Tag Archives: bruce dern

The Hateful Eight – Review

14 Jan

When Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, it was clear that he was to be destined for stardom, but it was Pulp Fiction that made him one of the most recognized and often most abrasive cinematic voices of our time. But that’s part of the fun of watching a new Tarantino movie. You really just never know what to expect. To be quite honest, I’ve been getting a little sick of all the Tarantino hype. This made me feel a little bit less than excited to see The Hateful Eight, but this film turned out to be a breath of fresh air. If Reservoir Dogs meets a spaghetti western, meets Agatha Christie doesn’t sound appealing, then I don’t know what would.

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On a snowy road in Wyoming, a bounty hunter named John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) comes across Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter with more ruthless tactics. Warren joins Ruth and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in their carriage as they are both making their way to the town of Red Rock. They also pick up the future sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), but have to stop when a major blizzard forces them to take shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is actually a stagecoach lodge with a more than deceiving name. Things don’t seem right at Minnie’s Haberdashery, and it becomes clear that some of the other inhabitants are planning something sinister. Now it becomes a drawn out fight to stay alive and figure out who has something up their sleeves and why.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because The Hateful Eight is nowhere near a perfect movie and still doesn’t stack up with Tarantino’s earlier efforts. Is this movie a huge ego project for Tarantino? Yes it is. Pretty much everything has been since Pulp Fiction, but I’m not going to hold that against him because I enjoy a lot of his movies quite a bit. The Hateful Eight drags on and on in the first 45 minutes of its nearly three hour runtime with the kind of dialogue you’ve come to expect since the first scene of Inglourious Basterds, which I still think is his masterpiece. The only problem is that the dialogue is far too expository and nowhere near interesting enough. It’s pretty much just the characters in the stagecoach telling each other about their pasts so the audience knows how quirky they are. 45 minutes of that. My God, it was really killing me. Thankfully, things start getting a lot better when they get to the cabin.

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What made Inglourious Basterds such a cool movie was that it took the feel of classic war films and a comic book style of rules and mushed them to become one of my all time favorite movies. The main reason I like The Hateful Eight as much as I do is because of those same reasons. This movie takes a spaghetti western format and injects a classic murder mystery with the style that Tarantino is known for. Speaking of things this guy is known for, it’s really cool that the majority of this movie takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Someone said before I saw this movie that it would work great as a stage play, and I couldn’t agree more. I love when movies feel like this, and it only makes me compare it more to Tarantino’s exceptional debut, Reservoir Dogs.

There’s also plenty of things in The Hateful Eight that I was not expecting, and that’s a good thing. Tarantino has made it quite clear that the shock value in his movies are there on purpose, and that’s part of the fun of watching his movies. While this movie does feel very self indulgent when it comes to the violence and shocking scenes, I still can’t deny that they weren’t effective. Also the cast of actors in this movie is one of the best of the year. Jennifer Jason Leigh was fantastic as Daisy Domergue and has earned herself an Academy Award nomination for her performance. I was also thrilled to see Walton Goggins, who is one of the most underrated actors out there, get a lot of time to shine at the forefront of the movie. Finally, this film has the best original score you’ll hear all year. It’s already won the Golden Globe, and if it doesn’t take home an Oscar for it, I’ll eat my elbow.

I’ve been really on the fence with Quentin Tarantino recently, and I still have my reservations about what’s to come. While that is said, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight far more than I thought I was. I still say that Tarantino just has to tone it down a little bit and not work to make another movie simply to show how awesome he is. A lot of people are saying that this is his worst movie, but they must have all forgotten Jackie Brown. While this isn’t as satisfying as some of his other work, I still can’t deny the fun that I had with it.

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Nebraska – Review

17 Feb

At this point in my life I’m focused on looking towards the rest of my life sprawled out in front of me. For the other group of people in the twilight of their lives, it’s a matter of looking back, but also keeping your eyes on the rest of the time you have left. I can’t really imagine what that must be like, but it is part of what Nebraska is about. Another thing I need to say about Nebraska is that I have never been so torn on a movie. There is plenty that I really love in this movie, but than there’s a lot that I really couldn’t stand.

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Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an aging alcoholic who has received a letter saying he has won a one million dollar sweepstakes prize and that he is to collect it in Lincoln, Nebraska. David (Will Forte), his youngest son, recognizes the prize to be a scam to subscribe to the magazine, but in order to spend time with his father before the inevitable happens, he decides to drive him to Lincoln. Along the way, they stop in his old hometown of Hawthorne and stay with his brother Ray (Rance Howard) while his other son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and wife Kate (June Squibb) comes down for an impromptu family reunion with the rest of the family. As rumors spread about Woody’s newfound wealth, family members and, more importantly, his old friend Ed (Stacy Keach), begin asking for him to return their monetary favors, but as David knows, Woody has no riches to speak.

Now, this movie really doesn’t have a sweeping storyline. In fact, it’s pretty minimal when you really think about it. And aging man becomes part of a family reunion while he’s on his way to collect sweepstakes money. This is actually something I love about the movie. It’s an excellent story, and it’s impressive that someone was able to weave a full length movie around it. What’s more important than the story is what’s going on beneath the immediate surface. It’s a quiet movie about a dysfunctional family trying to get by, and also a cynical look at getting old and the years of memory loss that people must endure. While director Alexander Payne and writer Bob Nelson give a little bit of hope, it’s not really enough to satisfy or ease you in any way.

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While I was at first not pleased with the black and white cinematography by Phedon Papamichael, it has really grown on me, much like this movie in general. IT says a lot about the character of Woody and the time period he is in in his life, but it also beautifully accentuates the bleaker and plainer parts of the American Midwest. While these images may seem sparse and a little depressing, it is beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, Nebraska suffers from the same problem 12 Years a Slave suffered from. It spends too much time looking at the surrounds in some scenes and occasionally loses track of the plot altogether just to focus on landscapes. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t need to go on for quite so long.

In a sense, Bob Nelson’s screenplay is really great. The story is there, but a lot of his dialogue is really, and I mean really, terrible. He hits all the notes for the character of Woody, but when it comes to the supporting cast, it really left me with an awkward feeling. Will Forte really seems to be trying here, but he sounds like he’s reading his lines right off the paper, and I feel like some of that has to be attributed to Nelson. When it comes to Squibb’s and Keach’s characters, they come off as so over the top sometimes, and don’t really fit into the movie when they get so crazy, especially since Nebraska is such a toned down movie. Bruce Dern, however, was incredible and deserves his Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Nebraska was something else. I can’t quite pinpoint my feelings towards it because of how split I am between how great the story is and how well Dern plays his part, between how crummy a lot of the dialogue is and how awkward the supporting cast can be. I love the themes of this movie, and I can’t say that it’s bad because I know, deep down, that it’s a really good movie. Still, I’m completely split and I really can’t give you an exact feeling because I honesty don’t know. I may have to watch it again to get a more precise idea, but I don’t know if I really want to.

I really just don’t know…