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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » U2: Rattle & Hum (Blu-ray)
U2: Rattle & Hum (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG-13 // October 10, 2006 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Brendan Surpless | posted November 15, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Many view the band U2's breakthrough album was The Joshua Tree , released in March 1987. The album had the famous With or Without You which is probably one of their best works to date minus the excellent One. The world ate up the album as it went #1 in many countries and won numerous awards. Realizing the popularity of The Joshua Tree wasn't tapped out yet, U2 released a documentary entitled Rattle and Hum which features footage recorded from shows from The Joshua Tree Tour. The band also released an accompanying album of the same name with live material and new studio material. While U2 may quite possibly be one of the finest music acts to ever come together, this documentary truly shows that a band's success can go to their head.

Naturally I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this issue as you can always find someone to call something good. Please note that I'm not the biggest U2 fan in the world, but it became clearly obvious while watching this that not one involved in this project, including the band, saw this documentary as a chance to ride the coat tails of something already popular. Lead singer Bono looked so over-inflated in himself probably thinking 'I'm the best, no one can touch me'. And while Bono may be a fine human being (he's done quite a lot for himself), I personally hated this man after this was over.

The biggest issue here lies in that the director of the documentary, Phil Joanou, has no idea how to simply organize material. We get so many scenes where Joanou is attempting to interview the band only for them to laugh. Realizing this is not what he wanted, Joanou quickly switches to a random song. The band themselves never seem calm or relaxed (how musicians should be in front of the camera). The whole documentary never has any sense of order featuring random scene after random scene.

Researching into this, I discovered that Rattle and Hum was billed as a look at U2's 'American roots music'. Maybe I was confused during this viewing, but this subject is never touched upon. As a fan of the band, I can't entirely blame U2 for this documentary as they were probably just listening to their management. After all, they had just become incredibly popular and didn't want to mess anything up. Instead I place the blame solely on Joanou, a man who figured that capitalizing on U2's popularity wouldn't only get him tons of money, but would put him into the spotlight. His inflated ego is easily shown in this as ever performance by the band is made to be like this super expensive, elaborate piece. Just let the damn band perform their music, will you? Don't make it into something overly elaborate. Let the music decide the course of importance.

I'll be completely honest and admit that even though I'm a U2 fan, I had never seen this documentary before receiving this screener. I figured, popping in the disc, that a band like U2, that hasn't really done anything terrible thus far in their career (at least what I've heard), couldn't involve themselves in something bad right? Well, this documentary proved to me is that even the best musicians in the world can make something terrible. As much as I wanted to love Rattle and Hum, and trust me I did as I watched it again just to see if maybe I was on something during the 1st viewing, I just couldn't find myself enjoying this.

Video

Being released as part of Paramount's initial Blu-Ray wave, Rattle and Hum arrives with a 1080p, MPEG-2 Encoded, 1:85:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio. Previously released on the competing HD DVD format encoded in AVC/MPEG-4, I have to report that this Blu-Ray release (not knowing the quality of the HD DVD release) just like the film, fails.

The film's source looks as if the film was made over 100 years ago. Grain and dirt riddle this print certainly showing the film's age. Edge enhancement, a lack of sharpness, inconsistent clarity, poor pixilation, and bad lighting are a few of the problems with this disc. Now don't simply say 'oh, the movie is old'. Bullshit! Take a look at the recently released The Adventures of Robin Hood or the soon to be releasedThe Searchers as two pure examples of films that look amazing despite 'age'.

Detail is also another huge issue here. Despite this being a live concert film, there are rarely any sequences where detail is fine boasting a possible sense of depth. In fact, I can only think of one performance that looks halfway decent. The song 'Bad' looks the best showcasing a good use of color (rich blacks), and a nice 3-D image. Obviously grain is still present, but when you go from a super grainy image to a not so grainy image, it feels like a new experience. Color usage, besides the aforementioned example, is another issue. A majority of the colors used were darker like blacks and grays, colors that typically showcase fine detail on High-Definition. However with Rattle and Hum, it seemed like the colors were out of place, smeared and overly poor resulting in a feeling like I was watching a VHS tape, not High-Definition.

Audio

I thought going into the audio, that we'd have another negative on our hands. Luckily though, the provided Dolby Digital 5.1, encoded at 640kbps, sounds excellent boasting rich, vibrant aural detail.

Dynamic Range is simply fantastic. Not being the biggest concert goer, I'm not too sure how U2 sounds live, but if this concert is any indication, I may have to grab tickets next time they're around me. Bono has always been a stylistic performer typically belting loud vocals. Such is the case as all of his performances are top notch with a true sense of range and depth reaching the ears of the audience.

Surround usage, while not being as powerful, is still pretty good. The rear speakers, certainly the least active of the bunch, attempted to show us what it may be like sitting in the audience singing along with Bono. Dialogue, during the interview sequences, never causes a problem. Overall, the audio experience for Rattle and Hum was a nice sign of what U2 might sound like live.

Special Features

    Nothing really special here as the only included feature is a brief trailer that felt like a song excerpt, not a trailer.

Closing Thoughts

Despite myself enjoying U2's music almost always finding everything they do to be the definition of quality, I couldn't really ever bring myself to enjoy Rattle and Hum. The documentary felt overly forced and never felt like a product that should be a U2 product. Even though the audio was great giving us a sense of a live convert, the video was so horrible possibly pre-dating DVD. Add in the fact of the disc contained no real features and I can't imagine any fan of U2, no matter how big a fan, wanting this. Purely skip this trite, boring documentary.

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