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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Sports > Skateboarding > Biography > Australia > Crime > Church > Christianity > African Ame > All This Mayhem (2014/VSC/MVD Blu-ray)/Black Church Inc. (2014/Moguldum/Cinedigm DVD)/The Dance Goodbye (2014/First Run DVD)/GunLand (2014/Moguldum/Cinedigm DVD)/Sagrada: The Mystery Of Creation (2012

All This Mayhem (2014/VSC/MVD Blu-ray)/Black Church Inc. (2014/Moguldum/Cinedigm DVD)/The Dance Goodbye (2014/First Run DVD)/GunLand (2014/Moguldum/Cinedigm DVD)/Sagrada: The Mystery Of Creation (2012)/A Year In Champagne (2014/First Run DVDs)

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

Here is a diverse set of new documentary releases....

Eddie Martin's All This Mayhem (2014) is the latest of a vibrant, healthy cycle of documentaries and films on the world, history and culture of skateboarding. This time, however, it is from Australia, a part of the world we don't hear from much in this matter unless it is an Australian (or New Zealander for that matter) competing. In particular, this focuses on brothers Tas and Ben Pappas, but its 104 minutes is plenty of time for the whole industry and those Down Under in particular to get plenty of screen time.

Nice to see such an extensive record on the people and the subject, well done with some heart and taking us to a part of the business we might otherwise miss. The success of the Pappas Brothers is another amazing story of success against the odds and one where they helped bring to life the sport in their homeland, leaving a great, permanent legacy.

Extras include two featurettes and 15 Deleted Scenes.

Todd L. Williams' Black Church Inc. (2014) is a much-needed look at the problematic, highly exploitive world of mega-churches, but particularly in the African American community. Instead of the help and synergy the community needs, these opportunists (like Creflo Dollar; yes, that's his name) take advantage of the good will and needs of the community and disaster results. They get rich and those putting them there are thrown away.

This also goes on with mega-churches all over the world, a type of church (isn't the one time Jesus gets ticked-off in ALL versions of The Bible when his church is being used as a marketplace? I think so....) that started in the 1980s, then really took off in the 2000s in what is a developing story of corruption, money, back-stabbing and even blasphemy. Williams does a solid job here in only 49 minutes. Hope to see a sequel soon, because this mess is far from over.

Deleted Scenes, including one where Director Williams is harassed and intimidated, are the only extras.

Ron Steinman & Eileen Douglas' The Dance Goodbye (2014) is a biographical look at the short but great professional life of a ballet dancer, as seen through the experiences of a very exceptional ballerina, the amazing Merrill Ashley. She was a big success in the business and will remain a big name in any serious telling of the story of international ballet forever.

Through all kinds of stock footage, stills and new interviews, we see how exciting this world can be, how talent makes it happen, but that the idea of the hard work and sacrifice does not begin to really cover what is going on in this artform. The makers have kept the older 1.33 X 1 aspect ratio since we gather so much of the footage as that way, but this is very watchable and informative throughout running only 56 minutes. Wish it was longer.

Text bios and a Photo Gallery are the extras.

GunLand (2014) is a serious look at how a sinister gun culture in our society has manifested itself into an increasing epidemic of senseless violence like we have never seen anywhere, but this film shows how it is happening in the great city of Chicago. Despite the main city having its old Loop section plus a newer Magnificent Mile section forming an amazing city, some of the surrounding areas are nice, but others too economically depressed, not sharing the benefits or progress of the city in its next-step-ahead form. It is as shocking as it is sad, unless you are so perpetually cynical you expect the opposite.

Through interviews, all kinds of surveillance footage and the like, we see how a city this great could beat out totally blighted majors (I will NOT name names of those cities in more trouble, but it is long and unacceptable) as having the highest murder rate in the USA. I don't like the new nickname of Chiraq, combining Chicago (or Chi-Town) with Iraq as a way to describe these new killing fields, because it lands up glorifying the murders and such a celebrated ugliness will only make the situation worse. It is just a situation that will need to play itself out and/or need serious, even innovative means to change it, without oversimplifying a nightmare that should NEVER be happening.

A few Extended Interviews clips and some Deleted Scenes are the extras.

Stefan Haupt's Sagrada: The Mystery Of Creation (2012) has plenty of churches and old architecture in it, specifically the title structure still in the making since its conception in the 19th Century (!) and dozens are interviewed to tell this story, why this is being made and will it ever get finished. It manages to cover everything you need to know about it in its 94 minutes, but it is not for everyone, for it will be long for the less interested.

Six short bonus clips are the extras.

And finally we have David Kennard's A Year In Champagne (2014), a really interesting look at the world capital of the making of the bubbly title drink, though it is still limited to the subject that you may or may not like. I am fine with it, but it is limited, though it tells us how hard it is to make this literally most celebrated of drinks.

That also makes the people, locales, techniques to produce and event he weather the stars of this piece. It also does a fine job of explaining origins, tradition, tiers of production and names involved (love the ads first used to make the drink a party drink) that makes this a solid record of the subject matter and it is recommended for (again) those interested.

Extras include text on the Director and Winemakers, plus two bonus clips.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 image on Mayhem should be the best performer here, but it has far more low def and analog video than expected, so the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on GunLand and Sagrada can compete, but the softer image on the rest of the DVDs (1.78 X 1 as well, save 1.33 X 1 in Dance) can be more trying.

As for sound, Mayhem may offer a lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 sound, but more than a chunk is analog, even monophonic audio from stock footage and stereo-at-best interviews, so surrounds only engage for music at best. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on GunLand and Sagrada and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Year can compete often. That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on Church and Dance on the weak side with volume and location audio issues, plus rough audio.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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