When Michael Jackson announced plans last year for a big comeback tour series, cynics scoffed that he was finished as an influential performer and that there was little public interest in such an enterprise. Unfortunately Jackson’s sudden death ended those plans, but it also triggered a commercial rebirth of his musical catalog that was so great at the end of the year that Billboard revamped its system for measuring weekly album sales.
Choreographer/director Kenny Ortega compiled rehearsal footage of the ill-fated comeback tour and other items into a feature film This Is It that also proved a theatrical smash and eventually played in theaters far longer than originally announced.
Today This Is It (Sony) arrives on DVD (both regular format and Blu-ray) and even those who’ve seen the movie may want to get it due to the extras included, particularly in the Blu-ray versions.
That set includes completely re-imaged video intros for ‘Smooth Criminal” and “Thriller,” plus discussions on the stage show’s organization and breakdown of plans for filming videos that would have been integrated into Jackson’s complete performance.
Editing 120 hours of rehearsal footage down to a workable feature ensured that many things couldn’t get into the movie. Many of them did make it into the DVD package for This Is It — a final tribute to a genuine star who, despite many moments of bizarre and controversial public behavior, consistently delivered magical, glorious performances.
Surrogates disappoints — Jonathan Masters’ Surrogates, also being released on DVD Tuesday (Touchstone) is exhibit A for many of the things wrong with contemporary science fiction films. It’s visually magnificent, with lots of quick edits, CGI effects and gimmicks, but far less impressive in terms of basic storytelling and narrative substance.
In the near future, America’s become a nation of watchers rather than participants. Surrogates can be employed to do everything for people, from basic tasks to heroic feats. But when a user dies as his surrogate gets blown away in a street fight, a cop (Bruce Willis) discovers that there’s something deeper than simple watching involved. He stumbles into a convoluted conspiracy scenario involving a rebel leader (Ving Rhames), some other surrogates and the inevitable shadow corporation.
Despite some good guest performances (in particular James Cromwell), Surrogates never got beyond the surface in exploring such issues as changing definitions of humanity, the loss of privacy and personal identity — even the role of the police when crime seems to be steadily declining. These are all briefly presented, then abandoned when more fights or car chases or whatever other visual flamboyance occurs to refocus attention on the surrogates or Willis’ attempt to solve the crime.