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Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I stopped listening to the Canadian rock-band Rush about 20 years ago. Actually, let me clarify: I stopped listening to their newer, more "synthesized" albums, but would sometimes pop "Tom Sawyer" on for old time's sake.

This movie left me not only wanting to hear the old tunes again, but I think I'm going to be a little more open-minded about their new stuff. One of rock's all-time-great power trios contributes mightily to one of the more enjoyable recent rock documentaries.

Directors Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn do a masterful job of collecting archival footage, interviewing current rock icons like Billy Corgan and Trent Reznor, and sitting down with the members of Rush to revisit their entire career. The duo actually found film of Rush performing for a junior high school back when Neil Peart wasn't even their drummer.

The trio—Peart, bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee, and guitarist Alex Lifeson—provides candid and often hilarious observations on their long journey, including a semi-recent six-year hiatus while Peart was coping with tragedy. All aspects of their musical transformations—from prog-rock gods to synthesizer rockers to heavy-guitar rock artists—are observed. Before watching this film, I had taken for granted how varied and rich their career has been.

Even if Lee's screaming-banshee vocals and Peart's goofily obscure lyrics turn you off, this is a fun movie to watch. The band and the filmmakers have a great story to tell, and they know it.

Rush has a new album coming out soon, and I think I'm going to buy it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Plenty of interview outtakes that are just as good, if not better, than what's in the movie, including a great segment on the band members' hobbies. (Geddy Lee loves baseball!) You also get some obscure concert footage.

The Doors: When You're Strange





(OUT OF 10)

In contrast to the great documentary on Rush, this documentary about The Doors from director Tom DiCillo is a slight bummer. Of course, Jim Morrison dying in a bathtub has a little to do with that, but Johnny Depp's droll voiceover is a tragically wrong choice. Perhaps DiCillo should've gone with Val Kilmer, or some of the actual surviving band members. Depp sounds like he wants to nap.

On the plus side, DiCillo does get some great archive footage of Morrison on stage and behind the scenes, and he finds an interesting way to incorporate a student film by Morrison (in which he starred) into the movie. Much of the information presented here is old hat for fans, but DiCillo puts it out there in a way that is engaging—that is, when Depp isn't putting us to sleep with the dreary voiceover.

I have a confession to make: At first, I thought the footage from Morrison's student film was actually an actor playing Morrison in some sort of cheesy re-enactment. It was only after a few minutes that I realized it was actually Morrison.

Hey, I know Jim got a shitty grade for that movie, but it really isn't that bad.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Not much. There's an extended interview with Morrison's dad that is interesting. This film is also available on Blu-ray.

Hot Tub Time Machine: Unrated (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke play three friends and a nephew who come together after one of them allegedly tries to commit suicide. They resolve to revisit old glories by traveling to their favorite young-man's stomping ground, a ski resort that has now fallen on hard times. A dip in a strange hot tub sends the trio back to 1986—and a pivotal day in their history.

This is a great, R-rated homage to Back to the Future that even has Crispin Glover on hand as a one-armed bellboy. Cusack gets a chance to mock his teen-film glory days, and Corddry gives a great breakout performance. He's essentially this film's Zach Galifianakis. In another nice ode to the '80s, Chevy Chase shows up as a strange repairman who gives cryptic words of advice to the time-travelers and essentially drives them crazy.

The sight (and sound) of Cusack running around in a trench coat while tripping on mushrooms constitutes one of my favorite moments in any comedy this year. It's fun to see him cutting up like a goofy teenager again. Big props to director Steve Pink and his writers for coming up with a way to make Cusack his old, affable, wise-guy self again. It seems like he hasn't had this much fun in a movie in years.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A little weak. You get an unrated version, in which I detected a few differences, including extra farting by Chevy Chase. Some quick featurettes, and few decent deleted scenes.


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