PBS To Release Touching The Wild On DVD Next Month

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release Nature: Touching The Wild on DVD this Spring.

Nature: Touching The Wild will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 27th. In this episode of PBS’ wildlife-centered series, writer/artist/naturalist Joe Hutto documents the seven years that he spent living among a group of mule deer and attempting to become accepted by them. This is not the first extreme undertaking on the part of Hutto. He has spent months at a time living among a herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and having wild turkey chicks imprint on him. So when asked why he would spend seven years with the deer, it comes as no surprise that his response was simply, “How could you not?”

The new presentation is based on his book Touching The Wild, Living With The Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.). Hutto presents and narrates the story himself over the course of the episode’s roughly hour-long run time.

Nature: Touching The Wild will be available Tuesday, May 27th. It will retail for an SRP of $19.99 and can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34129646&cp=1413205&ab=Aspot_15offFS69&parentPage=family. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature. 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.

Ireland’s Wild River Is An Example Of A Wildlife Documentary Done Right

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ireland’s Wild River is one of the most enjoyable episodes of PBS’ beloved wildlife series Nature to come along in quite a while. This episode of Nature is such a joy first and foremost because of its approach. There is quite a bit to note on that matter alone. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Nature thanks to the beautiful cinematography. That plays directly into the episode’s approach. One more reason that viewers will enjoy this episode of Nature is its editing. Much like the cinematography, the editing plays directly in to the episode’s overall approach. All three factors together make this episode of Nature one that any viewer should see at least once.

PBS’ Nature has been a hit with viewers for years. That is because of its general approach. It has typically stayed as far as possible from all of the wildlife shows that are based more on personalities (whether on camera or off) than on the animals. Because they focus more on personalities, those same shows take more of an intrusive approach than Nature for lack of better wording. While this episode of Nature actually does have a host of sorts in Colin Stafford-Johnson, he is not the center of attention. Nor does he show any interest in taking center stage. The only time that he is shown is occasionally as he paddles (yes, paddles) along the Shannon. Even his own narration is apart from that of hosts of other wildlife program. That makes this episode even more enjoyable for true nature lovers. His narration isn’t the same high energy approach of so many nature show hosts. Much like the cinematography and companion editing of this episode, Stafford-Johnson’s own narration is low-key and non-intrusive. He takes the angle more of a full-on observer than the standard host that goes in and grabs everything in sight, trying to stay in the camera. It’s one part of the episode’s approach that makes the episode such a joy.

Host Colin Stafford-Johnson’s hands off, observer style approach to Ireland’s Wild River is just one part of what makes this episode of Nature so enjoyable for lovers of any wildlife programming on television. Another, more subtle aspect of the episode’s approach that makes it so enjoyable is in how Stafford-Johnson made his way along the Shannon River. Whereas shows like River Monsters and others are so quick to use motorized boats because they make the show more “sexy” for viewers, Stafford-Johnson gently paddles along in a canoe. It’s a nice change of pace. It shows that Stafford-Johnson isn’t trying to present that same spit-shined, “sexy” appearance of those other shows. And it shows a true reverence for the wildlife along the river, too. He is showing that he doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the wildlife. This is such a welcome alternative to what audiences are accustomed to seeing from nature shows. It makes the episode’s overall approach all the more entertaining for audiences.

The approach taken by Stafford-Johnson and those responsible for the final product here resulted in what is one of the series’ best episodes so far in 2014. That work is not all that makes this episode so enjoyable. Just as important to the overall enjoyment factor is the combined cinematography and editing used for the final product. The shots of Stafford-Johnson paddling gently along the river, and sitting in his canoe among the reeds create such a sense of serenity. There are no overdone pans setting him against the backdrop of the river or other unnecessary flourishes. It’s just straight forward camera work. In terms of flourishes, audiences will like the high speed photography capturing in flight, the many birds that populate the Shannon. Even here, it isn’t overdone. This effect is used just enough to add a little extra “oomph” to the program. And the editing used to transition from one bird to the next adds even more of that feeling.   Just as worth noting is one specific moment in which a shot of a bird on a reed fades to a show of Stafford-Johnson’s silhouette against the setting sun in the sky. Given, it’s a standard edit effect. But it’s the only time that audiences see this effect used, too. Simply put the editing and cinematography are minimized just as much as Stafford-Johnson’s time on camera. There’s no over the top anything here. Everything is balanced just right throughout the course of the program. In the end it’s that balance makes Ireland’s Wild River one of the best episodes of PBS’ Nature yet.

Ireland’s Wild River is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=31134566&cp=&sr=1&kw=irelands+wild+river&origkw=Ireland%27s+Wild+River&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature. 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.

Meet The Coywolf Takes A Different Look At Human, Animal Interactions

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Meet The Coywolf is an interesting addition to the network’s wildlife series Nature.  It is an interesting addition to the beloved series first and foremost because of its writing.  Just as important to keeping audiences engaged throughout the course of the program’s near hour-long run time is its editing.  The visuals used in conjunction with the program’s writing make it all the more interesting to watch.  The visual aids used in certain segments round out the presentation, making it complete and completely worth watching.  It is available now on DVD.

The first aspect of Meet The Coywolf that makes it so interesting is its writing.  This episode of Nature, which is based on a book by the same name, introduces the hybrid animal to many audiences for the very first time.  At the same time, it explains how humans within the territories of the coywolf are meeting them at an increasing rate, too.  Most interesting of all is that by and large, this episode of Nature takes the high road.  Instead of being preachy, it is presented from a primarily objective standpoint.  It shows how citizens of two totally separate regions hundreds of miles apart are living in closer and closer proximity to coywolves.  Despite that proximity to one another, the two sides seem to live peacefully alongside the other.  There’s no sense of preaching to audiences for the most part.  The closest that this episode comes to preaching is a point at which it is noted a male coywolf was killed by a police officer because the unnamed officer thought the coywolf was acting aggressively toward him.  As was pointed out, the reality is that the coywolf was merely protecting his mate and child because he felt the officer was too close to them.  That is the extent of the episode’s subjective commentary.  Other than that, this episode is objective.  That objectivity is the key to the program’s ability to reach the level which it reaches.

The writing behind Meet The Coywolf is key to its ability to reach viewers.  By direct connection, the program’s editing is just as important to the episode’s overall presentation.  Editor Janet Hess did a wonderful job of presenting footage in their natural habitats and even within the confines of the human world.  It’s interesting to see just how close the two worlds come to one another on a daily basis.  She also clearly presents the avenues taken to track the wolves in hopes of gathering information that could be used to help protect them.  Simply put, she has worked with writer Siobhan Flanagan to present a fully unbiased and informed episode that serves as the basis for what could be a much deeper future episode.

The writing and editing that make up Meet the Coywolf are both equally important to making this episode of Nature engaging for viewers.  There is one more aspect to this episode that makes it engaging for viewers.  That aspect is the visual aids.  More specifically, the CG maps outlining the coywolves’ territories make the program more engaging.  The maps tie right in to the episode’s editing because they are used to help illustrate the extent of the coywolves’ territories even within the confines of a city.  It’s incredible to see the expanse of those territories as they are tracked by the individuals watching them.  It shows the wolves’ ability to adapt to their surroundings and thrive.  That is the ultimate statement to this episode of Nature.  Even though humans and coywolves are living in increasingly close proximity to one another, the coywolves have shown their ability to adapt and survive.  And as long as there is understanding of them, they will continue to survive and thrive.  Audiences will understand this and more themselves when they order this program on DVD now.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=30499036&cp=&kw=meet+the+coywolf&origkw=Meet+The+Coywolf&sr=1.  More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet.nature.  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.

Great Zebra Exodus One Of Nature’s Best Episodes Of 2013

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

The latest installment of PBS’ Nature series is one of its most interesting pieces to date.  What audiences get in Great Zebra Exodus is an episode of the series that is largely unlike any other in recent memory.  The roughly hour-long program focuses on the migration of zebra herds across the African plains.  The migration itself is interesting to follow.  Viewers will take interest in the social norms of the zebra herds.  And the additional notes of the meerkat family will entertain viewers just as much.  They add the cute factor to the program.  There is even a very touching side story about one zebra family that exhibits something very extraordinary.  It is so touching that it may even leave some viewers slightly teary-eyed.  It is a very touching story.  It should be noted that as touching as this side-story is, there is some material throughout the program that is not entirely suitable for younger viewers.  The note of parental advisory aside, there is one more factor that plays into the success of this edition of Nature.  That factor is the feature’s cinematography.  The story itself of the zebra migration is impressive.  But the camera work in this feature is the real star.  Whether one has a direct interest in cinematography or not, the varying shots of the African plains are eye-popping and may even leave some viewers watching this piece again if only for that one reason.  If a person watches only one episode of Nature this year, all of these factors together make this the one episode to watch.

The concept of watching a zebra migration might not seem all that interesting to most people.   It’s just a bunch of animals making its way from one place to another.  So the question remains, what would make watching zebra migrate stand out?  The answer is quite surprising.  As one will see in watching Great Zebra Exodus, the migration of these animals is anything but ordinary.  Viewers see in this episode of Naturethat there is actually quite a bit that zebras go through in their yearly migration across the Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana.  The mares face the dangers of predators such a lions.  They also face the lack of water and food during the dry season.  There is also the ever present threat for mares of their own foals being potentially killed by stallions that did not sire the young zebras.  It’s incredible to see the motherly instinct of the mares in protecting their young from rival adult stallions.  Viewers see just how dangerous this situation is for mares.  It is one of the situations that will likely be unsettling for younger viewers.  Adults might also find the scenes involving stallions mating with mares improper for younger viewers, too on a related note.  These are not brief moments, either.  So as interesting as this whole feature is, these moments are enough to require a note of parental discretion.

What parents won’t have to worry about in Great Zebra Exodus is the bonus side story about a feeble young foal and its parents.  The young zebra was born with a problem that made walking very difficult.  Its legs were simply not able to support it for long.  That alone will pull at viewers’ heart strings.  As the story of this young zebra and its parents evolves, parents will be moved to find out about the loyalty of its parents to the young foal even despite having to leave it temporarily in order to find water.  That moment at which it leaves will definitely make viewers feel so sorry for the little zebra, as it is left on its own.  But to find out that the next morning, they return and the foal is safe and sound makes for a wonderfully applause worthy moment.  And it would be no surprise if it leaves some viewers at least slightly teary-eyed.

The side-story of the young zebra foal is a wonderful moment for viewers in the overall feature that is Great Zebra Exodus.  On an even happier note, viewers will love the extra information about a meerkat family that follows the zebras for a short while.  The additional notes of the meerkat social structure are just as interesting as those of the zebra social stratification.  What’s really interesting about them meerkats is the behavior of actually leaving their young with another member of a meerkat society if only for a short time in order to bring back food.  Humans like to believe that they are the most intelligent of creatures on the planet.  But as these small creatures (and the zebras) show, humans obviously aren’t the only intelligent beings.  As this episode of Nature shows, the behaviors of animals are just as intelligent as those of humans.  It is sure to get viewers talking and thinking.

The behaviors exhibited by the meerkats and zebras throughout Great Zebra Exodus are eye-opening, especially for those that perhaps had little to no prior knowledge of the animals and how they interacted within their given communities.  Viewers will definitely enjoy learning these facts.  Just as enjoyable to see in this episode is its cinematography.  The camera work of this episode is so impressive that it could be argued to be the real star of the episode in question.  The final scenes presents a rainbow over a previously rain-soaked sky as the zebra herd make their way back along their migratory route.  After everything that these creatures have endured to get to where they do each year, this presents a fitting final moment.  In its own way, it’s almost biblical in nature.  The wide scenes showing the oncoming rains in the rainy season on the salt pans are just as incredible.  Seeing the dust kicked up by the zebras during the dry season makes for quite the contrast, too.  These are just some of the incredible shots obtained by the people behind the cameras of this episode.  Audiences will find that there are so many more shots that they themselves will call favorites.  And along with the episode’s primary and secondary stories, it all comes together to make what is one of the better episodes of Nature in recent memory.  The DVD and Blu-ray are available now and can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19729766&cp=&sr=1&kw=great+zebra+exodus&origkw=Great+Zebra+Exodus&parentPage=search.

To keep up with the latest news on new episodes of Nature, audiences can go online to http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and “Like” it.  Fans can also keep up with the latest on Nature on its official website at http://www.pbs.org/nature and its official Twitter page, http://twitter.com/PBSNature.

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.

Deer Documentary An Interesting Release From PBS

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

The deer is one of the most beautiful and graceful of nature’s creatures.  While urban sprawl has drastically increased throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the population of deer has actually increased as well.  And as the deer population in North America, so have the opportunities to document the lives of these beautiful creatures.  Suburban residents, semi-professional naturalists and even professionals alike have had plenty of opportunity to document the behavior patterns of deer as humans and deer increasingly cross paths.  Thus audiences get another enjoyable episode of PBS’ series of animal adventures, Nature, titled, The Private Life of Deer.

The Private Life of Deer is quite the interesting look at an animal that is so visible each year across every part of the country.  As it shows and notes on the back of the DVD case, deer are quite visible across the country.  But as it reveals, these seemingly simple animals are far more complex than anyone might have ever thought.  It points out that they are quite the social animals.  One of the most interesting facts of which viewers will take note comes early on in the program.  Narrator Howard McGillin notes indirectly that urban sprawl has actually created ideal situations for deer.  This is, as is noted, because it provides plenty of food for deer as they will eat pretty much any plant life, including that which grows in backyard gardens.  It’s gotten so out of hand that suburban residents have had to resort to putting up fences high enough that deer can’t jump over them.  Apparently that doesn’t seem to work, as footage included in the program shows.  There are other interesting facts included in this episode of Nature that audiences will enjoy discovering such as the social interaction of deer.  Viewers will find interesting that it’s not only bucks that literally butt heads with one another.  The doe go head to head, too.  Just as interesting is the early note of communication between deer.  In particular is the communication of warning between deer by the simple twitching of the deer’s tail.  Who would ever have imagined something so simple could mean so much?  It is one more of so many amazing facts that viewers will learn in watching this documentary.

The facts taught about deer through this episode of Nature are interesting in that they prove that most people do not know as much as they might perhaps believe about them.  It’s another plus for PBS’ hit series.  Just as impressive as the facts revealed through the program are the general structure and cinematography of the episode.  The structure was such that it was simple for any viewer to follow.  What’s more, it easily keeps viewers engaged as it transitions from one topic to another and maintains its simplicity through each segment of the episode.  The cinematography was just as impressive as the segments themselves.  Watching the deer make jumps over the tallest of fences as first hand witnesses describe their disbelief will in itself leave viewers in disbelief.  That’s because the deer don’t look like they should be able to jump that high.  It’s already known that deer are good jumpers.  But the ability to jump over a six-foot high fence is incredible.  Equally incredible is the footage of the elusive “ghost deer.”  This deer is so called as it is an albino deer.  As is the case with any albino animal, the “ghost deer” is extremely rare.  So having the opportunity to see it even on film is still an extraordinary experience, especially so close-up.  There are so many other wonderful cinematic moments that work with the presentation’s overall structure.  Viewers will find their own favorite moments throughout the near hour long episode when they order the brand new DVD, which is available now in the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20029976&cp=&kw=the+private+life+of+deer&origkw=The+Private+Life+of+Deer&sr=1.

Fans of PBS’ Nature can keep up with all of the latest news on the show when they “Like” the official Nature Facebook page and website at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/nature.  Fans can also keep up with the latest news and more on the show from the official PBS Facebook page and website at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org.

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.

New Nature Episode Good For Horse Lovers And Historians

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ latest entry in its Nature series, Legendary White Stallions is an impressive addition to this highly respected series.  This entry in the series focuses on the famed dancing Lipizzaner horses.  It goes into depth describing the horses’ roots as tools of warfare to their current role as entertainers known and respected the world over.  There is a lot for fans of these horses to enjoy from this new documentary other than that piece of history.  Watching the respect with which the horses are treated throughout their training is incredible.  Those charged with preparing the horses for show treat them like royalty.  From brushing and feeding them, to simply training them, the utmost respect and gentility is used.  The horses are even kept together in large groups, so as to maintain a sense of confidence and security among the horses.  Whether one is a horse lover or just an animal lover in general, seeing such show of respect for these stunning animals will impress and move any viewer.

The program is anything but brief in its history of how the Lipizzaner came to be used for show instead of warfare.  It explains how the Berbers used the horses in their campaign to take over regions of Spain in their battles with the Europeans.  From there, audiences see how that horse would eventually become the Spanish horse and what is now the modern Lipizzaner.   The brief history on Spanish history is a bit of a digression here, but is necessary in understanding the full history of where this majestic horse came from.  It helps to comprehend the cultural influence of the horses, too.

The rich history of the Lipizzaner and the respect that its handlers and riders have for it make this episode of Nature just as enjoyable as the show’s other episodes.  There is one other factor that makes this episode so enjoyable, especially for those with Blu-ray players and HDTVs.  That factor is the cinematography of the program.  The camera work throughout the show is outstanding.  This is especially the case when watching the horses run wild through the massive acreage of the Spanish riding school.  Even in watching the horses undergo training, viewers get quite the experience thanks to expert camera work.  The angles and shutter speed used throughout the training segment make for quite the show.  On a side note, it should be noted that there is a scene in the program showing a horse impregnating a female horse as part of the breeding process.  So parents might want to consider whether or not they want their children seeing this scene in question.  Other than that, the camera work is one more impressive aspect of what is one more impressive documentary from one of PBS’ best programs.  The DVD and Blu-ray will be available June 4th.  They can be ordered online via the PBS’ store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19729756&cp=&sr=1&kw=legendary+white+stallions&origkw=Legendary+White+Stallions&parentPage=search#Details.

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

The Mystery Of Eels An Unexpectedly Interesting Feature From PBS’ Nature

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Documentarian James Prosek notes in the closing moments of the new PBS Nature documentary The Mystery of Eels that it’s good that some things remain a mystery.  Taken in the context of the moment, this makes sense.  In the case of this latest feature, it doesn’t do much in terms of eliminating the mystery around eels.  But it does present these largely misunderstood creatures in a much more positive light, thus generating more respect for them as part of the world’s ecosystems.

The Mystery of Eels clocks in at nearly an hour long.  Over the course of the feature, audiences see different groups of people around the world and the different views that different cultures have regarding the eel.  From being revered for their capital value in Japan to a means of living in another region and being held in high regard as past relatives in another culture, viewers see just why the eel is so important.  There are those who would look at this episode of Nature as coming from something of an environmentalist standpoint.  It is true that there are some slightly activist leanings here.  But when it comes to the case of eels, this can be forgiven much as the case is with sharks, bats, and other animals in danger of being wiped out.  Just as sharks and bats have bad reputations, so do eels.  Misconceptions have been made by cartoons and television in general.  But as one will see in this program, the views that people have about eels are just that; misconceptions.  They learn that eels mean humans no harm, and that they are just as important to the world’s ecosystems.  This is something very valuable especially for younger viewers to learn and just as important of a reminder for older audiences.

Understanding the importance of the eel in various cultures is interesting in itself.  Understanding that they are not just the monstrous creatures that have been caricatured by the media is even more important and interesting.  And that is exactly what audiences will understand in this feature.  Audiences will see here that there is no electricity shooting off of the body of an eel.  And while they are carnivores, they have been proven to be anything but the killer creatures that they have far too often been made out to be.  Rather, they are quite tame.  As viewers will see late in the program, they are so tame that humans in one part of the world are able to go up to them in their natural setting and run their hands along the body of the fish.  These same people see the eel as the spirit of past relatives just as Native Americans have seen certain animals as the spirits of their past relatives.  Who would have ever thought that an eel could play such an important role in the culture of a given people?

While some peoples of the world hold the eel in high regard spiritually and religiously, others still use the fish as a food product.  Because of that, they see the importance of protecting eels, as they are being overfished.  Prosek takes viewers to the Catskill Mountains and to Japan to examine the importance of the eel in both regions and what is being done to protect them and help them flourish.  As odd as this may seem, it is truly an eye opener and will create a wholly different view on this misunderstood fish just as with the understanding of its cultural importance.           

The Mystery of Eels is one of the most interesting episodes of PBS’ long-running Nature series.  Eels have a bad reputation.  And maybe that’s why it has taken so long for someone to come to their defense, so to speak.  But it’s a good thing that someone finally has.  Because James Prosek has done so, viewers will hopefully now see that much like other misunderstood creatures of the world, these creatures deserve just as much respect as any other creature.  They may not be the most beautiful or graceful.  But as this documentary feature shows, they are creatures that are just as important to the world as any other.  And understanding this will hopefully create more understanding and respect for the eel.

The Mystery of Eels will be available Tuesday, May 21st.  It can be ordered direct online via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19729726&cp=&kw=the+mystery+of+eels&origkw=The+Mystery+of+Eels&sr=1#Details.

To find out more about this program and all features from PBS’ Nature series, audiences can “Like” the Nature Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature.  Audiences can also get the latest Nature news on the program’s official website, http://www.pbs.org/nature and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PBSNature.

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.

Cold Warriors More About Wolves Than Buffalo

Courtesy:  PBS/Canon/CPB/WNET Thirteen

Courtesy: PBS/Canon/CPB/WNET Thirteen

PBS’ latest documentary from its Nature series is exactly what audiences would expect from the series.  Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo is a beautifully shot work that takes audiences into the Canadian wilds that while it’s somewhat unbalanced in its content, is still worth viewing at least once.  The title of the latest entry in PBS’ Nature series is misleading, considering that the bulk of the feature is spent not so much on the relationship between buffalo and wolves, but on the wolves’ social and hunting habits.  In the feature’s defense, it can be said that what saves it is its stunning cinematography and equally beautiful backdrops as well as the subtle notes of the wolves’ habits.  The program was filmed in the Wood Buffalo National Park.  The aerial shots of the park are stunning to say the least.  Audiences get glimpses of the park both during its winter months, covered in snow, and in its warmer months.  Seeing the buffalo herds and the wolf pack moving along the terrain is especially interesting from the air in that audiences will note the tracks in the ground.  They may not be, but they come across as the same tracks that both followed in the snow.  Equally interesting to note is that while some of the wolves will help divide and conquer a herd, others stick close together, even travelling in a line both when hunting and simply travelling.

The backdrops and cinematography incorporated into Cold Warriors are both impressive.  They carry the roughly hour long feature on their backs.  Thanks to these aspects, the feature’s lesser aspects are made more bearable.  The program’s title leads one to believe that its focus is on the seeming relationship between the two groups.  But documentarian Jeff Turner openly spends more time on what he dubs the “Delta Pack” of wolves that he is tracking than on the buffalo, thus somewhat negating any concept of a relationship between the two groups of animals.  The manner in which the two groups are portrayed makes the buffalo come across as little more than prey for the wolves.  He doesn’t really spend any time focusing on the social habits of the buffalo.  And while Turner makes note of man’s potential impact on both groups early in the program, audiences don’t even get any of this discussion until late in the feature’s final minutes.   Given, the packaging for this feature does note that the focus would be on the wolves.  But that being the case, the feature’s title becomes rather misleading.  For all of this, it does still have its merits.

Cold Warriors is not the best of PBS’ Nature series.  Though, it is worth at least one watch.  As already noted, the cinematography and setting are both beautiful and stunning.  They do so much to move the special along.  They are just part of what makes this feature interesting.  Also interesting to note here is the wolves’ behavioral patterns. Their ability to communicate specific messages with very specific howls is an eye opener.  Most people would think with a casual glance that a howl is a howl.  But as Turner shows in his footage, that’s anything but true.  He shows that a single howl can bring together an entire group of wolves to help hunt for buffalo.  It’s proof of very intelligent behavior.  We as humans like to believe that we are the smartest beings on the planet.  But the “Delta Pack’s” ability to communicate in such fashion is yet more proof of the intelligence of other animals.  This along with Turner’s shooting style and the backdrops make Cold Warriors a presentation that any nature lover should see at least once.  

Cold Warriors is available now.  It can be ordered online now at http://www.shoppbs.org.  Audiences should note that being a nature program, some scenes may not be entirely suitable for some viewers.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.wordpress.com.  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.

PBS’ DUCKumentary Feathered Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Nature has always been one of its best shows.  And compared to so many other shows of its ilk that are out there it is the cream of the crop.  Its latest release, An Original DUCKumentary proves yet again why Nature is the prime example of a wildlife show done right.

An Original DUCKumentary takes viewers into the lives of some of our fine-feathered friends from birth to adulthood.  This is a wonderful program for the entire family and for ornithologists and those studying aviary sciences.  General audiences will love simply watching the feature’s outstanding cinematography while those with a deeper interest in the different species of ducks will appreciate both the cinematography and the more scientific explanations of each species’ general body construction and habits.  The subtle narration by acting veteran Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Illusionist, Cosmopolis) is a nice touch, too.  There’s something about his delivery that is perfect for just such a setting as this.  Both Lenny Williams and Chris Biondo are also to be commended in this new feature from PBS.  The pair was responsible for the music used as a bed throughout the show.  Just as Giamatti’s delivery was a perfect fit for narration, the control of the music by Biondo and Williams’ gentle musical touch added its own extra subtle nuance to the presentation.

The narration and music definitely play their own part in the success of An Original DUCKumentary as already noted.  This is something that far too often, documentarians get wrong in crafting their presentations.  Together, the pair have come together to make a presentation that will keep audiences engaged and entertained.  One example of that match comes in a scene in which a number of different species of ducks had come together at a stopping point on their migration.  Giamatti describes almost as if he were right there in person how each group actually works together in its own way to protect all of the ducks from predators while others rest and look for their mates.  There’s something oddly humorous about Giammati’s delivery as he talks about the male ducks’ attempts to lure a female.  There’s almost a certain slightly dry wit about his narration as he talks about the birds’ mating habits.

Along with the narration, music, and cinematography, there is one other aspect of An Original DUCKumentary that makes it enjoyable for both general audiences and those more deeply interested in studying ducks.  That factor is the inclusion of a listing of each duck featured throughout the feature at its end.  Audiences are presented with a collage of different ducks that is highlighted, one duck at a time, complete with its name.  It serves as one more way to get audiences who might have otherwise not had any interest in studying ducks interested for the first time.  For those who are more seasoned birders, it’s just one more bonus as it specifically highlights each species featured.  Along with the other noted aspects of this feature, it’s one more reason for any viewer of any level of experience to check out this stand out dock…er…DUCKumentary.  It’s available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct via the PBS store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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Siberian Tiger Quest A Powerful, Moving Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Siberian Tiger Quest is a powerful and at times moving special from the network’s Nature.  The near hour long feature takes viewers along with host Chris Morgan as he follows photographer Sooyong Park in an attempt to document the elusive Siberian Tiger.  The majority of the program features Morgan following Park as Park explains in his own words how he survived for years in the Russian wilds to document the lives of a group of Siberian Tigers.  Morgan’s attempt to capture a tiger on camera is impressive enough.  But it’s his story of Park’s dedication and even “obsession” as he [Morgan] calls it towards tracking the tigers that is the heart and soul of this program.  The lengths to which Park went are incredible to say the very least.  As Morgan explains to audiences, Park spent years away from his own family in the wilderness just to follow a group of tigers in their lives.  As dedicated as he obviously was, audiences will be just as moved seeing his heart as he discusses everything he felt throughout his personal journey.  The pain shows through as he discusses seeing these beautiful and powerful creatures gunned down in cold blood by poachers.  Even years after the fact, Park still becomes emotional talking about it.  It shows how much the tigers mean to him.

Just as incredible as Park’s love and respect for the tigers is his endurance in tracking them.  Audiences learn in watching Siberian Tiger Quest that Park went to massive extents in order to capture the creatures—which have been hunted to the brink of extinction—on camera.  He explains how he would eat the smallest amount of food and would go to the bathroom just as little in his efforts to get the big cats on camera.  Morgan himself makes it crystal clear that he is taken aback by Park having taken such extreme measures.  He even admits to Park that the waiting game simply isn’t for him.  Though in the end, Morgan does get lucky enough to capture footage of one of the tigers on camera.  While his emotion may not be at the level of what Park must have felt, it is obvious how much seeing these creatures first hand meant to him.  He really did want to see them being that they are so rare in the wild. 

The dedication of Morgan and Park makes Siberian Tiger Quest a feature worth watching for any animal and/or nature lover.  Though, it should be noted that in discussing the death of certain tigers, certain scenes may not be entirely suitable for younger viewers.  Park took pictures of the tigers that were poached.  They are somewhat unsettling even for adult audiences.  Keeping that in mind, it goes without saying that younger viewers might have a harder time than adults taking in the images.  That aside, the general cinematography in this documentary is beautiful.  Audiences are taken through the tigers’ stomping grounds from the snowy forests to cliffs overlooking the nearby coastline.  Audiences also have the privilege of seeing photos taken by Park in warmer climes during his time tracking the tigers.  After having seen PBS’ new Nature special, they will hopefully have a whole new appreciation for creatures that are otherwise thought of as solely predators.  Rather what viewers get is a profile of a creature that while it is indeed a predator, it is also a very social, graceful, and even fragile creature to a point.  It will hopefully paint a picture of exactly why not just these creatures but others in general need to be better protected from those who would kill them and destroy their habitats solely for profit.  The DVD of this presentation is available now.  It can be ordered online at PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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