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 2000-2009, Film Review

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

inglourious_basterds
Image is property of The Weinstein Company, A Band Apart, and Universal Studios

Inglourious Basterds – Film Review

Cast:  Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz,  Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: A group of Jewish American soldiers set out with the intention of killing Nazis in the heart of Nazi occupied France, all the while, a plot to assassinate Nazi High Command is being devised by a cinema owner with a tragic past.

Review: The Second World War, a truly dark and troubling part of European History in the 20th century. The rise of Fascism and Communism and a continent that was seemingly on the brink of tearing itself to pieces. A period that has been the subject of many textbooks. Therefore presenting a perfect opportunity it would seem for writer and director Quentin Tarantino, a chance to make a fun and violent movie during the period that quite literally throws the history textbook out of the window, and shoot it a couple, or maybe ten times.

Set in 1944 with the war raging across the continent, enter the Basterds lead by Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt)  a group of Allied soldiers who are killing Nazi soldiers with with a large amount of glee as they do. Meanwhile a cinema in Paris becomes the centre of a plot by the owner (Melanie Laurent) who is after one thing only, vengeance. The perfect ingredients for a three hour Tarantino flick filled with violence and superbly written dialogue and some truly memorable characters, and it sure is bloody entertaining stuff!

With what is without doubt one of the finest opening scenes in cinema history, we meet Colonel Hans Landa, played wonderfully by Christoph Waltz who’s on his way to meet a farmer, about the whereabouts of some missing Jews.  Although this conversation is initially warm and hospitable, it isn’t long before things go cold, unwelcoming and becoming all the more tense with each passing scene. On this scene alone, Waltz deserved the many accolades that came his way for this performance, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Tarantino has created many memorable characters in his filmography, but Landa is right up there with the best of them. Laurent is also spectacular as the cinema owner, Tarantino knows how to make compelling female characters, and he does so yet again as both Shoshanna (Laurent) and Bridget (Kruger) are intriguing and well developed characters, the former more so than the latter though. Brad Pitt as the gruff Aldo Raine is also on spectacular form as the leader of the Basterds, with Michael Fassbender also lending his tremendous talents as a British Double Agent in what is a very talented cast.

Tarantino is one of the finest writers and directors working in the industry, and there are more than a few scenes that are just flawless in terms of the writing, the actors performances and the execution of the scenes are all just exceptional. The aforementioned beginning sequence jumps to mind, but so too does the quite brilliant restaurant scene, which has potential to be one of the finest Mexican stand off scenes ever put to film. The tension is almost unbearable at some points. Whoever knew that a scene where two characters eat strudel could be so tense? This being a Tarantino flick means that there will be violence, and there is plenty of that indeed, and it’s glorious to watch. The script also manages to fuse a perfect amount of comedy in there as well, watching Pitt try and mask his thick American accent to masquerade as an Italian is just extremely entertaining.

The length is often a gripe with some of Tarantino’s work, and yes at and at just over 2 and a half hours, Basterds is certainly a movie you need to sit down and invest your time in. Yet it’s a worthy investment when the climax is reached and the credits begin to roll. “This might just be my masterpiece,” says one character as the film reaches its conclusion. It almost feels as though that dialogue was from Tarantino himself direct to the audience, and on the evidence of this film, it is kind of hard to disagree with him.

With exceptional writing, tremendous acting, and a bloody exciting story set in the heart of the Second World War. This is vintage Tarantino, and one of his best.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Image is property of A Band Apart and Miramax Films

Kill Bill: Volume 1 – Film Review

Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Vivicia A Fox, Gordon Liu, Sonny Chiba

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: After a Bride (Thurman) is brutally beaten up by her former assassination squad members on her wedding day, after a lengthy spell in a coma, she wakens and swears revenge on her former colleagues, and her boss, Bill.

Review: If you ever want some terrific over-the-top violence and some well written characters from your movies, then Mr Quentin Tarantino is the director who usually has you covered, particularly when it comes to the over-the-top violence, and blood, lots and LOTS of blood.

For many people, their wedding day is the happiest day of their lives, well not for a lady who we initially just know as The Bride codenamed, Black Mamba. Her former colleagues of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad arrive at the ceremony to literally rain blood and bullets on her parade with some messy consequences that leave her in a coma for four years. Once she awakens, she is furious and on a very personal mission of revenge against her former assassination squad members. As the old saying goes “hell hath no fury, like a woman scored.” She is a woman on a mission with a hit list of names to find and take revenge,  which as the film reminds us, is a dish best served cold.

After making his name in very bloody fashion with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and six years after the release of Jackie Brown, Tarantino emerged with a new film that originally spanned over four hours, as such he decided to cut it into two movies. This first film of this extraordinary story focuses on the Bride as she tracks down the first name on her death list O-Ren Ishii, (Lucy Liu) but in typical Tarantino fashion, the story is not told linearly, jumping back and forth between the present and events in the past, but he does so with great effect.

Tarantino, after winning an Oscar for an Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction, once again shows off his tremendous talent as a writer. Yet here he certainly honed his craft as an excellent director of action. From the very first shots that  feature a very beaten up Bride, you know it’s time to fasten your seatbelts, as you’re in for a bloody and entertaining thrill ride. The story is tremendous, with very well developed characters all round, with a superb screenplay. It’s very apparent that anime, martial arts and spaghetti westerns are influences in the writing, with plenty of visual nods to the aforementioned genres and it’s all fused together incredibly well.

Uma Thurman in the lead gives an absolutely tremendous performance, one of the very best lead female characters that has ever been put to the big screen. She is utterly without mercy and compassion as she hunts down her colleagues and will not hesitate to kill any and all who stand in her path. As she’s our protagonist,  you want to root for her as she battles her foes, with the film’s final showdown certainly being one of the most gripping and enthralling confrontations that has ever been put to screen, certainly one of the most bloody too with swords swinging and limbs flying absolutely everywhere, and lots and lots of blood.

Her former colleagues that we meet here O-Ren, Vernita Green (Vivicia A Fox) and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) all give tremendous performances as the merciless members of the assassination squad. Furthermore even though we never see his face, the big boss Bill emits a sadistic, cold, merciless persona just through his voice, and the late David Carradine does an excellent job bringing him to life and besides Thurman, it’s his work that helps to steal the show. Tarantino almost never fails to bring deep and interesting characters to the big screen in his movies, and the crop of characters, both lead and side characters certainly don’t disappoint. It’s a bloody thrilling ride, and we’re only halfway into the story.

Terrific writing, expert directing and some top performances particularly from Thurman and Carradine, Tarantino managed to slash together another extraordinary film that definitely ranks among his very best.

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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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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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