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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > History > Medical Crisis > Civil Rights > Politics > Satire > Reality TV > Literature > Film > How To Survive A Plague (2012/Sundance/MPI DVD)/The Only Way Is Essex: Series Four (2012/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD Set)/The Origins Of Oz (2010/Smithsonian/Inception DVD)/The Ships That Flew (1

How To Survive A Plague (2012/Sundance/MPI DVD)/The Only Way Is Essex: Series Four (2012/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD Set)/The Origins Of Oz (2010/Smithsonian/Inception DVD)/The Ships That Flew (1974/Umbrella Region Free/Zero PAL Import DVD)/Undefeated (2011/Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Waiting For Lightning (2012/Samuel Goldwyn/First Run Blu-ray w/DVD)


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



PLEASE NOTE: The Ships That Flew DVD is a Region Free PAL import, works on all DVD players that can play PAL format while The Only Way Is Essex is a Region 4 PAL DVD set only playable on DVD players that can handle that format and both can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Now for some documentary releases and a series that wants to mock the approach and specifically U.S. reality TV, but does not succeed too well despite being a hit.



First we have the mostly compilation documentary How To Survive A Plague (2012) that pulls together the rise of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s and how the Gay Community had no choice but to get politically radical and fight (sometimes more alone than they should have considering anyone can get the virus and die from it) resulting in some tragedies and eventual triumph at some very high costs.  Some of the footage was familiar to me from the mainstream sources, but some footage is less-seen including tapings of meetings on how to unite to get support form a Republican White House that did not care much about AIDS.


We also get some new interview clips, but the editing of this work is the key to showing what is shockingly a more silent and secret history of a nightmare that the government should have immediately worked to stop and along with other governments worldwide extended the crisis to the point it is still with us as you read this.  David France directed the new footage and pulled this all together, making this a must see work!


Extras include Deleted Scenes a trailer and feature length audio commentary track by France and four of the key activists and survivors of what happened.



Done as a comedy, The Only Way Is Essex: Series Four (2012) pretends to be a reality TV show, but does it so well that any attempt to spoof the real thing is lost and I guess it is a hit overseas only because they have the geographical and ironic distance to enjoy it versus the U.S. where it is the worst tend in TV history.  The real actors are never identified and its erasing of the line between dysfunctional reality and the real things is totally blurred.  Some may find this amusing, but the rest of us can skip it.  There are no extras.



The Smithsonian Channel’s The Origins Of Oz (2010) is being issued in time to capitalize on the new Sam Raimi Oz prequel that may or may not work, but this is a nice take on how L. Frank Baum made the books, tried to make them into films and the legacy he left behind.  Fans of the 1939 film will enjoy it too as it plays like an extra that did not even make the Blu-ray of the classic film.  There are no extras, but Natalie Merchant narrates this well and we get a little more of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (see the documentary Expo: Magic Of The White City reviewed elsewhere on this site) than I expected.  Good viewing all around at a solid 46 minutes.



Ian Hart’s The Ships That Flew (1974) tells us about special airplanes made for the rough coasts of Australia because airfields were not readily available and so large ship planes were made as a substitute starting in WWII and how great they were.  We learn of their fate, their successes and more about these little-known vessels that more than a few people would probably love to fly today.  There are no extras, but I would have loved an update.  This is a solid 47 minutes long.


The Dan Lindsay/T.J. Martin documentary Undefeated (2011) looks at another underdog sports team, this time it is High School football in Memphis, Tennessee and how Coach Bill Courtney against unbelievable odds has made a team that was once known for failure a winner, even when they do not always win their games and extends this success off of the field.  Though we have seen some of this before, there are some fine moments here that make seeing this worth your time and I liked how it also made the town a character and how honest it was overall.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track with the directors, Original Black & White Theatrical Teaser Trailer, Making Of featurette and Deleted Scenes.



Finally we have Jacob Rosenberg’s Waiting For Lightning (2012) about the rise of professional skateboarding, the rise of the alternative sport as a big business and especially how a young child with constant troubles (many of which were beyond his control) named Danny Way becomes one of its most important skaters ever.  He starts as a child phenomenon and instead of being left behind, continues to skate as hard as anyone and take as many chances as anyone.


This builds up with many parallel stores and is told in interviews with somewhat suspenseful editing (less so if you are a big fan we gather) to the point that he gets the money to build a super ramp to jump the Great Wall of China!  No stranger to injuries, will he be able to pull this one off or will it permanently injure or even kill him?


Thoroughly entertaining, it is a great look at a sport that is still subversive to this day (the no skateboarding policies of many a community is alive and well) and it is a great American success story compete with dark sides all around that make the greater results all the more remarkable.  I thought this would be interesting when I first heard about it, but I did not expect this one to be so thoroughly well done.  Definitely catch this one!


Extras all on the Blu-ray include six Deleted Scenes, seven promo shorts to launch this film and an on camera interview with Director Rosenberg.




The 1.33 X 1 on Ships is the softest since the transfer of the 16mm film source is an older one.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the rest of the DVDs here look better, even when they have older analog video edited in with other footage and Essex is an all HD shoot, but still is soft despite being so colorful.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Lightning and Undefeated are the best performers here as expected, though they also have old analog footage and other rough footage to offer.


The sound on all the discs have their monophonic moments, though Essex can just be harsh or weak despite being the only fully stereo release here.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Ships and 5.1 on Lightning are the weakest performers, while DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the Lightning and Undefeated Blu-rays are as good as they are going to get for we also have location audio issues their warmer codecs cannot fix and even expose.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Plague does its best to make its sound clear, but so much of the footage is monophonic in nature that the results are as good as they are going to get.



As noted above, you can order the import DVDs of The Ships That Flew and The Only Way Is Essex exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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