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.

Vids I Dig 324: Filmento: ‘Birds of Prey’: The Impostor Deadpool Jack Sparrow

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn Birds of Prey movie is the first DC film of the new decade, and by the quality of it it seems DC is up to its old habits a’la Suicide Squad/Batman v Supeman/Justice League. But the interesting thing about Birds of Prey’s failure is that its pretty much a copy paste of other successful movies: Pirates of the Caribbean and Deadpool. The character of Harley Quinn is a straight ripoff of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, whereas the narrative and the wonky world of Birds of Prey is a straight ripoff of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. But despite copying cinematic greats, Birds of Prey still manages to fail, because it completely misses the point of what makes Pirates and Deadpool great. So, in today’s episode of Anatomy of a Failure, lets see how that happened and how DC/DCEU looks once again to be taking a backseat to Marvel/MCU.

Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title)
Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams

Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn

This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.

To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.

Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.

When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.

But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.

Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.

On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.

Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.

So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.

The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.

And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.

Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.

For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.

I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?

It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.

Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.

And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.

Film Review: I, Tonya (2017)

Release Date: September 8th, 2017 (TIFF)
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Steven Rogers
Music by: Peter Nashel
Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace

LuckyChap Entertainment, Clubhouse Pictures, AI Film, Neon, 119 Minutes

Review:

“I mean, come on! What kind of friggin’ person bashes in their friend’s knee? Who would do that to a friend?” – Tonya Harding

I thought that the trailer for I, Tonya was really good and I wanted to see the film. The main thing I wondered about though, was how they were going to actually portray the events in the movie. Part of me felt like the film could have the effect of making Tonya Harding some sort of misunderstood cult hero or the victim. While the film does humanize her, as it should, and it also shows the abuse she dealt with throughout her life, I feel like it was pretty fair to the story, as no one other than Tonya and those around her, knew what actually happened in regards to the assault on Nancy Kerrigan.

I like the point of view that the film took, in that it was based off of the interviews and testimonials given by Harding, Jeff Gillooly and LaVona Golden. The film’s plot would often show events from the three main characters different interpretations. Tonya would tell her story, then her mom or Jeff would cut in to correct it or defend themselves. I liked the way the plot was structured and the quick cuts worked really well for that quick shifting narrative.

However, that worked to the picture’s detriment too. At least, at one point in the story.

You see, the film worked really well as just a straight up biopic for the first two-thirds or so. I was pretty engaged in the story and Tonya’s life before the Kerrigan incident. In fact, when it shifted to the incident, it pulled me away from a film I was enjoying to where I suddenly found myself knee deep in something else. I thought the film just threw itself into the incident without a better build up, as the vibe immediately felt different and it hit you out of nowhere but I guess that’s how it went down, as far as we know. It was like watching a really good story about a girl who wants to be an Olympic figure skater, overcoming all the odds, as the decks are stacked against her and then like a punch to the gut, you are reminded as to why this is a story in the first place. It just takes you out of your element.

Still, overall, the plot was well structured and the narrative curveball doesn’t do much to derail the film. It just felt like a major hiccup and then it was gone.

The performances in this movie are all fantastic. Allison Janney steals every scene that she is in and her Oscar nomination is well deserved. Margot Robbie was spectacular as Tonya and Sebastian Stan, who I am mostly familiar with as being the Winter Soldier, was the real surprise of the bunch, as he plays a character so far outside of what I’ve see from him. It’s like he went from a badass like John Wick to Kip from Napolean Dynamite. It’s a hell of a transformation from his most famous role.

I don’t think I, Tonya is anywhere near a Picture of the Year contender and it wasn’t nominated. However, the performances have been justly considered and Robbie and Janney are up for Oscars. I think Janney has a real shot but Robbie has much steeper competition in the Lead Actress category.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Its a pretty unique sports biopic, so it’s hard to say.

Film Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Release Date: August 1st, 2016 (Premiere)
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller

DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., 123 Minutes (theatrical), 136 Minutes (extended cut)

suicide-squadReview:

Let me start by saying that I am really glad that I didn’t pay to see this movie in the theater. From the awful trailers, I expected this to be pretty bad. Well, it somehow managed to exceed the negative expectations I had for it.

It sucks, because on paper, this is a movie I should have loved. I really wanted it to be great. But ultimately, it goes to show that DC has no idea how to make a movie unless Christopher Nolan is in charge of it. I mean, between this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, I already want DC to start over.

I watched the extended cut of the film, as I heard that it fleshed things out and made the story more coherent. It did? Because what I got was a very disjointed clusterfuck that made little-to-no sense at all. The film was hard to follow due to its inconsistent pace, awful editing and never really being able to explain what is happening on screen in any sort of intelligible way.

The biggest issue with this picture isn’t that it is a giant mess that plays more like a series of vignettes. The biggest issue is that it is trying so damn hard to be cool and edgy.

First is the music. Yes, there are great and iconic songs in this movie. However, they’re all songs already used in other films, in other iconic scenes. It’s like David Ayer made a Pandora station called “cool music from cool movies” and then just used the first twenty tracks that played. It was really a piss poor use of those songs and their usage doesn’t make much sense, for the most part, except to establish, “Look how cool we are using this cool song that everyone knows is cool! Aren’t we fucking cool?! C’mon, we’re cool, right?!”

Apart from the pop tunes, the score of the film is boring and generic. Suicide Squad is another movie, in a long line of blockbusters, that can’t give us any memorable themes to sink our teeth into. Long gone are the days of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams’ Superman theme and a slew of others.

Then you had Will Smith’s Deadshot, in 2016, dressed like a cool character from a 70s blaxploitation flick. Killer Croc only cared about having BET in his cell, El Diablo had to play up the Mexican gangster card to the max and everyone else was too uninteresting to matter.

Harley Quinn was tolerable but pretty one-dimensional. The film does nothing really to show how she falls for the Joker. There are just a few flashbacks but they aren’t even that important. Sure, she proves her love by jumping into a vat of chemicals but why? Where is the build to that? How did she go from a presumably normal psychiatrist to Harley Quinn? I mean, I know, because I read the comics. But it is obvious from Suicide Squad that the people behind the movie never read them or just didn’t care enough about the character to give her life.

The Joker was awful. You had him covered in juvenile tattoos unfitting of the character. The Joker also had fronts in his teeth while being some sort of nightclub owner that cared about supercars and living in opulence. The Joker was also more of a wannabe punker trust fund kid than anything that felt Joker-like, at all. It was like some angry rich emo teen saw the real Joker on television and did his best trying to emulate him, all while never actually understanding the character. Wait, this is Jared Leto playing the Joker, so this is exactly what happened in real life.

The villain is the Enchantress. She is a boring villain. Granted, she is super powerful but that just makes me wonder why this “suicide squad” of extremely dangerous villains, mostly without superpowers, is sent to take her down. Where is Batman? Where is Wonder Woman? Aquaman? The Flash? Superman is “dead”, if this fits in the timeline after Batman v Superman. But seriously, wouldn’t any of those people be more capable and experienced? And the leader of this squad is a guy who has an emotional attachment to the villain? So the one good guy holding it together and trying to control these villains, is an emotionally unstable wreck?

The writing in this film sucks. The dialogue sucks and just serves the overall point of this whole film, “Ooh, ooh! Look how cool we are!”

The movie is also over two hours, which was too long. It should’ve been 90-100 minutes. 105, max. There was so much useless garbage scene-wise. Maybe the problem is the fact that they don’t even set off on their mission until 43 minutes into the picture.

What really sucks, is that the Suicide Squad was already on the CW show Arrow. They were handled really well and their story was building good momentum. Then because of this film being made, DC told the producers of Arrow to nix those characters. So a really good live-action version of the Suicide Squad was sacrificed to give us this shitty film.

David Ayer made a really bad movie. But that doesn’t seem to matter, as DC is letting him make a spin-off called Gotham City Sirens. That film is supposed to feature Harley Quinn and other female Batman villains.

It takes a lot for me to really hate a film. I hate this film. Comic book films have jumped the shark and at this point, it feels like exploitation of the original creators’ characters for a quick buck. DC Comics has yet to make a film that has any sort of soul. Suicide Squad is the worst of them, so far. I want to give Wonder Woman and Aquaman a chance but man, am I losing faith. Not that I had much since Man of Steel.

Rating: 2/10