Drenched in an atmosphere of doom and melancholic tragedy, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is an unabashed love letter to Hollywood, a masterful, nostalgic fairytale at the cusp of an impending film renaissance. The glitz and glamor of Tinseltown debuts on Blu-ray with a demo-worthy HD video, a marvelous DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack but a disappointingly small set of bonuses. Nevertheless, the overall package is Highly Recommended for the curious and a must-have for Tarantino devotees.
You can read our full thoughts on Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in our review of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy. The Region Free BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9, and both come inside a blue, eco-elite case with a slipcover. At startup, the disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching to a menu screen with full-motion clips, music playing and the usual options.
The glitz and glamor of Tinseltown shine with glorious splendor on Blu-ray thanks to a spectacularly gorgeous, demo-worthy 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode.
As per usual of all Tarantino films, Once Upon a Time was shot on traditional 35mm stock with a mix of 8mm and 16mm footage sprinkled here and there, bathing the entire picture in an ultra-fine layer of natural film-like grain. And this freshly-minted transfer splendidly delivers razor-sharp definition of the Hollywood streets, exposing the unique architectural features and imperfections of the buildings and the tiny cracks on the sidewalks while maintaining excellent legibility of various windows, signs and billboards. The individual hairs of the grimy, filthy mops of the Manson Family are distinct, the stitching and threading on their ragged hippie clothing are highly detailed and every pebble on the ground, every splinter in the wood and the tiniest object decorating the background is plainly visible from a distance.
Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the video also debuts with exceptional contrast and brightness balance, displaying crisp, squeaky-clean whites that enliven the city at night. The glow from the neon lights and signs shine with outstanding intensity but a tight radiance allowing for excellent clarity within the hottest areas. Black levels are true and accurate throughout, showering those night sequences and poorly-lit interiors with inky-rich shadows without sacrificing the smaller details in the darkest corners of the frame. True to the photographic intentions of Robert Richardson, the cinematography was shot in a heavy earth tone color scheme, favoring lots of browns, grays, tans, butterscotch yellows and honey-like oranges. In spite of this, primaries remain richly-saturated and animated. (Video Rating: 96/100)
Complementing the groovy retro visuals is a sterling, marvelously satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that like the video presentation, is faithful to Tarantino's intentions, meaning this is not the sort to compete with blockbuster actioners but is sure to rock the house nonetheless with its collection of radio hits from 1969.
This is a very front-heavy presentation that feels like a traditional stereo design, subtly incorporating very refined sounds for setting a mood and creating a larger, realistic soundscape. In that respect, imaging continuously feels expansive with splendid, amazingly believable movement across the screen, exhibiting superb separation and clarity in the mid-range. While several discrete effects fluidly sweep across all three channels into the off-screen space to produce a wide sense of space, the music and song selections enjoy a great deal of warmth and fidelity, displaying squeaky-clean, sharp definition and marvelous differentiation between the various notes and instruments.
Being a heavy character-driven comedy-drama, a great deal of attention is understandably focused on the dialogue and conversations, delivering crisp and precise clarity at all times. Low bass doesn't pack a memorable wallop and punch, but there is still plenty of impact in the few bits of action while the music delivers a more robust presence and weight. Rear activity is, for the most part, on the quieter side, reserved for a mild splattering of atmospherics sprinkled here and there with amusing effectiveness. It's not all that convincing, but it's enough to lightly extend the soundfield and provide a highly-engaging ambiance. In the end, the lossless mix supplies a substantial wall of sound that is immensely satisfying. (Audio Rating: 90/100)
Additional Scenes (HD, 25 min): An entertaining assortment of faux promos, more mock footage from the TV western shows and a few extended sequences.
Restoring Hollywood – The Production Design (HD, 9 min): Discussion on the effort for authenticity and accuracy when recreating the specific time period.
The Fashion of 1969 (HD, 7 min): Similar to the above but focused on the costumes.
Shop Talk – The Cars of 1969 (HD, 6 min): A look at the various vehicles in the film.
Quentin Tarantino's Love Letter to Hollywood (HD, 5 min): Cast & crew interviews praising the filmmaker's talent, his near-encyclopedic memories of Hollywood and the production.
Bob Richardson – For The Love of the Film (HD, 5 min): Acclaim from the cast & crew.
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a brazen, unabashed love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood at the cusp of an impending film renaissance and a sudden shift in American culture. Using the unfortunate tragedy of Sharon Tate at the hands of Charles Manson's cult followers, the plot follows a former TV western star and his best-friend stuntman faced with the radical changes ahead while saturated in a tense sense of doom.
The glitz and glamor of Tinseltown debuts on Blu-ray with a gorgeous, demo-worthy video presentation and a marvelously satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Featuring a disappointingly small but nonetheless enjoyable set of supplements, the overall package is highly recommended for the curious and a must-have for Tarantino devotees.