Across The Universe
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who
Very British and astoundingly funny, Green Wing comes to us from the incredible creative brain that gave us Smack the Pony - the delicious Victoria Pile and her team of eight writers. This truly ensemble comedy tells the story of Dr Caroline Todd’s (Tamsin Greig – Black Books) first days at work in a student hospital. Caroline quickly gets involved in a love hexagon - seriously, everyone from shy Dr Martin Dear (Karl Theobold) to hospital administrator Sue White (Michelle Gomez) has a thing for Caroline. The exceptions to this rule are the in-and-out of love/sex couple Dr Alan Statham (scenery chewer Mark Heap – Spaced) and Joanna Clore (Pippa Heywood – The Brittas Empire). Of course, while all of this is going on they have to attend to patients. While this might seem a bit like a UK version of Scrubs, Green Wing works better because the pacing is faster and the absurd enters the real world, instead of just being dream sequences. The writing is fun and performances flawless without exception. Closer in style to Arrested Development than anything else, Green Wing has the same flashback-forward style and absurdist payoff and wit. There is so much to like in Green Wing; as mentioned, all of the performances are great, including the cameos and minor roles – Oliver Chris as Boyce and his two-play with Statham is fresh and very funny. It really does illustrate the adage that there are no small roles, only small actors. Green Wing is the kind of show that anybody can watch and enjoy, picking up new gags with repeated viewings. Extra features on this set include deleted scenes, audio commentaries and a behind the scenes featurette.
If the intention of the powers behind Across The Universe was to make you revisit those fantastic old Beatles songs, then they have succeeded without question. If, however, we are to take the film on its own merits, then it is a bit of a shambles. Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) fall in and out of love, while Max (Joe Anderson), Lucy’s brother, is carted off to war. In terms of plot, that’s about it, and as a film with a running time of 133 minutes it therefore is really a bit too long. The songs, though, are what keep you watching and the Lennon/McCartney compositions have rarely sounded fresher than when sung by the cast of excellent special guests including Joe Cocker and Dana Fuchs (don’t worry – you will hear of her). The problem is that during a couple of the scenes, they try to incorporate the drugs the band were on as a plot device and this drives the piece well off the rails. In fact, as soon as a high-profile Irish singer comes into view – alright, it’s Bono - the whole thing takes a walk for about 20 minutes that we could have done without. With no word of warning, we are dropped into a drug-fucked miasma of images and noise, however 20 minutes later it returns to the norm but never quite finds its footing. Across The Universe is a wonderful homage to this great music, it’s just a shame the whole thing is one long rambling music clip. The performances are all passing, and the direction and script (by Clements and La Frenais who brought us the sublime Porridge) are a little plodding - a shame considering what could have been. Extra features include audio commentary, behind the scenes features and deleted scenes.
Years back, upon foolishly attending one of Kiss’ endless Farewell Tour gigs, I had the fortune of witnessing a truly nerve-jangling experience far outshining the laughable cartoon parade soon to follow. Pre-show, Won't Get Fooled Again was playing and as the natives rustled, the instrumental section grew slightly louder as it approached the crashing Pete Townsend power chorded mid-song crescendo, at which point the house lights swiftly dropped and the volume ascended to stadium strength. A potent display of melodic dynamics, it remains my only memory of the show. It’s also a reminder why The Who were one of the most powerful bands around and, as can be seen on Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, they were also one of the most disparate, opinionated, honest and forgiving set of individuals to inhabit the ‘glory years’ of rock. In this revealing doco each band member gets a personal history, and whilst each is equally fascinating and in-depth, you still end up wondering out how the hell they made it work. Fortunately this isn’t some airbrushed hagiography – Townsend’s kiddie porn issues are broached and stridently defended, John Entwistle’s bewildering fiscal immaturity is dissected and Keith Moon’s erratic behaviour is remembered fondly yet not entirely excused. Soul baring honesty sees Townsend explain the pressure of being the default songwriter and the need to be a hit factory is made all more harsh when Daltrey chimes in, saying he had no idea how to help him, so he just left him alone. Also particularly illuminating is agreement by Townsend and Roger Daltrey in separate interviews that the rock opera Tommy triumphantly defined Daltrey as the bare-chested, lionmaned frontman after years of searching for a purpose within the band. Somehow out of dysfunction grew an arm-swinging, fist-pounding unit who made drum blowing up, guitar mauling and amp smashing de rigueur – Townsend’s not-so-playful bitterness at Jimi Hendrix’s wholesale theft of his act at the 1967 Monterey Festival is genius. Archival footage is voluminous and goes some way in showing the raw intensity The Who exuded – something I have witnessed first hand and can happily report is breathtaking. Extras, including extended interviews, make an already worthwhile release near essential for any fan of big-nosed guitar rock.
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Out April 17
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