Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Beastie Boys Video Anthology: Criterion (2000)
Studio Line: Criterion/Home Vision

The Beastie Boys Video Anthology is a two-disc set featuring 18 videos with more than 40 remixes by Beastie Boys, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Fred C., Mario Caldato, Joey Chavez, Colleone & Webb, Count Bass D, DJ Cheapshot, Dj J-Rocc & Dj Truly OdD, DJ Moe Love, DJ Strictnine and Paranorm, Dub Hackers, Egon & Jon Doe, Evidence, Fatboy Slim, Kut Masta Kurt, Large Professor, Latch Brothers, Madlib, Micky Finn & Special K, Moby, Mum's the word, Mike Nardone, OD, DJ Paul Nice, Peanut Butter Wolf, Shawn J. Period & Wizdom Life, Prince Paul, Prisoners of Technology, Prunes, J Rawls, Sam Sever & Johnathan Hoffman, Soul Assassins, and T-Ray, including many new remixes created exclusively for this release.

Featured Videos Include: Intergalactic, Shake Your Rump, Gratitude, Something's Got To Give, Sure Shot, Hey Ladies, Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun, Body Movin', So What'cha Want, Sabotage, Shadrach, Three MCs and One DJ, Ricky's Theme, Pass The Mic, Holy Snappers, Root Down, Netty's Girl, Alive.

Director: Nathanial Hornblower
Cast: Various
DVD: 2-Disc set; standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Digital Stereo; subtitles English; single sided - dual layered; Not Rated; $29.95; street date 11/21/00.
Supplements: Over 100 Video Angles and Audio Tracks Switchable At Any Time During Playback; Audio Commentary by the Band and the Video Directors, Including Adam Bernstein, Evan Bernard, Tamra Davis, Spike Jonze, Ari Marcopoulos and David Perez; The World-Premiere Director's Cut of Nathaniel Hornblower's Intergalactic Spin-Off The Robot vs. the Octopus Monster Saga; Interview with the Cast of Sabotage; Still Photographs; Storyboards; Special Collectible Poster; A Cappella Versions.
Purchase: DVD | Beastie Boys: In Their Own Words - Michael Heatley

Picture/Sound/Extras: C/A/A

When the Beastie Boys first made a dent on the public consciousness, it came through an improbable outlet. Madonna chose them as the opening act for her first-ever concert tour in the spring of 1985. At that time, rap was a successful form but not anything many people thought would show any legs; it was still fairly marginalized, and most folks figured that the genre’s prominent acts would soon disappear.

Since the shelf-life for even rap’s biggest stars seemed so short, there appeared to be no way that the Beasties could ever go anywhere. After all, they offered an absurd novelty act - a white rap group! The Madonna/Beasties slate provided a look at two acts who most folks thought we be gone from the pop music scene in short order.

Oops - maybe not! Almost 16 years after that tour, both acts are still going strong, and both are arguably bigger than ever. Small digression: in early 1985, Newsweek ran a story about “Women In Rock” that focused on artists like Annie Lennox, Tina Turner, and Cyndi Lauper, who also appeared on the cover. Madonna received some notice, but the writer opined that we’d still be singing new music from Lauper long after Madonna’d gone the way of the dodo. Nostradamus he wasn’t.

In any case, the Beasties overcame their origins as a frat boy novelty to become probably the most consistently successful hip-hop act of all-time. Look back to the rap royalty of the mid-Eighties and examine how many of those acts continue to prosper today. Run-DMC? Whodini? UTFO? All long gone, at least as far as popular relevance goes. Only LL Cool J remains even remotely connected to the music scene, and he definitely doesn’t enjoy the prominence of the Beasties.

It wasn’t such an easy ride. The Beasties hit it big with 1986’s goofy and metallic License to Ill, the album that sold scads of copies mainly due to “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)”. Their follow-up to this moronic classic came in 1989 with the more thoughtful and nuanced Paul’s Boutique. Not surprisingly, it failed to reach much of an audience, and it appeared the Beasties were headed toward status as one-hit wonders.

But that didn’t happen. The Nineties were consistently good to the band, as each of their three albums - 1992’s Check Your Head, 1994’s Ill Communication, and 1998’s Hello Nasty - showed an evolution within the group and all managed to succeed with music buyers.

As such, the Beasties remain one of pop’s bigger acts, and much of their history is nicely displayed on Criterion’s Beastie Boys Anthology. In this two-DVD set, we find a strong overview of much of the band’s career, one that shows the group’s diversity.

Unfortunately, we get no material from License to Ill. The reasons for this remain up for debate. The standard line is that Criterion couldn’t obtain the rights to these clips, but some folks have opined that the Beasties are embarrassed by their early work and don’t want to show it here. Whatever the truth may be, the videos aren’t here, and though LTI isn’t great work, the absence of those songs makes the package less complete than I’d like.

Nonetheless, BBA provides a strong overview of the band’s talents. Almost all of the DVD’s 16 videos come from 1989 to 1999; 14 are from the four new albums in that era (Paul’s, Head, Communicationand Nasty) while one comes from a 1999 anthology, and the other stems from their pre-rap era.

The videos are presented in no discernible order. The tracks are definitely not chronological, and while there may be some common denominator at work here, I couldn’t figure out what it was. In any case, the pacing seemed fine, and the compilation manages to spread out the best tracks so that they aren’t all grouped together.

The quality of the videos varies pretty radically; some are genuinely terrific, while others lack much spark. Each DVD leads off with a Beasties classic. Disc One starts with 1998’s “Intergalactic”, a fun and witty homage to cheesy Japanese monster flicks. It doesn’t hurt that the song is one of their better tunes, and the two work together nicely.

On DVD Two, we begin with the classic video for 1994’s “Sabotage”. It’s another homage; this time the Beasties spoof Seventies cop shows like Starsky and Hutch. I always thought the clip and the song were somewhat overrated, but I can’t deny that it’s a delightful piece. The tune is also good but not great.

A few other videos stand out from the pack. 1998’s “Body Movin’” also provides a movie satire; here they take on Mario Bava’s 1968 flick Diabolik. In fact, the video even includes some clips from the movie, with shots of the Beasties interspersed. It’s funny and silly and works really well.

Of the Paul’s Boutique batch, “Hey Ladies” is the most fun. Yes, it’s another spoof, though not as clear-cut as the others. It fits the mold of other late Eighties videos, but it adds a Seventies disco-era flavor that’s clever and entertaining. Personally, I think Paul Thomas Anderson must have watched this clip about a dozen times; some of the dance sequences match up closely to those he features in Boogie Nights.

Another Hello Nasty piece provides some entertainment, and it’s not a satire for once. “Three MCs and One DJ” features an odd premise - apparently the Beasties do nothing between rapping other than wait for the next jam to begin - but it works well nonetheless. It’s one of those clips you actually have to watch to understand why it’s so much fun.

As for the rest of the videos, they’re more of a mixed bag. 1981’s “Holy Snappers” is amateurish, probably because all of the participants were in their teens at the time. It’s a good thing to have for archival reasons, but otherwise it offers little of interest.

None of the other clips seemed terribly compelling. Some were more unusual than others; for example, “Shadrach” has artists paint over live video footage of the band, and it’s a stimulating presentation. “Ricky’s Theme” shows the Beasties in old age make-up as they play a game of basketball with some young kids; the song is dull but the clip seemed fun.

Otherwise, I can’t say that any of the videos were especially memorable, but none were truly bad. The Beasties never created the greatest videos, but they maintained a solid level of consistency throughout the years. This means that even the worst of the bunch are still watchable and decent.

The Beastie Boys have never been one of my favorite acts. In fact, prior to my receipt of this DVD, I owned none of their recordings, though I’d thought about picking up some of their stuff from time to time. For a neophyte like myself, the Beastie Boys Anthology is a great buy. It collects a nice batch of their better known material in one place and makes for a fine compilation. More die-hard fans will also love it since it gathers so many of the band’s videos into one place.

The DVD:

Beastie Boys Anthology appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As I’ve whined in the past, compilations of music videos are terribly tough to evaluate in regard to their visual quality. Not only do the clips on BBA span a decade of material - plus one shot in the early Eighties - but many (most?) of them purposefully distort the images. We see a wide variety of film stocks and formats depicted, and the lack of consistency is remarkable.

As such, I had a great deal of trouble adequately offering a letter rating for this package. I think that the DVDs accurately replicate the original visual presentations, for better or for worse. That means a plethora of problems are apparent at times. Sharpness usually seemed fine; when we see soft or fuzzy images, they generally show up because of the director’s intentions. Some seemingly non-intentional vagueness occurred at times, however, and I saw somewhat frequent examples of moiré effects and jagged edges; video presentations often suffer from those flaws, and BBA is no exception.

As for print flaws, the videos usually seemed clean. Of course, I saw lots of grain and other concerns, but these again related to the intended appearance of the clips; most of the problems came across due to added problems, such as during the black and white “Ricky’s Theme” video.

Not surprisingly, colors seemed decent but erratic. At their best, the hues could appear nicely bright and bold, though they often looked somewhat heavy and oversaturated; for example, “Alive” was very lively but seemed a bit runny at times. Black levels usually were accurate and deep, but these could fluctuate as well. Shadow detail looked appropriate at most times. I hate to have to be so unspecific about so much of the product, but that’s the problem caused by music video compilations; they contain such a variety of source materials and so many different intended appearances that overall judgments are rendered difficult. Nonetheless, I thought the videos on the BBA were accurate representations of the original material.

Much better were the Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes of the songs. With almost no variations, the songs sounded absolutely great. The soundfield strongly favored the forward channels, where the stereo separation seemed clean and accurate. The tunes were well-differentiated and spread appropriately across the front speakers. The surrounds provided few channel-specific images, but they offered some good reinforcement of the main audio and created a nicely-encompassing presentation.

Audio quality was absolutely terrific. The clarity and resonance of the songs seemed excellent. All of the instrumentation and vocals came across cleanly and with vibrance, and the dynamic range was fine. Highs were clear and bright, and low end seemed wonderfully deep and rich. The 5.1 remixes don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and that’s a good thing. As presented on the BBA, their tunes appeared smooth and blasted nicely from the speakers.

To say that the Beastie Boys Anthology is packed with extras would be an understatement. For most compilations of music videos, we might find a discography or some lyrics - maybe. But those supplements are rare; usually all we get are the videos and nothing but the videos.

BBA greatly expands upon the genre, starting with two separate audio commentaries for all of the videos. First we find one from the Boys themselves. I’m sure many fans looked forward to this extra, and even though I’m not all that fond of the Boys, I figured this would be a cool and compelling feature.

Boy was I wrong! The Beasties offer one of the most dull and lifeless commentaries I’ve yet heard. All three were recorded simultaneously in what appears to have been one long session; it sounds like they watched all the videos back to back and offered their remarks as they ran. The results are bland and formless. Yauch and Horovitz seem largely disinterested in the proceedings; the former says little, and the latter mainly provides smart-ass comments that essentially tell us what we already know (“That’s a turntable”).

Diamond at least seems to make an attempt to add some information, but he has little to say. Every once in a while it sounds like one of them will provide something compelling, but the moment quickly passes without anything useful. To call this track a disappointment would be an understatement; it’s a total waste of time.

Somewhat better is the second commentary track, one that involves the directors of all the videos. Since BBA features so many different tunes from a variety of years, that was a tough task, but the DVD’s producers manage to rope in all the various directors, sometimes with funny results.

Most of the comments come from the triad of Yauch, Spike Jonze and Evan Bernard since Bernard helps function as interviewer at times, he moves the track along much better than what we heard during the Beasties’ commentary. The other songs vary from person to person and can often be rather amusing, especially when the DVD’s producers fail to reach the director in question. For example, Tamra Davis’ track for “Netty’s Girl” largely consists of phone-tag answering machine messages. I also loved the “Hey Ladies” track in which the director seems to have almost no memory of the video. Overall, the directors’ commentaries are pretty entertaining and fun.

The remainder of the supplements vary radically from song to song. DVD One’s lead-off track, Hello Nasty’s “Intergalactic”, boasts the most features of any tune in this package. This one offers nine different video angles and six remixes of the song itself. Each of the alternate angles was fun to see, as we get to watch the components from which the final clip was edited. As is typical for remixes, most were fairly uninteresting, but I rather liked the “Sever and Hoffman” reworking; if provided a solid alternate version of one of the Beasties’ better tunes.

In addition, the “Intergalactic” area includes a few other extras. Most prominent is “The Robot Vs. the Octopus Monster Saga”, which essentially takes shots made for the video and turns them into a mini-movie. The piece lasts nine minutes and five seconds and can be viewed with a variety of audio options. We find: 5.1 Surround Music and Effects; 2.0 Stereo Music and Effects; 5.1 Surround Effects Only; 2.0 Stereo Effects Only. It’s a mildly fun reworking of the video but it wasn’t anything especially terrific.

We also find a “Storyboards” section for the “Intergalactic” video. This area features 67 boards created for the clip. Lastly, “Information” shows the video’s credits and also displays the Hello Nasty album cover and a few “Intergalactic” sleeves.

Dating from 1989’s Paul’s Boutique album, “Shake Your Rump” gives us three alternate angles and five remixes. The reworkings of the song itself weren’t particularly great, but I liked the various angles because they gave you a good view of how the video was staged. “SYR” also includes video credits and some album/single covers.

Next up is “Gratitude” from 1992’s Check Your Head. It gives us a more limited roster of extras. We find one alternate angle, the “Oscilloscope” version which just shows the sound’s impact on that instrument. It’s mildly cute but not something I’d want to watch again. More compelling is the “Live Version” of “Gratitude”. The video itself is jerky and dull, but the rendition of the tune - in 2.0 stereo - was a fairly hot improvement on the album version.

The track can also be screened with commentary from director Ari Marcopolous; his remarks are fun, mostly because of the pretentiousness and self-centeredness of the Criterion interviewer. (By the way, I think his attitude is a pose for our benefit - a form of mini-performance art, in a way.) Finally, we get the usual “Information” area with credits and some sleeves.

Also from Check Your Head, “Something’s Got to Give” offers almost no extras. We just get “Information” with video credits and the album sleeve.

From 1994’s Ill Communication, “Sure Shot” gets us back on track. It includes only one alternate angle - the “three-way screen” which shows three mini-images across the screen and is actually a totally different video - but we get six versions of the song. Of these, the “Mario Remix” is the most interesting. Additionally, we find eight still photos taken by video director Spike Jonze and credits and sleeves in “Information”.

Another Paul’s Boutique track, “Hey Ladies” lacks any alternate video angles, but we do find five versions of the song. As I already mentioned, I usually don’t like most remixes; if I care for one of five, that’s a surprise. However, three of the four alternate versions of “Hey Ladies” worked well for me; only the “Paul Nice Remix” left me cold. In addition, “Hey Ladies” provides the usual credits and sleeves in the “Information” area.

“Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun” - also from Paul’s Boutique - also includes no video angles, but we get six versions of the song. After the glories of the “Hey Ladies” reworkings, these were a disappointment; none of the remixes did much for me, though I didn’t think any of them were bad. If I had to choose, I’d pick the “DJ Cheapshot Remix” as the best of the bunch. “Information” adds the typical credits and photos.

Taken from Hello Nasty, “Body Movin’” provides a nice mix of extras. We find two different versions of the video: the “Director’s Cut” - which is the same as the edit found in the main portion of the DVD - and the “G-Rated Version”. The latter runs the same length as the uncut version but it alters some of the latter’s violence and makes sure no one gets hurt; for example, the head-chopping scene doesn’t exist in it. Speaking of which, “Don’t Lose Your Head” provides isolated shots from various aspects of that scene; it’s a funny little look at that part of the video.

“Body Movin’” also includes five different versions of the song. For most of the DVD’s tunes, the video mix closely matches the album version, but that’s not the case here; the video presents the “Fatboy Slim Remix With Sound Efx”. The album cut also can be heard, and it definitely sounds very different; I prefer the video’s remix. The other reworkings are decent but not great.

In addition, “Body Movin’” offers a “Storyboards” section with 139 still images. “Information” provides the usual credits and sleeves.

The final track on DVD One - “So What’Cha Want” from Check Your Head - provides a nice smattering of extras. We find two alternate angles: the “Three Shot” which simply shows a static close-up shot of all three Beasties as they lip-synch, and the “Thermal Cam” which uses that “heat imaging” of the kind seen in parts of the finished video and in the movie Predator. The “Three Shot” is decent, but I’d rather stick to the final product. We also get five different versions of the song, none of which did much for me, and the standard “Information” area.

Now we move on to DVD Two, which opens with fan fave “Sabotage” from Ill Communication. No remixes of this song appear, but we do find three alternate angles. Each of these focuses on a different part of the video that only shows up briefly in the final clip. As such, each offers a pretty cool little video unto itself; actually, they’re all more coherent than the final product.

Very cool is the next extra, “Ciao LA”, a faux-TV program that depicts interviews with the “stars” of “hit show” Sabotage. It’s a six minute and 40 second clip that was a tremendous amount of fun. In addition, we find 57 still photos taken by video director Spike Jonze - all of which display the Beasties in their various guises - plus a text “Treatment” by Jonze; the latter shows his original proposal for the video’s story. Lastly, “Information” adds the usual facts and sleeves.

“Shadrach” from Paul’s Boutique combines a variety of angles and remixes. The video featured a live version, so the album cut appears amongst the six mixes available. None of them did much for me, and the two alternate angles - “Video Version” (which didn’t feature the painted overlays) and “Superimposition” - were only mildly interesting. As usual, “Information” provides credits and photos.

From Hello Nasty, “Three MCs and One DJ” includes no remixes, but it does provide a slew of video angles. Counting the “Final Cut”, there are six in all, and these offer a fun look at the various components combined in the video. The “Quad Split” breaks the screen into four different shots, and each of those can be seen fullscreen in the other four angles. I liked the video and I enjoyed this opportunity to further examine the material. Of course, “Information” appears as well.

“Ricky’s Theme” from Ill Communication lacks many supplements. We find seven still photos from Spike Jonze, plus “Information”; there are no remixes or alternate angles.

Check Your Head’s “Pass the Mic” also has no different video shots, but it does include five audio versions of the song. All of these were decent but unspectacular. “Information” tosses in the standard details and sleeves.

The DVD’s oddest track, “Holy Snappers” comes from 1982’s Pollywog Stew EP. This was back in the band’s punk days before they discovered rap, and it’s a pretty lousy tune. Few extras appear: we get 14 photos of the extremely young Boys plus “Information”.

“Root Down” from Ill Communication also features no alternate angles, but we get four audio cuts of the tune. Of these, I rather liked the “Free Zone Mix (Prunes)”, which distinctly improves on the album version. “Information” adds the standard details.

Off of Check Your Head, oddity “Netty’s Girl” comes with few extras. We find no alternate angles or remixes, but we do receive “Science”, which offers 10 stills of the Beasties in nerdy pseudo-professor garb. As usual, “Information” also appears.

The Anthology ends with a bang via “Alive” from the 1999 anthology called The Sounds of Science. This track includes a whopping nine angles and seven audio mixes. Of these, “Mini-Me” is easily the most fun angle, and I really liked the “T-Ray” and “Rapscallion” remixes, both of which greatly improve upon the original track. Our last “Information” entry finishes the song-specific portion of the package.

Some common extras apply to both the first and second DVDs. For one, the package includes a poster that replicates the DVD’s cover, and we also get a nice booklet that details all of the program’s bonus features. “Non-Profit and Web Sites” provides information about some organizations supported by the Beasties. Via text notes, we learn about the Milarepa Fund, Students for a Free Tibet, and the U.S. Tibet Committee, and we also discover a listing of websites for these groups and some other relevant Beastie-related links.

“Schematic Overview” simply explains the ways in which the discs are partitioned and acts as a user guide. At the end of this section, you’ll encounter “Song Credits” for the DVD’s tunes and “Color Bars”; click on the latter for a minor Easter egg.

Speaking of which, I should mention that rumors abound about this package. Some folks claim that videos from "License to Ill" can be found hidden on these DVDs. I have yet to hear this from a reputable source, and I've heard from the discs producers that it most definitely is incorrect.

The lack of License to Ill-era Beasties is a definite flaw in this otherwise-excellent package, but even without those tunes, the Beastie Boys Anthology is a must-have for anyone even remotely interested in the band. In addition to the 18 videos, we find a slew of alternate angles and song remixes plus a few other choice pieces. The visual presentation seems to accurately replicate the original material, and the 5.1 remixes sound great. This release sets the new standard for music video compilations and is an absolutely great set.

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