1. Guest,
    If you need help getting to know Xenforo, please see our guide here. If you have feedback or questions, please post those here.
    Dismiss Notice

Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Once Upon A Time in America

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Messages:
    11,281
    Likes Received:
    502
    Location:
    Since 2006
    Real Name:
    Cameron Yee
    [​IMG]


    Once Upon A Time in America
    Release Date: January 11, 2011
    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
    Year: 1983
    Rating: R
    Running Time: 3:49:00
    MSRP: $24.98







    THE FEATURE

    SPECIAL FEATURES



    Video

    1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1

    Standard definition



    Audio

    DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Czech 5.1, Magyar 5.1, Polish 5.1

    Stereo



    Subtitles

    English SDH, German, Italian, Castellano, Czech, Magyar, Polish, and 17 other languages

    Same






    The Feature: 4.5/5


    David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert DeNiro), a Prohibition-era thug and mobster, returns to his old New York City neighborhood after 35 years in hiding. A mysterious letter has alerted him to the fact the people who forced him to flee the city in 1933 still know he's alive and probably have old scores to settle. Revisiting his past haunts brings to mind his childhood and his friendship with "Patsy" Goldberg (James Hayen), "Cockeye" Stein (William Forsythe), and Max Berkovicz (James Woods), with whom he ran a speakeasy and committed various crimes, including extortion and murder. Also never far from his thoughts is Deborah Gelly (Elizabeth McGovern), the girl he loved since he was a kid, though by his own hand he destroyed anything he could have had with her. Though there's little hope for redemption - or even retribution - in Aaronson's return to the city, finding out who's behind the mysterious communication may finally reveal who betrayed him all those years ago, and why.

    Told in a non-linear fashion, Director Sergio Leone's final directorial work would undoubtedly be more recognized by the general public if the studio hadn't re-edited the film for U.S. theatrical distribution. The disassembling of the director's artful vision into a chronological narrative was ultimately poorly received by both critics and audiences. And it wasn't until the film - in its unaltered form - reached international shores that the film got the recognition it deserved. But of course the damage had been done.

    Fortunately, the home media market offers the film another chance to be seen in its original form. Running at nearly four hours in length, it's certainly a sizable commitment for any viewer, but ultimately a rewarding one. Appropriately described as an "intimate epic," the film covers a broad range of time and within that time several major exploits, but throughout them is clearly focused on the relationships between its main character and those he loves best. The film is even unabashedly sentimental in moments, going so far as to insert Lennon and McCartney's "Yesterday" into the soundtrack (though it never becomes maudlin, perhaps because of the rather unsentimental nature of the characters' behavior and activities). The ambiguous quality to some of the narrative points, particularly in the final act, also makes the film stand out as more than your usual gangster film, one that ultimately leads the viewer back to the main character's deepest inner workings. Through Leone's masterful hand and vision "Once Upon A Time in America" is a gangster film with a deeply compelling heart and soul.



    Video Quality: 3.5/5

    Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. The image is subject to some haziness in wide shots and mild haloing along high contrast edges. Contrast can be inconsistent, struggling more in the darker scenes, which also fail to have the deepest of blacks. Outside of those more challenging scenes, black level and color depth are quite solid and contrast shows the full range of values with no signs of compression. Fine object detail is decent, but the most consistently problematic aspect of the image is overall sharpness, as with the aforementioned wider compositions. Softness in close ups seems to be more a result of source-originated focusing errors; otherwise skin and clothing show a respectable amount of detail. Finally, grain structure is visible - as is a light amount of noise in shadow areas - with no indications of overused noise reduction tools. ​



    Audio Quality: 3/5
    Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity is minimal, with only some very light support for the film score and some mild localized effects. LFE is non-existent, but the track has sufficient depth and fullness, along with some very good detail in the upper frequencies.



    Special Features: 2/5
    The set of extras is notably spartan, though the included material does offer some solid, fundamental information about the production.



    Audio Commentary with Richard Schickel: Schickel is a knowledgeable commentator but is prone to scene description and doesn't always offer the keenest insights, particularly for the more ambiguous aspects of the story. His laid back style also may not appeal to many listeners, especially over the film's significant run time.



    Once Upon A Time: Sergio Leone (19:34, SD): An excerpt from a longer TV biography produced in 2000 by Britain's Film Four Productions, the piece covers the film's development, production and reception and includes interviews with the screenwriters, surviving relatives, and James Woods. Well made and interesting, it would have been nice to have the entirety of the documentary included with the release.



    Trailer (1:33, SD)



    Recap
    The Feature: 4.5/5
    Video Quality: 3.5/5
    Audio Quality: 3/5
    Special Features: 2/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

    Warner Home Video turns in a respectable audio and video presentation for Leone's sentimental and compelling gangster epic. The special features are minimal, but offer some solid background information on the production. Given the technical quality of the release, owners of the DVD shouldn't rush to make an upgrade, but given the right price point it's certainly worth considering. Unfortunately, the more substantial packaging of the two-disc DVD edition doesn't make the decision to replace it any easier. For first time purchasers of the title, the Blu-ray is of course the obvious choice.
     
  2. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Messages:
    3,622
    Likes Received:
    489
    Location:
    Fishkill, NY
    Real Name:
    Rich Gallagher
    I had the misfortune of seeing the edited theatrical release in a theater. What a mess! Whoever was responsible for it deserved to be drawn and quartered.
     
  3. ScottJH

    ScottJH Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2001
    Messages:
    500
    Likes Received:
    11
    Real Name:
    Scott
    Another WB title using AVC. Have they stop using VC-1 altogether?
     
  4. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Messages:
    11,281
    Likes Received:
    502
    Location:
    Since 2006
    Real Name:
    Cameron Yee
    The Mission used VC-1.
     
  5. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 1999
    Messages:
    16,851
    Likes Received:
    280
    Location:
    Disney World and Universal Florida
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    The dvd beaver review has some screen shots, it looks like the blu ray colors have been muted a tad compared to the 2 dvd set.
     
  6. ScottJH

    ScottJH Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2001
    Messages:
    500
    Likes Received:
    11
    Real Name:
    Scott


    That disc was authored at least 4 months ago. Inception was VC-1, but OUATIA, The Town & The Guardians of Ga'hoole were all released after Inception and use AVC.
     
  7. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2001
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    30
    Real Name:
    ManW
    Sounds like a bummer. And I was looking forward to upgrading too -- and almost placed a pre-order the other day.


    Thanks for the review anyhow, Cameron.


    _Man_
     
  8. Bob Cashill

    Bob Cashill Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,711
    Likes Received:
    413
    Not having to change discs mid-movie is perhaps worth the upgrade.
     
  9. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 1999
    Messages:
    10,464
    Likes Received:
    480
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    Too bad this isn't a killer release. I'll probably upgrade at some point just 'cause it's one of my all-time favorites, but I'm in no hurry.


    For those wondering, the extras are exactly the same as on the existing 2-disc DVD set (the DVD also lists "Photographic Memories" and "Leone Film Highlights," but if they were anything substantial I'd remember what they are :) ).
     
  10. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    7,632
    Likes Received:
    1

    Would anybody be able to tell me if the full biography is available on dvd / blu ray ?
     
  11. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Messages:
    11,281
    Likes Received:
    502
    Location:
    Since 2006
    Real Name:
    Cameron Yee
    It seems to be a tough find on optical media, but it is on YouTube in seven parts.


     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 1998
    Messages:
    28,135
    Likes Received:
    3,849
    Location:
    Michigan
    Real Name:
    Robert
    I received my BRD today. I'll have to wait until later in the week to view it since it's almost four hours long.







    Crawdaddy
     
  13. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    7,632
    Likes Received:
    1


    Thanks
     
  14. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 1999
    Messages:
    4,633
    Likes Received:
    1


    Thanks Aaron.
     
  15. JonZ

    JonZ Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 1998
    Messages:
    7,794
    Likes Received:
    7
    From the screenshots, some of the DVD caps show more detail than the BR. Was a old master used for this release? If so, Im disappointed.


    A must have title Im putting on the backburner for now.
     
  16. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2000
    Messages:
    1,276
    Likes Received:
    39
    Real Name:
    Rob
    This is one of my favorite films and I'm quite happy with the upgrade to Blu. I thought the video was a step up from the DVD and the whole movie on one disc is also an improvement.


    Rob
     
  17. Rachael B

    Rachael B Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2000
    Messages:
    4,654
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Knocksville, TN
    Real Name:
    Rachael Bellomy


    Some folks on the AVS Forum complained that the film was on a single disc. They contended that it was too long for such. I'm happy with my copy. It's a huge improvement over the DVD. The audio improvement was so damn obvious.
     
  18. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2001
    Messages:
    1,463
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    South Florida


    +1 for the most part, I thought it looked good on my 92in FP set up. Alas, at this size, the DVD no longer holds together for me.


    There is some buzz out there about how the image drops in quality after the 2 HR mark, and I do see more of a "dupey" quality to the image and resultant softness thereafter - but, it appears that the scenes with this quality are the "extended" sequences. I wonder how this was pieced together, elements, etc.

    What an awesome, harsh bitter pill, romantic, and dreamy movie this is. All wrapped in one package.

    My minor beefs with the film are the hilariously professional camera moves during the TV news sequences. Very odd...


    And while I used to fall in with the opium dream theory crowd, I now feel that revisiting Noodles in the den at the end simply means this is where it all changed - his last bit of happiness. The final moment where he last had his memories intact. He really never moved on from there. I don't think he's literally still there, dreaming up the 1960s sequence, but figuratively he's stuck there, forever.

    Otherwise, Noodles can forget the money in the briefcase and go after Paul McCartney for royalties.
     
  19. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 1999
    Messages:
    10,464
    Likes Received:
    480
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    Felix, that's exactly how I interpret the film as well.


    Nice to hear that the Blu is a noticeable improvement on the DVD!
     
  20. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2001
    Messages:
    1,463
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    South Florida
    Hi Aaron, the Blu-ray has issues, but yes, I retired the DVD. Maybe in 3 years for the 30th anniversary it will be revisited in a truly outstanding package and transfer (perhaps also including the orig U.S. cut for reference purposes, etc.). I'm good 'til then.
     

Share This Page