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XLRATOR MEDIA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Ridley
Cast:
Andre Benjamin, Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Andrew Buckley, Adrian Lester, Ruth Negga
Writing Credits:
John Ridley

Synopsis:
A drama based on Jimi Hendrix's life as he left New York City for London, where his career took off.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 1/13/2015

Bonus:
• “Music By Waddy, Lyrics By Danny” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Jimi: All Is By My Side [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 6, 2015)

One of the 1960s biggest musical legends becomes the focus of 2014’s Jimi: All Is By My Side. In this look at guitarist Jimi Hendrix, we focus on the musician during his rise to prominence.

This means Side opens in 1966, where we meet Hendrix (Andre Benjamin) as he plays guitar behind singer Curtis Knight. Encouraged by Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), Hendrix leaves Knight’s band and strikes out on his own.

After plenty of failures, Linda finds Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley) – former member of the Animals – to be his manager. From there, Jimi heads to London to pursue stardom. We follow his path as he forms the Jimi Hendrix Experience and also has personal ups and downs.

On the positive side, I’m glad that Side focused on one slice of Hendrix’s life. Most biopics take the broader scope and come across as vague “greatest hits reels”. Granted, since Hendrix died at 27, this approach might’ve worked okay – there’s just not that much ground to cover – but I prefer the decision to concentrate on a small but vital aspect of Hendrix’s existence.

Thus ends the positive part of this review, as not much else about Side succeeds, though some parts fare better than others. For the most part, the actors do okay in their roles, though none of them impresses.

In particular, Benjamin comes across as something of a mixed bag. While he manages Jimi’s voice okay, he looks little like Hendrix, and he also is too old for the role by about 15 years.

Benjamin could’ve overcome those concerns with a strong performance. After all, Chadwick Boseman looked even less like James Brown and he needed to play the GFOS at a mix of ages in Get On Up but he eradicated those concerns with a stellar portrayal of the soul legend.

As Hendrix, Benjamin never seems bad, but he lacks much power and clarity in the role. His Jimi never seems like a particularly convincing character, as he ambles through the movie without much to make us gravitate to him.

It doesn’t help that writer/director John Ridley often prefers to play Hendrix as a supporting role. Hendrix always feels like a background personality, as the movie tends to focus on Keith, Jimi’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell) or others instead. This seems like a weird choice in a movie packed with strange decisions, as it leaves our lead character as a bystander in his own story.

Not that Ridley seems all that interested in telling us the meat of Hendrix’s tale. Side appears more concerned with atmosphere than events, as it touches on major elements in Hendrix’s life across 1966-67 but prefers to depict random “mood moments”.

Those become a major flaw. Side enjoys clever-clever choices such as dialogue snippets from out of nowhere or conversations that leave some speakers inaudible. It also tosses in scenes that start or end abruptly for no logical reason.

Does Ridley intend this to let us “feel like” we’re in the characters’ universe? Maybe – given that I was either unborn or an infant during the period, I can’t convey what it was like to be there.

Does this work in a satisfying manner? Nope – it just seems like “artsy” filmmaking without logic or purpose. Side feels untraditional for its own sake, not because these techniques benefit the movie.

Side also suffers from its lack of Hendrix songs. The Hendrix estate wouldn’t authorize their usage, so we get music that comes in Jimi’s style but that’s as close as we get. This doesn’t become a fatal flaw – we do find a few covers Hendrix made his own - but it does offer another strike against the movie.

Side can’t even muster a decent ending. The film concludes right before Hendrix’s star-making performance at June 1967’s Monterey International Pop Festival, but Side does little to symbolize the events yet to come. It expects the viewer to know what’ll occur, so the movie just kind of… ends. It plods along until it stops – no logic or clarity occur.

The movie’s biggest problem remains its blandness, however. At no point in All Is By My Side do we get a real feeling for what made Jimi Hendrix special. We’re left with a muddled, unfocused take on the subject that lacks any real merit.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Jimi: All Is By My Side appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an erratic presentation.

How much of the visual ups and downs were intentional became tough to judge, though. Much of Side went with a fairly soft, blurry feel, and I suspect the filmmakers did this on purpose.

Nonetheless, the use of these visual options occurred in such an inconsistent manner that it was difficult to separate “stylistic choice” from “mediocre transfer”. Sharpness varied a bit. Much of the movie came across as reasonably defined and concise, but more than a few exceptions occurred, as the film occasionally looked somewhat soft and tentative. Overall definition was positive, though. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. No problems with source flaws caused distractions, as the movie remained free from defects.

With a subdued palette at work, not many colors cropped up in Side. The movie tended toward a reddish/amber tint; within those parameters, the colors were decent, though they could be somewhat heavy. Blacks remained acceptably dense, and shadows were clear and smooth much of the time, though some opaque scenes occurred. Whether intentional or not, this was a “C+” presentation.

One wouldn’t expect slam-bang audio from a music-oriented character piece like Side, and the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack remained appropriately subdued. As expected, music dominated, so the many songs showed good stereo spread and involvement.

Otherwise, this remained a low-key mix. Effects cropped up in a few circumstances such as streets and clubs, and they added a bit of minor pep at times. These instances didn’t bring a lot of pizzazz to the package, though, as the track stayed appropriately laid-back much of the time.

Audio quality seemed pleasing. Dialogue came across as natural and concise, and effects showed good accuracy. As noted, those elements didn’t have much to do, but they seemed realistic. Music was warm and full as well. This was an unambitious but satisfactory soundtrack.

The Blu-ray skimps on extras. A featurette called Music By Waddy, Lyrics By Danny goes for four minutes, 19 seconds and offers notes from producer Danny Bramson and musician/composer/record producer Waddy Wachtel. They discuss Hendrix as well as guitars. Very little useful information emerges in this forgettable clip.

The disc opens with ads for The Machine, Poker Night and Ironclad 2: Battle for Blood. We also find the trailer for Side.

Although I appreciate the film’s appropriately limited historical scope, Jimi: All Is By My Side flops in most other ways. The movie tries too hard to be clever and fails to turn into a compelling glimpse of a rock legend. The Blu-ray brings us average visuals and audio as well as minor supplements. Maybe someday we’ll get a good film about Hendrix, but Side isn’t it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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