La La Land (Blu-ray)
Hey girl....Ryan Gosling is dancing in high definition on the new La La Land Blu-ray. Oh, and Emma Stone's in it too. Here's the review.
An aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling musician (Ryan Gosling) find romance with a classic flair in modern-day Los Angeles. Also stars John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, and J.K. Simmons. Winner of six Academy Awards.
Directed by Damien Chazelle.
La La Land fancies itself an old-fashioned Hollywood musical, and it is every bit that. It is arguably the best Hollywood musical to be made in over 50 years, and in many ways, it even surpasses some of the classic musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Age. With stunning visuals, a winning score, and fantastic choreography, it is everything a musical should be. However, there is something more to the film that most classic musicals do not have. It is that extra something that may be a point of contention for some viewers.
In an interview in the Blu-ray’s special features, director Damien Chazelle calls the film a marriage between a musical and real-life. For the traditionalist who wants sunshine and rainbows in their musicals, this idea could be a turn-off. La La Land is a musical fantasy with a slap of reality. It’s a cautionary tale wrapped in a great soundtrack. In a post-9/11 world, I suppose we should expect that even our musicals cannot be total flights of fancy. Apparently some had issues with that. And the ending still has fans debating.
Even the songs themselves are unpolished and raw in many instances, with vocals recorded live on the set. It gives them a more realistic tone, and are perfectly suited for the film. Composer Justin Hurwitz delivers songs that are classically-inspired, with heavy jazz influences. They aren’t the Broadway-style show stoppers some may want, but that isn’t a problem. Hurwitz’s songs are more sophisticated and emotional, and are an elegant delight. He richly deserved the two Oscars (Best Original Score, Best Song “City of Stars”) he received for his work here.
Emma Stone does a superb job as Mia, bringing an innocence and feistiness that the character needed. Ryan Gosling does an admirable with a much less sympathetic role. Let’s face it - Sebastian is a jerk, albeit a likeable jerk. His selfishness undermines his relationship with Mia at several points, with what appears to be little remorse for his mistakes. He also rides the line between passionate musician and condescending music snob. Yet somehow, Gosling makes the role work.
La La Land is a perfect balance of the old and the new, capturing the spirit of old Hollywood while delivering a tale of modern relationship dysfunction. It plays like a wonderful dream, with a sobering end. It may just be the most unique cinematic experience of the past year.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
La La Land features a rich color palette indicative of the musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. The video transfer is exceptional in recreating those colors, while providing outstanding detail. The movie itself was originally captured on film, so some minor film grain is visible. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is superb, giving the music the proper balance and intensity when it needs it. The robust soundtrack begs for a great sound system, and this mix does it justice.
A number of excellent featurettes and an informative commentary highlight the special features, providing a nice look behind the scenes at the making of the film.
A “Featurettes” section includes the following shorts:
“Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down A Freeway” featurette. Director Damien Chazelle, choreographer Mandy Moore, and other crew members discuss the filming of the elaborate freeway sequence that opens the film. Running time: 10:36
“La La Land’s Great Party” featurette. The Hollywood pool party scene is broken down by director Chazelle, Emma Stone, and members of the crew. Running time: 5:08
“Ryan Gosling: Piano Student” featurette. Ryan Gosling had to learn to play the piano to play Sebastian in La La Land. This featurette details how he pulled off looking, and playing, like a professional piano player. Running time: 5:03
“Before Whiplash: Damien Chazelle’s Passion Project” featurette. La La Land was actually the first project director Damien Chazelle wanted to make. He discusses here why he had to make Whiplash first, before tackling his dream project on his terms. Running time: 10:18
“La La Land’s Love Letter to Los Angeles” featurette. Los Angeles is one of the most important characters in the film. This featurette describes how the filmmakers captured the city’s unique identity. Running time: 6:56
“The Music of La La Land” featurette. The classically-themed music of the film was the result of a collaboration of several individuals, including director Damien Chazelle, composer Justin Hurwitz, lyricist Benj Pasek, and lyricist Justin Paul. Hurwitz, Pasek, and Paul would go on to win an Oscar for Best Original Score. Their efforts are detailed in this featurette. Running time: 13:32
“John Legend’s Acting Debut” featurette. The musician discusses his role in the film. Running time: 4:40
“The Look of Love: Designing La La Land” featurette. The colorful look of the film is explored here. Costume designer Mary Zophres, production designer David Wasco, and set dresser Sandy Wasco all talk about their collaboration on the film. Running time: 8:48
“Ryan and Emma: Third Time’s The Charm” featurette. The pairing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is the focus of this featurette. Running time: 5:51
“Epilogue: The Romance of the Dream” featurette. The “dream ballet” that ends the film, which explores an alternate end for Mia and Sebastian, is explained here. The design of the elaborate sets in the finale are shown. Running time: 7:54
The remaining non-featurette extras are as follows.
“Damien & Justin Sing: The Demos” Song Tracks. Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz recorded early demo versions of “What a Waste of a Lovely Night” and “City of Stars” during the film’s development. They are featured here, and are fun to listen to, if only to discover that the two are hideous singers. Running time: 1:55 and 3:13
Marketing Gallery. Three theatrical trailers for the film and seven posters (presented in slideshow format) are here for your perusal. Trailer running times: 1:35, 1:33, and 2:14.
Song Selection. Each of the film’s songs can be viewed individually from this special feature option. The songs available to view are “Another Day of Sun,” “Someone in the Crowd,” “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme - 001, Mia’s Storyline,” “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme - 002 Sebastian’s Storyline,” “A Lovely Night,” “Herman’s Habit,” “City of Stars - Pier,” “Planetarium,” “Summer Montage,” “Acoustic Jam Session,” “City of Stars - Duet in Apt.,” “Start a Fire,” “Audition,” and “Epilogue.”
Audio Commentary. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz provide a lively commentary with some great stories and lots of discussion on the musical inspirations in the film.
Digital Copy. A code for a digital version of the film, compatible with Ultraviolet and iTunes, is included.
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Running Time: 128 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (Optimized for Late Night Listening), English Descriptive Audio.
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “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 Tracks; Marketing Gallery; Song Selection; Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary: With writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz
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THE BOTTOM LINE: Highly entertaining, La La Land is the best movie musical in over 50 years
La La Land delivers an unconventional musical within a traditional setting, and delivers a highly entertaining film. The music and cinematography are superb, and actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling deliver standout performances.