to love it and enjoy it because this is fucking cool.’”

But he still thinks there’s an audience waiting for Unbreakable 2 – if and when it gets made. When asked what he thinks the reaction would be if the sequel was announced tomorrow, Jackson said it would be huge.

“Everybody would be waiting for it, yeah… It would trend through the roof now on Twitter.”

For the record, Bruce Willis told me more or less the same thing when I interviewed him in 2010.

“I think we should make another Unbreakable,” he said.

In the HuffPo interview, Jackson also revealed that he would be willing to come back for Star Wars VII, despite dying in Episode III.

“(Mace Windu) just went out the window. He’s a Jedi! He could have landed on a ledge.”

What do you think: Is M. Night really that bad? Would you be excited for another Unbreakable? Let us know in the comments.

Twitter: @markhdaniell

The best and worst movie posters of 2012

- December 17th, 2012

OK, it’s that time where we’re inundated with year-end best movie lists that basically rehash the same info.

Lincoln’s great, we get it. Ditto Django, Flight, Argo and The Hobbit. All fine and good.

But what about the best and worst movie posters? How many times do you see one on your way out of the lobby of your local multiplex and say, “Hey, I’ve got to see that.” Or, more often, “That looks cheesy.”

Trailers and reviews do a lot to sway whether or not you’ll plunk down $12.99 at the theatre, but often it’s the poster that first ignites or quashes your interest.

So let’s take a look back at some of the best and worst posters of 2012, with a few from 2013 that are getting our juices flowing.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

THE BEST

killingthemsoftyly

Brad Pitt’s Killing Them Softly didn’t set the box office on fire, but I love the minimalist black background, simple font and non-glamour shot of the film’s star. Ladies, Brad is going to kill a whole lot of people and, er, he’s not going to look his normal polished self while doing it.

dark-knight-rises-banner-poster

The Dark Knight Rises was one of those movies that had several posters leading up to its release in July. I liked them all, but this early one did a fantastic job of letting us know that this was going to serve as a proper finale for Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It also gave us an early glimpse at the villain, Bane.

spiderman

I didn’t exactly love Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. It gave us yet another origin story – believe us, everyone knows how Peter Parker became everyone’s favourite neighbourhood webslinger. But this early poster sure got my spidey-sense tingling.

skyfall poster

I’m a Bond nut. But what I love, love, love most are the Bond posters and opening credit sequences. Skyfall was aces on both accounts, as well as being possibly the best Bond film of all time.

Django-Unchained

I haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained yet, but even if the movie ends up being total crap, it wins hands-down for having the coolest poster and trailer of 2012. This minimalist throwback is art I’d actually frame on my wall.

SavagesPoster

The poster for Oliver Stone’s Savages oozed crazy, sexy, cool. Thankfully, the movie was good enough to make us forget Stone’s horrific Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

THE WORST

twilight-breaking-dawn-part-2-poster

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 might have been a gazillion times better than its predecessor, but the poster for the sequel was pure cheese. Edward, Bella and Jacob run towards an unseen enemy with an assortment of hangers-on in the background. They should have gone for something simpler.

journey 2

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island could well be an alright family flick. But this poster makes me want to barf. Even though it features The Rock, it resembles those straight-to-VHS films I used to notice at my video store in the 1990s.

battleship

I knew Battleship was in trouble when I first saw this poster. I’ve never seen something so positively corny attached to a movie with so much television hype. They should have donated some of that CGI budget to creating something less offending to the eyes. At the very least, that might have helped them with their first-day box office.

cloud_atlas

OK, what’s with the tattoo on Tom Hanks’ face? If there’s one thing that doesn’t go with Forest Gump it’s sci-fi. Wait, is that a guy from The Matrix shooting at the guy from About A Boy? But you can’t say the poster for Cloud Atlas didn’t warn you: The movie was just as bad as it looked.

JohnCarterPoster

I know no one actually saw John Carter, but what did Disney expect when they had this monstrosity plastered in subways and on buses the month before its release? Somebody definitely lost a job over this one.

avengers-poster-1

It might have been the biggest movie of the year, but I found the poster for The Avengers nauseating. It’s supposed to be a team-up film and yet, there’s Iron Man front and centre. It’s as if they ranked their poster placement based on box-office. Can you tell I’m not a Tony Stark fan?

LOOKING AHEAD AT 20013

There is a slew of movies coming out next year that are already being plugged in cinema lobbies across Canada. Here are a few of my faves.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness

I’ll admit, it is a bit of a Batman ripoff (the Starfleet insignia visually echoes the Dark Knight Rises ad), but the poster for Star Trek Into Darkness, which features Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays the villain) atop a pile of rubble, looks poised to take the series in a mysterious new direction.

die-hard-5-poster

When it comes to movie posters, it’s not often that you find Bruce Willis actually looking at the camera. But here he is, smug smirk and all with one of his most famous tag lines from his Die Hard series. I could watch John McClane all day long.

MAN-OF-STEEL-HANDCUFFS

Supes in handcuffs? We’ve all seen iterations of the Man of Tomorrow flying high above Earth. But this Man of Steel poster shows it might not all be truth and justice when we humans get a load of Superman next summer.

Twitter: @markhdaniell