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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hype! (Blu-ray)
Hype! (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // Unrated // September 29, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $19.67 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted October 11, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I was in college at the time when grunge reached the East Coast and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was on MTV all the time, and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were part of a tidal wave that re-arranged the music landscape at the time. I remember it transitioning from a tag given to the music of Seattle and seeing it transition to an industry with that same tag slapped onto it. Additionally there was a documentary about the Seattle music seen that I heard about but never saw. Until now!

Hype! was directed by Doug Pray and includes interviews with folks like Kim Thayil from Soundgarden and Eddie Vedder, but it also includes interviews with bands like Mudhoney, and also talks to non-music members like representatives from Sub-Pop, concert photographers, producers and managers as they talked about the origins of the music at the time, its place in the Cascadia tapestry, and it's transformation from raw guitar sounds to literally in one scene, escalator music.

Pray provides a nice snapshot by some of the modest musicians in terms of how the music started out, along with the inspirations for it, be it other acts, be it the rainy Northwest, whatever. Considering their place in the country, the sense of isolation as they continued to just play can definitely be felt as you watch the film. As "grunge" evolved from music to publication think pieces to high-end fashion, this separation served them well as brands and corporations came in to drain whatever ounce of essence they could from Seattle. The film doesn't look back on the salad days of grunge in part because I think it wasn't far enough away from the pulse of it at the time. But the acts that played then kept on playing, regardless of what tag was given to their music. In a way that was the nature of the music, it started before the country noticed and kept going long after. There is a new retrospective piece that goes into that on the disc, but seeing the skepticism of celebrity as it came calling was really enjoyable to watch play out in this.

I'm going to presume that other time capsules about the Seattle music landscape have been created and distributed, but Hype! gets the spirit of those involved with it and stays loyal to that feeling throughout the film. In its 20th year, now that many of us have ditched our Nirvana CDs for Spotify follows of them and others, Hype! shows us what the music was for so many involved with it, and it's a worthy testimony to the early ‘90s era of music.

The Blu-ray:
Video:

Shout! presents Hype! with an AVC encode to go with its 1.85:1 widescreen presentation and the newly remastered results are fine. Considering it's a documentary shot on film 20 years ago, there's some image noise in some of the concert performances, but it appears to look as it did when it was first released. Film grain is present during viewing, colors are natural, whether it's the red of a shirt or the Seattle clouds.

Audio:

The film gets a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack to go with a stereo one and the latter sounds better, in part because I think it matches the grit of the music. Interviews are well-balanced and consistent on either soundtrack, but the performances are more robust and sound cleaner on the stereo version than the surround. You won't really go wrong with either option, but I think the two-channel sounds better for the material.

Extras:

Not one but two commentaries, the first with Pray and producer Steve Helvey, recorded in 2004. They talk about how they came to make the film and go over some intentions that a particular scene, shot or interview was supposed to convey. They go over any of their connections to the bands in the film, personal or otherwise, while talking about the challenges of editing such a subject, and how they got outside help at times to do so. Even a decade after filming this was a good track. The second is one recorded this year, with Pray as a solo act here. He discusses the obstacles of making documentaries at the time and some production and shot recollection. He also points out some things that the 2004 track covered that have changed or evolved since then, and some of the historical events in the film. This track was recorded after Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell's death in May of 2017 and he touches upon this also. Overall both tracks are nice additions to the film and are worth listening to.

Next is "20 Years After" (16:10), where some of the participants in the original film return for interviews shot in the summer of 2017. They share how the film and the music impacted them and how they dealt with some of the waning popularity (it seemed to touch everyone). They also talk about the music's place in Seattle now even as corporate giants are entrenched there, and the quick, somewhat poignant thoughts about bands or musicians who made or didn't make it, along with those no longer with us. I would have liked to seen this a little longer but it's a solid bonus. "Peter Bagge's ‘Hate'" (4:07) is a cartoon parody of the film and what's covered in it, and there are additional performances (11:43) and interview outtakes (22:39), the former including an optional commentary from Pray. A trailer (2:12) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

There may be better documentaries about music and musicians (Pray recently worked on the excellent multi-part series The Defiant Ones that you should try to find), but Hype! quietly and in a workmanlike fashion captures the time in Seattle and the music pretty well. Even if you have a solid knowledge of that time and the music and haven't seen this film, you should certainly check it out. Technically the disc is good and the supplements are abundant and informative, and it's worth spending a nice day or two back in 1994.

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