Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Epic martial arts flick that builds on everything that has ever come before it. It is essentially The Raid 3, with amazing villains and even some heroes to root for, this movie is chock-full of kinetic energy, ruthlessness and gore. It is so violent so as to almost blur the line between action and horror movie as we fear for our protagonists' bodies almost as much as we revel in the gore they create. I loved every second of its insane shenanigans and how seriously it takes itself while also always remaining a movie first and foremost, so we can easily slide past any continuity errors and ridiculously superhuman badassery and just enjoy it in all its bone crunching splendor.
It's all about the atmospherics and the unerring feeling of dread and something being wrong in this terrific sophomore feature by Ari Aster, director of one of my favourite modern horror films, Hereditary. Normally I wouldn't want to give too much away but being as how the film begins with a beautiful illustrated tableau of everything that is about to go down, then I feel at more liberty to summarize. Essentially. it's a similar plot to the Wicker Man, or the more recent Apostle, in that a group of audience stand-ins dives into a tight knit community of pagan/new age hippies that have very unusual longstanding traditions. I also couldn't help but think of the recent Suspiria remake in the way the dread is hopelessly mounting for our characters, how they stay in these situations way past the point of any reasonable person, and how both films use their sound design to create a very memorable environment that is indelibly menacing precisely because our antagonists do not act in a traditionally evil way, they are almost ignorant of their malevolence, which makes them all the more horrifying. The production design and cinematography are regularly eyegasm-inducing and the very premise of the neverending summer days leads to a very terrifying experience. Whereas most horror movies take place at night and trade in our biological fear of the dark and what is lurking just beyond the shadows, this movie excels at showing us everything and making it all the more horrifying by the mere virtue of it occurring in broad daylight in this idyllic pastoral locale. The acting is solid throughout and Florence Pugh carries the weight of the film on her expressions. The most amazing thing with this film, as well as with Aster's previous film, is how this sinister, unsettling, feeling is created from the very first scene and managed elegantly throughout towards an increasingly unnerving final third act.
Solid genre throw-back with plenty of gore and cheap thrills to go around. Reminds me of the best of creature features from another era like Jaws and Lake Placid mixed with disaster flicks such as Hard Rain and Twister. I enjoyed it thoroughly in all its popcorn glory.
This movie was particularly impactful for me as I watched it a week after becoming an English teacher at a high school for the first time. I was born on the year the movie was released, also I watched it with my little brother, who is a high school senior, and I watched it less than a week after a friend committed suicide, just days after a student told me she was having suicidal thoughts, with the added detail of Robin Williams' suicide tying a macabre bow on the whole experience for me. With all that being said, you would think that I could give it a higher score but the fact is it feels somewhat dated. I know it's set in 1959 but what I mean is the interactions between some of the characters just don't ring true for me, the boys act in over-the-top fashion over their love for poetry and for each other that at times it rings of falsity and performance. There are some good moments throughout however and the story is certainly quite moving, especially to me, at this particular point in my life, it truly hit a nerve. I'd been wanting to watch it for years, and it was well worth the wait to watch it right after my first week of English teaching. I actually ended up having one of my classes read an excerpt from Walden from their textbooks the very next day, the same one Mr.Keating uses to inspire his students to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life; To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.
It's exactly everything I'd expect in a fast & furious movie at this point. The cartoon physics are completely ridiculous, and the characters may as well be superheroes at this point with the amount of explosions and gunshots they survive. The new characters are all ok, even Charlize Theron's villain, despite her motivations being of the clichéd "trying to cause world war III type". The movie doesn't work as well as a standalone flick due to everything it expects its audience to remember from the last few flicks. The final setpiece is so ridiculous as to strain suspension of disbelief, but then again, as it has been with the last couple of movies in the fastchise, you get exactly what is advertised, which is a fun ride.