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: The House of the Devil (2009)

Release Date: April 25th, 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West
Music by: Jeff Grace
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace, A.J. Bowen, Lena Dunham (voice)

Constructovision, RingTheJig Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, MPI Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Gorgon Video, 95 Minutes

Review:

“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…” – title card

This was recently featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In and he called it one of the best horror films of the last few decades. He’s not wrong.

I hadn’t seen this since it came out and the first time I watched it, it didn’t grab me. The problem though, is that I was drunk at a party with a bunch of other drunk people watching horror movies. Despite loving the fact that this had Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov in it, I never had much urge to revisit it.

I’m glad that I got a second chance to see it though, as I loved it. And I think I loved it for the reasons that most people seem to not like about it.

It’s slow but it’s wonderfully slow. Some people get bored with this old school way of building up suspense but if you just sit through this, uninterrupted by drunk degenerates around you, it pulls you in, tightens its grip and doesn’t let go until its ready to throw the kitchen sink right at your face.

The payoff in this film is well worth the wait and even if Sam, the victim in the film, gets free of her bonds way too easily, the final sequence in this film is pretty damn satisfying. Granted, it does go for a Rosemary’s Baby ending and I thought that was a bit derivative but the movie still has a hell of an effect on the psyche in that final act.

One thing that really is the glue in this picture is the sound. Between the score by Jeff Grace and the little bumps and scratches you hear throughout the creepy house, you can’t help but to be on edge and to feel yourself in Sam’s shoes.

This is one of those cerebral horror movies. Not in a way that makes you think too hard and takes you on a mindfuck of a journey but in a way that takes over your senses and sort of throws you to the wolves right when it is damn good and ready.

Perfect pacing, incredible sound management and the cast was damn good.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: good, old school horror films of the late ’60s through early ’80s: The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining for example.