BARE BONES: THE HATEFUL EIGHT

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015)

Latest flick from Quentin Tarantino finds bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) heading to the town of Red Rock with his latest acquisition, murderess Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They are reluctantly in the company of another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and there is a massive blizzard on it’s way. Ruth, Warren and a group of others find themselves taking shelter at a remote haberdashery to wait out the storm. The owners are suspiciously absent and now Ruth begins to suspect he’s walked into a trap with possible associates of Miss Domergue. As they are all snowbound together, paranoia begins to take over as no one knows who they can trust. Accusations begin to fly, can bullets be far behind?

If I am to sum up Quentin Tarantino’s latest in one word it would be underwhelmed. The film is well directed and certainly looks great, as Tarantino knows how to frame a shot. It’s just that it is a very long winded mystery/thriller at almost three hours and there are tedious stretches of dialog that seem to drag on. Tarantino is known for his snappy dialog, but here it just seems to meander, taking a long time to accomplish something. Once the bullets and blood start to fly in the last act, it just comes off as gratuitous after such a long time of slowly unraveling what is going on. That and when it is all laid out before us, it’s not all that impressive or a big deal. You kind of feel like “I sat through almost three hours for this?”. There are some really good characters and performances in the flick and it has a great cast, but just takes a long time to not go anywhere all that interesting or far. Not an outright bad movie, just one that is only moderately engaging. Also stars Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Channing Tatum.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: EVERLY (2014)

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EVERLY (2014)

Everly is an uneven but, still very entertaining action flick with a truly badass turn by Salma Hayek. Everly (Hayek) is a woman who has been imprisoned in the same apartment for four years as the personal sex slave/toy of powerful Yakuza lord, Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe). One day she gets tired of being passed around by his men and kills them all in a fit of rage. Now Everly has little time as she must warn her mother (Laura Cepeda) and young daughter (Aisha Ayamah) to get to safety as Taiko will be coming to kill her in retribution and her family, too. But, Everly is not going down without a fight and fight is what Taiko and his soldiers are going to get plenty of.

Directed by Joe Lynch (the fun Knights of Badassdom and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) and written by Lynch and Yale Hannon, Everly can be a real blast at times in the Tarantino tradition. The only real problem that held this back for me was that the film’s momentum stops dead, occasionally, for lengthy scenes of exposition, such as when Everly’s mom comes to the apartment where she is holed up and with her daughter. If the dialog was as snappy as Quentin Tarantino’s…whose films this seems to be modeled after…than it would be fine but, it’s not. The warm and fuzzy moments and her conversations with one of Taiko’s dying gang members (Akie Kotabe) just serve to slow the momentum down before the next gunfight. We do need a breather now and then but, the slowing down of the pace does more harm than good. There is still so much to like, though, as when this movie is on, it rocks. The action is fierce and I liked that the film took place all in the same apartment, so, you were familiar with the surroundings and where things were happening during the furious gunfights. As Taiko’s men fail to take down Everly, the assassins he sends get more colorful…with characters called “The Masochist” and “The Sadist”…and he even places a bounty on her head so she is also attacked by bevy of her fellow prostitutes. It all adds up to a lot of bloody…and this flick gets bloody…fun as Hayek blasts, slashes and blows away her opponents with anything she can get her hands on. In this case, the good parts go far in making up for any flaws or familiarities the film may have. It’s an over-the-top comic book-style action flick and despite a few slow spots, it succeeds in what it sets out to do.

Two words…Salma Hayek. The actress is an absolute stick of dynamite here and her kick-ass performance goes a long way in making this action flick really take off. Aside from being a resourceful, gutsy, bad-guy smashing heroine, she still looks great and at almost 50, has a body that shames girls half her age. She is an ass-kicking machine here but, never loses her humanity or makes us forget she’s just a woman who is trying to protect those she loves, even if it means taking on the world and possibly losing her own life. In support, Laura Cepeda plays a good strong Latino mom as Everly’s mother Edith. Aisha Ayamah is adorable as her little girl Maisey. Masashi Fujimoto and Togo Igawa are effectively disturbing as Masochist and Sadist respectively and Watanabe is serviceable as Taiko though I felt he could have used a bit more presence/menace considering how ominously he’s spoken of.

I enjoyed and recommend this flick for those that like the Tarantino style of over-the-top action and eccentric characters and goings-on. The pacing was a bit uneven and the film’s momentum sometimes gets slowed down considerably by some of the dialog sequences but, does provide plenty of furious action. The film is a real blast when that action comes and there is an absolutely volcanic performance by leading lady Salam Hayek who can stand her ground with any action star today. Flawed but, still lots of fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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THE “D” IS SILENT: A LOOK AT DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) AND DJANGO (1966)

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As Tarantino’s hit Spaghetti Western homage comes to blu-ray on 4/16/13, I take a look back at Django Unchained and the film that inspired it…

Quentin Tarantino has become one of America’s most innovative filmmakers in that he takes his unapologetic love of movies, B movies in particular, and crafts original films out of bits and pieces that pay homage to the movies he loves. No more obvious then his latest ode to the Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained.

This epic story of ex-slave turned bounty hunter, Django (Jaime Foxx) has it’s main character named after the lone gunslinger played by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci’s classic Spaghetti Western of the same name. And in case you didn’t get that point, not only does the film open with that 1966 film’s theme song but, sports a delightful cameo from Franco Nero himself. The story opens with a slave, Django being bought in a humorously violent scene by German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz ( Christoph Waltz). Schultz promises Django his freedom if the slave will help him track down three wanted men Django has seen but, Schultz has not. But, Django has quite a knack for bounty hunting and after their quarry is gunned down, in a great scene involving a hilariously sleazy Don Johnson as a racist plantation owner, the two team up. But, when Schultz hears of the plight of Django’s German speaking slave wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), he agrees to help him search for and free her. This brings them to the door of a vile plantation owner, who specializes in slave fights, named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Will Django and Schultz be able to rescue his wife from the devious and well armed Candie? A lot of bullets and blood fly before that question gets answered. Django Unchained isn’t perfect. It is definitely a bit too long and the last act could have been structured a bit more efficiently but, Tarantino has always been a bit overindulgent and we let him slide because of all the things he gets right… and because his films are usually so damn entertaining.

And one of the things he gets so right here is the performances out of his cast. Jaime Fox is impressive as Django bringing both a sly humor and a smoldering strength to the slave turned bounty killer. I’m not usually a fan but, he won me over here. Christoph Waltz is an absolute delight as the German bounty hunter with a heart and sense of honor. He gives Tarantino’s crisp and witty dialog vivid life and creates an instantly classic character from the pages of the director’s script. The same could be said of the phenomenal performance by Leonardo DiCaprio whose wonderfully over the top Calvin Candie practically steals the show. DiCaprio is having a blast playing the vicious and sleazy dandy plantation owner whose charm oozes out of every pore but, only to cover up that this snake has fangs filled with venom and he will strike first chance he gets. And if that triple threat isn’t enough, we have a side splitting performance by the great Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s cantankerous head slave Stephen. Stephen may be a slave but, sometimes his manipulation of Calvin makes you seriously wonder who is really running the Candie Land plantation.

Tarantino once again gives this top notch cast some wonderful Tarantino dialog to work with and, as usual, shoots Django with his trademark luscious camera work. QT’s love of film fills every frame. He skillfully mixes controversial topics such as the horrors of slavery and racism with some very sly and funny humor and peppers it with some blood spattering action and violence. Basically it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie. And that’s exactly what we paid to see. A fiercely entertaining movie with a great supporting cast featuring the likes of Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Russ and Amber Tamblyn, Dennis Christopher, Michael Parks and James Remar to name a few.

A solid 3 and 1/2 pistols

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DJANGO (1966)

As 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars was a huge hit, director Sergio Corbucci answered with his own Spaghetti Western in 1966, the classic, Django. Where Sergio Leone filled his films with beautiful sweeping vistas and made good use of the Spanish locations, Corbucci’s look for Django was very nihilistic and bleak as was it’s tone. Filmed in winter, the landscapes are barren and dead and the streets of the town are filled with mud and the sky seems mostly always gray. The films’ heroes are different too as Eastwood’s “Joe” is an opportunist who plays two rival gangs against each other in a dangerous game to profit from both. Franco Nero’s Django, on the other hand, is a former soldier who returns to a small town dragging a coffin behind him and seeking vengeance for the loss of a loved one. Django is a man whose heart and soul have been torn out by the Civil War and the murder of his wife and he doesn’t care how many have to die before he exacts his revenge on the evil Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) for her death. And death is indeed what lies within the coffin he takes with him everywhere as Jackson and his men will soon find out. The loner gunslinger Django also plays two gangs against each other for his own gain but, his gain is far more personal then profitable. The film’s graveyard shootout finale is also very bleak and makes one wonder if Corbucci is asking us whether Django’s surrounding himself with so much death has made him an outcast amongst the living. Django is a hard and violent tale under Corbucci’s direction and Franco Nero’s Django is a hard and violent man who, unlike Eastwood’s charming anti-hero, is a man on a path to hell and plans on taking as many with him as possible. His flashes of humanity are brief and seem only directed at the saloon girl Maria, who falls for the dark loner. But, even Maria is not immune to the violence that follows this man wherever he goes. Django is an interesting entry in the Spaghetti Western genre and seems to be the dark opposite of Leone’s series with Eastwood. And as such has earned it’s own classic status and is rightfully regarded as one of the genres best examples.

Also 3 and 1/2 pistols

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