I - II

NOTE: Films about the Beach Boys' fragile leader Brian Wilson have begun to surface since the 1990's.  The recognition and respect as the main force behind the music of the Beach Boys have made retrospective treatments more common, but also Brian's late-blooming solo career resulted in many "live" concert documents becoming available.  Although not noted as an engaging live performer, his willingness to perform for his fans after so many years of seclusion have made these shows much sought-after by fans.  These reviews are solely my opinion.

I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
Artisan Entertainment; Directed by Don Was; 70 min. 
Released January 24, 1996

Cast (in credits order)

Brian Wilson ....  Himself
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Daniel Harrison ....  Himself
Audree Wilson ....  Herself (Brian's mother)
Carl Wilson ....  Himself (Brian's brother)
Carnie Wilson ....  Herself (Brian's daughter)
Marilyn Wilson ....  Herself (Brian's ex-wife)
Wendy Wilson ....  Herself (Brian's daughter)

REVIEW: Don Was -- obviously drooling over the fact that he gets to produce the reclusive Brian Wilson, put together this rosy tribute, and had full access to the man himself, as well as several other rock-music kingpins such as Tom Petty, Lindsey Buckingham, and others, all of whom get their chance to extol the wonderfully intricate, yet deceptively simple music of the main Beach Boy. Shot in oh-so-serious black and white, Brian is shown to be lucid and forthcoming about his music, his father, and himself.  Other interested parties include his frail-looking mother Audree, former wife Marilyn, (an insightful interview), his once-estranged daughters Carnie and Wendy, and his brother Carl (a highlight is Brian with his Mom and Carl singing "In My Room" around a family piano). Punctuating the narrative are several low-key studio performances of Brian singing (in a very unpolished voice) many of his classic songs, with a sharp, if undistinguished backup band. Despite the obvious bias of the producer, the video never becomes mawkish or worshipful of it's subject, and the laid-back approach works extremely well at illuminating how Brian Wilson is today.  And while hard-hitting questions are never broached, and several Beach Boys are AWOL, I Just Wasn't Made For These Times currently stands proudly as the definitive video biography of Mr. Wilson.  Currently available on DVD paired with The Beach Boys: An American Band

Brian Wilson: Imagination

Directed by John Anderson, 60 min.  Released January 19, 1999

Cast (in credits order)

Brian Wilson ....  Himself
Jimmy Buffett ....  Himself
Elvis Costello ....  Himself
Sean Lennon ....  Himself
Ed Robertson ....  Himself

REVIEW: This video promo of Brian Wilson in the studio and in concert is a very nice, though slightly flawed document.  What's so nice is seeing Brian relaxed, smiling, funny and in charge in the studio, photo shoots, and at home.  His dry sense of humor comes through very often, whether in taking a brief bow in the studio, or kidding around during recording, he's obviously having a great time, and seems completely at ease in front of a camera.  What is also obvious is how uncomfortable he is in the concert segments, in front of a live audience in St. Charles.  The video editors had to do a lot of quick-cutting during the taping in order to get Brian's best, and even then, he is rigid and unexpressionless during such bouncy numbers as "South American."  But that's a minor point to me.  For the greater portion of this video, there are touching, emotional moments, whether he's smiling at his baby daughters, laughing with the very charming, ebullient Jimmy Buffett in the studio, listening in unabashed wonder as he listens to Ronnie Spector sing "Don't Worry Baby," or (most touching for me) a never-fails-to-reduce-me-to-tears video segment of his deceased brothers Dennis and Carl in a live version of "Lay Down Burden."  There are also several "celebrity" pop-ups, including praise from such superluminaries as Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Peter Buck, as well as lesser lights (Sean Lennon, Barenaked Ladies) who almost prostrate themselves with adjectives.  Overall, a revealing look at the many complexities of Brian Wilson.

Brian Wilson: A Beach Boys Story

Peter Jones Production, Ltd; Written by Peter Jones and Morgan Neville; Directed by Morgan Neville, 100 min. Released October 26, 1999

Cast (in credits order)

Brian Wilson ....  Himself
Beau Bridges ....  Himself (voice)

REVIEW: A&E's Biography on Brian Wilson is, in my mind, the best overall introduction to the Beach Boys, and to its founder.  It is a slim, 90-minute production that manages to touch all of the bases in the band's career, but also illuminates the life of the shy and reclusive Mr. Wilson, and shows him to be a funny, gentle soul.  Biography has done a masterful job of obtaining vintage, rare home video of the Wilsons, both of Brian and his brothers, and wound it together with the obligatory interviews with close friends and family, who all put their spin on the hard-to define Brian.  The treatment here works, and I put the credit mostly on the finely-tuned script (narrated by Jeff Bridges), which is succinct and pointed, and on the previously-mentioned home video segments, which show the true side of Brian: a funny, disarming man, always wanting to bring a smile to his friend's faces.  some of those interviewed (David Leaf, Bruce Johnston) don't add much of anything new here, and still others seem to have an axe to grind, but overall, I can highly recommend this film to all.

Radio City Entertainment Presents An All-Star Tribute To Brian Wilson

Turner Network Television; Written by David Leaf; Directed by Martin Gowers, 96 min. Released July 4, 2001

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Charlotte Caffey ....   Herself (performer)
Belinda Carlisle ....   Herself
David Crosby    ....    Himself - Performer
Cameron Crowe   ....    Himself (presenter)
Vince Gill ....  Himself (performer)
Dennis Hopper ....  Himself (presenter)
Rachel Hunter ....  Herself (presenter)
Billy Joel ....  Himself (performer)
Elton John ....  Himself (performer)
Aimee Mann ....  Herself (performer)
George Martin ....  Himself (presenter)
Ricky Martin ....  Himself (performer)
Chazz Palminteri....  Himself (Host)
Michael Penn ....  Himself (performer)
Darius Rucker ....  Himself (performer)
Carly Simon ....  Herself (performer)
Paul Simon ....  Himself (performer)
Matthew Sweet ....  Himself (performer)
Jimmy Webb ....  Himself (performer)
Jane Wiedlin ....  Herself
Ann Wilson ....  Herself (performer)
Brian Wilson ....  Himself
Nancy Wilson ....  Herself (performer)

REVIEW: A loving, occasionally transcendent concert, the highlight being Brian Wilson on stage singing live, this Radio City presentation brings together a diverse roster of stars to sing the songs of Brian Wilson.  Starting out with the enthusiastic, if ill-chosen Ricky Martin ("Are there any Rhonda's here tonight?") shaking his bon-bon to "California Girls" and "Help Me Rhonda," before being swept off the stage and Chazz Palminteri taking over as congenial host.  The rest of the program manages to stay on-track and unified, thanks in part to the more-than-competent accompaniment by Brian's touring band, with acts as diverse as Paul Simon (playing a solo guitar and gently reinventing "Surfer Girl") to Evan and Jaron (who manages to capture Mike Love's dancing style to a "T"), to Billy Joel (a punchy Don't Worry Baby), Elton John, Amy Mann and Michael Penn, Heart, (a roaring take on "Good Vibrations") Vince Gill (gorgeous on "The Warmth of the Sun," wooden on "Surf's Up"),  David Crosby, Carly Simon, Jimmy Webb and many more.  Surprises include an appearance by the distinguished Sir George Martin, who narrates an video piece concerning Brian's studio genius and influence on the Beatles, and an intense Dennis Hopper, who fittingly narrates some of the past troubles of Brian and the Wilson family.  But the most waited-for moment comes at the end, when Brian himself takes the stage to thunderous applause, genuinely thanks the crowd and guests for the tribute, and then launches into a mini-concert, surprising everyone by beginning with the rarely-performed "Heroes and Villains," performing some of "Pet Sounds," and leading the crowd in an all-star finale of "Barbara Ann."  The DVD release includes a bonus track of Brian singing "Do It Again" as well.  An fine, fun time for participants and viewers alike.

Brian Wilson On Tour

Sanctuary Group, Inc. 06076-88348-9 [DVD]; Produced by Maggie Magee; Directed by John Anderson, 77 min. Released April 1, 2003

Cast (in credits order)

Brian Wilson ....  Himself
Sheryl Crow ....  Herself
Roger Daltrey ....  Himself
Emmylou Harris ....  Herself
Paul McCartney ....  Himself
Patti Smith ....  Herself
Ronnie Spector ....  Herself
Pete Townshend ....  Himself
Eddie Vedder ....  Himself
Neil Young ....  Himself

REVIEW: An utterly disarming concert film/documentary of Brian's 2001 tour, along with supplementary footage of Brian's induction into the Songwriter's Hall Of Fame, Brian participating in Neil Young's Bridge School Concert, and interspliced with backstage interviews and rehearsal footage from the course of the tour.  Comparing this video with Brian's earlier concert footage from Imagination reveals that Brian has grown much more comfortable on stage over the past few years; he jokes with the audience and with his band; he dances several times (much to the delight of the crowd); and flashed several genuine smiles during the show.  Brian's delightful sense of humor is very much in evidence throughout the program, and the genuine good-will between himself and his band is infectious.  If I have any gripes about the video, it's that it's too short: a mere 77 minutes, and half of it is backstage banter.  For those who missed Brian's tour and want to see the whole concert, all that's here is an abbreviated substitute.  For all the press Brian received during his Pet Sounds concerts, many buyers may assume that this is a recent, complete show, but it's neither.  But that shouldn't dissuade fans, who'll find a very nice portrait of Brian, with loving tributes from his band and celebrities like Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow and Ronnie Spector.  As Brian himself commented about this video, it's probably the most honest, accurate portrayal of Brian that we've seen on film. Sensitivity warning: there are several strong profanities included in the course of the film, which might offend some viewers. 

Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds Live In London
Sanctuary Records 06076-88366-9 [DVD]; 117 min. Released October 28, 2003

DVD Features:

  • Complete live concert of Pet Sounds recorded at Royal Festival Hall.
  • Pet Stories: The ultimate look at the making of the original album through new interviews with Brian, lyricist Tony Asher and others. 40 min.
  • Brian Wilson discography: Complete details on every release from Brian Wilson's solo career
  • 'Pet Sounds Live' Photo Gallery: A collection of stills of Brian and the band taken during hte production of this DVD

REVIEW: If there was ever any doubt that Pet Sounds is one of the greatest, if not the greatest rock album ever, this document should put those doubts to rest.  This live concert, culled from a sold-out 6-show run presented at the Royal Festival Hall last year, is absolutely fabulous.  The Beach Boys never played Pet Sounds live in it's entirety, and here, with the wonderful band supporting a healthy, reinvigorated Brian Wilson, well - it rectifies a staggering oversight on their part.  This is an album that begs to be played in its entirety; to hear the ebb and flow of emotion that permeates each piece, to see the childlike joy and wisdom that each song resonates with is a revelation!  Understand that I never considered Pet Sounds to be the seminal album it is until I heard it live!  Now it seems to ring with life and meaning.  And to see Brian's face during certain moments: pure happiness during "Sloop John B," and exhilaration during the band's extended jam on "Pet Sounds."  The only thing missing is a couple of dogs barking at the end as the sound of a train roars thorugh the audience.  (Maybe there were dogs barking, but I couldn't hear them.)  In addition to this wonderful concert, the producers of the DVD have made a stunning 40-minute long documentary on the creation of Pet Sounds with long interviews of Brian, Tony Asher, Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, and others who took part in it's creation.  The stories are funny, heartwarming, and intuitive; they create a fine tribute to both Brian, and the collaborative nature of any album.  Sad that none of the surviving Beach Boys were included, but it's a great documentary nonetheless.  The concert closes with "Good Vibrations," which makes a fine link for the planned Smile concerts next year, and after seeing this document, I can't wait!

Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE
Rhino Home Video 970415 [DVD]; 240 min. Released May 24, 2005

DVD Features:

Disc One

  • Complete documentary "Beautiful Dreamer" - featuring the story of Smile from it's conception in 1966 to it's trimphant performance in 2004.
  • Bonus performance of "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" from Royal Festival Hall, London, February 2004
  • Interview Highlights
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Isolated Soundtrack

Disc Two

  • Complete live performance of SMiLE in Concert
  • Solo piano performances with Brian Wilson and friends
  • Photo Gallery
  • Recording Session Featurette
  • "Heroes and Villains" contest-winning video

REVIEW: An awsome, three-hour experience, the DVD companion to SMiLE is a reverent, and worthy addition to the album - with the video split into two major segments: the first DVD containing the 90+ minute documentary "Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson & The Story of Smile" written and produced by David Leaf and others, and the second disc containing the full performance of SMiLE recorded live in concert.  "Beautiful Dreamer" is the lovingly-made testament to how Brian Wilson conceived, abandoned, and then found the courage to, after nearly forty years, finish his masterwork, in the process, discarding several personal demons which had literally haunted him.  To see the literal unfolding of Brian from a scared, almost paralyzed individual who was terrified of revisiting the long-abandoned project, transformed into a smiling, energized, and liberated soul is the triumph of this documentary.  Video taken at several stages of the process show Brian seemingly disconnected from his surroundings during the first vocal rehearsal; reconnecting with Van Dyke Parks in his efforts to reconstruct and reshape the incomplete score; his gradual emergence during the band rehearsals; the terrifying doubt which gripped him before the first performance in London, and the triumphant aftermath are all shown with numerous interviews with band members, his wife, long-time friends and associates (some of whom have no real reason to be here.. Jeff Bridges offers nothing more than a brief comment on how "cool" SMiLE is).  The clips with Brian are sometimes illuminating, but more often short declarations which are filled in by those around him.  I was moved to tears by the end, as it becomes obvious how painful and difficult this process was for both Wilson and Parks.  Mike Love is painted to be the obvious villain in the story, and strangely, the drug angle is heavily downplayed.  The bonus interview segments have extended interviews with Van Dyke and Brian, which is strange and disjointed, and some softball  questions thown at Brian by David Leaf.

The second disc has an incredible, vivid 5.1 Surround Sound mix of SMiLE in a carefully filmed concert, and Brian looking 10 years younger in an animated, emotion-filled performance, which is only hampered by the feeling that the concert has been too carefully edited, both sound and performances come across as startlingly clean and mannered.  The bonus 20-minute featurette is excellent, showing a revitalized and in-command Brian directing the recording of SMiLE in the studio; obviously reborn through this experience, he's funny, electric, and wearing his old producer's hat with confidence.  The other features, being several solo piano performances of Brian and others in the studio is interesting, but not terribly compelling, and the photo album and fan-created video of "Heroes and Villains" are great fun.  A great blessing for fans who have been waiting 38 years for SMiLE to come to life.

MUSICARES: A Tribute To Brian Wilson
Eagle Vision USA [DVD]; 82 min., Released February 6, 2007

1. I Get Around - Red Hot Chili Peppers
2. City Blues - Richie Sambora
3. Sail On Sailor - Jamie Cullum with Fred Martin & The Levite Camp
4. Brian Wilson/'Til I Die - Barenaked Ladies
5. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - John Legend
6. When I Grow Up To Be A Man - Backstreet Boys
7. Surfer Girl - Shelby Lynne
8. Don't Worry Baby - Michael McDonald & Billy Preston
9. Surf's Up - Jeff Beck
10. Surfin' USA - Jeff Beck
11. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) - Earth Wind & Fire
12. Wouldn't It Be Nice - Darlene Love
13. Pet Sounds - The Brian Wilson Band
14. Heroes And Villains - Brian Wilson
15. Good Vibrations - Brian Wilson
16. Fun, Fun, Fun - Brian Wilson & Cast
17. Love And Mercy - Brian Wilson & Cast

REVIEW:  As with most tribute projects, this Musicares program celebrating the music and charitable works of Brian Wilson is a hit-and-miss affair, and I would love to sit in sometime on the selection process, and see just who was on the "dream list" and how scheduling conflicts, and other problems, led to this particular set of artists and songs.  I mean, when the program leads off with a surreal pairing of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and "I Get Around" - you just gotta wonder where it's gonna go from there.  But thankfully, we only get one helping of Flea's pelvic thrusts during the show.  Highlights for me include Richie Sambora's rattling take on "City Blues"; Jamie Cullum's awesome high-concept gospel revivalism of "Sail On Sailor" with the Levite Camp; Michael MacDonald's pairing with Billy Preston for a soulful "Don't Worry Baby"; Jeff Beck's jaw-dropping guitar improvisations during "Surf's Up" and "Surfin' USA"; Earth Wind & Fire's silky take on "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)", and Darlene Love's joyful "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (I've always loved her voice).  Low spots for me are Shelby Lynne's dead-eyed take on "Surfer Girl"; John Legend's pretty-boy crooning on "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", and the Backstreet Boys thin, five-part whining on "When I Grow Up To Be A Man".  Brian and his band finish off the evening with competent, but wooden takes on his usual encore pieces, followed by the obligatory "bring-em-all-back-out" full cast sing alongs.  LOTS of high points to the program, definitely worth checking out for fans.  

Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun
Capitol Records [DVD]; approx. 150 min., 
Released January 27, 2009

                                                      lucky old sun
BRIAN WILSON That Lucky Old Sun (DVD)
‘That Lucky Old Sun’ performance (Capitol Studios, Studio A: May 19, 2008)
Filmed performance of entire album by Brian Wilson and his band (5.1 Surround / 2.0 Stereo)

That Lucky Old Sun:
Morning Beat
Narrative: Room With A View
Good Kind OF Love
Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl
Narrative: Venice Beach
Live Let Live / That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)
Mexican Girl
Narrative: Cinco de Mayo
California Role / That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)
Narrative: Between Pictures
Oxygen To The Brain
Can’t Wait Too Long
Midnight’s Another Day
That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)
Going Home
Southern California

"Going Home": Feature-length documentary about the making of That Lucky Old Sun and an exploration of Brian Wilson’s life long personal and creative relationship with Southern California. Directed and edited by George Dougherty.

Bonus Materials:
Track-by-track Capitol Studios performance commentary by Brian Wilson and Scott Bennett
The making of That Lucky Old Sun: additional behind the scenes footage from the album’s recording sessions
Yahoo! Nissan Live Sets performance with studio audience Q&A
MySpace “Artist On Artist” interview: Brian Wilson & Zooey Deschanel
Black Cab Sessions” performance

REVIEW:  No matter how you might feel about Brian's latest album, the DVD experience of That Lucky Old Sun is not to be missed.  For one thing, it's STUFFED full with concert(s), (three, to be exact) interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more.  The concert is looser, and less mannered than the SMiLE concert, and it's great to hear the music mixed in 5.1 Dolby - That Lucky Old Sunis nothing if not a densely orchestrated piece of work, and the sound here is nicely delineated.  Unfortunately, it's easy to see that Brian's vocals have been either pre-or-post recorded, as Brian's vocal performance doesn't always sync with what we're hearing - it sounds great, but if you're looking for a true "live experience" this isn't it. The second major part of the DVD is the documentary "Going Home," which is an hour-long look at both the genesis of this album, with several illuminating insights about Brian. With a Timothy-White - inspired time line of California's history running through the proceedings, lengthy interview segments with each of Brian's collaborators, interspersed with celebrity pop-ups (Billy Bob Thornton, Micky Dolenz, and others) musing about Brian's influence on the California myth are well-done.  There's a real sense of the band attempting to quantify Brian's legacy - and they do a marvelous job of getting inside Brian's head.  I felt after watching the documentary that I understood a lot more about what makes Brian tick - no small feat for anyone who's tried to nail Brian down in an interview.  But after the full-length concert and weighty documentary, there's much more: a very long behind the scenes look at the recording sessions for the album, with goofing around, singing, playing and discussion shown; a track-by-track commentary by Scott Bennett and Brian Wilson; two other mini-concerts containing not only TLOS music but Beach Boys hits, and audience Q&A sessions that are occasionally enlightening.  A very thorough look at the legacy of Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and That Lucky Old Sun, this DVD made me fall in love with California all over again.

Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1962-1969
Sexy Intellectual [DVD]; approx. 190 min., 
Released November 23, 2010

Brian Wilson Songwriter 1962 - 1969 is a documentary film in which the rich tapestry of music written and produced by this brilliant 20th century composer is investigated and reviewed. With the main feature running at over three hours in length across two discs, the songs Brian wrote for and recorded with The Beach Boys during the 1960s are here re-assessed to quite startling effect.

•Historical musical performances and rare and classic recordings re-assessed by a panel of esteemed experts
•Obscure footage, rare archive interviews and seldom seen photographs
•Exclusive contributions from fellow Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston and David Marks; Wrecking Crew musicians Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine; friend and Beach Boys manager Fred Vail; producers Russ Titelman and Bill Halverson; Wilson family friends Billy Hinsche and Danny Hutton, biographers Peter Ames Carlin and Domenic Priore and many others •Live and studio recordings of many Brian Wilson

REVIEW:  Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1962-1969 (saddled with the unfortunate subtitle: "Exploring Brian's Muse During A Decade Of Dreams") looks and feels like almost every other Beach Boys documentary put out in the last 20 years: the de rigueur opening shots of ocean waves; a stiff, proper British narrator (who seems completely out of place here); the collage of home movies (with the same clips showing over and over again); the presence of at least one college professor (a dry-as-dust Philip Lambert) sitting at a piano, noodling over chord structures; earnest "experts" (i.e., authors who have written biographies about the subject); a smattering of acquaintances offering occasionally interesting stories, etc.  In many ways, the producers have taken the templet for this documentary from Timothy White's exhaustive The Nearest Faraway Place - setting up Brian Wilson as a product of his times, with long opening setups involving California culture and surf and pop music.  Not that there's anything wrong with the format - but for an artist who is considered by many to be so unconventional both in his music and his life, there's a shocking lack of anything new or surprising in this documentary - it's a very safe, conventional film.  Of the participants, Peter Ames Carlin and Fred Vail come off best - Carlin is articulate and sincere, and Fred Vail has some fascinating, juicy stories to relate, and tells his tales well.  Bruce Johnston also makes a few appearances, and while coming across as a strong admirer of Brian Wilson as an artist, his most surprising admission is how strongly he like the album "Smiley Smile".  Former Beach Boy David Marks is prominently featured, and takes great pains to insert himself into the Beach Boys narrative whenever possible, but his contributions drop off dramatically after his departure from the band.  Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine, part of the studio band, The Wrecking Crew, add little new to what they've previously said about Brian, and the producers feel the need to again trot out the infamous taped Brian/Murray feud from the "Help Me, Rhonda" sessions.  This double DVD set is slick, professionally produced, and reverential, but too much of it is material that's already been hashed over; and in the end I felt a little disappointed - nothing here really made me want to go and listen to Brian's music with fresh understanding, or gave me any new insight into what made Brian's music so moving.

Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1969-1982
Sexy Intellectual [DVD]; approx. 134 min., 
Released October 23, 2012
Sexy Intellectual's previous film about Brian Wilson's magnificent craft; Songwriter 1962 - 1969, comes this companion piece covering the maverick composer's life and work throughout the 1970s. While this latter part of his career is rarely championed with the same kind of enthusiasm that greets his 1960s productions, it remains an essential part of Brian's story and contains many, many moments of glory which compare favourably to those which litter the era generally considered his heyday.

 While I felt that the previous Songwriter entry in this series was unenlightening and not terribly valuable, the continuation, covering the years 1969-1982 is more enjoyable, and more valuable to fans, due entirely to the fact that Brian's later years have not received the mountains of scrutiny which his earlier music has.  Part biography, part music review, the producers have done an admirable job of balancing the two halves, with the talking heads giving short, mostly valuable insight into Brian's withdrawal from the Beach Boys and life, and occasionally producing some fascinating music in the process.  The dates on the DVD are somewhat deceptive, with the producers actually going back to 1966-67, talking about "Good Vibrations" and SMiLE, before leaping into the post-SMiLE crash.  Bruce Johnston, David Sandler, Mark Volman, Earl Mankey and Stephen Desper all make appearances, as well as Stephen Kalinich and Danny Hutton, talking about their memories of working with Brian and the Beach Boys during the turbulent Seventies, covering everything from Smiley Smile to the inclusion of the members of the band Flame into the Beach Boys lineup; Eugene Landy's time with Brian Wilson takes up several minutes of time, as well as the unfortunate "Brian Is Back" campaign with it's whole "dog-and-pony" show aspect a sad commentary on The Beach Boys treatment of Brian.  Various opinions of The Beach Boys albums, from Smiley Smile through M.I.U. Album are discussed by Peter Ames Carlin, Domenic Priore, with special attention being given to Brian's contributions and involvement, and the occasional musical dissection given by Professor Philip Lambert, who is sometimes dismissive of Brian's more pedantic songwriting during this era.  Despite the unauthorized aspect of this DVD, and the sense that everyone is talking around Brian, who is conspicuous in his absence, there is plenty here to entertain and inform, and I'm hoping that this DVD is successful enough to warrant a Songwriter: 1983-2012 entry in the series.

Love & Mercy: The Amazing Story of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson
Lionsgate [Blu-Ray/DVD]; approx. 111 min., 
Released September 15, 2015

Summary: In the late 1960s, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson stops touring, produces "Pet Sounds" and begins to lose his grip on reality. By the 1980s, Wilson (John Cusack), under the sway of a controlling therapist, finds a savior in Melinda Ledbetter.

  An impressive accomplishment - this duel-biopic of Brian's late-Sixties and late-Eighties periods does a nifty balancing act - showing Paul Dano's delicate portrayal of Brian during his Pet Sounds/SMiLE denouement, and John Cusack's much darker, troubled portrait of Brian when he was firmly under the thumb of Dr. Eugene Landy - chillingly portrayed by Paul Giamatti.  But despite this being Brian's story - it's told through the eyes of Elizabeth Banks, who, as Melinda Ledbetter, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the former beauty-queen/car salesperson who is charmed, and subsequently horrified, by Brian's terrified man-child, so convincingly under the thumb of the maniacal Dr. Landy.  Even knowing the details of the story, watching the events unfold onscreen was illuminating.  Giamatti is half snake-oil salesman, half psychopath, and Giamatti's scenery-chewing portrayal is riveting.  Beach Boys fans may be disappointed at the brevity of the band's time onscreen - their scenes are pure exposition - with each band member generally given one personality trait to convey.  And they don't appear at all in the later segments - Carl only makes an off-screen showing in a phone-call which Melinda makes to him in an effort to get legal actions underway against Landy.  But director Bill Pohlad makes the movie lush and the Sixties segments feel absolutely genuine - dripping with gorgeous set pieces, and spot-on details.  And, despite the necessary brevity of dealing with two timelines, the movie feels nicely stitched together.  My only real complaint was near the ending, when Brian begins to experience his first auditory hallucinations, and the movie drifts into "art-film hell" with lots of odd, disconnected visuals.  Still - definitely worth viewing - and unhesitatingly recommended.

Brian Wilson: The Second Wave - After The Surf
The Collector's Forum [DVD];
Released August 4, 2017

DESCRIPTION: Although Brian Wilson had stopped touring with the Beach Boys as early as 1965, it was later in the decade that his contributions to the band's recordings and compositions became sporadic too. But by the early seventies, though Brian would retain his stance on live engagements, he would provide songs for every new record and by the time of the 1977 album The Beach Boys Love You he was composing virtually every track again. This 2 x DVD box set documents and investigates the period of Brian Wilson's career that began in the early 1970s, and which continues to this day. Featuring exclusive and classic interviews, many with Brian himself, plus contributions from those closest to him during this time as well as plenty of rare archive footage, seldom seen photographs and a host of other features, all together this set will delight Brian's millions of fans still flying the flag for the man who remains one of the world's finest song writers and producers.

REVIEW:  A needless repackaging of the Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1969-1982 DVD reviewed above, with an extra disc of television interviews/performances, most of which can be found (and from the looks of the quality, this was sourced from) YouTube.  Of course, one of the criticisms of that original release was that it featured no Brian Wilson, an oversight that I suppose this bonus DVD is supposed to rectify; but being sourced so poorly, and haphazardly jumping decades back and forth without rhyme or reason (and certainly not paying any of the necessary licensing fees) allows the producers of the set to basically get away with piracy.  So you have the Brian Wilson appearance on the Mike Douglas Show talking about drug use and performing "Back Home"; the Beach Boys appearance on The Tonight Show with Joan Rivers and singing "Graduation Day"; a two-part OnTheArts piece with Brian giving one of his typically-obtuse interviews marking the release of Imagination; his meeting/interview with Beatles producer George Martin; a 1965-era TV spot from the Oklahoma Historical Society with each of the band members; Brian's appearance at  Al Fien's Poker Party; an ABC News Diane Sawyer report on Brian's ties with Eugene Landy; and finally, a filmed Studio Q radio interview promoting his Gershwin album.  I had to laugh when the final logo appeared on the screen insisting that "All Rights Reserved" when it's pretty clear that the producers in no way observed the rights of the artists whose clips they stole.

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road
Screen Media [Streaming/DVD/Blu-Ray];
Released January 18, 2022

                                                        Wilson: Long
                                                        Promised Road
DESCRIPTION: Join The Beach Boy's Brian Wilson on an intimate journey through his legendary career as he reminisces with Rolling Stone editor and longtime friend, Jason Fine. Featuring a new song written and performed by Wilson and interviews with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Jonas, Linda Perry, Jim James, Gustavo Dudamel and Al Jardine.

REVIEW:  Why have I taken so long to get around to reviewing this film?  Well, honestly, because after decades of running this website, and watching and listening and reading so much about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, I honestly thought after watching the trailer that there was not much new here for me.  And in that sense, I was right.  Rolling Stone writer Jason Fine, who spends most of the film riding around in his car with Wilson and taking him to various sites and houses, doesn't pull much that's new or revealing out of the monosyllabic Wilson, which can make for a long, somewhat uncomfortable viewing experience, and the "taking heads" which includes such luminaries as Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, give the usual laudatory sound-bites.  The documentary goes through the motions of detailing in brief Wilson's physically and emotionally abusive father, controlling relationship with Eugene Landy, and the deaths of his brothers.  Wilson claims to be "heartbroken" on hearing about the death of former manager/lyricist Jack Riley, but aside from Brian occasionally wiping his eye, he doesn't betray much emotion either way.  We see Brian eating at his favorite Deli, being paraded around to various houses that he once owned, and in concert and video clips from the past, some of which were new to me, and fascinating to see, but it all feels somewhat removed; close friends and acquaintances aren't utilized (nothing from Mike Love or Brian's family, and only brief snippets from Al Jardine).  Brian simply isn't up to giving in-depth analysis of his songs, and the most interesting moment for me was hearing Brian say that he'd never listened to his brother Dennis Wilson's solo album Pacific Ocean Blue.  Uhhh... really?  So we get a segment of him sitting in his house listening to various tracks with an occasional, one-word comment.  That's really about all you can expect from Brian at this point in his life.  Fans willl eat it up, of course, but I found it all a little sad.

Disclaimer: This is an unofficial site and has no connections with either the Beach Boys or their agents.
All site design and content © copyright 2022 Bret D. Wheadon. All rights reserved. PRIVACY POLICY
The Monkees Guide | The Sinatra Guide