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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Comedy > Drama > Animal Care > Death > Accident > Politics > Racism > Dance > Hip Hop > Ba > Cover Girl (1944/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Horse Whisperer (1998/Disney Blu-ray)/Margaret (2011/Fox DVD)/Step Up (2006/Disney Blu-ray)/Under The Tuscan Sun (2003/Disney

Cover Girl (1944/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Horse Whisperer (1998/Disney Blu-ray)/Margaret (2011/Fox DVD)/Step Up (2006/Disney Blu-ray)/Under The Tuscan Sun (2003/Disney Blu-ray)


Picture: B-/B-/C/B-/C+     Sound: B-/B-/C+/B-/B-     Extras: C/C/D/C/C-     Films: B-/C/B-/C/C-



PLEASE NOTE:  The Cover Girl Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 copies and is available exclusively at the Screen Archives website which can be reached at the link at the end of this review.



Here is a group of new releases with name stars, including one who has had three big box office hits in the first half of 2012.



I wanted to start with the two music-oriented titles to make appoint and because we reviewed them before on DVD.  First we have Charles Vidor’s Cover Girl (1944) which we already covered as part of The Films Of Rita Hayworth DVD set at this link:



Then there is Anne Fletcher’s Step Up (2006) which launched the career of Channing Tatum:




Cover is a good musical and having Gene Kelly on board does not hurt, but Hayworth was the big star here since she was a sensation at the time and that a then-smaller studio like Columbia was not supposed to have the hottest sex symbol in town as (often noted before by many) only the major studios were supposed to have the best.  However, it happened the opposite way and the result is one of the best musicals the studio turned out in the classic era.  Hayworth had the personality and beauty, mixing well with Kelly and helped cement her legendary star status.


Forward over 60 years later and Musicals have been succeeded by soundtrack-driven non-musicals, but Step Up (the first of too many) with its dance competition could at least qualify as a Backstage Musical of sorts as the male street dancer and classically trained female dancer predictably will meet up in the end.  Since there is a female director, male star Tatum gets the attention the female lead usually would get in a Musical (co-star Jenna Dewan is not as remembered) and as been the case in Tatum’s rise to stardom, he has made it there the old fashioned way (hard work and many films versus being over-marketed at us and shoved in our face for no good reason; something that has killed a few dozen careers in recent times) so this is a curio even more so than when the DVD was covered.


Unfortunately, this is still a formula film, not that good, holds up even more poorly than when I suffered through it last time and a curio at best.  It is also fair to say you could never imagine Tatum would have the success he has had based on this hit, but it was a hit and here it is.  In both cases, we see how the star system works in the Classical Hollywood way and that it can still work, so maybe the studios need to take notice instead of being so artificial with their talent.


Extras on Cover do not include the two featurettes from the DVD version (the one with Scorsese is especially missed), but another nicely illustrated booklet with a Julie Kirgo essay is included, while the disc adds a trailer but no isolated music track.  The extras on Step are the same as the previously reviewed DVD.



Horse movies hardly ever work.  Save the occasional ones that do (War Horse, Secretariat) and those that are big and do not (Hidalgo), most are really B-movies done on the cheap or for the worst possible reasons (bad variants of “family values” that are blatant propaganda) and hey, horses are cheap to hire.  I had some hope for Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer (1998) and it does have some fine moments, even introducing to the wide public this alternative and non-cruel way to train and handle the amazing animals.  However, even with Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Diane Weist, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Cooper on hand, the film fell flat and did not stay with me despite some good scenes.


Redford is the title character and the film has a good look, but it is only so involving despite how professionally it was produced.  It has its fans and they should be happy with the upgraded edition, but I’ll pass.  Extras include a Music Video and three vintage featurettes.



Kenneth Lonegan’s Margaret (2011) has an effective Anna Paquin as a young lady with issues shopping one day when she tries to ask a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) where he got his hat when she is shopping for one.  The problem is that he does not stop the bus he is driving and lands up hitting and running over a woman (Allison Janney) setting off all kinds of trouble for all.


There are two versions of the film, after some confusing and contradictory information, it turns out this is the longer version of the film though we thought we have the shorter version from the Fox DVD, but despite this, we have a good film here with fine performances all around (including from Matt Damon and Kieran Culkin) as well as some good dialogue and the semi-raw approach works.  However, we have seen some of this before and some of this seems choppy or ineffective, but the longer cut might correct that.


Still, this is well made and worth a look, though get the Blu-ray if you can and I was surprised it was as watchable as it turned out to be.  Paquin is an actress with much to offer and she carries the film more effectively than she might be getting credit for.  There are no extras, but I would like more on why the various cuts at least.  Odd.



The same can be said for Diane Lane in Audrey Wells’ Under The Tuscan Sun (2003, yes a second female-directed film in one review!) which is part of a cycle of films where the female lead has to leave the U.S. (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, How Stella Got Her Groove Back) to find romance and better sex in what traditionally (read Classic Hollywood) would be a totally romantic notion, but increasingly reads as the U.S. being unromantic and sexually dead and boring.


This film is too predictable and boring as so many of these formula films are anymore, though Miss Lane looks good and Sandra Oh is always a plus.  This is just too lite and forgettable, but you know it has some audience, even if it was not a big hit, so now you can see for yourself.  Extras include a feature-length audio commentary by Director Wells, Deleted Scenes and Tuscany 101 making of featurette.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Cover Girl looks to be the same mixed transfer source from the DVD, which features a sometimes impressive representation of the dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints of the film it originally was issued in, but with improvements over the DVD (better color range, more depth) comes new issues (fading and flaws are more visible) and the transfer is inconsistent because the print is inconsistent.  Sony is going to have to track down more print material to further upgrade and save the film, but this is still better than the DVD enough to recommend the Blu-ray version and not enough people have seen the film.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Step and Horse are not perfect and have some detail and color limits, suggesting they have older HD masters, but the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Tuscan is the worst of the Blu-rays with much grain, poor resolution, poor detail and bad depth.  This ruins the location shoot and just looks awful.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Margaret is a new 35mm shoot and should have at least looked as good as Tuscan with its DVD, but this is for whatever reason very soft and just not looking very good.  So once again, if you can get the Blu-ray, get that version instead.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 lossless mix on Cover Girl is a little warmer and fuller than the lossy Dolby Mono on the DVD version, once again making this Blu-ray the best version for now.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the rest of the Blu-rays (all by Disney) are dialogue based for the most part and even with each other, save Step Up with its Hip Hop score being the loudest component of the soundtrack.  Though better than the lossy Dolby 5.1 on the DVD version, the mix sounds a little dated, has soundfield issues, can sound harsh and some of the music is not that good, including yet another terrible song by Chris Brown that really ruins the flow of the film and its rhythm.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Margaret is the weakest here with sound too much in the front and center channels.  Hope this sounds better on the Blu-ray.



As noted above, Cover Girl can be ordered while supplies last at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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