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Category:    Home > Reviews > Music > Documentary > Biography > Industry > History > Producing > Musical > Comedy > Literature > a-ha The Movie (2021/MVD/Lightyear Blu-ray)/Cloud Nine: Memoirs Of A Record Producer by Richard Perry (2020/Redwood Publishing)/Cyrano (2021/Universal/UA/MGM/Blu-ray w/DVD)/Singin' In The Rain 4K (195

a-ha The Movie (2021/MVD/Lightyear Blu-ray)/Cloud Nine: Memoirs Of A Record Producer by Richard Perry (2020/Redwood Publishing)/Cyrano (2021/Universal/UA/MGM/Blu-ray w/DVD)/Singin' In The Rain 4K (1952/MGM/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: B-/B & C/B Sound: B-/B & C+/B- Extras: C-/C/B Book: A- Main Programs: B/C+/A-

Here are four new releases celebrating classic music, musicals and more...

Many music acts who only have a few hits in the U.S. sometimes tend to be much bigger overseas, including Cliff Richards, Split Enz, Crowded House, Slade, Madness, T Rex, Kylie Minogue, Blur, Pulp, 10CC, Sparks, Jamiroquai, The Jam and even Tina Turner and ABBA. Ahh, the great music we miss out on, but one group that people still love in 'the states' despite not having many hits since the 1980s are still riding on their biggest hit ever here. Thomas Robsahm's a-ha The Movie (2021) is an outstanding portrait of one of the overall best Pop/Rock bands in the world, who offer even more and have survived the decades since in their original formation.

Like Tim Finn and Split Enz in New Zealand, a-ha comes from Norway, where successful bands worldwide usually are not know to originate despite hundreds of talented singers and musicians that are more than capable of turning out great work. The trio is made up of lead singer Morten Harket, keyboardist Mange ''Mags'' Furuholmen and guitarist Pal Waaktaar-Savoy, they definitely filled in the space worldwide the The Police left as a Rock Trio when that band broke up and no matter how many times they took breaks or broke up, save in the U.S. oddly and sadly.

The never-long-enough 109 minutes starts with them working recently live and in studio, as we discover they have their occasion conflicts, but we also discover their instant chemistry and how quickly anything they work on can meld well together, when they do not hit a personal or creative snag. When things go well and it took forever for them to get to where they became a worldwide success, then they are in their zone.

Yes, they have some personal things to deal with too, but under the circumstances, I'd say they did very well and handled things a little better than they might think. Still, they lived the pain and manage to get the good and bad into their music. After an earlier hit version of Take On Me, then the newly recorded international megahit everyone now knows, they continued to have hits like The Sun Always Shines On T.V., Blue Skies, Train Of Thought, the title track from Hunting High and Low, I've Been Losing You, Cry Wolf, Stay On These Roads, Touchy!, Crying In The Rain, Dark Is The Night, Summer Moved On, Minor Earth Major Sky, Forever Not Yours, Lifelines, Foot Of The Mountain, Shadowside and the title song to Timothy Dalton's first James Bond film, which also turned out to be the last hit record John Barry would have from any of his many great films, The Living Daylights!

What is amazing is how many of these songs could and should have been U.S. hits, but radio stations since the late 1980s seem too often clueless in this big market, yet the band can still sing as well as they ever did and they have only become better musicians over time, so to say a comeback (one involving a new record) is long, long overdue and cannot happen soon enough. Most people watching this will say the same thing.

I also have to say I am amazed how open they were with their personal thoughts and lives, yet it is an honesty that is as authentic as their music and I love how they also are always willing to take risks. In all this, they have private lies, side projects and in many ways, really have not peaked yet.

Still, they remain very beloved the world over including from other music acts (Coldplay, plus Weezer just remade Take On Me complete with their own rotoscoped video) and this documentary delivers all that and much more. Definitely go out of your way for this one!

Three deleted scenes are the only extras.

If you love music and hit records, you know they do not happen by accident and some people are so good at it, they are giants in thinking and the making of unforgettable works. For me, there is a small handful of such artists and geniuses and one of them has penned a terrific piece about his life's work. Cloud Nine: Memoirs Of A Record Producer by Richard Perry (2020) is a autobiographic portrait of one of music's most important producers ever, extremely well written, detailed and revealing of its subject, sometimes fearlessly. However, I would expect no less of someone whose work always stuns and impresses me.

He starts with his time growing up, trying to be in the music industry as a singer, musician and hit song writer. It took a long time as these things often do, but luckily for us, they di and boy, did they!

Just as a sample of his hits, think about how successful and groundbreaking this man has been. The many works include the hit Stoney End for Barbra Streisand, the song that launched her into one of the biggest-selling and successful vocalists (especially female) ever to the point that she is one of the only music artist in the world whose albums go platinum (1 million copies) on her name the day of release, he made Ringo Starr's first album Ringo, which made him the most successful of the four Beatles commercially after the band broke up (Paul was in retreat, John was doing Yoko's experimental albums and George was doing his epic mega solo albums while also doing priceless charity work) and managed to pick up where Ringo left off with the band.

He made the late, great Harry Nilsson's masterpiece solo album Nilsson Schmillson, a massive critical and commercial success with several all-time classic hits (Without You, Coconut, et al) and is a peak work from the legendary singer/songwriter era of music. He helped put the great Melissa Manchester on the map with her triumphant solo album Melissa that included the all-time great hit Midnight Blue, then turned around and did the same for the underrated Leo Sayer on his Endless Flight album including hits like You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and When I Need You.

Guess Who lead singer Burton Cummings made his solid self-named solo album with Perry that included his international solo smash Stand Tall, while getting the great a Capella vocal group Manhattan Transfer into the mainstream, making Diana Ross' Baby, It's Me one of her greatest of many great albums and bringing back The Pointer Sisters for his Planet Records label as a hard soul/funk/electronic/New Wave vocal force for several albums and singles including Automatic, I'm So Excited, Neutron Dance, Jump (For My Love), Dare Me and He Turned Me Out from the film Action Jackson.

After making several great albums for Carly Simon, he persuaded the James Bond producers to bring her in to sing the main titles song for the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, the first bond totally produced by Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli after his co-producing partner Harry Saltzman left the series, thinking it was finished. Instead, the film managed to be a big hit and classic Bond film that finally cemented Roger Moore as Bond, handled competition from a new film called Star Wars that opened up the same day as it did and Nobody Does It Better is considered not only one of the greatest of all James Bond themes, but one of the greatest movie theme songs of all time!

We cannot even get into his work with Patti LaBelle, Rod Stewart, Ella Fitzgerald, Percy Faith, Johnny Mathis, Art Garfunkle, Syretta, Fats Domino, DeBarge, Bill Medley, Neil Diamond, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Julio Iglesias, Randy Travis and Tiny Tim. Fortunately, Perry does in this great must-read book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down and if you love music and music history, plus a rare inside look at the music and entertainment industry, this is a must-read book!

Joe Wright's Cyrano (2021) is not only a different take on the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac, but one that does away with the overly-large nose (as Steve Martin's underrated Roxanne (1987) may have had the last word on that approach) the story is known for (something the opening shot addresses) and we have Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage as the poet looking for love and wishing he could attract the attention of the damsel he will ghost-write love letters for a friend of his over.

The bigger unexpected twist here is that this is a musical, so that's two big risks and the results are mixed. The missing nose is not a problem and the songs work at the time, but none of them really stuck with me. The money is on the screen in the form of the production, one of the best looking of the last few years no doubt, but it needed just a few more something extras to really push this over ands it does not quite get there. Granted the supporting cast including Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn fit together and meld well with everyone and everything else. Still lensed better than most of last year's big screen musicals that all seemed to be box office misses, you'll really have to see this one yourself to see if it works for you or not.

Glad they were this ambitious and tried this hard, though.

Digital Copy and a Making Of featurette entitled An Epic Adventure are the only extras.

Another classic is back and better than ever. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' In The Rain 4K (1952) has been restored so well, I have a feeling no one has seen it look this good in many, many years or only very few have. My third time reviewing it, I originally said...

...a tale of Hollywood going from the silent to sound era, is a comedy and includes many past classic MGM hit songs including the ever-present tune that became the title of this film. Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor also have some prime moments co-starring, but everyone is good here and for many, this has become the greatest musical ever because it grasped the essence of what made the genre come alive to begin with. I may not think it is the greatest, but it is up there and has aged very well.

Now, its done more than age well, but plays like a pristine, lost negative of the film that somehow survived for seven decades. It is also one of those rare films that has not only survived and become better with age, but even I think it is more of a classic than even I thought. Donald O'Connor is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this 4K version because he was always great in this film, but this time, you can see smart, ingenious little things he is doing here you miss in the 4K edition in his comic timing and just his general spirit. It is also great to see Debbie Reynolds at the top of her game here, especially since we sadly lost her since we last covered the film.

Yet in a changing world of technology, this tale of how sound and color came to the movies and the movie musical (Cyd Charisse puts this whole film over the top just when you don't know where it will go next, looking like a million dollars, as usual!!!) has a new charm in a world flooded with digital video, digital audio and technology that dates much too quickly.

The film within the film mocks the first full color musical, The Dancing Pirate (1936) which just arrived on video; learn more about it at this link:


But Kelly would also make one of his most underrated films with Judy Garland, simply called The Pirate, which we hope to see on Blu-ray and 4K soon.

And even with his amazing co-stars (yes, that's the actress who played Aunt Harriett on the 1960s Adam West Batman series hosting the premiere night in the beginning of this film) and the studio behind this 100%, it is still Gene Kelly who goes all out and has to carry the film to its final crescendo and being in peak form (despite having a cold the day they filmed the musical number for the title song!) all the time. That is why, only rivaled by Fred Astaire, he is world cinema's greatest singer/dancer of all time and Singin' In The Rain 4K proves this more than ever!

Extras repeat on the Blu-ray with its Original Theatrical Trailer, vintage newsreels tied to the film, Singin' In The Rain: Raining On A New Generation featurette and feature length audio commentary on the film with many of participants in the film including scholar Rudy Behlmer and a Jump-To-Sing feature.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HECV/H.265, 1.33 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Rain was a very painstaking restoration that took many elements that had been produced over the years, some of which survived fortunately well as some of the original three-strip 35mm Technicolor negatives were lost in sections as they caught fire in 1976 and as you know, all nitrate film is made with gun powder, so if they catch fire, its hard to stop them from going up in flames.

Also, one-time MGM catalog owner Ted Turner, then current owner Warner Bros. themselves have been taking care of the film since and that has all added and up pays off big time in this new 4K restoration that is so amazing, even I was shocked, amazed and impressed how good this film looked in its biggest, fanciest moments. You can see the color, detail and money big time, looking so great, I never knew the film looked this good and I have been seeing it, its best copies and best images in books and magazines for decades since I was a little kid. My jaw actually dropped when the musical numbers kicked it, looking as good as the recent Wizard Of Oz 4K and certainly upping the ante in getting all great color film musicals restored to their optimum best, like a very expensive 35mm film print used for rare, special occasions, to say these moments are demo shots for an 8K Ultra HDTV is an understatement!

Warner has been restoring all the classic, brilliant Kelly musicals for a while now, especially through an amazing series of Warner Archive reissues on Blu-ray, but Rain towers over all of them, one of the greatest films of all time, musical or otherwise, can now more than speak for itself when it looks this stunning in 4K. I cannot strongly recommend this for all serious movie and 4K fans and those images have just stuck with me the last few days in the best possible way.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the regular Blu-ray seems to be a repeat of the older Blu-ray we reviewed a few years ago, but it just seems a little less colorful and sharper than that one, though both cannot compete with the 4K version by any means, so any issues and differences are minimal and mute.

The 4K version is ultimately a total representation of a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of the film and easily one of the best of a great year for such releases.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix from the older Blu-ray is repeated here and might sound a tad better, so this is as good as the film will ever sound.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on a-ha combines new HD-shot interview footage with older film and sometimes older digital and HD footage, plus plenty of NTSC and PAL analog video. In those cases, flaws can include video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, staircasing, cross color, faded color and tape damage, but they are rare. Sometimes, the footage available is not the best (the video for their James Bond title theme The Living Daylights needs upgraded) while the music videos look good, including (of course) Take On Me.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes are fine for a documentary with plenty of old and new interviews, but the 5.1 mix is a bit better and the music sound a little better that way as well, so it was my preferred choice after comparisons. Wish all their albums would be issued in 12-track, 5.1 and lossless sound!

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Cyrano is the only all-digital and all-HD production here and it looks pretty good here, enhancing the amazing production design, sets, costumes, locales and cast, feeling period without ringing false. Color, depth and detail make it one of the better HD shoots of late. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix plays like a good mixdown of a 12-track soundmaster and is fine for what it is, but I wished this were in DTS: X or Dolby Atmos. It is well recorded and engineered, music numbers and all.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD version is a little softer than it should be, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixdown is passable at best, making me wish al the more for a 4K edition.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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