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.
JJ Abrams, or as he now known. 'the new Spielberg' offers the second re-boot of the tired Star Trek franchise and sends it forward at warp speed. Unlike his excellent first edition, this one gets into the real action from the start, and once started, never lets up. A return of an old favourite, Khan, helps propel the plot at warp speed. Played by the ridiculously named Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Holmes in Sherlock) he is a good villain that does not overpower the plot (as Bardem did in Skyfall). The two leads, Kirk (Pine) and Spock (Quinto - who looks a good deal like Cumberbatch) are both great, so there is balance and interest in all sides. Though it is full of other good performances and is pretty well written, the real star is the director.
JJ Abrams seems to have the magic touch. The movie moves like a train, not always in the predicted direction, and has a humanity about it that dwarfs the effects. One critic in the London Times complains that it is too contemporary - that Khan is a terrorist, and the moral dilemnas are discussed. All I can say is that is what drove Star Trek even in the TV series - the arguments about right and wrong, how to use power, etc - were always part of Star Trek. I personally can't wait to see what Abrams does with Star Wars. I think he will make great Star Wars films.
Almost a perfect sci-fi from the material.
The ulitmate star vehicle for Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 3 is a hoot. It is fast, funny and totally dumb all at the same time. I think that Shane Black, the screenwriter and director this time around, must have had a whale of a time making this. No matter what else happens on screen, you're eyes are on Downey Jr - he is just compelling to watch. His has a natural way about him that makes you think he is not acting, that he is deeply disturbed and it's all true. He illustrates the truth that if your central character is made of wood, your film is made of shit. No other actor could fill his shoes on this, he is Iron Man, as he is so proud to claim.
The rest of the movie is fun enough, but total crap really. One exception - there is a star cameo from Ben Kinglsey as 'The Mandarin.' Kingsley's role as a Bin Laden type illustrates the irony of the Christopher Nolan school of fake American heroes so perfectly, I wanted to laugh out loud. I will laugh out loud - it was a brilliant touch. The best scene in the film is when Iron Man rescues 16 people thrown out of Air Force One at 30,000 feet. It is so unreal as to be.... well, unreal. But memorable as anything else in the two hours.
So hail, hail, Robert Downey Jr. He makes paint drying fun, and this movie would be a shambles without him.
Your Cock Up, My Arse!
I know it's crude, but so is this riduiculous film about making a film. Imagine. Alfred Hitchcock is not the genius we all thought he was (wasn't) but old horny Alma, his mousey wife. Yes, it was she who discovered and married him, she who helped doctor scripts, etc. Yet these real snippets are transformed to re-write history. It's like saying, I don't know, Mussolini was the real brains behind Hitler, or some such rubbish.
But we know what's really going on here, right? All men are useless, perverts, ego- fuelled dolts! I mean, the other Hitchcock movie about the Birds has Toby Runt as a class A lecher, groping Tippi Whatshername in the back seat of a Packard.
This film'ssecond worse crime is boredom - it is an invented tale, over-hyped by bull and with an agenda I would call misandrist. Look it up, if you don't know what it means. And poor Danny Houston! What a waste of an actor.
And Hopkins looks nothing like Hitch and Mirren even less like Alma. Only Scarlet catches the eye, like she was in all 90 something minutes of Psycho instead of the opening act.
Reachers the heights
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher? Isn't that guy, like a foot taller than the incredible shrunken Scientologist? But surprisingly, Cruise carries it off. giving you an impression that he is as fearful a fighter as the amoral knight in the Lee Child novels.
There is something single minded and menacing about a good Cruise performance that we have seen throughout his career, like in the Mission Impossible films. Trace elements of real anger and feeling erupt from time to time, and he does it here in spades. Of course, the plot is pretty creaky - some old Georgian psycho is corrupting cities with bad buildings and stuff - yeah, right? But it plays like a decent thriller - it's not Tell No One. There is a veneer of emotion in this work, but not enough genuine emotion to tip the balance. If they made a sequel, I'd watch it, but I would not salivate at the prospect.
Silver Linings, Golden Statues
If anyone doubts how good Jennifer Lawrence and Brad Cooper are, check out this David O. Russell rom-com with a bi-polar edge. Both give Oscar worthy performances, and Robert de Niro also comes to life in a way I haven't seen in years as Brad's rather shady Dad.
Something wonderful gets into Russell's head every decade or so, and his script and direction are near perfect. There is not a bum note, despite the ridiculous female-friendly story of love transformation, as Lawrence and Cooper find redemption from illness in eachother's arms.
But is it Oscar worthy? Yes, I think, especially if you compare this to The Artist. I watched this film the other day, and although technically excellent, this is a much more moving story. So well done all and write another this good, David.
Female Villains - Hooray!
Scott Z. Burns has done 4 films with Soderburgh, and this one is a doozy for a number of reasons. It misdirects throughout, turning from an Erin Brokovich expose of the pharma industry (wrong turn, but the audience, and the characters went with it) to something more basic - a film noir about female treachery. In these times of misandry, where all women are wonderful and all men are evil, this film defies the zeitgeist - that is the key to how the film hooks the audience. You want to believe the doctor, the man of science is evil, and that the girl (Rooney Mara) is a victim.
You think it's the drugs. Wrong. You think it's the doctor. Wrong. You think the girl is a victim. Wrong. Even the killer's mother in law doesn't blame her for murdering her son. Proof that women can get away with anything. Even the lesbian plot driver works. Who would suspect what's going on? Even the deus ex-machina, admitted in the plot - the previous accusation by a female patient of Law and used to drive away his wife, is almost forgivable as a plot mistake.
The film's account of female treachery is unstinting -poor Jude Law's wife, so long out of a job and supported by her doctor husband, stands by her man! - not. She ditches him faster that I can down a cheeseburger at McDonalds, as the photoshop pictures arrive of her husband with Mara, not waiting a second to hear what her suffering husband has to say in his defense. Who would believe him? I mean, he's a man!
The audience hums along to the misandric presumption of male wrongness.
Jude Law (why him?) at least plays English. He does not even try to be American a la Russell Crowe, but his casting is a mystery, as he brings nothing to the portrayal that an American could not bring. In fact, he is too loveable and sympathetic - he bring even less.. So one cheer, I guess for Jude and another American male lead gone to a Brit when an American would have been better.
So congratulations, Scott and Steve, for making a movie - the first one in years - where the beleagured and misunderstood male lead turns up trumps, and the lesbian femme fatales - makes you less sympathtic- go to the slammer. I particularly like the ending - where the norm is restored. Jude picks up his step son from school - and his wife, who deserted him in an instant,
is in the car waiting to drive them home. Whew, I guess nothing's changed. She's still in the driving seat, and he's still doing her bidding.
With a bit more urgency and surprise, this film-yellow noir (tinges again, Steven?) would get an even highter score.
By the way, none of the reviewers mentioned these essential facts in their reviews. Amazing. Makes me wonder if we live in the same world.
Django, Bango, Splat
Tarantino continues his spate of revenge films - Kill Bill and Inglorious - and now Quentin, the scourge of straight white men mows down as many racists in Django as will fiit the screen, in another catharctic outpouring of bloody violence. As others tell you in RT it is at times funny, awful to watch, stimulating but never ever moving. Only once do you feel Django's rage - when he stumbles on the the three men who whipped his wife. What gets Django to 60% is that it is one of the few movies I've ever seen that confronts slavery and its evils head on, crashes through them and comes out the other side.
Christopher Waltz steals the acting honours as he did in Inglorious, this time making Jamie Foxx look like a black Eastwood statue and the great Leo look like a scenery chewing amateur. His lines carry the frisson of surprise - and this is the reason Django won the Oscar last night for Best Original Screenplay. There are genuinely funny, Blazing Saddles moments (a clear inspiration for Quentin). There are a number of scenes (the row over the Klansman's hoods, the killing of the Sherrif who is really a wanted killer, etc) that are marvelously surprising. And yet.
The film is crude - too much revelling in blood, absolutely no women characters or characterisation beyond cartoons, and of course, he mistakenly casts himself as an awful Australian cowboy. Then there is Samuel L. Jackson as the ultimate Uncle Tom. This character undermines the purity of the anti-slavery fury that shines through the rest of the film - the black man, so long subservient to the white becomes his secret 'Jew' - offering the best advice on character and situation to the reviled Candie (Leo), so that he can kill Waltz and Foxx. I'm afraid the horrific mix of the anachronistic and history is too much, and the absurd last hour and a half falls to pieces. It is too long, too gory, and too stupid in its clever, clever style.
I applaud Quentin for his fearlessness, and revile him for his awful crudity and bloodthirstiness. Can he ever make a mature film like his debut, when everyone loves these cinematic excesses?
Makes Pulp Fiction look like Bergman,
Half Baked Craziness
Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths is a mess. Entertaining, gory, stupid, funny and just plain.... well, psychotic. The awful Colin Farrrel - only good playing native Irishmen - plays an Irish screenwriter in LA - geddit - who is frineds with one psycho - the amazing Sam Rockwell, who initiates Farrell into the world of psychos. He knows a few, invites a few in, makes a few up, etc. The plot, such as there is, is that Billy (Rockwell) and his elder partner (also a psycho - Christopher Walken, his usual self) are dog nappers who kidnap the wrong dog -that of soft in the head mobster and psycho, Woody Harrrelson. The story goes beserk a number of times in unpredictable, silly ways, but is entertaining enough.
Unfortunately, this film has none of the intense charm of Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, and suffers badly with comparisons to that superior effort. If you are a 16 year old boy, you'll love it. For a somewhat older person, this is less satisfying, as it tries so hard to be cool. Sam Rockwell is a revelation - he makes the whole thing bearable - see it for him alone.
This film by Andrew Dominik is a very good adaptation of the novel by the very great George V. Higgins, and features an effective Brad Pitt as the killer Cogan. It is a dialog heavy script, reflecting the style of the novel (and that of the Friends of Eddie Coyle). That does not make it dull - it makes it realsitic, effective and shocking when something happens.
Idiots may like the so-called intelligent films of Christopher Nolan (my vote for worst director since Ed Wood, which rely on stupidly complicated plots and CGI. This film is intelligent, as it relies on human nature for it's interest. Cogan is a killer who doesn't mind killing, but prefers to 'kill softly', at a distance, without much emotion. In this plot, he is thrown into close quarters because asub-contractor, played by the delicious James Gandolfini, can no longer function as a killer, preferring to drink copiuous amounts of whiskey and sex with prostitutes. Poor Cogan must do all the killing himself, far away and close.
This film is a considerable achievement, as Higgins is hard to script and hard to film. I though Ben Afflect would take him on, with all the Boston feeling, but Dominik does very well indeed.
One of 2012's best, better than many a bloated blockbuster, and as sharp as a tack.
MAD HOOVER DOES NOT SUCK
OK, forget the make-up on poor old Clyde Tolson, Hoover's gay 'partner', especially in the stroke scene at the end. It is beyond terrible. But this well written, acted and directed take on the life and career of the FBI founder is very good indeed, if you have half a brain.
Eastwood and Shane Black are clear about Hoover as a person, and as an American icon - he was driven, mad, a repressed homosexual, who used his office to glorify himself and wield incredible power for an unelected figure. And yet.... He also contributed greatly to the modernisation of police work (imagine the CSI without Hoover), and championed the use of real evidence in criminal proscecutions. I found it a more truthful portrait than any other, as no villain sees himself as evil, but as good.
DeCaprio is excellent throughtout the film. He plays Hoover at all stages of his worklife, and the make up on him is pretty good. It is during his rise that DeCaprio shines through as the quality performer. It may sound odd, but he has blossomed into a great actor, as De Niro predicted, with excellent performances in Scorsese's films and so many others. His baby face may still be there, but he is a formidable actor; along with Day Lewis, one of the very best of his generation.
The convoluted nature of the storytelling is intelligent, but sometimes undermines the force of the film. It is difficult to find the governing idea - that one man's life, no matter how flawed, can still be great? That one man's flaws can overwhelm whatever good a man does?
This did not make the film a waste of time, it made it interesting. It was left to the audience to ask and answer these big questions, and I, for one, found myself fascinated.
RUSSELL CROWS or LES MIS AUDIENCE
This polarising film adaptation of the cod-opera is both stunning and horrific, and audiences either love it or hate it. I'm right down the middle. If you go in not knowing its an opera with almost no dialogue, and you are not prepared for the endless coincidences or overt religiosity of the story, then prepared to be shocked.
Tom Hooper makes two choices that affect audience response. One, he shoots the singers live, almost always in close up. Two, he casts actors first and singers second. Both choices are potentially horrible when the casting is off. Despite this, many of the casting choices work well enough, or brilliantly in the case of Anne Hathaway (her 'I Dreamed a Dream', shot on her deathbed is superb and Oscar worthy). Even Sacha Baron Cohen, shamefully but effectively playing the show's Fagin, red hair and all, is a real asset.
But it is the two Aussie male leads(I know, Jackman is a New Zealander, same difference). Jackman acts a bit and sings a bit - mostly through his nose. His performance is the core of the film and he tries manfully. But he is pretty terrible. For very terrible, you have to go to Russell Crowe, playing the awful Javert, the pursuer of Jean Valjean. Crowe is a total letdown - poor acting and even poorer singing. His voice is almost as bad as Clint Eastwood's or Lee Marvin's in Paint Your Wagon. Bob Dylan is better.
The film over-eggs everything, pulling out all the stops shamelessly for nearly three hours, leaving the audience exhausted. I mean, two and a half decent songs (On My Own) which all sound the same, and lots of tuneless recitative were too much. I felt jazzed and pummeled at the same time.
This is NOT Oscar worthy (OK - Hathaway is). It is over-hysterical, over-long and with these lead actors, under-sung. Oh yeah, the story creaks like a 90 year old man, and by the way, until the end, Jackman looks 40, not 60, as in the story.
Another emotional tearjerker from Hooper, who made the awful and over-praised King's Speech (read my review).
For those who don't love muscials, enter the theatre at your own risk.
Forget the blundering criticism of this moving film version of Jonathan Safran Foer's source novel. Obviously, most of these critics are unfamiliar with this singular tale of grief. It concerns young Oscar Schell, who has some form of Asperger's syndrome, coming to terms with the death of his beloved father, a victim of 9/11. Oscar solves puzzles, and his father encourages him to go out, explore and find the answers for himself.
One year after tragedy strikes, Oscar finds a key in his father's closet that Oscar interprets as a message to him. Using his autistic savant skills, he discovers that the name Black is associated with the key, and decides to track down the 472 people in greater NYC with that name. He even enlists the 'renter' who lives with his grandmother (actually his wayward Grandfather, the wonderful Max Von Sydow)on his journey of discovery. Of course, the revelations of the key have nothing to do with him, but it is the journey that enlightens.
This is a wonderful tale for a novel and a challenge for people wanting to turn the tale into a film. By and large, it succeeds. It is captivating, well paced, well acted (especially a wordless Von Sydow) and emotionally rewarding. Where it lets me down is the casting. There is a wonderful scene with Oscar and his father discussing oxymorons - and reciting their favourites - this is also picked up by Oscar and his grandfather - and this is the film's fatal flaw.
For me, the casting is REAL FAKE - Oscar and his family are Jews in the novel - clearly a core part of the character and relationships. WASP British Director Daldry - no New Yorker, mysteriously casts an all WASP set of actors - including Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, let alone Von Sydow. And the boy- Horn - is as Jewish as Billy Elliot, and as autistic as Harry Potter. My son has Asperger's syndrome, and although the condition varies a great deal, I can spot an Asperger's 'sufferer' from 1000 paces. There is lots of autistic traits to Oscar's film behaviour, but none in his eyes, voice and movement.
This could have been a wonderful film, but it ain't.
Too Much Pi
A visual 3D feast lasting an eternity, this faithful adaptation of the award winning novel suffers from the same flaws as the book. That is, is it a clever re-write of the Book of Job (lots of Gawd, terrible things happening to really very nice people, why oh why?)or is it just an annoying bit of pseudo-intellectual fluff?
For the most part, you won't care. It is slow but compelling, hypnotic and surreal. The acting is great by all the Pies (plural of Pi, please?) and it contains amazing scenes with animals. Essentially, the story is largely a fantasy of a traumatised boy whose family dies in a shipwreck, and at the end, he reveals the truth - that the murdering cook killed his mother, so he killed him and then floated for weeks and weeks. Or something.
It moves like a Japanese tea ceremony, very precise and formal. It will garner prizes because it is pretentious and vacuuous enough to win them. Ang Lee has made it look amazing.
If you see it, 3D is well worth it. The Tiger should win Best Supporting Actor for emotive eating and snarling.
Oh yeah, what happened to the bones of the zebra, orangutan and hyena, huh? CGI made them disappear?
This pacey little number stars Jeremy Renner, always a good thing, another CIA super-agent gone rogue. It leeches off the Bourne trilogy without establishing its own relevance, but does move like a train.
I doubt there will be a fifth Bourne film, as the wear and tear shows on this. But, in it's own right, the film is exciting, a tad unpredictable (for a formula) and features good action acting. The script is full of jargon and hodge podge dialog, spoken by men and women in tones too serious to take seriously.
I enjoyed it nonetheless. I could watch Renner in anything, and I feel I just have.
Good, but not a patch on the trilogy, especially the first one, though Renner and Damon are pretty much equally good.
Another gem featuring an America almost denuded of Americans, in which terrible accents that never existed prevail, and no one on the set can say, Jesus, that's a shit accent, because no one knows what real Americans sound like.
Let's see, aside from the awful Shia La Boef (his hick accent is pretty good, compared to the rest of the cast), the film was written by Nick Cave, directed by John Hillcoat (both Australians) and starred Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman (both English). It would not matter that much, but this genre tale of bootleggers depends on authentic voices for it's credibilty as a story. Their accents were worse than Dick Van Dyke doing a Cockney in Mary Poppins.
Why can't these people leave America alone? Make Aussie set stories, act in British films, something you know, right?
I feel personally affronted by all these assaults on American subjects by writers and directors who clearly have NO EAR for these.
By the way, the film was fragmented, poorly acted, terribly written and utter crap.
More Brits in Yank Clothes
In a seemingly unending torrent of schlock, here is another useless remake of a classic American heroes and villains film, populated by fake Brits impersonating Americans. In this case, the cute Andrew Garfield stammering away, and the awful Rhys Ifans at least not hiding his awful Welsh accent in a Bronx drawl.
Why does Hollywood hate Amercian actors so much? Are they saving money on Brits so they can put the dosh into CGI? Do we think we don't notice?
Is this film necessary? Is Garfield an improvement on Tobey? Is Ifans an improvement on Defoe? Is the plot that much different/better? How about the special effects?
Nothing is better. Absolutely nothing. Why was this film made now? The other series ended less than 7 years ago.
Spend the money on something new next time.
British Pantomime Dames Impersonate Americans
This title could be fairly applied to almost all Christopher Nolan films. He creates a place where British actors(sometimes Australians) play mythical American heros with their best phony baloney accents, undermining American dreams, a place of awful, overblown, pretentious crap.
Where shall I begin with this overlong lump of action? First the cast - Christoper Bale - incoherent, mumbling Brit; Gary Oldman -pretend Mid-Westener(or Russell Crowe imitator); Tom Hardy -muscle bound villain; Michael Caine - Alfred as Dick van Dyke; and, I almost forgot, the forgettable British girls. Of course there is room for the inevitable Morgan Freeman and Levitt, who is so NOT a glamourous American star. Second the absurd plot, so complicated and overwrought, so overtly anti-American, so awful as to defy belief. Only the twist at the end saved the film from a rating of 10%. Lastly, the huge expense and waste of time, and the absurd popularity of this series.
Christopher Nolan is the worst writer/director working in films anywhere, ever. In history. Ever.
This film features the best performance of the year, one that puts flesh on the statue that is Lincoln. Day Lewis and the film should kick Oscar butt in a few months.
Taking a meaningful sliver from Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, the film focuses on Lincoln's singular accomplishment -the 13th Amendment, which overturned slavery. It reveals Lincoln as a man, a sharp, purposeful fellow who had a great human touch, full of stories. The film is unfussy and plain for Spielberg, it is not terribly sloppy, full of action or any of his bad trademarks. Obvious Best Director, I'm afraid. I hope Tommy Lee Jones wins for his marvelous Thaddeus Stevens, the man behind the 14th, 15th Amendments, who insults the Democrats in the House the way you wish someone should insult the Republicans today.
Timing is vital for this film, for the parallels to the present are too noticable. The same partisan insanity applies today, and Obama is in a similar, but by no means identical position with the Congress. One can only wish it turns out as well for him as it did, for a very brief moment, for Lincoln.
A long, talky, very great film. If you don't like it, perhaps the next action flick will satisfy you.
Ben Affleck is the new Clint Eastwood, but better; not only is he the finest actor turned director, but he makes the barely moving Eastwood look like an emoting Brando bellowing 'Stella! at the foot of the stairs. Wooden is high praise indeed for his lead (or is it lead?) performance.
Argo is his third outing and manages to surpass The Town and Gone Baby Gone. Affleck loves tightly plotted, unflashy thrillers, and this 'true story' is the tightest, unflashiest bit of brilliance yet. I thought he would do a George V. Higgins first, but no. Someone less good did Cogan's Trade.
The story is a barely credible account of how a CIA man - with Canadian help - rescued 6 Americans from wacky Iran in 1980. It is nail biting, re-creates the mood precisely, and features great non-performances from the cast - it almost plays as a documentary in Iran, but that is down to the skill of the cast and Affleck.
Walking off with the acting honors are John Goodman and Alan Arkin, who, back in La La Land, supply a fake Hollywood backstory for the escape. They are funny, sharp and add the spice that the rest of the film deliberately avoids like poison. The script is exemplarly, tight, believable, and compelling.
Films this good never win Oscars. They are not flashy enough, emotional enough, and they never do great box office. But they do win Blockies - my own awards.
I am nominating Argo for Best Picture and Affleck for Best Director. It has a shot at winning both, depending on how the rest of 2012 goes.
Sympathy For The Devil
Sam Mendes' James Bond makes the mistake of making the villain more compelling than the hero. Javier Bardem, only introduced a hour into the film, is so convincing as the bad guy, he makes the rest of the film seem very contrived.
The film talks modernity through clipped 1950's clipped Oxbridge tones. Dench, Fiennes, Wilshaw - it's Cameron toffs that dominate the screen. Only the plumber with the 00 prefix is 'working class' - even the black Moneypenny seems to have attended at last a Redbrick and Roedean.
It starts well enough,with Bond killed by friendly fire. Then, without a word of explanation, he returns. How? A plot to kill M is hatched by deranged former agent Bardem.Trouble is, I found myself cheering him on. Wrong, huh?
I preferred the emotional roller coaster of Casino Royale to this - I cared more about Bond and Vesper than Bond and M.
Too much jingoism as well. I'd kill M too if I were n the service - heartless bitch.