Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


Viewed – 14 August 2019. Cinema

Quentin Tarantino is for the most part probably my favourite director and has had very few missteps in a career that’s spanned over twenty years and so far 9 movies (if you count Kill Bill 1&2 as one movie). So it was with some degree of excitement I sat down to see his latest. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a washed up Western actor reaching the end of his career and along with best friend and stunt-double Cliff (Brad Pitt), they attempt to continue working in an ever changing industry. Meanwhile, a religious cult threaten to shatter the glitz and glamour and bring the Hollywood dream and sixties with it, to an abrupt and bloody end.

With knowledge of the real life murders and that of Charles Manson’s cult I thought this was perfect material to get the Tarantino treatment. Imagine my surprise then to discover that that aspect barely fills up even a quarter of this long, drawn out movie’s 160 minute run time. Which would be excusable if what we get otherwise pulled me in at all. Here, Tarantino is at his most self-indulgent and selfishly nostalgic, revelling in a Hollywood I’m guessing many of us won’t even recognise, name dropping tv actors I’d never heard of and even doing a deserving to those I had (Bruce Lee is pretty much relegated to gag-fodder). Margot Robbie turns in an appealing, sexy but otherwise redundant performance as Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski and the most famous victim of the Manson Family murders. Even the dialogue lacks the usual flow and zip of a Tarantino script, that whilst natural sounding, in a movie that basically has little to no actual plot, it really needed to shine. Also, if your idea of entertainment is to watch Margot Robbie for longer than necessary watching herself in a movie theatre, or countless women show off their bare feet, Brad Pitt drive (and drive) around Los Angeles or feed his dog, and DiCaprio cough a lot … then more power to you. The ending will also divide audiences for sure yet I suppose I get what Tarantino was going for … even if it kind of pissed me off.

So, Tarantino’s apparent ‘love letter’ to late sixties Hollywood somehow does the unfathomable and makes the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of the movies actually look boring, Pitt & DiCaprio are fine, but even they look like they’re only here to do a friend a favour and collect a pay cheque. It’s real redeeming feature then is often impressive camera work, because shock – even the soundtrack gets a bit annoying. Definitely the director’s weakest effort since Death Proof – and at least that was more fun. Disappointing.

Verdict: 2 /5

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Top Ten Movies 2016


I watched a lot of movies this year.  I watched a lot of very good movies.  I also watched a few bad ones and several disappointing ones.  But the list below, in descending order compiles the movies that had the greatest impact on me during 2016.  A few may have actually been theatrically released prior to 2016 but I didn’t get to see them until this year.

10.

Zootropolis

Zootropolis

‘Disney does it again with very likeable characters, gorgeous animation and a fun, exciting story with plenty of great moments’

9.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Shane Black writes and directs the spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the result is every bit as good as that sounds’

8.

The Witch

The Witch

‘One of the more original and genuinely disturbing horror movies of the year’

7.

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

‘It shouldn’t work but oh boy … does it.  Disney deliver a remake that really impresses’

6.

X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse

‘Underrated comic book entertainment and for me, the best X-Men movie since X2’

5.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

‘The biopic of the controversial rap pioneers proves more emotional than I expected’

4.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

‘A spin off movie every bit as good as the famed saga?  Oh yes and then some!’

3.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Alejandro G. Iñárritu delivers a powerhouse man vs nature survival epic that breaks as many hearts as it does DiCaprio’s bones’

2.

Sing Street

Sing Street

‘Feel good coming-of-age drama with great music, great characters and great performances’

1.

The Martian

The Martian

‘Ridley Scott proves without a doubt that he’s still got it and delivers a powerful, funny, breath-taking sci-fi drama with genuine heart’

A few almost as deserving ‘honourable mentions’ include:

When Marnie Was There

Arrival

Captain America: Civil War

It’s been another great year for movies and I am already looking forward to what 2017 has in store.  Happy New Year everyone and hoping next year is good to you all.

Craig.

Oscars 2016 – a few thoughts


DiCaprio OScars

Well the big night came and went.  I’ll admit I’m increasingly disinterested in awards ceremonies these days, be it movies or music or any kind as usually it’s more about money and big companies backing certain nominees and much less about actual deserving talent.  The Oscars is no different.  However, it was good to see that finally after years of being snubbed, Leonardo DiCaprio got his gong.  Did The Revenant  give him that role that finally deserved an Oscar?  Not necessarily in my opinion as his turns in such movies as The Departed, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and even Wolf of Wall Street have all been superior I’d say especially from an acting point of view.  The Revenant was more a physical performance and less showy or obvious, but maybe that’s what it takes – or like many Oscar winner who have been widely snubbed in the past … it was simply DiCaprio’s turn.

Surprised to see Spotlight get Best Picture considering the controversial subject matter, but glad it did and with a strong cast it’s one for my must see list.

Sam Smith’s The Writings On The Wall got Best Original Song?  My only theory is it must have been a limp list of nominees, because although I enjoyed Spectre quite a bit, that was one of the most cringe-worthy Bond themes I’ve ever heard.  But it’s Sam Smith and it’s Bond so we all know the movie studio and the record label paid big bucks to get it on every Academy judge’s list.Alejandro Inarritu

Again Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction for The Revenant was probably the real star of that movie however and he is much deserving of Best Director.  Is that two years in a row now?  Impressive.

For once I agree with Inside Out getting the Oscar.  Too many years have Pixar been the go-to studio for the awards, an easy and honestly lazy nod whilst movies from less prominent, less famed studios get ignored (Studio Ghibli especially deserve more recognition).  But at least this time it was a particularly good Pixar effort.

Not surprised to see Mad Max: Fury Road sweep up in the technical and make-up/costume stakes…if it was for the look alone I’d have awarded that movie a 5, but it didn’t impress me as much as other reviewers beyond it’s incredible visuals.

Full details of who won what can be found HERE.

The Revenant


Viewed – 28 January 2016  Cinema

(updated: 06/08/2016) Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is quickly becoming one of my favorite film makers, and I can’t say I’ve yet seen a movie that hasn’t impressed me in some way.  After all his last effort, Birdman was my movie of the year for 2015.  So him teaming up with one of my favorite actors, namely Leonardo DiCaprio seemed a marriage made in heaven.

the-revenant

DiCaprio plays frontiersman Hugh Glass who whilst out with a group of men to gather supplies and food for their village, is attacked by a Grizzly bear and almost killed.  Despite his comrades choosing to help and carry him back home, the journey proves too tough so Tom Hardy’s conflicted frontiersman and Glass’s half Indian son along with another of the men choose to stay behind and find a less treacherous way around a mountain to get back home.  Only problem is Hardy is only out for himself and double crosses Glass, abandoning him.  Glass then has to survive against the odds to find a way back home in a harsh and unforgiving wilderness.

Superlatively filmed with no end of eye-catching skill, Iñárritu delivers a gritty and powerful experience that leaves little to the imagination.  DiCaprio gives more a truly physical performance than a typical acting one and has only smatterings of dialogue throughout.  Yet he is convincing as hell as he faces off against the elements; stampeding buffalo, hostile Indian tribes and nature itself whilst tending to wounds that would normally kill the average man.  I was thoroughly gripped by Glass’s plight and even though his journey is long and ponders life, death, love and family among all the survival stuff, I wasn’t bored.  However, the grueling tone felt hard going and it gets fairly gory in places, meaning some scenes were quite unsettling.  It’s also rather vague with the details, who’s who, when the story is actually set etc.  Yet as Glass faces one problem after the other, the drawn out sequences and almost dream-like feel seemed necessary to get the full effect.  Hardy is also very good despite a difficult to understand accent, but his character was probably one of the more interesting he’s taken on for a while.  However above all else I’d call this Iñárritu’s show – his eye for poetic imagery, stunning cinematography and amazing detail even made such things as running water look gorgeous – and boy can he film a battle sequence!

It’s not a movie to expect it’s point to be reached all that quickly.  It’s also quite unconventional as far as it’s performances go.  Yet it’s a story that needs to slowly unravel and linger on things, which granted won’t be for everyone.  But if like me you can appreciate real film making with real meaning, then this is simply essential viewing.

Verdict:  5 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

emmastone

Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

christoph waltz

Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.