George Harrison: Living In A Material World (2012/Universal Music Blu-ray)/Simply Red: Live at Montreux 2003
(Eagle Blu-ray)/Stony Island
(1978/Cinema Libre DVD)
B-/B-/C+ Sound: B-/B/C+ Extras: C/C+/B Main Programs: B+/B-/C+
Note: We have included the image of the
deluxe edition of George Harrison:
Living In A Material World with additional discs (DVDs and CD with Blu-ray)
and material plus a 96 page booklet, though we are only covering the Blu-ray.
Not to be
confused with his classic 1973 album of the same title, George Harrison: Living In A Material World (2012) is Martin
Scorsese’s extensive, impressive, even remarkable biography documentary
mini-series on the life of the one-time Beatle from his early years, to music
success, to personal spiritual/religious journey to his passing. Here in two parts and running over 3.5 hours,
a new set of interviews, rare video and film clips, rare audio inserts and some
really great music are featured throughout as Scorsese traces Harrison from
birth to his passing.
Yet it is
more than just a linear history, but a character study of the man, his growth,
how he eventually could no longer be marginalized as a member of the most
successful band of all time and how his spiritual journey helped make the band
better, as well as himself, his life, his family and all around him. Scorsese is always interested in what makes
up a person when they are making something exceptional and/or exceptional
happen and this includes any faith they might have. This goes beyond his own Catholicism as his
underrated film Kundun reminds us.
was an early member of the band and a key part of it, but with John Lennon and
Paul McCartney such a strong writing team, Harrison
did not have to worry about supplying hits at first as their run was
legendary. This did not stop him from
being himself or working with others, including friend Eric Clapton, who would
have an affair with his wife (he fell in love with her) and create a classic in
Layla, which Scorsese made popular
all over again with its use in GoodFellas.
filling in the spaces for viewers and even the biggest fans of all involved,
the end result here is that Scorsese creates a journey in itself of the journey
Harrison had in life and we also see just how
groundbreaking he was after he left The Beatles. It could be argued that it is in ways that
rivaled any of the other members, and that says something.
does not miss his backing Monty Python’s
Life Of Brian or the successful launch of Handmade Films that followed and
become one of the most important independent film producers from the U.K. and in
recent film history. There is much more,
from great triumphant moments to his darkest hours, but I will stop here except
to say that this is as great a documentary as Scorsese has ever made and this
from a man who has made so many memorable ones.
It is also one of the most important music films in years, so put it on
your must-see list.
include five additional clips, including more from McCartney and George Martin
with his son Giles and Harrison’s son Dhani listening to a multi-channel studio
version of Here Comes The Sun and
discussing how it was made. I wish that
went on for hours.
on Harrison’s early solo work, go to this link
for his solo album of the same name as this documentary:
singer who is very heartfelt in his work is Mick Hucknall, who is also a bit
underrated and should have had more hits.
I was reminded of this as he sang through two concerts in the new Simply Red: Live at Montreux 2003
Blu-ray release from Eagle. The disc
also includes a shorter, newer 2010 concert from the same annual event and both
shows are impressive. Some songs do not
stick with me as much as others, but Hucknall is one of the better singers
around and he can deliver. The 2003 show
has 18 songs including his cover of The Stylistics’ You Make Me Feel Brand New, Money’s
Too Tight To Mention and his international hit Holding Back The Years, while the 2010 show has 7 songs and
includes To Be With You, his remake
of Harold Melvin’s If You Don’t Know Me
By Now and Your Mirror which
serves as this disc’s bonus song.
he can write to as some of these songs and has even written for other artists,
including Shine, a bizarre, wild,
hilarious single for Diana Ross that should have also been a big hit and did
not get picked up. As a result, seeing
Hucknall here reminds me a bit of George Harrison in that you are seeing a
talent in peak form and in exceptional form you might have missed.
illustrated paper pullout with brief text is the only other extra. For more Simply Red, try these DVD links:
Home Live In Sicily
Classic Albums: Simply Red - Stars
not least is yet another gem you might have missed, even if it has aged
somewhat. Andrew Davis is now known as a
director of big commercial films like the Harrison Ford hit version of The Fugitive, but back in 1978, he
managed to get an independent film off the ground that helped launch his career
and now, Stony Island has been
issued on DVD by Cinema Libre. Set in Chicago, it is a raw
drama about music lovers and musicians of all kinds trying to come together and
make music in the shadow of poverty, adversity, racism, personal problems and situations
that do not exactly inspire art.
musicians and people who could and could sort-of act, the film is essentially a
backstage musical with better music, a raw look that shows off how great the
Chicago even at that time was and has some very key musicians on camera and on
the soundtrack including Edward “Stoney” Robinson and David Sanborn. Director Tamar Hoffs worked on this film and
her daughter Susanna is here years before the international success of her
all-female band The Bangles (see our SA-CD review elsewhere on this site of
their hits set) plus we also see early appearances by a somewhat known Dennis
Franz (who had made The Fury with
Brian De Palma the same year) and soon-to-be female action lead and dramatic
actress Rae Dawn Chong.
is at its best with its music and the acting scenes with the most emotional
impact, while the humor is always playing against the tensions of the
narrative. I wish the script were a bit
strong, but this is easily one of Davis’ best films and a key time capsule of
the time it was made in; a priceless one that also makes it a key pure music
film. That is why I am glad it has
arrived on DVD, even with its limits.
include an Alternate Ending that does not ring as authentic as the one chosen
and might be considered the more commercial “Rocky” choice, especially since it makes the big mistake of not
ending in Chicago and we get an excellent, must-see (when you finish the film,
of course) Making Of documentary on
the film entitled Music Makes Us One. Nice
to see yet another orphan film make a comeback.
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on World and 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Red are about even in playback
quality. Though Scorsese has picked and
chosen his film, audio and video clips as well as anyone could, the quality of
some of them could not be totally cleaned up or restored due to age and wear,
so despite some great footage old and new, this is still a documentary and the
sum of the material is uneven. The Red concerts are both HD shoots with
some motion blur and detail issues, but color is good in both cases and very
watchable. The anamorphically enhanced
1.78 X 1 image on Island
originated on 35mm film and we get some nice shots throughout, but this is
still a low-definition format and has Video Black and detail limits. I know the film is older, but I bet it would
look better on Blu-ray, especially since it was shot by no less than Tak
Fujimoto (The Silence Of The Lambs). We’ll see if one is issued.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Red concerts are the best here with fine recording and mixing into
multi-channel soundfields that are thoroughly enjoyable and better than the
lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo versions also included. Scorsese uses the same lossless mix for World and this has some great moments
(especially when Beatles and Harrison classics are played, sounding better here
than in just about any other commercially available versions) but there is also
plenty of raw old monophonic audio that could only be fixed up so much and
other audio is simple stereo. Also,
sound is sometimes more towards the front speakers than I would have liked.
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Island is marginally better than the Dolby 2.0 Stereo
version, but the low budget of the film shows its age and was originally an
optical mono theatrical release. I just
wondered if a lossless presentation would bring out more in the music.
these are three fine, solid music releases worth going out of your way for.
- Nicholas Sheffo