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Michael Jackson ‘This is It’ – Movie Review

3 Nov

‘This is It’ couldn’t possibly replace the 50 concerts Michael Jackson was supposed to be performing at the O2 Arena in London this year. It is made up entirely of rehearsal footage where at best Jackson gives only 75% of what he may have at London. Costumes were not sorted, singing was restricted to keep his vocals fresh, dancing was still in the experimental stages and music and backing videos were still be worked on. Was Jackson alive there is no way he would have allowed this footage to be shown, the perfectionist that he was. However we all know what happened there and so to give the fans what they want (and to make some much-needed cash)  Sony have released this rehearsal footage in the shape of a movie.

And in fairness they haven’t tried to replace the actual shows. This is a sketch of a concert made up of different rehearsal footage, interviews, backstage banter and video footage Jackson was recording to accompany his performances. And as a behind the scenes making of this works very well indeed, and it will certainly please the fans who so desperately wanted to see him live.

What we get here is basically the full concert (Although some songs weren’t included, probably because the quality wasn’t good enough) made up of various days work, recorded on decent cameras and edited pretty well. The singing is live on all but about 2 songs, and the music sounds so fantastic, brought up to date but still kept largely as we remember it. During these songs the director has tried to feature as much of what would have actually appeared at the concerts as possible, so we do get to see the footage of what he had planned in terms of special effects, video and costumes. In between songs there is brief behind the scenes footage that is very insightful, if kept rather minimal. Below is the setlist as well as I can remember it.

1. Wanna be starting something
2. Jam
3. Don’t stop till you get enough  (we didn’t see Jackson perform this, but they played the instrumental which suggests it was planned to go here)
4. They Don’t Care About Us/ History/ She Drives Me Wild
5. Human nature
6. interlude
7. Smooth Criminal
8. The Way You Make Me Feel
9. Jackson five melody
10. I’ll Be There
11. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground
12. I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
13. Thriller/ Threatened
14. Beat It
15. Black Or White
16. Dirty Diana (we know Jackson was planning on performing this, though it isn’t featured in the film)
17. Earth Song
18. Billie Jean
19. Man In The Mirror

As setlists go this is a pretty amazing selection of songs. My one complaint would be the distinct lack of ‘Off The Wall’ material; his best album in my opinion. I also expected to see at least one brand new song performed live, but oh well. Highlights include Wanna be Startin Something, in which he would have opened with  explosions and stunts before hovering above the audience in a ‘video’ suit – it looked incredible but we only got to see a cgi mock-up. The suit would then be opened and he would step out and kick into a storming version of the opening track from Thriller.

Jam impressed; it was a vast improvement on the new jack swing influenced studio version that never really apealed to me. Smooth Criminal and Earth Song had impressive video sections and on Human Nature and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You Jackson proved he was as good a singer in 2009 as he was in 1989.

Thriller was the undisputed highlight of the movie; there was a short film that would have played behind Jackson that was basically a modern remake of the original video (minus story) that would have been in 3D! There was also a huge spider on stage that Jackson could climb into and ghosts and ghouls on wires would have flown across the audience and down the isles. The costumes on the dancers were so well designed and the music was excellent, plus new spoken part!

If there was a disappointment it would be Billie Jean, which was a world away from his famous Motown 25 performance. Here Jackson seems only half interested, only marking out dance steps, singing occasionally and not performing his legendary moonwalk or wearing the well known costume. It is here that we are most reminded of the nature of this film; it is nowhere near a finished product, merely the footage of a man in preperation for a concert that was never to be. It left me tantalised, wanting more and wanting to see the finished product.

For what it is ‘This Is It’ is virtually flawless. The fact that they were able to do anything with some simple rehearsal footage is an achievement in itself, and fans are extremely grateful for just this. The film has been edited almost perfectly with a tasteful opening and ending, and just the right amount of behind the scenes footage and interviews edited in. Overall I couldn’t have asked more from this film but that isn’t to say I didn’t want more. Go into this expecting to see a man in preparation for the greatest show on earth but don’t expect to see a finished concert because you will be disappointed. This truly was it for Michael Jackson, and if this movie proves one thing it’s that he left some amazing songs as his legacy.


This is It

13 Oct

The lead single off the soundtrack to the movie ‘This Is It’ was premiered last night via Sony records. The song will be the first of no doubt many posthumous releases from the Jackson camp although this one in particular is not a new recording. The song’s history is fairly unknown with most sources suggesting that it was recorded in 1991, although judging from Jackson’s voice I would say 1981 is a much more realistic date.The Jacksons provide backing vocals and that combined with the soulful melody make it sound more like the 70’s Michael than anything released since. Whenever it was originally recorded, It is known that the song was considered for ‘Dangerous’ and for whatever reason was not chosen, but the version that appears on the new soundtrack has been given a 21st century production upgrade.

The song can most easily be categorized as the sort of ott ballad that Jackson used somewhat as a crutch in the 90’s. Like ‘Will You Be There’, ‘Heal The World’ and ‘Man in The Mirror’ the song makes the most of inspirational lyrics, an anthemic chorus and slick production. Of course this song is not as strong as the aforementioned and lacks a certain smack, bang and wallop. However In terms of production this is one of his better offerings since the early 90’s as unlike most of ‘Invincible’ it hasn’t be computerized and polished to within an inch of its life. The song has a funky baseline, motown-esque strings and pretty background vocals from Michael’s brothers. These details help to make this one of the better Jackson songs of recent times.

Despite not being entirely new, and by no means a classic, ‘This Is It’ is a very welcome addition to MJ’s cannon and hopefully it will be joined by more songs in the coming months. Listen below.

Michael Jackson – This Is It Trailer!

14 Sep

The trailer to the upcoming movie, ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It’ was released last night at the MTV Music Video Awards. This is quite ironic as the award show can trace it’s roots back to Jackson, who helped create the show, because at the time he felt Madonna was getting more recognition than he was (even more ironically Madonna gave a speech praising Jackson before the trailer was played)!

The movie is out on October 28th worldwide and will be in cinemas for only two weeks. Little else is known about the film except that it will combine rehearsal footage, behind the scenes material and presumably some new interviews. It’s certain to be one of the events of the year and I will certainly be there. Below is the trailer and it’s awesome.