This massive 17-DVD set is a nature-lovers treasure. These are the documentaries, Planet Earth, The Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals, and The Life of Birds, that have proven the BBC has set the gold standard for nature films and programs. The ever delightful David Attenborough hosts each of these series and every single episode features mind-blowing photography and startling facts. They are educational for sure, but also more entertainment and addictive than anything else of the sort. The set is an essential addition to the DVD collection of any nature lover or anyone with a deep interest in the “vast” world around us.
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He’s traveled around the world in 79 days (besting literary adventurer Phileas Fogg by a mere 24 hours), went pole to pole, traversed the entire Pacific Rim “full circle”, hit both the Sahara and the Himalayas, and walked in the footsteps of favorite author Ernest Hemingway. Now, all of these ex-Python’s extraordinary travelogues are available in a whopping 19-DVD boxset. While he tends to follow the Lonely Planet philosophy of sightseeing, Palin provides enough warmth, wit, and wisdom to make these various trips around the globe well worth revisiting again and again. And you can’t beat the BBC cinematography. Simply breathtaking!
The History Channel offers a fascinating look at the literal building of empire through architecture. Covering thousands of years of human development and civilization building, empires are perhaps the obvious prism to frame an analysis of societal growth because, if nothing else, they are fairly comprehensively documented. Architecture has always been viewed by the powerful as a primary means to convey their power and values and so it is quite fitting the means to talk about the empire here. From Ancient Greece and Egypt through to the British Empire, this series is enlightening and thought-provoking and of interest to anyone interested in where we came from.
The History Channel Presents Modern Marvels - Architectural Wonders [$35.99]
For the curious-minded who wonder how things work and how things get made in the first place, these History Channel collections are splendid gifts. The technology set covers a nice range of topics, from the geek-friendly investigation of James Bond’s gadgets to the method of making candy. It goes from a basic fundamental like the science of sugar all the way to technology’s most menacing developmental extreme, the nuclear bombs created out of the work of the Manhattan Project. Science plays a great role, too, in the architectural side of the series. Covering a wide swath of human history, this set spans the most spectacular creations of the ancient world in the Eygytian pyramids and the Great Wall of China up to the 20th century and the construction of the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. These are wonderful and affordable collections for the science nut and the intellectually curious alike.
James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments is a meditation on chaos and coping, with its focus intently on Iraqis. From a close-up of 11-year-old Mohammed’s eye, looking out on city streets, to a long view of young Kurdish shepherd Suleiman, silhouetted by a setting sun, the documentary offers a range of views and reactions to the US occupation of Iraq. As interviewees struggle to imagine a future beyond the current, daily horrors, they are at once alike and disparate, furious and hopeful, resilient and outraged. The film provides specifics, details of hectic life among ruins, faces filled with dread, desire, and defiance. Whether looking out on empty streets or endless fields in Kurdistan, the film creates a sense of space. Whether cramped or expansive, the compositions are alive with movement, color, urgency. Marchers, worshippers, workers, men with guns: they all suggest that the film has only scratched a surface.