CNN Films, Magnolia Pictures’ Gilda Radner Bio Is The Best Of 2019’s New Documentary Field

Courtesy: CNN Films/Magnolia Pictures

Movies based on actual events and biased news from both sides of the aisle have done so much damage to the world.  The movies based on actual events are over embellished forgettable works that tell half the story if even that.  The biased news on both sides of the aisle tells just as little as the noted movies, if not less.  To that end, one can’t help but be very thankful for all the new documentaries that are released each year.  The documentaries released this year went a long way toward making up for the problems caused by the noted news and movies, so many that there were more than enough to fit on any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries, but this critic tried to assemble a fitting list.

This year’s list features documentaries centered on topics, such as the history of Country Music, the Apollo 11 mission and a famed movie star.  Each documentary brings its own important and enjoyable presentation for audiences thanks to its unique content and story.  From one to the next, each proves itself fully deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new docs.  This critic’s list features, as with previous lists, the top 10 titles from the year as well as five honorable mention titles for a total  of 15 titles.  This list’s titles come from PBS, Cohen Media Group, Magnolia Pictures and even Shout! Factory, so they are not just from one company.  In other words, there is some diversity here.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration if Phil’s Picks 2019 Top 10 New Documentaries



  1. Love, Gilda
  2. Bad Reputation
  3. American ExperienceChasing The Moon
  4. Buster KeatonThe Great Buster
  5. Ken BurnsCountry Music
  6. 8 Daysto The Moon and Back
  7. American ExperienceSealab
  8. NeverEnding ManHayao Miyizaki
  9. NOVAApollo’s Daring Mission
  10. Sinatra in Palm SpringsThe Place He Called Home
  11. NOVALast B-24
  12. NOVAPluto & Beyond
  13. NOVAFirst Horse Warriors
  14. NatureDogs in the Land of Lions
  15. Nature: A Squirrel’s Guide To Success


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Science Channel DVD Makes A “Splash” In The Classroom And The Living Room

Courtesy:  Gaiam/The Science Channel

Courtesy: Gaiam/The Science Channel

The Science Channel is everything that its sister network, The Discovery Channel, used to be.  Where The Discovery Channel has shifted largely to reality programming, Science Channel provides the more educational content that The Discovery Channel once ran in the mid to late 1990s.  It is a network for anyone that has any love of all things science and for anyone that loves everything that The Discovery Channel once was.  And the recent DVD release of the network’s documentary, Aquarius: Living Beneath The Sea is proof of that. 

The recently released DVD contains five episodes, beginning with the title episode.  From there, viewers are taken on a journey into the depths of the season over the course of two documentaries.  Next up is a piece that examines the robots that help scientists study the creatures that inhabit the depths.  It all closes out with the story of one of New England’s most infamous shipwrecks.  The wreck in question is that of the steamer, Portland.  The dual paddles wheel ship went down off the New England coast in a bad storm.  Now thanks to a group of scientists, audiences finally get to see the last resting place of what is considered by many to be the Titanic of New England.  A lot of work went into bringing audiences the final product in these episodes.  It was that work and the order of episodes that makes this final product so enjoyable for anyone that has any love of the marine sciences or for science in general.  It’s just as enjoyable for anyone that has any love for all things nautical.

The first thing that audiences will notice in watching “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” is the beautiful undersea cinematography.  Sure, the program is obviously dated.  But seeing the reef that has grown on Aquarius over the years and the fish that inhabit it are incredible.  The lab itself is based off the southern coast of Florida.  The footage looking up from beneath the waves as the sun shines down into the water, scuba divers swimming by is beautiful.  As impressive as the footage for this program is, viewers will also be impressed by the fact that while it does note the impact of humans on the environment—specifically a coral reef—it isn’t preachy about it.  The discussion on human impact centers on global warming as the biggest factor on the survival or lack thereof coral.  It doesn’t get preachy, trying to say this or that needs to be done.  It only points out that humans have played a role and in turn so has global warming.  So that in itself is sure to create some level of discussion among viewers, considering that such factors are always and will always be hot button issues. 

The footage in the main feature and the discussion on human impact is certain to entertain viewers.  The feature doesn’t stop there though.  Also discussed are the dangers of living and working at such depths.  It includes footage in a story of one diver who died decades ago who had worked on Sealab III.  Also discussed is the effect of what is called Nitrogen Narcosis or “beer buzz.”  This happens from living undersea for extended periods of time.  It’s just as entertaining as other portions of this feature.  It is also very eye opening, as it shows how dangerous living beneath the sea can be.  Along with the program’s other interesting facts and impressive footage, it makes for a fitting opening piece for this new release from The Science Channel.

Where “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” ends, the other features that follow are sure to keep viewers engaged.  Audiences go from inside the Aquarius to the open sea in the next trio of features, “Mid-Water Mysteries”, “The Hostile Deep” and “Robots of the Deep.”  The first two features center on the creatures that live around coral reefs and other regions of the sea, while the latter of the trio focuses on the machines created to help make investigating that sea life easier.  They also help to make investigating things like a shipwreck easier, which makes the transition into the DVD’s final feature, “Wreck of the Portland” all the more fitting. 

“Wreck of the Portland” is a roughly hour long feature that tells the story of the ill-fated journey of the Paddle Wheel Steamer, Portland.  It expands on the use of the robots of the deep as it examines what eventually led to the ship’s demise.  Much of the time is spent focusing on the design of the ship, much as those documentaries on the Titanic have done.  It incorporates CG models of the ship’s final journey as well as pictures of the captain to illustrate what likely happened that dark and stormy night.  When the wreck is discovered, audiences get to see what it looks like now, covered in barnacles and more, serving as a home to so much undersea life.  Viewers get to see images of the original boat, undisturbed superimposed over the sunken relic.  This helps show how the ship settled after sinking.  In its own way, showing the ship’s final resting place, and comparing it to what it looked like brings the entire DVD full circle.  Those who discovered the wreck pay tribute with a wreath, and the narrator notes that for its protection, the location of the ship has been kept secret to this day.  While it may be a secret, there will always be other ship wrecks and other undersea phenomena to investigate.  Knowing this serves as solid closure for viewers.  With this closure, audiences—whether in the living room or the classroom—will agree that this latest release from The Science Channel makes quite the splash and will with each watch.  It is available now and can be ordered online at

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