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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Genocide > Religion > Politics > WWII > Crime > Robbery > Money > Finance > Legal > Sex Crime > Pedophil > Amen. (2002)/Capital (2013/Cohen Blu-ray)/Devil's Knot (2013/Image Blu-ray w/DVD)/Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian (2013/MPI/IFC DVD)/Joe (2014/Lionsgate Blu-ray)

Amen. (2002)/Capital (2013/Cohen Blu-ray)/Devil's Knot (2013/Image Blu-ray w/DVD)/Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian (2013/MPI/IFC DVD)/Joe (2014/Lionsgate Blu-ray)

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

Here are five very serious dramas you should know about...

First we have a pair of underseen Costa-Gavras films way overdue for rediscovery: Amen. (2002) and Capital (2013, his most recent work too unnoticed), which deal with large-scale activity that is questionable in the least and criminal overall. Amen. Is very detailed in how the Catholic Church and particularly Pope Pius XII ignored the Holocaust and the price Jews and the world paid and still pay to this day, while Capital is another insiders look at moneymen playing outrageous games with extreme wealth, breaking all laws around, practicing late capitalism like the world is about to end and the moral bankruptcy that results.

Amen. has us follow Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), a German Christian and Chemist who becomes part of The Final Solution be becoming one of its architects without at first realizing it, but morally objects early and landed up being one of the first to prove it happened. The film pulls no punches and has great acting, scenes and moments throughout that pulls no punches, reminds us how many Christians and especially Catholics made up the Nazis and how this legacy is still hidden, denied and remains un-dealt with. It is also a source of current anti-Semitism. Mathieu Kassovitz leads the rest of the great cast here of one of the most underrated political films of the last 40 years.

Capital has Gad Elmalehas as a young bank executive picked to suddenly be CEO over several older, more qualified men in what turns out to be a ploy and plot to ruin and gut the bank he works for and take it for all its worth, but he is onto how he is being used early and has his own ideas. Gabriel Byrne is the head of the outside investors trying to pull this fast one out of Miami, Florida and though not as savage as Scorsese's Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) or J.C. Candor's underrated Margin Call (2011), plays like an effective flip-side in its subtlety, even counter-approach by showing the rotten-ness in a different light. That is why I recommend it.

Costa-Gavras has had his successes (Z (reviewed elsewhere on this site from Criterion), The Confession, State Of Siege, Special Section) and misses (Music Box, Betrayed), but he is back in strong form here and not enough people have seen either film. Glad to see both of them out on Blu-ray in special editions everyone should see at least once.

Extras on both include illustrated booklets, Amen. adds a feature length audio commentary track by Costa-Gavras hosted by Wade Major, a 2014 re-release Theatrical Trailer and vintage BBC documentary Pope Pius XII: The Pope, The Jews & The Nazis that further shows how the Catholic Church enabled The Holocaust, while Capital adds cast/crew interviews.

Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot (2013) is an interesting dramatic film version of the terrible, embarrassing miscarriage of justice that happened recently in Memphis after three underage male children are found severely sexually assaulted, exploited and murdered. Instead of finding the actual killer(s), local authorities decide to scapegoat three teens who don't fit in with their narrow, conformist world and the lies and frame-ups lands them up in jail with no hope of freedom or hope of justice of any of us.

This version has Reese Witherspoon (in an ambitious performance for a change) as a mother of one of the murdered children who may be closer tot he truth than she realizes and Colin Firth as an investigator who knows there is some kind of cover-up. Despite the several documentaries made on the subject and many knowing the conclusion of the actual case, Egoyan foregoes his usual approach and sticks to the darker side of the case, no matter the outcome; something the media has disturbingly failed to do. That this was not bigger national news is a very disturbing in itself, but this film has enough good moments that it reminds us effectively how neglect by those in power are sending the U.S. (and other countries for that matter) more and more down the wrong path as moral authority takes a bizarre, sickening vacation.

Dane De Haan, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Amy Ryan and Elias Koteas also star.

Extras include a Making Of featurette, Deleted Scenes and featurette Getting Into Character: The Cast Of Devil's Knot. You can see a great documentary about the case in Amy Berg's West Of Memphis (2012) at this link:


Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian (2013) is the story we've seen before where a person in trouble (here Benicio Del Toro as a Native American man, the title character) in a hospital circa WWII seeming schizophrenic, but maybe not. The underrated Mathieu Amalric is the French doctor and expect who might be able to uncover the actual truth in a film to its credit that does not make this story into a clone of Penny Marshall's underrated Awakenings (1990) or some bad feel-good movie that rings phony al the time. This is a greta pairing of two great actors.

Unfortunately, the script and final result is uneven, has more good separate moments than being a film with an impact, message and payoff. I wanted this one to work badly, but the talent cannot overcome the limits of the narrative's confinements. Still, this is ambitious and everyone was at least trying. Larry Pine and A Martinez also stars.

Extras include Interviews, a Making Of featurette and Original Theatrical Trailer.

David Gordon Green's Joe (2014) is an ambitious attempt to get back to the roots of his best early films like George Washington before going too commercial for his own good, based on a gritty book by Larry Brown, but even with Nicolas Cage in great form as the gruff title character in this tale of of trashy southerners with no future ruining the lives and future of all around them, the film is too sidetracked for its own good and some good performances (often in thankless roles) cannot stop the predictability or even flatness of the results. A shame since some moments work and Tye Sheridan as a 15-year-old who wants more with his life making a great acting showing here among all of this, the film's 117 minutes is uneven. Too bad, because it has some good moments, but Green has lost his edge and needs to get it back quickly.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds Deleted Scenes, two Making Of featurettes and a feature length audio commentary track by Green, Actor Brian D. Mays and Composer David Wingo.

All four Blu-rays look pretty good, but the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Knot just edges out the usually solid 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Amen. (shot on Kodak 35mm film, some digital work and some print flaws hold it back a little, plus color can be lite at times), the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Capital (shot on 35mm Fuji film, one of the last that will ever use that stock, but with more weak points than expected) and the HD-shot 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Joe, while the anamorphically enhanced DVD of Knot and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Jimmy (also shot all on 35mm film) are softer, but tie for second-place performance wise here.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on all four Blu-rays are pretty good, but in this case, Amen. and Capital have the better sonics while Knot and Joe are a bit limited in soundfield, yet they all sound well recorded and mixed. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Knot and Jimmy DVDs tie for last place, though Jimmy would likely sound better in a lossless version.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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