DVD gives lots of background to 'Django Unchained'

2013-04-18T00:00:00Z DVD gives lots of background to 'Django Unchained'Rich Heldenfels Akron (ohio) Beacon Journal Arizona Daily Star

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most maddening filmmakers around. He loves movies, loves them in an omnivorous way. There is no film so obscure, no moment so bizarre, that Tarantino has not mentally filed it and considered a way to use it in one of his movies.

It's an approach that has worked at times - "Pulp Fiction" holds up, and I like a lot of "Jackie Brown" - but more recent works like "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained" demand not only a film geek to appreciate it all, but also a more general willingness by the audience to distance itself from movies and characters because Tarantino may at any moment decide to switch genres, toss in anachronistic music or have a cameo by Jonah Hill.

It is, in fact, Hill's cameo in "Django" - which on Tuesday arrived on DVD (Anchor Bay, $29.98) and a Blu-ray/ DVD combo ($39.99) - that sums up the problem I have with Tarantino. He may love movies, but he doesn't particularly respect them. I believe that movies should let you get lost in their world. Tarantino believes he can pull you out of that world at any time, just to show you how clever he is. Similarly, he treats big ideas and issues, such as racism in Django, as just a place to hang simplistic fantasies of revenge.

To be sure, Tarantino has his admirers. He has won two Academy Awards as a writer (for "Pulp Fiction" and "Django"). Reviews of "Django" were overwhelmingly favorable, even if some of the favor was in the that's-so-Quentin vein. But, as I said, if you expect a certain kind of enveloping movie experience, "Django" will be as maddening to you as it is to me.

The film stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave enlisted by bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) in Schultz's search for a pair of criminals; he and Django then become bounty-hunting partners - although Django's real quest is to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who has been taken by a new owner. That journey ultimately brings them to the malicious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), Candie's scheming slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) and a violent final confrontation. And, of course, tributes to the spaghetti Westerns that partly inspired it, African-American exploitation films, old cowboy actor Tom Mix, vintage music, TV Westerns (with several veteran actors in cameos) and, yes, Jonah Hill. You've been warned.

Extras on the DVD include a look at the production design. The Blu-ray combo adds pieces on costume design and on the horses and stunt work.

Also released Tuesday

""Howdy, Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup" (Shout! Factory, $24.97 standard DVD)

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