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Grease – Blu Ray Review

grease_brd_front-s“Grease” on Blu Ray is like a warm shaft of light. The crispness is great and the sound is good in True HD although because of the master it is a little tinny. This is not a full remaster for the disc as this was done it looks like for the DVD “Rydell Edition” released two or so years back. The movie is an absolute dream so any flaws that might be seen now are simply part of the culture. The only problem with the transfer is in the bright scenes like “Summer Nights” and “Beauty School Dropout” where alot of white is employed. To create the balance in HD, the whites almost complete blow out. But as Randal Kleiser points out in the “Rydell” commentary done less than two years ago, the summer sun comes out on Travolta’s face during the final moment of that song and that is very clear now. Looking at the music sequences in 1080p gets it as close as it can get without 3D which might possibly happen in years to come. I can see it right now as “Hopelessly Devoted To You” plays back in a sing-along mode. The “Hand Jive” sequence when John and Olivia Newton John come out of the crowd is one of the most memorable movie moments if you grew up in late 70s. Patricia Birsch who did the choreography remembers on the commentary what it took to make that gym sequence. They did the shooting of the entire “Dance Off” sequence in five days. The script for the movie is very distincty different at many point than the stage play which Birsch was involved with. Producer/screenwriter Alan Carr was the motivation for that. He seems to give the extra humor for the film version.

At the TV press day for the 20th Anniversary of “Grease” back in 1998 (which I did) I was able to hear Carr’s impressions of making the film before he died a couple years later. Kleiser is impressed how much the films holds up. Granted they spruced up the sound so you can see the placement of sound effects and certain ADR which is unfortunate because you want it to sound that certain way. Patricia and Randal in the commetary also point out Michael Biehn (pre-“Aliens” and “Terminator”) is in a couple scenes as well as Andy Tennant (who I have met in the past ten years) who directed Reese Witherspoon’s “Sweet Home Alabama”. Birsch also speaks consistently about her 20 dancers that she instrcuted in background action which when you think about it really makes a difference. In addition, the sing along aspect has a jump to track feature which is a good one.

“The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease” is a nice little documentary optimizing some interviews and footage from back in 1998 when we did all the interviews. There is a little bit of film B roll. It is interesting seeing John a little more than ten years ago talking about the film. It seems like a lifetime ago yet we were doing interviews with him back then too. The deleted scenes are the first elements I have seen in terms of deleted scenes. They are only seeable in black and white. These pieces are little character moments especially during the dance but if you put them back in now (like moments when George Lucas added bits back in “Star Wars”), it changes the cadence. “Grease On DVD Launch Party” (which I can’t remember why I didn’t go to) looks like an amazing moment. “You’re The One I Want” is great since John gets into it which you could never see before. “Summer Nights” is fun with everyone up on stage. Again once in a lifetime. Probably won’t happen again but it was captured on video and it is here. “Grease Memories From John and Olivia” takes thought from the red carpet of the DVD Launch Party. “The Moves Behind The Music” talks to Pat Birsch and some of the cast of how they interrelated their own thoughts and Pat’s choreography together.

“Thunder Roadsters” is a featurette on old 50s muscle cars and the like which were shown in “Grease”. This is the only segment that seems extraneous on the disc. The “Grease Day” premiere interviews from 1978 was Alan Carr’s creating a buzz on the movie by creating a live TV special. We just see select interviews but it would be interesting to see the whole special. The photo galleries are cool and most are new photographs but there aren’t an extensive amount. The trailer is the O.G. and not the re-release which is good. It makes a difference. The menus are integrated and moving on the disc always which is an evolving trend.

The Blu Ray release of “Grease” has what it needs and then some without overwhelming the viewer. Out of 5, I give it a 4.

Saturday Night Fever – Blu Ray Review

snf_sce_brd_front-s“Saturday Night Fever” gets its Blu Ray Treatment to wonderful success. While different in its progression than “Grease”, there are some iconic moments in this one that sometimes outdoes that later entry. Specifically what really stands out in the transfer here (which is from the remaster two or three years ago) is Travolta’s big solo sequence at 2001 Odyssey. The wide master shot looking up shows everything in the club. Specifically the lights, reflections and the balloons just pop on the screen now and make it look otherworldly. In other formats it looks very unspecific but here the focus and sharpness are unbelievable. The colors are perfectly even inside the world of the club. The Brooklyn elements are shadowy and more character driven so they are not meant to compete with the club’s colors. The rehearsal studio sequence to “More Than A Woman” with the Tango Hustle has a balance of lights as well that seems to be perfectly calibrated in the 1080 mix which with pre-90s film can be a difficulty because the negative sometimes is what it is.

The commentary by director John Badham talks about the approach to the character parts of the story. He talks about how intense the fan presence was at times for Travolta even at that time. He talks about the production design at the 2001 Odyssey Club, the PG rated cut (and doing the coverage for that) and the aspects of how controversial some of the dialogue by screenwriter Paul Wexler (who also wrote “Serpico”) was at the time. He also talks that the Tango Hustle beat in the rehearsal studio (which, in my mind, is one of those great moments) was a move made up by John Travolta and John’s assistant Colleen Murphy over lunch that day. Their choreographer didn’t know he had to work that day and booked a fashion show instead. The “70s Discopedia” is a trivia track that breaks down a lot of behind the scenes elements going on at the time. Many of the characters have continued acting. One show a lot of them seemed to show up in was “The Sopranos”. The track also indicates the John Avildsen ( of “Rocky” fame) was originally set to direct the picture but wanted to change Wexler’s script which producer Robert Stigwood wouldn’t allow. They parted ways on this point.

“Catching The Fever” traces the phenomenon of the film through different elements. “The 30 Year Legacy” talks about how much into pop culture “Fever” has become in terms of its iconic vision of the here-and-now in the late 70s. It is very rare that a musical based film is set in the time it is made. “Making Movie Soundtrack History” talks about how the Bee Gees became involved highlighting interviews with Robin and Barry Gibb. The music for the most part was recorded in the French countryside yet plays perfectly to NY. “Platform & Polyesters” follows the fashion and constume design of the film. One day the designer went shopping with John and they got mobbed. Everything was bought for the film off the rack which was a great marketing tool. “Deejays and Discos” talks about the impact of the film and its integration to basically reinvent disco and keep it going. It also talks about how Studio 54 figured into this and how the age of the Velvet Rope began at this time. “Spotlight On Travolta” involves most of the character actors talking about how Travolta was on set. They all spoke glowingly of him which is very true since he is a very nice guy. “Back To Bay Ridge” has the actor who played “Joey” taking us back to some of the locations which include Tony’s house (which is being renovated), the paint store, the pizza shop and the spot where 2001 Odyssey used to be (now it is an office building). “Dancing Like Travolta With John Chesese” shows the dance that Stephanie and Tony did for the dance competition. It show what constitutes a couple different parts of it and then shows the technique in full motion. All throughout these features however Travolta, even in older interviews or new ones, is not seen which is odd since he did some for “Grease”. However I understand since this is one role he likes to keep a mystery.

“Fever Challenge” is a feature where you can try to keep up like “Dance Party”. It is a fun addition but not very interactive. The deleted scenes are brief including Tony trying to make out with Stephanie in the car, Tony’s dad getting back his job and Travolta doing a “Stella” like set up at Steph’s place at the end. However none of them would have really added anything or changed the film. This release of “Fever” has elements from the DVD release integrated into the disc. The menus obviously are getting better but it is 1080p looks of the scenes inside 2001 Odyssey that truly set this release apart since these scenes look phenomenal as does the “More Than A Woman” rehearsal scene at the dance studio. Out of 5, I give this release a 3 1/2.

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