A Star Is Born (4K Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 6-Feb-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama/Musical Music Highlights-Musical Moments
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 135
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bradley Cooper
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Bradley Cooper
Lady Gaga
Sam Elliott
Andrew Dice Clay
Rafi Gavron
Anthony Ramos
Dave Chappelle
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    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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Transfer Quality

Video

    Although Australian consumers recently missed out on both Crazy Rich Asians and The Nun on 4K Blu-ray (while releases materialised overseas), Roadshow have thankfully come through with the wildly successful, Oscar-winning A Star Is Born on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, which is great news for videophiles. Even though the movie clocks in at a hefty 136 minutes, Cooper's directorial debut is only placed on a dual-layered BD-66, resulting in an average video bitrate of 43.49 Mbps, though that is still a tremendous improvement over the regular old 1080p Blu-ray. Even though the bitrate isn't overwhelming high, this 4K disc nevertheless kicks the absolute s*** out of its 1080p counterpart, thanks to improved encoding, additional resolution and the addition of High Dynamic Range. Additionally, A Star Is Born comes to 4K disc with Dolby Vision HDR which should please certain videophiles, though the disc plays in regular old HDR10 on equipment that doesn't support DV. It's worth pointing out that, as with all of Roadshow's 4K discs, this one was created overseas by Warner Bros., and Roadshow simply sourced the disc.

    According to IMDb, A Star Is Born was filmed digitally with Arri Alexa Mini cameras at resolutions ranging from 2.8K to 3.4K, and was completed with a 2K digital intermediate, which presumably renders this an upscale direct from the DI. Shot by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, the photography is coated in a fine layer of noise which varies in terms of thickness throughout. Said noise often takes on the appearance of film grain, and was therefore presumably added in post-production to emulate the look of celluloid. Outside the supermarket late at night at around the 20-minute mark, noise noticeably spikes - in fact, noise is most prominent during darker moments set outside, while well-lit daytime scenes look cleaner. No doubt "grain haters" will dislike the presentation due to this, but this is how the movie is intended to look by the filmmakers, and the noise accentuates the detail of the transfer. What matters is that the grain/noise is finely rendered as opposed to blocky. Whereas I have bemoaned before that certain digitally-shot productions look too smooth, flat or even smeary, there are no such issues with A Star Is Born - fine detail consistently "pops," from skin textures to the intricate production design. Moreover, object delineation is superb, finely rendering Cooper's shaggy hair and virtually every audience member during the live performances. I was unable to detect any problematic image softness to speak of. Admittedly, some shots look somewhat soft, but that's entirely deliberate due to soft focus or lens filters. Thanks to the use of HDR, highlight detail on faces is improved compared to the standard Blu-ray, and the precision doesn't falter during wider shots, darker environments, or under harsh lighting.

    As with virtually every Warner Bros. 4K disc released in Australia since 2017's It, the disc is encoded with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, though - as previously stated - it will play in regular old HDR10 on non-compatible equipment. There are noticeable differences between the HDR10 and the Dolby Vision presentations. For once, I actually preferred the HDR10 iteration, which looks more naturalistic and vibrant. This review is therefore predominantly in relation to the HDR10 presentation. (It's important to point out that your mileage will vary depending on your display - some displays genuinely need the dynamic metadata provided by Dolby Vision for the best possible presentation, while other displays better handle HDR10.) The differences between the SDR Blu-ray and this HDR-enhanced presentation are readily apparent in terms of the colour palette, not to mention highlights and specular detail. Luckily, the HDR grade doesn't unnecessarily cook the skin tones, which are left looking overly naturalistic as opposed to saturated and orange. Coloured lights during the gig scenes are truer and more impactful, while things as innocuous as car headlights are better brought out with HDR. In terms of highlights, windows, bright lights and bright backgrounds don't look as blown out as they do in the 1080p Blu-ray, as there's better balance. See the sky at 34:01, which looks softer and more undefined on the Blu-ray but retains razor-sharp specular detail and highlights here. Highlight detail on Lady Gaga's face at 39:50 is a big improvement, with textures never becoming lost or drowned out despite the bright lights shining on her face. Blacks are rich and inky when the occasion calls for it, which bolsters the sense of image depth. These qualities are thankfully present from start to finish, and I couldn't detect any problematic black crush.

    The encoding is precise and satisfying, with the image never looking noticeably compressed despite a mediocre average video bitrate. I was thankfully unable to detect anything in the way of macroblocking, banding, aliasing, or other video artefacts. In final analysis, this is not exactly one of the best 4K presentations I've witnessed lately, but it is a faithful, rock-solid representation of the source material, easily trumping the 1080p Blu-ray to become the best way to experience this excellent musical on home video. It's sufficiently sharp and texturally precise, while colours and highlights are strong.

    English subtitles are available. To my eyes, the track is well-formatted, easy to read, and free of issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A Star Is Born positively dazzles on the audio front; the superb 4K video presentation is accompanied with an 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
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The only special feature carried over to this 4K disc is "Musical Moments." The remainder of the supplemental material can be found on the accompanying 1080p Blu-ray.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In terms of the initial Blu-ray release, all editions worldwide carry the same extras. A Special Encore Edition is now available which features the extended cut of the movie, but absolutely no extras. The extended cut is not available on 4K. Pick your poison.

Summary

    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.

    The 4K Blu-ray from Roadshow is a winner. Although the set is short on extras, the technical presentation is virtually flawless, with one of the best Dolby Atmos tracks I've ever heard. This one is pure demo material in terms of both video and audio, showing what this format is capable of. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, July 19, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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