Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stop Worrying! HELP! (on DVD) Is On The Way!

Help! will be released on DVD on October 30th. This is great news, and it's nice that there will be another Beatles' product to go under a million Christmas trees.

I don't know how long it's been in the Apple pipeline, but I have to wonder if the post-Neil Aspinall regime stepped it up. If there is truth in that assumption, it's a good sign of things to come.

There will be two versions, but it's the deluxe one that interests me: A copy of the script, lobby cards, a poster, and a 60-page book with photos and text. Not sure what the price will be, but it ain't gonna be cheap.

Both versions will also contain a missing scene. I assume it's the one where they go to see Sam Ahab, Teacher of Dramatic Arts. I've seen pictures of the scene here and there, and the segment is included in the paperback novelization of the film.

I'm glad we're getting a robust treatment of my favorite Beatle film.

Wait a minute...better than A Hard Day's Night!? Not a lot better, but I certainly enjoy it more.

I'm not alone in that thinking. Most of my Beatle friends prefer Help!. And Richard Lester (director of both films) does, too.

Popular opinion (critics, books, essays, even the Beatles' themselves) have always held up A Hard Day's Night as a great film. It's a perennial on those lists of the 100 Great Movies and repeatedly referred to as the Citizen Kane of jukebox movies (was it the Village Voice that coined that phrase?). And that's fine. The more accolades the Beatles get, the better.

But the film snobs have always dismissed Help! and labeled it as a weak follow-up with a silly plot. According to John Lennon, the Beatles became "extras in their own movie".

Personally, I see the movies as complimentary bookends. The first film, in black-and-white, shows them in a (sort of) realistic, day-in-the-life situation. Help! flips it upside down and puts them in colorful James Bondish global adventure.

It has magnificent color, better pacing, and the musical segments are more interesting. I've always thought the closing concert scene in A Hard Day's Night was dull, a rehash of countless TV performances we'd already seen and was tacked on because the filmmakers felt they had to put in a segment of them performing.

So instead of dissing it, it's more appropriate to say that Help! is the other great Beatles movie (Yellow Submarine is a barley watchable children's picture or something to watch if you're high. Let it be is entertaining for historical reasons, but the rooftop concert is the only great sequence. Magical Mystery Tour was a TV show, so I'm not counting it as one of their "films").

Help! was a big hit in it's day, it's in glorious color (remastered for the DVD) and has great songs, It's laugh-out-loud funny and shows the Beatles as cooler and better looking than A Hard Day's Night did (better hair, better clothes). And as established stars (no more "flash-in-the-pan" worries), they ooze a laid-back confidence that they didn't have in their first picture.

Check out the Beatles official site for the trailer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Memory Oh So Dull

I haven't liked a Paul McCartney album is a long time. The last one I enjoy listening to straight thru is Flowers in the Dirt. His Rock 'n Roll record, Run Devil Run was okay, and I wanted desperatley to like it, but it lacked a certain energy.

His last one, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard contained only one tune I like, the opening cut "Fine Line".

On his new one, Paul has at least two songs I like. "House of Wax" has a heavy Venus and Mars feel to it, and the upbeat fun tune "That Was Me" has great bass work. And both songs sport good lyrics.

I won't dwell on the bad stuff. Maybe another time when I'm in a more spiteful mood.

But overall, the music is monotone and the lyrics either silly or self-indulgent. This is nothing new but merely a continuation of a trend that started in 1983 with the release of Pipes of Peace. I still cringe when I hear, or even think of an annoying number from Pipes called "Sweetest Little Show".

I don't know if he's just lost his groove, whether all the marijuana stunted his cleverness, or if he's too busy being hung-up on other things to really give a damn. To quote a Memory Almost Full lyric, "I've got too much on my plate".

Not only does he have to manage and maintain the "Paul McCartney" image and products, watch over the vast catalog of music he owns thru his MPL company, he's also the go-to guy regarding all Beatles business. He's also a 65 year-old man with a family and a life to enjoy.

The other day I had a bunch of CDs on shuffle, and "Tomorrow" from Wild Life popped on. When Wild Life came out in 1971 I remember being disappointed and thinking it was weak. But "Tomorrow" shows him trying out a weird vocal technique and has great Linda harmonies. And it's dynamic. It starts off slow, then has a peppy middle bit, and a strong finish.

When Lennon was on the "Mike Douglas Show" in early 1972, someone in the audience asked him what he thought of Wild Life, and he politely dismissed it and said Paul was capable of much better. I probably agreed with him. But in retrospect, it's a nice record.

I still love Paul, even though it's been 17 years since he put out a decent record. After all, we can't expect him to be the same guy who wrote "For No One", "Helter Skelter" or "Maybe I'm Amazed". He wrote a shitload of classics and #1's for 20 years. So what if the last 17 have been sketchy? I'm just glad he's still around.

Maybe I need to get on Amazon and buy up all of the weird electronic and experimental stuff he's been putting out for the last 15 years or so (The Firemen stuff, Sound Collage, Twin Freaks). I've only heard snippits, but there might be something worthwhile there.