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.

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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.

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.     

 

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.

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.

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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.

MLB, A&E Offer Brewers Fans Reason To Celebrate This Offseason

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The Milwaukee Brewers is one of Major League Baseball’s younger teams.  The team, which was originally started in part by Bud Selig in 1970, has had its share of great moments in its roughly forty-two year history.  Now thanks to MLB Productions and A&E Home Video, the team’s fans and baseball fans alike can enjoy a handful of the team’s greatest moments in the new four-disc box set, The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers

It’s fitting that all four of the games included in this box set are taken from the Brewers’ post season history, as Major League Baseball is currently in its second season.  Now fans yearning for a fresh start next season can enjoy these momentous games in the meantime.  One of the games that fans will enjoy from this set is its matchup against the then California Angels.  The game in question was the teams’ faceoff in Game Five of the 1982 ALCS.  Both teams were tied up at two games each in this best of five series.  So both teams’ fates boiled down to this decisive match.  And both teams showed how bad they wanted it.

Game Five of the 1982 ALCS started off with both the Angels and Brewers bringing in one run a piece.  The next two innings would see only one run scored on the part of the Angels’ catcher, Bob Boone.  Both sides stayed toe to toe in the game’s fourth inning with each one bringing in another run each, bringing the score at that point to 3-2, advantage Angels.  The Brewers’ lone run that inning came after a single run home run by Ben Oglivie.  The fifth and sixth innings would go scoreless on both sides of the ball.  But apparently the legendary seventh inning stretch must have done some magic for the Brewers as Milwaukee would seal the game with two more runs, bringing the Brewers past the Angels, 4-3.  The runs turned out to be the last runs of the game on either side of the ball as both teams went scoreless in the game’s last two innings.  The Brewers’ seventh inning surge started when Don Money hit a pop fly single to first base off of Angels pitcher Luis Sanchez.  Charlie Moore followed up that hit with a single to second base.  Sanchez gave up a single to Center Field against Jim Gantner next, thus allowing Moore to move to second.  Sanchez made up for that sacrifice by striking out future MLB legend Paul Molitor.  But then he walked Robin Yount, loading the bases.  Cecil Cooper’s single to Left Field brought in both Gantner and Moore and moved Yount to second.  These two runs would be the last two for the game, and would be the last scored against Sanchez, as he was replaced on the mound by Andy Hassler.  Hassler struck out Ted Simmons to end the inning.  Hassler wouldn’t be back until the bottom of the eighth inning.  He and the Angels’ fielding unit worked together to keep the bases empty on a quick three up, three down.  Bob McClure and Pete Ladd would finish the game for the Brewers, allowing only one man on base.

The Brewers’ 1982 post season run would see not one but two amazing games for this team that just over a decade prior had been brought in from Seattle of all places.  After the Brewers finished off the Angels in Game Five of the ALCS, they went on to the World Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals.  Things got started pretty well for the Brewers in the World Series with Milwaukee taking a decisive Game One win 10-0.  But two straight losses in Games Two and Three put the Brewers’ back somewhat to the wall.  Had the Cards won this game, it would have put the Brewers in a huge three games to one hole.  But the boys weren’t to be counted out just yet.  Despite going down by four runs early on, the Brewers’ offense kept the Cardinals scoreless in the third and fourth innings and finally getting on the board in the bottom of the fifth.  Don Money got things started first with a hard hit double.  Charlie Moore followed up with a short fly ball to Center Field.  That hit let Money move to third and into scoring position.  Jim Gantner finished things off with this rush, hitting a ground ball double that sent in Money for the score.  Paul Molitor ended up being taken out on a fly ball to Center Field, ending the inning.

The Cardinals answered the Brewers right back in the top of the sixth inning on doubles by both Lonnie Smith and Dane Iorg.  Iorg’s double brought in Smith, putting the Brewers deep into a 5-1 deficit.  But the Brewers showed that they still had a fire burning as they answered back with six big runs against four different Cardinals pitchers.  Those six runs were all the Brewers needed as they retook the lead 7-5.  The Brewers’ offense came to life in the eighth and ninth, keeping the Cardinals scoreless.  They went toe to toe with the Cardinals’ offense, showing that they weren’t about to just lay down for the red birds.  They took that momentum into Game Five and won that matchup 6-4.  Sadly though, it would be the last win for Milwaukee, as the Cardinals would force Game Six and then Seven, eventually taking the title in 1982.  Despite the Cardinals’ eventual title win, the Brewers showed in Game Four that the club’s appearance in the Fall Classic that year was no fluke.  And the team reiterated that in Game Five, too.  And while the Brewers may not be in the playoffs this year, this club proved that it could still hold its own in the National League with an 83-79 final record.  This team could have made it into the playoffs.  And it showed in turn, that it could easily make the second season next year, too.  In the mean time, Brewers fans have these two games and two others to enjoy throughout the offseason.  The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers is available now.  It can be ordered online now at MLB Productions’ shop site, http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13117903&cp=1452356.2184761.3740939.

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.

Fenway Park Documentary A Good History Piece For All Baseball Fans

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

October is one of the greatest months of the year.  The weather is beginning to change.  Football is just getting into its best moments.  And of course, America’s great past time, baseball garners some of its greatest moments as it hits its stride in the playoffs.  Not only do Major League Baseball’s teams show their best.  But so do the stadiums in which they play.  These bastions of baseball develop a whole new life as fans flock to the seats to see their favorite teams face off.  There’s a certain magic about baseball stadiums especially during the post season.  Every stadium offers its own magic in a different way.  If there is one stadium that has developed a reputation for its magic, it’s the one and only Fenway Park.

Fenway Park has seen countless magical moments in its now one hundred year history.  This legendary park has seen the game’s greatest player ever, Babe Ruth hit home runs.  It’s even seen football games by the then Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots).  It’s seen some of the biggest concerts of which anyone could ever dream.  Fenway has seen all of that and more.  And now in celebration of all of those memories, baseball fans of all ages get to re-live them in the new DVD, Fenway Park:  100 Years as the Heart of Red Sox Nation.  This new DVD tells the storied history of what is one of Major League Baseball’s greatest ballparks.  One doesn’t have to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate Fenway’s history.  From rivalries with the Yankees to championship matches against the likes of the Mets and Cardinals, it’s all here.  It especially focuses on the late great Ted Williams.  Narrator Don Orsillo (who also does play-by play for the Red Sox) tells of Williams’ greatness.  He tells of how Williams once hit a ball so far into the seats that it actually went through a man’s hat.  Williams had hit the ball over five hundred feet to go through the man’s hat.  There is even a seat specially marked at Fenway noting where the feat happened.  And of course, there’s even a brief mention of the famed “Williamsburg.”

The memories of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth are just a tiny piece of the larger puzzle that is Fenway Park:  100 Years as the Heart of Red Sox Nation.  Orsillo takes viewers on a journey through the team’s history hosting the World Series in its inaugural season, losing Babe Ruth to the Yankees, being rebuilt after a massive fire, and so much more.  These are all wonderful pieces of baseball history.  But perhaps even more interesting than all of those moments combined is the love for and dedication to the Red Sox that its legion of fans has had throughout its history.  Through thick and thin, the Red Sox nation has never wavered.  And it paid off, too.  As the documentary shows, the team and the fans were both rewarded as the team finally broke the infamous “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 after going nearly ninety years without a title.  And then three years later, the Red Sox would bring home the team’s seventh world title.  Both of these magical moments are recorded here, too, for the “Red Sox Nation” as are so many others.  And fans can relive those moments any time they want as the DVD is available now.  It can be ordered online at the MLB Productions shop site, http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13156464.

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.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.