All posts filed under: DVD Reviews

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DVD REVIEW: “Jaco”

There are few people I can think of who come close to the sheer/unadulterated musical genius, skill and chops of Jaco Pastorius – the nearest that comes to mind is the late John Entwistle, the bass player extraordinaire for The Who.  But Entwistle was firmly entrenched in the rock world and Jaco Pastorius was clearly from a different, more fluid musical realm.  The argument could be made that he is one of the founding fathers of what became “jazz fusion” in the 1970’s – the melding of jazz, rock and soul/funk to create a groove of its own. This brilliant documentary is a labor of love from Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who co-produced it along with John Battsek; it was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak,  and through the help of crowd funding, tells the story of the celebrated but tragic bass-master/legend in straightforward detail, memories and footage through family, friends and fellow players.  Among the giant names interviewed are Bootsy Collins, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Flea and Wayne Shorter; two of Jaco’s …

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DVD & CD REVIEW: THE BEATLES, “1+”

Objectivity be damned; this is The Beatles we’re talking about.  The single, most important cultural entity to happen in my lifetime; merely a rock and roll band who re-shaped traditions – musically and on a grander, far deeper social scale.  But not to quickly digress, they also made the most memorable and beloved music in modern history.  Two of them are now dead and they continue to live on as new, younger generations are finding them/finding out about them and how crucial they were and are, most importantly, musically. So here’s another repacking with a neat addition.  The stripped down and wildly successful 1 collection (originally released in 2000) has now been remastered and reissued with a restored DVD/Bluray set of the band’s promo films – some actually shot when the Fabs were a going entity – to create 1+.  The pictures are sharper than before; the sound is dynamic and, of course, the music is just as thrilling now as it was then. From the CD edition, you get all the singles that reached …

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DVD REVIEW: “Amphetamine Reptile – The Color Of Noise”

A lengthy and, at times, wildly entertaining look at the (long time) Minneapolis-based label/arbiters of “noise core” or whatever you care to call it.  The Color Of Noise chronicles – at detailed length, which gives great insight into Amphetamine Reptile’s story – the foundation and rise to this label and its founder, ex-U.S. Marine, Tom Hazelmyer.  Done with a great deal of humor, the label, Hazelmyer and the history unfolds an important link to the mid-’80’s rise of “American Underground” and what was to follow throughout the early ’90’s. By establishing AmRep as an outlet for his own outfit, Halo Of Flies (which had been turned down by several labels), it opened the door to many other groups who would gain a great deal of traction:  The Melvins, Helmet, Helios Creed, The Cows and so on.  Aside from a musical forum, AmRep also helped shape its own sense of style with the graphics and designers employed to do the album covers and poster art, none more famous than Frank Kozik. Aside from the necessary factual …

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DVD REVIEW: ADAM ANT, “The Blueblack Hussar”

What can one say about someone who was as entertaining and enjoyable as Adam Ant; when he and the (second version) Ants came upon these shores in 1980 with “Antmusic” and “Dog Eat Dog”, it was impossible not to get a kick out of those songs.  Their look was different; they had a certain charm, style and playfulness about them and they knew how to write a catchy hook.  While Ant’s moment in the sun faded by the late ’80’s, I always sing along whenever any of the Ants tracks (or “Friend Or Foe”) comes on the radio. Over the last five or so years, Adam Ant has found himself unfortunately in the British headlines at times, due to what has been found to be emotional problems (I’m trying my best to be diplomatic and sensitive to what the man has gone through).  Somehow, starting in 2012, he decided to try and stage a comeback in England.  During this comeback period, filmmaker Jack Bond began filming Mr. Ant as he prepared to do shows, rehearsed …

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DVD REVIEW: “He’s A Bully, Charlie Brown”

Another in Warner Home Video’s inspired Peanuts re-release series, this special, which originally aired in 2006, carries an important (albeit done gently) message – especially in the current climate.  In He’s A Bully, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang learn the valuable lesson that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and those you care about when someone takes advantage of you.  It’s a very good and wise first step towards educating a child about the very real dangers of bullying.  This release is also tied in with National Bullying Awareness Month, which is October. The story follows most of the Peanuts gang to summer camp, where Rerun Van Pelt (Linus and Lucy’s little brother) meets an antagonistic boy named Joe Agate.  Rerun has become determined to learn how to play marbles after finding his grandfather’s prize collection and winds up losing them when Joe Agate pretends to teach Rerun but in reality, plays him and takes them in an unfair first match. Charlie Brown, who is history’s loveable loser, becomes angry …

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DVD REVIEW: Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection

The beauty of Peanuts exists on several levels:  the warmth of the characters; the sense of empathy one has for Charlie Brown; the sweetness and innocence of these children; the messages contained within both the comic strip and the T.V. specials that have appeared over the years.  Understand, I grew up with and loved everything about Peanuts – from the first moment I’d ever read one of the collections or saw A Charlie Brown Christmas as a child.  Now, even in my 50’s and not a father, I still find joy and pleasure in watching these programs and these beloved characters. And once again, Warner Home Video has offered up this dynamic collection, Peanuts:  Emmy Honored Collection, a 2-disc gathering of no less than 9 Emmy nominated/winning Peanuts specials from over the years.  Although these are cartoons, there are also some very powerfully poignant lessons to be learned, such as with “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?” in which Linus tries to learn how to cope with the serious illness of a friend of his; “Is This …

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DVD REVIEW: “Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, D.C. (1980 – 90)”

Having seen the film “Positive Force” last December, I see this as a natural companion piece to an important part of punk rock history.  Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, D.C. (1980 – 90) tells the story of the birth and rise of the Washington D.C. punk scene and the words come straight from those who played crucial roles in its genesis:  not surprisingly, Ian MacKaye, Alec MacKaye, Henry Rollins and so on – this isn’t a story that you haven’t heard before.  But at least here, the recollections are coming from those who spear-headed the movement themselves. Built around a turbulent time in the Nation’s capital, D.C. punk came on the heels of bitter disappointments with the government, a spike in crime and drugs and a general malaise that settled over Washington at the dawn of the 1980’s.  Beginning with Bad Brains and rise of Minor Threat (formed from the ashes of Teen Idles), along with the formation of MacKaye and then-Minor Threat drummer Jeff Nelson’s Dischord Records label, D.C. punk forged …

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DVD REVIEW: THE STRAY CATS, “Live At Rockpalast 1983/Loreley Open Air & 1981 Cologne”

The Stray Cats were born of the punk era, but with their obvious skills, it was evident from their love of pure rock & roll that  rockabilly would be their driving force. Guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, Lee “Rocker” Drucker on standup bass and Jim “Slim Jim Phanton” McDonald took their revivalist style to England from their native Long Island and slowly re-set the world on fire. Thirty-plus years after their initial launch and success, this 2-DVD set reminds you what a great combo the Cats were. Live at Rockpalast brings together footage from two German shows, the first from Cologne in 1981 and the second at the Loreley in 1983. The look and sound of both performances are terrific – it’s a great statement of a band’s beginning and then explosion on the international stage in a short, two-year span. The 1981 show is a band flushed with the drive and excitement to buck against everything happening at the time while the 1983 show shows the band during the frenzy of their now-international success. These are …

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DVD REVIEW: Warner Bros., “Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces”

In this day and age, it’s near impossible to explain the beauty, brilliance and sheer joy of having grown up watching (and subsequently never forgetting) Warner Bros. masterful “Looney Tunes”/”Merrie Melodies” cartoons.  The genius of the writers, animators and voice artists – most notably, the incredible Mel Blanc – gave us for all time the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn and so on.  Whether it was the subversive humor, the slapstick madness or the downright bawdiness of it all, Warner Bros. cartoon characters knew how to make us all laugh – and they also taught us a lot of songs.  If you think about it, for many, these cartoons were our introduction to jazz, opera, classical music – and none of us knew why. And now the good people at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment are bringing some of Looney Tunes’ most memorable musical cartoon favorites together – for the first time in one collection, with the release of Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces. This must-have compilation has 18 classic theatrical shorts …

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DVD REVIEW: “Rye Coalition – The Story Of The Hard Luck 5”

It’s a sadly familiar story:  a hard-working band performs works their way to a major label deal only to have the rug pulled out from under them and…  nothing.  It’s been told so many time.  Rye Coalition, who hail from Jersey City, New Jersey were all friends from an early age when they decided to form a band.  These five teens starting playing anywhere and everywhere they could on the strength of a demo cassette (remember those?).  Never earning enough money to constitute a living wage, they nonetheless toured relentlessly, released several independent singles and albums (culminating with On Tap, produced by Steve Albini) and built a loyally rabid following.  At a point when spirits were starting to fray, they wind up getting an opening spot with Queens Of The Stone Age.  This leads to a contract with Dreamworks Records and Dave Grohl signs on to be their producer.  The culmination of everything this band has worked for comes to…  nothing.  In typical music business shenanigans, Dreamworks is bought out and dissolved by Universal and …

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DVD REVIEW: “Positive Force: More Than A Witness; 25 Years Of Punk Politics In Action”

VERY interesting and intriguing historic look at the Positive Force organization, which began in Nevada, but has thrived and stayed the course in Washington D.C. from 1985 onward.  Led by D.C. co-founder Mark Andersen, Positive Force ran parallel to the socially conscious punk movement (the majority of bands recorded for Dischord Records), which by 1985 had begun to widen its spectrum and become, itself, more politicized.  The rawness of the punk anger and ethos began to be pointing toward constructivity, rather than negativity and destruction, and found itself moving in a socially, morally and politically upward (and left-leaning) direction.  As seen in the documentary from director Robin Bell, Positive Force acts upon its words with deeds – from delivering groceries to those in need (especially the elderly) to holding benefit concerts to raise money for various causes, to orchestrating protests. This documentary is filled with news footage and interviews from the participants themselves – D.C. founder/director Mark Andersen, Dischord’s Ian MacKaye, Dave Grohl from Scream, Jenny Toomey from Simple Machines and Positive Force and so …

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DVD Review: “Magic in the Moonlight,” Woody Allen’s Lives Up to its Name

Berlin, 1928. Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a renowned magician working under the guise of Wei Ling Soo. He marvels audiences by making elephants vanish on stage, cutting women in half, and performing a trick in which he enters a box, disappears, and then rematerializes in a chair ten feet away. But there’s no magic involved here; there is logic behind everything Stanley does and if pressed, he can answer how he pulls off each trick. You see, Stanley doesn’t believe in magic, or God, or even true love. Much to the chagrin of his beloved Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Stanley is a cynic. One evening, Howard (Simon McBurney), Stanley’s oldest friend, visits the illusionist. Howard was hired by American socialites, George and Caroline (Jeremy Shamos and Erica Leerhsen), to debunk the clairvoyant powers of a woman named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), who has taken Caroline’s brother, Brice (Hamish Linklater) and mother (Jacki Weaver) under her spell. Brice is so smitten he wants to marry Sophie. Caroline is concerned for her brother’s well being, as …

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DVD REVIEW: R.E.M., “R.E.M. By MTV” (6 disc set)

It’s already three years since Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe officially announced the end of R.E.M. as a band (after a 30-year run as a recording unit and 14 years after drummer Bill Berry had left the group) but yet, it doesn’t feel like they’ve ceased to exist at all.  We’ve seen the 25th anniversary releases of Document and Green; Peter Buck’s two solo albums and the sanctioned issuing of the band’s performances on MTV’s “Unplugged” as a 2-disc set.  And there is still more to come. For the moment, MTV, in conjunction with Rhino, have now culled their archives to deliver R.E.M. By MTV, a six DVD collection, which includes most of R.E.M.’s appearances on MTV and MTV-aligned programs (at this point in time, shows owned by Viacom/CBS, such as the band’s appearance on “The Colbert Report” and Nickelodeon’s “Livewire”, are part of the package).  There are 6 live concerts, VMA appearances – both in the United States and Europe – and “classic” programs such as “I.R.S.’s The Cutting Edge” and the …

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DVD, LP & CD REVIEW: Big Star, “Big Star Live In Memphis”

As I did with the recent re-issues of #1 Record and Radio City, I went into listening and watching Big Star Live In Memphis with open mind and fresh ears, especially since I’ve never seen a full-length performance of the band.  The 1993 release, Columbia – Live At Missouri University 4/25/93 is almost a table setter for this, but that was their first show with the new line-up (Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies – who would be with the band until Chilton’s death in 2010), so I discount it.  This show, filmed and recorded at the New Daisy Theatre in the band’s hometown of Memphis, is a different affair – over a year later; they’re much tighter, confident and conveying a power in their playing and singing, especially those glorious harmonies. Filmed by a friend of Chilton’s, Danny Graflund, the 20-song (19 songs on the DVD) set is a joy.  Even if you’re not a great fan of Big Star, you have to appreciate the guitar mastery of Chilton and the interplay …

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DVD REVIEW: “Looking For Johnny – The Legend of Johnny Thunders”

As unusual as it is to think of a hardcore heroin addict as a “legend”, that word is truly applicable to the one and only Johnny Thunders, guitarist with The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers.  Thunders is a myth, a ghost, a story, a hero, a villain and a tragic superstar who never made it big but was and, 23 years after his death, still is larger than life.  Looking For Johnny – The Legend of Johnny Thunders helps shed a broader light on that still-beloved myth. This documentary traces Thunders’ (John Genzale) early years in Queens, New York; his pain of growing up without a father and being bitten by the rock & roll bug after being a skilled baseball player as a teen.  His joining up with the band that became the New York Dolls sealed his reputation; upon their split in 1975, his forming the Heartbreakers with ex-Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan sealed his legend.  There are many testimonials and recollections by friends such as the Dolls’ Syl Sylvain; Walter Lure of …

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DVD REVIEW: “B.B. King: The Life Of Riley”

What can one say about Riley King, better known and loved by the world as B.B. King, one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, that hasn’t been said a million times before without sounding insincere or hackneyed?  Not much, frankly.  He’s a legend and an American treasure.  He’s 89 years old now and not in the best of health, but he is as beloved as ever and will always be looked upon with respect, admiration and pure love by all. This excellent documentary, filmed over a two year span by Jon Brewer, is fascinating, riveting and interesting for its detail; archival footage and stories abound.  From his youth as an orphan in the cottonfields of Mississippi to his earliest days on WDIA in Memphis (complete with a glimpse of the late Rufus Thomas doing his radio show) to the Civil Rights era to the endless guest tributes and testimonials.  Watching B.B. King doing his thing with Lucille (his trademark Gibson guitar) is, as it ever was, a joy to behold.  Seeing the footage from his …

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DVD Review: “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson: Thick As A Brick Live In Iceland”

When it comes to the long line of albums Jethro Tull, and by parentage Ian Anderson, have released since the late 1960’s one of the thorniest had to be Thick As a Brick. Coming off the career-redefining Aqualung, TaaB (for short) was both a pat on the back and a big middle finger to the world of progressive rock. It was one single song split in two owing to the constraints of the vinyl record format. It moves, as music, in very non-traditional ways and as an “epic” it defies the common tropes of just being ten tunes smashed together. It was “written” by “Gerald Bostock,” a precocious young lad with a bit of an attitude. The character of Bostock would become the mask Anderson occasionally slipped behind to make comments on the world he felt were too blunt, but wisely, it was confined to that one album. That is until Thick As A Brick 2 appeared in 2012. Never one to be predictable, Anderson didn’t become Bostock to write in a guise. Instead, the …

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DVD Review: “Young and Beautiful” is a Star Making Performance by Marine Vacth

French filmmaker Francois Ozon’s work has included directing many of the finest actresses in Europe, including Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardent, Catherine Deneuve, Kristin Scott Thomas, Isabelle Huppert and Charlote Rambling. He has guided these women to thoughtful and provocative performances in such films as 8 Women and Swimming Pool. To that list of engaging films he can add Young and Beautiful. In it, Marine Vacth delivers a masterful portrayal of a teenage girl exploring her sexuality and dealing with the consequences or her secret life. The film is available now on DVD. Broken into fours acts, the film opens in “Summer,” where we meet Isabelle (Vacth), celebrating her 17th birthday with her mother (Geraldine Pailhas), brother (Fantin Ravat) and stepfather (Frederic Pierrot) at their summer rental in the south of France. As the season winds down, Isabelle loses her virginity to a German boy and it fails to meet her expectations. Perhaps hoping for a romantic, orgasmic moment, she instead receives discomfort and pebbles on her back. The experience leaves Isabelle withdrawn and moody. As …

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DVD REVIEW: Devo, “The Men Who Make The Music”

Do I REALLY need to spell out the importance of Akron, Ohio’s finest, the one and only DEVO?  Forget it; I won’t.  You should know.  And if you don’t, there’s a lot you can learn on your own.  This band – this art collective – this group of revolutionaries – burst on to the music scene in 1978 and has never left the American consciousness (they sure haven’t left mine).  From the moment I saw them on Saturday Night Live for their now-legendary debut, I was immediately hooked.  The impression Devo left, not just musically, but visually left a mark on many, many of us.  And while, sadly, two of the original Spud Boys are now gone (drummer Alan Myers and guitarist/keyboardist Bob Casale (Bob 2)), this video compilation is a wonderful reminder of what the band created. This disc contains two items – The Men Who Make The Music, which is the classic Devo compilation, comprised of bits from “The Truth About Deevolution”, their earliest promotional clips (the pre-cursor to “videos”) and early live …