The Hateful Eight ****

“The Hateful Eight” is the eight film by Quentin Tarantino. If you didn’t know that already the helpful credits at the beginning will let you know. When I read that Tarantino was doing another western I began imagining that this would be sort of spiritual sequel to “Django Unchained”. How wrong I was.

 

“The Hateful Eight” is probably Tarantino’s darkest and nastiest film to date. All of the characters are truly despicable in their own nasty ways. I hesitate to say that any of them are the hero of this story. The story mostly takes place at Minnie’s Haberdashery during a blizzard. Eight different types of villain are hold up during the storm. Eventually it comes to light that some of them have connections. Eventually bitter hatred and secret revelations result in blood shed.

 

From a filmmaking stand point this might be Tarantino’s most visually gorgeous film to date. It is shot in ultra wide screen using 65mm cameras that capture even the tiniest details. From the epic shots of a snow covered country side to the cold and dusty barn where the horses are stabled, this is some of the best cinematography I have seen in a Tarantino movie. The score by Ennio Morricone is down right haunting.

 

Now after eight films by Tarantino i’m pretty sure you know whether you are in to his films or not. If you disliked “Django Unchained” or “Kill Bill” then you are probably goin to really dislike “The Hateful Eight”. It is a nasty and violent film that I enjoyed from start to finish.


The Revenant ****

“The Revenant” is the latest from Alejandro Inarritu. He won last years Oscar for best director for his electrifying film “Birdman”. Here he directs Leonardo DiCaprio in the true life story of fur trader Hugh Glass. Glass lead an expedition of trappers as they venture into unsettled wilderness. When they were attacked by First Nations people about half his party is killed while the rest are on the run. Making matters worse, Glass is attacked by a wild mother bear protecting her cubs. He is wounded and left for dead but not before watching Tom Fitzgerald, a criminal, murder his son in front of him.

The story then follows Glass as he miraculously puts himself back together enough and begins to make his trek towards a settlement so he can seek revenge on Fitzgerald. His journey is backdropped by some seriously gorgeous yet perilous terrain.

Inarritu apparently opted to shoot this entire film in real locations using nothing but natural light. The result is a film that looks and feels about as real and as raw as it gets. Never have I been so immersed in the setting of a film like this. This is the films true power.

The performances are also some kind of revelation. After so many great roles performed by Leonardo DiCaprio was there anything from him we had not seen? Apparently so because he gives it his all here. If he does not win the Academy award that he desperately wants then he never will.

My only gripe with this movie is with the performance by Tom Hardy, one of my favourite actors. He plays Fitzgerald and there was something kind of over the top about his accent. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Joy ***

“Joy” is another enjoyable entry in to this career resurgence that David O’Russell is experiencing. Whether or not it becomes another smash hit at the box office as well as a critical darling remains to be seen. I found it to be a solid biopic. O’Russell is a master at taking indie stories and making them mainstream and accessible to general audiences.

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lawrence turns in a great performance as the woman who invented the miracle mop. The road to her thriving business was bumpy at first due to her meddling family and some potential fraudsters. Robert De Niro steals every scene he is in as Joy’s sometimes loving and sometimes cold father.

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed all of this story in an entertainment level. Did it fully engage me on an intellectual level? I’m not quite sure yet but I do think that O’Russell and his team have another hit on their hands.


The Big Short ***1/2

“The Big Short” is a wicked black comedy filled with some of the most bizarre and unforgettable characters I have come across. The story surrounds the housing market crisis that came min 2007 and a few select people who saw it coming and put financial bets in place to profit from it. These people had know idea how big it was going to be or the level of fraud that would surround it, they just knew that there was a substantial amount of money to be made from the impending crash.

Director Adam McKay makes a break from broad comedies always starring Will Ferrell and takes on some more serious subject matter while still retaining the laughs. The funny moments mostly come from the odd collection of people who saw this crisis coming. The cast includes Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale. Carrell and Bale in particular stood out to me.

Bale plays a financial advisor with a glass eye and a penchant for not wearing shoes to work who sticks to his guns when his clients believe he is about to lose tons of their money. Turns out he made a profit of 489% for them. I would love to see their follow up emails to him after some of them threatened to sue. Carrell plays a particularly fussy character who always says whats on his mind and always seems to be irritated, even when he is making money.

I still don’t fully understand what credit default swaps are or AAA ratings and I mostly likely never will. This film made it about as clear as it ever will be to me and I finally started to see why this all happened who was really to blame.

The Good Dinosaur ***1/2

  

2015 is turning in to a real treat for animated films. Pixar has released two films. Of course it is after a two year hiatus from releasing anything at all so it is a deserved treat. “The Good Dinosaur” is another great entry in to their amazing catalogue of movies. It follows hot on the heels of “Inside Out” which came out this past June. This movie may not be their strongest effort story wise but it is absolutely jaw dropping visually.

The story takes place in an alternate universe where the dinosaurs never went extinct. They remained on the planet and became the dominant species.


Creed ***1/2

  

“Creed” is the latest installment in the “Rocky” franchise. To say it is a direct sequel wouldn’t be right. This is basically a spin off that focuses on the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s main opponent in the original film. Rocky is in the film but is wisely moved in to a supporting role to make way for a fresh and exciting story.

Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, the son of legendary boxer Apollo. He never met his father. He has had a rough upbringing to say the least. He feels that burning desire to become a boxer, against the wishes of his loved one. He seeks out Rocky, played again by Sylvester Stallone, to become a trainer and a mentor. Rocky is at first hesitant but eventually grows to love the kid and train him to his big fight.

Now all of the boxing cliches are all there. Adonis is an amatuer at first but with the guidance of Rocky he becomes an undiscovered talent. Eventually there is a match up with the champion of the world. All of this is routine yet done very well. What drew me in was the story of Adonis and the side story of Rocky. Both of them have demons to deal with, some of them they realize as we go through the story. Their relationship is the heart of this movie. Both actors turn in some of their best work.

Michael B. Jordan gives what I think is his best performance. Stallone you might think have a problem stepping out of the spotlight in a picture that features Rocky but he does not. He immerses himself in the role and reveals surprising depth. This is his best performance in years.

Ryan Coogler, the director of the excellent “Fruitvale Station”, makes these materials fresh and engaging. Even the traditional boxing matches are tense and brutal. All of these great players have made a movie that I think nobody expected could be good and have made it almost great.


Spotlight ****

“Spotlight” is a terrific movie about old school journalists exposing a story that people truly need to know about. It is also a powerful drama about a scandal that was almost world wide in it’s impact as it destroyed the lives of many people and their families. “Spotlight” is also an old school type of drama where the actors are aloud to disappear in to their characters and the writers and director want to tell an engrossing story.

 

The director, Tom McCarthy, who also wrote the script with Josh Singer, has obviously done his research as the film is chock full of scenes where the Spotlight team digs and digs for the truth about the Catholic priest abuse scandal.

 

The team includes a great many terrific performers including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. All are amazing here as professionals in their respective fields.

 

The only mystery I cannot explain is how Tom McCarthy, the director, who also brought us the excellent 2008 film “The Visitor”, could make this movie and “The Cobbler” in the same calendar year? One is an awful Adam Sandler flick, the other is an engrossing drama.