Film Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD (USA 2019) ****

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood Poster
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

One of the year’s most anticipated films, Quentin Tarantino’s 9th and latest film, ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD follows the misadventures of has-been star Rick Danton and his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth set in 1969 Hollywood.  The action takes place in three separate days on February the 8th and 9th and August the 8th, the night of the Charles Manson murders.

To reveal more of the plot would spoil ones entertainment of the film.

Tarantino is so much loved by cineastes that he can get away with murder.    ONCE UPON A TIME also contains minor racist humour, regarding Mexicans, Germans and Indians.  “Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans”  “Fresh sauerkraut” “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” are three such lines uttered in the film.

There are just so many impressive plusses in the film.  Foremost are the performances from the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio as the has-been Hollywood star Rick Danton and Brad Pitt as his stunt double Cliff Booth.  DiCaprio exhibits the paranoia and childishness of a spoilt star while in perfect contrast Pitt plays the super-cool macho stuntman that supports Dalton but at  the same time needs him for employment – a excellent irony of a relationship.  Apparently Tarantino noticed the relationship between an actor and his stunt double and their support for each other and based his script from that keen observation.  To make matters more interesting, their relationship unfolds in the background of the infamous Charles Manson murders which included the death of Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate.  Or so it seems.  Tarantino has played with History as in his best film INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and he does the same (not to be detailed in this review as to reveal a spoiler) in this film.

The film contains lots of references to the late 60’s films (as the film is set in 1969) that those growing up during those times will find particularly nostalgic.  Seen in posters in the film or heard announced on the radio are films like Jack Smight’s 1969 THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome 1968 LADY IN CEMENT, Richard Wilson’s 1968 3 IN THE ATTIC, Mike Sarne’s 1968 JOANNA, Phil Karlson’s Matt Helm flick the 1968 THE WRECKING CREW and Alexander Mackendrick’s 1967 DON’T MAKE WAVES the latter two films also starring Sharon Tate. These are not classics but the typical type of films common that help mold many a cineaste, me included.  It is puzzling why Tarantino did not include the Roman Polanski’s 1967 film THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS in the list.  Fans are also in for a treat with a scene in THE WRECKING CREW where Sharon Tate takes down Nancy Kwan.  If these films are not enough, Tarantino also creates fake films starring Rick Dalton and other stars at the time like Telly Savalas and Ann-Margaret.

Cliff Booth gets fired from a job on a Hollywood set.  Tarantino shows the incident that led to the firing in the film’s best and funniest scene where Cliff Booth kicks Bice Lee’s (an excellent Mike Moh) ass in a fight on the set of THE GREEN HORNET.

This film, Tarantino’s 9th and reportedly his lasting clearly displays the director’s indulgence in his passion for film within a certain period. There is nothing wrong with this.  Though a little overlong, there are details that can be observed (especially in the background) and tons of references.  No Tarantino film has failed to surprise and this film is no exception.  And with so much detail, ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD which premiered in Cannes to a 15-minute standing ovation deserves to be see a second time.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

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1997 Movie Review: TITANIC, 1997

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TITANIC, 1997
Movie Review

Directed by James Cameron
Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates
Review by Andrew Rowe

SYNOPSIS:

Fictional romantic tale of a rich girl and poor boy who meet on the ill-fated voyage of the ‘unsinkable’ ship.

REVIEW:

He spends twenty minutes setting up the story before we are even introduced to the main characters. Atop of that he spends another hour and twenty minutes before introducing us to that big white block of ice that changed Hollywood forever. This is James Cameron’s film. He wrote it, co-edited it, and directed it. He made the film exactly the way he wanted to, and I would not have it any other way.

Cameron uses every single one of the film’s 194 minutes to tell his story. Every shot is there for a reason, and as long as its running time is, there is no point that boredom creeps in. Cameron uses a great storytelling device, which consists of the film opening and closing in a modern setting. Brock Lovett is a treasure hunter looking for the “Heart of the Ocean” in the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Rose DeWitt Bukater, a survivor of the Titanic sees Lovett on television. She contacts him and is sent with her daughter to his boat. There is a drawing of Rose that was found in a safe on the wreck, it’s a nude portrait of Rose wearing the “Heart of the Ocean”. Rose then begins telling her story of her time on the Titanic.

We’re then transported to 1912; Cameron puts his massive budget to good use with beautiful crane shots that mix dazzling special effects with brilliant art design. One shot in particular is when young Rose, played by Kate Winslet exits her car. The camera cranes down over her large brimmed purple hat to reveal the beautiful actress. It’s just one of the many moments Cameron uses filmmaking magic to bring his story to vivid visual life. He makes it well known that this is a film of epic proportions, and we are in for a treat.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson is introduced as a penniless artist who travels the globe with the clothes on his back. As compared to Rose who is a first-class socialite, Jack won his ticket on the Titanic through a poker game. The two find themselves meeting at the stern of the boat, where Rose is about to commit suicide. Jack talks her down, and their romance begins.

Jack tries to show Rose how to hawk a “loogie” like boys do, and although this scene may seem unnecessary; it’s just a pit stop on the road to their destination of love. Over the course of an hour and twenty minutes we’ve seen Jack and Rose fall in love, and it feels real. Cameron took his time, but because of his patience and gentle pacing, we’ve fallen just as in love with them as they are with eacthother. Teenagers and adult filmgoers alike cannot deny the chemistry between these two; their love is one for the ages.

When the boat does strike the iceberg it’s not an immediate threat, it’s a casual impending doom. Water slowly fills the lower class section of the boat. The women and children in first class begin loading onto lifeboats, knowing they’re leaving behind people that will never see land again. The sense of panic and intensity builds and builds. Cameron has a great ensemble cast he’s been developing the whole film and has a purposeful fate for each of them. When the boat breaks in half and begins sinking it is the greatest car crash you can’t look away from that has ever been caught on film. With little music, Cameron lets the screams of the passengers falling to their death haunt you. Bodies bounce off propellers and other pieces of the boat, women and children wait in their beds as water surrounds them, thousands of lives are ending before our eyes. The images are horrific, and you’ve never been so happy cuddled up on your warm couch.

You could nit pick at some of the script and its dialogue, just as you can the lyrics in best pop songs of our time. That is essentially what Titanic is, an amazingly crafted film that appeals to everyone, because it has something for everyone. It’s bubblegum pop in film form, a romantic tragedy, a disaster film, and the fact that the event is a part of history allows it to resonate even more. It’s such an experience that even after its initial impact, still delivers what it did a decade ago, popcorn chomping bliss on the greatest scale.

 

titanic

Movie Review: THE REVENANT (2015)

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the_revenant_posterTHE REVENANT (USA 2015) ****Top10
Directed by Alejando G. Iñárritu

Review by Gilbert Seah

Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu’s (AMORES PERROS, 21 GRAMS, BABEL and last year’s BIRDMAN) THE REVENANT is a no-holds barred almost 3-hour wilderness adventure complete with all the violence of the wild west frontier set in the 1820’s. If one does not have the stomach for the grisly, avoid at all costs.

The film is based on the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) based on a 2002 novel of the same name by Michael Punke. The plot of the film can be summarized in one line, remarkable considering the length of the film. Hugh Glass is left for dead by his fellow travellers after a vicious bear attack and subsequently seeks revenge on them for abandoning him.

The story contains a few subplots, like the one involving his quest for revenge. One of his fellow travellers is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a vicious, hardened criminal who ends up killing Glass’s son. Another youth, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) is a good hearted drawn into the drama.

The film begins with a 15-minutes attack of the Indians on the fur trappers. It is an extremely violent segment, inspired no doubt by the similar lengthy beginning segment of the D-Day landing in Steven Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Both sides suffer heavy casualties. Glass, Fitzgerald, his son and Andrew escape with a few others before the crucial bear attack.

The bear attack sequence is no less violent and occurs not once but twice in all its horror. Silly rumours by some press describe the scene as a bear rape but one thing for sure is that there is no love in this attack.

Despite the simple plot, there are a few details that occur so fast that they are difficult to follow. But these are not essential to appreciating Iñárritu’s film.

Director Iñárritu is a well respected artist who have proven himself apt at working with different genres including Hollywood drama as in last year’s acclaimed BIRDMAN. In THE REVENANT, he workers with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, together creating some of the most stunning images seen on screen this year. One has the men crossing the top of a water fall, another running across the shallow waters of tall trees and another at the film’s climax during a chase when an avalanche can be observed in the background. One can question the purpose of these, as the waterfall and avalanche have nothing to do with the story. But Iñárritu has earned his artistic licence to indulge in such excesses. But a few of his traits like the beginning chase camera shots used in AMORES PERROS are duplicated here in the chase scenes in THE REVENANT.

The performances of the entire cast is nothing short of superb. DiCaprio and Hardy excel, and credit should be given to these artists for working under the extreme conditions as shown on screen.

THE REVENANT succeeds admirable in being a stunning looking violet wilderness adventure. The film comes complete with a satisfactory ending, a fight between hero and villain with some spiritual highlights thrown in for good measure.

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