The inevitability of war. A need for religion. The lure of the city.
A love of trade. Discover how our ancestors were motivated by the same impulses that persist today to create the first civilizations and empires.
Witness the facts in First Civilizations, available on DVD June 12 by PBS Distribution.
How did humans advance on the road to civilization despite having lived as mobile foragers for 99 percent of their time on Earth? How did they create villages, towns, cities and states and establish the blueprint for the modern world?
This series identifies four cornerstones of civilization–war, religion, cities and trade–and explores each in the context of different civilizations in Mesoamerica, the Middle East and the Indus Valley. Crisscrossing the globe, camera crews traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Oman, Morocco, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. They recorded the latest archaeological discoveries, tested new theories and uncovered original information.
Dramatic reconstructions and computer graphics are used to visualize the lost world of the first civilizations. In each episode, the ancient story is also complemented by a modern-day analog, with an expert interviewee connecting the dots between past and present. Their story is our story.
Ever since Judy’s Dorothy found herself on the Yellow Brick Road in 1939, there have been countless adaptations of the treasured film. Perhaps too many.
But on June 5, Cinedigm will unveil an imaginative new take on the classic Oz mythology withThe Steam Engines of Oz, based on the graphic novel of the same name by Arcana Studio. Think of this flick as a thrilling animated adventure with a modern steampunk twist. Featuring the voice talents of Ron Perlman, William Shatner and Julianne Hough, it’s a journey perfect for the whole family, and it steams onto shelves in a Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack, and will also be available via Digital through all leading platforms and VOD.
Set a century after Dorothy first clicked her ruby slippers together, the Emerald City is no longer a magical land but a toxic, heavily industrialized wasteland ruled by the iron fist of the once beloved hero, the Tin Man, who has seemingly lost all heart. Oz’s only hope rests with a young engineer named Victoria Wright, who assembles a motley crew of ill-mannered munchkins, mischievous flying monkeys and, of course, the not-so-Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow for a quest to find the tin man’s heart.
Along their journey, they ultimately learn that friendship and determination can overcome any obstacle, and together end, up teaching everyone in Oz that a heart should not be judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.
When those dog days of July come a-sweatin’, we reach for a cool and hilarious comedy caper. We cannot wait for The Con is On, arriving on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital July 24 from Lionsgate. The film is currently available On Demand.
This bold and cheeky film stars Oscar nominees Uma Thurman and Tim Roth as Harriet and Peter, a con-artist couple cooking up a jewel-theft scam in L.A. to pay off sexy-but-deadly gangster Irina (played by Maggie Q). Having squandered Irina’s loot one drunken night, Harriet and Peter escape to Hollywood, where they plot to steal a priceless jewel from Peter’s loopy ex-wife (Alice Eve) to repay the debt. The dazzling cast also includes Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara.
The fun is from the award-winning producer of Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Wild Card.
Bill Nye is on a mission to stop the spread of anti-scientific thought and action. Once the host of a popular kids’ show and now the CEO of the Planetary Society, he’s leading a mission to launch LightSail, a satellite propelled by sunlight, while in turn fulfilling the legacy of his late professor and Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan.
With intimate and exclusive access, as well as plenty of wonder and whimsy, POV: Bill Nye: Science Guy (PBS Distribution) is a behind-the-scenes portrait of the “Science Guy,” who continues to inspire millennials to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In addition to Nye, the film features Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and many other notable voices in the field.
In addition to taking off his signature “Science Guy” lab coat, Nye has started taking on those who deny the importance of science, from prominent creationist Ken Ham to climate change skeptic, meteorologist and occasional Fox News commentator Joe Bastardi. Nye goes head-to-head to advocate for the scientific community and its invaluable findings.
And Nye acknowledges that he’s ready for a new challenge. “The Science Guy show is over, and I’ve got to move on to something bigger,” he says. “We have this increasing anti-science movement in the United States. It’s worse than ever. The anti-science movement is more powerful than it’s ever been.”
Accordingly, in his role as CEO of the Planetary Society, Nye and his team are working toward the first-ever successful launch and flight of a solar sailing satellite propelled by sunlight in space. “When I was in class 40 years ago, Carl Sagan talked about a solar sail mission, but it never happened. So, this is realizing a 40-year-old dream of building a spacecraft that could fly in space propelled just by light. So, Professor Sagan, this one’s for you,” Nye says as the satellite is being tested for the first time.
But Nye’s focus never strays far from what initially propelled him to fame: education. “If we raise a generation of kids that can’t think critically, can’t think scientifically, we are headed for trouble,” he warns. “As a science educator, I am really more serious about it than ever. These people who are denying science, denying evolution, denying the efficacy of vaccinations and especially denying human-caused climate change—we just can’t have this. We’ve got to fight this fight. I’ve got to fight this fight.”
Nye’s mission is driven in part by anxiety about what future generations may face. Sitting on climate change denier Joe Bastardi’s porch, Nye implores, “What if you’re wrong? What about Garrett?” Garrett is Bastardi’s college-age son, who is following in his father’s footsteps by studying meteorology and also shares his father’s skepticism about climate change.
Another flashpoint in the film comes when Nye is touring the Creation Museum founded by Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham. The museum features displays suggesting that humans lived alongside dinosaurs and that the earth is 6,000 years old. Nye finds it alarming. He points out, “Humans and ancient dinosaurs did not live at the same time. The evidence for that is overwhelming, and to suggest this to school-children is irresponsible at best. It’s reprehensible at worst.”
Nonetheless, Nye is not without his own critics. Even some in the scientific community feel there have been times when Nye’s mission has taken a back seat to his ego. Some say that by agreeing to a televised debate with Ham about our evolutionary origins, Nye gave Ham undeserved media attention. “Nye’s mistake was giving credibility to Ken Ham by giving him a public platform. Everything I’ve seen about Nye is that he really misses being the Science Guy because he was much beloved and very popular. It’s hard to give up celebrity,” says evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne.
The programalso illuminates Nye’s private life. He remains close to his two siblings, who are struggling with a hereditary neurological disorder that Nye doesn’t have. Numerous friends, both from his childhood and from his Science Guydays, speak to his quirks and ambitions. Nye even opens up about his romantic life.
Ultimately, the Science Guy and Nye are indistinguishable from each other. “Bill has always wanted to be famous,” one of his longtime friends says. Expertly chronicling the TV character and the very real human subject behind him, Bill Nye: Science Guy presents an absorbing, charming portrait of a man and his not-so-modest mission to educate and change the world.
Forget this upcoming royal marriage. The real gossipy, juicy royal mess happened on the weekend of December 5, 1936. A frazzled King Edward VIII sat alone at Buckingham Palace; in secret, he telephoned his brother Bertie to tell him of his major decision–that he could no longer be King if it meant abandoning the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson. But little did the royal brothers know that others were listening to their call.
Spying on the Royals (Public Media Distribution)shares declassified documents bring to light the secret story behind the events that stunned the world eighty years ago, detailing the most controversial espionage operation in British history. The targets were none other than King Edward VIII and his feisty American lover Wallis Simpson.
Both were considered major security threats and were suspected of having Nazi sympathies by both Britain and America. This top-secret surveillance operation involved hundreds of spies over eleven years, spanning two continents, eight countries, and the Atlantic Ocean. Edward and Wallis were bugged, wire-tapped, and followed – on the orders of both the British prime minister and the American president. This documentary will reveal the greatest royal scandal of the twentieth century through an entirely new perspective.
A power film. An unforgettable war. The acclaimed Smithsonian Channel three-part miniseries Civil War 360 (Public Media Distribution)explores one of the most divisive eras in American history from multiple perspectives. Celebrity hosts Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins and Dennis Haysbert each helm an hour-long program that takes viewers back to a time when their ancestors and those of many viewers were involved in the conflict. Through exploration of iconic and often poignant Smithsonian artifacts, the hosts gain insight into their own family’s experiences and uncover new dimensions of our nation’s history.
Here’s some insights into each episode:
Fight for Freedom In some ways, the story that Haysbert tells is perhaps the least known of all, but it is an agonizing and heroic account of a great struggle for freedom. Haysbert experiences painful reminders of this struggle firsthand as he encounters Smithsonian treasures: a ship’s manifest listing a cargo of slaves, the inkwell Lincoln used to write the Emancipation Proclamation, and a hymnal owned by Harriet Tubman. As Haysbert traces his ancestry back to enslaved people in America’s deep South, we are transported back to the brutal and complicated time when those with the most to gain also had the most to lose. For Haysbert the lesser known stories, especially of individual courage, are the most inspiring, “So many people stood up and fought together to make this country a free country. It just gave me a different perspective on what our country is about and what we can be.”
The Confederacy Hosted by dkins, this program begins back in 1861, when the South made the radical decision to leave the Union and form a new nation. While honoring the experiences of everyday soldiers like his great-great grandfather, a Confederate infantryman from Louisiana, Adkins explores music, art, and firearm collections at the Smithsonian Institution. Says Adkins: “I’ve had a real personal connection with the Civil War ever since I was a kid. This is our last best chance to raise awareness. The battlefields, the guns, the pikes, the uniforms and flags–all these things are all that we have left from that pivotal period in this nation’s history. They should be treated as treasures, and we should try to preserve them and save them for future generations. Because it’s impossible to know who you are if you don’t know your history, or where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done.”
It’s common knowledge who won the Civil War. But 150 years ago, a Union victory was anything but guaranteed. Judd seeks to understand the experiences of two of her great-great-great grandfathers, both Union soldiers from Kentucky. In the program Judd remarks: “I hope it inspires people to take a look at their own family history, and learn the interesting stories that can help enlighten them as well as move their hearts.” Judd is visibly moved when she examines field surgical instruments, a Union private’s letter home about life in Kentucky, and battered dishes from Libby Prison- all providing glimpses of daily life during the grinding war.
They’ve thrilled us, horrified us, and devastated us. They’ve raised questions about our past and given us hope for a brighter future. They are some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, all works of fiction, but all inspired by real events more dramatic than anything a screenwriter could dream up. Smithsonian Channel goes behind the scenes of Hollywood blockbusters to uncover the actual characters and true stories that inspired some of the world’s most famous films. On June 5, Public Media Distribution released a trio of three DVDs that tell the real stories.
The Real Story: True Grit True Grit has the foundation of a typical Western–revenge, retribution and redemption. The story centers on the unlikely partnership between a 14 year-old girl and a one-eyed Deputy Marshal, who join forces to avenge her father’s death. The story may be fiction, but it’s closer to truth than many imagine. This program shows how the character of Rooster was inspired by a gun-toting Deputy Marshal; introduces “Hanging Judge” Parker, who delighted in sending legions of men to the gallows; and leaves the viewer with no illusions about what really happened in the Wild West.
The Real Story: Braveheart Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning box office smash tells the story of real-life Scottish rebel and freedom fighter William Wallace. The savage battle scenes and cast of thousands created a film of epic proportion, but ever since it was first shown historians have challenged the accuracy of the movie. Did William Wallace really live the life that “Braveheart” depicts? This program draws on medieval accounts and uses forensic evidence and weapons testing to build a picture of the real man and his times.
The Real Story: Live Free or Die Hard In the fourth film in the Die Hard franchise, New York cop John McClane takes on a sophisticated cyber-criminal mastermind who shuts down the USA remotely via the Internet. It’s a story that is chillingly topical. This program shows how a similar cyber-attack could be a real possibility. Featuring interviews with real-life cyber-criminals, FBI investigators and computer specialists, the program uncovers the shadowy world of hacking on a scale that could shutdown entire countries. Meet the government officials and former hackers who are tasked with ensuring it never does.
“Watch out for the music. It should come with a health warning:
It can and should make you think the world can be a better place.”
— Peter Gabriel
Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors rock music’s pioneering figures during a prestigious, black-tie ceremony. As the Hall of Fame enters its third decade, it’s these singular induction ceremonies- featuring the biggest names in classic rock from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s–that have become nearly as iconic as the artists they celebrate. On April 24, Time Life and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame give home audiences front row seats to the four most recent incredible induction ceremonies with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert.
Never before available at retail on any format, these four memorable live concert events are filled with the kind of collaborations and jam sessions that have made Rock Hall concerts legendary. With egos set aside–in many cases original band lineups perform together for the first time in years–inductees and friends take the stage to deliver once-in-a-lifetime performances, often with a truly mind-blowing combination of talent.
“From the first induction ceremony in 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has sought to honor the top names in all genres of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Joel Peresman, President of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “These ceremonies have provided unique once-in-a-lifetime moments as the inductees and presenters come together to celebrate the legacy of these artists and it’s a privilege to produce this important part of music history and to share it with you!”
This four-disc set –a must-have for every music lover–features poignant reunions, moving and often hilarious induction speeches, and 53 iconic performances.
Among the unforgettable highlights on the DVD and Blu-ray sets:
Bruce Springsteen joining inductees E Street Band for the deep cut classic “E Street Shuffle” from the Boss’s second album, from 1973.
Legendary grunge-rock group Pearl Jam delivering thundering performances of “Alive,” “Given to Fly” and “Better Man.”
The two surviving members of Nirvana joined on stage by Lorde, Annie Clark, Kim Gordon and Joan Jett for emotional renderings of the group’s biggest hits.
Cat Stevens performing a spine-tingling version of “Father & Son” that turned the massive Barclay Center quiet as a church.
Journey performs three classics: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Ringo Starr being welcomed into the Rock Hall with a little help from Paul McCartney.
Original Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos joining the band for the first time in 6 years tearing through their early hits including “Surrender” and “Dream Police.”
Five of the original members of Chicago performing on stage for the first time in 25 years.
Features complete Hall of Fame Induction speeches including Coldplay’s Chris Martin inducting Peter Gabriel and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducting Deep Purple.
Proof that music remains the soundtrack to all lives.
Grease is the word. Still, 40 years after bubbly musical was released. It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning and it’s still a cultural phenomenon 40 years after its original release. The iconic celebration of high school life in the ’50s, Grease is the way you’ll be feeling with a new 40th Anniversary Edition on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital April 24 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.
Featuring an explosion of song and dance, as well as star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease made an indelible impact on popular culture. 40 years later, the film remains an enduring favorite as legions of new fans discover the memorable moments, sensational soundtrack and classic love story. Boasting unforgettable songs including “Greased Lightnin,” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Beauty School Drop Out” and, of course, “Grease,” the film is a timeless feel-good celebration.
Paramount worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore the film to its original vibrancy with the highest quality sound, picture resolution and color. The original negative was scanned and received extensive clean up and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range technology. In addition, the audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity. The resulting picture and sound create an exceptional home viewing experience.
The Grease 40th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include the fully restored version of the film plus an all-new, in-depth exploration of the little-known origins of what would become a Broadway play and then a feature film and worldwide phenomenon. “Grease: A Chicago Story” features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show. In addition, the discs include the original song the title sequence was animated to and an alternate ending salvaged from the original black & white 16mm work print discovered by director Randal Kleiser.
Both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs also feature more than an hour of previously released bonus material, including a sing-along, vintage interviews with the cast, deleted scenes and more. Plus, the Blu-ray Combo comes in collectible packaging with 16 pages of images laid out like a high school yearbook. In addition, a Grease Collection will be available in a Steelbook Locker, which includes the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray of Grease, as well as Grease 2 and Grease: Live! on Blu-ray for the first time.
At the very northern edge of North America is Ellesmere Island, where the unforgiving Arctic winds tear through the tundra, dipping temperatures to 40 below zero. Running through this shifting sea of snow and ice is one of the most hardened predators on the planet, the White Wolf.
But as the spring melt approaches, these roaming hunters must adapt to being tethered parents as new additions to the pack have just been born. With their herds of prey continuing to move, viewers witness a desperate race to keep up and bring back a kill to the hungry mothers and cubs. Traveling farther and farther away from their den each day puts these hunters and their children at risk in this fight for survival.
This captivating experience has been caught on NATURE: Arctic Wolf Pack (PBS Distribution).This documentary is narrated by Campbell Scott.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some