The Mona Lisa Mystery Is As Gripping As Any Major Mystery Author’s Novels

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa is perhaps the single most talked about painting in the history of visual art.  His painting has been the topic of discussion for ages largely because of the mystery surrounding the identity of the woman behind the painting.  Experts, critics and average art lovers alike were confounded by her identity for quite some time.  But now that that mystery has seemingly been solved, there is still another mystery that remains about the Mona Lisa.  That mystery is whether or not the painting that hangs today in the Louvre is in fact the real deal or a very convincing counterfeit.  That’s right.  As it turns out, there is a second Mona Lisa painting that many never knew about until recent history.  And the two paintings are the subject of the latest episode of PBS’ hit series Secrets of the Dead.  As a matter of fact, they are the center of why anyone with any appreciation of art and art history will want to see this episode now that it is on DVD.  The very discussion itself on whether the two paintings were crafted by the same man or by separate individuals is only the start of why audiences will want to watch this episode of Secrets of the Dead.  The depth of the arguments and the evidence provided for said arguments makes the program even more engaging.  This is the case even for viewers that might not be so familiar with the art world.  And last but not least of all to consider in this episode’s success is the tasteful use of re-enactments throughout the course of the program.  Altogether, these factors make The Mona Lisa Mystery another example of what makes Secrets of The Dead another great addition to PBS’ schedule.

The central discussion on which The Mona Lisa Mystery is based is key to the program’s overall success and enjoyment.  It doesn’t waste any time on the oft discussed topic of the picture’s subject.  Rather, it focuses on the far lesser known story of the second Mona Lisa painting.  That’s right.  What few people other than perhaps the most avid art lovers know about the Mona Lisa is that there were not one but two Mona Lisa paintings crafted.  This program aims to try and figure out if one of those paintings was a fake or if perhaps Da Vinci painted both of them and the one hanging at the Louvre is actually one of that pair potentially painted by one of the greatest artists in history. It makes for a great introduction into what is one of history’s lesser known mysteries. And that’s only the beginning (bad pun fully intended) of what makes this DVD worth checking out. The sheer depth of the evidence provided in the arguments and the arguments themselves make add to the interest of this mystery.

The arguments provided throughout this episode of Secrets of the Dead are an important piece of the whole as is the evidence provided for those arguments. Simply put, there is no bias one way or the other concerning the validity of the second Mona Lisa or lack thereof. Arguments are made supporting the possibility that Da Vinci could have painted both versions of the Mona Lisa with one having been painted on one canvas and the other having been potentially painted on a completely different canvas years later. This argument states that perhaps Da Vinci was unhappy with his original and only pulled it back out years later and used it as a model for the second one, thus attempting to explain away the differences in background, etc. Another argument alleges that not Da Vinci but another artist painted the second Mona Lisa having seen the original in its incomplete state. The painter in question is another of the more well-known names in the art world. And a third argument alleges that maybe, just maybe, a far less well-known individual had painted the second Mona Lisa. Again, none of these arguments is ever definitively confirmed. However, the evidence used in each of those arguments is quite compelling to say the very least. In depth information regarding dates of the paintings’ creation and carbon dating used to confirm said dating are just some of that evidence. It definitely leaves on wondering in the best way possible. It’s one more reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Secrets of the Dead regardless if they are art lovers, history lovers, or just audiences looking for a worthwhile respite from all of the brainless “reality shows,” and overly violent and over sexed dramas and comedies that fill television’s spectrum.

The arguments presented in this program and the evidence used to support said arguments are integral to the program’s overall success. They leave audiences scratching their heads and wondering in the very best way possible. That along with the very fact that the program focuses primarily on the mystery of the paintings will most definitely keep audiences engaged throughout this program. There is still one more factor to consider in what makes The Mona Lisa Mystery work as well as it does. That last factor is the minimalist use of re-enactments. Those behind the program’s creation kept the re-enactments to a minimum. Instead, they let the program speak for itself, which it does and quite well at that. The re-enactments that are used are incorporated primarily for the purpose of illustrating specific arguments. Other than that, their use is kept to a very limited space. It’s one more way that PBS continues to prove why it is the gold standard for anyone wanting real educational content now that History Channel,TLC, Discovery and certain other channels of that ilk are but pale shadows of what they once were. And it is that alongside the solid and valid arguments and their evidence that completes The Mona Lisa Mystery, making it one of the best episodes yet of Secrets of the Dead.

Secrets of the Dead: The Mona Lisa Mystery is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=38349356&cp=&sr=1&kw=secrets+of+the+dead&origkw=Secrets+of+the+Dead&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online at the official Secrets of the Dead Facebook page and website at http://www.facebook.com/SecretsofTheDead and http://pbs.org/secrets. 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./

D-Day 360 Is A Fitting Final Piece To PBS’ D-Day Trilogy

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

The world stopped this past June to note the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.  The battle on June 6th, 1945 is to this day the biggest naval operation of the 20th century if not in history.  While the battle is considered to be the beginning of the end of the war in Europe, it obviously wasn’t without its problems as has already been pointed out in PBS’ recently released programs Day of Days: June 6, 1944 and D­-Day’s Sunken Secrets.  Those programs, released just last month, both outline the work that was undertaken to make the Normandy invasion happen.  They also help audiences to see that the events of June 6th were only part of the story of D-Day.  Now in D-Day 360, the last of PBS’ trio of programs centered on the D-Day operations, viewers get one of the most comprehensive looks at the initial operation that has been seen yet.

D-Day 360 is a good finishing piece for PBS in its recently released trio of programs centered on the Normandy invasion.  The primary reason that it is such a good finale to the series of programs is its in-depth graphical examination of the events that unfolded on D-Day.  There are no re-enactments or anything of that nature.  What viewers get in this program is a visual presentation that fully immerses them in the events of that day.  It does so through the use of graphics that bring to life so to speak all the names and figures thrown out in so many documentaries before.  From graphic depictions of just how far German shells could fly from the beaches to depictions of how far Allied planes overshot Normandy on their bombing run to cover the ground forces and more, D-Day 360 gives viewers a perspective like no other documentary before that has covered the Normandy invasion.  Rather than just churning out a bunch of names and numbers, those names and numbers get their own life of sorts, making the impact of this knowledge even harder hitting.  It really goes to show just how much PBS has surpassed the likes of History Channel now that that network has become little more than just another reality show network.

The graphic illustrations used through D-Day 360 are central to the overall enjoyment and success of the program. Thankfully, those behind this program’s creation used more than just computer generated illustrations to advance the program and keep viewers engaged throughout its roughly hour-long runtime. Also incorporated into this program are stories told first-hand from a handful of veterans that fought at Normandy. These veterans don’t seem to be the same veterans interviewed for PBS’ previous pair of programs centered on D-Day (say that one five times fast). Every interview is important. That is because every day, there are fewer veterans left to tell the countless stories of that terrible conflict. Their addition to this program adds even more depth to the overall presentation. The end result is a program that is even more informative and entertaining for audiences whether they be in a military studies class or simply a history class. Audiences don’t even have to be in school to appreciate the interviews. They can simply be history buffs or military history buffs.

The use of computer generated graphics combined with actual stories from veterans that fought at Normandy are both key factors to the overall presentation that is D-Day 360. By direct connection, the general lack of re-enactments in this program is subtle.   But it adds so much to the presentation in whole. It shows that those responsible for bringing the program to the masses understood quite well that less is more mentality. They knew where to draw that line between enough and too much. It’s just one more way that PBs continues to show that it is the leader in true educational content while networks that once led the way (E.g. History Channel, TLC, etc.) have fallen by the wayside. This subtle but oh-so-important factor is the final piece to a presentation that any and every military history buff, history buff and teacher alike will appreciate.

D-Day 360 is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store. More information on this and other programs from PBS is available online via PBS’ official website and Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog, too.

PBS Kids’ Latest Daniel Tiger DVD Another Must Have For Any Family With Young Children

Courtesy:  PBS/ PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/ PBS Kids

PBS Kids recently released its newest DVD from its family favorite series Daniel tiger’s Neighborhood. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tries Something New is another wonderful addition to the home library of any family with young children. This latest compilation is only the third so far containing episodes from the series. This, believe it or not is something important for parents looking or something for their children especially now as parents count down the last few weeks of summer. Just as worth noting is the content itself within the episodes culled for this DVD. The episodes included in this set teach even more invaluable life lessons for young viewers. And last but hardly least important of this set is the inclusion of even more activities and printable coloring pages. Each factor noted by itself plays its own important role in the overall enjoyment of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tries Something New. All three factors together make this latest compilation a DVD a must have for any children with young children.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tries Something New is only the third compilation released so far from this family favorite series. This doesn’t seem all that important on the surface. But when taken into consideration that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is currently only in its first season and that these DVDs aren’t exactly budget busters, parents won’t feel like they’re that far behind or that they’re too expensive if their children are asking for any of these DVDs. Sometimes, parents can feel overwhelmed when trying to keep up with this DVD or that DVD that their kids want or that would keep their children entertained. That won’t be the case here for the reasons noted. So as minor as these details might seem on the surface, the DVD’s cost effectiveness and the fact that it’s only the third DVD to be released so far become even more important in its overall enjoyment and success.

The cost effectiveness of the latest Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVD and that it’s only the third releases so far are both important factors for any parents trying to decide whether or not to pick up this DVD. It’s only one part of what parents should take into consideration in making their decisions. Just as important to consider are the lessons taught throughout the course of each of its eight shorts. “Daniel’s Babysiitter” teaches young viewers about both having patience and that just because parents go out, they aren’t leaving forever. This can apply not just to situations such as parents going out on a date night alone but to something as simple as a parent leaving the room for a few minutes. Speaking of parents going out, “A Night Out At The Restaurant” is another example of the lessons taught in this compilation. This short teaches children about proper behavior in a social situation. It also serves to reiterate the lesson of patience to young viewers. If that’s not enough, there are also lessons about playing nicely together and even multiculturalism. There are more lessons for young views in the episodes included on this DVD. And they will get those lessons when their parents pick up this DVD or order it online. It isn’t the last of factors worth noting on this DVD, either. Last but not least worth noting of this DVD is its bonus coloring pages and activities.

The printable coloring pages and activities included with the DVD as bonus material is its last but hardly least noteworthy factor. The activities included with this latest DVD help teach young viewers ways to express their feelings in a healthy way while eating healthy at the same time in the “Feeling Faces” activity.   And in the activity titled “All Aboard,” children get to pretend that they are going for a ride on their own make-believe trolley. It teaches them both about taking turns and that people always come back when they go on trips. It coincides with the first short on the DVD. All the instructions and details on both activities are included with the DVD. All a person needs is a DVD drive and Adobe Reader. The printable coloring pages included this time are the same as on the previous two Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVD compilations. And that brings everything full circle. That’s because parents don’t have to worry at least about the coloring pages being different on each of the DVDs. They are the same each time. That factor is the final touch to a DVD that in the end proves to be one more must have for any family with young children.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tries Something New is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the PBS Online store now. More information on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is available online now via the series’ Facebook page and official website. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog, too.

D-Day’s Sunken Secrets Is Another Important Chapter In The History Of WWII

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets is another invaluable program for anyone that has any interest in the history of World War II or in military history in general.  As informative as the program is, one can’t help but note that it perhaps could have benefitted from a different title.  That’s because most of the program focuses more on the operations of Operation Overlord than on the sunken remnants of the Normandy invasion.  That isn’t to say that that moment in time is completely avoided.  But it doesn’t focus on that aspect near as much as one might be led to believe by the program’s title.  That aside, it is still an interesting piece of World War II history that adds yet another chapter to one of the biggest operations in military history that might otherwise not have been known by some.  And that’s just the beginning.  Audiences will be interested, too to discover that the program’s narrator is himself a WWII veteran who was also there on D-Day.  And last to note is the use of vintage footage against modern video of Normandy today to help illustrate the story of what happened on D-Day and the days that followed.  Each factor plays its own important role in the overall success of this presentation.  Together, they make a program that while perhaps improperly titled, still is an important story that needed to be told.

The first aspect of NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets the fact that it reveals another chapter of sorts to the story of the D-Day invasion.  It reveals a part of that history that might not have otherwise been known.  Everybody knows about the initial invasion by Allied forces.  And sometimes discussed by historians is the immense planning that led up to the invasion.  However, many might not know that then general Ike Eisenhower actually wrote a letter taking full blame for the operation should it fail.  Interestingly enough, whether or not the initial operation actually failed comes up between a military veteran and a military historian.  The true irony is that the veteran, when posed with the question actually says that in his own view, the operation did in fact fail.  He notes that it failed in that the men that took the beachhead went without the air coverage or the planned naval coverage, either.  Add in changing tides, much like at Dieppe, and the argument is made that while Allied forces eventually took the beaches of Normandy, the operation was still a failure at least in its planning.  That argument actually makes sense.  Had those men had the planned coverage, it is possible that casualties would have been far fewer among Allied forces.  Just as interesting to note is that German U-boats were still patrolling the waters off of France’s coast even after the initial invasion, which led to its own share of sinkings.  There was also the failure of the “floating tanks” and much more discussed throughout the course of the program’s near two-hour runtime.  All of that and more will definitely keep audiences watching and wanting to learn more about what really happened on D-Day and the days that would follow.  It is but one part of what makes NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets another important addition to the vast history of World War II.

Another important factor to consider in the overall success and enjoyment of this episode is the use of an actual WWII veteran as the program’s narrator.  For that matter, the use of a veteran that fought at Normandy makes it especially interesting. Peter Thomas narrates the program. And while he does quite the job in his role, it is obvious that he does at times become somewhat choked up as he carries out his duty. It could very well be this critic’s own interpretation. But it certainly sounds like he does in fact choke up at times. If that is the case, it’s a welcome change from every documentary out there. It actually adds a certain realism to the program that is sadly lacking in those other programs out there. It adds a more human element for lack of better wording. That human element will pull in viewers even more and lead them to feel at least a modicum of the emotion felt by those that served on that fateful day. It’s one more impressive touch to this program that makes it another invaluable addition to the library of any lover of military history or history in general.

The use of an actual WWII vet that fought on Normandy and the inclusion of even more information on the history of that groundbreaking operation both are key to the overall enjoyment of NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets. The final aspect of the program that audiences will appreciate is the inclusion once again of actual footage filmed as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Just as much, audiences will appreciate the use of video illustrations outlining the movements of both Allied and German forces before and after the initial landing and battle to reclaim the beachhead. Viewers will be amazed at the CG recreation of the Allied forces’ man-made harbor and how it worked with the waters off the French coast. The bridges that were created were an engineering feat far ahead of their time. So, even those with an interest in engineering and construction will find something to like about this episode of NOVA. It’s the final touch to another overall impressive albeit slightly mis-titled piece of World War II history.

NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296&cp=&sr=1&kw=d+day&origkw=D+Day&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline, http://twitter.com/novapbs, and http://www.pbs.org/nova. 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.

Day Of Days Is One Of PBS’ Best WWII Documentaries To Date

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

June 6th is one of the most important dates in the history not only of America but of the world.  And this past June, the world stopped and recognized the seventieth anniversary of that day, also known as D-Day.  In honor of that day, many networks across the television spectrum presented their own programs, recalling the events of the day in question.  Few if any were as powerful as PBS’ Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day.  This program is one of the most moving and powerful that PBS has premiered so far this year.  That is first and foremost because it is not just another documentary.  It is a group of firsthand recollections from just some of the men who fought on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.  There are no animations.  There are no actors.  The only extras (if they are to be considered extras) are the collective snippets of the events from that day.  They are another part of what makes the entire experience in this program so powerful.  Of course, there is the “Beachhead to Berlin” newsreel.  That bonus is the final touch on a presentation that everybody should see at least once if not more.

Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is one of the most powerful WWII-centered pieces that PBS has ever premiered.  The central reason for that is the fact that it is anything but the steady stream of documentaries churned out by the various networks that handle such fare, PBS included.  There are no actors, “experts,” no special animations, or any other embellishments.  It is just a group of military veterans that were part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944.  The men recount the horrors that happened on those beaches.  Over the course of the program’s roughly hour –long run time.  In hearing their painful recollections, audiences will see and hear firsthand just why those that have served choose to not talk about what they experienced.  The tears that they shed as they recall the memories of those events are very real.  And they will deeply move anyone taking them in regardless of whether they are everyday viewers or themselves military veterans.

As has already been noted, Day of Days: June 6th, 1944—American Soldiers Remember D-Day is such a powerful piece from PBS because it isn’t just another documentary.  There are no “experts.”  There are no animations, re-enactments or any other embellishments.  The only “extra” of sorts that was partnered with the stories told by the veterans is a collection of actual footage shot as the Normandy invasion took place.  The footage itself is difficult to watch in its own right.  That is because audiences will actually see men being shot and falling, lifeless as they make their way onto the beach.  Again, this is not acting.  It is actual footage of those events.  There is footage of the firefight that took place from the sea off the French coast and much more.  That collection of footage partnered with the veterans’ stories make this program all the more powerful and memorable. It isn’t all that make the program memorable and powerful, either.

The vintage footage that accompanies the veterans’ recollections and the recollections themselves are both of the utmost importance to the presentation in whole. Just as important to the overall presentation is the bonus newsreel “Beachhead to Berlin.” This is an actual newsreel used to bolster patriotism among Americans in the days following the Normandy invasion. The newsreel uses much of the footage that is incorporated into the veterans recollections in the main feature. There is also footage not used in the main feature. The collective footage set against the voice over of a military officer writing a letter to the parent of a fallen soldier makes the newsreel truly powerful. It is later revealed that the officer writing the letter was himself a veteran and had received a purple heart for serving in the war. That final statement is the perfect closing moment for the newsreel. And together with the final thoughts of the veterans in the main feature, it becomes even harder hitting as a final moment for the entire presentation.

The primary feature presented in Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is by itself a program unlike anything that PBS has presented so far this year. The bonus newsreel that accompanies that feature is in itself just as moving. Both features together prove this program to be one that viewers of all backgrounds will appreciate, whether they be military or not. They prove the program to be one that everyone should see at least once if not more. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366&cp=&sr=1&kw=day+of+days&origkw=Day+of+Days&parentPage=search. More information on this and other releases 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 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.

Ruben Salazar: Man In The Middle Is An Important Piece Of Cultural, Journalism History

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS released early this year a documentary centered on Hispanic journalist Ruben Salazar.  The documentary, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle is a fittingly titled presentation.  That is because it discusses the interconnection of his own personal life and of his life as an influential journalist.  The most important aspect of this program is that unlike so many others of its ilk, it doesn’t waste time going through his entire childhood and his adult life.  Rather, it focuses primarily on his short adult life.  The use of newspaper articles, interviews and video footage to aid the story’s illustration adds another layer of interest to the overall story.  And last but not least, the entire approximately hour-long presentation runs chronologically.  It follows Salazar’s rise through the ranks of the journalism world through his untimely death in 1970.  Each of these factors by themselves provides their own value to this presentation.  Together, they make Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle a feature well worth watching by anyone with any interest in history and in the history of journalism.

Far too often, documentaries on the lives of important and influential figures tend to focus on the entire lives of said figures.  In some cases, going into such depth is necessary to help viewers understand how those figures became who they were and are.  In others, it’s not so necessary.  The case of Ruben Salazar is one in which the subject’s entire life story was not needed.   And thankfully documentarian Phillip Rodriguez realized this, too opting instead to focus primarily on the events that would eventually lead him to become the figure that so many have come to know today. This approach saves plenty of time without losing any of the most important information about Salazar’s importance both culturally and in the business of journalism.

The story of Ruben Salazar’s rise to notoriety and his untimely and still unsolved death is by itself rather interesting both for its cultural value and because of how that cultural importance played into his professional life. The tie in to the civil rights movement of the day makes Salazar’s story even more intriguing. As if that isn’t enough, the inclusion of actual footage and newspapers from the now much discussed events leading up to his death make the overall presentation even richer for viewers. They, along with the interviews with those closest to Salazar and the controversy raised by his allegations against the LAPD make for even more intrigue. They collectively will leave viewers wanting to do even more of their own research, trying to get answers for themselves due to the depth of the information shared by all three together.

The information shared by the included interviews, footage and interviews does an applause-worthy job of complimenting Phillip Rodriguez’s presentation in this program. The positives don’t stop here. There is still one remaining aspect of Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle that viewers will appreciate in the overall presentation. That final factor is the program’s organization. Audiences will note that the events leading up to Salazar’s mysterious death are presented in fully chronological order. Presenting the events leading up to his death in this manner makes the program simple to follow. Believe it or not, there are those documentaries that have a tendency to jump randomly from one point to another through the course of their presentations even today. Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle isn’t one of those documentaries. And because it doesn’t follow that model it makes all of the interviews and the story itself contained on this disc truly valuable as a piece not only of journalism history but of cultural history, too.

Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=32759016&cp=&kw=ruben+salazar&origkw=Ruben+Salazar&sr=1. More information on this and other releases 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 reviews, 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.

PBS Set To Release Three New D-Day Documentaries July 8th

PBS will release three new programs next Tuesday centered on one of the most pivotal moments of World War II next Tuesday.

Day of Days

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release next Tuesday,  Day of Days: June 6, 1944: American Soldiers Remember D-Day, D-Day 360, and Nova: D-Days Sunken Secrets. The first of the documentaries brings together a group of WWII veterans that took part in D-Day. The men recollect the events of what is one of the largest collective operations in military history. Throughout their discussions, the men also discuss their uneasiness over being called “heroes,” their transformation from boys to men, and the loss of their friends in the assault on Normandy among other topics. The stories bring up very powerful and equally painful memories for the veterans. This program will be available on DVD and via digital download. It will be available for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366.

 

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

D-Day 36O, the second of PBS’ upcoming WWII-centered documentaries, re-creates the events of D-Day. It does so through the use of new data-driven and statistical tools to display the sheer immensity of the operation. It was on June 6th, 1944 that 3,000 planes dropped 23,000 airborne troops behind German lines, 7,000 ships delivered some 20,000 military vehicles and 130,000 allied soldiers to take on some 40,000 German soldiers, roughly two million mines buried in the sand, and 46,000 beach obstacles. Among those obstacles were hundreds of miles of barbed wire, shells, and bullets. The program focuses primarily on the exit at Vierville-sur-Mer, the most important stretch of Omaha Beach that day. It documents the events that unfolded over the course of five hours of fighting on the five-mile stretch of French coastline. The program will be available on DVD next Tuesday. It will retail for SRP of $24.99 and can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35446756.

 

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

In the third and final of PBS’ upcoming D-Day centered programs, audiences are taken beneath the waves of Normandy to see the remnants of what is today one of the world’s largest underwater archaeological sites in Nova: D-Days Sunken Secrets. Audiences will see in this five-part program, a combined group of military historians, archaeologists, and other specialist divers as they explore the waters just off of Normandy’s beaches. They use submersibles, underwater robots, and the latest 3-D mapping technology to identify the tanks, ships, planes, landing craft and more that sunk just off of Normandy’s beaches that day. Along with that, audiences are also taken into the planning of the D-Day invasion, and how the work of scientists, mathematicians, inventors, and even meteorologists helped in said planning. The expedition which led to this presentation lasted six weeks and was led by Sylvain Pascaud. D-Days Sunken Secrets will retail for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296.

More information on each of these programs and others 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.

Peg + Cat Gets Its Own DVD Release This Fall

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

Officials with PBS and PBS Kids announced Monday that PBS Kids will release the first ever DVD from the network’s new series Peg + Cat this fall.

Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and Other Really Big Problems will be released on DVD Tuesday, September 9th. The DVD will feature eight stories from the series along with bonus printable coloring pages and activities for kids and parents. In the first of those eight stories, Peg and Cat have to deal with one hundred chickens in two different ways. The pair has to get the chickens in question back into their coop in “The Chicken Problem” before the farmer sees that they’ve escaped. And in “The Space Creature Problem,” Peg and Cat have to get the chickens away from Big Mouth and back to their spaceship. The first of the pair teaches children size correspondence and the significance of the number 100. The second of the chicken-based episodes teaches children to count by tens to 100.

“The Messy Room Problem” is the third of the stories included on the upcoming first ever Peg + Cat DVD. Peg and Cat have to get Peg’s room cleaned in this episode, in time for company to come over and see Cat’s masterpiece, “The Circles.” This story teaches young viewers about both sorting and shapes in this story, as well as about keeping their rooms clean.

Peg and Cat go on an adventure in “The Golden Pyramid Problem,” the fourth of the stories included on the new DVD. Peg The Bold and Brave Sir Cat imagine that they’re Knights of the Round Table in this story. They have to retrieve the mermaid’s golden pyramids and return them to her. This story teaches solid shapes and counting by two to young viewers.

Peg and Cat form a super group called The Electric Eleven in “The Three Bears Problem,” the fifth story included on the DVD. In order to form their super group, Peg and Cat must first bring together, The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Children learn to count to eleven and add one in this story.

In “The Giant Problem,” the sixth story included on the DVD, Peg and Cat must evade a group of giants along with their eight fairy-tale friends before the giants can have them for lunch. Children will learn through this story, combinations that add up to 10 and the circle shape.

The penultimate story included on the brand new debut Peg + Cat DVD, “The Dinosaur Problem,” puts Peg and Cat in the middle of a prehistoric rain forest, riding dinosaurs. They have to diagram their way to safety along the way before the baby T-Rex catches them. Children learn about patterns and about following diagrams in this story.

In the final story on the new Peg + Cat DVD, Peg and Cat help famed composer Ludwig Van Beethoven as he writes one of his symphonies. And thanks to Cat’s laugh, Beethoven gets a great idea for his symphony. That’s in “The Beethoven Problem.” Children learn about patterns and ordinal numbers in this story.

Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and Other Really Big Problems will be available on DVD Tuesday, September 9th. Its run time is 100 minutes. It will retail for SRP of $12.99. More information on Peg + Cat is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PegPlusCatTV and http://pbs.org/peg. 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 Proves The Reach Of 1964’s Events In New Dcoumentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

American Experience: 1964 is quite the interesting look at what was one of the most important years in America’s modern history. The approximately two-hour program takes viewers through the events of the year, showing the good, the bad, and the ugly. That fully unbiased presentation is central to the success of this edition of American Experience. Along the way, various figures are interviewed to help illustrate the importance of the events that made 1964 an important year. From historians to activists and more, each figure makes the year’s different subjects much clearer and more interesting than they would have otherwise been. That is another key factor to the overall success of this presentation. The subjects examined throughout the two-hour run time of American Experience: 1964 and those that helped to illustrate each subject work together to make this a presentation that any history buff will appreciate. There is one more factor to take into account in examining the program that makes it work as well as it does. That final factor is the program’s pace. A lot of ground is covered over the course of 1964’s two-hour run time. Even with as much as is covered over that time, those behind the program keep the pace at just enough of a pace to not lose viewers along the way. This final factor brings everything full circle in this episode of American Experience, making the program complete and even more well worth the watch whether it be in the classroom or the living room.

The first and most important factor that makes American Experience: 1964 is the completely unbiased presentation. Presented within the course of the program’s near two-hour run time is all of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It presents the violence that arose from the civil rights movement. It presents Lyndon Johnson’s attempts to fill the shoes of John F. Kennedy after his assassination. It even shows the cultural impact of the arrival of The Beatles in America and of the now influential book The Feminine Mystique on women across the country among much more. Through it all, the events of the year are presented chronologically from New Year’s Eve 1963 to the year’s end. It is all wrapped up nicely with the use of singer Sam Cooke’s hit song ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ as the discussion point for the events that would come as a result of everything that happened in 1964. The tone taken in those final moments is one of optimism. It drives home the argument that for all of the unsettlement experienced in 1964, it would lead to much positive change in the years to come.

The unbiased presentation of the events of 1964 and their chronological together form a solid starting point for the success of American Experience: 1964. The presentation is made even richer through interviews with various scholars, activists, and others. The interviews in question are used to help illustrate precisely why each of the year’s events were so pivotal. Some of the most powerful of the program’s interview segments are with civil rights activist Dave Dennis. At one point late in the program, he recalls the mistreatment of a young African-American male by police in riots that rose from other events. His reaction at recalling a conversation with one of three civil rights activists that had come down to help was just as powerful. There are other equally enlightening interviews from various scholars, journalists and more that illustrate the events that made 1964 such a pivotal year in America’s history.

The events discussed in American Experience: 1964 and the accompanying interviews go a long way toward making the program especially useful whether it be used in the classroom or the living room. The last piece of the presentation that will impress viewers is its pacing. At no point through the course of the program’s two-hour run time does its pacing ever go too fast or too slow.   And keeping in mind the number of topics covered over the course of the program’s total run time, the pacing becomes even more of a positive. Viewers aren’t left feeling like they were just rushed through a freshman level college history course by the program’s end. And it’s that, along with the program’s interviews and topics, that together make American Experience: 1964 a must see whether one is a history buff or just wants to learn a little bit of America’s history.

American Experience: 1964 is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=29630386&cp=&sr=1&kw=1964&origkw=1964&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/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.

Broadchurch Outshines Almost All Other Crime Dramas In Its First Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Crime dramas are all the rage on American television. Each one of the “Big 4” has more than its fair share of gritty crime dramas. Even the cable networks are becoming overloaded with their own crime dramas. Even PBS has its own crime drama series in the forms of Endeavour and the newly resurrected series Inspector Lewis. Considering all of this, it goes without saying that fans of the crime drama genre have more than their share of shows from which to choose. The problem is that save for perhaps PBS’ Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, the majority of the crime dramas that fill the broadcast spectrum today are relatively formulaic. Now thankfully, eOne has offered American audiences a series unlike any other crime drama out there today, including those on PBS. And that is saying something. The series in question is Broadchurch. The series’ first season is available now on DVD. And this debut season of the British import is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is a serial. But the show’s writing more than makes up for that. That’s just the beginning of what makes this first season a hit. The use of original music at the right moments will keep viewers’ just as much on the edge of their seats from episode to episode. The same can be said of the acting on the part of the cast. This includes not just lead actors David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz, Locke), but to the cast in whole. Their acting, along with the wisely used music and even smarter writing together make Broadchurch: The Complete First Season a truly surprising first impression from this British import. And it gives quite a bit of hope for the series in its second season. Audiences that give this season a chance will largely agree with that sentiment when they purchase or order the box set for themselves.

Broadchurch is not the first imported drama or even crime drama to make its way to America’s shores. The series, as a matter of fact, has been adapted for broadcast on the Fox network this fall. Before audiences even begin to watch that Americanized ripoff, they would do well to check out Season One of Broadchurch if only for the show’s writing. That is the most important factor to the success of this season. Any viewer that is the parent of a small child will agree that this season’s story hits hard because of its reality. It’s a sad reality that children die in this country (and other nations) every single day at the hands of rather sick individuals. That reality gives so much depth and believability to this season’s story. Fair warning, it’s difficult to watch and will make any parent want to hold their child even closer by the season’s final minutes. Even more so, any viewer that is left dry-eyed after watching this season’s story simply isn’t human. Even this critic will admit to tearing up quite a bit by that time.

The emotional depth and believability of the writing is just the starting point of what makes the first season of Broadchurch such a surprise of a series. Audiences will appreciate just as much the twists and turns that are included over the course of this season. They are just enough that they will keep viewers watching on the proverbial edge of their seats right to the season’s end. The twists don’t just include the characters, either. There are minute details on which the camera focuses at random points that keep viewers thrown off the track right up to the shocking season finale. The finale won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see Season One. But it is most definitely unexpected, though sadly very much a reflection of life. To that extent, it makes this season’s story all the more gripping and worth the watch.

On an even deeper level, the writers responsible for bringing Broadchurch to life are to be applauded for the manner in which the series’ first season was constructed. Rather than have eight separate episodes, the writers used the model from Fox’s 24 in establishing each episode. Whereas each episode of 24 is one hour, each episode of Broadchurch’s first season is a continuation of the previous episode. So, all eight episodes of this season comprise just one storyline. And each episode has been written so well (unlike 24), that audiences won’t be left feeling like they need a program to figure out what’s going on. It’s the final touch to the series’ writing that makes the writing the cornerstone of this first season.

The writers behind Broadchurch are to be highly commended for the painstaking efforts put into making this series’ first season the gripping first impression that it proves to be in the end. Just as worthy of applause in Season One are those responsible for the show’s music. Yes, the music in this series plays just as important a role in its success as the writing. This is hardly common in most American television series. Audiences will note in the series’ first season that unlike so many other shows out there, it doesn’t rely on popular songs or music put in just to be there. The music incorporated in Broadchurch: Season One plays directly in to the series’ writing. The smart use of dynamics and overall placement from scene to scene within each episode heightens each episode’s emotional depth. Whether it be the season’s more pained moments as when Danny’s mother saw him lying dead on the beach, or even the more tense moments of the search for the killer, those charged with music placement went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s one more factor that makes the debut season of this gripping British crime drama worlds better than its countless American counterparts.

The music and the writing behind the first season of Broadchurch are by themselves integral parts of the season’s overall success. Together they make Broadchurch a fully gripping and engrossing series in only its first season. There is still one more aspect of this first season that proves Broadchurch to be the standard by which so many other dramas should model themselves. That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast. That applies not just to lead actors David Tennant and Olivia Colman but to the entire cast. Each member of the show’s cast expertly interprets the show’s script, making it even more difficult to figure out who is the killer until said person is revealed in the season finale. On the other hand that expert acting also pulls in viewers on a deeply emotional level, too. That expert acting on both sides of the coin adds one more level of depth, thus making this season of Broadchurch even more gripping. That final factor, set alongside the season’s writing and music, makes the presentation whole and wholly of the best first impressions from any new series in recent history. It makes the first season of Broadchurch one that any fan of dramas must see at least once this year.

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Broadchurch-Season-1-David-Tennant/dp/B00HGE90Z4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1403311459&sr=1-1&keywords=broadchurch+the+complete+first+season. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at entertainmentone.com/home. 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.