Category Archives: documentary

History Bible Collection

history BibleI have always been impressed with the documentaries produced by HISTORY. The Bible Collection is a fine example of a well-done production. The program covers everything you can image about the Bible and even more so. The quality of reenactments and speculations bring more life to such a devoted subject.

The 16-disc set of over 38 hours of programming examines both Judaism and Christianity.  The series explores the mysteries and hidden facts about the history of the Bible. Three discs offer some of the most famous biblical stories from both the Old and New Testament. Also featured are 12 programs about the most famous biblical figures, and the screen format is both widescreen and full screen.

Includes the following DVDs:

  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#1
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#2
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#3
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#1
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#2
  • Banned from The Bible – DVD
  • Banned from The Bible II – DVD
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD1/2
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD3/4
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD5
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD1
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD2
  • Mysteries of The Bible FKA Collector’s Choice: Mysteries of The Bible – DVD1/2
  • Mary of Nazareth – DVD/Jesus His Life
  • The Execution of Jesus – DVD
  • God Vs. Satan – DVD

I doubt anyone could watch all the programs in one sitting.  I am sure most Sunday Schools would love this set, and play the DVDs that are appropriate for children.  Some adults might want to watch each video as it sparks their interest in a certain aspect of the Bible, like Mary of Nazareth or where the Bible has been banned. No matter how the programs are viewed, I am sure each person will appreciate the value of the production and become better educated about such an ancient book.

Mountain Men, Season 4

mountainmenMountain Men is a decent reality TV show, and they are DVDs are worth getting, so I believed, until Season 4. Season 4 DVD has only 8 episodes, and the other half of the season is not available yet. The earlier seasons are all in one DVD package. When I bought Season 1, 2, 3, I got the whole season in each DVD package, so the change in packaging is confusing. It appears to be a bait and switch.

The promotion isn’t clear on what I am actually buying because it appears to be the whole season since there are on two discs. How can 8 episodes fill two discs?

Don’t get me wrong. It is a great program, but it is so disappointing to only have half the season in the DVD package. I looked at Amazon and most of the reviews state the same thing. They are disappointed because they only received half the season.

Despite the change in packing, Mountain Men is a great show. My favorite episode is when Marty finishes his cabin in time for his family to arrive.  Rich, in Montana, has dogs that are in danger after pursuing a bobcat too far. Then, Tom gets the once over after receiving a risky commission. In the beautiful North Carolina, a mishap brings Eustace’s lumber operation to a sudden halt.

As an afterthought, some of you might be happier viewing the streaming episodes on Amazon or History.  If you do the math, you might find it a better deal.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

ABraveHeartLizzieVelasquezStory_3D_DVDDirected by Sara Bordo, we meet a 26-year-old motivational speaker and author Lizzie Velazquez.  She is diagnosed with a rare congenital disease that thwarts her body from gaining weight. Soaking wet she weighs 58 pounds and can only see out of one eye. To make matters worse, she was subjected to bullying in childhood and even today she is bullied by random people.  The best word I can think about is “resilient” because she is powerfully intelligent with an amazing and beguiling sense of humor.  Velazquez turned for the best when she was seventeen. Surfing on YouTube, she came across video footage titled The World’s Ugliest Woman, and it referred to her.

What could she do? Turn the other cheek and continue avoiding the foreseeable looks and caustic backhanded remarks.  What would you do if you met her for the first time? Normally, people react and reflect on their reaction and correct themselves, so they can see her beyond her ugliness. Yet, there is a hit of guilt and even shame once they recover their humanity.  Under those conditions is exactly the way Velazquez approached her talks and wrote her books. Watching the documentary, one can’t help but admire her rare patience and understanding.

A Brave Heart follows her transformation from a budding victim to an inspiring personality. Bordo weaves the story of Velasquez’s journey, starting with a series of eloquent and expressive posts on her own YouTube channel, an autobiography, and presentation at TEDxAustinWomen discussing self-image that circulated quickly in discussions and on the Internet.

Bordo garnishes the documentary with interviews, home videos, and footage of her lectures.  We journey with Velasquez’s as she confronts her health issues, a condition continued undiagnosed for years, and she proceeds with being directed to never-ending tests and medical exams.

All in all, don’t expect an immediate resolve like a fairy tale. Velazquez still has her plight, though she has notoriety and success. Not all oddities or freaks have such luck. Let’s just love one another as we are not our bodies but shapeless souls with a common goal – be happy with who we are and love one another.

Baseball Legends

B_LEGENDS_3D_DVDBaseball is America’s favorite past time.  We certainly have our fair share of baseball heroes who have become legends in their own time.  Watching the four documentaries in Baseball Legends, I learned so much about four very different athletics.  All special and talented in their own way, by some they are Gods, built the foundation of what we have today.

Co-directed by Josh Oshinsky and Jeff Spaulding, Baseball Legends is narrated by Martin Sheen.  The DVDs offer epic tales of four baseball heroes. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Lou Gehrig turned baseball into the National Pastime that it is presently.

Each story is inspiring while bringing a fresh historical and poignant perspective of the lives of these sport icons. Using rare and enhanced archival material and state-of-the-art production techniques, these films are perfect for anyone who is interested in baseball and history in general.

Some keep points covered in the movies are Babe Ruth, his bat turned him into a household name, Ted Williams, the last player to hit .400, Lou Gehrig, won 6 World Series before illness ended his career, and Hank Aaron, rose from adversity to break the record of a king.

DVD Special Features include The Making of American Hercules about Babe Ruth, and his rare player interviews with historic game footage. Ted Williams Hall of Fame induction is included. Saving the best for last, there are several extended interviews with various experts and archival footage from the Major League Baseball Film and Video Archive.

All in all, I discovered information I had never know about these four legends. Babe Ruth cut his teeth as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. He developed in to a lethal opponent in both his arm and bat, helping Boston win a couple of World Series titles. Lou Gehrig was an Ivy League student and played baseball while going to school at Columbia. Ted Williams left baseball twice in order to fight for the Marines.  He was a jet pilot during both World War II and the Korean War. Hank Aaron went unnoticed as player for the Milwaukee Braves, yet he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record when the team transferred to Atlanta.

Pelican Dreams

pelicansDirected by Sundance and Emmy award-winning director Judy Irving, Pelican Dreams tracks a willful California brown pelican. The story begins when she is arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge. And, the story continues with her care at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, and after the movie explores pelicans nesting grounds. The documentary shows a rich Pacific coast migration with unbelievable survival challenges. The movie is a visual story about wilderness, and how we are encroaching on the wild.  Perhaps we should be concerned about how we are caring too much for the wild. We should just let wilderness take its course whether tragic or not.

The poignant movie stars Gigi, the pelican named after the Golden Gate Bridge, and Morro, a urbanized pelican with an injured wing, and the wildlife professionals who care for these birds.

The movie is for those who love pelicans and birds alike.  For those who live near the coast, and see the birds almost every day, consider it a wonderful introduction and education of the wildlife around you.

Pelican Dreams is not a typical big budget documentary, but the story still shines through with Irving also wearing the hat as cinematographer with some amazing footage of pelicans in their breeding areas. Majority of the movie covers rescue and release facilities that rehabilitate sick and injured birds. The documentary shows the dedication these people carry out to save the pelicans.

Edited also by Irving the movie may seem a bit slow if you are not interested in pelicans. They are such wondrous creatures that the movie is worth watching. I highly recommended the movie for anyone who loves these amazing animals, and my hat goes off to Irving for all her hard work on this brilliant story of the wilderness.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

IAmBigBird DVD-3DThe big yellow feathered bird on Sesame Street has been a household icon for decades. The documentary I Am Big Bird celebrates more than Caroll Spinney’s life and contributions performing Big Bird for over 40 years. The movie celebrates the making of the Muppets and puppeteers far and wide.

Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker keep the pace even with family home movies of Spinney’s beginnings in both his personal life and career. Interviews with Spinney, his family, original cast and crew of Sesame Street relate tales of early educational television. For example, Spinney and some of the crew tell a time in the early days when he almost quit the Muppets because he felt he wasn’t contributing enough to the show. But, he was talked out of it, and soon Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Spinney’s other Muppet persona, became well-known puppets on Sesame Street.  Eventually, Big Bird became the most popular character on the show.

The interviews openly discuss his first marriage, which resulted in three dearly loved children, who are also interviewed in the documentary, clearly showing their love for their dad. Unfortunately, he and their mother divorced, and Spinney suffered through the ordeal.

He met the girl of his dreams by three unsuccessful attempts to date her. Debra tells the story so pleasantly. You can’t help but admire their relationship. Debra is interviewed quite a bit in the movie and her love and understanding of Spinney is very clear. Other items come up in the documentary that are surprising and out of the ordinary. Never explained was why they didn’t have children of their own.

Finding out the staggering complexity of Spinney’s work in the puppet costume is spellbinding.  The demands alone for being a Muppet are amazing, but Big Bird is so much more complex and tasking on Spinney’s body. You need to see it. Just being a Muppet is highly demanding, but to be Big Bird is even more so.

The documentary shines a light on Muppets creator and genius Jim Henson. Clearly a very good friend of the Spinney’s, seeing Henson is heartfelt. The documentary shows footage and memories of working alongside Henson. Big Bird sang “It’s Not Easy Being Green” in front of the packed cathedral at Henson’s funeral, one of the most memorable scenes in the documentary.

Ancient Aliens

ancientalienbluThis is a great series, and I look forward to each new set when they are released. This particular set, I am inclined to tell you that some of the episodes were really farfetched in their theories.

Yet, if you are a true believer in what the producers bring to bear, then there are so many other things they bring up that just cannot be proved wrong.  I am talking about the historical and physical evidence. It is really quite amazing.

The series brings up questions that are hard to answer, though  You have contemplate the ancients were more technologically advanced than we are today, or they had help.  Unless we know where the technology they used is located because we don’t have it today.  These points are hard to determine, and are some of the questions that come up.  That is way the show is out of the ordinary.

You get a chance to explore the fascinating chance that ancient aliens formed our history. According to the series, humans have told stories about beings with super-human strength since the man could pain on walls.

The series introduces ideas like tales about Zeus, Thor and Hanuman and even contemporary subjects like Superman and Batman and more helped form the world we live in today. Did these tales originated from oral legends about extraterrestrials? Whether you believe it or not, it is fun to speculate.

Moreover, ancient myths from around the globe, gods are often found intervening in human affairs, from Sumerian myth to the story of Moses. Were these supernatural visitations really the work of aliens using advanced technology to shape our civilization? We’ll also consider whether the reptilian alien, a fixture of science fiction, is reflected in the serpent gods of ancient myth. Could they have been living beings? Find out, and much more.

Another good aspect about the set is the special features like English subtitles for the hearing impaired, 3 discs, 12 episodes and no extras.

Families of the World: Families of Puerto Rico

FamilyPRI thought I’d take a look at one of the multi-award-winning live-action Families of the World series episodes called Families of Puerto Rico. The purpose of the series is to give an intimate portrait into the lives of people in countries around the globe.

Another reason I decided to view the Puerto Rico DVD is the recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, 2015. Known as a time for people to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture.

The Puerto Rico episode introduces an adorable nine-year-old boy named Jose. He lives with his mother, father and sister Tanya, in the capital city of San Juan. A hurricane is on its way, so Jose and his family are making preparations while still going about their day, which includes school for Jose and his sister, and work for their parents. Jose shares the history of his homeland’s name. He explains the island of Borinquen was renamed Puerto Rico by the Spanish after a visit and claiming by explorer Christopher Columbus. He also touches on what “good manners” mean in his country, and his desire to be a veterinarian when he grows up.

The series also introduces eight-year-old Laura. She lives on a farm with her mother and father. She attends private school more than an hour away, learning both English and Spanish while her parents work.  She talks about her weekly piano lesson and introduces her pet Coquis frog. Later she visits the world’s largest radio telescope to listen to radio waves from outer space and reads before turning in for the day.

I enjoyed visiting these two children and learning about another culture. I recommend the series because taking a look at other cultures allows us a better understand of the world.

The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

The Definitive WWI & WWIII am amazed how The History Channel has produced an assortment of documentaries and episodes concerning the two Great Wars, WWI and WWII. The set is endless with titles that include The Color of War, an unrivaled five disc, 13-episode documentary about WWII, and The World Wars, a stellar production that spotlights a few of the more well-known individuals from the two wars.

Altogether, the complete package is over 44 hours and some content overlaps from disc to disc. The whole set could be organized better, and not so annoying while I try to come to terms of the flow from one disc to the next. The mixture of documentaries along with episodes from The History Channel series offer lot of views on both World Wars, but realize the product is a collection of distinct productions and not an epic told as a story from beginning to end. With that, don’t let the time, over 44 hours, allude you to the idea that each distinct disc covers all aspects of these two Great Wars. There was no way I could watch the entire set in order to review the product. I did catch some of the episodes and here are my thoughts.

Foremost, I found the discs had advertisements for other History Channel programs.  I wish it was an option instead of the trailers coming on right at the beginning of the disc. Sure, I fast forward, but it bugged me.  Here are some of the programs I had an opportunity to view.

The World Wars, a three-part mini-series, is well worth my time and energy to watch.  The series has a pretty decent overview of WWI and WWII told just about entirely through analysis of some key figures, including MacArthur, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill and Mussolini. The acting and production is appealing.  More vintage footage would make the series even better. The bonus content makes up for the lack of vintage footage. Characters have in depth overview of such notables as FDR, Truman, Hitler, Truman, Churchill, and Eisenhower. The feature is presented as a discussion by the panel of historians and professors who also contributed to the main program. They hold their discussions while clips from the program are shown.

100 Years of WWI is a two-disc set that offers a several episodes worth mentioning. They are Armored Beasts, Clouds of Death, Massive Air Attacks, and Underwater Killers. This documentary concentrates on how the industrialized world modernized to make horrific weapons of war like tanks, mustard gas, flamethrowers and submarines. The blend of vintage footage with modern, re-enactment footage is worth watching.

75 Years of WWII is also a two disc set with disc one containing D-Day material is worth watching, but disc two is nowhere near in comparison.

The Color of War is close to ten hours long and is probably the best program out of the whole package. The program takes a unique turn and offers an honest view of the civilians and home front. There is a lot of vintage footage and color film.  There is however lots of battle footage that incorporates violent imagery. If you are faint at heart this set might be difficult to view. Peter Coyote does a fine job narrating the whole series.

WWII In Space is a different approach to the Great Wars with a visual presentation incorporating many maps and CG animations, more than any documentary. The visuals keep the geography in proportion to the size of the planet we live on.  I like that because it gives me an idea of how the world is influence by the both wars.

Simon Wiesenthal Film Collection

simonwiesenthalSimon Wiesenthal passed away in 2005. He was a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor and became well-known for his unrelenting work as a Nazi hunter.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah Films collection of documentaries, which features narrations by Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and others, is now available as a DVD set worth owning.

The collection includes two Academy Award winning documentaries: The Long Way Home, featuring Freeman’s narration; and Genocide, the 1982 best documentary Oscar winner narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles.

The Long Way Home takes an in-depth look at post-WWII and the survivors of the Holocaust. It also includes the voices of Edward Asner, Sean Astin, Martin Landau, Miriam Margolyes, David Paymer, Nina Siemaszko, Helen Slater, and Michael York. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1998.

The story focuses on the contemptible state of affairs for Jewish refugees in Europe after the war. Antisemitism was still predominant and destitution was common. The movie indicates how emigration to the British Mandate of Palestine developed into a goal for many. Yet, the British immigration rules often concluded with them being in custody in camps on the island of Cyprus. The eventual formation of the State of Israel results based on the debates at the White House between Palestinian Jews, President Harry S. Truman, and the United Nations.

Genocide follows the courage and torture of the Jewish people before and during World War II. Elizabeth Taylor’s simple voice reads letters from fatalities of the Nazis. The letters are heart wrenching hearing the farewells to friends and other loved ones.  First-hand accounts of horrifying images.  On one particular read is about someone who observed a massacre. I was shocked and disheartened, which is the aim of the movie.

Other narrators in the collection include Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Douglas, Sir Ben Kingsley and Christoph Waltz.

The documentaries are available in DVD case with Simon Wiesenthal on the cover. Susan Margolin, president of Docurama, streaming service for documentary movies, called the collection “historically rich and profoundly important.”