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21 February 2024

A magician at the height of his powers

The rehearsals footage opens with a foot-thumping rendition of Bad. (SUPPLIED)

By Damon Smith

Hastily constructed from hundreds of hours of backstage and rehearsals footage, Kenny Ortega's documentary, Michael Jackson's This Is It, is a glowing tribute to the King Of Pop as he prepares for one of the most spectacular live shows of his career.

The rehearsals footage, shot predominantly at Staples Center in Los Angeles and The Forum in Inglewood, California, opens with a foot-thumping rendition of Bad and segues into Jam with male dancers flanking the star in perfect time.

The hits come one after another: They Don't Care About Us with a futuristic military theme, Billy Jean, Beat It, Black And White and a delicate version of Human Nature, which reveals the singer has lost none of the melody in his voice. For Smooth Criminal, we go behind the scenes of a green screen video shoot to insert Jackson into black and white movies clips, including Rita Hayworth's glove striptease in Gilda.

A second video shoot for Thriller in 3D cuts back to the venue, where Michael emerges from a giant black widow spider that scuttles onto the stage. A sound check for The Way You Make Me Feel leads to a difference of opinion with musical director Michael Bearden over subtle changes in key and tempo.

"You gotta let it simmer," says Jackson. A lot of the footage is rough, and some of the sound is muffled, but Ortega has cut together scenes with impressive attention to detail. At times, Jackson looks painfully gaunt as he strives to perfect each arrangement, but for the most part, the film captures a musician at the height of his powers.

Extras on the DVD include several featurettes, including: Staging The Return: The Adventure Begins, Staging The Return: Beyond The Show, Memories Of Michael, Auditions: Searching For The World's Best Dancers, The Unfinished Rehearsals; several "making of" episodes; a costumes featurette entitled The Gloved One, and the theatrical trailer.

Several additional featurettes are included in the two-disc DVD and Blu-Ray versions. The latter also includes an exclusive 24-page booklet of photographs taken during final rehearsals.

- Michael Jackson's This Is It will be available in DVD stores across the UAE this month


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