Despite recent controversy about "Django Unchained," the Quentin Tarantino film has received mostly positive reviews from top critics.
UPDATE: The movie is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture (Check out a full list of nominations). It is set in the American South, two years before the Civil War, and stars Jamie Foxx as the title character.
He is an black slave who makes a deal with a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz, to try to secure his freedom and also find and free his wife, Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington, from an evil plantation owner, Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Samuel L. Jackson, Jonah Hill and Bruce Dern also star.
The movie has stirred controversy over not only its sensitive subject matter, but its repeated use of a racial slur throughout the film. Director Spike Lee, a longtime advocate of civil rights known for helming the 1992 film "Malcolm X," said in December that he would boycott the movie, adding on his Twitter page: "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them. (sic)"
"Django Unchained" was released on December 25. As of Friday, January 4, the movie has a 76 percent approval rating from 41 top critics on Rottentomatoes.com. Check out exerpts from 10 reviews of Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" from top critics:
1. Rolling Stone -- review by Peter Travers -- 2 out of 4 stars:
Travers calls "Django Unchained" "an exhilarating rush, outrageously entertaining and, hell, just plain outrageous."
"There's something here to offend everyone," he says. "Revenge fantasies don't leave much room for moral lessons. Django is out for blood. So is Tarantino, but he doesn't sacrifice his humanity or conscience to do it," he says, adding: "Wake up, people. Tarantino lives to cross the line. Is Django Unchained too much? Damn straight. It wouldn't be Tarantino otherwise." (Read the full review)
2. Reelviews -- review by James Berardinelli -- 3.5 out of 4 stars:
"Despite the occasional brutality of the material, 'Django Unchained' includes some of the best laugh aloud scenes of any 2012 motion picture, regardless of the genre," he says.
Berardinelli also says the film "may be Tarantino's most uplifting movie to date," adding: "This is a fine, accomplished effort and a great way to spend nearly three hours in a movie theater. Most people will leave with a smile and those who don't probably should have gone to see something softer in the first place." (Read the full review)
3. NPR -- review by Stephanie Zacharek:
She calls "Django Unchained" "exhilarating, hilarious, horrifying and poetic."
"In other words, it's a picture that's full of everything, and if it takes significant liberties with history (as 'Inglorious Basterds' so gleefully did), it also faces certain historical truths head-on," she says. "And the harsh reality is that a word that's never used today in polite company was, in 1858, used by all manner of people who fancied themselves polite." (Read the full review)
4. The Boston Globe -- review by Wesley Morris -- 3.5 out of 5 stars:
"Set in 1858, this isn't a runaway narrative. It's a run-toward narrative, rigged for shock," he says. "Each scene lays a stick of dynamite and lights a fuse that runs down and down and down until the whole thing blows up like the Fourth of July."
"I've never seen anything like this movie, not in one 165-minute sitting, not from a single director, not made with this much conscientious bravado and unrelenting tastelessness -- this much exclamatory kitsch -- on a subject as loaded, gruesome, and dishonorable as American slavery," he adds. (Read the full review)
5. USA Today - review by Claudia Puig -- 3.5 out of 4 stars:
Puig says the performances of Jackson, who plays another slave, and of Waltz and DiCaprio are "the most memorable," while "Foxx does a terrific job" and Washington's performance as his wife is "wonderful." She also says: "The dialogue, particularly in the first hour, is some of the wittiest of any screenplay in recent memory."
"By graphically depicting the mistreatment of slaves, Tarantino drives home the ugliness of racism and, as in his Inglourious Basterds from 2009, offers an empowering alternate vision," she adds. "The revisionist result is incendiary and difficult to watch but also thought-provoking and consistently entertaining." (Read the full review)
6. Variety -- review by Peter Debruge:
"Filmmakers who choose to portray this shameful chapter of America's past bear a certain responsibility not to sanitize it," he says. "But here, even as it lays the groundwork for 'Django's' vengeance, dwelling on such brutality can verge on exploitation. To wit, the film problematically features no fewer than 109 instances of the N-word, most of them deployed either for laughs or alliteration."
"In sheer formal terms, "Django Unchained" is rich enough to reward multiple viewings, while thematics will make this thorny 'southern' -- as the director aptly dubs it -- perhaps his most closely studied work," Debruge adds. "Of particular interest will be Tarantino's two cameos, one delivered with an Australian accent, and the other alongside Jonah Hill in the "baghead" scene." (Read the full review)
7. The Hollywood Reporter -- review by Todd McCarthy:
"Only Tarantino could come up with such a wild cross-cultural mash, a smorgasbord of ingredients stemming from spaghetti Westerns, German legend, historical slavery, modern rap music, proto-Ku Klux Klan fashion, an assembly of '60s and '70s character actors and a leading couple meant to be the distant forebears of blaxploitation hero John Shaft and make it not only digestible but actually pretty delicious," he says.
"Quite naturally, given the historical setting, the N-word gets a heavy workout, by whites and blacks alike. But much more forceful is the cruelty dispensed by the Southern whites, both as punishment and whim," he adds.
McCarthy adds that "when Jackson is onscreen, it's impossible to take your eyes off him." He also says that "the film's greatest problem is that, especially in the second half, the Django character gets a bit lost in the shuffle," amid the performances from Jackson, Waltz and DiCaprio. (Read the full review)
8. The Washington Post -- review by Ann Hornaday -- 2.5 out of 4 stars:
"For viewers who already share Tarantino's love of genre, "Django Unchained" is -- at least for its first two hours -- enormously satisfying," she says.
She also praises Waltz's and DiCaprio's performances and adds: "But colorful characters and performances can only mask thinly schematic underpinnings for so long. Eventually Tarantino resorts to his usual fall-back position, which is to bathe everything and everyone in sight in gunfire, gore and geysers of blood." (Read the full review)
9. The New York Times -- review by A.O. Scott:
"Django Unchained" "digressive, jokey, giddily brutal and ferociously profane," he says, adding: "But it is also a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism."
"When you wipe away the blood and the anarchic humor, what you see in 'Django Unchained' is moral disgust with slavery, instinctive sympathy for the underdog and an affirmation (in the relationship between Django and Schultz) of what used to be called brotherhood," he says. (Read the full review)
10. The Associated Press -- review by David Germain:
"Granted, there's something gleefully satisfying in watching evil people get what they have coming," he says. "But 'Django Unchained' is Tarantino at his most puerile and least inventive, the premise offering little more than cold, nasty revenge and barrels of squishing, squirting blood."
He adds that performances by Foxx, DiCaprio, Waltz and Jackson "make 'Django Unchained' intermittently entertaining amid moments when the characters are either talking one another to death or just plain killing each other" and says there are "morbidly funny moments" in the film, but that "The humor co-exists uneasily and often clumsily alongside a story so charged with racial enmity."
"Tarantino's solution to everything is to put guns and dynamite into people's hands, and while that might be good escapism in a gangster story, it feels flimsy and childish here," he says. (Read the full review)
Watch a trailer for "Django Unchained" and tell us what YOU thought about the movie.