THE world s disbelief was shared as pop superstar Michael Jackson suddenly passed away a few months ago. A wave of sorrow and surprise blanketed the planet like none I d witnessed since the similarly untimely death of Princess Diana. As well as a tragedy


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THE world's disbelief was shared as pop superstar Michael Jackson suddenly passed away a few months ago. A wave of sorrow and surprise blanketed the planet like none I'd witnessed since the similarly untimely death of Princess Diana.

As well as a tragedy to the world of music it's also at a time when he was so close to start a long-running (some believed too long) stint of shows in London. He promised the best show on Earth and you could almost feel the upcoming annoyance of queues outside the O2, the spotlight turning on, the first beats of Gotta Be Startin' Something... so close...

And as a replacement (or a cruel tease) October ends with the release of this reworked collection of hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage from the event.

I am a Jacko fan - not one of the dressing-up, obsessed types that were filmed painfully grieving outside the Staples Centre in LA earlier in the year - and was a little shook up after the death. My iTunes 'Most Played' list had a good two months of Michael Jackson up top.

So I am looking forward to this, although the slight fear that this is blatant and hurriedly made non-tribute to the King Of Pop reigns free in my mind. Here's hoping this isn't 'bad'...(sorry, no more crudely made puns)

Thoughts Afterwards

I finished reading Michael Jackson's biography a couple of months ago and felt that I got a glimpse into the inner workings of the icon. The family rifts, the inside stories of the alleged crimes against him and the eccentric lifestyle he led.

There's also Martin Bashir's controversial but ultimately very watchable documentary, showing him live his life in all its complexities and free-spirited, money splashing ways. This showed the rumoured lifestyle in a very raw and almost disturbing way...

But one thing both of these sources of Jacko information lacks is, ultimately, his crux: his music, his performance and his brilliant showmanship.

This Is It steps up the plate, forsakes any risk of being an overly emotional and shows the man's real forte (so often overlooked and forgotten by cynics).

What we have is a stunning inside look of how the 50-date tour in London was being staged, through (thankfully) little interviews and lots of dancing and pre-production in action.

Whatever eccentricities the man had are surely forgotten in (perhaps) a slightly frustrating way - in that there are little glimpses of Jacko's character and backstage banter but barely enough to get an essence of his thoughts, feelings and (for some) his health at that time.

Around 85 per cent of the film is segments from the tragically defunct show, tending to be whole songs at a time but with shots from numerous rehearsals. I was wowed by what they were so close to pulling off and how they would seemingly destroy the media who claimed he'd either not go through with it or it'd be a massive disappointment.

It is clear that this was going to be what the world wanted and more and was refreshingly not a tribute to his life, as such, but a clarification of his talents.

There's the brilliantly shot 'movie' parts of Smooth Criminal, the re-filmed Thriller video (in 3D!) and the computer wizardry that was to aid They Don't Care About Us into a sure-fire show highlight.

All-in-all this looked like it was going to be the best show on Earth, as promised, and the rehearsal filming (previously filmed to be part of Jackson's personal collection) is well-done and there are many iconic moments through the film.

My favourite part is the film's most sentimental though.

It's public knowledge that the relationship between him and his brothers was iffy at points in his life and it was with surprise we saw him practising a Jackson 5 moment in his comeback show.

This seemed to be the hardest for him to show (as 50 year old Michael obviously struggling to match the voice he had as a child) and you really felt for him, with close-ups of his struggling eyes and his voice reaching desperately for the high-notes.

So a tear was shed as he sung the beautiful I'll Be There (with the bittersweet thought of 'but... he won't be there now...' in my mind), and I remembered the video of him so young singing it, seeing him then as a grown and tortured man and know the inevitable was so soon to occur.

And for that one moment I'd recommend the movie beyond most out there right now. The world lost an icon that day and we're living the days when he was destined to be performing this show right now, wowing every night at London's O2.

The little insight we got cemented his genius and even those who don't love Michael Jackson will at least acknowledge and enjoy the songs and respect his showmanship.

This was about the music, this was about his command of the show and his perfectionist nature and this really did look like it was going to be 'it'.

TIM LINCE

5/5 Stars