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Category:    Home > Reviews > Special Interest > Travel > Vacation > History > Documentary > Food > Cooking > Restaurants > Infrastructu > Cornwall with Caroline Quentin (2012/Acorn/Athena DVD Set)/Culinary Masterpieces (First Run Features DVD Set)/Disasters Deconstructed (A&E/History Channel DVD set)/History In 3D (A&E/History Channel B

Cornwall with Caroline Quentin (2012/Acorn/Athena DVD Set)/Culinary Masterpieces (First Run Features DVD Set)/Disasters Deconstructed (A&E/History Channel DVD set)/History In 3D (A&E/History Channel Blu-ray set)/Narrow Escapes Of World War II (2011/Acorn/Athena DVD Set)/Predator Collection (Smithsonian Channel/Inception DVD)/The Universe In 3D (A&E/History Channel Blu-ray set)


Picture: C+/C/C+/B-/C+/C+/B     Sound: DVDs: C+/Blu-rays: B-     Extras: C/C-/D/D/C/D/D     Episodes: B-/B-/B+/B-/B/B/B-



With the holiday season upon us, some nice sets are arriving on home video you will want to check into, including bundling of past releases.



One all new one is Cornwall with Caroline Quentin (2012) in which the host takes 8 one-hour episodes exploring one of the famed and favorite sections of Southern England.  A little can go a long way and there seems to be some overlap, but the idea is to deliver the depth and experience of really going there and with added history and other interesting items, this is very thorough.  It may not be for everyone, but it far exceed being a mere travelogue, typical of the great releases from Athena, so if you are interested, you will not be disappointed.


Extras include photo galleries and a 12-page illustrated viewer’s guide.



Culinary Masterpieces collects four very impressive single DVD releases from First Run Features on food and cooking.  You can read about each of them at the following links:


Guy Martin – Portrait Of A Grand Chef (2008)



King Of Pastry (2009)



Le Cirque: A Table In Heaven (2009)



A Matter Of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt (2010)



I have really good memories of all of them and combined far surpass what you might get on a cable channel on food, as they are more thorough, honest and even raw.  It also gives us a quieter (and therefore more realistic) look at the business today and if you are a food fan looking for more, this is a great set for you and/or someone you know.  Extras are the same as the previous releases.



Disasters Deconstructed: A History Of Architectural Disasters comes from A&E and The History Channel and is loaded with so many programs, that it is my personal favorite of so many great sets here.  The first two DVDs offer six extraordinary episodes of Inspector America with Timothy Galarnyk exploring the serious infrastructure issues to be found in bridges, roads, gas lines, water lines, sewage lines and much more in cities like the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Las Vegas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit and many others.  This should be the #1 reality TV show in the world and for some odd reason, is not.  The show deserves its own set and if it is not being produced, should be renewed immediately.


DVD 3 offers Titanic’s Achilles Heel, DVD 4 has three programs on The Hindenburg and the final two DVDs offer eight episodes of Engineering Disasters, which features several unbelievable disasters per episode (we get episodes 4 – 11 here) and that also calls for its own DVD set.  Despite having no extras, this one is so insanely loaded that you cannot go wrong.



History In 3D is the first of two A&E/History Channel Blu-ray 3D sets (which is still rare for the format) that includes two Blu-ray 3D titles we covered before at these links:


History Of The World In Two Hours



Titanic: 100 Years In 3D



That leaves WWII In 3D, which has no extras, runs only 46 minutes, but is yet another fascinating chapter in Hitler’s madness as he gets photographers to literally shoot still images in stereophonic 3D (plus Hitler had some 3D motion picture film shot), the Allies and personal photographers also used some 3D and the time and all that is presented here as yet another new, dark angle of the war and the evil empire that was Nazi Fascism.  Also available as a single, it is pretty good, but I wanted to know more about it and other still 3D systems of the time for instance, so the lack of extras is my only disappointment with this and the other titles.  Besides that, this is a pretty good set.



Narrow Escapes Of World War II (2011) is a recent British TV series focusing on near-miss incidents on both sides during WWII from Acorn/Athena.  The 13 hour-long shows include stories you have likely not heard of including The Amiens Raid, Wingate & The Chindits, The Black Battalion, Lucky Laycock’s Escape From Crete, Manstein Holds The Line, The Siege Of Kohima, Roy Urquhart’s Escape From Arnheim, Morshead Holds Tobruk, Evacuation Of The Baltic, Moore’s March, Operation Pedestal, Breakthrough Through Hell’s Gate (The Germans vs. The Soviets) and the famed Doolittle Raid.  It is a fine set and though the style might be a little slap-dash at times, it is pretty thorough and worth your time.  Extras include text profiles of some of the escapees from the episodes and a 12-page illustrated viewer’s guide.



The Predator Collection has nothing to do with action films, but is a Smithsonian Channel DVD single with some solid programs on Lions, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Big Cats Of Savannah and holds its won against similar special interest work on home video.  There are no extras, but it is a quality single worth your time and a place on any shelf with such releases.



Finally we have The Universe In 3D from A&E and The History Channel that is similar to but does NOT include the 7 Wonders Of the Solar System Blu-ray 3D we reviewed at this link:





Instead, we get three other programs: Catastrophes That Changed The Planet, How The Solar System Was Made and Nemesis: The Sun’s Evil Twin (the most speculative of the three, suggesting a second invisible sun is circling us) typical of the previous shows in the series.  Having them in 3D can be more fun to watch, plus more tolerable when they do not work.  There are no extras.



The 1.78 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on the Universe and History sets are good, but the History set is working with rough materials at times and comes up short.  Still, they both look as good as they are going to and that goes for their 2D presentations which are fine but have some detail and depth limits.  The 1.33 X 1 on the Pastry DVD on the Culinary set is soft along with most of the others in the set, but so are some of the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the rest of the DVDs here, though not as soft as those. 


A Matter Of Taste is the best of the four from that set, but still has softness issues and detail limits like Cornwall, Escapes, Disasters and Predator.  With that said, most of the DVD titles could use Blu-ray releases.


DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes are on WWII In 3D and History Of The World In Two Hours with limited soundfields while all the Universe Blu-rays are PCM 2.0 Stereo and manage to have healthy Pro Logic surrounds, Titanic 3D only has lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and the DVDs all have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.  That leaves the Blu-rays sounding fine and DVDs not bad, but not as good as the Blu-rays.


-   Nicholas Sheffo


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