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ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019) – My rating: 7/10

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a comedy-drama written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Produced by Columbia Pictures, Bona Film Group, Heyday Films, and Visiona Romantica and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, it is an international co-production between the United States and the United Kingdom. I was really looking forward to seeing this movie — I am neutral as to the quality of the movie but I feel it is worth seeing.

****  SOME SPOILERS  ****

In February 1969, Los Angeles actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), star of 1950’s Western television series, Bounty Law is now a struggling has-been. Realizing he is no longer the young budding star he was in the 50s, Rick shares this revolution with his best friend and former stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), that his career is over. Cliff, a war veteran, lives in a trailer behind a drive-in movie with his pit bull, Brandy.  He drives Rick (whose license is suspended) around town and relies on him for work because there have been rumors circulating that Cliff got away with killing his wife.

Meanwhile, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband director Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) have moved next door to Rick’s house, causing him to have dreams of befriending the couple in order to restore his failing status.  Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) stops by Polanski and Tate’s house looking for record producer, Terry Melcher, who used to live there but is turned away by Tate’s ex-boyfriend, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). Cliff later picks up a young hitchhiker he’d seen around town, named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) while driving Rick’s car. He drops her off at the Spahn Movie Ranch, where Cliff shot Bounty Law. She tries to persuade him to stay, but he is suspicious of the large number of hippies squatting on the property.  Worried that owner George Spahn (Bruce Dern) is being taken advantage of, Cliff insists checking on Spahn despite Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s (Dakota Fanning) objections; Spahn dismisses Cliff’s fears. Returning to his car, Cliff discovers that Steve Grogan (James Landry Hébert) has slashed his front tire; Cliff brutally beats Grogan and forces him to change the tire. Manson girl, Sundance (Cassidy Hice) goes to fetch Charles “Tex “Watson (Austin Butler) but Cliff is driving away by the time Watson arrives. Meanwhile, Rick lands the role of a villain in a new series called Lancer. He strikes up a conversation with his young co-star Trudi Fraser (Julia Butters), a method actress. During one of his scenes, Rick struggles with his lines due to his alcoholism and later has an emotional breakdown in his trailer. He returns and gives a powerful performance that impresses the director and Trudi, bolstering Rick’s confidence. After watching Rick’s performance as a guest star on an episode of The F.B.I., director Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) offers Rick the opportunity to shoot a Spaghetti Western in Rome.

I really didn’t dislike Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, I thought it was a bit slow at times and downright boring at times.  I wasn’t sure where this movie was trying to take me or what the moral of the story was until the end.  Tarantino rewrote a story everyone knew and made it the way he wished it had ended.  This twist was a big surprise that made the movie worth seeing.  The acting was absolutely brilliant. FYI: This was the last film to feature (Luke Perry who played Wayne Maunder) and died in March of 2019. This also became the first Tarantino film not to be associated with producer Harvey Weinstein, after Tarantino cut ties following sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein in October. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that critics had “an overall positive view” of the film, who called the film “Tarantino’s love letter to ’60s L.A.” and praised its casting choices and setting, though some were “divided on its ending.”  Bounty Law is based on Wanted Dead or Alive (1958–1961). Rick Dalton’s relationship with Cliff Booth is based on that of actor Burt Reynolds and his longtime stunt double Hal Needham. Once Upon A Time… isn’t for everyone however, I highly recommend it to those who like a good fantasy ending.  Check It Out!

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (2016) – My rating: 8/10

kuboandtwostringsKubo and the two strings is a beautifully animated fantasy movie that takes place in ancient Japan.  Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a one-eyed young boy who lives with his ailing mother, Sariatu (Charlize Theron), in a cave atop a mountain, which is next to a village. Every day Kubo goes into the village and interacts with the locals, who love him like family.  Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro) are some of the villagers who are part of Kubo’s sort of extended family who live in the village.  They encourage him to tell his magical stories that appear to have him manipulating origami, which moves under music played from Kubo’s shamisen. He tells the tale of a samurai warrior named Hanzo, who is Kubo’s missing father. When the town bell chimes, signaling sunset, Kubo returns to his mother, as she explicitly warns him not to stay outside after dark or her Sisters Karasu and Yukami (Rooney Mara) and his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) will come to take his remaining eye, as they are responsible for taking his missing eye when he was a baby in the first place.

One day, Kubo learns of an Obon festival that has a ceremony where family members communicate with deceased loved ones. Desperate to speak to his father, Kubo arrives at a cemetery and tries to speak to Hanzo, but leaves in anger when his father doesn’t respond.  Kubo realizes the sun is setting and he is far from home, so he begins to run but Sariatu’s Sisters, Karasu and Yukami find him and attack. Kubo’s mother arrives to fend them off. She sends Kubo away using her magic, telling him to find his father’s magic armor. He takes a lock of his mother’s hair before she charges at her Sisters.  Kubo wakes up and meets Monkey (Charlize Theron), his little wooden snow monkey charm that was brought to life by his mother’s magic. She informs him that his mother is dead, his village is destroyed, and they must move on to survive.  The next morning Monkey wakes Kubo and points out “Little Hanzo”–one of Kubo’s origami designed to look like his father–who folded himself and came to life at night. Little Hanzo shows Kubo and Monkey the way to pieces of a magic armor, where they are greeted by Beetle/Hanzo (Matthew McConaughey), an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a beetle and claims to have been Hanzo’s apprentice. He joins them on their quest when he finds out that Kubo is Hanzo’s son. The Sisters discover Kubo is looking for his father’s armor and split up to find him.

See the movie to find out what happens next, as usual I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.  While I’m not into cartoons or animated films, I really enjoyed Kubo and the Two Strings.  It is a wonderful story with a wonderful message for all.  Kubo is now on DVD/Blu-Ray and is an interesting choice for the entire family to adventure into.

[Kubo and the Two Strings is nominated for Best Animated Film and Visual Effects]