Category Archives: Movies

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Learn how King Henry VIII got ahead in marriage . . . six times!

And you thought the Mormons had it tough.

The 16th--century legend of King Henry VIII is turned on its crowned head as the dramatic stories of his six tumultuous marriages are told from the wives’ perspectives in Secrets of the Six Wives (PBS Distribution). The fascinating documentary will be available on DVD March 14; the program will also be available for digital download.

With extraordinary attention to detail–including actual first-person accounts pulled from historical records and secrets and stories from the women who surrounded each Queen–the program offers an ambitious approach to the oft-told tales.

Led by UK author and historian Lucy Worsley, who moves seamlessly from the present to the past and appears throughout the series as an observer and commenter on the happenings at court, the program gives history a new point of view. Worsley is the Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, and a face familiar to British audiences as a regular historical contributor to BBC, whose best-selling books bring new angles on centuries of British history.

The series’ three episodes follows the trajectory of a well-known British nursery rhyme used to teach children the order of the six wives, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” Additional information about each of the episodes included on this DVD are below:

Episode 1
Young Henry is smitten with Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon, who became his first wife, until her “inability” to deliver a suitable heir destroyed their marriage. Henry’s wandering eye leads him to Mary Boleyn then to her sister, the infamous Anne Boleyn, as he begins divorcing his first wife.

Episode 2
Viewers learn that Anne Boleyn was not necessarily the “harlot” described by history, but instead a strong and intelligent woman.  After Anne’s famous beheading, King Henry marries his professed “true love” Jane Seymour, who bore the King’s only son but died soon after the child’s birth.

Episode 3
Taking place in Henry’s later years and traces the failed marriages he had with Anne of Cleves, whom he divorced, but who got a very good settlement and ended up as one of the richest women in England, and Catherine Howard, a teenager who Lucy discovers was exploited by older men from a young age. She was also beheaded. Henry remained married to his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, until his death.

Whether as witness to, participant in, or wry commentator on the marital dramas as they unfold, Worsley shines an empathetic light on the featured women and, in doing so, delivers a new take on the legend of King Henry VIII.

Murray says the cast of Secrets of the Six Wives features mostly new faces from the U.K., helping to bring the story a contemporary feel. Starring as the six wives are Paola Bontempi (Katherine of Aragon); Claire Cooper (Anne Boleyn); Elly Condron (Jane Seymour); Rebecca Dyson Smith (Anne of Cleves); Lauren McQueen (Catherine Howard); and Alice Patten (Katherine Parr). Notable veteran actor Richard Ridings (who voices the character of Daddy in the popular children’s show Peppa Pig) appears as the older King Henry VIII in episode 3. Scott Arthur plays Young King Henry VIII in episodes 1 and 2.

 

Iris Elba works “100 Streets” in the powerful ensemble drama

You know his voice from the characters he brought to life in a trio of Disney films: Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory.  Then there was his role as the villain Krall in Star Trek Beyond.

For three years Iris Elba tried to get 100 Streets off the ground. He’s one of the film’s producers. It’s a “small” film, a powerful ensemble drama, the story of three disparate Londoners whose lives interweave in unexpected ways as they face major life changes. Fans of layered storytelling and multi-character movies won’t want to miss this moving portrait of contemporary London, available on Blu-ray and DVD March 7  from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Samuel Goldwyn Films. 

100 Streets follows the trio as they play out in one square mile of modern day London. A former rugby player, Max (Elba), struggles to find a life off the field while fighting to save his marriage to former actress Emily (Gemma Arterton).  Kingsley (Franz Drameh) is a small time drug dealer desperately seeking a way off the street.  While completing his community service for a misdemeanor, Kinsley meets Terence (Ken Stott), a local thespian, who gives him the push he needs out of his dead end life and into a very different, creative world. George (Charlie Creed-Miles), a cab driver, and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) dream of having kids, but a devastating road accident puts their hopes on hold even testing their otherwise strong marriage. Anybody can make a wrong turn, but it’s the journey that allows us to find the right path.

Elba, so different from Max, loved the character, long past his prime. Says he: “I can relate to it. People in the spotlight tend to be scrutinized, every move they make. I guess you can say my star is rising or whatever, but what comes with that is a lot more inquisitive people who want to know who you are as a person and what life decisions you’re actually making. Because you’re an actor or sportsman people want to know that and they are curious. But it’s part of the job—if I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me, I would have probably gone for a different career path.

Criterion releases a stunning restored “Mildred Pierce”; pie not included

Michael Curtiz’s 1945 Mildred Pierce—a noir-tinged melodrama in which Joan Crawford portrays Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship—is a classic whose reputation hasn’t faded over the years. Its iconic performance by Crawford solidified the actress’ career comeback, winning Crawford her only Oscar.

As Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical performance by Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent’s tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations.

Recasting James M. Cain’s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional.

A rare photo of Crawford during a “Mildred Pierce” audition

Ahead of its recent Criterion release, the decades-old frames of the film required a painstaking rehabilitation process. After a number of archival film elements were scanned at 4K resolution at Warner Bros.’ in-house Motion Picture Imaging lab in Burbank, the original camera negative of the film came to light, providing the basis for the majority of the restoration—that is, until the negative’s inferior final reel necessitated dipping into another archive altogether. The resulting presentation of Mildred Pierce, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, beautifully reflects the silken texture of that original nitrate stock, the luminosity of the black-and-white images accentuating the film’s stark themes of social ambition and familial loyalty.

For the full story behind the restoration—as well as an opportunity to get acquainted with the technical experts and state-of-the-art equipment at both Warner Bros. and Criterion—watch the video below, made by Criterion videographer Tara Young.

And the bonus tracks are Heaven sent!
  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
  • Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford
  • Joan Craw­ford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary
  • Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2006, presented by Marc Huestis and conducted by film historian Eddie Muller at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco
  • Segment from a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring Mildred Pierce novelist James M. Cain
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • New cover by Sean Phillips

PBS goes into the bowels of Boston for a fascinating documentary on subway history

Petula Clark made it very clear: Don’t sleep in the subways, darling.

But learning about the underground travel system is a whole different trip. In the late 19th century, as America’s teeming cities grew increasingly congested, the time had come to replace the nostalgic horse-drawn trolleys with a faster, cleaner, safer, and more efficient form of transportation. Ultimately, it was Boston—a city of so many firsts—that overcame a litany of engineering challenges, the greed-driven interests of businessmen, and the great fears of its citizenry to construct America’s first subway. Based in part on Doug Most’s acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name, The Race Underground tells the dramatic story of an invention that changed the lives of millions.

PBS Distribution releases American Experience: The Race Underground on DVD on February 28. The program will also be available for digital download.

In the late 1800s, Boston reigned as America’s most crowded city, with nearly 400,000 people packed into a downtown of less than one square mile. With more than 8,000 horses pulling the trolleys, the city was filthy and noisy, reeking of manure and packed with humanity.

In 1890, Edison General Electric Company, which manufactured much of Sprague’s equipment, purchased and absorbed the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company

But a young American inventor named Frank Sprague had a revolutionary idea. Inspired by his visits to the London Underground, Sprague envisioned a subway system that would trade London’s soot-spewing coal-powered steam engine with a motor run on the latest technology—electricity. After an early job with his idol Thomas Edison, Sprague launched his own venture, the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company.

Sprague

Seeking investors, he first struck out with financier Jay Gould after almost setting the mogul on fire during a demonstration.  He soon found backing with the wealthy capitalist Henry Whitney, who owned a fortune in suburban Boston real estate and quickly saw the financial upside of connecting his desirable residential neighborhoods with the city’s economic center. Whitney also proposed the consolidation of Boston’s seven existing streetcar companies—all under his control. When the Massachusetts General Court granted Whitney the monopoly, he announced an unprecedented plan: To build the nation’s first subway. Powered by Sprague’s technology and enthusiastically supported by Boston Mayor Nathan Matthews, the project threw the city into a voluble debate.

“The Boston subway was not a foregone conclusion, not by a long shot. There was a petition at one point where 12,000 businessmen opposed the subway,” says historian Stephen Puleo. “There were going to be streets torn up, sewer systems affected, water lines affected, electrical lines affected. Secondly, folks felt like traveling underground was very close to the netherworld, that you were getting closer to the devil, that you were taking this great risk in God’s eyes by traveling on a subway.”

The debate raged on, but the Mayor finally convinced the city that the new subway would provide much-needed jobs and not infringe on the city’s beloved Boston Common. After two years of construction, Boston’s new subway made its first trip on September 1, 1897. Despite lingering fears, more than 250,000 Bostonians rode the underground rails on its first day. In its first year of operation, 50 million passengers would ride the Boston system, and within ten years, New York and Philadelphia opened subways, with more American cities to follow.

 

It took three decades but “Film Threat” is back, wildly entertaining as ever

One of the treats found on the site

It’s taken a while, but it’s back.  After its premiere 32 years ago, Film Threat is back. The rogue brand that introduced film lovers to some of the great filmmakers of our time has been, maintaining its original goal to support and promote emerging filmmakers looking to make their mark . . . as well as remind people that it’s not about the sequel. Filmthreat.com will house reviews, features, interviews with emerging filmmakers and nifty stuff, all without taking itself too seriously.

Coos Chris Gore, Film Threat‘s founder and principal Chris Gore. “It’s hard to believe that Film Threat is back and I’m so excited. “Our number one reason for restarting Film Threat is the fans.  Over the years, they’ve asked me about Film Threat and without even realizing it, they’ve kept the brand alive.  So after a few challenges–nothing a true indie filmmaker hasn’t experienced–we got it together and I’m thrilled to announce our launch.  We also have a few fun projects planned and we hope you’ll follow our journey, share your stories and laugh with us along the way.”

Film Threat began as a photocopies fanzine started by Chris Gore and Andre Seewood. Only 500 copies of the first issue were printed and then distributed on the campus of Wayne State University on February 6, 1985. It was on that campus that Gore and Seewood earned a reputation as disruptors by playing pranks on the film department . . . even going so far as to fake Gore’s death to promote a film screening. Seewood left after a year and Gore continued to grow the magazine beyond its photocopied roots into a magazine.

Its history is the stuff of Hollywood scripts. Gore moved the magazine to Los Angeles in 1989 and opened an office at the Cherokee Building on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1991, Larry Flynt acquired Film Threat which then split into two magazines:  Film Threat was owned by Larry Flynt Publications, and Gore continued to champion underground filmmakers in the pages of the newsprint sister publication, Film Threat Video Guide (edited by David E. Williams).

Gore briefly left the magazine in 1995 and Film Threat was then headed up by Paul Zimmerman. After Flynt chose to end the magazine in 1996, the rights reverted back to Gore. During the paper crisis of the late ’90s, Film Threat printed its final issue in 1997.

The Film Threat website launched just before the print magazine’s demise in 1996. Only two issues of this new incarnation were published; a third issue was completed but never made it to the printer. Gore expanded the Film Threat website offering an email newsletter that contained reviews and news. The site grew with extensive coverage of independent films and film festivals.

Gore sold the website to Mark Bell in 2010. Bell headed up the site for the next five years with the rights reverting back to Gore in 2015. After an unsuccessful crowd funding bid in 2015, Gore chose to shut down the site for good. Amid overwhelming public outcry over the site’s absence, Gore launched a new Kickstarter campaign in 2016, resulting in the site’s return.  1,073 backers pledged $56,199 to help bring this project to life. Maybe this photo helped?

Film Threat can be found at www.filmthreat.com.

Cheesy, cheap and a true cult classic: Olive Films brings “Panther Girl of the Kongo ” to Blu-ray and DVD

Patty, Maxene and LaVerne promised that bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo, oh no no no no no/Bingo, bangle, bungle, I’m so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go.

Spelling aside, we can’t wait to spend 12 chapters with Panther Girl of the Kongo that, at a cost  of $179,341, was the most expensive Republic serial of 1955.

When we say this is cheesy and cheap and oh-so-cultable, we mean it. The series was the penultimate ( 65 of 66) Republic serial, and was filmed in about two weeks. In order to make it possible to use significant stock footage from the earlier serial Jungle Girl, and cheaply pad out Panther Girl of the Kongo, a duplicate costume was used; as a result, Republic’s last female lead wore the same costume as its first!

The plot was a meld of serial fodder. Dr. Morgan is a mad scientist who is trying to nab sole access to secret African diamond mines (by way of the Republic backlot). In order to accomplish this he breeds giant “claw monsters to scare away any other inhabitants. Jean Evans, the Panther Girl, and her friend Larry Sanders encounter this plot while on a photo safari in the region.The star was Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane in the first season of the television series Adventures of Superman. Dr. Morgan was played by Arthur Space, best known as veterinarian Doc Weaver in 39 episodes of the TV series Lassie.

Olive Films releases release Panther Girl of the Kongo to Blu-ray and DVD.  Even audiences unfamiliar with serials can find plenty to enjoy. You may just not want to leave the Congo . . .

“Resistance” shines light on the little-known, top-secret Winston Churchill organization

And you think our country is in trouble.
What if D-Day had failed and the Third Reich continued to roll across Europe?  Following in the alternate history footsteps of The Man in the High Castle and Fatherland, Resistance shines a light on the little-known British Resistance Organization (BRO), Winston
Churchill’s top-secret and highly trained civilian army designed to wreak havoc on occupying enemy forces. This BAFTA Award-winning revisionist drama will be available on DVD and Digital on March 7 from Omnibus Entertainment, the specialty label of award-winning independent and foreign film distributor Film Movement.
Starring Michael Sheen, Andrea Riseborough, Iwan Rheon and Tom Wlaschiha, Resistance, based on the acclaimed novel by Owen Sheers is set in Nazi-occupied Britain.  D-Day has failed, and, as Panzer divisions and Nazi troops sweep westward across the dispirited countryside, Sarah Lewis (Riseborough), a young Welsh farmer’s wife, awakens to find that her husband, along with all the other men are gone, presumably having fled the village to join the top-secret BRO.

Shortly thereafter, a small Wehrmacht platoon arrives in the pastoral countryside and sets up an outpost in the valley to root out the resistance.  And when the severe winter forces them to cooperate with the locals, Sarah befriends the commanding officer, Albrecht (Wlaschiha), and the lines between collaboration, duty, occupation and survival are put to the test. Called “a beautiful, elliptical war film with the haunting qualities of a ghost story” by Empire Magazine, Resistance was nominated for the prestigious Cinevision Award at the Berlin Film Festival and a BAFTA Cymru Winner for Best Actress (Sharon Morgan).