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BY Steven D. Greydanus
A Panda is Born/Baby Panda's First Year (2005) - Pick
High Noon-Special Edition (1952) - Pick
Cannily timed to take advantage of this weekend’s
big-screen Panda-monium (I can’t believe I stooped to that) is the DVD release
of a pair of Animal Planet documentaries, A Panda Is Born and Baby Panda’s First Year.
panda-cub superstar Tai Shan, who was born in 2005 in the Smithsonian
Institution’s National Zoo, the double feature offers, first, an eye-opening
look at the difficulties of bringing a baby panda into the world in captivity,
and, second, a captivating look at the early life of a wide-eyed panda cub.
the two baby-panda episodes, the second is the better bet for family audiences
looking for maximum panda cuteness. Climbing, exploring, munching bamboo and
trotting around after his mother Mei Xiang, Tai Shan is as cuddly and adorable
as any panda enthusiast could wish.
first episode is just as fascinating, though parents should note it deals
frankly with the exigencies of dealing with reproduction-challenged pandas in
captivity, including artificial conception and insemination — obviously not a
moral problem with pandas, but still a delicate subject — as well as Mei
Xiang’s puzzling labor and unexpectedly abrupt delivery.
new on DVD is the Western classic High Noon in a two-disc collector’s edition, featuring a
new restoration of the film that looks and sounds appreciably better than
earlier DVDs, as well as a number of special features including a new making-of
featurette as well as extras from previous editions, including commentary track
and a couple of earlier making-of featurettes.
Cooper stars as Will Kane, a popular small-town sheriff whose wedding to a
beautiful young Quaker gal (Grace Kelly) on the day of his retirement
represents his attempt to leave his old life behind. But then Kane learns that
an old enemy who has sworn revenge has been released from prison.
panoramic Western landscapes and colorful action sequences, High Noon generates claustrophobic suspense by focusing on
three images: Kanes’ increasingly tense, pained expression; implacably ticking
clocks counting down to noon in (almost) real time; and the ominous train
tracks bringing Kane’s arch-enemy to town.
is a portrait of resolute moral courage in a man who is opposed by his
community, his friends, even his wife, and is ultimately willing to die for his
A Panda Is Born/Baby Panda’s First Year: Frank coverage of artificial panda conception and
insemination in the first episode requires parental discernment; otherwise,
fine family viewing. High Noon: Constant
tension and some menace; brief gunplay and violence; romantic complications.
Teens and up.