Chicago – Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Chicago-Diamond-EditionIt’s always great when you’re called upon to review a former winner of Best Picture.  This time I’ve been tapped to look back on 2002’s Chicago.  The film was quite the sensation back in 2002, racking up 6 wins on 13 nominations at the Academy Awards (including Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones).  It didn’t stop there, the film was big with movie-going audiences as it lit up the box office with just under 171 million dollars in the US and over 306 million dollars worldwide.  It was even such a significant dent that the Academy Awards celebrated its tenth anniversary with a few tributes to it during the 2013 Oscar ceremony.  Lionsgate is reissuing it with the “Diamond Edition” that includes a new, almost two and a half hour, documentary taking a look back at the production and sensation of the 2002 Best Picture winner that was Chicago.

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Chicago tells the tale of two women behind bars for murder.  One is Roxie, a housewife who shot her lover when she realized that he was only using her for sex and not helping to boost her performing career as promised.  The other, Velma, a famous vaudeville performer who is locked up for murdering her sister.  Velma is the talk of town for a trial until Roxie enters prison and whisks away her fame hounding attorney, Billy Flynn.  Roxie becomes the talk of town, but still has to face her trial and sway a jury in her favor.  The film is a musical, so its of course told through fancy numbers and whatnot, but it interweaves broadway-style performances in with a cinematic adaption.

My first experience with Chicago was in the summer of 2000.  After I graduated high school, I took a theatre trip to New York.  In the list of shows I was attending were the first run of a Saturday Night Fever musical (failure), a Matrix-inspired Jesus Christ Superstar (in costume and sets) and Sebastian Bach as the lead in a musical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (alas, the day I saw it, it was the understudy).  Also on the list was Chicago which I had heard the buzz about and kind of knew the idea of what it looked like (it had a resurgence sometime in the late 90s).  It starred NYPD Blue’s Sharon Lawrence as Velma Kelly.  As a person who really digs those old gangster and film noir eras, I was totally swept up in the production.  I became a big fan of it and its certainly one of my favorite musicals of all time.

I think Rob Marshall’s film does adapt and do the musical and a film version justice.  I really enjoyed his approach of keeping it very much a musical and when it played as a film it felt very much a tribute to early classics of the era.  It didn’t feel the need to be incredibly realistic, it wanted to be a piece of that time and it certainly succeeded.  Some might argue that a lot of what Marshall has done here seems sort of expect, but I think that can actually be a good thing and a strength.  You can’t help but get caught up in the moment with a lot of these song and dance numbers and the feeling is pretty infectious.  Everything is well choreographed and the scenes are shot and constructed in such a way that makes them adventurous and fun to experience.

Chicago features a cast that truly delivers.  Richard Gere tends to be a little plain, but he doesn’t harm the film and managed to blend in and work with this one.  Catherine Zeta-Jones is top notch here.  She just vamps it up and owns the screen with every frame.  This is probably the absolute peak of her film career (plus she took the Oscar home to boot).  She has never and might not ever be this sexy and this great of performer as she is here.  It’s not a knock, but we truly have her greatness right here in Chicago.  Renee Zellweger is also perfect as Roxie.  Her performance is truly commanding, but also able to hang in the shadows and blend in with her supporting members as well.  Both female leads are excellent and at their best.  There are plenty of fun supporting players (John C Reilly is perfect and as expected nails his crowd pleasing part) who are quite terrific as well, but I just wanted to take a moment and look back at what an incredible job the two leading ladies put forth back in 2002.

Theatre purists might hate me, but I truly feel Rob Marshall was able to capture a lot of the essence and fun of what makes Chicago great to see on stage.  I still highly recommend you see the stage version, but if you live in a place where you aren’t allotted those opportunities often, this film is no slouch.  It sort of jump started the musical genre again, especially with that Oscar win for Best Picture.  As much as one might want to put their dukes up, this is a film that’s very hard not to enjoy (unless you’re one of those people that just hates musicals with that invalid “just because” reason).  As you’ll see below, its even more enjoyable in this latest edition.

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Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1

Clarity/Detail:  While there is a nice layer of grain here, Chicago has a razor sharp image.  Clean and crisp.  There are some softer areas, but those come due to smoky scenes and the lighting used in them.  And I’m not going to knock it for what is likely the source.

Depth: There is plenty of depth in many ranges.  Most impressively, and where it should be, the depth is at its best during the theater sequences.

Black Levels:  My only knock on this transfer comes here.  There are instances where the film gets really dark.  And where some blacks are super black.  During one courtroom scene Richard Gere is wearing a pin stripe jacket, but you can only really make out the pinstripes in a few movements and instances.  Those are the type of things I’ve come to notice pop out become more noticeable with the advent of Blu-ray.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are perfectly satirized and give a nice bold pronouncement here.  I really like what they’ve done with the reads, giving a great neo-noir vibe to them.  You’ll notice it be on the “Roxie” sign.

Flesh Tones:  Scene to scene, setting to setting, lighting scheme by lighting scheme, the skin tones on this transfer are damn impressive.  You can see every bit of texture, pores and make-up, on these bold pronounced warm natural colors of the skin.

Noise/Artifacts:  There’s a terrific layer of grain on the feature that adds to the nostalgia and enjoyment.

Please note, while this is a new transfer, I have not seen the original Blu-ray release of the film.  So, I cannot make comparisons, although I have heard this is a noticeable step up.  But, grain-haters (I’m not one of them), may still have complaints.

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Audio Format(s): English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Chicago displayed a terrific range between its sound effects, ambience and main action.  No part of each action was dominant or distraction.  It had a lot of fun and made good use of its 7.1 track.

Low Frequency Extension:  The bass in the score really booms and is very clean.  It really helps in bringing this to life in your living room.

Surround Sound Presentation: At the end of the year, this might be the most impressive audio track on a catalogue title released.  It really plays with all the channels, putting voices and instruments all around you and engulfing you in the experience.  Even in regular scenes this track is doing the work.  I point out a prison sequence early on where you get some ambience of a guard doing the rounds locking cells and he does a round robin through your surround sound locking a cell up in each speaker in a clockwise motion.

Dialogue Reproduction:  I was surprised at the restraint and dedication to the entire presentation the dialogue had, mainly in the singing portion.  I expected it to dominate, but it’s a team player.  It finds the right level and meshes well with the musical accompaniment.  Backing vocals aren’t limited to being just front heavy either. They totally surround you, as mentioned before.

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The “Diamond Edition” of Chicago comes with a DVD copy and an UltraViolet copy of the film.  While these extras may look light when listed, this is a freakin’ vault of knowledge.  When you have an almost two and a half hour retrospective featuring every major player on the film you’ve pretty much done all you need, but there’s much much more to boot.  With all they’ve done, there’s oddly no trailers present.  Some of the bonus features from previous versions that you may be worried have been axed are actually present on the DVD that come with this release. And also remember, with this new documentary, some of that old stuff that is gone is covered elsewhere and no longer needed.

Chicago In The Spotlight: A Retrospective With Cast And Crew (HD, 2:22:19) – An all-new documentary for this release, chronicling the hell out of this production.  Everybody is here from Rob Marshall to Renee Zellweger.  Its an incredibly extensive look at taking this from the stage to the success and legacy of the final product.  This is reason alone to upgrade/double dip/finally own this film.

Extended Musical Performances – These are sadly all presented in 4:3 letterbox, but are certainly AVC MPEG-4 encoded.  This feature takes every number and gives you behind the scenes looks, on-set footage, interviews, rehearsals and even footage laying down the studio tracks of the audio.  It’s quite impressive. This combined with the retro doc will leave you incredibly satisfied and then some regarding Chicago.

  • “And All That Jazz” (HD, 6:07)
  • “When You’re Good To Mama” (HD, 3:33)
  • “Cell Block Tango” (HD, 8:02)
  • “We Both Reached For The Gun” (HD, 6:07)
  • “Mister Cellophane” (HD, 4:00)
  • “All I Care About” (HD, 4:43)
  • “All I Care About” With Richard Gere (HD, 3:30)
  • “Nowadays” With Renee Zellweger (HD, 2:08)
  • “And All That Jazz” With Catherine Zeta Jones (HD, 3:03)
  • “I Can’t Do It Alone” Rehearsal (HD, 3:46)
  • “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” Rehearsal (HD, 3:31)
  • “We Both Reached For The Gun” Rehearsal (HD, 3:58)
  • “Cell Block Tango” Rehearsal (HD, 3:12)

Feature Commentary With Director Rob Marshall And Screenwriter Bill Condon – If you haven’t had enough insight of the film, you can have it during your viewing with this vintage commentary from a previous release of the film.

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Easily, this is the definitive edition of Chicago.  The film look and sounds absolutely amazing.  Chicago’s 7.1 track is an incredible treat and one of the most fun audio tracks I’ve experienced in a long time.  They really took advantage of the format and absolutely nailed it.  You’re not just watching the movie with enhanced audio, you’re experiencing it.  As far as extras go, this one’s documentary was enough to do it, but the extended musical numbers are fun to feast on as well.  It’s cool, but odd that some features only are on the DVD, but at least they’re there.  This release is hands down fantastic based on just the film and its presentation alone.  There should be no hesitation from any tech junkie collector, blu-ray collector, musical lover or film appreciator to add Chicago-Diamond Edition to your collection.  And guys, right now its only $7.99, so there’s no excuse not to click the Amazon link below and grab you a copy.




Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Chicago – Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Good review! I think I will pick this up for 7.99 That price can’t be beat!