Movie Review: “The Hateful Eight”

Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Jeff Parks
Quentin Tarantino

It’s crazy to think that “The Hateful Eight” almost never happened, but after Quentin Tarantino furiously shelved the project following the leak of his unfinished script, cooler heads eventually prevailed. Though the writer/director’s first crack at making a Western resulted in the slightly disappointing “Django Unchained,” Tarantino’s second attempt is a much-improved genre piece that represents his most accomplished work behind the camera to date. “The Hateful Eight” is filled with the same self-indulgent tendencies that fans have come to expect from his movies, but while it doesn’t exactly earn its three-hour runtime, this Agatha Christie-styled whodunit is a lot of fun thanks to a smartly crafted script and riotous performances from its ensemble cast.

Set in post-Civil War Wyoming, the film stars Kurt Russell as John “The Hangman” Ruth, a well-known bounty hunter who earned his nickname as the only one in his trade who actually bothers bringing fugitives in alive to be hanged for their crimes. John is in the process of transporting wanted murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock to collect the $10,000 bounty on her head when a blizzard forces them to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery in the mountains, where he finds himself trapped in a room with six other strangers he doesn’t trust. In fact, John is confident that at least one of them is in cahoots with Daisy, and he’s determined to figure out who it is before they make their move.

In addition to the two stranded men he comes across on his way to Minnie’s – Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a Union soldier turned fellow bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Southern rebel who claims that he’s the new sheriff of Red Rock – John’s list of suspects includes local hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), mysterious cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) and a Mexican named Bob (Demian Bichir) who’s looking after the trading post while its owners are away. Confined to the cabin until the storm passes, paranoia begins to set in among the eight strangers as identities and motivations are questioned, secrets are revealed and blood is spilled.

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Drink of the Week: The Bijou

The Bijou. Last week, I invoked the literal spirit of Will Rogers to deal with the insanity that seemed to be sweeping our nation’s capital. As I begin writing this week, it’s starting to appear that some sanity is returning. That’s something we’ll be drinking to this week, with a genuine antique that’s approved of by many of the cocktail cognoscenti. I just wish I loved this one a bit more than I do.

I stumbled over the Bijou in my increasingly well worn copy of Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, but it’s history goes back to turn of the 20th Century, we are told, when it was included in a manual by bartending legend Harry Johnson. On this political week, it’s worth mentioning that it also got a big shot in the arm back in 2009 when cocktail loving MSNBC icon Rachel Maddow made one for Jimmy Fallon. Alas, I never saw that segment and it’s been pulled from Hulu for some reason. (I blame the Koch brothers.)

I, therefore, have no way of knowing if the woman who accompanies many of my dinners — and whose old Air America radio show helped me to discover the classic cocktail spirit — introduced some twist in her preparation which made the drink sing a bit more for her and Fallon than it does for me. The version I’ve been making is worth is worth a try even if I didn’t love it to death.

The Bijou

1 ounce Plymouth Gin or regular London dry gin
1 ounce Chartreuse
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Combine your ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, stir fairly vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This week, let’s consider a toast to pure, sweet sanity as we down this complex semi-treat.


The key ingredient in today’s drink is Chartreuse, also called Green Chartreuse to distinguish it from the milder Yellow Chartreuse. First featured here in star bartender Julie Reiner’s Shamrock Sour, this 110 proof liqueur beloved of cocktail aficionados and, apparently, Quentin Tarantino, is a prime example of a little going a long way. It’s a very herbal, very sweet, and very complex little bugger and gin doesn’t really stand a chance against it.

Since this is one of the 23 recipes in the Savoy book specifically calling for Plymouth Gin, I tried it that way a couple of times. Most recipes, however, call for the usual London style gin. I used Bombay Dry, which is what I have on hand these days, and I found it a bit crisper and more brash that way. Really, though, I  liked the drink about the same with both gins.

You may want to experiment with various garnishes. I tried a cheap maraschino cheery once, which didn’t hurt. Rightly renowned cocktail guru Robert Hess, who is obsessed with presentation to a point I tend to disagree with, calls for an elaborate orange peel, which does look pretty and probably wouldn’t hurt the flavor. I do have to reluctantly admit, however, that this drink really doesn’t benefit from shaking. Don’t ask me why, though I’ll never buy Hess’s argument that “clouding” drinks with ice crystals by shaking them is some kind of cocktail fate-worse-than-death.

Hess is also one of many to point out the word “bijou” means jewel in French, which to him means the drink is supposed to look jewel-like and, yes, be completely unclouded. Movie geek that I am, I associate the term with the frequent name for old theaters. Despite being namesakes, Robert Hess and I clearly don’t think that much alike, though he is absolutely correct when he adds the Bijou is extremely Chartreuse forward.

Some things really are kind of inarguable.Up is not down and day is not night though, as we’ve all learned, you can stop some people from claiming just that. I don’t know about you, but after everything we’ve been through, I could use a drink, any drink.


The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Matthew Macfadyen (“Ripper Street”)

Although BBC America received considerable acclaim from their original series, “Copper,” a period piece about New York City police officers circa the 1860s, it should come as no surprise that their stock and trade still tends to be series set in the UK. Don’t worry, though: they’re still sticking with the whole period-piece thing for their latest endeavor, “Ripper Street,” which is set in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, n 1889, a mere six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. The series stars Matthew Macfadyen, a familiar face to Angophiles for his work in numerous TV and film appearances, and Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with him just before the “Ripper Street” panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, where we asked him about his new gig, several of his old ones, and how he got into acting in the first place.

Bullz-Eye: You, sir, are no stranger to period pieces.

Matthew Macfadyen: I’ve done a few, yeah. [Laughs.]

BE: What was it about “Ripper Street” that stood out for you in particular? Certainly it’s a bit darker than some of your past fare.

MM: Yeah, I thought it was dark. But I just thought the writing was brilliant. I really did. I didn’t expect to…I wasn’t planning on doing another series, but then it came along and I couldn’t stop reading it, which is sort of the acid test for me. So that was it, really.

BE: When you took the role, how much of Det. Sgt. Edmund Reid was on the page, and how much were you able to bring to the part?

MM: It was all on the page. I mean, it’s there. It’s so beautifully sketched out, and there’s so much going on underneath him. He’s got this terrible thing with his family, his daughter, so…there’s a lot. It’s interesting. And I think the writer, Richard (Warlow), doesn’t immediately build the characters, but you know there’s a back story, and it sort of comes out in dribbles. It evolves.

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“Pulp Fiction” Blu-ray is better than a $5 milkshake

Is “Pulp Fiction” the greatest movie of the 1990s? That seems to be a popular talking point on the eve of the film’s Blu-ray release, with everyone from Entertainment Weekly to star John Travolta (on one of the disc’s new special features) making their case for the argument. Whether or not you agree doesn’t really matter, because Quentin Tarantino’s sophomore effort is definitely up there among the best, which only makes the film’s numerous snubs at the 1995 Academy Awards (particularly for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor) seem even more egregious nearly two decades later.

Though I thought about putting together a list of my five favorite scenes from the film in celebration of the Blu-ray release, I quickly realized that there were far too many great moments to choose from to settle on just five. The movie was already pretty close to perfect when I first saw it on DVD as a teenager, and it’s even closer to perfection now after receiving the Blu-ray treatment. It’s sometimes easy to forget how much a good high definition video transfer can do for a film’s presentation, but the director-approved HD transfer on “Pulp Fiction” is absolutely stunning. And yet, while the movie looks better than ever, the disc’s brand new special features are the real standout additions.

The first featurette, “Not the Usual Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat,” is a 43-minute retrospective that includes interviews from several key cast members about everything from getting involved in the project, to production, to the Cannes premiere and the film’s subsequent success. While there are a few notable absences from the list of participants (like Tarantino, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames), it’s still loaded with tons of interesting facts about making the film. Travolta and Jackson are particularly enlightening, with the former revealing that he was initially pitched the lead role in “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn” before landing the part of Vincent (a role originally given to Michael Madsen) and the latter telling a funny anecdote about the history behind Jules’ Jheri-curled wig.

The other featurette is a film critic roundtable moderated by Elvis Mitchell entitled “Here Are Some Facts on the Fiction” that, while not as revealing as the retrospective, offers up an engaging conversation about each critic’s first experience seeing “Pulp Fiction” and their thoughts about the movie. It’s especially fascinating to listen to Stephanie Zacharek discuss her love/hate relationship with the film, as it appears to take the other critics (all of whom regard it as a modern masterpiece) by surprise. That doesn’t exactly make the debate over whether “Pulp Fiction” is the best movie of the ‘90s any easier to settle, but then again, the question itself is ultimately more important than the answer.


Diane Kruger visits the GQ photo booth

Funny story: Quentin Tarantino didn’t originally want to cast Diane Kruger as German movie star turned spy Bridget von Hammersmark in his WWII epic “Inglourious Basterds” because he didn’t believe she was really German. After finally convincing him otherwise, Kruger was awarded the role, delivering one of the film’s finer performances in the process – somewhat surprising considering she was so forgettable in films like “Troy” and “National Treasure.” We’re not the only ones who think so, either, as GQ‘s Devin Gordon is more than willing to admit in his latest piece on the former model.

Kruger recently visited the GQ studio for a photo shoot to promote her latest role alongside Liam Neeson in the action thriller, “Unknown,” and along with the sexy pic above (in addition to several sexier and more playful shots of the actress in animal fur and leopard print on the website), Kruger spoke briefly about the “Inglourious Basterds” incident and what it’s like working with Neeson. Click over to the article for more.