Tag Archives: Margaret Qualley

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
Margaret Qualley as “Pussycat”
Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy
Julia Butters as Trudi Fraser
Austin Butler as Charles “Tex” Watson
Dakota Fanning as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Bruce Dern as George Spahn
Mike Moh as Bruce Lee
Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder
Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz
Director: David Leitch

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the most anticipated movies of 2019. First of all, it is the next movie from writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and also features one of the best casts of the year, with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino and more involved. I was curious about much of this movie, from the cast, to it being Tarantino’s first movie about Hollywood, considering his absolute love for film. Then there was the whole aspect of it apparently surrounding Sharon Tate’s murder (with this movie initially being branded as a Manson murder movie, which it very much isn’t). Tarantino delivers on yet another fantastic movie, and one of the best of the year.

If you plan to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you should probably know first that is a long movie at around 2 hours and 40 minutes, and there is an even longer cut coming later. This is definitely Tarantino’s most laid back movie, and this kind of approach to the story won’t work for a lot of people. Some movies that meander don’t really work for me, it would have to have me on board or invested in order for it to even like. However, for whatever reason, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does work for me. Admittedly, it took me some time to get used to the pacing in the first act, it was rather slow to begin with. The movie is really is just jumping around to the perspectives of the 3 main characters and what they’re doing, with each of the 3 acts focussing on a day in their lives. The movie isn’t plot driven on the whole, not with revenge or anything like that. This is also among the most genuinely heartfelt of Tarantino’s movies, the only other movie of his you could really compare it to is Jackie Brown. It’s ironic that after his bleakest and darkest movie with The Hateful Eight, he then makes his most lighthearted. It’s also very much a comedy for the most part, and that comedy is generally effective throughout. At the same time, it’s darkly effective when it needs to be, such as a tense scene taking place at a ranch with Brad Pitt. I won’t mention much about the third act (it’s really the only part of the movie that you could really spoil), but that’s the point when it really escalates, and if you find yourself a little bored from the rest of the time, you’re going to probably like that act more (provided you don’t take issue with the direction it takes), as it seems to be a lot more focussed in terms of plot. However, I know that some people won’t accept this particular direction, I was more than fine with what they did. I do think that it’s worth mentioning that I think some of the significance of certain scenes won’t hit people who aren’t familiar with the Manson family murders, or Sharon Tate and what happened to her. Now I’m not an expert, but I do generally know the main idea of what happened in real life for a while before going into the movie, and so I got the intended effect. But I just know that people who don’t really know about it at all will be confused at the very least. For those who already know about it and are wondering if her murder was exploited (like many have speculated), the simplest answer I can give is no.

The cast was pretty large and talented, and among the most exciting aspects of the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give some of their best performances here, and their respective characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are among Tarantino’s best characters. They share some great chemistry together and genuinely feel like best friends. Despite being mainly known as a ‘serious’ actor, DiCaprio with this and The Wolf of Wall Street has really shown that he has a knack for comedy. There’s a certain scene where he just has a complete breakdown after not getting some of his lines right, and it’s among the funniest scenes in the movie. His storyline is really about him being struggling as an actor, as his transition from tv actor to film actor has failed. Brad Pitt also shines as Cliff Booth, which rivalling his best performances (and that’s saying a lot). He has so many hilarious lines and moments, and is really one of the highlights of the movie. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and there was much speculation surrounding her role in the movie. The main story really follows Dalton and Booth as they have their own storylines, but once in a while it’ll cut to Tate doing things during her day. One could wonder why the movie focusses on her, as none of her scenes seems to be in a storyline like the other two main characters, or does it seem to be amounting to anything. What I can tell is that her inclusion is meant to show audiences who Sharon Tate is through brief scenes, from her picking up a hitchhiker to her entering a screening of a movie that she starred in to hear audiences’ reactions to her performance. Robbie and Tarantino did a good job at making audiences of today remember Tate as someone much more than a tragic murder victim. I would’ve liked to have seen more of her, hopefully that inevitable extended cut will have more scenes with her. I will say though, despite the cast being one of the most anticipated parts of the movie, outside of those 3 previously mentioned actors, most of the others don’t get a ton of screentime. The likes of Margaret Qualley, Al Pacino, Timothy Oliphant, Dakota Fanning and others play their parts well, but don’t expect to see them more than a few scenes. Some appearances of actors like Michael Madsen and Scoot McNairy, as well as portrayals of iconic real life people like Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) are basically just cameos. I guess they’re good in their necessary scenes, and maybe didn’t need to have more, but it’s worth knowing going in that they don’t get a massive amount to do like you might think they do.

Quentin Tarantino definitely has a great handle of this movie, as he usually does with his films. He really takes you back to the 60s Hollywood time period, with the costumes, to the production design and sets, and yes, the very well picked music. Longtime Tarantino cinematographer Robert Richardson also contributes heavily to the movie, giving it a stunning look and even successfully conveying a fantasy and relaxed feel to some of the scenes. Sometimes the movie would just follow Booth or Tate just driving, for a minute or so, it may stop the plot for a bit but for some reason it just worked for the overall vibe of the movie. I feel like if you are really into film, there’s going to be a lot of things in the movie that you’re going to enjoy, especially the scenes of filming with Dalton’s segment in the second act.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s heartfelt love letter to Hollywood, and one of the best movies of the year. The cast is great (DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie particularly), and Tarantino’s writing and direction are on point. It’s not quite in my top 3 favourites from him, but it’s close, and I’d still say that it’s among his best movies. I know that apparently he wants to make one more movie before he wants to retire as a director, but if he just finished with this movie, it would be very fitting for him.

Death Note (2017) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Nat Wolff as Light Turner/”Kira”
Lakeith Stanfield as L
Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton
Shea Whigham as James Turner
Paul Nakauchi as Watari
Willem Dafoe and Jason Liles as Ryuk
Director: Adam Wingard

Light Turner (Nat Wolff), a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L (Keith Stanfield).

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Adam Wingard’s Death Note was something I was curious about. I hadn’t watched the original anime but I knew of its concept and I loved Wingard’s direction of The Guest, so it had a lot of potential. Upon its release, his adaptation had received a lot of hate, mostly from people who saw the original anime. I decided to check it out for myself and honestly, Death Note wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it is a waste of potential. Some of the performances were good and the direction was mostly great, but this script has so many problems that it really lets the overall movie down.

I’ll just get this out of the way, the writing has a lot of issues. Again, I haven’t seen the original anime so I can’t comment on the changes they’ve made, but from what I can tell they’ve made a lot. The movie feels a little rushed, Light (the protagonist) gets the Death Note and makes his first kill within 10 minutes, there is barely enough time for his character or really anything to be established. This idea about the Death Note had a lot of potential and at first its okay, with Light killing off people under a different identity but after a while this plotline just stops. Honestly looking back at this movie, not a whole lot of things happen, Light gets the Death Note, he starts killing people off, a detective named L comes along posing a problem, there’s some conflict there and then it’s the third act. This movie is an hour 40 minutes, and while this movie isn’t always interesting, I’d be fine with it being longer if they actually had more going on. The dialogue was terrible at points, I found it difficult to care about what was going on and I really wasn’t consistently invested throughout Death Note. There were also some unintentionally hilarious moments, an example being Light’s reaction to seeing Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) for the first time. I will say that I enjoyed watching parts of Death Note, there were writing issues aside and some cringe worthy moments but for the most part I was somewhat intrigued or entertained. The third act however does feel like they just wanted to shove so many twists into it, like its ridiculous how many times they just kept putting twists, which makes the movie feel jarring instead of actually making it better. The writing is really a mixed bag.

Nat Wolff is the lead actor of Death Note, I don’t know if he is a good actor or not but he didn’t really give a good performance. Granted the character wasn’t written that well, his character motives and changes aren’t really established well enough. I guess from what I can tell, the character is different from the anime and while I can understand why it was done in this way, it’s less interesting. However Wolff does have some moments where he’s somewhat okay for what the character is written here. That’s more than I can say for the love interest played by Margaret Qualley, who is really annoying and unlikable. I get that she might be intended to be that way but there’s nothing likable about her. The romance between the two is unfortunately a prominent part of the film. The chemistry isn’t strong, and it just starts randomly after a few scenes of them together. Those two aside, there are some pretty good performances at the same time. Willem Dafoe does the voice or Ryuk, a demon of the Death Note book and he definitely stole the show whenever his character was around. Ryuk isn’t around a lot unfortunately. There was also the character of L, played by Keith Stanfield. He was a standout of the film, I can’t tell whether there was any major changes to him from the original anime but on his own I thought he was pretty good. The one issues I’ll say is that the film did seem to build up to his character’s backstory being explored but it never gets resolved. So acting/characters overall was rather mixed.

One of the things I was looking forward to with Death Note was Adam Wingard’s direction, the look of You’re Next and especially The Guest was incredible. Wingard once again directed this movie so well, the colour aesthetics looking beautiful, the cinematography was great, the direction was mostly great… I say mostly because for whatever reason there were constant turning dutch angles that just randomly appear, they were very out of place and obnoxious. One thing to note is that the death scenes that occur often feel like Final Destination deaths, as in they are very over the top, graphic and at times goofy. This may be a good thing or a bad thing for you, depending on whether it entertains you. For me I just found it laughably over the top at time, I couldn’t take it seriously. The score by Atticus and Leopold Ross was solid and worked very well.

Adam Wingard’s Death Note is a mixed bag. I loved most of his direction, some of the performances were good, and there were some aspects about the plot that I liked. But some of the performances were weak and the writing has a ton of issues, which really let down the movie. I guess if you’re curious enough check it out, its on Netflix right now, so at worse you’d only be wasting around 100 minutes of your time. I heard that Wingard may be doing a sequel to this movie, if this happens I hope he does a much better job than what he did here.

The Nice Guys (2016) Review

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The Nice Guys

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains Violence, Nudity, Sex Scenes & Offensive Language
Cast:
Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy
Ryan Gosling as Holland March
Angourie Rice as Holly March
Matt Bomer as John Boy
Margaret Qualley as Amelia Kutner
Murielle Telio as Misty Mountains
Keith David as Older Guy
Kim Basinger as Judith Kutner
Director: Shane Black

Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that some dangerous people are also looking for Amelia. Their investigation takes them to dark places as anyone else who gets involved in the case seems to wind up dead.

Score after first viewing:
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Score after second viewing:
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The main reason that I was interested in this movie was the people involved, that being Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe and director Shane Black. Shane Black is a very talented director, who created the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and of course, Gosling and Crowe are very great actors. Having seen it now, I am so happy to say that The Nice Guys is one of my favourite films of the year so far. The great direction, entertaining and committed acting (particularly from Crowe and Gosling) is topped off by a fantastic screenplay, making this a must see film.

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Shane Black is an incredible writer and director, so it’s no surprise that the script for The Nice Guys is absolutely fantastic. And as you probably could tell by now, this movie is hilarious, all the jokes hit, and they hit hard. In retrospect it’s a dark comedy and the tone need to be balanced out well and it really was. The dialogue is on point, well suited for every character. The mystery is actually intriguing as well, so it’s not just a fun and entertaining watch, it’s interesting to watch these characters unravel the mystery.

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Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are the main stars of the movie and are absolutely fantastic. It would be so easy for the dynamic between them to be similar to other buddy cop movies, where two guys who are vastly different, who don’t like each other are for whatever reason paired together. These characters aren’t complete opposites of each other (they are just a little different from each other), they work together well, both are clearly capable at what they do, and so the characters aren’t clichéd and the movie doesn’t follow some of the clichés that a lot of similar movies do. Somehow most the other characters are also memorable. The biggest showstealer for me however was Angourie Rice, who plays Ryan Gosling’s daughter, she was absolutely fantastic. Her character is the smart kid who’s often trying to help the main leads and even though this character is done hundreds of times before, it’s not written in a clichéd way and she sells this character as being quite capable.

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The action was surprisingly great, very appropriately filmed as if it was in the 70s. The cinematography was quite great and beautiful. The production design was ripped straight out of the 70s, the time period is very easy to buy. This film really feels like it could’ve been filmed in the 70s, just with better film stock. I have no idea if that was Black’s intention, but if it was, major props to him.

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The Nice Guys is one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2016. Everything from the script, to the direction and the acting (especially from Crowe and Gosling) is done perfectly. I definitely recommend that you see this movie, especially if you have a love of film, it’s entertaining, it’s smartly written, it’s absolutely fantastic.