The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight is not among his best. It has QT trademarks including over-the-top violence, a quirky mix of characters and the great Samuel L. Jackson. The Hateful Eight has an excellent original soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. The film even has an overture and an intermission! But the pacing is off.

Have you ever had someone tell you a joke that has a long set up before you finally get to the punchline? And then the joketeller repeats the punchline for emphasis? That’s what The Hateful Eight reminds me of.

Let’s meet the eight who end up in Minnie’s Haberdashery, a roadhouse in a desolate area of Wyoming, during a blizzard. The time is a few years after the Civil War. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing in murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for a reward. (Ruth, with his overgrown moustache and boisterous manner reminds one of a taller Yosemite Sam.)

The stagecoach he’s chartered picks up bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a Civil War veteran (Union side) who hears the N-word many times during TH8. Another passenger who begs a ride is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims he’s to be the new sheriff of nearby Red Rock.

Already at the roadhouse are four more individuals: British dandy Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsden), “The Mexican” Bob (Demian Bichir) and former Confederate General Smithers (Bruce Dern).

The Hateful Eight meanders a full hour and 45-minutes before intermission. The long-awaited plot resolution after the break is violent but often funny in that QT way.

Tarantino has said that TH8’s story was modeled after certain plots on old TV westerns with episodes that took their time in revealing whether a stranger was a good or bad guy. Maybe QT just wanted his audience to become more familiar with the eight, but the first chapters of TH8 slog along at turtle speed. Don’t nod off.

The Hateful Eight is being shown screened in selects theaters (including Ronnie’s in St. Louis) in a 70mm wide-screen format using film instead of a digital system. (The digital version I saw showcased the film in a wider-than-usual aspect ratio.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have a Tarantino film back on movie house screens. But after his successes with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, TH8 falls short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spectacular Now

Here’s the problem with movies like The Spectacular Now. These low-budget indie darlings get critic love at festivals. The NY/LA early release stirs up some big city and national buzz. Then, when they come to the hinterlands, we expect to see something that is transcendent.

This is good marketing strategy, but when an anticipated mind-blower is merely okay, there’s disappointment. We should recognize that festival people and NY/LA people are sometimes more easily charmed by such films than those of us here in flyover country.

When the film’s screenwriters appear (trolling for tweets) in a prologue before the preview screening, mentioning that they also wrote 500 Days of Summer, one may figure that The Spectacular Now might match or exceed that ’09 hit.

It’s not that the central characters Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shalene Woodley) aren’t real and likeable. They are. And these are two talented young actors.

Sutter is a good-time high school guy with little ambition who gets by on charm. He’s also a chronic boozer who lives for the moment, the now. Aimee is a modest background player at school who, upon meeting Sutter, discovers the perks of being a wallflower. Their relationship, with Sutter’s ex Cassidy (Brie Larson) hovering nearby, percolates slowly but eventually gains traction.

Sutter urges Aimee to stand up to her divorced mom and Aimee replies that Sutter should stand up to his divorced mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to find out the truth about his absent dad (Kyle Chandler).

The big question looms: Will Sutter turn out to be just like his dad and hurt Aimee (like his mom was damaged by his dad’s actions)?

This is a good movie. But it’s not half the movie that 500 Days of Summer was. Enjoy it for what it is. Although Sutter chooses to live in the “now,” you can probably just wait for the DVD.

PS: The Spectacular Now, like most movies about high school kids, uses actors who are in their 20’s. Are there no 17-year-olds who are capable of playing 17-year-olds?

PPS: Also, since this movie is obviously set in the south (it was filmed in Georgia), shouldn’t at least one of its characters have a southern accent?