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.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Revenant (2015)

revenant
Image rights belong to New Regency Picture, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox

The Revenant – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a fur trapper is viciously attacked by a bear and left for dead by his men, he sets out on a quest for revenge against them who left him to die.

Review: From a story about a man who was a washed up superhero trying to put on a Broadway play in one year, to a chilling tale of revenge for another man in the 1820s, it is quite the contrast for Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His 2014 effort Birdman for all its eccentricities, won the director three Academy Awards. Yet he surpasses himself with this true story, about one man’s fight for both survival and vengeance in equal measure, and with a whopping total of twelve Academy Award nominations received, it makes what has been a well documented troubled, delayed and hellish shoot all the more worth it, especially as it is almost certain to take home a few golden statues this year.

This frighteningly true story focuses on DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass who is part of a fur trapping expedition in the USA and after being brutally attacked by a bear protecting her cubs, he’s left behind principally by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and left to die, except he doesn’t die, and after personal tragedy, he’s now on an angry quest for revenge, as well as a difficult struggle to survive the severe force of nature, that is well, nature. The bitter cold that the characters find themselves in almost filters its way through the audience as the incredible cinematography makes the audience feel as if they are in this perilous and horrendous situation that Glass in particular finds himself in. It’s a chilling 156 minute tale.

The aforementioned cinematography is simply flawless, and is almost certain to bag a hat-trick of Oscars for DP Emmanuel Lubezki after winning for Gravity and Birdman. The decision to use natural lighting was a masterstroke, giving a real look of authenticity and the film is visually magnificent with more than a handful of spectacular shots that will take your breath away. It is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive movies that has ever been made.

Through all the stunning cinematography, there are a handful of really unpleasant and brutal scenes, namely the bear scene. It is a tremendous visual achievement, and is gripping to watch, but also equally disturbingly realistic and gory. The performances from all of the cast are all excellent but the two that stand out by far are those of Tom Hardy and Leo DiCaprio, the latter of whom really threw himself into the role, to the point where he must have got hypothermia on several occasions.

You watch with suspense as he crawls across the landscape, driven by a fierce desire for revenge and the sheer will to survive against the uncompromising force that is nature. You root for him and you want him to succeed and again, it could be the role that finally lands DiCaprio the Oscar at the sixth time of asking, and also gives Hardy a decent shout at getting his first statue.

Hardy is also equally mesmerising as the film’s villain, yet there were times when he was very difficult to understand, often reverting to his sort of trademark mumble. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who has had quite the year after Ex Machina and Star Wars, are also tremendous. Yet this is the DiCaprio show, and he totally owns it.

The violence on show here is pretty intense and certainly not for the faint of heart, yet for all the production problems, rebellion by the crew, and the delays to the shoot, which forced Hardy to drop out of this year’s Suicide Squad. Their efforts paid off, in a big way, with an equally tremendous score to go with it. It is uncompromising, brutal, and one of the best movies of not only the past twelve months, but this decade and one of the most riveting pieces of cinema you will ever watch.

Visually magnificent, with tremendous performances from DiCaprio and Hardy in particular,  this is an incredible film-making achievement and is not to be missed. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf of wall street
Image is property of Red Granite Pictures, Appian Way Productions, Sikelia Productions, Emjag Productions, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort who starts work as a trainee stockbroker before going at it alone by starting his own stockbroker company. He soon acquires a vast fortune through various methods and it is not long before the authorities are on his trail

Review: What do you get if you cross one of the best directors of the current generation, with one of the finest actors working today? Simple really, you get this hilariously entertaining, enthralling account of the life of Jordan Belfort. A life that involved involving stockbroking, money laundering, debauchery and raucous behaviour throughout its three hour running time. Scorsese, in one of his funniest films to date, brings the story of Jordan Belfort to life in an uproarious way that will have you entertained from start to finish.

The story of Belfort is a man who begins his profession as a stockbroker, and through a series of twists and turns eventually sets up his own company that continues to grow and grow making millions upon millions of dollars. Money, money, money, is always at the forefront of his thoughts. However not all of this money has been acquired by legal means. The excitement grows as the FBI are soon on the hunt for Belfort to question. Through this three hour tale, Scorsese gives us a little insight into what the life of someone who works on Wall Street may entail.

Belfort is wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He has several monolgues in the film where it almost feels like he’s talking to you as the viewer and he’s taking you along for the ride. Furthermore whenever he has a microphone in his hand, you pay close attention to what he’s saying. There are (hopefully) no aspirations among audience members to follow DiCaprio down the path he’s taken, but you watch with excitement as his journey unfolds. The ambition that comes from this character ensures the audience are on board with his endeavours.

Another strong performance in the film comes from Jonah Hill in probably his best film role to date. His work in Moneyball earned him his first Oscar nomination, and this performance here earns him another nomination.His character adds  another level to the hilarity that is has already been put on screen. He has some golden moments in this film, one scene in particular with him and DiCaprio that should have you in hysterics. From scene one to the final end scene, this film is packed to the brim with hilarious moments.

Plenty of these scenes are filled with hard drug use and outrageous behaviour that may be too much for some but these scenes while they may be crude in nature, are brilliantly shot and wonderfully acted by everyone involved, including a great cameo appearance from Matthew McConaughey. Margot Robbie also gives a great performance as Belfort’s poor wife Naomi. As the film goes on, she has to put up with her husband’s decadent lifestyle and gets increasingly frustrated by him.

Despite the crude behaviour that is packed throughout this film’s run time, it does not condone the shocking behaviour that is seen. There are consequences for this sort of behaviour and the film really hammers that point home. It’s three hour run time is maybe a bit too long but overall with first class performances from DiCaprio and Hill, combined hilarity throughout, The Wolf of Wall Street  was one raucous and side-splitting piece of story telling that definitely adds itself neatly to the collection of the wonderful filmography of Martin Scorsese.

A solid performance by DiCaprio, with a tremendous supporting turn from both Hill and Robbie, with masterful direction as usual from Scorsese.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Django Unchained (2012)

Image rights belong to Columbia Pictures and The Weinstein Company

Django Unchained – Film Review

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L Jackson

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: A freed slave sets out on a mission to  rescue his wife from the clutches of a crooked slave owner, aided by a German dentist turned bounty hunter.

Review: In his latest work, director Quentin Tarantino again gives his audience another thrilling spectacle of blood and revenge. Like Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino sets his latest story in a historical context. With the former set in the World War II era, Django Unchained is set in the Deep South of the United States, with the slave trade and shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War.

All the film’s principal cast play their roles to perfection. Special mentions go out to Foxx and Waltz. Foxx delivers a powerful performance, as he goes from being a really timid and weak slave to a confident bounty hunter under the guidance of his German partner. Another stellar performance also comes from Waltz in his second film with Tarantino, the first being Inglorious Basterds. His performance here, like in Basterds, was one in the Austrian excelled and landed him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the second time, a rare achievement in Hollywood. Waltz and Foxx have great chemistry on screen and as the film develops, their partnership only gets stronger. Leonardo DiCaprio also excels in his role as Calvin Candie, the cruel and brutal owner of the plantation on which Django’s wife is held in captivity. Similarly, Samuel L Jackson, plays Candie’s fiercely loyal house slave, Stephen, and again, the performance by Jackson was incredible.

While Candie, initially appears to be the film’s main villain, it could be said that it is Stephen who plays the main antagonist. His relationship, or lack of it with Django is almost instantaneously hostile and only worsens as the plot develops. Meanwhile, the camaraderie between Stephen and Candie is fascinating to watch as Stephen is forever lurking over his master’s shoulder like a predator that is lurking, waiting for the right moment to pounce on its prey. The dialogue between the main characters is outstanding.

In true Tarantino style, the film has some very violent moments, some of which may cause the viewer to wince in horror. Yet, at other times, the violence is at times somewhat over the top, or excessive. Yet the violence is Tarantino’s signature piece and he delivers in emphatic style with some great action sequences. Nevertheless, the films offers moments that will keep you glued to your seat, or maybe hiding behind the couch in fear. However, the film offers comedy value and it has its comedic moments that will get the audience laughing. The length of the film may put some people off, as Tarantino films have had tendencies to drag on for a little bit too long. However, with Django Unchained, every minute counts and is important to the plot.

Another top drawer aspect of this film, as with many Tarantino films, is the soundtrack. With the likes of John Legend, Jerry Goldsmith, 2pac and Luis Bacalov, the soundtrack delivers the tone of each scene perfectly and hats off to Mr Tarantino for that. However, along with some criticism over the violence, the constant use of the N word in this film is another aspect has attracted a lot of disapproval from some viewers. In spite of this, Django Unchained is a terrific film and in my opinion, is Tarantino’s best yet. The character development, particularly Django’s is just superb. Similarly, the acting is fantastic all round with some terrific action sequences and a superb soundtrack. Waltz deserved his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Tarantino deserved his second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Without doubt, it is a film that breaks boundaries, and goes places where some directors would not dream to go. It is controversial of course, but controversy and Quentin Tarantino practically go hand in hand. The film delivers on all fronts and it is a must see.

With top notch performances, excellent directing, a funny and sharp script, with over the top violence, this is Tarantino at his very best. 

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