The follow-up from director Rob Marshall to "Chicago", "Nine" is another adaptation of a popular broadway play (from the original play by Mario Fratti; the impressive team of Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella adapted the play for the screen.)
The film is another take on Felini's "8 1/2", following director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) in '60's Rome as he tries his best to pull together a film production after a couple of films that missed with audiences.
Suffering from a nasty case of writer's block, he avoids his wife (Marion Cotillard, "Public Enemies") and contacts the woman he's carrying on an affair with, Carla (an enjoyable Penelope Cruz, who delivers what has to be one of her most high-energy performances yet.
Throughout the film, he also looks back - via flashback musical numbers - on his other experiences with women throughout the years that have brought him to where he is today - including costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), his mother (Sophia Loren), actress Claudia (Nicole Kidman), a hooker he knew (Fergie, of The Black Eyed Peas) and a journalist (Kate Hudson.)
The movie certainly isn't short on budget, as the musical has quite a bit of visual impact, with impressive production design, costume work, art direction, cinematography and locations. The songs aren't quite as memorable as "Chicago", but are performed with (mostly) solid energy from the cast (Cruz proves to be an unexpectedly good singer and the most riveting presence on-screen in the film.) The movie does feel a little more about the song-and-dance numbers than the story - which does lead to a couple of slow stretches - but
The remainder of the cast is certainly an all-star ensemble, and they mostly deliver. While Day-Lewis offers a decent take on the character, Hudson, Dench, Kidman and Cotillard are quite good. "Nine" doesn't quite have the spark of "Chicago", but it's a fun, well-made film (and that's from someone who isn't exactly a fan of the genre.)
VIDEO: The film is presented in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. This presentation from the studio is an absolute delight, with sharpness and detail remaining impressive throughout, and allowing viewers to appreciate the costume and production design work (among other visual aspects) that went into the film.
While a bit of light edge enhancement is spotted, the presentation otherwise looked enjoyably smooth and sleek. No specks, marks or other flaws were spotted on the print used, either. Colors remained thrilling, appearing bright and bold, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults. The Blu-Ray presentation offered a moderately crisper, more detailed image.
SOUND: "Nine"'s DTS-HD 5.1 presentation isn't particularly aggressive in terms of surround use, but it does have a big, bold sound, especially during the musical sequences. The rear speakers provided some mild ambience, but were largely used to provide backing to the music. Audio quality was terrific, with bassy, powerful music and clear, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: There is a commentary from director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca. The two provide a wonderful discussion of the film, offering insights on working with the cast, filming on location, adapting the musical, difficulties with the production and more.
There are also several featurettes included. While some of these pieces could have been put together into a longer-form promotional piece (rather than shorter pieces that have to be played separately), they are enjoyable overall. These include: "Director Rob Marshall" and "The Incomparable Daniel Day Lewis" (each taking a look at the director and actor, not surprisingly), "The Dancers of Nine" (a look into the talented background dancers), "Behind the Look of Nine" (a look into the costume design and other visual aspects), "The Women Of..." (A look at the women of...well, "Nine"), "The Choreography of ‘Cinema Italiano" and "The Making of 'Cinema Italiano'; "Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios" and - best of all - a lengthy Q & A session with the cast (which is quite enjoyable.) Finally, we get a trio of music videos and promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Nine" doesn't quite have the spark of "Chicago", but it's a fun, well-made film (and that's from someone who isn't exactly a fan of the genre.) The Blu-Ray offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of supplements. Recommended.
The Film B