Plot: What’s it about?
Contrary to what the majority of people think out there, I feel Chicago wasn’t the best movie of last year. I feel that was Adaptation. But I don’t run things and the Academy saw fit to deem it with 6 Oscars, including one for Best Picture. Ok, fine. Chicago was the second true “musical” in the last few years, with the first being Moulin Rouge (a film I thought was much better than this as it was more original and I feel, more entertaining). Granted, the musical genre is something that many had thought gone the way of the dodo as the last musical to win Best Picture was Oliver! and that was in 1968. So while it’s good to see that our movie stars of today can still belt out tunes; are they the same as in the Golden Age of Hollywood or are they just capitalizing on the new “in thing”? Now don’t get me wrong, Chicago was a great movie, I got my money’s worth and it’s something that I’ll watch more than once, I just don’t feel it was the best movie of last year. Suffice it to say, I was a bit irked that Richard Gere didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award (his female co-stars did and Zeta-Jones-Douglas won) too. But alas…
The film takes place in the Windy City during the Roaring 20’s and everyone was having a grand old time. Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) dreams of stardom and while dancing it up on stages, she hopes to find her lucky break. Feeling that she’ll be able to flee her husband, Amos (John C. Reilly), once she has achieved success she can get on with her life and be truly happy. However, her life takes a shocking turn as she meets a man who tells her that he can make her a star. Playing on her dreams, he has his sexual way with her and once she finds out that he has no more connections in show business than she does; she shoots him in a fit of rage. In prison, she meets Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is doing time for committing a double murder herself. These chicks aren’t that nice! Kelly is the current buzz of the media and her incarceration has only given her more exposure than before (she was a dancer and everything Roxie had aspired to be). We then meet the slick lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere who plays lawyers better?) who is only interested in making Roxie look innocent and wants his own name in the papers as well. Cocky and arrogant, Flynn plays the papers like a piano and in the same time has managed to make Roxie the current “media darling” and hence forcing Velma Kelly into the shadows. But, as always, people’s 15 minutes of fame must disperse and it’s not long that both Roxie and Velma are starving for attention.
Lest I forget to mention, many songs are belted out along the way and the soundtrack does have some very catchy tunes; this is what made the movie so likeable to such a diverse audience. The movie, of course, was based on the Broadway play and I feel it only is making the leap to the big screen due to the resurgence of the musical. That’s not bad, per se, but the timing is always everything. While Chicago is a good movie, I’m not sure how well it will stand the test of time. Musicals are like that, but this doesn’t have the same feeling in it as Singin’ in the Rain or The Wizard of Oz. Are we really going to be singing “When You’re Good to Mama” and “Razzle Dazzle” fifty years from now? I doubt it. But to the actors’ credit, they did all of their own singing and I was quite impressed with all, especially Zellweger whose “normal” voice is very high and nasal-like. Nevertheless, this movie raked in the money and the awards and I’m sure that there’s plenty of fans out there that will pick this up. Now as far as the DVD goes, it’s rather scant on the extras (we’ll get to that later). Will Disney be releasing a “Super Special Edition” sometime in the next year or so? I don’t know, but that seems to be the trend these days. For now, this is all we have.
Video: How does it look?
Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, Chicago looks just as glitzy and polished as it did in the theater. For the most part, the whole movie is dark (many of the scenes are at night and in dark nightclubs), but the transfer isn’t that compromised in the least. There are a few times when I noticed just a bit of artifacting, but not many. The fleshtones seem to be washed out from time to time, but I feel this is the way it was supposed to look as opposed to any fault of the transfer. The entire movie, naturally, has a very stylized look and feel and at times you’ll feel like you’re right there in the nightclub! Many reds and blues are shown and the hues seem to capture the mood of the scenes (for instance, someone will start singing and the screen will turn red or blue). While not perfect, this is fairly close to it.
Audio: How does it sound?
Disney has given us two options for audio, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and an accompanying DTS track as well. If any movies out there are really “qualified” to have both tracks, it should be musicals and war movies. Either track is fine, but as per usual, the DTS has the advantage over it’s Dolby Digital counterpart. And here’s why…in several of the scenes (songs) there is just more “oomph” to the track than on the Dolby Digital. The DD is a bit louder, but after listening to several of the scenes back to back, one in DD and the other in DTS, I can safely say that the DTS is superior. Regardless, any route you go, you’ll be getting a great soundtrack.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Surprisingly Chicago doesn’t have a plethora of extras, only sporting three major supplements. The feature commentary with Rob Marshall and his screenwriter is pretty informative. Naturally, the were both very attached to the movie (and Marshall got edged out for the Academy Award by Roman Polanski) and have a lot to offer in the track. Many of the musical numbers are some of the most “talkative” and at times the track tended to get a bit technical. Still, it’s a great track and it’s entertaining as well. A deleted scene, “Class”, is shown in non-anamorphic widescreen and viewable with or without commentary by Marshall. Lastly, a featurette is shown with interviews with the stars and members of the crew. This falls into the “seen it before” category as it’s essentially an EPK featurette. While I’m not sure if there will be an “Ultimate Edition” of the movie, I’d say buy this now and if it does come to a re-issue, I’m sure they’ll make it worth our while. For the time being, this one should have just enough to justify a purchase and I’m sure that fans will be more than satisfied with what’s present on the disc.