Monday, February 8, 2010

Liza Minnelli: Liza's At The Palace Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 44.7 GB
Concert Size: 32.6 GB
Region: A

The Video
Liza’s at the Palace comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The concert looks good overall and clearly high-definition from beginning to end. The quality does not look among the best concert releases on Blu-ray, which makes me think this was filmed with cheaper HD cameras, as it resembles a look very much like a televised HD broadcast.

The Blu-ray does not feature the constant pixels and issues that come with most high-def broadcasts and features a clear improvement from DVD at all times. Black levels are not particularly impressive, but never very underwhelming either.

Detail is never as strong as I would have hoped, but I have a feeling it is because of the equipment used to film rather than an issue with the transfer. The concert does not dazzle whatsoever, but it also could have looked much worse and been filled with many more issues than it has.

I’m satisfied by this high-def release as it makes a clear improvement from DVD in every way. I think fans will find themselves pleased by the results, but just because it was filmed in high-def, does not mean it will necessarily make for eye candy. 7/10.

The Audio
The packaging lists a 5.1 audio track, but does not specify. Rest assured that a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for this release. I cannot say this is a spectacular track whatsoever, but it gets the job done.

My biggest issue is that vocals never stood out among the rest of the mix and lacked the clarity that comes with most films with lossless audio. I don’t know whether to blame the mix or the audio recording in this case.

The mix as a whole was underwhelming, and almost sounded like it was recorded from the audience point of view and not directly from the microphone used by Liza. I do not think this is the case as it would probably sound a bit muddier than it does now.

The mix gets the job done, but for a concert release I was honestly expecting much more. Volume must be turned up quite a bit to have the same impact as a regular track, which should not be the case. I don’t know the reason behind the issues, but I definitely think it could have sounded much better than it does now. 6/10.

The Extras

Heart-to-Heart Conversation (47:33) (HD)
Between Liza and Director/Choreographer Ron Lewis. This is presented in high-definition and features a very enjoyable conversation with Liza Minnelli, in which she discusses originally pitching the idea, casting, motivation and more. This is definitely a VERY entertaining feature and shows how much this show means to Liza.

On a typical concert release we do not get many extras, but this one feature is extremely enjoyable and satisfying and provides a better insight than most performance releases. I definitely found a lot of it more enjoyable than the performance itself. 6/10.

The Concert
Liza’s at the Palace was a concert event which took place at the Palace Theatre from December 3rd to January 4th, 2009. This performance was recorded much later at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on October 1st, 2009 for public television audiences.

The Blu-ray release runs a little over two hours, featuring an overwhelming amount of performances by the legendary Liza Minnelli. Those two hours could be a fantastic experience for some and a form of torture for others.

I wish I could say I loved Liza’s at the Palace, but truthfully I did not love it. Liza unfortunately lost her vocal talent with age and it is now to the point where it sounds better if she speaks the song and slows down the words rather than actually sing. When it comes to her vocals they can be good, but at times sound very mediocre and tired.

I’ve always liked Liza Minnelli; I have always found her personality and humor to be very enjoyable throughout her long and successful career. Despite her mother being the infamous Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz), vocal talent was not her strongest point in my opinion. She was a great performer as a whole though, always working with what she had and doing the very best job she could.

Liza is in her 60s now so I expected the show to be a bit slowed down and relaxed from her previous Broadway work, the body can only do things for so long (at least well). What Liza brings to the Palace is a very strong sense of showmanship, she knows how to interact well with her audience and put her all into her performances.

Her dancing was underwhelming and looked more like slow movements, but I quickly reminded myself that there is only so much we can expect with age and of course her hip surgeries. I really tried to get into her performances, but I just couldn’t at times. Big fans of Liza Minnelli will likely enjoy this though, as she brings her loveable self in full force.

I do give major props to Ms. Minnelli for putting her all into her performances, looking like a sweaty crazy mess by the end from exhausting herself for two hours. Watching Liza on stage is like watching your aged grandmother doing what she loves most, it may not be very exciting but it still makes you happy to see her on stage and support her.

What definitely helped redeem this night of performances quite significantly, were the stories that Liza shared in between her performances. She took us back to some of her great memories throughout her career and her dedication to her godmother Kay Thompson was very touching.

Overall I did not dislike Liza’s at the Palace, but I quickly felt her exhaustion on stage. Liza still brings her very big smile to the stage and you can tell how much of a rush she gets from performing on stage, she really feeds off the audience’s excitement.

I understand she’s undergone a few surgeries on her hip and throat, which definitely affects her performance ability now and not always in a good way. Fans will definitely find satisfaction from this release. But unless you have followed her career, it may be harder to appreciate this night of performance, as you have may have not seen her at her very best.

Liza may not be her strongest during this performance, but there is no denying that she was always one very talented woman. She has always been very energetic and showed it with her singing, acting and Broadway performances. If you adjust your expectations accordingly, you may find some quality enjoyment from this release. 7/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release is a bit lackluster, but should still satisfy most viewers. There is nothing seriously wrong with the video or audio mix, and a lot I feel has to do with the source over an issue with Blu-ray release. Unfortunately the concert is definitely for fans only, making this Blu-ray release ‘For Fans Only.

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