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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Religion > Surfing > Travel > Comedy > Civil Rights > Women > Oppression > Hula Hoops > Pop Cu > American Jesus (2013/Glass Eye Pix/Shelter Island DVD)/Follow Me (1969/Cinerama/Scorpion DVD)/Girl Rising (2012/Cinedigm DVD)/The Hooping Life (2014/Span DVD)/Mademoiselle C (2013/Cohen Media Group Bl

American Jesus (2013/Glass Eye Pix/Shelter Island DVD)/Follow Me (1969/Cinerama/Scorpion DVD)/Girl Rising (2012/Cinedigm DVD)/The Hooping Life (2014/Span DVD)/Mademoiselle C (2013/Cohen Media Group Blu-ray)/Shelter Island (2011/Shelter Island DVD)

Picture: C/C+/C+/C/B-/C Sound: C+/C+/C+/C/C+/C Extras: C-/C/C+/C+/C-/C- Documentaries: C+ (Jesus: C-)

Here are some new documentary releases that are usually at least decent if not always successful.

Aram Garriga's American Jesus (2013) starts by telling us it is a diverse look at people in all walks of life who share Christianity as their religion, only the opening of the long 67 minutes tends to be almost the same thing over and over, then towards the end, we hear about The Apocalypse, how the world is coming to an end and despite some joy being discussed early how everything is in final days and we'd better get religious... their way.

This is quite a bait-and-switch, very condescending and ultimately condescending and offensive in the end, sounding like a cult sermon. As dishonest as it is cynical, it will leave you highly unimpressed to and is yet another reason many people in this country have been tuning out of religion since it started to become so extreme in the 1980s. Here is the latest piece of ignorant evidence.

Extras include Additional Interviews and a Making Of featurette.

Gene McCabe's Follow Me (1969) does an interesting job of capitalizing on the hit surfing film Endless Summer (1966, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) by sending a trio of surfers (including one female, constantly criticized for comic effect?) to different countries to see if they can find waves no one has before. Mary Lou McGinnis, Claude Codgen and Bob Purvey travel to Hong Kong, Japan, India, Portugal, New Zealand, Tahiti, Morocco and more in this colorful, semi-travelogue film that is fun and holds up pretty well.

At least a minor classic of surfing films, the voice-overs are actually done by character actor (see Downhill Racer from Criterion elsewhere on this site) and animation voice-over artist (the original Aqualad and one-time Superboy) Jerry Dexter, scripted by Stanley Ralph Ross (also a voice actor in cartoons and writer on hits like Batman and Wonder Woman), the aged parts make this a time capsule like the talking, but the real star of this film are the surfers, surf and beautiful locales, which take over by the end for maximum impact.

Music is interesting here, with the main instrumentals composed by the very capable Stu Phillips, who co-wrote three songs here with David Gates before his launching of the underrated soft rock band Bread and al are performed by Dino, Desi & Billy, the peak of the trio of Dean Martin Jr., Desi Arnaz Jr. and Billy Hinshse peaking here after making a serious go of it as a trio. A very interesting film worth catching up with, including some enduring surf footage.

A trailer is sadly the only extra.

Richard E. Robbins' Girl Rising (2012) is the latest look at how young ladies are exploited worldwide and that old societal standards are part of the problem. Education is part of the solution, especially in the face of the major backlash we have seen against women in recent years that seems as hateful as it does extremely desperate. The documentary is decent, but does not go far enough (disturbingly ignoring the various male/religious groups perpetuating the latest round of crimes against women) hampering some god, even painstaking work.

Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Cate Blanchett, Kerry Washington and Liam Neeson are among those who lend voice-overs here and it is worth a look, but the next such work needs to go much, much further.

Extras include a Director's Welcome, Outtakes, On Location footage and a Behind The Scenes featurette.

Amy Goldstein's The Hooping Life (2014) is a too-short look at the rise, fall and possible resurgence of people enjoying the sue and showing off of the use of the hula hoop. Taking several years to complete, I wished it were longer and I think there might be more to say, but Basement Jaxx supplies new music and a bunch of interviews including Shaquille O'Neal and especially Art Linkletter, the TV megastar who paired with then-unknown toy company Whammo to make their version of the hoop a massive nationwide hit are covered here.

The all-too-short 70 minutes has some nice vintage clips (including Whammo commercials, which it can never have enough of) along with new interviews, a few old ones and profiles of people who have come up with more complex ways to hoop. Will it become a big business again? The joke is that it is a revolution, but that may only apply to the hoops around gyrating bodies. Still, this is a decent profile of the activity worth a look.

Four galleries of extra footage in included covering interviews, hoop moves you can learn, stills and how to make a hoop.

Favian Constant's Mademoiselle C (2013) tells us the story of model Carine Roitfeld, who became an icon in her field and moved on to become a editor for French Vogue for 10 years. No longer with them, she decides to launch her own magazine and lands up going to war without trying with former bosses Conde Nast. They essentially say that anyone who works with her will be blacklisted form their magazines, but Roitfeld has enough connections (Laugerfeld, Versace, Tom Ford) that this will not stop her from launching her deluxe CR Magazine.

Running a mere 53 minutes, much is stuffed into this program, but much more ls left to be said and it is not the best fashion documentary we have seen lately. However, it is still a good one and once again, one worth a look.

Extras include a trailer and footage of the Paris premiere on the documentary.

Michael Canzoniero's Shelter Island (2011) goes to the near New York locale to show us how nice it is to live there and even go there. Of course, this is a sunny portrait of the place and who knows what the dark sides are, but there has so be some. However, we get character profiles including that of artists, those battling mental illness and a little more in a 77 minutes program that does not necessarily make me want to visit the place, but one might stop by if they remember this one. Not bad.

Extras include Alex Olinkiewick's short film about having autism entitled In My Mind and a 2:31 montage of Harold Olson's paintings.

All the releases, save Follow, are a mix of old and new film and video footage with new (usually HD) interview footage, but the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Mademoiselle is the best-looking of all as expected from being the only Blu-ray on the list. That is not to say it is consistent as some shots have motion blur, others are slightly problematic and the shaky camerawork is never welcome. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Follow Me can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is the best of the DVDs by a sliver using 16mm footage (from a new HD transfer). The color filming in the many locales of the film gives us something to see all the time, with the surfing footage being king. The rest of the DVD are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations with Girl Rising nearly matching Follow Me and the rest of the DVDs being a little rougher and substandard overall than expected.

In the sound department, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Mademoiselle should be easily the champ here, but the location audio is often weak, sometimes monophonic and the mixers put the sound too much in the center channel. We get moments where the surrounds kick in, but this is not a great mix. Therefore, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Follow Me, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Girl and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Jesus can actually compete. Unfortunately, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Hooping and Island are rougher and weaker than expected, so be careful of volume switching and high volume levels.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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