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War Dogs (2016) Review

war-dogs-posterFrom Warner Bros. and the director of the Hangover trilogy, Todd Phillips, is a comedy about a couple of friends who become arm’s dealers while aiding the U.S. overseas. David Packouz is tired of his career and is about to usher in a new baby with his girlfriend Iz. An old-time friend, Efraim Divoreli, convinces David in joining him in his business AEY, Inc as an opportunity to raking in the big bucks. But when lies soon turns to betrayal, David must make a decision that will clear his name once and for all. The film stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill.

There wasn’t a lot of marketing for ‘War Dogs‘ but with a formidable cast in Teller and Hill one would think it could be for some fun. As the premise indicates it’s about a couple of guys who get into the business of selling arms deals overseas without any knowledge of international laws and economic restrictions when it comes to trade. And with that much information is what the whole movie is about. The movie was okay as it wasn’t memorable or terrible but rather it had potential to be more then what I had expected. There were moments that made me laugh and much of that came from Jonah Hill who’s the one that influences his friend, David, to joining in his business. 635941649200081557-AATD-FP-035

What I had trouble with had more to do with the pacing and direction of the film as it progressed. The movie started off taking its time as David runs into his long-time friend Efraim as they catch up after so many years. Then it takes its time as we get into the details of the operation and how arms deals work. By the end of the movie we get a very disappointing conclusion that was building up to something that at least for me should’ve been more. Instead, the conclusion falls flat and doesn’t feel like there was any resolve or a confrontation that should’ve taken place. So as for the editing it really struggled. We then get into whether the movie is supposed to be a drama or a comedy but rather ends up being a combination of both which didn’t always work.

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The chemistry between the actors was fine as there were moments that had me laughing. Without getting into spoiler territory, once we see both David and Efraim head to Iraq while trying to transport weapons to a military base is when the laughter really begins. There is even a surprise appearance, to whom will not be told, that has some involvement between David and Efraim. From an acting standpoint there weren’t a lot of problems because both Jonah Hill and Miles Teller did great together. This leads us to Ana de Armas who plays as David’s girlfriend, Iz. As we get to know her and then find out of her pregnancy we get to build a little bit of compassion for her when the secrecy of the business starts to slip and becomes more frustrated as time goes on. For what she did, Armas did great and nothing could be said otherwise.

Overall, ‘War Dogs‘ suffers from an identity as it tries to cater to being either a comedy or an action drama. Most of it stems from the script and there being way too much of the details that had to be spelled out to the audience. Both Miles Teller and Jonah Hill did a fine job while shaking things up a bit as the movie trudged along. If you’re going in expecting a straight up comedy then you may be left disappointed but it’s not to say the movie doesn’t entertain.

Rating: 6.3/10

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What do you guys think of ‘War Dog‘? Do you plan on seeing it? Which are your favorite Jonah Hill and/or Miles Teller films? Comment below and share your thoughts.

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Don’t Breathe (2016) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


dont-breathe-posterIt’s the perfect hit and nobody around to raise the alarms for Rocky, Alex, and her boyfriend as they look to rob the home of a veteran soldier who just so happens to be blind. The problem though is he’s not only crafty but downright dangerous and may have just given the intruders a run for their money. From the director of the Evil Dead (2013) remake, Fede Alvarez, comes a new twist in this new horror gem that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The movie stars Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto.

With good praise coming out early for ‘Don’t Breathe‘ it got me wondering what we could expect as the trailer caught my attention. After viewing the film I will say this was a lot of fun with chills coming from every corner. Starting with the concept of intruders breaking into a blind mans home to only discover he’s crazier then he seems really worked and even pushed the envelope to places that were shocking. The performances were even good, considering it was kept to three characters which gives us enough time to flesh out the characters before things go really bad. Standouts come from Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette who worked very well together and showed great chemistry when they put up a fight against the blind man. Even the blind man who is played by Stephen Lang surely brought terror to viewers eyes when it’s revealed in the movie of his motivations behind his madness.

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One of the things that was appreciated was how the creators turned the playbook upside down by having our antagonist be the one who suffers from an ailment versus the protagonist. In this case, the veteran who lost his eye sight in battle uses methods to go after the intruders and must rely on sound and even smell when appropriate. As the title implies, ‘Don’t Breathe‘ has a purpose and the filmmaking truly sets up a tense and nail biting experience. Take for instance the moment when Alex realizes something’s gone terribly wrong and tiptoes through the hallways before the blindman appears in front of him as they cross paths. It’s seen in the trailer but it has more of an effect when you’re actually watching the movie that it does justice.

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As much as the premise was what got me into the theater is why there are also flaws that at times can be glaring. Take for instance the moment where the blindman’s motive is revealed and how he went about dealing with it. Some of it is far fetched and when someone is not able to see and yet they have the ability to get revenge is when the film loses credibility. The biggest strength the movie has is by keeping the movie inside the home. Because once the movie heads outside is when the villain becomes weak. It’s scarier to imagine being locked inside of a crazed blindman’s home who has a few tricks up his sleeve. There is a little bit of nostalgia as a dog is seen in the movie which plays homage to Wes Craven’sThe People Under the Stairs‘ and at times becomes resourceful for the blind man.

For ‘Don’t Breathe‘ this was a unique experience and is definitely terrifying for the audience. Even with flaws in logic at times, it does what it sets out to do by getting under your skin. One scene in particular was shot hauntingly well that it would give anyone the chills and a turn of the stomach. For Director Fede Alvarez, this movie is a step up from his last effort and shows growth in his career. It shows that it’s not always about the blood and gore but with a clever concept it can go a long ways in leaving an everlasting impression.

Rating: 7/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Don’t Breathe‘? Are you planning to watch it? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Nerve (2016) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


Nerve-2016From the directors of Paranormal 3 & 4, are Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s take on a game that takes a person to their limits and once you start you’ll have to finish, or else. When Vee is pressured to take risks for a change by her best friend Sydney, she takes part in a viral game called Nerve. What starts as an innocent game of truth or dare soon takes a turn towards danger as complicated scenarios are thrown Vee’s way that could mean between life and death. The movie stars Dave Franco and Emma Roberts.

This movie reminded me a lot of ‘13 Sins‘ (2014) which has a similar premise when it came to making money and how someone is thrust into a deadly game with everything to lose. It worked as a thriller as the main character had to complete a series of tests but with each one being more dangerous as the last. But as for ‘Nerve‘ we get a more modern take on how the game utilizes social media to thrust people into uncharted territory and even to the point where it turns players against each other. Another way of looking at it is how so many people have embraced Pokemon Go and hearing how far people would go in catching all of the Pokemon, from getting into accidents or walking off cliffs. Now most of the events were unintended  but the gist of it is in the fact that it created a social media storm.

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Let’s start with the performances by Emma Roberts and Dave Franco as they each participate in Nerve but also finding attraction for one another at some point along the way. This in many ways was Franco’s first stand out performance, coming off of the Now You See Me franchise and ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising‘ that came out earlier this year. He did a good job and was likable as a character who ends up playing a pivotal role along the way. Same can be said for Emma Roberts who at times can make it not seem believable; especially when she’s known for playing it safe to then jumping into being a risk taker. You do get a sense of understanding though for Vee as someone who wants to better herself and wants to move out of her mom’s home. By participating in Nerve it not only breaks her fear of risk but she can also make money along the way as a means.

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Without giving away spoilers as it’s implied in the trailer is how focus was put on the use of social media and the consequences that could follow. The game requires both watchers and viewers which after the movie you’ll understand to the extent of what I am saying. It brought to light how influential social media can have on people, good or bad, and how being a watcher is just as powerful. The ending to the movie is where I’m making my point and it reminded me of how feeding into an event or participating in something that you’re not so sure about can be just as dangerous as to those behind the lens. Things that came to mind were bullying or even the political climate where the media can influence viewers in ways we don’t even know and can sometimes determine the outcome.

Some of the problems I had with ‘Nerve‘ stemmed from the lack of origin of how the game came to be. It’s given some explanation of how the game exists but is treated as a game that doesn’t have an origin. However, what got me the most was how illogical and irresponsible watchers could be when it came to daring people. Some of the challenges were downright dangerous and made you think that the watchers were the real villains as they watch people die from dares they all agreed to. The love component between Vee and Ian is unrealistic and always makes me wonder why that’s thrown in because they easily could’ve turned into good friends. It’s almost as if the filmmakers were trying to appeal to the female audience when in fact the movie was advertised as an action thriller. Last but not least, this is a one trick pony and doesn’t have a re-watchability to it which may as well have been put straight to Video-On-Demand.

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There is fun to be had with a premise that isn’t so original and some good chemistry between James Franco and Emma Roberts, but ultimately the thrills go over the top and becomes illogical as the movie progresses. Without making comparisons, ‘Nerve‘ is definitely better then Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s found footage projects in horror. That said, it is entertaining enough and has some jaw dropping camera work especially if you have a fear of heights.

Rating: 6/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Nerve‘? Do you plan on watching the movie? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Lights Out (2016) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


Lights_Out_2016_posterFrom Producer James Wan, the director of ‘The Conjuring‘ and ‘Insidious‘, brings us a new twist in horror with first time Director David Sandberg in ‘Lights Out‘. As Martin begins to develop fears of the dark he turns to his sister Rebecca as their mom grows more unstable due to her depression. We learn that a shadowy figure named Diana is living in the dark and was a friend of their mother Sophie when both were in a mental facility as kids. After suffering from a rare skin disorder and the doctor’s failed attempts to treat Diana’s condition it takes a turn for the worse. Now Diana is preying on Sophie’s family and will go at nothing to have all but Sophie to herself. The film stars Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, and Maria Bello.

This was one of those films that could’ve been a straight rip-off of ‘Darkness Falls‘ (2003) or Robert Harmon’sThey‘ (2002), but instead we get an inventive take on many people’s worst fears of being afraid of the dark. A nail biter is an understatement as David Sandberg focuses on the light and how terrifying it would be if something was living in the shadows. My overall impressions of the film was that it was excellent and had a well-rounded cast that not only served for the purposes of the movie but also gave us reasons for caring for the characters as well. Never was the movie dull nor did it skip a beat as it followed a tight pace in its 82 minute runtime.

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As we mentioned before, what many horror films lack is in character development. Rather in ‘Lights Out‘ everyone plays a contributing role to where we end up caring for all of them in some way. The movie also does a good job of following the mom played by Maria Bello and her daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) when both of them go back and forth when it came to the safety and concerns of Martin. Seeing from each vantage point and how screwed up the family has been over the years you could only but appreciate the balance in their development as characters. Which then leads us into the shadowy figure herself, Diana, who without giving anything away plays an integral part with Sophie. Diana is also just a freakishly looking entity with an interesting backstory that can only be haunting from first glance.

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The movie is well-paced with one of the best opening sequences that will surely get under your skin. It had me in suspense from the very beginning and didn’t let up until the very end. Just the idea of Sandberg exploring the dark and by creating a compelling story to go along with it is a testament to film makers in the genre of horror. It’s no surprise that he got a little help by James Wan who is currently the go to guy for horror movies and has a way of using audiences fears as we’ve seen in his past films. Every time you’d have a character play with the light and seeing Diana from one moment to the next was terrifying only because you didn’t know where she’d be the moment the light went back on. The thought of what you cannot see is just as frightening of what you can see.

Being that this is David Sandberg’s first feature length movie he did an incredible job. Not only did ‘Lights Out‘ keep you on the edge of your seat but you also were able to care for everyone as well. The performances by Teresa Palmer and Gabriel Bateman were great along with a minor role of Alexander DiPersia, who as Rebecca’s boyfriend, brought some comic relief when needed. That was something that worked to its benefit as well when there were funny moments to help ease the tension when Diana would run amok. Best thing to do is to go into the movie with very little knowledge or exposure to the trailer. If you want to freak people out who haven’t heard of ‘Lights Out‘ then you’ll definitely want to take this ride.

Rating: 8/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Lights Out‘? Are you planning to go watch the movie? Comment below and share your thoughts.

The Shallows (2016) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


UnknownJust when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, Sony delivers a terrifying feature where a perfect paradise soon becomes a hunter’s prey. Blake Lively stars as our heroine, Nancy, who is attacked by a man-eating shark. After finding refuge on a wreath while fighting the elements, Nancy fights for her life to when all seems lost. The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and also stars Oscar Jaenada.

It’s been over 40 years since Steven Spielberg’sJaws‘ splashed onto the big screen in 1975 that not only terrified the audiences but also jump started a new sub-genre in horror. In between time we’ve been acquainted with rip-offs such as ‘Piranha’ (1978), ‘Deep Rising’ (1998), & Shark Night 3D (2011) with television sensations in Syfy channel’s ‘Sharknado‘ that even saw a one-night theatrical release. But none of the names mentioned comes close to the impact ‘Jaws‘ had on beachgoers since then. Well the wait may be finally over as ‘The Shallows‘ comes to be a fresh surprise.

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Let’s talk about the lead actress in Blake Lively, who was awesome in this movie. She came off as a tough heroine to fend off against the beast that came for blood. Every move she made or was thought to make would come at a price. Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say she was down right deserted when she’s attacked. With no one around to help her she managed to use her well-quipped survival skills to survive the elements. The one thing I enjoyed about Lively’s character is that you got to know her and understand her reasons for venturing out to a beach in South America. Those reasons then aid her later on when the shark goes for the kill which leads to Nancy talking herself through the ordeal.

Coming from the director who made ‘Orphan(2009) & ‘Non-Stop’ (2014), Jaume Collett-Serra took on ‘The Shallows‘ and one of the things that stood out was the cinematography cause the movie looked gorgeous. The camera work was great as we saw Nancy riding the waves along with shots where she begins to discover she is not alone. One of the things I took from the movie was how Collett-Serra was able to build suspense with what you couldn’t see. With choppy waters at times you sometimes felt on edge because of the thought of a shark just veering at you from out of nowhere, which actually got to me a few times. It’s no fault of the director because I’m sure that’s the reaction he wanted audiences to get.

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Where the movie struggles with is not trying to run into cliche territory; In particular we’re talking about the shark and how ‘smart’ it is. On occasion there are added characters who you can figure out will become shark bait, or the ending in which is a little unrealistic. But that’s what you would expect in a movie like this and shouldn’t surprise anyone. Characters show up out of nowhere at times with little to no explanation other then they’re just there. However, that’s little to quell over considering the strengths of the film and your invested in the character to make it out alive.

There’s a lot to appreciate here in ‘The Shallows‘ and although it’s no ‘Jaws‘ it definitely is a compliment to one of the all-time greats. Blake Lively was great and it can’t be said enough. Let’s hope this can be a return to a genre that’s been less than stellar over the years and make audiences fear the waters yet again.

Rating: 7/10

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What do you guys think? Do you plan on watching ‘The Shallows‘? Besides ‘Jaws’ which guilty pleasure water movie has been your favorite to watch time and time again? Comment below and share your thoughts.

 

The Conjuring 2 (2016) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


conjuringpostersmallAs the movie season enters into the Summer, movie-goers are hungry for a satisfying horror movie. Up until now Hollywood has struggled in that department; that is until James Wan announced last year that he would return to the world of horror after finishing up ‘Fast and Furious 7‘. And with production coming to a close, he would announce that ‘The Conjuring 2‘ would indeed be his next project and continue the case studies of Ed and Lorraine Warren. After a rousing success with the original 2013 hit and a less then stellar spin-off in ‘Annabelle‘, fans are clamoring to see the franchise return to form with James Wan directing the sequel. So with that in mind, did ‘The Conjuring 2‘ live up to the hype of the original? Maybe so, but that’s nothing to knock at as it truly has a strong footing.

With the return of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in their leading roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren, they venture out into one of the most diabolical cases in history as the Hodgson family in Enfield England experience terror as a spirit slowly destroys the lives of a mother and her four kids. As the mystery goes deeper and sanities begin to reach a breaking point, Ed and Lorraine’s spirits are tested and could potentially lead to their end. The film also stars Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, and Simon McBurney.

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Having seen the original film I was a huge fan and it really catapulted James Wan’s career as a horror director. What made the original so great was the focus put on the characters and you actually caring about them when things go bad. Also, the cinematography was what really stood out as it built tension and suspense. Some may criticize the children in the first Conjuring for being annoying but shouldn’t be at fault as most of the attention was put on the mother, played by Lili Taylor, as she slowly became possessed by the demonic spirit of the evil witch. Where the first movie may have struggled, the sequel rights itself as the children become the focal point.

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There’s a lot to appreciate in ‘The Conjuring 2‘ as most of what’s liked is in the little details. Without giving anything away in spoilers, in the opening of the film we get another introduction to a case study; however this time being where the last movie left off with Ed and Lorraine Warren venturing to Rhode Island and visiting the Amityville home. This to me was a great opening to the movie as we got to see a glimpse into one of the most well-known and most publicized hauntings that would then get into the hands of Hollywood. With the right amount of attention and focus the movie doesn’t spend too much time on the Amitvyville story; rather it builds into the paranormal events that we would then see in the Enfield case. The wrongs that most films do is done right by James Wan and his abilities to not sway away from conventional wisdom. We’ve already been introduced to the Amityville story with numerous films and what Wan succeeds in is not retelling a story that’s been done time and time again.

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As for the focal point of the movie with Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) being manipulated by the evil entity, Wolfe does an amazing job. Not only do you care for her as she tries to prove everyone wrong, but she also has that innocence that most kids would have at a young age. Most of the time in movies people are cast without thought of how they are perceived by audiences. This can sometimes lead to a disconnect; especially when they are in a lead role. There even has to be praise for Frances O’Connor who plays the mom as she delivers a good performance as she tries to keep her children safe when the media begins to come into the picture.

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The casting was superb in this film which leads us to another strong performance by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Their chemistry together is seamless and leads us into rooting for them when things turn upside-down. Even when the media begins to question their beliefs and close encounters with the paranormal, they may start to rethink a continuing venture into the unknown but doesn’t stop them when the Hodgson family come into the picture. There’s a moment when the importance of family is brought into play and how togetherness is what will prevail anyone or anything from tearing them apart. With overall satisfaction, we can potentially see future sequels of Ed and Lorraine Warren and their case studies as Wilson and Farmiga have become the staple of the franchise.

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Now it’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its flaws as the scares we got from the original don’t quite live up here. The first movie was atmospheric with dread; however, here we have a combination of ‘Insidious’ and Conjuring effects. The movie says the Enfield case is the most “diabolical” of them all but I would beg to differ by saying the first movie lived up to that monicker. In ‘The Conjuring 2‘ it’s more so a poltergeist where a spirit haunts the home and isn’t afraid to reveal itself to the outside world. The movie does have tension and some visually terrifying moments that only showcase the strengths of James Wan who knows how to respect the horror genre without resorting to violence as most horror films now-a-days falls victim to. So going into ‘The Conjuring 2‘ you will notice a slight difference in the scares which only benefits the film from falling into retread territory.

After all that was said and all has been seen, ‘The Conjuring 2‘ is a solid sequel to James Wan’s original. Though it may not live up to the original, it definitely makes up for it with strong performances and a spooky tale to be told. Where most sequels fail, Warner Bros. and James Wan do justice and only promises more sequels to follow if and when ‘The Conjuring 2‘ leads to a box-office success.

Rating: 7.5/10

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What do you guys think of ‘The Conjuring 2‘? Do you plan on watching the movie? Comment below and share your thoughts.

The Hateful Eight (2015) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


hateful-eight-poster-comic-conIn what could’ve been a no deal after a script leak that left the project shelved, Quentin Tarantino returned to finish what he started. After his wildly successful ‘Django Unchained(2012), we return to the 1800s in Wyoming where Bounty Hunter John Ruth picks up a couple of strangers while in route to Red Rock. But when they stop by Minnie’s Haberdashery to fend off a snow storm, and visitors already inhabiting the place, personalities clash and their true identities may not seem who they ought to be.

Quentin Tarantino may get a lot of flack for his portrayal of the N word in many of his films or the abundant use of violence. But rest assured he’s one of the few directors who’ll push the limits and give us some great entertainment at that. Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight‘ is shot in 70mm and is the first thing to notice when opening credits hits the screen. Seeing this format is refreshing because it takes you back to the old days where seeing these types of films, like Westerns, were heavily used. Aside from the look of the film we also have to recognize the score, for instance, in the opening credits where it really sets the tone.

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The performances were great with the bulk of the praise going to Samuel L. Jackson. In many ways you wouldn’t know it if from the beginning when we see Major Marquis Warren be one of the first ones to be picked up by Kurt Russell’s John Ruth. As the movie goes on you slowly begin to see Jackson’s character become more aware of the situation and attention moves away from Russell Crow. We do have to give attention to Walton Goggins who plays Sheriff Chris Mannix who was as involved with Warren when things went down. He brought comic relief to what was already a hilarious string of events.

gI7QNB9NglaxAXOXqg83MEYwS3sA lot was riding on the script because of the twists and turns that takes place in the film. With the script being leaked, and having just watched the movie, the payoff wouldn’t have been as effective. Without giving anything away, we also get a surprise appearance. Make sure to pay close attention early on cause after time passes you may forget; especially of a runtime of 163 minutes. But not paying attention can better the experience so leave it to yourselves to decide.

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Compared to ‘Django Unchained‘, this movie isn’t so focused on the  violence with more attention put on the chemistry of the actors. It’s the conversations taking place throughout the movie that allows the viewer to ponder who the bad guys are. And given there are so many characters to follow, sometimes your at a loss of where the film will go next. This works to be a positive thing because as stated before, Samuel L. Jackson along with Walton Goggins, push to gain some ground on what’s actually happening in Ms. Minnie’s Haberdashery.

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Some of the things that may or may not work for audiences is the pace of the movie. Once the setting moves to the Haberdashery it’s where the bulk of the time is spent. And it’s there when things slow down. The reference to the N word may still bother viewers as well just as it was in ‘Django Unchained‘. And lastly, I will say the ending to the film wasn’t as satisfying as other Tarantino films. It wasn’t the payoff I was expecting but with everything that goes on including the twists your somewhat accepting of it.

Although ‘The Hateful Eight‘ may not be as effective as some of Tarantino’s previous films you do leave satisfied none-the-less. With a great cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and in a supporting role by Walton Goggins, their chemistry holds the movie together. With much to laugh about and surprises throughout, it’s an experience that one could appreciate.

Rating: 7/10

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Are you planning to watch ‘The Hateful Eight‘? Comment below and share your thoughts.