Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Also known as: Untitled #9, #9 (working titles)
Release Date: May 21st, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: various
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Julia Butters, Mike Moh, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Samantha Robinson, Rafal Zawierucha, Damon Herriman, Lena Dunham, Maya Hawke, Harley Quinn Smith, Danielle Harris, Scoot McNairy, Clifton Collins Jr., Dreama Walker, Clu Gulager, Martin Kove, Rebecca Gayheart, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Toni Basil, Quentin Tarantino (voice), Vincent Laresca, Lew Temple, James Marsden (extended release), Walton Goggins (voice, extended release)

Visiona Romantica, Heyday Films, Bona Fide Group, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, 161 Minutes

Review:

“When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.” – Narrator

It’s probably no secret that I really loved Quentin Tarantino’s earlier films.

However, his more recent stuff hasn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way. I think a lot of that has to do with his reliance on his dialogue and his films coming across as a handful (or less) of long conversations with a bit of cool shit sprinkled in and an overabundance of ultraviolence that isn’t as effective as it once was and often times feels out of place and jarring.

That being said, I really fucking dug Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

It’s not a picture without its flaws but it’s well constructed, well written and perfectly paced, which isn’t something I can say for the rest of Tarantino’s more modern pictures.

I haven’t liked a Tarantino movie this much since the Kill Bill films.

I’m not sure what changed in the way that he paces and constructs his movies but this plays much more like Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown and that’s a very, very good thing.

A lot of credit has to go to the massive cast, all of whom felt perfect in their roles. It was really cool to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play best buds and sort of go on this adventure together. Their characters were an homage to Burt Reynolds and his stuntman, Hal Needham, who were really close and had a tight bond for years.

DiCaprio’s character was also based off of all the television western actors who were once big stars but never seemed to be able to move on to bigger projects and sort of got typecast and brushed aside.

The third main character in the film is Margot Robbie, who plays a fictionalized version of Sharon Tate, the most famous victim in the Charles Manson murders.

However, like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, this film doesn’t follow history’s path and it carves out its own unique story. But I’ve always really loved alternative history takes in fiction. Hell, The Man In the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is one of my all-time favorite novels. I still haven’t watched the television show, though.

Anyway, the film does run long but it’s not as exhausting as The Hateful Eight. We’re not trapped in one room for three hours, here. Instead, we get to explore old-timey Hollywood in an era where it was leaving its glamorous age behind and moving into the darker, grittier, post-Code era.

There are some scenes, while pretty cool, that probably didn’t need to be in the film and don’t serve much purpose other than amusing the director.

One such scene is the fight between Bruce Lee and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it but it didn’t serve the story other than to show how cool and tough Booth was but by this point in the movie, we already knew that. It was also a way for Tarantino to wedge in a few more cameos, in this case: Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell, two of his faves.

The sequence that really cemented this film as being pretty solid was the one that took place at the ranch. Here, Brad Pitt’s Booth discovers that an old friend’s ranch has become infested with cultish hippies, who the audience comes to learn are associated with Charles Manson. It’s an absolutely chilling sequence that builds up suspense in a way that I haven’t seen Tarantino do since the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, a decade prior.

The climax of the film is also well constructed and pretty fucking intense. This is the part of the film where history is altered and we get to see some epic Tarantino-styled justice befall the force of evil that has been brooding over the story for over two hours.

I probably should have seen this in the theater and I believe that it’s the only Tarantino picture that I haven’t seen on the big screen. However, his two previous films exhausted me and I assumed that this would do the same. But I’m glad to say that this seems like a return to form and I hope this momentum carries over into his future projects.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other more modern Tarantino films.

Film Review: Tusk (2014)

Release Date: September 6th, 2014 (TIFF)
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Based on: SModcast #259: The Walrus & the Carpenter by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Génesis Rodríguez, Johnny Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp

Demarest Films, SModcast Pictures, A24, 102 Minutes

tuskReview:

Kevin Smith had an awful idea. Sure, it was fun fleshing out and debating over a podcast but that bad and bizarre idea became a film. It is now a film that Kevin Smith will have to live with as part of his film catalog that seems to get tarnished more and more with each release since the late 90s.

Maybe Smith never had it, maybe he was a one trick pony, maybe that less than a handful of films he did in the 90s were the best he’d ever produce. If you have ever wondered whether or not Kevin Smith was a hack and were still undecided, this film should make that decision much easier for you.

I don’t want to hate on Smith. I’m part of that group of people that wants to see him find his mojo again. However, Tusk makes me question if there was any mojo to begin with. Maybe those earlier films weren’t as good as I thought they were. Maybe I am just falling victim to nostalgia for films I fell in love with when I was still a teenager without a palate as vast as the one I have now. I can’t say for sure but I can say that Tusk is fucking dreadful and it puts a big exclamation point on everything wrong with Smith, not just as a filmmaker, but as an entertainer.

Tusk is one bad joke told over an hour and forty-two excruciating minutes. It is supposed to be a horror comedy. Sure, it is horrifying but mostly for the wrong reasons. It is only funny in one bit of the film – where Justin Long’s character meets a border agent when he first arrives in Canada. Other than that one minute exchange, the comedy is lost in this ridiculous exhibit.

Justin Long has always been pretty horrible. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy in the real world but Tusk doesn’t do anything to help his case.

Michael Parks is sometimes amazing and delightful, he may be the bright spot of this film but he’s still thrown into a mess of a movie and what may be a great performance is ruined by the absurdity of everything else happening. You can be the best actor in the world but if you are fed shitty lines and are in a premise that even you aren’t buying into, your performance is doomed.

Johnny Depp shows up and plays one more in a string of really bizarre characters, which has been Depp’s trend since he shook off that teenage heartthrob persona years ago. While this sometimes works for Depp, his weird character in this film is unfunny, boring and falls flat. He is some sort of Canadian private investigator but comes off as someone doing a bad impersonation of John Malkovich playing a French person.

Haley Joel Osment appears in this and it is truly nice seeing him do something as an adult. Also, Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters play clerks in a convenient store and do a pretty okay job with their limited time.

Génesis Rodriguez plays Justin Long’s girlfriend and she is maybe the best performer of the movie – beating out Parks because she didn’t have to perform in as many ridiculous situations. She is also extremely beautiful and from what I can gauge, a much better actress than the roles she’s been given so far in her career.

If you don’t know about the premise of this film, it is about a crazy old man who invites a podcaster into his home for an interview, only to drug him, keep him captive and physically morph him into a walrus. If you want it visually ruined for you, just Google “tusk” and hit images. There you will see Justin Long in all his walrusy glory.

The pace of this film was disjointed. It was slow for a bit, then it jumped ahead a great deal. It was confusing. For example, Justin Long finds himself losing body parts and the process to full walrus seems slow. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he is a full fledged walrus chained to a floating slab.

By the time you get to the end of this film, you are left wondering what the whole point was. Well, the point is that Kevin Smith had a dumb idea on a podcast, his legions of Smithites told him to make it and like a soulless whore, he did. And while I am sure those loyal Smithites jack off to Tusk daily, until the next Smith schlock comes out, the rest of us are left baffled, confused and disgusted.

This is the worst film Kevin Smith has ever made. In fact, it is the worst film that I have seen in a really long time and I went to the theater for Fantastic Four and Terminator: Genisys. I still want Kevin Smith to return to glory. Maybe he should stay away from the horror genre, as he has had two awful duds with this and Red State. Maybe focusing on Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 is what he should do. But at the same time, the novelty of those films wore off a long time ago.

Rating: 1/10