Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Hateful Eight – Director, Quentin Tarantino

If you like Tarantino, you will like this movie and if you don’t you won’t. Personally I am a big fan and loved this movie. Set in a single room for most of the 187 minutes it all hangs on the acting and that is top notch. Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell as the leads are very good but the best performance is turned in by the only major female character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. The supporting cast are also all wonderful with great performances in particular from Tim Roth and Bruce Dern. The claustrophobic setting lends great tension to a movie that sparkles all the way through. I am tempted to look at my watch in any movies that extend past 90 minutes but not this time. One is never sure about the agenda of each character or who is going to die in some over the top violent manner until the final twist ending(s) and the script and timing keep you on the edge of you seat throughout. Great stuff delivered with skill and humour from Tarantino who continues to improve with each outing.

Very Semi-Serious – Director, Leah Wolchok

The subtitle for this HBO documentary film is: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists. I have to admit I am a New Yorker cartoon addict. I get the magazine every week and like the old Playboy joke – I do read it for the articles but first I flip through and read all the cartoons. To get a chance to learn how they get chosen, who draws them, and who the editor is, was a chance not to be missed. Best of all I saw it at the Bloor Cinema – home of the Hot Docs festival and the New Yorker’s cartoonist and cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff was there for a Q and A after the showing. The film took 7 years to put together and includes interviews with many of the better know cartoonists who are fascinating and often unusually strange people themselves. We learn a great deal about how the cartoons are chosen and how Bob Mankoff works with the contributors to improve and enhance their work including such factoids as: Mankoff goes through 1000 cartoon submissions a week to choose 15 to be published. He does this often by meeting with the cartoonists personally each week in his office to discuss and critique their submissions. He cares deeply about the art of cartooning and uses his job as editor to build and support the small group of active cartoonists. Cartooning is a slowly dying art with fewer publications publishing them each year. To ensure the continuance and renewal of the art Mankoff deliberately works with younger contributors who will hopefully replace the current old timers like himself. He has been remarkably successful. The Q and A after the film was brilliant with Mankoff being a sharp and witty in person as he is on the pages of the New Yorker. If you are a fan you can also read his book titled after one of his more iconic cartoon captions: How about never. Is never good for you?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Director, J. J. Abrams

Okay this movie is likely to make more money than any movie in history and has had great reviews ranking in the 90’s on Rotten Tomatoes and generally could not miss as a hit. It is not 1977 however, and this is not Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope which set the stage for all the special effects blockbusters to follow. Those of us who were stunned and thrilled by the first movie will be a tad disappointed in this one but that is not to say it is not great fun. There is much to like and lots of nostalgia to enjoy. There is a real challenge with rebooting a franchise like this. Abrams did an awesome job with Star Trek but this was by far a bigger challenge. He has to deal with the old characters and old story, introduce the new cast and set the stage for the next 2 movies in the trilogy. That is a lot to do in one movie but I believe they were successful. I enjoyed every moment of it.

There a few plot issues like how the new lead star managed to learn how to do Jedi mind tricks all on her own and it worked and that is not the only one. Time to suspend disbelief dear readers and just relax. After the movie when my guests were discussing this scene in particular our youngest guest (9 y.o.) noted that “The Force is strong in this one”. Nuff said. Enjoy.

Macbeth – Director, Justin Kurzel

I am fairly conflicted about this movie which stars Michael Fassbender (who I like usually). I am not sure Kurzel has the credentials to take on something like this given his past record which is unusual and open to mixed reviews from very positive to very negative. I think Macbeth is one of the greatest plays ever written and Kurzel messes with perfection to his detriment I fear. While the cinematography is great as is the setting on the Isle of Skye, the film is really incoherent. If you did not know the play you would be totally lost. The dialogue has been butchered in the adaptation and the actors mumble and seem not to entirely understand what they are saying. On the other hand, it is very very violent which may be a good feature in the minds of some. So… amazing to look at but not Shakespeare and if you were expecting Shakespeare you would be terribly disappointed. If you expected a coherent story you might be disappointed too. Still there was something that was horribly attractive about the film. I would caution viewers who liked Fassbinder in previous outings to attend.