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Jim Kohlberg
Julia Ormond, J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, MŪa Maestro, Tammy Blanchard, Cara Seymour, Scott Adsit, James Urbaniak
Writing Credits:
Gwyn Lurie, Gary Marks, Oliver Sacks (essay, "The Last Hippie")

From the author of Awakenings comes this heartwarming tale of a father and son who find a connection through the music that embodied the generation gap of the 1960s. An unforgettable soundtrack features the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and more.

Box Office:
$4 million.
Opening Weekend
$76.543 thousand on 32 screens.
Domestic Gross
$256.590 thousand.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 8/2/11

• Audio Commentary with Director Jim Kohlberg
• Three Interviews with Oliver Sacks
• Two Cast Interviews
• Eight Deleted Scenes
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; 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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The Music Never Stopped (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 16, 2011)

Best known as the author of Awakenings, Oliver Sacks delivers another story of cognitive impairment adapted into film form via 2011ís The Music Never Stopped. In 1986, Henry (JK Simmons) and Helen Sawyer (Cara Sears) learn that their son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) is in the hospital. Theyíve not seen him in years; following an argument between Henry and his son decades earlier, they split and didnít connect since the late 1960s.

Gabe has a massive tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. He displays erratic memory and cognitive function and needs to reside under constant medical care. This has a negative impact on Henry and Helen, as they find themselves depressed and disconnected.

When Henry does a little research, he discovers link between the use of music and improved cognitive functioning. Henry consults with article author Dr. Diane Daley (Julia Ormond) and starts treatment with Gabe in which he shows radically stronger intellectual connection when he hears his favorite music of his youth. We see efforts to use these works to allow Gabe to reconnect to the world.

A movie like Stopped runs a serious risk of gloppy sentiment. Really, a film about an estranged father and son who bond over music probably should wind up as little more than a soupy morass of cheap melodrama.

Happily, Stopped keeps things low-key and without forced emotion. Maybe it helps if you feel a strong connection to music, but I admit the movieís tune-related successes got to me. The film doesnít show massive miracles, but it lets us delight in Gabeís small improvements, and the use of music gives us a connection to these incidents. Seemingly minor steps up like Gabeís ability to remember a rhyme give us a shot of real emotion and add power to the film.

The cast gets the tone, with Simmons at the fore. Best known for gruff characters, Simmons seems to find it impossible to milk a moment for excessive emotion. He delivers a performance with natural feeling but without obvious attempts to pull at our hearts. Simmons offers a genuine piece of work that helps us involve ourselves in the story since he ensures that we donít find ourselves put off by cloying moments.

Taylor doesnít do quite as well, but he works just fine in a challenging part, and Ormond offers understated intelligence as the therapist who helps Gabe blossom. While Simmons remains the class of the cast, all do nice work and avoid overplaying their roles.

With a low budget, I donít know how Stopped could pay for the rights to so much "AĒ-list music, but itís good this happened. A movie so focused on the eraís music needs the periodís most prominent material, so the presence of the Beatles, the Dead, the Stones, Dylan and others becomes important. I donít know how the producers swung the rights, but Iím glad they did; without the goods, the movie wouldíve felt unrealistic.

Stopped occasionally threatens to come off the rails, but it stays on the right side of the tracks the vast majority of the time. Aided by understated emotions and good performances, the film delivers a surprisingly effective tale.

Music nerd footnote: the film claims Springsteen toured in 1986/1987, but he didnít. It also had the Dead play the Hammerstein Ballroom, which they never did.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

The Music Never Stopped appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer disappointed and came with many problems.

Sharpness was decent, though. Definition was never great, but close-ups tended to look okay. Wide shots were less effective, and prominent edge enhancement created more than a few distractions. I also saw plenty of shimmering and jaggies; the movie suffered from a blocky feel with obvious digital artifacts. Print flaws were absent.

Colors seemed mediocre. Much of the movie took on a sepia tone typical of period flicks, but even within those constraints, the hues looked muddy and bland. Blacks were reasonably deep, while shadows were acceptable; low-light shots had fair to good clarity. Though not a total disaster, the image was usually pretty unappealing.

While not stellar, the Dolby Digital 5.1 was more satisfying. The soundfield didnít offer a lot of excitement, but it didnít need to do so. Music displayed good stereo presence, and the environment opened up fine when necessary. Those circumstances tended toward ambience such as in the streets or at concerts; they added a little life, but the movie remained focused on music and dialogue, so they didnít have much to do.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech was natural and distinctive, without edginess or problems. Music seemed warm and full, and effects worked fine; again, they didnít need to offer much pizzazz, but they appeared accurate enough. All of this ended up as an adequate soundtrack.

We get a pretty solid batch of extras here. These open with an audio commentary from director Jim Kohlberg. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at story/character topics, music and related issues, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual design and period details, editing and other production areas.

While Kohlberg usually makes this a good chat, it does drag at times, primarily due to a bit too much dead air. Nonetheless, we learn a reasonable amount about the movie, and the track moves well most of the time; it runs into lulls mainly during its second half. Despite the flaws, itís still a worthwhile listen.

Three Interviews with Oliver Sacks fill a total of 10 minutes, 49 seconds. In these, the author discusses the case that inspired the movieís story, his interactions with the Grateful Dead, and the way the film adapts the tale. We learn a lot about Sacksí work in these informative chats.

Two Cast Interviews occupy a total of 15 minutes, 31 seconds. We hear from JK Simmons (8:19) and Lou Taylor Pucci (7:12). Simmons discusses influences, his own youth and musical tastes, his performance and character, and other aspects of the shoot; Pucci touches on similar subjects. Neither interview seems great, but both have enough going for them to deserve a look.

Eight Deleted Scenes go for a total of nine minutes, 16 seconds. Most offer brief exposition or extensions, but some are more substantial. We get a flashback to the first time Gabe experienced problems due to this tumor, and we also see a long piece in which Dr. Daley works with him on his memory. The formerís a good cut, but the latter mightíve been useful, as it demonstrates Gabeís impairments well.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for The Doors, CSNY: Dťjŗ Vu, Apocalypse Now, and The Conspirator. These show up under Also from Lionsgate as well, and we find the filmís trailer, too.

Despite potentially sappy material, The Music Never Stopped gives us a warm, emotional tale of the bond between father and son. It benefits from good performances and a lack of forced sentiment. The DVD offers adequate audio and good supplements but suffers from weak picture quality. The iffy visuals are a disappointment, as the movie deserves better treatment.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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