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The Song Remains the Same (1976)
The movie that immortalized the gods of rock
Led Zeppelin was the paradigm for rock in the 1970s, ushering in a new brand of harder rock that served as a bridge between the first wave of blues influenced british bands in the 60s and the heavy metal that defined the 1980s. The magic created by the legendary foursome - Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham - engendered hordes of imitators following their breakup in 1980, and whose music, from blues to folk to indian (and let's not forget pure rock), continues to inspire new generations of musicians.
The Song Remains the Same captures the feeling of a real Led Zeppelin concert, deep into their American tour of 1973. That year saw Led Zeppelin at it's most "professional" to date, which, despite not containing the same the youth-inspired looseness and frenziness of a concert from '69, did nevertheless present Led Zeppelin arguably at it's musical peak, with longer, more extended versions of songs like "Dazed and Confused" and "Moby Dick". The concerts were consistently good from that tour, and in my opinion, their Madison Square Garden appearance here, shown in all it's visual glory on the remastered DVD version, is no exception.
Page is captured in a unremitting show of virtuosity in numbers like "Since I've Been Loving You", "Dazed and Confused", and "Stairway to Heaven". This has to be my favorite version of "Since I've Been Loving You" amongst many others I've heard. The experience is almost emotionally moving, and there is one point where a dazzled young female audience member is shown shaking her head in amazement. The whole band seems inspired enough to put on an incredible version of "Stairway to Heaven", including Robert Plant who is not in top form during parts of this performance (relative to usual standards) - no doubt attributable to the exhaustion caused by dozens of previous concerts on almost as many days by the last leg of the tour. The movie still captures Plant's enduring image as a rock icon, with his golden mane and long bluejeans enveloping legs that sway with as much energy of a young Elvis Presley (thank you Chris Welch for that observation).
The DVD transfer itself does not do justice, though, to the singular official video document ever released of the band in concert (aside from documentary compilations). There are some bad volume fluctuations and other audio problems that are clearly noticeable, especially during "Dazed and Confused", that should have been fixed. Also, despite realistic hopes of hearing the songs remastered for a digital surround sound format, Time Warner settled for Dolby Surround Stereo. This of course is quite disappointing considering the number of other DVD titles encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, and that one would think a movie in this genre would inherently require the greatest sound technology available. Also, as far as extras are concerned, only the original UK film trailer from 1976 are included, which dashes any hopes for newly released footage.
Still, it's a pleasurable experience to witness four of rock's greatest musicians performing some of their most exciting and celebrated pieces while they were at a personal and professional high. The movie is beautiful, presented in a 1.85:1 ratio widescreen format, and watching it on a large screen television is what DVD was made for. Hammer of the Gods!
Video Essentials (1996)
Not "essential" but nice overall
"Video Essentials" is a visual tutorial for optimizing your home theater setup. It is easy to follow and understand, and I came out of it with a MUCH better understanding of the science behind creating the perfect home cinema environment, especially the video aspects (adjusting tint, color, sharpness, contrast, ect.). It isn't necessary to have a surround sound system to make use of the audio tests, but, of course, it won't be as useful overall. Perhaps not enough to justify the pricetag of this DVD tape, which I had the biggest problem with. I mean, you spend maybe 1-2 hours with it, and that's the end of it. You have to ask yourself whether it's worth 40-50 bucks to see a moderate home theater improvement. The difference is NOT earth-shattering. In my own case, the greatest adjustment necessary was to lower the brightness level on the television to achieve a perfect picture. Personally, Im glad I got Video Essentials, because I wasn't going to watch a film like "Saving Private Ryan" before I knew it was as sharp as it was going to get. I suppose this makes me a die-hard movie viewer, so all others will need to think twice before deciding to buy it. 4 out of 5 stars.
The worst semi-mainstream movie ever made.
This is the perfect example of a film that challenged me to rationalize why any production crew with a fairly considerable budget would decide to produce such inexplicable garbage. It's rare when you see a film so elaborate, constructed so rich with visual detail that you get a great sense of atmosphere (the underground setting), but also so terrible in ever other way to cause one to stop and ponder the extent to which films could be made bad all the while cognizant of the fact that it takes many "professional" individuals collectively to take on a project such as this. Basically I ask why? How?
OK. Maybe it isn't THAT bad. I remember renting this with 2 of my friends a couple of years ago. Disbelief abounded. That is the best way I can express laconically the reaction to the sequel to the cult classic TCM. Disbelief as to how the characters could be so corny, the dialogue so bad, the plot so incredibly paper thin. In all honesty, it was so bad it was hilarious, and we have since, on many occasions, recalled some of the films's more memorable scenes such as the one in the beginning when a poor young college boy gets a generous portion of his head sliced off by ole Leatherface himself, despite the fact that he's behind the wheel of a speedy 4x4 and you would think that he would do whatever it took to prevent his brain from being hacked open like a ripe apple (like maybe ducking). Also, the acting by the lead actress was decent.
It was nice I guess to see Dennis Hopper in this film, but I would seriously question his sincerity if he told me personally that the TCM2 was just the dignity injection that his career needed.
1 out of 10.