Anvil! The Story of Anvil DVD

I've always been a junkie for documentary films, but I'm especially partial to ones involving music. Seeing a filmmaker dissect and let us into the world of talented musicians reveals much about their personalities and their art. However, the definition of a music documentary has been shattered this past year with the release of Anvil! The Story of Anvil (VH-1 Films), an epic look at the highly influential Canadian metal band. This is more than a feel-good movie or an entertaining film, but a cinematic tour de force that renews your faith in the world. Steve "Lips" Kudlow (guitarist and vocalist) and Robb Reiner (drummer) have been performing together since they were in high school together (current bassist Glenn "G5" Five has been with the band since 1995). In the course of the film, to see what all three of them go through isn't just harrowing, torrential and heartbreaking, it's also so real you can't help but have all of your emotions turned up to 11. What makes this rags-to-rags story so involving are Lips and Robb. You instantaneously find them loveable and looking upon their circumstances, you begin to think how you could very well see yourself in their shoes. Despite everything and everyone telling them to give up their dreams, Lips and Robb remain undeterred which is the center and heart of the movie. With lesser people, the film would never connect with an audience, but because of the love and veneration these two people have for one another…and their dream; it heightens its impact and will most likely well up your eye ducts in a few scenes.

The genesis story behind the film is equally invigorating. Director Sacha Gervasi, best known as the screenwriter for the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg film The Terminal, grew up an Anvil fan. As a teen he found himself backstage after a show with numerous other bands and the members of Anvil took a liking to him and subsequently had Gervasi be their tour guide of London and a year later in North America, a roadie over a summer vacation. What makes this encounter so astounding is that any band could have approached Gervasi and treated him as something more than a fan, but it was Lips and Robb who treated him with respect. If they had been too preoccupied with themselves on that particular night and didn't bother to go out of their way to be friendly, this film wouldn't exist. In a time where it appears the most unsavory people tend to make the most money; this is a film that leaves you the notion that anything is possible as long as you stick to your guns. I've seen upwards of 100-films this year and at this moment in time, only Anvil! The Story of Anvil and PIXAR's Up have secured spots on my top-ten list. The film is finally being released on DVD on Tuesday October 6th by VH-1 Films after months of sold-out performances across movie theaters nationwide. To my surprise, the one disc release is full of enough extras to warrant you forking over your hard earned money for of Anvil! The Story of Anvil to be part of your DVD library.

The Video / Audio

Despite having the film pull from numerous sources (film, video, old footage), the consistency of the image throughout the film is better than expected. To my amazement, VH-1 Films managed to make it glisten on the DVD. The scenes flow seamlessly without you being jarred by the varying degrees of quality. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is reason enough to buy the DVD in case you were unable to see it in theaters. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound mix is equally splendid. Despite Gervasi financing this film himself starting back in 2005, he did not appear to cheap out on anything. He ensured that conversations could be heard and that no part of the movie do you find yourself saying "what did they just say"? The concert footage is especially riveting with dynamic sound and images that deserve to be seen on a more grand scale. One can hope that one or two of these shows make their way to DVD in their entirety in the not too distant future.

Bonus Features

A DVD release is only as good as its bonus features in my book. Over the last few years, as studios pull back on these features, I find myself buying fewer and fewer DVD's. Not every DVD needs to have an 8-hour documentary "making of" the film, but it should have enough for even the most casual of fans to sink their teeth into. While I was hoping for a multi-disc set of outtakes and extras, I was pleasantly surprised at how distinguished the extras are on this DVD.

The biggest selling point for many metal fanatics on the DVD is a nearly 30-minute interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica. While we see him offer short observations on the influence of Anvil in the film, here we get the full and unedited interview. Ulrich at his core has always been a fan and his knowledge of metal from the period which Anvil came from is fascinating. He puts the band and their impact into a larger context while offering a history of metal at that point in time. It's an enlightening interview and I promise you, you'll be entranced for its full duration.

There are three bonus scenes included as well. The most revealing of the three include where original Anvil guitarist, Dave "Squirrely" Allison, and bassist, Ian "Dix" Dickson, are doing today. The scene is brief, but essential and of the three, I wish this one had been included in the final film. Ultimately, the story is about Robb and Lips and including a scene like this may have taken away from their story, but in my opinion, it goes to show how undeterred Robb and Lips truly are in their goals.

There is a live performance of "School Love" from the 2006 Tokyo show with director Sacha Gervasi on drums which is playful and shows what a defiant band this is in concert. However, the highlight of the bonus features is a feature-length commentary by Gervasi, Robb Reiner and Lips Kudlow. Many people never think to listen to the commentary track, but here we find one that is essential. The three of them humorously discuss the film, their past histories and how the film was birthed. More importantly, when the commentary was recorded, the bands lives were shifting in an upward and positive direction. As they examine this film and sit with Gervasi, they recognize him and their good fortunate and how because of this film, their dreams are undeniably coming true. I would even go so far to say that the commentary track is almost as fundamental as the film itself. It's one of those rare commentaries that are bursting with life and vivaciousness. The track is humorous, insightful, and quite emotional. The commentary is one of the reasons I would suggest purchasing Anvil! The Story of Anvil. You won't want to listen to it once, but possibly multiple times.

Final Verdict

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is more than a momentous music documentary, or even an indispensable documentary; it is simply one of the best films of 2009. I have yet to meet someone who hasn't been overwhelmingly moved by the film. It's a reminder that despite all of the obstacles one has in front of them, those who succeed greatest in life are those who never give up. No other film in 2009 (or even recent memory) has elicited such an emotional reaction and it's because of the genuine sincerity and good natured attitude of Robb and Lips. If you are lucky enough to come in contact with people like Robb and Lips, you know your life is blessed. One of 2009's great films is now a magnificent DVD full of bonus features that broadens the on-going story of Anvil. My only complaint is that I wish there was more. Whenever life's obstacles seem larger than life and beyond your reach, I'll pull out this DVD and remind myself that nothing is impossible, you should as well.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.

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