Two bounty hunters, a sheriff, and a prisoner walk into a haberdashery store… Such is the rambling setup of this old-dark-house-in-a-storm whodunit shaggy-dog story that writer-director Quentin Tarantino has turned into his meta-Western, The Hateful Eight. The colorful, gabby characters have been thrown together on a stagecoach heading for Red Rock, Wyoming, but are forced to take refuge from a raging blizzard in a log-cabin abode, stuck waiting it out with a rogue’s gallery of grizzled ragamuffins trustworthy as far as you can spit.
In this Goodfellas-wannabe drama, in order to go after and finally bring down the Mafia in the North End of Boston, the FBI are willing to make an “alliance” with South Side–controlling Irish-American gangster Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger. The Feds, in exchange for information about the Italians, are willing to look the other way on the activities of Whitey’s gang. This free pass, and having his rivals federally eliminated, allows this scary, unblinking, psychopathic monster to go on a murderous crime spree, muscling in on Mafia territory to grow into the biggest kingpin in Boston.
Set in the late 19th century, Crimson Peak is a Gothic romance, a mystery mixture of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, with a dollop of Young Frankenstein. After the death of her mother from cholera when Edith is 12, the hideously deformed ghost comes back to warn of Crimson Peak. Fourteen years later in bustling, modern Buffalo, New York, the child, daughter of a self-made American building magnate, has become a beautiful aspiring author. She’s swept off her feet by a mysterious, darkly handsome English aristocrat who’s come to America seeking financing for his steam-powered digger of the clay his house is built upon.
In 8th century China, the Tang dynasty, in decline, had built garrisons at the frontiers of its empire, but a hundred years later, some of those militarized provinces chose independence from the emperor. Weibo is the strongest, so a lovely assassin is sent to kill the head of its clan, Lord Tian. Made by Taiwanese writer-director Hsiao-Hsien Hou, The Assassin’s gorgeous, static imagery and characters, glacially slow-moving camera, and mood-filled silences are matched by the mysteries of the story that are only very gradually revealed, all of which evoke the poetic films of the great Andrei Tarkovsky.
Two dice roll into close-up. Thus, down-and-out dockside gambler Johnny Farrell is introduced, along with the theme of characters that make their own luck by cheating with chance, love, and big business. Whereas Johnny just plays his way into a job at an exotic Buenos Aires casino through his cardsharp skills, snappy spiel, and fast fisticuffs, his boss, Ballin, has greater ambitions in creating an international monopoly and is willing to use intimidation, illegal business practices, and murder to attain his goal. Johnny becomes as faithful and obedient to his mentor as Ballin’s phallic walking stick, until Ballin breaks their agreement of no women around, returning from a business trip with a wife—Gilda. Especially as she’s the woman who’d ripped Johnny’s heart out.
The End of the Tour is like My Dinner with Andre but without the dinner or Andre. Yes, it does consist of one long conversation, but unlike Wallace Shaun and Andre Gregory’s fine feast of fascinating, erudite, intellectual spouting, with ideas crashing one upon another, the characters here are remarkable in their compelling ordinariness and awkwardness. It tells of a five-day interview of celebrated novelist David Foster Wallace by rookie Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky on a road book tour following the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking novel, Infinite Jest, which wowed a generation with its brilliant virtuosity.
“Human nature was a mystery that logic alone could not illuminate.” In this tale of memory, fiction, and flashbacked facts, Sir Ian McKellen completely transforms into an aging Sherlock Holmes, a real-life person who’s been misrepresented in Dr. Watson’s books and turned into a romanticized creation. Living in retirement for 33 years following a failure that still haunts him, Holmes, who is rapidly losing his memory, is trying to recall the details of the case that derailed him in the hope of writing an account to correct the “myriad misconceptions created by the imaginative license” Watson had embellished his recounting of the investigations with.
As directed by Russell Crowe from the book of the same name by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios, The Water Diviner is part (anti-) war story, part romance, part history lesson, and part travelogue. Four years after the Battle of Gallipoli in which he lost his three sons, Joshua Connor (Crowe) is driven by the suicide of his wife to leave his Outback farm to go to the battlefield in search of their remains.
Like Hitler, Guy Ritchie has a certain style. Which doesn’t make either of them an artist. However, Ritchie has finally learned how to make a kick-ass action movie, and in adapting a somewhat silly and camp British 1960s TV series, the director has found something that fits his talents and temperament like a tight, flash suit. By far superior to his laughably bad Sherlock Holmes films, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a slick adventure that moves along at a clip from one set piece to the next, connected by banter—not witty, but efficient in setting up each character.
Similar to phonetics expert Professor Higgins’ struggles to save a dirty, guttural-sounding Cockney girl by improving her language and appearance, other experts have tried to save and transform a Lady, too. In 1964, My Fair Lady won eight Oscars, including ones for best film, director, cinematography, sound, music, and for Cecil Beaton’s costumes and set designs. But, 50 years later, does the Lady still look and sound good enough to pass as a dazzling duchess?