Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Film Review: Ethos: A Time For Change

Sydney Morris

            Ethos: A Time for Change, from Director Pete McGrain and hosted by Woody Harrelson, is an entrancing documentary that opens viewers’ eyes to the real power they possess as consumers and members of modern society. According to the documentary, we cannot change our system until we know how it works. The system controls virtually all of the everyday aspects of our lives and how we live within in. With this documentary, you learn how to function in peace and justice in a clean environment. Ethos: A Time for Change is a great way for people who may be uninformed about certain topics to learn and become more powerful and responsible decision makers, creating a way for them to fully open their eyes to the world we live in.
            The choice of quotes and people who were interviewed complemented the documentary very well; they supported the purpose of the film and added interesting insight. The facts are undeniable and provide people who watch this with several things to think about. One of the subjects covered is politics and how politicians often completely contradict themselves. McGrain makes an interesting point that we never really know what to believe when politicians do this, and tend to just go along with their ideas, which is another way they control the system and how we live.
            I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary; it was informative and gave an outlook on the world that I would not have been aware of otherwise. I enjoyed the narrative and I would recommend it to others who are curious as to how the corrupt system impacts our lives and how easy it is to change the way it works once you can understand the amount of power you hold as a consumer. This is a great documentary, one that serves as a much needed wake up call, and is well worth the watch!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Film Review: The Raw and the Cooked - A Culinary Journey Through Taiwan

Charles A. Smith

The Raw and the Cooked is a foodie's dream documentary. Taiwanese cuisine is the featured food/topic in this DVD, which is a Monika Treut film. Subtitles aside (they don't detract from the film in the least), The Raw and the Cooked is really informative. The farmers of Taiwan give viewers a wealth of information about their vegetables and fruits, including their health benefits. Then, different methods of cooking from different regions of Taiwan are demonstrated by some of the best chefs on the island. Seafood, a mainstay of the people of Taiwan, is cooked many different ways including some which are an amazing display of culinary art, as aboriginal chef Ladibasse cooks inside a tree trunk using hot rocks as the heat source. The grand finale is the shopping trip fusion chef Liu Henh-Hong takes viewers on, after which he cooks the fresh and vegetables at Jindou Restaurant in Pulin. Throughout this trip around the coast of this island country, you will be completely captivated by this well produced DVD. Great scenes of tradition, people and culture. The green movement is alive and growing across the world, and Taiwan is trying hard to keep its grounds and waters clear and clean. See how some in Taiwan are making a difference with respect to carbon wastes; it has a lot to do with awareness of what you are eating and other choices that are made. This foodie trip has something for everyone from the vegetarian to the pork lover. Well done! I highly recommend this major Foodie DVD!!

Film Review: Three Stars

Charles A. Smith

Three Stars, a culinary documentary by Lutz Hachmeister, focuses on ten world class chefs, revealing the inner workings of the minds and kitchens of these great cooks -- all of whom have "stars". "Three Stars" includes such notables as Jean-George Vongerichten from Jean Georges, Rene Redzepi from Noma, Sven Elverfeld from Aqua, and many others. Michelin stars in the culinary arts world are the way in which the world's finest restaurants are rated on the very highest level of gastronomic expertise. No one on the outside really knows exactly what the qualifications are to get a 3 star rating, but having them puts a restaurant in a very elite club among the global best. This documentary really gets viewers up close and personal with the thought process of some of the best chefs as they travel the world pursuing the ingredients and techniques of cooking that will make them stand apart. Some care more about the stars than others. But the bottom line is that chefs take the culinary experience very seriously, and want nothing to get in the way of pleasuring your palate. The film showcases fine cuisine from all over the world and insightful tips if you listen carefully. See how Chefs have become scientists in the kitchen, featuring new molecular cuisines, which is the new terminology for what they do.

"Three Stars" is a DVD that is chock full of pleasures and understanding along with the mysterious Michelin Guide, its standards, and the stars awarded by them. If you like food (and who doesn't), you'll definitely enjoy this watch. I highly recommend this very interesting culinary documentary!! 

Please Note: No trailer available.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Film Review: Shadow of Afghanistan: 1959-2012

Charles A. Smith

Shadow of Afghanistan is an must see for all Americans who have an opinion about the country Afghanistan or the people who inhabit it. In this documentary from Jim Burroughs and Suzanne Bauman, viewers will see an epic and little known story from the perspective of journalists who gave their lives for the truth, and independent filmmakers who covered the story from the Soviet occupation until the invasion of U.S. troops 20 years later. 

The Afghan people have had a hard hand to play as policies are forced upon them that benefit the occupier of the moment. Like most things, the truth is sometimes elusive, but Shadow of Afghanistan reveals it in a most compelling way, exposing the reality about this great country and its wonderful people. It thoroughly addresses their very strong will to survive the unwanted factions that have tried (and for the most part succeeded) to influence their lives and ways for  decades. A very independent and proud, but undereducated people, they have been strangely guided to their present situation and all they want is their lives back. Their history and way of life is beautiful and peaceful. They were neutral during the cold war, indicating their desire for peace. But they have won every war that has been waged against them, driving out the oppressor's military forces. In the process, however, the government that was left behind has been oppressive and controlling. 

The true story will leave viewers painfully aware of certain non truths that the media feeds us, and a misconception that follows to which we are blinded. Shadow of Afghanistan is a very good and informative DVD. It includes some amazing and revealing footage shot up close in very dangerous times and situations. This is one worth seeing if you want the facts without the fiction, or stated more accurately, "without the political spin." I highly recommend this DVD!!  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Film Review: Eye of the Future

Charles A. Smith

Eye of the Future is an intriguing story of creativity and problem resolution as seen through the eyes and imaginations of five children. The kids, who are the children of 5 UN ambassadors, are given a quest by Mother Earth to reduce the amount of the carbon in the earth;s atmosphere that's caused by mankind, thereby creating a sustainable future. Currently, the reading is 390 ppm (parts per million) and the children must bring that down to 350 ppm, which is a healthy state for the earth's air, water and land. They have until 2050 to get this done, and their young minds will stun viewers with the simplicity and ingenuity they use to solve the carbon problems for the world. Each show real solutions being done on a small scale in their respective countries, and imagine the effect on a larger scale.  Things being done across the globe to make clean, safe energy are revealed to viewers along with fantastic world panoramas.

Breathtaking cinematography with plenty of interesting facts make this a very interesting and informative DVD that's not just for children, but for all who are interested in saving the planet for the future generations who will habitat it. We must change the way we do things environmentally or the planet will not be able to support life the way it has. The children hold the audience's attention as they each guide you through their collective solution with a target of reaching this very critical goal.  Eye Of The Future, from director Catherine Cunningham, is a well produced documentary, and one that should be required viewing for all. The important messages conveyed by the film are expressed in a way that is engaging for all ages, and for that I commend the producers, because the message is loud and clear. The future belongs to those who prepare. I highly recommend this DVD!!    


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Film Review: My Amityville Horror

Michele Wilson-Morris & Paul Anderson

Very few horror films have touched audiences around the world like The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, and The Amityville Horror. It seems that viewers are drawn to movies that claim to be based in fact that can perhaps provide a glimpse into a world of darkness whose very existence is still being debated. There are very few people, however, who saw The Amityville Horror without having its darkness being permanently seared into their memories. The Amityville Horror, which was released in July 1979 and starred James Brolin and Margot Kidder as George and Kathy Lutz, along with Rod Steiger as Father Delaney, became an instant classic horror film. My Amityville Horror takes you much farther on the ride and allows viewers to decide for themselves whether it's true or not.

The Lutz Family had 3 young children whose names were changed from one movie to the next to protect their privacy after abandoning their home at 110 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York just 28 days after moving in. Danny Lutz was the eldest child, and he has finally come forward to tell his story in the documentary My Amityville Horror from director Eric Walter. Released on March 15, 2013, My Amityville Horror is the epitome of the saying "I wish I were on fly on the wall" as the now fully grown Daniel Lutz releases his version of the unspeakable evils that allegedly took place in his home. Laura Didio, the Channel 5 investigative reporter who broke the story, has a major presence in the documentary as well, as do other members of the parapsychology team who were witnesses to these events. 

One thing is certain: Daniel Lutz was robbed of a normal childhood. But was it a mixture of practically nonexistent parenting skills and family conflict along with a vivid imagination that tormented him? Or was there an inescapable, undeniable, uncontrollable evil that dwelled in the house with the Lutz family as a result of George Lutz's obsession with the occult, demonology, and mind control (and even telekinesis) that doomed the Lutz family to 28 days of torture that would forever change their lives? My Amityville Horror gives viewers an opportunity to decide for themselves. 

This film shows a frustrated and disturbed individual who has seemingly made demands upon the director to portray him as a traumatized man and a misunderstood wanderer with secrets that he’d rather not share, though he gladly rocks out on some metal or acoustic guitar for you throughout the documentary. The anger of being yesterday’s news and grasping at new attention with this film seems to come across, as he tries to brand himself as his parents did in the 1970's with their infamy and book and movie deals. 

Viewers will each come away with their own opinions after seeing My Amityville Horror, but one thing is almost certain. No viewer will be unaffected as it takes you on a very compelling, but frightening journey -- one that will stay on your mind long after the credits stop rolling. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music DVD: Beatles Stories (Seth Swirsky)

Charles A. Smith
The Beatles, who hail from Liverpool, England, are one of the most famous musical groups of all time. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon made history with their music, and created a frenzy wherever they went. This prolific and spectacular DVD, from director Seth Swirsky, is a rich documentary that tells many stories about them, ushering in a new generation of fans.
(/br> Many well known icons from the 60's are present on "Beatles Stories", including Henry Winkler and Graham Nash who many years after their zenith, are still looking great! Stars from British Rock & Roll who were  very big at the time (or were soon to be) enlighten viewers with their stories about what happened back stage in the early years, such as how the individual members of the Beatles acted and thought when the cameras were not rolling. Stars like model Nancy Andrews (Ringo's former girlfriend) and singer Hurricane Smith, who was a songwriter/engineer for the Beatles, Jon Voight, and Smokey Robinson all have interesting and unheard takes on the world renowned group. Brian Williams from the Beach Boys, and Peter Noone of Herman and the Hermits are also featured, as are many others who convey intimate tales about different members of the group or the story about the Era in which the group was formed. I was completely captivated hearing these stories about the greatest group of all time, and all music lovers -- especially fans of The Beatles, will be too. This is a group that changed the world, and "Beatles Stories" gives you a inside look at just who they really were. It's a great and refreshing revelation.Bonus tracks are included. This is a real example of great investigative reporting on a topic that will never get old. I highly recommend this DVD.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Music DVD: Hiromi: Live In Marciac (Hiromi, Anthony Jackson, and Simon Phillips)

Charles A. Smith

The performance DVD "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a collaboration between jazz composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara, bassist Anthony Jackson, and drummer Simon Phillips. Hiromi, who has graced the stage with jazz greats like Stanley Clark and Chick Corea, was born in Hamamatsu, Japan, and is one of the most prominent pianists to appear on the music scene in the last decade. She is well known for her virtuosic technique, energetic live performances, and blend of musical genres. Master contrabass player Anthony Jackson has played with Paul Simon, The O' Jays, Steely Dan, and Chick Corea, among others. Master drummer Simon Phillips has performed with Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce. No lightweights here.
Hiromi has stunned the world with her innovative compositions and style of play. I knew from the moment the DVD began to play that she was full of passion and brilliance, and that I was in for a treat. I was not incorrect in that assumption. It was a very unique musical and visual experience. As I watched the expressions of the trio's faces and listened to their music, I could clearly see their passion and synergy. It was almost as good as being there.
Recorded July 31, 2011 in Marciac, France, "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a tremendously riveting production. France is smoking hot as Hiromi, Jackson, and Phillips form the kind of connection that Bill Evans was well known for long ago. Drummer Simon Phillips holds it all together when his counterparts get twisted up in musical love, and the trio is simply resplendent, as they move from one form of jazz to another with ease and intensity. Hiromi is almost unbelievably amazing. She leads this trio with precision and a confident command of the stage and her instrument. At times, she plays with a powerful demonstration of prowess, and at others, with a delicate stroke. But she always plays flawlessly. This is the kind of performance that requires one to reach deep down within themselves and access feelings and emotions that are then thoroughly conveyed to the audience. This is Jazz and Jazz fusion at its highest level.  I highly recommend this DVD. I most certainly enjoyed it.
Click Here To Visit Hiromi's Official Website

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Film Review: Master Qi And The Monkey King (Alan Govenar)

Charles A. Smith

Alan Govenar's Master Qi and the Monkey King is a documentary that chronicles the beautiful and compelling Chinese Opera. Qi Shu Fang is one of the most prominent masters of Chinese Opera, who made the tough choice to stay in the United States and act as a cultural liaison between the cultures. Master Qi and her husband Ding Mei-kui and their company of Chinese Opera performers spread knowledge and beauty about the ancient art form of Peking Opera. Balancing modern life and her love for ancient tradition, she and her husband work and live in Queens NY, in a section of the city that now has many Chinese and Asian immigrants. This documentary shows the hard work and dedication that are demanded by this art form, as well as its' nature and perfection. This is carried over to the performers that work with and for her. 

It's enchanting to watch the excerpts from various operas and the time at work the artists put in after working other jobs. Qi's movements are exquisite and brilliant. There's also footage from the early days of her career as a prodigy finishing her schooling in three years instead of the five that was normally required. She spent her early years doing plays for the central government and the "Modern Model Play Company", then ventured into films. "Taking Tiger Mountain", in which she plays Little Changbao, a strong female character, propelled her to even higher levels of fame. Now years later, Master Qi is just as powerful and engaging as she ever was, if not more so. To be a performer of this type, one must be an acrobat,  martial artist, singer, dancer, actor, and more. What this incredible documentary does is allow the uninitiated to develop an interest in Chinese Opera, while aficionados gain further insight into a wonderful art form and one of the masters of it. This is one 200 year old tradition that you shouldn't waste another day to see! Very highly recommended!!  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Film Review: The Heart Of The Peloton (3 DVD set)

Charles A. Smith

The Heart Of The Peloton is a riveting 3 DVD set from First Run Features that goes behind the scenes of professional bike racing. It's one big shot adrenaline from beginning to end, and biking fans are sure to enjoy these immensely.

Blood Sweat and Gears
Blood Sweat and Gears is about a the forming of the professional bicycle racing team Team Slipstream, product of the vision of  Johnathan ( JV) Vaughters, former racer and now manager of Team Slipstream, a collection of riders who race competitively all around the world in hopes of getting a invite to the Tour De France and  sponsorship. The sport suffered from rampart drug use to enhance performance and he was determined to change that, so he created a dope free team. With frequent testing, he and his athletes remain drug free and very competitive. Realizing his dream, he recruited riders like David Miller, Christain Vende Velde, Mike Freidman, Magnus Backstedt, and the rest of Team Slipstream. See what it takes to form a team, get a sponsor, and get the invitation to the biggest  race of the sport. There is only one way to do that and that is what this very uplifting documentary is about. Can they win their way into sponsorship and the race? The dedication to the sport by these athletes is really something that will impress and inspire you  along with the vision of Jonathan Vaughters who is the one making it happen in the U.S. first. He's a real innovator and believer of fair play. Highly informative, viewers sett what happens in the struggle for real improvement in, a sport that needs to be drug free! I applaud Team SlipSream, and was fascinated by this DVD.

Hell On Wheels
The 2003 T-Mobile bike racing team from Germany shows us the inside world of the Tour De France, which is easily the biggest biking event in the world. Follow the team as they reveal the heartbreak and triumph of this dangerous and glorious event. Witness the pain and sacrifice they and the other riders must endure just to make it to the end, let alone compete for the yellow jersey and the green. This documentary is in German with subtitles, and is well made, taking you right along with the riders. You actually feel like you're on the bikes and a part of the team and race. With stunning footage from past and present events, and with France as the background, this DVD is great for any viewer, especially those into biking on any level. The dedication that these riders and the greats of the sport have is unbelievable, as they push their bodies to the very limits of human ability during the most grueling race on earth. You will develop a sincere appreciation for the sport and its athletes.The race from start to finish is covered with greats like Rolf, Petacchi, Armstrong, Ullrich, and many others. This documentary is very up close and personal, taking you not only into the race but into the minds of the racers. 

Yell For Cadel
Yell for Cadel is the third DVD of the trilogy in this great box set. In every sport, there's a super star. Cycling is no different, and that what this documentary is all about. In Yell For Cadel, we are allowed inside the camp of Australian world class cyclist and recent winner of the World Championship, Cadel Evans. Following him and team Silence Lotto in their attempt to win over his rivals in this Tour De France 2008 Menchev, Sastre, and Valverde, the other real contenders in the race according to the experts. It's a very different kind of ride when you are one of the top cyclists in the world, and a class above most other riders. The ride is grueling, but they handle it differently. See what makes that difference as you follow the Aussie superstar and his bodyguard Evans as they push through the competition, reporters, and fans in France. Funny, lively, educational, and very entertaining, it's almost like watching a movie. Characters worthy of Hollywood come to life in the everyday activities of a winning team with a leader in the race. This is a well made documentary and will give you a whole different perspective on the Tour De France. For this superstar this seems like a ride in the park...almost. But we know this race is the race.. How he does it is what makes him great. This is an amazing watch! Not arrogant, just gifted, he could be a actor after the racing is over along with others in his camp. You will smile the whole time while enjoying Yell for Cadel. I highly recommend this DVD!! And the box set will be a perfect treat for anyone, especially cyclists!! The Tour De France is a three week race where every day the cyclists must do the equivalent of running a marathon. That is simply incredible, and so is this 3 disc set: The Heart Of The Peloton!!