Michael Jackson's This Is It (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 2-Mar-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Short Film
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 111:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kenny Ortega
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Michael Jackson
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $34.95 Music Michael Bearden


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Michael Jackson's This Is It is the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time. This Is It is unashamedly worshipful of the gloved one, but it delivers a wonderful celebration, tribute, and loving eulogy to one of the most successful and influential entertainers of the 20th century. Director and long-time friend, Kenny Ortega (of High School Musical fame), has created a great concert film from over 100 hours of rehearsal footage recorded for what was to be the King of Pop's ill-fated, final 50-night series of concerts at London's O2 Arena. But perhaps what I found most startling, is the power of this film to shake me from my former scepticism and disinterest, to once again being a proud MJ fan. Released on Blu-ray, This Is It is loaded with enjoyable extras, and has significantly more bonus content than the DVD.

    Michael  Jackson spent most of his life in the spotlight. His showbiz career began at the age of four as the front-man for the Jackson Five. He later left the successful group to pursue a solo career. As an adult, MJ released the very successful album Off The Wall (produced by the great Quincy Jones). MJ and Jones followed its unexpected cross-over success in 1982 with Thriller, which remains the most popular album of all time, selling over 110 million copies globally. The album contained a swag of hit singles, and notably, each was accompanied by a high-quality promotional music video.

    One of the songs from Thriller, Billie Jean, had a music video which portrayed Jackson as an amazing dancer, and a strange person who is not from (or part) of our world. This theme has recurred through his follow-up music videos, and later helped shape his image in the media, where he began to be seen as a sweet and sensitive but painfully shy, crotch-grabbing, child-like recluse.

    Following the staggering commercial and critical success (7 Grammies) of Thriller, MJ achieved mythical status as a pop performer. Bizarre stories about his personal life flooded the tabloid and later the mainstream press. Keeping to himself, MJ again teamed up with Jones, and songwriter Teddy Riley to produce a new album, Bad, in 1987. Again the album contained hit singles which were all accompanied by great promotional music videos, including the title track's video which was directed by one of my favourite film directors, Martin Scorsese. The stories about MJ became even more weird, and he lay low for a while. Meanwhile, the album Dangerous was released in 1991.

    Later, Jackson was to break his silence and make startling revelations to Oprah on international television, admit to a drug addiction, be accused multiple times of paedophilia (and be charged by the police), marry Elvis' daughter, and produce a few more albums (and three children with two other women), continue to have an ever-evolving face (and colour), until one day he vanished from the media spotlight - choosing to live as a recluse in Bahrain as a guest of Sheik Abdullah. Slowly, MJ began to be seen in the mainstream as a character from the 80s - he was spoken about in the past tense. And if he was spoken about, it was rarely to do with his music. Many, like me, assumed his pop-career was over.

    I recall with some surprise last year seeing MJ's press conference on the news, announcing his return - his performing comeback. I freely admit I was sceptical. After all, he was now 50 years old. But This Is It proves me, and many others, totally wrong. MJ still had all the moves - popping, locking, twirling, and gliding magically across the stage. MJ was staging what would have been the greatest stage-show-spectacle ever, complete with amazing back-up dancers, singers, and band, brilliant lighting and sound design, giant mechanical props and lavish staging, precision timed hydraulics and pyrotechnics, and even 3-D movies on the world's largest LCD screen. The concert was also to re-invent and present live on stage MJ's iconic music videos for Thriller, Beat It, and Smooth Criminal. It is clear now that MJ and his production team were working tirelessly to create a live show extravaganza that would be the very best they could stage for his legions of still faithful fans.

I disagree with those that see this film as morbid exploitation by AEG Live and Sony. As Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, stated: “this movie's going to restore his legacy, and prove that we, in fact, gave Michael a second chance here. And an opportunity to make the kind of comeback he was dreaming of. And that we created an environment for him that was probably the best environment that the guy had the last 10 or 15 years of his life. And I'm very proud of the way we treated Michael, and very proud of the partnership that we had with him. And this movie is an opportunity to celebrate that, and we could get past all of the gossip and all of the innuendo”. Perhaps most importantly, this movie provides us with a chance to glimse what would have been one of the greatest showbusiness comebacks in living history. MJ's work ethic, perfectionism, and creativity is captured in This Is It. There is no posing or smiling for the cameras, nor any carefully staged interviews with MJ. There's nothing here but cinéma-vérité - although the filmmakers agreed with MJ's estate to show him in a positive light, This Is It is still unguarded and raw.

    Sadly MJ became a celebrity whose artistry is so stained by his offstage behaviour and decades of (mainly) untruthful and wild accusations in the media, that its hard to remember the impossibly talented performer I idolized as a child. After watching This Is It and once again being exposed to the extent of his extraordinary talent and his creativity, as seen in his complete dedication and perfectionism in all the aspects of creating the show, finally the dark and stained veil has been lifted. Watching This Is It I forget the many years of sensationalised paparazzi trash, and even set aside the real stories about this sad and complex human being. With This Is It I can again simply enjoy the incredible pop songs and magical performance of one of the World's greatest entertainers. Again I can proudly call myself a fan.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This Is It is a hard Blu-ray to review, as the film has been edited together from over 100 hours of rehearsal footage of variable quality. Throughout the image alternates, sometimes awkwardly, between a standard and high definition video source, recorded in various aspect ratios. As a result the visual quality of the film varies wildly, but the worst looking sections are those that suffer from exposure level, where the video recording can not properly capture the dark and shadowy areas of some of the low stage concert lighting. Thus the image problems lie in the source material, and are not in any way a reflection of the transfer to Blu-ray or DVD.

    This Is It is presented with a high definition transfer, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. The film has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.

    The sharpness of the high definition source material is excellent throughout, for example consider the detail in the scenes from the Thriller graveyard and the lush and leafy Earth Song rainforest. The shadow detail and black level are also great with the high definition source material, but woeful for most of the standard definition source material. But to be fair, we have to remember that it was only the material shot in high definition that was ever intended to be seen by the public.

    The standard definition source material fares a little better when we consider the transfer's colour, with a reasonable colour palette and accurate skin tones. But again, it's the the high definition source material that really stands out. Although there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, some Film-To-Video Artefacts such as aliasing, are noticeable in the standard definition source material, but I never found it too distracting.

    15 subtitle streams are present, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a BD-50 (50 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 16 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This movie is music-driven, and fortunately the audio quality does it justice. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is simply awesome and the songs, music, and effects all sound amazing!

    MJ has many decades of hits to draw upon, and the show, and movie, kicks off with the appropriately titled, Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' and powers through many of his pop classics until his traditional concert closer, Man in the Mirror. Finally, MJ sings This Is It over the closing credits. One of my favourite sections of the film is the ebullient, bubblegum brilliance of the Jackson 5, captured here in a medley.

    The rears and subwoofer are called upon throughout, and a great surround presence envelops the audience, with plenty of driving and funky bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a number of genuine extras included on this BD disc.

Floating Pop-Up Menu

    As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.

Movie IQ/BD Live - Exclusive to Blu-ray

    Remember the days of DVDs and out-of-date filmographies? Well a Blu-ray player connected to the Internet solves that problem. This is an online database of text-based information which is to be kept up to date.

Thriller Vignette (3:51) - Exclusive to Blu-ray

    Presented in 2-D HD, this was to be the 3-D introduction to the Thriller song in the concert.

Smooth Criminal Vignette (3:58) - Exclusive to Blu-ray

    Presented in HD, this is the short film, featuring stars from yesteryear like Humphrey Bogart, that was to introduce the Smooth Criminal song in the concert.

Making Smooth Criminal (11:08) - Exclusive to Blu-ray

    Also presented in HD, this is a look behind-the-scenes at Culver City Sound Stage as to how MJ was to be inserted into some classic gangster films.

Staging the Return (40:46)

    Presented in HD with Dolby Digital stereo audio (192 kbps), this is the main extra, and includes behind-the-scenes footage, news footage, and interviews with key people attached to the concerts. Randy Phillips, the show's producer, discusses how the concerts came about, and how he got the ball rolling by approaching MJ to perform at the O2 arena a few years ago. This featurette also includes MJ's famous This Is It press conference, and the incredible response from fans, who purchased 800 thousand tickets immediately. Phillips claims MJ could easily have sold out a further 50 shows, and Ortega speculates that the show could have also toured internationally.

The Gloved One (15:13)

    Also presented in HD with Dolby Digital stereo audio (192 kbps), this is an interesting look at the new high-tech costumes designed by Zaldy for MJ's concerts.

Memories of Michael (16:19)

    Also presented in HD with Dolby Digital stereo audio (192 kbps), this extra includes interview snippets with a number of people who worked closely with MJ, who each share their memories and some anecdotes.

Auditions: Searching for the World's Greatest Dancers (9:50)

    In April 2009, over 5000 dancers applied for the 11 roles as MJ's back-up dancers. Considering programs like So You Think You Can Dance successful string this process out for a whole season, I'm surprised this extra is so short - it could have been a Chorus Line-style film or an entire reality program in itself.

Dancing Machine (15:52)

    Presented in HD with Dolby Digital stereo audio (192 kbps), this extra looks at the amazing choreography, and the dancers who were selected to dance with MJ on stage.

Meet the Dancers (26:11)

    We meet the two female and nine male dancers who were selected from over 5000 applicants.

Meet the Band (12:03)

    This was another extra that seemed far too short. This features the concert's musical director Michael Beardon, and also the talented and lucky, Aussie girl, Orianthi Panagaris, who apparently MJ discovered playing guitar on her MySpace page. The band is ultra-slick and tight, and Orianthi Panagaris rocks!

Meet the Vocalists (11:49)

    Similar in approach to the previous two featurettes, this is a quick introduction to the back-up singers for the concert.

The Unfinished Rehearsals (9:23)

    A look at the preparation for the performances of Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana, which was to feature a very talented gymnast and pole dancer performing with MJ on a 'flaming' bed.

Photo Gallery

    A collection of photographic stills of MJ, the band, the vocalists, the dancers, Ortega, the props, and the concert's costumes and sets.

Trailers

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Is It is region free, but I imported a brand-new and sealed Blu-ray via ebay from the UK (before receiving the local review copy) that was significantly cheaper to purchase than the local release, and included a cardboard slipcase and a full-colour This Is It booklet.

Summary

    Although This Is It only contains rehearsal footage, and to save his voice, MJ only half sings his songs some of the time, the results are still truly amazing. This Is It is a raw and wonderful examination of MJ's unfulfilled potential. The unquestionable effect of This Is It is to leave all MJ fans wishing for something that will now never be.

The video quality is variable, depending on the source material.

The audio quality is excellent.

The extras are genuine and very enjoyable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

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