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 of the Day : STAR WARS VII FORCE AWAKENS in IMAX Laser 3D!

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After 2 years of hype the most eagerly anticipated film in years has arrived, STAR WARS VII THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I saw it at the Airbus IMAX in Chantilly, Virginia voted one of the 7 best theaters in the United States.

No less than the director JJ Abrams praised IMAX 3D Laser Projection as the preferred way to see this years in the making labor of love. He said of STAR WARS VII in a recent associated press interview:

ABRAMS: As someone who really hasn’t been the most vocal advocate of 3-D, the strangest thing happened to me on this. When I was watching the reels in 3-D, there were a number of shots — and I know this sounds insane — that I hadn’t understood in the three-dimensional space quite the way I did when I saw them in 3-D. I actually felt that there were things that were playing better in 3-D. I had never felt that before. And if people have access to a theater that has laser projection, it is shockingly better.

Having seen the film at the 86 foot wide Airbus IMAX, with their newly installed 3D Laser Projection system I have to say… It lived up to the hype.

The screen, the 3d projection system, blew me away. Initially it was so big and so overpowering, that it was daunting. It was so much visual imagery and information going on in every part of the picture, that I found my head going back and forth trying to take the scene in.

Because of how that IMAX room is built, there is not a bad seat in the house. The seats rather than going out away from the screen as most theaters, are closer to the screen and go up, giving the effect that you are almost in the screen, immersed in the screen rather than just watching it.

And adding 3D to the mix and the film is cinema cranked up to 11. That said, it takes a few minutes but suddenly you are grasping all the information your visual cortex is being sent, and there is no more playing ping pong. It becomes a completely immersive, and not at all distracting experience, as 3D can be. Sometimes when wearing those glasses the screen is too dark, not so here, the picture came across as if there were no glasses at all. No doubt this has to do with the far more substantial glasses you get at this IMAX. Not the simplistic RealD glasses.

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All in all, the visuals were stellar. One of my most impressive and memorable screen viewings, right up there with seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm and seeing Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX. Now the 3D isn’t the spectacle AVATAR was, with things coming out of the screen at you, and while part of this is no doubt because STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS was not filmed in 3D or with 3D in mind, the sheer scale and majesty and clarity of projection via IMAX 3D Laser is a spectacle and wonder of its own. Rather than just looking at the screen, IMAX 3D Laser makes you feel as if you are in the frame. It’s a naturalistic and very cinematic effect, that transcends/eliminates the issues some people have with 3D. IMAX 3D Laser at the Airbus IMAX transcends gimmick to deliver an effortless viewing experience, and a rewarding cinematic one and comes highly recommended.

Now I’ve spent all this article discussing how STAR WARS VII is presented, but now a few words on the movie itself. My verdict? JJ Abrams had the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of fans of one of the most iconic film franchises in the world. To his credit he and his crew of writers, actors, etc, were in this humble writer’s opinion up to the task. The movie was a follow-up to a beloved franchise that (prequels aside) ended over thirty plus years ago, and much as he did for STAR TREK he was able to integrate the new and the old in a way that completely captured and paid homage to, what was best in what we’ve come to know as STAR WARS.

I love that the main principals from the original movies, were not only available to return, but were so brilliantly written into this latest chapter. It’s a smart script, that is also inventive, action packed, and satisfying, and leaves the future of Star Wars in good hands indeed.

While it falls short of being a great movie, the film is a solid entry in the Star Wars cannon, being only second to the great EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Grade B+.

 

 

MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS READ in 2015!

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THE TROOP- “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter.” –Stephen King. Stephen King is asked to give a lot of blurbs, and he gives a lot of cover blurbs, not all of which I agree with. This quote… I agree with. Short, choppy chapters makes the book easy and compulsive reading. Strongly Recommended.The Troop

darkcompanions DARK COMPANIONS- A simply essential 2012 compilation of the best horror stories of one of the best writers of the horrific and strange… Ramsey Campbell. Not all the stories are homeruns, NAPIER COURT in particular is a disappointment, but the successes of this collection outweigh the false notes. Stories such as MACKINTOSH WILLY, DOWN THERE, HEADING HOME,PROXY,OUT OF COPYRIGHT, THE INVOCATION, THE PATTERN, THE COMPANION are well worth the price of admission.

murderatcapethreepointsMURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS (A DARKO DAWSON Mystery)- Kwi Quartey’s Ghana based mystery is a welcome change from the Swedish and Norwegian Noir that’s arguably over saturated the American market.Murder at Cape Three Points (A Darko Dawson Mystery)

TRASHED – by Derf Backderf is a biting, quirky, slightly deranged and beautifully drawn graphic novel, about a slacker who stumbles into the job of trashman. Trashed

BLACK COOL ONE THOUSAND STREAMS OF BLACKNESS -a collection of disarming essays about the varied experiences and definitions of Blackness. Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

beatthereaperBEAT THE REAPER – Josh Bazell’s debut novel from 2009 is one of the most brilliant and enjoyable things I read in 2015. Alternatitely funny, and action packed. Beat the Reaper: A Novel

HOW BEST TO AVOID DYING – Owen Egerton’s story collection is an assortment of odd, weird, and deeply strange tales of characters at the far edges of precarious places. Delightly disturbed stories. How Best To Avoid Dying: Stories

watsonandholmesWATSON AND HOLMES A STUDY IN BLACK – A graphic novel riff on Doyle’s Holmes and Watson by Karl Boilers, Brandon Perlow, Paul Mendoza, Rick Leonardi, and Larry Stroman. Very entertaining pastiche to the Holmes mythos. Watson and Holmes – A Study In Black

halfaninchHALF AN INCH OF WATER – 2015 saw the release of this long awaited follow-up short story collection by prolific and superlative writer Percival Everett. Half an Inch of Water: Stories

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FOREIGN GODS- Nigerian born writer Okey Ndibe’s FOREIGN GODS, INC quickly found a place among my must owns of 2015. Foreign Gods, Inc.

Netflix Horror Movie of the Day for Halloween 2015! LET US PREY!

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Let Us Prey

2014 NR 92m
Director: Brian O’Malley

Cast: Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh

Well made, well photographed, with an infectious score and an insidious, and dire look at evil and more than evil. Reminds me a bit of the wonderful Jeff Goldblum thriller MR. FROST.

Watch this instead of mediocre films such as XMOOR, THE BLOOD LANDS, DEAD WITHIN, FROM THE DARK, MOCKINGBIRD, THE BABADOOK. And other recommended films to try are: LATE PHASES, AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY, PONTYPOOL, FRANKENSTEIN’s ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, BYZANTUM, THE SUICIDE THEORY.

Grade: Worth Buying

This week’s best and worst Roku VOD Streaming Channels!

 

This week’s best and worst Roku VOD Streaming Channels!

 

The Best:

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The two pay channels of NETFLIX and AMAZON PRIME, without any surprise I think,  come highly recommended, and were I to guess, they probably make up most of Roku’s streaming traffic.

Netflix for its growing empire of original programming (including DAREDEVIL, HOUSE OF CARDS) and selection of hotter in demand movies is a must-have channel for anyone.

AMAZON PRIME for its wealth of movie content, and a good number of older shows that are not available on NETFLIX, comes in a close second in terms of must have streaming channels.

Those are the only paid streaming channels I have or recommend.

The rest are no-cost, ad-supported, channels. Some of these are worth your time, many of them are not.

The one’s that are hits this week are:

 

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POPCORN FLIX

Why? Well, good selection of older films and eclectic shows, mostly solid quality(screen pixelates occasionally) and ad interruptions kept to a minimum. this week’s recommended movies and shows are PHANTOM PUNCH (a Sonny Liston bio-pic directed by Robert Townsend), THE ASSAULT, IN HELL, TUNNEL RATS, SHUFFLE, BIG BAD WOLF, WYVERN, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, FREE MEN, BADCITY, GODKILLER and  CHILLERS – A short lived horror series  hosted by Anthony Perkins

 

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I tend not to watch regular TV, so this is a good channel for keeping abreast of the current pop culture and entertainment news. Some highlights are ESCAPE TO THESE BEAUTIFUL CARIBBEAN BEACHES THIS SUMMER, MODEL STARTS MOVEMENT TO ELIMINATE PLUS SIZE, 5 WAYS TO FINANCE YOUR HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS.

 

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SNAG FILMS

THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT, THE WASP WOMAN, THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS(short film, 15minutes), FUSE, a slew of Buster Keaton comedies, CARNIES,  THE MILLENNIUM BUG, EVEL KNIEVEL, LUCKY DAY (Fun 3 min Animated film), BLACK BOOK (1949),  LETTERS FROM THE BIG MAN, STAN (2009 Laurel and Hardy biopic), SICKO (A 6 minute short film that put a smile on my face. Enjoyable), POOR PRETTY EDDIE,  M.R. JAMES COLLECTION, CRAZY STREETS, ANTE, THE BET, HUNTING BUDDIES, THE GERBER SYNDROME, RIDDLE, BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES, THE PURITANS (24 min Short Film), BLOOD MOON (18 min Short Film), LONDON VOODOO, DARK ARC

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TUBITV

THE MILL AND THE CROSS,  DOGTOOTH, THE OTHER SIDE, STREET FIGHTER Series

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CRACKLE

HANCOCK, 21, RETREAT, THE CAVE, BROTHERS IN ARMS,

HISTORY

A couple LOST IN TRANSLATION episodes, about a dozen PAWN STARS episodes, 10 AMERICAN DAREDEVILS episodes, H2 Special Presentations, 3 HUMAN  WEAPON episodes

 

The Channels that are losers this week and will just waste your time (rather than providing you great content) are:

 

 

WATCH FREE FLIX- The sound of the too plentiful commercials is fine, but the sound of the actual content, the shows and movies, is turned down and corrupted. Pathetic and a waste of time. Especially disappointing considering this channel has some interesting content if you could hear it. Fix your sound issue or close your channel.

VANGUARD- Limited movie selections and has not been updated in months. Website appears to no longer exist.

 

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MIDNIGHT PULP – Roku channel no longer being updated. The website shows additional content (not just the PULP ones) not available on the Roku channel. Watch THE SCARLET WORM and ZOMBIE A-HOLE then lose the channel.

ASIAN CRUSH –  not being updated and content that is readily available elsewhere

CRUNCHYROLL – With the exception of ATTACK ON TITAN, I’m not a fan on Anime. And that’s mostly what this channel has.

PARANORMAL REALITY TV – more interesting content can be found elsewhere.

FILM MOVEMENT – Small selection of indie, foreign films (that can be found elsewhere) and never updated

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DORADO FILMS – Small selection of mostly obsure 70s d-grade euro films, however unfortunately has not been updated seemingly since it launched. Which is a shame because the website is quite striking, and gave the promise of a great streaming channel.

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FILM RISE– This was going to make it on the recommended list for one movie, the brilliant SUDOESTE (SOUTHWEST), it is one of the few channels to have this beautiful film available. Unfortunately attempting to stream from this channel was a study in dissatisfaction. Spent more time buffering than playing the movie initially. And when it did play it was interrupted by an ad every 8 minutes, as opposed to the respectable 28 minutes an ad-supported streaming channel should allow you, before hitting you with another ad.  On top of that, with the exception of SOUTHWEST its content could be found on multiple other channels. FILMRISE failed to rise to the occasion.

THE MOVIE TRAILER CHANNEL – Do not make an ad the first thing I see, before even browsing content. Absolutely worthless.

INDIE CRUSH – A severe absence of content. Only about 30+ titles, and just about all of them are available at other, better stocked streaming channels. Not worth the time to add

Well I hope the above helps you find new channels to try and avoid the channels that can’t be bothered to provide updated, quality programming. Hopefully some channels that stumbled this week will improve next week.

You can add and remove channels here.

 

 

AVENGERS : AGE OF ULTRON RealD 3D Review!

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Three years in the making, since the box office shattering and acclaimed first AVENGERS film, Joss Whedon’s hungrily awaited follow-up AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON has arrived.

So being a fan of the first film, I was happy to make it down to one of the better and newest theaters to see this film in RealD 3D. I’m not typically an advocate for 3D films, but 3D post processing on the Marvel Studio films has been very good.

So I plunked down the requisite coin and entered the theatrical showing of the AGE OF ULTRON, and quick thoughts? I quite enjoyed it. It wasn’t the masterwork that the first film was, but that was lightning in a bottle and very hard to recapture. This is a solid follow-up, with characters you’ve come to like, played ably by actors that have become household names, and a solid and inventive and witty script that hits all the requisite points.

World ending threats? Check. Cool Villains? Check. Astounding set pieces and fight scenes? Check. Witty repartee and good natured bickering? Check. Budding romance and Scarlett Johanson in skin-tight and fetching uniforms? Check and Check! 🙂 And moments of pathos and heroism? Check. And fun immersive 3D? Check.

All together Joss Whedon weaves together a 2+ hour blockbuster, a spectacle that is worthy of the big-screen, theatrical experience. That said it is not perfect. It lacks the immediate watchability and crowd pleasing nature of the first, oh it has its moments to be sure, but you’re not going to leave this AVENGERS movie immediately ready to see it again like its predecessor.

This film after one viewing you’re more than content to wait for it to hit Blu-Ray before watching it again. And I think on Blu-Ray it is a perfect format for really appreciating the immense work that goes into the battle scenes.

So all in all a worthy film to get you in the theaters. Grade: B+.

DAREDEVIL – The Final Review of NetFlix’s game changing 13 episode series!

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DAREDEVIL – Finally finishing this 13 part series, that everyone (quite rightly I think) is raving about, and it is a sea change of a series. Phenomenally good and had me captivated to the end, as those of you who have followed my previous posts can attest. It is and should be, justifiably lauded. That said, having finished the series, it is not perfect.

I think sticking the landing is the hardest thing for any series to do, and after 12 fantastic episodes, I don’t think this series quite stuck the landing with the 13th episode. [Spoilers Follow]I think the series had such smart writing throughout but the ending felt a bit disappointing and by the numbers and a bit stereotypical.

I found the character of Karen Page, while stunning, the weakest and most annoying and unlikeable character, part of this is in the writing, and part in the portrayal. And she gets progressively more annoying till the final episode. And the fact that great characters (both in terms of writing and acting) get killed (directly and indirectly) because of her, leaves an extremely bad taste.

The loss of Vondie Curtis-Hall’s character of Ben Urich feels particularly egregious and formulaic and a bit stereotypical. “Oh a strong Black male character in a genre series, of course he needs to die in the noble savage role, sacrificing himself for the non-colored” 🙂. Like I said for a series that was so bold and smart throughout, it felt like dumbed down, lowest common denominator choices toward the end, which made the Karen Page character all the more unlikeable.

The only person nearly as unlikeable as Karen’s character is the character of Matt Murdock. But that works because there are enough other facets to Charlie Cox’s great performance, and enough time spent away from him with more interesting characters, to assuage the more psychopathic parts to the character’s nature.

But it does leave you with a final episode where it is not with Matt Murdock your sympathies lie, but with Vincent D’Onofrio’s brilliant Kingpin. It doesn’t help that the final Daredevil suit is pretty solidly a disappointment, and has one wishing for the return of the man in black.

I’m still looking forward to more Daredevil, but I do think the lack of Vondie Curtis-Hall, the ludicrous costume, the too brutal Daredevil, and the grating, and annoying character of Karen Page has me less interested than I should be for a second season.

Still and all kudos to fight coordinator Philip J Silvera, who makes this series one of the most adrenalin fueled of all time. All the more impressive since this appears to be his first long term Fight Coordinator gig. And of course kudos to Show Runners Drew Goddard and Steven S. Knight who spearheaded the birth of this first season. And of course to the writers and directors and actors.

A second season has been green-lit but without Steven S. Knight of SPARTACUS fame, instead it will have show-runners Douglas Petrie (He wrote one of the best episodes of Season 1, STICK)and Marco Ramirez (who also wrote 2 solid episodes of season 1, RABBIT IN A SNOWSTORM and CONDEMNED)so they have the chops to make the 2nd season their own. Here’s hoping they do.

If you like the fight scenes in DAREDEVIL another series to try for some solid fisticuffs is season 1 of HUMAN TARGET. While not as brutal it is quite well done. Get the series here:

Human Target: Season 1 [Blu-ray]