Category Archives: Movies

“Zombi Child” takes a fantastical and frightening look at Clairvius Narcisse, a real/dead life zombie

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”.
Yikes!
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)
February 7-9 SIFF Film Center (Seattle)
February 21  Nuart (Los Angeles)
February 21 Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
February 28 Cosford Art Cinema (Miami)
February 28 O Cinema Miami Beach
February 28 Landmark Opera Plaza (San Francisco)
February 28 Landmark Shattuck Cinema (Berkeley, CA)
February 28 Cinema Salem (MA)
March 6 The Grand Berry (Ft. Worth, TX)
March 6 Gateway Film Center (Columbus, OH)

“Bombshell” offers tour de force performances in a film ripped from today’s headlines

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 flick arrives 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
PRESS MATERIALS

Two new films offer honest love stories, as they take a vivid look at being gay in Central America

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.”
Bravo!

Finally, the true and inside story of Hollywood’s forgotten force (and Garbo’s lover), Salka Viertel

Salka Viertel was once the highest paid writer on the MGM lot. She was also Greta Garbo’s lover, for whom she wrote five films.  A side note: So close were they that Viertel  bought a house next door to Garbo; when in 1969 Viertel  published her “autobiography” The Kindness of Strangers, she revealed their true relationship. Garbo never spoke to her again, avoiding her on the streets of New York City.

Garbo’s on the left

For the scores of wartime refugees fleeing persecution under Hitler she opened her doors to, Viertel was a lifeline. A courageous woman with a fascinating life and an incalculable impact on the lives of others, she has been long overdue for her moment in the spotlight.

So we can thank Donna Rifkind, whose biography, The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood(Other Press, $30) shines a light on this remarkable story.

Actress-turned-screenwriter (Viertel declared herself  “neither beautiful nor young enough” to be a movie star), she left Berlin for Hollywood in 1928, bringing with her the bohemian spirit of the Weimar era. She would work with the luminaries of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including George Cukor, Irving Thalberg and David O. Selznick. At her house in Santa Monica she opened her door on Sunday afternoons to scores of European émigrés who had fled from Hitler—such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Schoenberg—along with every kind of Hollywood star, from Charlie Chaplin to Shelley Winters. In the living room (the only one in town with comfortable armchairs, said one Hollywood insider), countless cinematic, theatrical, and musical partnerships were born. As Nazi domination grew in Europe, Viertel poured herself into the refugee cause, arranging for jobs and affidavits for Jews and anti-fascists seeking safety in America.

Garbo in perhaps her greatest film, “Queen Christina” (1933). Her lover wrote five film for her. Viertel co-wrote the film with Harold Marsh Harwood. She also co-wrote(with Clemence Dane) the 1935 classic “Anna Karenina”, a snatch seen below.

If Viertel’s name has been largely forgotten in America, it is because too few people believed what she accomplished was important. Now, alongside our current moment’s interest  in recovering historically-overlooked women’s creative contributions, investigating women’s ability to survive and flourish in sexist Hollywood, and considering the moral obligations of Americans to displaced people in a world undergoing a vast refugee crisis, the questions Salka asked herself in the ’30s and ’40s about how one should live—and the answers her life exemplified—are as vital as ever.

It’s impossible to understand the true history of Hollywood without knowing the story of the dramatic, courageous figure of Salka Viertel and her rescue mission.

“The Ice King” chronicles the emotionally resonant journey through John Curry’s remarkable life and career

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.

John Curry with his Gold medal in 1976.
BONUS FEATURES
  • On the Beautiful Blue Danube: Creating the Music of The Ice King
  • Q&A with director James Erskine 

Mike Bartlett’s “Press” takes a riveting look at two of London’s fictional rival newspapers

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.

Joys and hardships. Overcoming obstacles. Near-daily adversities. Welcome to “Animal Babies: First Year on Earth”

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.

Great food, great cast. Just the dish: “America’s Test Kitchen: Home for the Holidays”. Seconds, anyone?

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.

Seconds anyone?

PBS’ “Magical Land of Oz” haunts the unimaginable destruction taking a powerful toll on Australia

The destruction is  unimaginable; scores of devastating bush fires destroying the Australian outback, countless homes and (as of date) more than one billion (!) animals. We keep the country, the people and the animals in our prayers.

We especially prayed when was watched Magical Land of Oz, an exciting three-part series from PBS Distribution that explores the magical depths of Australian animal life, unique species that navigate extremes on land and sea. Blue chip cameras capture the continent’s diverse animal populations in its highest snow peaks, frigid southern seas and suburban backyards.

In the first part, Land, viewers see the unique wildlife of Australia which includes a tree-dwelling kangaroo, a spider that survives underwater and a bird that spreads fire. In the second part, Human, the program explores how Australian wildlife has adapted to survive in the human environment, including a flamboyant dancing peacock spider in a suburban garden. In the final part, Ocean, viewers are taken to Australia’s magical coasts and islands where three oceans create the perfect environment for whales, giant cuttlefish and sharks.

Watch and keep all in your prayers.

THIRTEEN’s American Masters and Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES offers a brilliant documentary on Raul Julia.

Flashback to 1982. Raul Julia was nominated for a Tony Award for his magnificent performance in NINE.

I was at the awards event, and a man came up to me and said, “You’re father is a great actor.”  I looked at him quizzically. Then he added. “You must be proud to be Raúl Juliá’s son”.

I smiled.  “I should be so lucky”, I told him. to him he encountered with, “You look just like him”!

I should be so lucky. One of my favorite performers—and one of the world’s—was taken from us way too early. In 1993, he was diagnosed with cancer, but he continued to act, playing rainforest activist Chico Mendez in the television movie The Burning Season (1994), for which he posthumously won Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy Awards.  Juliá’s brilliant and daring career was tragically cut short by his untimely death in 1994,  at age 54.

PBS Distribution has released Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage, a special presentation of THIRTEEN’s American Masters and Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES. This documentary is a warm and revealing portrait of the charismatic, groundbreaking actor, from his journey from his native Puerto Rico to the creative hotbed of ’60s New York City, to prominence on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Filled with passion, determination and joy and told in his own voice through archival interviews and in the words of those who knew him best, the film traces Juliá’s personal and professional life while showcasing performances from his collaboration with Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater to his successful cinematic career. His best-known roles include the history-making productions of Titus Andronicus, Two Gentlemen of Verona with Clifton Davis, The Taming of the Shrew with Meryl Streep and The Threepenny Opera (for which he was nominated for a Tony  for his role as Macheath); the Broadway musical Nine and Dracula; and films such as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Moon Over Parador, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Romero, Presumed Innocent and The Addams Family. 

Interviews with some of the most respected actors who worked alongside Juliá, including Anjelica Huston, Edward James Olmos, Rita Moreno, James Earl Jones, Sonia Braga, Rubén Blades and Esai Morales, illuminate his impact as an artist. In addition, actors John Leguizamo, Jimmy Smits, Andy Garcia and others share how they were profoundly influenced by Juliá and carry the torch of his legacy. Juliá’s personal side comes to life through never-before-seen family photos and home videos, along with reminiscences from his wife, Merel, his sons, relatives and friends, who share candid insights about his life away from the spotlight.

Ever-present throughout Juliá’s story is the cultural landscape of the entertainment world and the boundaries he broke. Before diversity and inclusion efforts were part of the national conversation, the big man with the engaging personality and accent was able to amass a varied body of timeless work that helped pave the way for Latino actors today. He was also a passionate and pioneering advocate of social causes, including ending hunger. In Juliá’s words, “It’s all done within a context of love. That’s the beauty of it, you see?”