Category Archives: LBoM: Editorials

Once Upon a Time… in Hollybored?

For me, a new Quentin Tarantino flick is a major cinematic event. I have managed to see each and every one of his film releases at the cinema either on original release or retroactively via special screenings… and I’m not about to stop now. So of course I went to go and see QT’s latest picture, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Tarantino’s ninth and (if he keeps his word) penultimate film as he has said how he plans of retiring from directing films after number ten.

Now I’m going to do this in two parts. The first part will cover the basic plot and characters of the flick, where I aim to avoid major spoilers but also give my general impressions of the film. There may be a few light things mentioned but nothing that will give anything important away.

But for the second part, I definitely need to talk about specific things like the controversy the film is getting and the ending, so will obviously contain big SPOILERS. So this is just a pre-warning. Feel free to read on for the first part, but the second one you’ll need to avoid if you want to go into the film blind. I’ll use headings the split the two parts and give another warning just before I do the spoilery part II.

Part I

So I think I’d better start with a synopsis of the film just to get people up to speed.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Trio

Set in the summer of 1969, Hollywood. The film tells the tale of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Rick was a once popular actor in a 50s and early 60s western TV show and went on to have a semi-successful film career, but in the late 60s, he finds himself struggling to find roles. Cliff is Rick’s stuntman and friend. Since the work has dried up, Cliff remains by his friend’s side despite the lack of work. No longer his stuntman, Cliff now works as Rick’s driver and general dogsbody. Rick Dalton still lives in the affluent Hollywood Hills, where he lives next door film director Roman Polanski and his model/actress wife Sharon Tate.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’s main plot is set against the backdrop of the real life, brutal and bloody Charles Manson instructed Sharon Tate murder.

Well just to get this out of the way. I’m really not sure what to make of this film or how I really feel about it. I adore Quentin Tarantino, I’m such a self-proclaimed and unashamed fanboy of his work. In my eyes, he’s never made a bad film. However, this is the first time coming out of watching a QT film where I’m struggling to form a solid opinion either good or bad.

It’s not a bad film, not even close. But I’m struggling to find myself praising it as a whole picture. I can’t say this was a total disappointment at all, but I can’t say I felt fully entertained either. The plot just didn’t grab me. The buddy relationship between Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth didn’t have the depth I hoped it would. The performances were good with the best definitely being Brad Pitt. He’s brilliant, charming, funny and pretty bad-ass too. Absolutely loved him in the film. Leonardo DiCaprio was good for the most part too, but as for his character I just didn’t find him as interesting as Brad Pitt’s. Plus the fact he sobs, weeps and cries in every other scene got really annoying. Someone likes his acting, he cries, someone doesn’t like his acting, he cries. Someone points out he’s crying, he cries.

Then you have Margot Robbie playing Sharon Tate. She’s more of a background character. Doesn’t have many lines but she does pop up throughout the film quite a few times. Yet when she’s on screen, she’s very enjoyable. The rest of the cast and characters are basically bit parts with some only getting seconds of screen time. Seriously, Damon Herriman’s portrayal of Charles Manson gets let than a minute of screen time. He shows up at a house, discoverers the previous occupants he was looking for no longer live there and he leaves… that’s it. That’s all the Charles Manson you get in this one. Not that I’m trying to suggest a film needs more Manson, but when a film’s backdrop is the Sharon Tate murder, you just kind of expect Charles Manson to be a main player.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) has one great scene and a couple of very short appearances later and that’s it for him. Oh and there’s a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) bit. I guess the point I’m getting to is that it’s a very disposable cast. Aside from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (best part of the film), everyone else are just bit players and we don’t really get to know their characters… even Sharon Tate.

The film is very slow paced with pretty much no action until the last 15 minutes or so.  Yet even with it’s slow pacing, the 2 hour 41 minute run time passed by pretty fast. I was never ‘bored’ with the film outright, I wasn’t sitting there looking at my watch… but I wasn’t entertained much either. It’s very dialogue heavy which is a staple of Tarantino and a staple I adore too. But here, his writing lacks the spark his other flicks had. There is a part of the film, that for me dragged on unnecessarily. It’s when Rick Dalton gets a job working on a western and the film spends way too much time showing him make the film within the film. In the make-up trailer, sitting around waiting to shoot a scene reading a book and then finally filming the damn film and forgetting his lines, etc. I just found it bit tedious. Thankfully all of it is inter-cut with backstory for Cliff Booth and other moments featuring Cliff which made it much more bearable.

Speaking of which, QT is amazing at creating tension in his flicks. See the opening of Inglourious Basterds for proof. There’s a scene in this where Cliff Booth goes to Spahn Ranch, which for those not in the know was where the Manson Family lived. Anyway, Cliff goes out to the ranch and I think this was supposed to be where QT’s amazing tension was meant to come in… but it didn’t, not for me anyway. I think the idea of the scene was to put Cliff Booth in danger of being killed by the Mason Family but it just didn’t work for me, I never felt that.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Cliff Booth.png

I think knowing about the whole Manson family history and especially the Tate murder really helps before watching this flick. It adds a level of tension as the film follows the tragic Sharon Tate. When she goes to the cinema to watch her own movie The Wrecking Crew. Seeing her enjoying the film and smiling as the audience happily react to her performance was beautiful. Her sheer joy and happiness was lovely to see… but knowing in your mind what happens to her and the fate see will soon face makes her enjoyment so much more tragic. So my advice would be to read up on the Sharon Tate murder first.

Now, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an absolutely gorgeous film to look at. The way Quentin has captured the look and feel of 60s L.A. is a feast for the eyes. I wasn’t around in 1969 and I most definitely wasn’t living in Hollywood either. Yet I really felt like I was there watching the film. The clothing, the scenery and of course, the music were all spot on. The directing and editing choices were also a joy to witness. From inserts of Rick Dalton movies and T.V. shows when he’s talking to Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) to the use of filters and film grain to make things look very 60s. There’s a part where Rick Dalton is talking about how he almost got the Steve McQueen role in the film The Great Escape and the film then cuts to actual footage from The Great Escape but with Leonardo DiCaprio digitally inserted as Rick in place of Steve McQueen. It was really well done too. Honestly, it is a stunning film just to look at full of great little nuances and details.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood LA.jpg

Then there is Tarantino’s humour, something often overlooked in his pictures. This film is funny and I don’t mean one or two humorous lines in the entire thing, I mean genuinely funny scenes that have been well written and then followed up with top-notch acting with perfect comic timing. Such scenes include Rick mentioning when using a flamethrower how hot it is and if something could be done about the heat. The Bruce Lee fight was hilarious with several great and funny lines. Even the bloody violent finale has some brilliant, well placed humour in it.

Quite honestly, there are a lot of individual elements I really loved about this film. There some amazing scenes and the acting is superb, especially Brad Pitt. But that’s all it felt like to me, a series of great moments and not one great film. It’s a good film I can’t call it a bad one. But I don’t know, I just expect more form Quentin Tarantino as I know he’s capable of greatness. This just felt a bit flat to me. It almost felt like someone trying to mimic Tarantino’s style and not actually Tarantino himself. Of all of his films, this has been his most ‘boring’ for me.

Overall, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was watchable and even very enjoyable in many parts. But as an overall film? It sadly didn’t really work for me. Still saying that, I didn’t think much of Jackie Brown when I first saw it either. But now, years later and after several views, I think it’s the best thing QT has done. Maybe I need to see Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood a few more times, maybe it needs to grow on me a little?

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Rick Dalton

Thinking about it, I’d rather have seen a Cliff Booth only film. A flick about a struggling stuntman trying to make his way back to the top. Tarantino’s take on the classic Burt Reynolds film, Hooper. Honestly, I loved Brad Pitt in this… and his dog.

Do I recommend the film? Hmmmmmm, that’s a tough one. For me, as a QT fan, I was disappointed. I don’t think none QT fans will get much from the film either. It is a very pretty film to look at. The on screen chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt really works too. The acting is great as is the music, you will feel like your in 1969… but the story was very hit and miss.

Part II

So okay, this is where I get into the major SPOILERS. I will be looking at specific scenes including the ending as well as addressing some of the film’s controversy to offer my view on it all. So again and last warning SPOILERS ahead…

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Duo 2.jpg

So I think I want to take a look at the whole Shannon Lee thing that has been going on. What has been happening is the daughter of Bruce Lee, Shannon has been mouthing off about how Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood depicts her father. Seeing as her entire career of late is basically living off her father’s name, I guess she feels the need to protect her source of income. But I really do not see why she is getting upset. No, the version of Bruce Lee in the film is not exactly 100% accurate… but it’s not meant to be. The film is not a documentary. The Bruce Lee here is a caricature, he’s an exaggeration of the real man. Any Bruce Lee fan can tell you that. There have been far, far worse versions of Bruce caught on screen than what Quentin Tarantino has done here. This film will do nothing to harm Bruce’s legacy and reputation and Shannon needs to just pipe down about the whole thing.

Now I want to look at the violence in the film as that has been getting some negative feedback… mainly from bored feminists. There really is very little violence in the film but what is here is graphic and bloody. There’s a scene were Brad Pitt punches the crap out of a Manson Family member over a punctured car tyre. Then there is the film’s finale… and that’s about it really. Save a few smaller moments of violence within the films within the film. Yes the big finale does feature two women getting extremely badly beaten, a scene that is definitely upsetting some folk (so much that I wrote an article on the subject). The scene has over the top violence and features such things as a dog biting the face off of a female, Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth smashing the face of another female into a stone fireplace crushing her skull and even Leonardo DiCaprio breaking out the previously mentioned flamethrower to burn a woman alive. It’s bloody and brutal stuff… but it’s not only two women at the centre of the violence as there’s a male too and he gets it just as bad including having the dog chew on his nuts. Oh yeah and the trio that do get fucked up are members of the Manson Family, they are the bad guys. Trust me, they deserved every bit of the gruesome deaths they get. Yes the violence is ridiculously OTT and gory, but it’s also perfectly justified too.

Right here I want to just go over the film’s ending so this is your last chance to walk away from the major SPOILERS.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Charles Manson.jpg

The real life events had three members of the Mason Family enter the house where Sharon Tate lived and kill everyone inside… oh and Sharon was eight months pregnant at the time too. She begged her killers to take her hostage and allow her to give birth to the baby so it could live, they killed her (and the baby) by stabbing Sharon sixteen times and wrote the word ‘pig’ on the door of the house in Sharon’s blood. It was one of the most shocking and disturbing murders in Hollywood history… and the finale of the film is Quentin Tarantino take on the whole thing.

If you have seen Inglourious Basterds then you know how Tarantino likes to alter history. He does exactly that with Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood too. The killers never enter Sharon Tate’s home in the film, they go next door to where Rick Dalton lives and that kick starts the bloody violence mentioned above. In QT’s altered history, Sharon Tate and the baby live. Not only that but struggling actor Rick Dalton gets invited into Sharon’s house and (presumably) becomes friends with her director husband Roman Polanski (before he was disgraced) and get’s back on top as an actor again.

All in all, it’s a happy ending, a very fictional one yes but a happy one none the less. It’s also an ending I was very thankful for as I watched the film with my five and a half month pregnant girlfriend. So as you can imagine, I sat there knowing the fate that was supposed to come to the pregnant Sharon Tate with my pregnant girlfriend sitting next to me, I was seriously worried that the film was just about to cause some major upset. But QT went in a different direction. It’s a pleasant twist.

 

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Tarantino, The Woman Hating Misogynist?

I didn’t mean to do a Quentin Tarantino week of articles, it’s just kind of turned out that way. I only planned on doing my look at the best scenes in QT’s movies, but then the idea of looking at Tarantino video games came about and then this article just popped into my head after reading a Tweet from a self-proclaimed feminist on how Quentin Tarantino is a woman hater.

I sat there reading the Tweet scratching my head trying to work out what this person was on about. I have watched Quentin Tarantino pictures since Reservoir Dogs back in 1992 and him being a misogynist has never entered my mind. So after a little research, it seems that several people are accusing QT of being a misogynist (do a quick interwebs search and you’ll find plenty of articles and videos making such a claim). I managed to backtrack the whole thing to a scene from his new flick, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood Dance

Now, I’ve not yet seen the film, I’m going to watch it over the weekend. So I can’t directly comment on the scene in question. But from what I gather, it involves two women getting severely beaten up and in graphic detail. I’ll offer my view on the scene and the film as a whole after I’ve seen it. But I do want to address this whole Quentin Tarantino supposedly being a woman hater…

Okay, so I’m not going to sit here and attempt to bullshit you readers like others are doing covering this very subject. I’m not going to be selective in my pickings of evidence, I’m not singling out just one scene and only one scene to make a point, I’m going to go though all of his directed films and aim to be honest.

Yes Tarantino depicts violence toward women in his films, often bloody, brutal and graphic too. Just look at the scene in Kill Bill where Uma Thurman’s very pregnant ‘The Bride’ get’s the shit beat out of her during the wedding rehearsal, both in live action and animation. There are other instances in his pictures where women are beaten, even one’s he hasn’t directed. See True Romance for another example, a film QT wrote. Here, there’s a scene where Alabama Worley (Patricia Arquette) gets smacked around and bloodied by Virgil (James Gandolfini). And yes, I’ll also bring up The Hateful Eight here with it’s numerous scenes of violence toward Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue at the hands of John Ruth (Kurt Russell).

Women get beat up in his films and I’m sure that his latest, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood will be no different. I’m more than willing to believe that what I’ve heard about there being a scene where two women get beaten up is true. I believe this because Quentin Tarantino is famed for his use of excessive violence, he’s been at it for almost thirty years… so why are people only now bringing this up as a negative?

Yeah I know the whole #metoo movement along with QT’s working relationship and friendship with Harvey Weinstein does not really help matters here. And yes I’ll even bring up his idiotic comments about Samantha Geimer, the 13 year old rape victim of Roman Polanski (comments he did apologise about). Yet sill, I’m scratching my head over this whole thing. Is Quentin Tarantino a woman hating misogynist? The short answer is no. The longer one needs a little more detail applied.

Well for my first bit of evidence, I need to quickly cover what Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood is about. Aside from the main plot, the film is set against the backdrop of the Charlie Mason/Sharon Tate murder and if you know your Hollywood history, then you know that things got a little violent and bloody. So if QT is revisiting a piece of history and a particularly violent piece of history… why should he shy away from it, why should he censor himself when depicting actual events? Plus I also hear that the scene in question where two women are beaten up also involves a male character getting the shit beat out of him too. Which leads me nicely to my next point.

Tarantino does show violence toward women in his flicks, there’s no denying that. But you know what else he shows? Violence toward men. He doesn’t discriminate against one sex over the other, he just uses violence as a way to advance the plot, it’s a storytelling device. Who is at the end of that violence is depicted by the story that is being told and not by the person getting beat up. You’ve seen Reservoir Dogs right? Pretty much a 100% male orientated film, aside from a scene with a female civilian being shot, it’s all males. Remember the most infamous and controversial scene of the film too?

Reservoir Dogs Ear Scene

Yup, it’s the ear cutting scene were a young kidnapped cop is tied to a chair, beaten, tormented, tortured, cut with a razor before having their ear hacked off and then doused in gasoline and almost set alight. Now just refresh my memory here but what sex was the cop? Not female right? Aside from the previously mentioned female civilian being shot, all the violence in this one is toward men.

How about we take a look at Pulp Fiction next? Can you think of any graphic violence toward women in this one? Nope. A young guy called Marvin (male) gets shot in the face, in fact several males get shot in the film. I suppose I could bring up the rape scene… oh yeah, it’s a male being raped isn’t it? The violence toward men in this one greatly outweighs the violent acts toward women eh? Not seeing a lot of this misogyny so far.

He’s next film, Jackie Brown is a wonderful tale about a plan to bring some illegal money over the Mexican boarder. It’s a simple story done really well. But I’m not here to explore the film’s plot, this article is looking at just how much of a woman hater Tarantino (supposedly) is. So let’s look at all the violence toward women. Well there’s the scene where Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) is shot by Louis Gara (Robert De Niro)… and that’s it really. Just to equal that out a bit, later in the flick Louis is shot and killed by Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) who also shoots and kills Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker) and is then shot and killed at the end of the picture by Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton). Now have you been keeping count of the violent acts in this one? Because there are far more toward males than female characters.

Jackie Brown.jpg

While I’m here, let’s just take a look at the titular character, Jackie (Pam Grier) herself. She is depicted as a strong-willed and a very astute character. It is Jackie who comes up with the plan that leads to the demise of the film’s main antagonist. Then there is my favourite scene in the film, where Ordell comes to kill Jackie, but she cleverly turns things around and gets the upper hand, she is written as being in control over the men in the film. What kind of misogynist writes such a strong female character with power over males?

So let’s get into one I’ve already mentioned, Kill Bill. As previously covered, yes Uma Thurman’s character (important to remember it’s a character, not real) is beaten. And yet that very same character is the driving force of the entire flick, she is the strongest character in the whole damn thing. She goes out and get’s bloody revenge on those who wronged her, both female and male. And if you really want to keep a body count, she is far more violent toward males in the film than females. just look at the Crazy 88 fight for proof, the most violent scene in the whole film. In that one single scene, the female kills more male characters in a few minutes than all the other violent acts combined. Again, looking worse for the males than the females. Just as with Jackie Brown, if QT was such a woman hating misogynist, why create such a strong female character that kills so many males?

Up next, Death Proof. Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to 70s exploitation cinema. Now given this film’s influence of 70s exploitation cinema, there’s bound to be some pretty obvious mistreating of females, that’s what those flicks were like they were exploitative, especially toward women. They used violence and sex to sell so this is the prefect opportunity for QT to really push his misogynistic agenda. I suppose we could look at the film’s first main violent scene, the big crash. Yes we see four women get brutally killed in graphic detail, blood, guts and limbs fly in an orgy of violence and it’s the women who are displayed in said violence. Misogynistic right? Well let’s look at the latter half of the film…

Death Proof End.png

It’s the second half where a new set of female victims for this deranged killer are set up. Without getting into the plot details too much. After the best car chase ever filmed where the female characters take control and fight back against the male, they ram his car off the road. The male is then punched in the head a total of thirty seven times within thirty seconds, he get’s the shit beat out of him by the females. Oh and I almost forgot to mention the roundhouse kick and a boot to the skull that kills him… but for some reason, when calling out QT’s supposed misogyny, feminists seem to conveniently forget about scenes like this and his strong female characters. Oh and let’s not forget just how kick-ass and ballsy Zoë Bell (female) is in the film.

Do I really need to carry on with the rest of his films? Well there are only three more left and next is the WW II epic, Inglourious Basterds. Largely a male cast but I guess the two main female characters would be Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark and Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus. Now there’s very little violence toward women in this one, a lot toward men mind you. I guess in the interests of fairness I should bring up that Bridget is chocked to death by a male. But what about Shosanna? You know the female who comes up with the plan to kill the highest ranking Nazi officers and even Hitler himself… or are we just supposed to forget that like Jackie Brown, it’s the female who is the brains in the film?

Django Unchained is set during a dark piece of American history, the slavery era. So with such a terrible subject to cover, this would be the perfect opportunity for Quentin Tarantino to display his despicable misogyny. I mean he could have had woman after woman after woman beat and tortured and just use the excuse of ‘that’s the kind of thing that happened back then’… but he doesn’t. Just as with his other flicks, the violence in this is much more male centric. Now, I’m not claiming there is no violence shown toward female characters, because there is. However, with such a subject matter of slavery, I would request any feminist to point out to me five acts of violence toward women in this film. Can’t think of any can you? Maybe one, maybe two at a push but five? No chance. Now look at all the violent acts toward male characters… dozens of them from ‘mandingo fights’ to a male slave being torn apart by dogs. Even a horse gets shot in the face in the opening, don’t know if the hose was male or female to be honest. But the point is that the violence toward males in Django Unchained vastly outnumbers any towards females.

Okay so last film now The Hateful Eight and as I covered at the start, yes Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue is punished through the film more than once. She gets punched and slapped around by male characters. But EVERYONE get’s punished in the film, both male and female. There are some pretty brutal deaths regardless of sex in the flick. Samuel L. Jackson even gets his ‘black dingus’ shot off. So let me just break this one down. The woman hating misogynist, Quentin Tarantino, wrote and directed a scene where a male character literally gets his manhood taken away, the very symbol of being male. Or what about the scene where Tarantino has a man walk butt-naked through the snow, do the feminists calling QT out for his misogyny have an explanation for that?

The Hateful Eight Major 2


 

So is Quentin Tarantino a woman hating misogynist? No. It’s more a case of feminists being manipulative idiots who pick and choose selective ‘evidence’ to create an argument that doesn’t exist and refuse to look at the bigger picture. I don’t get it, I really and honestly do not get calling out Tarantino as being a woman hating misogynist when his films have consistently and continually showed far more violence towards his male characters over females. If anything, it’s males who should be kicking up a fuss and arguing that he is extremely guilty of misandry. His flicks depict far more violence toward males than females, he has had a male character being raped, one being tortured another being beaten and killed by women, one having his pecker shot off, one being killed by dogs and countless other violent acts aimed at male characters… many, many, many more violent acts where men are the victims as apposed to females. As a writer/director who has written several very strong and intelligent female characters, for a misogynist, Tarantino is really, really fucking bad at it.

My views and opinions on his new flick, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood will be done over the weekend after I’ve seen it. But I expect violence toward women AND men in the film.

The Best Scenes In Tarantino Flicks

So Quentin Tarantino has his new film out soon. It’s already been released in the U.S. but we have to wait a few more days here in the U.K. I already have my tickets booked and I’m really looking forward to seeing his latest, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood soon. I’ve done my best to avoid as much of the film as I can so I can go into the flick as blind as possible. But I do know it’s premise and that it’s been getting a lot of praise.

Set in 1969, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood tells the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) a once popular actor working in Hollywood and his close friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The pair begin to find they are no longer as popular as they used to be and struggle to find work. All set against the macabre and disturbing backdrop of the Charlie Manson/Sharon Tate murder. The film is said to be QT’s love letter to the golden age of Hollywood and it’s demise.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood Poster.jpg

Blending fiction with real world events is something that Tarantino does really well, see Inglourious Basterds for his version on the demise of Hitler as an example. In fact QT has a lot of little details and nuances he likes to slip into his movies. Mostly famed for his excessive violence, terrific use of tension, amazing dialogue, often overlooked humour and his strange foot fetish… as well as a penchant for using ‘the N word’, Quentin Tarantino films are very, very distinctive. His style has often been imitated but never bettered.

Now I have set myself a few rules for this article where I aim to pick my favourite scenes from his flicks. The rules are that I can only chose one scene from each film… which makes things particularly tricky as his films are loaded with great scene after great scene. I’m only including films he has either written or directed (or both) fully, so despite my love for the films, Four Rooms or Sin City can’t be included. Only films and not T.V. shows are included. Plus there is the whole Kill Bill Vol 1 and Vol 2 sticky wicket as the film was written and directed as one, but later split into two parts. QT has always said the film is one complete film and that is how he envisioned it… so I will also do the same, Kill Bill for this list is one flick which means only one scene from the entire film can be chosen instead of two. The there is the whole Grindhouse thing as that was a collaboration with Robert Rodriguez as a two film feature. But the two films were released separately outside of the U.S. as single features which is how I saw them, so I’m also including QT’s Death Proof  in the list. Short films are also out and no, I’m not including his ‘first’ film My Best Friend’s Birthday as it was never officially released and never actually finished either.

So with the rules out of the way, time for me to pick one and only one scene from each of Quentin Tarantino’s pictures from his first film, Reservoir Dogs right up to The Hateful Eight… not including Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as I’ve not seen it yetThat’s twenty three years of QT films to cover. This is going to be a long one so grab yourself a Kahuna burger, light up a Red Apple and enjoy.

Just going to throw in my obligatory SPOILERS warning from this point on as I’ll be covering specific scenes and plot points.

Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino’s first proper feature film released in 1992 told the story of a diamond heist gone wrong and all without showing the heist itself. For a first film, Reservoir Dogs really showcases a lot of talent and the amazing writing QT would soon become famous for. His dialogue and characters really pop off the screen and it’s that writing and those characters that make one of the best scenes in the flick, the one where the characters are all given their coloured code-names by big boss-man Joe Cabot. It’s funny, well written and acted throughout… but it’s not my favourite scene.

For my favourite I have to go for the film’s most infamous scene. When Reservoir Dogs was originally released, it kicked up a lot of controversy for one scene in particular. The torture/ear cutting scene. In this you have Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) tormenting, torturing and eventually cutting the ear off of the kidnapped police officer, Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz). This one scene alone caused such a stir when the film was released that it was pretty much all anyone talked about.

It’s a brilliant scene that melds lightheartedness with sheer terror. It’s the way Mr Blonde dances and bounces along to the Stealers Wheel song Stuck in the Middle with You which is playing on the radio in the background. You’re sitting there enjoying the tune, smiling at Mr Blonde’s dancing and then the scene just abruptly changes tact as Mr Blonde lashes out at Marvin with a straight razor slashing his face. The torment continues until Mr Blonde straddles the sitting and bound police officer and begins to hack and cut away at his ear.

Reservoir Dogs Ear Scene

But it’s not the violence that I like, it’s actually the lack of it and how the scene was directed. Reviews at the time all commented on the ear cutting scene and how graphic is was… but it wasn’t. When Mr Blonde takes the razor blade to Marvin Nash’s ear, the camera pans away so you don’t see anything, you hear it but don’t see that actual act of violence. For me, this is what makes the scene so damn great as it’s what you don’t see that makes it more horrific. It’s a brilliant Hitchcock moment and the Reservoir Dogs ear cutting scene is the modern equivalent of the Psycho shower scene. The way Hitchcock directed that scene in his film is also done leaving it to the imagination of the viewer as you don’t see anyone getting stabbed in the shower, you just think you do. It’s the clever use of editing and sound design that makes you see something that doesn’t actually happen.

“Listen kid, I’m not gonna bullshit you, all right? I don’t give a good fuck what you know, or don’t know, but I’m gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It’s amusing, to me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want cause I’ve heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain’t gonna get.”

– Mr Blonde

True Romance

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This Tony Scott directed picture was written by QT and released in 1993. True Romance was actually based off QT’s previously mentioned ‘first’ incomplete film, My Best Friend’s Birthday. Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) falls in love with and marries call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). Clarence goes to see his new wife’s pimp and tries to come to an agreement to let Alabama out of the grips of her controlling pimp. Things do not go well and Clarence mistakenly steals a suitcase full of cocaine which he tries to sell so he can begin a new life with his wife. But the rightful owners of the drugs soon came calling and things begin to get very bloody.

It’s a real shame Tarantino didn’t direct this himself as I feel it could’ve been amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, the film is great as it is, but it certainly lacks that QT style and narrative. Tarantino sold the script for this film (as well as another film I’ll cover later) to raise funds so he could make Reservoir Dogs. True Romance is part mob film, part road movie and part love story. There are several great scenes in the film especially featuring stoner Floyd (Brad Pitt) and his inane ramblings. There are some great action/shootouts too but for my favourite scene, I’m going to have to go for the one that features two Hollywood greats just talking.

True Romance Scene

Mob boss Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) is in search of the missing suitcase of cocaine, which leads him to the residence of Clarence Worley’s father, Clifford (Dennis Hopper). This contains not only two utterly stunning performances from both Walken and Hopper who are acting their balls off and showing us just how fantastic the duo are on screen. But it also has some classic QT writing, he may not have directed the film, but this scene alone tells you he definitely wrote it. It’s a wonderful game of see-saw as the balance power continually shifts between a very angry Vincenzo Coccotti looking for the missing drugs and a protective Clifford Worley not wanting to reveal where his son has gone. Despite his best scare tactics, Vincenzo just can not break his prey into giving up his own flesh and blood. It get’s to a point where Clifford knows he is just not going to survive this encounter, so he decides to just straight up fuck with his tormentor, teasing and playing with him though brilliantly written dialogue. It’s a tense and suspenseful scene, something that Quentin Tarantino is a master of, but it also has some pretty dark humour running through it. too. Despite seeing the film and this scene numerous times over the years, I’m still always on the edge of my seat when I watch this one.

“I’m the Anti-Christ. You got me in a vendetta kind of mood. You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincent Coccotti.”

– Vincent Coccotti

Pulp Fiction

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His second directed feature and perhaps Quentin Tarantino’s most famous flick, released in 1994 off the back of the success of Reservoir Dogs. People were expecting big things from QT by now as his previous film had been such a big hit and they would not be disappointed either. Pulp Fiction is a tale of two hitmen, a boxer, a gangland boss and his wife. Told over four intertwining stories to reveal a much bigger and grander story.

Pulp Fiction is a modern day classic full of killer scenes after killer scenes and to pick just one is pretty tough. Some of the most memorable and quotable lines caught on screen in the 90s are in this picture. The dialogue that QT is famed for really comes to light in this film from two hitmen discussing the subtle difference between Europe and America (Royale with cheese), two unknown diners sipping coffee talking about the dangers of armed robbery, to more extreme moment like Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) being raped.

For my pick of the scenes, I’m going for the whole encounter between hitmen Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Brett (Frank Whaley) and his boys after they steal the briefcase and hide out at the apartment. From the moment Winnfield and Vega walk in, you know some serious shit is going to go down… you just don’t know exactly what. Just before this scene, there is the whole ‘foot massage’ chat the duo have before they ‘get into character’ and get ready for the door to open. Another scene I love as it shows the difference in both Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega before they have to work, how they are just like you and me. They talk about nothing and discus things that will not change the world, they are very human… but it’s that moment when they do ‘get into character’ when you sitting there watching know things are going to turn sour.

The interaction between all the actors is sublime as the tension ramps up and the nervousness of Brett and his gang begins to show the more and more Jules pushes and pushes. They way Vincent just kind of hangs back in the background while Jules takes the spotlight and delivers some of the best lines in a film ever, seriously this one scene alone is chock-full of brilliant and extremely quotable dialogue. It’s how Jules goes from calm to crazy on a sixpence. His little hand gesture toward ‘flock of seagulls’ lounging on the sofa indicating for him to relax and put his feet up, the politeness of the character as he asks if he can try some of the burger and have some Sprite to wash it down, the pointless yet entertaining chatting about nothing and callback to the previous ‘Royale with cheese’ talk he had with Vincent. Everything is just so relaxed and chilled…

Pulp Fiction Jules and Brett

And then there’s the whole “Does he look like a bitch” and the “What?” exchange between Jules and Brett. Everything goes crazy and the acting by Jackson is sublime. He’s charming and utterly terrifying. It’s the perfect blending of QT’s razor sharp dialogue and Jackson’s powerhouse performance that makes the whole scene so engrossing. Oh and let’s not forget the immortal Ezekiel 25:17 tirade Jules finishes with. It’s pure classic cinema, not only one of QT’s best scenes, but simply one of the best scenes caught on film ever.

I really love the whole Ezekiel 25:17 speech and entire scene, but I have to admit that the Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) speech about Butch’s watch was a very close second.

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of cherish and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

– Jules Winnfield

Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers Poster

This is the second film script QT sold so he could fund Reservoir Dogs. Directed by Oliver Stone and released in 1994. Two love struck psychopathic serial killers’ murder spree gets the attention of the media. The wanted couple soon become glorified by the mass media until their capture and inevitable separation… but true love finds a way.

I remember when I first saw Natural Born Killers and was blown away by it’s directing, but now when I watch it, I think it’s a fucking mess. It’s a shame because the subject matter of glorifying killers is a great concept but I have no idea what drugs Oliver Stone was taking when he came up with the style of this flick. I’ve not read the original QT script of the film, but I have heard that even though it’s not polished, it’s a hell of a lot better than the film. Yet despite it’s rather ‘messy’ directing, there is a good film in there and some fantastic scenes to chose from too.

Natural Born Killers Interview Scene

I think my favourite scene is the one that leads to the carnage of the finale for the flick. It’s the interview that slimy T.V. host Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) chairs with convicted multiple murderer Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) in prison. Inspired by an actual interview Ted Bundy did the eve before his execution in 1989. For me, this scene works due to the role switching. We’re supposed to be rooting for the good guy, Wayne Gale while detesting the killer, Mickey Knox. But that’s not what happens at all. It’s flipped on it’s head as Wayne comes across as a complete prick while Micky is the erudite and civilised one. As the interview progresses, it becomes very clear that it’s Micky in the driving seat and Wayne is losing control.

“You’ll never understand, Wayne. You and me, we’re not even the same species. I used to be you, then I evolved. From where you’re standing, you’re a man. From where I’m standing, you’re an ape. You’re not even an ape. You’re a media person. Media’s like the weather, only it’s man-made weather. Murder? It’s pure. You’re the one made it impure. You’re buying and selling fear. You say “why?” I say “why bother?”

– Mickey Knox

From Dusk Till Dawn

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Directed by close friend and collaborator of Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and released in 1996. This film tells the story of brothers Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarantino). Two wanted criminals looking to escape over the Mexico boarder. They take hostages to help them cross over to their freedom, yet it is when they do get into Mexico and get their freedom when the sibling’s troubles really begin.

For me to explain why my favourite scene is my favourite with this flick, I need to paint a little picture. In the early/mid 90s, Quentin Tarantino became famous for his first two flicks Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Though the two films are vastly different story telling experiences, they shared a similar look and style. The slick and charismatic bad guys in pristine black suits became a kind of trademark of QT for a while as did his crime-thriller pictures. So when From Dusk Till Dawn was released not only written by Tarantino and starring Tarantino and the fact the two main guys wore those trademark black suits (minus the ties), it all just looked and felt very, very Quentin Tarantino. The film even starts out like a QT slick crime picture and carries on as such for half of the flick’s running time too. But it’s the scene that changes everything that is my favourite.

From Dusk Till Dawn Dance

If a film has a twist, it’s not revealed until the near the end as a surprise to the viewer. The twist in From Dusk Till Dawn hits you like a freight train, it doesn’t happen at the end when you’d expect, it happens in the middle and completely changes the tone, style and even the genre of the film in a few seconds. The scene kicks off with the sexy table dance by Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) and her pet snake. The smooth Latino music is playing in the background as Santanico slinks and sways. Sitting around the table are Seth, Richard Gecko and their kidnapped hostages. The film is still very Quentin Tarantino at this point, it still a crime-thriller… and then Santanico notices a bleeding gunshot wound that Richard sustained at the start of the film and things change. You’re no longer watching a Quentin Tarantino flick, you’re watching an overtly gory vampire film. The twist scene is perfect because you have no idea the film you are watching is really a vampire one, you believe you’re watching a Tarantino, black suit, crime flick and then that scene happens and it’s a kick in the balls. Brilliantly written and directed without giving anything away until needed.

“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be ‘Spot’. Welcome to slavery.”

– Santanico Pandemonium

Jackie Brown

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Quentin Tarantino’s third directed film and released in 1997. Based on the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a middle aged flight attendant who teams up with bail bond agent, Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to bring in a large amount of illegal money from Mexico to the United States that belongs to local gun runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson).

I remember really not liking this QT film when I first saw it, but over the years it has grown on me and now I think it’s the best film he’s made to date. I love it’s simplicity, the plot of this ‘sting’ operation is not complex at all but it’s just told so damn well and in that distinct QT style. Of course it’s all helped by the amazing performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton and of course Pam Grier. It also helps that Grier is sexy as hell and somehow manages to look younger in 1997 than she did in 1974. Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent there.

Anyway, for my favourite scene, my pick is an early-ish one. It’s after Jackie is released from jail and picked up by Max, after they go to a bar for a drink and after Max takes Jackie home. The scene I love is when Ordell makes his appearance at Jackie’s apartment all set to kill her. QT does his tension thing once more as we the audience know Ordell plans on killing Jackie, but we don’t know what Jackie knows, if anything. So Ordell enters Jackie’s apartment and she is welcoming and thankful for Ordell bailing her out of jail. Ordell places his hand on the dimmer switch of the lamp and turns off the light and begins to question Jackie to find out if she turned him into the police. Jackie turns the light back on as she continues to talk only for Ordell to turn it back off again. This time he gets close to Jackie and puts his hands around her throat ready to kill her. This is when a Brian De Palma/70s style split screen kicks in and shows Ordell and Jackie in silhouette in one frame with Max Cherry in the other discovering his gun from his glove-box has gone.

Jackie Brown Scene

Then you hear a click as Jackie cocks the gun, funnily enough aiming squarely at Ordell’s cock. The way Jackie just flips from the welcoming host making a drink for her killer guest into a bad-ass warrior woman and takes control of the whole situation is wonderful. It’s Tarantino’s use of tension and suspense leading to that flip of the coin that sells this one.

“Now sooner or later, they’re gonna get around to offering me a plea deal, and you know that. That’s why you came here to kill me.”

– Jackie Brown

Kill Bill

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Paying homage to the kung-fu/samurai revenge flicks of the 60s and 70s, Kill Bill was released in 2003 and 2004 over two parts. But as I said at the start of this one, I’m treating this as one film as that was QT’s original vision. Ex-assassin, ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) is beaten and left for dead during a wedding rehearsal and after coming out of a coma, she sets out to kill those responsible for the attack that left her friends dead along with the death of her unborn child.

So Kill Bill is one of those QT pictures that is full of great scenes. There’s tension, classic dialogue and character driven scenes as well as all out violent action. If there is one film that defines Quentin Tarantino and all of his tropes then Kill Bill is that film. I could go for the gloriously bloody and OTT The House of Blue Leaves/Crazy 88 fight, perhaps the  Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) or the Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) fights. Maybe something more subdued like a dialogue scene, the Bill (David Carradine) telling to story of the goldfish. There are plenty of scenes to choose from here, but the rules I set myself state I can only choose one.

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So my favourite scene of Kill Bill is the introduction to O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). The way the film goes from live action to full on Japanese animation is beautiful. What we get is a several year history of a character, detailing the brutal death of her patents, her involvement with the Yakuza and her rise to the top of the criminal underworld as an assassin. The whole scene is just stunningly drawn and animated topped off with some bloody violence to boot. You don’t expect a full on Japanese animation in the midst of a live action revenge flick, it’s a bold directing choice and yet it strangely works and feels right.

“Look at me, Matsumoto. Take a good look at my face. Look at my eyes. Do I look familiar? Do I look like somebody you murdered?”

– O-Ren Ishii

Death Proof

Death Proof

Part of the Grindhouse double feature collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. A cinematic experience that paid tribute to their love of exploitation cinema of the 70s. Death Proof is Tarantino’s homage to cheesy, low budget slasher films. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) has a penchant for killing beautiful women, only he doesn’t use a knife or gun to murder his victims, he uses a car, his specially modified ‘death proof’ car.

Often cited as QT’s ‘worst film’ and if this is his worst then his worst is better than a lot of writer/director’s best. I adore this picture as it’s such a departure from his usual stuff and clearly made as a bit of fun. The movie is loaded with Tarantino’s long dialogue scenes and any one of them could be chosen as a favourite scene for me. Then there is the big crash in the film where Stuntman Mike kills off his first victims. It’s wonderfully shot using various angles and viewpoints to see as much of the carnage as you can in all it’s gloriously, grizzly details.

Death Proof Chase

For my favourite scene though, I’m going to have to go with the final car chase. I love me a good old fashioned car chase scene and I’ve seen the very best cinema has to offer. Films like The French Connection, Bullitt, The Italian Job and The Blues Brothers feature some of the finest car chase scenes ever caught on film. But Death Proof features THE best car chase on film ever. The whole scene goes on for around twenty minutes and it’s non-stop car chase action… and it’s all real too. No CGI, no green-screen, no miniatures. All real drivers, real cars, real smashes and crashes. The amazing stunt work from Zoë Bell hanging on the front of a speeding 1971 Dodge Challenger is outstanding and will have you on the edge of your seat. The final chase pays up to a lot of car chase tropes too just to add to the 70s homage. Best car chase ever.

“I didn’t mean to, I was just… playing around!”

– Stuntman Mike

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds Poster

In this 2009 (I can’t believe this is already ten years old) picture, Quentin Tarantino takes us to World War II and tells the story of a group of American/Jewish soldier’s plan to kill as many Nazi soldiers as they can. The group is led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and their crusade of Nazi killing leads them to a small cinema run by Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) who has her own personal reasons for killing Nazis, one in particular.

QT is a genre film-maker and he makes the kind of flicks he grew up watching. Inglourious Basterds is a love letter to those ensemble war films of the 60s and 70s like The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes. The film is full of nods and references to those classics but it still feels fresh and new at the same time thanks to that Tarantino style. Yeah there is some all out action in this one, some bloody and violent moments… I mean Hitler gets shot in the face at point blank range with a machine gun. But it is Inglourious Basterds quieter scenes where you’ll find the film really comes alive. It’s that wonderful QT dialogue and tension where my favourite scene lies… but if you’ve seen the film then you already know there are two scenes in particular where QT’s characters, dialogue and tension really shine. This has been the hardest choice of this entire list as these two scenes are both exceptional in terms of writing and directing, perhaps the two single best scenes Quentin Tarantino has made up to this point.

The first scene is the underground tavern where some of Aldo’s men go undercover as Nazis to meet with actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to gain intel and access to an exclusive screening of a Nazi propaganda film where some of the most important Nazi associates will be gathered. This one scene is a masterclass on how to write characters and build tension. Sublime acting from Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox attempting to pass himself off as a Nazi and his face to face meeting with August Diehl’s suspicious Major Hellstrom.

Inglourious Basterds Opening Scene

But of the two scenes, as much as I love the underground tavern one… it’s missing something, it’s missing Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). So for my favourite scene, I’m picking the opening of Inglourious Basterds. Before we are made aware of exactly what the film is about, before we even meet the titular ‘basterds’, we meet the film’s main protagonist and he’s fucking amazing. One of the best introductions to one of cinema’s greatest villains. Taking place on a dairy farm in Nazi occupied France, Hans questions the farm’s owner, Perrier LaPadite (Denis Ménochet) about a missing family of Jews. I don’t want to give too much away about this one in case you’ve not yet seen it. But the scene is just beautiful and very Quentin Tarantino, I mean, it’s just two men sitting at a table and talking and yet it’s so much more then that at the same time. The dialogue (which flips between French, German and English) is top notch full of those QT tropes of talking about nothing. The acting by Christoph Waltz is mesmerising, it’s one of those ‘love to hate’ performances. Plus the ticking time bomb of we know what’s going on, but we don’t know if the characters (particularly Hans Lander) know what’s going on. The misdirection and tension are beautifully crafted and presented and yet even with all the suspense, QT still manages to include some brilliant humour to great effect. Hans Landa smoking his pipe is a particular highlight. A truly amazing scene.

“The feature that makes me such an effective hunter of the Jews is, as opposed to most German soldiers, I can think like a Jew, where they can only think like a German… more precisely, German soldier. Now, if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast, it would be the cunning and the predatory instinct of a hawk. But if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be that of the rat. The Führer and Goebbels’s propaganda have said pretty much the same thing, but where our conclusions differ is I don’t consider the comparison an insult.”

– Col. Hans Landa

Django Unchained

Django Unchained Poster

Released in 2012, this film is another QT love letter, this time to the Western genre. German dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) crosses paths slave Django (Jamie Foxx). The two team up to collect on a few bounties and when Django tells the story of his enslaved wife at the hands of a brutal Mississippi plantation owner, the duo conceive a plan to free her.

Being a QT fan and for many, many years, I always wanted him to do a Western and do it his way. With Django Unchained, I got my wish. Based on the Django films starring Franco Nero, who has a cameo in this flick. Tarantino and Western films are a perfect blend as he is such a huge fan of Spaghetti Western genre director Sergio Leone and that love for the genre shows in this film too. This is another picture where choosing just one scene is hard because it’s full of great ones. I could’ve gone for Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) diner table rant where he really cut his hand open and just kept on acting. Maybe the glorious shoot-out near the end of the film with it’s stunning sound design. The funny pre-Ku Klux Klan talk about their hoods and wearing the costumes lead by Big Daddy (Don Johnson). In fact my first thought for favourite scene was for Stephen’s (Samuel L. Jackson) LeQuint Dickey speech after Django is captured because the acting is amazing and Samuel L. Jackson is simply terrifying. But no, I’ve gone for something else.

Django Unchained Opening

Much like my previous choice with Inglourious Basterds, I’m going for the film’s opening and much for the same reason too… Christoph Waltz. The exchange between Dr. King Schultz and the slavers is beautiful. At this point, we don’t know who this guy is or what he wants. All we know is the he’s trying to negotiate a deal to buy a slave, and we don’t even know why he wants that either. We don’t know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy, we know nothing. It’s an uneasy scene as we know so little and yet by the end, we know who Dr. King Schultz is, we get a great feel for his character, personality and his intentions. Plus aside from the unease and tension, the scene once more has some great humour. There is something about Christoph Waltz and Quentin Tarantino working together that just works, like two pieces of LEGO perfectly slotting together.

[Talking to slaves] “Now, as to you poor devils. So as I see it, when it comes to the subject of what to do next, you gentlemen have two choices. One: once I’m gone, you could lift that beast off the remaining Speck, then carry him to the nearest town; which would be at least thirty seven miles back the way you came. Or two: you could unshackle yourselves, take that rifle, put a bullet in his head, bury the two of them deep, and then make your way to a more enlightened area of this country. The choice is yours.”

– Dr. King Schultz

The Hateful Eight

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Perhaps the most divisive Quentin Tarantino picture to date with many fans not liking it while others loved it. Released in 2015, the film is about a group of strangers who find themselves trapped together in a small haberdashery in the mountains during a particularly nasty snow storm. One of the group, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) has a prisoner shackled to his wrist, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is part of a gang wanted for murder. John plans on bringing his prize in alive to claim the reward, but paranoia and distrust begins to take over as John thinks someone is out to take his prisoner and reward from him.

I think the reason some people didn’t like this one was because it was another Western genre flick released after Tarantino’s previous film in the same genre. Maybe people wanted something different from him at the time? But me? I love this film, love it. When I first saw it, I enjoyed it a lot and since then I’ve watched it a few more times and it just gets better and better with each subsequent viewing. This is QT getting back to his roots of his first film Reservoir Dogs. It’s small with a small cast taking place in pretty much one small locale. It’s a film about distrust and misdirection, just like Reservoir Dogs. But it also has the flavours from other directors such as Sergio Leone and John Carpenter. In fact I’d even suggest that The Hateful Eight is a Western version of The Thing. There are a lot (and I mean a lot) of parallels that can be drawn between the two flicks outside of them both just starring Kurt Russell… maybe a later article? But I need to pick my favourite scene here.

The Hateful Eight Major

Of course we have QT’s violence, humour and dialogue in this one and it’s a dialogue heavy scene that I’m going for. Featuring Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) telling the story of how he killed the son of General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). Without getting to far into spoilers here as the scene needs to be seen without ruining it, this scene is well crafted and written. It really is just a character describing to another character how he killed their son… oh it does get a little crass. The visuals jump from it’s current locale where the Major is talking directly to the General while also going into a flashback/recreation to visualise what is being talked about. Samuel L. Jackson gives such a commanding performance that you just can’t help but fall in love with him despite the subject matter he’s talking about. He’s outright fucking evil in this scene and yet so engrossing at the same time.

“I knew me I was gonna have some fun! It was COLD the day I killed your boy. And I don’t mean snowy mountain in Wyoming cold… Colder than that. And on that cold day, with your boy at the business end of my gun barrel… I made him strip. Right down to his bare ass. Then I told him to start walkin’. I walked his naked ass for two hours ‘fore the cold collapsed him. Then he commits to beggin’ again. But this time, he wasn’t beggin’ to go home. He knew he’d never see his home again. And he wasn’t beggin’ for his life neither, ’cause he knew that was long gone. All he wanted, was a blanket. Now don’t judge your boy too harshly, General. You ain’t never been cold as your boy was that day. You’d be surprised; what a man that cold, would do for a blanket. You wanna know what your boy did?”

– Major Marquis Warren

So there they are, my favourite scenes from all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies to date. I can’t wait to go and see Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and hopefully find more great scenes. Saturday just can’t get here soon enough.

Say Four Words: Who Was John Ryder?

This is an article I’ve wanted to write for a while but never really found the time. But with the recent passing of Rutger Hauer a couple of weeks back, this seems like the right moment to make it happen.

The Hitcher was a very low budget psychological horror/thriller film from 1989 and it’s easily my favourite Rutger Hauer flick. For those not in the know, a quick synopsis of what The Hitcher is all about.

So The Hitcher written by Eric Red and directed by Robert Harmon and was inspired by The Doors song, Riders On The Storm and if you listen to the lyrics knowing the characters in the film, it all makes perfect sense too.

So the film tells the story of a young man, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) who is delivering a car from Chicago to San Diego. While driving through the West Texas desert, Halsey spots a hitcher and offers him a lift. The man says his name is John Ryder (Rutger Hauer). Ryder soon reveals himself to be a little unstable and a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins as Ryder sets his sights on killing Halsey… but why?

I love Rutger Hauer in this flick and John Ryder is definitely one of cinema’s great villains. But there has always been a query that has run through my mind for years… just who was John Ryder? The film itself explains nothing. No mention of where he came from, where he was going or what he was doing. No rhyme or reason is given as to why Ryder wants to kill Halsey either. Who John Ryder is and what he wants is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. I have read a few theories from others offering their opinions on just who or what he was. I’ve read one saying Ryder some kind of demon or ghost. One theory suggesting that he was the Devil himself, I even read a article that suggested Ryder doesn’t even exist and was just a figment of Halsey’s imagination. I’ve read lots and lots of theories and opinions on just who John Ryder was and so wanted to offer my own.

The Hitcher Poster

Now, I don’t buy into anything supernatural with this flick. It just does not work for me and takes away from The Hitcher’s effective psychological horror element if you just say ‘John Ryder is a ghost/the Devil’, it feels like a cop out and dismisses a lot of the very clever, subtle writing and acting in the flick. Then the theory of Ryder being a figment of Halsey’s imagination also does not work. There are several instances in the picture where both Ryder and Halsey are addressed by other people, so they are most definitely two separate people. So what do I think? Well, I think he’s just a man. I like that simplicity and it makes the whole thing much more scary. A much as I like my supernatural killers in horror films, Myers, Voorhees, Krueger etc. As much as I like them… I know they are not real and never could be and that takes away some of the scares, some of the horror. But when the killer is human, it adds that layer of realism that supernatural horror lacks. You’ll never come across a Freddy Krueger in your life, but a John Ryder? It’s possible.

Now, there is a lot more to my theory as to who John Ryder is other than “he’s just a man” otherwise this would be a really short article. So I need to dig a little deeper, scratch the surface of what The Hitcher offers and explore the enigma that is John Ryder. And the best place to start with all of this is with the recently passed Rutger Hauer himself. There is a documentary of the film called: The Hitcher: How Do These Movies Get Made? It’s chock-full of interviews with the cast and crew and perhaps one of the best quotes from the documentary comes from Hauer when he is asked who John Ryder was…

“John Ryder? That’s a rental car company. This guy’s name’s not John Ryder forget it.”

– Rutger Hauer

So even the man himself believes John Ryder was a fake name and there is even a clue to this in the film. During the scene when he reveals his name, the way Hauer plays it is very subtle but there is a clue if you pay attention. It’s how he says his name, when Halsey asks the hitcher his name, he quickly says “John”, but then there is a slight pause as if he’s trying to think up the next part before continuing with “Ryder”. So there we have it, John Ryder doesn’t exist or at least the name is made up. This is where I start with my theory on who he was. At the very least, we know his name wasn’t really John Ryder.

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I also noticed that the hitcher was wearing a wedding ring. Now this could’ve just been Rutger Hauer’s actual wedding ring as he was married at the time of filming. But for my theory, I’m going to assume the ring belonged to Ryder himself, or at least the person using the name Ryder anyway but more on this later.

I need to cover why Ryder felt the need to terrorise Halsey to begin with. See, it’s never explicitly covered exactly why the hitcher is trying to kill the kid at all… but I don’t think he really wanted to kill him anyway. For this to make sense, we need to look at a couple of other scenes. First I want to jump forward in the flick to the diner scene… no not the one with the finger but later, after Halsey escapes the police station and the two meet up in a diner.

Jim Halsey: “Why are you doing this?”

John Ryder: “You’re a smart kid, you figure it out.”

Now to me, this says little but tells a lot at the same time. It’s clear Ryder wants ‘something’ from Halsey as if he didn’t, he could have killed him very easily earlier in the film. I mean look at the police station scene as an example. Ryder must have killed all those cops and opened Halsey’s cell door. So if all Ryder wanted to do was kill the kid… why not do it right then while he slept?

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In fact there are several scenes in the film where Ryder could’ve very easily killed Halsey with little to no effort but didn’t. The previously mentioned police station is just one of them. How about earlier in the film at the abandoned garage? It’s just the two of them, no witnesses and instead of trying to attack and kill the kid, the hitcher throws down the car keys and walks away. We know Ryder is capable of some sick stuff before this point in the flick too.

John Ryder: “Because I cut off his legs and his arms and his head… and I’m going to do the same to you.”

Now we don’t see that happen and for all we know Ryder could’ve been bullshitting… but what about just after that scene with the hitcher in the family car? The film is clever here as it does not show anything specific when Halsey finds the car at the side of the road, we see a little drop of blood and that’s it. But it’s clear Ryder did something pretty horrific to the family including the children by Halsey’s reaction and him throwing up. So yeah, he could’ve easily murdered Jim Halsey but didn’t. No, it’s clear to me that Ryder wanted something from Halsey and didn’t just want to kill him. But what?

My theory is that John Ryder wanted someone to stop him. In fact the hitcher himself pretty much says so. I need to go back to the start of the film again and look at one scene in particular. It’s when Ryder pulls out the knife and holds it to Halsey’s face.

Jim Halsey: “What’d you want?”

John Ryder: “I want you to stop me.”

See? John Ryder wanted to be stopped but no one had stood up to him at that point in the flick. In fact it looked like Halsey would become just another victim until he pushed the hitcher out of the car as it sped along that desert road. That was the moment when Ryder knew he had found someone worthy and so he followed Halsey as a kind of sick and twisted guardian angel and pushed him to do something that Ryder just could not do. I think John Ryder wanted to die.

Jim Halsey: ” Please, I’ll do anything.”

John Ryder: “Say four words.”

Jim Halsey: “Okay.”

John Ryder: “Say ‘I wanna die.'”

Jim Halsey: “Say what?”

John Ryder: “I want to die… say it.”

For me, this exchange is key to the whole thing. This is a scene where Huger’s amazing and subtle acting comes into force. When Ryder first tells Halsey to say the four words, to say “I wanna die” (that’s three words with the contraction) that is pretty straight forward and just comes across as a crazy bastard trying to get his victim to say those four (three) words. But it’s the second time Hauer says the line where you have to pay attention. As the acting and the way Hauer plays it is key to everything.

John Ryder 4

First, the contraction is gone and ‘wanna’ becomes ‘want to’, it makes the line more ‘certain’ in a way, adds more gravitas to that very simple line. Second, they way the line is read is softer, not angry as before. It sounds like Ryder was saying that line to himself and not to Halsey. Third, just pay attention to the acting itself. Ryder breaks eye contact with Halsey as he says “I want to die”, he’s not talking to his victim and telling him to say the line, he’s talking to whoever the person is using the fake name of John Ryder. As if in that second or two he just realised what he wanted… he wants to die, not that he wanted Halsey to say the line, ‘Ryder’ wants to die. Then just as soon as the line is delivered, he snaps out of his little moment of realisation and back into character, back into John Ryder mode. It’s an amazing scene and one really worth watching. I’m convinced that just for those few moments when Ryder says “I want to die” for the second time, he dropped his facade. It’s subtle but it is there and only for a couple of seconds and in those couple of seconds, we saw the real man whatever his real name is.

But why does he want to die? Well that goes back to that wedding ring I previously mentioned. If we take it as read that the ring did indeed belong to the man pretending to be ‘John Ryder’, then this is where my theory really comes to life. My theory is that the hitcher was once married, hence the ring and he lost his wife. Originally I put it down that he killed his wife, but that didn’t sit right with me and I think Ryder deserves to be a bit more of a sympathetic character despite his homicidal tendencies. So I’m suggesting his wife died from something else. Cancer, raped and murdered, accidental death… pick one, it’s not really that important exactly how she died but more a case of she did and there as nothing Ryder could’ve done about it. I like to think there was a time when Ryder was a normal, loving man.

John Ryder 45

Since her passing, he has felt guilty that he was helpless in her demise. His anger grew and grew until he just snapped. Suicide was just not an option, that was the easy way out. So Ryder spent hours, days, weeks, months just walking through the Texas desert sticking his thumb out looking for a ride to nowhere, but ultimately a ride to his own death at the hands of his driver. He was picked up by several people and he tested them. Ryder pulled out the knife and began to make his threats, giving his victim the chance to fight back… but they never did. Unhappy with the lack of balls from his prey, he killed them and hit the road once more. More drivers stopped and no one stood up to him. Then he was picked up by Jim Halsey and that was when things changed. Halsey was the only one to actually make a stand and fight back. That was when Ryder knew he found the person worthy enough to kill him so he could be with his wife once more. But Halsey was still green behind the gills and Ryder knew he had to push him, to mould him in a way to become the killer Ryder knew Halsey could be…

John Ryder: “You’re a smart kid, you figure it out.”

So there you have it. My theory on who John Ryder was and what he wanted. He wasn’t a ghost, he wasn’t some kind of supernatural entity.  He was just a normal man that was pushed over the edge.

This article is written in memory of the great Rutger Hauer and my way of saying thanks for his creating one of cinema’s finest ever villains.

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“You wanna know what happens to an eyeball when it gets punctured? Do you got any idea how much blood jets out of a guy’s neck when his throat’s been slit?”

– John Ryder

I Hope You Don’t Mind That I Put Down In Words How Wonderful Rocketman Is…

Hot off the heels of the staggering success of the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody comes the next British musical star to have his story told on the big screen. Reginald Kenneth Dwight or Elton John as he likes to be called these days.

Just something I quickly want to  cover before I get into this. I should address is a slight problem I had with Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s rating. As I said in my review of the film, it was only rated 12A here in the U.K. which meant it couldn’t show some stronger elements of Freddie’s outrageous life. As much as I enjoyed the flick, it did feel a little diluted. Well Rocketman has a higher rating here, it’s been given a 15 certificate which means while still not exactly ‘adult’ (which would be an 18) it’s still a little more risque and can therefore delve into the slightly darker and more serious side of Elton John’s life… and it does. Elton John himself insisted they make it honestly and not to sugar coat anything. Rocketman is the first major Hollywood film to depict gay sex on screen for instance.

Rocketman is being billed as ‘a true fantasy’ or ‘musical fantasy’, so it’s not strictly meant to be a 100% factual telling of the life of Elton John. Then again, movie biopics never are, they all blend fact with fiction but Rocketman seems to be the only one to actually make that tit-bit part of it’s promotion, it’s telling you before you see it that it’s not going to be a 100% factual telling of the life of Elton John. It’s a fantasy, and fantasy is the perfect word to use too.

The Cast

I think it best to start this thing by looking at the main cast.

Jamie Bell plays Elt’s long time friend and lyric writer Bernie Taupin. He gives a subtle and quiet performance to counteract the hyperactive and overbearing style of Elton John. Their friendship really comes through in the film. There’s a good chunk of the flick where Taupin is absent as he feels he’s had enough of the high-life and goes back home (he should have stayed on the farm, should have listened to his old man) when Elt hits it big time. For those scenes and that part of the flick, Bell is really missed as the calming element to all the madness going on around and when he does return, that duality of two leads really works.

In the part of Elt’s manager/lover, John Reid is Richard Madden. A smooth but still rather nasty piece of work who would be more than happy seeing Elton John in a grave. As he says in the flick “I’ll still be collecting my 20% long after you’ve killed yourself.” They most definitely played Reid up to be much more of a villain than he was in real life. According to history, he was never a angel but was he ever really as evil as shown in the film? Anyway, it’s another good performance and one Madden seemed to enjoy playing.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elt’s mother, Sheila. If you know your Elton John history, then you already know they didn’t really get on, they didn’t speak to each other for years and only made up shorty before her death in 2017. The distance between the two is also shown in the film. It’s a strange performance as Shelia is never depicted as ice cold toward her son, but she’s definitely cold. There’s a scene where Elt comes out as gay over the phone to his mother and her response is pretty heartbreaking. It’s a subdued performance and perhaps the only one on the film I’m not quite sure on liking it or not.

Then of course we have to cover Elt’s father, Stanley played by Steven Mackintosh. Now this is an ice cold performance. He never hugs his son, never pays him much or any attention and Stanley walks out and leaves when Elt is still a boy.  The relationship shown in the film is horrendous and yet Elt never gives up. One of my favourite scenes in the film comes later when he tries to connect to his father once he’s become famous. I’m not going to spoil it here but the acting between Mackintosh as the father and Egerton as Elton John is tremendous. I don’t know, maybe I saw something deeper between the two as my father walked out when I was a kid too. Maybe that relationship shown in the film hit a nerve with me?

Rocketman Taron and Elton.jpg

Yes I’ve saved the best for last… Taron Egerton as Elton John. If Rami Malek can (deservedly) win an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury then Egerton deserves at least two. I need to get this out of the way first, Egerton singing sounds nothing like Elton John… but he was never meant to. The man himself advised Egerton not to copy him and do his own thing. And yes, that is Egerton actually singing too (unlike Malek), no he doesn’t sound like Elt… but the boy can sing and sing well too. As for the acting? Well he knocks it out of the park. From the first moment you see him in the film make a big entrance, the way he strides down the corridor is Elton John, the mannerisms are there and he has the smile down to a T… with a little help to get the gap-teeth right. Taron Egerton IS Elton John.

Oh, seeing as I like to throw in little bits of trivia when I wrote these things, how about this? When Taron Egerton was trying to get into RADA, he sang Your Song which helped him kick-start his career. Then he sang I’m Still Standing as a talented gorilla in the animated film Sing. Elton John appeared in the film Kingsman: The Golden Circle which starred Egerton. Seems Taron Egerton and Elton John have a link going back years.

The Film

I guess a quick synopsis of what the flick is about would be nice.

Obviously it’s about the life of Elton John, but like Bohemian Rhapsody before it, it’s not a full life story. What Rocketman tells is the story of Elt’s early life and career. It concentrates on young Reggie as a boy in Pinner, Middlesex, his strained relationship with his parents and him growing up in the mid 1950s, his becoming a pianist and forming his first band as a teenager, meeting Bernie Taupin for the first time in the 60s. To Elt’s early success,  eventual worldwide fame and his alcohol/drug abuse through the 70s to him finally becoming sober in the 80s. The film is told in flashback as it opens at the end with Elt checking himself into rehab in the 80s where he begins to tell his life story. We see his life unfold trough the decades inter-cut with Elt in the 80s pretty much confessing his sins.

Rocketman Bird Costume

As I said earlier, this is not a straight up biopic, it’s a musical fantasy. The best way to describe this would be with one of the earlier scenes with older Elton John from the 80s signing a duet of The Bitch Is Back with his younger-self from the 50s in the neighbourhood he grew up in with all his neighbours signing and dancing in the street. That’s the kind of films this is, where people will just spontaneously burst into song and dance to further to story. With a standard biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody, as great as the music is… it’s just music in a film. With Rocketman, the music is part of the storytelling, the songs and lyrics used take on a very different meaning when paired with the images on screen. It’s not just music in Rocketman, it’s musical storytelling and it’s really effective too. I have a much deeper understanding of Taupin’s words after watching this film.

And the flick is full of these kind of moments where things are not 100% true to life. I mean there’s a scene where ten year old Elt in the 1950s sings the song I Want Love with his family, a song that won’t exist for another forty odd years until 2001. Again, it doesn’t make sense in regards to the timeline it’s completely anachronistic but within the context of the film itself and the bit of the story being told at the point, it makes perfect sense and is logical. It’s a musical fantasy and it’s marvellous.

Rocketman Suicide

There are some truly amazing moments in the picture both from the music and just good old fashioned acting. The Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) number of the film where young boy Elt transitions into young man Elt is great. A stunning musical number with a lot of life. People are up and dancing, it even turns into a Bollywood thing for a while and is full of energy. Then there’s a scene when adult Elt, now a world famous rock star tries to reconcile with his absent farther… which doesn’t end happily and the acting is sublime, no singing, no dancing, just pure top-notch acting. Two very different sides of the same coin. Rocketman is a strange cocktail of several elements that most probably shouldn’t really work together and yet they do.

The mixing of fact and fiction is masterfully done. There a scene where Elt attempts suicide (without going into detail), it ends with him sinking to the bottom of his swimming pool where he sees his ten year old self and starts a Rocket Man duet. Now the suicide attempt was real, it happened in 1975… but I’m pretty certain that Elt singing a duet of Rocket Man underwater with his younger self didn’t actually happen. This is that mixing of fact and fiction that works and the film is full of it. Just after the suicide attempt, Elt is quickly dressed and pushed out on stage to perform. It all happens within a minute or two on screen in a staggering and disturbing dance routine that involves stomach pumping. The thing is that it was not that far removed from reality as only two days after the suicide attempt in 1975, Elt was on stage performing. That was just one of the many moments of pure fantasy and surrealism, I loved it.

There’s a lot of this kind of symbolic stuff through the flick too. As I said before, it starts with Elton John checking himself into rehab in the 80s. And it’s done in typical Elt fashion as he walks in wearing (what can only be described as) an Elvis style jumpsuit in bright orange full of sequins complete with a pair of wings and devil horns. You know what, it’ll be easier to just show you…

Rocketman Devil Costume.jpg

That’s the one. Completely lavish and over the top, pure Elt. Anyway, as the film progresses and as it jumps from the flashbacks of Elt growing up and becoming famous to him sitting in rehab. As he tells his story and as more and more sins get confessed to the group he’s taking to, the costume is slowly removed piece by piece. Showing the death of old Elt and the start the new, clean and sober Elt by the time the film ends. Subtle but clever stuff. Plus there is a moment near the end where ten year old Reginald Dwight gets a hug. Now reading that it pretty meaningless, but watching the film in it’s entirety and understanding that moment – I tell ya, I had a tear in my eye.

As I said before, the film has a 15 certificate, which means more ‘adult’ content can be shown as apposed to Bohemian Rhapsody’s 12A rating. Here drug use is shown as Elt snorts his way through so much cocaine, it would make Tony Montana green with envy. There’s plenty of swearing and if you know of Elt’s infamous tantrums… they’d need to be make him believable. Oh and there is the gay sex scene that is being made a big deal of. It’s really not that big of a deal, at least not for me. It’s not graphic and filmed tastefully too. I really do not see why others are kicking up such a fuss… it’s just a sex scene, a very tame one at that. Let me put it this way, I watched the film with my Mum and when we talked about the film afterwards, neither of us talked about the sex scene. Not because we were embarrassed but because it was nothing. The music, the acting, the story – now that’s worth talking about. The sex scene? It’s just a sex scene, calm down everyone.

Rocketman Elton Toilet

I don’t want to dwell too much on the story as to not spoil anything major but it’s a damn fine piece of film making and well worth watching. Director Dexter Fletcher (who stepped in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody when that flick ran into trouble) is clearly having a ball making this film. It’s bright, vibrant, emotional and funny. As mentioned, it has some sublime surreal moments and when the film keeps drifting into pure fantasy, it’s marvellous. A fairy tale who’s roots are firmly in the real world.

The Music

It’s Elton John, of course the music is great… except it not Elton John. This may need a little explaining. Elt doesn’t sing a single note in the film, they don’t use existing recordings either. See, normally in these musical biopics, they have the actor mime to recordings (or a sound-a-like) of the artist they are playing. With Rocketman, that’s not Elton John singing, it’s Taron Egerton singing every note. Every song has been re-recorded with new arrangements to fit the story of movie, so you’ll hear some new versions of classic tunes. Egerton singing Tiny Dancer was a particular highlight for me.

Rocketman Elton

The songs are integral to the story too. As I said before, Bernie Taupin’s lyrics have a much deeper meaning when the songs are used in the film. I don’t think I’ll ever listen to Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road the same way again.

Overall

Rocketman is superb. The story can be summed up pretty easily. It’s a film about a boy/man just wanting to be loved… that’s about it. But it’s how this tale is put together that makes it stand out. The acting is sublime, the music is astounding and the directing both crazy and wonderful.

When we came out of the cinema, Mum said to me that she thought Rocketman was far better than Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t think I can honestly make that claim because for me they are way too different to compare. Yeah they are both biopics of English rock stars but they are very different species of the same animal. I think both films are amazing but for very different reasons.

You know, I think I managed to put my finger on best how to describe this flick, you can’t just call it a biopic as it’s much more than that. It’s one of those classic ‘rock opera’ films from the 70s. The Rocky Horror Show, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Tommy (which featured Elton John). All those crazy and experimental flicks that told amazing stories through music… that’s what Rocketman is. Or I guess I could just stick with the promotion of the film itself – it’s a ‘musical fantasy’.

Rocketman is a film that’ll stay with me for a “long long time…”

 

Oh, just write the fucking songs, Bernie. Let me handle the rest!

– Elton John

 

Avengers: Endgame, My Thoughts, Very Light Spoilers

So I got to see the epic finale to eleven years and twenty two films in the making and just wanted to offer my thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Now, I will be treading into SPOILER territory here. However – I’m going to tread lightly and avoid specifics. I’m not even using any pictures in this article just incase something accidentally slips in. I will highlight plot points including the ending but won’t go into exact detail on those points. So from this moment on, if you don’t mind knowing some of the basics then read on. But if you want to go into the film 100% blind then skip this article. Again, very light SPOILERS ahead…

I guess the first thing to bring up is my previous concern about time travel. Yes time travel does play a major role in the film… but it’s actually handled far better than I thought it would be. It was pretty clear that they’d have to go back in time to fix the fact Thanos killed 50% of the population of the universe, including a big chunk of the heroes. I really didn’t want them to get lazy and just hit the reset button… and they don’t.

The rules of the time travel are very clever in that you can’t just go into the past to change the present, nothing can change the present. If it’s happened then its happened. So going back and stopping Thanos would be pointless as he’s always going to collect the stones and gauntlet and always click his fingers. Again, I’m going to avoid specifics but let me just say that my biggest fear of them just going back in time and hitting the reset button does not happen even though they do go back in time.

I guess next I need to cover the return of all those who died in Avengers: Infinity War via Thanos’ click finger thing. We all knew even back then they would be coming back, of course they would… and they do. You don’t kill off Spider-Man after only a few appearances and expect the audience to believe it will be permanent – especially when you already have another Spider-Man film in the works. I’m not going to cover exactly how it happens, but just point out how well I feel they handled the return. See, my biggest worry aside from hitting the rest button (which they don’t do) was that I was concerned with how the characters would react after coming back from the dead as I didn’t want them just coming back not knowing of feeling the effects of what Thanos did.

This again is handled well. The best example given is when Peter Parker comes back and sees Tony Stark. Peter even says how he remembers everything, how he was turned to dust. He remembers dying. Which is very important for the character moving forward he and the rest have to know they failed to feel the effects in order to grow as characters.

Speaking if death, yes there are two major deaths in the movie. You have to remember there’s no coming back from these deaths either. I’m not going to say who dies or how but will just say how they worked in the film. The first was unexpected I admit… but also a bit dry. I just didn’t feel any great loss when it happened. I was just like; “Okay, so they’re dead then.” The second one is the polar opposite. I pretty much saw this death coming even going back to Infinity War. All through this film, I felt it was obvious this character would be killed off. Yet even with me knowing it would happen, I didn’t know how and when it did – it really worked. It’s an effective death and one that has been earned.

Okay so there was technically a third “death” in a sense. This one happens in the final few minutes of the film. I’m not sure how best to cover this without spoiling it. A major character dies, but the person behind that character does not… if that makes sense. It’s a very bitter-sweet end to both the character and the film. Fitting and satisfying. For me, my favourite part of the film was the final five minutes or so.

Let’s just get away from the more heavier moments for a whole and cover the humour. The film is as funny as it is emotionally draining. This is something Marvel films have always excelled at and Endgame is no exception. There are some really tense and suspenseful. Scenes of utter devastation and despair. And yet the film is still chock-full of funny quips and scenes. Hulk being a great source of the humour. From him messing around and experimenting with the time travel to him having to walk down some stairs… trust me it’s funner than it sounds.

Then there’s Thor. Oh my, what they do to Thor in this is hilarious. That’s something most definitely best not to spoil even in the slightest. It’s a funny, funny film and it’s not overused humour or in anyway misplaced. The humour is peppered though the film and just works.

If I have any criticisms then they’re only a couple. I don’t see the point in Captain Marvel as a character here. She really does seem like an afterthought and just shoehorned in because… why not? She doesn’t feel all that important to the film or the team. When you have characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the others who have been around for years and have worked off each other for the last decade or so. You feel their kinship the camaraderie between them. With Captain Marvel, she’s just too new to fit for me. Her debut movie only came out a month or so before this and yet she’s supposed to just slide into this epic finale as if she’s always been a part of it? She just turns up when it’s convenient for the plot. She just did not work for me and perhaps should’ve been saved for Marvel’s next phase and to kick-start a new ongoing epic. I’m pretty sure this film could’ve worked just as well without her.

Am I the only person utterly bored of these huge, epic battles? I realised how disinterested I am in these dozens upon dozens of CGI character orgies when I watched Ready Player One. Aside from playing spot the 80s icon… which was fun, I was just so tired of seeing the mass-mess of characters smashing people in the face. It’s tired now, dozens upon dozens of people stand at opposite ends of the battlefield, they stare at each other before letting out a war cry and run toward each other – screaming all the way, until they smash togther in a CGI rumble.

Of course I knew going in that the film would have to climax in a CGI-fest mass brawl. It’s not as if I thought The Avengers would just shake Thanos’ hand and call a truce. But it does not matter how many times filmmakers do these Lord of The Rings CGI battles, I just do not care for them. There are a few smaller and more personal fights that I found far more entertaining and interesting to watch – one featuring Captain America springs to mind. I’d be quite happy to never sit though another epic CGI battle ever again.

I’m also willing to bet that on repeat viewings that they’ll be problems with the time travel. There always are with time travel movies. In fact I can already think of a couple of issues.

Overall, Avengers: Endgame is a satisfying finale to an epic story line that has taken over a decade to be told. It’s a finale that isn’t that final and more so the start of a new beginning. I’m looking forward to what Marvel have planned from this point onward and how the aftermath from Endgame will surely feed into the up coming Spider-Man: Far From Home which should bridge the gap bewteen the end of this Thanos storyline as a new one begins.

Ready To Feel Ancient? The Matrix Is Twenty Years Old

Originally released on the 31st of March way back in the space year of 1999. The Matrix was the brainchild of Andy and Larry Wachowski the then Wachowski brothers… that’s a whole other article in itself. The Matrix changed cinema for years with it’s groundbreaking effects work. But it was not a film that was all looks an no substance, The Matrix is a flick that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just watch it as a kick-ass action romp and enjoy it on that level – or delve into its more philosophical elements and how it questions reality and existence.

I still remember the day I went to the cinema to watch the film. You have to bear in mind that we are talking about a film made by relatively unknowns. This was only the Wachowski brothers (yes I know, but at the time they were brothers) second film after the taught and incredibly sexy and stylish thriller Bound from 1996. Bound was very much an underground hit. It had it’s fans (I’m one) but it was hardly Hollywood blockbuster material – so expectations were low for The Matrix. Then there were the stars like Laurence Fishburne who now is instantly recognisable, but back in 1999? He was known as that guy from the Tina Turner biopic or Max from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Carrie-Anne Moss, aside from some bit-parts in T.V. shows, she was unknown and The Matrix was her big breakthrough. Hugo Weaving was perhaps even more unknown than anyone else in the main cast unless you were Australian. Joe Pantoliano had already had a steady acting carer by the time 1999 came around mainly playing bit-parts and character roles. He starred in the previously mentioned Bound… and that’s about all he would’ve been known for back then unless you were a die hard Goonies fan.

Plus it was a time when the internet was still till in its infancy, we didn’t have super-fast fibre optic broadband to watch trailers with, no social networks to spread the word, no smartphones to catch up on movie news on the go… it was a very different time.

The Matrix Cast

Oh and there was some guy by the name of Keanu Reeves. Yeah a household name now but not back in 1999, he was really only known for comedy rolls like the Bill & Ted films and small indie films. I guess the action flick Speed could be seen as his foot in the door of action cinema but he was still hardly known as an action film star afterwards in the same way he is today. It’s not as if Speed was to Keanu what Die Hard was to Bruce Willis. So really with The Matrix you had writer/directors not really know for anything with a cast of actors no one really cared about. It was not an easy film to see any merit in.

So yeah, quite honestly I had zero interest in the film. My brother called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the cinema – I had nothing going on so said yes. Didn’t see any trailers, paid no attention to who was in the film or who made it. Had no idea what I was going to watch just went along because I was bored and had nothing else to do. I went into the film 100% blind. But when I came out of that cinema? The first thought that went though my head was that must have been what it was like to have seen Star Wars at the cinema for the first time back in 1977. I felt that The Matrix was a game changer as if cinema had just taken several jumps forward not just in terms of effects work but also storytelling. I just knew then and there that The Matrix was something special, that people would still be talking about it decades later… twenty years later and here I am.

The Matrix Pills

But the big question is, two decades later, does The Matrix hold up? We live in an age where films date quickly. I’ve certainly seen films in the last decade or so that feel old only months after release. Yet some films are timeless no matter when they were made – The Matrix is one of them. Aside from some of the questionable technobabble and dated references/technology (remember when everyone wanted one of those Nokia flick phones?). The effects are still impressive, bullet time may not hold the impact it did when you first saw it, but it still looks good and just as satisfying as ever. The fight sequences are as exciting as they were back in 1999. Shoot outs are heart-pumping, that lobby scene is still one of the best shoot outs ever caught on film. As an action picture, The Matrix delivers. But it’s not just the impressive action sequences and still amazing effects work that hold up after twenty years. It’s the writing, the storytelling. It’s when you really get into the deeper aspects of The Matrix when the film comes to life.

The basic of good vs evil, human vs machine is nothing special I admit and yes the whole fulfilling a prophecy, being ‘the One’ shtick got tiresome. The love thing between Neo and Trinity was trite. Yet it’s the questioning reality, self-existence and everything that comes with it where the story excels. The multi-layered and textured story telling is fascinating and I love getting lost in the questioning of reality, the two worlds shown in the film – the simulation that is The Matrix and the real world of a desolate future where humans are dying out compliment each other perfectly. When Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher wants out of the real world by betraying his crew mates and when he is offered to be reinserted into The Matrix with a whole new life. The line “ignorance is bliss” he says speaks volumes. Seriously, given the choice of living in on a dead planet being hunted by machines, fighting a war that seemingly has no end or living in ignorance inside The Matrix is a tough call. I can’t be the only person who has often wondered if there is something better out there, something other than the life we believe is all we have?

The Matrix Gun

I’m going off on bit of a tangent here, but I quite honestly could write lengthy articles just on how deep The Matrix goes.  I don’t mean to get into questioning one’s own existence but just to look back at The Matrix after two decades and see if it still holds up. It does, very much so. Having just re-watched the film for the first time in a good few years – I still found it thoroughly entertaining. As I said earlier, it’s a film you can watch on so many levels. Yes it’s a great action flick, but it also asks and addresses much deeper themes and ideas if you really look beyond what is shown on the screen.

I’m not a fan of DVD commentaries, I find it’s usually full of nothing but overpaid people inflating their own egos by making themselves sound like cinematic geniuses. But the commentary for The Matrix is very different and highly unique. Instead of having the Wachowskis harp on about how creative and insightful they are, they decided not to do the commentary themselves. Instead what you get are two commentary tracks. One is from two film critics that didn’t like the film, while the other is from two philosophers who did. The two commentary tracks are amazingly interesting and show how one can perceive the film from two very different standpoints. The critics are negative but bring up several interesting flaws (some stupid ones too). While the philosophers, understandably get deeper into the subtleties of the story. Their polar opposite views really are interesting to hear and yet they really work together. Well worth checking out. I came out with a very different view of The Matrix after listening to the two commentary tracks.

The Matrix Kung Fu.gif

The Matrix is my generation’s Star Wars. Even two decades since it’s release, there just hasn’t been anything like it… plenty of imitators that have tired to delve into the depth The Matrix offers, countless flicks doing similar/same effects work – and yet none of them have managed to capture what made The Matrix so special, not even it’s own sequels and spin-offs.

It’s a film that is still talked about twenty years after it’s release and will probably still be talked about in another twenty, and still relevant in today’s cinema. Even films coming out soon like to throw in a The Matrix reference now and then, it seems even Keanu Reeves himself can’t escape them…

 

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

 

– Morpheus