Category Archives: Tarantino Films

The Hateful Eight (2015): An Exploration of Hate

The Hateful Eight

      “The Hateful Eight” is a really good film. Not one of Tarantino’s best films but still his quality that he brings to all of his work. In this we see him explore some of the tropes of Westerns, History and the Civil War and from the depths of hate that characters can be driven too when they are desperate or so broken down by the world around them. It’s powerfully done and he does a great job presenting it all. I’ll get into more detail later in the review.

     The film was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and produced by Richard N. Gladstein, Shannon McIntosh and Stacey Sher.

      The film involves eight strangers seeking refuge in a blizzard as secrets unfold as all is not as it appears to be. John Ruth (Kurt Russell) the bounty hunter is bringing in Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hung in Red Rock but picks up bounty Hunter Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Mannix (Walton Goggins) who are also on their way to Red Rock where they meet the others at Minnie’s Haberdashery where the events unfold.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful. Robert Richardson did a great job and gives us scenes that capture the destitution of the of where this all takes place and the cost of war on a population that is recovering (this is post Civil War) and how far there is still to go in regards to being free even though slavery is done.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack fits everything so well and captures the nihilism of our characters and also the fun nature that Tarantino brings to all his work. Ennio Morricone was the right person for this film and the music is good at pulling you in and keeping you present with whatever events are transpiring.

The Dialogue – Tarantino’s dialogue is always snappy and the actors use it very well. It feels natural for all of who they are and Tarantino continues to show why this is his forte.

 Story Structure – Tarantino’s novel like format comes again and is one of the things I really liked about the film. There are pauses and at one point Tarantino is the narrator explaining what happens after a chapter. The story takes place over 5 chapters with Chapter 4 setting up Chapter 3 with a flashback setting up the events. It’s really well done and I’m glad Tarantino has this unique style.

The Situation – The idea of 8 people trapped in a blizzard with one of them holding a lie is quite compelling. How it all unfolds is really cool too as all of them are hateful and despicable people each in their own way and it lends stakes to all that unfolds.

John Ruth – Kurt Russell’s John Ruth is one of the few characters who was the closest thing to a hero. He’s the guy taking out the worst of the worst and hanging them. He’s obsessed and is prickly to everyone. He has a respect for Warren but that takes along time and by the end we see that he was right to put his trust into him. He’s all about his job and when he dies you somewhat feel it since Kurt Russell does a good job playing the bitter bounty hunter.

Major Warren – This guy is brutal but you also get why as he is a freed man whose only protection from racism against the Union and Confederacy is a forged letter from Abraham Lincoln. He’s a bounty hunter so already he’s at the bottom of the food chain but Ruth has a respect for him and that never completely goes away. Warren is the closest thing to a protagonist even though he is still villainous as he does a pretty horrendous things to one of hte monster character’s children. There are no good characters in this film and Samuel L. Jackson represents this really well.

Okay: The Characters – They are well acted but because they are all so despicable there aren’t any reasons to like any of them. We don’t get reasons for what they did and this brings the story down and puts it below “Reservoir Dogs” in many ways (though both films are similar).

   This is a movie that is worth checking out, and I do consider it a favorite film but not one of Tarantino’s best. What really brings it down is Domergue’s Gang is just kind of there. They don’t get the kind of development that the folks receive in “Reservoir Dogs” which is the most similar as a bunch of characters who hate each other are trapped in a room. What really makes it work are the characters of Ruth and Warren who are both so twisted but manage to be compelling as they are given reason for what they do, the same cannot be said for a lot the others. This is a shame since Tarantino is usually really great at giving extended motivation for what makes his characters make the choices they do.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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Reservoir Dogs (1992): A Job Gone Wrong

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        “Reservoir Dogs” is a movie that for me has gotten better with time. When I first saw it, it was so depressing it was hard to be invested in any of the characters. They were all extremely flawed and I saw no reason to care about them. This second time watching this film gave me a new perspective though. I’ll get into what changed my perspective about the film in the assessment.

      “Reservoir Dogs” was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and produced by Lawrence Bender.

      The premise of the film is that a bunch of strangers are called on to do a diamond heist by the Mob Boss Joe Cabot. They are each given names tied to colors except for Joe’s son Eddie “Nice Guy” Cabot but things soon unravel as they discover they were set up and a mole is among them leading to the death of two of the group in the initial heist. From here the story unfolds in the warehouse while giving us the survivor’s backstory.

Here is the assessment of the film

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The use of 70’s music like “Stuck in the Middle with You,” gives a light feel to the heavy scenes and silence that unfolds through a lot of the production. It gives the thrill of the heist and the idea of the heist which makes the traumatic events afterward (Mr. Orange has a bullet to the gut, a cop gets tortured, multiple standoffs) and adds dimensions to the scenes. The collection of artists added a lot to the film.

The Structure – Tarantino has always been known for his breaking of linear story structure and this film does it really well. We get the survivor’s backstory…from Mr. White being the reluctant thief, to Mr. Blonde getting out of prison and his relationship with Eddie, Joe’s son…to Mr. Pink surviving the robbery and getting the jewels and Mr. Orange’s backstory as an undercover cop trying to bring down the Cabot family leading to the final conclusion of events and the finale scene.

Cinematography – Most of the film is filmed in a warehouse but how it is filmed makes it appear like a prison cell or an open battlefield…Andrzej Sekula did an amazing job with showing the scenery as a reflection of the characters’ mindsets. From seeing Mr. Blonde leaving to get the gasoline and being the only one we see perspectivewise leave the warehouse…to Mr. Orange and White as always being presented closer, like they are trapped.

The Characters – I didn’t like the character the first time I saw it. They were racist criminals who were impossible to root for. This time my perspective changed in that you see how each of them besides Mr. Blonde had a life beyond the work. This adds stakes and adds sympathy even if the characters aren’t wholly sympathetic…which is a Tarantino thing since in most of this films the characters are flawed to the point of almost being unsympathetic a lot of the time.

Mr. Pink – Steve Buscemi is one of the common actors in Tarantino or Rodriguez films and here does a great job as the cowardly survivor. He is the one who doesn’t have an ego in the battle between folks and because of this only has a gun pulled on him once. He also makes the getaway with the diamonds showing that he never lost site of the mission. His dynamic is fascinating as he is the most submissive of the characters but also fights back when threatened. He certainly isn’t good, but he is an intriguing character.

Mr. Orange  – Tim Roth (another common Tarantino actor) does a great job as the undercover cop. We see him remind the cop who was tortured by Mr. Blonde that he’s dying and help is on the way so to stop panicking and also how he takes on the role of the character that eventually Mr. White feels drawn to. He plays the rookie criminal real well and his biggest tragedy is when he confesses his identity to Mr. White which leads to Mr. White killing him in the end.

Mr. White – Harvey Keitel plays the reluctant thief as we see he’d had a falling out with an ex-partner and was set moving on before Joe’s pulls him back in. His character is a character of regret as he learns Joe was right about Mr. Orange and that his defense of Mr. Orange ruined any chance he had of getting out of the business. I didn’t feel bad for the guy the first time I saw this film, but did this time as he is a person acting from what he knows…even as he tries to get beyond it.

Mr. Blonde – This guy is a psycho and an interesting one at that. From torturing a cop to 70’s hits and killing civilians in the bank…this guy doesn’t care at all about anything except his loyalty to the Cabot family. When he got killed it was rewarding as he is the closest thing there is to an antagonist in this film. He’s an unrepentant crook who just enjoys hurting people.

The Themes – The Themes are great. Trust is key and all the interesting characters are conflicted and just trying to survive. No one knows anyone’s identity and they are dependent on the mob boss for an out but soon find he doesn’t have all the answers and things have gotten too deep. It’s only the character who trusts no one…Mr. Pink, who survives.

Okay/Con: The Cabots – I didn’t really care about Eddie or Joe. They basically function as standard mob bosses and there wasn’t anything complex about them. They were loyal to those who were loyal to them and Blonde and Eddie were like brothers…but it never got deeper than that. I never cared about these characters.

Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown – Tarantino plays Mr. Brown but is a one note character. Neither of them is really memorable so their deaths mean nothing beyond a statistic. Tarantino usually plays more interesting characters so it was a shame.

   “Reservoir Dogs” is by no means my favorite Tarantino film, though at this point I feel comfortable calling it a favorite. It is really good, even if it isn’t great and the non-linear story structure really serves the drama and raises the stakes. The music is also a great addition like most Tarantino films, and of course the cinematography is beautiful. If you haven’t seen it and like Tarantino, check it out. At the very least check out some of the character names and themes that would inspire Vince Gillian in “Breaking Bad.”

Final Score: 8.6 / 10. A very good favorite.

Four Rooms (1995): The Misadventures of a Bellhop

Four Rooms

“Four Rooms,” is the story of a bellhop named Ted (played by Tim Roth) as he deals with awkward situations as he is the only one left on duty at the hotel. There are four directors and each does a short story within the events of the day…each story takes place in a different room as per the title and each director covers a room. The stories are based off some of Roald Dahl adult short stories…which make sense given how strange it is and the quirckyness of Ted.

I’ll be doing the assessment of the stories individually (judging the directors by the individual work they did) and after judging it as a whole.

The Honeymoon Suite – “The Missing Ingredient” -Director Allison Anders

The premise of “The Missing Ingredient,” is a coven of witches need semen to ressurect their Goddess Diane since she was cursed 40 years ago and turned to stone and the witch who was supposed to bring it swallowed it. She has seduces Ted to get the semen and they have sex in the cauldron after she puts a spell on him.

This is  the weakest of the stories. The only compelling character is Ted who doesn’t know what to do and Tim Roth plays being the the crazy situations really well over the course of the story. None of the witches are really memorable…the only one who really  stands out is Jezebel who pays Ted to have sex with the witch. She is is as passionate in the role and gives her all for her small role as Roth does for Ted.

Forgettable in the end though and the special effects are really bad. Also way too much telling rather than showing.

Final score for this one is 4 / 10.

Room 404 – “The Wrong Man,” -Director Alexandre Rockwell

“The Wrong Man,” kicks off when a party is calls Ted for some ice but he mishears and goes to the wrong room where a couple is doing theatre where they pull strangers into their drama. Their story is that Ted has slept with the wife and the husband is holding her hostage…from there the husband kisses Ted and has a heart attack. After trying to escape and after one of the partiers in the room nearly throws up on him he manages to get off as one of the partiers is pulled into the act again.

David Broal and Jennifer Beals own this. They make the drama so real that you can’t tell if it is an act or not till the end. They switch between actors and roles deftly…which understandably contributes into Ted’s growing madness. This is one of the best of the 4 stories and Rockwell does fantastic.

Final score for this one is 8.5 / 10

Room 309 – “The Misbehavers,” -Director Robert Rodriguez

“The Misbehavers,” involves Ted being paid by a husband (Antonia Banderas) to take care of his two kids after he goes out with his wife to party. From here things devolve as he wants to avoid taking care of the kids and they discover horrible things from the last guest (a dead prostitute, a needle and open the champagne that the husband had ordered, as well as watching porn).

This one is fun, the biggest problem is that the kids are kind of blank slates so that kind of brings it down. I wish we could have got more scenes between Banderas and Roth since they have good chemistry and the husband is fine even as his room is burning as he holds his drunk wife. Not Rodriguez’s best work…though it does have the fire, blood and Antonio Banderas who and what he likes to use in his movies…as well as the fantasy elements to how crazy the situation gets.

Final score for this one is 7 / 10. It was alright.

Penthouse – “The Man From Hollywood,” -Director Quentin Tarantino

Ted wants to leave but is told to stay on duty because Chester Rush (Tarantino) is in town with his friends and that it is important that they have a good time. Ted goes to check on them and gets pulled into a bet that Rush’s friend Norman (Paul Calderon) can’t light his lighter ten times but if he loses he has to cut off Norman’s finger. Leo (Bruce Willis) is the other friend present as the events unfold. Ted is presented with a dilemma, cut off the finger for 1000 dollars if Norman fails or to walk away and for it remain a possible regret. Norman isn’t able to light the lighter so Ted cuts off his pinky, grabs the money and leaves. It has both the Tarantino abruptness, the moral dilemmas and the violence that define his style.

This is a good but not great Tarantino short. The dilemma is good, but most of the characters aren’t all that interesting. Leo is having issues with his wife so there is that at least going for the script and Rush is a twisted guy who is all about new experiences. It also leaves us wondering if Ted will continue to be a bellboy after the events or if he has had enough.

Final Score is 8 / 10. Solidly good.

What helps elevate a story that doesn’t quite flow together all that well is the music and most of the acting. With the exception of the first room, all the stories are at least alright and the directors do a good job making each scene unique minus the first director Anders. Tim Roth is good as the guy slowly going mad and we’re left wondering after if he finally snapped or if he found peace given he has his cocky spring in his step he had at the beginning of the film.

In the end I would recommend this film, and I would not call it great…and it has moments of good…but that isn’t the reason to watch it. It is worth watching to see how each director approaches their stories and how they express themselves in the work.

Final score is 7.5 / 10

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004): A Reason to Live

Kill Bill

“Kill Bill Vol. 2” completes the Bride’s rampage and ends with her confronting Bill and the fallout from all she has been through. The three assassins who are the targets this time are Budd (Bill’s brother) Elle and Bill. This was my second time seeing it and my assessment of it in relationship to “Vol. 1,” is that it is the weaker story (still great) but with some great moments of payoff.

Here is the assessment:

Pros: Music – Is still great, but “Vol. 1” has the better soundtrack, especially the music during “Chapter 5: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves.” The music is solid though and enjoyable to listen too.

The Script – Tarantino’s wit is still greatly in play with his salutes to Kung Fu, Western’s and at the beginning even a bit of a Noir retelling of what went down at the Two Pines. The confrontation with another assassin while she is pregnant and advocating for her unborn child is a powerful scene too.

The character – Are solid with Bill, the Bride, Elle and Budd getting the most exploration. Most of them have changed in some way and grown, except Elle who loves to be bad for the sake of being bad.

The cinematography – The bride climbing out of her grave and the black and white flashback at the beginning are worth mentioning as great moments of cinematography this Volume.

Chapter 6: Massacre at Two Pines – The flashback starts out strange with the Bride telling us the story, but it pickups when we got to her reception and see what connections are real (friends, husband?) and fake (in-laws) and of course the X factor (Bill). We know that the child is Bill’s due to “Vol. 1,” and we see more of the master and apprentice dynamic before Bill betrays her.

Final Chapter: Face to Face – This is where we see Bill’s attempts to mess with Bill and the Bride’s daughter’s mind and his justifying his evil to their daughter. It is terrible, which makes the Bride’s revenge at the end all that more rewarding.

The moments of Revenge and Victory: Taking out Elle’s other eye, breaking out of the grave she was buried alive in (by using what she learned from Pai Mei) and taking out Bill (again using what Pai Mei had taught her completing her arc as the new master). These made up for some of the weaker moments in okay chapters.

The fallout – At one point the Bride is crying on the floor after she has saved her daughter. It is here where all the monstrous things have really come to the forefront and her finally having to live…which she does as we see when she goes out and talks to her daughter. It captures the bittersweet of all that went down. The bitterness of all that was done to her and the betrayal and the sweetness of revenge and being able to move forward and live.

Okay – The rest of the chapters are alright. The training sequence isn’t really memorable beyond the montage afterword and her learning how to use her entire body (both hands) to eat rather than eating with her hands.

Cons – Like the first one it drags at times, but it is more obvious since the music, script and scenes aren’t as great as “Vol. 1,” with a few exceptions here and there.

“Kill Bill Vol. 2,” accomplishes what it needs to in regards to the Bride becoming the Master and finding her daughter and getting revenge. In the end she finds a reason to live beyond revenge, her daughter and this is powerful.

The pros and cons are much stronger in this Volume because it is the conclusion. Because of how it lags and the fact that some of the chapters just weren’t as well written and executed as the first Volume which is by the superior volume. It has a great payoff though and in the next article I will judge both volumes as a whole. In regards to “Kill Bill.”

For these reasons I would give this an 8.5 / 10.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003): The Reasons for Vengeance

poster_killbillvol1

“Kill Bill Vol. 1” is one of my favorite Tarantino films and was a film I was looking forward to reviewing. The premise is Bill (the leader of a group of Assassins) kills the wedding party of the Bride (Uma Thurman) with his team of Assassins that she was once a part of. She is then put into a four year coma from the event and awakens with her child taken (as far as she knows dead) and have been through the trauma of the event, plus the rape at the hospital while she was in a coma. She has plenty of reasons for revenge against those who wronged her and Part 1 follows the first part of that rampage and why she feels the way she does…

I’ll be reviewing “Kill Bill Vol. 2” next and an assessment of them together as a whole to end it.

Warning – SPOILERS throughout.

Here is the assessment:

Pros: The cinematography – Is fantastic…there are long shots, an anime short of O-Ren’s backstory, the black and white of the wedding killing, the fight against Copperhead in the confined space of a kitchen.

The music – I have used this music to work on short stories…the mixture of classical, jazz, western, Japanese rock, Japanese traditional make for a wonderful soundtrack. Especially the jazz. It is by far one of my favorite soundtracks.

The themes: Anime, Western, Kung Fu, Revenge…all of these make an appearance in different ways. You can tell these are some of Tarantino’s loves. He does a twist on the tropes but still treats them with respect…from the mostly female antagonists to hero being the Bride. In the themes listed above you usually don’t see women in these roles beyond presented in an overtly sexual way or non-existent nearly (Westerns and Revenge films). The themes are handled brilliantly.

The Action – This one thing Tarantino never does bad. He knows how to craft an interesting action scene, whether it is a fight in a house or one person against a swarm of men. They all flow into one another too.

Chapter 3: The Origin of O-Ren – This tragic short piece shows why she became an assassin and gives dimension to her character, it is also beautifully animated.

Chapter 5: Showdown at House of Blue – At times the action is a bit slow since The Bride is fighting so many soldiers but worth it for O-Ren’s introduction and the final showdown with her. The music makes the scene unforgettable as does the acting. Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman are masters. The area where they fight (the Snow Garden) is unforgettable too.

Chapter 2: The Blood Splattered Bride – Seeing why she wants revenge and the trauma she went through is here. It is a powerful chapter and achieves what it needs to achieves. It gives us the reason to care.

The Reveal – Her daughter lives! It is done in such a way to show Bill is one of the best antagonists of this type. He knows the bride and still has an edge over her, even as he loses his team.

Okay – Chapter 4: The Man from Okinawa – The cliche here isn’t handled as well, and we don’t get to know why the Man was commissioned to make the swords for Bill, just that he stopped. It is good but not great. So not putting it in the next section because the expectation with a Tarantino film is pretty high.

Chapter 1: 2 – Establishes The Bride and who her assassin identity was (Black Mamba). It also establishes her second kill (Copperhead) who has a daughter who the Bride says if she wants to find her later she is welcome too. It shows the Bride is not Bill since she lets the daughter live (and later a few other innocents too).

Cons: Some of the action went on for a little too long when we could have had more characterization to elevate chapters 1 and 4.

“Kill Bill Vol. 1” is still one of my favorite films. The pros far outway the cons…especially the music and the joy of great fight scenes, good motivation and some very well done characters (especially O-Ren and Copperhead to a degree). “Kill Bill Vol. 2” goes more into Bill and the Bride, which we will review next.

I highly recommend this film on it’s own, even with the cliffhangeresque ending. I would give it a 9.5 / 10. Not the perfect Tarantino film, but one of the greatest.