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.
Dr. Alien (AKA I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac. AKA I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant): after a bum injection from a ridiculously sexy alien a boring high-school loser becomes a mini Fonzie that can beat up jocks, front a heavy metal band, drive like a boss, and has hordes of horny wimin stripping and ravaging him continually. I suspect this may have been written by teenage boys for teenage boys? It has a weird style of humour: lots of lame and nonsensical childish gags accompanied with loud Looney Toons sound effects – in a film with boobs and (very light) sex scenes?!? With zinger punch lines like “you forgot the mustard!” and “he looked great in tight trousers!” you’d be forgiven for thinking that actual aliens wrote the script after hearing some 1920s radio plays. There’s not a whole lot else worth mentioning as everything about the movie is sub-standard: acting, script, editing and direction… even the main special effect, a ‘Hideous Fleshy Antena’ (that looks like a pouting anus) is underwhelming. In fact, the most notable aspect of this entire DVD release is that it has an X-rated porn film (Auditions, 1978) as a completely unrelated extra which brings the rating from whats’s presumably a 15 to a Hard 18! Bottom line – Dr. Alien isn’t violent, saucy, or trashy enough to be worthy of the Grindhouse, B-Movie (or even Teen Sex Comedy) branding – it’s actually a slightly naughtier Ferris Bueller / Grease / Weird Science affair.
B-Movie Score: 3/10
Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a Chan–Wook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.
Happy Endings (aka Winter Passing): when a struggling actress is offered some quick cash for her famous mother and father’s early love letters, she goes back home to weigh up her choices. First-off, this is Ms Deschanel being quirky and indie to the max: the movie opens with her singing at the 2 minute mark, and playing the piano within 15 mins so be prepared for full-on mopey, morose and tedious Zooey. It’s not just her though, every character is defined by their quirks and eccentricities, which makes them all memorable, but annoyingly the film ends up containing more randomness than a green flamingo in a roller-skate carrying a backpack full of iguana-flavoured blancmange. Don’t be fooled though, there’s some good moments of acting in here, particularly Ed Harris and Will Ferrel, who both go beyond their stereotyping and comfort zones. If you love a bit of shoe-gazing solemn quirkiness this will be right up your trendy street.
Cheer up goth!
The Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were 2LDK and Aragami. (ARAGAMI REVIEW HERE)
2LDK: two actresses – who are also flatmates – have auditioned for the same leading part: they’ll find out who got it tomorrow morning, if they haven’t killed each other by then. This is split into two distinctive parts; 30 minute setup and observational comedy about living with an annoying flatmate, the other 30 minutes is simply two girls beat the tar out of each other in the ultimate catfight. Hearing the inner-ramblings of two polar opposites (paired with their polite spoken dialogue) as they grate on each other is entertaining, although it takes a few moments tuning in to 4 quickfire word tracks. The two actresses are great, but the main star is Yukihiko Tsutsumi with direction that has urgency, impact, flare and style, all in abundance; the framing is also superb. Such great direction means that the tension and action are served up raw. For a one-week rush-job the make-up and FX really add to the brutality. 2LDK is a highly enjoyable, momentum building, entertaining movie, that’s strangely relatable for anyone that has ever shared a flat.
Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon): a TV producer and widower stage a fake TV audition in order to find the latter a new wife, but the best candidate seems too good to be true. The opening half hour feels a little too rom-com-y for a ‘horror’ film (upbeat music, cheesy jokes etc). The film trudges on and after 1hr 15m of setup it gradually becomes weirder and more interesting until the payoff semi-ending finally kicks in. Knowing that there’s something not quite right with the ‘perfect girl’ is a tad unsettling, but you couldn’t have predicted an ending as extreme as this – the sound of bone being sawed is vomit-inducing! There’s a small, but obvious social critique about the time in lines like “The whole of japan’s lonely”, and “Japan is Finished” – not-so-subtle! What makes this worthwhile is that it is a unique horror film in that is doesn’t pander to conventions, or give you what you expect. It also beat the wave of late 2000s movies that kick-started ‘torture porn’/’Splatter’ craze again. As original and unique as Audition is, it’s essentially a psychological drama for this most part with 10 minutes of gore capping off a lot of humdrum!
44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.
Fermat’s Room: A group of Spain’s greatest mathematical geniuses have to fight for their lives after being trapped in a slowly shrinking room, but is everyone there by chance? It’s really interesting watching the story unravel as the characters figure out why they’re there and what connects them all. This has a very cool premise, solid acting, good music, decent graphics, and a very clever (and tight) story. The only major disappointment is that it doesn’t properly milk all of the potential tension that could have come from the claustrophobic, crushing room. Like a high-brow Die Hard 3 / Saw concept, well worth hunting down, especially if you’re a maths whiz.