Showing posts with label DVDs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DVDs. Show all posts

Friday, August 1, 2008

Two concert DVDs from NetFlix

Miles Davis: Around Midnight (1967)

Filmed near the end of 1967 for the most part in Stockholm, Sweden, we have here a choice document that dispenses with the Davis mystique and allows us to hear the music , free and clear. Miles Davis didn't say much, as a rule, to his audiences, but with a band this good playing jazz this brilliant, it was wise for the band leader to allow the improvisation get the message across. Davis' trumpet work is all that is legend, crisp, curt, cool, muted, full of spatially lyric melodic forms and bursts of striking tones and angular phrasing. You anticipate the trumpeter's every solo, wondering what he'll think of next. Wayne Shorter on saxophone is Davis' perfect foil, an original voice who could provide you a sense of fully conceived and executed composition with each of his solos. The rhythm section of Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums is wonderful as well, especially Williams, who provided a malleable pulse that linked the instrumentalist’s dialogue.

Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight

We who grew up with Jimi and were saddened by his early death need to face facts and admit that he was an underdeveloped as a guitarist. In concert, anyway. While there is an oh-wow factor to consider in the man’s playing , the context is historical only, and an out of tune guitarist who sounds bored with the songs , the riffs and the stage antics he’s paid to perform does not travel well into the 21st century. For all the genius he demonstrated in the studio, he was a messy, out of tune, mistake-prone improvisor live, and this DVD shows him at his most exhausted. This is not experimentations in dissonance, as some would suggest, it's just inferior guitar work. Sorry, Jimi, but I do wish you had lived and gotten your act together, but at least you left us with "Electric Ladyland". I wish we had another ten years worth of music that amazing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Last Night on DVD: "Road to Perdition", "Changing Lanes"

Saw Road to Perdition and witnessed what turned out to be a significant disappointment. Director Sam Mendes seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time, energy and resources mounting the film and not enough time directing it. It has a an interesting look, particularly with its' near monochromatic hues and lighting that suggests the eye of a Dutch master, but this wears thin quickly as the the plot and characterization fails to develop at either a credible pace or with interesting results. There is nothing especially awful here, just stuff that is predictable , an offense made worse by sheer lethargy. Hanks does little more than grimace, Paul Newman, performing well in the first part of the film, has little to do afterwards except sit and stare into his lap with an old man's regret. Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Jason Leigh may as well be furniture here. Not the best crime drama since "Godfather". Missing in this artfully mounted yet oddly inert diorama is the script that made the difference with Mendess' previous effort, American Beauty. The plot here is adequate, I suppose, for the purposes of the graphic novel it's adapted from, but on screen, as is, the storyline is little more than a thin, cracking mortar between the cut stones of a huge mansion, ornate and impressive at first view, but revealing a crumbling structure the closer one gets
into it.

In the same sitting--a long sitting--I also caught up with Changing Lanes, thought it was a decent enough Hollywood "message" film, though it had the dopiest premise imaginable. It's not that I object to happy endings -- in this case, each of the characters played by Sam Jackson and Ben Affleck realize the exact nature of their wrongs and wind up doing the right thing by the world and themselves -- it's that I want the fictional solutions to seem fictionally plausible. The concentration of the events into one day snaps credulity, and while you're wondering whether this is an alternative universe where there are 76 hours to a day, the film drags way too much in key areas. Jackson and Affleck are both quite good here, but in the crush of the events that are eating our protagonists up, there is too much reflection, too much self examination, too much fortuitous circumstance for the characters to redeem themselves. Irony is fine, but Affleck's pragmatic do-gooding at the end is too much of stretch, theatrical without being dramatic. Like the film as a whole.