Jeremy Lebens is a #Shakopee resident and reviews movies at TheDailyRotation.com.

Prolific and controversial writer/director Quentin Tarantino returns to the (really) big screen with his eighth feature, titled The Hateful Eight, which can be viewed exclusively in a glorious 70mm roadshow edition throughout the next week, before getting trimmed down for a wider theatrical release.

The Hateful Eight isn’t quite Tarantino’s best film or even a satisfying follow-up to his generally loved Django Unchained, but it is a return to his former, pre-mainstream accepted self, back when he was making smaller scaled films.

It’s not that The Hateful Eight is a bad film or even a disappointing one, but it’s definitely a different one and one that most probably aren’t expecting.

I’ve heard some claim that it’s the cinematic baby of Django Unchained and Reservoir Dogs and while I can’t disagree completely I also can’t say that’s entirely the truth.

The pacing and structure of the general story feels very similar to Reservoir Dogs in the sense of who’s who and the Western setting will no doubt earn it comparisons to Django, especially since that was his last film, but The Hateful Eight is something else entirely, borrowing feelings and setups from his previous films, only leading to a different conclusion — one that doesn’t exactly come together as smoothly as the films of his past.

Quentin Tarantino has always been known to be an exceptional writer and a filmmaker that has a unique and unmatched voice and vision. That hasn’t changed one bit with The Hateful Eight.

The film is as talky and as over-the-top and violent as his previous efforts, but it presents itself in a smaller scale. A scale that hasn’t quite surfaced since his Jackie Brown days.

The film plays out in chapters, much like other films of his, but this time the chapters feel and function like actual acts of a play. This is felt even more so when viewing the film in its glorious 70mm roadshow presentation, which comes with a musical overture, a ten-minute intermission and a longer, more grand cut of the film, according to Tarantino.

And he truly does mean grand and epic. The film looks absolutely beautiful. It’s so detailed, so wide and so rich. Watching it and experiencing it theatrically in 70mm is a treat of its own that enhances the viewing and makes it feel like an event film and not just another awesome Tarantino flick.

As I mentioned earlier, the film plays out much like a play, with each chapter focusing on one or two characters, allowing us viewers to truly soak in Tarantino’s latest batch of characters. This works great for the film, because it pairs Tarantino’s tremendous writing talent with a batch of actors that are equally talented.

Nobody generally complains about the dialogue or writing of Tarantino films, because the man is one talented filmmaker that constantly surrounds himself with talent, while also managing to squeeze out career-best or even career-revitalizing performances out of everyone working in his films.

He’s made stars out of Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, while reminding us that Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson still have it in them, despite their sometimes questionable role choices (Sky High anyone?).

Another thing that people generally don’t complain about from a Tarantino film is his pacing, despite his usually long running times. He usually always finds a way to grab your attention and keep hold of it until the sure to be bloody finale.

And that’s where The Hateful Eight almost instantly separates itself from Tarantino’s other films. For once, you can actually feel the weight of the running time. The film moves a lot slower than his previous films and the eventual fifth act payoff is not nearly as satisfying as you might expect.

That’s something that I’d never thought I’d say about a Tarantino film, but here I am saying it.

This is mostly due to Tarantino’s minimalist approach. He strips things down and creates a focused environment that’s all about finding out who is who in one contained setting.

It definitely sets the mood for the film and gives a general mystery that’s worth following up until the very end, but that also creates a feeling of disconnect as Tarantino’s filthy and untrusting characters come head-to-head.

Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins lead the film and give it a level of energy that’s unmatched by other films boasting Oscar-worthy performances. One thing that can’t be said about The Hateful Eight is that it’s a boring film with weak performances.

No sir.

It’s a slow-boil. A film that takes its sweet time, but it’s always engaging its audiences through its memorable characters envisioned by Tarantino and brought to life by Russell, Jackson, Goggins and the rest of the bunch, including a surprise cameo that’s deeply rewarding.

The Hateful Eight is no slacker in the performance department, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Even Michael Madsen manages to cough up a worthy performance that will be considered the highlight of his career of the past ten years.

Walton Goggins stirs up the most excitement among Tarantino’s newer performers. He stole some of the spotlight in Django and now commands the screen with a joyous performance that’s constantly shooting for the stars with a half grin/half smile. I always love seeing Tarantino pluck talent and turn them into mega-stars.

Also, many consider Kurt Russell‘s performance his make-up with Tarantino, since most considered their last combined effort, Death Proof, to be Tarantino’s weakest film. I personally love that film and consider it one of Russell’s best performances, but The Hateful Eight does a fine job continuing the hot streak between the two. Although Samuel L. Jackson sort of outdoes Russell’s gun-slinging bad ass.

Which again, should come as no surprise since Samuel L. Jackson‘s best performances have all came from Tarantino films, whether he’s the star or a supporting player.

I realize that I haven’t really reached a conclusion on Tarantino’s latest film. I can say that The Hateful Eight is definitely no Django Unchained. And when I say that I know that I’m being somewhat narrow-mined, because not once does it try to be that film.

When I say that I mean that I personally don’t hold it as high as Django, which just might be my favorite Tarantino flick if we’re not weighing in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. If we are, then I’d have to tie those two for first and give Django second. From that point I’d land The Hateful Eightsomewhere ahead of Kill Bill 1 & 2, but not quite Jackie Brown, Death Proof or Inglourious Basterds.

But Tarantino films shouldn’t be compared immediately to his previous works and should instead be weighed on their own rights. The Hateful Eight is a gore-filled piece of Tarantino entertainment that’s written, directed, acted and scored to near-perfection. Seriously, Tarantino is one of the best American filmmakers alive and he continues to churn out quality scripts and films in general.

The Hateful Eight might not be as tightly structured or as rewarding as we’ve come to expect out of a Tarantino picture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good film. I wouldn’t exactly call it the best of the year, but it’ll grace my top ten list at some point. And that’s still a mighty compliment in my mind.

The Hateful Eight is a slow-burn Western that doesn’t quite reach the heights of perfection, but comes riding up real close on several occasions. The film’s intimate nature and more relaxed pacing cripples the overall feeling of the film, but still leaves you with a worthwhile experience that can only really be fully appreciated on the big screen, preferably in 70mm.

You can find the full review of The Hateful Eight at TheDailyRotation.com.