Day Of Days Is One Of PBS’ Best WWII Documentaries To Date

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

June 6th is one of the most important dates in the history not only of America but of the world.  And this past June, the world stopped and recognized the seventieth anniversary of that day, also known as D-Day.  In honor of that day, many networks across the television spectrum presented their own programs, recalling the events of the day in question.  Few if any were as powerful as PBS’ Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­Day.  This program is one of the most moving and powerful that PBS has premiered so far this year.  That is first and foremost because it is not just another documentary.  It is a group of firsthand recollections from just some of the men who fought on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.  There are no animations.  There are no actors.  The only extras (if they are to be considered extras) are the collective snippets of the events from that day.  They are another part of what makes the entire experience in this program so powerful.  Of course, there is the “Beachhead to Berlin” newsreel.  That bonus is the final touch on a presentation that everybody should see at least once if not more.

Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­Day is one of the most powerful WWII-centered pieces that PBS has ever premiered.  The central reason for that is the fact that it is anything but the steady stream of documentaries churned out by the various networks that handle such fare, PBS included.  There are no actors, “experts,” no special animations, or any other embellishments.  It is just a group of military veterans that were part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944.  The men recount the horrors that happened on those beaches.  Over the course of the program’s roughly hour –long run time.  In hearing their painful recollections, audiences will see and hear firsthand just why those that have served choose to not talk about what they experienced.  The tears that they shed as they recall the memories of those events are very real.  And they will deeply move anyone taking them in regardless of whether they are everyday viewers or themselves military veterans.

As has already been noted, Day of Days: June 6th, 1944—American Soldiers Remember DDay is such a powerful piece from PBS because it isn’t just another documentary.  There are no “experts.”  There are no animations, re-enactments or any other embellishments.  The only “extra” of sorts that was partnered with the stories told by the veterans is a collection of actual footage shot as the Normandy invasion took place.  The footage itself is difficult to watch in its own right.  That is because audiences will actually see men being shot and falling, lifeless as they make their way onto the beach.  Again, this is not acting.  It is actual footage of those events.  There is footage of the firefight that took place from the sea off the French coast and much more.  That collection of footage partnered with the veterans’ stories make this program all the more powerful and memorable. It isn’t all that make the program memorable and powerful, either.

The vintage footage that accompanies the veterans’ recollections and the recollections themselves are both of the utmost importance to the presentation in whole. Just as important to the overall presentation is the bonus newsreel “Beachhead to Berlin.” This is an actual newsreel used to bolster patriotism among Americans in the days following the Normandy invasion. The newsreel uses much of the footage that is incorporated into the veterans recollections in the main feature. There is also footage not used in the main feature. The collective footage set against the voice over of a military officer writing a letter to the parent of a fallen soldier makes the newsreel truly powerful. It is later revealed that the officer writing the letter was himself a veteran and had received a purple heart for serving in the war. That final statement is the perfect closing moment for the newsreel. And together with the final thoughts of the veterans in the main feature, it becomes even harder hitting as a final moment for the entire presentation.

The primary feature presented in Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­Day is by itself a program unlike anything that PBS has presented so far this year. The bonus newsreel that accompanies that feature is in itself just as moving. Both features together prove this program to be one that viewers of all backgrounds will appreciate, whether they be military or not. They prove the program to be one that everyone should see at least once if not more. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366&cp=&sr=1&kw=day+of+days&origkw=Day+of+Days&parentPage=search. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. 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.

Storming Juno Another Important Story Of WWII

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Stories of WWII told from the American and British vantage points are quite plentiful in the world of television and movies.  Stories from those in other Allied forces are far less.  That is they are far less prominent in the United States.  Now finally, another lesser told piece of WWII history has finally been added to the whole.  One part historical drama and one part documentary, Entertainment One’s brand new WWII story, Storming Juno is an impressive work.  The hour and a half presentation tells the story of the events of June 6th, 1944 from the perspective not of the American or British forces, but from the Canadian military.  It is centered on three young soldiers that were actually there on the day that marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. 

It is difficult to know where exactly to begin in the discussion of Storming Juno.  It would be very easy to compare this movie to the likes of bigger blockbuster films such as Saving Private Ryan and Flags of our Fathers.  By comparison, Storming Juno is just as good as those war epics if not better than them.  That might be a bold statement to some.  But it is a true statement.  That’s not to say that the aforementioned films were bad.  It just means that for an indie war film, Storming Juno definitely holds its own.  And it does so quite well at that.  So what enabled Storming Juno to hold its own so well against much bigger, more epic war movies?  For starters, the movie itself runs just over an hour.  The remaining half an hour of the entire feature’s ninety minute run time is taken by a documentary of sorts.  Another factor in the success of this movie is tied directly to its run time.  That factor is the story’s writing.  Script writer Christopher Gagosz managed in his script, to balance the intertwining stories of the three men on which it focuses.  Along with its balance, there are two more factors that make Storming Juno a success and a must see for any history buff and lover of war films. Those factors tie in to make this a complete story that any history buff and war movie fan will enjoy just as much as any war movie released by Hollywood’s major studios.  The factors in question are the incorporation of actual footage taken on D-Day by Canadian forces and the general historical accuracies portrayed in the movie itself.  These tie back into the writing and in turn the story length and overall enjoyment of the movie.  It all works together to make Storming Juno not just an enjoyable war story, but also one of 2013’s best independent movies.

Storming Juno holds its own against other bigger name war movies first and foremost because of its run time.  Paramount’s Saving Private Ryan clocked in at a massive one hundred sixty-nine minutes long.  That is roughly two hours and forty-nine minutes, or in simple terms, nearly three hours long.  Paramount’s other major war epic, Flags of our Fathers, came in at roughly two hours and twelve minutes.  Storming Juno on the other hand comes in at only ninety-minutes.  The primary story itself (not counting the semi-documentary that follows the main story) comes in at just over sixty minutes.  This puts the actual story at less than half the time of both previously mentioned movies.  If one were to count the full ninety-minutes, then it would still be just over half the time of said movies.  Thanks to the writing of Christopher Gagosz though, it doesn’t feel that ninety-minutes at all.  It keeps viewers engaged through every action filled moment.

Script writer Christopher Gagosz’s writing is largely to thanks for the movie’s ability to keep viewers engaged throughout its full ninety minutes.  He does this because instead of focusing on melodrama, as Saving Private Ryan and Flags of our Fathers do, he instead balances the personal emotions of his subjects with the story’s action.  While Juno Beach might not have been nearly as fraught with danger as Utah Beach, it was still dangerous.  The body language of the soldiers as they waited to take the beach said so much without saying anything.  It served to set the mood of tension, thus keeping viewers engaged.  The action that ensued from the moment that the troop transports landed and the tanks were launched (and subsequently sunk) plays into that tension and does even more to keep viewers’ attention. Right to the battle’s final moments.  As those final moments close, audiences are introduced to some of the men that were there at Juno Beach.  Their interviews serve to cement the story presented and tie into the final factor of the movie’s success.  That factor is its accuracy. 

Much of what is presented in Storming Juno was taken directly from both oral and written first-hand accounts of this battle.  As noted in the bonus “Inside Storming Juno” feature, much work went into bringing the story to life and making it accurate.  Even actual veterans from the battle were brought in to help set the scene, as was an individual with expert knowledge of the Royal Regina Rifles to make certain that the battle was portrayed as accurately as possible.  It would seem that the only questionable aspect of accuracy is that of the planes used in telling the story of the paratrooper.  They seemed to look like B-25s of some sort.  Other than that one slight inaccuracy, so much else was done right with this movie.  It ties right back in to the writing.  And along with the writing and run time, it makes Storming Juno a movie that any history buff and war movie fan will appreciate regardless if another movie based on non-American or British Allied forces is ever made.  It is available now in stores and online.

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.