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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!

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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!

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    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!

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    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:

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    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!

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    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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    abingdon boys school – Japan Tour 2008 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

    November 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

    Overall, “abingdon boys school – Japan Tour 2008” is an enjoyable, high energy concert.  Definitely one of the best concerts videos I have seen from Japan.  Multiple cameras all around, great editing and also an entertaining documentary.  But for a Blu-ray release, it comes up very short on picture and audio quality.

    Images courtesy of © Epic Records Japan Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    TITLE: abingdon boys school – Japan Tour 2008

    DURATION: 133 minutes

    BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 16:9, 1920 x 1080, 59.94i, Stereo Linear PCM (48KHz/16 bit)

    COMPANY:  Epic Records Japan Inc.

    Release Date: December 24, 2008

    Concert:

    Producer: Ko Ikeda (UNO)

    Director: Yo Ohashi

    Documentary:

    Producer: E.K. Ching, M. Tang Cole

    Director: T. Claussell

    Writer: Jose Corleone Mariovchenko, Peter “Killima-Njaro” Smith

    Starring:

    Takanori Nishikawa

    Sunao (guitarist)

    Hiroshi Shibasaki (guitarist, former guitarist of WANDS and al.ni.co)

    Toshiyuki Kishi (keyboards, turntables and programming)

    MICRO from Home Made Kazoku

    TAKUYA from UVERworld

    IKUO (Bass)

    Kozy Hasegawa (Drums)

    Documentary Narration by Lynne Hobday

    The abingdon boys school (aka a.b.s.) was a band formed by Takanori Nishikawa (best known by his music persona T.M.Revolution). In 2005, Nishikawa joined up with Sunao (guitarist), Hiroshi Shibasaki (guitarist, former guitarist of WANDS and al.ni.co) and Toshiyuki Kishi (keyboards, programming and turntable).

    The name of abingdon boys school is named after the British independent school Abingdon School based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire and the same school attended by rock band Radiohead.

    In February 2008, the band held a special concert at Zepp Tokyo which the band recorded for their Japan Tour 2008 DVD and Blu-ray release.

    The video would showcase the concert plus the band behind-the-scenes preparing for the concert during rehearsals. While there is no encore on the actual main concert portion, MC portion was included on the encore segment.

    Included on the DVD/Blu-ray is a special bonus movie “EBS Documentary -a.b.s. JAPAN TOUR 2009-” which would showcase the group performing at several venues and showing their daily rituals, giving fans a sneak peek at the members of the group and how they interact with their fans during the concert.

    The tracklisting for “abingdon boys school JAPAN TOUR 2008” is as follows:

    01. opening -ReVerse-
    02. As One
    03. HOWLING
    04. DOWN TO YOU
    05. NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
    06. Via Dolorosa
    07. DESIRE
    08. SUNAO solo
    09. BLADE CHORD
    10. SHIBASAKI solo
    11. Desert Rose
    12. Nephilim
    13. LOST REASON – feat. MICRO from Home Made Kazoku –
    14. stay away
    15. Fre@k $HOW
    16. INNOCENT SORROW

    -Encore-
    01. MC
    02. Dress
    03. Sweetest Coma Again
    04. Atena
    05. ending -ReBirth-

    VIDEO & AUDIO:

    “abingdon boys school JAPAN TOUR 2008” is featured in 16:9, 1920×1080 (59.94i). I have to admit that this is one of the better shot Japanese concerts I’ve seen in awhile. There are a lot of camera placements from closeups of each member of the band, cameras stationed right in front of the stage, behind the stage, above the stage, high above the audience, right in front of the drums.

    During the faster-paced songs, there is a lot of editing and typically, I’m quite anal about concerts using the 3-second quick edits because sometimes when used, the concert doesn’t give your eyes a chance to fixate on the artist or band member because it keeps switching out. But somehow for this concert, editing works very well according to the music. Slow-tempo or mid-tempo tracks stick with the 8-second cut.

    But overall, lighting is very well done and not much emphasis on the stage but the overall crowd excitement and lighting around Nishikawa and the band members.

    But as for the video quality, this is where the video suffers and possibly is an upconvert. there is quite a bit of grain, compression artifacts, occasional banding and even combing. It’s not the the most beautiful looking concert in HD and that’s disappointing because the camera work and editing and choice shots during the concert were well-done.

    Audio quality is another disappointment for those with a 5.1 or higher setup (yes, I know in Japan, very few people have a solid setup and that most can’t really blast their concerts loud due to their close living proximity and thin walls) as the concert is only featured in Stereo/Linear PCM (48KHz/16-bit). For the most part, concert sounded fine but I personally felt it was better just to set my receiver with stereo on all channels.

    The documentary is quite enjoyable in terms of content but similar to the concert, you get the similar PQ and AQ.

    SPECIAL FEATURES:

    “abingdon boys school – Japan Tour 2008” comes with the following special features:

    • EBS Documentary -a.b.s. JAPAN TOUR 2008 – Included is a half hour documentary with narration by an English woman. The discussions are not translated via English subtitles but she pretty much explains most of the scenes of what Nishikawa and band members are talking about. Her narration does feature non-removable Japanese subtitles. Special guests in the documentary include Takuya of UVERworld and MICRO of HOME MADE Kazoku.  It’s quite interesting to listen to because the narrator talks about a.b.s. creating music for the galaxy and as long as their is evil, the band will continue to fight in all four corners of the galaxy.
    • EBS Documentary -a.b.s. JAPAN TOUR 2008 – Audio Commentary – Optional audio commentary by members of abingdon boys school.
    • JAPANESE TOUR 2008 ASSEMBLY KIT – Like the instructions that come with a model kit, you get an 11×17 folded guide with each track accompanied by odd photos on one side and production credits on the other.
    • Lyrics booklet – Designed like a translation booklet with English, Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Italian on the front with Japanese checked on. Also, featured in the booklet is a story titled “amazing band story”.

    Overall, I enjoyed the concert and the documentary feature because it’s full of energy and you can tell the band is feeding off the energy from the audience. The audience was totally into it and as mentioned earlier, this is one of better Japanese concerts in terms of camera utilization and editing.

    It’s just a shame as some Japanese concerts on Blu-ray such as “abingdon boys school JAPAN TOUR 2008” look like they are just upconverts and audio is just in stereo but this an older 2008 release and I know some 2009 releases have improved in overall quality.

    As for the main difference between the DVD version, the DVD limited edition version contains a bonus disc with the commentary for the documentary, special sleeve and sticker.

    If you are an abingdon boys school fan, the concert is very enjoyable and the documentary is very entertaining but if you are expecting awesome PQ and AQ in HD, then this release unfortunately comes up short.

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    Hannah Montana: The Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

    August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

    “For fans of the ‘Hannah Montana’ television show or Miley Cyrus, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth owning.  You get absolute magnificent picture quality, an awesome lossless soundtrack, a ton of special features and all this in a 3-Disc set.  Definitely recommended for the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus fan!”

    Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

    TITLE: Hannah Montana the Movie

    DURATION: 102 minutes

    BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

    COMPANY:  Walt Disney Home Studios Entertainment

    RATED: G

    Release Date: August 18, 2009

    Directed by Peter Chelsom

    Written by Daniel Berendsen

    Characters by Michael Poryes, Richard Correll, Barry O’Brien

    Screenplay by Kristen Buckley, Brian Regan and Burr Steers

    Executive Produced by David Blocker, Steven Peterman, Michael Poryes

    Produced by Billy Ray Cyrus, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar

    Associate Produced by John Albanis

    Music by John Debney

    Director of Photography: David Hennings

    Edited by Virginia Katz, David Moritz

    Casting by Lisa Beach, Sarah Katzman

    Production Design by Caroline Hanania

    Art Direction by Elliott Glick

    Set Decoration by Fontaine Beauchamp Hebb

    Costume Design by Christopher Lawrence

    Starring:

    Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart

    Billy Ray Cyrus  as Robby Ray Stewart

    Emily Osment as Lilly Truscott

    Jason Earles as Jackson Stewart

    Mitchel Musso as Oliver Oken

    Moises Arias as Rico

    Lucas Till as Travis Brody

    Vanessa Williams as Vita

    Margo Martindale as Ruby

    Peter Gunn as Oswald Grange

    Melora Hardin as Lorelai

    Get ready to be dazzled by Disney’s big-screen smash hit Hannah Montana the Movie – now even better on Blu-ray Disc with sensational visuals and theater quality sound!  Plus, this 3-disc set has exclusive extras, including “The Hoedown Throwdown Dance-Along” and more!  “Hannah Montana the Movie” Deluxe Edition: More Music & Moves!  delivers laughs, adventure, family fun and fabulous music as Hannah returns to her roots, mixes it up with awesome guest stars (Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Vanessa Williams), and faces the most important decision of her life!  When Miley Stewart (aka pop star Hannah Montana) gets too caught up in the superstar celebrity lifestyle, her dad decides it’s time for a total change of scenery.  Miley must trade in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood for some ol’ blue jeans on the family’s Tennessee farm, where she’ll have to decide if she can truly have the best of both worlds.  Bring home heartfelt entertainment for the entire family:  Hannah Montana the Movie Deluxe Edition, More Music & Moves! – now even more awesome Blu-ray Hi-Def!

    Since 2006, “Hannah Montana” has not only been a popular television series for the Disney Channel but a series that has definitely made Miley Cyrus, daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, a bonafide star.

    It was one thing to watch this young teenager who was 13-years old at the time, grow up and become a popular television star and music talent that would sell out many concert venues, has had her music on top of the Billboard charts and now has two Disney films under her belt.

    The first film from Disney focused on a 3D version of her concert and television show personality but this time around, “Hannah Montana: The Movie” takes to the big screen and takes a more serious look at Miley Cyrus’s character as her pop star identity has now affected her family and he friendship and has come to the point that the lifestyle of a popstar has gotten to her head.

    The film is directed by Peter Chelsom (“Shall We Dance”, “Serendipity” and “Town & Country”), a screenplay by Daniel Berendsen (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”, “The Cheetah Girls: One World”) , composer John Debney (“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “Spider-Man 3” and “Sin City”) and cinematographer David Hennings (“Strange Wilderness”, “Blue Crush” and “Ice Princess”).

    For those not familiar with the television series, former music artist Robby Ray Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus) has moved his family (which include Miley, played by Miley Cyrus, and her older brother Jackson, played by Jason Earles) from Tennessee to Malibu in order to manage his daughter Miley’s music career.  But in order to keep sanity at their home and keep their family together, he and Miley has kept secret identities and Miley dons a blonde wig and goes by the name Hannah Montana.    Along with her best friend Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment) and friend Oliver Oken (Mitchel Musso), who also take on disguises, help protect Miley’s secret.

    In “Hannah Montana: The Movie”, the film picks up with Hannah Montana’s career doing quite well and is now managed by Vita (Vanessa Williams).  While Vita is successfully booking Hannah in various, major events, the fame has kept her busy to be with family (to celebrate Jackson’s entrance to college) and Lilly’s birthday party.  To make things worse, a member of the paparazzi is trying to figure out Hannah Montana’s secret.

    After Hannah ends up getting into fight with Tyra Banks over some shoes and getting plastered on the newspapers and disrupting Lilly’s birthday party by coming as Hannah Montana, Robby Ray feels that his daughter Miley can’t balance her time as a family member and friend and is focusing too much of her life as Hannah Montana and thus tricks her to going to Tennessee (instead of an award ceremony in New York).

    Hannah is not pleased that her father has tricked her and prevented her from attending the award show and is upset that he dragged her to the farmlife in Tennessee.  But Robby Ray wants her to remember where she came from and that Tennessee was their home before California.

    While in Tennessee, Miley tries to adjust to the slow-paced life and meets an old friend when she was younger named Travis Brody (Lucas Till) who she becomes closer too, while her father Robby Ray gets closer to Lorelai (Melora Hardin), but with both of them having to live secret lives, can Miley or Robby Ray ever be able to have a normal life?

    “Hannah Montana: The Movie” comes with three discs.  The first is the Blu-ray Disc, the second being the Digital Copy and the third is the DVD.

    VIDEO & AUDIO:

    “Hannah Montana: The Movie” is featured in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ration of 1:85:1.  For the most part, the film is absolutely vibrant.  There are many outdoor scenes that showcase the film’s color.  May it be the shot at Lilly’s birthday party at Santa Monica Beach to the lush area of Tennessee.  The film definitely showcases a broad spectrum of colors, all of which are sharp, clear and absolutely eye-popping.  For the most part, David Hennings did a great job with utilizing the environment with this film and overall, picture quality is magnificent.

    As for audio, this is probably the first time I have seen Disney sport an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (the film is also presented in French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital).  The dialogue is crystal clear and as much as this film is dialogue driven, with it also being somewhat of a musical as well, music plays a big part of this film and sounds fantastic.  Definitely good utilization of surrounds to pick up crowd ambiance or the animals at the farm but for the most part, this is a film where dialogue is king and music is also a big part of the film. Thus the soundtrack is quite crystal clear, the lossless audio definitely makes the music come alive.

    As for subtitles, “Hannah Montana: The Movie is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

    A DVD is included and sports a widescreen (1:85:1) – enhanced for 16×9 televisions and an audio soundtrack sporting a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound soundtrack.

    SPECIAL FEATURES:

    “Hannah Montana: The Movie” features the following special features with some in 1080p High Definition or 480i Standard Definition:

    • Audio Commentary by Director Peter Chelsom – Peter Chelsom is the type of director who utilizes his commentary to thoroughly setup a scene and give credit to who came up with the ideas in pulling them off.  From utilizing scenes from Miley Cyrus’s first film and inserting scenes into the film to how animals were brought in to the film and managing over a thousand extras, this is a very thorough commentary.
    • Deleted Scenes – (10:35) A total of four deleted scenes which features an introduction by director Peter Chelsom discussing why they were removed.  But for the most part, Chelsom says the film is the final cut and mostly all footage was utilized in the film.  But the four deleted scenes included are: “Jackson: I’m Pretending to Be at University…”, “How Are We Going to Get Hannah Down to Crowley Corners?”, “Oswald and the Hannah Wigs” and “Oswald, The Ostrich and the Alligator”
    • Music Videos – (9:30) There are a total of seven music videos included.  Music videos featured are:  “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus (3:52), “Back to Tennessee” by Billy Ray Cyrus (4:22), “You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home” by Miley Cyrus (3:49), “Let’s Get Crazy” by Miley Cyrus (2:59), “The Climb” (movie version) by Miley Cyrus (4:06), “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts (4:17) and “Crazier” by Taylor Swift (3:15).
    • The Hoedown Throwdown Home Experience – A Blu-ray exclusive only.  This featurette is learning the popular dance created for the film (featured during the fundraising event and the ending credits) and features the full featurette titled “Everybody Now” (14:39) featuring how all the cast members (and crew) learned the dance by choreographer Jamal Sims.  While, for those who just want to watch “how to do the dance”, they can watch the “Learn the Moves (9:47) featuring choreographer Jamal Sims with “Hannah Montana” talents Mitchel Musso and Moises Arias.
    • Find Your Way Back Home – (15:05) A featurette with three segments.   The first features Miley Cyrus and mother Trish showing us around Franklin, Tennessee and the various shops and eateries.  The second is Billy Ray Cyrus showing us Tennessee and talking about how it’s home for the Cyrus family.  While the final segment features Emily Osment showing us Los Angeles and Hollywood and the key spots to visit.
    • I Should Have Gone to Film School with Jason Earles – (15:18) Jason Earles takes us behind-the-scenes of the “Hannah Montana: The Movie” film and introduces us to the crew and what their responsibilities are.  Especially for “Best Man”, “Grip” and “Gaffer” and differences between a Assistant Director and a Director’s Assistant.
    • Fun with Hannah and the Gang – (3:53) The blooper reel from the film.
    • B Disney Live – Fans can connect with family and friends through the innovative movie-watching experience!  People will need a profile 2.0 Blu-ray player to take advantage of this capability.

When it comes to “Hannah Montana: The Movie”, it’s almost similar to what I had to say about “The Jonas Brothers: 3-D Concert Experience” in that these films are created for their fans.

“Hannah Montana” is a popular children’s television show with a large following and I have watched many television shows with my son and although I’m not as familiar with her music, every decade there are shows that will appeal to their young fans and many of those who scratch their heads and just don’t get why people find it so appealing.  In the 80’s we had “Kids Incorporated”, in the 90’s we had “Saved By the Bell” and although Saturday morning teen shows and afternoon teen shows on network television are a thing of the past, these shows have continued on the Disney Channel and “Hannah Montana” is simply a popular series with a lot of merchandising behind the series and its star Miley Cyrus.

And those who are not fans, they are going to criticize and those who never cared for Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus, it’s a given that they are not going to give a care for this film.

But how did I feel about the film?  As a guy who tends to write a lot about teen or young entertainment worldwide, may it be their music or television careers, I enjoyed the film.  Of course, it all comes from my knowledge of the series and knowing how quarky the television series is but also knowing the difficult the character of Miley Stewart has in juggling both worlds of a normal teenager and a pop star.

But what I found more interesting is seeing Robby Ray stepping down and knocking Miley off her high horse.  He notices that the fame is getting to her head and that if he doesn’t change things now, he’s going to lose that daughter who was always caring for her family and her friends.

So, when it comes to the dramatic scenes, I enjoyed watching that part.  As for the music, this is more geared for her fans.  Obviously, with her single “The Climb” and the soundtrack of this film doing so well on the Billboard Charts, it’s quite evident that she has a strong fandom of fans that are passionate for her music.  The film is not “High School Musical” and every scene is full of music and a little on drama, it’s quite the opposite where there are more acting scenes and music plays a more important part towards the second half of the film.  Also, you get music from Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts and both offer an incentive to check out the film as well.

There was a superhero-esque (or more like “Spider-Man 2”) type of storyline near the end which I won’t get into but overall, I suppose that those who have watched her television show will find out if Miley Stewart or Hannah Montana will be the last persona standing.

For the most part, I found the film to be enjoyable, fun and it was good to see Miley Cyrus take on an emotional scene.  I thought that the ending scene with the talent and film crew doing “The Hoedown Throwdown Dance” was hilarious and fun and for the most part, I’m quite confident that fans of Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana are going to have a great time with this release.

As for the Blu-ray release, you get a ton of special features and as typical of Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment releases, its one company where you know that their releases are going to be given absolute awesome picture and audio quality.  And I can definitely tell you that this 3-Disc release will definitely be well worth it for the Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana fans.

Overall, presentation and audio wise and the content included on this release is magnificent but as for the film, it all comes down to whether or not you are a fan of Miley Cyrus or her television show.  Otherwise, if you had no care in the world for her music or the show, then you know this release is not for you.  But for those who are passionate about her music and her series, then I can tell you that this Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

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JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

“Disney went all out with this concert release.  The Blu-ray sports magnificent picture and audio quality, a choice of 2D or 3D and bundling three discs via Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy.  Jonas Brothers fans are getting a definitive release of ‘THE JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE!’ and easily one of the most awesome looking music releases at this current time on High Definition!”

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1),  7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio/Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles

RATED: G (All Ages Approved)

COMPANY: Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2009

Directed by Bruce Hendricks

Executive Produced by Douglas C. Merrifield, Vince Pace

Produced by Kevin Jonas, Phil McIntyre, Arthur F. Repola, Alan Sacks, Johnny Wright

Associate Producer: Blaise Matthew Hemingway, Katie Welch

Director of Photography: Mitchell Amundsenm, Reed Smoot

Editing by Michael Tronick

Starring:

Kevin Jonas

Joe Jonas

Nick Jonas

Demi Lovato

Taylor Swift

Robert “Big Rob” Feggans

John Lloyd Tailor – Guitar

John Cahil Lawless – Drums

Ryan Matthew Liestman – Keyboards

Gregory Robert Garbowsky – Bass Guitar

Caitlin Evanson – Taylor Swift’s Fiddle Player

Ben Clark – Taylor Swift’s Banjo Player

Denise Jonas

Put yourself in the middle of the Jonas Brothers’ motion picture debut with the ultimate Extended 3D Concert Experience only on Blu-ray  Hi-Def.  It doesn’t get any better than this as Kevin, Joe and Nick invite you inside their personal world for an all-inclusive look at the band.  The 3D picture looks so incredible, you’ll think you can reach out and touch the brothers, and the theater-quality sound will have you jumping at your seat!

This 3D movie event launches music’s hottest trio straight into your living room and includes guest appearances by chart-topping artists Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift!

Secure your backstage pass to this once-in-a-lifetime 3D experience with the Jonas Brothers – complete with exclusive bonus features, including unseen performances, additional songs, and an extra DVD copy of the movie.  You’ll feel like you’re part of the Jonas family with this deluxe up-close-and-personal Blu-ray Combo Pack for the ultimate fans!

The Jonas Brothers are the hottest boy band in America.

With a large legion of fans, the group which consists of brothers Kevin, Joe and Nick, the Jonas Brothers have accomplished many things in their last three years since the release of their first album.

The group debuted on Columbia Records INO Records (a Christian Label) in 2006 and eventually received airplay on Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101: Spring Break-Up” and various Disney soundtrack and compilations.  Despite the group starting to gain momentum, the group was dropped by Columbia Records and had no label until signing with Hollywood Records in 2007.  And received more attention when they appeared on an episode of  “Hannah Montana” and the group were playing at major televised events.

But it was until the group released their third album “A Little Bit Longer” in 2008 which gained mainstream attention (and #40 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 50 albums in the US) and the group had their own Disney film “Camp Rock” which featured the trio with another upcoming Disney Channel starlet Demi Lovato.  The group also received the spotlight on the front cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Needless to say, the Jonas Brothers have become popular and Disney began filming their concert tour in the Summer of 2008, preparing the film for a 3D release and starring both popular actress/pop star Demi Lovato and popular country singer Taylor Swift.

“JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE” came out in theaters on February 2009.

The film was directed by Bruce Hendricks (producer of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and “Pearl Harbor”) and cinematography by Mitchell Amundsen (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Wanted”, “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour”, “Transformers”and “Transporter 2”) and Reed Smoot “Circque du Soleil: Journey of Man”, “Mystery of the Nile” and “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs”).

Needless to say, when it comes to idol-based music films or concerts, they are literally targeted towards their fandom and demographic.  Those not familiar with the Jonas Brothers or care for their music are probably not going to have much of an interest in the film.   But for those who do enjoy the group’s music, “JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE” is actually an enjoyable release.  First off, you get four 3D glasses and you can enjoy the film in either its 3D or 2D presentation via Blu-ray.  You get the DVD and a digital copy for a total of 3-Discs.

The following songs are featured in “JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE”:

  1. “Tonight” (Intro/Opening Credits)
  2. “That’s Just the Way We Roll”
  3. “Hold On”
  4. “BB Good”
  5. “Goodnight and Goodbye”
  6. “Video Girl”
  7. “Gotta Find You”
  8. “This Is Me” (Demi Lovato & Jonas Brothers)
  9. “Hello Beautiful”
  10. “Still In Love With You”
  11. “Pushin’ Me Away”
  12. “Should’ve Said No” (Taylor Swift & Jonas Brothers)
  13. “Love Is on Its Way”
  14. “S.O.S.”
  15. “Burnin’ Up”

Additional performances featured on the DVD Extended Version

16. “Can’t Have You”
17. “A Little Bit Longer”

For the film, you get a good balance of concert and also other activities such as the guys picking up the release of their third album, the fake Jonas Brothers and a lot of footage of their hardcore fans. Also, the group performing with their band outdoors and backstage footage.

In terms of concert footage, having reviewed many concert releases on DVD, you often wonder how a concert looks like when it has a significant budget, this is a good example.  There are cameras everywhere.   Multiple angles, closeups, front, sideways, behind the band, above the band in a various angles you name it, there’s a camera.  Editor Michael Tronick (Editor for “Hudson Hawk”,”Bedtime Stories”,  “Days of Thunder”, “S.W.A.T.”, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith) did an absolutely great job with the cut footage.  No dizzying quick cuts, gives the viewer time to adjust and enjoy the ambiance of the crowded concert with its many fans and their light sticks.  The group and band with their constant movement throughout the stage.  It’s well done!

The lighting is well done and very good lighting from purple, pinks, greens, blues, ambers.  And again, the larger production budget definitely shows with the stage set-up.

As for the 3D portion, I’m not the biggest fan of 3D because seldom does it work effectively (with the exception of the 3D shows I have seen at Disneyland) but for “JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE”, for the most part, the 3D works.  From Nick Jonas throwing a drum stick to the drummer and Taylor Swift flicking her guitar pick towards the camera.  Those instances were enjoyable.

For the most part, 3D is used to show the audiences arms and light sticks and moreso, bringing out the performers and giving a visual depth when Joe Jonas is seen at the front and everyone is seen directly behind.  Also, 3D is used quite a bit during the scenes with cast and crew credits.  Also, seeing flames from the stage, the mic and mic stand right by you.

Where it’s not effective is certain shots where you can see lines on the faces (for example, during the Jonas Brothers performance with Demi Lovato) during the 3D portion.  And this happens a few times during the film.  But for the most part, the 3D does work and some scenes that were quite effective.   I had a few people with varying eyesight test out the 3D glasses during the play of the concert and interesting enough, each person had different experiences with the one with better eyesight feeling that everything was much more alive and coming out to them visually.

Of course, for those who don’t care for 3D can select 2D on the Blu-ray disc and also, the 2D version is included on the optional DVD and digital copy.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE” is featured in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  Of course, quality is a non-issue during the 3D portion but for the 2D portion included, the film is quite vibrant in colors.   As mentioned above, there is a lot of lighting in this concert and colors really come out quite well in this film.  If there is one thing that I’m always confident from a release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, every Blu-ray release has had solid picture quality and this film is no exception.

Colors come out quite well during the concert, audience faces can be seen from a distance, blacks are nice and deep.  No low-light noise, overall for a concert related release, this is probably one of the best looking concerts I have seen on Blu-ray but considering not many concerts are shot with this large of a budget and is shown as a feature film.

And the audio is fantastic.  Disney went for the 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio.  So you have the front channels delivering the music and vocals.  The rear surrounds delivering the audience.   Great use of LFE as my subwoofer was being used during the concert.  It’s an immersive soundtrack and if I had to really nitpick, I wish the explosions had a little more kick but overall, the concert presentation given the DTS-HD Master Audio track was quite exceptional.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE” comes with a few special features.  Included are:

  • BONUS SONGS of “LOVE BUG” and “SHELF” – Both the Blu-ray and DVD feature two performances not included in the extended version of the film.  “LOVE BUG” (3:41) features the group rehearsing and practicing with their band and goofing around.  And then shots of the group performing live in concert with the band.  “SHELF” (4:25) features the group performing live.
  • BACKSTAGE DISNEY: Up Close & Personal with the Jonas Brothers – (15:09) An in-depth look at the Jonas Brothers as they recall the challenges they had in their career and remembering how they performed at small venues two years ago and now they are performing at larger venues.  How they planned the stage along with their crew and working together with everyone (musicians and crew) and treating them like a family.  Working with Rob Brenner (Tour Director) and a behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals and challenges they had to face.  Promotional tours and being thankful to their fans.  An enjoyable featurette.
  • Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray is Suite (DVD Only) – (5:57) A promotional by the “Suite Life with Zack and Cody” stars promoting Blu-ray.

I’ve reviewed many concerts on DVD and beginning to review more on Blu-ray but I have to say that this release is quite solid.  The Jonas Brothers and their music may not be for everyone but for fans, this is a solid release.  It’s well-produced, well-edited and again, not may concerts get the higher production (nor do they get a feature film and featured in 3D). You get one of the best looking concerts on Blu-ray with a pretty awesome soundtrack.

For fans of the Jonas Brothers, you really can’t go wrong with “JONAS BROTHERS – THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE”.  Disney went all out in giving fans the 2D and 3D version on Blu-ray, plus the Extended Movie on DVD and the DisneyFile Digital Copy.

Personally, I thought it was a well-done concert.  Watching a male pop band doing acrobatics during their performance might not be for everyone but having reviewed many female and male idol concerts from Japan and other parts of world, this is pretty standard, so I was not put off by it at all.

Also, I am aware of the negative reviews from critics for this film but at the same time, older critics (or critics with little leeway with their own musical tastes) having to watch a concert featuring an idol pop band, a teen audience and having to listen to bubblegum pop and taking them out of their musical element is not going to gain any positive or favorable reviews.

I personally enjoyed the music and the film and was impressed by the overall production, lighting, editing and the many camera angles.  I’ve reviewed many concerts worldwide and the truth is that many bands or music artists get this high of a production value in their setup (or a feature film) as the Jonas Brothers have received in this film alone.  So, its always interesting to see those rare concert opportunities taken to the big screen (and in 3D) that receive such a high production and big budget boost.  And of course, to see it receive the Walt Disney Pictures treatment.  I was impressed!

If there is one thing that could have been focused on in the film and not put in the special features portion is showing the challenge the Jonas Brothers have faced in the last three years.  From being dropped by Columbia Records and through the use of Internet grassroots marketing and receiving the opportunities on the Disney Channel shows, this group was able to go farther in their career and it would have nice to see a backstory of how these guys came from obscurity to the idol pop group phenoms they are now.  But in the end, this was a film created for their fans.

Even Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift fans can enjoy their appearance in the film.  The production quality is quite high with this release and with that being said, Disney goes all out once again for another awesome Blu-ray release featuring top notch picture and audio quality that the Jonas Brothers fans can and will definitely be proud of!

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GREASE (ROCKIN’ RYDELL EDITION) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

“The classic 1978 musical, ‘GREASE’ goes High Def and I am absolutely stunned of how magnificent this film looks on Blu-ray! The audio quality makes the musical come alive and special features galore.  This Blu-ray release of ‘GREASE’ is absolutely the definitive version to own!”

Images courtesy of© 1997, 1998 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: GREASE (ROCKIN’ RYDELL EDITION)

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Languages: English SDH Subtitled , English Subtitled , French Dubbed & Subtitled , Portuguese Subtitled , Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled.  Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Mono

RATED: PG

COMPANY: Paramount Pictures/Paramount Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2009

Directed by Randal Kleiser

Based on a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

Adaptation by Allan Carr

Screenplay by Bronte Woodard

Produced by Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood

Associate Producer: Neil A. Machlis

Director of Photography: Bill Butler

Edited by John F. Burnett

Casting by Joel Thurm

Production Design by Philip M. Jefferies

Set Decoration by James L. Berkey

Costume Design by Albert Wolsky

Cast:

John Travolta as Danny Zuko

Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson

Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo

Jeff Conaway as Kenickie

Barry Pearl as Doody

Michael Tucci as Sonny

Kelly Ward as Putzie

Didi Conn as Frenchy

Jamie Donnelly as Jan

Dinah Manoff as Marty Maraschino

Eve Arden as Principal McGee

Frankie Avalon as the Teen Angel

Joan Blondell as Vi

Edd Byrnes as Vince Fontaine

Sid Caesar as Coach Calhoun

Dody Goodman as Blanche

Lorenzo Lamas as Tom Chisum

Eddie Deezen as Eugene Felnic

Annette Charles as Cha Cha DiGregorio

Dennis Stewart as Leo

John Travolta solidified his position as the most versatile and magnetic screen presence of the decade in this film version of the smash hit play Grease. Recording star Olivia Newton-John made her American film debut as Sandy, Travolta’s naive love interest. The impressive supporting cast reads like a “who’s who” in this quintessential musical about the fabulous ’50s. Grease is not just a nostalgic look at a simpler decade–it’s an energetic and exciting musical homage to the age of rock ‘n’ roll!

“GREASE” is the most successful movie musical ever created.  The 1978 film was based on a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and eventually caught the attention in the early 70’s of producer Allan Carr who purchase the rights to adapt the play into a film.

With the popularity of “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” in 1977 which help boost the career of John Travolta, producer Robert Stigwood joined Allan Carr to create a film based on this play.  Tapping director Randal Kleiser who worked with Travolta in the popular 1976 TV film “The Boy and his Bubble”, recruiting “GREASE” musical choreographer Patricia Birch and hiring Director of Photography Bill Butler (“Jaws”, “Stripes” and “Rocky II & III”, etc.), this team would create a film that would become a musical ingrained into American pop culture.

Despite no respect in supporting the film by the major film studios, “GREASE” would become the second highest grossing film in 1978 behind “Superman” bringing in $96 million in the box office, the “GREASE” soundtrack would achieve #1 status around the world during its release and the film received many award nominations.

The film takes place in 1958 and starts off with Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsen (Olivia Newton-John) sharing an incredible Summer vacation together but their relationship seems to be short as Sandy is returning to Australia.

It is now a new school year at Rydell High School and Sandy’s family has had a change of plans, thus Sandy will be attending the Rydell High along with Danny, but he doesn’t know this.

Sandy becomes the foreign exchange student and becomes a friend of Frenchy (Didi Conn) who is a member of the clique “The Pink Ladies”.  She introduces Sandy to her friends Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing), who used to be an ex-girlfriend of Danny, the flirtatious Marty (Dinah Manoff) and the toothy Jan (Jamie Donnelly).

As for Danny, he is the leader of a gang known as “The T-Birds” who tend to be the mischievous ones of Rydell High.  Members of the T-Birds include mechanic and the other big boss of the gang Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) who is now dating Rizzo, Sonny (Michael Tucci), Putzie (Kelly Ward) and Doody (Barry Pearl).

Sandy tells the Pink Ladies about her fantastic summer vacation with a boy she fell in love with.  Meanwhile, Danny tells the guys about the story of the girl he was with during the summer through a song titled “Summer Nights”.  Sandy’s version is more emotional and sweet while Danny’s version of his story is a bit more exaggerated of for the guys.

Afterwards, Rizzo asks Sandy who the guy that she was with during the Summer and she tells them Danny Zuko.  Rizzo’s face turns to shock but then reassures her that she may see him again, while the Pink Ladies are just shocked.

Sandy is eventually encouraged to join the spirit team by a classmate and after the rally, Betty and the Pink Ladies decide to introduce Sandy to Danny and immediately both Sandy and Danny are excited to see each other.

But because Danny is with his gang, he has to act cool and arrogant and behaves like a jerk in front of Sandy.  Sandy storms off in tears!  Danny regrets what he did but he knows that in front of the guys, he has to be cool and act a certain way.  He gives a sad look towards Rizzo and Rizzo gives a smirk right back.

Because Sandy is depressed, Frenchy invites her to a sleepover at her home with the other members of the Pink Ladies.  But her and Betty Rizzo don’t get along all that well because of their different personalities.  As for French, she announces to her friends that she is dropping out of high school and will be going to beauty school.  Meanwhile, the Pink Ladies start singing a sarcastic song towards Sandy (because she’s so innocent) titled “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”.

The T-Birds arrive and Kenickie picks up Rizzo, meanwhile Sandy goes toward the porch and you realize that despite all that has happened that night, she is very much in love with Danny and sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You”.

As Rizzo and Kenickie start making in the backseat of the car, she asks Kenickie if he has a condom, but when he takes it out, the condom breaks (he’s had the condom since he was in 7th grade).  To make matters worse, Leo (Dennis Cleveland Stewart) who is the leader of the rival gang, The Scorpions, damages Kenickie’s car purposely and shows off his hot rod.

Kenickie and the guys take a look at his damaged cars but they see the potential of making it better and with new parts and a new paintjob, the guys start singing “Greased Lightning”.

After putting some work on the car, we see Sandy and jock Tom Chisum (Lorenzo Lamas) at the soda shop sharing a soda.  When she goes to start a song on the jukebox, Danny who is with his gang leaves them quickly to try and talk with her and apologize for how he treated her and tells her that he acted the way he did because of his status with the guys.  But when Danny sees that she is spending time with a jock, Danny gets a bit jealous.

So, Danny decides that if he’s going to get Sandy back, he has to be a jock.  But because of his troublesome nature, sports are not exactly his thing.  His coach decides that perhaps being in a track team is more of his thing.  So, when Danny starts jogging around the track, he sees Sandy with Tom and then starts to show off by jumping several hurdles.  Unfortunately, he messes up and takes a fall and immediately Sandy runs to his side.  The two are able to reconcile their differences and are back together.

Danny tries his best to be with Sandy without his friends around but it proves to be difficult.  Meanwhile, the relationship between Rizzo and Kenickie is not going too well either.

With the big dance coming up, the other T-Birds and the Pink Ladies decide to go with each other to the dance.  For Frenchy, life is a bit difficult for her as well as she realizes that quitting school for beauty school may have not been a smart thing to do.  While closing up the soda shop, she has a dream of Frankie Avalon singing “Beauty School Drop Out” and that she should return to high school.

The following day, as it may seem that Kenickie might want to make things right with Rizzo, Rizzo instead does the opposite and she and Marty end up ditching school to hang out with Kenickie’s rival Leo and getting into his car for a ride.

It’s now time for the big dance as Both Danny and Sandy go on their first major date together as a couple.  The TV show National Bandstand is broadcasting live at their school and holding a competition.

Rizzo ends up attending the dance with Leo, Kenickie ends up taking Leo’s girlfriend Cha-Cha DiGregorio (Annette Charles), who happens to be Danny’s ex-girlfriend and the competition begins.  Everything is going well at the dance but things get a bit chaotic when Kenickie and Leo try to show off in front of their ladies, somehow Sonny ends up dancing with Sandy, Danny ends up dancing with Cha-Cha and when Danny tries to regroup with Sandy, Cha-Cha grabs him and both start dancing.  Sandy seeing her boyfriend dancing with another girl, makes her upset and she leaves the dance.

Danny and Sandy eventually reconcile and while parked at the drive-in, Danny wants to make things right with her and give her his ring which makes her happy.

As for Rizzo, she tells Marty that she has missed her period and she may be pregnant.  Marty blabs to Sonny, who blabs to other people at the school and everyone finds out that Rizzo may be pregnant.  Kenickie eventually hears the rumor and goes up to her and wonders why she never told him and Rizzo tells him that it’s because the child is not his.  While this is going on, Danny tries to make out with Sandy but she’s doesn’t want to do it and storms off, throwing his ring back at him.

Each of the main characters now face challenges in their lives.   Danny and Kenickie losing their ladies, they focus their energy on getting back against Leo and thus Kenickie challenges him to a race.  Rizzo is worried about being pregnant, Sandy is worried about how she and Danny are from two different worlds and everyone just wants to get through the school year.

Of course, there is much more to the story of “GREASE” but without having to spoil the film, the idea about “GREASE” revolves around relationships.   Two people who care about each other but are from different worlds.  The film revolves around high school youth during the late 50’s and facing the typical high school challenges that people continue to face today.   Teens trying to fit in and facing normal teenage problems that are just as relevant now as they were back then.

But of course, “GREASE” is also about a musical being adapted to a film and suffice to say, the crew and cast successfully pulled it off.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“GREASE” is featured in 1080p High Definition and I will tell you I was blown away by the picture quality.

I’ve watched this film dozens of times, owned the VHS and both DVD versions and when I started watching the High Definition Blu-ray transfer, I was speechless.  The many colors featured in the film were quite vibrant.  This film is over 30-years-old and Paramount really did a great service in the transfer and remaster of this film.  Closeups, outdoor scenes, you name it, the film looks spectacular!

I compared my 25th Anniversary DVD to this Blu-ray and just the opening sequence alone with the two at the beach, the colors are just absolutely stunning on Blu-ray.  I was literally in awe of how beautiful this film looked in High Definition.  The DVD video quality just doesn’t compare to the Blu-ray disc and I was quite impressed!

As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and also in French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish mono.  Since music is a big part of the film, it was important for me to test this Blu-ray out on my system.  Where the 1977 film “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” was just spectacular for its High Definition audio transfer, I was hoping to have an awesome lossless soundtrack for “GREASE”.

Somehow, in the beginning of the film, it seemed as if the audio coming from the center channel was a bit lower than my front speakers. So, dialogue seemed as if it was being overpowered by the music.   I’ve run a variety of tests and I did have to increase my center channel dB a little bit to compensate for the music coming louder but this may be due to my audio setup for my receiver.  But everything sounded well throughout the film after the adjustment.

The dialogue was quite clear but the music really came alive and I did notice certain sounds utilizing my subwoofer during the car and music scenes.  But overall, the music does sound great and clear via Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“GREASE” comes with a good number of special features.  Included on this Blu-ray disc are:

• Commentary: Commentary by Director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch – This commentary is quite interesting as Kleiser talked more about the film side of “GREASE” while Patricia Birch talked about the choreography part of the film.  Both give really good insight of bringing the musical to film, talking about the things they had to accomplish and how Kleiser, Birch and DoP Butler really had to work closely with each other and the talent to make this film successful. You learn about the challenge of filming the National Bandstand segment, the finale during 102 degree weather and how Olivia Newton-John had to have her tight clothing sewn on and more.
• Introduction by Randal Kleiser – A brief :24 second introduction to the special features.  Kleiser does several introductions throughout various features.
• Rydell Sing-Along – This segment is for those who want to watch the musical parts from the film and on the bottom of the screen is a karaoke single along.
• Featurette: The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease – (22:27) This is the main featurette featuring interviews with the Director, producers, the cast sharing their memories of working on the film, working with John Travolta and more.  How Allan Carr and Robert Sigwood made this musical a film and put money into it despite no studio wanting to back it, having to work with a good number of talents, John Travolta talking about why he wanted Olivia Newton-John to play the role, how Jeff Conaway actually played Danny in Broadway and was understudy for several other roles with the exception of Kinickie.  And many more interesting tidbits on the making of the film.
• Additional Scenes: Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes with introduction by Randal Kleiser (intro :13 scenes 11:55 – TRT 12:08) – Randal Kleiser explains how footage was recently found in the Paramount vaults.  The additional scenes found are in black and white.
• Additional Scenes: 1. T-Birds Harass Eugene – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 2. Classroom Announcements – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 3. Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 4. She’s too Pure to be Pink – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 5. Intro to Summer Nights – DEL
• Additional Scenes: 6. Rydell Pep Rally – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 7. Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s – DEL
• Additional Scenes: 8. The Stroll – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 9. National Bandstand – ALT
• Additional Scenes: 10. At the Dance – ALT/EXT
• Additional Scenes: 11. Thunder Road – DEL
• Grease on DVD Launch Party
– (15:13) The cast and crew reunited for this DVD Launch Party back in 2002.  Both Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta performed live on stage singing a few of their classic songs that sung with each other.
• Grease Memories from John & Olivia – (3:23) Both talent at the DVD launch party and discussing how it was like working together and their memories of being on the film and their favorite scenes.
• The Moves Behind the Music – (8:14)  Interviews with Patricia Birch and the talent as they discuss how they learned the dance moves and how it important it was for Patricia to work with Director of Photography Bill Butler in capturing the choreography for film.
• Thunder Roadsters – (5:21) Interviews with George Barris (King of the Kistomers) and Michael Astamendi (Car Builder/Fabricator) and others in regards to making the cars for “GREASE”.  How they focused on customizing because parts for the old Chevy’s are hard to come by.
• John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview
– (1:47) A quick interview with producer Allan Carr and John Travolta on “Grease Day” and Travolta talking about working with the producers and the talent for the film.
• Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview – (2:07) An interview about how Olivia Newton-John gotten involved and the popularity of the film and working with John Travolta and more.
• Photo Galleries:
The photo gallery consists of the following still photos broken down into several categories such as:
• Rydell High Year Book
• Production
• Premiere
• Grease Day
• Theatrical Trailer HD
– (2:09) The original theatrical trailer in its original untouched and aged format, grain and scratches included.

“GREASE” is just one of those timeless classics that never gets old with repetitive viewings.  But I have to be truthful and say how much I was in awe to see the brilliant camerawork but to see how the choreography and just literally everything look quite smooth on film.

And surprisingly watching this again 30-years-later and as the Director and even producers have said in the featurette, they were able to pull things off today that probably wouldn’t happen now.  Quite a bit of sexual lingo but overall, the lyrics of the songs to the mannerisms of the characters is what made things look genuine.

It’s interesting to read some of the critical reviews from people who did not grow up with the film but are more familiar with today’s musicals and drawing comparisons to “High School Musical” and making the comment of how HSM utilized real teenagers for high school life and that “GREASE” utilized 20 to 30-something year olds to play teenagers.  I don’t think any of us who watched it back then ever thought about the age being an issue for the film.  What we saw were popular talent at that time in a movie musical and the film became a success.  Even today, I have no reservations of the talents playing their roles.  They did a fantastic job!

For me, John Travolta was the hottest star coming off with “Welcome Back, Kotter” and then doing “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” in 1977 and Olivia Newton-John was just one of the most beautiful female solo singers at the time.  Both had unique chemistry and the film was well-cast that I felt everything just went smoothly on the final cut.

You really have to give a big applause to Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood for taking the chance of bringing a musical to film but making sure its adapted well for the screen.  Sure we see musicals now but during that time, there was no studio support.  And because the film was enjoyed by audiences, the film is definitely ingrained into America’s pop culture.

Also, I was just amazed through the featurettes and learning how the choreography was done.  Because there were so many people utilized in the dancing segments, Patricia Birchwood wanted to make things come alive but to alter a talent’s own personal dance to make it look right on film.  And of course, Bill Butler, to capture what Birchwood wanted on film, the amount of cutting from scene to scene showing opposing points of view on a song like “Summer Nights” to the ending theme, it was indeed “electrifying”!

Overall, this Blu-ray release of “GREASE” is just the definitive version to own. To watch this classic film in High Definition and to see the magnificent picture quality really brings out the vibrant colors of the film, the energy and beauty of the beach sunset to showcasing the life of youth of the late 50’s.    The DolbyTrueHD 5.1 audio makes the music come alive and last, there are many special features included that will help people remember and celebrate such a wonderful movie musical.

Again, this is the true definitive version of “GREASE” to own!  I was just stunned by how magnificent this film looked and how much clearer and alive the music sounded in High Definition.  I highly recommend this release!

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