The Hateful Eight: The Thing Meets the West (Review)

Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino and his publicity heavy film “The Hateful Eight” (It should have been billed as the movie that was almost never made) is entertaining in a “The Thing” meets the west sort of way.  Tarantino has said that he was massively influenced by John Carpenter’s film, which also had Kurt Russell in it, as well as TV westerns like “Bonanza.”  Although it still feels like this film owes more to Sergio Leone than “High Chaparral.”

Ennio Morricone, who provided the music to Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns and Carpenter’s “The Thing” scored this latest Tarantino offering and the film also uses, apparently, music never heard but intended for Carpenter’s 1982 film.

A group of strangers shelter from a blizzard in Minnie’s Haberdashery. One man, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) has a prisoner for hanging in Red Rock; Daisie Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Along the way he acquires Samuel L. Jackson, in the guise of Major Warren and Walter Goggins, who plays the new sheriff of Red Rock; Chris Mannix.

Ruth and his three traveling companions, along with O.B. the stagecoach driver, arrive at Minnie’s to find four men waiting out the storm. Minnie and Sweet Dave  are missing and they appear to have left Bob (Demián Bichir) in charge.  Amid racial tensions, post  Civil War hostilities and a sense of mutual mistrust, the two bounty hunters, Ruth and Warren, band together to ensure Domergue hangs. 

As this is a Tarantino film it is overly long and at nearly three hours it makes for a long time in one spot. However, despite the length, “The Hateful Eight” does not drag. The leisurely pace adds to the mystery of who is really up to what and allows for a claustrophobic feel to the proceedings.

There are numerous nods to “The Thing“, for example,  the scenes where the line is run to the outhouse, and later when O.B. prepares to head to the structure and later as he starts to head back are very reminiscent in terms of  framing and lighting to the original Carpenter feature.

“The Hateful Eight” has a few  other nods and winks to films that are not by John Carpenter. The poisoning scene, where Ruth (Russell) and O.B. (James Parks) forcibly vomit copious amounts of blood is highly reminiscent of Takashi Miike (in particular the poisoned coffee scene in “Fudoh: The New Generation“). It also smacks of the reaction to poisoned soup in the “light house” scene in Battle Royale (directed by Kinji Fukasaku) an event that leads to a climatic shootout between Japanese schoolgirls. 

Leaving aside the notions of homages and “nods” to other films or directors (something Tarantino is well known for) it is interesting to note that Daisy Domergue, as played by Leigh, is an oddly sexless/genderless character throughout most of the film.

Apart from the information given that Daisy is a female that will  hang for murder, the character comes across as more young pre-teen male juvenile delinquent than femme fatale.  Impish, mischievous and recalcitrant Domergue does nothing feminine. She exudes no sexuality at all.

It is interesting to note that her relationship with Ruth, when it is not dealing with obstinacy from ether side or pushing boundaries, comes over almost like a father and his naughty child. (Granted Ruth is a bit violent in his recriminations of Daisy’s offenses, but it has more of a familial feel than anything else.)

Bizarrely, Daisy only becomes feminine in death. Hair down and her shoes visible from below makes her shed the facade of genderless hooligan.

The cast list is impressive for Quentin’s eighth film.  Tim Roth, Jackson, Leigh,  Russell, Bruce Dern,  Bichir, Channing Tatum, Zoë Bell (who is becoming a regular), Walton GogginsMichael Madsen and Tarantino who gives a sort of cameo performance as the “not really needed” narrator that was, nonetheless, a nice touch. 

In terms of cameos Lee Horsley turns up as part of the stage driving team with Perry and Gene Jones (Dementia, No Country for Old Men) does a turn as “Sweet Dave.”

Sadly, watching the film via Amazon, the 70MM print does nothing for the streaming experience and while it may well have looked spectacular on today’s version of a big screen, it seems an unnecessary “gimmick.”  There are a few continuity errors here and there (mainly to do with Ms. Leigh’s teeth) but these do not detract from the film.

Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” does what he intended; it entertains. There are some splendid comic moments;  some intense, yet short, shoot-outs and he attempts to bring a bit of authenticity to the time period.

Kudos to Leigh for her performance as Daisy and a huge nod to Demián Bichir who proves he has lost none of his comedic timing with his portrayal of “Bob.”

This film is a full 5 star spectacle, even when viewed via Amazon, or whatever streaming site one uses.  A brilliant follow-on to Django: Unchanged and it leads one to wish fervently that Tarantino will make another western soon.  He has a definite knack for it.

 

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Kurt Russell & Cannibals (Review)

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The mark of any good film is the urge to immediately watch it again after viewing. “Bone Tomahawk,” with Kurt Russell battling cannibals, is one such film. With just enough truth in the production to make is stand out as a straight up western, this horror film combines genres even better than the 2008 film The Burrowers.

While the earlier western/horror had some pretty imaginative “boogeymen” this film takes from American history to bring a Native American tribe of cannibals to life, with a little poetic license, in an area quite close to where a real tribe of cannibalistic warriors existed; the Kronks.

(Anyone wanting to read more about this tribe can check out Mike Cox’s “The Texas Rangers” ‘Wearing the Cinco Peso 1821 -1900’ where he goes into detail about the group, which both the Spaniard’s and the other tribes feared; the Karankawa – called Troglodytes in the film.)

Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler (his first effort in the director’s chair) and starring Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew FoxDavid Arquette and a splendid cameo by Sid Haig, this is a cracking film. In terms of cast, the film is rounded out by Lili Simmons, who plays Mrs. O’Dwyer, Wilson’s wife and there are three more well-known actors in cameos: Zahn McClarnon, as The Professor, Sean Young, as the Mayor’s wife, and James Tolkan, as the tired pianist.

At the start of the film, which is set in the mid 1800s, two literal cut-throat bandits, Haig and Arquette are busy murdering a small camp of men who are  sleeping. A gunshot alerts  a mounted group of men and the two escape on foot in the surrounding hills.  Buddy (Haig)  is killed and Purvis (Arquette) runs away in terror.

Time passes and the town of Bright Hope, where Sheriff Hunt (Russell) is the law with a deputy (Nick) and “reserve deputy” (Chicory played by Jenkins) and the man does not suffer fools or insolence gladly.  O’Dwyer, the new foreman of the local ranch is laid up with an injured leg and Chicory spots Purvis, on the outskirts of town burying the luggage he and the late Buddy stole earlier.

Hunt braces the odd acting man in the local saloon who tries to run. Hunt shoots him in the leg and as the town doctor is drunk, O’Dwyer’s wife Samantha comes to dig the bullet out. In the morning a stable lad is found murdered and the jail is deserted. Arrows left at the scene implicate a tribe of Native Americans that The Professor calls Troglodytes.

Hunt, Chicory, O’Dwyer (Cowboy) and Brooder ride out to save the deputy and Mrs. O’Dwyer. After a number of hardships, and O’Dwyer repeatedly injuring his leg, the men catch up to the cannibal tribe who outnumber the rescuers and seem other worldly.  The battle ends in capture and things look pretty bleak for the group.

At two hours and 12 minutes the film should have been overly long, however, despite the somewhat slow pace, Zahler keeps thing interesting enough that at no point does the film drag.  The action, which includes some gunplay, a theft of horses and some darned scary predators makes for a compelling experience.

The cast all bring their characters to life in the most delightful way. There are moments of truth scattered throughout and the protagonists all are of the taciturn and stoic breed of yesteryear. Russell, who was born to do westerns (despite his “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” Disney beginnings) always makes his dialogue sound authentic.

In one scene, after the lawman discovers  that O’Dwyer’s wife has been kidnapped, a local businessman is complaining about his four prize horses being stolen. When he mentions it again,  Russell (as Hunt) stops him mid-sentence:

“You mention horses again and I will slap you red.”

Said with all the authority of Wyatt Earp, Russell makes the line as serious as a heart attack and the bigger man stands disbelieving but does not move against the threat.

The performances are spot on, as is most of the dialogue, and Russell is in good company with Wilson and Fox  working in concert to bring an air of believability to the tale of western  horror. Richard Jenkins however (who actually went unrecognized by this reviewer till the credits) gives a brilliantly odd and quirky, yet honest, performance  as the limping reserve  deputy.

The film has quirkiness to spare. Wilson talks to God throughout, and apologizes to Him when he swears inappropriately. In a film about cannibal Native American’s Hunt constantly worries about how much his companions are eating and the “gunfighter” Brooder manages to be prickly enough to everyone that they miss his humor.

(At one point the gunman claims to be the smartest man in the group because he never married.)

In terms of gore there is a moment, in the lair of the cannibals, where it is pretty horrific but it is not “in your face” and lasts seconds. There are nods to other  films. The troglodytes make one think of the hunters in Predator and there are a few little winks to other western films.

“Bone Tomahawk” looks brilliant, the  lighting is spot on and the framing of each scene is right on the money. There are some things not quite as impressive, some of the sound effects do not  ring tru; , too near the microphone or slightly off and less realistic sounding. The fashion, in terms of headgear is a bit hit and miss but none of these things really matter.

The storyline and the acting move this film forward well enough that any shortcomings are easily ignored or forgotten.

“Bone Tomahawk” is an award winning film and for good reason.  A perfect 5 out of 5 stars for a movie that engrossing, engaging and impossible to stop watching, even for a moment.  It is currently on Amazon and  this western/horror masterpiece  is a must-see film.

Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness Times Three

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My mother always told me I was special (she still does actually) and even though I knew that she thought so, I knew it was because all mothers think their children are.

But today, I’ve had no less than three different bloggers nominate me for the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness!

First, Kim over at Tranquil Dreams, then Natasha over at Films and Things and finally Meera over at Meera Darji have all hit me with the same nomination. I can feel my ego expanding to huge dimensions as I re-read this and I may have to order a larger sized hat in future!

Now before my ego gets so big I need to move into a bigger house, I need to thank Kim, Natasha and Meera for nominating me and just have to say, if you haven’t checked their blogs out, do so now. These are three interesting, entertaining, and erudite people who write interesting, entertaining and erudite blogs!

Check em out!

Right, as with all these awards in the blogging verse there are rules. I know, I know, but it’s like the big guy said, “There’s no gain without pain.” (Or something very similar to that.) Now before I go into these rules, I’ll just point out that these “awards” are all good fun and are not some subversive type of punishment or torture. It is a way to build our little (Did I say little??) community into one that is not just about the blogs, but more about the folks behind the blogs.

Caring and sharing. You know?

So, let’s get those pesky rules out-of-the-way, shall we?

After all my waffling on about rules in the above paragraph, there are only two!

1. Tell 10 epic and/or awesome facts about yourself.

2. Pass it on to 10 bloggers you think are awesome and/or epic – or both.

I’ve done so many of these that I’ve pretty much run out of things that are epic and/or awesome about me to reveal! I’ve been doing pictures but I’ve gotten at least one request to, “Knock it off with the pictures already?”

But this is my award, dammit and I’m going to do a mixture…Okay?

1) I became a member of this “exclusive” society in 1975.

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2)I won the best supporting actor award in 1976 after a year of playing six different roles in one semester at Fayetteville High School.

3) My first ever radio spot for a play I did (called The Curious Savage) was done on the first take.

4) I went to school with ex-President Bill Clinton’s cousin.

5) Our “study hall” teacher was the guy who wrote the Disney film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes starring Kurt Russell.

6) For a very short time, I joined a group of volunteers and read a news magazine for the blind.

7) Before being ill-health retired from my job as a prison officer I had been assaulted six times, the most memorable were getting kicked and punched in the face.

8) In 1996, I had a car accident that should have killed me. I walked away from the totalled car with just a few scratches. The policeman who responded to the call, looked at me and then the remains of my car and asked me to, “Please sit down.”

9) My cousin and I found a fossil that was unlike any we’d seen before, my uncle took one look and threw it away saying it was a fake, years later I found out that it was worth a small fortune!

10) I met ex-Vice President Dick Cheney when I was stationed in Holland. Two words? Not impressed. We were “volunteered” to meet him.

And now for my ten Epic and Awesome nominees!

1) Marilyn over at Serendipity she has one of the most diverse blogs on the net!

2)Tyson Carter over at Head in a Vice he does reviews, interviews, contests, promotions…He does a lot!

3)Austin over at The Bishop Review he is entertaining and always doing new “themes” and promotions!

4)Brian over at Hard Ticket to Home Video his blog is full of great reviews (among other things) and lots of humour!

5)Sandra over at quirkybooks writer, author, great fun and great reviews!

6)Donna over at a little bird tweets another writer, author and excellent blogger!

7)Daniel over at Daniel’s Film Reviews aspiring film critic who does great reviews!

8)Ionia over at readful things blog writer passionate reader and lover of new literature!

9)Nostra over at My Filmviews  he does movie reviews, blogging tips and lots more!

10)Tim over at timneath artist, sculptor, reviewer check him out!

 

And that is that. Except to say there were so many to choose from and there were three, no four! That I really wanted to include but I would be accused of playing favourites. Just know, that I think you are all epic and awesome and I’d nominate you all if I could!

So go check these bloggers out and they folks who nominated me as well, they’re all EPIC AND AWESOME!

Photo on 27-03-2013 at 09.03

 

One Lovely Blog Award! Thanks! Just What the Doctor Ordered

One Lovely Blog Award. Cheers george-b!

I was very chuffed to be nominated for this award by george-b  over at euzicasa yesterday! Cheers mate, it was just what I needed to get me started this week!

I had a friend around yesterday who was checking on whether the rumours of my still being alive were true and that the surgeons did indeed find the presence of a heart in my chest.

One cup of tea and coffee later, he looked at me closely and said, “I’m wearing you out. I’ll be going now, don’t forget to call if you need anything.” I did feel a bit tired.

I decided that I’d write something about 9/11 and how it had impacted on me, a ‘yank’ living abroad, and I couldn’t get past two paragraphs.

I decided that another coffee was in order and after making it, I started from scratch and still could not get much further than three paragraphs.

Three very short paragraphs.

It then dawned on me that perhaps I had exhausted my meagre intellectual pool on my social visit. I jumped at this excuse and decided to give my brain a rest and have a long soaking bath instead.

It was after getting out of the bath that I got george-b’s comment informing my that he’d put my name up for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ and in case you missed his blog post here’s a link to it: One Lovely Blog Award – second time around is sweeter.

I decided to write on this new development, but,  I was still not getting around the ‘three paragraph’ stonewall. I watched Tombstone, the vastly entertaining Wyatt Earp film by Kurt Russell and co. My brain was so tired that, if threatened, I could not have written the most abbreviated shopping list in the world.

It was only after sleeping for well over 12 hours, that my mind has recovered from it’s hour long visit from yesterday.

So! The One Lovely Blog Award is another of those ‘feel good’ awards that helps the the blogging community identify itself and lets the same community learn a bit more about the folks who populate it. It’s a bit of fun, a bit ‘self indulgent’ (But honestly, isn’t that what blogging really is? Our creative self indulgences in print?) and a good natured way for blogs of all disciplines to shine a bit. *Whew! That was a long paragraph!*

There are only 3 rules connected with this award, which is not bad at all in the world of blogging awards, and pretty simple.

1. Give credit to the awesome person who nominated you. 

2.  Describe 7 things about yourself:

1. I have just been realised from hospital after emergency open heart by-pass surgery.

2. I am single again after almost 27 years of marriage.

3. I am not in a hurry to have any ‘deep and meaningful’ relationships with anyone at the moment.

4. I am in the process of ‘re-discovering’ myself.

5. I have worked as a professional actor.

6. I have always hated the way my recorded voice sounds.

7. I am completely addicted to real coffee.

3. Nominate 15 other bloggers:

1. Tim The Film Guy 

2. leOpard13

3. Deep Rem Rum

4. Marked Movies

5. Noah’s Ark 13

6. Christine Friesenhahn

7. Daphne Probst

8. Fortyteen Candles

9. oatmeal&art 

10. jennifermdarling

11. Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop 

12. Cinema Schminema

13. Cinema Train

14. Out of Fal

15. My Far Away Places

And that, as they say, is that. I can only apologise in advance to those  who did not ‘make’ the list. I follow so many wonderful blogs that I have to use a sort of ‘shorthand’ lottery. If you were missed, it doesn’t mean that you are forgotten.

Thanks again for the award!

12/09/2012