True Films

The Dog Whisperer


dogwhisperer

People have dogs with uncontrollable behavior. They’ve been to obedience school, and have tried every trick they can find, and they still can’t control the dog. After years of “bad dog” blues they are ready to give up. Then they call Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, to their home, and five minutes after he walks through the door he has the dog in perfect control. An hour later the astounded owners have reformed the bad dog to good dog. It doesn’t matter how weird, ferocious, demented, and neurotic the dog is, the dog whisperer can fix them almost instantly. The hundreds of transformations in this series are endlessly fascinating, kind of like magic tricks, as the owners keep saying, “I can’t believe it!” It’s quickly evident the owners are the ones who are weird, ferocious, demented and neurotic, and so the series manages to be constantly entertaining (it is now up to 4 seasons on National Geographic) because you are watching people confront themselves. As the dog whisperer says, “I rehabilitate dogs, and I train people.” Of course, there are tons of insights into dog behavior and guidelines for keeping you sane and your dog lovable.

– KK

The Dog Whisperer: Season 1
Cesar Millan
2004, 662 min
$2 per episode, Amazon Instant Video

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted August 27, 2007 at 5:09 pm | comments
| in category How to do it


Survivorman


survivorman

This reality series ceaselessly re-runs on the Discovery Channel, but is also available on DVD for those who are tv-less. The seven documentaries pit a dour Canadian survivalist against various extreme live-or-die situations. For instance our hero finds himself in a life raft adrift at sea, or stranded in the middle of the desert with a broken bike, or alive in a crashed plane in the arctic. In this show the survivalist is all alone with minimal gear (a competing survivor man has a film crew with him). This survivorman carries a multi-tool, a snack or two, and some odds and ends — and two complete sets of video cameras and tripods. With these he’ll film himself as he barely survives for one week eating bugs, starting fires with sticks, and finding his way to rescue. Backpacking the 55 pounds of camera gear and keeping the film going turns out to be almost as hard as keeping the fire going. Despite his constant whining about how hard everything is, the series is entertaining and slightly educational. He never slows down enough for you to learn exactly how to roast a snake, but you’ll pick up the survival principles he constantly harps on: don’t panic, keep warm, get water and look for food last. Just knowing that you really can start a fire by twirling sticks if you persevere for 20 minutes as he did might come in handy someday.

– KK

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Survivorman
Les Stroud
2007, 405 min.
DVD, 2 discs, $13

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted August 21, 2007 at 9:09 pm | comments
| in category How to do it


Pucker Up


puckerup

It’s about the fine art of whistling. How whistling once was a serious musical genre, and even a language in some parts of the world. There is an international whistling champion contest, and as we follow amazing whistlers of different styles compete for the bragging rights as the world’s best whistler (who will win? The turkey farm guy who whistles like a bird, or the fund manager who does beat box whistling?), we enter the history, curiosities, and delightful beauty of human whistling. A simple film that is 10 times more interesting than it first sounds. This film is a perfect example of what documentaries do best: take a niche passion and fill out the details until we feel passionate about it too.

– KK

Pucker Up
Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
2006, 76 min.
$4, Amazon Instant Video rental

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted August 13, 2007 at 5:00 am | comments


Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16


OK, sure, I admit there is a base fascination with freaks. But conjoined twins, particularly this pair who share one set of legs and arms, raise the curiosity in interesting directions: What does it mean to be an individual? This pair’s unusual arrangement means that unlike many conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany can do almost anything that a normal pair of twins might do. Except…. well, except there are two people in one body! Endless questions ensue from this documentary about their suburban life. If each girl controls only one arm and one leg, how can they ride a bike? Hit a baseball? Swim? When they drive a car, how do they decide where to turn? And do they get one licence or two? That particular question is answered on their 16th birthday, as this film follows them to the driving test center, where they pass the driving test (both turning the wheel). Their local DMV decides to issue them each one licence. On school tests, some teachers make each of them take the test — but they use both of their hands — and some allow them to take it once. As 16-year-old girls, they are clearly very different personalities, and distinct people sharing one frame. Despite their different tastes in fashions, they have to negotiate and cooperate on what to wear in the morning, what to type when instant messaging (each one controls each hand), what to eat, and when to do — everything! The issues of identity and boundaries of self are wobbly. When IM’ing the girls say “I” instead of “we”. But what happens when they date? Or, even more mind boggling, marry? Most of these philosophical and medical questions are left unasked. Their family is intent on not letting them become medical subjects or media celebrities, so they have spent their lives in a very small town in Minnesota, going to high school and trying to be as normal as one could be — if you have two heads. This film won’t scratch all the itches provoked by this extreme form of embodiment. The filmmakers have been given exclusive access to the pair, but it is obvious they are not pressing hard; they specialize in medical subjects. The girls, their families, and the film aim to convey how “normal” they are. And yes, it is amazing how humans will adapt to almost anything. But if you want extraordinary normal, if you want hyperreal challenges to the self, if you want a prime example of transhumanism in action, get this film.

– KK

Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16
Advance Medical Productions
2006, 50 min.
$30, DVD

Available from Figure 8 Films

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Posted August 6, 2007 at 5:00 am | comments