Dreamgirls: 2-Disc Showstopper Edition (HD-DVD) Studio: Dreamworks Home Video Rated: PG13 (Drug content, some sexuality and language) Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH Time: 130 minutes Disc Format: 2 SS/DL HD-DVD’s Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date:2006 HD-DVD Release Date: May 1, 2007 Adapted from the Broadway stage musical of the same name, Dreamgirls presents a near perfect depiction of the lives of The Supremes. While no one will go so far as to completely deny the similarities to the girl group, or Marvin Gaye, or numerous other 60’s Motown groups and singers, Dreamgirls takes the story and gives us an entertaining flick. The Dreamettes are comprised of Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyonce’ Knowles) and Lorelle (Anika Noni Rose), and they have a dream to become big time singers. When they lose a local talent show, they meet Curtis (Jamie Foxx), who sees their potential, and he quickly signs them to back up Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Jimmy has a reputation for bedding his back-ups, so the girls are careful to stay away from his lecherous pawing. As the tour continues, the girl’s talent eclipses their role as back up singers, and they are soon headlining. Curtis knows for the more mature named Dreams to be successful, Deena must come up front. This juggling of positions puts the more talented Effie into a back up role. Strife ensues between the girls, resulting in changes to the group, but it does nothing to hamper their success. As the years move on, each of the girl’s lives take different paths. Each girl illuminates these roads with different successes and failures. In the end, they find music always brings them together, but love keeps them there. In having seen Dreamgirls a second time for this review, I was left with the same thought I had about it before: technically, it’s an amazing piece of work, but it’s just not exciting enough. This is a film that demands more excitement to get you out of the seat and move a little more. While I appreciate the fact it is a character piece first, the film masquerades as a musical and it lacks some of the zing of director Bill Condon’s previous effort, Chicago. I derived great enjoyment from watching the individual musical numbers and I felt my attention wandering a bit in the space in between. The performances, however, stand on their own. While I would not even think to deny Hudson her credit and accolades for her star turn, it’s Eddie Murphy who stole this show. The fact that he did not receive the Oscar just goes to show how messed up the voting process is for the Academy Awards. After I watched the lengthy documentary on disc two, I gained a new appreciation of the film making process that went into this picture. I am a huge fan of the “film school in a box” approach to DVD extras, and Condon and his crew seem to be too. Once you see this doc and the other bonus material, you see how a movie like this, which seems to be fairly “simple” compared to a Star Wars, demands the same amount of prep work those summer blockbusters need. I was able to look at the picture more from a technical aspect, admiring how it was done, and left behind the boredom I sometimes found myself stuck in while watching it originally. Many of the scenes that I glossed over during the original viewing now have a new interest for me as I’m amazed at how they were done and what a great amount of work goes into a few seconds of film. While I usually like my second viewings to be enhanced with newly discovered nuances in the story or performances, I can accept the same thing from the technical side. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. The picture is correctly framed at 2.35:1, and it is encoded in VC-1 at 1080p. This is an amazing video presentation, with stunning contrast and rich (almost over-) saturation through the entire range of colors. The brilliance of the sets and costumes leap off the screen: I found myself pausing many of the staged musical numbers to look at the work done on individual scenes since they were all so visually fulfilling. Flesh tones are natural and you may even notice some stage makeup on the girls. Black levels are deep and there is a precise and vivid detail in the shadows. In some of the staged scenes, you can even make out the individual lights on the black curtained backdrops and see where the folds blend together. Edge enhancement is not noticeable. I did not notice any compression artifacts or video noise, nor was there any film dirt. When I saw the movie in the theater, I was impressed with the look of the film, but this HD-DVD makes the film pale in comparison with its exceptional colors, details and shadow delineation. Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection. I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. The soundtrack is crisp and clear and free of any distortion. The musical numbers have a good tonal balance, but some of them are a little thin in the lower ranges; I would have preferred a little richer bass consistently. The highs and mids provide an excellent dynamic range and clear distinctions between the various instruments on stage, like a well produced concert disc. Surrounds are used to provide atmospheric effects and they enhance the staged numbers by dropping the audience in the surrounds to present an excellent soundstage. ADR is noticeable since most of the picture was sync’d to the pre-recorded soundtrack, but it is a minor annoyance. I am disappointed Dreamworks/ Paramount did not put a lossless audio track since this is the perfect title to highlight the technology. Bonus Material: With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-4 AVC encoding with Dolby Digital Plus unless otherwise noted. Disc One Extended and Alternate Musical Numbers (36:05): What a blast these twelve scenes are, freed from the narrative, you could leave them on for the background music/ video at your next party to get your guests a-movin’! Included are: Effie, Sing My Song (which is a never before seen performance by Jennifer Hudson); I’m Looking for Something; Goin’ Down; Takin’ the Long Way Home; Fake Your Way to the Top; Steppin’ to the Bad Side; Heavy; I’m Somebody; I Am Changing; Perfect World; One Night Only (regular and disco versions). All of the scenes are finished and mastered in HD (in VC-1) with a DD+ soundtrack. Music Video Listen by Beyonce’ Knowles (MPEG-2, DD+) Dreamgirls Soundtrack Promo (MPEG-2) (1:00): As seen on TV, the ad for the soundtrack. Disc Two Building the Dream (1:54:52): This feature length documentary is split into several parts: On Broadway, The Dream Is Alive, I’m Lookin’ For Something, Feel So Real, You Better Move, Move…, The Sound of Tomorrow, Gonna Take a Mean Ride: A Side, Gonna Take a Mean Ride: B Side, One Night Only. This is an extensive, exhaustive documentary that covers the original Broadway production, the road to the screen, the choices in casting and crew, the costuming, set design, the music…every aspect of the production of this film is featured. I was glued to my screen for the two hours that this doc took up. Bill Condon is very forthcoming and honest about the process and Beyonce’ and Jennifer Hudson stand in mutual admiration of one another. Keith Clark, the writer and director of the doc and Dreamworks should be commended for going to such a great length to detail the production, as well as give it to us in HD! Some of the technical aspects that weren’t covered as extensively in the main documentary get their spotlight here. Condon contributes to each as well as the main participants. Dream Logic: Film Editing (4:08): Editor Virginia Katz talks about the challenges of assembling such a massive picture. Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design (8:21): While Sharen Davis was featured in the main doc, she goes into much more detail about the costuming. We get to see some great pre-production sketches. Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting (8:44): Renowned lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer expand on their critical role in the production. The lighting was designed more from a stage perspective that just happens to be filmed than trying to light a film. Original Auditions and Screen Tests: Three screen tests featuring Beyonce’, Anika Noni Rose and Fatima Robinson’s choreography audition. While these were briefly seen in the main doc, we get the full tapes here. Pre-Visualization Sequences: Seven different sequences are shown through pre-production sketches and storyboards, rehearsal tapes, location photos and a temp soundtrack. Condon mentions that before the first shot was filmed he had over half the picture done in pre-viz. Image Gallery Over 1,100 images from the production, including storyboards, costume designs, production designs, art department archives and more. Conclusions: A conglomeration of some truly stunning parts, Hudson and Murphy in particular, sometimes isn’t quite enough to make this picture great. Technically, Condon and his crew put an amazing amount of work into the finished product, which looks just great. Dreamworks enters in to the HD field with this disc and they have given us one of the best HD-DVD video transfers I have seen and a great set of extras that enhanced my appreciation of this picture. RECOMMENDED!