Category Archives: DVDs

“VA: The Human Cost of War” is a probing, profound film, another winner from Ric Burns

What is the exact human cost of war? Directed by six-time Emmy -winning filmmaker Ric Burns and executive produced by Lois Pope, VA: The Human Cost of War (PBS Distribution) takes a broad look at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, examining the organization’s history, leadership, structure, funding and relationship to veterans.The documentary examines the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, from its inception to the present day, exploring its successes and failures in properly caring for veterans upon their return from war, its critical role in the American healthcare system, and the need for major reform.

 Tracing its troubled beginnings as the Veterans Bureau of the 1920s through to the organization’s transformation into a modern healthcare system after World War II, the film tracks the ways in which the VA has had to quickly adapt to new challenges and obstacles as it attempts to care for veterans. Beholden to the executive branch for its funding and detached logistically from the leaders who plan and execute war, the VA has had to find ways to deal with the consequences and costs of war, which are incurred long after the fighting ceases. From the psychological and physical wounds of soldiers returning from Vietnam, to the changing demographic make-up of the troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, the film investigates the Department’s successes and gross missteps as its burden continues to grow larger, more complicated, and increasingly politicized.

Told through a series of personal stories from veterans and intertwined with deep historical and political analysis from leading scholars and elected officials, the film illustrates the key ways in which the VA, and we as a society, fail our veterans, who, according to Department of Veterans Affairs research, continue to commit suicide at the harrowing rate of 20 veterans per day.

Paramount Home Media unleashes “Daddy’s Home 2” and “Daddy’s Home” is super 4K Ultra Packs

Father’s Day is months away, but we can’t think of a funnier way to pre-celebrate all things daddies than with the uproarious family comedy Daddy’s Home 2 coming home on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD February 20 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  The original Daddy’s Home also arrives February 20 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and both films will be available in a two-movie Blu-ray Double Feature pack.\

When it comes to raising their kids, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) finally have this co-parenting thing down.  That is, until Dusty’s macho dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s sweet-natured father (John Lithgow) come to town, throwing the whole family into complete chaos.  As old rivalries create new problems, Dusty and Brad’s partnership is put to the ultimate test in this hilarious and heartwarming comedy that gives new meaning to the term ‘blended family.’

Think ypou’ve seen the funny flicks? Think again: Daddy’s Home 2 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack feature more than 45 minutes of bonus content.  Go behind the scenes with five featurettes, deleted/ extended/alternate scenes and a hilarious gag reel.  In addition, the  Daddy’s Home 2  Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs boast a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead and the 4K Ultra HD disc features Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), which delivers greater brightness and contrast, as well as a fuller palette of rich colors.

Public Media Distribution serves up a most tasty MOVEABLE FEAST WITH FINE COOKING – SEASON 5

Good food takes time. Good DVDs showcasing good food takes time. We urge you to save the date: Public Media Distribution, LLC is releasing Moveable Feast With Fine Cooking: Season 5 on DVD on March 6. The program will also be available for digital download.
Nominated for an Emmy and James Beard Award, and winner of both Telly and TASTE Awards, Moveable Feast With Fine Cooking is co-hosted this season by award-winning chefs Pete Evans and Curtis Stone, and special guest chef Michelle Bernstein. In Season Five they bring viewers to Europe and Puerto Rico, in addition to locations in the United States, to meet top chefs and award-winning food artisans to source the finest regional ingredients and create a multi-course feast for friends.

Viewers will learn cooking tips and techniques from talented chefs, including Patricia Wells, Guy Savoy, Bryan Voltaggio, Tom Douglas, and Sherry Yard, and discover how they can interpret the chefs’ flavorful dishes in their own kitchen. Diners enjoy these spectacular meals hosted in unique places, from the breathtaking mustard fields of Dijon and rice farms near Turin, to a stunning vineyard in San Luis Obispo and an authentic Taos pueblo. Viewers will want a seat at the table!

“The Gilded Age” is a riveting documentary about the very, very, very, very rich . . . and the rest of us

To Gild the lily? We know that means unnecessarily adorning something already beautiful.  The expression is a condensation of Shakespeare’s metaphor in King John: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily … is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

Thirty years after the Civil War, America had transformed itself into an economic powerhouse and was fast becoming the world’s leading producer of food, coal, oil and steel. But the transformation had created stark new divides in wealth, class and opportunity. By the end of the 19th century, the richest 4,000 families in the country—less than one percent of all Americans—possessed nearly as much wealth as the other 11.6 million families combined. The simultaneous growth of a lavish new elite and a struggling working class sparked passionate and violent debate over questions still being asked today: How is wealth best distributed, and by what process? Should the government concern itself with economic growth or economic justice? Are we two nations—one for the rich and one for the poor—or one nation where everyone has a chance to succeed?

The story is told in the riveting American Experience: The Gilded Age (PBS Distribution).

The Gilded Age, as it later came to be known, was dominated by larger-than-life men who wielded power across industrial and economic sectors. While the elite luxuriated in splendor, America’s cities were bursting with immigrants and former slaves looking for opportunity. A message resounded among the working class: Was America a land of opportunity or a closed system run by the few for their own gain? The program is a compelling portrait of an era of glittering wealth contrasted with extreme poverty.

And awaaay we go! Time Life releases “The Jackie Gleason Show” in color

Everything about Jackie Gleason was big: his huge talent, his outsized personality, and his expansive waist line.  Even his grave, which we visited when we were in Miami. (June Taylor, best known as the founder of the June Taylor Dancers who appeared on The Great One’s show, is buried close to Jackie’soutdoor mausoleum.)
Jackie and June’s dancers.

Even bigger was The Jackie Gleason Show, his successful TV Variety show, taped in color from his hometown of Miami Beach from 1966 to 1970.  Tomorrow, Time Life releases the inaugural DVD release of Jackie’s show, one of the ’60s most beloved programs . . . . and unseen for nearly 50 years! (The master tapes had resided in a vault in South Florida until now.)

Gleason was everyone’s working-class hero, and his smash-hit show delivered an hour of non-stop entertainment every single week.  Enthralled home audiences were treated to entertainment of the highest order, singing, dancing, hilarious comedy and Jackie at his very best as Ralph Kramden and on stage with all his famous friends, including Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers.  The single disc features four never-before-released, remastered episodes of the show including three unreleased Honeymooners sketches, all unseen for more than 50 years!
 Image result for jackie gleason grave

 

The Jackie Gleason Show had been broadcast live and later taped in New York City since 1952, but in 1964, Gleason wanted to be based where he could play golf all year round.  Hank Meyer, a longtime South Florida publicist, knew just the spot and convinced Jackie to bring his show to Miami Beach, the sun and fun capital of the world.  However, back in the ’60s, it was a novel undertaking to broadcast from Miami Beach, and more than a hundred families relocated to stay with the show.  Plus, there was barely any production infrastructure in South Florida, which all had to be created by Jackie and his team.  It paid off and the revamped show was a huge success.

This postcard was sent to fans who requested tickets to the show. Note a very tanned Gleason.
The Jackie Gleason Show delivered, Ralph Kramden, Gleason’s most indelible and legendary creation, as well as an unforgettable gallery of characters he himself created and fine-tuned. Most memorably, Gleason and Art Carney revived their Honeymooners roles, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean added as the new Alice and Trixie, all presented in glorious color for the first time.
So cue the travelin’ music and heed the big man’s message before he glides offstage: “And awaaay we go!”

“House of Demons” will chill and thrill viewers . . . why wait for Halloween?

Halloween is months ago, but terror finds a new home early in the supernatural horror-thriller House of Demons, hitting DVD tomorrow thanks to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Gwen, Matthew, Katrina and Spencer were best friends for years, until a terrible tragedy tore them apart. Ten years later, they reunite in a rented house for a destination wedding.

What they don’t know is that in the late ‘60s, the house was home to a Manson Family-like cult run by Frazer, a charismatic former scientist pushing the boundaries of human consciousness. His experiments echo through time and manifest everyone’s darkest fears and memories, blurring time as Frazer’s cult and the present day collide over the course of one long night, where everyone must confront their darkness or be destroyed by it.
Amber Benson leads a hot cast of up-and-coming actors in this chilling tale. (You’ll meet them in one of the DVD’s great bonus tracks.) We’ve warned you.

 

Sat it isn’t so! The blockbuster French drama “A French Village” has ended. Yes, we cried. Much.

Dire que c’est pas si! We spent much of January 30 weeping. That was the dreaded day we learned that the final season of A French Village would premiere on MHz Choice. The only “good” news: The show would be followed by a February 13 DVD release.

The blockbuster French drama, starring Audrey Fleurot and Thierry Godard, chronicled the impact of World War II on a small village in central France. The German occupation changes the life of the village of Villeneuve forever, and as its residents come under the pressures of war, they make choices that are inspiring and heartbreaking.

In this gripping drama, ordinary citizens become patriots, traitors, Nazi employees or activists. Beginning with the Germans’ arrival in June 1940, they endure five years of rationing, fighting and betrayals, and strain to keep some semblance of their existence intact. The war shatters all their lives, but a few of them, even in the shadow of destruction, reach out to find fleeting moments of connection and love. Now it’s 1945, the war is over and those survivors are left to face their greatest battle, the future.

Be ready for the release of “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan”

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Marking the 15th anniversary of the Grammy-nominated Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan, MVD Entertainment Group will reissue the film of the same title. Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan features an intense 1980 Bob Dylan performance of “When He Returns,” as well as powerful performances and interviews with Aaron Neville, Shirley Caesar, Fairfield Four, Mighty Clouds of Joy and Dottie Peoples, reflecting on their faith and connections to Dylan’s Christian music.

“It was an honor to have made an impression on the great artist himself with these recordings,” says the film’s producer Jeffrey Gaskill. From 2009 to 2011, Bob Dylan opened 40 concerts around the world with “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” (his Grammy-nominated new version re-written and recorded for Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan) in concert halls in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Adelaide and this performance in Tel Aviv (watch it HERE).

Just a month after his recording with Mavis Staples, Dylan kicked off a new tour in Stockholm, Sweden and performed “Solid Rock” (what many consider the theme song to his gospel era concerts) for the first time in more than 20 years. Dylan would continue to perform this rousing song as well as other gospel era songs at numerous concerts across Europe and beyond.

“This gospel music was Bob Dylan’s ultimate rebellion, and it took much more courage than strapping on an electric guitar,” recalls Gaskill. The film offers historical insights into this Bob Dylan era provided by Jim Keltner, Fred Tackett, Spooner Oldham and Regina McCrary, all of whom performed and recorded with Dylan at the time.

Three “NATURE” programs that demand to be seen, flying high when bringing animal majesty to the screen

NATURE never fools with Mother Nature. Instead, the acclaimed PBS program produces incredible, educational must-see programs that land on DVD. Here is a triumvirate of recent faves.

Charlie and the Curious Otters
The program focuses on efforts to rehabilitate three orphaned river otters in Wisconsin, shows some ground breaking experiments using cool cameras and anatomical CGI, and captures other wild  encounters. At the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Charlie is introduced to three orphan river otter pups and films their progress and training:  from needing around the clock care and feeding, to being taught the crucial skills they will need in order to return to the wild. Despite the fact otters can swim nearly a quarter mile without coming up for air, baby otters do not start out as natural swimmers and they don’t really like water. So the center’s manager Mark Naniot assumes the roles of surrogate mother and teacher. Charlie films him coaxing the pups into a small pool for swimming lessons and later adding minnows which the orphans instinctively chase and catch.

The filmmakers also go to Florida Springs, Florida where a clear spring fed river provides Charlie with great conditions to capture rare shots of otters hunting underwater. At the Oakland Zoo, he films otters hunting fish in slow motion to determine how they detect and capture their prey so quickly. He also visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s head vet Dr. Mike Murray who explains that sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom which is a key survival asset both on land and in the water.

Naledi: One Little Elephant
The program chronicles the life of the orphaned baby pachyderm as she grows up with the help of her friends. Kiti, a gentle elephant in Botswana, was in her 661st day of pregnancy, a normal gestation period, when she finally gave birth to a baby girl. For nearly two weeks, the staff of Abu Camp, a halfway house for orphaned and former zoo and circus elephants, had been passing the time by coming up with a list of possible names for Kiti’s offspring. Perhaps because the calf was born at night, they called her Naledi, which means star in the local language.

But six weeks after giving birth, Kiti dies from a prolapse of the large intestine, and Naledi is left an orphan. Although elephant families are close, the program shows how precarious it is for a newborn to survive once it has lost its mother. Naledi needs to be nursed, so when the herd’s matriarch can’t produce enough milk and doesn’t know how to care for her, Mike, Wellie, and other caretakers decide to take drastic measures before it is too late. The film follows the team as they separate Naledi from the herd, relocate her to another part of Abu Camp, make sure a caretaker is always with her around the clock, work to establish a bond, and finally entice her to take milk from a bottle.

 

 

H is for the Hawk: A New Chapter
After the unexpected death of her photojournalist father, Helen Macdonald overcame her grief by training an adult goshawk, one of nature’s most notoriously wild and free-spirited birds of prey. She had trained birds before, but never this raptor which she named Mabel. Macdonald found healing in that cathartic experience which became the basis for her 2014 international best-selling memoir H Is for Hawk.


Now, 10 years after she trained Mabel (who died of untreatable infection just before the author finished writing her book), Macdonald is ready to take on the challenge again, prompted by watching how a pair of wild goshawks reared their chicks in an English forest. This film accompanies her on visits to the pair’s nest to observe the latest developments and follows Macdonald’s emotional and intimate journey as she adopts a young goshawk and attempts to raise it as her own:  feeding, nurturing, and training her new charge in the hopes the months of preparation will culminate in a successful first free flight.

 

 

Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac star in the darkly funny thriller “Suburbicon”

It’s 1959. The idyllic town of Suburbicon is the perfect place for Gardner Lodge to make a home. But beneath this tranquil surface lies a disturbing reality, where nothing is as it seems.  When a break-in leads to the shocking murder of his wife, Gardner must navigate the town’s underbelly of deceit and violence to protect his family from further harm.

Welcome to Suburbicon. The film It is loosely inspired on a 1957 incident in Levittown, Pennsylvania, in which a black family moved into the previously all-white neighborhood, leading to racial-charged harassment and violence against the family. (It was filmed in Fullerton, California.)

Matt Damon stars as Gardener; Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac co-star. Director George Clooney’s suspenseful thriller arrives on Blu-ray and DVD February 6 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Suburbicon.jpg

The Blu-ray is packed with more than 50 minutes of bonus content. Join Damon, Moore and Isaac as they dive into the making of Suburbicon and discuss everything from the script to casting and more. Plus, check out the film’s unique score and find out how the composer was inspired by the storyline. Also included is a commentary by writer/director  Clooney and writer Grant Heslov.