La La Land UltraHD Blu-ray Review
Summary: Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Damien Chazelle, 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.
Movie Review: Perhaps I’m getting older (well, I’m certain I am) or my tastes are changing, but while I’ve previously not enjoyed musicals I fully enjoyed La La Land. Set in LA, it tells the story of two young people, Mia and Sebastian, who are trying to get started in life but not seeing their ambitions come true. Through each other, they find the motivation and inspiration to take a different, more self-directed path towards their goals. I’m also going deep into spoilers here, so skip ahead to the technical section to avoid that.
La La Land tells the story of following your dreams and passion and not letting anything else stand in the way of them, even if that is love. Thinking about it afterwards, I really do wonder at the end how happy the characters are. Their goals and dreams have seemingly come true, but when they run into each other again it seems they can only imagine how everything could have workout out great with them still together. Maybe it’s saying we won’t have to sacrifice our personal lives to accomplish our dreams, that it can be done together, or perhaps it is saying we will find happiness in the end if we pursue what we want. I’m not sure. I like to think it is about them realizing that, thanks to each other, they wound up accomplishing their dreams and happy, even if they aren’t together, and they’re both glad to have helped each other get there.
It’s a deeper ending to the movie than I thought it would be, and one I’m glad to have watched yet again. It might have come up short for Best Picture, though Moonlight is just fantastic, but it is still a very good film.
Technical Review: La La Land was shot on 35mm and has a 2K digital intermediate, which looks to have been used for the home release. The transfer itself is a mixed bag. I saw the movie in theaters, and the home presentation is much better than that. My theatrical presentation had noticeable lens distortion along with poor black levels, but the home release has much better black levels. The UHD disc has bold, rich colors that look fantastic, but there is a good amount of film grain noise present at most points and a lack of really fine detail that better UHD releases have. HDR effects are almost totally absent as well. It is a better release of the film than I saw in a theater, but it isn’t one that you’ll use to show off video.
The film features a new Atmos soundtrack for home, and this is fantastic. The soundstage is very aggressively kept towards the front of the room, even when using Atmos for height effects. I’m not sure if this is to capture the feeling of a stage musical, but the sound has huge dynamic swings and sounds just fantastic. One early musical number could have louder vocals from the center channel, as the rest of the sounds can sometimes drown them out, but overall this is a terrific sounding movie that sounds and looks better at home than it did in the theater.
Special Features: Audio commentary from the director and composer, 10 featurettes, song demos, and a song selection.
Review System: Vizio P65-C1 display, Oppo UDP-203 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, KEF Ci5160RL-THX Fronts, Ci3160RL-THX Center, 2x Ci200RR-THX Surrounds, 4x CI200RR-THX Atmos Speakers, Anthem MRX 1120 Receiver.