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

Encino Man | D-

1992 | Les Mayfield

With an incredibly low budget, Encino Man sets incredibly low standards for itself, made more evident by the casting of Pauly Shore in a prominent role. Oddly, he is also the most compelling part of the film but is typically smirk-worthy in small doses, and unbearably annoying more often than not. One’s enjoyment of the film hinges entirely on their tolerance for Pauly Shore. In my case, it isn’t very high, but he provides one or two smirks in a film which otherwise contains precisely zero other legitimately funny moments.

Encino Man | D-

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+

Tokyo Story | A+

1953 | Yasujirō Ozu

Tokyo Story is so basic in its premise, if it was pitched as a recommendation, one might find it hard to believe such a film exists. The truth is, Yasujirō Ozu’s masterpiece is a technical marvel; a film so tightly structured, so deliberate in its planning and composition that its story gains its resonance from technical structure. Ozu’s visual strategy is so rudimentary, one may mistake his cinematic approach as that of techniques taught in a high school filmmaking class. The film is so far removed from the visual storytelling methods of Western cinema, it undoubtedly proves that a film broken down to its core elements is far more profound than films disguised in esoteric ambiguity. Continue reading “Tokyo Story | A+”

Tokyo Story | A+