Thursday 19 September 2019

Film of the week: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Cert: 18; Now showing

Brad Pitt, Leonardo di Caprio and Al Pacino in the new Tarantino movie
Brad Pitt, Leonardo di Caprio and Al Pacino in the new Tarantino movie
Good Boys

The concept of "director-as-genre" is perhaps nowhere stronger in modern US filmmaking than with Quentin Tarantino. Each release comes billed as part of a lineage - "the ninth", in this case - while recurring motifs, cast members and attention to both violence and nostalgia are now expected.

It means that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (the title another clear genuflection to his hero, Sergio Leone) is perhaps his most on-brand offering since 2009's Inglourious Basterds. If he ended his career on this note, it would feel like a logical keystone, filled as it is with references to his catalogue and the Tinseltown touchstones he borrowed during his career.

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It's 1969. Hollywood's Golden Age is drawing to a close as we find Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a TV action idol, struggling to come to terms with his own falling stock value. His sidekick, former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), is the shoulder to cry on as he drives Rick from set to set. Elsewhere, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is jiving her way through parties with Roman Polanski, unaware that members of the Manson family have her in their sights.

People drive around to a groovy soundtrack. There is lots of chatter, some of which feels as if it could break out into almighty carnage (and occasionally does). We get elaborate asides where a back story is wandered into. A host of well-used cameos - Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Damian Lewis - turn up to assist with meandering scene-by-scene fun. Much of this ebb and flow is forgiveable, because he wants the heady quality of the era to drip from the screen.

All very Tarantino, then, and agnostics may remain unconverted by the time a very bloody climax rolls in near the end of its 160 minutes. Even they, however, will struggle to deny just how imperious DiCaprio is (a career high is arguable), or the singular rhythms and ragged sweep this unique filmmaking brand works with.

★★★ Hilary A White


Dora, Lost City

Cert: PG; Now showing 

Dora and the Lost City of Gold to give it its full, adventures-in-the-jungle movie style title, is the much-loved animated heroine's first live-action outing. And it was worth waiting for. Clearly targeting an audience way beyond a traditional Dora fanbase, it succeeds in that by both honouring its source material and having gentle pokes at it.

You don't need to have seen any of the cartoons to enjoy this, though some of the in-jokes will be lost.

Writers Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson keep Dora resolutely Dora, and refreshingly, resolutely Latina. Dora (Isabela Moner) is a teenager now and while her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena) seek the lost city of Parapata, they dispatch her to high school in LA. Her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) is reluctantly charged with helping her fit in but instead of Dora fitting in, she becomes an outcast, along with class swot (Madeleine Madden) and the nerd (Nicholas Coombe). Long story short, they all end up in the jungle.

A bit Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Jumanji, it is funny, sweet and a perfect end-of-summer outing. ★★★ Aine O'Connor



Cert: 12A; Now showing 


The manner in which Christian Petzold writes and directs his retelling of Anna Seghers's 1942 novel serves as a stark reminder that history repeats itself. An old story is told in a modern setting, the timescape remains blurry but the message is clear.  

Georg (Franz Rogowski) is one of many refugees hoping for safety across the Atlantic, although what he is fleeing is not explicitly stated. He happens upon the effects of a dead writer called Weidel who has been granted asylum in Mexico, via Marseille. When he is mistakenly granted Weidel's transit papers, Georg sees a chance he cannot pass up. But his conscience complicates issues when he meets Marie (Paula Beer), the writer's wife who does not know she is a widow. Some things I didn't fully understand, like Marie's feelings for Georg, but overall the film is thought-provoking and original. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Good Boys

Cert: 16; Now showing 

goody boys.jpg
Good Boys

Every now and again, I suspect I may have seen a different film to everyone else. Like now. The reviews for Good Boys from other territories are largely very positive. I thought it was terrible. And I liked Superbad, to which it has been compared. I feel the 16 Cert (drug reference related) will automatically remove 89pc of viewers who would find it funniest, but let's just say if you find the idea of swearing 12-year-olds and sex toys inherently funny, you're in for a treat.

It's a very busy film, co-written by Lee Eisenberg with director Gene Stupnitsky, which essentially sees Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L Williams) get invited to a party for which they need to do kissing research. This leads to porn, sex toys and the disastrous borrowing of the prized drone of Max's dad, which in turn leads to a mini-feud with older girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The kids' misunderstanding of adult things is the funniest stuff and it was underused in favour of more obvious gags. The leads are really good and there are some emotions, I just didn't find it funny. ★★ Aine O'Connor

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