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Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 28, 2012 by  



Captivating, addictive and in my opinion, one of the best drama series on television at this time, “Once Upon a Time” is a unique, well-acted, well-written drama series that will win you over with its initial pilot episode to its thrilling season final.  It’s that good!  “Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 ABC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season

TV SEASON AIR DATE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 946 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: abc studios

RATED: TV PG LSV

Release Date: August 28, 2012

Directed by Dean White, Ralph Hemecker, Paul A. Edwards, David Solomon, Milan Cheylov

Written by Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Jane Espenson, David H. Goodman, Andrew Chambliss, Ian B. Goldberg, Liz Tigelaar

Produced by Samantha Thomas, Kathy Gilroy

Co-Producer: Brian Wankum, Andrew Chambliss, Ian B. Goldberg

Executive Producer: Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Steve Pearlman

Co-Executive Producer: David H. Goodman, Liz Tigelaar

Associate Producer: Stephen Judge

Consulting Producer: Jane Espenson

Music by Mark ISham

Cinematography by Stephen Jackson

Edited by Geofrey Hildrew, Mark Goldman, Scot J. Kelly

Casting by Veronica Collins

Production Design by Michael Joy

Art Direction by Kendelle Elliott, Cheryl Marion, Nigel Evans, Michael N. Wong

Set Decoration by Mark Lane

Costume Design by Eduardo Castro

Starring:

Ginnifer Goodwin as Mary Margaret Blanchard

Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan

Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills

Josh Dallas as David Nolan

Jared Gilmore as Henry Mills

Raphael Sbarge as Archie Hopper

Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold

Meghan Ory as Ruby

Eion Bailey as August W. Booth

Beverly Elliott as Granny

Gabe Khouth as Mr. Clark

Jamie Dornan as Sheriff Graham

Lee Arenberg as Grump

Giancarlo Esposito as Sidney Glass

David-Paul Grove as Doc

Anastasia Griffith as Kathryn Nolan

Keegan Connor Tracy as Blue Fairy

Mike Coleman as Happy

Faustino Di Bauda as Sleepy

“Once Upon A Time” the Evil Queen cast an evil spell on an enchanted forest filled with fairytale characters. The curse trapped these characters in a place where all their happy endings were stolen – our world. Now the Evil Queen is acting as town mayor, and all of the inhabitants of the fairytale world of Storybrooke can’t seem to remember any details of their past lives. As the truth starts to unfold, the battle between good and evil begins.

From the creators of “Lost” and “Tron: Legacy” writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz comes a new fantasy-drama television series known as “Once Upon a Time”.

Originally conceived before Kitsis and Horowitz were involved with “Lost”, both men wanted to write a fairtytale and the exploration of other worlds. But with their work on “Lost”, the writers had the opportunity to learn from the process, and while having some allusions to “Lost”, the series also has allusions to well-known Disney films. But the goal for both writers was to take these characters that people are familiar with and to explore the character and get to learn more about them.  But most importantly, not retelling the exact same story as what people may be familiar with from the original fairy tale.

With the 22-episode series debuting in October 2011 and a season finale in May of 2012, “Once Upon a Time” was the highest-rated TV drama for Adults 18-49 and was ABC’s biggest debut in five years.  As well as being the highest rated non-sports program to air on Sunday nights.

With a second season set to air on ABC in September 2012, “Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” will be released on Blu-ray in August 2012.

“Once Upon a Time” is a series that takes place in the past via the fairy tale timeline and the present timeline.

In the present timeline, we are introduced to Emma Swan (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison, “House M.D., “Star Trek”), a tough woman who works in bail bonds and is often busy that she  lives alone.  Her life changes when a young boy named Henry (portrayed by Jared Gilmore, “Mad Men”, “The Back-Up Plan”) arrives at her home and tells him that he is her son, that she put up for adoption ten years ago.

Emma is shocked because the adoption was supposed to be private and the boy would not be able to find her location, but Emma goes to bring Henry back home in a town known as Storybrooke.

Meanwhile, in the fairy tale time line, Prince Charming arrives to find Snow White dead. When he goes to kiss her on the lips, she is revived and the two are now engaged to be married.

During the day of their wedding, a pregnant Snow White (portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin, “Walk the Line”, “A Single Man”) and Prince Charming (portrayed by Josh Dallas, “Thor”, “The Descent, Part 2”)  celebrate the wonderful occasion with their friends.  But to put a damper on the wedding, Snow White’s evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen (portrayed by Lana Parrilla, “Spiders”, “Boomtown”) wants to make sure that her daughter never has a happy ending and warns everyone that she has placed a curse on everyone and their lives will change forever as there will never be a happy ending.

Worried about their impending doom, there is one man who knows about magic that can give them information to defeat the curse… the imprisoned and vile man, Rumplestiltskin (portrayed by Robert Carlyle, “Trainspotting”, “The Full Monty”).

A man who can grant anything through magic, but to use his magic, the person must pay the price of something they cherish the most.  Rumplestiltskin tells Snow White and Prince Charming that the person who can break the curse is their child.

As the curse that the Wicked Queen has cast, has now come to hit the kingdom, with magic, a portal was created for one person to escape and hopefully destroy the curse.  Snow White gives birth to a baby named Emma and Prince Charming manages to take the baby to the portal before he is killed by the Evil Queen’s dark army.

In the present time, Henry tells Emma that everyone in Storybrooke is an actual character of the fairy tale and the fairy tale are true stories.  Of course, Emma doesn’t believe any of it but tries to play along with what she thinks is Henry’ active imagination.  But Henry insists that she has the power to eliminate the curse and the people of Storybrooke will finally remember their true identity.

She wonders why none of these people can leave town but is told that anyone who tries to leave is met with an accident.

When Emma returns Henry back to his home, we learn that his adoptive mother is the mayor of Storybrooke, Regina Mills, who happens to be The Evil Queen.

And Regina does all she can to keep Emma away from her son, but each time Emma wants to leave, Henry escapes from his home to be with Emma.  And requests for her to stay at least for one week in Storybrooke and she will see how she can make things change.

And in the town of Storybrooke, Emma meets Henry’s school teacher (and the person who gave him the fairy tale book), Mary Margaret Blanchard (a.k.a. Snow White).  Mary occasionally volunteers at the hospital where she reads to a man named David Nolan (a.k.a. Prince Charming), who is in a coma.

Henry is being treated by a psychologist named Archibald “Archie” Hopper (portrayed by Raphael Sbarge, a.k.a. Jiminy Cricket), the Sheriff in town is Sheriff Graham (portrayed by Jamie Dornan, a.k.a. The Huntsman) and meets more of Storybrooke’s residents including Mr. Gold (a.k.a. Rumplestiltskin), the only person in Storybrooke who is aware of what is real and has not lost his memory.

So, Emma making a promise to Henry decides to temporarily stay in Storybrooke for his sake.  But Regina, will do all it takes to get Emma to leave and get her away from Henry.

Will Emma be able to believe in Henry and break the curse that surrounds Storybrooke?

VIDEO:

“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The picture quality for this series is fantastic.  With its high production value, one expects a lot for this series and for an ABC drama series, one of the few that has been given a Blu-ray release.

Closeups are very good, showing excellent detail from skin pores to the grime on people’s faces.  The location shots are breathtaking, especially during the fairytale sequences and costume design also showcase excellent detail.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and I didn’t see any problems with banding, especially during the scenes which featured a lot of orange or red.

Overall, picture quality for “Once Upon a Time: The Complete Season” was fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Once Upon a Time” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 Dolby Digital.  The series is crystal clear when it comes to dialogue and music.  While the series is center and front-channel driven, I did like how surround channels were used at times during the action sequences but primarily you hear the musical score through the surround channels.  I wished it was bit more immersive when it comes to its lossless soundtrack but the dialogue and music is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for “Piot” by co-creators/executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
  • Once Upon a Time Orchestral Suite – (4:05) listen to the music of “Once Upon a Time”.

DISC 2:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for “7:15 a.m.” with Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas.

DISC 3:

  • Audio Commentary  – Featuring audio commentary for “Skin Deep” with actor Robert Carlyle and writer Jane Espenson.

DISC 4:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for “The Stable Boy” with co-creators/executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz with actress Lana Parilla.

DISC 5:

  • Once Upon a Time: Origins – Josh Dallas narrates the exploration of the origins of fairy tales “Snow White”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “The Little Mermaid” and “Rumplestiltskin”.
  • Fairy Tales in the Modern World – (20:27) Learn of what inspired the drama series “Once Upon a Time” and what fairy tales the cast and crew remember the most.
  • Building Character – (7:20) Creation of new fairy tales and a look at the character of Emily.
  • Welcome to Storybrooke – (6:46) A visit to Stevestown near Vancouver, the location of Storybrooke.
  • The Story I Remember…Snow White – (4:29) How the cast remember “Snow White” and their interpretation and ideas of the fairy tale character.
  • Fairest Bloopers of Them All – (2:20) Outtakes from “Once Upon a Time”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for “A Land Without Magic” with co-creators/executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and actress Jennifer Morrison.
  • Deleted Scenes – (12:53) A total of nine deleted scenes.

EASTER EGGS:

  • Swordfight Scene – (1:47) Press Down on Episodes on Disc 5 and you will see the making of the swordfight scene from “Pilot”.
  • Cars of “Once Upon a Time” – (1:06) The vehicles featured in “Once Upon a Time.  Access by pressing up on “Episodes” on Disc 5.
  • Procession of Background Talent – (1:38) Press Down on Season Play on Disc 5 to see the background talents come into the set.

EXTRAS:

“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” comes with a slipcover case.

Unique, captivating and wonderful… ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” is a groundbreaking drama series on primetime television.

High production value, writers that come from hit shows such as “LOST” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and utilizing fairy tale characters, the potential is pretty much unlimited of how far the writers can go.

And what adds to the efficacy of the series is its talented ensemble cast, cinematography and overall direction.

Let’s begin with the storyline.  While “Once Upon a Time” has been compared to “LOST” because of its two timelines, “LOST” had its limitations as everyone was stuck on an island and writers could go only go so far with its ensemble cast.  With “Once Upon a Time”, you’re dealing with the small town of Storybrooke, many characters that can be introduced with each episode, characters that can have an impact on another character’s modern and fairytale storyline.

As a viewer, you root for the underdogs, which are Emma, the main protagonist and young Henry.  You are captivated by these two characters because Emma is strong, intelligent but she is also alone.  And to have her son that she gave up for adoption wanting her, needing her and accompanying her, it’s rather touching.  But then you have this sci-fi side to the story of Henry trying to convince his mother that everyone in Storybrooke is under a curse and are unable to remember their previous life.

And while the modern storyline focuses on Emma and Henry, getting a glimpse of the fairy tale storyline that surround Prince Charming, Snow White, Cinderella, Jiminy Cricket, the Huntsman, to name a few, we start to see a juxtaposition of the lives they lived and how things are going for them in today’s modern time.

The acting is magnificent.  Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas as Snow White and Prince Charming have wonderful chemistry and their scenes are quite demanding as they require a lot of action sequences, having them in many costumes and fighting evil anywhere in the forest or via greens creen (or not) near rocky cliffs.  The series also brings a new dynamic to these characters beyond what many of us have read or seen in a Disney film.  Snow White is more authoritative, a go-getter not this character that loves to sing and play with birds.  Her depiction in “Once Upon a Time” is fantastic, while Prince Charming is your banal swashbuckling hero but instead of being the driven-man, there is a storyline that revolves twins and one being killed, a moral dilemma which revolves around bloodline and commitment towards marriage and with so much story that goes into their fairytale and modern characters, Goodwin and Dallas have to deliver and they do!

Then you have Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills/Evil Queen.  The actress is able to play the evil character wonderfully, with this scheming look on her face and evil grin.  Casting was on the mark for this character and instead of being an older woman queen, the Evil Queen is given sex appeal and becomes one of the more interesting characters in the series.

And Robert Carlyle, a man who is evil but also a mystery if he can be good or just a person that marches in the beat of his own drum and you don’t know whether or not you can trust him.  His character of Rumpelstiltskin may seem a bit weak towards the beginning of the series but you begin to realize that this grimy imp is far from being weak, in fact, he may be the most powerful antagonist of the series but also an antagonist that can either aid the side of good and evil.  Or neither, but himself.  A character that you just don’t know what he will do and constantly surprises the viewer by his actions.  Carlyle does an amazing job in playing this character, may it be the psychotic Rumpelstiltskin or the cool and calm Mr. Gold.

Then we have Jennifer Morrison, your protagonist with a no-nonsense, strong Sarah Connor-type of attitude but deep inside, you see her character becoming more emotional as she starts to show her love for the son that she gave up.  I enjoy the character of Emma a lot and for the most part, it’s going to be interesting to see how things continue in season 2 with how things were left in the season finale.

The character performances in the series, especially with the supporting talent are well-done as well!

Another big plus is the cinematography and location shots.  From the beautiful location of shooting in the forest for action sequences to shooting in Vancouver for Storybrooke, you get a combination of beautiful location shots along with small town America.  The fairytale storyline is what is most appealing because of its high production value, action sequences and costume design.

And last but not least, the writing of this show is phenomenal.  I’m a big fan of Jane Espenson’s work but to also have a few of the writers, especially series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz of “LOST”, another series that I enjoyed immensely is a major plus.   Both men had this vision prior to “Lost” and it’s great to see this type of series on ABC.

The writing is captivating, amazingly well-done and definitely a lot of potential for exploration of other characters which can be utilized whenever. But with the way that season 1 has ended, it will be interesting to see how things go for season 2.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is amazing while lossless soundtrack was crystal clear when it came to dialogue and music, I was hoping for it to be a bit more immersive in utilizing the surround channels and LFE a bit more during the more action-driven scenes.   As for special features, you do get several audio commentary, featurettes including Easter eggs.

Overall, “Once Upon a Time” has turned out to be a fantastic sci-fi drama series.  So many positives can be said of the show and at this point of time, there are no negative things I have to say about it.   Granted, this is the first season and hopefully things get better for season 2.

Captivating, addictive and in my opinion, one of the best drama series on television at this time, “Once Upon a Time” is a unique, well-acted, well-written drama series that will win you over with its initial pilot episode to its thrilling season final.  It’s that good!

“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” is highly recommended!

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