Taylor Sheridan is one of the most interesting creators out there. He began a remarkable streak with his script for 2015’s “Sicario.” Emily Blunt is our point-of-view in a gripping you-are-there story about the Juarez cartel that is equally beautiful and terrifying to look at. Josh Brolin is the beyond-jaded American link, and Benicio del Toro is the inscrutable guide to this vicarious trip through hell. The director (Denis Villeneuve) really has an eye for grand views, and his lens soaks in the Mexican panorama. This is a movie I will watch again soon (5).
“Hell or High Water” doesn’t have that kind of directorial mastery, but David Mackenzie does a fine job with Sheridan’s script about bank-robbing brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) who make a last stand in an economically devastated Texas, to a soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (4).
Sheridan’s own directorial debut, “Wind River,” is about a frozen reservation in Wyoming. There, a hunter (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent (Elizabeth “The Non-Twin” Olsen) team up to investigate the death of a young woman who is found in the snow. This dramatic thriller is as tense as a long walk on weak ice, and as chilling as crashing through: It ends on the note that no one collects statistics on missing Native American women. (4)
Kemco releases tonloads of simple, terrible, old-school RPGs that scratch some atavistic need for grinding like it’s 1993. “Aeon Avenger” is one such game I threw valuable Earth time on. (2)
On the other hand, I was very thrilled to spent casual gaming time on Devolver Digital’s “Reigns” and its feminist-minded sequel “Reigns: Her Majesty.” In these wonderfully simplex games, you must swipe left or right to make yes or no decisions while keeping a balance between pleasing the Church, the Army, the People, and your Budget! It’s like Tinder for Kingdoms. (5)
The third season of “Broadchurch” makes up for a meandering second season that threatened to damage the show’s initial impact. Still, this is one of the best acted, most dramatically wrenching small town stories ever told. Olivia Colman and David Tennant is one of those buddy cop pairings for the ages. I’ll watch Tennant in anything, though, he was really the actor who sold on me on the “Doctor Who” concept. (4)
“Seven Deadly Sins” is just shonen done right; great animation, great story, lovable characters, and a gigantic woman with the accompanying gigantic breasts. (5)
“The Tales of Hoffmann”. English version of Jacques Offenbach’s opera based on a trio of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s romantic, fantasmagoric tales about Olympia, Giulietta, and Antonia. The relative low-budget of any Powell/ Pressburger product may turn off the less amenable to opera and / or faded prints ( I saw the un-restored version) but one can only imagine what Powell and Pressburger could have done with MGM money. (5)
This lead me to re-reading a handful of Hoffmann’s tales (I don’t see any readily available, comprehensive, scholarly English translation of his complete works, which is a shame.) Loved “The Violin of Cremone,” which gives its subject matter to the “Antonia” segment in the Offenbach opera (and the above movie). Hoffmann is a real visionary of dark fantasy, (he invented “The Sandman,” darn it, and ballets like “Coppelia” and “The Nutcracker” keep him alive; Tchaikovsky based his perennial Christmas ballet on Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Neil Gaiman and Cirque du Soleil both owe a lot to Hoffman. (5)
Cirque du Soleil: Volta” (soundtrack). More (auto-) tuned in to the times than some of the previous CdS’s shows I’ve seen/ heard. By which I mean, it all sounds like Imagine Dragons. “Ants Dancing” (4)
“2nd Chance” (Women’s Murder Club #2, James Patterson. Well, Andrew Gross, really) Entertaining enough. This time, the four ladies investigate what appears to be a hate-crime at a mostly-black Church. But is the mass shooter up to something else? (3)
“The Mystery of the Yellow Room” (Gaston Leroux). There is more to Leroux than “The Phantom of the Opera,” such as the Joseph Rouletabille detective series. Rouletabille is an 18 year old reporter with a pool ball shaped head and a Peter Parker-ish glee, who here solves one of the earliest, and best, locked room mysteries. (5)
Spirou and Fantasio are funnier than Tin Tin so there. In “The Heirs,” from 1954, Fantasio tries to fulfill the demands of a rich relative’s will by inventing a rotocopter, winning the Grand Prix, and capturing the famed Marsupilami in the South American country of Palombia. Marsupilami, with his spotted fur and his prehensile tail would, of course, become a fan favorite. In “The Marsupilami Thieves,” which picks up right after, the Marsupilami is stolen from a zoo and displayed on a circus, so Spirou and Fantasio must go behind the scenes to rescue the critter. (4)
“Cubitus” (Dupa) A punning Belgian puppy that loses a lot of his surreal, aphoristic charm when translated to English, which he was in the ’80s, as “Wowser.” (4)
Fito Paez, “Del 63”. The politically-tinged debut from the Argentine rock legend. “Del 63,” “Rumba del Piano,” “Cuervos en Casa.” (5)
“Raw” (Julia Ducornau). It’s a spoiler to say what kind of movie this is, but fine: the best recent coming of age, sister-bonding, body horror thriller. It’s Ducornau’s directorial debut, but she’s as assured and thematically fearless as the title threatens. (5)