Film Title: Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
Release Date: 2019
Runtime: 161 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: DTS- HD MA 5.1
Aspect Ratio(s): 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 12/10/19
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Julia Butters, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Austin Butler, Damian Lewis, Bruce Dern, Nicholas Hammond, Maya Hawke, Mikey Madison, Harley Quinn Smith, Mike Moh, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell
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“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” was a 2019 film and the ninth motion picture written and directed by the legendary modern filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino’s eight previous other films (that he wrote & directed) include The Hateful Eight (2015), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Death Proof (2007), Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), Jackie Brown (1997), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Yes, that’s technically nine films but you have to factor-in that Kill Bill is split into two volumes – unless you want to count Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (2011) cut of the two volumes together. From his humble beginnings, working notably as a clerk at a VHS rental store in (Knoxville) Tennessee, Tarantino made his way into being a great filmmaker of modern cinema with his first (major) film in 1992. He would become a well-known filmmaker after 1994 on his second film which received 7 Oscar (Academy Award) nominations and 1 win (for best writing directly for the screen). Ever since 1994, Quentin Tarantino has been one of the most talked-about and praised modern directors in some time, and rightfully so.
So, with his now ninth major motion picture, Tarantino has decided here to depict Hollywood in the year 1969, an infamous time, tell a story through a love letter to the town using a fictional actor and his stuntman. Woven into their story is the real-life story of actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her famous director husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). Yes, this does involve the murders that took place at the couple’s home, which was orchestrated by Charles Manson and then was acted out by members of the Manson family. However, this doesn’t focus on that element as much as you might expect and instead focuses more on the time period, the characters and even on the late actress Sharon Tate – someone that Tarantino admits to being a fan of. So, it’s not only a love letter to the town (Hollywood) but it’s also one to Tate as well, in ways.
Our two fictional protagonists here in the film, aside from the real Sharon Tate, include an actor named “Rick Dalton” (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friend/stuntman “Cliff Booth” (Brad Pitt). As we are first introduced to the guys they are being interviewed on the set of a TV show that Rick has become famous for being the lead actor on.
Meanwhile, across town at the airport (LAX), Tate and her husband Roman Polanski just are arriving back to Los Angeles. The couple jumps into Polanski’s roadster sports car and speeds off to their home on Cielo Drive, where they live right next door to our lead protagonist – Rick Dalton. This builds a connection that will link the two stories and such, in a great storytelling formula that Tarantino has become known for being a true master. I won’t go into anything here that would be considered “spoilers” of any sort, so don’t worry about that.
Let’s move on a bit further into the story here involving Rick Dalton and his friend Cliff Booth. Rick was a big star a few years back where he worked with Cliff being his stunt man on a TV western called “Bounty Law” as well as even starred in a few motion pictures. His acting lately has left him playing smaller parts and usually the bad guy. He’s not at the point of his career that he used to be and it takes a bit for him to realize that.
So, let’s just say that the connection between these fictional characters that live next door to Tate and Polanski will come together during the end of things. I won’t even go into any further detail here regarding the ending of this film to avoid ruining it for anyone. I’ll end by saying that this is truly one of my favorite films that Quentin Tarantino has made (to date) and he continues to amaze with more and more with each. No lying at all here, I believe this film to not only be a love letter to the late sixties era of filmmaking and the Hollywood location itself but also a respectable homage to the late Sharon Tate. I think this is one masterpiece of a motion picture that nears 3 hours in length when hours seem to pass quicker than you’d think. Why? Because as the old expression goes: time flies when you’re having fun. P.S. Don’t forget to watch all of the credits.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” on Blu-ray is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown during its theatrical run. The movie was shot on film, primarily 35mm film but also on 16mm film and even one scene (a home footage shot) was shot on Super 8 (8mm) film. The multiple shifts of aspect ratio source material are left framed here in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, with source material in a 4×3 aspect ratio such as 1.33:1 getting framed black bars to the top, bottom, and sides in a widescreen aspect. The director of photography (Robert Richardson) and director (Tarantino) made the choice to not only use a lot of different types of analog (film) source material but they also chose to use a lot of cameras like the Arriflex 435, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Aaton A-Minima, and even older Bolex cameras. It should finally be noted that this movie received a 4K Digital Intermediate master.
There’s an obvious amount of film grain visible here on the Blu-ray in just high def. I love that even though this actually received a 4K digital scan and master that they’ve left in some tiny little film characteristics such as the occasional spot of dirt or such. It’s nothing that seems to ever get excessive but something that adds a very authentic touch to this overall film and its fictional television shows and films.
The amount of detail found here in close-ups is really impressive for a 35mm film source (for the majority of the film) and even the sheer amount of detail you see on a massive level of the recreation of 1969 Hollywood Boulevard is absolutely beautiful in high definition. The color palette here can be pretty vibrant at times, many thanks to the 1969 era signage, decore, clothing (costumes) and especially the cars. The flesh tones appear to be as accurate as possible (without HDR) and the colors seem bright enough to pop at times, in a good way. The black level is very solid here all throughout.
Now, while the HD here may not be the 35mm projector theatrical experience that the filmmaker would prefer you to see his film in, it is good enough to do the film justice on Blu-ray format, for a home theater experience. This release also still pushes it [Blu-ray] to its limits to achieve a visually perfect presentation.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here on the Blu-ray Disc debut of “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. It should be noted that there is a 7.1 DTS-HD MA track on the 4K UHD Blu-ray release, but not here. Why did this Blu-ray not receive that 7.1 surround sound mix would likely because they [Sony] wanted it to be exclusive of sorts for 4K consumers? I’m only speculating there. Regardless, I felt that worth stating here upfront to Blu-ray consumers. That (again), to me, seems a bit odd considering that IMDb and other sources state that this film received a Dolby Atmos mix for theaters capable during its original run. Regardless, we don’t get an immersive (height channel-based) audio mix here but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to do the film justice. I’ve heard 5.1 lossless mixes hold up, some that were even a decade in age, on recent Blu-ray releases. This mix in both 5.1 (as found here) and in 7.1 (as found on the 4K UHD Blu-ray) lossless configurations proves to be very impressive, well more specifically downright amazing. I’ll get more to the praise later, but let’s first focus on what makes this 5.1 mix so very impressive.
From the very opening of the film, you’ll hear the sound of a turntable about to play a song, when its needle (or stylus) is running along the grooves of a vinyl record and hitting the occasional bits of dirt or such. This sound is very fitting, not only for the 1969 time period depicted in the film but also for the film’s soundtrack which is comprised mostly of songs that come from vinyl sources being played on a Los Angeles radio station (KHJ) or from vinyl sources in general. In fact, there’s a scene in the film where a record (on the soundtrack) is specifically being played on a turntable. So, this type of approach to the opening of the film is beyond fitting and the musical theme of the radio station playing throughout the whole film is something that you’ll get used to the AM mono sound sources of KHJ radio broadcasts.
I’ll go as far as to say that the music in this film is a character of its own as well as the glue that helps tie the whole piece together, as in most of Tarantino’s films. This one is just a bit cooler because of the fact it takes a lot of original radio broadcasts, not just songs on vinyl as you’d typically find on a Tarantino soundtrack. Now, on the 5.1 (just as with the 7.1) sound mix here gets to use a more narrow rear channel field but it is still enough to let the music surround you all throughout the film Sound effects get some occasional use of the rear channel speakers as well as even dialogue. Yes, dialogue can at times be delivered entirely from the rear channels in some scenes where the actors speaking are behind what’s behind watched or filmed. It’s very fitting and comes across as very unique in terms of sound design and overall presentation.
On the front side of things, it’s safe to say that dialogue, always key in a Tarantino film, is delivered very distinctly from the center channel speaker primarily throughout the film. The front left and right channels get used primarily for the film’s amazing music and obviously for sound effects all throughout. It’s one very impressive 5.1 lossless surround mix here for a film and it seems to do an epic film such as this justice. This mix, in my own honest opinion, is perfect in terms of sound quality. I do wish we had received a Dolby Atmos mix, especially since it did receive one for the theatrical release, but then again I am very pleased with what we get from this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically included on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film via Movies Anywhere is included, which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes and VUDU. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed. This will redeem as an HD (and not 4K) version of the film on services like iTunes and VUDU. You’ll notice if you get the 4K version for example, that redeems for a correct version. Sony isn’t going to let you get a free higher quality version of the film here even on iTunes.
- A DVD of the film is included. It features a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix.
Apple iTunes Digital Exclusive:
“In Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and His Cast” (8:03 – HD) is great. The cast members interviewed here include Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), and Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate). This seems to be exclusive to Apple and its iTunes digital platform, as Tarantino mentions them right at the end when saying goodbye.
The Blu-ray Disc is where are ALL the extras are presented in HD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. These include:
- Additional Scenes (25:00 – HD) are scenes that were shown during the extended cut theatrical run of the film. These, totaling up to over 25 minutes in length, are great and add a lot to the story with what is essentially a reel of deleted and/or extended scenes. It’s a shame we can’t watch the film in some extended cut entirely with these scenes thrown in where they were intended (shown). That would be awesome itself to have the option to do that, but the one thing I’m realizing here seeing these in their intended aspect ratios like 1.33:1 is the film could have deserved an option to let the aspect ratios shift during the film. For instance, the movie starts out in a very tiny black pillar frame to achieve a 1.33:1 (4×3) aspect ratio when in the 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio that the film uses. If you had a shifting aspect ratio option those scenes would fill up a much larger part of the screen in their full correct aspect framing. That’s something obviously not included here but it would be nice to someday see on future releases of the film. The seven additional scenes included here are as follows:
- Old Chattanooga 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
- Rick Dalton and Sam Wanamaker Talk on Set
- Five Blu-ray Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Pieces include:
- “Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood” (5:00 – HD) includes interviews with Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Nicholas Hammond (Sam Wanamaker), Georgia Kacandes (executive producer), David Heyman (producer), Luke Perry (Scott Lancer), Shannon McIntosh (producer), Quentin Tarantino (writer/director), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), Kurt Russell (Randy Miller), and Robert Richardson (director of photography). Tarantino discusses here how the KHJ AM radio station became a good basis of what would be the soundtrack for the film with its music, commercials, and DJ dialogue.
- “Rob Richardson – For the Love of Film” (4:34 – HD) is a focus piece by Quentin Tarantino (writer/director) along with the film’s cast and crew members discussing the director of photography Bob Richardson. There is some great on-set footage here as well as interviews with Shannon McIntosh (producer), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), and David Heyman (producer). It is very fun to hear Richardson discuss how Tarantino initially wasn’t sure if he wanted to do the film in either 70mm or 35mm, then how they settled on 35mm primarily, and all the sources they chose to use like Super 8mm and 16mm with some different aspect ratios along the way. They shot this all, fittingly, on film. Hence, for the love of the film as a subtitle.
- “Shop Talk – The Cars of 1969” (5:58 – HD) is self-explanatory in terms of what this featurette focuses on. This includes interviews with Shannon McIntosh (producer), Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Barbara Ling (producer designer), Steven Butcher (picture car coordinator), Leonard Jefferson (picture car captain), and David Heyman (producer). This includes some great on set and behind-the-scenes footage as well. Let that be duly noted, as short as the featurette might be: it offers up a very informative visual bit of info, of sorts, for the fans wanting to see how things looked during the filming.
- “Restoring Hollywood – The Production Design of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood“ (9:18 – HD) thankfully is one of the longest featurettes and that’s great because this is one huge aspect of the film that really interested me. I mean, how did they do all of this and make modern Hollywood look like 1969 period with all the buildings, signage, billboards, cards, and whatnot?! You’ll get to find out here with a lot of behind-the-scenes on-set footage that also comes with interviews from Quentin Tarantino (writer/director), Shannon McIntosh (producer), Barbara Ling (production designer), Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Rick Schuler (supervising location manager), Luke Perry (Scott Lancer), David Heyman (producer), and Dakota Fanning (Squeaky). This is just amazing and a real treat. This proves to be one of my favorite featurettes on the whole set of extras, getting to see what all of Hollywood Boulevard they restored for this to look like 1969 just for temporary filming. You’ll learn here that even Starbucks cooperated with the production to put up vintage signage for the purpose of filming!
- “The Fashion of 1969” (6:37 – HD) is another very important area of focus here in terms of the making of the film with its costumes. This featurette offers up some behind-the-scenes footage as well as interviews with Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Arianne Phillips (costume designer), Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton), Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), David Heyman (producer), Luke Perry (Scott Lancer), Timothy Olyphant (Johnny Lancer), and Nicholas Hammond (Sam Wanamaker).
- Scene Selections and Music Selections take you directly to specific scenes and musical numbers in the film. There are a total of 30 scene selections and 26 musical selections. Here on the Blu-ray, the music selections look a bit like 30 choices you’d make on a small jukebox. On the 4K they’re pages and pages of choices. I actually dig the Blu-ray’s menu better for this reason. You also can make bookmarks on the Blu-ray, unlike with the 4K. However, it is worth noting that both formats will let you resume the film from where you left off if you’d like.
Overall the bonus materials here are a tad bit short, sure, but you get the 25 minutes of additional scenes actually in HD along with the five featurettes. With the iTunes Digital exclusive featurette factored in, this really works for me and is more than I had honestly expected we would get. Tarantino doing hours of extras and an audio commentary was not something I expected for this film.
Let’s hope someday make some new extras, come some anniversary or such. However, short or not, the extras work for the film. It is just enough info to provide you with as well as reward you with the 25 minutes of additional scenes that are actually finished, not your typical rough deleted scenes or such. Lastly, speaking of those additional scenes and things I wish this had (in terms of bonus), I do wish we could watch those cut together with the film itself though, as an additional version of the film.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.25 (out of 5)
“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” is a masterpiece of filmmaking that pays its respect to filmmaking and those who were and still are a large part of it: actors and stunt people. The film may not play out as much as some may want or have expected it to about the Manson family. That’s their own choice to gripe about that aspect of things, but that’s not my feeling at all after seeing this film probably a total of six times now. I find that the fictional character of Rick Dalton that Tarantino created and that Leonardo DiCaprio breathed life into to be one of the most memorable characters in cinema history and already a modern legend of sorts. The very same can be said about his friend Cliff Booth and what life Brad Pitt breathed into that stuntman character. Both of these were so vital to this film really playing out as (no doubt) its writer and director had wanted.
It’s just such a great film filled with some great performances from Margot Robbie (obviously) as Sharon Tate, as well as Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Emile Hirsch (as Jay Sebring), Nicholas Hammond, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, and so many other supporting cast members – namely Kurt Russell in his small part. This movie is sure as hell to get nominated for some Academy Awards and you can trust me on that. It’s also filled with some amazing cinematography and music that you’ll get to see and hear in a damn perfect manner thanks to its high definition visuals and 5.1 lossless surround sound mix.
In terms of extras (bonus), you’ll get to see those 25 minutes of additional scenes. That’s very cool and you actually even get to see them in their correct aspect ratios. The five featurettes contained on the Blu-ray Disc total up to about 32 minutes in length. Plus, you get an iTunes Digital exclusive featurette (8 minutes-long) for those who are smart enough to be able to access (find) it. Add all of that up, 25 minutes of additional scenes, 32 minutes of HD extras on the Blu-ray (physically), and lastly 8 minutes of a featurette that’s a digital exclusive to get just a little over an hour of extras. That’s not too bad and is sure to leave any fan of this film pleased – to some level anyway.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials