The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film, filmed in glorious 70MM (complete with intermission and souvenir program for those engagements), manages to integrate elements of festering post-Civil War race relations and Agatha Christie mysteries into its tale of several seemingly disparate and somewhat unsavory (dare we say hateful) individuals who are trapped in a fairly roomy roadhouse during a fierce blizzard. It’s a long film—and quite bloody (not entirely unexpected, since we’re in Tarantino territory, no matter what the region is called)—but far from satisfying.
The early scenes are among the most effective, as stagecoach passenger and feared bounty hunter Kurt Russell (on his way to deliver his smiling, beaten, cuffed prisoner Jennifer Jason-Leigh to the hangman) grudgingly allows fellow bounty hunter Samuel L. Jackson to share his coach, enabling Jackson to escape a wintry death. No sooner do they continue their journey when they encounter another yet another traveler on foot (an unusual development not unnoticed by Russell), Waylon Goggins, an ex-Confederate raider and the would-be sheriff of Red Rock. This happens to be Russell’s destination, providing they can make it through the blizzard—which they can’t, forcing them to wait out the storm at Minnie’s Haberdashery. There they encounter cowpoke Michael Madsen, retired Confederate officer Bruce Dern, Minnie’s new manager Demian Bachir, and the Hangman himself, Tim Roth.
It becomes clear rather quickly that several things are amiss—both with the place, as well as its occupants, and it is left to Russell and Jackson to unite to protect their own interests. The Hateful Eight would have made a gripping two-hour film, one even allowing for the trademark Tarantino digressions and lengthy speeches. Yet for the first time, the side trips seem a little forced, needlessly padding the proceedings, and one monologue in particular, in which Jackson lovingly recounts to a grieving Dern as to what exactly happened to Dern’s son, is gratuitous to an extreme (though there is a fitting rejoinder later on). If you want blood, there’s plenty of it—most of it coming in the latter half; there is also a fair amount of wit, and since this is a Tarantino film, no character is spared the indignities that come with being a part of the Tarantino landscape. While The Hateful Eight does hold your attention, a stronger editor might have helped matters.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens resurrects the old gang (including Mark Hamill-looking like Oliver Reed) from the first three Star Wars epics--as well as many of the plot devices (as many critics have pointed out) of those earlier films. Still it manages to be a fairly entertaining bridge connecting the icons of the past with the youthful space heroes of the future. It’s around thirty years after the action of Return of the Jedi, and as is the case of these films, some things rarely change. The plot revolves around Luke Skywalker’s disappearance, various prominent factions good and bad seeking to find him, including Carrie Fisher’s General Organa (formerly Princess Leia) of the Resistance (also known as the good guys) Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, a commander in the First Order (commonly known as the bad guys) and someone with a few noteworthy dark secrets—I shall not reveal them here, on the off chance that the reader hasn’t seen the film already.
The new blood is supplied by the energetic Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger with some hidden talents—even to her; John Boyega’s Finn, a former Stormtrooper who has seen a little too much blood and decides, after a fashion, to join the Resistance, and finally Oscar Isaac’s Poe, a Resistance pilot of whom not enough is seen, yet who manages to insert some of his passion and edge into the proceedings. Did I mention Harrison Ford’s Hans Solo is also back (as well as Chewy) to depict that blend of bravado and buffoonery that endeared him to so many Star Wars fans in the first place?
The action scenes are plentiful yet there are still some lulls in the proceedings, during which one may begin to anticipate some of the unoriginal “twists” and question certain characters’ motivations (especially as they pertain to Kylo Ren—of whom I’ll say no more). The younger performers (Ridley, Boyega, Isaac) who will presumably carry “The Force” into the future are game enough, even if they are not as engaging as the original trio. It remains to be seen as to where the plotlines will go, since Death Stars seem to come and go with alarming frequency in the series. But I’ll give the next one a chance…