As Christmas fades from memory and awards season gets into top gear, this month’s movies are a mix of sequels to classic, much-anticipated Tarantino and gritty real-life. In other words, something for everyone…
The Hateful Eight
Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Quentin Tarantino clearly has a taste for Westerns, as his follow-up to Django Unchained also heads into the realm of cowboys – though not in the manner we’re used to seeing. Instead, this is far more Reservoir Dogs with Stetsons – a kind of locked-room drama where you don’t know who to trust and anything can happen. Russell is the grizzly lawman transporting Jennifer Jason Leigh to her trial and probable execution when he stops off at a remote lodge in the middle of a snowstorm, where the men they meet all have their own lies to hide. With many of Tarantino’s repertory company returning, including Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, expect wit, tension and a dash of mayhem.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar buzz is already surging for Leo thanks to his performance as a frontiersman left for dead in the freezing wilderness. Directed by last year’s Oscar winner Alejandro Iñáritu, the shoot has been described as gruelling as he strove for authenticity. That may not have been great for the actors, but it could pay off with the Academy voters. It looks spectacular that’s for sure – and DiCaprio is the perfect person to bring the kind of intensity needed for such a brutal role.
The Big Short
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale
Adapted from Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller (he also wrote Moneyball) about the financial crisis and the money men who made a killing betting against the market, this remains as timely as ever. Sometimes it’s difficult to know who the good guys are. Are the brokers doing us a service for sticking it to the banks and exposing their ineptitude? Or are they just as greedy? These are the kinds of conversations you’ll have after watching a brilliant and eclectic cast take us through the story.
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
No, not strictly another Rocky sequel, but a nice way to making the story feel more relevant for the 21st century. Adonis is the son of Apollo, so brutally killed by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, who’s a gifted pugilist desperate to make his mark just like his dad. Cue his old man’s bestie Balboa, now a tragic, lonely figure who gets the chance to rebuild his life. Stallone has never got the credit he deserved for playing Rocky – mainly thanks to the increasingly cheesy follow-ups – but aided by the excellent Jordan and brilliant new director Ryan Coogler, this will appeal to series fans and bring in new ones.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams
Journalists on-screen are an odd bunch. Either they’re brilliant and campaigning, handsome and clever, slimy and opportunistic, or pathetic plagiarists. This awards contender tries to right that ship a little by making them regular people trying to do a tough job and giving it their all. Yes, they are trying to expose paedophilia in the Catholic church in the Boston area (they are writers for the Globe), but it feels a little more realistic. You will be furious at the systemic misconduct by people in positions of trust and hopefully it might restore a little faith in the media.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Toby Stephens Director Michael Bay steps away from absurdity to focus on a tremendous real-life story (though it’s still packed with explosions and gunfire). Based on a book, it tells of a courageous security team who tried to defend the American Embassy during the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks. You’ll know that the ambassador was killed and a quick Google search will show that the ending to this particular portion of the story is bittersweet, but it’s something that needs to be told. Whether it’s the next Zero Dark Thirty is difficult to tell, but it’s certainly a compelling narrative.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro
The amazing story of the trapped Chilean miners gets the big-screen treatment, five years after the event. An incident that sparked international sympathy, Banderas leads the cast in a film that highlights corporate greed as well as the triumph of the human spirit shown by the miners and the co-operation demonstrated by the rescuers.