FIVE best cinematographers in Hollywood (not named Roger Deakins)

The process of making films is very difficult, whether it’s a short or full-length feature, one needs to put together a team of talented people in order to produce something that one can be proud of. One key component to make any film work is the person who does the actual shooting. The director tends to get all the credit when it comes to making a film but in a big or small production, a cinematographer is the real star behind the scenes. The director is in charge of the entire production crew, so he/she can’t oversee each and every shot during the shoot. That’s where the cinematographer comes in, this person must know the ins and outs of the cameras, which lens to use for each scene, set up lightings for each location and most importantly this person needs to be on the same page as the director. Basically, the cinematographer is the second most powerful person during the shoot.

I do feel that cinematographers tend to get over look when people are talking about certain films. One of the most well-known cinematographers in Hollywood is Roger Deakins and I won’t put him on my list here since his work deserves a list of its own. Here, I’m listing some of the best but not that well-known cinematographers working in Hollywood today.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

1. Robert Richardson

I was hesitant to put Richardson on the list since he’s won 3 Oscars for his work on JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. But I don’t think most film fans know much about him. Known to be a hot head in Hollywood, there were reports that he actually took over the directing tasks when Marc Forster lost control of the troubled shoot of World War Z. He then asked him name to be taken off the credits for that film because he wasn’t happy that the studio decided to convert the film to 3D and changed the color lutz of the footage that he shot. Richardson sounds like a man who don’t have much patience for inexperience directors in large productions, which explains why he mostly work with famous director like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone.

Here are some clips of his work that I think are great:

2. Oliver Wood

Wood has been working as a cinematographer since the late 60s. He shot several episodes of the TV show Miami Vice in the 80s and got his first big Hollywood production gig by shooting Die Hard 2. He’s been busy shooting big blockbusters ever since. But I don’t think many people knows much about him at all. You’d be surprised that some of the well-known films were shot by him, Rudy, The Bourne Trilogy and Face/Off are some of the films he shot. Now some might say that he started the whole fast editing and shaky cam action shots that plagued many action films of the 2000s, but I think that blame should go to Paul Greengrass.

Here are some shots of his work that I think are great:

The snowmobile chase/shootout in Die Hard 2. I’m pretty sure this scene was a very difficult shot to set up, it contains snow and set at night time.

The opening intro of Castor Troy in Face/Off. John Woo apparently fired his original cinematographer for this film because that person couldn’t keep up with his demands. Wood took over the gig and this scene is one of the many great shots in the film.

The epic car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy. One of the best car chases ever filmed and I assume wasn’t easy to film:

3. Ellen Kuras

Sadly, this is the only female cinematographer on my list here. As most of everyone knows, this is still a male dominated field and many female cinematographers are having a hard time breaking in. Kuras is one of the few that have been working in this field for a long time. She started out doing mostly short films and documentaries in the 90s. Her big break came when Spike Lee hired her to lens He Got Game starring Denzel Washington for him. Apparently, she worked well with Lee and they shot two more films together, Summer of Sam and Bamboozled. Some of her best-known films are Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Ballad of Jack and Rose. In the late 2000s, Kuras decided to go back and direct mostly documentaries and short films. I hope she comes back and shoot more feature films because I think she’s very talented.

Here some samples of her great work:

Summer of Sam trailer, I couldn’t find any clips on YouTube but you can see her work on this trailer. An underrated gritty drama that should’ve been seen by more people:

Train ride sequence in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A simple sequence but probably very difficult to set up, shooting scenes in a tight spot is never easy. There were many great shots in this film, but I’ve always enjoy watching this scene.

4. Steven H. Burum

Probably the oldest cinematographers on this list, in fact Burum hasn’t been working much since the early 2000s. But I’m sure you’ve seen many of his great work. He’s a constant collaborator of Brian De Palma and some of his famous work were Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire and The War of the Roses.

Here are some of my favorite shots of his work:

The mission gone wrong scene in the first Mission: Impossible. By killing off each of the team members early in the film, fans of the TV show were pretty shocked by it. The way this sequence was shot was quite spectacular. I think this whole film was full of great shots, most people tend to forget that the first Mission film was more of a suspense thriller and didn’t have a lot of action like its sequels. Most of the scenes were shot in tight spaces but Burum was able to make them look cinematic and big in scope.

The climatic foot chase/shoot out in Carlito’s Way. One of the most underrated films of the 90s and this sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Just watch and be awed by it.

PART I:

PART 2:

5. Matthew Libatique

Out of the people listed on here, Libatique might be the most well-known cinematographer working today. He’s been working with Darren Aronofsky since the early 90s and has shot all of Aronofsky’s films ever since. Probably his most famous work are his shots in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Inside Man and the recent remake of A Star is Born. I think Libatique is maybe the most generic of all these cinematographers that I’ve listed. It doesn’t mean that he’s done average work, it’s the opposite. I think he really catered to the style of the directors he’s worked with. Some of the clips from his work will show you what I mean. One is a film from Aronofsky and other is a Spike Lee’s film.

Here’s a clip of Aronofsky’s The Fountain:

Here’s Spike Lee’s Inside Man:

If you’re a fan of either Aronofsky or Lee then you can see how Libatique really catered to both of the director’s style.


These cinematographers didn’t quite make the list, but I think they will have have long career in front of them:

  • Rob Hardy
    He’s a constant collaborator with Alex Garland and has shot all of Garland’s directing projects including Ex Machina, Annihilation and the current TV show DEVS. But Hardy’s biggest success was 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
  • Zoe White
    She’s young and most of her work were short movies. But I think her work will get more recognition in the upcoming years. She’s already shot several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and the recent episode of Westworld. Let’s hope some directors will hire her to shoot their upcoming films soon.

  • Hoyte Van Hoytema
    He’s young and has shot some of the biggest event films in the last few years. He’s also working with the most popular director right now, Chris Nolan. Pretty sure you’ve seen his work in Interstellar, Dunkirk, Spectre, Her and Ad Astra. His next film is Nolan’s Tenet.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


So, those are some of the best cinematographers working in Hollywood today. Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, please name them in the comment section.

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 10 Best TV Shows of 2010s

I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet list their favorite films from the 2010s, but I don’t see many lists their favorite TV shows from the last decade. With the popularity of comic books-based films at the beginning of 2000s, Hollywood has decided to abandon any original ideas for films. They also decided to reboot or remake their past popular franchises, heck they’ll willing to start a franchise on any film that they deemed “profitable”, no one asked to see a sequel to Sicario, but it happened anyway. So, anyone who wants to see anything that resembles original ideas, television is the place to go.

The last decade were full of great shows that it’s hard to just pick ten but here are my 10 favorite/best shows from the 2010s:

10. BALLERS, aired from 2015-2019

A show about an ex-football player (Dwayne Johnson) hustling his way to the top of the NFL world. It’s kind of similar to ENTOURANGE but it’s about football players and coaches in the NFL instead of actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. With him being such a high in-demand actor for big studio films, I don’t know how Dwayne Johnson was able to squeeze in his time to star in this show for 5 seasons but he’s great in each season and never looked like he just phoned in like other actors when they appeared in TV shows. The show introduced me to John David Washington who played a diva wide receiver.

9. HARRY’S LAW, aired from 2011-2012

The only show from a major network, NBC, that’s on my list here. It’s a short-lived show that lasted only 2 seasons, I was not happy when NBC decided to cancel it. The show’s about a once highly paid patent lawyer, played by the great Kathy Bates, who lost drives in her career and got fired from her firm. She then decided to start her own firm and hired a bunch of misfits. Their goal is to help the little people in the worst part of the city of Cincinnati. The show was created by TV power producer and writer David E. Kelley but it never found its audience and I was hoping Netflix, Amazon or Hulu would pick it up, but it never happened. I’m not surprised the show never found success in the ratings since it’s kind of unusual TV drama and doesn’t have the usual happy ending in each episode.

8. SILICON VALLEY, aired from 2014-2019

A hilarious show about a bunch of tech nerds trying to start the next big tech company in Silicon Valley. Created by Mike Judge, who worked in tech world himself, it’s well-written and very accurate look at the super rich and powerful community that for a long time not too many people knew about. Having worked in the tech start-up companies for most of my career, I can concur that a lot of things happened in the show also happened in real life. The show recently ended its run and I wish they would continue for at least two more seasons. But it’s one of the few shows that I thought its last episode was quite good.

7. BILLIONS, airing 2016-Current

A show about two powerful figures in NYC who’s trying to take down one another and will do anything to accomplish their goals. It’s full of great twists and the performances by the two leads, Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis are spectacular. My only wish is that the show ends on a high note and I think the upcoming season should be its last.

6. BLACK MIRROR, airing 2011-Current

While not every episode worked but this modern-day Twilight Zone show about how our current technology can ruin our lives is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s cleverly written and full of great performances well known actors. I thought many of the episodes looked like a mini movie since they were well shot and directed. White Christmas is definitely my favorite episode. The latest season episodes were quite disappointing but at least they tried to come up with something clever. Hopefully the next season will be better.

5. STRANGER THINGS, airing 2016-Current

A love letter show to the sci-fi thriller films of the 80s and it’s Netflix biggest show. While I wouldn’t call it the most original show, the combination of great performances and well written story lines really makes it one of the best shows in TV right now.

4. THE AMERICANS, aired 2013-2018

Set in the cold war era of 1980s, two Russian spies pose as the average American family in the suburbs of Washington DC. They have two kids who doesn’t know that they’re Russian spies. It’s full of great twists and turns and great performances by the two leads Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys. It’s one of the shows that ended with a very good last episode.

3. GAME OF THRONES, aired 2011-2019

Yes, the last season of this show was disappointing, but I don’t think that should taint the previous seasons of great story and performances. A mix of fantasy and our current political climate, it’s full of great twists and unexpected deaths of main characters. It’s one of the few shows that kept me on the edge of my seat every time I watched it.

2. BREAKING BAD, aired 2008-2013

This show actually started in the late 2000s, but it didn’t end until 2013, so I think it’s safe to put it on my list here. There’s not much to say about this show because it won several awards during its run and I think many people have seen it, so I assume you’d agree with me that it definitely belongs in the best shows of the 2010s list.

1. JUSTIFIED, aired 2010-2015

Probably the most underrated show of the decade and I was surprised that it lasted for more than one season. But I’m glad it did because I really love this show and I hope to see it on the big screen someday. I’ve seen Timothy Olyphant in films where he’s the side character and I was a never a fan of him. But then I started watching this show and his performance as U.S. Marshal Raylan Given became one of my favorite fictional heroes. This was a well written and executed show that got better in each season. I also loved the last episode, a well-constructed conclusion to a great show.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

WESTWORLD, airing 2016-Current 

I probably would’ve put this show on the list but currently it only has two seasons, but I think it’s one of best thing currently on TV.

 

 

THE WALKING DEAD, airing 2010-Current

The first 5 seasons of this show was one of the best on TV, but I stopped watching it about 3 years ago. The writing has gone downhill and they killed off so many of the characters that I cared about, it’s hard for me to keep watching it.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


Those are the shows I thought were the best from the last decade. I know that I left out some other well-known shows.

What are some your own favorite shows of the past decade?

The FlixList: Five BEST and WORST Stephen King’s film adaptations

With second part of Stephen King’s IT (It Chapter Two – check out our review) just hit theaters this past weekend and DOCTOR SLEEP later in November, I thought I should list my 5 best and worst films based on his novels. Now, I haven’t seen all of the films that were based on his books, so I don’t have any opinion on these films: CAT’S EYE, THE NIGHT FLIER, RIDING THE BULLET, 1408, DOLAN’S CADILLAC & CELL. The list contains ONLY films that were based on his novels and short stories, I’m not listing the TV movies or shows that were also based on his books.

Here are my top 5 BEST films based on King’s work:

  1. MISERY (1990)
    A perfect casting of the main leads, Kathy Bates was so frightening as the obsessed fan of James Cann’s Paul Sheldon. This is one of the few films that I thought was better than the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the book was excellent, but I did not want to see some of the things that King wrote on the pages appear on the screen, anyone who read book knows what I’m talking about. I’m also glad they changed the infamous leg scene in the film, in the book it’s much worse than what was filmed.
  2. THE GREEN MILE (1999)
    One of the few films that actually made me cry when I first saw it. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the gentle giant John Coffey, the wrongly accused killer. Of course, Tom Hanks was perfect as Paul Edgecomb and Sam Rockwell was stellar as Wild Bill Howell. Not as good as the novel but one of the best films of 1999.

  3. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
    I remember reading this book when I was in 8
    th or 9th grade, it took me a while to finish but I loved it. I was hesitant to watch the film version but I’m glad I did. Great performances by Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. I think the film version was a pretty faithful adaptation.

  4. THE MIST (2007)
    Minus the terrible visual effects, this was a great film about what fear can do to everyday people. I thought Marcia Gay Harden should’ve received Oscar nomination for her role as Mrs. Carmody, one of the best villain roles I’ve ever seen. I think the film’s more well known for its bleak ending. The film deserves to be talked about more as one of King’s best adaptations.

  5. THE SHINING (1980)
    The film wasn’t a faithful adaptation of the source novel but it’s a film by Stanley Kubrick, so you know he’s going to do it his way. According to King, Kubrick would constantly call him late at night to go over the script during the shoot, ironically when the film was released, King has stated that he didn’t like it. Apparently, Kubrick wanted to make a film that would be appealing to general audiences and he needed a box office hit since many of his films weren’t making any money. The film did okay box office wise but it’s now considered one of the best horror films ever made.

Now, the top 5 WORST films based on King’s work:

  1. THE DARK TOWER (2017)
    Ron Howard spent many years trying to get this film to the big screen but studio executives at Universal Studios were nervous about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that has mixed genres of western, sci-fi, horror and action/adventure. The rights went to Sony and they decided to give writer/director Nikolaj Arcel a chance to adapt this story based on King’s opus novels to the big screen and the results was disastrous.
    Like many people, I skipped seeing it at a theater but decided to rent it. I was pretty pissed when I finally saw it, I’ve been waiting to see The Dark Tower hitting the big screen for so long and what I saw was something that looked like it’s made by an amateur filmmaker. I wasn’t fan of the cast either, I think Idris Elba is a great actor but he’s not the right choice to play Roland. Mathew McConaughey as Roland’s nemesis Walter aka The Man in Black was a joke. Everything about this film was a disaster and it’s one of the worst films of the decade in my opinion. Now that Amazon has the rights to the novels, hopefully they can finally do a faithful adaptation.

  2. THE RUNNING MAN (1987)

    Besides the title and concept, the film has little to do with King’s novel. If you look as just another silly Arnold’s action film in the 80s, it’s a decent film. But it’s based on one of my favorite King’s novels and I thought it’s pretty bad. With our current political climate, I think this film deserves a remake that stays true to the book. I would love it if a filmmaker like Chris Nolan or Ridley Scott adapts it for the big screen.

  3. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1987)
    I remember I was pretty freaked out when I read this short story and was excited to see the film version. But the film was so boring and not scary at all. It’s one of the few films based on King’s story that I don’t remember much about.

  4. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
    The only film that Stephen King himself directed (he also wrote the screenplay) based on his own story and it’s pretty terrible. According to King himself, he’s so high on cocaine while making this film that he didn’t know what he’s doing and it shows on the screen. The film was pretty incoherent, and the cast looked like they had no idea what they were supposed to do.

  5. NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)
    Not one of my favorites of King’s novels but it’s still a good read. I thought it could never translate well into film and I was right. Despite its excellent castings of Max Von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and JT Walsh, the film has nothing going on for it. The long runtime didn’t help either, I was so bored when I rented it on home video and almost turned it off halfway through.

So those are my 5 best and worst films based on King’s novels. I know I left out some of the more popular films like CARRIE, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, CUJO, FIRESTARTER and CREEPSHOW. I liked those films, but I didn’t think they were the best or worst. 


TedS_post


How about you? Feel free to list your top films based on King’s novels.

FlixChatter Review: ANGEL HAS FALLEN (2019)

I’m not the biggest fan of the FALLEN franchise. In fact, I hated the first one and I thought the second was tolerable but still not very good. Both weren’t huge box office hits yet somehow Gerard Butler was able to convince a studio to produce another adventure of his mean-spirited hero character Mike Bannon.

After a battle simulation at his old army pal Wade Jennings’ (Danny Huston) private military facility, Mike Bannon (Gerard Butler) starts having migraine and almost passed out. As it turns out, his heroic antics from saving the President and the world have consequences. He’s constantly popping pain killer pills because of the migraines and has aches all over his body. Yet he’s still thinks he can be a field agent and was hesitant to accept the role of Director of Secret Services when President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) offered him the job.

When Bannon and his team took the President on a fishing trip, they were attacked with drones equipped with explosives. The ambush killed everyone on Bannon’s team except him and the President. Now in the hospital and being handcuffed, Bannon is being accused of attempting to assassinate the President and he’s being interviewed by FBI agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith). Thompson wants to know why he’s the only survivor during the attack and why his bank account now contains $10mil. Of course, Bannon denies being involved in the attack but since Trumbull is in a coma, no one can back up his innocence plea. When the FBI decided to move Bannon to jail, they were attacked by the people who’s behind the assassination attempt and Bannon was able to escape during the chaos.

Now on the run, Bannon needs to use not only his physical skills but also his wits in order to save the President and prove his innocent. He can’t do it alone, so he decided to visit his long-lost father Clay (Nick Nolte) who’s been living in the forest to avoid being monitored by the government. While back in DC, Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) is being sworn in as a temporary President and wants to avenge Trumbull’s assassination attempt by starting a war with Russia. Kirby believes the Russians is behind the attack and that Bannon is their secret agent.

The screenplay is credited to three writers, Matt Cook, Robert Mark Kamen and Ric Roman Waugh who’s also the film’s director. Their story is pretty simple and has been seen in other films before like THE FUGITIVE & AIR FORCE ONE. The audience can pretty much figure out what’s going on before the hero does. I mentioned earlier that Bannon is mean spirited in the previous films but I’m glad the writers tone down his love of violence and he seemed to not enjoy killing the bad guys so much in this film. Maybe because of our current political climate, they decided to make him more likable and not some jerk who loves killing people.

With a reported budget of $80mil, the highest in the series, the film looked like it’s super low budget. I’m not sure what sort of look cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin was going for, but the film looks like it’s a 90s direct-to-video movie. It’s inexcusable for any film to look this cheap from a major studio in today’s world of filmmaking. It’s full of bad compositions and I don’t think they even give much thoughts to color corrections during post production. I’ve seen films that looked great with half the budget. Director Waugh didn’t do much better, the action scenes were underwhelmed and very generic. Compared to the first two films, this one lacks the big action set pieces. With a bigger budget, I would assume it’s going be non-stop action, but the biggest action took place in the film’s climax at a hospital.

Performances by the actors were pretty decent. Butler decided to give a more “realistic” take on his character. He’s worn down and actually didn’t look like a super-agent killer like the previous films. Nolte’s character somehow became the comedic sidekick, which is a welcome in this series that takes itself too seriously. I’ve always like Danny Huston but his antagonist role here is pretty one dimensional and his motivation towards the end of the film is kind of moronic; that’s not his fault of course since it’s written that way. Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI agent role could’ve been played by an unknown actor, not sure why she even accepted this role since she didn’t have much to do and hardly has any screen time. I can only assume her role was bigger in the script but was trimmed down during the editing process.

Despite my not-so-great review, I still think this one is the “best” in the series. But then again, the first two films set a pretty low bar and I actually enjoyed this one and the story kept my attention. While the last two films, I only wanted to see the shootouts and explosions. If you’re a fan of the series, then you might enjoy it, or you might be turned off by the lighter tone and less violence on Mike Bannon’s latest adventure.

TedS_post


So have you seen ANGEL HAS FALLEN? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: HOBBS & SHAW (2019)

If you were to tell me back in 2001 that a simple action film about cops and robbers would’ve spawn several sequels and now a spin-off and became one of the most profitable movie franchises in Hollywood, I would’ve laughed in your face. But almost 20 years later, that’s exactly what happened. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw both appeared in the last two FAST & FURIOUS films and with a good chemistry in the last film, the big wigs at Universal Studios decided to milk the franchise even more by making a movie about them.

When a group of MI6 agents decided break into a secure area to steal a deadly virus called Snowflake from some very bad people, they were interrupted by another set of bad guys and to prevent the bad guys from getting the virus, MI6 group’s leader Hattie (Venessa Kirby) decided to inject the virus into her body. This of course upsets the bad guys’ leader Lore (Idris Elba), a man with the speed and strength of a super human and in fact he refers to himself as Black Superman. Hattie being some kind of a super spy herself, was able to escape from Lore and his men. Now on the run not just from the bad buys but her own agency and the CIA, Hattie is going to need some help in order to survive.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) now lives a simple life with his daughter in Los Angeles. When his old CIA agent pal shows up (a famous face cameo) and ask him to go to London and track down Hattie and the Snowflake virus, Hobbs wasn’t interested. Of course, he changed his mind when his pal said the virus is very contagious and will wiped out everyone on earth if it ends up on the wrong hands. Once he landed in London, Hobbs runs into someone he doesn’t like very much, Shaw (Jason Statham). As it turns out, Shaw was also recruited by the CIA to track down the virus and Hattie. But Shaw comes willingly because of personal reason, Hattie is his sister. After some bickering, Hobbs and Shaw located Hattie but so did Lore and his men. What follows is a chase that spans across the globe. Since this is still under the FAST & FURIOUS brand, the film includes several big car chases, shoot outs and hand to hand combats.

The last three FAST & FURIOUS films were in the same style as the James Bond and Mission: Impossible films and that’s exactly how this one turned out. In fact, writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce stole so many elements from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 and SKYFALL that fans of those films will notice the similarities. The film looks great and I appreciate that director David Leitch shot every action scene with care and didn’t go with the annoying fast editing and shaky style that plagued a lot of action films within the last decade. Unfortunately, most of the action were pretty boring to me, with the exception of a nifty motorcycle and car chase through the streets of London, the rest of the set pieces were just too bland and over CGI’d. I also think Leitch is not a very good storyteller, I enjoyed his last film DEADPOOL 2, but his other action picture ATOMIC BLONDE was kind of a dud. That film has so much potential to be great, but I found the pacing to be off and that’s how I feel about this film. The film relied too much on Johnson and Statham, but their constant bantering gets tiresome real fast. I think with a director who has more experience with comedy, it would’ve been a fun summer flick.

As usual, Johnson and Statham were good in their respective roles. They knew what kind of film they’re making and had fun with it. But as I mentioned before, their constant insults to one another got old and felt forced as the film progresses. After seeing her in last summer’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT, I was a fan of Venessa Kirby. I felt like she kind of look lost in this film. She wasn’t bad or anything, I just think comedy might not be her strength, but she did looked good doing all the action stuff. Her character is supposed to be close in age to Statham’s character, but in real life, he’s old enough to be her father. It would’ve been better if they’d written her character as his long-lost daughter or something besides being basically his twin sister.

Elba looked like he’s having fun with his evil role, but I don’t like seeing this pattern of him being cast as the villain in big budget films. Ever since I saw him in THE WIRE, I was a fan and thought he would be the hero in big action films by now and not the villain. Let’s hope he turn down any other villain role that studios will likely offer him again.

I believe this is the last of the big budget film of the summer and I thought it kind of underwhelmed. The film has potential to be a fun ride, but it’s just stuck in one mode and never really took off. Besides some laughs from a couple of famous cameos, the comedy also fell flat. Not the worst in the franchise (that belongs to part 2 and 3) but nowhere near as fun or exciting as the franchise’s best FAST FIVE.

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So have you seen HOBBS & SHAW? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

Quentin Tarantino’s last two films were westerns, both were a tribute to his favorite genre, the spaghetti western. He’s now back with another tribute, this time to his favorite film decade and town, the 60s in Hollywood. Specifically 1969, the year that many people have said changed the Hollywood movie industry.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) was once a popular leading man starring in a hit western show in the 50s. But when his show got cancelled, his star power went with it. He’s only able to land villainous role but still had hopes that some director will hire him as the leading man in their film or TV show. On a night out with his best friend/body double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), they ran into a film producer named Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino).

Schwarzs made a proposition to Dalton, go to Italy and be a leading man in their Western films. Dalton was of course offended; he thinks he’s above that kind of films and doesn’t want to work outside of Hollywood. Obviously, QT is using Clint Eastwood’s real-life career as a model for Dalton’s in this film. Dalton decided to accept another villainous role in a western show starring James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant). He also tried to get his buddy Cliff some stunt work on the new show.

But Cliff’s reputation around town isn’t good, so when Dalton’s at work, he drives around Hollywood and one day meets a hippie named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). Pussycat belongs to Charles Manson’s cult. Any fans of QT knows that his films don’t really have a plot, it just random things happening to the characters on the screen. And this film is no different. He introduced a bunch of famous people at that period of time including Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who happens to be a neighbor of Dalton’s. The entire film is kind of a build-up to the murder of Tate’s and her friends by the Manson cult members.

Performances by DiCaprio and Pitt were great. DiCaprio really embraced the has-been actor role and he’s hilarious in every scene he’s in. Pretty sure he’ll get another Oscar nomination. Pitt’s character on the hand is more reserved. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have any funny lines, some of the scenes with Cliff were quite funny. Including a scene where he has a tussle with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Robbie’s Tate on the hand, was more like a fantasy role. It’s hard to explain but maybe because Tate’s career was cut short because she was murdered and we don’t know much about her, and it’s the reason why QT wrote the character this way.

Visually, this is another stunning film shot by Tarantino’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson. QT is one of the few filmmakers left in Hollywood that still prefer shooting in film, so this picture has that old school film look to it. With a reported budget of close to $100mil, QT’s largest production budget, he’s able to create the look and feel of the late 60s that I assume anyone who’s alive around that time would appreciate.

I don’t consider this to be one of QT’s best film, I think it’s middle of the road. At close to 3 hours longs, the film needed some further editing. There were several scenes that should’ve been cut or shorten. I think this is where QT’s longtime late editor Sally Menke would’ve helped and probably would’ve made the film a bit tighter. Also, the music selection and themes were quite forgettable. Many of his previous films contained great music but not this one.

It may not be one of his best work but it’s still better than many of the films currently playing in theaters right now. If you’re a fan of the actors or QT, then I would recommend you see this one at your local theater.

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So have you seen ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD? Well, what did you think?

Guest Post: A tribute for the late JOHN SINGLETON

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On April 29, 2019 director John Singleton passed away after suffering from stroke. He was only 51 years old.

Singleton had a somewhat successful career in Hollywood. Even though he was the youngest film director ever to have been nominated by the Oscars for his first film BOYZ N’ THE HOOD, his career never reached the heights of some of the more well-known directors today (David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Ang Lee) that started their careers in the late 80s and early 90s. For the last few years before his death, Singleton has been working mostly on TV shows. He’s the creator of one of my current favorite TV shows called SNOWFALL.

As a tribute to his work, I’m listing my favorite films that he directed. In no particular order, here are some of his best work. Just a side-note, I didn’t see two of his films, BABY BOY and ABDUCTION.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Before this film came out, not many films dealt with the tough life in the ghetto of Los Angeles. To many outsiders, it was an eye opener of what life is like living in those rough neighborhoods. The film was a critical and commercial success. Not bad for a filmmaker who was only in his early 20s. The performances by Laurence Fishburn and Cuba Gooding Jr. were pretty great.

Shaft (2000)

After doing a few smaller budget films, Singleton decided to jump into a big budget studio film. A sequel to the 70s Blaxploitation films, it didn’t become the franchise starter the studio had hoped. In fact, the film was more well known for its behind the scenes dramas. According to reports, Singleton and his leading man Samuel L. Jackson constantly argue on the set. Singleton also had disagreements with the film’s producer and writer on the tone and script. So basically, it’s the usual nightmare that many young filmmakers would run into in their first big budget film.

The film opened in the summer of 2000, it did okay at the box office. Despite the difficult shoot, Singleton apparently wanted to do a sequel and tried to convince Sam Jackson to reprise the role. But Jackson was not happy with the film and also with the modest box office returns, Paramount didn’t want to invest their money on the sequel.

Rosewood (1997)

This might be one of the most underrated films of the 90s. A film about the horrific lynch mob attack on an African America community in 1923. For anyone who’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it. It contains great performances by Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Jon Voight. When the film came out in 1997, it received mostly positive reviews but it bombed at the box office. Maybe because of this film’s failure at the box office that Singleton decided to jump into doing big budget studio films such as Shaft and Fast Furious 2.

Poetic Justice

A great performance by Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur. I also loved this film’s soundtrack. This is a film I need to revisit soon since I haven’t seen since it came out over 20 years ago.

Higher Learning (1995)

This film’s about race relation in college campus is probably more relevance in today’s world than many would think back in 1994. I haven’t seen this film since I saw it on opening weekend with my friends back in early 90s, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I liked it but some of the stuff that happened in the film were kind of over the top and a bit cliché. This is another one of Singleton’s work that I need to revisit.

Four Brothers

This was Singleton’s last big-budget production film. A kind of strange action thriller that I still didn’t know how it got green lighted by the studio. The film starred Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t that interesting and the action scenes were pretty lackluster.

John Singleton was not one of my favorite directors but he had enough talents that I thought he can make a big comeback. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could but I appreciate his films.

Rest in Peace Mr. Singleton. 


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What are some of YOUR favorite films by John Singleton?