Michael Scott

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Starman: Collector's Edition


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie


Jeff Bridges has been a part of my life ever since I was a little child. I’ll always remember him in Tron, and have watched his career with great gusto over the course of my nearly 40 years on this planet. Ironically enough, Jeff was just given the Cecille B. Demille award on the 2019 Golden Globes just a few short hours ago for his 54 years of acting, and what better way to commemorate the night than watching Starman. Another “rescue” by Scream/Shout Factory from Sony (Sony seems less and less inclined to release catalog titles these days and is happy to shuffle them off to boutique studios like Shout/Scream and Twilight Time, Mill Creek or Image Entertainment), Starman comes to Blu-ray almost a decade after the Sony Blu-ray release with a new Collector’s Edition packaging and extras. Sadly the audio and video seem to be replicas of the decade old release, but those new extras are an enticing little morsel for fans of the movie.

Starman is a unique film among John Carpenter’s repertoire of films. It’s not gory, horrific, or chilling like In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing or many others. But neither it is over the top sci-fi either. It hails back to the old 60s and 70s science fiction films such as 2001, or Close Encounters of the Third Kind in tone and feel, content to be a slow paced drama about an alien and human interaction before first contact. Focused and tightly woven, the 1984 film is a fantastic piece of cinema, and one of the more under rated science fiction films of the 1980s in my opinion. Carpenter weaves a light love tail in with a story of first contact, allowing the characters to organically create their bond, while adding in the layers of conspiracy and 1970s (ish) paranoia with military encumbrances acting as the driving force for the film’s race to the finish line.

Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) has recently buried her husband Scott (Jeff Bridges) and is grieving the loss the only way she knows how. Drowning her sorrows in wine and old memories, Jenny gets a shock of a life time when a “starman” from a downed alien spacecraft breaks into her house while she’s sleeping and assumes the form of her dead husband in hopes of not frightening her (fat chance of that). Kidnapping the young woman, this “starman” informs her that he HAS to get to Arizona in 3 days to meet up with his extraction team so that he can get away before his body dies from interaction with Earth.

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Frightened at first, Jenny is afraid of being killed by the alien assuming her husband’s form, but soon her fear fades away as she watches the gentleness and naivety of the alien being. As the two cross the nation together to get to his extraction point, the alien being and the human woman form a connection. A connection that sparks into a romantic love when both realize that they have more in common than just the same human form.

It’s fascinating to watch Starman unfold, as Jeff Bridges really sells the part of an alien species trying to blend into humanity. Instead of just taking on the form and language of the people he has to LEARN everything from scratch. How to walk like a human, talk like a human, pick up their vernacular and idioms to use naturally. His naivety and wonder at the world around him is so childlike, yet so mature and wise at the same time. This dichotomy is also what drives Jenny TOWARDS the starman, as she sees that childlike innocence and kindness within him that is better than most of the people she interacts with on a daily basis. The film is not action oriented at all, and while we have a few short scuffles and an E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial type race to the finish in the 3rd act, it is more of a low key drama that is sweet and endearing to watch. There’s a lighthearted sense of humor that dances throughout the film, and proves once again that old John Carpenter was a master of just about any genre. He’s known for his hardcore approach to vampires, space zombies, and monsters, but Starman is the genre defying film that makes a lot of viewers stand up and actually look at the credits and go “that was John Carpenter?”. It’s a great film, and one that has stood the test of time, lasting over 34 years and still being just as enjoyable as the day it was released (not to mention it was a technological marvel at the time).




Rating:

Rated PG by the MPAA




Video: :3.5stars:
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I
could find no mention in Scream Factory’s press release about Starman receiving a brand new 2K or 4K master, so I’m going to assume that they are using the same master that Sony was using for the 2009 Blu-ray. I never actually picked up the Blu-ray a decade ago, so I’ll be hard pressed to give a true A/B experience between the two discs like I normally do, but from what I can ascertain by other reviews of the Sony disc, this one is pretty much indistinguishable from the 2009 Sony release except for some minor details. The 1984 film is given a good transfer that doesn’t ever really disappoint, but doesn’t ever really wow the viewer either. There’s a nice healthy layer of grain throughout the disc, with solid black levels and decently warm colors (the reds that have that bright pop to them, as do the Wisconsin green, but the overall ambiance has a sort of dusty earth color to it as they go through the southwest), but the detail levels are just in the “average to good” range. The film is naturally soft and a bit diffused, with the CGI and the old stop motion techniques for the Alien transformation really being a bit wince worthy when comparing to modern films. I would really have loved to have seen Scream Factory give us a new master, but what we get is still a solid viewing experience.





Audio: :3.5stars:
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Again, Shout/Scream Factory usually uses the same mixes from the other studio discs that they re put out, and Starman is no different. The 5.1 mix is just a copy of the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track from Sony, but re-encoded in DTS-HD MA 5.1, as well as a 2.0 Stereo track for night listening. The 5.1 mix is a bit tame and muted for what it is, with a majority of the focus up in the front of the room rather than with the surrounds and subs (which are almost non existent). The dialog is well defined and locked up in the center of the room, while the simple sound effects (such as tires screeching as the alien learns to drive, or a an explosion from his super powered technology) keep the front sound stage hopping. The surrounds are mostly driven by score, but a few ambient sounds, such as a space craft swooshing across the night sky, also liven things up a bit back there. The subs get a few moments where they can come out and play, but I almost never noticed my amps light up more than a few times throughout the dialog heavy film.






Extras: :3stars:
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• NEW They Came from Hollywood: Re-visiting STARMAN – featuring director John Carpenter, actors Jeff Bridges, Charles Martin Smith and script supervisor Sandy King-Carpenter
• Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter and Jeff Bridges
• Vintage Featurette
• Teaser Trailer
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery






Final Score: :3.5stars:


Starman is a fantastic 80s flick, and in many ways a spiritual successor to films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, just with a John Carpenter flair (albeit a much more tame film, as this was barely a PG film vs. his much gorier and scarier films that he’s known for). Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen have fantastic chemistry and the film is just a joy to watch considering it’s a 2 hour drama about a space man and a human woman falling in love. HOWEVER, I would hesitate purchasing this one over the Sony release as the technical specs are pretty much near identical. The deciding factor in paying the higher price for the Scream Factory release will be how much you like the extras, as Scream has once again given us some new special features, as well as ported over all of the missing DVD features that the bare bones Sony Blu-ray was sadly missing in 2009. Like City Slickers and Get Shorty, it’s an incremental upgrade at best, so let those minor factors drive whether or not it’s worth the higher price, or if you wish to upgrade. Still, the film itself is highly recommended and Scream Factory’s release IS the best version that’s on the marketplace as a result of the special features and collector’s edition packaging. Recommended.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel, Ted White, Dirk Blocker, John Walter Davis, Tony Edwards, Robert Phalen
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: PG
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 18th, 2018







Recommendation: Recommended

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I don't remember seeing this so will have to check it out.
 
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