Ralph Potts reviews A Star is Born , a new take on the iconic love story about a seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers and falls in love with struggling artist Ally. She has given up on her dream to become a successful singer until she meets Jack, who immediately sees her natural talent.

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

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



Studio and Year: Warner - 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 136 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, Rafi Gavron
Directed by: Bradley Cooper
Music by: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper
Written by: Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, Will Fetters
Region Code: A

Release Date: February 19, 2019
"We’re Far From the Shallows Now…."

In this new take on the iconic love story, four-time Oscar nominee Cooper (“American Sniper,” “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) makes his directorial debut, and also stars alongside multiple award-winning, Oscar-nominated music superstar Gaga in her first leading role in a major motion picture. Cooper and Gaga fuse their considerable talents to depict the raw and passionate tale of Jack and Ally, two artistic souls coming together on stage and in life.

My Take:

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine discovers -- and falls in love with -- struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

So, there are four films that tell this story. The first was in the 1930s, the second, in the 1950s, the third in the 1970s and now this latest one. I have only seen the 1976 version, starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand and this one. I must confess, I had never seen the ’76 version in its entirety until AFTER seeing this one, which prompted me to have a look. I honestly didn’t much care for it, despite the fact that this film is more or less based on that version. I think much of that is owed to not finding Kris Kristofferson's performance both as an actor and singer to be in the same league as what I saw from Bradley Cooper.

Anyway, I saw A Star is Born when it was released in theaters and absolutely loved it. My wife was the impetus for me seeing it at the time as frankly, I wasn’t all that interested, given that I recalled not having much interest in the ’76 version. This was a much better experience. The storyline is essentially the same but, with an updated narrative, new songs and three fantastic performances from Cooper, Gaga, and my man Sam Elliott. A Star is Born is a moving drama that touches upon relevant themes about family, addiction, love and loss.

I found that it grabs you almost right from the onset and holds on right through to the credits. The original music, as performed by Cooper and Gaga is simply marvelous, playing a essential role in the proceedings. The pacing, cinematography and Cooper's wonderful direction underscore the film’s thematic tone. As I sat and took it in for the second time, I once again found myself lost in its cautionary tale, enriching drama and melodious charm. A Star is Born is among my favorite films of 2018 and is justly deserving of the accolades bestowed upon it.

A Star is Born recently received five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama; Best Director – Motion Picture, Bradley Cooper; Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Lady Gaga; Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Bradley Cooper; and Best Original Song in a Motion Picture, “Shallow.” The film also received three awards from the National Board of Review, including Best Director Bradley Cooper, Best Actress Lady Gaga, and Best Supporting Actor Sam Elliott, as well as four Grammy Award nominations for “Shallow” for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and Best Song Written For Visual Media.

Replay Value: 5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.

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(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
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  • Visual Impact: 
UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 98
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
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  • Visual Impact: 
Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Level of immersion: 
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A Star is Born comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD A Star is Born was derived from a 2.8K/3.4K sources, rendered from a 2K DI, and up-converted to 4K. The 1080p transfer for this film looks great and this Ultra HD rendering takes it up a notch with a discernible increase in detail, emboldened contrast, and a noticeably sharper image. The film utilizes a variety of environs that use both natural and artificial lighting that combines light/dark elements, that simply look terrific.

Color reproduction is consistent, with primaries like blue, red, and green appearing richer, even a bit more delineated. During interior sequences whites are emboldened, detailed and bright, especially during low level transitions viewed in a darkened environment. Contrast abounds, lending an authenticity that underscores the subject matter, particularly during the concert sequences in darkened venues, where shadows mixed with light looked very natural. The sun splashed exterior sequences looked fantastic.

Resolution received a boost although the differences between the UHD and 1080p renderings aren’t quite night and day. Close-ups tend to look amazing, with resolvable texture visible in the various interior/exterior sets, physical features, and backgrounds being quite obvious. Having seen this film’s theatrical presentation, I believe that what we are seeing is a faithful rendering of the film’s elements. A Star is Born in Ultra HD presents extremely well and is the best way to experience the film on home video.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for A Star is Born, I found the HDR renderings to be very close. Each presented similarly in terms of color rendering, but I did take a close look at contrast, and delineation, during scenes containing dark and bright elements. When I switched back and forth between the DV and HDR-10 renderings, I felt that the DV presentation revealed slightly better interstitials in the darkest portions of the image, resulting in better definition. The differences aren’t especially noteworthy, but in the grand scheme, made for a more pleasing image. At the end of the day both looked terrific, leaving me thoroughly satisfied with what I saw.

Dolby Atmos:

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. Where the Atmos presentation excelled was in the use of object- based sounds during the film’s musical set pieces, like the opening scene, and various concert sequences. In many respects the track retained 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.

** It should be noted that the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack is the default audio option. Listening to the Dolby Atmos mix requires entering the audio set up menu and manually selecting it.**

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

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 
Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA
A Star is Born comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video, lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

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 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. A Star is Born looks terrific on Blu-ray.

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel (Atmos core) and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks have 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.

** It should be noted that the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack is the default audio option. Listening to the Dolby Atmos mix requires entering the audio set up menu and manually selecting it.**

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: A Star is Born Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: A Star is Born Blu-ray
    • Jam Sessions and Rarities
    o “Baby What You Want Me To Do”
    o “Midnight Special”
    o “Is That Alright”
    • The Road to Stardom: Making A Star is Born
    • Music Videos
    o “Shallow”
    o “Always Remember Us This Way”
    o “Look What I Found”
    o “I’ll Never Love Again”
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

Given the number of remakes A Star is Born has seen it’s apparent that this is a story that filmmakers like to tell. I can’t speak with certainty to the quality of them all as I haven’t seen the two earlier versions. What I can say is that number four is a wonderful and moving drama that features sterling performances and accompanying music that underscores not only them but, the film’s thematic impact. A Star is Born comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring excellent overall video and sound mated with a fair supplemental set. A Star is Born is among my favorites films of 2018 and comes highly recommended on Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray.
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” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray 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)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems