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Paul Crowder and Jon Small
Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Christie Brinkley, Ron Darling, Tom Seaver
Writing Credits:
Mark Monroe

A documentary feature chronicling the history of two New York icons and the journey that brought them together for the last musical performance at Shea Stadium.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/18/14

• Two Songs Live from Shea
• “Shea in the Rain” Featurette
• Time Lapse – Shea to Citi Field
• Steve Cohen Interviews Billy Joel
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Last Play at Shea, The [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2014)

Most rock fans know that the Beatles were the first musical act to play Shea Stadium, but I suspect fewer can tell you the last performer to pack the Mets’ former home. In the summer of 2008, Billy Joel did two shows at the Queens venue and finished off the building in style.

Joel released a concert video that covered those performances way back in 2011, so folks who simply want to see the concerts should head there. With 2010’s The Last Play at Shea, we find a documentary about the stadium as well as Joel’s shows there and his life/career.

This means the expected conglomeration of archival materials and modern interviews. We hear from Joel, 1965 concert promoter Sid Bernstein, authors Dana Brand and Alan Light, lighting designer Steve Cohen, New York Times writer Dan Barry, Queens Museum of Art’s Tom Finklepearl, Braunschweig Orchestra musical director/Billy’s half-brother Alex Joel, Mets collector Gary Green, Billy Joel’s childhood friend Bill Zampino, live sound producer Brian Ruggles, Billy Joel archivist Jeff Schock, historian Jeffrey Kroessler, Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen, agent Dennis Arfa, former Columbia Records president Walter Yetnikoff, groundskeeper Pete Flynn, ex-wives Katie Lee and Christie Brinkley, daughter Alexa Ray Joel, attorney Lee Eastman, former road manager Jimmy Miner, former ballplayers Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling, Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Ralph Kiner, and musicians Paul McCartney, Sting, Jon Small, Roger Daltrey, Garth Brooks, Steven Tyler, and Tony Bennett.

Across the interviews and clips, we learn about Joel’s final concerts at Shea and see segments from the performances along with info about the musician’s past. In addition, the documentary covers the stadium’s history. In addition to the building’s roots and construction, we learn about the Beatles initial Shea appearance in 1965, aspect of the Mets’ existence and significant seasons, and related topics.

As a documentary, Play seems like a mess. Oh, it’s an entertaining mess, but it tends to be so all over the place that it becomes a little perplexing to watch.

This comes from the show’s dual focus, as it attempts a fairly even balance between aspects of Joel’s life/career and Shea-related subjects. Actually, the stadium gets the most attention in the program’s first half, while Joel becomes the focal point during the second.

Play doesn’t split its time as evenly as I might make it sound, though, as it constantly hops between its two main subjects. This creates a jumbled feel to the program that tends to diminish the impact of what we learn.

On their own, the various elements seem satisfying. We get a reasonably good look at both Shea and Joel; even though these components tend to remain somewhat superficial, we learn the basics well.

Still, the back-and-forth becomes a distraction, and those shifts highlight the lack of tremendous substance. One could easily fill a long documentary about either of this Play’s main subjects, so the decision to split a short 95-minute piece between the two means we won’t learn nearly as much as we’d like.

Because of this, I think Play would’ve worked better if it’d primarily stuck with Joel or Shea. Give us lots of Billy and a little Shea, or vice versa, but the semi-even distribution just causes frustration, as the program skimps on real depth.

It even omits some major areas, such as other sports tenants of Shea. The Jets played there for decades, and the team won their only Super Bowl while they resided at Shea. At no point does this subject arise, though, which seems odd. Sure, the Jets didn’t play the Super Bowl at New York – SB III took place in Miami – but they did win the AFL Championship game there. Couldn’t the program have spent a minute or two on this?

Even with these omissions and the overall brevity of the piece, Play entertains. It includes a decent sampling of music, and it’s nice to hear from some of the artists and athletes who worked at Shea. I just wish it’d managed a tighter focus and not tried to pack so much into so little time.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus C-

The Last Play at Shea appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The program came with an erratic but acceptable image.

As usual, I didn’t hold the documentary’s archival footage against it. Play came with loads of old footage, and inevitably that material varied in quality. Most seemed fine within the constraints that affected those components.

In terms of the high-def elements recorded for Play, they showed inconsistency. At best, delineation looked crisp and tight, but exceptions occurred. Concerts shots came with occasional instances of softness, and interview moments were also up and down. While those usually demonstrated appropriate definition, they also could’ve been tighter.

No issues with edge haloes or jagged edges appeared, but a few minor instances of shimmering popped up along the way. For the non-archival materials, source flaws weren’t a concern.

Colors tended toward the low-key side of natural. I thought they seemed adequate at worst and occasionally demonstrated good vivacity, but they didn’t stand out as impressive. Blacks were also fairly deep, and shadows showed reasonable clarity. Though never especially strong, this was a good enough image for a “B-“.

Additional ups and downs came from the documentary’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundscape tended toward a stereo impression, though effects occasionally broadened; for instance, the sound of ballgames would put crowd noise in the rear, and a jet flew to the rear in a pleasing enough manner.

Concert scenes became the most active part of the soundfield, as they filled out the back speakers in a moderate way. Mostly that came from audience cheering, but some music echoed in the back as well.

Which became an issue in terms of audio quality. The producers of the mix emphasized reverb too much, so the concert scenes tended to sound thin and sibillant. The echo dominated more than I’d like, so while the songs showed passable quality, they lacked much depth and fullness.

The rest of the track seemed fine. Effects were accurate and without distortion, while speech – an important feature in this sort of documentary – appeared fairly natural and concise. This wasn’t a poor track, but the reverb-heavy music made it a “C”.

A handful of extras fill out the package, and we open with two songs live from Shea. We get “You May Be Right” (5:34) and “Everybody Loves You Now” (3:21). Essentially these act as a teaser for the full concert program from Billy Joel’s Shea concerts. They’re nice to have but not a substitute for the concert Blu-ray.

Shea in the Rain goes for a whopping 22 seconds. It simply shows a cartoon of the stadium in the middle of a storm – and then in the sun. What purpose it serves completely escapes me.

With Time Lapse, we see the transition from Shea to Citi Field. In this one-minute, 38-second clip, we mainly view the deconstruction of Shea; because much of Citi Field’s construction takes place behind the still-existing Shea, we don’t see much of its creation. A better angle would’ve made this more interesting and allowed us to check out the erection of one stadium while the other one went kaput.

Finally, Steve Cohen Interviews Billy Joel takes up 19 minutes, 33 seconds. From October 2008. Joel discusses the concerts, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, his life, family, friendships and career. Some of these remarks repeat from Play, but we get a good mix of new thoughts as well.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Shea. It gives us the documentary and nothing else – not even a main menu!

With The Last Play at Shea, we get a documentary that tries to pack too much into its 95 minutes. As it attempts to detail the separate histories of Billy Joel and Shea Stadium, it proves fairly entertaining but too scattershot and inconsistent to really satisfy. The Blu-ray delivers erratic but acceptable picture and audio as well as a few minor supplements. I enjoyed Play to a moderate degree but still think it could’ve been a better program.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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