Empire on Athena DVD

Tough talking newsman Jeremy Paxman is usually engaged in combat with evasive politicians on the BBC’s Newsnight. However, he recently took some time away from the newsroom to produce a documentary based on the book Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British. As the writer and presenter, Paxman is firmly in control of the narrative which examines the life and death of the once great Empire.

Paxman comes across as a proud Englishman. He marvels at some of the imperial structures of India and is keen to highlight the lingering Britishness evident in remote corners of Egypt and Jamaica. Amusingly, many of his interview subjects fail to see any value in these relics of empire despite Paxman’s best attempts to tout its’ merits.

Structurally, the producers did a good job of juxtaposing modern life with tales of imperial conquest. Iconic figures from British history are variously cast as heroes or villains but above all else they all exemplify the archetypal stiff upper lip. The episodes all cover the same period in chronological order but Paxman tackles the subject matter with a fresh angle for every installment. Somehow, British TV documentarians do a much better job than their American counterparts of producing shows full of both factual content and entertainment and Empire maintains that great tradition.

Episodes on this Athena boxset are titled as follows: A Taste for Power, Making Ourselves at Home, Playing the Game, Making a Fortune, and Doing Good. Bonus material includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with a timeline of the empire; a map of British colonies; and articles on the empire under Queen Victoria, the British Commonwealth, and modern multicultural Britain
Street Date is November 17, 2015 and the 2 disc, 300 minute set will cost $49.99

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Athena have released a number of documentaries about the art world that while well made are somewhat esoteric. Art of the Heist bucks that trend by focussing on art in a way that appeals to a mass audience. This a crime story about the audacious heists involving world famous masterpieces including the Mona Lisa! Would you believe someone nabbed the Da Vinci masterpiece from the Louvre museum in broad daylight?

In this 14 episode 779 minute boxset we learn about art heists from both the culprits and those tasked with solving the crimes. We also learn about the alleged role of notorious figures ranging from Whitey Bulger to Hermann Goring in various robberies. As I said, it’s not your typical art show. The Art of Heist debuts on DVD on 17 November and is available for the very reasonable price of $59.99. Aside from the episodes the boxset includes a 16-page viewer’s guide with articles about the FBI’s top ten list of unsolved art thefts, politically motivated art heists, the discovery of art stolen by the Nazis, the curse of Russia’s long-lost Amber Room, the forger’s tool kit, and the art of museum security, plus stories of bungled art burglaries.

Kieran Kinsella
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