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Set in New York City's gritty East Village, the revolutionary rock opera Rent tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent. "Measuring their lives in love," these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and the AIDS epidemic. Rent is based on Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical, one of the longest running shows on Broadway. The raw and riveting musical stars Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Tracie Thoms and is directed by Chris Columbus.
For more about Rent and the Rent Blu-ray release, see Rent Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 19, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Mackenzie Firgens
Director: Chris Columbus
» See full cast & crew
Rent Blu-ray Review
This film feels about 525,600 minutes long.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 19, 2008
I'm a New Yorker. Fear is my life.
There is no denying the power of the Broadway musical. I've never seen one live, and I must admit that outside of a cursory curiosity, I don't feel the need to attend one, either. Live theater has never been my cup of tea, but I certainly respect its power as a force in the entertainment world. Shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera are fixtures, as is Rent. There's been a rash of studio produced theatrical versions of these shows in recent years. Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, and Hairspray have all seen recent releases, and Mamma Mia! is coming soon to a theater near you. One of the biggest Broadway hits, The Lion King is unique in that it began as a famous movie and evolved into one of the top stage shows in history. One of the latest shows-turned-film is Rent, a gritty look at the lives of people struggling to get by financially, physically, and emotionally in 1990s New York.
Rent chronicles the lives of eight friends in New York City over the span of 525,600 minutes. This eclectic group is tight knit, and perhaps the best word to describe them on the whole is "family." The film is a celebration of diversity and represents a world where everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference lives mostly in harmony, struggling together, sharing the joys and downfalls of life together, and helping one another along the way with a wide array of personal and public issues that plague the group as a whole when one individual is afflicted. I'm not sure the best way to summarize Rent is to provide the basic plot points of the first act or so of the film, as is my norm in writing these reviews. Even though I didn't particularly enjoy the film, this is one that can be emotionally disturbing, especially to people who may have lived a more sheltered life outside of metropolises such as New York City. Needless to say, the film deals with drug addiction, AIDS, homosexual relationships, the homeless, and the hopelessness of living in the city with no money to get along. However, the film counters each issue with song and dance, showcasing how the most different of us can band together to face any crisis, and that it's the whole rather than the individual that makes us who we are, especially in the face of the ugliness of reality in the world.
Rent is certainly a well-acted, well-directed, and overall well-made film. This film seems to be a departure for director Chris Columbus, who has helmed such projects as Home Alone, Only the Lonely, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone. With Rent, he's moved beyond his mostly family-friendly reputation to tackle a film that many may consider adult-only, dealing with subject material that many adults in middle America may not completely understand, let alone children. Nevertheless, Rent struck me as a rather pretentious film. While it may have been noble in the effort to portray the world as it is and the reality of life in the big city, the writers and filmmakers gloss over obvious facets of life, such as blood relations and religion, in the search for answers to the many questions and situations posed throughout the film. Indeed, many viewers may be turned off, if not offended, by the subject material at hand. Nevertheless, much of Rent shows us the reality of what most of us only know as thirty-second sound bites from the evening newscast and showcases the harsh reality that is life in the big city, but also demonstrates how those stuck in the middle of it all relate, depending on the uderstanding and love of their city family to get them through the 525,600 minutes per year.
Rent Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony sends in Rent with a rock-solid, 1080p high definition transfer. Presented in its original 2.40:1 image, nothing about this image looks anything less than flawless. Black levels are deep and pure; each scene where they are present showcases an inky perfection. While the film offers up a slightly drab and muted color palette, there is still an abundance of colors that are vibrant and rich, especially in brighter scenes, notably those taking place outdoors. There is no softness in any scene that I noted, and every detail is naturally sharp with a lifelike look and feel. Every scene is filled with lusciously reproduced, highly detailed scenery. Even the many drab locales look amazing. The loft where several characters reside is raised to the level of a minor role with the amount of detail seen in every shot, speaking to us as if it were a character in the film. Everything else, from close- ups of the cast to the clothing they wear to the streets on which they live couldn't be any more real save for a trip to the set in person. Sony has once again released a disc with a stunning image, and fans of Rent will want to add this to their collection immediately.
Rent Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony presents Rent with a rare choice between two high definition soundtracks. Provided is an uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack as well as a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. I screened the entirety of the film with the PCM track. The two seemed transparent to me in the few scenes in which I sampled them back-to-back, as they should be. One complaint I have with this mix is also one I had with another musical I've reviewed, High School Musical 2. The vocals of the numbers in both films clearly sound as if they have been recorded in the studio rather than being performed "live" during the shooting of the movie. Certainly, I don't expect them to be, but the effect is very obvious and distracting, though it's much less obvious in Rent than it is in Disney's pre-teen musical sensation which has "studio" written all over it. Nevertheless, part of the reason I could never get into this film was the clearly re-mixed and processed sounding vocals, a problem I've never noticed in the classics of the musical genre from bygone eras. One other nagging problem is that the film frequently mixes music, oftentimes modern rock numbers, with dialogue, and the spoken words seem to get lost underneath the loud instrumentation. Other than these two issues which are more nagging than serious, the track sounded just fine. There is a good bit of ambience to be heard as the sounds of the city permeate the entirety of the soundstage. Dialogue reproduction is excellent, again notwithstanding the sometimes hard-to-hear words underneath blaring guitar riffs. All in all, this is a solid mix and one that is sure to be a crowd pleaser for fans of the film.
Rent Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sony has included supplements that are few in number but large in length, and both primary features should please fans of the film. Leading off is a commentary track with director Chris Columbus from San Francisco, and Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal from New York. The three participants are quite engaging, much more so than the film itself. All three come across as highly intelligent, discussing many aspects of the filmmaking process, including the placement of the opening song in the film contrasted to where it appears in the musical, technical challenges in bringing a stage play to the big screen, and cuts made to keep the film with a PG-13 rating. Following the commentary track is an impressive documentary entitled No Day But Today (480p, 1:52:12). This documentary focus on the creator of Rent, the late Jonathan Larson. There is a major focus on Larson and his life, showcasing him from childhood to death. Also discussed are the influences on Larson both in theater and in life, notably life in New York and AIDS. There is also a bit of the making of the film here, but the focus is clearly on the fascinating life of Jonathan Larson. Four deleted scenes and an alternate ending with optional commentary by director Christopher Columbus (480p, 12:03) and 1080p trailers for Across the Universe, Stomp the Yard, and a 1080p Blu-ray montage are also available. Finally, two public service announcements for the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation (480p, 5:53) and the National Marfan Foundation (480p, 1:02) conclude the supplements.
Rent Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rent is a film with good intentions, but I found the end product to be a bit too preachy and rebellious for my tastes. It's hard to find sympathy for all the characters, especially when they come out at the beginning of the film singing against "the establishment," and refusing to pay their rent last year, this year, or next year as they toss burning debris off their balcony and onto the street. Rent is sure to be a polarizing film and is not one that a whole lot of people will completely understand. Fans of the film and the story should be more than pleased with the video quality on display. It's one of the best to date. The audio suffers a bit, but on the whole it is certainly sufficient. Supplements are a bit lacking in number but are of high quality and depth nevertheless, and one extra that would have been really cool, though understandably difficult at best and impossible at worst to get on this disc would have been a showing of the musical itself, but that will have to wait for another day and another disc. Because of the controversial nature of the film, I cannot recommend Rent as a blind purchase. If you have never seen the film and think you might like it, I'd suggest, um, "renting" Rent before buying.
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Rent Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Legend of Zorro and Rent Announced - October 1, 2007
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced plans to bring 'The Legend of Zorro' and 'Rent' to Blu-ray on December 11th. No specs or special features have been announced at this for either release. 'Rent' has been out in Japan for quite some time, but ...
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