All posts by alanwp

“Fortitude Season 2” returns to the Arctic. For more chills. And thrills.

Remember the parasite threat from season one of Fortitude? It is gone, but the residents are still fleeing the Arctic town in droves. Cut off from the mainland, those who remain in Fortitude battle on. However, in the wilderness, nature is growing restless and unpredictable. When the sky turns red, locals fear it is a bad omen for the town.

Welcome to Public Media Distribution’s Fortitude Season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD. The new series sees Dennis Quaid, Ken Stott Parminder Nagra, Robert Sheehan and Michelle Fairley join its stellar international cast.

Having disappeared after shooting Elena, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) is presumed dead. Vincent (Luke Treadaway) remains traumatized by his attack and Hildur (Sofie Grabol) struggles to hold on to her marriage, and her office. Eric (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) fails to step into Dan’s shoes, leaving Ingrid and Petra to police a fragile community. New faces are pulled into Fortitude’s vortex, including Ingrid’s stepfather Michael (Quaid). A fisherman, he is desperate to raise funds to buy treatment for his dying wife, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

At the research center, ambitious newcomer Dr. Surinder Khatri (Nagra) spots an opportunity that encourages her to push both medical and ethical boundaries. Then, a horrendous death rocks Fortitude. What looks like a careless accident involving a snowplow turns out to be a barbaric murder. As the police team investigate, a strange new figure appears hell-bent on destroying an evil spirit he believes has descended upon Fortitude and its inhabitants. There’s a demon amongst the herd and it has to be stopped, no matter what the consequences . . .

Corneliu Porumboiu’s “The Treasure” is a madcap treasure

In the mood for a madcap comedy, “an ingeniously intricate goofball comedy that evokes heroes of legend while bringing sociological abstractions to mucky life”, as New Yorker scribe Richard Brody calls it? Look no further than The Treasure (IFC), coming to DVD on September 19.
The Cannes prize-winning charmer from acclaimed director Corneliu Porumboiu spotlights a hunt for buried treasure that sends two men on a surprising comic caper. Costi (portrayed by Cuzin Toma) is a workaday family man whose cash-strapped next-door neighbor (Adrian Purcarescu) makes him an intriguing proposition: Help him find the fortune reportedly buried somewhere on the grounds of his family’s country home and split the profits. But as the two men dig, they unearth more than they bargained for, excavating not only dirt, but traces of Romania’s often tumultuous history. Part modern-day fable, part profound social commentary, The Treasure confirms Porumboiu’s status as second scribe (Scott Foundas of Variety) gushes that the director is “one of our great contemporary observers of the human comedy”

MHz Choices makes big (ger) news four days before my birthday

My birthday (September 17) is big news, but four days before, September 13,  MHz Networks makes small-screen history when they premiere 1864 on its streaming service MHz Choice. This Danish drama of love in the time of war, reaches across eras to connect individual lives, confront a nation’s trauma, and examine the events of an epic war that formed the self-image of Denmark. Internationally renowned “Danish New Wave” director Ole Bornedal, read the letters of the soldiers to create a factual fairy tale.

Shot as a feature film and available as eight episodes, this sweeping drama reflects Borndal’s renowned mix of stylistic experimentation with engrossing stories, as seen in his thriller Nattevagten (1994), which screened at the Cannes, Toronto and Sundance film festivals; the American remake of Nightwatch; I am Dina, winner at the Montreal Film Festival; Just Another Love Story; The Substitute and Deliver Us From Evil, all winners of international prizes and acclaim. Bornedal also directed the top American horror film of 2012, The Possession, and co-produced Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic.

Bornedal has gathered the top acting talent of the current golden era of Denmark’s film and television, such as Sidse Babett Knudson, seen in the hit television series Borgen and Westworld, who delivers an unforgettable performance alongside her Borgen costar Pilou Asbæk, also known for Game of Thrones and The Borgias.
A TALE IN TWO ERAS 

1864 
Following victories over the Prussian Empire in the war of 1848-51, Denmark is emboldened and begins scheming to annex Schleswig into the Danish Kingdom. Armed with nationalist furor, the leader of the Parliament dismisses the country’s European treaties and throws Denmark into war with Prussia. Amid escalating conflict, two peasant brothers grow up and fall in love, both with the same well-read and beautiful woman. When the war erupts, these two young men volunteer for service, setting the stage for a sweeping drama.

Pilou Asbæk (Borgen, Game of Thrones) and Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen, Westworld) star in 1864

2014 
Meanwhile, in 2014, a young girl suffers the loss of her brother to the war in Afghanistan. Depressed and despairing, she takes a position as aide to an aging Baron, who happens to reside in the same countryside inhabited by the brothers in 1864. Here, she discovers a diary and encounters the extraordinary love triangle. She becomes an eyewitness to history, powerfully connected to the brothers—and thousands of Danish soldiers—who fought one of the nation’s bloodiest battles, a slaughterhouse that changed Denmark forever.

Kenneth Mader’s award-winning sci-fi thriller “Displacement” comes to DVD

Have you ever wanted a second chance? To give someone a gift you weren’t able to give? Tell them you loved them one last time? These are the questions at the heart of Chicago native writer/director Kenneth Mader’s award-winning sci-fi thriller Displacement (All Channel Films), a character-driven time travel story that explores themes of love and loss, the power of forgiveness, and the consequences of turning back the clock.

The flick stars Courtney Hope, Bruce Davison, Susan Blakely, Sarah Douglas, Lou Richards and Christopher Backus.

CourtneyHope3

“The response to the film in theatrical, digital and festival release around the country has been great,” says Mader, “and I’m thrilled to be able to bring it to DVD fans nationwide.”

Grieving over the death of her mother (Blakely) to cancer, Cassie must find a way to reverse the anomaly and solve the mystery of Brian’s death, all while avoiding a shadowy group that is dogging her every move, sending Cassie on a journey that will shake her very core, setting off a chain of events that brings her to the brink of complete emotional and physical collapse.

BruceDavison1

In order to untangle the anomaly, Cassie seeks counsel from her old physics professor (Davison), encounters her estranged physicist father (Richards) and finds herself being repeatedly interrogated by the mysterious Dr. Miles (Douglas) all of which reveal clues that lead her further down a path toward discovery and potential redemption. But at how steep a price?

“The Very Best of Diana Krall” reminds us just how brilliant she is

Verve Records/UMe are celebrating the legacy of the incomparable multi-platinum Grammy-winning singer and pianist Diana Krall by releasing The Very Best of Diana Krall on vinyl for the first time in the U.S., as the greatest hits collection nears its 10th anniversary. The album is available as a two-LP set on audiophile-favorite 180-gram vinyl and follows last year’s release of eight essential Diana Krall albums on vinyl as part of Verve’s 60th anniversary celebration.

Covering the years 1996-2006, this 15-track collection compiled by Krall in collaboration with her longtime producer, the late Tommy LiPuma, features highlights from her first decade as a recording artist, during which time the Grammy winning singer/pianist’s expressive vocals and delicate, soulful piano work gained her international stardom.

Krall has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, making the Berklee College of Music graduate one of the best-selling jazz artists of all time. The Very Best on vinyl arrives as Krall celebrates the May release of her acclaimed new album, Turn Up the Quiet, and current tour that will last more than two years, and take her around the world.

The selections on The Very Best range from intimate trio work to pieces recorded live with a full symphony orchestra. Krall delivers some deeply personal moments and reimagines timeless vintage standards by some of her favorite composers as George and Ira Gershwin; Cole Porter; Irving Berlin; Rodgers and Hart; Van Heusen and Cahn; and Bacharach and David.

Overflowing with career highlights, the album includes several tracks from Krall’s towering 1999 international breakthrough,When I Look in Your Eyes: her mesmerizing interpretations of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” and “Pick Yourself Up.” That album, her Verve Records debut, was nominated for Album of the Year at the 42 Annual Grammy Awards, the first time in 25 years a jazz singer was nominated in that major category. It won for Best Jazz Vocal and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical).

Throughout the album, Krall’s artistry is highlighted on the Gershwin standard “’S Wonderful” and the Bacharach and David-penned title track from her 2001 Grammy-winning album, The Look of Love.  This album put her atop her native Canada’s all-genre albums chart for the first time and gave her the Artist and Album of the Year trophies at the Juno Awards in her home country.

The collection is also notable for Krall’s imaginative take on Tom Waits’ “The Heart of Saturday Night” and the dark and seductive “You Go to My Head” taken from The Look of Love sessions, both previously unreleased. It also features beautiful live renditions of “East of the Sun (West of the Moon)” and “Fly Me To The Moon,” recorded with a symphony orchestra at Krall’s sold-out concerts at Paris’ Olympia Theatre for her remarkable live album, Live In Paris.

Included on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums of the Decade list, The Very Best of Diana Krall is both the perfect sampler for the new listener and a reminder for her most passionate fans all the reasons Diana Krall is regarded as one of the greatest Jazz artists of her time.

 

Save the date: “Endeavour Season 4” hits shelves September 5 

It’s the summer of 1967, and the effects of the Cold War and ’60s counterculture are being felt in Oxford. It has barely been two weeks since the events depicted in the season three finale, and we find Oxford’s finest picking up the pieces of their personal and professional lives. Endeavour waits to hear the result of his Sergeant’s Exam, and self-medicates to numb his heartache over Joan, but whisky and Tännhauser will only get a man so far. Meanwhile, Thursday and Win deal with their own sense of grief. Their home is empty, Sam gone to the Army and Joan . . . who knows where?

Welcome to Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour Season 4 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on September 5. The program will also be available for digital download. Save the date!

A description of each of the episodes from Season 4 is listed below.

Game
Endeavour, struggling with Joan Thursday’s sudden departure, finds himself consumed by a nightmarish hunt for a serial killer. He must race against time to find the connection between a chess-playing “thinking” machine and a baffling drowning.

Canticle
When morality advocate Joy Pettybon receives a death threat, Endeavour must protect her at all costs. But the arrival of a rebellious band, The Wildwood, quickly drags Endeavour into a bloody war of social attitudes that just had its first fatality.

Lazaretto
Whispers of a cursed ward at the local hospital and a seemingly innocuous death begin a chain of events that leads Endeavour to investigate the dark depths of the hospital, its staff and its patients. Meanwhile, he is forced to confront his own ghosts as he discovers a chilling secret.

Harvest
The extraordinary discovery of a 2,000-year-old body reveals a new lead in a missing person case. Endeavour and Thursday must investigate the eerie village of Bramford, where nature is pitted against man and pagan rites hide nuclear mysteries.

 

Scarlett Johansson comes out of her shell for Manga mavens

Remember the controversy? The first photo of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the film Ghost in the Shell [below] was released and fans and fanatics cried that the casting of the live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga series was “another Hollywood whitewashing incident.”
Ghost In The Shell Scarlett Johansson

Steve Paul, one of the flick’s producers left his shell and  promised “everybody is going to end up being really happy with it,  when they see what we’ve actually done with it. I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed.”

You decide now that Ghost in the Shell is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray Combo Packs from Paranount Home Entertainment.

Manga maniacs know the story: Major (Johansson), who believes she was rescued from near death. The first of her kind, Major is a human mind inside an artificial body designed to fight the war against cyber-crime. While investigating a dangerous criminal, Major makes a shocking discovery . . .  the corporation that created her lied about her past life in order to control her. Unsure what to

believe, Major will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery of her true identity and exact revenge.
Says Scarlett: “I think when you have a character that’s so beloved, people have a lot of opinions about these characters that they love and grew up with and are inspired by and so forth. I try to kind of clean the slate and really follow my instincts with the character and hope that I give the character as much integrity as people expect,. Bringing these pages to life is a kind of challenge. Because you can’t rip it off the page, it’s totally different. You’re playing it as a–it’s not really a person, but it’s a human brain, it’s someone who’s having this life experience. Which is very different from just ripping stuff off from the manga.”

Remember the Bay City Rollers? Read about their world of sexual depravity and drug use!

If you still like the Bay City Rollers, you can keep on dancing. Yet did you know their story is one of the greatest scandals of the music industry? Turn to When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers (Overlook Press, $30) in which biographer Simon Spence offers up a rigorously investigated and unflinching exposé of the sinister undercurrents and dark truths behind “Rollermania”—the hysterical adulation for the Bay City Rollers that spread throughout the U.K., U.S., and around the world during the ’70s.  (They came up with their names by throwing a dart at a map of the United States, which landed near Bay City, Michigan.)

With the release of their debut album Rollin’ and the No. 1 Billboard 100 smash hit “Saturday Night,” the Bay City Rollers quickly went from average Scottish teenagers to international heartthrobs. Everywhere the band went mountains of screaming girls, calling themselves the Tartan Horde, followed. The band’s skyrocket to fame led by Tam Paton, one of pop music’s most notorious managers, was one for which they were wholly unprepared.

Paton, their Svengali bandleader, controlled his charges and promoted them as clean-living, wholesome teens. What the world did not know was that behind this happy facade the band was continuously subjected to various forms of mental and sexual abuse. In Paton, the industry cliché of the manipulative and venal pop manager found its most grotesque expression. Dazzled by sudden global fame and corrupted by Paton’s unquenchable sexual appetites, the Bay City Rollers soon fell into his world of depravity, victimhood, crime and psychosis. Band members became hooked on drugs, and their fall was almost as rapid as their rise, leaving them penniless and emotionally destroyed. Three years after they fired Paton in 1979 he was finally imprisoned, convicted of gross indecency with the teenage band members. The band then spent a decade in litigation with Sony Records over the millions of dollars never paid to them under Paton’s management.  

That such gross exploitation could have happened to one of the world’s most famous boy bands is a brutal reminder that conspiracies of silence about sexual exploitation were once the norm in the music and entertainment business. When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers is a no-holds-barred exposé of sex, drugs, and financial mismanagement. Based on more than 500 hours of interviews with many of the Bay City Rollers’s closest associates, including former band members, Spence’s look into this chilling scandal is an essential read for those interested in the inner-workings of the pop music industry.

The acclaimed “Heal the Living” comes to Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group

Following a successful and acclaimed U.S. theatrical release, Cohen Media Group will release Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms on August 29, 2017.

Director and co-writer Quillévéré’s film, adapted from the Booker Prize-longlisted novel by Maylis de Kerangal, is an elegant and moving drama about families brought together by shocking news. Quillévéré carefully weaves together three seemingly unrelated stories: a French teenager and his friends on a surfing road trip that leads to tragedy; a woman in another town who learns that her weak heart is beginning to fail and action must be taken; and two teams of doctors and medical experts who struggle through their day-to-day attempts to save lives.
These plot threads are tied together in unexpected ways, creating an emotionally intense drama involving estranged parents, family secrets and a tragic accident. Ultimately, Heal the Living is an impassioned story of personal connections that philosophically, spiritually and literally plumbs the depths of the human heart.
Emmanuelle Seigner, Tahar Rahim, Anne Dorval  and screen newcomer Gabin Verdet star in this moving and eloquent film.
The film was an Official Selection at the Venice Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. It has received widespread praise, both for its stylistic innovation and its emotional power.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD include an interview with director Katell Quillévéré.

 

Visit Cuba without needing a passport with “Weekend in Havana”

Travel with Geoffrey Baer to explore the heart of Cuba’s magical capital city, now open to Americans after more than 50 years. Three young locals—architect and restorationist Daniel de la Regata; Irene Rodriguez, one of Cuba’s top flamenco dancers; and Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca—serve as enthusiastic guides, allowing viewers to experience this vibrant and historic place through the eyes of those who love it and call it home.

Welcome to Weekend in Havana.

Geoffrey, host of the PBS series 10 That Changed America about game-changing buildings, homes, parks, and towns as well as more than 20 specials on Chicago history and architecture, takes to the streets of Havana with his guides and new fast friends, Daniel, Irene and Roberto.

After meeting up at a café in Cathedral Plaza in Old Havana, he is given a whirlwind tour of Cuba’s fascinating and colorful history, a hands-on introduction to Afro-Cuban music and dance, a primer on Havana’s varied architecture and efforts being made to restore many of the city’s ruins, and an inside look at how everyday Cubans live in this “old city trying to find its place in the modern world,” a land off-limits to Americans for decades.

Guided by his new friends, Geoffrey witnesses the nightly firing of the cannon at the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana; visits Plaza de Armas, the city’s first public square; rides in a ’50s-era red Chevrolet on a journey through Havana’s breathtaking but sometimes crumbling architecture; and meets an auto mechanic charged with keeping many of Havana’s vintage automobiles in running order. He also takes a wild ride in a “coco taxi,” a small yellow vehicle sans seatbelts that looks like a coconut, and gets an overview of the vivid local arts scene, which includes street musicians along El Malecón’s crowded sea wall. He dines in one of the city’s many paladars (intimate family restaurants in what were once private homes), and hobnobs with the fashionable young crowd at La Fabrica, a series of art galleries, bars and performance spaces located in an old factory.

Geoffrey also visits a ruined sugar plantation where African slaves once toiled and takes part in a present-day Santeria ritual in a private home. From Roberto and his band, Geoffrey gets a quick tutorial on Afro-Cuban percussion at the famous Studio Areito, one of the oldest surviving recording studios in the world. After a visit to the U.S. Embassy, Geoffrey watches young athletes taking part in America’s and Cuba’s joint national pastime, baseball, unearths some reminders of the turbulent Cuban Revolution era, and is granted rare access to one of Havana’s most important restoration projects: El Capitolio, Cuba’s Capitol building, modeled after the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. He also imbibes at one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering holes and boats out to the small fishing village of Cojimar, the setting for The Old Man and the Sea, and visits Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula.

Geoffrey checks out the glitzy floorshow at the Tropicana nightclub, and ends his journey at La Guarida’s rooftop piano bar, perched atop a crumbling mansion. With Roberto’s band playing in the background, he reflects on the new understanding he has gained of Havana.