Judge Jason Panella is made of soft, squishy stuff.
They wanna be adored.
Shane Meadows (This Is England) loves the Stone Roses. The director lets his camera linger on the band, soaking in their majesty. There's a jittery aspect to how the film was put together too, like Meadows was shaking with excitement in the editing room. The filmmaker even appears onscreen a few times grinning like a madman. This is his favorite band, people. The Stone Roses: Made of Stone plays out like a love letter from a superfan, who also happens to be a talented filmmaker.
Meadows's reverence helps transform this into an above average documentary. But the fawning also tarnishes the final product a bit; the film is an exuberant celebration of a great band's reunion tour…and that's it.
While they only enjoyed modest success in the U.S., the Stone Roses were huge in England—their self-titled 1989 debut was an enormous critical and commercial hit. The band's mixture of '60s guitar pop, post-punk, and house music helped form both the Madchester and "baggy" movements. But the band sputtered out after the release of their polarizing second album, Second Coming, and eventually broke up in 1996 after years of increasing inter-band turmoil. The likelihood of them actually getting back together was pretty low until, well, they got back together in 2012. Any skepticism fans may have had were shoved aside when vocalist Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Gary "Mani" Mounfield, and drummer Alan "Reni" Wren all hit the press circuit together. The Stone Roses were back.
Made of Stone follows the band as they practice and eventually play a number of sold-out shows across Europe. Meadows sprinkles bits of archival footage here and there, which helps to give an idea of where the band came from and how passionate their fans are. The film doesn't spend too much time on the past, though—Meadows is mainly interested in showing the band laughing as they work the kinks out of tunes they haven't played in almost two decades, or interviewing scores of fans as they wait in line for tickets for the first reunion show.
And then there's the concert footage, which is just awesome. The band looks and sounds great, of course, but Meadows's camera-savvy takes it to another level. This is some of the most glorious concert footage I've seen in years, especially during the incendiary take on "Fools Gold" that closes out the film.
Made of Stone sidesteps drama, even when drama easily presents itself (when Reni bails on an encore in the Netherlands, for instance, to the fans' dismay). Not that this is a bad thing; a film like this doesn't need the ugly bits of a band's history to be good. Made of Stone is more victory lap and deconstructive history. But the one-sidedness of the material makes it feel like propaganda in some ways, and some gentle pushback would've made it feel more well-rounded. It's a good documentary about a great band, just one that's so narrowly focused that it feels unbalanced.
MVD Visual's U.S. release of Made of Stone is fairly underwhelming. The 1.78:1/1080p non-anamorphic transfer flip-flops between eye-scorchingly beautiful concert footage and grainy stuff from the archive. The LPCM stereo and DTS-HD MA surround tracks also bounce between miraculous segments from the concert soundboards and tinny old footage. None subtitles, sadly…they would have come in handy any time Mani talks. The extras here pale in comparison to the two-disc U.K. What we get: audio commentary with Meadows and producer Mark Herbert; some out-takes and scrapped footage; "Locating the Rehearsal Venue" (2:41), "Behind the Scenes: Warrington Parr Hall" (13:03), "Shane's Hallelujah Moment" (5:29), and "Fan Phone Footage" (0:25); Trailer; and bonus live performances "She Bangs the Drums"—Fuji (3:51), "Shoot You Down"—Warrington Parr Hall (4:51), and "I Wanna Be Adored" (false start during rehearsals) (13:33), a two-minute segment that's curiously looped about seven times.
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Studio: MVD Visual
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