Tag Archives: timothy olyphant

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

One time Robert Rodriguez asked pal Quentin Tarantino for advice on his Mariachi films and Quentin told him that if he was going to go for a third one it should be big, loud and be called Once Upon A Time In Mexico. This to me represents a certain decision in the career of any filmmaker to make a ‘Once Upon A Time’ in the sense that it is to be big, loud, lengthy, personal and something of a milestone, and I always wondered what Quentin’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ might, if ever, manifest as. Well it’s here, and let me tell you that Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is the real fucking deal. It’s Tarantino’s best film since Kill Bill (in my humble but stubborn opinion) and a magnum opus of poetic justice, cartoonish buffoonery, horrific suspense, painstakingly beautiful production design, dirty fuckin’ hippies, pitchers full of margarita mix, a pit bull you’ll fall in love with instantly and enough meta moviemaking fanfare to send one into a coma of cinematic bliss.

It’s a western, a period piece, a borderline documentary at times, a buddy comedy, a horror film and more but at the centre of it Tarantino stashes a deep love and reverence for an era long past. I didn’t grow up in the 60’s, I wasn’t born yet but watching these old cars careen through the Hollywood hills at dusk, hearing the the gorgeous soundtrack, various meticulously chosen commercials and radio plays gently warble out from stereos and televisions and seeing neon billboards flare up all over town somehow just put me right there as if I’d lived through those decades. There’s a sense of idyllic innocence in Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate, a hopeful force of good as we see a woman in the first lap of both life and her career, the world open in front of her like a red carpet. There’s also menace in the land as the evil, twisted Manson cult hovers over the fringes of town like a flock of banshees. Tarantino clearly has no love for these people, portraying them as trashy dumpster diving lunatics who live in putrefied squalor and come across as inbred jackals waiting to pounce. There’s a clear cut hatred for the acts perpetrated in our timeline by Manson’s followers, and a deliciously cathartic sense of righteous retribution in how the filmmaker acts out his own version of an event that for him changed the face of the city.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio are two mega movie stars who share the screen for the first time here, and they also get to share a bromance thats poignant and perfectly pitched in terms of comedy and tragedy. Dicaprio is Rick Dalton, a once dapper TV star whose jump into film has faltered, or at least it has in his own perception of himself. Pitt is Cliff Booth, his trusty stuntman, confidante and drinking buddy, an ice cool cowboy with a dangerous edge and uncanny way of getting in more sensational real life shenanigans than Rick does behind a camera. Their relationship is the core of the film and while we get to spend quite a bit of time with both together, much of the film we see them off doing their own thing. Rick has landed the bad guy of the week guest spot in a western called Lancer, struggling to keep his cool, remember his lines and stay on top. Cliff picks up a spooky hitchhiking chick (Margaret Qualley makes a stark impression) and makes a visit to the sinister Spahn movie ranch where the Manson brood have taken up roost like vultures. They make a trip to Rome so Rick can do a few spaghetti westerns that his agent (Al Pacino) keeps talking up. It’s a hangout film for much of the languid two hour and forty five minute runtime, and despite the lulls and chill time not a moment feels wasted. Pitt may well have whipped Tarantino’s best character, a kooky badass who is clearly dysfunctional on film sets but has his own hard edged set of morals that cause him to dish out western style justice at the drop of a hat, when he isn’t eating kraft dinner, hamming beers or feeding his adorable dog Brandy. Leo is insecure, melodramatic and neurotic no end, there’s a frustration and hilariously relatable self loathing that’s tamed in a touching encounter with a child actress (Julia Butters- a breakout star here) who befriends him and puts things into perspective.

Tarantino amasses a monumental cast here from cameos to clever impersonations and more, watch for Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Lena Dunham, Damon Herriman, Emile Hirsch, Damien Lewis, Austin Butler, Mike Moh, Maya Hawke, Victoria Pedretti, Danielle Harris, Scoot Mcnairy, Clifton Collins Jr, Marco Rodriguez, Dreama Walker, Rumer Willis, Spencer Garrett, Clu Galagar, Rebecca Gayheart, Martin Kove, Perla Haney Jardine (The Bride’s daughter in Kill Bill, no less), Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell. One standout is Dakota Fanning as a terrifyingly dead eyed Manson chick who tries admirably but unsuccessfully to intimidate Cliff. This could well be Tarantino’s best film, but really it’s hard to pick and why argue. It’s certainly his most eclectic, most personal and most human. Rick and Cliff seem born out of LA, out of Hollywood and out of the dreams of a man who grew up in cinema and went on to craft some of the most treasured films of the last thirty years. I feel like it’s my new favourite, and it’s tough for me to say why. I suppose it hauntingly captures a portrait of a different era almost in a fashion akin to time travel. He uses the ‘if we could only go back on time’ sentiment on the infamous Sharon Tate event and refashions it to something that although is no less violent, is not the tragedy everyone remembers. It’s a brilliant narrative, anchored and spurred by the chemistry that Rick and Cliff have together, the humour and humanity that each bring and sense of time and place like no other. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood… Quentin Tarantino made a film about an actor, his stunt double and the girl who lived next door, and it was something a masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

Advertisements

Dominic Sena’s Gone In 60 Seconds

I’ve always liked Gone In 60 Seconds, even if it is one of the more lukewarm notches in Jerry Bruckheimer’s belt. Helmed by Dominic Sena who comes from a music video background, you get what you’d expect from a craftsman like that in the way of a flashy, eye catching popcorn flick that sees an easygoing Nicolas Cage as Memphis Rhaines, a car thief guru culled out of retirement when his dipshit little brother (Giovanni Ribisi) gets in deep with a dangerous UK mobster (Doctor Who). It’s the perfect setup for one long night of auto boosting as the villain gives them a laundry list of sweet cars to steal and ship out of the port by sunup or they end up as fuel for his scary flame factory/junkyard thing that these guys always seem to own and live in. The real fun is in seeing Cage put together an eclectic team of fellow thieves to work their magic, including Will Patton’s slick veteran booster, Scott Caan playing yet another insufferable horn-dog, Robert Duvall as a sagely old fence, Vinnie Jones as the strong silent muscle and Angelina Jolie as the motor mouthed tomboy who inevitably ends up in the saddle with Cage. They’re all hunted by two detectives, one an intuitive veteran (Delroy Lindo) and the other a misguided rookie (Timothy Olyphant) who always are naturally one step behind them, and so the formula goes. The cars are indeed pretty cool, especially Eleanor, Rhaines’s fabled unicorn automobile that happens to be a gorgeous matte silver Shelby GT with a seriously sexy purr. The supporting cast is solid and includes William Lee Scott, James Duval, Chi McBride, Michael Pena, John Carroll Lynch, Master P ad Twin Peak’s Grace Zabriskie as Cages’s feisty mom. This isn’t a knock your socks off flick or anything revolutionary in the genre, but it cruises along with an easy swing, carefree urban vibe and the actors, as well as Sena’s sharp and snazzy visual editing make it fun enough. Oh and it doesn’t get much cooler than those wicked opening credits set to Moby’s Flower, that’s how you lay down a mood for the film to follow.

-Nate Hill

F. Gary Gray’s A Man Apart

F. Gary Gray’s A Man Apart isn’t exactly the glowing pinnacle of Vin Diesel’s varied career so far, but it sure as hell isn’t one of the lower points either (I reserve that label for garbage like The Pacifier). A scrappy, brutally violent revenge flick, Vin is cast here as Sean Vetter, moody DEA badass who decides to take on the Mexican cartels almost singlehandedly when they wipe out his family. He drags his partner (Larenz Tate) into going rogue and before he knows it the cartels have dispatched a few colourful contract killers his way including Joker-esque Hollywood Jack (Timothy Olyphant), ruthless cowboy Pomona Joe (Jeff Kober), psychotic Hondo (character actor Marco Rodriguez) and others. Despite heavy reshoots and re-edits, this just works as a dark, entertaining piece of action pulp. Diesel is appropriately fuming as a guy with nothing to lose who is capable of horrific violence at the drop of a hat and has long since broken free of the constraints of his badge, it’s a nice no holds barred turn from the actor. Director Gray has an extensive, impressive resume in the action/crime genre, having helmed everything from The Italian Job to cult classic Friday to one of the Fast & Furious films. A Man Apart certainly isn’t his calling card or most prolific effort, and it has its issues, but I admire how down and dirty it gets, it’s like a 70’s Clint Eastwood flick that is so violent and industrial strength rough that it almost feels like an exploitation film. Fun stuff.

-Nate Hill

The Crazies

Imagine if zombies weren’t just outright observable walking vegetables and it were a little harder to tell when the change happens? There’s countless variations on the theme, but The Crazies manages to be really unnerving by adding a dose of mental unrest in with the formula. After a strange toxin infects the water supply of a small town, people begin showing symptoms of instability, psychosis and then full on murdering each other at random. The town Sheriff (Timothy Olyphant), his Doctor wife (Radha Mitchell) his deputy (Joe Anderson) and a survivalist girl from town (Danielle Panabaker) band together to escape not only hordes of townsfolk infected by this mania, but also the military brought in to ‘contain’ the situation. It’s a hectic, ultra-violent affair with a doom laden apocalyptic vibe and plenty of explosions, but the real scares lie in the disconcerting way that otherwise simple townsfolk just start to slowly lose it and act mentally disassociated, before getting downright homicidal. Especially effective is a scene where a woman is helplessly strapped to a hospital gurney and one of the crazies slowly enters the room, the dread is palpable and it’s a true scene of horror. Scary stuff.

-Nate Hill

Auggie Rose aka Beyond Suspicion

I’ve always had issues with Auggie Rose, a creepy, bizarre Jeff Goldblum vehicle released under the far less ambiguous title ‘Beyond Suspicion’ on DVD. Misguided is kind of the word for the script they’ve taken on here, it’s a story that tries to say something about self identity and loneliness but just sort of makes you feel mounting uneasiness and not in the good way. The actions of Goldblum’s protagonist are pretty uncomfortable and unconscionable, which probably isn’t what they were going for, but there you go. He plays a boring insurance salesman who lives the kind of bland, grey life you’d expect someone in that profession to live, until recently paroled ex-con Auggie Rose (a short lived Kim Coates) happens to die in his arms. The man had been keeping up long and intimate pen pal communication via letters with a girl (Anne Heche), who he’s never met, and Goldblum finds one of these letters on him. So what does he do? Instead of finding her and telling her the sad news like a normal guy would, he assumes Auggie’s identity and picks up with her where the letters left off, which is so wrong in so many different ways, man. Worse, he’s got a girlfriend of his own (Nancy Travis) who he hides all this from, until it goes so far that the police get involved and the whole thing snowballs into an unhealthy, self destructive, damaging turn of events. Even *worse* is the ending, which I won’t spoil except to say it’s the biggest cop out this side of War Of The Worlds and is a story beat that is as forced and artificial as Phil Hartman’s million dollar smile. If you’re going to make a movie as terminally dark as this, don’t try and cloak it in a would be ‘happy resolution’ because ‘audiences won’t like it’. Don’t worry, they’re not going to like it anyways, because it’s just bad, but at least go the mile it takes to end the story in a place as warped as it’s inciting incident suggests. It’s far better to see how choices and actions like this lead to grim consequences, not to give the impression that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel after being so selfish and creepy towards others. Gah. It’s a shame that Goldblum agreed to do this because he’s an inherently likeable guy onscreen and comes off as weird, this kind of borderline sociopath character needs an actor like Kevin Spacey, who just carries a vague creep factor with him by default, (especially these days). There’s a collection of supporting talent including Timothy Olyphant, Richard T. Jones, Max Perlich, Jack Kehler, J.E. Freeman and Nick Chinlund, but they’re mostly given humdrum, not especially noteworthy roles. Coupled with the troubling story arc, it’s just a pretty drably mounted production anyways, and doesn’t serve to excite or provoke reactions other than to disturb the audience, and like I said before, not in any kind of good way. Yuck.

-Nate Hill

Xavier Gen’s Hitman 


How to put this: if none of the classic video games featuring Agent 47 were ever made, and Xavier Gen’s Hitman was a standalone film, it wouldn’t be a half bad little B-movie type actioner, with a few gnarly set pieces and a level of acceptable energy kept up throughout. As a film version of these beloved games, however, it just just crashes and burns. Here’s why: the games were very specific, stealthy and designed to be atmospheric, slow burning tactical missions carefully built upon each other like a precarious house of cards, each mission more complex, difficult and risky than the last. The film? A standard Hollywood-ized action narrative that blatantly ignores every structural piece and character quality of the games. When will they learn? What’s more is, the film would have been unique, something memorable, had they followed the blueprint which the games pioneered, but they always just insist on cheapening the formula with boring old movie tropes instead of revering an already charted course which made the source material popular enough to get a film version green-lit in the first place. Ironic. Anywho, this ones your standard globetrotting cheeseball outing, with a bald Timothy Olyphant doing his best yet coming nowhere close to being a solid 47, stuck in a mucky plot involving corrupt Eastern Europeans, double crossing fellow agents and pursued by a hyped up Dougray Scott as some Interpol bigwig and Robert Knepper as a shady Russian (dat accent tho) secret police dude. 47 is betrayed by his own organization and tossed to the dogs, forced to go rogue and, in the film’s most grave plotting misstep, saddled with babysitting duty to a Slavic damsel in distress (Olga Kurylenko). They seriously just gotta hurl a Bond babe into every flick that remotely resembles a 007 venture, don’t they, which is a major offence when you look at what a ruthlessly mythic, near inhuman creature 47 is in the games, and what a manipulatable chump he becomes when pinned under the yoke of this painfully silly script. The 46 I know would just as soon as bury a bullet in this chick’s head as let her tag along and become a liability, let alone start to develop (cringe) human emotions. Such are the dollar signs in the eyes of studio execs though, and any hope of a faithful adaptation suffers as a result. The few sequences that work, including a hotel escape and a subway car Mano á mano between 47 and his genetically altered fellow killers, just don’t feel remotely inspired by, or in the spirit of the video games. The film has a few muted notes of originality, but any action piece that feels the need to pilfer John Powell’s Bourne Identity score instead of hiring a composer to whip up something fresh just can’t be taken seriously. Big ol’ meh from me, think I’ll rent out a PS2 from the pawn shop and settle in with Hitman: Blood Money again, because this shit doesn’t cut it. 

-Nate Hill

Victor Nunoz’s Coastlines: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Victor Nunoz’s Coastlines is a nice small town drama with some top players all giving fine work, causing me to wonder why more people haven’t heard of it, and how come it didn’t get a wider release. In any case, it’s low key and really captures the quaint rural vibe of less densely populated areas in the states. The cast is absolutely to die for, consisting mainly of very distinct, frequently garish actors who all play it dead straight and relaxed, which is a huge switch up for most of them. Timothy Olyphant plays Sonny Mann, an ex convict recently released from prison, quietly arriving back to his Florida hometown, and the dregs of the life he left behind. His Pa (the ever awesome Scott Wilson) is conflicted by long simmering resentment, and the love for his son buried just beneath. Sonny reconnects with his best friend Dave Lockhart (Josh Brolin), who has become the town’s sheriff in the years gone by. Sparks fly between Dave’s wife (Sarah Wynter) and Sonny, creating a rift between the two and illustrating Sonny’s unavoidable knack for creating trouble for himself, and those around him. Further tension comes along when the town’s local crime lord Fred Vance (William Forsythe at his most genial and sedated) tries to strong-arm Sonny into assisting with nefarious deeds, using his younger brother Eddie (Josh Lucas) to convince him. Even when tragedy strikes and these characters go head to head, it’s in the most relaxed, laconic way that permeates southern life. Robert Wisdom has a nice bit, Angela Bettis shows up as a girl with a thing for bad boys, and watch for the late great Daniel Von Bargen as the local Sheriff. This one fits nicely into a niche that leans heavily on small town drama, dips its toes ever so slightly into thriller territory, and is a charming little piece that’s worth a look to see these actors on an acting sabbatical.