Jason Bourne Collection Review

Preface

With the new film in the series, Jason Bourne coming out in the…Jason Bourne franchise, I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the series as a whole. The Bourne series’ influence on cinema in the post-2000 scene is massive, everything from Taken to XIII to Daniel Craig’s James Bond owes a debt to Bourne, and it’s still influencing cinema today. The films I will be reviewing are;

  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Bourne Legacy

Review

The Bourne Identity

The start of the series, with Matt Damon in the title role and Doug Liman on directing duties. The film follows Jason Bourne (Damon) a spy for the CIA who is struck with amnesia and hunted by his old firm. We see the start of the themes and notes of the franchise here; the European setting, a sense of realism (distinguishing it from the most recent James Bond film at the time, Die Another Day) and the bone crunching mix of Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali for the fight scenes. And while there are moments of greatness peppered throughout (The bank/embassy evacuation, the Mini chase through the streets of Paris and the showdown with Clive Owen’s Professor) there is a hint of ropey-ness about it all. The fight scenes aren’t well shot and the sound effects are ripped straight from an Adam West Batman episode. The staircase ride, while it starts interesting, also has some video-gamey sound effects, poor CGI and sped-up footage. Apart from that, Chris Cooper is a great villain as Conklin and John Powell’s score is one of the most recognisible themes in all of cinema.

Score: 6/10 A Good start to an action series.

The Bourne Supremacy

Matt Damon returns as the superspy but the director’s chair has moved from Liman over to Paul Grengrass. The story continues two years on, when a shadowy Russian oligarch forces Bourne back into the CIAs spotlight. While this was never my favourite Bourne film, after going back to it, I look upon it more favorably. Greengrass’ signature hand-held shaky style is at it’s best here (and sadly imitated poorly by many other directors) conveying the brutality and speed of the hand-to-hand fight scenes. One fight, between Bourne and the last Treadstone assassin, Jarda, is a brilliant display of improvised weaponry. The hotel/ Neski segments have a nice Traditions Of The Trade feel and help fill in background to Treadstone. The main weak point is the story. Who is Gretkov (the oligarch) and why is he so interested in Bourne? Why does he have the Neski files? There is no clear point to why the main bad guy is setting up Bourne other than to make some money, which is quite poor character development.

Score: 8/10 If it wasn’t for the weak story, this would have been the best one.

The Bourne Ultimatum

The final chapter of the Matt Damon trilogy, with Paul Greengrass returning to direct. Set mere hours after the end of Supremacy, the film follows Bourne as he finally heads after the CIA to find out who he really is. This is the culmination of everything that was great about the first two while taking out the elements that didn’t work. The hand-to-hand combat is better than ever, with a beautiful set piece against a Capoeira-infused Blackbrair agent. The rest of the action set pieces are on par, with a great rooftop chase in Tangiers as well as a shootout in London Waterloo. The story is also leagues ahead of the tenuous link in Supremacy, with it linking back to Bourne as his origin rather than some half-baked scheme about stealing money from the second film.

Score: 9/10 The best of series so far.

The Bourne Legacy

With Matt Damon and Paul Grengrass both said they were not returning to the series, it fell to the previous three film’s screenwriter Tony Gilory to take the directing chair and Jeremy Renner as a new “Outcome” agent Aaron Cross to take hold of the Bourne franchise. Set during and after The Bourne Ultimatum, the film follows another agent, Aaron Cross, as the previous programs are shut down by government bureaucrat Eric Byer (played superbly by Edward Norton) to risk embarrassment of the CIA. Cross is the only survivor of his program, leading the CIA to hunt him down. While Jeremy Renner is good stand-in for Matt Damon in the action scenes, his manner is too cheerful. He’s always cracking jokes, which doesn’t really fit the character of a deadly assassin. His romance with Rachael Weisz seems token and the film ends flatly, obviously trying to set up a sequel that never came. Apart from one long-take of Cross in a shootout in a house and a nifty motorcycle trick near the end, the rest of the action is boring or ridiculous. The story isn’t engaging like the third film and it’s only the barest relation to the Bourne series that made anyone want to go see it.

Score: 4/10 Generic-o fist-punchy, gun-shooty (that means it’s bad).

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Everybody Wants Some!! Review

Richard Linklater is an incredibly ambitious director. Just look at his filmography; Boyhood, which was filmed over twelve years, the Before trilogy that did a similar thing to Boyhood but over eighteen years, or even School Of Rock which placed several untested child actors to the front of the film. Now, Linklaters’s back to his college roots, after his first college-set film Dazed And Confused with Everybody Wants Some!!. 

Everybody Wants Some!! stars Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell and Ryan Guzman and is written and directed by Richard Linklater. The film follows the baseball team at a Texas college in 1970s in the three days before term starts.

The film cast are mainly unknowns or just starting into their careers. I liked this a lot in Everybody Wants Some!!. A few films I get pulled out of the experience because the actor isn’t being the part (Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men) but here, like in a lot of Linklater’s films, it just feels like we are watching real people just talk with each other. The film is set in the few days before term actually starts, so we several scenes of the characters getting to know each other and bonding over drinks and dancing in clubs without the film having to stop while the characters all go to class. The very last shot is of two of the characters sitting down for their first ever university class and promptly falling asleep.

The characters are your stereotypical Linklater types; the main character (who has no definition apart from being the one who we are meant to sympathise with), the lovable rogue, the not-so lovable rogue and the girl. Even the characters realise how stock they are. After bouncing around from a disco to a Western-themed barn dance, to a punk concert and then to an Arts event, the main character Jake remarks to his friend Finnegan that they’ve managed to swap between parties so well because they have no characteristics. While every film set in a fraternity has a debt to the seminal Animal House, Everybody Wants Some!! works by getting away from the tired college stereotypes or the frats and the nerds by all the characters being on the baseball team.

The script, written by Linklater, is his usual blend of humour spliced with moments of deeper meaning as the characters have conversations about their lives and the responsibilities while growing up. At the beginning of the film the jokes come at a fast rate and are very memorable; a sequence where the guys all drive down to the bar and on the way start to sing the song that comes on the radio. The scene plays for nearly the entirety of the song and it just keeps getting funnier as it plays. The jokes start to fall away after the midway point of the film as we get to know the characters more and rivalry and tantrums start to break out between the teammates. I was worried while watching that it was going to descend into the classic narrative of the break-up/make-up trope but luckily the divides are quickly patched over and aren’t left hanging for any amount of time.

I ended up liking Everybody Wants Some!! more than I thought I would. I’m not even a big Linklater fan, I guess I just have a sweet spot for films set in university/college because I am in university at the time of writing. That’s why I loved Ocean Waves and Animal House so much. I think Everybody Wants Some!! will be the new version of Dazed And Confused, it will be THE college film for a new generation, myself included.

To conclude, Everybody Wants Some!! is a fun ride back into the college years of the 1970s. While it isn’t Linklater’s best film, it still holds up as being one of the funniest of 2016 so far.

Score: 8/10 Funny and timeless, it’s standard Linklater.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour Review

Preface

Now that university has ended for this year, I thought it was time to jump back to doing more retro reviews. It gives me chance to look back at a film that I might have seen a long time ago with some fresh eyes. And that’s what today’s choice is. I watched this film when it first came out in 2013 and I can’t really remember what my views on it were like. But let’s settle what they are now, one of the most controversial films of the 2010s, Blue Is The Warmest Colour.

Review

Blue Is The Warmest Colour stars Lea Seydoux, Adéle Exarchopoulos and Salim Kechiouche and is written and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, the film follows teenager Adéle (Exarchopoulos) as she becomes enraptured with blue-haired tomboy Emma (Seydoux).

The script is one of the best things about the film. Written by director Kechiche, it manage to be both awkward and stilted but incredibly enthralling to listen to. The film is all about realism, it creates believable conversations and situations (sometimes to the point of being bland) rather than a glamorised Hollywood life. We see the duo move from home life to work/school and the trials of grappling with your sexuality at a time where trying to fit in is a vital part of life. The subtext is in the pauses and shy looks, adding to a much deeper storyline and character development.

This may be due to the two lead actors selling the hell out of it. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos have great chemistry first as friends then as lovers, both deservedly being nominated and winning several Best Actress and Supporting awards. But it’s Exarchopoulos who comes out on top between the two. As Adéle she moves through awkward teenage years to her young adult life and eventually into her job as a teacher, and fields a variety of different emotions. For a first time actress it’s an incredibly tall order, but Exarchopoulos manages to pull it off.

Another thing to note is the vast run time. Clocking in at just under three hours, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a slog to get through, but somehow it’s incredibly watchable. Sure, some scenes feel redundant in the grand scheme of things when looking back, but the engaging script and Seydoux and Exarchopoulos being innately watchable means that you won’t want to turn it off half way through.

Okay, now for a talk about THAT scene.

Around half way through the film, Adéle and Emma are sat down in a park, eating a picnic. It’s a nice scene, full of the previously mentioned excellent dialogue and is symbolic for containing the character’s first kiss. Then BAM!, we are dropped into a seven minute long sex scene filled with everything and anything you could have imagined and blurring the boundaries between art and pornography. At the time, nothing this mainstream had done something so jaw-dropping and I bet a lot of tickets we sold on the idea of “OMG lesbians!” Looking back at it now, away from the controversy, it’s rather badly made. The lighting is off, there are many obtuse shots and after a while it just descends into sleaze. It’s a well known fact that both actresses rounded on the director after the scene, with Seydoux saying making it was “horrible”. Perhaps the very idea of putting sex on screen (especially when it pushes the boundaries of “real” and “fake”) is inherently voyeuristic.

For me, I found it rather cheap. The sudden jump from picnic to sex was jarring, and would have liked a bit more a build-up. Something along the lines of Sid and Gwen from The Pacific. We get the sex, but the build-up reveals a lot more about their characters and emotions on a subconscious level. Here we just jump from calm afternoon to rampant romping. And another thing, the scene is full of full body pans and decadent shots of the two actresses. There’s nothing wrong with titillation now and again, but this feels more like exhibitionism for its own sake rather than adding anything to the narrative. Add to it the director being male, it brings up the ideas of shooting the film with a hetero-majority audience in mind, using homosexuality for gratification rather than to explore meaningful relationships. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think it could have been constructed better.

In the end, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is one of the top films to have come out in 2013 and will be remembered as being a defining moment in cinema history. It’s one of the best love stories in film that just happens to be between two women, something that really shouldn’t be a big deal anymore.

Score: 8/10 A sweet, touching and relatable romance for the ages.

Eye In The Sky Review

With drone strikes becoming a more and more hot-button issue in the modern world, it would only be a small amount of time before the film industry would jump on the situation. While we’ve had films about drones before (2013’s Drones and 2014’s Good Kill), But Eye In The Sky looks to be the first mainstream film on the subject.

Eye In The Sky stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman and Barkhad Abdi and is directed by Gavin Hood. The film follows several military personnel and politicians who are attempting to follows all of the moral, legal and ethical guidelines while still trying to eliminate high ranking terrorists using drones.

Eye In The Sky has a great collective cast. Alan Rickman, in his last on screen is doing what he does best, looking and talking with withering disdain. It’s not a bad role to end a great career on and could be a posthumous Supporting Actor nomination. Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul do well enough, it must be hard to act to a computer screen but they manage to make it work. Paul is still mostly known for Breaking Bad and it’s nice to see him break away from that role. The other standout besides Rickman is Barkhad Abdi. Abdi is known for his breakout role as the lead kidnapper in Captain Phillips and just like in that film, here he plays a very complex character for a relative newcomer. His role, which again is more looking at screens is layered and leads him into confrontation with terrorist militia, leading to an incredibly tense chase sequence.

The films characters are dotted all across the world and each of them plays a major role in the film’s story. While we start in Nairobi, Kenya where the terrorists are stationed, we are soon switching to Surrey, Whitehall, the Nevada Desert, Pearl Harbour, Singapore, Beijing and back again on the turn of a dime. You have to be ready for the quick jumps between each setting because there were even times when I had to take a couple of seconds to try and keep track of each one, especially since there are long breaks in between the lesser used locations of Pearl Harbour and Singapore. Most of the film is confined to rooms and people arguing over computer screens and phone calls, but it’s somehow really tense. Many for the characters who have the authority to call the drone strike, from the politicians to the less gung-ho commander’s want to “refer up” to a higher ranking official to take the heat off themselves, to the point where it becomes a bit comical. But each referral adds another layer for information and passcodes to be filtered through, all under the ticking clock plot device of the terrorists being able to leave their compound at a moment’s notice armed with suicide vests and bombs.

To talk about my problems with Eye In The Sky, I may slide into minor spoiler details since my main gripe is at the end of the film. The film tries to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, but it goes overboard in the last scene. It didn’t need to go so far, the two women who were sitting next to me were already in tears before the last couple of scenes, and these added moments just felt like the film was bashing the audience over the head with its message. The build-up to those moments were good and grapples with the audience’s morality as well as the characters, but for me it ended up looking like pandering.

In conclusion Eye In The Sky is a gripping, politically charged thriller. If you liked the Bourne franchise or something recent like 13 Hours, then think of Eye In The Sky as their older, smarter brother. It comes highly recommended.

Score: 8/10 Tense, topical and full of great performances.

Zootropolis Review

After the runaway hit of Frozen back in 2013 and their collaboration with Pixar on last year’s smash Inside Out, it was going to be a big ask for Disney to top themselves in 2016. Their new film, Zootropolis is out this week, so how does it compare to what some people are considering to be the best in Disney’s line-up?

Zootropolis stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and JK Simmons and is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia in other places) follows Judy Hopps (Goodwin), the first rabbit police officer to be hired in the city of Zootropolis. She has to team up with the fox con-artist Nic Wilder (Bateman) to solve a missing mammal’s case.

The film has a great cast, with the previously mentioned Idris Elba and JK Simmons, but also has great actors and comedians in the smaller roles. Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate and Tommy Chong are good actors, and a small role for Shakira as a singing gazelle, but the standouts are Goodwin and Bateman. The main duo have a great chemistry as Hopps and Wilder and bounce off each other well in the downtime between them.

As usual with Disney films, the animation is one of the film’s strong points. All of the characters in the film are mammals, and while they are not photo-realistic, the attention to detail is superb. You can make out the individual hairs of Hopps and Wilder (who bears an uncanny resemblance to a previous Disney fox) and each animal’s animation structure makes it a joy just to watch them move around the film’s sets.

The city of Zootropolis is nicely designed, even though we don’t get to see a lot of it. It calls to mind Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, with high skyscrapers and bridges connecting them all together. The city is split between different climates; the arctic tundra, the desert and the rainforest. Throughout the film we travel to the different sections of the city and just like the animation, it all looks grand.

The jokes are good, but I feel that Zootropolis might be found to be boring by its younger audience. I was in a packed theatre, filled with both kids and adults, but on average the adults were laughing more than the kids. The slapstick was enough to set the kids laughing, but these were few and far between. Of course, with Disney you get your adult aimed jokes; we get a spectacular Godfather spoof with a possum who looks like a rodent version of Marlon Brando, a sly dig at Frozen‘s inescapable hit song (now I’ve reminded you of it, it’s going to be in your head for a while) and a Breaking Bad reference (complete with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman), but every time I found myself thinking, “kids won’t get this reference”.

Come to think of it, I think it might only be the anthropomorphic animals that make it kids based. Zootropolis has PG rating for “mild threat” and even at points it made me jump. Several big predators turn “savage” and start attacking other smaller animals, clawing them and leaving them with scars, and even nearly killing some. I know that Disney is seen as a kids company, but it’s great when they go dark and they definitely go further out than they have before in Zootropolis.

Just like previous Disney films, Zootropolis takes an overarching theme and litters the film with subtext. I won’t spoil the main points but the film would be a treat to analyse; feminism, transgender themes, immigration and race are all explored within the film. Disney likes to touch upon topical subjects and transposes them to an animated feature for it to be easily taken in by an audience and just like the older Disney films, Zootropolis will make you think long and hard on its themes after you leave the cinema.

In the end, Zootropolis is good. It isn’t on an Inside Out level of greatness and it might bore the younger viewers, but it does stand up on its own as a good film.

Score: 8/10 A solid Disney entry. Just be wary of taking viewers who might be too young for it.

Room Review

In a bid to make a reasonable decision on the Academy Awards this year, I’m trying to watch all the nominations before the show. I’ve seen most through 2015, but there are a few trying to slip in the last weeks. One such film is Room.

Room stars Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen and Tom McCamus and is directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, the film follows Joy (Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Tremblay), who have been locked in a room by “Old Nick” (Bridgers). They plot to trick “Old Nick” and escape.

I went into Room pretty blind. I’d seen the trailer, which had given away a few details, but originally I thought this was going to be a horror film. My co-host on Pure FM, Zach Lockwood, said to me that he thought it was going to be a sci-fi film. So I was surprised and in the end, overjoyed that Room turned into a humane drama about the relationship between mother and son.

Most of the film’s time is spent in the company of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who both sell the idea that they are parent and child. Brie Larson has taken a gigantic leap from her two most known roles (21 Jump Street and Trainwreck, both comedies) to her role as Joy in Room. It shows her ability as an actress, and highlights that she can do serious Oscar-bait dramas as well as comedies. Jacob Tremblay though is the standout of the film. This kid is nine at the time of writing and he’s already worthy of praise, which for child actors is rare. He pulls off every change that the script calls for with conviction and totally deserves the acclaim, I would give Best Actor to him over Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.

The cinematography seems to be deliberately tied in with Jack’s vision throughout the film. It stays at a very low height, and emphasises the small things throughout the room. Jack has never experienced the outside before, all he knows is the room and amazingly, the cinematography is able to capture how he believes that the room is large and is his entire universe.

Once Jack finally manages to escape, the cinematography changes, it takes in wide-shots of the sky and tries to focus in on everything, just like Jack is doing. We almost feel the same as Jack does when he first get’s out, we’ve been cooped up in the room for so long that when the characters do get outside, it’s like nothing we’ve seen before. Even things like “Old Nick” are viewed through a child-like lens, he’s the equivalent of the Bogey-Man, never truly visualised and always steeped in shadow, similar to how Toy Story visualised demon-child Sid’s father. It’s a novel way to capture a story and makes it all the more interesting to watch.

Room is a story that drags you through what could be one of the most hellish experiences to ever happen to someone but it’s all through the always-optimistic eyes of a five year-old. While it could have been easy for the film to become melancholic and depressing, it somehow manages to keep you happy to a degree. You smile and laugh even in the most dark points of the story because you see a young child who has joy and happiness in his life.

To summarise, Room deserves it’s place in the Best Picture nominations. I know that it’s only January, but when we get to the end of 2016, I’ll be surprised if Room doesn’t make it onto my Top Ten of the year. This definitely one to not miss. You might want to bring your tissues though, nearly the entire theatre I was in were in tears by the end.

Score: 8/10 Over-whelming and somehow joyous.

Creed Review

Rocky is one of the most recognisable film franchises in the world. It’s the film that was one of Sylvester Stallone’s first major roles and arguably his best-known role (with Rambo being his second). But now a new film steps away from the Rocky title, ready to make its own legacy using new characters from the Rocky world. That film is Creed.

Creed stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad and is written and directed by Ryan Coogler. The film follows Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed, who decides he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlists Rocky (Stallone) to train him.

Ryan Coogler was the director of one of my Top 10 favourite films, Fruitvale Station and for a first film it’s a solid entry. Now with Creed, he’s showing that he will be soon be one of the most sought-after director’s working today. Coogler is already an expert at crafting a story and has a very good eye for composition and camera work.

Michael B. Jordan (who worked with Coogler before on Fruitvale Station) shines as Adonis Creed. The actor obviously bulked up and trained hard for the role and it pays off, he looks every part the fighter Creed would be. Sylvester Stallone is just Rocky again (you get what you pay for) but manages to add a lot more complexity to the role, with small scenes like him visiting the graves of loved ones or the little mementos of his family around his house adding to the character. Tessa Thompson (who was here last year in Dear White People) as Adonis’ love interest Bianca is a good addition, even if sometimes I didn’t quite think there was a lot of chemistry between her and Jordan.

The boxing fights, while not the main focus of the film, are punishing and bloodied. While there are only two full matches, Coogler and his cinematographer Maryse Alberti capture the gladiatorial bouts perfectly. The first fight, which looks like it was shot in one take, is breathtaking. The camera dances around the ring with our fighters, and it still manages to be engaging despite not having any noticeable edits in it. Edits help keep the pace up in a fight sequence, but all we have here is a very well choreographed scene with two actors who can sell the hell out of beating each other up. The final fight scene, while more traditionally edited than its earlier counterpart, is still very enjoyable, even if it has a weird edit where rounds are cut down to ten second montages.

The sound design in the fights is what sells it though. We hear every punch and every block, with some of the more heavy blows making me wince at the sound of it. It’s a film where you feel as if you are in the middle of the fight, almost to the point where you are about to start shouting along with the crowd. It’s hard not to get a contact high from it. It got to the point where I thought that the guys on screen facing Jordan weren’t actors but full-blown boxers they just got for the film (and then I went and looked it up for the review and found that is opponents were actually boxers).

I’d already addressed the main problem I had, that of the chemistry between Thompson and Jordan, but I’ll broaden it out a bit more. While they have some good scenes together, including a “first date which isn’t an actual date”, their blossoming relationship isn’t really expanded upon to any great length, which is a shame. It would have been nice to see these two together in more scenes and break away from the usual classical Hollywood tropes of romance subplots.

In summary, Creed is a breath of fresh air in a series that should have been dead a long time ago. To paraphrase what the old man said, “It’s not about how many films you make, it’s about how many you can make and still make them fun.”

Score: 8/10 Good, solid entertainment.

The Hateful Eight Review

Okay, I’m a few days late to this one. It’s been a hard week of university work. And seeing as everyone else is still concerned over Star Wars VII, I think I deserved a little time off. But I’m back now, with The Hateful Eight.

The Hateful Eight stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern and is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film follows The Hangman (Russell) who is escorting The Prisoner (Leigh) to claim a bounty reward. They are snowed in a cabin with six other characters, where one character is lying in wait to spring The Prisoner free.

As usual, the acting is great. The eight main players are good, with Walton Goggins as The Sheriff and Bruce Dern as The Confederate being my favourites. Tarantino also gets amazing work out of the smaller roles, populated by Channing Tatum and Zoe Bell. Tarantino is known for getting actors to perform at their peak level, and they’re all doing first-class work.

Tarantino writes the script and while he still includes his usual screenwriting quirks, he manages to add some new features to his already over-stuffed screenplay. Gone are the overt references to genre cinema, instead we get a really tense, really moody and really thought-out film where the silences are just as good to listen to as the ten minute long conversations and Jackson soliloquies. Tarantino even jumps in and has some dialogue himself, narrating events after the film’s interval, and in between chapters.

The set-up could easily be thought of as Reservoir Dogs in a Western, but it’s a lot more complex than that. In Reservoir Dogs, we all know who the liar is, but in The Hateful Eight, Tarantino manages to keep it quiet until the very last minutes. Lines are drawn in the snowed-in cabin that the characters have settled in, with the barriers being Union vs. Confederacy, black vs. white and in the end, whether you’re a decent human being or not. Tarantino draws the audience in on these encounters, to the point where we’re pointing fingers in our mind, trying to figure out who the culprit is. It’s a film that you’ll probably want to watch twice just to see if you find all the clues that the director leaves out for us.

Ennio Morricone, famed composer of several Spaghetti Westerns, takes music duties and gives us one of most suspenseful soundtracks of all time. Taking cues from his tracks that didn’t make it into John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing as well as reusing a track from The Exorcist II, Morricone’s music choices seem to be horror directed, which ends up being the major factor that makes the film so tense and enjoyable to watch. The film could almost be a companion piece to The Thing, as both feature Kurt Russell, Morricone, snow and clawing sense that nobody says who they really are.

The film starts with a beautiful long shot of snow-covered Wyoming. We see a small dot in the distance, a station wagon, and as it gets closer, Morricone’s music comes in and just like Jed Kurzel did with last year’s Macbeth, the music adds a tremendous amount to the scene.

Just like all of Tarantino’s work, the film has problems in its length. While it was novel to have an interval in the middle and definitely added to the second half of the film, it’s the first half of the film that really drags it’s feet. We spend half an hour with Russell, Jackson and Leigh (two chapters out of six) before we even get to the main stage of the film. And while some of Tarantino’s dialogue is good to listen to, I have to admit, it’s stuff that we’ve all really seen before and heard it better in his other films. But apart from that, there really is no other problems with the film.

When I first saw the trailer for The Hateful Eight, I wasn’t too thrilled. I thought that Tarantino had had his time and that this one wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as his older filmography. But soon enough, all my reservations were swept aside and I was watching one of Tarantino’s best films.

Score: 8/10 The score is pretty appropriate for the film. But in all seriousness, it’s been a long time that I’ve seen a film so suspenseful.

Now that you’ve finished The Hateful Eight review, why don’t you come look at the review of the rest of Tarantino’s films?

Quentin Tarantino Collection Review

Preface

With Quentin Tarantino bringing out his new, (technically ninth) film soon, The Hateful Eight, I thought it would be good to catch up on the rest of his filmography. So, the eight films I’ll be reviewing today are,

  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jackie Brown
  • Kill Bill: Volume 1
  • Kill Bill Volume 2
  • Death Proof
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Django Unchained

With the large amount of films to get through, let’s get started.

Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino’s first feature film, and it definitely shows. While the basis of Tarantino’s later work is featured here (dialogue heavy scenes, excessive violence and constant swearing) it has some odd pacing decisions that drags it from high-octane to super slow. However, the continual one-liners from Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and the infamous ear-shaving scene are reasons to watch.

Score: 7/10 A good place to start.

Pulp Fiction

Widely considered to be Tarantino’s best work, the film follows several criminal characters over the span of a few days. The dialogue is as good as it gets, the violence is toned down enough to not be too offensive and the jokes come a mile a minute. Throw in some of the best work of John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, and you have one of the finest and most quoted films of the 20th century.

Score: 10/10 A film that everyone should see at least once.

Jackie Brown

A similar set-up to his previous film, Jackie Brown (adapted from the crime novel Rum Punch) follows police detectives, gun-runners and the down-on-her-luck stewardess Jackie Brown as each one tries to out-wit the other out of half a million dollars. There are some excellent and memorable scenes as well as some tense lying games, but some Tarantino fans will be missing the violence, language and overt references to genre films. It has some odd editing and a nearly three-hour run time, but it’s good enough to sit through.

Score: 7/10 A clever crime caper.

Kill Bill Volume 1

The first half of the five-hour epic Tarantino wanted us to watch in one go. While the standout Crazy 88 fight and the anime segment are cinematic gold, the films constant referencing to Hong Kong Cinema get’s a bit tiring after a while. On top of that, the fact that it’s incredibly light on story makes this only one to watch in conjunction with the second film.

Score: 6/10 It’s only good as a whole, not as a half.

Kill Bill Volume 2

The viewers pining for the story in KBV1 will find their needs met, the more action-oriented viewers will find the film lacking. While the film has more of Tarantino’s dialogue scenarios, it doesn’t have the amount of katana fights or gushes of blood. Even the final fight with Bill is underwhelming, but Brandon Liu (brother of Lucy from KBV1) as martial artist teacher Pai Mei steals the entire film.

Score: 7/10 It’s better than the first.

Death Proof

Tarantino’s contribution to the Grindhouse project, it’s sadly his least successful and according to the man himself, his least liked self-made film. Although in my opinion it’s one of his best. Unlike his earlier films, that are filled with movie references, Death Proof is about the art of film, meaning it’s filled with jump cuts, monochrome edits and retro-fitted with scratches and “missing reel” inserts to mimic 70s grindhouse. Throw in psychotic stuntmen, amazing car chases filled with death-defying stunts and a lap dance that inspired the famous “Scene does not contain a lap dance” line from Cinema Sins, you have one great film.

Score: 9/10 Shouldn’t have had the negative response it had.

Inglorious Basterds

A history-rewriting, Jewish war revenge film, the film follows both the titular Basterds, as well as Melaine Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus as they both try and put an end to WWII, one bloodied-Nazi at a time. Starring a stellar cast, with Brad Pitt, horror director Eli Roth and a star-making performance for Christoph Waltz, along with an incredibly bloody and hilarious final act, it’s another cracker from Tarantino.

Score: 8/10 Charming, irreverent and damn funny.

Django Unchained

A western focusing on the worst aspects of slavery in America’s history, this could be one of Tarantino’s most thought-provoking films yet. The violence, while sporadic, is incredibly brutal, with a few moments that I had to look away from the screen. While it has it’s great moments, the films does go one for far too long, with the home stretch after the “Painting Candyland” scene going on for way longer than needed. That being said, there really is nothing else like it in the history of cinema.

Score: 6/10 The length brings down what is a really good film.

Sin City Double Film Review

Preface

Noir films have always been a genre that I’ve loved. From movies like The Third Man to Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, I can’t get enough of the hard-nosed detectives, femme fatales and beautiful black and white contrasts. While there have been several films of recent time to try and capitalise on the noir form, I think there has only been a few to properly do it justice, harkening back to the classical days. Two of those films are, Sin City and it’s sequel A Dame To Kill For.

Review

Sin City

Sin City stars Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen and is directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, with Quentin Tarantino guest directing. The film follows several characters from different stories of Frank Miller’s Sin City series.

The cast list is one of the film’s strongest points. Playing along with the previously mentioned are stars such as Benicio Del Toro, Powers Boothe, Michael Clark Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett. Every actor and actress is giving everything they’ve got on-screen, obviously reveling in the noir feel of the film.

I managed to read a few of the Sin City books before this review, and from what I’ve seen, there are several panels that have been directly lifted from Miller’s books and put in the film, giving the sense of the comics coming alive. The film hardly had any built sets, instead using large expanses of green screen to fill in the background of Basin City. Filmed in colour and retrofitted into high contrast black and white, it’s a marvel of cinematic engineering and wizardry and the film looks so much better for it. There are small inflections of colour, such as character’s irises, police sirens and lipstick, making the sometimes juvenile storytelling a lot classier than it should be.

Sin City takes an anthology approach to storytelling, similar to Miller’s original books. The film takes several stories such as The Big Fat Kill, The Hard Goodbye and That Yellow Bastard and juggles between them, each one linked with the other through characters and their actions. All stories are filled with sex, nudity, bloody violence and gore and a healthy amount of swearing, marking out Sin City as not one for the faint of heart. Some stories are better than others (I’m in the minority that doesn’t like That Yellow Bastard) but all give us fun characters and action-packed sequences.

In summary, a beautiful tour into debauchery and deceit, even if some characters are reprehensible. Why can’t all comic book films look this good?

Score: 8/10 This is cinema as art.

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

A Dame To Kill For stars many of the same cast, with new additions of Eva Green, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Josh Brolin, Christopher Lloyd, Stacy Keach, Ray Liotta and Lady Gaga with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller returning as directors.

Just like the original film, A Dame To Kill For takes several of Miller’s stories such as A Dame To Kill For and smaller sections of Booze, Broads And Bullets. Two new stories, The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance were created exclusively for the film, both written by Miller. This marks a problem for the film, as the stories here take place during, before and after the stories in the first film, and even ret-conning a few of them. It’s sometimes confusing, but if you just go with it then you’ll still find enjoyment.

Eva Green absolutely nails it as the title character, Ava Lord. Green plays the femme fatale perfectly, capturing the style of iconic ladies such as Rita Heyworth or Lauren Bacall. Her and Josh Brolin’s chemistry pays dividends, as you totally buy that Brolin’s character Dwight would throw his entire life into jeopardy for one more night of passion with her. Joseph Gordon Levitt also does a good job as Johnny, an original character for the film as a kid gambler who gets in over his head when he cons the powerful members of Basin City out of their money. His story, The Long Bad Night, feels a lot more like a classical noir story, as it doesn’t feature any of Miller’s monster-men or scantily-dressed strippers.

My main problem with A Dame To Kill For though is that it spreads itself too thin. After the first segment of The Long Bad Night and the standout story of A Dame To Kill For, the film seems to lose a lot of its pace with the second part of The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance. The last two stories feel very repetitive as we see Johnny playing cards against the same characters and Marv helping someone storm a mansion for the second time during the run time. There are also many subplots during the bigger stories and many side-characters who don’t add much to the film apart from another big name to the list of great actors.

In summary, A Dame To Kill For isn’t as good as its predecessor, but still has some new stories and characters to pull you back into the world of Sin City.

Score: 7/10 Watch for Eva Green’s standout performance.