Tag Archives: Kurt Russell

Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood

In The Royal Tenenbaums, Eli Cash, played by Owen Wilson, writes a book and describes it thusly: “Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t.” It’s a great line. It kills me. And Owen Wilson passes it off so well.

Quentin Tarantino seems to have had a similar bug up his bum when he wrote Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood.

This review is a little…late, and while, yes, we were happily at the cottage when it came out, we have not been in a hurry to see it since we got home either, and in fact only saw it this past weekend because it was playing in the right time slot. Had Dora been playing at that time, I would have happily-ish seen that instead. The truth is, I’m kind of over Quentin Tarantino. I just don’t feel like racism is the price I want to pay to see his films. $12? Fine. Gratuitous use of the n-word? No thanks.

And while it’s impossible to say this film is racism-free (it isn’t), it’s not the film’s biggest problem. Sean and I just found it…boring.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a washed up TV star struggling to stay relevant. Dalton is a fictional amalgam of several stars of that era. He was a big star on a western television series a decade ago but now he’s lucky to guest star as the heavy on single, sporadic episodes. He drowns his sorrows in a pitcher of whiskey sours. His one time stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is now mostly his driver…and sometime handyman. He seems pretty content with his lot, his laid-back surfer dude persona disguising his continued ability to kick some serious ass.

Rick Dalton just happens to be living slightly beyond his means next to Roman Polanski in the Benedict Canyon neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Polanski is off filming a movie, leaving behind his 8 months pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and several houseguests…including the man who continued to love her despite her recent marriage to someone else, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch).

Sharon Tate bops around town while Quentin Tarantino fixates on her legs…and eventually, her dirty feet. Margot Robbie is the picture of youth and health and vitality and promise. But other than as a symbol, she has little to do in the movie. She was few lines and little screen time. Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood is only tangentially about the Manson Family murders. It’s mostly Tarantino’s love letter to old Hollywood, and in that respect, it’s a good one. There’s lots of period cars and neon lights and references to old-timey movies and actors (Damian Lewis appears as Steve McQueen). But the movie acts mostly as a vehicle for DiCaprio and Pitt, indulging in lengthy scenes that are great testaments to their acting abilities…but don’t really serve a greater story. One flashback scene is so long and absorbing, Sean literally forgot it was a flashback scene, and then the story just spits us back out where we belong – it’s interesting, sure, but it corroborates a single, throw-away detail, which makes it totally irrelevant. This film is 161 minutes long…it didn’t exactly need any padding. I would normally suggest the story needed some good editing, but I think the real problem is that Tarantino isn’t sure exactly where the story is. He’s got a series of good ideas but no cohesive narrative into which he can plug them.

DiCaprio and Pitt are acting their little tushies off though. Pitt in particular. He steals every scene he’s in. When he, a 55 year old man, takes off his shirt, revealing an extremely fit physique, it earns whistles and applause in nearly every theatre it screens in. Arguably, old man abs are not exactly acting…but he backs them up charm and dynamism.

This puzzle had many attractive pieces. But some puzzles, when you finish them, you spackle them with glue to frame and hang on your wall. Others you merely break apart and put back into the box…where it will collect dust until you sell it in a yard sale, usually at least one piece short. Once Upon A Time In…Hollwood is the second kind of puzzle. It’s fine. It’s just not great.

The Christmas Chronicles

Kate Pierce is reviewing videos from Christmases past. Her father’s in all of them but he won’t be there this year, and the family’s taking it hard. Her older brother Teddy’s been acting out in dangerous ways and her mom is overworked and stressed out. When Kate’s mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) gets called in to work on Christmas Eve, she leaves the kids in a house that feels emptier than it should, but with a video that contains more than it has any right to. Just before a video cuts out, someone’s arm is seen placing a gift beneath their tree. Kate is ecstatic: proof of Santa, caught on tape! But the video is vague and an arm is not really enough, so she begs her brother to pull an all-nighter to collect more evidence.

MV5BMTYyNDE4MjI4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTc4NDY2NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Long story short, Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) end up as stowaways on Santa’s sleigh, which causes a derailment (I don’t know the technical term for throwing a sleigh off its course while flying through the air), and a crash, and the loss of Santa’s magic sack of toys, and the temporary misplacement of the reindeer. Catastrophe! Santa (Kurt Russell, in absolute bearded glory) isn’t too happy on a whole lot of fronts, but he recognizes in Kate a true believer, so together they concoct a plan to save Christmas.

The Christmas Chronicles involves police chases, gang activity, Elvish, jingle bells, literal jail house rock, and an archive system to die for. And like any good Netflix original, it has a scene of someone watching some other Netflix original. But mostly it has Kurt Russell, who brings everything to the role. Like me, you may be a little bit squeamish about our dear Kurt Russell playing Santa. Is it really the time in his career for this? Worry not. This is not the rosy-cheeked, elderly Santa that Coca Cola is pimping (in fact, this Russell’s Santa is particularly peeved by that depiction). Russell’s Santa is a little cooler, a little leaner, but he’s still 100% magic, and that’s what counts.

Here in Ottawa, we’ve already had frostbite warning and record snowfall, and it isn’t even winter. What we need on cold nights such is these are great holiday movies to warm and soothe our souls. And while this one isn’t an instant classic, it’s a pretty decent entry into the catalogue.

How They Met: Stories Behind Famous Couples

In 2003, Matt Damon was in Miami shooting Stuck on You (he plays Greg Kinnear’s conjoined twin). It was supposed to have shot in Hawaii but the location was changed last minute and Damon was a lot less familiar with Miami. One night the crew convinced 00-matt-damon-luciana-barrosohim to join them for a drink, and that was it. Literally from across a crowded bar, he looked up and saw her. She was the bartender that night, separated but technically still married to someone else, with a young daughter at home. But he knew. They were married in December 2005 at city hall, at 9 in the morning because he was expected on the set of The Good Shepherd that night, and production was moving to Europe the next day. She went with him, and so did the unborn baby in her belly. Ben Affleck was unable to attend – Jennifer Garner had just given birth the week before. Three daughters have joined the elder one from Luciana’s previous relationship so now Matt Damon is happily surrounded by women. In 2013, ten years after they first met, they held a lavish vow renewal in St Lucia with 50 guests, including Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Messina, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant, Chelsea Clinton, and Stanley Tucci (fun fact: Tucci is married to Blunt’s sister, Felicity]. Jimmy Kimmel officiated.

In the 1970s, Tom Hanks remembers being a kid at his friend’s house, watching The gallery-1452197593-tom-rita-volunteersBrady Bunch, when a girl guest starring as a cheer-leader caught his eye. She was 16 and so was he. He thought she was cute. He didn’t meet Rita Wilson in person until 1981 when she had a guest role on his sitcom, Bosom Buddies. Hanks was married to someone else at the time, and her character ended up with Tom’s costar, Peter Scolari. But fate threw them 324451C900000578-0-image-m-7_1458170786580together in 1985 on the set of Volunteers where the attraction was so strong that Hanks left his wife even though he admits that had they met in high school “I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak to you.” They married in 1988, have 2 sons together (plus Tom’s 2 kids from his first marriage). In 2015 they weathered Rita’s breast cancer diagnosis and remain a totally strong couple that’s all kinds of #goals.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard first met in 2007 at a birthday party. Their meeting was “not electric” (her words) – no sparks, no interest on either side. He was suspicious of her “unbridled happiness.” But two weeks later she was at a hockey game (Kings vs Red Wings) with her Veronica Mars castmate\roommate Ryan Hansen and she saw him with a mutual acquaintance. 36908E2D00000578-3706107-image-a-1_1469400447589Apparently this time, it took. They fell madly in love and nauseated each other with their mushiness, but their personalities were quite different. Kristen is sweet and generous, and Dax had a long history of bad decisions and addictions. He was already sober when they met, but she was insecure as to whether he could really step up. They went to couples therapy obsessively and weathered the storm. They famously refused to marry before it was legal for everyone to marry, but once that hurdle was crossed, they speed-walked right to the court house to get themselves a license. A judge just happened to be available, so why not, they tied the knot right then and there, having spent about $140. Friends met them later with a cake that said World’s Worst Wedding in frosting, but Bell and Shepard never looked back.

John Krasinski thought he might quit acting when he had his big break – he was cast on The Office, and he moved to L.A. In 2006, he went to the movies expecting to see 159270240_emily-blunt-john-krasinski-zoom-3cde631c-7e21-4382-9e84-75e9969cab4bSuperman Returns, but when it was sold out, he and his buddy saw The Devil Wears Prada instead. He claims to have watched the film 50 times before meeting his future wife, Emily Blunt, who stars in the film, in 2008. As he describes it: It was one of those things where I wasn’t really looking for a relationship and I was thinking I’m going to take my time in L.A. Then I met her and I was so nervous. I was like, “Oh god, I think I’m going to fall in love with her.” As I shook her hand I went, “I like you.” But he felt so far out of his league that he was sure it could never work, and almost blew the first date, on which he took her to a gun range. But she stuck it out, and when he proposed, they both wound up crying. Now they’ve got 2 daughters and lots of celebrity double dates: they vacation with the Kimmels and dine with George and Amal.

Matthew Broderick was the youngest actor to receive a Tony but of course it was landing the lead role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that made him a household name and allowed him to go back to his first love, the theatre, this time as a director. One of his actors felt 65110102b3c437394a37f16cda4e6020Broderick would be perfect for his sister, so he made the introductions. It took Matthew three months after meeting Sarah Jessica Parker to actually ask her out, over the phone, and on their first date, she was so nervous she talked a mile a minute while he sat stunned and silent. They wed in 1997, she in a black wedding dress because the guests all thought they were attending a party. They have three kids together and though she’s currently the star of a new show called Divorce, they celebrated their 20th anniversary together this spring.

Goldie Hawn met Kurt Russell on the set of The One and article-2209534-153CC875000005DC-578_468x358Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (blink and you’ll miss her). She was 21 at the time, and he just 16. She thought he was cute and interesting but much too young. Luckily, fate intervened and 15 years later they met on another film set, Swing Shift. Kurt was hungover at the audition and immediately regretted the first thing he said to her: ‘Man, you’ve got a great figure.’ She was magnanimous. This time their age gap seemed inconsequential. They never married but after more than 3 decades together, I think it’s Kurt and Goldie forever.

goldie-hawn-kurt-russell-z.jpg

Who’s your favourite celebrity couple?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-wallpaperI have avoided writing this review since Thursday.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 left me entirely uninspired. Was it the mediocre 70s music? The laughable indestructibility of the heroes and villains that only disappeared when convenient to a plot point? That we have seen this movie before, a thousand times? Or that these heroes, who seemed so fresh the first time around, had nothing new to offer?  Whatever the reason, this movie was missing the spark that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much fun.

“More of the same” is generally something that necessarily is tied to a sequel; after all, the reason the sequel exists is because we liked the first one and asked for more. But the sequels I most enjoy are those that could stand alone if the first one was somehow wiped from memory. I don’t think Guardians Vol. 2 passes that test. It starts strongly (as Jay said to me afterward, she would have preferred it if Groot had danced his way through the whole movie) but loses its way, sacrificing action scenes and momentum to rehash the first movie’s tale of outcasts forced together to save the galaxy.

Strangely, for a movie that I don’t think could stand on its own, Guardians Vol. 2 also does not really do anything to advance things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. If it had, I might have felt better about the movie as then it would have had a purpose. Without that, and without any real progress from the first film, Guardians Vol. 2 felt like a throwaway franchise episode, another The Fate of the Furious, another blockbuster that will have been forgotten in six months. In other words, the polar opposite of how I felt after seeing Guardians Vol. 1.

As always, my hopes were definitely too high for this sequel but I think the main reason I was so underwhelmed by this movie is because what I liked so much about the first film was its originality, and this is a carbon copy of #1 in practically every way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a score of five dancing Groots out of ten.

 

The Art of the Steal

Crunch and Nicky Calhoun are conman brothers, part of a merry little gang who steals art. Crunch (Kurt Russell) gets double-crossed by his own brother (Matt Dillon) when a heist goes wrong and winds up spending 7 years in a Romanian prison where he learns that trust, not cash, is the ultimate currency. When he gets out, he lives a semi-legit life with a new wife, a new sidekick (Jay Baruchel), and a second-rate motorcycle-daredevil career.

hero_artofthesteal-2014-1But then Nicky comes calling. One last heist, he says (is there really such a thing?). And since Crunch is so low on funds, they assemble the old gang and pursue a tricky art swap, even with Interpol (Terence Stamp) breathing down their necks.

I found this movie recently added to Netflix, but not very generously reviewed. I gave it a chance because: Kurt Russell. He’s kind of a badass. And Jay Baruchel, who I have enormous love for. And you know what? It’s not a bad movie. It’s not overly great either, it’s just an easy-watch heist movie that borrows a little to heavily from better movies. But the cast is extremely watchable, and the writing’s not bad, it’s just formulaic. So if you have no time to waste, skip it. But if you like the genre, I think you’ll get along just fine with the film.

Bonus for Canadians: much of the film is not just filmed in Canada but takes place ADMITTEDLY in Canada, and stars a whole bunch of Canadians, aside from Baruchel, including Katheryn Winnick, Niagara Falls, Kenneth Walsh, Chris Diamantopoulous, Quebec City, Jason Jones, Devon Bostick, Tim Hortons, and piles of fluffy home-grown snow.

Deepwater Horizon

07Disoriented. I walked out of the theatre disoriented. Was it the strobe light effect while the power failed? Was it the glass shards being pulled by Kurt Russell out of his own foot? Was it the bone sticking out of a redshirt’s leg? Was it that 11 people died and I wondered how the other 115 on the rig survived?

Yes.

Deepwater Horizon is a war movie where the good guys don’t have a chance in hell, the bad guys are greedy bastards who were supposed to be on the good guys’ side, and the real enemy is an almost unstoppable 130 million gallons of oil spewing from the sea floor. Deepwater Horizon makes it perfectly clear where the blame for the worst oil spill in history rests: with the money-grubbing assholes who tried to cut corners and lost their gamble. The film is not subtle. It finds ten different ways to show us the choices that led to the disaster. It works.

image1-3Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) gets bloody. Jimmy Harrell (Russell) gets bloodier. The stand-in for greedy BP, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovitch), does not get as bloody as you’d hope. They are some of the lucky ones. Deepwater Horizon takes us into the heart of the mess. Tons of mud, oil, fire, explosions, and rag dolls flying all over the screen. It is hard to watch but not too hard to follow. We are provided with title cards and a grade school explanation of the Deepwater Horizon’s mission. They help the exposition fly by so we can get to the destruction faster.

By the end you will have been appropriately beaten down by the disaster. It is a suitably somber end. The survivors are consumed with grief. The restraint shown, especially in the closing minutes, elevates this movie above the Michael-Bay-esque fire show I thought we would see.

Deepwater Horizon is not a great movie but it’s far better than expected. By the time the credits roll your head may be spinning like mine was, especially if you remember that beyond the immediate devastation depicted in the film lies the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, one that ended up costing BP $54 billion in cleanup costs and penalties. Deepwater Horizon makes clear that BP in general and Vidrine in particular got off too easy, but it puts itself in an awkward position by barely mentioning the environmental effects of the disaster, which left me feeling that the movie entirely missed the point.

 

 

 

The Hateful Eight!!!!!!!!

Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a date with a hangman’s noose and bounty hunter hateful eight 3John Ruth, “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), isn’t letting anyone stand in the way of his ten thousand dollar reward. Just to be safe, he’s got her chained to his wrist at all times and, to show her who’s boss, decks her any time she gives him any sass. Making their way through a blizzard, their stagecoach happens on a stranger stranded on the road: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). “Got room for one more?” asks Marquis.

So begins The Hateful Eight, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. As the storm intensifies, Marquis and The Hangman are forced to wait it out in a tiny lodge with six other strangers. (It’s unclear to me which of these 9 Tarantino is excluding from being “Hateful”). I won’t attempt to describe the story that Tarantino weaves any further. No one in Hollywood tells a story quite like Quentin and for me to try to summarize the chain of events that follows in Minnie’s Haberdashery just wouldn’t be right. It’s best just to watch and let it unfold.

If you’ve been following the drama surrounding the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino, you may know that Daisy, Marquis, and The Hangman almost didn’t get to meet in snowy Wyoming. After a draft of the Hateful Eight script leaked online in early 2014, Tarantino felt so wounded that he vowed not to continue with the project. He got over it quick though. His enthusiasm was renewed three months later after a live read with the cast in Los Angeles.

His enthusiasm is contagious. I was almost giddy with excitement through the opening chapters of The Hateful Eight. It’s hard to tell quite where any Tarantino film is heading and the early scenes- with such wit, tension, and restraint- were full of promise. With each new character that he introduced, the more exciting and suspenseful the movie gets. Set in a confined space filled with people who can’t fully trust each other, The Hateful Eight is a welcome reminder of what it was like to see Resevoir Dogs for the first time. The first half is so deliberately paced that it’s tempting to think of it as the director’s most grown up film yet, tricking me into a false sense of security that left me completely unprepared for the second half.

Once the blood finally begins to spill, The Hateful Eight shows its true colours. By the end of its three-hour running time, Tarantino’s eighth film has revealed itself as his darkest, blood-thirstiest, meanest, nastiest and most pessimistic since Resevoir Dogs, a drastic shift from the tone of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I still count The Hateful Eight among the best of both Quentin’s filmography and of 2015. But the enthusiasm that I felt for the first half of the film was mostly gone by the time I left the theater. I left feeling a little disheartened and even a little guilty for the briliant bit of sadism that I participated in by watching it.

Have you seen The Hateful Eight yet? Does it rank among Tarantino’s harshest or am I just getting soft?