The magic of Cirque du Soleil, only with a story
The concept behind "Solstrom" is so simple, that it's surprising it took this long for the creative geniuses at Cirque du Soleil to think it up. Take the beauty and art of the troupe's performances and marry them to the tried and true format of the variety show. It's a little bit like Benny Hill serving as ringmaster at the Circus of the Stars, just without the accompanying sexual hi-jinks (or at least a lot less.)
Now, Cirque Du Soleil's shows already have plenty of drama and glamour, but if they were going to get 10 hours of TV out of their performers, while not repeating themselves often, they were going to have to push their own limits. Each episode is built around a theme, such as childhood, love, and adventure, and each is explored by one (or a pair) of the 13 "solar creatures," all of whom have starred in one of the Cirque's shows. Mischievous beings from the sun, they cause all sorts of trouble, which serves as set-up for the acts.
Some episodes, like "Wind of Romance" and "Wind of Freedom" get the balance of story and action perfect, but others, like "Howling Wind" are misfires, leaning too heavily on the atmosphere of the sketches than the fun in the performances. But even the misfires have their bright spots, and with a menu system that has chapter stops for each act, the slower moments can be skipped in favor of the more impressive moments.
Those impressive moments are too plentiful to list here, and to do so would only ruin the surprise when they do occur. Among the most impressive performances are a trampoline act that is a masterpiece of acrobatics and choreography and a 10-person "ballet" performed upon light bulbs that's the epitome of grace. Though these are great, there are many more that will amaze, including the various jugglers, contortionists and high-wire performers.
The circus acts may be the reason to watch "Solstrom," but its brilliance lies in the universal nature of the episodes. One needn't speak a word of English (or any other language for that matter) and they will be able to jump right into this series and enjoy it just as much as anyone else. The broad physical comedy, in the mold of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and amazing physical feats cross all cultural and generational boundaries, the same way your usual circus does. You just don't see Zebrapeople spit cosmic wind at the Ringling Brothers' shows.
While the video is top-notch, the audio is even better. Available in Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1, the audio is fully immersive, spreading out across the room. Normally, when comparing Dolby and DTS tracks, the differences are slight. Here, it's not even close. The DTS track blows the doors off the Dolby track. In DTS, the room explodes in sound, with rich layering and impressive directionality among the surrounds. It's simply more of an experience to view this DVD with DTS sound.
The included photo gallery is incorrectly named, as it is not one of those usually-lame user-controlled flip-throughs. Instead, this is a well-edited photo montage, set to music. There are also two Cirque DVD promos that cover the past releases.
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