When I saw one of the trailers for Both Ends Burning, I was intrigued. It looked dark and ominous, and raised some questions about MxPx that hadn't quite been answered yet. Such as, how exactly do Yuri Ruley and Tom Wisniewski feel about MxPx these days? What are they doing instead of the band now? Do the members have any regrets over the way they handled their career? The trailer made the film look like it might be a true study of the struggles involved in surviving as a mid-level rock band. In the end, these questions aren't really answered.
That trailer is basically taken from the opening minute or so of Both Ends Burning. After that we get into some buildup to the band's show at Las Vegas, where they played Life In General in full. That show was also meant to be the last with Tom and Yuri. It would have been great to see some songs from that show, but just as the band takes to the stage, the screen fades to black and we move to MxPx's offices.
These two opening scenes are missed opportunities, and that represents the film as a whole for me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge MxPx fan, but Both Ends Burning is another poor release from a band who should have perhaps called it quits a few years earlier. These guys were huge in the '90s and were a gateway band for many punk fans. In fact, there are a couple of points in the film where various punk rock luminaries talk about how much they (used to) love MxPx. But it just feels like a band clutching at their fading legacy. All these people like Jay Weinberg and Stephen Egerton are talking about things like how great Pokinatcha and Slowly Going The Way of the Buffalo were, but it's simply nostalgia for the band that MxPx used to be.
The film jumps from interviews with Mike, Tom and Yuri to tour footage to radio appearances; there isn't any structure. There are also a few technical aspects which make the film less watchable. The image quality is ropey on the whole, and the audio is out of sync with the footage in parts, and it's very noticeable. You could say this gives the film a DIY feel, but it just feels amateur to me.
The one part of the film that felt like it might develop into something interesting was when the band started talking about how Mike and Tom used to fight, sometimes throwing punches at each other. It would have been good to explore these tensions and perhaps portray MxPx as a band with some attitude and aggression, but instead we soon cut to someone from Alternative Press saying how well MxPx have done to stay together for 20 years.
Of course it's natural that bands change as they get older, but MxPx have lost all of the aggression, speed and vitality they showed on their early releases, and that's what made them successful. A lot of the songs that soundtrack Both Ends Burning are Mike playing his acoustic guitar, and this only reinforces the feeling that the band has lost its bite.
I actually stopped watching Both Ends Burning after about an hour and came back to it a week later--it was that dull. You don't see any progression within MxPx; it all feels like incidental footage that could have been put up on the band's YouTube channel. Or maybe it's just the fact that there is no real tension or excitement within MxPx anymore. And if there is, it wasn't captured in this film.