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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Politics > Economy > Government > Slavery > Racism > Religion > Biography > War > Drones > American Empire: An Act Of Collective Madness (2012/Heartfelt DVD)/The Contradictions Of Fair Hope (2013/Shelter Island DVD)/Greedy Lying Bastards (2013/Disinformation DVD)/Murph The Protector (2013/A

American Empire: An Act Of Collective Madness (2012/Heartfelt DVD)/The Contradictions Of Fair Hope (2013/Shelter Island DVD)/Greedy Lying Bastards (2013/Disinformation DVD)/Murph The Protector (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Unmanned: America's Drone War (2013/Disinformation DVD)/White House Revealed (2008/Smithsonian/Inception DVD)

Picture: C/C/C/C+/C/C+ Sound: C/C/C/C+/C+/C+ Extras: C/C/C/D/B-/C- Films: C+/C+/B-/C+/C+/B-

Here is a mix of political documentaries that covers the wide range of subjects, but you usually will not find sharing the same text.

Patrea Patrick's American Empire: An Act Of Collective Madness (2012) runs 95 minutes and uses ideas, facts, suggestions and interview clips to argue that the U.S. is so powerful that it is destroying and controlling the world, that only it has all the power since it is the only superpower left and one unprecedented in all of human and planetary history. Referring generically to this as a cartel, the dialogue layers on more and more ideas to point this out.

However, besides some of the interview clips looking recycled and possibly being taken out of context at times, there are many flaws in its sometimes convincing points of view as it acts as if foreign countries have zero power, never allows any counter ideas to challenge the layering and is a propaganda film that has its moments, but suffers from overdoing things rendering it only partly successful. Even going by its own logic, it is not always successful.

Extras include a Music Video, Original Theatrical Trailer, Bonus Interviews and featurette Occupy: The People Speak.

S. Epatha Merkerson & Rockell Metcalf's The Contradictions Of Fair Hope (2013) is not out of place here at all, talking about slavery, how African Americans in the South formed Benevolent Societies to protect their own from racism backlash and to be able to take care of the health and dead of those who joined these vital organizations. Unfortunately, the religious tradition of foot washing becomes twisted when the annual event becomes a party of sex, drugs, drinking and acting crazy that has nothing to do with the ideas, words or origins of the event.

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, she explains how new generations who owned land decided to cash in on the past and what was gained by selling it out (or down the river) but how others want to keep the original purpose going. At only 67 minutes, the program makes its points well and the result is a vital history lesson everyone should see once.

Extras include (unlisted on the back of the case) Spiritual, Prayer and Music Recording Studio Session clips, plus three more clips of additional interviews.

Craig Rosebaugh's Greedy Lying Bastards (2013) is another look at the financial crisis and who is behind it on Wall Street and in political circles, but ties it into Global Warming and the director tries too much to be a Michael Moore-style provocateur, funny as that can be. However, that gets in the way of the impact of his valuable research and by the time we get to some name-calling, when he should offer even more facts, the shortcomings catch up with an otherwise solid piece of informative journalism. This is as successful as an entry on this list.

Extras (unlisted on the back of the DVD Case) include five bonus clips on Lobbying, Media, Peru, Uganda and the IPCC, whose research on Global Warming has been trashed by big money interests.

Scott Mactavish's Murph The Protector (2013) is simply a tribute to fallen Navy SEAL Michael P. Murphy, who died in a 6/28/08 assault in Afghanistan against the Taliban. The short 76 minutes has tons of interviews, pictures and more film and video footage of the man throughout his life than expected, telling us what a great guy he was and I believe it.

Unlike some other soldiers who we lost, this situation does not seem suspect and the family is not left with unanswered questions, yet this work never asks why those coming back deceased were banned from being shown on TV. It also skips the controversial sides of the George W. Bush Administration's mishandlings (and worse) of the whole affair. It is not supposed to necessarily being a biography, but that undiscussed side casts a shadow over the program just the same.

There are no extras.

Robert Greenwald's Unmanned: America's Drone War (2013) is a deeper look at how the U.S is using drones (often in place of soldiers, a change back to pre-George W. Bush use-the-soldiers-all-the-time policy) has been so effective that more than just the main targets are getting killed. Children are being killed too often, the program is being outsourced at billions of dollars and the makers gets into the people affected.

I believe in drone use, but too much of anything even if it is good or useful, can backfire and Greenwald asks fair questions and makes mature suggestions about how such a program should operate. You will not see some of this footage anywhere else or hear this discussion this clearly, but Greenwald is one of the best directors in this genre and this is definitely worth a look. Be sure to see it with Dirty Wars, also reviewed on this site, as they make great companion works.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary by Director Greenwald where he makes his points even clearer than in the actual program and Extended Interviews.

Finally we have White House Revealed (2008) narrated by Martin Sheen is being issued on DVD to go with the interest it will have in conjunction with Lee Daniels' critically lauded drama The Butler. This is 51 minutes of how presidents through the decades, in good times and bad, have been served by big staffs making their lives better and how these workers become like family.

There are variances in how each group interacts with each president and his family, but these are rare glimpses inside the interworkings of one of the most famous addresses of all time and this is nicely done overall, if shorter than one might have liked.

Previews for other Smithsonian programs precede the documentary.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Murph has some of the best images of the six releases being the only Blu-ray, but it has more than its share of rough footage, so the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image House DVD is able to compete with it by having more consistently refined footage. The rest of the DVDs are softer, tying for second place, but also offering anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations. It is just the footage is rougher, has aliasing errors, video errors and older rough analog and low def digital. All six releases all happen to feature lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes, but Murph, Drone and House tie for first by being more consistent than the others, which have more rough audio, old audio, location audio issues and even some slight editing issues.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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