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Blu-ray Review Newsies: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    Live action movie musicals were dead and buried when Disney decided to make one in 1992 (animated musicals, on the other hand, were breaking all kinds of box-office records). It was a bold move, but one that at the time didn’t pay any dividends. Time, however, has been kind to Kenny Ortega’s Newsies. Filled with high spirits and lots of heart and featuring a tuneful score which improves with repeated listens, Newsies is not a perfect movie musical, but it certainly entertains. A film whose cult has grown to such an extent that a stage version eventually was mounted with acclaim and awards recognition, Newsies now has the popularity it was denied at the time of its original release.



    Newsies: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Kenny Ortega

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1992
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 121 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish
    Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 26.50


    Release Date: June 19, 2012

    Review Date: June 29, 2012




    The Film

    3.5/5


    With his newspaper’s circulation down due to a slowdown in news in 1899, Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) decides to up the price of newspapers which are being peddled by street newsboys. Outraged that their small profits are being cut into further by the fat cats who run the business, head newsie Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) decides their only response is to strike, and in order for that to work (since they have no union), every newsie across New York City must support them. With earnest reporter for The New York Sun (not owned by Pulitzer or William Randolph Hurst) Bryan Denton (Bill Pullman) giving them his paper’s support, the newsboys' strike does succeed in cutting circulation by 70%, but Pulitzer, not used to being on the losing side, brings in his own scabs, toughs, and eventually the police in order to bring the momentum the boys had gained to a screeching halt.


    The screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White is based on actual turn of the century events, and while on the surface the story doesn’t seem particularly musical in nature, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman have found spots where music does heighten the emotions and thus justifies the song and dance. Production numbers abound, full of director/choreographer Kenny Ortega’s spirited dance and flashy leaps and thrusts, but three of them in the film’s first half are a bit too similar in pace and tone to warrant their lengths. The opening “It’s a Fine Life” will remind you of a male-based “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” from Annie, and the later “The World Will Know” and the triumphant “Seize the Day” (with its Irish jigs and more acrobatics) are energetic and toe-tapping if a bit redundant. “Sante Fe” is a beautiful ballad which Jack sings and dances expressing his desire for a family and a settled life, and “King of New York” which is the last taste of victory for the boys before a series of defeats makes splendid use of interiors instead of the street dances of the previous numbers. “Once and for All” brings the movie to a fitting if predictable conclusion.


    But for all its catchy song and dance interludes (and that doesn’t include two brief numbers with music hall star Medda Larkson (Ann-Margret) in Floradora finery which are both unnecessary intrusions into the story), the music and dance seem forgotten about for much of the film’s second half when it could have used some additional ballads to express characters’ feelings of betrayal or hopelessness. There’s a half-hearted romantic interest for Jack with the sister (Ele Keats) of his best friend David (David Moscow) that is pitifully underwritten, and Jack’s last act changes of heart aren’t explored nearly as much as they should have been.


    Christian Bale, sixteen at the time of filming, is not a natural song and dance man (he did his own singing and dancing in the movie), and one can see his intense concentration (almost to the point of counting the beats of his steps) in his big dance solo during “Santa Fe,” but his acting is so real and honest that his inexperience with the musical moments is easily overlooked, and he does a credible Bronx accent. David Moscow makes a lively friend for Jack, and he’s equally hard-working with the singing and dancing pulling both off quite impressively. Among the other street kids, Max Casella as streetwise Racetrack steals all of his scenes, and Marty Belafsky as Cruchy is likewise heartwarming and funny with his spotlight moments. Gabriel Damon may be short of stature, but he dominates all of his scenes as Spot Conlon, head of the Brooklyn newsies. Robert Duvall and Bill Pullman do their usual solid, professional jobs in their roles, and Michael Lerner as circulation manager Weasel and Kevin Tighe as the head of the boys’ reformatory make excellent secondary villains for the film without overdoing the rancor.




    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film’s first half is spotless and sensational in its color saturation levels, contrast, and sharpness, but the second half seems a bit less impressive with milky black levels, average shadow detail, some variations in contrast levels, and occasionally pinkish or overly rosy skin tones. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is impressive in almost all aspects of its presentation. The glorious music score, both songs and underscore (by J.A.C. Redford), gets expansive spread through the fronts and rears giving a real heft to the immersive feel of the piece. The orchestrations are never overpowering, however, so the singers can be heard clearly and cleanly in the center channel. There are some nice panning effects and good use of the rears for ambient sounds when they’re present. No age-related artifacts spoil the aural presentation of this first-rate soundtrack of its era.


    [Reviewer’s note: the opening Disney Blu-ray logo on the disc is presented in system-threatening levels of volume. One is cautioned when loading the disc to mute your sound until that introduction passes.]



    Special Features

    4/5


    The audio commentary is a joint effort by director Kenny Ortega, producer Michael Finnell, writers Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, and co-choreographer Peggy Holmes. It’s a lively remembrance of making the movie, and it’s most impressive with a crowd of this size that no one person dominates the discussion. Each has something important to contribute. Fans of the film will enjoy hearing what its creators had to say ten years after its making. (Amusingly, they mention their desire to see the show brought to Broadway, something that finally happened a decade after these comments were recorded but not by them.)


    All of the video supplements are presented in 480i.


    Newsies, Newsies, See All About It” is a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s production hosted by actor Max Casella. Among those giving brief sound bites are Christian Bale and Kenny Ortega in this 21 ¾-minute piece.


    Newsies: The Inside Story” offers more behind-the-scenes glimpses of the film’s production with comments from actors Michael Lerner, Christian Bale, Bill Pullman, and David Moscow, among others, Kenny Ortega, Alan Menken, stunt coordinator Mike Vendrell, cinematographer Andrew Laszlo, and film editor William Reynolds. It runs 19 ½ minutes.


    "The Strike! The True Story" offers 19 minutes of background history on the real strike between the newsies and Pulitzer/Hurst. Writers Bob Tzudiker and Noni White relate the true story not just of the strike but its aftermath and the lessening of the importance of the newsies over the next couple of decades.


    A montage of scenes showing storyboard-to-filmed scene comparisons can be viewed with or without audio commentary by production designer William Sandell. It runs 6 ¼ minutes.


    Two theatrical trailers (both pan and scanned and very soft) run 2 ¼ and 1 ¾ minutes respectively.


    There is a promo trailer for The Odd Life of Timothy Green.



    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)


    Not a great film musical but an entertaining one nevertheless, Newsies was one of the live action musicals of the 1990s which despite its being a box-office disappointment kept the genre alive for future filmmakers to take advantage of. The presentation of it in this new Blu-ray edition is a worthy one, and one many who love musicals will enjoy revisiting.



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. NY2LA

    NY2LA Well-Known Member

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    Anyone ever look at the credits to Newsies and see Trey Parker? For a few years that seemed to explain a sight gag in Bigger, Longer and Uncut... then I did some research... Ohhh... no sh--!
    The Blu Ray is missing one extra from the DVD...
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    That's a fact! Be careful people. When I checked out my new Blu of Newsies the other night, I thought I was going to blow out my Polks.

    I wonder why the audo levels for the feature and the audio levels for the disc menu should be so disparate?

    And...WHY does the menu not pop-up over the feature?!? If you want to select a different scene, you have to stop the film and go to a sub-standard "scene select" menu (much like a DVD).



    I think those are two different Trey Parkers. Just like the Matt Stone who used to post here regularly was a different Matt Stone...

    Thanks for the review, Matt! This movie has long been a favorite at the Frezon home.

    The night after I checked out Newsies, I then watched my newly purchased Blu of Tom Hank's "Big." I had my own mini David Moscow film festival that week!
     
  4. ahollis

    ahollis Well-Known Member

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    Your right they are two completely different Trey's. Trey Parker in Newises is from Alabama and we all know that the South Park Trey Parker is from Boulder, Colorado. While the Alabama Trey was filming Newises, Colorado Trey was filming Cannibal The Musical.
     
  5. NY2LA

    NY2LA Well-Known Member

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    Yeah sad for the other guy. But the frozen last shot of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" looks a lot like the frozen almost last shot of Newsies. Total coincidence it seems.
     
  6. Escapay

    Escapay Well-Known Member

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    I'm assuming you're talking about "The Strike: The True Story"? It's on my Blu-Ray. Maybe some Blu-Rays don't include it for some reason?
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    No, it's on there. I left it out of the review by accident. I watched it and made notes about it, but skipped it while writing. I'll correct that now. Thanks for catching it.
     
  8. NY2LA

    NY2LA Well-Known Member

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    No, that's not what I meant.
     
  9. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    What did you mean?!?
     
  10. NY2LA

    NY2LA Well-Known Member

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    A little feature called "Talking Newsies." It ain't much but there it was.
     
  11. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I would have looked myself, but I already gifted my DVD copy of Newsies to my daughter (Who was quite pleased. She's even considering a trip to Broadway to see the new show there.).

    Thanks.
     
  12. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Well-Known Member

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    Saw this last night, and quite enjoyed it. I was in the unusual position of having seen the Broadway show before seeing the film it was based on (actually, I'd seen the Broadway show twice, as it is exceptionally good). As for the film, I also enjoyed it very much. Duvall is excellent as Pulitzer, and Bale held his own in regards to the signing and dancing that his role requires. I'm glad the film is finally getting the recognition it originally deserved.

    Thanks for the review Matt..spot on!
     
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    That's a combination of words I never thought I'd see strung together anywhere. I've always equated Duvall's performance here with Olivier's in The Jazz Singer--just a lot of angst-ridden over-emoting.

    But to each his own.

    We do agree in our love for the film. It has been a favorite in my family for years.

    The Broadway Cast did a really nice version of Carrying the Banner at WDW for the annual Disney Christmas Parade special. They incorporated the WDW train station and Main Street areas along with some of the WDW street performers (in period clothing) for extras.
     
  14. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it's true everyone has their own tastes for enjoyment. Duvall is great to me, because he is so over the top in his portrayal of Pulitzer. When he is calculating the savings of charging the newspaper boys more, with his hands flaying and his mouth making sounds like an adding machine...comes across to me as quite funny.

    That said, there is much more in the film to enjoy than just Duvall. The entire cast is great.
     

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