Chicago Blu-ray Review
VerdictI really like the movie, it is as stated one of the only musicals I can stomach and here it looks and sounds the best I've seen to date.. Sound wise, this is absolutely wonderful and the extras, while lifted straight from the Razzle Dazzle edition, are comprehensive, interesting and informative. The musical numbers just work very well and even if we wondered how odd the casting was at the time, it does work but I still wish that it still didn't have that grain, as slight as it is here. If you want a musical to showcase HD - you need look no further.
PictureEarlier versions of Chicago had a superb print and image quality to them which was completely ruined by the level of grain. Both the R2 UK and Japanese DVD editions, which I own suffered this quite shocking level of grain which I believe is unforgivable for a title that is A-list. The Blu-ray edition is leaps and bounds ahead of these in terms of detail - you can see every hair on the dancers' arm in Cell Block Tango and even the skin texture! It's quite amazing really how much texture can be seen in that song alone.
In terms of skin tones, everything looks natural and colours are vibrant, from the red neon glow of the Chicago logo in the opening through to the bright whites and contrasting colours in the finale. I didn't notice any artefacts present but the Blu-ray still has an inherent amount of grain in some scenes but it is not as bad as the standard editions. However, I'm beginning to feel that, having seen it in 4 different incarnations, that it is intentional, although I don't recall it the 3 times I viewed it at the local flea pit. Still, it looks superb and I'm more than happy with this.
SoundI always thought that the DTS on the standard DVD's was a great soundtrack and the Dolby Digital one present on this disk is on par with the Dolby on those discs too. However, the uncompressed track is, to my ears, astounding. It's clearer, more natural sounding and has a much better range overall. As mentioned, Cell Block Tango is one of my favourite tracks and I couldn't believe the difference on this track - you can hear more bass to the voices for starters, but the clarity and power is considerably better. It's not just this song either - the opener is just as exhilarating and I've watched the movie so many times it was a real revelation hearing it this way. Forget the DVD soundtracks, this is how a musical should sound. Who cares about the Phantom and his, oh so quiet, TrueHD soundtrack - this is powerful, warm and just the best I've heard Chicago - ever.
ExtrasI won't go over old ground for this release, as it's the same as the Razzle Dazzle edition, suffice to say we have the same commentary track and deleted song “Class” as found on both the aforementioned edition and the original release. However, we also get the 27 minute documentary “From Stage To Screen - The History of Chicago”, which discusses, among other things, the opening night thru to the casting and opening night of the movie itself. It features stars Chita Riviera and Jerry Orbach from the original stage show telling short stories of their experience and how Fosse would have loved the movie. Certainly interesting for those who want to know more about the original stage show.
We then have the extended musical performances, which are for “And All That Jazz”, “When You're Good To Mama”, “Cell Block Tango”, “We Both Reached For The Gun”, “Mister Cellophane” and “All I Care About”, which aren't really extended as such, but what they are is actually far more interesting. What you get is the original song as seen in the movie, but it's interspersed with alternate angles or rehearsal footage and sometimes you see these on the same screen all at the same time in little windows. It's quite a nice way to get behind the scenes without the normal talk track or people playing to the camera. Of course, I'm biased when I say that Cell Block Tango is the best one, but honours do go to “And All That Jazz” as this was quite lengthy and you could see a lot of effort by Zeta-Jones in the rehearsals. On the second page of this part of the extras, we get “All I Care About”, “Nowadays” and “And All That Jazz” from Start to Finish. These are similarities to the aforementioned footage, but these are more focused on the rehearsal side of things, where we are treated to the stars and dancers rehearsing the numbers, see the stars recording the songs in the recording studios and also see the rehearsal gaffes. On the third page of the part of these extras, we get the rehearsals for “I Can't Do It Alone”, “Hot Honey Rag”, “We Both Reached For The Gun” and “Cell Block Tango”, well that's what the menu says - the Cell Block Tango is more behind the scenes than a rehearsal, but it's all good stuff to watch anyway.
Chita Rivera's Encore is a 5:09 minute featurette where they focus on Chita Rivera's cameo in the movie, which is nice especially as before I didn't know who she was, but now I understand who she was in terms of Chicago and why she's in the movie. Nice to see the passing of the torch, so to speak.
An Intimate Look at Director Rob Marshall is a 19:40 minute featurette about the director, complete with glowing testimonials from the stars. It's a little gushy at the beginning, but it is quite interesting to see him behind the scenes as the choreographer. Not bad.
When Liza Minnelli Became Roxie Hart is a 13:15 featurette where we're informed how Liza helped out the show when the actress playing Roxie Hart feel ill and she offered to stand in (without publicity). It's also interesting as they have show her singing with Chita Rivera on the “Dinah” show the song “Nowadays” - apparently the only footage available of them performing a Chicago duet from the 70's. Certainly one extra that will appeal to fans.
Next, we have 2 featurettes which feature on John Myhre, the production designer and Colleen Atwood, the costume designer. These possibly are here as both individuals won the Academy Awards for their relevant field as well as the fact that both of these contribute towards the overall look for the movie. It's not particularly fascinating but they are short enough to get an idea of their ideas and where they were coming from in their designs.
Finally, we have the 35:49 minute featurette of VH1's “Behind the Move - Chicago”, which is a very typical making of featurette. I loved the anecdote for the bruising of Zeta-Jones legs, due to the strenuous rehearsals where she asked “Who wants to ice my thighs?” Of course, who could resist an offer like that? Still, it's full of facts, like did you know Richard Gere starred in Grease in the West End? Neither did I. Informative, but not groundbreaking as such. Overall, a considerable leap from the original release.