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Rob Marshall
Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson
Writing Credits:
Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella, Arthur Kopit (Broadway musical, "Nine"), Maury Yeston (Broadway musical, "Nine"), Mario Fratti (Broadway musical, "Nine", Italian original)

This Holiday Season, Be Italian.

A vibrant and provocative musical filled with love, lust, passion and glamour. A world famous film director reaches a creative and personal crisis of epic proportion, while balancing numerous women in his life. With its incredible all-star cast, amazing performances and stunning visuals, this razzle-dazzle extravaganza will make you long to BE ITALIAN.

Box Office:
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$257.232 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$19.664 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $38.96
Release Date: 5/4/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca
• “The Incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis” Featurette
• “The Women of ” Featurette
• “Director Rob Marshall” Featurette
• “Behind the Look of Nine” Featurette
• “The Dancers of Nine” Featurette
• “The Choreography of ‘Be Italian’” Featurette
• “Making of ‘Cinema Italiano’” Featurette
• “The Choreography of ‘Cinema Italiano’” Featurette
• “Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios” Featurette
• Screen Actors Guild Q&A Session
• Three Music Videos
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Nine [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2010)

Back in 2002, director Rob Marshall helped revive the movie musical with his big screen adaptation of Chicago. That flick became a smash on all fronts. Not only did it earn $170 million – a remarkable total for a musical – but also it received great critical attention. Indeed, it became the first musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since Oliver! back in 1968.

The resurgence wouldn’t last, a fact that Marshall’s second movie musical made evident. Like Chicago, 2009’s Nine enjoyed a good budget and a star-studded cast, but it completely failed to recapture its predecessor’s success. Critics didn’t much care for it, and audiences totally avoided it, as the movie earned a poor $19 million in the US.

Despite my long-standing general disdain for musicals, I enjoyed Chicago, so I thought I’d give Nine a look. Based on the stage musical that was itself adapted from Fellini’s , Nine introduces us to Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis). Set in Rome circa 1965, Contini embarks on the production of a new film titled Italia. After two flops, Contini suffers a lot of pressure to make a hit, but he doesn’t feel up to the task, as he encounters a serious lack of creative productivity.

In the face of all this stress, Contini retreats to a resort to recuperate. His wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard) wants to visit, but he makes up an excuse to keep her away and invites his sultry mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz) instead. Contini’s producer Dante (Ricky Tognazzi) also locates him and brings all of the movie machinery to the director – whether the artist likes it or not.

Contini works through his “director’s block” while he muses on the influence of various women in his life – most of whom come to life via musical numbers in Guido’s imagination. In addition to the ladies already mentioned, this roster includes his costume designer Lilli (Judy Dench), his leading lady Claudia (Nicole Kidman), his deceased mother (Sophia Loren), a journalist (Kate Hudson), and a prostitute he knew as a kid (Fergie).

On the surface, I can find a lot of similarities between Chicago and Nine, so why did I like the former but feel consistently dissatisfied with the latter? Good question, and not a simple one to answer. Both offer material with a lot of similarities, especially in terms of the way Marshall presents them. Unlike musicals in which the songs appear to occur in “real life”, these two flicks feature performances that reside in the fantasy realm.

In Chicago, that made the tunes more palatable, as they felt less unnatural, and the songs also provided good illustration of events. In Nine, the fantasy element proves less beneficial, partly because the numbers don’t add a lot to our understanding of story or characters. The songs seem to exist just for their own sake, and they don’t add to the tale much.

Which is largely because Nine lacks a substantial plot. Granted, Chicago didn’t come with a particularly rich narrative, but at least it hung its hat on a clear series of story events. Nine goes down a more character-based path. While the movie sort of revolves around Contini’s attempts to work on Italia, it’s really about all the women in his life and how they shaped him.

Or at least that’s what it should be about, but Marshall’s attempts to create a vivid character piece go nowhere. Guido feels like a neurotic cad at the movie’s start and that never really changes. Sure, we learn a little more about him as we see the various women along the way, but those elements don’t contribute much.

That’s because the production numbers appear to exist for their own sake, not to serve the story. Most of them start to feel a lot alike, and few stand out from the crowd. Cruz’s “A Call from the Vatican” is the exception, though that’s mostly because the actress provides a remarkably sexy turn; she practically burns up the screen, and I’d guess that her incendiary performance was the reason she got an Oscar nomination in this otherwise forgettable film.

Chicago got by via its own sense of cynical spunk, but Nine remains such a pile of mush that it loses us early. Without a strong plot, it relies on its characters to succeed. Without interesting personalities, it depends on sparkling musical numbers. Without dynamic song and dance sequences, it hopes its star power will keep us enchanted.

If nothing else, Nine does boast a pretty terrific cast. Unfortunately, they’re the last line of defense, and they can’t redeem a muddled story with ill-defined characters. Rob Marshall did a lot to redeem musicals back in 2002, but here he puts a nail in that particular coffin.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Nine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Across the board, the transfer looked very good.

Sharpness usually excelled. A few shots came across as a wee bit soft, especially when the film used visual techniques to turn some elements black and white. For the most part, though, the movie appeared concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge haloes were absent. Source flaws failed to show up as well; the movie remained clean and clear.

Colors were a highlight in this bubbly flick. The movie boasted a broad palette, and the hues looked lively and vivid. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows demonstrated good clarity and smoothness. Only the minor softness caused me to lower my grade down to a still solid “B+”.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it should come as no surprise that it favored music. In that realm, the score and songs boasted excellent stereo presence in the front as well as good reinforcement in the rear. The track didn’t feature any prominent unique music from the back speakers, but those channels bolstered the music’s overall impact.

The rest of the mix remained much less ambitious. If any significant effects material occurred, I didn’t notice it. Music really remained truly dominant, and speech was the second most prominent element. Effects stayed minor and didn’t add much to the proceedings, which was fine, as they shouldn’t have had much to do here.

The track worked well because the music sounded so good. Those songs and score boasted excellent clarity and punch, with clean highs and warm lows. Speech was consistently concise and natural, and the effects – though low-key – were clean and accurate. I thought the mix brought home the music in a very satisfying manner.

Despite its box office failure, the Blu-ray for Nine packs in a slew of extras. We launch with an audio commentary from director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at adapting the stage production, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, music, costumes and design topics, cinematography, choreography, and a few other movie areas.

Though DeLuca tosses in a fair amount of material, Marshall dominates the track. For the most part, that’s a good thing, as he covers the film well. We get a nice array of insights related to the production and learn a fair amount here. Occasionally the speakers essentially just narrate the movie, but those moments remain infrequent enough for this to become a pleasing commentary.

The disc provides a plethora of featurettes, and these begin with the five-minute, 12-second The Incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis. It includes remarks from Marshall, DeLuca, and actors Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, Fergie, and Nicole Kidman. We learn a few decent tidbits about Day-Lewis’s performance and see some nice shots from the set, but mostly this is an excuse to heap praise on the lead actor. Yawn!

Other actors come to the fore in The Women of . It goes for 10 minutes, 47 seconds and features Marshall, DeLuca, Cotillard, Fergie, Hudson, Loren, Kidman, Dench, Day-Lewis, producer Marc Platt, and actor Penelope Cruz. The piece looks at the casting and performances of the film’s female actors. Most of the interesting tidbits already appear in the commentary, which means “Women” leaves us with little more than the same kind of fluffery found in the Day-Lewis featurette. Yawn again!

We learn more about the filmmaker during the six-minute, 27-second Director Rob Marshall. It presents notes from Marshall, Fergie, Platt, Hudson, Cotillard, Cruz, Loren, Dench, Day-Lewis and DeLuca. They tell us what a wonderful and talented director Marshall is. As with the first two featurettes, we get a few mildly interesting shots from the set but the end effect is – dare I say it? – yawn.

Visuals become the focus with Behind the Look of Nine. In the eight-minute, 21-second show, we hear from Marshall, Fergie, Hudson, Dench, production designer John Myhre, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and choreographer Dion Beebe. The program looks at sets and costumes. Though a little fluffiness appears, this piece sticks with details in a way that makes it a nice improvement over its predecessors. We get a good mix of notes here.

Next comes the four-minute, 39-second The Dancers of Nine. It provides material from Marshall, Beebe, DeLuca, and dancers Clare Rogers, Tamara Fernando, Shannon Bel Castro, Jennifer Leung, Glenn Ball, Tristan Temple, and Amy Bailey. Some audition footage proves interesting, but not much else here works, as we mostly just hear praise for Marshall.

We look at dancing in The Choreography of ‘Be Italian’. The four-minute, 16-second piece offers info from DeLuca, Marshall, and Fergie. We find a minor exploration of the shooting of this musical number, though once again, solid details remain elusive. We’ve already learned most of the info elsewhere, so don’t expect much from this short.

Making of ‘Cinema Italiano’ lasts two minutes, 53 seconds and features Hudson as she discusses singing her song. She’s fun to hear from, and we see a little of her in the studio, but there’s not much meat here.

More about that segment shows up in the eight-minute, 37-second The Choreography of ‘Cinema Italiano’. It gives us notes from Hudson, DeLuca, and Marshall. It works about the same as the companion piece of “Be Italian”, as it takes us to the set to see the shooting of the scene. It does fare better than its predecessor, though, mostly because Hudson offers a few interesting notes about the challenges of singing and dancing on screen. It’s not a great program, but it’s reasonably useful.

For the final featurette, we find Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios. In the 12-minute, 52-second program, we hear from Loren as she offers memories of her career in film as well as some aspects of Nine. She throws out a good array of enjoyable tales here.

The disc’s longest video program, a Screen Actors Guild Q&A Session runs 43 minutes, 14 seconds and includes Day-Lewis, Kidman, Hudson, Dench, Cruz and Cotillard. They discuss how they came onto the film, their characters and performances, working with Marshall, and other aspects of the production. Nothing especially revelatory emerges here, but it’s cool to see all those big names on stage together, and we get enough useful material to make this a good piece.

Three Music Videos round out the set. These come for “Cinema Italiano”, “Take It All” and “Unusual Way”. The first two qualify as “music videos” in name only; they simply combine movie and rehearsal/recording footage to cobble together cheap promotional material. “Way” is done by Griffith Frank – Kidman sang it in the movie – and is closer to a real video, as it intercuts movie shots with lip-synch clips of Griffith Frank. It’s perfectly awful.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for The Road, A Single Man, Extraordinary Measures, and Not the Messiah. These also appear under Previews along with promos for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Young Victoria, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, The Back-Up Plan, Dear John and An Education. No trailer for Nine appears here.

As one who liked 2002’s Chicago, I had high hopes for 2009’s Nine. Unfortunately, it dashed those hopes. Despite a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera, the movie suffers from forgettable songs, lackluster performances and a general absence of compelling narrative/character elements. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio as well as an erratic but sporadically informative set of supplements. As a Blu-ray, this is a nice release, but the movie itself misfires.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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