Film Reviews


Film Review: Earth 2100

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By Erin Marquis

Could civilization end in less than a century? That’s what the two hour special: Earth 2100 supposes. This special was produced for ABC, but eventually purchased by the History Channel. We follow the life of Lucy, a woman who is born in 2010 who survives the floods, famine and diseases that come with extreme climate change.  Things get progressively worse for the planet, eventually leading to total collapse.

What Earth 2100 does right is that it doesn’t just tell us cold hard facts about some distant future. Instead, we really get to see the world where our children and grandchildren will be living in. The emotional connection the audience fosters with Lucy and her family makes the journey from normality to devastation even more gripping.  Newscasts from the future chime in periodically to tell us what’s happening on a global scale. The element that has the most impact throughout the show is the population counter, which rises to nine billion and then sharply falls to a mere three billion as calamity after calamity befalls humanity.

Earth 2100 is a chilling glimpse into the future, where everything has gone completely wrong for humanity. However, all is not loss. Once Lucy and her family are struggling to make it through a new Dark Age, the show goes back and shows what needed to be done to prevent this calamitous future. Things like a worldwide commitment to clean energy and local food production could save us just in the nick of time. The message of Earth 2100 cannot be lost on anyone, we are at that critical moment where we can chose life or oblivion.


"AVATAR" Takes Going Green To The Big Screen!

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By Liz Kaadou

Avatar2 Even Hollywood and the magical movie industry are earnestly and eagerly embracing the eco-friendly movement! For those of you who have not yet seen the new sci-fi movie Avatar, which hit theaters December 18th, we won't spoil it for you.  But we will tell you eco-lovers out there that it is one cinematic masterpiece you will be proud to wear your vegan boots to!

Avatar boasts spectacular 3-D effects and of course eco-friendly blue aliens!  Over a decade in the making with an estimated 400 million spent on production, this blockbuster hit, made by Titantic director James Cameron, was well worth it! Avatar blitzed at the box office during its opening weekend selling 75 million tickets and in its second week is still at the top of U.S. box office charts.

Deemed "Glorious" by the New York Times, Avatar is now the front runner at the 2010 Oscars. It's about time going green went to the big screen!


For more  reviews from RTM, visit the Earth Tones section.

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Documentary Review: Waste = Food

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By Sara Hoffman

Wa Have you ever wondered what was going on deep inside the business and design world to inspire the creation of a greener product? For example, what exactly makes it so much more environmentally friendly than its predecessor? The answers are enlightening. “Waste=Food” focuses on two outstanding green innovators: William McDonough, an American architect and Michael Braungart, a German chemist and former Greenpeace activist. They're the authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a book which describes their plan for saving the world from too much waste.

McDonough, the American architect, designer and engineer, describes waste simply as “a very bad business proposition” – it doesn’t make financial sense for companies like Ford Motor Company, Nike and Herman Miller to dispose of raw materials and then go buy new ones to make more products. McDonough said, “The fundamental transformation will occur because of economic forces. It won’t be because of some moral issue of some technical revelation. It will be because waste is basically stupid.”

The waste=food concept comes simply from nature: in nature, waste is no problem because waste is food for growth. The idea works for McDonough and Braungart because they also focus on the economic advantages of making products to be reusable or biodegradable. In helping Herman Miller Furniture Company build a chair that is easy to disassemble; this in turn made the assembly process go more quickly. The need for raw materials is also smaller as they now can re-use the material from the chairs returned to them.

Did you know that it takes 50,000 pounds of raw material to make a 3,000 pound car? Product producers like Ford now are now realizing how nonsensical statistics like these are. The renovation of the River Rouge Ford Plant, which may now look like an environmental utopia, actually saved Ford $35 million dollars. Making business sense out of sustainability (a term Braungart deems “the bare minimum – you wouldn’t want to call the relationship with your girlfriend just sustainable, would you?”) is a most important part of this green revolution.  “I don’t have time for dreamers,” said Bill Ford of his rather newfound appreciation for environmentalism. The cradle to cradle plan is already implemented on a large scale, around the world.

To see the brilliant and inspirational documentary yourself, click here.
To buy Cradle to Cradle, the book explaining McDonough and Braungart’s world-sweeping brainstorm, click here.

For more film reviews from RTM, visit the Earth Tones section.

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Environmental Documentary Review: The 11th Hour

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By Sara Hoffman

The education is worth the gloom in Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour. Environmental films are always eye-openers, but in this one I wish I could quote every sensational speaker with their insightful one-liners. I learned so much, I'm about ready to become an environmental science teacher now. Full of insider knowledge and concepts I'd never think of on my own, it's really almost an information overload, boggling my mind with fact and insight. 

Though the future may seem a little bleak when the scientists, one after another, announce that our food is poison, the ocean is unsafe to swim in, and the increasing rates of cancer and other diseases are a direct effect of our own lifestyles, it is reassuring that the experts have such a good grasp on the problem and what should be done to fix it. The featured scientists all point out, in some way, that we are nature, we're not removed from it, and if we treat it badly it will get its revenge. In this human-controlled world, you're either property or a person, mentions one of them.

The economy is set up to grow, while the biosphere is not. This displacement is what makes the experts wonder, how can slavery to the economy mean so much to humans that they spend all their time either working or spending? Things are thieves of time, they mention. One particularly clever scientist figured out that it would cost 38 trillion dollars a year to replace natural processes (like pollination and photosynthesis required to grow crops and keep CO2 levels low) with technology. All countries put together, the whole world's economy adds up to only 18 trillion. So the economy is worth less than half of what nature can give us for free. One tree can quickly store up to 57,000 gallons of water - that's enough to naturally prevent a flood.

But the silver lining is, now that we have technology, science, culture, and nature still remains, we can integrate them into one big happy world by using the incredible smarts that got us where we are today (No pun intended).

For more film reviews from RTM, visit our Earth Tones section.

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A Look Back at An Inconvenient Truth

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By Sara Hoffman

Inco Looking back at
An Inconvenient Truth, the environmental movie so well-known it's been mocked for its effect on people, I was awestruck by how much more it still resonates than other environmental films that have recently come out. Why does it? 

In the first scene, narrator Al Gore explains that soon after the first picture of the Earth from space was shown to the public, the modern environmental movement began. This movement has so many components (green business, education, activism, etc.), and Gore happens to be a messenger. Whether his involvement with politics helped or hurt his credibility is a tough call, but either way it gave him tons publicity for the issue. Some messengers send a message by not making an impact at all; some do it by travelling the world giving lectures. Al Gore happens to be a messenger and a perpetrator, who's been informing people about global warming and advocating change for twenty-plus years.

It goes without saying that the movie is factually convincing, but just because we are convinced we don't always take action, as Gore brilliantly mentioned. The message was presented as a moral issue we need to fix. Toward the end viewers are inspired to make a moral decision, just as Americans have conquered so many moral dilemmas in the past. If we all get the message and work together, the American automakers can catch up to foreign automakers' efficiency, we can ratify Kyoto, and we can get our CO2 emissions level back to where it was in the 70's. How's that coming?

Some say global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people. But it's not something perpetrated upon Americans. It's something acknowledged by most other developed countries. Sure, we all want to believe it's a hoax - wait, or do we? What if we found out tomorrow that global warming is a lie, and there's no reason to reduce our consumption of fuel, energy, resources, or items that use those resources? I think part of the reason we believe it is because we know we need to reduce our consumption, because we have morals, which is why Gore's moral argument for change was so strong.

And even if it weren't for global warming, there are still tons of environmental problems that would need solutions, and some would need explaining. Bleaching of coral reefs, running out of clean water, landfills and oceans filling with plastic waste? I kind of want to see glaciers melting to believe it, but in the way I'd want to visit a Halocaust museum - it'd be a dreadfully truth-telling experience. Can you imagine an expanse of water as the North Pole?

For more environmental film reviews, visit RTM's Earth Tones section.

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Documentary Review: Red Gold

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By Sara Hoffman

Red_gold Red Gold the documentary - I've got mixed feelings on this one. Going in as an environmentalist, watching an environmental film, I knew I'd take the side of the Bristol Bay fishermen, who were - almost too clearly labeled - the protagonists in the film, going up against the gold mining industry and Alaska's government to protect their salmon swarmed waters from development. But some parts of the film irked me. For one, the sentimentality of their arguments was too weak for the debate they were trying to win - would industry and government really resonate with families' growing pains? In fact, the families and their "red gold" began to annoy me. Yep, the urbanization in me had taken it's toll - I couldn't understand these peoples' sheltered (and fish-obsessed) lifestyles!

The diehard vegetarian in me was confused by all this as well - the little girl who used to go fishing with her Dad has always wanted to believe that fishing can be sustainable and ethical, but what I've since learned about over-fishing's effect on the environment says otherwise. And the scenes of salmon carcass hanging and smoking were kind of revolting to me - especially with the way these Bristol Bay people took sick pleasure in it.

But the Bristol Bay fishermen clearly weren't commercial fishers. They care about their environment, they take part in it, and they clearly didn't take too much - the bay is abound with salmon and other wildlife. Could it be that they were actually (gasp!) part of a fully-functioning ecosystem? After the pity and disdain for the rural inhabitants wore off, I began to realize that this culture is in fact too unique to risk disturbing by gold pebble mining (it's really only for pebbles, anyway!).

The Bristol Bay inhabitants are inspiringly motivated to stop development in their area- which is something you'd never see here in Detroit, which is constantly in the midst of becoming more developed. And they had some good points, including the fact that while mining jobs may provide some Bristol Bay people with $72,000 incomes for some time, the rivers have been supplying all the Bristol Bay people with food and a way of life for generations, and generations to come. While I still wouldn't say that glistening salmon flesh is better than gold, it's good to have fishermen in the world who can take part in an ecosystem without damaging it.

Sorry for writing a biased review, but it was a biased documentary. Check out Red Gold for yourself, and continue supporting independent films!

For eco-friendly travel tips, visit RTM's Earth Tones.

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Movie Review: Six Degrees Could Change the World

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By Sara Hoffman

Another enlightening and thought-provoking environmental film, National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World is a methodical yet scary prediction of each increasing degree's effect on our planet. Simply navigating the Scene Selection Menu is astonishing: Our World + One Degree, Our World + two Degrees...all the way to a horrific six degrees. narrated by Alec Baldwin, the theme is that something big is happening. With every degree of global warming, irreparable damage occurs - damage that could not only ruin our environment, but the social structures that keep people sane.

But global warming, like some cynics argue, can't be all bad - during some stages of the warming, farmers on colder continents will be able to grow crops they never could before - enabling the possibility of a British-grown wine. The film's pressing interviews, with people from corners of the globe that are already seeing the effect of climate change degree by degree, makes it all seem much more real.

To see the experience the future in the midst of global climate change, buy National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the Worldon  

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Movie Review: National Geographic's Strange Days

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By Sara Hoffman

Ntllll geo This series is a four-part explanation of strange phenomena that have occurred and are occurring due to human impact on the Earth. Like a murder mystery about the environment, each part walks the viewer through several real-case scenarios, starting with the problem, then putting all the intricately connected clues together to figure out a logical, yet unpredictable, answer.  

Part 1: Invaders discusses globalization and invasive species like myconia, termites and water hyacinth. "When everything moves everywhere, what will survive?" asks narrator Edward Norton. Because many researchers believe that a single piece of land can support far fewer species than the same area carved up into isolated islands and continenets, species without borders (caused by globalization) means many fewer species.

Part 2: The One Degree Factor proves just how much a single, tiny change can affect the natural world, like a butterfly effect. The environment is so delicate and cyclical that changes in Africa's landscape affect the health of children in the Carribean, and how the increase by a single degree in temperature can lead to changes that slowly kill off an entire species.

Part 3: Predators explains the significance of predatory animals that humans have always feared. "Humans expand, nature contracts," ponders the narrator. The mystery here is, why did aspens stop regenerating the same year that the last wolf was removed from Yellow Stone National Park?

Part 4: Troubled Waters, more science-y than the others, describes how "chemical cocktails" in water affect the health of living organisms - land and marine. It shows a clear link between land management, coast management, and obscure chemical mixtures.

Buy Strange Days on Planet Earth Collection on

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Movies with Environmental & Entertainment Value

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Waterworld The end of the world is a common movie theme, but some movies actually focus on the environmental issues that could devastate us. These movies are good entertainment with a bit of reality behind them:

Wall*E: Set in a garbage-covered version of the Earth's future.

Madagascar: Escape to Africa: When the water supply is threatened, a valuable point is made about preserving nature.

Happy Feet: An important part of the plot involves over-fishing of the penguins' feeding grounds.

Mad Max: This 30-year-old dystopian film predicts the upset of society caused by depletion of oil resources.

Ice Age: The Meltdown: The way it's characters flee melting ice from glaciers parallels what's happening today.

The Day After Tomorrow: Epitomizes the effect of global warming's catastrophic weather.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: The Earth is ordered to be destroyed in order to prevent a catastrophe potentially caused by humans' wasteful, violent ways.

Waterworld: Set in a future where the polar ice caps have melted, resulting in a flooded planet.

Find more environmental news at RTM's Planet Driven.


Environmental Documentary Review: Home 2009

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By Sara Hoffman


Home Home, the film that broke the world record for the largest film release in history, opened internationally on World Environmental Day in 2009 for free on YouTube as well as in theatres. The non-profit documentary by President Yann Arthrus-Berthrand with epic visuals illustrates the planet's fragile state entirely from a bird's-eye view. Viewers see the impact humans have had on Earth's landscapes in the film's spectacular aerial scenes from more than 50 countries.


The omniscient narrator begins with a brief, but explicit overview of how the Earth was created. "Our Earth relies on a balance...a subtle, fragile harmony," states Glenn Close in the English language version. "The engine of life is linkage. Everything is linked... nothing is self-sufficient." By scientifically explaining well-known places' origins and environmental significance, the compelling documentary provides a relatable and all-encompassing view of our Earth.


Home is comparable to Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series only with more of a purpose. You may want to brew a pot of coffee, because falling asleep in the middle of it could only result in waking up feeling depressed. Though the facts can be scary (and the music doesn't help, either) the conclusion is uplifting.


It highlights the wonderfully forward-thinking acts of cities and regions that prove there is still time for change. Accomplishments of cities such as Freiburg, Germany, which is one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world; accomplishments like building wind farms and looking to the sun instead of oil reserves for energy; accomplishments like using moderation, intelligence and sharing to solve the problems of the world.


The fragile scenes of Home visually portray just how much the little things we do add up to affect the whole world - "the ecosystem has no borders" is a mantra from the film. What's important is not what's gone, but what remains.


Buy Home at


Read more from RTM's Planet Driven or Earth Tones sections.