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: Deadwood: The Movie (2019)

Release Date: May 31st, 2019
Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by: David Milch
Music by: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Brent Sexton, Sean Bridgers, Franklyn Ajaye, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Jeffrey Jones, Don Swayze, Jade Pettyjohn, Cleo King, Peter Jason, Geri Jewell, Garret Dillahunt (cameo), Larry Cedar (cameo)

Red Board Productions, The Mighty Mint, HBO Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a sad night. Something’s afire. Christ, I do have feelings.” – Al Swearengen

Man, I’m still a bit pissed that we never got a fourth season of Deadwood, especially with how the third season ended. We were told that there’d be a movie to followup the series, however, but that seemed to be an empty promise, as it was in limbo for well over a decade. Well, in 2018, they were finally able to get the key cast members back to revisit the Deadwood world once again.

While I still would’ve preferred a fourth season and felt like the followup to the George Hearst storyline needed more time to come to its proper and satisfying conclusion, this was still probably the next best thing, considering the long hiatus and frankly, it’s better than nothing, as we’re no longer left with an intense, unresolved cliffhanger.

Even though, this film came out thirteen years after the show ended, the story takes place ten years later. It lets us peek into the lives of all these great characters once again and it does a pretty good job of closing out some lingering issues and plot threads. But, unfortunately, these characters deserved more time, especially since there are so many of them that you care about and only 110 minutes to wedge all this story into.

I get it, it was a bit of a miracle that this actually, finally, got made. But it would’ve been a richer, better and more satisfactory story had it at least been a multi-part miniseries or even the length of half of a regular season. While I know that these shows and films are expensive to produce, Deadwood was iconic and even if it is wrapped up, for better or worse, it just left you needing more.

Still, this was damn enjoyable and every actor really stepped up and brought their A-game, returning to roles that none of them had played for nearly a decade and a half. In fact, many of them have grown and become even better with all the added experience they’ve gotten over their careers. Most of these actors have gone on to do many, great things and it was impressive that they were actually able to get most of them back.

I thought the story was really good and the best that could be done with the running time. There isn’t a dull moment in the film and it flies by. On the flipside of that, it doesn’t feel like too much is stuffed in either. Plus, it is fairly well-balanced between all the key characters. I even like that they were able to work in some of the minor characters without it feeling forced or just cheap fan service.

While this isn’t as great as a fourth season could have been, it at least gives fans some closure after all these years. Still, I’d always be down for more.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deadwood television series, which should probably be watched first.

Film Review: Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)

Also known as: Die Hard 4.0, Die Hard 4, Die Hard: Tears of the Sun, Die Hard 4: Die Hardest, Die Hard: Reset (working titles), WW3.com (original script title)
Release Date: June 12th, 2007 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Mark Bomback, David Marconi
Based on: A Farewell to Arms by John Carlin; characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kevin Smith, Tim Russ

Cheyenne Enterprises, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.” – John McClane

When this came out, I liked it but it didn’t quite blow me away in the same way as the original trilogy of films did. I haven’t seen this since it was in the theater, however, so I was pleasantly surprised by it this time around, as it was better than I remembered. I still wouldn’t put it on the same level as the first three but it is a much better action movie than the majority of action flicks since the turn of the millennium.

One thing that I like about this series, besides the awesomeness that is Bruce Willis, is that each film takes place in (or around) a different major city. The majority of this picture is set in Washington DC It gives it a fresh look but at the same time, it has the same problem that a lot of the more modern action flicks have and that’s that it looks too polished.

While metropolitan DC is cool, it is kind of a sterile and generic looking city when away from the famous monuments and iconic government buildings. Also, I don’t think that the film really utilized how batshit crazy DC’s streets are in that there are big diagonal avenues that cut through the standard grid system that most large American cities have.

I typically get annoyed by Justin Long after about five minutes. However, there are a few films where he is really good and this is one of him. While he starts to grate on you pretty early on, he grows as a character and you end up really liking him. But like other Die Hard characters, he’s sadly a one-off and doesn’t ever return to fuck shit up with John McClane again.

Side note: I’d love a spinoff of John McClane sidekicks meeting up at a John McClane sidekick convention that is taken over by terrorists and they have to team-up without McClane there. That’ll never happen but a kid can dream. But if anyone ever gets the comic book publishing rights to the Die Hard franchise, this should be a miniseries.

Anyway, Timothy Olyphant is a decent villain but he just isn’t on the level of the villains from the three previous films. I actually found Maggie Q’s character to be more interesting and engaging but she’s sort of just thrown away in the second act, which is just used as fuel to make Olyphant go over the edge and sort of self-sabotage his own plan due to wanting revenge specifically on McClane.

Additionally, as good as most of this film is, it jumps the shark once John McClane has to fight a fucking F-35 fighter jet around a maze of bridges. Is it badass? Sure, but it is also so far removed from the rest of the picture that it’s no longer grounded in reality and feels more like some bonkers Michael Bay bullshit. Then I also remembered that this was directed by the guy behind the Underworld films, which really feels like a weird fit when you think about it.

Still, this is a good, solid way to waste a few hours with some mindless action and a character that has become beloved in American culture.

This is definitely weaker than the three previous entries but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s really good, has a good pace and just gives you more of John McClane being an absolute badass.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films.

TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.