DOASKDOTELL Movie Reviews of Videos and Major Cable Documentaries
The Million Dollar Challenge (2004, Brainbox, History Channel, 50 min) was produced by the same company that did Five Lines. This film is a historical chronicle of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which came up with technology like stealth bombers and ARPANET, initiated in 1969 as a way to get big defense and university computers to converse and led the way to the Internet, which would be released to the public by the first Bush administration in 1992. The other thread in this film is a contest (with the million dollar prize, so far not won by anyone) to build a ground all-terrain robotized vehicle, which can go into land combat (in places like Iraq) without soldiers. It reminds you of Starship Troopers, as well as vehicles used now on Mars and probably eventually on Europa and Titan.
Rome: Engineering an Empire (2005, History Channel/HBO, 120 min) supplements a new series about Rome on HBO, and documents the amazing engineering feats of the last great ancient civilization. The program traces Roman history from Julius Caesar (about 60 BC) to its fall. Caesar water mark by building a vanity bridge to cross the 1000-foot-wide Rhine river into what would become Germany, to intimidate local tribes. Over time the Romans build aqueducts, tunneling through mountains, roads, and buildings with sophisticated mathematical designs normally found only on computers today. They had an arrogant civilization which differentiated between rich and poor but let the poor enjoy savage entertainments in the Coliseum, which was engineered to hold mock lakes even for naval demonstrations. The city burned at various times, but their fall was hastened when Germanic tribes sundered aqueducts near Rome, forcing people to flee to the countryside. There were other reasons, such as inbreeding and the presence of lead in the water. Their civilization would be eclipsed by Islam for centuries, and then Europe would slide into darkness. But the end of Rome provides a warning for us, in this age of terrorism, global warming, disasters, and class and religious resentments. We can fail. And suddenly
Nuclear Rescue 911: Broken Arrows & Incidents (2000, Goldhill/VCE/AIX, dir. Peter Kuran, 60 min) is a documentary about accidents with nuclear weapons. A "broken arrow" is the accidental loss or detonation of a nuclear weapon during routine peacetime military operations. There had been six of these through 2000, most of them in the 60s. In one case, a bomb exploded near a home in Florence, SC and dug a crater. There were other incidents in Goldsboro NC, Yuba City, CA, Cumberland, MD and in the Mediterranean, where a bomb was lost underwater and where contaminated earth had to be removed and brought back to the US. Compare to John Tavolta's movie "Broken Arrow" and the line "ain't it cool?" It isn't.
Lost World: Oak Ridge and Los Alamos (2005, History Channel, 1 hr) documents the huge secret cities at Oak Ridge, TN and Los Alamos NM during World War II to develop the atomic bomb. One building was half a mile long. Thousands of workers were housed in temporary, quasi-military cities with housing assigned to family size. The film indirectly shows the need for social conformity during wartime for many efforts even among civilians, who could not talk about their work and knew very little about what they did.
One Day in September: The Price of Security (2006: Koppel on Discovery, 180 min) is part of Ted Koppel's (former ABC Nightline anchor) new series of documentaries and town hall meetings. The show was aired in the evening of 9/11/2006, in competition with ABC's "The Path to 9/11". The first half of the film consists of interviews with many authorities on the problem of balancing security (our "National Security State") with civil liberty, as with reference to the Patriot Act, and some notorious incidents, such as when Joseph Padilla was picked up and held in a Navy brig in South Carolina without charge. The town hall meeting follows, in Nightline style. Many authorities and authors, such as George Soros, Jamie Gorelick, and Zoe Baird, were present. Many of the people came from the Clinton years. The debate becomes, as they say, "existential." There are questions about profiling persons of Arab descent, and whether we are living in liberty if we can be so easily undermined by asymmetric attack. A William and Mary professor says we are "the United States of Amnesia." Koppel sometimes comes with pragmatic overtones, drawing lines of logic out to their ultimate conclusions ("going to the root" as I used to say to my father as a teenager). Baird raises the issue of whether the government should use Google to keep tabs on ordinary citizens. She maintains that it normally should not because that would be an abuse of power, and Koppel answers that if the government can, it will (the libertarian retort). We know that the United States military is not adverse to using Google to enforce "don't ask don't tell." (Baird would know this because of her experience in the Clinton years.) We also know that employers do this under the table now, "because they can," setting up an unprecedented social controversy in the private sector that mirrors the bigger problems in national security. As I said in the mid 1990s when I wrote my own book, the debate over military personnel policy really matters to everyone.
In the wrapup, one participant echoes the idea that if there is another major terrorist attack, debates like they are enjoying will no longer be practicable. Koppel notes then that there is only one country on the planet with no risk of terrorism: North Korea.
Jesus Camp (2006) moved to this link.
Eye of the Leopard (2006, National Geographic, 120 min) is a sensational documentary about the life a young female leopard Legadema in Botswana. Feline intelligence, which is so able to choose what it wants in the environment, is well shown. A climax occurs when the leopard kills a baboon but then starts to care for the baboon's baby. The "Tarzan" possibility that a leopard could actually nurse a human baby (since it is also a primate) would come to mind. The cat tended to bond to the filmmakers and hang around them, much as a domestic cat might. Blogger.
Hacking Democracy (2006, HBO/Public Interest, dir. Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels, 78 min, PG) is an HBO original documentary about the reported vulnerability of elections to newer voting machine systems, especially in states that do not provide paper audit trails of the actual votes. Actually, there was a serious problem in at least one county (Volusia) in Florida in 2000 where a computer marked votes for Al Gore as negative, but that was caught. Voting systems have firmware that a dishonest programmer with a political agenda or a hired plant could conceivably compromise. Some systems can, mysteriously, count backwards. There were questions about campaign and political loyalties of Diebold. An executive named Mark Radke often spoke and tried to defend the company. There are serious questions about how well some of the systems are tested by outside auditors, away from possible conflict of interest. There is a lot of attention to Diebold Systems, which has received a lot of attention in litigation. The laws regarding trade secrets keep elections examiners from auditing the software of these systems, a kind of Catch 22. At the end of the film, there was a daring experiment testing the integrity of the system. The Cleveland, Ohio system was shown a lot.
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (2006, History Channel, 180 min) traces the history of the Pilgrims who would settle Plymouth back to their roots as Separatists in England and their decade in Leiden, the Netherlands first. Theological controversy had long gone on in England as many people felt that the Anglican Church did not assure them of salvation in a manner that the Catholic Church claimed to be able to do. Yet the Crown in the 16th Century greatly resisted religious protest as seditious, and to prosecute or shut down printed matter or leaflets that protested religious values (rather like the Internet censorship of the day). The Crown even tried to pressure Amsterdam to shut it down (and at the time The Netherlands was a very fragmented country politically, even if owned the world's first stock market). The group finally managed a difficult and desperate voyage (aiming for the Hudson River but winding up in what would become Massachusetts), chased from Cape Cod by Indians to Plymouth, and fought a winter of scurvy and death. The potential property claims of the Wampanoag tribe are apparently still legally controversial today.
Alaska: Big America (2002?, History Channel, 120 min) is a documentary tracing the history of the largest state, including the diptheria epidemic in Nome in 1925, the building of the Alaskan highway by segregated troops, and the one battle on US soil in 1942 in the Aleutians. The latter part of the film covers the building of the great pipeline, starting in 1974, designed to last only 20 years without heavy maintenance. Not to be confused with a family adventure film from Columbia in 1996.
In the Womb: Multiples (2006, National Geographic, 120 min) a sensational documentary showing simulated and live pictures of multiple birth children in the womb, often playing and fighting each other in the womb and expressing future personalities even before born. Early in the film there is a moment where a cell clump differentiates and an embryonic heart starts to beat.
A Man Among Bears (2008, National Geographic, 60 min) Ben Hilham raises and observes bears in New Hampshire, blogger.
Inside American Power: Inside the Pentagon (2002, National Geographic, 92 min) builds the story of America's largest office building (in land area used) around the 9/11 attack. There is a lot of breathtaking footage of the damage from the 9/11 crash, shown in a detail never before released on TV or film. The Pentagon is in Arlington, near the 14th Street Bridge and I-95, across from Crystal City and Reagan National Airport. The groundbreaking for the building occurred on Sept. 11, 1941, exactly 60 years before the attack. The damaged are would be completely ready to open by 9/11/2002. The movie compares the effect of Pearl Harbor with 9/11 briefly and shows some black and white footage of the Pentagon and the old War Department from the 40s. It covers the reinforcement that had been done just before 9/11, strengthening the windows and structure in such a way that many lives in harms way were saved. The film claims that the Pentagon thought that three more planes were on the way. The film features Clinton's Joint Chief John Shalikashvilli, talking about how generals in the Pentagon could sleep in the late 1960s while America could get more deeply mired in Vietnam (this film was made before the invasion of Iraq). The film also features Pete Williams, now an NBC reporter, who was criticized for taking the post of Cheney's spokesman for the Pentagon in 1989, to be outed (comparative Washington Blade story) as gay while the military banned gays and debated DADT in 1993. Of course, the arguments then were that the military is different and that civilians were entitled to full privacy; the Internet has turned our perceptions of these arguments around, as I have had to deal with them in my own life, documented elsewhere on this site.
Nixon: A Presidency Revealed (2006?, History Channel, 120 min) is a remarkable history of the Nixon presidency, leading to Watergate and the resignation of Aug. 9, 1974, with a particular emphasis on Nixon's psychology. Why did a man like Nixon go into politics? He should have been a college professor. He possessed "the Introvert Advantage" and in Rosenfels terminology, was a psychologically feminine man (and subjective) in the White House. He could come up with visionary ideas, and tried to implement some of them. But he would make notes about himself as a person and have a hard time living up to his own teachings. See Nixon films here.
Moby Dick: The True Story (2002, Artisan/Discovery Channel/Cine, Canada, 52 min) documents the true story of the 1820 voyage of the whaling ship The Essex from Nantucket, around the Horn of South America, where it had a fatal encounter with a sperm whale. The men split split up on boats and some of them wound up drawing lots to kill each other for cannibalism to survive. Some would be rescued. Herman Melville 's novel ends with the sperm whale encounter. The sperm whale is the largest toothed mammal in the world, and is normally docile. It has an enormous reservoir of oil in its head that it uses for echo-location. Whale oil was important to the colonial economy both as heating oil and as a lubricant, and the men who owned the whaling ships (Starbuck, Folger) were Quakers, opposed to war and violence among men but willing to kill any intelligent animals for business purposes. The film accompanies the reading of Melville's novel in a literature class but is interesting in a biology or zoology class, also. Well filmed an acted, the young men are unusually attractive, as none was over thirty. Apparently Captain Ahab (middle aged in the movie) was Captain Chase, 28. See references to films "Moby Dick" and "Open Water", below.
Jonestown, Paradise Lost (2006, History Channel, 120 min), moved here.
Area 51: Fact or Fiction: blogspot link
World's Tallest People: blogspot link
Sodom & Gomorrah (History Channel) blogspot link
Inside the Volcano (History Channel) blogspot link
Addiction (2007, HBO, dir. Jon Alpert and others, first of a long series) blogger link.
The Plague (2005, History Channel, 90 min), a well-acted docudrama about the Black Death of bubonic and pneumonic plague in 14th Century Europe, and certainly a history lesson for today. Blogger link.
The Next Plague: Avian Influenza (2005, History Channel, 50 min) maps out a worst case scenario for a bird flu epidemic. It may be stretching epidemiology and basic biology a bit. Blogger link.
The Crossing (2000, A&E / TriStar, dir. Robert Harmon, book by Hoard Fast, 89 min) Columbia TriStar helped make this historical reenactment of George Washington's (actor Jeff Daniels) crossing of the Delaware River (from Pennsylvania to New Jersey) in December 1776 in order to attack British forces in Trenton. Many of the names of that area in New Jersey ((Hugh) Mercer County -- Roger Rees) are based on historical characters in the war. At one point, a landowner objects to Washington's taking of his property without compensation, making the Continental Congress and the new "nation" as bad as the British. Later there is a cynical line to the effect that "all wars are for profit" which seems prescient for today's war in Iraq. The British use of German Hessian mercenaries is an important element of the story, and much of the conversation is in easily understood German. The film, even with big commerical studio backing, was obviously intended for high school social studies use; there is some hand-to-hand battle violence, pretty much within PG-13 parameters.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, HBO / Picturehouse, dir. Yves Simoneau, 123 min, PG-13) is more a politically correct docudrama than an expansive, tense indie western, which it could have been (like 3:10 to Yuma or Jesse James or even September Dawn -- the Mormons are mentioned). It is moody, if preachy. The issues are real, of course. What is the morality of the way the United States took over native American lands? Charles Eastman (Adam Beach) and schoolteacher Elaine Goodale (Elena Paquin) try to improve the living conditions of the Sioux, and the classroom scene is quite telling as to how teaching could be done in a one-room school. Aidan Quinn plays Senator Henry Dawes, and August Schellenberg is Sitting Bull. The government tries to placate the "assimilated" Sioux with rations and orders that they go to church. Even Dawes has to deal with the rationalizations that the modern world should give the Sioux a "better life." There is indeed an interesting speech about the Biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply," even when impoverished. Other viewers have suggested that the movie should have been made from the Sioux point of view, but you have to find the talent to pull that off (even write it). Is the community living in the Dakotas now cohesive enough to conceive of how to make a great movie about this (the IFP chapter and screenwriting groups in Minneapolis would certainly help them), or is it just a conflict of interest?
The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, with a brief wistful epilogue ends the film. The end credits talk about the Supreme Court and the Sioux; look here on findlaw.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008, Ion/Reunion, dir. T.J. Scott, novel by Jules Verne). This one is so tame that you're almost unaware that your underground -- the sun still shines. There is some stuff about journalism, and whether the underground people should be kept secret. This film is separate from the New Line theatrical film the same year.
Thank You Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House (2008, HBO, dir. Rory Kennedy, 40 min). Blogger review.
Beyond the Movie: Troy (National Geographic) explores the archeological evidence for the city of Troy on the eastern Turkish coast, as there were up to nine levels of ruins. On the Greek side the "Lions Gate" is an entrance to a cemetery, and it has become a trademark for a movie studio.
Rome: Power and Glory: The Cult of Order (1997? TLC, 52 min, video) gives a historical account of the paradoxes of Roman society during the gradual decline of its empire. For a time Rome was a paradigm of racial and cultural diversity (partly because of its network of roads that became the "information highway" of its day), to the point that it once had an African emperor. Christianity was, for a time, perceived as one of many "cults" but became dangerous because it offered spiritual equality for everyone -- especially women -- in a society that valued social and political hierarchy for its own sake. The divisions between rich and poor were particularly egregious, even compared to today's western standards.
Galapagos (2007, National Geographic, Patrick Morris/Andrew Murphy) is a three-hour documentary in three overlapping one-hour parts, covering the volcanic origin of the islands (600 miles west of Ecuador) and unusual climate and biosphere because of the merging of several Pacific currents, including the cold Humboldt from the Antarctic. The climate favors animals that can go without water for a long time, and it draws and analogy between reptiles and cacti. The film points out that the islands will, over millions of years, sink back into the sea, like Atlantis. The second hour mentions whaling, as well as Herman Melville, who would go on to write "Moby Dick", discussed on this page. The second hour also discusses the visits and research of Charles Darwin, who would find that biological processes were very much influenced by specific environments and would find this isolated place a laboratory to develop his theory of evolution -- with all the misunderstood social consequences to follow (Among British philosophers, Spencer was more responsible for that -- "survival of the fittest" as a moral idea -- than Darwin, however( Credits are here.
Bill Nye, The Science Guy (1991-1999, The Science Channel, website) is a series of educational videos about biological, chemical and physical science, with a predilection to use old black-and-white 50s science reels, of the type that used to appear on "Watch Mr. Wizard" (Don Herbert died at age 89 in June 2007) in those Sputnik days when the mantra was, get all the math and science you can. Many simple experiments that kids can do, such as making simple electromagnets, are shown. It's interesting that Mars and Venus both failed to make the list of planets with a magnetic field. And the earth's could switch oh so suddenly.
Shakespeare (A&E Biography, dir. Rebecca Jones, 46 min) gives a captivating biography or the bard and playwright. He married Anne Hathaway when she was older and had three kids, but the one son died, leaving no male heir. Period of his marriaage may have been loveless. In the meantime, he may have had at least a platonic relationship with a homosexual earl, given the content of some sonnets. Although he wrote and produced plays throughout his career (all actors were men, and the females like Juliet were played by men whose voices had not changed) and he became a business man (he died at 52), his plays were not formally published until after his death. Did he know he would become the ultimate standard for world drama while he lived?
The Civil War (1990, PBS, dir. Ken Burms, 9 episodes, about 18 hours) is a wistful and detailed history of the War Between the States, much of it in still photographs and illustrations.
Earth's Black Hole (2006?); Siberian Apocalypse (History Channel) (blogger)
UFO Secret: Tungaska: The Russian Roswell (1997; 2006; UFO-TV) (blogger) a lot of graphic early photography and claims of radiation evidence that the 1908 Tunguska explosion Siberia was not a natural event.
UFO Hunters, UFO Files. (2006?) History channel series. Examines abductions (Betty and Barney Hill), embedded objects in people, USO's, cattle mutilations. Blogger. On April 3, the series examined "The Grays" and what kind of planet they would come from. Blogger.
Texas' Roswell; Lost Treasures of Petra (blogger)
Ancient Discoveries: Ancient Computer (blogger)
Coma (2007, HBO, dir. Liz Garbus) also, "Terry Wallis" (2007) (blogger), all about recovery from devastating brain trauma. (Also on this link [Through Your Eyes (2007, Hands Free Productions, dir. Donny Hall and Cory Hudson], about the only known deaf-blind triplets in the world.)
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007, HBO, dir. Rory Kennedy, 75 min) is a searing account of the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. (Blogger)
Something the Lord Made (2004, Miramax / HBO, dir. Joseph Sargent, 110 min) is the true story of the heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and his African American assistant Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) over the 1940s and 50s as they developed procedures to save blue babies. Segregation is covered, as is the family responsibility issues for Vivien (after the family loses all it has in the Depression, they say, "We have each other"). The early scenes, where Vivien shows his manual dexterity and ability to do lab work, are interesting, as is the relationship that they develop. Vivien became am honorary doctor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore without ever going to college, much less medical school (remarkable given the push given for college during the subsequent Cold War era).
Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007, TLC, dir. Richard Dale, wr. Jenny Lecoat, 100 min) dramatizes the life of Princess Diana (Genieve O'Reilly) in the summer of 1997, and her relationship with Dodi Al Fayed (Patrick Baladi) before the fatal car crash in the Paris tunnel. Rather slow, but done with considerable discretion.
The Murder of Princess Diana (2007, Lifetime, dir. John Strickland, novel by Noel Botham) with Nathalie Brocker as Diana, supposes that there was a plot, similar to one attempted against Slobodan Milosevic, to cause a wreck in the Paris tunnel because of her activism (land minds), outspokenness, and because she was apparently carrying a mixed-race child. A couple of reporters chase the story, and one gets killed. The movie was preceded by a taped live Martin Bashir interview taken in 1997.
As far as I know, we have not yet seen "Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel" (UK Channel 4, dir. Janice Sutherland, Stuart Tanner) in the US. It was aired in Britain in June. Here is a discussion from the London Times Online. Netflix does not show a DVD yet.
On July 6, 2007 ABC Nightline presented extensive trailers from the documentary "Out of the Blue" (2007, dir. James Fox), blogger here (look at second part of entry).
Baghdad Diary (2007, The History Channel / Constantin) has Bob Woodward presenting the history of Iraq starting with the "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad in March 2003 and leading to Saddam Hussein's capture. The brutality of Saddam's torture is depicted, with gruesome visual examples of "whole body torture." It took a while for it to become apparent that "democracy" in Iraq would not happen in a way we could understand. The film made reference to the History Channel's "Band of Bloggers" which I have not yet seen.
Thin (2006, HBO, dir. Lauren Greenfield, 102 min, TV-MA sug PG-13) is a troubling documentary about four young women being treated for anorexia nervosa and bulimia in a Renfrew Treatment Center in south Florida. This film is excruciating to watch. This is the first time that I've ever seen (in film) vomiting on camera that was not simply a simulated fictitious act. Blogger entry.
Planet in Peril (2007, CNN, dir. Anderson Cooper and Jeff Corwin, about 260 min) CNN's star reporter for 360 survey's the planet's environmental problems, including global warming, pollution, and extinctions of wildlife caused by man, with special attention to China and to overpopulation. Blogger entry.
Planet in Peril: Battle Lines (2008, CNN, dir. Anderson Cooper, 120 min) continues with disease threats and the MENS rebel group in Nigeria, as well as cage diving with sharks and lead pollution in the Andes. Blogger.
A Global Warning (2007, History Channel, 120 min), a sobering survey of climate change over the millennia, both natural and man-made. Blogger entry.
Six Days Can Change the World (2008, National Geographic, dir. Ron Bowman, narr. Alec Baldwin, about 95 min, G) is a documentary that simulates in stages the predicted effect by each degree celsius of global warming. Blogger discussion.
The Universe is a History Channel series about the solar system and various other astronomy and cosmology matters. "Mercury and Venus: The Inner Planets" (2007) has some subtle warnings about what happen to earth, blogger here. 2007 premier "Alien Planets", review here. Cosmic Holes (2007) discusses black holes, white holes ("fountains" like the Big Bang) and worm holes and speculates about the manufacture of mini black holes, where the laws of general relativity (macro) and quantum mechanics (micro) must be reconciled, especially with respect to conservation of "information." James Blodgett's comment here might be interesting. "Alien Moons" talks about regular and irregular moons. A lot of time is spent with Triton (Neptune) which is an irregular moon (captured, backwards orbit) but has a spherical shape and real geography (lots of liquid nitrogen volcanoes). A lot of time is also spent on Io, Europa, and Ganymede (regular) with the orbital mechanics that explains what happens on the moons. The underground ocean of Europa is discussed. "Dark Matter and Dark Energy" shows the Sudan mine shaft in the iron range in Minnesota, where scientists look for dark matter particles, as well as Fermi Labs. Dark matter is like a dark Christmas tree, with the lights hung on the lattice as the visible matter. Dark matter (90% of the gravity in the Universe) expands forever, animated by dark energy, and portends a cold eventual future. "The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet" (2008) covers asteroids, gamma ray bursts, the fate of the Sun, and "The Big Rip." Blogger discussion here. Astrobiology (2007) examines environments on Earth that may replicate extreme environments on Mars. But Earth has plate tectonics, which actually helped stabilize the atmosphere. Titan is depicted with vivid artists' landscapes, mostly orange, with speculative theories of hydrocarbon dissolved life. Europa is also shown, with the idea that life carcasses could have been deposited through rifts on the ice crust. Then the search for habitable planets outside the solar system is shown. Space Travel (2007) examines the cost of going into outer space for extended journeys. Laser guns to shoot an artificial solar wind for huge wind sails might be placed on the moon, and ramscoops with hydrogen fusion engines might scoop up hydrogen between stars and approach the speed of light. Supernovas (2007) examine the various types of supernovas that can come from white dwarfs (as in binary systems) or giant stars that were too big. A supernova too close to the Solar System could cause a gamma ray burst that could destroy all life in the Solar System (including Earth, and perhaps Titan). Cosmic Collisions (2008) shows how asteroids can get flung into the inner solar system and threaten Earth; blogger.; Colonizing Space (2008) focuses on settling and terraforming Mars, blogger. Sex in Space (2008) looks at whether the human race could procreate in deep space, as well as liasons in zero gravity. There is a "Viagra effect" with lower gravity. Blogger. Light Speed shows that space can expand faster than light (hence the infinite universe and little and big big bangs) and that light speed does depend on medium. The show covers length contraction and aberration, and what a cyclist would see if he could cycle at the speed of light (great distortion). Red shift is covered. GPS actually works on light speed. Sodium gas at almost absolute zero examines light speed of almost 0. With Mickus Kahu. Link: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2061727/history_the_universe_light_speed/ Also check out Tau Zero for possibilities of travel by warp drive, etc.
Modern Marvels: Wiring America (2007) starts out by showing the dangerous work of high wire linemen, who actually touch wires safely if not grounded (they wear induction suits to protect them, and a big danger is "galloping"). The documentary shows what it took to get the first transatlantic telegraph cable laid in 1866, and how Alaska became available as a result of a western land project through Russia that was dropped. The telegraph essentially provided the email of the day. The telephone would develop twisted pair wiring, and with modern telecommunications the packet switch would replace the circuit switch. The development of the Internet actually started with Sputnik, and in 1973 it was developed enough that it was illegal to use it for personal purposes.
Killer Jellyfish (2002, Discovery Channel), about cubozoa, the venomous box jellyfish and sea wasps, blogger link here. Killer Squid (2006) is a similar exploration of the Humboldt squid off the Mexican coast; they are the most advanced of all mullosks, with one animal having 36000 teeth on its tentacles.
Lions: Pride in Peril (2008, PBS, with Richard Attenborough) documents the struggle of a pride of lions living in an old volcano caldera in Africa. Their competitive and reproductive social values are explored, as they have to defend themselves from larger prides. However, at one point, two lionesses engage in "lesbian" activity.
Nature: Big Cats (2007, PBS): Chasing Cats, narrated by Michael Gross, includes the "Pride in Peril" footage above, as well as night footage of leopards, servals, and caracals in Africa, much of it filmed by Owan Newman and Amanda Barrett; .Jaguar: Year of the Cat studies the well-being of the jaguar in Belize.
Tigers of the Snow (1997, National Geographic, 56 min) documents efforts by biologists to save the Siberian tiger, the largest of the cats. Siberians generally do not attack man unless their dens are threatened. The biologists tranquilize a "teenage" male who almost dies from the drug and has to have CPR. Later the biologists rescue cubs abandoned by a mother, to take them to the Omaha zoo, but one of the cubs dies in captivity. No wonder people are fascinated with big cats.
National Treasure's Secret History of the Freemasons (2007, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Pictures, 120 min with commercials, appearances by Nicholas Cage, blogger here. The documentary teases us with discussion of the Yale Skull and Bone Society, subject of horror films (Cry_Wolf, Skulls), as well as various reported historical misdeeds, association with the Knights Templar (as in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code), etc. The last scene shows a real initiation, an acting out of an Old Testament incident involving integrity on King Solomon's court, and starts when the celebrant knocks and the committee says, "What is your alarm?"
Before the Dinosaurs (2007, Discovery, 120 min) traces evolution of life in the first few billion years of life, and takes the viewpoint that we owe our genes to our biological ancestors. Arthropods walked the earth before chordates did. The evolution of the first growing flowering plants is also traced. There is discussion of the "brains over brawn" concept.
Life After People (2008, History Channel, 120 min) is a well-promoted exploration of how the remnants of civilization would quickly disintegrate without human intervention, if people disappeared. Blogger discussion
Aftermath: Population Zero (2008, National Geographic, 120 min) is a very similar film to the aforementioned one, with more emphasis on what happens to nuclear power plants. Blogger discussion.
Countdown to Armageddon (2004? History Channel, 120 min) talks about Biblical prophesies in detail and then summarizes many possible mega-disasters, one of the worst of which could involve a Canary Island avalanche. The movie says that the tremendous knowledge explosion predicted in the Book of Daniel corresponds to today's science and Internet.
Delta 191 Crash (2008, Weather Channel) documents the 1985 jumbo jet crashed approaching DFW airport from the north. Blogger.
John Adams (2008, HBO, Miniseries in 7 parts, started March 16, dir. Tom Hooper, wr. Kirk Ellis), blogger. Paul Giamati, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, the "extreme moderate."
King (2008, History Channel, with Tom Brokaw) a documentary on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, blogger.
The Human Footprint (2008, National Geographic, 2 hrs, website), hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, traces a typical couple from cradle to grave and shows how many resources they will consume in a lifetime. If the whole world followed our current rate of consumption, we would need four earths! (Would need to travel a few hundred light years to find them.) There is a lifetime omelet of 19000 eggs.
Expedition Alaska (2008, Discovery Channel) shows scientists visiting three areas in Alaska, including the North Slope, to look for signs of global warming. The methane being released by warming permafrost is scary. Blogger.
National Geographic: CIA Secret Experiments (2008) Apr 23, 2008 preview trailer (5 min, look on right side of page) experiments with Sarin and with Manchurian Candidate -type "mind control." Blogger discussion is here.
Inside a Cult examines the Strong City cult in New Mexico, with "Messiah" Travesser. (Same link, as above)
Unabomber: The Secret History examines Ted Kaczynski and "The Manifesto". Same link as above. .
30 Days. Morgan Spurlock's series with Warrior Poets on FX Cable. In the first episode, he works as an underground coal miner. Blogger.
How Life Began (2007, History Channel) is a scientific exploration of the origins of life on earth. Blogger.
Tougher in Alaska (2008, History) is a series of one hour programs about life in Alaska, the first of which explored the Alaska railroad and the removal of earthquake-vulnerable tunnels.
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008, Discover, 6 hrs in 3 segments). Part 3 "Home in Space" is reviewed here on blogger.
Hard Times at Douglas High: A "No Child Left Behind" Report Card (2007, HBO / Picturehouse, dir. Alan and Susan Raymond) looks at an inner city school in Baltimore failing to meet the norms of NCLB. Blogger.
The Boys from Baghdad High (2007, BBC/HBO, dir. Ivan O’Mahoney and Laura Winter, 82 min, UK) a look at four teens with different religions trying to go to school in Baghdad. Blogger discussion.
American Teen (2008, Paramount Vantage / A&E Indie TV, dir. Nanette Burstein, 90 min) a docudrama follows several teenagers through their senior year at Warsaw High in Indiana. Blogger.
Planet Earth (2006, BBC, dir. Alastair Fothergill, narr. David Attenborough) 11 part series of one hour programs about Earth. First three episodes are "From Pole to Pole" "Mountains" and "Fresh Water." Blogger.
Generation Kill (2008, HBO, dir. Susannah White, book by Evan Wright based on Rolling Stone) is a seven part mini-series. Part 1 was "Get Some". Blogger discussion.
Up the Yangtze (2008, Zeitgeist / National Geographic / PBS POV, Eye Steel, dir. Yung Chang, is a telling look at Chinese society as it is displaced by the construction of the Three Georges Dam. Blogger link.
The Peoples Republic of Capitalism (2008, Discovery). Ted Koppel's look at modern China, especially around Chongqing. The four parts are "Joined at the Hip" "From Maoism to Meism" "Fast Lane" and "It's the Economy Stupid." The Meism segment looked at gay life, which is very apolitical and constrained by "filial piety." Most gay men expect to give up the lifestyle and marry and have one child. For blogger, see above and follow the link.
Earth: The Biography of a Rare Planet (2008, National Geographic) narrated by Dr. Iain Stewart, 7 episodes. "Oceans" "Atmostphere" "Rare Earth". Blogger discussion.
The Other Humans: Neanderthals Revealed (2008, National Geographic) blogger here.
Black Blizzard (2008, History Channel) covers the dust storms and dust bowl of the 1930s. Blogger.
Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary (2005, Rethink / National Geographic, dir. Arturo Perez Torres, 90 min) is a harrowing look at both sides of the illegal immigration issue. Blogger.
Banned by the Bible (2003, 2007) Two two-hour films on A&E and History Channel about portions of the Bible that were kept out because of social and political controversy.
UFO's Over Earth: The Fayetteville Incident (Discovery, 2008) A close encounter of the Third Kind by Chris Bledsoe, Sr. near Fort Bragg NC in 2007. Blogger.
Extreme Trains (History channel) is an interesting series. On Nov. 11, 2008 the series aired a documentary about the Horseshoe Curve on the Norfolk Southern Railroad (previously the Pennsylvania) behind Altoona, PA. The curve was completed in 1854. The documentary briefly covered the Johnstown flood in 1889 and then that there was a "Saboteur" (as in Hitchcock's film) plot during World War II to blow it up, when two Germans turned themselves in.
Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler: The History Channel's 2 hour documentary preparing one for the new Tom Cruise movie. Blogger.
Journey to the Edge of the Universe: (2007, National Geographic, narr. Alec Baldwin). Blogger. Preceded by Naked Science: Deadly Planets (2007), an examination of other planets in the Solar System as places to live (curiously, Europa and Titan were not covered, but they are in the Baldwin film).
The White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home (2008, C-span). Blogger.
Red Light District (2008, A&E, 120 min), "real life drama", examines prostitution in Los Angeles, Nevada, Amsterdam, Thailand, Japan, and Russia. Link for the show is here.
Arlington: Field of Honor (2005, National Geographic, 60 min). About Arlington National Cemetery and the Honor Guard, and Arlington House. Blogger.
The Science of Sex Appeal (2009, Discovery, 100 min). Blogger.
House of Cards (2009, CNBC, dir. James Jacoby, 120 min) traces the history of the great financial Collapse of 2008. Blogger.
The Lincoln Assassination (2009, History Channel / Greystoke), narr. Tim Berenger, 2 hours. Blogger.
Inside Guantanamo (2009, National Geographic, Explorer Series, 120 min). Blogger.
The Alzheimer's Project (2009, HBO, dir. Maria Shriver, 270 min). In four parts: "The Lost Memory Tapes", "Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?", "Momentum in Silence" (about research); "Caregivers"; Blogger.
The September Issue: Anna Wintour & The Making of Vogue (2009, Roadside Attractions, A&E, 88 min). Blogger.
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