Judge Patrick Naugle's tolerance level is three inches of magenta.
Hush, my friends, for there is smoke on the water! (aaaaaaaand…cue the review)
The band Deep Purple had many hits—including "Smoke on the Water" and "Hush"—and is considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 1970s, paving the way (along with groups like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) for future heavy metal bands to rock their socks off.
Now, I would like to tell you that I did extensive research on Deep Purple and am now a diehard archivist with their history tightly locked inside my brain. I would like to tell you all that, but I can't. The fact is I know little about Deep Purple except for a few of their hits and the fact that the band's name causes me to think of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Anything I now know about Deep Purple was culled from Wikipedia and Rolling Stone's website. Such is the life of an online reviewer.
Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising is sort of a half concert, half documentary experience. The first half includes a rare, live 1975 performance from Japan that features the following songs: "Burn," "Love Child," "Smoke On The Water," "You Keep On Moving," and "Highway Star." I knew one of those songs, which meant I had to sit through five other songs I didn't know. Oh joy. The second half is a borderline amateurish documentary on the band and one of their many 'phases' (i.e., when different musicians came and went like a revolving door). There are interview segments and archival footage with select band members discussing some of the issues they faced (including snorting cocaine off a hooker's ass, I kid you not) and what it was like to be onstage during one of rock and roll's seminal periods. We hear about why certain people left the band, who was on drugs, what kind of egos were involved, blah blah blah. After about twenty minutes the whole thing starts to sound like the unfunny version of This is Spinal Tap.
Okay, here's were we cut to the honesty: I zoned out during a good portion of the 80 minute documentary and fell asleep during the concert footage. This isn't to say the feature is bad, but for the casual fan, like myself (or better put, a guy who has about 4 of their songs on my iPod), it's about as fascinating as watching cordwood rot. Apparently this band had various lineups that are listed like this: Mark, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, etc. I'm surprised their history doesn't read like a Bible passage: "…and Mark II begat Mark III which begat Mark IV which in turn…" As you can see it's got all the excitement of snail racing. Whenever a band is broken up into historical segments with Roman numerals, I start to lose interest fast.
Instead of giving casual fans a good, roundabout idea about the general history of the band (ala VH1's "Behind the Music") the documentary picks up mid-stream with the history of just one of the band's many lineups (this one being Coverdale, Hughes, Bolin, Paice and Lord). If you're not a fan of this band—and by fan I man someone who has followed them for decades—you are going to feel like you just opened a book half way through with no idea of what came before. If you are a diehard Deep Purple buff this will be fine; if you are anyone else, you're SOL.
To summarize: if you aren't familiar with the band members or their music beyond a few of their hits you hear on classic rock stations, you'll be lost and bored by the documentary. If you do love Deep Purple, God bless you and saints be praised. Otherwise, spin a few of their classic hits instead.
Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising's documentary is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen in 1080p while the concert footage is presented in 1.33:1 full frame (preserving the original aspect ratio). The footage is neither here nor there—nothing jumps out at the viewer and this could just as easily have been released on DVD without much of a difference. The concert footage looks understandably aged and sometimes even worn, though they've most likely done the best they could with the elements on hand. The documentary footage is mediocre; then again, do you need pristine quality when watching old rock band members talking about binge drinking?
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 (the concert) as well as DTS Master Audio 2.0 (the documentary). The concert footage here sounds good, even if the songs aren't anything special or overly distinguishable from one another. The documentary's sound is fine—you can hear the interviewees and their answers. What more do you need? Also included on this disc are English, French, German and Spanish subtitles.
The extra features on Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising include some digitally remastered live audio tracks from the Japan and Long Beach performances ("Burn," "Gettin' Tighter," "Love Child," "Smoke on the Water/Georgia on my Mind," "Lazy," "Homeward Strut," "You Keep on Moving" and "Stormbringer"), a featurette that includes audio interviews with Jon Lord and Glenn Hughes about their experiences in Japan and some extended and redundant interviews from the documentary.
Sometimes the movie and the reviewer are just completely wrong for each
other. Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising may speak to rabid fans but casual
viewers will find this a waste of time.
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