DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Our America (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    Our America

    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 2002

    Rated: R

    Length: 8895 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo (2.0)

    English Subtitles, Closed Captioned

    Special Features:None

    No SRP. Approx $20 US

    Release Date: April 13, 2004

    Our America tells the true story of two black inner-city Chicago teenagers, Lloyd Newman (Brandon Hammond) and LeAlan Jones (Roderick Pannell), who won an audition for National Public Radio to make a documentary of their lives in the Ida B. Wells housing development. The two carry tape recorders around with them and relay their real life experiences of daily life among drug dealers, gangs and drive-by shootings, raising the ire of some of those around them.

    Their documentary airs on NPR and wins them and their white producer, Dave Isay (Josh Charles) a prestigious award. The youth’s high school principle and a prominent black radio personality criticize the boys, the producer and NPR for portraying the community in a bad light. They also accuse the producer of taking advantage of the boys and pressuring them to sensationalize the story of their lives.

    Then, a five-year-old child is thrown from a high-rise. Local and national media don’t seem to get the story right, so the boys choose to do another documentary about the case, in a way that media from outside the neighborhood was unable to do.

    This is an engrossing film about a challenging subject that shows courage and perseverance in the characters of Lloyd and LeAlan while powerful forces in the community speak out against them.

    This is a made for cable film with high production values, based on the book “Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago” by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, with David Isay. The film is rated R.

    The Look
    Our America is a full-screen presentation, it’s original aspect ratio. The quality of this video is impressive. The image is tack sharp, with no evident edge enhancement. Colors are beautifully saturated and accurately rendered during the majority of the film. For stylistic reasons, parts of the film are shown in limited color palettes or in black and white. The image has excellent contrast and black levels, with excellent shadow detail. There is no evidence of compression artifacts, or of dust or scratches on the print. Grain is present in some black and white scenes, as a stylistic choice. Only a few instances of mild grain are visible in darker color scenes. This is really about as good as non-anamorphic content can get.

    The Sound
    There is only one choice of soundtracks - an English Dolby Digital Stereo track. In Pro-Logic mode, dialog is firmly planted in the center channel, with decent spatial cues from the front mains and the rear channels. There is nothing truly outstanding here, but for a 2.0 track, I have no complaints. Bass is powerful enough. Frequency response is excellent. Vocal characteristics are full sounding and accurate. It’s a perfectly acceptable 2.0 track.

    Special Features
    There are no special features. This is a bare-bones release.

    Final Thoughts
    This is an impressive made-for-cable release: a powerful and engaging story backed up by commanding and believable performances all around. The video quality is outstanding, and the 2.0 soundtrack is acceptable.

  2. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Dec 15, 2001
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    I caught most of this on HBO in Taiwan, and it's a shame no one has commented in this thread until now. I'll be picking this up soon. Thanks for the review, Scott!

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