Category Archives: DVDs

Ann Curry explores important issues with dignity and grace in “Well Meet Again”

Ann Curry spices up important issues. That’s one of the reasons we love We’ll Meet Again (PBS Distribution), her program that explores some of history’s most dramatic events through the personal stories of those who experienced them and brings together people whose lives intersected at pivotal moments. Executive produced and reported by  Curry, each episode reveals the powerful bonds forged among people who now, against the odds, have the chance to reunite with someone who transformed their life.

The tides of history can disrupt lives, throwing strangers together or tearing loved ones apart. We’ll Meet Again reveals these moving personal stories of hope, courage and love: From a Vietnam War baby desperate to find the American father she last saw 40 years ago to the military chaplain who helped a stranger through the trauma of 9/11, from a Japanese-American girl interned in 1942 who never forgot the classmate who helped her during her darkest hours, to civil rights workers whose lives were forever changed by the deep relationships they formed in the ’60s South.

The program takes viewers on a journey of hope, searching for clues in marriage records and war and immigration documents, and combing archives to reunite those separated by time and distance.

“This series helps people separated by conflict, war and humanitarian disasters find each other again and reveals untold stories of courage, survival, friendship and even love,” says Curry. “This is human history—not from the point of view of kings or politicians or generals—but of everyday people on the front lines of massive events they have no way to control. Their stories tell us something about what we are made of.”

Episodes include:

“Children of WWII”
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II. Two children whose lives were forever changed by the war search for lost friends. Reiko, a Japanese-American woman sent to an internment camp as a child, hopes to find the classmate who stood by her in the face of anti-Japanese sentiment. Peter, who fled the Nazis with his parents in 1938, searches for the family who befriended him in the last refuge open to the German Jews: the Shanghai Ghetto.

“Rescued From Mt. St. Helens”
When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, 57 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Volcanic ash was scattered across 11 states. In this episode, two people who survived the disaster reveal how the experience influenced their lives. Mindy, a trainee scientist whose inspirational team leader was killed by the blast wants to find his family to let them know he saved her life. Sue hopes to find the brave helicopter pilot who risked his own life to rescue her.

“Lost Children of Vietnam”
The war in Vietnam may have ended in 1975, but its impact lingers in countless lives today. Two children who became refugees after the war tell their stories. Tina, born in Saigon, searches for the American father she last saw more than 40 years ago, and Nam hopes to find Gary, the Texas cowboy he met as a 12-year-old refugee and who inspired his dream of coming to America.

“Heroes of 9/11”
During the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, strangers were thrown together in unimaginable situations. Patrick, a businessman visiting New York, searches for Emily, the photographer’s assistant who comforted him after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Timothy, a military chaplain plunged into chaos at the Pentagon, hopes to thank the fellow chaplain who gave him the courage to carry on.

“Freedom Summer”
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Fatima, a teenager from New York, volunteered to register voters in Louisiana. Now, she returns to the South, hoping to find Thelma, the daughter of her host family, whose courage in the face of racism was unforgettable. Sherie searches for Lefty, the charismatic civil rights activist whose commitment to nonviolence inspired her own lifelong involvement with social justice causes.

 “Coming Out”
For decades, gay Americans did not have equal protection under the law; many faced prejudice, possible imprisonment and rejection from their families and society. Two stories of the struggle for acceptance are told in this episode. Tom longs to find Maria, the friend he trusted with his secret and who saved him from brutal electroshock conversion therapy in the ’60s. Paul, who was University of New Hampshire student body president in 1973, searches for Wayne, who organized the first gay student organization on campus. Wayne’s courage to take the fight to court against overwhelming opposition from the state’s conservative governor changed Paul’s life and ultimately helped him accept his own sexuality.

“South Park” continues to amuse, shock and offend . . . thank you Trey and Matt!

Who would ever think that TV’s animated (mis)adventures that riddle South Park would last longer than Liza Minnelli’s career?

Come on down to South Park with all-new, uncensored episodes from the show’s incredible 21st season!  Join Cartman, Kenny, Stan, and Kyle as they take on the opioid epidemic, experiment with water bears, dig into the underbelly of social media, and go to war with Canada.

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Own all 10 episodes from South Park: The Complete Twenty-First Season  on either Blu-ray or DVD.   Save the date: The fun hits shelves June 5.

Each two-disc set also includes never-before-seen deleted scenes and season commentary by SP creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  The Blu-ray set additionally includes #SocialCommentary on all episodes.

Another reason PBS brings out the beast in us . . . witness “NATURE: Animals With Cameras”

We could say that PBS Distribution programs being out the beast in us.

Go where no human cameraman can go to witness a new perspective of the animal kingdom. NATURE: Animals With Cameras journeys into animals’ worlds using custom, state-of-the-art cameras worn by the animals themselves. Capturing never-before-seen behavior, these animal cinematographers help expand human understanding of their habitats and solve mysteries that have eluded scientists until now. The DVD will be available April 24.  The program will be also available for digital download.

Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan (Nature: Snowbound: Animals of Winter) and a team of pioneering animal behaviorists join forces to explore stories of animal lives “told” by the animals themselves. The cameras are custom-built by camera design expert Chris Watts to fit on the animals unobtrusively and to be easily removed at a later point. From this unique vantage point, experience the secret lives of nine different animal species. Sprint across the savanna with a cheetah, plunge into the ocean with a seal and swing through the trees with a chimpanzee.

The one-of-a-kind sequences captured by the animals include several on-camera firsts. The cameras allowed for newborn meerkats to be shown in their burrow for the first time ever, as meerkat pups don’t emerge from the burrow until they reach three weeks of age. In the Atlantic Ocean, an unborn devil ray is shown kicking inside its mother’s stomach—a phenomenon never before captured on film.

 The program visits eight countries and features three different species per episode.

“Extraordinary Ordinary People” is a music-fueled journey through folk and traditional arts in America 

Another First Run Features gem . . .

Extraordinary Ordinary People is a music-fueled journey through folk and traditional arts in America.

At a time when the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts has never been more threatened, this new documentary focuses on one of its least known and most enduring programs: the National Heritage Fellowship, awarded annually since 1982.

Featuring a breathtaking array of award-winners including musicians, dancers, quilters, woodcarvers and more, the film demonstrates the importance of the folk and traditional arts in shaping the fabric of America. From Bill Monroe and B.B. King to Passamaquoddy basket weavers and Peking Opera singers; from Appalachia and the mountains of New Mexico to the inner city neighborhoods of New York, the suburbs of Dallas, and the isolated Native American reservations of Northern California–each of the artists share exceptional talent, ingenuity and perseverance.

Benedict Cumberbatch narrates the riveting “Naples ’44”, a look at a war-torn city in Italy

New from First Run Features . . .

In 1943 a young British officer, Norman Lewis, entered a war-torn Naples with the American Fifth Army. Lewis began writing in his notepad everything that happened to him during his one-year stay, observing the complex social cauldron of a city that contrived every day the most incredible ways of fighting to survive. These notes turned into his masterpiece, a memoir titled Naples ’44.

With narration by Benedict Cumberbatch, this new documentary based on Lewis’s memoir imagines him returning many years later to the city that charmed and seduced him.

Combining archival war footage with clips from movies set in Naples from the ’50s and ’60s (featuring Marcello Mastroianni and Ernest Borgnine among others) we see a thrilling and unpredictable parade of unforgettable stories and characters: women in feather hats milking cows in the rubble, statues of saints carried by hysterical crowds attempting to stop Vesuvius erupting and impoverished citizens impersonating aristocrats. But this unusual and riveting evocation of a timeless city is also a powerful condemnation of the horrors of war, whether just or unjust.

The breakthrough “Shakespeare Wallah”, with a gorgeous 2K digital restoration, is now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms 

One of the first Merchant Ivory productions, the sumptuous Shakespeare Wallah established the tone for so many of the collaborations to come from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory: the deft, multilayered screenplay by their frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, luminous cinematography, a wry sense of humor and a cast of characters rich in their very human complexity.
Cohen Film Collection’s new restoration of the film, released in theaters nationwide in 2017, came from the 35mm composite fine grain master held at the archive of the George Eastman Museum. The scan and 2K digital restoration was completed in conjunction with the British Film Institute’s Unlocking Film Heritage program. This breakthrough film is now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms.
The true story of British actor-manager Geoffrey Kendal and his family of traveling theatrical players is used as a fascinating lens into the ever-evolving relationship between Great Britain and India. The film follows Tony Buckingham (Geoffrey Kendal) and his wife, Carla (Laura Liddell), as the actor-managers of a troupe who travel through ’60s post-colonial India staging Shakespeare’s plays. But the Buckinghams come to realize to their dismay that classic English theater is falling out of favor in a changing country where the public has become more excited by the explosion of vibrant Bollywood films – and, more deeply, is looking to move beyond everything British. Meanwhile, the Buckinghams’ daughter Lizzie (future Britcom favorite Felicity Kendal) becomes involved in a love triangle that would fit perfectly in both a Shakespeare drama and a Bollywood musical.
With music by the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray and memorable performances by cinema icons Shashi Kapoor and Madhur Jaffrey (who won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 1965 Berlin International Film Festival), Shakespeare Wallah remains a one-of-kind gem of modern world cinema.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD editions are supplemented with a wealth of bonus material, including a conversation with the filmmakers, featuring Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Shashi Kapoor and Felicity Kendal; the film’s original trailer; and its 2017 rerelease trailer.

“My Friend Dahmer” tells the fascinating story of Jeffrey, before he went on his infamous killing spree

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was known as the Milwaukee Cannibal—more precise, he was a serial killer and sex offender, who committed the rape, murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. Many of his murders involved necrophilia, cannibalism and the preservation of body parts. Ugh.

My Friend Dahmer is the story before that story. It’s based on the acclaimed graphic novel about him; its screenplay landed a spot on the coveted “Black List,” ranking it as one of the best un-produced screenplays (at the time) before becoming a hit movie.

Jeff Dahmer (portrayed by Lynch) is an awkward teenager struggling to make it through high school with a family life in ruins. He collects roadkill, fixates on a neighborhood jogger (Kartheiser), and copes with his unstable mother (Heche) and well intentioned father (Roberts). He begins to act out at school, and his goofball antics win over a group of band-nerds who form The Dahmer Fan Club, headed by Derf Backderf (Wolff). But this camaraderie can’t mask his growing depravity. Approaching graduation, Jeff spirals further out of control, inching ever closer to madness.
The flick played extensively on the festival circuit, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival and going on to play at LA Film Festival, Deauville Film Festival and American Film Festival. The film features an all-star cast that includes Emmy Nominee Anne Heche, Vincent Kartheiser, Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff and Dallas Roberts.

Johnny Orlando, Ambyr Childers and Jon Heder star in a reimagined “Pinocchio”

We never tell a lie. We know what happens if we do . . . our nose starts to grow and we being taking on the look of a famous wooden wonder.

The colorful family adventure Pinocchio includes new wonders you’ve never imagined. This witty, wondrous version of the classic family adventure has been reimagined for a new generation and bursting with songs, color, laughter and thrills. Carved by a lonely woodcutter longing for a real son, playful Pinocchio is eager to do good and become human—but he keeps getting distracted from his quest. Constantly captured by con men, creatures and constables, he finds rescue courtesy of the helpful souls who recognize the wooden puppet’s kind heart.

Awarded the Dove Seal of Approval, this “wonderful family film” (The Dove Foundation) is a modern-day retelling of the timeless fable of a boy puppet and the lessons he learns from his misadventures. It comes to DVD, Digital and On Demand April 10 from Lionsgate.

The film features the voice talents of YouTube sensation and musical artist Johnny Orlando, Ambyr Childers and Jon Heder. Added bonus: The DVD includes a never-before-seen featurette, “Bringing the Characters to Life: At the Recording Studio with Johnny Orlando, Jon Heder and Ambyr Childers”.

This is an adventure you wooden believe!

“Secrets of the Dead: Scanning the Pyramids” solves a 4,500-year-old mystery

The secrets the dead reveal!

Following the publication of Nature‘s article acknowledging the greatest discovery in Egypt’s Khufu pyramid for more than 1,000 years, Secrets of the Dead: Scanning the Pyramids (PBS Distribution) unveils the adventure behind this revelation in this new documentary. The only one of the Seven Wonders of the World still standing, the Great Pyramid of Khufu has fascinated people for centuries. Tracing the origin of the legends of secret chambers hidden in the heart of the pyramid, the program shows what lies within, solving a 4,500-year-old mystery, by following the first scientific mission in 30 years to be authorized by the Egyptian government to examine the pyramids of Egypt.

Passionate about ancient history, the global team of Scan Pyramids consists of particle physicists, experts in innovation and 3D technologies, and engineers in thermal imaging from Egypt, France, Japan and Canada. For more than two years, they explored every corner of the pyramid, using non-invasive technologies including infrared cameras, 3D scanners and cosmological particle detectors located inside and outside the monument. Their search detected unknown cavities in the Great Pyramid of Khufu for the first time since the Middle Ages. Viewers are able to witness Scan Pyramid’s adventures and successes in this extraordinary scientific and historical journey through time and space that led to this historic discovery.

The harrowing journey of Sudan, the last male of his sub-species, the Northern White Rhinoceros, is told in “The Last Rhino”

Meet Sudan, the last male of his sub-species, the Northern White Rhinoceros. NATURE: The Last Rhino (PBS Distribution) tells his harrowing journey through the international cast of characters who have been involved in Sudan’s life, from when he was snatched as a calf from his mother’s side in war-torn Central Africa, to his captivity as a prized exhibit in a cold, concrete zoo behind the Iron Curtain while poaching devastated his kind to extinction back home.

Now at 43 years old and half-blind, Sudan is living out his days under 24-hour armed guard, on a protective sanctuary in Kenya. As his kind nears its last hour, scientists and animal experts turn to technology in a race to save the Northern White Rhino before it dies out forever.