Overly long love letter to pre-1970s Hollywood 4 Stars

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an alternate universe take on the late 1960s Hollywood and the brutal murder of Sharon Tate in particular, something that just does not sit well with this reviewer.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)
Released: 26 Jul 2019
Rated: R
Runtime: 161 min
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch
Writer(s): Quentin Tarantino
Plot: A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: 83

Disc Information
Studio: Sony
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: ABC
Release Date: 12/10/2019
MSRP: $22.99

The Production: 3.5/5

I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m just not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. He’s made some interesting movies (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, his episodes of E.R. and C.S.I.), and a few rather disturbing ones (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol. 1), and the rest fall kind of in-between. His latest, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, falls into that latter category, almost a parallel to Inglorious Basterds in its alternate universe style of story telling. Set in 1969, the film follows washed up actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman sidekick Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton was a mid-level movie star until hitting it big with a western TV series that ran for several years on NBC before his alcoholism caused the quality to decline and eventually its cancellation. He is trying to make ends meet with guest appearances on various one-hour TV dramas, usually playing the villain of the week. Cliff’s job as Rick’s stunt double has also taken a hit, having been accused but never convicted of the murder of his wife, and now works mostly as Rick’s driver and gopher. For the next 2+ hours of the movie’s running time, we as the viewer follow Rick and Cliff as they navigate around Hollywood, ocassionally cutting away to Rick’s neighbors director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her ex-fiancee Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) and the ensemble’s run-ins with serial killer Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) and his minions. If one were not familiar with Tarantino’s work, you would assume the movie would conclude with the tragic and brutal murders of Tate and Sebring. But this is Tarantino’s “vision” or fairy tale story of these events (hence the Once Upon a Time title), making **SPOILER ALERT** Cliff and Rick the heroes of the piece. Yes, the ending is still brutal (in expected over the top violence that Tarantino is known for), but the director gets his happy ending much like he did in Inglorious Basterds, and you can feel the director’s outright love for this period of American movie making.

The performances here are excellent, from leads DiCaprio, Pitt, and Robbie, to supporting and cameo performers like Margaret Qualley and Dakota Fanning as Manson groupies Pussycat and Squeaky Fromme, Timothy Olyphant and Luke Perry as leading actors from Lancer, Al Pacino as agent Marvin Schwarz, Nicholas Hammond as director Sam Wanamaker, Kurt Russell as Stunt Coordinator (and uncredited narrator) Randy Miller, and Bruce Dern as ranch owner George Spahn. For the most part, production designer Barbara Ling gets the look of late 1960s Hollywood correct, and fits in seamlessly within the story. My main problem with the movie was with the unnecesary running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes, with scenes that seem to go on forever (the entire filming of Lancer, especially) that could have been trimmed to allow for running time much closer to two hours.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Sony’s Blu-ray presentation is quite good, presenting the film in an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that retains the film’s theatrical; aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The movie was shot by cinematographer Robert Richardson prmiarily on 35mm film stock, with some use of 16mm and Super 8mm. Colors are heavily stylized to have that late 1960s/early 1970s look that movies from that period often exhibited, with a lean toward warm yellows. Detail is excellent, from Brad Pitt’s beard stubble to the dust of the Hollywood western backlot. Blacks are deep and inky, with exceptionasl shadow detail overall.

Audio: 4.5/5

Sony has provided the Blu-ray release of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood with an excellent DTSHD MA 5.1 audio track (the UHD Blu-ray, not reviewed here, received a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track instead). The track makes good use of the popular songs from that period providing a nice wide front soundstage with excellent fidelity and dynamic range (something that AM radio station KHJ that everyone in the movie listens to could never reproduce). This is a fairly front-heavy presentation, although music and atmospheric effects do ocassionally spread to the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.

Special Features: 3/5

Additional Scenes (1080p; 25:01): Seven sequences are included – Old Chatanooga Beer Commercial, Circa 1969; Red Apple Commercial, Circa 1969; Hullabaloo – Rick Dalton Sings “Green Door”; Bounty Law; Lancer – The Meeting of Two Brothers; Charlie Talks to Paul Barabuta and Waves to Cliff; and Rick Dalton and Sam Wanamaker Talk on Set.

Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood (1080p; 5:00): The cast and crew wax nostalgic on the film.

Bob Richardson – For the Love of Film (1080p; 4:34): A look at the movie’s Director of Photography and shooting on film.

Shop Talk – The Cars of 1969 (1080p; 5:58): A look at the various cars used in the film.

Restoring Hollywood – The Production Design of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (1080p; 9:18): A look at how Barbara Ling and her crew worked to achieve the look of Hollywood from 1969.

The Fashion of 1969 (1080p; 6:39): A look at the film’s costume design.

DVD Copy: The film in 480p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, plus the sewven additional scenes.

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4/5

I found Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood to be entertaining but ultimately a bit too long. Sony’s Blu-ray puts forth a nice presentation.

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Todd Erwin

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haineshisway

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Restoring Hollywood – The Production Design of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (1080p; 9:18): A look at how Barbara Ling and her crew worked to achieve the look of Hollywood from 1969.

This is the biggest joke of a featurette, wherein all the participants are telling you how painstakingly accurate it is in terms of detail. I would buy the "alternate universe" business if they didn't keep insisting how accurate they were to 1969. Some of us were quite alive back then and some of us lived in LA and know exactly what accuracy is. No, there was no Pussycat Theater in that location of the boulevard - it was the New View Theater until it became the Pussycat in 1974. No, there was no Peaches Records on the boulevard in 1969. On that side of the street it was only Vogue Records and before that Discount Record Center. No, They Came to Rob Las Vegas never played the Chinese.

And my favorite: In Brad Pitt's close-ups in front of Pandora's Box you can clearly see the Capitol Records building on Vine north of Hollywood Blvd. In the Margaret Qualley reverse shots she's in front of Pandora's Box, which was located on the south east corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, about four miles away from Hollywood and Vine. Oh, and Pandora's Box? Torn down in 1966. Oops.

Other favorite: The party at the Playboy Mansion. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Playboy Mansion in 1969. Hef didn't buy it until the early 1970s. Oops.
 

Robert Crawford

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Talk about taking a crap on a movie that has an alternative reality to begin with.
 

dpippel

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My wife and I really got caught up in it. Looked gorgeous in 4K. Like Inglorious Basterds, it's a bit of fantasy revenge porn, but it's so well done and all of the actors involved are positively fabulous in their roles. GREAT soundtrack and score. The Tarantino formula is alive and well. Looking forward to watching it again sometime in the next month or so.
 
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Bryan^H

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Arguably QT's best and one of my favorite movies in years.
I feel the same way about it.

Films like this that keep my passion for cinema alive. After QT retires I'm going to be broken hearted.
 
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Scott Merryfield

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I am a big QT fan, but this film just didn't do anything for me or my wife. I loved the soundtrack, but the film, itself was rather slow and boring for both of us. I wouldn't put it in my Top 5 Tarantino films.

I will give it a 2nd chance somewhere down the road, since so many others seem to really love the film. A close friend of mine who is also a big QT fan felt similar to me about it, though, so it's certainly not just me it didn't resonate with.
 

Billy Batson

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I really loved it, and it has good re-watch value for me, as I think I missed a lot of stuff on my first viewing. I think it's perfectly okay for a reviewer not to share my opinion of the film, I only read these reviews for the technical stuff, & anyone who didn't grow up in Hollywood/LA in that time wouldn't notice any historical anomalies, which I'd think any period film would have (some by the bucket-load).
 
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Robert Crawford

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I am a big QT fan, but this film just didn't do anything for me or my wife. I loved the soundtrack, but the film, itself was rather slow and boring for both of us. I wouldn't put it in my Top 5 Tarantino films.

I will give it a 2nd chance somewhere down the road, since so many others seem to really love the film. A close friend of mine who is also a big QT fan felt similar to me about it, though, so it's certainly not just me it didn't resonate with.
You are far from being alone in that regard as movies in general always generate diverse opinions when it comes to film appreciation. It's just the way it is, even for great films that are universally loved and appreciated.
 

Jeffrey D

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I’ve seen this movie twice- the first time in a theater, and
during the Christmas break on UHD BluRay. I think this film is similar to Jackie Brown in that it will get better with repeated viewings, and it’s a film you can just put your feet up, settle in, relax and have a good time with it.
My list of Quentin’s films, from most favorite to least favorite-
1- Pulp
2- Jackie
3- Basterds
4- Hollywood
5- Dogs
6- Hateful
7- Django
8- Death Proof
9- Kill Bill 1&2
 

Scott Merryfield

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I’ve seen this movie twice- the first time in a theater, and
during the Christmas break on UHD BluRay. I think this film is similar to Jackie Brown in that it will get better with repeated viewings, and it’s a film you can just put your feet up, settle in, relax and have a good time with it.
My list of Quentin’s films, from most favorite to least favorite-
1- Pulp
2- Jackie
3- Basterds
4- Hollywood
5- Dogs
6- Hateful
7- Django
8- Death Proof
9- Kill Bill 1&2
Interesting that you put the Kill Bill films at the bottom of your list, as they would be near the top of mine. I have a hard time picking a favorite QT film, so instead I will group them.

Top Group:
Pulp Fiction
Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2
Inglorious Basterds

Middle Group:
Jackie Brown
Django Unchained
Reservoir Dogs

Bottom Group:
Hateful Eight
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

* I have never seen Death Proof
 

Stephen_J_H

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I envy you.
I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but Death Proof felt like one of those lazy 70's schlock features from Crown International Pictures like "The Van", or "The Pom Pom Girls".
This rings true to the 'Grindhouse' experience that Quentin, and Robert were aiming for, but as a stand alone feature it is the Tarantino film that I tend to skip watching.
 
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Scott Merryfield

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I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but Death Proof felt like one of those lazy 70's schlock features from Crown International Pictures like "The Van", or "The Pom Pom Girls".
This rings true to the 'Grindhouse' experience that Quentin, and Robert were aiming for, but as a stand alone feature it is the Tarantino film that I tend to skip watching.
I had read enough about Death Proof that I decided the film wasn't for me, which is why it's the only Tarantino film I have not seen.
 

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I had read enough about Death Proof that I decided the film wasn't for me, which is why it's the only Tarantino film I have not seen.
Seeing "Grindhouse" at the Drive in was one of the best movie going experiences I have ever had. Not because I loved the films of Planet Terror, and Death Proof with the fake trailers. It was because it was cool, fun, and very different than anything I have experienced at the cinema. And it was at the Drive in theater which authenticated its retro vibe. I had a blast.

That being said it was an "experience", and just cannot be replicated at home. So I don't even bother.
 

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DEATH PROOF is a blast. If you like Tarantino, it is vintage Tarantino. I also loved the full GRINDHOUSE. The fake trailers in the middle were the best part. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is so much fun I can't stop watching the 4k over and over. I think it has a good chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars.
 
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Hollywoodaholic

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Re: The time inaccuracies of the picture... it's called Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I believe things like the Pussycat Theater were added because they are just iconic. Also the Playboy Mansion. Or Pandora's Box. Tower Records wasn't around then, but I would have preferred to see it rather than Peaches. Or Eli Wallach's Music City. And why not an Angelyne billboard while you're at it? There are things about the location that just exist in the mind out of time and exact place. It's not Chinatown, but... it's Hollywood.
 

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Re Deathproof

My wife’s favorite Tarantino film.

Pulp Fiction is her least favorite.

I just love her!;)
 
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