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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

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If ever there was a director who polarised audiences, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Some people love his gratuitous swearing and gore, while others detest it. I fall in the former camp – I’ve never seen a Tarantino film I didn’t like, and I think it’s because whatever you think of the visceral way he tell his stories, they are brilliant stories, which I always find myself getting drawn into.

This particular film is set just after the American Civil War. Racist attitudes are rife, crime is high, and life is tough out in the wild West where most of the characters come from. But don’t be fooled – after the opening scenes, showing the journey of some of the characters to Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they seek shelter from a particularly nasty blizzard, all of the action takes place in just one room. It’s a form of storytelling that I particularly enjoy…one location, shot in almost real time.

Anyway the story…the hateful eight of the title consist of John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known as the hangman who is bringing his latest quarry Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee) to the town of Red Rock. He is hoping to claim the $10,000 bounty which has been put on her head; After Daisy herself, there is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) a former Confederate Soldier who is bringing his own bounty to Red Rock for a reward, but unlike Daisy, the two men he captured are dead; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the racist new Sheriff of Red Rock, travelling there to start his new job on the right side of the law; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) a hangman at Red Rock, who informs Daisy that when she hangs for her crimes, he will be the man at the other end of the rope; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a loner cowboy who is heading to see his mother for Christmas; General Smiths (Bruce Dern) a older racist who has come to pay his respects to his long-lost-son; and Bob (Demian Bichir) a man who is in charge of Minnie’s Haberdashery in the owner’s absence. Trapped with them is O.B. (James Parks) who was driving the stagecoach which brought some of the characters to their refuge.

Before long, tensions rise between the characters, many of whom were on opposite sides in the Civil War, and then it becomes apparent that some of the people may be there for an ulterior motive.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot – I went in with a limited knowledge of the storyline and this helped my enjoyment massively. What I will say is that yes, the film is extremely violent and bloody – there’s a lot of swearing and offensive language as well, but it’s also incredibly well told, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. Standout performances for me were from Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and the always wonderful and criminally under-recognised Walton Goggins. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also fascinatingly revolting.

So…if you are squeamish or object to foul language, this may not be the film for you. But if you have previously enjoyed Tarantino, and like dark comedy, definitely give it a try. It’s almost three hours long, but doesn’t feel like it. I loved it and will certainly be watching this again in the future.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Birchi, James Parks

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Okay, confession time. I have never seen the film The Shawshank Redemption. That’s right, I’m the one. And maybe this is a good thing because when you see a play that has also been made into a film (although they were both adapted from different source material, in this case Stephen King’s novella ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’), it can be difficult not to compare. I’m reliably informed that this play is actually closer to the source material than the film is, but nonetheless both tell the same story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is imprisoned for the double murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is innocent but he still serves years in prison for the crime he didn’t commit, and during that time he becomes best friends with Ellis Boyd Redding – or ‘Red’ – who is also in prison for murdering his wife (although Red freely admits that he is guilty).

Despite his physical incarceration, Andy refuses to allow the cruel and corrupt prison staff or the more sadistic fellow prisoners to trap his mind or break his spirit, and his determination to remain true to himself and his values, slowly changes those around him. As Andy’s imprisonment goes on, he becomes involved in doing accounts for the prison warden and helping to shield corrupt financial practices from the authorities, but despite now having the protection of the staff, he is still determined to get his freedom.

The part of Andy Dufresne was played by Paul Nicholls, who was excellent in the role and perfectly conveyed the character’s sense of self-worth and strength of mind. However, the standout role was Red, played by Ben Onwukwe. Red is arguably the biggest character in the play, and certainly has the biggest speaking part, as he narrates the story of Andy’s life in prison and speaks directly to the audience. The rest of the cast were also excellent, including Jack Ellis as Warden Stammas.

Viewer discretion is advised – there is a lot of swearing and depictions of extreme violence, including rape, so this is definitely not a show for children. However, it is a beautifully told, well acted, moving tale of the strength of one man’s spirit. Highly recommended.

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Paul and Claire Lohman are meeting Paul’s brother Serge and Serge’s wife Babette at an expensive restaurant.  The evening starts off normally enough, but it becomes clear that the meeting is more than just a social engagement.  The teenage sons of the two couples have been caught on CCTV, committing a horrific offence, and while they have not yet been publicly identified, their parents have recognised their children as the perpetrators, and have met to decide what to do.  Serge is concerned about the effect it will have on his own future, as he is a popular candidate to be the next Prime Minister, and all four are concerned about the futures of their sons.

The premise of this book fascinated me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I felt that some parts were somewhat unrealistic.  The story is narrated by Paul, who, it becomes clear, has significant anger management problems, which may be genetic, and which he may have passed on to their son Michel.  As he described the restaurant with disdain (understandable at times), he also described the events that had led up to the discovery of his son’s crime, and talks about things in the family’s past.

All four characters, with the possible exception of Babette, were to me, extremely unlikeable.  Initially I liked Claire a lot, but towards the end of the book her actions become perhaps unbelievable, and certainly inexcusable.  Neither she nor Paul seems particularly horrified by their son’s actions, and in fact seem determined to cover them up and excuse them by any means necessary.

The over-riding thing that I noticed about the story was how many secrets the characters kept from each other, and even from the reader.  This became clearer the further I read.  The writing was insidious – it got under my skin and I genuinely found this book hard to put down; there is a kind of sinister undertone running through it.  At first, the narration is innocuous – you might even say banal – with Paul talking about the things that irritated him about the pretentious restaurant they are eating in, but then things take a turn, and we are plunged into something much more shocking.

I’m not sure that the ending was one I liked, but it was certainly one that I didn’t expect, and it is a book which I continue to think about.  I can imagine that it may polarise readers, but I would certainly recommend it.

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Harry Blake and his young son Tom suffer a tragedy when Harry’s wife Sara dies after a painful illness.

Harry returns to Fishers Hill, the village where he spent his childhood, in order to recover from the heartbreak and find comfort for himself and his son.  But coming back only brings Harry more turmoil as he finds himself urgently seeking out Judy Roberts, the woman he abandoned in Fishers Hill 18 years earlier when he was just a young man.

Judy is now married to a thuggish brute named Phil Saunders, who has taken away all of her independence and strength.  She aches for Harry, her lost love, who she drove away when she had deceived him years earlier.  Little does she know that Harry is returning to the village, determined to make amends for the past…

This is the first novel by Josephine Cox that I have ever read. Considering how prolific a writer she is, I expected far more from it, but was sadly disappointed. There was virtually no characterisation – every person in the story either lacked any personality at all, or was a typical stereotype.  It also grated that the main character, who was so obviously being portrayed as a decent heroic man, seemed so able to forget his wife and immediately decide he was in love with another woman (there were a few cursory mentions of Sara later on in the book, which appeared to be there purely to remind the reader that Harry had loved Sara and had not instantly started to forget her, but they didn’t alter the fact that he seemed almost dismissive of their life together).  

I also felt that the story went round and round in circles, and at times, I felt as though despite having read another 50 or pages, the plot was at exactly the same stage that it had been at before I had started them.  Finally, there was great deal of over-explaining – it was as though the author felt the need to explain to the reader exactly what was going on, even when it was completely obvious.

It’s not all bad however – there were two twists in the tale at the end, neither of which I saw coming.  Unfortunately though, it was too little too late for me, and I felt a sense of relief when I finished the book.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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