Tag Archives: django unchained

The Hateful Eight (2015)

31 Dec

There is a moment during The Hateful Eight where a character quietly explains the difference between “justice” – wherein the facts are weighed and criminals are given a fair and lawful trial – and, “frontier justice” – where criminals are often shot dead in a fit of rage. “Justice” is orderly and carried out with logic and ensuring the least amount of harm as possible, while “frontier justice” is brutal, chaotic, and fuelled by emotion.

It’s obviously clear Quentin Tarantino is an advocate of the latter kind. 

The writer/director’s 8th film appropriately titled The Hateful Eight is essentially three hours of his signature, in-your-face, badass-to-the-limit screenplay. You know, the kind where you can just feel the narrative tension escalate with each passing moment. Where you know – without a doubt – things are going to get ugly, but you can’t seem to guess how or when.

Taking the form of a post-Civil War western set along a snowy Wyoming trail, The Hateful Eight starts off with two bounty hunters who just happen to cross paths with each other. Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson at his best), who is en route to a town called Red Rock when his horse dies, seeks the help of cowboy John “The Hangman” Ruth (an equally impressive Kurt Russell) who is transporting outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock where she will be tried and likely hanged. Domergue has a pretty price on her head, explains Ruth. A whopping $10,000, which makes The Hangman suspicious by default of any passersby including Warren and a drifter named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be the new Red Rock sheriff.

In the world of the wild, wild west, one man’s word has a lot of weight, and the ability to trust fellow travelers or not can spell life or death on the frontier. Take into account the rampant racism between divided factions of the war that are still bubbling, and you have the ingredients for a suspenseful witch-hunt of a mystery. “One of them fellas is not what he says he is” says The Hangman as he tries to measure up each character’s motivations.  It’s in this climate of paranoia and racial tension where The Hateful Eight thrives. Every man (and woman) is looking out for him/herself and unlike Tarantino’s last film Django Unchainedit’s not so easy to tell the good guys apart from the bad ones.

There are essentially only two locations in The Hateful Eight: the harsh exterior of the winter trail, and Minnie’s Haberdashery, a sort of makeshift-inn for trustworthy travelers. In the hands of another director, this kind of a film with such minimal set pieces could feel like an eternity – especially with a running time of 3 + hours (case in point: The Turin Horse). Tarantino’s masterful writing however, flows effortlessly from one scene to the next. Though it clocks in at a whopping 187 minutes, Tarantino lets us get to know each character over the course of many small-talk conversations throughout the film’s first half. Quentin himself gives us a brechtian half-time voiceover, where he brings the audience to speed and chops up the narrative structure before throwing us headfirst into the film’s more violent and insanity-ridden second half. Such a postmodern interruption comes off a bit too jarring for a western, but part of The Hateful Eight’s fun lies within its unpredictable and often bloody surprises.

Shot in “Glorious 70mm Ultra Panavision” (an odd choice for such a minimalistic film), the film looks absolutely stunning in each and every shot. True, Quentin has scaled things back a bit from his epic and sprawling Django Unchained, but every frame here feels utilized within its 70mm space.  Performance-wise everyone is on-point, with Jennifer Jason Leigh being the lead scene-stealer. Supporting work by Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, James Park, Demian Bichir, and a few captivating moments with Zoe Bell, Channing Tatum, and Gene Jones are icing on the cake.

It’s true that all the major players in The Hateful Eight could have been instruments of “justice”, with all the criminals and do-gooders taking their rightful roles. But what Tarantino knows only too well is that watching everyone’s attempt at carrying out the good ol’ fashioned “frontier justice“, well…. it’s just a hell of a lot more fun.

Bottom Line: A throwback western that’s 100% Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is a heavily plotted, hitchcockian thriller that sizzles with anxiety and great performances throughout its lengthy runtime. 

Rating: 8/10

Film recipe: That opening scene in Inglorious Bastards – nazis + cowboys, + Seven Psychopaths + Rope + No Country For Old Men 

 

Best films of 2012

27 Dec

2012 was a great year for film-lovers.

With a slew of veteran directors including Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Ridley Scott, Ang Lee, Peter Jackson, Robert Zemeckis, Tom Tykwer, The Wachowski siblings, Rian Johnson, P.T. Anderson, Ben Affleck, Sam Mendes, David O. Russell, and Tom Hooper all releasing films this year, there was no shortage of high-quality movies to choose from. Heck Steven Soderbergh, Tim Burton, and Joss Whedon each had two 2012 films.

This is why making a “best-of” list was no easy task, but after some thought here are my personal picks for the top 25 films of 2012 (meaning they had a widespread theatrical release from jan-dec).

25- Cabin In The Woods 

As cliche’ as it might seem, there is a subtle mix of playfulness and horror throughout Cabin In The Woods that makes it such a fun ride ride to see over and over again.

24 – Les Miserables 

The music, acting, and look of the film all work nicely together to create one of the most powerful musical adaptations I have seen in recent years.

23- The Dark Knight Rises

While it doesn’t quite have the thrills of it’s predecessor, Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment into the Dark Knight franchise is emotionally satisfying and clever with all the twists and turns that make the franchise unique among super-hero films. Even if they don’t make any logical sense.

 

22 – Cloud Atlas 

From the costumes to the cast to the six interwoven stories, everything about Cloud Atlas begs to be called epic.  While the first third of the film is a confusing mess of ideas and characters, things get straightened out nicely in the end once you figure out who is playing who and what planet they are on.  With such an ambitious project as this, it is really, really easy for things to go wrong. Miraculously, Cloud Atlas gets everything right.

21 – Skyfall 

Bond is back and better than ever in this wonderful addition to the 007 franchise.  Hopefully Daniel Craig will not hang up the suit quite yet…

21 – Compliance  

A simple concept brought to life with amazing performances with an even better nail-biter of a script.  This is the stuff great indie flicks are made from.

20- Chasing Ice 

The single most gorgeous-looking documentary I have ever seen.

19- Argo 

Great screenwriting and cinematography create a well-balanced political thriller. The great cast was the icing on the cake.

18- Carnage 

Four people arguing in a living room for hours might not seem like much, but when those four people are John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster, and Kate Winslet…….   things get interesting and dramatically hilarious.

17- Looper

Good movies are usually either intellectually, sensually or emotionally stimulating.  Looper manages to be all three at the same time.

End of Watch

While it might seem like a feature film about the TV show COPS, End of Watch is actually one of the most emotional movies I have seen all year.  Great chemistry from Gyllenhaal and Pena.

16- Seven Psychopaths 

An amazing cast mixed with an ever-unpredictable story makes for an offensively wild film. From the writer/director of the cult-favourite In Bruges.

15- Prometheus 

The epic and visually stunning prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus proves you can reach the end of a journey looking for answers, only to have more questions that when you first started. The film’s many mysteries had Alien fans scratching their heads for ages, and left me wanting a sequel.

 

14- Headhunters 

Part heist-flick, part survival-drama, Headhunters tells the story of one man’s quest to steal a million-dollar painting. And what ultimately happens when things go sour.  If you are a fan of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, don’t miss out on this.

13- The Master 

P.T. Anderson’s sprawling epic about the life of a  very peculiar WWII veteran. Both Phillip S. Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix give amazing performances and the cinematography is stunning.

12 – The Imposter 

The bizzare-but-true story about a missing Texas boy who winds up in Spain over three years later. This is the WTF documentary everyone will be talking about.

10 – Django Unchained 

Tarantino returns with a revenge/western/drama/shoot-em-up set in the South 2 years prior to the Civil War. It’s long and overly playful, but Django Unchained somehow manages to be one of the year’s most entertaining films (if you can get past the hefty amount of racial slurs and fake blood).

 

9-  The Hunt

8- Holy Motors 

Obscure and senseless, Holy Motors is a collage of surreal scenarios and situations that make up a thought-provoking and mesmerizing piece of cinema.

7 – Frances Ha 

6 – Silver Linings Playbook 

David O Russel cleverly mixes bi-polar disorders with the Philadelphia Eagle’s in this witty romantic comedy.  Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, and Jennifer Lawrence are great, but the real treasure is seeing a chic-flick that is this entertaining without being cliche’.

5 – Killer Joe 

A low-budget crime thriller that hits all the right spots, and then some. Killer Joe boasts some of the best acting of the year, and a script that leaves you on the edge on your seat. You will never look at KFC the same way again.

4 – Moonrise Kingdom 

Wes Anderson’s magnificent drama about a boy and a girl who leave the world behind and set out together for adventure. Not only does the film look amazing, but Anderson has really outdone himself (again) with the set pieces, characters, use of music and brilliant screenplay.  Though it has an all-star cast, Moonrise never lets celebrity get in the way of it’s story and splendor.

3- Beasts of the Southern Wild 

A simple low-budget film that captures the innocence and curiosity of childhood, mixed with the drama and emotion of an entire community. This movie is brilliant, well directed and breathtakingly beautiful from start to finish.

 

2-  We Need To Talk About Kevin 

A powerfully gripping psychological thriller about a child who is…. different. This is one you will want to see a second time around.

1- It’s Such A Beautiful Day 

So there ya go. An honorable mention goes to 21 Jump Street for being the funniest movie of the year.

My picks for film categories can be seen HERE.

Feel free to disagree as there were so many other great films that I didn’t mention, and  if you want to take a look at what i’m most excited about in 2013, click HERE