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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly brilliant - but be sure you buy the correct version
This film is one of my 10 favourites of all time. It is utterly brilliant. There are plenty of other five-star reviews on this site that you can read for details of why it is so brilliant. I'm not going to repeat what other reviewers have said, so I will just offer one VERY IMPORTANT piece of advice:

Make sure you buy the longest version you can find...
Published on 31 May 2011 by newzild

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars great film - very very poor rendition onto Blu-Ray
Was really very disappointed about this. I know that it flips back and forth in time - and was made in the 80s - but that isnt really excuseable for the dull and lack of brightness transfer. Dr No from 1962 being a very good example ofwhere it can be done well.
Still a good film
Still a timeless film score
But not worth adding to your BD collection
Published 22 months ago by Ginola14

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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly brilliant - but be sure you buy the correct version, 31 May 2011
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America [Blu-ray] [1984] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This film is one of my 10 favourites of all time. It is utterly brilliant. There are plenty of other five-star reviews on this site that you can read for details of why it is so brilliant. I'm not going to repeat what other reviewers have said, so I will just offer one VERY IMPORTANT piece of advice:

Make sure you buy the longest version you can find.

A European lab is currently (May, 2011) restoring the original 269 minute version, which is likely to premiere at Cannes in 2012.

Leone's European version ran 229 minutes, and it appears that this Blu-ray product is that version. The 229 minute European version is the one that is currently considered to be a classic. I've seen it two or three times, and I love every minute of it.

When this film was released in the United States, distributors insisted that it be cut further. The film was slashed to 139 incomprehensible minutes, and the numerous flashback scenes were shifted into chronological order. The result was a disaster, and this is why there are still some poor reviews for the film floating around the 'net (all from American critics). I saw this version once myself, and it was indeed rubbish.

So there you are. Buy this version - which is the best currently available - and you will not be disappointed.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu Review 77 Once Upon a Time in America extended cut, 8 Jun 2013
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Once Upon a Time in America extended cut

Distributor: Warner Home Video (Italy)

For anyone who has yet to experience Sergio Leone's epic masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in America is a movie that simply has everything going for it. With a deeply engrossing plot to keep you guessing right through to the final frame, top tier performances from an exceptional cast, a phenomenal and highly memorable soundtrack and superb direction from one of Italy's most respected film makers, this is actually one of the few titles that could seriously give The Godfather a run for its money to the title of best gangster/mob movie of all time.

The film has endured a huge following over the years but not without its fair share of controversy. Originally released at 229 minutes in length, this was later cut down for American audiences to a mere 139 minutes making certain aspects of the movie unrecognisable and creating much dissatisfaction among movie goers everywhere. The original longer cut was certainly a different film and soon became recognised as the only way to see the movie. The story however does not end there as it was well known that Sergio Leone had actually cut around 40 minutes of footage from his original release which would have made the full running running time of the movie around 269 minutes in length and film collectors everywhere soon began pining for an even longer extended version.

Despite much talk of releasing a longer cut, Leone unfortunately passed away in 1989 and all hope of ever seeing his original vision became lost until 2011 when it was announced that Leone's children together with the films original sound editor would attempt to recreate the 269 minute cut using the remaining out-take footage. The new restoration of the film premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, however due to unforeseen rights issues for the deleted scenes, the film's latest cut actually ended up being 251 minutes, although Martin Scorsese (whose Film Foundation helped with the film's restoration) stated that he is helping Leone's children get the rights to the final 24 minutes of deleted scenes to eventually make a complete version of Leone's original 269 minute print. In August 2012, it was reported that the newly restored version of the film that had premiered at the Cannes festival had been pulled from circulation pending further restoration work, however 3 months later this 251 minute version found its way to blu-ray release exclusively in Italy.

Okay, so that's the history lesson out of the way, so how about the actual blu-ray?

Comprising of around 22 minutes of extra re-inserted material this was always going to be a controversial release among the legions of film fans everywhere with opinions differing as to whether the new material actually serves any real purpose to the films already impressive running time. The scene extensions themselves do add some extra narrative and character development although some extensions probably work better than others.

As for the actual quality of the presentation, it would appear as though even the blu-ray itself is not without its fair share of controversy. Firstly the studio is stated to have made the new extended cut using a 4k master which generally looks pretty impressive (although the newly inserted extra material is easily spotted by the noticeable drop in quality) Secondly somewhere along the line, the newly scanned transfer has also resulted in a colour change which again has its share of detractors as well many other people who have stated that they now prefer the newer tones as looking more natural. Finally and perhaps most controversially, the Italian distributor released the now 251 minute movie on one single blu-ray disc, once again causing much internet debate with rumours of unnecessary compression artefacts now being highly noticeable throughout the presentation.

So with all of this baggage going in, it was certainly going to prove to be an interesting title to review.

Presented region B locked with a 1080p 1.85:1 transfer, the first thing long time fans will notice is the aforementioned change in colour. Blacks are certainly more subdued than the previous blu-ray release although there is definitely an argument to be had over which of the two colour palates looks more natural. Detail is reasonably impressive especially during long shots which pick up previously unseen information, however the main complaints over this release appear to centre around a perceived abundance of compression artefacts throughout the transfer. On viewing the presentation, rumours of severe and persistent problems throughout the print would appear to be highly exaggerated as although certain scenes exhibit a very minor presence of a grain like substance, this in no way spoils the presentation in what is overall a pretty decent transfer (the obvious exception again being the newly inserted footage which is sadly of a far lesser quality)

Audio is presented with Italian Mono and DTS 5.1 options as well as an English DTS 5.1 track.
The Italian tracks actually seem the louder and perhaps more atmospheric of the three however the English track delivers an overall pleasing performance with clear dialogue and the always impressive score now sounding better than ever, although it's really only your front speakers that will have any work to do during the presentation.

Extra features are unfortunately none existent, however you could argue that the presence of the extra material exclusive to this release is reason enough to generate interest here, although it would certainly have been beneficial to have included a documentary or two on the film itself or even on the new restoration, albeit on a separate disc.

All things considered, if you hold anything more than a passing interest in the film then this release certainly makes for a compelling watch and an excellent disc to have in your collection and at an import price of around £12 delivered, it is far from expensive. Whether or not the extended version will ever make it to blu-ray in other territories or perhaps even be bettered is quite frankly anyone's guess but ultimately the choice to wait or to take this version as it currently stands is fortunately your own.

Not surprisingly, for a film already steeped this deep in controversy, the ongoing debate looks set to run for some time yet...

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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray review, 12 Feb 2011
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America [Blu-ray] [1984] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
There's not much to say that hasn't been said already. 'Once Upon a Time in America' is without a doubt one of the best films of all time. A grand tale of nostalgia and regret directed by a legendary filmmaker. Robert De Niro, James Woods and the rest of the cast all give great performances. Ennio Morricone's score is simply beautiful.
No film buff should miss it.

The transfer looks quite good. There are no distracting compression artifacts or other anomalies. There is no excessive DNR and the image looks natural. It might not be a demo-worthy material but it is truthful to the original look of the film and a significant improvement over the DVD release.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track, while not spectacular, is very clear and precise. There's not much happening in the surround channels but it is an accurate representation of the original, almost 30-year-old soundtrack.
All in all, this Blu-ray release is the best the film has ever looked on home video and truthful to the original theatrical presentation.

Highly recommended.

Available audio tracks: English (DTS-MA), Spanish, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish (all DD 5.1)
Available subtitles: English, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Spanish, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Latin Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-Ray: upcoming Italian edition Director's Cut, 4 Aug 2011
Giorgio (Como (CO), Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America [Blu-ray] [1984] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Some might be interested in knowing that Sergio Leone's sons have recently reacquired - for the italian market - the rights for this masterpiece, and are proceding to a full restoration in order to produce (rumor has it, in 2012) the Director's Cut originally intended by Leone.

Meaning, more than FOURTY additional minutes of footage - originally cut due to the length of the movie - will be re-integrated. I don't know about you, but I've been hoping for years this would happen.

The restoration will probably be supervised by some big name, most likely Scorsese or Tarantino, but that's just rumors for the time being.

Guess I'll be waiting to purchase that blu-ray...

UPDATE 16/10/2012: and here we go! The 7th of December 2012 is the scheduled release date for the restored Director's Cut of OUATIA. Later on, it will be released a boxset including both of the film versions...

UPDATE 17/12/2012: and... the Director's cut blu-ray sucks. They had the genius of stuffing a 4 1/2 hour long movie, with multiple hd tracks, onto a single BD. Compression and artifacts are all over the place. Idiots. I'll wait for a new release, respectful of Leone's art.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without a doubt, The greatest film ever made!, 15 July 2012
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Never before have i been more moved, absorbed and engrossed by a film like i have by Sergio Leone's, Once Upon A Time In America. This is one of a very select range of films were absolutely everything hits the mark. Though its almost 4 hours in length the film flies by and i seriously doubt you'll see a more glouriously artistic film.

The film is told in a non-liner way. It appears a simple story, the charting of 4 friends who rise from the slums and hit the big time during prohibiton, until the mafia comes calling. But there are many twists and turns along the way that challenge their friendship. The film brilliantly explodes a great number of lifes topics including, love, greed, betrayal and loss. The film itself is beautifully shot by Leone, who clearly dedicated a lot of time to the mood and atmosphere, and it really does show.

The acting is top draw. Robert De Niro proves yet again why hes one of the greatest actors of all time with his troubled portrayal of Noodles, whilst James Woods is superb as wanna-be big shot Max. Both James Hayden and William Forsythe (Patsy and Cockeye) are quietly excellent in their backing roles to Woods and De Niro, helping to create a strong sense of friendship and make the audience care. Other shout outs go to Teusday Weld, Richard Bright (in a short appearence), Larry Rapp, Treat Williams and Elizabeth McGovern who are all great in their roles.

Arguably the greatest part is Ennio Morricone's incredible score. Its so moving, one of the few scores that could bring a tear to my eye. It does exactly what it is meant to do and enhances certain scenes so much.

Many see this film as too dated (even though its set in the 20s/30s and the set is wonderful) or a Godfather rip-off (I love The Godfather and i love America, yet they are massively different). All i can say is get the film and be prepaired to be bowled over by ,in my eyes, the greatest film ever made.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sergio Leone Classic Blu Ray delight, 16 Jan 2011
S. R. Williams (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America [Blu-ray] [1984] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
I have just finished watching my American Blu Ray version, which should be identical to the forthcoming UK release, I am happy to say that Once upon a Time in America looks fabulous in HD, the picture is sharp, colour pallet is excellent, the flashbacks to their childhood still hold the sepia hue as intended, the extras are exactly the same as on the 2 disc SE which is a shame would have been nice to have a new documentary. The whole uncut film is on one disc, I love this film and have always held it in high regard since I first saw a copy on VHS in my teens.
Is the upgrade to HD worth it for those that have the 2 disc DVD, without a shadow of a doubt, this film has never looked so good, it may not knock your socks off like Avatar or LOTR but then it wasn't expected to.
I still think this is one of the best gangster movies out there and worth having in everyone's collection, yes it can be slow at times, yes it is quite violent and can have some unsettling scenes but Sergio is in a class of his own (even though i am not keen on Fistful of Dynamite).
Many have speculated over the film is it a drug induced dream etc, I have always had a couple of nagging doubts about a few things set in the 60's so it may have been, after all if Max was the senitor wouldn't his picture have been in the press or on TV and wouldn't noodles have spotted it at least once? I know fat moe states he hasn't seen his sister in a while but as she became a big stage star surley he would have know who she married and wouldn't there have been a few pictures of the happy couple doing the rounds.............but apart from these I have and will always champion this movie.
Do I think anyone interested in this film should upgrade, yes without hesitation.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four hours will never be better spent., 4 Feb 2004
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
My oh my.There is a distinct polarisation of opinion of this film on the Amazon website.As you can see from the five stars i believe this is a truly great film, a classic ,a masterpiece.Yes it,s long, yes it,s slow, yes the lead characters are amoral thugs but none of this matters.This labyrinthine tale of Jewish gangsters subsides to an emotional core that is sombre and elgaic and ultimately moving.Those who don,t get it....well i suggest they consult a doctor because they may well have a lump of sandblasted tar instead of a heart.
Sergio Leone,s interpretation of Harry Grey,s "The Hoods" takes an average pulp thriller and transforms it into a complex epic that slips easily between three time periods and gradually reveals a monumental betrayal.The genesis and evolution of the characters story is beleivable and though the fact that the screenplay was produced by Italians means the dialouge is occasionally clunky it,s never unrealistic or unintentionally humourous.
Robert De Niro plays the adult "David "Noodles" Aaronson" who in one of the films lighter scenes(played by the child actors who potray the characters in their younger years , obviously) meets Max played by James Woods who quickly becomes fellow leader of the gang Noodles ran.Noodles has the hots for the daughter of the local bar owner, Deborah played by Jennifer Connelly, and it,s the dichotomy between Noodles deep friendship with Max and his love for Deborah that provide much of the films narrative momentum.The gang gradually progress to become criminals of some repute,most of which occurs while Noodles is in prison for kniving a rival gang leader, but they are still employed by a mob boss played by Joe Pesci to intervene in industrial disputes or murder fellow mobsters.
Max has a fixation with robbing the federal reserve which Noodles knows is a scuicide mission,so in order to save his friend he turns them in to the police but the arrest goes horribly wrong and they all perish.Noodles is now alone and pursued by henchman of a vengeful mob boss. Wisely he decides to escape taking all the gangs ill gotten gains only to discover it,s all gone.He has no alternative but to leave town on the first bus out which goes to some back of beyond town where he spends the next thirty years.....until a letter arrives offering him money for one last job.Knowing they,ve found him he returns only to discover things are not what they seem.
This is a sumptuous film,beautifully shot which looks great on DVD compared to my old grainy video copy.Leone,s trademark technique of lingering on characters faces is used extensively but all the actors are superb and carry it off easily,particually De Niro playing the old stooped Noodles.Some of the scenes as he visits old haunts and comes across old acquaintances are astonishingly poignant.Ennio Morricone,s extraordinary evocative score plays a major part in this.Apparantly it was played on set to help the actors find the right mood.It worked beautifully.
Noodles is not a particually sympathetis character but his violent past clearly haunts him.His betrayal, his rape of Deborah when he realises she intends to leave him behind in her life,the men he killed all weigh heavily on his mind and its testimony to Leone that he manages to make the audience care about these misanthropic people.
The complaints about the point at which the film cuts to the scond disc are fully justified.Whoever made this crass decision should be ashamed.The commentary by film critic Richard Shickel is a tad dull and at times a bit patronising but theres a doccumentary to add a bit more depth.But i buy DVD,s for the film and they don,t come better than "Once Upon a Time in America".Ignore the grumpys, this a terrific film and anyone who complains because the ending is ambiguous should really stick to Michael Bay movies."Once Upon a Time in America " is magnificent cinema.Peerless.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leone's final epic, 24 Mar 2008
S J Buck (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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OUATIA is an epic film in every sense. It follows the life of 'Noodles' (Robert De Niro) from early adolesense to adult and then as an older man discovering the truth about his past that he thought was dead and buried.

The cast are superb with DeNiro and James Woods as Max (at his most charismatic) playing the two leading roles roles. In the fact if anything the sections with the younger actors playing the adolesent Noodles and Max were probably even better.

Leone's view of the American gangster era is a little more poetic than say Goodfellas and The Godfather. The pace of this film is more measured. Its beautifully shot and a wonderful looking film. When the violence happens though, it is as viseral as anything you will find in those other two great gangster films. In particular there are two rape scenes, which whilst not that explicit tell you a lot about 'Noodles' attitude to women.

One of the characters in the film is called James Conway O'Donnell (as displayed in the cast list), but he is referred to as Jimmy Conway in the film. Interestingly Jimmy Conway was DeNiro's character in Goodfellas.

For me its just short of 5 stars. The reason is the length. At three hours and 40 minutes its just too long. I felt that it could have been trimmed a little (say 20 mins) and the film would have a little sharper. But this is a very minor critcism of what is otherwise a superb film.
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86 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leone's final masterpiece, finally on DVD., 11 Jun 2003
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Based on the dire pulp novel 'The Hoods' by Harry Grey (republished under this title by Bloomsbury), Once Upon a Time in America was the final film from legendary director Sergio Leone. Infamously it was edited from its 228minute duration- making it a nonsensical gangster flick. Leone never made another film again & eventually died in 1989...
Once...America is Leone returning to the form suggested by 1969's ultimate spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West- films like I'm Gonna Get You Sucka! (aka A Fistful of Dynamite) somehow mediocre. As with ...West, Leone failed to get Clint Eastwood on board here- though with a cast featuring great performances from De Niro (of course), James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams & a (very) young Jennifer Connelly, he's hardly missed. There are also some great cameos from stalwarts such as Joe Pesci (against type), Danny Aiello & Burt Young.
It seemed absurd that this film, occasionlly shown on TV, was not available on video/DVD, & yet you could buy the (excellent)BFI book on it. The extra features are wonderful additions to this great gangster epic. Once...America for me is the end of the gangster genres- while Goodfellas (1990) was the brilliant encore, yet to be bettered. It is easily up there with the first two Godfather films, or Mean Streets- though it's complex flashback structure has more in common with Godfather Part II, or more pertinently, Nic Roeg films like Don't Look Now & Performance.
The film starts somewhere in the middle of things, shifting backwards and forwards revealing more about the before & after- taking in a gang of Jewish criminals between 1922 & 1968. To say much more would give this epic classic away- it is wonderfully shot (as great looking as films like Gangs of New York & Heaven's Gate and with a cityscape that would influence films like Road to Perdition) and complemented by one of the greatest film scores from one of the greatest film scorers, Ennio Morricone. The 'child' parts are wonderfully acted- easily up there with the early part of Goodfellas & there are some great comic moments (notably the baby mix up) & nice to see Treat Williams character standing in for Jimmy Hoffa! There are a few duff/false elements- the terrible muzak take of The Beatles Yesterday, & the end might irritate people. But that is countered by a vile petrol soaking scene (easily beating that in Reservoir Dogs), a dire rape in the back of a limo, De Niro lost in an opium haze, an opulent Gatsby like luxury & the way the childhood friends are ultimately corrupted- the corpses on the road in the rain, who once joyfully collected salt-encrusted booty, or in my fave scene, consumed a wonderful cake rather than having a look at some tush!
Once Upon a Time in America is proof, along with Blue Velvet, River's Edge and Drugstore Cowboy, that some great films were made in the 1980s. Contrast this to Coppola's generally dire The Cotton Club (also 1984); a classic that anyone with an interest in De Niro or crime films should own, in this the definitive version
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Sergio Leone's final "labour of love" is a lost paradise regained to be redeemed in the realms of time and existence ,as it was almost ruined by the negligence of the "studio system" and for me this is 229 minutes of pure nirvana on dvd.

Possibly the best movie ever from America and culminating the "neo classic" genre with "avant garde"cinema ,almost like Caravaggio would merge with Manet in a metaphor for the highest achievement in art,where American technique and European narrative merge in the epic story set in the era of Depression and Prohibition ,as the script entails the life and ventures of four Jewish hoodlums through almost four decades in astonishingly realistic style in the authentic period details of real locales of Manhattan and Brooklyn .

Leone leaves no stone unturned and it is delightful to see most it being acclaimed as a masterpiece as indeed everything from the haunting unforgettable musical score to the emotionally scarring theme of lost youth and unrequited love is imbued with haunting memories of the past in a very affective flashback technique where the past and present are juxtaposed in a poignant manner without revealing any plot details till the last frame itself .
Every character is portrayed brilliantly in every glorious frame with De Niro at his charismatic best as is the rest of the cast with James Woods stealing the show as the extrovert and the most ruthless of the four friends ,and Elizabeth McGovern giving the perfect impression of a cold and sophisticated classical beauty playing a Broadway star actress .

But it is Leone himself who surpasses every maker in recent times to give cinema a virtual jewel in the crown,this hallmarks the final arrival of style and realism from europe to embrace the gloss and energy of American cinema,this also marks the spirit of an artist who withstood the studio onslaughts to bring home his swansong'

The New York Jewish mafia has never looked so menacing and yet so originally empatic in their motivation sweeping through Prohibition as they murder and torture their way chasing their own demons in a fraternal gang with a relevant account of "labour unions" and the "corrupt NYPD" .

The fragmented memories of an old man,played in present by DeNiro, who is revisiting his lost love and deceptive friends ,after an imprisoned exile sets a haunting tone which will always echo in your soul as it is sensitivity embalmed in the world of crass crime and corruption .

The mystery that lost love can be so enchanting is explored enigmatically by Leone with a musical score that sets a landmark for cinema as it even exceeds the classical " Doctor Zhivago "in its operatic style and harmonious mood enhancing the atmosphere ,paying a huge tribute to the talent of the Italian maestro 'Ennio Morricone' .

The meticulous recreation of "Opium dens" and street gang wars in the back alleys of Brooklyn with "elegant waltzing" on island piers and forced sexual encounters in backseats of plush hired limousines are indeed great cinema which is a magnum opus of blood and sweat set with alluring style and scorching genius .

The four friends and their quaint and endearing friendship fascinates in every fragment and frame and it explores male camaraderie and the psychological affects of greed on fraternity as it influences human conscience.

A refreshing masterpiece on "organised crime "mingled with a hearbreaking human drama encompassing a lost era which is immensely watchable at all times in all moods .
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