[#2016oscardeathrace] The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

167 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Jason Leigh) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [Pending]

 

What happens when eight morally ambiguous humans find themselves snowed in for the weekend? You get The Hateful Eight, the newest film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained). We are first introduced to Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chi-Raq), a famed bounty hunter known for his past transgressions in the civil war. He is out amongst the snow when he is met by John Ruth (Kurt Russell, The Thing, Bone Tomahawk), a fellow bounty hunter known as “The Hangman” who is delivering the notorious Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Machinist, Anomalisa) to the proper authorities in Red Rock. Along the way, the three come across the new sheriff of Red Rock, or so he says, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, TV’s The Shield, American Ultra), and the group make their way toward Red Rock before being stranded at Minnie’s Haberdashery in the blizzard. Now, John Ruth is under the impression that one amongst the group snowed in is out to free Daisy and kill anyone in her way in this thrilling whodunit.

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There’s no way to get this film confused with the work of any other filmmaker. This is pure-laced Tarantino from its deepest core. There are all the stylings of this one-of-a-kind director like the gripping dialogue, the extreme violence and Samuel L. Jackson, who eats up the screen. He is matched in prowess with Kurt Russell, who proves to be perfectly matched for our director in style and wit. Jennifer Jason Leigh also steals her scenes as the morbidly chilling Daisy, but to be fair, everyone is playing their A-game here, from regular performers Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Selma) and Michael Madsen (Kill Bill vol. 1, Hell Ride) to Demian Bichir (TV’s The Bridge, The Heat) as the hilarious Bob and the Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Twixt) as the racist General Sandy Smithers.

Then there’s the cinematography, expertly handled by DP Robert Richardson. The film, if you hadn’t heard, was shot using an Ultra Panavision 70 and projected in a 70mm cut, which is absolutely excellent. The frames are stark and beautiful and rich and actually help to drive the story even if a large amount of it takes place in a single shack. If you didn’t get the chance to see it in 70mm, let me assure you that both cuts of the film are terrific, so don’t feel too bad.

I also fell in love with Ennio Morricone’s original score, the first original score from the famed composer in decades. He is almost ensured to win the Oscar for it.

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The Hateful Eight could have been shorter, but I really loved the feel and grandeur of such a simple and intense whodunit like this. After two viewings, the film has continued to grow on me, and while it isn’t top-tier Tarantino, it certainly is still one of the best films of 2015.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino’s Sin City, click here.

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Shanghai Noon (2000)

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Director: Tom Dey

Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Xander Berkeley, Walton Goggins

Screenplay: Miles Millar, Alfred Gough

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality.

 

Today, let’s look back on Shanghai Noon, a marginally forgotten action/comedy/western from 2000. I just learned that plans are being put in place to bring Shanghai Dawn, a new installment, to cinemas in the near-future. Is it worth it? Does it hold up? Let’s find out.

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Chon Wang (Jackie Chan, Rush Hour, Kung Fu Panda 2) is in the American West in search of the missing Chinese Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu, TV’s Elementary, Kill Bill Vol. 1). There is one problem: he keeps running into the infamous and underwhelming outlaw Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) who has been left to die by his newest recruit Wallace (Walton Goggins, TV’s Justified, Django Unchained), an unhinged fool of a man. After a forced friendship is built, Chon and Roy team up to save the princess while they evade Marshal Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley, TV’s Salem, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who is hunting O’Bannon and “The Shanghai Kid”.

Shanghai Noon is a fun little excursion that with several flaws but a likable comedic duo. The chemistry between Chan and Wilson is pretty solid, even if the conceit that brings them together has no reason. I don’t believe that an outlaw like Roy O’Bannon would just decide to help out Chon without getting anything back. I just wasn’t convinced by his motives here, especially hearing how quickly he would sell Chan’s character out. Once they do become partners, though, that doesn’t really matter. They are a likable team nonetheless.

The villains are less than strong, however. Both villains are extremely predictable, unmotivated, and unconvincing, in no part due to the performances, though, but how they are written.

Director Tom Dey (Failure to Launch, Marmaduke) gets this film tonally right in a lot of ways, and I can’t fault him for the uninspired style, as he hasn’t really proven to be above par as a filmmaker. Shanghai Noon also runs a bit too long, especially near the end. There are sequences involving the attempts at rescuing Pei Pei that feel like they aren’t going anywhere. That being said, the choice to add classic rock music to the score really helps keep the lighthearted tone moving.

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Shanghai Noon is far from perfect, but western action/comedies are not an easy thing to do. As it stands, the chemistry from the strong two leads carry this film very well, and it’s easy to overlook some of the film’s more blaring faults.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

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Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

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All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Other Woman (2014)

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Director: Nick Cassavetes

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney, Don Johnson

Screenplay: Melissa Stack

109 mins.  Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.

 

The Other Woman is the story of Carly (Cameron Diaz, There’s Something About Mary, Annie), an underdeveloped character who has just scored the man of her dreams in Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, TV’s Game of Thrones, Oblivion), until she discovers that she is being played when she meets Mark’s wife Kate (Leslie Mann, Knocked Up, Rio 2). The two create an unlikely (try impossible) bond over the fact that they are both still digging Mark even though they should hate him, which they also kind of do. The plot (if you can call it that) thickens when they discover another mistress (Kate Upton, The Three Stooges, Tower Heist) and the three of them join up to take vengeance in a strange mixture of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Saw. Pretty much, yeah.

I recall seeing the trailer for The Other Woman some time ago, and thinking about how much this movie was going to disappoint, particularly because I used to think Cameron Diaz was funny and I still usually find Leslie Mann to be a real treat. I think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has some major chops from his performance in HBO’s Game of Thrones and films like Mama. This film is nothing like these previous works in that I liked the previously mentioned works.

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Cameron Diaz plays her way through this movie as one of the most unlikable characters in her kind of situation, and Leslie Mann acts as though she is trying to act in a musical from the 1950s. Everything is overdone. Boobs McGee, or (you may recognize her stage name more, Kate Upton) has a body and a voice for silent pictures, and she has the acting skills of a mop handle. Her function in this film is to convince husbands to see it. Don’t be fooled by the breasts behind the curtain, moviegoers, it just isn’t worth it.

Nicki Minaj (Ice Age: Continental Drift) is in this piece of horseshit as well. She had trouble acting her way through a Lonely Island music video. Everything she says falls flat and without resonance. Someone throw a tomato at this clown and get her off the stage.

Even Don Johnson (TV’s Miami Vice, Django Unchained) isn’t spared from the terrible acting virus, though it is hard to blame him. I imagine the conversation with his agent went something like this: “Wait! You’re telling me I can bone Kate Upton in this picture? I’ll take it!” This coming from a major fan of Miami Vice, too.

The music sounds like someone grabbed Now 51 off the shelf and put it into iMovie.

Such a skilled director as Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper) behind the camera, you’d think something better could be said here, but unfortunately, he just doesn’t have a handle on the bogus screenplay. Go home, Nick, you’re drunk.

And on the subject of screenplays, this one is a doozy. It is almost as if they finished a rough draft and forgot to do the rewrite where they actually add in the humor. The entire film finally shreds to nothing by the finale, a bloated, overly out there ending that involves not one, but two breakaway gas gags and the biggest nosebleed I have ever witnessed on camera. It was a dumb idea that got turned into a dumb screenplay that got turned into a dumb movie.

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The Other Woman is hands down one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and it is a big contender for worst film of 2014, folks, please stay away from this one. In fact, burn all copies you may come across.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Other Woman? Was it an affair to remember or did you feel cheated? Let me know!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field

Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner

142 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

 

After the okay-ish 2012 release of The Amazing Spider-Man, I was uncertain if the franchise had the staying power after essentially remaking the original Spider-Man. Now, with this year’s sequel, is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 further proof? Find out now.

And, I should point out, Spoilers be warned for any and all plot points of previous films. I won’t ruin this one though, so feel free to read on.

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Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), still suffering from his failure to save Captain Stacy, is forced to juggle his role as Peter with his role as Spider-Man when new villain Electro (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) rises to power, literally. Peter’s problems only get greater as old friends and new enemies appear, all seemingly linked to the death of Peter’s parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) and his father’s connection to Oscorp. His relationship with the captain’s daughter Gwen (Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman) has progressed to a point where he must constantly fear for her safety. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle, Life After Beth), an childhood friend of Peter’s shows up, wanting to cure a disease, but to do that, he needs too much from Spider-Man. Peter is further tested when his relationship with Aunt May (Sally Field, Forrest Gump, Lincoln) is strained by his hunt for the truth in his lineage.

This film dramatically improves on many of the faults and worries I had from the previous picture, while still having issues with pacing and tone. From a visual perspective, after 5 theatrical Spider-Man films, this one has a lot of nice work going on for us to watch. The camera knows when it has to focus and when it has to move. The effects are, in a word, stunning. I love the costumes here as well. For the fact that there are a lot of villains in this movie, each one, from the new to the recognizable, is an awesome costume which breathes life (or new life, in the case of one) into the characters. Garfield’s performance has improved as well. He isn’t as confused about where his character needs to be, emotionally, in each scene. Fresh faces Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, River of Fundament) as Alexsei Sytsevich, a russian gangster, provide something fun to play with. Foxx’s performance only kicks in as he becomes Electro, but when it does, he takes off.

I have to say this, the real win of this film is the mystery surrounding the deaths of Peter’s parents. This is something that we didn’t really have in the previous series, so it is a point that we as viewers didn’t feel like we had to compare.

The music choices surrounding Electro were interesting. Webb cast a musical group specifically for Foxx’s character, called the Magnificent Six. This works at times and fails as others. See what I meant by tone issues.

The ending is where this tonal confusion really gets notable. I won’t play with any reveals for you, but strictly speaking, things get much more serious than they have the entire film previously. So many important plot points jammed in there, and it just didn’t work.

Now, the open-ended set up for sequels worked fine, setting us up for a little Spider-Man Cinematic Universe feeling, and that excites me.

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I need to day that this film definitely isn’t the Spider-Man 2 we have seen before, and it isn’t as good as we deserved, but it is a ton of fun and a big step up from its immediate predecessor. Remember that, and enjoy yourself.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Did you feel the electricity or was this a short circuit? Let me know!

 

For my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, click here.

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