Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Already have an account? Log in here
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
No user info supplied.
Following the formula laid down by the unlikely franchise that's still going strong after almost 2 decades: preposterous and inconsequential plotting + basic-level acting + logic-defying action set pieces = pure escapism; this spin-off pairs the odd-couple characters previously played by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in the F&F series for a solid but predictable film. Directed by David Leitch, the fight sequences are mounted with flair and sophistication, while there's enough vehicular madness to get the F&F fans more than juiced. As for the plot, it's a C-grade Bond/Bourne deadly virus on the loose gambit with Shaw's sister being framed so as to get the titular duo involved. None of this makes much sense but the less you think about it, the more enjoyable the whole thing gets. Classing up all this nonsense, they've cast dramatically proven actors, such as The Crown's Vanessa Kirby, as Shaw's sister, demonstrating her physical adaptability to switch gears for an actioner and Idris Elba looking way cooler than humanly possible on a sleek black motorbike as the big bad; while Helen Mirren and a few surprise cameos provide the laughs, irreverent or otherwise. However, the raison d'etre for this movie is Johnson and Statham's undeniable chemistry and their delightfully entertaining banter and bickering, which puts them up there in the pantheon of on-screen action duos, such as Tango & Cash and Turner & Hooch. It is naff and ridiculous but also immensely entertaining except when it forgoes comedy or action for a bit of emotional heart-to-heart and the F-word (that's 'family' btw) and then the film screeches to a halt every single time. You could definitely do worse than this if, like me, you are struggling for something to watch at your local multiplex or on your in-flight entertainment system.
Jon Favreau directs again, after his successful 2016 remake of The Jungle Book, with technological advances that can render super-photo-realistic images of animals and wildlife on-screen, which almost justify this remake, but it also proves to be a double-edged sword. With the result looking amazingly real like an Attenborough documentary, the action sequences, which are now simply visceral and stunning to look at, benefit the most from this upgrade. However, when they start talking and singing, I feel as if I'm on a bad hallucinogenic trip, something The Jungle Book remake somehow managed to sidestep. While songs can be played out in the background, that's a lot harder to do for the talking, no matter how they try to soften them up with camera angles and editing that avoid showing mouth movements directly or for long periods of time. The main story and plotting and Elton John's songs remain so faithful to the original (film & Broadway show), it's like a scene-by-scene remake; and narrative developments are on the fast side, often at the expense of proper characterization. The voice cast reflects Disney's new found racial and cultural sensitivities (Donald Glover instead of Matthew Broderick; Chiwetel Ejiofor replacing Jeremy Irons), with the exception of a few white comedians sidekicks who are funny when they go a little off-script, but the personality of their voices are so distinctive, you still think of them more as Seth Rogen and John Oliver than Pumbaa and Zazu. This is Disney's third remake in a row since March's Dumbo and whilst their box office takings may have justify the exercise, you can't help but feel disappointed, if not despair, at the dearth of originality and you miss the original animation's charm and innocence. Sometimes just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should.
Despite my misgivings with Ari Aster's critically acclaimed debut, Hereditary, my trepidation for his follow-up was initially abated by a heartbreaking and horrifying prologue that was delivered with eerie elegance, setting up Florence Pugh's traumatised Dani and her shaky relationship with Jack Reynor's Christian. However, such succinct economy evaporates from the film as we progress to the whitest and brightest pagan festival in Sweden where something unsettling and disturbing lurks behind the smiling and helpful local faces. This is a meticulously designed and beautifully constructed film that confirms Aster as a visionary and distinctly talented director. Bucking genre convention, it manages to find darkness and creepiness in a film set entirely in an open countryside over long sun-soaked summer days; and it excels in mounting an excruciating sense of foreboding, although simplistic and shallow characterisations mean ultimately when those fears come true, they are merely collateral damage that you don't really care about. In fairness, the first shocking moment about an hour in packs a hard punch; but an indulgent running time of 2½ hours and unnecessarily prolonged and sometimes unintentionally funny sequences turn the film into a long and drawn out slog, with an inevitably grim end for the characters and little by way of surprise for its audience. I don't mind that this isn't very scary, but I do mind a suspense thriller that isn't suspenseful or thrilling and this one feels flat as unassembled Swedish furniture. Maybe I just don't get him but what's plainly obvious is Aster's obsessive fascination with both The Wicker Man and heads but two films in, he just looks like he is repeating himself. Technically accomplished but narratively vapid, perhaps Aster should try directing someone else's script next time?
An acquired taste and a distinctive voice in indie cinema, Jim Jarmusch has engaged with many genres in the past and has yet find one that will not submit to his Jarmuschification. So it is with some trepidation I approach this film in which he deploys his deliberate, deadpan and lethargic style to the popular but somewhat tired zombie genre, and in particular, The Night of the Living Dead, which is referenced on various occasions both subtly and not so subtly. Conforming to genre conventions down to a tee, Jarmusch takes his all-star cast, including regulars such as Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver and more, through the motions, as they play the idiosyncratic inhabitants of Centerville that will soon meet their doom, but this time Jarmusch's signature styling doesn't mix or coalesce well with the genre. In fact, it's more like the genre overwhelms him here and as Driver's Officer Petersen correctly and constantly predicts, this will not end well. Once again using the zombie apocalypse as a metaphor for crippling consumerism in an increasingly materialistic world, the result is odd and over-familiar and the outlandish and meta twists the film takes in its final act, though undeniably impactful, feels like a desperate attempt to jolt the film back to life, as it heads towards an inevitably bleak and unsatisfactory end. Whether you are amused or roll your eyes and groan at the in-jokes, the repetitive and pseudo-postmodern dialogue, or the Sturgill Simpson's theme song, the result is neither funny nor fresh enough to warrant the experiment. This film remains a surreal anomaly that I can't see appealing to anyone but Jarmusch fans who have never seen a zombie film before – and that is a very small niche indeed.
Marvel and Sony's joint custody of this third iteration of your local neighbourhood arachnid-centric superhero continues with youthful frivolity in a post-Endgame MCU that's still grieving over one particular Avenger; but the film itself, taking Peter Parker and his class out on a Eurotrip is so light and frothy, not to mention a little forgettable, its only achievement is reaffirming Tom Holland's appeal and charm as Spider-Man while moving his relationship with Zendaya's MJ into the next phrase. Following on from the gigantic Endgame is no easy task, and this feels like a coda that seeks to lighten the grave mood emanating from the awful/awesome events that has taken place previously, and shed some light on its aftermath in an entertaining manner that's also tonally appropriate. However, I am less impressed with the new storyline with Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio which feels a bit old-hat. In reinventing that character for this film (and also in an effort to wrong-foot/surprise comic-book fans who are already familiar with the character), there is an uneasy, niggling feeling as to how his grand scheme actually works and whether it makes sense in the cold light of day as we exit the cinema. The call and referencing back to previous Marvel films almost backfired as it proves more confusing than exciting and rewards only those with a meticulous memory. Judging the film on its own merits, the special effects are okay and there are enough good lines and funny zingers to keep you distracted and entertained. Otherwise, it's business as usual with this passable effort being very much a bridging filler that sparks occasionally but especially in the mid- and post-credit scenes when it teases us with a tantalizing glimpse of where the next Spider-Man movie, and the future MCU, is heading.