Django Unchained (Blu-ray)

April 12, 2013 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I recently had myself a little Quentin Tarantino movie-viewing spree.  And that’s saying quite a lot for someone who has a perpetual pile of “to be reviewed…” Blu-rays sitting next to the TV.  But hey, I’m a movie-lover and so it Mr. Tarantino.  I can remember the first time I saw Reservoir Dogs, not in the theater but when it came to home video.  Of course I saw Pulp Fiction and all subsequent Tarantino films (and I’m even lumping From Dusk ‘Til Dawn in there).  I guess I have to say that I like them all, but my two favorites are Pulp Fiction the Kill Bill movies (I count this as one film).  So with all the hoopla surrounding Django Unchained, I was ever so excited to see what it was all about.  Tarantino has a way of selecting actors via some rather avant garde methods.  In his own words “Studios have their list of actors that are good for about five years.  I’ve got my own list and to be on it you have to satisfy two criteria: I have to like you and you have to be alive.”  This might explain the casting of Johan Hill, Don Johnson and Tom Wopat to say the least.  However Django Unchained isn’t your typical Hollywood fare…

Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter, has a mission – track down and bring in (dead or alive) the Brittle brothers.  As fate would have it, he crossed paths with a slave by the name of Django (Jamie Foxx), who proves worthy to Schultz.  The two form an unlikely partnership and Schultz trains Django in the art of bounty hunting which seems to come naturally for Django.  Of course, he (Django) also has a plan to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from her servitude which just so happens to be in “Candyland”, a plantation run by Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio).  This begs the question: can Schultz and Django get the Brittle brothers, collect the bounty and manage to save Broomhilda from her doomed life?  Who said a German dentist and a freed slave can’t make for a good team?

I have to hand it to Quentin Tarantino, love him or hate him, the guy can come up with some original stories.  Yes, Django Unchained is his homage to the Spaghetti Westerns just as Kill Bill was to Asian Cinema and Jackie Brown to the Blaxploitation films of the 70’s.  It seems that whatever he was a fan of will one day be a movie.  Hey, that’s fine by me.  Like Oliver Stone before him, Tarantino seems to bring out the best performances in his actors.  Christoph Waltz claimed his second Best Supporting Actor (though some would argue that this role was that of a lead) Oscar and Tarantino picked up another Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his work here.  Having said that, Django Unchained isn’t an easy movie to watch.  If you’re easily offended or have an aversion to violence this might not be for you.  But if you can distance yourself from your personal views and realize that this is one of the most uniquely original films in years, you’ll enjoy it.

Video: How does it look?

Django Unchained comes to Blu-ray sporting a very wide 2.40:1 AVC HD image that looks pretty darn good.  There’s a variety of scenery in the film, ranging from snow on a prairie to nighttime shots and dimly-lit interior shots.  Colors are still bold and vibrant, contrast is well-balanced and black levels are spot on.  I saw a very fine hint of grain, but knowing Tarantino that might have been intentional.  Detail is amazing as well, just seeing the scared whip marks on Django’s back, the individual facial hairs of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candy and the sense of depth we get in some of the exterior shots.  It’s a fine effort, for sure.

Audio: How does it sound?

Tarantino’s films have always sounded good.  Don’t believe me?  Watch the first three minutes of Pulp Fiction.  See?  Django Unchained contains a DTS HD Master Audio track that sounds robust enough to be considered “action” but as all of his movies do, have an amazing amount of dialogue.  Sonics range from very discrete surround effects to an in-you-face explosion at the end of the film that shakes the room.  You want gunfire?  Oh there’s gunfire.  Each bullet echoes through your speakers and makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.  The soundtrack for the film is pretty darn good too, so whatever your fancy – you’re in for a treat.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There must have been a push to get this out while the iron was still hot as there are only a trio of featurettes. “Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses and the Stunts of Django Unchained” is just that, we get interviews with the trainers of the horses and how some of the stunts were done.  I’m not expert, but evidently this was quite a big deal and Tarantino explains how proud he was that no animals were harmed in the movie, hence the American Humane Association logo prominent in the ending credits.  “Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained” takes a look at the design of the film, with interviews with the cast and crew.  I was a bit confused at first as J. Michael Riva is interviewed, but he died on the set in July 2012.  “The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis” showcases the costume design of the movie, with influences and information down to the last lace and bow.  There’s also a promo for the Tarantino XX Film Collection as well as the soundtrack.  Additionally a Digital Copy and an UltraViolet copy are included.

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