Fresh on 4K: ‘A STAR IS BORN’ a high-quality presentation that’s anything but shallow

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

A STAR IS BORN

Rated R, 135 minutes.
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Lady GagaBradley CooperSam ElliottDave ChappelleAnthony RamosBonnie Somerville and Andrew Dice Clay
Available today on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

With only a day left to go before the 91st Academy Awards, it makes perfect sense that a film nominated for ten of them would conveniently hit the home market. When Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A STAR IS BORN, released in theaters last year, we gave it a favorable review while pointing out a few aspects that held it back from true greatness. With the Oscars just around the corner, now is as good a time as any to see if the film fresh 4K coat of paint can still get our goose bumps going.

Movie Grade: B

From James C. Clay’s theatrical review: “Despite all of its praise going into Oscar season, the highly emotional trailer is where the film hits a fever pitch of emotion. Instead of elevating the familiar material, Cooper and screenwriters Eric Roth and Will Fetters give the audience easy moments to emote without asking too much in return. But with its plotting, it subverts all expectations.

A STAR IS BORN is going to please audiences from start to finish with its take on fame, drug use and marriage. Although Cooper has emerged as a premiere director, there’s a bit of disappointment in the air, because the film never hits the emotional falsetto.”

Bradley Cooper stars as Jackson Maine, Lady Gaga stars as Ally in ‘A STAR IS BORN,’ a Warner Bros. release. Photo credit: Clay Enos.

Video/Audio Grade: A-

A STAR IS BORN is presented in an upscale 4K resolution derived from a 2K digital intermediate, but don’t let that be cause to ignore this disc. Textures in both skin and clothing appear much clearer than on the 1080p version, and the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR truly makes the 4K version worth the higher price.

With many of the concert scenes taking place at night, the increased color depth outstandingly expands the darker tones on screen without ever feeling crushed or compressed. Additionally, a film that prominently features musical performances would never get very far without a superb audio presentation. Thankfully, the Dolby Atmos track on this disc is the stuff of legends. While the musical scenes are superbly mixed, it’s also worth noting that even scenes of low-toned dialogue between Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott come out clearly and tangibly when a lesser mix would have sounded like a grizzly bear having a heated debate with Clint Eastwood.

Extras Grade: C+

Only one of the extras found on the traditional Blu-ray can also be found on the 4K disc. Titled as “Musical Moments”, this is essentially a means of watching the parts of the film with the songs, so this is more of a glorified fast forward feature than anything else. This feature as well as three other extras can be found on the included Blu-ray. Outside of the half hour behind the scenes documentary titled, “The Road to Stardom”, they are pretty standard and will likely not revisited for repeat viewings.

Included special features are listed below:

  • The Road to Stardom: Making A Star Is Born (1080p, 30:02): A thorough exploration that covers the picture’s authenticity, character beats, cast and performances, music and vocals, Cooper’s musical studies, songs and story, shooting the musical scenes, Cooper’s direction, and more.
  • Jam Sessions and Rarities (1080p): Rehearsal musical performances. Included are “Baby What You Want Me to Do” (Jam Session, 2:22); “Midnight Special” (Jam Session, 2:41); and “Is That Alright” by Lady Gaga (1:58), which is presented more in the style of a music video with clips from the film.
  • Music Videos (1080p): Included are “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); and “I’ll Never Love Again” by Lady Gaga (4:54).
  • Musical Moments (1080p): The film’s music scenes all in one place. Included are “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); “Always Remember Us This Way” (3:26); “Why Did You Do That?” (2:51); “Oh, Pretty Woman” (1:34); and “I’ll Never Love Again” (4:42).

Final Grade: B+

While the visual aspect of this 4K disc is certainly passable, it’s the demo worthy audio track that makes this a must-buy for home theater enthusiasts.

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