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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Documentary > Pop > Soul > Soundtrack > Songtrack > This Is It (2009/Michael Jackson/Sony Blu-ray + CD Set)

This Is It (2009/Michael Jackson/Sony Blu-ray + CD Set)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: C+/C     Film: B/B-

 

 

The end of Michael Jackson is not what anyone expected.  At first, it seemed surreal and at its most cynical, seemed like a publicity stunt of some crazy ploy.  How could Jackson be dead?  Isn’t he working on a new comeback tour?  He has so much money despite his debts, how could this happen?  Maybe the death of Farrah Fawcett was so shocking that the fact he had died too was too much to take; two of the 1970s most important icons gone for good, but it was the ugly truth and he too was really gone.  This Is It could have been an exploitation piece and we have seen some trying to take advantage of the situation, but it turns out to be a sad surprise.

 

Jackson’s long-time collaborator and choreographer Kenny Ortega has been one of his biggest supporters and he took on the project of editing and directing (which he was in effect doing as you can see when you watch) the hard work, plans, rehearsals, creativity and culmination of what would have pretty much been the biggest comeback in music since Tina Turner return in 1984 with Private Dancer.  No expense was being spared, no detail being left to chance and the result would have been proof that Jackson still had it.

 

Despite reports to the contrary, he still had plenty of energy, all of his facilities, full control of his dancing abilities and his voice still in great shape as the 111 minutes of this surprisingly compelling work show.  They shoot new video footage, push the latest technology, hire a great group of dancers with serious energy, bring on the best music and plan a show that would have been worth every penny of the highest ticket prices.  The taping was both for study and Jackson’s personal library.  Instead, it turned out to be the final word on his talent and that it had not gone away.

 

Between various scandals and the fact that his musical themes had slowly grown darker since he parted ways with Quincy Jones did not help his vast popularity, especially with the youngest children he was originally reaching, but he still cared about the music and enough fans were waiting for him to get his act back together so they could enjoy him again.  It is with some irony that his mixed album Invincible arrived just days before the 9/11 attacks, but it killed the album, which would be his last studio effort.

 

What Ortega has made sure to do here with this release is show what a great show this was, would have been and that like Turner and Elvis in 1968, Jackson would have reaffirmed his legend with this return.  Jackson was 50 and even he knew this would be his last tour, though never say never.  However, the grand statement Ortega successfully makes by finishing this film is to show that he was a legend, was a great performer and submits this as the last testimony to that.  He is correct.  It is amazing just to see the behind-the-scenes footage, so a final polished show would have gone through the roof.  It is a classy, extravagant final word on Ortega’s part, making sure Jackson goes out on top in a profound manner.

 

He was right.

 

 

A double CD tie-in soundtrack set has been issued with CD 1 offering 24 original studio versions of the songs being done for the show plus two versions of the title song.  One has vocal and one is more instrumental based.  As has been reported, the song was the best of what was left behind and turns out to be from a collaboration with the great Paul Anka that Jackson cut-off after working with Anka (also a former teen idol) decades ago.  It is not bad, but not great.  If Jackson had just seen the project through with Anka, it would have likely been a better song.  CD 2 has four bonus songs that are demo versions of four of the hits: She’s Out Of My Life, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Beat It and Planet Earth.

 

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image has some fine moments, especially when we see the final results of the new footage being shot for the giant video screens for the tour that never happened.  We also get more than a few low definition footage moments and just about all the footage is digital, but it is often High Definition.  Editing is a plus, but it does have its motion blur moments and has the same flaws you would expect from any documentary.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is usually like a documentary in that you get location audio flaws, some good stereo moments and older music audio can sound good.  However, this is at its best when the newly recorded live music and music for the practice segments kick in and really engage the surrounds.  Too bad this was not more often, but even audiophile fans (especially of Jackson, still unhappy with that lame 2-channel SA-CD of Thriller) will be impressed at those moments.  The PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo on the CDs are just fine for what they are, though the demos can have some flaws and slight compression.

 

Extras include Blu-ray exclusive BD-Live and movieIQ interactive features, Making Smooth Criminal featurette about the new Video shot for the tour and vignettes *in 5.1 sound) on Smooth Criminal and Thriller.  Also offered are 2 Making Of featurettes and 3 additional featurettes: The Gloved One – Costumes, Memories Of Michael and Auditions: Searching For The World’s Best Dancers.  The CD has a nice color booklet built inside the bound package and two of the pages hold the two CDs.  My only complaint is that the pages have a slight opening at the bottom where they should not.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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