The Hateful Eight

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2015 | Quentin Tarantino

Underneath his growing urge to further his characterisation of himself, Quentin Tarantino remains a powerful storyteller. His understanding of language, both visual and written, combined with an unrivalled enthusiasm for film and cinema, evokes a resonance not felt with any of his contemporaries. While his two most recent films in The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained showcase his love of, and willingness to make, amazingly violent spaghetti westerns, he still understands what makes the greatest connection with an audience: his characters.

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The Hateful Eight

Three Kings | B

1999 | David O. Russell

Russell’s cynical Gulf War film, shot and presented in a very journalistic style, seeks to deliberately detach us from its characters and their motives. We are merely observers, intended to be emotionally removed from the actions of Major Archie Gates (Clooney), Sergeant Troy Barlow (Wahlberg), Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and PFC Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) as they chase down the hidden bunkers of Saddam Hussein, rumoured to be filled with stolen Kuwaiti gold, just like the journalists following them, desperate to find great stories about a war recently finished.

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Three Kings | B

EDtv | C

1999 | Ron Howard

The EDtv experience is a disappointingly common one. While the film isn’t particularly bad, it isn’t particularly memorable, either. Released shortly after The Truman Show, the films draw obvious comparisons. Both are satires on reality TV and human nature. Unlike The Truman Show, EDtv‘s main subject, Ed (Matthew McConaughey) is very aware he is constantly being broadcast around the country. Where The Truman Show‘s poignancy lies in its protagonist’s ignorance, EDtv fails because of its protagonist’s genuine likeability. Aside from his Hollywood good looks, Ed is average. He is an unambitious video store clerk. He’s completely ordinary, with no discernible personality flaws whatsoever. He makes a great subject for the meta-show of EDtv because he is so relatable. His down-to-earth “normalness”, however, just makes the film inoffensively predictable.

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EDtv | C

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | B+

2014 | Matt Reeves

Franchise re-sequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a celebration of success in rebooting an almost-fifty year-old franchise. Competently written, dramatically engaging and fitting the tone of evolutionary success, its emotional resonance added surprising depth to what could otherwise have been another cash-in full of Hollywood bombast. Unlike its predecessor, however, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ profundity is at its forefront, delivered with surprising panache by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | B+

World War Z | D+

2013 | Marc Forster

Zombies, as has been the case for a while, are incredibly overused as the centrepiece for films with no depth and a more-than-popular reason for human apocalypse. Obviously this particular film is far from original material; it’s adapted from the epistolary novel of the same name (written by Mel Brooks’ son, Max), although it’s not exactly faithful. Instead of a collection of individual accounts, the film centres on Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former UN Investigator who sets out to assist in ending the plague so as to ensure his family’s safety.

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World War Z | D+

Iron Man 3 | A

2013 | Shane Black

Iron Man 3 is the first in the franchise to not rest entirely on the performance of its wonderfully charismatic leading man. Hardly the main attraction in the Marvel universe, Marvel Studios were making a massive gamble by revealing Iron Man as the first in their cinematic lineup. A leading actor with no big successes to his name and a director mostly known for his acting credits, the first film in the trilogy was a breath of fresh air in a stale comic book adaptation environment. Helping to increase the standard expected of comic book adaptations, Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 faced an even greater challenge: following up the enormous success that was Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

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Iron Man 3 | A

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | C-

hr_the_amazing_spider-man_2_23-the-amazing-spider-man-2-pitifully-underrated

2014 | Marc Webb

The sequel to Sony’s inexplicable 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an overlong, melodramatic mess helmed by a director with a pop image which will ensure no film in his catalogue so far will ever be considered timeless. Everything, from what the characters wear, to its jarring soundtrack, and even the cast feel like they have simply been chosen because they are popular now – Emma Stone included. That’s not to say that any member of the cast isn’t good at what they do but they all feel – Stone especially – as though they were chosen to popularise the Spider-Man image, rather than immortalise it. Continue reading “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | C-“

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | C-