Let’s all go to the movies with entertainment editor John Turnbull, as he checks out the latest Quentin Tarantino epic The Hateful Eight and considers how it rates in comparison with his somewhat uneven filmography.
The Hateful Eight (2016) — directed by Quentin Tarantino
The Hateful Eight is a movie that was almost never made. The story goes that Tarantino wrote a draft of the screenplay, then sent it around to a number of actors to see if they were interested. Unfortunately, the script found its way on to the internet, and Tarantino was outraged. He vowed that he would never make the movie, but eventually decided to do a table read starring a bunch of actors he called the "Tarantino All Stars". While the cast of this table read differed slightly from the on-screen ensemble (Amber Tamblyn and James Remar were replaced by Jennifer Jason Leigh and James Parks), it generated enough magic to spur the director to finally make the movie.
Set some time after the U.S. Civil War, the majority of The Hateful Eight takes place at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a refuge from the snowstorm that rages constantly outside. The temporary residents of Minnie’s are a disparate group, seemingly brought together by chance, but as time passes we discover there is far more going on below the surface than is obvious.
Kurt Russell and his magnificent mustache play John Ruth, a bounty hunter bringing in feisty prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hanged. Leigh is a delight as Daisy, taking every opportunity to demonstrate what a horrible person she is. Joining Russell as "second lead" is Tarantino favorite Samuel L Jackson, playing Major Marquis Warren, a civil war survivor with a grudge and a lot of secrets. Jackson gets a couple of great monologues, and may well be the most sympathetic character on screen, at least until about half way through the movie…
Joining the scenery chewing action are Walton Goggins (Justified, Sons of Anarchy) playing new sheriff Chris Mannix, in a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles. Tim Roth plays the exquisitely mannered hangman Oswaldo Mowbray, while Michael Madson plays the softly spoken but menacing "cow puncher" Joe Gage. Bruce Dern, James Parks and Demian Bichir all give slightly more subdued performances, but still play an integral part in the plot.
The Hateful Eight provides exactly what you’d expect from Tarantino at this stage of his career; razor-sharp dialogue, frequent bloody violence, occasional use of the n-word, and characters who aren’t what they first appear to be. The score is by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, but the soundtrack also includes a couple of classic obscure pop songs, as is Tarantino’s style. There are literally no bad performances in this movie (which means that Quentin stays behind the camera), and the snowy landscapes rival The Revenant in their ability to make you feel cold.
With a running time of 3 hours and 7 minutes, it is slightly surprising to say that The Hateful Eight did not feel like a long movie. The 70mm print (released in select cinemas at premium prices) has a 12 minute intermission, which is a good idea in theory but less so in practice. For those wondering, 70MM is a filming process that gives the movie a slightly different aspect ratio, which means you get a slight letterboxing effect on standard movie screens. While this isn’t a drawback at the cinema, I wonder if the DVD release will look like a thin ribbon across the middle of the screen — Tarantino doesn’t strike me as the type of director to go for a "pan and scan" release.
Verdict: 8/10 — a little long, a little slow, but still classic Tarantino
The Rateful Eight
My purely subjective view on the best (and worst) Tarantino flicks, excluding shared credits (Grindhouse, Four Rooms) and guest director spots (Sin City). Includes global box office thanks to Box Office Mojo and aggregated critics rating thanks to Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Jackie Brown (1997)
Starring Tarantino favourites Samuel L Jackson and Bridget Fonda, along with Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Robert Forster and a pre-career resurgence Michael Keaton, Jackie Brown tells the story of an air hostess who gets caught up in an FBI sting to catch an arms dealer.
The standout performer in this movie is undoubtedly Robert Foster, who brings a weary dignity to his bail bondsman character. Greer is feisty in the title role, while Sam Jackson plays a character that could have been written as "Sam Jackson with a ponytail". De Niro puts in a somewhat odd performance as recently released criminal, and Keaton gets his biggest laugh in a scene where his undercover FBI agent wears a t-shirt with the letters FBI on the front. While fun at times, Jackie Brown is not a bad movie per se, but it’s unevenly paced and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.
Box Office: $74 million Rotten Tomatoes: 87% fresh
7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Tarantino’s unique perspective on the second world war starts out as a classic ‘men on a mission’ movie and then takes a left turn, another left turn, smokes some crack, and ends up with the heroes killing Hitler in a hail of machine gun fire (spoiler). It is fair to say this is not a movie for those who care about the specific details of history.
With some great performances by Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and an uncredited Samuel L Jackson as the narrator, the main problem with Inglourious Basterds (apart from the title spelling) is the multiple storyline approach. While Pitt and Fassbender’s stories are both compelling, the somewhat dull cinema plot starring Melanie Laurent derails the film and makes the two and a half hour running time seem bloated.
Box Office: $321 million Rotten Tomatoes: 89% fresh
6. Kill Bill vol 2 (2004)
Kill Bill tells the story of Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), a former assassin who was hunter by her former partners and almost killed on her wedding day. When she awakes from her coma months later, she embarks on a "roaring rampage of revenge", tracking down her former associates and killing them in various violent and inventive ways.
Also starring David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu and Michael Madsen, the second installment tells a far more personal story than its blood soaked predecessor. This slower approach works to build the film as a character piece, and Thurman is excellent portraying the vulnerable side of the ruthless killer.
Box Office: $152 million Rotten Tomatoes: 84% fresh
5. Kill Bill vol 1 (2003)
Apart from an attempt to make more money, it’s a bit of a mystery why Tarantino decided to split Kill Bill into two volumes. While the running time of the two films back to back is a shade over 4 hours, few viewers would argue that the film wouldn’t benefit from some judicious editing.
For my taste, Volume 1 edges out the second instalment by the almost poetic combination of violence and beauty — the battle in the House of the Blue Leaves is both nail-bitingly intense and visually stunning. It also has the most satisfying death of the entire film, the guy called Buck who loves to f…
Box Office: $181 million Rotten Tomatoes: 85% fresh
4. The Hateful Eight (2016)
A slow and overly talking first half is the perfect build up for the post-intermission action. Worth checking out on the big screen for the cinematography alone.
Box Office: $145 million Rotten Tomatoes: 75% fresh
3. Django Unchained (2012)
Starring Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained tells the story of a slave who gains his freedom and becomes a bounty hunter while tracking down his estranged wife. With a strong vein of comedy, typified by Johan Hill’s incompetent Klansman, Django was vilified upon release for the liberal use of the n-word, which Tarantino claimed was historically accurate but critics like Spike Lee claimed was expoloitative.
Inspired by the Django movies of the 1960’s, which featured Franco Nero in the title role, Django Unchained treads the familiar revenge territory of Kill Bill, upping the villain stakes with the unctuous slave trader Calvin Candy. Played by Leonardo diCaprio in scenery-chewing form, Candy is a truly hissable villain, and it feels very satisfying when he finally gets his comeuppance.
Box Office: $425 million Rotten Tomatoes: 88% fresh
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
This was Tarantino’s first film, shot on a shoestring budget, starring a bunch of quality actors who were either unknown (at that point) or in the midst of a career slump. Told almost entirely in flashback, Reservoir Dogs is the story of a jewellery heist that went wrong, with one gang member left dead and another bleeding from a gunshot wound to the gut.
Led by the tag-team of Harvey Keitel as Mr White and Tim Roth as Mr Pink, Reservoir Dogs also features Steve Buscemi, Michael Madson and Eddie Bunker as colour-related gang members and the sadly departed Chris Penn as Nice Guy Eddie, resplendent in a velour tracksuit. Tarantino himself features briefly as Mr Brown (mainly so he can tell a joke about Madonna) but is sensible enough to kill himself off before the real action begins. Quentin Tarantino: excellent director, terrible actor.
Box Office: $2.8 million Rotten Tomatoes: 90% fresh
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
The movie that all other Tarantino films will be judged against, Pulp Fiction was a bucket of ice water in the face during a year full of movies that were so soppy Forrest Gump won best picture. Told out of sequence and featuring recognisable actors playing against type, most notably John Travolta in a career-resurrecting performance as hitman Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction was so good that many people bought tickets to back-to-back sessions.
With an iconic soundtrack and standout performances from Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames, perhaps the most memorable part of Pulp Fiction is the straight-to-camera monologue from the incomporable Christopher Walken. All together now; "I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass for two years…"
Box Office: $214 million Rotten Tomatoes: 94% fresh
Like what you read? John Turnbull''s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!
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