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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert [Blu-ray]


(Bruce Hendricks, 2008)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Walt Disney Pictures

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 82 min.

Chapters: 11

Size: 50 GB

Case: Locking Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: Release Date: August 19, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85.:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



Feature: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Uncompressed PCM (48 kHz/16-bit); Spanish & Portuguese 5.1 DD. Bonus: English 5.1/2.0 DD



Feature & Extras: English SDH



• 4 pairs of 3D glasses

• The Ultimate Personal Tour with Miley Cyrus & the Jonas Brothers (11:24)

• Additional Songs (x2)

• Sing Along with the Movie




The Film:

I'm not sure when the exact moment occurred, or with whom, that the idea of a touring teen star to adoring teenage audiences first took hold – Donny & Marie? David Cassidy? Joan of Arc? Back in my day it was Paul Anka, Fabian and Frankie Avalon (though for a while I used to think they were the same person.) Now there's Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus (who actually are the same person).

At the time of the start of the Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in October 2007, Miley Cyrus had just turned 15, with the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" TV show - where Miley played a mild-mannered teenager by day and a rock star named Hannah Montana by night - well into its second season. The very popular Jonas Brothers - Nick, Joe and Kevin – who share the spotlight with Miley, were 15, 18, and 20 at the time of the tour.



The stage director for the concert itself is Kenny Ortega, who was also responsible for the High School Musical movies. The film of the BOBWC tour was spliced together from the opening Salt Lake City and St. Louis concerts by Bruce Hendricks in the form of a rock concert/documentary. Hendricks is no stranger to the wonderful world of Disney, having exec-produced all three Pirates of the Caribbean flix. His spare documentary approach gave us just enough to see how complicated the show was, but not enough to see how a single number evolved into the final product. This would have been the stuff for a bonus feature that never happened – at least not for now.

Miley's parents are very much present – always respectful and supportive, yet coaxing when Miley was reluctant to place her trust in her fellow dancers, having been dropped once. Miley's mom, among other things, is her daughter's dresser, making certain that everything comes off and goes on in the right sequence during those incredibly brief costume changes. Billy Ray, for all his stage experience, struck me as less centered than his daughter, whether he was being encouraging or extolling her virtues.

In preparation of this review – and to get the proper perspective on things - I interviewed my 11-year old friend, Cheyenne, who has seen the concert in three of its permutations (the live show in San Jose, the theatrical movie in 3-D and the TV movie. Cheyenne says she's pretty much oversaturated with Hannah by now - whose name, she quickly adds, can be seen everywhere – adding she's ready for the older, more rock & roll oriented Miley. Since Cheyenne is a huge fan of the Jonas Brothers, especially middle brother Joe, she was more than happy to see them featured in the tour. She liked that the movie broke up the concert with the backstage clips, but felt that they weren't as funny as she expected, given the advertising.

The theatrical cut had its television premiere in 3D on the Disney Channel on July 26, 2008 (which was practically yesterday) and had other showings in 2D, 4:3 and letterbox, as well as HD right up to the release of the DVD & Blu-ray versions. The DVD and Blu-ray videos are, to the disappointment of many fans, not entirely identical to the theatrical version of the movie: there are a few additional songs, and a couple of omissions – likewise for the backstage material (if I read my Wikipedia right HERE)

The idea for the tour, which its title cleverly underscores, was to bring Miley and Hannah together – and more to the point, to unmask Hannah as Miley and introduce Miley, as herself, to her audience. (Would the real Kathy Selden take a bow!) The concert evenly divides the songs between the trendy Hannah and the tomboyish Miley – with a few numbers by the Jonas Brothers between them before Hannah can step out of her telephone booth as Miley.

For it is Miley Cyrus who is the real superstar here. She wrote most of the songs and, taking nothing away from Kenny's exuberant stage direction, provides the show's energy and heartbeat. Of course, Miley doesn't have to do all this by herself. When we see the elaborate staging and choreography for the concert, where every turn of the leg, every arm and hand gesture seems designed for effect and spontaneity by turns, we can't help but be impressed, as she must, by the visible and invisible support she gets from all quarters. (Judy Garland never had it so good.) Even the audience appears to collude in the illusion of artless bedlam.

At one point, Miley tells her adoring young fans – and they are young! - that the "reason you are having so much fun and I'm getting a chance to live my dream" is because of the fine work by her crew and backup musicians. I don't know just how scripted that line is, but combining the idea of their fun and Miley's dream seems to me to speak right to the heart of the matter: It tells us how Miley lives in the altered state that she does and why the audience shares in this with her. It's as if they were to scream loud enough, her life on stage would infect theirs. It's guaranteed to infect their dreams.



Image: 8.5/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

The 2-D Picture: Having just reviewed Disney's teenage musical, Camp Rock, on Blu-ray last week, and finding the image not of high caliber, I was a little surprised to see how very much better the BOBWC movie turned out. And while the backstage and other docufootage was variable (from fair to excellent), the concert material was fabulous. To be fair, the action rarely settled down long enough for me to evaluate the image properly, still the entire approach to rendering the live event was of a different species entirely. The transfer appeared not to enhance or alter the original photography, permitting color changes and pyrotechnic explosions as they must have appeared to the audience. Flesh tones looked natural only when they were not recast by the lighting director.

The 3-D Picture: The Blu-ray box includes not one, but four pair of nasty 3D glasses that eventually take their toll on the ears – but then they weren't designed for my ears. They have to be taken off anyhow for the non-concert segments of the movie, which made for a needed respite. I confess my experience with 3D is largely confined to theatrical movies that were lit with 3D projection and viewing (with glasses) in mind. I always preferred the black & white movies (like Creature From the Black Lagoon) because the color and brightness losses for color movies cut into advantages of the illusion of three dimensions. Without getting deeply into the technicals here, what we respond to is the not inconsiderable falloff in light (I'll admit I've seen much worse) and color values, even reducing the picture to shades of purple. That said, I found the experience to be clever and, to an extent, engaging. My main problem was the constantly changing perspective distortion that would result in parts of one's body in the foreground appearing to be separate from the rest of it. Should be a kick in the pants for the younger set, however.















Audio & Music: 7<8/7
The rock concerts and amplified musicals I've attended over the years have had pretty much universally awful audio – which is surprising when you consider what's at stake. I remember a Camel concert in the early 1970s whose sound was decent, but by and large, there's usually more noise than music, with overindulged bass and treble, and voices that get buried in the mire or are shrill to the point of headache. I attended a Hugh Masekela concert at UC Berkeley just this year, which was one of the better attempts at getting to the heart of the music and projecting to the audience. But, under the best conditions, in the best venues, where you sit can undermine the best of intentions.

Which brings me to the question of audio for a rock concert. In an important, but easily misunderstand way, there is no real-world comparison between a live, theatrical rendering and a video. Not so much because the video is unable to incorporate the original audio – and it wouldn't have been able to come close before the advent of uncompressed audio on high definition discs – but because what the concert audience hears is not what the recording engineer hears. Even if the recording engineer can capture his or her intentions in a surround mix, it isn't going to be the same as what the concert audience hears. And, if my past experience is any guide, this can only be a good thing.

The new mix has the opportunity to bypass the problems inherent in a live concert – the presence and overwhelming noise of the audience and the playback equipment and ambience of the hall. Not that a home theatre system is likely to be any better, but the mix might. And to the extent that one's audio system at home is up to it, the result can actually be clearer and more dynamic than the experience of anyone in the concert hall at the live event. Of course, there is nothing, not even a good surround sound system, that can recreate the electricity of a shared experience with 2000 other like-minded fools, but we here understand that limitation and move on.

So, what about the two uncompressed English audio tracks for BOBWC. Since both the 7.1 and 2.0 mixes are rendered at roughly the same level, it makes comparison relatively easy: The 2.0 PCM mix is a mite clearer, the voices a little better separated from the backup, however the bass suffers big time and the audience just about disappears. In short, the sense of involvement and immersion is practically zero. You might as well be listening to a CD.

Alas, the 7.1 DTS-HD, while terrific at reproducing the feel of the hall with both audience and the performers in it, the bass and mid-bass swallows the voices and the guitars (what guitars?) I hasten to add that my playback system, as good as it is, might be improved with a better player (I have the PS3, but something like the Denon deck is reported to have better audio) and an Audio Note amplifier for the surround.

I must further add that for Miley's half of the concert, what I just reported as liabilities recedes: the guitars and drums regain their natural liveliness and quite a bit of their power; and the voices, especially Miley's, begins to emerge from the muck. (By the way, the two Bonus songs are realized in 5.1 DD and therefore do not have the benefit of uncompressed audio.)


Operations: 7
Walt Disney Studios Blu-rays continue their chapter-skipable previews and prom os before the loading of the feature film begins (And once again I am grateful for the PS3). The menu is laid out so that even the dullest of us can use them without assistance. Chapter stops are coincident with the intros for the various songs, which can only be a good thing.


Extras: 3
"The Ultimate Tour" is cute and brief as we follow a casual and candid Miley about (and later a Jonas or two), but it's not really meant to be informative. As mentioned earlier, the very nature of the movie offers clues, but little substance to the how of the concert – for that matter, likewise, the why. A bonus featurette following a stage number from conception to its final execution would have been just the ticket. Also needed was something to flesh out the relationship between Hannah and Miley. It's not a question that the main audience for this concert film already knows this, but that a feature is needed to document the journey. The Sing-Along provides the lyrics for the two or three kids who don't already know them by heart and for the older kids, like us, who might want to know just what this 15-year old is singing about.



Bottom line: 9/7
For its intended audience, and especially on this awesome Blu-ray video, the BOBWC movie is an essential purchase. For those who see ourselves as cultural historians and cinephiles, the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert has to be seen and heard at least once to be believed and believed in.

Leonard Norwitz
August 19, 2008








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