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.
Kingsman – The Secret Service: a billionaire entrepreneur tries to combat global warming his own way; by inciting a mass population cull. If there’s one thing that Millar, Vaughn, and Goldman are good at; it’s giving their ‘fanboy’ section of the public what they want – action and LOLz. At the beginning you don’t really know what to expect, but once it starts gaining momentum it slowly transforms into something akin to a more mature and relevant Austin Powers film. Kingsman is rarely less than entertaining, especially seeing Firth actually enjoying being A Single Man as the caricatured dapper gent that gets to hand out a copious amount of ass-kicking; it’s also always good to see Mark Strong, even with a bizarre Scottish/Edinburgh accent. More generally, all characters are split between either being an ASBO Chav, or a posh-boy – but the very broad and thick ‘London Geezer‘ / ‘Landahn Geeza’ accents may require subtitles outside the UK. As you’d expect from the minds of Kick-Ass, Layer Cake, Lock Stock, and Snatch it’s a bloody and violent affair – but why would you assume anything else? The action is solid throughout, although one scene in a church is jaw-droppingly executed – easily the highlight of the movie. Despite a couple of missteps in tone – like a cheap bumsex joke – Kingsman is a funny and entertaining send-up of the ‘classic’ spy TV Shows and Bond Films… adults only though.
The Other Guys: when New York’s most badass detectives come to an untimely end, two unlikely schmucks try to step up and fill the gap. Didn’t expect much from this one but was pleasantly surprised by how funny the film was, with Wahlberg and Ferrell both flexing their comedic muscles with ease. The script and scenarios do a great job of mocking every buddy-cop-film scenario you could think of; and there’s a few amazing running gags about Ferrell’s past and Keaton‘s chief detective unknowingly quoting TLC songs. Story-wise, it follows the classic up-down-up relationship you see in these movies, but it loses its way a little by the end when the jokes thin out and the story needs a-wrappin’ up. Didn’t really understand the random narration from Ice-T, and despite the film being entertaining enough the infographic credits were one of the most interesting parts of the film! The Other Guys isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch but it’s absolutely carried by all of the jokes – especially the delivery by Will and Marky – which make it funnier and more quotable than your average buddy cop comedy.
Unthinkable: a converted muslim, posing a nuclear threat to America is captured – how far will the government go to get the information they need against the clock? Having heard nothing about this before finding it on LoveFilm I was surprised at how topical, dramatic, fast-paced, controversial yet very believable the film was. It’s also very well directed, featuring massive issues like human rights, torture, the ‘greater good’, constitutional rights, threat to America – yet yet it never gets preachy, as all sides to each argument are explored, and you ultimately have to make up your own mind as to what’s the ‘right’ thing. There’s also some pretty graphic and genuinely unbelievable scenes inside the torture chamber – especially when the specialist interrigator (Sam L Jackson) gets going. The acting is great all-round – but with a cast this strong it’s a shame that the SFX are so terrible (explosion LOL). This film ultimately plays far more successfully on the fears, realities and situations of contemporary America than two series of Homeland have, and this is just over the length of two episodes. Unthinkable is an unbelievably smart, neat, tight little film that – for whatever reason – seemed to be a total flop: it’s clever film-making serves up an enjoyable, thrilling, thought-provoking picture. What more could you ask for?
Django Unchained: a German bounty hunter frees a slave, then partners up with him to make some cash and rescue his girl from a flamboyant plantation owner. As expected, Waltz absolutely steals the show with what’s essentially a re-write/reprise of his intelligent, oddly-humorous ‘Jew-hunter‘. Everyone else turns up and does their thing entertainingly enough. While the film pokes a lot of fun at the stupidity of racism (KKK mask scene & Sam Jacksons rant about Foxx sleeping in the house), for me the ‘N-Bomb’ is dropped far, far too often: which may have been accurate of the period, but it’s such a loaded word that drags the tone down – taking it way beyond any ‘light-hearted’ Blazing Saddles similarities. Clocking in at 2hr 45, it’s also far, far too drawn out, for such a simple revenge tale, especially once Dicaprio pops up: some scenes seem to go on forever with rambling, empty, dialogue and plodding shot after shot. While they’re all quintessential Tarantino scenes, it also suffers from his trademark lack of self-censorship. Finally, although, stylistically, most scenes are undeniably QT -and this isn’t really his fault – his style’s been ripped off so many times (funky music, uber-gore and back-and-forth dialogue) that it no longer packs the punch it once did. As a stand-alone film, Django Unchained is a decent film dragged down by its ‘epic’ runtime and the difficult task of balancing racism and comedy. It’s only when you step back and hold it up against a film like Inglorious – equally long, but crammed with great, tense and cinematic moments – that you realise how ordinary Django Unchained is.
The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble): ensemble super-cast of characters (and actors) have to save the world from Loki and his army of robo-alien minions. Everything about this flick aims to please: it does a good job of linking Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and a few other superheroes together; we get to see superheroes take on bad guys, superheroes brakin’ up monsters, and superheroes fighting each other; Black window is even thrown in as the gratuitous hottie – no complaints. There’s a solid streak of humour, with a bunch of surprisingly funny lines that had the entire cinema laughing. Also, why do people still live in Manhattan when it gets attacked this often? After years of buildup, drip-fed snippets, extended trailers and bags o’ hype, the final product is better than the cynic in me was dreading. The Avengers is a summer blockbuster in every sense of the word: big cast, big budget, big story, big spectacle, big runtime, big characters, big laughs, big noises… BIG FUN! Directed by Joss Whedon, this is a well made, lovingly crafted, humourous mega-buster.
S.W.A.T. – a drug kingpin offers $100M to anyone that will bust him out of prison; a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team is assigned to make sure he checks in to the big house. Most evidently, this bad boy has every single cop film cliché you could find in the ‘big book of cop film clichés‘. The unit’s best hot-shot is a maverick that gets results, but he’s bounced off the team (because of his ill-tempered partner) by pencil pushers; another wildcard officer sees potential and puts both their careers on the line reinstating him – would you like some more platitude sauce with your hackneyed sammich sir? Not content with having a copy/paste story, every sloppy racial / cultural / actor stereotype is also present; Samuel L. is very angry-with-attitude, Renner has a short fuse, macho man Michelle Rodriguez pops up in her white vest, everything’s too familiar, right down to the ‘uncool vegan loser’ and ‘big fat black mama’ that shouts “mmmmmmmm hhhmmmmmmm”. The action is big, loud and decent, if a little ridiculous – like a Die Hard / Michael Bay movie. It’s all so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly be anything other than a cheesy, tongue in cheek satire of the genre? Surprisingly enough, despite not having an ounce of originality, S.W.A.T. is super-strength, all too watchable, well-executed, cheese-tastic, guilty pleasure action material.
The Spirit: Comic adaptation about a masked crime-fighter who fights crime with a mask on. Visually, it’s quite the treat although being brought to us by Frank Miller, one look at any shot from the movie indicates that this ‘borrows’ plenty visuals from Sin City – nothing new there. The Spirit is also lays it on heavily with Noir style, although it constantly regresses from cool to plain corny. The story is so one-dimensional and unimaginative that you’ll probably find yourself slipping into a coma in parts. Pretty much everyone was un-acting for the duration, besides Macht, who at least attempts to do something decent with his fairly lame character; that spends just as much time chasing tail as he does fighting crime. There’s plenty eye candy, from curvy Eva Mendes to the stunning Paz Vega, however they all feel a bit gratuitous, with no real point. Milo and Edgar from 24 also put in some face time. It all just seems very flat, with no real story or focus; random Japanese and Nazi sections anyone? There are some memorable and striking imagery & shots but overall it just feels like a low-rent Sin City.