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Staff Picks for DVD/Video

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20 Feet from Stardom

Written by Morgan Neville
DVD/Video

20 Feet from Stardom tells the stories of some of the backup singers who, over the past half-century, have provided an integral part of the sound of rock and roll, R&B and pop music, largely without receiving much recognition, or sometimes without even being credited for their work. Director Neville Morgan interviews prolific backup singers such as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer, who recall their remarkable and varied careers, and the amazing stories of their involvement in creating some of the best-known music of the 20th century, but also the struggles and low points, especially the heart-breakingly frequent failure to achieve success as solo artists. Interviews with various well-known musicians, such as Mick Jagger, Sting & Bette Midler are also included. Watch this one for the great stories, and of course, for the music.

Recommended by Catherine
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Birders: The Central Park Effect

Written by Jeffrey L. Kimball
DVD/Video

Before watching Birders: The Central Park Effect, I didn't know that Central Park, in the heart of New York City, was a prime birding spot. This hour-long documentary is a fascinating (and charming) portrait of a community of Central Park birdwatchers and their feathered quarry, which also touches on issues of conservation and bird habitat.

The Central Park Effect refers to the phenomenon of the wide variety of species that can be observed both year-round, and seasonally during migration, in the park. This is due to the fact that Central Park is the only 'wild' piece of territory in the New York City area along the migratory route, though it was designed by and is maintained by humans. After watching this film, you may find yourself wanting to get out your binoculars and do some birding yourself.

Recommended by Catherine
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Buck

Written by Cindy Meehl
DVD/Video

Watching the award-winning, visually beautiful documentary Buck is a great way to spend 90 minutes. It tells the real-life story of horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who is the inspiration for the main character in the novel by Nicholas Evans (and the Robert Redford movie) ĎThe Horse Whispererí. The film is rich with footage of his numerous clinics conducted all around the country. Itís interesting to hear about and watch his technique with horses. Brannaman had a very sad childhood; the fear he felt as a child enables him to identify with the fear a horse feels when being trained. Not only is this a great movie about horses, it reaches deep into Buckís life, showing the audience how he was able to take deep personal wounds and transfer those hurts into a positive beautiful life. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Recommended by Nila

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Coast

Written by BBC
DVD/Video

This series, which first appeared on television in the UK in 2005, is an eclectic look at history, geography, culture, economics and natural sciences, built on the framework of the coastline of the British Isles and surrounding countries. Multiple enthusiastic hosts travel a section of coastline in each episode, and the places they visit inspire mini-lessons on a wide variety of topics, often with the help of local experts. I learned several new things when I watched this series, and got more background on some topics I only knew a little bit about. Given how much coastline we have in Alaska, it would be great if someone would do the same thing here.

Recommended by Catherine
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Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season

Written by George R. R. Martin
DVD/Video

This series is an original HBO production based on the first book in a fantasy series by the author George R.R. Martin. Elements of a medieval kingdom combine with fantasy to produce a story of courtly intrigue and civil war. King Robert Baratheon is fighting to maintain control of his kingdom, while across the Narrow Sea the heirs of the former king plot to invade and overthrow him. King Robert chooses Ned Stark, an old friend, to be "The Hand of the King", doing his bidding and controlling his subjects. The story takes place in a massive territory stretching from the North, where The Wall protects the kingdom from the dark forces of White Walkers and Direwolves, to the South, where plots and intrigue are bred in the heat, to the savage lands of the Eastern kingdom. Threatened on all sides, will the Kingdom stand or fall? Great characters, an intriguing story and a glorious production combine to make this a must-see! If you want to know what happens next and can't wait for the next season, try the books by George R.R. Martin. The library has them all!

Please be aware, as in many HBO productions, this series contains a fair bit of sex and violence, and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Recommended by Suzi
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Hamish MacBeth

Written by Robert Carlyle
DVD/Video

This is a charming television series from Scotland. It's a cross between Midsomer Murders and Monarch of the Glen but with more humor and less murder but always some mystery to solve!

Hamish Macbeth is the local police in the coastal town of Lochdubh (Lochdoo). Joined by his Westie dog Wee Jock, he keeps the peace among the townspeople. This is a small fishing town (reminds me of Juneau!) and the characters are indeed small town folk, each with their own quirks, both good and bad.

Hamish protects and understands his town, keeping the outside law at bay. He gets help from his good friend "TV" John who claims to have psychic abilities. Torn between his love interests Isobel, a reporter for the local paper, and Alexandra, an author who returns to Lochdubh for him, Hamish struggles to do the right thing by both women.

Funny and serious, this series will reel you in as you begin to care, as Hamish does, about the people of Lochdubh.

I love this series, the people are so very sweet and human - and of course, there is Wee Jock!!

Juneau Public Library also owns the 2nd and 3rd seasons of Hamish Macbeth! Please give it a try and you too will fall in love with Lochdubh!

Recommended by Suzi
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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Written by Werner Herzog
DVD/Video

In this intriguing documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog follows hunters and trappers from the remote Siberian village of Bakhta through their seasonal routines in the isolated wilderness of the taiga.

The cinematography is beautiful and Herzog pays special attention to how the characters evolve emotionally throughout the year. He also captures simple yet precise observations of their lives. Culture, landscape, and the rhythm of each season are also important features of this film. To delve even deeper into the understanding of landscape and season, check out the special features.

Recommended by Beth
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Rashomon

Written by Akira Kurosawa
DVD/Video

The famous director Akira Kurosawa produced several internationally renowned films, and Rashomon is one of his best works. Set in feudal Japan, a woodcutter, priest, and commoner shelter beneath the Rashomon temple gate to keep out of the rain. To pass the time, the woodcutter tells a story about when he had found the body of a murdered samurai a few days before. Both he and the priest had been called to testify at the trial, where a bandit and the samuraiís wife were being held. The problem is that the bandit, the samuraiís wife, and the ghost of the samurai himself, summoned by a medium, all admit to guilt for the samuraiís death. The farmer himself also proves to be more involved in the situation than he had let on, as a plot twist at the end shows. The film takes a deep look at human nature, especially focusing on the determination of guilt and innocence and how personal viewpoints complicate otherwise straightforward situations.

Recommended by Jenna
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Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Written by Jon Foy
DVD/Video

What do British Historian Arnold J. Toynbee, the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a short play by David Mamet, 4 A.M, have in common?

Join artist and DIY sleuth Justin Duerr in this offbeat documentary to uncover the origin of the Toynbee tiles; cryptic messages secretly implanted on the streets of the United States and South America.

I enjoyed this documentary for the suspense of watching the mystery unfold and my fascination with eccentric people.

Recommended by Lynn
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The Bletchley Circle

Written by Anna Maxwell Martin
DVD/Video

It is 1952 in England and World War II has been over for years. A series of young women have been murdered and Susan Gray, former codebreaker at the top-secret installation of Bletchley Park, now housewife, thinks she detects a pattern. She manages to bring her suspicions to the police but when they donít find another body she and her suspicions are dismissed. Susan then turns to three former colleagues from the war, all of whom have unique and formidable talents, to help prevent a future murder.

This show is exactly what I love about television. It features four women friends from all walks of life who use their intellect, reasoning, and skills to help solve a crime, in a period of time when women were not encouraged to have intellectual fortitude. In addition to the amazing characterization of all of the women, the historical accuracies (food rationing in England continued until 1954) and period details of architecture, automobiles, customs, and fashion make this show especially lovely. The mystery part is good too.

If you want to learn more about women codebreakers during WWII, check out some non-fiction books on the topic, such as: The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay or Codebreakers: the Inside Story of Bletchley Park by F.J. Hinsley and Alan Stripp.

Recommended by Andi
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The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series

Written by William Shakespeare
DVD/Video

Get ready for Bard-A-Thon, the week-long, 24 hour-a-day community reading of the complete works of William Shakespeare, coming to the Juneau Public Libraries and Perseverance Theatre on March 8, 2014, by watching this BBC-produced mini-series of the history plays Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 & 2, and Henry V. These four films are packed with acting talent, and you'll recognize a lot of familiar faces (Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stuart, John Hurt, Julie Walters, David Suchet and many, many more), as the English crown passes from one monarch to another during the tumultuous period of the Hundred Years' War. The performances are excellent, and with battle scenes galore, there's plenty of action.

Prefer the comedies? Seek out the recent Joss Whedon-directed production of Much Ado About Nothing.

If you're interested in learning more about Bard-A-Thon, visit our homepage:

www.juneau.org/library

Recommended by Catherine
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The Last Waltz

Written by Martin Scorsese
DVD/Video

On Thanksgiving day, 1976, The Band, which may be best known for touring and recording with Bob Dylan during the '60s and '70s, gave a farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Martin Scorsese filmed that concert, as well as several studio recordings and interviews with band members, and the result is this amazing film, which is practically a who's who of mid-20th century rock and roll (and blues and country) musicians, featuring performances by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris and many more. If you like this, check out Scorsese's most recent concert film, Shine a Light, featuring the Rolling Stones.

Recommended by Catherine
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The Up Series

Written by Michael Apted
DVD/Video

In 1964, Granada Television aired a documentary featuring a group of English seven-year-olds from various backgrounds. Since then, director Michael Apted has revisited the subjects every seven years. Over time, various participants have dropped out, and some back in again, but for the most part viewers can revisit the same familiar faces at seven-year intervals. The most recent film, 56 Up, came out in the last year.

This documentary series is completely fascinating, and I'm so grateful that so many of those once-children have agreed to continue to be filmed every seven years, although it certainly must be a significant intrusion on their lives. Seeing the subjects age from seven to 56, finding out what has happened in their lives in the intervening years, and especially, in the later films, hearing them analyze the effect of the documentary on them is so interesting. This DVD set contains the films Seven Up!, 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up and 42 Up. The library also has 49 Up and 56 Up on DVD.

Recommended by Catherine
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Treme: The Complete First Season

DVD/Video

Two thumbs way up! Drama set in post Katrina New Orleans featuring great music and great cast.

Recommended by Suzi
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True Detective: The Complete First Season

Written by HBO
DVD/Video

True Detective is a gritty, difficult, and totally engaging drama starring Matthew McConaughey (Rust Cohle)and Woody Harrelson (Marty Hart) as partners investigating a bizarre and disturbing murder in rural Louisiana. The story unfolds as two new detectives are investigating a recent murder that echoes the seventeen year-old crime that Rust and Marty solved back in 1995. The new investigation opens old wounds and brings the two partners back together. At the time of the 1995 crime, Woody Hart is a good old boy while Rust Cohle is newly arrived in the Louisiana Criminal Investigation Division. We watch them connect, view their lives, marriages and history against a backdrop of murder and corruption.

Like many HBO productions, this show is not for the faint of heart. I saw the series as a character study of the McConaughey and Harrelson detectives. If you are looking for a Midsomer Murder type series, this may not be the one for you, but it's compelling and very well-produced. I found it thought-provoking and intelligent.

Recommended by Suzi
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Vera Season Two

Written by Brenda Blethyn
DVD/Video

Feisty, disheveled and living alone, DCI Stanhope, played by Brenda Blethyn, doesn't let go of a case. Picture Midsomer Murders, with more heart and grit. Vera struggles with her loneliness and isolation, creating a resonance between the murders she tries to solve and the pain of humanity around her. This series presents the characters as vulnerable and conflicted. No one is all good or all bad, and as the episodes delve into the crimes, we are shown all the facets of emotion that motivate us. These are not simple crimes, each episode is compelling and is presented with passion and clues.

This is the second season of Vera - the first season is also available from the Juneau Public Library. Both are wonderful and I highly recommend them. It is not necessary to watch the first season to enjoy the second.

If you like Midsomer Murders, Wallander, or any of the BBC Mystery Productions, I know you will love this series! Give it a try!

Recommended by Suzi
Cover art for Wallander

Wallander

Written by Kenneth Branagh
DVD/Video

The stories in this DVD are based on the Henning Mankell books featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Dark, atmospheric murder mysteries that will keep you guessing to the end. Wallander, played by Kenneth Branagh, struggles with his relationships with both his daughter and his father, against this background, he solves some of Sweden's most heinous crimes. If you read and liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I would recommend this series. The DVD contains 3 different episodes.

Juneau Public Library also has several of the original Henning Mankell books featuring Wallander available.

Recommended by Suzi
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War of the Arrows

Written by Hae-il Park
DVD/Video

Imagine a Venn diagram: one circle includes people who like gory, action-packed movies with nasty villains, damsels in distress, and dashing heroes who save the day. Another circle includes those who like historical detail (like watching a character making arrows from bamboo in the middle of a chase scene), and are comfortable with subtitles. Anyone who ends up in the center of this diagram will love this swashbuckling movie about warring dynasties in 1623 Korea.

Recommended by Amelia
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Wilby Wonderful

Written by Daniel MacIvor
DVD/Video

Wilby Wonderful is a film from director, writer, playwright, and actor Daniel MacIvor. This web-of-life drama with a dark comedic edge takes place in a small town on the fictional island of Wilby, somewhere off the coast of Nova Scotia. The film follows a cast of characters (played by a veritable who's who of Canadian cinema) over the course of a single day.
I first watched the film because Callum Keith Rennie is in it. I have an enduring crush on him and have watched a lot of films he's in which I won't be recommending. The film is really more a series of character sketches than a narrative, all put together and tied with quiet Canadian irony.
I like this film, it entertains and makes you care about the characters. There are even actors known in the States, like Sandra Oh and Ellen Page. And there's Callum who is doing a rare sweet romantic role. Pop some popcorn and enjoy.

Recommended by LouAnn

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