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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Hip Hop > TV Situation Comedy > Police Procedural > Detective > British TV > Do > Blood Out (2011/Lionsgate Blu-ray) + House Of Payne – Volume Seven (Lionsgate DVD Set) + Identity (2009/British Mini-Series/Acorn DVD Set) + If God Is Willing & Da Creek Don’t Rise (2010/HBO DVD Set)

Blood Out (2011/Lionsgate Blu-ray) + House Of Payne – Volume Seven (Lionsgate DVD Set) + Identity (2009/British Mini-Series/Acorn DVD Set) + If God Is Willing & Da Creek Don’t Rise (2010/HBO DVD Set) + Mob Rules (2011) + Step Off (2011/Lionsgate DVD) + 23rd Psalm (2010/Vendetta DVD)


Picture: B-/C/C+/C+/C/C-/C-     Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+/C+/C/C     Extras: D/D/C-/B/C-/C-/C-     Main Programs: D/C-/C+/B+/C-/C-/C-



As recently discussed, African American discourse in entertainment is in debate and recently, Spike Lee criticized Tyler Perry for making formulaic works of limited worth for which Mr. Perry told him where to go.  Both have been criticized for their work in some way and both are among a very few producers with long term commercial success and even critical accolades.  Let’s take a closer look with seven new releases.


First comes a dumb reunion of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Val Kilmer, less prominent but still seen in Blood Out (2011), an inept new crime drama that really focuses on the underrated Luke Goss as a cop who wants to avenge the gang killing of his brother.  Clichéd like the rest of this dud, Vinnie Jones even shows up and cannot save us from a release that never rings true and is a total waste of time.  Kilmer looks bored and Jackson gives the same cardboard performance.  Trailers and a behind the scenes featurette are the only extras.


With that kind of product too common for everyone’s own good, you can see why Tyler Perry has an audience.  House Of Payne – Volume Seven shows a different kind of formula with the melodrama becoming suffocating and boring at this point, but it marches on.  For the record, here is our coverage of previous volumes:









The show was not that good to begin with and now it is getting desperate, so Perry’s mostly safe works become an alternative to urban exploitation fare, but it can also be seen as the reverse of the same limiting narrative situation.  I also get the impression Spike Lee sees its version of Christianity as a limiting one, though it would be nice to hear more from him on the subject.  At least Perry has backed films like Precious and should do more projects like that as well more often.  This set has no extras.


So can there be a more positive, progressive black image without being trapped.  I decided to include the 2009 British Mini-Series Identity here to prove a point.  Though British TV is not free from racism, there tends to be a more progressive attitude towards African/Black actors and characters in their dramas that is not dull and this series about people who steal others identities and the authorities who go after them.  Aiden Gillen (who is white) of The Wire co-stars with Shaun Parkes of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (who is black) and it is a shame that yet another actor from a hit cable show (think Oz actor Irdis Elba from the BBC series Luther) has to go overseas to get a solid role.  They play cops at odds with each other in this is the kind of sharp genre work U.S. TV used to produce all the time but seems to have given up on and it is hard to tell if there will be another season.  There are no extras.


If Spike Lee has a point against Tyler Perry, it is because he has done some very important narrative films and documentaries like If God Is Willing & Da Creek Don’t Rise (2011) which continues his visit to New Orleans and the grave injustices done to the area by the Hurricane Katrina fiasco and Bush Administration’s irresponsibility (along with bizarre government policy) that caused incalculable damage to the region.  Lee was visiting on the 5th Anniversary of the event and was about to leave when the BP/Halliburton oil fiasco happened!


This is a richly informative documentary that has priceless information and interviews to share with us, showing how the Big Three networks and the 24-hour news channels have failed us big time in a journalistic sense.  It is also a learning experience showing us New Orleans in ways you may not have seen it before.  Lee does audio commentary over the entire two parts of this mini-series and we get an hour-long bonus featurette.  Excellent work all around!


Keith Parmer’s Mob Rules (2011) is another gangster film with two criminals about to meet up again and against each other, about to have a big fight over a fortune they are owed from a heist that was botched.  This could have been watchable if it were not so clichéd and lacking in new ideas, but instead follows the same tired formula so many similar films (including some Hong Kong films) that makes this very forgettable.  A Music Video and cast/crew interviews are the only extras.


LaRon Austin’s Step Off (2011) is set in the world of rap music, yet there is the conflict battle formula that many of these pseudo-musicals have featured and this one too is cliché-ridden and the music is not that memorable.  Can our protagonist Rippa deliver music so great that he gets to be a money-making music artist?  Not if it is this boring.  The You Got Served producers are part of this and that was overrated.  A making of featurette, ‘Beat Box’ piece, Gag Reel and Deleted/Extended Scenes are the extras.


Finally we have Christopher C. Odom’s 23rd Psalm (2010) which I have saved for last because it wants to be an urban drama with crime and trouble, but is more explicit about its religious position that Perry’s work as a way to solve said problems.  In this, it is better than the generic works we have covered here and before, yet it gets caught up into its own formulaic corner despite good intents.  An L.A. detective has to solve a tricky crime situation and follows scripture to get through it.  This has surprising gumshoe edge to it, but goes overboard on the quotes and the overall result is a very uneven work, but I wonder what would happen if this was rethought without using visual scripture graphics, but the same intents.  This is an interesting failure and ranks third best of the titles on this list.  Extras include Bonus Footage, Trailers and Director’s Commentary.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Blood is the only Blu-ray on the list and has the best picture reproduction here, but this is by default as we get motion blur, weak detail and other limits that do not make this a demo quality presentation by any means.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix is also limited with an inconsistent soundfield and other sonic issues, yet it is also the best sound of the releases here by default.


The 1.33 X 1 image on Payne is much softer and also has its motion blur, though it seems to be a 1.78 X 1 frame cut to tunnel vision and the Dolby Digital sound is no better with the flat sitcom sound the show has had from episode one.


The remaining DVDs have anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 images that are as weak as Payne (Mob) or much worse (Step, Psalm) that have too much softness and motion blur throughout to be watchable more than once.  Identity has some blur, but looks much better and is at least a professional TV shoot with some money in it.  Lee’s If God Is Willing… has some fine new HD shots, but the overall playback performance is held back by the nature of a documentary like this that adds all kinds of analog and low def images for historic reasons to go with the new footage.  The audio goes from stereo to mono, but is here in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo mixes.


The remaining DVDs have Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks, but Mob and especially Step try to expand their sound to 5.1 and have problematic soundfields as a result, while Identity is well recorded and is only rivaled by Blood as the best recorded of the seven (though Lee’s project is a documentary and cannot be directly compared).


In all this, there is room for new black characters on both sides of the Atlantic and some of this shows us some people are trying to make this happen, but the next breakthrough is going to take some time.  It will take a new name though and one who does more filming and less debating.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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