A New Documentary Channel from PBS

Posted on July 29, 2020 at 10:53 am

Copyright PBS 2018

For 50 years, PBS has been America’s trusted home for documentaries. The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is another way for curious viewers to access PBS content outside the PBS Video App.

The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel will include a robust library of critically acclaimed, thought-provoking programs including the entire Ken Burns collection as well as films from NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, INDEPENDENT LENS, POV and many independent producers. Subscribers will be able to explore various topics or take an in-depth look at the people, traditions and events that mold our world—all carefully curated for “viewers like you” by America’s most trusted home of documentaries: PBS

“PBS is the leader of high-quality, compelling nonfiction entertainment, and the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is a natural addition to our current streaming offering on Prime Video Channels—PBS MASTERPIECE, PBS LIVING AND PBS KIDS.  This channel will not only help bring engaging stories about life in all corners of our country to a new audience, it will provide needed revenues to sustain public broadcasting’s public-private partnership model for the benefit of all stations and the communities they serve,” says Andrea Downing, Co-President of PBS Distribution.

Copyright PBS 2018
“We had long hoped to be able to have all of our films available in one place so the public would have access to the body of work,” says Ken Burns. “We’re thrilled that this is now possible thanks to the efforts of PBS Distribution and Amazon to launch the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel and also through PBS’s Passport initiative that allows viewers to support their public television stations. Both will also contribute to the larger mission of PBS.”

“FRONTLINE was founded on the belief that longform documentaries could inform, educate and inspire public television’s audiences — and during these historic times, deeply reported and easily accessible journalism is invaluable,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “Through this new Channel, we’re excited to see our documentaries reach new and existing streaming audiences.”

At launch, the channel will feature nearly 1,000 hours of award-winning programming for subscribers to enjoy, including Ken Burns’s landmark series THE CIVIL WAR and COUNTRY MUSIC, Stanley Nelson’s THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, and Academy Award-Nominated films like FRONTLINE “For Sama” and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “Last Days in Vietnam.”

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Stanley Nelson comments, “I’m thrilled to see that my work will find a new home on this channel. PBS has become a premier destination for documentary programming in the U.S. and has been hugely invested in giving films by diverse storytellers and emerging filmmakers much-needed national exposure. I’m so glad that my film on the Black Panther Party, which can inform communities in our current historical moment, will be able to reach different audiences on this new service.”

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $3.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription via Prime Video Channels and is available in the US only. Every purchase helps support public television for all.

The entire Ken Burns collection will also be available via PBS Passport, a member benefit available within the PBS Video App that gives viewers extended access to high-quality content. The PBS Passport library is also full of public television’s acclaimed drama, arts, science, history and lifestyle programs (contact your local PBS station for details).

The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is a subscription video on demand channel exclusive to Amazon launching August 2020. This new streaming channel will feature nearly 900 hours of the highest quality factual programming, including the full catalog of films from Ken Burns and award-winning documentaries from NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, in addition to programming from other independent producers.

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Radioactive

Posted on July 23, 2020 at 5:58 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, brief nudity and a scene of sensuality
Profanity: Mild language and sexual references
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: WWI battle scenes,
Date Released to Theaters: July 24, 2020
Copyright 2020 Amazon Studios

Biopics, even the most sincere, even about the most fascinating real-life characters, even made by directors who are willing to break with the traditional structure, still two things are true. First, the only thing that really matters is the lead performance. Second, there is really no way to get around the basic structure that all lives follow and all biopics follow except those like “Jobs” that focus one or just a few incidents. We see crucial early experiences that either reveal the subject’s special talent or some life-forming experience or both. We see struggle. We see people who foolishly do not believe our subject can succeed. We see our subject succeed.There’s usually a setback or special mid-point challenge. And then we see how it ends.

Marie Curie certainly had a fascinating life and Rosamund Pike gives her considerable best. She is never less than mesmerizing. I particularly enjoyed watching her in the first half of the movie, as we see her struggling to be taken seriously as a scientist when she knows she is better than the men who look down at her because she is a woman, because she is Polish, and because she is not shy about letting them know she is better than they are. It’s almost a proto-“Big Bang Theory,” the way that the same determination, single-mindedness, unstoppable curiosity, and relentless quest for truth that makes her a scientist is what makes it difficult for her to get along with anyone well enough to get her the resources she needs to do her experiments.

And that is when she meets Pierre Curie. He tells her he has read her work and it is brilliant. She tells him she has read his and it is very good. He offers her a space in his lab. Her insight and his ideas about how to prove her theories like two covalent bonds or a double helix. A lot happens very fast as the brilliance of her discoveries is evident when she just 32 when her paper on radium was published. But the movie stops for a dinner party so that Marie can explain her research to a non-scientist friend, and to us.

It then hurtles along, trying to cram in every crisis faced by Marie, from continued gender discrimination to being accused of adultery after Pierre’s death, when her letters to her married lover were made public by his wife. Most interesting, and worth an entire movie of its own, is her service during WWI, when she developed portable X-ray machines that saved thousands of lives and prevented needless surgery. Like the man for whom the most important scientific award in the world is named, Alfred Nobel, Marie Curie’s great achievement was responsible for incalculable benefits (we see an early cancer patient treated with radiation) and unthinkable tragedy (we see a Hiroshima resident looking up to see the Enola Gay, and the ravages of Chernobyl. This makes things a bit muddled, but Pike’s stirring performance makes us believe we get a sense of Marie Curie’s fierce intelligence and even may make us wonder about what discoveries we can make.

Parents should know that this film includes WWI battle scenes and characters who have been wounded, characters who are ill and dying and references to deaths of family members, brief rear nudity, non-explicit sexual situation, and references to adultery.

Family discussion: What do we learn from Marie’s reaction to the death of her mother? Why does this film include glimpses of events long after Marie’s death? What can we do to make sure that what we learn about and invent is used to benefit humankind and not for wars and violence?

If you like this, try: the glow-in-the-dark graphic novel the film is based on and another film about scientists and inventors, The Current War.

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New on Quibi: A Hilarious, Exciting, Heartwarming Remix of The Princess Bride

Posted on July 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm

No movie is more beloved than The Princess Bride, with a screenplay by William Goldman based on his book and an all-star cast including Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, and of course Billy Crystal and Carol Kane. It has everything: romance, adventure, a gorgeous score, villainous villains and heroic heroes. It’s close to perfect.

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And everyone knows it so well that it is a perfect candidate for a pandemic-era at-home remake to raise money for the World Central Kitchen, “food first responders” whose programs include their clean cookstoves initiative, culinary training programs, and social enterprise ventures that empower communities and strengthen economies.

Some of the biggest stars in the world and some of the hottest up-and-coming newcomers slip in and out of the roles using whatever locations and props and costumes they have at home. It reminds me of the “Sweded” movies in “Be Kind Rewind,” one of my favorites. And one of that movie’s stars, Jack Black, shows up along with Hugh Jackman, Keegan Michael Key, Penelope Cruz, some of the movie’s original cast, and, in the final moment, one of the most touching appearances of the year.

It is pure delight. Now excuse me, I need to go back and re-watch the original.

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The Babysitters Club

Posted on July 9, 2020 at 9:11 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Various health-related issues including diabetes and stroke
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 7, 2020

Copyright Netflix 2020
You will not see a show for any age this year that is better than this latest version of “The Babysitters Club,” Netflix’s gently updated series inspired by the Ann M. Martin. Delightfully natural performances from an outstanding group of newcomers, backed by adults like Marc Evan Jackson (“The Good Place’s” Shawn) and Alicia Silverstone (“Clueless”), deal with problems from the universal (growing up, learning to make the most of strengths and adapt to or overcome weaknesses) including crushes and puberty) to family upheavals like divorce, remarriage, illness, and loss to resolving differences with friends, family and adults, all handled with sensitivity and maturity. If that maturity is in some cases aspirational (many adults struggle to do as well), it never seems so far out of reach that it is unobtainable. The good humor and loyalty the girls show each other in resolving their conflicts is genuinely heartwarming and instructive for all ages.

The series cleverly maintains some of the books’ beloved traditions, including the landline in the colorful bedroom of one of the girls, Claudia Kishi (adorable Momona Tamada, rocking a high-fashion look that would be a challenge for a less confident performer of any age). And no one girl controls the narrative. We see the stories from different perspectives in each chapter, narratively illuminating and a good way to spark some conversations about empathy and points of view.

7th grader Kristy (Sophie Grace) comes up with the idea for the Babysitters Club, a one-stop or one-call service that provides sitters for local families after her mother (Silverstone) complains about how hard it is to find someone. The first girls to join are her shy best friend Mary Ann (Malia Baker), who lives with her very strict father, a widower (Jackson), a new girl just arrived from New York named Stacy (Shay Rudolph), who is great at math and who is concealing her Type 1 diabetes, and Claudia, a gifted artist who struggles with schoolwork and with her demanding parents and chilly sister but is very close to her grandmother (Takayo Fischer), who loves her the way she is. Later on they are joined by another new girl, the warm-hearted, justice-seeking Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), who arrives with her newly divorced mother.

Various clashes occur about the business, both internally and externally, when some older girls start their own babysitting service to compete. And various clashes occur with parents (and sadness over parents who are not there). But the girls are always committed to finding a way through, even if that sometimes takes a little while. And it is a pleasure to see each of them learn to speak up, especially Mary Ann, who discovers that her father is more vulnerable than she thought, that she can find her voice if it is on behalf of someone else, and that theater gives her an opportunity to be her best. There are also some nifty lessons about running a business, including what to do when your success leads to competition.

It is truly a delight to see these characters brought to life with such care and understanding and I cannot wait for the next season.

Parents should know that this series addresses in an age-appropriate way issues of puberty, trans children, sexual orientation, illness and disability, parental abandonment, death of a parent, bullying, blended families, and class/economic issues.

Family discussion: Can you think of a time when you were upset about something other than what it seemed you were upset about? Who was right, Dawn or Meanie? How did the girls learn to talk about their conflicts? Which one is most like you?

If you like this, try: the 1995 movie and the books, now published as graphic novels

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