Yankees Fans And Baseball Fans Alike Will Enjoy MLB Productions’ Latest Release

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

The New York Yankees are in the waning days of the team’s 2014 season.  And along with the end of that season is the end of an era as Yankees great Derek Jeter is set to close out his Major League Baseball career, too.  While this season has not exactly proven to be everything that Yankees loyalists had hoped for MLB Productions has given Yankees nation reason to look back after this season’s end and still have plenty to smile about thanks to the recent release of Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics.  This latest release continues a long-held tradition of excellence from Major League Baseball Productions as is evidenced throughout all four games contained in this set.  The inclusion of four full games is central to the enjoyment of the presentation.  That each game celebrates Jeter’s various accomplishments makes things even sweeter for fans.  As with previous MLB Productions releases, audiences are given the option to start at the top or bottom of any of the games’ innings.  They are not forced to sit through the whole game or even fast forward through to their key moments.  It adds even more enjoyment to the overall presentation.  And last but not least of all worth noting in this set is the collective video and audio mix in each episode.  MLB productions includes a disclaimer before the game, noting that there may be some discrepancies at given points.  But those discrepancies are few and far between.  If anything, seeing the games as they were originally broadcast adds to a certain sense of nostalgia among viewers, whether or not they be Yankees loyalists.  Each factor noted by itself is important to the whole in its own right.  All three together make Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics another welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.

Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is a welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.  It is especially welcome being that New York’s season hasn’t exactly lived up to the hopes and expectations of the team or its fans.  Luckily for fans, this four-disc set features four past Yankees games on which fans can look back and smile after the season’s end.  The first of the games is Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS in which the Yankees faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.  The second game takes fans forward four years to Game 4 of the 2000 World Series.  The Yankees faced off against the Mets that year.  The key moment of this game was Jeter’s leadoff home run against the Mets.  The third game takes audiences another year forward to Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.  That year, the Yankees faced off against Oakland.  After taking down Oakland, the Yankees moved on in 2001 to the World Series, in which the team took on Arizona for the championship. MLB Productions features Game 4 of that year’s World Series as the set’s closing game.  As with the set’s other games, Jeter’s accomplishments are highlighted here, too.  Of course it doesn’t focus solely on his achievements.  Rather, the entire game is presented from the first pitch to the last.  The commercials have been cleanly cut, again displaying that commitment to quality from MLB Productions.  Simply put, with each game, audiences get the full game experience sans the commercial limitations.  They can pause the game at any point that they choose so as to use the bathroom, get a couple cold ones, or anything else.  All things considered here, it all proves just why the inclusion of the games and their inclusion in full at that is the central point of the set’s success.

The inclusion of four important recent Yankees games is central to the success of Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is central to the success of the set.  Their inclusion in full and the fact that they are meant to highlight the accomplishments of the soon-to-be-retired Yankee great Derek Jeter makes it even more of a solid center to the set.  Adding to the set’s success is the fact that once again, audiences are able to choose the inning at which they start each game.  To be even more precise, audiences can choose whether they start at the top of an inning within a given game or at the top of said inning.  So rather than be forced to sit through the whole game or fast forward through so much baseball, audiences can pick precisely where the game starts.  So if viewers have to stop for any reason, they can just pop in the DVD, pick the inning (and its top or bottom) and go from there.  If fast forwarding is still necessary, it won’t have to be but so much as a result of this inclusion.  This is a standard that those at MLB Productions have maintained for years.  So it is wonderful to see this standard maintained even here.  It serves to make the set’s overall presentation even more enjoyable and a success.

MLB fans and Yankees fans alike will appreciate that those with MLB Productions took painstaking efforts to maintain the tradition of excellence established by the company with every one of its releases up to this point including this set.  The games included in this set are presented in full. Audiences can once again choose the point at which they start giving games, whether the top or bottom of said inning(s).  All of this taken into consideration, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to offer plenty of enjoyment for MLB fans regardless of their team loyalty.  There is still one more aspect of this set that makes it a joy for audiences.  That last aspect is the fact that the games in this set are presented exactly as they were seen in their original broadcast(s).  Game 1 of the team’s 1996 ALCS matchup against the Orioles was originally broadcast on NBC while the other three games were each broadcast on FOX.  MLB Productions’ people covered their bases, including a disclaimer noting the potential issues with the games’ video.  But the reality is the video looks just fine.  As a matter of fact, seeing the games as they looked in their original airings brings back a wonderful sense of nostalgia for fans. Considering that this season hasn’t lived to the hopes and expectations of the team and its fans, that sense of nostalgia is especially welcome for the members of the Yankees nation.  Together with the aforementioned aspects of the set, the presentation of each game from its original broadcast rounds out Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics and makes it complete.  It is one more reason that audiences, regardless of allegiance, will welcome this latest collection of games from MLB Productions and A&E Home Video.

MLB Productions and A&E Home Video have a long history together, releasing wonderful pieces of baseball’s history every year.  Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is one more wonderful piece of that history.  The inclusion of four games in their entirety proves that right off the top.  That audiences can once more choose where they start viewing each game makes it even more of an enjoyable experience.  And the still quality video and audio mix of all four games rounds out the entire set.  All things considered, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to be its own home run for any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded baseball fan in general.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from The Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=31220&TitleParentId=9945.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate and A&E Home Video is available online at:

 

Lionsgate

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate
Twitter: http://twitter.com/linosgatemovies

A&E Home Video

Website: http://www.aetv.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AETV
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AEHomeEnt

MLB Productions

Website: http://mlbproductions.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mlbprod

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.

The World Wars Is One Of 2014′s Top New Documentaries

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/History Channel

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/History Channel

History Channel’s new powerhouse documentary The World Wars is easily one of this year’s best new documentaries hands down.  It is the proverbial icing on the cake that the network started baking earlier this year with the release of 100 Years of WWI and continued working this summer with 75 Years of World War II.  And along with the PBS documentary Day of Days: June 6th, 1945, it makes complete the collection of any history and military history buff this year. The first and most important aspect of this double-disc set that audiences will appreciate is its depth of information.  100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII were specifically directed at the technology and battles of WWI and WWII.  This presentation is far broader in its content.  It focuses on the history of both wars and more specifically how the events of WWI would lead four specific figures to be the most important individuals of World War II.  The combination of re-enactors and footage of the wars together heightens the content provided across the presentation.  That is the second factor that audiences will appreciate in this documentary.  And last but not least worth noting is the breadth of bonus material included in the program.  The bonus material included in the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of The World Wars gives even more depth to not just the history of the wars but to those most important figures of the wars—Patton, Stalin, Hitler, and Churchill.  Each figure receives special attention in its own bonus special feature.  These bonuses are just some of the many bonuses added to the DVD and Blu-ray to enhance the overall viewing experience.  And they do just that.  The bonus material together with the rich content and the focus on the wars’ primary figures make this program an absolute must have for any lover of history whether it be military or history in general.  It is just as invaluable a tool in the classroom or in the living room.  It proves that much more just why this presentation is one of the year’s best new documentaries.

History Channel’s new military history documentary The World Wars is one of this year’s best new documentaries.  The central reasoning for this argument is the documentary’s sheer breadth of information.  The network already released earlier this year a pair of documentaries centered on the World Wars in the form of 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII.  Those documentaries presented more directed content than this presentation.  Where 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII focused on more directed content—they focused primarily on the technology that was developed as a result of the wars and a couple of the wars’ more important battles—The World Wars offers audiences a far more broad picture.  It leaves absolutely no stone unturned in its telling of how both wars started.  From the political and economic causes of the wars to their political and economic ramifications and much more, audiences might find themselves shocked at some of the material included in this four-and-a-half hour presentation.  Among the most interesting facts to learn in watching the program is that then President Woodrow Wilson actually tried to prevent the League of Nations from forcing economic penalties on Germany as he and others knew the potential problems with doing so.  Audiences will be just as surprised to learn that Hitler actually escaped death three separate times throughout his time in the German army in WWI.  One of the academics tapped to help add to the story explains that the very first of those times was a showdown between himself and a fully armed British soldier.  He asks hypothetically can audiences imagine how much the world’s history would have changed had that first encounter led to Hitler’s death.  It’s definitely a mind twist when one really sits down and thinks about it.  There is even mention of how the Japanese, despite having contributed troops to the Allied efforts in WWI were shut out at the conference that led to the crafting of the Treaty of Versailles.  It goes without saying that the representatives at the conference were probably a bit upset over this, potentially leading to part of the motivation behind Japan’s negative feelings toward the U.S. before its attack on Pearl Harbor.  These are just some of the examples of how much content is shared throughout The World Wars’ near five-hour run time.  There is far more material and information proving how much depth this program possesses and why that depth is key to the program’s success.

The amount of information shared throughout The World Wars’ four-and-a-half-hour run time is key to the presentation’s overall success.  The amount of information included throughout this program could rival any college level history course.  The additional combination of actual footage from both wars alongside re-enactors goes a long way towards helping viewers grasp the material being discussed in each segment of the program.  The actors make it clear through their portrayals that they understood the importance of what they were doing, too. They did so by not overacting. It showed that they understood they weren’t in a “based on actual events” major Hollywood blockbuster, but a still professionally produced piece nonetheless. It just so happened that the piece in question is a straight forward historical documentary.

The in-depth content provided throughout The World Wars by itself makes this historical documentary well worth the watch by itself. That content would have been nothing without the addition of the program’s actual wartime footage and re-enactments. The World Wars would have been a success if it had only been highlighted by these factors. Of course, those behind the semi-mini-series didn’t rest on those laurels. They also included a bevy of bonus material that puts the presentation over the top. Included as bonus material is a collection of profiles on the most important figures of World War I and World War II, and a pair of short features on both the technology developed in the wars and life in the trenches. There is also an in-depth piece that adds even more background on the wars in which one of the most important statements is made. One of the historians interviewed for the program notes here that the Treaty of Versailles was essentially the catalyst for the start of WWII because of its language. She goes on to note that WWI and WWII were in reality not two wars, but two parts of one global conflict. It’s just that the world rested for two decades before the second part of that conflict re-ignited. It’s really an interesting concept to consider. And in hindsight, watching The World Wars in whole, her statement makes quite a bit of sense. It becomes perhaps one of the most important statements of the entire presentation. There are plenty of other important notes and facts shared throughout the bonus features included in The World Wars. Whether it be those notes and facts, the profiles or the other bonus material included in the package, the bonus features are collectively a final fitting touch to a documentary that is one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the best of the year.

The bonus material included in The World Wars by themselves are impressive in their own right. They offer their own depth and enjoyment for any military history buff or history buff in general. Along with the content of the primary presentation, and the footage and re-enactments, the bonus material included in the package makes the entire presentation that is The World Wars complete. Collectively, everything noted here proves that its various reality TV series aside, History Channel does in fact still offer quality content worthy of being called one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the year’s best new documentary. The World Wars is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/the-world-wars-blu-ray/detail.php?p=567846&v=history_show_world-wars. More information on this and other History Channel programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/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.

Bee People Will Leave A Sweet Taste In Viewers’ Mouths

Courtesy:  Truemind/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Truemind/Entertainment One

Entertainment One and Truemind released this week what is one of this year’s more standout documentaries in a piece titled Bee People.  The presentation follows the work of Gregg McMahan aka “The Bee Guru” as he works to spread the word about the importance of backyard beekeeping.  He explains through his various activities the importance of saving bees because they are still very much in danger even today.  He uses a mix of education and bee rescues and relocation in his efforts to help bolster the bee population.  He’s sort of the Billy The Exterminator (see who remembers that show) of the bee world.  Staying on that tip, this is actually the central point of this documentary’s success.  It’s more reality TV on DVD than documentary.  Though there is some documentary element of sorts with the trivia segments that are thrown in.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this program is that being more of a reality TV style presentation than a documentary, it doesn’t come across as just another preachy, overly done presentations that paint a picture of doom and gloom.  Rather it points out all the positives of bees and bee keeping and that anyone of any age can do it, even kids with proper guidance from experienced adults.  The DVD’s bonus segment “Extracting Honey” only runs sixteen minutes.  But it adds its own share of enjoyment to the whole presentation.  It feels like a deleted scene, again adding to the presentation’s feel of being more of a reality show on DVD than an actual documentary.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  If anything, it serves to make this presentation even more enjoyable for audiences.  It makes the presentation that much more enjoyable and worth checking out regardless of whether or not one is that much into the world of bee keeping.  All three of the noted aspects of this presentation do their own part to make it a work that any viewer will appreciate in one way or another.  And together, they make Bee People a “documentary” that will leave any viewer *ahem* buzzing about it in the end.

The core point of success in Bee People—its presentation in general—is also the most noticeable.  The presentation is being marketed primarily as a documentary.  But the reality of it is that it is anything but.  If anything, it more resembles the likes of so much of the reality TV series currently dominating the television spectrum.  The difference is that unlike those series in question, this piece is actually worth watch.  It is so much more enjoyable than most of the reality series out there right now primarily because of its content.  Audiences that might be familiar with A&E’s short-lived series Billy The Exterminator will make an almost instant correlation between the two series.  Billy actually did handle some bee infestations in a couple episodes of his series.  Gregg Mcmahan aka ‘The Bee Guru” is the star of this program.  And he has much the same energy and personality as Billy The Exterminator.  The only difference between the two is that Billy boasted a more outrageous outfit and handled more than just bees.  Other than that, the similarity is nearly a mirror image.  Maybe that’s why it made it so fun and easy for this critic to watch.  Anyone else that is a fan of Billy The Exterminator will find themselves enjoying this program just as much.  It’s a nice breath of fresh air both when compared to all the useless reality TV series out there today and so many other more pure documentaries out there, too.

Bee People stands out both when compared to the mass of reality shows across the television spectrum today and among the other, more pure documentaries that are out there right now.  That sole factor makes this presentation well worth the watch by viewers of any age.  Making the program even more enjoyable for viewers is it doens’t try to paint the picture of doom and gloom that so many documentaries out there paint.  So many documentaries are in reality no more than overly preachy activist films.  This piece doesn’t do that.  It presents the perils that the world’s bee populations face.  But upon doing so, it shows the concerted efforts being taken by average, everyday people in their efforts to help work with said populations. And even those people don’t try to preach to audiences.  Add in the educational segments here and there, and what audiences get is a presentation that is more real than any reality TV series or any documentary film out there.  Simply put, it’s more substance than schlep, making it even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

Bee People stands out among this year’s documentaries because it is a documentary that isn’t one.  Its use of areality TV series format and its overall content both make it a surprisingly *ahem* sweet presentation (bad pun fully intended.  It’s anything but preachy.  And there’s no foul language at any one point, either.  This all noted, there is still one more aspect of the presentation worth noting that makes it so fun.  That last aspect is the DVD’s bonus deleted scene.  The bonus deleted scene included with the documentary shows the actual process (albeit by a backyard beekeeper) of how honey is extracted from the honeycomb.  It’s difficult to point out what exactly it is about this process that makes it so interesting.  But it is just that interesting.  And seeing an average person “harvesting” the honey in the heart of New York City is makes the process even more awe inspring.  And that sense of awe combined with the program’s general content and its premise collectively make Bee People one of this year’s most underrated documentaries.

Entertainment One and Truemind have together offered up to viewers what is a standout presentation in Bee People.  The film stands out as it isn’t what one thinks of in any way when one thinks of standard documentaries.  From its general premise to its overall look and its bonus deleted scenes, this DVD will leave quite the good *taste in viewers’ mouths.  and yes, those bad puns were fully intended, too.  Bee People is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Truemind’s website at http://disinfo.com/product/bee-people/.  More information on this and other releases from Truemind is available online at http://www.truemind.tv.  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.

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.

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TV Renewals and Cancellations Start For 2013

The television industry is in one of its key moments right now.  As the calendar turns from Winter and closer to Spring, network execs at the “Big 4” (and CW) are starting to do some early planning for each network’s Fall schedule.  Typically the Fall schedules are released in Spring; May to be exact.  And if the latest numbers are any sign, things could be very interesting for television this coming Fall as the Winter/Spring season nears its end and we move into the annual filler season.  While things are still uncertain for many shows, the picture for all of the “Big 4” (and CW) has become increasingly clear already.  While there are still a lot of uncertain, it looks like when the dust settles, NBC will have the most to lose, while CBS will end up the big winner with FOX and ABC battling it out for second place.  Of course, let’s not forget the massive slate of pilots set to air very soon across the networks.  Considering the way the schedules look for the “Big 4” (and CW), CBS may still end up the big winner, even with networks such as Syfy and A&E having two of the most anticipated shows of the year.  Let’s take a look at everything.

So far, it looks like NBC has the most to lose.  The network proves to be the biggest loser (yes, that pun is intended) with no fewer than ten of the shows in its schedule being on the chopping block.  This means that at the time of this posting, their fate is up in the air.  Those shows include the likes of Community, Parks & Rec, and 1600 Penn just to name a few.  The network has officially renewed five of its shows at the time of this posting and brought four to an end.  In NBC’s defense, two of those shows ending (The Office and 30 Rock) simply came to the end of their run whereas Animal Practice and Do No Harm were cancelled due to poor ratings.  CBS on the other hand looks to have come out the big winner in everything, and likely will even after the summer filler season ends.  As of this time, CBS’ schedule looks to be largely intact with at least fifteen shows from its schedule set to return, one cancelled, and six still on the hook. 

Perhaps the most interesting trend to note of all the announcements released so far is that audiences seem to be drawing more towards dramas than anything else.  This includes reality television.  Considering the glut of reality TV shows out there on the majors, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW have combined so far for a total of ten total reality shows officially confirmed as being safe so far.  Dramas from the five networks on the other hand, combined for a total of twenty-one shows that have been confirmed as being back so far.  Comedies accounted for only fourteen total shows that will definitely be back as of yet.  On the other side of the coin, comedies topped the list of shows that have been cancelled during the Winter/Spring schedule.  ABC lost the most dramas, with five total.  None of the 5 majors reported cancellation of their reality TV programming.  It really makes for an interesting trend to note.

In terms of the most anticipated shows coming this year are A&E’s Bates Motel, ABC’s much talked about small screen take from the Marvel Comics universe in S.H.I.E.L.D. and Syfy’s long awaited return to actual science fiction programming in Defiance.    Syfy has had at least some science fiction based shows in the likes of the previous Battlestar Galactica re-incarnation as well as Eureka and the now short lived Alphas.  So there’s a lot of talk around this one, especially after the leap of faith that was Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.  After the much maligned Caprica ended, there was a lot of speculation around the fate of this property.  And considering that Alphas has ended so abruptly and that Eureka only lasted four seasons, one can only wonder if Defiance will be able to revive science fiction programming on Syfy.  Should it survive, sci-fi fans could finally see the network finally return to its roots.  One can only hope.  Supernatural shows seem to have been all the rage on that network in recent memory.  Though it too, has added its own slate of reality shows just like so many of the cable networks.  One thing fans can cheer about is that USA has brought back Psych.  The show’s new episodes started airing this week.  This little show that could has really proven to be a surprise hit for the network and a great replacement for the equally entertaining Monk.  For fans of other cable shows, FX has renewed Archer and American Horror Story.  AMC is said to be bringing back its hit Western saga, Hell on Wheels.  Simply put, this year is going to be another interesting one for television as it competes for eyes over theaters.  That’s a whole other story in itself for another time.

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.