Video Reviews | December 15, 2005

By LJ Staff

Down the Yellowstone. color. 60 min. Riverbank Media, dist. by Instructional Video, 2219 C St., Lincoln, NE 68502; 800-228-0164; 2004. DVD $20. Public performance. CONSERVATION

Down the Yellowstone follows the 660-mile-long Yellowstone River from its base in Wyoming to its confluence with the Missouri River in North Dakota. Viewers will enjoy beautiful scenery as they learn about the Amber Jewelry, Tea Sets, Sleeping Bags, Wholesale Tea Sets unique ecology of the Yellowstone and of the threats posed by humans that could undermine its wild nature. This film is stunning as well as informative and presents a compelling portrait of the most critical conservation issues currently affecting the Yellowstone River watershed. A very worthwhile program for those interested in watershed management and suitable for classroom use. Recommended for libraries with environmental and conservation collections.Julie Stump, Voorheesville P.L., NY

Simply Ming. 3 vols. color. 468 min. Jeffrey Kay, Ming East-West, dist. by WGBH-Boston, 800-949-8670; 2005. DVD ISBN 1-59375-229-6. $39.95. cookery

Ming Tsai, owner/chef of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, is one of the brightest stars of the American cooking scene, and this set, containing 18 episodes of his PBS series, reveals why. He combines great technique, creative ideas, and excellent teaching skills with a keen ability to maintain fast-paced entertainment. It’s hard to imagine a better exposure to Tsai’s fusion cuisine, which melds classical elements of Eastern and Western cooking styles. Recipes are included in the additional DVD features, along with cooking tips, shopping lists, recommended tools, and more. Each episode showcases a master ingredient as it is used to prepare three or four different dishes. Alongside are salads, vegetables, and other accompaniments. Though the availability of pots or pans of the same ingredients at different stages of preparation speed up the cooking demonstration, Ming doesn’t skip crucial prep steps, chopping, slicing, dicing, and mashing everything while giving hints about how to perform these tasks safely and efficiently. Some dishes, like grilled ostrich steaks, might be a bit exotic for the average home cook, but old favorites are included, too, for example, shrimp toast and a variety of stir-fries. The only downside here is the annoying "commercials" for each WGBH sponsor. Highly recommended for all types of libraries.Sheila S. Intner, Simmons GSLIS at Mount Holyoke Coll., S. Hadley, MA

Learn To Knit! with Laura-Jean. color. 80 min. Fresh Baked Goods, dist. by Instructional Video, 2219 C St., Lincoln, NE 68502; 800-228-0164; 2005. DVD $24. Public performance. crafts

Narrator Laura-Jean owns a clothing and knitting store in Toronto and is a well-known knitter, with sweaters featured on the covers of the "Stitch n’ Bitch" books. This DVD includes demonstrations for creating a dog sweater, a scarf, a baby sweater, a hat, and a purse. Laura-Jean has a pleasant speaking voice and makes every project seem easy; her instructions are clear and well paced. Unlike other knitting DVDs, this one explains in detail how to read a pattern by going over each step, including basic pattern abbreviations. Viewers probably would have appreciated actual patterns for each project (either a paper insert or onscreen), but they can certainly write down instructions as they are given. With the hat, calculating the number of stitches is shown. A tour of a Toronto yarn shop offers additional information about types of yarns, needles, and other knitting accessories, but this is the least interesting part of the program. An inexpensive additional purchase for public libraries with a knitting clientele.Michele Lauer-Bader, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY

Why Dance? color. 112 min. James E. Manning, Manning Prods., 2005. DVD $34.95 + $6.95 s/h. dance

This full-length documentary is a labor of love and a family affair. Director and co­producer Manning is also the narrator, composer, and film editor, while coproducer Shelly Pack-Manning, a master teacher, is one of the interviewees. The film explores why some children are drawn to dance and, at an early age, willingly commit to the hard work, rigorous training, challenging competitions, and intense scrutiny involved. The title’s question is answered by current dancers, former dancers, dance judges, choreographers, educators, and parents, who testify to an innate quality that characterizes dancers. This behind-the-scenes look at the world of young dancers who aspire to dance professionally includes commentary by Dennis Nahat (choreographer), Daryl Gray (choreographer), and Karen Brown (artistic director of the Oakland Ballet). The film’s segment on injuries, eating disorders, and insecurities – issues that many dancers face – will be of particular interest to young dancers and their parents who are invested in learning all they can about dance training. Others, with a more casual interest in dance, won’t find the film as compelling. Recommended for public libraries.Joan Stahl, Univ. of Maryland Lib., College Park

24: The Editing Process. (Journeys Below the Line). color. 30 min. Bruce Bilson, dist. by First Light Video, 2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291; 800-262-8862; 2005. DVD $79. Closed-captioned. film study

24: The Editing Process is the first installment of a 27-part series of DVDs called "Journeys Below the Line." "Above the line" TV staff include producers, directors, and actors. This series, produced by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation (a.k.a. the Emmys), covers the behind-the-scenes craftspeople and technicians involved in television production. While the vocational guidance is geared toward high school to college-aged viewers, the coverage that the Fox series 24 receives will appeal to fans of all ages. The next episode planned will highlight the series ER and prop handlers. The editors and script supervisor/continuity person from 24 each tell about their daily activities and how they relate to the finished weekly episodes, while the director, producers, creators, and actors chime in on the importance of continuity and editing. Students learn about career options in a field where the actors and directors generally steal the spotlight. Though pricey, this series is an excellent choice for all vocational as well as film studies collections.Debbie Rzepczynski, LakeCty. P.L., Merrillville, IN

My House, Your House: A Guide to Inspecting Your Home Purchase! with Ken Tabak. color. 2 hrs. Cirque Prods., dist. by AV Café, 3943 S. 48th St., Lincoln, NE68506; 877-228-2233; 2004. DVD $19.95. Public performance. home repair

Tabak, who operates TBK Inspections in North Carolina, here takes the viewer through his process, beginning with the building lot and the exterior walls. He progresses to the roof, crawl space, attic, and interior. His main tool is a powerful flashlight. The subject house is made of brick, with some aluminum siding, on a low concrete block foundation, which is perhaps not typical enough. Tabak is thorough, explaining what to look for and why, but an overall assessment would also have been helpful. He does note the need for various repairs that would lower a buyer’s offer. During the first segment, the camera operator stays on Tabak, instead of showing the walls and windows he is examining. All the same, this program contains valuable information for any home buyer, at a very reasonable price. Recommended for public libraries. (Companion checklist not seen.)David R. Conn, Surrey P.L., BC

Made in Sheffield. 128 min. Eve Wood.
Moog. 117 min. Hans Fjellestad.
ea. vol: color & b/w. dist. by Plexifilm, 45 Main St., Suite 504, Brooklyn, NY11201; 2005. DVD $24.95. music

Though Robert Moog had unveiled his electronic invention several years earlier, it was not until Wendy Carlos’s hugely successful, Grammy Award – winning 1969 album Switched-On Bach that the Moog musical synthesizer began its meteoric rise to popularity. Whereas Carlos introduced the adaptation of baroque classical music to the Moog, artists such as the Beatles, Keith Emerson, Parliament, Rick Wakeman, Herbie Hancock, Rush, the Who, Donna Summer, Kraftkwerk, and Stevie Wonder extended its prevalence into rock, funk, jazz, and other genres. Fjellestad’s Moog informatively and affectionately captures the radiantly amiable music pioneer in his Asheville, NC, home, as well as during visits to former colleagues and admiring musicians and composers to reminisce about the initially mixed reception of the synthesizer, engage in suggestively mystical speculations about the relationship between musical machines and their practitioners, and discuss the technology behind his musical inventions. (Moog died in August 2005.) Extras include performances by contemporary musicians using the Moog and a PC- or Mac-compatible DVD-ROM Minimoog demo.

Made in Sheffield focuses on the ascent of the synthesizer-intensive "synth-pop" movement that developed out of the provincial industrial city of Sheffield, England, in the late 1970s. In the wake of the stripped-down, explosively dynamic, guitar-and-drum-driven punk rock characteristic of bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, and the Clash, the Sheffield scene crafted its own kind of extension of punk iconoclasm through critical, if not exclusive, reliance upon electronic keyboards and associated musical electronica. Interviews with critics and former musicians are interwoven with archival performance footage of Sheffield bands such as Heaven 17, Human League, and Cabaret Voltaire to create an ardent, humorous, and wistful portrait of the inspiringly unlikely emergence of what in a few short years became an influential and internationally successful genre before fading in the early 1980s. Extras include additional interviews and archival performance footage. Although both features are highly recommendable for public, academic, and relevant special libraries, Moog commands a broader range of interests.Robert A. Sica Jr., Eastern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Richmond

A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary. color. 110 min. Gayle Kirschenbaum, dist. by Midwest Tapes, 2004. DVD $24.99; public performance $124.99. pets

Filmmaker Kirschenbaum and her sweet Shih Tzu Chelsea each have a goal: to find a mate. In the first part of the film, Kirschenbaum wanders the streets of Manhattan looking for men who must, of course, love her dog. Unsuccessful, she then looks for a mating companion for Chelsea, who has a pleasant but, er, unreproductive, rendezvous. In a jarringly abrupt transition, the film shifts to New York after 9/11, and Chelsea is graciously drafted into service as a therapy dog, offering companionship and love to rescue workers. She then regularly visits a patient at Cabrini Hospital who is touched by this new furry friend. Chelsea is soon featured in local newspapers and on a TV news show. Although the film is very well intentioned, the narration is a bit choppy, and the scenes have a home-movie quality, further hindered by some cloying "doggie cam" shots. It would also have been helpful and informative to learn about animal therapy programs and how Chelsea became certified to perform this noble work. Although a spirited theme song enhances the film, the amateur quality of the production coupled with an unstructured script will result in limited appeal for most viewers.Donald Altschiller, Boston Univ. Libs.

Rediscovering Mary Magdalene. color. 50 min. David Tresemer, StarHouse, dist. by All Seasons Chalice, PO 2180, Boulder, CO 80306; 303-245-8452; 2005. DVD $15.98. rel

Tresemer, a psychology professor at Harvard, and Laura-Lea Cannon, a media studies professor, have combined their talents to produce a beautifully choreographed film. Footage incorporates excerpts from the theatrical production My Magdalene, along with research on the making of that play, including visits to European and Middle Eastern sacred sites. The authors contend that Pope Gregory’s 600 C.E. references to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute are unfounded scripturally and that historically Mary Magdalene was perhaps a priestess of the Egyptian Isis tradition. Taking on a feminist perspective, this mythical drama is intended to portray Mary Magdalene as a strong model of courage, wisdom, and partnership, but the authors yield little evidence for their view. Sharron Rose, author of The Path of the Priestess, is a featured speaker. The scenery filmed in caves and cathedrals in France is beautiful, though the viewer is never clear on exactly what the links are between Mary Magdalene and these locations. Nevertheless, recommended for academic collections.Ravonne A. Green, Valdosta State Univ., GA

The Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series Collector’s Edition. 12 vols. color. 35+ hrs. Major League Baseball Properties, dist. by A&E Home Video, c/o New Video, 19 Gregory Dr., Burlington, VT 05403; 800-423-1212. DVD ISBN 0-7670-8422-5. $129.95. sports

Yankees fans beware. Cardinals fans run for your lives. This set celebrating the 2004 Red Sox American League Championship Series (ALCS) and subsequent World Series titles is amazing. Viewers can relive every pitch of all seven ALCS games and the four World Series games as they were originally televised, minus the cutaways to the National League Championship Series game and the commercials. Each DVD contains an entire game. The menu allows you to select "chapters" by the half-inning, essentially letting viewers watch an entire game or only the half-innings desired. You can go directly to the bottom of the ninth inning of game four of the ALCS and watch as the Red Sox tie the game, sending it into extra innings, thus avoiding a four-game Yankee sweep. A very nice extra is an innovation called Sleeve­Stats™, whereby various game statistics and unique facts are printed on the outside of the DVD cases. The back of each case has the complete box score; the inside contains a written summary of each half-inning. An additional bonus DVD includes short interviews, the Sox locker room after the series’ win, plus the 2005 championship ring and banner ceremony at Fenway Park. This collection is both remarkable and groundbreaking and is absolutely recommended for all public libraries, not including those in and around New York City and St. Louis.Brian Burns, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA

Racing Against the Clock. color. 80 min. Bill Haney, Uncommon Prods.,; 2005. $199. Public performance. sports

Texan Margaret Hinton, 82, wants her retirement home to make its menus "spicier"; she has made her life spicier by competing in Masters (50+) track and field events. Despite having a pacemaker, she trains and wins gold medals in the high jump, shot put, and long jump. African American Jacqueline Board, 50, started track late in life to relieve stress after a disastrous marriage and unbelievably difficult living conditions. To see her and the others pushing their bodies as far as they can is truly inspirational. Each of the five women athletes profiled here, aged 50 – 82, has a fascinating, poignant story of how she started competing. Although the athletes socialize, their main focus is competition and self-improvement. When they get to the World Masters, some opponents are ex-Olympians, so these events aren’t for sissies. Viewers may not be capable of replicating these women’s exploits, but they would be jazzed by their perseverance and energy. Recommended for all public libraries.Kathy Ruffle, Coll. of New Caledonia Lib., Prince George, BC