Tarantino HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road Trip Review

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Quentin Tarantino can be a bit of a provocateur, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but can be off-putting to some, but he is also a great filmmaker.

He is a visionary in the best sense of that word. And there is always a battle between the provocateur aspect to his nature and the filmmaker, and depending on the successfulness of that mixture, will in large part determine whether his film falls on the good or the great scale.

In the HATEFUL EIGHT, I think he gets that mixture right in a way that rockets it right up there, with his best films.

I saw this movie the day after seeing STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, an impressively written and directed effort by any standards, and while I found it a very good film, HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road-Trip Edition felt a great film.

Now visually the STAR WARS film, seen at one of the few IMAX Laser 3D theaters, was the more impressive viewing experience.  The theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in, THE AFI at SILVER SPRING, was a very good theater, and shown in 70 mm, however outside of the increased breadth of the picture I could not tell this was a 70mm film.

Part of this I want to chalk up to being too far from the screen, or the screen not large enough to really dominate the room, it was a big room, but ultimately a well designed movie theater should give you a great picture from any room in the theater, the back of the theater or the front.

I felt the Airbus IMAX Theater in Chantilly Virginia got this RIGHT, and not so much the theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in. Again I don’t think the film projected bad, it looked great in fact, however as someone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA reissued in 70mm, that is the rich, flooded detail and sensory overload i was expecting. None of that was present here in the HATEFUL EIGHT.

aside from it being a wider picture, I could not tell it wasn’t just typical 35mm, stretched a bit.  I know Quentin and the Weinstein’s retrofitted some theaters to showcase the film in 70mm, unfortunately at the theater I was in they either didn’t test or care how the movie presented to those in the more distant seats.

Is it a 70mm experience from the worst seat in the house? If the answer is no, then you need to do something.

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That criticism however is not on Tarantino, but rather the individual theater owners to insure they are providing the spectacle they are advertising.

I really enjoyed the HATEFUL EIGHT, but it’s 70mm nature, was unfortunately undetectable.  I would have loved to see this film at someplace like the Airbus to see if it’s 70mm nature came across. BEcause i wholeheartedly support tarantino’s push to make 70mm relevant in an age of digital.  I just think we need to do a little more quality control at the individual theaters to ensure viewers are getting that 70mm experience.

But enough about the film stock and visuals, what about the sound?

From Ennio Morricone’s first score for a western in decades, I was of course expecting something good, what we got was great. That score is magnificent, the work of a genius, undimmed by age.

I, in the theater, knew I wanted to purchase that score. That rarely happens to me.

 

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The same can be said of Tarantino’s film in total. HATEFUL EIGHT is an experience, a sometimes uncomfortable, and ugly experience, (man do they say the N word a lot) but without doubt a captivating, and memorable experience. You want to be in this place, with these dire and dangerous people, these ‘HATEFUL EIGHT ‘, to see where the road leads them.

Being a Western, that most iconic and cemented of genres, you know if not when the road will end, that blood will be waiting there at that end.

And there is blood, in extraordinary quantities, at the end of THE HATEFUL EIGHT. But there is more, there is pathos, and regret, and humor, and insight.

Tarantino is not afraid to probe the unexamined questions and uncrossed divide of race and class in our past and our present, our peers and ourselves, but to always do it without losing the narrative purpose, without losing the ability to entertain, is a tricky tightrope to walk.

For a film to be both important and fun to watch is a rare beast, and one the Academy is reluctant to nominate, but HATEFUL EIGHT is such a beast.

I watched the closing credits come across with that wonderful final song, and I thought there at the end of the movie, what I thought during the movie… this is a masterpiece.
Grade: A-.

 

 

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Movie Review: Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS 2012

Movie Review: Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS 2012

Well today I got the chance to see Tim Burton’s 23rd feature film, DARK SHADOWS. Starring Tim Burton’s actor of choice Johnny Depp, the film is a humor tinged send-up of the long running Gothic soap opera of the same name, DARK SHADOWS.

Rather than go for the Gothic horror element of the original, Tim Burton instead crafts a horror tinged comedy set in the 70s. There’s more of TEEN WOLF in this film than of THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

Add a soundtrack laced with the popular songs of the 70s, that seemingly has nothing to do with the film in question, some broad humor that misses rather than hits, and some groan inducing product placement (MCDONALDS, WHEETIES, MS. BUTTERWORTH all three product placements wasted on me, since I don’t like or purchase/patronize any of those) and you have a film that doesn’t exactly scream… hit.

That said, it’s innocuous enough, and works its way eventually to a satisfactory if unremarkable ending.

It’s not a movie you’re going to consider much if at all when you leave the theater, and in that way it’s like more than a few Burton films. I think both Burton and Depp together have gotten into this habit of making films of a type, with Depp playing these increasingly buffoonish and foppish characters, set in fairytale worlds that are variations on a, possibly, overused theme.

But these are the films Tim Burton likes to tell, so you get what you get. However for my tastes when Tim Burton tries to play it straighter and more serious, as in films such as BATMAN and SLEEPY HOLLOW, is when his films are at the most effective.

Also Johnny Depp is too fine an actor to continually play nothing more than the outlandish fool in successive Burton roles, I would love to see him play a role straight, or explore a character without winking at the audience. Watching Depp in these Burton roles is often like watching a sharp blade continually and purposely… being dulled.

I think DARK SHADOWS would have benefited from more Gothic and less comedy. But we have what we have. And even in a weaker effort, Tim Burton’s set design and visuals are always cinematic feasts.

So DARK SHADOWS isn’t necessarily a bad movie, it’s just not one I would suggest paying to see in the theater, or even being in a hurry to catch on rental, unless you’re a Burton fan, then by all means. But for the rest of you, DARK SHADOWS is a film you can afford to leave… in the shadows.

Grade: C-.

Movie Review: HUNGER GAMES leaves you a bit famished?! :)

I saw the HUNGER GAMES this past weekend. It was good, and inventive story. Well relatively inventive, mixing equal parts Logan’s Run, Battle Royal, and Running Man, it still adds enough of its own mythology to keep from seeming rehashed.

Nicely acted throughout, particularly it’s a joy to see Donald Sutherland still commanding the screen, and still creepy. His role as president just another in a long line of memorable performances. All of the actors do a great job. And the film is nicely photographed and for the most part engagingly presented.

All that said the film never really goes beyond good for me. It never rises to being great. And I don’t think that understated ending, though I’m told it follows the book, helps the film. In fact I’m sure it hurts the film.

When I pay $10 to $16 for a movie, I want for the most part a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’m not a big fan of the TV-ization (yes I did just make that up :)) of movies. So that non-ending was the main problem I had with the film, and would have had the same problem if the book ends as… blandly. Some films have put enough in the can that they can pull off such an ending, such as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. That curt ending comes, but you’ve already had the climax, the payoff, and the wrap-up of loose ends, so I was perfectly fine with that ending. Not so with HUNGER GAMES.

That non-ending and the fact that the sentimentality seemed at times just a tad much and obvious and forced, are the main things I came out of HUNGER GAMES with. And this comes from a guy who likes sentimentality when it’s done well.

Sentimentality when done well you don’t feel them pulling your strings. Sentimentality when done well, is definitely less is more. You get the audience to cry for the characters, not the audience watching the characters cry.


Akiro: “Why do you cry?”
Subotai: “Because he is Conan. Cimmerian. He won’t cry. So I cry for him.”
—CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)

But my caveats aside the film has done exceptionally well on its opening weekend. However, when you open it on thousands of screens, in every money grubbing 3D format there is, and toss a Dark Knight level marketing and hype campaign with it, you’re bound to draw in the numbers. Add to that there is nothing in the theaters to compete with it, and it all spells dominating performance.

At least for the first couple of weekends after that I think the word of mouth will be a lukewarm, “it’s okay, but you can wait for DVD”.

Everybody wants to be the next uber franchise, the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. If the hope of this Hunger Games film was to get people geared for sequels, it failed on me. Had more attention been paid to making this a good FILM, rather than just a good 1st chapter, I would have been much happier with the movie.

So based on this, the rest of the series, not really interested… I’ll stick to catching them when they hit DVD; as I did with the Potter Series, and the last two films of the RINGS trilogy.

Final Grade: B-


A minor update: Ray over on WSJ wrote the following which I thought was worth repeating 🙂 :

“Battle Royale: In a post-apocalyptic future where all of the world’s major societies have fallen, the government has decided to keep the people in line by having entire classes of students fight to the death on a live broadcast. They are randomly assigned weapons in an ever-changing arena filled with traps that punishes those who break the rules or fail to pay attention. The winner is the last child standing, who is taken on a whirlwind publicity tour to show the power of the government. However, in the latest game, two students team up to beat the system and hopefully make it out alive.

Hunger Games: In a post-apocalyptic future where all of the world’s major societies have fallen, the government has decided to keep the people in line by having randomly chosen children and teenagers from all over the country fight to the death on a live broadcast. They are trained to use randomly selected weapons in an ever-changing arena filled with traps that punishes those who break the rules or fail to pay attention. The winner is the last child standing, who is taken on a whirlwind publicity tour to show the power of the government. However, in the latest game, two children team up to beat the system and hopefully make it out alive.”
— Ray at WSJ

MOVIE REVIEW: RED TAILS! I was wrong! Go see this movie now!

I just returned from seeing RED TAILS, a movie I had great qualms about, after just seeing the trailer, and specifically regarding the leads of Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.

I didn’t think they could bring the gravitas necessary to these pivotal roles.

I was absolutely wrong.

There is no other way to say it. Both Cuba Gooding Jr and Terrence Howard nailed their respective roles, giving great performances. As does the whole cast.

I’ll go into details later, but suffice to say it’s the first great movie of 2012. From direction, to acting, to editing, to special effects, to script, the movie fired on all cylinders.

Just a phenomenal movie, that I’m already planning to see in theaters again in the next couple of days.

And evidently I’m not alone. When I went to buy my tickets, the girl at the counter told me ‘You might want to get a seat now, because it has been selling out all weekend’.

And after seeing it, I can see why.

And the audience was completely into it from first frame to last. Just accomplished film-making and a great flick.

Easy grade of A.

CLASSIC TV reviews: DOCTOR WHO! STORY 13 – THE WEB PLANET !!!

This installment of IT WILL NOT BE TELEVISED we take the way back machine to the swinging and bloody early days of 1965, and look at a serial from season 2 of a little known (at the time) Brit show called Doctor Who! And the serial, the 13th Who Serial, is called THE WEB PLANET.

Onto the review:

SERIAL 13 THE WEB PLANET
Original Airdate Weekly from 13 Feb 1965- 20 Mar 1965
Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)


First let’s start with a bit of back-story. What was happening in the world over the six weeks, six Fridays, this serial went out on? Well The News during this Time is… all too human:

-The first US combat troops arrive in Vietnam. By the end of the year, 190,000 American soldiers are in Vietnam.

-In the Audubon Ballroom in New york City on 21 Feb 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (perhaps better known as Malcolm X) was assassinated before a crowd of hundreds including his pregnant wife, and 3 of his 4 children.

-18th March, 1965: A Soviet cosmonaut known as Lt. Col. Alexei Leonov exited the spacecraft Voskshod II for a short “spin”. He completed a somersault, and then proceeded to take pictures of space. This took place just days before the U.S. planned to launch its first two-man spaceship and becomes the first man to walk in space.

-18th February, 1965 : An avalanche and Glacial Slide caused the deaths of 26 miners who were removing copper ore from underneath a glacier in British Columbia.

-15th February, 1965 : It was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II of England that the Maple leaf would become Canada’s new national flag symbol.

-20th February, 1965 : The Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface

-2nd March : The Sound of Music Premier 1965

-7th March, 1965 : Troopers with night sticks, shotguns and tear-gas grenades violently confronted 600 civil rights marchers during an attempted 50-mile march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol Montgomery.

-Optical Disk —– 1965 USA by James Russell – now Compact Disk CD / DVD

-The Supremes, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” rises to the top of the charts

So that’s a look at the world 46 years ago. And for a bigger kick to put that world in perspective, here are what things cost then (US prices):

Cost of a new home: $21,500.00
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.05
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31
Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.53
Cost of a gallon of Milk: $0.95
Federal debt: $322.3 billion

Average Income per year $6,450.00 (Needless to say this average income bought you a lot more more back then, than today’s average income of $39,423.00 is going to buy you. For one thing far more of today’s money is eaten up in taxes upon taxes, and most things have multiplied faster than income… ie stamps and petrol and the price of a house are nearly 10 times 1965 levels, while income is barely 6 times 1965 levels. So income is trailing inflation by nearly 50% overtime, and that’s not even accounting for various new forms of taxation. And just think, you thought this was just a Doctor Who review! 🙂 )

While the Brits may have been watching Doctor Who (and let’s be honest, very few of them were doing that), In the States the airwaves were packed with shows eating up the ratings from THE FUGITIVE to BEWITCHED to MAN FROM UNCLE to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA to BONANZA to ED SULLIVAN to JONNY QUEST to popular music shows such as SHINGDIG. And 1965 would only provide more programs to keep Americans occupied.

It wouldn’t be till the late 70s, and Public Broadcasting’s increased efforts going across the pond for programming… that would introduce the States to this thing called Doctor Who. And indeed give the show the added funding to keep it running, when other BBC shows of the period had given up the ghost.

And being one of the few shows of the fantastic, Doctor Who offered a cross cultural appeal that continues to… stand the test of time. So to speak. 🙂

So without further ado the review of the 13th Doctor Who story, starring William Hartnell and written by Bill Strutton, produced by Verity Lambert, and directed by Richard Martin:

    EPISODE 1 OF 6

THE WEB PLANET- by Bill Strutton. More shockingly bad alien costumes. Dennis Spooner graduates to script editor. This is a mysterious but not particularly satisfying series opener. Unimpressively directed by Richard Martin. C.

    EPISODE 2 OF 6

THE ZARBI- Strange premise with more shockingly inept alien costumes. Here’s the thing, if you don’t have the budget to do something convincingly… then don’t do it. Not without interest, but those sets and costumes… uggh. C-.

    EPISODE 3 OF 6

ESCAPE TO DANGER- I do like how the Menoptra move. Very elegant. It was Richard Martin’s idea to have dancers play the Menoptra, and a great idea it was. Lacking their… grace, and performances, and strangeness I would not be writing this review. Roslyn de Winter, an Australian mime, was hired to choreograph the Menoptra’s movements and speech, and also plays the central Menoptra… Vrestin. For the actress to act through all that makeup is impressive… for all the actors actually. With this episode I became interested in the serial, in spite of its constraints. B-.

    EPISODE 4 OF 6

CRATER OF NEEDLES- You have to give this serial points for sheer imagination. So much creativity. If I was a kid, the target audience, I would have loved this serial. It is very well written, and passionately performed. And the flying scenes, and battles are quite lovingly staged. While as an adult I could ask for better costumes, effects, sets, what they pull off is still quite impressive. The strength of Doctor Who, being the same strength of The Simpsons or any good Pixar movie, it is layered, smart writing to appeal to both adults and kids. B+.

    EPISODE 5 OF 6

INVASION- From a serial I almost did not finish, when I saw the first one, this has really grown on me. Beyond the questionable budget it is quite a lovely fable, and also at times quite touching, and quite dire.

    EPISODE 6 OF 6


THE CENTRE- All routes lead to the center, as the Doctor and his Crew and the butterfly like Menoptra battle the Animus, an eater of worlds, at the center of all things. A strong denouement, for a surprisingly good serial. B/B+.

So in summation this six part series is not, when recalled, fondly remembered by most. That said its first episode, THE WEB PLANET, originally brought in 13.5 million viewers, the most of any Doctor Who broadcast of the 60s.

Doctor Who never brought in great numbers, but it managed to be consistent, and have a passionate fan-base. Which accounts for the longevity of both the original series, and the success of the new series. If you can get past the questionable first couple episodes, and go along with the conceits, I think you’ll find a serial that is surprisingly… fun. Overall grade: B/B+.

You can pick up the DVD using the link below AND support this blog at the same time! Say it ain’t so, Joe! 🙂 ! But seriously I only recommend things I myself own, and I appreciate any purchasing you do via this blog. Thanks!

Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13) (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Sources:

http://www.shannonsullivan.com/- Offers background info on this episode
http://www.listzblog.com- Nice overview of popular shows by period
http://www.tvparty.com/- More great overview of what’s hot in tv by year
http://oldies.about.com/od/60srockers/tp/topten1965.htm- A great overview of popular music by year
http://www.1960sflashback.com/- Helped with research on prices in 1965
http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html- more prices over time data
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/- another great tool for prices over time
http://doctorwhoreviews.co.uk/N.htm- for a helpful scan, plus see it for another take on this serial. Good stuff.

Doctor Who Season 5 Review: Steven Moffat’s Reign?

Steven Moffat, on the strength of some stellar self-contained DR. WHO stories in the first four seasons of the revamped WHO series (see my Best of Doctor Who posting), was rewarded in the fifth season by being promoted to lead writer/show runner, replacing Russell T. Davies.

Russell T. Davies the heart of this new WHO, was clearly running out of things to say with the character by the 4th season, so Moffat would seem to be the perfect choice to replace him (the episode BLINK written by Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald being arguably the finest hour of Dr. Who done to date).

Particularly when you consider between season 4 and season 5, (specials not counted) was an almost 2 year delay, you would have thought Season 5 would have had all the kinks worked out and been a solid season… ready to… wow.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

Season 5 sporting a new Doctor, a new companion, a new look and a new lead writer, is a season I was rooting for to be great, but it just isn’t. It’s not even good.

I mean the first two episodes show promise, THE ELEVENTH HOUR is a good into to the new Doctor, though almost immediately the character of Amy begins to annoy me. Still overall an okay B- episode.

Next is THE BEAST BELOW which was a good episode, and was one of the only times all season I thought the character of Amy was remotely helpful/interesting. It’s solid writing by Moffat that elevates this episode to a B/B+.

However, after this episode from the VICTORY OF THE DALEKS on, Amy and her boyfriend, and their whole angsty issues just like the Mickey/Rose subplot, annoyed. And the shows felt like chores to get through rather than entertainment, all the way up to the mess of a two part season finale.

And while a lot of this is the writing, a lot is the casting (There are exceptions such as the character of River Song, played by the brilliant Alex Kingston [of ER fame] , who was fantastic last season, and is even better this season. And I also quite like the character of the Bloody Queen played wonderfully by Sophie Okenedo).

The new Doctor is okay, Matt Smith is likeable enough, but his companion and her boyfriend are “turn the channel people”. When I see them on the screen, I want to change the channel. That’s harsh I know, unfortunately… it’s not untrue.

We’ll get back to that in a bit, but all this adds up to not good omens for the 5th season, because Matt Smith is filling big, and overwhelmingly liked and respected shoes in David Tennant’s Doctor, and Matt won’t fill those shoes on his personality/performance alone. He’ll need everything working with him in this season, including the cast, the scripts the direction, all working at full steam… and unfortunately for the most part it doesn’t.

And as stated one of the big hangups this season is the casting. One of the weaknesses of RTD ‘s reign was the horrendous writing of the character Mickey, however this was made up for by the great character of Rose and a stellar, endearing, effervescent performance by Billie Piper, and the great dynamic between her and the great actors that played the Doctor, Eccleston and Tennant. Martha, played by the wonderful Freema Agyeman was likewise a fantastically written and performed character (In fact my personal favorite of the companions).

Unfortunately the character of Amy is no Rose or Martha, she is as annoying as those characters were charming. She and her boyfriend/fiance are this season’s Mickey, largely annoying characters.

Evidently BBC is skewing younger for this season of Doctor Who, a British Dawson’s Creek feel, and I think that is to this season’s detriment.

And on top of the irritating characters, this season suffers largely un-compelling scripts and tired plot-lines.

Example: Daleks AGAIN!??

Really???

Are you going to use them every other episode?? Come on, really?!

The Daleks have built up fleets and been destroyed seemingly half a dozen times in the last couple of seasons. It cheapens and weakens the “ultimate’ enemy, for it be pulled out and dispatched like a parlor trick every other episode.

And the season seemed replete with such retreading of RTD plotlines, and “ultimate enemy” storylines. Moffet seemingly trying to outdo RTD in the universe shaking event, and for my money fails. Universe destroying event after event, becomes meaningless and boring when not used sparingly. Moffat forgetting that the intimate smaller stories is what got him the job as lead writer, that’s his strength, and in this season he completely fails to play to those strengths. Epic is what RTD does, trying to follow him up with more epic, to out epic him,… was not a wise decision.

Watching the season, it was hard to believe the innovative writer behind BLINK could helm a season so lacking in innovation or interest. It felt like a redo of other/better seasons.

Season 5 did the one thing a Dr. Who season should never do… it bored me.