Ancient Aliens: Season Seven BD Box Set Gives Viewers Plenty To Appreciate

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

For eons, man has looked to the stars and wondered if mankind is alone in the universe. For all of the fascination with the heavens that man has shown since the days of the Mayans and Egyptians and even the study of outer space (both the Mayans and Egyptians were expert astronomers), no firm evidence of intelligent life’s existence has been found. Or has it? That is the premise behind History Channel’s hit history-based series Ancient Aliens. The series, now in its tenth season, has provided dozens of intriguing theories arguing that intelligent beings have in fact visited Earth as far back as the stone age. Late this summer, History and A&E Home Video made another group of those theories available to audiences when they released Ancient Aliens: Season Seven on DVD and Blu-ray. The theories presented over the course of Season Seven are in themselves the central reason for audiences to check out this collection. Regardless of whether or not audiences are believers, want to believe, or skeptics, audiences in whole will find something to like about this season’s episodes. In regards to the season’s more extrinsic value, audiences will be happy to know that Season Seven has been released in two separate formats–DVD and Blu-ray. On the surface this might not seem like such an important element to discuss. But it actually is important in its own right in terms of ergonomics. That will be discussed later. And last but not least of note is the actual presentation of the episodes in the Blu-ray presentation. Audiences will be glad to know that they can actually stop either of the Blu-ray set’s discs and later come back to them without worrying about said discs restarting from the beginning. What’s more the Blu-ray presentation allows audiences to keep any of the season’s given episodes running and go through its menus at the same time. Whether or not History has allowed for this on DVD is admittedly not known to this critic as this critic has been honored with the Blu-ray presentation in place of the DVD presentation. Regardless, this addition is in itself one more important part of the whole of Season Seven that at least on Blu-ray every viewer will appreciate. Along with the noted aspects of the BD set’s packaging and the set’s featured episodes Ancient Aliens: Season Seven proves in whole to be a set that true believers will enjoy and appreciate just as much as the most hardline skeptics.

Late this summer, History Channel and A&E Home Video released the seventh season of History Channel’s hit history-based series Ancient Aliens on DVD and Blu-ray. For the sake of this review, the focus will be on the Blu-ray presentation of Season Seven. Now whether one is a true believer, wants to believe, or is the most hardline skeptic it can be argued that there is plenty to enjoy and appreciate about this season’s Blu-ray presentation beginning with the set’s featured episodes. Regardless of one’s beliefs about life on other planets or even the existence of alien life on Earth, it can be said of these episodes that they will have audiences of all types talking in one way or another. That is because of the theories presented across its twelve episodes. One of the most intriguing of those theories is that beings from other worlds used (and possibly still use today) caves as a means of interstellar transportation. It also purports that the giant crystals contained within other caves actually serve as an interstellar power source. One of the pieces of evidence used to support this seemingly interconnected drawings discovered in caves around the world. There are spiral drawings said to be representative of portals, and of beings said to be from other worlds even by people native to given regions today. It is even argued that within another ancient civilization, caves were not portals to the underworld (the world of the dead) but to the heavens. The episode takes viewers from caves in Africa to a cave in the Grand Canyon that allegedly depicts beings from other worlds, to a cave in the Himalayas where thousands of Hindus flock each year to the spot where they believe Shiva revealed the secrets of the universe and immortality to his wife among much more. Between those caves and others noted throughout this episode, the stories presented about each cave will definitely keep viewers engaged regardless of whether or not viewers believe. That is because for all of the theories espoused by the episode’s interviewees, the historical background of the theories in and of itself makes this episode an interesting part of the season’s whole. Information such as the Mayan belief of their people having to travel to the underworld in order to get to a certain other realm is fact rather than fiction. The Mayans actually did believe this. In regards to the Native American caves found in the Grand Canyon, the physical depictions left by the region’s former inhabitants are in fact real. And regardless of audiences’ beliefs, the discussions on said art are enough reason to watch this episode. Viewers don’t have to believe the sometimes outrageous theories about the caves’ use in interstellar travel. Even this critic is not necessarily a true believer. But the real history in which the theories are based is interesting enough to keep viewers engaged. It’s just one example of why the season’s episodes are so important to its overall viewing experience.

Another of this season’s more intriguing theories comes later in the season’s run in “Aliens and The Civil War.”. It speculates the role (if any) that beings from other worlds might or might not have had in the Civil War. It will definitely raise some viewers’ eyebrows regardless of said viewers’ beliefs. That is because at no point does it actually try to argue whether or not beings from other worlds played any role in America’s worst conflict. Rather it remains largely objective, spending more time speculating than actually saying yea or nay to the theory. It does however try to argue that there were beings that knew about the impending conflict. This is argued as it is alleged that Mormon founder Joseph Smith was visited not by an angel but by an alien from another world. It is theorized that said being warned Smith about the war, to which Smith responded by including the warning in what is known today as the Book of Mormon. There is also an intriguing theory presented about Lincoln that seems to purport that either he was a pre-cog or that he at least received an image of his future. According to the story a young Lincoln looked in the mirror one day and saw a much older, rougher vision of himself and in telling his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, she become somewhat unsettled herself. This story is tied in to this episode by theorizing that it was an image showing how he would look as a result of his efforts to maintain the union. It goes without saying that this is a bit of a stretch. But it makes for its own share of entertainment, regardless. And as with the season premiere its historical background (and that of the Joseph Smith story) is enough reason for viewers to give this episode and season in whole a chance regardless of their beliefs.

‘The Vanishings,” Season Seven’s penultimate episode is yet another intriguing episode and perhaps its most believable. It takes the mysterious disappearances of people throughout Earth’s history and regions and uses them as the basis for the argument that aliens have and are still playing a role in the lives of Earth’s inhabitants. And yes, it does include the standard stories of the Bermuda Triangle disappearances. There is a story of lights seen in the mountains of North Carolina and people searching for the lights mysteriously disappearing, never to be seen again. The story of the Mayans’ disappearance is also there. However in this case, audiences get a story that any viewer will admit is rather intriguing in itself. It claims that the Mayan calendar was not a countdown to doomsday (as we all know now) but a countdown of another sort. It is theorized here that the calendar was used to track when the Mayan people would return to the stars. Of course there’s no way that that could have been possible unless the calendar started much farther back in history than is believed to have started. That’s the only way that this theory could hold any amount of water being that the Mayans disappeared long before the calendar ended. And even when it did end, nothing happened good or bad. So to that extent, it is good to see here that the program didn’t take the all too common doomsday prophecy, which has since been debunked and tried to tie it in to alien attacks or some such. Though the presented argument is obviously just as unbelievable. That is unless the calendar is in fact much older than believed to be. Perhaps the single-most believable aspect of this episode is the argument that maybe, just maybe, the vanishing of certain ancient civilizations wasn’t accidental but intentional; a means to hide said civilizations’ technological advancements from the modern world. Considering the evils that the modern world has committed as a result of its own advances, one can’t blame any ancient civilization from hiding its advances if in fact they did have said advances. Some of these theories have more historical backing than others. Regardless of that backing or lack thereof, the episode in whole proves even more why it is another good example of the episodes’ importance to Ancient Aliens’ seventh season. It is hardly the last example of what makes this season’s episodes so integral to the season in whole. “The Alien Agenda,” “The Great Flood” and “Hidden Pyramids” are hardly believable. But they are still entertaining in their own right. Though, the historical backing behind “The Great Flood” makes for interesting viewing as it explains just some of the flood stories that are presented not just in the bible but in other cultures’ documents, too. Al things considered, the episodes featured in Ancient Aliens: Season Seven make for plenty of interesting material that is sure to keep viewers engaged from start to finish regardless of viewers’ beliefs about aliens. They are only one part of what makes Season Seven such an interesting watch, too. The set’s dual presentations and packaging therein is just as important to this season.

The episodes that make up the body of Ancient Aliens’ seventh season are in themselves paramount to the season’s overall viewing experience. That has hopefully been clearly exemplified by this critic. That aspect having been noted, the set’s presentation on both DVD and Blu-ray is just as important to its success. Season Seven’s presentation on both DVD and Blu-ray shows that History kept all of its viewers in mind in sending it to store shelves. Regardless of which platform audiences choose, all viewers get the same content in both platforms. What makes the Blu-ray presentation even more impressive than the DVD presentation is its ergonomics. Season Seven’s DVD box set spreads its content across three discs in a standard size box thanks to smart packaging. However, the Blu-ray presentation presents the same amount of information on only two discs in a standard Blu-ray case. The Blu-ray case, as audiences know, is smaller both in height and width than a standard DVD case. This means it takes up far less room on a viewer’s DVD/Blu-ray rack than a DVD case. In other words, while neither DVD nor Blu-ray presents any more or less in its presentation, those that purchase the Blu-ray set will come out better because of the set’s ergonomics.

Interestingly enough there are some companies out there that are beginning to use Blu-ray boxes as the model for DVD boxes, too in essence making both boxes exactly the same ergonomically. The only thing that sets them apart is that one has the Blu-ray logo while the other sports the DVD logo. Of course History Channel and A&E Home Video didn’t take that route with its DVD presentation of Ancient Aliens Season Seven. Though, it would be easy to house three discs into one box of that size by simply using the standard plastic insert to hold one disc and place the first and third disc on the front and back inside the case. Maybe History and A&E Home Video will consider taking that route with its future DVD releases and start helping make it the standard and phasing out the all too bulky standard DVD boxes of every size. Getting back on topic…the ergonomic aspect of Ancient Aliens: Season Seven in its Blu-ray presentation and the season’s featured episodes makes this season just as fun for alien enthusiasts as for skeptics. It still is not the final element of this box set that makes it such an interesting watch either. The viewing options given to audiences with the season’s Blu-ray presentation round out the whole of the set.

Those that pick up Ancient Aliens: Season Seven in its Blu-ray will notice something very special about its overall viewing options beginning with its playback. The Blu-ray presentation allows audiences to stop either disc, and come back to it without worrying about the disc restarting from the beginning if they have to stop watching and come back to watch more at another point. Believe it or not, there are some Blu-ray discs out there that will in fact restart from the beginning of the disc even if viewers only opt to stop at a given point rather than stop the disc in whole. That can be really annoying. So that History and A&E Home video have made sure that doesn’t happen here deserves its own share of applause. On another level, they have also allowed Blu-ray viewers to actually toggle through each disc’s menu without having to stop an episode and then go to the disc’s menu. Instead, viewers can hit the “menu” button on their remotes to reveal a picture-in-picture sort of setup. The running episode is squeezed into a relatively acceptable sized box in the screen’s upper right hand corner while the menu options are presented in the screen’s left hand side and at the bottom. This multi-tasking option of sorts means that audiences don’t have to worry about missing out on anything should they decide they don’t want to switch episodes. They can go right back to the episode while it continues to run if they so choose. Or they can just go to another episode. It is a wonderful aspect in considering the set’s overall viewing experience. And again, not every studio out there offers this option in their Blu-ray presentations. Yes, there is a good number that do in fact do this. but there are just as many that don’t. Considering that, it makes this option another great addition to the set in whole that every viewer will appreciate regardless, again, of their belief about E.T.s. Together with all of the previously noted elements, all three elements together make Ancient Aliens: Season Seven a collection that every viewer will appreciate regardless of their belief (or lack thereof) in the existence of E.T.s.

History Channel’s seventh season of its hit history-based series Ancient Aliens is a collection that true believers and skeptics alike will appreciate and enjoy. Regardless of viewers’ belief in E.T.s the theories and historical backing behind each of its twelve episodes will keep viewers in whole engaged from beginning to end. The Blu-ray presentation’s ergonomic packaging adds even more reason for audiences to appreciate it verses its DVD presentation. The viewing options provided to audiences in the Blu-ray presentation round out the whole of the collection. All things considered Ancient Aliens: Season Seven proves in the end to be a piece that any viewer will appreciate regardless of their belief in otherworldly beings. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via History’s online store at More information on this and other seasons of Ancient Aliens is available online now along with the show’s latest news at:




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Yankees Fans And Baseball Fans Alike Will Enjoy MLB Productions’ Latest Release

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

The New York Yankees are in the waning days of the team’s 2014 season.  And along with the end of that season is the end of an era as Yankees great Derek Jeter is set to close out his Major League Baseball career, too.  While this season has not exactly proven to be everything that Yankees loyalists had hoped for MLB Productions has given Yankees nation reason to look back after this season’s end and still have plenty to smile about thanks to the recent release of Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics.  This latest release continues a long-held tradition of excellence from Major League Baseball Productions as is evidenced throughout all four games contained in this set.  The inclusion of four full games is central to the enjoyment of the presentation.  That each game celebrates Jeter’s various accomplishments makes things even sweeter for fans.  As with previous MLB Productions releases, audiences are given the option to start at the top or bottom of any of the games’ innings.  They are not forced to sit through the whole game or even fast forward through to their key moments.  It adds even more enjoyment to the overall presentation.  And last but not least of all worth noting in this set is the collective video and audio mix in each episode.  MLB productions includes a disclaimer before the game, noting that there may be some discrepancies at given points.  But those discrepancies are few and far between.  If anything, seeing the games as they were originally broadcast adds to a certain sense of nostalgia among viewers, whether or not they be Yankees loyalists.  Each factor noted by itself is important to the whole in its own right.  All three together make Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics another welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.

Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is a welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.  It is especially welcome being that New York’s season hasn’t exactly lived up to the hopes and expectations of the team or its fans.  Luckily for fans, this four-disc set features four past Yankees games on which fans can look back and smile after the season’s end.  The first of the games is Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS in which the Yankees faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.  The second game takes fans forward four years to Game 4 of the 2000 World Series.  The Yankees faced off against the Mets that year.  The key moment of this game was Jeter’s leadoff home run against the Mets.  The third game takes audiences another year forward to Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.  That year, the Yankees faced off against Oakland.  After taking down Oakland, the Yankees moved on in 2001 to the World Series, in which the team took on Arizona for the championship. MLB Productions features Game 4 of that year’s World Series as the set’s closing game.  As with the set’s other games, Jeter’s accomplishments are highlighted here, too.  Of course it doesn’t focus solely on his achievements.  Rather, the entire game is presented from the first pitch to the last.  The commercials have been cleanly cut, again displaying that commitment to quality from MLB Productions.  Simply put, with each game, audiences get the full game experience sans the commercial limitations.  They can pause the game at any point that they choose so as to use the bathroom, get a couple cold ones, or anything else.  All things considered here, it all proves just why the inclusion of the games and their inclusion in full at that is the central point of the set’s success.

The inclusion of four important recent Yankees games is central to the success of Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is central to the success of the set.  Their inclusion in full and the fact that they are meant to highlight the accomplishments of the soon-to-be-retired Yankee great Derek Jeter makes it even more of a solid center to the set.  Adding to the set’s success is the fact that once again, audiences are able to choose the inning at which they start each game.  To be even more precise, audiences can choose whether they start at the top of an inning within a given game or at the top of said inning.  So rather than be forced to sit through the whole game or fast forward through so much baseball, audiences can pick precisely where the game starts.  So if viewers have to stop for any reason, they can just pop in the DVD, pick the inning (and its top or bottom) and go from there.  If fast forwarding is still necessary, it won’t have to be but so much as a result of this inclusion.  This is a standard that those at MLB Productions have maintained for years.  So it is wonderful to see this standard maintained even here.  It serves to make the set’s overall presentation even more enjoyable and a success.

MLB fans and Yankees fans alike will appreciate that those with MLB Productions took painstaking efforts to maintain the tradition of excellence established by the company with every one of its releases up to this point including this set.  The games included in this set are presented in full. Audiences can once again choose the point at which they start giving games, whether the top or bottom of said inning(s).  All of this taken into consideration, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to offer plenty of enjoyment for MLB fans regardless of their team loyalty.  There is still one more aspect of this set that makes it a joy for audiences.  That last aspect is the fact that the games in this set are presented exactly as they were seen in their original broadcast(s).  Game 1 of the team’s 1996 ALCS matchup against the Orioles was originally broadcast on NBC while the other three games were each broadcast on FOX.  MLB Productions’ people covered their bases, including a disclaimer noting the potential issues with the games’ video.  But the reality is the video looks just fine.  As a matter of fact, seeing the games as they looked in their original airings brings back a wonderful sense of nostalgia for fans. Considering that this season hasn’t lived to the hopes and expectations of the team and its fans, that sense of nostalgia is especially welcome for the members of the Yankees nation.  Together with the aforementioned aspects of the set, the presentation of each game from its original broadcast rounds out Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics and makes it complete.  It is one more reason that audiences, regardless of allegiance, will welcome this latest collection of games from MLB Productions and A&E Home Video.

MLB Productions and A&E Home Video have a long history together, releasing wonderful pieces of baseball’s history every year.  Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is one more wonderful piece of that history.  The inclusion of four games in their entirety proves that right off the top.  That audiences can once more choose where they start viewing each game makes it even more of an enjoyable experience.  And the still quality video and audio mix of all four games rounds out the entire set.  All things considered, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to be its own home run for any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded baseball fan in general.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from The Lionsgate online store at  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate and A&E Home Video is available online at:




A&E Home Video


MLB Productions


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The World Wars Is One Of 2014’s Top New Documentaries

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/History Channel

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/History Channel

History Channel’s new powerhouse documentary The World Wars is easily one of this year’s best new documentaries hands down.  It is the proverbial icing on the cake that the network started baking earlier this year with the release of 100 Years of WWI and continued working this summer with 75 Years of World War II.  And along with the PBS documentary Day of Days: June 6th, 1945, it makes complete the collection of any history and military history buff this year. The first and most important aspect of this double-disc set that audiences will appreciate is its depth of information.  100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII were specifically directed at the technology and battles of WWI and WWII.  This presentation is far broader in its content.  It focuses on the history of both wars and more specifically how the events of WWI would lead four specific figures to be the most important individuals of World War II.  The combination of re-enactors and footage of the wars together heightens the content provided across the presentation.  That is the second factor that audiences will appreciate in this documentary.  And last but not least worth noting is the breadth of bonus material included in the program.  The bonus material included in the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of The World Wars gives even more depth to not just the history of the wars but to those most important figures of the wars—Patton, Stalin, Hitler, and Churchill.  Each figure receives special attention in its own bonus special feature.  These bonuses are just some of the many bonuses added to the DVD and Blu-ray to enhance the overall viewing experience.  And they do just that.  The bonus material together with the rich content and the focus on the wars’ primary figures make this program an absolute must have for any lover of history whether it be military or history in general.  It is just as invaluable a tool in the classroom or in the living room.  It proves that much more just why this presentation is one of the year’s best new documentaries.

History Channel’s new military history documentary The World Wars is one of this year’s best new documentaries.  The central reasoning for this argument is the documentary’s sheer breadth of information.  The network already released earlier this year a pair of documentaries centered on the World Wars in the form of 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII.  Those documentaries presented more directed content than this presentation.  Where 100 Years of WWI and 75 Years of WWII focused on more directed content—they focused primarily on the technology that was developed as a result of the wars and a couple of the wars’ more important battles—The World Wars offers audiences a far more broad picture.  It leaves absolutely no stone unturned in its telling of how both wars started.  From the political and economic causes of the wars to their political and economic ramifications and much more, audiences might find themselves shocked at some of the material included in this four-and-a-half hour presentation.  Among the most interesting facts to learn in watching the program is that then President Woodrow Wilson actually tried to prevent the League of Nations from forcing economic penalties on Germany as he and others knew the potential problems with doing so.  Audiences will be just as surprised to learn that Hitler actually escaped death three separate times throughout his time in the German army in WWI.  One of the academics tapped to help add to the story explains that the very first of those times was a showdown between himself and a fully armed British soldier.  He asks hypothetically can audiences imagine how much the world’s history would have changed had that first encounter led to Hitler’s death.  It’s definitely a mind twist when one really sits down and thinks about it.  There is even mention of how the Japanese, despite having contributed troops to the Allied efforts in WWI were shut out at the conference that led to the crafting of the Treaty of Versailles.  It goes without saying that the representatives at the conference were probably a bit upset over this, potentially leading to part of the motivation behind Japan’s negative feelings toward the U.S. before its attack on Pearl Harbor.  These are just some of the examples of how much content is shared throughout The World Wars’ near five-hour run time.  There is far more material and information proving how much depth this program possesses and why that depth is key to the program’s success.

The amount of information shared throughout The World Wars’ four-and-a-half-hour run time is key to the presentation’s overall success.  The amount of information included throughout this program could rival any college level history course.  The additional combination of actual footage from both wars alongside re-enactors goes a long way towards helping viewers grasp the material being discussed in each segment of the program.  The actors make it clear through their portrayals that they understood the importance of what they were doing, too. They did so by not overacting. It showed that they understood they weren’t in a “based on actual events” major Hollywood blockbuster, but a still professionally produced piece nonetheless. It just so happened that the piece in question is a straight forward historical documentary.

The in-depth content provided throughout The World Wars by itself makes this historical documentary well worth the watch by itself. That content would have been nothing without the addition of the program’s actual wartime footage and re-enactments. The World Wars would have been a success if it had only been highlighted by these factors. Of course, those behind the semi-mini-series didn’t rest on those laurels. They also included a bevy of bonus material that puts the presentation over the top. Included as bonus material is a collection of profiles on the most important figures of World War I and World War II, and a pair of short features on both the technology developed in the wars and life in the trenches. There is also an in-depth piece that adds even more background on the wars in which one of the most important statements is made. One of the historians interviewed for the program notes here that the Treaty of Versailles was essentially the catalyst for the start of WWII because of its language. She goes on to note that WWI and WWII were in reality not two wars, but two parts of one global conflict. It’s just that the world rested for two decades before the second part of that conflict re-ignited. It’s really an interesting concept to consider. And in hindsight, watching The World Wars in whole, her statement makes quite a bit of sense. It becomes perhaps one of the most important statements of the entire presentation. There are plenty of other important notes and facts shared throughout the bonus features included in The World Wars. Whether it be those notes and facts, the profiles or the other bonus material included in the package, the bonus features are collectively a final fitting touch to a documentary that is one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the best of the year.

The bonus material included in The World Wars by themselves are impressive in their own right. They offer their own depth and enjoyment for any military history buff or history buff in general. Along with the content of the primary presentation, and the footage and re-enactments, the bonus material included in the package makes the entire presentation that is The World Wars complete. Collectively, everything noted here proves that its various reality TV series aside, History Channel does in fact still offer quality content worthy of being called one of the year’s best new documentaries if not the year’s best new documentary. The World Wars is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from History Channel’s online store at More information on this and other History Channel programs is available online at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Bee People Will Leave A Sweet Taste In Viewers’ Mouths

Courtesy:  Truemind/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Truemind/Entertainment One

Entertainment One and Truemind released this week what is one of this year’s more standout documentaries in a piece titled Bee People.  The presentation follows the work of Gregg McMahan aka “The Bee Guru” as he works to spread the word about the importance of backyard beekeeping.  He explains through his various activities the importance of saving bees because they are still very much in danger even today.  He uses a mix of education and bee rescues and relocation in his efforts to help bolster the bee population.  He’s sort of the Billy The Exterminator (see who remembers that show) of the bee world.  Staying on that tip, this is actually the central point of this documentary’s success.  It’s more reality TV on DVD than documentary.  Though there is some documentary element of sorts with the trivia segments that are thrown in.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this program is that being more of a reality TV style presentation than a documentary, it doesn’t come across as just another preachy, overly done presentations that paint a picture of doom and gloom.  Rather it points out all the positives of bees and bee keeping and that anyone of any age can do it, even kids with proper guidance from experienced adults.  The DVD’s bonus segment “Extracting Honey” only runs sixteen minutes.  But it adds its own share of enjoyment to the whole presentation.  It feels like a deleted scene, again adding to the presentation’s feel of being more of a reality show on DVD than an actual documentary.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  If anything, it serves to make this presentation even more enjoyable for audiences.  It makes the presentation that much more enjoyable and worth checking out regardless of whether or not one is that much into the world of bee keeping.  All three of the noted aspects of this presentation do their own part to make it a work that any viewer will appreciate in one way or another.  And together, they make Bee People a “documentary” that will leave any viewer *ahem* buzzing about it in the end.

The core point of success in Bee People—its presentation in general—is also the most noticeable.  The presentation is being marketed primarily as a documentary.  But the reality of it is that it is anything but.  If anything, it more resembles the likes of so much of the reality TV series currently dominating the television spectrum.  The difference is that unlike those series in question, this piece is actually worth watch.  It is so much more enjoyable than most of the reality series out there right now primarily because of its content.  Audiences that might be familiar with A&E’s short-lived series Billy The Exterminator will make an almost instant correlation between the two series.  Billy actually did handle some bee infestations in a couple episodes of his series.  Gregg Mcmahan aka ‘The Bee Guru” is the star of this program.  And he has much the same energy and personality as Billy The Exterminator.  The only difference between the two is that Billy boasted a more outrageous outfit and handled more than just bees.  Other than that, the similarity is nearly a mirror image.  Maybe that’s why it made it so fun and easy for this critic to watch.  Anyone else that is a fan of Billy The Exterminator will find themselves enjoying this program just as much.  It’s a nice breath of fresh air both when compared to all the useless reality TV series out there today and so many other more pure documentaries out there, too.

Bee People stands out both when compared to the mass of reality shows across the television spectrum today and among the other, more pure documentaries that are out there right now.  That sole factor makes this presentation well worth the watch by viewers of any age.  Making the program even more enjoyable for viewers is it doens’t try to paint the picture of doom and gloom that so many documentaries out there paint.  So many documentaries are in reality no more than overly preachy activist films.  This piece doesn’t do that.  It presents the perils that the world’s bee populations face.  But upon doing so, it shows the concerted efforts being taken by average, everyday people in their efforts to help work with said populations. And even those people don’t try to preach to audiences.  Add in the educational segments here and there, and what audiences get is a presentation that is more real than any reality TV series or any documentary film out there.  Simply put, it’s more substance than schlep, making it even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

Bee People stands out among this year’s documentaries because it is a documentary that isn’t one.  Its use of areality TV series format and its overall content both make it a surprisingly *ahem* sweet presentation (bad pun fully intended.  It’s anything but preachy.  And there’s no foul language at any one point, either.  This all noted, there is still one more aspect of the presentation worth noting that makes it so fun.  That last aspect is the DVD’s bonus deleted scene.  The bonus deleted scene included with the documentary shows the actual process (albeit by a backyard beekeeper) of how honey is extracted from the honeycomb.  It’s difficult to point out what exactly it is about this process that makes it so interesting.  But it is just that interesting.  And seeing an average person “harvesting” the honey in the heart of New York City is makes the process even more awe inspring.  And that sense of awe combined with the program’s general content and its premise collectively make Bee People one of this year’s most underrated documentaries.

Entertainment One and Truemind have together offered up to viewers what is a standout presentation in Bee People.  The film stands out as it isn’t what one thinks of in any way when one thinks of standard documentaries.  From its general premise to its overall look and its bonus deleted scenes, this DVD will leave quite the good *taste in viewers’ mouths.  and yes, those bad puns were fully intended, too.  Bee People is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Truemind’s website at  More information on this and other releases from Truemind is available online at  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

How The States Got Their Shapes Teaches Even More Fun Facts In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

How the States Got Their Shapes Season 2 is a welcome follow-up to the show’s original season.  Season Two is just as entertaining as the show’s debut season.  The primary reason for this is that Season Two takes viewers into more depth than just how the states’ borders were developed.  This season, viewers are taken more into depth in the history of the states along with the history of the states’ shapes, too.  While Season Two’s episodes go into more depth on the different states in the union, they don’t go into so much depth that they become too involved for viewers.  Rather, they are simple enough for viewers of any age to grasp.  What’s more, each episode minus commercials clocks in at just under half an hour.  So whether in the classroom or the living room, it’s a fitting new installment to this hit History Channel Series, and an equally fitting addition to any history buff’s home library.

The second season of How the States Got Their Shapes is made up of a total of eighteen episodes.  Over the course of those eighteen episodes, host Brian Unger takes viewers deeper into the history of the states.  Rather than just focus on how the states got their shapes, Unger takes viewers into history lessons such as: the history of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, what makes one state red and another blue and when the terms “red” and “blue” first came about, and the impact of a state’s population on politics.  There are other equally intriguing concepts across this season’s three discs.  But viewers can find out for themselves what each one is, and what makes each one so important this season.  Audiences will be surprised to learn in the episode ,”Hatfields vs. McCoys” that despite the popular belief, it might not have in fact been a pig that started the cross-state conflict, but a member of one clan fighting for the “wrong” side in the civil war.  According to the history shared, the alleged theft of a pig might have just been one of many factors that caused the conflict to escalate.

Just as interesting for viewers to learn, is that the terms “red state” and “blue state” didn’t even exist until the 2000 election between President George W. Bush and Al Gore.  “Red State vs. Blue State” reveals that this now commonly used phrase wasn’t even a reality until the news media made it so during the course of the now infamous election that centered on hanging chads and elderly voters in Florida.  How many adults or even younger viewers can honestly say that they knew this little tidbit of information?  This critic will honestly say that he did not know this until having watched this episode.  It serves as a reminder that as much as even adults would like to claim they know about political science, not all adults know nearly as much as they’d like to believe.

“Red State vs. Blue State” was just one of a number of episodes that offers viewers a civics lesson in How the States got their Shapes Season 2.  The lessons permeate the season’s eighteen episodes.  Just one more example of this lies in the episode, “Big vs. Small.”  This episode takes a different angle on the show’s political science sessions.  It explains to viewers through interactions with average people how the size of one state versus another has a vast effect on the state’s pull in elections.  For instance, it compares the size of Texas and Rhode Island, and ties it to the number of representatives and senators a state has in connection to the state’s size and population size.  Yet again, whether a viewer is young or more world-wise most viewers will be surprised at just how much they had either not known or had forgotten over time.  It’s just one more episode that makes this season of How the States got their Shapes so entertaining and interesting.

The lessons and concepts raised through this season’s episodes take viewers deeper into the states’ history.  As in depth as they get, not one episode gets too in depth for casual viewers.  Unger interviews people from every walk of life in each episode instead of just politicians and academics.  Those individuals are there.  But there are just as many ordinary people in these episodes, too.  And because of the large number of ordinary people interviewed, Unger is able to talk to them (and in turn viewers) on a casual level.  This casual discussion will make viewers feel less like Unger and the show’s producers are talking down to them.  This serves even more to make this season just as entertaining and enjoyable as Season One.

The general informational content of each episode is on the level of any casual viewer, whether fifteen or fifty-years old.  In simple terms, this season’s episodes are just as viewer friendly, content-wise, as Season One’s episodes.  The episodes included in this season are just as viewer friendly because of the length of each episode.  Each episode comes in at just under half an hour.  That’s because there are no commercials to have to navigate.  And because the episodes are on DVD, viewers can fast forward or go back to wherever they want with just the push of a button.  This only makes each episode collectively even more viewer friendly and even more worth watching not just once, but any time.

The key to the success of How the States got their Shapes Season 2 can be summed up in two words, as one should be able to tell by the factors noted here.  Those two words are “viewer friendliness.”  The episodes are short.  And the producers have written the facts and figures in a way that makes them easy for viewers of any age to understand and appreciate.  Even host Brian Unger comes across like an every guy.  And he interviews everyday people as well as academics and politicians.  This works with everything else noted to make this season all the better both in the classroom and in the living room, regardless of whether this is the last season for the show or not.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from History Channel’s website at  Audiences can find out more about this show on the official History Channel Facebook page, and its official website,

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Letters From Jackie Another Great Story Of One Of Baseball’s Greats

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Major League Baseball celebrated a very special anniversary early in 2013.  On April 15th, 2013, fans and players of America’s Past Time celebrated the sixty-sixth anniversary of Brooklyn Dodgers great and groundbreaking player Jackie Robinson’s very first ever major league game.  It was on April 15th, 1947 that Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first ever African-American to play major league baseball.  Every year since that day, Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson day on the anniversary of his first game.  This year, the anniversary has been celebrated with more than just celebrations at baseball fields across the country.  It was also celebrated with a major motion picture focusing on Robinson’s life and a documentary from Shout! Factory that was even more enjoyable than the prior.  Now MLB Productions has joined in the celebration with its own documentary on Robinson.  Whereas the previous releases focused largely on Robinson’s life, this latest release, Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson focuses exactly on its title; Robinson’s own thoughts put to paper.

Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson is a good companion piece to the previously released pair of works from Warner Brothers and Shout! Factory.  The first thing that makes this documentary stand out is its run time.  It comes in at just forty-five minutes long.  This is not counting the end credits, either.  Within that short time-span, the story presented moves at a relatively fast pace.  It’s not too fast for viewers to keep up with the story, either.  And within the context of the production, viewers will be moved to both laughter and tears, hearing Robinson’s words read.

The letters written by Jackie Robinson are both moving and at times entertaining.  Most moving of all is the story of Robinson’s years-long communications with a young white fan, Ron Rabinovitz.  The pen pals’ ongoing letter writing led to a friendship that transcended skin color and even religious backgrounds.  It was a friendship based solely on two individuals’ love of the game of baseball.  Rabinovitz himself even gets to share his thoughts on the letters shared between himself and Robinson.  The fondness with which he remembers Robinson is both entertaining and moving.  Audiences will be brought to smiles hearing Rabinovitz discuss Robinson actually taking him into the Dodgers’ locker room to meet his team mates at the time.  He even presents the baseball signed by Robinson’s team mates.  The really funny moment of that story is when Rabinovitz reveals that Robinson was so caught up in introducing his team mates to Rabinovitz and getting them to sign the ball, that he forgot to sign the ball himself.  Rabinovitz adds, laughing that he didn’t mind because he had so many other items (noting the letters) signed by Robinson.  Viewers even get to see Rabinovitz sharing his memories with one of today’s greats at the 2013 Jackie Robinson Day pre-game.

Rabinovitz shares so many wonderful memories of one of baseball’s greatest names though his interviews.  Along with the stories are pictures of the pair posing together on the field.  They help to add even more interest to the story of Robinson’s own thoughts on how he was viewed during his career.  Those pictures aren’t the only ones shared throughout this near hour-long feature.  Those charged with bringing the program to life also incorporated footage from The Jackie Robinson Story as well as footage from games that he played during his career.  The footage shows both the good and bad of the people who came to the games to see Robinson play.  That footage set against Robinson’s own thoughts on fan support and the lack thereof makes these moments even more interesting for any real baseball history buff.

Whether for the stories shared of Robinson by his family and friends or for the footage of the baseball legend’s career, baseball fans have plenty for which to root in this companion piece to the year’s previously released Robinson tributes.  Audiences will of course find their own interesting and entertaining moments throughout the story.  Being that Major League Baseball is coming up to the annual celebration of the halfway point of its season, thoughts will go back to one of the original All-Stars.  And as thoughts go back to him, this latest story will make for another good look back at that legend in question.  It will be available next Tuesday, July 16th.  It can be ordered online at the MLB Productions store at

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WWII From Space An Excellent Introduction To The History Of World War II

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

History Channel’s latest WWII documentary, WWII From Space is a good jumping off point for anyone that has ever had any interest in the…well…history of World War II.  Much like last year’s release of History of the World in Two Hours, this documentary is not intended to go into the massively in-depth discussions of perhaps Vietnam in HD or WWII in HD just to name a couple of other History Channel war documentaries.  Rather, this feature scratches the surface in the war’s history.  It does so over the course of roughly an hour and a half.  And it does so largely thanks to its mass of CG based visual aids employed throughout the presentation.

Some audiences have criticized WWII From Space because of its use of CG based visual aids.  The reality is that this is not such a bad thing.  Rather, it along with the feature’s relatively short run time that is solidly segmented makes it a wonderful addition for any high school and entry level college history course.  The CG based maps of the earth present the movement of both the Allied and Axis forces throughout WWII.  It also employs the use of what would be the equivalent today of military spy tech to present the different movements and weaponry of forces on both sides of the war.  It’s like something out of the recent Iron Man movies.  And keeping this in mind, it is sure to entertain not just younger audiences, but older audiences, too that are enamored by the ever changing scape of technology.

The CG based maps make for excellent visual aids in following the course of the war.  Adding even more interest to this feature is the use of CG based graphics to illustrate the battles both on the land and in the air.  One good example of this would be the comparison of U.S. forces killed in Pearl Harbor as compared to Japanese forces that were killed.  Audiences learn the massively wide ratio of U.S. forces killed in comparison to Japanese dead.  It uses helmets highlighted to show each side’s dead and points out the ratio clearly on screen.  This is just one time that this strategy is used.  It is used throughout the course of the program.  Again, there is nothing wrong with such a method being used.  Instead of simply filling people’s ears and minds with facts and figures, these illustrations help to drive home the sheer magnitude of the seemingly overwhelming odds that Allied forces faced over the course of the war.

The CG based graphics are the biggest part of this introductory level WWII documentary.  Those behind its creation should also be applauded for touching on more than just the facts and figures of the war’s numbers in terms of casualties and force sizes, etc.  Throughout the feature, audiences will notice the constant subtle note that the war was largely economic both in the Pacific and European theater.  It takes the time to note that it was in fact an embargo on Japan that eventually led to the island nation’s military forces to attack American forces in Pearl Harbor.  Anyone that has any interest in this side of the war would be well recommended to read author Evan Thomas’ book, Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941 – 1945.  This book clearly notes the effect of the embargo on Japan and how it led to the decision by the Japanese government to attack U.S. forces in Hawaii.  Even more interesting to learn in reading this book is something echoed by actor/director Clint Eastwood’s 2006 WWII foreign language movie, Letters From Iwo Jima.  This movie, much like the aforementioned book actually points out that not all Japanese citizens wanted to go to war with the United States, nor did certain members of the Japanese government and military.  Again these much more in depth discussions are all started by History Channel’s WWII From Space.  So it proves just how valuable this documentary is even at an introductory level.

While the program and those behind it are to be applauded for their work providing introductory information concerning the economic influences of the war, there are other factors that are left untouched.  For instance, the late mention of Truman making the call to drop the atomic bombs on Japan was more than merely Truman making the call.  As anyone that has seen any of History Channel’s other documentaries will recall, Truman didn’t merely make the call.  He offered Japan more than one opportunity to surrender before making the call.  What’s more Truman took over during the course of the war after Roosevelt died.  History Channel’s multi-disc set focusing on some of our nation’s most well-known presidents goes into depth about this very subject.  Again, this goes back to the importance of this feature as an introductory level feature.

That WWII largely takes an introductory level is a very good thing for audiences of all levels despite what some might want to believe or say.  It doesn’t attempt to go into too much depth.  And yes it does move at a relatively fast pace.  But it also is segmented as if it was a televised feature.  There are breaks throughout the course of the documentary that will allow for audiences to stop, take breaks, and come back to the show at their own pace.  This is especially helpful both in the living room and in the classroom as teachers won’t be forced to decide where to stop for the sake of class time.  And home viewers can simply take the program at their own casual pace.  What’s more, the Blu-ray presentation of WWII From Space will allow viewers to stop the program, take it from one Blu-ray player to another and bring it back to the original player, and pick it up from where it was stopped on said Blu-ray player if so desired.  This is a minor detail on the surface.  But in the grand scheme of things, it proves to be one more nice addition to the overall presentation.  It prevents audiences from having to go through the scene selection menu on the main menu or from even having to search through the program to get back to where they originally stopped.  Again, this is subtle but impressive.  And combined with everything else already noted concerning this feature—from its CG based visual aids, to its introductory level information about the war, and its segmented presentation—it proves to be a great feature both for teachers and home viewers at any level and an enjoyable watch for anyone that has ever had any interest in the history of one of the world’s biggest conflicts.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the History Channel store at

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