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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Music > Industry > Country > Rock > Americana > Basketball > Racism > Culture > Phot > All The Labor (2013/MVD Visual DVD)/Linsanity (2013/Arc DVD)/Men At Lunch (2013/First Run DVD)/More Than Honey (2012/Kino Lorber Blu-ray)/Red Reign (2012/Cinema Libre DVD)

All The Labor (2013/MVD Visual DVD)/Linsanity (2013/Arc DVD)/Men At Lunch (2013/First Run DVD)/More Than Honey (2012/Kino Lorber Blu-ray)/Red Reign (2012/Cinema Libre DVD)

Picture: C/C+/C+/B-/C+ Sound: C+/C/C+/B-/C+ Extras: C/C/C/C+/C- Documentaries: B-/B-/B-/B+/B-

Here are five really fine documentaries that all could have been longer, a few that would easily be Academy Award contenders and are all worth your time...

Doug Hawes-Davis' All The Labor (2013) is a look at The Gourds, a very talented Country Rock band that has been around for years, yet never has had the commercial breakthrough their talents or hard work should have given them by now. It does not help that the music industry and major labels have no idea (or even care to try to find) how to sign new talents that are nothing beyond flash, cynical gimmicks, misery and barely any talent. Here, we meet the band, see them on tour, they open up more than you would ever see in a pop fluff piece or bad reality TV and we her them play plenty of well made songs.

This is more of a biography of the band than the individual members, but they are brave in showing who they are and is so good, even if you are not a fan of the music, it is hard to stop watching because it is so well done. This one runs 96 minutes.

Though nowhere to be found on the back of the DVD case or anywhere else, extras include a dozen full-length music performances unedited, 5 Deleted Scenes, 2 Alternate Scenes and a Trailer.

Evan Jackson Leong's Linsanity (2013) is a biography and documentary about Jeremy Lin, the terrific, groundbreaking basketball player who seemed like an overnight sensation but barely made a name for himself against so many odds, an industry that does not seem to always know how to spot talent and of course, some racism. I also had to wonder if the openness of his religious faith (Christianity in this case, though the documentary never begins to suggest this as it rightly could) also got him ignored.

From interviews with family and friends, to a surprisingly nice amount of low definition amateur footage of Lin playing the game and being with his family at a very young age to media reaction (including more institutionalized racism than was necessary to the point of being embarrassing to the big corporations who kept letting it happen), we get a very thorough portrait of what was happening behind the scenes before he made a name for himself. However, despite some of the pressure and the situation of constantly seeming to miss the big chance to make it, he displays grace without trying. This runs all the way up to his joining the Houston Rockets where as of this posting, he is doing very well, enough to make the Knicks realize they may have made a big mistake letting him go.

Extras include the amusing Kickstarter reel (one of the few worth your time to date) that launched the funding of the project, a Trailer and a Behind-The-Scenes featurette.

Sean O Cualain's Men At Lunch (2013) also takes us to New York City, but back to 1932 where an iconic picture taken of 11 unknown iron workers on what would become one of the top floors of Rockefeller Center and how it has become one of the most popular and believed images ever taken in the great city. They sit on a steel beam eating lunch next to each other and though the image was staged, they are suspended with hardly anything else around them. This program (at only 67 minutes when I wished it were more like two hours) examines the origins, popularity and impact of the image.

There are many interviews here, but this also includes many people as the narrator asks great questions and the hunt for who the men are in the image (as well as who shot it) is investigated, yet this is a portrait of the many immigrant from all over who came here to build the U.S., all their efforts, families, stories and desires for a better life. It is also about the American Dream, especially in 1932 in the face of The Great Depression and how it is as relevant as ever. The journey takes us back to Ireland for the possible identity of two of the men, but as the economy is in some of the worst shape it has been since the 1930s, the meaning and the connection to the photo are as relevant as ever if not more so. I really enjoyed this one!

Extras include the short clips The 1929 Crash, Rockefeller Center, Joe Woolhead on September 11, 2001, The Inspiration of Lunch Atop A Skyscraper and Ric Burns on Lunch Atop A Skyscraper.

Markus Imhoof's More Than Honey (2012) addresses one of the big crisis of our time that people have discussed, but no one has done a thorough enough investigation of: why are bees, bee hives and bee colonies dying off? Why the big silence over this? Why is this not being seen as the crisis that is it? Bees are necessary to all ecosystems to pollinate flowers that produce food and so much more, yet they are dying or not surviving as they should.

Before seeing this solid work, I has heard some pesticides were suspected and some of them are discussed here (though we hear about fungicide and not possible led contamination, yet we have also heard about bad chemicals from China and problematic ones from Germany, but they are not brought up here) and then there was the parasite attacking individual bees, which we see here. There are other natural enemies as well, but it gets worse.

Climate change is not dealt with an for now, does not seem the issue, but we first get to compare the natural bee breeding from one German keeper (who later gets upset that a queen did not stay racially pure (his words, not ours) and kills her!) talking about not using pesticides, et al versus a U.S. company that seems to have no choice. We also learn of experiments to find out more about the bees and their functions, work in Australia, the African Honey Bees once known simply as killer bees who could make no honey (it all turns out to be the opposite) and how China has hardly any bees left thanks to Chairman Mao.

The most thorough of our five fine releases at 91 minutes, people who know and care have finally spelled out the stakes here (it is chilling to see Chinese Migrants pollinating flowers as no bees exist as if we were watching a chilling Science Fiction film, but it has actually happened) in what will hopefully be a starting point against ignorance and the beginning of a solution. Consider this a real must see film!

Extras include an Image Gallery, Deleted Scenes, Interview with Imhoff and 2 Making Of programs.

Masha Savitz's Red Reign (2012) is the disturbing tale of how organ transplant in China (at high prices) are being done unregulated and possibly on political prisoners while they are still alive! The very disturbing, thoroughly journalistic investigation looks at how after encouraging a religious movement called Fallun Gong (which was unheard of for Communist China), the government suddenly decided to render it illegal, started to crack down on it, arrested those who refused to give it up and as it turns out, those who still refuse are the ones being harvested for their organs.

Controversial echoes of this arrived near me a few years ago when a display about the human body was showcased at a local science center lauded the rare chance to see the human body in neatly cut subsections, which sounded bizarre off the bat. When it was reported the bodies were from China, off their rocker and out of their gourd sounded more like it. Did the bodies of the deceased victims come from the dead willingly? I doubted it.

Now seeing this, looks like the situation was far uglier and so extremely underreported that the wholesale censorship of the story is an international disgrace and no matter how many threats the Chinese Government makes about it or money they spend to cover it up, the situation is absolutely unacceptable and there is more than enough evidence just in this program to convince this writer that said atrocities are occurring. I give all the brave participants credit for bringing this hideous situation to light!

A trailer is the only extra, but I hope we see a sequel soon!

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Honey is easily the image winner being the only Blu-ray here, but there are variants in the HD and digital shooting we'll see. Not even including the rare film or older standard definition clip, some HD has less motion blur than others and some shots of nature and fields are not as sharp or clear as they should be. Otherwise, this is consistent and decent throughout. All four DVDs are presented in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image framing that does not look as good being in the standard definition format, but Labor tends to have more soft images (and not just because there is so much older archive footage) throughout, so it is the poorest performer here. Still, it is very watchable just the same.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) mixed language 5.1 lossless mixes on Honey are presented in full main German and alternate English versions, with the English having new voiceover work by John Hurt. Both even with each other, the sound tends to be in the front and center channels, but they are the sonic winners here.

The DVDs are presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes, though Linsanity has a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1, it not only just spreads the stereo and occasional monophonic sound around, but has compression issues throughout that are not much clearer on the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo so someone at Arc or the makers messed up. Thus, it is unfortunately the sonic dud here.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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