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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Fame (2009) (Extended Dance Edition) [Blu-ray]


(Kevin Tanchareon, 2009)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: MGM & Lakeshore Entertainment

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 88/123

Chapters: 28

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case

Release date: January 12th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; DUB: Spanish & French Dolby Digital 5.1



English SDH & Spanish



• Theatrical & Extended Cuts

• Deleted Scenes – (18:11)

• Fame Music Video – (3:29)

• Remember My Name: Actor & Character Profiles - (17:14)

• Fame National Talent Search Finalist – (6:49)

• The Dances of Fame – (6:52)

• Disc Two: Digital Copy



The Film: 5
In the contemporary remake of the 1980 fan-favorite, Fame 2009 follows a crew of dancers, singers, actors and artists over four years at a stand-in for the New York City High School of Performing Arts, which offers students from all walks of life a chance to live out their dreams for real and lasting fame...the kind that comes only from talent, dedication, and hard work.

Naturi Naughton (Notorious) leads the cast of newcomers including Asher Book, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie, Walter Perez and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle. The film also includes appearances by original Fame cast member Debbie Allen as Principal Angela Simms, along with veterans Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, and Bebe Neuwirth. Fame is the feature film directorial debut from music video auteur and choreographer Kevin Tancharoen, known for his work for Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Michael Jackson. So it might be something of a surprise that the choreography for this movie fell to Marguerite Derricks, a three-time Emmy winner.

Considering that the remake endures much the same plot and most of the same set pieces as Alan Parker's 1980 movie, but with a modern beat and dance moves, it might come as something of a surprise that the first movie was rated "R" and the new one "PG", not even "PG-13" mind you. Back in 1980 an "R" rating didn't necessarily come with the same level of "adult" content as today's movies, nor was "PG-13" an option (that distinction came in 1984); all the same, the new movie, which probably deserved a "PG-13" rating (for its abundance of vulgar language) struck me as curiously watered down and hopelessly clichéd. However, this makes sense if we consider that the target audience for the remake isn't so much the same as for the Step Up movies, despite its off-the-shelf hip-hop soundtrack, as it is for graduates of the Disney channel. Even though the fleshing out of what passes for character is more extensive as compared to the original movie, I couldn't shake the feeling that these particular kids should set their sights for an audition on American Idol.



Image: 8/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Production numbers aglow with vigorous splashes of color and light alternate with staid brownish yellow-filtered scenes at the school. The filtration tends to wash out the contrast a bit, but this is likely intentional. The source print is flawless and there appear to be no digital transfer issues of concern. There's a slight tendency to black crush, but all in all, the Blu-ray represents the film quite well.














Audio & Music: 9/5
The image is good, but the audio design is even better. The scene at break time where every hopeful performer does his or her thing, first subdued, then in strength, is telling. It matters not how many artists are at work, everyone is given their share of the soundstage in the correct place and size. With all the hip-hop front and center and underscoring events here and throughout the film, there is every opportunity to overwhelm us with fat bass – but not so. The bass is both propulsive and tuneful. The entire frequency spectrum at all times is given a sensible, yet dramatically compelling balance. Dialogue and singing vocals are clear, crisp and properly placed.

Operations: 2
Hidden menu details again. Boring! In addition to the usual Play, Set-Up and Extras buttons on the main menu page is one titled "Search." "Scenes" or "Chapters" is not good enough – now we have to re-invent the wheel. The scene selector doesn't show all of them at once so you still have to guess or search one at a time for what you are looking for. But the most annoying thing about the layout for this disc occurs in the extra features segment titled "Remember My Name" in which the MGM logo and "Remember My Name" theme music is heard at the start of each one its eleven biographies. Nor does the Play All feature bypass them. It's enough to make you retch.



Extras: 4
In the only Extra Feature worth the name, any doubt that the remake is targeted for those kids who have recently moved on from High School Musical is dispelled as we watch "Remember My Name" which plays like a series of fan club video blogs: Each of ten actors (plus the director), in what is for most of them their first movie, talk about where they were born and raised, where they studied and got their first break, then segue into a comparison with their characters. It's all so rehearsed and contrived. Confidence exudes from every pore. I'm jealous, of course, but I'm also terrified by how fame is marketed. One of the actors in her introduction to herself says: "My name is so-and-so and I star in Fame." "Star"! I ask – in a ten actor ensemble piece shared with four veteran actors. I don't think so.

Bottom line: 6
At first I thought: why remake a classic? But then Fame" isn't "Gone With the Wind." On the contrary. Fame is something of an ideal vehicle to introduce new talent in new arrangements – like a Broadway revival. What is done with this particular revival isn't really bad. At its worst the remake is tediously pretentious. But it's a not unsuccessful first effort for all concerned. I don't think some of the kids are as talented as they think they are, but they do give it their all. The high def image is pretty good and the audio mix is demo-worthy.

Leonard Norwitz
January 16th, 2010






About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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