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REVIEW:

BLU-RAY ROUND-UP


June 2013


By Daniel Lammin, 3rd July 2013
review, Blu-ray round-up, Blu-ray, round-up, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, home entertainment, DVD, Blu-ray
SWITCH logoReview. 

BLU-RAY ROUND-UP

|

JUNE 2013

HOME ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW
Daniel Lammin
By Daniel Lammin, 3rd July 2013
This month, many of the big players in this year's Academy Awards arrive on Blu-ray, some gems that were criminally overlooked and a bunch of guilty pleasures you might have missed along the way.

THE IMPOSSIBLE
Released 30th May 2013

Hidden amongst the big players of the Oscar season early in the year was this vicious, devastating film, one that came completely out of nowhere and, for the audiences who happened upon it, left them bruised and battered. ‘The Impossible’, essentially a Spanish production, bravely tackles one of the greatest natural disasters of our time, the Boxing Day Tsunami - an event so vast and biblical, it’s hard to imagine a film being able to contain it. Where the film succeeds, however, is in its decision to focus solely on the true story of one family, tourists through whom we can witness the devastation and destruction. Performances across the cast are uniformally brilliant, especially the Oscar-nominated turn from Naomi Watts as the mother of the family, and Tom Holland as the oldest son, both giving physically and emotionally powerful performances. Following on from his astounding debut ‘The Orphanage’ (2007), Spanish director J.A. Bayona proves himself to be a formidable and uncompromising filmmaker, unafraid to push the audience into upsetting but wholly necessary directions. This is an independent production, without the resources of a major Hollywood studio, but what Bayona and his team achieve is quite remarkable, their crowing achievement the horrifying recreation of the tsunami itself. It might end up being the most terrifying moment on film this year, and the incredible visuals combined with the shattering sound design make it a wholly sensory experience. At its heart, ‘The Impossible’ is a struggle against impossible odds, survival where one has little hope of any, and humanity in the face of disaster. In lesser hands, this could have been emotional manipulation. In the care of these artists, it is far more shattering, uncompromising and unforgettable.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
Being an independent production, ‘The Impossible’ doesn’t have the spit and polish of a studio production. However, even if the 1080p 2.35:1 transfer betrays the film’s modest special effects budget, it still beautifully recreates cinematographer Oscar Faura’s excellent photography, the calming greens and blues being swept into a marsh of brown rot. This is a handsome film, and looks so on Blu-ray. Vitally, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track pulls out all the stops. So much of Bayona’s work relies on the sonic recreation of the disaster, and the track captures the overwhelming audio experience that left the audience gasping for breath in the cinemas.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Unfortunately, there isn’t much on offer in terms of supplemental material. Apart from two minor featurettes covering the cast and the tsunami effects, there are deleted scenes and an excellent commentary from Bayona, the screenwriter, the producer, and Maria Belon, on whom the film is based. It’s a pity, as this would have been a great film for a full-length documentary.

ATLANTIS: TWO-MOVIE COLLECTION
Released 5th June 2013

You’d be forgiven for forgetting this entry in the Disney canon. A significant departure for the studio, away from musicals and fairy tales, ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire’ was a product of those exciting days at the turn of the new century when new technology began to suggest diverse storytelling directions. In this particular case, we find wannabe explorer Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) heading deep into the ocean in search of the lost city of Atlantis, along with a rag-tag team of experts and explorers. Not only was it a narrative departure, but a stylistic one, doing away with storybook clarity and pursuing the look of graphic novels and comics - in particular the work of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. The results didn’t set the box office on fire, but that doesn’t suggest the film should be forgotten. It might miss some of the expected Disney magic, but it's still a thoroughly entertaining romp, and there’s certainly nothing else like it in the House of Mouse.

The Blu-ray also includes the direct-to-video sequel, for which the less said is the better.

PICTURE & SOUND
One of the few anamorphic Disney films, the 1080p 2.35:1 transfer is an impressive presentation of the film, showing off the excellent detail in Mignola’s design. The clarity may be a bit too much in this case, and some film grain could have dulled the sharp lines that dominate the design. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is excellent, especially once the journey begins; a bombastic soundtrack with far more explosions and bangs than you’d ever think to hear in a Disney film. Disney have done well thus far with their classic animated titles, and here they haven’t dropped the ball.

SPECIAL FEATURES
‘Atlantis’ was released on DVD in a time where two-disc special editions were the norm, and while not all of the material have translated over to Blu-ray, the two most notable have, that being an excellent (though sadly truncated) making-of documentary and director's commentary. A lot of thought was put into this film and its mythology, and it’s great to see how the project developed over time. Also included are a number of deleted scenes, including a fascinating alternate opening.

PETER PAN
Released 5th June 2013
Disney continue their efforts of introducing their greatest films on Blu-ray with one of their most iconic classics. Half a century later, ‘Peter Pan’ has lost none of its charm and irreverence, demonstrating the best of the golden age of animation. It also looks gorgeous on Blu-ray, and Disney have given it a modest but informative collection of special features. There have been many ventures on film to Neverland, but where they have mostly fallen flat, this great film soars. This is a Disney Vault title, so grab it before it disappears for another decade.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Released 5th June 2013
Now that the dust has settled from the Oscars, David O. Russell’s acclaimed drama, a quirky romance between bipolar teacher Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) and neurotic widow Tiffany (Jennifer Laurence), appears to have lost some of its bite. Addressing the issues of mental illness with more respect and irreverence than any film has done in a long time, its initial emotional impact did much to cover up many of the film’s failings. These are mostly Russell’s, a director who seems to have gotten by working with incredible actors. His direction is mostly pedestrian with an occasional florish, the rhythm of the film strangely plodding and the screenplay often resorting to clichés it probably could have avoided. What does make ‘Silver Linings‘ a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable film, though, are its central performances. Lawrence is snappy, sexy and incredibly funny as Tiffany, and while many other actors could have done just as good a job, you find yourself glad it’s Lawrence doing it. Bradley Cooper, though, is the one who steals the film, giving a nuanced and intelligent performance that places him as one of the most exciting actors working today. There’s little doubt that ‘Silver Linings Playbook‘ is a great watch and an occasionally moving one, but it might not be the instant classic it was made out to be.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
‘Silver Linings’ is a drab-looking film, shot with punchy dynamism, and the 1080p 2.25:1 transfer gives the film a handsome presentation. A combination of sharp detail and excellent grain structure make for a lovely organic image. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is equally excellent, servicing the simple, standard sound design and placing focus on the performances. There’s nothing extraordinary about the film on Blu-ray, but this intimate drama isn’t the kind of film you use to show off your system.

SPECIAL FEATURES
There’s not much here, and what we have is a tad repetitive and self-aggrandising, but in the main making-of featurette, ‘The Movie That Became A Movement’, Russell and his team do discuss quite candidly their reasons for making the film and their personal experiences with mental illness. Regardless of the final result, it makes it clear how right their intentions were. We also get deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a few featurettes on the dance in the final act.

PHILADELPHIA
Released 6th June 2013
Following his Oscar-winning masterpiece ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991), director Jonathan Demme delivered a significant push in gay rights and AIDS activism in 1993 with ‘Philadelphia’, a shattering experience that placed as its centre Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), a gay man suing a major law firm for firing him when they discovered he has AIDS. His only ally is lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who defies his prejudices to take on a case that could make him famous. Almost Capra-esque in its execution, ‘Philadelphia’ is an impossibly moving film, driven by Demme’s grounded attention to detail and Ron Nyswaner’s uncompromising screenplay. Demme reunites the same team he had worked with on with ‘Lambs’, and that level of talent makes the film far more cinematic than it could have been in lesser hands. What makes the film truly soar, though, are its central performances. Washington is electric, hilarious and stirring as Miller, his journey to understanding the thrust of the film. The film belongs to Tom Hanks, though, who is absolutely revelatory as Beckett, arguably still his finest performance. This is a bodily performance, Hanks disappearing into Andy utterly. There are moments in ‘Philadelphia’ almost impossible to comprehend, completely overwhelming, and even after twenty years, it still feels just as important and vital.

PICTURE & SOUND
‘Philadelphia’ shows its age on Blu-ray, but it still looks better than it ever did on DVD. Detail is strong, cinematographer Tak Fujimoto’s autumnal pallette is beautifully preserved and grain structure is present and consistent. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track works in a similar fashion, placing dialogue clearly at the forefront, as well as showing off Howard Shore’s powerful score. This was never going to be a film that showed off what Blu-ray could do, but it’s the kind of film that benefits from what the format has to offer.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Surprisingly, the package on offer here trumps the U.S. release, though we don’t get their commentary from Demme and Nyswaner. What we have are a number of excellent making-of featurettes, including a new hour-long retrospecive ‘People Like Us’. It looks like it was perhaps made for DVD, but it includes extensive interviews with all the major players. There’s also the documentary ‘One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave’, a look at some of the real-life patients that assisted in making ‘Philadelphia’ as accurate as possible. Also included are vintage making-of material, deleted scenes, trailers and the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-winning ‘Streets of Philadelphia’. Overall, this is the kind of package all great classic films should include. Genuinely impressive.

PAPER GIANTS: THE MAGAZINE WARS
Released 12th June 2013
ABC found itself with a surprise hit with ‘Paper Giants’ back in 2011, a dramatic and excellent dramatisation of the creation of Cleo Magazine. Much like the 'Underbelly' series, they’ve chosen to turn Paper Giants into a franchise, but unlike the gangland epic, its second outing is far from disappointing. Wisely choosing to repeat the winning format of following the battle between two powerful figures in the magazine world - ‘Magazine Wars’ explores the rivalry between stalwart New Idea editor Dulcie Boling (Rachel Griffiths) and Woman’s Day editor Nene King (Mandy McElhinney). Both women, driven and powerful, flood the nation with their glossy tabloids in an era where Australians were buying more magazines than anywhere else in the world. However, much like the exploits of Ida Buttrose in the first film, these women lose just as much as they gain, and while it isn’t always enough to fill the three-hour running time, both women, and both performances (especially from McElhinney) are so thoroughly captivating. Rob Carlton also returns to his excellent performance as Kerry Packer. Australian television has always made some of the most interesting telemovies in the world, and ‘Magazine Wars’ is yet another example. It will be great to see where they take it next.

PICTURE & SOUND
Roadshow have only released ‘Magazine Wars’ on DVD, but the presentation is still a handsome one, the 1.85:1 standard definition showing off the excellent production design. The miniseries spans from the eighties to the nineties, and the team have done an excellent job recreating those eras. The colours look a treat on DVD, and while high definition would have brought out more detail, not much is lost here. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track isn’t anything special, but the central focus is on the dialogue, as it should be.

SPECIAL FEATURES
There are no features included with the film. A pity, but not too big a loss. 

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS
Released 12th June 2013
Just as preposterous as its title suggests, this might be the great guilty pleasure of the year. Reworking the titular fairy tale tots into adult ass-kicking investigators and eradicators of the dark arts of witchcraft in Medieval Germany, ‘Hansel & Gretel’ throws all logic to the wind and delivers blow-after-blow of bonkers set-pieces, lame one-liners, completely illogical weaponry and copious buckets of gore. What makes the film work against all reason is how very clearly it’s aware of the insanity of its concept, and totally embraces it, bolstered by charismatic performances from Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner. The textbook definition of "so bad it’s good", don’t be dissuaded by how silly this looks. It’s even sillier than that, and all the better for it.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

LINCOLN
Released 13th June 2013
Steven Spielberg waited a long time to make his biopic of beloved U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, and when it finally made it to the big screen, it proved itself a mighty film in many, many ways. In fact, it’s hard to pick the faults in ‘Lincoln’. It certainly has them, but the film as a whole is so well executed that picking them is made all the more difficult. By covering the final few weeks of Lincoln’s presidency instead of the whole sweep of the man’s life, it gives the film a precision and focus that keeps the historical and emotional content in check and comprehensible for an audience. Tony Kushner’s screenplay is sublime, balancing politics, social commentary, humour and humanity as only a writer of his calibre can. Production design and cinematography evoke the autumnal sorrow of the Civil War, while John Williams weaves traditional music of the time within his score. Daniel Day-Lewis may have won an Oscar for his superb performance, meek and subtle where others may have been grandiose, but the entire cast is terrific, with Spielberg assembling one of the best ensemble casts in ages. And of course, the remarkable filmmaker is at the top of his game, reminding us just how skilled a storyteller and commander of the medium he is.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
As expected, the presentation of ‘Lincoln’ on Blu-ray is perfect, something Spielberg no doubt made sure of. He has always demanded that his films look like films, even with high definition, and the 1080p 2.35:1 transfer maintains its cinematic textures, with just enough grain to give it life, but clarity and detail that really shows off the beautiful photography. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, while not thunderous, is still alive and electric, wisely placing dialogue at the forefront while maintaining the aural world of Washington and Virginia. I doubt the film could look any better in this format.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Thankfully all the features from the U.S. special edition have been brought over for our release, and while Spielberg never records commentaries for his films, they always come with more than ample making-of material, covering the full scope of the creation of the film. ‘Living With Lincoln’ is the most substantial of the featurettes, almost half an hour on the shooting process, and combined with others on the source material, the sound and post production and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance, provide a solid package. Both Spielberg and Day-Lewis are very present and generous in their anecdotes.

AMOUR
Released 19th June 2013
Thanks to its overwhelming critical acclaim, ‘Amour’ introduced general audiences to the work of Michael Haneke in a way none of his other films had done before. Rather than the tearjerking sentimental experience many would have expected, however, they were met by Haneke’s uncompromising brutality as he regarded the trials of growing old and being betrayed by your own body. We observe Georges (a superb Jean-Louis Trintignant), himself weighed down by the burden of age, care for his failing wife Anne (breathtaking Emmanuelle Riva), who is fast losing clarity and mobility. Haneke has made a career of dissecting violence, and ‘Amour’ is no exception, albeit in an unusual way. Sentimentality is avoided at all cost, cutting directly to the harsh truths about age and death many other films hide from behind melodrama. But while ‘Amour’ is a devastating film, it’s never a harrowing one, the matter-of-fact attitude from its characters and its execution denying it any overbearing sense of tragedy, not proclaiming that life is hard or easy or good or bad, but simply that life is what it is. Haneke is a filmmaker with many masterpieces already under his belt. ‘Amour’ is, without question, another one.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
We haven’t seen a Haneke on Blu-ray in Australia before, and ‘Amour’ proves how compatible the format is with his exceptional craft. The 1080p 1.85:1 transfer is razor-sharp, the detail crystal clear. The film is as much concerned with the environment around Georges and Anna, and having the film in high definition makes their apartment, predominantly the film’s only set, pop with detail. ‘Amour’ is also quite a dark film, but the transfer compensates for this, and detail is never lost. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is crisp and clean. Each element of Haneke’s films are calibrated perfectly by the filmmaker, and this track places emphasis exactly where needed. This is a perfect presentation, and hopefully we’ll see more of his work on Blu-ray in the future (‘The White Ribbon’, maybe?).

SPECIAL FEATURES
Transmission have put together a small but excellent package, particularly with the surprisingly candid ‘Love Scenes’, a half-hour making-of featuring interviews with the creative team, as well as raw footage of Haneke and the cast on set. It’s truly fascinating to see the man working, and Isabelle Huppert offers great insight into his philosophies and methods. There’s also an introduction to the film and an interview with Trintignant.

JURASSIC PARK 3D
Released 19th June 2013
There’s not much that needs to be said about ‘Jurassic Park’, other than it may be the perfect blockbuster. Even after two decades, the thrills haven’t lost their energy, the visual effects still possess genuine awe, and the concept, though now proven scientifically impossible, is still able to fire the imagination. It’s Spielberg’s ultimate theme park ride, bolstered by excellent performances, sharp writing and John Williams’ miraculous score. It’s also surprising, especially compared to modern blockbusters, how clear and precise the filmmaking is. In a way, Spielberg and his team make more of an effort to get out the film’s way rather than fill it with more action, more dynamism. There’s a timelessness to ‘Jurassic Park’, never more obvious than in its 3D conversion for its twentieth anniversary this year. The conversion, supervised by Spielberg for cinematic release, is one of the best presentations of the format we’ve seen yet, and has ensured that ‘Jurassic Park’ will be around for many more generations to come.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
‘Jurassic Park’ looked mighty on the big screen in 3D, but some of that power seems to have been lost in its conversion to 3D Blu-ray. It looks great, but not as great as it should. Universal have an odd habit of scrubbing away a lot of detail in their transfers in order to increase clarity and sharpness, and it looks like ‘Jurassic Park’ has suffered the same fate, with the 3D transfer losing a lot of detail - certainly compared to the 2011 2D Blu-ray release (also included with the 3D version), which, while also showing signs of digital scrubbing, comes out looking a bit stronger. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 track on the 3D disc is far from a disappointment, though, a slight revision of the 2011 track that packs a mighty wallop, as you would expect it to.

SPECIAL FEATURES
The only new feature here is a strong but short featurette on the 3D conversion included on the 3D disc. It’s pretty fascinating, but it could have been longer. The 2D disc features all of the material from the 2011 release, including vintage documentaries and an excellent three-part retrospective. It’s an exhaustive set, and features everything from the many releases of the film in the past.

FLIGHT
Released 19th June 2013
All the signs point to ‘Flight’ being a must-see, from its acclaimed director to its major star to its intriguing concept, which finds pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) facing his addiction demons after landing a commercial flight with a daring maneuver. Unfortunately, the one trick ‘Flight’ can’t seem to pull is getting off the ground itself, instead resulting in a bloated venture weighed down by unlikable characters and unnecessary subplots. The opening crash sequence is spectacular, and a credit to director Robert Zemeckis, but the remainder of the film never reaches the same heights. Considering all involved, this is quite a disappointment.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES
Released 26th June 2013
With the 'Twilight' Saga done and dusted, the race now begins to see who will fill its place. The most surprising contender so far has been this Southern Gothic effort - most surprising, not for its unusually high-calibre cast, but for the fact that it turns out to be an absolute blast. ‘Beautiful Creatures’ places witches, or "casters", as the supernatural force in its tale. Refreshingly, it also gives us a male protagonist, Ethan Wate (Aiden Ehrenreich), a bookish high schooler who dreams of a better life outside of the hick country town he lives in, only to find it in mysterious and beautiful newcomer Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Secretly, though, Lena is a caster, and as her sixteenth birthday approaches, so does her destiny, either in the light or in the dark. There’s nothing particularly original about ‘Beautiful Creatures’, but where it soars is in the fact that everyone involved is aware of the fact, and opt for something more camp and tongue-in-cheek rather than dull and serious. The chemistry between Ehrenreich and Englert is electrifying, and they're backed up by Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, chewing up every bit of scenery they can lay hands on. The dialogue is hammy, the filmmaking isn’t anything special, but ‘Beautiful Creatures’ is far more endearing, charming and funny that many of its competitors. That vampire series hasn’t so much found its successor as its superior. It’s a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
‘Beautiful Creatures’ isn’t a big production, and it shows on Blu-ray. The film probably looks the best it could with its 1080p 2.35:1 transfer, which is still great, but not exactly reference quality. Detail is nice and clear, and the gothic pallette looks great in high definition. Sometimes the film is just a tad too dark, but this seems to be more a fault of the film rather than the transfer. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track does a good job, especially in the more magically-charged sequences, but this isn’t an epic, and doesn’t try to be. Overall, the video and audio presentation does a good job, probably as good as the film could expect.

SPECIAL FEATURES
There are a few featurettes on offer here, covering the source novel, the cast and the supernatural effects in the film. Most of it feels like promotional material, and often repeats itself, but it’s worth a look, especially to hear the excellent cast discuss their reasons for choosing the project, an odd one for many of them. Rounding it off are a collection of deleted scenes.

THE PAPERBOY
Released 26th June 2013
Yet another film lost in the hysteria of the Oscars race, Lee Daniels’ ‘The Paperboy’ is a diamond in the rough, the kind of film where you feel you’ve stumbled upon a hidden treasure. Featuring a tremendous cast at the top of their game, and a director pushing his style and craft further than most would ever dare, this is glorious Southern melodramatic camp. Dripping with sweat, smeared in blood, floating in mud, ‘The Paperboy’ is a visceral, hilarious and chilling little tale, and one that will, hopefully, find its second life on Blu-ray.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

CLOUD ATLAS
Released 26th June 2013
When I reviewed ‘Cloud Atlas’ earlier in the year, I called it one of the finest films I’d ever seen - something that surprised myself more than anyone, considering the whipping it received during its U.S. release. A complex tapestry of multiple narratives, the highly ambitious collaboration between the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer works on the kind of sweeping cinematic canvas we just never see anymore. Thankfully, the critical reception in Australia was generally positive, as was audience response, which will, hopefully, generate a greater interest in the film on Blu-ray. It certainly isn’t for everyone, its big questions and swinging genre play potentially coming across as ill-conceived or trite. For those who connect, though, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is an intensely moving and breathtaking experience, attempting to encompass the scope of human relationships and connection across centuries and cultures. This remarkable team of artists have attempted something seemingly impossible, and while some will look at the film and cry folly, others will be swept up in it and be reminded of the possibilities of cinema. After multiple viewings, it’s still one of the finest films I’ve ever seen.

Click here to read our review of the theatrical release.

PICTURE & SOUND
‘Cloud Atlas’ is a visually dynamic film, and has received a deservedly excellent 1080p 2.35:1 transfer. There’s so much detail in the design of this film, right down to the fabrics in the costumes, and the clarity of the transfer makes this detail leap from the screen, along with the beautiful and ever-changing colour palette. The whole transfer is covered in a fine level of grain, preserving its gorgeous cinematic texture of the film. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is just as dynamic and alive, especially in the futuristic sequences, bolstered by a magnificent score. Overall, you couldn’t ask for better for this gorgeous film.

SPECIAL FEATURES
For a film this complex, not just in its content but in its execution, having only an hour of featurettes on offer isn’t really good enough, especially when what we have is of such high quality, and suggestive of much more material out there. In candid interviews, these ‘Focus Points’ cover the adaptation, touches on the shooting process and allows the team to discuss their intentions and dreams for the film. A most welcome participant is David Mitchell, author of the source novel, who doesn’t hide his love for the film. Great special features increase your appreciation of the film itself, and even with so little available, these for ‘Cloud Atlas’ certainly achieve that.

OLIVER STONE’S UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
Released 26th June 2013 Much of Oliver Stone’s illustrious and controversial filmmaking career has been spent correcting what he sees as historical inaccuracies, especially with the U.S. involvement in foreign affairs. As he explains in his introduction to this series, though, he reached a point where narrative filmmaking wasn’t big enough to serve his cause, instead turning to documentary television with his ‘Untold History of the United States’. It’s a bold undertaking, not just for Stone and co-writer Professor Peter Kuznick, a 10-part dissection of U.S. domestic and foreign policy from the end of the First World War to today. Being a mad history buff myself, I was intrigued by what Stone might have to say, and much of the material, presented with great skill and clever narrative intrigue, offers fascinating new perspectives on some of the most important events of our time. Suddenly, the Cold War isn’t as balanced a conflict as we thought, the Soviets not the power-hungry despots they appeared, and the U.S. not completely innocent in the collapse of powers in the Middle East. Stone acts both as director and narrator, and his dry tone actually gives the serious a strangely black sense humour. He also doesn’t shy away from disturbing content, much of the footage recently unearthed and often confronting. He also wisely skips over events his films have already covered, such as the JFK assassination or the Watergate scandal. It’s a demanding and exhausting ten hours, and the early material is infinitely more fascinating than the more recent and familiar, but Stone is a man of his word and offers an alternate U.S. history that has remained mostly untold.

PICTURE & SOUND
As with ‘Magazine Wars’, Roadshow have only released the series on DVD, but I can’t imagine much being gained with this series in high definition. The 1.85:1 transfer does its best, but most of the series is constructed from documentary material of varying quality, as one would expect. The same can be said of the Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which does its best with spotty material, though Stone’s narration and dramatic readings of historical texts sound great. The series is spread over four discs, three episodes on each of the first three, with the final episode on a disc of its own.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Nothing on offer here, but with ten hours of material as it is, I can’t imagine there being anything else to include.

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