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Paramount Home Video presents
"What the movie's about is, when a band is developing, it goes through certain stages. And for us, we're not the same band we were when we recorded the War album, for instance. We captured that one in Under a Blood Red Sky. And we just wanted to capture this period of the band, to....oh %@ it, I don't know."
DVD ReviewShot primarily during U2's concert tour of the United States in support of The Joshua Tree (once notoriously and in all seriousness listed as the greatest album of all time), Rattle and Hum uses a stark visual approach to document the band in concert and behind the scenes. Over two-thirds of the running time is shot in a gritty black and white that gives the film a noir edge, while it shifts into color in the latter half for some stadium sequences. The music is a decent mix of greatest hits and less famous tunes, with a smattering of oddly lethargic covers.
Things start off unpromisingly with a lifeless rendition of Helter Skelter, lacking the energy that any number of punk and mainstream bands have put into the song. A brief segment returns the band to Dublin, where they perform a number of tunes in what looks like a warehouse setting for a warmed-over music video. After the tedious Van Diemen's Land, things pick up somewhat with a heartier rendition of Desire, and from there things roll along quite satisfactorily until the conclusion. We get a frustratingly brief look at backstage banter about the performances, and a silly tour of Graceland that permits drummer Larry Muller Jr. to pose on Elvis' motorcycle. It's not clear why we should care, though.
The best segments, oddly, involve collaborations that infuse a bit of surprise into familiar songs. One of these involves a field trip to Harlem to perform with a gospel choir on I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The gospel singers quickly upstage Bono, who seems rather nonplussed, as they put a new spin on the song. The other notable collaboration involves B.B. King at the Fort Worth concert, joining in on a rehearsal and performance of When Love Comes to Town, which Bono reveals was written in honor of King on the occasion of a tour to Dublin. King is marvelous as always, and U2 is appropriately respectful. There's also a joyful recording session of Angel of Harlem at Sun Studios that seems to very much inspire the band.
The political side of Bono, if not the entire band, comes across in the anti-apartheid anthem Silver and Gold. One of the highlights of the film is an angry rendition of Sunday, Bloody Sunday on the occasion of the Enniskillen bombing that both killed eleven and triggered a backlash against the IRA's tactics. Bono's fury is captured both in the opening monologue (which by itself rendered the otherwise mostly harmless film a PG-13). While the song itself is political, it's Bono's biting vocals that turn it into a manifesto against political violence. In contrast to this seriousness is his otherwise laughable willingness to strike a pose during most songs, undercutting their integrity constantly. U2 devotees generally love this film, but those with a more casual interest may want to stick to a rental.
Van Diemen's Land
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Silver and Gold
Angel of Harlem
All Along the Watchtower
In God's Country
When Love Comes to Town
Heartland/Bad/Ruby Tuesday/Sympathy for the Devil/Where the Streets Have No Name
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Pride (In the Name of Love)
All I Want Is You
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Where to start? This was a very odd choice indeed for one of Paramount's first wave of HD-DVDs, given that it's shot on 16mm, mostly in black and white, with heavy grain throughout, except in the spots where it has even heavier grain. A compressionist's nightmare, Rattle and Hum does a reasonably good job with much of the concert footage. The grain during those segments isn't really too horrific, and the resulting picture looks good, with excellent greyscale, particularly for a concert film. Other segments are shot with an extremely coarse grain film stock, and the result even with HD resolution is full of flashing and sparkling. Thankfully the true eyesore moments are rather limited. The color segments have beautiful primary color resolution as well. The source print seems to have taken a bit of damage over the years, with dust and nicks accumulating through the running time. But that doesn't really detract from the rough-hewn character of the visuals. The compression was done using MPEG4, rather than the now-fairly-standard VC-1 compression; one wonders whether that decision affected the picture quality for the better or the worse.
Giving this transfer a grade is difficult; Rattle and Hum will never look like HD Video, and there are obvious limitations to the source that nothing can change without affecting the integrity of the source. Given those problems, Paramount provides a reasonably good rendition of the film. There is probably still some room for improvement, though whether that can come on any video format remains to be seen.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The disc offers the choice of a DD+ 5.1 EX track or a 6.1 DTS version. Both are quite solid, though I preferred the DD+ version as giving a little airier quality to the bass. The mix at times makes Adam Clayton's bass lines sound muddy and incoherent (such as on Where the Streets Have No Name, while at others they come across with fine clarity. The Edge's guitars and Bono's vocals sound terrific at all times, though the vocals on Angel of Harlem have a particularly striking immediacy. During the dialogue sequences, there is quite heavy hiss, but this seems like a stylistic choice so no points are deducted on that count. An excellent and house-shaking audio track.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Extras Review: The sole extra is a HD version of the memorable teaser trailer for the movie, which also appeared on the standard DVD.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAn inconsistent collection of performances from U2, with some odd stylistic decisions. But when the band is on, they're definitely on. The HD video transfer does the best it can with the difficult source materials, and the audio is superb for the most part.
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