Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Tarantino’s foot fetish really needs to be taken under control, they’re literally in your face at every opportunity and at this point it’s beyond creepy.

Here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the ninth film by Quentin Tarantino for anyone counting…because he’s only making ten allegedly…so this means we’re only getting one more….allegedly. Well however many films he intends on making none will feel quite as personal as Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood.

Set in 1969 LA, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are struggling to find fame in the final years of Hollywood’s Golden age. Desperate to stay as part of the Hollywood scene Dalton can’t handle the fact that he’s becoming a has-been actor as he strives for perfection. If you thought DiCaprio’s scenery chewing performance in Django Unchained was entertaining to watch then you’re sure to love him in Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. DiCaprio and Pitt make a great double act, a joy to behold, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate was also superb casting. A star studded cast (not you Lena Dunham) that’s sure to bring in a crowd. Now I’m not sure what happened in the editing room but there are more than a few scenes from the trailer that you won’t see in the film itself and FYI for anyone who got excited about seeing Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in this film, if you’ve seen the trailer then that’s about it. There are moments that are painfully dragged out, I just didn’t feel we needed to sit in the car with the characters while they’re driving around again and again. I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Hateful Eight, scenes that linger on for longer than necessary, I feel at some point the story needs to get on with it. Tarantino is enjoying filming a scene so much he almost doesn’t want to move on to the next scene. The film is set during the Manson murders so the constant sense of unease is building towards disaster. I will also admit I was one of those concerned few who was apprehensive about Tarantino taking on a film set during the Manson murders but he handled it in a way that was not only unexpected but thoroughly entertaining. If you’ve seen Inglourious Basterds then you know Tarantino doesn’t exactly take historical accuracies into consideration and the same can be said for Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Best not to dwell on that and just go with it.

Yes I’d consider myself a Tarantino fan, though in my opinion he reached his peak long ago. And although there’s a lot I like about his style of filming making, the shocking violence, the well-written characters having conversations about seemingly nothing. I could definitely survive without the foot obsession and the pointless narration. I’m sure if you ask anyone they’ll each rank their favourite Tarantino films differently (but I’ll fight anyone who thinks Death Proof is anywhere in the top five) I don’t feel Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is quite up there with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. Each to their own, no one divides an audience quite like Quentin Tarantino, despite being too long it’s entertaining and funny, with perhaps two of the best performances from DiCaprio and Pitt. Highly recommended for all the Tarantino fans.

★★★☆☆

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The Dead Don’t Die

I had such high expectations and The Dead Don’t Die didn’t come close to them

The moment The Dead Don’t Die started the couple sitting in front of me left the screen, now it’s possible they got a very strong inclination that they would not enjoy this film but it’s much more likely they were actually in the wrong screen. Either way they made the right decision and I’m sure whatever film they ended up in was presumably a lot more fun than the brainless The Dead Don’t Die.

Polar fracking has thrown the earth off its axis (yes it could happen you never know) and strange occurrences keep happening all over the world, daylight for much longer than usual, a weird glowing moon and animals literally fleeing the vicinity so you know shit’s about to go down. The setup is all this tension building, working its way towards inevitable disaster, and in case you didn’t pick up on that you’ve even got Adam Driver to remind you every once in a while, “this is definitely going to end badly” etc. I don’t think I’ve ever been this bored watching a zombie movie and that can’t have been easy to do, I mean its zombies they basically sell themselves. Fair play to anyone who didn’t die of boredom watching The Dead Don’t Die I am honestly having a hard time writing this review, I’m so disappointed I can only blame the trailers for essentially lying to me. It’s sold as a horror/comedy with a great cast, (not you Selena Gomez) well it’s got the horror, it’s got the cast but that’s about it. The Dead Don’t Die is perfect example of a great cast not being enough, if the story’s not there then what’s the point? It’s constantly trying to make you think about society today and how we’ve all basically turned into mindless zombies ourselves and in case you’re so bored and haven’t picked up on this thankfully Tom Waits will crop up in between Adam Driver telling us how bad things will end and give some narration as to the state of the world we live in. Tedious, dull and it got more annoying by the minute. I struggled to stay engaged with this film and I was exhausted by the time it finally ended. It’s incredibly quirky and might be to some people’s tastes but there’s just not enough in The Dead Don’t Die to keep you interested, not recommended, avoid at all costs.

★☆☆☆☆

Annabelle Comes Home

Yes I went to see another Conjuring movie, I know I know, what a waste blah blah blah. Don’t blame me, these past two months have been so dull for films what choice did I have? I could have seen Disney’s latest remake or I can see a generic horror movie that not great, adds nothing new to the genre but is entertaining nonetheless. A part of me really admires the Conjuring movies because despite everything they’ve managed to turn 7 movies into a successful franchise and I don’t see them stopping any time soon. And sure you’ve got the bad (looking at you Annabelle: Creation) and the really bad (looking at you Valak) but The Conjuring 1 & 2 are entertaining popcorn movies you can sit back, switch off and enjoy. Annabelle Comes Home may not be quite as bad as Annabelle Creation or The Nun but it sure ain’t up there with The Conjuring 1 & 2. Throwing Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga into it for five minutes isn’t going to make it better but nice try though.

In the aftermath of the Warren’s acquiring the Annabelle doll to add to their collection for safekeeping, the doll is supposedly a beacon for other spirits, so sure put it in a room with all the other haunted stuff in the Warren’s collection what could possibly go wrong? Annabelle Comes Home is a wasted opportunity, it made the effort with establishing characters but when it’s time for all the scary killer bride/ferry man things to start happening, it all felt underused. They show up to give you a scare then maybe another scare and then they’re gone. It brought in a lot of new ideas but went nowhere with them, it almost feels like they were introduced into Annabelle Comes Home just so they can get their own spin-off movie later because right now I don’t see an end to the every growing Conjuring Universe. I got one good fright and that’s about it. Entertaining popcorn flick recommended for all the horror fans.

★★☆☆☆

Midsommar

Fair play to anyone who did not walk out of Midsommar

If any of you out there would like to experience the sensation of being on drugs without actually taking any drugs well then is Midsommar the movie for you! Thank you Ari Aster for the nightmares, thank you for the distressing images embedded in my brain forever, you’re definitely one of the most unique filmakers out there but I’m honestly frightened of what you’ll make next because I can’t take much more of this. Sorry Ari Aster but between this and Hereditary I feel I’m done with your films, no doubt there is an audience for Midsommar (though I have to question their sanity) but I’m not part of it.

Dani (Florence Pugh), her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends travel to a remote part of Sweden for the fabled mid-summer festival. What’s that? A rural village out in the middle of nowhere? Why yes that does sound like we’ve got a cult on our hands doesn’t it? And you know what that means, eerie singing, some ritualistic sacrifices and lots of scenic shots of people dancing through the fields with flowers and pretty white garments. Call it whatever genre you want because it certainly doesn’t limit itself to only one. It feels like it wants to be a horror, though the result is not a conventional one but it’s pretty damn horrifying at times. Florence Pugh gave everything to this performance, it’s the one good thing I can take away from Midsommar. Jack Reynor simply shows up to read his lines and Will Poulter is the only damn person reacting the way you would expect someone to react in this scenario. He is a genuine mood in this film and adds some much needed comic relief.

As with Hereditary the first half plays out much stronger than the second. The set up was great but afterwards it starts to lose itself. I didn’t hate it and it’s not Mother! levels of bad but at some point I could tell where it was going and lost interest in the plot completely. I felt it didn’t have the atmosphere of a true horror movie but found a way to use graphic violence to unsettle you. I should also note that the way this film and indeed Hereditary portrays grief is really unlike anything else I’ve witnessed onscreen, largely due to Florence Pugh and Toni Collette. Their performance is so raw it’s almost unbearable to watch. And that pretty much sums up Midsommar in a sentence, almost unbearable to watch. That’s what it’s like to endure an Ari Aster movie, you know you should look away but you just can’t, it will push you to your limits and if you thought you didn’t have a limit then maybe Midsommar will help you find it. That’s not to say I didn’t get anything out of it. I laughed on more than one occasion, now whether I should have been laughing or not is up for debate. Yes one should not purchase a ticket for Midsommar without seriously considering if you’re going to want to see it, I know I could have happily gone the rest of my life without seeing it. Recommended for fans of Hereditary, this film is not for everyone, I repeat if you did not like Hereditary then you probably won’t like Midsommar either so you’ve been warned.

★★☆☆☆

Brightburn

I’m as bored writing this review as I was watching the film so feel free to skip to the star rating and avoid this utter nonsense that is Brightburn. For anyone still reading all you need to know about this film is it takes the idea of Superman and flips it on it’s head. What if a child from another world crashlands on earth but instead of being here to save it, he’s here to take it. A great idea but the result is far from great, or even good because that’s all it is. A good idea stretched into a full length film. I didn’t have high hopes for Brightburn but I was expecting better.

A film never comfortably fitting into one particular genre, it plays out very much like Smallville then takes a sharp detour into a horror genre, think predictable child possession movie and all that stuff we’ve seen before. Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) have been trying to have a baby for some time now and one night their prayers are answered when a baby crashlands in the woods and they decide to raise him as their own. Well as Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) starts to grow up it becomes apparent he’s no ordinary child. If I can say one positive thing about Brightburn at least it wasn’t afraid to shy away from the violence. It doesn’t go overboard but it’s enough to make you squirm in your seat. It moves from set piece to set piece, there’s nothing surprising and at no point was there any atmosphere, and with only a 90 minute running time I found myself getting quite bored. Now I know there is an audience out there for this movie somewhere because it’s not suffering as much at the box office as I would have expected but if I stopped to ask the six other people in the screen after the credits rolled I’m presuming they were as unimpressed as I was.

Brightburn also suffers from its very own trailer, how many times have I criticized a movie for that? Honestly someone tell me because I’ve lost count at this point. This is a particular problem for horror movies in general, and considering Brightburn fancies itself as a bit of horror it’s fallen into the exact same trap. The film’s scariest scenes have all been shoved into the trailer to bring in the target audience so when you’re sitting there watching it there’s no longer any shock value. You know how a majority of the “scary” scenes will play out because you’ve already seen them. They even managed to throw in a couple of cheap jump scares for good measure. To sum up if you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve seen the movie and you’re probably going to feel pretty annoyed if you paid a full price ticket to see a mediocre Superhero origin horror mashup that has a hard time keeping anyone’s attention. A great idea, poorly executed and not recommended.

★☆☆☆☆

Toy Story 4

Prepare yourself for a huge punch of nostalgia

I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the exact same thing. Another Toy Story movie!? Toy Story was a trilogy, the story was done and each film was wonderful in it’s own way. Sure I love all three but the first will always hold the top spot. When I heard Toy Story 4 was in the works I was beyond disappointed, here it is, another franchise being milked until it’s dead, another money making racket, greed pulling the strings, be damned with the story and how wrong was I! I never felt Toy Story should have made another sequel and when it started I had endless doubts, I don’t think I can adequately explain how these all melted away in the first 20 minutes. Toy Story 4 is a gem, it’s right there with the others and deserves your time. I was in a cinema full of mostly adults (and the worlds quietest baby) and I think I can speak for almost everyone when I say we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Last time we saw Andy’s toys they were donated to his neighbour Bonnie and with Bonnie starting preschool she’s naturally nervous. She ends up literally making a new friend called “Forky” who is having some real trouble adjusting to the fact that he is now a toy and not just any toy, right now he’s Bonnie’s favourite toy. With Woody desperately trying to help Forky deal with his existential crisis and start embracing life as a toy. It’s funny, enjoyable for all and got the expected moments of sadness that comes with a Pixar movie. They really do love to try their best to reduce us into a blubbering mess at every opportunity. It may not be quite as emotional as Toy Story 3 but it still pulls at the heart strings nonetheless. The visuals get better with every film and if Toy Story 4 doesn’t get the Best Animated Oscar then something is seriously wrong, it makes you sympathize with a talking spork. If that isn’t good film making I don’t know what is.

No, this film didn’t need to be made, but it’s another wonderful addition to the story, it’s funny and I loved the old and new characters. Keanu Reeves as the Evel Knievel style stunt rider Duke Caboom, the return of Bo Peep and as if we needed any more reasons to be creeped out by ventriloquist dummies now we have them. What’s not to love? Do I really have to sell this movie to you? We’re all suckers for a bit of nostalgia and many of us have grown up with Toy Story so what are you waiting for, get yourselves to a cinema and enjoy this heartwarming, gut-wrenching conclusion to the Toy Story franchise. Yes I know we thought the last one was the definite conclusion and it certainly had that feeling but I can’t see another after Toy Story 4. Did you hear me Pixar? Enough now, quit while you’re ahead. Highly recommended to everyone.

★★★★☆

Ma

Definitely falls into the category “So bad it’s good”

I haven’t lost my marbles, I know Ma is terrible but it’s also a little bit hilarious and it’s got Octavia Spencer as the severely unhinged Ma so you could do worse. We’re in a bit of a lull period at the moment and sure you can go see this month’s mediocre blockbusters Godzilla 2 or Dark Phoenix or see a mediocre horror/thriller/doesn’t really know what genre it wants to be and see Ma instead.

Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) is a bit of a loner, a little bit strange but when asked by a group of teenagers to buy them alcohol not only does she help them but she gives them a chance to drink in the “safety” of her basement. This quickly becomes the new hotspot for all the local teenagers to party and drink and Ma is loving the attention and new friends, and that’s right around the time her behaviour starts to become a tad bit obsessive and erratic which then starts to descend into psychotic, batshit crazy and roll credits. I would expect nothing less of Octavia Spencer, she brings her A game to a film with a generic and predictable plot and I can’t say the same for anyone else. Ma is only mildly better than your average painfully annoying teenager horror flick (Truth or Dare & Unfriended immediately spring to mind) and honestly that’s only down to Spencer’s performance. She single-handedly carries this movie into watchable territory so at least I came out of Ma not feeling like I wasted the last hour and a half. Another bonus is Luke Evans and Allison Janney, in what is essentially a cameo role, I’m not sure why they’re even in this film to be honest but hey I’m not complaining. The film itself does not offer anything new into the horror/thriller genre. It’s painfully dull at times but for some of you it should give you a few laughs for all the wrong reasons. Recommended for the horror fans who have nothing else to see at the moment.

★★★☆☆

Rocketman

The musical biopics are still going strong, with the immense success of Bohemian Rhapsody it’s no surprise Elton John has hopped on the bandwagon and this is just the beginning. Give it a few more years and there’ll be a biopic for every major artist, wait for it. I’ve nothing against these fairy tale biopics, though it would be nice to have a few documentaries to go along with it. We know a lot of Bohemian Rhapsody was made up or at the very least a lot of the more risky aspects of Freddie Mercury’s life were either downplayed or left out completely. Although Rocketman doesn’t hold back in many ways it also appears to be a work of fiction, entertaining yes but accurate? I doubt it.

You can let that bother you or you can just make the decision to get over it and accept what Rocketman has to offer. I didn’t believe half of it but it’s still very entertaining, for me it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as Bohemian Rhapsody (Yes I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, get over it) but Rocketman plays a lot more like a musical, a fact I did not know beforehand so I was surprised when the entire ensemble breaks into full musical numbers at every opportunity. Once the shock of that is over you eventually come to expect this every fifteen minutes or so. Dexter Fletcher did well to take on Bohemian Rhapsody and he was the perfect choice to direct Rocketman. It’s also not just about the song writing process but uses as many songs as possible to move the plot along, it’s very much incorporated into the film and it works because who doesn’t love a bit of Elton John? One thing is certain, Taron Egerton knocks it out of the park. I was more than sceptical when I heard he was using his real voice and not miming but those fears melted away very quickly and no doubt they’ll be some Oscar buzz around his performance next year. Or at the very least they should be sure to give a nomination to the fabulous costumes, some of which are used for only a moment, I can’t imagine all the work that went into that. The musical biopics will always do very well because of one simple reason, the music. Queen, Elton John, choose the right artist or band and as long as you have a director who knows what he’s doing, a cast who are passionate about the project then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a massive success. Recommended for all the Elton fans.

★★★☆☆

Aladdin

I really need to stop seeing these live action remakes, I’m only torturing myself

Alright Disney you got it right with The Jungle Book, well done it made a bucket load of money and now you just can’t stop can you? It’s like an addition, Beauty and the Beast was fine but it was still just a shot for shot remake, Dumbo was not fine and it was somehow worse than a shot for shot remake and now the Disney remake parade continues with yet another classic Aladdin. Remaking a movie into live action almost shot for shot, what is the point? I mean I know its Disney and it’s for kids and all that jazz but honestly is it too much to ask for something a little less PG. What has it added? Nothing, sure it looks pretty, the costumes and the set pieces are fantastic but it’s not better, it’s nowhere near better. Re-release the original animation for the kiddies and remake something a little different for everyone else and not just a bunch of fluff. Aladdin 2019 is painful, specifically the singing, the singing is a cringe inducing auto-tuned, failed attempt to recreate something magical.

I’m just going to go ahead and presume you’ve all seen the original animated version, it’s the same story again only more dragged out. The lovable street rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finds a magic lamp containing a Genie (Will Smith) and cue wishes, songs and a magic carpet. Also featuring Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who not only has more lines but her own song too yey! And Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who I’m sorry is so bland he manages to be upstaged by a CGI carpet. Aladdin should not have been remade, the result is bland and unnecessary. That isn’t just because of Robin Williams although that is a major part of it. Williams as the Genie is a universally loved performance, it’s iconic and it’s hilarious so Will Smith had some big shoes to fill. Is he terrible? No, he’s honestly the best thing about this remake. He put his own stamp on it and does his very best to add comedy as much as he can. It doesn’t always work but he’s trying his best. He certainly looks like he’s having a good time and I can’t really say that about anyone else.

There’s only one way to stop this laziness of Disney remaking their entire back catalogue because it must be too much trouble to pick up a book and make something original for a change. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again if we stop seeing them they’ll stop making them yet Dumbo is still in the box office top ten and why should Aladdin be any different? I know a losing battle when I see one. Aladdin is going to dominate for the next few weeks because a film aimed at children and suitable for all ages will always make its money back and then some. Recommended for the die-hard Disney fans or anyone wanting to entertain their kids for a couple of hours for everyone else Aladdin is a definite skippable movie.

★★☆☆☆

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

And the award for most broken glass in a motion picture goes to John Wick 3

Picking up very soon after John Wick Chapter 2 and John (Keanu Reeves) for anyone not familiar with this franchise, is on the run, excommunicado from the elite hitman’s guild and with a $14 million bounty on his head he is on absolutely everyone’s hit-list. What else do I have to say? You know what you’re getting with a John Wick movie and if you don’t have you been living under a rock? Get ready for the most over the top action movie you can handle. Mission Impossible and James Bond are one thing, they’ve got rules but John Wick has no rules, it’s all about the entertainment factor. John Wick, the legendary assassin who once killed a man with a pencil is back to kill even more people in more creative ways possible so settle down for 130 minutes of adrenaline fuelled madness.

And he’s back, more guns, more fights, more dogs, more blood, more everything. I remember seeing the first John Wick in the cinema, not expecting anything more than a generic action flick but it went beyond that. A simple revenge driven plot, with fight scenes expertly choreographed and filled to the brim with bone crunching action. And now with two more movies under his belt, John Wick is the franchise that keeps on giving. Endless ultra-violent fight scenes that will have you squirming in your seat. Everything so clear you don’t miss a thing, I can’t tell you how many action movies are ruined by bad camera work. Shaky-cam particularly to hide the violence, normally in favour of getting a lower age rating yes I’m looking at you Bourne 5. As soon as this happens I immediately lose interest but the John Wick franchise has raised the bar and increases the stakes with every movie. John Wick Chapter 3 brings everything to a new level. You don’t go to a John Wick movie for the acting, or the plausibility, for one thing a lot of the characters appear to be bullet proof, knife proof, sword proof. They’re borderline cartoon characters at this point but do we care? Hell no! We came to see Keanu Reeves kick ass and he certainly doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s everything a great action film should be and more because it’s Keanu Reeves that’s why. If I’m going to bother ranking these films I’d put John Wick Chapter 3 as not quite as good as the first one but better than the second. Highly recommended for all you Keanu fans out there.

★★★★☆