Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Image is property of Sony and Columbia Pictures

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: Set in 1960s Hollywood, amid fears that the industry is leaving him behind, actor Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Clith Booth (Pitt), try to reignite Dalton’s career, all the while new actors like Sharon Tate (Robbie) are becoming the new faces of the industry…

Review: There are certain directors who, whenever they come out with a new film, it becomes subject of much anticipation and hype in the build up to the film’s release, and Quentin Tarantino’s films definitely fall under that bracket. As he so often does, Tarantino fuses his passion for the craft of film-making, and blends that with his passion for a bygone era of Hollywood, as for his ninth and seemingly penultimate film, takes the viewers on a journey to 1960s Tinseltown.

It’s 1969 and after starring in a hugely popular TV show, actor Rick Dalton’s career has hit the rocks. He has a moment where reality bites hard, and he realises that his days as a leading man are seemingly drawing to a close, as the industry is leaving him by the wayside with other actors on their way to becoming the star that Rick used to be. Determined to stay relevant, alongside his stunt double and great friend Cliff Booth, Rick strives to pick himself up and reinvent his career.

Tarantino scripts of the past have thrived on the dialogue to drive the film forward, and in many cases given that it is superbly written dialogue, it serves the story extremely well. Through the sharp dialogue, it makes the lives of the charismatic characters that Tarantino so often brings to the screen absolutely worth investing in. Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are both on excellent form as Rick and Cliff. Though they might be as A list as you can get in present day Hollywood, both have excellent charisma and they form a solid friendship with one another. It’s not quite a Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield level of camaraderie, but it comes mighty close.

As well as the sharply written dialogue, a QT movie is known for being a touch on the violent side. However, in this instance the violence is dialled back significantly as Tarantino gives us a much more dialogue driven film. One that takes a nuanced, in-depth, fascinating look at the Golden Age of Hollywood, that has the careers of Rick and Cliff front and centre, with this era as the backdrop in all of its glory. Though these men are both fictionalised characters, there’s something about both their performances that makes them feel like they were cut from the same cloth as the stars that dominated the industry at this time. In a cast that is well stacked with considerable talent, the standouts besides DiCaprio and Pitt, are Margaret Qualley’s Manson family member, and a scene stealing performance from a young actor who gives Rick a damn good run for his money.

Though she was a perfect choice to play Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie, frustratingly, does not get nearly enough screen-time as her male lead co-stars. What’s more, in the scarce screen-time she is given, she has frustratingly few lines which feels like a scandalous waste of her talent. Nevertheless, Robbie works wonders with the little material she was given that honours the tragic actress. Given that a Tarantino Picture is usually in the realm of three hours, the first act of the film is a bit of a slow burn that, narratively speaking, is a tad uneven. It takes its time to find its footing and truly hit its stride. The excellent production design and costumes ensures that 1960s Hollywood is captured with a real sense of authenticity. Yet even with that, the near 2 hour 40 minute run time does feel somewhat excessive.

Meshing fact with fiction has produced some uproariously entertaining moments in previous Tarantino flicks, and OUATIH‘s best use of this blend of truth and fantasy, is in the film’s enthralling and nail-biting third act. You may know of the tragic fate that befell Sharon Tate on that fateful August night, but to see how those events would play out in Tarantino’s wacky, but brilliant mind is what you pay to see when you come to watch a flick by Quentin Tarantino. It may not be his strongest film that he has made in a glittering career, but like Tarantino reminiscing/pining for the Golden Age of Hollywood, present day Hollywood may find itself reminiscing if, after his tenth picture, Tarantino does decide to hang up the director’s chair for good.

A passionate love letter to the Hollywood of yesteryear, fused with the typical well written QT dialogue and a superb pair of leading performances from two of the most charismatic actors in the business.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Film Review

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Director:  James Gunn

Synopsis: Whilst on an assignment for an alien race called the Sovereign, after the deal goes awry, the Guardians find themselves on the run, when they encounter a man who is claiming to be Star Lord’s father.

Review: It is fair to say that Marvel Studios certainly rolled the dice and took a big risk when they decided to green-light a full feature film about a crew of heroes that the vast majority of movie goers across the globe had no idea who they were. Many thought that this film would be the studio’s first mishap, and well we all know that simply wasn’t the case as the first film smashed all expectations and ensured that everyone knew their names, and rightly so, the Guardians became hot property.

Now well into Phase 3 of the giant Marvel machine, it was inevitable that our favourite bunch of lovable arseholes would get a new adventure. The first film was such a mystery, audiences had no idea what to expect going in. Thus given that so many loved what they saw the first time around, writer and director James Gunn decides to follow a similar route this time around, allowing these characters that we grew to love and laugh at, to develop their relationships. What’s more, they have some familial issues and any familial squabbling issues that may be brewing beneath the surface, and there’s a LOT of that going on this time.

The most lovable bunch of misfits in the Galaxy…

Though there’s some bickering, Gunn’s script packs humour in abundance. It has become almost a trademark of the MCU to this point but, this might just be the funniest film of the franchise to date. Everyone has their moment to shine, but in the case of some characters they get several moments to shine, looking at you Drax the Destroyer! Much like the first film, there’s a plethora of very memorable lines that will get those laughing muscles moving, and the story for the first act is extremely enthralling. The Guardians are all once again on excellent form, with the villainous Nebula given much more to do this time around, oh and yes Baby Groot is perhaps the most adorable little sentient plant being you’re maybe ever going to find on the silver screen.

Visually the film is just dripping with so much colour it’s wonderful to look at, and it packs some tremendous action scenes to accompany the superb visuals. Which in turn is also helped by the ensemble of music that makes up Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is just as catchy as its predecessor. However, that being said, not everything is nice to look at as there are points where it becomes extremely obvious that there’s a lot of CGI on screen. The villain was the thing that really let the first film down, and sadly yet again, the main villain (fear not no spoilers here!) is still something of a disappointment.

This individual in question is not as disposable as some previous MCU villains, but nowhere near as memorable as say Loki. Their motivations being a little perplexing, and once their intentions are known, the film meanders and goes from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, which given that this is a film with a talking tree and a genetically engineered raccoon, is quite an accomplishment! But yet again it does feel like a missed opportunity for Marvel to rectify the difficulties that they have had in bringing a truly compelling villain to the big screen, save for the God of Mischief of course.

Nevertheless, this sequel is a worthy companion piece to the original film, once its characters are front and centre. Choosing to walk a similar path that the first film went might seem boring and unadventurous to some, but when it is this entertaining and absolutely hilarious to watch, you can hardly blame Gunn and Marvel for sticking to what they know, cos that produced the goods the first time around.  This band of lovable misfits certainly remain an absolute blast of marvellous entertainment.

Not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, but this sequel packs the humour, the exhilarating action sequences, and yes another awesome soundtrack to boot.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

deepwater-horizon
Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Participant Media, Di Bonaventura Pictures and Lionsgate

Deepwater Horizon – Film Review

Cast:  Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson, Dylan O’Brien

Director: Peter Berg

Synopsis: An account of the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the desperate bid by the workers of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to stay alive.

Review: Making a film about a true to life disaster cannot be an easy subject matter to tackle, especially if the disaster that you’re focusing on just happens to be the worst ever oil disaster in US history, and one that cost the company behind the oil rig, British Petroleum a whopping 18.7 BILLION dollars in fines after a total of just under 5 million barrels of oil spilled out into the sea, causing devastation for the local environment and for the nearby communities, and also claimed the lives of 11 of the men working on the oil rig.

After directing the gripping Lone Survivor, Peter Berg along with screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, certainly do their best to tell this story and tell it in a very gripping manner. The first act is a little slow at times, but the build up is necessary as with each passing minute of screen time, and every test that they make whilst on the rig, the tension is built up ever so slightly. You just know that something is not right, and any minute things will go wrong, Soon, it gets to the point when you know, that sooner or later, the shit (or mud in this case) will hit the fan and the rig workers have an unmitigated catastrophe on their hands and soon are in a desperate bid to get off the rig before they go down with it. Once the disaster has struck, the tension is enormous and it remains that way for the rest of the movie.

Berg wasn’t the original director attached to the project as originally it was J.C. Chandor who was set to be calling the shots. Yet due to creative differences Chandor left and Berg came on board, reuniting with his Lone Survivor co star, Marky Mark Wahlberg. It’s from his perspective as real life oil rig worker Mike Williams that we watch with bated breath as the bumbling BP idiots naively assume that there’s nothing wrong with the rig, but Williams and the rest of the crew led by Mr Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) know otherwise. Wahlberg’s performance is the centrepiece of the film, and it’s his character that we get to know the most with his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter. Beyond him, there isn’t much character development to really any of the other characters, but all involved give excellent performances.

Berg helms this project excellently, with confident and assured direction throughout, but especially when the drama has fully unfolded. The production design to recreate the oil rig is tremendous and the camerawork and the fast editing does a great job to to heighten the tension when the workers find themselves in peril. These scenes are packed with tension right throughout as you will these people to safety. “Hope is not a tactic” reads the film’s poster, and in this situation, hope could be the difference between life and death. With a thought provoking and moving ending, and one that could and should get you all riled up. When considering how this tragedy came about, how no one was found culpable is almost beyond belief. It was one that changed lives forever and is almost certainly still having an effect on lives to this day, and one that will have you thinking once the credits begin to roll.

The heroism of these workers is given the credit it deserves and Berg nails it with a gritty, tension filled ride that is incredibly well executed and one that pays tribute to those who lost their lives.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Hateful eight
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company and FilmColony

The Hateful Eight – Film Review

Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: When eight strangers become trapped in a lodge during a ferocious blizzard in Wyoming, USA, a mystery begins to unfold as to whether some people are who they say they are.

Review: When you walk into a film written and directed by the one and only Mr Quentin Tarantino, chances are you know what to expect. After all he is a man who has made his name in Hollywood for his extremely well written characters, excellent dialogue, and some VERY bloody violence. All are on show and then some with his eight feature film, which is his second Western after the glorious Django Unchained, which happens to be his highest grossing film of all time.

While Django was set pre Civil War, Mr Tarantino takes us post Civil War in this film, with the focus being on a group of individuals (eight in total funnily enough) who get acquainted with one another while they are trapped in a small building during the blizzard that has set them back on their way. Yet immediately something is off, the suspicion and mistrust begins to grow amongst the characters, as some have doubts as to whether they are who they are claiming to be. There’s a mystery that needs to be solved and it isn’t long before things start to get a little bit messy.

Tarantino is one of the finest directors working today, his movies are synonymous with terrific writing, sharp dialogue and very strong characters. All of the ensemble cast truly shine in their roles with each and every one of them giving truly excellent performances. However, there are a couple of performances that truly deserve special praise and could well be in with a shot of picking up some awards. Principally, Tarantino regular Mr Samuel L Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh give arguably the best performances of this incredibly talented cast, but that should take nothing away from all of the other performances, because they are all superb. It is at times a very dialogue driven film, but this is not a problem,  because the dialogue is so riveting and so well written, that the audience is captivated the entire time, watching these characters interact and develop distrust and suspicion.

As is the case with nearly all of Tarantino’s films, the great acting is matched with great writing, and the Hateful Eight is no exception. In this over three hour story, the first hour or so is all build up, getting to know the characters, meeting them one by one. The tension here remains at a minimal level, but there is not exactly a warm feeling between anybody. The early build up is a little slow, until we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, and that’s when any warm feelings are immediately turned as cold as the weather outside, and the tension and suspicion gets stronger with each passing minute of screen time. Tarantino does enjoy some good monologues and there’s a few to be witnessed here. It wouldn’t be a Tarantino movie if there was no violence and when the axe finally drops and it begins, boy does it provide some glorious and bloody entertainment for the audience and then some!

The cinematography on show, provided by another frequent Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson is gorgeous, capturing the setting of a chilling winter in the USA perfectly. The audience feels the freezing temperatures the characters find themselves in. The score composed by Ennio Morricone is also equally superb. Like with The Revenant, this cannot have been an easy shoot for the cast and for the crew, but for all the troubles of everyone involved, it was all worth it to deliver another extremely good film from Tarantino that is sure to receive a bunch of Academy Award nominations in this upcoming awards season, and they would be very well deserved ones at that.

A little slow in the early stages, but it pays off big time in the end, with superb writing, tremendous acting, terrific directing, and a top score. Another superb edition into the near perfect filmography of Quentin Tarantino.

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