Posts Tagged ‘Quentin Tarantino’

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January 2020 Movie Reviews

January 28, 2020

Parasite (2019, theaters) *second watch – I had to watch this one twice before I wrote about it just to be sure that it was as truly great as I thought it was the first time. It’s official now: Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019 and it’s unlikely that anything I haven’t seen yet will top it at this point. The film is just pure brilliance: it’s gripping, funny, surprising and beautifully filmed, all while acting as a commentary on the divide between social classes, plus the ensemble cast does a great (and mostly overlooked) job. Maybe the cast has been snubbed by American awards because Parasite is a Korean film and American audiences are spending a good deal of the movie reading the subtitles instead of watching the performances. You definitely can’t appreciate an acting performance to its full extent if you don’t understand what they are saying and your attention is elsewhere most of the time. I guess that’s understandable, but still… I thought the cast was great overall and, even without knowing the language, I could see that Kang-ho Song (poor dad), Yeo-jeong Jo (rich wife), So-dam Park (poor daughter), and Jeong-eun Lee (housekeeper) all gave standout performances. I think Parasite deserves the Best Picture Oscar (but I think 1917 is probably the favorite) and the Oscar for Best Screenplay should be a lock as anything else winning would be laughable. Parasite is the best movie of the year and possibly the only truly sensational film to come out of 2019.

9/10 (Sensational)

1917 (2019, theaters) – This movie is a technical marvel. It’s a war picture that’s presented to look like everything was filmed in one shot (it wasn’t). I think it’s a cool concept and while I could spot certain times where they probably made a cut (i.e. the actors disappear behind a solid object so there are no moving parts on screen), I think they sold it really well and I would imagine some of these sequences still had to be extraordinarily long and that’s pretty damn impressive, both from a filming aspect and the ability of the actors to carry out the scenes convincingly. The set designs in this film are unreal and I would imagine 1917 has a really good shot at the Production Design Oscar. The story follows two soldiers sent to the front lines to deliver a message to stop their attack, or something of that nature. The character development in this isn’t a strength but I didn’t mind. I may not have been emotionally invested in the story, but I was definitely blown away by how it was presented. I could see people that don’t appreciate the technical aspects of films thinking that 1917 is pretty meh, but I loved it and I think it firmly lands in my top 5 of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Uncut Gems (2019, theaters) – This one has polarized audiences – people either seem to love it or absolutely loathe it. I was in the former camp, as I was entertained the whole movie and thought it was borderline hilarious, but not in the in-your-face kind of way an Adam Sandler comedy usually is. Uncut Gems is much more subtle with the humor, possibly because a lot of the funniest parts are also a bit horrifying. I’ve heard this movie described as a two hour panic attack and that’s not a bad description. The movie opens with Sandler’s character getting a colonoscopy and that’s by far the most relaxing moment he has in the entire movie. After that point, he’s nonstop on the go and the tension basically never lets up. This movie is about a foul-mouthed (Uncut Gems has the 7th most “F-words” in cinematic history) NYC Diamond District jewelry peddler that bets big on sports and spends his life looking for ways to stay in action while dodging the loan sharks he owes. It’s grimy. It’s unsettling. It’s definitely disturbing. But I liked it a lot and Adam Sandler is great in it. I’m not sure he got snubbed for an Oscar nom, but I wouldn’t have found it alarming to see him get a nod. I’m hesitant to recommend Uncut Gems because so many people disliked it, but if we have similar taste, you might find yourself enjoying this just as much as I did.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, rental) *second watch – My first review for this movie wasn’t that favorable but a second viewing made a huge difference. Maybe it’s all about expectations? I’ve gone from wondering what the heck I just watched to loving this film. Previously, I thought the plot meandered along with no meaningful connection between the multiple storylines and the climax rubbed me the wrong way (and maybe it still does) but now I can’t help but appreciate the sheer brilliance of everything that’s happening on the screen – from the unreal performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, to the ridiculously detailed old school Hollywood set designs, to the music, to the wonderful cinematography. Also, there are multiples sequences in this movie that will probably wind up being iconic. I still think the ending of this movie is weird and probably disrespectful, but… it’s also kind of cool? Same with the Bruce Lee scene. Disrespectful? Yeah, probably. Hilarious and awesome? Uh… yes. I can’t think of too many movies that have grown on me this much with a second watch, but this is now one of my favorite films of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Little Women (2019, theaters) – I’ve never read the classic novel or seen any of the previous film versions of this story, so I have nothing to compare it to and that might be a good thing. I was excited to see Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her excellent Lady Bird and the cast looked unreal. Unsurprisingly, the cast absolutely delivers. Saoirse Ronan is arguably the best actress under thirty and earned her fourth Oscar nomination in the last twelve years and it is well deserved. Pretty impressive for someone that hasn’t had their 26th birthday yet. Florence Pugh completed a trifecta of great performances in 2019 (the others being Fighting With My Family and Midsommar) and capped off her amazing year by getting an Oscar nod for this movie. I’m not even sure it’s even her second best performance of the year, but I’m definitely happy to see her get nominated… she deserves it. Maybe not for this role… but something. All of them? I was enjoying Little Women for most of the run time, but the last act really brought everything together wonderfully and kicked my rating up a tick. It’s a fun film about people that only cements Gerwig’s status as a top notch film director. I give it a strong recommendation, but it’s definitely not a bro movie.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Judy (2019, rental) – I did not enjoy Judy, but I do give credit to Renee Zellweger for her great performance and it’s definitely the highlight of the movie. I’ve enjoyed plenty of depressing films – and Judy Garland’s last few years on earth are definitely sad – but I just didn’t get into this one. It’s possible I just wasn’t paying enough attention, as I was multitasking while watching it. Zellweger is wonderfully unrecognizable and dives deep into character, convincingly selling herself as an old time celebrity trying to recapture the limelight while battling addiction and alcoholism and struggling to hold her family together. And she also bets out some impressive songs. I loved Zellweger’s performance. I did not love the movie.

5/10 (Decent)

I Lost My Body (2019, Netflix) – Nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, this is a weird, but cool little film that finds a severed hand escaping from a laboratory to reconnect with its body. This was definitely an enjoyable movie with some pretty awesome animation and a quirky story. I accidentally watched the English dubbed version of this and the subtitles often didn’t match up with what was being said and that was kind of aggravating. I didn’t realize this is actually a French film, so if any of you choose to watch this on Netflix, I would recommend setting the audio to French and using English subtitles – the way it is meant to be watched. After Missing Link won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, I have no clue what to expect from the Oscars in this category, but I’d be pretty surprised to see this edge out Toy Story 4.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Mustang (2019, rental) – A long imprisoned man that can’t connect in any meaningful way with people, including his daughter, forms an unlikely bond with a stubborn wild mustang when he enters a rehabilitation program while doing outside maintenance at the jail. It’s a touching and sad film with solid performances from Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern. I give it a solid recommendation.

6/10 (Recommended)

21 (2008, Netflix) *second watch – It’s been over a decade since I watched this movie, long enough that I have mostly forgotten everything that happened in the Ben Mezrich book it’s adapted from. I really liked the book and thought the movie did a poor job of bringing the story to screen, either because they left stuff out or changed too much. I just know I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t think it did the book justice. But I don’t remember the differences between the two mediums now so I’m judging this second watch just based on the merits of the movie alone. I guess it’s a good sign that my friends started the movie and I didn’t leave the room or turn it off after they went to bed. That’s something. But it’s also pretty stupid. The concept is cool: a group of MIT students and their professor develop a card-counting system designed to avoid detection and take Las Vegas for heaps of dollars.

5/10 (Decent)

Yes Man (2008, Netflix) – A decent Jim Carrey movie that’s pretty similar to Liar, Liar in concept but not as funny. It was moderately entertaining while I was watching it, but it didn’t stick with me at all and was basically instantly forgettable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Oscar nominated movies I haven’t seen yet: Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, Ford vs Ferrari, Pain and Glory, Bombshell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Richard Jewell, Harriet, Honeyland, Missing Link

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Movie Reviews: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Farewell

August 14, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – I’m shocked at the critical reaction to this one: it’s sitting at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. I thought it was extremely dull. I read and enjoyed the book this film is adapted from when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t experience much nostalgia while watching the movie because I only remembered one of the stories (“The Red Spot”). None of the characters or actors were particularly interesting and I didn’t find the movie even slightly scary. The overall narrative put together to connect the stories was fine, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to anything happening on screen. I was mostly bored watching this and was looking forward to it being over. For comparison’s sake, I gave Crawl a 5/10 a few weeks ago, but that film was substantially more enjoyable than Scary Movies.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) – I’ve seen people say they hated it and I’ve seen critics call it Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. I don’t really get either reaction. Usually I am giddy watching QT’s films and find them overwhelmingly enjoyable, but similarly to The Hateful Eight, this one didn’t fill me with pure joy either. I was actually pretty confused about my feelings on the movie the whole time I was watching it and even hours after seeing it, I still wasn’t sure. I know it’s not one of my favorite Tarantino flicks, but I also know I didn’t dislike it because… there’s so many good things happening on screen. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are amazing in it. The set pieces and art direction are meticulously put together and bring late 1960s Hollywood to vivid life. It’s plenty funny. On the other hand, the multiple plots seem to meander along without any real meaning before uniting in a strange and nonsensical climax. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Still, I’d be happy to watch it again… like right now. I feel like that speaks to the film’s potential to grow on me over time.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Farewell (2019) – Since most people will probably be unfamiliar with The Farewell, let me tell you a bit about the story: rapper/actor Awkwafina stars as a Chinese girl named Billi living in America that learns her grandmother is terminally ill and her family is planning a faux wedding for a cousin in order to go back to China and say goodbye one last time. Billi is being left behind because she is highly emotional and the family is worried she will tell the grandma that she is dying. Obviously, Billi ends up going to China anyway. I mean… this is great stuff. It’s one of the more personal films I’ve seen this year and the emotional impact is pretty high. I thought Awkwafina was a ton of fun in Crazy Rich Asians last year, but she proves she’s capable of being more than comedic relief by carrying this film on her shoulders and taking on a serious role. I’ve listened to her music and, well, she is waaaaaaaaaaaay better at acting. This is a touching film with plenty of charm and humor in it. There was a bit of a quirky Wes Anderson vibe to it and some of the slow motion shots of the family walking together as a group seemed out of place, but overall The Farewell is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Batman: Hush (2019) – It seems hard to mess up one of Batman’s best graphic novels, but DC Animation continues to do just that. This is better than the abysmal adaptation of The Killing Joke, but the writers take some interesting and questionable liberties with the story here and the end result is incredibly unsatisfying. I’m honestly not sure what they were thinking. Is it so hard to just do a faithful adaptation and not try to put a personal stamp on a well known story? I guess the main objective was to take a story that was written in the early 2000s and make it part of DC Animation’s current continuity of films, so this film takes place after the events of Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin, even though the character of Damian Wayne wasn’t created until 2006 and thus didn’t exist in the original Hush graphic novel. The coolest thing about Hush was always that it involved so many key players in Batman lore and they all show up here and that’s a lot of fun. I’ve always thought Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) is an odd choice to voice Lex Luthor and that continues to feel weird here. This movie was enjoyable, but I hate the big changes they made to the core story. HATE THEM. DC has announced they are making a movie out of my favorite Batman story: The Long Halloween. Here’s to hoping they don’t mess that up too.

5/10 (Decent)

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

October 18, 2018


Director: Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman

This movie had some serious potential with an electric cast in a Quentin Tarantino stylized mystery written and directed by Drew Goddard, a dude mostly known for writing and directing the unique and awesome horror flick The Cabin in the Woods and for creating “Daredevil”, easily the best Marvel series on Netflix.

I wanted to like it so much. All the ingredients for an awesome movie were there and for the first third of the movie, I was enthralled with the snappy dialogue and the intrigue surrounding all the mysterious visitors of Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel, which is literally split in half by the border of California and Nevada. I’ve thought about the film quite a bit and it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but I can say with certainty that the pacing was brutal at times. No one is going to criticize this movie for lack of character development, as each individual gets back story and plenty of screen time, but Bad Times at the El Royale has a tendency to reset just as things are getting really interesting. For instance, like many Tarantino films before, the movie is told in chapters and just as a chapter climaxes and something shocking happens, the scene cuts and we move on to another chapter and new point of view. Some might enjoy the slow burn of building back up to that climatic moment, but if I had to guess what made the pacing of the movie a bit excruciating it would be this tendency.

The cast is mostly great. Jeff Bridges is always very good and I enjoyed Jon Hamm also. Although I have zero interest in the 50 Shades of Grey series, Dakota Johnson has been captivating in other roles, particularly A Bigger Splash, and she is good again here. Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Billy Lee, a cult leader and possible pedophile. He’s very loose in the role, dancing, smoking cigarettes, and really seeming to enjoy doing something different. It’s a stark contrast to the stiff (although sometimes funny) Thor we’ve been watching him play for the past decade. He’s definitely villainous in this movie, but I enjoyed his screen presence.

Another point where I feel the film suffers is when Cynthia Erivo’s character is the focus. She’s an aspiring songstress that is headed to Reno for a small gig singing in a Keno lounge. I think Erivo’s acting is plenty good, but she sings at least four different songs in the film and the movie comes to a screeching halt whenever this happens. The songs are all slow, long and not particularly interesting and her performances aren’t nearly captivating enough to justify it. I know I reached a point where if I had to listen to her sing again, I was going to literally groan in agony.

Bad Times at the El Royale has some things working for it, particularly strong performances, cool and shocking moments, and plenty of intrigue, but pacing really hurts the overall enjoyment and the eventual revelations are a bit uninspired. It’s a Quentin Tarantino impression that will just make you wonder how much better it would have been if it was actually a QT film.

Replay Value: It’s not a must rewatch, but I could maybe do it again some day.

Sequel Potential: It wouldn’t make much sense to do one.

Oscar Potential: I’m going to say none.

Dina Meter: If this movie bored me at times, I’m sure it would bore Dina to death. I would not suggest that she needs to watch it.

5/10 (Decent)

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

February 5, 2016

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds)

Bottom Line: I hate to say it, but The Hateful Eight, was arguably the worst Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe it will go down as overlooked and underappreciated like Jackie Brown or underwhelming but better than you thought it was like Death Proof – but without a doubt, The Hateful Eight, was the least entertaining QT film I’ve seen on an initial viewing. The film is highly dialogue driven with very little action until the over-the-top finale – and clocking in at over 2 and a half hours it all feels about an hour too long.

Not that The Hateful Eight is all bad. As usual, Tarantino gets the best out of his actors and Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, gives an amazing performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also very good. And of course, there is plenty of great dialogue for the actors to chew on.

Ultimately, what plagues The Hateful Eight is how the slow, intense build up leads to a pretty underwhelming climax. QT is great at providing the “wow factor,” but I’d have to say the magic is missing in this movie – even the Oscar-nominated score felt like a let down.

While The Hateful Eight is quite beautiful to look at and has some moments of brilliance, it felt like a miss from one of my top 3 directors.

Replay Value: Both of the QT films I didn’t love grew on me later, so I will be watching this again to make sure.
Sequel Potential: I don’t think we will be revisiting these characters.
Oscar Potential: Oscar noms for Cinematography (deserved), Jennifer Jason Leigh (sure), and Score (no).

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

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Django Unchained (2012)

February 24, 2013

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christopher Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds)

Quick Thoughts: I’m starting to feel like I need to watch Death Proof again because I didn’t love it and Quentin Tarantino simply doesn’t miss. For the past twenty years I can’t think of a more consistent filmmaker. If nothing else, he makes movies that are specifically tailored to my tastes. Django Unchained is more QT awesomeness and I can understand arguments claiming it as his best film ever. It’s certainly his longest, clocking in at nearly three hours, but barely feels like two with its swift pacing and frequently comical dialogue. To paint this film as a comedy would be unjust, however, as slavery and racism are the biggest themes being tackled and there is nothing funny about whip scars and savage abuse. To his credit, Tarantino is absolutely fearless and it seems he’s earned the right to be. I can’t think of another white director/writer that could have pulled off Django Unchained–or more accurately, that has the balls to try to. Tarantino is a masterful filmmaker and Django Unchained is his latest classic, featuring another Oscar-worthy performance from the spectacular Christopher Waltz and a new cinematic hero in Jamie Foxx’s Django.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Tons. Like all Tarantino movies, a must own for any serious film collector.
Sequel Potential: Very unlikely.
Oscar Potential: Numerous nominations including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Waltz.
Nudity: Yes, but there’s nothing sexy about it.
Grade: 8.5/10 (Excellent/Potential Classic)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 89% Audience: 94%
IMDB Rating: 8.6/10
Recommendation: Even with its touchy subject matter Django Unchained is one of the most fun and enjoyable films of 2012. It’s so good my mom saw it in theaters and sat through the whole thing…twice. Another hit from the nearly flawless Tarantino.