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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > History > Politics > Assassination > Biography > Music > Fans > Road Movie > The Day Kennedy Died (2013/Smithsonian/Inception DVD)/JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later (2013)/John F. Kennedy: Years Of Lightning, Day Of Drum (1965/Warner DVDs/part of the Oliver Stone JFK Blu-ray set)

The Day Kennedy Died (2013/Smithsonian/Inception DVD)/JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later (2013)/John F. Kennedy: Years Of Lightning, Day Of Drum (1965/Warner DVDs/part of the Oliver Stone JFK Blu-ray set)/Oil City Confidential: The Story Of Dr. Feelgood (2009/Cadiz/MVD DVD)/Springsteen & I (2013/Eagle Blu-ray)/This American Journey (2013/Cinema Libre DVD)

Picture: C+ Sound: C+ (Oil: C) Extras: D/D/D/B-/C/C+ Films: B-/B/B/B-/C+/B-

Now for another round of documentaries, including three of many being issued to mark the 50th Anniversary of the JFK assassination.

First we have The Day Kennedy Died (2013) from The Smithsonian Channel which runs 92 minutes, does not address the single bullet theory as a problem, has some great narration by Kevin Spacey and has enough rare and unusual footage that it is a worthy entry. Like other Smithsonian DVDs, there are no extras.

The next two have been issued in conjunction with a reissue of the Blu-ray of Oliver Stone's 1991 classic JFK, including a new work and a classic documentary restored. Robert Kline's JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later (2013) is more of an overview of his entire life, his family, his upbringing and private side not enough of these documentaries are dealing with. It is a strong, solid, must-see 90 minutes and though there are no extras, it is also a valuable, vital volume like the Smithsonian release.

Last but not least is Bruce Herschensohn's John F. Kennedy: Years Of Lightning, Day Of Drum (1965) is one of the first and still the best, narrated by no less than Gregory Peck, restored to its original condition, looking and sounding great, talking about his legacy, the greatness of his presidency cut short, how his classic liberalism survived (peaking in the 1970s) and how he made huge differences in such a short time. Peck is extremely well-spoken as usual, but his conviction the achievements is uncanny and I can see why this one is part of the new (read expanded) Oliver Stone JFK Blu-ray set.

There are no extras on this DVD either sadly, but you can read more about Stone's still-controversial epic hit motion picture on Blu-ray in its first release in the format at this link:


Next we have a new documentary from Julien Temple, a concert and music video director whose work extends well into the occasional narrative film (see Absolute Beginners elsewhere on this site) is back with a new documentary that covers two subjects he has been covering for decades very well: England and Rock Music. Oil City Confidential: The Story Of Dr. Feelgood (2009) is one of his best works dealing with how the Thatcher Era destroyed the once highly industrial and successful Canvey Island and how out of all the misery came the rise of a Blues/Rock band with a Punk attitude called Dr. Feelgood.

Cadiz just released East End Rejects (reviewed elsewhere on this site) about the rise of the band The Cockney Rejects ans the two stories have a great many parallels, but Feelgood was a bit older and any exploitation was more of the common adult kind in the then-music business. We get extensive interviews, great vintage footage, rare histories you would never hear anywhere else and a portrait of another British music original. All serious music fans should give this one a look.

Extras include a Canvey Island postcard and rich 16-page booklet inside the DVD case, while the DVD adds Wilko Out-Takes, vintage Lee interview and feature length audio commentary track by director Temple.

The Ridley Scott-co-produced Springsteen & I (2013) is an odd release that compiles footage by fans of the popular singer/songwriter/musician for a very long 142 minutes, tries to give us a more personal idea of why the man continues to be so popular and put into something beyond words why. The result is a long, drawn out disappointment that gives many enthusiastic fans a voice, but not only fails to add up to explaining or showing what is intended, but is sloppy, unorganized and somehow ignores and throws out by default the longer history that made him so popular from the 1970s onward. I was not looking for a deep intellectual analysis, but this compilation just does not work. It has a few nice moments though.

Extras include six performances, two of which has him joined by Paul McCartney and isolated Fan Submissions.

Finally we have Paul Blackthorne's This American Journey (2013), the surprise on this list has the director/actor and his Australian photographer best friend doing something they always wanted to do: travel across America and meet the people who live all over it. From New York to L.A., with Pittsburgh, Memphis and so many more locales, they find the country is in better shape with better people than you mighty think or they thought from all the bad things that have been happening there (here) since the 1980s.

Running 90 minutes, it is the increasingly rare side of the country the media has buried under bad reality TV, bad news, bad business interests and artificial crisis. We see the people being denied tomorrow by Reagan-era policies still tearing the country apart and get to know some great people who never get a voice and represent so many great people we will never hear about. Cheers to the duo for pulling off such a smart, interesting work that could and should have gone on longer. Maybe someone ought to make this into some kind of TV show, but could it retain the integrity this documentary has? Don't miss it.

Extras include a Photo Gallery, Trailer, Extended Interviews and Deleted Scenes.

The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Springsteen should easily be the best image performer on the list as it is the only HD presentation, but the compilation is made up of so much rough digital video, more of which is standard definition and sloppy than expected that it too often looks like a DVD. The 1.33 X 1 on the Warner JFK and Years DVDs, along with the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Smithsonian Kennedy, Oil and Journey DVDs can more than compete with it.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) and PCM 2.0 sound on Springsteen can collapse into monophonic sound too often and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound Oil is poorly mixed and unnecessary compression results. Its lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is better and clearer. Journey also has lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes, but its 5.1 is better. That leaves the Kennedy DVDs with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo save the 1965 film with restored, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. They are all equal to each other in the end sonically.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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