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A Star Is Born (Blu-ray) (2018)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-Making Of-The Road to Stardom: Making A Star Is Born
Additional Footage-Jam Sessions and Rarities
Music Highlights-Musical Moments
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Andrew Dice Clay
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
2018's A Star Is Born is the fourth filmic iteration of this time-honoured melodrama about fame and addiction, following previous versions in 1937 (starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March), 1954 (featuring Judy Garland and James Mason), and 1976 (with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson). Although each remake retains the same narrative structure and ending, they also reflect the culture of the time in which they were produced, which justifies every new retelling. The directorial debut for star Bradley Cooper, this 2018 update of A Star Is Born is arguably the best one yet, confidently demonstrating that, in the right hands, remakes can invigorate familiar stories, achieving more than simply rehashing the same familiar story beats. Relevant, authentic and teeming with passion, A Star Is Born is one of the best and most essential motion pictures of 2018.
Country rocker Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) remains at the peak of his musical career, still filling arenas and selling thousands of records, but he privately battles alcoholism and addiction while also dealing with gradual hearing loss. After playing a gig in California, Jackson visits a drag bar where he watches Ally (Lady Gaga) performing on stage, and becomes instantly smitten with the small-time singer-songwriter. Rendezvousing after the show, Jackson and Ally spend the night together just talking to one another, forming a special bond. Believing in Ally's talent, Jackson lures the young performer away from her monotonous day job, and coaxes her into singing with him on stage in front of enormous crowds. Gaining a manager in Rez (Rafi Gavron), Ally soars to worldwide fame, becoming a highly in-demand recording artist and tying the knot with Jackson. However, Jackson's substance abuse intensifies, which leaves Ally needing to choose between the man she loves and the career she has always dreamed about.
Scripted by Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters, A Star Is Born allows the relationship between Jackson and Ally to develop organically through unforced, extended scenes of dialogue as they bond and get to know one another. Consequently, both characters are fully rounded and three-dimensional; they feel like real people. In addition, the movie is brutally honest and compelling in its depiction of substance abuse, showing its effects on a relationship we care about. Jackson also has a tumultuous relationship with his brother Bobby (an exceptional, Oscar-nominated Sam Elliott), which is likewise strained by the singer's desperate alcohol and drug problems. Furthermore, A Star Is Born noticeably idolises Jackson's singer-songwriter style while denouncing mass-produced pop, a bold yet relevant statement about the current state of the music industry. Rez insists that Ally change her hair colour and incorporate backup dancers to become a "manufactured" pop star bereft of her unique musical identity. Ally's abrupt rise to fame bothers Jackson; he's unable to hide his jealousy for her overnight success, or his disdain for the pop personality she has become, further threatening to tear them apart.
Cooper keeps A Star Is Born relatively basic from a directorial and visual standpoint, but subtle complexities in the cinematic style and mise-en-scène shine through, while cinematography by Matthew Libatique gives the picture a spellbinding sense of immediacy. Libatique's decades of working with Darren Aronofsky (from Pi to Mother!) shows in the often handheld photography here, which creates an exhilarating sense of energy during the live music performances. Said live music sequences are evocative and exciting, backed by a sensational sound design, while the songs themselves represent a tremendous asset. Cooper and Gaga collaborated with several artists to create the various original songs, and the resulting soundtrack consistently dazzles. It is virtually impossible to hear the final song, "I'll Never Love Again," without getting a tear in one's eye. Editing by Jay Cassidy (Silver Linings Playbook) is noticeably leisurely by design, and pacing is not always spot-on as a result, but A Star Is Born is welcomely old-fashioned in its structure and execution, with the 130-minute runtime giving the story ample breathing room. The movie feels full as opposed to truncated, though there is also an extended edition featuring over ten minutes of additional material.
In his Oscar-nominated role as Jackson, Cooper sheds all movie-star predilections to genuinely become this character, espousing a lower voice and unrecognisable mannerisms. Cooper bares his soul in this transformative performance, affectingly portraying Jackson's internal pain and struggles, while also retaining a disarming aura of charisma despite his destructive behaviour. Equally sublime is the Oscar-nominated Gaga, who finally gets to truly spread her wings as an actor after years of minor roles in various films (including Machete Kills and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as well as a memorable turn in American Horror Story: Hotel. Despite limited thespian experience, Gaga sincerely delivers with this heartfelt and convincing performance, while the chemistry between the two leads is sensational. The supporting cast represents another enormous asset, with Elliott consistently stealing the show while Andrew Dice Clay is a downright revelation as Ally's father Lorenzo. Even Dave Chappelle brings his 'A' game in a small but necessary part as Jackson's best friend George. Several drag queens are also present to add further flavour and humour to the production.
Despite its remake status, A Star Is Born is profound, refreshing and deeply poignant, thanks in large part to Cooper's focused direction and a selection of chameleonic performances. The themes underpinning this decades-old story remain as relevant as ever, with the film delving into the harsh realities of the voracious music industry with bracing honesty. The soundtrack is outstanding, and fortunately the songs are used in the service of an effective, resonant narrative.
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The award-winning A Star Is Born comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment with an idiosyncratic 1080p high definition transfer carrying a so-so average video bitrate approaching 25 Mbps, and framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The AVC-encoded presentation of this 136-minute feature film is spread across a dual-layered BD-50, and shares disc space with a fair few video extras as well as a number of audio tracks. The result is about as good as can be expected considering the digital source as well as the compression, at times looking more like a streaming version as opposed to a premium disc, though more casual viewers probably won't notice or care. It's not terrible by any stretch, and the encode thankfully avoids falling victim to unsightly video artefacts, but the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray alternative is easily the better option.
For the most part, A Star Is Born thankfully looks pretty d*** good in 1080p. Textures and fine detail fare better during close-ups and mid shots. Just see the close-ups of Ally on stage singing at the 8-minute mark; the transfer maintains a beautifully refined layer of source noise, and textures are extremely strong, bringing out as much detail on the actor's face as the encode permits. These shots are razor-sharp, too, thanks to the competent encoding as well as Libatique's superb camerawork. However, the same praise cannot apply to the shots of Jackson watching the show. See the shot at 8:47 - it's muddy and unrefined, while noise is harsh and blocky. In such shots, the facial hair on Jackson's face is a bit of a blur, but in beautiful, well-lit daylight sequences, his facial hair is suddenly sharply defined and one could count the hairs. The deliberate lighting scheme of the club is ultimately too much for this level of compression as well as the resolution and the limited colour space of 1080p. Textures are superior in the subsequent dressing room scene, though the transfer does struggle to resolve fine detail in wider shots. Said wider shots are fine at a glance, but they're a touch too smooth, lacking a more definitive textural "pop." This level of inconsistency persists throughout the movie; a dialogue scene at the 17-minute mark struggles during mid shots due to the harsh lighting scheme, but the close-ups almost look 4K. In fact, most all of the close-ups look excellent throughout the movie.
Without the benefit of High Dynamic Range, this 1080p Blu-ray occasionally struggles with highlights - for instance, when Jackson and Ally are in a store at the 20-minute mark, the image is overly bright, lacking in highlights and image depth. Contrast during this scene is mediocre, though the next scene in the carpark fares a lot better in this department. The lack of dynamic range is also evident during shots involving harsh light sources. A wide shot including a sky at 34:01 is softly defined, and specular detail is entirely lost around the harsh sun. Bright lights on stage also take away highlights and specular detail, which is all par for the course. After becoming to accustomed to watching this film in 4K with HDR, this stuff was all the more noticeable, and I found the colours here to be respectable but comparatively underwhelming by just a tad. Still, skin tones are naturalistic without being too cooked, and there is vibrance and life to many of the environments - see the outdoor area outside Jack and Ally's luxurious house. Additionally, above perhaps all else, clarity throughout this presentation is consistently eye-popping. Image tightness does suffer at times, but the movie still looks like an expensive new release on Blu-ray, and there's no unsightly black crush obscuring any of the image. Blacks do look a bit milky at times, but it's not a huge deal.
Despite the presentation's obvious shortcomings, particularly in comparison to the 4K UHD Blu-ray, A Star Is Born still scrubs up well on Blu-ray. Particularly during well-lit scenes, clarity and fine detail is excellent (see the hotel scenes at the 43-minute mark, or the diner at the 50-minute mark), while the source noise accentuates the texture of the image. Indeed, it's fortunate that the studio avoided the temptation to apply digital noise reduction. I was also unable to detect any evidence of edge enhancement. This is a perfectly watchable transfer, warts and all.
English subtitles (for the hearing impaired) are available. I found the track well-formatted and easy to read.
Video Ratings Summary
A Star Is Born is blessed with extraordinary Dolby Atmos mix that wows and impresses at every turn. I only have a 7.1 surround sound set-up and therefore cannot comment on the overhead activity, but I was nevertheless blown away by the Atmos track on my system. As per standard operating procedure for Roadshow/Warner Bros. of late, the disc also contains a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which is actually the default mix. Thus, if you want the superior viewing experience, you need to specifically select the Atmos from the main menu before starting the film. And if you stop the disc and come back to it, you'll need to re-select Atmos. I suppose this type of trait is less annoying than Disney's weirdly gimped audio tracks, or not including Atmos at all, but it still remains baffling as all hell. (As of writing this, in July 2019, it appears that this practise has thankfully ceased - The Lego Movie 2 and Shazam! default to Atmos audio on Blu-ray and 4K.)
Right from the start, the low-frequency effects in particular stand out, with aggressive subwoofer activity perfectly accentuating the musical performances and crowd noises. The initial concert scene superbly sets the scene, displaying astonishing surround activity to create an immersive soundscape, making you feel like you're actually there on the stage alongside Bradley Cooper. All of the musical sequences throughout the picture exhibit astonishing, spot-on clarity and phenomenal surround activity, while LFE never disappoints even slightly. Just see the "Pretty Woman" performance at the Grammys; the guitar activity is deep and crystal clear. The audio never sounds tinny, hollow or lacking; it's always full and immersive. The mixing is likewise superb, with dialogue and singing perpetually discernible above amid the music. Cooper's line delivery is sometimes deliberately soft, but not a single word is incomprehensible. Subtle atmospherics come into play at times, from soft diegetic music in the background to crowd noises or the sounds of the street at night. I was unable to detect any source-related or encode-related anomalies, like popping, crackling, hissing, or anything else.
This is a superb track from top to bottom. Full, immersive, clear and loud, I have nothing to complain about.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
The big attraction of this disc is a 30-minute making-of documentary, while the disc also includes additional odds and ends of limited interest. An "Encore Edition" Blu-ray was released in June, containing the extended cut of the movie but absolutely nothing in the way of extras.
The Road to Stardom: Making A Star Is Born (HD; 30:02) This excellent, though perhaps still too short making-of documentary covers several aspects of the production through extensive cast and crew interviews, exploring what it took to bring A Star Is Born to the screen. Both singular interviews and roundtable discussions are included, intercut with revealing behind-the-scenes footage. Cooper talks about his approach to the project in various ways, including using real musicians for Jackson's band, and he talks to Lady Gaga about her casting - the featurette even includes screen test snippets as well as phone footage of the pair singing together for the first time. Cooper even reveals surprisingly insight in regards to the movie's cinematography, which was deliberately composed for each of the two main characters. The shooting of several scenes are covered, including shooting a gig at Glastonbury, and the final day of principal photography is discussed as well, which is surprisingly touching. This terrific featurette actually gave me a better appreciation of the movie, and it is a must-watch.
Jam Sessions and Rarities (HD) As implied by the title, we get jam sessions and rehearsals here, for those interested. No "Play All" function is included - these must be individually selected. Here's what's included:
- Baby What You Want Me to Do (Jam Session) (2:22) - This is predominantly rough footage (presumably recorded with an iPhone or something similar) of a jam session for the song Baby What You Want Me to Do, featuring Cooper and the back-up band. Actual film clips are also included for reference.
- Midnight Special (Jam Session) (2:41) - This jam session was actually referenced in the documentary, and snippets were included. Anyway, this is the full clip of the first time Cooper and Lady Gaga sat down to sing together, and it was again presumably recorded with an iPhone. Still, the audio quality is decent and this is good as a curiosity.
- Is That Alright by Lady Gaga (1:58) - This is actually just a music video featuring Gaga singing, and various clips from the film. I'm not sure why this wasn't included in the "Music Videos" section.
Music Videos (HD) Here we have music videos for some of the songs produced for the flick. Logically enough, the music videos are all comprised of film clips. There is no "Play All" function; these must be watched individually. Included is:
- Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (3:37)
- Always Remember Us This Way by Lady Gaga (4:04)
- Look What I Found by Lady Gaga (3:18)
- I'll Never Love Again by Lady Gaga (4:54)
Musical Moments (HD) If you don't want to sit through the entire movie, but instead just want to watch the musical sequences, this is the extra for you! There is no additional footage here, nor is there any extra insight into the performances. This is literally just a collection of film clips. Included is:
- Black Eyes (1:36)
- La Vie en Rose (2:53)
- Maybe It's Time (1:23)
- Shallow (Dialogue) (2:09)
- Alibi (2:59)
- Shallow (3:34)
- Maybe It's Time (1:20)
- Always Remember Us This Way (3:26)
- Why Did You Do That? (2:51)
- Oh, Pretty Woman (1:34)
- I'll Never Love Again (4:42)
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
All supplements worldwide are identical...for now. There is also a Special Encore Edition with the extended cut of the movie, but absolutely no special features.
A Star Is Born is widely considered one of 2018's best movies; Cooper's directorial debut was even nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture. It was also a monstrous box office success. Who am I to argue with that? The accolades speak for themselves, but for whatever it's worth, this truly is a great movie that you should absolutely watch at the earliest opportunity.
Roadshow's Blu-ray features a mostly solid 1080p video presentation, as well as one of the most incredible Dolby Atmos tracks I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The special features are admittedly disappointing, however; the making-of documentary is great but too short, and the rest of the extras are of limited interest. Still, all things considered, this one comes recommended.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, July 18, 2019
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|