If having another Star Wars come out this winter has got you feeling Jewish on Christmas, you should know that there will be other movies coming out. I’m sure no one’s told you this, since you’ve probably been getting earfuls of “Luke’s back!” and “there’s a crucifix lightsaber!”, but fear not because there will be plenty of other great choices out there. Here are a couple of things I’m really looking forward to seeing.
Alejandro Iñárritu’s directorial follow up to Birdman looks radical, and I mean that un-ironically. The Revenant is Iñárritu’s first period piece, taking place during the 1820’s in the wilderness of present-day South Dakota. It’s loosely based on the life of historical celebrity fur trader, Hugh Glass, who was left for dead by his comrades after surprising a grizzly bear. Glass survived the encounter, but woke up half-buried with all his belongings stolen, and hungry for vengeance. Glass proceeded to crawl his way back to a nearby encampment where he nursed himself back to health, then relentlessly pursued the cowards that left him and stole all of his stuff, achieving, what I’m sure most would consider, success.
The film is a more dramatic storytelling than the history, which is saying something because the facts already have a grizzly bear and revenge plot.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy can both deliver strong performances, and watching them build off each other should be great. Iñárritu is one of the most interesting storytellers out there. He’s a master of playing with timelines, concocting beautiful stories that he layers in such a way that the method in which they unfold is part of their impact. Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer who helped design the “one take” look of Birdman, is again behind the camera for this story, and from the trailer it looks absolutely amazing. Earlier this year, reports came out stating the ridiculously grueling labor that went into making this film, which shot on location and used mostly natural light. When asked about the shoot being a “living hell,” Inarritu responded, “If we ended up in green screen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.” I’m betting this movie won’t be a piece of shit.
The Hateful 8
Every time Tarantino puts out a flick, it’s a good time. Eight mysterious strangers with histories of violence intercede in an old hunting lodge during post-Civil War America. One of them is a prisoner who has the misfortune of being the subject of mercenary intentions by the other seven. Somehow all of the players are connected, and as long as you don’t read leaked scripts, there should be intrigue that unravels while all of the characters collide over who collects the bounty.
This is another movie that seems to have everything going for it: Tarantino’s world is filled with cartoonishly detailed characters, and QT has tapped familiar faces like Sam Jackson, Kurt Russell, Mike Madsen and Eli Roth to animate them. In the clip where she pantomimes her execution, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character will no doubt be another interesting Tarantino heroine. Rich Richardson has shot everything with Tarantino since Kill Bill Vol. 1 (minus Deathproof), so the style of this film is so distinct that you can almost guarantee what you’re going to get, which is great… as long as you like Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s been lovingly filmed in 70mm and it’s worth it to make the effort to find a theater with a nice old projector. Or a nice new one, either way.
Spike Lee’s latest work is based on the Ancient Greek comedy, Lysistrata, wherein an extraordinary woman rallies her sister-citizens to mandate celibacy upon their men until they agree to a peaceful end to the Peloponnesian War. In Lee’s adaptation a stray bullet and an innocent child’s death are the impetus behind Lysistrata’s radical actions, as she convinces the women of her community to withhold themselves from their men until there is peace in their Chicago streets.
Though the source of a lot of controversy, Spike Lee, when he’s on his game, can parley a social issue into a wonderful story that feels overwhelmingly sincere, with characters who are painfully human. If you’re not into Spike Lee’s politics, I recommend seeing this because it oozes style. Matthew Libatique has shot some of the coolest-looking films of the last 20 years (he also did Straight Outta Compton this year), and this film seems to reach toward the same place as Luhrman’s Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (although I could be making that connection since they are both based on classics). I’m not too sure about Nick Cannon, but Teyonnah Parris has been on a roll, and I think she’ll kill as the lead. Some of the cast are familiar to Spike’s films, like Sam Jackson, Angela Basset, and Wesley Snipes, but with dialogue written in classic Greek verse, I’m willing to pay price of admission just to see Dave Chappelle speak in rhyme.
Man, I am not gonna waste time and explain what Macbeth is about. Everyone should know that. This story has been around so long that if you aren’t even a little familiar with it, then you have messed up somewhere along the way, and you need to find better friends. Friends that will make you read or watch Macbeth.
But just to refresh: after three witches predict he will rule the land, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, debate about hatching schemes, then hatch some schemes-to kill the King and put Macbeth on the throne. The bodies pile up. The End.
Neat! Two modern interpretations of two classic plays in the same month, though I will give Chi-Raq the edge on its particular choices. What makes me want to watch Macbeth, and something that carries most Shakespeare adaptations, is the cast. Fassbender and Cotillard are two of the biggest leads out right now, and watching them portray these intense characters should not only be entertaining, but a demonstration of craft. The cast is rounded out by a group of British actors and actresses, that will no doubt be from some BBC shows I’ve seen, but if they’re from the UK I just assume they’re up on their Shakespeare game. Filmed in England and Scotland, the film looks and feels like we’re watching it through a gloomy, medieval lens. Knowing that the cinematographer comes off two of my favorite detective shows (Top of the Lake, True Detective) makes me think think that the sinister elements of the story will look great. The director Justin Hurzel hasn’t made a huge name for himself yet, but he’s Australian, and, if I may make a leap, the guy who made Fury Road is Australian, and that movie is fucking awesome. And following that logic, Macbeth has a good shot of being awesome.
The World of Kanako
This is my left field pick. I know a lot of you probably think I hate popular movies and box office hits, and that’s not true. I know that this new Star Wars will pay for hundreds more movies I want to see down the line. I respect the box-office factory. And I love Star Wars.
Also, this is kind of cheating because it was released in Japan last year, but it’s a revenge tale about an ex-cop searching for his missing daughter, and the Japanese interpretation of revenge stories are always really intense. The film has a 70’s grit to its look and the version of House of the Rising Sun is a haunting backdrop to the preview clips. This is an example of when a trailer does an incredible job of convincing me to see a movie. The only face I recognize is the star of Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kôji Yakusho, and then all I see is the chance to get as close as possible to two Tarantino films in one year. And I don’t mean that to diminish director Tetsuya Nakashima’s work by saying it’s derivative of Tarantino, because I don’t know much about him. I’m going to see this movie because it could be one of those high-adrenaline pulp-stories that are so often a good show in theaters.
I thought about giving this fifth spot to Daddy’s Home or The Krampus, because I’m a human being, too. I think Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are funny (Wahlberg unintentionally so), and I also enjoy stories about a Christmas monster; but honestly, these are Redbox movies, or movies you see with a group of people. The aforementioned movies look like the type of stories that will be enhanced by actually seeing it in theaters. Prove me wrong, and do it. If you’re right, it’ll be too late. You’ll never get that ticket money back or the precious hours spent watching movies you didn’t like. I will have the satisfaction of having made you watch things I like and watching the value of my multiple multiplex stocks multiply!