Now 'tis true that we don't review nearly as many DVDs as we do books and music CDs as our reviewers are much more interested in them than they are in film, but we have done enough, some five hundred or so as near as we can tell, that a look at the very best we've reviewed is warranted.
It is also true that some of us never go near a movie theatre and actually prefer the pleasures of a DVD seen here as Green Man has a lovely screening room, but the typical cineplex with its bad seating, lousy picture, nauseating popcorn smell, and usually terribly bad sound leaves most of us not desiring to see anything there.
So this fortnightly edition is just DVD reviews, but not solely recent films and series just out on DVD but also some classic films on DVD such as Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits, a nifty imported drama called Rain Shadow which is an Australian series about a vet service in the dry regions of that country, and looks at two series based on the same Canadian mystery series.
I ran across him in a corridor I'd never explored before -- the Library was on one end, but I'd never been down it and had no idea what was on the other. I'd seen him around, usually outside, occasionally in the Pub, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a great fall of fox-red hair barely contained by a silver ring, his movements oddly quick and fluid. He had with him a little wisp of a boy who seemed in constant motion, slipping in and out of sight. He looked at me out of long golden eyes, the kind of eyes that don't tell much, but his smile was friendly enough.
'Well, hello there. I see you've discovered the hallway to the Wood -- what is it, Pix?'
'Might I go hear a story?' The boy was definitely there, quite solid now that I'd drawn close. Huge blue eyes in a thin face were almost pleading.
'Hmm -- very well, I suppose so, but do be careful -- no wandering around. There, there's your favorite story room just over there. Do you have your yarn? Here, tie one end to my wrist and be sure to hold on tightly now. Robin would never forgive me if I misplaced you. There -- all set.'
'Thank you. I promise, I'll sit quietly and listen to the stories.' The beginnings of a pout. 'I wish I got to pick the story, though.'
'Well, maybe we'll figure out a way to do that. Now, run along, and don't get lost -- and stay out of the computer! Tch. I don't know how he does that, but he does, and it sends Robin into a tizzy trying to get him downloaded again -- he's truly fond of the little imp -- and Robin in a tizzy is -- well, the man has a temper, though he's gentle as can be if you treat him right.
'Now, where was I -- oh, right, this hallway. Be very careful if you're inclined to explore at all -- you might want to get your own ball of yarn. It tends to go places you might not expect, particularly near the Border. I'm not sure they're all real to begin with, and it would be the Devil's own job to get you back from some of them. And be especially careful of the Minotaur -- he's more irritable than usual this time of year.
'Hmm? Oh, yes -- it ends at the First Tree, in the center of the Wood. Robin says this is actually a root that became the Library. I don't know where he learns these things, and that's the truth. Iain -- you've met Iain, haven't you? our Librarian? -- Iain says that's outrageous, but Robin's usually right about such as that -- he's very clever, my Robin. He thinks the House just grew here, but that's a bit much even for me to swallow, and he can usually talk me into anything. Although now I think on it, the House does tend to add parts without warning, so maybe... Well.
'Here, look down here a ways and you can see... Ah! Let me go get Pix to give me some slack so I can move around a bit. I'll be right back...'
We, of course, have some best DVDs reviewed by our staff for you to be tempted by. Read on for what they are...
First up is the pick by Camille Alexa -- 'Shhhh!' She holds a finger to her lips and glances furtively up one side of the hall and down the next. 'It's still a secret, since I'm still working on it,' she says, 'but BBC's Life on Mars, the entire first season, would definitely be my favorite DVD pick so far for Green Man Review. I'm still in the middle of it, so the review hasn't come out yet, but advance news is that it's Totally Cool.' She shrugs. 'Other than that, my official answer for best DVD reviewed for GMR would be the same answer I gave for best music reviewed -- Cote d'Azur with Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Miro.'
Donna Bird says Cirque du Soleil's Corteo performance on DVD is her easy pick for the very best DVD reviewed by her -- 'I am sure that a live Cirque du Soleil performance has its own pleasures-but the video also offers clear advantages, such as being able to watch the show multiple times, to stop the action or to replay a favorite scene. All the Cirque du Soleil videos I've seen are very well-executed, making full use of multiple cameras to give the viewer angles and close-ups that would not be available to anyone sitting in a live audience. The Corteo DVD offers some of the best extras I've ever seen in such a package, including interviews with members of the company (both performers and behind-the-scenes folks) and a very nice 'day-in-the-life' piece that follows two of the performers through a typical day in the big tent. We're loaning our copy to a friend, but will surely watch it again when she returns it.'
Denise Dutton says 'I'd have to say my favorite DVD that I've reviewed here is the Jane Eyre the BBC did back in 1973. Though there isn't a special feature to be had, it's a nicely packaged, well-transferred look at a classic that thankfully has yet to be done to death.'
Cat Eldridge picks a concert DVD by the founder of the original WOMAD, the illustrious Peter Gabriel, as his best DVD reviewed by him -- 'Peter,' says the Chief, 'is a man comfortable on the boundaries between folk and rock, between nature and technology, between theater and music -- he thrives on the edges where most artists truly dare not go.' Sounds like he'd fit right in here at GMR, doesn't it? Go on and read the rest of Cat's review of Peter Gabriel - Secret World Live to find out more about this superb DVD.
David Kidney says it was a rough choice for him -- 'The best DVD I've ever reviewed? That's a tough one. I hate answering these questions because every time I choose one... I think of another one or two that I liked equally. While I might have thought that it would be a music film like The Passing Show about Ronnie Lane, (a really touching and informative film) as I look back over the list I think it has to be the Complete Slings & Arrows. This television limited series about life (and death) in a theatre festival environ (not unlike Stratford, ON) was surprising, funny, sad, witty, sexy and beautifully acted by all. It only lasted for three seasons but they got out while the getting was good, and wrapped up all the important plotlines. I appreciate that!'
Mia Nutick, Film Editor, here with our special DVD reviews!
Kage Baker starts us off with a look at two Terry Gilliam films. As Kage says, 'Terry Gilliam will probably go down in history as the only filmmaker dogged by a genuine curse.' Gilliam's struggles to make his films in spite of various catastrophes are well documented -- and to add insult to injury, his films are often underrated by critics and the public alike. But we here at GMR disagree. In fact, we rarely do more than one review of the same material, but The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is such a good film that we made an exception. April Gutierrez originally reviewed it for us here. Now Kage takes a second look at the beloved fantasy. As she says, 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a marvel of unforgettable images and choice performances.'
Kage also reviews another sometimes overlooked Gilliam film, Time Bandits. She raves 'I could natter on for paragraphs and paragraphs about the star turns and unexpected delights in this film, and I still wouldn't manage to do it justice.' Read why in her Excellence in Writing Award winning review.
Next, Donna Bird brings us DVDs with two very different themes and settings. The first, Housewife, 49, is a historical drama 'based on the journals of Nella Last, a British housewife who participated in the Mass Observation Project, a large-scale data collection effort carried out by a non-governmental social research organization that started up in 1937 to document the experiences of ordinary citizens during wartime by asking them to keep and submit regular journal entries.' Donna makes this one sound absolutely fascinating!
Donna's second review covers the first season of an Australian series called Rain Shadow. Donna tells us 'In our house, DVDs come and go pretty fast . . .Rare is the DVD film or TV series that deserves to be kept for future re-viewing. Rain Shadow is one of those exceptions.' Find out why she thinks so in her superb review.
Cat Eldridge is a busy man this week, with three reviews for us. Two of his reviews are of separate treatments based on the same original material! Two different versions of the Murdoch Mysteries, based on the works of novelist Maureen Jennings, captured Cat's attention. Though the versions are very different, Cat likes both. Of the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries, Cat says 'It is certainly one of the best Victorian era mystery series I've seen and that includes the legendary Jeremy Britt Sherlock Holmes series. . .' And he says of the Murdoch Mysteries film series 'this is the really good stuff that rises above mere entertainment -- this is indeed great storytelling.'
Cat switches gears to another mystery series with his review of Agatha Christie's Poirot -- The Movie Collection, Set 4, starring David Suchet as the Belgian detective with the 'little grey cells' that work so well. 'Are they worth seeing? Oh. yes.' Cat tells us why here in his charming review.
April Gutierrez is one of our anime and comic experts, and she brings us reviews this week focusing on her area of expertise. First up is a DVD which 'consists of a one-on-one interview with comic creator Alan Moore, best known for works like From Hell, Watchmen and V for Vendetta.' She found it interesting, but perhaps not for the ordinary fan. Find out why in her review of The Mindscape of Alan Moore.
She also brings us a review of a Korean animated show called Pucca. April finds Pucca: Ninjas Love Noodles and Pucca: Kung Fu Kisses cute, and good for younger fans: 'there's plenty of cartoony violence -- and a lot of silly smooching when Pucca catches Garu -- but nothing beyond that.' Find out more about Pucca in her review.
Turning her attention to another genre, April brings us a review of a good concert DVD as well. She calls Moody Blues: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 'a perfect time capsule of the band at a high point of their career . . .' and tells us much about the wonderful interviews and concert performance captured on this release. Moody Blues fans should definitely pay attention to April's high opinion of this particular DVD!
Our Assistant Music Editor David Kidney is an expert on good music, so it should be no surprise that two of the reviews that he brings us this week are of concert DVDs. Of the first, David asks 'Miles Davis, the most innovative jazz musician of the 20th Century? Or what? A fraud? Over-rated? Misogynist?' David gives us the details in his review of That's What Happened: Live in Germany 1987, 'essentially a [concert]video that shows what happened one evening in Munich in 1987'.
Pete Seeger is a beloved figure to so many of us, David being no exception. David recalls 'I saw Pete's sloop one day while fishing in the Hudson River in Kingston, NY. He waved from the deck. That was in 1962, the year before the year that this video represents. 1963! That's 46 years ago! I was 12 years old, and I'll never forget Pete waving to us.' Aside from being a friendly sort, Pete Seeger is a legendary musician and activist, and this video taken at a show in Australia in 1963 shows us Seeger's magic. 'If you wonder why the rock glitterati care about a 90 year old banjo player, pop this disc in your player and take a gander at what happens,' David says in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review of Live in Australia.
David brings us a third review of the second season of a 'fish out of water' series about a London doctor transplanted to a small village in Cornwall. Of Doc Martin, Series 2, David says 'It's the stuff of soap opera, and yet it is so real in its portrayal of small town life.' Now, go read his review to find out more about this charming television show!
Finally, Kestrell Rath has an extremely interesting review of a DVD of a master at work. Kestrell tells us 'John Barton co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) with Peter Hall in 1960, and Barton has been an active director with the RSC ever since. In 1982, Barton, working with such RSC luminaries as Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, and Ben Kingsley, recorded nine workshop sessions for London television. These recordings were aired in 1984 and became the source of his best-selling book, Playing Shakespeare: An Actor's Guide. Now Athena Learning has released the complete recordings of those nine workshops in a set of DVDs entitled Playing Shakespeare.' In her thorough review of this material, Kestrell says that 'Whether you agree with all of Barton's ideas about the plays, or whether you find yourself occasionally, as I did, arguing with Barton's image on the screen, Playing Shakespeare should provide lots for Shakespeare fans to think about.'
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
We also decided to have our reviewers pick the single best music recording that they reviewed for us. We think you'll find their choices rather interesting!
Lastly, we have put together a recommended series reading list covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) sf for your reading pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to de Lint tell a tale or play a tune with the Neverending Session, he'll try to answer your question!
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Entire Contents Copyright 1993–2009, Green Man Review, a publication of Twilight People Press except where specifically noted such as this one which has the cover art for Charles de Lint's Tapping the Dreamtree which was done by Charles Vess and is copyrighted by him and used with his permission. All Rights Reserved.
A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man metanarrative has agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarritve do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of Twilight People Press. They might, they might not.
Uploaded 27th June, 2009 10:37pm PST LLS