Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): There Lived an Actor and His Stunt Double

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) and stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Titanic), Brad Pitt (World War Z, Allied), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Speed Racer), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers, Death Note), Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet, Live Free or Die Hard), Austin Butler (Switched at Birth, Arrow), Dakota Fanning (Coraline, The Twilight Saga: New Moon), Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight, The ‘Burbs), and Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman, Heat). This film takes place in Hollywood around the time of the Manson murders during 1969. The story focuses on the dynamic duo of the characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton) and Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth). Dalton is an actor and Booth is Dalton’s stunt double. Together, they have a hunger for fame and fortune as the Golden Age of Hollywood comes to a close.

If you have been following this blog in recent weeks, you may have gotten the implication that I have just recently introduced myself to the masterful works of Quentin Tarantino, a director known for his quirky style, gritty scripts, and his enthusiasm to deliver a rather nostalgic vibe to his films. And this film is no exception. It is shot using 35mm film, it takes place in 1969, and it is designed to be presented as a love letter to ancient Hollywood. It has callbacks to real life Hollywood figures including Roman Polanski, Bruce Lee, James Stacy, and Sharon Tate. There are tons of throwback cars that can be seen that truly highlight the automobile culture of California that seems to continue to exist today. It kind of reminded me of “Amercian Graffiti” a little bit.

My excitement for this film was through the roof as soon as the tickets went on sale. I called my dad, he and I agreed to go on opening Thursday, I picked to go to the 7:30 show at the Somerville Theatre, which if you are not from Massachusetts, it is a 100 year old theatre that has a few screens, but one of them is in a grand auditorium that shows a lot of event-type films. I was there last year for the 70mm film festival, more specifically, for when they showed John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” It was my second time watching the film, and the atmosphere was turned up to an 11 when it came to how lively the crowd happened to be. I thought we were going to get a few people to show up for this film, because let’s face it, “The Lion King” is out right now, everyone’s going to see that, and unlike “The Thing,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was playing for more than one night. Plus, it didn’t have reserved or reclined seating. People seem to flock to those two things nowadays.

And I’ll let you in on a little something about “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” It’s the single best movie experience I had this year. Yes, better than “Endgame.” The atmosphere was almost dead during “Endgame,” there are several moments in this movie where people would shout, yell, laugh, applaud, it felt like I went to the world premiere of a “Star Wars” film. It was the very definition of exhilerating! The theater might have been sold out, if not super close to being sold out. I got to chat to a guy in the row in front of me about Tarantino films, there was a lovely lady I got to talk to about his work and other people’s films. This was clearly going to be an experience to remember. OK… maybe this has to do with the atmosphere of the film. But how was the movie you ask? F*cking nuts! It’s a special kind of awesome! I mean, could you expect anything less from Tarantino? This is the fourth movie I have seen from him, and this is probably my 2nd favorite. This film is full of excellent scenes with great characters, lines of dialogue that made me laugh and cheer, and fantastic setpieces.

For those of you who don’t know, part of the production of this movie involved transforming Hollywood as if it were presented in the 1960s, and I think the movie did a really good job with it. All of the neon lights shining everywhere and the plethora of signs set the mood, I dug the driving scenes that really had that flair of fun attached to it, and I felt immersed into the world that happened to be presented almost to the point that I imagined myself as a part of it, and I think from watching “Pulp Fiction” and this film, that is something that I think Tarantino can do very well. And this may be a big reason why I enjoyed this film so much. No matter what movie I have seen from Tarantino so far, the appropriate vibe is automatically set. But I feel that Tarantino, from what I have seen so far, has done a better job with his films when they are slightly more grounded in reality. Even though I saw “The Hateful Eight” and there can be a definite argument that that film grounds itself in reality a little bit, it doesn’t really have characters that I can latch onto. The characters in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” feel raw, they feel like people I would probably run into at one point in my life. Maybe I’m biased since this takes place in Hollywood and I am an aspiring filmmaker and I can picture myself working with people who are similar in some ways to these characters, but my case still stands. “The Hateful Eight” has characters that at times are interesting, but for one reason or another, I just can’t relate to all of them.

And this is why I really enjoyed the main characters of the film, Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. The two legitimately feel like a best friend pair, and seeing a number of scenes with the two together happened to be entertaining. Whether they were working or hanging out, they just made the movie worth watching. If I had to be honest, when it comes to acting, it’s almost difficult declaring whether DiCaprio or Pitt had the better performance because for one thing they’re both great actors. Not to mention, when you put the two together, they have the perfect recipe for a friendship. Plus, it kind of makes sense since in the movie Booth has to emulate Dalton in productions together, so in a way they have to act like they’re the same person. I’m not saying they are in real life. Both have their individual characteristics and storylines and they hypnotized me. I’ll also point out that the proper execution and quirkiness of said storylines are part of why I would want to go see this in the theater a second time.

And you want to know the best part about this movie? I can’t speak for everybody, but pretty much the entire theater, and this is a lot of people, happened to be dying laughing. This is why I enjoy going to movies with crowds, not to mention in cities (which I did technically for this film) because recent experiences have shown that my urban movie experiences (mainly during early access screenings) have usually gotten better reactions than ones I’d traditionally experience elsewhere. It felt like I was part of the worldwide Tarantino cult, they just accepted me after introducing me to their rituals, and we all came together for an experience of a lifetime.

As for myself, I am kind of in an unfortunate position because I have been exposed to tons of content, and as much as I enjoy watching certain comedies, I often feel like I have “seen it all” or seen enough to know what to expect. Here, I was laughing through a number of scenes, I was appreciating a lot of the dialogue that has been uttered, and it never felt like the movie lost its groove. It was one interesting moment after another. And this all builds up to the big. F*cking. Climax of a lifetime! It is quite literally a Tarantinogasm of super f*cked-up awesomeness on a stick! Is it the best climax or ending in movie history? No, it’s not, but it is by far one of the wildest. I cannot recall the last time, or at least the last recent time, that I laughed as hard as I did during this climax with all the s*it that was going down. I cannot go into it, but the climax alone is worth the price of admission, everything else feels like an appetizer. I, like pretty much everyone else in the world, saw “Avengers: Endgame” this year, and I thought the climax to that, especially as a geek, was fantastic. This ending, to me, wasn’t fantastic. It was bloody phenomenal!

And by the way, speaking of movies I saw this year, one of my other highlights happens to be “John Wick: Chapter 3.” That franchise, as you may know, has a lot of emphasis put on dogs, and the most recent installment manages to continue highlighting their importance to everything that’s going on. In my review for that film, I said it had my favorite dog-related scene of the year. That thought has since changed because “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has a scene that I really cannot go into involving a dog. If you have seen the movie, you may know what I am talking about. It’s almost out of left field in the best possible way. Talking about it feels like a sin because it’s something I really want to do, but it feels wrong because, well in this case, spoilers could flood out of my mouth.

Just… See this movie, my gosh it’s f*cking ride.

I will say though…

The film is not perfect.

Yes, I have raved about this movie to death. Both in person and on here, but there is one single, solitary flaw that I have with the film.

And to my disappointment, it kind of involves Margot Robbie’s character of Sharon Tate, because despite how she may have cool scenes, and how she has a relation to one of the film’s characters who is mentioned by name, she almost had no real part in this movie, or at least one that contributes to the bigger picture of what is happening. And I will admit, it was sad to see her in this film after realizing she is watching the last film she will be alive to see herself in. But even with that, her character could have had more depth to her. She didn’t feel lifeless, Robbie portrayed the character very well, and she was charming. Kind of like how in “Suicide Squad,” the movie itself wasn’t the greatest, but Robbie did an excellent job portraying Harley Quinn. I’d probably have to watch the movie again to decide whether or not this storyline was necessary because there is a part of me that does think it is compelling and is a part of this old Hollywood love letter, but also begs to question how needed it really is.

Nevertheless, the movie is still an excitement bomb. It is still one of my favorite movies of the year, and I would INSTANTLY go back to the theater and watch this film again because I saw this film with my dad, we couldn’t stop talking about it on the way home, and he made an interesting comment. He was laughing so hard that he must have missed something. When your film is good enough to possibly allow that to happen, a repeat viewing is inevitable. Will I go back and see the film one more time? Hopefully, but only time will tell. And if I do, I will be really damn excited.

In the end, the hype is real for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Tarantino once again presents himself as the cinematic mastermind he has always been made out to be. The film utilizes a lot of practical effects to turn Hollywood back fifty years, to say the acting is solid is an understatement, and there are several scenes I will be looking forward to viewing once I see this movie again, because it is absolutely phenomenal. And again, the Sharon Tate thing, I liked certain scenes she was in, but her character almost felt tacked on. I could grow in appreciation for her. After all she’s played by Margot Robbie, who is one of the most beautiful women working in film right now, so who knows? This is not to say she can’t act, because again, she was charming. And there are several films that I have seen this year that are funny. A couple of examples include “Long Shot” and “Fighting with My Family.” But when it comes to comedic timing and writing, this film is most likely going to be the absolute best we are going to get this year in terms of comedy. Between the awesome and brilliantly written final act, the investing opening scenes where we get to know our lovely main duo, and a gag involving dog food, there is so much to enjoy in this one film. I cannot wait to talk more about this film with other people and I cannot wait for this film to come out on Blu-ray. I’m going to give “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” a very high 9/10. I have a feeling, and it’s just a feeling for now, depending on replay value and how I feel about certain aspects of this film over time, this could increase to a 10. I’m not sure, but this was one of the best looking films of the year, one of the most well shot movies of the year, one of the most interestingly written scripts of the year despite my flak given to Sharon Tate, and one of the most compelling ensembles of the year. But seriously, Tarantino, you are a god and we do not deserve you. Thank you for this orgasmic movie! And if it means anything, I’m pretty sure this has to be the best “9” movie of the decade so far. So a score change may be possible, who knows?

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that next weekend is the release of the “Fast & Furious” spinoff, “Hobbs and Shaw.” I probably won’t see the film right away because I’m going out of state for a night, but I will likely make a commitment to get my ass in the theater at some point. It is a movie that I am looking forward to simply because it looks absurd for all the right reasons, so once I can see it, I will take that opportunity. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Do you have a Facebook? Check out my Facebook page! You can get all the latest info from your favorite movie reviewing moron regarding upcoming content, new posts, and more! I want to know, did you see “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Quentin Tarantino movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Gravity (2013): Life in Space Is Impossible

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Some of you may be aware that I am currently doing a series of reviews which involve space movies. Last week I did my review for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I’m pretty sure I HAVE NOT talked about the movie before. LOL. Now it is time for my second entry in the series. After this week, I will be tackling another space movie, which is all being done in preparation for the upcoming Damien Chazelle directed “First Man.” This movie is going to release on October 12th everywhere in 2D and IMAX so look around for your local showtimes regarding the film. As for the movie we’re going to be talking about today, that is going to be the 2013 flick “Gravity.” In fact, coincidentally, this review is being brought to you EXACTLY FIVE YEARS AFTER “GRAVITY” CAME OUT IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE. Therefore, this review feels very fitting. Without further ado, let’s blast off, and get going with the review!

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“Gravity” was directed by Alfonso CuarĂ³n (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men), stars Sandra Bullock (The Proposal, The Heat) alongside George Clooney (The American, Batman & Robin) and revolves around a girl by the name of Ryan Stone (Bullock). She is in space working with Matt Kowalski (Clooney) when all of sudden their mission doesn’t go according to plan. A bunch of debris coming towards them causes a separation in crew members, and now it is up to Kowalski and Stone to survive together in space.

Now this is the start of the review so I might as well set the mood.

AT 600KM ABOVE PLANET EARTH THE TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATES BETWEEN +258 AND -148 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT

THERE IS NOTHING TO CARRY SOUND
NO AIR PRESSURE
NO OXYGEN

LIFE IN SPACE IS IMPOSSIBLE

Aside from the Warner Brothers logo which happens to introduce the movie, this is the first thing that can be seen on screen regarding “Gravity.” There are many introductions to a movie that can either remind you what you’re in for or get you excited for what’s to come. This one succeeds at both tasks. The rise in the music, the black screen, and the fades of the text. All of these remind you that you’re in for a ride. You have to strap yourself in. Many bumps are ahead. There’s even some sounds in the background that might as well associate with what a disaster in space would end up being.

Then… you cut to…

SPACE.

Much like the space shots in the last movie I reviewed, specifically “2001: A Space Odyssey,” pretty much all of them are insanely gorgeous. I will probably give the 1 up to “2001” over “Gravity” when it comes to space shots based on what it is shot on and how they actually crafted everything in space as supposed to using CGI (you can’t really do that in 1968), but given how realistic the CGI looks in this movie, I am almost convinced at times that this actually is space. I had a conversation with a companion months after this movie came out where she uttered this movie is basically “all visual effects.” She’s right. The amount of effective green screen used in “Gravity” actually blows my mind. It’s almost like we’re witnessing “Jurassic Park” in space. I say that because “Gravity,” like “Jurassic Park” relies heavily on CGI and the way they’ve executed visual effects in both movies just feel like they can blow your mind out of the water.

Speaking of shots, this movie came out in 2013, and as far as movies released that year go, this one won Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards. And holy crap this movie deserves it. Let’s talk about some of the unique shots in “Gravity.” When it comes to “Gravity,” the first shot I think of is actually the earliest one we see in the film. We see Earth, and a spacecraft is coming in. We also get to see our characters. If you have never seen this movie, this is probably gonna get you to want to check this movie out. That shot goes on for somewhere around ten minutes! Can you imagine how much rehearsing went into that shot? Can you imagine how much preparation the director and people behind the camera had to go through? I wonder what the storyboards must have been like!

Another cool shot is one that is pretty much reminiscent of a first-person game. And I mean that literally, they have FIRST-PERSON shots in this movie. There’s one in the middle of the film that has Ryan Stone trying to get into the International Space Station and as she opens the door to get inside, you can get a view into her helmet just before the door flies as she tugs onto it.

Take that, “Hardcore Henry!” You stole “Gravity’s” idea! I’ve seen this movie in IMAX, and as I reflect on what this movie has, it just makes me want to create a petition to rerelease this film in the format so I can experience shots like the ones I mentioned in such an immersive way.

Going back to visual effects, we need to talk about 3D. There are VERY few movies that I think have been worth the extra money for 3D. Some include “The Hobbit” trilogy, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and f*ck it, even the stupid “Ghostbusters” remake. Gotta give it credit for something, ya know. “Gravity” is also in such a category. You have many scenes where debris and characters are flying everywhere and it’s all just a visual spectacle to the face. It’s like you’re in space and you’re constantly getting hit in the head with debris! Only thing is you’re much more likely to survive because in all practicality you might as well be Dominic Toretto from “Fast & Furious.”

I can’t wait for “Fast & Furious” in space. It’s gonna be great.

One of the most immersive scenes in the movie comes from when Ryan Stone changes spacesuits and is outside the ISS. More debris is incoming, and all of a sudden, the ISS is doomed. You’re seeing bits and pieces flying everywhere and it is just like going on a ride at Universal. While Ryan Stone is certainly in danger, you feel like you’re in danger as well. I also love the line given by Ryan after she is free from any more suffering in this incident.

“I hate space.”

One of the main characters in “Gravity” is played by George Clooney. His name is Matt Kowalski, and he seems to have a knack for telling stories. As I watched this movie, I noticed that when the mood seems to be light, he would tell a story, maybe it is one the characters have heard before. If not, he tells one that has a similar vibe or structure to it.

Another main character, and I’m talking about someone who is technically THE main character is Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone. Talk about one of the best established characters of the decade. She starts off this movie as a seemingly normal character and then you get into her backstory. It’s almost like watching a Pixar movie that doesn’t really gear itself towards children. I mean, HER KID DIED. All she does when she isn’t in space, is go to work and drive. That’s gotta be the most boring life imaginable. I mean, she doesn’t clean McDonald’s restrooms, but even so. Given her backstory and the fact that she is TRULY pulling through, it just makes you root for the character that much more.

I gotta say though, when it comes to the end, that’s where this movie falls flat. This film is an hour and thirty-one minutes, but I don’t know how to feel about the ending. Without going into spoilers, it’s not an out of place ending, but I don’t know, I kind of wanted to see more than just what we got. Also, speaking of out of place, there’s a song that you can hear at the end of the movie and the credits, one of the weirdest song choices in movie history.

Also, regarding out of place stuff that I won’t really spoil, George Clooney’s character does something towards the end of the movie that really, honestly, makes zero sense. If you want to get technical with me, I might even say there are two things. I don’t even know, it just feels out of place. If anything, I could say it might be associated with an illusion or some sort of vision, maybe symbolism, it just makes the movie feel very strange and I just don’t understand why he would be doing what he’s doing.

Now it is time to get…

NITPICKY!

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t do work with rockets, I have no scientific background in anything related to space, I don’t work for NASA. My friend does, but she’s busy doing her own thing, so no, I didn’t ask her to help me out with this post. And you know what? I’d probably do a fine job noting some inaccuracies that can be seen in “Gravity,” but the fact is, I’d really be taking the words out of someone’s mouth. To be specific, the words of Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Some of you might remember the pointing out of scientific inaccuracies since early on in this movie’s release. But one of the more notable bits when it comes to that is from Tyson. He went on Twitter and had a few things to say.

Again, it’s nitpicky, it’s not like we have everybody in the world going around saying the same thing as this guy. Maybe some people would complain about the single-dimension of George Clooney or the cheesy lines that occasionally pop up. But at the same time, science is something that I’m willing to bet a number of filmmakers want to get right in their movies. If your movie has something that maybe in the screenplay was written to be completely compelling, but on screen has the most glaring scientific flaw, some people might point out the scientific flaw as opposed to what makes the scene a thing of beauty. In fact, you know that friend at NASA I was talking about? Even she sometimes says that Hollywood and science don’t always mix and she is not into that sort of thing.

And for those of you who think Dr. Tyson hated “Gravity…”

And this is something that can be taken seriously. While you can certainly enjoy a movie for what it is, there is certainly no shame in pointing out problems, even if they are nitpicky. After all, the more accurate the science is in the movie, the more I might end up enjoying it. “Gravity,” according to my memory, might as well be the first movie where I didn’t exactly question the science on screen, but it had me realizing that when it comes to science, not everything was perfect. In that sort of way, this movie is kind of special to me. How often can you say you remember a movie for its flaws? OK, well, more than you think, I still remember “The Emoji Movie.” But at least these flaws aren’t game-breaking.

In the end, “Gravity” is scary, it’s suspenseful, it’s what you can totally ask for in a space disaster film. To this day it is by far one of the most immersive movies I’ve ever seen. Some of the camerawork is not only masterful, but just so brilliant that it basically changes the game of how future movies could be made. And it did in a way if you think about it given how “Hardcore Henry” took the first-person concept and made an entire movie out of it. I could be wrong. Maybe video games were a bigger inspiration, I don’t know for sure. But if “Gravity” was bigger, cool. Not to mention, “Hardcore Henry” uses GoPro as its source of cinematography whereas this movie’s main source happens to be Arri Alexas. Like Dr. Tyson, I enjoyed this movie very much and I’m going to give “Gravity” an 8/10. While this movie does have some problems, what really gives “Gravity” the 8 mark for me is the journey of watching this film. Our main hero who is just trying to survive is definitely one of the more compelling characters I’ve come across over the past few years. The sound work done in this film is scary as s*it. The visual effects feel like in a way that they may be somewhat groundbreaking, or in some cases, International Space Station breaking. And the cinematography is just so brilliantly done.

*IF YOU LIKE RAMBLING OR BEING INFORMED ABOUT THINGS, READ ON FROM HERE*

Thanks for reading this review! Next week will be my final installment in my space movie review series in preparation for “First Man.” Just a reminder, “First Man” is in theaters everywhere on October 12th, but the day before I will have my review up for “Apollo 13.” I’ll be honest with you, and I’ll let you guys know in advance, I’m not sure how this review will turn out. I’m not saying it’s gonna suck. In fact, if I knew it was gonna suck, I’d scrap the review altogether. But compared to this movie and the other one I’ve reviewed in this series, “2001,” “Apollo 13” just happens to be a film I don’t have as much experience with. I will say one thing I’ve noticed with reviews for older movies is if I know the movie, I put more detail into the review. In my Tom Cruise series, I barely put anything into my review for “The Firm” because my review for it was composed after my first viewing whereas “Risky Business” was something I not only seen before but also happened to have a deep passion towards. My “Firm” review ended up at over 1800 words and my “Risky Business” review ended up at over 3400 words. Then again, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And I may be underestimating myself. I have seen “Apollo 13,” but it’s been years and I only deeply remember various parts. Plus I’m going to New York this weekend and I haven’t even watched the movie yet. Maybe I’ll watch it, go to sleep, wake up, and start my review on the train ride to New York, I dunno.

Speaking of New York, be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on this year’s New York Comic Con! I will be going to the con on Friday and Sunday. I do have Columbus Day off, so if I have time, maybe I’ll use it reviewing the con and telling you what I purchased there. For those of you who want to see more of my work, be sure to follow Scene Before with a WordPress account or an email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Gravity?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your personal worst scientific inaccuracy you’ve ever seen in a movie? Doesn’t even have to be scientific, maybe history-related. Your choice. You have the power.

Only you can control your future. -Dr. Seuss

Scene Before is your click to the flicks!