Shine a Light (Blu-ray)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
For a movie that teams the Rolling Stones with Martin Scorsese, Shine a Light plays it surprisingly safe. The concert footage is great, but overall the movie doesn't break any new ground.
We Cannot Burn Mick Jagger!
Built around a fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation while the Stones were on tour in support of their A Bigger Bang album, the Stones performed at the Beacon Theatre, located squarely in Scorsese's New York City home turf.
The movie starts off with roughly 10 minutes of "behind-the-scenes" footage, most of it in black-and-white. The band does a little rehearsing, Scorsese gets a lot nervous, and there are loads and loads of fusses made over the set list.
Well, for all the set lists and options and suggestions at Jagger's fingertips, the final set list is simply a jukebox of the band's most familiar hits, peppered with a couple classic rock covers and buoyed by special guests Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, and Jack White. Not a lick is to be had from A Bigger Bang. As such, the movie is content to relive the Stones' past, musically and historically, at the expense of recognizing the Stones as a band that, 44 years on, is still perpetually releasing new material.
It seems there was something of a different movie in the making at one point. The trailer (conspicuously absent from the disc) showed Jagger envisioning the whole concept of the show – starting slow, then building and building up to a totally rockin' climax.
Well, the first tune is Jumping Jack Flash, by no means a low-energy ditty. And make no mistake about it, while Mick Jagger recently turned 65, he still struts and shimmies like a teenager strung out on Red Bull.
Christina Aguilera and Mick Jagger
Photo: Paramount Classics
Stoned to the Max
After Jagger & Co. take the stage, there are some "intermissions" that shine a very positive light on those halcyon days when the Stones were sometimes vilified as proponents of anarchy. But the vintage footage from the '60s and '70s, which includes comments from Jagger about how surprised they are to still be going after two years in the business, tries to oversimplify the Stones as a bunch of good boys who were, aside from all the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, really just a bunch of innocents.
OK. That facet doesn't particularly work and it's not all that revolutionary. In fact, given its blend of black-and-white footage, interviews, behind-the-scenes confusion, and live concert coverage, Shine a Light plays a heckuva lot like another Paramount concert film, but one far less warmly received: U2's Rattle and Hum.
Strikingly, while Shine a Light did get trumpeted as an IMAX release, only a couple months earlier U2 truly did revolutionize the movie concert experience with their own IMAX release, U2 3D.
And Shine a Light does commit one heinous crime: Keith Richards' performance of Connection is interrupted with cuts to more interview segments. It's so frickin' annoying anytime a musical performance is chopped up and interlaced with exposition. To spoil someone else's mojo is a seriously major no-no.
Shine a Highlight
As it stands, Shine a Light serves as a traditional, albeit big-screen, record of the Stones in action. In that capacity, it does offer some knock-out performances and fantastic on-stage footage of the Stones, still one of the world's greatest rock bands working today.
Wha-wh-what do you mean you're Johnny Depp's father?
Photo: Paramount Classics
One of the highlights of the set is Champagne and Reefer, a scorcher written by Muddy Waters. It's performed with the smokin' hot Buddy Guy, who also wrote a totally different song by the same title. And yes, there is a little irony in the tune, considering it's performed in front of a president who claimed he never inhaled.
Throw in classic Stones songs like Sympathy for the Devil, Start Me Up, and Satisfaction, and Shine a Light proves to be a winner, even if it doesn't achieve the artistic aspirations that theatrical trailer alluded to.
Plus, it's always a treat to see this band do what they do best. As Jagger swaggers, Keith lights up; a cigarette always to be found either in hand or pursed in Richards' lips as he belts out his riffs. And he's still got a sense of humor that fully acknowledges a lifetime of bullet-dodging, made most obvious when Keith comments, "It's good to see you all... it's good to see anybody!"
People can get some mild satisfaction. The supplements are limited to four additional songs (Undercover of the Night, Paint It Black, Little T&A, and I'm Free) and a 15-minute featurette.
The songs are, of course, well worth checking out. As for the featurette, it's basically a collection of deleted scenes and alternate takes. Some of it's pretty good, but there's definitely a "cutting room floor" vibe throughout.
There are none... But get a load of the superb tech specs in Picture and Sound.
Picture and Sound
Even in 1080p, it's called film grain and it belongs! From the high-grain black-and-white footage of Scorsese chatting on a speaker phone with Jagger to the marvelously dark-hued colors of the live performances, the image quality here truly rocks, pun totally and completely intended.
Also on hand is a superb slate of audio options, featuring English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, and English 2.0 PCM. Yeah. This is the kind of audio quality that fully recreates the concert experience. Fantastic stuff.
The disc includes optional subtitles in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish.
How to Use This Disc
Rock out to the Stones in 1080p then scooch over to the additional tunes. Check out the behind-the-scenes featurette for a little more Stoneage, if desired.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.