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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Terrorism > Politics > Islam > Vietnam > Death > Romance > Aboriginal > Australia > Iran > Sexism > American Bomber (2013/Indiepix DVD)/Inch'Allah (2012/E1 DVD)/Jayne Mansfield's Car (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Samson & Delilah (2009)/Women Without Men (2010/Indiepix DVDs)

American Bomber (2013/Indiepix DVD)/Inch'Allah (2012/E1 DVD)/Jayne Mansfield's Car (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Samson & Delilah (2009)/Women Without Men (2010/Indiepix DVDs)


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



It is awards season and this extends to some of the more challenging films of recent make arriving on home video as these releases will attest.



Eric Trencamp's American Bomber (2013) not only at first sounds like the same title we have seen issued dozens of times since 9/11, but as an HD shoot like most pre-HD digital slop jobs we have seen over the last 20, but we get something much more interesting in one of the best surprises of the year. Thanks to a good script, a brisk tempo that is not too fast, the right tone and energy, this story of how a young U.S.-born male who was a solider for the same country would decide to do any kind of bombing is not done in the usual dumb, corny, flat, stupid, unconvincing they-suddenly-decided-to-do-it way that can only tell us to watch out because we will die and it will be unfortunate for our society and world.


Instead, the believability is matched by more than some phony psychological or empty reason as it suggests he even knows this will be useless, but does it anyhow. He still does it! That comes with palpable circumstances that take the story in a new direction and that is why I was so surprised it managed to shed all the phoniness of its predecessors. It is definitely worth a look, especially for those who would like to see how to use HD properly instead of generically.


Extras include the short film that inspired the feature, a feature length audio commentary track by the actors, Director of Photography and Director, Outtake Reel, Original Theatrical Trailer and Q&A with the Director and terrorism expert Dr. Michael Kaune.



Anais Barbeau-Lavalette's Inch'Allah (2012) remarkably addresses some of the same issues as a Chloe (Evetne Brochu), a Canadian doctor working to help people in the middle of madness in the West Bank in ways that challenges her professionalism and when she gets involved in a few relationships that compromise her for some personally (even when it is not their business), things get worse. Then she decides for all kinds of reasons to get involved with what she thinks will be n act of terror that will somehow help the situation, but the twisted result is so profound that the film manages to say something very important about these occurrences that propel this picture into a higher level of filmmaking (including what it has to say about women and Islam) than anyone could have expected. It is also well cast, acted, made and is the best entry on this impressive list.


Extras include a brief short by Kevin Papatie entitled Nous Sommes and Deleted Scenes.



Billy Bob Thornton is back directing and taking a smaller role in Jayne Mansfield's Car (2012), which is a fascinating combination of autobiography looking at his past family life, offering the conflict of the Vietnam fiasco protested and debated at home (in 1969 Alabama) and also a constant theme of dark Americana as his father (played here perfectly by the great Robert Duvall) investigates car accidents while deeply fascinated by them as an expert. This leads to the title of the film in a creepy scene where everyone can pay top see the actual car the actress and sexual bombshell Jayne Mansfield was killed in.


Though her involvement with Satanism is never stated, it is easy to read into things, then the father investigator talks about the even with amazing detail and intimacy. Add the other car accidents, fascination with death, obliviousness to it via Vietnam (the pro military friends and family extend to British in-laws in a great twist) and you have a pretty ambitious film that works more than not. It has its down moments, but also inadvertently becomes a sister film to David Cronenberg's film of Crash, so you should have an idea of where this is going.


Then there is the great cast including Duvall, Thornton, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Ray Stevenson, Frances O'Connor, Shawnee Smith, Tippi Hendren, Irma P. Hall and a surprise performance by stand up comedian Ron White that makes this another underrated film worth going out of your way for.


The only extra is a Behind The Scenes featurette.



Not to be confused with the Biblical tale, Warwick Thornton's Samson & Delilah (2009) is an Aboriginal love story of sorts taking place in the middle of a rough, poor section of Central Australia. Playing as a modern turn on Walkabout on some level the way the reggae film Rockers plays to The Harder They Come (modern versus classic contemporary), the film has its moments and leads are not bad, nor is the rest of the cast. Passages without dialogue are a plus too, but in the end, the 100 minutes should have had a little more impact. However, it is an interesting, ambitious film that tries to take us somewhere we have never or rarely been before, though the pain of poverty is as universal as ever.


Extras include Cast/Crew Interviews, Behind The Scenes, Original Theatrical Trailer and short film The Things They Said by Survival.



Finally, we have Shirin Neshat's Women Without Men (2010), the first feature film of the visual arts, photographer & short film director who has decided to take on women in Iran in this tale of several women dealing with elitism, sexism, Islam and the CIA-backed 1953 takeover of the country. It is a bold, nuanced, darkly beautiful and thought-provoking 95 minutes that has much to say about the country, it's troubled history and how women have always been mistreated and marginalized. The script ultimately implies that all the changes never helped women and that is why ultimately, the 1979 Islamic Revolution (with its overt hatred of women and ability to con and/or push other women to go along whether they like it or not) is loud and clear in the conclusion implied.


We have sadly seen some of the ugly situations here before, but they need to be reiterated to make the points necessary for the film to work. A remarkable debut film, it too is worth going out of your way for.


Extras include a booklet inside the paperboard slipcase packaging with DigiPak holder for the DVD including informative text, Director Interview, Director Statement, Director Biography & Political & Historical Background, while the DVD adds two slideshows, brief reel of the Director's previous work, Behind The Scenes featurette, Walker Art Center Q&A and Original Theatrical Trailer.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Jayne is easily the visual champ here, shot in the 3-perf Super 35mm film format by Director of Photography Barry Markowitz, A.S.C., who shot Thornton’s previous films. Though it is a 500-speed Vision 3 Kodak film used, they manage to pull off a decent period look.


Of the DVDs, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Inch'Allah uses the same exact film stock as Jayne, but in 2-perf Super 35mm format known as Techniscope, but takes place in current times and is not as stylized. It is just a little softer than I would have liked, it, but would very likely look better on a Blu-ray. The HD shot Bomber offers an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image that is also soft and by its faux documentary nature a bit blurred at times, but it looks better than mot such productions since it does not add fake image manipulations that become a spoof of themselves.


The softest two entries are the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Samson, which is shot on 35mm film also using that same Kodak Vision 3 500 film as the other two films above, but they have also added Vision 2 50D stocks. Unfortunately, the transfer here can make it look more like a refined HD shoot than it should. Women is also a 35mm film shoot and it looks like it, but it is still softer than I would have liked, but both films also deserve Blu-ray editions which would bring out much more of the intended look. The look of all five entries here are effective and professional, which is increasingly rare these days.


As for sound, Jayne wins out again with a dialogue-based lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation that has its share of warmth and is towards the front channels, but works just fine. Of the DVDs, Inch'Allah is the only one to offer a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but it too is dialogue-based and towards the front channels, so the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the rest of the DVDs can more than compete and sound good for the format. All four deserve lossless presentation and may get them down the line.



- Nicholas Sheffo


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