Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Hateful Eight (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 187 minutes
Director/ Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen,. Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, Gene Jones, Channing Tatum

The Hateful Eight is now showing in selected Australian cinemas in 70mm and will have a wider release on January 21, and is distributed by Roadshow Films. Now showing in the United States and United Kingdom.

The Hateful Eight has the unmistakable imprint of Quentin Tarantino's masterful film making with it's cleverly crafted screenplay and stunning, stylish cinematography married with unapologetic, intense violence.

In post Civil War Wyoming, a coach makes it's way across the snowy mountain range with the intended destination of Red Rock while a blizzard is hot on it's tail. The four passengers are bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell), Ruth's prisoner and wanted murderess Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is to be sworn in as sheriff of Red Rock upon arrival. As the blizzard closes in, they decide to wait in Minnies Haberdashery till the storm passes to continue their journey.  They do not find Minnie, but instead find a full house with Red Rock's hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Mexican caretaker Bob (Demian Bichir), cowpuncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) all waiting out the storm. The eight are all suspicious of each other and not one will hesitate to pull the trigger if need be.

As the eighth film from the mind of the charismatic Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight's screenplay is a thing of wonder with it's unique and original tale that combines the traditional western with a whodunit thriller. Like all good mysteries, it is completely unpredictable and suspenseful. The film builds suspense and intrigue over it's three hour and 7 minute running time (with overture and intermission included), as it is in the first half that the colourful characters are introduced in great detail and placed in Minnie's Haberdashery. After the intermission, tension is significantly heightened as this is when most of the action takes place and one gets a greater sense of where the story is going. The dialogue is particularly brilliant as it is incredibly well written, witty and rather hilarious at times. With the help of Tarantino's direction, the cast deliver this dialogue with conviction and character.

As can only be expected from a Tarantino cast, each and every one of the featured actors gives a great deal of life to their character and makes them incredibly interesting and enjoyable to watch. Each of the eight who assemble in Minnie's Haberdashery has a great deal of character and although none are particularly likable or attractive characters, they are all terribly intriguing. Each actor gives their all to the character they portray and they all give fine performances. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue is particularly a stand out. Daisy is absolutely repulsive and perhaps one of the most unladylike females to appear on the screen in recent years, but she is brilliant. The fact that she makes one feel so much disgust at her performance is a credit to her acting and Tarantino's direction. Walton Goggins gives an extremely interesting performance as Chris Mannix with his intriguing delivery of dialogue, as does Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray. Both characters are rather hilarious, but are subtly so and in a way that appears non-intentional.

Set in freezing cold conditions, The Hateful Eight is visually exquisite as well as visually graphic and gruesome. The opening shot of a snow covered statue of Jesus on the cross is a sign of the blood shed to come and is rather unsettling for an opening scene, but turns into something beautiful as the camera pans across and then out to reveal the coach making it's way through the snow. These scenes in the snow are absolutely beautiful and are a contrast to the confronting visuals yet to come. The cinematography by Robert Richardson makes the film incredibly atmospheric and is supported by Ennio Morricone's superb score.

However, like the Tarantino films which have come before it, The Hateful Eight will not appeal to those who are not fans of his mode of film making. As much as Tarantino is continuously praised for his stunning direction and wonderful screenplays in each of his films, his body of work is also notorious for it's graphic violence and explicit language. The Hateful Eight is absolutely no exception to this and is perhaps the most violent of his films thus far. Conservative group, the Media Research Centre tallied up 49 acts of violence during the film which include but are not limited to shooting, stabbing and torture. With the first half of the film being dedicated to character development and building the scene, the large majority of these acts occur in the second half. Some of these are rather unnecessary, but are so over the top that if they do not make one feel repulsion, they will make them laugh. Needless to say that those who go queasy at the sight of blood will not enjoy The Hateful Eight, but one does not expect a Tarantino film to be void of blood and gore and to expect it to be so is rather ignorant.

The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino once again pushing the limits of what some may perceive as shock tactics, but is really just what he enjoys building into his storytelling. Once one see's past the intense violence that takes place in the second half of the film, The Hateful Eight is an intriguing piece of cinema which is brilliantly written with superb cinematography and incredibly well-rounded, interesting characters.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Steve Martino
Writers: Charles M. Schulz (comic), Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz and Cornelius Uliano (screenplay)
Cast: (voices) Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Venus Schultheis, Alexander Garfin, Rebecca Bloom, Francesca Capaldi

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is a charming and nostalgic slice of cinema which will delight all fans of the original and their families. Young Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) is well loved and affectionately teased by his friends and peers in all his awkwardness and clumsiness, but he is so hard on himself that he cannot see this and believes he is loved only by his trusted canine companion and sidekick, Snoopy. When his class welcomes new student, the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi), Charlie Brown falls head over heels for her and sets out to impress her in any way he can. Of course, he ends up feeling completely intimidated by her and as far as he is concerned, he only further proves his inadequacy.  

The Peanuts Movie is first and foremost a children's film, but it is one to be enjoyed by the whole family for it's nostalgic value. For the majority of children, The Peanuts Movie will be their introduction to the characters first made popular by creator, Charles Schulz in comic strip form in 1952. However, their parents and grandparents would have grown up with the lovable Peanuts characters in print and television form and as a result the simplistic story and themes are accepted with gratitude as it is reminiscent of their childhood. However, it is not a clean cut children's film as there are some references which will go over the heads of younger audience members such as the Leo Tolstoy "War and Peace" references and some scenes can be a little tedious for young viewers. The film is slowed down by the breaks in Charlie Brown's story for Snoopy's daydreams and stories, but this pays homage to past Peanuts television episodes and specials and the film is ultimately about the two of them.

Even though the story may be simplistic, the themes in The Peanuts Movie are wonderful for the younger audiences as they are beneficial to their understanding of the characters and how there is a bit of Charlie Brown in everyone. Charlie Brown has long been known as everyone's favourite underdog and as they say, everyone loves an underdog. What is so relatable about Charlie Brown in this film is that, like many of us, he is so hard on himself and wishes he was something more than what he is. He feels inadequate and like he is not any match for his beloved Little Red-Haired Girl, so he thinks he needs to change himself to prove that he is good enough for her. Yet, this leads to him making a greater fool of himself and further clumsy disasters. The lesson here is a very simple one and that is to be yourself and people will like you more for who you are than for who you are trying to be. Trying so hard to be someone you are not will inevitably lead to disaster. There are some beautiful quotes by Charlie Brown spoken in the film that are useful for when one is feeling low on themselves, particularly children who are growing up and feeling awkward.

Although the animation used in The Peanuts Film may seem very simple as opposed to some of the other animated films currently in the cinema, it is deceivingly so. The visuals give the impression that they are of the hand drawn quality which the original Peanuts were and this is charmingly reminiscent of it's past. Yet, when looked close at features such as Lucy's hair and the landscapes, the use of computer generated imagery is evident. The ability to give the impression of hand drawn simplicity is a loving tribute to it's past, but the CGI is almost sneakily inserted to greater enhance the world in which the Peanuts characters exist. There is a beautiful use of colour that comes along with this unique animation.

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is a beautiful tribute to a past animation form that is still appreciated and loved even now. The Peanuts characters meant so much to past generations when growing up and this film allows their descendants to understand why and enjoy as much now as in the past.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Revenant (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 157 minutes
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Writers: Michael Punke (based in part on the novel by), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Mark L. Smith (screenplay)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, Forrest Goodluck, Luke Haas, Grace Dove

The Revenant opens in Australian cinemas on January 7 2016 and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. Released in the United States January 8 and the United Kingdom January 15.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant is the perfect hybrid of exquisite beauty and graphic brutality in it's story of human survival in the unforgiving wilderness which is enhanced by it's superb performances by it's stellar cast.

Inspired by true events and based in part on the book of the same name by Michael Punke, The Revenant is a tale of revenge set in the 1820's uncharted American wilderness. While on expedition, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is terribly mauled by a protective mother bear and left for dead by fellow members of his hunting team, especially John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Glass defies all odds and fights against the forces of nature to seek vengeance on the man who took the life of his son and attempted to take his own,.

The Revenant is an exceptionally rare cinematic experience with it's powerful ability to move and devastate with both it's extreme brutality and breathtaking beauty. The film has been much talked about for it's graphic depictions of Hugh Glass' survival methods in the wilderness and the intense mauling sequence, and it is true that a strong stomach is required as well as a sense of preparation for these scenes. However, it is not violence and gore for no reason. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu does not hold back when it comes to showing the harsh reality of surviving in a world where man is not supposed to strive. Survival in the wild is not always clean nor pretty and this reality hits home in The Revenant and Inarritu must be commended for his commitment to realism in this film. The commitment to this realism of everyone involved in the film is incredible as the entire film was shot on location in the harsh winter conditions that are so unforgiving in the film.

Yet in all the harshness and intensity which the beast of nature brings, the exquisite cinematography brings out the exceptional beauty of the world in which The Revenant exists. The wilderness is captured in all it's natural beauty on camera and strikes awe into the heart of the viewer as they experience all the aesthetics of the land where Glass makes his way. The choice of camera shots and editing throughout the film bring out the most in some incredible visuals such as lingering shots of the moon in the night sky and panoramic shots of the dense woodlands. The final shot of the film is one of the most moving in recent memory with the way it cuts through to your soul. The musical score by Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto is also wonderful.

Leonardo DiCaprio has had more than one role tagged as the best of his career over the years, but if this isn't his career best performance it is certainly his most physically demanding. While both DiCaprio and Inarritu have expressed that The Revenant is the most diffiult film that they have ever had to make, it is clear as crystal that this is the case when watching DiCaprio's performance that he has gone to tremendous measures to recreate the legend of Hugh Glass with as much accuracy and believability as possible. Although there is a lack father and son chemistry between himself and Forrest Goodluck (who plays the older Hawk), there is still a great deal of emotion felt by DiCaprio for his son, particularly when he himself is close to death and he has to watch injustice being done to his son. Hugh Glass is an extremely difficult role to play and DiCaprio carries the burden of the character to perfection.

Although DiCaprio is certainly the main player of the film, he has a extremely strong backbone of support in his fellow cast members. Tom Hardy is an absolute force as John Fitzgerald and is a character who one feels an instant dislike to, but also a sense of intrigue as to how far he can be pushed and what he will do when pushed that far. Domhnall Gleeson is also a stand out with a particularly strong performance as the expedition's captain, Andrew Henry. His performance becomes all the more interesting as the film progresses and his final scenes are absolutely outstanding.

The Revenant is a visual masterpiece that reminds one of the allure and danger of the unforgiving wilderness with it's realistic mode of storytelling and incredible cinematography. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directs Leonardo DiCaprio to what will surely be remembered as his greatest on screen accomplishment and one of the reasons The Revenant will not easily be dismissed from one's memory.