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.



1997 Movie Review: FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1997)

Classic Movie Review
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvery Keitel, Juliette Lewis
Review by Jared Bratt


On the run from “Johnny law”, Seth (George Cloony) and Ritchie (Quentin Tarantino) Gecko, two newly escaped convicts, hot off the heels of their most recent bank heist, abduct a family of innocent commuters as they proceed to evade the authorities by fleeing across the U.S. border, into Mexico, so that they can rendezvous with their foreign criminal counterparts at a local dive bar known as the “Titty Twister”. Using their freshly acquired hostages as collateral, so as to ensure the stability of their otherwise expendable lives, the two ruthless brothers force the family’s father, Jacob, a faithless preacher, (Harvey Keitel) and his two kids, his son, Scott, and his daughter, Kate, (Julliette Lewis) to accompany them into the excited bar while they wait to meet up with their Mexican affiliates. Unbeknownst to them, however, is the fact that the seedy establishment actually serves as a well-disguised feeding ground for a bloodthirsty cult of famished vampires lead by their equally ferocious queen, (Salma Hayek) who slyly masquerades as the joint’s main attraction, a seductive stripper who opportunely diverts the club’s clientele from realizing the absurd, horrific horrors that lie ahead.


From Dusk Till Dawn is one of those movies that appear to always be playing on T.V. throughout all hours of the night. Essentially two films for the price of one, the movie accounts for an extremely distinctive blend of the taught “70sesque” crime-caper, exploitation film meets the comically grounded, gratuitous gore fest of an Evil Dead picture. Both these genres are wrapped up even further in, what you could say, accounts for the film’s third genre known as “Tarantinoism”.

Director Robert Rodriguez makes sure to keep that well known brand of Tarantino madness in tact while he still keeps things fresh, bringing to the table, his own unique eye for a quick cut, spaghetti western, John Woo “shoot ‘em up” style of filmic execution. Essentially, Rodriguez applies the same acclaimed style that initially propelled him to become one of the most innovative filmmakers of his generation to the horror genre. Working from a screenplay written by Tarantino himself, Rodriguez creatively retains that “no-holds-barred” sense of horror movie-making aesthetic. Harkening back homage to the great, grotesque gore-fests of the 60s, 70s and 80s, From Dusk Till Dawn’s own 1996, release, unfortunately, didn’t quite generate nearly half as much the buzz as anyone of those eras, yet since then, it undoubtedly has gone on to be hailed as an innovative cult classic.

The film kicks off with a drop kick to the face that sets the viewer in check reminding us to acknowledge the fact that this is indeed a movie based on all things Tarantino. We are immediately introduced to the movie’s abundant amount of “badassery” from the second the actors start to retort Tarantino’s unique brand of unconventionally witty dialogue.

Michael Parks’ first screen incarnation of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw initially warms us up to the film’s crime-caper element while setting us up for the ridiculously cool, deadpan cast that is to follow directly after his own arrival into the picture. He enters a local convenient store, wandering into a classic Tarantino monologue ranting politically incorrect obscenities with his old-fashioned, raspy voice and squinting Dirty Harry mannerisms in the store clerk’s direction. Park’s screen time, here, is brief, nevertheless, he truly owns every second of it. He is magnetically charismatic in a John Wayne type of way while his poised delivery of Tarantino’s “talky” dialogue alone is enough to make you believe the film itself revolves around his character That is until he is shot dead, with a bullet through the head, by the cold-blooded Geckos. The brothers then proceed to shoot up, and burn down, the convenient store, adding more corpses to their rapidly escalating body count, while the film’s tone is deceivingly established as reflecting yet another exercise in post Pulp Fiction crime lore. Nevertheless, midway though what appears to be a predictable ride, Rodriguez brilliantly shifts his movie into Desperado horror movie mode as the film devilishly reveals its true identity; the local “barflys” populating the film’s sleazy bar setting unexpectedly reveal themselves to be well disguised vampires equipped to feast on anyone unlucky enough to be trapped within their horrific, evil domain.

Once this brilliant shift in genres occurs, From Dusk Till Dawn truly alters into something shockingly different. Not only does Cloony’s anti-hero protagonist become the guy the audience is ultimately rooting for but also the movie itself takes on an exceptionally absurd sense of style and filmic execution. Rodriguez uses the action spawned switch, within the story, as a well advised cue to up the stakes as he takes the opportunity to run creatively rampant shooting every type of gratuitous gore gag in the book. Gone is the downcast, moody, angst filled suspense pacing of the film’s first half and, while the tension is indeed still apparent, accompanying it, is a slyly comedic pastiche blend of “in your face” action and squirting blood and guts-carnage. All of this is eccentrically strung together by an underlining sense of campy hilarity that seems to get stronger as the film’s action scenes grow gorier and more graphically excessive in nature.

Starring in his first screen role post E.R. fame, George Cloony deserves major “cred” as the brothers’ hard-bitten, yet persistently professional, leader; enthusiastically playing the movie’s anti-hero as if he were the rejected reservoir dog cousin of Snake Plisken. Cloony’s Seth Gecko seems bound to leap off the screen, destined to shove a 357 magnum down the throats of the film’s collective viewers. Indeed Cloony stylishly brings a certain amount of suave charm and charisma to the role; however, he fuses these likable traits with such a towering level of contrasting toughness that his performance truly shines as this constant, indestructible force of brooding male machismo. Almost as equally impressive as Cloony’s unconventional acting is Tarantino’s own subdued portrayal of a sex addicted rapist. Atypically restraining his well-known flamboyantness, Tarantino opts to portray Ritchie Gecko as a disturbingly reserved individual with a clear sense of pent up sexual rage. Essentially, Tarantino makes his role work because he plays it straight while, for the most part, cleverly managing to avoid slipping into just another self-referential caricature of himself.

Also, adding to the list of actors playing against type, the great, and underused, Harvey Keitel is featured, here, as a swift speaking, holy man with a shattered belief in god and himself. Keitel humbly downplays his obvious command until it ‘s tonally time for him to digress the faithless preacher persona into a vampire slaying, scripture citing badass. Keitel plays his role with such prevailing and convincing delivery that even when the movie drastically transforms into a surrealistic horror-action-comedy, his performance, and ultimate unflinching dedication to the role, never once seems false.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a volatile burst of creative oomph. While, admittedly anyone looking for an award friendly crime picture will most likely leave with a bad taste in their mouths, Tarantino enthusiasts, action junkies, and horror freaks alike should rejoice in seeking this flick out … and grab a beer.
from dusk to dawn


Happy Birthday Today: Quentin Tarantino (March 27th)

quentinHappy Birthday Quentin Tarantino

See reviews of his best films:

dir. Quentin Tarantino
Harvey Keitel
Tim Roth
Steve Buscemi

PulpFictionPulp Fiction
dir. Tarantino
John Travolta
Samuel L. Jackson

dir. Robert Rodriguez
Antonio Bandarss
Salma Hayek

From Dusk Till DawnFrom Dusk Till Dawn
dir. by Robert Rodriguez
George Clooney

dir. Quentin Tarantino

Jamie Foxx
Don Johnson

KILL BILL VOLUME 1Kill Bill: Volume 1
dir. Tarantino
Uma Thurmon
Lucy Lui
Vivica A Fox

KILL BILL VOLUME 2Kill Bill: Volume 2
dir. Tarantino
Uma Thurman
David Carradine
dir. Tarantino
Robert Rodriguez
Cheech Marin
Kurt Russell

2012 Movie PosterInglourious Basterds
dir. Tarantino
Brad Pitt
Mike Myers

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (USA 2015) Top 10 *****
Directed by Quentin Tarrantino
Starring: Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern

Review by Gilbert Seah

Review now embargoed until Dec. 24th