By Andy Symmonds
Star Wars: The Force (Un)AwakensI will have to start this review with the confession that I was not particularly impressed with the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a long-term fan of the original Star Wars (IV) I had high hopes, but came away both disappointed and distinctly underwhelmed. The plot and some of the stars (of the acting variety) left me feeling like I had just bungee jumped back to the 1970’s movie. Despite seriously better special effects it came with with the negatives of an even bigger death star and plot holes. I am also aware that this view leaves me slightly in the minority, but I remain unrepentant.
Hateful Eight gets Ten out of TenAs a long-term fan of the output of Quentin Tarantino, I also had high hopes for the Hateful Eight, but this time I came away from the cinema once again confident that parts of Hollywood are still capable of producing original, smart and thought-provoking movies that entertain the adult as well as the inner child. The cast is a well constructed mix of Tarantino favourites (Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth after an extended break) with some new blood. In fact, a lot of blood. As the movie is a Western by Tarantino, blood was always going to be a feature, along with various other body parts.
The movie takes place for the most part in a roadhouse in a very snowy Wyoming, and could almost have be scripted for the theatre as pretty much everything happens in this claustrophobic, simmering environment. The general direction is more serious than previous Tarantino works, but there are still moments of humour, some of them subtle and some not. The characters are all that little bit larger than life, featuring bounty hunters (one of them black – a recurring theme?), a lawman, a female prisoner, retired army officers from both sides of the American Civil War, a mysterious stranger, some guns and the token Mexican and Englishman. The combination of characters, and the quickly evident tensions between them, create a pervading sense of uneasiness throughout, and the plot is by no means easy to predict as it unfolds.
The dialogue crackles from the start, and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone has some sort of secret to hide, and that very little should be taken at face value. For an American director, Tarantino has become the master of extended scenes that deliver, for the audience, through dialogue and camera angles rather than throwing in more and more CGI pyrotechnics. Characters are given the chance to develop as the story unfolds, and there are some flashbacks that assist this process. Characters also die as the story unfolds; this in itself will be of little surprise, but there is one sudden death that was more entertaining (judging by the audience reaction) as a potentially large name morphed neatly into a bit part, which I felt was a lovely piece of subtlety.
If you’re looking for a movie with a smart script and a memorable cast that really do it justice, then this is going to be an excellent way to spend three hours. That might sound like a long time, but it flew past in the dark. There is also the danger that it might provoke some thought at certain points, although this may not be the case for all. If, however, you enjoy lots of explosions in space, and don’t worry too much about plot integrity or continuity then Star Wars may just be the way to awaken the force within yourself. There is even the danger that you will enjoy both…