iTunes Movies Tag

A Star is Born

A Star is Born (2018)

In one sense, the 2018 version of A Star Is Born is nothing new. This is the fourth version of the film, after all—and countless other movies have borrowed heavily from the basic premise: An aging, addiction-stricken star takes a young, talented woman under his wings, falls in love, and watches her star soar while his comes crashing brutally to the ground.

 

Generation Xers like myself probably have a strong tie to the 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. It’s one of those “soundtrack to my childhood” kind of movies that I just remember being on my TV all the time. Then there’s the classic 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason. The original version dates all the way back to 1937. When I first heard that Bradley Cooper was going to direct and star in a new version, my reaction was, “Eh, just another unnecessary remake.”

 

But I have to give credit where credit is due. There’s an in-the-moment newness to Cooper’s version, due in large part to a script and a director that seem like they left a lot of room for improvisation. Everything about the film—from its pacing to its performances to its cinematography—makes you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of these people’s lives, right now. And that’s not always a comfortable place to be. In a film era defined by witty repartee and slick editing, you might find yourself growing frustrated as you watch people sometimes struggle to find or at least speak the right words. It’s awkward, but it works.

A Star is Born (2018)

The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is undeniable, and the decision to cast a musician and not an actress in the role of Ally just reinforces that sense of authenticity.

 

All that being said, the glue that really holds this film together is the music. Everything else takes a backseat to the fantastic musical performances, which means there’s some great demo material available in the Dolby Atmos soundtrack to show off your surround sound system. The concert sequences are mixed to sound like you’re listening to a concert, with lots of space and ambience in the surrounds.

A Star is Born (2018)

The 4K HDR image in the iTunes version I watched (it’s available in Dolby Vision if your system supports the format) looked excellent, with rich color and a high level of detail. This isn’t a super-stylistic movie, so the HDR is employed subtly to just flesh out that you-are-there sense of contrast. I didn’t see a lot of noise or compression artifacts in the iTunes version.

 

If you’ve decided that you don’t need to see A Star Is Born because you’ve already seen it, trust me, you haven’t. You haven’t heard it like this, and you haven’t felt it like this. You may know where the story ends up, but this is definitely one of those movies that’s more about the journey than the destination.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer than she’s
willing to admit. She is currently the 
AV editor at Wirecutter (but her opinions here do not
represent those of Wirecutter or its parent company, The New York Times). Adrienne lives in
Colorado, where she spends far too much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough
time being in them.

The Top 5 Movie Streaming Sites

Top 5 Movie Streaming Sites--FilmStruck

Forget about Hollywood blockbusters—here are the Top 5 streaming sites for real movie lovers.

iTunes

You can find Transformers, Star Trek, and Guardians of the Galaxy on every popular streaming site, from Vudu to Netflix to Fandango. And you can find them on iTunes too, but the site also features some of the most desirable recent independent movies too—some of which didn’t even have a theatrical release. Here are two of my favorites that did have a theatrical run:

Toni Erdmann

Last year’s Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film is a both heartbreaking and hilarious exploration of the relationship between a straight-laced executive and her non-conformist, practical-joker father. Not to be missed. (Directed by Maren Ade)

The Lobster

Another Best Foreign Film nominee for 2016. A thrillingly ambitious dark comedy about the pressure society puts on us to find a soulmate. The Lobster sets itself apart from other movies by refusing to cater to our expectations. (Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos)

Fandor

Usually residing inside Amazon Prime Movies (and requiring an extra monthly fee), Fandor is the site for completists like me—cinema lovers who can’t have enough of one director after they discover their work. Having seen Toni Erdmann for the first time in Europe, I looked at Fandor for more movies by Maren Ade. To my surprise, both of her previous movies were featured on that site:

The Forest from the Trees (2005)

The story of a young idealistic teacher who tries to connect with her neighbors but with unexpected results.

Everyone Else (2006)

An emotionally compelling drama about a couple vacationing in the Mediterranean who see themselves drifting apart.

Warner Archive

This site is a true Nirvana for lovers of old Hollywood cinema. It offers a rotating repertory of some of the most sought-after titles of the Golden Age of American movies. As a bonus, a great number of classics can be seen in high-definition for the first time. For example:

Busby Berkeley

You can always find Busby Berkley movies in rotation at Warner Archive. The legendary director who revolutionized musical films in the ’30s and ’40s is currently represented with Dames and Gold Diggers of 1937.  Warner lets us see these movies in HD with image quality as sharp as when they were first shown in theaters.

Andy Hardy movies

Many of the Andy Hardy movies starring a young Mickey Rooney (with Judy Garland co-starring in Andy Hardy Meets Debutante) are shown in sparkling black & white prints and HD.

FilmStruck

A brand-new streaming site that’s home to the most celebrated American and international movies of the past 50 years. The prints are stellar and the resolution is always 1080p. Very often, the movies are neatly bundled by theme, director, or genre. This month, I single out one of my favorite bundles.

Auteurs and Directors That Changed the Face of Cinema
Click this link and you’re faced with the improbable task of having to choose films from some of the most celebrated directors of the 20th century: Godard, Fassbinder, Tarkovsky, Lynch, et al.

If choosing among the many movies of a famous director is an impossible task, try some of the individual titles that rotate often and include some of the best-known arthouse favorites, such as Wim Wenders’ Alice in the Cities, Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito, Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, Renoir’s Elena and Her Men, and hundreds of others.

Amazon Prime

Most of us think Amazon just caters to very popular tastes. Not true. When I can’t find a rare movie I really want to see on Blu-ray disc, I’ll often find it being streamed on Amazon Prime instead. You can rent most of these movies for less than two dollars—but what if I’m not in the mood to watch a particular title on a particular night? I can put it in my list of favorites—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be available when I’m ready to watch it. If you don’t own it, a title can disappear as fast as it appears—and I’d rather pay to own a movie than run the risk I won’t be able to see it when I want to. I recently bought these rarities:

Like Cattle Towards Glow (2016)

Amazon describes this movie as a complex, intimate, strangely serene, and challenging exploration of sexual desire as a hiding place. I found it confounding in parts but always mesmerizing to watch.

Archipelago (2010)

The story of a family in an emotional crisis vacationing in gloomy Northern England, starring Tom Hiddleston and directed by Joanna Hogg. Hogg uses extended takes, minimal camera movements, and you can describe her style as a new kind of social realism. I had never heard of her—let alone her films—before. Ah! the pleasures of streaming. I was so impressed with her detached style of directing that as soon as Archipelago was over, I ordered her next film, Exhibition (2013), again starring Tom Hiddleston and also available on Amazon Prime. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.