‘Human: The World Within’ Is A Fully Accessible Look At How Our Bodies Work

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

The human body is such an interesting structure.  That is because it is so contradictory in itself.  It is made of thousands of miles of nerves, veins, and full of fluids and organs (at least two of which – tonsils and the appendix – are not even needed).  For all of its immense complexity, the human body is so frail and fragile.  As the past year-plus has shown, it is so simple for humans to fall sick and worse.  All it takes is one virus for the human body to fail, even being so complex.  PBS examines that contradicting duality of the human body in its recently released documentary, Human: The World Within, showing just how deep it runs.  Having originally aired May 5, the six-part program was released on DVD June 22 through PBS Distribution.  This five and a half hour documentary will appeal widely to medical students, those of the biological sciences, and anyone with any interest in said topics.  That is due in no small part to its content, which will be discussed shortly.  The presentation of said content adds to the documentary’s appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered, they make the documentary just as appealing to the noted audiences in its home release as in its recent TV presentation.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s Human: The World Within is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  That is due in large part to its topic.  As the documentary’s title suggests, it focuses on all of the inner workings of the human body.  More specifically, it examines each of the body’s systems – circulatory, reproductive, digestive, immune, nervous, and sensory – and how each does its own part to make the human body work.  One of the most interesting of the segments focuses on the circulatory system.  Viewers will find interesting, that the circulatory system can actually be “trained” in a manner of speaking.  This is explained through a profile of a woman living in Colorado who spends her free time scaling ice walls.  It is explained here that because of her choice of free-time activity, her circulatory system works differently than that of most other people.  It can handle environments in which oxygen levels are lower, whereas more “normal” people would have far less chance of survival in such situations.  As another example of the interest in the segments, “Birth” — which focuses on the reproductive system — is more than just a refresher on how the system works.  It explains that sometimes the body’s reproductive system can and does fail, leading to an issue, such as a miscarriage.  It is an emotionally difficult incident, but understanding it from a biological aspect might help some families make better sense of those sad events, leading to more ability to cope.  “React,” which opens the documentary, presents its own interesting explanations of how the body’s nervous system works.  It helps understand how back pain is connected to the nervous system, for instance, and how the so-called funny bone is also connected to the body’s nervous system.  It is just one more way in which the content proves so important to the documentary’s presentation.

Staying on the matter of the content, it is delivered through a mix of narration, discussion from medical professionals, and average, everyday people.  From a cell phone technician, to a distance runner, to a boxer, to the noted ice climber and more, the discussions from these noted everyday figures will connect with viewers.  That is because viewers will see themselves in these figures even more than the medical professionals. The medical professionals who are also featured here present their discussion in simple terms, rather than trying to use complex language.  This ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment even more.  Making for even more engagement and entertainment is the general fashion in which the documentary is presented.

The documentary is presented through six separate segments.  Each segment runs just under an hour.  The separation of the segments encourages audiences to watch the documentary at their own pace.  This means that as audiences do watch each segment, they are more inclined to remain engaged in each discussion.  The segments’ run times create their own psychological impact.  The impact in question is that audiences will be more comfortable take the time to watch.  That overall encouragement to watch will ensure viewers will catch everything discussed in each, especially considering the segments’ pacing.  Taking that into account along with the content itself, this proves even more, just how much the program has to offer viewers.

The content featured in Human: The World Within and its overall delivery style does much to make this documentary appealing.  It is, collectively just a portion of what makes the program so appealing.  The documentary’s packaging in its home release rounds out its most important elements.  The packaging finds the documentary split into two discs, with three segments each on each disc.  The discs are placed on their own spindle separate from one another inside the standard size DVD case.  The separation of the discs inside the case ensures the discs will not get marred in any way since they cannot touch one another at any point.  The use of a standard size DVD case saves space on viewers’ DVD/BD racks.  This creates its own appeal.  These two items are each positive aesthetic elements.  When they are considered along with the documentary’s content and its overall presentation, the documentary in whole proves a complete success.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s recently released documentary Human: The World Within is a program that proves a successful presentation that its targeted audiences will enjoy.  Its appeal comes in large part through its content.  The content in question focuses on the body’s systems and how they make the body work in their various ways.  The relatively simple way in which each is examined makes that content accessible for any viewer.  The separation of the content into segments – each of which runs less than an hour – adds to the appeal.  That is because it will encourage audiences to watch each portion that much more.  The documentary’s packaging will appeal to audiences because of its aesthetic value.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary.  All things considered, they make the documentary just as appealing on DVD as in its TV premiere.  Human: The World Within is available now.  More information on this and other titles from PBS and PBS Distribution is available at:

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbs


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Audiences Will Enjoy PBS, BBC’s Latest Trip To Africa In Their New Documentary

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/BBC

PBS and the BBC apparently have a thing for Africa.  The networks have taken viewers to Africa and its many nations multiple times over the years.  The networks’ trips have taken viewers to countries across the continent while examining the vast multitude of species that call the continent home.  This past May, the networks partnered again for yet another trip back to Africa in the new documentary, Life at the Waterhole.  As the title infers, the nearly three hour documentary focuses in this case on how various species interact at a water hole.  PBS Distribution released the show on DVD last month.  It is just as appealing in its home presentation as its television presentation.  That is due in no small part to the general presentation.  The cinematography that is featured throughout the show makes for its own appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted its important in its own way to the whole of Life at the Waterhole.  All things considered, they make this program its own interesting presentation that is worth watching.

PBS and the BBC’s wildlife documentary, Life at the Waterhole, is a presentation that plenty of audiences will find worth watching.  That is especially the case with the nearly three-hour program’s recent DVD release.  It’s appeal comes in large part through its general presentation.  The general presentation finds the program, which runs two hours, 45 minutes, separated into three separate segments, two of which run approximately 55 minutes and the third of which runs approximately 56 minutes.  The segments follow host Dr. M. Sanjayan as he observes the role of watering holes for ecosystems in Africa.  In this case, the waterhole is a man-made structure in a wildlife preserve in Tanzania.  Over the course of six months, audiences join Dr. Sanjayan as he and his team of scientists as they observe the social habits of various animals who come to the waterhole.  Viewers will find themselves just as interested to learn how animals change their habits with the changing seasons and their conditions.  Additionally, viewers will find themselves just as interested to learn about the diversity of the species who utilize the waterhole.  There are water buffalo, various species of birds, elephants, hyenas, giraffes, and so many others.  According to Dr. Sanjayan, he and his cohorts record more than 100 species of animals over the course of six months at the waterhole. The changes in prey animals’ habits at the waterhole in relation to predators’ introduction is also engaging.  Getting back to the story’s segmentation, this aspect works with the story to form a solid starting point for the program.  That is because it allows audiences to follow all of the changes at their own pace.  This is important to note because as simple as the story is, there is a lot of information in each segment.  Anyone who tries to binge all three segments will find themselves mentally drained.  To that end, this general presentation will encourage viewers’ engagement and in turn entertainment to a certain extent.  That positive starting point is just one part of what makes this story worth watching.  The cinematography is of its own importance to the show.

The cinematography featured in Life at the Waterhole is important because of its aesthetic value.  Audiences are taken up close and personal at times thanks to cameras mounted in and around the waterhole.  One is actually encased in a watertight dome at the water level.  That allows for those up close views from that vantage point.  The footage from that camera is unique just as is the footage from the cameras located above the waterhole and at its edge.  There is even a camera mounted inside the blind that allows viewers to see what Sanjayan and company see – a paper wasp nest and even a swallow nest.  As if that is not enough, the cameras even have night vision capability, thus allowing audiences to see how the animals interact at night.  The footage is so vivid and rich in its color while the varied angles give audiences plenty of equally wonderful vantage points from which to take in the story.  That expansive visual aid from the cinematography helps drive home everything that Sanjayan discusses in all three segments, ensuring even more, viewers’ engagement and entertainment.  This aesthetic element pairs with the program’s general presentation to enhance the viewing experience even more.  It is just one more aspect that makes the program worth watching.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.

Life at the Waterhole’s pacing is important to examine because, again, of the program’s content and run time.  As already noted, there is a lot of content to sort through over the course of two hours and 45 minutes.  Thankfully, as in-depth as the content is in each segment, Sanjayan and company ensure that the breadth of information is not overpowering.  Rather, they keep the story moving fluidly within each segment, connecting discussions on say, the weather and animals’ behavior smoothly.  As a result, viewers who watch the program one segment at a time will find each segment so easy to follow.  The engagement and entertainment ensured through the positive impact of the pacing pairs eventually creates an appreciation for the story, its general presentation and cinematography, too.  That overall appreciation will leave viewers agreeing that as extensive as Life at the Waterhole is while another visit to Africa, still a visit worth taking.

PBS and the BBC’s new documentary, Life at the Waterhole is hardly the first time that either network has presented any wildlife program centered on animal life in Africa.  Despite that, it is still a presentation that audiences will agree is worth watching.  That is due in part to the documentary’s general presentation.  In regards to the presentation, the nearly three-hour program is separated into three segments.  Each segment clocks in at less than an hour.  Even as in-depth as each segment is in terms of its information, that limited time and separation does its own part to encourage viewers’ engagement and entertainment.  The cinematography featured in the program adds its own layer of appeal.  That is because of how up close it brings audiences to the animals being observed by Dr. Sanjayan and his team of researchers.  The editing used in the cinematography increases that appeal, too.  Each segment’s pacing rounds out the most important aspects of this presentation.  Considering the depth of content in each segment, the pacing was especially important to track.  That is because of how easy it would have been for the program to get bogged down in itself.  Thankfully that did not happen.  Rather, the pacing remains fluid and solid in each segment, ensuring viewers’ engagement and entertainment even more.  When this aspect is considered along with the impact of the program’s cinematography, story, and general presentation, the whole makes Life at the Waterhole a presentation that is another worthwhile trip to Africa from PBS and the BBC.  Life at the Waterhole is available now.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available at:

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PBS

More information on this and other programs from the BBC is available at:

Website: https://bbc.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bbc

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

Bibliophiles, Cinephiles Alike Will Appreciate ‘AmEx: American Oz’ Despite Its Pacing

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

It goes without saying that author L. Frank Baum’s timeless novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 1939 cinematic adaptation are among the most iconic presentations in their respective arenas.  There is some variance between the original fairy tale and its big screen adaptation, but that aside, the two tales have remained beloved by generations of audiences since their releases.  Early this spring, PBS offered a deep look into how each came about in a new episode of its series American Experience titled American Oz.  Audiences did not have to wait long for the nearly two-hour-long program to come to DVD, either, as it was released just last month on DVD.  While this episode of American Experience is an interesting presentation – thanks in large part to its story – it is not a perfect work.  It does suffer from one notable problem, that being its pacing.  Luckily, as much as the pacing does to detract from the program’s presentation, it is not enough to make the episode a failure.  The transitions throughout work with the story to make for even more reason to watch.  Keeping all of this in mind, the episode might not be as magical as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or even The Wizard of Oz, but is still an interesting presentation in its own right.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s home presentation of American Experience: American Oz is an interesting new episode of American Experience.  It is so interesting in part because of its story. Instead of just examining Baum’s book and related topics, the story instead takes a look at author L. Frank Baum and how his own experiences played into the creation of his now timeless fairy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its equally timeless cinematic adaptation (from MGM), The Wizard of Oz (and the novel’s sequels).  So really, this episode is one part biography of Baum and one part examination of how his life and career played into his rise to fame.  Additionally, it examines the role of the novel and movie in America’s own culture.  Audiences will be interested to learn of Baum’s determination to be successful and how his time living in South Dakota likely played into the very setting for the story’s opening.  Additionally, the discussion about Baum’s disenfranchisement with certain things in the country played into the original story of Oz’s Emerald City makes for its own interest.  Even more noteworthy is the duality in Baum himself.  On one hand, he was clearly ahead of his time in his support for women’s rights.  That social and political leaning is believed to have played into the story of Oz.  On another hand, according to the information provided in this profile, he was also seemingly somewhat racist.  The allegations are supported through a show of the characters that he presented in his books and even comments he made about Native Americans in some newspaper editorials that he wrote early in his professional life.  That apparent duality in Baum’s personality is eye-opening.  Between everything noted here and so much more presented over the episode’s one hour, 52-minute run time, audiences get a rich, in-depth examination of Baum, his work and their place in society today.  It is reason enough for audiences to watch this episode of American Experience.  For all that the story does to make this episode of AmEx engaging and entertaining, that appeal is countered to a point by the story’s pacing.

The pacing proves problematic because it feels like it moves so slowly throughout all of the information provided throughout the story.  On one hand, that could be because of the way in which the story is presented.  On the other though, narrators Kent Drummond and Susan Aronstein feels so bland throughout, too.  Their delivery just does not do much to call on audiences’ attention.  Considering how important Baum’s own life experiences and views were one would have thought that the pair would have given more life to their narration.  Instead, it was the interviewees who helped tell the story that did that.  Meanwhile, Drummond and Aronstein instead make audiences feel as though they are listening to a lecture in a college class in a bad way.  Bringing things full circle here, the result is that even despite the best efforts of the interviewees, the pacing is just too slow.  As a result, it is easy to grow bored.  Thankfully though, the story is still interesting enough thanks to the efforts of the noted interviewees that audiences will just be able to keep themselves engaged.

Keeping in mind the duality in American Oz’s pacing, the episode is still worth watching occasionally.  Considering this, there is still one more item to examine.  That item is the collective transitions within the story.  The transitions are solid and keep the story moving fluidly.  This is important to consider because of all of the twists and turns that Baum’s life apparently took.  From his various businesses – raising chickens, running newspapers, running a store, being an author – to his career choices – working in theater, writing – to dealing with other matters, a lot happened to Baum and Baum did a lot.  Even despite the pacing issues in that story of all that Baum did and had happen, the story’s transitions still manage to make clear each chapter of his life.  This and the efforts by the interviewees to keep the story’s pacing moving, work together to make for even more encouragement to keep viewers engaged and entertained.  Keeping all of this in mind, this episode of American Experience is maybe not as magical as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or its cinematic adaptation, but is still engaging and entertaining.

American Experience: American Oz is a presentation that cinephiles and bibliophiles alike will find relatively interesting.  That is due in large part to its story.  The story featured in this episode of AmEx examines the life and work of legendary author Frank Baum.  The story examines ho Baum’s life and work influenced his novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its cinematic adaptation, The Wizard of Oz, and the place of those two works in America’s culture and history.  It is a rich, in-depth examination of all things noted.  While the story itself gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this episode of AmEx, the story’s pacing proves problematic.  That is due in large part to the narration.  The narration comes across as a lecture in a college classroom.  It is just that flat.  Thankfully, the commentary from the interviewees featured throughout the story just do make up enough for the problems posed by the narration.  The transitions work with the interviewees’ commentary to add even more appeal to the program.  That is because they keep the story moving fluidly, even despite the problems posed by the narration and pacing.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the episode engaging and entertaining even though it is imperfect.

American Experience: American Oz is available now. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperiencePBS

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS

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

PBS, PBS Distribution Score With ‘Baseball’ Re-Issue

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

The countdown to the midpoint of Major League Baseball’s 2021 season is underway.  The biggest names in the league will come together next week to put their talents on display in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game.  The game will also determine home field advantage for the World Series.  With the season’s midway point almost reached and all eyes looking forward to the second half of the season, the upcoming break makes for a great time to also look back on the Great American Pastime’s history.  Audiences can once again do just that thanks to PBS Distribution’s recent re-issue of the Ken Burns documentary, Baseball.  Re-issued June 8 on separate DVD and Blu-ray box sets, the documentary is a wonderful presentation for any baseball fan.  That is due in no small part to its content, which will be discussed shortly.  The set’s packaging is especially important to address in this re-issue and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the set is also of note and will be examined later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way.  All things considered, these items make the set one more of this year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

PBS Distribution’s recent re-issue of the Ken Burns documentary Baseball is a presentation that any baseball fan will appreciate.  Its appeal is due in no small part to its featured content.  The content in question is exactly the same as that presented in the set’s original release in 2000 and its 2004 and 2010 re-issues (Yes, this is now the documentary’s third re-issue).  The content in question follows the evolution of “America’s Game” from the pre-Civil War years (the 1840s) all the way up to 2009.  Throughout the 23 hours which the program spans, viewers learn about how baseball has brought the nation together in some of its best and worst times.  It also ensures the history of the Negro League is thoroughly highlighted as part of the whole.  The story of Jackie Robinson’s impact on the league and its history is also part of the overall story, as is the impact of performance enhancing drugs in the late 90s and early 2000s.  Simply put, audiences who perhaps did not or do not own this documentary in its previous two releases get the original program – remastered – in this set.  None of the story is omitted, nor is anything added that was not in those releases.  To that end, audiences will be pleased to know that in terms of content, this latest presentation of Baseball is positive.  The primary content featured in PBS Distribution’s latest re-issue of Baseball is just one of its positives.  Its packaging adds to its appeal.

Baseball’s packaging is important to note because it is so ergonomic in comparison to that of the documentary’s prior releases.  Both the DVD and Blu-ray presentation spread the documentary’s 11 discs across three separate cases inside a bigger housing box.  This sounds somewhat bulky, but it really is anything but.  By comparison, the documentary’s 2004 DVD release was far less ergonomic.  It placed each “inning” of the story (yes, the story is divided into “innings” instead of “chapters.”  Got to love that marketing aspect.) on its own disc within a bigger box.  That means that said set was extremely large.  These new sets on the other hand, are far less space consuming.  Each box in this re-issue separates the set’s discs into a count of three, two, and six respectively.  The discs are separated on their own spindle and leaf separate from the other discs.  This protects the discs from one another, dramatically decreasing the chances of the discs being marred.  What’s more, it also ensures the set will take up far less space on audiences’ DVD/BD racks than that 2004 (and even 2010) re-issue.  Speaking of the 2010 re-issue, it separated the “10th Inning” section as a standalone Blu-ray, while the rest of the documentary was still packaged as an overly bulky DVD set.  So again, what audiences are getting here in terms of packaging is a positive presentation in its own right, both on DVD and Blu-ray.  The packaging is exactly the same on both sets and far more ergonomic than that of the documentary’s previous releases.  It is just one more positive of this overall set.  The bonus content that accompanies the set rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus content that accompanies the documentary in its latest presentation is the same as that presented in the set’s 2010 re-issue.  Save for the update about the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series title, all of the bonus content featured in that set is also the same as that in the set’s 2000 release.  So in other words, audiences get here, all of the same bonus content collected over the course of the documentary’s previous releases.  This means that no viewers will feel cheated.  The bulk of the bonus content is extra interview footage that did not make the final cut for the documentary’s main feature.  Among the most notable of the bonus interview footage is that which focuses on race relations in baseball’s history, asterisks related to PEDs, and the role of baseball post 9/11.  In regards to the matter of race relations, writer Gerald Early states that through much of baseball’s history, there was little attempt by the league’s heads to attract African-American audiences.  Fellow writer Howard Bryant expanded on Early’s comments, stating that instead of looking inward at America’s own African-American community, the league instead looked more toward Latin America and the college ranks.  He added (again, at the time) that this had been the trend over the course of the past 30 years.  On a related note, sportswriter Doug Glanville states counters that as he said “multiculturalism is the next level” for the league.  He was making the comment about the growing globalization of the game in regards to its reach and diversity in the league’s players.

In regards to the extra discussions on baseball’s role post 9/11, former Yankees manager Joe Torre joins Early, and sportswriters Tom Verducci and Selena Roberts to discuss how important it was at the time for the game to return.  Each points out in his/her own way that having the game return was fully necessary because it returned a sense of normalcy to the nation and helped to unite Americans, even if they were not Yankees fans.  As fellow sportswriter Tom Boswell best put it, “It gave us all something to rally around.”

The bonus commentary excerpts are only a portion of the more than two hours of bonus content featured in this re-issue.  Burns and producer Lynn Novick are also featured from their 2010 interview as they talk about how the documentary came about.  According to Burns, Baseball is for all intents and purposes, a “sequel” to The Civil War, another documentary for which he is known.  Novick ads her own comments, stressing that when Baseball originally aired in 1992, there was some trepidation because it aired right as the now infamous players strike happened.  The contrast of the strike and the virtual love letter to the game that was Baseball was stark.  That in itself is sure to make for some discussion among audiences.  Additionally, Novick raises discussion about concerns raised by the league’s heads when she and Burns came to them about making the documentary.  According to Novick, the league officials were concerned about Burns and Novick making the project “a hatchet job” and their changed opinions after seeing the finished product.  The concerns, according to Novick stemmed from the impact of the player’s strike on public opinion and the impact of the PED scandal on public opinion.  To that end, their concerns were justified.  It can be appreciated why the league would have been tentative about having this documentary released.  Keeping this in mind along with everything else shared in the interviews with Burns and Novick, and in the bonus interview segments, the whole of the bonus content makes for its own appeal.  When the appeal of the bonus content is considered along with that created through the documentary’s primary content and packaging, the whole makes this re-issue a positive overall presentation for baseball fans and those of PBS and Ken Burns.

PBS Distribution’s latest re-issue of the Ken Burns documentary Baseball is a positive presentation.  It will appeal equally to baseball fans and those of Burns and PBS.  That is proven in part through its primary content.  The primary content in question is the same as that presented in the documentary’s previous releases.  That means that whether audiences own the documentary’s previous releases, everyone will be on the same level in terms of that content.  The content in question takes audiences through baseball’s history, from its infancy in the pre-Civil War era up to 2009.  That is a wide swath of the game’s history.  The set’s packaging is also a positive for this presentation.  That is because in the case of the DVD and Blu-ray platform, the packaging is far more ergonomic than that of the documentary’s previous DVD releases.  The bonus content, like the primary content, is the same as that in the documentary’s prior releases.  As with that primary content, this also ensures that audiences are all on the same level.  The more than two hours of content adds its own share of engagement and entertainment for audiences.  When it is considered along with the documentary’s primary content and packaging, the whole makes this presentation one more of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.  Baseball is available now.

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/PBS

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

Forget Lions, PBS’ New Leopard Tale Is Just As Engaging, Entertaining as ‘The Lion King’ If Not Better

Courtesy: WNET/PBS/PBS Distribution

When Walt Disney Studios debuted its animated movie The Lion King in 1994, the movie became an instant classic for the studio and has remained a favorite in the nearly 30 years since its premiere.  As much of a hit as The Lion King remains, it is fiction.  All of this is being mentioned because this past April, PBS premiered a new episode of Nature that one could easily argue is a counter to that movie in the form of The Leopard Legacy.  Released to DVD in June, now audiences can enjoy this presentation anytime.  The story featured in this nearly hour-long episode of Nature forms its foundation and will be discussed shortly.  The story featured in this episode is just one part of what makes it worth watching.  Its cinematography adds to its appeal, too, and will be discussed a little later.  The story’s transitions and pacing round out the program’s most important elements and complete its presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the program.  All things considered they make The Leopard Legacy another interesting episode of Nature and a presentation that is as good as The Lion King if not better.

The Leopard Legacy is an interesting new episode of PBS’ long-running wildlife series, Nature.  While the program centers on a pair of big cats covered in spots, it is a presentation that is anything but spotty.  Yes, that awful pun was intended.  All jokes aside, it is a powerful, memorable episode of Nature.  That is proven in part through its central story.  The story in question follows a mother leopard and her son as they grow together in Africa’s Luangwa River Valley.  The story is just as good as Disney’s timeless 1994 animated movie The Lion King if not better.  That is because this story of survival is real.  There are no unnecessary musical numbers, catch phrases, etc.  Audiences will be moved as the leopardess Olimba searches for her lost daughter, only to have to realize she is gone.  It makes the connection between Olimba and her growing cub, Makumbi that much more engaging.  The love that is shown between mother and son is engaging and entertaining to say the very least.  Noma Dumezweni’s narration is just as notable here as she tells the story of the pair’s life together.  Not to give away too much, but there is a confrontation between mother and son late in the story that is in such contrast to the love shown earlier in Makumbi’s life that it really becomes a truly shocking moment.  The details of that confrontation will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The aftermath of that confrontation does its own share to keep viewers engaged because of its surprising nature.  When this aspect of the overall story is considered against everything else noted here and the story of Makumbi’s own development as a hunter, the whole makes this near hour-long episode of Nature a completely engaging and entertaining story that is as good as any existing episode of the series.  The story at the center of The Leopard Legacy is just part of what makes this episode of Nature so strong.  The cinematography presented here adds its own appeal to the story.

The cinematography noted here is so important because of the aesthetic value that it adds to the story.  The footage capturing mother and son’s separate hunting is a prime example of the importance of that aspect.  Viewers will find themselves actively watching as Olimba hunts and catches a fleet-footed denizen of the valley.  The precision with which she approaches the hunt and kill is so powerful.  Audiences will be completely engaged as they watch Olimba stalk her prey methodically and then eventually chase and make the kill.  On a similar note, watching Makumbi try and try again to catch a stork is just as powerful.  The big reason that these moments are so engaging is not just the moments, but also how they are captured.  The moments are presented in regular speed.  There is no unnecessary slow motion effect used in any instance.  It would have been so easy to get schleppy and go that route – many existing Nature episodes have done so, too – but thankfully that did not happen here.  It is an aesthetic element, but it makes the story that much more immersive.

The footage of the duo hunting and killing is just part of what makes the cinematography stand out.  The general cinematography stands out just as much as that used in the noted moments.  What has to be assumed is drone footage used to show the impact of the rains on the valley does so well to show that vast impact.  Similarly, the wide ground shots of Olimba with a herd of elephants far in the distance creates a wonderful visual contrast in its own right.    Yet another wonderful shot comes as a flock of small birds takes to the sky together.  The birds are not trying to avoid danger.  They are just taking flight.  The mass of birds makes for its own interesting moment and just one more example of what makes the cinematography so important to the episode’s presentation.  It is just one more part of what makes the episode worth watching.  The collective transitions and pacing throughout the program puts the final touch to the episode.

The transitions and pacing is important because they are so smooth throughout the story.  This is exemplified early on in Olimba’s fight with a lone, nomadic leopard and discovery soon after that one of her cubs is gone.  The story moves fluidly from the noted conflict to the search for her missing cub.  Even from there to the realization that the unnamed cub is gone, the transition is solid.  As Makumbi grows, the transitions are just as solid.  Audiences see Makumbi first as a cub, and then as an adolescent, and then as an adult throughout the story.  Each stage of his life is separated expertly from one another.  At the same time, the story of mother and son’s development moves so smoothly and fluidly through each transition from stage to stage.  It all ensures collectively, that the story keeps viewers engaged and entertained throughout.  When this element, which is just as important as the story itself and the story’s cinematography, is considered with those noted elements, the whole makes clear why The Leopard Legacy is such an engaging and entertaining new episode of Nature.

Nature: The Leopard Legacy is a strong new entry to the long-running series.  Its appeal comes in large part through its story.  The story is simple yet so powerful.  That is because it is a story of family and survival.  It is real, natural drama unlike so much of what is on television today.  The cinematography that accompanies the story adds to the episode’s appeal.  That is because of the various angles that are used on the ground and in the air.  It also avoids the trope of using slow motion where it otherwise could have.  That makes for a certain amount of respect in its own right.  The story’s transitions and pacing put the final touch to the presentation.  They keep the episode moving fluidly from start to end.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this episode of Nature.  All things considered, they make the episode one more of this year’s top new documentaries.  It is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:

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‘NOVA: Beyond The Elements’ Goes Beyond The Enjoyment Of Its Predecessor

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

Science, like math, is at the heart of everything.  Science can be and is also cooler than most people realize.  Just ask David Pogue, the host of PBS’ NOVA: Hunting the Elements and its recent follow-up, NOVA: Beyond The Elements. Released on DVD April 6 following its nationwide airing in February, NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that proves just how prevalent and fun science really is.  That is proven through the episode’s main feature.  This will be discussed shortly.  The three-part episode’s presentation style ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The episode’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the episode’s presentation in its new home release.  All things considered, they make this episode of NOVA an unquestionably positive addition to this year’s field of new documentaries.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s recently released home presentation of NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that fans of the popular, long-running, science-based series will enjoy.  That is proven in part through its main content.  The content here refers to host David Pogue’s experiences showing how the elements play into our everyday lives.  From partaking in a chili eating contest (no, not chili as in the stuff with beans and meat, but actually chilis), to watching stuff explode (who doesn’t love a good explosion?) to examining how glass can actually be unbreakable (truth is stranger than fiction), Pogue puts in layman’s terms how the elements work together play into our everyday lives in so many ways.  In the case of the chili eating contest (which will have audiences laugh uproariously), it is used to show how molecules in chilis actually act as a “defense mechanism” for the vegetables.  Pogue discovers in his discussion with a scientist that the molecules in question actually trick the human brain into thinking chilis are spicy when in fact they really are not.  It makes for a really interesting exploration and discussion in itself.  In regards to the explosions, the discussion turns to talks on how molecules in certain elements come together to make explosives, such as ammonium nitrate and C4.  The discussions are presented in an effort to show how construction resources are obtained at their base from quarries.   It is yet another clear, accessible discussion on how the elements play into our daily lives, and is certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained in its own right.  The noted exploration of how glass can possibly be unbreakable is used to show how elements and their molecules play together to create glass, another item which we use daily.  Audiences will be surprised here to watch as a super hot piece of molten glass is cooled quickly in water and made virtually unbreakable.   Throughout the experiments noted here and so many others, Pogue maintains a certain humility.  He never tries to be more than he is, making for even more  enjoyment.  His everyman presence makes him more relatable to audiences, sort of like fellow media personality Mo Rocca.

While the experiments featured throughout NOVA: Beyond The Elements go a long way towards making science so enjoyable and accessible, they are just a portion of what makes this episode’s primary feature so entertaining and engaging. The discussions about the ecological effects of products created by the elements make for their own interest.  What’s more, the discussions on the efforts that are being made to counter the noted effects makes for even more interest.  All things considered here, the primary feature of NOVA: Beyond the Elements makes for a strong starting point for the episode.   Building on the foundation formed by the main feature is the episode’s presentation style.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements runs just shy of the three-hour mark (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact).  Being that this episode is so long, it is divided into three separate segments in its DVD presentation, just as was done in the episode’s original broadcast early this year.  The segmentation seems minimal on the surface, but taking into account all of the information delivered through each segment, it is necessary.  It allows audiences to watch the episode at their pace.  In watching at their own pace, audiences will find themselves that much more inclined to remain engaged.  That increased engagement means that viewers will in turn more easily comprehend and remember the topics discussed in each segment.  Keeping all of this in mind, the way in which this episode of NOVA was presented proves important in its own right.

Moving from the matter of the episode’s presentation, the packaging of the episode in its home release proves important in its own right.  The packaging stands out primarily in that a brief but concise summary of each segment is provided on the back of the episode’s box.  What’s more, it lets audiences know before they even put the DVD in their DVD/BD player, that it is separated into each segment.  This is an aesthetic element, but is important in its own way.  It allows viewers to decide for themselves which segment to watch before they even start watching.  The decision might take a moment, but that moment will take less time than having to learn the topic of each episode one at a time by playing out the start of each episode.  The positive mindset that will result from the use of   the segment summaries will play greatly into the overall engagement and enjoyment in its own right.  When that impact is considered along with the impact of the episode’s main feature and its presentation style, the whole of that content completely rounds out the episode and makes it completely enjoyable.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a welcome follow-up/companion presentation or NOVA: Hunting the Elements.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that it is in fact an improvement from its predecessor.  That is due in part to the episode’s main feature.  The main feature is accessible because it presents so much heavy science content in a fashion that is accessible to the most average viewer.  That in itself will hopefully help viewers see the fun in and importance of science.  The fact that the episode is separated into its three segments here just as it was in the episode’s initial airing makes the episode even more appealing.  That is because the separation will encourage viewers to remain engaged and appreciate the whole even more.  The episode’s packaging in its new DVD presentation puts the finishing touch to the episode.  It does so through the brief but concise segment descriptions on the box’s rear artwork.  The summaries allow viewers to decide which segment to watch before they even place the disc into their DVD/BD players.  This in itself will give viewers a positive mindset, too.  When the positive mindset ensured by the packaging is considered along with the positive mindset generated by the episode’s content and its segmentation, that whole makes this episode of NOVA one more of this year’s top new documentaries.  NOVA: Beyond the Elements is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

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‘Nature: Big Bend — The Wild Frontier of Texas’ Continues To Show Why ‘Nature’ Is One Of PBS’ Prime Series

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Big Bend National Park is one of the most stunning locations within North America’s national parks system.  Covering more than 1,200 square miles in Texas and Mexico, the park features geological structures that date back eons.  It is also home to countless animal species on two and four legs.  The park faced great peril in 2020 due to now former President Donald Trump’s attempts to have a border wall built on the land.  Thankfully, outcry from officials in the region and Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election prevented the delicate park — which was established in 1944 – from being upset by those plans. PBS took audiences on a powerful trip through the park in February in a then new episode of its long-running, hit wildlife series, Nature titled Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas.  The episode was released on DVD last month through PBS’ home distribution arm, PBS Distribution.  For those who have yet to watch this episode of Nature, it is another welcome edition to the show’s already extensive body.  A big part of what makes this episode so engaging and entertaining is its central story.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the story itself is so engaging and entertaining, the cinematography leaves just a little bit to be desired.  That is not to say that the cinematography is a failure.  There is much to like here, but at the same time, it does have a bit of a shortcoming.  It will be discussed a little later.   Considering the impact of the noted content, the DVD’s average price point proves just as important to note as the content.  It will be discussed later,   too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this episode of Nature.  All things considered, they make Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas more proof of why Nature remains one of PBS’ most respected and beloved shows.

PBS’ long-running wildlife series Nature is and has been for a long time, one of the network’s most respected and revered shows.  Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is yet another example of why the series has its noted positive reputation.  That is proven in part through its story.  The nearly hour-long story takes viewers on a cinematic journey through the park, which is one part of North America’s extensive national parks system.  It follows just some of the animal life that calls the park home over the course of a year, starting and ending with a black bear’s journey into the park.  Along the way, the story presents other life, such as an acorn woodpecker (Yes that is really the bird’s name), hummingbirds, bighorn sheep, and various lizard species.  The story, narrated by famed actor Thomas Haden Church (Spiderman 3, Sideways, Wings), also takes time to note the human impact on the park and its wildlife, as well as how the land on which it sits once belonged solely to the people of Mexico.  The discussion is a bit of a digression from the central story, but is still a necessary aspect of the overall story.  That is because as is noted, the land actually crosses international borders between Texas and Mexico, meaning the land still belongs at least partially to Mexico.  Getting back on topic, it should be noted that there is some footage of the bighorn sheep (and one of the lizard species) mating.  So some parental discretion is advised even here.  Overall, the story is relatively simple, and in turn, simple to follow.  That simplicity in itself and the equally simple topic makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  It is just one part of what makes this episode enjoyable.  The episode’s cinematography does its own share to impress viewers, too.

The cinematography exhibited throughout Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is for the most part, impressive.  The rich colors of the expansive desert landscape, with all of its towering rocky structures, its river ecosystem, and all of its other aspects are so enthralling in themselves.  Watching thunderstorms make their way across the park, lightning and all, makes for its own powerful statement through the cinematography.  At the same time, the way in which the cameras capture a Pallid Bat (which is all white) capturing its prey under the cover of darkness is its own engaging visual, too.  On a similar note, the visual of a large bird of prey coasting through the air, the rich colors of the rocks in the distance behind the bird, is yet another powerful visual.  Between these visuals and so many others, the episode’s cinematography offers much for audiences to appreciate.

At the same time that the cinematography offers so much engagement and entertainment, it also poses one problem.  The problem in question comes from what feels like an overuse of slow motion videography.  There is a high usage of high-speed frame rates in the scenes involving the region’s winged creatures.  Those scenes are not the only ones in which the high frame rate approach is used, though.  The scenes in which the bighorn sheep are competing during mating season also see a lot of high frame rate usage.  This even happens as viewers watch raindrops from the noted thunderstorms fall on lizards that crawl along the park’s dusty ground.  It is one thing to adjust the cameras’ frame rates here and there.  Using this approach as much as was done in this episode though, came across as a bit of overkill, and in turn detracted significantly from the overall viewing experience.  Even with this in mind, it is not enough to ruin the episode, even though it cannot be ignored.  Taking all of this into account with the episode’s story, that collective content makes the average price point for its DVD presentation its own positive.

The average price point of Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is $20.99.  That price was reached by averaging prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ online store.  The listings at PBS, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million are the most expensive, with each listing the DVD at $24.99 while all of the other retailers list the DVD well below the noted average, at $17.99.  Considering that the majority of the major retailers list this episode at less than $20, viewers will definitely call this a positive.  That is especially considering, again, the story and its accessibility, and its overall enjoyable cinematography.  All things considered, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation, its cinematography and story make this new offering yet more proof of what makes Nature one of PBS’ most respected and revered shows.

NatureBig BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is a largely engaging and entertaining episode of PBS’ long-running wildlife series.  The episode’s story is simple, straight forward, and as a result accessible for any viewer.  What’s more, save for a couple of moments requiring some viewer discretion, it is a presentation that audiences of all ages will enjoy.  The cinematography that is exhibited throughout the nearly hour-long episode is impressive in its own right, too.  That is even with what feels like an over use of high speed lens work.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation proves to be its own positive.  Its average price point is $20.99, but most major retailers list it for far less than that price.  That means it will not break any viewer’s budget.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode in its new home release.  All things considered, they make the episode another welcome entry in what is one of PBS’ prime series.  Nature: Big BendThe Wild  Frontier of Texas is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:

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

‘NOVA: Looking For Life On Mars’ Will Leave Viewers Looking Excitedly To The Future Of Space Travel

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

NASA has made a lot of headlines in recent weeks thanks to its latest mission to Mars.  The agency’s Perseverance rover and its companion “helicopter,” Ingenuity have kept the agency in the news as they search for any signs of past life on the “Red Planet.”  While the machines’ main goal is to find any evidence of ancient life, that search is just part of their mission.  As is pointed out in PBS’ brand new DVD, NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars, NASA officials are hoping to eventually return that evidence to Earth with yet another mission to Mars when and if it is discovered.  The new DVD in question was released Tuesday, less than three months after the then latest episode of NOVA made its initial airing is another interesting episode of PBS’ long-running science-based series.  The noted story of Perseverance’s mission is at the heart of the episode, and it is a good   starting point for the program.  It will be discussed shortly.  The interviews that are featured within the bigger story add their own interest to the presentation.  They will be discussed a little later.  The program’s collective editing and pacing round out its most important elements.  They will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the presentation of NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars.  All things considered, they make this latest episode of NOVA another engaging and entertaining edition of PBS’ hit science-based series.

PBS’ newly released DVD presentation of NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars will appeal widely to NOVA’s longtime science-based series and to anyone with any interest in space science and even science fiction.  The episode’s appeal comes primarily through the episode’s central story.  Audiences will be interested to learn that the episode’s story is about more than just finding signs of ancient life on Mars, but about looking for ways in which life on Earth can survive on Mars.  The story opens with Perseverance’s landing on Mars back in February following months and years of preparation.  From there, the story turns to Perseverance’s mission, which is to find any traces of ancient microbial life on Mars.  It is pointed out (thankfully) that there is no expectation of finding any signs of more humanoid (*intelligent*) life.  That keeps the episode’s story fully grounded.  Audiences will be interested to learn as the episode progresses, that Mars did in fact once have water.  What’s more it is also revealed that the main components needed for life (CHNOPS – Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur) were all eventually found in Mars’ soil by Pereverance’s equipment, too.  As the program continues, it is revealed that gathering samples from Mars’ surface is only part of NASA’s latest mission to Earth’s “sister planet.”  One interviewee reveals that NASA also plans to send a rocket to Mars to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance and then return them to Earth.  That is certain to be an interesting mission in itself.  This and other interviews incorporated into the program will be addressed shortly.  Getting back onto the topic at hand, along with finding evidence of life on Mars, NASA is also researching how to sustain human life on Mars.  This leads to the discussion on ways to convert Mars’ carbon dioxide rich atmosphere into breathable oxygen.  Filtration company Lydall is working with NASA on that project, and even placed a filter on Perseverance.  That discussion in itself adds even more engagement and entertainment to the story.  The whole story rounds out with a discussion on how the Perseverance program started and where it is going today.  All things considered, the story ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment, in turn creating a solid foundation for the episode’s presentation.

The story featured in NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars makes for a positive starting point for the episode.  Building on the foundation that it forms are the collective interviews that accompany the story.  One of the most notable of the interviews comes in the discussion on Perseverance’s “companion,” the Ingenuity.  A couple of people on the Ingenuity team come right out during this discussion and openly talk about how the very idea was laughed down.  That is because the atmosphere on Mars is so thin that no one thought there would be enough air to get the Ingenuity off the planet’s surface.  Of course as news outlets nationwide reported recently, those doubts were silenced when the mini-“helicopter” did in fact go airborne.


This examination already noted that one of the interviewees featured in this documentary noted early on that Perseverance and Ingenuity were looking for signs of ancient microbial life.  This is important to note because the woman in question stresses that they are not looking for any signs of “alien” life.  This provides for far more credibility and ensures any conspiracy theory types will be silenced early on.  It is a brief statement from  one of the many interviews featured throughout the hour-long program, but is so important because it means officials involved in the project did not want anyone misconstruing what was going on.

Another interesting discussion featured through the episode’s interviews is that of the one-time existence of water on Mars.  The interviewees talk about the reality that at one point, a flowing river once made its way into the crater in which Perseverance landed.  The group talks about smooth rocks in the channel in question prove water once flowed through and into the crater.  Along with that discussion, there is also the discussion on what may or may not have happened to cause the water to evaporate, though no definitive   answer is provided.  Between these discussions, the others noted here and so many others provided through the episode’s interviews, the whole enhances the episode’s presentation even more.  The result is that the interviews prove just as important to the episode as the story.  The interviews and story are just part of what makes this new episode of NOVA so engaging and entertaining.  The episode’s collective pacing and editing round out its most important elements.

The pacing and editing of this NOVA episode are important to note because the episode’s topic is so specific.  It means the show’s creative heads had to make sure that it flowed fluidly and kept everything together solidly.  Viewers will note that it does just that.  The episode opens with the Perseverance’s landing, moves to the search for that ancient microbial life, and closes with the story of the Perseverance’s creation, launch, and landing.  Throughout all three of those segments, the discussions on the related topics and the video are solid in their connections.  Each segment ensures through that editing that viewers are never left feeling left behind or even that the episode drags at any point.  It   brings everything together, completing the episode’s presentation.  When it is considered along with the interest ensured by the episode’s story and its interviews, the whole makes this episode another enjoyable offering from PBS.

PBS’s recently premiered episode of NOVA, Looking for Life on Mars is an enjoyable addition to the long-running series.  The episode’s interest comes in part through its story which follows NASA’s work on its Perseverance rover project.  The story is so interesting in that it is straight forward.  It is the next step in NASA’s exploration of our solar system.  The interviews that are presented throughout the story add their own interest.  That is because of the extra insight that they give into everything that went into and is still ongoing in the project.  The collective editing and pacing that went into the episode rounds out its most important elements.  It ensures viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment as it brings everything together and keeps the episode moving fluidly.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the episode.  All things considered, they make NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  It is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.

BBC One, PBS Distribution’s Presentation Of ‘The Long Song’ Is A Deeply Moving Historical Fiction

Courtesy: BBC One/PBS Distribution/NBC Universal International

It’s better to be late than never.  Everyone knows that old adage.  It is an adage that applies well for PBS Distribution’s DVD release of BBC One’s 2018 adaptation of author Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song.  PBS Distribution brought the drama to American audiences in February as part of PBS’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of its program, Masterpiece.  The nearly three-hour mini-series (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact) is a powerful and memorable work that while maybe not at the level of the cinematic adaptation of author Alex Haley’s novel Roots, it is sill moving, powerful and memorable.  That is proven in part through the historical fiction’s story.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s general look (the backdrop and costuming) rounds out the program’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the mini-series’ presentation.  All things considered, they make The Long Song a presentation that is well worth watching at least once.

BBC One’s adaptation of author Anrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song is a powerful story that audiences with any interest in the history of slavery (and especially Great Britain’s role in the slave trade) will find worth watching. That is due in part to its central story.  The central story is a historical fiction that is based on the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831-32.  The story in fact opens in the waning days of slavery in Jamaica, which was controlled by the British government.  The opening story in its three-episode run in fact takes place as the Great Slave Revolt essentially begins.  The difference here is that the slaves burned down portions of the region’s sugarcane fields right at Christmas as a group of British aristocrats meet at the Amity plantation.  In reality, the sugarcane fields were not burned, but certain estates in Jamaica.  That aside, the story here is still close enough to reality that viewers can forgive the fiction. 

The related story of the tension between the plantation workers and overseer Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden – War & Peace, Small Axe, Fighting With My Family) adds to the overall story’s presentation.  It is so telling because what happens with Robert’s development is in reality, its own commentary on how so much of the white world is even today.  Even people who claim they are not racist still do have some racist tendencies because it has been ingrained into them by another generation.  It is a topic that the world really needs to address.  On a similar note, that moment when James (Ansu Kabia – Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Hobbs & Shaw, Murder on the Orient Express) tells Robert that he and his fellow emancipated friends refused to pay higher rent for their home and to work longer hours adds to the story involving Robert’s clearly deep-rooted racist tendencies.  This is a matter that will resonate with audiences even today, not just African-Americans.  Average workers everywhere are dealing with the issue today, of increases in the cost of living versus stagnant wages.  It makes this part of the overall story that much more engaging because it shows how far back this issue has reached in human history.

On yet another note, the love triangle between Roger, July (Tamara Lawrance – The Gurney, Kindred, On Chesil Beach), and Caroline (Hayley Atwell – Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man) adds   yet another layer of engagement and entertainment.  The love triangle between the trio is like something out of a trashy romance novel, so it is certain to bring in plenty of female audiences.  At the same time, July getting caught up in-between Robert and her fellow freedmen adds to the drama, and that will engage and entertain men and women alike.  Considering this story line and the other two noted here, it is clear that there is a lot going on over the course of The Long Song’s story.  All of the noted story elements go a long way toward making the story fully engaging and entertaining.  Considering how much is going on in the story, it is all well-balanced.  To that end, the story featured in The Long Song forms a strong foundation for the mini-series’ presentation.  The cast’s work in front of the camera builds on that foundation, making the presentational the better.

The work of The Long Song’s cast is so important to discuss because it is so impressive.  Atwell really steals the show here.  She makes it so easy to hate Caroline.  The way that Caroline treats July throughout the story and the way that she competes with her over Robert makes her that stereotypical spoiled bratty aristocrat.  It makes her a great antagonist.  Not to give away too much, but her behavior late in the second episode in regards to Emily (July’s infant daughter) is just plain despicable.  It makes her performance all the richer.  What’s more, considering her extensive time in the Marvel universe (and her overall resume), taking on the villainous role makes for an interesting turn.  She handled it expertly and makes for a clear example of why the cast’s work is so important.

Kabia’s performance is one of the surprise standouts in this story.  While some might consider his role supporting, he comes across more as a lead actor.  That is because of the lead that he takes among the plantation workers.  The noted confrontation that James has with Robert is just one way in which Kabia shows his chops.  What he does is what so many viewers wish they could do to their bosses. It is such a believable moment.  Throughout the story, his leadership of the plantation workers shows him as such a respected figure.  At the same time, the contrast of his presence to that of July really helps to build the tension.  Between his performance here and that in Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Kabia continues to show his talent.  Considering that, it will hopefully not be long before he gains his own even bigger role that finally really breaks him through.

Lawrance’s performance is just as notable as that of Atwell and Kabia.  There were plenty of points at which she easily could have chewed the scenery so to speak, considering all of the drama in the story.  Yet, her performance from beginning to end, Lawrance interprets each scene expertly in her own right.  Case in point is the moment when Caroline tells July that Robert is going to marry her.  The emotion that she brings out here is so moving and not too emotional.  That fateful moment in which the plantation workers refuse to work on Christmas and Robert storms off, nearly leaving her behind is another key example of Lawrance’s talents.  The way she stands there, trying to make sense of the situation showed July as someone who was just so torn.  And her vulnerability as she had to get Robert to stop the carriage added even more to the moment.  On a more subtle note, the way in which Lawrance handles July’s reaction to Caroline imagining kidnapping Emily is another example of Lawrance’s talent.  Rather than just go all out, freaking out, Lawrance instead brings out the mother in July, making her concern for her daughter evident.  It is yet another powerful presentation.

Lawrance’s performance is just one more that makes clear, the importance of the cast’s work.  That of Lowden is yet another prime example of that importance.  At first Robert comes in as this dashing, almost prince charming type figure.  However, his reaction at the very sight of a cockroach shows a certain weakness.  It is funny.  Also, it is a wonderful depiction of someone who clearly spent his upbringing being very coddled.  Lowden’s portrayal of Robert in this case does so much to really bring out that aristocratic side of Robert.  As the story progresses, Lowden’s display of Robert’s gradual breakdown does just as much to keep viewers engaged.  It makes viewers want to see to what point Robert will go.  What’s more, it slowly reveals Robert’s innate racist tendencies that he otherwise wants to deny and hide.  Audiences will find themselves wanting to watch his performance throughout just as much as the other noted cast’s work.  When all of that work is considered collectively, that whole makes clear the importance of the cast’s work.  When that work is considered along with the richness of the overall story, the two elements collectively make for so much engagement and entertainment.  They are just a portion of what makes The Long Song so enthralling.  The story’s general look rounds out its most important elements.

The Long Song’s look is important because it also plays into the presentation’s overall appeal and believability.  Audiences will find interesting that while it takes place in Jamaica, its visual presentation was captured in the Dominican Republic.  If audiences did not know that, they would just as easily believe their eyes.  The rich greens of the sugarcane fields and the look of the Amity House are so enveloping.  Even the look of the Brits and plantation workers is proper for the era.  From Caroline’s and July’s dresses to the plantation workers’ far simpler apparel, the overall look of the story proves correct.  That attempt to make the story believable through its look paid off just as much as the work that that cast and show’s heads put in.  All things considered, the overall presentation that is The Long Song proves a powerful story that deserves seeing at least once if not more.

BBC One’s presentation of The Long Song is a presentation that history buffs and drama fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its story.  While the story is a historical fiction, it does have some reality incorporated into its whole.  That and the drama that is added to the story makes the story even more engaging.  The work of the cast in interpreting the scripts adds to the overall appeal.  The general look of the program’s presentation does its own share to make the whole appealing, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way in making this presentation appealing.  All things considered, they make the whole a powerful, memorable work that history and drama fans alike will find well worth watching at least once.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from BBC One is available online at:

Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcone

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More information on this and other titles from PBS Distribution is available online at:

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‘Nature: The Alps’ Rivals Any Museum’s IMAX Documentary

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

The Alps is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.  Yes, that is a subjective statement.  It may not be on the “official” list of the world’s “Seven Natural Wonders,” but that hardly negates it from deserving such honor.  Now thanks to PBS and PBS Distribution, audiences will see for themselves why exactly the 750-mile mountain range deserves that title in a new episode of its wildlife-based series, Nature.  Simply titled The Alps, the two-part episode, which runs almost two hours, fully explains why the Alps deserves to be noted as one of the world’s great natural wonders through its story.  That story serves as a strong foundation for the episode, which was released Tuesday on DVD.  It will be discussed shortly.  The episode’s cinematography featured in this episode adds so much to its general effect and will be discussed a little later.  The program’s pricing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the program’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the episode in whole such that any PBS and Nature fan will appreciate.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s new home release of Nature: The Alps is its own wonder of a presentation that any PBS and Nature fan will appreciate.  That is proven in part through the two-part episode’s story.  The story, which is in fact separated into two separate segments, presents the diverse ecosystem that exists within the expansive mountain range.  The story starts as winter in the Alps gives way to the warmth of spring.  Marmots come out of their dens well below the snow to mate, while also having to avoid being eaten by golden eagles.  Deer also come out to mate.  Certain rodent species even come out of their hibernation.  Audiences will be interested to see how even in the higher elevations, animals survive just as much as in the valleys below.  Watching Ibex compete and animals, such as brown bears and wolves return to the region after being nonexistent from that space for such a long time is engaging in itself.  Just as interesting is to learn about how climate change has impacted the Alps, including the recession of a major glacier in the Alps.  That leads into another important aspect of this episode of Nature.  Yes, the message of ecological concern is there, but thankfully it is not taken to the preachy level.  It just reminds audiences at points throughout the program, the changes that are taking place in the alps – at the higher and lower elevations – is due in large part to humans’ influence on the naturally occurring process that is climate change.   That  and the simple story of the wide range of animals that call the Alps home is reason enough in itself for audiences to watch this episode of Nature, and just one reason.  The cinematography that is featured throughout adds even more to the episode’s appeal.

It goes without saying that the cinematography of most Nature episodes is powerful, IMAX-level content.  That has been proven time and again.  The cinematography in this case is no exception to that rule.  The slowed frame rates of the golden eagles in flight and the time lapse photography of the sunrise over the majestic peaks are awe-inspiring  to say the very least.  On another level, the drone footage and what is likely footage recorded from a helicopter-mounted camera makes for just as much engagement and entertainment.  The footage of the Ibex fighting along the craggy mountaintops will send shivers through viewers as they wonder if one of the beasts will fall from the sheer cliff side.  In a similar vein, the aerial shots of the wolfpack make its way across the snowy, frozen landscape during winter presents its own unique impact.  Seeing them kick up the snow as they run across the snowy, forested valley makes for a thought and emotion that viewers will only understand in watching this themselves.  On yet another level, watching a group of crows essentially guide a family of bears to a deer carcass makes for its own interest.  There’s something almost human in the way they almost seem to direct the bears to the carcass and then patiently wait their turn to eat.  It is just one more way in which the cinematography proves its impact to this episode’s appeal.  When it and the other noted examples are considered along with the rest of the program’s cinematography, that whole makes for a viewing experience in itself that is fully engaging and entertaining.  When it is considered alongside the simple story of the mountain range’s ecosystem, that whole ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment even more.  Taking all of this into account, it makes the pricing for the episode’s home release acceptable for the most part.

The average price point of Nature: Alps is $20.79.  That figure is reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS.  It was not listed through Target and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting.  That price point is actually relatively affordable in comparison to some of PBS’ other recently released single-disc presentation.  PBS and Barnes & Noble Booksellers once again exceed that price point, each listing the DVD at $24.99.  Meanwhile, Amazon, Walmart, and PBS all list the DVD well below that point, at $17.99.  In other words, the average price point barely tops $20 while the majority of the major retailers’ single listings put the DVD below that mark.  Add in the fact that the program runs just shy of two hours, that puts the DVD at less than $10/hr at the noted less expensive major retailers.  Additionally, considering the positive impact of the cinematography and the simple story, that makes the pricing even more positive.  All things considered, this presentation offers a lot for audiences to enjoy.  It makes the DVD another high mark that shows why after so many years on the air, Nature remains such a beloved series.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s new home release of Nature: The Alps is yet another enjoyable addition to the long-running wildlife series.  It is a presentation that audiences will find worth watching time and again.  That is due in part to the simple story, which presents the diverse ecosystem of the Alps.  The cinematography that accompanies the story adds to the appeal exponentially.  It is once again on the level of so many IMAX quality museum documentaries.  The episode’s overall pricing in its new DVD release puts the final touch to its presentation.  That is because for the most part it is relatively affordable and will not break viewers’ budgets.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD and its presentation.  All things considered, they make this episode of Nature yet another of this year’s top new documentaries.  Nature: The Alps is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

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Twitterhttps://twitter.com/PBSNature

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