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payne’s picks

By Sarah Payne

Movie Release

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – July 26th – It was widely reported that Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie, received a seven-minute standing ovation after its debut at Cannes Film Festival in May. I could hardly contain my eyeroll when I read the headline – because of course Hollywood gave an over-the-top standing ovation celebrating itself. Deadline describes the film – set in Los Angeles in 1969 – as Tarantino’s, “tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.” DiCaprio plays TV star Rick Dalton and Pitt plays his stunt double. Robbie plays Sharon Tate, an actress who was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969 when she was eight months pregnant. Critics aren’t giving much away in their reviews, but given Tarantino’s love of violence, I’m willing to bet we see all the gory details. A New York Times review of the film explains the sympathy Tarantino shows for Tate, and “adoration expressed toward Polanski” – Tate’s then-husband. That’s interesting, considering Polanski has been a fugitive of U.S. since he plead guilty to statutory rape in 1978. Hollywood may have had its glory days “once upon a time,” but it never ceases to be laughably hypocritical. To Hollywood, supporting movements like #MeToo in the same breath as celebrating a confessed rapist makes complete sense.

Movie Review – John Wick 3 – This month marks a significant turning point in my life – the moment I became a diehard Keanu Reeves fan. Over the years, I’ve only seen a handful of his movies and admittedly paid him very little attention. But after seeing his interview with Stephen Colbert, in which his answer to “What happens after we die?” went viral, I started reading the Keanu Reeves Wikipedia page and went down a rabbit hole. Not only is Reeves an all-around kind human being who never wants credit for his charity, he’s also experienced significant personal tragedy. He’s a really interesting person, and here’s what’s even more surprising: I really enjoyed “John Wick 3.” I never saw the previous two films, but I really enjoyed the theatrics and the choreography of the fight scenes. I was a bit taken aback by the violence at first, but was soon won over by the over-the-top antics of the John Wick world – like samurai sword fighting on motorcycles.

Movie Review – Always Be My Maybe – It just so happens that the same month I become a diehard Keanu Reeves fan, he makes an absolutely hilarious guest appearance (as himself) in Netflix’s new romantic comedy, “Always Be My Maybe.” The film is co-written by Ali Wong and Randall Park (also the film’s co-stars), and it was made because Wong was quoted in a New Yorker article that she and Park wanted to write their version of “When Harry Met Sally.” Fans on social media demanded they make the film and it eventually debuted on Netflix last month. It’s a really cute story about childhood friends who grow apart and find each other later in life. There are also some great messages about female empowerment in there too. But my absolute favorite scene is Keanu Reeve’s brief but memorable cameo. I don’t want to give too much away, but I read that he ad-libbed much of the scene, proving he’s got a killer sense of humor too.

TV Review – Chernobyl – All the amazing things you’ve heard about the new HBO mini-series are true. My only complaint is that there aren’t more episodes. The five-episode series, now the highest-rated show of all-time on IMDB, covers the tragic 1968 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It was written by Craig Mazin, who was also behind all three movies in “The Hangover” series. “Chernobyl” is much darker, and casts a critical eye on communist secrecy and bureaucracy that ultimately caused the disaster, cost countless lives, and slowed evacuation and clean-up efforts. The entire cast is remarkable. Jared Harris, who you may remember from “Mad Men,” plays the Soviet chemist who was brought in to help with the clean-up efforts. One of my favorite character is the wife of a fireman who responded to the initial blast. She’s played by Jessie Buckley, an Irish singer, and is based on a real person who survived the disaster. Mazin and director Johan Renck are meticulous in their re-creation of the Soviet Union at that time – from the accuracy of the buttons that appear in nuclear control room to the outfits the firemen and miners wore in clean-up efforts