Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood: Tarantino’s Ironic Nostalgic Twist

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is Quintin Tarantino’s latest offering…

once upon a time in Hollywood: Opinion

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering. It is a slant on a nostalgic tinseltown that no longer exists, if it ever really did in the way that Tarantino depicts it, and the film’s ironic ending leaves one wondering just what his motives truly were.  Critics have complained that the movie spends too little time on the Manson family and its tragic victims but this is the purpose of the entire film, to give a “Hollywood finish” to reality.

The film, starring Tarantino semi-regulars Leonardo DiCaprio (Django, and Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, Death Proof) and Bruce Dern (in a blink and you will miss him cameo as a last minute replacement for the late Burt Reynolds) is a long, somewhat meandering affair. **It should be pointed out that along with Russell, Dern has the most credits listed under Tarantino.**

Margot Robbie is the tragic Sharon Tate and there are a number of familiar faces, some more special that others, who fill out the cast list of this odd offering. Please do not misunderstand, this is a visual treat for the viewer, it offers much in terms of interest and threatens to become a brilliant character study. Although it never really delivers in term of character but it teases in other ways and provides a few laughs along then way.

I was 11 years old when the 1960’s ended, along with the lives of Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood brought the sixties screaming back into glorious discordant life. The sounds of the radio advertisements, the television clips, the colours, the clothes and the cars all threw me right back into a pre-pubescent memory lane. This was both enthralling and somewhat, rather oddly, disturbing.

Tarantino gives us his version of ’60’s Hollywood. He also, by design, gives us the “Hollywood” ending to the entire “Helter Skelter” true story that the film is based around. (Not upon, as his tale is, to paraphrase a line from 1969’s The Wild Bunch of the event, not from it. In other words, it is the frame he hangs his work on.)

Once Upon a Time… focuses on Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth. Tate is in the periphery as a reminder of the impending tragedy. She flashes on the screen in small glimpses that are designed to show her as a sympathetic character, all the more to make the ending hit that little bit harder. This is, however, a ruse. A MacGuffin if you will. A tactic that sets us up instead for the “Hollywood ending.”

Tarantino lets fantasy intrude at the tail end of the movie and here the discussion will stop in order to keep spoilers from appearing in this review. In many ways, the ending is a disappointment until one realizes that the fantasy is what Hollywood studios would have ordered were the real life murders a movie.

Hollywood has long had a fixation with endings that allow the hero to ride off into the sunset with the girl on one arm and a fistful of money clenched in his fist. The bad guy gets his just reward, a bullet or a grave, or both, and everyone lives happily ever after.

There are enough nods are “real” Hollywood to allow this to work. Booth’s besting of Bruce Lee on the backlot is based around Lee’s time on The Green Hornet. He was also training many celebs and newcomers on martial arts for both onscreen and off. Lee trained Tate for her role in the Dean Martin “Matt Helm” movie The Wrecking Crew. (Coincidentally, this was the last Matt Helm picture made, despite another being touted at the end credits.)

Dalton’s foray into Spaghetti Western territory mirrors, to an extent, Clint Eastwood’s own journey into the Leonesque world of Western Opera. While the connection is tenuous as best, unlike the Bruce Lee vignette, it is there for the film fan to notice and appreciate.

Once Upon a Time looks luscious and real, except for the odd continuity issue, as the hippies all have filthy feet, legs and hair. Dakota Fanning plays stunningly against type as the “momma bear” Squeaky Fromme and Margaret Qualley as Pussycat is all scabby legs, black feet and sexual promiscuity wrapped in a teen drugged up dream. Qualley does such a convincing job as a Manson minion that one can almost smell the scent of eu de rubbish skip that must permeate her entire essence.

The violence in the film is convincing yet, strangely, funny in the way it is presented. All except the scene at the Spahn Ranch, the blood looked as real as the Korean cinema’s blood work, which is head and shoulders above the rest of the industry.

DiCaprio’s performance as Dalton is convincing and his suffering artist makes us feel for him. I will admit to being moved to tears when the child actor – Trudi (played exquisitely by Julia Butters ) leans over and tells a teary eyed Dalton that this is “the best acting I’ve ever seen.” Truth be told, Butters comes damn close to stealing the film from the entire cast. This is one young lady to keep an eye on.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is one to watch. Perhaps not at the cinema, streaming or DVD may just suffice as despite looking brilliant and providing a magnificent nostalgic treat, it left me, at the end of the film, feeling a tad disappointed.  However, it is an excellent example of Tarantino’s skill at hiding a genius move in plain sight. Like Inglourious Basterds he gives us a fictional version of an awful reality, one that equals, to a degree, a happy Hollywood ending. This then, is the ironic twist to Tarantino’s nostalgic Hollywood tale…

The Last of Robin Hood: DVD Review

Still from The Last of Robin Hood
The Last of Robin Hood is out now on DVD and can be rented from Redbox, as well as other providers of both DVDs and streaming capability. This was a film I was desperate to see at the cinema. However, because of poor reception at screenings elsewhere, or due to the studio’s complete lack of faith in the project or their lack of understanding of how to market the film, it had a very limited release. After realizing that I’d missed the screener, if there was one in Las Vegas, it was out of the cinemas.

To read the rest of the review click this [link] to Viral Global News.

Masterchef Junior Hugs and Tears and Incredible Talent

Masterchef Junior Hugs and Tears and Incredible Talent

The idea of a cookery program relying upon the culinary talents of children under the age of 14 should strike fear in the heart of most parents, add in the incredible Gordon Ramsay with his well known four letter rants and concern for these kids rises, but tonight’s competition, which consisted of tears and hugs, erased the worry that this whole Masterchef Junior thing was a bad idea. These 16 children possessed a calm and poise in front of the camera and in the kitchen that was impressive to the nth degree. Ages ranging from 8 to 13, the kids were anything but, whilst wielding sharp knives, mixing complex herbs and spices and cooking delightful looking dishes that, according to Gordon and his two “assistants” tasted as good as they looked.

Believe’ A Child Shall Lead Them

Believe’ A Child Shall Lead Them

Believe, brought to audiences from the man who gave the world Gravity, is about a gifted child who different people want for different reasons, in essence a child leads them and the only question is who shall win this tug-of-war over Bo. Alfonso Cuarón created this world with Mark Friedman and it is almost as captivating as his big screen space drama.

House at the End of the Street (2012): Naughty Neighbours

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Looking this up on IMDb after I’d watched it, I was amazed to see quite a few folks just flat-out did not like this film. Apparently they were expecting some type of horror slasher flick and not what they got which was a physiological thriller.

I’ll admit that as a “horror” film, this falls flat. As a thriller though, it hits all the right marks and had me on the edge of my seat through at least half of the film. Hats off to the director Mark Tonderai for coming up with an effort that kept the suspense tight and the mayhem to a minimum.

The Plot:

At the film’s start a daughter kills her mother and father with a hammer and then runs off into the surrounding woods. Years later a divorced mother and her daughter move into the house next door. After being told that the house is empty after the tragedy the new neighbours find out that the couple had a son who survived the young girls murderous onslaught and he now lives in the house.

The Device:

You have to look very closely to see what is right in front of you and you can’t choose your neighbours.

The Cast: 

Jennifer Lawrence
Max Thieriot
Elisabeth Shue
Sarah
Gil Bellows
Weaver
Eva Link

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.
Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.

The Story:

Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) moves into a lovely house in a rural setting that is to die for with her daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). Sarah explains to Elissa that the only reason that they can afford to rent this house is because of the brutal double murder that occurred in the house directly behind them. This event has driven the property prices down and therefore the rent price as well.

Soon after moving in, the two women find out that Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives in the house where his sister murdered their parents. Slightly spooked, Sarah becomes a bit too over protective of Elissa who has bonded with the strange young man.  While our sympathy lies with Ryan, it soon turns out that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

The Twist:

You can’t always choose your family members either.

The Verdict:

This film received a lot of bad reviews from some folks because they misunderstood the genre of the film. That is probably down to the marketing of the film more than an actual poor performances from the film’s main cast. If you watch the “official” trailer it promises a more roller coaster ride of a film, where as in actual fact the film builds at a steady pace versus a breakneck one.

I found it to be a taut suspenseful build up of tension. The main characters, Lawrence and Shue especially interacted well as the two victims of a marriage gone bad and their awkward attempts at bonding in their “new life.” Thieriot made me think of a young Casey Affleck gone bad. He exuded an air of wounded vulnerability that bordered on the dangerous. Unfortunately the “secondary” members of the cast could have been replaced easily. (With the exception of the local cop Weaver (Gil Bellows) who felt like every conscientious small town cop who likes the new pretty woman in town.

All in all, I’d give this film a 4 out of 5 stars because it was a superb thriller and not a horror film. It loses a star because of the wooden and one-dimensional secondary characters.

Neat Fact:

This is at least the second time that the lovely Elisabeth Shue has been threatened by a scary youngster, the first being her deadly encounter with a young Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek.

The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.
The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.