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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!

     

    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!


     

    The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

    October 30, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

    I can confidently say this is the definitive edition to own of “The Sound of Music”!  The restoration of this film for the 45th Anniversary is incredible and this Blu-ray release is just loaded with special features.  Twentieth Century Fox has literally raised the bar of what can be accomplished on Blu-ray for a classic film release.  A magnificent, five-star release that is highly recommended!

    Images courtesy of © 1965 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

    TITLE: The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition

    FILM RELEASE: 1965

    DURATION: 174 Minutes

    BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p (Widescreen 2:20:1), AVC@22 MBPS, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

    COMPANY: 20th Century Fox

    RATED: G (General Audience)

    Release Date: November 2, 2010

    Directed by Robert Wise

    Based on the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse

    Screenplay by Ernest Lehman

    Produced by Robert Wise

    Associate Producer:  Saul Chaplin

    Music by Irwin Kostal

    Cinematography by Ted D. McCord

    Edited by William Reynolds

    Casting by Lee Wallace

    Production Design by  Boris Leven

    Set Decoration by Ruby R. Levitt, Walter M. Scott

    Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins

    Starring:

    Julie Andrews as Maria

    Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp

    Eleanor Parker as The Baronness

    Richard Haydn as Max Detweiler

    Peggy Wood as Mother Abbess

    Charmian Carr as Liesl

    Heather Menzies as Louisa

    Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich

    Duane Chase as Kurt

    Angela Cartwright as Brigitta

    Debbie Turner as Marta

    Kym Karath as Gretl

    Anna Lee as Sister Margaretta

    Portia Nelson as Sister Berthe

    Ben Wright as Herr Zeller

    Daniel Truhitte as Rolfe

    Norma Varden as Frau Schmidt

    Gilchrist Stuart as Franz

    Marni Nixon as Sister Sophia

    Evadne Baker as Sister Bernice

    Doris Lloyd as Baroness Ebberfeld

    Starring Oscar winner Julie Andrews in one of her most memorable roles, the film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical follows Maria, a spirited young woman who leaves a convent and becomes a governess to seven unruly children. Her charm and songs soon win the hearts of the children and their father but when Nazi Germany unites with Austria, Maria is forced to attempt a daring escape with her new family.

    Simply a magnificent Blu-ray release of “The Sound of Music”, restored and remastered and an abundant amount of special features.  This 45th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release is the definitive version to own!

    “The Sound of Music”, the 1965 20th Century Fox musical which would capture the world with its memorable music and it’s touching storyline and continues to have thrived through various generations and will continue to thrive for many generations hereafter.

    The film is an adaptation of a popular Broadway play which is based on the memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” written by Maria von Trapp.  The von Trapp family are known for escaping from the Nazis in Austria after the Anschluss (the annexation and occupation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938).

    The original musical based on the book featured music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (both Rodgers and Hammerstein were known for their music for “Oklahoma!”, “Carousel”, “State Fair”, “South Pacific”, “The King and I” to name a few) which led to the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.  The Broadway production began in 1959 starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel and would later inspire a film adaptation in 1965 which was loosely based on the Broadway production and memoir.

    The film would become an ultimate success as director Robert Wise (known for “West Side Story” and “The Haunting”) would win five Academy Awards for Best Director, William Reynolds for Best Film Editing, Irwin Kostal for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment, Best Picture and Best Sound.

    The film would be best known for its wonderful location of Salzburg, Austria (which has inspired an actual “Sound of Music” tour which has been functional for the last 30-years) but most of all, known for its music which include “The Sound of Music”, “Edelweiss”, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “Do-Re-Mi”.

    The film which was budgeted at $8.2 million would go on to gross $163 million worldwide.  The film would break the record held by “Gone with the Wind” for box office revenue and would also be a film that would be in circulation in theaters for three straight years.

    “The Sound of Music” would also continue to become a hit on video as it was released as a five star DVD release in 2000 to celebrate the film’s 35th Anniversary, released in 2005 to celebrate the film’s 40th Anniversary and now in 2010 on Blu-ray, a limited edition box set and a digital iTunes release to celebrate the film’s 45th Anniversary.

    As for the film, “The Sound of Music” is 174 minutes long and is broken down in three arcs (the original intermission is also provided in this Blu-ray release).

    The film takes place in Salzburg, Austria and focuses on Maria (played by Julie Andrews, “Mary Poppins”, “10” and “The Princess Diaries” films), a woman who is a nun at a convent who loves to go up the hills which overlooks Salzburg and loves to sing.  But because she loves to sing, she is often late, she is often in trouble at the convent and is thus given a new task to find her way and to see if her life is in monastery.  So, Mother Abbess (played by Peggy Wood), sends Maria to become the Governess of the von Trapp family.

    When Maria arrives to the home of Captain George von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer, “The Insider”, “The Last Station”, “Full Disclosure”, “Up”), a man who runs the home with an iron fist and has seven children which include his teenage daughter Liesl (played by Charmian Carr), son Friedrich (played by Nicholas Hammond), daughter Louisa (played by Heather Menzies), son Kurt (played by Duane Chase), daughters Brigitta (played by Angela Cartwright), Marta (played by Debbie Turner) and Gretl (played by Kym Karath).   Maria learns quickly that the family is ran through discipline and that she is another Governess, the previous women have not stayed long enough and were driven away.

    Since the death of their mother, his wife, the decorated war veteran of World War I, Captain von Trapp has treated his family like the military.  He summons each child by whistle and each child wears a uniform and immediately, Maria disapproves of the Captain’s militaristic approach. But she learns from the housekeeper that when his wife was alive, the house used to be filled with happiness, laughter and music.  But since her death, he has treated his own family like the military.

    But as the kids try to use tricks to scare their new Governess, Maria is not phased and in fact, is more complimentary to the children, which catches them off-guard.  Meanwhile at dinner, eldest teen daughter Liesl sneaks out of the house to visit the messenger boy named Rolfe (played by Daniel Truhitte).  Rolfe is an older teenage boy who fancies Liesl and she fancies him but both know they must be careful because of her strict father.

    Meanwhile, her father, the Captain is very true to his country Austria and with word that Nazi Germany may occupy his country makes him feel uneasy.  But for him, fortunately he has another woman in Berlin, the Baroness (played by Eleanor Parker) and while he leaves to visit her, he expects Maria to take care of the children.

    The children begin to bond with Maria and because they have been sheltered inside the home, she takes them out for fun and to the hills up in Salzburg where she teaches them music and how to sing with each other and to perform the songs for the arrival of the Baroness.

    But unbeknown to Maria and the children, Captain von Trapp plans to return with the Baroness that same day they are returning and when he finds out they were having fun and are not wearing their uniforms, he becomes ballistic and is very angry at Maria.  Maria tries to defend the children and tell him that they want to be closer to him, happy and not treated in that manner but will not have anything of it.  He is upset with her and tells her that she’s fired from her job.

    But then he hears music in the house and is shocked to find out that the children are singing and their voices have thawed out the coldness in his heart and he finally sees how much good Maria has brought to the family.

    Without spoiling too much of the film, the second arc deals with Maria leaving the von Trapps after being conflicted with her own emotions as she finds herself caring for the Captain but also knowing her responsibilities as a nun.  The third arc deals with the Nazi occupation of Austria and how life for the von Trapp family will never ever be the same again.

    VIDEO:

    “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 2:20:1), AVC@22 MBPS.  This is where “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” literally looks amazing.  For those who have owned previous versions of the film on DVD, back in 2005, the film went through restoration using a backup negative of the original 70 mm print.  At the time, the original 70mm 6-Track print was so damaged, there was no way to even use the original negative at that time and most of us who watched the 40th Anniversary Edition felt that the film looked absolutely beautiful compared to it’s earlier 2000 DVD release.

    With that being said, technology has changed within the last five years since the release of the 40th Anniversary.  The damaged original 70 mm print that couldn’t be used in the restoration of the film in 2005 can now be used for the film with new hardware and software and is now receiving 8K digital scanning by 20th Century Fox for perfect restoration.

    No longer is the film hazy, no longer is the film more on the pinkish side.  “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” is vibrant.  The grass…you can see the various grains of grass, the strands in green, yellow and detail of the mountains over looking Salzburg.  I was amazed!  Another example, Maria splashing the water before she heads to the von Trapps, you can see the water droplets flying in the air, another one is the von Trapp’s uncle and his coat, you can see the wool in his jacket.  There is so much detail in this latest version of “The Sound of Music”, it’s incredible!  I am literally speechless because I own previous versions of this film on video and never before have I seen this much clarity in the film ever!

    And I find it quite funny for each review I have done for the film, I mention of how the cinematography of William Reynolds was captured perfectly but watching it on Blu-ray, the cinematography… may it be the shots of Maria on the mountain, Maria with the kids on the mountain, the wedding ceremony, etc., I just feel that the cinematography as seen on the 45th Anniversary Edition via the new restoration really captures the beauty of “The Sound of Music” than ever before.  Absolutely breathtaking!

    Once again, the crew who restored this film…I give your crew a standing ovation…what you were able to accomplish with this film on Blu-ray is absolutely fantastic!

    AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

    “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS.  Because the film was shot with a 6-track and because they were provided with the audio without the dialogue, for this 2010 edition, they were able to remove all noise but also making sure to utilize a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and as mentioned, I’ve owned several versions of this film and I even own the soundtrack to this film.

    The way this music was handled through the surround channels was amazing.  The music and the instruments playing on individual channels was well done.  The first thing that came to my mind during sequences of the sisters singing “Maria” to the wedding sequence, the sounds that were utilized through those channels were amazing.  Also, they were able to isolate the sound of Salzburg up the hills, the sound of wind, the birds… I was in awe with the lossless soundtrack.

    I absolutely love the soundtrack for this film and this is the best I have ever heard of it.  If you have a 7.1 setup (center speaker, two fronts, two surrounds, two rear surrounds and your subwoofer), you will definitely be impressed with how alive the music comes as it really sounds beautiful via the soundscape in the home.  Once again, I was in awe when I heard the music and I’m sure many people will be just as impressed by it.

    Similar to the video restoration, the audio restoration for this 45th anniversary is fantastic!  And the crew responsible for the audio restoration for this release should be proud because they did an outstanding job!

    Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

    SPECIAL FEATURES

    “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features from the 35th and 40th Anniversary DVD versions of the film but also newer special features that just literally packs this 45th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release:

    DISC 1:

    • Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration – A new way to watch “The Sound of Music”.  If you select this option for viewing the movie, you have four categories which you can select interaction with the viewer.  One is behind-the-scenes images, the other is viewing with on-screen lyrics, the other is trivia and location quiz.  You can select one or all four.
    • Audio Commentary: Director Robert Wise – The following audio commentary was originally included in the Five Star Collection (2000) for the 35th Anniversary DVD release.  Informative commentary by Wise who gives details on the challenges they had in shooting this film.  It’s important to note that Wise doesn’t do much talking and only does when it is necessary.
    • Audio Commentary: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and the youngest son of Maria von Trapp, Johannes von Trapp – A lively commentary by the five individuals.  Although these are separate commentaries recorded in separate times but Julie Andrews definitely gives us a good idea of the sets and various shooting locations.  Also, hearing from Plummer of how he doesn’t like to work with children but in this case, he got a long with the children quite well.  Charmian Carr who plays the character of Liesl talks about playing the oldest teenage daughter at the age of 21.
    • Music Machine Sing-Along – Sing-along subtitle tracks which can be seen while watching the film or giving the viewer the ability to select various tracks with the sing-along subtitles.

    DISC 2:

    • Musical Stages: Creating the Sound of Music – This first special feature is actually an interactive “backlot tour” with plenty of in-depth featurettes on the songs, the stage show, the movie, the film and sound restoration and getting to know the real life von Trapp family.  Included are:
    1. Music in the 21st Century – (8:52) A featurette on the popularity of the film and how the film has influenced pop culture from pop artists such as Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguillera to shows like “The Family Guy” and how many various interpretations of the film have made it onto stage and children’s books.
    2. Restoring a Classic: Bloom & Grow – (5:44) A featurette on the 8K digital restoration of the film.  How during the 2005 45th Anniversary Edition, they were not able to use the original 70 mm negative but in 2010, with new technology they were able to.  Before and after scenes and more.  Awesome featurette!
    3. Edelweiss – (2:28) How the song was created and how Christopher Plummer wanted to sing the song and not be dubbed.  We get to see footage of Plummer singing and the dubbed over version.
    4. I Have Confidence – (8:06) How the lyrics were changed from the original Rodgers & Hammerstein version by Saul Chaplin and constructing it for the film adaptation.
    5. My Favorite Things – (2:47) Why the song was fun and the popularity of the lyrics.
    6. Sixteen Going on Seventeen – (2:20) Because Rodgers & Hammerstein know that their lyrics deal with sex, for this film, they had to carefully craft lyrics with slight undertones.
    7. After the Escape – (8:43) The true story of how the von Trapps escaped Austria and interviews with Maria von Trapp and the grandchildren.
    8. Rodgers & Hammerstein: Partners at it’s Peak – (3:53) The popularity of Rodgers & Hammerstein and how they crafted hit after hit.
    9. Shaping the Story – (4:50) The original screen adaptation of the von Trapp and the differences between stage and the film adaptation.
    10. The von Trapp’s Today – (5:48) – How the von Trapp’s continue with their grandchildren who have a lodge in Vermont.
    11. Climb Ev’ry Mountain – (2:07) The difficult of the lyrics of the song and singing it.
    12. Stage vs. Screen – (3:12) A more thorough featurette on the differences between the stage and film adaptation.
    13. Maria – (3:03) – The making of the song.
    14. The Sound of Music – (2:32) The popularity of the song, how it was Oscar’s idea and what inspired him.
    15. Maria and the Musical – (5:06) The real life Maria von Trapp and how she got involved with the musical and trying to take a hands off approach to the film (since it differed from the real life story).
    16. Cutting Room Floor – (2:50) Three songs from the stage production that were not used on the film.
    17. Something Good – (2:17) Rodgers wrote to more songs for the film.
    18. The Lonely Goatherd – (2:30) How the song was used in the stage production and how it was incorporated into the film.
    19. Do-Re-Mi – (3:31) The popularity of the song and how different it was from the stage production compared to the film version.
    20. So Long, Farewell – (1:11) How the song was used in the film.
    21. A Generous Heart – (3:54) The life of eldest daughter Maria von Trapp who like her mother, went on to do great things with her generous heart in other countries.
    22. Final Dream: Oscar Hammerstein Remembered – (5:51) How “The Sound of Music” was the final show Rodgers & Hammerstein would work together and how he handled his cancer and the short time he had left in the world and how he said goodbye to family and friends and how the song “Edelweiss” was literally Hammerstein’s song saying goodbye.
    23. Stories from Broadway – (4:19) Stories from the Broadway cast.
    24. Restoring a Classic Glorious Sound – (5:31) – Using the 6-Track Master and creating the lossless 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
    • A City of Song – (34:38) This feature adds an interactive map of Salzburg, Austria.  Because so many people have traveled to Salzburg for “The Sound of Music” Tour or to visit the locations shown on the film, this special feature is great as you can select a map and get video to know about the locations, photos and fascinating facts of the area.
    • Vintage Programs – Featuring featurettes and documentaries included in the 35th and 40th Anniversary of “The Sound of Music” (note: Most of the special features are in 480p, standard definition):
    1. The Sound of Music: From Fact to Phenomenon – (1:27:22) A documentary on the real von Trapp story and how the the film received the green light.  Robert Wise talks about casting and cast talk about their involvement in the film and what they wanted for the film.
    2. My Favorite Things: Julie Andrews Remembers – (1:03:18) A documentary featuring Julie Andrews remembering “The Sound of Music”.  From the original pre-production, filming on location, the music and working with the cast and crew.  Also, featuring Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr and those who worked with Julie Andrews as they reminisce about working on “The Sound of Music”.
    3. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminisce – (19:24) Both Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber reminisce 40 years later about their involvement in the film and working together.
    4. From Liesl to Gretl – (33:33) A reunion of the seven talents who play the Von Trapp children in the film talking about their experience working on the film, hijinks behind-the-camera and mistakes they made that are on the film.
    5. Salzburg Sights and Sound – (13:04) Narrated by Charmian Carr.  A documentary on her arrival to Salzburg and filming for “The Sound of Music”.
    6. On Location with the Sound of Music – (22:33) Charmian Carr hosts a documentary on Salzburg and visiting the locations where the film was shot.
    7. When You Know the Notes to Sing – A Sing-Along Phenomenon – (12:50) The 40th Anniversary sing-along screening at the Hollywood Bowl for “The Sound of Music”.
    8. Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music, 1985 – (1:23:25) Popular Broadway talent Mary Martin hosts a documentary on Rodgers and Hammerstein, the history and hits of this dynamic duo and their work on “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, “Flower Drum Song”, “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music”.
    9. Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Music, 1996 – (1:36:36) A documentary on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s successful music in film hosted by Shirley Jones and guests Rita Moreno, Nancy Kwann, Charmian Carr and Julie Andrews as they comment on the films they worked on that featured music by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
    10. Audio Interviews: Location Interviews – Featuring audio interviews with Julie Andrews (11:48), Christopher Plummer (5:15) and Peggy Wood (8:34)
    11. Audio Interview: Reissue Interview with Julie Andrews and Robert Wise from 1973 – (7:48)
    12. Audio Interview: A Telegram from Daniel Truhitte – (13:02) Daniel Truhitte reminisce about playing the part of Rolfe.
    13. Audio Interview: Ernest Lehman: Master Storyteller – (34:56) An audio interview with Ernest Lehman.
    • Rare Treasures – Featuring programs from TV shows related to”The Sound of Music”:
    1. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall: The Pratt Family Singers – (6:41) A parody of the musical shown on the 1962 CBS special starring Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett.
    2. The Julie Andrews Hour: Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp – (16:33) A segment from 1973 featuring Julie Andrews and Maria von Trapp.  Featuring performances by both women and also Julie Andrews interviewing Maria von Trapp.
    3. Screen Tests – (26:13) The 1999 AMC “Hollywood Screen Tests” of The Sound of Music.  Various screen tests featuring auditions for “The Sound of Music” in which talent such as Richard Dreyfuss, Mia Farrow, Leslie Ann Warren, Kurt Russel and more auditioned but Robert Wise talks about what he wanted and that was more family quality and the family becoming believable.
    4. 40th Anniversary DVD Intro by Julie Andrews – (2:10) The original DVD intro by Julie Andrews included in the 2005 40th Anniversary DVD release.
    5. Galleries – Featuring concept art, storyboards and still photos from the film.  Using your remote, you can cycle through images for “What Will My Future Be? (Pre-Production)”, “Facing Adventure (Production) and “A Grand and Glorious Party (Promotion and Publicity)”.
    • Publicity – Featuring various publicity, trailer and TV spots for “The Sound of Music”:
    • Fox Movietone News Academy Awards Footage – (2:45) Featuring Julie Andrews on the red carpet of the 38th Annual Academy Awards and footage of Andrews and the Academy Award winners for the film.
    • Trailers and Teasers – Featuring the following trailers: Teaser Preview (1:28, Dec. 1964), General Release Preview (4:00, 1965), Academy Awards Preview (4:24, April 1966), First Anniversary Preview, :50, May 1966), Release Preview (4:01, Dec. 1972), Release Preview – Alternate Soundtrack (4:01, Dec. 1962), Testimonial Trailer (2:22).
    • TV Spots – (1:23) Featuring the 60-second reissue TV spot (March 1973), 30-second Reissue TV Spot (March 1973).
    • Radio Spots – Featuring the following radio spots: 60 Second Reserve Seat Engagement, 60 Second 1973 Reissue, 30 Second Reserve Seat Engagement, 30 Second 1973 Reissue.

    EXTRAS:

    “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” comes with a DVD version of the feature film which is presented in 2:20:1, widescreen. Audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround and French Dolby Surround.  Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish. Also, included is a slip-over cover case.

    I literally grew up in a household where “The Sound of Music” played and to tell you the truth, when I was younger, I really couldn’t stand the musical as my mother would sing the songs over and over again.  But as I got older and I began watching more classic films, I found myself watching “The Sound of Music” around 1990 or so and I ended up purchasing the soundtrack for the film on cassette.  When I visited my mother, I ended up playing the cassette and in a very long time, I heard her sing the songs once again.

    When I got married, I was amazed that my wife knew the lyrics also by heart and by the birth of our son, to help calm him, she would sing “My Favorite Things”.  Needless to say, the music of “The Sound of Music” has been part of me during my childhood and I have no doubt that with my wife and son, it will continue on to the next generation.

    As for the film, I have watched and owned various incarnations of this film on video and I have purchased the five star edition of the movie on DVD in 2000 and I clearly felt that the 40th Anniversary 2005 release was just unprecedented.  I felt that it was the ultimate release and I figured, if it was on Blu-ray, it would be an HD version of the film and the same special features.  But I was wrong.  Twentieth Century Fox has given fans of the film the ultimate release with “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition”.

    Not only do we get another restoration of the film using the original 70 mm negative and now presented in 1080p High Definition, we get a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack which sounds incredible!  Just the fact that the film looks and sounds better is significant.  The colors just pop!  It’s hard to describe of how awesome this film looks on Blu-ray compared to previous video releases.  In the past, there was always this dreamy, hazy look to the film.  Though it was colorful, I have always thought that was how the film was shot.  And the opening scene with Julie Andrews on top of the hill spinning around, I always thought that was a beautiful shot… that was until I saw this 45th Anniversary Edition and everything that I have thought about the look of the film has went out the window because this presentation is just amazing!  I felt the old colors always had a greenish/pinkish tinge but now, the colors look accurate.  Blue skies look vibrantly blue and no pinkish haze on the background.  Grass and hills are still green but now we can see the strands of grass quite clearly, more than ever before.

    The blues of Julie Andrews and Charmian Carr’s eyes just captures your attention, the detail of Captain von Trapp’s home or the clothing is detail that is much more cleaner and more evident than ever before.  Only one time in the film is where things do look a bit faux is when the Captain, the Baroness and Uncle Max are driving and of course, you see the usual fake background and that scene, you’re not going to get much realism but for the most part, the film looks amazing.

    And as mentioned, the sound…I’ve listened to this soundtrack so many times but to hear it in 7.1 and hear of how the instruments were carefully selected for various channels, for those who have a 7.1 setup, you can’t help but be happy of how nice this soundtrack comes in DTS-HD!  Again, awesome!

    And just when you think that was it, there are literally hours and hours of special features included in this release of “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition”.  It took me two days or so just to go through everything and watch everything and once again, I thought the 40th Anniversary Edition was significant, but this 45th Anniversary edition just blows it out of the water.  Various documentaries, commentary, various featuretttes, audio interviews and more!  And I can’t even imagine what 20th Century Fox will do for the 50th Anniversary Edition but I do have one request and that would be to record the live sing-along for the film and give people a chance to select it as an optional soundtrack to watch the film and sing-along with those thousands of people (like the 18,000 or so that showed up to the Hollywood Bowl).  That would be awesome!

    And I need to go back to the restoration and to say that if Twentieth Century Fox now has the technology in 2010 to take damaged negatives and are able to repair it to the point where they can re-use the film for a master in a Blu-ray release, that literally makes me extremely giddy and happy because that means a lot of those wonderful classic films in their catalog can receive a wonderful Blu-ray release using this technology.  I’m very impressed with this release and I look forward to the potential of what this can mean for classic films on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox.

    With that being said, for the very hardcore fans of “The Sound of Music”, for this 45th Anniversary release, you also have the opportunity to get the Limited Collector’s set packaged in a keepsake box and features a 100-page “My Favorite Things” scrapbook, a 45th Anniversary Soundtrack, a reproduction of the original 1965 souvenir program, an exclusive handpainted “My Favorite Things” music box and more.  And for those people who prefer all things digital, on November 2nd will also include a digital release on iTunes of “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” which includes a sing-along version of the movie and 180-minutes of behind-the-scenes material.

    Once again, I was shocked when I watched this release because I had no idea how much went into the restoration of the film for this 45th Anniversary edition because they just did one for the 40th Anniversary.  But the fact that they have the technology and that they were given a chance to do give this film a new restoration using the latest technology was impressive.  The addition of all this bonus material for the Blu-ray release is magnificent and the fact that this entire Blu-ray release of “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” just raises the bar of what a studio can accomplish for a classic film.

    Overall, this is a fantastic release of “The Sound of Music” and if you are a big fan, whether you get this version or the Limited Edition version, all I can say is that this is the definitive version to own that just stands out from its previous video releases in quality and quantity.  Great music, great story, musical performances, cinematography and just a wonderful family film.  Sure, it may be a bit too saccharine sweet for today’s audience (or too long) but for those who have never watched this film ever, please give it a try.

    This is a perfect release in every category and easily deserving of five stars!  “The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition” is highly recommended!

     

    Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

    May 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Monty Python on television, “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” is an enjoyable and hilarious comedy oratorio at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall.  Fantastic video and lossless audio quality on Blu-ray!  Monty Python and “Life of Brian” fans will love this Blu-ray release!

     

    Images courtesy of © 2009 Rutland California Weekend and Ocean Music LA Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    TITLE: Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy

    DURATION: 91 Minutes

    BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

    COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    RATED: PG (Suggestive Material and Language)

    RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2010

    Directed by Aubrey Powell

    Written by John Du Prez, Eric Idle

    Produced by John Goldstone

    Music by John Du Prez

    Cinematography by Eugene O’Connor

    Edited by Simon Sleap

    Costume Design by Hazel Pethig

     

    Starring:

    Eric Idle as Baritonish

    Michael Palin

    Terry jones

    Terry Gilliam

    Carol Cleveland

    Neil Innes

    William Ferguson as Brian

    Shannon Mercer as Judith

    Rosalind Plowright as Mandy

    Christopher Purves as Reg

    A one-night only live stage show/musical based on the motion picture Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and written by Eric Idle & John Du Prez (the creators of Spamalot). Show is being performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Oct 23, 2009 and being filmed in HD.

    Trailer

    In 1979, “Monty Python’s The Life of Brian” was the most controversial film of its time and over 30-years later, the film is now looked at as the greatest British comedy of all time.

    The film which revolved around a Jewish man named Brian who was born on the same day and lived next door to Jesus Christ is mistaken as the Messiah.  And the three wise men accidentally praised Brian as the future King of the Jews.  Brian has a resentment towards the Roman occupation of Judea after learning is father, Roman Centurion Naughtius Maximus had raped his mother Mandy.  The film would feature Brian finding love, joining the Peoples Front of Judea (PFJ) and going on adventures that would lead to many people believing Brian to be the Messiah.  Brian tells them that he’s not the Messiah but the answers he gets is that he looks like one and thus they put their belief in Brian to liberate them from the Romans.

    Needless to say, because of the film’s content, “Life of Brian” was seen as blasphemous.  While the Pythons maintained that the film is heretical and it lampooned practices of modern organized religion but not lampooning God that Christian and Jews worship.

    The film eventually became the highest grossing British film in the US  in 1979 and has left behind a legacy with various  polls proclaiming “The Life of Brian” as the “Greatest British Comedy Film of All Time”.

    Over 25-years later, with the success of Eric Idle’s “Spamalot”, a musical retelling of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, in 2007, Idle went on to create a comedy oratorio (a large musical composition featuring an orchestra, choir and soloist and modeled after an opera) for “The Life of Brian”.   The oratorio would be known as “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” and would spoof Handel’s renown oratorio “Messiah”.

    As the 40th Anniversary for the Monty Python television program was to begin in 2009, Idle along with fellow Pythons Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam would have a 90-minute one-night only performance of “Not the Messiah” at the Royal Albert Hall held on October 23, 2009.  This would mark a major achievement for the Pythons and a first for the Royal Albert Hall and would feature the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by John du Prez.

    The performance would feature on stage, 5 soloists, 140-person chorus, 120 musicians and literally a full house.  Now this exciting one night performance comes to Blu-ray and DVD on June 8th.

    The following is the set list for the 91-minute performance:

    Introit: Overture

    1. The Liberty Bell.

    Part One: Apocalypso Now

    1. Chaos and Confusion!
    2. There Shall Be Monsters.
    3. O God You Are So Big.

    Part Two: The Boy Next Door

    1. Mandy’s Song.
    2. Woe Woe Woe!
    3. And There Were Shepherds.
    4. Spiritual.

    Part Three: The Temptation of Brian

    1. Brian’s Dream.
    2. What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?
    3. The People’s Front of Judea.
    4. I Want To Be A Girl.
    5. The Market Square.
    6. You’re The One.

    Part Four: Baroque and Roll

    1. Hail To The Shoe!
    2. Amourdeus.
    3. The Chosen One Has Woken!
    4. When I Grow Up.
    5. Take Us Home.
    6. The Chosen One (cont.)
    7. Individuals.

    Part Five: Miserere Loves Company

    1. Find Your Dream
    2. Arrested!
    3. A Fair Day’s Work.
    4. The Final Song.
    5. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
    6. Encore – Lumberjack Song

    VIDEO:

    “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  The concert is full of colors and is quite vibrant.  For a performance, there are a good amount of cameras covering the performance overhead, onstage, front of the performers, cameras on the choir, musicians, etc.  Lighting is exceptionally well-done and a good amount of color is featured onstage.  From the amber lighting, to the reds and blues which look very good and blacks are very deep.

    The performance is absolutely beautiful in HD.  Especially during the performance of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” in which the audience members hold their purple glow sticks and everyone including the audience is into (and involved) in the performance.  Definitely one of the more colorful scenes from the whole concert.

    AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

    “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The lossless audio is fantastic!  The music and vocals comes crystal clear through the front and center channels.  While the surround channels are used for the audience and chorus.  At the end, there are a few bangs but for the most part, the music and the excitement from that performance is literally heard quite well through this lossless soundtrack.

    SPECIAL FEATURES:

    “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” comes with the following special features:

    • BD Exclusive: movieIQ+sync™ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
    • The Road to the Albert Hall – (31:02) A featurette on how the Pythons, the performers, musicians prepared for the one-night event in a week’s time.  We see what took place each day leading to the moments before they stepped onto the stage at Royal Albert Hall.
    • Showtime! – (3:07) A featurette on everyone as they are excited, nervous and getting ready for the performance onstage.
    • The Bright Side… – (2:57) A featurette about the use of the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.  Eric Idle talks about the use of the song for “Not the Messiah”.
    • 6 Sing-Along Songs! – Viewers can sing along to the following songs: “What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us”, “The People’s Front of Judea”, “You’re the One”, “Amourdeus”, “Take Us Home”, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
    • For fans of the film “Life of Brian” or fans of Monty Python, “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” is a wonderful and hilarious 90-minute concert.  For one, the songs are quite enjoyable, the lyrics are quite hilarious but for the most part, the performers did a wonderful job singing and acting out the characters during their vocal performance.

      Everyone is utilized in the performance.  Aside from Idle and the Pythons and the four main performers: William Ferguson (Brian), Shannon Mercer (Judith), Rosalind Plowright (Mandy) and Christopher Purves (Reg) up front, we can see the musicians and the choir in the back.  They get into the performance, whistling at parts that include whistling, nudging each other in unison and not just static performers, everyone on stage has a part.

      And the audience was very supportive and also got into the performance.  They laughed at the right time and as mentioned, the performance of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” was really impressive as everyone at Royal Albert Hall took part in the performance, including the audience with their glow sticks.

      The performance was well done.  The opera singers were fantastic and while singing these hilarious songs, they acted the part showing great facial expressions and most of all, Eric Idle definitely did a wonderful job as the Baritonish and John Du Prez doing a wonderful job in conducting the orchestra.

      The Blu-ray for “Not the Messiah: He’s a Very Naughty Boy” is absolutely wonderful.  The picture quality of the video and how the lossless soundtrack was used to bring out the vocals, the music and using the chorus and audience for the surround channels was well-done.  Also, the Blu-ray comes with a good amount of special features as well.

      If you are  Monty Python or “Life of Brian” fan, there is no doubt about it, you’re going to love this performance on Blu-ray!  Definitely recommended!

       

      Michael Jackson’s This Is It (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

      January 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

      Fantastic!  For Michael Jackson fans who love his music, “This Is It” represents Michael Jackson’s commitment, his passion and his dedication to his music, sharing his love and a message to those around him but most importantly reaching out to his fans. On Blu-ray, fans can expect beautiful visuals but most of all, spectacular lossless audio and also enjoyable and inspiring special features.  Highly recommended!

      Images courtesy of © 2009 The Michael Jackson Company, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

      TITLE: Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT

      DURATION: 111 Minutes

      BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 1:78:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

      RATED: PG

      COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

      RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2010

      Directed by Kenny Ortega

      Produced by Paul Gongaware, Kenny Ortega, Randy Phillips

      Co-Produced by Chantal Feghali

      Associated Producer: Michael Bearden

      3D Camera Producer: Todd Cogan

      Show Associate Producer: Alif Sankey

      Producer of Film and Video Content: Rob Wagner

      Music by Michael Bearden

      Cinematography by Sandrine Orabona, Tim Patterson

      Edited by Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Timothy Patterson, Kevin Stitt

      Casting by Mark Summers

      Production Design by Bernt Amadeus Capra

      Art Direction by William Budge

      Set Decoration by Donald Elmblad

      Costume Design by Michael Bush, Erin Lareau

      Starring:

      Michael Jackson

      Kenny Ortega

      Alex Al (Electric and Synth Bass)

      Michael Bearden (Keyboards)

      Orianthi Panagris (Lead Guitar)

      Mo Pleasure (Keyboards/Trumpet)

      Bashiri Johnson (Percussion)

      Jonathan Moffet (Drums)

      Tommy Organ (Guitar)

      Vocalists: Judith Hill, Darryl Phinnessee, Ken Stacey

      Dorian Holley (Vocal Director)

      Dancers: Nick Bass, Daniel Celebre, Mekia Cox, Misha Gabriel, Chris Grant, Shannon Holtzapffel, Devin Jamieson, Charles Klapow, Dres Reid, Tyne Stecklein, Timor Steffens

      Stacey Walker (Assistant Choreographer)

      Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June 2009, this film was produced with the full support of the Estate of Michael Jackson and drawn from more than one hundred hours of behind-the-scenes footage featuring Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. In raw and candid detail, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT captures the singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius and great artist at work as he creates and perfects his planned final London shows.

      It was the concert that many people wanted to see.  The concert known as “THIS IS IT”, which would be Michael Jackson’s final curtain call at the O2 arena in London in which Michael would perform fifty concerts from July 2009 through March 2010.  All concert tickets were sold out, excitement was in the air as it was less than a month that Michael would finally perform for his fans who have waited for a live concert for over a decade.

      Needless to say, because this was Michael Jackson’s final concerts, there were major plans that have never been done in a concert before.  A stage production that quite literally, has never been done before and to say the least, possibly one of the costliest concerts due to production, costume design and more.  But compared to all of his previous concerts, “THIS IS IT” was going to be Michael Jackson’s greatest concerts for his fans.

      But three weeks before his concert and literally everyone was getting prepared to move out to London from Los Angeles for the final dress rehearsals, Michael Jackson died after suffering cardiac arrest.

      The shows were canceled but the world mourned the death of Michael Jackson and for director Kenny Ortega and everyone involved with “THIS IS IT”, although the concert never happened, all the work that Michael and the crew put into the show from its planning stages, rehearsals and more was filmed on various cameras.

      The cameras shot footage in HD and standard definition from March through June 2009 and was intended for Michael Jackson’s personal library and original content that would be featured for the show.  With the announcement of the footage going to be made to a film, Columbia Pictures paid $60 million for the rights plus the release of the album.

      The film had a limited run in the theater but in its opening weekend, “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” grossed over $23 million in the US and $252 million worldwide making the documentary the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time.

      “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” is quite literally the behind-the-scenes of the creation of the concert show.  From the hiring of the background dancers, to stage setup, production design, costume design, the short films that were used during the concert such as “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal”.  Jackson working with Kenny Ortega, the choreographers and musicians.

      We get a good look at how Michael Jackson was during the rehearsals, how positive he was with his crew and how he cared for those around him and was very complimentary, loved to have fun but was very determined onstage.  And despite being 50 years old, Michael Jackson still shows that he was just as fluid and remarkable onstage vocally and even still maintaining his dance moves.

      “THIS IS IT” shows a side of Michael Jackson that many people don’t get to see.  We know of Michael Jackson the perfectionist but this is a behind-the-scenes look at him growing from the earlier stages but giving his all and seeing how he inspired others to give their all leading up to their final preparation in Los Angeles before leaving to London.

      VIDEO & AUDIO:

      “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  It’s very important to emphasize that this was not a documentary that was planned and they had cameras for the sake of making a movie.  These are films that Michael Jackson had taped for his own personal video of the planning to the actual creation of his concerts and of course the rehearsals.

      This film was put together within a few months of going through hours upon hours of raw footage and then editing the various film stock (the footage is a mix of High Definition and Standard Definition footage) from the rehearsals and other footage behind-the-scenes.

      Fortunately, the majority of the footage used are from the high definition source and picture quality for those scenes are just awesome.  You get to see the detail of Michael Jackson’s clothing, the various vibrant lighting during the rehearsals including the stage effects and even closeups of Michael Jackson clean shaven to a man with stubble.  Personally, with Michael Jackson having a talented crew, the coverage featured in this film is great and to watch on Blu-ray is very impressive.

      But where this film shines on Blu-ray is its lossless audio presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  My first impression was “Wow!”.  Granted, these are rehearsal footage but it’s one thing to hear the crystal clear dialogue through the centers and the music from the front channels but to hear sound being utilized through the surround channels and nice, clean bass thumping from the subwoofer was very cool!

      You can hear Jonathan Moffet’s drums jamming while Michael Jackson starts dancing to “Billy Jean”, Orianthi Panagris jamming on the electric guitar for “Black and White” and “Beat It” along with Tommy Morgan on guitar and of course, all the musicians and vocalists played a part in this film and it’s awesome audio.   Music is just crystal clear and you can hear the nice separation at times with certain instruments on the surrounds but also hear the dancers and whoever is offstage just cheering on Michael Jackson as he’s jamming on stage to the interaction with Michale and his backup vocalists or musicians.

      “It Might Get Loud” may be my favorite guitar-driven Blu-ray release for its soundtrack but “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” just sounds fantastic.  Blu-ray fans will not be disappointed.  This is one of the better sounding musical documentaries I have seen on Blu-ray and heard via lossless yet.

      As for subtitles, “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” is featured in English, French and English SDH.

      SPECIAL FEATURES:

      “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” comes with the following special features presented in 1080p High Definition and audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Stereo.  Included are:

      • movieIQ – Featuring the “This Is It” Playlist and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie! Also includes an interactive playlist where you can bookmark your favorite songs featured in the film and email yourself a customized playlist! NOTE: You need a profile 2.0 Blu-ray player (that connect online) to access movieIQ.
      • Thriller Vignettes – presented in 5.1 audio – (3:50) The full new short film for “Thriller” used as a vignette for the concert which was shown on a big LCD screen and would transition to the main performance of “Thriller”.  This is a Blu-ray exclusive.
      • Smooth Criminal Vignettes – presented in 5.1 audio – (3:58) The full new short film for “Smooth Criminal” used as a vignette for the concert which was shown on a big LCD screen and would transition to the “Smooth Criminal” performance.  This is a Blu-ray exclusive.
      • Making Smooth Criminal – (11:08) Shooting the short film content for “Smooth Criminal” for “This Is It”.  How they integrated Michael into a noir film using footage from “Gilda” (starring Rita Hayworth) and another film with Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson and how it was created.  Also, showing how Michael Jackson was very involved in the production.
      • Staging the Return – (40:46) A special program on Michael Jackson planning his return to the stage.  From clips of Michael Jackson announcing his return, to behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of the concert, set design to the “Earth Song” video and interviews with director Kenny Ortega and the crew and their memories of Michael Jackson.
      • The Gloved One – (15:11) A look at the costumes created for “This Is It” featuring costume designers Michael Bush and Zaldy.  The creation of the outfits and taking them to a new level and Zaldy explains how the costumes came about including an outfit filled with crystals and a metallic studded outfit inspired by samurai uniform to the shoes and more.
      • Memories of Michael– (16:19) Director Kenny Ortega, the producers and musicians talk about their experience working with Michael Jackson and how they were all inspired by him and how he was a great friend, father and performer.
      • Auditions: Searching for the World’s Best Dancers – (9:50) A look at the auditions for the best professional dancers who would take part in Michael Jackson’s “THIS IS IT”.
      • Theatrical Trailer – (2:30) The original theatrical trailer.

      After watching “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT”, I have to agree…this was the great concert that never happened.  I have never seen production design this incredible in my life and I have watched and reviewed many concerts from artists worldwide and have seen expensive concerts with extravagant to jaw dropping effects.  But after seeing this film and what they had planned, I don’t think anyone has come close to the amount of work that was done for “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT”.

      Aside from the awesome vocals, music and choreography that you would expect from a Michael Jackson concert, just seeing the short films that were created for the concert was impressive, the props such as a giant motorized robotic-like spider to a bulldozer coming on stage was amazing to seeing fire going around stage and even a Kevlar jacket that Michael Jackson would wear that would catch on fire.

      Michael Jackson and his entire team who were working on this concert definitely set the bar higher than anyone in the world has done for their concert and that is why it was so important to have this documentary to be seen.  This was a documentary that showed a man who was involved in the entire process of the creation of the concert, immersing himself in getting prepared and ready but most of all, making sure that because this was his final curtain call, these concerts were definitely his way of going out with a bang.

      The concerts may not have happened but because of what we see in this film, although the main people watching him were the crew, dancers and technicians, now the entire world has a chance to see the greatest concert that never happened.  But most of all, a chance to see the King of Pop one final time and see how much sweat tears they put into this production.

      The Blu-ray release of “Michael Jackson’s  THIS IS IT” is fantastic.  A good number of special features that will make fans happy and again, this is one of the best music films/documentaries in HD for its incredible lossless audio.  Again, this was a film that was created by putting hours of footage together and editing it to make a film.  The footage was never intended to be used for a feature film or documentary.

      The fact that director Kenny Ortega and crew not only had it ready for the theater, there was not one scene where I got bored, nor was there a scene which I felt could have been left out.

      Overall, “Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT” is one Blu-ray release that fans of Michael Jackson and his music should own.  Absolutely fantastic and highly recommended!

       

      a-nation ’09 Best Hit Live (a J!-ENT Music DVD Review)

      January 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

      a nation ’09, the summer music festival for one of Japan’s largest music labels avex entertainment, inc. featured surprise performances, especially the return of musician/music producer Tetsuya Komuro.  If you are a fan of avex artists/groups especially Ayumi Hamasaki, “a nation ’09 Best Hit Live” is definitely worth the purchase!

      BUY THIS DVD at CDJapan:

      ARTIST: Various Artists

      TITLE: a-nation ’09 Best Hit Live

      DURATION: 169 minutes

      DVD INFORMATION: Region 2, 16:9 LB, Dolby Stereo

      Released on November 18, 2009

      COMPANY: avex trax

      TRACK LIST:

      1. AAA – Break Down
      2. Ami Suzuki – Delightful
      3. GIRL NEXT DOOR – Be your wings
      4. Do As Infinity – Saigo no GAME
      5. Ryuichi Kawamura – Brilliant Stars
      6. hitomi – WORLD! WIDE! LOVE!
      7. DA PUMP – We can’t stop the music
      8. LINDBERG – Ima Sugu Kiss Me
      9. My Little Lover – blue sky
      10. Ai Otsuka – Bye Bye
      11. Boa – Eien
      12. Every Little Thing – Dear My Friend
      13. globe – FACE
      14. Kumi Koda – ECSTASY
      15. Tohoshinki – Survivor
      16. TRF – Samui yoru Dakara
      17. Ayumi Hamasaki – Rule
      18. Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for XX
      19. Ayumi Hamasaki – BLUE BIRD
      20. Ayumi Hamasaki – Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~
      21. Ayumi Hamasaki – TO BE
      22. Ayumi Hamasaki – Boys & Girls
      23. Ayumi Hamasaki – Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~
      24. Ayumi Hamasaki – July 1st
      a-nation ’09 Live Digest
      1. JURIAN BEAT CRIS – Go! Let’s Go!
      2. TRIPLANE – Ai Kotoba
      3. moumoon – Haleluiah
      4. J-Min – One
      5. Nana Tanimura – JUNGLE DANCE
      6. May J. – Garden
      7. alan – Kuwon no Kawa
      8. Maki Goto – Candy

      Executive Producer: Masato “Max” Matsuura
      Live Producer:  Kimihiko “Warrior” Yoshino
      Live Director: Chikara Tanaka & Hiroyuki Abe
      Documentary Director: Jin Koyanagi
      Production Manager: Kengo Motoki

      Starring:

      BoA

      AAA

      Ami Suzuki

      GIRL NEXT DOOR

      Do As Infinity

      Ryuichi Kawamura

      hitomi

      DA PUMP

      LINDBERG

      My Little Lover

      Ai Otsuka

      Every Little Thing

      globe

      Kumi Koda

      Tohoshinki

      TRF

      Ayumi Hamasaki

      JURIAN BEAT CRISIS

      TRIPLANE

      moumoon

      J-Min

      May J.

      alan

      Nana Tanimura

      Since the early 1990’s, I have been a big fan of the Japanese music label avex trax and throughout the years, I have owned many of the label’s live performances on VHS and LD.

      From the TK Dance Camp music festival from 1995 featuring mostly artist that were affiliated with producer Tetsuya Komuro, in 2002, avex began Summer music festival known as “a-nation”.

      a-nation would be a summer music festival held in several cities throughout Japan and would feature the top artists from the avex trax and the various labels of Avex Entertainment, Inc.

      Each DVD that has been released thus far featured several performances by an artist but at the same time, each release has been a mixed bag. Primarily because a-nation features so many talents and a few of the artist would be featured performing up to three songs with Ayumi Hamasaki being the final performance and having the most songs featured on each DVD release.

      In 2008, avex entertainment celebrated their 20th Anniversary but the celebration for the label that year featured the reunion of the band Do As Infinity, a live performance at a-nation by Namie Amuro but most noteable, the celebration was not the greatest as it was marred by the arrest of Tetsuya Komuro (TK) on fraud charges.

      And here we are with “a-nation ’09 Best Hit Live” with an impressive lineup as we saw old and new return for the latest music festival. Most notable was Do As Infinity returning to a-nation for the first time since their breakup, Lindberg celebrating their 20th Anniversary performing at the even for the very first time but most noticeable was the appearance of Tetsuya Komuro which was unexpected.

      After receiving a suspended sentence in May 2009, Komuro made a surprise appearance at a-nation on August 22nd and apologized to all his fans for disappointing them. Komuro played the piano which received a standing ovation but also featured his band globe performing “FACE” at the music festival.

      But this latest “a-nation” DVD was quite impressive as it featured many performances from a variety of artists.  Typically, you would have a lineup with an artist performing one song (with the exception of Ayumi Hamasaki) and a an artist or group that were OK but this time around, performances were solid.

      From AAA’s performance of “Break Down”, definitely one of my favorite performances by the group at a-nation, a good intro to celebrate the reunion of Do As Infinity and the 20th anniversary of LINDBERG, former Every Little Thing member Mitsuru Igarashi joined the group onstage for the performance, fantastic performances by Ami Suzuki, BoA, Tohoshinki, Ai Otsuka and many others.

      Awesome choreography from Tohoshinki and Da Pump and also, great to see some of the former TK family members onstage again.   But the most energetic performance definitely goes to Ayumi Hamasaki who performed in front of an excited and enthusiastic crowd.

      VIDEO AND AUDIO:

      Fortunately, there was good weather (where in the past, some performances were hampered by thunderstorms or rain).  Editing focused on the artists from a variety of angles and camera work and editing was well done as we got good closeups from various angles, a camera above and overlooking the audience.  But performances selected for each artist were fun and energetic.

      Audio is presented in Dolby Digital and for a more immersive soundtrack, I chose to have my home theater receiver set on stereo on all channels.  But overall, audio is clear and understandable.

      I do wish that avex would release their a-nation music festivals on Blu-ray and release them with a lossless audio soundtrack and also the whole concert in 1080p.

      SPECIAL FEATURES

      “a-nation ’09: Best Hit Live” comes with a few special features.  Limited Editions of this DVD release also comes with an a-nation ’09 T-Shirt.

      • “a-nation ’09 Live Digest” – (13:58)  These are short clips of avex artists who performed on the smaller stage such as TRIPLANE, moumoon, Nana Tanimura, alan, May J., Maki Goto and JURIAN BEAT CRISIS.   There were some artists on the Live Digest that I wished they showed the full performance of.
      • a-nation ’09 Documentary – (23:53) The following documentary featured the artists in their green room before heading onstage and talking with the artists and group after they left the stage.  Also, seeing the fan interaction with the music artists/groups plus behind-the-scene clips and onstage clips during the artists and band talking to the audience.

      This is the eighth “a-nation” that I’ve watched and definitely one of my favorites.  I felt that the 2007 release was very well done especially with the special features but in terms of performances, “a-nation ’09” felt more lively and energetic. I also felt the lineup was much more exciting with this year’s offering (featured on this DVD).

      The additional documentary was very cool as it showed how various artists and the groups did before they went onstage such as AAA playing video games to Tohoshinki working on their Japanese and much more.  It was pretty cool to see the various artists coming to see other bands perform.  Especially Ayumi Hamasaki who came to see Tohoshinki and TRF perform.  Unfortunately, not everyone who performed are featured on the documentary.

      But if there was one major thing missing from this DVD and I can understand why, was Tetsuya Komuro’s piano performance and apology.  Granted, people can find this on YouTube but that piano performance and to see everyone so shocked that TK was back was priceless and to see the standing ovation.  Unfortunately, this is not included on the DVD, only his performance with globe is featured.

      “a-nation” is one of those DVD releases that people are split 50/50.  I felt that considering the space on the DVD, it would have been nice to have a a two-DVD set, in order to get more performances but seeing that there is only one DVD, viewers are going to complain about the one song per singer versus eight songs for Ayumi Hamasaki.

      There has always been a bias towards Hamasaki’s performances on the a-nation DVD’s and I can understand why those fans or concert-goers are upset each release almost every year.  I’ve asked the same questions many times of why Hamasaki is given so many tracks and I understand its her popularity and her dedication to avex but  I would love to see other artists/bands given two songs each to make the playlist much more balanced.

      But if you have been following a-nation DVD’s, that’s the way things have been with these releases.  One should expect mostly Ayumi Hamasaki performances and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.

      Overall, I enjoyed “a-nation ’09 Best Hit Live” and seeing the various performances of artists that I enjoy.  Yes, I would love to see more songs from the artists, a full performance by those who performed on the smaller stage and a little less of Hamasaki.  But in the end, I did enjoy this latest music festival and for avex trax fans, definitely a concert DVD worth having in your J-Pop DVD collection.

      BUY THIS DVD at CDJapan:

       

      Soul Power (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

      January 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

      Electrifying performances!  Footage of the creation and the musical performances from “Zaire 74” bringing together America’s soul artists including James Brown, BB King, The Spinners from the US and Africa’s top talent plus Muhammad Ali and Don King and many more.  A time capsule of fantastic footage from the 3-day music festival from 1974 which looks and sounds absolutely great on Blu-ray!

      Images courtesy of © 2009 Antidote International Films, Inc. and DASFilms, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

      TITLE: Soul Power

      YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2008

      DURATION: 93 Minutes

      BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 1:78:1, English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

      RATED: PG-13 (For Some Thematic Elements and Brief Strong Language)

      COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

      RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2010

      Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte

      Produced by Leon Gast, Jffrey Levy-Hinte, David Sonenberg

      Cinematography by Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating, Albert Maysles, Roderick Young

      Edited by David A. Smith

      Starring:

      Muhammad Ali

      James Brown

      Celia Cruz

      B.B. King

      Don King

      Miriam Makeba

      The Spinners

      Bill Withers

      Sisters Sledge

      You hold in your hands a backstage pass to one of the most extraordinary concert events ever filmed. Featuring musical legends James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz and a host of others, SOUL POWER documents the three-night Zaire ’74 music festival planned to coincide with the now-legendary and epic “Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Much more than a concert film, Soul Power provides a dynamic fly-on-the-wall look into the turbulent proceedings, with on-the-spot commentary from the musicians themselves, concert organizers Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine, Muhammad Ali and boxing promoter extraordinaire Don King, Soul Power will leave you breathless.

      1974.  The year that record producer Stewart Levine and South African trumpeter came up with an idea to bring together African-American and African music artists for a three day music festival.  The festival would also consist of a major heavyweight boxing championship between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (who was the current heavyweight champion).

      In addition to the music festival and boxing championship, a movie would document the creation of this event which would be known as “Zaire 74” and the documentary which would be known as “Soul Power” would be directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte would be released in 2008.  The documentary covers the music festival while the fight was covered in the 1996 documentary “When We Were Kings”(producers of this documentary also produced “Soul Power”) which featured the championship match between Ali and Foreman.

      “Zaire 74” looked very promising until the last minute when George Foreman had an injury which would postpone the boxing match for three weeks and thus the audience of expected international tourists was eliminated.

      So, now the creators of the event have a difficult decision.  To go on with the music festival or not?  Featuring talent such as James Brown, BB King, The Spinners and African performers such as Miriam Makeba, TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau and many other performers such as Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars to other celebrities including Muhammad Ali and Don King.  With so much invested, stages have been built…there was only one decision that could be made.  The show must go on!

      “Soul Power” documents the festival from what took place before the event, the challenges the crew faced especially hearing from the Foreman camp, to the meeting between the talent and the performers performing a song onstage.

      VIDEO & AUDIO:

      “Soul Power” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  One thing that I did notice that this film, now over 35-years later appears with a lot of grain.  Personally, this was no problem for me as a lot of music-based concerts from the 70’s have this look and personally, I would have it with the grain than without (ala DNR – Digital Noise Reduction).  Of course, there are people who are going to complain about the amount of  grain (ie. “The French Connection) but personally, I rather have a grainy look than a waxy, cloudy look due to DNR.

      But for the most part, it was great to see everyone during this time period.  A time capsule of a time of seeing a music festival being created in Zaire.  You see quite a bit of earth tone colors and a good amount of detail of the people up front and close especially with Muhammad Ali and James Brown.

      As for audio, the documentary is featured in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1.  The first half of “Soul Power” is dialogue driven.  Many of the crew and talent building the set, communicating to each other, talking on the phones, to the camera, etc.  Dialogue is clear and understandable (albeit people talking over each other at times).   I noticed even surround usage for crowd ambiance and other effects.  Of course, it’s when you reach the second half and that is where the film shifts to the music performances.   Audio sounds fantastic and there is good amount of bass.  Good use of the entire soundscape as the lossless audio just sounds vibrant and crisp.   Overall, people interested in this film should be happy with the lossless audio.

      Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

      SPECIAL FEATURES:

      “Soul Power” comes with the following special features presented in standard definition in stereo with optional Portuguese and Spanish subtitles:

      • Commentary with Director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Music/Festival Producer Stewart Levine – The commentary by both Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Stewart Levine is quite interesting.    If anything, the film is definitely nostalgic as they see themselves back in 1974 and reminisce about certain scenes and discuss the creation of the music festival and the talents that performed at the music festival.  Pretty much an informative commentary especially from Levine who gives some detail on the actual music festival itself.
      • Deleted Scenes – (42:11)  A total of nine lengthy deleted scenes including additional performances from other artists featured in the film.
      • Theatrical Trailer – (1:57) The original theatrical trailer.

      The release of “Soul Power” is quite interesting.  Especially with a lot of music festivals on DVD and Blu-ray were typically rock-based releases.  This is the first documentary/film I have seen covering soul music.  I’ve always heard and seen footage from “Zaire 74” but mainly about the actual events leading up to the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Ali and Foreman. Of course, there was another concert that took place in Ghana and was released on DVD titled “Soul to Soul” feature Ike and Tina Turner and many other talent which has not been released on Blu-ray but to see “Soul Power” look and sound so good on Blu-ray is fantastic.

      The first half for me was very enjoyable as we see the challenges that the crew had to face in putting on this festival but also seeing Muhammad Ali being himself and just producing this continuous flow of words that he just doesn’t even hesitate as he talks about America’s perception of Africa and then what he saw in Africa and how peaceful it was versus what he has experienced in New York.  It was also great to see James Brown because so much footage we have seen is of a later James Brown but what a great opportunity to see him and many other musical talented perform but also to hear it in lossless audio.

      Memorable scenes include BB King performing “The Thrill is Gone”, The Spinners, Celia Cruz and the gang just jamming on the airplane ride to Zaire and a wonderful performance by Miram Makeba and a wonderful ending performance as James Brown performs “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)”.  Audience was definitely into the performance and for the most part, an energetic vibe on the concert end but a seemingly stressful side on the production end as the crew had their hands tied up on making this festival happen.

      Many may be wondering if there is a big difference between the “Masters of Cinema” Blu-ray release and the Sony Pictures Classic version.  The MoC (UK) version comes with an exclusive video interview with the director plus extra concert footage of James Brown, Sister Sledge and the Pointer Sisters.  These additional performances are featured in the deleted scenes of the US release but the MoC version also includes a 36-page booklet which are not included in this Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray release.

      Overall, it’s wonderful to have this documentary released on Blu-ray.  With so much attention on the Ali and Foreman fight featured in the “When We Were Kings” documentary, it was great to see that there was a lot of footage from the Zaire 74 festival especially behind-the-scenes on the production end.

      If you are a big fan of soul music, “Soul Power” is a Blu-ray worth owning!

       

      It Might Get Loud (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

      December 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

      Just brilliant!  Definitely a fantastic up close and personal documentary with Jimmy Page (The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin) The Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes, The Raconteurs).  Definitely one of the best music documentaries to come out on Blu-ray!  Fantastic and highly recommended!

      Images courtesy of © 2009 Steel Curtain Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

      TITLE: It Might Get Loud

      YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2008

      DURATION: 98 Minutes

      BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1.   Subtitles: English SDH,  Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic

      RATED: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements, Brief Language and Smoking)

      COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

      RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2009

      Directed by Davis Guggenheim

      Executive Producer: Michael Mailis

      Producer: Peter Afterman, Lesley Chilcott, Davis Guggenheim, Thomas Tull

      Associate Producer: Erica Beaney, Michael Birtel, Diana Derycz-Kessler, Rebecca Hartzell, Jimmy Page, Alba Tull

      Cinematography by Guillermo Navarro, Erich Roland

      Edited by Greg Finton

      Production Design by Donald Graham Burt

      Starring:

      Jimmy Page

      The Edge

      Jack White

      Bono (archive footage)

      Robert Plant (archive footage)

      Meg White (archive footage)

      Unlike any other rock and roll documentary, IT MIGHT GET LOUD gets three legendary guitarists – The Edge (U2), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) – onto an empty soundstage to create an unparalleled music summit, in the process of jamming together they bring their own perspectives about craft, inspiration and how each used their unique backgrounds in order to create their own musical rebellion and revelatory sounds.

      In 2009, the documentary “It Might Get Loud” directed by David Guggenheim (“Gossip”, “An Inconvenient Truth”) made its way through the various film festivals.

      The documentary was created to highlight the electric guitar, so what best than to feature three iconic electric guitar musicians: Jimmy Page (The Yard Birds, Led Zeppelin), The Edge (“U2”) and Jack White (White Stripes, The Raconteurs).  Each men with different musical backgrounds and from different countries and get to know how they became passionate for the electric guitar, learning of their musical inspirations, revisiting areas where they first became involved in their bands, footage of them performing live (with vintage footage) and their approach to music, what goes behind-the-scenes when they are writing songs and much more.

      The documentary captures these musicians up-close and personal but also what happens when you bring these three musicians together with their instruments and what kind of music they come up with together.

      VIDEO & AUDIO:

      “It Might Get Loud” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  The picture quality is fantastic.  The documentary was shot in HD and aside from the vintage footage and old photos, the modern footage was shot entirely in HD and the amount of detail is just wonderful.   You literally see the detail in some of the vintage instruments.  For example, in one scene, Jack White performs a song on the piano and you can see the rugged look of the old piano.  Especially later on as he performs on an older guitar.

      You do see quite a bit of grain on some of the stock footage and of course, older vintage footage is not exactly going to be the best looking on Blu-ray but for the most part, picture quality is quite solid for the modern sequences of this documentary.  Skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep.  Some modern scenes has its share of low light noise and I did notice certain scenes with occasional dust but for the most part, picture quality is solid!

      Audio quality is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1.  Lossless audio is fantastic!  From when you first hear Jack White messing around with a guitar, that the electric guitar comes out quite clear through the front channels.  But when you start hearing Jimmy Page and The Edge play and the followed by Jack White and the various bands, you can’t help but be impressed about the clarity of the instruments.

      I can’t tell you that by watching these guys play, especially when Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White just sat together and then started jamming, you can’t help but get goose bumps.  Absolutely fantastic!  Especially the final improvisation scene with all three men just jamming.  Just brilliant!  There was no rehearsal, these three guys just start jamming in unison.  Awesome!

      Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.

      SPECIAL FEATURES:

      “It Might Get Loud” comes with the following special features featured in Standard and High Definition.  English Stereo and subtitles in Portuguese in Spanish and French.  Included are:

      • Audio Commentary — Audio commentary by Director Davis Guggenheim, Producer Lesley Chilcott and Producer Thomas Tull.  An informative commentary with good insight on what happened behind-the-scenes and what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish.
      • Toronto Film Festival Press Conference —(38:26) Q&A footage from the Toronto Film Festival Press Conference featuring Director Davis Guggenheim, Producer Thomas Tull and Lesley Chilcott and the three musicians: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.
      • Deleted Scenes—(26:06) Featuring the following eleven deleted scenes:  Jimmy Page plays Acoustic, Four Sticks on Acoustic, Kashmir, Strings, Theremin, Nicknames, The Edge plays “Stairway to Heaven”, The Edge’s Sound Check, I Fought Army’s, Seven Nation Army, Deleted Animation.
      • Theatrical Trailer – (2:26) Original theatrical trailer for “It Might Get Loud”.

      An incredible and amazing documentary.

      For anyone who enjoys rock n’ roll especially these talented guitarists such as legend Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White will love this film.  I was pretty amazed about how enjoyable this documentary turned out to be.  Learning about their passion for the electric guitar, playing music, learning about their past and also footage of their bands (vintage footage of Led Zeppelin and U2) was pretty awesome.

      But what really made things much more enjoyable was watching “It Might Get Loud” on Blu-ray.  The film was shot in HD and the detail was just amazing.  From the old vintage instruments, you literally see the age on them and the various locations where the documentary were shot looks quite impressive.  The lossless audio was fantastic and to hear the three perform and hear the guitar so crystal clear and so well-defined through your home theater is quite amazing.

      This documentary goes beyond just enjoying the music and historic information from Page, The Edge and White, you also get to see other classic footage of artists and bands that these musicians enjoyed.  Seeing 1930’s Blues artists to punk bands such as The Clash and the Ramones was pretty awesome.  But there are some deep thoughts from the musicians that you can’t help but listen.  This is probably one of the most personal rock documentaries as we see the thought process behind the music, their first instruments, the challenges they faced earlier in their career or at a young age and more.

      I know there are some people who wish there was more music and less talk but personally, I was amazed by hearing their stories.  Yes, I enjoy listening to their music but to tell you the truth, aside from listening to their music, I never knew the personal side to these men.  Director Guggenheim let these men do their thing and I know some wish there was more prodding by the director but this was a different type of documentary that Guggenheim wanted to accomplish and so, it’s less about ego’s or personal clashes, it’s all about the love of music.  So, I found this documentary to be quite fascinating and just highly entertaining.

      Also, the special features were just enjoyable to watch.  The fact that these three musicians allowed the filmmakers to get up close and capture the personal side of them was quite amazing and when all is done, the special features showcase some enjoyable scenes as Jimmy Page plays the guitar and The Edge and Jack White are just in awe by the legend.  You can tell that these musicians savored the moment, especially when the three start jamming with Jimmy Page while he plays “Kashmir”.

      Overall, if you are a rock musician or a fan of any of these talents or the bands they are part of, “It Might Get Loud” is a magnificent documentary worth owning on Blu-ray.

      “It Might Get Loud” on Blu-ray definitely receives my highest recommendation!

       

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