The Disney Channel's biggest hit series is this fluffy bit of wish fufillment starring Miley Cyrus (daughter of singer Billy Ray, who also stars) as Miley Stewart, a teenager who moves out to California from Tennessee to become a pop star. By day, she's an average student who lives a normal life with friends and homework. At night, she's Hannah Montana, a pop star who sells out huge concerts and looks oddly like a younger Hilary Duff.
The episodes are often centered around Miley and her friends - Oliver Oken (Mitchel Musso) and Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment) - getting into adventures or Miley trying to keep her pop star identity a secret. The series doesn't exactly look slick, even for a cable series (the school sets look like they were taken from "Saved by the Bell"), but the show offers some fun plots and energetic performances (Billy Ray Cyrus is entertaining as Hannah/Miley's father/manager.)
While the series has become a smash hit for the Disney channel, it wasn't until the recent "Best of Both Worlds" tour that one could really see the astonishing popularity of both Cyrus and her alter ego. In a time where musical tours have seen diminishing ticket sales, "The Best of Both Worlds" tour not only sold out quickly, but some were willing to pay shocking amounts to scalpers for tickets, with some reports of tickets changing hands for as much as $6,000 for a pair. Other things one can get for less than $3,000 = airfare to Hawaii and a 7 night hotel stay.
Craziness and cost comparisons aside, those who weren't able to get tickets for the sold-out shows can get a front row seat in the comfort of their own living room for about $20 with this DVD. "Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Tour" is directed by Bruce Hendricks, whose work I enjoyed with the Disney IMAX feature, "Ultimate X", which took an up close look at the extreme sports of the X Games. "Best of Both Worlds" wasn't shot with IMAX cameras, but was shot with digital video and did make its way to some IMAX venues.
I won't go into great detail on the music itself, but Cyrus certainly is quite the natural performer, offering a high energy set that really seems to connect with the audience, who appear to be screaming at the top of their lungs with every lyric. The Jonas Brothers also join Cyrus on stage for a few numbers, as well. At the opening of the film and at points throughout the show, the film breaks for some looks behind-the-scenes and interviews with fans.
Technically, the picture is first-rate, with Hendricks and his crew of cinematographers allowing the viewer to get a front row (or at times, on stage) experience. I was also pleasantly surprised that the editing wasn't nearly as rapid-fire as many similar concert films out there today. The 2-D and 3-D versions are accessible from the main menu of the Blu-Ray disc.
VIDEO: "Best of Both Worlds" is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC) on Blu-Ray and the results are a considerable improvement over the image quality of the 1.33:1 full-frame presentation. It's also quite nice to have the film in its original aspect ratio, which is only available in the 3-D version on DVD. The Blu-Ray presentation is the winner when it comes to sharpness and detail, as it looks positively crystal clear throughout much of the show. There's also very nice depth to the image as well (while the 2-D version isn't 3-D, it certainly had a three-dimensional feel at times), which is quite a difference from the more flat looking DVD. Filmed with Sony HD cameras, it's rare that the image doesn't show pintpoint clarity - even audience shots and the behind-the-scenes material look very crisp.
That's not to say that the Blu-Ray doesn't have a few issues, but they're minor, and consist mainly of a handful of instances of noticable noise Otherwise, no edge enhancement, pixelation or other faults are spotted. Colors look exceptionally bright and bold, with deep hues that never seem smeary or otherwise problematic. Shadow detail remains first-rate and flesh tones seemed accurate, too. This wasn't a presentation without some concerns, but much of the show looked marvelous.
SOUND: "Best of Both Worlds" is presented by Disney in DTS HD-MA 7.1 and PCM 2.0. It is the studio's first Blu-Ray offering with DTS. The sound mix seemed on the plain side to my ears, with a fairly conservative (considering the size of the concert) spread across the front speakers, and rather mild support from the rear speakers. While the sound mix remains somewhat underwhelming, the concert at least saw some improvements to the listening experience in DTS, as the DTS HD-MA audio option did have mildly more fullness and oomph than the DVD's Dolby Digital presentation.
EXTRAS: Additional performances - "SOS" and "Broken", as well as karaoke versions for some of the songs in the feature and an 11-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette. Finally, promos for other titles from the studio are offered.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Best of Both Worlds Tour" provides a breezy, high-energy show - while I'm not in the target audience, fans should be thrilled. The Blu-Ray provides top-notch video quality and fine audio, as well as a few supplemental freatures. Recommended for fans.