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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Manson’

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Al Pacino

“ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD”  My rating: B+

161 minutes |MPAA  rating: R

Crammed with alternately bleak and raucous humor, a palpable affection for Tinseltown’s past and peccadilloes, and enough pop cultural references to fuel a thousand trivia nights, “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” is a moviegoer’s dream.

Here writer/director Quentin Tarantino eschews his worst tendencies (especially his almost adolescent addiction to racial name-calling) and delivers a story that despite many dark edges leaves us basking in the sunny California sunshine.

Each scene has been exquisitely crafted with every element — art direction, costuming, cinematography, editing, acting — meshing in near perfection.

In the process Tarantino rewrites history, blithely turning a real-life tragedy into a fictional affirmation of positivity. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The heroes (??) of this 2 1/2-hour opus are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a star of TV westerns who now (the time is 1969) sees his career circling the crapper, and his stunt double, the laconic tough guy Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who not only steps in to perform dangerous feats on the set but serves as Rick’s best bud, Man Friday and chauffeur (Rick’s had one too man DUIs).

Tarantino’s script finds the  alternately cocky and weepy Rick (DiCaprio has rarely been better) lamenting his fading status in the industry (he’s been reduced to playing villains in episodic TV) and contemplating the offer of a semi-sleazy producer (Al Pacino) to make spaghetti Westerns in Europe.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate

Cliff, meanwhile, picks up an underaged hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) who takes him to one of his old haunts, the Spahn ranch, an Old West movie set now occupied by one Charles Manson and his family of hippie misfits.

Newly arrived at the home next to Rick’s on Cielo Drive is director Roman Polanski and his beautiful actress wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Tate is a sweetheart, an all-American beauty radiating an almost angelic innocence and positivity. But we can’t help twitching in anxiety…after all, everybody knows that in ’69 she and her houseguests were the victims of a horrific murder spree by Manson’s brainwashed minions.

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Matt Smith as Charles Manson

“CHARLIE SAYS” My rating: B-

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The murderous Charles Manson family has been the subject of countless films, TV shows and documentaries. “Charlie Says” approaches the yarn from the point of view of one of his “girls.”

Written by Guinevere Turner and directed by Mary Harron (the same team who brought us “American Psycho” nearly 20 years ago), the film is less about Manson (portrayed here by “Dr. Who” veteran Matt Smith) than about Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten, a runaway teen who wandered into Charlie’s harem at the Spahn Ranch (a Western movie set just outside L.A.) and ended up a convicted killer on Death Row.

Lulu is portrayed by Hannah Murray, a Brit actress best known on these shores as Samwell Tarley’s wife Gilly on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Her role on GOT doesn’t begin to suggest the depth of her work here, in which her character evolves from moon-faced innocent to blood spattered loony who repeatedly stabbed one of the family’s victims.

In the “present” (about 1973) we find Lulu, Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan”Sadie” Atkins (Marianne Rendon) occupying separate cells in a California prison.  The state has recently outlawed executions,  but the three women are considered too dangerous to join the rest of the prison population, and so can look forward to living their lives alone own Death Row, able to call to one another but only rarely actually seeing  their comrades’ faces.

Enter a grad student (Merritt Wever) who convinces the prison administration to allow her to hold classes for the three.  During these sessions — ostensibly about women’s studies and other topics — the inmates talk about their lives with Charles Manson.  These scenes unfold in flashbacks.

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