When a CIA operative is killed by a team of anarchists, invaluable information is lost—or is it? Not now that a scientist has developed an experimental procedure for transferring memories from a dead man into another man’s brain. The scientist’s name, of course, is Doctor Franks. Not Frankenstein or Frahnkensteeen, but close. The concept’s made all the more unlikely by the choice of recipient—an imprisoned psychopathic murderer called Jericho.
Stark, disturbing, disorienting, director Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (1964) is a masterpiece of macabre metaphor. An entomologist searching for specimens of insects in a desert at the edge of a seaside misses his bus back to Tokyo and is offered to spend the night in the hut of a young widow at the bottom of a sand dune surrounding it on all sides. He discovers the next morning that the ladder has been pulled up by the local villagers trapping him with the woman for years to come.
A godlike eye in the sky that can send down hellfire; fake-fly-on-the-wall drones capable of entering anyone’s home to observe their most intimate moments; militia and religious police who, in the name of God, watch, search, and regulate every aspect of a person’s existence or end it with guns and explosive. In a place with no privacy, your life is not your own.
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.