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Facts Are Overrated: ‘Sons of Liberty’

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Sons of Liberty, the History Channel’s dramatic series about the events leading up to the American Revolution, is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. The show features big production values (even though it substitutes Romania for Colonial America) and an impressive cast that features Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad) as Benjamin Franklin , Henry Thomas (E.T.) as John Adams, Jason O’Mara as George Washington and focuses on Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia movies) as Sam Adams and Ryan Eggold (The Blacklist) as Dr. Joseph Warren.

The program is 100% created for an audience that believes that costume dramas and the American Revolution are boring. The colonists seem more like the bootleggers from Boardwalk Empire than the noble idealists that put everyone to sleep in high school and the chase scenes more like the video game Assassin’s Creed 3 than anything you’d see at a Bunker Hill reenactor event. +Continue Reading

PBS Highlights Military Families on ‘The Homefront’

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It’s a fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans have little or no direct connection to our all-volunteer military force. For those of us who spend every day living the life or thinking about military issues, The Homefront (premiering Monday at 9pm on most PBS stations) might seem like a portrait of the obvious. But that would be missing the point: the program makes a straightforward presentation of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by military families in a way that will educate (and hopefully motivate) a disconnected America. +Continue Reading

The Birth of the Texas Rangers

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On Memorial Day, the History Channel is launching Texas Rising, a new dramatic series about the Texas Rangers and the rise of the Lone Star republic. Starring Bill Paxton and directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields), the ten-part series will offer insight into the Texas psyche for modern audiences, especially those viewers who are puzzled by contemporary protests about a potential “invasion” of Texas by the United States military.

In connection with the series, noted historian Stephen L. Moore has just published Texas Rising: The Epic True Story of the Lone Star Republic and the Rise of the Texas Rangers, 1836–1846. Moore, who’s a descendent of Ranger Captain William T. Sadler, has condensed a lot of his previous research into a readable and colorful version of the Ranger story. +Continue Reading

How NASA Helped Make ‘Tomorrowland’

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Disney’s Tomorrowland is a movie based on the Disneyland Park area that aims to get back to the original ‘50s-style futurist vision that inspired Walt when he built the park. Starring George Clooney and directed by The Incredibles’ Brad Bird, the picture is far less dark and bombastic than what you’re getting from most of the sci-fi/superhero franchises out there lately.

At NASA, there’s been a kind of holding pattern over the last few years while they wait for Congress to wake up and make space exploration a priority again. Part of their strategy has been to give technical support to Hollywood movies that remind viewers why astronauts and outer space were such a part of our national identity. Tomorrowland joins movies like Gravity and Interstellar on the quality roster of movies with NASA technical advice. We spoke to NASA’s Bert Ulrich, the agency’s liaison for film and TV collaborations, about Tomorrowland. +Continue Reading

Ethan Hawke Talks Drone Warfare in ‘Good Kill’

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Good Kill (opening in theaters this week) revisits the peak drone warfare year of 2010, with Ethan Hawke playing Major Thomas Egan, a fighter pilot who finds himself repurposed as a drone pilot in the Nevada desert.

There’s problems with the family, ethical dilemmas once the CIA starts picking targets and a lot of frustration with remote flying from a pilot who misses the experience. Andrew Niccol wrote and directed the movie and he previously worked with Hawke on the sci-fi classic Gattaca.

We’ve got a clip from the film and Ethan Hawke took the time to speak to Military​.com about the surreal nature of remote warfare. +Continue Reading

‘American Sniper’ — ‘Three Kinds of People’

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American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s film about legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, is coming to Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD this week from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Today, we’ve got the last of three promotional videos that intercut scenes from the film to highlight the story’s themes. In this clip, Chris Kyle’s father explains to his sons the three kinds of people he sees in the world.

A few notes on the Blu-ray:

Warner Bros. will donate $1 from each physical and digital purchase of American Sniper (up to $1 million total) to the Wounded Warrior Project. If you buy in Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi or South Carolina, you might want to make a direct donation because those states prohibit this kind of promotion.

The Blu-ray includes two 30-minute special feature documentaries: “One Solider’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper” and “Making of American Sniper.” There’s a lot of repetition between the two films, with the principal interviewees (Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Taya Kyle and screenwriter Jason Hall) making most of the same points in each documentary. “Making of” relies heavily on a group Q&A conducted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

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This is definitely a movie that would benefit from a commentary track from Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Jason Hall, Taya Kyle or some combination of all of them. Former Navy SEAL Kevin Lacz served with Chris Kyle, worked as a technical advisor on the movie and plays himself in the film; a featurette that explored his participation in the movie would also be fascinating.  Let’s hope Clint’s willing to dig a little deeper if there’s a new special edition package in a couple of years.

Helix: A Protective iPhone Case Minus the Bulk

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The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are both decided upgrades from Apple’s earlier phones: they’re faster, the screens look better and, once you’ve used one for 5 minutes, the company’s earlier phones start to look ridiculously small. Unfortunately, finding a protective case for the new models has proven difficult. The upscaled designs from cases that worked so well for an iPhone 5/5s just look comically large and unwieledy. +Continue Reading

Warsaw: A True Survivor of World War II

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Warsaw, Poland’s Old Town

May 8th marks the 70th anniversary of World War II’s VE Day. Most Americans consider Victory in Europe as being the logical end result of the June 1944’s D-Day Invasion and don’t think much about the battles on the Eastern Front. That probably has a lot to do with the Cold War and the forty years we spent thinking about the Soviet Bloc as one solid block.

I got a new perspective when I spent a day touring WWII landmarks in Poland’s capital during my visit to Warsaw for the World of Tanks Grand Finals last month. Warsaw endured almost unparalleled devastation during the conflict and dealt with that destruction in a most surprising way. +Continue Reading

Xqisit’s Bluetooth LZ380 Headphones & xqB20 Speaker

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Xqisit is a German company that makes a full range of accessories for your portable electronic devices (cases, batteries, speakers, headphones). They’re trying to get a foothold in an incredibly crowded American market and they’re starting by introducing the LZ380 wireless Bluetooth headphones and the xqB20 portable Bluetooth speaker. +Continue Reading

‘Ruins of War’: Finding a Killer in Post-War Munich

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John A. Connell’s debut novel Ruins of War follows US Army detective Mason Collins, a former Chicago policeman, as he investigates a string of grisly murders in Munich during the winter of 1945. Collins ticks all the proper hardboiled detective boxes: he had run-ins with corrupt cops back home, he’s not very interested in altering his investigation to fit the Army’s PR needs and he’s willing to risk the lives of his colleagues and loved ones to nail the killer. +Continue Reading