All posts by alanwp

“Poldark Season 2” comes to Blu-ray and DVD, a must on PBS fans’ Santa’s wish list

Neither pestilence, starvation nor betrayal can stop Ross Poldark from fighting for justice in his native Cornwall. Aidan Turner returns as the ex-officer, class warrior, lover and mining entrepreneur, called by The New York Times “the noblest, hottest, most down-to-earth hero.”

Also back is co-star Eleanor Tomlinson, playing Demelza, the miner’s daughter who is Ross’ equal in passion, wit, and daring—which is, of course, why they marry.

PBS Distribution will be releasing Masterpiece:  Poldark Season 2 on DVD and Blu-ray on November 22, 2016. The program will also be available for digital download.

New this season—or thrust into prominence from last—are Gabriella Wilde as Caroline Penvenen, a flirtatious young heiress under the watchful eye of her rich uncle, Ray, played by John Nettles; Luke Norris as earnest young doctor Dwight Enys, who only has time for his patients—and for Caroline; and Henry Garrett as Captain McNeil, Ross’ old comrade from the war, now hunting smugglers and an opportunity to woo a certain married lady.

All of these characters inhabit the imaginative world created by Winston Graham in his bestselling Poldark novels, published between 1945 and 2002. Comprising 12 volumes, the epic commences in 1783, as British officer Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall, fresh from the American Revolutionary War. Poldark: Season 2 takes the plot into Graham’s fourth volume, Warleggan.

Viewers of the first season will recall that Ross shocks his relatives and neighbors when he shows up from America, since all had presumed him dead. Then he sets about upending their lives—threatening the copper mining interests of his uncle and cousin, Charles and Francis Poldark, and the rival operation of upstart George Warleggan. He is also ensnared in a romantic web that connects him, Francis, and George to the beautiful Elizabeth. Nevertheless, Ross happily marries Demelza and they have a daughter. But in the final episode of Season 1, an epidemic takes the child away, and a shipwreck and drowning are blamed on Ross.

So at the start of Poldark Season, Ross stands accused of murder and “wrecking”—luring a cargo ship to the rocks for plunder. It’s a capital offense, the judge is unsympathetic, hostile witnesses have been bribed and Ross appears headed for the gallows. It’s just the first in a string of suspenseful episodes every bit as precipitous as the steep cliffs of Cornwall.

 

Dolly Parton busts in to wish fans and family happy holidaze, straight to DVD

I remember spending Christmas one year with Dolly Parton, just in time for yet another Redbook cover story about the holidays. I wondered how someone who grew up so dirt-poor could be happy if the Jolly Fat Man never showed to Pigeon Forge? Dolly’s favorite present . . . the “corn cob dolls Mama made.”

DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: CIRCLE OF LOVE -- Season: 1--  Pictured: Dolly Parton as Painted Lady -- (Photo by: Quantrell Colbert/NBC)
Dolly Parton as Painted Lady  (Photo by Quantrell Colbert/NBC)

This year, the 40DD-17-36 star “stars” in yet another Christmas special, one that went straight to DVD by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The Big Names include Jennifer Nettles, Ricky Schroder and Gerald McRaney. Dolly introduces Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors – Circle of Love film and serves as narrator.  The DVD, and also contains deleted scenes and three brand new featurettes including behind-the-scenes interviews. Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors – Circle of Love will premiere this holiday season on NBC.

Bob Dylan’s lover (well, one of them) pens a book about their lives and love on the road

Britta Lee Shain was a friend of Bob Dylan until he asked her to join him on the road in the mid-’80s . . . at which point she became more than a friend. In an intimate and elliptical memoir of their time together, at home in Los Angeles and on tour with Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead, she offers a unique portrait of the romantic, earthbound and poetic soul trapped in the role of Being Bob Dylan.

As she coos: “I’ve never seen a Bob Dylan smile, except in photos or on the stage. Not the real thing.”https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f21528364%2f166417865266%2f1%2foriginal

Entire libraries of books have been written about Dylan, but few—if any—offer any lasting insight into the man behind the shades. Until now. Written with the elegance of a poet and storytelling snap of a novelist, Seeing The Real You At Last: Life and Love on the Road With Bob Dylan (Jawbone Press, $19.95), is a poignant and tender romance that reveals Dylan’s playfulness, his dark wit, his fears and struggles, his complex relationships with the men and women in his life and, ultimately, his genius.

Holy Heroes of Yesteryear! “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” has a trio of surprises

Everything old is new again.

The spotlight shines on the trio of iconic stars of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Adam West steps behind the microphone to bring Batman to fully animated fruition. Burt Ward joins the fun as Batman’s sidekick, Robin, giving The Boy Wonder his voice in animated form. And Julie Newmar once again dons her feline ears to bring Catwoman to life. They may own top billing, but Steven Weber and Thomas Lennon also lead the way as trustworthy butler Alfred Pennyworth and Chief O’Hara, respectively. The full-length animated feature film also boasts a supporting cast of notable voices from across all entertainment mediums and some of the best-loved animated properties.

We take wing and make the intros.

  • Jeff Bergman as the Joker and the revered Announcer. Bergman is well-known as a voice of Bugs Bunny for more than a quarter of a century on series like Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production, The Looney Tunes Show and Tiny Toon Adventures, and has provided a wide variety of impressions of live and animated celebrities (from Fred Flintstone and Homer Simpson to John Goodman and Paul Sorvino) for Family Guy.
  • William Salyers as The Penguin. Salyers is the actor behind the beloved Rigby in the longtime animated hit The Regular Show, and has voiced characters in wildly popular video games like Mass Effect 2 & 3 and Fallout 4.
  • Wally Wingert as The Riddler. Wingert, an avid Batman ’66 fan, has been featured as Cubot for Sonic Boom, a regular in popular anime series like Bleach and Naruto: Shippuden, and has voiced a plethora of characters (from Austin Powers to The Grinch) for the Family Guy animated series. He maintains a strong connection to the Dark Knight as the voice of Edward Nigma/The Riddler for the Batman: Arkham series of video games.
  • Lynne Marie Stewart as Aunt Harriett. Stewart burst on the entertainment scene in the ’70s with roles in American Graffiti, M*A*S*H and Laverne & Shirley. Most recently seen in hit films (Bridesmaids) and TV series (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Stewart holds a particular affection in the hearts of Pee-wee Herman fans for her recurring role in the Paul Reubens character’s films and TV series as Miss Yvonne.
  • Jim Ward as Commissioner Gordon. Ward has provided voices for hundreds of animated films, TV series and video games, including multiple roles for Ben 10, and as Captain Qwark for Ratchet & Clank. He is well known for voicing Chet Ubetcha on The Fairly Oddparents, and Professor Charles Xavier in Wolverine and the X-Men.
  • Sirena Irwin as TV show host Miranda Moore. Irwin is a regular contributor on the ever-popular SpongeBob SquarePants animated series, and has made a pair of notable voice “appearances” in the DC Universe Original Movies Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Superman: Unbound.

So what’s the fuss? It’s back to the ’60s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman’s most fiendish foes–Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. The four Super-Villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City. It’s a truly fantastic adventure that will pit good against evil, good against good, evil against evil … and feature two words that exponentially raise the stakes for both sides: Replicator Ray. Holy Multiplication Tables!

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is available to own on Digital HD; it arrives November 1 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD.

 

 

 

 

 

We not josh: “Joshy,” Jeff Baena’s follow-up to “Life After Beth,” offers laughs and sadness

It’s been called “an intimate, star-studded comedy that functions like an indie blockbuster, but it feels too big to be considered a regular indie, with a massive cast and its appetite for humor more equivalent to a studio project than any Sundance film.”

Did someone say “humor?” Indeed. Joshy, the set-up for writer/director Jeff Baena’s follow-up to  Life After Beth may sound familiar: This is a film about a life-changing reunion at a rented house. But not right away: The space for the Ojai, California bachelor party for Joshy (a marvelous Thomas Middleditch) was rented long before he suffered heartbreak from a cancelled engagement, and now it’s become a guy’s weekend.

After his suddenly ends, Joshy and a few of his friends decide to take advantage of what was supposed to be his bachelor party in .  In their attempt to help Joshy deal with the recent turn of events, the guys turn the getaway info a raucous weekend filled with drugs, booze debauchery and hot tubs. As the film unravels, so do the laughs . . . and the sadness. joshyheader2

 

After earning lots of laughs at its Sundance Film Festival premiere, Joshy has arrived on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD from Lionsgate. Rounding out the hilarious cast is Adam Pally, Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate.

We refuse to say anything more, except Joshy is a must-see.

 

Adam Kirsch’s “The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature” is a winner

Jews have long embraced their identity as “the people of the book.” But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, $28.95) shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: The nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora.
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Author Adam Kirsch explores 18 classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestos of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, The People and the Books brings the treasures of Jewish literature to life and offers new ways to think about their enduring power and influence.

This luminous new work is an essential exploration of a rich literary tradition from the Bible to modern times. Can I hear an amen?

Say hello to the “Little House on the Prairie” with a trio of warm and fuzzy films

It may be a little house on the prairie, but the love inside is bigger than what’s found in those huge, cold mega-mansions. Lionsgate is celebrating the hit series that stole America’s heart now that Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Collection has arrived on DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD.9e89e3d5-1fcb-45b6-87e4-e4720764a697_1-c10e5b0940d564ec804c38444c575942

We offer you to say hello to the family fave as you prepare to say farewell to this legendary western drama with three movie adventures: Look Back to Yesterday, Bless All the Dear Children and The Last Farewell. These restored and remastered movies will be available individually on Digital HD.

The story of the Ingalls family concludes with this trio of heartwarming movies—newly restored and remastered for optimal sound and picture quality. Rediscover the timeless adventure of Little House on the Prairie as Albert displays courage in the face of a serious illness; Laura and Almanzo race to find their missing baby daughter; and the community of Walnut Grove unites to defend its town in these inspiring and exciting moments that fans will treasure.

John Turturro on HBO’s “The Night Of” . . . “the story was just reeking of the human dilemma”

Remember the night of when you watched a fascinating TV show that left you panting for me? Think The Night Of. The acclaimed HBO limited crime series that captivated TV audiences this summer has now taken up life on Digital HD an DVD and Blu-ray. Starring John Turturro in “a mind-blowing performance” (thank you, Wall Street Journal) and the “extraordinary” (kudos Boston Globe) Riz Ahmed, The Night Of is “an anthem to television’s unique power to turn a series of understated performances into sustained magnificence” (our pals at Los Angeles Times).

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John Turturro as John Stone
The series delves into the intricacies of a complex New York City murder case with cultural and political overtones. Pakistani-American college student Nasir “Naz” Khan (a brilliant Riz Ahmed), who lives with his parents in Queens, New York, takes his father’s taxi to go to a party in Manhattan. But what starts as a perfect night for Naz becomes a nightmare when he’s arrested for murder. The series examines the police investigation, the legal proceedings, the criminal justice system and Rikers Island, where the accused await trial.

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Riz Ahmed as Nasir “Naz” Khan


The ensemble cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams, Bill Camp, Jeannie Berlin, Poorna Jagannathan, Payman Maadi, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Paul Sparks, Ben Shenkman, Afton Williamson, Paulo Costanzo, Ned Eisenberg, Mohammad Bakri, Nabil Elouahabi, Ashley Thomas, Glenn Fleshler and Chip Zien.

Inquiring minds want to know Turturro’s thoughts, so HBO worked some magic.

What appealed to you about The Night Of as a story and a project?
I felt that the story was just reeking of the human dilemma. Any time you have a prison film or anything about a crime, it’s kind of a microcosm of society. It reminded me of a Russian crime novel. And I know that [co-creator] Richard Price always had a Dostoyevsky-feel for this stuff. I really loved that you see these characters, all of them, as people.

Did you research or take inspiration from specific sources to inhabit the role of John Stone?
I got a lot of it from the writing. I was introduced to a very competent and well-regarded defense lawyer, Terry Montgomery. This guy, who looks like Idris Elba, he’s a star. I met with him a bunch of times, and he was able to take me through everything that he goes through. I went to court and I watched different guys, but with Terry I thought, that’s the kind of guy that Stone would have been if he had the stomach for it. I looked at a lot of old Sidney Lumet films, and I worked on a big vocal warm-up. I’m from New York, but I thought the accent was more from the ’70s. Like in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, when they say “first,” they say “ferst.” That’s an older New York sound.

Did the initial casting of James Gandolfini as John Stone have any influence on your decision to take the role?
I was very good friends with James. And when they first mentioned it, I was like, this is maybe too difficult for me. But when I saw the pilot, James was barely in there. He still was interesting, of course — you see him with this big beard and everything — but he didn’t really talk very much, certainly not to Riz. I don’t think he knew yet what he was going to do, because he hadn’t done that much yet in the series. So for me, I didn’t have to erase that.

What did you make of the character’s eczema condition?
It’s an obstacle, and maybe it has something to do with John not being able to deal with everything because eczema does come out of stress. And then, it’s how it makes him feel and how it looks. When I had it on my face and walked around, some people looked away, some people were matter of fact. It’s another interesting element, and it also physicalizes. It physicalizes the world.

First Run Features offers a restored “Watermelon Woman” for its 20th anniversary

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Cheryl and Guinevere Turner in a sexy scene

First Run Features is always in first place. They make important moves, release important films. Check the case of the re-release of Cheryl Dunye’s landmark black queer film The Watermelon Woman.220px-watermelonwomanposter

Now remastered for its 20th Anniversary, with pristine 2K HD restoration overseen by 13 Gen, The Watermelon Woman will screen at Metrograph in New York City beginning Thursday,November 10. Following an international run on the LGBT festival circuit, the landmark film is connecting with a lively new generation of fans worldwide. First Run Features will then re-release the film on DVD and VOD January 31, 2017.

Set in Philadelphia, this is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a twenty-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive ’30s black film actress popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman.” While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards’ life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her personal life. Her love affair with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities, are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker). Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions about herself and her future.


According to director Dunye, much about the character is autobiographical, but the historical references to the Watermelon Woman are fictional. “The idea came from the real lack of information about the lesbian and film history of African American women,” she explains, “Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

The Watermelon Woman features cameo performances by notable LGBT figures including controversial cultural critic Camille Paglia, African American singer/songwriter Toshi Reagan, Pomo Afro Homo performer Brian Freeman, African American poet Cheryl Clark and novelist/activist Sarah Schulman.

The Watermelon Woman was Dunye’s first feature film and the first by a black lesbian. It was made on a budget of $300,000, financed by a $31,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a fundraiser and donations from friends of Dunye.

Esther Schor speaks volumes about Esperanto, the language that never was

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Honoring Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof on a 1987 stamp

When Esther Schor stumbles, she falls into the most fascinating subjects. Seven years ago, the author stumbled into the language and the world of Esperanto, with little sense of how it would change her life or how she would be gripped by the story of its creator, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof.

A Polish Jew, Zamenhof had the idea in 1887 of putting an end to tribalism by creating a universal tongue, designed to be a second language to the entire world, one that would compel its users to transcend nationalism. Basing his invention on rational grammatical principles that would be easy to learn, politically neutral and would allow all to speak to all, Zamenhof launched a utopian scheme full of the brilliance and grandiosity that characterize all such messianic visions.

In Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language (Metropolitan Books, $32), the first full history of a constructed language, Schor traces the life of Esperanto from its creation, through its turn-of-the-century golden age as the great hope of embattled cosmopolites, to its suppression by nationalist leaders and its resurgence as a bridge across the Cold War. She follows Esperanto’s fortunes in the present, where it lives vibrantly on the Internet and is seen by its users as an essential human counterpart to twenty-first century globalization. And she recounts the impact of this language—which changes the very way one sees others—on her own experience, leading her to upend her life in pursuit of fulfillment.
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Rich and subtle, Bridge of Words is at once a biography of an idea, an original history of the twentieth century, and a spirited exploration of the only language charged with saving the world from itself. It is also a story of personal transformation, as Schor travels the globe in pursuit of Esperantists and discovers not only a language but a better way of being.

A great book, and we offer the opinion of it by another noted author, Jonathan Rosen: “Esther Schor has crossed continents, tunneled under the Tower of Babel, brooded over the Twentieth Century’s darkest traumas and brightest dreams, and spoken endless Esperanto in an effort to understand how a language freighted with human tragedy still lives like a kiss on the lips of its speakers. This is a beautiful, mysteriously moving book by a fearless writer who set out to find the soul of a language, knowing full well that it was her own soul she was after all along.”