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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Medical > Disease > Nature > Environment > Science > TV > Racism > Prejudice > History > Stereot > Bernadette (2013/Cinema Libre DVD)/The Best Of Jack Hanna (1992 - 2013/Image DVD Set)/Dark Girls (2011/Image DVD)/Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2012/Magnolia Blu-ray)/No Place On Earth (2012

Bernadette (2013/Cinema Libre DVD)/The Best Of Jack Hanna (1992 - 2013/Image DVD Set)/Dark Girls (2011/Image DVD)/Evocatuer: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2012/Magnolia Blu-ray)/No Place On Earth (2012/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Olympia (1938/Riefenstahl/Legend DVD)/Power Of Love (2013/Maddox DVD)/Space Junk 3D (2012/IMAX/Image Blu-ray 3D w/2D)

3D Picture: B (on Space) Picture: C/C/C/B-/B-/C/C/B Sound: C/C+/C+/B-/B-/C/C+/B Extras: C-/D/D/B-/C/D/D/C Main Programs: B-/B/B/B/B-/C+/C/B-

This set of documentary releases show the full range of the form, from hate to enlightenment, from education to propaganda, but always vital work that is sadly effective at its most evil...

We star with a very important, infoprmative work in Josh Taub's Bernadette (2013), a new documentary look at a little-known but more prominent than you'd think disease that effects 1 in 2,500 people called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease or CTM. Focusing on Bernadette Scarduzio, who has the most common form of CTM, we see how bad it is, how it runs in families more than you would consider and how rterrible it is to suffer from. With 2.6 Million people and counting havin it and no cure in sight, showing the dfisease could help get a movement for a cure going.

I give Miss Scarduzio and her family major credit for being so brave and open in showing so much of their personal lives to try and stop this latest medical menace. Of course, I felt bad as I watched, but this is not about pity, but finding answers and solutions so this gets cured as soon as possible and becomes one less awful thing we have to see anyone go through. Well done.

Extras incluide a trailer, photo gallery and Heredity Nerotheapy Foundation Video.

The Best Of Jack Hanna combines the best episodes of the pro-animal naturist and scholar on one 5-DVD box set with 60 episodes. The set starts with his newer series, Into The Wild, then continues with the second older series on DVD 3 with Animal Adventures. The shopw ranges form specific animals to specific locations, includes many great examples of animal rescue and the great people doing this. As well, it continus a great documentary tradition about saving and preserving animals, our world and if you really think about it, our own lives.

Hanna is often with his wife on these shows and their vast knowldege on animals only enhances each and every episode. Packaged in Image's terrific heavy-duty foldout paperboard DVD holder case, this makes for a nice gift set and is very much worth your time, especially if you ever wanted to know more about Hanna and why he is the name he is.

There are no extras.

In Spike Lee's musical School Daze (1988), there is a storyline that leads to a controversdial musical sequence that shows the divisionbetween Afrcian Amwrican women spli by one factor, the shade of their skintone. Many felt betrayed by Lee, opthers shocked this was being discussed let alone being spun into a musical number, but like any other subject, talking about it is the first step to expose it. The gretat Bill Duke has co-directed a new documentary on the subject with Channsin Berry entitled Dark Girls (2011, with a cover that looks more than a bit like the album cover of the 1976 Diana Ross solo album simply entitled Diana Ross, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and it is along-overdue look at the subject.

Like the Chris Rock-hosted Good Hair (also reviewed on the site), the fleshtone split is dealt with on every level, a whole range, how inv isibl;e (and even insidious) ideas of beauty hve caused problems and heartache for young ladies not just in the African American community, but all over the world. Some would say globalization has reenforced this in recent decades, but it could be argued that these tired old stereotypes about who is beautiful and what is beauty havew not been challenged enough, in part because some people (not just racist white persons with money and power either) would prefer things stay the same for their own profit, hate and greed.

From the first scene with a young female African Amerian child answering contradictorally in being asked about being black to the many interviews that follow, it is a strong 71 minuts that everyone eneds to see once because it applies ot all of us and the world we live in, how to improve that and cheers to everyone who made it possible.

There are no extras.

Though it is not a documentary, I included Tyler Maddox-Simms' Power Of Love (2013) is a faith-basded rerlation ship comedy with Vivia A. Fox as a book author tyring to be positive and progressive in her work, life and appearances in promoting the book and herself. It is at its best when showing how beautiful African American women of all shades are and this has been a hallmark fo Miss Fox's work for decades, so there are great people out there making headway against such hate, self-hate and stereotypes, resulting in the formulaic script being overcome by posibitve intents and posibitve energy.

There are no extras.

On the other hand, Evocatuer: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2012, with three co-direcors who manage to keep this on together) a look at the controversial one-time entertainer who in the later 1980s came up with a self-named TV talk show that was highly controverial and politically charged series that became more of a shouting match with Downey Jr. (a one-time singer) taking a hard Right-of-Center, Pro-Reagan stnce going after so-called liberal enemies, et al. Playing like a sick rip-off of Phil Donahue's talk show, which was the top such show until Oprah Winfrey's show showed up, it was a sudden huge hit, but then it was suddenly on the downslide hat turned into an all-angry series that was soon cancelled because they had troible getting guests.

So what happened and how did it happen? For one thing, syndication as new and he had space to fill. Also, that was the mood of the 1980s Reagan backlash and it was about to get worse, with no sign of letting up. It was also one of the first times anything that angry or unpolite was seen as consistently as this outside of maybe analog cable TV and was qwhat angrier people (including certain angry rich people) were encouraging and continue to encourage.

It is a biography, but irt is also a look at the decline of U.S. media, rightly suggests the show inspired the dark side of the likes of Fox News and set up the Roight in the U.S. For more radical discourses and voices which only as this disc arrives ther American Peopel are just now starting to reject outright instead of silently tolerating it, ignoring it or wrongly think it is going away. This work is fair to Downey (including interviews with his relatives), but also shows how it became a way more vile discourses and anger became too mainstreamed for our own good.

Ironically, Downey seems tame versus some of his meaner successors and might by some of them be considered to centrist or worse by their ultra-Right Wing standards. Even more ironic, he died of a terrible bout with cancer only six-monuths before the 9/11 attack. What would he have thought or that or said about it? We'll neve rknow.

Extras include BD Live Blu-ray interactive functions, Memorable Moments, Behind The Animation, Theatrical Trailer, An Evening With Keelie Evers and a feature length audio commentary track by Co-Directors Seth Kramer, Donald A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger.

Janet Tobias' No Place On Earth (2012) tells the story of how Jews targeted by the Nazis survived their extermination campaign by literally living underground and hiding from October 1942 until the war ended. It was ugly, not easy, ahrropwing and is yet another untold story, coming out on home video on the heals of the diswcovery of more hidden extermination strongholds were just discovered in the last year that most did not know about. The 83 intense, sad, troubling minutes unravel yt another chapter of the evil of the Axis Powers and Hitler's Fascist regime. The makers even go back to the location to see how it is today and extensively interviews the surviovoprd and their families among others.

Extras include BD Live Blu-ray interactive functions, nine mini-featurettes following up the documentary that should only be seen after watching it, Photo Galleries and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Contributing to the situation was a devious propaganda film cleverly disguised as a documentary, Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938), issued in two parts (Festival Of Nations, Festival Of Beauty), it is supposed to be a film (or pair of films) about the 1936 Munich Olympics, but in its editing and non-competition footage (including Greek Staturs turning into nude German people, German men running in the forrest/park (read nature) naked and semi-naked including getting cleaned up together and cleaning each other. You can reads the latter as inncoulating any homosecuality in The Third Reich.

However, it gets worse and you have to see it to believe it. It's obsession with beauty tends ot be white Europeans, especially German and only in the actual competition do you see other ethnicities and note the emphasis on Japanese and Italians, Hitler's Axis allies. Riefenstah said she had no idea what genocide or oither ugly things her employer Hitler, et al, were doing, but the editing and shooting which she was heavily invovled with and responsible for indicate otherwise.

What she and the Reich really did was to make a film that tried ot make their country look like the mot surerior country in the world or superior in the making after their post-WWI decline in their severe loss in that conflict. That it did not show the actual country hardly at all is telling, as are new-at-the-time slow motion and editing tecniques that played on some of Sergei Eisenstein's editing innovations. Like his films which were slilent, Riefenstah plays on silent techniques.

Those who are serious film fans and need to know history or must see and know history (which in this case is everyone) should see this film once armed with knowing its dark side to see how seamlessly manipluative the film really is.

There are no extras.

Last but not least is Melissa R. Butts' Space Junk 3D (2012), a look at a very serious problem and issue no one is talking about. Narrated by Tom Wilkinson, this fine IMAX film shows us the troiubles with so many satellites and other items are circling our planet earth that it cold start to interfere with things like nature, sunlight, wireless transmissions and the very future of the planet. To most people, the idea that anything is in space still seems exciting and great, but we are long past that point where the skies are clear. This film shows what a crisis this is going to become.

Some might not take ther situation seriously, but thanks to the makers of this IMAX film and that it is in IMAX, the points are made very well, clearly and definitely. However, I also found this film to just be a very well done IMAX work and documentary all around. If you like solid documentary filmmaking, 3D films, IMAX films and love the subject of space, you will especially enjoy this one, but this is yet another release everyone should see.

Extras include over a dozen IMAX trailers for other great IMAX films that are mostly available from Image on Blu-ray (including in 3D; see which ones elsewhere on this site), a Making Of featurette, BTS Photo Gallery and Interview with actor/narrator Tom Wilkinson.

With a fine 1080p 1.78 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image and 2D HD version with great detail and depth, Space Junk 3D is easily the best playback performer image-wise throughout, though some of the CGI animation holds it back a bit, it is a solid IMAX film in 65mm negative and shows how strong filmed 3D still is.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Evocateur and Earth are the second-place winners with rough video, analog video, standard definition video and other images mixed with the new HD shooting. Magnolia has done the best they can do with the material and I cannot imagine either looking better, though some of the Downey TV show clips could use better NTSC decoding.

In the case of the DVDs, they are all weaker than expected from the rough 1.33 X 1 black and white footage on Olympia (which could look better, for better and worse) and the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the newer DVDs which have their share of rough footage or simply have never HD or even standard-definition footage newly shot that looks softer than one would have liked.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Space Junk 3D is easily the best-sounding, recorded and well mixed of all these releases down to the Tom Wilkinson voice-over narrative and the multi-channel sound + .1 LFE track is as active as you would expect from the best IMAX releases. Remember, they have to play through 64 speakers.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Evocateur and Earth are the second-place winners sonically as well, ranging from some good surrounds at times to simple stereo and even monophonic sound. Like the rest of the DVD documentaries, there are also the occasional location audio issues.

Being the only lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, Power should have third place all to itself sonically, but it is too dialogue-based to use the channels fully, yet is not badly recorded. However, this meas the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Hanna and Girls can match it. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Bernadette has more instances location audio issues, some rough audio and monophonic-like sounds, so it is not as strong, but more than easy to hear and sit throughout. That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Olympia, which has its share of silences and ambient sound throughout, along with its carefully placed music, though you hear some English narration and other languages, particularly German, as one would expect with the nature of such a sinister film.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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