Playing Catch-Up: The Hateful Eight (dir by Quentin Tarantino)


The_Hateful_Eight

Remember how I said that it was intimidating to admit that The Big Short didn’t do much for me as a viewer?  Well, it’s even more intimidating for me to admit that I felt much the same way about The Hateful Eight as well.

Nearly everyone I know loves The Hateful Eight and, going into it, I really wanted to love it as well.  After all, this is — as the opening credits remind us — Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film!  Tarantino is one of my favorite directors.  I thought his last film, Django Unchained, was a masterpiece and one of the most important films ever made about slavery.  Like many of you, I’ve followed all the details of the making of The Hateful Eight, from the initial script leak to the controversy over Tarantino’s comments on the police.  I was excited because the cast looked great and was full of veteran actors — like Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern — who all seemed likely to benefit from the Tarantino touch.  (Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino, it cannot be denied that he’s given good roles to talented actors who are rarely given the opportunities that they deserve.)  When I heard that Ennio Morricone was going to be providing the score, I got even more excited.  Morricone and Tarantino; it seemed like the perfect combination for greatness.

Well, Morricone’s score is spectacular.  There’s talk that Morricone might finally win an Oscar for his work on The Hateful Eight and I certainly don’t have a problem with that.  (Hopefully, Morricone will have learned a lesson from the Golden Globes and, if he is nominated, he will either come to the ceremony himself or arrange for someone other than Tarantino to accept for him.)  And Jennifer Jason Leigh takes full advantage of her role, giving a truly ferocious performance.

But otherwise, The Hateful Eight just didn’t do much for me.  It’s not that I disliked the film.  There was a lot that worked but, for whatever reason, The Hateful Eight never enthralled me the way that past Tarantino films have.  The Hateful Eight left me saying, “Is that it?”

A lot of my reaction to The Hateful Eight has to do with the film’s length.  Taking place, for the most part, in only one location and structured more like a play than a film, The Hateful Eight would be a great 90 minute murder mystery.  Instead, it lasts nearly 3 hours and, at times, the film drags interminably.  As usual, Tarantino plays with time and, at one point, stops the action so that we can see what happened earlier in the day.  Unfortunately, as opposed to other Tarantino films, we don’t really learn anything new from this flashback and you get the feeling that it was included most because flaskbacks are a Tarantino trademark and because he wanted to find a way to work a somewhat pointless Zoe Bell cameo into the film.

As for Tarantino’s widely acclaimed script, I have to admit that I got kind of bored with this talky film.  Yes, the actors were all good and it’s always fun to listen to Samuel L. Jackson be a badass but the dialogue itself was largely repetitive and occasionally, the film itself threatened to turn into Tarantino-on-autopilot.

(Interestingly enough, Tarantino’s script features several creative euphemisms for oral sex and the characters come up with a handful of different ways to point out that Jackson is black but, when it comes to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, nobody can come up with anything more imaginative than repeatedly calling her a bitch.  While, unlike some critics, I don’t think The Hateful Eight is a misogynistic movie, I do have to admit that I was rolling my eyes around the fifth time that Leigh’s character was called a bitch and kept rolling them for the entire movie.  For a writer well-known for his ability to come up with colorful and memorable insults, Tarantino’s refusal to come up with anything more imaginative than “bitch” just felt lazy.)

What can I say?  The Hateful Eight just didn’t do much for me.  However, I do think that the film looked great and I certainly hope that Morricone and Leigh are at least nominated for their excellent work.  I look forward to Tarantino’s next film but I doubt I’ll be revisiting The Hateful Eight any time soon.

(By the way, with this review, I am now officially caught up on reviewing the films of 2015!)

The Daily Grindhouse: The Sword and The Sorcerer (dir. by Albert Pyun)


It’s been awhile since I picked a film for the Grindhouse of the Day feature. For this go-round I will go into the little-known grindhouse fantasy subgenre.

Grindhouse flicks seem to always deal with horror, blaxploitation, Italian murder mysteries and scifi, but the fantasy subgenre has always been kept from the conversation. This is a shame since there’s been some very good (in grindhouse terms) flicks in the fantasy genre that could qualify as grindhouse. I would especially point out the ones made after the release of the very popular Conan the Barbarian. The one I chose is from that grindhouse master of the 1980’s: Albert Pyun. I speak of his 1982 sword and fantasy flick, The Sword and the Sorcerer.

The film definitely riffs-off of the Schwarzenegger-Milius fantasy epic. We have a kingdom conquered and destroyed by an evil tyrant who uses black-armored soldiers in addition to getting the help of an undead sorcerer. This time around the Conan-archetype is played by 80’s TV star Lee Horsley who does a valaint effort to affect a Shakespearean speech pattern (for some reason when people think fantasy they instantly try to speak like they were in a Shakespearean production). Baddie icon Richard Lynch plays the evil tyrant and he definitely looked like he was having the time of his life in the film despite the corny dialogue. There’s an abundance of graphic violence, nudity and magic spells (done in early 80’s heavy metal effects).

One thing this flick does have which made it a cult classic for fans of the fantasy genre is the sword in the title. The main character of Talon wielded a three-bladed sword. Let me repeat that: A THREE-BLADED SWORD. The sword wasn’t just sporting three blade but the wielder has the ability to shoot two of the blades at someone. Definitely puts to shame those sissy Spetnaz ballistic knives. Arnold may have had an Atlantean-forged blade in Conan the Barbarian, but Lee Horsley definitely outsworded him in his flick.

Another thing about this flick which makes it a favorite of mine is the poster art created for it. The producers of the film did one other thing right outside of populating the film with a kick-ass sword, much nudity and violence. I talk of the Frank Frazetta painted posters done up for the flick. More than one version were done depending on the region. The one above which was the original was the best and the film definitely lives up to what Frazetta painted.