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Documentaries on WWI, Africa, Australia and Puerto Rico are on video

Posted May 19

A wide array of documentaries are on DVD this week, with subjects ranging from World War I to such far-flung locales as Africa, Australia and Puerto Rico.

“American Experience: The Great War” (PBS, 2017, three discs, three episodes). Oliver Platt narrates this engaging six-hour documentary series on World War I, which also explores larger issues faced by America during the early part of the 20th century, including immigration. As a result, there’s an unexpected timely feel to the proceedings, bolstered by eyewitness accounts performed by such voice actors as Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott.

“Africa’s Great Civilizations” (PBS, 2017, two discs, six episodes). Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts this six-hour look at Africa, from the dawn of civilization forward. Gates covers the continent’s history, establishment of cities, and its art and architecture, all from the perspective of Africans, and traveling from the city of Great Zimbabwe to the pyramids of Meroe to the rock churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia and beyond.

“Nature: Viva Puerto Rico” (PBS, 2017). This hourlong episode of “Nature” looks at the tropical island and its natural wonders and wildlife, some of which is threatened with extinction. The point of view is from scientists trying to restore order as related in three stories regarding manatees, parrots and turtles. The episode is narrated by Jimmy Smits.

“Martin Clunes’ Islands of Australia” (aka “Islands of Oz,” Athena, 2016, three episodes, photo gallery). Clunes, the British actor most famous for “Doc Martin,” has something of a cottage industry going with a string of documentaries he has hosted across the pond. This one is a three-part miniseries, exploring 16 of Australia’s some 8,000 islands, as Clunes exuberantly discusses the diversity, history and challenges of life in these environs.

“Frontline: Out of Gitmo” (PBS, 2017). This episode of “Frontline” is broken into two half-hour parts presented by NPR/WGBH News correspondent Arun Rath: “Out of Gitmo,” which follows a recently released terror suspect from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and “Forever Prison,” which explains how the base came to be a stronghold for people beyond the reach of U.S. law.

“Ice: Season One” (eOne, 2016, three discs, 10 episodes, featurettes, music video). Here’s a narrow crime family saga — they’re all jewelers, and not always on the side of what’s legal, hence the show’s title (“ice” is slang for fancy jewelry, especially diamonds). Jeremy Sisto stars and Donald Sutherland is on hand in this series made for the Audience network. Antoine Fuqua is a producer and co-creator. (No word yet on a second season.)

“Duck Dynasty: The Final Season: Last Call” (Lionsgate, 2016-17, two discs, 15 episodes). The last 15 episodes, including the hourlong finale, showcase the Robertson family one last time as Willie and Jase oppose each other in elections for president of the homeowner’s association and preparations begin for another wedding, among other cock-eyed adventures.

“Digimon Adventure Tri.: Reunion” (Shout!, 2016, in Japanese with English subtitles or in English dubbed, featurettes). “Reunion” is the first of a series of anime films in the “Digital Monsters” reboot series based on the franchise that began with virtual pets. Here, Tai and his friends find themselves crossing over into the Digital World once again — and here, there be monsters.

“Bubble Guppies: Super Guppies” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2011-15, five episodes). The animated guppies of Bubbletucky help a pirate find buried treasure, celebrate Halloween in a haunted house, watch an alien from a flying saucer conduct an orchestra, and encounter Sid Fishy (voiced by Ozzy Osbourne) in these episodes for preschoolers.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip” (PBS Kids, 2016-17, seven episodes). Daniel and his family take a trip, visit a grandparent, attend the neighborhood carnival, and watch fireflies and fireworks.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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