WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

This Thanksgiving, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox will team up to bring audiences the first-ever big screen Peanuts adventure that (go figure) is simply titled The Peanuts Movie. Personal opinions aside, it is interesting to note that as the movie’s debut nears, so is Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division–Warner Home Video (WHV)–stepping up its re-issues of the classic Peanuts TV specials. Already released this year WHV has re-issued Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Officials with WHV have also announced that the organization will also release Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown along with the company’s new compilation set Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. The latter of the trio is currently planne for a nationwide release on Tuesday, September 15th. Though, interestingly enough it has already been released through Target likely via a special deal between the retailer and the people at WHV. For those that were not lucky enough to pick up the dual-disc collection in its original release via Target will be pleased to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that audiences will be pleased to add it to their collections is its featured specials. It features eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that while previously released on one platform or another are now collected into this much more ergonomic collection. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Another reason that the collection proves so interesting and worth the purchase is the material presented within each special. Audiences actually get to hear an adult talk for the first time ever in one special (She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown). And while most audiences are familiar with the classic Peanuts holiday specials, some will be surprised that there is another holiday special of sorts that is just as deserving of attention in the form of What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? This special is a deeply moving Memorial Day special that will impact viewers of all ages. Last of note in regards to this collection’s positives is that classic hand-drawn animation style. The old school style of artwork is yet another example of what once made animated features truly animated and in turn truly entertaining. Each noted element shows in its own way that Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a surprising new release from WHV. It would be nice to think that maybe it marks the beginning of WHV finally moving in the right direction after having slid in the wrong direction for the past couple of years or so. One can only hope. Even if it is just a random diamond in the rough from the once powerhouse studio, it proves through all three noted elements together, to be one that any Peanuts fan will happily welcome into his or her home DVD library.

Warner Home Video has been noticeably declining over the course of the past two years or more. That is evident through every one of its releases both for families and for select audiences. Said releases have shown that someone(s) at WHV apparently did not and does not care about providing audiences with quality home releases. For all of the problematic releases that WHV has put out in stores over the past couple of years or so, finally a random diamond in the rough from WHV will be released very soon in the form of the new Peanuts collection Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. This collection of TV specials includes eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that some of which were nominated for Emmy Awards while certain others actually received the coveted trophy. It should be noted that all eleven of the specials featured in this new double-disc collection have each previously been released via one platform or another. Some have been released on VHS while others have previously been released on DVD. Others have even been issued and re-issued on one platform then another. Despite this, some viewers out there might not have been lucky enough to add one, another or more of the featured specials up until this point. That being the case, all eleven specials show collectively to be of the utmost importance for all viewers. That is because more than likely among the legions of Peanuts fans around the world few to any likely have all of the included specials.

The inclusion of each of its specials in one collection is good for Peanuts fans everywhere in large part because having them all in one place means just that. It means that for the first time ever each one of the specials has been finally released on one platform on which all audiences can watch them. No one is left behind. On another level, for those that had one or more of the specials in question from their previous releases can finally eliminate those platforms (or at least most of them if they own the original VHS copies of said specials). That will ultimately lead to saved space for many fans on their respective DVD racks. Again, this might not apply for every Peanuts fan. But it will definitely apply to many fans. And that being the case, it makes the collection’s ergonomic factor that much more important to the whole of its success and enjoyment.

The episodes presented in Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection show clearly why they are within themselves quite important to the whole of the collection. Examining the episodes on a closer level, ther writing shows to be just as important to the collection as the episodes themselves. In examining the specials’ writing it becomes clear why they were either nominated or in some cases even won an Emmy. That is most evident through the surprisingly moving special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown. This sequel of sorts to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) follows Charlie Brown and company on their departure from France. Along the way, the Peanuts gang happens to arrive at Normandy and the site of the Allied landing on D-Day. The history lesson provided by Linus upon their arrival is unbiased and moving all at the same time. The writers don’t pull any punches here, revealing that the Allied attack on Normandy was in fact anything but perfect. Linus notes in his lesson that weather conditions had ruined the mission so much that Allied commanders even considered pulling back. That is a lesson that sadly very few history teachers and professors alike will teach in the classroom. So it is nice to have that historical truth noted in a special that is aimed at younger viewers.

In another of the collection’s episodes, She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown, audiences actually get to hear an adult speak for the first (and probably only)time in the history of the Peanuts TV specials. The adult in question is Peppermint Patty’s teacher. She continuously calls on Patty as Patty continues falling asleep in class thanks to her early morning skating practice. Yes, skating. That is another reason that the writing in this special proves so notable. Anyone that knows their Peanuts history knows that Peppermint Patty is more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Heck, she was even voiced by males in a number of the specials. So having Patty taking part in a sport that is traditionally more aimed at females than males shows a completely opposite side of Patty and to the Peanuts universe in whole.  It is a change that all audiences will agree now in the 21st century is a welcome change.  It shows that it’s okay for a girl to be girly and one of the boys.  Simply put, it really serves to defy those strict, standard gender roles established by society.  Whether or not that is the reason that it at least received an Emmy nomination, it is one more reason that the writing behind this special stands out so strongly as one more part of the whole of the collection’s writing.

Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is perhaps the strongest evidence of the importance of the writing behind the collection’s featured episodes. This episode tackles the issue of cancer. On a more specific level, it tackles the issue of childhood cancer and the impact of cancer on both the victim and his or her friends and family. Its story centers on a young girl named Janet who is diagnosed with leukemia. It just so happens that she is friends with Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Though, Linus is the main character of this story. That side element of the story’s writing will be discussed shortly. Sticking on the main topic, the manner in which the writers tackled the subject is hugely worthy of applause. It was handled with the utmost gentility and in a fashion that also made the topic accessible even for much younger viewers. That in itself makes this special more than just a special. It is special in every sense of the word. It’s just one aspect of the special’s writing that makes it so notable among the others included in this set. The fact that Linus was made the story’s central character makes it even more worth the watch. It’s not the first time that Charlie Brown took a back seat to his Peanuts pals. But it is one of the most successful episodes that featured someone other than Charlie Brown at the center of the story. That is especially the case as audiences see Linus actually lose his cool in a very rare instance. He loses it when another child makes fun of Janet for having lost her hair right in front of him. Audiences will find themselves cheering Linus on and even doing so with the slightest tear in their eyes. That rare moment really exemplifies the pent-up feelings that not only children feel in a situation such as that presented here, but grown-ups, too. So for that reason too, the writing behind Why, Charlie Brown, Why? shows even more the importance of the episodes’ writing in whole in examining the set in whole. It is just one more example of the importance of the writing within each of the set’s episodes. The writing within each of the remaining eight specials shows in its own way why the writing in whole is so important to the episodes’ enjoyment and the success of the set in whole. And together with the episodes themselves, both elements together make a strong argument why every Peanuts fan should have this new collection in his or her own home DVD library. They still are just part of the whole of the collection’s positives. Last of note is the animation style within each episode.

Both the episodes featured throughout the body of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection and the writing within each special makes for plenty of reason for Peanuts fans to appreciate this latest collection of Peanuts classics. Of course what examination of such a classic collection would be complete without mention of the specials’ animation style. Every one of the specials featured as part of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection was drawn by hand. That means that endless hours were spent bringing to leave each and every second of each special. Now being that each special runs roughly in the range of about twenty minutes (or just a little more in some cases), the math adds up to quite a bit of time spent on bringing each special to life for broadcast. That says a lot when these specials are compared to the largely CG presentations out there today that try to claim themselves as being animated. They are animated in name only. These specials show everything that was once great about true, animated features. Each one of the specials boasts a similar look. But there are also minute details within each special that set them apart. Audiences that have eagle eyes will catch that minutia. The same can’t be said of today’s CG creations. It really gives these classic specials a real soul and heart. Together with the episodes’ impressive writing and the episodes themselves all three elements come together to make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a clear must have for any real devoted Peanuts fan.

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must have for any real Peanuts fan. That is the case whether or not said fan already owns any of the specials presented here on their original release platforms. The collective writing presented within each of the collection’s makes the episodes and the collection in whole even more enjoyable. The standout animation style presented across each of the collection’s specials rounds out the presentation. It reminds audiences by comparison of what once made animation so great. The animation is original. Even the upcoming Peanuts Movie that is due out this Thanksgiving doesn’t entirely hold up to that style of animation despite the efforts of those behind the movie to make it look like the classics on which it is based. Each element in itself proves to be an important part of the collections’ whole. Altogether they make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a collection that any true-blooded Peanuts fan would himself or herself be honored to have in his or her home DVD library. Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is available now exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It will allegedly be available nationwide in other stores beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information on this and other upcoming Peanuts releases is available online now along with the latest Peanuts news at:

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/snoopy

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.

Anchor Bay To Release New WWII Drama This Spring

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Amplify Releasing

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Amplify Releasing

World War II is known today as one of the worst conflicts in human history. The destruction caused by the war and the war’s human cost was devastating to say the least. We have that knowledge thanks to those that survived and through extensive documentation both on paper and film. The combination of these elements has in many cases been translated into some of the most powerful and memorable stories of all time. Stories like that of Oskar Schindler, General George S. Patton, Jr., the battle of Midway, and the crew of the famed Memphis Belle are just some of those countless yet powerful stories that have come from one of the world’s worst conflicts. Now this spring, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Amplify Releasing will add another equally powerful story to those ranks when it releases the human drama Against The Sun.

Against The Sun will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 5th. The movie follows the story of three U.S. Navy airmen that crashed in the Pacific in the early days after America entered the war. After crashing in the middle of the Pacific without any food, water, or possible chance of help, pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt—Deadwood, 12 Years a Slave, No Country For Old Men), bombardier Tony Pastula (Tom Felton—the Harry Potter franchise, Get Him to the Greek, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and radioman Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel—Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Host, The Lovely Bones) must come together to survive. The trio faces not just the dangers of the open sea but its own emotional struggles, too as it floats thousands of miles from land. If this sounds familiar, it should. An equally well-known story is that of the crew of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese sub, leading to the greatest loss of life at sea in U.S. Naval history. The 900 survivors of the sinking faced very similar challenges. Their story was turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1991 titled Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. There is also a major motion picture centered on the ship in the works that will star Nicholas Cage. Getting back to Against The Sun, it will include a handful of bonus material including a behind-the-scenes featurette, a piece on the movie’s costuming, the movie’s special effects and more. The full list on bonuses is noted below:

  • A Behind-The-Scenes Look
  • A Plane Takes Flight
  • Starving at Sea
  • Working on Water
  • F/X: On Set and Off
  • Blisters, Burns, and Bites
  • Dressing The Part

Against The Sun will be available on DVD Tuesday, May 5th. It will retail for MSRP of $22.98. Its run time is ninety-nine minutes. More information on Against The Sun and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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

Educators, History Lovers Alike Will Enjoy History Channel’s New WWII Documentary Set

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/History Channel

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/History Channel

History Channel’s new military documentary 75 Years of WWII is scheduled to be released this week.  The double-disc documentary is another nice addition to the library of any military history buff out there. Unlike its partner documentary, 100 Years of WWI was somewhat mistitled, the title of this feature actually works to a point.  That is because it actually takes into account the start of WWII in Europe, rather than from the point of the United States’ entry into the war.  So it is actually factually correct.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this program is that while it does not present the depth of documentaries such as WWII in HD and Vietnam in HD, it is a good starting point for any discussion on World War II especially for any military history class or even history class in general.  And last but not least of all worth noting is the packaging for the double-disc presentation.  That packaging alongside the program’s content and smart title work together to make 75 Years of WWII another welcome addition to the library of any teacher, professor, or history lover in general.

The very first aspect of 75 Years of WWII that makes this latest set from History Channel work is its title.  Most audiences take far too often for granted the title of a given box set, movie, etc.  But the title of this release is quite important.  It is actually so important because this September marks the 75th anniversary of the start of WWII.  That is the 75th anniversary of the start of the war in Europe, not since America joined the war.  So it is a factually correct title.  Some might ask why this matter.  It matters in that unlike so many DVDs out there already, it doesn’t end up misleading audiences.  On another level, that factual certification also serves in itself as the basis for its own history lesson that is broadened quite well by History Channel’s other recent World War II documentary, WWII in HD and the network’s other WWII-based series, one of which sees a two-part episode included on this disc.  That inclusion plays its own part in the overall success of this set, too.

As subtle as it is, the title of 75 Years of WWII is an important piece of the whole that makes this latest release from History Channel enjoyable for history lovers, teachers, and military history lovers alike.  It is a subtle yet important starting point for any discussion point on World War II whether in the classroom or the living room.  Just as important as the presentation’s title is the actual content contained on the set’s two discs.  The material included on this presentation may not be as in-depth as History Channel’s previously released WWII box set WWII in HD.  However, it does collectively offer its own share of in-depth information making for even more solid starting points for many more discussions on the history of World War II.  It all begins with the two-part special D-Day in HD on the set’s first disc.  More than likely, this was chosen as the world stopped and observed the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the end of World War II this year.  It’s a fitting starting point for viewers considering the timeliness of the set’s release.  Disc II is anchored by the two-part Battle 360 episode that focuses on the U.S.S. Enterprise and its role in the battle of Guadal Canal.  There is also a short feature on the Top 10 most important pieces of military hardware that were developed over the course of World War II. This ties directly into History Channel’s previously released programs World War II from Space and 100 Years of WWI, which focused primarily on the military tech developed in World War I, rather than the war’s history.  The Germans, Japanese, and Americans are all featured in this countdown, from land to sea to air.  It’s a fitting finishing piece for a grouping of content that any history lover, military history lover and educator will appreciate.

Both the content included on 75 Years of WWII and its very title are key to the set’s overall presentation and enjoyment.  As important as both factors remain, there is still one remaining factor that audiences should consider when purchasing the double-disc set.  That remaining factor is the set’s packaging.  There are only two discs in this package.  But both discs are placed on their own spindle inside the case.  Disc one is placed on its own insert inside the case while disc two has been placed on a spindle on the back inside portion of the case.  This protects the discs from one another all while making them easily accessible.  The end result is a pair of discs that audiences will be able to enjoy time and again for years to come.

The packaging used to house the discs in 75 Years of WWII rounds out History Channel’s new presentation.  Together with the set’s equally important content and factually accurate title, the three factors noted here make 75 Years of WWII an even more welcome addition to any classroom or living room.  It can be ordered online now direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=577134&SESSID=a067958912a6f2c2d1ab21dca48b384a&v=history.  More information on this and other titles from History Channel is available online at http://www.facebook.com/History and http://www.history.com.  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.

D-Day’s Sunken Secrets Is Another Important Chapter In The History Of WWII

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ NOVA: DDays Sunken Secrets is another invaluable program for anyone that has any interest in the history of World War II or in military history in general.  As informative as the program is, one can’t help but note that it perhaps could have benefitted from a different title.  That’s because most of the program focuses more on the operations of Operation Overlord than on the sunken remnants of the Normandy invasion.  That isn’t to say that that moment in time is completely avoided.  But it doesn’t focus on that aspect near as much as one might be led to believe by the program’s title.  That aside, it is still an interesting piece of World War II history that adds yet another chapter to one of the biggest operations in military history that might otherwise not have been known by some.  And that’s just the beginning.  Audiences will be interested, too to discover that the program’s narrator is himself a WWII veteran who was also there on D-Day.  And last to note is the use of vintage footage against modern video of Normandy today to help illustrate the story of what happened on D-Day and the days that followed.  Each factor plays its own important role in the overall success of this presentation.  Together, they make a program that while perhaps improperly titled, still is an important story that needed to be told.

The first aspect of NOVA: DDays Sunken Secrets the fact that it reveals another chapter of sorts to the story of the D-Day invasion.  It reveals a part of that history that might not have otherwise been known.  Everybody knows about the initial invasion by Allied forces.  And sometimes discussed by historians is the immense planning that led up to the invasion.  However, many might not know that then general Ike Eisenhower actually wrote a letter taking full blame for the operation should it fail.  Interestingly enough, whether or not the initial operation actually failed comes up between a military veteran and a military historian.  The true irony is that the veteran, when posed with the question actually says that in his own view, the operation did in fact fail.  He notes that it failed in that the men that took the beachhead went without the air coverage or the planned naval coverage, either.  Add in changing tides, much like at Dieppe, and the argument is made that while Allied forces eventually took the beaches of Normandy, the operation was still a failure at least in its planning.  That argument actually makes sense.  Had those men had the planned coverage, it is possible that casualties would have been far fewer among Allied forces.  Just as interesting to note is that German U-boats were still patrolling the waters off of France’s coast even after the initial invasion, which led to its own share of sinkings.  There was also the failure of the “floating tanks” and much more discussed throughout the course of the program’s near two-hour runtime.  All of that and more will definitely keep audiences watching and wanting to learn more about what really happened on D-Day and the days that would follow.  It is but one part of what makes NOVA: DDays Sunken Secrets another important addition to the vast history of World War II.

Another important factor to consider in the overall success and enjoyment of this episode is the use of an actual WWII veteran as the program’s narrator.  For that matter, the use of a veteran that fought at Normandy makes it especially interesting. Peter Thomas narrates the program. And while he does quite the job in his role, it is obvious that he does at times become somewhat choked up as he carries out his duty. It could very well be this critic’s own interpretation. But it certainly sounds like he does in fact choke up at times. If that is the case, it’s a welcome change from every documentary out there. It actually adds a certain realism to the program that is sadly lacking in those other programs out there. It adds a more human element for lack of better wording. That human element will pull in viewers even more and lead them to feel at least a modicum of the emotion felt by those that served on that fateful day. It’s one more impressive touch to this program that makes it another invaluable addition to the library of any lover of military history or history in general.

The use of an actual WWII vet that fought on Normandy and the inclusion of even more information on the history of that groundbreaking operation both are key to the overall enjoyment of NOVA: DDays Sunken Secrets. The final aspect of the program that audiences will appreciate is the inclusion once again of actual footage filmed as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Just as much, audiences will appreciate the use of video illustrations outlining the movements of both Allied and German forces before and after the initial landing and battle to reclaim the beachhead. Viewers will be amazed at the CG recreation of the Allied forces’ man-made harbor and how it worked with the waters off the French coast. The bridges that were created were an engineering feat far ahead of their time. So, even those with an interest in engineering and construction will find something to like about this episode of NOVA. It’s the final touch to another overall impressive albeit slightly mis-titled piece of World War II history.

NOVA: DDays Sunken Secrets is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296&cp=&sr=1&kw=d+day&origkw=D+Day&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline, http://twitter.com/novapbs, and http://www.pbs.org/nova. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Set To Release Three New D-Day Documentaries July 8th

PBS will release three new programs next Tuesday centered on one of the most pivotal moments of World War II next Tuesday.

Day of Days

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release next Tuesday,  Day of Days: June 6, 1944: American Soldiers Remember DDay, DDay 360, and Nova: DDays Sunken Secrets. The first of the documentaries brings together a group of WWII veterans that took part in D-Day. The men recollect the events of what is one of the largest collective operations in military history. Throughout their discussions, the men also discuss their uneasiness over being called “heroes,” their transformation from boys to men, and the loss of their friends in the assault on Normandy among other topics. The stories bring up very powerful and equally painful memories for the veterans. This program will be available on DVD and via digital download. It will be available for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366.

 

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

DDay 36O, the second of PBS’ upcoming WWII-centered documentaries, re-creates the events of D-Day. It does so through the use of new data-driven and statistical tools to display the sheer immensity of the operation. It was on June 6th, 1944 that 3,000 planes dropped 23,000 airborne troops behind German lines, 7,000 ships delivered some 20,000 military vehicles and 130,000 allied soldiers to take on some 40,000 German soldiers, roughly two million mines buried in the sand, and 46,000 beach obstacles. Among those obstacles were hundreds of miles of barbed wire, shells, and bullets. The program focuses primarily on the exit at Vierville-sur-Mer, the most important stretch of Omaha Beach that day. It documents the events that unfolded over the course of five hours of fighting on the five-mile stretch of French coastline. The program will be available on DVD next Tuesday. It will retail for SRP of $24.99 and can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35446756.

 

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

In the third and final of PBS’ upcoming D-Day centered programs, audiences are taken beneath the waves of Normandy to see the remnants of what is today one of the world’s largest underwater archaeological sites in Nova: DDays Sunken Secrets. Audiences will see in this five-part program, a combined group of military historians, archaeologists, and other specialist divers as they explore the waters just off of Normandy’s beaches. They use submersibles, underwater robots, and the latest 3-D mapping technology to identify the tanks, ships, planes, landing craft and more that sunk just off of Normandy’s beaches that day. Along with that, audiences are also taken into the planning of the D-Day invasion, and how the work of scientists, mathematicians, inventors, and even meteorologists helped in said planning. The expedition which led to this presentation lasted six weeks and was led by Sylvain Pascaud. DDays Sunken Secrets will retail for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296.

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

EOne’s Angel of the Skies Is An Underrated WWII Story

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

World War II was the most devastating military conflict that the world has ever seen.  The interesting thing about this war is that it led to the creation of some of the film industry’s most iconic movies.  Movies like Tora Tora Tora, Patton, and The Longest Day became cornerstones of the biggest titles linked to WWII.  Since the days of those classics, countless other movies centered on WWII have been churned out.  Some of them have been not so bad, while others have been not so memorable.  Entertainment One’s new WWII era movie Angel of the Skies is one of those movies that while it is an indie flick, is still one that is not so bad.  Sure, there are some historical inaccuracies depicted in the movie.  But the general story behind the movie is what makes it worth at least one watch.  The acting on the part of the cast helps to make the movie worth at least one watch, too.  And the same can be said of the early flight scenes and backdrops.  All of it taken into account, Angel of the Skies is not as bad as some have already made it out to be.

Angel of the Skies has received mixed reviews by some critics.  The biggest criticism of the movie has been its historical accuracy.  There are some issues with said accuracy.  But one must also take into account that no movie ever based on historical events was one hundred percent accurate in itself.  That being taken into account, it really is not that bad of a movie within its genre.  The story itself is worth a watch first and foremost for the themes tied into the overall story.  Writer/director Christopher-Lee dos Santos ties into his story, the themes of brotherhood, determination, and dedication.  He does so in a way that none of the themes overpower themselves through the course of the movie.  They actually work together to give the story an emotional depth that will keep viewers engaged through the movie’s near two-hour run time.  The story’s theme of dedication works quite well in a dual role here.  On one hand, the theme of dedication works as it is linked to the sub-story between Flight Officer Earl Kirk and his girlfriend, Deborah Caldwell (Lillie Claire—Supernatural, Suing The Devil) and to the dedication of the flight crew to one another after  their plane is shot down.  That theme of dedication among the flight crew directly compliments the script’s theme of brotherhood, too.  Even in the greatest of odds, the men refuse to leave one another behind if at all possible, and will do whatever it takes to save one of their own from Nazi officers.  In turn, that theme of brotherhood is directly linked to the theme of determination.  The men were determined to survive and survive together at all costs.  Each of these themes work together seamlessly to make a story that is worth at least one watch by any history buff and film buff.

The interweaving themes that make up the script behind Angel of the Skies are central to the movie’s ability to keep viewers engaged.  They collectively aren’t all to be considered.  The acting of the cast helps to move the story along, too.  The actors that make up the movie’s cast are largely unknowns.  Despite that, they put on a believable performance.  This is the case both by themselves and together.  The men that make up the flight crew do quite the job in their roles.  As enjoyable as it is to watch them take on their roles, it’s the vile SS officer Stutze that truly stands out in this movie.  Stutze (David James) is truly ruthless in his attempts to locate the South African airmen and carry out his duties.  Not to reveal too much, but he is so vile that he goes so far as to have his men kill a German milkmaid that had protected the airmen after they were shot down.  This after he told her that everything would be okay.  He even gunned down a defenseless American soldier early on as part of his character’s setup.  The ability of an actor or actress to make his or her character that despicable means that said individual is more than doing his or her job in said role.  If the combined themes aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged through the story, then that juxtaposition of character types and roles will definitely do its part to keep viewers engaged.

The general writing and acting that comprise Angel of the Skies combine to make it a movie that is well worth at least one watch.  They don’t work by themselves, though.  The movie’s special effects and backdrops play their own role in making this movie worth at least one watch.  Unlike so many other WWII based movies, this movie mixes CG with live action.  The flight scenes are largely computer generated.  It’s obvious where the computer elements were used, too.  But at least they weren’t as cheesy as those used in the 2006 James Franco WWI flop, Flyboys.  One almost couldn’t tell the difference as the bombers were flying into German airspace.  The only times that one could tell for certain that computer graphics were used were when the bombers came under fire from the Messerschmitts and when the flight crew’s bomber crashed.  The rest of the movie’s story was set against a live action backdrop.  What’s interesting about the live action backdrop is that it didn’t feel as over the top as those used in some other WWII era dramas.  It felt more real for lack of better wording.  That is an area in which far too many movie makers get things wrong.  Too many movie makers look for settings that will enhance their movies.  And it only serves to lessen the movies in question to a certain extent.  That isn’t the case here, though.  That realistic feel combines with the movie’s writing and the cast’s acting to make it a movie that despite being an indie flick is still one worth watching at least once by any history buff and movie buff.  It will be available next Tuesday, December 31st on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from the Entertainment One website at http://us.eonefilms.com/films/angel-of-the-skies?lang=en-US.  More information on this and other releases from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  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.

Nazi Mega Weapons A Rare Must See WWII Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Television today has become increasingly dumbed down day after day. “Reality TV” (for those that really want to believe that moniker) seems to be increasingly dominate the airwaves. Even History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel are but pale shadows of what they once were. Enter PBS. PBS has shown time and again throughout 2013 why it has remained a shining beacon of worthwhile television with its documentaries, and dramas. That reputation has been maintained even more with the release of its new WWII based documentary, Nazi Mega Weapons. This six-part “mini-series” of sorts looks at some of the greatest achievements of the Nazi military and how despite their greatness, they in essence led to the downfall of the German forces. This documentary is a must see first and foremost in that it is aimed at no fewer than four distinct audience groups. It is just as worth seeing because of the stories told through each of its three segments. Just as noteworthy in this collection of episodes is the ratio of each segment’s run time to its content. Each segment is so well balanced that whether one is watching these segments in the classroom or the living room. The amount of content and its arrangement over the course of the segments’ run time is the finishing touch to what is one of PBS’ best WWII based documentaries of this year.

Nazi Mega Weapons is easily one of PBS’ most intriguing WWII based documentaries to have been presented by the network in 2013. The first thing that has been done right with this documentary is the fact that it has been separated into six distinct segments. Those segments are separated over two discs and a total of roughly six hours, or one hour each. Nothing is left out of this documentary. From the well-known V-2 rocket program to Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” and the lesser discussed Nazi sub base on the coast of France, every aspect of Nazi technology is discussed throughout each segment. Whether one is a history buff, a military history buff, or even an engineering specialist or WWII historian, this documentary is so successful first and foremost because it reaches so many audiences across the spectrum. One can’t but be amazed at the technological and engineering feats achieved by the German forces as shown over the course of Nazi Mega Weapons. Just as amazing is the fact that despite those advances and feats, it was all for naught. As viewers will see, also portrayed here are how those same advances and feats also led to the eventual downfall of the Nazi forces.

The stories shared about the advances and feats achieved by the Nazi forces in WWII are absolutely amazing, considering where the world was at that point technologically and in terms of what had been in the world of engineering. Just as amazing to note is how those same advances that made Nazi forces so dangerous also led to their downfall and the downfall of the entire Nazi force. A prime example is shared in the mini-series’ opening segment on D-Day. It explains that for all of the preparations made on Omaha Beach, little preparation was made to ensure it was actually defended against Allied forces. Everyone knows that Allied forces took Omaha Beach. But how many knew that Omaha Beach was taken in roughly a little over three hours because German forces had only enough ammunition to last them three hours? That’s just one of the many stories shared that will amaze many viewers. Another equally noteworthy story lies in the segment on the well-known V-2 rocket program. Some might be interested to discover that so much time was spent perfecting the V-2 rockets that by the time Nazi leaders were ready to use them, it was too late. While the rockets had done substantial damage to Britain, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  These are just a small handful of the stories shared throughout all six segments across the documentary.  They are also just minor pieces of the overall material used to expertly illustrate each segment’s overall story.

The overall material used to illustrate each segment is expansive to say the least.  Individuals that specialize in given fields are brought along to the “Atlantic Wall”, the infamous Nazi U-boat base in France, and even the places where Werhner Von Braun’s V-2 rockets were developed.  Rather than just seeing these places in vintage footage, audiences get to see them as they are now.  This allows viewers a close up look at what the Nazis had achieved both technologically and in terms of engineering.  It is a highly effective visual aid, as is the original wartime footage included alongside those historical “visits.”  The re-enactment segments are just as effective to the overall presentation.  And the fact that each of these elements was so well balanced with the other within the context of each segment’s near hour-long run time makes the overall presentation that much more enjoyable for viewers.  This internal balance works hand in hand with the back story of each segment and the general separation of the segments to put Nazi Mega Weapons over the top.  All things considered, it becomes one more of PBS’ best documentaries of 2013, and potentially another of the year’s best documentaries overall.  It will be available Tuesday, November 5th and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=22850906.  More information on this and other PBS programming 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.