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June 23, 2007
Dreamgirls - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
18/1/200730/5/2007ParamountBill Condon
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DD5.1 640kbpsMJamie Foxx

THE MOVIE
Hopefully you would have heard about the movie Dreamgirls. Based on a stage musical from the 1980's, which was loosly based on the rise of the Supremes, the movie was nominated for eight Oscars and took home two - one for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and the second to Jennifer Hudson for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. The movie took an impressive $US103 million in America, and a further $US51 million around the rest of the globe. Indeed it is the 4th highest grossing musical in American cinematic history. So what is it all about then?

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An iconic pose for the Dreamgirls!
Curtis Taylor Jr (Jamie Foxx) is a car salesman aching to make his mark in the music business - to form his own record label and get its sound heard on mainstream radio at a time when civil rights are still only a whisper in the streets. He just needs the angle, the right talent, the right product to sell.

Late for their stint in a local talent show, The Dreamettes - Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) - show up in their cheap wigs and homemade dresses, rehearsing songs and steps by Effie's brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), with hopes that talent and sheer desire will break them out of the only life that seems availabel to them. They're young. They're beautiful. They're just what Curtis is looking for. All they have to do is trust him.

James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) is a pioneer of the new Detroit sound, spellbinding audiences all along the "Chitlin' Circuit" with his electrifying blend of soul and rock 'n' roll. Curtis finesses The Dreamettes a gig singing backup for Early, and suddenly, for all of them, the gulf between what they want, and what they can have draws closer for the first time.

Curtis launches the girls as a solo act, rechristening them The Dreams, knowing in his gut that success lies not with the soulful voice of Effie, but with the demure beauty and malleable style of Deena - despite their history.. and Curtis' promises. Deena is ready to step into the spotlight, even as Effie fades away.

As a new musical age dawns Curtis' driving ambition pushes this one-time family to the forefornt of an industry in the throes of music revolution. But when the lights come up and the curtains part, they hardly recognise who they've become. Their dreams are finally there for the taking, but at a price that may be too heavy for their hearts to bear.

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Two legends of the silver screen together.
The first thing that really hit me about this movie was the superb cast. Sure we knew Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce Knowles and newcomer - and Oscar winner - Jennifer Hudson were in the movie but it was the seconday cast including Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson and one of the original 'Dreamgirls' in Loretta Devine that makes this entire production so special. Eddie Murphy as James "Thunder" Early is one that had me quite worried - after seeing the tripe that was Norbit I really hoped he played the part well - but fear not as he almost steals the show in this riviting dramatic performance. Dreamgirls is certainly a movie that will kickstart his flagging career.

I've never been a big fan of musical based movies (indeed the closest I come to 'loving' a musical is The Blues Brothers or Wayne's World - I know, you need not comment!) and I certainly didn't enjoy Chicago or Moulan Rouge that much at all. Still, I didn't dislike Dreamgirls. Yes, there was still too much singing for my liking, but the storyline is interesting and quite emotional at times, while the musical numbers are well produced. Having originated as a stage play this is what we would expect.

Without a doubt though the star of this show is Jennifer Hudson as Effie White. Her performance of 'And I'm Telling You I'm not Going' is simply astounding; quite possibly the best 'emotional' singing in a movie for a number of years. Dreamgirls was her first big break after being voted out of American Idol (and indeed she beat out American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino for the role in this movie!) and I hope to see much more of her in future. This is a very solid movie that fans of the stage play, or movie musicals in general, will enjoy far more then me.

VIDEO
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Jennifer Hudson puts in a stunning performance.
Encoded using MPEG-2 at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and running for 2:10 this is truly a showcase of superb transfers on Blu-Ray. We've said it in the past, but yet again this sets all-new benchmarks for detail, clarity and colour reproduction. Colours are rich and with many of the scenes lit like actual stage musicals there was plenty of opportunity for poor colouring and/or presentation but it never happens. The transfer also has plenty of detail in the shadows and darker areas. This is particularly true when there are performers on stage and the crowds are in near-darkness with only the stage lights throwing some ambient light on them. Certainly due to the dual layered 50GB disc this is all assisted with a bitrate often hovering around the 30Mbps mark, but often approaching 35-38Mbps.

There were a couple of scenes where the filmmakers have used 'stock' footage - that is, footage from events that either are, or certainly look like real events from the day. These are grainy shakey-cam moments, but one can not fault the Blu-Ray discs due to the original decisions of the filmmakers.

AUDIO
Being a musical, one would expect this to set benchmarks when it comes to audio - but in fact Dreamgirls turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment as the disc only includes a 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. While there is nothing technically wrong with the audio it just seems to lack that extra punch associated with DTS or LPCM audio tracks on other Blu-Ray discs. We must note though that the audio on this disc is superior to the already impressive 448kbps on the DVD release. The disc also includes German and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks at 640kbps.

EXTRAS
As with World Trade Center Paramount have put the bulk of these extras onto a second disc, and what a list of extras it is. The only obvious inclusion which we can see are an audio commentary - however with everyone participating in the massive documentary it's not missed. As with Paramount's other big release, World Trade Center, most of the extras are in High-Definition as well.

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Eddie Murphy is a brilliant singer!
12 Deleted Scenes (36:09/HD):

    Again Paramount impresses with stellar presentation of their deleted scenes. Disc One contains these 12 scenes, most of which are extended versions of musical numbers. Each is presented with the same quality and polish as the final movie - that is 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and a High-Def image with a bitrate of over 20Mbps. Most of these scenes are pretty good and while there is no commentary it's quite clear that the majority were cut to keep the movies' pace up.

'Listen' Music Video (3:49):

    Also on disc one is the music video 'Listen' by Beyonce Knowles. Sadly this video clip is only presented in Standard Definition with 2 Channel 192kbps audio, but it's a nice inclusion of the signature 'commercial' song from the movie.

Building the Dream (114:58/HD):

    When you see a documentary on a DVD release you generally expect a 5-20 minute feature which goes into some detail about the production. When you sit down to watch Building the Dream make sure you have almost 2 hours to spare because that's how long this runs for! It's not fluff either. This is one of the most well put together documentaries which covers almost every aspect of the production from converting the stage musical to a movie, getting together all the actors, and then filming the movie. If it's all too much the documentary is split up into 9 chapters to make viewing in smaller doses possible. As well as the HD video the documentary includes 192kbps Dolby Digital 2 channel audio.

Dream Logic: Film Editing Featurette (4:08/HD):

    A short piece which looks at editing the movie, and the massive amounts of footage that came out from the shoot - about a million feet of film, or 3 weeks of solid footage!

Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design (8:22/HD):

    Sharon Davis, costume designer, discusses the design of the numerous outfits used throughout the movie, including the changing styles from era to era.

Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting (8:44/HD):

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    Jamie Foxx and Beyonce...
    A brief featurette about the lighting in the movie. Quite an involved process that you probably don't realise as you watch the movie. Different lighting for different time periods, and even different artists. Intersting.

Original Audions and Screen Tests (10:55/HD):

    Three screen tests which show more of the audition process for the movie. Only Beyonce's screentest is in HD and in 16:9, the other two are presented in SD and 4:3 all with 196kbps 2 channel sound.

Pre visualization sequences (35:45):

    Seven pre-vis sequences of songs which changes between concept art and rehersals with the final audio mix overlayed. It's an impressive way to see what the movie looks like before release. With a runtime of over 35 minutes it's an solid inclusion.

OVERALL
Paramount have for the second time produced a superb Blu-Ray disc set that is easily among the best we've seen on the format to date. The video quality is astounding, and while the audio is disappointing it's still much better then DVD. Also stunning are the extras on this disc. With a documentary running almost as long as the feature movie as well as plenty more this is another super production by Paramount. If you liked this movie, and own a PS3 (or another Blu-Ray player) then this is a prime example of why the format is so exciting.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7/10
THE VIDEO
9/10
THE AUDIO
8/10
THE EXTRAS
9/10
OVERALL
8.5/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.