The Hateful Eight: a bounty hunter and his prisoner get snowed-in at a cabin stop with six strangers, but “one of them fellas is not what he says he is”. Most of the actors get to do what they do best: grouchy Kurt grumbles magnificently; magnetic Goggins spits out redneck ramblings; Sam J does his shouty-preaching; Roth ponses around; in fact, Madsen is the only actor that doesn’t really get any good screentime. Despite the huge names, Señor Bob (Demián Bichir) steals the show for me with a ridiculously terrific comedy performance and accent. There’s some absolutely stunning exploitation gore, blood sprays, head explosions, etc, etc – all electrifying for even the most hardened splatter aficionados. As you’ll have read everywhere; the main issue with H.E. is that it’s simply far, far, far too long. It takes over 45 minutes to get to the cabin setting; an hour ‘til we get to the crux of the movie; and even with 2hr40min of dialogue heavy scenes, a narrator (voiced by QT, obvz) is still required to throw in more details – how sloppy and empty can the writing get? In fact, most people’s issues with Django seem to be applicable here too: it’s almost as if Tarantino is intentionally trolling his own audience (too many n-bombs, too long, no censorship…). Finally, a massive deal was made about resurrecting the ultra-Panavision 70mm format: but exterior shots are pretty much whiteouts, and the last two hours are confined to a cabin interior – which leaves you yearning for epic vistas. With his last few films, Tarantino is starting to come across as a ‘brat’ director (surrounded by ‘yes men’); refusing to cut out flabby parts, censor himself, or make any changes to his precious baby. Boiled down: The Hateful Eight is simply a decadent, elaborate, and extremely self-indulgent Reservoir Dogs remake: and a very testing setup for what’s essentially a room full of people shooting each other… again.
Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes): six short films about everyday people being pushed over the edge. Unlike most anthology movies, these are all done by the same director, which should give the segments more consistency than usual – right? Wrong! The six stories are all varying lengths, and wildly different in their tone, ‘enjoyability’, and humour. The shorter, punchier ideas are great but the longer ones in the second half all feel dragged out. With the throughline being ‘revenge’ they’re all quite dark with varying degrees of gallows / black humour. Stylistically though, they’re all meticulously directed, with dozens of striking and stand-out shots. The acting is also rock solid, with a lot of familiar faces from ‘World Cinema‘. It also walks a very tight line between reality and a tiny sprinkle of magic / surrealism – the obvious comparison being something like The Twilight Zone – but this doesn’t go near full on fiction. I really enjoyed the first half of this, but as the stories go forward, they get far too serious (and less funny). Overall, Wild Tales is a decent film with some great ideas, that suffers the same problem as most anthology pictures: the quality of each section is completely different.
Pasternak | The Rats | Road to Hell | Bombita | The Deal | Till Death Do Us Part
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – frozen in the swinging 60s, and thawed out in the 90s Austin “Danger” Powers has to defeat his nemesis Dr Evil while re-adjusting to modern life. Depressing fact: this film is almost 20 years old. Uplifting fact: it’s still as funny as you remember. Mike Meyers’ style isn’t for everyone, but this is about as mainstream as he goes; and the more James Bond knowledge you can bring to the table, the better (dispatch one-liners, henchmen deaths, sets, character names, elaborate death traps…). The clever setup means there’s a lot of rope to be used here: the spy genre, action movies, and fish-out-of-water elements, all fully capitalised. There’s quite a narrow band of humour used here: namely slapstick, funny faces, silly dances, and physical jokes – nothing too high-brow, but it’s all to the highest standard. If there’s one weakness it’s that the movie as a whole is a little too reliant on skits and unrelated interludes. With my James Bond obsession and nostalgic hat on, I’m probably not the most objective person to be watching this, but I would have genuine questions if someone didn’t enjoy such a light, charming, and loving parody of the early Bond Movies. Almost twenty years old, but still a stone-cold comedy classic, the first Austin Powers film is 95 minutes of laugh-out-loud, wall-to-wall top-drawer comedy.
If you can watch this clip without laughing (or even smiling) call a doctor – because you’re dead inside.
Satan’s Blade: the evil spirit of an ancient and violent mountain-man terrorises tourists at a secluded ski lodge. At 80 minutes, you expect a punchy slasher, and with the first ten minutes only consisting of women getting undressed then shot in the tits, it’s half way there… however it all goes south very quickly. Released in 1984, this has more of a 50s/60s feel due to very basic camerawork, acting, editing, and a very poor sound mix – people talking inside a car, but no car noises; missing screams; shouting through walls but sounding crystal clear; silent shower curtains etc. Also, for a slasher, the deaths are fairly disappointing, with dabbed on blood and lots of cutting/editing; but very little gore. The acting isn’t much better, with ‘studenty’ performances, and stunted delivery of very stale dialogue. You know a film’s amazingly bad when the IMDB page is full of its actors/writers tearing it to pieces and apologising for it! Regular viewers will be disappointed by Satan’s Blade; but as a formerly rare, no budget b-movie, the Blu Ray release is a treat for hardened collectors and VHS nostalgists looking to upgrade their copy, and learn about the film through the plethora of new extras and features.
Standard death acting in this picture
Strike Back: Vengeance (Season 3) – when a billionaire acquires four nuclear triggers in order to re-shape Africa, only section 20 can stop him. Continuing with the UK/US collaboration, this takes everything that worked about ‘Project Dawn’ and made it all bigger/louder/better. Every episode is wall to wall action; with dozens of set pieces, hundreds of deaths, and a load of whiz-bang sex scenes. The entire season is 100mph, and it’s simply great fun. The characters feel more rounded, the leads’ chemistry is fantastic, and it’s very professionally made – but things like ‘character development’, ‘plot’, and ‘direction‘ are background noise to the explosions, gunfights, stunt driving, and spec ops that march the show forward. It’s hard to believe that such a ridiculously intense level of action (huge set pieces every 10 mins or so) can be done on a TV budget – the 10 episodes are paired off into FIVE 90-minute long mini missions that run together. In a world of toned down and heavily edited 12-rated action films, the swearing, sex, and sensational action makes this feel like something from ‘the good old days’. Completely knowing, and aimed directly at young male action fans, Strike Back Vengeance is a show that only really does one thing (infinite ammo, high-octane action turned up to 11), but does it brilliantly – making it a truly unmissable show for action fans
The Swinging Cheerleaders: an investigative journalist infiltrates a cheerleading team for an article, but ends up uncovering an even bigger story. Most interestingly, this film is made by exploitation master Jack Hill (Big Bird Cage, Coffy, Foxy Brown – and straight after those films) trying to avoid becoming a one-trick pony with ‘Blaxploitation‘ or ‘Women In Prison‘ films. Very much a snapshot of the times, every character is ‘stock’ / stereotypical, and the various plot threads are relatively straight forward. Disappointingly, this film is way more tame that you’d expect from Jack Hill, and a film called ‘The Swinging Cheerleaders’. It’s title and marketing pitch it as a sequel to ‘The Cheerleaders’ (a raunchy comedy), but this one’s a completely different beast: it’s not exploitation, or even a sex-comedy, but feels more like an educational piece about college / sex / gambling / drugs / match fixing. Think watered-down Roger Corman picture, or heavily censored Russ Meyer picture. Although The Swinging Cheerleaders is a well made and entertaining picture; it all feels a bit rushed and compromised.
As always, Arrow have given this movie the ultimate release, with a brand new 2K restoration and – as always – there are shedloads of interviews, extras, and a director’s commentary – making this an essential purchase for Cheerleader and Jack Hill fans.