27 December 2015

In Movie Lines (with Movies from 2015, Tarantino Movies...and Links): Christmas Week

Movies I've Watched

December 20th - December 26th, 2015

Movies from 2015

 Love & Mercy
Dir. Bill Pohlad, 2015

Paul Dano and John Cusack offer top-notch, maybe even career-best, work as Beach Boys braintrust and resident genius, Brian Wilson, during two pivotal periods of his life. 

Dano is the Wilson in command of the recording studio, declining to tour with his brothers and the band in order to stay back and make what would become Pet Sounds, one of the great albums in Rock 'n' Roll history. Stress, familial strife, experimentation with drugs all mix in with a budding mental health issues and all are evident in Dano's performance. The Dano segment of the film also contains some of the most realistic, fascinating music-making I've seen on a non-documentary. 

Cusack plays Wilson circa the mid-1980s, a man looking to escape a hell of mental illness and medication, tightly controlled by his psychiatrist/manager, Eugene "Gene" Landy (Paul Giamatti). When he wanders out to buy a car one day, Wilson meets the person who would change his life for the better, forever in Melinda Kae Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Cusack nails every nuance and emotion the real-life Wilson must have felt. And the result of his segment is as satisfyingly triumphant as biopics get. ★★★ 1/2

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2015

What more can be said. It's the most fun I've had at a movie all year. Full (No Spoilers!) review here

The Hateful Eight
(70mm Roadshow Version)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2015

My favorite (and really only) Christmas present to myself was Advance tickets to Tarantino's Roadshow. It is every bit as sharp as you'd think and works as an interesting experiment in filming interiors. That image is wide and deep and so rich. I'm at a bit of a loss as to where I exactly stand on the movie as a whole, as a story. I refuse to write a full review until I see it again (probably when it comes to a standard wide release). It's so worth seeing (and see it in this 70mm widescreen format!!) for the spectacle alone. It's funny and stylish, as expected, but I just left without much of an emotional response to the story. And I felt the same way about Django Unchained, a film that has grown on me with subsequent viewings. 

Tarantino (A Brief Retrospective)

For my next Directed by... post, I've changed my mind. I briefly started a David Fincher retrospective, but I sort of fell out on it, got all geared up for The Hateful Eight, and my wife and I decided to jump into a few Tarantino titles. The plan is to go through the rest and see the latest again and get to ranking/writing. Consider this a preview of that project. 

One small motif I want to hit on with these watches is Tennessee as a geographical point of interest. Tarantino was born in Knoxville (where I was raised and currently live). He references Knoxville, or another city in Tennessee, in nearly every one of his films (Reservoir Dogs being the most abstract and presumptive. None at all in Kill Bill.). It's fun, for us East Tennesseans, to have that connection with his films. And I think it's no accident that Knoxville (by far the smallest city to get his Roadshow) was on the list for The Hateful Eight on film. 

I'll start that here with the first three we watched. 

Pulp Fiction

Christopher Walken's cameo as Vietnam POW Cpt. Koons reveals to a young Butch Coolidge (the Bruce Willis character) that his family heirloom was purchased in "at a little general store in Knoxville...Tennessee." We know where it was hidden. Later, Butch is heard on the phone talking about collecting his winnings from a bookie in Knoxville. 

Inglourious Basterds

Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is a hard-ass hillbilly in the business of "killin' Nazis." He tells Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) where he's from. Landa in interested. "Maynardville, Tennessee," he says. That's a small rural community about 30 miles from my house. We play their schools in basketball. I know them. A man like Raine would most certainly come from there. 

Django Unchained

Is there ever a wrong use of Don Johnson? His cameo as Big Daddy, the Tennessee Plantation owner, is one of the best things about the movie. Now, let's be clear, they didn't shoot that in Tennessee. See the Spanish Moss on the trees? That's Louisiana. There's also a mention of a plantation in Gatlinburg, a city in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. There was never a cotton plantation of any kind there. It's too mountainous. 


I Heart Huckabees
Dir. David O. Russell, 2004

"And even tinier connections." - Bernard Jaffe

"And even tinier cracks." - Tommy Corn

Not as good as it once was. I connected better as a younger man. But still a zany, clever ride of a comedy. Mark Wahlberg really makes the movie. 

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Dir. Peter Weir, 1975

"Everything begins...and ends...at exactly the right time...and place." - Miranda

A second watch was irresistible. I am so in love with this film. Blind Spot post drops Tuesday morning. 

The Color Purple
Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1985

"I curse you. Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!" - Celie

This movie is absolutely beautiful. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, triumphant. Ugly cry face multiple times. So much love. 


Sati really dug The Force Awakens.

Dell has plenty of Christmas love, if you're still feeling festive.

Khalid reviewed Steve Jobs and made some Oscar Predictions.

The Numbers

I have seen 220 movies this year so far. 

2015 Releases - 29

Re-Watched - 82

First-Timers - 109

What have you been watching?


  1. I've seen every Tarantino movie and had no idea about all the Tennessee references. Just wasn't paying close enough attention, I guess. Very cool, though. Glad to see some love for The Color Purple which seems to have fallen out of favor over the last few years. I still think it's great. Thanks for the link!

    1. Oh, they're riddled with Tennessee references. The only ones that aren't blatant are Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown. There aren't really any at all in Kill Bill. But it is a lot of fun, like I said, to have that connection. Legend has it Tarantino even did a year of elementary school at South Clinton Elementary, which is in my hometown. Love The Color Purple. My Mom showed it to me when I was probably way too young, but it great. No problem!

  2. LOVE the Tennessee references in Tarantino's work and CANNOT WAIT FOR ANOTHER DIRECTED BY POST!!!!!

    Thanks for the link love.

    One correction on your post though...Jude Law makes I Heart Huckabees...then Naomi Watts...THEN Mark Wahlberg ;-)

    1. It's coming, man. There is just so much to say, it's hard to do those posts. I have to really edit myself.

      No problem. Glad to have you back, once again.

      And, yes, I love Law and Watts there as well. They both shine in the last act. The "how am I not myself?" sequence is so perfect.

  3. I'm excited for The Hateful Eight. I wish I could've enjoyed Picnic at Hanging Rock as much as you did.

    1. Go see the 70mm version if you can. So gorgeous.

  4. You are leaving out the most important part about Tartantino .. He went to Sount Clinton for a while, which is WHERE we live. That's even cooler. As for Maynardville, you know that is right by where my parents live, and I grew up with Raines saying "Natzis." I wish he would have stayed true to the Tennessee plantation thing in Django, but I still love it. Just have them going to Memphis. That makes more sense anyway considering they are coming from Texas. People would have thought they were safe once they had crossed the Mississippi anyway.

    1. Yeah. I should've mentioned Clinton up there. Raine is so Maynardville. Big screw up with the Tennessee Plantation, but nobody's perfect. Haha.

  5. I saw The Big Short, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, & Joy all this weekend. All excellent films. (I was going to see The Hateful Eight in 70mm, but it was sold out, & the theater that it was at is one of my least favorite theaters to go to).

    I may see Carol this weekend. It looks like a real big Oscar contender. Cate Blanchett looks amazing in it.

    And I finally watched Boogie Nights. Excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent.

    I've seen all of Tarantino's films except for Death Proof & The Hateful Eight. Out of the films he's directed, my favorite is definitely Pulp Fiction. But out of all his films (including the ones he didn't direct, only screenwriting), my favorite film of his is True Romance. What an excellent film. The scene with Dennis Hopper & Christopher Walken is one of the greatest scenes in cinema.

    And also, have a Happy New Year!

    1. I'm seeing Joy and The Big Short later today. Can't wait. Carol and Brooklyn this weekend.

      Definitely go see The Hateful Eight with the 70mm. You may never get another chance to see that super widescreen format. You can't go wrong with Pulp Fiction. Great great movie. And that scene in True Romance is totally iconic.

      Glad you got to catch up with Boogie Nights. Such a great film.

      Thanks! And Happy New Year to you as well!

    2. Ok. I'll try to see it in 70mm. I must ask… were there any problems with the projector or anything when you saw it in 70mm? Because I heard that a lot of people said that there were a lot of problems with the projectors when they saw it.

    3. Not a single problem for me, man. Played perfectly.

    4. Ok, that's good. I'm seeing it this weekend in 70mm.

  6. I did not know about the references in the Tarantino films but I like that-it's his own in joke just like Hitchcock did by having a cameo. I want to see Star Wars and The Hateful Eight for sure. Love and Mercy sounds excellent. I have not seen The Color Purple since it came out all those years ago. I have to re-watch that in 2016. I have been watching all the Christmas films-Most recent has been White Christmas which i love. We watched the latest Jurassic Park...It's OK but it is the same thing. You would think that these morons would finally realize that humans and dinosaurs don't mix well.

    1. Haha! Yes. Recreating dinosaurs is not smart. Why do it again?

      I can advise you to definitely re-watch The Color Purple. It is so solid.

  7. Love the Tennessee references -- I'd never picked up on that. I am so glad to hear that the Hateful Eight is as good as we'd all hoped.

    1. Yeah. We get such a kick out of Tarantino being from here. He moved to LA as a young kid though. Hateful Eight is good, but I can't call it great yet. Need to see it again.

  8. FINALLY saw Star Wars yesterday with my Mom, an OG Star Wars fan. We both loved it; so much fun!

    I need to get on Picnic at Hanging Rock. I have the Criterion Blu-Ray just sitting here.

    I've been trying to take advantage of not having work the week in between Christmas and New Year's to see things I missed or the glut of Christmas releases. I've seen Brooklyn, Star Wars, Tangerine, Spotlight, and Queen of Earth so far. All are good, and Brooklyn and Tangerine are GREAT. Can't fucking WAIT to see Hateful Eight in 70mm, which I'll be doing this week at some point.

    1. Yeah, man. Do Picnic at Hanging Rock. I will be buying it come next B&N Criterion sale. I have Tangerine and Queen of Earth on deck on Netflix and will see Brooklyn and Carol this weekend.

  9. Thanks so much for the link! That is an insane amount of movies you saw this year! I watched maybe 60 2015 releases and still did better than last year :)

    1. No problem. I love your posts. So vibrant.

      That number is for all movies I've watched this year, not just 2015 releases. I've probably only seen about 30 or so 2015 movies. I WISH I could see hundreds of new releases each year...like real critic level. Alas, my actual (paying) job gets in the way.