(2019/Bullfrog/*both Icarus DVD)/For
(1989/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/A
Life Among Whales
(2005/IndiePix DVD)/Who We
Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America
(2021/Sony Blu-ray)/Why Is
Ultra HD Picture: A- (1.33 X 1)/B+ (1.85 X 1) Picture:
C/C/B/C/B-/C+ Sound: C+/C/B/C+/B-/C+ Extras: D/C/B/C/C-/B-
Main Programs: B/B/B+/B-/B+/B
up are a very powerful set of documentaries, from space to civil
rights, close together than you think when you think of going from a
bad past to a hopeful future (right Questlove?)...
start with a timely new release, Ilan Ziv's Antisemitism
(2020) arriving as new waves of hate engage our public discourse,
especially since 2016. Though we have covered hundreds of such
documentaries on the subject pointing out the hate and disgustingness
of it all, we have politicians, groups and others with money and
hideous motivations actually fighting to increase such activity and
that is why it has all skyrocketed to epidemic proportions in the
last six years.
program deals with the part of the movement that grew out of France
and is extremely thorough, well-documented and very successful in the
two hours it has and uses it very, very well. Just when you think
you have heard it all, we see new lows and learn of new outrages, too
many of which sadly stick. No, this is not something from the past
that is going away, but something alive and well, with people getting
assaulted and killed literally every day worldwide, so Ziv picks up
where so many remarkable, important releases from the past left off.
are no extras.
Becker's Divided Brain
(2019) presents the work of Dr. Iain McGilchrist and his theories of
how the brain is divided into two halves and when one dominates the
other, it endangers he world. Much of this is sound, but how much is
valid is another story, though I think he misses some important
points and many fo the theories remain unproven. Nevertheless, there
are some great moments, interviews and remarkable, even painful
moments as we meet people with brain injuries and the hell they have
to go through.
squeezes in a ton of ideas and data into its 78 minutes, but uses its
time as well as any release here and gets you to think about the
world you live in, how you think about it and how you perceive it. A
pleasant surprise, I recommend you see this one at least once. The
argument is the left side of your brain handles figures and
quantitative data, while the right side is the more creative and
deals with more abstract concepts, without oversimplifying. The
vintage footage is a plus too.
two-part interview featurette with McGilchrist are the only extras.
Reinert's For All Mankind
(1989) is one of the great films about science, history, space
travel, The United States, the moon landing, technology and one of
the greatest of all human triumphs. A very thorough record of the
events, done in exciting, innovative and groundbreaking ways, another
way you can see how well this was made and how well it holds up is to
compare it to all the dramatic feature films, documentaries, TV
programs and TV mini-series on the subject since. Sure, there have
been some good ones, some real good ones, but this one just has such
a great energy, pace and consistency that once you start watching,
you cannot stop.
it should be no surprise that it is one of the first documentaries
ever issued in the 4K format and that is it from Criterion just
speaks volumes about how great it is. Running a rich, tight, often
stunning 80 minutes, it is like being there, using some priceless
archival footage (a slow-but-special optical printer had to be made
to copy the original 16mm films, because they are NASA and U.S.
Government property, which means they can NEVER be allowed to leave
NASA!) that serves as a permanent record of the accomplishments here.
of just doing a boring job of chronological placement and telling a
linear story, which is some of what we get, the editing and pace just
build it all up to be more and more interesting, offers some suspense
and recreates the impact of all that happens. That is not easy to
do, but Director Reinert (who is sadly no longer with us) pulls it
off and that is why it has the great reputation it has and it just
gets new fans every time it is screened or gets a new home video
release like this great set. If you have seen it before you know and
if not, you have to consider this a BIG MUST SEE for a serious film
to those who still want to try and say the moon landing was fake, if
this film is not enough to show you otherwise somehow, there is
another easy way for you to know instantly. If it was, the Soviet
Union would have secured proof, shown it to the world and used it to
their best advantage to win The Cold War and further ruin the U.S.,
NATO and The West as much as possible. We see how that is playing
out as we post this review with the current nightmare going on in
include another high quality booklet from Criterion with tech info,
illustrations, stills and (per the press release) essays
by film critic Terrence Rafferty and Reinert, while
the discs add a feature length audio commentary featuring director Al
Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan, the last person to
set foot on the moon, An
Accidental Gift: The Making of ''For
a documentary featuring interviews with Reinert, Apollo 12 and Skylab
astronaut Alan Bean, and NASA archive specialists, Selection of
excerpted interviews with fifteen of the Apollo astronauts, Program
about Bean's artwork, accompanied by a gallery of his paintings, NASA
audio highlights and liftoff footage and Optional on-screen
identification of astronauts and mission-control specialists.
Life Among Whales
(2005) is a reissue of a well-done, hour-long program about the
greatness of whales, how endangered they are and how they need help.
It also shows us ignorant ways they are exploited, killed and how not
only certain powers do not care, but seem (especially since 2005) are
out to accelerate their killing out of spite for people who care, for
political reasons and because some persons with power allow it to go
to their heads. It is inexcusable, pure madness.
value of this program is to show people have cared for a long time
and knew they awful situation, a record more powerful than ever to
show testimony in support of them. Of course, the love and concern
goes back for decades, but this is still key in the history of such
things and it deserved a new reissue.
Song, Director's Intro and an Original Trailer are the extras.
and Sarah Kunstler's Who
We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America
(2021) is the kind of remarkable new release that has become lost in
the shuffle of streaming, COVID and often forgettable blockbusters,
not to mention the fact that what it discusses might make people
uncomfortable. It should not necessarily though, because it is
actually a remarkable long-form thesis by a smart, thorough, detailed
civil rights lawyer named Jeffrey Robinson.
being autobiographical in his own experiences, he points out the
dozens and dozens of instances that shows the country was built on
slave labor and near-genocidal violence against persons of color, but
especially African-Americans. That slavery was in the North too,
that any progress was followed by a severe, thoroughly organized
rollback of that progress (and not just Reagan after the Civil Rights
Movement or Trump after Obama's successes) resulting in a priceless,
landmark work that uncovers injustices that STILL need to be
addressed and truths few know that need to be a permanent part of any
discourse or discussions of the subject.
of all, this is not shallow propaganda, an 'I told you so' piece, a
corny 'woke' piece or a condescending lecture piece by any means.
Instead, Robinson lays it out like a combination of thorough history
and a court case, excelling in excellence in both and never vilifying
anyone, but instead asking if we can stop the combination of lies,
hate and violence that have only become worse (especially since 2016
to this writer.)
it is also the portrait of a really good man that has so much more to
say, cares about people, his country and the future in ways we need
many more grown adults to do so. No, I and you will not agree 100%
with everything he says or points out, but I thought he was more on
the money here than most such programs I have ever seen and even
reviewed. There is a much larger audience for this great documentary
than it has received, so I hope its Blu-ray release and more bookings
and home video showing will allow audiences of all kinds to finally
catch up with it because it is as significant as everything we've
seen from every political filmmaker from Spike Lee to Oliver Stone to
Michael Moore and beyond.
We Are lives up to its
name and is not only for adults who are actually grown up and the
many who are overdue to do so. I cannot strongly recommend it
trailer for this and several other strong documentaries from Sony are
but not least, Udi Aloni & Ayana Morris' Why
Is We Americans? (2020)
bringing us back to Newark, New Jersey, this time to deal with its
rich, key civil rights history and not just an election as we saw in
(2005, reviewed elsewhere on this site) when Cory Booker ran for
mayor, only to be undermined by the later convicted Mayor Sharpe
James in a 2002 election for that office. The now U.S. Senator is
among those interviewed.
the late 1960s to date, the program (co-produced by singing legend
Lauryn Hill, who is form there and offers outstanding insight on many
things) runs 102 minutes and showcases a remarkably resilient African
America community that has made great sacrifices and dared to speak
truth to power. It is one of the U.S.'s great untold stories,
thoroughly discussed and shown here in sometimes very explicit terms.
There are sad things, shocking things and also amazing, hard won
victories that are permanent and a foundation for what we would hope
is a better tomorrow, but we'll see.
and Who We Are,
we'll look back at this and use it as a marker of progress and truth.
Definitely give it a good look.
include a Deleted Scene with Danny Glover, the Original Theatrical
Trailer, post-theatrical film discussion with Slavoj Zizek and
premiers in L.A. And NYC.
for playback performance. Documentaries by their very nature can
have rough spots, but this group is better than average. In the case
of For All Mankind, a title Criterion issued back in the old
12-inch analog LaserDisc days, the 2160p HECV/H.265, Dolby Vision HDR
(10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image has two
versions on the 4K disc: a widescreen 1.85 X 1 version that looks
good, but loses too much of the image and shows some flaws that are
distracting and the 1.33 X 1 original full frame version that looks
better, has better color consistency and just really delivers the
most. Its the way the film was made and original footage shot (on
Ansco and Kodak color film,) so the 1.85 version is a compromise,
which happens to be the only frame on the 1080p regular Blu-ray.
Both offer a really impressive, often immersive
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that blends the original
audio, a great music score and melds them nicely in a smartly mixed
and mastered soundtrack.
rest of the releases can offer anything from new digital and HD video
to old photochemical film footage, but also all have older analog
videotape and flaws that can include video noise, video banding,
telecine flicker, tape scratching, staircasing, cross color, faded
color and tape damage. They have bene fixed up where applicable.
1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on
manages to be the second-best looking release here and not just
because it is the only other Blu-ray on the list, but because
Robinson and company shot footage all over the country where they
travelled and all is well shot and composed. The DTS-HD MA (Master
Audio) 5.1 lossless mix can be speech-based, but is still
surprisingly well recorded, mixed and mastered, so that adds to the
impact of this amazing program.
DVDs are all basically anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image
presentations with their 1.33 X 1 moments (Whales is all 1.33
X 1), but can be on the soft side, save Americans, which just
manages to look a little more consistent and miraculously has more
surviving 16mm film footage of its events than expected. As for
audio, Whales has PCM 2.0 Stereo and the rest of the DVDs
offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, with the results as good
as can be expected except Brain, which can be a little weaker
than I would have liked. Just be careful of volume switching and
high playback levels on that one in particular, but its fine