“In This Town, It Can All Change, Like That…”
After a summer of truly awful summer blockbusters, with only the likes of Midsommar and reissues of Jaws, The Matrix and Apocalypse Now the very few cinematic releases to keep my sanity intact and preventing me from ending my relationship with film forevermore, thank the baby jesus for the return of Quentin Tarantino, one of the select few of talented filmmakers currently working in the world of film who is always guaranteed to expel greatness upon the big screen, with the critically acclaimed American returning to cinemas for the first time since 2016’s excellent, The Hateful Eight, with the hotly anticipated and star-studded, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Hyped with a typically tantalising word of mouth after its’ debut at this year’s Cannes Festival, Hollywood sees Tarantino once again at the top of his filmmaking craft, with his so-called “ninth” picture (with the big man himself seeing both chapters of Kill Bill as a single entity) his most mature work since Jackie Brown all the way back in 1997, and whilst Hollywood by no means manages to surpass Pulp Fiction, a film which remains to this day Tarantino’s undisputed magnum opus, Tarantino’s latest is the closest the American has come in ages to creating a full-blown masterpiece.
As per the norm when it comes to the back catalogue of Tarantino, Hollywood sees the American have complete and utter control over a release which is seen as his most “personal” to date, a two hour, forty minute drama which essentially follows three separate plot threads for the majority of the runtime, all of which then convene for a final, and highly memorable, concluding act which for those with prior knowledge of the historical basis in which the film is based, is incredibly satisfying in its’ revisionist way of distorting true events. Of the three threads, all of which set in the peace-loving, hippie ear of 1969, the primary basis of the plot follows Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Brad Pitt (The Big Short) as Rick Dalton, a fading and emotionally crippled actor whose success on the small screen hasn’t exactly paid dividends upon the big screen, and Cliff Booth, a war-hero turned stuntman with a particularly ambiguous past, two long-standing partners in the titular land of Hollywood whose careers seem to be dwindling into non-existence. Second to the primary narrative is Margot Robbie’s (The Wolf of Wall Street) depiction of Sharon Tate, the beautifully angelic figure of tragedy whose involvement with the Manson Family, the subject of the film’s third and final plot thread, supposedly sparked such a dramatic shift in the air of tinseltown that the landscape was changed forevermore, and with Tarantino expertly managing to mould each segment together with a surprisingly low-lew approach at times, the more you take into Hollywood in terms of knowledge about Manson and the events at Cielo Drive on that eventful night, the more you will undoubtedly take from it, particularly on an emotional level, something of which Tarantino’s movies more than most tend to lack.
With such a contained yet sprawling narrative, Hollywood is clearly the closest Tarantino has come to recreating the storyline structure of Pulp Fiction since its’ release in 1994, and whilst I have seen some reviews which have criticised the movie’s storyline as excessive and over-indulgent, the entire point of the movie is to focus on a forgotten era in cinema of which Tarantino is absolutely fascinated with, and with a large majority of the runtime content with following our leading characters as they drive around the sunny, silky streets of a land filled with stars and dreamers, I for one was absolutely transfixed with the direction of the narrative from start to finish and bulked at how quick two hours just seemed to glide by without any issues whatsoever. Of course with such an eye-watering cast, the performances are all typically marvelous, with Pitt slightly outperforming his partner in crime and a standout cameo from Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8) topping a wholly memorable acting collaboration, but the real winner here is of course Tarantino himself as he directs some of his best set pieces to date, particularly one staggeringly tense extended sequence in which Pitt’s Booth is invited to the home of the Manson Family at Spahn’s Movie Ranch. As the movie reaches its’ climax, Tarantino carefully takes his time as he delicately pulls back the curtain on his perspective of events on the night of August 8th 1969, and as white-knuckle tension goes, the last twenty minutes of the movie are as gripping as anything I’ve ever seen, capping off what is clearly the best original movie of the year so far and a welcome return for Tarantino who provides his best work in years. Stupendous filmmaking.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Sometimes, The Thing You’ve Been Looking For Your Whole Life, Is Right There Beside You All Along…”
Whilst the first Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps the first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which expectations were not exactly of the highest order, the finished product was ironically one of the best the franchise has had to offer so far, introducing expertly characterised leading heroes amongst a crowd-pleasing narrative which managed to balance the irregularity and oddness of the source material whilst serving up arguably the best jukebox soundtrack this side of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. With power comes increasing levels of responsibility however and a sequel to the biggest surprise of 2014 was downright inevitable, yet with James Gunn returning as director and the added involvement of iconic screen presences such as Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, Vol. 2 is indeed up there with the most excitable releases of the year and a movie which is lynch-pinned within a period of twelve months in which there are so many superb upcoming movies to look forward to and a year in which Vol. 2 begins the triage of MCU movies which are set to be released over the course of 2017. What we have with Vol. 2 however is a sequel which is indeed as inventive and magical as it’s predecessor, playing all the cards in all the right areas to keep its’ intended audience more than happy, but too a movie which suffers from the issue in which many sequels tend to have, with it not entirely being up to the critical level of the original but still being an excellent new addition into the MCU.
With the added input of Kurt Russell as Ego, the long lost father of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Vol. 2 thrives on the same sense of retro-loving freedom which encompassed the original, nodding its’ head at a wide range of nostalgic avenues alongside yet another successful jukebox soundtrack which ticks off everything from E.L.O to George Harrison across a two-hour plus runtime which does seem a tad too drawn out come the final act. Furthermore, in a similar vein to that of Age of Ultron, Vol. 2 attempts to differ slightly from its’ predecessor by sticking to a driving narrative which comes across as a much darker and melancholic tale, focusing upon a wide range of notions such as the meaning of family alongside a deeper sense of characterisation for each of the leading guardians who individually have enough substantial screen time between them to sway off arguments of favouritism from fans, even when the superbly managed inclusion of Baby Groot manages to steal every scene in which he is involved in. Whilst not setting up anything major in terms of the future of the MCU, Vol. 2 is a substantially entertaining blockbuster which although features arguably a higher dose of comedy than the first, is inevitably not as surprisingly awesome than one indeed hoped for, yet with a core character base in which you could happily spend an entire lifetime with, James Gunn’s second helping of galaxy saving guardians is entertainment galore.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Our Paths Have Crossed Before, Dom. You Just Didn’t Know It. I Think I Need To Remind You Why You Chose To Be Here…”
Franchises, franchises everywhere. Whilst the unexpected is utterly unreliable when it comes to the release of particular films in the current cinematic tidal wave, it does seem that the golden dollar bill sign is precedent as the leading force in the development of modern cinematic treats, evidenced by the return of the ridiculously indestructible Fast and Furious series in the form of The Fate of the Furious, a continuation of the franchise two years on from the previous instalment which managed to take an eye-whooping 1.5 billion dollars at the global box office. Whilst the mountain of eye-rolling snobs sniff at the sight of yet another jumped-up, adrenaline-heavy fluff piece, myself included, there is to some degree a sense of enjoyment watching a series continuing to live on despite stretching out what is a basic plot thread throughout eight films, due primarily to a overly ripe cast which all seem to have bundles of laughs causing endless waves of destruction and chaos with a seemingly blank cheque book at their disposal. As for the franchises latest offering, The Fate of the Furious is a surprisingly dull affair, offering very little originality amongst a tonally bipolar and utterly stupid narrative which aside from a few, minor elements could be regarded as the worst the series has had to offer so far.
Of the good things within Furious 8, Jason Statham absolutely steals every single scene in which he is present, from scenes consisting of a constant battle of words between himself and Dwayne Johnson to a final act in which he massacres a variety of killers whilst attempting to save the life of a incredibly important minor, all the while aboard a seemingly untraceable aircraft, one which is operated by Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a character which unfortunately offers no sense of threat whatsoever despite her attempts to come across all edgy and unhinged by wearing Metallica tees and moulding her hair on the likes of Bob Marley and Gary Oldman’s character in True Romance. The absolute absence of threat is fundamental to the film’s overall flaws, with each of the characters acting and performing in such a superhuman manner that the risk of injury or even death is so minimal that at times the film seemed to sink to the level of the worst the Roger Moore era Bond films had to offer, whilst the truly awful CGI comes across as so lazy and haphazard, particularly when considering the array of practical-based action we have witnessed recently within good examples of the genre such as The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road. If The Fate of the Furious is indeed the future of the franchise, perhaps it’s time to hang up the cape, but with astronomical ticket sales inevitable, the likelihood of such is as solid as Vin Diesel becoming the next US President. Well, to be fair, that wouldn’t be the worst option right now.
Overall Score: 4/10
“Mayday, Mayday. This Is Deepwater Horizon…”
Proclaimed as the worst oil disaster in U.S history, Deepwater Horizon brings to the big screen the events which unfolded on the titular oil rig back in 2010, starring Mark Wahlberg as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams as well as a strong supporting cast consisting of Kurt Russel, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich. Directed by Peter Berg, whose back catalogue includes The Kingdom, Hancock and Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, Deepwater Horizon is a surprisingly effective disaster drama, one that focuses on the buildup of characterisation and plot and then throws you into submission with a slender mix of both practical and digital effects, resulting in an experience both impressive and terrifying in its’ attempt to showcase the horrific events that took place aboard the titular oil rig only six years ago.
Questionable accents aside, particularly from John Malkovich, as well as a wondering Texas accent from Wahlberg, and a tendency to resort to technical jargon and mumbling, of which was sometimes hard to unravel, Deepwater Horizon follows in the conventional genre-converting blueprint of attempting to tell the tale of a disaster from the POV of many, whilst primarily focusing on one in order to form an emotional and physical connection to occurrences on screen and whilst Wahlberg is effective in the lead role, the beginning of the film recalls a court case featuring the real life Mike Williams after the events of the Deepwater Horizon and thus prevents the audiences’ ambiguity regarding the fate of its leading character. A strange move indeed, but nonetheless, when put up against recent movies of similar ilk such as San Andreas and Everest, Deepwater Horizon is indeed the most effective, unexpectedly so and whilst it isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of cinematic originality, Deepwater Horizon is indeed worth the ticket price for its’ big screen quality if nothing else.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Say Goodbye To My Wife. I’ll Say Hello To Yours…”
Whereas in most cases a film that has casting credits that include Kurt Russell and David Arquette may be mistaken as being one that is heading straight-to-video, unless directed by Quentin Tarantino of course, Bone Tomahawk, written and directed by new guy on the block S. Craig Zahler is a feat of slow-burning exploitation greatness, a film that attempts to ramp up the tension and then swiftly cripple it with swift acts of merciless violence, violence which as well as being extremely graphic and tough to swallow, is among the most horrific examples of such in recent memory. Forget the comic book violence of Deadpool or the B-Movie splatter fest of The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk is a film that wants you to feel the pain in every scalp-scraping moment in which it occurs. Although many could argue the unwanted exposure to recent depths to which the genre of “torture porn” has decided to delve into has desensitised film goers of the current generation into believing gore can no longer be an effective notion within film, director Zahler understands the shock value of less being more, with Bone Tomahawk being a horror film that doesn’t dwell on its’ resorts to violence and instead wants to use them when they are most effective, and boy, does it work.
After an attack on the overtly civilised town of Bright Hope leaves one of its’ township dead and three missing, Sheriff Franklin Hunt, played in a brilliantly moustache twisting fashion by Kurt Russell, leads the charge to locate the missing townsfolk, one of whom is the wife of Patrick Wilson’s Arthur O’Dwyer, the town proclaimed cowboy recently injured yet determined nonetheless to reclaim his lost love, alongside Matthew Fox’s narcissistic John Brooder and the elderly deputy, Chicory, played majestically by Richard Jenkins. Although made aware of the troglodyte clan to which such an attack can be blamed upon, the quartet soon realise the cannibalistic dwellings to which their townsfolk have been captured within and begin to wonder whether their return will indeed be a safe one. The recent explosion of the western genre in recent years with films such as Django Unchained, Slow West and this years’ The Hateful Eight may indeed have met the prime contender for the best example of the genre in recent times, with Bone Tomahawk being a compelling, well written and gruesomely horrific thrill ride which bends the two genres of western and horror rather well. Although the desire to play the script out as long as possible leads to a film that could possibly lose 20, 30 minutes from its’ runtime, not once could I say I was bored, owing much to the films’ credit to find tension in the smallest of places as well as getting the quartet of leading actors cast to a sharply fined T, with Russell and Jenkins stealing the show.
Although one scene of complete exploitation greatness may steal the limelight, with YouTube searches rather inevitable in the foreseeable future, Bone Tomahawk is much more than just a set piece and is a film that requires attention in the most sombre of moments in the fear of quick-fuelled blood lust being right around the corner. Never before have I jumped at the sight of an unexpected arrow or been set so aghast at the speed to which one of our leading heroes loses a certain appendage, a testament to the films’ desire to create and display an enemy so intense and ruthless the audience will fear their every move. R-Rated greatness is what Bone Tomahawk strives for and blimey does it achieve it with a culty sensibility that will inevitably become a firm favourite within the formidable, if isolated, clan of violence loving exploitation in which I’m glad to say I’m part of. I look forward to your next body of work Mr. Zahler.
Overall Score: 8/10
Loved from an early age, Quentin Tarantino has no doubt had a astronomical effect on the early stages of my cinematic knowledge with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and to an extent, his work elsewhere on True Romance and everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure, From Dusk Till Dawn, being early examples of a somewhat unhealthy obsession which over the years has strangely subsided due perhaps to my ever-increasing age or Tarantino’s failure at creating something that topples the magnum opus of his early, and better, work. Reuniting with actors such as Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight suggested somewhat a return to Tarantino of old, whereby nostalgia and almost cringe-worthy attempts to reassert Tarantino’s love for cinema of the past would be discarded in place of a film that is in fact, wonderful. Staying away from trailers and fast-tracked reviews in the build-up to its’ release, the experience of watching The Hateful Eight was similar to that of watching your dad attempting to dance at a wedding, where although some parts are cringe-worthy and incredibly misjudged, on the whole you are quite amazed and taken aback, with Tarantino’s latest being a weird mixture of thrills, spills and blood, lots of blood.
After a series of fortunate events lead to an array of characters being bundled in to a place of shelter away from the snowy storm of a time soon after the American Civil War, tensions soon begin to mount regarding the real intentions behind many of the occupants who may indeed may not be who they say the are. In the middle of such is Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, a.k.a “The Bounty Hunter”, a man whose intentions mirror that of Kurt Russel’s John Ruth, a.k.a “The Hangman” who is escorting the captured criminal Daisy Domergue to Red Rock in order to face swift and meaningful justice, yet their forced stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery leads to a turn events seemingly based around the captive Domergue whose real identity is equally ambiguous as the rest of the occupants within the stagecoach lodge. Following in light of its’ title, The Hateful Eight does indeed feature a rafter of characters all hell bent on being more vile and unlikable as the next, with both Warren and Ruth being violent, notorious bounty hunters whilst Domergue being completely unparalleled in her disgusting nature, all the while being beaten, strangled and flayed in blood over the course of the movie. With such characters at the heart of the film, it is indeed hard to engage emotionally with any of them, resulting in a strange situation similar to that of Pulp Fiction whereby although most of the people portrayed on-screen are inherently bad, it doesn’t stop from them being rooted for in some sense, with the character of Warren being my personal choice throughout most of the film even when told of his downright disturbing history as a bounty hunter and killer.
In terms of the film’s successes, the movies’ cinematography, direction, and score all deserve a sincere amount of applause, particular the former and the latter, with the swerving scenic scale of the mountainous surroundings being a beauty to behold and then brought right back down to earth within the confines of the cabin, boosting the tense atmosphere that takes note from Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs rather too obviously, whilst the return of Ennio Morricone also marks the best score within a Tarantino film since Kill Bill: Vol 1 and should indeed reward him with yet another Oscar. Positive too is the acting trio of Jackson, Russel and Leigh who combine to become the standout performances, whilst the utterly stupid amount of violence that resonates within the film is not only ridiculously enjoyable but taints the film with Tarantino’s lust for a sense of exploitation he has always seemingly been after since the days of Pulp Fiction, which although may not be for everyone, added to the film’s overall sense of fun and B-Movie grandness.
Where the film is ultimately knocked by any chance of gaining full marks is its’ ridiculous need for a strong-willed editor to come in and say, “look Quentin, can we lose at least half an hour of the film?”, particularly in the first act in which the endless waves of dialogue start to become tedious and un-engaging, something of which I kind of expected when seeing its’ eye-popping runtime, whilst the inclusion of a nonsensical voice-over by Tarantino himself, the pantomime performance of Roth’s attempt as an Englishman, up to the final act, and a borderline racist, cliched inclusion of the character of Bob, a.k.a “The Mexican”, result in The Hateful Eight being a few steps away from the masterpiece many have proclaimed it to be. Highly enjoyable but with rather too many obvious flaws, The Hateful Eight is a strong return for Tarantino yet continues my willingness to see another masterpiece in line with his better and bolder earlier work.
Dan’s Score: 8/10
As you’ve probably noticed, Dan is a big fan of Tarantino. Myself however, not so much. I watched Pulp Fiction many years ago and honestly didn’t pay much attention to it as I had other things to be doing and seeing snippets of crude, over the top violence didn’t really do it for me. It felt like he was always trying too hard to be edgy and I couldn’t stand it. Until Django came. Django was the film that peaked my interest. A topic that’s typically trodden delicately around was attacked with brutal honesty, a western flair and little discretion. It’s cast were huge, it’s acting was on Oscar worthy and the music still livens up my commutes 4 years on! You’d suspect those 4 years to reward those patiently waiting with something as equally delectable but I can’t say I’m impressed. Dan and I have seen two variations of the film. For some reason, somewhere along the line, something was cut out which equated roughly 6 minutes less for Dan’s viewing alongside no interval break while I was “treated” to the original cut. So, what was this space filled with and why? We don’t quite know. It certainly wasn’t the excruciating “Chapter” breaks throughout that took your immersion and used it to floss and spitting you break a dribbled mess. Perhaps it was the rolling credits at the very beginning of the film that informs you of an actor that you spend the majority of the time waiting for to pop out of the woodwork while you watch a horse drawn cart get pulled through the snow several miles away. We don’t quite know.
My Mum and Dad always taught me not to play with my food so lets be frank. Its OKAY. That’s it. Sure, the filming is gorgeous and the scenery locations are real pretty to look at and all but you can’t polish a turd. While Django pulled no punches and its actors were on top of their game, The Hateful Eight swung and missed. Samuel L Jackson is back to his usual self as there is a fair bit of consistency with him. Tim Roth however is a completely different kettle of poison. I liked him in Lie To Me and hated him in that one Hulk flick that no-one talks about. The stereotypical British accent was god awful. Its almost laughable until you realise that this isn’t a comedy. The stereotypes all the way through are painful and feel like more of a joke than actual characters. Even more so when you consider that Tarantino actually tried to develop some of these characters. Instead he just gave up and insulted them all by making them utterly annoying and dull as doorknobs. Does the story pull it together, Pete? I don’t feel it does. As I mentioned previously, you are waiting for a certain actor to appear who is the catalyst to the whole situation and that really ruins any sort of surprise. Now as a premise, the story could be great. Eight bounty hunters locked up in a blizzard with one prisoner with a huge bounty on their head. But logic defies these guys. Everything is coincidental and was actually rather lacklustre in execution that bored me for the majority of the time.
Rather than drag on for too much longer, I’d like to note a few more things. The violence, while excessive was alright, the effects for it were fairly lacking and with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero involved, I expected a higher quality of visual gore. I also expected a lot more from the soundtrack. John Legend’s “Who did that to you?” is a common tune for my playlist and Rick Ross’ “100 Black Coffins” joins that also but I’ve got nothing from this. The songs mirrored the movie incredibly well while Hateful Eight’s soundtrack merely blended into the background. I don’t feel that the Hateful Eight was a film for the consumer. It was no where near complete and didn’t have the pizazz needed to contend with its big, badass brother. Tarantino has been noted over the years talking about wanting to make a western film and it seems he’s probably riding that wave and letting the marketing sell the product no matter what. So overall what do we have – An exceptionally long experience which left me with nothing more to say than, “Meh.”
Pete’s Score – 6/10
Overall Score: 7/10
Pete – Fast and Furious movies are one that hold a spot in my heart. It was always fun and entertaining and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me. With the unfortunate death of Paul Walker, development of the film was halted and many presumed the end of an era for the Fast crew. However, with some movie magic, they brought Walker back for one last time. Was it worth it? From a monetary aspect, I’m sure they will do just fine. For me, I’m on the fence. I enjoyed the movie but I spent most of my time picking up on stupid little things.
With the movie franchise moving towards a more realistic approach from cars with 18 gears and an engine to rival a 747, I expected a little more common sense in this instalment. Dropping out of a plane in cars happened, it was tested in WW2, slamming your parachute on while at terminal velocity was not. Its moments like these that can be extreme fun if done correctly, but with it being the majority of the release trailers, it lost that charm in minutes. There are many of these moments that are so incredibly stupid and over done to the point of exhaustion. Hit in the head with a wrench? Get up. Have 30 tonnes of concrete dropped onto the lower half of your body? walk into prison and this sort of whacked out shit goes on and on and on.
So avoiding the blatant WTF’s and moving onto the ‘story’. Once again, we follow Toretto and the gang who have pissed of Owen Shaw’s big brother. He gets angry and is on a man hunt to kill them. Toretto crosses path with some CIA black ops guy to find hacking software that can monitor everyone in the world and give their location for man-hunts. Save the hacker, use the tool. Simple but surprisingly good for a franchise known for its corny one-liners and story. It went in a direction that we couldn’t have expected and for once, had a mix of actual enemies rather than The Rock and drug pedallers.
Fast 7 was shot beautifully and often you couldn’t tell the difference between the CGI versions of Walker although the rest of the CGI looked ripped from the latest top of the line show coming from Syfy. I’d say it was a fitting tribute for him. I’m still trying to come to terms with why the child threw out a Red Porsche toy car. Was it simply coincidence or a dig at the car?
The Fast franchise is always poorly acted and I’m almost sure Vin Diesel cannot whisper. Nothing new there then. So, what are you waiting for, get on down to your local, enjoy mindless entertainment with a half-decent story and help fund the next 18 movies in the franchise. My rating for Fast is 7.
Dan – Before entering viewing mode for the newest film in the overlong Furious franchise, I have always created a check list that gets mentally crossed off during the course of that particular offerings’ runtime, with Furious 7 being no exception. On that list includes, scenes of the camera focusing intensively on rather attractive women wearing barely anything at all. Check. Scenes of cars driving along long, open roads whilst “gangster rap music” plays over the top. Check. Scenes where the law of physics is completely disregarded whether by cars or just humans themselves. Check. You might get the idea that Furious 7 filled my mental check-list completely, yet surprisingly this did not prevent it from being actually quite fun and probably one of the best entries in the Furious series so far.
Firstly, the film is completely bonkers. It did a good job in reminding me how fun it is to cause absolute carnage on rampages on GTAV, with the latter stages of the film seemingly being just that, with unlimited amounts of collateral damage to buildings, cars, ambulances, civilians, drones, all being displayed on screen whilst simultaneously having the time to show The Raid style hand-to-hand fights, and a battle sequence taken straight out of Street Fighter. And I loved it. It has been a long time since a film has been so completely ludicrous that you forget the major plot holes and chances to say, “he wouldn’t survive that”, and just let it ride on, destroying completely everything in its’ path.
In terms of criticism, the film is way too long and easily could have removed the sequence in which the team head off to Abu Dhabi, which seemingly was only there to showcase the Lykan Hypersport, which in itself to be fair, kind of symbolises the entire film. It’s ridiculous (I mean you can get diamonds in the headlights), it’s unbelievably quick (240mph), but is also a wonder to behold. The film also concludes in a fitting tribute to the late Paul Walker, and I think I can say honestly say, who would have been thrilled with the finished product. Peace out. 7/10
Overall Score: 7/10