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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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Chicago: Diamond Edition Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Lionsgate
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DD, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Rating: PG-13
- Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet
- Case Type: keep case with a slipcover
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 02/11/2014
- MSRP: $14.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) has always wanted a career in show business, and she begins an affair with Fred Casely (Dominic West) who promises her he has connections in the business. But when Fred admits he lied simply to get Roxie in the sack, she shoots him in a fit of anger and seems destined to become Chicago’s first woman to be hanged for murder. Through the auspices of her crooked prison matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), Roxie connects with slick, shady lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) who promises an acquittal if Roxie and her slow-witted husband Amos (John C. Reilly) can come up with his $5,000 fee. Meanwhile, Roxie’s story has pushed nightclub chanteuse Velma Kelly’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) own double murder trial off the front page, and the two divas vie to see who can remain number one in the Chicago sleaze press while each attempts to find her own way of getting away with murder.
On Broadway, Chicago was billed as “A Musical Vaudeville,” and director-choreographer Rob Marshall has stayed true to that concept telling the tuneful story of Roxie and her various cronies through her mind’s eye as musical performances. Apart from the opening and closing numbers – “All That Jazz” and “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag,” the numbers are fantasy acts which Roxie, Velma, Mama, Billy, and Amos play out in her head all the while actual events in Roxie’s real life are also occurring (which results in much frenzied cross-cutting between songs and story within almost every number). Bill Condon’s script offers a perfect motif for those allergic to characters bursting into song in other musicals: these numbers are a part of Roxie’s imagination, and the vaudeville motif in its dizzying array of incarnations is brought forward in each one of them. That doesn’t stop them, of course, from advancing the story or commenting in sourly satirical fashion on the characters’ flaws or the gossip-hungry world which they depict. This was the brilliance of the original show and, by extension, this film version (though one must hurriedly add that in order for this conception to work, several of the show’s most memorable numbers – “My Own Best Friend” and the hilarious “Class” – had to be dropped along the way because they couldn’t be worked into the fantasy framework.
Rob Marshall’s dazzling choreography (with some nods to the original stage dances by Bob Fosse but numbers which are definitely of his own design) sometimes gets overwhelmed by the razor-editing: we get glimpses of great dancing in “All That Jazz” or “Cell Block Tango,” but the cuts are sometimes ruthlessly fast, and the camera doesn’t always catch the stupendous dancers in full figure to better appreciate the fancy steps and intricate patterns. Better is the marionette number “We Both Reached for the Gun” which is simply mind-blowing in its complexity and narrative power as we see clearly the phoniness of the lawyer and his charge and the willingness (naiveté?) of the press to play along with the lies to make a good story and sell papers. And the principals each excel in one or more solo moments which all rank as career high points for them.
Catherine Zeta-Jones began her career in musicals in London, so she’s assuredly in her element singing and dancing up a storm in “All That Jazz” and “But I Can’t Do It Alone” along with impressive ensemble work in “Cell Block Tango” and her end duet with “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag.” Richard Gere, too, started out in musicals, so his confident handling of “All I Care About Is Love,” “We Both Reached for the Gun,” and “Razzle Dazzle” isn’t a huge surprise, either. But Renee Zellweger had had precious little singing or dancing experience (unless being a college cheerleader counts), and yet her canny mixture of innocence and pointed poise in singing and hoofing in “Funny Honey” and “Roxie” are rather a shock, and by the time of “Hot Honey Rag” she appears to be Jones’ equal with the fast footwork and the ability to really sell a number. Queen Latifa had already sung slow jazz in Living Out Loud to great effect, but “When You’re Good to Mama” lets her cut loose on material that’s alternately sly and sexy and perfect for her delivery. John C. Reilly, also a veteran of stage musicals in his younger years, handles the sad sack “Mister Cellophane” number like a master. In smaller roles, Christine Baranski as sob sister columnist Mary Sunshine (a role played on stage by a man in drag, another nod to old vaudeville traditions but not used here) does well, and Colm Feore as the D.A. out for blood has effective non-singing moments as well. Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, and original stage Velma Chita Rivera pop up in effective appearances.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
This new edition of Chicago does boast a new remastered transfer but with the same 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. Contrast has been slightly boosted here resulting in more vibrant color (occasionally running maybe a touch too hot). There really isn’t much if any increase in sharpness, however, and black levels are similarly impressive. The transfer continues to have a fine, film-like appearance. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
Audio Rating: 5/5The new edition also boasts a new surround encode: Dolby TrueHD 7.1. For those who have those rear back channels available, you notice quite a difference from the earlier PCM 5.1 mix with more musical activity in the rears: more noticeable placement of instruments and chorus singers in the rear channels (some may find they need to adjust the back channels a bit if the volume level overpowers the front soundstage). Split ambient effects like cars moving through the frame do have a nice amount of panning through the soundstage. Dialogue and the vocal lines of the singing come through beautifully in the center channel.
Special Features: 4/5The only bonus feature ported over on Blu-ray from the old release to the new is the audio commentary by director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon. For the cut “Class” number and the “Stage to Screen” featurette from the old release, one must play the DVD enclosed in the case. Other bonuses from previous releases have not been ported over.
These are the new inclusions with this release:
Chicago in the Spotlight (2:22:19, HD): all of the principal cast members along with director Rob Marshall, his partner/directorial assistant John DeLuca, and executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron relive the entire production process of the film sharing anecdotes from early script meetings through casting, the rehearsal period, the production staff chosen, changes in the final cut, and its delirious reception around the world.
Extended Song Sequences and Rehearsals (SD): multiple camera shots of numbers (shown in split screen windows) and home movies taken in the rehearsal space are offered for the following numbers: “All That Jazz,” “When You’re Good to Mama,” “Cell Block Tango,” “We Both Reached for the Gun,” “Mister Cellophane,” “All I Care About Is Love” (extended and rehearsal), “Nowadays,” “All That Jazz” rehearsal, “I Just Can’t Do It Alone” rehearsal, “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” rehearsal, “We Both Reached for the Gun” rehearsal, “Cell Block Tango” rehearsal.
DVD/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.