We gotta admit we love Jon Lovitz. Even his name is funny . . . don’t you think? Lovitz has lent his distinct voice to a most adorable flick, Agent Toby Barks.
Is America’s greatest super-spy living in your backyard? Bret and Kate don’t think so—until they learn that their beloved pet dog Toby (voiced by Lovitz) is a secret agent working for the U.S. government!
In this hilarious, thrilling family adventure starring that super man Dean Cain, two teen kids must join forces with their talking, fighting, computer-hacking pooch to rescue their beloved Auntie B—who’s also a spy—from a mad villain who wants to use B’s crazy inventions to rule the world.
We always hope a New Year promises happiness, good health, safety and weight loss.
We always know a New Year brings oodles of great new films and shows and specials and programs . . . especially from the King of TV, PBS.
We share the great ones for the month of January.
FRONTLINE Fire in Paradise
A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who’s to blame and why was it so catastrophic? With accounts from survivors and first responders, the inside story of the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change.
In the Age of AI
It’s been called “The New Space Race.” This time it’s China taking on the United States, and the race is to seize control of a technology with the potential to change everything — the way we work; how we play; how our democracy functions; how the world could be realigned. FRONTLINE explores some of the ways in which our world is being re-shaped and reimagined by the technology of artificial intelligence, whose development has been compared to the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity as an epochal event in human history.
The film explores both the peril and the promise of this ascendant technology — tracing the battle between the U.S. and China to harness its power; examining fears about what AI advances mean for the future of work; and revealing how AI algorithms are ushering in an age of both great problem-solving potential, and of new and troubling threats to privacy and democracy.
In the Age of AI is a powerful and telling journey into how this new technology will transform our world — and some of the ways it already has.
NATURE Okavango—River of Dreams
The Okavango River in Southern Africa is an unlikely oasis and lush paradise in the middle of a hostile desert that supports and feeds an incredible abundance of wildlife. Unlike most rivers that flow toward the shores of a nearby ocean, it instead runs inland through Botswana, creating a huge river delta before finally disappearing into the Kalahari Desert. An all-star cast of charismatic African wildlife lives and dies in the timeless drama of survival revealed in the program.
Among the one-of-a-kind footage captured includes that of a lioness injured by a buffalo and left for dead by her pride. While recovering, she must find a way to care for her two young cubs on her own. In a surprising sequence, hyena and warthog families share neighboring dens, helping each other by keeping an eye on potentially threatening predators such as lions and leopards. And in the deadliest part of the river, a leopard mother must climb trees in order to hunt from above.
Nature’s Biggest Beasts Discover the ingenious strategies that nature’s biggest beasts employ to conquer their environments, from the Komodo dragon with a deadly bite to the tallest giraffe to the bird-eating Armored ground cricket. Nature’s Biggest Beasts shows their epic surivival stories.
Being massive can have its advantages, but it brings equally immense challenges to survive. Big bodies need more fuel, more space and can attract unwanted attention.
Take the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, whose huge appetite means it must take on prey ten times its weight, or the tallest of them all, the giraffe, who with such a long neck must control immense blood pressure. From the 150-ton blue whale who can suck up four tons of krill a day, to Japan’s finger-length giant hornets that can decimate a hive of 30,000 bees to feed on their larvae, nature’s biggest beasts must go to extraordinary lengths to thrive.
Bears From the mighty grizzly bear to the endearing spectacled bear (the real-life “Paddington Bear”) and from the bamboo-eating panda to the bizarre-looking sloth bear, this remarkable animal family has long captured the human imagination.
Among the biggest land mammals on the planet, bears need a lot of resources to survive and must use all of their skills, brawn and brains to get what they need—whether they’re foraging for honeycombs or tasty plants, standing up to their rivals or raising cubs. Follow the adventures of bears across the globe as they draw on their remarkable adaptations to survive in an ever-changing world. Viewers find out what it really takes to be a bear.
NOVA Why Bridges Collapse
On a rainy August morning in 2018, a massive section of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed and killed 43 people. As emergency responders raced to rescue survivors, authorities began investigating the cause of the collapse. For 50 years, the iconic bridge had stood up to ever-increasing traffic, a testament to the strength of its pre-stressed concrete and cable stays. So what went wrong that fateful day?
Through eyewitness testimony, expert interviews, and dramatic archival footage, the program pieces together the sequence of events—and investigates what may have led to the bridge’s downfall. But the Morandi Bridge isn’t alone.
Across the United States and Europe, thousands of bridges are listed as structurally deficient. Join experts as they compare what happened to the Morandi with other deadly bridge collapses, including Minnesota’s I-35W bridge over the Mississippi and the ill-fated Silver Bridge over the Ohio River. How can new technologies and engineering improvements make bridges across the world safer and more durable than ever before?
Look Who’s Driving After years of anticipation, autonomous vehicles are now being tested on public roads around the world. Dozens of startups have sprung up alongside established auto and tech giants – which are also testing the waters—to form what many hope will be a transformative new industry.
But as innovators rush to cash in on what they see as the next high-tech pot of gold, some experts warn there are still daunting challenges to overcome—like how to train computers to make life-and-death decisions as well as humans can. NOVA peers under the hood of the autonomous vehicle industry to investigate how driverless cars work, how they may change the way we live, and whether we will ever be able to entrust them with our lives.
Rise of the Mammals The course of life on Earth changed radically on a single day 66 million years ago. Blasting our planet, an asteroid caused the extinction of three of every four kinds of living things. The impact ended the Age of Dinosaurs and launched our age, the Age of Mammals. But our understanding of the asteroid’s aftermath has been spotty. Who survived? How quickly did mammals and their habitats spring back? How did our planet recover from this global cataclysm?
Now a remarkable find—a trove of exceptionally preserved fossils from the critical first million years after the catastrophe—shines a revelatory light on what followed Earth’s darkest hour. With exclusive access, viewers see the discovery from the first thrilling moments of the initial find in 2016. Providing a rare record that combines plants, animals, and precise dates—a paleontological trifecta—the discovery paints a vivid portrait of the emergence of a brand-new world. Thanks to the vision, grit, and luck of the scientific team, we are gaining our first clear understanding of how our modern world of mammals arose from the ashes.
Dead Sea Scroll Detectives One of the greatest archaeological finds of all time—the Dead Sea Scrolls—was made by a Bedouin shepherd boy in 1947. And since the 2,000-year-old scrolls were first taken from a cave, they’ve intrigued scholars, religious leaders, and profiteers alike. These fragile parchment relics include the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. But who compiled them? And do more scrolls await discovery?
While some scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time—burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces—and remain an enigma. Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes.
American Masters Rothko: Pictures Must be Miraculous
One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko’s signature style helped define Abstract Expressionism, the movement that shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York.
American Masters—Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous is an intimate portrait of the celebrated painter whose luminous canvasses now set records at international auctions. Interviews with Rothko’s children, Kate and Christopher, as well as leading curators, art historians and conservators present a comprehensive look at the artist’s life and career, complemented by original scenes with Alfred Molina in the role of Rothko. Molina performs segments from Rothko’s writings, and the documentary features clips from the six-time Tony-winning play Red.
Some consider her a madcap maven who seems to have a perfect life: She knows how to braise a pork loin, prune her bush, befriend animals and Snoop Dogg, give up real fur, trade stocks, even once going to jail for five months at a jail whose grounds were almost as lavish as Cantitoe Corners, one of her multi-million dollar estates. This home sits on 153 acres of prime real estate in Bedford, New York; the insignia of the home, er mansion, is that of a sycamore tree.
The prolific (and very very very very very rich) 78-yearold is also an author, and we must admit her really like her latest: Martha Stewart’s Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).
The tome is just the thing for people who are cluttered and, frankly, overwhelmed by junk they refuse to toss.
Yes, we know even a cursory glance at amazon proves that there are many “how to” guides on the topic of organizing, but Martha knows the subject of bringing order to one’s life is so much more than simply discarding what doesn’t please you.
“I’m a big proponent of keeping a calendar and populating it with every task, appointment and event, big and small–down to staking the peonies, grooming my dogs, sharpening my kitchen knives, setting up my grandchildren’s sailing lessons and ordering the Thanksgiving turkey,” she coos.
The book is crammed with her own monthly calendars as templates. The calendars are easy to personalize, so anyone can achieve Martha’s level of organizational success. Through big picture advice and smaller step-by-step projects–a culmination of decades of research gathered for Martha Stewart Living, her TV shows and online videos–she helps readers craft (and stick to) a deliberate approach to organizing with clear rules, pre-set schedules and to-do lists informed by their unique lifestyles.
The manual is split into three sections (Organize Your Year, Organize Your Home, Organize Your Routine) and topics include:
Room-by-room strategies to make spaces more hardworking and rewarding (i.e. how to sort office paperwork, when to purge the garage or attic, and ways to store perishables in the fridge or freezer for maximum shelf life.)
Seasonal advice like when to swap out bedding and clothing and how to put away holiday decorations. For example, in January, Stewart sets days to establish healthy habits, review your financial plan for the year, clean your pantry, and make and freeze soups to get you through the cold winter months.
Day-by-dayor week-by-week plans for projects such as de-cluttering, house cleaning, creating a filing system and overhauling the closet.And for this, we thank Martha as we butterfly some shrimp.
Heard about the miracles and marvels that apple cider vinegar delivers? JJ Smith, certified weight loss expert, nutritionist and author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, has. And he provides an all-new and accessible cleanse to help readers lose weight and jumpstart a healthy lifestyle.
The 7-Day Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse (Simon & Schuster, $16.99) is a revolutionary detox system that taps into the time-tested benefits of apple cider vinegar to support the body’s natural detoxification process, promote fat loss, improve digestion and overall gut health and gain renewed energy and mental focus.
Included in this book are 25 specific recipes for long-term weight loss, step-by-step instructions for completing the seven day cleanse, and a catalog of all the benefits of apple cider vinegar—from acne reduction to sunburn and sore throat relief.
Nuclear war is scary stuff. And The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War (Simon & Schuster, $30) is even scarier. And we mean that only in the most enlightening way.
From Fred Kaplan, author of the classic The Wizards of Armageddon and Pulitzer Prize finalist, comes the definitive history of American policy on nuclear war—and Presidents’ actions in nuclear crises—from Truman to Trump. Kaplan, hailed by TheNew York Times as “a rare combination of defense intellectual and pugnacious reporter,” takes us into the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s “Tank” in the Pentagon and the vast chambers of Strategic Command to bring us the untold stories—based on exclusive interviews and previously classified documents—of how America’s presidents and generals have thought about, threatened, broached and just barely avoided nuclear war from the dawn of the atomic age until today.
Kaplan’s historical research and deep reporting will stand as the permanent record of politics, and Kirkus Reviews agrees, calling The Bomb a “detailed, incisive picture of how U.S. presidents have thought about their most troubling responsibility: pushing ‘the button’ that could end civilization . . . a well-written, exhaustively researched history of American leaders’ efforts to manage their nuclear arsenal. . . a comprehensive review of American nuclear policy from the Truman administration to the present.”
Discussing theories that have dominated nightmare scenarios from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kaplan presents the unthinkable in terms of mass destruction and demonstrates how the nuclear war reality will not go away, regardless of the dire consequences.
Many think that issues of transition are a recent occurrence . . . some even peg it to the news frenzy when Cher’s daughter Chastity announced she was transitioning into a man, Chaz.
Think again. Becoming a Man: The Story of Transition (Simon & Schuster, $26) explores one man’s gender transition amid a pivotal political moment in America. For 50 years, author P. Carl lived as a girl and a queer woman, building a career, a life and a loving marriage . . . yet still waiting to realize himself in full. As Carl embarks on his gender transition, he takes us inside the complex shifts and questions that arise throughout—the alternating moments of arrival and estrangement. He writes intimately about how transitioning reconfigures both his own inner experience and his closest bonds—his 20-year relationship with his wife, Lynette; his already tumultuous relationships with his parents; and seemingly solid friendships that are subtly altered, often painfully and wordlessly. Carl blends the remarkable story of his own personal journey with incisive cultural commentary, writing brilliantly about gender, power, and inequality in America.
His transition occurs amid the rise of the Trump administration and the #MeToo movement—a transition point in America’s own story, when transphobia and toxic masculinity are under fire even as they thrive in the highest halls of power. Carl’s quest to become himself and to reckon with his masculinity mirrors, in many ways, the challenge before the country as a whole, to imagine a society where every member can have a vibrant, livable life. Here, through this brave and deeply personal work, Carl brings an unparalleled new voice to this conversation.
FYI: On March 26, 2017 Carl became a man.
Florida was once much more than Goofy and the goofy scumbag who likes to pull women’s pussies.
In Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression (Simon & Schuster, $30), Christopher Knowlton takes an in-depth look at the spectacular Florida land boom of the ’20s and shows how it led directly to the Great Depression.
That decade was a time of incredible excess, immense wealth and precipitous collapse. The decade there produced the largest human migration in American history, far exceeding the settlement of the West, as millions flocked to the grand hotels and the new cities that rose rapidly from the teeming wetlands. The boom spawned a new subdivision civilization—and the most egregious large-scale assault on the environment in the name of “progress.”
Nowhere was the glitz and froth of the Roaring Twenties more excessive than in Florida. Here was Vegas before there was a Vegas: gambling was condoned and so was drinking, since prohibition was not enforced. Tycoons, crooks, and celebrities arrived en masse to promote or exploit this new and dazzling American frontier in the sunshine. Yet, the import and deep impact of these historical events have never been explored thoroughly.
Knowlton examines the grand artistic and entrepreneurial visions behind Coral Gables, Boca Raton, Miami Beach and other storied sites, as well as the darker side of the frenzy. For while giant fortunes were being made and lost and the nightlife raged more raucously than anywhere else, the pure beauty of the Everglades suffered wanton ruination and the workers, mostly black, who built and maintained the boom, endured grievous abuses. Knowlton breathes dynamic life into the forces that made and wrecked Florida during the decade: the real estate moguls Carl Fisher, George Merrick and Addison Mizner, and the once-in-a-century hurricane whose aftermath triggered the stock market crash.
This essential account is a revelatory—and riveting—history of an era that still affects our country today. We think of it as an important cautionary tale.
The dude’s name was Clairvius Narcisse. Yes, he was real man, born in 1922 and dead in 1994; check him out on Wikipedia and learn “he was a Haitian man said to have been turned into a zombie by a Haitian vodou preparation, purportedly a combination of psychoactive substances”.
Learn more with the riveting Zombi Child, opening here and there (see schedule below). Director Bertrand Bonello injects history and politics into this unconventional cross-genre film. Opening in 1962 Haiti, the horror-fantasy follows the real-life story of Narcisse (played by Mackenson Bijou), who falls dead on the street but is soon turned into a “zombi” when he is dug up from his grave and forced to work on a sugar-cane plantation.
Shifting to present-day Paris at the Légion d’honneur boarding school, rebellious teen Fanny (Louise Labèque) befriends Melissa (Wislanda Louimat), who moved to France when her parents died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After recruiting her into a secret literary sorority, Fanny learns of Melissa’s connection to Clairvius, and becomes obsessed with her new friend’s past and culture, soon doing the unthinkable: seeking out her voodoo mambo aunt to solve her recent heartbreak.
As Screen Daily says, “Mixing political commentary, ethnography, teenage melodrama and genre horror, the film is an unashamedly cerebral study of multiple themes, taking us on a journey that’s as intellectually demanding as it is compelling”.
Talk of days of the dead and the walking dead.
SELECT THEATRICAL DATES
January 31 Alamo Drafthouse (Brooklyn; weekend shows)
We always though the term “bombshell” referred to Hollywood’s stunning, ill-fated Jean Harlow.
The we caught Bombshell, the Oscar-nominated provocative (and true) story of three ambitious and strong women who risk everything to stand up to the man who made them. The flickarrives on Digital on February 25 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on March 10. This empowering drama commended by critics and audiences is nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Actress (Charlize Theron), Best Supporting Actress (Margot Robbie), and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, Vivian Baker).
Directed by two-time Emmy winner Jay Roach and written by Academy Award winner Charles Randolph, Bombshell also stars Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon and Connie Britton, with Malcolm McDowell and Allison Janney.
Explore the fascinating journey it took to bring this ripped-from-the-headlines tale to the screen with in-depth Blu-ray and DVD bonus features, including a 7-part making-of documentary featuring interviews with the incredible cast and crew.
BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
“No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell” 7-Part Documentary:
“Convergence: Genesis of the Film” Featurette
“Quid Pro Quo: Charlize, Nicole, Margot, John” Featurette
“Human Dynamics: The Ensemble Cast” Featurette
“Breaking the Fourth Wall: Visual Design” Featurette
“Layer by Layer: Makeup, Hair & Clothing” Featurette
“A Unique Skill Set: Jay Roach” Featurette
“Catalyst for Change: Parting Thoughts” Featurette
When we heard that José was named the Queer Lion winner at the 75th Annual Venice Film Festival, we knew we were in store for something special. (FYI: The Queer Lion is the trophy awarded to the “Best Movie with LGBT Themes & Queer Culture”.) Not bad for the first-ever Central America film at the prestigious festival José is a gripping, layered and beautifully honest story about one working class young man’s struggle to find himself. Made in the neorealist filmmaking tradition, the film is a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.
José (magnetic newcomer Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota) in Guatemala City, where they survive on her selling sandwiches at bus stops and with him working at a local restaurant. In this poor and sometimes dangerous country dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religion, living as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never had a husband, and as her youngest and favorite son, on the edge of manhood at 19 years old, she is determined to hold on to him.
Reserved and private, José fills his free moments playing with random hook ups arranged on his phone apps and meeting in clandestine sex houses. When he meets the attractive and gentle construction worker Luis (Manolo Herrera), however, their affair develops into a passionate romance; José then must choose between running off with Luis or remaining at home with his mom who needs him. As he is thrust into new passion and pain José is pushed into never before self-reflection. Will his reluctance to take a leap of faith lead to happiness?
Director Li Cheng and producer George F. Roberson lived in Guatemala for two years to make the film using all-Guatemalan cast and crew and all non-professional actors. Researched in the 20 largest Latin American cities, they built the José story based on interviews with hundreds of young people about their hopes and dreams. They restricted the story around answers to three key questions: Which person are you closest to in your life? What’s your most unforgettable memory? Have you been in love?
The film was researched in a dozen Latin countries, and filmed in Guatemala because of extreme homophobia and the young population; half is under age 19.
“We lived in different zones and neighborhoods,” recalls Cheng. “We’d take long walks in the city and see many dramatic, cinematic places. The first scene of José walking to work has a bus, metro station and a chicken bus station. It’s a crossroads. There’s prostitution, drug dealers, a market and it’s dangerous at night; it’s a mix of everything. It’s a big transition place. We saw these iconic places and how people are living their lives. They take two hours to go from the slums to get to the city early in the morning to make money. I wanted to create a kind of reality—where and how these characters lived their lives. We wanted to respect the people and their dignity.” José was sparked from anger and disappointment in the world situation today and the film emerges with hope in the new generation of young people poised to reshape the world in breathtaking ways.
The film has much sex and nudity. It is nothing offensive. As Cheng explains: “For the sex scenes, many gay films are afraid to show a penis, or a complete sex scene. They cut to someone’s face or show a side butt. We need to be honest with gay sex scenes and make them like straight sex scenes. We should see a man’s sex organ like a woman’s. We insisted on this when we prepared with the actors. They were nervous and afraid, but they were bold. For the motorcycle scene, we had the actors sit behind each other, and touch each other. My direction was, “You need to get a hard on. Be intimate with each other,” so that’s what we prepared. I wanted to use this film to show that sex with love is more attractive, and valuable, and passionate. ”
Jose opens nationally on January 31. January 31 New York, NY February 7 Los Angeles, CA & Chicago, IL February 14 Miami, Boca Raton, FL;
San Diego, CA; Phoenix, AZ February 21 Palm Springs, CA [other cities to follow; visit outsiderpictures.us/movie/jose
Maybe a distributor would consider a double bill?
Coming to DVD on March 10 from Film Movement and winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at NewFest 2019:
is Temblores. In this deeply personal follow-up to his landmark debut Ixcanul, director Jayro Bustamante shifts his focus from rural Guatemala to Guatemala City, but once again sets his sights on an individual caught between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds.
When handsome and charismatic Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) arrives at his affluent family’s house everyone is eagerly awaiting the return of their beloved son, devoted father and caring husband. A seemingly exemplary pillar of Guatemala City’s Evangelical Christian community, Pablo’s announcement that he intends to leave his wife for another man sends shock waves through the family. As Pablo tries to acclimate to his new life in the city’s gay subculture with the liberated Francisco, his ultra-religious family does everything in its power to get their prodigal son back on track, no matter the cost.
Winner of numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the Best Latin American Film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival; the Emerging Filmmaker Award for Bustamante at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival; and the Grand Jury Award for Juan Pablo Olyslager for Outstanding Performance in an International Narrative at L.A. Outfest, Temblores garnered universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. The New York Times called the film “vividly imagined”, while The Los Angeles Times says it’s “a penetrating, mournful portrait of sexual identity”. We like what Variety penned: “As the latest in a long line of films to examine the hypocrisy-laden clash between gay rights and evangelical Christian ethos, this strong second feature from Guatemalan talent Jayro Bustamante doesn’t ask new questions, but its sensuous, reverberating atmospherics find fresh, angry ways to answer them.”
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some