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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biking > Cycling > Sports > Scandal > Biography > Skiing > Wrestling > HIstory > The Armstrong Lie (2013/Sony Blu-ray)/McConkey (2013/MSP DVD)/History Of The WWE: 50 Years Of Sports Entertainment + Straight To The Top: Money In The Bank - Ladder Match Anthology (WWE Blu-rays)

The Armstrong Lie (2013/Sony Blu-ray)/McConkey (2013/MSP DVD)/History Of The WWE: 50 Years Of Sports Entertainment + Straight To The Top: Money In The Bank - Ladder Match Anthology (WWE Blu-rays)

Picture: B-/C+/B-/B- Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+ Extras: B/B/B/C+ Main Programs: B/B/B-/C+

Now for the latest sports-related titles...

Alex Gibney's The Armstrong Lie (2013) was originally being made before biker Lance Armstrong was finally exposed for lying and fraud for many, many years in surviving cancer and winning a bunch of Tour de France tournaments. Now faced with a new open truth about his subject, the always remarkable Gibney spends over two hours thoroughly showing how he lied, how often he lied, how big the fraud was, how many looked the other way, how he bullied people, how big money kept him untouched and how some who were telling the truth early were the subject of witch-hunts.

Including a new series of interviews with Armstrong himself, we see a man who would win at any cost, was high on his ego and did not care ultimately whose life he destroyed. Gibney makes it a character study of him, sports, big money and circumstance, though even Armstrong is still in deep denial top the full extent of his lying and the permanent damage he has caused others. It is amazing what Gibney is allowed to show, finds and what he gets out of those he interviews. The stock and vintage footage goes beyond TV and into many personal archives, making this one of the most dense documentaries of any kind we have seen visually of late. It is also strong and leaves hardly anything untouched in showing what really happened.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds a feature length audio commentary track by Gibney, Deleted Scenes that could not fit into the main program and a Q&A with Gibney, Producer Frank Marshall, Bill Strickland, Jonathan Vaughters and Betsy Andreu.

Just as impressive, McConkey (2013) features 5 credited directors, yet this is one of the most coherent documentaries directed by more than one person I have ever seen. The intense, entertaining and even poignant 109 minutes about Shane McConkey, a young man from Canada whose father was a well-known professional skier back in the day when that had nothing to do with extreme sports or the like. When his parents divorced, his mom took him to America and he became disconnected from his father, yet loved skiing and pursued it strongly.

After trying to get on the U.S. Olympic team, he gets cut and never tries again. His eccentric, playful side starts turning up and he sticks with the sport despite there being no market or money in it, but soon, that changes and he suddenly finds himself at the cutting edge of a rising sport that means big money and big fame for him. He is also a risk-taker and goes all the time for all kinds of stunts including recreating he pre-title ski jump sequence from the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me to the point of consulting stuntman Rick Sylvester, the very man who did the jump for the film.

Unlike the Armstrong situation, McConkey was the real thing, never cheated at anything and changed his sport for the better in a way all can be proud of. It is a remarkable documentary and one of the best we have seen of late, so it is worth going out of your way for and I would if I were you. It is that good.

Extras include seven featurettes not listed on the DVD case for some odd, unfortunate reason: Shane's Super Part, 30 Days To Live Essay, Scott Gaffney: Making Pictures & Memories With Shane, J.T. Holmes: Shane's Protege To Partner In Crime, Sherry McConkey: The Woman Who Stole Shane's Heart, Portrait Of Saucerboy and Shane Innovating Ski Design.

Finally we have two WWE Blu-ray releases meant to promote and lionize the franchise. The History Of The WWE: 50 Years Of Sports Entertainment shows the old days of national wrestling when you had many regional companies doing it until the McMahon Family started to either buy up or push out the competitors, fair and square as this program suggests. It also shows us when it was really fun in a gritty way with Andre The Giant and the man whose international stardom made it into the empire and money machine it is today: Bruno Sammartino. You get 7.5 hours over two Blu-rays with the first having the main program. Then we have Straight To The Top: Money In The Bank - Ladder Match Anthology which is also a double Blu-ray set and even runs 8.5 hours, but it is much more repetitive and run-on for what is the WWE's idea of a game show for wrestlers. It is interesting at times, odd at others and really for fans only, but give them points for wackiness.

Extras on History include several Behind The Scenes featurettes showing more of the history of the franchise including more on Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant, while Ladder has more victory and behind-the-scenes footage, plus the paperboard slipcase is made to look like a briefcase, but the paper is thin, so only consider it decoration.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Blu-rays mix new HD footage with older standard definition analog and digital video, plus the occasional film clip, tying for first place in picture performance, something McConkey would likely join if it were a Blu-ray, but the DVD offers a decent, anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image for the format with the same mix of footage. Armstrong offers a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that might not always have a great soundfield, but makes it the best sonic presentation on the list. McConkey has both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes, but the 5.1 is the preferred way to hear it even as it has some rough and even monophonic audio. The WWE Blu-rays has the same issues, but they oddly only offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo unfortunately, so don't expect much here as they tie for second/last place sonically.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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