A few years ago, IMAX had begun to fall on hard times, as audiences were unfortunately starting to stay away from the short documentaries that had been an IMAX staple for many years. However, the recent supply of feature films that have been converted to the format have sparked a serious turnaround, as studios are now frequently looking to IMAX and its more expensive ticket prices in order to get a box office boost.
"Shine A Light" is director Martin Scorsese's follow-up to "The Departed" (and before that, the Bob Dylan doc, "No Direction Home") and follows the Rolling Stones as they prepare for a special concert at New York City's Beacon Theatre, certainly a smaller venue than the Stones are used to playing. The film is the second IMAX Stones concert and starts off with an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at both Scorsese and the Stones preparing for the show - starting with something of a disagreement between Jagger and Scorsese over the stage set. A phone call between Scorsese and Jagger about how the cameras will be disruptive reminds me of a scene from "Curb Your Enthusiasm". There's also a meet & greet with the Clintons (the concert was a benefit for Bill Clinton's charity) and rehearsal, as well.
After the intro, the movie jumps into the concert and - not surprisingly, the Stones manage to hit the stage with a performance that maintains a level of energy, intensity and urgency that outshines bands that are half the age of the Stones. The approximately 105-minute set features a wide variety of tunes and the band is joined by a few guest stars, including Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy and Jack White, all of whom - although Guy in particular - do outstanding work and have good chemistry with the band. Aguilera and Jagger riff back and forth on "Live With Me" quite well, too, with Aguilera trying her best to keep up with Jagger's force-of-nature performance.
The concert is captured expertly by Scorsese and his band of cinematographers (lead by frequent Scorsese and Oliver Stone collaborator Robert Richardson). In fact, the concert documentary is a prime example of how it's possible to capture the energy of a show like the Stones' and not have to employ rapid-fire editing or other "tricks" to amp up the energy of the film.
1) Jumpin' Jack Flash 2) Shattered 3) She Was Hot 4) All Down the Line 5) Loving Cup (w/ Jack White) 6) As Tears Go By 7) Some Girls 8) Just My Imagination 9) Faraway Eyes 10) Champagne and Reefer (w/ Buddy Guy) 11) Tumbling Dice 12) You Got the Silver 13) Connection 14) Sympathy for the Devil 15) Live With Me (w/ Christina Aguilera) 16) Start Me Up 17) Brown Sugar 18) Satisfaction
VIDEO: "Shine a light" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). The DVD presentation was quite excellent for the format and, while massive differences aren't seen, the Blu-Ray does provide improved image quality in some regards. Sharpness and detail do vary - again, while a few of the wide shots and audience shots look a tad softer, close-ups and other footage looks crisper and cleaner (although small object detail isn't great, that's certainly not unexpected in a concert presentation like this one.) Overall, the Blu-Ray presentation as a whole looks mildly tighter and more well-defined on the DVD edition.
The picture does show some mild grain at times, as well as a few instances of artifacting. However, the presentation otherwise remained clear, with no wear on the print or edge enhancement. Colors looked warm and bright, with the stage lighting appearing bold and yet, never oversaturated or smeary. Black level also remained solid throughout, as well. Overall, while not demo quality, this was a very good high-def presentation of the material.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM 2.0. The sound design offers a nice spread of the music across the front speakers. Audio quality is excellent, as each instrument remained precise and crisp, while vocals were front and center. Surrounds contributed a decent amount, bringing in some crowd noise (although crowd noise thankfully never became overwhelming) and reinforcement of the music. Audio quality was very pleasing, as all three audio presentations certainly rocked, offering stellar bass, crisp vocals and an airy, "live" sound. The DTS-HD presentation seemed slightly crisper and warmer, but the Dolby TrueHD presentation and PCM presentation were also very enjoyable.
EXTRAS: The extras are presented in HD. There are four bonus songs offered: "Undercover of the Night", "Paint It Black", "Little T&A" and "Iím Free". It's too bad that these songs weren't included, as they are great performances - especially "Paint It Black". We also get a brief "making of" featurette that offers a decent view at both the making of the show and backstage.
Final Thoughts: "Shine a Light" sees the Stones still rocking well into their 60's and Scorsese doing a stellar job capturing the event. The Blu-Ray boasts excellent audio/video quality and a few minor (but enjoyable) extras. Recommended.