• Forum
  • Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

    The Killing of America (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 4th, 2017

    “America is the only industrialized nation with a higher murder rate than countries at civil war.”

    2016 might technically be in the rearview mirror, but it feels like last year left an indelible mark on the psyche of the United States. In addition to the most polarizing presidential election in a very long time, last year was marked by the deadliest shooting in U.S. history about an hour away from where I’m currently sitting, along with other highly-publicized instances of gun violence. So it feels like an appropriate time to revisit The Killing of America, a 1981 documentary that was never granted a commercial U.S. release after being deemed too exploitative.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Wonders Of The Arctic (UHD Bluray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 20th, 2016

    Victor Garber appears to me a man of extremes, at least in his climate preferences. Of course, the actor was aboard James Cameron’s ill-fated Titanic when it struck an iceberg before Leonardo DiCaprio dies because he was too stupid to climb aboard a huge floating door. On television recently, Garber jumps to nuclear fire as one half of the superhero Firestorm in the DC television universe. For this release, actually filmed a few years ago he heads back to the ice, and not just any ice. This time Victor Garber narrates an IMAX documentary called Wonders Of The Arctic. Shout Factory has released the documentary as part of their impressive IMAX titles in 4K on UHD Blu-ray.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 16th, 2016

    Scuba diving is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to being on an alien world. Everything around you looks and feels totally different from what we see on land. Even our relationship to gravity changes. There’s nothing like it on this Earth. The ocean is a diverse place and quite resilient. The Last Reef makes this point rather dramatically in the opening minutes of the documentary. It begins with a newsreel that takes us to the nuclear explosion experiments that were conducted off the Bikini Islands in 1946. Yes, that’s where the swimsuit got its name. The Islands were making the newsreels because of the tests.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Humpback Whales (UHD Bluray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 3rd, 2016

    “Our planet holds a kind of parallel universe. A place of wonder where giants roam free. For thousands of years, we could only wonder about humpback whales. Now, by exploring their world, we’re getting surprising glimpses into their lives.”

    In 1986, Leonard Nimoy led Kirk, Spock and their mates back in time to collect a couple of humpback whales and bring them to the 23rd century where they are extinct. If the whales aren’t there to communicate with a deadly probe, Earth is in deep trouble.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Rocky Mountain Express (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 12th, 2016

    “They once roamed the earth by the tens of thousands. Their whistles spoke of distant places, of adventure and romance.”

    No, we’re not talking about dinosaurs or some other extinct animal. Of course, we’re talking about the steam-engine train. I’m old enough to have ridden them myself. I had a grandfather who realized in the early 1970’s that these steam trains were about to disappear. He made it a point to explain this to me and made sure I appreciated my rides from Reading, Pennsylvania (literally a train city) to Philadelphia, where my Mom was sure he was a bagman for the mob and was using me as a cover.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Shark Week: Jawsome Encounters

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 20th, 2016

    Pop quiz! Which of the following titles belong to Shark Week specials, and which of them are the names of SyFy original movies? Zombie Sharks, Sharkageddon, Monster Hammerhead, Lair of the Mega Shark, and Sharksanity. (I’ll give you a few seconds to mull it over…ok, ready to guess?) The answer, of course, is that *all* of those titles belong to Shark Week, Discovery Channel’s long-running, wildly popular, and increasingly ludicrous summertime ritual.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    IMAX: Journey To Space (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 6th, 2016

    “We began as wanderers, and are wanderers still. We have lingered enough on the shores of the Cosmic Ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars” – Carl Sagan

    The Shout Factory documentary Journey To Space is the kind of release that the 4K market was made to serve. Most of this material was filmed in 65mm or with digital cameras in as high as 10K resolution. It was made for screens that are up to three stories tall and still show off the wonders of the images presented. That makes it the perfect kind of item to put on a 4K disc. It was created to be seen with this kind of resolution and color clarity. The material isn’t completely original.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 21st, 2016

    Due to the explicit sexual nature of the following National Lampoon Radio Hour, it’s featured as adult entertainment and not recommended for children’s ears without parental supervision.”

    Even if you had no idea it originated as a magazine, the name “National Lampoon” instantly conjures images of raunchy, subversive, anti-establishment humor. That’s how strongly the iconic comedy brand managed to embed itself into pop culture. (In addition to the magazine, there were stage and radio shows along with at least two classic movies.) This dynamic, uproarious, and aptly-titled documentary does a very good job of illustrating how that happened.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Blood & Glory: The Civil War in Color (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 13th, 2016

    “We have known them only as shadows, gazing at us from a ghostly world of black and white. But now the American Civil War can at last be seen as those who lived and died experienced it…in vivid color.”

    It was the bloodiest conflict in American history. Maybe because Americans fought on both sides of the brutal conflict. It might have been because it was a deeply personal war, often between brothers. The cause was one that cut deeply in both the hearts and minds of the men fighting.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Noma: My Perfect Storm (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 30th, 2016

    It was as if all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place since what was being discussed here was a matter of creating something unique: a cuisine based exclusively on raw Nordic ingredients.”

    That pull quote, which appears at the start of Noma: My Perfect Storm, accidentally serves as a microcosm for the film as a whole. The excitement that builds at the prospect of witnessing something special quickly gives way to a chilly, undercooked experience.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 21st, 2016

    “How much of an a–hole do you have to be to be successful?”

    Over the last couple of years, a grand total of three movies — 2013’s Jobs, along with 2015’s Steve Jobs and now Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine — have applied that very question to Apple’s late co-founder. Each film has approached the issue from different angles, but this Alex Gibney documentary is easily the most comprehensive, even if it’s not the exactly the most entertaining or satisfying.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 2nd, 2016

    “His imperfections were unsettling. But Frank Sinatra was a genuine artist, and his work will endure as long as men and women can hear and ponder and feel. In the end, that’s all that really matters.” 

    He was The Beatles before The Beatles were The Beatles. His voice would make women swoon and men want to be him. He romanced some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history, and he sat at tables with kings, princesses and presidents. He was The Voice. The Chairman Of The Board. He was Old Blue Eyes. His name was Francis Albert Sinatra, but we all called him Frank.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Amy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 2nd, 2015

    I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad.”

    Amy Winehouse — the troubled English soul singer who died of alcohol poisoning at age 27 — says these sadly prophetic words early on in Amy. Hearing them almost five years after her 2011 death only adds to the powerfully haunting quality of this documentary. At its core, Amy is like every Behind the Music episode you’ve ever seen…except it is also a masterfully told story with thrillingly original flourishes.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 6th, 2015

    Argument is sugar, and the rest of us are flies.”

    By now, we’ve grown numb to the fact that there are simply too many TV channels to count. So it’s not surprising that many of them have to take increasingly extreme measures to get our attention. Unfortunately, that line of thinking has extended to television news, which began trending toward sensationalism — and away from reasonable discourse — a long time ago. However, the idea that noise and conflict attracted eyeballs wasn’t the status quo during the late 1960s, when viewers had only three channels to choose from. Best of Enemies tells the story of how two towering intellectuals (and one desperate network) helped alter the TV landscape forever.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Wolfpack (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 22nd, 2015

    “If I didn’t have movies, life would be pretty boring.”

    That statement obviously applies to those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time watching and thinking about movies. (If you’re reading this, chances are you visit this site with some regularity, so I feel good about including you in that group.) However, the notion that movies serve as a source of escape — in every sense of the word — is remarkably expressed in the captivating, stranger-than-fiction tale of the Angulo family. Unfortunately, it’s pretty apparent that The Wolfpack — a vague, shapeless documentary — doesn’t give us the full story.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Batkid Begins

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 8th, 2015

    At one point or another, every kid dreams of being a superhero. For me, those flights of fancy took place at age 6 or 7, when I’d put on my Batman pajamas — the ones with the detachable velcro cape — and leap off the staircase inside our home. (When I really wanted to give my mom agita, I’d jump off the third step from the bottom.) Miles Scott — a California boy whose evil nemesis is leukemia — got to live out his superhero fantasy on the grandest scale at age 5. Batkid Begins isn’t a great documentary by any means, but it’s a cheerful, good-hearted (if saccharine) look at the making of a dream.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 23rd, 2015

    If ever a show were more aptly named, it would have to be HBO’s The Jinx. It’s a documentary on Robert Durst, who had been charged with three murders and never convicted. The title comes from his own description of why he never had any children. He believed he would be a jinx to any child as a father. It turns out that this HBO series would be a jinx for Durst himself, because he couldn’t quite keep his mouth shut and ends up making potentially incriminating statements.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Seven Five

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 23rd, 2015

    “Did you consider yourself to be a New York City cop or a drug trafficker?”

    For the handful of police officers profiled in The Seven Five — a lively and incendiary documentary about a spectacularly corrupt Brooklyn precinct — the distinction between cop and crook was virtually nonexistent. (At best, it was negligible.) Their stories are told here in a breakneck pace that eventually becomes draining. But it’s only because director Tiller Russell was able to gain amazing access to the colorful characters who were actually there.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Disneynature: Monkey Kingdom (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 18th, 2015

    “The wilds of Sri Lanka, land of myth and legend where rocky pinnacles overlook cast tropical forests. And an abandoned city lies shrouded in the jungle. The kings who once reigned here are long gone. These days, there’s a new dynasty in residence. But this one is governed by the law of the jungle.”

    From such a majestic intro told against a backdrop of beautiful vistas we find our tranquility broken by an invasion of primates rushing across the landscape to the voice of Micky Dolenz singing the theme song to the 1960’s comedy classic The Monkees. Hey, Hey, it’s Disney Nature’s latest adventure into the life of a family of animals. Enter Monkey Kingdom.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    When the Checks Stop Coming In

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 20th, 2015

    In a relatively short amount of time, Moguldom Studios has built up a diverse stable of bite-size documentaries that focus on contemporary African American life. Some would say these independent “docutainment” films are limiting themselves to a niche audience, but I appreciate them for tackling well-worn topics from a different cultural perspective. When the Checks Stop Coming In is easily the best out of the recent trio of Moguldom offerings I’ve gotten a chance to review. The film understands that going broke is not a problem unique to the African American community, but is insightful enough to show some of the factors that uniquely affect that segment of the population.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Knifed Up: The Evolution of Cosmetic Surgery

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 20th, 2015

    In a relatively short amount of time, Moguldom Studios has built up a diverse stable of bite-size documentaries that focus on contemporary African American life. Some would say these independent “docutainment” films are limiting themselves to a niche audience, but I appreciate them for tackling well-worn topics from a different cultural perspective. Knifed Up is one of two largely superficial plastic surgery docs released by the production company this week. The film’s subtitle is The Evolution of Cosmetic Surgery, so it operates from the premise that women have gone from wanting to look like Barbie to wanting to look like Nicki Minaj or a Kardashian.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Bottoms Up: Rise of the Backside

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 20th, 2015

    In a relatively short amount of time, Moguldom Studios has built up a diverse stable of bite-size documentaries that focus on contemporary African American life. Some would say these independent “docutainment” films are limiting themselves to a niche audience, but I appreciate them for tackling well-worn topics from a different cultural perspective. Bottoms Up: Rise of the Backside is one of two largely superficial plastic surgery docs released by the production company this week. The cheeky (ha!) title was my first clue that this wouldn’t be a totally serious examination of the subject.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Shark Week: Dominating the Deep

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 19th, 2015

    Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week extravaganza is billed as “cable’s longest-running programming event.” The summertime ritual premiered in 1988, and its longevity is a testament to viewers’ enduring fascination with the majestic, sharp-toothed creatures. Of course, the flip side of that longevity is that coming up with new material each year is increasingly difficult. As a result, this new Dominating the Deep DVD set features some legitimately thrilling moments alongside a few too many episodes that rely on flimsy science, and myth-making sensationalism to entertain audiences.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 11th, 2015

    “Everybody in the world knows who Big Bird is.”

    This documentary exists because many fewer people know Caroll Spinney, the man who has inhabited the iconic Sesame Street character for 46 years and counting. (Spinney is also the man behind my personal favorite Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch, but working that into the movie’s title would’ve made it truly unwieldy.) The film takes us behind the feathers and works best as a loving tribute to a man who has entertained millions of children across the globe.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Ancient Aliens: Season 7 – Volume 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 22nd, 2015

    “Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings. What if it were true? Did ancient aliens really help to shape our history? And if so, what if there were clues left behind, something hiding in plain sight? What if we could find that evidence?”

    Ever since Eric von Daniken released his speculative book and its subsequent 1970 film Chariots of the Gods, there has been an entire field of study created around something commonly called Ancient Astronaut Theory, the idea is that extraterrestrials have visited many of our ancient civilizations.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)
    CSS Template by RamblingSoul | Tomodachi theme by Theme Lab