Trailer park: Now You See Me 2, The Hateful Eight, Point Break

Next up for the ‘trailer park’ we have an odd mix: a comedy focused on the zeitgeist-y hot topic of magic, the cinematic event that’s a Tarantino release and the remake of a ’90s cult classic (to some at least).

Now You See Me 2
(out June 2016)
A surprise hit a few years ago, this ensemble cast gelled well and were a treat to watch. From the trailer you’ll see it’s more of the same, but with a few additions including Lizzy Caplan and – in an inspired touch – Daniel Radcliffe.

The Hateful Eight
(out Dec 2015/Jan 2016)
Tarantino threw his toys out the pram a few times during the evolution of this film due to script leaks but thankfully he manned up and made it. It will be interesting to see how this fits into his legendary filmography, as it has lashings of Reservoir Dogs and touches of Django about it.

Point Break
(out Dec 2015/Jan 2016)
Kathryn Bigelow made her name directing this 1991 action flick with Keanu Reeves as a young, dumb cop chasing Patrick Swayze’s thrill-seeking criminal. Originally Gerard Butler was set to play Brodie but pulled out, so they’ve got a lookalike. And in Keanu’s role they’ve got a hybrid of Paul Walker and Heath Ledger, so we’ll see how it pans out.

Django, Tarantino, Waltz and fantastic Foxx

From a failed heist gangster movie and female assassin revenge tale, through to an alternative take on the death of Hitler and Spaghetti Western tackling racism in the deep south – Quentin Tarantino has never failed to defy expectation.

Indeed, he’s spoken in the past about how he wants to maintain a consistently high standard for his directorial filmography: Something largely achieved thus far, perhaps excluding Death Proof,  which whilst not that bad, clearly wasn’t vintage Tarantino. django foxx waltz wantedThat said, from Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds through to this latest offering, you can see progression in his work; particularly his love of Spaghetti Western and its cinematic heroes and villains.

There’s plenty of scenes in Django Unchained that put me in mind of both Basterds and Kill Bill. The sort of tense, dialogue-heavy exchange between two characters that builds and builds to an epic – often explosive – climax. You see this in Django on more than one occasion; like a Writer-Director who’s flexing his muscles and grandstanding, but pulling it off with flair and panache.

Say what you like about Tarantino, but there’s hardly any Directors working today that’d go anywhere near this sort of material. That’s not to say much of it is historically that accurate, but with his trademark lashings of ultra-violence and wonderfully realised characters, it does make darn good cinema; putting it worlds away from bland Hollywood rehashes and remakes.

django shadesDjango. The d is silent

In terms of plot, Django kicks off with Christopher Waltz’s bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz, seeking out a slave called Django (Jamie Foxx) to help identify his next set of targets, the Brittle brothers.

Schultz abhors slavery and agrees to set him free once he helps complete the job. Turns out, Django is a natural at bounty hunting and Schultz urges him to partner up over the winter, to which he agrees.

During this time Schultz learns Django has a wife called Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), whom he plans to find and free once winter is over. Once Schultz hears this tale he agrees to help free Broomhilda from sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). As you’d expect, their plan doesn’t go as hoped and culminates in typical Tarantino fashion.

I like the way you die, boy

Originally there were a few actors rumoured for the part of Django, but I’m glad it went to Foxx. He really stole the show, bringing an effortless cool swagger and ruthlessness to the character. His tough, uncompromisingdjango and candie demeanour put me in mind of his performance in Collateral, particularly the scenes where he had to impersonate Tom Cruise’s hitman, which he did with great skill and poise.

Waltz, as the eloquent, unfailingly-polite bounty hunter, was on top form. Playing almost a continuation of his character from Basterds – but with more of a moral compass, even for a bounty hunter – he lit up the screen, every scene laying the groundwork for his encounter with DiCaprio’s violently sadistic Calvin Candie.

Which brings us to DiCaprio. Whilst aspects of characters he’s played in the past have been morally questionable, this is his first out-and-out pure bad guy. A Tarantino-scripted bad guy no less, which clearly gave him something to sink his teeth into, which he did with malevolent glee and aplomb: Revelling in scenes where he bounces off Waltz’s more moral Schultz.

django stephen samuel l jacksonFinally, honourable mention should go to the most dishonourable and despicable character, Samuel L Jackson’s ‘house n*gger’ Stephen. A black man who despises blacks more than most whites in the film do – viciously clinging to his position of power and authority in the Candie household.

Stephen is easily the most contemptible character Jackson has played in his career, something he does with astonishing conviction – subverting his natural charisma to make Stephen quite unpalatable to watch, but captivating nonetheless.

Hey, little troublemaker

It’s no big revelation that a Tarantino Western has been coming for a while. He’s peppered all his films with key scenes that nod to the genre: From the mexican stand-off in Reservoir Dogs and most of Kill Bill Vol 2, through to the powerful opening scene in Inglourious Basterds.

In terms of where this sits in his filmography, I’d say it’s on par with Kill Bill (I and II combined) but just edges Basterds – so one of his best, albeit suffering from a slightly long running time. If you’re even a passing fan of Westerns or Tarantino films, you won’t want to miss it.

[Interesting links]
Tarantino’s Top 20 Spaghetti Westerns
The Quentin Tarantino archives
Faster, Quentin! Thrill! Thrill! – Roger Ebert’s journal

kill bill 2 carradine thurman

My top 10 supercool film soundtracks

  1. the life aquaticThe Life Aquatic
    (Wes Anderson)
    Two reasons this is my top choice, Seu Jorge and David Bowie. Seu Jorge’s take on Bowie tracks perfectly complemented the film. Standouts for me include his versions of ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Space Oddity and ‘Rebel Rebel’. Oh, and ‘Changes’, it’s beautiful.
  2. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)
    It’s hard to select just one Tarantino film soundtrack, most of his films have outstanding music to set the scene. If pushed for an alternative I’d probably say Kill Bill 1, then Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction takes this one though, with use of Al Green, Dusty Springfield, Kool and the Gang, and many more.
  3. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese)
    Jimmy ConwayThere’s detail here about how Scorsese only used songs that commented on the scene in question in some way. From Tony Bennett’s ‘Rags to Riches’ in the opening credits, the main character’s story is introduced. An absolute favourite scene is where Jimmy is considering whacking Morrie and Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your Love’ kicks in. Impossibly cool.
  4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie)
    When this film appeared in 1998, the soundtrack was key to its appeal. ‘Spooky’ by Dusty Springfield, ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Murvin, ‘Walk this Land’ by EZ-Rollers, ‘Why did you do it’ by Stretch, ‘The Payback’ by James Brown, ‘Fools Gold’ by Stone Roses. Outstanding.
  5. corey and ginaEmpire Records (Allan Moyle)
    A mid 90s film about a group of slackers who work in a record store. It’s a really sweet film, never fails to perk me up if I’m down. There’s so many songs in it too, from the Gin Blossoms and Cranberries, through to Coyote Shivers and Better than Ezra. Check the playlist here.
  6. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)
    Killer soundtrack, kicked off with Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and never let up. Raw, gritty and very 1990s, with Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ for the sexy nightclub scene, and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ overdose scene; tracks selected helped key scenes pack a massive punch.
  7. Juno (Jason Reitman)
    Super sweet indie film with lovely little songs throughout. Watch the opening credits theme song, with its quirky animation, it sums up the film. Actress Ellen Page – who played Juno – suggested to the Director her character would listen to The Moldy Peaches.
  8. natalie portman zach braffGarden State (Zach Braff)
    Another sweet indie film, powered along by the warm little centre that is Natalie Portman’s character. It also included lovely, quirky music by The Shins. If you don’t like this band then you have a heart of stone.
  9. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
    Despite his body of work, this is the first film to win Scorsese an Oscar. I think the phenomenal soundtrack throughout might have helped. The Dropkick Murphys ‘Shipping out to Boston’ fits perfectly. There’s also the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, for good measure.
  10. Snatch (Guy Ritchie)
    brad pittI’m going with another Guy Ritchie film. Along with The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc, this had Madonna, The Specials, The Herbaliser, Oasis and – most impressively – ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack. Watch this scene, powerful stuff.

Looking back through this, I’ve realised it’s a mostly a mix of gangster and quirky, indie films. I’m comfortable with that. It reflects my film tastes, in terms of how music has influenced my love of a particular film at least. There was a lot of films that didn’t make the cut, but it’s a top 10 list, you have to be ruthless.

Use of music in film
I think there’s two routes you can go when using music to complement your film. Either have the music interwoven with the whole theme and tone of the film (think Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman). Or use individual songs to give particular scenes an emotional wallop (Martin Scorsese, Guy Ritchie).

Tarantino the wildcard
An interesting exception to the rule – for me – is Tarantino. Mostly I think he follows the Scorsese approach. However, if you take Kill Bill 1, he uses RZA from Wu-Tang Clan to produce the soundtrack, which weaves perfectly through the film.

‘The Lonely Shepherd’ by Gheorghe Zamfir is such a perfect song for this film. East meets West, pan pipes moving into spaghetti western. RZA heard this eating in a Thai restaurant. Not hard to believe. Similarly Tarantino heard ‘Woo hoo’ by the 5.6.7.8’s just as he was about to leave a shop in Tokyo. He persuaded the shop to sell him the CD and then got the band to appear in the film.

Anyway, I’m going off topic. This probably just proves Kill Bill should really be in my top 10 list. The Hattori Hanzo scene is a true classic and really should have convinced me of this. I humbly beg your forgiveness and ask that it be included as a wildcard.

Kill Bill