Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Straight Up & Peleliu 1944

Straight Up: Helicopters in Action

The joy of watching an IMAX documentary is to see something new from a beautiful perspective. Straight Up: Helicopters in Action was made for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. Throughout the 40 minutes director David Douglas shows a variety of ways helicopters are used in noble settings.

They can be used in rescue missions and used to help work on power lines. Some of the recreations fall towards the cheesy side, but the shots really captivate the audience. With these cameras, the wide look at the scenery really shows the spectacle. Watching the short documentary at home cannot match the gravitas of the IMAX screens but the transfer to Blu-Ray really helps highlight the impressive aspects of the filmmaking.

The rest of the movie suffers in comparison to the filmmaking. A lot of the narration is a bit clumsy even with the classy Martin Sheen behind the mic. There isn’t a lot of focus with the structure of the film. It tries to explain how the machine works and their history but it’s too short to really have an impact. All of the vignettes go by before anything has any lasting values.

The rest of the Blu-Ray has an assortment of features. There are two documentaries highlighting the two major parts of the movie. One is showing how some of the filmmaking was possible and the other shows more information about the jobs that use helicopters. Both of them are solid, but still nothing special. There is also a director’s commentary track by Douglas.

It’s silly to boil down a review to a simple statement of advice, but this is a film worth renting if the material sounds interesting but only then.

Film: 2.5 Yaps

Extras: 2.5 Yaps


Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific

There are two major reasons why people are interested in war battles. Some are interested in the strategy behind it. Why the troops moved in this direction and how a victory can be achieved shows the war from a very impersonal but intelligent perspective. The story that is more commonly told is the personal experience from the men who were on the ground.

The American Hero Film series created four documentaries four sets of soldiers from famous wars. This DVD, Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, covers one of the significant battles during World War II. They interview five soldiers who were part of the Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. These men are the ones who were characterized in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. This includes Eugene B. Sledge who was played by Joseph Mazzello.

The filmmakers of this series were very smart in letting the five men completely be in control of the documentary. There is only a limited about of voice over because these men are the true voice of the story. There is plenty of archival footage, which works well, but it’s surprising how much they just show the five men sitting in chairs telling their story.

The information they give is fascinating and personal. They try to explain the fear they were experiencing. This was a battle that 60 years ago for these men but they are able to recall an impressive amount of detail about their situation. The DVD is only an hour long, but it is just full of great information and heartbreaking moments. Hearing how “Dear John” letters almost always led to suicides is something that didn’t need any visuals because we can all picture the grim scenes ourselves. A recreation would just be tacky.

This is a DVD that is incredibly respectful and is worth tracking down, especially if you are a fan of WWII stories. I imagine the rest of the series is up to this level of quality.

Film: 4 Yaps

Extras: N/A


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