Dinosaur Train Is Running Full Steam Ahead In Its New DVD

Courtesy:  Public Media Distribution/PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS Kids/PBS

The Dinosaur Train is back on the tracks again and steaming along on more prehistoric adventures in yet another new collection of episodes from the hit PBS Kids series.  The new collection, Under The Volcano was released in stores and online earlier this month by PBS Distribution.  It is yet another fun collection of episodes for the whole family, too.  That is due in part to the stories presented in each of the collection’s featured episodes.  That will be discussed shortly.  The lessons that are presented within each of the featured episodes are just as important to note in the set’s presentation.  They will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included with the DVD is just as important to note in its own right as the stories and lessons presented herein.  Each element plays its own important part in the DVD’s presentation.  Altogether they reveal the collection to be yet another enjoyable, entertaining, and educational ride for the whole family.

PBS Kids’ new Dinosaur Train DVD Under The Volcano is another enjoyable, entertaining, and educational ride for the whole family.  That is due in part to the stories that are presented within each of the collection’s featured episodes.  The stories in question take the Pteranodon family throughout the pre-historic world for all sorts of fun adventures.  And they bring families along for the ride, too.  The set’s lead episode takes the Pteranodon family to a volcano that is getting ready to erupt while another—“The Big Mud Pit”—puts Mr. Pteranodon and one of his friends in a little bit of a precarious but hilarious situation.  The pair get stuck in the mud pit in question as they are trying to take a dip and cool off.  Little do they know that it would lead to them getting stuck and having to be pulled out.  “Nature Art” is another good example of what makes the sets featured stories so important to the disc’s presentation.  This episode sees the Pteranodon kids taking some old material from the family’s nest and turning it into beautiful art for all to see.  It’s a simple story.  But it works.  It also ties in to the next important part of the disc’s presentation, its lessons.

The stories that are presented within each of this collection’s episodes are unquestionably important to the DVD’s presentation.  That is because of the variance in the stories from one episode to the next.  They are collectively just one important part of the set’s presentation, though.  The lessons that are presented alongside those stories are just as important to the collection’s presentation as the stories alone.  Audiences that pay close attention will notice that there is a distinct difference in the lessons presented here from those presented in many of the series’ previous DVDs.  Simply put, the lessons are more well-balanced here than in those previous collections.  Instead of just focusing on different dinosaurs in every episode, the lessons focus on a number of topics.  “Under The Volcano,” “Old Reliable,” “The Forest Fire,” and “Sunrise, Sunset” teach important lessons centered on nature and science.  From one to the next, the angle that is used and the lessons themselves vary quite noticeably.  “Nature Art” changes things up as it presents its own original, two-part lesson about recycling and art.  “Derek The Deinonychus” and “Triceratops For Lunch” are the only episodes featured in this set that focus specifically on different dinosaur species.  Even “The Big Mud Pit” teaches its own lesson as it can be argued that it focuses on the importance of teamwork since everyone had to work together to get Mr. Pteranodon and his friend out of the mud pit.  Here again is proof of the variety of lessons presented across Dinosaur Train’s new DVD.  They are just as varied as the stories at the center of each episode.  Considering all of this the stories and lessons alone show clearly why this latest DVD is such a fun ride for the whole family.  They are not the only elements that make it such an enjoyable ride, either.  The bonus material that is included in the DVD is just as important to note as its featured stories and lessons.

The stories and lessons that are presented throughout PBS Kids’ new Dinosaur Train DVD in themselves make this latest collection from the family friendly show another fun ride for the whole family.  They are not the only important elements to note in considering this.  The bonus material that is included in the DVD is just as important to note as its featured stories and lessons.  The bonus material in question is made up of activities presented inside the DVD’s case.  The activities are completely different from those presented in the series’ previous DVDs and serve to drive home the lessons presented within the episodes, too.  The lead activity, “Make A Volcano” is the most fun for the family.  That is because it allows families to do exactly what its title says.  It directs families how to make their very own erupting volcanoes using everyday household items.  Who hasn’t done this exact activity at one time or another and still love doing so to this day?  Exactly.  “Cretaceous Cookies” is another fun (and tasty) activity that will put the whole family together in the kitchen.  It encourages families to make sugar cookies in the shape of their favorite dinosaurs’ footsteps.  All families need is plastic or rubber dinosaur toys.  Not only does this teach about tracking and identifying different species of dinosaurs, but it can lead to lessons about tracking other animals’ footsteps, too.  Of course it is also, again, a tasty lesson of its own.  “Nature Walk Art” is tied directly into the episode “Nature Art.”  It leads families to go on a nature walk together and gather items that they find along the way.  Those items can include pine cones, sticks, leaves, flowers, and anything else that families choose.  Families can then take those items home and use craft glue to attach the items to sheets of construction paper to make their own nature art.  This not only drives home the lesson presented in “Nature Art” but also can easily lead to simple lessons about nature, ecosystems, and more.  Between this activity and the other two included in this collection it is clear why the bonus material included in the collection is just as important to its presentation as the collection’s stories and lessons.  All things considered Dinosaur Train: Under The Volcano proves to be yet another enjoyable, educational, and entertaining ride for the whole family.

PBS Kids’ new Dinosaur Train DVD Under The Volcano is yet another enjoyable, educational, and entertaining ride for the whole family.  As has already been noted, that is due in part to the varied stories presented within each of the collection’s episodes.  The lessons that are presented alongside those stories are just as important to note as the set’s featured stories.  The bonus material that comes with the collection is important to the set’s presentation in its own right.  All three elements each present their own importance to this DVD’s presentation.  Altogether they make this collection, again, another enjoyable, educational, and entertaining rode for the whole family.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via PBS’ store.  More information on this DVD is available online now along with lots of Dinosaur Train games, activities, news, and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://pbskids.org/dinosaurtrain

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

 

 

 

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PBS Kids’ New ‘WordWorld’ DVD Is A Great Set Any Time Of Year

Courtesy:  Public Media Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

School is officially out for summer.  Even with families taking their vacations, children’s education should not take a vacation, too.  Enter PBS Kids and its vast array of DVDs being released throughout the summer.  One of those DVDs, WordWorld: It’s Time For School, is one of those new DVDs.  The fittingly titled compilation will be released Tuesday, July 26th, just in time to start getting kids young viewers a head start on the new school year.  The DVD features eight more episodes from the family friendly vocabulary-building series.  The episodes are in themselves a key element to this compilation.  That will be discussed shortly.  The lessons that are presented within each of the episodes are just as important in their own right to the collection.  That will be discussed later.  The bonus material included with the collection rounds out the collections most important elements.  It is the set’s finishing touch.  Together with the collection’s featured episodes and the lessons contained therein the whole of the collection proves to be yet another collection that will be welcome in any family’s home.

WordWorld: It’s Time For School is yet another collection of WordWorld episodes that will be welcome in any family’s home.  That is due in part to the episodes that make up the body of the collection.  The collection is made up of eight from episodes from the series.  Audiences will note that the episodes are lifted from all three of the series’ seasons.  What’s more at least a pair of the featured episodes—“The Best Nest” and “Tick Tock Space Clock”—has in fact been previously released in another WordWorld DVD released a few years ago by NCircle Entertainment.  The others may or may not have been previously released when NCircle had distribution rights for the series.  Regardless the very fact that once again PBS Kids has included eight episodes (versus four put into each collection from NCircle) is in itself impressive.  What’s more not everybody out there has all of the WordWorld DVDs previously released by Ncircle Entertainment.  To that end, the episodes may in fact be new to many audiences.  Keeping that in mind the episodes presented in this collection show in their own way to be a collectively important part of the collection.  They are not the collection’s only important element.  The lessons that are incorporated into the episodes are just as important to the collection’s presentation as the episodes themselves.

The episodes that make up the body of PBS Kids’ new WordWorld DVD are in themselves a collectively important part of the collection’s presentation.  Previously released or not, the episodes are important because not every viewer has seen these episodes before.  Keeping that in mind, they remain a collectively important part of the DVDs overall presentation.  They are not the set’s only key element.  The lessons that are incorporated into the episodes are just as important to the DVD’s presentation as its episodes.  That is because the episodes feature more than just the standard vocabulary building lessons.  The DVD’s lead episode “Sharks First Day Of School” is one of the episodes that presents multiple lessons within its own body.  On the surface, the standard vocabulary building lessons are there.  Along with those lessons is the lesson about overcoming that all too common fear of the first day.  Not every child goes through this situation even on the first day of school.  But more do than don’t.  The writers address the situation by having Duck, Cat, and the others at school show Shark that school is a good place to be.  They are completely supportive of Shark along the way, showing him all the good things that school has to offer.  For those parents that are getting ready to send their children off to kindergarten, this is a great way to help their children overcome those potential first day jitters.  On another level, an episode such as “Welcome Home, Duck” teaches an important lesson about friendship alongside its vocabulary lesson.  It does so by Frog showing his excitement at Duck coming back from vacation.  Frog wants to show how much he missed Duck and appreciates him as a friend.  That message of friendship is just as important as the lesson centering on overcoming first day jitters.  It is not the only other lesson presented in these episodes, either.  Some might call it a stretch but in “Duck at Bat” it could be argued that the writers incorporated the lesson of perseverance.  No matter how many times Duck kept making the wrong word and using the wrong items as a bat, he kept trying.  He did finally get the right letter to make a bat.  And he even got a hit when he went up to the plate.  To that end, one could argue that the writers were teaching the lesson to the show’s young viewers that they should not give up on anything, especially not on anything worth doing.  There’s even a lighter lesson about teamwork incorporated into the episode for good measure.  Between these lessons and the episodes’ vocabulary building lessons it is obvious that there is plenty to be learned in these episodes.  All things considered the lessons that are incorporated into the episodes in this set prove in the long to be just as important to this DVD’s presentation as the episodes themselves.  They still are not its only important elements.  The bonus material included with the DVD rounds out the set’s most important elements.

The episodes that make up the body of PBS Kids’ new WordWorld DVD and the lessons contained within each are all important elements in the DVD’s overall presentation.  Each does its own part in making this new DVD another enjoyable presentation from PBS Kids.  They are not the DVD’s only important elements.  The bonus material that is included in the DVD is just as important to the collection’s presentation as its episodes and their lessons.  Just as with PBS Kids’ previous WordWorld compilations this set includes a trio of vocabulary building activities that the whole family can do together and that even teachers can do with their students in class.  One involves matching words on index cards to make compound words.  Another involves matching rhyming words with their related pictures.  Another is a game of hide-and-seek of sorts.  Except in the case of this game, there is no chasing around.  Rather in the case of this game, children have to identify the sound that they hear and where it comes from in order to get a turn.  As an additional bonus, PBS Kids has also included in this DVD’s case an activity booklet for children.  This is something with which PBS Kids has only experimented in its previous WordWorld DVDs (and other series’ DVDs).  So to see it full blown like this for the first time is impressive.  The activity booklet includes coloring pages, word searches, maze games, matching games and even a kid friendly crossword.  Parents can take the coloring pages, copy them and save them to their computers before their children color them in the book.  That way they [parents] can print them out any time they want for children to color.  Teachers can do the same with any of the other activities so as to use them each year with each new class.  Keeping all of this in mind, the activities and complimenting activity booklet included in this DVD are true bonuses.  They are activities that serve to drive home the lessons presented in the disc’s episodes.  They also serve to entertain young children.  They are in essence a fitting final touch for the DVD’s presentation.  Together with the disc’s episodes and their lessons, all of the noted elements join to make WordWorld: It’s Time For School a disc that is great for families any time of the year.

WordWorld: It’s Time For School is a great watch for the whole family any time of the year.  Whether ahead of the new school year or even during, this DVD proves itself to be another impressive collection of WordWorld episodes.  That is evident in the episodes that make up the body of the DVD.  The lessons that are tied into each of the episodes play their own part in proving this.  The bonus material that is included in the DVD’s case rounds out its most important elements.  In regards to that material not only has PBS Kids outshined NCircle in regards to its handling of the series’ DVDs, it has outdone itself this time around, too.  Considering this, the bonus material included in this collection is a fitting final touch to the DVD’s presentation.  It joins with the DVD’s featured episodes and their lessons to make this DVD, again, another welcome collection of episodes from PBS Kids’ beloved family friendly vocabulary building series.  It will be available later this month both in stores and online and can be pre-ordered online now via PBS’ online store.  More episodes of WordWorld are available online now along with more WordWorld games, activities, and much more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.wordworld.com

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

 

 

 

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PBS Takes Viewers To Alaska In New Polar Bear Documentary

Courtesy: PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS Distribution

This past Tuesday PBS Distribution took audiences to the wilds of Alaska in its new documentary The Great Polar Beast Feast.

The Great Polar Bear Feast was released this Tuesday, July 5th.  The program was released in partnership with Renegade Films.  It follows a group of Polar Bears living in Alaska as they face the impending challenges of the Arctic Summer.  That is the time when the sea ice covering the region begins melting at an increasingly rapid speed.  One of the bears presented in the program is a female with two cubs.  She heads south from the Beaufort Sea to Kaktovik and is able to take part in the annual feast of whale blubber.  The other, also a female, only has one cub.  She stays put.  In turn it is forced to swim hundreds of miles north to get to the nearest ice.  In the bigger picture, the story examines the relationship between the polar bears and the Inupiat Tribe, which lives in a nearby village.

The Great Polar Bear Feast is available now on DVD.  It is retailing for MSRP of $24.99 and can be ordered at a discounted price of $19.99 online via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

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

PBS “Digs Up” Another One Of History’s Mysteries In New Documentary

Courtesy: PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: PBS DIstribution

Early this spring the world stopped to mark a very important date in the literary world—the 400th anniversary of playwright William Shakespeare’s death.  And next week PBS Distribution will release a program originally aired on PBS in conjunction with the anniversary in the form of Shakespeare’s Tomb.

Shakespeare’s Tomb will be released next Tuesday, July 12th.  It will be available exclusively on DVD.  The program follows Dr. Helen Castor and a team of researchers as they make their first investigation into what is believed to be Shakespeare’s burial site.  The investigation centers on a skull found in a crypt beneath a country church in England.  Castor and company have set out to find out if the skull is in fact that of Shakespeare and if the body contained in the grave is also that of the legendary playwright.  The reason for the investigation is that there is a 19th Century story stating that Shakespeare’s skull was stolen by trophy hunters some 100 years prior.  As a result of the alleged grave robbing a curse has said to have been put on anyone that should move the bones from the grave.  The curse is etched onto a stone at the grave.  It reads, “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”  It is a fitting tale for any bibliophile’s Halloween party and an equally intriguing tale for any Shakespeare aficionado.

Shakespeare’s Tomb will be released next Tuesday, July 12th.   It will retail for MSRP of $24.99 and can be ordered direct online at a discounted price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

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

Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb Is A Great Find For Any History Buff

Courtesy:  PBS/Public Media Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Cleopatra is one of the most well-known figures in recorded history.  The famed “Queen of the Nile” has fascinated people the world over for centuries.  20th Century Fox (one of Hollywood’s “Big Six”) even turned out a biopic of sorts centered on Cleopatra in 1963.  The movie, starring Elizabeth Taylor (Father of the Bride, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant) in the lead role, earned nine Oscar® nominations and four trophies along with four Golden Globe® nominations and many other accolades.  Women to this day even dress up as Cleopatra every Halloween thanks in no small part to that movie.  For all of the interest that Cleopatra has maintained throughout the centuries some might find it interesting to know that to this day, no one actually knows where she is buried.  Many have tried and none have succeeded.  However one woman recently came closer than anyone in the search for Cleopatra’s final resting place.  And her story was recently told in a new episode of PBS’ Secrets of the Dead.  That episode, Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb will be available on DVD Tuesday, July 5th.  This new episode of SOTD is just as welcome in the classroom as the living room.  That is due in large part to the episode’s story.  The story is just one of the elements that make this program so interesting.  The information that is presented over the course of the nearly hour-long program is just as important to note as the story itself.  The program’s pacing rounds out the program’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the program.  Altogether they make Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb a presentation a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or the living room.

Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  That is due in large part to the program’s story.  The story centers on the efforts of lawyer-turned-archaeologist Dr. Kathleen Martinez as she searches for Cleopatra’s tomb.  While the program is a documentary, one can’t help but be interested in this story because it is a sort of underdog tale.  As is noted in the program both in narration and by Dr. Martinez, she had quite a number of detractors when she turned from law to archaeology.  That is because of how little professional experience she had in archaeology.  What’s more she chased leads and theories that most others had ignored because they felt that those leads were so impossible.  Yet in following those leads, she came closer in her search than any researcher ever had or even has.  The progress and success that she had in her search surprised everybody including both her now former detractors and herself.  So while the story is on the surface, a documentary, it is also a story that audiences will enjoy and that will especially empower female viewers.  In whole, the story presented in this episode of SOTD is an important element in the episode’s presentation.  It isn’t the episode’s only key element, though.  The information shard throughout the course of the program is just as important as the episode’s story.

The story at the center of SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is unquestionably an important part of the episode’s presentation.  On the surface, it is a documentary.  On another level, it is an underdog story of sorts that will keep audiences engaged and entertained.  It will also potentially empower female audiences because of the woman at the center of the story and her accomplishments.  As important as the story is to this episode of SOTD it is only one of the episode’s key elements.  The information provided over the course of the episode is just as important to note as the episode’s story.  One of the most interesting pieces of information that is shared in this episode is the note about 20th Century Fox’s take on Cleopatra’s life.  While the movie earned an impressive amount of accolades, it is apparently anything but historically accurate.  That should be no surprise at all considering how few of Hollywood’s bio pics past and present boast any full accuracy.  It is still interesting to learn just how far off the mark the movie was.  Just as interesting to learn from this episode is just how far off the mark previous excavations might have been in the search for Cleopatra’s burial place.  That is supported by the amount of evidence uncovered by Dr. Martinez in her efforts.  On a related note the revelation about the many believed sites where Cleopatra might be buried.  It is intriguing to find out the vast spread of potential burial sites.  These are just a few of the interesting pieces of information shared over the course of this episode of SOTD.  There is much more for audiences to discover for themselves in watching this episode.  Needless to say, those other pieces of information join with the material noted here to prove in full why the content provided in SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is just as important to this program as its story.  It still is not the last remaining key element either.  The program’s pacing rounds out its presentation.

Both the story at the center of SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb and its content are both key to the program’s presentation.  While both elements are undeniably important to the program’s presentation they are not its only key elements.  The program’s pacing is just as important to its presentation as those elements.  Viewers will note that the program’s pacing is relatively stable from beginning to end.  From the time that viewers are introduced to Dr. Martinez and presented with her back story to her search for the legendary queen’s final resting place, each part of the story receives just enough attention.  Even as the program focuses on Cleopatra’s own back story, that story isn’t allowed to dominate the program.  Each segment is expertly balanced against the others.  The end result is a program that will keep audiences fully engaged from beginning to end.  In turn audiences will see for themselves the importance of the program’s story and its overall content, too.  They will see that in whole all three elements make this program a must have for any history buff both in the classroom and the living room.

Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  It is an impressive new addition to the already extensive list of programs produced by PBS about Egypt and its rich history.  That is due in part to the program’s dual-part story.  The content that makes up the body of the story is just as important to note in its presentation.  The overall pacing of the program rounds out the program’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own way to the program’s presentation.  Altogether they make Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb a program that is, again, a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  It will be available Tuesday, July 5th 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://pbs.org/secrets

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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

‘The Alcatraz Escape’ Is A “Great Escape” For True Crime Fans

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

June 11th, 1962 is one of the most important dates in America’s deep crime history.  It was on that date some fifty-four years ago this year that Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin broke out of the maximum security prison and thus created one of the nation’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries.  That is because upon their escape none of the trio was ever seen or heard from again.  In the five decades plus since their escape any number of books has been written about the event.  Just as many documentaries have been produced about the trio’s escape, too.  The problem is that from one to the next there is little variance in the story or result.  Earlier this month Public Media Distribution released what is just one of the most recent documentaries about the now infamous escape in the form of Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz Escape.  This latest program is actually an interesting new look at what is in fact not the prison’s only unsolved escape.  The prison’s only other unsolved escape occurred in 1937 when Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe jumped into the San Francisco Bay and disappeared.  That is a story for another time.  Getting back on the subject at hand, this new documentary on the 1962 escape is so interesting because it isn’t just another cookie cutter presentation.  In other words its story is what sets it apart from other documentaries about the escape.  The information that is presented within the story is just as important to the program’s presentation as the story itself.  The program’s sequencing and pacing round out its presentation completing the whole thing.  Each element proves important in its own right to the program’s presentation.  Altogether they make this new episode of PBS’ history/mystery hybrid a piece that while not perfect is still an interesting new look at what is one of America’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries.

Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz Escape is an interesting new look at what is one of America’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries.  While not the only program to ever be presented on the subject of the 1962 prison break, it is still a program that any real crime fan will want to view.  That is due at least in part to the story presented in this program.  Audiences will be happy to see, in watching it, that it isn’t just another cookie cutter program about the now infamous, decades-old prison break.  It doesn’t just try to postulate about whether or not Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin survived their escape from Alcatraz.  It does do this.  Don’t be mistaken here.  But it does more than just that.  It also provides a rich historical background behind the trio’s escape.  That rich historical background will be tackled shortly.  Just as interesting to note of the program’s story is how this new investigation came to happen.  As is noted early in the program, the whole thing started with a planned presentation by one of the investigators about global warming and the effect of rising ocean levels around the world.  Who would have thought that such a topic would end up leading to an investigation on one of America’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries?  The story that unfolds from here is one that will keep any real crime fan engaged from the beginning to the end of the roughly hour-long presentation.  It is just one of the program’s elements that will keep viewers engaged.  The information presented throughout the course of the story will keep viewers just as engaged as the story itself.

The story presented in Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz Escape is an interesting new take on the now infamous Alcatraz prison break of 1962.  It is such an interesting presentation because it isn’t just another cookie cutter presentation about the still unsolved crime mystery.  It examines both the escape and how it came to be without allowing itself to linger on the many theories of the fate of the three inmates.  Even the attempt to recreate the “boat” created by the men is not as over the top as that presented in certain other networks’ programs.  No names need be used as most audiences understand that reference.  Keeping all of this in mind, the very story presented in this episode of PBS’ Secrets of the Dead is in its own right a very important part of the program’s presentation.  It is not the program’s only important element, though.  The information provided throughout the course of the story is just as important to the episode’s presentation as the story at the center of the episode.  As a matter of fact, without that information there would be no story.  One of the most interesting pieces of information shared in this program is the seemingly lax nature of the guards employed by the prison during its nearly three decades in operation and their apparent gullibility.  As is revealed in the story, the whole escape plan was able to come to fruition because a fourth (yes, fourth) inmate involved in the escape plan was able to trick the guards, thus allowing a big part of the plan (perhaps the most important part of the plan) to be executed.  At the same time, another former guard interviewed for the program even openly states that there was not close attention paid to large amounts of glue being taken by the trio.  One would think that since Alcatraz was supposed to be a maximum security prison, the guards would be more vigilant in their duties.  The revelations made in this program seem to point to the opposite, though.  It’s a powerful statement and perhaps even explains why the prison saw a total of 14 prison breaks in its roughly twenty-nine years in operation, one of which still remains unsolved to this day.  That escape took place in 1937.  Of course none of that information is provided here, which is a little bit disheartening.  In hindsight it would have been nice to have had that added background information.  That is because it would have given even more significance to the 1962 escape.  But that is a moot point.

The revelation of the issues with the Alcatraz guards is just one of the interesting pieces of information covered in this program.  As was just noted, the program also reveals that while Moore and the Anglin brothers were the main focus of the decades-old investigation, they were not the only conspirators in the escape plan.  A fourth man was apparently involved in the plan, too.  It is even hinted that he, not Moore, was the mastermind behind the whole thing.  His identity will be left for audiences to discover for themselves when they watch this program.  Just as interesting to learn is that the man was even originally supposed to join Moore and the Anglin brothers on their makeshift boat when they broke out of the prison.  But apparently he didn’t completely go through with the plan, opting instead to stay behind.  The story behind this figure is just as interesting to learn as the rest of the story of the 1962 escape.  It is just one more of the many important pieces of information revealed over the course of the story, too.  The revelation of the prison’s reputation versus the reality of its function is just as interesting to learn as the story of the escape.

The information about the 1962 escape and its relation to the issue of the prison’s guards are both key pieces of information shard in this new episode of Secrets of the Dead.  They are not the program’s only interesting pieces of information. Another rather interesting piece of information provided in this program centers on the prison’s overall reputation.  The prison has a reputation as being a place that held the worst of the worst.  And it did.  But Al Capone, White Bulger, and others were not the only inmates housed at Alcatraz.  In fact, many of the inmates housed there were just multiple time offenders.  They were inmates that had committed ordinary crimes but couldn’t seem to be handled in other prisons.  In simpler terms, while it might have been a maximum security prison, it was in reality not quite the imposing structure that it has come to be known.  It is just one more interesting piece of information shared over the course of the program’s run time.  Between the information revealed here and the rest of the episode’s revelations, the information in whole that is revealed here shows clearly why the program’s overall content is just as important as its general story.  Of course as important as the program’s story and content are to its presentation they are not the program’s only important elements.  Its sequencing and pacing (I.E. its overall structure) is just as important to note as its story and content.

The story at the center of Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz Escape and its content are both key elements in its presentation.  Each element ensures viewers’ engagement in its own right.  They are not the program’s only important elements, though.  The program’s overall structure is just as important to note as its story and content.  Audiences will note in watching the program the smooth transitions from one segment to the next and from one side of the story to the other.  On one side is the mechanical story.  That is the recreation of the boat and life vests used in the 1962 escape.  On the other side is the story of how the escape was planned and where the inmates might have actually landed.  The program smoothly transitions between the two elements throughout the course of its run time, thus ensuring viewers’ engagement even more.  It doesn’t just randomly jump back and forth from one part of the story to the other and back.  It is in fact fully structured.  The build team doesn’t just try to re-create the inmates’ boat and life vests.  They actually research each element so as to make the closest possible copy of each piece.  And in regards to the “planning team” audiences get to see the team use actual computer simulations to determine the likeliest path taken once the inmates hit the water.  Viewers will be surprised to discover that the “planning team” finds in the long run that the original Angel Island theory looks to be just that and that the inmates in fact might have ended up at a completely different point because of the currents in the San Francisco Bay.  As each team finishes its research and work the program keeps viewers fully engaged, and at times surprised.  The end result of their work is the ultimate finale for the program.  That is because for all intents and purposes it leaves more questions than answers.  But the way in which it does this will put a smile on viewers’ faces.  The team doesn’t try to sex up the program and make it like so many commercial programs.  It points to some facts that are interesting in their own right.  That being the case, the program’s overall structure proves in the end to be just as important to the program as its story and content.  All things considered, Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz Escape proves in the end to be it’s own *ahem* great escape for true crime fans.

Secrets of the Dead: The Alcatraz is an interesting new look at what is one of America’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries.  That is due in part to the story at the heart of the program.  The story is not just another cookie cutter presentation that tries to postulate  about whether or not Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin survived their now infamous escape from Alcatraz in 1962.  It presents an in-depth and surprising history behind the chain of events that led to the escape along with that oft-discussed topic.  What’s more the discussion on whether or not the trio escaped doesn’t just focus on the standard Angel Island theory.  It theorizes that IF in fact the men did survive then they didn’t go to Angel Island but another location within the San Francisco Bay.  To top it all off, the whole story begins by noting that the investigation came from a planned discussion by one member of the program’s featured team on rising sea levels.  The in-depth information provided by the program adds even more interest to the story.  The program’s overall structure completes the program.  It brings everything full circle and ensures once and for all viewers’ engagement.  Each element is important in its own right to the whole of this program’s presentation.  Altogether they make it a presentation that, again, is quite the interesting new look at one of America’s greatest unsolved crime mysteries.  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/secrets

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

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PBS’ New “Iceman” Doc Is An Interesting New Look At Otzi

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS DIstribution

Everybody loves a good mystery every now and then, right?  Right.  Why else would the adventures of Sherlock Holmes be so popular today?  Why else would there be so many crime dramas on television and so many news magazine programs whose content is generally centered on true crime?  For all of the entertainment that those noted outlets offer in regards to their mysteries, there is a lot of redundancy from fiction to non across the ages and outlets.  For those looking for something new and original PBS and Public Media Distribution have quite the alternative in the form of NOVA: Iceman Reborn.  This program follows researchers as they examine the famed mummy, dubbed Otzi, and find out who he was, how he died, and most importantly where he was from.  It also follows one man’s attempts to re-create the eons-old figure in hopes of presenting him to the world.  It is not the first time that an episode of NOVA has focused on Otzi.  In 2012, NOVA featured another episode about Otzi titled Iceman Murder Mystery that in fact is very similar to this program and less on his death.  Keeping this in mind, this latest story about Otzi the “iceman” mummy is a good new installment for those that have not see the previous program about Otzi.    There is plenty to appreciate in this semi-new episode of NOVA beginning with its noted story.  It is a story that not only mystery lovers will enjoy but students of the biological (and genealogical) sciences will enjoy.  The information revealed in the program is just as important to note as the mystery at the center of the story.  Last but hardly least of note in the program’s presentation is its writing.  The writing completes the program’s presentation, bringing everything full circle.  In the end, all three noted elements come together to make NOVA: Iceman Reborn a real life story that every mystery lover will love as much as any lover of science.

NOVA: Iceman Reborn is a real life story that every mystery lover will love as much as any lover of the biological and genealogical sciences.  That is due in part to the story that is presented at the heart of the program.  The story in question is that of researchers’ attempts to unravel the mystery of the famed mummy “Otzi.”  The story begins with the discovery of the 5,000 year-old mummy some 25 years ago in the snow-covered mountains of Europe.  It then fast forwards to today, with researchers examining Otzi’s bodies, and revealing stunning new discoveries.  The discoveries include that of his potential cause of death (which will be discussed later), what he ate during in his final hours, the ailments from which he suffered, and ultimately the surprising revelation of his possible roots and descendants among so much more.  Along the way, audiences also watch as model expert Gary Staab as he attempts to re-create Otzi in plastic form right down to his skin tone in his mummified state.  Through it all, some rather interesting revelations are made.  Ironically enough it leaves almost as much mystery as it solves such as why, if Otzi was a farmer, did he have a full quiver of arrows and longbow, and ax, and why he was murdered.  Murdered?  That’s right.  As audiences learn in this episode of NOVA, researchers discovered in 2001 part of an arrow-head lodged in Otzi, leading to the belief that he was indeed murdered.  Of course this aspect is never fully addressed.  One can only hope that a future episode of NOVA will examine this element of Otzi’s story.  Regardless, the story of who Otzi was and how he lived is its own interesting story that, again, lovers of mysteries and science alike will enjoy.

The story at the center of NOVA: Iceman Reborn is in itself one that lovers of mysteries and science alike will enjoy.  That is because it is a story that, though it answers a number of questions about the famed mummy dubbed Otzi, also leaves plenty of mystery in the end; mystery that will hopefully be addressed in a future episode of NOVA.  Audiences will appreciate the mystery that is unraveled thanks to the information that is revealed over the course of the program’s roughly hour-long run time.  The most notable of the revelations that are made is that of Otzi’s cause of death.  It is revealed in the program that Otzi was more than likely murdered.  That is inferred thanks to the discovery, in 2001, of a fragment of an arrow lodged inside Otzi.  Its location and point of entry reveals that the only way that it could have gotten there was by being fired from another person’s bow.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces of information revealed throughout the program.  Along with this shocking discovery, audiences also learn that Otzi wasn’t in the best of health when he died.  He suffered from a variant of arthritis and apparently also had lyme disease.  Considering Otzi’s age, this discovery makes his the oldest case of lyme disease known yet to mankind.  Also revealed is that Otzi had a genetic predisposition toward heart troubles.  Just as shocking is the revelation of his possible descendants’ whereabouts.  Through explanation of genetics it is revealed that his descendants are living on the island of Sardinia.  Considering the history of farmers and hunter gatherers in Europe at the time of Otzi’s life (and the history of the region since), this is a truly shocking revelation.  That is especially the case being that it sounds like Otzi was likely a nomadic farmer.  This leads to one of the mysteries that is not solved in this episode of NOVA—if he was nomadic, and a farmer, then why was he found with a longbow, arrows, and even a stone ax and knife?  The only assumption that can be made without further research is that he used them for survival (I.E. hunting and self-defense).  Even that goes against what is known about farmers—that farmers were far less nomadic than hunter gatherers.  Again, it leaves audiences with just as much mystery as is resolved here.  Why was he seemingly nomadic if he was a farmer?  What’s more, if he was found in the snow-covered mountains of Europe, how could it be that his descendants are on an island off of Italy’s west coast?  Considering all of the information that is revealed here, the mysteries that are unraveled about Otzi, and those that are spawned by those same revelations, the story here and its information gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this episode of NOVA.  They are not the only elements that make this presentation worth the watch.  The program’s editing rounds out its presentation.  It brings everything full circles and completes the program’s presentation.

Both the story at the center of NOVA: Iceman Reborn and the information presented in the story are key elements to the program.  That is because they not only unravel some mysteries but also create quite a bit of discussion over other equally intriguing mysteries.  While both elements give lovers of mysteries and science alike plenty to appreciate here, they are not the program’s only key elements.  The program’s writing is just as notable as its story and revelations.  That is because the writing ensures viewers’ maintained engagement just as much as the program’s overall content.  Audiences will note in watching the program closely the transitions between the central story of Otzi’s identity and history and that of Staab’s efforts to bring Otzi’s twin to the world.  The program moves smoothly between each subject, seamlessly tying each part of the episode’s presentation together.  The end result is a presentation that never leaves audiences feeling confused or even left behind.  As a matter of fact it leaves audiences wanting to know more about Otzi, his life, and his fate.  Considering this, it shows why the program’s general writing is so vital to its overall presentation.  It is just as important as the story at the center of the episode, its revelations, and the questions that it leaves.  That is not to say that the episode’s story, its revelations, and leftover questions are not important to its presentation.  In fact, they work in direct partnership with the writing to make this program one that, again, lovers of mysteries and science alike will appreciate.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/novapbs

 

 

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