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Trances (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #689 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ahmed El Maanouni’s musical documentary showcasing Moroccan band Nass-El Ghiwane, is a wonderful inclusion for Criterion Collection’s “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Trances (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #689

RELEASE OF FILM:  1981

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:60:1 aspect ratio, color, Monaural, in Arabic with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Film Foundation/World Cinema Project/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 10, 2013

Directed by Ahmed El Maanouni

Screenplay by Ahmed El maanouni

Produced by Izza Gennini

Co-Producer: Souheil Ben-Barka

Music by Nass-El Ghiwane

Cinematography by Ahmed El Maanouni

Edited by Jean-Claude Bonfanti, Atika Tahiri

Starring:

Nass-El Ghiwane (The Band)

Karbi Batma (Percussion)

Abderrahman Paco (Bass)

Omar Sayed (Percussion)

Allai Yaala (Bonjo)

TRANCES The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. Storytellers through song, some with a background in political theater, the band’s members became an international sensation (Western rock critics have often referred to them as “the Rolling Stones of North Africa”), thanks to their political lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on the Moroccan trance music tradition. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, Ahmed El Maânouni’s Trances is cinematic poetry.

In Morocco, the music group Nass El Ghiwane has been an inspiration to a lot of fans.

A band which originated in the avant-garde political theater, members Larbi Batma (percussion), Abderrahman Paco (bass), Omar Sayed (percussion) and Allal Yaala (bonjo), their music was best known for incorporating trance and incorporating local Gnawa music.

Known for creating a new social movement in Morocco, their lyrics were inspirational, political but most importantly, peaceful and their music utilizing traditional to modern instruments would produce a style of music that literally put their listeners in a trance and filling up venues.

Filmmaker Ahmed El Maanouni wanted to feature the band performing live, showing how their fans reacted to their music but also showcase how the guys were behind-the-scenes and show a personal side of each member.  Maanouni has described the music of Nass El Ghiwane as Morocco’s “soul music”.  And so in 1981, Ahmed El Maanouni’s musical documentary “Trances” was released in theaters.

For filmmaker Martin Scorsese, he was captivated by the film back in 1981 and when Scorsese went to create the World Cinema Project in 2007, a non-profit organization that preserves and presents marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions generally ill equipped to preserve their own cinema history.  The first film the World Cinema Project chose for restoration was “Trances” by Cineteca di Bollogna/L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and at Djemaa el-Fna square in Morocco.

And now “Trances” is one of the films included in the Criterion Collection release of the “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” Blu-ray+DVD Combo Set Box Set which will be released in Dec. 2013.

VIDEO:

“Trances” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:60:1), color. Shot in 16 mm, the film does maintain its color and grain and for the most part, a good looking film created in the early ’80s.   I didn’t notice any blemishes during my viewing of the film and the film doesn’t retain any problematic aging issues and looks good for a film made 30-years ago.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 16 mm camera and sound negatives, preserved by producer Izza Genini, and then blown up to 35 mm.  The sound negative was restored to Dolby SR and digital.  The restoration produced a new internegative for long-term preservation and was completed in May 2007.  Special thanks go to Izza Geinin and Ahmed El Maanouni for facilitating the restoration process.”

AUDIO:

“Trances” is presented in Arabic LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and I didn’t notice any significant hiss, crackle or any major issues with audio during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Trances” (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #689″ comes with the following special features:

  • Martin Scorsese – (2:00) Filmmaker Martin Scorsese talks about watching “Trances” back in 1981.
  • On Trances – (18:03) Musician Omar Sayed, producer Izza Genini, director Ahmed El maanouni and Martin Scorses discuss their connection to “Trances” and the music of Nass-El Ghiwane.

EXTRAS:

“Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project – The Criterion Collection #685-690″ comes with a 66-page booklet featuring the following essays: “Recalled to Life” a foreword by Kent Jones, “Mambety and Modernity” by Richard Porton on “Touki Bouki”, “El cine mexicano” by Charles Ramirez on “Redes”, “River of No Return” by Adrian Martin on “A River Called Titas”, “The Law of Nature” by Bilge Ebiri on “Dry Summer”, “Power to the People” by Sally Shafto on “Trances” and “Crossing Borders” by Kyung Hyun Kim on “The Housemaid”. Each Blu-ray and DVD are housed in cases that come with a slipcase.

“Trances” was my first introduction to the music of Nass-El Ghiwane and Ahmed El Maanouni’s film “Trances”.

And it was rather fascinating for me to see this legendary Moroccan band Nass-El Ghiwane, perform in front of a live audience and have so many people of all ages, showing up to the venue and literally become captivated by the band and their music.

As I watched the band perform and to hear them play the traditional instruments and music influenced by Gnawa music (ancient African Islamic spiritual religions songs and rhythms), I was also drawn in my the complexity and the deepness of the lyrics performed by the band.   But like many people we see in the film who are literally put into a trance while listening to their music, I found myself drawn into their music.

The film may not seem so different from today’s musical documentaries from showcasing live performances to behind-the-scenes footage to see a personal side of a band.  But back when Ahmed El Maanouni filmed “Trances”, we got to see each member and their mindset.  With the long hair/mustached Larbi Batma and the spectacle wearing Omar Sayed more as the vocal members of the group, the film shows us a side of Morocco during the ’80s but also archived footage of Morocco’s past, its rocky relationship with Portugal (as Morocco and Portugal have been involved in hundreds of years of war hundreds of years ago).

The film also gives a dedication to one of their deceased members, Boujemaa H’gour and how he was instrumental in convincing Omar to abandon Egyptian music for bssat, Moroccan folk theater.   But the most vocal is Larbi Batma, a poet but also a man who no doubt likes to get his point across.  But also going into discussion about Aïcha Kandicha, a historical figure from the 16th century.

What’s interesting is in the context of how Kandicha’s name is used in today’s vernacular to spook young boys of not doing anything bad or this mythological old wrinkly, toothless woman (or fairy ogre) would go after you.  But when Larbi talks about her, its more about how she was Morocco’s first resistant.  A woman raped by a Portuguese soldier, killed him and then later died in battle.

I’m not an erudite on Moroccan history or mythology to know if its factual but the way he talks about her with so much passion, I found very interesting because most of the time I have read about the name, it was more in a scary story, not a positive one.

But also getting to see the mindset of various members, especially when it comes to piracy and protecting their interests to just being friends and having fun with one another.

But the heart and soul of this music documentary is the band’s music and how they have captivated a generation or two and still today, many who discover their music are inspired by their music and lyrics.

While it’s one of those films that people either get it or don’t, you’re not going to find any Western type of drama that would be featured in something like the Maysle Brothers film “Gimme Shelter”, nor is it about the production of a concert and its fans such as Pennebaker’s “Monterrey Pop Festival”.

If anything, “Trances” has a similarity to music documentaries about the music and personal side, but unlike the typical rock or pop star that celebrates extravagant lifestyle or touring worldwide, these are people who are not in the music to make it rich, they are doing something they love and know that their music inspires thousands upon thousands of people who find inspiration with their music, especially the well-written, poetic lyrics.  Some to the point that they are caught up in a trance when they dance to their music.

While I know this film has a special place in Martin Scorsese’s heart and it was the first film restored by the World Cinema Project, it’s great to have a music documentary included in the Criterion Collection’s “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” and the fact that the special feature follows up with the director Ahmed El Maanouni and a few members of the band in 2013.

Overall, Ahmed El Maanouni’s musical documentary showcasing Moroccan band Nass-El Ghiwane, is a wonderful inclusion for Criterion Collection’s “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”!

 

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Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku] (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

For me, the whole concept of virtual idols and also the Vocaloid Software has been quite intriguing for me and I have followed the development of virtual idols for many years now and to see how popular Hatsune Miku has become and how the character has been marketed, especially via videogames, Figma figures, nendoroids, clothing, food… Hatsune Miku is no doubt a phenomenon.  In my many years of covering Japanese entertainment, I have never seen anything like this before.  And it’s pretty fascinating and also exciting to see this happening.   “Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku] is a wonderful Blu-ray concert release for Hatsune Miku and Vocaloid fans.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © SEGA/Crypton Future Media, Inc., Mikunopolis 2011. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]

YEAR OF CONCERT: 2011

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Linear PCM Stereo, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles are in English or Romaji

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: April 16, 2013

Featuring the voices of:

Hatsune Miku (Vocals)

Kagamine Rin (Vocals)

Kagamine Len (Vocals)

Megurine Luka (Vocals)

The 39s (The Thanks)

June Abe (keyboard)

Akitoshi Kuroda (Guitar)

Shingo Tanaka (Bass)

Shin Orita (Drums)

39s Strings

On July 2nd, 2011, the internationally known Vocaloid Hatsune Miku performed at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This marks her very first concert here in the U.S. With 3D imaging created by SEGA and supervised by Crypton Future Media, the LA show was jam packed with songs and dance numbers by Hatsune Miku and the whole vocaloid team! Featuring the Los Angeles concert in its entirety, this Blu-Ray is contains live performances, your favorite songs from your favorite Vocaloids and more!

Hatsune Miku  (who’s name means “First sound of the future”) is possibly the biggest virtual idol to come from Japan.

A national phenomenon in Japan, Miku is a blue-haired digital female avatar and the most popular of the Vocaloid Character Series software originally created by Crypton Future Media and using Yamaha’s Vocaloid 2 engine. The innovative software enables users to create synthesized vocal tracks using Hatsune Miku’s vocals by simply typing in lyrics or inputting a melody. Crypton’s Vocaloid program uses vocals that are derived from pre-programmed samples of the voices of many popular actors/singers.

And then those who had the software started making their own songs using Hatsune Miku and then came figurines, books, arcade games, video games, apparel, food and sure enough, many Hatsune Miku music soundtracks (plus the many international Miku (and friends) cosplay at anime conventions worldwide.

In July 2011,  Miku performed live in Los Angeles at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles and appeared on stage as a 3D hologram, backed by her live band called the “39s members”.

In promotion for the performance, Toyota did a national commercial plus social media to promote Miku driving a Toyota care but also promoting the concert which was very successful and received major press coverage which fascinated people because thousands turned out for an live concert event for an animated character.

The 98 minute concert featured songs performed by Hatsune Miku and other Vocaloid characters Megurine Luka, Kagamine Rin and Len .  The event also featured popular otaku host, Danny Choo.

And now the concert will be released on Blu-ray+CD courtesy of Aniplex Inc.

“Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku] Track Listing:

  1. Project Diva Desu. [Live]    3:01    t.Komine (うたたP) Feat. 初音ミク
  2. ワールドイズマイン (World is Mine) [Live]    2:58    supercell Feat. 初音ミク
  3. えれくとりっく・えんじぇぅ (Electric Angel) [Live]    3:26    ヤスオP Feat. 初音ミク
  4. 恋スルVOC@LOID [Live]   (Voc@loid in Love)  3:17    OSTER project Feat. 初音ミク
  5. クローバー・クラブ [Live]  (Clover Club)   3:04    ゆうゆ Feat. 初音ミク
  6. ぽっぴっぽー [Live]    (Poppippo) 3:01    ラマーズP Feat. 初音ミク
  7. ロミオとシンデレラ [Live]  (Romeo and Cinderella)  3:20    doriko Feat. 初音ミク
  8. 裏表ラバーズ [Live]  (Uraomote Lovers) 2:34    wowaka (現実逃避P) Feat. 初音ミク
  9. パズル [Live]  (Puzzle)  1:42    クワガタP Feat. 初音ミク
  10. VOiCE [Live]    0:41    ラヴリーP Feat. 初音ミク
  11. 1/6 -out of the gravity- [Live]    2:21    ぼーかりおどP Feat. 初音ミク
  12. moon [Live]    3:13    iroha (sasaki) Feat. 初音ミク
  13. 初音ミクの消失 [Live] (The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku)    2:20    cosMo@暴走P Feat. 初音ミク
  14. 右肩の蝶 [Live]  (The Butterfly on My Right Shoulder)  3:38    のりぴー Feat. 初音ミク
  15. 炉心融解 [Live] (Roshin Yokai)   3:57    iroha (sasaki) Feat. 鏡音リン
  16. Just Be Friends [Live]  (Just Be Friends)  3:14    Dixie Flatline Feat. 巡音ルカ
  17. ワールズエンド・ダンスホール [Live]  (World’s End Dancehall)   3:43    wowaka (現実逃避P) Feat. 初音ミク, 巡音ルカ
  18. from Y to Y [Live]    3:08    ジミーサムP Feat. 初音ミク
  19. サイハテ [Live]  (The Furthest Reaches)  2:41    小林オニキス Feat. 初音ミク
  20. ファインダー (DSLR remix-re:edit) [Live]  (Finder)  3:39    livetune Feat. 初音ミク
  21. SPiCa [Live]    4:13    とくP Feat. 初音ミク
  22. 愛言葉 [Live]  (Aikotoba)   3:13    DECO*27 Feat. 初音ミク
  23. StargazeR [Live]    4:00    骨盤P Feat. 初音ミク
  24. ハジメテノオト [Live] (The First Sound)    3:32    malo Feat. 初音ミク

VIDEO:

“Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  For the most part, picture quality when it comes to showcasing the band members and the audience looks very good in HD.  Even a distant shot of showcasing Hatsune Miku and others, looked very good in HD.  But when it comes to closeups of the actual projection, that is where things get a bit blurrier.  But that is to be expected.  If anything, the editing for the concert was well-done, so shots don’t focus on a certain character, band member or audience member for too long.

I didn’t notice any banding or compression artifact issues during my viewing of the Blu-ray, but the picture quality of “Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]” was very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  My preferences were more for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 for the dynamic range.  Also, good use of the surround channels for the audience and overall ambiance.  But if you are a Miku fan, those with the gear to take advantage of the concert in lossless will enjoy the overall soundtrack.

The Blu-ray comes with both English subtitles (via English translation) and Romaji.  It’s important to note that for tracks 8-11, there are no English subtitles in order to keep the creators intention in mind for the medley portion.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of MIKUNOPOLIS – (3:54) A photo and video clip of Miku and staff arriving to Los Angeles for their performance at Nokia Theatre.
  • Opening Act – (13:14) Featuring the opening act with Danny Choo and the Danceroids (and two dance performances by them).

EXTRAS:

“Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku]” comes with the Blu-ray, CD soundtrack (featuring the same live concert tracks featured on the Blu-ray concert disc), deluxe digipak, PET clear case and a 2-sided poster.

I happened to be in Los Angeles during the day of “Mikunopolis in Los Angeles” and I know that the excitement for the concert could be felt, especially the number of Vocaloid cosplayers in the area.

But prior to this concert, I was telling my staff of how important this concert was in the United States.

Go back more nearly 15-years ago, during my review for an anime OVA series titled “Macross Plus”, the series featured a virtual idol named Sharon Apple, which many would watch her perform live.

I wrote about how one of these days, we will probably see virtual idols and purchasing CD’s from them.  And a year later, it didn’t take long as the cyber idol Kyoko Date released her first single and I was so happy to purchase the single when it was first released.  The concept of using CG to have these characters dance, sing and even perhaps have them featured on a Japanese music show, I felt that technology was giving us a chance to go further in exploring those possibilities.

While virtual idols would continue to be featured on photo books and magazines, the exploration of virtual idol in music would not take place again until a decade later with “Space Channel 5” creator Tetsuya Mizoguchi and record producer Kenji Tamai working on a virtual band known as The Genki Rockets.

While the goal in the past was to strive for realism, it wasn’t until Yamaha Corporation created the Vocaloid 2 and Vocaloid 3 synthesizing technology using the humanoid persona created by Crypton Future Media.  People were creating their own music and music videos and posting on the popular Japanese video sharing website Niconico .  Also a video sharing website that cater to otaku taste in anime, computer games and pop music.

And immediately, people all over the world began experimenting with the voice samples of Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin and Len, Megurine Luka for their music, while others started to enjoy the look of the Vocaloid characters and began cosplaying as them at conventions.

But then merchandising for Vocaloid’s exploded.  From video games to nendoroids and action figures, many fans wanted anything related Vocaloid merchandise.  And in 2012-2013, the Vocaloid especially the Hatsune Miku name doesn’t seem to be heading south as Family Mart (a convenience store in Japan) began selling Hatsune Miku food items, t-shirts, action figures.  Suffice to say, people can’t get enough of Hatsune Miku and her Vocaloid friends!

And here we are in April 2013 with the first Hatsune Miku concert Blu-ray release in America.  Featuring her concert at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles from July 2, 2011

The concert features 3D imaging created by SEGA and supervised by Crypton Future Media, the concert was Hatsune Miku’s first in America and performing with a live band.

First, lets discuss the music.  For those who love idol pop will be entertained by Hatsune Miku’s music.  From her supercell hit “World is Mine”, her vegetarian cute pop song “Clover Club” and upbeat vegetarian juice song “Poppippo”.  Or the super quick wowaka track “Uramote Lovers” or even quicker “The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku”, Vocaloid fans get to enjoy the Kagamine Rin/Len track “Roshin Yukai” and Megurine Luka, Dixie Flatline track “Just Be Friends”.  Plus a duet with Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka for “World’s End Dancehall”.

Featuring a total of 24 songs, fans will surely enjoy the excitement of the concert.

Will it appeal to Japanese music fans?  While the music of Hatsune Miku and music using the vocaloid is popular among  many fans worldwide, it’s a style that may or many not appeal to people.  Because the software uses the Vocaloid software, the software enables users to synthesize singing by typing in the lyrics and melody.  And the software uses technology with specially recorded samples digitally manipulated for each song.  Also, the songs are idol J-Pop, and if you like that, then chances are you will enjoy the music from this concert.

As for Blu-ray enthusiasts wanting to know how the picture quality and lossless audio is.  For picture quality, there were a good amount of cameras recording from direct center, above the audience, towards the audience, towards the Vocaloids and a camera aimed at each of the members of the band.

Picture quality was very good when focusing on the audience and also from the characters from a distance.  You can see the two projector lights from behind a black screen (which does show reflections of the audience at times) but while the 3D imaging looks very good, it only becomes a bit problematic when it focuses too close on the 3D characters because you can tell it’s a projection and it’s not crisp and clear.

But for the most part, editing is well-done, not dizzying and the lighting was also done very well.

The lossless audio is very good with a good amount of crowd ambiance filling the surround channels nicely.  While you do get a LPCM stereo lossless track, I opted for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack for the better dynamic range.

As for special features, you do get two special features.  One featuring Miku arriving to Los Angeles and the other is Danny Choo and the Vocaloid dancers.  The Aniplex Blu-ray release also comes with a live concert CD, digipak case and a 2-sided poster.

I just can’t help but be fascinated with the progress of virtual idol technology.  For me, the whole concept of virtual idols and also the Vocaloid Software has been quite intriguing for me and I have followed the development of virtual idols for many years now and to see how popular Hatsune Miku has become and how the character has been marketed, especially via videogames, Figma figures, nendoroids, clothing, food… Hatsune Miku is no doubt a phenomenon.  In my many years of covering Japanese entertainment, I have never seen anything like this before.  And it’s pretty fascinating and also exciting to see this happening.

Especially seeing Toyota do a national commercial for Hatsune Miku and a virtual idol concert with thousands of people in the audience in America screaming and singing along to the songs… That’s pretty awesome!

Overall, “Mikunopolis in Los Angeles [Happy to Meet You I’m Hatsune Miku] is a wonderful Blu-ray concert release for Hatsune Miku and Vocaloid fans.  Recommended!

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Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Fantastic, captivating and surprising!  The second documentary of AKB48 “Documentary of AKB48: Show Must Go On” gives viewers an inside glimpse of how AKB48 reacted after the tsunami and earthquake disaster, the competitive nature of the senbatsu elections but also how the group persevered during intense heat during a concert performance, scandals and more.  If you are an AKB48 fan, this second documentary for the group is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 [Documentary of AKB48]. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: DOCUMENTARY of AKB48 Show must go on 少女たちは傷つきながら、夢を見る スペシャル・エディション

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 121 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Dolby Digital, 16:9 LB, Dolby Digital 5.1

COMPANY: Toho Visual Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2012

Directed by Eiki Takahashi

Executive Producer: Shinzuke Akimoto, Yasushi Akimoto, Kenji Kitagawa, Yasushi Kubota, Jun’ichi Niizaka

Producer: Yoshihiro Furusawa, Kumiko Isono, Kaori Kishibe, Akihiro Makino, Tadashi Matsumura

Line Producer: Atsushi Obinata, Manabu Shinoda

Music by Hiroto Ohtsubo

Cinematography by Taku Murakami

Edited by Jun’ichi Ito

Starring:

Maria Abe

Yasushi Akimoto

Rina Chikano

Reina Fuji

Natsumi Hirajima

Miori Ichikawa

Anna Iriyama

Tomomi Itano

Misaki Iwasa

Tomomi Kasai

Yuki Kashiwagi

Ayaka Kikuchi

Rie Kitahara

Kana Kobayashi

Haruna Kojima

Mika Komori

Asuka Kuramochi

Ami Maeda

Atsuko Maeda

Yuka Masuda

Natsumi Matsubara

Jurina Matsui

Rena Matsui

Sakiko Matsui

Sae Miyazawa

Miho Miyazaki

Shiori Nakamata

Chisato Nakata

Tomomi Nakatsuka

Sayaka Yamamoto

Moeno Nito

Sayaka Nakaya

Misato Nonaka

Mina Oba

Aika Ohta

Shizuka Ohya

Yuko Oshima

Rino Sashihara

Sumire Sato

Amina Sato

Haruka Shimada

Haruka Shimazaki

Mariko Shinoda

Mariya Suzuki

Shihori Suzuki

Minami Takahashi

Aki Takajo

Miku Tanabe

Mayumi Uchida

Ayaka Umeda

Mayu Watanabe

Yui Yokoyama

Rumi Yonezawa

 

「DOCUMENTARY of AKB48+1 」を再編集ロングバージョンにて収録!2012年1月23日にNHK総合でO.AされたAKB48初心者には分かりやすく、コアファンまでをも満足させる特集番組にさらに未公開カットを大幅に加えたディレクターズカット版で収録

When I first reviewed “Documentary of AKB48: To Be Continued”, the first documentary of AKB48 introduced us to the members of the group and we got to learn about their background.

But since that first documentary, I have learned much more about the group.  From their struggles during their initial startup and having to give out flyers to people on the streets of Akihabara in hopes that someone would catch their show.  To only performing in front of seven people in the audience and no one hardly giving a care to this idol pop group.

This was no regular idol group.  These were young women handpicked by producer Yasushi Akimoto and Tomonobu Togasaki was the manager who listened to fans and communicated those needs to Akimoto.  And together with their crew, through a lot of working and trying to instill confidence to these young ladies, that were at its all time low, all Akimoto needed for these young ladies was to believe in him, to put their trust in him and things will happen.

From their beginning in 2006, it was not until 2010, when AKB48 started to gain attention thanks to their single “River”.  But it wasn’t until 2011 when the lives of AKB48 would change.  The group broke records by proving that a music group can still sell over a million copies of a single or album in Japan, the group had a video game release and also would win the artists of the year by taking the Grand Prix Award at Nihon Record Taishou (Japan’s equivalent to the Oscars).

But behind-the-scenes, there were a lot of things going on behind-the-scenes that many people may not realize.  And this behind-the-scenes would be featured in the second AKB48 documentary “Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on”.

With the February theatrical release of AKB48’s third documentary “Documentary of AKB48: No Flower without Rain” around the corner, I recently decided to purchase the import DVD version of the second documentary after learning that unlike the first documentary which was released in the U.S. courtesy of New People Entertainment, I received confirmation that there were no plans to release the second documentary in the U.S.

March 2011 was to highlight AKB48’s 3-day live concert titled “Takamina ni tsuite ikimasu” (We will follow Takamina), but on March 11, 2011, the tsunami and earthquake disaster struck Japan and immediately, AKB48 began charity efforts to raise money for victims of the disaster.  Even going to the devastated areas and performing for the children and families  who had lost their homes.

The documentary shows us these efforts as AKB48 performed in those locations but also introducing us to Karen Iwata, a member of AKB48 who was also one of the people who was displaced during the earthquake and tsunami disaster and discussing the challenges she faced during that time.

The documentary then would go to the Senbatsu Elections of 2011 and the tense competition between 2010 #1 senbatsu member Yuko Oshima vs. #2 senbatsu member Atsuko Maeda (who won #1 in 2009).    These two have worked their hardest in gaining fan attention but while it was incredibly emotional for Atsuko Maeda to win the #1 spot once again by a large margin, we see the heartbreak of Yuko Oshima who seemed calm and reserved but broke down heavily after congratulated and hugged by Mariko Shinoda.

This scene was the first time anyone had a chance to see what takes place in the backstage of a senbatsu election, how emotional these young ladies are to take the top positions but most of all, how competitive these elections are.  The election would also be important for members such as Rino Sashihara, who would place #9 but previously placed #19 and Rie Kitahara who was voted at #16 and rose up to #13.  Both who are very good friends and both who were not so visible as members of AKB48, will now have their chance to shine as members of the top 16.

We also get a glimpse of injuries that have taken place during theater performances.  Aki Takajo slipping from the stairs backstage but bounced back, worked hard and was able to move up to the #12 spot in the 2011 senbatsu elections.

We are then introduced to the Kenyuusei members who would receive a surprise that they would become part of AKB48’s fourth team, Team 4.

And continued performances by AKB48  in areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami disaster and expressing how touched they were by the people they met.  Minami Minegishi was touched how these two girls would give her a gift, which was flowers and a pine cone and how being given those gifts by two girls who lost everything, truly touched her.

The next feature would be the Tokyo Dome concert in which AKB48 members were unorganized and it would be one of their most horrendous performances in front of a large audience.  Akimoto was so displeased that he wasn’t sure if AKB48 had what it takes to perform in front of a large audience, if they couldn’t perform well for the Seibu concert.  And Mina Takahashi being a leader and givng an important talk to all members that they need to improve , so much that the group practiced and prepared over and over to get things right.  But because of the mental strain during rehearsals, Atsuko Maeda started to hyperventilate and was taken to the doctor and Jurina Matsui and Yui Yokayama would have to step up as Yuko would fill in for Atsuko Maeda’s role.  But Atsuko Maeda managed to come back just in time to join Team A for the concert.

We also get to see the strain on AKB48 in performing during the high heat and humidity and the group being pushed to the limit and various members started to hyperventilate or to have difficulties breathing when heading to backstage for a costume change.  But we get to see how Atsuko Maeda starting to hyperventilate during a concert performance, Yuko Oshima also having breathing problems and team leader Minami Takahashi collapsing after the concert.  You can tell by the faces of some of the members, that they weren’t feeling well and to do an encore when they were dealing with heat exhaustion.

The next section would feature Team 4 leader Mina Oba and her scandal.  Fans found an older personal blog of Mina Oba where she discussed breaking up with her boyfriend before joining AKB48 and other troubling situations that idols are not to be engaged in.  Minami Takahashi discusses how things are different for these newer members of AKB48, because while her group joined at a young age, before they had experiences with relationships, there are people who have joined the group who have had relationships before entering AKB48.  But how Haruka Shimada had to step in as leader as Mina Oba faced her suspension.

Next to be featured is the overseas fan events that AKB48 members have taken part in and the growing fandom internationally for AKB48.

The next segment will feature the next Senbatsu, the Janken Taikai senbatsu in which a member can become center by winning the rock-paper-scissors tournament.  And at the second Janken Taikai senbatsu, Mariko Shinoda became the second winner.

In 2011, we get to see AKB48 members who accompanied Karen Iwata to her home area to perform for people who have lost their homes and the return of Mina Oba after her suspension, as she ask her fellow teammates for their forgiveness of what she put them through.

And last, the culmination of all the hardwork that AKB48 had put into the year, with “Flying Get” becoming the biggest seller of 2011 and also earning AKB48 the grand prize at Nihon Record Taishou and getting ready to perform for Kouhaku Uta Gassen to end 2011.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The picture quality of the DVD is very good, great colors and many outdoor shots featuring a combination of various footage from concerts, theater performances, personal interviews and more. Dialogue and music is clear, there are no subtitles included and is in straight Japanese.

It’s important to note that this is a region 2 DVD and will not play on a region 1 player (unless you have a non-region DVD player) but can be played on a MAC or PC using free video playing software such as VLC or Daum PotPlayer.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” comes with the following special features:

  • Documentary of AKB48: AKB48 + 1 Directors Cut – (1:03:18) The following is the “Documentary of AKB48: AKB48 +1” which was shown on television but is the director’s cut.  Using each letter in the alphabet, we get to learn of AKB48.  For example, A stands for Akihabara and we get a look at the theater where the members  perform train and perform early in the morning.  B is for band in which the AKB48 members had to learn how to play instruments for “Give me five!”.  C is for “Coming of Age Ceremony” for the AKB4 members who turned 20-years-old and so forth.
  • First Rabbit Music Video – (5:15) The music video for “First Rabbit” which features the members singing the song at the studio and rehearsing on stage or at the dance studio.
  • Commercial – (:46) “Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” commercial.
  • Theatrical trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on”.

EXTRAS:

“Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” comes with two DVD’s and a black slip case, with a large pink obi.

Since watching the first documentary, it allowed me to learn more about AKB48.

Being one of the first people in the U.S. to be approached to cover AKB48 since the release of their early stage albums, typically I have see how idol groups have gotten their members through auditions, through television shows and eventually had the aid of TV to help make them popular.

But for AKB48, this was a group that had to work hard to get where they were at and by no means, was this group an overnight success.  It took five years for Japanese audiences to warm up to the group, to support their music and eventually the members on television and accept them.

In 2011, while I was familiar with AKB48’s headline on the news, primarily for their dominating sales and eventually winning the Grand Prize at Nihon Record Taishou, after watching “Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on”, I never knew how things were behind-the-scenes.  The last and their first documentary, “Documentary of AKB48: to be continued” was more about introducing people to the group’s top members.

But for this documentary, 2011 was a busy year as the group were dedicated in raising money for the earthquake and tsunami victims.  Meanwhile, the competition for senbatsu elections and who would be the center ace on AKB48 singles and music videos was very competitive, especially between Atsuko Maeda and Yuko Oshima.

And it was the first time that I was aware of how much that top spot meant to those two members and literally see the agony of defeat, when previous #1 winner, Yuko Oshima lost to Atsuko Maeda and seeing her breakdown in front of her friends.

But possibly the biggest shocker for me was to see the concert.  It’s no surprise to see how summer and humidity can make things a bit uncomfortable in Japan but to see members being treated for heat exhaustion and literally passing out or experiencing hyperventilation issues, this was a surprise.

I was wondering how AKB48 would adjust to losing a member such as Atsuko Maeda or Yuko Oshima but also how strict they are upon themselves when they know they did a crappy job onstage.  Producer Yasushi Akimoto is very direct with them, while AKB48 captain, Minami Takahashi spares no punches knowing that if they do bad, the show won’t go on if their fans are disappointed.

We also get to see the scandal that hit AKB48 in 2011 with Team 4 captain Minami Oba (which pales in comparison to what took place in 2012 and will be featured in AKB48’s third documentary in theaters in Feb. 2013).

But we get to see the good and the bad of AKB48 through this documentary.  We get to see members in an emotional state as Yuko Oshima loses to her rival Atsuko Maeda, we see Karen Iwata returning back to the place she once called home and performing in front of an audience who no longer have homes due to the tsunami and earthquake, especially since she and her family lost everything as well on March 11th.

Other memorable moments include Mina Oba returning back to Team 4 after her suspension but also coming face to ace with her good friend but also the person who replaced her temporarily as captain, Haruka Shimada.

But if there is one that will forever stick in my memory is the concert and seeing everyone with oxygen masks, members passing out due to heat exhaustion but also seeing Atsuko Maeda hyperventilating and no one knowing if she is going to come back.  We can see her on stage, her face not all right at all, but yet not wanting to disappoint her fans and feeling terrible, she goes out there and performs the best she can.

But also to see Yuko Oshima giving her 100% but also succumbing to the heat and also wanting to come back.  And of course, AKB48 captain Minami Takahashi, the glue of AKB48 trying to keep everyone together, keeping everyone motivated and focused but then when all is done, seeing her collapse and literally was out after the concert ended.

“Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” allows us to see more of each member working as a team and no matter how bad things get, they know that the show must go on and they must persevere.

As for the DVD, it’s important to note that there were two versions that were released.  This special edition features two DVD’s and comes with the Director’s Cut of “Documentary of AKB: AKB48 + 1”, while the four DVD-box set comes with the first two DVD’s featured on the special edition plus two DVD’s featuring longer interviews with various AKB48 members.  Also, the limited edition comes with an 84 page booklet.

With the third AKB48 documentary is about to hit theaters in February, so far the first two documentaries for AKB48 have been stellar.  And while this second documentary will not be released on DVD in the U.S., fortunately you can find it for under $20 online.  Also, you can find English fan subtitles online as well.

Overall, “”Documentary of AKB48: Show must go on” gives us a upclose look of what takes place behind-the-scenes of AKB48.  The good, the bad but also showing us that despite any hardships or challenges that this group has to face, they find a way to get back on their feet.  But also knowing that no matter what happens, the show must go on!

AKB48’s second documentary is highly recommended for fans!


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Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued (a J!-ENT Music DVD Review)

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the best music documentaries I have watched from Japan and also a wonderful documentary for those who want to learn more about AKB48!  Delightful, fun and entertaining, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 AKS Inc./TOHO CO. LTD/NHK Eterprises Inc./Rockwell Eyes, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 120 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Toho/New People Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 1, 2011

Directed by Yuri Kanchiku

Produced by Yoshihiro Furusawa, Yasushi Kubota, Hideki Motegi, Junichi Nogami, Sin’ichi Takahashi

Executive Producer: Shunji Iwai

Cinematography by Chigi Kanbe

Edited by Yuri Kanchiku

Starring:

Kaoru Hayano

Tomomi Itano

Grace Kaku

Yuki Kashiwagi

Haruna Kojima

Atsuko Maeda

Natsumi Matsubara

Jurina Matsui

Sae Miyazawa

Rina Nakanishi

Risa Naruse

Kayo Noro

Aika Ohta

Erena Ono

Mariko Shinoda

Ayana Takada

Minami Takahashi

Mayu Watanabe

 

This documentary follows the unstoppable all-female Japanese idol group AKB48 and gives you a glimpse into the girls’ struggle and growth that is behind their success and ever-growing popularity. Five years ago they started as a small Akihabara idol group with only seven people showing up to their shows. Now, they’ve topped Japan’s music chart with the top two best-selling singles of the year in 2010 as well as another two singles ranking in the top 10.

With a complicated balance of competition and friendship among the members, their bond is strong. Throughout 2010 the camera captures AKB48’s history with scenes from their concerts, general elections, and activities abroad amounting to over 1000 hours of footage. The documentary also includes personal interviews with select members revealing each of the girls’ struggle, joy, growth, and dream.

One of the best music documentaries I have watched from Japan and also a wonderful documentary for those who want to learn more about AKB48!  Delightful, fun and entertaining, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is highly recommended!

Producer Yasushi Akimoto, known for writing producing TV shows and writing lyrics for Japan’s popular groups, was also known for creating one of Japan’s largest all-female idol group in the ’80s known as Onyanko Club.

While Japan has had their full share of large all-female idol groups since the ’80s, Akimoto began working on the franchise known as AKB48 in Dec. 2005.

Originally, AKB48 (AKB named after Akihabara) was a theater-based idol group that performed in Tokyo on the 8th floor of a Don Quijote store and would entertain their fans through their music and performances on a daily basis.

But slowly, the group became popular and now AKB48 is one of the most successful franchises in Japan which featured 16 members who are part of individual and competing teams such as Team A, Team K, Team B and Team 4 (which currently has 11 members).  Since then, Akimoto has added SKE48 (which performs at the Sunshine Sakae in Nagoya), SND48 created around an “adult idol” concept in 2010, NMB48 (a group which performs at the Yes-Namba Building in Namba, Osaka) and now Akimoto intends to grow the franchise by launching a Taiwan version known as TPE48 and an Indonesian version known as JKT48.

Needless to say, the group has dominated the single and album charts (each single release features different teams performing the songs, which have different arrangements), are featured on many television commercials and magazines and hold the Guinness World Record for “largest pop group”.

And what makes AKB48 so different from other Japanese idol pop groups is that a performer must stay competitive as general elections are held to determine which members will perform on a single and which members would end up on what team formation and who will lead the group.  So, there is healthy competition built upon these different groups which make up AKB48.

For most people, the whole concept of AKB48 may seem confusing or too much to take in, but fortunately, New People Entertainment will be releasing the group’s 2011 documentary “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” on DVD.

The DVD features scenes taken from over 1,000 hours of footage including interviews with several members of AKB48 in 2010.  Including their feelings about being part of the group, the anxiety of leaving a group you have been with for years and joining another, about the competition and elections and also seeing a personal side of a member.

Here are a few things you can expect from a few of the spotlighted AKB48 members in this documentary:

  • Tomomi Kasai – Tomomi discusses being moved to Team B for the 2nd formation and how hard it was to leave her previous team.
  • Sae Miyazawa – Sae of Team K (2nd formation) and being part of the media spotlight and the frustration of not being one of the members who never got the opportunity to speak to media and wants to improve her ranking in order to get noticed.
  • Rino Sashihara – Rino of Team A (5th formation) goes to visit her grandmother who was originally against her joining AKB48.
  • Mayu Watanabe – Mayu of Team B (3rd formation) talks about her love of collecting action figures and drawing but the challenge of wanting to have a better ranking.
  • Tomomi Itano – Tomomi of Team K (1st formation) talks about her love of fashion and eating.  But also taking on a leadership role and her feelings of having to leave Team A, who she had been with for five years.
  • Minami Minegishi – Minami of Team K (1st formation) talks about leaving Team A after being with the group for so many years and joining Team K and thinking about the future.
  • Haruna Kojima – Haruna of Team A (1st formation) talks about preparation for a show and how she looks at herself as average.
  • Rie Kitahara – Rie of Team B (5th formation) talks about her dreams of being a leader and being realistic of her rating.
  • Yuki Kashiwagi – Yuki of Team B (3rd formation) visits her hometown, the first time in four years.
  • Yuko Oshima – Yuko of Team K (2nd formation) talks about being a member of AKB48, not being goody-goody and being a leader.
  • Atsuko Maeda – Atsuko of Team A (1st formation) talks about being voted the #1 member and being a leader in the group and also being busy with her acting career.
  • Mariko Shinoda – Mariko of Team A (1.5 formation) talks about her love for fashion and being one of the mature members of AKB48.
  • Yui Yokoyama – Yui of Team K (9th formation) talks about her approach to making mistakes as an AKB48 member and being a member of the group.
  • Mina Takamina – Mina of Team A (1st formation) talks about being the leader of AKB48 and the challenges that come with having to be the person that leads and expecting the best from each performer.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and in Dolby Digital. 

The picture quality of the DVD is very good, great colors and many outdoor shots featuring a combination of various footage from concerts, theater performances, personal interviews and more.  If anything, because the quality is very good, I hope that New People Entertainment considers releasing this documentary on Blu-ray in the near future.  

Dialogue and music is clear and understandable and English subtitles (which are optional) are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” comes with two theatrical trailers.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to exclusively work with a few of the major Japanese labels of some of Japan’s top female idol groups for interviews and review of their music.

My first introduction to AKB48 was through their first stage album when there was only Team A and Team K.  At the time, I only thought of the group as a theatrical idol group and because they weren’t so popular at the time, I figured that producer Yasushi Akimoto was going a different path than what he did with Onyanko Club and what other producers were doing with their idol groups.

Fastforward to 2011 and not only has he done something different than what other producers have done with their idol groups but he has managed to make AKB48 internationally known.  The group has ventured outside of Japan, performed in the United States, Europe, Asia and I’m quite impressed of how the overall operation has been in cultivating this idol franchise with multiple teams and now building more teams in various countries.

As I have reviewed and interviewed a good number of Japanese idol groups, AKB48 has been an interesting pop group because there are so many people and they move from team-to-team, it’s not easy to casually follow this group, especially if you listen and follow other J-Pop artists, groups and bands.

But when I first heard that “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” was being released in the United States, I was absolutely thrilled.  For one, New People Entertainment is literally bringing out the first J-Pop documentary DVD to the American market.  Two, it’s an AKB48 DVD that has possibilities of extending other AKB48 merchandise or videos for U.S. release and three, it’s a documentary that will help explain how things are with AKB48 and also introducing viewers to a few of the key members of the group.

Granted, not all members of every group are interviewed on this DVD.  That would be too difficult and there is typically a process of how members are featured on a single and possibly on this documentary.  I will say that the most visible members of the group (visible in the fact that I see these members featured on the majority of the TV commercials and publications) are featured in this documentary, these interviews definitely give you a more personal side to the members of AKB48.

For me, it was intriguing to learn how Tomomi Kitano loves to try different types of food (that other’s probably wouldn’t eat), to see Mayu Watanabe so different than the other members because she is a big action figure fan and loves drawing.  But also to see how being member of AKB48 has changed people.

For example, Yuko Oshima who is one of the top-ranked members of the group, ditching her goody-goody side and it was really interesting to hear her talk about her approach to life.  But also to learn more about the leaders of the group, especially Mina Takamina who is the leader of the entire AKB48 and knows that she is in a leadership role where she has to be tough on the members of the group and direct.

And also interesting is how competitive these girls are, especially when it comes to the elections.  With most members of an idol group, they are in the group forever…unless a producer feels they are not popular or are getting old, they make them graduate from the idol group.  But it’s a popularity contest and to see how some girls react when their rank is not as great as they would have hoped, was rather sad but also interesting of how they are encouraged to speak up about their emotions to the audience.  One was Mayu Watanabe looking devastated after being picked as #5 and crying her eyes out and telling the audience how upset she upset she was but wanting to do better.

These “personal” sides of these talents, A&R and management are good to put a squash on things like that in Japan.  To the point that what you know of a member is what management allows them to say to their audience.  But because of these spontaneous elections and then the talent being interviewed about their true feelings, that’s what I loved about “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued”, you get to see a real side to these talents…good and bad.

I’ve watched many documentaries, concerts, and videos of Japanese artists, groups and bands in Japan, and I have to say that “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is the best one that I have seen.  There was dedication in the making of this product.  From following the group for the entire year of 2010, over 1,000 hours shot and personal interviews…most Japanese labels typically don’t wait that long to get a product out (and sometimes, you can tell it was rushed). But in this case, there was no rushing…what you get in this documentary is a year’s worth of footage. And the editing is well-paced and the presentation is sleek, colorful and looks great on DVD (I just wish it was also released on Blu-ray).

Granted, I wish there were special features such as extra interviews that didn’t make the cut or maybe even outtakes but knowing that many of the J-Pop DVD’s or Blu-rays I have reviewed from Japan, rarely do you get special features.

Overall, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is a fantastic documentary on AKB48 that fans will love, especially for those who are new to the group and want to learn more about how AKB48 operates and also learn more about key members of the group.

A delightful, fun and highly entertaining documentary on AKB48 that is highly recommended!


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glee: The Complete Second Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“glee” season two had everything that one would instantly fall in love or become hooked on the series.  Fun, emotional and heartbreaking storylines but also seeing the writers do something different and meaningful on television and continuing the trend of featuring awesome music. “glee: The Complete Second Season” is highly recommended!

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Images courtesy of © 2010-2011 Twentieth Century Fox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: glee: The Complete Second Season

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2010-2011

DURATION: 22 episodes (1000 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2011

Created by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy

Directed by Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Bradley Buecker, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Eric Stoltz, Paris Barclay, Carol Banker

Written by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy

Executive Producer: Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy

Co-Executive Producer: Ian Brennan, John Peter Kousakis

Producer: Alexis Martin, Kenneth J. Silverstein, Michael Novick

Associate Producer: Jennifer Morrison, Thomas Kuehl

Music by James S. Levine

Cinematography by Christopher Baffa

Edited by Bradley Buecker, Doc Crotzer, John Roberts, Fabienne Bouville, Joe Leonard

Casting by Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, Robert J. Ulrich

Production Design by Mark Hutman

Art Direction by Michael Rizzo

Set Decoration by Barbara Munch

Series Costume Design by Lou Evrich

Starring:

Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester

Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester

Lea Michele as Rachel Berry

Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson

Dianna Agron as Quinn Fabray

Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel

Jessalyn Gilsig as Terri Schuester

Jayma Mays as Emma Pillsbury

Kevin McHale as Artie Abrams

Amber Riley as Mercedes Jones

Mark Salling as Noah “Puck” Puckerman

Jenna Uskowitz as Tina Cohen-Chang

Naya Rivera as Santa Lopez

Heather Morris as Brittany

Iqbal Theba as Principal Figgins

Harry Shum Jr. as Mike Chang

Mike O’Malley as Burt Hummel

Darren Criss as Blaine Anderson

Chord Overstreet as Sam Evans

Ashley Fink as Lauren Zizes

Lauren Potter as Becky Jackson

Dijon Talton as Matt Rutherford

Max Adler as Dave Karofsky

Josh Sussman as Jacob Ben Israel

James Earl as Azimio

Dot Jones as Shannon Beiste

Lamarcus Tinker as Marcus

Jonathan Groff as Jesse St. James

Bill A. Jones as Rod Remington

Stephen Tobolowsky as Sandy Ryerson

Gwynneth Paltrow as Holly Holiday

Kristen Chenoweth as April Rhodes

Charlotte Ross as Judy Fabray

John Stamos as Dr. Carl Howell

Charice as Sunshine Corazon

GLEE is a biting musical comedy about a group of eager and ambitious students who strive to outshine their singing competition to win Nationals while navigating the cruel halls of McKinley High. A pop-culture phenomenon, GLEE boasts critical acclaim, a loyal fan base of “GLEEks,” two Platinum and two Gold albums, more than 29 million song downloads, the record for the most titles on the Billboard Hot 100 by a non-solo act (beating out Elvis Presley, James Brown and The Beatles), an incredible 19 Emmy nominations – earning it the distinction of being the most-nominated series of the year – and four Emmy Awards. To top it off, the genre-defying, award-winning series has been picked up through its third season.

Exciting, fun and a definite step-up from the first season, “glee” is a fantastic series, breaking boundaries and trying to accomplish something new with each episode!

Last season, there was a lot of hype behind the teen musical/comedy/drama series “Glee” and for some series, season two can either substantiate a series popularity or prove it was just a fluke.  Fortunately for “glee”, not only did the series prove that it is one of the best series on television, we also got to see producers and creators of the series experiment with different themes, more music and most of all, giving the characters much more to work with and to let them showcase their talent.

The series is created by Ryan Murphy (writer for “Nip/Tuck”, “Popular”), Brad Falchuk (producer for “Nip/Tuck”) and Ian Brennan would gain attention because of its music but for the most part, it would prove to become successful with its catchy music (with actual talent that can sing), a witty storyline and its well-cast characters.

The series proved to become so popular worldwide that several soundtracks have been released and have been hits on various worldwide album charts and in 2011, winner of multiple awards and even earned 12 Emmy Award nominations, as well as earning a Golden Globe Award for Chris Colfer (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television) and Jane Lynch (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television) as well as earning an award for “Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy”.

“Glee” revolves around the glee club of William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio.    Spanish teacher Will Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison, “As the World Turns”)  becomes the director of the club and his goal is to turn this group of underdogs to achievers and bring them to Sectionals.

Will used to be part of a successful Glee Club back in high school and wants to make the club prominent once again.  But with money now being diverted to this new club, money is taken out of the cheerleading squad (aka “Cheerios”) led by head coach Sue Sylvester (played by Jane Lynch, “Julie & Julia”, “Two and a Half Men”).  And Sue is literally hell bent in doing what she can to close the Glee club down.

In Season 1, the Glee Club known as “New Directions!” made it to the regionals (and came in last place).  But this time it’s a new year, and season two brings new members and the Glee club will do what it can to make it to the regionals and the final national competition in New York City.

Also, new relationships as Will tries to get closer to Emma (who may have chosen another man), Finn and Rachel have their ups and downs, Santana and Brittany have their ups and downs, Kurt finds love at a new school and Artie finds new love!

Meanwhile, what happens when Rachel finds a rival with a good voice at her school?  What happens when Artie wants to join the football team?  What happens when the football team gets a female head coach and how will Will react when Sue gives a big announcement of a new group that she will be responsible for?

Members of the Glee Club known as “New Directions!” include:

  • Rachel Berry (played by Leah Michelle) – Very driven and wants to be come a famous talent.   A talented singer and is dating Finn.
  • Finn Hudson (played by Cory Monteith, “Kyle XY”, “Kaya”) – The star quarterback of the football team who has alienated his teammates for joining the Glee Club.  Once dated the cheerleader Quinn and now dating Rachel.
  • Quinn Fabray (played by Dianna Agron, “Heroes”) –  The former head of the Cheerios (cheerleading squad) and now a member of the Glee club and is dating Sam Evans.
  • Mercedes Jones (played by Amber Riley) – The talented singer of Glee Club who hates being second fiddle to Rachel.  She and Kurt are good friends.
  • Kurt Hummel (played by Chris Colfer) – A gay student who is picked on because he of his flamboyant style.  Because of bullying at his school, he attends a private school where he falls for Blaine Anderson.
  • Noah “Puck” Puckerman (played by Mark Salling) – Finn’s  former best friend and a teammate on the football team.  He starts to like the tough Lauren Zizes.
  • Artie Adams (played by Kevin McHale, “Zoey 101″, “True Blood) – A guitarist and also a paraplegic.  He is dating cheerleader Brittany Pierce.
  • Tina Cohen-Chang (played by Jenna Uskowitz) – The shy member of the Glee Club who was once dating Artie but now in a relationship with Mike Chang.
  • Santana Lopez (played by Naya Rivera) – A member of the Cheerios and the Glee Club.  Very blunt and has a crush on Brittany.
  • Brittany (played by Heather Morris) – The not-s0-smart cheerleader.  Joined along with Quinn and Santana to spy for their cheerleading head coach Susan Sylvester.  But now a key member of the Glee club and is dating Artie.  She also had a relationship with Santana.
  • Mike Chang (played by Harry Shum, Jr., “Step Up” films) – The dancer who is dating Tina.
  • Sam Evans (played by Chord Overstreet, “Private”, “The Hole”) – A football player who joins the group and starts dating Quinn.
  • Lauren Zizes (played by Ashley Fink, “You Again”, “Fat Girls”) – The tough girl who becomes the attraction of Puck.

Other main characters of “Glee” include:

  • Will Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison, “Music and Lyrics”, “Dan in Real Life”) – A Spanish teacher and the glee director.  Was married to Terri until she faked her pregnancy, has dated Emma Pillsbury.
  • Sue Sylvester (played by Jane Lynch, “the 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Talladega Nights”, “Role Models”) – The crude Head Coach of the Cheerios who becomes Will Schuester’s nemesis/frienemy.
  • Emma Pillsbury (played by Jayma Mays, “Heroes”, “Ugly Betty”) – The guidance counselor who is attracted to Will but because of their uncertain relationship, she has married a Dr. Carl Howell.
  • Terri Schuester (played by Jessalyn Gilsig, “Heroes”) – Divorced to Will Schuester.  Dumped after lying about her pregnancy.  She loves Will and would like to win his trust again.
  • Principal Figgins (played by Iqbal Theba) – The fair principal who tends to listen to Glee Club director Will Schuester and Cheerios Head Coach Susan Sylvester going at each other’s throats but trying to make sure there is decorum.
  • Shannon Beiste (played by Dot Jones, “Material Girls”, “The Boondock Saints”, “Patch Adams”) – The new coach of the McKinley High School football team.
  • Becky Jackson (played by Lauren Potter) – Sue Sylvester’s assistant who reports to her if anything goes wrong in school.
  • Blaine Anderson (played by Darren Criss, “Eastwick”) – Attends the private school that Kurt is attending and both become close friends.
  • Burt Hummel (played by Mike O’Malley, “Yes, Dear”, “Eat Pray Love”, “The Perfect Man”) – Kurt’s father who cares about his son, gay or not gay, he is there for him.  He marries Finn’s mother.

 

“Glee: The Complete Second Season” features 22 episodes on four Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 23 – Audition – What happens when Rachel finds a rival in a student named Sunshine Corazon (played by Charice) who also has a great voice?
  • EPISODE 24 – Britney/Brittany – What happens when Brittany S. Pierce has to go to the dentist and while under sedation, starts dreaming that she is performing Britney Spears songs.
  • EPISODE 25 – Grilled Cheesus – What happens when Finn sees the face of Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwhich.  Burt has a heart attack.
  • EPISODE 26 – Duets – Sam joins New Directions and is teamed up with Quinn during the duet competition for Glee Club.
  • EPISODE 27 – The Rocky Horror Glee Show – What happens when the New Directions put on a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance?
  • EPISODE 28 – Never Been Kissed – It’s a Boys vs. Girls mash-up competition.  Meanwhile, Kurt is being bullied by a football player.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 29 – The Substitute – When Will becomes ill, substitute teacher Holly Holiday comes to replace him temporarily.  Meanwhile, Sue becomes the temporary principal.
  • EPISODE 30 – Furt – Sue’s Nazi-hunting mother Doris (played by Carol Burnett) comes for a visit, meanwhile Finn and Kurt deal with their parents engagement.
  • EPISODE 31 – Special Education – With Kurt going to another school, New Directions! brings in Lauren to join them.  And it’s time for Sectionals, meanwhile one of the couples breakup.
  • EPISODE 32 – A Very Glee Christmas – Still reeling after the breakup, Rachel tries to make peace with Finn. Meanwhile, the faculty hold a Secret Santa gift exchange.
  • EPISODE 33 – The Sue Sylvester Shuffle – With McKinley High’s football championship taking place, the football coach makes the team join the Glee club for a special half-time performance.
  • EPISODE 34 – Silly Love Songs – Will assigns the Glee club an assignment for them to perform a Valentine’s Day song.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 35 – Comeback – Brittany tries to make Rachel more sociable.  Meanwhile, Sam forms a Bieber tribute band.
  • EPISODE 36 – Blame it on the Alcohol – As Principal Figgins wants to teach the student body about the danger of underage drinking, the Glee club gets drunk during a party.
  • EPISODE 37 – Sexy – Holly Holiday is back as a substitute sex education teacher.
  • EPISODE 38 – Original Song – New Directions compete against Kurt and the Dalton Academy Warblers and Aural Intensity at Regionals.
  • EPISODE 39 – A Night of Neglect – The Glee Club perform songs from artists they feel are neglected.

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 40 – Born This Way – Santana blackmails Karofsky into starting an anti-bullying club in order to bring Kurt back to McKinley High School.
  • EPISODE 41 – Rumours – Sue revives the school newspaper “The Muckraker” and prints things about the Glee club in order to cause problems between them.
  • EPISODE 42 – Prom Queen – The competition for prom queen heats up.  Who wins prom king and queen?
  • EPISODE 43 – Funeral – It’s almost time for the Nationals and Will brings in Jesse to give advice to the New Directions.
  • EPISODE 44 – New York – Season Finale.  The New Directions perform in New York City for the National Show Choir Championship.

VIDEO:

“glee – The Complete Second Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  First, the good.  The good is that compared to watching it on HD via satellite, the picture quality is much clearer as details can be seen.  Especially in close-ups of the characters.  Colors are much more vibrant and for the most part, picture quality is very good.  The bad news is that you will see compression artifacts show up during episodes with a lot of red or a lot of blue lighting.

Fortunately, this is only done only a few times throughout the second season, most notably when the group performs “Blame it on the Alcohol?”, that is where you see it the most.  So, I wish that they fit four episodes per Blu-ray disc as opposed to five or six episodes on four Blu-ray discs in order to maximize the video for the entire Blu-ray disc on five Blu-ray discs.

But still, compared to having watched in on HD television, the Blu-ray picture quality is very good and fans of the series who want to experience the show in the best quality as possible, will definitely want to watch “glee” on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“glee: The Complete Second Season” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  And for me, the biggest difference compared to watching it on television is hearing how the music is utilized via lossless audio through the surround channels.  Dialogue and music is clear coming from the center and front channels but through the surround channels, you can hear how certain instruments and vocals are utilized and definitely makes the music sound really awesome.  So, for example, a song such as “Singing in the Rain/My Umbrella”, the surround channels are also utilized for the bass drum.  So, the music really makes for an immersive soundtrack and definitely makes the special feature “Glee Music Jukebox” worth using and making the music worth listening to over and over via lossless!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“glee: The Complete Second Season” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Glee Music Jukebox – The isolated music portions of each episode.  Each song for an episode featured on that disc is featured individually, so you can easily select the song without having to search for it during an episode.
  • The Making of the Rocky Horror Glee Show – (8:47) Cast and crew discuss their role on the Rocky Horror Glee Show and their thoughts of performing the music and the outfits they wear.
  • Exclusive Bonus Song: Plante, Schanet, Janet -(1:11) Bonus clip from the “Rocky Horror Glee Show” episode.

DISC 2:

  • Glee Music Jukebox – The isolated music portions of each episode.  Each song for an episode featured on that disc is featured individually, so you can easily select the song without having to search for it during an episode.

DISC 3:

  • Glee Music Jukebox – The isolated music portions of each episode.  Each song for an episode featured on that disc is featured individually, so you can easily select the song without having to search for it during an episode.

DISC 4:

  • Glee Music Jukebox – The isolated music portions of each episode.  Each song for an episode featured on that disc is featured individually, so you can easily select the song without having to search for it during an episode.
  • Building Glee’s Auditorium – (5:31) Cory Monteith gives a tour of the newly built auditorium at Stage 16 on the Paramount lot and we meet Barbara Much (Set Decorator) and Mark Hutman (Production Designer).
  • A Day in the Life of Brittany – (5:45) Heather Morris in character of Brittany giving a tour of what she does during a day of shooting on “glee”.
  • Shooting Glee in New York City – (10:31) A look at the excitement by the cast and the fans during the shooting of the season finale in New York City.
  • Guesting on Glee – (8:06) Interviews with season two guests of “Glee”: Katie Couric, Carol Burnett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cheyenne Jackson, Charice, Kristen Chenoweth, John Stamos and Jonathan Groff.
  • Stevie Nicks Goes Glee – (3:34) Stevie Nicks visits the set of “glee” and meeting with the cast.
  • Sue’s Quips – (2:15) A collection of Sue Sylvester’s quips from season two.
  • Santana’s Slams – (2:51) A collection of Santana’s slams from season two.
  • The Wit of Brittany – (2:20) A collection of Britney’s comments from season two.
  • Getting Waxed with Jane Lynch – (6:08) What went into the making of the Madame Tussaud’s Jane Lynch wax character and the unveiling.
  • Glee at Comic-Con 2010 – (14:54) Q&A with the cast of Glee and show creators at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

EXTRAS:

“glee: The Complete Second Season” comes with a slip over cover case.

When I began watching the second season of “glee”, there were a lot of awesome moments during the series and I was quick to proclaim that “glee” season two was magnificent.

I felt the series started quite strong during its first half as we had the opportunity to see the rivalry between Rachel and Sunshine Corazon (who I thought was going to become a cast member and something I was actually quite excited about), the Britney/Brittany episode was fantastic which prompted me to blog about the episode right after I watched it and wrote:

Not sure how you all felt but last night’s episode of “GLEE” was awesome! I definitely want more Brittany and Santana!!! Both Heather Morris and Naya Rivera did a fantastic job on the choreography especially for “Me Against the Music”. Morris tore it up on “I’m a Slave 4 U”.

I’m sure Morris was being modest when she told New York Magazine, “We saw it on Friday, with the whole cast and crew saying they liked the Madonna episode better than Britney. But to me they’re so different. My character’s quirky, so the episode has more comedic stuff; it’s more of a funny episode. I thought it was hysterical. ”

This episode was waaaaay better than the Madonna episode.

My feeling at the time was that the writers were smart in bringing in new characters such as Sam, establishing the Sam and Quinn storyline, the Coach Beiste storyline was emotional but also seeing how the Kurt/Blaine storyline would resonate strongly among viewers.  There were so many things that the writers were doing right for the first half of the series and then the series continued with awesome episodes as we had the emotional “Grilled Cheesus” episode with Kurt’s father suffering a heart attack, the awesome “Rocky Horror Glee Show”, the episodes featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and then the fantastic Glee Christmas episode “A Very Glee Christmas”.

And if there was a major improvement, it was the amount of music that was featured in season two and also to see original music being featured as well.    In fact, what really hooked me to the series, especially season two was the music.  Personally, I’m not a fan of covers but the fact that the people on the show can sing and for the most part, how the songs are incorporate to the storyline has definitely made me a weekly viewer of the series.  Also, to find out that “glee” now holds the record for 113 single entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  For a TV series to have that much impact, that is quite phenomenal.

Also, “glee” is not a series about a group of perfect teenagers. Each of these characters have their faults but these characters are well fleshed out in the series that you actually care about these characters and each play their part in each episode.   Will, a teacher and the director of the Glee Club deals losing a person he may have loved but has went to another man.  And the honest feelings that people have in high school and the usual drama enhanced several times to make things seem so much worse than it is.  It’s high school life well-covered.

So, far I found the music to really be pretty fun and enjoyable.  The series has strong talents especially with the voices of Leah Michele and Amber Riley and Glee cast jams are pretty fun to listen to as well.   But I have to admit that with season two, the two that captured my attention were Heather Morris (Brittany) and Naya Rivera (Santana).  I loved how the writers started to use these two much more and when Naya Rivera and Amber Riley are paired up together, wow… what a wonderful musical pair!

But while I loved the majority of the episodes of “Glee”, I started to realize that the writers were drawing a blank with some of their newer characters.  Sam who started out strong, became a character that started to fade obscurity and that is sad because he could sing (even sadder is that he is not a returning character for season three). But when he was paired with Quinn, they were able to utilize both he and also Dianna Agron much more to their own storyline but break them up and writers tried to pair Sam with other members and it didn’t work at all.

Then you have Mark Salling who plays the character of “Puck”.  He was rarely used and when he was, it was for him trying to go after Lauren Zizes, and while it is an interesting concept to try something different with relationships, this is one couple that I can not picture in my mind, chemistry-wise.  If anything, instead of using Lauren’s character more towards the budding relationship storyline, there was so much more she could have been used for and she also seems to have lost her regular character status for season three.

A major plus was the casting of  Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson) for “glee”.  I was shocked like everyone when his Warbler rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” became a big hit on iTunes, doing better than any of the other songs by any “glee” cast member and no doubt that the Kurt/Blaine storyline has become very popular this past season.

Fortunately, I did like how writers did manage to work things out with Finn and Rachel but the off-and-on status of their relationship can easily grow old.   While I did like the Tina and Mike couple flourishing, I’m still undecided with Artie and Brittany but I did like how the writers worked the Santana/Brittany storyline mid-season and towards the end.

So, while I enjoyed season two a lot, I felt there was some stumbling as the season neared the end.  Mainly character utilization but everything else seemed to work out great.  Gwyneth Paltrow and John Stamos were wonderful additions to this latest season and it would be great to see Neil Patrick Harris make a return.

And with season three coming soon, suffice to say, some fans were shocked with the announcement that characters such as Rachel, Finn and Kurt will be graduating but I do understand Ryan Murphy’s decision as he wants to capture the realistic high school life and the last thing anyone wants to see is a character staying in high school for too long.  You’re going to have to say goodbye to characters and say hello to new characters, so it will be interesting to see what Murphy has planned for the 2011-2012 season.   But it appears that the “Graduation” may or may not happen. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

“glee” season two had everything that one would instantly fall in love or become hooked on the series.   Featuring fun, emotional and heartbreaking storylines but also seeing the writers do something different and meaningful on television and continuing the trend of featuring awesome music  (makes you wonder how much is spent per episode for licensing the music).

As for the Blu-ray release, “glee: The Complete Second Season” is definitely an improvement over its HD broadcast but I wish that the episodes were broken down to four per disc to allow for better video for those of us who are picky about picture quality on Blu-ray but still, the picture quality is very good and the lossless audio is fantastic!  Also, I enjoyed the number of special features included but it would be great to have audio commentary for the next Blu-ray release.

“glee: The Complete Second Season” is highly recommended!

 

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Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” is a wonderful release and if you are a fan of the film, I’ll tell you right now, this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  And if you really enjoyed this film, this is a must-buy.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1971

DURATION: 181 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (2:35:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: MGM/Twentieth Century Fox

RATED: G

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2011

 

Directed by Norman Jewison

Based on the Book “Tevye’s Daughters” by Sholom Aleichem

Stageplay and Screenplay by Joseph Stein

Produced by Norman Jewison

Associate Producer by Patrick J. Palmer

Cinematography by Oswald Morris

Edited by Antony Gibbs, Robert Lawrence

Casting by Lynn Stalmaster

Production Design by Robert F. Boyle

Art Direction by Michael Stringer, Veljko Despotovic

Set Decoration by Peter Lamont

Costume Design by Joan Bridge, Elizabeth Haffenden

 

 

Starring:

Topol as Tevye

Norma Crane as Golde

Leonard Frey as Motel

Molly Picon as Yente

Paul Mann as Lazar Wolf

Rosalind Harris as Tzeitel

Michele Marsh as Hodel

Neva Small as Chava

Paul Michael Glaser as Perchik

Ray Lovelock as Fyedka

Elaine Edwards as Shprintze

Candy Bonstein as Bielke

Shimen Ruskin as Mordcha

Zyee Scooler as Rabbi

Louis Zorich as Constable

Alfie Scopp as Avram

Howard Goorney as Nachum

Barry Dennen as Mendel

Ruth Madoc as Fruma Sarah

 

Tevye (Topol) is a poor milkman in Czarist Russia, where he provides for five unmarried daughters and a sharp-tongued wife. Faced with mounting financial strain and growing anti- Semitism, Tevye strives — like a fiddler on a roof — to maintain balance despite the precarious nature of his situation. Directed by Norman Jewison (Moonstruck), conducted by John Williams and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, this “triumphant and satisfying experience” (Los Angeles Times) weaves a “tapestry of beauty and excitement” (Rex Reed)!

Fiddler on the Roof – Bonus Clip: “Tevye’s Daughters”

Fiddler on the Roof – Film Clip: “Tradition”

Fiddler on the Roof – Film Clip: “Sunrise Sunset”

Fiddler on the Roof – Film Clip: “World is Changing”

In 1894, Sholem Aleichem would create stories about Tevye the dairyman.  Written in Yiddish, the character would be best known for the fictional memoir “Tevye and his Daughters” which was a story about a Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia and the trouble he would have of raising his six daughters.

The memoir was extremely popular and it would receive a musical adaptation in 1964 courtesy of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and a book would be written by Joseph Stein.  While slightly different from the memoir, the musical would feature Tevye trying to raise his five daughters while maintaining his Jewish religious traditions but outside influences are starting to change his daughters.

In 1970, a film adaptation by Norman Jewison (“The Thomas Crown Affair”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Moonstruck”, “Agnes of God”) was created.  The film which was created for $9 million would go on to make $50 million which was fantastic for its time.

The film would be nominated for eight Academy Awards and would win three for “Best Cinematography” (Oswald Morris), “Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Song Score” (John Williams) and “Best Sound” (Gordon K. McCallum, David Hildyard).

“Fiddler on the Roof”, the movie is presented in two acts and incorporates music from the film from Tevye and his family’s perspective.

The film begins in the town of Anatevka in Tsaris Russia in 1905 and focuses on the family of Tevye (played by Topol).  In Anatevka, the town is broken up in a small Orthodox Jewish community and a larger Orthodox Christian community.  Suffice to say, these two do not mix and they are very much separated.

For Tevye, he and many men in his village are men of traditional values and believe in tradition (ie. arranged marriages, the father works to take care of the family, having many children).  For Tevye and his wife Golde (played by Norma Crane), they have five daughters but can not afford to give them dowries, so they rely on Yente (played by Molly Picon), the village matchmaker to find them a husband.

But what Tevye doesn’t understand is that this daughters are a new generation who are not so welcoming of the old tradition of arranged marriages.  So, as Tevye must deal with his daughters, he also deals with being poor and their community’s fear of those who are non-Jewish who are harassing them.

The first act features Tevye explaining to the audience how the Jews of Anatevka achieve balance through tradition and a lot of the Jews in Russia are like the fiddler on the roof, as in trying to scratch out a pleasant tune while not breaking their necks.  The fiddler on the roof is a reminder of the Jews fears and danger.

When Tevye meets a college student named Perchik (played by Michael Glaser), a man who has more modern political ideas and not so traditional, the both work out a deal that he can stay with him and his family if Perchick tutors his daughters.

Meanwhile, the old man butcher, Lazar Wolf (played by Paul Mann) comes to to Tevye and asks him to give his oldest daughter Tzeitel (played by Rosalind Harris) up for marriage to him.  At first, Tevye has a tough time considering an older man (and good friend) being the husband of his daughter but because of his money, perhaps this would be good for the family and stay true to tradition.  But Tzeitel is already in love with the her childhood sweetheart Motel Kamzoil (played by Leonard Frey), the tailor who doesn’t make much money.  Many times, Tzeitel has tried to get Motel to tell her father that he wants to marry her but he is a shy guy who is unable to speak around her vocal father.

When Tevye tells his daughter of her upcoming marriage to Lazar, she freaks out and doesn’t want to marry him.  She pleads to her father that she’ll work and do whatever but not to marry him.    But Motel comes and asks Tevye that he wants to marry Tzeitel because they have made a promise to each other for marriage.

Now Tevye must find a way go get Tzeitel out of the marriage through the agreement he made with Wolf.  Meanwhile, as the student Perchik is tutoring Tevye’s younger daughters Bielke and Shprintze, his second eldest daughter Hodel (played by Michel Marsh), tends to get into arguments with Perchik and in return Perchik criticizes her for hanging on to old traditions and the next thing you know, the two have an attraction towards each other and they may be in love.

And meanwhile, the third eldest daughter Chava (played by Neva Small) is being bothered by a group of young men while walking her cow.  Coming to her aid is a Russian, an orthodox Christian named Fyedka (played by Raymond Lovelock) and he notices that Chava has an interest in reading books.  Needless to say, because of their similar interest, the two begin to have an attraction towards each other.  But the difference between Chava and her other sisters is that the man she is attracted to is not of the same faith.

But also in the first act, we see the increased military presence in the town and a pogrom (a riot approved by government and military authorities against an ethnic group, in this case, against the Jews in Russia) has taken place and unfortunately, it happens during the time of celebration.

While the first act shows us how Tevye’s three oldest daughters are going against tradition and how he must deal with it. The second act continues Tevye’s other two eldest daughters also defying tradition.

Changes are happening in Russia, especially as many young are going to work for the revolution (known as the 1905 Russian Revolution) to demonstrate and fight against the corrupt Tsarist government.

And as Tevye’s first daughter Tzeitel is happily married, he now has to deal with his two eldest daughters who also are planning to defy tradition and are getting married.  Meanwhile, the Jews of Anatevka are gong to be put in a position that they have never been in before.

What will happen to Tevye and his family through this ordeal?  Will they continue to be strong and will he still be there for his daughters, even if they defy tradition?

VIDEO:

“Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widesecreen 2:35:1).  The film looks absolutely magnificent and holds up extremely well 40-years later.  As what Twentieth Century Fox has done for “The Sound of Music” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, the goal was to present the film as it looked originally and that includes Oswald Morris’ Oscar winning cinematography which has a unique look to it.

I did notice there were some speckles and blemishes on the film at times but considering the age of this film, during the time it was created (when studios barely wanted to give money to films as the studio system was hurting), watching “Fiddler on the Roof” again but this time on Blu-ray, this film looks great!  A very good amount of grain, skin tones are natural, you can see the blues clearly in Tzeitel’s eyes, you can see the detail in the villages, the grime on the faces of the characters and more.

I don’t think Twentieth Century Fox gave the full-on restoration and remastering like “The Sound of Music” and not sure how well the original negatives have held up (a lot of ’70s films are not in the greatest shape when it comes to the original film and negatives and are unable to undergo any major restoration) as there are small issues of flickering, speckles and dust and a few blemishes but while not a pristine PQ, it’s still much better than anything that has been released on video thus far.  The film looks great despite my minor quibbles towards the picture quality.

Fans of the film should be happy of how awesome this film looks in HD.  I was definitely pleased by the cinematography and all that research that Norman Jewison and crew did in order to capture the look and feel of the village during 1905, was quite an accomplishment and it shows in the film!

 

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French 5.1 DTS.  And it’s one thing to have crisp and clear dialogue but for a film such as “Fiddler on the Roof”, the one thing that you will want to hear in lossless is the soundtrack.    Jerry Bock did such a magnificent job in creating the music and working with conductor John Williams to really capture traditional Russian and Jewish themes but through lyrics by Sheldon Harnick that just want to make you smile and even laugh at times.  It’s the music that I remembered back then and it’s the music that continues to resonate strongly today.

In fact, I still have the musical soundtrack for this film that I purchased back in the ’80s on cassette and then a CD version and it was one thing to love and enjoy the music but to hear it via lossless and to see how it was incorporated via 7.1 and hearing various instruments through the surround channel, I was just amazed.  Sound effects placed in the surround channels, especially during the more ensemble performances sound spectacular.  Once again, I was in awe of this lossless soundtrack and this is the best I have heard of “Fiddler on the Roof” ever!

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing audio commentary by director/producer Norman Jewison and actor Topol.  A wonderful audio commentary Norman Jewison looks back and you can hear a bit of emotion having seen this film for the first time in many years and knowing that many of the talent of the film are no longer living.  A wonderful commentary!
  • Norman Jewison Filmmaker(49:33) A fantastic documentary about Norman Jewison and footage of him working on the “Fiddler on the Roof” and seeing the challenges that the filmmaker had during the filming of the movie and also his candid thoughts on Hollywood at the time.  Presented in standard definition.
  • Norman  Jewison Looks BackPresented in standard definition, the following features Norman Jewison looking back on “Fiddler on the Roof” and touching upon the following topics: On Directing (3:28), Strongest Memory (:57), Biggest Challenge (1:11), On Casting (1:20) and A Classic? (2:34).
  • Tevye’s Dream in Full Color –Featuring the original shot of Tevye’s dream in color (5:56) and also a side-by-side comparison with the final cut.
  • John Williams Creating A Musical Tradition – (11:32) Conductor John Williams talks about what inspired him in the creation of the music for “Fiddler on the Roof” and the research he and Jewison did in Europe.
  • Songs of Fiddler on the Roof – (14:43) Screenwriter Joseph Stein and lyricist Sheldon Harnick discuss the making of the songs for “Fiddler on the Roof”.
  • Deleted Song – Any Day Now – (3:07) A song that composer Jerry Bock had but was not used for the final cut of the film.  The song is accompanied with still photos.
  • Tevye’s Daughters – (16:28) Rosalind Harris (who plays Tzeitel), Michele Marsh (Hodel) and Neva Small (Chava) discuss their characters, their audition for the part, working with Topol and Norman Jewison.
  • Set in Reality Production Design – (9:50) Production designer Robert Boyle discusses the challenges they had in making “Fiddler on the Roof” realistic and the various locations they had to visit to reach the realistic authenticity that Norman Jewison wanted for the film.
  • Storyboard to Film Comparison(21:04) A split screen featuring the storyboard and the film for Tradition, Matchmaker, Introduction to Miracle of Miracles, Tevye’s Dream andLazar Wolf and Tevye.
  • Trailers, Teasers & TV Spots – Featuring the original theatrical trailer, the re-release trailer, the “reserve your seat” trailer, Will Rogers trailer, 1971 TV spot and the 1979 TV spot.

EXTRAS:

“Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” comes with  a slipcover case and also comes with a DVD version of “Fiddler on the Roof” (1970’s Decade Collection version).  The DVD is presented in widescreen (2:35:1), English 5.1 Dolby Surround, English, Spanish and French mono.  Subtitles are presented in English SDH and Spanish.


“Fiddler on the Roof” was a film that captured my attention at an early age and I guess you can say that I  have a connection to it as I grew up in a family who believed in tradition and in fact, even I grew up expecting family (ie. my grandmother) to arrange for me to marry someone from her country.

As the oldest of the grandkids, I was raised by my mother’s side ala a Western upbringing while my father’s side tried their best to instill a traditional upbringing.  And there was no doubt a conflict between which upbringing was right and which was wrong.

When I moved with my father’s side of the family during my teenage years and I was pretty much stripped of certain “American” conveniences and had to learn how things were done traditionally and I’m not going to lie, at first I disliked it but as I looked back, I understood what my family wanted me to learn and that was tradition, learning how they were raised and to not forget those traditions because so much has changed with how they were brought up and of course, how things were going to change even further as they moved to America.  Do they worry about it or do they accept it?

“Fiddler on the Roof” resonated so strongly with many people because not only was it a wonderful film with beautiful, catchy and enjoyable music but there is an important story behind the music about a family having to go through changes.  A father who believed in tradition, knowing how much of it is being lost and seeing it upfront, close up as his daughters, that he raised believing in tradition, now going against it.  But also seeing a land that he loved, a livelihood that he was so used to, now being destroyed by the government and literally being kicked out of the country.  We know from history that many of these Russian Jews moved to another country and many settled in the United States, while many perished and their young generation were killed during Nazi control during World War II.

So, the film had a strong story, wonderful music but to make it happen, it needed wonderful direction, location and to achieve realism and that is where Norman Jewison comes in.  Back in the 1970, the Hollywood studios were in disarray and suffice to say, “Fiddler on the Roof” was the only film at that time who was able to get a high enough budget to create the film and give Norman Jewison the leeway to research and develop this film.  To make it happen and he achieved it with great efficacy.  And also, Joseph Stein did a remarkable job with the screenplay.

And the interesting thing about Norman Jewison is that I can easily call “Fiddler on the Roof” as a masterpiece, a classic for the filmmaker but his list of accomplishments from his oeuvre as a filmmaker, as this film does standout, so does many of his other films.  But where “Fiddler on the Roof” is achieves success is that he had high ambitions and his crew wanted the same, to create a realistic atmosphere of and bringing that memoir created by Sholem Aleichem to life.

And even today, similar to how these FOX classics such as  “The Sound of Music” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” are easily remembered and people can still remember the music for those two films, the same can be said for “Fiddler on the Roof”.  From Tevye’s “If I Were a Rich Man”, my favorite “Tradition” by the company and then my wife’s favorite “Matchmaker” by Tevye’s children and of course, along with the music comes memorable scenes and who can not forget the Tevye’s dream sequence which was one of the most surprising and freaky-ish “pre-Michael Jackson Thriller” scenes that I have seen from a film and of course, the choreography of the “Wedding Celebration/The Bottle Dance”.  This is one memorable movie that received a fantastic Blu-ray release to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Is it the ultimate Blu-ray classic release?  Well, 20th Century Fox raised the bar with “The Sound of Music” from restoration, remastering and to presentation with its many special features.  In the case of “Fiddler on the Roof”, although the film looks great and it’s the best looking version of the film that I have seen-to-date, it does have its moments of speckles, flickering and blemishes but these are very minor and unless you are watching closely, then you will see it.  But you do get a Blu-ray and the DVD of the film.  You get the awesome special features from the 2006 DVD release and you get the newly remastered 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.  And as mentioned, this is the best I have heard of “Fiddler on the Roof”!

If there was one thing that I would have hoped for, it would be a major reunion of the surviving cast and crew members for the film. In 2006, we do get the three eldest daughters together but it would have been nice to have a major reunion as part of the special features and a genuine 2010-2011 special feature for this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Fiddler on the Roof: 40th Anniversary” is a wonderful release and if you are a fan of the film, I’ll tell you right now, this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  And if you really enjoyed this film, this is a must-buy.  Highly recommended!

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Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure: 2-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Children’s Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For fans of High School Musical character Sharpay Evans or fans of Ashley Tisdale, this fun family film will entertain you.  Although the film is related to HSM, it’s a storyline that is primarily focused on Sharpay, as she tries to make her dream of becoming an actress in New York City come true.

 

 

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure: 2-Disc Combo Pack

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

 

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

 

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G

 

RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2011

 

Directed by Michael Lembeck

Written by Robert Horn

Producer: Jonathan Hackett and Ashley Tisdale

Executive Producer: Bill Borden, Barry Rosenbush

Music by George S. Clinton

Cinematography by Ousama Rawi

Production Design: Mark Hofeling

Art Direction by Anthony A. Ianni

Set Decoration by Rex Fields, Caroline Gee, Clive Thomasson

Costume Design by Natalie Bronfman

 

 

Starring:

Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans

Austin Butler as Peyton Leverett

Bradley Steven Perry as Roger Elliston

Jessica Tuck as Mrs. Evans

Alec Mapa as Gill Sams

Jack Plotnick as Neal Roberts

Lauren Collins as Tiffani Marlos

Cameron Goodman as Lisa Lamore

Robert Curtis Brown as Vance Evans

 

Just how fabulous do you have to be to make it big in the Big Apple? One aspiring diva is about to find out…the hard way! Ashley Tisdale shines in this totally captivating comedy.

After a talent scout spots her performing with her dog Boi at a charity gala, Sharpay Evans (Tisdale) sets off for the bright lights of NYC, convinced instant fame and fortune are in the bag (designer, that is). But the theatre is a dog-eat-dog world, as she and Boi discover when they encounter the devious owner of a pampered Pooch named “Countess” and a scheming Broadway starlet who will do anything to crush the competition. Fortunately, Sharpay also meets Peyton (Austin Butler), a handsome student filmmaker who finds Sharpay nearly as fascinating as she finds herself.

 


 

The “High School Musical” trilogy was a big hit for Disney and one would wonder if the film series would continue in someway or form.

Sure enough, we have “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure”, a direct-to-video film which revolves around the rich and naive character of Sharpay Evans (played by Ashley Tisdale).  The film is directed by Michael Lembeck (“Friends”, “Mad About You”, “Veronica’s Closet”) and a story by Robert Horn (“Designing Women”, “Living Single”, “High Society”) and producers of the HSM films, Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush.

The film begins with Sharpay Evans, a year after graduating from high school.  As she (and her dog, Boi) are performing at a local event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she is recognized by a talent agent from Broadway who has interest in her and wants her to come out to audition in Broadway for a show starring the popular Amber Lee Adams (played by Cameron Goodman), a star that Sharpay looks up to.

Sharpay looks at this opportunity as what she has dreamed about and wants to go New York for the audition but her father (played by Robert Curtis Brown) is dead set against it.  But her father is willing to compromise and gives her one month to make things happen and if she is unable to, she would have to come back home and work at the Country Club and work a “real job”.  Fortunately, her mother (played by Jessica Tuck) knows someone in New York who has a son that will help her out.

So, Sharpay and her little dog Boi are off to New York to make things happen in Broadway but her first day in New York doesn’t go as planned.  The apartment that she would be staying in does not allow dogs and Sharpay insists that if her dog Boi goes, she goes.  And sure enough, she loses the apartment.

Meanwhile, while sitting outside the apartment, a film school student named Peyton Leverett (played by Austin Butler) catches his eye and he begins filming her.  He tells Sharpay that he needs to shoot something interesting and unique in New York as part of his school project.  As she explains to him of her problems of not having a place, both eventually find out that their mothers know each other and he is the one that was sent to meet with her.

So, Peyton agrees to help Sharpay with moving to a studio apartment (same building where he lives) if she will continue to be the star of his short film.  She agrees and both become friends and Peyton shows her around New York City.

When both go to visit the casting agent, the agent informs that Sharpay didn’t look over the information completely and the Broadway play that the audition is not intended for her but it is for her dog Boi.  A bit upset that she went to New York thinking that the audition was intended for her, not wanting to come back home and work for her father, she feels that possibly if she takes Boi to the audition for the Broadway play,  it will eventually lead to more opportunities for her and also giving her a chance for the casting director’s to see her act and sing.

So, eventually Sharpay takes Boi to audition for the part and both are able to win the heart of the show’s casting director and scribe and as everything looks like Boi would win the audition, here comes the mature 12-year-old, Roger Elliston III and his dog named Countess.  And showing that countess can perform on stage and is experienced and eventually winning the attention of the director and scribe.

But with two very talented dogs, they don’t know which will win the part and so actress Amber Lee decides to test them both out and see who is more deserving.

Both Sharpay and Roger want the part for their dog and they eventually compete and sabotage each others audition whenever the dog is alone with Amber Lee.  But as Sharpay and Roger continue their bad blood towards each other, both don’t realize that their dogs Boi and Countess are falling love.

Needless to say, for Sharpay, just being in the presence of her favorite star Amber Lee is huge for her and while Sharpay looks up to Amber Lee, as both are nearly alike.  Behind-the-scenes, we learn that Amber Lee is actually a very mean-spirited, self-centered person who uses people.

One day, Amber Lee goes ballistic and fires her assistant and now in desperate need of another assistant, she uses Sharpay and makes her think that she is helping her and her Boi by bettering their chances to win the audition but in truth, Amber Lee just wants to use Sharpay and have her as an assistant.

And as Amber Lee continually uses Sharpay to the point that Sharpay is at her beck-and-call almost 24/7, she has no time to shoot the short that she promised Peyton, nor does she have time to be around her dog during auditions (in which Roger continues to sabotage Boy’s chances of being selected for the audition).

Needless to say, her friend Peyton becomes concerned, knowing that Amber Lee is using Sharpay and when he tells Sharpay about how he feels about her working with Amber Lee, instead of listening, Sharpay goes ballistic on Peyton and telling him that at least she’s working with a major actress and he’s nothing but a college student trying to make a short film.  Sharpay hurts Peyton’s feelings and eventually ending their relationship.

Now with only a few weeks to make things happen in New York City, will Sharpay be able to make her dream happen in New York City?  Or will the star that she idolizes prevent her from reaching stardom?

VIDEO:

“Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:78:1). Similar to the “High School Musical” films, Sharpay as always sports the hot pink, red, white and turquoise colors and in the film, the one word you can used to describe the picture quality of this film is vibrant.

But typically when you deal with a lot of reds and hot pinks, some films are going to display banding and in the case of “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventures”, there are times which banding is noticeable. And this is where the PQ has some issues.There are times that I felt I did see some artifacting but these were during the times of high red colors and it was mixed with banding but for the most part, for its intended demographic, I don’t think the audience will probably be too nitpicky and will find the picture quality to be good.

Skin tones are natural, you can definitely see the detail of clothing and the sheen of Sharpay’s rhinestones.  Blacks are nice and deep but for the most part, “Sharpay’s Fabulus Adventure” is a colorful film.

 

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  While the film is primarily dialogue-driven and is clear and understandable, the film does feature a soundtrack which includes six tracks showcasing Ashley Tisdale, HSM’s Lucas Grabeel singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (note: “High School Musical” star Lucas Grabeel is not in this film) and also a cover of “Walking on Sunshine” by Aly & AJ.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” comes with the following special features:

  • BLOOPERS – (1:21) Ashley Tisdale and the cast cut up on set.
  • AUSTIN CAM – (6:59) Actor Austin Butler, who plays student filmmaker Petyon, not only shoots scenes needed for the movie, but takes his camera behind the scenes to see how Ashley Tisdale has fun between takes.
  • THE EVOLUTION OF SHARPAY – (8:57) A Blu-ray exclusive.  Ashley Tisdale traces the development of her bigger-than-life character from the High School Musical movies through her current movie.

EXTRAS:

“Sharpays Fabulous Adventure: 2-Disc Combo Pack” comes with an embossed slip cover case and a DVD which is presented in widescreen (1:78:1- enhanced for 16×9 televisions), audio is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.


For fans of “High School Musical”, if you were a fan of Ashley Tisdale’s character Sharpay Evans, then “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” will no doubt appeal to you.  And the fact that you have HSM producers Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush does help.

But for those who were so used to Kenny Ortega’s fun style utilizing an ensemble cast to perform various musical numbers, “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” does have a musical number (“The Rest of My Life”) with a group of people featured at the end of the film but most of the music featured in the film are Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay) solo songs .

Although related to a “High School Musical” film, this is primarily a Sharpay film and showing her maturity and what happens when she tries to make it New York City but also encounters someone like herself and wanting to not be like her.  If there was only one thing that I didn’t like and maybe the kids might find it more appealing is the second storyline featuring Boi and Countess falling in love.  As much as I don’t mind dogs falling for each other, as we have seen it with Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”, I was

Granted, I’m sure those familiar with Broadway may scoff at a storyline about Sharpay and her dog and may find it a bit kitschy but I want to emphasize that this film is not exactly targeted towards adult viewers, while its intended viewership are the younger viewers, the Disney Channel fans who have watched Ashley Tisdale on “High School Musical” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”.

I know that many fans were wondering which “High School Musical” cast member was going to make an appearance but unfortunately, I didn’t see any cast member show up (note: I may have missed it) but I do know that fellow HSM cast member Lucas Grabeel who plays Sharpay’s brother Ryan Evans in “High School Musical” does have a song in the film, singing a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.

For those who are familiar with Tisdale’s work on “High School Musical” and even “The Suite Life of Zack Cody” will definitely enjoy the humor in “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure”.  Those not familiar with “High School Musical” may have a problem with the film, especially if they do not know a thing about her character.  If anything, I did enjoy that her character was explored even more and to see her character grow up a bit in this film.  I wish there was more focus on Sharpay and Peyton and not involve the storyline of the two dogs falling in love.  But again, I’m not exactly the demographic that this film is targeted for and the children may find the addition of the dog romance to be cute and enjoyable.

As for the Blu-ray, it’s a good release but I wish there were more special features or even an audio commentary track by Ashley Tisdale.  It’s important to note that there are two versions on Bu-ray being released.  A 2-disc combo pack featuring the Blu-ray and DVD and a special 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack which comes with a digital copy and a limited edition pink clutch purse.

Overall, If you are fan of Ashley Tisdale or her character Sharpay Evans, this film is definitely for you.  It’s nothing like the “High School Musical” films but it does explore her character a bit and for the most part, it’s an enjoyable film for children and the entire family.

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Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: 4-Disc Special Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Words can not describe how fantastic this Blu-ray release is.  “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” come alive with this Blu-ray release especially with the lossless 7.1 soundtrack but possibly one of the biggest additions to this 4-disc special edition was the inclusion of “Destino” and the documentary.  Another five star Blu-ray release from Disney!

Images courtesy of © Disney.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: 4-Disc Special Edition

YEAR OF FILM: (Fantasia) 1940, (Fantasia 2000) 2000, Destino (animated short) 2003

DURATION: Fantasia (125 Minutes), Fantasia 2000 (75 Minutes), Destino (7 minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 for Fantasia), (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio for Fantasia 2000), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), 5.1 DEHT French and Spanish Language Tracks, English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (All Ages Admitted)

Release Date: November 30, 2010

Fantasia

Directed by

James Algar  (segment “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”)

Samuel Armstrong  (segments “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” and “The Nutcracker Suite”)

Ford Beebe (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”)

Norman Ferguson  (segment “Dance of the Hours”) (as Norm Ferguson)

Jim Handley  (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”)

T. Hee  (segment “Dance of the Hours”)

Wilfred Jackson  (segment “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria”)

Hamilton Luske  (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”)

Bill Roberts  (segment “Rite of Spring”)

Paul Satterfield   (segment “Rite of Spring”)

Written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer (story and direction)

Written by

Lee Blair   (story development) (segment “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”) &
Elmer Plummer  (story development) (segment “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”) &
Phil Dike  (story development) (segment “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”)

Sylvia Moberly-Holland  (story development) (segment “The Nutcracker Suite”) &
Norman Wright   (story development) (segment “The Nutcracker Suite”) &
Albert Heath  (story development) (segment “The Nutcracker Suite”) &
Bianca Majolie   (story development) (segment “The Nutcracker Suite”) &
Graham Heid  (story development) (segment “The Nutcracker Suite”)

Perce Pearce   (story development) (segment “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) &
Carl Fallberg   (story development) (segment “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”)

William Martin  (story development and research) (segment “Rite of Spring”) &
Leo Thiele  (story development and research) (segment “Rite of Spring”) &
Robert Sterner (story development and research) (segment “Rite of Spring”) &
John McLeish    (story development and research) (segment “Rite of Spring”) (as John Fraser McLeish)

Otto Englander   (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) &
Webb Smith  (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) &
Erdman Penner   (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) &
Joseph Sabo   (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) &
Bill Peet   (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) (as Bill Peed) &
Vernon Stallings    (story development) (segment “The Pastoral Symphony”) (as George Stallings)

Campbell Grant   (story development) (segment “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria”) &
Arthur Heinemann    (story development) (segment “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria”) &
Phil Dike (story development) (segment “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria”)

Edited by John Carnochan (1990 Restoration)

Fantasia 2000:

James Algar (segment “Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The”)

Gaëtan Brizzi (segment “Firebird Suite, The”)

Paul Brizzi  (segment “Firebird Suite, The”)

Hendel Butoy (segments “Pines of Rome” and “Piano Concerto No.2”)

Francis Glebas  (segment “Pomp and Circumstance”)

Eric Goldberg  (segments “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Carnival of the Animals, The”)

Don Hahn (host sequences)

Pixote Hunt   (segment “Symphony No. 5”)

Executive Producer: Roy Edward Disney

Producer: Donald W. Ernst

Associate Producer: Lisa C. Cook

Co-Producer: Patricia Hicks

Cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt

Edited by Jessica Ambinder-Rojas, Lois Freeman-Fox, Julia Gray, Craig Paulsen, Gregory F. Plotts

Casting by Mary Hidalgo, Ruth Lambert

Production Design by Pixote Hunt

Destino

Directed by Dominique Monfery

Written by Salvador Dali and John Hench

Story Supervisor: Donald W. Ernst

Produced by Baker Bloodworth

Executive Producer: Roy Edward Disney

Associate Producer: Dave Bossert

Edited by Jessica Ambinder-Rojas

Production Design by Thierry Fournier

Starring :

Leopold Stokowski – Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra

Deems Taylor – Narrative Introductions

Corey Burton – Narrative Introductions

Walt Disney for the voice of Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

“Fantasia 2000” starring:

Leopold Stokowski

Ralph Grierson

Kathleen Battle

Steve Martin

Ktzhak Perlman

Quincy Jones

Bette Midler

James Earl Jones

Penn Jillette

Teller

James Levine

Angela Lansbury

Wayne Allwine

Tony Anselmo

Russi Taylor

Eric Goldberg

Benee Leavy

Deems Taylor

Deborah Vukovitz

Fantasia, an unprecedented and magnificent feast of music and animated images, was initially released by the Studio in 1940 as a “road show” release. The following year, at the 14th Annual Academy Awards, Fantasia earned two Special Awards. The first was given to Walt Disney and associates for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures, being the first commercial film released in multi-channel sound using a process called Fantasound, and the second to conductor Leopold Stokowski and his associates “for…unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music…thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form.”

Considered avant-garde during its time, Fantasia has gone on to become one of the most popular movies of all time and today is considered a classic. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Stokowski, this groundbreaking film, which consists of animation set to eight musical pieces, is narrated by Deems Taylor and includes an appearance by Mickey Mouse (voiced by Disney himself).

Equally impressive is Fantasia 2000, the awe-inspiring extravaganza of sight and sound, executive produced by the late Roy E. Disney. Featuring an array of celebrity hosts including Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn and Teller, Angela Lansbury, Itzhak Perlman and Quincy Jones, the film, like its predecessor, expertly visualizes classical music compositions with various forms of animation and live-action introductions. Fantasia 2000 is primarily performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by James Levine.

With the success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio”, Walt Disney Studios began working on a new animated feature length film titled “Fantasia”.

Unlike the previous two films, “Fantasia” would incorporate live action segments hosted by host Deems Taylor (an American composer and music critic) but with the studio wanting to raise the bar even higher, the animators wanted to try more experimental styles of animation that has never done before and then time it to go with the music directed by Leopold Stokowski and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Because the film is more of a musical extravaganza, Walt Disney wanted the premiere to be a special event where there was reserved seating and it was a formal occasion in which people would get special program books.  So, in many ways, the film was like visiting a classic music concert versus a film.

“Fantasia” would feature the following soundtrack:

  • Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • The Nutcracker Suite OP. 71a (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) which includes “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, “Chinese Dance”, “Dance of the Reed Fluets”, “Arabian Dance”, “Russian Dance”, “Waltz of the Fowers”.
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Paul Dukas)
  • Symphony No. 6 (“Pastroal”) Op. 68 (Ludwig van Beethoven) which includes I. Allegro ma non troppo, II. Andante molto mosso, III. Allegro,  IV. Allegro, V. Allegretto
  • Rite of Spring (Igor Stravinsky)
  • Dance of the Hours from the opera “La Gioconda” (Amilcare Ponchielli)
  • A Night on Bald Mountain (Modeste Moussorgsky)
  • Ave Maria, OP. 52 No. 6 (Franz Schubert)

While the majority of the animation has no actual plot, among the most well-known animated segments include Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.  Mickey plays the assistant who takes his wizard’s hat and by looking at his spell book, tries to make the brooms come to life and clean the castle (so he doesn’t have to) but by creating so many brooms, the basin continues to fill up until a flood is created and causing damage.   While “A Night on Bald Mountain” is about the nocturnal Chernabog trying to summon souls from their graves as well as other evil entities.  Until the Angelus Bell sends them all back into hiding and transitions to “Ave Maria”.

The film has received positive reviews since it’s release in 1940 and even today as many are in awe of what was created at that time.  But because “World War II” was around the corner and Disney’s success was due to worldwide release and the film being shown in many countries outside of the U.S., the theatrical version (which cost a lot to make back in 1940) and only shown in 12 theaters was not a financial success.  Re-released in 1942 and receiving a hack and slash edit from 125-minutes to 81-minutes, it was a commercial failure as the public were not used to accepting a Disney animated film as a classical music animated concert.

Fortunately in 1946, the film restored the “Toccata and Fugue” animation.  In 1960’s, “Fantasia” would finally make a profit but because of the sign of the times, the film would become even more popular but that is because of the rampant drug use at that time and even Disney itself would release a psychedelic poster to promote the film.  The film would be edited once again for its 1969 release to remove the character of Sunflower, the centaur that was an African-American girl during the “Pastoral Symphony” and a racial stereotype that many praised for its removal but also annoying those who wanted an unedited, uncut version of the film.

The film would go through a major change in 1982 as the original sound negatives back in the ’30s were deteriorated and unusable, a magnetic recording was done in for its 1956 release.  Unfortunately, the master was unusable in 1982 and thus Disney re-recorded the film’s soundtrack digitally by an arrangement conducted by Irwin Kostal.  Deem’s Taylors original narration was replaced with voice artist Hugh Douglas and also removing most of the live action pieces of the film.  Once again, sending fans of the film in an uproar, while audiophiles who enjoyed the digital recording by Irwin Kostal over the original audio enjoying the audio change/upgrade.

With technology changes in 1990, for the 50th anniversary of “Fantasia”, Disney went back to the original Stokowski recording as they were able to digitally use the 1941 soundtrack to resemble the 1946 general release version.  Everything was restored with the exception of the 1969 racial stereotype removal.  In 2000, for the 60th Anniversary of the film, Disney also brought back the Deems Taylor visual elements and the intermission with the exception of the 1969 edit.

And here we are in 2010, for the 70th Anniversary of the film and for its Blu-ray release, receives a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio treatment, keeping with the most faithful version of “Fantasia” since its 1946 release with the exception of the 1969 racial stereotype edit.

“Fantasia” was and still is considered “Avant-garde” and creatively artistic as the animators sought after experimental ways to raise the bar of animation.  It continues to be praised by critics and those who have watched the film and for nearly half a decade, remained a mystery on how the animation was created until a notebook created by Herman Schultheis (who worked for Disney’s camera effects department) was found and is now currently featured in the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco (note: A documentary on the finding of Schultheis’ notebook is included on this Blu-ray release).

The film was never meant to have an ending and thus for the film’s 60th Anniversary, the 38th animated feature “Fantasia 2000” would be created.  Although shorter in duration than the original, the film would stay within the same context as the original by visualizing classical music compositions with live-action introductions.  For this 1999 release, the introductions would feature celebrities Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Penn and Teller and Itzhak Perlman.

The new music would featuring James Levine conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the exception of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” which would feature the original recording by Leopold Stokowski.

The biggest difference with this latest version of “Fantasia” would be the inclusion of modern animating techniques (CG) and trying to incorporate the classic style the original was known for.

Included in “Fantasia 2000” are the following songs:

  • Symphony No. 5 in C minor-1. Allegro con brio (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • Pines of Rome (Ottorino Respighi)
  • Rhapsody in Blue (George Gerswhwin)
  • Piano Concert No. 2 in F Major-i. Allegro (Dmitri Shostakovich)
  • The Carnival of Animals, Finale (Camille Saint-Saens)
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Paul Dukas)
  • Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1,2,3 and4 (Edward Elgar)
  • Firebird Suite -1919 version (Igor Stravinsky)

A major difference between “Fantasia 2000” and “Fantasia” is the inclusion of animation with a storyline.  In “Pines of Rome”, a whale who is trapped in an iceberg tries to find a way out of it with the help of its parents, in “Pomps and Circumstance – Marches 1,2,3 and 4”, Donald Duck and Daisy escort animals to Noah’s ark but when the flood comes, both Donald and Daisy are separated and both fear that the other must have died in sea.  For the final dramatic piece, a spring Sprite tries to return the land back with plants and vegetation after winter but a volcano erupts with a Phoenix breathing ash and fire to destroy any living thing around it.  Will the spring Sprite and her companion, an elk, survive?

With ten years having passed since the theatrical release of “Fantasia 2000” and 70-years since the original “Fantasia” film, Walt Disney Studios are releasing a special 4-disc combo pack which includes a Blu-ray of both films, plus two DVD’s of each film.

Also, as an added bonus, the Academy Award winning animated short “Destino” (2003) which was originally created by Walt Disney and Salvadori Dali and storyboarded alongside with John Hench back in 1946 and shelved for over half a decade and brought to life in 2003 by Roy E. Disney and director Domonique Monfery with the help of John Hench is included on this Blu-ray release along with the fantastic documentary on the making of the short.

VIDEO:

“Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” are both presented in 1080p High Definition with the former at 1:33:1 and the latter at 1:78:1.  First, the original 1940 film “Fantasia”…  Having owned this film on VHS and then DVD, the only thing I can tell you is how awesome the film looks in HD.   The colors are absolutely vibrant and once again, you can watch this film over and over and still be in awe of what was created back at that time, it’s amazing!  The contrast is very good, the blacks are nice and deep.  I did see some minor banding but considering the age of this film, by no means does it ruin your viewing of this animated classic. This is easily the best version of “Fantasia” thus far.

Now, of course, with “Fantasia 2000”, 60-years-later and the animators were able to combine newer CG animation with classic animation and thus with newer film elements compared to the original film, “Fantasia 2000” obviously looks much better in HD.  The CG still holds up ten years later but if this film was created in 2010, who knows how much more detailed this whole film would have looked.

But both films look absolutely fantastic!  I didn’t see any artifacting, nor did I see any major blemishes towards picture quality.  Fans of “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” should be quite happy with this release!

As for “Destino”, Destino looks absolutely wonderful in HD.  Salvador Dali and Walt Disney’s creative and scrapped collaboration comes alive.  Colors are vibrant, blacks are nice and deep but it’s very important to note that this film does showcase Dali’s experimental style and although there is no nudity, there is a animated woman naked and unusual but creative artwork that some parents may find objectionable.  So, parents be warned.  But otherwise, a wonderful inclusion to this Blu-ray release!

As for the two included DVD’s, the film is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio (Fantasia) and 1:78:1 aspect ration (Fantasia 2000).

AUDIO:

This is where “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” comes alive on Blu-ray.  Presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, I was absolutely floored.  Reason being is that I have owned several versions of the “Fantasia” soundtrack.  Listening it on cassette and CD and typically, “Fantasia” was my meditation music throughout the ’90s.  I’ve had this soundtrack play when I was working on my college notes, when I needed to just meditate and collect my thoughts and even to sleep, I absolutely love the soundtrack for this album.

But watching it on Blu-ray, I have never experienced “Fantasia” in this way ever!  Instruments separated on each of the seven channels, hearing audio going from left to right and right to left and hearing it so crystal clear and yet coming alive on a 7.1 system, I was literally amazed!

Both soundtracks with the Philadelphia and Chicago Orchestra just come alive in your soundscape with instruments being hear from all over.  If you have ever wondered how proper utilization of a concert or even audio Blu-ray using all channels would sound if properly done?  “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” is it!  Every instrument comes alive in each of the musical segments and simply, this is the best I have heard of “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000”.  I know there are some people who are still stuck on the digital recording of the 1982 version by Irwin Kostal but if you have a 7.1 setup, you may just want to come back and listen to Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra come alive in his HD release of “Fantasia”.  Once again, both soundtracks are fantastic!

As for “Destino”, the soundtrack utilizes the original song from 1941.  You can hear that record player needle touch upon the vinyl and that vinyl coming alive in HD.  It absolutely works with this film and I’m so happy that they used that soundtrack and not clean it up.  The audio is properly integrated to that classic song that Salvador Dali was inspired by.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

As for the DVD release of “Fantasia”, the film comes with a 5.1DEHT English, French and Spanish language track.  Subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Fantasia” comes with the following special features in HD:

  • Audio Commentaries – Included with the Blu-ray release of “Fantasia” are three audio commentaries.  The first is with Disney Historian Brian Sibley who goes into everything from the development of the film to going through every detail about the film.  A fantastic audio commentary!  The second commentary features Roy E. Disney and historian John Canemaker and would feature archived interviews and recordings and also includes transcript readings and story note recreations.  The third audio commentary features Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and film restoration manager Scott Macqueen.   This pretty much features commentary additional commentary by conductor Levine on the music of the film and Macqueen on the restoration done for the film.
  • Fantasia Disney View Presentation – While watching “Fantasia”, you can watch it with an optional Disney View which fills the black bars ont eh sides with paintings by visual effect artist and designer Harrison Ellenshaw.
  • Disney Family Museum – (4:05) Diane Disney Miller introduces us to the Disney Family Museum in Presidio, California.
  • The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure – (13:51) A wonderful featurette by Diane Disney Miller talking about how the Schultheis Notebook was found and how it was incorporated to the Disney Family Museum using hi-tech technology.  We hear from various people of the importance of Schultheis notebook, pictures from the notebook and more!  A fantastic featurette!
  • Interactive Galleries – With your remote, you can view , zoom and select favorites from the many concept art, illustration from “Fantasia” to the music from the film.

“Fantasia 2000” comes with the following special features in HD and Standard Definition:

  • Musicana – (9:19) A look at the development of a potential Fantasia Sequel titled “Musicana” which would never come to be.  We learn how Walt Disney’s original idea was to have “Fantasia” as a continual piece and how the artists in the ’70s tried to get “Musicana” off the ground.  Featuring images, conceptual art and sketches for “Musicana”.
  • Audio Commentaries – The directors and art directors discuss each of the animated segments they worked on and how they feel about being part of a special occasion on working on the sequel.  The second commentary features Roy E. Disney, James Levine and producer Donald W. Ernst providing commentary of the entire film, how the film came about, and differences and similarities between the two films.
  • Destino – (6:31) The Academy Award winning 2003 animated short.  A wonderful inclusion to this Blu-ray release!
  • Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino – (1:22:18) A documentary on how Salvador Dali and Walt Disney would became friends, eventually working together on “Destino” and how the project was shelved but only discovered when the sketches were being moved to the newly built Disney Archives and thus learning how Roy E. Disney would go on to spearhead the project and make Dali/Disney’s project to become a reality.
  • Disney’s Virtual Vault – The following features are provided via BD-Live.  You must have a Blu-ray profile 2.0 player that is connected to the Internet to access:

FANTASIA

– The Interstials

  • Introduction (1:48)

Tocata in Fuge in D-Minor

  • Introduction (1:12)
  • Alternate Concept (3:30)

The Nutcracker Suite

  • Excerpt from “The Story of the Animated Drawing” Layering and Painting (1:11)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

  • Introduction (1:00)
  • Deleted Animation with the Broom (1:06)
  • Story Reel (4:27)

The Rite of Spring

  • Introduction (:49)
  • Excerpt from “Tricks of Our Trade” Effects Demonstration (7:34)

The Pastoral Symphony

  • Introduction (1:03)

Dance of the Hours

  • Introduction (:59)
  • Excerpt from “Tricks of Our Trade” – Live Action Model Reference (6:30)
  • Unused Rough Animation (1:03)

Night on Bald Mountain

  • Introduction (:46)
  • Excerpt from “The Plausible Impossible” Managing Music and Visuals (3:51)

Ave Maria

  • Introduction (2:03)

The Making of Fantasia (48:01)

The Fantasia That Never Was

  • Introduction (3:18)
  • Clair de line (7:40)
  • The Ride of the Valkyrie Story Reel (2:57)
  • The Swan of Tumelsa Story Reel (4:07)
  • Invitation t0 the Dance Story Reel (2:54)
  • Adventure is a Perambulator Story Reel (2:23)

Special Effects of Fantasia (4:02)

Publicity (1940 Trailer) – (2:10)

Publicity (1990 Trailer) – (1:27)

FANTASIA 2000

– The Interstitials

  • Creating the Interstitials (5:08)
  • Early Concept Reel (2:00)
  • Proof of Concept Test (2:55)
  • Micky Meets the Maestro (3:06)

– Symphony No. 5

  • Creating Symphony No. 5 (4:32)
  • Early Concept Reel #1, May 1993 (3:06)
  • Early Cncept #2, Sept. 1993 (3:12)
  • CGI Test of Early Concept #2 (1:13)
  • Early Concept #3 (1:09)
  • Proof of Concert Reel, June 1998 (2:53)

Pines of Rome

  • Creating Pines of Rome (4:31)
  • Abandoned Concepts – Penguin Subplot (3:23), 0riginal ending (1:08
  • Storyboard to Film Comparison (3:21)

– Rhapsody in Blue

  • Creating Rhapsody in Blue (6:30)
  • The Stages of Animation (2:54)

Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus, 102

  • Creating Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus 102 (4:43)
  • Abandoned Concept – Alternate Rat Sequence (1:41), Original Ending (:26)
  • Production Progression Demonstration: Tin Stoldier Story Reel (:39), Tin Soldier Rough Animation (:39), Tin Soldier, Clean Up and Effects Animation (:39), Tin Soldier Final Color (:39)

Carnival of Animals (Les Carnival Des Animaux) FINALE

  • Creating Carnival of Animals (Les Carnival des Animaux) FINALE (3:24)
  • Early Story Reel, September 1954 (:59)
  • Original Ending (:29)

– The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

  • Deleted Animatic: Mickey with the Broom (1:06)
  • Story Reel (4:27)

– Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1,2,3 and 4

  • Creating Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1,2,3 and 4 (4:33)
  • Abandoned Concepts: Noah’s Dove (5:41)

– Firebird Suite – 1999 Version

  • Creating Firebird Suite – 199 Version  (6:07)
  • Story Reel (2:44)
  • Effects Animation: Firebird Eruption (3:11)
  • Original Ending (1:30)
  • Production, Progression, Demonstration: Sprite Awakens Story Reel (:50), Sprite Awakens: Rough Animation (:50), Sprite Awakens: Cleanup and Effects Animation (1:50), Sprite Awakens: Final Color (:30)

Trailers, TV Spots: Trailer, Trailer 2 (IMax Experience), TV Spots #1-#4

Roy Disney Introduction (3:31)

The Making of Fantasia 2000 (48:42)

Adventures in Music Melody (10:10)

Adventures in Music: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom (10:20)

  • Interactive Galleries – With your remote, you can view , zoom and select favorites from the many concept art, illustration from “Fantasia” to the music from the film.

EXTRAS:

“Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: 4-Disc Special Edition” comes with a slip cover case.

I loved “Fantasia” and since the 1990 release, the music of the film really got me through college and throughout that ten years before the DVD release in 2000, I would watch the film over and over and just be in awe of how this timeless classic continues to surprise me on how it was created and how beautiful the film is and how the marriage between animation and music just came alive. Experimental animation at its very best.

One does not have to be a Disney aesthete to watch this film and just be appreciative of the details of how the animation is and how well-timed it was for the big screen.  It’s an amazing testament to artists who wanted to push the envelope, raise the bar of animation to sights never seen before.  And this was in 1937-1940 and the results were fantastic.

Here we are in 2010 and if you thought you have seen or heard “Fantasia” in the best way possible, all I can say is prepare yourself until you watch and listen to this film on Blu-ray.  Audio-wise, this has to be one of the most incredible demonstrations of how audio and music can be used effectively with a 7.1 system.  As mentioned earlier in my review, I have had various versions of the “Fantasia” soundtrack which I have listened to in the past 20-years and until this Blu-ray release, I was literally shocked of how crystal clear and how effective the audio was utilized through the various channels.  Each instrument was given its own prominence on each channel and the results were incredible.

But granted, “Fantasia” is not the usual animated Disney film and also, it’s not a film that is loved by everyone because it’s not a story-based film.  As Walt Disney saw it in 1940 as an event to get people to sit and watching as if they are watching an actual concert, it all comes down to one’s appreciation to classical music and in this case, classic Disney animation.

For the first disc alone, I could see this as an easy must-buy because of the audio upgrade, especially audio commentary tracks and the Schultheis feature but Walt Disney also gives you “Fantasia 2000” and “Destino” in this 4-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray release.

“Fantasia 2000” is a combination of CG-animation with classic hand-drawn animation that Roy E. Disney and company have done a fantastic job in paying tribute to the the original and continuing Walt Disney’s goal of continuing the series.

“Fantasia 2000” still manages to hold up well despite the 2000 CG but I enjoy the animation segments even more because they are story-driven and also sync up quite well to the music.  But when it comes to the music, both animated feature films are awesome in their own way.  The music selection for “Fantasia 2000” was a bolder selection with the inclusion of Gershwin, but for the most part, I am happy that it doesn’t try to copy the original but mostly pays homage by maintaining the soul of “Fantasia” but presented differently with the inclusion of the celebrity introductions, story-based segments and more.

And as I enjoyed both films, the cherry on the cake for me was the inclusion of “Destino”.  As I am a fan of Salvador Dali’s work especially familiar with his work with Luis Bunuel, I did not know how close of a collaboration he had with Walt Disney until I saw the documentary “Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino”.  What a fantastic documentary and just the fact that it’s included in this Blu-ray is fantastic because we are getting three films showing us the experimental, the creative, the avante-garde side of Walt Disney Studios”within the last 60-years.

And just when you think that you are getting the best HD presentation of these films on Blu-ray and getting the best audio presentation of the soundtrack for both “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” films, you also get a lot of special features.

At first, I was looking at the back cover of this release and it appeared that this Blu-ray release of “Fantasia/Fantasia 2000” would have very little special features but in fact, Disney decide to focus more on packing each disc with commentary on the first disc, and the “Destino” and its documentary on the second disc, that they saved all the special features for the BD-Live portion of this release.  And if you have a BD-Live enabled Blu-ray player and it’s connected to the Internet, then you can access the documentaries, story reels and more for both “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000”.  I know those with older Blu-ray profile 1.0 or 1.1 players will be disappointed by this and would have hoped for a third Blu-ray disc with bonus features but the fact that you get four discs in this release (including the DVD versions of both films), I can see why Disney decided to add the special features to BD-Live, especially utilizing the technology more with this release than they have in the past.

Overall, “Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: 4-Disc Special Edition” is a fantastic release and if you are a fan of either “Fantasia” films or a Disney fan at heart, this release is highly recommended!

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SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A magnificent tribute to the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim!  To really enjoy the music of this wonderful occasion, I highly recommend this release on Blu-ray. The music sounds crystal clear, the audience applause and just everything about this release comes alive on Blu-ray! Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © MMX Ellen M. Krass Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert

DURATION: 116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (1:78:1), DTS-HD MA 5.1, Uncompressed PCM Stereo

COMPANY: Image Entertainment

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Produced, Directed for Stage and Television by Lonny Price

Written by Lonny Price, David Hyde Pierce

Produced by Ellen M. Krass, Mort Swinsky, Matt Cowart

Executive Producers: Stewart E. Lane, Bonnie Comley, Cathy Fitzpatrick

Choreographer: Josh Rhodes

Executive Director: Alan Adelman

Set Designer: James Noone

Hosted by David Hyde Pierce

Conducted by Paul Gemignani

Music by the New York Philharmonic

Starring:

Stephen Sondheim

David Hyde Pierce

Paul Gemignani

Laura Benanti

Matt Cavenaugh

Michael Cerveris,

Victoria Clark

Jenn Colella

Jason Danieley

Alexander Gemignani

Joanna Gelason

Nathan Gunn

George Hern

Patti Lupone

Marin Mazzie

Audra McDonald

John McMartin

Donna Murphy

Karen Olivo

Laura Osnes

Mandy Patinkin

Bernadette Peters

Bobby Steggert

Elaine Stritch

Jim Walton

Chip Zien

Yanira Marin

Shina Ann Morris

Angelina Mullins

Kat Nejat

Jennifer Sanchez

Tanairi Sade Vazquez

Maria Riccetto

Blaine Hoven

New York Philharmonic

Image Entertainment is proud to share a celebration of the life and wondrous work of one of Broadway’s greatest legends – the incomparable Stephen Sondheim.  For the master composer and lyricist’s 80th birthday, scores of the musical theater’s brightest stars gathered to perform more than two dozen sensational numbers from Sondheim’s unsurpassed canon.  Many of these enduring songs are rarely heard and several are performed by the original Broadway cast members. David Hyde Pierce hosts this magical event with Sondheim’s longtime collaborator Paul Gemignani conducting the New York Philharmonic.  Directed for the stage and television by Lonny Price and filmed live March 15–16, 2010 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, this is a must-have addition for every musical theatre aficionado.


“Songs In All Languages”

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“America”

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“The Ladies Who Lunch”

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“Not A Day Goes By”

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“I’m Still Here”

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Stephen Sondheim is an American composer and lyrical legend.

In his oeuvre, he has won an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards, Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.  He has composed and wrote lyrics for popular Broadway shows such as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Company”, “Follies”, “A Little Night Music”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Sunday in the Park with George”, “Into the Woods” and most notably for writing the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”.

With a career of composing and writing lyrics for many Broadway hits, many of Broadway’s greatest legends and musical friends pay tribute to Stephen Sondheim for his 80th birthday.  On March 15-16, 2010, Lonny Price directed “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” which took place at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City and was hosted by David Hyde Pierce.

And now “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download before its national television premiere on PBS’ “Great Performances” Series (which will air on Nov. 24th).

The tracklisting for this special performance are as follows:

  1. “America” (Dancers, West Side Story)
  2. “Something’s Coming” (Alexander Gemingnani, West Side Story)
  3. “We’re Gonna Be Alright” (Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, Do I Hear a Waltz?)
  4. “Don’t Laugh” (Victoria Clark, Hot Spot)
  5. “Johanna”(Nathan Gunn, Sweeney Todd)
  6. “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow” and “Love Will See Us Through” (Matt Cavenaugh, Jenn Colella, Laura Osnes, Bobby Steggert, Follies)
  7. “Too Many Mornings” (Nathan Gunn, Audra McDonald, Follies)
  8. “The Road You Didn’t Take” (John McMartin, Follies)
  9. “It Takes Two” (Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Into the Woods)
  10. “Growing Up” (Jim Walton, Merrily We Roll Along)
  11. “Finishing the Hat” (Mandy Patinkin, Sunday in the Park with George)
  12. “Move On” (Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Sunday in the Park with George)
  13. “Pretty Women” (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Sweeney Todd)
  14. “A Little Priest” (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd)
  15. “Theme from ‘Reds’” with Pas De Deux (NY Philharmonic,  ABT Dancers Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven)
  16. “So Many People” (Laura Benanti, Saturday Night)
  17. “Beautiful Girls” (David Hyde Pierce)
  18. “Ladies Who Lunch” (Patti LuPone, Company)
  19. “Losing My Mind” (Marin Mazzie– Follies)
  20. “The Glamorous Life” (Audra McDonald, A Little Night Music)
  21. “Could I Leave You” (Donna Murphy, Follies)
  22. “Not a Day Goes By” (Bernadette Peters, Merrily We Roll Along)
  23. “I’m Still Here” (Elaine Stritch, Follies)
  24. “Sunday” (Broadway Chorus, Sunday in the Park with George)
  25. “Happy Birthday” (All Cast)

VIDEO:

“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” is presented in 1080i High-Definition Widescreen (1:78:1).  The picture quality is clear as it is shot via HD and there are a good amount of camera angles that capture the whole stage, the singers up close, behind the audience, a camera right at the audience and well-done editing that is not dizzying.  The set design for the entire production was very well-done. Very elegant!

Colors for the entire performance was absolutely vibrant, especially the red dresses by Dianne Von Furstenberg which literally pop in HD.  For a musical performance, lighting and colors were well-done and found no artifacting or any major problems with the video.

AUDIO:

Possibly the most noticeable of this Blu-ray release is how beautiful the lossless soundtrack is.  Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Uncompressed PCM Stereo,  everything vocally and musically is crystal clear.  From the music by the New York Philharmonic, the vocalists and even the audience applause which fills up your soundscape as the applause is heard through the surround channels.

I was very impressed by the lossless soundtrack and I’m a true believer that music via lossless comes alive in HD and in this case, on Blu-ray, the music for “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” sounds absolutely incredible.  If you have a receiver and a 5.1 system, especially a Blu-ray player, I highly recommend going for the Blu-ray edition over the DVD.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert”” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert”” comes with four page liner notes by writer and theatrical director Lonny Price.  Price writes about his adoration for Stephen Sondheim and working on this special birthday project.

    I am familiar with Stephen Sondheim’s music in film but not so much in the Broadway performances, so watching “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” on Blu-ray was actually quite incredible.

    The performances were absolutely wonderful and as mentioned, on Blu-ray, you get two lossless soundtrack that literally envelop your room with music and also making you feel like you are watching it live with the audience applause being heard all around you (courtesy of well-placed audience applause through the surround channels).

    But the performances were simply magnificent.  “A Little Priest” by Michael Cerveris, George Hearn and Patti LuPone was simply wonderful.  “Theme from ‘Reds'” was absolutely delightful, David Hyde Pierce’s performance of “Beautiful Girls” was simply humorous and well-sung and possibly my favorite performance of the night was watching Patti LuPone sing “Ladies Who Lunch”, Marin Mazzie performing “Losing My Mind”, Audra McDonald’s wonderful performance of “The Glamourous Life”, Donna Murphy’s humorous and magnificent performance of “Could I Leave You”, Bernadette Peters “Not a Day Goes By” and a fantastic performance by Elaine Stritch of “I’m Still Here”.

    But I have to admit that seeing all the talent of The Broadway Chorus coming together to perform “Sunday” literally brought a tear to my eye, especially for Stephen Sondheim as well.  What a wonderful, surprising performance!

    The entire concert is just magnificent and I truly enjoyed the performances.  I wish there was one more performance for “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night” but nevertheless the “Sweeney Todd” and “Follies” performances were enjoyable.

    If anything, every talent was on their top game that night and everyone performed very well.

    As for the Blu-ray release, I found the lossless soundtrack to be quite incredible.  The performance literally came alive via Blu-ray and for those with a 5.1 setup and a Blu-ray player will definitely want to get the Blu-ray version of this concert if you are in love with Stephen Sondheim’s music especially to hear them sung by the many Broadway greats who came to perform during those two nights.  If there was only one negative that I would have about this release was the lack of any special features.  But other than that, it’s a wonderful Blu-ray with beautiful, fun and enjoyable music.

    Overall, if you are a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s work or you loved the music from any his Broadway or theatrical works, “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” is a wonderful tribute and is highly recommended on Blu-ray!

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    Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

    November 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    When it comes to documentaries that pay tribute to a rock star or musician, “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is possibly one of the best I have seen.  Featuring archived footage with Nilsson and the Beatles members, producers, songwriters, celebrities, family and friends.   A magnificent documentary!

    Images courtesy of © 2010 Authorized Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

    DVD TITLE: Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

    YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2010

    DURATION: 116 Minutes

    DVD INFORMATION: Color and B&W, 4:3

    COMPANY: Lorber Films

    RATED: N/A (Film contains language which may not be suitable for all audiences. Not rated)

    RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2010

    Written and Directed by John Scheinfeld

    Executive Producer: Lee Blackman

    Producer: David Leaf, John Schenfeld

    Co-Producer: Peter S. Lynch II

    Music by Harry Nilsson

    Cinematography by James Mathers

    Edited by Peter S. Lynch II

    Starring (and featuring from archived footage):

    Harry Nilsson

    Gerry Beckley

    Lee Blackman

    Perry Botkin Jr.

    Ray Cooper

    Mickey Dolenz

    Stanley Dorfman

    Terry Gilliam

    Bruce Grakal

    Doug Hoefer

    Dustin Hoffman

    Mark Hudson

    Danny Hutton

    Eric Idle

    Rick Jarrard

    Al Looper

    Trevor Lawrence

    John Lennon

    Randy Newman

    Annie Nilsson

    Beau Nilsson

    Diane Nilsson

    Harry Nilsson

    Olivia Nilsson

    Una Nilsson

    Zach Nilsson

    Zak Nilsson

    Yoko Ono

    May Pang

    Van Dyke Parks

    Richard Perry

    Dick Smothers

    Tom Smothers

    Ringo Starr

    Joan Taylor

    John Taylor

    Jon Voight

    Jimmy Webb

    Paul Williams

    Robin Wiliams

    Brian Wilson

    Fred Wolf

    Who Is Harry Nilsson…?, a wildly entertaining, star-studded documentary tells the story of one of the most talented and versatile singer-songwriters in pop music history and the man The Beatles dubbed their favorite American musician. The Grammy® Award-winners “Everybody’s Talkin” and “Without You”…the quirky “Coconut” (“Put de lime in de coconut…”)…the whimsical “Me And My Arrow,” and the poignant “One” (“…is the loneliest number”)…these recordings are all the work of Harry Nilsson. The documentary, which Ain’t It Cool News said, is “everything a great documentary needs to be,” reveals his spirited relationship with John Lennon and close bond with Ringo Starr, as well as Harry the legendary “bad boy” party animal who was at the same time a devoted husband and father. Director John Scheinfeld brings added emotion and intimacy to the story with over 50 Nilsson recordings, rare or never-before-seen film clips, home movies and personal photos. To this are added compelling interviews with top music and movie personalities who knew Harry well. They include Micky Dolenz, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Al Kooper, Randy Newman, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, The Smothers Brothers, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Robin Williams, Brian Wilson and many others. As film critic Leonard Maltin noted, “Who Is Harry Nilsson? is a vivid portrait of a gifted man…what a great reminder of his talent.” The DVD also contains 93 minutes of Bonus Material – Deleted Scenes, Extended Sequences, an Alternate Ending and more.

    For many people who grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s, Nilsson is a name recognized by many as it was the single name that the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney  talked about when asked what American artists or bands they listened to.

    From hit songs such as “Without You” (which was covered by Mariah Carey), “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”, “Everybody’s Talkin'” (from the movie “Midnight Cowboy”), “Coconut” and “Jump into the Fire”, he was also a well-known songwriter who wrote tracks for The Monkees, Three Dog Night and Aimee Mann.

    The man behind these songs was Harry Nilsson, a Grammy Award winner, an artist who has had tremendous success and was regarded as one of the most incredible singer/songwriters of his time.  But for those who really knew him, they also saw a man of extremes.  A man who was focused on music but also had his own personal demons which never got better as he was hooked on drugs and alcohol.  A man who had it all and then nearly lost it all.

    “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is a documentary written and directed by John Scheinfeld.  A documentary that explores Nilsson’s youth, to his early songwriting and music years to the height of his career and his multiple musical collaborations up to his death.

    Scheinfeld interviews nearly everyone who worked with Harry Nilsson, who hung out and partied with Harry as well as interviewing his family members and more.

    The documentary also shows us every facet of Harry Nilsson.  From growing up in Brooklyn and he and his mother being abandoned by his father and inspired the song “1941”.   This left him and his mother in extreme poverty which led him to leave home at the age of 15 and head to California where he worked at the Paramount Theater and also worked at a bank (he lied about graduating high school to get the job).  Despite dropping out of high school at ninth grade in order to make a living, he was an intellect and literally soaked everything up he had learned.  So, while living in Los Angeles, working on the bank’s computer at nights, he was able to focus on singing and songwriting and even becoming part of an Everly Brothers type of act.

    While receiving singing lessons from his uncle, by chance, Harry met with songwriter Scott Turner and immediately Turner saw talent in Nilsson and gave him a job to sing demos and also write songs for $5 a track.  Nilsson eventually became popular as a songwriter and writing for many producers.

    But it was not until 1966 when RCA Victor signed Harry Nilsson and literally impressed people not just by his songwriting skills but also his vocals.  One of those people was Derek Taylor, the press officer for the Beatles who bought a box of his album and started sharing it with the members of the Beatles and others.  And sure enough, Nilsson impressed the members of the Beatles who would say in their 1968 press conference for Apple Corps of who their favorite American artist or or group were and both John Lennon and Paul McCartney said “Nilsson” and from that moment, Nilsson’s popularity had surged with the release of his song “You Can’t Do That”.

    Nilsson was a big fan of the Beatles and in many ways, he dreamed of being the fifth Beatle.  So, the fact that the Beatles mentioned his name and eventually Nilsson ended up hanging out with members of the Beatles put him in cloud nine.

    But as quickly Harry Nilsson became a superstar and started to get involved in hard partying, he also became addicted to alcohol and drugs.  To the point where even recording music, he would get the musicians all high on drugs and needless to say, the documentary interviews the musicians and all the people who did hang out with Harry Nilsson, as he was known for his hard partying and people who accompanied him knew that when Harry called and asked them to come out, they would never know when they would be back.

    The documentary also explores the family of Harry and his three marriages, especially his relationships with his children and possibly the part that people want to know about, Harry’s friendship and collaborations with John Lennon, Ringo Starr and others.  But also the changes Nilsson had went through after his friendship with John Lennon and what happened to him after Lennon was murdered.

    “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is an in-depth documentary which includes archived footage, home videos plus interviews with people who knew him well such as Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Micky Dolenz, Randy Newman, Yoko Ono, The Smothers Brothers, Three Dog Night, Robin Williams, Brian Wilson, his family and many, many more.

    VIDEO & AUDIO:

    Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is presented in full screen (4:3) and is presented in Stereo.  It’s important to note that this documentary incorporates classic to modern footage and so picture quality and audio quality differ depending on what is featured on screen.  But for the most part, the overall quality of the film looks and sounds very good on DVD.  Footage is in color and black and white.

    SPECIAL FEATURES:

    “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”comes with the following special features:

    • Trailer – (1:57) The theatrical trailer for “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”.
    • Additional Interviews & Deleted Scenes – There was a plenty of footage that was cut from the documentary to keep it under two hours and so many fans of this documentary who wished there was more, well there is more!

    – Loneliness – (7:01) Yoko Ono talks about working with Harry and singing her song “Loneliness”.  Featuring the music video for Harry Nilsson’s “Loneliness”.

    – Washington Hotel – (1:12) Harry Nilsson’s ex-wife Diane talks about Harry performing in London at the Washington Hotel.

    – Singer – (5:50) Friends who worked with Harry talk about Harry Nilsson, the vocalist.

    – Songwriter – (6:44) Friends who worked with Harry talk about Harry Nilsson, the songwriter.

    – Nilsson Schmilsson – (7:38) How Nilsson’s popular album came about. Richard Perry talks about the creation of the album.

    – Without You – (6:14) How “Without You” came to be and how Nilsson thought about the song.

    – A Little Touch – (12:25) What happened when Nilsson called Derek Taylor, Gordon Jenkins and friends to work on a “standards” album.

    – Promo – (2:50) Nilsson and friends talked about creating a promo.  A bet he did with RCA that he can produced the cheapest commercial for $5,000 budget for his single.

    – Try – (1:56) Friends talk about how Harry Nilsson wanted to do one last album before he died.

    – Adventures – (10:28) Harry’s friends talk about their adventures with Harry.

    – Human Fly – (1:57)  Harry talks about he and Jimmy spending time in London and how they were on the 9th floor and the sliding door on the balcony had locked and they were stuck.  And what ensued next was Harry doing something incredibly crazy.

    – Monty Python – (7:13) Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam talk about how they met Harry Nilsson during a “Monty Python” stage show.  Eric Idle sings the song he made for Harry.

    – Fools – (1:55) Harry Nilsson did not suffer fools.  Despite dropping out of high school, Nilsson was an intellectual.

    – Generosity – (4:18) Musicians talk about how Harry didn’t have an ego and welcomed people.  And also friends saying that he helped many people including talent by giving them large amounts of money when they were in need.

    – Family – (6:01) Una Nilsson talks about her life with her husband Harry, how they named their children and also his children talk about their father and what he taught them.

    – Annie – (1:20) Annie Nilsson talks about her memories of her father and how he saved her life when she was three.

    – Harry – (5:40) Friends talks about their memories of Harry and give us the positives and negatives of his personality.

    – Remember – (3:36)  Family and friends reflect on how Harry should be remembered.  Featuring a montage of home videos.

    I have to admit that I only knew of Nilsson’s music growing up.  I was only a young boy when I started hearing his music on the radio or family members playing it and I never knew anything about the man behind the music.  So, when I first saw the trailer, the first thing that came to my mind is, “why is there a documentary on the guy who sung the ‘coconut’ song?”

    Needless to say, after watching “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”, I was blown away and pretty much feeling that I have watched one of the best music documentaries paying tribute to a music artist.

    It’s one thing to focus on the music and it’s another thing to find archived footage, but what I found remarkable about this documentary is the fact that John Scheinfeld was able to get the participation of those who worked with Harry, family and friends and rarely do you see all these talents coming together for one man.  So, that goes to show you how much Nilsson’s music and most of all, Harry Nilsson himself, had touched the lives of many people he encountered.

    Everything you want in a documentary, from archived video footage, interviews, home video, photography, I was just amazed that so much of this was found.  Also, its important to mention that Harry Nilsson, as much as he was respected, he was also a man with his own personal demons and there are people he did hurt along the way.  You just don’t get these people participating in a documentary but they did.  In this case, former producers who produced hits for Harry were just dropped and would never see Harry again.  You can tell by the look in their face and their eyes, it was a hard thing for them to discuss.  You want natural emotions and you see it in their eyes and face, there is no BS.

    When Micky Dolenz talked about receiving a Harry call or talking about how Harry disliked the song “Without You” because he didn’t write it and then you Richard Perry backing Dolenz comments up.  That was very sharp pacing and editing and making sure things were substantiated in the documentary.  And of course, the friendship between Nilsson and members of the Beatles.  This had a major impact on Nilsson’s life, especially his friendship with John Lennon.  And of course, we have archived video and footage of him and Lennon together, but it’s great to have Yoko Ono backing things up about their friendship but then on the opposite end, friends of Nilsson talking about how Nilsson’s friendship of Lennon changed him for the worst.

    In fact, one of those moments was when Nilsson and John Lennon interrupted The Smothers Brothers comedy performance and resulted in a major brawl.  Can anyone substantiate what took place?  Scheinfeld not only got the Smothers Brothers to confirm the story and talk about it, we also get  John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend May Pang also corroborating the story and going into further detail of what took place on Nilsson and Lennon’s end.

    This was smart documentary making and everything you can think of was covered in “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”.

    I have read various reviews for those who have watched the documentary in a screening and some have had criticized the nearly 2-hour documentary of not focusing too much on the music and the hits during the “Nilsson Schmilsson”era.  Well, this is what I love about this documentary on DVD because there is a lot more footage, especially on the music that is included in the special features.  There was just no way this documentary was going to be 3 hours long, so it’s good to know that the musical portions, deleted and extended material are included in this DVD.

    Overall, “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is a fantastic music documentary!  A magnificent tribute to Harry Nilsson and even for those, like myself, who were familiar with the music but not the man behind the music, you’ll love this documentary.

    Easily deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!


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