La La Land 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Every few years there’s a movie that audiences and critics fall in love with and then, inexplicably, fall out of love with almost as quickly. Sometimes, a film that suffers that fate can plow through it and still receive Oscar glory (THE ARTIST is a good example), but other times that turn can prove too much for the film to overcome (AVATAR). LA LA LAND is the most recent example of this fate and unfortunately, LA LA LAND couldn’t overcome the backlash it received, despite being the best film of the year. And to be clear, that’s not a knock to MOONLIGHT (which I feel is also a fantastic film). The two films have been unfairly linked and compared throughout awards season, which inevitably led to LA LA LAND’s demise. The frustrating part for me is that throughout all of the ridiculous comparisons and take down pieces the brilliance of LA LA LAND has been lost.
LA LA LAND is not a political movie and it doesn’t feature many minority characters. There’s nothing wrong with that because director and writer Damien Chazelle wrote about what he knew and made the movie he wanted to make. LA LA LAND is simply a light, breezy film about two beautiful people that meet, fall in love and then struggle to stay together as they chase their individual dreams. This is one of the most relatable aspects of lost love as almost everyone has been in a relationship that ended as their lives took them in different directions. It just happens that Chazelle wrapped the story around a jazz musician and an aspiring actress. And in LA, neither of those professions are hard to find.
The film is told in two parts, the first being the “get together”, which I found to be magical, beautiful and almost euphoric as Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) sang and danced their way around to their eventual couple status. Chazelle tells this in a way that harks back to the glory days of the Hollywood musical, where everything is light, fun and magical. This incredible first half makes it almost impossible for the audience to not root for Sebastian and Mia to get and stay together.
The great first half leads to an incredible second half, where Sebastian and Mia struggle to stay together and still chase the dreams that lead them to Los Angeles in the first place. Admittedly, the second half rides the wave of the first half a bit as we get some downtime as their relationship starts to unfold. Is it a perfect dissolution? No, but it works for the movie that Chazelle is telling. The film is about chasing dreams in a town where the odds are stacked against you and the third act holds true to that idea. And, any fault with the third act can be instantly forgiven once the epic montage starts. That montage is easily the most perfect and heart wrenching montage we’ve seen in film since the beginning of UP.
And no review of LA LA LAND would be complete without mentioning the music. The score and ‘City of Stars’ both deservingly took home Oscar gold. I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film and it took me a few months to switch playlists. Neither Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone are going to become pop stars anytime soon, but their limitations as musicians was mostly irrelevant because a) the songs are great anyway and b) their chemistry is incredible. While the music is a big star in the film, the chemistry between the two leads is a close second. I’ve read the rumors of who else was considered for the lead roles, but LA LA LAND doesn’t work nearly as well without Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
I’m clearly an unapologetic fan of LA LA LAND. I’ve supported and sang it’s praise since I saw it in December and I will continue to do so now that it’s on home video. I’m well aware of the political landscape that is impacting movies, but at the end of the day, the lack of political importance in LA LA LAND shouldn’t be held against it. LA LA LAND is a beautiful, wonderful, fun film that manages to recapture the magic of classic Hollywood musicals that I once thought was lost forever.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Just like with the movie itself, the opening musical number is going to immediately hook you with its clarity and detail. Of course, that’s a very bright, sunny scene, so saying that looks great on 4K isn’t saying much. The real treat for fans of LA LA LAND is going to come with the darker scenes, such as the “A Lovely Night” number with Sebastian and Mia dancing to the street lights. The detail in that scene elevates it to a level I didn’t even notice in the theater. Even smaller scenes are improved, like when Sebastian walks into his apartment and we see the details in his record collection. And of course, you get the standard uptick in clothing and closeups. But this is a beautiful transfer that is very impressive.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is a joy to listen to. I wouldn’t say LA LA LAND blasts the surround channels, but I felt everything in this track was crisp and clear and used the surround channels when it needed to.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does have all of the same special features found on the Blu-ray.
Commentary with Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz: You can’t listen to Damien without getting dragged into his love of the film. They cover just about everything you want to know about the film and give a great commentary. You can tell these guys are friends (they were roommates) and their work chemistry pays off in this commentary.
Damien and Justin Sing The Demos (6:08): The duo sing the songs and it’s a little painful. They’re talented guys, but we didn’t need to see this.