PictureRent bursts out at 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec and correctly framed from its original 2.40:1 theatrical release and I have to say that this release is a wonderful presentation. There's a wealth of detail to be seen in every shot, from the distant skyline of New York, the streets of Alphabet Village with their outdoor balconies and fire escapes, the indoor scenes of their warehouse apartment filled with objects and debris all of which come across clearly, to the fine Aryan blonde eyebrows of Anthony Rapp. Colour saturation is excellent; blacks never crush and whites bloom occasionally but never frequently enough to take your mind off the film; the only smearing occurring due to mis-applied lipstick by the make-up department.
The source is again in excellent condition, which should be the case for a film only a few years old. I never once saw any scratches, marks, dirt or blemishes of any kind. Encoding again is top notch with none of the usual artefacts to be found, no blocking, contour graduations or enhancement.
The film lacks some of the pop found on more recent releases, probably due to the nature of the scenes in question rather than any inherent defect in the processing. However whilst detail in the foreground or up close is perfect, some distant objects do loose a little clarity; still a more than respectable transfer.
SoundYou have two lossless tracks here, a standard PCM 5.1 or a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1. Choose whichever you can best utilise as neither shows any discernable difference over the other. The musical scores themselves come across beautifully, emanating perfectly from the centre stage with absolute precision, the background music widening up the fronts from left and right and panned as required.
Dynamically it's really the mid and high tones, which take precedence; there's not a lot of use for LFE here and that is by no means a disappointment. The sub's there when needed for some bass lines but it's not adventure and excitement which Rent is about.
Surround use is fleeting with cars passing by, birds, or the chatter and background noises in Mimi's club but again like the LFE don't be expecting a heavy session from them, it's just not needed. I was generally pleased with the sound design presenting what would have been more or less on offer from a theatrical production, up front, clear and no distractions from over use of both LFE or surrounds.
- Commentary with Chris Columbus, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal.
Chris, sitting in San Francisco, is joined from New York by Anthony (Mark) and Adam (Roger); the wonders of modern technology. Columbus takes centre stage here discussing the production of Rent, how surprised he was when he was asked to take the helm and the differences between this and the stage production. For these snippets he is joined by Anthony and Adam who obviously have a much greater knowledge of the Rent musical having starred in it since its conception. It's an enjoyable commentary, each having a few jokes, usually at the expense of the others there, and all come across as amiable guys. Worth a listen if not a little luvie at some points, but hey that's the stage for you.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:12:03
4 deleted scenes plus an alternative ending. These can either be played individually or on mass, with or without director's commentary. It's the usual fare really, a couple of additional songs; Benji coming across as a more likeable chap in one but you can see why they hit the floor. I did prefer the alternative ending, I thought it brought the whole production full circle and I for one would have had this in the film instead. Each to their own though.
- Documentary: No Day But Today. - 1:52:12
This in itself is well worth the price of the disc and I have to recommend anyone who pics up this disc not to miss it. It's essentially a tribute and biography of Larson himself, how he lived, when he first learned of a La Bohème update in the pipeline which he took over and which ultimately became Rent. Through to his untimely demise and the nature of his disease. His friends and family are interviewed and all point that his ever lasting tribute is the ongoing production of his one and only musical. It's a moving piece and, well produced and would turn all but the hard heartened into RentHeads.
Two trailers are on offer, one for Stomp the Yard, the other for Across the Universe.
The disc itself doesn't come with a great number of extras but what is does include are well worth the space. The commentary is pleasant to listen to and exposes some useful information; the documentary itself has to be one of the finest I have ever seen included on any presentation. Its factual, well crafted, detailed, and more importantly lean; it adds nothing that it doesn't need to. For something just under two hours this is high praise indeed.
Those people who worked with Larson and then on Rent still carry his torch to this day and rightly so I think. To these ends there are short adverts on the extras disc for The Jonathon Larson Foundation which gives support to struggling artists and for The National Marfan Foundation, the disease which Larson suffered from.
VerdictWell I do enjoy musicals in the theatre, didn't think I would when I first went, but there is nothing like seeing actual people perform live. When taking a respected piece such as Rent you have to tread carefully because its transformation to celluloid is not an easy task. Rob Marshall did a sterling job of Chicago and Columbus more or less hits the mark here with Rent; and that's really slightly more rather than a lot less.
It's fair to say that I more than enjoyed this feature, loved most of the songs; the filming, framing and choreography more than respectable. If anything I would have liked Columbus to dive a little deeper into the darker side of drug abuse or show the absolute squalor of some unfortunate souls who have to scrape by for a living; here they look a little too polished for my liking.
Still for some this disc has to be recommended, those who enjoy musicals. For the rest I can certainly say rent Rent as you might well be surprised. Either way it's an interesting 2 hours just getting the disc for the Larson documentary. Recommended.
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- Commentary with Chris Columbus, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal.