True Films

Rick Steves’ Travel Skills


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I rely on Rick Steves’ masterly command of travel minutia to guide me in Europe. This guy spends 4 months there every year keeping his advice updated in his expanding line of eponymous books. Rick has the drill down perfectly, and he has a real gift for teaching what he knows. Yet as great as his books are, the very best way to get educated in traveling Europe with ease and grace is to watch his short course in Travel Skills. I am a hardened veteran traveler and I picked up some great tips. If you are just starting out to Europe, I can’t recommend this enough.

Once sold as a separate tape, this video is now packaged as part of a longer DVD which also includes a quick and lively video tour of Germany and the Swiss Alps by Rick Steves himself.

– KK

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Rick Steves' Germany, Swiss Alps & Travel Skills
With Rick Steves
2003, 150 min.
$40, DVD

Official website

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Posted June 2, 2004 at 12:15 pm | comments
| in category How to do it


China: Beyond the Clouds


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A million stories unfold in Lijiang, a picturesque historic town in the mountains of southwest China. This 4-hour tale follows four local families over several years as their lives twist, turn, deepen, intermingle, and blossom. Their openness is uncharacteristically candid for rural China; a tribute to veteran documentarian Phil Agland. The universal fears and dreams of a vast continent are condensed into a tightly edited few hours of subtitled witness. So intimate is this view of Chinese life that it is close to anthropology. Highly recommended.

– KK

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China: Beyond the Clouds
Produced by National Geographic
1994, 115 min.
$30, DVD

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Posted at 11:52 am | comments


Walking With…The Complete Collection


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What if you could film dinosaurs on location, like in a nature documentary? That’s what this four-hour BBC extravanaza does with advance digital technology. The incredible footage in Walking with Dinosaurs is utterly convincing. Home movies of Ornithocheirus. As far as science can presently tell, this is what dinosaurs were like. From mating rituals, to tending their young; from chasing prey to fleeing from predators. These videos are better than any textbook: scientifically sound, technically astounding. Even better is Walking with Prehistoric Beasts. This sequel expands the variety of creatures brought back to digital life. You get saber tooth tigers, giant sloths, and a two-ton armadillo, among other extinct species -all with the same versimilitude of a convincing digital recreation. One continues to believe they were merely filmed. Walking with Allosaurus features one species of dino in depth. The “making of” portions for each film by the zoologists are just as educational . We watch these films quite often. Walking with Dinosaurs alone is worth four hours of your time.

– KK

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The Complete Walking with... Collection
Directed by Tim Haines
2000, 240 min.
$82, DVD (3 discs)

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Cosmos


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Although it is now 25 years old, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos still warrants viewing. I watched it again recently and it captured me. I’ve found no better orientation to the visible heavens and our small place in the universe than this 13-part series, now conveniently housed in one boxed DVD set. Most of the science is still valid, and Sagan’s explanations and astronomical insights have yet to be exceeded for clarity and wit. When a student begins to wonder “where are we?” and asks other big questions, these are the discs to slide into the player.

– KK

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Cosmos
Directed by Adrian Malone, With Carl Sagan
1980, 780 min
$64, DVD (7 discs)

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Posted at 11:36 am | comments


Civilisation


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Civilization as seen through the eyes of art and architecture. While art is the narrow focus, the vista in Kenneth Clark’s view is as vast as 2,000 years of western history. The continuity of this long-view is a treat. I can’t think of any other factual video with an equal span of attention.

– KK

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Civilisation - The Complete Series
Directed by Michael Gill and Peter Montagnon
1969, 670 min.
$58, DVD (4 discs)

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Posted June 1, 2004 at 12:23 pm | comments
| in category History


Civil War


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The most remarkable aspect of this most remarkable documentary is the emotional weight it carries. Comprised almost solely of slow passes across old black and white still photos (now known as a Ken Burns move) this expertly narrated film makes you weep and cringe and sail with deep understanding. It reordered my notion of the deepest scar (the largest war ever) on this continent. At 11 hours it s a long journey, but well worth it. It is hard to watch this series and not come to see it as your view of the Civil War. And it changed the language of documentary filmmaking, too.

– KK

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Civil War
Directed by Ken Burns
1990, 660 min
$5 per episode, Amazon Instant Video

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Posted at 12:15 pm | comments
| in category History


Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music


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Some threshold was crossed at Woodstock in 1969 when half a million kids appeared out of nowhere to govern themselves and listen to their favorite bands in the rain. The music (pretty great), the vibes, and the expectations and hope of this outburst of optimism are all captured on this remarkable film – which everyone agrees was much better than being there. The dreams of two decades are encapsulated into 4 hours.

– KK

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Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music
Directed by Michael Wadleigh
1970, 225 min
$2, Amazon Instant Video rental

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Posted at 11:45 am | comments


World War II: The Lost Color Archives


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It’s eerie how the simple addition of color can utterly transform our notions of the past. The restoration of color to World War II takes it from a remote, starkly defined monument into an immediate, vibrant, contemporary experience. It’s at once more shocking and more beautiful. Enough experimental color footage (digitally restored) was filmed by US, German, and Japanese photographers to provide this amazing three-hour account of the war from all sides. This is how the participants of Europe and the Pacific saw it. Their words and letters form the narration for this British product. Disturbing though it is, this is the version that one wants to remember of the last world war.

– KK

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World War II - The Lost Color Archives
Produced by The History Channel
1999, 165 minutes
$15, DVD

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Posted at 11:29 am | comments
| in category History


The Way Things Go


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This supremely demented documentary by two German artists presents a continuous chain reaction than runs for the length of the film. Old tires, ladders, shoes, flames and explosions trigger the next piece of precariously balanced junk. This art-piece is greatly appreciated by nerds for the amazing chemistry and physics required to keep self-generated chaos on track. Science teachers play the video for lessons in equilibrium and causation, while artists roll the film at parties for an irresistible and mesmerizing spectacle. I like it for the illustration of the never-ending chain reaction that seems to take over the world. A Mr. Wizard science demonstration that takes on its own life.

– KK

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The Way Things Go
Directed by Peter Fischli and David Weiss
1987, 30 min
$16, DVD

Official website

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