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Sparkle (2012) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), English Audio Descriptive Service Dolby Digital 5.1, French & Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese/Traditional, French, Korean, Thai
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 116 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: UltraViolet
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 30, 2012
  • List Price: $35.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, is a rather one-dimensional parable about the perils of making it in the music business and keeping families and friendships together along the way. Anyone familiar with the original film will already be familiar with this story, but if not, it also bears a strong resemblance to Dreamgirls. We’ve seen these stories over and over again in film and on the stage, and most of them suffer from the illness of cliché. Sparkle is no exception on this point, but director Salim Akil still manages to sculpt a reasonably enjoyable series of vignettes featuring all the stops we expect to see along the road in such a journey. Most of it is thanks to the charismatic performances from the cast of performers and some is from the ethereal feeling imparted by the broad mid-to-late 1960s era the film is set in and that production designers effectively evoke.

Set in Detroit against the backdrop of the hot black American music scene of the mid-1960s, Sparkle follows three sisters living at home with their over-protective mother Emma (Whitney Houston). Youngest sister Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is a songwriter with little confidence to sing her own songs. The middle sister Dolores (Tika Sumpter), is a driven and studious woman working hard to get into medical school. The eldest, Sister (Carmen Ejogo) is the most talented, but also the most rebellious of the group. Her sizzling, sexy performance of one of Sparkle’s songs in a nightclub one night gets the girls noticed by up and coming manager Stix (Derek Luke). He is certain that he can make a success out of any group fronted by Sister using Sparkle’s songs. After convincing Dolores to join the group, Sister and the Sisters begin heating up the Motor City’s nightlife music scene, unbeknownst to their mother. A former music star herself who ran into bad times, the sisters’ mother, Emma, is now dead set against her daughters getting involved in the business, and would prefer them to all stay good, churchgoing girls, just like she is now. But success comes for the girls nonetheless, and so do the inevitable troubles. Sister, who dumps her cash-strapped boyfriend for successful standup comedian Satin (Mike Epps), is the first to go wayward, poorly influenced by his bad habits. The cracks in the relationship begin to show, and the idealistic Sparkle finds herself caught between her desire for success, her desire to live up to her mother’s standards, and the love she feels for Sister and their manager Stix.

All clichés aside, where Sparkle most succeeds is in its musical performances, which are surprisingly enjoyable and evocative of the era while being just modern enough to appeal to younger, contemporary audiences. It is Whitney Houston, however, who delivered the most prophetic line from the film. The late singer who passed just shortly after wrapping up production on the film was in a transitional period during the filming. It was well known that her voice wasn’t what it once was and we all know the story of her tragic death. One hesitates to read too much into things, but when she delivers the line, “if you’re gonna tell the story of my tragedy, at least do me the honor of getting it right.” it’s difficult not to think of just how telling that is.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The original high definition production on the Arri Alexa Plus at 2.8K resolution offers clean and crisp imagery with no artifacts and little video noise. Darker scenes have nuanced shadow details and brighter scenes are vibrantly saturated.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

A strong, reference quality DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack with lots of ambience and dynamic range captures the bustle of the city streets, the din of the music clubs, and the natural tones of the musical performances while adding in some directional panning that follows the action around the screen.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

We re given an interesting mixture of “making-of” featurettes, music videos, and an audio commentary, plus a touching tribute to the late Whitney Houston to help round out this solid collection of bonus materials.

  • Audio Commentary with director/producer Salim Akil
  • Extended Performance: “Hooked on Your Love” (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:04)
  • A Tribute to Whitney Houston (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:19:50)
  • A Dream Come True (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:31) – A discussion of how this remake of Sparkle came about.
  • A Sparkling Performance (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:35) – The choreography of the performances is explored in this featurette.
  • Sparkle & Shine (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:58) – This featurette focuses in on the cast of Sparkle.
  • “Celebrate” Music Video by Whitney Houston & Jordin Sparks (1.78:1; 1080p/24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

This is supposed to be the star-making vehicle for American Idol’s Jordin Sparks, but the one who really steals the show in Sparkle is the sizzling hot Carmen Ejogo as Sister. She’s plays the role as the sexy soul diva and flawed showbiz queen perfectly. The camera loves her, and she plays well with her supporting cast who also do rather well. The overall film brings nothing new to the table as far as the rags to riches to hard times story goes, but it still offers a well put together, visually delectable bit of guilty pleasure.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]



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