Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (DVD)
by Jake Speed
Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a cultish 1985 film directed by Tim Burton. The film eschews unnecessary plot for the most part in favour of a series of comic vignettes and incidents that revolve around Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) - a child-like man who always wears a small grey suit and red bow tie and lives in a Willy Wonkaesque house ... filled with colourful toys and gadgets. Imagine Bobcat Goldthwait, Mr Bean, a mime artist, Peter Pan and a weird children's entertainer liquidised together in a blender and you aren't a million miles away from Pee-wee Herman. Pee-wee's life is turned upside down when his most beloved possession of all - his red bicycle - is stolen and the chief suspect is portly neighbour, the equally child-like Francis Buxton (Mark Holton), who has attempted to buy Pee-wee's bicycle many times without success. "Exhibit Q!" declares Pee-wee three hours into a tedious meeting to mull over the theft. "A scale-model of the entire mall! X marks the scene of the crime. These arrows here show the exact position of the sun at the hour of the crime. Jupiter was aligned with Pluto! The moon was in the seventh..." After failing to get the bottom of this puzzling mystery, Pee-wee consults disreputable psychic Madame Ruby who tells him the bike is now being held in the basement at the Alamo. He duly sets off on an epic road journey - along the way falling in with a group of bikers known as Satan's Helpers, breaking a record for rodeo riding, deploying various disguises, becoming an actor in a film based on himself and so on...
Tim Burton's debut film did modest business on release but is generally regarded to be a minor cult classic now thanks to the whimsical, almost plotless, strange and sometimes delightful nature of the picture which is awash with inventive ideas and rich designs and capped by a great score by Danny Elfman - who uses circus themed music to mesh with the colourful visuals and Pee-wee's singularly weird and wonderful little universe. The greatest achievement here is creating an offbeat, slightly off-kilter place that we can just about accept Pee-wee living in without him standing out too much. Pee-wee is a man in a state of perpetual adolescence with the boredom threshold of a child but a nice line in put downs ("I don't make monkeys, I only train them!"). This heightened and surreal fantasy environment is always gently seductive and interesting even if the film is never quite as laugh out loud funny as you want it to be. Like many cult films, Pee-wee's Big Adventure creates a unique and vivid world of its own for us to enter.
Pee-wee's eccentric house - which Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson would surely have approved of - includes a firepole, gigantic toothbrushes, an aquarium bathroom window, statues of Abraham Lincoln and various elaborate mechanical gadgets that can cook and prepare breakfast - although Pee-wee only seems to eat Mr T cereal. "I pity the fool who don't eat my cereal!" These opening scenes create a nice, offbeat atmosphere and give you a general idea of what to expect from the rest of the film. Pee-wee's friends seem to be in a similarly arrested state of development with a child-like nature that Burton and the script mine to good effect with some rather obtuse conversations. Although children will get a kick out of the highly colourful lunacy and gadgets on offer here, the film slips in some mild innuendo and sly jokes for adults too. Having Elizabeth Daily's Dottie hopelessly in love with Pee-wee is also sort of an in-joke I suspect and draws an amusing reply or two from our rather camp hero. "There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott."
One thing I like about Pee-wee's Big Adventure is that it creates an upside down surreal Marx Brothers type atmosphere for Pee-wee to interact with and makes no major concessions to the real world. The sheer strangeness of proceedings is the biggest strength of the film. It looks wonderfully crisp and colourful too with even a simple shot of Pee-wee riding his rather elaborate red bike visually arresting in the hands of Tim Burton. Although the budget was far from lavish in reality (only six million dollars), Burton makes Pee-wee's Big Adventure look like a reasonably expensive endevour and always manages to throw in something new to keep one interested as we progress. A great moment where Pee-wee dances on top of a bar or his memorable encounter with Large Marge (Alice Nunn) - a trucker who gives Pee-wee a lift - where Burton enjoyably returns to his animation roots with some claymation. "On this very night, ten years ago, along this very stretch of road in a dense fog just like this," says Marge. "I saw the worst accident I ever seen. There was this sound, like a garbage truck dropped off the Empire State Building. And when they pulled the driver's body from the twisted, burning wreck. It looked like this..."
One of the funniest scenes in the film occurs when Pee-wee reaches the Alamo and must endure a tedious guided tour while he waits to see (he presumes) the basement. "Inez is holding a clay pot, of which she seems to be very proud. She has decorated it with lots of paint and glaze..." Jokes about the film industry often seem self-indulgent onscreen but Pee-wee's Big Adventure has a few amusing moments when Warner Brothers buy the Pee-wee story and turn it into a film with James Brolin as "PW Herman" and Morgan Fairchild as Dottie. Pee-Wee is dubbed in a cameo as a bellhop! "That was the president again," says the suave Brolin as Pee-wee. "I've got to steal back the X1 before the Soviets find the secret compartment containing the microfilm. The future of the free world is riding on this one." Brolin's cameo seems like an enjoyably pointed nod to the fact that just a few years previously he had tested for James Bond and come within a whisker of playing 007 instead of Roger Moore in the 1983 film Octopussy.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure won't be everybody's cup of tea but this is certainly an inventive, colourful, curious and wonderfully designed film that is well worth a look if you've never seen it before.
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Live Aid (DVD)
The date was July 13th 1985 - and this is the day the world stopped to watch the biggest ever concert of its kind. *** What is the DVD about *** ======================= Before watching the DVD, it is important to understand how the event came about. In 1984, after seeing a news bulletin on the millions ... of people dying from the much publicised famine in Africa, lead singer of the Irish pop band The Boomtown Rats colluded with Midge Ure, lead singer of 80's pop band Ultravox, and brought together a group of well known musical artists to record a charity record. It was called "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The record remained at No.1 in the music charts for many weeks, and it was following the success of the record that the duo decided to put together a one-off concert to take place the following summer.
The concert would be called "Live Aid" and would take at Wembley Stadium on July 13th 1985. All the artists involved would appear voluntarily and all proceeds of the concert would go to the charity.
America held their own concert which was televised simultaneously from the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, and many other countries held their own concert on the same day.
This four disc DVD basically tells the story of how the concert came about, and then leads in with the actual concert itself, together with footage and videos from the concerts which were taking place around the globe.
Although the concert itself took place in 1985, the DVD itself was only released in 2004. This was because Bob Geldof initially refused to release a video/DVD to prevent record labels etc. making money out of a charity event. However, on the run-up towards the 20th anniversary of the concert, he took the view that, as so many people had asked why it was not available to buy on video/DVD, he may as well agree to it being released in order that the proceeds can continue to help the starving in Africa, who after all, were the reason the event came about in the first place. It was also discovered that people were selling 'pirate' videos of the concert and cashing in on it, so it made more sense to sell the original, therefore making more money for the charity.
*** So What Does The DVD Contain? ***
I am going to start this section of my review with a little apology. I know that many readers dislike reviews which include list after list of tracks contained in a CD or DVD. I know that some music DVD's or CD's don't always require this, but I thought I would make an exception here due to the extremely varied styles of music which was performed at the concert by such a good mix of artists, and also because everyone gave such a fantastic performance for a worthwhile cause.
Prequel and BBC Television News Report (This is the original news bulleting which prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to instigate "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which led up to the Live Aid concerts.)
Band Aid Video (Do They Know It's Christmas?)
USA For Africa Video (We Are The World)
Coldstream Guards (Royal Salute)
Status Quo (Rockin' All Over The World; Caroline)
The Style Council (Internationalists; Walls Come Tumbling Down)
The Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays; Drag Me Down)
Adam Ant (Vive Le Rock)
Ultravox (Dancing With Tears In My Eyes; Vienna)
Spandau Ballet (Only When You Leave; True)
Elvis Costello (All You Need Is Love)
Nik Kershaw (Wouldn't It Be Good)
Sade (Your Love Is King)
Phil Collins (Against All Odds)
Sting & Phil Collins (Every Breath You Take)
Howard Jones (Hide and Seek)
Bryan Ferry (Slave To Love; Jealous Guy)
Paul Young (Come Back And Stay; Every Time You Go Away)
Paul Young & Alison Moyet (That's The Way Love Is)
Bryan Adams (Kids Wanna Rock; Summer of '69)
U2 (Sunday Bloody Sunday; Bad)
The Beech Boys (Wouldn't It Be Nice; Good Vibrations; Surfin' USA)
Dire Straits & Sting (Money For Nothing)
Dire Straits (Sultans of Swing)
George Thorogood & The Destroyers (Madison Blues)
Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody; Radio Ga Ga; Hammer to Fall; Crazy Little Thing Called Love; We Will Rock You; We Are The Champions)
Simple Minds (Ghost Dancing; Don't You Forget About Me)
Davie Bowie (TVC15; Rebel Rebel; Modern Love; Heroes)
CBC Ethiopian Famine Film
Joan Baez (Amazing Grace)
Pretenders (Stop Your Sobbing; Chain Gang; Middle Of The Road)
The Who (Love Reign O'er Me; Won't Get Fooled Again)
Kenny Loggins (Footloose)
Elton John (Bennie And The Jets; Rocket Man)
Elton John & Kiki Dee (Don't Go Breaking Me Heart)
Elton John & George Michael (Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me)
Madonna (Holiday; Get Into The Groove)
Freddie Mercury & Brian May (Is This The World We Created?)
Paul McCartney (Let It Be)
Band Aid Finale (Do They Know It's Christmas?)
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (American Girl; Refugee)
Black Sabbath & Ozzy Osbourne (Paranoid)
Reo Speedwagon (Can't Find This Feeling; Roll With The Changes)
Crosby Stills & Nash (Teach Your Children)
Judas Priest (Living After Midnight; Green Manalishi)
The Cars (Just What I Needed; Heartbeat City)
Neil Young (The Needle And the Damage Done; Noting Is Perfect)
Thompson Twins, Steve Stevens, Nile Rodgers & Madonna (Revolution)
Eric Clapton (White Room; She's Waiting; Layla)
Phil Collins (in Philadelphia) (In The Air Tonight)
Duran Duran (Union of the Snake; Save a Prayer; The Reflex)
Patti Labelle (Imagine; Forever Young)
Hall & Oates (Maneater)
Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks (Get Ready)
Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin (Ain't Too Proud to Beg; My Girl)
Mick Jagger (Just Another Night; Miss You)
Mick Jagger & Tina Turner (State of Shock; It's Only Rock
Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ronnie Wood (Blowing in the Wind)
USA for Africa Finale (We Are The World)
INXS (What You Need; Don't Change)
B B King (Why I sing The Blues; Don't Answer The Door; Rock Me Baby)
Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass (Reach Out and Touch)
Run DMC (King of Rock)
Cliff Richard (A World Of Difference)
Various contributions from various parts of the world
David Bowie & Mick Jagger (Dancing in the Streets)
Documentary (Food and Trucks and Rock'n'Roll)
*** My Opinion on Various Contributions ***
There are certain parts of the DVD that stand out far more than others.
Status Quo were definitely the right act to open the concert, performing their best known single "Rocking all over the World". The title was very apt for the occasion and got the crowd warmed up nicely.
Probably the most talked about performance at the time, and possibly still today, is that of Queen. Live Aid was one of the last few stage performances that Freddie Mercury did before he became ill and passed away from Aids in 1991. Queen performed the longest set on stage and there was not a note off key.
A poignant moment was when Bob Geldof, performing with his Boomtown Rats, sang "I don't like Mondays". The crowd applauded when he sang the line "...and the lesson today is how to die".
Watching Madonna perform 'Holiday' and 'Into the Groove' feels quite strange twenty odd years on. Live Aid took place when Madonna was just starting out in the music business, and this will really take viewers back to those days when she wore rags in her hair.
Another thought provoking contribution came from Freddie Mercury and Brian May when they sang "Is this the world we created?" Again, very apt for the occasion.
There is one point in the concert where video footage of the starving children is played to the crowd and is accompanied by the American band, The Cars, singing "Drive". The crowd are clearly moved to tears watching this - the video ends with a mother laying down the body of her dead baby. Certainly not pleasant to watch but it's one way of drawing to the attention of people the reason behind this concert.
Finally, a moment I thought a little odd but at the same time quite appropriate was the finale of the Wembley concert where everyone came on stage and sang "Do They Know It's Christmas?" It was quite strange hearing being sung on a hot summer day in July. However, this is how it all began, and for this concert, that is how it ended.
*** Presentation and Packaging ***
This four DVD box set is presented in such an immaculate way which I could not fault.
The whole package is contained in a white outer box with a date stamp on the front left hand corner which says "July 13 1985, The Day The Music Changed The World". The DVD title, "Live Aid", is written in bold black lettering across a drawing of a gold guitar in the shape of the country it is trying to help - Africa. On the back of the outer box, there is a very simple list of the all the artists who took part in the concerts.
And now onto the inner box. This is made of high quality glossy card and contains the actual discs themselves. The box is basically 5 fold and closes in on itself. On opening the box fully, the sections which hold the individual discs is filled with a colourful picture of a very packed Wembley Stadium, interspersed with a black and white picture of the starving in Africa. This is very cleverly put together and I must admit I had never really noticed this until I came to do this review.
The pictures on the front of the discs themselves contain photographs of the various artists who performed at the concerts.
As well as the discs, you also get a glossy booklet which, as well as giving you the Track List, also contains hand-written notes by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure when they were arranging the concert line-up, the transcript of Bob Geldof's words taken from the original Live Aid Programme, information on the actual event itself, and many photographs. Throughout the booklet, the outside edges of the pages contain the original playlist with various amendments.
*** DVD Information ***
Running Time: 9 hours 20 minutes
Region: DVD Region 2 (Europe)
Release Date: 8th November 2004
Catalogue No. 2564 61895 2
Language: English (there are no subtitles on the DVD)
Special Features: Food Trucks And Rock N Roll Documentary, Band Aid Do They Know Its Christmas Music Video, USA For Africa Music Video
Sound: DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
*** Is it worth the money? ***
In my opinion - definitely. This is currently selling at £31.99 at 'play.com' and I would say it is worth every penny. I anticipate it would be enjoyed more by the people who remember the actual event, purely for the sense of nostalgia about it. If you were watching the concert on t.v. at home, or indeed if you were lucky enough to be there, the balmy summer day in 1985 will come flooding back to you.
If you are not old enough to remember Live Aid, this DVD is certainly worth having a look at for the sole reason that you can experience one of the largest music events every to have taken place. If you managed to see the Live 8 concert, also arranged by Bob Geldof, take a look at the original to see where it all began.
For me personally, this is a fantastic DVD. Unfortunately(!) I am old enough to remember watching this concert when it was originally televised and it brings back some great memories of some really good songs. It was during the time that I was at college and I can remember everyone going on about how ill Freddie Mercury looked. If only we all knew! Having watched bits of this DVD again to write this review, it's a little strange when, watching the crowds, the camera pans along to the VIP balcony and there, having the time of their lives, is Prince Charles and...Princess Diana. Not a Camilla in sight!
*** Good Points ***
(1) Some of the top name bands of the time (together with some long established acts) uniting together in one concert.
(2) All the money made from the concert and the sales of this DVD was donated to the famine in Africa.
(3) Good value for money when you consider the length of the DVD and the quality of the artists performing.
*** Bad Points ***
(1) As the concert is over twenty years old, many younger people will not be at all familiar with some of the acts who perform in it (but may have a good laugh at the fashions!)
(2) As the concert was recorded 'live', there are a few sections of the DVD which show band change-overs where all you are watching is people moving about on the stage, preparing for the next band.
(3) Bob Geldof, not renowned for his subtle approach, does make a speech which includes a little swearing which may offend some people.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope anyone who buys this DVD enjoys it as much as I did.
(Hope you're all still awake!)
(Also on Ciao: matthewsmum)
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Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (DVD)
Perhaps a little explanation is required here. Pee-Wee Herman is an character on American kids tv, played by convicted public self-abuser, Paul Reubens (Robbie Williams reckons that "masturbation is not a crime", somebody obviously forgot to tell the Santa Monica police force). Pee-Wee is a strange man-child hybrid who you ... probably wouldn't want to let within 100 yards of your kids.
This is his first big screen outing, but in terms of movie history it is most worthy of note for it being the feature length debut of its director, Tim Burton, yes Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes Tim Burton.
And the plot. Well bear with me on this one, ok?
Pee-wee has, as the whole town knows, the best bike in the world, no doubts, no ifs, no buts, Pee-wee's bike IS the best. However such perfection can only generate envy, and inevitably, despite taking major security precautions, the bike is stolen whilst Pee-wee is on a shopping trip.
Crazed thru grief for his lost bike, Pee-wee consults a rogue fortune-teller who tells him that he will find his bike at the Alamo!....in the basement! And so Pee-wee sets off on a journey across America to rescue his bike.
So what we get is a road movie but of course being directed by Tim Burton, this is probably the most bizarrely weird road movie ever. Every road movie stands or falls on the quality of the situations the traveller finds themselves in and in the diversity of the characters they encounter on the way.
On this count this movie scores highly, as on his oddessy Pee-wee:
helps an escaped convict evade capture whilst in drag:
"would you mind stepping out of the car, m'am"
"No not all officer. Some sort of problem?"
"No problem at all, I just wanted to take a quick look at that cute litte outfit you have on!"
encounters a spectral lorry driver:
"On this very night, 10 years ago......."
watches the sun-rise from the jaws of a t-rex!!(yes really)
has his bodily person threatened by a nasty gang of nazi hell bikers:
" I say we scalp him!"
"Then we tattoo him!"
"Then we hang him"
"And then we kill him"
squeaky voice from Pee-wee"I say we let him go"
Pee-wee does manage to escape their clutches by....nah I won't say, you'd never believe me anyway.
Just a few of my highlights but the movie just flows from one gloriously silly highlight to the next. The gags, both verbal and visual, are very clever, inventive, and most importantly, very very funny. If you like your humour a little on the skewd side, you'll bust a gut.
Altho Pee-wee appears in virtually ever frame of the movie, visually and in tone the movie is Burtons. Altho for the most part it is a bright, candy-pop movie, you can detect a darker, side to the movie with moments hinting at the homo-erotic nature of prison, Freudian sexual imagery and the dark, disturbing animal nature of the subconcious, themes which you can see evolve thru the darker "Beetlejuice" and on to very dark "Batman".
It wont be everybodys cup of tea, some of my friends just don't get it at all, they think it is too weird, which of course it is, thats why I love it!
The movie has a "U" certificate. Nothing to offend anybody and the subtle sexual references will fly over any kids head, however this isn't purely a kids movie, like "Shrek" adults will probably get more from it.
Fans of trivia note that the script was co-written by Phil Hartman, who was an occassional voice contributer to "The Simspons" until his wife shot him dead in 1998.
After his conviction for lude behaviour in an adult movie theatre Reubens found it difficult to get any work until Burton, grateful for the big break Reubens gave him, cast him in the small role of the father of The Penguin in "Batman Returns".
Avoid the follow-up movie "Big Top Pee-wee", it is truly awful.
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1985 Music DVD
Genre: Music DVDs - Concerts / Theatrical Release: 1985 / Director: Vincent Scarza / Actors: Bob Geldof, Griff Rhys Jones ... / DVD released 08 November, 2004 at Warner Music Vision / Features of the DVD: Box set, Compilation, Live, PAL - Featuring Live Aid, a UK concert recorded live from...
Genre: Music DVDs - Country / Theatrical Release: 1985 / Director: Tim Burton / Actors: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily ... / DVD released 02 May, 2000 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: Closed-captioned, Colour, DVD-Video, Letterboxed, Special Edition, Widescreen, NTSC
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