Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood Movie Review (Spoiler-Free)

Tarantino’s latest visual epic is an ode to everything about classic Hollywood, set in the backdrop of the Manson murders.

In his ninth directorial outing, Quentin Tarantino expresses his nostalgic love of the 1950s and 60s alongside his typical propensity for a spell of ultra violence. Straight away its important to establish a few key points regarding how the film is framed and what it sets out to achieve.

Our protagonists are leading man Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Pitt). In what seems to be an analogue as a stand in for a Clint Eastwood type, especially with how Dalton makes his name on a 1950s Western show, Bounty Law, similarly to Eastwood’s ascent from his time on Rawhide, we see Dalton’s career rise and fall against the changing landscape of not only L.A. but the film industry as a whole.

Even if you don’t know the tragic true story of the Manson family murders and the eventual real world fate of Sharon Tate, the movie does an excellent job in giving a respectful, classy and balanced account of the time period, in a way that mixes in the fictional characters with that of real world counterparts such as Bruce Lee and Roman Polanski, giving an aura of authencity to this alternative almost fairytale take on events.

Make no mistake that this is a long movie with a lot to see and a tonne of background substance and subtle references hidden in there. If you’re going into this film expecting constant and in your face high-octane thrills and carange for the best part of three hours, then you may leave the cinema slightly disappointed. Hollywood is a movie that expects a certain level of patience out of the viewer and has no issue in slowing the pacing down to accentuate a particular moment, or in just letting the setting speak for itself with scenes such as Tarantino’s synomymous dialogue exchanges or leisurely drives around the streets of Los Angeles to give that tried and true sense of care and depth that the director is known for.

It certainly does help to have a knowledge of the time period and of the subject matter highlighted in this film but it is far from essential to enjoy the ride that the film wants to take you on. The acting in and of itself is second to none with the entire cast turning in some of their best performances of the career, DiCaprio’s Dalton is a complex and realistic vessel for in which we can experience both the glitz and glamour as well as the seedy side of Tinseltown. There are many rich callbacks to a lot of classic movies intergrated beautifully into the flick, including the likes of: James Bond, The Great Escape and Rosemary’s Baby to name a few.

There is a lot of great and gratuitous violence as well as some fun action scenes that really keep the momentum going and avert fears of boredom. Understandably though, I would not be surprised if the film was deemed sluggish or uneventful by certain viewers, despite the fact that I wholeheartedly refute that assumption and disagree, this is still a big budget  and high profile movie, releasing at the same time as The Lion King live action remake and another Fast and Furious film, Hollywood may be a bit too full on or indulgent for those kinds of people.

Ultimately what we have here is a star-studded fantastical glimpse into the golden age of Hollywood, stunningly recreated for the modern day, with its unique shine and charm giving way to the grizzly events that transpire. It may take a few more viewings to fully appreciate and it definitely is going to be one of the director’s more divisive movies, but if you have the patience and the stomach for it, then Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is undoubtedly one of the best movies that you will see all year.

The Best Metal Albums of 2018

The previous year brought us some outstanding releases from bands old and new, especially in the field of extreme metal, which is largely what we will be focusing on tonight.

It’s taken a long time for me to compile my thoughts and reign in what I believe to be the best of the year, with that said and in no particular order; Pit of Plagues presents the best metal albums of 2018.

jord

Mol – Jord

In April, Mol finally released their debut album Jord, a crushing mix of black metal riffs and atmospheric beauty, in the vein of bands such as Deafheaven and Alcest. However, what sets them apart is the emotional range of vocalist Kim and his unique approach to extreme vocals. The swelling depth to the masterful guitar work which weaves so eloquently in with the powerful reverb-heavy double kicks and blast beats, all culminates into a truly moving and beautiful experience unlike any other. I also had the pleasure to meet the band after their set performance at Damnation Festival which is what truly sold me on their style. Do not miss out on this band, they are something special.

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Uada – Cult of a Dying Sun

Melodic black metal newcomers Uada return with an astounding second album, Cult of a Dying Sun. This release is something which genuinely caught me off-guard as before Cult, I never knew of the band and quickly fell in love. Dripping with punishing choking melodies, brutal rhythms and a horrific blackened demonic vocal performance. The album has elements of latter-era Paradise Lost with the slow-winding lead playing coupled with the edge of Dissection and technicality of Emperor. For fans of melodic metal, this is for you. For people who enjoy their metal black, this is for you. It is almost transcendental of genre due to the magnitude and scope of the release and should not be skipped over.

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Gra – Vasen

Over the last year or two Gra have genuinely become one of my favourite bands and their brand of cold old-school black metal is something that I cannot get enough of. Known as the vocalist of Dark Funeral, Heljarmadr’s guitar playing and outstanding voice lend itself beautifully to a vicious attack on the senses. It is a little more melodic, tamer and composed than Ending but the Norse blood runs cold in these veins. It will not re-invent the wheel but it just might set the world alight.

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At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself

The masters of Melodic Death Metal return. Gothenburg’s lasting legacy is safe in the hands of At The Gates and on album six they prove it with flying colours. Following up on 2014’s comeback album, At War With Reality, Drink has more of a sharp edge to it. The refined old-school riffs are reminiscent of The Red in the Sky is Ours especially but with the benefits of time and modern production. It’s fierce and does not sacrifice what made them the monumental name in death metal that they became. It’s everything you could ever want from them perfected to a tee.

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Obscura – Diluvium

The level of technicality and in-your-face guitar riffs make this album a stand out in and of itself. As far as technical death metal goes, of recent years many bands in that genre have began to sound so similar. Where the level of playing and showman performance outshines and washes out the potential for strong songwriting. Obscura have managed once again to write a catchy, heavy and impressive album that empowers the listener like few other albums I heard last year. Immense would be the best way to describe the layers and depth to what Obscura have dropped.

1914

1914 – Blind Leading The Blind

Horrifying. That’s the only way to accurately try to summarise my thoughts on 1914’s latest album. It’s a release that has genuinely haunted me since I first heard it months ago, and this is due largely in part to the brutal riffs, the hollow agonised screams and the expert use of sampling that features throughout. This album tells a grand story on both sides, the futility of The Great War as pictured for both the Axis and the Allies. I can’t say I enjoyed every moment of it, I think enjoyment is not the right word. It’s an experience, it’s visceral. As dark and savage in tone as subject matter, this is essential listening.

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Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

I still cannot put into words what this album means to me. From the album title itself, the fact I have their symbols inked on my arms, and the overall message is clear to me. As Nergal said once, they couldn’t top The Satanist, at least in terms of the title and its impact, so they went a different direction. Darkest is tamer in places and features acoustic guitar parts, clean singing in choruses and less sharpness when it comes to guitar tone and production. However, all of these artistic choices culminate together for a more refined, mature and artistic album as a result. It is catchy, It is memorable and it gets their new message across. The Satanist was the band proving they were back after Nergal was diagnosed with Leukemia, that they were defiantly taking a stand. Darkest is more comfortable, Behemoth are back on top and more free with nothing to prove anymore.

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Sargeist – Unbound

The best that Finland has to offer, a band which has never done any wrong. Sargeist have never strayed far from their roots of second-wave black metal but have become masters of the craft. At the end of the night, it’s all about the riffs, blastbeats and shrieking vocals. Unbound is the latest step closer towards perfecting their sound and coming into their own. They haven’t done anything to massively shake the foundations of the genre, but they will never have to. Hail Sargeist!

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Dir En Grey – The Insulated World

Perhaps Japan’s greatest and most diverse metal band, Dir En Grey’s latest offering following up 2014’s Arche, is a triumphant return to their older style met with the grandiose scale of their last two albums. This album pulls its influences from all over the place, It’s impossible to nail down and pin point exactly what and who they are. Same time, Dir En Grey’s versatile approach to music is as fascinating now, ten albums in, as it was when they first hit the scene and all that they achieved throughout. The production is so off-kilter in an interesting way, Kyo has never sounded better, the guitar work is so varied and emotes so powerfully. It’s an album you have to hear to believe and its up there with Withering To Death, Gauze and The Marrow of Bone as their best. I had the pleasure to finally see them live back in October and they truly are one of the best bands in the world. Long may their chaos reign.

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When Plagues Collide – Tutor of the Dying

Melodic, symphonic, brutal and overall heavy as fuck. When Plagues Collide’s debut album is absolutely outstanding. It’s dark and disgustingly gritty, paired with the violent vocal performances, pounding drums and savage guitar riffs. It’s modern, if this is the new age of Deathcore then I am fully supportive of a new rising blend of darkness.

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Abandoned By Light – Our Fortress is the Rain – The Angel Experiment Part II

An outstanding masterclass in melancholic black metal from one of England’s most prolific creators of the cold and the dark. Not too much I can say on this one here as to not repeat myself but full review available on the site here: https://pitofplagues.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/abandoned-by-light-our-fortress-is-the-rain-the-angel-experiment-part-ii-album-review/

Honourable Mentions:

Ghost – Prequelle
Megaherz – Komet
Abigor – Hollenzwang
Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
Korpiklaani – Kulkija
Aborted – Terrorvision
Groza – Unified in Void
Watain – Wolf Trident Eclipse
Cryogenic Defilement – Worldwide Extermination