Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

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A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. (IMDb)
Keep it about Rick’s friendship with Cliff and him battling insecurity while trying to recharge his career and this would’ve been great; the leading men are excellent and the movie set scenes are engaging. Unfortunately this compelling arc is smothered by endless drawn-out scenes that do nothing but unload historical references (the pointless narration near the end is painful) and show off impressive production design. And so even the wild climax felt empty because nothing built up to it.
6.5/10 (Alright)
SECOND WATCH (12/02/19):
On first blush it’s nicely crafted but its one compelling arc (Rick’s disillusionment/friendship with Cliff) is squashed by a bevy of boring referential scenes disconnected from the shocking but empty climax. Upon closer inspection, many delightful details emerge to reveal a fascinating web of narratives meta-commenting on storytelling and identity–yet they also make plain the film’s ugly misogyny, misguided revisionism, and gross glorification of cowboy violence, especially in the climax.
7/10 (Good)

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The ‘Burbs (1989)

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An overstressed suburbanite and his fellow neighbors are convinced that the new family on the block are part of a murderous Satanic cult. (IMDb)
The hilarious excitability (see the garbage digging) of the three leads is infectious (rifle-toting, camo-wearing Rumsfield is a riot; obnoxious and manic Art is a quote machine: “Satan is good, Satan is our pal…”), helped along by the campy horror soundtrack, overly dramatic camera movement, and classic unfolding mystery of the creepy next door neighbours in the dilapidated old mansion (what are they burying in the backyard at night in the pouring rain?). Spooky, goofy fun.
7/10 (Good)
CREEPY QUOTE: “A thermostat on a home furnace; is that supposed to go to 5,000 degrees, you think?” – Art Wiengartner 
SPOOKY STILL: burbs-2

 

Monster (2003)

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Based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. (IMDb)
Theron’s outstanding nuanced lead turn propels this gritty film to greatness, as she captures all of Aileen’s insecurity, brokenness, desperation, and rage with every word and motion–subtle or severe. The quick-paced story is just as raw and unrelenting (with a great soundtrack), tarnishing its own beautiful outcast romance with scenes of heartbreaking poverty and agonizingly tragic desperation and murder, boldly refusing to spoon-feed us comfortable themes, easy morals, or a happy ending.
8.5/10 (Amazing)