Super Chill Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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CREDIT: Andrew Cooper/Sony Pictures Entertainment

A movie that presents an alternative history can be cathartic, and there may be no better example of that than Hitler biting it at the theater in Inglourious Basterds. Quentin Tarantino goes back to that well once more with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by considering: in 1969, a pregnant Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family, but what if things had gone a little differently? It must be said, though, that while going back and getting rid of Hitler as soon as possible is a fantasy harbored by many, I don’t think it’s as widely-held a wish that Tate and her baby had been spared. Since the relatability factor isn’t as built-in, Tarantino lets us see Margot Robbie as Tate just living her life and finding the joy in being a movie star, ultimately giving this what-if scenario enough oomph. And on a pure cinematic level, the climactic showdown with Charles Manson’s associates just ramps up the preposterousness factor to an irresistible degree.

Beyond that wild what-if, I found Once Upon a Time most satisfying in the comfy friendship between struggling actor Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) and his steady stunt double Cliff Booth (Mr. Brad Pitt). After a busy day on a Hollywood set, a typical night for them consists of pizza and beer at Rick’s house. That sounds like an ideal evening, if you ask me. There are a lot of kooky characters and psychological pitfalls in Hollyweird, and sometimes, especially in 1969, there is also real mortal danger. So the melancholy-but-resilient mood between Rick and Cliff in the face of all that is by contrast delightfully optimistic and downright inspiring.

I give Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 40 Job Securities out of 50 Flamethrowers.

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This Is a Movie Review: Brad Pitt Takes Matter Into His Own Hands in the WWII Thriller ‘Allied’

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Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in Allied from Paramount Pictures.

This post was originally published on News Cult in November 2016.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: R for the Horrors of War

Release Date: November 23, 2016

The World War II thriller Allied has a hell of a premise: intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is informed that his French wife Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) may actually be a sleeper spy for the Germans. If she is, he must execute her himself or face hanging for high treason. This is the sort of flashy, adult-oriented actioner that can only get studio backing if the biggest star in the world is in it, and that few directors besides Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureBeowulfFlight) are interested in making anymore. That’s a shame. Allied does not set any gold standards, but it is the sort of perfectly enjoyable effort that Hollywood should be cranking out with ease.

Do not let my pleasant but uninspiring description fool you into thinking that Allied lacks personality. Indeed, its best scene is both Max and Marianne’s sexual linchpin and the prime CGI showcase. Their relationship is confirmed as more than just the bonding of fellow warriors as they find themselves stuck in their car in the middle of a sandstorm. The camera rotates with the force of the environment, as the editing pace intensifies, placing them in a transformational vortex, which serves as the point of no return.

As Max disobeys orders and takes the investigation into his own hands, the twists pile up and complicate the initial assessment of Marianne. Yet the plotting remains straightforward. This is the Occam’s razor of spy thrillers: British intelligence may have a reputation for playing head games with its officers, but sometimes the most simple subterfuge is the correct explanation. Furthermore, while Allied’s official reports may be fudged a few times, its emotions never are. Subtlety may suffer, but integrity (and honor in a very classic sense) survives.

Allied is Recommended If You LikeCasablancaValkyrie, Thrillers About the Wrongly Accused Directed by Alfred Hitchcock or Those Influenced by Hitchcock

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Looks of Anguish from Brad Pitt