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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Quentin Tarantino
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Writing Credits:
Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis:
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.

Box Office:
Budget
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$41,082,018 on 3659 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$142,502,728.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Audio Descriptive Service
French Dolby 5.1
French Audio Descriptive Service
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish

Runtime:
161 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/10/2019

Bonus:
• Additional Scenes
• “Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood” Featurette
• “For the Love of Film” Featurette
• “Shop Talk” Featurette
• “Restoring Hollywood” Featurette
• “The Fashion of 1969” Featurette


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RELATED REVIEWS


Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2020)

For his first film since 2015’s Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino returns with 2019’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. Set in 1969, the film focuses on Jake Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading star.

In the 1950s, Jake starred on the popular Western TV series Bounty Law. However, after its cancellation, he found it more difficult to get lead roles, and at the end of the 1960s, he becomes himself stuck as the “heavy” in TV shows.

While Jake deals with his career decline, his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) experiences similar issues, though Cliff’s troubled past and his own hotheaded temperament also act as impediments. Cliff now mostly serves as Jake’s personal assistant and driver.

On the other side of the career coin, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) seems to be on the rise. Married to successful director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), Sharon looks like someone with a bright future ahead of her.

Sharon and Jake live next door to each other, though they haven’t met. As we trace their varying career trajectories and personal lives, Cliff meets “Pussycat” (Margaret Qualley), a member of the cult headed by Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), and he sees strange goings-on at their compound.

That’s the demon lurking in the background through Once. I suspect most viewers already know what happened to Tate in real-life, so any allusions to Manson and his “family” come with a sense of foreboding, as we’re aware where this story will end.

Or where it ended in reality, but not so much in the movie. Potential spoilers ahoy!

Tarantino takes the tale involved behind Manson and Tate and fictionalizes it to a large degree. Neither Jake nor Cliff existed in real life, so obviously all their interactions with Sharon and the Manson cult didn’t occur.

As I watched Once, I wondered how Tarantino would integrate the real and the fabricated. After all, I knew this movie would conclude with Sharon and her friends brutally butchered by Manson’s disciples, so how could the fictional Jake and Cliff play a meaningful part in that aspect of the story?

Tarantino solved this dilemma with an ending that totally subverts real events. As he did with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino uses historical facts to provide a scenario that gives us a revenge fantasy.

Just as Basterds ended with the massacre of Hitler and many prominent Nazis, Once ensures that Sharon and her pals survive while Manson’s “children” suffer exceedingly violent deaths. At a basic emotional level, this feels semi-satisfying, but it also seems redundant after Basterds and Django.

Is Tarantino now going to focus on movies that right historical wrongs? Will the next one save JFK and force Lee Harvey Oswald to get his face melted off by some fictional FBI agent?

Given his storied career, I won’t call Tarantino a one-trick pony, but if he continues down this path, his work will turn stale. Part of the intrigue of Once comes from the sense of foreboding, as we dread the slaughter of Sharon and pals.

If we know Tarantino will pull a rabbit out of a hat and alter history, that tension evaporates. We’ll then find ourselves less interested, as we know we’ll wind up with a happy ending.

Although I’ve focused on the Manson/Tate side of things so far in my review, in reality Once spends surprisingly little time with that aspect of the narrative. Prior to the climax, we don’t really get a lot in that domain.

We do see the running thread of Cliff’s flirtation with Pussycat, and we get a scene in which he visits Spahn Ranch that adds to the foreboding. In addition, we see occasional glimpses of Sharon’s life, though she plays a relatively minor role compared to all the screen time granted Cliff and Jake.

In truth, Sharon exists in Once as a red herring. We get to know her mainly to serve the ending – those of us who know the real events, that is.

For the ending to work, we need to feel relief that this Sharon survived, and for that to pay off, we need to have some connection to her. If Once didn’t involve Sharon prior to the finale, we’d have no emotional stake.

Unfortunately, Tarantino barely bothers to make her a workable character. She shows up sporadically to give us some hint at her life, but the movie cares way more about Jake and Cliff.

This leaves Robbie as a surprisingly small presence, as a star of her stature demands a bigger part. I suppose that’s part of the red herring dimension as well, since we anticipate more from Sharon due to Robbie’s fame.

For the vast majority of Once, we get the Leo and Brad show, and to some degree, that works. The two demonstrate fine chemistry and make their shared scenes enjoyable.

However, Tarantino’s immense self-indulgence acts as a major obstacle here. At more than 160 minutes, Once runs a good hour too long because Tarantino spends far too much time on recreations of period films and TV.

We know that Tarantino is a movie buff without peer, and he stages loving tributes to all sorts of era-related programs. In small doses, these are fun to see.

But Tarantino doesn’t understand the concept of “small doses”, so massive chunks of Once get eaten up with these recreations. They serve virtually no dramatic purpose and exist because the director thinks it’s fun.

The worst offender comes from an exceedingly long sequence that shows Jake during a shoot. A little of this acts to push along the character, but most of it’s there because Tarantino thinks it’s cool.

It’s not – at least not to people who want a movie with forward momentum. When I saw Once theatrically, I sat through about three minutes of this segment before I decided to hit the restroom.

I figured it’d be done when I returned, but nope – it kept going for a sizable amount of time after that. The actual narrative material could’ve been addressed in probably two or three minutes, but Tarantino pushes well past the point of useful returns.

I respect Tarantino enough that I usually give him the benefit of the doubt, but he uses his bully pulpit far too much in Once. The Tarantino of 25 years ago couldn’t have gotten away with all this indulgence, as the producers wouldn’t have let him.

And I doubt the Tarantino of the 1990s would’ve wanted to include so much superfluous material, as he’d recognize it’s simply poor filmmaking. In the past, when Tarantino opted for scenes that don’t clearly advance the plot, he’d at least make them indicative of character and/or very entertaining.

In Once, though, he too often goes down paths that neither delight nor push the narrative. I won’t call Tarantino drunk on his own power, but he needs to understand that 12 minutes of a TV shoot isn’t good storytelling.

Unfortunately, Once becomes a mix of fetish flashbacks in search of a narrative. There’s enough substance to keep us moderately involved, but the film feels too long and too rambling to satisfy.

End credits footnote: a “vintage Jake Dalton” ad shows up along the way, and we also get a real 1960s radio promo for the Batman TV series after that.

Title-related footnote: the Blu-ray cover to the left and all the movie’s posters call it Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood, but the actual credits refer to it as Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.

Which is correct? Damned if I know, but I went with the title as shown in the film itself. It makes more sense anyway, as the ellipses seem more logical between “Time” and “In” than between “In” and “Hollywood”.


The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood appears in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – mainly. Due to the use of TV shows and period movies – created for Hollywood - we also occasionally got 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 material windowboxed in the frame.

Those elements reflected the movie’s only erratic elements, as they came with decreased sharpness and some “print defects”. I didn’t factor them into my grade.

As for the rest of the film, sharpness worked well. Virtually no softness occurred, so the image felt tight and well-defined.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Outside of the aforementioned intentional “flaws”, no print defects materialized here.

Colors went a little teal at times and some amber as well. Brighter hues emerged as well, and the tones felt well-depicted and full.

Blacks appeared deep and dense, while low-light shots appeared smooth and well-rendered. Across the board, this became a pleasing presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked well, too, as the soundscape opened up in a satisfying manner. Most of the track focused on environmental material, especially during the many driving scenes, as those provided a broad view of the streets.

A few more action-oriented sequences brought out engaging use of the five channels. In particular, the movie’s climax packed a good punch in that it used the speakers to involve us in the mayhem.

Audio quality worked well, with speech that came across as natural and concise. Effects felt accurate and precise, with good range and low-end.

Music varied somewhat depending on the source, as the period songs showed variations that related to their production. Still, they mainly came across as robust and full. This became a solid soundtrack for the story.

Five featurettes appear, and Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood runs five minutes. It offers comments from executive producer Georgia Kacandes, producers Shannon McIntosh and David Heyman, writer/director Quentin Tarantino, director of photography Robert Richardson and actors Brad Pitt, Nicholas Hammond, Luke Perry, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell and Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Letter” looks at Tarantino’s memories of late 1960s LA and that impact on the film. We get some decent thoughts but the show’s too short to tell us much.

For the Love of Film spans four minutes, 34 seconds and features Tarantino, Richardson, McIntosh, Robbie, and Heyman. The show looks at photography and Richardson’s work on the film. It mixes fluff with good observations.

Next comes Shop Talk, a five-minute, 58-second reel with notes from McIntosh, Pitt, Heyman, production designer Barbara Ling, picture car coordinator Steven Butcher, and picture car captain Leonard Jefferson.

In this piece, we learn about the period vehicles used in the film. Expect a pretty fun overview.

Restoring Hollywood fills nine minutes, 18 seconds with statements from Tarantino, McIntosh, Ling, DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie, Perry, Heyman, actor Dakota Fanning and supervising location manager Rick Schuler. “Hollywood” covers the work done to recreate circa 1969 LA locations, and it becomes an engaging discussion.

Finally, The Fashion of 1969 goes for six minutes, 37 seconds and delivers remarks from Robbie, DiCaprio, Pitt, Heyman, McIntosh, Perry, Hammond, actor Timothy Olyphant, and costume designer Arianne Phillips. As expected, we learn about the movie’s costumes via this useful program.

Seven Additional Scenes occupy a total of 25 minutes, one second. The first two scenes offer “vintage TV ads”, while the third gives us all of Jake’s appearance on Hullabaloo. The fourth provides more of Bounty Law, and the fifth depicts more of the Lancer shoot.

Only with the sixth scene do we find actual character information, as that one allows us a bigger view of Charles Manson. He tries to wheedle his way into a record contract and also sees Cliff at work on Jake’s roof.

Scene seven lets Jake interact with Lancer director Sam Wanamaker on the set. The first five are moderately fun in their goofball way, and one of the “ads” allows us to see James Marsden as Burt Reynolds in an otherwise excised performance.

As for the two clips that bring actual character information, they don’t really expand the plot. The Jake/Sam scene really rambles as well.

That said, the movie probably should’ve kept the Manson scene just because it seems odd that he’s essentially a non-entity otherwise. It also includes the shot of Manson and Cliff from the trailer.

With Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino delivers his love letter to the LA of his youth. Unfortunately, he makes such a self-indulgent epic that he loses sight of story and characters. The Blu-ray boasts strong picture and audio along with a decent array of bonus materials. While not Tarantino’s worst film, Once nonetheless disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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