One Room Country Shack: Quentin Tarantino Unleashes The Hateful Eight

'The Hangman' John Ruth (Kurt Russell, left) is suspicious of 'The Bounty Hunter' Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, right).
‘The Hangman’ John Ruth (Kurt Russell, left) is suspicious of ‘The Bounty Hunter’ Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, right).

Some movies come with a colorful history, meaning that their road to the big screen has been rather unusual. One of those is Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight. Originally designed as a follow-up to the successful Django Unchained, the director temporarily scrapped the whole project because a first draft of the screenplay had been leaked on the internet and, as a consequence, planned to turn it into a novel. Eventually, however, Tarantino revisited the movie idea after a live reading of the script and assembled a mighty fine cast for it. Now that The Hateful Eight has seen its theatrical run and already made it through the recent awards season, how does it fare in comparison with the remaining works of the cult director?

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Lone Star State of Mind: Hotel Dallas is in Romania

Livia Ungur from Hotel Dallas
Livia Ungur guides us through Hotel Dallas.

I saw some documentaries at this year’s Berlin film festival ‘Berlinale’. As this year’s winner of the Golden Bear is another documentary by Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi I felt motivated to write a rating for Hotel Dallas. A Romanian- American production by Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur.

The semi-documental film circles around the fact that the famous series Dallas was the only western show allowed on Romanian television in the 1980s. The Ceaușescu regime wanted to demonstrate the corruption of Western lifestyle and made it paradoxically a role model for many Romanians.

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Pick Up the Pieces: Leonardo DiCaprio is The Revenant

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.

Alejandro González Iñarritu is the most versatile director of our time. After the highly complex Birdman, which reflects on media and show business in a self-referential way, he surprises the public with a movie which couldn’t be baser. It reminds me of the famous quote by Auguste Rodin, ‘I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.’ Because the director has gotten rid of anything in the movie that could be considered superfluous.

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Double Agents: Guy Ritchie Reveals The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Teller), and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, from left to right) ponder how to stop the evil Vinciguerras.
Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Teller), and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, from left to right) ponder how to stop the evil Vinciguerras.

Pop culture has always been captivated by the Cold War. Back in the day, its backdrop spawned the longest-tenured blockbuster movie franchise ever, the James Bond series. This fascination with spies from the East-West conflict has never ceased, particularly so with Hollywood reenacting television shows and feature films from that era. The latest example is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., once co-creator for the small screen by 007 inventor Ian Fleming and interestingly as well as daringly pitting a U.S. and a Soviet agent on the same side to fight against a multinational terror syndicate. Can director Guy Ritchie’s modern cinematic take on the beloved series bring U.N.C.L.E. back to life?

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Attack of the Nerds: Fanboys Makes a Joyride out of Looking Forward to Star Wars

The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Remember when, back in 1999, the Star Wars hype was almost as huge, if not even bigger, than this year? After an absence of more than a decade and a half, the saga was about to return with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and expectations were through the roof. Fanboys, a 2009 comedy by director Kyle Newman, feeds to the frenzy of that time. As the title suggests, you might be in for a wild ride if you belong to the eponymous group. Does the film satisfy in that regard, however, and – on top of that – is it also a movie that’s fun to watch for non-Fanboys?

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A New Chapter: J.J. Abrams Introduces the Next Generation to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford, from left to right) are in the hands of the Stormtroopers once again.
Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford, from left to right) are in the hands of the Stormtroopers once again.

‘Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…’ Every part of the Star Wars franchise begins with that fairy tale opening and John Williams’s trademark fanfare, and each time, the diehard fans have been passionate about it. A decade after George Lucas’s final film in the series, the latest installment, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, has smashed all previous box-office records with J.J. Abrams, Hollywood’s current favorite wunderkind to be handed over the reins for classic franchises, at the controls for the first time.

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Ghost in the Machine: Daniel Craig’s James Bond Hunts Sam Mendes’s Spectre

James Bond (Daniel Craig) pursues almost invisible enemies.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) pursues almost invisible enemies.

‘James Bond will return…’ Barring a short period in the early 1990s, when the future of the series was up in the air thanks to legal issues, this statement has been as sure as death and taxes for more than five solid decades. Three years after the gargantuan success of Skyfall, the British super spy graces the silver screen of the blue planet with his presence once more. In the midst of some controversy about whether he still enjoys the role, Daniel Craig returns for his fourth outing as 007. Can Spectre, which is again directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, ‘deliver the goods’ in the face of enormous expectations?

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Lost in Darkness: The Cruel Post-war Germany of Finsterworld

There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.
There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.

Finsterworld by Frauke Finsterwalder is a movie that tells a lot about Germany to foreigners as well as to the homegrown. Scripted by the director’s husband, the renowned Swiss author Christian Kracht, Finsterworld provides a broad kaleidoscope of German life today. Through several entangled stories the viewer is drawn into a world of ugliness, fetish, and callousness. Please do not consider this a tour guide to Germany.

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In the Cards: Christian Bale is Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups

Rick (Christian Bale, right) with his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett, left)
Rick (Christian Bale, right) with his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett, left)

Terrence Malick remains an enigma. First, the reclusive director vanished from the filmmaking landscape for two solid decades between his sophomore effort Days Of Heaven and the acclaimed The Thin Red Line. Then, he returns with a new movie every other year from 2011’s The Tree Of Life on, after never having spent less than five on every other previous feature. Knight Of Cups, which reunites him with erstwhile Batman Christian Bale, is the third of these experimental narratives that Terrence Malick has put out in a relatively short span of time. Given the frenetic working pace, can the director continue his run as the film buffs’ darling or has he finally run out of steam with his latest output?

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Cheap Sunglasses: Roddy Piper Fights the Aliens in John Carpenter’s They Live

John Nada (Roddy Piper) has finally seen the truth behind the lies.
John Nada (Roddy Piper) has finally seen the truth behind the lies.

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper was arguably one of wrestling’s first true major superstars in the late 1980s. When the Canadian fought Hulk Hogan at the then-WWF’s initial Wrestlemania, his popularity almost rivaled that of the blond, mustache-wearing ‘Hulkster.’ These two men were also pioneers in terms of turning their fame in the ring into carving out a niche for themselves in Hollywood. Hulk Hogan managed to land a part in Rocky III and later got his own television series, Thunder In Paradise. Roddy Piper unfortunately died of a heart attack at age 61 last month. Therefore it’s time to pay tribute to and remember him with arguably his greatest role – that of the leading man in John Carpenter’s They Live.

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H.H. Holmes to be portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming Scorsese Film The Devil in the White City

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Years ago, Erik Larson, a non-fiction writer who tends to bring often obscure, yet interesting stories to light with a novelistic feel, authored a critically acclaimed book The Devil in the White City. So acclaimed it was, that Leonardo DiCaprio took interest and was able to purchase the film rights in 2010. Recently, it was also reported that golden boy Leonardo DiCaprio will be playing the main character, Doctor H.H. Holmes, in an upcoming film adaptation, while Martin Scorsese directs.

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Home by the Sea: Ray Milland Welcomes The Uninvited

Dr. Scott (Alan Napier), Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland), Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), and Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey, from left to right) try to find out what the supernatural events in the haunted house are all about.
Dr. Scott (Alan Napier), Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland), Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), and Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey, from left to right) try to find out what the supernatural events in the haunted house are all about.

Horror films were popular in the United States in the 1940s, in spite of the Second World War and the feel-good stories Hollywood brought to the silver screen to distract the people. Russian-born writer and producer Val Lewton, in particular, managed to attract a cult following with masterful B-movies such as Cat People, I Walked With A Zombie, or Isle Of The Dead, but other greats like Alfred Hitchcock also dabbled with the genre when arriving stateside. Some of these films from that era also featured A-level talent and not just Boris Karloff and other genre-specific stars. The Uninvited by director Lewis Allen based on a bestselling novel by Dorothy Macardle belongs to that category.

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Broadway The Hard Way: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, or the Psyche of an Actor

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.
Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu had already been a known commodity in Hollywood circles for a while. His debut feature, Amores Perros, became a fan favorite, while his U.S. projects 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful landed him the star power of Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, or Javier Bardem. With his fifth movie, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), he has firmly established himself as one of the premier talents behind the camera stateside. The film won four prestigious Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography – but how good is Birdman really?

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The Monster Is Loose: Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan as a Parable of Putin’s Russia?

A broken Kolya (Aleksei Serebryanov) reflects on his life.
A broken Kolya (Aleksei Serebryanov) reflects on his life.

Russian cinema has always commanded international respect, even when things were frosty between the Soviet Union and the ‘West.’ The same still holds true for the modern arthouse movies from the country. Since the early 2000s, Andrei Zvyagintsev has become one of the more distinguished Russian directors. Particularly because of the recent crisis between his homeland, Ukraine, and the NATO, Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature, Leviathan, has seen a lot of politically-motivated controversy coming its way. The question is, then, how good is the movie and how much of an accurate portrait of today’s Russia does it provide?

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Spybreak: Matthew Vaughn Introduces Us to Kingsman: The Secret Service

Harry Hart (Colin Firth, center) introduces 'Eggsy' Unwin (Taron Egerton, left) to Internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, right).
Harry Hart (Colin Firth, center) introduces ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton, left) to Internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, right).

Parodies of spy pictures – and the James Bond variation in particular – are a dime a dozen, with a fairly mixed bag of results. The cream of the crop may be the first two Austin Powers movies, International Man Of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me. The low point is arguably a spoof based on Ian Fleming’s first novel, the star-laden 1966 attempt at Casino Royale with Peter Sellers, David Niven, and Woody Allen that needed a whopping five directors to be completed. Now X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass filmmaker Matthew Vaughn has entered the territory and assembled an impressive cast to realize Kingsman: The Secret Service. Is his vision of what a spy movie should look like up to the task?

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