PBS Announces Release Date, Program Information For New Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release a special new documentary to DVD and Blu-ray April, 29th.

Super Skyscrapers outlines the changes that have come to the world of building skyscrapers. It shows how their construction has changed from the first design on paper to the final steel beam in construction. It shows how designers and construction companies have pushed the envelope in order to make today’s skyscrapers greener, stronger and more luxurious. The program is split into four separate segments: “One World Trade Center”, “Building The Future”, “Vertical City”, and “The Billionaire Building.” The program was produced by Blink Films UK. The series was coproduced by Dan Oliver and Dan Chambers.

Oliver discussed what led him to take on the project in a recent interview. “It’s clear that a new generation of buildings is rising around the world,” he said. “They are extraordinarily complex, strong, tall and safer than ever. It was an amazing project to get behind the scenes in various stages of their development. We got an inside look at how today’s ever-improving technology is literally changing the game in construction, and the way global citizens are living their lives.”

Super Skyscrapers opens with a segment titled simply “One World Trade Center.” This segment of the program focuses on the final year of construction of One World Trade Center. Construction head Steve Plate is interviewed along with various scientists, engineers, iron workers, and curtain-wall installers, as the final floors are finished. It all culminates with the installation of the tower’s spire, which brought the tower’s height to a symbolic 1,776 feet. Plate and other interviewees share their thoughts both on the construction itself and what it meant to raise One World Trade Center from the ashes of Ground Zero.

The second segment of Super Skyscrapers is titled “Building The Future.” This segment focuses on London’s Leadenhall Buiding. The building, popularly nicknamed “The Cheese Grater” for its unorthodox shape and steel exoskeleton, is a central piece of London’s avant-garde architectural boom. The team behind the building’s construction was forced to dramatically re-think everything they knew about the traditional building model. The building’s various pieces had to be constructed off-site before being delivered to the build site and stacked and bolted together “like a giant Lego set.”

Viewers are whisked from London to China in the third segment of Super Skyscrapers. “Vertical City” centers on China’s Shanghai Tower. The tower, reaching a staggering 120 stories, has been recognized for having one of China’s best “green ratings.” When it is completed, the Shanghai Tower would be the world’s second-tallest building. It would house a collection of businesses, services and hotels. And the total number of people inside the tower would equal the population of Monaco. It would all be built on a footprint roughly the size of a football field.

The fourth and final segment of Super Skyscrapers brings viewers back to New York, where the program started. In the final segment of the program, viewers are taken from the site of Ground Zero to Manhattan, where the One57 is currently under construction. The “Billionaire Building” as it has been dubbed will soar to 1,000 feet and will have a total of seventy-five stories upon its completion. This will make it the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere. It will boast stunning views of New York City’s Central Park. The condos housed in the building have state-of-the-art interiors, including double-height ceilings, full-floor apartments, bathrooms decked out in the finest Italian marble, and handmade kitchens from UK craftsmen. As with the program’s other segments, this segment follows the progress of the tower’s life. It follows the building’s progress from its original design on paper to its construction.

Super Skyscrapers will be available for SRP of $29.99 on DVD and $34.99 on Blu-ray. It will be presented on two discs both on DVD and Blu-ray. Audiences can pre-order both sets now online via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=super%20skyscrapers&origkw=Super+Skyscrapers&sr=1. More information on this and other PBS programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Documentary An Interesting Look At The Power Of The Brain

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

The human mind is a truly amazing piece of the human body.  It holds memories.  It helps us to learn.  And it controls everything that a person does every day.  That includes the choices that a person makes in the direst of circumstances.  It is at the heart of what is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response that can help a person to survive those circumstances in question.  In the new documentary, Surviving Disaster: How the Brain Works Under Extreme Duress, PBS presents viewers with a look at how exactly the human brain works.  It presents stories from survivors of some of the most terrible events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a basis for the discussion on whether it’s natural human instinct that helps a person to survive or if it is indeed extraneous factors such as “training” and “teaching” that leads to a person’s reactions to disasters.  In the simplest of terms, it’s something of a discussion of nature versus nurture.  So it’s a good piece for students of the social sciences.

Surviving Disaster: How the Brain Works Under Extreme Duress is an interesting documentary to watch first and foremost because of its discussion on nature versus nurture.  It presents arguments from specialists in psychiatry and neuroscience to present both sides of the issue.  One individual interviewed even goes so far as to seemingly come out and claim that there is no such thing as the “fight or flight” response.  That one alone will lead to quite a bit of discussion.  On the other side, viewers are presented with an argument that is exactly the opposite.  It notes that the amygdala takes over in extreme situations and does in fact create responses that would be considered the fight or flight response.  Again, set against the more psychiatric side, it makes for quite the discussion topic.

The central discussion on whether it is nature or nurture that causes the brain to react is the biggest part of what makes this documentary so interesting.  At a more superficial level, what makes this a worthwhile documentary is the manner in which it is presented.  It presents stories from survivors of some of history’s worst tragedies.  Those tragedies include 9/11, the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and even an infamous jet hijacking from the twentieth century.  Those stories serve as the basis for the arguments made on both the side of psychiatrists and neuroscientists.  There are other segments.  But these segments in particular take center stage in the discussion.  Each segment is separated cleanly throughout the course of the documentary, making for smooth transitions that make the documentary that much easier to follow.  Viewers will especially appreciate this division.  It all comes together to make for a presentation that would be a welcome addition to any college level class for medical students and those studying the social sciences.  It’s available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

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WWII in HD is a powerful, fitting tribute to the Greatest Generation

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

Never forget.  Those two simple, tiny words have echoed throughout America’s people since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.  That dark day was this generation’s Pearl Harbor.  It changed our country forever, just as Pearl Harbor did for the Greatest Generation.  Sadly, today roughly only ten percent of that generation still remains today to tell the story of what happened when the United States entered the war, which had already ravaged much of Europe for two years.  Now, thanks to History Channel and A&E Home Video, a new piece of the history from World War II has been brought to light in order to make sure that no generation will ever forget.  That piece of history is the recently released WWII in HD Collector’s Edition on blu-ray. The WWII in HD Collector’s Edition on blu-ray was released May 15th of this year.  The new collector’s edition is one of the more comprehensive sets released in recent memory.  The two primary discs that make up the set take audiences from the dark days when the Nazi occupation began spreading through Europe straight to the closing days of the war when the allied forces finally closed in and tightened the noose around the Nazi forces in the German capital of Berlin.  It also includes two bonus discs.  The first of the two bonus discs is a roughly forty-minute program that focuses on the battle to take the island of Iwo Jima.  It goes into full depth explaining how rather than taking ten days (as was predicted by one official), the battle to claim the island took more than a month.  The raising of the two flags atop Mount Suribachi was only one part of that horrific battle.  The second bonus disc focuses on the air war over the European Theater and its attempts to disable the production of Messerschmitts in Nazi occupied Germany.  The run time on this program is just under an hour and a half.  But it is truly worth that near ninety-minutes for anyone from military historians to students to the most casual of viewers.

The story presented in WWII in HD starts off in Germany, 1939.  Audiences are first introduced to Austrian Jew Jack Werner.  He is one of a dozen figures from whom audiences will learn what life in the war was like.  Werner came to America to escape the Nazis.  He also came with stars in his eyes, hoping to become a movie star.  When that didn’t happen, he ended up working in a flower shop before joining the American war effort.  The other eleven figures are:  Bert Stiles, Shelby Westbrook, Nolan Marbrey, Jack Yusan, Rockie Blunt, Archie Sweeney, Richard Tregaskis, Charles Scheffel, Jimmie Kanaya, June Wandry, and Robert Sherrod.  Each figure brings their own perspective to the men and women who served during one of the country’s most difficult times.  North Carolinians will appreciate the mention of Archie Sweeney, who was voiced by Mark Hefti throughout the program, was originally assigned to Fort Bragg before entering the war.

Among the more interesting pieces of history included in WWII in HD are that when America’s military first entered the war, it was hardly the largest or most well trained.  That lone puts the entire war into a wholly different perspective.  Audiences also learn of the reaction of Nurse June Wandry to providing candy to the captives in the concentration camps, and of the prisoners themselves to receiving said candy.  It’s one of those moments that will bring even the most emotionally strong individual to tears.  There is also note of how President Truman actually gave the Japanese the opportunity to surrender.  He offered them two chances, as a matter of fact.  It was because they refused both of those chances, according to the documentary, that both bombs were dropped.  Audiences will also learn other interesting facts such as the landing force used at Okinawa was larger than that used at Normandy on D-Day. 

WWII in HD shares so many stories that there is no way to tell each one of them.  And while there is no way to possibly tell each individual’s story shared in this mini-series, one thing is certain, though, of this presentation.  The complete story shared in the WWII in HD Collector’s Edition reminds viewers of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform past and present.  It helps us to appreciate everything that they have gone through and go through today.  It serves not only as an educational tool or entertainment.  Rather, it serves as a tool to ensure our world will hopefully learn from its past, and never forget.  Audiences can purchase this box set in stores or online at http://shop.history.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.