La La Land Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

la-la-land

Ralph Potts reviews Damien Chazelle’s magical interpretation of the City of Angels, that tells the story of Mia and Sebastian, an actress and a jazz musician pursuing their Hollywood dreams — and finding each other — in a vibrant celebration of hope, dreams, and love.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

90

Details:

Studio and Year: Lionsgate – 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 128 minutes
Genre: Musical/Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.55:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Written & Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Music by: Justin Hurwitz
Region Code: A

Release Date: April 25, 2017

“Here’s to the Fools Who Dream”



My Take:

La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

La La Land is the brainchild of writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz. It’s an epic style film that harkens back to Hollywood musicals of a bygone era. Inspired by a variety of filmmakers, it’s set to contemporary narrative that explores how to balance real life and art, as seen through the eyes of two struggling Los Angeles artists. At its heart, La La Land is a love story, that serves as an ode to those hoping to achieve their dreams. I saw it in the theater with my wife and we both fell in love with it.

Damien Chazelle is a master storyteller that successfully allows the audience to see his vision through his eyes. Justin Hurwitz’s music is an integral component of the story, standing as a character alongside Mia and Sebastian. The production design, choreography and superb cinematography add an enriching and essential component to the film’s thematic impact. La La Land isn’t just a musical though. It’s an engaging romance that adheres to the film’s context, serving to draw upon the wonderful interplay among the principle characters, which is accented by the terrific onscreen chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Each of them put forth efforts that earned them Academy Award nominations, resulting in a win for Stone, who was simply marvelous.

I tip my cap to Chazelle, Hurwitz, and the entire production staff. La La Land won six Academy Awards, and could easily have been Best Picture. It was among my favorite films of last year and has found a place not only in my film collection, but among those that are ranked among my personal favorites of all time.

The home release includes in-depth bonus material revealing the untold story of how Damien’s passion project came to life. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD special features include audio commentary by writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz, and 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes including: “Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down a Freeway” which gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Damien Chazelle and his team had only two shoot days to make the film’s spectacular opening number a reality; “La La Land’s Great Party,” looking at the creation of the Hollywood Hills party scene; “Ryan Gosling: Piano Student” showing how hard Ryan Gosling worked to truly play the piano as Sebastian; “Before Whiplash: Damien Chazelle’s Passion Project,” that uncovers the story of La La Land’s origins; “La La Land’s Love Letter To Los Angeles,” in which the term La La Land is explained; “The Music of La La Land” delving into the process of creating the iconic music; “John Legend’s Acting Debut” featuring the Grammy®-Winning singer’s thoughts on being in the film; “The Look of Love: Designing La La Land,” with interviews with the film’s design team; “Ryan and Emma: Third Time’s the Charm,” marking the third time in which Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have starred on screen together, and “Epilogue: The Romance of the Dream,” exploring the extraordinary ending to the film.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for some language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

La La Land comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.

La La Land garnered a excellent report from me on its video quality in 1080p. Shot on film, its presentation in Ultra HD was rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K. Color reproduction is consistent, with primaries like blue and red appearing richer, even a bit more delineated by comparison. Secondary hues look great, also benefitting from the wider color gamut. The increase in resolution isn’t always on display, especially in wide angle shots, although I believe that this is innate to the photography. Close-ups offer better refinement, and deeper resolvable texture on the various sets, costumes and physical features compared to the Blu-ray. The improvements are discernible, but not stark, which speaks to the quality of the source.

The same is true when comparing the video’s dynamic range. Exterior sequences offer the slightest hint of added punch, especially those that take place around the studio, and L.A during the day, where the sun reflects off of objects, or streams between buildings, through trees, or appears behind clouds. The darkened highlights in the low-lit environs, like the interior of Mia’s small theater, the nighttime song/dance sequence overlooking L.A., or in the large concert venue, have appreciable dimension and resolvable detail. Fleshtones are reproduced with slightly warm, but natural tonality.

Watching La La Land in Ultra HD with its emboldened contrast, and beautiful color rendering, made for a rewarding viewing experience that I found to be faithful and complimentary. The differences between the Ultra HD and 1080p versions aren’t vast, but if given the choice, the Ultra HD presentation is the way to go.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the less aggressive variety but considering the source material that’s not a complete surprise. Its use of audio objects placed above is limited to atmospherics and occasional panning fills. This is done to good effect when implemented and created an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Where the Atmos presentation excelled was in the use of object based sounds during the film’s musical set pieces, like the opening freeway, and house party sequences during the first act. In many respects the track retaind the feeling of being front focused, however when called upon its ability to render acoustics, point to point imaging and expanding the breadth of the soundstage never disappointed. While this Atmos mix doesn’t make constant use of discretely placed audio objects from above, I found myself completely involved when it mattered. I found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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La La Land comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.

This is a high quality and faithful video presentation that enhances the grandiose cinematic visual style employed in the film. Fidelity appears intact as colors are vividly reproduced via lustrous primaries, and rich secondary hues that look simply beautiful in high definition. The clothing/costumes have excellent tonal variation with descriptively intricate chromatic detail that collectively leap off of the screen. Fleshtone reproduction can be dependent on the particular visual scheme utilized (the film employs a variety) however, in natural lighting they appear warm, and lifelike. Blacks are dynamic, gradationally satisfying, and deep, which is accentuated by contrast that is spot on and predominantly stable over the course of the presentation. The blend during sequences containing mixed light/dark elements looks superlative. Resolution is excellent especially during close ups which reveal crisp definition and fine textural nuance. Wide angle shots exhibit estimable dimension with appreciable object detail. Softening is apparent from time to time but appears innate to the photography. La La Land looks terrific on Blu-ray.

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel (Atmos core) sound has excellent dynamic range and detail. Dialog is articulately reproduced through the center channel and maintains a position of prominence within the front soundstage. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but when applied the surround channels generate plenty of atmosphere and discrete sounds. Front and rear channel imaging is spot on as details and spatial cues, mate perfectly with the events transpiring onscreen. Low frequency effects are appropriately applied, and provide tangible richness to the music and live sounds. I found this to be an entertaining and complimentary audio presentation.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: La La Land Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: La La Land Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz
  • “Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down a Freeway” Featurette
  • “La La Land’s Great Party” Featurette
  • “Ryan Gosling: Piano Student” Featurette
  • “Before Whiplash: Damien Chazelle’s Passion Project” Featurette
  • “La La Land’s Love Letter to Los Angeles” Featurette
  • “The Music of La La Land” Featurette
  • “John Legend’s Acting Debut” Featurette
  • “The Look of Love: Designing La La Land” Featurette
  • “Ryan and Emma: Third Time’s the Charm” Featurette
  • “Epilogue: The Romance of the Dream” Featurette
  • Damien & Justin Sing: The Demos
  • Song Selection
  • Gallery
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

From the hearts and minds of writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz, La La Land is a beautiful and sweeping Hollywood Musical that harkens back to the classic films of old, while spinning a contemporary and entertaining yarn that is just so much fun. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Combo Pack from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring faithful and complimentary Ultra HD video, excellent lossless surround sound, including an engaging Dolby Atmos immersive mix, and top notch high definition video quality. Rounding out the package is a fan friendly assortment of extras that provide a peek behind the curtain at the production. La La Land is justly deserving of the accolades it has received and comes highly recommended to film fans.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package