THE BLOG

DVDs: Scorsese Falls Short Of Scorsese

08/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Martin Scorsese has directed one of the best concert films of all time. Unfortunately, it's most definitely NOT Rolling Stones: Shine A Light ($34.99; Paramount and only $5 more for the BluRay). It so easily typifies all that is wrong with most concert films (and especially rock concert films), you wonder if Scorsese has watched his own masterpiece The Last Waltz lately. That film ranks with Jazz On A Summer's Day, Stop Making Sense, Bob Dylan: The Other Side Of The Mirror, Monterey Pop and a handful of others as the standard to match for concert films. Some delve into the atmosphere of the concert setting, going backstage, providing interviews, peering into the odd corner. Others focus almost completely on the music. But they all show discipline and care in the filming and editing. If they find a good angle from which to watch the action on a particular song, they stick with it for 30 seconds or a minute or even an entire song. If they cut away, there's always a good reason. Since the performers are so electric, these movies realize they don't have to cutcutcutcutcut like a frenetic MTV video in order to create some excitement.

Scorsese seems to have forgotten all of this while filming Shine A Light. He wastes 20 minutes or so on pre-concert silliness, such as the dull sight of watching the Stones meet Bill Clinton's mother or Scorsese hoping to get a set list before the show begins. Oh, the tension! Swooping cameras, massive banks of lights and tons of quick cutting only distract from the fact that the Stones are still a viable live act and can deliver. Two guest spots are highlights: Jack White has a blast and when Buddy Guy takes the stage even Scorsese knows to step back and enjoy the fireworks. But it's all too typical of this wasted effort that the film ends on such a ridiculous note -- not a shot of the Stones wearied after the concert or an ecstatic crowd but (I can hardly believe it) a FAKE point of view shot of Mick Jagger leaving the building which means the last person we see is not Mick or Keith but Scorsese, until the camera pans up to the night sky and a goofy cartoon emblem of the Stones takes the place of the moon. A wasted opportunity.

Other music DVDs just out include Darren Hayes: The Time Machine Tour ($15.99; Powdered Sugar), which has its share of quick cutting but is rescued for fans by a theatrical set and the best songs yet from the former Savage Garden singer, especially the one-two punch of "Words" and "Casey." Love Story ($29.99; Start) is a brief (50 minutes) but interesting documentary on the mercurial 60s band Love and lead singer Arthur Lee which will send everyone right back to that band's masterpiece Forever Changes. And Daft Punk dispense with the concert film completely by delivering a feature film Electroma ($22.98; Vice) that follows two robots traveling across America hoping (naturally) to become human - no Daft Punk music but vague and arty enough to play at the Cannes Film Festival, it's certainly visually striking.

Cult Movies -- Quentin Tarantino gives his movie geek stamp of approval to Inglorious Bastards ($29.95; Severin), a Dirty Dozen -like war movie from 1978 presented in a 3 disc set that includes loads of extras and even a CD soundtrack. But if Tarantino likes it so much, why is he remakng it? Bastards is a good bad cult movie, while Forbidden Zone ($19.95; Legend) is a bad bad cult movie now in color, a flick that can really only be enjoyed by people who like the weird and oddball for its own sake. This is not an undiscovered hoot like Bastards but just a strange, strange comedy remembered for the music of Danny Elfman and Herve Villechaize as the randy King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension. If you're intrigued by that description, this is the movie for you. Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle was the best sort of cult movie, a genuinely hilarious flick just left of center enough to make you feel like it belonged to you and not the entire world the way say Juno did. The very disappointing sequel -- Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay ($28.99, $34.99 Special Edition and $35.99 BluRay; New Line) -- udercuts their post-racial hipness by making a fuss over their racial identities and downplays the sweetness in favor of a lot more crude jokes.

Movie Stars -- Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol ($49.99; Fox) is a 10 movie collection of the box office superstar. But whle Power was certainly pretty in his early days, it's hard to see how he broke out from the pack to gain leading man status. Watch WarGames 25th Anniversary Edition ($14.98; MGM), the delightful drama about a hacker nearly starting World War III and you can tell immediately why Matthew Broderick would be around for years to come. (They've made a direct to DVD sequel/remake -- WarGames: The Dead Code ($26.98; MGM) -- not that anyone was asking for one.) Ben Stiller wanted to be a leading man with more range than just comedies, but addicton drama Permanent Midnight ($14.98; Lionsgate) failed to make people think of him as more than just the funny guy. It has to be depressing for him to realize that even a paper cut-out presented properly can hold center stage, as demonstrated in the charming silhouette animation of Michel Ocelot's Princes and Princesses ($24.95; Kino). Also out at the same price is the more traditionally animated Ocelot film Kirikou and the Wild Beast.

TV on DVD -- Who would have imagined that Two Fat Ladies ($59.99; Acorn) would prove such a hit? But these hilarious 24 cooking shows starring Jennifer and Clarissa prove every dish can be improved with loads of butter or slabs of bacon and that even a cooking show can be fun and amusing. The Deal ($24.95; Genius) is the TV movie starring Michael Sheen as Tony Blair which pre-dated The Queen and showed Blair tussling for power with Gordon Brown. Beverly Hills 90210 Fifth Season ($59.98; Paramount) comes along just in time to remind us of its heyday as the relaunching of the franchise begins this fall. And if you think soapy fun is easy to dish out, you haven't seen the tiresome but bizarrely popular show The Hills Third Season ($39.98; Paramount). Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection ($99.99; Acorn) is an early 80s spin on Robin Hood that goes the New Age route, as exemplified by the score from Clannad. Not for purists. Dark Shadows: The Beginning Collection 5 ($59.98; MPI) collects the episodes of the supernatural soap before the vampire Barnabas Collins appeared and made it a smash hit. Law & Order Special Victims Unit Year 7 ($59.98; Universal) rolls along just like the original thanks to leads Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay. Stargate Continuum ($26.98; MGM) is a direct to DVD original movie in the indestructible scifi franchise, though it only includes a cameo by Richard Dean Anderson, so act accordingly. Centennial ($59.98; Universal), a lumbering miniseries of the sort that TV used to turn out regularly tells the history of Colorado via an all-star cast of TV stars like Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Timothy Dalton, Sharon Gless, Sally Kellerman and Raymond Burr. And finally the disappointing re-release of A History Of Britain ($39.95; BBC). Simon Schama is an engaging popularizer of history; it's just annoying that this widescreen production was cropped for US TV and remains butchered in this compact boxed set. With so many shows presented in widescreen and flat screen TVs so popular, such a decision is inexplicable.

Sports -- Surfwise is a pretty good documentary about the famed Paskowitz surfing family ($26.98; Magnolia). We certainly get the message that Doc Paskowitz isn't just a lovable rogue but has a dark side to him yet more questions are raised than answered by filmmakers who seem to have gained access at the expense of asking some blunt questions. Joe Louis: America's Hero...Betrayed ($19.98; HBO) is a typically probing HBO documentary that looks at the fame and pressures that the Brown Bomber invariably rose above. And WWE: Night of Champions 2008 ($24.95; WWE) has 7 major clashes capped by Triple H taking on John Cena.

Kids Stuff -- The stuff kids watch and care about change constantly (although the Jonas Brothers are, like, forever). The latest TV show to catch their fancy? Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizard School ($19.99; Disney), which lets kids indulge their Hogwarts fantasy. Tinier tykes can still be mesmerized by the basic antics of The Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing ($14.98; Warner Bros.), though really it hasn't been the same since Greg Page retired, has it? And two older cartoons prove kids can be engaged by anything with a little wit, no matter when it was made: Tiny Toon Adventures ($44.98; Warner Bros.) and the fairly anarchic and funny Freakazoid! ($26.98; Warner Bros.).

So what's your LEAST favorite concert film? For me, it's anything starring Bruce Springsteen. He's arguably the greatest live act in rock and roll today and yet in virtually every single concert film (from Brian DePalma's stiff video for "Dancing In The Dark" to his recent Seeger Sessions live shows), a brilliant live act has been mummified or sliced and diced on film until all the joy has been sucked out of it. A single camera placed 5th row center and just pointed at the stage would do a better job of capturing the Boss than all those concert films strung together.