The Hateful Eight – 6.5/10

Tarantino’s masterpiece? More like his meh-sterpeice…


Well that was disappointing. It is very hard to fathom how so many positive elements conspired to make such a mess of a movie. As with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight is brilliant for the first hour. Samuel L. Jackson’s verbal jousting with Kurt Russell is a joy to behold and Jennifer Jason Leigh is suitably grotesque as an incredibly unlikely femme fetale.

At the point that those three characters leave the open road and arrive at the log cabin where most of the rest of the film takes place, The Hateful Eight is engrossing, well written and laugh out loud funny in places, culminating in the high point of the whole film when Sam Jackson delivers one of his trademark booming monologues. From there though, as with Tarantino’s last two films, the whole thing collapses under the weight of the director’s smug self satisfaction. Since Kill Bill vol. 2, Tarantino has seemed to be unable to know how to adequately end a film and once again he chooses to descend into cartoonish violence.

The actors do their very best to hold it together it has to be said. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson really are outstanding. Tim Roth has a little bit too much fun as a scenery chewing Englishman, but he just about holds up. Channing Tatum however is woefully miscast and the whole momentum of the film grinds to a halt upon his appearance. Also how many more times do we need to see Michael Madsen playing this one same character?


By the time the mammoth running time finally runs down to the end, the characters have become such Tarantino caricatures that it is hard to care either way about their fate. When compared to the truly great directors (Coen Brothers, David Fincher), Tarantino just doesn’t have the same ability to connect with an audience and make them feel something other then ‘that scene was cool’. His style has become so insular and recognizable that he has become strangled by it, almost akin to Tim Burton.

It is time for Tarantino to step out of his comfort zone and make a film that actually has something to say rather than just a mash up of all the cool movies he has seen and enjoyed himself. The Hateful Eight is everything we have seen from him before, right down to the characters, the dialogue and the actors. Sadly the only things to change are the setting and the quality of the film.


Kingsman: The Secret Service – 7.5/10.

Colin Firth plays tinker, tailer, soldier and spy as Matthew Vaughn continues his hot streak.

colin-firth-at-event-of-kingsman -the-secret-service-(2014)-large-picture

With 2010’s Kick Ass, director Matthew Vaughn turned the comic book genre on it’s head with gritty realism and unfamiliar character arcs and story line. After continuing his good work in that area with X-Men: First Class (one of the finest films in the whole comic book genre), Vaughn has turned his talents to the classic espionage genre and if not reinvigorated it then certainly made it interesting again.

I wasn’t that taken with the Bourne franchise, despite my undying love for Matt Damon, and I flat out dislike Bond films so the only reason I ended up watching Kingsman was for the excellent cast and because of Matthew Vaughn’s track record (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick Ass and X:Men: First Class to date).

Heading up a mostly British cast are Colin Firth and Mark Strong who always collaborate well together and it is nice to see Strong as a supporting hero rather than as a stock British villain. Firth is a touch of class as ever and he has more of a twinkle in his eye in Kingsman than in some of his recent work which has appeared a bit phoned in since The Kings Speech.

Alongside Firth and Strong, relative newcomer Taron Egerton does a brilliant job as the protagonist in what is a tough role to pull off. The cockney wide boy can so easily become caricature but Egerton is equally at home in trackie bottoms or a smart suit and he could be one to keep an eye on for the future.

KSS_JB_D11_01307 - Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turn his life around by trying out for a position with Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization.

Slightly worrying is the inability to escape completely from genre trappings with tired plot devices like a ticking clock and also cartoonish villains (Samuel. L Jackson is disappointing as the antagonist) unfortunately present. Another concern is the action genre in general is still guilty of failing to find interesting roles for woman with Sophie Cookson little more than a prop in her supporting role here.

With Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams, Gareth Evans and to a lesser extent Zack Snyder doing great work on similar projects we could be entering a new golden age for big action blockbusters and Matthew Vaughn should be able to pick whatever project he wants next after such a strong start to his directing career.

Resurrecting the Champ – 7/10.

A struggling sports reporter comes across a former boxing champion turned bum and attempts to tell his story. Samuel L. Jackson plays the boxer and is a pleasure as always, Josh Hartnett holds his own as the reporter. There is nothing to separate Resurrecting the Champ from many many other inspirational sports stories but it is told well and the strong cast makes it worthwhile.

Hard Eight AKA Sydney – 7.5/10

‘This is a very fucked-up situation…’


Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) d├ębut feature is the story of a wise, veteran gambler (Philip Baker Hall) who takes a down on his luck, lovable loser (John C. Reilly) under his wing and shows him how to grind out winnings on the Vegas strip.

Things start to go wrong when they meet Samuel L. Jackson’s wise guy and Gwyneth Paltrow’s hooker. PTA’s directorial bow is assured and entertaining. Whilst not in the same league as Magnolia or the aforementioned films it is still a strong piece of work in its own right. All four main players are superb, most surprisingly our very own Gwynny who is well out of her comfort zone playing a trashy Vegas waitress/hooker. Definitely worth a look, especially if you have enjoyed PTA’s other work.