Aesthetic Issues Are Not Enough To Sink ‘Hell Below’

Courtesy: Smithsonian Channel/Public Media Distribution

Smithsonian Channel officially released its latest World War II documentary Hell Below earlier this week.  The two-disc collection focuses warfare waged from below the waves throughout the war.  It is not the network’s first time focusing on WWII submarine warfare, but it is still enjoyable in its own right, even despite its negatives.  The stories that are told over the course of the documentary’s two discs are collectively the documentary’s primary positive.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the stories do plenty to keep audiences engaged over the course of the documentary’s 360 minute (six-hour) run time, the documentary is not perfect.  It suffers from a pair of negatives, too, the most significant of which is the lack of an episode listing anywhere inside or outside the set’s box.  This will be discussed later and is hardly the set’s only negative.  While the set does suffer from some negatives, it is not a total loss, as already noted in regards to its featured stories.  The re-enactments, used to help tell the featured stories add to the stories.  That being the case, they are key in examining the set’s presentation, too.  Each element is important in its own right to the set’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Hell Below a program that is worth at least an occasional watch by history buffs and more specifically WWII history buffs alike.

Hell Below, Smithsonian Channel’s latest WWII feature presentation, is a program that history and WWII history buffs alike will appreciate.  They will agree in watching it, that it is a history-based program that is worth at least one watch.  That is due in part to the stories that are presented throughout the course of its six-hour run time.  The stories focus on some of World War II’s most significant submarine conflicts including conflicts in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.  From the Allies fighting against German U-Boats to Allied subs fighting German and Japanese ships (and even saving allied troops), the stories tell a variety of intriguing pieces of the war’s history.  Audiences will be shocked to learn how Native American POWs were inadvertently shot and killed by American sea men after a German ship carrying them was sunk and the lack of fallout from that event.  Just as interesting to learn is the story of the American sub Harder in the episode “Destroyer Killer.”  This underdog story of sorts follows the crew of the Harder as it rescued allied commandos from Japanese clutches and survived multiple Japanese attacks en route to and from a covert surveillance mission. The sub’s sad fate following its return to its Australian base adds even more depth to the story.  The surprising story of two allied convoys’ escape from multiple U-Boat attacks in another episode is yet another truly interesting piece that will keep audiences enthralled. Between those episodes and the others not noted here, the stories in whole prove to be the most important overall element to Hell Below’s overall presentation.

The stories that are presented over the six-hour course of Hell Below are critical to the program’s presentation.  That is because from one to the next, the stories will keep history buffs, WWII history buffs and audiences in general enthralled with the stories of the Allies’ determination to defeat the Axis powers.  While the program’s featured stories are undeniably important to its overall presentation, the program is not perfect in its home release.  It does suffer from a handful of issues, not the least of which is the issue of its episode guide.  Audiences will be saddened to discover that the program’s episodes are listed only on the program’s menu.  In other words, audiences are forced to play the discs and virtually memorize which episodes are on which disc in order to know which is where.  There is no episode guide inside or outside the box even as an insert.  It may seem like a minor element about which to be concerned, but the reality is that having something as minor as an episode guide makes choosing which episode(s) to watch much easier and more enjoyable.  To that end, being forced to choose episodes only by playing the program’s discs detracts greatly from the program’s presentation in its home release.

On another level, the redundancy of the CG sequences and even some of the re-enactments takes away even more from the program’s presentation.  From one episode to the next, it seems like the same CG sub is shown attacking the same CG ship right down to the ships being hit by the same torpedos.  The same applies when the subs surface and dive.  Obviously this was a cost cutting measure.  That is understandable.  But the reality is that the Allied and Axis subs did not look exactly the same.  By presenting the same sequences over and over again, it presents the image that the subs all looked the same.  To that end, cost cutting might not have been such a good move.  Hopefully those behind this program (and Smithsonian Channel’s executives) will take this into account with the network’s next WWII documentary.

The lack of an episode guide for Hell Below and the redundancy of its CG sequences do much to detract from its overall presentation in its new home release.  The lack of an episode guide makes choosing episodes more trouble than it should be.  The redundancy of the CG sequences is takes away from the program’s aesthetic value on the surface.  That is because seeing the same sequences from one episode to the next eventually gets boring.  On another level, it raises a concern about presenting historical accuracy in regards to the design of the Axis and Allied ships and subs.  Considering all of this, these negatives greatly detract from the program’s overall presentation.  However, those negatives are not so great that they make the program wholly unwatchable.  The re-enactments that are used to tell the featured stories, while at times redundant themselves, add to the stories’ interest.  The actors enlisted to portray the crews of the subs and ships are to be applauded for their work on camera.  The tension on their faces and the very immediacy in their actions drives home the importance of the real crews’ efforts to defeat the Axis subs.  It truly serves to pull audiences even more into the story, even with their occasional redundancy, too.  Yes, even some of the re-enactment sequences are recycled in these episodes.  Luckily though, that recycling is not as common as the recycling of the episodes’ CG sequences.  Keeping this in mind, the re-enactments used to bring the stories to life prove to be another key positive to Hell Below’s home presentation.  When it is set alongside the positive of the program’s featured stories, the two do just enough to make up for the program’s negatives.  This in turn makes the program worth at least an occasional watch by history and WWII history buffs alike.

Hell Below, Smithsonian Channel’s latest venture in to the history of WWII, is an offering that is worth at least an occasional watch.  History and WWII history buffs alike will enjoy watching it every now and then thanks to its gripping stories and the re-enactments that are used to tell those stories.  The lack of an episode guide inside or outside the two-disc set’s box detracts from the program’s presentation to a point.  The same can be said of the redundancy in the stories’ CG sequences.  While the program is not perfect, the positives do just enough to make up for the negatives, thus making the program, again, worth at least an occasional watch.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other Smithsonian Channel programs is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.smithsonianchannel.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SmithsonianChannel

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SmithsonianChan

 

 

 

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Acting, Production Save ‘Monster Trucks’ From Being A Monster Failure

Courtesy: Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s latest effort at a family friendly action flick, Monster Trucks is a work that while not a monster failure, is anything but a monster success.  Originally released in theaters this past January, it was just recently released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 11.  It fails to run on all eight cylinders in part because of its story, which suffers from some major writing issues.  While the story does suffer from some undeniable issues, it isn’t a total loss.  That is thanks to the work of the movie’s cast.  This will be discussed later.  The movie’s balance of special effects and live action elements is another notable element worth discussing.  Together with the work of the movie’s cast (which clearly is not a group of teenagers, save perhaps for one cast member), the two elements are just enough to keep Monster Trucks’ engine running, albeit not on all cylinders.

Paramount and Nickelodeon Films’ new high-octane family action flick Monster Trucks is an entertaining watch.  However, it is a movie that clearly does not run on all eight cylinders.  That is due in large part to a story that is marred by a plot hole *ahem* large enough to drive a truck through and a story that is anything but original in its setup.  The plot follows high school student Tripp as he fights to save a friendly mutant half shark/half octopus from the clutches of an evil oil drilling company and get it back home.  The problem with this story is that he does this while driving a late-model truck that normally would be a gas guzzler.  The movie’s defenders might try to argue that putting the creature in place of the truck’s engine was a subtle way to argue in favor of alternative energy.  Odds are though, that the movie’s writing team did not exactly have that message in mind when they came up with the movie’s script.  Odds are they didn’t even begin to think about this plot hole at all and just thought it would make for a good way to bring in young audiences because it had monsters and trucks.  That is just one of the problems from which this movie’s story suffers.  It also suffers from a setup that is anything but original.

The setup for this movie’s story sees a young person (or at least what is supposed to be a young person—obviously played by someone who is not a teenager in this case) saving a harmless creature from an evil heartless corporation.  In case that doesn’t sound familiar to anyone out there, similar story lines have been put forth in E.T., Free Willy, Pete’s Dragon, Super 8, and so many other movies.  Given the plots are not mirror images.  They are close enough though, that the comparisons are undeniable.  Considering this and the problem posed by the movie’s massive plot hole, the movie’s story is a major problem for its overall presentation.  Even with the problems posed by its plot hole and its setup, the movie is not a total loss.  It just takes a big hit.  The work of the movie’s cast is a saving grace in examining its overall presentation.

Monster Trucks’ cast is obviously supposed to be made up of characters who are teenagers.  However, it is clear in watching this movie that save for maybe one of the supporting cast, none of the other young cast members are teenagers.  On the surface that seems like a bad thing.  However on a deeper level, it may account for why each cast member’s performance is, while slightly over-the-top, at least entertaining to a point.  None of the performances necessarily pulls audiences into the movie or is award-winning by any means.  It is however entertaining enough that collectively, it is just enough to keep audiences watching through to the movie’s finale.  Case in point, lead star Lucas Till’s interaction with his CG-rendered co-star.  Till is to be applauded for the exemplary job he does of imagining the shark/octopus hybrid is actually in the scene alongside him.  That is exhibited in happier and more high-energy moments.  Co-star Thomas Lennon (Reno 9-1-1, Night at the Museum 1 & 2) is just as entertaining when he is on camera as geologist Jim Dowd.  Audiences will find themselves rooting for Dowd thanks to Lennon’s performance of the reluctant oil company employee who turns out to not be so bad (not to give away too much).  Lennon shows through each moment on camera that he understands Dowd is a supporting character and still makes the most of each moment without taking over said scenes.  His is just one more way in which the cast’s performance proves to be so important to the movie’s overall presentation.  If not for their work (and that of the rest of the cast), the movie’s plot hole and equally problematic setup would be unbearable and would otherwise not make the movie worth watching even for five minutes.  The cast’s work on camera, while important is not the movie’s only important element.  The balance of the movie’s special effects and live action elements rounds out its most important elements.

The balance of live action and computer generated effects used throughout Monster Trucks is the last of its most important elements.  As with the work of the movie’s cast, the lack of this element would make the movie’s story even more unbearable, and in turn, the movie overall even less worth the watch.  The CG is limited to Tripp’s subterranean pal and its family (or at least they seem like family) members.  Audiences will be impressed by this minimalism and the effect of said minimalism on the movie’s look.  In a weird way that expert balance actually serves to add to audiences’ ability to suspend their disbelief.  That leads to even more ease in watching the movie.  When the work put into making the movie look believable is set alongside the work of the movie’s cast, the two elements do just enough to keep the movie’s batteries charged along with those of its audiences.  Keeping that in mind, Monster Trucks proves to be an entertaining watch even though it proves to be a movie on which hopefully future models will improve.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s high-speed family flick Monster Trucks is a work that would benefit greatly from a tune-up.  That is the case even taking into consideration the positives of the cast’s work and that of those responsible for balancing its CG and live action elements.  The movie’s story keeps it from running on all eight cylinders.  That is because of its massive plot hole and the unoriginal setup exhibited in its setup.  Even with the problems posed through its negatives, its positives are, thankfully, just enough to keep its batteries (and audiences’ batteries) charged from start to finish.  In other words, it proves to be another movie that is fun but ultimately forgettable.  More information on Monster Trucks is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.MonsterTrucksMovie.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MonsterTrucksMovie

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MonsterTrucks

 

 

 

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‘Live From Lincoln Center: Carousel’ Available Now

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Seeing a musical on stage is a special experience.  Seeing it at a venue such as the famed Lincoln Center is an even more special experience.  Now thanks to Public Media Distribution audiences can enjoy both experiences from the comfort of their own homes with the release of Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel.

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel was released Feb 28 on DVD.  The performance, originally recorded in the Avery Fisher Hall at the famed arts center in March 2013, features music from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and performances by Kelli O’Hara (Sex and the City 2, Peter Pan Live, The Accidental Wolf), Shuler Hensley (Van Helsing, The Legend of Zorro, After Life), John Cullum (Northern Exposure, The Middle, ER) and others.

The 2013 performance presented in PBS’ new release is not the first time that the musical has been staged at the Lincoln Theater.  It has also been presented at the famed facility in 1994 and won five Tony ® Awards for that run including Best Musical Revival and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Audra McDonald.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, based on Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play Liliom, has been called “the best musical of the 20th Century” by Time magazine.  It moves Molnar’s original story from Europe to the Maine coastline as it follows the tragic love story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan.  The story includes such memorable songs as ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘June Is Bustin’ Out All Over’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’

Ever since it made its Broadway debut in 1945, Carousel has been adapted countless times across America and the world.  It has even been translated into a big-screen feature that debuted in American theaters on Feb. 16, 1956.  It is currently in Paris by Britain’s Opera North.

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered via PBS’ online store for $19.99.  More information on this and other episodes of Live from Lincoln Center is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.livefromlincolncenter.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LincolnCenterNYC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LincolnCenter

 

 

 

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‘Rogue One’ Shows Star Wars Fans Should Be Concerned About Franchise’s Direction Under Disney

Courtesy: Disney/Lucasfilm

Disney and Lucasfilm’s latest dive into the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not the worst of the franchise’s efforts to be released to date.  At the same time, it is hardly the franchise’s best effort, too.  That is because the movie, which had been so highly anticipated by audiences and critics alike, has proven to have more problems than positives.  The problems in question begin with story at the center of the movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story poses some problems that cannot be ignored, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of at least some applause.  Next to the movie’s soundtrack, led by legendary composer John Williams, it is the movie’s only other saving grace.  Keeping this in mind, one more key critical point must be addressed here in the form of the movie’s pacing.  This will be discussed later.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reason for any true Star Wars devotee to be concerned about Disney’s direction with this franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was touted by many as the franchise’s best entry to date.  Sadly though, a thorough investigation of the movie’s overall presentation reveals it in fact has just as many problems as positives.  The most obvious of the problems presented within this movie is its story.  More specifically speaking, the story’s setup is its real problem.  The story’s setup focuses on a young female with a checkered past leading a group of rebels to find the plans to the Death Star.  Along the way, an Imperial pilot turned…well…rogue (enhancing the movie’s title even more) helps Jyn and company in their efforts.  If that sounds familiar at all to anyone, it should.  A very similar plot was used for Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ story.  Given the female lead’s circumstances are different in the two stories as are the overall stories.  That does serve to save this movie’s story albeit only slightly.  However, there is no getting around the blatant similarities in the movies’ setups.  Taking that into consideration one can’t help but see there is clearly a lack of effort in regards to the story’s setup; a lack of effort that so many audiences apparently refuse to see.

The setup that is used in Rogue One’s story is an item that cannot be ignored in examining this movie’s overall presentation.  That is especially the case since the movies’ writing teams were separate from one another.  While the story’s setup is clearly a problematic issue, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of its own share of applause.  That is because it exhibits an obvious (and applause worthy) attempt to throw back to the stylistic approach of the franchise’s original trilogy. From the costumes to the scene transitions, it is clear that those behind the lens wanted to pay tribute to the original trilogy and those who grew up with those movies.  That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that makes the movie’s stylistic approach so impressive.  The final climactic battle scenes throw back to the franchise’s originally movies in their own right, too.  That is exhibited as the X-Wings fly around the imperial attach vehicles and take them out and as the rebels on the ground fight imperial troops on foot.  Of course some of the scene’s bigger, over-the-top moments throw back to similar scenes from so many WWII-era flicks.  This takes away from the moment’s seriousness to a certain point.  That, however, is a minor issue at most.  Overall, the stylistic approach taken to this Star Wars story must be applauded. It shows an effort to bring back the look and feel of the franchise’s original installments while also pointing toward the franchise’s future.  Hopefully that balance (which was visibly missing from The Force Awakens) will be more visible in the franchise’s next effort.

The stylistic approach of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the movie’s one saving grace.  It shows a valid attempt to pay homage to the Star Wars franchise’s past and fans while also pointing to the franchise’s future.  It does so in a balanced fashion, too.  Sadly though, it is the only element that makes sitting through this 2-hour, 5-minute movie worth the effort.  Speaking of the movie’s run time, that run time feels far longer than it actually is.  That is due to the pacing established in the movie’s story.  As noted, the movie runs just over two hours.  The majority of that time—about 1 hour, 20-minutes—is spent building up to the eventual attack on the imperial facility containing the death star plans.  On the positive side, it doesn’t waste too much of that time setting up Jyn’s story.  It just spends most of that time sending her here, there and everywhere as she tries to find out her father’s message and then convince the rebels to go after the plans.  Things move just as slowly as ever in the story’s final act after Jyn convinces Cassian and company to join the cause.  Jyn and Cassian’s attempt to reach the plans, and the outcome thereof, seems to drag on almost endlessly especially as the battle outside the facility rages.  Even after Jyn and Cassian finally get the plans (the climax), things don’t pick up much, leaving observant audiences scratching their heads, wondering when and if the story will finally end.  It was as if the movie’s writing team couldn’t just leave well-enough alone.  That continued slow boil right up to the movie’s way-over-the-top and overly cheesy final scene makes one wonder how one kept from fast forwarding through the movie well before then. When these pacing issues are taken into consideration with the obviously problematic setup to the movie’s story, they take greatly detract from the movie’s overall presentation.  They take away so much from this movie that the movie’s stylistic approach becomes the only reason to give it a chance.  All things considered, there is so much negative to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that true Star Wars devotees should be very concerned about the direction that Disney is potentially forcing Lucasfilm to take with their favorite franchise.

True Star Wars devotees should be genuinely concerned about the direction that their favorite franchise could potentially be taking after watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Though its stylistic approach throws back to the franchise’s original trilogy, its pacing and the undeniably unoriginal setup to the movie’s story do plenty to take away from the movie’s overall viewing experience.  The story’s pacing makes its run time, which barely tops two hours feel far longer.  The story’s setup is a near mirror image to the setup used in The Force Awakens.  Keeping all of this in mind, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves to be a story worth one watch, but honestly not much more.  More information on this and other entries in the Star Wars universe is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarWars

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

 

 

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PMD, Smithsonian Channel Take To The Skies With New Box Sets

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/Smithsonian Channel

Smithsonian Channel and Public Media Distribution are taking to the skies next month with the release of two seasons of its hit series Air Warriors.

Public Media Distribution will release Air Warriors: Season One on Tuesday, May 2nd and Air Warriors: Season Two on Tuesday, May 23rd.  Much like Discovery Channel’s classic series Wings, Air Warriors focuses on some of the military’s most well-known aircraft.  That includes jets and helicopters.

Season One focuses on one of the military’s most successful warplanes in the F-15 Eagle and its most powerful chopper, the AH-64 Apache.  Season One also focuses on the V-22 Osprey, which ever since its creation, has been talked about both for good and bad reasons.

In the series’ second season, three more well-known military aircraft take center stage in the form of the A-10 Warthog, the Blackhawk, and the Prowler/Growler.  The Warrthog has been under scrutiny by military and political leaders ever since the creation of the F-35 fighter jet, but controversy over the jet has kept the Warthog a key piece of the military’s airpower to this day.

The Blackhawk has been a lightning rod of its own throughout its life.  The chopper has been a symbol of power, much like the Apache.  However, it has been the center of controversy because of the number of crashes involving the chopper throughout its existence.

The Prowler/Growler remains an integral piece of the military’s operations. The Prowler is a descendant of the A-6 Intruder, which played a key role in the Navy’s operations in Asia in the mid-20th century.  The Prowler has been used by the military since 1971. It is no longer used by the Navy, but is still in use by the United States Marine Corps.

The Growler replaced the Prowler in the Navy’s arsenal in 2015. The jet is an offshoot of the FA-18 Superhornet, and has been in operation since 2009.

Air Warriors: Season One will retail for MSRP of $29.99 and Season Two for the same price.  Both seasons can be pre-ordered online now at a reduced price of $24.99 each at PBS’ online store.  Both seasons can also be ordered together in one set at a bundled price of $44.99.

More information on this and other Smithsonian Channel programs is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.smithsonianchannel.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SmithsonianChannel

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SmithsonianChan

 

 

 

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‘SOTD: Graveyard Of The Giant Beasts’ Is A “Giant” Hit

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Giant menacing monster animals on the rampage are familiar fodder for sci-fi and horror fans. From the killer beasts that terrorized audiences in Universal’s classic creature features to killer reptiles and mammals that followed from other studios, they are the stuff of nightmares (and sometimes all out laughs).  However, some of those giant creatures might not be as much of a stretch as some might think after watching Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts.  This eye-opening episode of PBS’ hit history-based series is a program that creature feature fans will appreciate just as much as those with any interest in the biological sciences.  That is due in no small part to the program’s story.  This will be discussed shortly.  The information presented throughout the story is just as important to discuss as the episode’s story.  It will be discussed later.  The program’s graphic illustrations used to help tell the story round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right.  All things considered, Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts proves to be a “giant” success.

Early this past January PBS released Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts on DVD.  At the time, the most recent episode of the his history and science-based series was the most recent of the series’ episodes to be released on DVD.  Those who have yet to watch this episode will find that it will appeal to a wide variety of audiences.  That is due in part to its story.  The story follows a group of researchers examining the remains of two massive prehistoric predators—an alligator and a snake.  The researchers compare the massive beasts’ remains to those of their modern-day descendants to reveal just how immense the creatures were.  The revelation of each animal’s true size finds that some of the animals at the center of Hollywood’s classic creature features might not have been so far-fetched after all.  Sure, the snake and alligator discovered here were not the immense sizes of those on the silver screen.  They do prove to be pretty big, though.  Along the way, the program pits the two against one another in a battle of the beasts to find out which would win.  The result is just as shocking as the revelation that such giant creatures even existed.  The finding wouldn’t be possible without the information that is shared throughout the nearly hour-long program either.  That information is just as important to discuss as the story at the center of this episode of SOTD.

The story at the center of Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts is in itself a key piece of the program’s overall presentation.  That is because it proves the creature features created during Hollywood’s golden age (and perhaps even more recently) might not have been such a stretch after all.  It is just one element that makes this episode such an interesting watch.  The information that is provided throughout the course of this program is just as important to its presentation as its story.  The key information provided throughout the program includes the revelation of the snake’s strike and killing ability despite its massive size.  Viewers will be shocked to learn that despite being so enormous, it had the ability to strike in the span of only a second before killing its prey.  Its crushing power is just as incredible to discover.  In the same vein, the ability of the mega croc to kill.  It makes one appreciate that the modern day descendants are nowhere near as huge as themselves even though they are still just as deadly in their own right.  As if this is not enough, the very fact that the investigation begins in a massive open pit coal mine that was a swamp millions will get people thinking and talking just as much.  The discussion on the discovery of a skeleton of a turtle that was as big as a car in that same location is just as interesting and certain to generate discussion.  These and so many other items revealed throughout the course of this episode of SOTD prove in whole why the program’s information is just as important to its whole as its story.  It is still not the last important element to discuss in examining this episode either.  The graphic illustrations that are coupled with the information round out the program’s most important elements.

The story at the center of Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts and its information are both key elements to discuss in examining the program’s overall presentation.  They are not its only important elements.  The graphic illustrations that accompany the program’s information are important in their own right, too.  That is because they present a picture of what the Titanoboa and the mega croc are believed to have looked like when they were alive.  That visualization creates a new appreciation for their sheer size and how dangerous they must have been.  The visualizations provided through the graphic illustrations also paint a rich picture of what the open pit where the skeletons were found might have looked like in the creatures’ lifetimes.  Such a vivid contrast between the open pit and that lush landscape is impacting in its own right.  There are other ways in which the program’s graphic illustrations prove important to this episode’s presentation, but discussing each instance would take far too long.  Suffice it to say that when the program’s collective graphic illustrations are set against its breadth of information and its equally engaging story, the whole of those elements makes this episode of Secrets of the Dead a program that is its own “massive” hit and one of this year’s top new documentaries.

Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts is one of the “biggest” episodes that the hit history and science-based series has produced in recent memory.  That is proven through a story that reveals truth is just as interesting as fiction (or even stranger).  The information that is shared throughout the program is just as interesting and engaging as the story.  The graphic illustrations that are incorporated into the program round out its most important elements. They drive home just how big the Titanoboa and the “mega croc” were, and get audiences really thinking about the contrast of their sauna-like swamp home and the open pit mine that took its place millions of years later.  Each element is an important part of the program in its own right.  All things considered, they make this episode of Secrets of the Dead–once again—a giant hit and one of this year’s top new documentaries.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SecretsofTheDead

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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‘The People vs. Fritz Bauer’ Deserves A Positive Verdict

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Late this past January, independent movie studio Cohen Media Group released the German import The People vs. Fritz Bauer on DVD and Blu-ray.  The movie, which was originally released by Zero One Film internationally in 2015, was released domestically on DVD and Blu-ray this past January courtesy of Cohen Media Group. On the surface, this movie is just another entry into an already overly crowded field of movies based on actual events.  This includes both the mainstream and independent realm.  Even with that in mind, it actually stands out in that field.  That is due in part to the story at the center of this movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story.  It will be discussed later.  The movie’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this movie based on actual events a work that deserves a positive verdict from true cinephiles everywhere.

Cohen Media Group’s recent domestic home release of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is a presentation that deserves a positive verdict from true cinephiles everywhere.  That is due in part to the story at the center of this work.  The story is based on actual events, as already noted.  It also is hardly the first movie to ever be raised from the era of WWII.  So that leaves the question what set it apart from other works of its ilk.  The answer is that it presents a part of Fritz Bauer’s life—his more personal, private life—that few movies have ever told.  This is explained in the movie’s bonus making of featurette, and will be discussed later.  It is only one part of what makes the story stand out, too.  Audiences will note that this story doesn’t have the overly melodramatic mood established in its American counterparts that have been churned out ever since Hollywood’s golden age.  Yes, even those movies are suspect for their level of melodrama.  That is not to say that this movie doesn’t have its own level of melodrama.  But it is nowhere near the level included in so many American movies centered on WWII.  Now whether or not it overly embellishes Bauer’s efforts to capture Eichmann this critic is ashamed to say is unknown.  Odds are though, there likely is some over embellishment.  That is just the norm of movies based on actual events.  One can only hope that writer/director Lars Kraume and co-writer Olivier Guez didn’t let that embellishment become too prevalent.  That aside, the deep examination of Bauer’s personal life and his drive to capture Eichmann is reason enough for audiences to watch this German-language movie.  It is just one of the reasons that cinephiles should see this imported WWII story.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story in examining its overall presentation.

The story at the center of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is in itself plenty of reason for true cinephiles to watch this imported WWII-centered movie.  It is just one of the reasons that it is worth the watch.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as worth mentioning as the movie’s story.  Burghart KlauBner leads the way in every sense of the phrase as the movie’s title character. His portrayal of Bauer will keep audiences rapt throughout the course of the story’s nearly two-hour run time.  That is proven in his interactions with co-star Ronald Zehrfeld and even in his solo time on screen.  From the pair’s more lighthearted moments to the more tense times, Klaubner and Zherfeld’s interactions in themselves will keep audiences engaged from beginning to end.  KlauBner’s handling of Bauer’s fear when he is being harassed by unseen Nazi sympathizers is just as impressive. He makes the tension in those scenes fully believable.  This makes those moments just as impressive as his moments on screen with Zehrfeld.  The end result of KlauBner’s work in his solo and split scenes proves why his performance overall is just as important to note in examining this movie as its story.  Of course Zehrfeld’s performance, while far less prominent, is still impressive in its own right.  He will keep audiences just as engaged as KlauBner as he struggles with his own personal demons, which will not be revealed here.  Keeping all of this in mind, KlauBner and Zehrfeld’s performance show throughout the movie why their work is just as important to this movie’s presentation as that of the movie’s writing team.  It still is not the last element worth noting in examining the movie’s presentation.  The bonus material included with the movie in its home release is just as important to note as the already noted elements.

The work of The People vs. Fritz Bauer’s writing team and that of its main cast are both key elements to discuss in examining the movie’s overall presentation.  That is because of the depth that each element adds to the movie’s overall presentation.  They are not its only important elements.  The bonus material that is included with the movie in its recent domestic home release is just as important to note as the previously discussed elements.  The bonus “making of” featurette is an important extra because it provides a certain back story to the movie that adds to audiences’ appreciation of the story.  That is because it explains this side of Bauer’s story has rarely if ever been told.  The deleted scenes add even more depth because they, like so many movies both mainstream and indie, show how much was gained and lost through each one.  Some scenes, in this critic’s view, should have been kept.  Others meanwhile were justifiably left out.  The whole of those scenes joins with the bonus “making of” featurette to make the movie even more surprisingly entertaining.  When the movie’s bonus commentary is set alongside those elements, all three bonuses combine to put the finishing touch on the movie’s presentation.  That is not to say that the movie’s cinematography, shooting locations, and costume and makeup staff are not to be commended.  They deserve their own mentions, too.  They are worth noting in discussions about the movie’s aesthetic value.  When that discussion is joined with the already noted discussions, the whole of those discussions shows why this German imported WWII story deserves a positive verdict.

Cohen Media Group’s domestic home release of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is a presentation that fully deserves a positive verdict from cinephiles and critics alike.  That is due to its story, which despite being another work based on actual events, doesn’t allow itself to become the overly melodramatic events that so many of its counterparts past and present have proven to be.  It also presents a side of Bauer’s story that has rarely, if ever, been told. The work of the movie’s main cast plays into the movie’s presentation just as much as that of the movie’s writing team.  The extensive bonus material included with the movie’s recent domestic home release rounds out its most important elements, but is hardly its last element worth noting.  Those behind the lens, the costumes and makeup and even shooting location choices are deserving of credit, too.  Each element is clearly important in its own right to the movie’s whole.  All things considered, The People vs. Fritz Bauer proves to be a work that, once more, fully deserves a positive verdict from critic and cinephiles alike.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

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