Does Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' Live Up To The Hype? Here's What Critics Say
HIS 'MOST PERSONAL FILM IN DECADES'

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"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is Tarantino's ninth film and his first since 2015's "The Hateful Eight" (also, it should be noted, it's Tarantino's first release since the sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein broke and Uma Thurman's decision to shed light on a life-threatening "Kill Bill Vol. 2" stunt). Opening July 26, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie and looks back at late '60s Hollywood, fading white male star fame and the Tate murders. How does it stack up to the rest of Tarantino's highly revered output? Here's what the reviews have to say:

The Story Mixes Up Fictional Leads With Real Hollywood

The filmmaker gives Sharon [Tate] (Margot Robbie) a fictional neighbor on Cielo Drive. He's Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a star of TV Westerns who's boozing away what's left of his flagging career. Rick's only friend is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his stunt double and confidante who lives in a trailer near the Van Nuys Drive-In with a rust-colored Rottweiler named Brandy. Cliff is a Vietnam vet and has been largely unemployable since rumors started swirling that he killed his wife and got away with it.

[Rolling Stone]

Two main stories run on parallel tracks in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. One concerns Sharon, who is carefree, innocent, and eager to please. The other follows Rick and Cliff, which often splits into two stories of its own: Rick's struggle to be an actor of real worth in a changing industry, and Cliff's brush with a group of teenaged girls (and a few guys) living on an abandoned ranch that once functioned as a movie set. That group, of course, turns out to be the Manson family.

[Vox]


It's Unmistakably The Product Of Tarantino's Mind, Though Perhaps Not His Sharpest Offering

This is Tarantino's most personal film in decades, and the longings expressed in it flow from who he is as a person: an established middle-aged white guy confronting his own impending irrelevance.

[AV Club]

For his ninth effort, he pays homage to his southern California roots via a yarn about a B-list actor slumming it in low-budget B-movies. Perhaps it's only fitting that "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" earns the same grade […] Now that the Oscar pressure is off, let's enjoy "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" for what it is: A rather breezy late-summer entry with a set-up that could only be written by a native Angelino-turned-filmmaker.

[US Weekly]


It Also Doesn't Go Heavy On The Manson Stuff Right Away

For Tarantino, the murders aren't the main interest. He's most fascinated by the world around them, in the fact that Manson ultimately wound up in Hollywood and not some other place. The factors that might drive girls to follow a man like Manson might also be linked to what caused Rick Dalton's star to start fading.

[Vox]

I'm sure someone at some party uttered the question, "Wait, Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys is hanging out with them?," in disbelief. So by the time we get to Charles Manson in this movie, Tarantino has done a pretty great job of setting up just how odd all of this is.

[UPROXX]

Oscar Winner DiCaprio Nails The Role Of TV's Rick Dalton

DiCaprio proves to be such a perfect choice for Dalton that one can't really imagine anyone else in the part. He's always had classic Hollywood stardom, but he imbues Dalton with that odd mix of longing that often comes with aging — sure, he loves his life and hanging with his buddy but he's nervous when he thinks about what's next, wondering if he hasn't missed out on something forever.

[RogerEbert.com]

There's irony in seeing Hollywood's biggest (and perhaps final) movie star playing someone who's all washed up, but DiCaprio has been working in showbiz since he was a child — he's someone who can understand the ways in which the industry builds people up and then tears them down.

[The Atlantic]

Cliff's The Kind Of Character We All Wish Brad Pitt Would Play More Often

Pitt's performance is the first reminder in years (since perhaps 2011's "Moneyball") that he's the most charismatic movie star of his generation: This is effortlessly cool work, with an edge of menace, from a man who has gravitated toward more closed-off and brittle roles in recent years.

[The Atlantic]

Pitt is flat-out hilarious when [Cliff] gets a stunt job on "The Green Hornet" and goads an arrogant Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), starring as Kato, into a battle that ends badly for the "Fists of Fury" legend.

[Rolling Stone]

According To Some, Robbie Is Given Too Little To Do As Sharon Tate…

At nearly a three-hour running time, it's a shame Tarantino didn't shine a brighter light on Robbie's character. Her Sharon Tate is a gorgeous cipher dressed up in white leather Go-Go boots […] This is a wasted opportunity to learn more about one of the most tragic figures in Hollywood history beyond her chic fashion sense.

[US Weekly]

The only thing we learn, really, is that she wanted to be loved and recognized like anyone else, and that she really liked Paul Revere and the Raiders.

[Entertainment Weekly]


… But Others Agree With Robbie And Tarantino That The Role Adds Up To More Than Its Raw Minute Count

Tarantino received some heat at the Cannes Film Festival for his (unnecessarily combative) response to a journalist's question at a press conference, in which he vehemently told a New York Times reporter who asked about Robbie's relatively small number of lines in the film that he "rejected [her] hypothesis." But as the actress herself said in her response, her character has some of the film's most moving scenes. Sharon Tate is often remembered as little more than the actress from "Valley of the Dolls", the wife of Roman Polanski, and the girl who got murdered by the Manson family. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" gives her emotional depth.

[Vox]

The best way to present Tate as a human being was to keep her out of the plot and just, here and there, show her doing things any other human beings in her position might be doing at any given time. She is the ghost who haunts this movie.

[UPROXX]

It's Super Long And Stylishly Stuffed To The Gills

The 56-year-old's ninth — and so he promises, penultimate — film feels like the sprawling confluence of every last thread in his creative DNA: lock-jawed Westerns, splattery exploitation, sex, sideburns, Nazis, nihilists, femmes who may or may not be fatales. It's shaggy and self-indulgent and almost scandalously long; and in nearly every moment, pretty glorious.

[Entertainment Weekly]

Is there a way to use the word "meandering" as a positive? Because "Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood" is a *meandering* movie that doesn't feature much of a traditional plot. I swear that's meant in the most positive way possible […] With a running time of 160 minutes, Tarantino has nowhere to be anytime soon.

[UPROXX]

Tarantino's longtime editor, Sally Menke, died in 2010, and her absence is still palpable. But though Menke's assistant, Fred Raskin, stumbled with "Django Unchained", he comes into his own with "Once Upon A Time", indulging in high-wire experiments that further unmoor the film from conventional plotting.

[AV Club]

The Trailer And Stills Only Give A Glimpse Of The Production's Lush Design And Cinematography

The bulk of Tarantino's film is designed to be a dreamy snapshot of the movie business and life in Hollywood in the late '60s. We get dozens of shots of Cliff driving Rick around town, really just to show off the amazing production design, classic cars, and music choices on the radio […] It's a setting once-removed from reality, capturing a time through the way celebrity culture and movies defined it more than the historians.

[RogerEbert.com]

Much of the film coasts on the nostalgic setting of the late 60's — a time synonymous with change. Not only is this sentiment found in the corners of the script, it's there aesthetically. Tarantino immerses us into the world of 1969, achieved through Arianne Phillips' costume designs and Barbara Ling's production design – all of it captured beautifully through Robert Richardson's cinematography.

[Fresh Fiction]

If It Feels Different From The Tarantino You Know, Know That The Movie Eventually Takes A Turn…

Some viewers might start to wonder somewhere around the two-and-a-half-hour mark if Tarantino actually has a plan to bring this all together, or merely wants to keep unspooling his celluloid valentine until the reels run out. There's a wild twist coming, one you can either choose to go with or not; it feels a lot better to let it in.

[Entertainment Weekly]

I'm not going to tell you what happens (not because of Tarantino's request, but because I'm a professional movie critic). But you don't need to have any idea of the plot of the film to understand that, if "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained" (and, to an extent, even "The Hateful Eight") are fantastical, revisionist histories, Tarantino's latest movie is wish fulfillment on a much grander scale — but simultaneously a more intimate one.

[Vox]

… And Though It Might Be The Most Tarantino-y Bit Of All, It's Also What's Most Likely To Turn You Off The Film

The climactic third act, however, places shock and schlock at the forefront, which, in turn, negates much of what the first two-thirds sets up thematically with the characters and the narrative. The provocateur's ode to L.A. devolves into something shallow, cheap and exploitative. It may be bombastically Tarantinoian to choose the route he does. Only it's done at a detriment to the sentiments expressed in the first place.

[Fresh Fiction]

The least interesting thing about "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is its attempts to shock the audience. Tarantino may have excelled at such provocations 20 years ago, but he's gotten a little rusty — and that plays perfectly into the Tinseltown story he's trying to tell.

[The Atlantic]

The final few scenes will be among the most divisive of the year, and I'm still rolling around their effectiveness in my own critical brain. Without spoiling anything, I'm haunted by the final image, taken from high above its characters, almost as if Tarantino himself is the puppet master saying goodbye to his creations, all co-existing in a vision of blurred reality and fiction. However, the violence that precedes it threatens to pull the entire film apart (and will for some people). Although that may be the point — the destruction of the Tinseltown dream that casts this blend of fictional and real characters back into Hollywood lore.

[RogerEbert.com]

TL;DR

By the end of the film, Tarantino falls back into some of his familiar tropes. It's as though he just can't stop himself from dipping into old habits but doesn't really know why and isn't sure how to stick the landing. But until that point, it is a star-studded joy to watch. 

[Vox]


Watch The Trailer

 

<p>Mathew Olson is an Associate Editor at Digg.</p>

Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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