UHD Cover.jpg

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 01:32:26

Video: 2160P (HEVC, H.265)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 1.66:1

Notes: This package also contains a Blu-ray disc and a digital copy of the film. Blu-ray/DVD Combo and DVD editions of the film are also available for purchase.

One Sheet

“I was interested in witches and the witch trials, though I was disappointed as a kid that the witches weren’t real. Also, in Salem, people were just so over-the-top at Halloween. But it’s just the way they talked about the trials in school—you just couldn’t understand what the hell was going on. It wasn’t until I did the research that I really understood how this could happen. In school, it just seemed like, “Oh, superstitious people were stupid and backward, and how terrible is that?” But it’s much more interesting than that.” –Robert Eggers (The Verge, February 19, 2016)

The Witch caught this particular filmgoer off-guard when it theaters a few years ago. For one thing, I’ve always had a bias against films about witches. It seems to me that most films about witchcraft are much too silly to be considered truly frightening, and they rarely have any grounding in reality. What’s more, those who make these films tend to know very little about their subject (which is just lazy). Of course, there are always exceptions. Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is a classic that builds a paranoid suspense by telling the story exclusively from the protagonist’s point of view. It doesn’t matter that the depiction of witchcraft is inaccurate, because it is kept in the background and the film builds its own skewed reality based on its own rules. The same can be said of both The Blair Witch Project and The Witch.

Robert Eggers builds his film around superstitions and belief systems that were actually held sacred by the puritans of the 1600s. The historical accuracy of both the language and production design lends legitimacy to the fantastic nature of the story, and it isn’t terribly clear if the witch of the title is an actual physiological threat or merely a demon born in the minds of this isolated family.

William, Katherine, and their five children have been excommunicated from their village and are forced to homestead on the edge of an isolated wilderness. Their zealous puritanism colors every aspect of their lives as they try to make a life for themselves while remaining virtuous in the eyes of God. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, they believe that this must be due to their sinful nature. God is punishing them for some unholy infraction. (Such extreme beliefs were common during this time, and there are still those who hold these views today.) As a result, the various members of this family begins to turn on one another.

Numerous questions are raised throughout the duration of this harrowing folktale: Did a witch steal the baby? Did she curse this family? Are they under her spell? Does Mercy have conversations with Black Phillip? Did young Thomasin write her name in the Devil’s book? … or: Are the demonic forces that plague them merely the manifestation of their own guilt and paranoia? The filmmakers know better than to answer any of these questions in any conventional manner. All that can be said for certain is that pure evil has infiltrated their lives, and anyone who makes it through their ordeal alive will never be the same.

Eggers fills his film with well-worn horror tropes, but he manages to make them his own as he builds an atmosphere of pure dread. So few contemporary genre films take the time to build atmosphere. Most filmmakers are content to provide jump scares, rely on bloody imagery, and speed through each of their plot beats as if it were a race to the credit scroll. The Witch is a slow burn in the tradition of the old school horror classics—films that crawled under the viewer’s skin, chilled their blood, and became part of their DNA.

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate protects their UHD and Blu-ray discs in a standard 2-disc UHD eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork and this further protects the case. The cover art for this release is based on one of the film’s poster designs (though not the superior design used for the primary theatrical one sheet).

The goat poster used for the cover art has been cropped and the text has been altered. The “A New-England Folktale” portion of the title has been removed, while the tagline “Evil Takes Many Forms” has been moved up to take its place. It seems like of these two textual blurbs, the tagline should have been removed. It also seems silly to crop the image when it could have easily been widened at the left and right margins to accommodate the wider proportions of the Blu-ray cover image. However, we should probably celebrate the fact that they didn’t try to create new (and inevitably tacky) home video artwork that incorporates the faces of each of the actors. After all, this is an above average design despite minor flaws or questionable marketing choices.

The animated menu uses footage from the film accompanied by music and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4K UHD: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Our scoring of the UHD transfer is likely to raise a few eyebrows and irritate certain devotees of the format, but it is impossible to review a transfer without considering the technical limitations of the production itself. It is important to make it clear to our readers that this 2160P transfer of the film isn’t a true 4K image (and could never be a true 4K image). The movie was shot digitally with a variety of different cameras (primarily the Arri Alexa Plus 4:3) at a resolution of 2.8K. However, the footage was mastered in 2K resolution, and this resolution was used for the final master. This is a resolution much closer (though larger) to the 1080P resolution of a Blu-ray than to the 4K resolution of UHD.

We’ve used the following analogy before, but we will borrow from ourselves and use it again here:

“Remember when films like 28 Days Later and The Blair Witch Project were being released on Blu-ray even though they did not originate in high definition resolution? This resulted in standard definition images being blown up to a 1080P image for no other reason than to give collectors the right to brag that they owned the film on Blu-ray.”

This is a similar situation as they are essentially blowing 2K images up to 4K resolution.
The result is a marginal increase in resolution when compared to the Blu-ray, but this disc cannot by any stretch if the imagination be considered true 4K UHD. The image looks great for an upscaled 2K image, but it falls short of real 4K. What’s more, it is difficult to recommend an upgrade to those who already own the film on Blu-ray.

This accounts for our higher score for the Blu-ray disc. It isn’t that the Blu-ray image is superior to the UHD transfer, but we are judging the 4K UHD transfer against the standards of the UHD format and the Blu-ray transfer against the standards of the Blu-ray format.

(Note: Everything we report as to the merits of the Blu-ray transfer can be applied to this transfer as well.)

Blu-ray: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate’s 1080P Blu-ray transfer is presented in the 1.66:1 theatrical ratio and is a solid representation of the original master. The cinematography and grading favors a muted and incredibly bleak color palate that looks as if it has been slightly desaturated. There is plenty of fine detail on display (especially in close-ups). Blacks are very healthy and don’t seem to crush pertinent detail (although the detail level of the darker scenes isn’t exactly overwhelming). The cinematography is an important part of the experience, and it is nice to see that this transfer represents the memorable imagery faithfully without introducing any distracting anomalies as the result of the encode. Fans should be very pleased.

Sound Quality:

4K UHD & Blu-ray: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Much of the film’s power is born of the incredible sound design. The filmmakers use a subtle but immersive mix of sounds to create an ambiance that places the viewer in the world of the film—a terrifying world that is tainted with the unmistakable aura of evil. This isn’t done in the typical heavy-handed manner of Jerry Bruckheimer or Michael Bay, but there is some of the low end activity one expects from horror mixes. The separations are nuanced and effective while making the most of the common sounds of nature (wind blowing through trees, birds, woodland creatures, and the farm animals that are heavily featured throughout the film). This is a mix that makes every day noises seem malignant. Future horror directors could learn from this mix. Dialogue is also well prioritized and clear (although the accents and period language may be a hurdle for some listeners).

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary with Director Robert Eggers

Robert Eggers offers a better than average commentary track that manages to relay some interesting information about the production and conceptualization of The Witch. He even offers some surprising self-criticism throughout the track when something didn’t live up to his expectations or work in the way that he intended. He discusses challenges (working with goats would be one example) inherent in the production, but also discusses the history that the film is based upon. It’s unfortunate that he never discusses the film’s sometimes vague nature or the meaning behind certain things in his work, but to do this may have deprived the viewer of much of the film’s power. It is the strongest and most worthwhile supplement on the disc.

The Witch: A Primal Folktale – (08:28)

Unfortunately, we are given a standard EPK that is rather anemic. There are plenty of vague statements about the material and what went into making the film a reality (particularly in terms of production design), but this is a film that deserves a comprehensive “making of” documentary. One wonders why they even bother including these promos. It would be preferable to use this space on a better encode for the film’s transfer.

Salem Panel Q&A with Cast and Crew – (27:59)

This Q&A was held at a screening in Salem, Massachusetts. Robert Eggers and Anya Taylor-Joy are on hand to field questions and respond to comments by Brunonia Barry and Richard Trask (both historians) and the audience. There is information to be gleaned from this program, but it is difficult to see it as a missed opportunity. There are so many topics that are simply ignored, and the better part of the duration is taken up by the historians who credit the film for authenticity. It adds to one’s appreciation of the film, but it doesn’t really provide any revelatory information or observation.

Design Gallery

A short slideshow of several production sketches are also included.

Goat Poster

Final Words:

The Witch is an intelligent horror film that actually takes the time to build atmosphere and believable characters. Both this UHD/Blu-ray package and the Blu-ray/DVD release of this title offers a solid home viewing experience.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: April 02, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 01:56:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French Dolby Digital
5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film. UHD/Blu-ray Combo and DVD editions of the film are also available for purchase. Both editions include a digital copy of the film.

Title.jpg

Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a man in his eighties who is broke, alone, and facing the foreclosure of his business. When he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive, he accepts the position only to learn that he has actually signed on as a drug courier for the cartel. Unfortunately, a hard-charging DEA agent named Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) is soon on his trail. It is an interesting premise and an admirable effort that makes for an engaging viewing experience, but there is probably a better film hiding somewhere in the material.

The family dynamic and his relationships could have been fleshed out in a less heavy-handed manner had this element been given more substantial screen time and slightly different treatment. What’s more, the dynamic between Eastwood’s mule and Cooper’s DEA agent could have been fleshed out and milked for quite a bit more suspense. Luckily, Eastwood’s confident and effortless direction manages to make up for a few of what one assumes are script shortcomings, and his performance is charming enough to carry the viewer through what might have otherwise been an unrewarding viewing experience.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork that appears on the sleeve enclosed in their case, and this further protects both the artwork and the discs contained inside. The cover art for this release is based on the film’s original one-sheet design, but we see less information on the top and bottom of the image. The text has also been moved so that it looks more cluttered than it did on the one sheet (despite the fact that there is less text on display). It’s nice that they utilized the original poster design for the home video release, but the alterations didn’t improve the design.

One Sheet

The static menu uses yet another alteration of this same image with music from the film as accompaniment. The result is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers offers a strong but somewhat underwhelming transfer. The film was originally shot in 2.8K resolution and mastered in 2K, so the Blu-ray transfer was simply scaled down from the original master and modestly corrected for the format. While we were unable to view the 4K UHD release, it seems reasonable to assume that it would have been underwhelming considering that the transfer isn’t true 4K. (Upscaled 2K does not 4K make.) In any case, the Blu-ray transfer is quite good and serves Eastwood’s natural but somewhat subdued cinematography well. There is a fair amount of fine detail on display throughout, and colors seem to accurately represent the filmmaker’s original intentions while displaying accurate skin tones. Black levels are healthy without crushing pertinent detail, and there certainly aren’t any distracting digital anomalies.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is likewise representative of the film’s original quaint sound mix. It isn’t terribly dynamic, but it serves the material efficiently. There are some very nice separations on display. There’s really no room for complaint.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Nobody Runs Forever: The Making of ‘The Mule – (10:59)

This is actually just a standard EPK with a lot of navel-gazing from those involved in the production. We get a few general snippets of information, but it is mostly built on broad statements about the project. To make matters worse, it seems as if the participants may have gone into more detail in their interviews only to have the meat of their contribution cut from the final edit. It’s a shame that the days of legitimate “making of” documentaries are a thing of the past. Why do people who already own the Blu-ray need to be sold on the merits of the film? They already have our money!

Music Video: Toby Keith’s “Don’t Let the Old Man In – (02:54)

The music video is built entirely of footage from the final film. There aren’t even any shots of Toby Keith. Keith’s fanbase will probably welcome this addition.

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Final Words:

The Mule isn’t amongst Eastwood’s best directorial efforts, but it is an extremely enjoyable viewing experience. Warner’s Blu-ray offers fans a solid high definition transfer that fans should welcome into their collections.

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Spine #966
Blu-ray Cover.jpg

 

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:09:05

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio: English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 35.73 Mbps

Notes: This marks the film’s Blu-ray debut after suffering from years of inferior public domain releases.

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Detour is a movie so filled with imperfections that it would not earn the director a passing grade in film school. This movie from Hollywood’s poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it… Placing style above common sense is completely consistent with Ulmer’s approach throughout the film. Do these limitations and stylistic transgressions hurt the film? No. They are the film…” –Roger Ebert (Great Movies, June 7, 1998)

Roger Ebert’s review of Edgar G. Ulmer’s poverty row classic may be marred by a factual error as he reports the popular myth that the film was shot in only six days when it actually took over fourteen days (and cost $117,226.80 instead of the commonly reported $30,000), but it is difficult to improve on his critique of the film’s content. Frankly, it seems as if the film’s power lies in the limitations of the production. It isn’t so much a quintessential example of film noir as it is a collection of unvarnished noir tropes, but it has an unsanitary edge and a sharp simplicity that manages to make its mark on all who see it.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we actually prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate cover artwork that has been credited to Jennifer Dionisio. It’s a nice design that is actually in keeping with the film’s original publicity materials as they obviously served as inspiration. Also included in the case is a booklet that includes more attractive artwork and an interesting essay by Robert Polito entitled, “Some Detours to Detour.” The essay is quite detailed and well researched as it corrects some of the many myths about the film’s production. What’s more, it provides tons of new ‘behind the scenes’ information about the production that should thrill and perhaps even surprise fans of the film. Technical details about the restoration and transfer are also included within its pages.

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Menu

Criterion’s animated menu features footage from the film and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality

5 of 5 Stars

It is impossible to discuss this transfer without first giving our reader’s a thorough understanding of the incredible work that went into creating this 4K restoration. Luckily, an earlier article on the process was published on the Criterion site:

“The director of the Academy Film Archive, Michael Pogorzelski, and film preservationist Heather Linville ended up supervising the complicated process of tracking down existing prints and ultimately piecing together the best elements. There was a 16 mm print that had gone through much wear-and-tear from being in circulation, and was used for reference in the restoration. There was also a 35 mm duplicate negative in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, but it too was a problematic source: it contained a number of jump cuts, the result of many missing frames that were lost from the 35 mm release print from which it was made. ‘Heather spent ten years (on and off) searching the world for 35 mm elements that were comparable to or of higher quality than the MoMA element,’ Pogorzelski says.

Finally, last year, the Archive had a breakthrough when it contacted the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels, which holds a 35 mm nitrate print of Detour in its collection. ‘This element had never been considered as a possible preservation source because it contained both Flemish and French subtitles burned into the frame,’ Pogorzelski explains. ‘We asked to have a scan made thinking that perhaps we might get lucky and find some shots that didn’t contain subtitles that could fill in the frames that were missing from the MoMA element. Instead of a few frames here and there, we got one of the best surprises of our careers: the print had been struck from the original camera negative of Detour, and the image quality was better than anything we had seen in ten years of searching.’

But even with this exciting discovery, there were still challenges ahead, including the question of how to remove the subtitles from the Cinémathèque’s 4K scans without affecting the quality of the image. Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank, California, developed and tested two methods to accomplish this. First, frames from the subtitled Brussels print were composited with frames from the MoMA negative. But because the MoMA print was missing frames, and because significant camera movement resulted in unsatisfactory composites, the second approach was to meticulously paint out the subtitles by hand. And after this work was done, a single shot that didn’t exist in either element was sourced from a safety 35 mm print housed at the Cinémathèque Française.” –Inside Criterion (Back to the Big Screen, November 2018)

Comparisons

4K Final

The resulting image is a revelation to those who have only seen previous public domain prints of the film in standard definition. Those releases were detrimental to the viewer’s enjoyment and to the tonal consistency of the story. Style and cinematography is of paramount importance to the effect of film noir (even poverty row noir), and such deficiencies ruined the experience. Luckily, this new transfer is truly an unqualified success as any weaknesses were likely inherent in the film as it originally projected in 1945. Depth, clarity, and contrast see a noticeable improvement over previous transfers, and if the consistency isn’t one hundred percent perfect, it certainly isn’t the fault of the restoration or Criterion’s encode. Grain is noticeable but has a healthy and organic consistency and never gets in the way of revelatory fine detail. There are textures on display here that have never been evident in the previous transfers. Best of all, it is a more filmic experience as it plays much better in motion. Finally, the age related anomalies that fans of the film know all too well by now have been largely eradicated. It is representative of the best existing film elements, and it would be ridiculous to expect anything better.

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Sound Quality

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s linear PCM track has also been restored to its original mono glory and can now be experienced without the wall of hiss that marred previous home video releases. It is a crisp and healthy sounding track as it has room to breathe now that it is free from compression. Of course, the film was made in 1945 at a poverty row studio and never represented a flawless sonic experience, but this transfer represents the original soundtrack quite nicely.

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Special Features

4 of 5 Stars

Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen – (01:15:36)

This documentary about the Edgar G. Ulmer is without question the crown jewel of the disc’s supplemental content. The program was produced in 2004 and features retrospective interviews with numerous participants: Ann Savage, Arianne Ulmer Cipes (Ulmer’s daughter), William Schallert, Jon Saxon, Peter Bogdanovich (who had interviewed the director), Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Wim Wenders, and John Landis. One wonders why Joe Dante and John Landis appears in so many of these retrospectives. Neither could be considered experts on Ulmer’s career and do not bring much to the table. However, some of the other participants make up for their questionable participation as they discuss the filmmaker’s career in B-movie exile. It’s a diverting and reasonably informative look at an incredibly interesting figure.

Noah Isenberg on Detour – (21:11)

Noah Isenberg (author of Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, Detour: BFI Film Classics, We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Film, etc.) gives an interesting appreciation of the film as he covers such topics as Ulmer’s early career, his ability to make the most of limited budget, observations about Detour (including mistakes in the film), and other pertinent topics. He’s a knowledgeable source and his interview should add to the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Restoring Detour – (11:02)

Those who enjoy knowing about the immense amount of effort that goes into a proper restoration will be happy to know that the disc includes this informative featurette. Mike Pogorzelski and Heather Linville give a general account of their search for proper source elements, the removal of burned-in subtitles, and other interesting challenges that they faced during their restoration of Detour. Their information is illustrated with element comparisons.

Janus Films Re-Release Trailer – (01:32)

The restoration release trailer is also included. One wishes that the original trailer was included here with it, but this is a minor criticism of what it actually quite a nice supplemental package (though admittedly modest by Criterion standards).

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Final Words

Criterion’s release of a pristine restoration of Detour should thrill noir fans. The transfer is immaculate and the supplements will only add to the viewer’s appreciation of this low budget classic (and for the work that went into this restoration). It comes highly recommended.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: March 05, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 01:43:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film.

I should probably say up front that I met Peter Hedges and had the opportunity to listen to him speak on two separate occasions. This was during the theatrical release of Dan in Real Life. The first was at Angelo State University and the second was at a benefit meal and screening of the film at a local cinema in San Angelo, Texas. He made an impression on my young mind, and I have followed his career with interest since that occasion.

I can say with certainty that Ben is Back is his strongest directorial effort to date. While certain critics have complained that the film can be “sentimental” (a criticism that has haunted Hedges throughout his career), it is difficult to understand what they could have been expecting. The film tells the story of an addict son (Lucas Hedges) and a mother (Julia Roberts) who refuses to give up on him despite the overwhelming odds against his chances of recovery. What honest rendering of this story could avoid the occasional sentimental moment?

Roberts gives one of the best performances of her career here as every look at her troubled Ben betrays a storm of conflicting emotions. The history of their entire relationship is written in her eyes. Lucas Hedges is equally impressive here as we understand that the guilt he feels about the pain and trouble he has caused is yet another trigger for his addiction. It never quite shows the hell of being an addict since Ben has been in recovery at a rehab facility for quite some time, but one does get a sense of his hunger.

We will admit that the film isn’t at all a cinematic masterpiece, but it is an engaging few hours of entertainment.

Teaser

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork that appears on the sleeve enclosed in their case, and this further protects both the artwork and the discs contained inside. The cover art for this release is based on one of the film’s foreign one sheet designs. Frankly, the US one sheet was a superior image, but what we have here actually works quite well.

The animated menu features footage from the film accompanied by music. It is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate’s 1080P transfer offers a solid rendering of the film’s original digital master. Fine detail is sometimes impressive and always on par with what one expects from the format. The transfer seems to represent the original cool color palette faithfully, and skin tones are always relatively healthy throughout the duration. Black levels might be less than perfect on occasion (darker scenes might show evidence of slight crushing), but this might very well be an issue with the original cinematography and not the transfer. There aren’t any issues that should distract the viewer from enjoying the film.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio offers a bit of surround activity without showing off or becoming overly aggressive. After all, this is a quiet film about a difficult but loving relationship between a mother and her son. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for sonic somersaults, but the film’s score and ambient sounds are well separated and engaging. It’s a solid but subtle track that supports the story being told.

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Director Peter Hedges

The only substantial supplement on the disc is this commentary with the film’s director. The track is consistently engaging and always articulate even if Peter Hedges sometimes falls into the habit of simply giving the viewer a play-by-play as to what is occurring onscreen instead of discussing the details of the shoot, the reasoning behind his writing and directorial decisions, and other pertinent information. We are given a few nuggets of information and the viewer is made to understand why this subject is a personal one to him personally.

Theatrical Trailers – (03:40)

There are two trailers here—a teaser and the theatrical trailer. It is nice to have these included here.

Ben is Back Image Gallery – (02:14)

Thirty-three images play as a slideshow with accompaniment from the film’s score. The first image is the original theatrical one sheet while the other thirty two are production stills. The main strength of this feature is that it provides a reference for anyone who may someday wonder what the original one sheet looked like.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Fans of Julia Roberts or Lucas Hedges will certainly want to add this to their collections.

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Distributor: Well Go USA

Release Date: March 05, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:28:10

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Korean DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Korean Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film.

Title

“The story felt mysterious [and] nothing really happens in it, but… there was something very cinematic about that mysteriousness.” –Lee Chang-dong

Burning is a singular cinematic experience that seems to play by the rules of the slow-burn thriller, but Lee Chang-dong has merely added the veneer of a thriller to something that is much more mysterious and vastly more interesting. The basic plot follows Jongsu (Ah-in YOO), an alienated young introvert with a simmering rage burning somewhere deep inside the recesses of his mind who finds a friend and potential love interest in Haemi (Jong-seo JUN). Haemi seems to remember more about her childhood acquaintanceship with Jongsu than he does, and he questions the existence of the cat that she asks him to feed for her when she goes off on a trip. When she returns home from this trip with a man named Ben (Steven Yeun), it obviously bothers Jongsu and he is immediately suspicious of this wealthy and sophisticated young man. To be fair, it does seem that Ben showcases at least some of the personality traits of the textbook sociopath. Jongsu’s confusion about Ben’s relationship with Haemi is soon abandoned once she disappears, and these feelings are replaced with an obsessive need for answers as to her whereabouts. He finds that the answers to his questions are elusive and this is actually part of the point.

Jongsu’s alienation is a byproduct of living in a socially, financially, and politically divided world. It is relevant that his father’s dilapidated farm is located near the North Korean border and that Ben is mysteriously wealthy, but this is a situation that is relevant to most of the world’s population right now. It is a problem that penetrates the heart of what it is to be human. How can anyone expect to form lasting connections with people in a socially segregated environment? It is no wonder that the film is drenched in existential angst. For all of the monologues about “great hunger” (or searching for truth and meaning), Burning understands that it is this search that is important. The answers are unknowable. The inner thoughts and emotions of those around us are unreadable. Such ambiguity is the film’s main strength but it will probably limit the film’s appeal.

There will inevitably be many viewers who prefer to take their mystery with a side of neatly tied up answers, and the deliberate pacing will probably be interpreted by these people as “slow” (even though there is a distinct difference in a film that is “slow” and one that is “deliberately paced”). These people might prefer to opt for re-runs of Murder She Wrote.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Well Go USA protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray case with a sleeve featuring artwork based on the film’s primary US one sheet. It isn’t at all clear why they felt the need to crop the image on all four sides, but it is nice that they used their original design as it is an attractive image.

US ONE SHEET
Menu

The menu begins as a short video clip and morphs into a static image with the typical menu options. It’s an attractive presentation.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

This is a nice high definition transfer that represents the original 2K DI master rather nicely. The encode is nicely rendered and there aren’t any noticeable digital artifacts or compression to distract the discerning viewer. Meanwhile, there is an appropriate level of fine detail on display and clarity is reasonably strong throughout most of the duration. There certainly aren’t any glaring issues to discuss, and any weaknesses that one might perceive are the direct result of the original cinematography.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is fairly strong and reasonably immersive throughout the duration (at least for such a low key film). Fidelity is certainly never an issue. It is difficult to judge the clarity of the dialogue since the language spoken throughout the duration of the film is predominantly Korean, but it sounds as if the dialogue is given the appropriate amount of priority within the mix.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

About the Characters – (02:29)

This short clip is built mostly from “behind the scenes” footage and interview soundbites, but it is not given a chance to offer anything truly instructive. To say it isn’t comprehensive is an understatement. It is merely an EPK fluff piece. This seems a shame since Burning deserves quite a bit more.

Teaser Trailer – (00:58)
International Trailer – (01:21)
Theatrical Trailer – (01:49)

It is nice to have these three trailers included on the disc (especially since there aren’t any other supplements included).

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Final Words:

Those who enjoy films by David Lynch won’t find Lee Chang-dong’s Burning particularly challenging as it is actually rather straight forward and far less esoteric than most of Lynch’s work. However, those who feel that riddles should have well-defined answers might prefer more mainstream entertainments. In either case, this Blu-ray is a great way to experience the film in one’s home environment.

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Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:14:37

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

2.0 English Dolby Digital

5.1 English Descriptive Audio

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

5.1 French Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film. UHD/Blu-ray Combo and DVD editions of the film are also available for purchase.

Title

Those who love Queen will undoubtedly enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody, because it is the music and performances that carry the film forward. Fans will find themselves charmed by default, because music has the power to mesmerize. I sometimes forgot that I wasn’t actually watching the real band. My ignorance as to the events of Mercury’s life makes it impossible for me to judge as to whether the filmmakers wasted any of the subject’s potential. What I do know as a Queen fan is that Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury is uncannily accurate. Even his bodily movement seems to embody the character. It is Malek’s profound talent that has already earned the film two Golden Globe awards in the Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Actor (Drama) categories (not to mention an array of other prestigious accolades—including Best Actor awards from SAG and BAFTA). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently followed suit and nominated the film in five different categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Rami Malek), Best Editing (John Ottman), Best Sound Editing (John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone), and Best Sound Mixing (Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali).

It should be said that Malek deserves the Oscar in the Best Acting category. I’ve never seen any of his other performances and cannot compare it to anything else that he has done, but I know that none of the other nominees had the challenges that Malek had to overcome for this film. Bohemian Rhapsody, however, doesn’t deserve to take home the Best Picture statue since the film doesn’t really go deep enough into the psychology of the eccentric protagonist. The film moves at such a fast pace that relationships aren’t examined in any real depth. We see Mercury struggling with various demons, but we are kept at arm’s length. We’re never invited to struggle with him. We simply have to take the dialogue at its word, and the performances cover this particular blemish quite admirably. There are probably a certain number of viewers who will be more than grateful for the film’s pacing, but I personally wouldn’t have minded hanging out with the characters in a more intimate manner. It is always fun to get a glimpse at the creation of iconic music, but Freddie Mercury’s personal struggle should have been the ultimate focus of the film for the simple reason that this would have been more dramatically compelling.

To be fair, the film has succeeded despite an incredibly problematic production. It certainly isn’t a film that offers a solid argument in favor of the auteur theory since Dexter Fletcher replaced Brian Singer as the film’s director for the final two weeks of production. In view of this, the final product is much better than it has any right to be. One gets the feeling that this is more of a producer’s project than a director-driven film, and it lacks the kind of singular vision that separates great films from those that are merely engaging entertainments as a direct result of this. However, there is something to be said for any film that can truly be called an engaging entertainment. As I mentioned previously, it is a movie that stands on the strength of the music and on a number of performances that range from good to incredible. It makes me want to get out my Queen albums, and what is this if not a testament to the film’s appeal?

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

20th Century Fox protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork that appears on the sleeve enclosed in their case, and this further protects both the artwork and the discs contained inside. The cover art for this release is based on one of the film’s poster designs (although not the design used on the primary one sheet). The image has been cropped significantly on all four sides, but we are happy that they chose to use this image as it looks quite attractive.

The animated menu features footage from the film accompanied by music. It is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

20th Century Fox offers fans an incredibly strong 1080P transfer of Bohemian Rhapsody that showcases an incredible level of fine detail and authentic color reproduction and terrific clarity. Black levels are solid without crushing important information, and it is difficult for one to really take issue with anything whatsoever. There aren’t any noticeable compression issues or any other potentially distracting anomalies. Everything here looks fabulous, darling!

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

This 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is absolutely terrific. It really does deliver the goods. First of all, the mix is well prioritized with incredibly impressive low ends and dynamic surround immersion throughout the film. It really does wrap around the viewer in ways that transport them into the world of the film—it makes will make you want to travel back in time so that you can attend an entire Queen concert! Dialogue is always well rendered and understandable as well. There really isn’t any room for complaint about this one.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

The Complete Live Aid Movie Performance – (21:55)

It’s nice to have this compete recreation of the original Live Aid concert performance in its entirety, but it would have been even more fabulous to have also included the original concert by Queen. Actually, such a supplement would have been worth the price of this Blu-ray all on its own. Then again, this recreation isn’t exactly anything to sneeze at as it does give fans an idea of just how much meticulous work went into the Live Aid sequence in Bohemian Rhapsody, and it will probably add to the viewer’s appreciation of the film as a result.

Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie – (16:13)

Rami Malek’s performance carries Bohemian Rhapsody (with the help of a lot of great music), so it is nice to have this featurette that actually discusses the work that was required of Malek in order for him to achieve such an incredible portrayal of Freddie Mercury. It’s actually much more comprehensive than the sixteen minute duration might suggest. It’s a worthwhile addition to a great disc.

The Look and Sound of Queen – (21:44)

This program focuses on such things as the cast and the various production elements that went into recreating the time period, the band, and the iconic performances that are showcased throughout the film. Again, this is more comprehensive than one might expect and a worthwhile viewing experience for anyone who enjoyed the movie. Better yet, it includes quite a bit of input from Roger Taylor and Brian May!

Recreating Live Aid – (19:55)

This is a detailed look at the recreation of Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance and it is another comprehensive program that includes plenty of “behind the scenes” footage along with cast and crew interviews—not to mention interviews with Roger Taylor and Brian May (although we do here less from them here than in the previous supplement). It’s a great addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailers:

Teaser Trailer – (01:31)
Theatrical Trailer – (02:25)
Final Trailer – (02:08)

The very least that a studio can do for fans is include a film’s theatrical trailers, so it is nice to see that all of the major trailers are here in all their glory.

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Final Words:

I’m not at all certain as to the accuracy of the biographical content, but Bohemian Rhapsody works as an engaging entertainment. Watch it for the music and for an incredible performance by Rami Malek. 20th Century Fox has released a Blu-ray that delivers the goods, and it comes highly recommended for Queen devotees.

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: February 19, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:15:45

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

English Dolby Atmos

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

English Narrative Descriptive (Dolby Digital)

5.1 French (Canada) Dolby Digital

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Ratio: 2.40:1

Bitrate: 24.75 Mbps

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film. UHD/Blu-ray Combo and DVD editions of the film are also available for purchase.

Title

Remakes aren’t by any means a new Hollywood trend, and reimagining this particular story for the screen has become something of a tradition. It’s a concept that is nearly as old as the talking film as RKO-Pathé originally introduced audiences to the basic idea in George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood in 1932. The film stared Constance Bennett as Mary Evans (a Brown Derby waitress hoping to become an actress) and Lowell Sherman as Max Carey (the alcoholic director who discovers her and makes her a star). The major difference in this film and those that followed is that Mary and Max never fall in love. Neil Hamilton portrayed Lonny Borden (a polo player who marries Mary but cannot handle her Hollywood lifestyle).

David O. Selznick (who had produced What Price Hollywood with Pandro S. Berman) would later offer George Cukor the opportunity to direct A Star is Born (1937), but the director was uninterested in repeating himself and the project was eventually directed by William A. Wellman. This new film was never intended as an official remake of What Price Hollywood, but the similarities couldn’t have escaped Selznick’s notice. The only real difference in the two stories is the fact that Janet Gaynor’s Esther Blodgett actually falls in love with Fredric March’s Norman Maine. Maine’s alcoholism, his fall from popularity, and his suicide all mirror the fate of Max Carey in the earlier film (although Carey shoots himself instead of drowning himself). RKO certainly noticed the similarities and considered suing Selznick International Pictures for plagiarism, but they decided against doing this since they enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the producer.

Cukor would eventually return to direct the official 1954 remake of the film starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The basic story is exactly the same as the 1937 version and even features scenes that are nearly identical to those featured in the earlier film. However, the story was reworked into a musical that would highlight Judy Garland’s unique abilities. When one takes this slight alteration into consideration, it almost seems like a natural evolutionary progression for the following remake to take place in the gritty world of rock and roll instead of the backlots of Hollywood. Of course, Frank Pierson’s 1976 version of the film was essentially designed as a vehicle for Barbra Streisand and was probably the most unique version of the story before this latest version was produced. One change from the previous film is how drug addiction and alcoholism is represented in the film. The earlier films weren’t above using alcoholism as a source of humor in the earlier scenes, but this new version treated these issues with the seriousness and sensitivity that they deserved.

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Bradley Cooper’s newest version makes an honest effort in the way of improving further on this particular aspect of the story, but his portrayal of drug and alcohol addiction has been largely sanitized. More effort seems to have been given to selling the legitimacy of the rock-and-roll concerts in the film as the cast and crew shot real performances in front of real audiences at various music festivals, but these scenes pale when compared to the more meticulously visualized concert sequences in Pierson’s film. This new version also fails to get across the notion that Jackson Maine is in a career decline. It’s true that his addiction is clearly sold to the audience, but we aren’t given any real indication that he has fallen out of favor with his audience. The first real clue that we are given is seen towards the end of the movie when he is replaced with a younger artist for a tribute spot at the Grammy’s. We get a clearer sense of Ally’s rise, but even this isn’t rendered with the same level of clarity as in the other films. There are several points throughout the duration where one feels as if material must have been cut from the final assembly. This might not be the case, but the flow of the story is certainly a bit jagged. We’ll admit that it is a diverting experience, but one can’t help but feel that the material has been watered down. The earlier versions all managed to bring tears to my eyes, but this newest incarnation left me cold.

It’s clearly not a failure as it has found an enthusiastic audience and an incredible amount of critical praise. The film has also earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Lady Gaga), Best Supporting Actor (Sam Elliott), Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters), Best Cinematography (Matthew Libatique), Best Original Song (Shallow), and Best Sound Mixing (Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve A. Morrow). This followed an incredible array of other accolades including five nominations and a win at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards (the film won in the Best Original Song category).

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Bradley Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award for his self-directed performance in A Star is Born.

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Lady Gaga was nominated for an Academy Award for her motion picture debut in A Star is Born.

Sam Elliot - Best Supporting Actor

Sam Elliott was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category. 

Unfortunately, the only category that the film deserves to actually win is Best Original Song. Some might argue the merits of Bradley Cooper’s acting performance, and he did do an admirable job in his portrayal of Jackson Maine. However, his role demanded a lot less of him than the role of Freddie Mercury demanded of Rami Malek. What’s more, Cooper’s performance was not as strong as Kris Kristofferson’s portrayal of John Norman Howard in the previous 1976 version of the film. This is despite the fact that Cooper is usually a superior actor to Kristofferson. One must admit that Cooper’s vocals were impressive and much better than Kristofferson’s. Unfortunately, the award is for acting and not singing. Similar arguments could be made about Gaga’s surprisingly strong portrayal of Ally. Some of the other candidates simply did more with roles that demanded just as much or more from them. Sam Elliott’s performance does admittedly come close to deserving the statue for Best Supporting Actor, but it isn’t any better than some of the other nominees.

My criticism and disappointment may very well be the direct result of my familiarity with the previous three films. It is simply impossible to accept the current critical opinion as to the strength of this film when my experience as a viewer was one of cold detachment. It’s obviously a solid effort, but it isn’t quite as wonderful as its critical reputation suggests.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork that appears on the sleeve enclosed in their case, and this further protects both the artwork and the discs contained inside. The cover art for this release is based on one of the film’s one-sheet designs, but we see more information on the left, right and bottom of the image while there is slightly less information at the top. It’s nice that they utilized the original poster design for the home video release, but one wishes that they had created a more impressive one sheet in the first place.

The static menu uses an alteration of this same image with piano music as accompaniment, and the result is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers offers up a strong 1080p transfer of the original 2K digital master (meaning that owning the film on 4K UHD would not actually mean owning the film on 4K UHD). The film was shot on an Arri-Alexa Mini with the ARRIRAW codec, and the footage was never rendered at 4K at any point during the pipeline. We haven’t seen the UHD transfer of this film, but we can say for certain that it represents an upscaled image.

The resulting Blu-ray image is quite strong and represents the original photography quite faithfully. The Blu-ray encode is quite strong and there are no noticeable compression blemishes. The cinematography is decidedly soft and fine detail is therefore slightly less impressive as a result. However, clarity is sometimes quite impressive and never problematic, and colors are always rendered rather faithfully as evidenced by the flesh tones on display. Black levels are also attractive and deep without ever crushing important detail.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The Dolby Atmos and 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio tracks both represent the film admirably. The Atmos track is noticeably more dynamic and immersive (especially in the concert sequences). It wraps around the viewer and pulls them into the film with its spatial mix that might inspire cranky neighbors to call and complain about the “damned noise” pouring through your walls. Other sequences are significantly less vigorous but one wouldn’t want the mix to be anything more than it is in the film’s quieter moments. Dialogue is always as clear as Cooper’s inarticulate mumbling allows it to be, and ambiance and effects are certainly well prioritized.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Road to Stardom: Making A Star is Born – (30:02)

It must be said that this “making of” program has quite a bit of information packed into its half-hour duration. It isn’t as comprehensive as “making of” documentaries were in the early days of DVD, but we are given some interesting “behind the scenes” footage and several interesting conversational interviews that discuss the film with slightly more specificity than one expects. It certainly offers more than the typical EPK promos that are usually contained on these discs.

Jam Sessions and Rarities:

Baby What You Want Me to Do (Jam Session) – (02:22)

This is built from practice footage of Bradley Cooper singing the song and a short section of footage that was presumably shot for the film wherein Jackson Maine and Ally is sitting around casually singing with the band. It’s interesting enough to hear this song and see this footage, but they should have presented the practice footage and the deleted scene separately.

Midnight Special (Jam Session) – (02:41)

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have discussed their initial meeting in many of their publicity interviews. The meeting took place at Lady Gaga’s residence, and they sat down and sang Midnight Special at her piano. Half of this footage is taken from their jam session at that meeting, but it cuts into the aforementioned footage that was shot for and later cut from the film before cutting back into the jam session. It is too bad that these things weren’t presented in their entirety as separate clips, but fans of both this film and Lady Gaga will find it very interesting in any case.

Is That Alright – (01:58)

This is a song that can be heard in the final credits and it is presented here in a form very much like the music videos on this disc.

Music Videos:

Shallow – (03:37)
Always Remember Us This Way – (04:04)
Look What I Found – (03:18)
I’ll Never Love Again – (04:54)

Lady Gaga fans will be happy to know that the disc includes music videos for four of the film’s songs. However, all of these videos are built out of footage from A Star is Born. In other words, they do not compare to most of Gaga’s videos and play more like promos for the film itself.

Musical Moments

This is one of those supplemental features that doesn’t actually give the viewer anything extra. It is merely a convenient way to jump to the various song performances in the film.

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Final Words:

Lady Gaga fans will swoon and should certainly add this Blu-ray to their collection, but one cannot help but feel that this latest incarnation of A Star is Born doesn’t shine quite as brightly as critical opinion currently suggests.

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