REVIEW: ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Starring

Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)
Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog)
Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys)
Timothy Olyphant (Santa CLarita Diet)
Julia Butters (American Housewife)
Austin Butler (Arrow)
Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8)
Bruce Dern (Freaks)
Mike Moh (Inhumans)
Luke Perry (Riverdale)
Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Al Pacino (The Devil’s Advocate)
Brenda Vaccaro (Supergirl)
Nicholas Hammond (Stealth)
Samantha Robinson (Cam)
Lena Dunham (This is 40)
Harley Quinn Smith (Yoga Hosers)
Danielle Harris (Halloween 4)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Dreama Walker (Compliance)
Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Mindy Project)
Rumer Willis (Return To Sender)
Clu Gulager (Feast)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
Rebecca Gayheart (Dead Like Me)
Kurt Russell (The Christmas Chronicles)
Zoë Bell (The Hateful Eight)
Michael Madsen (Species)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Quentin Tarantino (Planet Terror)
Maurice Compte (Power)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Perla Haney-Jardine (Steve Jobs)

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)In February 1969, Hollywood actor Rick Dalton, star of 1950s Western television series Bounty Law, fears his career is over. Casting agent Marvin Schwarz advises him to make Spaghetti Westerns, which Dalton feels are beneath him. Dalton’s friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth —– a war veteran who lives in a trailer with his pit bull, Brandy —– drives Dalton around because Dalton’s alcoholism has resulted in multiple DUIs. Booth struggles to find work due to rumors that he murdered his wife. Actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, have moved next door to Dalton, who dreams of befriending them to restore his status. That night, Tate and Polanski attend a celebrity-filled party at the Playboy Mansion.Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)The next day, Booth repairs Dalton’s TV antenna. He reminisces about a sparring contest he had with Bruce Lee on the set of The Green Hornet, resulting in Booth being fired. Charles Manson stops by the Polanski residence looking for Terry Melcher, who used to live there, but is turned away by Jay Sebring. Tate goes for errands and stops at a movie theater to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew. While driving Dalton’s car, Booth picks up a hitchhiker, named Pussycat. He drops her off at Spahn Ranch, where Booth once filmed Bounty Law. He notices the hippies living there (the Manson Family). Suspecting they are taking advantage of the owner, George Spahn, Booth insists on checking on him despite Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s objections. Spahn dismisses Booth’s fears. Booth discovers that Steve “Clem” Grogan slashed a tire on Dalton’s car; Booth beats him and forces him to change it. Tex Watson is asked to deal with the situation but arrives as Booth drives away.Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)Dalton plays a villain on the pilot of Lancer, and strikes up a conversation with his eight-year-old co-star, Trudi Fraser, a committed Method actor. Dalton struggles with his dialogue. After having a breakdown in his trailer, Dalton delivers a performance that impresses Fraser and the director, Sam Wanamaker, bolstering Dalton’s confidence. After watching Dalton’s guest performance on an episode of The F.B.I., Schwarz books him as the lead of Sergio Corbucci’s next Western, Nebraska Jim. Dalton takes Booth with him for a six month stint in Italy, during which he appears in two additional Westerns and a Eurospy comedy, and marries Italian starlet Francesca Capucci. Dalton informs Booth he can no longer afford his services.Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)On the evening of their first day back Dalton and Booth go out for drinks, then return to Dalton’s house. Booth smokes an acid-laced cigarette and takes Brandy for a walk. Tex, Susan Atkins, Linda “Flower Child” Kasabian, and Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel park outside in preparation to murder everyone in Tate’s house. Dalton hears the car and orders them to leave. Changing their plans, they decide to kill Dalton after Sadie reasons Hollywood “taught them to murder”. Flower Child drives off, deserting the other three. They break into Dalton’s house and confront Capucci and Booth, who recognizes them from Spahn Ranch. Booth orders Brandy to attack, and together they kill Katie and Tex and severely injure Sadie. Booth is injured in the altercation. Sadie stumbles outside, alarming Dalton, who was listening to music on headphones, oblivious to the mayhem. He retrieves a flamethrower – a souvenir from one of his movies – and incinerates her. Booth is hospitalized, Sebring engages Dalton in conversation, and Tate invites Dalton over for drinks.The ending leaves you wondering “What if…” over and over again, questioning what reality would look like if these fictional characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth actually existed. And I think that’s when I realized how perfect the title was: it’s a humorous, fairy-tale (although not completely violent-free) ending to the tragic fate of Hollywood in the 60s…

REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER: DRAGON KNIGHT

CAST

Stephen Lunsford (Bratz)
Matt Mullins (Mortal Kombat: Legacy)
Yvonne Arias (Passions)
William O’Leary (Terminator 3)
Marisa Lauren (Superhero Movie)
Taylor Emerson (Oliver Beane)
Scott Bailey (Backlight)
Kathy Christopherson (Californication)
Carrie Reichenbach (Two and a half Men)
Mike Moh (Greenside)
Christopher Foley (the Assault)
Jeff Davis (Castle)
Camila Greenberg (Patchwork)
Keith Stone (Goy)
Christopher Babers (Santa Barbara)
Mark Dacascos (Agents of SHIELD)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kathleen Gati (Arrow)
Victoria Jackson (Casual Sex?)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)

When people think of an American adaptation of Kamen Rider, their minds usually move towards the abortion that is Saban’s Masked Rider. However it should be known that there is another (and vastly superior) attempt out there that goes by the name of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. Produced back in 2008 (six years after the original airing of its base series Kamen Rider Ryuki) by unknown company Adness Entertainment, Dragon Knight ran for a total of 40 episodes and even won a Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Stunt Coordination”. Sadly the show was cancelled before the final two episodes were aired, with them later appearing with the rest of the series on the 4Kids TV website. The episodes are long gone from there now, but thanks to the wonders of the internet the whole show is still easy to find if you’re curious.

While searching for his missing father, Kit Taylor discovers an Advent Deck while at the same time coming into contact with a mysterious dragon. Using the deck to fight monsters that have suddenly started appearing over the city, Kit butts head with another Rider – Len (Kamen Rider Wing Knight). Len later explains that he and the Kamen Riders are from Ventara, a world behind the mirrors. After his world was captured and the remaining 10 Riders “vented” by the evil General Xaviax, Len has vowed to continue the fight before Earth receives the same fate.

The two join forces to fight Xaviax, but the alien general has his own plans. With the remaining 10 Rider Decks, he can find the mirror twins of the Ventara Riders on Earth – offering them their greatest desires if they agree to sell their planet out and work for him. Its Rider against Rider has an all-out battle begins again, deciding the fate of both Ventara and Earth.

Of course, with a total of 12 (later 14) Riders appearing in the show, there simply isn’t enough time for equal focus. Many of the Riders are watered down in badly developed villain roles, with a select few having real focus. The main stars of the show are of course Kit (Dragon Knight) and Len (Wing Knight), with Kamen Riders Strike, Siren, Sting having crucial roles in the show. Others such as Torque and Axe help the plot along, but the remainder are mostly superficial.

Kit and Len are very well rounded characters, who grow more and more into their roles as the story progresses. Xaviax himself is an incredibly good villain – both charismatic and a master manipulator. It’s just as well his charisma is enough to carry the villain side of the show, because his right-hand man Kamen Rider Strike is a pretty dull servant despite racking up the highest number of “kills” in the show. There are also a number of important side characters – conspiracy theorist/journalist Maya Young, teenage hacker Trent Mosley and their friend Lacey. Despite not really adding a great deal the characters are well integrated into the plot, until eventually both Maya and Trent receive an upgrade of sorts to become characters with very good pay offs. Lacey on the other hand just goes home and not a single thing of value is lost.The use of source footage also feels non-existent in Dragon Knight. While there are certainly Ryuki scenes used (often very noticeably because of the age difference), there is also an insane amount of newly filmed suit scenes and a real effort to use every resource the show had. In Ryuki Kamen Riders Femma, Ryuga and Camo are all relegated to appearances in movies and specials, however Dragon Knight features ALL 13 Riders within its story – Siren (Femme) and, to a lesser extent, Onyx (Ryuga) even being main characters. Another example is Kamen Rider Torque – he’s a bit player in Dragon Knight, but undoubtedly a main character in Ryuki.Image result for KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHTBut despite the highly impressive lengths Dragon Knight has gone to have its own story and footage, it still suffers from a range of problems. Elements such as the contract beasts and the technical originals of the Advent Decks are poorly defined, with far too much of the exposition coming at the end of the show. This makes the tail end of the show extremely rushed, with episode 31 featuring no less than FOUR key moments that could have otherwise had episodes to themselves. The show also bizarrely switches focus in the last six episodes from Kit’s story to that of Adam (the original Dragon Knight and Kit’s mirror twin), with him reclaiming the Deck and Kit becoming the new 13th Rider – Onyx (another issue that’s very poorly explained). While the story is still very enjoyable, changing the focus so close to the end does damage it a little bit.

Image result for KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHTThree clip episodes is also far too many for a 40 episode series, especially when the last episode turns out to be one of them – leaving the epilogue to a total of around five minutes at the end. When your big finale episode is a clip show, it’s not hard to imagine why the show might have been cancelled before the end…Image result for KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHTKamen Rider Dragon Knight is by no means a perfect series, but it is however a perfect example of how to do an adaptation PROPERLY. Despite the story beginning to trail off just when it should be getting to crunch time, it is an extremely well-thought out series that makes good use of its source material while by no means relying on it. Very few Power Rangers series display the level of difference to their Super Sentai counterparts that Dragon Knight does to Ryuki, and that is a highly commendable achievement even if it didn’t have the quality to back it up.