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Dolby Digital Trailer - City
Theatrical Trailer - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 5.1 (1:42)
Audio Commentary - Nicholas Hytner (Director)
Featurette - The Making Of Center Stage
Featurette - Extended Dance Sequences (3)
Deleted Scenes (2)
Music Video - I Wanna Be With You Mandy Moore
Biographies - Cast and Crew
|Running Time||111:04 minutes|
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Susan May Pratt
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, partly during credits|
Mind you, having now seen the film thrice, I have to confess that I am rather glad that I did somehow land this for review. Whilst I am certainly not going to proclaim it one of those hidden gems we occasionally come across, and it certainly is not a classic film, there simply is something about the film that is actually quite engrossing.
And yet on the face of it, I could not imagine anything that sounds quite so boring as the synopsis of the film! The plot is quite simple really. Aspiring ballet students gather at various places around the city of New York for auditions to join the American Ballet Academy (a mythical organization albeit one based very largely on the elite ballet schools that are found in New York). From this gathering are selected twelve of the very best to join the Academy and thus start on the next path of their dream - to be selected to the American Ballet Company (again mythical but very much based upon the ballet companies of New York). And so we basically follow the dreams of freshies Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull), Eva Rodriguez (Zoe Saldana) and others as they join the returning students such as Maureen Cummings (Susan May Pratt) vying under the eagle-eyed attention of the director of the Academy Jonathon Reeves (Peter Gallagher) and teachers like Juliette Simone (Donna Murphy) for places in the workshop, the most important stage upon which the next step of their dream can be realized. For in order to reach their dream, they must make a name for themselves in one of the most competitive arts in the world. Very few have the necessary talent or indeed even the right body, as well as sheer bloody mindedness, to reach the highest echelon in this profession and we get to see how many fall by the wayside, or else lower their expectations to meet their perceived shortcomings as far as the very elite ballet companies are concerned.
Not exactly the greatest sounding story but the execution here is superb. Apart from Peter Gallagher, none here are exactly known names in film. There is good reason for this - dance ability was almost essential for casting in this film, and so few non-dancers were cast and those that were, such as Susan May Pratt, actually did have dance experience in earlier training. The reason why dance experience was so necessary is obvious - so much of the film involves dance of some sort. However, devotees of the dance and especially ballet will probably recognize quite a few names here, perhaps none more so than Ethan Stiefel, one of the great male dancers of the current generation apparently (sorry, but my knowledge in this area is not great, but he certainly demonstrates plenty of ability during the film). Even ballet devotees may not recognize the lead actress here, but at the time of the making of the film Amanda Schull was an apprentice (or whatever the ballet equivalent is) at the San Francisco Ballet. This is quite prevalent during the film - many of the supporting cast and extras were young dancers with the various ballet companies in New York. Yet despite the lack of pure acting pedigrees, many of these dancers did an excellent job in really just being representations of themselves on screen.
The film is perhaps best characterized by some rather good direction from Nicholas Hytner, who certainly seemed to have a deft hand at bringing to film the trials and tribulations of being an aspiring dancer at an elite level. Certainly artistic licence has been taken at times - Eva would not have gotten away with as much as she did in real life - but these really are only minor issues amongst a rather well-handled thread showing just how tough it is to succeed at the highest level in ballet.
If you have a keen interest in ballet or even just top drawer dance of any kind (for to succeed at the highest level in any form of dance probably requires the same sort of commitment and luck), then this is certainly a DVD that you should go out and obtain immediately. Amongst movies about dance, I have always had a rather high regard for Strictly Ballroom. In many ways, Centre Stage has supplanted that film and in just so many ways I don't exactly know why. I certainly cannot point to specific items that stand out to me as reasons for finding much interest here, but that is certainly what I found here. Not so much entertainment but rather interest. Well worth having a gander at this DVD, and enjoying some terrific dance.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
Since this is an anamorphically filmed movie, we get to see the usual benefits of such a process: a nicely sharp and detailed transfer, generally very clear with a very nice look to it. The only area that might be considered slightly disappointing is that a few of the night-time scenes could perhaps have displayed slightly better shadow detail, but even that would be really being super-critical. Internal shots of the nightclub for instance were as good as could be expected, providing an effective counter argument if you like. There was perhaps the ultimate degree of clarity missing here, but this does not suggest that there were significant grain problems either (as there were not any). There is no indication of low level noise problems in the transfer. Overall, a very good looking transfer indeed.
Colours are very well rendered throughout and have a high degree of vibrancy as well as naturalness to them. Skin tones seemed especially well-handled and there is a nice depth to the blacks and whites - rather essential since it was a stated intention of the director to highlight the monochromatic nature of the Academy. Watching the film the second time through, it became quite evident that there was a nice degree of subtlety to the black tones as well, so the girls leotards for instance had a degree of individual distinctiveness to them. Even the nightclub scenes were very well handled with oodles of vibrancy and flashiness without a hint of oversaturation at all. Indeed, at no time did any of the brighter colours provide any problems in this regard. There is also no evidence of colour bleed in the transfer at all.
First time through, I could barely find anything wrong with the transfer other than some extremely trivial instances of artefacts. The second time through I watched even more like a hawk and managed to find very little more than the same relatively trivial instances of artefacts. This is a well-mastered DVD! There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Being really really picky you could pick up on a couple of rather trivial instances of barely noticeable aliasing and one rather trivial instance of moiré artefacting early on in the film. By far the worst problem were the film artefacts and even then they were not that much of an issue. Still, it puzzles me why such a recent film should have so relatively many black marks on the transfer.
This is an RSDL
formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 66:29,
which was right after a scene change. This is by far the worst aspect of
the DVD as it is not at all brilliant - quite noticeable indeed. I would
have thought that there were plenty of other places where the layer change
could have been more effectively hidden.
The dialogue and music comes up well in the soundtrack and are easy to understand. There is nothing in the way of audio sync problems here at all.
The original music comes from George Fenton and surprisingly for a film so heavily based on dance (which obviously is very much aided by music) is rather understated stuff. But it certainly is effectively understated as listening to the Isolated Music Score clearly shows significant chunks where there is no background music and in many ways it underscores the nature of the Academy - an almost single-minded pursuit of a goal. When needed though, there is plenty of music to support the dance. Overall, a rather different soundtrack to that which I was expecting.
This is not an overly impressive soundtrack in many
ways, but that again suits the style of film quite well indeed. There is
not a huge amount of rear channel activity apart from a few obvious scenes
(for example, the lobby party), so when it does kick in it is almost quietly
effective! The bass channel also does not go overboard in the support department
and that is pleasing as to some extent I was expecting and dreading a bass-heavy
effort. Quiet understatement is perhaps the key here with enough activity
to bump the film along where required. A nicely open sounding effort that
conveys the essential dialogue and basic music well indeed, without any
defects of any kind.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
26th March, 2001.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|