Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

written and directed by quentin tarantino
heyday films

I actually found this picture to be in extremely poor taste. It culminates with a presumptively humorous (and ultra-violent) reversion of the infamous Manson Family slaughter that took place at the Altobelli estate on Cielo Drive in 1969, wherein a change of plans leads to Tex, Katie and Sadie being killed in various ways by Brad Pitt’s stuntman and Leo DiCaprio’s imported Italian wife and then by Leo’s washed-up cowboy actor himself, in the pool, with a flamethrower. Yeah, I just ruined it for you; I don’t much care. See, I’m not sure this production had any greater purpose than flaunting its creator’s persona, so its turning tragedy into japery just for the sake of that ego – or whatever – is inappropriate. ’Twas less of a waste of casting than Reservoir Horses The Hateful Eight, I guess.

why did i watch this movie?

As I hinted earlier, I needed a break from watching, like, five or six consecutive Friday the 13th flicks.

should you watch this movie?

This is a movie about The Movies – I mean, even more than most of Tarantino’s overly obsessive oeuvre – and it has provoked peevish observation about its obliviousness to different societal issues and how such ignorance, wilful or genuine, continues to propagate injustice. (Its seeming adoration of a lily-white world filled with the privileged exploiting that privilege contributed mightily.)

highlight and low point

DiCaprio is terrific throughout, his natural and often understated performance bordering on the truly sublime at times … so of course Pitt won the Oscar, while being strangely reminiscent of a wizened Chevy Chase. The Bruce Lee scene feels breathtakingly awkward, and dammit, I’ll just say it, this whole affair is an exercise in whitewashing. It’s an unfortunate hue of nostalgia.

rating from outer space: C−

God Bless America (2011)

written and directed by bobcat goldthwait
darko entertainment/jerkschool productions

I’ll admit, I laughed heartily throughout this not-terribly-original flick, an entertaining mashup of source material such as Falling Down, Idiocracy, Natural Born Killers, Albert Brooks’s Lost in America, hell, probably Network, and so on. A few of the harangues and spiels and much of the invective plays a little too much like a script reading, but Goldthwait’s bile is certainly in the right place, at least to this eremitic misanthropist radical. Yes, it’s maybe a little too pat, a little too obvious at times, but the director evades cliché as much as embraces it. The ending is almost beautiful somehow, even though the absurd impossibility that buttresses the whole structure is blatant and a few nagging questions are never countenanced. This auteur’s failings often provide as much to contemplate as his successes, so I’m not inclined to argue much.

why did i watch this movie?

I find the arc of Goldthwait’s career fascinating, and his 2013 Bigfoot picture, Willow Creek, was absolutely phenomenal.

should you watch this movie?

If you’re at all an outsider, outlier, an elitist, or at the very least somewhat pretentious, I’d wager you’d enjoy the premise and its setup. To make it very clear, the main target of opprobrium here is the “American Idol” entertainment model and its ardent supporters … along with a very broad swath of workaday existence and the type of populace that determined itself “populist” for the 2016 election.

highlight and low point

The  speech the jailbait character gives about her love for, like, Alice Cooper, doesn’t really come across too believably, and oh yeah – one of the two main characters is a Lolita analogue, which presents multivarious uncomfortable connotations. (Which largely has been Goldthwait’s stock in trade as a filmmaker.)

rating from outer space: B+

Lake Placid (1999)

Directed by steve miner
phoenix pictures/fox 2000 pictures/rocking chair productions

Only tenuously a “horror” picture – and only because it features a monstrous crocodile in an otherwise tranquil rural setting – this thriller/comedy/slapstick mashup is simultaneously way better than it should have been and much less than it could have been. It starts out with a ton of promise, with a witty showcase of screenwriting that manages at first to tiptoe with aplomb the extremely fine line between playing dumb and exposing banal inanity. This can’t last, of course, but it never devolves into lowest-common-denominator stupidness, even as it invests Betty White with a foulmouthed gimmick that exemplifies the law of diminishing returns. Not unlike Airplane! or, say, The Naked Gun, what it does best is wink at the tropes of several film genres, but unlike those broad farces, it generally avoids beating them into the ground. Unfortunately, the overall effect is slight and forgettable … though it somehow spawned FOUR sequels and a reboot (!), trailing in its wake the absurdist fare of SyFy and its ilk.

why did i watch this movie?

I’ve wanted to see it for a long time, and following the new Pet Sematary, it seemed apt. Plus, I wasn’t in the mood for any of the other crap terrific offerings in the pipeline.

should you watch this movie?

Despite boasting top-shelf attributes almost across the board, in the end it’s a little too disposable, a little too redolent of the brainless summer cinema it’s presumably lampooning.

highlight and low point

Brendan Gleeson is splendid as the Sheriff and Bridget Fonda’s fish out of water (sorry) is disarmingly ingenuous, highlighting the clever wordplay by TV veteran David E. Kelley. (That the parodic elements never exceed homage is another testament.) Momentum lags at times, and a few moments of unwarranted crudity surface.

Rating: B+

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

directed by j. a. bayona
universal pictures

When was the last time you saw a really dumb Hollywood spectacle? I mean D-U-M-B like Armageddon (renegades fly into space to save the Earth by landing on an asteroid and blowing it up), the 1991 Point Break (Keanu plays FBI agent Johnny Utah infiltrating a gang of bank-robbing Zen surfers), Over the Top (long-haul trucker Sly wins his son’s custody by arm wrestling) … and this one, as should be obvious from this introduction. But how does it rank in the Jurassic hierarchy, you want to know. Well, hmm, let’s see:

  1. The original, obviously.
  2. J-World (2015), which was a pretty honorable reboot of the franchise, even with the podracers gyrospheres and the invention of yet another new dinosaur.
  3. — 5. You decide! The Lost World (1997) was a dispiriting cash-in, a prototypical sequel with superfluous kids and giant invisible dinosaurs; JPIII (2001) was only barely related, an actioner that could’ve been adapted to any series; and there’s this one … which you will probably not be too surprised to hear features yet another new dinosaur created by Science and a whole lotta subplots and setups liberally borrowed from other stupid action flicks.

Yes, it’s true: This picture about cloning and genetically engineering dinosaurs and [REDACTED] doesn’t have an original bone in its body. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Don’t despair, however, because JW: F’in’ Kidding still could be redeemed. If the planned 2021 sequel follows up properly, it could be tremendous – like 28 Days Later, only with dinosaurs! Hell, someone remade Point Break.

why did i watch this movie?

My local MLB team had a day off.

should you watch this movie?

Don’t you have anything better to do?

highlight and low point

The baroque pomposity of the score during a particular “climactic” scene really illuminates the claptrap on display, and the [REDACTED] offers a tantalizing hope for the future of this ridiculous franchise.

rating from outer space: D
Note: Some details omitted because film currently is in theaters

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

directed by rian johnson
lucasfilm ltd.

While technically not a horror movie, the moaning and wailing that greeted Episode VIII from its bereaved fanboys (and -girls) could have convinced one otherwise. Which, okay, I can dig where they’re coming from, as this installment plays for laughs more often than one might expect, obscures the franchise’s hoary catchphrase, and – heaven forfend! – introduces some new Ewoks porgs (and another animal species, which, uh, sparkles, besides). Honestly, I thought it had worse problems than that, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Star Wars Universe, much the way I am by, say, the rock band KISS: No matter what they do, what they did was so epochal that I’ll keep reading about it and revisiting it. Disney, I think, knows this about its audience, which is why I have a hard time believing they’ll be wrapping this epic up after Episode IX, especially because that seems a difficult prospect at best given where The Reboot Strikes Back leaves us.

why did i watch this movie?

That cannot be a serious question.

should you watch this movie?

Well, if you’re a “Star Wars” type, you most likely already have, and if you are not, you probably won’t, and if you are new to this whole “Star Wars” thing, you should maybe start with “Episode VII.” So … you tell me.

highlight and low point

Jedi manages to stay entertaining for two-and-a-half hours, and this despite neglecting a few key characters just introduced in the last canonical segment. Luke’s divisive portrayal is an oddball key, a koan in action. Several scenes defy any and all acceptable logic, even given the disclaimer that they are occurring a long time ago in a nonliteral galaxy. With a magical spirit power.

rating from outer space: C