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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Politics > Profile > Presidency > Scandal > Watergate > Vietnam > Reality TV > Cab > National Geographic DVDs: Gerald R. Ford: A Test Of Character/The Great Human Race: Season One/The Greeks/Original Sin: Sex/Primal Survivor: Season 1/United States Of Animals: Season 1/The Yards: Seas

National Geographic DVDs: Gerald R. Ford: A Test Of Character/The Great Human Race: Season One/The Greeks/Original Sin: Sex/Primal Survivor: Season 1/United States Of Animals: Season 1/The Yards: Season 1 (2016 cycle/Fox DVDs)/True New York (2016 shorts compilation/First Run Features DVD)

Picture: C (York: C+) Sound: C+ Extras: D (York: C+) Main Programs: C+/C+/C+/B-/C+/B-/B-/C+

Here's a new set of documentary and docudrama releases, shorts and TV....

We start with the final round of National Geographic DVDs we've been looking at as part of a larger cycle of releases. I conclude looking at the following:

The series The Great Human Race: Season One, Primal Survivor: Season 1, United States Of Animals: Season 1 and The Yards: Season 1 are trying to be upscale reality TV series and they are not as contrived as their flashier, more obnoxious, commercial versions, but still fall into the same phony pitfalls. Animals is the least problematic, but it still rings false often and Yards gets a little melodramatic, but it is a rare look at blue collar workers.

Gerald R. Ford: A Test Of Character runs about an hour, plays like an old A&E Biography installment and covers the failed presidency of the man who succeeded, pardoned and apologize for Richard Nixon's transgressions against the nation while becoming a laughing stock, but this program tries (too hard?) to counter that and the people asked are sympathetic to conservative causes. The result is a mixed program hardly lasting an hour.

The Greeks deals with the amazing achievements of a people and civilization against many odds and runs a 3-episode/163 minutes length that often does justice to its subject, but can also drag a bit. Still, one of the better releases in this series.

Finally we have Original Sin: Sex examining taboos, shaming, oppression, breakthroughs and privacy issues throughout its 6-episode/265 minutes-long run. This has some goofy moments and sometimes does not focus on intimacies and important questions (that I will NOT get into here) that I thought it might, so expect more speculation than usual. Still, one of the better releases here, if not consistent and as involving as I had expected.

Finally overall we have the 2016 shorts collection True New York, with five slice-of-life shorts, as follows, extrapolated from the press release...

C-ROCK (Director: Jordan Roth) ''tells the story of a group of Bronx boys who leap off the 100-foot tall cliff known as "C-Rock" and into the Harlem River. A dangerous rite of passage going back generations in the Bronx, the film captures the rawness of youth while also revealing a wistful nostalgia for a changing neighborhood.''

Taxi Garage (Director: Joshua Z Weinstein) ''is a powerful and touching look inside a taxi depot in Queens filled with classic New York personalities and a melting pot of immigrants with big dreams of making it in America. The film focuses on Johnnie "Spider" Footman, a colorful octogenarian who has driven a taxi all his life and is New York's oldest taxi driver.''

One Track Mind (Director: Jeremy Workman) ''reveals the amazing story of Philip Coppola, who has devoted four decades to cataloging, archiving, and sketching every station in the New York City subway system.''

A Son's Sacrifice (Director: Yoni Brook) ''is a classic immigrant story and father/son tale. Imran is just another 27-year-old New Yorker struggling to take over his family's business, which happens to be a halal slaughterhouse in Queens. Imran must confront his mixed Bangladeshi-Puerto Rican heritage and gain acceptance from his father's conservative community.''

...and Black Cherokee (Directors: Sam Cullman & Benjamin Rosen) ''focuses on street performer Otis Houston Jr., a self-taught artist from Harlem who performs before a captive audience of car-bound commuters along Manhattan's FDR Drive.''

On the plus side, they all capture something important and special about the great city, but because of length limits, possibly budget limits and just trying to tell the honest basic stories well, none really exceed their limits, though some had potential for more. Still, these are not as contrived as the Geographic offerings which need to be tidier and/or more compressed because of the money and more commercial needs they fill. These still impress in their own way and are all worth a good look.

All 8 DVD releases feature anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations, but the Geographic DVDs offer more aliasing errors, video noise, video banding, telecine flicker of film sources where applicable, tape scratching, cross color, faded color, digititis and staircasing than expected and it makes them a bit difficult to watch at times. York is a little soft in all 5 short presentations, but they are better and cleaner in playback, making them the visual winners.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Geographic DVDs and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on York are a draw since the surrounds are never great on the former series, sometimes pushing it a bit, while the York shorts sound fine, though all have location audio issues.

The Geographic DVDs have no extras, but York adds Director Interviews. For more Geographic DVDs from this cycle, try these links...

Animal Storm Squad/Southern Justice: Season 3/Map Of Hell


Port Protection: Season 2


- Nicholas Sheffo


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