Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection; Set 6. 3 discs. color. 267 min. Ashley Pearce & Charles Palmer, ITV Studios & WGBH-Boston, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781598285789. $49.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9781598285796. $49.99. SDH subtitles. MYS
David Suchet here returns as Hercule Poirot in this set also known as Hercule Poirot: Series XI when it aired earlier this year on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. In Three Act Tragedy (originally titled Tragedy in Three Acts), Poirot teams up with old friend and retired actor Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw) to find the killer as guests at successive dinner parties mysteriously and suddenly die. In The Clocks, Poirot discovers prewar, pro-Nazi subterfuge as he unearths the identity and the killers of an unidentified body. In Hallowe’en Party, Poirot joins with crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wannamaker) to solve the murder of a young girl during a holiday party. The pieces are wonderfully acted by, among others, Jane Asher, Art Malik, Kimberly Nixon, Anna Massey, Sophie Thompson, Deborah Findlay, and Amelia Bullmore. As expected from PBS and ITV Studios, the production values, editing, cinematography, and music are all excellent. The Blu-ray version (not seen) should make locations on Dover’s Cornish coast, the mansion interiors, and the formal gardens look absolutely gorgeous! This collection is highly recommended for all mystery fans.‚ Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle. color. 117+ min. Paul Seed, BBC & WGBH-Boston, dist. by BFS Entertainment, www.bfsent.com. 2011. DVD UPC 066805310685. $19.98. MYS/BIOPIC
This joint production of the BBC and WGBH-Boston, which originally aired in 2000, looks at the historical origins of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous character, Sherlock Holmes. It is set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1878, when Doyle, played by Robin Laing, was a young medical student. One of his professors was the brilliant Dr. Bell, portrayed by Ian Richardson. Bell sometimes performed forensic work for the Edinburgh police and was famous in his time for his deductive and observational skills, which would later inspire the Holmes persona. The movie wraps this authentic biographical background around a thoroughly entertaining crime drama involving a serial killer at loose in the city as well as a romance between Doyle and one of the first female medical students in Edinburgh, played by Dolly Wells. Doyle takes on the role of Watson, and the story incorporates scenes from Sherlock Holmes tales, such as The Sign of Four. This very enjoyable whodunit can be enjoyed even by those unfamiliar with Sherlock Holmes, while offering a unique perspective for fans of the author. Bonus features include biographical info on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a list of selected works. Recommended for all libraries, mystery devotees, and Conan Doyle groupies.‚ Tom Budlong, Atlanta
Punching the Clown. color. 91 min. Gregori Viens, Viens Films, dist. by Passion River, www.passionriver.com. 2011. DVD UPC 885444705533. $19.99. F/COMEDY
This quirky, satirical, low-budget comedy proves that American indie filmmaking is alive and well. Folk-singing comedian Henry Phillips, coauthor here with director Viens, plays a fictionalized version of himself, a struggling comic trying to find love and success in the seedy, phony world of celebrity-obsessed Los Angeles. A talented no-name cast joins Phillips in cleverly lampooning Hollywood. Catchy, hilarious song performances are interspersed throughout to showcase Phillips’s songwriting and comedic chops and hold the film’s occasionally clichéd and underwritten plot together. Focusing on the predictable particulars of Phillips’s plight rather than simply enjoying the humor, biting satire, and rough-around-the-edges charm would be a mistake. Bonus features include filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes (along with explanations of why they were cut), and the short faux- documentary that served as the basis for the far superior feature. Recommended for indie-film buffs and fans of Larry David, Woody Allen, and other hilariously nebbishy but sharp-witted comics. For more info, go to punchingtheclownmovie.com.‚ Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
White Lightnin’. color. 95+ min. Dominic Murphy, Salt Co. & Mainframe Prods., dist. by IFC c/o MPI Media, www.mpimedia.com. 2011. DVD ISBN 9780788613265. $24.98. SDH subtitles. F/BIOPIC
This riveting film is inspired by the life of Jesco White, an Appalachian mountain dancer known as the Dancing Outlaw. The real-life White and his colorful family have been featured in several documentaries, including the recent Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (Video Reviews, LJ 7/11). From an early age, young Jesco suffers from depression and a weak disposition, leaving him vulnerable to huffing gas and shooting crack. When he isn’t in reform school or the insane asylum, his father, himself a gifted dancer, passes down his steps. Later Jesco finds success on the roadhouse circuit and meets his soul mate, an older woman charmingly played by Carrie Fisher. But after the senseless murder of his father, Jesco increasingly gives in to self-destructive impulses and becomes haunted by ever-more-frightening demons. Owen Campbell hands in a mature performance as the young Jesco, and British actor Edward Hogg is by turns charming and terrifying as an artist teetering on the verge of insanity. This is a powerful and unsettling movie; viewers should be prepared for violence and graphic scenes.‚ David Gibbs, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, DC
ARTS & HUMANITIES
About Jenny Holzer: Protect Me from What I Want. color. 52+ min. Claudia Müller, dist. by Microcinema, 415-447-9750; www.microcinema.com. 2011. DVD UPC 880198125392. $24.95; acad. libs. $149. Public performance. ART‚ GENERAL
This documentary traces the career of award-winning conceptual artist Jenny Holzer (b. 1950), showing how she developed into one of the most influential women artists today. Holzer uses light and language to create her works, and Müller’s film documents the creative process behind them. Holzer’s works consist of words‚ her own and those of others‚ projected onto buildings or illuminated in LED lights and integrated with the architecture of the space where they are installed. Müller shows Holzer working on some of her major installations, including at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. These intimate examinations of the collaborations behind Holzer’s pieces, along with extensive interviews with the artist, allow the viewer to see inside the mind of a creative genius. Müller deftly captures the emotional impact of the artwork, allowing the viewer to experience them in much the same way as would a person attending the physical installation. Two shorts, Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin and Xenon Projections, allow for a closer view of some of these inventive creations. This film is highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary art.‚ Rosemary Arneson, Univ. of Mary Washington Lib., Fredericksburg, VA
The Other Side of the Water: The Journey of a Haitian Rara Band in Brooklyn. color & b/w. 52 min. Jeremy Robins & Magali Damas, dist. by Third World Newsreel, www.twn.org. 2010. DVD $59.95; acad. libs. $225. Public performance. MUSIC
Rara was originally the music of Haitian slaves and to this day serves as the music of downtrodden Haitians both at home and in exile. A walking music, part protest, part voodoo, and scorned by the Haitian Christian community, Rara remains alive in Haiti as well as on the streets of New York. Robins and Damas’s documentary follows the efforts of Pé Yves and the band DJARARA to establish a Rara presence in the United States. The filmmakers do a fine job of demonstrating the connection between the music and the political situation in Haiti; they include as background excellent documentary footage from the last 30 years. As governmental policies and society evolve, so do the purpose and style of the music. The musicians may be living across the water (in this case, Brooklyn), but the connections remain strong, frequently painful, and ever changing. This film will be fascinating to anyone with an interest in contemporary Haiti and/or roots music.‚ Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune. color & b/w. 97+ min. Kenneth Bowser, S2BN Entertainment in assoc. with Barking Dog Prods., dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2011. DVD UPC 720229914741. $37.95. MUSIC
Smart, funny, good looking, and blessed with a distinctive voice, Phil Ochs (1940-76) moved from his family’s home in Ohio to New York’s Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, where his apartment became the epicenter of the folk music scene. Ochs gained fame for his political songs, often drawn directly from the newspaper. This DVD features many of the headlines Ochs worked from, clips from the events he sang about, and a chorus of famous people and family offering memories and insights. Ochs was ambitious and to further his career moved in 1967 to Los Angeles, where his material, previously accompanied by his solo guitar, came to be swathed in orchestral arrangements, which was not always well received. A bipolar alcoholic, he took this hard, though he stayed active in antiwar protests and helped organize the Youth International Party (Yippies) in 1968. His behavior became increasingly erratic; he committed suicide in 1976. While the topicality of his music may have kept it from aging well, Ochs remains an important element in the folk music boom of the 1960s. This documentary tells his story well, has a marvelous soundtrack, and is recommended especially for fans who still miss the voice and the commitment.‚ John Hiett, Iowa City P.L.
Spectacle: Elvis Costello with‚Ä¶; Season Two. 2 discs. color. 350+ min. Tri-Fi 2 Prods. & Chatting Glasses 2, dist. by Music Video Distributors, 800-888-0486; www.mvdb2b.com. 2011. DVD UPC 778854176997. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 778854180093. $39.95. MUSIC
This two-disc set compiles all seven 50-minute episodes from the second and final season of veteran rocker Elvis Costello’s brilliant but sadly short-lived Sundance Channel television program, which ran from 2009 to 2010. The show featured Costello swapping stories and songs with a wide array of talented songwriters and musicians spanning several decades of pop, rock, and folk music. There is a well-balanced mix of thoughtful conversation and enjoyable music here, with Costello playing host, interviewer, and performer, often joining his guests for one-of-a-kind duets. Season Two’s all-star guests include Nick Lowe, Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, and more. Among the many highlights are the surprisingly humble and self-effacing Bono and The Edge discussing U2′s influences and early days, Bruce Springsteen’s comical and candid two-episode appearance, and a gorgeous acoustic performance from 1970s folk hero Jesse Winchester. Extras include three bonus songs performed by Costello and his band, The Imposters, and an entertaining behind-the-scenes documentary, featuring executive producer Elton John. Highly recommended not only for fans of Costello and any of his guest artists but for anyone appreciative of talented songwriters and musicians intelligently and meaningfully discussing their craft.‚ Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Figaro! Living in the Moment of a Character. color. 119+ min. Dan Schaefer, IndieBlitz c/o Entertainment One, www.eone.com. 2011. DVD UPC 634479999482. $19.98. OPERA
This fascinating documentary brings its viewers inside a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786). Not any opera enterprise, this is a coproduction of the University of Louisville School of Music, KY, and the Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. It is said that opera brings all of the performance arts into one, and Figaro well documents that process, from planning and rehearsal to ultimate performance. Though a university/academy production, it is one that pays as much, if not more, attention to the important details needed for great opera. Rehearsal times are greater than even first-class professional companies but not at all less intense. Viewing this program will be a revelation and a learning opportunity for the opera uninitiated, and a delight for aficionados. Comments from the producing teachers and students from both institutions demonstrate their total commitment. Stage director Michael Ramach has a wry sense of the realistic and keeps the production, and thus the film, humming. Though the technical film qualities are basic, most likely owing to cost limitations, the creativity and skill displayed get the job done well. Bravo.‚ Gerald A. Notaro, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg
Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America. color & b/w. 98+ min. Leslie Zemeckis, Mistress, Inc., dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures. com. 2011. DVD UPC 720229914628. $27.95. Closed-captioned. PERFORMING ARTS/HIST
A burlesque show was once a premier form of entertainment for the whole family. It included movies, comedians, music, and novelty acts in addition to beautiful girls who took their clothes off. Many of the striptease performers were underage, 13- and 14-year-old girls who supported their family through stripping. Headliners could make fortunes, which were often as quickly spent. Director Zemeckis interviews former performers, along with their families and friends, who speak about their motivations, backgrounds, and lives after the heyday of burlesque while fondly reminiscing about their former glory. Despite the titillating subject matter, complete with plenty of nudity in black-and-white photos and vintage footage, Behind the Burly Q is more History Channel than Showtime. Bonus materials include three featurettes, a photo gallery, and additional interviews. Those interested in theater, American history, and women’s studies, as well as pop culture enthusiasts, will find this exploration of a near-forgotten chapter in the history of American entertainment well worth their time.‚ Charli Osborne, Oxford P.L., MI
Page One: Inside the New York Times . color. 92+ min. Andrew Rossi, History Films, dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment, www.magpictures.com. 2011. DVD UPC 876964004251. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964004268. $29.98. Rated: R.
Is there a deathwatch on the New York Times? Is print media as a whole doomed? Do some stories need to go beyond databases? As relevant as the headlines themselves, these questions are central to this new documentary from the folks who created the award-winning An Inconvenient Truth; Food, Inc.; and Waiting for Superman. By examining the explosive WikiLeaks release of Iraqi video to YouTube, it is made clear that there is a new way to tell the public a story, and in Page One, the newspaper assesses its own relevancy. Profiles of many of the paper’s fiercely dedicated employees such as David Carr and Tim Arango attest to a greater diversity of thought than its detractors may admit. They take hits from all sides of the political spectrum and come up swinging. Whether the New York Times is biased or not, its probability of survival is up to the viewers of this exceptional documentary. What is certain is that Page One is a worthy addition to all libraries.‚ Gerald A. Notaro, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg
American Experience: Freedom Riders. color & b/w. 2+ hrs. Stanley Nelson, PBS, shoppbs.org/education. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781608834013. $24.99; Blu-ray $29.99. HIST
Freedom Riders is a moving documentary that depicts a singular event in American history, the stirring story of American men and women who risked their lives in the early 1960s in support of civil rights, and how nonviolent activities influenced the end of segregation. Award-winning filmmaker Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till; Jonestown) combines testimony from the riders, government officials, and journalists who witnessed the events of 1961 when black and white individuals rode together on buses throughout the segregated South with interviews, historical footage, and photos to document the courage, commitment, and determination of the participants. Based partially on Raymond Aresenault’s 2006 book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, this film provides a varied perspective on an event of historical significance and relates both its particulars and motivations as those involved acted on the American concept of freedom and justice for all. Of interest to most viewers, especially students and teachers of history and the civil rights movement.‚ Denise A. Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
My Vietnam, Your Iraq. color. 60+ min. Ron Osgood, dist. by PBS, www.shoppbs.org/education. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781608834532. $24.99; limited public performance $49.99. MILITARY STUDIES
This excellent film introduces the families of eight Vietnam War veterans whose children served in the Iraq War. These stories are sometimes inspirational, sometimes heartbreaking, as family members describe how their separate service in similarly unpopular wars influenced their familial relationships. The Vietnam vets first began to understand what their parents felt about their service when their own children enlisted during the Iraq War. While the Vietnam vets opposed both wars, they honored their service and the service of others in Vietnam. Though counseling their children not to join up during the Iraq conflict, these older combatants understood that the choice was their child’s to make. Bonus features include an additional family saga and the music video Doubling Back, written for the movie by singer-songwriter Louise Mosrie. This award-winning indie film is highly recommended for all libraries.‚ Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Mother: Caring for 7 Billion. color. 54+ min. Christophe Fauchère, Tiroir A Films, www.motherthefilm.com. 2011. DVD UPC 798304183511. $39.95; public performance UPC 798304183528. $95; acad. libs. UPC 798304182637. $145 + $5 s/h. SOC SCI
Our mother, Mother Earth, is at a critical point. On October 31, 2011, the world’s population will reach seven billion. Overpopulation‚ fueled by advances in science, food production, and health care and encouraged by religious beliefs and an unquenchable desire for economic growth‚ is overwhelming our natural resources. The dire facts are presented in the first part of the film in a fast-paced montage that features expert interviews and historical film footage, bringing us quickly up-to-date on the issue and the need for action. The film then changes tempo, and we find ourselves along a personal journey with child-rights activist Beth, who travels to Ethiopia searching for a way to make a difference. She discovers that empowering women‚ the daughters, wives, and, of course, mothers‚ with education, choices about birth control, and a voice in the way the world works may be the answer to slowing our frantic race to a troublesome future. The film focuses on overpopulation but also addresses the very complex problems that have led us to our crowded world. Mother is a timely choice for academic libraries, middle school and up, and all viewers concerned with global affairs and our own future.‚ Ellen Druda, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY
Sex in an Epidemic. color. 61+ min. Jean Carlomusto, dist. by Outcast Films, 800-343-5540; www.outcast-films.com. 2011. DVD UPC 0797734486995. $29.99; public performance $295. SOC SCI
Three decades after the emergence of AIDS, the disease is an acknowledged pandemic, tragically destroying lives and leaving dread and sorrow in its wake. Unfortunately, 30 years of its ubiquity has led to a sort of détente and, in some, a relaxed attitude toward safer sex practices. In North America, the lack of frank sex education has compounded the problem. This documentary is a badly needed corrective and a powerful reminder of how far we haven’t come in terms of making the changes needed to eradicate AIDS. It covers the early 1980s to the present and reaches beyond the gay community to examine the impact of AIDS on women, African Americans, and Latinos, all in barely over an hour yet without seeming superficial. No matter that the production values are minimal and the content is constructed mainly out of archival footage‚ many of the interviewees have since died‚ the urgency of the message comes through. There is some profanity and sexual content, but the film is suitable for most audiences; highly recommended.‚ J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Element: Power Yoga. color. 63 min. Dragonfly Prod., dist. by Anchor Bay Entertainment, www.anchorbayentertainment.com/fitness. 2011. DVD UPC 013132225098. $14.98. Closed-captioned.
Gentle Yoga Through Somatic Exploration. 2 discs. color. 2 hrs. Yoga JP, dist. by AV Café, 877-228-2233; www.theavcafe.com. 2011. $64.95. Public performance. fitness
Gentle Yoga Through Somatic Exploration is specifically designed to help mature yoga practitioners grow older gracefully and free of pain. The focus is primarily on free-flowing relaxation and repatterning of established muscular habits. The instructions from practitioner James Knight are clear and precise, though delivered in a somewhat monotone voice. The two-disc set includes four separate segments, plus a relaxation section, and is suitable for individuals who have not previously practiced yoga techniques. The disc is designed to be self-paced, but the disjointed pose transitions detract from the overall experience. Still, Gentle Yoga is recommended for most collections.
Element: Power Yoga takes a very different approach with a full-hour comprehensive workout developed to achieve maximum physical and mental fitness through yoga techniques. Ashley Turner is a charismatic instructor, and the directions are clear but paced for a much higher degree of difficulty. It would be exacting for a true yoga beginner to complete this workout physically as well as owing to the timing of the instructions. However, individuals with a moderate degree of familiarity with yoga poses will find this DVD a fun and challenging workout. Element: Power Yoga is highly recommended. ‚ Mary Laskowski, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Lib.