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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tom Hooper
Cast:
Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Taylor Swift
Writing Credits:
Lee Hall, Tom Hooper

Synopsis:
A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English Dolby Atmos
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
English DVS
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 4/7/2020

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Tom Hooper
• “9 Lives” Featurette
• “Singing Live” Featurette
• “Making Macavity” Featurette
• “A Director’s Journey” Featurette
• “Making Music” Featurette
• “The Art of Dance” Featurette
• “Scaling Up” Featurette
• “A Little Magic” Featurette
• “The Dancers” Featurettes
• “Cat School” Featurette
&bull. Previews
• DVD Copy


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RELATED REVIEWS


Cats [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2020)

After it premiered in 1981, Cats became a stage sensation. Still popular almost 40 years later, the hit show finally got a cinematic adaptation via 2019’s Cats.

Based on the work of TS Eliot, the film takes place on the streets of London. When a feline named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) gets abandoned, she enters a new life with her fellow cats.

Victoria meets a tribe of furries called the “Jellicles”. Every year they choose which one ascends to the “Heaviside Layer” to become born again, and issues around this event arise.

Sort of. That synopsis implies Cats enjoys a plot, which seems like an exaggeration. Instead, it provides a collection of character moments and musical numbers organized under a vague theme.

Apparently those suited live audiences. I never saw Cats on stage – it sounds utterly ridiculous, but perhaps it pulls off some charms in that setting.

Devoid of the energy found from live performances, Cats needs to succeed based on the actual content, and that turns into a major problem. Without the verve we can get on stage, we find ourselves stuck with a silly production that gets goofier at every turn.

Cats received brutal reviews. A movie so instantly despised that actors Rebel Wilson and James Corden openly mocked it at the Oscars only a couple months later, any legacy the film enjoys will come from cult classic “hate watching”.

Indeed, I suspect much of its ticket receipts came from those curious to see if Cats deserved its status as Instant Atrocity. That wasn’t enough to redeem its sales, though, and the box office bomb hemorrhaged money.

Given all the talent involved in Cats, this surprised. Tom Hooper did well with another stage adaptation, 2012’s Les Miserables, and the star-packed cast showed promise.

Perhaps the source suffers from so many inherent flaws that no one could redeem it. A plotless musical about people dressed as cats with head-scratching Christian imagery sounds like a recipe for disaster.

And again, perhaps the basic concerns doom Cats. Whatever the case, Hooper makes things even worse with a mix of bizarre choices.

For one, Cats abandons the usual use of actors in cat costumes. Instead, it utilizes motion capture techniques to make the characters computer animated creations.

Why? Presumably Hooper goes this way to allow the participants to act more like real cats and behave in ways more difficult to enact via the “actors in suits” method.

But this seems like a weird decision nonetheless, as the film straddles the lines. While the movie tries to emulate actual felines in some ways, we still get fairly human heads and body proportions.

This just looks damned weird. Because the cats get rendered in such humanoid ways, we never accept their animal nature, and the end result just presents disconcerting visuals.

Unconvincing computer effects don’t help. It often looks like the filmmakers grafted the actors’ faces on CG heads/bodies, and these elements fare even worse when it comes to non-cats.

The movie tosses in occasional glimpses of mice and insects. As awkward as the felines appear, these others seem even more artificial.

These factors reliably take the viewer out of the movie. If Cats went with the stage production’s approach and just used humans in costumes, we’d rapidly accept them in that guise.

However, the odd mix of human and computer renders everything as disconcerting and consistently off-putting. Even across 110 minutes, I never quite adapted to the weirdness of what I saw, and that made it impossible to suspend any form of disbelief.

Perhaps if the songs and performances worked, none of this would matter too much. However, these start with the silly and absurd “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” and never get better from there.

The tunes lack much to make them creative or catchy, and the lyrics range from banal to embarrassing. In a good musical, the songs support the story, but here, they are the story, such as it is.

As noted, Cats doesn’t really enjoy a plot, so it just bounds from one production to another, with only the slightest theme of “elevation to the Heaviside Layer” to connect them. The film would need a stellar roster of production numbers to overcome the absence of real narrative/character development, and Cats falls terribly short in that domain.

Cats comes with a pretty quality cast, as we find folks such as Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Not a single one can overcome the basic idiocy of the property, and the more sensible of the bunch look embarrassed to be there.

I can’t blame them, as Cats delivers an atrocity of epic nature. The movie will likely endure in the public imagination due to its sheer bizarreness, as the “who thought this was a good idea?” factor counts for something. Don’t expect a well-made, engaging film, though.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Cats appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, this became a pleasing presentation.

My only issues related to sharpness, and I suspect most of those issues stemmed from the less-than-quality computer animation. The movie’s soft spots tended to relate to the depiction of the characters, as some shots could be oddly ill-defined.

Those remained fairly infrequent, at least. This meant the majority of the film delivered nice clarity and accuracy.

Neither jagged edges nor moiré effects impacted the presentation, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to appear.

Cats offered a pretty broad palette, and the hues came across well. With a nice mix of reds, purples, greens and yellows, the colors appeared vivid.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows usually seemed pleasing. Again, CG effects could create some minor distractions, as the low-light shots felt a little thick at times, but these usually worked fine. Overall, this was a mostly appealing image.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack heavily favored music. This meant we got occasional impact from effects, but they lacked a lot of involvement.

Instead, the spectrum used the songs and score to fill the room, and it did so in a satisfying manner. The music spread across the channels nicely and used the mix to engage the viewer.

Audio quality worked well, as those important musical elements contributed fine range and clarity. The songs and score showed concise highs and warm low-end.

Speech felt natural and distinctive, while effects appeared accurate and well-defined. The track lacked the ambition for a high grade, but it seemed satisfactory for this project.

As we move to extras, we find an audio commentary from director Tom Hooper. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion of the source and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and production design, music and choreography, visual effects and connected domains.

Overall, Hooper delivers a pretty solid look at the movie. He covers a nice array of domains and does so in an engaging manner, factors that turn this into an informative discussion.

10 featurettes follow, and 9 Lives runs seven minutes, 40 seconds. It offers notes from Hooper, producer Debra Hayward, costume designer Paco Delgado, production designer Eve Stewart, and actors Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Francesca Hayward and Idris Elba.

“Lives” looks at cast and characters. It leans toward fluff but it produces a few useful details.

Singing Live spans two minutes, 20 seconds and involves Hooper, Swift, Derulo, Wilson, Corden, Hudson and production sound mixer Simon Hayes. This tells us about the use of on-set vocals in a fairly superficial manner.

With Making Macavity, we find a five-minute, 18-second reel that features Hooper, Elba, Swift and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. It looks at one of the movie’s big production numbers. Other than some good footage from rehearsals, this becomes a lackluster overview.

A Director’s Journey lasts a mere one minute, 31 seconds and offers info from Hooper, Debra Hayward, Corden, and Swift. It’s a lot of praise for the filmmaker.

Next comes Making Music, a four-minute, 37-second reel with Swift, Hooper, Hudson, Francesca Hayward, Corden, Derulo, Wilson, Debra Hayward, executive producer/composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and actor Judi Dench. It’s a lot of praise for Webber.

The Art of Dance goes for four minutes, 54 seconds and delivers remarks from Hudson, Derulo, Corden, Blankenbuehler, Hooper, and actors Robbie Fairchild and Steven McRae. It’s a lot of praise for Blankenbuehler.

After this we get Scaling Up, a four-minute, 16-second featurette that offers info from Elba, Hudson, Derulo, Swift, Corden, Wilson, Hooper, Stewart, Blankenbuehler, director of photography Christopher Ross, set decorator Michael Standish and model maker Hannah Lyons.

We learn about the movie’s enormous sets. Despite a few interesting tidbits, most of the show acts to hype the production.

A Little Magic runs three minutes, six seconds and delivers comments from Hooper, Corden, Swift, Hudson, Debra Hayward, Francesca Hayward, VFX consultant Steve Preeg and actor Mette Towley.

“Magic” delivers a quick overview of the movie’s visual effects. Like its peers, it lacks substance.

Up next, The Dancers breaks into four sections that fill a total of 11 minutes, 26 seconds. We discover comments from Hudson, Elba, Francesca Hayward, Fairchild, Wilson, Dench, Towley, and actors Naoimh Morgan, Danny Collins, and Laurent and Larry Bourgeois.

Here we find out how much the dancers care about their craft. It’s another puffy piece.

Finally, Cat School occupies two minutes, 43 seconds with statements from Swift, Hudson, Elba, Hooper, Francesca Hayward, Corden, Wilson, Dench and cat movement specialist Sarah Dowling. This tells us a little about the actors’ training. It tells us little of interest but we get some good rehearsal footage.

The disc opens with an ad for Downton Abbey. No trailer for Cats appears here.

Both a critical disaster and a box office bomb, Cats provides one of the most “what were they thinking?” big-budget affairs in recent memory. Despite a good cast, the movie ends up as a plodding, bizarre mess. The Blu-ray brings pretty positive picture and audio along with an erratic set of supplements highlighted by an informative commentary. Cats is so weird that it should be probably be seen to be believed, but don’t expect to actually enjoy it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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04:
0 3:
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31:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main