Category Archives: DVDs

A Thanksgiving treat: Stuff yourself on the new take of “Anne of Green Gables”

Too many TV stations air too many turkeys on Thanksgiving. Never PBS. After your day of thanks, give your local public television thanks for airing L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

This is the classic Lucy Maud Montgomery story that tells the tale of Anne Shirley, a precocious young girl taken from an orphanage and placed in the care of the uptight Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew. The conservative Marilla has a profound effect on the adventurous Anne and creates a journey of learning and personal engagement that has resonated with generations since L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908. The book remains an iconic work of Canadian literature and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 20 languages.

Directed by John Kent Harrison and based on the original script by Susan Coyne, this adaptation, filmed in Canada, stars critically acclaimed Martin Sheen, who portrays Matthew Cuthbert, one half of the brother-sister couple who care for Anne Shirley.

Some people Anne, and not Annie, is the most famous in the world. Whatever. Ella Ballentine stars as Anne in the two-hour, made-for-TV movie. “My mom read Anne of Green Gables to me when I was younger,” Ella recalls. “And every now and then the cartoon came on TV, so I saw little bits of that. Then I did an episode of Reign on the CW, and Megan Follows is on that. I didn’t have a scene with her, but my mom was telling me, ‘Oh, you know, she played Anne of Green Gables before.’ And I thought, ‘How cool is it to be Anne of Green Gables?’ So then when there was the audition for this, I got really excited.1297803878688_original

Is there anything specific in today’s world that she would miss if she could go back in time to the late 1800s, when Anne of Green Gables is set?

Without an eye on an iPhone: “Modern hospitals,” she says.

Maybe she knows that we will remind you the PBS film is just that the doctor ordered? Can’t wait? PBS Distribution offers it on DVD on November 8.

 

Travis Gutiérrez Senger’s “Desert Cathedral” is so powerful you can feel the power of the film from beginning to end

Once in a while a film comes along that blows your head off. Witness Desert Cathedral. Ostensibly, the film concerns a dubiously successful realtor who, in searching for something better for his family, runs straight into the kind of midlife crisis that’s unimaginably painful.  And it is less of his financial failure and more of his tragic imagination and sense of responsibility that sends him spinning off to the climax.

Imagine Dostoyevsky’s Notes for the Underground updated to the ’90s. Peter Collins is backed to a wall from which he sees no escape.  He has a loving wife, Anna and a beautiful daughter, but has seemingly made a series of perfectly legal, but possibly financially ruinous, actions. Such is basically the action of the film, illustrated by Peter and Anna, and Duran Palouse, the private investigator she hires to find her husband who mysteriously disappears into the Southwest.desertcathedral_comingsoon2

As the film progresses, the audience learn more and more about each character and our sympathy grows for them.  The incredibly exciting aspect of this film is the narrative structure. Cheating only slightly here and there, the story is told through the found footage of the hero’s VHS camera, sort of a visual suicide note.  However, this footage is interspersed with home movies Peter and his family have taken throughout the years, so the audience is able to see the sort of life, the failure of an American Dream. that the hero is leaving for the romanticism of the West.

The impact is pretty extraordinary. Understanding and sympathy develops for Peter and Anna, while the remaining information is obtained by the observation of Duran, a bit sleazy at first, yet who grows in the audience’s appreciation as the film progresses.

This is the first major release of Travis Gutiérrez Senger, an author, director and artist to watch.  Handling original narrative in a film has got to be difficult, but Senger’s direction has a style and such a unique manner of handling the now near clichéd “found footage” technique is quite wonderful.  The three major performers, Lee Tergesen, Chaske Spencer and Petra Wright are all spot on in their performances, and you can feel the power of the film from beginning to end. Based on true events, Desert Cathedral won the Golden Bee, the festival’s top prize, at the Manchester International Film Festival; the festival awarded the film for its bold and unique storytelling. No surprise. Isn’t it great to have a film to which you have to bring your brain?

Sink your teeth into the seventh season of “The Vampire Diaries”

Once again, it’s time to give a fangs a lot to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, who has released  The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Seventh Season on Blu-ray and DVD. Fans will devour all 22 one-hour episodes from season seven and feast on an hour of bloody good extras—including a brand-new featurette, the 2015 Comic-Con panel, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

For those too faint-hearted to recall every detail of season seven: An emotional goodbye is from Elena Gilbert; as Damon and Stefan’s mother, Lily (the gifted guest star Annie Wersching), tries to drive a wedge (stake?) between the Salvatore brothers; hope remains that Stefan and Caroline’s love story is tough enough to survive. Need more to quench your thirst for daring, demonic  drama? Damon does whatever it takes to take down his mother and her band of Heretics; when Bonnie and Enzo both try to decide where their loyalties lie, a surprising relationship will evolve. Plus, with Mystic Falls in disarray and the arrival of the Heretics—who are set on retaliation and mayhem—the suspense will be stronger than ever. Guest stars also include Todd Lasance, Elizabeth Blackmore, Scarlett Byrne, Teressa Liane and Leslie-Ann Huff.landscape-1469459749-the-vampire-diaries-desktop-wallpapers

It has long been rumored that the show was nearing its end after its lead star, Nina Dobrev, left the show after season six and its other stars, Ian Somerhalder and Kat Graham, hinted it is bye-byt time. But the cast and producers made the official announcement Saturday during their annual appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego.

 “We all have discussed it and we’ve made the decision that this is it,” TVD‘s producer, Julie Plec, told fans Saturday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “This is going to be the final season ofThe Vampire Diaries. It’s bittersweet and emotional and we’re all going to be crying in a minute. It’s been a beautiful run. Get ready, because it’s going to be an epic ride.”

A morsel of trivia only die-hard fans may know: Paul Wesley, who plays Stefan, directed “Woke Up with a Monster”, an episode last season. Did he have any favorite scenes that were really fun to do?

Says Wesley: “I loved directing the episode. It was interesting. I shot all interiors, and when you’re doing a TV series, you’re prone to weather changes, and you’re losing daylight, you’re losing nighttime. I just literally shot on stages, so I had all this play room, and it was so fun. I’m doing a couple more this year, and I can’t wait. It reinvigorated this sense of pleasure. Obviously I’m excited to be on the show, but I’d been doing it for so long that it can be a little bit like you sort of know what you’re getting yourself into, but with the directing you just discover something new every time. You’re always trying to get better, and it’s been great.”

“The Nazi Games: Berlin 1936” offers a riveting look at the Nazis and the International Olympic Committee

How did the Nazis and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) turn a small sports event into the modern Olympics? The answers can be found in the riveting PBS Distribution DVD The Nazi Games: Berlin 1936. (The program will also be available for digital download.) The grand themes and controversial issues from the 1936 Berlin Games have continued to this day: Monumentality, budget overruns, collusion with authoritarian regimes, corruption and sometimes even bribery.

Through archival footage and new research, The Nazi Games: Berlin 1936 reveals how the Olympics, as we have come to know them, were shaped by the collaboration of interests between Hitler and ambitious Olympic planners. After initial distrust, both the IOC and the Nazis found common ground in turning the 1936 Games into the biggest Olympic show the world had ever seen.

A good trip: The Blu-ray and DVD release of the first season of “Into the Badlands”

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Daniel Wu, Stephen Fung and Aramis Knight promoting “Into the Badlands”

Going Into the Badlands is a good thing. AMC’s goal for the series was simple: They wanted to produce a compelling character drama, and introduce the highest caliber of martial arts filmmaking to a weekly series. Success was struck, thanks to the creative minds of creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, whose six-part series stars Daniel Wu as ruthless, prodigiously skilled warrior Sunny. He mentors teen boy M.K. during a spiritual journey across a feudal civilization known as the Badlands.

Violence? Of course. With the help of trained assassins like Sunny, the area is ruled by rival barons, and for decades Quinn has consistently outflanked and outmaneuvered his fellow barons to keep the upper hand. His invincibility, however, begins to fade in light of brazen attacks by the newest baron, The Widow, who believes M.K. is the key to her success. As the battle for control of the Badlands heats up, the destinies of the stoic assassin and the impetuous teenager become intertwined.

Those who missed any of the compelling action or want a revisit should save the date of November 8, when Anchor Bay Entertainment releases Into the Badlands: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray and Digital HD and DVD. For those who wonder: The second season of Into the Badlands returns to AMC in 2017.

Set in a world centuries from now, Into the Badlands: The Complete First Season focused on the spiritual journey of Sunny (Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight), a teenage boy who harbors a unique ability, and their growing relationship as teacher and student. Both discover their true purpose and decide to explore what lies beyond the borders of the Badlands, but as their Baron Quinn continues to battle against his own family as well as his rival Baron the Widow, Sunny and M.K.’s journey to a more peaceful existence seems further out of reach.

Those who now wonder about bonus features on the Blu-ray and DVD release of season one:

 

  • Inside Into the Badlands
  • Anatomy of a Fight
  • Building the World of Into the Badlands
  • The Characters of Into the Badlands: The Barons
  • The Characters of Into the Badlands: The Clippers
  • The Master: Into the Badlands Fight Camp Episode 1
  • Creating Real Kung Fu: Into the Badlands Fight Camp Episode 2
  • Bringing It All Together: Into the Badlands Fight Camp Episode 3
  • Into the Badlands Digital Comic

PBS offers a gorgeous look at Colorado, the state Streisand once despised

John Denver had a Rocky Mountain High. Barbara Streisand had, back in early ’90s, a distaste for Colorado. Back in 1992, the Supreme Court considered arguments for and against the Defense of Marriage Act; a hearing that recalled the court’s part in tossing out 1992’s Amendment 2, which prevented bodies in Colorado from recognizing gays and lesbians as a protected class. The passage of Amendment 2 led to Colorado being branded the “hate state.”

A boycott against visiting the state was subsequently called for by numerous high-profile stars: Babs got the boycott ball rolling after suggesting in a post-election speech that Hollywood types steer clear of Colorado “if we’re asked to.” But days later, the Associated Press quoted her as saying, “There are many citizens in Colorado who did not vote for the amendment. I support the organizations and people who are challenging its validity.”

That was then. Things changed . . . but not the beauty and wonder of Colorado. Proof for those who never stepped foot there: PBS Distribution is releasing Heart of the World: Colorado’s National Parks on DVD. Narrated by Grammy-winning Kathy Mattea, Heart of the World delves into the true wonder and beauty of nature, taking us through the seasons and centuries of some of the most spectacular sights on earth—Colorado’s National Parks. Combining stunning photography of the parks filmed throughout the seasons—along with breathtaking helicopter aerials and outstanding wildlife shots that include bears, bighorn sheep, moose and elk.

 

A perfect example of when crime pays: Netflix’s superb crime drama “Longmire”

Crime pays. Sometimes. Witness the sharp, superb writing and fine acting in the hit crime drama Longmire, based on the “Walt Longmire” mystery novels written by bestselling author Craig Johnson. After finding out who had a hand in his wife’s murder, Sheriff Walt Longmire is back for the fourth season of the hit crime drama; in this gripping three-disc, 10-episode set, characters test their courage and face challenges that will ultimately define them. The thrilling third season of this contemporary Western captivated fans across the country, demanding for Netflix to bring it back for a fourth season. Watch the cast below and learn why we all love it!

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Taylor as Longmire

Due to overwhelming fan demand, Longmire: The Complete Fourth Season also arrives September 13 on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Archive, and will be available at Amazon.com and all online retailers.

The new season finds unflappable Sheriff Walt Longmire (the underrated Aussie actor Robert Taylor) and his deputies trying to put the troubling events of the past behind them. The mysterious White Warrior who tormented Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) is dead, Walt’s best friend Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) is a free man, Longmire’s right-hand deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) is newly divorced, and the mystery of Walt’s wife’s murder is seemingly resolved.  However, just as it looks like a second chance is truly possible for everyone; the opening of the new casino on the Reservation brings dark new problems to Walt’s corner of Wyoming.  And his fresh start is further threatened as it becomes clear that some people cannot truly move on until they have either forgiven past injustices or avenged them.

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McRaney and Taylor.

We wondered who Taylor who like to be a guest star on the show.  he laughs. “Can we get Raquel Welch from 1973? We had Gerald McRaney. There may be a better actor out there but I’m not sure who they are. Sam Shepard was in Santa Fe and I see him around and know Adam [Bartley, who plays the bumbling Deputy Ferguson] has become buddies with him. He’s trying to get him to come on the show. And everybody talks about Sam Elliott. That’d be fun. He’d win the best mustache competition. That’d be fun.”

VAI releases Ann Southern’s TV take on “Lady in the Dark.” In one word: Brilliant!

First of all, kudos. applause, standing ovations and general huzzahs to VAI, otherwise known as Video Artists International. While other video companies are bragging about their release of a “lost” film such as Dracula and Frankenstein meet Ma and Pa Kettle and Have Ugly Children, VAI is releasing the wonderful Max Liebman television musical spectaculars from the ’50s.

Witness Lady in the Dark: a lost classic that maybe should remain lost, except for the VAI TV release. Some years ago, a college in Boston produced an uncut version of the Broadway show, partially paid for by the author’s widow, Kitty Carlisle Hart. It ran three hours and heavy change.  Forty minutes of music which, given Kurt Weill’s score, gave the audience more than two hours of Moss Hart dramatizing psychoanalyses.

Just as eyes were beginning to glaze over, the show’s sequences illustrating psychoanalysis in dream form had the stage become electric with the Weill score . . . only to saunter back into  Fun with Freud.  Finally, a fourth dream, The Childhood Dream, wraps everything up nicely with the beautiful song, “My Ship.”  Even if Gertrude Lawrence, the original lead, were alive, it would take a Herculean effort to make this work today.

Then there was the 1944 Mitchell Liesen film with Ginger Rogers, which today plays like a particularly vivid acid trip in an ’80s gay bar.
Then, at last, Max Liebman did a TV version in 1954, which VAI has released on DVD.  It stars Ann Southern, a very underestimated comedienne with a fine singing voice.  Having neither the somewhat chilly affectedness of Gertrude Lawrence nor the brassy colorfulness of Ginger Rogers, here is a leading lady we can believe. The whole thing come in at 90 minutes, with the Weill score more or less intact.download
Both Weill and Lawrence were geniuses, although Lawrence ages poorly.  Moss Hart had a tendency to write frequently in an autobiographical vein; think of The Man who Came to Dinner and Light Up the Sky. He also used his own extensive couch time to create Lady in the Dark, clocking in some 400 performances during its original Broadway run. However, the show is cloyingly long if performed uncut today.
But the Liebman take is transcendent, not only because of Southern, but also James Daly, Carleton Carpenter and, of course, Bambi Lynn and Rod Alexander, who seem to dance in all of Liebman’s TV shows.
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Ann Sothern as Liza Elliott finds herself torn between James Daly as Advertising Manager Charley Johnson and Robert Fortier as film star Randy Curtis
“My Ship”, “The Saga of Jenny” , “One Life to Live” there all here.  This is a difficult thing to say, but Lady in the Dark may well be the best of all the VAI releases.

The 13-part miniseries “Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands” heads to Blu-ray and DVD

And you think Shakespeare was tough. Beowulf  is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It may be the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. Scholars argue the date of the poem’s origin; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The author? An anonymous Angle-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the “Beowulf poet”.

Now Beowulf comes to life. Of sorts. Public Media Distribution, LLC  is releasing (on October 11) Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands on DVD and Blu-ray.

Based on the complex protagonist of the classic English poem written between the eighth and tenth century, the series takes place in a mythological place, The Shieldlands, and challenges the notions of good and evil, heroes and villains, and the rule of law against one’s moral code. The drama, a 13-part epic miniseries that originally aired on the Esquire Network, stars Kieran Bew, in the lead role Beowulf; as well as William Hurt; Joanne Whalley; Ed Speleers and David Ajala.

Beowulf returns to his hometown after 20 years only to find the town attacked by a creature and himself accused of murder. This update to the centuries old tale introduces new characters and storylines to bring together an intriguing and epic fantasy action-adventure series.

Wanna read the poem?

Hoping for an incredible box set celebrating Bob and buddies? Time Life offers “Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials”

Bob Hope fans rejoice: Been hoping for a spectacular star-studded DVD box set crammed with rarities and thankful memories? You can thank Time Life.   On September 20, they will release Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials, a six-disc box set filled with 13 unforgettable comedy-variety specials spanning five decades. The guest stars as a Who’s Who of Great Talent and Major Superstars . . . think Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Dean Martin, George Burns, Sammy Davis Jr., Groucho Marx, Don Rickles, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Clinton and many, many more!
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Bob Hope is considered the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. He moved from Broadway to radio to movies to television as easily as a pro golfer sinking a two-foot putt. There was no better showcase for his prodigious talents then his NBC comedy-variety TV specials, which began in 1950 and spanned 50 years and 10 presidential administrations from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.  Hope’s hilarious TV specials, many of which are still among the most watched shows of all time, became a vehicle for the stars of the day and defined the variety show for generations of loyal fans. Whether he was ringing in the festive Christmas season with the biggest celebrities in Hollywood, along with major figures from the worlds of sports, music and politics, or bringing a taste of home to servicemen and women scattered thousands of miles from their families with his legendary USO shows, Hope’s warmth and goodwill knew no boundaries.  He knew, whether home or abroad, laughter was truly the best medicine.   And, for more than 50 years, Hope served it up like no other entertainer in history.
 
We offer what’s inside the Hope chest:
Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials features 13 digitally restored and unedited specials from Bob’s career, including (in chronological order):
  • The Bob Hope Chevy Show – Original Air Date: October 21, 1956
  • A Bob Hope Comedy Special – Original Air Date: September 27, 1963
  • A Bob Hope Comedy Special – Original Air Date: December 15, 1965
  • Chrysler Presents A Bob Hope Comedy Special – Original Air Date: October 19, 1966
  • Chrysler Presents A Bob Hope Comedy Special – Original Air Date: February 15, 1967
  • The Bob Hope Christmas Special – Original Air Date: January 18, 1968
  • Highlights of a Quarter Century of Bob Hope on Television – Original Air Date: October 24, 1975
  • Joys (A Comedy Whodunit) – Original Air Date: March 5, 1976
  • Bob Hope’s World of Comedy – Original Air Date: October 29, 1976
  • Texaco Presents The Bob Hope All-Star Christmas Comedy Special – Original Air Date: December 19, 1977
  • The Hilarious Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars – Original Air Date: September 28, 1984
  • Bob Hope: The First 90 Years – Original Air Date: May 14, 1993
  • Bob Hope . . . Laughing with the Presidents – Original Air Date: November 23, 1996 
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Highlights from those programs include: 
  • Bob’s first studio comedy special “in living color” with guests Jack Benny, Bing Crosby and Janet Leigh
  • The Bob Hope Chevy Show with the entire cast of “I Love Lucy”; Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance and William Frawley, plus James Cagney and Diana Dors
  • A hilarious spoof of Star Wars and other sketches with Tony Bennett, Perry Como, James Garner, Mark Hamill, Dean Martin, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand, Tuesday Weld, The Muppets and others
  • The murder-mystery parody Joys (A Comedy Whodunit) with nearly fifty guest stars including Charo, Milton Berle, Dean Martin, Don Rickles, George Gobel, Alan King, Don Knotts, Groucho Marx, Vincent Price and Freddie Prinze
  • The best of the bloopers from 30 years of Bob’s shows with George Burns, Sammy Davis Jr., Angie Dickinson, Phyllis Diller, Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, Mr. T, John Wayne and many more
  • Bob’s 1967 USO tour to 22 bases around Vietnam, Thailand and the South Pacific in 15 days with special guest Raquel Welch
  • Highlights from over 25 years of specials in Bob Hope’s World of Comedy and the celebration Highlights of a Quarter Century of Bob Hope on Television
  • A look at Bob’s personal relationships with American presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Harry S. Truman
  • Bob Hope’s 90th birthday celebration featuring tributes by Johnny Carson, George Burns and many more
BONUS FEATURE 
  • Shanks for the Memory  The world of golf according to Bob Hope, which includes historic clips of Bob with Bing Crosby, presidents and pros on courses around the world, and special appearances by President Gerald Ford, pro golfers Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.