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.

















Selma is a powerful and moving film that spotlights a brief episode in America’s civil rights movement. Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) is a man who can remain calm and non-violent but can also ignite an audience with his fiery delivery from a pulpit. Selma is billed as a true story, although many have questioned the accuracy of certain key plot elements.

The historic Civil Rights act passed Congress in 1964 but, as the movie begins, blacks in the South are still not allowed to register to vote. King visits President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) in the White House and asks that the administration support federal voting rights legislation. LBJ is hesitant and continually puts off MLK.

King and his lieutenants choose Selma, Alabama, as the place to begin a march to the state capitol in Montgomery, about 50 miles away. King’s group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) has disagreements with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) about tactics. Despite resistance from Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) and sheriff Jim Clark (Stan Houston), the march begins. The police attack the marchers.

For decades Martin Luther King has been seen mainly as an icon, in video and audio clips and photos. Selma humanizes the man. He’s shown sharing social occasions with his SCLC colleagues. He works to engage the SNCC crew, which has similar goals, but wants a greater share of the glory. King’s womanizing is addressed as wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) listens to FBI-provided tapes of an extramarital liaison.

There has been a chorus of uproar from individuals about the film’s depiction of Lyndon Johnson and his commitment to King and voting rights for blacks. Diane McWhorter who wrote Carry Me Home, a book about the civil rights effort in my and her hometown of Birmingham, has said, “With the portrayal of L.B.J., I kept thinking, ‘Not only is this not true, it’s the opposite of the truth.’”

In all movies that tell true-life stories, a filmmaker may embellish the narrative to add drama and conflict. Is director Ava DuVernay’s alleged sin regarding LBJ so egregious that it renders the film meaningless? Certainly not.

The film’s depictions of the disrespect, the beatings, the shootings and the bombings suffered by blacks in Alabama in the 1960s are brutal and direct. I believe they reflect what actually happened.

I find it ironic though that for this story, a vital part of America’s volatile 20th century history, DuVernay has chosen British actors to portray King, LBJ, George Wallace and even Coretta Scott King. One would think that there are capable American actors available to play these truly American roles.



Every character in “Arbitrage” has to make choices. Deciding between doing what’s right and doing what’s expedient is not always easy to do.

“Arbitrage” crams a lot of plot and a good number of characters into this two-hour movie. And, yes, many choices.

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a New York finance tycoon who makes big deals and big money. As he turns 60 and prepares to sell his company, things begin to spin apart. His biggest deal may collapse. His mistress is angry that he is missing her art show opening. Should he cut out from dinner with the buyer’s reps and attend to the mistress? Choices.

To make amends he takes her for a drive away from the city. He crashes the car and she dies. He runs away and calls an old friend to pick him up. Should Miller go to the cops and fess up or should he attempt to move on and avoid being connected to the accident? Choices.

Turns out his company’s books are cooked, too. Should those who are privy to the irregularities speak up or risk fraud charges? Choices.

Should his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, put up with his infidelity in order to share his wealth? Choices.

Should the old friend who gave him the ride deny involvement to avoid possible jail time? Choices.

Should the associate who lent Miller 400 million to cover certain losses be patient about getting repaid or should he turn evidence of fraud over to the feds? Choices.

Should a detective play by the rules or should he do whatever he needs, to be sure a judge and jury hear the truth. Choices.

More on the cast: Miller’s mistress is played by former Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta. The man buying the company is played by longtime Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Tim Roth plays the detective investigating the accident. Attractive unknown Brit Marling plays Miller’s daughter and handles a couple of pivotal scenes well.

The lead role in this movie requires a strong performance and Gere delivers. As you make your own choices for grownup entertainment, “Arbitrage” is a good pick.