Sorry, What to Watch took a turkey day break as last week was really light on new product worth mentioning. This week? Pretty much the same but we don’t want you to miss us too badly. Here’s five recent Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming releases that may have caught your attention on new release shelves lately, ranked in the order we’d add them to our holiday wish list.
Blu-Ray Review: Incredibly Entertaining ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It’
CHICAGO – My concerns that the documentary “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” would be nothing more than morbid exploitation of the death of a music legend were immediately proven unfounded by this mesmerizing document of what life was like behind the scenes with the king of pop, now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
What one first notices in the opening scene of “This Is It,” as Jackson rehearses “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” is how little Michael had lost as a performer over the years. His off-stage exploits overshadowed the fact that he was still completely on top of his game when he had a microphone and a stage. Wisely, “This Is It” is not a document of loss as much as it is a celebration of the talent of Michael Jackson and the way it inspired those around him - from back-up singers to costume designers - to do their absolute best.
“Michael Jackson’s This Is It” started as a document of what was going to be one of the more elaborate and impressive tours of all time. Intercutting footage from a few different rehearsals, it becomes (mostly) clear what that tour would have looked and sounded like. There a few numbers that seem less refined than others, but most look and sound close to done. Jackson rarely misses a note or a step and this is during rehearsal. One gets the chills imagining how on top of his game he would have been during an actual show.
“Michael Jackson’s This Is It” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony Picture Home Video
There’s an interesting artistic approach to “This Is It” from director Kenny Ortega that really enhances the spirit of the piece in that he doesn’t just focus on Jackson’s performances. It’s not just a concert film. It’s almost like a rough draft of a concert film with raw footage, incomplete numbers, impromptu singalongs, and even moments when Jackson criticizes those around him.
It didn’t have to be that. Ortega could have merely chosen complete numbers and deified further a man already considered a god to so many. But, considering how many “star on stage” movies we’ve seen, the focus on the collaborative process of putting something like this tour together is far more interesting to this viewer. Consequently, the film serves as both a documentary on the complexities of a massive stage show and proof of Jackson’s legacy as the King of Pop at the same time.
To be fair, some numbers work better than others, but isn’t that true of any stage show? My least favorite numbers (the clearly-not-done “Thriller” and the somewhat shaky Jackson 5 material) may be the songs that other fans play over and over again. I also think “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” runs a bit too long at nearly two hours (although the beauty of Blu-ray is the ability to skip a track or two if you’d like, which I think will help make this a massive hit on the home market). Of course, the actual show was probably going to be even longer than this film’s running time but the “wow” factor of the first half of “This Is It” wears off a bit by the end.
Having said that, I get the feeling that the magic of this movie won’t wear off for serious MJ fans for many years. There were rumors floating around before the film’s release that it would include funeral footage. Ortega realized that would have been a mistake. This is not a eulogy. This is a celebration. And it’s a damn entertaining one. Just as Michael would have wanted.
It helps that the Blu-ray release of “This Is It” looks and sounds downright amazing. The HD picture is perfect (although, of course, a lot of the material was not shot using HD cameras…but the blend of HD and standard is never as jarring as it could have been) and the sound is even better, expertly mixed to enhance what is primarily an auditory experience. The Blu-ray includes several entertaining featurettes but, somewhat surprisingly, no deleted scenes. It looks like, sadly, this really is it.