Category Archives: Quentin Tarantino Films

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-2019

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Leonardo Dicaprio, Brad Pitt

Scott’s Review #926

Reviewed August 1, 2019

Grade: A

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) is another brilliant offering by one of the most (deservedly) respected directors of the modern film era. This film may be his most personal as it includes many cinematic references and immerses itself in the Hollywood lifestyle. Toned down considerably from the violence standard in his other films, the first half lays the groundwork to a startlingly good second half with every detail of utmost importance. A bevy of riches await any viewer enthusiastically feasting his or her eyes on this film.

The time is 1969, as actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) struggles to reinvent himself and revitalize his career in Hollywood amid a changing cinematic landscape. Famous for a popular western television series from the 1950’s, Bounty Law, a pursued film career has not taken off, and he is reduced to guest appearances as the villain, then considered throwaway roles, in other episodic series. His stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) accompanies him almost everywhere serving as both sidekick and errand boy.

Meanwhile, famous director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) have moved into the house next door which Dalton hopes will help him revitalize his career aspirations. As Tate goes about her daily life of running errands and watching her own movies in the theater, she is visited by Charles Manson one day looking for the former resident of her house. Historical viewers know how subsequent events transpired in real-life as Tarantino offers a fictional and tantalizing version of the events.

The length of the film is two hours and thirty-nine minutes, quite robust but typical for a Tarantino production. Some may complain about the bloated running time, but the film never drags; rather the director lays out all the pieces carefully like a fine chess game. By the mid-point all hell breaks loose with one of the most suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat scenes of in film history. When Cliff drives a flirtatious young hippy hitchhiker, Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) to a range populated by Manson followers, he is in for the adventure of his life…..if he survives.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood contains an orgy of cinematic tidbits featuring a myriad of clips from forgotten films of the late 1960’s and popular songs from the day. This is just the tip of the iceberg in marvels as Tarantino perfectly immerses the viewer into the time-period with fury and zest. Every set piece, costume, hairstyle or car is flawlessly placed. Kraft macaroni and cheese, Velveeta cheese and popular dog food from the time-period are featured. Tarantino is a fan of cinema and makes cinema lovers fall in love with cinema all over again.

The cast is humongous but each character necessary and perfectly represented in roles large and small. The haunting troupe of Manson followers, specifically Tex Watson (Austin Butler), Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning) and Susan Atkins (Mikey Madison), are all real-life figures. They are foreboding, dangerous and ever so important to the story. Al Pacino shines in the small but pivotal role of Schwarz (not Schwartz), Dalton’s agent, while Steve McQueen look-alike, Damian Lewis, on-screen for merely seconds, is memorable. The list of cameo performances goes on and on and on and the fun is wondering who may appear next.

Despite the incorporation of big-name stars in significant small roles, the best performances belong to Dicaprio and Pitt. Dicaprio’s best scene takes place alone in his trailer as the washed-up star botches his lines thanks to a hangover causing a delay in filming. He abuses himself into nailing the scene, receiving kudos all around while becoming teary-eyed after a compliment from a young actress. Pitt has never given a better performance than he does as Cliff, sharing his best scenes with his adorable dog Brandi, and with Dicaprio. Who can ever forget his chest baring rooftop scene?

Quentin Tarantino scores again with a bombastic and flawless picture, his ninth release. Rumored to retire after his tenth film, one can hardly fathom the reality of that statement. His films can be watched and watched again, continuously absorbing new and noteworthy details of rich texture. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) easily joins the ranks of great works, not just of the director’s own catalog, but of all time.

Django Unchained-2012

Django Unchained-2012

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz

Scott’s Review #699

Reviewed November 26, 2017

Grade: A

Quentin Tarantino, the brilliant film-maker, can do very little wrong in my opinion, and he releases yet another masterpiece with 2012’s Django Unchained, a western story centering around the delicate subject matter of slavery. As with several other of the talented director’s stories, the main focal point here is a revenge driven tale with plenty of bloody scenes and stylistic ferociousness, making Django Unchained yet another masterpiece in the Tarantino collection. Certainly not for the faint of heart, the film will please fans of film creativity and artistic achievement.

As with many Tarantino films a stellar cast is used and each actor cast to perfection- it seems almost every actor in Hollywood is dying to appear in the director’s films- this time Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson are the lucky ones, all featured in prominent roles- not surprisingly the acting is top-notch. An interesting facet to note is that whomever appears in a Tarantino film seems to be having the time of their lives- what creative freedom and interesting material to experience. A comparable director to Tarantino- as far as recruiting fine actors- is Robert Altman- also tremendously popular with talent.

The saga begins with clear western flair as Django Freeman (Foxx) is led through the scorching heat of Texas with a group of other black slaves, presumably to be sold by their abusive white captors- the time is 1858 and abolition of slavery has not yet occurred, in fact the Civil War is still two years away. Doctor King Schultz (Waltz) , a former dentist and current bounty hunter, is on a mission to find and kill the Brittle brothers and realizes that Django can help him find the men. To complicate matters, Django has been separated from his wife Broomhilda (Washington) and vows to find her and avenge her abductors. As circumstances lead Schultz and Django to a vast Tennessee estate, the duo become business partners and friends. The race to rescue Broomhilda takes the pair to sunny (and equally hot) Mississippi- the home of vicious Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) and his dreaded “Candyland”.

The crackling heat and the atmospheric nature of Django Unchained combined with the revenge theme make the film an immeasurable success. An ode to spaghetti westerns of yesteryear, the film incorporates similar music and grit so that the end result is a modernized version of those films, with lots more blood and violence. Certainly, slavery is a tough subject matter to tackle, especially when members of the Ku Klux Klan are featured, but Tarantino does so effortlessly, and as Django gains revenge on his tormentors, there is major audience satisfaction to be enjoyed. The indignities and downright abuse that several black characters suffer can be quite tough to sit through.

The climactic dinner scene in Mississippi is splendid and the best sequence of the film. Schultz and Django dine with Calvin at his spectacular mansion. Calvin’s sinister and loyal house slave (Jackson) suspects a devious plan is about to be hatched and a vicious shoot-out erupts between the parties involved. The ingenious and long sequence is a cat-and-mouse affair with all of the characters carefully tiptoeing around the others in fear of being revealed or discovered as fakes. The scene is exceptional in its craft as we watch the characters dine on delectable food and drink, all the while motivations bubble under the surface.

Django Unchained is not for film-goers seeking either a linear story or a mainstream piece of blockbuster movie-making-Tarantino is not a typical Hollywood guy. The film is exceptionally carved and constructed in a way that challenges the viewer to endure what some of the characters (specifically Django and Broomhilda) are made to go through. This discomfort and horror makes the inevitable revenge all the more sweet and satisfying.

Quentin Tarantino has created masterpiece after masterpiece throughout his filmography of work. Proudly, I can herald 2012’s  Django Unchained as one of the unique directors very finest and will be sure to be remembered decades and decades in the future as being able to challenge, provoke thought, and satisfy legions of his fans.

Inglourious Basterds-2009

Inglourious Basterds-2009

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz

Scott’s Review #589

Reviewed January 7, 2017

Grade: A

Inglorious Basterds is simply a great movie. Blending many film genres together, it is hard to categorize, but that is because it is a Quentin Tarantino film and that says it all. The film as a whole contains excellent acting, is wonderfully shot, and extremely detail oriented, plus it has the familiar “Tarantino” style of music and sound, the chapter breakdown, and the heavy violence.

Set mainly in German occupied France during the early 1940’s, clearly during World War II, the action centers around two stories- Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), a teenage girl whose entire family is killed after being discovered hidden by a dairy farmer who is a Jewish sympathizer, barely escapes with her life when a SS Colonel, brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz, interrogates the man. Three years later, now living in Paris and owning a cinema, she plots her revenge. The other story is also of a revenge plot by a group of Jewish-American soldiers to kill as many Nazi’s as possible. Both stories eventually intersect with a grand finale inside a cinema.

The story itself is richly nuanced and unlike many generic films of today. The fantastic set design and the perfection to every last set piece is amazing. Long scenes play out slowly, but bristle with authenticity and good dialogue. Take the first scene for example- as the SS Colonel, aptly nicknamed the “Jew Hunter” plays cat and mouse with the dairy farmer, politely asking for two glasses of milk, the audience knows the pay off will be huge, but the conversation crackles with good dialogue.

What strikes me most about the film is the intelligent writing. The many scenes of conversations between characters- a chat over strudel and cream, a trivia game at a bar, and the aforementioned scene at the farmhouse, bristle with unique, clever written dialogue so that the scenes are far from merely filler. Of course, this is also a characteristic of Tarantino.

At over two and a half hours Inglourious Basterds is long, but satisfying. My only criticism is of Brad Pitt. I didn’t buy him as a Tarantino guy and found his character the only weak point of the film. His southern drawl just did not draw me in like I thought it might. He was touted as the main character (perhaps because he was the biggest star), but he really plays a supporting role.

Jackie Brown-1997

Jackie Brown-1997

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Pam Grier, Robert Forster

Top 100 Films-#92

Scott’s Review #356

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is a fantastic film and one of the few to have a solely female lead (Kill Bill Volumes I and II are the others) and successfully re-launched star Pam Grier’s and Robert Forster’s careers after too many years on the sidelines. The film is heavily influenced by Grier’s earlier films in the 1970’s  blaxploitation genre. Jackie Brown is one of the more obscure Tarantino films, but is brilliant nonetheless and filled with slow, plodding, yet tremendous scenes.

Greir plays the title character, Jackie Brown, a flight attendant for a small Mexican airline who smuggles money into the United States from Mexico to supplement her income. When she is caught and threatened by the Feds to aid them in catching a much larger fish, she plots to use both sides to her advantage and walk away with the money. Jackie develops feelings and a sweet relationship ensues with Max Cherry, a bondsman played by Forster. Mixed in with the plot is Tarantino staple, Samuel L. Jackson, as Ordell Robbie, a crooked drug smuggler, Robert De Niro as Louis, a former cellmate of Ordell’s and Bridget Fonda as Melanie, a dizzy stoner girl.

As is always the case with Tarantino films, Jackie Brown contains a stellar cast just chomping at the bit to deliver the best performance they can with the help of rich and crackling dialogue written for them. The writing is always fantastic in Tarantino films and the number of plot twists and turns in Jackie Brown is great.

My favorite scene by far is the scene involving the transfer of money that takes place in the local Mall. Rich with flavor and atmosphere it is a marvel. Jackie and Max engage in small talk at the food court before the transfer is to take place- Jackie then goes to a fitting room where the “switch” will occur. Throughout this sequence the tension is incredibly high and the film turns into a nail biter.

Tarantino, not one to focus on a romantic story-line, gives Jackie Brown a uniqueness as the film features the respectful and delicious romance between Jackie and Max. This adds layers to the mainly bloody and crime-laden film. To counter this relationship, is the volatile relationship between Louis and Melanie, which ends in tragedy.

I love how the film is set in Los Angeles. Sunny, bright, with a stuffy and superficial element to the action, mixing the beach and the hot weather with a crime story, manipulation, and double-crossing works so well.

Giving aging Hollywood stars a deserving comeback, Tarantino weaves a complex, but adventurous and well-paced, crime drama featuring veteran actors who deliver the goods, Jackie Brown is a treasure in a world of other Tarantino treasures and is a must have for all of the director’s fans and fanatics.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2-2003/2004

Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2- 2003/2004

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Uma Thurman, David Carradine

Top 100 Films-#58

Scott’s Review #322

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Reviewed January 3, 2016

Grade: A

Despite being released as separate films (Fall of 2003 and Spring of 2004), Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2 are really one grand, sprawling feature. In fact, the films were shot as one, but at a running time of over four hours, it was impossible to release them as one, so director Quentin Tarantino decided to release his masterpiece martial arts film as two sequential films. I have decided to simply review them as one since Volume 2 is a clear continuation of Volume 1.

From a story perspective, Kill Bill is a basic revenge thriller. The plot is not complex nor ingenious and is rather ordinary containing B-movie components- think the really bad Kung-Fu films of long ago. What makes Kill Bill an extraordinary masterpiece, however, is the style that exudes from the film, thanks to the direction and creation of Tarantino. The film is brimming with good flavor and crackling dialogue of an intelligent sort. Characters have long conversations with each other-not for redundancy sake- in between the endless martial arts and bloody sequences.

We meet our heroine, The Bride (Uma Thurman), in a chapel in El Paso, Texas. About to be married to her groom, the entire wedding party is suddenly assassinated in bloody fashion by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Their leader, Bill (David Carradine), shoots The Bride after she reveals to him that she is carrying his baby. The film flashes forward four years later- The Bride has survived the massacre, but has been comatose ever since. When she is raped by a hospital worker, she escapes and vows revenge on each and every one of her attackers- the revenge culminating with Bill. Her path of destruction leads her to Japan. Similar to most of Tarantino’s films, Kill Bill is divided by chapters and often goes back and forth from the past to present times.

The brilliance of Kill Bill is its pizazz. We know The Bride will get her revenge on the assassins, we just do not know in what way or how bloody the slaughters will be. The film contains copious amounts of blood and swords and machetes are everywhere to be found. The slow drawl dialogue as The Bride has conversations with her prey before she kills them, oftentimes ends in a big fight scene. Her first revenge, against Vernita (Vivica A. Fox) is unique in that it takes place in Vernita’s kitchen as her young daughter is happily eating her breakfast cereal. The entire battle ensues in the kitchen and we are left watching blood and cereal.

It is Tarantino’s unique style of film making and story-telling, adding violence, and long character conversations, that gives Kill Bill, and all of his other classic films, his own unique brand and stamp of approval. I dearly hope he continues to make films that challenge the norm, for years to come.

The Hateful Eight-2015

The Hateful Eight-2015

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson

Scott’s Review #319

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Reviewed January 3, 2016

Grade: A

Quentin Tarantino does it again! The modern equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, or any of the great directors, his films are an experience to be reveled in.  The viewer is taken to another world and experiences a great fantasy. This time he dives into western territory with The Hateful Eight, a brutal tale of eight strangers holed up in a shelter during a Wyoming blizzard sometime shortly after the Civil war. Another gem of a film that delivers blood, unique characters, and brilliant writing.

We are introduced to Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) early on, as Marquis hitches a ride on John’s stagecoach.  They are both bounty hunters heading to Red Rock to deliver their prisoners and collect a large sum of loot. Marquis has three dead bodies, but John has captured brutal female criminal Daisy Domergue, played wonderfully by Jennifer Jason Leigh, alive and well. The group then picks up the new Red Rock sheriff, Chris Mannix, who is headed there to accept his new position.  Everyone is in a panic to reach safety before a vicious blizzard hits and the group comes to a shelter where they meet the other films principals, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Oswaldo (Tim Roth), Marco the Mexican (Demian Bichir), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). These eight make up “The Hateful Eight” in the title.

The setting could not be better. The cold, wintry blizzard and the grand mountains of the west are authentic. However, most of the film is set inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, an inn, of sorts, where the eight (and some others) spend most of the film.  I found the setting tremendously effective as the howling wind,  the driving snow through the windows, mixed with the glowing warmth of the lighting and the hot, steaming, soothing  stew that they ate, and the hot coffee, which is ingeniously featured throughout the film. These hot and cold elements contrasted so well.

Shot in 70 mm film to ensure a wide screen, epic look, the film succeeds in the snowy, outdoor scenes, though I am not sure I would notice this camera style without it having been touted with the release of the film.

The characters bristle with authenticity and engagement and each one is interesting in his or her own right- even the secondary characters. My personal favorites are John “The Hangman”, Daisy, Marquis, and Sandy Smithers. John is probably the most likable character of the bunch and Kurt Russell (almost unrecognizable under the thick beard), gives the character charm and wit. As the story unfolds, each character is mysterious and their motives unclear, which makes the film fun. Are some in secret cahoots with others? When someone poisons the coffee, a whodunit erupts. This is the beauty of the film- the characters motivations slowly come into play and a slow reveal occurs.

The gore/violence is fantastic. Without revealing too much, there are many deaths and the film is non-linear, the middle portion of the story occurring before the first section. In fact, to keep things organized, Tarantino divides the film into chapters, and at over three hours long, the film is a monster. I like how Tarantino features interracial an relationship (black inn owner Minnie and her white husband).

Favorite scenes include the vomiting blood sequence and the extremely brutal scene of severing of a characters arm.  There is also the scene of Marquis dragging a victimized, naked soldier through the snow that is intense and shocking, involving a brutal sodomy.

As with all of Tarantino films, the characters are cartoonish and not to be taken completely seriously and the violence will undoubtedly offend some, but that is the beauty of his films. A masterful work by a masterful modern director.

Pulp Fiction-1994

Pulp Fiction-1994

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman

Top 100 Films-#22

Scott’s Review #242

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Reviewed May 12, 2015

Grade: A

Pulp Fiction is one of the most influential films of the 1990’s and single-handedly kicked the film industry in the ass. It led an entire generation of filmmakers, who were starved and determined to make more creative work after the largely dull decade of the 1980’s. The success of the film, both creatively and critically, helped ensure that edgier and more meaningful artistic expression would continue to occur. The leader of the charge, of course, was director Quentin Tarantino. With Pulp Fiction, a black comedy crime film, Tarantino mixes violence, witty dialogue, and a 1970’s cartoonish feel to achieve a filmmaking masterpiece.

The plot is non-linear and the story contains three main focuses that intersect- a new style of filmmaking that has become commonplace in commonplace in modern cinema, but at the time was a novel adventure. Set in Los Angeles, Samuel Jackson and John Travolta portray hit men named Jules and Vincent, who work for a powerful gangster, Marsellus Wallace, played by Ving Rhames. We get to know them as they interrogate four college aged youths who double-crossed Marsellus, all the while discussing fast-food hamburgers and adventures in Europe. On another front, Butch (Bruce Willis) is hired by Marsellus to lose a fight to another boxer. Later, Marcellus instructs Vincent to take his wife Mia (Uma Thurmon), a former unsuccessful television actress, out for dinner and a night on the town. Finally, we meet Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (Tim Roth and Amanda Plumber), two small town robbers plotting a heist at a local diner. As the film develops these plots relate to each other in unique ways.

The film is quite stylistic, resembling a 1970’s film production in the way it looks, and use of 1970’s style sets- the diner in particular looks very of that time, and an automobile where a death occurs, is a 1970’s Chevy Nova. The film, however, is set in present times.

The dialogue throughout Pulp Fiction is immensely impressive to me. Long dialogues occur between characters, usually sitting over a meal, discuss the meaning of life, religion, fast-food burgers, and other wonderfully real conversations. I love the many food references- from Butch’s girlfriend salivating over an impending meal of blueberry pancakes to the French version of the Big Mac being discussed, to the price of a shake, these make the conversations between the characters rich and unique and oh so creative.

My favorite sequence is the one between Vincent and Mia, mostly taking place at a trendy 1950’s themed diner named Jack Rabbit Slim’s, where the staff dresses up in costume impersonating their favorite stars of the day, such as Marilyn Monroe. After winning a dance contest (and a possible homage to Saturday Night Fever) the two go back to Mia’s place where she accidentally overdoses on heroin thought to be cocaine. The song “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” by Neil Diamond, is both integral and haunting to the scene.

An intense and shocking scene of male gay rape is extremely violent and the hillbillies involved could be straight out of Deliverance from 1972 despite being in Los Angeles. This scene is disturbing yet mesmerizing at the same time, and might I say even comedic in a dark way?

Pulp Fiction is not a mainstream affair and certainly has its share of detractors and plain old non-fans, but for filmgoers seeking a fun, entertaining, cleverly delicious work of art, influential to Hollywood and Independent filmmakers alike, Pulp Fiction is a film to watch over and over again and admire its style and creativity.