Category Archives: DVDs

Masterpiece indeed! “To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters” comes to Blu-ray and DVD

Ever since they were revealed to the world as quaint country-women and not the notorious Bell brothers of their pseudonyms, the Brontë sisters have fascinated legions of devoted readers. PBS Distribution goes a few steps further with the release Masterpiece: To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters on DVD and Blu-ray. The program, will be available on Blu-ray and DVD and Blu-ray April 11; the program will also be available for digital download.

Written and directed by Sally Wainwright, the program makes a perfect companion to Masterpiece’s past adaptations of Brontë novels: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1997), Wuthering Heights (1998 and 2009), and Jane Eyre (2007).

Depicting the evolution of secluded, dutiful clergyman’s daughters into authors of the most controversial fiction of the 1840s, the drama stars Finn Atkins as Charlotte, who shocked society with her edgy epic, Jane Eyre; Chloe Pirrie as Emily, author of the darkly gothic and disturbing Wuthering Heights; and Charlie Murphy as Anne, whose true-to-life love story The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was deemed “coarse and disgusting” by Victorian critics.

Also starring are Jonathan Pryce as their distracted father, Reverend Patrick Brontë; and Adam Nagaitis as the sisters’ only brother, Branwell, whose wild and dissipated life contributed to vivid characters in each of their novels.

To Walk Invisible was filmed in and around Haworth, the picturesque Yorkshire village where the Brontë sisters lived and which is now a mecca for Brontëphiles from all over the world. Scenes at their parsonage home were shot in an exact replica that recreates the feel of a lived-in mid-19th-century provincial dwelling, with the sisters congregating around the dining table to pen their stories and plot their editorial strategy.

“The Bronte Sisters”, also known as the “Pillar Portrait,” was painted by their brother Branwell in the 1830s. Left to right is Anne, Emily and Charlotte. This is the only surviving group portrait of the sisters. Most contemporary comments on Branwell’s portrait paintings agreed that they were “poorly executed” but there was no criticism of the resemblances, which were considered “good.”

Based largely on Charlotte’s voluminous letters, the film follows the Brontë sisters in the eventful three-year period that saw them rise from ordinary, unmarried women, taking care of the household and their widowed father, to the secret authors of the world’s most sensational literature.

Although he never suspected it, Branwell was the inspiration. A would-be poet and artist, he was a complete failure due to alcoholism and opium addiction. As Reverend Brontë slowly went blind, Branwell was on an even more precipitous downward slide, inciting the sisters to do something to keep the family out of the poor house.

They had already tried being governesses—a thankless job except it provided good material for novels. So they set about turning personal experiences, keen observations, and unflinching honesty into fiction. Worried that female writers wouldn’t be taken seriously, they adopted male-sounding pseudonyms: Currer Bell for Charlotte, Ellis Bell for Emily and Acton Bell for Anne, retaining their own initials.

The last name, Bell, may have been inspired by the arrival of a new set of bells for their father’s church, a momentous event in Haworth. Another possible source is the middle name of Reverend Brontë’s assistant priest, Arthur Bell Nicholls (Rory Fleck Byrne), who later married Charlotte after the tragically early deaths of her siblings.

But Charlotte gave her publisher a deeper reason for anonymity—and provided the title for this film: “I think if a good fairy were to offer me the choice of a gift, I would say—grant me the power to walk invisible.”

“Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince” is a “cornflake and ham hock” winner

Ben Greeman’s book on Prince is a hot thing. Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince (Henry Holt and Co., $28) is a farewell to the mercurial funk-rock star. It’s also a love letter, a critical study, a personal essay. Yet readers will undoubtedly find it as compelling for what it is not as for what it is.

Dig If You Will the Picture is not is a traditional biography or a conventional critical consideration. It is not filled with gossip and “gotcha” moments. It is not simply a survey of Prince’s greatest hits. Rather, it’s a singular attempt to investigate the whole of Prince’s work and thought, to isolate the meaningful moments in his music, to think about the ways in which he provided the soundtrack for a generation, to define what genius means in pop music.

Greenman brings his encyclopedic knowledge of Prince and his music to the man and the time in which he lived—moving from his own suburban upbringing in Miami to Prince’s history in Minneapolis, from brash early albums like Dirty Mind through breakout classics like Purple Rain to mature complex works like Art Official Age.

In these pages, Prince is considered as a musician, certainly, but also as a gender theorist, an activist, and an independent businessman. Greenman illuminates the hidden corners of Prince’s vast discography: Do you know the mid-’90s manifesto “Style”? Do you know the mid-’80s B side “Shockadelica”? Do you know the outtake “2020”?

You should.

And you will.

As George Clinton raves: “When it comes to funk and words, lyrics and language, there couldn’t be a better pairing than Ben Greenman and Prince. From my experience with both of them, this is the perfect match, like ham hocks and cornflakes.”

Dig If You Will the Picture answers countless questions about one of our most mysterious and misunderstood pop icons, including:

  • What were Prince’s thematic preoccupations?
  • How did he change pop music forever?
  • How did he make so much fantastic work?
  • Did he really do it all himself?
  • Why did he go to war with his record label?
  • What did he think about sex, God, and the difference between them?
  • What were his politics?
  • How big was his Afro when he was young?
  • And what was with that symbol, anyway?

Dig If You Will the Picture meets Prince at his own level, as a pop-culture provocateur, a brilliant manufacturer of meaning, a complex and philosophical man, brooding introvert, singular talent—and a hell of a good time.

Cannot get a ticket to catch Eric Clapton in concert? Now ready: The Blu-ray and DVD “Live In San Diego”

Anyway the wind blows you, you will end up watching Eric Clapton’s highly-anticipated Live In San Diego With Special Guest JJ Cale. The DVD and Blu-Ray follows the release of the 2-disc CD set, 3 LP vinyl set and digital album of the concert, that were released on September 30, 2016 on Reprise/Bushbranch Records. In addition to the main DVD and Blu-Ray program, fans will enjoy extra footage of Clapton and Cale rehearsing “Anyway The Wind Blows” and “Who Am I Telling You?” for the concert.

Recorded at Clapton’s March 15, 2007 performance at the iPayOne Center in San Diego, CA, Live In San Diego With Special Guest JJ Cale concert was part of a world tour that was much loved by Clapton fans and featured a stellar band that included guitarists Derek Trucks (now of the Tedeschi Trucks band) and Doyle Bramhall II. The two-hour San Diego concert was a highlight of the tour as it featured JJ Cale as a special guest on five tracks (including “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”), as well as Robert Cray on the final song of the record, “Crossroads.”

After successfully covering several Cale songs throughout his career, Clapton finally collaborated with Cale in 2006 on the original album Road to Escondido.  Says Clapton: “This is the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man whose music has inspired me for as long as I can remember.”

So it’s fitting that one year later, Cale joined Clapton on stage for this special concert where they performed together, underlining the mutual respect the two musicians had for each other.

The concert features a superb set list from across Eric’s career. Notably, it includes songs from Eric’s classic Derek and the Dominos album Layla, with Derek Trucks playing many of Duane Allman’s original guitar parts.

Clapton is currently preparing to play North American shows for 2017, a series of concert dates at two famed venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Forum.  The shows will be a celebration of 50 years in music and just as many decades performing at these two venues.  Legendary guitar players Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan will be special guests at the shows.

The remaining dates for Clapton ion concert:

Thursday, September 7 New York Madison Square Garden
Friday, September 8 New York Madison Square Garden
Friday, September 15 Los Angeles The Forum
Saturday, September 16 Los Angeles The Forum

 

The conversation continues in the must-see documentary “The Talk: Race in America”

There’s an increasingly common conversation taking place in homes and communities across the country between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police. In many homes, “the talk,” as it is called, usually contains phrases like this:

If you are stopped by the police: Always answer “yes sir, no sir”; never talk back; don’t make any sudden movements; don’t put your hands in your pockets; obey all commands; if you think you are falsely accused, save it for the police station. I would rather pick you up at the station than the morgue . . .

This important and essential (and shamefully needed) conversation is highlighted in PBS Distribution’s The Talk: Race in America.  The two-hour documentary will be available on DVD April 4; the program will also be available for digital download.

The film will present six personal stories to illustrate the issue from multiple points of view: Parent, child, the police and the community. Filmed across the country, in communities including Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Richland County, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Cleveland, Ohio, the stories will include interviews with academics, police force members, community activists and family members.

Among those profiled are activist and founder of The Ethics Project, Dr. Christi Griffin, who, after living through the traumatic events of Ferguson, created “Parent 2 Parent,” a series of conversations with black parents talking with white parents about “the talk” with their black sons; Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, who was a 12-year-old boy killed by the Cleveland police while playing with a toy gun in a local park; Reverend Catherine Brown, who was assaulted by Chicago Police in front of her children in her own car; Trevena Garel, retired sergeant, New York City Police Department (NYPD), who has investigated allegations of misconduct involving both uniformed and/or civilian members of the NYPD; Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and retired officer, New York City Police Department (NYPD); the Ramirez family, whose 28-year-old son, Oscar, was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff in Paramount, California, a community southeast of Los Angeles; and members of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, who share the protocols for using lethal force and describe the danger from a police officer’s point of view.

In addition, sharing their own stories are Kenya Barris, creator/executive producer of Peabody Award-winning ABC series black-ish; Nas, musician/activist; Rosie Perez, actor/director, activist; John Singleton, director/screenwriter/producer; and New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

Each story is produced by a different filmmaker to ensure that diverse perspectives are presented. The project’s director and supervising producer, filmmaker Sam Pollard, an Academy Award nominee and multiple Emmy winner; and Oscar nominee Julie Anderson, closely oversaw the producers and managed the overall creative look, storytelling and structure.

 The Talk: Race in America will also be accompanied by an engagement campaign. Social media conversations will explore the topics of community policing, the power of representation in media and how to talk to children about race. Online audience members will also be invited to share their experiences of having or giving “the talk.” Visit PBS.org/thetalk for exclusive video content, special features and more.

Meghan O’Hara’s “The C Word” is mandatory viewing for everyone . . . do not whisper!

The film begins with a simple black screen, the backdrop for a sound that was immediately jarring: whispered, staccato words, clearly the words of someone who needed to deliver one final message, no matter how much effort it took.
Welcome to The C Word, an extraordinary documentary that will forever change the way we think and view cancer.  The film, narrated by its co-producer Morgan Freeman,  is fueled by the words of French neuroscientist and cancer revolutionary Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. The doctor, author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life, developed a method for reducing the risk of getting cancer. The movie’s other source: its director Meghan O’Hara.
This fascinating documentary arrives on Digital HD and DVD from Virgil Films on March 7.

O’Hara says the making of the The C Word was “therapeutic and inspirational”; her personal battle with the C word was the catalyst for its creation. She has survived Stage 3 breast cancer, a diagnosis she received about nine years ago at the age of 38.”I would like people to know that it’s unexpected, that there are revelations in here that people should be talking about but nobody seems to know,” she says, “and that there’s a great, powerful, powerful narrative at the heart of this film that really pulls you in. We tried really hard to make a rock ‘n’ roll documentary,” she said.

Indeed. The film uses  animation by saying “those cancer cells were so important for us to visualize.” It also features snatches of Family Guy and South Park to get certain points across.


One out of two people will get cancer in their lifetime. The latest research findings clearly show that up to 70% of cancer deaths are linked to our daily behaviors: smoking, a diet of processed foods, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive stress, and a continued exposure to daily contaminants.

 

“American Experience: The Great War” offers promises made that have been long forgotten

It was a war whose participants were to “make the safe for democracy”. That has been largely forgotten.

Drawing on the latest scholarship, including unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters, American Experience: The Great War (PBS Distribution) tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops who came to be known as “doughboys.”

The three-disc set, featuring the voices of Campbell Scott, Blythe Danne and Courtney Vance, will be available on DVD May 16; the program will also be available for digital download.

Can’t wait? The Great War premieres Monday, April 10, through Wednesday, April 12, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS.

The series explores the experiences of African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native-American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war to “make the world safe for democracy” has been largely forgotten. The program also explores how a brilliant PR man bolstered support for the war in a country hesitant to put lives on the line for a foreign conflict; how President Woodrow Wilson steered the nation through three-and-a-half years of neutrality, only to reluctantly lead America into the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, thereby transforming the United States into a dominant player on the international stage; and how the ardent patriotism and determination to support America’s crusade for liberty abroad led to one of the most oppressive crackdowns on civil liberties at home in American history.

It is also a story of little known heroism and sacrifice (including the deadliest battle in American history) that would leave more than 53,000 men dead on the battlefield and more than 60,000 dead from disease. American fatalities would come at a critical time in the war, but they would be dwarfed by a cataclysm of violence that would ultimately claim 15 million lives.

 

Is Kendra still on top? Seasons four and five tell-all, now in a DVD set

Not every girl next door in a former Playboy model. Unless you’re Kendra W. Baskett. No, the “W” does not stand for “wonderful” but “Wilkinson”, her maiden name before she hooked up with and married her husband, Hank Bassett. He’s now makes the transition from NFL football player to business man   and she’s balancing motherhood and her business ventures.

And so they star in Kendra on Top in, as some call it “the shocking reality series that follows America’s favorite reality queen.” In the newly released Kendra on Top: The Complete Fourth & Fifth Seasons (MPI Media Group), After the scandal that nearly ripped her marriage apart, Kendra aims to strengthen her relationships both in her career and at home.

Unexpected opportunities in London and Australia re-ignite an urge in her to be wild and free, but when she returns home, she’s faced with the possibility that her wild antics may have forced her marriage to reach its breaking point. Rumors of a tell-all book, a possible Girls Next Door reunion, and an odd music video make this the one series you don’t want to miss. See it all in seasons 4 and 5!

Cohen Film Collection releases a trio of Claude Chabrol masterworks . . .oui! oui! oui!

Once again, Cohen Film Collection has released, for the first time in HD, a collection of films by Claude Chabrol, one of the most prolific and widely respected of French film directors.  As one of the prime instigators of the French New Wave, Chabrol directed lean narrative films whose keenly observed realism typically drew inspiration from the suspense film and psychological thriller. The triumvirate of films include:

Betty
In one of Chabrol’s darkest dramas, Marie Trintignant gives an astonishing performance as Betty, a woman whose alcohol-soaked life has finally fallen to pieces.  She fortunately falls under the care of an older woman (Stéphane Audran) with a similar background, but her benefactor’s sympathies may be misplaced. Gushes the Chicago Sun Times: “One of the most eerily disturbing and mesmerizingly powerful films.”

Torment (L’Enfer)
Based on a script by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Chabrol explores the point at which jealousy and obsession turn to madness.  François Cluzet plays Paul, a young husband who, along with his beautiful wife (Emmanuelle Béart at her sexiest) runs a country hotel.  Paul soon becomes obsessed with his wife’s flirtations, but is it all in his head? Roger Ebert’s take? “Made with the practiced ease of a master.”The Swindle
Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault star as a couple of small-time con artists looking for the next big game in this psychological thriller tinged with wry humor.  Into their web stumbles a naïve financial courier (François Cluzet) accompanying what might be their biggest score yet.  “Disturbing, compelling, and very smart stuff”, says Entertainment Weekly.

“Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield” goes to the forefront of advances in military medical care

 

ABC News Correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was critically injured while covering the War in Iraq in 2006 and was saved by the advances in military medical care, brings his personal understanding of the issues to his role as host and correspondent of Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield. “The goal is not only to save lives, it’s to return the wounded to the lives they want to live,” says Woodruff.

Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield (PBS Distribution)  tells the stories of the men and women who are at the forefront of the medical frontier winning victories for military personnel and civilians. The documentary reports on the doctors and surgeons treating survivors returning home to resume their lives and recover from sometimes critical injuries.

The documentary will be available on DVD March 21.

More than 5,300 U.S. service members were killed in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in the years between 2001 and 2014. But of the thousands of severely wounded who made it to combat hospitals, 96% came home alive. The program reveals the lifesaving measures implemented as a result of these wars–including faster medical evacuations, the creation of critical care air transport teams that turn planes into flying intensive care units, and the increased use of tourniquets. Military doctors who have treated wounded troops abroad and at home explain how military medicine has changed over the past 15 years.

Using the best science and technology available, the physicians and scientists in military medicine work to improve the lives of America’s wounded, as well as their families. Woodruff takes viewers inside laboratories, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, where military medical advances and technology are making artificial arms with life-like responses, 3-D printing new organs, adding robotic arms to wheelchairs, and giving damaged legs new strength.

Woven throughout the documentary are the personal accounts from active duty troops, veterans, civilians and military families who share how medical advances are both saving and changing their lives. Among the stories presented is that of retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Padilla, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Padilla participated in a trial of a robotic prosthetic arm that uses implanted sensors to stimulate movement. Thanks to this groundbreaking technology, he can bend his thumb and play ball with his children, neither of which he could do with his first prosthetic arm.

In terms of numbers, the biggest medical challenge for the military is treating service members with brain injuries like retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Elana Duffy, who is dealing with memory loss and other symptoms of a traumatic brain injury she sustained while serving in Iraq in 2005. Specialized clinics, such as one at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, featured in the documentary, are helping service members identify and heal from these invisible wounds.

The program also delves beyond the medical aspects of medicine. Considered a special “healing place” by veterans is Richard’s Coffee Shop in Mooresville, N.C. In operation for more than 20 years, the place offers free coffee for veterans and an opportunity for them to connect every Thursday.

“I think Richard’s Coffee Shop is some of the best military medicine around,” says retired Staff Sgt. Dale Beatty, who lost both of his legs while serving in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army National Guard. After recovering, Beatty co-founded Purple Heart Homes, an organization that provides housing solutions for disabled veterans.

There is still much to be done beyond the battlefield. “You know it goes back to George Washington’s phrase—and I paraphrase now — that ‘the extent to which future generations will serve is directly proportional to how they see the current era veterans being treated,’ ” Woodson explains. “And so, if we don’t treat them well, if we don’t welcome them back into communities and embrace them and fully support them, we put our future national security in jeopardy.”

Join Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on a journey through the unseen Africa

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels the length and breadth of Africa to chronicle the continent’s history from a firmly African perspective. Viewers can join him as Professor Gates’ journey takes him from the city of Great Zimbabwe to the pyramids of the Kingdom of Kush in Sudan, from the spectacular rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia to the continent’s oldest university in Fez, from the Blombos Caves in South Africa to Ancient Mali, the empire of King Mansa Musa, still thought to be the wealthiest person ever to have lived.

No passport needed, just a copy of Africa’s Great Civilizations, available on DVD and Blu-ray on May 16; the program will also be available for digital download.

In the program, Gates chronicles a sweeping 200,000-year journey of discovery, showing the complexity, grandeur and diversity of many millennia of undiscussed and unknown details about Africa’s compelling and dramatic history. Gates presents—for the first time for a popular audience—a new vision not only of Africa’s pivotal place in world history, but also the world’s relation to Africa.

Africa’s contributions to the human community’s development of art and language, writing and religion, agriculture and government, the arts and sciences are commonly misunderstood, or even ignored. This landmark series presents a new and comprehensive narrative about Africa and the history of the extraordinary diverse peoples of its continent, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Cape of Good Hope, from the Red Sea and down the Nile River, and from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. The series sizzles with exciting interviews with leading historians, creative writers, art historians, paleoanthropologists, geneticists and museum curators.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBq_zOzhTqw://

“Africa is the ancestral home to the human community and to many of the pivotal breakthroughs in the history of civilization, yet the continent continues to be stereotyped as an isolated and underdeveloped region in the mind of outsiders, devoid of any profound historical achievements,” says Gates. “This series will dispel these myths and other inaccuracies about Africa through a detailed and riveting examination of significant historical events, such as the rise of its powerful kingdoms, the growth of extensive trade networks with the Middle East, Europe and China, seminal technological and artistic discoveries, and its peoples’ resilience in the face of harrowing past traumas. We made this series to end this ignorance about the African past, to reveal how Africans not only shaped the history of their continent, but also how profoundly and how extensively Africa has shaped the contours of our modern world.”

Beginning deep in the continent’s past with the origins of Homo sapiens and the “Out of Africa” migration of all of our human ancestors from east Africa, Gates vividly paints a picture of the earliest African civilizations—from Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush to the end of the 19th century as Africans faced Europe’s infamous “Scramble for Africa”—through their artistic and cultural achievements, their religious practices and political and social structures. Viewers examine the origins of the first human beings in Africa and the art and writing they created, and are introduced to unique environmental marvels such as the Gilf Kebir plateau, Jebal Barkal, the major climatic transformation of the Sahara Desert, and the emergence of cities in Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, South Africa, Great Zimbabwe, Angola, Benin, Ghana, Morocco and beyond. In terms of cultural and artistic innovation, the program looks at how the sculptors of West Africa exhibited craftsmanship rivaling that of European masters, and how the early Christian church—both through its theology and Christianity’s most architecturally stunning foundations—was nurtured in African cities like Alexandria, in Nubia along the banks of the Nile River and in Ethiopia. The crucial role of Africa in the evolution of Islam, and Islam’s major shaping role throughout North and West Africa, are subjects addressed with vigor throughout the series.

Africa’s history and its rich culture did not develop in isolation—it is and was greatly influenced by complex interactions with the rest of the world, since the most ancient of times. Gates shows how Africa’s interactions with foreign civilizations and ideas transformed these trading partners, and how African societies and cultures themselves were shaped through these extended contacts, including the arrival of Islam in medieval North Africa and Western Sudan and the rise of a maritime civilization on the East African coast, which regularly traded with Persian and Chinese visitors. Trade in salt and gold across the Sahara placed Africa in contact with Europe and the Middle East for millennia. Further, Africa was an epicenter of Christian theology and philosophy, reflected in the influential thinking of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century, and in travel accounts of such Islamic scholars as Leo Africans and Ibn Battuta.

The series also examines the ancient African kingdoms’ increasingly complex relationships with the political economies of Europe and the burgeoning trans-Atlantic slave trade, and how these interactions began to change the internal dynamics of the continent. Finally, the series draws to a close at the end of the 19th century, when the infamous “Scramble for Africa” witnesses the industrial nations of Europe fighting for control of the vast riches of Africa’s natural resources, and when on the Plains of Adwa, Ethiopia makes a heroic stand against an invading colonial power.