A Haunting Season 6 Offers Plenty Of Frights For Audiences

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

August is almost at its halfway point.  That means that as the month passes, the annual wave of Halloween-themed releases will start to make their presence known on store shelves.  There are just as many releases, it would seem, for Halloween as there are for Christmas each year from which audiences can choose to get their fear fix every year.  This year is no different.  Already, Timeless Media will offer audiences one of those early options next Tuesday, August 19th in the form of A Haunting: Season 6.  This season only ran for a total of four seasons on Destination America, which is part of Discovery Communications.  Even with only four episodes, anyone looking for a good fright will appreciate this season and the fact that the series has been picked up for a complete seventh season.  That will all be discussed later.  The stories that make up the sixth season of A Haunting are the crux of this season’s success.  They are not all that is worth noting, either.  The re-enactments should be noted here, too as should the bonus features.  The bonus features included on this disc show that as scary as the re-enactments were, the actors had their share of fun bringing the stories to life.  Audiences will see that in the included gag reel.  The same can be said of those responsible for the stories’ special effects.  There is a short bonus feature focusing on that factor, too.  These bonuses along with the stories included on the disc and their re-enactments will give any horror fan the frights and fun that any Halloween party needs.

The sixth season of A Haunting only lasted a total of four episodes.  According to the rumors, the reason for that is in relation to the numbers for the series’ fifth season.  However, Destination America has allegedly renewed the series for a full seventh season as the numbers for Season Six were impressive enough to renew it.  And now with its upcoming release on DVD, audiences will see for themselves just why officials with Destination America opted to renew the series.  The stories included in Season Six each offer their own frights.  The season’s opener sees a woman who is haunted by an evil spirit conjured by a jilted admirer.  Episode two, “Well From Hell” involves a house haunted by spirits coming from a well that is essentially a doorway to the other side.  A family is haunted by some not so nice spirits in “Black Magic” after a young ward of the family’s matriarch starts practicing black magic.  And in the season finale, “Haunted Victorian,” a young couple has found the home of their dreams.  But it soon turns into the home of their nightmares not long after. All four stories will have viewers on the edge of their collective seats, wanting to know what happens next. And not to give away too much information, they don’t all have the happy ending that some might hope for or expect. Those slightly surprising endings are reason enough to watch these episodes. And they’re not the only reason, either. Another reason for audiences to check out this upcoming DVD is the re-enactments used to help tell each of the four stories on the disc.

The stories that are included in the sixth season of Destination America’s A Haunting are by themselves reason enough for lovers of ghost stories to purchase this season’s DVD. Another reason for audiences to check out this DVD is the collective re-enactments used to help tell each of the stories included on the disc. The actors hired to help re-tell each of this season’s stories are impressive in their own right. The best of the re-enactments comes in the season finale. The couple that re-enacts the story of the young couple that had bought the Victorian House is quite the pair. The way that the young woman portrays having been somewhat possessed by the deceased maid is creepy in its own right. And the actors that helped tell the story of “Black Magic” do just enough to make that story believable, too. The actors in this season’s remaining two episodes do their own part to make said episodes worth at least one watch, too. Audiences will see this for themselves when they order or purchase the DVD for themselves.

The re-enactments and stories that are featured in the sixth season of A Haunting work in tandem to make this season just as enjoyable as the series’ previous season. Having noted them, these is only one more factor to consider in the overall success of A Haunting: Season 6. That final factor is the bonus material included on the DVD. All four of the episodes included on this disc offer their own frights for audiences. On the exact opposite side of the coin, the gag reel offers its own laughs, too. It helps to lighten the mood a little bit. And those with any interest in production and special effects will appreciate the bonus special effects reel. This reel gives just a slight glimpse behind the scenes of the show in regards to how the ghosts were *brought to life* (bad pun fully intended here). They are the final touch to a DVD that any horror fan will welcome in their home horror collection whether for Halloween or any other time.

A Haunting: Season 6 will be available on DVD Tuesday, August 19th. It can be pre-ordered online via the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/haunting-season-6. More information on this and other new releases from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364, http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. 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.

 

Timeless Media Group Announces Release Date For A Haunting Season 6

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

August is already almost halfway over. That means that the countdown is on to Labor Day and then the unofficial start of the annual holiday season in the form of Halloween. And with the start of that countdown, many companies have started releasing their yearly horror movies and ghost stories to the masses. Among that mass of movies and television shows that is already on tap for release is the sixth season of A Haunting.

A Haunting: Season 6 will be released Tuesday, August 19th. The series, which originally aired on Discovery Channel, currently airs on Destination America. This season of A Haunting features four more hour-long episodes of the paranormal. Also included in Season 6 is a collection of blooper reels from the actors that re-enact the stories. There are also features centered on the special effects and stunts used in each of the season’s four episodes as bonus material.

A Haunting: Season 6 will retail for SRP of $14.93. More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media Group is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364?sk=timeline. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS To Release Special FIFA World Cup Tournament Tie-In

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release a special documentary this summer in celebration of the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament.

American Pharaoh will be released on DVD July 8th. The documentary, helmed by Egyptian filmmaker Hossam Aboul-Magd, follows the Egyptian National Soccer team—the Pharaohs—and the team’s former American coach, Bob Bradley. It documents the team’s attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup for the first time in more than twenty years. Aboul-Magd and his crew filmed the documentary over the course of more than two years. The team’s struggle to qualify is set against the unrest in the team’s home nation.

Bardley is only the third American to ever manage a foreign soccer team.   Along with the struggles of the team as a whole, American Pharaoh follows Bradley’s journey and that of his family, staff and players. It offers coverage of the Pharaohs’ games in Africa and shows the team’s fight to reach its lofty goals despite everything going on around the team.

Aboul-Magd explained in an interview that his documentary is more than just a sports-themed documentary. He explained that this documentary is about the team and its fight to succeed as an example of how Egypt as a country can also overcome its own struggles. “This is not just a film about soccer,” he said. “This is about my country, my team, a coach I respect and the dream of capturing the World Cup in spite of enormous challenges.  I see the goal of developing a strong team, in the middle of a revolution, as a metaphor for the rebuilding of Egypt.”

Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development with PBS, also shared his thoughts on the documentary. He noted in his comments what led PBS to take on American Pharaoh. “When Hossam approached PBS with this idea, we were immediately on board,” he said. “This film not only tells a compelling story, but also provides a unique window into Egyptians’ ongoing struggle to define themselves during a time of national unrest. The journey of the Pharaohs on the road to the World Cup with the perspective of their American coach make this a truly unusual and intimate film.”

Hossam Abou-Magd is an award-winning filmmaker. American Pharaohs is not his first film for PBS. He has helmed previous works for PBS, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, BBC, ABC, CNN, NHK and Al-Jazeera.

American Pharaoh will be available on DVD Tuesday, July 8th. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620216&cp=&sr=1&kw=american+pharaoh&origkw=American+Pharaoh&parentPage=search. More information on this and other documentaries from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. 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.

The Amish Shunned Shows The True Reality Of Amish Life

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS proved time and again throughout 2013 why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile educational programming. Where History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel have all allowed themselves to fall victim to the plague that is “reality television”,PBS has stayed the course, standing tall while the aforementioned networks have become but pale shells of what they once were. As 2014 is still in its infancy, PBS continues to prove to audiences why it sits atop the broadcast spectrum with the release of the latest piece in its American Experience series, The Amish Shunned. The first part of this presentation that audiences will appreciate is the stories shared by those on both sides of the divide. Audiences won’t find any Breaking Amish or Amish Mafia style stories here. What audiences get in this presentation is real reality. Just as key to this new documentary is its editing. The entire presentation runs roughly two hours. The manner in which the documentary was edited goes a long way toward keeping viewers engaged throughout the course of the program. The last piece of the whole that makes The Amish Shunned is the cinematography. The work of those behind the cameras works directly with the editing and the storytelling to make this piece another impressive presentation from PBS proving why it remains the last bastion of true worthwhile programming.

 

The stories presented in The Amish Shunned are the central piece of the whole that makes this program well worth watching. They are nothing like the overhyped, over the top drama ofAmish Mafia and Breaking Amish. Instead, viewers see the true emotional impact on young Amish individuals in their decisions to leave their communities. Right from the program’s outset, audiences are introduced to a young Amish girl that had made the decision to leave her community. It’s shocking to learn the lengths to which she had to go in order to make her escape. Just as eye-opening is the revelation of how she (and other Amish individuals) initially feel a certain amount of guilt for leaving the Amish church despite knowing they need to break away. Her story of her departure from the Amish church is just one of many that are shared over the course of this program’s roughly two hour run time. Each of the stories shared by those that have left the Amish church presents more drama than audiences will ever get from those shows on Discovery and TLC. They are far more moving, too.

 

The stories shared by the subjects in The Amish Shunned are in themselves quite moving and powerful. Making the stories so powerful in part is the program’s editing. Editor Rachel Clark is to be commended for her work. The transitions from one subject’s story to the next are clear and solid. On top of that, her ability to reach the emotional heart of each story with her editing is to be applauded. As audiences will notice throughout each story, footage of daily life within the Amish community is used to heighten the emotional depth of each story. And it works quite well. On a more subtle yet important level, audiences that watch closely will notice that the face of the program’s first subject is shown a little more each time she is re-introduced each time throughout the program. This editing illustrates how she is becoming increasingly open to her new lifestyle and feeling less guilty for having broken away from the Amish church and culture. As subtle as it is, it is a powerful statement. And it’s just one of so much expert editing done throughout this piece that audiences will appreciate about this new release.

The editing and storytelling both are integral pieces to the overall presentation that is The Amish Shunned. Just as key to the overall presentation is the camera work. The work of those behind the cameras works in direct connection with the documentary’s editing. The wide shots of the Amish countryside are outstanding to say the very least. The serenity portrayed in those shots in comparison to those of the city life that the program’s subjects have taken will actually lead some to wonder in the backs of their minds why in fact they would leave such peace and serenity.  That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have.  But it definitely opens the door for some discussion.  It’s just one of so many examples of how effective the cinematography was in this piece.  There is much more worth noting in terms of the documentary’s cinematography.  And audiences will find out just how much more there is to note when they order the program for themselves.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=30498866&cp=&sr=1&kw=the+amish+shunned&origkw=The+Amish+Shunned&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other documentaries from PBS’ American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience.  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.

Dancing: A Man’s Game Will Have Gene Kelly Fans Dancing With Joy

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

The art of dance is something that has been traditionally associated more with women than with men.  Any man that has ever openly admitted to being a dancer or even a fan of the dance arts has been stigmatized.  Terms such as “sissy” and worse have been commonly used for said men.  It’s a sad reality even now into the 21st Century. Thanks to Entertainment One’s brand new re-issue of Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game though, one can hope that the fight to make dancing socially acceptable among men. This is the biggest and most important of the positives in this new re-issue from E1.  Just as important to the documentary is its historical aspect.  This is just one episode from one of television’s most revered series. It’s also an example of what once made NBC a powerhouse among television’s very limited options during its day.  In watching the near hour-long presentation, one must also take into account the actual presentation of the episode.  Considering the age of this episode’s footage and its quality, one can’t help but be impressed.  That along with the bonus booklet brings everything full circle and makes Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game a piece of entertainment history that any viewer will appreciate for one reason or another.

Omnibus: Gene Kelly—Dance: A Man’s Game is an important piece of entertainment history.  It’s important first and foremost because it touches on a topic that still is very pertinent to society even today.  Simply put, it transcends generations.  It also crosses the lines in terms of its key viewer base. It manages to reach not just one but many different audience groups by having a famous actor discuss said topic. So whether audiences are fans of Gene Kelly the actor, Gene Kelly the dancer, dancers themselves, fans of the dance arts, or even athletes, this episode of one of television’s groundbreaking series reaches so many audiences without even trying.  Kelly makes an argument in support of dance that has been used countless times since this episode.  It had even been used at the time of this episode, obviously, and before.  The argument in question ties together the movements of athletes into the world of dance. The argument in question is used in hopes to dispel the long-held stereotypes centered around men that dance.  Unlike all of the other times that this argument has been used, Kelly enlists some rather famous friends to help illustrate how the two separate worlds are in fact more closely related than one might otherwise think.  The value of this episode of Omnibus is crystal clear from this factor alone.  But there is even more to appreciate in this near hour-long episode of NBC’s landmark series.  The historical value of this episode is just as important as the episode’s content.

The content of this episode of Omnibus reveals that it is timeless to say the very least.  It covers a topic that is still very relevant even now in the 21st Century.  That is just the beginning of this re-issue’s value to viewers.  Looking at this episode from a larger historical side, its value is increased even more. Viewers today are offered so many channels thanks to cable and satellite.  Yet despite the massive number of channels, viewing options are actually quite limited.  Television today is limited largely to crime and medical dramas, reality (voyeur) TV, countless awful rip-offs of Star Search, and just as many news magazine shows that are front loaded with real life crime stories.  PBS is television’s only network today that offers any programming even remotely near the level of Omnibus.  That’s because even the once powerhouse Discovery Communications networks (Discovery Channel, TLC) and History Channel have fallen victim to the reality show virus.  To that extent, it goes without saying that any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus if only for the fact that it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.

Any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus first and foremost because it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.  On a deeper level, television history buffs will appreciate this episode because of the quality of the footage.  Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus was originally broadcast on December 21st, 1958.  That is a span of nearly fifty-five years.  Audiences see in this episode the original footage from that broadcast.  There are some audio jumps throughout the course of the episode’s near sixty-minute run time.  And the footage itself is quite grainy.  But all of this is a good thing.  It’s a good thing because it means viewers today are seeing this episode almost exactly as it was in its original broadcast.  For some, that will certainly generate a warm and happy feeling of nostalgia.  For others, it will be appreciated as that audio and video mix shows just how far television has come since its infancy.  Regardless of the effect of the footage on viewers, the general positive emotional and historical appreciation felt by viewers pushes this episode of Omnibus even higher.

Everything that went into resurrecting Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus makes it a wonderful watch.  But one would be remiss to note, too the bonus booklet included with the DVD. The booklet included with this DVD is a bonus in every sense of the word.  It offers an in-depth look at Kelly’s own career, as well as everything that went into bringing this episode to life.  There is even a copy of the episode’s script included as a visual aid for viewers among so much more.  That much more includes photos taken from the set of this episode, publicity photos, newspaper reviews of the original broadcast, and even Kelly’s own words in which he explains his view of society’s stereotype of men and dancing.  That mass of information brings everything full circle in this brand new release from Entertainment One and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.  It will be available on DVD Tuesday, December 17th, just in time for Christmas.  Audiences can get even more information on this release and all things Gene Kelly on the official Gene Kelly website, http://www.GeneKelly.com and the official Gene Kelly Legacy Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GeneKellyTheLegacy.  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.

Nazi Mega Weapons A Rare Must See WWII Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Television today has become increasingly dumbed down day after day. “Reality TV” (for those that really want to believe that moniker) seems to be increasingly dominate the airwaves. Even History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel are but pale shadows of what they once were. Enter PBS. PBS has shown time and again throughout 2013 why it has remained a shining beacon of worthwhile television with its documentaries, and dramas. That reputation has been maintained even more with the release of its new WWII based documentary, Nazi Mega Weapons. This six-part “mini-series” of sorts looks at some of the greatest achievements of the Nazi military and how despite their greatness, they in essence led to the downfall of the German forces. This documentary is a must see first and foremost in that it is aimed at no fewer than four distinct audience groups. It is just as worth seeing because of the stories told through each of its three segments. Just as noteworthy in this collection of episodes is the ratio of each segment’s run time to its content. Each segment is so well balanced that whether one is watching these segments in the classroom or the living room. The amount of content and its arrangement over the course of the segments’ run time is the finishing touch to what is one of PBS’ best WWII based documentaries of this year.

Nazi Mega Weapons is easily one of PBS’ most intriguing WWII based documentaries to have been presented by the network in 2013. The first thing that has been done right with this documentary is the fact that it has been separated into six distinct segments. Those segments are separated over two discs and a total of roughly six hours, or one hour each. Nothing is left out of this documentary. From the well-known V-2 rocket program to Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” and the lesser discussed Nazi sub base on the coast of France, every aspect of Nazi technology is discussed throughout each segment. Whether one is a history buff, a military history buff, or even an engineering specialist or WWII historian, this documentary is so successful first and foremost because it reaches so many audiences across the spectrum. One can’t but be amazed at the technological and engineering feats achieved by the German forces as shown over the course of Nazi Mega Weapons. Just as amazing is the fact that despite those advances and feats, it was all for naught. As viewers will see, also portrayed here are how those same advances and feats also led to the eventual downfall of the Nazi forces.

The stories shared about the advances and feats achieved by the Nazi forces in WWII are absolutely amazing, considering where the world was at that point technologically and in terms of what had been in the world of engineering. Just as amazing to note is how those same advances that made Nazi forces so dangerous also led to their downfall and the downfall of the entire Nazi force. A prime example is shared in the mini-series’ opening segment on D-Day. It explains that for all of the preparations made on Omaha Beach, little preparation was made to ensure it was actually defended against Allied forces. Everyone knows that Allied forces took Omaha Beach. But how many knew that Omaha Beach was taken in roughly a little over three hours because German forces had only enough ammunition to last them three hours? That’s just one of the many stories shared that will amaze many viewers. Another equally noteworthy story lies in the segment on the well-known V-2 rocket program. Some might be interested to discover that so much time was spent perfecting the V-2 rockets that by the time Nazi leaders were ready to use them, it was too late. While the rockets had done substantial damage to Britain, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  These are just a small handful of the stories shared throughout all six segments across the documentary.  They are also just minor pieces of the overall material used to expertly illustrate each segment’s overall story.

The overall material used to illustrate each segment is expansive to say the least.  Individuals that specialize in given fields are brought along to the “Atlantic Wall”, the infamous Nazi U-boat base in France, and even the places where Werhner Von Braun’s V-2 rockets were developed.  Rather than just seeing these places in vintage footage, audiences get to see them as they are now.  This allows viewers a close up look at what the Nazis had achieved both technologically and in terms of engineering.  It is a highly effective visual aid, as is the original wartime footage included alongside those historical “visits.”  The re-enactment segments are just as effective to the overall presentation.  And the fact that each of these elements was so well balanced with the other within the context of each segment’s near hour-long run time makes the overall presentation that much more enjoyable for viewers.  This internal balance works hand in hand with the back story of each segment and the general separation of the segments to put Nazi Mega Weapons over the top.  All things considered, it becomes one more of PBS’ best documentaries of 2013, and potentially another of the year’s best documentaries overall.  It will be available Tuesday, November 5th and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=22850906.  More information on this and other PBS programming is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.  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.

Teachers, Viewers Will Appreciate America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Mill Creek Entertainment’s America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View is a fitting presentation for any high school biology or geography class.  The sixty-four minute feature finishes what was started with the company started some time ago with its separate National Parks Blu-ray series by taking viewers back through the nation’s park system not from the ground, but from the air.  The trip starts in the Northeast in the Acadia National Park before heading south to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then into the Everglades National Park before heading west to the Voyageurs National Park.  The journey doesn’t stop there, either.  Audiences are taken all the way through each of the nation’s parks through the Midwest and West on their journey.  The cross country journey is only a portion of what audiences will appreciate about this latest video post card from Mill Creek.  The footage shot through each park is comparable to anything that Travel Channel or Discovery Channel once released in their heyday.  And unlike so many nature based documentaries churned out the narrator doesn’t overpower the stunning aerial shots of each major park.  At a time when America’s National Parks System is closed due to the government shutdown, this aerial tour of those parks couldn’t be more valuable.  Perhaps when the time comes the government re-opens for business, this feature could even serve as inspiration for some viewer’s next vacation.  Even if not, it serves to establish a new respect for one of this nation’s greatest assets and the need to protect them.

America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View is a fitting presentation both in the classroom and in the living room.  It is an invaluable tool for those individuals teaching both biology and geography.  It is an especially useful visual aid for those teaching high school level geography classes. It will help to better connect with the concepts being taught about a given region of the country.  A teacher might be discussing the specific physical makeup of the Badlands National Park, the Everglades, or a specific mountain range.  Said teacher can simply put on this feature, select the chapter for the given region being discussed, and allow students to take in for themselves exactly what is being discussed.  It will help to truly put into perspective what makes the given region so impressive and important.  In turn, it will potentially help students gain a whole new appreciation for this nation’s parks.

Geography teachers will certainly find use for America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View in their classroom.  In the same vein, biology teachers can potentially find use for this feature in their classrooms, too.  Just as each national park has a different physical makeup, so does it have different ecosystems.  With its forested hills and valleys, Yosemite is said to have at least three different regions from its basin all the way up to its highest peaks.  This means that it supports a large variety of animals.  By direct contrast, Death Valley National Park is arid and barren.  So it would suffice to say that it probably doesn’t have much life.  These and all of the other parks offer a wonderful starting point on the different ecosystems that span the country from one coast to the other, again proving the value of the feature in the classroom.

The value of America’s National Parks: AN Eagle’s View should be clear to viewers by this point.  The footage shot for this feature is impressive to say the least.  It is a good piece for those that perhaps haven’t picked up the previous National Parks features released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek Entertainment.  It’s just as valuable for every day viewers, especially at a time when this nation’s National Parks System has been closed thanks to the government shutdown.  Since the parks are currently closed, it serves as a cheap way to travel to those parks without having to spend the money or the stress to get there.  The footage presented here captures all of the major highlights of each park.  And whenever the time should come that the parks re-open along with the rest of the government, it could serve as a starting point for those trying to choose their next vacation spot.  From the mountains and forests of Yosemite, to the waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers of Yellowstone, to the snow-capped mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains, there is so much from which to choose and so much worth protecting so that others can one day experience its beauty.  Understanding and appreciating that all starts with this latest nature based documentary from Mill Creek Entertainment.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.amazon.com/National-Parks-Exploration-Eagles-Blu-ray/dp/B00BUWD77U/ref=sr_sp-atf_image_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1381420113&sr=1-1&keywords=America%27s+National+Parks%3A+An+Eagle%27s+View.  More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.  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.

A Haunting Season Five Offers Fans Ten More Frightful Episodes

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory

Paranormal shows are quite popular right now across the television spectrum.  Bio channel is frontloaded with paranormal shows including: Celebrity Ghost Stories, My Ghost Story, The Haunting Of, and re-runs of Psychic Kids just to name a few.  Travel Channel has Ghost Adventures.  Syfy has Ghost Hunters and Haunted Collector. At one point, the network even had Ghost Hunters International.  That show was short-lived, though.  And at one point, A&E had Paranormal State.  That show ran for five seasons before being moved to Bio Channel and re-run.  And even Discovery Channel for some time had its own show in A Haunting.  It lasted for roughly four seasons on the network before pulled it and it was moved to Discovery’s digital “sister station”, Destination America.  The show aired its fifth season on Destination America after having been off the air for five years.  Now fans of this show can watch all ten episodes from Season Five any time they want thanks to Shout! Factory and Timeless Media Group.

For those that have never experienced this show, it is one of the scarier of the crop of paranormal programs out there today.  So what is it that makes A Haunting stand out?  Let’s start with the most obvious of factors.  It isn’t a reality show.  That eliminates Paranormal State, Psychic Kids, Ghost Hunters (and its spinoff), Ghost Adventures, and Haunted Collector.  To a certain extent, one could also argue that The Haunting of would be eliminated, too.  Having eliminated all of those, that leaves just My Ghost Story and A HauntingMy Ghost Story seems somewhat hokey with its re-enactments.  Sure, A Haunting uses re-enactments and interviews, too.  But the production values of the re-enactments in A Haunting are far more professional.  The re-enactments are so well done that they play out like something straight out of a horror movie.  Because of that, it is so much easier to suspend one’s disbelief and be pulled into these stories of ordinary individuals that have been affected by or have encountered something which they cannot explain.  In turn, it is so much easier to be scared regardless of whether or not one believes in the unexplained.

Each professionally re-enacted story told by the ordinary individuals is the main key to the success of this show in scaring its audiences.  The stories are so well told through the course of each episode that even those that don’t believe will find themselves not wanting to watch any of the chill inducing episodes alone or in the dark.  Through the course of the 2012 season, audiences are introduced to a family in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that was at one point, haunted by the spirit of a civil war soldier that had been killed in battle.  Viewers are also introduced to a family whose story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.  The family in question ends up moving out of its house because an evil spirit is not just haunting the house, but also physically assaulted one of the young ladies in the family.  It becomes so brazen that it lays down in one of the girls’ beds right next to her solely to terrorize her.  The visualization of this evil spirit and the actress’s reaction will frighten any viewer with even the strongest constitution.      

One can tell by now just how scary the episodes contained within A Haunting: The 2012 Season is.  There is still another factor that must be noted about this set that audiences will appreciate.  That factor is the double-disc set’s packaging.  Timeless Media Group, being associated with Shout! Factory, it is no surprise that the discs contained in the case for this season both have their own space within the case.  Shout! Factory was one of the first companies to actively start packaging its multi-disc sets in more ergonomic packaging.  This set is no different.  All ten episodes on both discs are kept safe in their case as one disc is placed in its own spot on one side of the case, while the other is on the other side of the case.  This preserves the quality of the discs as it prevents them from becoming scratched up unlike say, the packaging method for Syfy’s Ghost Hunters season sets.  The discs in those sets are packed one on top of another with no regard for the discs’ safety.  This makes the new set of episodes from A Haunting that much more worth the money for those that are fans of the paranormal sciences and paranormal programming in general.  A Haunting: The 2012 Season is available now in stores and online.

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Science Channel DVD Makes A “Splash” In The Classroom And The Living Room

Courtesy:  Gaiam/The Science Channel

Courtesy: Gaiam/The Science Channel

The Science Channel is everything that its sister network, The Discovery Channel, used to be.  Where The Discovery Channel has shifted largely to reality programming, Science Channel provides the more educational content that The Discovery Channel once ran in the mid to late 1990s.  It is a network for anyone that has any love of all things science and for anyone that loves everything that The Discovery Channel once was.  And the recent DVD release of the network’s documentary, Aquarius: Living Beneath The Sea is proof of that. 

The recently released DVD contains five episodes, beginning with the title episode.  From there, viewers are taken on a journey into the depths of the season over the course of two documentaries.  Next up is a piece that examines the robots that help scientists study the creatures that inhabit the depths.  It all closes out with the story of one of New England’s most infamous shipwrecks.  The wreck in question is that of the steamer, Portland.  The dual paddles wheel ship went down off the New England coast in a bad storm.  Now thanks to a group of scientists, audiences finally get to see the last resting place of what is considered by many to be the Titanic of New England.  A lot of work went into bringing audiences the final product in these episodes.  It was that work and the order of episodes that makes this final product so enjoyable for anyone that has any love of the marine sciences or for science in general.  It’s just as enjoyable for anyone that has any love for all things nautical.

The first thing that audiences will notice in watching “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” is the beautiful undersea cinematography.  Sure, the program is obviously dated.  But seeing the reef that has grown on Aquarius over the years and the fish that inhabit it are incredible.  The lab itself is based off the southern coast of Florida.  The footage looking up from beneath the waves as the sun shines down into the water, scuba divers swimming by is beautiful.  As impressive as the footage for this program is, viewers will also be impressed by the fact that while it does note the impact of humans on the environment—specifically a coral reef—it isn’t preachy about it.  The discussion on human impact centers on global warming as the biggest factor on the survival or lack thereof coral.  It doesn’t get preachy, trying to say this or that needs to be done.  It only points out that humans have played a role and in turn so has global warming.  So that in itself is sure to create some level of discussion among viewers, considering that such factors are always and will always be hot button issues. 

The footage in the main feature and the discussion on human impact is certain to entertain viewers.  The feature doesn’t stop there though.  Also discussed are the dangers of living and working at such depths.  It includes footage in a story of one diver who died decades ago who had worked on Sealab III.  Also discussed is the effect of what is called Nitrogen Narcosis or “beer buzz.”  This happens from living undersea for extended periods of time.  It’s just as entertaining as other portions of this feature.  It is also very eye opening, as it shows how dangerous living beneath the sea can be.  Along with the program’s other interesting facts and impressive footage, it makes for a fitting opening piece for this new release from The Science Channel.

Where “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” ends, the other features that follow are sure to keep viewers engaged.  Audiences go from inside the Aquarius to the open sea in the next trio of features, “Mid-Water Mysteries”, “The Hostile Deep” and “Robots of the Deep.”  The first two features center on the creatures that live around coral reefs and other regions of the sea, while the latter of the trio focuses on the machines created to help make investigating that sea life easier.  They also help to make investigating things like a shipwreck easier, which makes the transition into the DVD’s final feature, “Wreck of the Portland” all the more fitting. 

“Wreck of the Portland” is a roughly hour long feature that tells the story of the ill-fated journey of the Paddle Wheel Steamer, Portland.  It expands on the use of the robots of the deep as it examines what eventually led to the ship’s demise.  Much of the time is spent focusing on the design of the ship, much as those documentaries on the Titanic have done.  It incorporates CG models of the ship’s final journey as well as pictures of the captain to illustrate what likely happened that dark and stormy night.  When the wreck is discovered, audiences get to see what it looks like now, covered in barnacles and more, serving as a home to so much undersea life.  Viewers get to see images of the original boat, undisturbed superimposed over the sunken relic.  This helps show how the ship settled after sinking.  In its own way, showing the ship’s final resting place, and comparing it to what it looked like brings the entire DVD full circle.  Those who discovered the wreck pay tribute with a wreath, and the narrator notes that for its protection, the location of the ship has been kept secret to this day.  While it may be a secret, there will always be other ship wrecks and other undersea phenomena to investigate.  Knowing this serves as solid closure for viewers.  With this closure, audiences—whether in the living room or the classroom—will agree that this latest release from The Science Channel makes quite the splash and will with each watch.  It is available now and can be ordered online at http://store.discovery.com/detail.php?p=445899.

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Hunting The Elements Is An Excellent Tool For Teachers

Courtesy: PBS

NOVA’s recent special, “Hunting The Elements” is one of the show’s most enjoyable episodes yet.  This episode of PBS’ hit series isn’t just an episode of NOVA.  It mixes in elements of Discovery Channel’s hit series, “Dirty Jobs.”  And it’s a great tool for both high school and college level chemistry level chemistry courses.

“Hunting The Elements” is hosted by David Pogue.  It takes viewers on a journey across the entire periodic table of elements.  What really makes this episode of NOVA interesting is how it aims to simplify the table for viewers, rather than come across as a visual classroom.  In each segment, viewers see the periodic table light up somewhere close by Pogue.  It serves as a reminder for viewers throughout each segment of what element is being discussed.  One of the key pieces of the discussion in this episode is actually very brief.  But it’s equally important.  That key piece is the revelation that the symbol for each element on the table is actually based on each element’s Latin name.  This may come across as something that doesn’t really play much role.  But many younger chemistry students ask exactly what Pogue asked about that relationship between the two.  Teachers and students alike will also appreciate the segment showing the actual physical periodic table that comes complete with the physical elements contained therein for association.  This is a brilliant tool for teaching.

“Hunting The Elements” clocks in at roughly two hours in length. During that time it makes a valid attempt to cover as much of the periodic table as possible.  Being that it is two hours long, that still isn’t enough time to cover the entire table.  This isn’t an entirely bad thing, though.  Rather than try to cover everything and be a glorified classroom setting, the program really tries to simplify everything and entertain audiences at the same time.  This is a big bonus to the program.  It does manage to be entertaining and educational at the same time, making for a great program to which any teacher could refer throughout the course of an academic year.  Teachers wouldn’t have to rely on the entire program for one class.  Each element could be spread out throughout a school calendar as one part of a class each day.  PBS is to be commended for this.  “Hunting The Elements” is available now on blu-ray and DVD.  It can be ordered direct via PBS’ website, http://www.shoppbs.org.

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