How The States Got Their Shapes Teaches Even More Fun Facts In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

How the States Got Their Shapes Season 2 is a welcome follow-up to the show’s original season.  Season Two is just as entertaining as the show’s debut season.  The primary reason for this is that Season Two takes viewers into more depth than just how the states’ borders were developed.  This season, viewers are taken more into depth in the history of the states along with the history of the states’ shapes, too.  While Season Two’s episodes go into more depth on the different states in the union, they don’t go into so much depth that they become too involved for viewers.  Rather, they are simple enough for viewers of any age to grasp.  What’s more, each episode minus commercials clocks in at just under half an hour.  So whether in the classroom or the living room, it’s a fitting new installment to this hit History Channel Series, and an equally fitting addition to any history buff’s home library.

The second season of How the States Got Their Shapes is made up of a total of eighteen episodes.  Over the course of those eighteen episodes, host Brian Unger takes viewers deeper into the history of the states.  Rather than just focus on how the states got their shapes, Unger takes viewers into history lessons such as: the history of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, what makes one state red and another blue and when the terms “red” and “blue” first came about, and the impact of a state’s population on politics.  There are other equally intriguing concepts across this season’s three discs.  But viewers can find out for themselves what each one is, and what makes each one so important this season.  Audiences will be surprised to learn in the episode ,”Hatfields vs. McCoys” that despite the popular belief, it might not have in fact been a pig that started the cross-state conflict, but a member of one clan fighting for the “wrong” side in the civil war.  According to the history shared, the alleged theft of a pig might have just been one of many factors that caused the conflict to escalate.

Just as interesting for viewers to learn, is that the terms “red state” and “blue state” didn’t even exist until the 2000 election between President George W. Bush and Al Gore.  “Red State vs. Blue State” reveals that this now commonly used phrase wasn’t even a reality until the news media made it so during the course of the now infamous election that centered on hanging chads and elderly voters in Florida.  How many adults or even younger viewers can honestly say that they knew this little tidbit of information?  This critic will honestly say that he did not know this until having watched this episode.  It serves as a reminder that as much as even adults would like to claim they know about political science, not all adults know nearly as much as they’d like to believe.

“Red State vs. Blue State” was just one of a number of episodes that offers viewers a civics lesson in How the States got their Shapes Season 2.  The lessons permeate the season’s eighteen episodes.  Just one more example of this lies in the episode, “Big vs. Small.”  This episode takes a different angle on the show’s political science sessions.  It explains to viewers through interactions with average people how the size of one state versus another has a vast effect on the state’s pull in elections.  For instance, it compares the size of Texas and Rhode Island, and ties it to the number of representatives and senators a state has in connection to the state’s size and population size.  Yet again, whether a viewer is young or more world-wise most viewers will be surprised at just how much they had either not known or had forgotten over time.  It’s just one more episode that makes this season of How the States got their Shapes so entertaining and interesting.

The lessons and concepts raised through this season’s episodes take viewers deeper into the states’ history.  As in depth as they get, not one episode gets too in depth for casual viewers.  Unger interviews people from every walk of life in each episode instead of just politicians and academics.  Those individuals are there.  But there are just as many ordinary people in these episodes, too.  And because of the large number of ordinary people interviewed, Unger is able to talk to them (and in turn viewers) on a casual level.  This casual discussion will make viewers feel less like Unger and the show’s producers are talking down to them.  This serves even more to make this season just as entertaining and enjoyable as Season One.

The general informational content of each episode is on the level of any casual viewer, whether fifteen or fifty-years old.  In simple terms, this season’s episodes are just as viewer friendly, content-wise, as Season One’s episodes.  The episodes included in this season are just as viewer friendly because of the length of each episode.  Each episode comes in at just under half an hour.  That’s because there are no commercials to have to navigate.  And because the episodes are on DVD, viewers can fast forward or go back to wherever they want with just the push of a button.  This only makes each episode collectively even more viewer friendly and even more worth watching not just once, but any time.

The key to the success of How the States got their Shapes Season 2 can be summed up in two words, as one should be able to tell by the factors noted here.  Those two words are “viewer friendliness.”  The episodes are short.  And the producers have written the facts and figures in a way that makes them easy for viewers of any age to understand and appreciate.  Even host Brian Unger comes across like an every guy.  And he interviews everyday people as well as academics and politicians.  This works with everything else noted to make this season all the better both in the classroom and in the living room, regardless of whether this is the last season for the show or not.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from History Channel’s website at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=450943&SESSID=1f92713358ed29d46f0205c1e2c6d1f9&v=history#tabs.  Audiences can find out more about this show on the official History Channel Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/History and its official website, http://www.history.com.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Letters From Jackie Another Great Story Of One Of Baseball’s Greats

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Major League Baseball celebrated a very special anniversary early in 2013.  On April 15th, 2013, fans and players of America’s Past Time celebrated the sixty-sixth anniversary of Brooklyn Dodgers great and groundbreaking player Jackie Robinson’s very first ever major league game.  It was on April 15th, 1947 that Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first ever African-American to play major league baseball.  Every year since that day, Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson day on the anniversary of his first game.  This year, the anniversary has been celebrated with more than just celebrations at baseball fields across the country.  It was also celebrated with a major motion picture focusing on Robinson’s life and a documentary from Shout! Factory that was even more enjoyable than the prior.  Now MLB Productions has joined in the celebration with its own documentary on Robinson.  Whereas the previous releases focused largely on Robinson’s life, this latest release, Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson focuses exactly on its title; Robinson’s own thoughts put to paper.

Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson is a good companion piece to the previously released pair of works from Warner Brothers and Shout! Factory.  The first thing that makes this documentary stand out is its run time.  It comes in at just forty-five minutes long.  This is not counting the end credits, either.  Within that short time-span, the story presented moves at a relatively fast pace.  It’s not too fast for viewers to keep up with the story, either.  And within the context of the production, viewers will be moved to both laughter and tears, hearing Robinson’s words read.

The letters written by Jackie Robinson are both moving and at times entertaining.  Most moving of all is the story of Robinson’s years-long communications with a young white fan, Ron Rabinovitz.  The pen pals’ ongoing letter writing led to a friendship that transcended skin color and even religious backgrounds.  It was a friendship based solely on two individuals’ love of the game of baseball.  Rabinovitz himself even gets to share his thoughts on the letters shared between himself and Robinson.  The fondness with which he remembers Robinson is both entertaining and moving.  Audiences will be brought to smiles hearing Rabinovitz discuss Robinson actually taking him into the Dodgers’ locker room to meet his team mates at the time.  He even presents the baseball signed by Robinson’s team mates.  The really funny moment of that story is when Rabinovitz reveals that Robinson was so caught up in introducing his team mates to Rabinovitz and getting them to sign the ball, that he forgot to sign the ball himself.  Rabinovitz adds, laughing that he didn’t mind because he had so many other items (noting the letters) signed by Robinson.  Viewers even get to see Rabinovitz sharing his memories with one of today’s greats at the 2013 Jackie Robinson Day pre-game.

Rabinovitz shares so many wonderful memories of one of baseball’s greatest names though his interviews.  Along with the stories are pictures of the pair posing together on the field.  They help to add even more interest to the story of Robinson’s own thoughts on how he was viewed during his career.  Those pictures aren’t the only ones shared throughout this near hour-long feature.  Those charged with bringing the program to life also incorporated footage from The Jackie Robinson Story as well as footage from games that he played during his career.  The footage shows both the good and bad of the people who came to the games to see Robinson play.  That footage set against Robinson’s own thoughts on fan support and the lack thereof makes these moments even more interesting for any real baseball history buff.

Whether for the stories shared of Robinson by his family and friends or for the footage of the baseball legend’s career, baseball fans have plenty for which to root in this companion piece to the year’s previously released Robinson tributes.  Audiences will of course find their own interesting and entertaining moments throughout the story.  Being that Major League Baseball is coming up to the annual celebration of the halfway point of its season, thoughts will go back to one of the original All-Stars.  And as thoughts go back to him, this latest story will make for another good look back at that legend in question.  It will be available next Tuesday, July 16th.  It can be ordered online at the MLB Productions store at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=21611606.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

WWII From Space An Excellent Introduction To The History Of World War II

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

History Channel’s latest WWII documentary, WWII From Space is a good jumping off point for anyone that has ever had any interest in the…well…history of World War II.  Much like last year’s release of History of the World in Two Hours, this documentary is not intended to go into the massively in-depth discussions of perhaps Vietnam in HD or WWII in HD just to name a couple of other History Channel war documentaries.  Rather, this feature scratches the surface in the war’s history.  It does so over the course of roughly an hour and a half.  And it does so largely thanks to its mass of CG based visual aids employed throughout the presentation.

Some audiences have criticized WWII From Space because of its use of CG based visual aids.  The reality is that this is not such a bad thing.  Rather, it along with the feature’s relatively short run time that is solidly segmented makes it a wonderful addition for any high school and entry level college history course.  The CG based maps of the earth present the movement of both the Allied and Axis forces throughout WWII.  It also employs the use of what would be the equivalent today of military spy tech to present the different movements and weaponry of forces on both sides of the war.  It’s like something out of the recent Iron Man movies.  And keeping this in mind, it is sure to entertain not just younger audiences, but older audiences, too that are enamored by the ever changing scape of technology.

The CG based maps make for excellent visual aids in following the course of the war.  Adding even more interest to this feature is the use of CG based graphics to illustrate the battles both on the land and in the air.  One good example of this would be the comparison of U.S. forces killed in Pearl Harbor as compared to Japanese forces that were killed.  Audiences learn the massively wide ratio of U.S. forces killed in comparison to Japanese dead.  It uses helmets highlighted to show each side’s dead and points out the ratio clearly on screen.  This is just one time that this strategy is used.  It is used throughout the course of the program.  Again, there is nothing wrong with such a method being used.  Instead of simply filling people’s ears and minds with facts and figures, these illustrations help to drive home the sheer magnitude of the seemingly overwhelming odds that Allied forces faced over the course of the war.

The CG based graphics are the biggest part of this introductory level WWII documentary.  Those behind its creation should also be applauded for touching on more than just the facts and figures of the war’s numbers in terms of casualties and force sizes, etc.  Throughout the feature, audiences will notice the constant subtle note that the war was largely economic both in the Pacific and European theater.  It takes the time to note that it was in fact an embargo on Japan that eventually led to the island nation’s military forces to attack American forces in Pearl Harbor.  Anyone that has any interest in this side of the war would be well recommended to read author Evan Thomas’ book, Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941 – 1945.  This book clearly notes the effect of the embargo on Japan and how it led to the decision by the Japanese government to attack U.S. forces in Hawaii.  Even more interesting to learn in reading this book is something echoed by actor/director Clint Eastwood’s 2006 WWII foreign language movie, Letters From Iwo Jima.  This movie, much like the aforementioned book actually points out that not all Japanese citizens wanted to go to war with the United States, nor did certain members of the Japanese government and military.  Again these much more in depth discussions are all started by History Channel’s WWII From Space.  So it proves just how valuable this documentary is even at an introductory level.

While the program and those behind it are to be applauded for their work providing introductory information concerning the economic influences of the war, there are other factors that are left untouched.  For instance, the late mention of Truman making the call to drop the atomic bombs on Japan was more than merely Truman making the call.  As anyone that has seen any of History Channel’s other documentaries will recall, Truman didn’t merely make the call.  He offered Japan more than one opportunity to surrender before making the call.  What’s more Truman took over during the course of the war after Roosevelt died.  History Channel’s multi-disc set focusing on some of our nation’s most well-known presidents goes into depth about this very subject.  Again, this goes back to the importance of this feature as an introductory level feature.

That WWII largely takes an introductory level is a very good thing for audiences of all levels despite what some might want to believe or say.  It doesn’t attempt to go into too much depth.  And yes it does move at a relatively fast pace.  But it also is segmented as if it was a televised feature.  There are breaks throughout the course of the documentary that will allow for audiences to stop, take breaks, and come back to the show at their own pace.  This is especially helpful both in the living room and in the classroom as teachers won’t be forced to decide where to stop for the sake of class time.  And home viewers can simply take the program at their own casual pace.  What’s more, the Blu-ray presentation of WWII From Space will allow viewers to stop the program, take it from one Blu-ray player to another and bring it back to the original player, and pick it up from where it was stopped on said Blu-ray player if so desired.  This is a minor detail on the surface.  But in the grand scheme of things, it proves to be one more nice addition to the overall presentation.  It prevents audiences from having to go through the scene selection menu on the main menu or from even having to search through the program to get back to where they originally stopped.  Again, this is subtle but impressive.  And combined with everything else already noted concerning this feature—from its CG based visual aids, to its introductory level information about the war, and its segmented presentation—it proves to be a great feature both for teachers and home viewers at any level and an enjoyable watch for anyone that has ever had any interest in the history of one of the world’s biggest conflicts.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the History Channel store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=450976&SESSID=30040cc7fc45da7ca4832f41ee690e27&v=history.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

MLB All-Time Bloopers Offers Audiences Nine Innings Of Laughs And More

Courtesy:  A&E Entertainment/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Entertainment/MLB Productions

The old year is almost out and the New Year is nearly here.  For those who aren’t much for sports that just means it’s the start of a new year.  For those who are lovers of the game, that means something completely different.  It means the end of one sport’s season and the start of another.  Any true lover of sports has noticed that as the old year comes to its end, the news surrounding the baseball world has been increasing once more.  Right now, it’s mostly about some major trades.  But as the calendar turns from one year to the next, the news will turn to America’s pastime even more.  That means every baseball fan across the country will be counting the days until opening day.  In celebration, MLB Productions and A&E Entertainment have given fans one more offering as they wait for the big day.  That offering is the new single disc collection, MLB All-Time Bloopers.

MLB All-Time Bloopers is a laugh riot from start to finish.  This near hour long presentation offers baseball’s legions loads of laughs.  It offers audiences some of the game’s funniest moments both on the field and off.  That also includes some of the most interesting antics not just from the players but the fans and even animals.  Yes, even the animals make the blooper real in this brand new collection.  Perhaps one of the funniest of the collection’s moments comes not from the players and animals, but from one certain celebrity.  Fans even get some hilarious sound bites from the players own mouths from the sounds of the game.  It all combines to make for plenty of laughs for those wanting to get their baseball fix during the offseason.

MLB All-Time Bloopers is separated nicely into about four different segments.  It starts off with some of the funniest on-field moments from across the league and its history.  From players hitting the outfield wall to running into each other and even making some really wild plays, it shows that for all the training that these professional athletes go through, even they are capable of making some of the game’s funniest moments.  From there, it moves on to some of the funniest players in the game through the twentieth century.  Prince Fielder gets some love, as do a number of other veteran athletes.  One of the funniest moments comes when said veterans are profiled for their fan favorite rainy slip and slide moments.  Others get their own moment in the limelight not so much for what they do on the field but for their clubhouse antics.  One of those is a certain player streaking through an interview with his teammates.  Thank goodness that was blurred out.  Think that’s a wild blooper moment?  Try the segment featuring the mascots of the game.  That’s right, even the mascots get their own segment in this collection.

The players make for more than their share of entertainment throughout a season both for audiences and sports analysts.  But the team mascots also make for their own share of laughs.  And few have the resume of the one and only Philly Phanatic.  This legendary mascot has more than enough material to make his own blooper reel.  What fans do get to see here though, is a few snippets of the long running love/hate relationship between the Phanatic and Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda.  Apparently, there was one incident initiated by the Phanatic of which Lasorda was no fan.  Fans will have to check out this DVD to find out what exactly that incident was.  It’s an incident that will keep audiences laughing and talking even after watching it.  The same thing applies for watching the fans and even “fan mascots.”  Wait.  Fan mascots?  That’s right.  While they’re not the official team mascots, the teams have their own “fan mascots” in the stands.

Football isn’t the only sport with “fan mascots.”  Even baseball has this dedicated legion of fans.  They will get out on top of the dugout and entertain the fans in order to get them worked up, cheering for their team.  Some come just as themselves.  Others come dressed to the nines in their full homemade regalia.  And they all come with their own moves that get fans both at the games and watching on TV equally charged up thanks to their moves.  Baseball fans will get to see all of that and so much more throughout the course of this laugh-a-minute presentation.  As if what’s on this disc isn’t enough, fans will note in watching it that there are sure to be more volumes to come as the seasons roll on.  That’s because even the show’s narrator notes it’s only the first volume.  That’s not noted on the DVD’s case.  But being that it is noted, fans can be sure that the 2013 season will bring its own share of bloopers.  Until it starts though, this collection will put smiles on any fan’s face for nine innings and more.  MLB All-Time Bloopers is available now.  It can be ordered online direct via MLB Productions’ online store at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13235967&cp=2366583.706121.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.

Giants Blu-ray, DVD Set A Solid Year Ender For All Baseball Fans

Courtesy:  MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The 2012 Major League Baseball season is in the books, and the champs have officially been crowned.  But fear not baseball fans.  The 2013 season is right around the corner.  December’s nearly over.  With the end of the year, baseball fans will start hearing more news as teams start prepping for the first pitch of Spring training 2013.  As fans await that first pitch, A&E Home Video and MLB Productions have partnered once again for what is truly a “giant” of a release both for fans of the World Series champs and of baseball in general.  The release in question is the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Collector’s Edition

The San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Collector’s Edition is offered both on DVD and Blu-ray format, so as to not leave out anyone.  This is a bonus right off the top for all baseball fans.  Now there are those who have had their say about this new set, complaining about one game being omitted from the set, but what those people need to understand is that the inclusion of Game 5 of the team’s NLDS and NLCS were included in the set as each was the pivotal game in each series on the way to the team’s incredible sweep of the Tigers in the World Series.  Keeping this in mind, both MLB Productions and A&E have done the right thing in assembling the set in its present setup.  The inclusion of those two games makes for a nice setup to the team’s sweep of Detroit, which is profiled in its entirety in the set’s first four discs.  And as has been the case with every previous MLB Productions release this year, these four games are just as exceptional as previous releases.

The collection of games included in this brand new set is exceptional in that complaints from others aside, both the World Series games and the NLDS and NLCS games are presented with the same standard set by both companies with previous releases.  The games are contained within their own slimcases inside a larger box.  Each slimcase contains all the information needed to easily follow the game.  It is a program in itself for all intensive purposes.  The inning by inning rundown is on the front of each game, while the inside of each case offers a full box score unlike anything that any newspaper or even sports broadcast could offer.  True baseball fans will appreciate that the companies have maintained this standard.

That MLB Productions and A&E have maintained the high level of product quality is just one part of what makes its latest release so impressive for fans.  Also making this set impressive for fans is the inclusion of the previously released single disc presentation of the team’s inclusion into the Baseball’s Greatest Games series in the form of its “First Perfect Game” presentation.  Maybe someone already owns this on DVD.  That’s fine.  Having it in duplicate is just as good.  That’s because God forbid something happens to one copy, having this in duplicate means that fans will have a backup copy of it.  And for those who don’t already own this landmark game, then it’s all the more of a bonus to an already impressive baseball box set.

The bonus Baseball’s Greatest Games disc included in this set is just one of the bonuses that put the set over the top.  It also includes a bonus disc with some of the team’s best moments.  It includes highlights of some team members’ twenty-game hit streaks, and the moment in which it claimed this year’s NL West title, just to name a few highlights.  Even presented in standard definition, it looks good.  For those who own HDTV’s and Blu-ray players, it looks even better as the Blu-ray player will automatically up-convert this stand-alone DVD.  Yet again, audiences are presented with a disc that’s more than just another disc.  It is in its own way, one more true bonus to a set that’s already well worth the price.  And combined with the remaining seven discs, it makes the entire eight-disc set one big out of the park home run to finish off the year for both MLB Productions and A&E Home Video and A&E Entertainment.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.

Ancient Rome Box Set An Amazing Look At An Amazing City

 

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Entertainment

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Entertainment

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Who hasn’t heard or even spoken that old adage at one point or another in their life?  It’s true; Rome wasn’t built in a day.  As a matter of fact, it took Rome ages to become the city and the world power that it was in the ancient world.  Now, a new box set from History Channel is taking viewers deeper into the history of Rome than before.  Ancient Rome Anthology is comprised of six discs each in their own slipcase encased in a larger box.  Each disc takes viewers on a journey into specific aspects of Rome that made it one of the most important cities in the world then and even today.

The first pair of the discs in the Ancient Rome Anthology features some of the most important battles in the history of the Roman Empire.  They are taken from History Channel’s special, Decisive Battles.  The first of those decisive battles was the slave revolt led by Spartacus.  Unlike in so many of History Channel’s specials, this one actually opted for something other than live actors to re-enact the scenes being discussed.  Rather, it uses video game style animation to outline how the various battles happened.  This is an excellent method, despite what some might want to believe.  It makes for an excellent visual aid, especially when used in the classroom.  In an age when video games dominate young minds, this will easily get the attention of younger audiences.  In the process, maybe that initial interest will even lead to a growing interest since the topic being discussed is major battles.

From the major battles, the Ancient Rome Anthology moves into a discussion of the most important leaders in Rome’s history.  Of those most important were Julius Caesar and the infamous Constantine.  Both men are featured in the third disc of the set along with the equally infamous Caligula.  All three rulers are featured as part of History Channel’s special, Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire.  This special is more in line with History Channel’s other specials in that the lives of the three featured rulers are portrayed by actual live actors.  Yet again, this is a good tool in that for older audiences, it can hold the attention of older audiences.  The actors help to illustrate what is being discussed in each ruler’s segment.  Even more interesting that even in standard definition presentation, the visuals come across in stark clarity.  This is especially the case with the set’s next presentation.      

After going through three of Rome’s most influential (and infamous) rulers, audiences are taken through the engineering feats that helped to make Rome such an incredible city.  Along with the city’s engineering feats, the feature continues its discussion on Rome’s rulers in connection.  It discusses how Julius Caesar, Claudius, and others influenced the great structures of Rome.  One of the most important of those was the aqueducts, which were crafted by Claudius.  Yet again, the visual aids in this segment play a bigger role than some would think in its success.  In discussing the aqueducts, History Channel uses a mix of computer graphics and blueprint style visuals to illustrate how the aqueducts were built.  Even Nero himself is featured in this portion of the set.  He is featured for his construction of his lavish estate on the backs and money of the Romans.  As impressive as the estate would have been, it was the execution of its construction that leads to his inclusion in this segment.  The final product was astoundingly beautiful.  But by contrast, his own view of himself is what led to its construction, and eventually his downfall.  That in itself makes for quite the discussion.  The discussion of Rome’s engineering greatness doesn’t end with Nero.  It goes into far more depth for those who are truly interested in everything that put Rome so far ahead of its time.

The fifth disc of the Ancient Rome Anthology finishes out what had been started with the set’s fourth disc.  It explains how Rome’s roads were built, along with some of its greatest monuments.  This is how much there is to discuss in terms of Rome’s architectural greatness.  The entire set is closed out with what is best described as a bonus disc in its sixth disc.  The set’s final disc offers bonus segments featuring the long hidden catacombs of Rome, and a pair of other features of one of the world’s greatest cities.  There is so much here and in the rest of the set that it more than makes a perfect gift idea for any history buff or for teacher looking for the perfect teaching tool, regardless of whether it is used in public school or college.  It is a wonderful tool for either level.  And it is available now.  It can be ordered online now at History Channel’s online store, http://shop.history.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.

Ancient Egypt Anthology An In-Depth Journey Through Country’s History

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Entertainment

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Entertainment

History Channel’s recently released box set, The Ancient Egypt Anthology is more excellent material both for history buffs and history teachers at every level.  This new six disc set contains the network’s previously released specials in one complete box.  It opens with the double disc set, Planet Egypt before expanding a little more in the set’s next pair of discs featuring the special, Beyond The Pyramids.  Next up is the single disc presentation of Engineering An Empire.  The entire set closes out with a compilation of other specials on Egypt on the set’s sixth disc.  At an estimated price of $50.00, the six discs included in this make the price well worth the purchase.

The set opens with the double disc set, Planet Egypt.  This presentation was released earlier this year in its own double disc presentation.  Fittingly, it opens this new complete box set, too.  Planet Egypt tells the story of Egypt from its earliest days through the rise of its most influential and important pharaohs.  It tells of the military might and political power of each pharaoh including the one and only Pharaoh Hatshepsut.  It also discusses how the pyramids come to be as a result of each leader.  From the discussion on the pyramids, The Ancient Egypt Anthology moves into an even more in depth discussion of them by going Beyond The PyramidsBeyond The Pyramids takes viewers even deeper into a study of the pyramids.  It explains to viewers how the pyramids were built and why each was built with its given internal structure.  Along with that, it also helps to highlight what made the pyramids so important as it compares the lives of the Pharaohs to that of the ordinary Egyptian during the time of the Pharaohs.  This comparison works with the discussion on the pyramids construction and cultural significance to make for a fitting continuation of what was started with Planet Egypt.

The fifth disc in the new Ancient Egypt Anthology is a good finishing touch to this set.  Having already discussed the construction of the pyramids, the Ancient Egypt Anthology goes into even deeper depth with a more broad discussion on how engineering helped not only bring the pyramids to their heights, but also Egyptian society as a whole.  This segment starts off with a discussion on the annual flooding of the Nile River Valley, and its impact on life in the region.  It proceeds to discuss how given rulers used their own engineering methods to help build and maintain Egyptian society through its most important times.  It makes for a nice final piece in the set.  But it isn’t all.  As an added bonus, the Ancient Egypt Anthology offers viewers a sixth disc in which topics such as medicine in early Egypt, and more material about the pyramids and a pair of Egypt’s most famed Pharaohs.  It makes for a nice extra touch on a set that already will impress any history buff and history teacher.  Anyone who has any interest in the history of Egypt will enjoy this and the set’s other five discs, too.  The Ancient Egypt Anthology is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://shop.history.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.

War In HD Box Set An Excellent Piece Of Military History

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E TV/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E TV/A&E Home Video

History Channel released one of its most impressive box sets yet earlier this year with the release of WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition.  That four-disc set took audiences in the lives of just a handful of members of the “Greatest Generation.”  It was the follow-up to the network’s equally impressive military history piece, Vietnam in HD.  Now for all the military history lovers out there, History Channel has combined both mini-series into one full six-disc set featuring both presentations in their entirety.

War in HD is a good gift idea for the military history lover in anyone’s house this holiday season.  The entire thing starts with the hugely acclaimed WWII in HD.  This series takes viewers through the history of WWII from its earliest days before the United States’ entrance to its final days.  This mega set even includes the bonus segment, “The Air War” from the previous releases of WWII in HD.  Presented in full HD, the footage culled for the presentation that is WWII in HD looks outstanding, even on standard def DVD.  And new light is shed on life on the frontlines and stateside from the interviews collected for this mini-series.  One of the most intriguing factors of WWII in HD is the drastic difference in support for the war.  Whereas support for the war in both the Pacific and in Europe was overwhelming from America, support for the war in Vietnam was quite different.

Support for the War in Vietnam went from being in support of the troops to being completely against the men fighting the war.  But now thanks to the inclusion of Vietnam in HD those who perhaps have always had a certain view of how things went down get an entirely new view of what really happened.  It’s intriguing to see the progress made in support of South Koreans in the fight against the North.  From new schools and much needed medicines, American forces did a lot to try and help the South Koreans.  Just as intriguing to learn from this double disc portion of War in HD was that despite the draft being in full effect, nearly one-third of the men serving in Vietnam by the late 1970’s were actually volunteers.  Considering how many were drafted into service (and that number is given), that one-third of enlisted men were volunteers is still quite eye opening.  It changes the view of things from that angle.  And for that matter, viewers actually learn that about four years in the war, North Vietnamese casualties far outnumbered those of American forces.  Narrator Michael C. Hall (Dexter) explains that the measure of victory in Vietnam was not by ground taken (as was the case in WWII), but by the body count.  That perhaps is what makes the Vietnam War so controversial more so than what happened during the war.  That military brass openly said that was the measure of victory set off both citizens back home and the men serving on the frontlines.  There is so much more eye opening material that audiences will appreciate from Vietnam in HD than just what is noted here.  On the note of the forces fighting the war, there is a discussion on the part of deciding whether to save the life of a fellow soldier or decide if one of the locals was a North Vietnamese fighter.  That brief moment makes for quite the discussion.  And it’s just one more of the many topics raised in this half of History Channel’s new War in HD box set.

War in HD is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://shop.history.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.

Mankind A Great Cap To A Great Year For History Channel

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

History Channel has put out some of the year’s best historical documentaries in 2012.  From History of the World in 2 Hours’ to ‘Planet Egypt’ and WWII in HD, the documentaries released by History Channel this year have all been great pieces both in and out of the classroom.  Now, History Channel is wrapping up the year the way that it started it with the release of Mankind; The Story of All of Us.

Mankind: The Story of All of Us is an excellent companion piece to the network’s previously released documentaries from this year.  It combines the history of the network’s other documentaries for the broadest and most comprehensive documentary yet.  The entire presentation starts at the beginning of human existence and movies straight up through the modern age.  The triple disc Blu-ray presentation takes viewers on a journey through some of the most important of the world’s turning points.  From the end of the ice age, to the advent of weapons through time, all the way to the advent of modern electronic media and technology, and its future, audiences are offered these points and more during the special’s nine hours plus.

The information presented throughout the course of Mankind: The Story of All of Us is perfect for both the classroom setting and for the general viewer.  As with History Channel’s previously released documentaries, it is split up into multiple segments.  Inside the classroom, it allows teachers and instructors to stop and start where need be.  Added to History’s previously released documentaries from this year, it and the aforementioned pieces make for more than enough information for an entire semester or even academic year-long course of study.  The acting scenes which have seemingly become the norm for History Channel’s documentaries add to the impressive nature of this presentation.  They and the interviews with various academics and figures from other backgrounds make for excellent aids for both visual and auditory learners.  Yet again, kudos goes to all involved with this presentation for that standard addition.  Outside the classroom, it allows the average viewer to do much the same as in the classroom just without the academic intent.

The intrinsic value from Mankind: The Story of All of Us is obvious after watching just a few segments of this new special.  The extrinsic value is obvious, too.  It’s obvious in the triple-disc set’s packaging.  The set is placed into a slim case that will take up very little room on anyone’s DVD and Blu-ray rack.  The discs are placed with one disc on one side and the other pair on the other side of the case, making for very little room taken up both inside the case and on racks.  It’s one more positive to an already impressive set both for educators and for general audiences everywhere.

Mankind: The Story of All of Us will be available on December 18th, just in time for the holidays.  It can be ordered direct online via History Channel’s online store, http://shop.history.com.  It will be available both on DVD and Blu-ray.

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

Ancient Aliens Season Four Keeps The Questions Coming

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Entertainment

The truth is out there, or so we’ve been told by a rather well known now classic sci-fi show.  But what if the truth isn’t out there?  What if it is in fact right in front of us?  In the fourth season of History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, viewers are presented with more theories that beings from another world have been visiting Earth and leaving their mark for eons.  Through it all, it leaves viewers to decide for themselves what they believe to be the truth. Season Four opens with one of the most classic stories of alien conspiracies.  It opens with the episode, ‘The Mayan Conspiracy.’  This episode takes viewers throughout the beliefs that beings from other worlds have been visiting Earth and its inhabitants as early as the days of the Mayans and even their own ancestors.  The show focuses on artwork left by the Mayans, presenting the possibility that the artwork carved into the Mayan temples in fact are images of technology used by the Mayans to communicate with whatever beings may have connected with them.  It claims that the Mayans may have even had technology to build an early rocket of sorts, allowing them to travel out of Earth’s bounds.  This episode also goes into depth about the Mayans’ expertise with astronomy and math.  The experts interviewed for this episode argue that how else could the Mayans have had the knowledge and abilities that they had without intervention from some higher being or beings?

Another of Season Four’s interesting episodes brings up the conspiracy theory centered on the true intentions of NASA.  ‘The NASA Connection’ explains the roots of NASA and explains what is believed to be the real reason for its creation.  From there, it goes into more depth about an alleged connection to the Russian space program early in NASA’s life possibly for covert reasons tied to beliefs about hidden cities on the dark side of the moon.  It goes into even more discussions about the possibility that NASA has been attempting to hide footage of extraterrestrial beings flying right past the ISS and NASA’s shuttle fleet.  Could it really be true?  Again, that’s up to viewers to decide.

Could beings from other worlds have visited Earth as far back as the days of the Mayans?  What about as recently as the days of the “Space Race?”  That’s anybody’s guess.  But those are just two of many theories raised in Season Four of Ancient Aliens.  Also presented here is the theory that famed artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci had to have had help from some form of interstellar beings in order to be able to create the inventions which he developed.  On top of that, the show presents perhaps one of the most interesting discussions ever raised in the possibility that instead of hiding a religious secret in his paintings, he in fact was hiding images of beings from other worlds.  Along with this, it presents a discussion that there are in fact images of alien spacecraft hidden throughout some of history’s great pieces of art.  It even goes so far as to focus in on these alleged objects, and have experts examine them for themselves.  The findings from these investigations are pretty interesting.  But audiences will have to see for themselves how interesting when they pick up Season Four of Ancient Aliens.

Ancient Aliens Season Four will be available in stores and online Tuesday, November 20th.  It can be ordered online direct via History Channel’s online store, http://shop.history.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, 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.