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DF McCleland (Johannesburg, South Africa)

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Wild Animals - The Life of the Jungle 3D (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-Ray)
Wild Animals - The Life of the Jungle 3D (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-Ray)
Dvd ~ Thomas Stahl
Price: £14.22

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amateur filming, uninteresting & hugely disappointing, 19 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Due to the dearth of 3D Blu-ray disks, I purchased this one. It was a huge disappointment. None of the "tricks" that a BBC Natural History documentary would employ to enliven a potentially dull subject is utilized to produce a riveting end product.

Instead of showing 30 seconds of an animal's unusual behaviour or their natural trait, these are commented upon off camera while the animal sits & does nothing. Instead of the rapid set of unusual actions one is presented with the zoo eye-view of the animal or bird in question. It is entirely likely that this is the manner in which this documentary was shot: visuals of animals filmed in an enclosure interspersed with visuals of jungles.

The quality of the shots also leaves a lot to be desired with a protruding branch which is totally out of focus partially hiding the animal that is the subject of discussion.

If one is looking for a 3D documentary, rather purchase one produced by David Attenborough & give this DVD a miss.

Flying Monsters (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray) [Region Free]
Flying Monsters (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ David Attenborough
Price: £8.40

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Picture of the Winged Lizards, the Pterosaurs, 2 Oct. 2012
The antecedents of the bird were the Flying Monsters. Presented by the indefatigable David Attenborough, these clumsy, ill-designed creatures were the first animals to take to the air. Their probable forebears were animals not unlike the modern-day Draco, a winged lizard that can glide from tree to tree.

Not for David the soporific inane verbiage accompanying creatures displaying their prowess at various activities but rather David, in this inimitable style, takes the viewer through the development of the pterosaurs from the initial prototype, the Dimorphodon to the final model, the gargantuan Quetzelcoatulus, with a 50 foot wingspan & standing taller than a modern day giraffe.

The overriding characteristics of the pterosaur, & the defining difference with the birds, were the use of an elongated finger which stretched out a skin flap attached to the feet. Combined with an excessively long tail, the initial design resulted in an ungainly ground animal.

The Dawinopterus eliminated this deficiency by having a longer neck & a shorter tail. Many of these variants are shown as skeletons when David either discusses these bones with their discoverers or visits the museums or places of discovery.

David as the Writer & Narrator maintains a brisk pace & never repeats a video clip as some documentaries are wont to do. Despite the steady pace, one is never bombarded with facts but rather presented with a string of discoveries or, as is the case with the pteranodon, a number of theories & speculations about the use of its enormous crest.

Despite the stunning CGI graphics, that is never the point of this video. Rather it is to inform the viewer of the development of the pterosaur over the 150 million years as the only flying animal on earth.

Finally this DVD is stunningly filmed in 3D. In every way, the decision to use 3D has enhanced the presentation. Without any of the gratuitous use of 3D effects so beloved of cartoons, it provides a level of crispness, clarity & excitement that is sometimes missing especially from older natural history documentaries.

This is a must-have DVD for one's 3D collection.

Normandy - The Great Crusade [DVD]
Normandy - The Great Crusade [DVD]
Offered by dvdGOLD
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of the Normandy Campaign from D-Day to Falaise, 26 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This video encompasses not only the strictly military aspects of the campaign but also its effect on civilians. For me the effects on the French civilians were more interesting as it they were affected by the depravations of war time shortages but also the depravations of the German soldiery as well. Personally I found the sections about the Allied civilians boring in the extreme.

In many ways, this production represents an older style of programming being made in 1986 with much use of stock footage some seen many times before. From this perspective it does not contain any reconstructions, interviews with veterans or computer graphs to illustrate points where no such footage is available but it does use other devices to break the monotony of an off camera presenter talking over well worn stock footage.

The first such technique is that of other presenters speaking lines from diaries, reports & autobiographies. This brings some immediacy to the commentary. Colour visuals of various aspects of the battlefield also break this old style documentary.

Overall it is a well produced documentary & covers the ground well but lacks the "spark" of more recent productions where the integration of all the styles makes for a more engaging video.

Arctic with Bruce Parry [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Arctic with Bruce Parry [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Bruce Parry
Price: £10.48

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An investigation of the life styles of the "Arctic" peoples, 26 Jun. 2011
Bruce Parry's journey includes the whole gamut of Arctic peoples from Siberia, Greenland, Alaska to Canada & Norway.

Quite frankly, I do not know what to make of the video. Being on Blu-ray, the visuals are excellent but some of the documentary is quite banal it that it deals with picking their traditional food viz mushrooms.

The objective appears to be to reflect on the traditional cultures of these areas & whether they will in fact survive in the same format as they have over the past millennia. Clearly not! All of them have a greater or lesser extent adopted the accoutrements of modern life without which they would not longer survive in the Arctic. Items such as high powered rifles, exploding harpoons & boats with motors are now the "traditional" tools of trade in this region. Even the methods of traditional reindeer herding now include such modern conveniences as snow mobiles, helicopters & barge like ships.

However much Bruce Parry can bemoan the passing of a way of life & whether their traditional way of life will be impeded or nullified by progress, in reality it bears very little relation to their way of life of say 50 years ago. Seemingly & inexorably, progress will continue to transform their way of life for good or ill & despite the moans about greedy capitalism & culturally insensitive white men, they have in fact adopted to some extent their way of life.

Bruce declines in any way to condemn negative aspects of their lives such as seal & whale hunting which he seems to regard as being traditional & hence not subject to censure. Being a traditional practice does not make it right & hence to be condoned.

The inclusion of a white family in the Alaska segment practicing their "traditional way of life" viz fishing using all the modern technologies available was fascinating but upon reflection can this be classified as a traditional way of life in that both the "peoples" involved - white men - and the methods used cannot be classified as traditional?

Eventually I concluded that this was more like a travelogue on how the peoples in this area eked a living off the land from being "oil barons" on the tar sands of Alberta Canada to the whale hunting of indigent Inuits.

If that is the intent, this video succeeds admirably. Overall it is a fascinating documentary on an unusual way of life bolstered by excellent visuals.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2014 10:37 AM BST

David Attenborough's First Life [DVD]
David Attenborough's First Life [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Attenborough
Price: £6.90

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent chronicle of the development of the first life on earth, 27 Dec. 2010
This is David Attenborough at his best. For all avid followers of his work, of which I am one, he will be sorely missed as the BBC will no longer have use of his services.

By dealing with organisms that no longer exist, the approach is slightly different from the previous programs where David would stand near to an animal whilst providing an explanation of its habits.

To bring the various creatures/organisms to life, extensive use is made of CGI without any the usual flashing visuals & dramatic music that accompanies CGI with American presentations of this nature. Instead it is the usual calm, engaging, evocative voice of David making his point in clear, lucid English.

The other difference is the extensive use of experts to explain various aspects such as the one explaining what she believes is indicative of when sexual reproduction commenced.

David as usual does a Cook's Tour visiting those places where significant fossil finds have been made such as the Burgess Shales in the Rockies Mountains, Mistaken Point in Newfoundland as well as Scotland & Morocco. He then attempts to find show one a living ancestor of that creature.

Commencing with the uni-cellular creatures of which there are no fossil records, he moves to the fractal animals which were part plant, part animal & an evolutionary dead-end, he then proceeds up the chain to the anthropods of which the trilobites are the best known examples.

Finally he arrives at the animals which made the transition from water to land.

All of this is accompanied by excellent non gratuitous CGI, lucid commentary & stunning photography. Just what would expect from a David Attenborough production.

However after viewing this video, it struck me that the starting point of the documentary was predicated on the assumption that uni-cellular creatures already existed & that whilst the evolution of these species was awesome in their own right, the evolution of DNA & its attendant protein factory, the ribosome, was probably an even more amazing feat.

Don't let this extraneous aside detract from the excellence of the production but the fact remains that the production's premise is first life after cells had evolved.

Patton 360° - The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Patton 360° - The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Offered by Special Interests
Price: £12.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh approach to WW2 in Europe, 26 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having viewed many programs & DVDs on WW2 in Europe, this video adopts a completely different approach which provides a fresh view of the events which are well known to most persons interested in WW2.

The method of presentation is as follows:
* Follow the campaigns of a charismatic commander in this case Patton who was involved in most battles relating to the American forces during WW2 in the European theatre. Patton fits this bill admirably. After landing near Casablanca, he was involved in the eviction of the Axis forces from North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, the battle for Normandy, the capture of eastern France, Battle of the Bulge & finally the invasion of Germany itself during March 1945. This only leaves the Italian campaign & D-Day itself excluded.
* Use a mix of the following:
o Extensive CGI - more on this later
o Interviews with combatants
o Commentary by current army personnel
o Original file footage
* Instead of commentary being at a general level, the experiences of the combatants form the basis of the CGI visuals & the overall commentary which provides a more personal feel. One also gets a sense of being close to the action.

Being in excess of 9 hours long, this video allows time for a more detailed commentary of the events as they unfolded rather than a broad brush approach of most documentaries on these battles. Having seen too many high level overviews, this came as a welcome break.

On the other hand there were some extremely annoying & irritating aspects to this production:
* Over loud & dramatic music & sound effects
* Visuals especially CGIs zooming in & out too quickly
* Quick flipping through visuals
* Repetitive use of the same CGI images

The device of using Patton to provide the continuity & basis of the video works admirably. In reality over the course of the videos Patton mainly plays only a minor role.

Apart from the annoying aspects as stated, overall this is a fine production with a fresh & novel approach to the war. Overall rating 7.5/10.

How Hitler Lost the War [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
How Hitler Lost the War [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £2.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting elaborations on various fatal miscalculations by Hitler, 26 Dec. 2010
The implications of the title are obviously that the DVD would deal with the various missteps & miscalculations that ultimately resulted in Germany's demise during WW2. Of course it would but it is how these events are handled to avoid the mere recital or regurgitation of the events which is novel.

The DVD features a number of German participants such as Adolph Galland, the well known fighter ace & other not so well known veterans. In addition Dr RV Jones, Churchill's Scientific Advisor, is also interviewed. All of these interviewees provide a point of interest with their own commentaries on the events.

Most of the reasons advanced are probably known by anybody reasonably au fait with the events of WW2 but some are not or were at least not known by the reviewer. One such event was a comment by Adolph Galland that Hitler refused to push the issue of the defeat of England due to his admiration of the British people!

Another little known fact was that Hitler, emboldened by the lack of negative reaction to his previous "misdemeanors" such as the occupation of Czechoslovakia despite the agreement to the contrary with Neville Chamberlin, had under-estimated the response by the Allied powers in declaring war against Poland. For the most part, their previous attitudes & actions had in effect "rewarded bad behaviour" & hence the German surprise. Adolph Galland maintains that Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, was culpable in this regard in misleading Hitler!

The reasons for the German lack of direction & indecision in the direction of the war on Russia become obvious when it is mentioned that Hitler's goal of obtaining Lebensraum had been attained when the Ukraine & Belorussia had been overrun.

Other more obvious ones are dealt with such as the decision by Hitler not to let Von Paulus break out at Stalingrad & the almost gratuitous decision to declare war on the USA when it was never necessary to do so.

One reason not dealt with was Hitler's decision to maintain the 21st Army at the Pas de la Calais in spite of the Allied invasion at Normandy but the lesser important factor that Hitler slept late & hence only authorized the release of the Panzer Divisions adjacent to Normandy after his awakening late on the 6th June 1944!!

Overall this is an excellent production with little to fault it apart from the lack of chapters or episodes.

The Story Of Science: Power, Proof and Passion [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
The Story Of Science: Power, Proof and Passion [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Michael J. Mosley
Price: £15.43

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the history of science, 26 Dec. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Over 6 episodes, Michael Mosley expounds the history of science from quantum physics to biology & ultimately to psychology. Given the breadth of the subject matter, none is dealt with in any depth. For instance the episode in which evolution is mentioned does not just focus on Darwin but rather provides one with its antecedents as well such the "uncomfortable" discoveries of the fossils of many extinct species, the realization that geological time spanned eons et cetera. By this method Mosley provides one with an understanding that the scientific discoveries were preceded by other discoveries & realizations that underpinned the latest discovery.

By this method, he makes it abundantly clear that science is not merely a series of Eureka moments but rather the culmination of prior discoveries or serendipitous events.

By travelling to Prague when discussing Tyco, or to Padua University in Italy when dealing with anatomy he provides a feel for the setting in which such discoveries were made. This does not merely result in a travelogue type of documentary but genuinely adds a visual dimension to a subject which could be presented in a dull & boring manner.

Interesting asides are discussed within the context of the subject matter. In particular, I found the discovery of mauve in the episode dealing with Chemistry interesting. Many more snippets such as this adorn this series.

Some people might find the fact that Mosley re-performs an experiment a waste of time in that it lacks all the details of the original one but it certainly adds flavour to the story.

One could be churlish & admonish Mosley on any one of the following aspects:
* Brevity of the topics dealt with
* Visiting the location where the original discovery or experiment took place
* Re-performing certain experiments
But what must be born in mind, is that is not a university lecture but rather a TV program aimed as entertainment of the general public like myself with no great desire to have a detailed exposition of the facts but who want a general sweep & overview of the events. In this, this program admirably succeeds.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2011 4:11 AM BST

19 with a Bullet: A South African Paratrooper in Angola
19 with a Bullet: A South African Paratrooper in Angola
by Granger Korff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best account of a South African soldier on operations on the Border, 22 Jan. 2010
Like most young South African males of his generation & mine, we all had to go to the Army & fight on the Border. The border in question was the Namibian/Angolan border. The enemy was Communism or more specifically SWAPO.

Granger Korff was one such South African male. In this autobiography, Granger elaborates what it was like growing up in apartheid South Africa. He was clearly a drop-out, a problem child being expelled from numerous schools due to delinquent behaviour.

As such he was attracted to the Army unlike the normal run-of-the-mill SA male who participated under duress. Being quick tempered & iconoclastic, he has numerous brushes with authority. All of these are covered in a clear, lucid no-nonsense style reminiscent of Andy NcNab of the SAS.

However the main part of the book is reserved for his various skirmishes & battles against SWAPO. Unlike the usual doctrine when attacking of having a numerical advantage of 3 to 1, the South Africans attacked with a numerical disadvantage of 1 to 3 normally without the requisite anti armour weaponry. This sometimes results in potentially difficult situations when confronted with tanks or BTRs.

But the results were impressive - with body counts normally of the order of 50 to 1.

Even with such light casualties, the horrors of war are quickly encountered not only from one's own casualties but from civilians inadvertently killed such a family of Bushmen amongst a SWAPO contingent.

From a pure military viewpoint, the details of the main operations in which Granger participated viz Ceiling; Protea & Daisy provide one with a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in this bush war.

For all those wanting a front-line troops view into what really happened on the Border, this is the book to purchase.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2013 11:07 AM BST

Major events in the Third Reich - 2 DVD BOX
Major events in the Third Reich - 2 DVD BOX
Dvd ~ MMStore
Price: £19.08

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rip-off, 22 Jan. 2010
This DVD is avertised as cpmprising 2 DVDs. Why is it necessary to put it on 2 DVDs when the documentary is only 90 minutes long.
Secondly the price for 90 minutes on footage is exhorbitant!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2012 12:03 PM GMT

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