Category Archives: DVDs

25 years after its release, “Juice” still is a powerful flick, now on its Blu-ray debut

Paramount is pushing the power of Juice. A powerful morality tale steeped in ’90s urban culture, Juice marked the feature directorial debut of Spike Lee’s acclaimed cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson and the first starring roles for Omar Epps and an electrifying Tupac Shakur.

Now, 25 years later, the gritty and influential film continues to be celebrated for its realistic portrayal of Harlem life, the early New York hip hop scene and the fate of four friends in pursuit of the power and respect they call the Juice.

To mark the film’s silver anniversary, Paramount Home Media Distribution has released the film on Blu-ray for the first time ever, and it’s packed with brand new interviews with Dickerson, producer David Heyman, Epps and fellow actors Khalil Kain and Jermaine Hopkins.  The cast and crew look back on making the film, share heartfelt stories of working with Shakur and reveal the influence that Juice had on them both personally and professionally. The in-depth featurettes are also loaded with never-before-released footage of the cast on set and vintage interviews with Shakur, Queen Latifah, Cindy Herron of En Vogue, the Shocklee brothers, Eric B, EPMD, Cypress Hill and more.  Along with a brand new commentary by the director, fans also will get to see the original ending and hear Dickerson detail the reasons that it was changed prior to the film’s theatrical debut.

Juice has also been released on DVD and on Digital HD.

Two new DVD frame the lives of John James Audubon and Alice Waters

We turn the spotlight onto two must-have documentaries on DVD: Public Media Distribution’s Audubon (available June 20) and PBS Distribution’s American Masters: Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution (now available).

John James Audubon was one of the most remarkable men of early America. A contemporary of Lewis and Clark and Davy Crockett, he explored the American frontier in search of “the feathered tribes” he loved and studied. A self-taught artist and ornithologist, he left a legacy of art and science that made him famous in his lifetime and endures to this day. His portrait hangs in the White House, his statue stands over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, and his name was adopted by the nation’s first conservation organization.

The program, filmed in locations where Audubon painted, brings to life his timeless paintings with dazzling footage of the living birds he immortalized—and celebrates visually the natural world he described in his writings. Interviews reveal the man, explore his art, and put his groundbreaking work in modern perspective.

Alice Waters and her now-famous restaurant Chez Panisse became a major force behind the way Americans eat and think about food, launching the explosion of local farmers’ markets and redesigned supermarket produce departments.

Distressed by the food she saw in public schools, Waters started an organic garden with an integrated curriculum at the Martin Luther King Middle School near her house, an idea inspired by The Garden Project at the San Francisco county jail. The idea of an Edible Schoolyard has now spread across the U.S.–and inspired similar programs worldwide. She is an activist with a flawless palette who has taken her gift for food and turned it into consciousness about the environment and nutrition, and a device for social change.

“Nova: Building Chernobyl’s MegaTomb” proves another disaster looms

Ever wonder why Nova, now in its 44nd season, is the most-watched primetime science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly? The series remains committed to producing in-depth science programming in the form of hour-long (and occasionally longer) documentaries. Witness another wonder: Nova: Building Chernobyl’s MegaTomb (PBS Distribution).

In 1986, in the heart of the Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, releasing 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima Bomb. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster.  Thirty workers died. 50,000 people fled the nearest city. And radioactive fallout made an area larger than Long Island a no-go zone. Hastily, a so-called “sarcophagus” was built to contain the radioactive materials that lingered at the site after the explosion. But 30 years later, the sarcophagus is crumbling, and another disaster at Chernobyl looms.

Now, an international team of engineers is racing the clock to assemble one of the most ambitious superstructures ever built … an extraordinary 40,000 ton, 1.5 billion dollar mega dome to entomb the crumbling remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Battling arctic winter weather–and lethal radiation–this DVD features the inside story of the epic race to build Chernobyl’s MegaTomb.

“Masterpiece” dials back the clock to spotlight the influences to create “Prime Suspect: Tennison”

Behind every great detective is a backstory. Masterpiece dials back the clock to spotlight the influences that turned 22-year-old rookie WPC (Woman Police Constable) Jane Tennison into the savvy, single-minded crime fighter beloved by Prime Suspect viewers over the course of seven seasons. Stefanie Martini stars as Tennison–the iconic role immortalized by Helen Mirren.

Prime Suspect: Tennison (PBS Distribution), based on the bestselling novel Tennison by Lynda La Plante, will be available on DVD and Blu-ray July 11; the program will also be available for digital download.

A prequel to one of the most innovative crime series in television history, the program also stars Sam Reid as Jane’s mentor, DCI Len Bradfield; Blake Harrison as Bradfield’s volatile sergeant, DS Spencer Gibbs; Jessica Gunning as Jane’s female colleague and friend, WPC Kath Morgan; and Alun Armstrong as crime family kingpin Clifford Bentley.

Tied to murder, gambling, narcotics, prostitution, and high-stakes break-ins, the Bentleys and their underworld rivals give Jane a crash course in the gritty realities of police work—an experience that is all the more challenging because she is a young woman trying to make it in the sexist culture of the force.

Set in 1973 amid the sounds of the pop tunes of the day, Prime Suspect: Tennison opens with Jane a newly minted Woman Police Constable, performing her probationary stint at Hackney Police Station in East London. Relegated to traffic incidents, dispatching, and other routine police chores—in addition to serving the senior officers tea—she gets her big break when a murder case of a young girl calls for an all-hands-on-deck investigation.

So commences Jane’s real education. The case officer, DCI Len Bradfield, discovers that she is an eager learner and an indispensable assistant for any task that comes up: from observing an autopsy to surreptitiously gathering clues while comforting the victim’s parents. Not to mention, Bradfield finds Jane irresistibly attractive.

The murder victim is a young prostitute and drug addict from a respectable middle- class family. The case is more complicated than it appears, with baffling wounds on the corpse, signs of captivity and bondage, and a widening circle of potential suspects.

Meanwhile, in a nearby prison, Clifford Bentley is about to be released after serving a sentence for burglary, which is the least of his crimes. He wastes no time setting the wheels in motion for a new felony—his masterpiece. Little does Jane know, but she has already met some of the participants in this plot, which will have a profound impact on her personality and outlook, helping to mold the hard-bitten, hard-driving character that millions of Prime Suspect viewers know as DCI Jane Tennison.

“Family Mission: The TJ Lobraico Story” is profound, powerful

105th Airlift Wing NY Air Nation – Used by Permission of the Lobraico Family
TJ Lobraico, a young Air Force Staff Sergeant from a small-town in Connecticut, was on patrol with his unit in Afghanistan, five miles north of Bagram Airfield in September of 2013. The American patrol interrupted an enemy IED team, and TJ ran into enemy fire to protect his teammates and the K9 unit patrolling with them.   He was hit multiple times by small arms fire and died on the battlefield.
TJ was born into a close USAF family that served together at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York. His mother is a Lt. Colonel and his father a USAF Master Sergeant in the security forces, both in the same unit in which TJ served. His stepfather is a former Air Force medical technician and his grandfather a retired two-star general.  TJ’s brother-in-law was with him when he died.
He was sworn in by his mother, and later buried by her after falling in combat. Family Mission: The TJ Lobraico Story (Virgil Films) is TJ’s story, but also that of an Air Force family that lost their youngest member to enemy fire, but still continues to serve; service to country is a true family mission.

First Run Features releases two great new DVDs . . . and all that jazz

Streisand wondered how do you keep the music playing? We wonder what does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano. He’s a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar and Madhattan institution. For nearly 40 years, Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the ’20s and ’30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments and more than 60,000 period band arrangements.

They take to the stage of Iguana (240 West 54 Street) every Monday and Tuesday evening. Three sets are performed from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). There’s a $20 cash cover charge at the door + a $20 food/drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 765-5454.

Can’t take the A train to NYC? We strongly encourages viewing Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards’’s There’s a Future in the Past (First Run Features), a beautifully-crafted documentary that offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO’s Grammy-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans.

The DVD starts swinging on July 11.

Also swinging that day from FRF: The Penguin Counters. Armed with low-tech gear and high-minded notions that penguin populations hold the key to human survival, Ron Naveen lays bare his 30-year love affair with the world’s most pristine scientific laboratory: Antarctica. The film follows Ron and his ragtag team of field biologists to one of the harshest corners of the planet, where they track the impact of climate change and ocean health by counting penguin populations.

What’s unique about this film is the verité style of filmmaking (by Peter Getzels, Harriet Gordon and Erik Osterholm) on a scientific quest in the Antarctic, skillfully embedding an important environmental message with a good yarn. Special permits allowed unprecedented access to remote penguin colonies–in all their chaos and splendor.

Haunted by the ghosts of fallen explorers and charmed by the eccentricities of feathered bipeds, the penguin counters’ treacherous, heart-warming journey poses the ultimate question in the world’s fastest warming region: What can humans learn from penguins on the frontlines of climate change?

PBS takes a dramatic, often depression peek in “Victorian Slum House”

What would it be like . . .

In the landmark living history series, a Victorian tenement in the heart of London’s East End has been painstakingly brought back to life. Host Michael Mosley joins a group of 21st-century families as they move in and experience the tough living and working conditions of the Victorian poor.

The experience: Victorian Slum House.

Progressing decade by decade, the Slum residents begin life in tough conditions of the 1860s, when London, capital of the world’s first industrial superpower, and the richest city on Earth, was also home to the nation’s most desperately poor. Most managed to get by but putting food on the table and paying the rent involves long hours of hard labor.

As the slum dwellers move into the 1870s and the 1880s, they are faced with a dire economic depression and increasing competition for jobs; and revolution is in the air. Things get better for some in the 1890s, as Victorian Britain’s economy picks up but it’s during the early 1900s that progressive social change starts to make a real difference. Through their incredible journey they discover the extraordinary story of how the Victorian East End changed Britain’s attitude to poverty forever.

 

Up, up and away with “Air Warriors: Season 1” on DVD

Take flight with Public Media Distribution’s Smithsonian Channel original series Air Warriors: Season 1 on DVD. The program is filled with stories of a winged fighter that hasn’t lost a fight in 26 years; a lifesaver that’s part plane and part chopper; and an attack helicopter our enemies call the Black Death. These are America’s undisputed kings of the sky: the F-15 Eagle, the V-22 Osprey, and the AH-64 Apache. And their success stories are as remarkable as they are improbable.Image result for Air Warriors: Season 1 on DVD

They are the ultimate fighting machines. And they’ve kept our skies safe from enemies both here and abroad. Air Warriors profiles some of the most powerful aircraft ever flown by our armed forces. In-depth interviews, archive footage and access to military installations around the world tell the story of how these engineering marvels influenced our nation’s course.

Osprey
Follow the journey of the U.S. Marine’s V-22 Osprey, from early failures to war and humanitarian mission triumphs.

Apache
Hop aboard the AH-64 Apache, one of the most heavily fortified and well-armed helicopters ever built.

F-15
Get an inside look at the USAF’s go-to fighter jet, the F-15 Eagle, and discover the secrets of its unprecedented success.

“The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek” flies high

The impossible has happened . . . and we don’t mean why we continue to question why William Shatner is a “star.”Image result for william shatner 2017

Last September marked the 50th anniversary of the debut of the world’s most successful science fiction television series: Star Trek. In The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek (Aurum Press, $19.99), author Lance Parkin, goes in search of the show’s creator.

This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce “Hornblower in space” and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity’s future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Along the way Parkin examines some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise’s history, and Roddenberry’s particular contribution to them.Image result for The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek 2017 He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during its wilderness years in the ’70s, explore Roddenberry’s initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colorful personal life, self-mythologizing and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.

PBS Distribution’s “Nova: Holocaust Escape Tunnel” is a powerful history lesson

Once again, PBS Distribution has released a documentary that demands viewing . . . and a place in your library. Make note, please: Nova: Holocaust Escape Tunnel, available now on DVD and also available for digital download.

For centuries, the Lithuanian city of Vilna was one of the most important Jewish centers in the world, earning the title “Jerusalem of the North,” until the Nazis destroyed it. About 95% of its Jewish population of Vilna, its name in Hebrew and Yiddish, was murdered and its synagogues and institutions were reduced to ruins. The Soviets finished the job, paving over the remnants of Vilna’s famous Great Synagogue, for example, so thoroughly that few today know it ever existed. Now, an international team of archaeologists are trying to recover this lost world. They will excavate the remains of its Great Synagogue and uncover one of Vilna’s greatest secrets: a lost escape tunnel dug by Jewish prisoners inside a horrific Nazi execution site.