Movie Review #4864 ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
First one from Tarantino since The Hateful Eight in 2015, this is another timepiece set in 1969 around Hollywood actor Rick (Leonardo Di Caprio) & his stunt double/sidekick/buddy Cliff (Brad Pitt).
Underpinning the proceedings, lurking around the edges then progressively into view is Charles Manson’s gang of nutcases and we have a sense of anticipation that builds all the way through. Along the journey we have a number of little interconnecting Tarantino vignettes that introduce us to the celebrity list of the time including Sharon Tate, James Stacy, Roman Polanski, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Sam Wanamaker, Michelle Phillips and the ubiquitous Mama Cass, showing each interacting with our two lads and reinforcing their place albeit fictional, in the hierarchies.
Tarantino does love to do the unexpected and how well he does it when we explore one chain of events yet another transpires, all the while not letting truth spoil a good story. But of course that’s what makes a Quentin flick different and without it we probably would have had a rather ho-hum affair. The two lead bods are great, especially di Caprio who moves between portrayals within portrayals to vulnerability & reality seamlessly as crossing a state line in the desert. The names are here too; Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Brenda Vaccaro and Luke Perry in his last role.
Cinematography is great, it is long and perhaps a bit slow in patches but the tension builds in all the right places and it ducks and dives like the rollercoaster we’ve come to expect from Tarantino.
Overall an 8/10.
Movie Review #3975 YESTERDAY.
We saw Yesterday today! Sorry just really wanted to say that.
Probably the year’s feel good movie has Jack, a struggling muso (yep can identify with that!) broadsided by a bus during a blackout.
He awakes to two missing teeth and a world missing the music of The Beatles, amongst other things. So, upon figuring this little malapropism he ends up becoming a huge star singing L&McC songs and allowing this world to believe he is the greatest songwriter of all time. Trouble is it comes with a price, what good does it do a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul? Our boy is smart enough to realise this and of course makes amends before it’s too late. And his journey keeps us entertained from start to finish with some classy renditions of Beatles favs and an interesting supporting slot from one Ed Sheeran plus a brief cameo from soulster Michael Kiwanuka.
Main plot is somewhat predictable but there are a few unexpected turns that provide amusing twists by heading in a slightly different direction yet nicely reinforce the alternative universe that Jack finds himself in.
Overall a nice movie that could have easily turned into schmaltz but didn’t, based upon a premise that has been hinted at in the past but not done to quite the same effect, 8/10.
Movie Review #0004 TOY STORY 4.
Can’t believe it’s almost 25 years since the original Toy Story movie blew all previous efforts around CGI out of the water. Clever universe, cool characters and awesome parodies built around the imaginations of children, their play and the toys they find interesting and amusing.
Can’t help but wonder whether those toy manufacturers which at the time chose not to license their products to the franchise might feel a bit like the guy who ‘lost Queen’ in Bohemian Rhapsody!
Anyway, this is the fourth is the series (obviously!) and probably the best since the original. Didn’t really enjoy #3 but #2 was good, introducing the concept of Woody being a collectible. The gang is back for numero quattro along with a few new faces to compliment the mix. Some of the regulars do suffer reduced screen time but this is probably better than trying to cram too much in.
It continues on from the end of #3 with the chums now under the ownership of cute lil Bonnie who has embarked upon a road trip with mom and dad. Of course, toys are lost and found along the way and it’s left to Woody and Buzz to save the day with host of antics and tricks to amuse and amaze.
Ending is a little twisty and while seemingly a wrap up to the series, there is just a sliver of an opening for a Toy Story 5 to add to the legend. And, this smart*ss, sorry, critic for one will welcome that.
Overall great for the kids, the big kids and the pretend grown ups with enough thrills and spills to entertain the real littlies as well. Good one Pixar, 8.5/10.
Movie Review #4974 THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS II.
Follow up to same name CGI fare from 2016 sees terrier Max and housemate Duke, last time’s antagonist now best of mates who head to the country with their humans, who also have an addition of their own.
Based like last time on a premise of pets up to no good while owners are at work, we have multiple story lines intersecting and finally converging with the pup’s return home. Some of the original characters are back along with a few new ones and amusing to see Han Solo turn up voicing a rough’n’raw farm pooch.
Nothing too original and I always thought the base premise was a bit flimsy but the script tries hard to amuse and there are a few lip smirking sequences, the farm turkey probably closest to a decent laugh. Still, this like the first is a kids movie (yes, this big kid was bored with nothing to do!) and the handful of munchkins present seemed to enjoy it.
Unlike some of these eg Toy Story, Incredibles etc it doesn’t really translate into an adult interest. Overall not as bad as some of the ilk and yes, a good one for the kids. 6.5/10.
Movie Review #1854 MIB INTERNATIONAL.
Fourth in the MIB franchise and the first not to feature Tommy Lee Jones and fresh prince Will Smith.
This time we’re off to London with probationary Agent M teaming up with local-hero-now-living-off-reputation Agent H, both under the auspices of one Liam Neeson otherwise known as Agent T. Appears a secret alien weapon could fall into the wrong hands and H & M need to retrieve it before it falls into even wronger hands.
Typical MIB antics unfold with the usual alien sidekicks and comic foils turning up although annoying talking pugs and stringy wisecracking extraterrestrials are thankfully limited to cameos only. We wrap up with more save-the-world heroics and you get the feeling this has all been done before. It has but, it is all surprisingly OK and probably the best MIB since the original.
Story while not quite so original has a few twists and turns and the CGI is as to be expected, quite good. In fact the only blot is Agent H, Aussie Chris Hemsworth. The original worked by playing off TommyLJ’s straight-laced Agent K with Will Smith’s zany Agent J. Hemsworth is about as zany as an untreated plank of 4x2 and Tessa Thompson’s M not so zany either but then she’s not supposed to be.
However countered by Neeson’s touch of class matched with that of Emma Thompson showing up as Agent O, we do get over it and end up nicely entertained then actually looking forward to the next one, which undoubtedly there will be.
Movie Review #8356 THE AFTERMATH.
Post-WWII drama set in Hamburg towards the end of 1945.
Keira Knightley is the wife of an aristocratic senior British army officer charged with keeping the peace in an environment where Nazis are still running round blowing people away. Being ruling class they’re assigned a stately home on the outskirts of the city, trouble is it is still occupied by its owner, a German architect along with his daughter & house servants. And so the fun starts with lotsa complicated relationships and interactions and with a dialogue and screenplay that is fully engaging and absorbing.
Awesome performance by Ms Knightley with a not-far-behind from unknown Flora Thiemann on German daughter duty. Much of the proceedings take place across a snowbound landscape which only adds to the bleakness of a defeated and destroyed city and its people.
Overall a brilliant essay on how trauma and tragedy can dent even the strongest of relationships leading to unexpected and disturbing emotions and behaviour yet going the way of what feels or seems best, is not always the most appropriate option.
Unpredictable and engaging around a time rarely covered in a war movie, for those who think and the best one in a while, 9/10
Anne Hathaway and Australian funny gal Rebel Wilson ham it up in this reboot of the Steve Martin/Michael Caine con outing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
All starts a bit predictably and doesn’t really get much better with all the tricks having been done before. Script is pretty so-so despite the attempts of the girls to add the spice although a few amusing gags did bring a mild smile to these lips.
Owing as much to Heartbreakers from 2001 as it does to Scoundrels, the proceedings could have been improved by a little less formulaic approach without detracting from the hat tip. But, as always, don’t change a successful formula and we’re left actually looking forward to the sequel which will no doubt add a further member to the con team. Was half expecting a cameo from either or both of Messrs. Martin and Caine as it might have helped beef up the ending however neither were anywhere to be seen.
Overall mildly amusing, but I do find a little bit of Ms Wilson does go a long way so I’m a 6.5/10 on it.
Movie Review #863 GREEN BOOK.
This year’s Best Movie Oscar winner is an excellent essay on separatism based in 1962 deep south of America. Having not 20yrs before defeated the last of Nazi anti-semitism, America still struggles with its own racial issues as New York club bouncer Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga is hired to drive African-American concert pianist ‘Doc’ Don Shirley through a two month tour across locations sure to stir southern sentiments.
Tony is on the edges of the mob & the Doc a musical artisan who doesn’t fit in to either the black or white worlds so with the Driving Miss Daisy reversal, the initial friction continues to parlay, exacerbated by Tony’s uncouth outlook sparring with the Doc’s refinement.
But, as with all Hollywood buddy outings, events transpire to bring the chaps together, both saving each other’s bacon a few times and finally understanding why each is as they are.
The symbolism of the green book in the title is quite subtle and not a key fixture of the proceedings however when Doc experiences a number of other prejudices, it’s brought nicely into perspective.
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are both superb in the lead saddles, the former particularly effective as an Italian slouch while Ali is reminiscent of Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in Coming To America. And the music is to die for; a beautiful blend of classical and jazz nicely rendered on piano, cello & double bass.
As thought provoking as it is entertaining, for me it’s a 9/10.
Movie Review #3965 STAN AND OLLIE.
Sentimental biopic based on Laurel & Hardy’s final tour of the UK in 1953. Well past their heyday, the chaps are booked on a tour that sees them barely reaching half concert hall capacities while chasing a movie deal that will hopefully put them back on top.
Usual partner tensions arise amidst quarreling between respective spouses with the inevitable parting of ways and subsequent reconciliation pretty predictable. John C Reilly and Steve Coogan were I thought great in the lead slots and based on the latter’s portrayal of Stan Laurel, it’s easy to see where Michael Crawford might have got his Frank Spencer from.
A bit tedious to in parts and somewhat verbose when perhaps a more straightforward approach might have sufficed.
Nevertheless quite entertaining for this critic who would p*ss himself laughing at the antics of these two in the old black-and-white featurettes playing before the Saturday afternoon movie matinee. 7/10
Movie Review #7532 COLD PURSUIT.
Just when we thought yet another Liam Neeson ‘special set of skills’ has an outing, this black comedy shows up.
Coen-esque with a dash of Tarantino on top, it’s violent but not overly so as everyone’s favourite Irish leading man is a Colorado snow plough driver who’s only offspring manages to get himself entangled in the local drug scene.
Working his way up the chain of command, dispatching thugs as he goes, Mr Neeson finally homes in on the top guy which is where things start to go a bit awry. Add a local Indian tribe as an opposing drug arm plus a local bushy tailed policewoman into the mix as well as a pro hitman and the chain of fortuitous events culminate as expected in a major blood bath in the snow.
I like Liam Neeson as an actor and he carries off this dark comedy well by playing it quite straight, leaving the comic turns to a few key scenes and a few one liners from unexpected sources. Surprisingly entertaining and a pleasant deviation from that expected despite the copious quantities of bad guys dispatched.
Does build nicely towards the end and leaving early will screw the whole thing. 8/10.
I'm a movie nut from way back with my first ever being The Hallelujah Trail from 1964. Ever since being mesmerized by the giant screen, the darkness that went on forever & the infernally uncomfortable seats + having to stand for God Save the Queen, I've been enticed ever since to duck into a theatre whenever I can for a few hours of escapism. My favourite movie of all time is Schindler's List, one of only two movies I've ever cried in (the other was Bambi when I was 6!) & I'm a sucker for a damn good comedy; Dumb & Dumber, The Hangover & Death at a Funeral stand out. I'm also a musician and work in IT. I have 4 grandchildren who also seem to enjoy their movie excursions with grandad. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.