“Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” film review. NO SPOILERS

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I’m a HUGE Quentin Tarantino fan.  He should be on the Mt Rushmore of directors: Spielberg, Nolan, Scorsese, and Tarantino.  Yes, Tarantino gets flack for biting from the spaghetti westerns.  But his films have MUCH better rewatch ability than a bunch of said westerns.  Try watching the well-renowned, “A Fistful of Dollars,” now.  That shit will put you to sleep faster than Philosophy 101 or a new list of approved gender approved pronouns.  Tarantino is one of the 10ish people that automatically gets my $15, he’s earned it through and through.  Pulp Fiction is my 2nd favorite film all time; I saw that 3 times in the theater.  That film defined a generation and was/is nothing short of brilliant. Let’s quickly go through the directorial list for shits and giggles:

Reservoir Dogs-Insanely unique, probably the reason that got me into the independent films.

Pulp Fiction-It’s a fucking CRIME that this lost to OVERRATED Forest Gump.  Shawshank Redemption, I could’ve dealt with but not that University of Alabama dropout who had sex with an AIDS monkey.  Every time this is on, John Travolta needs to send Tarantino a dozen roses and a hooker.  This also brought Samuel L Jackson square into the main event of film lexicon forever and ever.

Jackie Brown-Not a fan.  At all.  And boy, did I try.  Despite SLJ and DeNiro, this just didn’t resonate for me.

Kill Bill 1 and 2- Fun, cheeky, nostalgic, and different.  A believable heroine before Hollywood DEMANDED every female heroine film be insanely revered or you be deemed as a sexist/misogynist.

Death Proof- Enjoyable nod to 70’s cheesy action cinema and brought Kurt Russell back into the foray.  You’ll never hear me complain seeing good ol’ Jack Burton in any film and boy, I enjoy his VO narrations.

Inglorious Basterds- The American coming out party for Kristoph Waltz.  Although I didn’t dig this much as other Tarantino installments; I felt this dragged despite Pitt doing a great job as a Nazi hunter.

Django Unchained- Loved it.  Jamie Foxx was amazing and who didn’t love Waltz returning as a German bounty hunter, hell bent on eradicating southern racist garbage.  And DiCaprio playing a sadistic slave owner, fantastically cast and played.

Hateful Eight- People didn’t dig this but I have no idea why.  More Russell, more SLJ, and another favorite Tarantino vet, Tim Roth.  And it all beautifully comes together.

My ranking:

  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Reservoir Dogs
  3. Django Unchained
  4. Hateful 8
  5. Kill Bill 1 and 2
  6. Death Proof
  7. Inglorious Basterds
  8. Jackie Brown

And now that leaves us with…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

First things first.  This is NOT the story of the Manson murders.  If this a spoiler for you, sorry.  But I sure was under that impression and quickly learned that wasn’t the case.  This is a nod to Hollywood in it’s golden age of 1969.  And boy, it’s quite the journey.  Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio from Growing Pains) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, the stoner from True Romance) are buddies.  Rick is an actor about to make the downhill march toward obscurity and Cliff is his stunt double who also chauffeurs Rick around.  Both DiCaprio and Pitt have such a great chemistry together; especially when Booth knows exactly how to get Dalton from carrying right into an alcohol-induced nosedive.  What makes Pitt’s character so satiable is his mysterious background (rumored to have killed his wife and serve in the war).  And when he gets into an on-set tussle with Bruce Lee and calling him, Kato, throughout their argument puts smiles on all audience members.

Margot Robbie (from topless glory in Wolf of Wall Street and man, find me a more attractive woman than her.  Go ahead, I’ll wait) plays Sharon Tate.  We see her and new husband, Roman Polanski (post Rosemary’s Baby, pre anal raping underage girls) live above Rick’s house.  Sharon just goes about her usual routines: Hollywood parties, getting pregnant, even seeing herself on screen by going to a theater.  I daresay that she’s under-utilized as again, the main focus is on DiCaprio and Pitt.  But we do see Manson and his crew on more than one occasion.  In fact, Booth runs into one of his crew several times trying to hitchhike rides throughout LA.  Which eventually leads Pitt to the pit of the Manson’s vipers; including a hell of a scene with Bruce Dern, another Tarantino favorite.  Speaking of the Tarantino favorites, you see all of the usual suspects: Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell.  Unfortunately, no SLJ or Steve Buscemi.  But let’s give credit where credit is due.  Lena Dunham is in this and A) isn’t annoying and more importantly, B) keeps her clothes on.

But I’ll go on a limb and say watching Dalton’s decent into possible Hollywood oblivion or purgatory is where the real joy is.  Wait till you see him break down when he forgets his lines due to getting rip roaring drunk the previous night.  Or when he has a heartfelt moment with his young co-star, Trudi (Julia Butters) where they share stories of the novels they’re currently reading.  There has been a ton of complaints saying that this is a whole lot of nothing regarding the eventual confrontation with the Manson crew and little payoff.  I disagree.  As I said, once you realize about 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through the film that this isn’t a regurgitation of the Manson murders, you’ll appreciate that Tarantino didn’t go down that road.  You can’t believe he’s bluffing by NOT giving the crowd what they want and I truly enjoyed the chance he took.  The ending is certainly unique and enjoyable with a hell of a callback.  Is this your typical, dialogue heavy Tarantino jaunt?  It is not.  Is it your typical Tarantino violent-riddled gorefest?  Not until the end.  Are you going to enjoy this?  I think so and especially if you’re not a Tarantino fan (kill yourself), it may be the film that may hook you back in because of the choices he did and didn’t take.  And I’ll go on a limb and say Pitt gets a nomination for best supporting actor.

The only knock on this film, not enough N words like I’m used to with his films.  I’M JUST KIDDING.  I enjoyed it and give it a 7 out of 10.  Where does it rank in the Tarantino pantheon?  I’m not sure yet; I need to see it again but I know it’s going above Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and Inglorious Basterds for sure.

 

 

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Film Review of “Bad Times at the Old Royale”

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Yep, it’s been a minute.  Why?  Because I heard Venom sucked.  Because seeing Night School is for people who barely have a GED.  Because I could care less about Crazy, Rich Asians than I care about than the homeless problem in Sudan.  The best film in September-Thanksgiving is like the NL East division winner, you get a playoff spot by being the best of the worst shitbox teams.  What else besides Halloween, Creed 2, Wreck it Ralph 2 and maybe Bohemian Rhapsody look good?  Johnny English?  Another garbage sequel that no one asked for.  So when the preview BTATOR came out, I thought that this has a shot of being decent.  Early positive reviews confirmed my thoughts so I figured, time to pony up 11 bucks to a matinee.  You may be thinking, “why not wait till movie pass picks it up?”  Because I don’t feel like waiting till the next election to see this film.  

A priest, singer, bellhop, vacuum salesman, runaway and her weird sister, and cult leader all stay at hotel that is split in half by state lines.  Cute idea but wish it played more into the plot. If you’re going to see this, you’ll going to say in 10 minutes, this is similar to Pulp Fiction.  Remember, nothing will top Pulp Fiction.  Don’t argue with me as that’s an infallible argument.  The stories are told in a circular fashion and from multiple angles.  Of course, this hotel has its own secrets and no one is who they seem who they are.  

Jeff Bridges plays Father Flynn, which is a cute nod to one of his early roles as Flynn from Tron.  Time and probably cigarettes have added to that gravelly voice of his; another 3 bottles of gin and he’s right into Sam Elliot vocal territory.  Hello avalanche of voiceover roles!  I did a double take with Dakota Johnson as she looks damn near exactly like Sophie Marceau.  Last I saw of her, she was in one of the worst Bond films of all time.  “The World is Not Enough” is in “A View to a Kill” territory.  Only saving graces of that piece of shit are Sophie and Denise Richards.  Goddamn, it’s a shame her looks became as bad as her acting.  Anyway, Dakota looks fantastic and kills it as a badass with a checkered past.  Jon “Footlong Dong” Hamm plays a vacuum salesman that turns out to be an FBI agent.  Mix in Lewis Pullman expertly playing a nebbishy bellhop and Cynthia Erivo playing a “Supremes-esque” background singer and you have a pretty solid cast of characters.

The problem with my review is so much is going on that I don’t want to spoil anything. I enjoyed a few curveballs and wait till Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) shows up. It’s a sadistic cult leader character that we haven’t seen yet.  And we’re used to Hemsworth shooting lighting and throwing hammers so it’s nice to see some range out of him.  My biggest complaint is this film begins drag at the 2 hour mark, ending at 2:21.  I think if they would’ve trimmed 15-20 minutes off of this, it would’ve felt much more concise.  Cut a little here and there and this would be a fantastic tale.  But this is a pretty damn good tale nonetheless.  Could you wait till Netflix, sure.  But if you’re looking to see something in the theater, I highly recommend this.  Otherwise, this is going to be a long season of banal shit.  

I give it a 7 out of 10.

The Hateful 8

Yet another winner from Quentin Tarantino.  The trailers didn’t grab me but neither did the trailer for Django Unchained and I also loved that film. The man knows how to write an enrapturing story; complete with original characters and no one better at dialogue than Tarantino.  This film doesn’t lag at all.  It keeps up with his usual gory scenes but for those of you who winced every time you heard the N-word in Django.  Don’t worry, it’s only used around 100 times which is the same amount Barbara Bush uses it on MLK’s birthday.

In the last 30 years, I put him, Spielberg, and Christopher Nolan as the best in the business.  I don’t give a shit about his views on the cops; he will get my 15 bucks every time without fail.  He continues to deliver hit after hit and this is no exception.  I did hear him say on Howard Stern that he started making films with the goal of stopping after he made his 10th.  Let’s hope that’s the case.  I give this film a solid 8.5/10; this and Star Wars have been a great 1-2 punch to end the year.

Here’s my ranking of Tarantino’s body of work.

10. Jackie Brown-the only blemish on his otherwise stellar track record.  This film is boring, awful, and forgetful.

9. Death Proof-Part of the Grindhouse film.  Liked it but when you have as many gems as Tarantino has created, decent films are toward the bottom.

8. Inglorious Basterds-Felt this one is highly overrated.  Sans the opening scene where Waltz finds the Jewish family in France and the bar scene where the major sniffs out Fassbender, this films wasn’t that special. Not enough time focused on Brad Pitt’s unit and I felt that was an opportunity for him to create some unique characters.  Besides Bear Jew, I couldn’t tell you about anyone else.

7. Kill Bill volume 2-Fantastic choreography and fight scenes.  Loved the duels between Madsen and Hannah.

6. Kill Bill volume 1-Same as above. Uma Thurman is a hot badass, not much more you can ask for.

5. True Romance-yes, I know he didn’t direct this but he wrote it and this is what got him on the map.  Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper crush it in this film.

4. Hateful Eight-see above

3. Django Unchained-Great take he did with the view of a slave turned bounty hunter and Chrisoph Waltz as his German mentor is one of my favorite Tarantino characters of all time.  Loved Di Caprio as Calvin Candy, also quite memorable and enjoyed hating him.

2. Reservoir Dogs-First story that I can think of off the top of my head with the plot told in a circular fashion.  A gutty crime drama that opened my eyes and thought this was the best crime film since Goodfellas.

1. Pulp Fiction-  Travolta rises from the ashes from the land of washed up actors.  SLJ as the spiritual yet but not to be fucked with Jules?  Game, set, match.  Keitel as Winston Wolf, a character that fans ALWAYS quote.  Without question, Tarantino’s greatest film.  The dialogue in this film needs to be put into any film textbook as the gold standard.  The story zigs and zags and then comes together with a big red bow on top at the end.