Thursday 04/06/2020 - 04:08 pm

"La La Land" shines in ultra high-definition

2017.04.26 07:33

Last year’s colorful ode to the classic Hollywood musical makes for an evening of eye-popping and toe-tapping fun for home theater viewers with the release of La La Land (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 128 minutes, 2.55:1 aspect ratio, $42.99) to the ultra high-definition format.

Director and writer Damien Chazelle’s winner of a whopping six Academy Awards offers the anatomy of an ill-fated romance between a struggling pianist and an aspiring actress trapped in a loop of dead-end auditions.

The too-cute pair of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are caught in a roughly yearlong struggle to cement their love and attain their dreams. In his case, to revive his favorite music by opening an old school jazz club and in her case, writing and starring in a one-woman play.

With about a dozen choreographed songs to appreciate, reminiscent of the days when “An American in Paris,” “White Christmas” and “Top Hat” dominated theaters, the movie occasional dazzles with such moments as an opening, single-shot, massive dance number set on a Los Angeles freeway ramp.

However, Justin Hurwitz’s songs, with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are mostly forgettable, never as memorable as even the weakest efforts from Sondheim, Rogers and Hammerstein and Gershwin, while the singers never attained the heights of a Sinatra, Crosby or Garland.

Only the number “The Fools Who Dream,” sung by Mia, caught my attention for both emotional and lyrical intensity.

I also found the ending a bit of a letdown, more narcissistic than “happily ever after” in its tone.

However, millennials not aware of the rich history of movie musicals will still consider “La La Land” a top-notch visual and aural immersion in Hollywood song and dance.

4K UHD in action: Color me impressed by the vibrant and saturated visuals arriving in near every shot via a digital transfer that upscales the original 2K source material to 2160p and adds high-dynamic-range contrast.

The color pallete offers a depth and richness akin to first seeing Dorothy land in Oz and almost a Disney “Fantasia” quality as a primary blasts of reds, blues, greens and yellows, dominate the costuming and hyper-realistic environments.

A few key examples include the pair of lovers exploring and then floating inside the Griffith Observatory while literally dancing amongst the stars (perhaps the highlight of the movie), or hoofing it outdoors in a bath of purples and blues to “A Lovely Night.”

As far as enhanced detail, look no further than almost being able to map every freckle on Miss Stone’s expressive face while her big, blue eyes often dominate the screen.

Mr. Hurwitz’s musical soundtrack, enhanced by a Dolby Atmos mix, engulfs a home theater room making it sound like the orchestra is spread out in front of the viewers. Equally enjoyable are the jazzy numbers with a booming bass, the tickling highs of horns and piano, and the chest-pounding kick drum.

Best extras: Former Harvard University roommates, and now music and film making powerhouses, Mr. Hurwitz and Mr. Chazelle offer a breezy and definitive optional commentary track.

The pair of friends do not continuously chatter, but when they speak, both break down parts of the film often focused on the musical score, the song placements in the scenes, the ever-threatening cutting of parts of music by the director and the focus on many continuous shots.

Each are willing to discuss challenges and criticize choices in the final cut as well as share a few college memories amid some occasional laughs.

Extras also include almost 80 minutes of featurettes covering the entire production. For those under a time constraint, I would suggest watching the segments about the genesis of the project, shooting the opening scene on the Los Angeles freeway, and a deeper look at the music that even features snippets of the full orchestra sessions.

Viewers can also quickly jump to each musical number in the film through the extras menu.

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