Big History, Hindenburg: The Last Flight, The Summit 


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Big History (NR)


It's been a banner year for science; or, rather, popular science. Although funding continues to shrink for actual experimentation and big ideas, there's a growing consensus that the status quo in thinking about the world, our galaxy and especially human history just won't cut it in 2014. A&E's Big History is a bombastic, 10-hour, empty-calories proposal for a new history curriculum that encompasses everything back to the Big Bang. It stems from, and shills for, a joint venture by David Christian, the creator of the "Big History" discipline, who does most of the talking-head duties, and benefactor Bill Gates, whose visage is part of a recurring montage of "the course of history" that includes JFK and Mother Teresa. The basic tenet: Time is not linear, not a flat circle, but an intricate web. As an appetite-whetter for this month's Cosmos reboot, it's reasonably entertaining, but far from awe-inspiring. — Justin Strout

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Hindenburg: The Last Flight (NR)

Anchor Bay Entertainment

Oh, the humanity! Originally released as a Starz miniseries, this DVD cut of Hindenburg: The Last Flight streamlines it into a 191-minute excursion into insanity, unleashing one of the most entertainingly daffy historical re-imaginings I've ever seen. It's like a more exploitative Titanic, but, you know, floating around in the sky. While the Hindenburg, the pride of Nazi Germany, shocks and awes the world as a feat of human ingenuity, an American oil tycoon aims to take it down. Meanwhile, the penniless designer of the aircraft falls in love with a rich heiress. As paths cross, passion explodes into anger, igniting way more than the flammable gases that cause the Zeppelin to rise. We all know what's going to happen, we all know how it's going to end, but the ride there is so trashy, who wouldn't want to go down in flames as entertaining as these? — Louis Fowler

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The Summit (R)

IFC Films

No matter how many films I watch on the subject, I just don't get why anyone would want to climb a mountain, let alone one of the tallest mountains in the world. It just seems like so much work for so little reward. Oh yeah, and let's not forget that there's a massive threat of death involved. Nothing brings this message home like The Summit. Using a mixture of footage and re-enactments, Nick Ryan's documentary examines the struggles and strife of 18 climbers who tried to make their way up the notorious K2. Along the way, 11 died. The mystery of just what happened up there is detailed and explored — ultimately satisfyingly, even though there are still numerous questions left. It's a breathtaking ride filled with some really gorgeous cinematography, but it only reinforces my desire to stay far away from mountain climbing, despite its popularity. — Louis Fowler


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