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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Animals > Nature > Preservation > War > Terrorism > Middle East > Military > Religion > Politi > African Cats (Disneynature Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Battle For Marjah (2011/Athena/Acorn Blu-ray/DVD Set)/Bill Moyers: God & Politics (Athena/Acorn DVD Set)/Dear Uncle Adolf (2010/First Run DVD)/Gettysburg

African Cats (Disneynature Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Battle For Marjah (2011/Athena/Acorn Blu-ray/DVD Set)/Bill Moyers: God & Politics (Athena/Acorn DVD Set)/Dear Uncle Adolf (2010/First Run DVD)/Gettysburg (2011/Scott Free/History Channel Blu-ray/DVD)/Lee & Grant (2011/History Channel DVD)/Nostalgia For The Light (Icarus Blu-ray)/On The Road with Charles Kuralt: The Americana Collection (Acorn DVD Set)/Wonders Of The Universe (2011/BBC Blu-ray)/Wrong Side Of The Bus (2009/First Run DVD)


Picture: B & C+/B- & C+/C/C+/B- & C+/C+/B-/C/B-/C     Sound: B & B-/B- & C+/C+/C+/B- & C+/C+/B-/C+/B-/C     Extras: B-/C+/B/C/D/C-/B/B-/D/C+     Documentary: B- (Moyers, Light: B/Kuralt: B+)



This latest round of documentaries return to subjects we have covered often before, including a few that continue various documentary series.


The latest Disneynature release is African Cats narrated by Samuel L. Jackson for the nearly 90 minutes this solid entry in the series looks at lions, tigers and the like.  Though we may have seen this kind of thing before, this is still very well done and a quality presentation.  It also reminds us how vital, important and beautiful these creatures are.  Extras include the DVD version, a Jordin Sparks Music Video interactive Filmmaker Annotations and two featurettes: Disney & Nature and Save The Savanna.



Though we have been inundated with the U.S. conflicts in The Middle East, including too much of what can rightly be called “war porn”, finer works like Anthony Wonke’s The Battle For Marjah (2011) is one of the few distinct looks at what is really going on overseas as we join a U.S. Marine operation on February 15, 2010 to go into Marjah and what it takes to make a mission successful.  Uncensored and raw, it gave me another level of respect for the Corp to add to the one I already had, the troubles they go through and what they are facing in ways our news media either does not get or is not reporting properly.  If you must choose among many releases on the subject, this is one of the few to go out of your way for.  Extras include an illustrated 12-page booklet with brief histories on the war and its players going back centuries plus warfare facts, plus a timeline of the Afghanistan War and biographies of Ben Anderson and Photographer Goran Tomasevic.



The latest in the Athena/Acorn DVD series Bill Moyers: God & Politics is as impressive as any of them with a classic mini-series of three episodes and bonus DVD with three programs that update the situation: Is God Green? From Moyers On America, Talking About God from NOW with Bill Moyers and Interview Segments with social critic/agnostic Wendy Kaminer and Benedictine nun/social psychologist Sister Joan Chittister.  You also get bios of Moyer and various evangelical leaders.  As usual, Moyers asks the tough questions, some profound ones and gets to the point.  You can find out about even more of the Moyers DVD releases by checking out the ones we have covered at this general link:





Michael Kloft’s Dear Uncle Adolf (2010) is yet another fascinating chapter on just how mad the Nazi regime was, including the mad followers that made it possible.  This one focuses on the crazy, insane fan mail Hitler received and just how crazy it got.  In some cases, there are people begging for help, for others it was worshiping him as if he were a god and shows just how high the crazed ecstasy over him became.  Some even are Jews giving themselves away not knowing his true agenda, signing their own death warrants.  I like how they had to dig into this archive and found out just how massive the mail was and how it became another leg of the larger propaganda campaign.  It is also chilling.  Definitely see this one.  The only extra is a frame-by-frame profile of other First Run WWII Nazi DVDs and they have a solid series of them.



Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia For The Light (2010) is another key documentary work from the director of Salvador Allende and The Battle Of Chile (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) has a dual purpose: celebrate the amazing legacy of those who go to The Atacama Desert to see the stars as professional and avid astrologers and to know the land they visit also has a past that includes genocide of scientists after the 1973 military coup of Chile, 19th Century explorers & miners and political prisoners and pre-Columbian mummies.  This runs about 90 minutes and is very impressive.  Extras include five additional short related to the main format.


The latest BBC science documentary is Wonders Of The Universe (2011) but is oddly not listed as one of their BBC Earth series despite having Professor Brian Cox (not the great character) also talking about astronomy and adding the origins of the universe.  Even including the computer animation, this still looks good and is a mini-series running 212 minutes.  Cox is a great host who knows what he is talking about.  There are no extras.


Programs on The Civil War are highly played out, but the new Ridley & Tony Scott-produced Gettysburg is one of the more competent if belated entries in the subject matter and regular History Channel special Lee & Grant (both 2011) is competent if not as thorough, though the DVD includes addition scenes.  I might have enjoyed both more if I had already been inundated with so many programs on the subject in the last 15 years, but as they stand, they are as good as any of them that we have covered (and a few I have seen that we did not) so fans will enjoy both even with any overlap.



The huge new On The Road with Charles Kuralt – The Americana Collection is simply a compilation of the three sets we covered before Acorn issued as follows:












I would much rather recommend this whole set than the three separate editions because these sets are that loaded with great programs.  Kuralt was great and the more the better.  If you are going to get any set, you might as well get all of them.



Finally we have Rod Freedman’s Wrong Side Of The Bus (2009) which is the story of a Jewish man named Sidney Bloch who lived under the South African system of Apartheid and returns to the scene of the crime(s) as it were trying to find closure, redemption and deal with his own issues of guilt and/or reinforce his denial of his own prejudice and brings his son Aaron along for the ride.  The best part of this is how it is another much-needed record of how bad things were and into the 1980s, mind you.  The contrast between now and 40 years ago ranges from sickening to chilling.


He meets with heroes of the resistance against the evil system, survivors of it and people he has not seen for ages.  Unfortunately, Sid is not always personally honest and his son (who narrates the final program) amazingly calls him on it when he sees his shortcomings and own issues.  Sid is not always likable and the documentary could have been edited in a manipulative way to be phony and make this a lie by making him more likable than he is, but it is more honest and the result indicts Sid on some level as well as the many others who conformed to create the ugly nightmare that South Africa once was.  Glad I saw it.


Extras include a nine part bonus interview section (45 minutes total), but a study guide listed on the back of the case is not on the disc and on our DVD-ROM could not find it either.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Cats should be and is the best picture performer of this bunch by being the only progressive scan HD release here with only minor detail issues, while the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image Marjah, Gettysburg and Wonders are not too far with some nice image moments, though Light suffers the most and performs the poorest comparatively.  All have motion blur issues, but they are minor, especially on Cats.  The anamorphically enhanced DVDs versions of Cats, Marjah and Gettysburg are about as good as you could expect them to be, but none are a match for the Blu-ray versions.  Adolf and Grant fare as well as anamorphically enhanced DVD-only releases, but Bus here the same way is softer and the 1.33 X 1 image on Kuralt and Moyers are the softest with Bus being a low def video shoot and the others being old analog professional NTSC tapings and all three with more than their share of aliasing errors


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Cats, followed by Marjah and Gettysburg are the best sound mixes followed by the DTS 2.0 Stereo on Wonder and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Light which is not bad and articulate for a lossy format.  All the DVDs here are Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes that are usually at least simple stereo, but have their monophonic moments, especially Bus, while the Kuralt and Moyers sets are monophonic all the way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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