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That's Entertainment!
The Complete Collection

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: G

Running Time: 135 minutes (That's Entertainment!), 126 Minutes (That's Entertainment, Part 2), 113 Minutes (That's Entertainment! III)

 

 

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $49.92

Features: Robert Osborne Introductions, Theatrical Trailers, That's Entertainment! The Masters Behind The Musical, The Musical Outtakes Jukebox, MGM's 25th Anniversary, That's Entertainment: 50 Years Of MGM, Just One More Time, The Lion Roars Again, The Mike Douglas Show Excerpts, That's Entertainment! III: Behind The Screen

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround (That's Entertainment!), French Mono (That's Entertainment, Part 2), English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Index (That's Entertainment! - 32 Scenes, That's Entertainment, Part 2 - 32 Scenes, That's Entertainment III - 38 Scenes), 4-Disc Set

Released: October 12th, 2004

 

 

The movie musical is a genre that has certainly been dead for the longest time, and while a few have popped up here and there (excluding Disney's animated offerings in 80s and 90s), it seems that movie musicals are finally making a comeback on the heels of the success of "Moulin Rouge" and the Oscar-winning benemoth "Chicago." Yet ask any contemporary youngster these days, and chances are good they probably don't know a lot about the Hollywood of the past. The really glitzy premieres, how celebrity was arguably different then and how musicals - yes, musicals - ruled the industry.

Anyone who's a fan of old Hollywood (or classic musicals at least) is probably familiar with the "That's Entertainment!" series. The first film was originally a small project to celebrate MGM's 50th anniversary, but soon it blew up into something much more and became quite the memorable film. The original and its two sequels are a fabulous, engrossing and always entertaining look back at a key era in Hollywood's golden age. The movies are kind of like a clip-show and kind of like a documentary combined (actually, according to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, the proper definition is "docutainment"). There's also a weary-eyed look of nostalgia to them; stars of the era look back at the days gone by, putting the movies into some kind of time frame and mentioning their experiences here and there. These stars really cement the importance of the films, talent and actors and how they'll probably never be another period like these specific "good old days." You won't find anything negative here - these are tribute films in every sense of the word.

While each film is linked by the musicals, they're each a bit different. The first "That's Entertainment" (which is arguably the best one) showcases an incredible amount of stars in an incredible amount of films. The stars are famous, but some of the musicals might actually be a bit obscure to some. This is all hosted by several timeless legends (and then some) - Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Jimmy Stewart and quite a few more (all on the MGM backlot, which was subsequently torn down shortly after filming of the movie). What certainly makes "That's Entertainment!" so strong is how it provides a great historical sense of the movie musical, which really began in the 30s.

"That's Entertainment, Part 2" has an interesting approach. It's a bit more flashier, and at times sometimes it feels a bit overdone - it's almost as if it's a musical within a musical. While it lacks the simplicity and elegant charms of the original, it's still quite entertaining - and having Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire hosting, even performing in (at the time) new scenes, certainly doesn't hurt. There's still a focus on musicals, but there's also a bit of comedy thrown in with the likes of the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello. Even if it doesn't exactly live up to the original movie, and some of the look back narration seem slightly forced, it certainly still is a fun movie.

Finally, there's "That's Entertainment! III" - which was released 18 years after "Part 2." Truthfully, "III" is not as accessible as the first two movies. It's still a fine watch, but it's more for the die-hard classic movie fan and completist. There's more musical moments, but if you're really into the musicals then you'll be quite a happy camper to see cut numbers (including two by Judy Garland), alternate takes and some nifty behind-the-scenes footage. If anything, the film succeeds because there's quite a fine sense of history presented and besides, you can't get enough musical moments, right?

By this point you've probably assessed whether the "That's Entertainment!" films have interested you. Musical lovers, fans of the classic films and fans of this trilogy in general - then you know what you're in for. But if you are just a tiny bit curious about the Hollywood of old - and want to see it at its best, complete with all its biggest stars - then don't hestiate and check out these films. You won't be disappointed in the slightest bit.

 

Each "That's Entertainment!" film features two viewing options: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen, all of which have been digitally remastered. The full screen versions of the movies are interesting: the specifically filmed portions are cropped, but the actual movie scenes feature their original aspect ratios (which is either full screen or widescreen), which is a nice touch if you ask me. These transfers are a bit hard to judge in my opinion: there are just so many clips, and of course, due to their ages and how they were put together in the first place, truly vary. Yet for the most part the clips look great, and the specifically filmed footage looks pretty nice too: decent fleshtones, fine detail and color saturation that is balanced and firm. There's some flaws though to be found: expect to see plenty of dirt, grainy, blemishes, scratches and even shimmering. Still, Warner has done a fine job presented the films on DVD and I doubt anyone's going to be disappointed how they look - even if they aren't perfect.

 

All three films have been remixed into English Dolby Digital 5.1 (what, no mono?). Putting the musicals into 5.1 seems fitting and appropriate enough, and largely these remixes are a success. They are not as discrete as sound mixes for recent movies, but the broad soundstages presented do their job quite well: the actual music is broad, the vocals are pretty sharp and there's even some effects that are pulled off decently, such as imaging. The song and dance numbers aren't completley three dimensional in the way they sound, put they do remain a bit imersive. Dialogue is clean too and easy to hear, in both the clips and specially filmed segments. Each movie has English closed captions and subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The first film has a French Dolby Stereo Surround track, and "Part 2" has a French mono track.

 

Each of the movie discs feature simple but well done booklets highlighting what movies the films feature, a Theatrical Trailer and nice introductions from Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne, who puts each film into proper perspective. Wonderfully done. Also, "That's Entertainment! III" features extended scenes that weren't included in its original theatrical release (all the way back in 1994).

The rest of the supplements in the set are featured on the bonus disc "Treasures From The Vault," and other than the films themselves, this is the reason to get the set (note the keepcase lists the wrong disc sides for the extras). The first side of this dual layered disc begins with That's Entertainment! The Masters Behind The Musical which is a solid documentary. Stars of the MGM movies (including Mrs. Potts herself, Angelas Lansbury), producers, music men and historians praise the MGM musicals, their peers and their favorite moments. Basically, this is a telling of just how revolutionary and talented so many people were when it came to making musicals. All of this is wonderfully highlighted with a staggering amount of film clips and stills.

Also on Side A is The Musical Outtakes Jukebox featuring 12 additional deleted numbers from several musicals. Each have great automated text introductions explaining the scenes and why they were deleted, and giving even more history the musicals. The outtakes are in great condition too and sound pretty nice. If you are obsessed with movie musicals, you'll be in heaven watching the deleted numbers.

Onto Side B is MGM's 25th Anniversary, which is essentially an edited newsreel set to musical of a luncheon celebrating the studio's 25th anniversary. Not too much here other than seeing all the stars coming out, smiling, eating and looking young.

In the "That's Entertainment!" section, there's the documentary That's Entertainment: 50 Years Of MGM. Broken up into 13 chapters, the documentary covers the stars re-uniting for "That's Entertainment," the premiere for the film and a solid look at ome of its more famous stars (Debbie Reynolds, Ava Gardner, Liza Minnelli, Gene Kelly and more). Lasting a bit over an hour, it seems as if this was made as a promotional tool - but it feels nothing like one. There's also the featurette Just One More Time, which is a lot more promotional and specifically focuses on the making of the stars hosting segments in the movie, and some parts of the film itself. There's also plenty of clips to go around too.

The "That's Entertainment, Part 2" part of the disc features The Lion Roars Again, which doesn't specifically have anything to do with the movie. Made in 1975, it more or less highlights the sucessful time the Lion was having with their stars and films (such as "The Sunshine Boys"). A lot more specific are The Mike Douglas Show Excerpts from February 1976. Very enjoyable stuff here, as Douglas interviews a host of classic stars (mainly the ones that appear in the movie) about the movie (okay, he lets them plug the movie) and their memories making musicals.

Finally, there's That's Entertainment! III: Behind The Screen. Broken down into 17 chapters and lasting a little bit over 50 minutes, this just might be the best bonus feature. Similar to the "50 Years Of MGM" documentary, it highlights the premiere of the final film in the trilogy but has a very solid focus on the studio, Louis B. Mayer, how musicals came together, the stars in their heyday and their own legacies. Film buffs, you'll certainly enjoy this one - well worth watching, even if you aren't so well acquainted with MGM and older films.

 

Even though all the "That's Entertainment!" films are available in separate, I truly recommend getting the boxed set to maximize your entertainment value. All of the films are great as far as I am concerned, even if they essentially are just clips from the best in classic movie musicals and tend to highlight the glorious times of the old studio system. For those who love and can appreciate films of old (particuarly musicals) and haven't ever checked out the "That's Entertainment" films, then you're in for a treat. Another reason to go for the set is the fabulous bonus disc, featuring several unseen musical clips and great documentaries. Obviously, if you're a fan of the series, then you'll probably be buying this set anyway. For a retail of under 50 dollars (which you can most certainly get for cheaper), then it's a steal.