Video Reviews, December 2011


Gone. color. 90 min. Grant Harvey, Pitchblack Pictures, Lifetime, dist. by New Video, 800-314-8822; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422942253. $19.95. Closed-captioned. F
Canadian actor Lochlyn Munro and Canadian actress Molly Parker, best known for her role as Alma Garret on HBO’s Deadwood, star in this Lifetime suspense movie. Parker portrays Amy, a hospital nurse coping with a traumatic past that impacted her marriage to David (Munro). Their daughter, Emily, is kidnapped, and all Amy has to do is kill a patient and Emily will be safely returned. The movie revolves around Amy’s efforts to rescue her daughter, touching on a conspiracy and some corrupt officials along the way while Amy transforms from a PTSD-affected woman into a focused action hero. This escapist entertainment has lovely scenery but inconsistent characters and a predictable plot. Of interest mainly to fans of Lifetime fare.‚ Denise A. Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Midnight Movie: The Killer Cut. color. 82+ min. Jack Messitt, Bigfoot Entertainment & Filmmakers Alliance, 2011. DVD UPC 899971002034. $12.99. Rated: R. HORROR
During the 1970s, moviemaker Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts) went on a murderous rampage after filming The Dark Beneath. Decades later, his psychiatrist (Christopher Page) feels it would be therapeutic for the incarcerated Radford to view his film, and the result is a mental ward massacre. Shift to the present day, when a small group assembles at an old theater for a midnight screening of Radford’s movie but get more than they bargained for once the film starts rolling. The masked killer (Lee Main) emerges from the screen, spiral blade in hand, and pulls moviegoers into the film, where they are slaughtered for the viewing pleasure of the horrified audience. Named Fangoria‘s DVD of the month in March 2009 and the Chicago Horror Film Festival’s best feature film of 2008, the new and improved Midnight Movie is chilling and imaginative, a must-see for slasher film fans. Even the film-within-the-film is a gem, a grainy, grindhouse-style shocker that pays clear homage to classics like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With extended scenes, new visual effects, and a new score. Horror buffs of all kinds will be delighted.‚ Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY

Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. 2 discs. color. 185+ min. Jon Jones, All3Media/British Sky Broadcasting/Mob Film Co., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781598286403; 1-disc Blu-Ray ISBN 9781598286410. $39.99. F
The third in an ongoing series of adaptations of books from Terry Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, Going Postal is a goulash of steampunk, Douglas Adams/Monty Python‚ strength absurdity, and Terry Gilliam‚ style visuals, sporting an appreciation for the old-fashioned hallmarks of civilization. It’s the tale of a con artist given a chance at redemption by way of a new job: reviving a derelict post office in a world in which magic is real (albeit unreliable) and the main form of long-distance communication is a bizarre type of lighthouse semaphore. This handsome, workmanlike production for the UK’s Sky1 Channel is well mounted and likely to satisfy fans, but it’s built on clever conceits rather than a vision comparable to its forebears. Still, it earns credit for confronting the corrupting influences of greed, technology, marketing, and other unscrupulous business practices on society and humanity. Over an hour of bonus features, including a warm introduction by Pratchett. Recommended for any collection with a fantasy component and especially for Pratchett/Discworld fans; some violent and frightening scenes but suitable for most audiences.‚ J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB


Radiohead: Arms & Legs; The Story So Far. 2 discs. color. 109+ min. Pride Prod., dist. by MVD Visual, 800-888-0486; 2011. DVD UPC 823564525495. $26.95. MUSIC
This set repackages two previously released, unauthorized, low-budget documentaries on innovative British rock band Radiohead. OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review focuses on their third album, released to astronomical acclaim in 1997 and turning a mildly successful alternative-rock group into unconventional superstars. A handful of journalists dissect the album track by track, focusing on pouty, enigmatic singer Thom Yorke’s lyrics and the unresolved issue of whether this is a concept album or just a collection of loosely connected songs. Concert and promo video snippets are used to demonstrate the points made by the all-too-serious pundits, who discuss not only that particular album but also the band’s early years and musical progress leading up to their masterpiece. The second title, the career documentary Homework, suffers greatly by lacking any original Radiohead music, instead using a bland soundtrack by a sound-alike band. Don’t be fooled by the set’s misleading sub-subtitle, for Homework ends in 2003 with the release of Hail to the Thief. What the band has done since then is worth telling but, one hopes, not by these filmmakers. Homework is a frustratingly superficial and flimsy chronicle of a group with a history much more interesting and a cultural impact far more significant than are conveyed here. Skip it.‚ Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. color. 82 min. In English, Punjabi, Arabic, & Urdu w/ English subtitles. Omar Majeed, EyeSteelFilm, dist. by Lorber Films, 2011. DVD UPC 705105267012. $19.95; public performance $189. MUSIC
Raised Irish Catholic and the son of a white supremacist, Michael Muhammad Knight (b. 1977) converted to Islam at 16 after reading the biography of Malcolm X and spent two months at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan. In 2002, Knight wrote The Taqwacores, a novel that took as its subject the then fictional Islamic punk rock scene. Knight drew his title from the words taqwa, an Islamic concept of God consciousness, and core from hardcore punk, and in a case of life imitating art, he received questions from readers asking where they could join the cause. A community and a mission were born. Islam and punk make for a volatile combination; the film is a mélange of force, fury, and conflict. The journey these musicians take is as much about finding personal identity and developing their own religious beliefs as it is about achieving musical success and spreading a political and social message. Director Majeed has done an excellent job of incorporating band performance, voiceovers, and Knight’s oral presentations. The film culminates in a concert in Lahore, where the musicians find both struggle and success as they blend punk, politics, and Punjabi culture. A fun ride for interested viewers.‚ Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

The Captains. color. 96+ min. William Shatner, Le Boss Prods. & others, dist. by Entertainment One, 2011. DVD ISBN 9781417236008. $19.98. SDH subtitles. TV
Shatner, who played the first Star Trek captain, James T. Kirk, on the 1960s TV series and in several films, traveled to England and across the United States to interview five other actors about their lives and experiences portraying captains in the now legendary sf franchise. It’s an interesting premise, but the results are somewhat uneven. Veteran Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and a handful of films), for example, is consistently witty and insightful, but young actor Chris Pine (Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek movie) comes off as rather bland. Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager) is frank about the difficulties she had as a single mother working 16-hour days on the Trek set, and Scott Bakula (Capt. Jonathan Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise) unguardedly discusses how his constant television work contributed to the end of his first marriage. But Avery Brooks (Capt. Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), while amiable, is often oddly elliptical and evasive, unlike the straightforward character he portrayed. Shatner, the documentary’s writer and director, also talks about his own long acting career and how he only recently came to embrace being so strongly identified with Kirk. Though at times the film loses its focus‚ an interview with actor Christopher Plummer, who played a Klingon in the film Star Trek VI, feels a bit out of place, and the obligatory scenes at a Star Trek convention seem gratuitous‚ but there are nonetheless plenty of keen perceptions here. Die-hard Star Trek fans will get the most out of this production, but patrons interested in the acting life as well will find much to like.‚ David Rapp, Library Journal


Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers. color & b/w. 60 min. Mary Skinner, 2B Prods., dist. by PBS, 2011. DVD ISBN 9781608834822. $24.99; limited public performance $54.99. SDH subtitles. BIOG/HIST
Irena Sendler (1910‚ 2008) was a Polish social worker who worked to save Jewish children during World War II‚ often sneaking them to safety out of the Warsaw Ghetto. A member of the underground organization the Council for Aid to Jews, she barely escaped execution by the Nazis. In 1965, she was designated as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust research center. This moving tribute to Sendler works in an effective and compelling manner, held together by telling interviews with Sendler shortly before she died at the age of 98. The strength of her character shines through her words. Brave Poles who helped in the resistance efforts offer additional insights. Rescued Jewish children‚ now older adults living in Israel and in the United States‚ are interviewed as they return to Poland to give thanks to these remarkable individuals. The children survived by adopting a Polish Catholic persona and often living in convents. Sendler talks about the importance she attached to keeping records throughout the war of the true names, identities, and parents of these youngsters. Historical footage flows easily with interwoven contemporary scenes. Viewers of all ages will be moved by this documentary, which serves as an excellent introduction to these Holocaust heroes.‚ Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL

The Titanic Disaster: 100 Year Anniversary. color & b/w. 52 min. Mark Gumbinger, Southport Prods., 800-642-9860; 2011. DVD UPC 410074270911. $49.95; Blu-ray $59.95 + $7.95 s/h. HIST
This latest entry in the ever-growing catalog of documentaries about the sinking of the Titanic features interviews with several maritime historians, accompanied by visuals consisting mostly of old photos, postcards, and dramatized clips from feature films about the event. All the usual ground is covered: the building of the ship; recently identified technical problems with her rivets, metal plates, bulkheads, etc.; and a narrative of what went wrong during the early hours of April 15, 1912, when the ship sank and so many lives were lost. However, there are several problems with this production. The video quality is very poor, especially when vintage photos are enlarged for the screen. While the knowledge and opinions of the experts are interesting, the film is edited in a way that different scholars repeat the same information multiple times and sometimes contradictorily, such as whether 75 percent or 90 percent of an iceberg is below the surface or comparisons by class of the number of individuals who perished or were rescued. Compared with the many superior recent productions offered by A&E, the History Channel, or National Geographic, this is a marginal purchase at best. It’s not a bad film, just not a good value for the price. Recommended only for the most comprehensive Titanic collections.‚ Tom Budlong, Atlanta

The Battle for Marjah. color. 84+ min. Ben Anderson & Anthony Wonke, Wall to Wall Prods. in assoc. with Roadwork Ltd. for HBO and Channel 4, dist. by Athena Learning, 888-870-8047; 2011. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781598286830. $34.99. SDH subtitles.

The Tillman Story. color. 95+ min. Amir Bar-Lev, Weinstein Co. and A&E IndieFilms, dist. by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2011. DVD UPC 043396372351. $24.96; Blu-ray UPC 043396374232. $30.99. SDH subtitles. Rated: R. MILITARY STUDIES
Here are two absolutely must see adult videos about U.S. involvement in the Afghan War. The first chronologically, and perhaps best known to viewers, is The Tillman Story, concerning the cover-up of the killing of pro football safety‚ turned‚ Army Ranger Pat Tillman in 2004. Awarded the Silver Star for his bravery and leadership under enemy fire, Tillman was actually a victim of fratricide! It took six years of tireless work by the Tillman family, chiefly Pat’s mother, Dannie, to force the army to admit the facts of his death. The army still refuses to name Tillman’s killers or the high-level officers or officials who initiated the cover-up. Even a Congressional investigation failed to enlighten the Tillman family: Congress, cabinet officials, and general officers are seemingly a good ol’ boy network in themselves. Great directing and editing allow Tillman himself to star in this film about his untimely death. Bonus commentary from director Bar-Lev adds much to understanding Tillman, his family, and his comrades in arms. For further discussion of the cover-up, read Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory.

The Battle for Marjah began February 13, 2010. Journalist and filmmaker Anderson followed Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines (1/6), from its insertion in Marjah, Afghanistan, through June 2010, when the unit rotated back to North Carolina. In a combined operation with Afghan forces, the Marines were tasked with removing the Taliban, establishing infrastructure and local governance, and turning control of Marjah over to Afghan security forces. As President Obama and U.S. generals touted the Afghan presence in the operation, Bravo Company Marines cajoled, threatened, pushed, and shoved the Afghan troops into doing their part in clearing the town. Showing enormous restraint in returning fire to prevent civilian deaths, the Marines suffered 43 percent casualties. Slowly, Afghan civilians returned to a semblance of normal life, and bazaars began to do business again. But success is relative: snipers and IEDs continued to harass the Marines. Afghan security forces in control? Not really. Reality on the battlefield and reality at the highest command levels are not the same. The 1/6 was redeployed to Marjah in August 2011. This is gritty, important viewing for all Americans, especially those with friends or family considering military enlistment. Including adult material, both films are outstanding.‚ Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

Forgiveness: A Time To Love & a Time To Hate. 2 discs. color. 168+ min. Helen Whitney, WETA, Clear View Prods. Fdn., dist. by Bullfrog Films, 800-543-3764; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781594589997. $550 (Rental: $175). Public performance; SDH subtitles; home version. Docurama Films, dist. by New Video, 800-314-8822; DVD ISBN 9781422916940. $29.95. PSYCH
Director Whitney (John Paul II: The Millennial Pope) here presents a disturbing look at the complex concept of forgiveness, common to most if not all religions and the backbone of most therapy programs, including 12-step programs. Her film offers a comprehensive view of case studies of heart-rending tragedies, some forgiven, others not, ranging from personal (mom leaves husband and kids) to community (gunman kills kids at an Amish school) to national (genocide in Rwanda and Nazi Germany). These examples consider denial and retribution as well as how forgiveness eases injury to the soul and restores personal sanity. Both the home version and the two-disc academic version were reviewed. Each contains most of the same case studies. The bonus material on the home version includes additional scenarios that are part of the body of the academic version, plus a written biography of the filmmaker and some advertising. In the academic version, each disc’s uncaptioned bonus material provides discussions with over half a dozen academics and theologians. Both of these outstanding programs suffer the same production shortcomings: the indexing is incomplete and misleading, the attributions lack contrast and are too small to read on a small screen. Nevertheless, either is highly recommended as a teaching resource in psychology and philosophy and their various subfields.‚ Diane W. Kazlauskas, formerly with Univ. of North Florida Lib., Jacksonville

Wrong Side of the Bus. color. 56+ min. Rod Freedman, Change Focus Media, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; 2011. DVD UPC 720229914789. $24.95. SOC SCI/INT AFFAIRS
Sidney Bloch (b. 1937), accomplished Australian professor of psychiatry, tries to resolve his guilt about his compliance with apartheid growing up in South Africa while on a trip back home to Cape Town. Bloch’s son Aaron tags along, serving as the film’s narrator and chief questioner over his father’s true feelings and motivations. As Sidney visits old haunts, friends, and neighbors, he talks about growing up Jewish in a racist society, his anger over what seemed clearly morally wrong, and his painful realization that he did nothing of substance to protest. Bloch asks for forgiveness from those who suffered: his aged mother’s black nurse, a white man who led protests and lost an arm and an eye as a result, university schoolmates who were discriminated against, and, finally, a former prisoner who was jailed in the same place as Nelson Mandela. It is this prisoner, now the jail’s tour guide, who gives Bloch the key to release his guilt in the film’s moving resolution. Wrong Side of the Bus asks big questions within the framework of one man’s journey and would be an excellent discussion starter for groups looking for material on social issues.‚ Ellen Druda, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY


My Run: The Terry Hitchcock Story. color. 85 min. Tim VandeSteeg, Indiewood Pictures in assoc. with Destiny Pictures, dist. by Virgil Films & Entertainment, www.virgilfilmsent. 2011. DVD UPC 829567077528. $19.99. HEALTH/BIOG
After losing his wife to breast cancer in 1984, Terry Hitchcock raised his three young children himself. In 1996, at the age of 56, with his children grown, Hitchcock decided to bring attention to the plight of single parents by running 75 consecutive marathons, from his home in St. Paul to the Atlanta Olympics opening ceremonies. Never having run before except in a few 5K fun runs, out of shape, and with high blood pressure, Hitchcock got himself a trainer and a PR firm to help out. Narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, the film chronicles the story of Hitchcock’s run. By the end of those 75 days, he had three stress fractures and a suspected heart attack, but he made it. The film infers that the run was less work than raising three children alone. This inspiring story will be of particular interest to single parents everywhere.‚ Susan B. Hagloch, formerly with Tuscarawas Cty. P.L., New Philadelphia, OH

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox ( is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"