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Scorsese doc on Stones sticks to basics

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With legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese directing a concert documentary about The Rolling Stones, expectations are high. This is the guy who made "The Last Waltz," one of the defining concert films of all-time. How could he top it? The truth is he can't--but he has made a vibrant, by-the-numbers ode to the current Stones, a string-bean gang of old farts who play with more fire today then they did in their drug-saturated heyday, even if they haven't released a worthy album in over 25 years.

Shot in 2006 during a Bill Clinton birthday bash at the intimate Beacon Theatre in New York, Scorsese utilizes a platoon of big name cinematographers to capture the stadium-sized energy. Frenetic concert footage, featuring seamlessly edited close-ups and strobe-like lighting, is interspersed with vintage television interviews mostly used for comedic relief.

Walk-on guest performances during the show include a thrilled Jack White singing alongside Mick Jagger on "Loving Cup," as well as cool bluesman Buddy Guy dominating major highlight, Muddy Waters' "Champagne and Reefer," and finally, pop singer Christina Aguilera playing the sexpot Tina Turner-role on "Live With Me," a bland modern foil to Jagger's lecherous air-humping bonanza. Since backstage banter with The Stones has been amply covered before, Scorsese wisely focuses on the music. And what he most consistently illuminates over two hours is the snarling rhythm guitar interplay between Keith Richards and Ron Woods ("we're both pretty lousy, but together we're better than 10 others," Richards notes. More like better than 99 percent of all others.)

Watching this film on the huge, globe-shaped IMAX screen offers a uniquely immersive experience with ear-piercingly loud volume from the 12,000-watt sound system. It sounds sharper than if you were actually at the show; individual audience claps crackle out of the walls and towering visuals expose every sagging skin fold and arcing spit. But even with all the glittering eye candy, the most penetrating cinematic visual comes when Buddy Guy, one of many old school bluesmen the Stones ripped off and brilliantly repackaged, stares dead-eyed into the camera—the kind of transcendent live moment Scorsese knows well enough to leave alone.

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