Chicago (DVD)

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Chicago (DVD)

This Hollywood adaptation of the classic Broadway musical sparkles with glamour and reverberates with the energy of good, old-fashioned song and dance...

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Review of "Chicago (DVD)"

published 01/02/2004 | duskmaiden
Member since : 28/03/2003
Reviews : 358
Members who trust : 219
About me :
I am back as Mrs Duskmaiden
Pro great acting, wonderful songs, the costumes
Cons not for children, songs missed out from the original score
very helpful
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"All that jazz on Chicago"

Musicals. They are a genre of films that make some people break out in a cold sweat as their thoughts turn to cutesy precocious stage school brats, dodgy Cockney accents and sweeter than sugar nannies and governesses. However the musical has progressed and reinvented itself with Chicago the multiple Oscar winning Bob Fossey musical that stars Renée Zellweger. Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere. The sexy, seductive feel to Chicago makes it one of my favourite musicals having seen the film, stage production, bought the soundtrack album and the DVD. Yes I like it that much. So why do I like it??

Chicago is set surprisingly enough in Chicago Illinois in the late 1920s. The era is one of gangsters, beautiful women in Flapper dresses, furs and elegant bobs dancing the Charleston to jazz tunes. Ladies and gentlemen the Jazz Era is in full swing. The movie starts off with Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly in a sexy dance number All That Jazz. Kelly’s notoriety is for killing her sister and her husband after catching them in the sack together at a club where she and her sister were performing. The scene cuts to Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) an ex chorus line dancer who seeks fame and fortune as a vaudeville starlet. She starts an affair with Fred Casely a furniture salesman because she believes he can kick start her career as he has so called contacts in show business. However this is a lie and on discovering this Roxie shoots him. Volla the second murderess of the film. Roxie gets sent to Murderesses Row in Cook County Jail where no women has been hung. This is where she meets the aforementioned Velma Kelly and other women accused of murdering their husbands or lovers. To get off the charge and escape hanging Roxie enlists the help of the smooth talking bent lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). This ensues a press campaign that has been spun so there is sympathy for Roxie ending in her trial. I will go no further with the plot as I do not want it spoiled for anyone who has not seen the film.

I actually had never heard of Chicago until recently when one of my favourites Marti Pellow took the role of Billy Flynn in London’s West End (It was for this reason I bought the tickets to see it when it came to Manchester) so I was surprised to hear that it was based on a 1927 movie of the same name and that was based on a true story. Roxie Hart’s story has had a number of revivals since that first black and white film. Did you know Ginger Rogers played her in a 1950s film and the musical was created later becoming a hit on Broadway in the 1970s? In this creation the film was directed by Rob Marshall a recent newcomer to the world of films. He made his name as a choreographer but he has only directed two films to date. His other film being a fairly dismal TV version of Annie.

The cast and the characters

The min thing that sold the film to me was the presence of Renée Zellweger who is one of my favourite actresses although I feel she is becoming overexposed and seem to be in quite a few films recently. Her singing was good as was her acting. I warmed to Roxie Hart the wannabee starlet. The character seems to be both vulnerable and tough and determined at the same time although the vulnerable side to her character is partially a front for the media.

I was more dubious about Catherine Zeta –Jones. Before watching this I remembered her for Darling Buds of My, being ex girlfriends of John Leslie and now wife of Michael Douglas. I had not seen her in anything for ages and I think I had her a bit mixed up with Liz Hurley thinking of her being in films due ton her being famous rather than on her acting talent. Boy I was wrong. She truly stole the show. Her character is truly sexy perhaps with a bit of bitchiness about her. In her short black flapper bob and fantastic dramatic outfits she fits the part. I may be saying she looks good but the question you are asking me is can she sing and dance?? The answer to this is yes. According to the behind the scenes documentary she has a background in musical background and it shows. She has a powerful and expressive voice making her a delight to watch. No wonder she won the Oscar for best supporting actress

Now we come onto Richard Gere as Billy Flynn. I’m not exactly a Richard Gere fan. I’ve never really sat down and watched an Officer and a Gentleman. However he does look rather distinguished in his smart lawyer’s suit. Again he surprised me with the tap dancing which he learned specially for the film . This is not the first musical he has been in as he was the original Danny when Grease hit Broadway. His vocals are listenable but I feel he is the weakest lead in Chicago. For vocals and maybe dashingness give me Marti Pellow any day!

The other two cast members I would like to make special reference are Queen Laetifa as Matron Morton (Mama) and John Reilly as Roxie’s down trodden faithful husband Amos. I knew Queen Laetifa was a rapper but as that is not my kind of music I have never really listened to her. In the film her performance as the slightly sleazy matron with perhaps some lesbian undertones is wonderful. She has a deep powerful voice which in my opinion is wasted on rap music.

Although the actors are fantastic it is the musical numbers that are the star of this film.

The musical number are presented as part of Roxie’s fantasy in her head with her the star and the others being supporting members to her ambition and ego. This device is brilliant as it separates the numbers from the main plot so it does not look too clumsy. I like the numbers being on a sort of stage rather than people prancing in the court room etc.

One gripe I do have with the film is that after seeing the stage version I realised some numbers were missed out. I suppose this could be for a number of reasons such as to not make the film too long and some would not quite fit the Roxie angle of things such as Class and When Velma takes the Stand. However class was filmed and is on the soundtrack and is an extra on the DVD.

What I love about the songs is the feel of them. I love the jazziness as it is a genre of music I am slowly getting into. All That Jazz capturesthe mood of the era perfectly whilst The Cell Bock Tango performed by the residents on murderesses row is upbeat with witty lyrics such as

Some people can’t hold their arsenic

It was only till I was washing the blood of my hands I knew they were dead.

We Both Reached for the Gun sang by Billy Flynn and the newspaper column inst Mary Sunshine is another very humourous one.

A mention has to go to Amos’s emotional song Mr Cellophane. I really feel sorry for Amos as a character as he is so devoted but invisible to everyone else.

With the songs goes the choreography. The dance numbers are lavish and fantastic. This must be all down to Marshall’s talent as a choreographer.

I have touched on the costumes already but would like to talk about them more generally. The film won the best costume Oscar as well as other such as best film. I love the costumes. They certainly evoke the 1920s. They are exotic and sultry. That era certainly had a style which we have lost.

The film maybe set in the 1920s but a lot of the themes that it touches on are current. It is really about the search for celebrity. Back in the Golden age of Hollywood people were obsessed with the rising starlets. Now they are even less talent with people becoming famous for appearing on Big Brother or Pop Idol. The equivalent of Mary Sunshine’s newspaper column is certainly Heat.

The film also deals with the corruption of the law. The Hutton Enquiry and report that has dominated this month’s news demonstrates this. Crime and celebrity sell newspapers. The other contemporary case involving celebrity, court cases and the media is the Michael Jackson case. Unless celebs and the media’s hunt for celebs disappear this film is never going to lose its relevancy.

This is a DVD review rather than a straight review of the film so I suppose I should talk about it. The quality of picture seemed fine to me but I am not a technical junky like some people I know (such as Duskman himself) so I am not going to go into detail about the framing or the resolution.

What I can say is that the DVD is quite a nice looking DVD. It is in a proper case which is a bonus as I am not too keen on the cardboard cases. On starting watching the DVD there are the unwanted trailers before you get to the movie. I would rather not have these.

The menu has the overture playing over it and the menus are quite easy to use as they are well labelled.

I can not fault the picture quality. A far to my knowledge there are no major flaws

The DVD has a coupe of interesting features. The behind the scenes documentary is perhaps a quarter of an hour long. It was an interesting insight into how the film was made and it was nice to see the stars looking normal in their practice gear during rehearsals. However it is nor one you would watch again and again The deleted song Class was a real treat as it is a great song sung by Queen Laetifa and Catherine Zeta Jones. It might be a track you would shove in but t might be better if it could be put in the context of the movie more. but I feel the other extra, the director’s commentary is a bit too much. I could never sit and watch it with the commentary on just to find out about a tiny detail. .

The DVD is available everywhere. It does vary in price. We got a bargain as it was £10 in the HMV sale. Amazon is selling it for £13.99

One thing I would say is it is a 15. Due to the subject of the film and the scenes of a sexual nature especially at the start of the movie this is not suitable for children at all.

I love Chicago. Duskman enjoyed it even though he was dubious about seeing it when I suggested going to see it at the cinema. It really is a great film. The acting is good, the song and dance numbers are wonderful and memorable and the costumes are exquisite. This along with Moulen Rouge has taken the musical into the 21st century and out of that safe sugar coated world it inhabited before.

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Comments on this review

  • little_cherry published 19/07/2004
    i havnt seen this film yet sounds like my kind of thing ... brill review x x
  • drewboy published 31/05/2004
    I totally agree, fantastic film and CZT stole the show by a mile! is on my sop ten musicals at number four, its so good! drew
  • hellywelly published 11/03/2004
    I haven't seen this film as yet. I really enjoyed the review and will look out for the film on DVD now. Some interesting facts as well as a review of the DVD. I really enjoyed this. Helen
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Product Information : Chicago (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

This Hollywood adaptation of the classic Broadway musical sparkles with glamour and reverberates with the energy of good, old-fashioned song and dance. As the film leaps into its first riveting act, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), one half of the famous number she performs with her sister, arrives at the night club late, dishevelled, and with blood on her hands. Nonetheless, she goes onstage unhindered and wows the crowd with her shimmying rendition of 'All That Jazz'. Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) a young blonde who dreams of someday being famous like Velma, watches from the audience with eyes full of envy. Later, as the cops pick up Velma for the murder of her sister, sending her fame to all-time heights as she becomes a tabloid sensation, Roxie also commits a crime of passion--shooting a lover who falsely promised to secure her cabaret debut. The girls wind up together in jail, where Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), a compassionate guard, is their only hope of redemption; and Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is the lawyer who can get them out. There, through wonderfully familiar songs like 'Razzle Dazzle', 'Cell-Block Tango', and 'Cellophane Man' Roxie and Velma tell their story of competing for bad-girl celebrity. Director Rob Marshall presents a loveable CHICAGO that shares all the grit and grime of the Bob Fosse Broadway original with phenomenal performances by this grouping of Hollywood stars. The dizzying camerawork and dazzling sets make an easy transition from stage to film.

Release Details

DVD Region: DVD

Release date: 12/09/2005, 04/08/2003

No of Discs: 2, 1

Catalogue No: BUA 0013401, BED 888819

Barcode: 8717418056377, 5017188888196

Voice: Danny Elfman

Choreographer: Bob Fosse

Music: Fred Ebb


Author: Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb

Director of Photography: Dion Beebe

Screenwriter: Bill Condon

Producer: Martin Richards

Composer: Danny Elfman, Fred Ebb


Main Language: English

Professional Reviews

Review: "...Fresh and daring....Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly are the surprise standouts..." (Box Office, p.59, 01/03/2003)<br><br>"...Zeta-Jones, all legs and growls, has found her calling card..." (Film Comment, p.73, 01/01/2003)<br><br>"...It's Zeta-Jones who keeps you watching from start to finish....She refuses to let you go....If musicals are dreams, she is their greatest dreamer..." (Los Angeles Times, p.C8, 27/12/2002)<br><br>"...[The actors] deliver sizzling performances....This tawdry, hard-as-nails carnival of ghouls generates plenty of fireworks..." (Movieline, p.62, 01/02/2003)<br><br>"...It's the raw expenditure of energy and the canniness of the staging that should pull audiences in and keep them rooted..." (New York Times, p.E1, 27/12/2002)<br><br>"...Zellweger wins our hearts. That's what makes her dangerous. Just like the movie....Dynamite..." (Rolling Stone, p.76, 23/01/2003)<br><br>"...[Jones] makes nightclub singer Velma a droll fishnet virtuoso..." (Sight and Sound, p.41-2, 01/02/2003)<br><br>"...CHICAGO shows how much the element of surprise is missing from today's movies....It's part of the basic Zeta-Jones bio that she can really sing, and, wow, can she..." (USA Today, p.7D, 27/12/2002)<br><br>

Technical Information

Special Features: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scene, Behind The Scenes Footage

Dubbing Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English<br>Dolby Digital 2.0 English

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0

Award Information

BAFTA: Best Supporting Actress 2002 (Catherine Zeta Jones)

OSCAR: Best Actress In A Supporting Role 2002 (Catherine Zeta Jones)


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