By Robin E. Simmons
As I write this, the TV is on and the news continues to be depraved, bloody and grotesque. What’s happening to us and our world? It’s been a while since I sensed beauty, wonder and awe on our home planet. I am not in denial about the issues we face as a species finding harmony with each other and our planet, but it’s nice to be reminded that we share a place of great beauty and wonder if we will but take a closer look at nature that still lingers around us in some of the pristine places we have not yet polluted or destroyed. If you’re like me and long for a needed dose of awe to balance the endocrine system one’s chakras, then I recommend an extraordinary hi-definition excursion into a dream world that seems a fantasy but is utterly real.
FABULOUS FROGS Naturalist Sir David Attenborough – God bless him, he must be in his late 80s – hosts the PBS series “Nature” in this spellbinding opening segment of Season 32 that is beyond breathtaking. Superlative words are weak and fail to fully convey the astonishing images and information that our avuncular guide shares about the secret world of frogs.
Attenborough’s childlike enthusiasm is contagious as he sheds fresh light on these charismatic, colorful and often bizarre little creatures through personal anecdotes, the latest science, and the jaw-dropping, cutting-edge photography. Utilizing state-of-the-art high-speed camera systems with ultra slow motion capture, we enter the forest and water habitats where we witness up-close crazy antics in the unimaginable life of frogs and toads.
Did you know there are more than 5,000 species of frogs and toads that come in plethora of shapes, colors and sizes? Without a doubt, they are the most successfully adapted of all earth’s amphibians.
Attenborough shows us frogs that can leap at least 30 times their own body length and others that can barely hop out of harm’s way. There’s a frog that leaps from branches and rocks and glides in the air using it’s large webbed fingers and toes. Attenborough reveals why these abilities are possible for some species and not for others. We meet a frog that’s not much larger than a fingernail and another that looks like a football and is an aggressive fighter. We see phenomenal courtship rituals including the Panama Golden Frog that actually waves in a very human way to catch the attention of an interested potential mate – who, get this — waves back! That same wave also warns potential rivals to scatter. We see and hear the female Gliding Leaf Frog from South America who carefully listens to mating calls from all interested males and then goes for the guy with the loudest voice. We watch frogs that can change color and meet big African bullfrogs that invite knock-down, drag-out fights to impress potential mates.
We watch a male frog guarding his tadpole brood in a small puddle. When the puddle loses water and the life of the young are threatened, the male considers the dire situation and digs a canal that releases the tadpoles into a larger pond. There’s a female frog that that decides to removes her threatened tadpoles babies from an evaporating pond to a bromeliad plant growing on the side of a high tree. She somehow gets her tadpoles on her back and, one-by-one, climbs the tree and drops them in the plant’s water-filled center. She does this over and over until all the little forming froglets are safe. It is astonishing to see this unfold up close and in great detail. Yes, hard to believe it’s real.
Attenborough notes that almost a third of all amphibians are now threatened with extinction. The implication to me is that perhaps one frog is the tipping point and even with their fabulous adaptability in the most improbable places including the desert and the arctic, these wondrous creatures are a kind of reminder that there’s another world at the edge of our ordinary, sometimes brutal one that puts things in a greater perspective and forces us to consider anew exactly the kind of weird, wonderful and mysterious universe in which we dwell.
I was blown away by this short (just under 60 minutes), totally unexpected film. It’s a legit work of art and a wonderful natural high. Don’t miss this entertaining, sometimes sly look at a slowly vanishing domain. It deserves the widest audience. The same planet on which we wage war and pollute and live out our often-mundane lives is also a place of the truly miraculous. It’s nice to be reminded. Highest possible recommendation. PBS. Blu-ray
ALSO NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL
Why is Producer Albert Zugsmith’s 1958 cult, teen, juvenile delinquent, exploitation flick so entertaining? Is it Jerry Lee Lewis and the beat poets? Is it Russ Tamblyn as ordinary high school kid Tony Baker? Is it Tony’s aunt, the singularly voluptuous Mamie Van Doren? Is it the anti-drug propaganda? Is it the undercover drug operation? Is it the drug lord as played by veteran child actor Jackie Coogan? It’s all the above? And as a bonus, you can see Drew Barrymore’s dad and Charlie Chaplin’s son along with Michael Landon. Truly hilarious on so many levels and thus recommended. Paramount. Blu-ray.
Don’t be fooled by the dramatic box art. Although Jessie Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowski have been in some compelling and diverting films, co-writer/director Richard Ayoade’s pretentious and bleak art film is not one. Magnolia. Blu-ray
ON THE BIG SCREEN BUT NOT WORTH SEEING:
THE EXPENDABLES III
A cluster of aging action actors blow stuff up and engage in knucklehead banter that stretches the definition of the word “amusing.” The big question is: Just who is the audience for this tedious and ridiculous (in a very bad way) PG-13 movie?
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reteam for another chapter in their ground-breaking hit from nearly a decade ago. Although masterfully crafted with a terrific look, there is finally no emotional thread and the bold, contrasty, mostly black and white images become strangely boring. I liked the big action and the scantily clad women, but I also wanted a story that would scare me, grip me, make me weep or punch me in the gut. I didn’t get that, but there’s no doubt that this movie has the look of a classic graphic novel so brilliantly designed by writer-artist and co-director Miller.