With these six selections, this so concludes the Renegade Six Pack Round Up of 2015. Happy New Year and here’s to a magical year in film for 2016.
The Hateful Eight
The eighth film by Quentin Tarantino, this much hyped and plagued production was filmed in nearby Telluride, Colorado. Early script leaks had Tarantino petulantly pulling the project from production, but a well received one-off script reading put him back on track. I’m calling this Tarantino’s bottle episode film, in which a diverse group of people are trapped together in a cabin during a blizzard. Without spoiling anything, I think I can say that the movie starts out slow and deliberate, only to escalate drastically at the end of the first half. The exponential increase of aggression continuing in the second half is almost mathematical in its precision and severity, building not to a climax but rising in a constant crescendo until the very final moments. Its very Tarantino in a strangely Alfred Hitchcock meets Agatha Christie in the old west sort of way. All I can say is that I can now never watch Miss Marple again without thinking of Samuel L. Jackson.
Beginning with death and fire and ending with death a fire, this Justin Kurzel directed adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale of ambition, murder, and insanity is clearly a well rounded film. Kurzel, the Australian director whose previous work includes the horrifying The Snowtown Murders (2011), brings a haunting grace and gruesome beauty to the battlefields of Scotland and the horrors of Macbeth’s deadly ambitions to be king. Guilt and greed ultimately bring on insanity and paranoia, a dynamic dance of vying motivations superbly portrayed by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the Thane and Lady M. A couple smart additions to the plot cast new light on the couple’s tenacious avarice. Considering the success of this partnership, I will definitely be looking forward to seeing Kurzel, Fassbender, and Cotillard again for Assassin’s Creed this time next year.
Its no secret that I love Sherlock Holmes and will literally watch just about anything related to the character. While there are plenty of film adaptations out there featuring Holmes and Watson as middle aged armchair gentlemen and a new slew of media portraying them as younger, more action oriented men, there’s very little examining his elderly years. There is a wonderful short novel by Michael Chabon called The Final Solution, in which a nameless aging detective takes on his last case and encounters many alarming symptoms of old age. That premise is very like the plot of Mr. Holmes, in which a very old Holmes desperately fights against his failing memory as he tries to remember the facts of his final case while bonding with his housekeeper’s young son. There’s a valuable lesson lost in his memory of that case, if only he could remember. It is a pleasant and touching movie and a rare look at a legendary character.
As with most Paul Thomas Anderson movies, Inherent Vice is more an exploration of the characters and their various neuroses than about a structured story. In this case, Joaquin Phoenix plays a stoned out hippy private eye in a twisted 70s take on a Raymond Chandler style mystery. Like a Chandler mystery, nothing really makes any sense and the elements of the mystery don’t really add up, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the enjoyment of watching the movie. Because, also like Chandler, the story isn’t really about the mystery at all. In the end, its a ridiculous and entertaining movie with a lot of style and some great performances. And considering I saw it once way back in January, that’s all I really remember about it.
Kill Me Three Times
This Australian comedy stars Simon Pegg as a badass hitman who gets caught up in three tales of murder and blackmail. It all takes place in a small community in which the inhabitants are constantly double and triple crossing each other, lining the plot up for one major irony after another. Pegg is more or less an observer on the sidelines, laughing incredulously to himself over the behavior he witnesses, but eventually gets to take advantage of his profession and not only offer his services to some offended parties but take part in a little blackmail on the side. It is, overall, an extremely Australian movie with a very darkly comedic streak, some excellent performances, and a great deal of fun.
Ant-Man had the potential to be a mighty mess of a movie when it lost its writer and director Edgar Wright early in production. Thankfully, leading man Paul Rudd and writing partner Adam McKay stepped in to revamp the Wright and Cornish script and were able to maintain its humor and charm amidst its comic book action plot. And Rudd’s charm as a leading man certainly does not hurt the movie any, really bridging together some of the weaker segments with the pure enjoyability of watching him perform. And for fans of Edgar Wright, some of his touches are still apparent in the script and style of storytelling. As evidenced by the absence of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from this list – which is a decent and fun movie – I think Ant-Man pulled it off better than circumstances might otherwise have allowed and is a better addition to the Marvel movie universe than Ultron.