Beatles Stories (2012/Cinema Libre DVD)/Circle
Jerks: My Career As A Jerk (2012/MVD DVD)/Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender (2012/Eagle Blu-ray)/Gary Moore: Blues For Jimi (2012/Eagle
Blu-ray)/The Groundhogs: Live At The
Astoria (1998/Eagle DVD)/Out The Gate
Blu-rays: B-/DVDs: C Sound: C/C/B-/B/C/C Extras: B/C+/C/C+/D/C- Music Programs: B/B-/B/B-/C+/C-
Now for a
new set of music titles you should know about…
Swirsky’s Beatles Stories (2012) might
at first seemed to be just another cheesy, cheap, cash-in exploiting the Fab
Four like so many bad video releases have.
It is even problematic that he keeps inserting shots of himself on
camera holding HD cameras as he interviews his subjects, hurting the overall
final cut of this interview documentary.
his love of the band, knowledge of the band and enthusiasm for finding out new
information about them trumps all this because not only is he able to track
down some great people to interview, he actually knows the questions to
ask. The results are rare insight and
stories from persons as diverse as Donovan, Henry Diltz, Henry Winkler, Smokie
Robinson, Norman “Hurricane” Smith, May Pang, Sir George Martin, Peter Noone,
Victor Spinetti, Denny Laine, Andrew Gold, Justin Hayward, Bob Eubanks and many
others that makes this a key document all fans of the band and music in general
will want to catch up with. If only
Swirsky had not overdone his appearances, this would have even been better.
could not license actual Beatles music, the few sound-alike and remake pieces
are off-set by a surprising number of other original hits that also help bring
out the best of this work.
a feature length audio commentary track by the director, 36 minutes of
additional interviews (some of which I wish would have stayed in the main
program) and about 24 minutes of a longer interview with Beatles’ engineer
Norman “Hurricane” Smith.
Markey’s Circle Jerks: My Career As A
Jerk (2012) is a decent documentary on the famous Los Angeles Punk band who
stayed independent as long as they could, then when they finally signed with a
big record label, missed the boat, had tragedy and disaster in addition to it
and even lost their street cred when teen pop songstress dated one of the band
members and sang on one of their singles for the big label album.
between are some crazy stories, a rare look at the history of bands who were
being ignored by the majors as soon as the 1980s began for some ‘mysterious
reason’ (they formed in 1979) but they were also sometimes their own enemies
and most of the (interviewed here) are lucky they survived. Markey (1991:
The Year Punk Broke, The Slog Movie)
definitely knows what questions to ask, what the story is, what the history is
and the interviews (which also include their friends, other musicians like
Henry Rollins) and often rare video clips make this one of the year’s music
surprises. Especially because it is not
only also about Punk and its indie status but about the semi-fall of the major
record labels more interested in safe music and back catalog than new music,
even non-Punk fans should see this one.
include Bonus Interviews and Deleted Scenes.
biggest goal of the two-part Freddie
Mercury: The Great Pretender (2012) documentary is to not let it be another
chapter on just Queen, but we get some of that work here, yet Mercury had more
solo work than many realize and this well-made
biographical look at his life goes into a few places a Queen-only
program could not. We again get
interviews with friends, the other band members and those involved with making
the music and videos for that band and especially Mercury solo.
It is a
sad story at times of a very talented man getting AIDS, being alone on some
level always and not knowing where he wanted to go except when it came to
music, for which he was supremely creative.
Nice to have it on Blu-ray, extended interviews and making of Barcelona,
as well as an illustrated brief booklet with informative text are the extras.
Gary Moore: Blues For Jimi (2012) has the singer/guitarist
getting together with former members of bands with Jimi Hendrix Dave Bronze and
Darrin Mooney to play a 74-minutes jam session of classics like Purple Haze, Hey Joe and Voodoo Child
and delivering a pretty good show, though I wish it were longer. Though you hear many Hendrix covers, these
actually work and the trio (with two guests at certain points) does a really
good job throughout. This is also more
than compatible with the several Montreux
titles by Moore Eagle has released over the years and a tad better than the Phil Lynott tribute show Eagle issued
on Blu-ray, all reviewed elsewhere on this site.
It is for
fans only for the most part, but those interested in Hendrix and his sound may
find the 12-song set additionally interesting.
An illustrated brief booklet with informative text is the only extra.
The Groundhogs: Live At The Astoria (1998) is the only concert
footage of the Rock/Blues band where they perform 11 tracks pretty much in
their prime. I had hardly heard of them
and barely remember any of these songs, but it is archival and at 81 minutes,
an honest, complete record of the band.
It is rough in a few ways, but anyone who is a fan will love it and
interested in seeing it will find it to be an interesting intro to the
band. There are no extras.
we have The Village Brothers’ Out The
Gate (2012) which starts out with great promise as a Reggae drama about
young musicians coming from Jamaica
and instead of settling for Kingston, go to the U.S.
in hopes of big success. Early on, you
expect this might be another The Harder
They Come (for which it has more than a few similarities to) or Rockers (the two great Reggae films,
both reviewed elsewhere on this site), then the script gives up, we go from
some Hip Hop music to all Hip Hop and the narrative never recovers.
shame because this began as something interesting that might have had something
to say, but once all become Americanized (and not just the Hip Hop), this
becomes like every other music-industry-revenge formula release we have
suffered through. That’s a shame,
because if the makers and unique cast of unknowns had stayed on track, this
could have been a nice surprise. That did
not happen, so it becomes a dud and never recovers.
the Hollywood Premiere and a Music Video are the only extras.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Beatles,
Circle and Gate are all softer than I would have liked with motion blur,
location video issues and in the case of Circle,
more rough vintage analog video than you might imagine unless you are a
fan. The 1.33 X 1 image on Groundhogs is also soft, yet on par
with the newer semi-HD productions. Oh
well. That leaves 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital
High Definition image performance on the two Blu-rays here the best playback
performers by default, but I am giving Jimi
the benefit of the doubt as it is darker than your average concert and will be
an issue for people, especially when the screen seen on is larger, the more it
might annoy said viewers. Mercury has its share of old analog
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Jimi is the sonic winner here for its consistent soundfield and
fine overall recording, while the PCM 2.0 Stereo is also not bad, but no match
for the DTS. PCM 2.0 Stereo is the only
soundtrack on Mercury, but it has
some Pro Logic surrounds and the music is transferred well for the most
part. Still, it is sometimes weak and
while interview recordings are fine, they are also simple. All the DVDs have mixed, lossy Dolby Digital
2.0 Stereo mix, save Gate, which
tries to upgrade its sound to a 5.1 only mix, but it is beyond obvious that its
soundtrack has too many issues and this should have never been attempted.
- Nicholas Sheffo