Edge-of-your-seat terror: Japan’s Tohoku Region: At a magnitude of 9.0, the strongest earthquake in Japan’s history strikes

Oh, we do love these end-of-the-world flicks. Capelight Pictures is unleashing Fukushima 50 on DVD and Blu-ray on April 13.  Why worry about your taxes when you should worry about . . .
Japan’s Tohoku Region: at a magnitude of 9.0, the strongest earthquake in the country’s history strikes, triggering a huge tsunami and carnage that would end up killing thousands of people and displacing many more. It mercilessly engulfs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, causing a crippling station blackout.
Unable to be cooled, the nuclear reactors quickly turn into hydrogen bombs at the brink of explosion. If the power plant is abandoned, Japan’s destruction is assured. Facing a life or death situation, the power plant workers known as the “Fukushima 50”, including shift supervisor Izaki and plant manager Yoshida, remain on the site until the bitter end. As the world holds its breath, the Fukushima 50 fight for their hometown, their families, and the future of Japan.

Danny Trejo’s new role: As author of his autobiography, revealing the good, the bad, the ugly, the success

He’s Hollywood’s Bad Guy with a Heart of Gold. And fans of Danny Trejo, known for his roles in films such as Machete, Heat, From Dusk Till Dawn and Con Air, has a new starring role beginning July 6, 2012.  That’s when Atria Books released Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood ($27). The book follows the actor’s unforgettable and inspirational journey through crime, prison, addiction, loss and unexpected fame as Hollywood icon.

Trejo, who has played a baddie in more than 300 films and, at the age of 76, still books between 10 and 20 film and television roles a year, may be one of the most familiar faces in Hollywood.  His memes are some of the most shared of all time on Instagram.  In the summer of 2020, he was the subject of a viral Pete Davidson tribute on Saturday Night Live. But if you ask Danny, as popular as he is, no one has ever really captured the gritty, emotional journey that brought him to where he is today.

Trejo first used heroin at only 12 years old, learning that loyalty only came through violence and peace was found in oblivion. For a period of time, he did stints in some of America’s most notorious prisons, including San Quentin, Folsom, and Soledad. Then he was offered a part as a boxer in Runaway Train, giving him the opportunity to choose a new path. In Trejo, he describes how the difficult lessons he learned in childhood both saved his professional life and hindered his personal one, offering an inspirational and brutally honest look at his fascinating life. He shares how he rebuilt his life after finding sobriety and spirituality in solitary confinement and went on to become a success, hobnobbing with A-list celebrities and using his memories of his adrenaline-fueled robbing heists to inspire him as an actor.

“Danny Trejo is more than an actor for the millions of Mexican Americans, like me, who love him,” says Michelle Herrera Mulligan, senior editor, Atria Books. “He is a legend. A role model. The first Chicano action star. Someone we can always hold up as a hero who made it. One of my proudest acquisitions to date, this book shows us the difficult path it took to get him there, in unforgettable, literary detail.”

In this startlingly honest and intimate memoir, for the first time, Trujo explores his journey from an abusive childhood, a life in prison, a struggle with addiction, and a redemptive journey from recovery to love and loss, in a the warm, funny, brutal, gritty voice everyone has come to love.

“At seventy-six, this memoir was an opportunity for me to be fearlessly honest for the first time about the terrifying brutality of my experiences in the hardest prisons in the world, the family secrets that tore lives apart, my personal bottom while I was in the hole in Soledad facing a possible death penalty charge and the role God played in turning my life around, ” Trejo confesses. “There’s my acting career that started at the age of forty by simply showing up to a set to help another addict in need, and how all of it shaped the person I am.  I hope by sharing my experiences they can somehow be of benefit to others and let them know that where you start doesn’t matter, it’s how you finish. “

Trejo is cowriting his memoir with his best friend of 20 years, actor Donal Logue  to craft a revealing, intimate portrait of an extraordinary life, rife with never-revealed details of his transformative experience.

“A special thank you to Donal, who is not only an incredible actor, but a beautiful writer,” Trujo adds. “We’ve been on sets together for everything from Reindeer Games to Sons of Anarchy, but the three years we spent working on this book brought us closer than ever.  “He’s talented in so many ways, but the way he crafted my story really brought it to life. I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else. He’s my best friend.”

The Buzz in On: Vanessa Riley’s new sweeping historical novel, ‘Island Queen’, is already being called One of the Best of 2012

We hear it’s  one of the most anticipated publications of 2021.

Whisk away to the Islands of the West Indies and meet one of the most incredible women of colonial times—Dorothy Kirwin Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies. Island Queen (William Morrow, $27.99) is celebrated author Vanessa Riley’s remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on Thomas’ incredible true-life story; no wonder the buzz is buzzing that the tome is sure to be one of the most talked about books of Summer 2021. (Save the date: The book hits shelves on July 6, 2021.)

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Monserrat, Dorothy [nicknamed “Doll’] bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

James Kaplan’s ‘Rhapsody’ wraps truth with fiction. Marvelous melody!

Consider this a rhapsody in blue.
A most delicious and compelling composition.
We are referring to the George Gershwin  gem, but we are also praising James Kaplan’s novel, Rhapsody (Gallery Books, $30).
One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.
book coverKay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of 38.
An fun aside: As the couple entered a nightclub one evening, Oscar Levant reportedly announced, “Ah, look! Here comes George Gershwin with the future Miss Kay Swift.”
Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction wrapped in truth, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world.

‘Far Western’ is a little bit country, a little bit the country of Japan

We like to think of Far Western as a little bit country, a little bit the country of Japan.

It was in the early years immediately following World War II, during the occupation of Japan by the U.S. forces, that Western influences began to dramatically change Japanese popular culture. The Far East Network (FEN), established just after WWII to broadcast American content to soldiers, played a big part. The simple, curious sounds of the West drew in a Japanese audience, disillusioned with their parents’ culture and the restrictions of the old Japanese society.

Far Western (Corinth Films) is a feature-length documentary from filmmaker James Payne that tells the phenomenal story of the transplant of American country music to post-World War II Japan. Nearly 70 years later, for a devoted group, the music has become a lifelong obsession.

Part music history and part character portrait, the fascinating story is told through the lives of musicians, fans, and live-music venue owners. Set both in modern Japan and the American South, the flick explores the uncanny ability of a simple form of music to cross geographic and language barriers, forming a strange cultural bridge between the two countries. Now, these Japanese musicians have made their own pilgrimages back to America, to the birthplace of the music, playing in honky-tonks and festivals in America.
Musicians featured in the doc include Japan’s unofficial ambassador of County Music, Charlie Nagatani, an 80-year-old owner of a honky-tonk in Kumomoto who plays moire than 300 shows a year with his house band, The Cannonballs and has played the Grand Ole Opry more than 20 times; Hisashi and Yasushi Ozaki, who are are credited for forming the first bluegrass band in Japan and were the first Japanese to be inducted to the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame; Masuo Sasabe and Blueside of Lonesome, now one of the most popular traditional Americana acts in Japan; Juta Sagai, a devotee of Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Guthrie and a key figure in Japan’s bluegrass history, Toru Mitsui, the foremost musicologist on American country music in Japan and more.
Terrific sounds of music, country crooners without a Dolly or Dwight or Reba or Keith sight.

Fukushima 50′: The true story of the strongest earthquake in Japan’s history. Ouch!

We do love those end-of-the-world flicks. Tidal waves, mutants creatures caused by underworld explosions, nuclear attacks, overgrown sharks and octopi or alien attacks.
Now we have tk.
And this was based on a true story.
 Fukushima 50 (Capelight Pictures) occurs in Japan’s Tohoku Region: At a magnitude of 9.0, the strongest earthquake in the country’s history strikes, triggering a huge tsunami and carnage that would end up killing thousands of people and displacing many more. It mercilessly engulfs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, causing a crippling station blackout.

Unable to be cooled, the nuclear reactors quickly turn into hydrogen bombs at the brink of explosion. If the power plant is abandoned, Japan’s destruction is assured. Facing a life or death situation, the power plant workers known as the “Fukushima 50”, including shift supervisor Izaki and plant manager Yoshida, remain on the site until the bitter end.
As the world holds its breath, the Fukushima 50 fight for their hometown, their families, and the future of Japan.

An unshavenmouse. A debut novel. A dystopian thriller to scare you. And them

Anyone whose website is “unshavenmouse” is worthy of a second, even third, look.

Even with his debut novel.

The mouse is Neil Sharpson; his debut novel is the dystopian thriller When the Sparrow Falls(Tor Books, $26.99). He crams his ideas about the diffusion of emotional consciousness in a post-apocalyptic world that breeds authoritarian control. This is a tale that foresees human compliance to technology, an effort to salvage the remains of existence in the digital age.

When the Sparrow Falls is a darkly-funny and frightening meditation about the truth of our condition when all that we’ve ever known about ourselves is on the cusp of erasure; when being human is no longer about the soul, but rather the vitalization of our flesh.

There was always something off about propagandist Paulo Xirau. In a nation like the Caspian Republic – the last bastion of humanity in a world given over to artificial intelligence – it is expected to preserve one’s body. To betray the State means to stray from all that makes one human. The penalty? A brutally inhumane death.

When the leaders of the Caspian Republic discover their most loyal supporter Paulo Xirau, unexpectedly dead, is in fact a “machine,” State Security Agent Nikolai South is given a new assignment: to chaperone the widow, Lily, the only “machine” visitor ever invited from the outside world, to determine what happened to her husband. Perhaps what’s stranger than Xirau’s death is Lily’s eerie resemblance to Nikolai’s late wife. As he safeguards the State’s most unwanted guest, he stumbles into a plot larger than them all. And it may just bring down the republic for good. 

‘The Interrogation’ recreates the final interrogation of the infamous horror Nazi before his execution.

Bear witness to pure evil (other than watching Adolph Frump stoking racism) with a landmark film in which an Israeli director-for the very first time–gives voice to Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss, the longest serving commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. As fascinating as it is disturbing , The Interrogation (Corinth Films) recreates the final interrogation of the infamous Nazi before his execution. The film is based on the bastard’s autobiography, The Commandant of Auschwitz.

In 1946, Höss was discovered by British troops in Gottrupel, Germany, disguised as a gardener after his whereabouts were divulged by his wife, believing that the betrayal would result in their son’s safety. Shortly afterward, the notorious commandant was taken to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and later handed over to the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland, which sentenced him to death by hanging.
While he was imprisoned and awaiting trial, he was interrogated at length to extract a perfect confession. The assigned interrogator: Albert Piotrowski, a young, successful investigative judge, who also happened to be fluent in German. With the language barrier erased, and a level of comfort attained, their chilling encounter brings to shocking life the horrifying, yet normalized, Auschwitz routines, and the banalization of evil that shook the world to its core.

Douglas Kirkland career further develops, thanks to the documentary ‘That Click’

He’s shot them all . . . perhaps we should say he photographed them all.
A man at the cutting edge of fashion, photojournalism and portraiture, photographer to the stars Douglas Kirkland has, with his camera, portrayed more than 60 years of pop culture. Famed for his legendary shoots with Hollywood favorites including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and stars of more than 150 motion pictures (think The Sound of Music, Moulin Rouge, Titanic, The Great Gatsby, not to mention the times I hired him for a Redbook cover session), Kirkland’s unique style and approach have resulted in hundreds of beautiful, immortal images that still influence the world today, decades after that first fateful click of the camera.
That Click (Omnibus Entertainment) documents his genius: The fascinating documentary portrait, nominated for Best Documentary at the American Documentary Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, takes a closer look at  his astonishing career, from his very first assignments at Look in the 50s to Vanity Fair in the present, with contributing cast including Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams, Baz Luhrmann and Andy Garcia.

In 1995, Kirkland received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Motion Pictures Society of Operating Cameramen, and he currently lives and works in Hollywood Hills, CA.  Today, his photographs are held in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery in London, the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., among others.
Watch it, and see what develops.

Sarah Beth Durst has done it again. Another fantasy, another huge payload

Life can be a fantasy. For some people, fantasies can be lucrative. Big-time.

There’s no slowing down for award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst; with more than 20 twenty books she has penned,  she has proven herself as one of the most prolific fantasy writers of our generation. From her wildly popular The Queens of Renthia series to her last book Race the Sands, Durst  she repeatedly delivers compulsively readable epic adventures. The same holds true for her newest book The Bone Maker (Harper Voyager, $17.99).

Perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and avid bingers of HBO Max’s His Dark Materials, Sarah’s latest epic saga is set in an exquisite new world of towering mountains and sparkling cities, where magic wielders called bone makers use animal bones to animate lifeless objects. Twenty-five years ago, Kreya and her team of heroes defeated the Elkor, a corrupt bone maker who built homicidal monstrosities out of human bone. But victory came at a tragic price. Kreya lost her husband and fellow warrior Jentt.

Now, the heroes have aged, their story is fabled, and Kreya has shut herself away to a remote tower devoting herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But the magic won’t last without human bones. She enlists the help of an old teammate and ventures into the forbidden Bone War battlefield to steal from the skeleton-littered plains. Soon, they discover a much more sinister threat lurking.

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some