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The Rolling Stones: Shine a Light DVD Review

Shine a Light movie poster Shine a Light

Theatrical Release: April 4, 2008 / Running Time: 122 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Martin Scorsese

The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger (vocals/guitar/harmonica), Keith Richards (guitars/vocals), Charlie Watts (drums), Ronnie Wood (guitar), Darryl Jones (bass guitar), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Bernard Fowler (vocals), Lisa Fischer (vocals), Blondie Chaplin (vocals), Tim Ries (saxophone/keyboards), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone) / Guest Performers: Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, Jack White III

Songs: "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Shattered", "She Was Hot", "All Down the Line", "Loving Cup", "As Tears Go By", "Some Girls", "(Just My) Imagination", "Far Away Eyes", "Champagne and Reefer", "Tumbling Dice", "You Got the Silver", "Connection", "Sympathy for the Devil", "Live with Me", "Start Me Up", "Brown Sugar", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

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One of the most esteemed film directors of all time and one of the most esteemed rock bands of all time come together in Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's 2008 documentary
on The Rolling Stones in concert. Though this marks their first official collaboration together, the two parties have aided each other for many years through apt marriages of Scorsese-directed scenes and pre-recorded Stones songs. Whether it was "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in 1973's Mean Streets or "Gimme Shelter" in every Scorsese crime movie since, the Stones' music has gained exposure from the highly acclaimed films and in turn deserves credit for contributing to the effectiveness of certain key sequences.

While they lead you to expect an ongoing behind-the-scenes perspective, the opening twelve minutes are purely an appetizer. They showcase Scorsese's neuroses over sufficient preparation, the band's fears of whizzing cameras getting in the way of their performances, and a meet & greet session with former president Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, and members of their family.

The Rolling Stones' fall 2006 performances at New York City's Beacon Theater are the focus of Martin Scorsese's documentary "Shine a Light." Stones frontman Mick Jagger struts his stuff in center stage.

Then it's onto the main course: the Stones performing at New York City's Beacon Theater in the fall of 2006. The band is a fascinating display of contradiction. All four of the members -- lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, bassist Ronnie Wood, and drummer Charlie Watts -- are now in their sixties. In appearance, it shows. Heavily weathered with wrinkles, there is evidence of all having been in the rock game since the early 1960s. But the rich history that suggests either premature death or pitiful past-prime attempts to recreate past glory fades away when the act comes to life. The Stones have still got energy and skill that ought to have slipped years ago.

Jagger in particular is so active that his permanently rail-thin frame makes perfect sense. This guy probably has to drink melted-down gallons of ice cream twice a day to compensate for all the calories he seems to burn while moving on stage. Even when he doesn't keep up enough to get all the lyrics in as originally recorded, he more than makes up for it with his physical efforts.

The band performs a few of their best-known songs, opening with "Jumpin' Jack Flash", closing with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", and in between hitting "Sympathy for the Devil", "Brown Sugar", and "Start Me Up." Spicing things up a little, the group is joined by guests on three songs: The White Stripes' Jack White on "Loving Cup", Buddy Guy on "Champagne and Reefer", and Christina Aguilera on "Live with Me."

The Stones' death-defying guitar player Keith Richards is more alert than his weathered exterior suggests. Christina Aguilera, the film's only female guest performer, has Mick Jagger dancing close to her during their "Live With Me" duet.

The film is very much a concert performance piece. Little time is spent away from the stage. That's somewhat unfortunate, since the television interview snippets from over the years sprinkled throughout represent some of the strongest moments and add depth to concert we're quick to return to.

Scorsese keeps the focus on the band and nearly always on rarely-stagnant frontman Jagger. The Stones are usually seen in extremely close shots, bringing you as near to the center stage as anyone could ever be (or would want to). The 2,100-person audience (a miniscule gathering by Stones standards) is rarely seen at length but always felt. The viewer, even one with no particular soft spot for concerts or the featured act, can't help but experience some of the rampant excitement.

Some may notice the irony that twice in the film, profanity is silenced. This is the same Martin Scorsese who allowed between 200 and 500 utterances of the F-word in each Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed. The swears are muted here to preserve a PG-13 rating, which is obtained with two existing F-bombs plus MPAA-cited "drug references and smoking." I'm not sure that there was a sizable enough demographic to warrant the self-censorship, but then the film did earn over $5 million domestically (some from premium-fetching IMAX engagements), quite a respectable gross for something limited to 277 North American theaters.

Buy Shine a Light on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Featurette Subtitled
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps
Also available on Blu-ray Disc


Wonderfully lit and photographed, the concert scenes of Shine a Light
are presented in dazzling 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with vibrancy, sharpness, and a pristine element that seem to transcend the bounds of standard definition DVD. The opening photography is presented in grainy black & white, while the recurring past and international interview clips -- understandably less sharp -- are all pillarboxed in 1.33:1.

The default Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also commands respect. Spaced out among channels, the instrumentation is robust and full, while the rear channels engulf with enthusiastic audience applause. It's all just right, as the music is loud, but not to the point where vocals are drowned out. A two-channel stereo mix is also offered for those without surround systems, but this is one that ought to be enjoyed in 5.1. A disappointment surely tied to copyright limitations, the subtitles and closed captions do not provide song lyrics, making them of little use for the majority of the film.

Like much of the film's preface, some of the DVD featurette's rehearsal footage appears in artsy black and white. Blue-tinted "Paint it Black" is one of four song performances cut from the film but preserved among the bonus features.


A modest slate of extras kicks off with an untitled Supplemental Featurette (15:10). It's a fine collection of unnarrated footage of rehearsals (including unperformed songs),
backstage banter, and more (semi-confrontational) vintage interviews. It's the kind of material I wanted more of in the film, so it's nice to get it here.

Next, we get four Bonus Songs (16:37) performed in concert but not used in the film: "Undercover of the Night" (4:22), "Paint it Black" (4:36), "Little T & A" (4:07), and "I'm Free" (3:32). These are happily given a polished presentation on par with the feature (16x9, DD 5.1). You'll likely agree that at least one or two of the numbers should have supplanted those making the cut.

A handful of text screens provide credits for archival material and songs featured in the supplements.

Finally, "Previews" runs a short DVD promo for Stop-Loss and full trailers for Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, American Teen, Defiance, The Duchess, and Son of Rambow. Those last four play automatically at disc insertion.

After a short black & white montage, the main menu settles on a barely animated version of the cover/poster art while playing an excerpt of "Tumblin' Dice." Submenus are silent, static, and less artsy.

An in-case insert advertises three available editions of the Shine a Light soundtrack.

Fan hands reach up as Mick Jagger strikes the iconic pose captured in poster and DVD cover artwork. The four Rolling Stones -- Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Keith Richards -- take a final bow for their adoring audience.


As a film, Martin Scorsese's Shine a Light is not the most functional. As a video record of a 21st century Rolling Stones concert, it is terrific. There are definitely some missed opportunities to put the group's longevity and appeal in perspective. Still, the few brushes on those aspects absolutely complement the substantial core -- a state-of-the-art capture of perhaps rock music's most indefatigable band in action. In spite of a limited design, the film manages to be fairly dynamic and fun. Paramount's DVD delivers an impeccable feature presentation and a couple of good extras, but it's not a special enough package to recommend an instant buy. However, the film garners a recommendation for those who like The Rolling Stones, concerts, and especially Rolling Stones concerts.

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Related Reviews:
Films Featuring Rolling Stones Music: The Darjeeling Limited 21 The Hoax Full Metal Jacket
Featuring Keith Richards: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End | New to DVD: Freakazoid!: Season 1 The Counterfeiters
Documentaries: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse In the Shadow of the Moon Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic
Concert DVDs: Elvis: That's the Way It Is High School Musical: The Concert Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom: The Disney Songbook
Featuring Christina Aguilera: Mickey Mouse Club: The Best of Britney, Justin & Christina Mulan: Special Edition

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Reviewed July 25, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Paramount Classics, Concert Productions International, Shangri-La Entertainment,
and Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.