February always makes us think of arrows . . . after all, that is the cherubic Cupid’s weapon of choise.
We also think of Arrow, that continues to offer up a diverse lineup for home video collectors with a trio of must- see, must-have releases.
The triumvirate drops on February 25, starting with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Manon via Arrow Academy. Loosely adapted from Antoine François Prévost’s 1731 novel, this stunning French drama is the story of a French Resistance fighter that rescues and falls in love with a woman from accused of working with the Nazis. The couple moves to Paris where their life begins to spiral out of control as they get caught up in prostitution and murder.
How good is it? The film took home the Golden Lion award at the 1949 Venice Film Festival. This new high definition release includes a brand-new video appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew and an archival documentary that features Clouzot discussing his love for literature.
First up from Arrow Video is the multi-disc set One Missed Call Trilogy. This legendary trio of J-horror films launched with Takashi Miike’s2003 film about people who receive strange voicemails from their future selves predicting their deaths. Yumi Nakamura, a young psychology student, begins to investigate the calls and discovers this terrifying circumstance has been plaguing Japan for centuries. The original series was followed by two more films, One Missed Called 2 and One Missed Call: The Final Call.
While the franchise never quite reached the popularity of contemporaries like the Ring and Ju-on: The Grudge, it’s certainly not without its own devoted fan base thanks to its visual flare and the nightmare scenario catered towards a generation that grew up with cell phones. The complete trilogy comes to Blu-ray with a full voicemail of special features that include interviews, documentaries, a TV special and a short film.
Rounding out February is José Ramón Larraz’s bonkers late-era slasher, Deadly Manor. Also known as Savage Lust, this final genre effort from Larraz follows a pretty standard template as teens stay the night in an abandoned mansion that happens to be home to a lunatic killer.
Unlike the trailer above, the film has been restored in 2K using the original elements. Deadly Manor will be making its Blu-ray debut. This release will include a multitude of special features, including a new interview with actress Jennifer Delora and the original VHS trailer.
Already ready for your eyes and ears:
José Ramón Larraz’s Edge of the Axe. This Spanish-American slasher follows a masked killer picking off people in a small California village with, that’s right, an ax!
Overlooked for years, this new 2K restoration (from the original camera negative) looks to introduce this cult classic to a new audience. The release includes English and Spanish versions of the film, two new audio commentaries, and more.
Black Angel is a stunning black-and-white film noir that marked the final time behind the camera by prolific director Roy William Neill. After a man is convicted for murder, his wife and victim’s ex-husband fight to prove his innocence. Lost in the shuffle of ’40s noir, and hated by author Cornell Woolrich whose novel served as the source material, Black Angel is a sleek and stylish film that genre fans will surely appreciate.
This new Arrow release contains a brand-new restoration of the film, starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre, and a number of bonus features, including a video appreciation by film historian Neil Sinyard.
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.
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.”
Forget Frozen. Perhaps the best film taking place on frozen water (think ice) is The Ice King(Film Movement). With a mix of new interviews, crisp footage and a treasure-trove of archival materials, Emmy-nominated documentarian James Erskine takes viewers on an emotionally resonant journey through John Curry’s remarkable life and career. Curry transformed ice skating from a dated sport into an exalted art form. Coming out on the night of his Olympic win in 1976, he became the first openly gay Olympian in a time when homosexuality was not even fully legal.
Toxic yet charming; rebellious yet elitist; emotionally aloof yet spectacularly needy; ferociously ambitious yet bent on self-destruction, Curry was a man forever on the run: from his father’s ghost, his country, even his own self.
Above all, he was an artist and an athlete whose body time and time again—sometimes against his will—became a political battlefield. This documentary uses Curry’s life and accomplishments to chart both the evolution of competitive ice skating and of the gay movement of the ’70s and ’80s that culminated in the onslaught of AIDS, which he was diagnosed with in 1987 and which contributed to his death in 1994.
On the Beautiful Blue Danube: Creating the Music ofThe Ice King
An ensemble cast of some of Britain’s hottest talent portrays the committed and passionate characters behind the daily news at two fictional rival newspapers in Mike Bartlett’s Masterpiece drama Press (PBS Distribution). Set in the world of newspapers in London—its past riven by hacking scandals, its present at the mercy of the digital age and the 24-hour news cycle, its future uncertain—this razor sharp and observant drama explores the current, turbulent media landscape and the ethical dilemmas that journalists and editors face each day.
Charlotte Riley stars as the News Editor of fictional newspaper, The Herald; Ben Chaplin as the Editor of the fictional The Post; and Priyanga Burford as The Herald’s Editor.
Press is rounded out with Paapa Essiedu as The Post’s newest reporter and Shane Zaza its News Editor. Ellie Kendrick stars as a junior reporter, Al Weaver stars as an investigative journalist and Brendan Cowell stars as the Deputy Editor at The Herald.
Doris Day once told us that “four-legged animals are so much nicer than the two-legged ones”.
We couldn’t agree more.
In Animal Babies: First Year on Earth viewers meet six baby animals from across the globe, the toque macaque monkey, the spotted hyena, the African elephant, the sea otter, the mountain gorilla, and the Arctic fox. Like all babies, young animals can have a first year filled with joy, love and play. To survive, however, they must overcome threats and challenges, from rivals, from the elements, and from predators. Follow along as they experience joy and hardship, confront near-daily adversities, navigate their habitats and overcome challenges in their first year of life
Renowned wildlife cinematographers tell the stories of these magical first months in three parts, First Steps, Testing the Limits and New Frontiers. They travel the globe to follow the lives of these six iconic baby animals as they grow and develop. This is the story of what it takes to survive in the wild. This is their first year on Earth. Welcome.
What is cooking with PBS Distribution DVDs? Just the recipe: America’s Test Kitchen:Home for the Holidays. The entire cast is home for the holidays, and they’re sharing their tips and tricks for planning a stress-free gathering, while also recounting personal holiday memories and revealing their all-time favorite holiday recipes from the Test Kitchen archives.
Home For The Holidays features hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison and the rest of the America’s Test Kitchen cast gathered together in a casual behind-the-scenes setting, sharing the warmth of the holidays with viewers. The program also spotlights five of the Test Kitchen’s favorite holiday recipes, including new twists on classic holiday fare such as turkey en cocotte and beef tenderloin with smoky potatoes and persillade relish.
Their porchetta recipe offers a flavor-packed alternative to traditional holiday roasts, and elegant holiday desserts such as millionaire’s shortbread and gâteau Breton are sure-fire favorites to consider anytime you’re trying to please a crowd.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some