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PCR #501 (Vol. 10, No. 44). This edition is for the week of October 26--November 1, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Michael Jackson's This Is It"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Michael Jackson's This Is It"  by Mike Smith
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Halloween Horror Nights 2009  by ED Tucker
Japan: Land of the Rising Spirits  by Jason Fetters
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After 2 Series, Freeman Starts .... Favre Returns To Lambeau .... Gay Culverhouse Talks To Congress .... Florida Tuskers Can Take ’em .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
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Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Michael Jackson
Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hour 52 mins

As a young boy in the 1960s I was a fan of the Jackson 5. Bought their records, watched their Saturday morning TV show, begged my parents to get me a hat that read TITO. In 1984 I had the privilege of seeing Michael Jackson and his brothers at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on their Victory Tour. In what I can only describe as prophetic, 25 years, 1 month and 5 days later I found myself again in our nation's capital, this time seeing Michael Jackson's last performance, the concert that was to never be documentary "This Is It."

In early 2009 Michael Jackson announced that he would be putting on a series of concerts (the number grew to 50 sold-out shows) in London. It was to be, in his words, his "final curtain call." The name of the show, simply, "THIS IS IT." Sadly, Jackson died 8 days before his first scheduled concert. However, as a perfectionist, Jackson had all of his rehearsals videotaped. Show director Kenny Ortega has whittled the hundreds of hours of footage down, managing to showcase an entire career in under two.

The film begins with auditions for dancers, who have traveled from literally all over the world (Australia and Holland to name two) for a chance to dance with Jackson. As most of them are in their early 20s, they all credit Jackson as their inspiration. The fact that they were even invited amazes them (as one of the choreographers says, they "took all the big fish and put them in one pond."). When the 11 dancers are chosen the emotional impact is overwhelming. The movie continues with an almost "greatest hits" feel. Ortega has compiled a comprehensive vision of the show as it progressed. Jackson and his dancers appear in various stages during the same number, often combining early rehearsal footage with what could be called "dress" rehearsal material, when the show was close to being finalized. Throughout it all, Jackson proves his reputation as a perfectionist. If a dancer is a beat off, or a musician misses a cue, MJ doesn't miss it. He is quiet but firm in his comments, often adding a sincere "God bless you" to the wayward performer in lieu of saying thank you.

I have found that most people identify with performers from their generation. Some will argue that Frank Sinatra was the greatest entertainer they ever saw. Others will claim that title for Jackson's one time father in law, Elvis Presley. But the in depth look here into the pure genius that was Michael Jackson can only solidify the fact that Jackson was truly the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century. During a rehearsal for the "Smooth Criminal" number, which begins with a short video, Jackson changes his entrance cue. When director Ortega asks him how he'll be able to time his entrance now that he can't see the video screen, Jackson replies, "I'll feel it." Needless to say, when the number begins again, he is flawless.

The film is also a fine behind the scenes documentary about the rigors of putting on a show. Lights, pyrotechnics, even a class for the dancers in crotch grabbing are intricately designed. And when the instructor maintains that Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov invented the move, it brings a laugh to the group. What is also obvious is that Jackson had one hell of a going away party planned for his fans. Footage from what was to be a 3-D performance of "Thriller" is breathtaking and if you listen closely you'll hear the third line of Vincent Price's rap that was not on the album. "Black and White" and "Beat It" get heavy rock and roll updates, both complimented by the guitar playing of 24-year-old Australian Orianthi Panagasus. Throughout the film Jackson is in fine voice. Even when he's only, in his words, "about 80% because he's holding back" he shines.

Halfway through the film there is a group meeting with everyone in a circle holding hands. Jackson thanks them and encourages them to follow him on what will truly be "a great adventure." Sadly, he didn't live long enough to take it with them. But "This Is It" will allow his fans to complete that ride.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give "This Is It"

This week's movie review of "Michael Jackson's This Is It" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.