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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Is there a point to all this? Lets make a point."
If you consider yourself a fan of the late Bill Hicks then this is a must see documentary. Very well put together as you get a chronological order of the events that took place on his rise to stardom. Included some early life and behind the scene details of Hicks' trials and tribulations. I thought the beginning of the film was a little slow but things quickly picked up...
Published on April 10, 2011 by SJ

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63 of 85 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bill Hicks deserves a hell of a lot more than this
In the booklet included with the new Blu-ray "American: The Bill Hicks Story", Mary Hicks, Bill Hicks' mother, is quoted as saying "When he got sick, Bill wanted me to help him file all of his photographs, and he showed me Hendrix and Dylan documentaries. I said, 'Bill, why are you showing me all of this?' and he said 'In case someone comes mom, and they want to make one...
Published on June 16, 2011 by Marblehead Johnson


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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Is there a point to all this? Lets make a point.", April 10, 2011
If you consider yourself a fan of the late Bill Hicks then this is a must see documentary. Very well put together as you get a chronological order of the events that took place on his rise to stardom. Included some early life and behind the scene details of Hicks' trials and tribulations. I thought the beginning of the film was a little slow but things quickly picked up as Hick's career started to bloom. Production did a good job including many of Bill's early and late footage of his shows. Fan or not, I think no one will be disappointed watching this film. Its unfortunate that we do not have enough people like Bill Hicks to invoke thought as well as put a comical light on issues that may normally bring about negative feelings. R.I.P.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story of the best stand-up comic and truth-teller, living or dead, April 13, 2011
I saw it tonight on its second US release after NYC and before LA, in a small bar in Denton, Texas, surrounded by about 50 Bill Hicks fans, and if you get a chance to see it like that, do so. Next best, invite a few fans over to watch it, and rent it as Video on Demand.

It is an outstanding documentary, and it deserves to win all sorts of awards. And for true fans who think they have all the CDs and videos, you'll find enough new material to satisfy you as well.

Where are you now, Bill, when we need you so much? You're in this movie, and maybe you can still inspire people to stand up and be counted.
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63 of 85 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bill Hicks deserves a hell of a lot more than this, June 16, 2011
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In the booklet included with the new Blu-ray "American: The Bill Hicks Story", Mary Hicks, Bill Hicks' mother, is quoted as saying "When he got sick, Bill wanted me to help him file all of his photographs, and he showed me Hendrix and Dylan documentaries. I said, 'Bill, why are you showing me all of this?' and he said 'In case someone comes mom, and they want to make one about me.'" After watching this documentary on the late and brilliant comedian one has to wonder if the film makers would have been better off consulting Mrs. Hicks on the basics of telling compelling stories. As fascinating a subject as Hicks unquestionably is, this documentary proves to be an extremely disappointing dusting over of Hicks' career combined with an irritating level of gloss and flashy editing techniques which show a lack of respect for the subject in favor of displaying art school editing prowess.

The problem in reviewing a documentary such as "American" is many fans of Bill Hicks already know the back story of his life and career. There have been very good documentaries and books focused on this subject that do a fine job of divulging personal stories and anecdotes, and there are many bootleg videos and even commercially available dvd's that show Hicks in action on stage. "American" chooses to pick from these readily available sources to show the viewer the kind of comedian and voice he was. There are a few more rare performances shown, and those clips are definitely the highlight in this film, but for the most part one can't help but feel that old news is being rehashed constantly.

All of the interviews in "American" are with Hicks' family, friends, and fellow local comedians at the time, and while they are all very eager to tell stories about Bill, it's hard not to notice the complete and total lack of attention that is paid to some of the bigger names that respected Hicks. People like David Letterman, Jay Leno, and the New Yorker's John Lahr are ignored in this documentary, and if anyone had a significant impact on Hicks' career it would be these three. This total lack of recognition of the bigger names surrounding Hicks' story make the interviews with his family and friends that much more vacant. Not to say that his family and friends are not interesting, because they are, but when there is so much more history and voices being ignored it makes it hard to counteract other points of view that may not be so biased.

What leaves the biggest distaste in the mouth about "American" is the crow-barring of the editing and graphical style. The film makers obviously had a gimmick up their sleeves with how they wanted to show this story, and it takes so much away from the subject that by the end of the film you're left wondering if they film was about Bill Hicks or this new and wacky editing tool. All of Hicks' family photos are interspersed with cartoony and slick visuals that flat out annoy. During the entirety of the film the viewer will desperately wait for a moment that is just raw video footage instead of Hicks being portrayed as a cartoon figure reciting his comedy. More than that, though, you really have a palpable feeling that more time was spent in the editing and animating room than focusing on Hicks and his legacy. There is a ton to be said about Hicks by many different voices, and when you gloss over this fact with flashy animations all substance goes out the window. It's hard to imagine Hicks would be happy if this documentary ended up being the only film based on his life.

Bill Hicks is a precious subject. There is a reason why more and more people each year flock to his mind and words. He was an incredibly sensitive, hilarious, thought-provoking, and engaged person. This documentary does little to reflect that, sadly. It's hard to give a two-star review to a subject that is so brilliant, but any time more attention is brought to Hicks can only be a good thing. There are many other ways to discover Hicks and what he had to say, and this documentary should not be one that you consider. Start with his albums. "Dangerous" first, then "Relentless", followed by "Arizona Bay", and finally "Rant In E Minor". These albums are the only introduction you will ever need. As far as other documentaries about Hicks go, the Comedy Central produced "It's Just A Ride" is far more competent and telling than "American". It features interviews with both his friends and family as well as the more famous names that were there as Hicks rose to fame. I will also point out that the blu-ray edition features hours of extra content including interviews and performances which make this purchase a little more justifiable.

Understanding Hicks is sitting down and giving him your full and undivided attention. Part of the problem with "American" is that Hicks is reduced to soundbites and one-liners that were never Hicks' forte. When Hicks came on stage he told stories, weaving them together with other stories, coming back to them, referencing earlier jokes, and accosting his audience with declarations of love and concern. You cannot wrap up the Bill Hicks experience in a soundbite. Experiencing Hicks live meant that you had to ingest, absorb, and ruminate. Otherwise you just wouldn't get it. The quality of "American" is on par of a passing fan without much interest in the comedian; someone who may chuckle a bit at his stories but hold no interest in Hicks beyond a surface level curiosity, and ultimately not understand the bigger picture. While I can accept this probably isn't the case with the film makers here, they certainly don't convince to the contrary. Bill Hicks' message deserves much more than that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great dose of truth telling, August 12, 2013
I enjoyed this and have been wanting to watch for a while.

Hicks is one of those comedians that is a true mirror to our ridiculousness. He is someone that doses out tough love that we all need to hear and absorb. Plan on watching again.

And go buy his albums.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proud to be an American Bill Hicks fan!, December 3, 2010
By 
Gary Foessett (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Writing from Austin, Texas (Bill Hick's home base), I must say I am saddened and outraged that this release has not been made available here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is no surprise that this is a UK import - they appreciated him more over there then they ever did here. Jolly good! I doubt this will ever get a stateside NTSC release. If you have a way to play PAL DVDs, then this is manna from heaven for any Bill Hicks fan. Kudos to the film makers for this awesome tribute to Mr. William Melvin Hicks! The graphics are unique and the film is a true testament to the impact Bill Hicks has had and continues to have as his words ring truer everyday.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Culmination of a Bill Hicks Odyssey, June 25, 2011
By 
Magic Lemur (Somewhere in Madagascar) - See all my reviews
I approached this film half expecting a cash-in, as Bill Hicks' legacy seems to have become a lucrative commodity for some (e.g. 2003's Shock & Awe).

Happily, this is not the case & the film seems to be both a genuine and sincere homage to the man himself, but also a real attempt to bring something fresh & unseen to fan-boys (such as myself).

The plot is fairly simple - it starts off with his early years and ends with his death from cancer. In the process, they place each of the DVD's and CD's in context & show lots of interview clips of fellow comedians, friends & family.

So far, so predictable.

The great thing about this film though is that they have included many, many pieces of unseen footage & have strived to put him in the context of fellow comedians (all of whom are excellent - e.g. Jimmy Pineapple (esp the 'I am 'it'' routine))

The most original contribution that the film maker's have made is to take all the 100's of photos of Bill & turned them into action-stills. A lot of the material by the man is the same, but he always had a gift of being photogenic and hence this factor symbolises the director's efforts to bring something new to the table.

By no means is this film perfect & I have heard some people say 'It's not that good', but not from anyone who's actually seen it.
One thing I can pick out is that there is nothing about his relationships or Girlfriends that were so formative to much of his comedy (e.g. his Fiance Colleen McGarr).
There is also the fact that the film ends with the 'It's Just a Ride' scene, which is fast becoming cliche (e.g. Zeitgeist).
(Oh, and there is a bit at the end of the film which grates a little, where the screen says something to the effect of 'The Hicks family continue to live in ... and are all remarkably intelligent'. Although they may be, this seems a little bit of an affectation towards them...)*

Besides this, there was too much to like about this film (plus I am totally biased - see profile). It was really interesting to find out how Mr Hicks used to take mushrooms on a ranch with friends & about his final cancer-ridden days.
There is also an amazing moment in the middle of the film, where one of the commentators says something to the effect that "Great Stand-up comedy is where the inner voice matches the outer one" & Bill seems transformed thereafter into Prophet more than Comedian (rather like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey).

***

A word or two about the extras. When I initially wrote this review (based on just the film), I speculated that it may "include full extras of his Rant in E-Minor/ Arizona Bay routines". At the time of writing, I was not aware that the Estate were planning to release The Essential Collection (2CD+2DVD) (which includes the routines that were the raw material for both those albums, among other routines).

As a result, this DVD does not contain those routines but instead has a total of 5 hours of material, such as footage of his lesser seen performances and (best of all) 3 hours of Extended interviews.

Not only are these interviews edited and sorted into stages (with people like Kevin Booth, Dwight Slade, Jimmy Pineapple & his remaining family commenting on each part), but they are also SO different to the film that they almost make a whole new film!

All manner of richly interesting material (and not just leftovers) makes it in (including intriguing gambits such as how his final words 'I left in Love, Laughter & Truth' were in fact inspired by one of Hicks' favorite books - The Grapes of Wrath).
And there are are also a myriad of other details including a really eerie piece of 'synchrony' about his time of death (9:20pm EST), stories about his meeting Richard Pryor & Robin Williams AND the truth about what happened with his Dad & the Magic Mushrooms.

Truly, it is worth getting both DVD's, just to see both halves of the interviews.

On top of the interviews, there is 2 hours of other material; the best bits being the rare clips (including some clips from 'The Outlaws get Religion'), the 'Comedy school' (with Jimmy Pineapple & Dwight Slade, about what stand-up is like & how Bill got as good as he did) and also some material with Kevin Booth about the making of 'Arizona Bay' & the Ranch they took mushrooms on.

As a general rule, the best stuff is the interviews with people who knew Bill (especially his aforementioned friends, but also his photographer David Johndrow and his brother Steve Hicks). The unreleased material is worth seeing, although most of the making-of stuff, trailers etc are fairly standard.

Although some of the later extras go overboard on detail (it took me a week of evening viewings to get through the film & all the extras), the special features do stay within the bounds of the subject and it's clear that the film-makers have gone to great pains not to duplicate material between here & the other releases.

***

So, overall, this DVD is well worth getting. If you know nothing about the man, then this is a good place to start, as the film includes snippets of all his material & many of his best routines are peppered throughout the film.
If you're a geeky fan-boy on the other hand, then this film is also great as it fills in the gaps of his story (including the formative influence of alcohol on him) and also provides a host of unseen material.

It is my fervent hope that Bill would go onto influence many others to speak out against hypocrisy. If the evidence of George W Bush is anything to go by, America (and the World) could really do with knowing more about Bill Hicks.

Here's hoping they move onto George Carlin next...

* = Though the line about the Hicks family being 'remarkably intelligent' was on the cinematic version, it has been removed from the DVD and replaced with 'the Hicks family continue to protect Bill's Legacy'. Apparently it was an inside joke, so it's good to see that comedy lives on in the genes!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing, June 29, 2011
By 
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This review is from: American: The Bill Hicks Story (DVD)
I concur with the guy from Portland, I had so looked forward to the American release of this film, what a disappointment. This brilliant artist deserved a more insightful reflection. This is a pompous piece of film making, where the makers were more interested in the 'tech tricks' then the subject.

So then I went to the 'extras', where I was excited to see if there was new show footage of Bill's shows I had not seen. There was, in frustrating tiny snippets--- it was a cruel tease.

The idea of Bill having any female relationships was completely ignored. Interesting editorial choice, as women were a central theme to his life.

The interviews with the other Houston comics, and especially with Kevin Booth-- Bill's musical/artistic collaborator, were in fact interesting. And then I got to the 'bonus' where Steve Booth was in Abbey Roads studio remixing Bill's music, I wanted to throw up. How arrogant, he never worked on music with Bill, I really got the feeling this family was cashing in on Bill's wonderful legacy. How pathetic.

IF YOU ARE REALLY interested in finding out more about Bill, I highly recommend the dvd "Bill Hicks Live". It includes 3 great performances, and the documentary "Just a Ride". I also highly recommend Kevin Booth's biography "Bill Hicks, Agent of Evolution", it is a very interesting read and provides real insight into this complex artist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry to say, this one didn't do much for me, October 14, 2011
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I am a very big fan of Bill Hicks, and I think that the man was a visionary years ahead of his time. This documentary however seemed to shed less insight into his past than it did give the opinions of his friends. I know that having read the book, seen the Sane Man and other Bill Hicks DVD and that there probably isn't a heck of a lot more to learn so my expectations may have been too high. I'd say that this is worth renting but I'd stray awy from purchasing it unless you are a mega-fan buying it to fulfill a completionist urge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pick Up the Gun, June 28, 2011
This review is from: American: The Bill Hicks Story (DVD)
Fantastic documentary. I was much too young to enjoy Bill when he was here. Thankfully... my older brother introduced me to Bill, not literally, when I was a teenager. It was interesting to see his roots, who his friends were, what he did, and what happened in the end. I loved the style as it is a beautiful film visually. Very insightful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great man - great story!, June 1, 2014
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This highly creative storytelling is compelling! It is a great film about a truly unique soul. What a great voice for Bill and all he represents. Any fan of Bill Hicks should be spreading this good news around - his voice should resound with all Americans.
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American: The Bill Hicks Story
American: The Bill Hicks Story by Paul Thomas (DVD - 2011)
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