Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Politics > Profile > Architecture > Comedy > Publishing > Counterculture > Filmm > Amateur Night At City Hall: The Story Of Frank L. Rizzo (1977/Mugge/MVD Visual DVD)/Art House (2015/First Run DVD)/Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015/Magnolia Blu-ray

Amateur Night At City Hall: The Story Of Frank L. Rizzo (1977/Mugge/MVD Visual DVD)/Art House (2015/First Run DVD)/Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Elstree 1976 (2016/MVD Visual DVD)/Making Rounds (2015/First Run DVD)/Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (2015/Magnolia DVD)

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

Here's a really strong set of new documentary releases....

Robert Mugge's Amateur Night At City Hall: The Story Of Frank L. Rizzo (1977) is another gem from the Mugge catalog as he goes to Philadelphia where semi-inexperienced, beloved by many, loathed by some and highly unusual Frank L. Rizzo becomes Police Commissioner and then Mayor of the 4th largest U.S. city and one of the greatest worldwide. This great mix of interviews (including Andrea Mitchell early in her career handling herself very well) deals with racism, sexism and the reactionary wave happening against the later years of the counterculture in constantly revealing footage more than worth revisiting.

More raw than what you usually could or would see on TV at the time, this is so long overdue for rediscovery that arriving as the 2016 Presidential campaign becomes a fiasco is only a plus for this fine work. Needless to say the late mayor had issues, but at least he was consistent and it is interesting the kinds of support he actually got. Now, he also looks unwittingly like a test case for the Reagan Era.

There are sadly no extras.

Don Freeman's Art House (2015) may have been the work I liked least here, but that is because 87 minutes is not long enough to cover all the architects thoroughly enough the program features, so you get a good crash course of their work through the years, but maybe it is biting off a bit more than in chew. However, this First Run DVD release is showing off the very homes of all these creative people. I just thought more exposition and analysis was needed. The structures are always interesting, even if you might like some more than others.

Text artist & filmmaker bios, plus a Photo Gallery are the only extras, but if ever a release needed more like a featurette or two or an audio commentary track, this would have been the release to do it on. Interesting just the same, though.

Douglas Tirola's Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon tells the tale of the rise, rise, rise, eventual political targeting and fall of the bold, daring, innovative and often hilarious print magazine that is now an overused commercial property on some really bad comedy movies that usually (thankfully) go straight to video. It did not start that way and this solid documentary traces the roots and forerunners of the magazine, its brand of comedy, how the magazine became a huge success and how this eventually led to success in all kinds of other media.

It is also a tale of excess, mismanagement, a little betrayal, the counterculture at its best and a group of rising comedians who became legends. NBC asked the magazine if they wanted to do a late night TV comedy skit show, to which they said no. Not having signed any of the talent they were working with on other projects to their magazine and related projects, that flight of talent landed up becoming the original seasons of Saturday Night Live!

That is among the many great stories we get in the loaded 95 minutes that could have gone on longer (as the extras show) and results in a long-overdue chronicle of one of the greatest moments of comedy ever. See it!!!

Extras include Additional Interview Footage, John Goodman Reads Doug Kenney, Thoughts on Animal House, Drugs in the Office, the story of Jaws 3 People 0, Working in NYC, Thoughts on ''SNL'', Favorite National Lampoon Pieces, Reading John Hughes - Beverly D'Angelo, Kevin Bacon, Stephen Furst, Anthony Michael Hall & Chevy Chase, Artists in National Lampoon and Chevy Chase Pot Seeds Story.

If you love films, especially those made in the U.K., you know how great the Elstree Studios are and a place where so many classic were made. Jon Spira's Elstree 1976 (2016) focuses on one particular production and the mostly-unknown people who made the film... George Lucas' original, only, 1977 Star Wars.

This starts with a montage of action figures as off-camera, we hear each person talk about how they were immortalized. Then we start seeing them talk on camera, more and more is slowly revealed and we get rare insight into the film, the industry that made it, the time and how something so simple becomes something so special. With no extras and only so much time, there are stories we do not hear, parts of Bullock's other work (like being in a few James Bond films) we don;t hear about and questions that do not get asked, but this is very well done and you will be very entertained if you check this one out, guaranteed.

There are very sadly no extras.

Muffie Meyer's Making Rounds (2015) is another big surprise in an era where healthcare for all being rolled back since the 1980s (thanks in part to HMOs) of doctors who have the vital, priceless approach of actually 'talking to their patients' instead of just basing what they do on educated formulas, resulting in much healthier people taken care of at much lower expenses financially and personally. Leading the charge against misdiagnosis are Dr. Herschel Sklaroff and Dr. Valetin Fuster, leading cardiologists at Mount Sinai Hospital. The never-long-enough 88 minutes is a testimony to the talents of real medical professionals and now more than ever, this should be required viewing for just about everyone. Amazing!

A trailer gallery is the only extra, but this deserves more too.

Alex Gibney's Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (2015) has the exceptional documentary filmmaker tacking the life, career and fandom around a technical innovator whose career saw some of the greatest ups and downs ever. Lost too soon to a cancer he tried erroneously to get rid of with lesser-proven methods, we start with his sad death, the fans of his products holding eulogies internationally and Gibney asking why so much loyalty to a man they hardly knew?

He then slowly reels out that he was not a man always on the up and up financially, as well as not always treating people around him well, as if he was a loner at war with the world. Should such a man be respected, revered, loved or remembered? Yes is my answer because he stuck to making products that would have been generic, stale and impersonal easy to connect with way even his richest and most talented rivals, frienemies, enemies and friends could not. He did care enough to think these things through and that helped his customer connect to things in a more human way if his ways seemed the opposite of that a little more often than one might like to think.

Gibney never answers his questions to rightly make the audience/viewer think, along with the always key point of asking if people with so much money and power have inarguable responsibilities to people, the environment and the world around them. Ironically, though Gibney may disagree, Jobs did have that responsibility where it counted to his customers, not treating them just as disposable consumers in a way that has been especially prominent since the early 1980s.

Sure, he had problems and that's fine, plus I am not being an apologist, but Gibney rightly adds if he accomplished all this with his landmark work, imagine if he could have paralleled this more in his personal and other business life. Definitely catch this one.

Extras include an on-camera interview with Director Gibney, an Original Theatrical Trailer and Deleted Scenes.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Lampoon can show the age of the older materials used as expected, but even with those limits (older analog videotape flaws include video noise, video banding, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage), it is easily the best playback performer on the list as expected. City is here in a 1.33 X 1 transfer in the middle of a 16 X 9 frame and is anamorphically enhanced, off of the 16mm footage as originally shot (likely on Kodak film) and looks pretty good, enough to compete with the newer anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the rest of the DVDs. Too bad House is a bit weaker than the rest and the visual dud on the list.

As for sound, Lampoon wins again with a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, even when so much of the older audio is monophonic. Background music is also decent. The DVDs are all on par with each other, sharing second place including lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on City, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Jobs and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the rest of the releases.

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com