‘AmEx: Into The Amazon’ Is A Gripping Real-Life Adventure For All Audiences

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Theodore Roosevelt is known to Americans as one of the most polarizing figures in the nation’s history. Two terms as the nation’s head resulted in the Square Deal, the construction of the Panama Canal, protection of America’s national parks and so much more. While Roosevelt accomplished so many great deeds during his time in office, his time away from office produced its own share of intriguing accomplishments and stories. One of the most notable of those stories is his journey down the River of Doubt in the Amazon jungle, which would eventually go on to be called the Rio Roosevelt. The river is a tributary of the Amazon, and hundreds of miles long. Now thanks to PBS and Public Media Distribution, the story of Roosevelt’s harrowing journey along the river is finally being told in the form of the new American Experience episode Into The Amazon. Released just last week of DVD and Digital HD, the two-hour program tells the story, which forms the foundation of the program’s presentation. That story will be discussed shortly. The story’s pacing is just as important to note considering its length and how much content is shared throughout. It will be discussed later. Its pictures, footage and cinematography — its aesthetic elements — round out its most important elements. Each element is important in its own right to the program’s whole. All things considered, they make American Experience: Into The Amazon a story that is just as gripping as any major Hollywood blockbuster.

American Experience: Into The Amazon, one of the first episodes of PBS’ hit history-based series to be released so far this new year, is a wonderful start to the year for the network. It is just as wonderful for audiences. That is because this program proves over the course of its two-hour run time to be just as gripping as anything that could be (and has been) churned out by Hollywood’s “Big Six.” That is proven in no small part through the program’s central story. The story follows Theodore Roosevelt’s journey down the River of Doubt, which would go on to be dubbed the Rio Roosevelt in the course of that journey. What makes the story so interesting is that it proves to be fraught with all of the dangers and tensions that one would find, again, in any major Hollywood blockbuster. From hostile natives to the dangers of the river (and the jungle itself) to Roosevelt and Rondon never fully seeing eye to eye — causing plenty of tensions throughout — the story of Roosevelt’s journey offers all of the action and drama that one would ever want. Even more interesting is the revelation that Roosevelt’s desire to travel the river’s length was just because he wanted to escape the emotion of losing out in his bid for a third term as President of the United States. As narrator Oliver Platt points out early on, that decision was not an isolated event. He notes through his narration that Roosevelt made such decisions even earlier in his life. That means it was all part of a pattern of behavior for him. This alone would make this journey a wonderful case study for any psychology student, especially considering that three men — and even Rondon’s dog — died along the way. Roosevelt survived the perilous journey, which is why famed actor Alec Baldwin was able to read his writings an why Platt shared the story. Keeping all of this in mind, this program’s story alone is more than enough reason for audiences to watch this presentation. It has all of the elements of a major Hollywood Blockbuster without all of the falsehoods and over embellishments. It is only one of the elements that makes this episode of American Experience so powerful. The program’s pacing is directly connected to the story, and in turn just as important to note as the story itself.

Into The Amazon‘s pacing is so important to consider in examining this program because there is so much information to take in throughout the course of the story. Considering how much material is shared from start to finish, those behind the program’s creation are to be commended for the manner in which everything was balanced. That includes Roosevelt’s back story and that of Rondon. Even as the group’s journey progresses, the program never allows itself to get too sidetracked by those moments. Instead, it balances them with the rest of the story, maintaining its fluidity. This, again, is one of those areas where far too many fictional Hollywood blockbusters get it wrong, and in turn bog themselves down. No one part of the story or another ever gets too much time here. The result is a story that insures audiences’ engagement from start to end. Keeping that in mind, the pairing of the program’s story with its solid pacing gives audiences plenty to appreciate. Even with this in mind, there is still one more item to discuss in examining the program’s presentation. That item is its collective aesthetic elements (I.E. its pictures, footage, cinematography and even journal readings).

The collective footage, pictures, cinematography and journal readings incorporated into Into The Amazon are so important to its whole because of the fine touch that they add to the program’s viewing experience. The vintage footage and pictures serve to illustrate the story shared by Platt while Baldwin’s readings from Roosevelt’s notes pull viewers even deeper into the story. The modern cinematography that rests alongside the other noted elements makes the story even more engaging because of its sharp look and its angles. The aerials and the water level shots more than prove this. As Platt discusses one member of the party killing another and running away, the camera points at the ground as the man, who is supposed to be the killer, flees. This simple moment adds its own tension (and in turn engagement) to the story, making it that much more enthralling. It is just one of the so many moments when the cinematography shines, too. From one moment to another, the cinematography alone rivals that of so many blockbuster man v. nature movies that have ever been created. When this impressive cinematography couples with the program’s equally important footage, pictures and readings, the whole of these aesthetic elements makes the program’s presentation all the stronger. When they are joined with the story itself and the story’s pacing, the whole of everything proves Into The Amazon this year’s first great documentary, and a work that easily rivals any major Hollywood blockbuster.

American Experience: Into The Amazon is an impressive start for PBS’ already growing list of new home releases this year. Over the course of its two-hour run time, this gripping man versus nature/man versus man story is the first great documentary of the year, and proves once more why PBS remains today the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television. It also proves that it is just as good (if not better than) any major Hollywood blockbuster that has ever been crafted. As noted already, that is due in no small part to the program’s story. The story proves it doesn’t need embellishments and half-truths to be engaging and entertaining. The story’s pacing insures even more the program’s strength as do its collective aesthetic elements (cinematography, vintage photos and footage, journal readings). Each element is important in its own right to the program’s whole. All things considered, they make American Experience: Into the Amazon a journey that history buffs and action flick fans alike will appreciate, and that rivals its blockbuster counterparts. It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at:

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS

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.

PBS Follows Roosevelt “Into The Amazon” In New “AmEx” Episode”

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Theodore Roosevelt is one of the greatest figures in American history.  A two-term president whose accomplishments both in and out of the Oval Office have been touted time and again both in print and on-screen, he has been the topic of any number of books, movies and documentaries.  Speaking of the latter, PBS and PBS Distribution added just the latest in that long list of documentaries this week in a new episode of its history-based series American Experience.

American ExperienceInto The Amazon was released January 9th. The nearly two-hour hour-long documentary follows Roosevelt’s journey into the heart of the South American rainforest following his defeat in his run for a third term as President of the United States. Roosevelt was joined by then famed Brazilian explorer Candido Mariano Da Silver Rondon and a group of men as he made his way through the jungle.  The voyage was fraught with great perils, and even claimed a handful of lives, but Roosevelt survived to tell the tale.

Now that tale is told through this program with actor/producer Oliver Platt (Bicentennial ManThe West WingThe Three Musketeers) telling the story.  This is not the first time Platt has served as narrator for an episode of AE.  He also served as narrator on American ExperienceThe AbolitionistsAmerican ExperienceWalt Disney and American ExperienceJFK along with a handful of other episodes.  Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live30 RockThe Hunt For Red October) serves as the voice of the legendary president in this episode while Wagner Moura (ElysiumNarcosTropical Paradise) brings Rondon’s words to life.  Jake Lacy (GirlsThe OfficeSloane) handles duties for Roosevelt’s son Kermit.  Audiences can view a trailer for the program online now here.

American ExperienceInto The Amazon is available now on DVD and Digital HD.  It is retailing for MSRP of $24.99, but can be ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at:

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS

 

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.

Audiences Of All Types Will Appreciate PBS’ Latest Video Bio

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Next Friday, November 22nd marks the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Everybody knows the story of how Kennedy was gunned down while riding through the streets of Dallas, Texas.  Countless conspiracy theories have been crafted about his death in the years since his murder.  Just as many people know the associated conspiracy theories.  But just how many people know what Kennedy was doing in Dallas to begin with?  PBS answers that question and more in the new episode of its hit series, American Experience: JFK follows the life and career of John F. Kennedy from his birth to his rise to the Presidency to his untimely death in 1963.  Along the way, viewers are given a look not only at his own life, but how his own family roots led to his career in politics as well as much more.  This is one part of what makes this documentary an impressive addition to any history buff’s home library.  Those same history and political science junkies will appreciate the addition of some familiar footage from Kennedy’s career, and some more rare footage from his personal life as well as his career.  JFK is made even more impressive thanks to the manner in which the story was assembled.  The four-hour, two-part documentary is split up into a way that doesn’t require viewers to be afraid of missing anything.  That aspect of the overall presentation works with the previously mentioned factors to make it one that anyone with even the slightest interest in history and/or political science will appreciate.

Most audiences that watch JFK are sure to come into the presentation with at least a general knowledge of Kennedy’s time in office.  After watching this presentation, audiences will come out of it having learned more about Kennedy than they ever thought they would learn about him.  That is thanks to the bounty of information provided about his life and that of his family.  While more seasoned viewers might already know, others will be interested to find out that John and his brother Bobby weren’t the only politicians in the Kennedy clan.  Their father was also a well-known politician.  And their brother died serving America.  Just as noteworthy are the revelations about the secrets of the Cuban missile crisis.  According to the program, narrated by veteran actor Oliver Platt, Kennedy negotiated a secret deal with Nikita Khrushchev in order to get Khrushchev to remove his missiles from Cuba.  Platt goes on to explain that even after the crisis, this part of the story had not been revealed to Americans.  It wasn’t until years later that this information was made public.  There is much more information provided with JFK.  And viewers will find that it collectively makes this program another enjoyable addition to PBS’ American Experience.

The story presented by writer Mark Zwonitzer and his cohorts behind the documentary is one that is certain to interest anyone with even a fleeting interest in JFK’s life.  The story alone isn’t all that makes this edition of American Experience work so well.  Audiences will be just as impressed by the inclusion of so much vintage footage throughout the feature.  Some of the footage is relatively similar.  A prime example is that of Kennedy riding through the streets of Dallas, TX.  Less familiar but just as interesting is footage of Kennedy talking to his cabinet throughout the Cuban missile crisis.  There are also still photos of Kennedy in the Oval Office used to illustrate his state of mind through his ups and downs.  They and the video footage together make the overall presentation of this episode of American Experience even richer.

The video footage, still photos, and historical information together are key elements that make JFK another successful episode from PBS’ American Experience.  The overall makeup of the presentation puts it over the top.  That’s because of the “episode’s” four-hour run time.  Four hours over two discs seems like a lot.  Those four hours are split into much shorter and distinct segments.  Viewers aren’t forced to take in large amounts of information at one time.  This plays perfectly to the attention span of the average viewer.  And in turn, it makes this feature even more of a win for PBS because that means it could potentially bring in an audience group that they otherwise might not have had if only for that reason.  That aspect of the feature mixed with everything already mentioned will not only bring in more casual viewers, but those that are more inclined to watch regardless.  It will be available next Tuesday, November 19th, on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=24514266&cp=1378003.29088156&ab=Aspot_JFK&parentPage=family.  More information on this and other programs from PBS’ American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Abolitionists PBS’ First Great Documentary Of The Year

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Half documentary, half historical film and all educational and entertaining, PBS’ the Abolitionists is even more proof of the value of public broadcasting.  This three part/three hour documentary from PBS’ American experience series is a wonderful tool both inside the classroom and outside.  Its mix of documentary and re-enactment does something very rarely seen with PBS’ documentaries.  This is a piece that would typically be more closely akin to those programs produced for the History Channel.  So seeing such a presentation from PBS shows that the network is just as capable of producing such entertaining and educational content.

The presentation of the Abolitionists as part documentary and part re-enactment is the most notable of the positives from this outstanding story.  Within the three-hour course of this feature, audiences will appreciate not just the re-enactments themselves, but also the story’s organization.  What audiences have here is the historical equivalent to a movie with an ensemble cast as it focuses on not just one person, but five.  The documentary seamlessly weaves together the stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown without allowing each figure’s story to step on the other.  Rather each one nicely compliments the other throughout the documentary’s three segments.  This may seem minor.  But in the larger scale of things, it goes a long way towards keeping audiences of all ages engaged within the context of each hour-long segment.

Within the context of each of the documentary’s three segments audiences are given even more reason to enjoy this recently released DVD through the re-enactments and the actual words of Stowe, Brown and the others.  The actors portraying the famed figures do an outstanding job in their roles.  The addition of readings of each figure’s own words makes those portrayals and each individual’s role in ending slavery hit that much harder.  And actor Oliver Platt’s narration was a solid fit.  His delivery combined with the film’s editing and music come together to make each segment equally solid.  Kudos to all involved for such impressive work.

The general make-up of The Abolitionists plays the largest role in the overall success of this recently released DVD as has already been noted.  On a more specific level, the presentation’s construction so to speak itself plays its own role in viewers’ engagement.  Viewers will be quite impressed at the cinematography and the re-enactments.  The re-enactments within this release could easily go toe-to-toe with the documentaries released by the History Channel.  The combination of the historically accurate clothing, sets, and even dialects show that those involved with bringing this special from the American Experience series took its creation with the utmost seriousness.  The same can be said of those running the cameras during the re-enactments.  The historical re-enactment segments were beautifully shot.  They look and sound like anything that might be seen any day on the silver screen.  Coupled with the telling of each figure’s story, the Abolitionist’s cinematography will grab audiences and keep them right to the final minutes of the final segment.

Whether for re-enactments, the presentation’s overall structure–music, editing, narration, etc.–or for something smaller such as the inclusion of each figure’s own words, it’s obvious that a lot of work went into bringing The Abolitionists to life.  The end product is a feature from PBS that easily holds its own against releases from the History Channel and that has made its argument to be one of the best documentaries of the year.  It is available now and can be ordered online at the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org

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