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A STAR IS BORN
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
Director: Bradley Cooper
Audio: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD, DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 136 Minutes
Release Date: February 19, 2019

Maybe she’s a way out.”

Film ****

A Star is Born is a film that’s been made many times, and somehow I never got around to seeing any of the previous incarnations. However, I was very familiar with the overall story. But even if I had seen any of the past versions, I have no doubt that I would still have a high level of admiration of what first time director Bradley Cooper has accomplished.

It is through Cooper’s vision that new life is breathed into an unfamiliar story arc, which is that of an aging musician who takes a novice talent under his wing, helps shape her into a superstar in addition to falling in love with her. The manner in which the story builds itself is intriguing enough, but it’s what happens in the aftermath of the star being born where the film’s overall potency takes full effect.

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is enjoying a successful career as a singer/songwriter playing to sold out venues on a nearly nightly basis. Behind the curtains, though, he possesses a most intense alcohol addiction. It’s an addiction that lingers within him so much that it’s a miracle that he’s able to make it through a single live performance.

One night following a gig, he wanders into nightclub and witnesses a stunning performance that captures his eye, in addition to ours. The singer is Ally (Lady Gaga), who is the very definition of a struggling artist. She works a day job as a waitress and though she acknowledges her vocal abilities, she does have some slight insecurities regarding her appearance.

But after talking to her backstage, Jackson convinces Ally to perform alongside him at his next performance. Once the crowd hears her voice, it doesn’t take long for her to become a superstar sensation. And as her star continues to rise, it’s only a matter of time before Jackson’s starts to decline, a matter that isn’t helped by his addiction which begins to really spiral out of control.

Cooper, who also helped co-write the screenplay, deserves so much credit for, as I mentioned earlier, shaping a very familiar story arc into something that feels ultimately fresh and distinctive. Films about the music scene almost always include scenarios involving overnight stardom as well as some form of drug or alcohol addiction. And yet, this film captures both elements, particularly the addiction storyline, with an incredibly realistic (and therefore, ultimately heartbreaking) approach.

Another smart choice on Cooper’s part was the choice to cast singer Lady Gaga in the role of Ally. Her singing chops are on an all time high, as expected, but she also ends up being a big revelation as a gifted actress. Regarding this revelation, the film really does live up to it’s title in more ways than one.

And I haven’t even mentioned the one performance that really anchors the film, which belongs to the great Sam Elliott as Jackson’s half-brother and manager, Bobby. Elliott has always been a magnificent force on-screen, but perhaps never more so than with this performance, which I have a feeling may earn him his first Oscar. It would be extremely deserving, to say the least.

It goes without saying that A Star is Born is one of 2018‘s very best films, and is most deserving of all the Oscar attention it’s received, though I am bummed that Cooper was neglected in the Best Director category. The story may be familiar, but is so powerfully told through Bradley Cooper’s distinctive filmmaking eye and amazingly acted by the cast, most particularly a fittingly breakout performance from Ms. Gaga!

Video ****

This is a fantastic 4K handling from Warner! The film carries a very effective look, courtesy of cinematographer Matthew Libatique, that adds a great dose of strength to the proceedings, especially to that of the many concert stage numbers. But there’s a great amount of image detail and color delivery on display for the entire presentation (the early nightclub scene is a great example). The bold level of filmmaking is captured wonderfully in this most effective presentation.

Audio ****

Being a musically infused film, it should come across as no surprise that the lossless audio mix is nothing short of stunning. And believe me when I tell you that your living room will feel very much like a concert arena when any of the live music pieces kick in. Dialogue delivery balances out terrifically with musical proceedings, as well!

Features **1/2

All the extras can be found on the standard Blu-ray disc, starting with “The Road to Stardom: Making A Star is Born”, which is a quite informative featurette. Also included are rehearsal footage of all the music numbers in the film, as well as Music Videos for the songs “Shallow”, “Always Remember Us This Way”, “Look What I’ve Found” and “I’ll Never Love Again”, and a collection of all the musical moments from the film.

Summary:

With A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper has taken what could’ve easily ended up as a cliched ridden remake and crafted it into something very fresh and extremely effective. Both him and Lady Gaga ignite the screen with powerful turns in a film that is guaranteed to stay with you long after watching it.

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