ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD



Cast:Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Margaret Qualley.

The Basics

Once upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s ode to ‘60s Hollywood. It’s a Tarantino film for Tarantino-lovers and is the most Tarantino-ish film Tarantino’s ever made. Leonardo DiCaprio plays fading film star Rick Dalton who wants to revive his career and gets into long conversations with his stunt-double/ close friend, Cliff Booth (a supercool Brad Pitt). When an offer comes up to star in a Spaghetti-Western, he is apprehensive at first but soon decides to take his chances. The role seems to fit him like a glove and he aces the part. On a parallel timeline, there are the parts about Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) which mostly show her clubbing and partying; in short, doing nothing too significant. All these bits build up to a riveting scene in the Manson family hideout in the Spahn Ranch and later the climax at Rick Dalton’s residence.

What it’s About

Once upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s third attempt to skewer historical facts. This time around, he does it with fabricated Sharon Tate incidents and fading movie stars and fabricated(?) bits that show us an inferior Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen. The end-result is a luxurious showboat for Tarantino bookmarked by long-range camera-works and obvious and unsettling references to his earlier works. If there’s a fault in this film, it’s the way Tarantino sets up his female actors. They are shown as either insignificant or evil. The climax is ultra-violent and gory and is a major pay-off for an ultra-lengthy film!

The Verdict

Once upon a Time in Hollywood is mostly Tarantino showboating but it still entertains as is expected from the auteur. A special shout-out to a stunning and cool Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, a man who seems to never crumble under pressure!


KNIVES OUT



Cast:


Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collete, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Lakeith Stanfield.

The Basics

Director Rian Johnson has a habit of making movies that perplex in strange and new ways. Be it the teen-angst filled mystery Brick or the twisty Sci-Fi Looper, Rian Johnson knows how to entertain a smart and sophisticated crowd. His new movie is an old-fashioned Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery and is a super-entertaining and stylish romp filled with one of the best ensembles of 2019. When rich and famous Octogenarian murder/mystery writer Harlan Thrombley commits suicide, the Thrombleys are gathered in their mansion amidst super-sleuth Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig), who has been anonymously hired to investigate the case.

What it’s About

Knives Out is a very entertaining whodunit that benefits from a stellar cast filled with A-listers. Shout-outs to Daniel Craig as Benois Blanc, the sleuth with the French name and the Southern drawl, and Ana De Armas as Marta, Harlan Thrombley’s caregiver who has a habit of throwing up every time she lies. The suicide is not what it seems to the unseeing eyes as Detective Blanc uncovers incidents from what happened the night before the death and the Thrombleys each have something to hide. While Knives Out follows a generic whodunit pattern, it does so with an uncommon flair and a good dose of humor, credit to Director Rian Johnson. Ana De Armis astounds in a fleshy role with enough heart and soul. In a hard-hitting scene in the movie, Blanc philosophizes with Harlan’s mother about how grief gets deeper with age. Knives Out has a handful of ponderous moments like these to make us think long and hard about life. On a different note, the set-designs and costumes are lovely to look at and one cannot help but marvel at Chris Evan’s preppy Cardigan look!

The Verdict

Knives Out is the type of movie where you want to load up on the popcorn early on and keep your eyes glued to the screen so you don’t miss a single clue! It is also one of the most entertaining movies of 2019.


THE IRISHMAN



Cast:


Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci.

The Basics

Martin Scorcese is back for good and in top-form in this hard-hitting crime epic about the meeting of World-War vet Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and the shouty Teamsters head, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). What happens as they gang-up and cause uproars within and outside their community as things change at home forms the pivotal section of the movie. The movie also shows us how they ungracefully age and get more and more crooked and turn into notorious crime-lords. At the heart of the film lies the bond between Frank and his disillusioned daughter Peggy (played almost muted by Anna Paquin) and how their fragile relationship is corroded by Frank’s actions.

What it’s About

Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is introduced to the crime-world by Russel Bufalino (played by Joe Pesci). Supporting Jimmy Hoffa, Frank quickly becomes his number 1 man mostly because of his agility and fidelity to the gang. Later, things heat up between a rival, Tony Pro (played by Stephen Graham) as loyalties are put to the test. Joe Pesci deserves an award for a tuned performance that is finely subdued and more mature than his earlier works. Here, he plays Russel Bufalino with a somber demeanor of an ageing movie-star. Al Pacino turns down his notorious aggression a touch but is still volatile as Jimmy Hoffa. But, at the center of this epic is Robert De Niro, who also deserves an award here after all those years of mediocre roles in mediocre films. Here, he plays Frank Sheeran with the intensity we have missed since the days of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

PS – Do not be disturbed by a weird-looking blue-eyed and de-aged De Niro!


The Verdict

Martin Scorcese serves his best film in a decade with this masterpiece. It’s a harrowing 3 ½ hour journey of violence amped by an explosive Robert De Niro performance.