Video Reviews, March 15, 2012

starred review star Vera. 4 discs. color. 355 min. Adrian Shergold & others, ITV Studios/ITV Global, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781598285765. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F

Brenda Blethyn plays Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, in this series based on the detective novels of British author Ann Cleeves (b. 1954). Her turf is the windswept villages of Northumberland. Vera is a lonely, dowdy, middle-aged woman with flyaway hair and a dreadful wardrobe, but beneath the untidy appearance is a mind capable of putting the pieces together to solve complex crimes. The series consists of four separate stories, each a feature-length drama. Vera’s sleuthing efforts are supported by right-hand man Sgt. Joe Ashworth (David Leon) and young detective Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku). Both are frequently on the receiving end of Vera’s frustration and temper‚ she’s no diplomat! The plots are complicated, gritty, and often link crimes of the past with those in the present. VERDICT This is a first-rate mystery series, full of atmosphere and intriguing characters. Sure to be popular with British mystery fans.‚ Joan Greenberg, Warminster, PA

starred review star Bobby Fischer Against the World. color & b/w. 93+ min. Liz Garbus, HBO Documentary Films & Moxie Firecracker, dist. by Docurama c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422986349. $29.95. GAMES/BIOG

Ask anyone to name a famous chess player, and chances are the response will be Bobby Fischer. The greatest player of his era and possibly of all time, Fischer (1943‚ 2008) was the perfect example of people’s perception of a chess genius: brilliant, monomaniacal, and more than a little crazy. At his zenith, he not merely defeated but destroyed all opponents until he captured the world championship in 1972 from the Soviet Union’s chess dominance and became, for the moment, a great American hero. Then, when the World Chess Federation refused to accede to his demands on match conditions, he stopped playing and went underground. Although an American of Jewish ancestry, he emerged a few years later as a full-blown, raving anti-Semitic, anti-American psychotic. Nevertheless, he left a legacy of wonderful games and, for professional chess players, vastly increased prize money. VERDICT This outstanding documentary realistically and sympathetically recounts Fischer’s life. While it would be too much to describe Fischer as a truly tragic figure, his rise and ensuing catastrophic decline are the stuff of legend; highly recommended.‚ Harold D. Shane, Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll., CUNY

starred review star The Bungalows of Rockaway: Small Houses and Big Dreams on Gotham’s Shore. color & b/w. 57 min. Jennifer Callahan, 2012. DVD $24.95 + $4.95 s/h. HIST

New York will always be one of the world’s greatest cities, but even native New Yorkers need a place to go to experience the wide open spaces. As the population exploded during the first half of the 20th century, New Yorkers flocked to the ocean shores of Rockaway, on its southern peninsula. Soon summer cottages, given the then trendy name bungalows, were sprouting up along the beach and organized into neighborhoods. Here, director Callahan revisits the golden sunny seasons through photos, old home movies, and fond reminiscences of the kids who spent long happy days on the sand and boardwalk in warm weather. The idyllic times began to change as the population shifted to year-round residents. Then, as the economy slowed, the bungalows were bulldozed to make room for welfare housing. Now, some of the structures that have survived are being resurrected and preserved, and new residents are fighting to bring the area back to life. VERDICT This loving documentary is especially suited to libraries in New York City and its suburbs but will also strike a chord for any area hit by devastation and trying to come back.‚ Ellen Druda, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY

starred review star The Strange Disappearance of the Bees. color. 58 min. Mark Daniels, Telefrance & Galafilm Prods., dist. by Icarus Films,
800-876-1710; 2011. DVD $398. Public performance; closed-captioned. NAT HIST/ENVIRONMENT

This is an outstanding addition to recent films looking into the phenomenon of disappearing honeybees. Colony and Vanishing of the Bees (both LJ 6/1/11) explored the effect of colony collapse disorder (CCD) on commercial beekeeping and the future of fresh produce in our super markets. Here, filmmaker Daniels widens the scope to include wild bee populations in precipitous decline, including species extinction. Commercial beekeepers, forced to supplement the diets of the bees they deploy in monocultural agriculture (pollinating a specific food crop), realize they are working their bees to death. Still, wild bees adapted to a more diverse and nutritious pollen diet are dying, too. The culprit could be the sublethal poisoning of bees by neonicotinoids retained in the pollens of crops treated with systemic pesticides. Most sobering: scientific experts envisioning a world without bees or, alternatively, an agriculture pollinated by genetically engineered bees. VERDICT This documentary is very highly recommended for all audiences.‚ Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

starred review star The Last Mountain: A Fight for Our Future. color. 95+ min. Bill Haney, Uncommon Prods., dist. by Docurama c/o by New Video, 800-314-
8822; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422971512. $29.95. Rated: PG. SOC SCI

Against the backdrop of the West Virginia Appalachians, filmmaker Haney documents the fight to save Coal River Mountain, the last remaining peak in the area, before it is sheared away by a coal mining process known as mountaintop removal (MTR). The film combines stunning visual imagery, effective aerial shots, and the commentary of impassioned local advocates and seasoned environmentalists like Robert Kennedy Jr. Viewers come to understand the MTR process and how it flattens and defoliates the landscape, places the surrounding valleys and hollows in the path of flash flooding and silica dust storms, and compromises the health and safety of residents. Kennedy is a powerful presence, both in the battle to save the mountain and on screen, gamely tangling with a coal executive and placing environmental protests in historic and political context. No less compelling are the smart, plain-spoken locals who craft a creative alternative energy proposal that addresses economic and environmental concerns. Bonus features include the trailer, outtakes, and a question-and-answer session with Kennedy. VERDICT Though the outcome of their battle is discouraging, Haney and the subjects of the film manage to convey equal amounts passion and information without one muddying the other. The result is a film with wide appeal and one that advocacy groups of all stripes will find to be educational and inspiring.‚ Joan Pedzich, formerly with Harris Beach PLLC, Pit tsford, NY

The following titles are reviewed in the March 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


The Complete Inspector Lewis: The Pilot and Complete Series 1‚ 4. 10 discs in 5-vol. set. color. 30 hrs. ITV Studios for Masterpiece,
dist. by PBS, 800-531-4727; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781608834877. $129.99. Closed-captioned. F

Milestones. color & b/w. 327+ min. w/booklet. Robert Kramer & John Douglas, dist. by Icarus Films, 2011. DVD UPC 854565001336. $34.98. F


Great Directors. 2 discs. color & b/w. 87+ min. Angela Ismailos, Anisma Films, dist. by Kino Lorber, 2011. DVD UPC 738329073428. $29.95. FILM

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America. color & b/w. 88+ min. Paul Mariano & Kurt Norton, WGBH & PBS, dist. by PBS, 2011. DVD UPC 841887015769. $24.99; Blu-ray UPC 841887015776 $29.99. FILM

Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode. color & b/w. 84 min. Michael Bayley Hughes, Walking Shadows & Virgil Films, 2011. DVD UPC 829567077924. $19.99. LIT

Yes, Sir! Jack Nicklaus and His Historic 1986 Masters Win. color. 48+ min. James Walton, Bombo Sports & Entertainment, A&E, dist. by New Video, 800-314-8822; 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422942437. $19.95. SPORTS


The Kennedys. 3 discs. color. 6+ hrs. Jon Cassar, Muse Entertainment in assoc. with Asylum Entertainment, dist. by New Video, 800-314-8822; 2011. DVD UPC 767685243565. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 767685243572. $39.95. BIOPIC


Revenge of the Electric Car. color. 90+ min. Chris Paine, Westmidwest Prods., dist. by Docurama c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; 2012. DVD ISBN 9781422995003. $29.95. Closed-captioned. ENVIRONMENT/TECH/BUS

Back Walking Forward. color. 40 min. Kavery Kaul, Essential Media, dist. by Transit Media, 2012. $75; acad. libs.
$185. Public performance. HEALTH/SOC SCI

Dive! Living Off America’s Waste. color. 53+ min. Jeremy Seifert, Compeller Pictures, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; 2011. DVD UPC 720229914765. $24.95. Closed-captioned.

Nourish Short Films: 54 Bite-Sized Videos About the Story of Your Food. color. 83 min. WorldLink, 415-561-2141; 2011. DVD UPC 850075002290. $44.50; acad. libs. $89.95 + $4.95 s/h. Public performance. HOME ECON


The correct phone number for Filling the Gap: Forgotten Chapter of American History (LJ 3/1/12) is 407-403-6560.

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"