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Category:    Home > Reviews > Travel > Trains > England > Special Interest > British TV > Plants > Biography > War > Politics > Dictatorsh > Coastal Railways with Julie Walters/Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees (2017/both Via Vision PAL Import DVDs)/Putin's Witnesses (2018)/Summers With Picasso (1946, 1949, 2009/both Icarus DVDs)

Coastal Railways with Julie Walters/Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees (2017/both Via Vision PAL Import DVDs)/Putin's Witnesses (2018)/Summers With Picasso (1946, 1949, 2009/both Icarus DVDs)

Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D/D/C+/C Main Programs: B-/C+/B-/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Costal Railways and Judi Dench Import DVDs are now only available from our friends at Via Vision in Australia, can only play on 4K, DVD and Blu-ray players that can handle the PAL format and be ordered from the links below.

Now for out latest selection of documentary and special interest coverage...

We'll start with Coastal Railways with Julie Walters (2017) featuring the veteran actress best known for the Harry Potter films and later comedy/dramas from the late, great Director Lewis Gilbert. Presented in four episodes, she covers a huge amount of areas, trying out all kinds of train transportation, old and new. Finds lines that are gone, one that is being revived and others that should.

There are many fun and hilarious moments, while the new footage looks great often and even goes beyond the trains. It is a great addition to an often unrecognized cycle of train videos that keep getting made, but rarely addressed or given the credit they deserve. I was very impressed and though a few parts are not as strong as others, it is the kind of change-of-pace programming we do not get enough of, so see it if you can and you will not be disappointed.

There are no extras.

Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees (2017) is a short 51-minutes program about how trees have played a larger part in her life than many, something that started decades ago at the beginning of her last marriage and built on a huge tree in the backyard of their home, then moved onto many other spaces planting new ones. However, that is only the beginning as she talks about her history, life, living and then, they get into the actual trees.

This became much more interesting as it went on in ways I had not expected. Dench is for real in all of her many acting performances over the decades and not enough off screen, as this program shows. If you are interested, it is definitely worth a look.

There are no extras.

Vitaly Mansky's Putin's Witnesses (2018) is the as-timely-as-ever documentary about how Russian President Putin, now responsible for a horrific invasion of Ukraine and so much more, we see the slow process of how Russia had a chance to be a democracy of some sort for a small period of time (H. Ross Perot turned out to be correct about that window of opportunity, but no one wanted to admit he was correct) and it started at the end of 1999 when former KGB agent Putin rose to power so quickly, he was able to easily succeed a declining Boris Yeltsin.

From there and ever since, over 21.5 years and counting as we post, how he very slowly but surely and definitely methodically, took over to turn the country back to something as authoritarian as the USSR/Soviet Union, then worse. Add our recent coverage of the Mikhail Gorbachev interview we just reviewed and you get a fuller picture on how nationalism and shrewd propaganda brought Russia into the now-awful position it is in today.

The genocide, destruction and now-dangerous bombing of a nuclear plant (after doing some dangerously insane things at Chernobyl) means this is going to all get worse before it gets better. That's why this documentary is so very valuable to catch up with.

Tania Rakhimanova's documentary How Putin Came To Power is the only extra and a great companion with the main program.

Last but not least is Summers With Picasso (1946, 1949, 2009) which includes two main programs about the circles of often talented and well-off friends the great artist spent time with in the French Riviera, consisting of the very strong On The French Riviera with Man Ray and Picasso, then the more personal Picasso and Sima, Antibes 1946.

Of course, we are lucky that the many paintings and sculptures that they made at the time survived, exist and are often each worth a fortune, but being who they were, they also took a large number of still pictures and even shot movie film, including in early Kodak color! The result is a priceless record of their lives, works and life at that time that would have otherwise not been captured. Yes, other records definitely exist, but not like this. Definitely impressive throughout and highly recommended.

Though it is only 14 minutes long, Guercina (1951,) co-directed by the late, great master filmmaker Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens, is the only extra, but a solid one as the film takes a rich look at Picasso's works. The Nazis surprise-bombed the town in 1937 and Picasso responded to the horrors as only he could. Remarkable film!

Now for playback performance. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all four discs, despite varying in the sources they are shot on (HD, HD with low def, photochemical film) look as good as they can in the format and even the black and white 1.33 X 1 Guercina looks pretty good, so these all play as well as they can in this older format. They all also offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo as their soundtracks, save Guercina, in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, yet they all sound about as good as they can in the older, compressed codec.

To order either of the Via Vision DVDs, go to the following links:

Costal Railways


Judi Dench


- Nicholas Sheffo


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