Customer Reviews: U2 - Rattle and Hum
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 1, 2001
Rattle & Hum is a documterary of U2's 1987 tour of America. Director Phil Joanou follows the band to New York, Texas, Memphis, San Francisco, Denver and Arizona. The movie is shot in black and white for the most part until the end when a couple of concert sequences appear in color. The sharp contrast is startling and gives the film an added power. One of the more poignant scenes is the band's visit to Graceland and Sun Studios as the visit the cradle of rock 'n' roll. For four guys from Dublin, Ireland this visit is like a visit to the Holy Land and it is treated with justifiable reverence. While the interviews and look at the behind the scenes are nice, the meat of any rock film are the live performances and U2 does not disappoint. Their performance of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a Harlem choir in a church is uplifting. The do a gut wrenching take on "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and haunting version of "With Or Without You". They practically explode off the screen with the rampaging "Bullet The Blue Sky". Rattle & Hum is a must for any U2 fan and now that fourteen years have past and the band has changed its image and look a couple of times, it is interesting to look at them in a simpler time.
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on April 29, 1999
. The BEST REASON TO GET THIS VIDEO is that there are versions of several songs that are arguably definitive live works by the band. It defies all logic that they didn't make it onto the album--or anywhere else for that matter. I would think that these songs warrant a "More Rattle & Hum" album, or at least a DVD version of the movie. For U2 fans, whether veteran or newly discovering the band, this video is a MUST HAVE.
The opening in the studio version of "WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME" has some of Edge's most recognized guitar work. In the movie they surprise us by leading in with organ music taken from the song, yet not immediately recognizable, crescendoing into reinterpreted guitar licks by Edge. It works magic by improving an already classic lead-in to a classic tune. The same can be said for "WITH OR WITHOUT YOU." Bono sings, lower and more intensely than in the studio version and ads new lyrics that really speak to the band's essence-" stars in the summer night, one heart, one hope, one love"
The "Wide Awake in America" album has an incredible version of "BAD" but the version in the movie, surprisingly breaks new ground. Bono shifts in to an impromptu chorus of "Goodbye Ruby Tuesday" with bits of "Sympathy for the Devil" sprinkled in. The net effect is definitely more than the sum of its parts--at once a tribute to the Rolling Stones and fresh perspective on what is already one of U2s most stirring and emotional songs.
Another song that the band mixes up to excellent effect is "EXIT." In the middle of the song Bono throws in references to "Gloria" and whips the audience into a frenzy of singing along. This is absolutely the best version of the song available.
"RUNNING TO STAND STILL" also improves upon the studio version with improvised lyrics and increased intensity. The band, true to form, has the audience eating out of its hands as they sing the new lyrics "still runnin" repeatedly.
Another treat is the story of the song they wrote for BB King, "WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN." BB King makes a series of observations about Bono that really sum up the spirit of U2 in a way that has yet to be matched. When Bono asks if he likes the song BB says, " I love the song... the lyrics is real heavy... (long pause) you're mighty young to write such heavy lyrics." Cut to an auditorium rehearsal of the song after which B.B. says, "Lotta emotion right there young man... that's alright... that's alright! The movie immediately cuts to the brooding chords of "HEARTLAND" with images of the "sunrise over her skin...burning bright and violent, freeway like a river cuts through this land," which having followed B.B. King's comments about Bono's lyrics create a new appreciation for this poetic song.
"SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY" also, surprisingly, graces the film, and fans will appreciate the new insight concerning the song's origin that Bono delivers like a minister preaching hell-fire and brimstone.
This movie is artsy, arguably pretentious, and often preachy (Bono is younger and more idealistic here) but for me B.B. King sums it all up: "Lotta emotion there young man...and THAT'S ALL RIGHT."
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on October 31, 2000
U2--nothing more nothing less. This is U2 at it's best. No video screens. No Zoo-tv. No props whatsoever. Just a band that knows how to rock. And rock they do from the beginning with a version of The Beatles "Helter Skelter". They take you on a journey thru America in 1987 and 1988 during the Joshua Tree tour--perhaps the bands best years. Highlights include a version of "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a Harlem chior, and the recording of "Angel of Harlem" at Sun Studios in Memphis--same studio that Elvis used, and a blazing version of "Desire". Perhaps the most moving moment is the chilling version of "Running to Stand Still". Along the way Bono tries to educate, from the problems in Northern Ireland ("Sunday, Bloody Sunday") to the problems in Nicaragua ("Bullet the Blue Sky"). During one such moment, Bono uses one of the best lines I've heard in a long time when talking about money-hungry evangelists--"The God I Beleive in Doesn't Run Short of Cash". If you missed this defining moment, this is a great catch-me up.
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on December 16, 2004
It's easy, in these iPod-era times, to forget why we originally fell in love with U2. We still listen to "The Joshua Tree" and think that "I Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is one of the best songs ever written in all of human history. But somewhere between "Achtung Baby" and "Atomic Bomb" Bono morphed into "the fly" we started taking U2 for granted, knowing they would always make good music (even "Pop" was listenable)(I just lost a ton of "helpful" votes saying that anything U2 does isn't perfect) but we forgot when they were great.

That's what this video is for.

I was introduced to Rattle and Hum by my wife. One day I was going through her CD collection because I was tired of mine, and came across the Rattle and Hum CD. I put it in, and couldn't belive my ears. This was U2 times seventy, "Why didn't anyone tell me there was music like this in the world?" I asked her. She smiled understandingly and said, "You should see the video." Then she gave me the video for my birthday. It was the best present ever.

Rattle and Hum writes in blazing lines of fire across your soul. There is intensity, passion, and raw rock and roll energy that surges through you and makes you see the world completely differently. If this video doesn't move you, you are clinically dead.

From Bono's classic reclaimation of "Helter Skelter" to the fading decrecendo of "All I Waint Is You", what you see is a rock and roll band at the top of their form, but still young enough and humble enough to adapt to blues and gospel along the way.

I can't explain it. Buy it, turn the lights off, take the phone off the hook, watch it, and 90 minutes later you will understand. Then you can write your own incoherent review. But at least you will know.
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on December 27, 1999
This DVD is a slightly dressed up version of the VHS tape, with some introductory panorama shots overlaying the opening tracks. The sound quality is great, the "grainy" black and white is intentional as is the eventual transition to color toward the second half of the movie (I saw it in the theatre on 70mm...) If you already have the VHS, it is worth getting the DVD just so you can skip to your favorite tracks. There is no new material on the disk, even though it claims to hold "Ruby Tuesday" and "Sympathy for the Devil" - they have just put that down on the track list since Bono sings a few lines from those songs towards the end of "Bad". Like I said, if you like U2, you should own this DVD.
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on December 26, 1999
I had the CD before seeing the movie, I didn't know this was actually a theatrical movie, released by Paramont Pictures.
The movie explains some of the songs better, for example I didn't really care for "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with the gospel choir untill I saw how they went to harlem and actually recorded in a little church. I didn't care much for "When Love Comes To Town" till I saw how they pulled B.B. King into it. So the movie did enhance the CD. Plus the movie has 11 extra live songs (all the rest of The Joshua Tree live), plus an incredible version of Bloody Sunday and others.
DVD version is cool just because you can access all the songs just as if they were on CD, plus you can turn on the subtitles and read along with the lryics.
I heard somone comment about cheap "black and white" and "grainy video", the footage was shot like that on purpose, it's more of an artisitc statement.
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on September 18, 2003
My bias on this film should be adequately explained by my 21 years as a fan and a veteran of nearly 20 live shows dating back to the "War" tour...
This is simply the best U2 has to offer in live performances that you can go to the store and buy.
The high points:
-"Exit". The one song I was most looking forward to seeing live on "The Joshua Tree" tour, as I knew it would simply kick a** live. It did. The version in the film doesn't disappoint, though we are afforded an inordinate amount of screen time of Bono struggling with the settings for his guitar at the base of the drum riser.
-"Bad". While no better sonically, really, than the version on "Wide Awake in America" (audio only), it is a lovely version, and it leads into the better portion of the film:
-"Where the Streets..." The beginning of the color portion of the film which has a great impact after 45 mins or so of B&W photography.
-"With or Without You" I had the audio version of this movie version on CD from the late 80's, on a promo CD, and still consider this to be the best live version of the song available... Includes an extra verse not on the album version of the song, the inclusion of which has prompted me to refer to this version as the, heh heh, "songs for saps" version of the song.
-"Running to Stand Still" Every time I see this, and I mean EVERY TIME, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
-Generally speaking, the whole movie elevates the art of "concert films" to a new level. Nothing else can touch it... Absolutely nothing.
The Low Points:
-Too much humorless interview time. I think the film would've been much better as a pure concert film, as the 'interviews' are sometimes painful to watch.
-"I Still Haven't Found..." I think this has been rightly criticized as a little bit too formulaic.
-The 'wonderment' of 'discovering' the USA. U2 had visited the USA as early as 1981 and had done at least two prior full tours in the USA, from the "War" and "The Unforgettable Fire" tours, so I don't buy their "wide-eyed discovery of The States" bit. They'd seen it before and were merely pretending to make a good movie, and it backfired. Ignore this and watch the live performances.
More than one prior reviewer has decried the poor sound quality on the DVD, but I think I may know why. On both of the DVD players I've had connected to my system, they both default to Dolby Pro Logic sound format... On THIS movie and THIS movie ONLY! Can't explain why... MUCH worse than the Dolby Digital 5.1 that is available if you simply choose this option using your "audio" button on your DVD remote or set it up using the menu before starting the film. Any other criticism of the movie's sound quality is simply people poo-poohing the film for no good reason... I don't know why one of the prior reviewers suggested listening to the DTS soundtrack... THERE IS NO DTS SOUNDTRACK!! What can you trust of a review that implores you to listen to a sound format that simply isn't there??? Don't worry... The sound is awesome.
My 51" HDTV set does show the limitations of the film-to-video transfer, which is merely average. Hopefully they will come out with a new version someday with better video quality.
Anyhow, a must-have for any fan of U2's 80's music. Essential, in fact.
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on July 31, 2003
I remember Rattle and Hum missing the mark with almost all critics and all but the most hardcore U2 fans. Those who did not like U2 already liked them less after the film. Remember that in 1988 most Americans still knew very little about the band and what they had learned, especially about Bono rubbed them the wrong way. They were 8 years and 5 albums into their career, but followers of the music scene considered Bono humorless, sanctimonious and unduly self-satisfied. Some probably still feel that way.
Whether that was/is true, it has nothing to do with the fact that this was some of the band's best live music ever. Whereas the studio tracks of Bullet the Blue Sky and In God's Country sound sedate and monotonous, the live versions feel like they want to jump through the speakers. Then the live Running to Stand Still sounds positively haunting. While Bono's politics have seemed pedestrian and superficial at times, this version of Sunday Bloody Sunday, shot after the Enniskillen riot, depicts Bono at his angry best. Even though his reaction might not have been as sincere as his interview suggests, the howling passion makes it worth the view. Any chance to see BB King play a guitar, including the rough cut of When Love Comes to Town.
Some of the covers feel unnecessary. Helter Skelter never needed a new version, but it gets one here. Their riff on All along the Watchtower sounds like they've heard the Dylan original, but never the immortal Hendrix perfection (the best cover done of any song for my money). Still, if that was a quid pro quo for Dylan's keyboard work on Hawkmoon 269 then we all benefit.
15 years after its first release gives a new generation of viewers U2 as the angry, dour band that hadn't yet matured into the band that gave us All that you Can't Leave Behind (although there are hints) nor lightened up to give us Achtung Baby and Zooropa. They hadn't yet learned to laugh at themselves, but their newfound success couldn't let them fake their beliefs, either. After all that has happened, I could still see how critics could not like the movie, but the music, superb even then, has aged like wine. My advice: play this movie loud in another room. If you can listen without the visual, you'll love it.
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on November 25, 2003
Other reviews seem cover it pretty well; breathtaking live footage, at times a little too slickly produced perhaps but still awesome and powerful, interspersed with uneven interview segments and somtimes-hokey "discovering America" footage. But I thought I would mention one thing that really struck me about this film; I have never seen a movie so vividly capture the experience of what it is like to perform onstage. The use of black and white adds to this a lot; when you're up there, with stage lights in your face, colors do indeed become muted and the world takes on a black-and-white character. And there are those shots, looking out into the black, endless void of the audience, that perfectly capture that weirdness of feeling almost alone, while standing in front of thousands of people. Great band, dynamic performances, but the "you are there" aspect puts it over the top.
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on August 3, 2006
Most likely this review will not be very helpful to anyone, but I wanted to comment on how beautifully done this film is. I am a long time U2 fan and had seen Rattle and Hum, but didn't get around to purchasing the DVD until late 2005. The fact that the music is wonderful is a given, but the cinematography is just astounding. I love how you get to see everything from every point of view. You get to see what the band sees on and around the stage, including the breathtaking sea of fans. You get to see what the fans see -- the spectacular lighting and silhouettes. You get to hear what the guys think and feel off-stage as well as on. And of course you get the passionate music. The film is as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to. I couldn't ask for more.
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