Margot Robbie, recent star of Birds of Prey and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, is set to lead a new take on Pirates of the Caribbean, which may or may not be a spin-off, with Birds of Prey screenwriter Christina Hodson penning the screenplay.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that Disney is very invested in the Pirates of the Caribbean IP and franchise, and they are also still developing a spin-off that was announced last year being worked on by Ted Elliot and Craig Mazin. The most notable absence from both of these announced projects is Johnny Depp, who became famous for Jack Sparrow, who appeared in all 5 Pirates films thus far.
So what does this mean? Right now, who knows? It seems like Disney wants to turn Pirates of the Caribbean into a cinematic universe where they can create unique and original stories set within the very-defined world of the Pirates of the Caribbean world, and I’m all for it. I only request that they actually develop the universe with the parameters that have been defined by the previous films. They don’t need to directly connect, they just need to exist in the world. I’m so sick of franchises just starting over when they run into trouble.
So there are two independent Pirates of the Caribbean films on the way, one of them starring Margot Robbie. Are you excited for Pirates of the Caribbean to continue with Margot Robbie in the lead? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson
Screenplay: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan
167 mins. Rated R for intense strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language.
Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture
Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role [Daniel Day-Lewis]
Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography
Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design
Academy Award Nominee: Best Film Editing
Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song
I’ve really wanted to revisit Gangs of New York for some time. I recall catching it back in college, and I also recall not liking it very much. Since college, I’ve grown to love and respect Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Irishman) and his filmography. He’s since become a director, in my eyes, that I would place on a Mt. Rushmore of all-time directors, but a few films by the director just didn’t click with me at the time, but I’ve wanted to watch those films again. Gangs of New York is one such picture. During this time of social distancing, I now have that time to rewatch Gangs of New York. Let’s see how this plays out.
The year is 1862, and Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) has return to New York City, to a place called the Five Points he fled from years ago. Vallon only has one goal in mind: to kill Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread), the man who killed his father in a brutal gang fight when Vallon was a child. Vallon finds himself infiltrating Bill’s inner workings in order to gain his confidence and get his vengeance, but matters are complicated when he comes into contact with an attractive pickpocket named Jenny (Cameron Diaz, There’s Something About Mary, Annie) and the lines are blurred among the Five Points.
It’s impressive that Leo is able to maintain a presence onscreen with Day-Lewis. This is still a film relatively early in the career of Leonardo DiCaprio, and his subdued yet strong performance is still able to hold his own. I really like DiCaprio here because he is able to portray Amsterdam Vallon’s internal flaws, which is something that becomes more complex as the narrative unfolds. Vallon’s emotional strain is stretched to the snapping point by what he is forced to endure at the hands of Bill “The Butcher” throughout the film.
Make no mistakes, though, no one is outshining Daniel Day-Lewis here as Bill Cutting. His fast-talking molasses-drawled speech is engaging, and his menacing visual performance is so catching and engaging. I love how DDL stays in character throughout shooting (he reportedly had dinner with Scorsese and DiCaprio in character after shooting wrapped for the day), and it seemingly helps his performance because he owns every film he appears in.
I know I’m beating a dead horse with this, but because of all the performing prowess displayed by not only DiCaprio and Day-Lewis but most of the supporting cast, it is quite noticeable how out-of-her-element Diaz is. Her broken accent as Jenny Everdeane is only overshadowed by her seeming disinterest in her character or the film she’s in. She just doesn’t engage on an entertainment level.
The screenplay for Gangs of New York is from Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan. There’s some prowess to this screenwriting crew, but I have a lot of problems with the screenplay. I feel like it was written very capably but it isn’t accessible. It’s a screenplay made for the audiences of 1862 instead of for today. The first time I watched it, I just couldn’t get into it, but I will say it was much better on the second viewing, but even then, I find some real problems with the screenplay. There’s a lost quality to the narrative at the beginning and near the end, with the second act of the film finding its footing.
Martin Scorsese is really trying something new with Gangs of New York. His directing style is a little more erratic, ambitious, and violent. Not all of it works within the confines of the film, but it showcases Scorsese’s interest in evolving. You can complain all you want about Martin Scorsese as a gangster filmmaker, but he is so much more than that, and Gangs of New York is a very different gangster film, or film in general, than anything else in his oeuvre. As stated, not all of the visual storytelling Scorsese presents here works, and I think, again, it works on a second viewing better than the first time around.
Gangs of New York is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s more positive than negative in all this, but it still struggles getting going and finishing strong. There’s a lot of good meat to the film, but it both works and doesn’t work, with the positive outweighing the negative. I enjoyed it on the second viewing way more than the first, mostly from the incredible work from DiCaprio and DDL. This will work for historical buffs or anyone with a bloodlust for bloody violence as well, to varying degrees.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, click here.
Nominations are officially out for the 92nd Academy Awards, and the #2020oscardeathrace has officially begun. The nominees are listed below, which some notable snubs and surprises throughout. Every year, I take part in a challenge called the Oscar Death Race, in which one attempts to see every nominated film by the night of the Academy Awards. It isn’t easy, and there’s usually a couple remaining films each year, but I love it. Take a look, and let’s get started.
209 mins. Rated R for pervasive language and strong violence.
IMDb Top 250: #221 (as of 1/2/2020)
It took a long time to make, and it took a long time to watch, but The Irishman has arrived. It’s a weighty tome of a crime epic, and it’s a crazy mixture of classic Scorsese gangster films and more contemplative, thoughtful filmmaking. It’s also, according to Scorsese himself, Cinema. Now let’s just see if it’s as good as I hoped.
Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Joker) stars as Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman who climbs the ranks of organized crime, making friends but working for himself. Frank gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas, Love Ranch) of the Bufalino crime family and befriends Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino, Serpico, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), a teamster with connections to illegal activity. Now, Frank, as an old man, reflects on the countless acts that raised him higher in the world of organized crime and, perhaps, why he’s so alone now.
The first and most notable strength of The Irishman is in its performances. There’s not a single squeaky wheel in the whole production, but specifically the three leads are giving truly strong, as expected, performances. There’s a level of restraint to each of them, specifically De Niro’s quiet, contemplative Frank. Frank consistently makes the decision to put his responsibilities to his work above most of his friends and all of his family, and De Niro capably performs each of these periods of Frank’s life with ease.
Al Pacino’s take on Jimmy Hoffa is more restrained than the usual Pacino performances (with all due respect), but he plays Hoffa’s arrogance with precision. Pacino does a whole lot with a smaller amount of screen time. Jimmy Hoffa has been played by several major actors, and Pacino provides another unique and worthwhile take on the teamster.
The most surprising turn of the lead actors is Joe Pesci’s triumphant return to the screen with Russell Bufalino. Pesci has been off the acting tree for the last decade, and I don’t recall seeing him in a movie since The Good Shepherd. Does Pesci seem like he’s been missing from acting? No, not at all! He’s incredible, and he’s so subdued. I think that’s why he’s so good here as well. In so many appearances, Joe Pesci is the loud one, the violent one, but here, he’s quiet, he’s thoughtful, and he’s engaging.
This is Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story) at his most contemplative. He’s using new themes like mortality and blending them with his mobster morality to create something we haven’t seen within the shell of something familiar. This is why we keep seeing characters popping up with their date and cause of death. We begin to see that, like with most people, his circle of friends, family, and confidantes gets smaller, but that becomes more accelerated due to his choice of work. It’s a sadder film, and it’s a film that Scorsese couldn’t have made even ten years ago.
The Irishman is not perfect, though, and its cardinal problem is its pacing. It doesn’t bother me that the film is long, but there are pacing issues that plague that lengthy run time. It didn’t sustain a speed to match the length. It sustained my interest, but not in the way that Scorsese’s have done before.
I also believe that the film does not showcase its aging technology as perfectly as I had hoped. There are moments that look incredible, and then certain shots and sequences in the film do not work at all. I don’t mind that Frank seems to move like he’s an older gentleman throughout his entire life, but some of it looked like plastic. Not enough to ruin the film, but it is noticeable enough to remind you that it’s there.
The Irishman isn’t a traditional epic in every sense, but it mostly works. It’s a view of an aging mobster seen through the eyes of an aging filmmaker, and it’s reflective and quiet and contemplative. It’s an incredible story and film, one worth its run time, one that I cannot wait to watch again.
2019 was crazy. The end of another decade! Another year where everything in my personal and professional life. Now, as we awkwardly segue into a new decade, let’s take a look back at the year that was in film. If you enjoy reading my list, give a listen to St. Paul Filmcast, where Nick Palodichuk counted down the best of 2019, the best of the decade, and more!
Now for our obligatory stipulations and notes:
-I did not see every film that was released in 2019. That would be an impossibility, but I did see quite a few. Of course, as always, life happens and some films were missed. So if you don’t see something on this list, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. It just means I may have missed something it…or it doesn’t belong.
-These are my personal selections of films from the year. These are not predictions for Best Picture at the Oscars or films that are undeniably the 10 best films of the year, hands down, full stop. Some films have different placements at the end of the year than they would have based on their initial scoring, and even though some of them had major flaws, enjoyment can go a long way.
I said in my initial review for Us that, while I think Get Out is an overall better film for Jordan Peele, Us is the one I find myself going back to more often. Peele takes a classic story of doppelgangers and turns it into a story of classes and the versions of ourselves that we hide away. Us is a great example that it’s not the story you tell but how you tell it that creates a truly great film. It’s the best horror film of 2019, a year where the gems were tougher to find. It’s genuinely one of the more enjoyable experiences of the year as well, mining everything from its premise.
9. Jojo Rabbit
Director Taika Waititi had a nearly impossible task of creating a film about Nazi Germany starring a Nazi child who has an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler that pokes fun and also creates a worthy narrative. He succeeded in ways I never would have thought with Jojo Rabbit. It isn’t as funny as other Waititi films but it certainly has heart in all the right places. The film takes a story that starts celebrating hate and turns it into a story that celebrates love. It’s truly a cinematic achievement that proves Waititi can do just about anything.
I can’t believe how much I loved Toy Story 4. I’ve never been a giant Toy Story fan but I found myself being won over by Toy Story 3, and while I felt it was a great film with a serviceable ending to the series, I now realize how much better Toy Story 4 is at ending the story. What Toy Story 4 does better is that it understands that Andy’s never been the character we’ve been following. It’s always been Woody. The focus of this fourth installment is paying off the character beats that the first three films set up for Woody. It’s a heartfelt, emotional, and very funny new film in a franchise that has continued to impress audiences.
7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Can You Ever Forgive Me? surprised the hell out of me when it came out last year. Not only was it the best performance of Melissa McCarthy’s career, but it was also a great showcase for director Marielle Heller, who crafted a film that, on the outset, sounds kind of boring. When she decided to tackle a Mr. Rogers biopic, I was unsure, but the inspired choice to cast Tom Hanks as the legendary television personality worked incredibly well. Hanks elected to play the essence of Mr. Rogers and not do an impression, and that decision also paid off nicely. There’s one specific scene in the film that pushed it past mere biographical film and into a life-changing experience, and if you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know which one: the diner scene. I won’t get any further into it so you can enjoy it for yourself, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, like the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, was a life-changing experience.
Rocketman was the first film this year that I felt could have been my favorite of the year, and it outlasted quite a few as the year went on. This Elton John biopic is really more a musical based on John’s work than a 100% true-to-life biopic. Again, it gets more of the essence of Elton than a certifiable account, and for that, it’s all the more magical. Dexter Fletcher showcases his unique voice once again with his second collaboration with Taron Egerton, who may miss out on the awards love this year, but he’s on the path to being a true superstar performer. If the film has any one problem, it’s that its framing device, a very Dewey Cox-inspired look back at his whole life, is a bit simple, but it works. Check out Rocketman. Absolutely.
Just like a parasite itself, this movie stayed with me, feeding off me. I simply cannot stop thinking about it. Bong Joon Ho creates a strange amalgam of comedy, horror, suspense, and drama in this unique and singular experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Parasite is better when you don’t know as much, so I’ll leave the details out of it, but this movie, like Us, is a film about many things, most notably and powerfully class, the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-notes, and its title is evocative of so many element in the film. Parasite deserves to be on everyone’s Top Ten of the year.
I mean, c’mon! Avengers: Endgame is absolutely incredible. Sure, you can make the argument that it only works as well as it does because of the previous twenty-some films that came before, but it’s an accomplishment that Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers stuck the landing. It’s a big-budget television series and this is the series finale that works especially well. The snappy and quick editing help to gloss over some of the sillier and nonsensical things in the films, and it’s just damn fun. That means a lot. It’s a three-hour movie that rushes by, and even though it’s the twenty-second film, it never feels like a slog or a rehash. A pitch-perfect ending that makes me only more curious for what’s next.
I was blessed to see 1917 in 2019 (the film doesn’t open wide until later this month), and it’s a powerhouse World War I film, and one of the best war films ever made. Director Sam Mendes clearly learned a lot from his time with the James Bond franchise, and working with Director of Photography Roger Deakins, he was able to plan out a war epic that’s made to look like a single shot. The amount of work that goes into a movie like 1917 is staggering. I couldn’t make a movie like this. There are few who can. It’s a surprisingly-touching film about wartime brothers and the cost of something as simple as delivering a message. 1917 is an epic experience.
The Farewell is quite different from 1917 in terms of its overall style, choosing to go small instead of big, but that doesn’t change its overall impact. Lulu Wang takes an interesting story and populates it with layered and warm characters who deal with a problem that there really is no right solution to. The film follows Awkwafina’s Billi as she learns that her grandmother is dying and her family has chosen not to tell her, instead fabricating a family wedding in order to see her one last time. It’s a film about culture clash and ethical questions that is surprisingly funny at the same time, and the ending absolutely broke me. Seriously, Kleenex should have invested in this film. The Farewell flew under some radars in 2019, but it shouldn’t fly under yours. Seek it out immediately.
Here we are. My favorite film of the year. I cannot deny how many times I have watched Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. It keeps drawing me back in, and each time I see it, I discover something else I like about it. Quentin Tarantino has crafted the ultimate hangout film that feels like it was pulled right out of the 60s, and some of my earlier criticisms have softened each time I’ve watched it. I get why some out there won’t like this movie. My wife wasn’t big on it, but for me, this movie is built on a central relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, a relationship stronger than just about any other in 2019. It’s an awesomely fun time at the movies, and it’s my favorite film of 2019.
So there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m looking forward to the #2020oscardeathrace to begin, and the list may change a bit once that happens. No one sees everything. So what is your Top Ten Films of 2019? I’d love to hear it. Thanks again for a great 2019 and we will see you in 2020 (which is, of course, right now).
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Kelly
Screenplay: Ian Goldberg, Richard Niang
86 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence, unsettling grisly images, graphic nudity, and language.
I don’t think enough people talk about André Øvredal (Trollhunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark). To be fair, he hadn’t made a mainstream movie until this year, but horror fans should be celebrating this auteur and his amazing attention to tone and suspense. One of his more recent films, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, skirted under the radar when it came out in 2016, but it’s on Netflix now, so I finally caught it.
Father/son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox, X2: X-Men United, TV’s Succession) and Austin (Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) have been tasked by local police with a rather curious task. A body has been recovered at a crime scene, a woman with no easily discernible identity or cause of death. Sheriff Burke (Michael McElhatton, Justice League, TV’s Game of Thrones) has asked the two to discover answers to both before morning, and as they delve into the mystery, they are beset upon by strange happenings, all possibly linked with the dead woman on the slab.
This is a tight little thriller, pretty much singular-location, that led by two excellent performances from two talented individuals. This movie doesn’t work without the talent of Hirsch and Cox. Their chemistry is strained just like it should be, with Tommy wanting his son to carry on the family business, and Austin not too interested in that idea. There’s a scene in the elevator that allows them to dig into the tension between themselves without really leaving the inherent suspense of what’s going on during the autopsy.
Speaking of the autopsy itself, it’s absolutely incredible to have an actual actress playing the body. I get it, you’re thinking how easy it must be to just sit there, but I’ll tell you, there isn’t a moment that I noticed movement. In so many films featuring a character death where you can see them breathing softly, but not with Jane Doe, played by Olwen Kelly (Winter Ridge, Darkness on the Edge of Town). So yes, hers isn’t an acting powerhouse, but she succeeds where she’s trying to: giving an authentic visual aesthetic that makes Jane Doe look realistic without drawing away from the story or suspense.
Øvredal has a command of the story here and slowly unravels layers of this mystery with biting pressure and some seriously strange visual and audio cues. The movie is a tightly-wrapped mystery filled with strange moments, and for the most part, everything works. I’m not big on the final moments of the story, where I feel like it comes off the rails a bit and sacrifices some of the story for the option to go weird with it, and I feel like it doesn’t stick the landing as well as it should, but everything before it is so worth it.
I don’t want to get too deep into the mystery itself because I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but you need to check out The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It’s an elegantly creepy chiller that I cannot recommend enough. The ending may work for you, or it may not, but I don’t think it will detract from the film either way. Seek this one out and see it for yourself. This one is a must-see.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, click here.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Live Tyler, Donald Sutherland
Screenplay: James Gray, Ethan Gross
122 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language.
I’m assuming Brad Pitt (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, World War Z) saw his Ocean’s Eleven costars George Clooney and Matt Damon receive acclaim for making a space movie, and he got incredibly jealous. Well, be jealous no more Brad. The balls in your court now, Julia Roberts.
Ad Astra is the story of Roy McBride (Pitt), astronaut and son to the famous H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, Just Getting Started), who disappeared on a secretive interstellar expedition some 30 years ago. Now, in the near future, Earth has been ravaged by a series of power surges believed to be caused by Cliff’s secret experiment, The Lima Project. Roy has been tasked with traveling to Mars to deliver a message to space, hopefully reaching his possibly still living father, in order to put an end to the power surges before they threaten the entire solar system.
I admire the idea of taking Heart of Darkness and moving it into the sci-fi genre. It worked so well as a war film when Francis Ford Coppola turned it into Apocalypse Now. The problem for me came out of an unimpressive shell for this film. I don’t think we got enough insight into The Lima Project or The Surge or many of the science fiction elements that would have enriched this telling of the classic story. The film kept being marketed as the closest thing to actual space travel, but then I kept getting hung up on the sound work every time there was an explosion. The film looked gorgeous, but my investment was wavering throughout.
Brad Pitt is incredible as Roy, giving a subtle but impressive performance as a man who hasn’t taken much care in his world as he sinks himself into his work, ignoring all outside relationships and distractions. The whole film is carried by Pitt as no other character is given much screen time to match him. In fact, Pitt’s performance is so internalized that he doesn’t even look like he’s acting at all. I liken his work here to another space film from last year, First Man with Ryan Gosling. Comparing this subtle work to Pitt’s other major film this year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, just goes to show that this is an actor who really can do it all.
There’s a lot to really love about Ad Astra. I think, from a technical view, everything is seemingly executed quite well, but I just wasn’t drawn in by the story in the way I wanted to. It’s magnificently shot and the score is impactful and deep. The effects were strong, but the story just didn’t take me. Still, I would recommend you checking it out if you’re a fan of sci-fi, as this contemplative opera showcases another incredible performance from Brad Pitt.
[WARNING: Contains Spoilery Talk for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood]
So everyone working in Hollywood appeared in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering, which is currently in theaters. One of the quicker appearances involved Rebecca Gayheart, who showed for a scene playing Cliff Booth’s wife in a flashback. The flashback happens to revolve around the question of whether or not Cliff, played by Brad Pitt, murdered his wife. It’s a bit of a legend around the Hollywood stunt scene that Mr. and Mrs. Booth were not happy, and we are meant to wonder if Mrs. Booth was murdered on the high sea or if it was just an accident.
By the end of the film, we still have no idea, but Gayheart, and apparently Pitt, do know.
Gayheart spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the film, and she said:
I tend to believe that that question will be answered at some point.
She didn’t elaborate on how or where, but there has been speculation of a Netflix miniseries version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and there’s also that mystery tenth film. Or, maybe she’s bullshitting us. Who knows?
I don’t want the question answered unless it’s fluid to another story. If, for example, Tarantino decided his tenth film should feature Cliff Booth or his wife, then sure, let us know, but I don’t see a version that will make me want to know. It’s like the totem in Inception. I actually don’t want to know.
So what do you think? When, if ever, will we find out the answer to this mystery? Should we ever find out or is this mystery better left mysterious? Let me know/Drop a comment below!
Okay, so the weekend wasn’t all Hobbs & Shaw, but I’m surprised at the staying power of that film.
For the domestic box office, the Fast & Furious spinoff led the pack with $25.4 million, offering close to a 50% dropoff, which will continue to serve it well. Worldwide, the film has taken in a total of $332 million in its two weekends of release, with several markets still yet to open.
There were quite a few new releases this past weekend, with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark coming in second at the domestic box office with $20.8 million, coming in above projects even while scoring a C Cinemascore. I think this was a film where the marketing didn’t do a great enough job to accurately sell the film, and it’s a tough sell in general as it doesn’t really have a specific audience. It’s pretty dark for a kids scary movie but it doesn’t really aim for adults either, but scary movies, especially leading into September and October, are always winners.
The Lion King is holding on strong in third place with $20 million. I knew this was would have some staying power and audiences are enjoying it even with its mixed critical reception. The Disney remake is now the second-highest grossing film of the year at the worldwide box office, coming in behind the behemoth Avengers: Endgame.
In fourth place is Dora and the Lost City of Gold, another new release, with $17 million. I was mixed on the film but overall felt like it would do pretty well, and it landed an A Cinemascore, so audiences are definitely taking to it. I’m expecting this was to drop off quicker than expected, though.
Fifth place belongs to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with $11.6 million. The film has garnered positive reviews and lots of Oscar buzz, but I wish it were performing better. It’s just a film that isn’t really for everybody but I was hoping the film would explode more than it has. It’s doing alright at the box office, but I know the cost was somewhere around $90 million and it currently has collectively hit around $100 million so I would expect the film to end up losing some money for the studio.
The other new releases at the box office this weekend included The Art of Racing in the Rain ($8.1 million), The Kitchen ($5.5 million), Bring the Soul: The Movie ($2.29 million), and Brian Banks ($2.1 million).
What did you see this weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment below!
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
161 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.
I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and Hollywood. I also adore the 1960s as a setting. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a film seemingly tailor-made for me, including having my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained) at the helm. So what did I think?
The year is 1969. The once-bankable film star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, The Revenant) is making his living by appearing in guest roles on various television series, usually as the villain. His agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino, Serpico, Paterno) doesn’t think these roles are helping his career, and he tries to push Dalton into doing Italian Spaghetti Westerns. Rick’s stunt-double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, Moneyball, Deadpool 2) is searching for work himself as Rick needs a double less and less, but he has a bad reputation in the industry. Rick’s concern over his career is causing him to have a personal crisis, but he is reinvigorated when he discovers that he is living next to director Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad, Mary Queen of Scots). All the while during this, out on the Spahn Movie Ranch, a cult is forming led by Charles Manson.
Many have come to the belief that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a central element to the film. Her character, in fact, is a lot more like a looming presence that the 1960s and the free-love hippie culture are coming to an end very soon. She’s not featured as much as one might think in the film, and neither is Charles Manson, who barely has any dialogue whatsoever.
The stars of the film are DiCaprio and Pitt, and they are the two characters that are most engaging, and they are the two with the best chemistry in the film. Don’t kid yourself about this being a Manson family film because it isn’t, and that’s fine because the incredible Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are worth the price of admission alone. They are two fully-realized, equally flawed, and equally enthralling. These two are some of Tarantino’s best characters in his entire career, and both actors put their all into it.
The third big character in the film is Hollywood, and it is gorgeously shot. This is Tarantino’s love letter to a world that has changed and, for the most part, disappeared. It’s a rare glimpse into an aging has-been’s world as it begins to crumble and the stunt-double/driver/entourage/friend who tries to keep him in one piece, and without the amazing production design, costuming, and cinematography, the film wouldn’t work half as well.
The pacing is rather strong here as well. I didn’t notice the time flying by and I was surprised when the film had concluded because I didn’t think nearly three hours had gone by that quick. It’s a testament to the world that Tarantino puts to the screen, and it didn’t take me out of the film to see actors I knew from today playing actors I know from decades ago because each was so meticulously collected for the cast, and it’s an impressive damn cast.
If there’s a flaw with the film, it’s only that I’m somewhat divided on its conclusion. I will have to see it again to know for certain how I feel about it. I’m not going to get into any specifics but it is definitely an exciting finale to say the least.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a very strong Quentin Tarantino that’s more melancholic and thoughtful. He takes his time building the story and seemingly every sequence has a purpose in developing character or moving plot. This is a film that may divide audiences more than some of his previous outings, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about everything that takes place, but I loved the theatrical experience, the characters, and the world. Go see it as soon as you can…and don’t spoil it for others.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, click here.