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Good news: Your weekend moviegoing needs have been simplified. Every Thursday morning, our What To See guide will highlight the new releases opening in New York City and NYC repertory screenings that are most worth your time.
Here's your guide for the weekend of December 25 – December 27.
Celebrate Christmas with Quentin Tarantino, "glorious 70mm," and more blood than a Friday the 13th marathon…
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demián Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, Zoë Bell, Gene Jones, Dana Gourrier, Lee Horsley
There's a gratuitously extended and hilariously nauseating sequence in The Hateful Eight where two men projectile vomit geysers of cartoonishly red blood. And yet it's still the director's most grown-up work as a director. That's the beauty of what Tarantino has been able to do with his career since the Sundance breakout of his 1992 debut, Reservoir Dogs—he's a prestige filmmaker whose name immediately guarantees Oscar nominations even though his movies are essentially bigger versions of what you'd find playing during Fantastic Fest's midnight slots.
The Hateful Eight, which Tarantino's bloodiest film so far, epitomizes how he’s been able to merge genre excess with A-list notoriety. There are very few filmmakers in the world who'd receive a $44 million budget to make a three-hour-long chamber piece with echoes of John Carpenter's The Thing, and which has required certain movie theaters to drop upwards of $80,000 to support Tarantino’s desired 70mm roadshow cut. Then again, there aren't any other writers and directors quite like Tarantino. With The Hateful Eight, he's made the purest distillation of everything that defines Tarantino Cinema. The surface-level plot is bare-bones: Eight random strangers, including a hangman (Kurt Russell), his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and a former Civil War major with a racially charged chip on his shoulder (Samuel L. Jackson), get trapped inside a quaint and isolated haberdashery during a wicked snowstorm in post-Civil War Wyoming. And none of them are trustworthy, leading to lies, manipulations, murder, and more than one exploding head.
Story wise, The Hateful Eight isn't anything new for Tarantino. Once the characters converge inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, it's basically the German tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds stretched out over two-plus hours, with Tarantino's singular brand of crackling dialogue, we're-having-so-much-damn-fun-right-now performances, and a well-paced escalation from talky whodunit to overboard carnage. But technically speaking, The Hateful Eight represents a big leap forward for Tarantino, an exceptional behind-the-camera filmmaker who's been known for hyper stylization. Here, though, he restrains himself, subtly turning the haberdashery into a claustrophobic yet easily traceable dungeon.
Tarantino's reputation as a screenwriter is incomparable—those two Academy Awards for Pulp Fiction (1994) and Django Unchained (2012) speak for themselves. But with The Hateful Eight, he's pulled off a first: a Quentin Tarantino film where the direction trumps the writing.
Where to see it: 70mm roadshow theater information here.
(The Hateful Eight opens wide on January 1.)
For those who prefer their gritty survival movies without any "bear rape"…
The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Forrest Goodluck
While it's not 2015's best movie (*cough* Sicario *cough*), The Revenant is definitely the year's most assaultive cinematic experience. Watching Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu's fictionalization of the infamous 1820s fur trapper Hugh Glass’ survival efforts in the Montana wilderness is like being slugged in the gut for two and a half hours straight, which actually doesn't seem so bad when you consider that Leonardo DiCaprio and his co-stars spent eight months shooting the film outside in the harshest of nature's elements. The Revenant is an uncompromising piece of punishingly in-your-face filmmaking, but it's also so incredibly shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and meticulously directed by Iñárritu that it's impossible to look away from—and easy to admire.
DiCaprio puts himself through the ringer to play Glass, a stoic outdoorsman who has the worst day ever, barely making it through a horrifically vicious bear attack that leaves him unable to speak or move, and subsequently watching his mixed-race, half-white/half-Native American son get murdered by Glass’ sadistic traveling companion, Fitzgerald (played with strikingly deranged mania by Tom Hardy). Left to die alone by Fitzgerald, Glass overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds, including run-ins with French soldiers and hatchet-wielding Indians and freezing-cold weather conditions, on a one-track-minded revenge mission.
For all of its thematic and narrative bleakness, The Revenant is a singularly beautiful film thanks to Iñárritu and Lubezki's technical collaboration. With everything shot in natural light, Lubezki finds the soulfulness in the savagery, lending the film's gruesome, arrows-to-your-eyeballs action a distinctly haunting effect—it's poetic brutality. Inarritu, for his part, pushes you directly into Glass' predicaments with an immersion that's comparable to the kinetic climax in his pal Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men, except that Inarritu expands upon Cuarón's phenomenal scene orchestration for The Revenant's entire 150-minute duration.
Don't let yourself be surprised when Charlotte Rampling eventually sneaks into the Oscars' Best Actress category…
45 Years (2015)
Director: Andrew Haigh
Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley, Max Rudd
45 Years is Andrew Haigh's long-awaited follow-up to 2011's intensely absorbing chamber drama Weekend, a quiet, character-driven masterpiece of contemporary queer cinema. In his latest, Haigh re-focuses the incomparable intimacy of Weekend—and his recently cancelled HBO dramedy Looking—to another stirring and deeply personal two-hander. In the shattering 45 Years, Berlinale acting champions Charlotte Rampling (who, by all means, needs an Oscar nomination this year) and Tom Courtenay (ditto) give two of the year's most unmissable performances as Kate and Geoff Mercer, a retired English couple whose comfy country life is irreversibly interrupted by a shocking discovery from Geoff's past that arrives within days of their 45th wedding anniversary.
From The Moody Blues to The Turtles, pop standards of the past play an evocatively prominent role in 45 Years. But none more so than The Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” which is sure to become synonymous with the breathtakingly extended scene that it scores, a moment of sustained and utterly galvanizing actressy power that is far too shattering to give away. Once you've actually witnessed it, there's no possible way to forget it or to prevent your mind from drifting back to it in order to work over every minute, magical shift in Rampling's extraordinarily mysterious face, a sliding mask covering a painfully open wound. The Platters' cover of "Smoke" would make for a spine-tingling listening experience in any film, but pairing it with a modern-day drama about the remnants of the past made suddenly and unbearably present is at once deceptively tough-minded and poignantly nuanced, just like the jewel of a film it's scoring. —Matthew Eng
Where to see it: IFC Center
Because what better way to end Christmas than by hanging out with Gizmo after midnight? (Just don't give him any food, of course.)…
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, Polly Holliday, Frances Lee McCain, Keye Luke, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph
How many times can you actually watch A Christmas Story's Ralphie shoot his eye out with that Red Ryder BB gun before you want to throw a tree ornament into the TV screen? The folks at TBS clearly don't think there's a maximum number, since they program that holiday family classic 24-hours straight on Christmas Day every year. If the network's programming team had some gumption, though they'd alternate back and forth between A Christmas Story and Gremlins, that other dark family movie steeped in Christmastime imagery—except that only one of those movies includes a reverential nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Yup, that's why TBS would never air Gremlins alongside A Christmas Story, but that's no longer a problem now that Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema is hosting after-midnight screenings of director Joe Dante's 1984 flick on Christmas night and the night after. Written by a young Chris Columbus, who's since directed the first two Home Alone movies and the first two Harry Potter movies, Gremlins takes place in a Norman-Rockwell-esque town where holiday traditions like caroling and home decoration are upended by an army of scaly, rambunctious, and mean-spirited creatures spawned from the goodie-two-shoes Mogwai known as Gizmo. And when they're not raising hell, the Gremlins enjoy getting sloshed inside small-town pubs. You'll never see Ralphie do that, TBS.
Where to see it: Nitehawk Cinema
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