All posts by alanwp

“Havana time Machine” takes viewers to the fertile land of Cuba, hosted by maverick Raul Malo

“Like most Americans, Cuba seems like a dream, a land of rhythm and rum, of Ricky Ricardo and revolutionaries, baseball greats, gangsters, casinos, classic cars and big cigars. But for me, it’s the home I’ve never known, the place that my parents were formed, who in turn formed me. The roots of my musical soul have been reaching for Cuban soil my entire life. And now the reality is beyond my wildest dream.”

So remarks Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter of The Mavericks and bandleader Raul Malo near the start of Great Performances: Havana Time Machine, a pioneering music documentary, one of the first U.S. productions since travel restrictions have opened up in Cuba.

Born Raúl Francisco Martínez-Malo, Jr. to Cuban parents in Miami, the versatile roots-rock music singer embarks on a musical and historical odyssey through the present-day Cuban capital in the program, a US/Cuba collaborative musical showcase.

Hermetically sealed by the Cold War for more than half a century Cuba remains, for the vast majority of Americans, the “Undiscovered Country,” a unique time capsule of cultural traditions, relatively untouched. But the recent thawing of Cuban-U.S. relations is forging new relationships based on collaboration. The evolution of the Revolution creates a unique opportunity for a unique presentation to showcase the tropical kaleidoscope that is Havana’s musical scene, past, present and future.

Documented by richly atmospheric camera work, Malo visits such iconic locales as the grand boulevard, the Paseo del Prado; a small apartment/recording studio in Nuevo Vedado; the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA); the former farm estate of Ernest Hemingway; and Los Jardines De La Tropical, a once-magical beer garden now overtaken by jungle.  Along with way, Malo has musical encounters with such luminaries as Eliades Ochoa, an original member of the famed Buena Vista Social Club; acclaimed Cuban singer Ivette Cepeda; Sweet Lizzy Project, a modern Latin indie-pop band; and piano-jazz maestro Roberto Fonseca. The beloved band The Mavericks perform music from their highly acclaimed new album Brand New Day (Mono Mundo Recordings).

Si!

Who’s the hottest TV star in 2018? Who else but Doctor Who, alive in a great new book

The doctor’s prescription is in.  What doctor? Dr. Who. Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records (Harper Design, $19.99) is a celebration of the greatest–and strangest–achievements from the brilliant, impossible world of Doctor Who. From the biggest explosion in the universe to the first human to time-travel; from the longest fall through space to the shortest life-form that ever lived, the book will answer all your burning questions about the last of the Time Lords and his adventures through time and space. Packed with captivating high res images featuring behind-the-scenes action, facts, and figures, this book is the ultimate must-have for Doctor Who fans.

If a photo is worth 1,000 words, we share 2,000 works with you. Enjoy!

From “DOCTOR WHO: THE BOOK OF WHONIVERSAL RECORDS”
From “DOCTOR WHO: THE BOOK OF WHONIVERSAL RECORDS”

Looking for a “toxic” flick? “Accident Man’ is no accident, man

It’s no accident that we stumbled across some great news, especially since we are fans of the underground British comic Toxic! (It was a weekly comic published by Apocalypse Ltd. from March 28, 199 to October 24, 1991, a total of 31 issues. What’s a die-hard fan to do?
Watch the movie. , A deadly hit-man becomes an accidental hero in the pulse-pounding action-thriller Accident Man based on Toxic! It’s available on DVD and Digital February 6 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

This darkly humorous and stylishly violent adaptation stars Scott Adkins as Accident Man, a stone-cold killer who must face off against a rogue’s gallery of ruthless assassins in order to uncover the truth about his ex-girlfriend’s murder. Co-starring Ashley Greene, David Paymer and action fan favorites Ray Park, Ray Stevenson and Michael Jai White, Accident Man hits its target with a lethally entertaining combination of explosive fight scenes and hilarious moments.

Killer bonus features include audio commentary with star/producer/co-writer Scott Adkins and co-writer Stu Small and two making-of featurettes. In “Assassin’s Roll Call,” meet the crew of assassins that make it their mission to make their kills look like accidents and hear from director Jesse V. Johnson, Scott Adkins and the cast on how they made every fight look like a work of art in “Violent Ballet: Filming the Fights.”

“Heat and Dust” is given a new 4K digital restoration by Cohen Film Collection

Cohen Film Collection starts the New Year off with another gem: Merchant Ivory Productions’ modern classic Heat and Dust, now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms. The 1983 multi-generational drama—about the clash between modern-day India and its past Raj era of British rule, and starring Julie Christie and Greta Scacchi—has received a striking new 4K digital restoration.

Merchant Ivory’s magnificent film moves effortlessly between the vibrant world of modern India and the magnificent splendors of the Raj. Cross-cutting between two generations, the acclaimed film by the longtime team of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is a sprawling epic of self-discovery and a lush evocation of the prismatic and sensuous beauty of India.
As she searches for answers to the mystery surrounding a long-ago affair between her aunt Olivia (portrayed by Greta Scacchi) and an Indian prince (Shashi Kapoor), Anne (Julie Christie) becomes immersed in the local culture, the pull of the past simultaneously leading her into a clearer view of her own future. Jhabvala adapted her own novel to great effect, and Richard Robbins created the haunting score. The film earned the Merchant Ivory team nine BAFTA nominations and a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes for director Ivory.
Cohen Film Collection has given Heat and Dust lavish treatment on disc. The two-disc DVD includes a feature-length audio commentary track; the film’s original trailer as well as its 2017 re-release trailer; and the the rarely shown 1975 Merchant Ivory film Autobiography of a Princess, starring James Mason.
The two-disc Blu-ray includes all of the above plus an interview with producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, composer Richard Robbins, and cast members Greta Scacchi and Nickolas Grace; the featurette Remember Heat and Dust; a new conversation between Ivory and filmmaker Chris Terrio; and a new on-stage Q&A with co-star Madhur Jaffrey.

 

The naked truth: Two Joseph W. Sarno soft-porn gems have cum out. Bravo!

For those who need a bit on enlightening when it comes to director and screenwriter Joseph W. Sarno, known as the “Ingmar Bergman of Porn” and the “Chekov of Soft-Core”, we offer some bare facts, a dose of the naked truth. Sarno’s early black and white films are praised for their chiaroscuro lighting and their complex psycho-sexual plots, but it was his more explicit art-house film, Inga, shot in Sweden in 1968, that brought him international attention.  Never a fan of explicit triple-X filmmaking, Sarno continued to write and direct adult films through the ’70s and ’80s, often working under a pseudonym or offering his director’s credit to the film’s female lead.

Film Movement Classics has partnered with Film Media and Something Weird to release new HD restorations of two Sarno classics on Blu-ray for the first time: All the Season of Sodom and Vibrations.
For years, only poorly-preserved prints were available for retrospective screenings; now, cinema aficionados will be able to screen Sarno’s classics, restored to a pristine state for optimal viewing. (New 2K theatrical masters were created for each film.) Packaged together, this exclusive collection, also featuring specially-produced extras such as an interview with Sarno himself and audio commentary, will be available on Blu-ray. Other special features include commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas and Joe’s wife, Peggy Steffans-Sarno and a booklet featuring liner notes from Lucas.
Shot back-to-back with Vibrations in 1968, All the Sings of Sodom has the sexploitation auteur at the top of his game in this penetrating study of ambition, romance and lust set inside the world of fashion photography.  Encouraged by his agent, Henning, a struggling New York City photographer, begins a daring portfolio of his model, Leslie.  But all too soon, jealousies erupt when another model vies for his camera and bed in this elegantly filmed time capsule of late ’60s New York.

In Vibrations, aspiring writer Barbara moves to Manhattan to jump-start her career and sex life, but ends up typing manuscripts.  Alone at night, she listens to the sound of her sexy neighbor as she entertains herself and her friends with the aid of her vibrator.  When her extroverted sister, Julie, comes to town, Barbara is forced to confront her repressed sexual desires.

Bob Dylan once called Chuck Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” Take a listen to this VIP vinyl box set

In the heavens of rock ‘n’ roll’s first-generation creators, no artist looms larger than Chuck Berry. Bob Dylan once called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” John Lennon stated, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'” Keith Richards: “Chuck Berry is the gentleman who started it all.”

In a consistently innovative recording career that spanned more than 60 years, the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist, who passed away on March 18, 2017, laid much of the groundwork for modern rock ‘n roll, while creating some of rock’s most distinctive and enduring anthems, from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” to “Reelin and Rockin’,”.

Geffen/UMe pays tribute to the immortal spirit of Berry with the ultimate vinyl version of his landmark greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight, as it celebrates its 35th anniversary, with The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition. The album will be released as a limited edition five-disc box set on Chess Blue vinyl, limited to only 500 copies worldwide and available exclusively via UDiscoverMusic.com. A wide release standard black vinyl edition will be available next year on January 26, 2018.

Housed in a textured box, the Super Deluxe Edition will complement the original two-LP, 28-song compilation with an additional LP, More Great Chuck Berry, containing 14 more hits, rarities and B-sides missing from the original, as well as a rare live album, Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit, available on vinyl for the first time. The collection will also include a newly created bonus ten-inch EP Berry Christmas, featuring four holiday-themed classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl, with one song on vinyl for the first time as well. Pre-order The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition now: https://lnk.to/Great28SDE

Berry’s classic recordings for Chicago’s seminal Chess label have been extensively anthologized in the CD era. But for many Berry devotees, the two-LP vinyl collection The Great Twenty-Eight remains both a sentimental favorite and a definitive document of Berry’s musical genius. It’s no wonder that The Great Twenty-Eight was ranked number 21 on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” the highest-ranking hits compilation on that list. For those interested in the original 28-track edition of The Great Twenty-Eight, it is now back in print in its original two-LP format for the first time since its initial release in 1982. Order The Great Twenty-Eight here: https://UMe.lnk.to/Great282LP

The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition also includes a handsome 12″ x 12″ book featuring a special introductory essay by Keith Richards, a new essay by best-selling author and SiriusXM host Alan Light, complementing Michael Lydon’s liner notes from the original version of The Great Twenty-Eight, and reminiscences from DJ Lee Alan, plus complete U.S. single, album and EP discographies. The text is enhanced by reproductions of Berry’s original LP cover art and rarely-seen photographs.

A survey of Berry’s first decade of recording on Chess, the original The Great Twenty-Eight contains 21 singles along with six of their b-sides and one album track from Chuck Berry in London. Of those singles, eleven were top ten hits on the Billboard R&B singles chart and ten were Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. During his Chess years, Berry created a massive—and massively influential—body of work that includes countless beloved classics, from “Maybellene” to “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Johnny B. Goode” to “Memphis, Tennessee” and beyond. Indeed, Berry’s music is so deeply ingrained into our culture that NASA launched “Johnny B. Goode” into outer space on the Voyager spacecraft as a representation of the sounds of the human race for the benefit of our cosmic neighbors. All of these songs are included on The Great Twenty-Eight, which also includes the ubiquitous hits “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “No Particular Place To Go” and many others that have become part of the collective consciousness.

More Great Chuck Berry comprises 14 classic Berry tunes not included on The Great Twenty-Eight, including the sultry, simmering number “Wee Wee Hours,” the original flip side of “Maybellene”; “My Ding-A-Ling,” Berry’s only No. 1 pop single; “Too Pooped To Pop (Casey),” the top 20 R&B A-side of “Let It Rock”; the Top 10 R&B hit “No Money Down”; the celebratory “Promised Land”; and the rollicking “You Never Can Tell,” which earned cinematic immortality as the accompaniment to John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s twist in the film Pulp Fiction.

Oh Yeah!: Live In Detroit is a thrilling, rare concert performance from October 1963, celebrating Berry’s return to the stage after a break from performing. With support from local DJ and TV host Lee Alan, Berry, backed by Motown’s Funk Brothers rhythm section and horn players, recorded the live album during a series of performances at Detroit’s Walled Lake Casino.

Returning to the spotlight after a year-and-a-half brought out an energy and intensity in Berry that can be heard clearly in this historic 12-song set, which launches with “Guitar Boogie”and includes “Let It Rock, “Too Much Monkey Business (available for the first time in the U.S.),” “Johnny B. Goode,” Sweet Little Sixteen” and a lengthy, edge-of-chaos medley, as Berry feeds off an audience that sings along with nearly every track. Throughout the show, Berry tells jokes that slyly address racial tensions. But the record was scrapped at the time and has been previously only available as part of a limited-edition CD set; this marks its first time on vinyl, and as any kind of standalone release.

The bonus EP Berry Christmas collects together four Christmas classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl. The 10-inch disc features Berry’s chestnuts, “Run Rudolph Run” and “Merry Christmas Baby” along with “Christmas” and “Spending Christmas,” the latter making its vinyl debut as it was previously available only in a limited-edition CD box set.

And if those testimonials aren’t convincing enough, one listen to The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition will make the case for Chuck Berry’s singular, timeless rock ‘n’ roll brilliance.

 

Lou Reed and his velvet underground are (gulp!) 50 years old. For the record: Verve/UMe celebrate

To celebrate the Velvet Underground’s 50th anniversary, Verve Records/UMe is releasing The Velvet Underground, a limited-edition career-spanning box that collects all four of the pioneering band’s studio albums, Velvets collaborator Nico’s debut LP, Chelsea Girl, and a reconstruction of the fabled “lost” 1969 album, making it available on vinyl for the first time. The six albums housed in a special black slipcase will be pressed on 180-gram black vinyl and feature stereo mixes and meticulously reproduced original cover art. The box will also include an exclusive 48-page booklet, featuring vintage photos, lyrics and a new foreword penned by founding member Maureen “Moe” Tucker. Limited to 1,000 copies worldwide, the box set, which will be released February 23, is available for pre-order now exclusively at uDiscover: https://UMe.lnk.to/TVULPBox

Assembled by Grammy-winning reissue producer Bill Levenson, The Velvet Underground incorporates six classic records from the band’s vintage heyday including 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, their landmark debut, produced by the band’s mentor Andy Warhol and includes such Velvets classics as “Sunday Morning,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin;” Nico’s 1967 full-length solo debut Chelsea Girl, featuring songwriting and instrumental contributions from Velvets members Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison as well as a young Jackson Browne; 1968’s explosive White Light/White Heat, the group’s final album with co-founder Cale; 1969’s relatively restrained, introspective The Velvet Underground;and 1970’s Loaded, which was the band’s commercial breakthrough as well as its final studio album, with such beloved Reed anthems as “Sweet Jane” and “Rock & Roll.”

Wild side: Lou Reed pictured with singer-songwriter Garland Jeffries in New York, 1977
Reed: Always walking on the wild side, here in 1977 with Garland Jeffries

To honor the band’s half a century legacy, Levenson has loving recreated the Velvet Underground’s much-mythologized “lost” album, 1969, specially for this set. Nearly 50 years later, much remains unclear about these mysterious recordings. While there’s been reports that the album was intended to be the band’s fourth record only to be rejected by MGM, it’s also possible they were scrapped by the band or possibly shelved by them for being ahead of its time. Whatever the real story is, these songs, recorded just after their lauded self-titled album, which include many gems like “Foggy Notion,” “Ride Into The Sun,” and “I Can’t Stand It,” help to tell the band’s enigmatic story and shine a light on their creative restlessness and rapid evolution.

Image result for lou reed
Lou and David Bowie, as they once were, so many decades ago

For this new vinyl recreation, Levenson has assembled the album using 1969 and 2014 mixes. Although these recordings have been previously released, they’ve never been represented on vinyl in this expansive 2LP format. Side four of the second LP is rounded out with bonus tracks recorded in 1968 including “Hey Mr. Rain” and “Stephanie Says.”

The Velvet Underground’s gritty, fearless creative vision remains unique and unmatched. Although the band met with little commercial acceptance during its existence, the seminal New York foursome of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker, along with Doug Yule, is now considered one of most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the ‘60s for punk, alternative, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, post-punk and shoegaze. The Velvets’ revolutionary body of work stands as a one of rock’s most distinctive catalogs and today their influence looms larger than ever.

“A Dog and Pony Show” is the cat’s Meow, a funny, funny film now on DVD

Listen up! The phrase “a dog and pony show” originated in 19th-century America as a term for small traveling circuses that toured through rural areas.
That was then.
Now there’s A Dog and Pony Show (Lionsgate), an uproarious family comedy that tells the story of Dede, a famous performing circus dog who gets left behind when her show leaves town. She’s discovered by Billy, a lonely city kid who’s just moved to a ranch nearby. Billy decides to adopt the vain and arrogant dog, but will she get along with the farm’s eccentric critters, including a sleep-deprived rooster, a gassy cow and a hypochondriac horse? And can Dede outwit the bumbling thieves from a rival circus who are plotting to kidnap the priceless pooch? How fast can you say f-u-n?

Starring Mae Whitman, Ralph Macchio and Mira Sorvino, this charming tale of two best friends–a circus dog and a pony–is filled with valuable life lessons guaranteed to make you sit, stay, roll over– and laugh, often and loudly..

A trio of PBS Distribution DVDs that Start the New Year Off with Must-See Moments

Titles we have seen and will see again:

Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World
Luther stepped onto the world stage exactly 500 years ago last fall, as he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The printing and distribution of the Theses—and other crowd-pleasing critiques of the powerful—quickly made him the most famous person in Europe.

Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World follows this thread, and others, to offer an engaging look at the dramatic moments that shaped Luther’s life: the massive lightning storm that nearly killed him, the bleak self-punishment of his time in the monastery, the corruption that unleashed his anger, his trial before the most powerful man in Europe, and the staged kidnapping that helped him escape the death penalty.
Padraic Delaney stars as Luther. In a quest for authenticity, every word of Luther’s dialogue in the film was taken verbatim from his actual writings and speeches. Similarly, dozens of historians were interviewed, with a careful eye to ensure that all sides of the story are represented.

Mindfulness Goes Mainstream
Mindfulness meditation has gone beyond mainstream into the most unlikely places—from British Parliament to the Marine Corps to Fortune 100 boardrooms—fueled by scientific evidence that confirms its benefits and positive impact on health and well-being. No longer limited to Eastern philosophers or California hippies, mindfulness is now embraced by millions of ordinary people trying to survive in a totally stressed out world.

More than 1,500 studies have now been published citing how meditation lowers stress, improves heart and lung functionality and dramatically enhances focus and performance. Steve Jobs credited his daily meditation practice with the ability to clear his mind in order to access intuitions that led to the creation of Apple products. Tina Turner attributes meditation as the key to turning her life around. And when the coach and most of the players on the Seattle Seahawks are meditating regularly, we have crossed a tipping point.
And the best news of all is that we don’t need to sit on the sidelines and view mindfulness meditation as a spectator sport. Anyone can do it with remarkable results. In the midst of the busyness and chaos of our lives, bombarded by 24/7 news, we long to find a way to remain calm, balanced, centered and effective. Meditation, one of the oldest methods for cultivating inner calm and stability, has now been proven by modern science to have a positive impact on our health and quality of life.
Mindfulness Goes Mainstream explores mindfulness through the voices of some of the very best teachers, business leaders and experts in the field, focusing on areas where mindfulness has proven to have significant benefits, including stress, anxiety and depression; pain, cravings and mindful eating; focus and performance, and compassion and empathy.

Frontline: Mosul
The program is an extraordinary inside look at the brutal battle to drive ISIS out of Iraq’s second largest city, which some military commanders have described as the deadliest urban combat since World War II.  The people of Mosul endured the repressive rule of ISIS for more than two years. This is the story of the men who fought back–and defeated the Islamic State in their heartland. Filmed on the ground by director Olivier Sarbil over the course of the entire nine-month fight, the program is a stunning look at the high cost of the Iraqi Army’s victory over ISIS in the city—large parts of which have been destroyed, with hundreds of thousands of civilians still displaced.

A qualifier for this year’s Documentary Short Subject Academy Awards following its theatrical release in Los Angeles this past summer, this vivid documentary follows the experiences of four young soldiers in a team of Iraqi Special Forces tasked with leading the fight to drive ISIS out of Mosul as the terror group held civilians captive there.

Luca D’Andrea’s literary debut, “Beneath the Mountain,” is a page-turning marvel!

A new year. A new year filled with great must-read, must-own books.

We’ll start with Beneath the Mountain (Harper, $16.99), a propulsive, psychological thriller that’s perfect to read by the fire with a glass of red wine. The book is the completely engrossing and deeply atmospheric debut from Luca D’Andrea . . .  an exhilarating story of dangerous obsessions, writerly ambitions and small-town secrets, set against an eerie Italian landscape. 

Che meraviglia!

We refuse to give away too much of the brilliant plot. But we will tell you this: New York City native Jeremiah Salinger is one half of a hot-shot documentary team when, fresh off the success of the most recent season of his hit reality show, he leaves that life behind to move with his family to the remote Italian village where his wife grew up. Nestled in the Dolomites, the small town of Siebenhoch is part of the Alto Adige, a breathtaking region with a lingering Austrian identity, an ancient dialect and a clear distaste for outsiders. Seeking inspiration, he wanders the streets only to overhear a conversation that gives his life renewed focus. In 1985, three students were brutally murdered but their killer was never found.  Salinger is sure this horrific crime has the makings of a great story and immerses himself in the case that has haunted a community for decades. Little does he know, the secrets he uncovers may threaten his sanity . . . 

Critics and readers are drawing worthy comparisons to Stephen King’s classic horror novels and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series,. Yep. It’s true. Yet it’s all itself, a  this page-turner will transport you to the snowy Italian mountains and leave you breathless with its quiet power.