'First Man: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray + Digital'
(Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight.
A visceral and intimate account told from Armstrong's perspective, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on Armstrong, his family, his colleagues and the nation itself—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.
4K Ultra HD Verdict: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this January with the release of this wondrous cinematic, and one can only assume, award-grabbing success, 'First Man - 4K Ultra HD' on January 22nd, 2019.
For my money, this 'First Man - 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is 'First Man' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265; Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p); HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10; and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like in those gloriously captured moments of orbiting "close" to the sun.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably scenes where Gosling is physically on the moon, the Earth shining back at his, lighting up his visor rather spectacularly) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.
As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; and French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, 'First Man' is, and without a shadow of a doubt, one of those films you just know is going to sweep the upcoming awards season take home trophies!
Where do I begin? Well, the opening scene will take your breath away! I don't think a single cell in my body flinched for a solid five minutes as I watched Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) fight to keep his craft from floating away into space.
The scene is spectacular visually and in every sense of filmmaking execution. It's also a bit misleading.
The rest of the movie, aside from the moon landing, is remarkably tame. It's quiet. There are virtually no loud outbursts or emotional speeches. This story is about people doing their jobs, completing their missions. Gosling understands this and plays to Armstrong's stoicism perfectly.
He is often an understated actor, choosing to let his subtle facial movements and glints of the eyes do as much talking as what actually comes out of his mouth. Neil is much the same except even less outwardly expressive.
He clearly comes from a generation that did not display emotion. They suffered in silence, which no doubt frustrated many family members, especially spouses.
Armstrong's wife Janet (Claire Foy) is a classic case of a spouse desperate to glimpse beyond his emotional shield. She restrains for the most part, but her building frustration is apparent throughout. When she finally does unleash her emotions, it's startling.
Her outbursts stand out in such stark contrast to the silence that we see from the other characters. Foy is smart and measured with every choice she makes, and she never comes across as unhinged or overly supportive to a point of unbelievability.
She's strong as a quiet devoted partner and strong when she senses the need to speak up. Look for her to add another award nomination to her resume come that time of year.
For as great as Gosling and Foy are, Damien Chazelle is the star of this movie, just like he has been the star of every one of his movies. I don't mean this as a bad thing. They guy is simply so skilled at what he does that his impact stands out among all the other standouts in his movies.
He doesn't take the conventional approach to a space movie, which is to hammer viewers with showy visuals and action sequences. He's careful not to overdo it those areas, instead focusing on Armstrong's psyche and life outside the space shuttle.
Chazelle crafts a personal, intimate film and shoots it in a creative way that uses a variety of framing choices so the closeups never feel stale.
In closing, this is a giant story told on a deliberately small scale. The choice to focus on Armstrong's objectively less captivating home life rather than the moon mission is risky.
Only the most talented of filmmakers, which Chazelle is, could pull it off. "First Man" is another showcase of Chazelle's mastery.
He's one of the best directors currently working. The fact that this film may eventually be considered Chazelle's 6th or 7th best and is still this excellent, is a tribute to his talent.
Anyway, that's that, for the most part, so now let's concentrate on some of the special features included. Firstly, for me, all the Deleted Scenes all blur into one, and none seem any more prone to having been chosen to be included, or not, as the case turned out to be.
But, amongst the plethora of short featurettes, the three that stand out for me are: Putting You in the Seat, Recreating the Moon Landing, and Astronaut Training.
The former is a right royal ride where you get to view, at first hand, all that Gosling, and Armstrong, of course, sat in the midst of on that journey into history. The second one, Recreating the Moon Landing is interesting two-fold, as it not only shows you how they shot it, but will also have the conspiracy theorists all pointing at their screens with gleeful, all-knowing looks emblazoned!
The latter is what those brace men had to go through, let along Gosling (to a point, of course) in order to embody that seat headed upward. Nothing I myself could ever have imagined, it is very revealing and showcases perfectly how determined ALL astronauts are to be in that exclusive seating. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:
Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of 'First Man'
Shooting for the Moon
Preparing to Launch
Giant Leap in One Small Step
Mission Gone Wrong
Putting You in the Seat
Recreating the Moon Landing
Shooting at NASA
Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross
Amazon Purchase Link