Blu-ray Review Comedy

'La La Land' Blu-ray Review: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone deliver a love letter to old-school Hollywood musicals

April 28, 2017Ben MK

In some respects, movie musicals are making a comeback. But, more often than not, Hollywood's approach to modern, song-driven narratives has more to do with radio-friendly pop ballads than Broadway show tunes, appealing to the innate sensibilities of the contemporary cinema-goer, rather than indulging in the wistful nostalgia for a bygone era of lavish spectacle.

Enter La La Land, Writer/Director Damien Chazelle's love letter to the genre, and a film purposefully designed to evoke the feeling of the kind of musicals "they just don't make anymore." From the opening song-and-dance number, "Another Day of Sun," performed by an army of dancers stuck in L.A. traffic, to the closing sequence, a sweeping reprise of the score's main theme, choreographed against hand-painted backdrops on a soundstage, this is a movie steeped in the tradition of such classics as Singin' in the Rain and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Of course, there's a story here too. And it has to do with a pair of starry-eyed dreamers named Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), a down-on-his-luck jazz pianist and an aspiring actress/part-time barista whose lives become intertwined after a series of accidental meetings. He yearns to open his own jazz club, while she ambitiously sets her sights on her own one-woman play; but can their blossoming romance survive the ups and downs of life in Los Angeles, and all the inevitable, soul-crushing disappointments that happen along the way?

The result may surprise audiences expecting a storybook love story, but the way Chazelle reconciles the movie's idealism with the harsh realities of life and relationships is something to be admired. At times witty and whimsical, while at other times utterly heartbreaking, La La Land is as light on its toes as it is emotionally affecting, making for as magical a confluence of music, lyrics, comedy and drama as you're likely to find at the multiplex.

Composer Justin Hurwitz's score may be at the forefront of La La Land, but of equal importance are the oftentimes grandiose visuals, a throwback to the large-scale musical productions of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Thankfully, both are excellently represented on this Blu-ray, which replicates the theatrical experience with crystal clarity, bolstered by an abundant array of hues that bring to life the film's vibrant palette, from bright, blue skies and sunset vistas to party dresses as varied as the colors of the rainbow. Meanwhile, on the audio side, the disc's robust Dolby Atmos sound mix provides a similarly compelling reason to crank up the volume, as it immerses viewers in Gosling and Stone's crooning, not to mention the breathtaking instrumentals of an old-school, 95-piece orchestra.

Entertainment One's single-disc Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras. There are also a few iTunes exclusive extras, as denoted below:

  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Damien Chazelle and Composer Justin Hurwitz - Chazelle and Hurwitz talk about their cinematic inspirations, the musical numbers and the score, the structure of the movie, the actors' performances, the editing, the production design, the long road from concept to screen, the dance choreography and more.
  • Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down a Freeway (10:36) - Chazelle leads this behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film's opening sequence, which touches on the cinematography, the choreography and the technical challenges.
  • La La Land's Great Party (5:07) - A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film's big party sequence, from the production design to the dance moves and the camera work.
  • Ryan Gosling: Piano Student (5:02) - Gosling and piano teacher Liz Kinnon talk about his crash course in learning to play jazz piano for the movie.
  • Before Whiplash: Damien Chazelle's Passion Project (10:12) - Chazelle and Hurwitz talk about the six-year journey to making the film, as well as the classic musicals that inspired them.
  • La La Land's Love Letter to Los Angeles (6:56) - A look at the recognizable L.A. landmarks that make an appearance in the movie, from Griffith Observatory to the LA Theatre.
  • The Music of La La Land (13:31) - A piece about Hurwitz's score and the lyrics of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
  • John Legend's Acting Debut (4:40) - Singer/songwriter John Legend chats about his role and how he came to be involved in the film.
  • The Look of Love: Designing La La Land (8:47) - Production Designer David Wasco, Set Dresser Sandy Wasco and Costume Designer Mary Zophres discuss their work on the movie.
  • Ryan and Emma: Third Time's the Charm (5:50) - The filmmakers praise the on-screen chemistry between Gosling and Stone.
  • Epilogue: The Romance of the Dream (7:53) - A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film's closing musical sequence, from its inspirations, to the production and costume design, and how it all came together.
  • Damien & Justin Sing: The Demos (5:07) - Chazelle and Hurwitz perform early versions of "What a Waste of a Lovely Night" and "City of Stars."
  • Marketing Gallery (5:06) - Three trailers ("Theatrical Trailer (City of Stars)", "Theatrical Trailer (Audition)" and "Theatrical Trailer (Dreamers)").
  • Posters - A gallery of seven posters for the movie.
  • Song Selection (48:52) - Direct access to fifteen songs from the film ("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," "Epilogue" and "City of Stars - Mia Humming - (Credits)").
  • Interview with Damien Chazelle * ITUNES EXCLUSIVE (10:07) - Chazelle discusses his inspirations for the movie, his favorite films, the movies that drew him to be a director, his personal experiences of L.A., working with Gosling and Stone, and more.
  • City of Stars Lead Sheet * ITUNES EXCLUSIVE - Three pages of sheet music for "City of Stars."
  • Audition (The Fools That Dream) Orchestration * ITUNES EXCLUSIVE - Sixteen pages of sheet music for "Audition (The Fools That Dream)."

La La Land is available from Entertainment One as of April 25th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Optimized for Late Night Listening, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French SDH and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 8 Mins.

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