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'The Hateful Eight' and 'Spotlight' - Reviewed

Normally I stay for the quotes, the pop culture, the film techniques and references. Now I want to rewatch it for the character and plot development; even if it amounts to nothing more than a Western tinged big screen adaptation of Cluedo. But will fans of Tarantino applaud it? I doubt it...



Quentin Tarantino / Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins / Western / 2016 / 15 / 167mins

If you want to watch a naked guy crawl through the snow to give Samuel L Jackson a blowjob, then this movie is for you!

Now that you're fully enticed by that wonderful prospect I'll delve into more curious matters. First off, this is Tarantino's second Western, straight after the success of his previous project Django: Unchained. This is unusual, Tarantino is obsessed with genre and goes out of his way to make movies based on different genres he grew up loving: Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are gangster flicks, Jackie Brown = blaxploitation, Kill Bill = martial arts/action, Inglorious Basterds = war, etc. He's even publically announced his intention to direct his last two films in different genres, a 30s period gangster and a horror. Breaking this near-autistic level of dedication turned many heads when he announced his latest piece.

You see, The Hateful Eight is in fact a very intricate play put to film. That's it - that simple. Save for some brief scenes in the snow and the stables, the two main settings are a horse-drawn carriage and a cabin, all fitting into 6 chapters. Tarantino, it seems, has evolved once again, and I think it's a much matured evolution. Akin to Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino is retreating to the comfort of pure dialogue. It's quite a feat to behold - each monologue is intriguing and develops each of his characters one by one. This all rests heavily on the strength of the acting, and of course Tarantino whisked up a stellar cast and they in turn produced the goods. Jennifer Jason Leigh as convict Daisy Domergue is genuinely creepy and pretty deranged, and Tim Roth and Samuel L Jackson are quite funny, but for me it's Channing Tatum who steals the show.

Normally I stay for the quotes, the pop culture, the film techniques and references. Now I want to rewatch it for the character and plot development; even if it amounts to nothing more than a Western tinged big screen adaptation of Cluedo. But will fans of Tarantino applaud it? I doubt it - it's slower pace and reliance on dialogue more than action will frustrate some, but the fact Tarantino relies heavily on his own clichés (needless violence being a primary example) even for a straightforward comedy thriller shows he's trying to appeal to both worlds but ends up half-assing the final thing.

Intelligent thriller without that trademark Tarantino grit.




Tom McCarthy / Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery / Drama / 2016 / 15 / 129 mins

If you've been living in a hole for the past decade you may have failed to realise that the Catholic Church has been held accountable for serious allegations of child abuse.

Whilst it comes as no shock to those who rationalise celibate, psychosomatically stunted priests in close contact with vulnerable kids will abuse their power, it still proved to be one of the biggest journalist coups of recent times.

Spotlight follows the story of the journalists of the 'Spotlight' team at the Boston Globe in... Boston... who wrapped up said coup. We may give biopics a lot of shit but when the content is explicit and damning it's entirely relevant to widen public interest on the matter. Quick off the mark, fast paced and never off plot for a second, every scene is relevant and contributes to the core arc of the film like you're piecing together your very own investigation on a wall; you know, the ones in the movies, drawing lines together with string, connecting the dots.

Rather conveniently, Spotlight rides the crest of a cultural wave: this investigative journalism malarkey, as per the podcast Serial and Netflix's Making a Murderer in particular. It's perfect timing by the studio. Capturing journalism on film is rather straightforward fun. The plot works at the audience's pace - someone on the Spotlight team learns something, so do you, obviously, but so do the rest of the team. Everyone is constantly up to date. This creates an informal integration - we become immersed the further the linearity continues. It works so well, especially for a topic such as investigative journalism.

However, what makes this film work so spectacularly well is the fact everyone acts so brilliantly. It's flawless, from the stars to the extras. Ruffalo got the nom as Mike Rezendes but he seems to be just a random pick from what was ultimately a cast that operated as a unit - their coherence leads to everyone giving their all. Liev Schreiber in my opinion was outstanding. He's been so mediocre before (look no further than Defiance or Salt) but has suddenly, out of nowhere, given a dramatic performance with integrity. Keaton and Slattery were great too. It raises relevant questions about the Academy: a Best Cast award should be a thing, given the growing number of films with outstanding casts.

There are some minor criticisms: we're told so much about this case including many off-shoots and sub-plots that never come to fruition. It's frustrating but I understand why they're not included - it weighs the film down, it becomes too much to focus on - you have to remember it's not a documentary. Regardless, I'd recommend Spotlight to anyone.

This film is out-fuckin'-standing and fully deserves it's acclaim.


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