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You Don't Know Jack

Al Pacino , Brenda Vaccaro , Barry Levinson    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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4.0 out of 5 stars The hardest movie i've ever sat through March 12 2013
By Blee
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
the patient videoclips are the hardest thing to watch, they seem real and I'm assuming they are due to the nature of the film (I imagine patients' families agreeing to let them use the actual original videos to support the cause). don't get me wrong, it's extremely interesting - But you'll need a strong heart for this one.

Also, it's only 14A? How does it not have a stronger rating?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  89 reviews
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To admire the dust on the shoes of the condemned... April 28 2010
By Aco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Once upon a time this film would have been released in theatres and this lead performance and maybe even Brenda Vaccaro's would have been nominated for Academy Awards. That is how good this film is, award worthy, notable for it's stellar execution and story, a standout for this year. Al Pacino's Jack Kevorkian is not his best work in a decade, as some have speculated. It is his best work since Angels in America (from 2003), also an HBO produced and presented film. He is as commanding in that amazing series as in this. Pacino has always been physically gifted as an actor; adept at expressing his emotions with his back or his head, his hands or his walk. I think his reputation as actor has suffered in the last twenty years because he moved away from using his body (essential to the art of acting) and compensated with his voice. In this context, this film is a return to form: Donnie Brasco, Carlito's Way, Glengarry Glen Ross, Scent of a Woman, Dick Tracy, to name his best work since 1990.

You Don't Know Jack is an apt title for this film, because I was certainly aware of Jack Kevorkian growing up, knew he was an advocate and involved in euthanasia and that he went to prison, but I didn't know he was such an iconoclast; morbid, graphic and unapologetic painter, a musician, a bachelor and a civil disobedient. These characteristics add to his legend, and his stature as a doctor who seems to have taken his profession and life's work as something more than a path to prestige and wealth, which cannot be said of some doctors in truth and perhaps too many in reputation. The role of the physician in society is an aspect of the successful story told here.
The role of the politician and the collective social fears of death in our society are the other themes, and they too are well told.
Though Kevorkian is presented sympathetically, and his opponents are not; angry "Christians" in general and a politically vengeful D.A. specifically, it is ultimately his own folly that dooms him. This may speak to his bachelorhood, his unemployment at the outset of the film and his stubbornness at getting to the Supreme Court. But his ambitions are not clarified here, other than his humanism, which is made genuine in small moments as well as big.

I highly recommend this film. Al Pacino and Jack Kevorkian are in the center of it, and the other actors, particularly Vaccaro as his sister Margo, are excellent. Euthanasia is an issue brought to the forefront by Kevorkian, but his incarceration did not produce another advocate in his stead, and the issue has unfortunately fallen by the wayside. It is an important consideration, what power we have over ourselves when we are faced with imminent pain before our death. This film handles it incredibly well, and I hope it produces as much discussion and thought for you as it did for me.

Thanks.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased & Nonpolitical Film Review April 26 2010
By Compay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
As you already know, most people who watch this film have already formed an opinion about doctor-assisted suicide. So rather than discuss ethics, this review will simply be about the film itself.

What stands out most about this movie is the terrific performance by Al Pacino, which is easily his best in the last decade. Al slips effortlessly into character, and delivers a nuanced performance that honestly makes you forget you're watching a Pacino film. I was also impressed with the zeal that Danny Huston brought to his portrayal of Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's outspoken attorney.

I found the film to be revealing, but fairly unbiased in its portrayal of Kevorkian. While you're provided with an understanding of his motive by the film's conclusion, you're still presented with both sides of the debate. The movie also doesn't pull any punches with respect to revealing some of Kevorkian's eccentricities, or the self-deprecating "quack" jokes that take place. The film obviously calls for a little levity, and is punctuated by the occasional light joke. The cinematography and lighting was quality, and I enjoyed the peaceful score by Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos.

Overall, I think the film is worth watching for Pacino's performance alone. I don't think there's anything about the movie that would change someone's perspective, but for better or worse it sheds some light on Kevorkian's beliefs.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking Chances April 25 2010
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Director Barry Levinson ('Diner', 'The Natural', 'Good Morning, Vietnam', 'Rain Man', 'Avalon', Bugsy', etc) has obviously taken a chance with his latest film YOU DON'T KNOW JACK, a cinematic evaluation of the notorious and controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Detroit pathologist who upon retiring from his career felt compelled to create a manner for people suffering chronic disease, paralytic illness, chemotherapy failures, and those pleading to die with dignity to have a choice as to whether they by law must linger in misery or be given the opportunity to have a doctor assisted suicide. Whether or not viewers react positively or negatively to this film for HBO will probably be tainted with personal convictions about assisted suicide rather than whether the film is worthy or a diatribe. But that is the still ongoing dilemma of the topic raised by the elderly Armenian physician's choices or convictions and one that the film explores well.

As for the film itself, it is a tour de force of acting performances: Al Pacino transforms himself physically and technically to bring the personality of Jack Kevorkian to life. It is a role of so many fine nuances that demonstrates ho Pacino truly does inhabit the title of the film. This Kevorkian is shown to be a man driven to be an outspoken activists for human rights - especially the right to die. His sister Margo, played to perfection by Brenda Vacarro, is the lonely Jack's sole source of emotional support, while his old friend and hospital medic Neal Nicol (who technically assists Kevorkian) is made a three dimensional person by John Goodman. Another supporter is the Hemlock Society worker Janet Good, another fine role for Susan Sarandon, and Danny Huston (almost unrecognizable in a wig) is Jack's pro bono lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. The technique used by Kevorkian is to interview people who approach him pleading to end their lives (some have tried regular suicide attempts before), make a video of the patient and family requesting assisted suicide, be sure the family and patient are serious and ready and only then provide the service with a contraption loaded with sedative and KCL that is triggered by the patient. Many of the actual patients are reenacted by a cadre of fine actors in scenes of pleading that tug at the heart.

Kevorkian is placed on trial by the courts in Michigan and finally after 133 assisted suicides is sentenced to prison - but not until after frequent jailings accompanied by Kevorkian's hunger strikes have resulted in his being released due to the finesse of his lawyer. Though Kevorkian has a large number of people who feel he is a cruel serial killer, this film presents the more human side of a man motivated to provide an alternative to patients suffering the lingering agonies of medically approved slow deaths. There are several tender scenes in this film, but the one that is a triumph of writing and acting is a conversation between Sarandon and Pacino as to what happened in Jack's childhood that began the idea for his mission. If viewers can get past their personal issues with the subject, then they will be witness to a superb film and terrific acting that will likely lead to an Emmy for at least Pacino. Watch this and learn. Grady Harp, April 10
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If It's Good Enough for the Aristoi, It's Good Enough for the Hoi-poloi April 30 2010
By E. Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Unable to wait to review this latest HBO Films offering, just a few days ago I searched for the dvd to no avail. Here it is and I'm already umpteenth on the list to review.

This is a damned good film, just absolutely quality. One query I have: why isn't Hollyweird making these anymore?--good movies, I mean. What, is HBO Films taking over now that the sign's going?

Thank God for these favors. Al Pacino hits this performance out of the ballpark, and anyone paying attention will have noted Dr. Kevorkian saying when he first saw clips, he thought it was himself, not Pacino. THAT is good. That gives you an idea of the workings of this film. Though it is difficult to get to know a man like Dr. Kevorkian, Pacino makes us feel like we are in the room with him.

Admit it, who would pass that up?

This film, with its tense, up-close-and-personal shots, with its flashbacks and Pacino cleverly inserted into some (not all) of Dr. Kevorkian's "video consultations", this film is a slice of life and a piece of cake...something Hitchcock never could do. Not that it is Hitchcockian. Levinson knows better than trying to do that. There's no shortage of talent here...the other reviews spell out nicely all the great work by John Goodman, Brenda Vacarro, Danny Huston (I don't care for him at all but he's good here) and Susan Sarandon, one of my all-time favorites. The extras are mind-blowing. When was the last time you could say that about a movie?

The acting in this film reminds me of the best films of the 1940s and 1950s, many of those starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Pacino's Kevorkian keeps a plucky humor laced throughout even the saddest moments, as does Brenda V. as his sister Margot Janus.

As another reviewer said, this is the doctor I'd like at my side when that time comes for me. It hits us, especially with this film, that will never happen. I think one flaw in this film was not showing more of the outside world and the results of the good doctor's work.

For example, it is illegal to assist in a suicide. Also I was a bit saddened by some other salient facts that for legal reasons could not be depicted. This film is also missing a certain richness in Dr. Kevorkian's life: his incredible genius as an artist, a composer, inventor and lay expert on the U.S. Constitution...especially his love for the 9th Amendment. It is alsoa bit depressing to see that his backstory was avoided, such as his brilliance in pathology and his 7 published books. Innumerable scientific papers fall into the mix that is this man's genius.

He also bravely ran for Congress in his home state of Michigan in 2008. Incredible!

Well, Dr. Kevorkian himself has said, "Doctors are cowards." And so they are, and so we learn from this great film. I see lots of lists, all the films you should see before you die...well, this is THE film to see before you die. With Pacino literally mutating into Kevorkian (though he's too heavy on the Michigan accent), one can feel his presence and his contributions.

A few final words. I'm so tired of these great films not having chances at Oscars. I love that I can see them when they are made and released--I love that TV is improving thereby, no waiting or rescheduling. Even if it's only HBO. I love the fact I can get the dvd within a reasonable period (there's no force that will stop me adding this to my collection).

Finally, HBO has to get its share of the kudos. They have given us so much throughout the decades, but this past few years have been phenomenal. They have given us JOHN ADAMS, TEMPLE GRANDIN, and so many others I cannot list here because I can't recall them all (but I have reviewed most)--HBO really can be the best in cable. It's been there with us like a silent but devoted relative all these decades. Name a short list of your favorite films. I'll bet cash that an HBO Film will be one of them.

If HBO keeps up the fine work, there will be no need for Hollywood soon. And finally, keep your eyes peeled for HBO Films' 2010 documentary KEVORKIAN, about the good doctor's 2008 Congressional race. Well done and beautifully filmed.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEYOND 5 stars--a total triumph of both acting and righteous education May 18 2010
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This movie truly gripped me. It was not what I was expecting, when I picked up off the share table I was expecting Al Pacino as some kind of wired killer on the criminal side. I had no idea this movie dealt with assisted suicide when I chose it to view.

What I did not expect, what got me fully engaged for the total length of the movie, was the combination of world-class acting by Al Pacino, and the superbly told dramatized documentary of the intentions and accomplishments of Dr. Kovorkian aka "Dr. Death."

I was particularly impressed by the movie's depiction of how many people Kovorkian turned away (on the order of 98%), and of the clear depiction of the methodical, thoughtful, rational, humane manner in which the entire process developed on the medical side, while being corrupted on the legal side.

In my own view, this movie hits a trifecta--it displays superb acting, as good as any I've seen by Al Pacino, not as great a part for John Goodman as he had in Beyond the Sea with Kevin Spacey, but certainly well played. It also educates, and it entertains.

Easily a five, I move it into the beyond 5 category at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Network, where you can see all my reviews clustered in 96 categories including one, DVDs for smart people, that might be fun to browse for those drawn to this movie.
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