Michael Jackson: This Is It, Kenny Ortega, 112 mins, (PG)
Fleetwood Mac, MEN Arena, Manchester

The biggest musical event this week isn't a concert at all, but it's coming to a popcorn pit near you. By the time I'm writing this and you're reading it, Michael Jackson was meant to have performed 27 dates of his This Is It farewell show at the O2 in London, with a further 23 to follow in the spring.

Whether you believe he would even have made it this far without cancellations is a matter for personal conjecture. And it's a question that the feature film, cobbled together from his rehearsals at Los Angeles' Staples Center, only hints at answering.

The Star Wars scroll-up at the start tells us that This Is It was going to be "an entirely new concert experience". Entirely new? Not exactly. A very high-concept version of the existing concert experience, perhaps. But it's typical of the uncritical hyperbole that defines and dogs this documentary.

The main problem with This Is It lies in its choice of director: Kenny Ortega, the director of the stage show itself, who has cherry-picked the clips which make his production appear in the best possible light.

It would, unquestionably, have been a cracking concert: the dancers who pop up from below-stage at toaster speed, the black widow spider from which Jacko emerges in "Thriller", the appearance of an actual bulldozer for "Earth Song", the Zelig/Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid-style film preceding "Smooth Criminal" in which MJ is placed inside a montage of film-noir scenes (admiring Rita Hayworth in Gilda, dodging Bogey's bullets in Dead Reckoning, and so on).

But had the footage fallen somehow into the hands of an impartial documentarian, we might have seen a completely different film from the hagiography Ortega has given us.

The most fascinating scenes, nevertheless, are the candid moments in which Michael, bespectacled and studious, chomping on snacks or sucking on a lollipop, supervises auditions, oversees choreography on his laptop, bosses the band (who all call him "Sir") into making it "more funky" and admonishes them for "not letting it simmer!", while emphasising that his criticisms are always delivered "with the love, L.O.V.E".

His face, it's sad to say, looks like someone who's been in a fire, but his physical condition isn't as poor as one might expect. The 50-year-old was still super-mobile, as the awe-inspiring spin he throws into "The Way You Make Me Feel" proves, and his voice on "Human Nature" is out of this world. What he lacks, it seems, is stamina: he complains that he needs to save his voice rather than rehearse the outro of "Just Can't Stop Loving You", and can't hack a retake of the routine for "Beat It". Interestingly, the one character we never meet is Dr Conrad Murray, dosing Jacko up and pushing his body to the limit to meet AEG's concert schedule.

Despite the stress he's under, at no point does the King of Pop kick off, throw his toys out of pram or reach the end of his tether. Instead, he spends his down-time delivering a softly-spoken soliloquy on climate change. Maybe he really is that saintly. We'll never know, because Ortega's sometimes inspiring, but mostly somewhat sad film is ultimately – no apologies for the pun – a whitewash.

If she didn't mean it, it wouldn't work. Stephanie Lynn Nicks may have been working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when Fleetwood Mac found her, and cleaning the producer's toilets to pay for her first record, but the buck-toothed blonde from Phoenix never stopped imagining herself as a Welsh witch goddess.

Thirty-five years on, she hasn't ceased: swishing about in a bat-winged cape and a diamante half-moon pendant, and bleating about a "woman taken by the sky". Mystery-and-magic isn't merely an act for Stevie. She believes it, and bless her to bits for that.

If Stevie on a British stage is what really sends the hackles tingling for the faithful, then it's only in the context of a truly stunning Fleetwood Mac concert. Her foil and sometime lover Lindsey Buckingham, spindly-legged and still offensively handsome, is a fast-fingertipped phenomenon on guitar. His solo spots for "Big Love" and "Oh Well" are breathtaking; the title track of his 1979 folly Tusk is so berserk you can almost taste the Hollywood A-grade in your septum.

Together, they conjure such an electricity that the rhythm section John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, whose British blues band was transformed by the Buckingham-Nicks takeover in 1974, can only stand and watch. "I think I had met my match," she sings in the sublime "Sara", and she looks at him with lazy eyes. He catches the glance, and bites his lip. As the song ends, they waltz and he kisses her hair. It must drive their current partners insane. Because it sure as hell sends a shiver through everyone else.

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?