Updated: Feb 13, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Tracee Ellis Ross the daughter of Motown legend Diana Ross plays songstress/diva Grace Davis, who's received 11 Grammy Awards during her R&B career. (2) Dakota Johnson plays Davis' hardworking personal assistant Maggie, as they travel on the megastar's private jet during the latest tour. (3) Grace's high life includes driving her luxury sports car.
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“THE HIGH NOTE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital copy; 2020, PG-13 for some strong language and some suggestive references; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: The Dream Team: Inside the Creation of ‘The High Note’
THE FOLKS at Universal must have been in the gambling mood when they first decided to release “The High Note” theatrically in early May. But, that was short-circuited and launched as an On-Demand rental May 29, during the global pandemic that just won’t go away.
It did get a short-lived showing in European theaters (France & Netherlands) in late June and July, but according to boxofficemojo.com, “The High Note” only grossed $1.5 million.
Here in the U.S., it became available as an exclusive 4K Ultra HD digital purchase on most platforms July 21, while the Blu-ray disc was pushed back to August 11.
“The High Note” is a perfect after-dinner-at-home movie with some popcorn and the beverage of your choice. That’s not to say the movie is flawless, far from it, but the music industry tale keeps a big secret buried that makes “The High Note” worth hanging into the end.
(1-3) Maggie is always by Grace's side during the tour, including an after-concert ice bath to soothe those aching muscles. (4) Maggie's good-humored roommate Katie (Zoë Chao) provides some advice during a walk in the Hollywood hills.
The story focuses on personal assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson, “Fifty Shades” franchise), who takes care of legendary songstress Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross, “Girlfriends,” “Black-ish”), a bona fide diva with a smothered soul. Maggie longs to be a music producer; Grace longs to get back her creative, artistic mojo, but takes the easy money road by performing old hits that get remastered at the behest of her often grumpy producer Jack (Ice Cube).
The movie as an interesting side plot with Maggie exploring her talents as a producer by offering her yet unproven services to the charming David, a budding singer/songwriter played by Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (“Luce,” “Monsters and Men”). How will these plots collide? You might be ready to change movies or stream a Hulu original during the first 45 minutes, but, give it time. This feel-good flick is just what we need during these unprecedented, unpredictable times.
Plus, it’s always great to see Ross act out a version of her famous mother, actress and Motown legend Diana Ross (you can find a clip of the two of them performing together on YouTube.com in Vegas in June 2019). Watching the sweeping stage scenes with Tracee Ellis Ross is amazing, with her exquisite outfits, daring make-up and spectacular star hair transports you to a place where live music is still being performed on stage and legends still shine. She is an incredibly nuanced actor and definitely deserved to star in her first feature-length film.
Johnson, also, hits a home doing what she does best, playing the almost demure yet insecure/confident, soft-speaking character that, despite some flaws, has all the answers and makes everyone look good in the end.
Ice Cube, Harrison, and even Bill Pullman as Maggie’s dad also are believable in their roles, which often support the strong women in this cast.
(1) Maggie meets the talented and charming David while grocery shopping as they bond over classic California songs. (2) David performs with his band. (3) Another late night for Maggie, picking up Grace after she's had too much to drink. They stop by a taco food truck and the customers spot Grace. (4) David agrees to let Maggie producer his first album, as she gives him a short story about the microphone.
What a nice surprise to watch a film captured (2.39:1 aspect ratio) in 6.5K digitally and then mastered TRUE 4K, which presents a wonderful cinematic experience. Again Universal/Focus Features and so many other studios are bypassing the physical 4K disc and only going digitally in 4K - especially for the non-action and sci-fi flicks. The jump in resolution compared to the HD version is quite obvious during the wide shots as distant objects take on a higher level of clarity and the close-ups provided more detail in Grace's ever-changing wardrobe.
The HDR10 and Dolby Vision provide a much deeper black level and controlled highlights and mid-tones for a much more balanced color palette and natural facial toning.
And another shocker, the 4K digital provides the eight-channel Dolby Atmos experience with the sound bouncing around the room from front to back and ceiling and floor. The height speakers are quite active, as the bass response is deep, giving your subwoofer a good workout - especially during the concert scenes. The Blu-ray features the eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack that's still dynamic but missing that full enveloping Atmos experience.
The bonus features are not lengthy, and probably could have gone into more detail about Ross and Harrison’s singing abilities, but, still, worth viewing.
Director Nisha Ganatra, best known for directing a ton of TV series like “You Me Her” and “The Last Man on Earth,” talks during the featurette about working with Ross and Harrison on their singing scenes and how important music production was to the authenticity of the film – thanks to artist/musician Ice Cube. "To me, if the music works, I know the script is great," he says.
Ross had been tracking the script for eight months. “The singing is something I’ve always wanted to do; I come from a legacy of singing and as a kid it was something I always wanted to do, and I just kind of went in a different direction,” Ross said. “But it was a big dream; I had to face the dream and the fear all in one, and it’s been great.”
As for Harrison, even though he has played jazz piano and trumpet, he, like Ross, pursued acting as a career and not music, so, he said, it was nice for the pair of actors to experience the musical side of their personalities.
“It was nice to do that together,” Harrison said. “We fed off each other.”
Other extras include: nearly 26 minutes of deleted/alternate/extended scenes; four minutes of “Making a Legend: The Grace Davis Story,” a faux “behind the scenes” segment as if Grace Davis is a real person; and a music video of “Like I Do,” the film’s last song.
Overall, “The High Note” hits the entertainment high notes. Pun intended.
- Toni Guagenti
(1) Grace meets with her record company about a possible residency in Las Vegas or a new album. (2) The lines are blurred between producer and artist after a long night of recording. (3) Grace loses confidence in her personal assistant.
(1-3) Maggie's back home with her radio DJ dad Max (Bill Pullman) on Santa Catalina Island. (4&5) Surprise visits by Grace and David.