A Star Is Born - Special Encore Edition (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 19-Jun-2019

Cover Art

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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 147:32
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 $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
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. The extended "Encore" edition is the better version, restoring a few musical performances as well as some valuable song-writing/rehearsal scenes.

    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.

    Following the original home video release of A Star Is Born back in February, this "Special Encore Edition" Blu-ray from Roadshow contains both the theatrical and extended editions of the movie, but no supplemental material to speak of.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For this "Special Encore Edition," A Star Is Born carries the exact same 1080p video encode as the initial Blu-ray, and therefore my thoughts remain unchanged. Placed on a dual-layered BD-50, the film is framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and the average video bitrate for the extended edition is a so-so 24.67 Mbps. 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. Unfortunately, this is the only possible way to experience the extended edition at the time of writing - the Encore Edition did not receive a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray counterpart, which is a huge shame. It's a bit of a watershed moment; in the future, do I stick with the theatrical in 4K, or the extended in 1080p... It's a tough decision. (At least it isn't DVD-only or digital-only. It can always be worse, I guess.)

    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 "La Vie en Rose"; 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. The wide shots of Jackson are muddy and unrefined, while noise is harsh and blocky. Facial hair on Jackson's face is a bit of a blur as well, 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 inconsistently persists throughout the movie; a dialogue scene at the 19-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 after leaving the club, 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 when Ally boards Jackson's private plane for the first time 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, 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
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    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. The extended scenes are blessed with similar qualities; crystal clear dialogue and exceptional musical performances.

    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

    Nothing new. Nothing at all, really. Which is seriously disappointing.

Musical Moments (HD; 35:57)

    If you just want to watch the songs from the film, this section is for you! There's no extra insight or anything; it's just the isolated musical scenes. Compared to the original Blu-ray, some of the musical moments are extended, and there are two additions: "Diggin' My Grave/Clover/Midnight Special" and "Is That Alright?".

R4 vs R1

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

    The Special Encore Edition is the same in all regions right now.

Summary

    A Star Is Born is a great movie, and it's made even better in its extended edition form with more dramatic material and more musical moments. The video and audio presentation is identical to the previous Blu-ray release, and there are absolutely no special features. Still, this disc comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, July 20, 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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