THIS IS A FREE RANGE SPOILER REVIEW. THE SPOILERS ARE NOT KEPT IN CAGES. THEY JUST RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE, INCLUDING THE FIRST COUPLE SENTENCES. SEE THE MOVIE FIRST.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD is an odd and beautiful movie from… Quentin Tarantino. It’s undeniably one that only he could or would make – it’s even in his now-trademark ‘wish-fulfilling rewrite of a historical atrocity’ mode – but it’s different. It’s not as mean and angry as the last three, or as carefully plotted as any of them. It’s sort of a hang out movie, a day-in-the-life of two friends, and a gentle tale of surviving a mid-life crisis, wrapped in a love letter to Los Angeles of the late ’60s, and to the then-fading leading men of the ’50s, with a chaser of gruesome violence. The fun kind, though. The cathartic kind.
Throughout his career, Tarantino has shown his affinity for cool shit like spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation movies, kung fu and crime novels. Here’s where he says “Fuck it, I also like old cowboy shows and procedurals and stuff.” When the guy who makes film exhibition and criticism a major element of his WWII epic does one that’s actually about the Hollywood film industry, obviously he’s gonna go buck wild. The amount of detail he puts into the fictional career of TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, two episodes of The New Lassie) – to the point of needing a narrator to talk us through each entry from his Rome period – reaches the level of sci-fi world building. And of course Tarantino, being Tarantino, gives us a soundtrack that drips the sixties without one whiff of Creedence, Dylan, the Doors or Hendrix. Admittedly “Mrs. Robinson” is in there somewhere, but he leans more Deep Purple, Vanilla Fudge and Paul Revere & the Raiders. One of the few I knew was the Neil Diamond song. (read the rest of this shit…)
(SPOILERS. This is a don’t-read-before-seeing-the-movie review.)
Quentin Tarantino tries out a couple new tricks in his new one, THE HATEFUL EIGHT: he shot in extra-wide 65mm Cinemascope, and helped hook up a bunch of theaters with 70mm projectors (and projectionists, I assume) to show an early, longer version of the movie complete with an overture, intermission and program. He got Ennio Morricone to compose and orchestrate some new music for it (Tarantino’s only previous original scoring was some bits by RZA and Robert Rodriguez for the KILL BILLs). But it also feels pretty familiar: his second extreme-racism western in a row, with chapter titles like KILL BILL, full of conversation suspense scenes like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, mostly one location like RESERVOIR DOGS, some non-linear jumps like most of his movies, and a cast with plenty of his regulars (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, James Parks, Zoe Bell, Waltong Goggins [I almost forgot he was in DJANGO UNCHAINED). Just as INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS got away with some out-of-the-blue, seemingly incongruous narration by Jackson, HATEFUL EIGHT follows up its intermission with some omniscient narration that you suddenly realize is Tarantino himself. I can see why some people would hate that, but I loved it. I mean, who are we fooling, we all know it’s this guy talking to us through this movie anyway. And it helps kick off the second half with an energy the first was lacking.
Here’s something brand new for a Tarantino movie: I didn’t immediately love it. I’m honestly still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I’m not sure I get it. I remember that with both INGLOURIOUS and DJANGO I had misgivings on the first viewings that later seemed completely irrelevant. With the former it was thinking that Brad Pitt seemed like Brad Pitt playing a funny character, he didn’t inhabit the character the way previous Tarantino leads had. With the latter it was that Tarantino had never done a movie that followed one character chronologically, and it seemed kinda too simple for him. Both of those seem like dumb complaints to me now, and I loved both movies without reservations on subsequent viewings. Even so, their first times I liked better than this first time. (read the rest of this shit…)
DESPERADO is my favorite Robert Rodriguez movie. People will always say the scrappy, home-made, subtitled EL MARIACHI is better, and a strong argument could be made for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, with its Tarantino script and movie-star-making performance by George Clooney. But to me DESPERADO is his purest expression, the full enthusiasm of a young, hungry Hollywood rookie high on spaghetti westerns, John Woo and what his new friend QT was up to, fired into a full-blooded action movie uniquely based in Mexican culture.
The Tarantino influence shows in the talky opening with Steve Buscemi as the Mariachi’s hype man/street team, loudly telling tall tales about him in a bar, and in the scene where Tarantino himself plays a criminal telling a long-winded joke about peeing. But otherwise this has an identity very different from the wave of ’90s crime films, one that’s more visual and musical. He uses lots of slo-mo and dissolve edits working in tandem with a driving Latin rock score by Los Lobos. This is just one example of how the fresh Hollywood hotshot used his newfound resources while insisting on doing it his way. Another is the casting of the leads. (read the rest of this shit…)
Hey friends, somehow I have another piece in the ol’ Village Voice. This one is about Quentin Tarantino and why I hate when people say that his movies are just rip offs of other movies. I want to sincerely thank C.J. Holden for setting me off on a rant about that topic in a comment thread a while back, some of which was adapted into this more concise and polished version.
A couple weeks ago the studio “lifted the embargo” as they say, and all the online critics unchained their DJANGO reviews even though non-critics wouldn’t see the thing until Christmas. I think that’s a silly ritual because I wasn’t gonna read that shit! This is the new Quentin Tarantino movie, you go in fresh. I already know I want to see any movie he makes, I don’t gotta read everything about it first. In case you’re different I’ve tried to mark the biggest spoilers in this review, but as usual I recommend seeing the movie first.
DJANGO UNCHAINED is the most straight forward movie Tarantino has ever made. It follows one main character from first scene to last, doesn’t cut away to another story or even jump around in time other than some very traditional flashbacks. There are alot of long conversation scenes, but it’s generally pretty clear what they have to do with the main plot of the freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx, STEALTH) becoming a bounty hunter and trying to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a plantation. And that’s not a misleading description, that’s really the movie, a racially charged western (or “Southern,” Tarantino likes to say) in the tradition of those CHARLEY movies I just reviewed.
So in a way it feels uneventful for a Tarantino movie, the first time he made one that was pretty much what I expected from the commercials. On first viewing it seems low in my rankings of the QT filmography, but that doesn’t say much. Tarantino sure knows how to entertain, and I happen to love this genre of badass black cowboys out for frontier justice against practitioners of the slave trade. For his first straight up genre picture that’s a good genre to pick. I love this movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
I remember the first time I saw RESERVOIR DOGS it was with a bunch of dudes that had seen it a bunch of times and knew all the dialogue and shit. I thought it was great but I didn’t really get those guys, I didn’t think I would end up watching it over and over again.
Since then we’ve seen Quentin Tarantino go through the hip hop arc of exciting new thing, “it’s only a fad,” a decade later it’s obviously here to stay and still growing so quit your grumblin ya old grouch. In fact I did the math wrong when I was watching this, I was thinking it was turning 18 this year, it would be old enough to vote. And let’s be honest, it’s not voting for Obama, ’cause it’s kinda racist and also it probly thinks any Democrat wants to take its guns away. (read the rest of this shit…)
What more high pressure situation could there be than two men in a submarine arguing over whether or not to launch a nuclear missile? I guess the only thing that would make it more tense would be if they also had to get home in time for a kid’s birthday party. Luckily the birthday party happened at the beginning of the movie, right before they were deployed to take part in “the worst standoff since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” (read the rest of this shit…)
Do you guys know about this one? How come I never knew about it? Not that PAST MIDNIGHT – a 1991 thriller starring Natasha Richardson, Rutger Hauer and Clancy Brown that went straight to video in ’93 – is very good, but it holds an important enough place in cinematic history that I figure I should’ve heard of it before.
On his commentary track for TRUE ROMANCE, Quentin Tarantino talks about the time before he sold that script and directed RESERVOIR DOGS. He mentions a job at the production company CineTel, where he says he would do punch ups on scripts “which were really page 1 rewrites.” I don’t know if he’s exaggerating that part or not, but I’m sure it’s true that he rewrote a line here or there. So did any of those ever end up getting produced?
Yes, at least one did, and it is PAST MIDNIGHT, Tarantino’s first film credit besides production assistant on Dolph Lundgren’s MAXIMUM POTENTIAL workout video. Associate producer Catalaine Knell thought his contributions to the script were important enough that she shared her credit with him. (read the rest of this shit…)
TRUE ROMANCE is an entertaining, uniquely textured crime movie, a celebration of youthful love, kitsch, Asian exploitation cinema, and great character actors. At the time it seemed like a new feel, especially coming from Tony Scott. Now it’s more notable as a record of young, undisciplined Quentin Tarantino manning the word processor. (Roger Avary was hired to restructure the original non-linear story and write an ending where the hero doesn’t die – yeah, that sounds like young QT all right.) (read the rest of this shit…)
After watching the movie again, and then reading about the production again, I realized I really had to go back to the source again in order to really understand it. The script is available at various places online and has also been published in actual book form. And it’s drastically different from the finished movie.
The opening scene is basically the same. Mickey and Mallory in a diner, Mickey eating key lime pie, Mallory dancing to the jukebox (she steals the quarter from a Jerry’s Kids donation jar), some rednecks move in on her and it turns into a bloodbath. (read the rest of this shit…)
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