Netflix Top Picks: WWII Edition


With so much content on Netflix Instant it is easy for some titles to just get lost in the shuffle, and with so many gamers now using their consoles to watch movies and TV shows on Netflix someone needs to start sorting this all out. Welcome to Netflix Top Picks, where every week I will select two items from the Netflix Instant service you just have to add to your queue.  This time around I’m featuring some content (in this case documentaries) about the sequel to the War to End all Wars, I am of course referring to WWII. Admittedly this would of made more sense last weekend, what with Memorial Day and all, but here we are anyway.

Title: Ken Burns: The War
Type: Documentary
Genre: Documentary, Military Documentaries, Historical Documentaries
Rating: TV-14
Run Time: 7 Episodes, approximately 120 minutes each
Released: 2007
Synopsis: Documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick bring the harrowing history of World War II to life through the personal accounts of a handful of participants from four “typical” American towns — proving nothing was typical during this terrible time. Historical footage and photographs combine with realistic sound effects to create visceral scenes of the battles at Omaha Beach, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and more in this seven-part PBS presentation.
My Analysis: We should all basically know what to expect about a Ken Burns documentary; several incredibly long episodes that really don’t manage to say anything truly profound yet manage to engage us and keep us watching.  The War is particularly unique for the fact it focuses on both the soldiers and the people back home, offering a view of WWII often ignored.  It is certainly far too long to fly through all the episodes in a couple of sittings but it does make for some good viewing.

Title: WWII in HD
Type: Documentary
Genre: Documentary, Military Documentaries, Historical Documentaries
Rating: TV-14
Run Time: 10 Episodes, approximately 45 minutes each
Released: 2009
Starring: Josh Lucas, Amy Smart, Rob Lowe, Justin Bartha, LL Cool J, Steve Zahn, Jason Ritter, Ron Livingston, Tim DeKay, Mark Hefti, James Kyson Lee, Rob Corddry
Synopsis: The History Channel presents this epic documentary that chronicles the deeply personal stories of soldiers, sailors, journalists, nurses and others who served in the front lines of the European and Pacific theaters of World War II. Weaving hours of rare, pristinely restored color footage with diaries, interviews and other first-hand accounts, this series recounts the global sweep of the war as experienced by those who were there..

My Analysis: While WWII in HD doesn’t exactly break the mold when it comes to WWII storytelling (following the personal stories of 12 individuals during the war), the real reason to watch WWII in HD is right in the title.  The footage presented in this series is largely jaw dropping.  The overwhelming majority of what you will see is in full color and much of it is likely to be footage you have never seen before; and in so many ways it makes the war so much more real.  Combined with some fantastic voice over work, particularly by Rob Lowe and Amy Smart, the personal stories are engaging and the visuals are downright amazing.  Even if you are only a modest history buff, you should check this one out.

Ok, so we have to admit, not everything rocks on Netflix Instant.  Sometimes this is obvious, other times not so much.  Whatever the case, What Not To Watch is a segment within a segment that will try to influence you from avoiding something genuinely unpleasant.  I tried to find a WNTW that would fit the WWII theme, but unfortunately Nicholas Cages’ Windtalkers wasn’t on Instant, so instead I bring you:

Title: Dragons or Dinosaurs
Type: Documentary
Genre: Documentary, Science and Nature Documentaries, Faith & Spirituality Documentaries
Rating: NR
Run Time: 84 Minutes
Released: 2010
Directed By: Andre Van Heerden, Jason Van Heerden

Synopsis: Mythological representations of dragons appear in cultures worldwide, often resembling dinosaur species identified through their fossilized remains. Could this mean dragon legends are rooted in reality? This documentary seeks to find out. Interviews with researchers indicate that the existence of dinosaurs might actually help support the biblical story of creation and explain other mysteries of our cosmic origins.

My Analysis: I really do hate to pick on two “faith & spirituality” documentaries in a row with What Not To Watch, but this one moved to the top of my list right away.  First off, the movie has a subtitle not even listed when browsing Instant on my 360; what was that subtitle? Creation or Evolution.  This would have turned me off to the documentary sooner, but it not having been immediately visible I hit play out of simple curiosity.  “OK, I thought, this documentary is going to explore how people misconceived the bones of dinosaurs as monsters that were still alive, monsters that we today commonly refer to as dragons.  This could be interesting.” Within about two minutes I realized that this was actually pushing forth the idea that dinosaurs were alive and co-mingled with humans for long enough (and frequently enough) to become the dragons of legend. “Ok, this could still be kind of interesting…” and then I kind of started tuning out as this “documentary” turned into a bunch of old creationists trying to beat a piñata of Charles Darwin open with their bibles (metaphorically of course). Actually, come to think of it, that would have been far more entertaining.  Avoid this one completely if you can.

Due to Netflix constantly updating and changing the content on their service we cannot guarantee that the content listed in this article will be available for any particular length of time, nor can we guarantee it is available in all regions.  We do make a genuine effort though to never include any item that Netflix has marked with a limited availability.

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About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.