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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Shine a Light

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#1 of 8 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted July 21 2008 - 11:30 PM

Shine a Light
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Studio: Paramount
Year: 2008
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 121 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99

Release Date: July 29, 2008
Review Date: July 21, 2008

The Film


The house is really rockin’ in Martin Scorsese’s docu-concert Shine a Light. Not as trenchant a look at a band as his The Last Waltz was several decades ago, Shine a Light is still a stunning distillation of rock’s elder bad boys The Rolling Stones doing their rock ‘n roll thing on stage at the Beacon Theater in New York City before a screeching, hyper-appreciative crowd of zealots. You may not learn much of what makes the rock band still tick after all these years in the spotlight, but if you’re a fan of their music, you’ll have undoubtedly as good a time as the capacity crowd at the Beacon did on this legendary night.

Scorsese has used eight cameras to catch the concert including four cinematographers who have won Oscars for their work in such films as Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, and There Will Be Blood. The result is a concert where the viewer is not only up close and personal but also darting in, out, in front, and behind the action throughout the evening. Mick Jagger hasn’t let his manic energy level drop a speck in the decades that he’s been doing this, and his strutting, prancing, jumping, and dancing stick figure seems almost ageless during many of the group’s signature numbers (ageless. that is, until the cameras come in close and we see every crease in his careworn face). And the camera is unforgiving to guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richard, too, as we see every year of life etched deeply upon their faces, still reflecting, however, their love of what they’re doing and their continuing passion for the music.

Before the concert gets underway, we’re subjected to ten or twelve minutes of Scorsese’s confusion and mounting angst over the band’s capricious attitudes toward the filming of the concert. Jagger has a fit about the stage design (even though Scorsese insists it was built to Jagger’s specifications), and Scorsese is run ragged trying to get a final rundown of the concert’s songs so he can plan camera moves ahead of time. Interspersed between some of the numbers is old interview footage going back as far as the 1960s where Mick mentions the band has been together for two years and they hope to get at least one more year of work. (Later interviews contradict this cavalier attitude where he insists he’ll be doing this when he turns 60.) The interviews also cover some jail time served by Jagger and Richards, but background isn’t given and those who aren’t intimately familiar with the Stones’ history will be lost with these comments. Perhaps Scorsese didn’t want to turn the film into too heavy a biography of the group’s career off the stage, but the footage he has here does no one any favors: fans already know the stories and those who don’t are only going to be baffled by the inclusion.

Every viewer will have his own favorite songs. I especially enjoyed the lighthearted spin on a country tune “Far Away Eyes” and Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy joining with Mick on a song apiece. Keith Richards gets two solo songs, but unquestionably the star of the show is Mick Jagger. Age sixty-three when the show was filmed in 2006, Jagger is a dervish and unless one finds rock music a complete anathema, it’s impossible not to be drawn into the beat and heat of the Rolling Stones’ songbook.

Video Quality


The film’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented in a fine anamorphic transfer. The opening black and white footage is overly grainy though the reasoning for this isn’t clear. Clips from a variety of news sources also vary in quality (though this is no fault of the transfer). The concert footage itself is beautifully filmed with strong color and excellent sharpness. The film has been divided into 21 chapters.

Audio Quality


The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track puts you right in the center of the concert with the music and cheering audience all around. Yes, it’s loud, but the lyrics are not drowned out by the music and crowd noises, and the occasional banter with the audience is also easily heard. Modern recording techniques can more than handle the intensity and variety of the music and vocals that make up the majority of the sound on this disc.

Special Features


Four additional songs cut from the finished film are offered here in anamorphic widescreen: “Undercover of the Night” (4 ½ minutes ), “Paint It Black” (4 ½ minutes ), Little T & A (4 minutes ), and “I’m Free” (3 ½ minutes ). The viewer is also offered the option to watch all four in one 16 ¾ minute group or select them individually.

A behind-the-scenes featurette contains unaired scenes from interviews both recent and old, but its most priceless moments involve the Stones rehearsing some songs or simply doing some guitar riffing without any amplification or crowd response. The sound is so pure and hypnotic that it made for one of the most memorable aspects of this DVD release.

The disc offers nonanamorphic previews of American Teen, Defiance, The Duchess, and Son of Rambow.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Fans of the Rolling Stones are in for a treat with Shine a Light. They will find a beautifully filmed rock concert with better than front row seats and expert sound at their command. For its historical and musical impact, it’s definitely recommended.

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted July 21 2008 - 11:38 PM

Been really looking forward to seeing this film, though on Blu-ray rather than DVD. If the colors and sound is given kudos on DVD, I expect it to be praised on BD. Your review accurately reflects all the other compliments I have heard about Shine A Light which certainly "ups" my expectations even further. Thanks, Matt!


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#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted July 22 2008 - 02:19 AM

I'm looking forward to the Blu-ray as well. Having seen it theatrically in Imax, I can't settle for anything less at home. Posted Image

Matt, I think the idea was to match that opening footage stylistically to the documentary flashbacks, so that everything in the film that wasn't the actual concert would look roughly the same.

I think of this film as the reverse of The Last Waltz. That film was about a band saying goodbye to an era. This film is about a band that kept on, era after era. You watch Keith Richards on stage, and you really believe that he's in touch with some special force that's managed to keep him moving past obstacles that would have stopped (and did stop) a thousand other musicians.

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#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted July 22 2008 - 04:12 AM

I watched this in IMAX as well and I'm really considering never watching it again because not even Blu or SuperHDHD will compare. To me this is another masterpiece from the director and it's also the greatest concert film I've ever witnessed because of how much style the thing has in it (not to mention the great performance by The Stones). I go to countless concerts a year and what I hate about concert films is that they are obviously being shot by someone who has never seen that artist perform before. I remember a recent Aerosmith concert that was released where there's one key moment in "Draw the Line" that had to have a camera on Joe Perry but it wasn't there and this great sequence, on the guitar, didn't make it on the film.

There's a running joke at the start of the film about Scorsese wanting to know the setlist so that he can have the cameras in the right spot to catch everything going on. Since Scorsese knows these songs so well he's able to catch everything that needs to be in the film. To me, this film really changes how all concerts should be shot. How close we are to the action and everything Scorsese picks up makes this the closest film I've seen that actually makes you feel like you're at a concert.

I remember watching this in Imax and forgetting that I wasn't really at a concert. I remember at one point, at the end of a song, I began to clap my hands only to quickly remember I was at the movies. Thankfully no one else was in the theater or I would have been really embarrassed. Posted Image

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted July 22 2008 - 05:17 AM

LOL!, that happened a few times at the showing I was at! After the opening number a couple people throughout the theater actually cheered. XD Just curious, is this all widescreen, or does it pillar box for the concert footage (IMAX is 4:3 right? I get them mixed up)? I seem to think the aspect ratio switched in the Imax between the doc footage and concert proper, with the concert taking up the entire screen. Easilly the best concert film I seen. My fave part was Jack White being in awe with performing with them (and one of the few to properly harmonize with Mick), then Buddy Guy shows up and it flips with the Stones being awestruck by Guys confidence. Amazing stuff really, jsut a great film about music.

#6 of 8 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted July 22 2008 - 08:54 AM

Obviously the old interview footage was shot 4:3 and is pillarboxed on the disc, but the concert footage is all widescreen.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   onecent



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Posted July 23 2008 - 12:34 PM

Another great review, Matt. I've never seen them in concert but have seen pictures of them throughout the years. Your description of how they've aged is correct. I did have to laugh when you referred to Mick as a dancing stick finger. That he is!! Thanks.

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted July 24 2008 - 01:18 PM

Didn't get to see this in IMAX so I'm definitely picking it up on Blu-Ray first thing next Tuesday. Can't wait to see this show as the Stones are my all-time favorite band and Scorcese is, well he's Scorcese. Posted Image
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