Video Reviews | March 15, 2014

redstarBirth of the Living Dead: George A. Romero and the Making of a Classic. color & b/w. 76+ min. Rob Kuhns, Predestinate Prod., dist. by Glass Eye Pix and First Run Features, 800-229-8575; 2014. DVD UPC birthoflivingdead3. $24.95. FILM

The 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead virtually defines the term cult film. Filmed around Pittsburgh by director George A. Romero (b. 1940), the movie was made on a miniscule budget in black and white, with zombies and victims often pitching in on behind-the-scenes duties. Participants included investors, family, friends, even a local late night TV horror film host nicknamed “chilly Billy.” On the film’s 45th anniversary, this documentary recalls a movie that defied expectations and the odds, spurning a happy ending, featuring a strong black man as the hero, and including violence that was not only graphic but also disturbing in its implications. The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Hurd, critic Elvis Mitchell, and others describe the film’s lasting influence, which somehow channeled the era’s anger and rage in the wake of urban riots and the Vietnam War. With obvious glee, Romero recounts his start with children’s TV legend Fred Rogers, a stint making beer commercials, and the rise of the Dead from the grindhouse circuit to midnight movie showings, culminating in recognition from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. With numerous film clips and revealing, often humorous anecdotes, this production includes commentary from Dead’s surviving participants, who seem amazed and gratified by the movie’s status as a classic. Extras include an extended interview with Romero. VERDICT With hard-edged violence and brief nudity, this highly recommended documentary will be popular with horror film fans.—­Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA

Life Is a Saxophone: 28th Anniversary Edition. color & b/w. 58+ min. S. Pearl Sharp, 2013. DVD ISBN 9780936068183. $25; acad. libs. $100; home version $15. Poetry/Jazz

lifeisasaxophone033114“My typewriter is a machine gun aimed at a lie pointed at the descendants of book burners.” So begins Life Is a Saxophone, a documentary about poet and “word musician” Kamau Daáood. Filmed in 1984, when the poet was 34, the production is a rich collection of recitals from “an oral poet in an electronic age,” and it includes a live concert at the Watts Towers Arts Center in Los Angeles with interpretations of Daáood’s work by musicians Billy Higgins, Roberto Miguel Miranda, Dadisi Komolafe, and Nirankar Singh Khalsa; dancer Lula Washington; martial artist Dadisi Sanyika; and portraitist Gale Fulton Ross. As a bonus, director Sharp includes a 14-minute film that fills in a bit of what has happened to the principals and crew in the ensuing 28 years. Verdict A fascinating and timeless collection of the work of a revered poet whose spoken word is jazz.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

redstarRising from Ashes: An Inspiring Story as Told by Forest Whitaker. color. 80+ min.

T.C. Johnstone, Gratis 7 Media Group for Project Rwanda, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; 2013. DVD UPC 720229915724. $27.95. Closed-captioned. SPORTS

In December 2005, Tom Ritchey, a pioneer of modern risingfromashes033114mountain biking, and his friend Dan Cooper took their bikes on a visit to Rwanda. Ritchey was captivated by the lovely, bike-challenging countryside and charmed by the Rwandan people. On his return to Palo Alto, CA, Ritchey devised Project Rwanda, a strategy to modernize cycling in Rwanda involving the creation of a national cycling team as a source of national pride and hope. Ritchey recruited Jock Boyer, first American to compete in the Tour de France, to organize the team. This is their story. Composed of survivors of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, all deeply, personally altered by loss of family in the genocide, the team progresses from the “Wooden Bike Race,” the first mountain bike race ever to be held in Rwanda (2006), to a team member’s ride in the 2012 London Olympics. ­VERDICT Executive produced by Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, this inspiring and uplifting story is highly recommended for general sports collections.—Cliff Glaviano, ­formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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The ABCs of Death. color. 130+ min. Adam Wingard & others, dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2013. DVD UPC 876964005494. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964005500. $29.98. Horror

Frank Riva: The Complete Series. 3 discs. color. 552 min. In French w/English subtitles. Patrick Jamain, Intl. Television Mystery France, dist. by MHz Networks, 2013. DVD UPC 815047017474. $39.95. F

Museum Hours. color. 107+ min. In English & German w/English subtitles. Jem Cohen, dist. by Cinema Guild, 800-723-5522; 2013. DVD ISBN 9780781514545. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9780781514552. $34.95. F


The Best of the Original An Evening at the Improv. 4 discs. color. 720 min. Somerville House, dist. by Entertainment One, 2013. DVD UPC 880934124498. $29.98. HUMOR

Gershwin & Bess: A Dialogue with Anne Brown. color & b/w. 36 min. In English & Norwegian w/English subtitles. Nicole Franklin, EPIPHANY Inc., dist. by Third World Newsreel, 2013. DVD $75; acad. libs. $175. Public performance. MUSIC

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone. color & b/w. 97+ min. Shane Meadows, Channel Four Television, dist. by MVDvisual, 800-888-0486;

DVD UPC 760137612698. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 760137612797. $19.95. MUSIC


War of the Worlds. color & b/w. 60+ min. Cathleen O’Connell, American Experience, WGBH-Boston, dist. by PBS, 2013. DVD ISBN 9781608839643. $24.99. SDH subtitles. COMM

Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May). 2 discs. b/w. 146+ min. Chris Marker & Pierre Lhomme, dist. by Icarus Films, 2013. home version DVD UPC 854565001626. $34.98. HIST/INT AFFAIRS


A Wild Idea/Una Idea Audaz. color. 26+ min. Verónica Moscoso, dist. Video Project, 800-4-PLANET; 2013. DVD $79; acad. libs. $149. Public performance; closed-captioned. ENVIRONMENT


redstarCutie and the Boxer. color. 82+ min. Zachary Heinzerling, Cine Mosaic prod. w/Little Magic Films, dist. by Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2014. DVD UPC 013132609201. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 013132609225. $29.99. Rated: R. ART-GENERAL

Japanese neo-Dadaist Ushio Shinohara came to New cutieandtheboxer033114York in the 1960s and became a rising star in the art world. A few years later, Shinohara, 41, married Noriko, a 19-year-old art student. At the beginning of the film, Shinohara is celebrating his 80th birthday, and he and his wife still live in Brooklyn, where they practice their art and struggle to pay their rent. The camera follows them as they go about their daily lives, having meals together, creating their art, and getting ready for exhibitions. Shinohara moves between two art forms: the “boxing” technique in which he literally punches paint onto canvases with boxing gloves and creating cardboard sculptures of motorcycles. The heart of the film, however, lies with Noriko, who put her artwork on the back burner as she raised their son and acted as assistant, secretary, and cook to her beloved Ushio. Now, with more time on her hands, Noriko begins to paint a series of cartoon-like characters, “Cutie and Bullie,” based on their lives together. VERDICT This film, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, is a touching portrait of two artists whose love, devotion, and commitment to their work and to each other have surpassed both professional and marital hardships. Highly recommended for all audiences. [The ceremony was held March 2, so you already know which film won.—Ed.]—Phillip ­Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence

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