Reviews, Reports + Comments

Sunday, February 13, 2011


2009, 11-04:



Kenny Ortega.


Michael Jackson

Kenny Ortega
Alex Al
Nick Bass
Michael Bearden
Daniel Celebre
Mekia Cox
Misha Gabriel
Chris Grant
Judith Hill
Dorian Holley
Shannon Holtzapffel
Devin Andrew Jamieson
Bashiri Johnson
Charles Klapow
Jonathan Moffett
Tommy Organ
Orianthi Panagaris
Darryl Phinnessee
Mo Pleasure
Dres Reid
Ken Stacey
Tyne Stecklein
Timor Steffens
Stacy Walker

MPAA Rating:

Rated PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images.


“This is it!”

MY Rating: 

Director:  Kenny Ortega

Rating:  8.5 of 10 stars (for the 111–minute film)

An effective and ENJOYABLE chronicling of his rehearsal work

I view this inherently as a simple DOCUMENTARY of the efforts on preparing for a planned group of 50 LIVE SHOWS Jackson had signed to do in the United Kingdom…

…  There has been considerable controversy about it, such as complaints that the editors very carefully “selected” footage from the 110 or so hours shot on the subject (& sold to Sony’s Columbia Pictures for $ 60 million), so as to not show Jackson looking or doing BADLY in the film…

…  But, that’s what editors tend to NORMALLY do when making such a final version of such documentaries!  I’m judging it on what it SHOWS & provides, not on what is NOT in it (which I’d have no way of independently verifying)!…

…  The film starts out with the process of interviewing & AUDITIONING some of the best dancers & singers from around the world, all of whom were clearly eager to work in the show…

…  From the hundreds or so looked at, they chose to highlight the rehearsal work done from March thru June of 2008 re the 11 or so main dancers finally chosen, + the 4 or so backup singers and some of the musicians and crew including director – choreographer KENNY ORTEGA (well known for his “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL” films & others)…

…  The shows had already been SOLD-OUT in the U.K., so the work was logically viewed as a “sure thing” for those hired, & they were understandably eager to be associated with such a “high-profile” venture with a major superstar (as it was likely to help their careers)…

…  In an interview shown, one of the just-chosen male dancers comments in a sincere way that he always wanted to be involved with “something to BELIEVE in, and THIS is IT!”…  That “This is it!” phrase is also later spoken by JACKSON himself at one point…

…  As Ortega and others explain, the plan was always to make the performances a MULTI-MEDIA experience for the eventual concert audiences, rather than just a simple musical show: 

…  There were considerable efforts to create special VIDEOS to be projected in the background as the singing & dancing was done, & details are shown of efforts to shoot things against “green screens” for later “insertions”, special costumes & choreography done in an elaborately filmed “GRAVEYARD” routine (as I recall, for the 3-D “Thriller” number where he comes “out” of a “spider” that opens up), directions from Ortega, periodic suggestions by Jackson for improvements, etc….

… One section has excerpts the show intended to use of film siren Rita Hayworth performing the song “Put The Blame on Mame” from the 1946 film “GILDA”, shots of Humphrey Bogart, & others.  As the film goes on, you see Jackson & his excellent group of dancers & singers doing various interpretations of lots of his HIT SONGS…

…  He wears lots of different costumes -- including a light blue vest jacket & blue jeans, a long white jacket with stripes & a blue-banded fedora, etc..  At times, when MJ is onstage alone rehearsing certain sections, his dancers (& sometimes singers) watching on the sidelines seem to be getting huge sincere “KICKS” out of seeing him doing so well

…  As shown in this movie, there was to be a section of the show dedicated to famous JACKSON 5 numbers.  MJ sounded particularly good on “I’ll Be There”, & there are very well-done examples of “Man In The Mirror” (from his “BAD” album”) & (from the hugely successful “THRILLER” album”) “The Girl Is Mine”, “Beat It” & “Billie Jean”, plus “I Believe In Miracles”, “What Have We Done”, etc.

…  Director Ortega is always deferential when speaking with Michael, clearly as a sign of respect, and he’s usually “gentle” when he makes suggestions and asks questions…

…  Michael lets his opinions be known on dance routines, when he feels certain musical sections could be better done another way, etc--  but, while he’s often strong in his opinions on how things could be improved, he doesn’t do it in a “bullying” way & often congratulates & THANKS people for what they’ve done & said…

…  From old footage shown in the film, you can easily see the huge physical changes in MJ’s looks thru the years… 

…  Near the start of the film, it’s clearly stated that the plan was always to CHRONICLE the story of the assembling of the live shows, mainly for Michael Jackson’s PERSONAL use (as had been done in the PAST)--  tho it’s never clearly said whether or not there was an “auxiliary” plan to use it for a possible documentary for PUBLIC release to help with the story of his long-planned “comeback”…

…  Even from the main camera’s “viewpoint”, you can readily see various OTHER people with cameras filming things from other angles…

…  MJ at times works onstage directly with specific vocalists such as JUDITH HILL (including a duet on “I’ll Be Loving You”), once in a while with certain musicians (such as female lead guitarist ORIANTHI & discussions with percussionist BISHARI JOHNSON), and very often in complex dance routines with his 10 or so male dancers & 2 female dancers.

…  MJ died in “suspicious” circumstances on June 25th [2009] at the end of the 4-month rehearsal period--  just 8 days before he and his large group of dancers, singers, musicians & “backstage” people were to leave for England re final dress rehearsals & the main performances already scheduled…

…  It looks like the shows would have been blockbuster successes, with most of the attendees witnessing some GREAT work by all involved… 

…  Even tho I liked certain of his work thru the years, in no way would I describe myself as an “M-J-niac”…

…  Nevertheless, as to this film, I felt Jackson looks GOOD, dances WELL (even in exhausting type numbers), & his voice SOUNDS GOOD (even when he says he’s “holding back” to “save” the voice for later).  To me, that’s what “counts” (as do the high-quality PRODUCTION efforts re sound & video in this movie), & that’s why I rated the film as I did… 

…  You can hear the ballad song “THIS IS IT” in the film.  It actually was written quite some time before--  in 1990, & registered by writers MJ & PAUL ANKA under the title “I NEVER HEARD” on 03-05-91 (& recorded on a Mercury CD called “I Wasn’t Born Yesterday”)…

…  Reportedly, there are literally HUNDREDS of UNRELEASED tracks that MJ left in the “vault” (& which you might start hearing in the not-distant future due to the considerable worldwide SUCCESS of this film)…

…  Someone says during the film that MJ will in-effect always be “The KING of pop” & the like.  The SAD thing is that it appears from this film that he still “HAD IT as a performer & entertainer, & that he was ‘extinguished” just as he was about to PROVE that to an often-skeptical worldwide public…

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