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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Art > Artist > Music > New Wave > Electronic > Rock > Pop > Concert > British > Gay > Da > Gary Numan: Android In La La Land (2016/First Run DVD)/Hits & Pieces: The Best Of Mark Almond and Soft Cell (2017 Universal Music compilation CD Set)/Looking For Johnny: The Legend Of Johnny Thunders

Gary Numan: Android In La La Land (2016/First Run DVD)/Hits & Pieces: The Best Of Mark Almond and Soft Cell (2017 Universal Music compilation CD Set)/Looking For Johnny: The Legend Of Johnny Thunders (2014/MVD Visual DVD)/The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964/Criterion Blu-ray)/Vitaphone Varieties, Volume Three: 1928 - 1929 (Warner Archive DVD)/We Are X (2016/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/X/C+/B/C/B- Sound: C+/B/C+/B/C/B Extras: C-/C-/C+/B/D/C Main Programs: B/B/B/B/B-/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Vitaphone Varieties DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for our latest music releases...

Steve Read's Gary Numan: Android In La La Land (2016) shows us the current life and career of one of the most underrated singer/songwriters in electronica, new wave and rock music in general, best known for his massive hit ''Cars'' (still played and licensed to this day) and a few other hits in that late 1970s/early 1980s period. With fans as diverse as Prince and Nine Inch Nails, et al, Numan was a big international success, but the sad early dive of New Wave in favor of band hair bands (not to mention political attacks on the genre) took Numan down with it, leaving the likes of Grace Jones and Adam Ant to barely survive. Duran Duran simply had to transform to survive, but then they fell apart by 1986, so those results helped no one.

However, Numan has also had to deal with the condition Asperger's Syndrome and with the depression it can bring and depression on its own, he went through some awful times and is still coping with stage fright and other issues that he bravely is fighting against. As we join him, he is with his wife (a longtime fan who has been an immense help) and they have three daughters. He is also working on his first album in years and with record labels not knowing what they are doing, is finding trouble getting it done and picked up, but we see the process and so much more.

Always a fan, I was excited to see this and to see him be a survivor and be able to never sell out his art, fans or self is remarkable and we get a great portrait of an artist who deserves more than he got. I am thrilled to see him back and if you only know his one song or like him or are curious about him, you need to mark this one down as a must-see. It is worth going out of your way for.

Five bonus scenes are sadly the only extras.

Hits & Pieces: The Best Of Mark Almond and Soft Cell offers 35 tracks by Almond and nine from his days in the New Wave duo Soft Cell, which includes their remake of ''Tainted Love'' (here in 12-inch disco/dance vinyl single version with the remake of The Supreme's ''Where Did Our Love Go?'') that swept dance clubs and stayed at the bottom of the charts for months before jumping up and becoming a top ten hit and international megahit. That led to one of the longest stays of any single on the pop chart in U.S. music history, but did not lead to any other big hits for the duo despite a few other big dance hits, so Almond went solo and pretty much has been ever since.

This set includes collaboration with Gene Pitney, Bronski Beat covering Donna Summer's ''I Feel Love'' and more interesting solo works than you might imagine he ever cut, so this is a set very much worth catching up with and appreciating the work he accomplished. Almond was always an underrated vocalist to begin with and this set is a testament to his talent, too often ignored.

A booklet on the music and its history is the only extra.

Danny Garcia's Looking For Johnny: The Legend Of Johnny Thunders (2014) is a solid documentary about the singer/musician and Punk original who co-founded The New York Dolls and much more, showing his life, good times, bad ones and solo work up until his death at way too young an age. No doubt he was a major talent and this portrait finally shows how original and important he was to that movement and how (like too many U.S. musicians) was more appreciated overseas than in The States. A sad story, but a necessary one for us to know about, he made some fine music and cheers to all who made this film possible.

Deleted Scenes, Behind The Scenes footage, a Trailer and video clips are the extras.

Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964) is the world's most famous operetta, all singing and zero spoken dialogue, an international hit with several reissues, we reviewed the classic on DVD years ago at this link...


Criterion has picked up the rights and issued it in a new Blu-ray loaded with extras (along with a separate release for Young Girls At Rochefort) and it is about as good as you'd expect, though I had some issues with the video (see below), this is fine otherwise and find it amazing for all the musical revivals, we STILL have not seen many film operettas. Catherine Deneuve remains impressive here as does the rest of the cast, along with the colors, the sets and what the film I trying to say. Arriving as La La Land hits home video, it is worth watching the two back to back.

Extras are all new and different here from the old DVD and include an illustrated foldout on the film in the Blu-ray case with an essay by critic Jim Ridley, while the Blu-ray disc adds Once Upon a Time . . . "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," a 2008 documentary, Interview from 2014 with film scholar Rodney Hill, French television interview from 1964 featuring director Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand discussing the film, separate audio recordings of interviews with actor Catherine Deneuve (1983) and Legrand (1991) at the National Film Theatre in London, a restoration demonstration and a Trailer.

Vitaphone Varieties, Volume Three: 1928 - 1929 is a bit different than some other compilations Warner Archive has issued of these music shorts. The 15 we get here last 132 minutes and include music turns by Edith Evans and Molly Picon, but it is especially interesting to see any such early sound music work and some of these are remarkable. Others are unintentionally amusing, but all are very charming and anyone who loves film should give them a good look. Glad they survived.

There are sadly no extras.

Finally we have Stephen Kijak's We Are X (2016) about the massively successful band X Japan, who never had any U.S. success, et al, this 95-minutes look at the formation, rise and crazy success of the group is the subject of this decent documentary. Almost a Rockumentary, it is more typical of the pop style we have today, but the music did not do much for me and none of it stayed with me. Still, the backstory kept me watching and it is worth a look for those interested.

Deleted Scenes, Deleted Interviews, a fan video and two more music performances are the extras.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 High Definition image transfer on Umbrellas has some good color to it, but it can show the age of the materials in the oddest way since the digital restoration off of the original 35mm materials (as shown in one of the supplements) overly isolates foreground elements (especially actors) leaving backgrounds looking too untouched. That makes it one of the oddest restorations of hundreds now that I have ever seen. This is a 2K restoration, so when it comes time for a 4K upgrade, they'll hopefully avoid this folly. Otherwise, this looks about as good as I've seen the film, if not as naturalistic or complete as I had hoped for.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on X is a mix of some new HD digital shooting and more than its share of old low/standard def digital and analog video, so expect a mixed bag when watching.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Thunders and Numan also has some of the same problem, if not as extensively so, so for the older footage, expect digital and analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color, tape damage and even rough film footage. They are otherwise very watchable and the DVDs come closer to the quality on X than you might expect.

The 1.33 X 1 image on the Vitaphone shorts are the roughest here with dirt, scratches and other signs of age that show they need some work, but it is remarkable they survived looking as good as they do here. You can even expect some good shots here and there.

As for sound, DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Umbrellas is well mixed and presented, fairing better than the image, built on thew original monophonic theatrical sound, the 1992 Dolby SR soundmaster for the rerelease at the time and the original stereo recordings of the actual music. It manages to sound as good as the same audio presentation on X and the PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo CD sound on the Almond set, which says something about the good job they did here.

Numan offers both a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, but the 5.1 is better, while Thunders only has lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but they both sound as good as they can with that older codec. Both deserve lossless presentations and beyond these programs for all their great music for that matter.

That leaves the Vitaphone shorts with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that shows its age with background noise, some brittle sound and they could all use a little cleaning up, so be careful of high playback volumes and volume switching with this one.

To order the Warner Archive Vitaphone Varieties DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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