Category Archives: Music

Lou Reed and his velvet underground are (gulp!) 50 years old. For the record: Verve/UMe celebrate

To celebrate the Velvet Underground’s 50th anniversary, Verve Records/UMe is releasing The Velvet Underground, a limited-edition career-spanning box that collects all four of the pioneering band’s studio albums, Velvets collaborator Nico’s debut LP, Chelsea Girl, and a reconstruction of the fabled “lost” 1969 album, making it available on vinyl for the first time. The six albums housed in a special black slipcase will be pressed on 180-gram black vinyl and feature stereo mixes and meticulously reproduced original cover art. The box will also include an exclusive 48-page booklet, featuring vintage photos, lyrics and a new foreword penned by founding member Maureen “Moe” Tucker. Limited to 1,000 copies worldwide, the box set, which will be released February 23, is available for pre-order now exclusively at uDiscover: https://UMe.lnk.to/TVULPBox

Assembled by Grammy-winning reissue producer Bill Levenson, The Velvet Underground incorporates six classic records from the band’s vintage heyday including 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, their landmark debut, produced by the band’s mentor Andy Warhol and includes such Velvets classics as “Sunday Morning,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin;” Nico’s 1967 full-length solo debut Chelsea Girl, featuring songwriting and instrumental contributions from Velvets members Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison as well as a young Jackson Browne; 1968’s explosive White Light/White Heat, the group’s final album with co-founder Cale; 1969’s relatively restrained, introspective The Velvet Underground;and 1970’s Loaded, which was the band’s commercial breakthrough as well as its final studio album, with such beloved Reed anthems as “Sweet Jane” and “Rock & Roll.”

Wild side: Lou Reed pictured with singer-songwriter Garland Jeffries in New York, 1977
Reed: Always walking on the wild side, here in 1977 with Garland Jeffries

To honor the band’s half a century legacy, Levenson has loving recreated the Velvet Underground’s much-mythologized “lost” album, 1969, specially for this set. Nearly 50 years later, much remains unclear about these mysterious recordings. While there’s been reports that the album was intended to be the band’s fourth record only to be rejected by MGM, it’s also possible they were scrapped by the band or possibly shelved by them for being ahead of its time. Whatever the real story is, these songs, recorded just after their lauded self-titled album, which include many gems like “Foggy Notion,” “Ride Into The Sun,” and “I Can’t Stand It,” help to tell the band’s enigmatic story and shine a light on their creative restlessness and rapid evolution.

Image result for lou reed
Lou and David Bowie, as they once were, so many decades ago

For this new vinyl recreation, Levenson has assembled the album using 1969 and 2014 mixes. Although these recordings have been previously released, they’ve never been represented on vinyl in this expansive 2LP format. Side four of the second LP is rounded out with bonus tracks recorded in 1968 including “Hey Mr. Rain” and “Stephanie Says.”

The Velvet Underground’s gritty, fearless creative vision remains unique and unmatched. Although the band met with little commercial acceptance during its existence, the seminal New York foursome of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker, along with Doug Yule, is now considered one of most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the ‘60s for punk, alternative, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, post-punk and shoegaze. The Velvets’ revolutionary body of work stands as a one of rock’s most distinctive catalogs and today their influence looms larger than ever.

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Five Best Books for Die-Hard Disney Doyennes

Disney doyennes will be dazzled and delighted with the 3,464 titles Disney Editions release this year. We couldn’t read them all, so we chose our five favorites. Walt would have approved.
 Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation ($60)
The most important volume here can also serve as a murder weapon; a six-and-a-half coffeetable book that finally reveals the contributions and history of these animation artists who have remained virtually invisible and largely undocumented. Disney sought female story specialists and concept artists to expand the scope and sensibility of his storytelling. Upon establishing the first animation-training program for women, ink pens were traded for pencils as ladies made their way into the male-laden halls of animation. World War II further opened roles traditionally held by men, and women quickly progressed into virtually every discipline within animation production.  Extensively researched with the full support of the entire Walt Disney Studios archival resources, plus a multitude of private collections, firsthand accounts, newly discovered materials and production documentation, as well as never-before-seen photography and artwork, this essential volume redefines the collective history of animation.
♥ The Lion King: Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World ($50) It is Broadway’s highest grossing production of all time, having grossed more than $1 billion. The show won six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, making Julie Taymor the first woman in theatrical history bestowed with the honor. The Lion King continues to roar on Broadway and to perform to packed houses all around the USA and the world. In celebration of its 20th anniversary on Broadway, this volume will feature trace the origins of the show from the blockbuster animated film, feature stories from the creators and actors, and showcase never-before-published images both onstage and behind the scenes from the many productions around the world.
♥ Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century ($40) Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a valentine to an era of optimism, relaxed lifestyle and innovative design. It’s oversized and a bit awkward to handle, but the rarely seen art and photography of the mid-20th century reflecting the unique style that Disney and his artists contributed to the era are nifty. We love the color photo of Walt lying in a hammock at his Holmby Hills, California, home. Taking a break for once?
♥ Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created in 1927 by Walt Disney and his team through 26 cartoon shorts. The impish character wase an instant hit with audiences. Yet Walt lost the contract to Oswald, which prompted the creation of Mickey Mouse. Over the years, Oswald became a footnote in the Disney story . . . until 2006, when The Walt Disney Company recovered rights to Walt’s.  For anyone interested in Disney origins, fascinated by early cinema or entertained by a feisty little rabbit, this engaging and accessible volume delivers an in-depth look at Walt s first major animated success and the journey to reclaim the lost Disney films.
♥ 
The Art of Tennessee Loveless: The Mickey Mouse TEN x TEN x TEN Contemporary Pop Art Series
Clearly a book for art lovers and die-hard fans of the mouse. This  colorful and vastly diverse artcollection showcases 100 Mickey Mouse paintings by contemporary pop artist Tennessee Loveless. What? No Goofy?

 

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks Video Artists International’s lost, forgotten shows, true Blu-ray and DVD treasures

Anything you can do I can do better. But no one can do anything better than Video Artists International (VAI), the company who finds and releases long-lost, forgotten or obscure TV shows and musicals on Blu-rays and DVDs. Since its inception, in 1983, VAI has been dedicated to preserving great performances of the past century while maintaining the absolute highest standards of performance available on DVD, Blu-ray and CD. Smart Santas would do no better than head straight to vaimusic.com to discover the array of timeless treasures that make the best stocking stuffers. We made a list, kindly and musically asking Santa Baby to bring us some gems. And the envelope goes to . . .

♥ The Irving Berlin classic Annie Get Your Gun, starring Mary Martin and John Raitt. It aired live on November 27, 1957;  and the Blu-ray contains nifty bonus tracks. They include the show’s closing commercial; although no elements of the commercials for the 1957 Annie Get Your Gun telecast are known to exist, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (Mary Martin, John Raitt) (Blu-ray)VAI is including the unedited audio of the closing commercial, hosted by Martin, which includes a message wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. There’s an excerpt from a live concert of Martin with Louis Magor at the piano. Martin talks about the role of Annie, performs “Anything You Can Do” with Magor (who sings from the keyboard), and also recalls her collaboration with Ethel Merman on the Ford 50th Anniversary Show in 1953.
♥ Another Mary Martin gem: Available for the first time on home video: The historic live 1956 telecast of Mary Martin as Peter Pan, generally considered the definitive performance of this beloved musical. Only nine days after the initial Broadway run had ended, the cast and crew (under the supervision of director Jerome Robbins) assembled in the Brooklyn studios of NBC to perform the show live for television. A year later, in preparation for the second Peter Pan live telecast, essentially the same cast reunited for several performances at the Ambassador Theater in New York City for invited audiences of children.

This gave the 1956 telecast the same fresh theatrical quality as the first.

♥ With a book by Moss Hart, and music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, Lady in Dark is one of the legendary musicals of American musical theatre.LADY IN THE DARK (Kurt Weill, Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin) (DVD) Inspired by Hart’s personal experience with psychotherapy, its innovative concept was termed a “musical play,” presenting the main character’s therapy sessions and waking life as spoken drama and her dream sequences as musical numbers. The excellent cast features Ann Sothern in the title role, with James Daly (Tyne’s Daddy), Carleton Carpenter, and Luella Gear. The show’s brilliant score includes “The Saga of Jenny” and “My Ship.” It’s live telecast was on September 25, 1954.
♥ An original made-for-TV musical, produced and directed by Max Liebman, Holiday tells the story of Nell Valentine (marvelously protrayed by Doretta Morrow), a young schoolteacher who breaks the routine of her everyday life to embark on a European adventure. Nell meets and falls in love with the mysterious Ray Brinton (Keith Andes), another American apparently on vacation, whose past poses an obstacle to their romance. HOLIDAY starring Doretta Morrow & Keith Andes (DVD)The cast includes a rare dramatic and musical performance by Kitty Carlisle as Ray’s estranged wife Adele, as well as cameo appearances by Tammy Grimes and Jacques d’Amboise.  It’s live telecast was on June 9, 1956. The DVD Includes the original commercials as a separate bonus feature.
♥ VAI sails the high Cs with a wonderful array of historic opera performances. Opera legend and film star Risë Stevens leads a magnificent cast in this 1955 television production of The Chocolate Soldier, produced and directed by Max Liebman. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the ManThe Chocolate Soldier is one of the most popular operettas of all time; on Broadway alone, it received seven productions throughout a period of 40 years.THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (Straus) Risë Stevens, Eddie Albert (DVD) Stevens is partnered by the delightful Eddie Albert, and the cast also features the beloved baritone Earl Wrightson and the popular character actor Akim Tamiroff. Interestingly, Stevens made her Hollywood debut in a 1941 film version of The Chocolate Soldier that employed much of Straus’ score, but followed a completely different storyline. Liebman’s television production restores the original plot and characters, and faithfully conveys the romance and good humor of the Viennese operetta tradition.
♥ We were lucky enough to have worked (just once) with Bubbles. That’s Beverly Sills to you. One of Sill’s most acclaimed portrayals was as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s intensely dramatic opera Roberto Devereux. In this 1975 production from the Wolf Trap Festival, shes is joined by John Alexander, Susanne Marsee, and Richard Fredricks. ROBERTO DEVEREUX Sills, Alexander (Wolf Trap 1975) (DVD)Maestro Julius Rudel is the conductor of this live production, devised and directed by Tito Capobianco. An essential addition to every opera lover’s video library. LA TRAVIATA Sills, Price, Fredricks (Wolf Trap 1976) (DVD)An equally delightful DVD features the role for which Sills was world-famous: Violetta in Tito Capobianco’s stirring production of Verdi’s La Traviata. This performance was captured live on video in 1976 as part of the Wolf Trap Festival. Brava!

Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill Lotte Lenya and Gisela May were the two most prominent interpreters of Brecht and Weill in the last century. Here, from 1958, is Lenya performing five of Kurt Weill’s songs from The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, Mahagonny and the Berlin Requiem.Lotte Lenya & Gisela May: Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill (DVD)Gisela May performs Brecht songs with music by Weill, Heymann and Dessau. As a bonus, Martha Schlamme performs two songs of Weill, joined by Will Holt in one number.

One of the most exciting VAI moves is the release of Bell Telephone Hour, a long-run concert series sponsored by Bell Telephone as the name implies and showcased the best in classical and Broadway music. Its TV run was from 1959 to 1968. Beginning in 2001, DVDs of performances from the television series have been released by Video Artists International. To date, VAI has issued more than two dozen DVD compilations. A visit to their website will drive you greedy as you ask Santa for all of them! Two faves:
♥ Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 For 40 years, Dolores Gray was a star of Broadway, London’s West End and cabaret. Among her Broadway credits, she starred in Two on the AisleDestry Rides Again and 42nd Street. In London, she appeared in Annie Get Your GunGypsy and Follies.Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 (DVD) Here she sings a slew of classics, including “A Wonderful Guy” (from South Pacific), “My Funny Valentine” (from Babes in Arms), “It Never Entered My Mind” (Higher and Higher), “Friendship” (from “Dubarry Was a Lady”) and “Down in the Depths” (from Red, Hot and Blue) Also on the show: Marc Breaux, Art Lund,Jack Cassidy, Nancy Dussault  and Donald O’Connor.
♥ For the legendary comic actor Groucho Marx, playing the role of Ko-Ko in The Mikado “fulfilled a lifelong ambition.” The Mikado was Groucho’s favorite among the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production was adapted for television and directed by Martyn Green,

a man Groucho revered as an authority on interpreting the role of Ko-Ko. The strong supporting cast features distinguished veterans like Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, and Dennis King, as well as young artists like the lovely soprano Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum and Groucho’s 13-year-old daughter, Melinda, as Peep-Bo. Special features include audio interviews with Dick Cavett, Groucho’s daughter Melinda Marx and Barbara Meister; Martyn Green in excerpts from H.M.S. Pinafore (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963), cast bios and the commercials from the original telecast.

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks The Best Celebrity Bios of the Year (Part Three)

The “Screen Classics” series published by the University Press of Kentucky continues to amaze, entertain and dazzle us. TK new books for 2017:
♥ Harry Langdon: King of Silent Comedy ($40) Among silent film comedians, three names stand out―Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd―but Langdon indisputably deserves to sit among them as the fourth “king.”  Langdon parlayed his pantomime talents, expressive eyes and childlike innocence into silent-era stardom. This in-depth biography, which features behind-the-scenes accounts and personal recollections compiled by Langdon’s late wife, Mabel, provides a full and thoughtful picture of this multifaceted entertainer and his meteoric rise and fall. Featuring never-before-published stories and photos from his immediate family, this biography is a fascinating and revealing look at an unsung silent film giant.
♥ 
He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly ($39.95) A would-be baseball player and one-time law student, Kelly captured the nation’s imagination in so many great flicks. In the first written since the star’s death, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. He's Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly (Screen Classics)Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities―including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. The authors even confront Kelly’s darker side and explore his notorious competitive streak, his tendency to be a taskmaster on set and his multiple marriages.
♥ Anne Bancroft: A Life ($34.95) In the first biography to cover the entire scope of Bancroft’s life and career, Douglass K. Daniel brings together interviews with dozens of her friends and colleagues, never-before-published family photos, and material from film and theater archives to present a portrait of an artist who raised the standards of acting for all those who followed. Daniel reveals how, from a young age, Bancroft was committed to challenging herself and strengthening her craft. The book offers new insights into the life and career of a determined actress who left an indelible mark on the film industry while remaining true to her art.
Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood ($45) . When she was 17, La Marr’s behavior in Los Angeles nightclubs caused law enforcement to declare her “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city, and she was ordered to leave. When La Marr returned to Hollywood years later, her loveliness and raw talent caught the attention of producers and catapulted her to movie stardom. In five years, La Marr appeared in twenty-six films, yet by 1925―finding herself beset by numerous scandals, several failed marriages, a hidden pregnancy and personal prejudice based on her onscreen persona―she fell out of public favor. When she was diagnosed with a fatal lung condition, she continued to work, undeterred, until she collapsed on set. She died at the age of 29. Drawing on never-before-released diary entries, correspondence, and creative works, Sherri Snyder’s biography offers a valuable perspective on her contributions to silent-era Hollywood and the cinematic arts.
 
You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era ($36.95) Journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller spent their careers interviewing the greatest stars of Hollywood’s golden age. They visited Lee Marvin at home and politely admired his fishing trophies, chatted with Janet Leigh while a young Jamie Lee Curtis played, even made Elizabeth Taylor laugh out loud in a seven-minute chat. The book is filled with humorous anecdotes and incredible behind-the-scenes stories. Bette Davis reflects that she and Katharine Hepburn were both considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara but neither was “gorgeous enough” for the part; Janet Leigh analyzes the famous shower scene in Psycho, which was shot in seven days and gave the actress nightmares for years; and Jimmy Stewart describes Alfred Hitchcock as a “strange, roly-poly man, interested only in blondes and murder.”

We have always been a fan of Julia Child. We are in love with France is a Feast (Thames & Hudson, $35), a volume of 250 intimate and compelling photographs taken by her husband Paul Child, a gifted photographer, that documents how Julia Child first discovered French cooking and the French way of life. Their wanderings through the French capital and countryside, frequently photographed by Paul, would help lead to the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Julia’s celebrated career in books and on television. Though Paul was an accomplished photographer (his work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art), his photographs remained out of the public eye until the publication of Julia’s memoir, My Life in France, in which several of his images were included. Now, with these photos and personal stories recounted by his great-nephew Alex Prud’homme, France is a Feast not only captures this magical period in Paul and Julia’s lives, but also brings to light Paul Child’s own remarkable photographic achievement. Merveilleux!

Tina Brown kept delicious daily diaries throughout her eight spectacular years as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. The pithy memoir-filled The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 (Henry Holt, $32) offer an incendiary portrait of the flash and dash and power brokering of the Excessive Eighties in New York and Hollywood. She was a woman of relentless drive and ambition; with a mere swipe of her pens (or compUter keys), she can stab the knife and twist it. Here are the inside stories of Vanity Fair scoops and covers that sold millions―the Reagan kiss, the meltdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, the sensational Annie Leibovitz cover of a gloriously pregnant, naked Demi Moore. They are as acerbic as they are astute, even mean-spirited.  Who else can recall mega-agent Swifty Lazar as “tiny and bald and hairy in the wrong places”? Or socialite Betsy Bloomingdale as someone who “has the wind-tunnel look of a recent face-lift”?  Diss-light!

In the early 1930s, during the worst drought and financial depression in American history, Sam Babb recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: A free college education in exchange for playing on his basketball team, the Cardinals. Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices that their families would face, the women joined the team. And as Babb coached the Cardinals, something extraordinary happened. These remarkable athletes found a passion for the game and a heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach. And they began to win. Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory (Algonquin Books, $16.95) takes readers on the Cardinals’ intense, improbable journey all the way to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson.

Those who knew Sid Luft, the producer and third husband of Judy Garland, knew he was an ego maniac who emotional abused his wife. In Judy and I: My Life With Judy Garland (Chicago review Press, $30), he proves he has no filter when it comes to talking about women: Judy’s mother is “fat and dumpy”; Judy’s sisters are “ugly”; and Judy was a “helium head” since her face was so fat. because her face was so fat. Yet he produced A Star is Born and fought to keep her sober and drug-free.  We enjoyed the book, even if he doesn’t get into their marriage until half-way through the pages. There are nice touches (she didn’t use nail polish) and Judy fans will relish the book. Maybe.

Cheech Marin came of age at an interesting time in America and became a self-made counterculture legend with his other half, Tommy Chong. The insightful Cheech is Not My Real Name . . . But Don’t Call Me Chong (Grand Central Publishing, $27) delves into how Cheech dodged the draft, formed one of the most successful comedy duos of all time, became the face of the recreational drug movement with the film Up in Smoke, forged a successful solo career with roles in The Lion King and, more recently, Jane the Virgin, and became the owner of the most renowned collection of Chicano art in the world.  Written in Cheech’s uniquely hilarious voice, this memoir (do we dare?) will take you to new highs

In a career spanning more than 30 years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the most famous stars in America, he is a remote, even reclusive, figure whose career is widely misunderstood. In Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night (Harper, $28.99), Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes groundbreaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer’s titanic legacy.Moving from his early days in Indiana to his retirement, Zinoman goes behind the scenes of Letterman’s television career to illuminate the origins of his revolutionary comedy, its overlooked influences, and how his work intersects with and reveals his famously eccentric personality.

In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Gabrielle  Union—a 44-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—instantly became the insightful, outspoken actress that Hollywood has been desperately awaiting. With honesty and heartbreaking wisdom, she revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.” We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by [Union, Gabrielle]We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated and True (Dey Street Books, $26.99) is a collection of thought-provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor; Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism and fame as she bravely lays herself bare.

We hate him. So does most of America. So does Katy Tur. Called “disgraceful,” “third-rate,” and “not nice” by Arnold Frump, the NBC News correspondent reported on—and took flak from—the most captivating and volatile presidential candidate in American history. She lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Frump around the country, powered by packets of peanut butter and kept clean with dry shampoo. She visited 40 states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports, and tried to endure a gazillion loops of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”—a Frump rally playlist staple. From day 1 to day 500, Tur documented Trump’s inconsistencies, fact-checked his falsities and called him out on his lies. In return, Trump repeatedly singled Tur out. He tried to charm her, intimidate her and shame her. At one point, he got a crowd so riled up against Tur, Secret Service agents had to walk her to her car. None of it worked. Facts are stubborn. So was Tur. She was part of the first women-led politics team in the history of network news. Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (Dey Street Books, $26.99) is her darkly comic, fascinatingly bizarre, and often scary story of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned and discredited. Impeach the asshole NOW.

In November of 1954 a young woman dressed plainly in a white oxford, dark sunglasses and a black pageboy wig boards a midnight flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the plane’s engines rev she breathes a sigh of relief, lights a cigarette and slips off her wig revealing a tangle of fluffy blonde curls. Marilyn Monroe was leaving Hollywood behind, and along with it a failed marriage and a frustrating career. She needed a break from the scrutiny and insanity of LA. She needed Manhattan. In Manhattan, the most famous woman in the world can wander the streets unbothered, spend hours at the Met getting lost in art, and afternoons buried in the stacks of the Strand. Marilyn begins to live a life of the mind in New York; she dates Arthur Miller, dances with Truman Capote and drinks with Carson McCullers. Even though she had never lived there before, in New York, Marilyn is home. A true love letter to Marilyn, and a joyous portrait of a city bursting with life and art, Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy (Flatiron Books, $27.99) is a  lively look at two American treasures: New York and Marilyn Monroe, and sheds new light on one of our most enduring icons.

Bunny Mellon, who died in 2014 at age 103, was press-shy during her lifetime. But with the co-operation of Bunny Mellon’s family, author Meryl Gordon received access to thousands of pages of her letters, diaries and appointment calendars and has interviewed more than 175 people to capture the spirit of this talented American original in Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend (Grand Central Publishing, $28). Whoever knew the life story of a  style icon and American aristocrat who designed the White House Rose Garden for her friend JFK and served as a living witness to 20th Century American history could be so riveting?

Fred Hersch’s prodigious talent as a sideman—a pianist who played with the giants of the twentieth century in the autumn of their careers, including Art Farmer and Joe Henderson—blossomed further in the ’80s and beyond into a compositional genius that defied the boundaries of bop, sweeping in elements of pop, classical, and folk to create a wholly new music. Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype , $28) is his memoir. It’s the story of the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz player; a deep look into the cloistered jazz culture that made such a status both transgressive and groundbreaking; and a profound exploration of how Hersch’s two-month-long coma in 2007 led to his creating some of the finest, most direct, and most emotionally compelling music of his career.

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books, $35) Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
A perfect companion: In Caroline: Little House, Revisited (William Morrow, $25.99), Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction that was authorized by Little House Heritage Trust. It’s a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient and loving pioneer woman as never before: Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

4 from university

 

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best Celebrity Bios of the Year (Part Two)

The Wall Street Journal named Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars (Henry Holt, $30) one of the best music books of 2017 for a good reason. The book is an elegy for the social concept of the “rock star”. Recent times have seen the death of David Bowie, Prince, Tom Petty and Chuck Berry; with no sign that a new generation of outsized “rock stars” is coming and radical changes still transforming the music industry, it’s time to declare the end of the “rock star” as a social force. Acclaimed music journalist David Hepworth travels through the pre-Internet age of swagger, sexual charisma, self-belief and self-reliance through 40 portraits of musicians from 1955-1995.

Never Look at the Empty Seats (Thomas Nelson, $24.99) We’ll let Charlie Daniels’  friend Dolly Parton review his autobiography for you: “Charlie is so up-front and friendly, we all assume we know everything there is to know about him. Not so. There is so much about Charlie’s life in this book that it would and could make a great movie, or even better, a long-running series . . . very informative and interesting. We all love Charlie, me more than most. Enjoy the book. I did.”

Barthes: A Biography (Polity, $39.95) is based on unpublished material never before examined, and sheds new light on his intellectual positions, his political commitments and his ideas, beliefs and desires. It details the many themes he discussed, the authors he defended, the myths he castigated, the polemics that made him famous and his acute ear for the languages of his day. This biography enables the reader to enter into Barthes’s life and grasp the shape of his existence, and thus understand the kind of writer he became and how he turned literature into life itself.

For much of the 20th century, boxing was one of America’s most popular sports, and the heavyweight champions were household names. In The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring (Rowman & Littlefield, $36), Paul Beston profiles these larger-than-life men who held a central place in American culture. There’s John L. Sullivan, who made the heavyweight championship a commercial property; Jack Johnson, who became the first black man to claim the title; Jack Dempsey, a sporting symbol of the Roaring Twenties; Joe Louis, whose contributions to racial tolerance and social progress transcended even his greatness in the ring; Rocky Marciano, who became an embodiment of the American Dream; Muhammad Ali, who took on the U.S. government and revolutionized professional sports with his showmanship; and Mike Tyson, a hard-punching dynamo who typified the modern celebrity. A knock out! Mad Dog by Bertrand Hébert and Pat Laprade, translated by George Tombs, ECW PressAnother tome to make book ends: Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story (ECW, $19,95), that explores Vachon’s career and personal struggles with painstakingly detailed historical research and through both Maurice’s own recollections and those of the people who knew him best.

Cleopatra is one of the most famous women in history—and thanks to Shakespeare, one of the most intriguing personalities in literature. She was lover of Marc Antony, defender of Egypt, and, perhaps most enduringly, a champion of life. Award-winning writer and beloved professor Harold Bloom writes about Cleopatra with wisdom, joy, exuberance and compassion. He also explores his own personal relationship to the character: Just as we encounter one Anna Karenina or Jay Gatsby when we are in high school and college and another when we are adults, Bloom explains his shifting understanding of Cleopatra over the course of his own lifetime. The book becomes an extraordinarily moving argument for literature as a path to and a measure of our own humanity.

Before Washington, before Jefferson, before Franklin or John Adams, there was Richard Henry Lee, the First Founding Father. He was first to call for independence, first to cal for union, and first to call for a bill of rights to protect Americans against government tyranny. A towering figure in America’s Revolutionary War, Lee was as much the “father of our country” as George Washington, for it was Lee who secured the political and diplomatic victories that ensured Washington’s military victories. A stirring, action-packed biography, First Founding Father: Richard Henry Lee and the Call to Independence (Da Capo Press, $28) First Founding Father will startle most Americans with the revelation that many historians have ignored for more than two centuries: Richard Henry Lee, not Thomas Jefferson, was the author of America’s original Declaration of Independence.

In Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 (Rowman & Littlefield, $38), Duane Tudahl pulls back the paisley curtain to reveal the untold story of Prince’s rise from cult favorite to the biggest rock star on the planet. His journey is meticulously documented through detailed accounts of his time secluded behind the doors of the recording studio as well as his days on tour. With unprecedented access to the musicians, singers, and studio engineers who knew Prince best, including members of the Revolution and the Time, Tudahl weaves an intimate saga of an eccentric genius and the people and events who helped shape the groundbreaking music he created. This definitive chronicle of Prince’s creative brilliance during 1983 and 1984 provides a new experience of the Purple Rain album as an integral part of Prince’s life and the lives of those closest to him.

It’s easy to call Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel (Rowman & Littlefield, $22.95) a marvel. Bob Batchelor offers an eye-opening look at this iconic visionary, a man who created (with talented artists) many of history’s most legendary characters. He explores how Lee capitalized on natural talent and hard work to become the editor of Marvel Comics as a teenager. After toiling in the industry for decades, Lee threw caution to the wind and went for broke, co-creating the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and others in a creative flurry that revolutionized comic books for generations of readers. Marvel superheroes became a central part of pop culture, from collecting comics to innovative merchandising, from superhero action figures to the ever-present Spider-Man lunchbox.

How did Rich Little become an a world-famous, world-class impersonator? He quips: “Perhaps my mother was conceived by a Xerox machine!” Little by Little: People I’ve Known and Been (7th Mind Publishing, $24.95) is a witty, fun read; not so much a detailed autobio, but (as Little says) “a humorous glimpse of he people I’ve impersonated and some of the funny stories that happened along the way.”

Chris Matthews’ new book, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit (Simon & Schuster, $28.99) is a gripping, in-depth, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the great figures of the American 20th century. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.

Not many people know Wanda Jackson. They should. Her debut single, “You Can’t Have My Love,” reached the Top 10 while she was still a 16-year-old high school student. She hit the road after graduation, playing package shows with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, who gave Wanda his ring and asked her to be “his girl.” With Presley’s encouragement, the Oklahoma native began recording rock music, often releasing singles with country on one side and rock on the other during her decade-and-a-half tenure on Capitol Records. With more than 40 albums to her credit, Wanda has proven to be an enduring and genre-defying legend of American music. She details her life and career in the wonderful In Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey To The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (BMG Books, $24.99). She’s still so loved Elvis Costello wrote the foreword.

In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (Sarah Crichton Books, $28), David Yaffe draws on dozens of unprecedented in-person interviews with Mitchell, her childhood friends and a cast of famous characters to reveal the backstory behind the famous songs. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by [Yaffe, David]From Mitchell’s youth in Canada, her bout with polio at age nine and her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption, through the love affairs that inspired hits, and up to the present, the bio shows us why Mitchell has so enthralled her listeners, her lovers and her friends. It’s the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on American music.

Hal Prince is King of Broadway . . . and then some. In his pithy and wildly entertaining Sense of Occasion (Applause, $29.99), the most honored director/producer in the history of the American theater looks back over his 70 (and counting!) year career. The book gives an insider’s recollection of the making of such landmark musicals as West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera, with Prince’s perceptive comments about his mentor George Abbott and his many celebrated collaborators.  He also fairly reflects on the shows that didn’t work, most memorably and painfully Merrily We Roll Along. This thoughtful, complete account of one of the most legendary and long-lived careers in theater history, written by the man who lived it, is an essential work of personal and professional recollection.

In The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs (Simon & Schuster $26), Ed Asner leads the charge for liberals to reclaim the Constitution from the right-wingers who use it as their justification for doing whatever terrible thing they want to do, which is usually to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. It’s about time someone gave them hell and explained that progressives can read, too. Go get ’em Mr. Grant!

The answer is blowin’ in the wind. Or at least in this quartet of books that celebrate and commemorate Bob Dylan. Why Bob Dylan Matters (Dey Street Books, $24.99), Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas, a world expert on Classical poetry, was initially ridiculed by his colleagues for teaching a course on Bob Dylan alongside his traditional seminars on Homer Virgil, and Ovid. Dylan’s Nobel Prize brought him vindication, and he immediately found himself thrust into the spotlight as a leading academic voice in all matters Dylanological. Today, through his wildly popular Dylan seminar—affectionately dubbed “Dylan 101″—Thomas is introducing a new generation of fans and scholars to the revered bard’s work. This witty, personal volume is a distillation of Thomas’s famous course, and makes a compelling case for moving Dylan out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and into the pantheon of Classical poets. You’ll never think about Bob Dylan in the same way again. On October 13, 2016, he the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognizing his countless contributions to music and letters over the last 50 years. His acceptance speech is contained in The Nobel Lecture (Simon & Schuster , $16.99), in which Dylan reflects on his life and experience with literature, providing both a rare artistic statement and an intimate look at a uniquely American icon. 100 Songs (Simon & Schuster, $17) is an intimate and carefully curated collection of his most important lyrics that spans from the beginning of his career through the present day. Perfect for students who may be new to Dylan’s work as well as longtime fans, this portable, abridged volume of these singular lyrics explores the depth, breadth and magnitude of one of the world’s most enduring bodies of work.  Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (Simon & Schuster, $35) features more than two dozen of the most significant and revealing conversations with the singer, gathered in one definitive collection that spans his career from street poet to Nobel Laureate.

In the compelling biography Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War (Harper, $28), Nigel Cliff recounts how the young pianist’s warm embrace of Russian music kindled an enduring love affair with an entire nationand sparked optimism that the two antagonistic superpowers could find a route to peaceful co-existence.  In contrast to the tensions sparked by the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cliburn brought classical music to the masses.  Elegantly combining the political and the personal, this narrative provides a fresh perspective on the Cold War and its implicit nuclear threat while telling the whole of Van Cliburn’s story for the first time.

Jenifer Lewis bares her soul in The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir (Amistad , $25.99), a touching and poignant—and at times side-splittingly hilarious—memoir of a Midwestern girl with a dream, whose journey took her from poverty to the big screen, and along the way earned her many accolades. In the audaciously honest voice that her fans adore, Lewis describes her transition to Hollywood; when an undiagnosed mental illness stymies her career (culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations), her quest for wholeness becomes a harrowing and inspiring tale, including revelations of bipolar disorder and sex addiction.

Hunter Davies, the only ever authorized biographer of the Fab Four, brings together three eminent Beatles experts—Spencer Leigh, Keith Badman and David Bedford to compile an invaluable and essential guide. Divided into four sections—People, Songs, Places and Broadcast & Cinema—The Beatles Book(Ebury Press , $59.95) covers every element of the band’s history and brings every influence that shaped the incredible Beatles phenomenon vividly to life. Hunter and his team have also rated entries to show how important, influential or meaningful that characteristic was in the history of their lives and creations. Illustrated with material from Hunter’s remarkable private collection of personal artifacts and memorabilia, this compendium is an beautiful, insightful and entertaining treasure for any Beatles fan.

Steve McQueen remains the embodiment of cool some three decades after his death. How can that be? Whether on the silver screen, racing a Triumph motorcycle across a California desert, dueling with other racers at Le Mans, or simply hanging with his pals, McQueen exuded an effortless style that belied his rough and tumble past. It’s a trick that ensures he continues to appear in advertising and pop culture all the while embraced by cinema, racing, and motorcycle fans as one of their own. He remains the ultimate guy’s guy. The Life Steve McQueen (Motorbooks, $30) explores and celebrates the memorable aspects of McQueen’s life that, taken as a whole, defined the man and cemented his reputation as a Hollywood rebel and risk taker. Peppered with period photos, illustrations, posters and more, the book surveys the movie roles, racing, personal style, art, and pop culture that all combined to crown the King of Cool and ensure his legacy.

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best Coffeetable Books of the Year

The best coffeetable book of the year? No, this isn’t a fantasy. They said it couldn’t be done, but in an effort spanning a decade, a team of artists and creative visionaries labored to bring the unfilmable to the silver screen. Under the direction of Sir Peter Jackson, their extraordinary efforts to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit generated almost 24 hours of cinematic wonder, and transported audiences to a world of astonishing beauty and power. For the first time ever, that epic story is found within the pages of Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen (Harper Design, $75). Richly illustrated with thousands of film frames, concept art and behind-the-scenes imagery (many previously unseen), the tome follows in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, visiting the realms and landscapes of Middle-earth and uncovering their secrets. Accompanying this stunning gallery, cast and crew reflect upon their experiences, share brand-new stories and insights into how the wildernesses and soundstages of New Zealand were transformed into a magical world of hobbits, Dwarves and Elves, resulting in one of the most spectacular achievements in cinematic history.

What a royal treat! Queen in 3-D (London Stereoscopic Company, $60) is the first history of any rock group created in 3-D (!) and written by a band member. The book, a stereoscopic masterpiece by iconic guitarist and songwriter Brian May, features more than 300 previously unseen 3-D photographs, capturing the history of Queen from the early ’70s to present day, and mostly accessible in 3-D using the OWL viewer supplied (an invention patented by May). Product DetailsHis recollections about himself and fellow band members Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, are shared for the first time. Images were taken on stage and behind-the-scenes, including informal shots taken on the road and during leisure time. Mercury, shy and fiercely protective of his privacy, interacted playfully and comfortably with May’s camera. Bonus! The book has a lenticular 3-D front cover!

Welcome Bowie: The Illustrated Story (Voyageur Press, $40), a sharply written and gorgeously designed retrospective follows Bowie’s career from the folkie baroque rock of his debut, to his breakthrough single “Space Oddity,” and on to his flamboyant glam rock alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. http://cloud.firebrandtech.com/api/v2/img/111/9780760352663/MNearly every page is illustrated with stunning concert and candid offstage photography, including gig posters, 7-inch picture sleeves, concert ticket stubs, and more. The result is a fitting tribute to one of the most influential and admired stars in rock history.   

In January 2011, Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture runway show ended with the image of a willowy blonde bride in a diaphanous gown. The bride was a man, and one of the first models to walk for both men’s and women’s collections. The event marked the start of a trend. “This ad is gender neutral,” proclaimed a 2016 poster for the fashion brand Diesel; “I resist definitions,” announced a Calvin Klein ad in the same year, while a Louis Vuitton shoot featured Jaden Smith wearing a skirt.

In Androgyne (Thames & Hudson, $60), Patrick Mauries presents a cultural history of androgyny―accompanied by a striking selection of more than 120 images, from nineteenth-century painting to contemporary fashion photography―drawing on the worlds of art and literature to give us a deeper understanding of the strange but timeless human drive to escape from defined categories. What a trip!

Hot lips, warm heart. Loretta Swit, best-known for her role on M*A*S*H, shows a more colorful side of herself in SwitHeart (Ultimate Symbol, $49.95), a luscious volume chronicling  her animal portraits, along with descriptive anecdotes about each, and her extensive philanthropic work.  There are 65 full-color paintings and drawings, as well as 22 photographs; proceeds from the book are donated to charities and programs that are dedicated to ending animal suffering and cruelty.

Another pet favorite: Rover: Wagmore Edition (Firefly Books, $40), brimming with 360 of Andrew Grant’s most appealing photographs of dogs. Some are the best friends of lucky owners, and some, sadly, are homeless. All are splendidly realized in sharp, large and very lifelike color portraits. All were captured by state-of-the-art equipment and are truly the most beautiful dog pictures you have ever seen. Firefly Books gives a portion of the profits from sales of the tome to dog rescue. The cat’s meow!

Filled with a dazzling array of photographs, many from original negatives, Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl (Dey Street Books, $45) showcases the acting princess’ career. Witness the stunning gallery of more than 400 prized and rare photographs and illustrations—precious childhood snapshots; previously unpublished Edith Head and Helen Rose wardrobe sketches; original portraits; scene stills; on-set candids; wardrobe test shots; vintage magazine covers; and rare reproductions of exhibitor’s showmanship manuals showing how film studios marketed Grace Kelly as a star.

Since 1968, 60 Minutes has set the standard for broadcast journalism, joining us in our living rooms each Sunday night to surprise us about the world. The show has profiled every major leader, artist and movement of the past five decades, perfecting the news-making interview and inventing the groundbreaking TV expose. From sit-downs with Richard Nixon in 1968 (in which he promised “to restore respect to the presidency”) and Bill Clinton in 1992 (after the first revelations of infidelity) to landmark investigations into the tobacco industry, Lance Armstrong’s doping, and the torture of prisoners in Abu-Ghraib, the broadcast has not just reported on our world but changed it too. Executive Producer Jeff Fager pulls back the curtain on how and shares the secret of what’s made the nation’s favorite TV program exceptional for all these years.

The importance of I See a City: Todd Webb’s New York (Thames & Hudson, $45)? The book helps restore the reputation and legacy of a forgotten American artist. It focuses on the work of photographer Todd Webb produced in New York City in the ’40s and ’50s. Webb photographed the city day and night, in all seasons and in all weather. Buildings, signage, vehicles, the passing throngs, isolated figures, curious eccentrics, odd corners, windows, doorways, alleyways, squares, avenues, storefronts, uptown and downtown, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Harlem. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Todd Webb’s New York at the Museum of the City of New York, where Webb had his first solo exhibition in 1946. Stunning!

Some of the most glittering careers on both sides of the camera have been launched behind the iconic gates of Pinewood. From James Bond to Star Wars, the modern age of Marvel and the re-imagining of the Disney classics, Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios have played host to the greatest and most cherished movies of all time. Complete with many exclusive behind-the-scenes images from those classic movies, Pinewood: The Story of an Iconic Studio (Random House, $65,) offers insight, anecdotes and interviews with some of the producers, directors and acting talent who have worked at the studios.

Ronnie Wood is one of the foremost rock guitarists in the world, but his artistic talents extend beyond music. Published together for the first time and in Wood’s 70th year, Ronnie Wood: Artist (Thames & Hudson, $39.95) is the first comprehensive collection of paintings and other works that exudes the same irrepressible energy as the Rolling Stones themselves. Organized thematically, the well-developed book focuses on rock ’n’ roll performances and depictions of stage performances as only the band could witness. Additional chapters show both the breadth of his instincts and style in works on figures, landscapes, animal paintings and sculptures. Wood himself provides the captions and insight into the thought and motivation behind each piece.

It’s a big book for a big town. Marking the magazine’s 50th birthday, Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York (Simon & Schuster, $65), through stories and images of power and money; movies and food; crises and family life, constitutes an unparalleled history of that city’s transformation . . . and of a New York City institution as well. This huge gem is packed with behind-the-scenes stories from New York’s writers, editors, designers, and journalistic subjects—and frequently overflows its own pages onto spectacular fold-outs.

An artful adventure: Jasper Johns: Pictures Within Pictures, 1980-2015 (Thames & Hudson, $60), the first comprehensive study of his later paintings and works on paper. In the late ’70s, after the artist’s explosive Pop Art beginnings and a period of abstraction, representational objects made their way back into Johns’ work. Book CoverReaders learn of his absorption with the appropriation and abstraction of images taken from Cézanne, Grünewald, Picasso and others, and discover the inspiration Johns finds in his immediate surroundings.

With its distinctive silver-bullet shaped profile, the Airstream has been a part of the American recreational landscape for more than 85 years. Since the ’30s, thousands of Americans have used it as a personal canvas to paint their own unique story as they’ve traveled the road of life, and today, these stunning, nostalgia-laden vehicles are more popular than ever. Witness retro as it’s meant to be in In Living the Airstream Life (Harper Design, $35), a tour along the diverse roads aficionados have taken in chasing their Airstream dreams. Stunning color photographs featuring new and vintage versions and compelling stories capture the allure of the Airstream and offer advice and insight on the practicalities of adopting this lifestyle. All together now: On the road again . . .

Firefly Books is always on top of must-have coffeetable books. Some that awed us this year:
♥ Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images ($29.95)
Terence Dickinson selected a breathtaking portfolio of Hubble pictures from a library of more than 700,000 images. Product DetailsThanks to his familiarity with Hubble’s history and discoveries and his access to top Hubble scientists for insight and accuracy, the text includes facts and tidbits not found in any other book.
♥ Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises ($49.95)
Award-winning author and whale researcher Erich Hoyt takes readers Product Detailsinto the field for an intimate meet with 90 species of cetaceans that make their homes in the world’s oceans.
Vogue: The Gown ($49.95) Linda Evangelista. Kate Moss. Twiggy. Scarlett Johansson. Marlene Dietrich. Cindy Crawford. Vivien Leigh. They are just a sampling of the fashion superstars in the book that celebrates haute couture dresses from the early 20th century to today. Product Details Extended captions with date, photographers, designer and model place the gowns and the models in the history of couture and fashion photography. Know the cover girl?
♥ Highway 1 California ($29.95) It skirts the California coastline, beginning at San Diego and ending at the Canadian border.  The beauty! The winding roads! The steep drops! Product DetailsThis book presents the California part in stunning color, a testament to why it receives the most domestic visitors of all the states, and is consistently one of the top three states visited by international travelers. Highway 1 California closes with four detailed road maps that mark the sections of the book so that readers can find sights they would like to visit while traveling on Highway 1.

Brian Skerry has braved ocean depths and the jaws of predatory giants to capture the most remarkable photographs of sharks around the world. In Shark (National Geographic), a collection of the best of those pictures, Skerry draws on his growing personal respect for these animals to share intimate stories of their impact. Product DetailsFocusing on four key species—great white, whitetip, tiger and mako sharks—the photographs span from Skerry’s early work, photographing them from cages, to his recent unencumbered scuba dives. With additional text by National Geographic writers, Skerry’s images and stories encourage a change in attitude toward these top predators.

Now we steer you in the right direction, leading you to the road of must-have coffeetable books for car lovers. They have been released by Motorbooks. Revve your engines!
♥ Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future ($40) covers the entire Chevrolet truck saga, from the early Series 490, to the medium and heavy-duty models, to the light-duty C-series pickups, right up to today’s contemporary Silverado and Colorado.Product Details Officially licensed with Chevrolet and created with their full cooperation for imagery as well as interviews with key figures involved with today’s truck program, this thorough history covers the full array of Chevy models since 1917 and is a must have for any truck fan whose heart beats with a V-8 rhythm.
The Art of MoparChrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth Muscle Cars From the moment Chrysler unleashed the Firepower hemi V-8 engine on the world for the 1951 model year, they had been cranking out the most powerful engines on the market. Product DetailsBecause the company pioneered the use of lightweight unibody technology, it had the stiffest, lightest bodies in which to put those most powerful engines, and that is the basic muscle-car formula: Add one powerful engine to one light car.
♥ The Complete Book of Chevrolet Camaro: Every Model Since 1967 ($50) Last year, the sixth-generation Camaro rolled off production lines and roared onto America’s highways, earning best-in-class accolades from all over the performance spectrum. Renowned automotive photographer and historian David Newhardt is here to tell the Camaro’s story. Product DetailsThe book covers the entire production history of Chevrolet’s iconic muscle car, from the original concept car (codenamed Panther) to the latest and greatest sixth-generation vehicle. The Complete Book of Chevrolet Camaro showcases every model of Camaro since 1967 in stunning detail, using original and GM archival photography as well as insider interviews and technical specifications.
♥ Shelby American Up Close and Behind the Scenes ($50) is an insider’s look via David Friedman’s documentary photography and first-person stories from Shelby’s key players. It’s a must-have review of this critical period in both Shelby’s history and the history of American racing. Product DetailsThe book brings you closer to the action than ever before with Shelby himself as he creates his iconic speed machines. Prepare for a ride like none other.
♥ Aston Martin DB: 70 Years ($60) The name David Brown is synonymous with the glory days of Aston Martin, when a tiny British sports car company was rescued from near-extinction and turned into a marque that could compete with Ferrari. And win.  Stylish design, lavish illustration and meticulously researched text come together in this large-format book to create a superb celebration of the 70th anniversary of DB Aston Martins in 2017.
♥ In Porsche 70 Years: There is No Substitute ($60), Randy Leffingwell offers a richly illustrated and detailed book that captures the full story of one of the world’s leading automotive companies. Product DetailsBeautiful, contemporary, photos and rare historical images accompany in-depth analyses of milestone cars and events.

Few woman were as beautiful and picture-perfect as Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press, $30) is an illustrated tribute to a legendary life. From the backwoods of Grabtown, North Carolina to the bullfighting rings of Spain, from the MGM backlot to the Rome of La Dolce Vita, this lavishly illustrated biography takes readers on the exciting journey of a life lived to the fullest and through four decades of film history with an iconic star.

Paris will always be in fashion. Even before the rise of the haute couture, Parisians were notorious for their obsession with fashion, and foreigners eagerly followed their lead. From Charles Frederick Worth to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, fashion history is dominated by the names of Parisian couturiers. But Valerie Steele’s Paris Fashion: A Cultural History (Bloomsbury, $40) Product Detailsis much more than just a history of great designers. This fascinating book demonstrates that the success of Paris ultimately rests on the strength of its fashion culture–created by a host of fashion performers and spectators, including actresses, dandies, milliners, artists and writers.

In 1957, New York photojournalist Jerry Dantzic spent time with the iconic singer Billie Holiday during a week-long run of performances at the Newark, New Jersey, nightclub Sugar Hill. The resulting images, Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill (Thames & Hudson, $40), that offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of Billie with her family, friends and her pet chihuahua, Pepe; playing with her godchild; washing dishes at the Duftys’ home; walking the streets of Newark; in her hotel room; waiting backstage or having a drink in front of the stage; and performing. The years and the struggles seem to vanish when she sings; her face lights up. Later that same year, Dantzic photographed her in color at the second New York Jazz Festival at Randall’s Island. Only a handful of the photographs in the book have ever been published. In her text, Zadie Smith evokes Lady Day herself and shows us what she sees as she inhabits these images and reveals what she is thinking.


Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best DVDs of the Year

She remains my favorite Christmas Carol. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark TV institution, Time Life has released The Best of The Carol Burnett Show, which includes the best of the best, from all 11 seasons, together for the very first time.

The six-discs feature episodes that haven’t been seen since they originally aired, plus some of Burnett’s most beloved classics on 16 fresh-from-the-vaults episodes. Classic shows include the very first episode with Jim Nabors and the emotional, double-length series finale, as well as some of the best-loved, fan-favorite sketches including “Mrs. Wiggins,” “Carol and Sis,” “The Oldest Man,” “The Family,” As the Stomach Turns, as well as a marathon of movie spoofs, along with commercial spoofs and some amazing bloopers. Once again, I’m so glad we had this time together.
More Carolmania. Carol and her cast members Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, and later, Tim Conway and Dick Van Dyke, entertained millions of viewers with a spontaneity and go-for-broke attitude sorely lacking elsewhere.  The annual Christmas shows soon became a popular event in Burnett’s regular season schedule. And now, for the first time ever, Burnett has opened the CBS archives to release three Christmas shows from the first four seasons of her Emmy-winning program in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Lost ChristmasAcross three hilarious episodes not seen in more than 40 years, home audiences will receive the gift of non-stop laughter and entertainment: Think Santa knows who’s been naughty or nice?  Jonathan Winters as St. Nick has other ideas, along with a strange collection of dolls.  The old lovebirds Bert and Molly (Harvey and Carol) exchange a few choice words while they slowly rock themselves into the New Year.  Carol and Vicki join the Bob Mitchell Singing Boys for a touching performance of “Do You Know How Christmas Trees are Grown?”  And pitchmen Garry Moore and Durward Kirby reach out and touch the pocketbooks of parents with an array or ridiculous toys for kids.  Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sleeping single in a double bed? Join the biggest names of country music with the time-Life gem CMA Awards Life: Greatest Moments 1968-2015, an attractively packaged DVD collector’s set filled with 127 unforgettable performances from five decades of the nationally-televised ceremony.

Across the 10  discs, home audiences will discover a who’s who of country artists, including Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Trisha Yearwood, Dwight Yoakam, Barbara Mandrell and Tammy Wynette, who stands by her man. Music lovers will thrill to the memorable, once-in-a-lifetime performances including Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” as well as famous country duets and collaborations including “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” by Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire, and “Lady” by Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie. There’s also a nifty  year-by-year guide to 50 years of Award winners.

Red Skelton was a brilliant performer, a passionate patriot and a master of simple, hilarious and classic comedy.  Now, home audiences can be entertained by America’s Clown Prince any time with a singular collection of episodes from Time Life’s The Red Skelton Hour, many of which have been unseen for more than 50 years.  The treasure features 22 discs with more than 65 hours of hilarious, heart-warming humor from one of the country’s most treasured comedians.   Each week, viewers were treated to his memorable lineup of inimitable characters including country bumpkin Clem Kadiddlehopper, Sheriff Deadeye and lovable hobo Freddie the Freeloader, as well as the biggest movie and TV stars of the day who all clamored to appear on Red’s show including John Wayne, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Milton Berle, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Simon and Garfunkel, Phyllis Diller and Robert Goulet. The 130 remastered episodes keep company with hours of extras, including a full-length biography of Red with rare home movies and intimate interviews, a bonus DVD of Red’s Farewell Specials and an exclusive, collectible Memory Book giving fans a closer look at how Red’s most beloved characters came to life.

Universal has released a handful of must-have DVDs and DVD sets that are paramount to ever movie maven. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career, including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest, plus 10 episodes from his groundbreaking TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Featuring more than 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.  A shower anyone?

Screen legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in one of the most timeless holiday classics ever, Holiday Inn.  The film, in which Crosby plays a song-and-dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open only on holidays,  features the Oscar-winning song, “White Christmas”. Astaire plays his former partner and rival in love. Holiday Inn [Blu-ray]Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady (Marjorie Reynolds). ‘Tis the season for one of the most sensational musical comedies of all time! An extra gift: Holiday Inn 75th Anniversary Edition Crosby includes a new bonus disc featuring the all-new full-length Broadway musical.

Discover the true meaning of the holiday season with the live action adaptation of the beloved classic, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer reimagine one of the most enduring holiday stories of all time. Why is the Grinch (Carrey) such a grouch? No one seems to know, until little Cindy Lou Who takes matters into her own hands and turns both Whoville and the Grinch’s world upside down, inside out. . . . and funny side up. Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas [Blu-ray]Filled with dazzling scenery, special effects, makeup and costumes, this is an adventure even Scrooge would love. Grinch Deluxe Edition Combo Pack features collectible fuzzy green packaging.

Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection features 21 of the funniest movies from the legendary comedian. From his early days in vaudeville to his years as a top Hollywood box-office draw and star of radio, TV and live performances, Bob Hope’s innocent charm and lightning-quick wit have delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie CollectionCo-starring some of the Hollywood’s greatest stars (think Lucille Ball, W.C. Fields, Burns & Allen,  Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Jane Russell), this gem will entertain longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation to the unforgettable style of one of the most famous comedians of all time.
Hoping for more Bob? Time Life’s

Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials offers the most complete collection of his television specials ever assembled.  The set contains
19 discs, on which fans will find more than 37 hours of specials, including 20 that have not been seen since their original broadcast, as well as an incredible collection of celebrity guest appearances.

Paula Parkins is such a good girl. Make that was a good girl. She is one of those good-girls-gone-bad who leads her degenerate teenage hellcats down a path of gas station hijackings, pajama party orgies and cold-blooded murder Welcome to Ed Wood’s The Violent Years, an essential exposé on crime, gender politics and sweater-stealing; let us not forget the patently deranged dialogue to the scene where the gang performs a “man attack.”

This Blu-ray new 4K print escaped from Alamo Drafthouse’s American Genre Film Archive (the largest non-profit genre film archive in the world, and Something Weird) and we could not be happier. The bonus tracks are numerous, including gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault,  memorabilia scrapbook and a bonus movie, Anatomy of a Psycho, a new 2K scan from an original theatrical print.

Richard Simmons is still a show-biz heavyweight. For 30 years, he has been helping people lose weight (more than 3,000,000 pounds and counting) and get healthy with his unique enthusiasm, charm and encouragement.  Since opening his first aerobics studio in Beverly Hills in 1974, he has cemented himself in America’s pop-culture psyche with 65 fitness videos (selling over 20 million copies), dozens of infomercials, nine best-selling books, myriad parodies of his over-the-top persona, seemingly endless TV and film appearances and tabloid headlines digging the skinny on him.  Time-Life celebrates the glittery guru with Richard Simmons: Sweatin’ to the Oldies: 30th Anniversary Edition, an energetic six-disc set includes the complete collection of Simmons’ bestselling  workout programs. 

Pairing lively classics from the ’50s and ’60s with rockin’ low impact routines and Simmons’ humorous banter, encouragement and sparkly tank tops, the set offers 41 exercise routines set to rock n’ roll classics. Loaded with extras, this special anniversary set also includes 100 minutes of bonus programming featuring an exclusive interview with Richard, testimonials and success stories from Simmons’  students, a full-color 20-page album of rare personal photos and memories personally selected by Richard and a bonus disc of Love Yourself and Win–Six Steps to Self-Esteem & Permanent Weight Loss.

In June 1944, the Allied forces stand on the brink of the greatest invasion of history: D-Day and the landing on the beaches of Normandy, France – the first step in the campaign to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. But even as close to one million Allied soldiers are secretly assembled on the south coast of England preparing to invade Nazi-occupied Europe, Great Britain’s iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill struggles with the decision to embark on the operation. Fearful of repeating the mass slaughter of more than 500,000 soldiers during World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, he is terrified that if the D-Day landings fail, he will be remembered as the architect of the war’s greatest carnage. The inspiring Cohen Media Group drama Churchill stars Brian Cox in a career performance as the British leader at a pivotal moment in history.

So what was the fuss about? Director Darren Aronofsky’s film mother! received good reviews, though many whined about the flick’s biblical allegories and depictions of violence. And the controversy continues. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star in mother! (Paramount Home Media Distribution), the visually arresting psychological thriller that will leave your heart pounding and your mind blown.  The film also stars and Michelle Pfeiffer, and stunned critics and audiences around the world. The mother! 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include more 35 minutes of in-depth bonus content. Join Aronofsky and cast as they discuss the production of the movie and take us through its spectacular finale. Plus, check out the incredible makeup effects that made mother! a visual tour de force. We thought we’d share the reason Aronofsky so named the film: the title’s exclamation mark, he says, “reflects the spirit of the film” and corresponds to an “exclamation point” of the ending. “To find out why there’s a lowercase ‘m’, read the credits and look for the letter that isn’t capitalised. Ask yourself what’s another name for this character?”

We screamed in joy when we learned Cohen Media Group was releasing a new 4K restoration of The Old Dark House, Frankenstein director James Whale’s masterpiece.  Whale turned J.B. Priestley’s novel Benighted into a nerve-jangling tale that became the template for all spooky-house chillers to come. Stranded travelers stumble upon a strange old house, and find themselves at the mercy of a highly eccentric and potentially dangerous family. This atmospheric thriller features an unforgettable post-Frankenstein horror role for Boris Karloff, as the hulking, disfigured butler Morgan. Also starring in early-career roles are Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart of Titanic.

It’s the series that out the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.   After breaking out from “The Family” sketches on The Carol Burnett Show, Thelma “Mama” Harper’s home-spun humor earned its own well-loved sitcom for six knee-slapping seasons.  Time Life invites all classic TV aficionados and sitcom lovers to spend some quality time (across 130 episodes) with Mama’s Family: The Complete Series.  Remember, Mama always knew best.

Celebrating the Original King of Late Night, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends The Complete Collections is the ultimate 10-disc set bringing together all the greatest moments and Johnny’s most legendary guests from the show’s 30 year, 4,000 episode run.  Carefully selected from the vaults by Carson archivists, this Time Life collection features more than 27 hours of classic Johnny–full, unedited episodes and original commercials from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.  Also included is a memory book filled with incredible and rare archival photos and nearly two hours of bonus features. Let’s say it together: Hereeeeeeeeeeeeee’s Johnny!

Paramount has made film fans an offer they cannot refuse:  The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition. Only 45,000 of these limited edition, numbered sets will be made making it a stunning gift for any fan. Celebrating its 45th anniversary, director Francis Ford Coppola’s opus is widely considered one of the most influential films in cinematic history.  Now the entire epic trilogy is available on Blu-ray in a spectacular 4-disc Omertà Edition, which includes the Coppola Restoration of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, as well as the remastered version of The Godfather, Part III. The set includes commentary by Coppola on all three films, a full disc of previously released in-depth special features, as well as exclusive new collectible Trivia Cards, Magnetic Poetry, an Anatomy of a Scene fold out and Quote Cards.

Porno for Xmas? And why not. Bat Pussy isn’t just porno . . . it’s considered one of the worst movies ever made. We’re not sure when it was made and released (possibly released in the early ’70s), but we do know it’s a spoof of the TV series Batman, and the film’s cult following relish the flick’s notoriously poor quality, technical flaws, bizarre dialogue, flaccid dicks, public urination, dildo demonstrations and unattractive stars.

Need more? The director can be heard giving actors directions, a crew member audibly belches during a sex scene and the dialogue includes gems such as My horoscope says “I’m going to fuck you in the nose!” Be honest: Even Mrs. Claus loves Bat Pussy, whose alter ego is Dora Dildo!

First Run Features always releases first-rate DVDs. A quartet of faves:
♥ Life on the Line: Season 3  This Emmy-winning series narrated by Lisa Ling that follows the medical journey of individuals fighting for their life. At hospitals around the nation, people face life and death situations every day. Episode 2: Ebola WarriorsLife on the Line zeroes in on one renowned academic hospital in Southern California. Loma Linda University Health serves one quarter of California and equips medical teams to travel around the world. From surviving Ebola in Western Africa to healing after one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on US soil, the series is an inspiring look into the resilience of humankind.
Ma’ Rosa Actress Jaclyn Jose took home the award for Best Actress at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for her powerful performance as Rosa in this riveting new film from director Brillante Mendoza. Exploring the widespread corruption and chaos of the Philippines in the Duterte era, the film follows Rosa and her husband Nestor, owners of a tiny convenience store who supplement their meager income by selling small amounts of “ice” (crystal meth).

Eventually the couple gets caught and hauled away by police, who are more interested in collecting bribes than eradicating crime. With their parents locked away, it’s left to Rosa’s children to scrounge together the money to pay off the police and free their parents, by any means necessary.
♥ Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe tells the story of the Austrian writer and his life in exile from 1936 to 1942. Zweig was one of the most famous writers of his time, but as a Jewish intellectual he struggled to find the right stance towards the events in Nazi Germany.Image result Driven to emigrate to South America at the peak of his worldwide fame, Zweig fell into despair at the sight of Europe’s downfall. This visually stunning and emotionally powerful film explores what it means to be a refugee, and exposes the difficult decision to speak out or remain silent in the face of tyranny.
♥ The Pulitzer at 100 This documentary by Oscar-winning director Kirk Simon celebrates the centenary of the Pulitzers–the revered national award for excellence in journalism and the arts. The riveting tales of the winning artists give an insider’s view of how these pinnacles of achievement are selected and how the award has the power to change lives and communities. The diverse stories explored in the film relate to immigration, race, gender, and above all freedom of speech–all issues that are ever more relevant in America today.

 Featuring interviews with notable prize recipients (including authors, journalists, playwrights and musicians such as Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Carl Bernstein , Wynton y of the man who created it, also brings Pulitzer-winning works to life through readings by John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, Martin Scorsese and Yara Shahidi.

American Genre Film Archive continues to scarce us (sometimes silly) with their gory gamut.  Some faves that will become yours:
♥ The Zodiac Killer Directed by Tom Hanson, who had once owned a chain of Pizza Man restaurants, made this flick in an attempt to capture the real-life Zodiac Killer. That plan didn’t work. Instead, we got the most outrageous and compelling ”tabloid horror” vortex in the history of planet Earth. And beyond.Zodiac Killer, The [Blu-ray + DVD] During theatrical screenings, Hanson constructed in-theater ”traps” to lure the killer from hiding. These included the use of an ice cream freezer filled with rent-a-cops and a raffle with a motorcycle as a prize. Shades of William Castle! This edition is a new 4K scan from the only surviving 16mm blow-up elements. Make sure you listen to Hanson’s commentary!
♥ Ruby No, this movie was not named after my mother. It’s a still relatively-unknown gem brimming with atmosphere and suspense . . . yes, there are enough creepy special effects and blood and gore to satisfy the most demanding genre fans.Ruby [Blu-ray + DVD] Most of it takes place at night, with all kinds of marvelous influences lurking in the shadows. Directed by cult-film director Curtis Harrington and featuring an impressive cast including Piper Laurie (as Ruby, fresh from her starring role in Carrie) and Stuart Whitman. This special BD/DVD combo is the definitive original theatrical version of Ruby, with a 2K restoration, two commentary tracks and more than hours of video interviews and special features.

We remain crazy over Patsy Cline.  She was a trailblazer who defined modern country music, and broke down barriers of gender, class and genre. In her music and her life, she set a standard of authenticity towards which artists still strive. After years of hard work to overcome industry biases and her own personal hardships, she achieved enormous success, only to have it punctured by uncanny premonitions and her untimely death at age 30 in 1963.

When Patsy Cline Was CrazyHer life and legacy is showcased in When Patsy Cline Was … Crazy (UMe), a DVD that collects the acclaimed PBS documentary, Patsy Cline: American Masters, and a wealth of exclusive bonus material comprised of themed additional interview footage and rare vintage performances.  An accompanying booklet includes classic photos of Cline.

Charles Castle, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, looks like he has it all. But his marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract. Studio boss Stanley Shriner Hoff isn’t taking the news too well, and he’ll do anything he can to get his man to sign on the dotted line, even if means exposing dark secrets. Winner of the Silver Lion at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife remains a great piece of film noir. The Big Knife (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] Based on Clifford Odet’s famed stage work, the film boasts a remarkable cast, including Jack Palance, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters, Ida Lupino, Jean Hagen and Everett Sloane.

Remember when fading film stars began working in schlocky films and/or TV shows? Some of these treasures exist. Yvonne DeCarlo, John Ireland and John Carradine stars in the hellish Satan’s Cheerleaders (VCI Entertainment). Benedict High School’s cheerleaders aren’t shy and sweet. The football team knows them well . . . and Billy, the school’s disturbed janitor, would like to. In the locker room, the girl’s shower and dress, unaware of the evil eyes which secretly watch them. They don’t know that a curse has been placed on their clothes. Satan's Cheerleaders [Blu-ray + DVD]And they don’t know that their trip to the first big game of the season might sideline them for eternity. Will the cheerleaders succumb to the dark ritual of sexual sacrifice and death that’s been plotted for them? Only those who dare watch will know!

If we could turn back time . . . One Million B.C. (VCI) does. Boy meets girl – prehistoric style, in this classic of man’s battle to survive against the terrors of the prehistoric world. Big-chested Victor Mature stars as protagonist Tumak, a young caveman who strives to unite the uncivilized Rock Tribe and the peaceful Shell Tribe; Carole Landis (who was murdered by Rex Harrison) as Loana,Product Details daughter of the Shell Tribe chief and Tumak’s love interest and Lon Chaney Jr. as Tumak’s stern father and leader of the Rock Tribe. Dinosaurs, savage nature, and a gigantic erupting volcano are part of the camp adventure classic.

Victoria & Abdul (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) is the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s (marvelously portrayed by Dame Judi Dench) remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. Victoria & Abdul [Blu-ray]As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that the Queen’s inner circle attempts to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity. Our gets are that the Dame wins the Oscar.
Criterion Collection continues to release works that are essential. A few recent Blu-ray editions that demand attention:
♥ Romance becomes psychodrama in Alfred Hitchcock’ elegantly crafted Rebecca, his first foray into Hollywood filmmaking. A dreamlike adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, the film stars the enchanting Joan Fontaine as a young woman who believes she has found her heart’s desire when she marries the dashing aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter (played with cunning vulnerability by Laurence Olivier). Rebecca (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]But upon moving to Manderley her groom s baroque ancestral mansion she soon learns that his deceased wife haunts not only the home but the temperamental, brooding Maxim as well. The start of Hitchcock’s legendary collaboration with producer David O. Selznick, this elegiac gothic vision, captured in stunning black and white by George Barnes, took home the Academy Awards for best picture and best cinematography. The bonus tracks are great, especially the screen, hair, makeup and costume tests including actors Joan Fontaine and Anne Baxter.
♥ Stanley Kubrick bent the conventions of the historical drama to his own will in Barry Lyndon, a dazzling vision of brutal aristocracy, adapted from a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. In picaresque detail, Barry Lyndon chronicles the adventures of an incorrigible trickster (Ryan O’Neal) whose opportunism takes him from an Irish farm to the battlefields of the Seven Years’ War and the parlors of high society. For the most sumptuously crafted film of his career,Barry Lyndon [Blu-ray] Kubrick recreated the decadent surfaces and intricate social codes of the period, evoking the light and texture of eighteenth-century painting with the help of pioneering cinematographic techniques and lavish costume and production design, all of which earned Academy Awards. The result is a masterpiece a sardonic, devastating portrait of a vanishing world whose opulence conceals the moral vacancy at its heart.
♥ Amid the filth and muck of England in the Dark Ages, a fearsome dragon stalks the land, casting a shadow of terror upon the kingdom of Bruno the Questionable. Who should emerge as the town’s only possible savior but Dennis Cooper (played by Michael Palin), an endearingly witless bumpkin who stumbles onto the scene andJabberwocky (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] is flung into the role of brave knight? Terry Gilliam’s first outing as a solo director inspired by Lewis Carroll s poem Jabberwocky and made on the heels of Gilliam s success as a member of the iconic comedy troupe Monty Python showcases his delight in comic nonsense, with a cast chock-full of beloved British character actors. A giddy romp through blood and excrement, this fantasy remains one of the filmmaker’s most uproarious visions of society run amok.
♥ On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the beginning of the Summer of Love, the first and only Monterey International Pop Festival roared forward, capturing a decade’s spirit and ushering in a new era of rock and roll. Monterey featured career-making performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, but they were just a few performers in a wildly diverse lineupThe Complete Monterey Pop Festival (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]that included Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, the Byrds, Hugh Masekela and the extraordinary Ravi Shankar. With his characteristic verite style and a camera crew that included the likes of Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock D. A. Pennebaker captured it all, immortalizing moments that have become legend: Pete Townshend smashing his guitar, Jimi Hendrix burning his, Mama Cass being blown away by Janis Joplin’s performance. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the most comprehensive document of the Monterey International Pop Festival ever produced, featuring the films Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey, along with every available complete performance filmed by Pennebaker and his crew.
♥ Perky, overachieving Tracy Flick (played by Reese Witherspoon) gets on the nerves of history teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) to begin with, but after she launches her campaign for high-school president and his personal life starts to fall apart, things spiral out of control. Product DetailsIn Alexander Payne’s satire Election, the teacher becomes unhealthily obsessed with cutting his student down to size, covertly backing a spoiler candidate to stop her from steamrolling to victory, and putting in motion a series of dirty tricks and reckless promises with uncanny real-world political parallels. Adapting a then-unpublished novel by Tom Perrotta, Payne grounds the absurdity of his central dynamic in the recognizable the setting is his hometown of Omaha, and the accomplished cast is rounded out with nonprofessionals and distills his closely observed take on deeply flawed humanity to its bitter but stealthily sympathetic essence.

What a way to celebrate this year’s end: A never-before-released live recording by Ella Fitzgerald

Forget the champagne and finger sandwiches. The best way to close out the year is with the important Verve Records and UMe release, the last gem celebrating their year-long celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial.  More than 60 years after it was recorded, Ella At Zardi’s will finally be released on CD and digital December 1. 

Recorded on February 2, 1956 at Zardi’s Jazzland in Hollywood, Ella At Zardi’s features the entirety of the evening’s two-set, 21-song performance, which captures an inspired Fitzgerald, backed by a stellar trio comprised of pianist Don Abney, bassist Vernon Alley and drummer Frank Capp, singing and swinging in front of an animated, adoring crowd, just days before she’d go on to record the album that would catapult her to stardom.

The concert was originally recorded by Norman Granz to celebrate the creation of, and Fitzgerald’s signing to, Verve Records, which Granz founded largely to give Fitzgerald the attention that he felt she wasn’t receiving at her then-current label, Decca. Ella At Zardi’s was planned as the label’s inaugural release but shelved in favor of the now-classic studio album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book, which kicked off a best-selling, signature series of Song Book releases. The Zardi’s tapes languished in Verve’s vaults for six decades.

Image result for ella fitzgerald

Ella At Zardi’s captures the brilliance and inspiration Fitzgerald’s performances embodied at the time. As veteran jazz journalist Kirk Silsbee observes in the album’s liner notes, “We can hear a fluid and joyous singer who operates with almost giddy authority. Ella manages to find a way of swinging almost every number, no matter the tempo. Ella uses her intelligent phrasing and rhythmic sense in inventive and exhilarating ways. Her repertoire was vast and she didn’t always remember the correct lyrics of a song. But the way she spontaneously redesigns the text in the most musical of ways is Fitzgerald’s signature.”

Ella At Zardi’s caps off Verve/UMe’s slate of releases in celebration of “Ella 100,” which has included the four-CD set 100 Songs For A Centennial; the six-LP vinyl box set Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George & Ira Gershwin Song Books and Someone to Watch Over Me, which marries Fitzgerald’s vocals with new instrumental tracks by the London Symphony Orchestra. The centennial has also seen the first-ever digital releases of her rare early singles for the Decca label.

Ella At Zardi’s stands out for its history-making rediscovery of a vintage performance by one of jazz’s greatest artists. As Granz enthuses in his stage introduction, “This is for real; for me she’s the greatest there is—Miss Ella Fitzgerald!”

Robert Redford demonstrates how lightning was caught in a bottle . . . musIc to your ears!

Teresa Brewer suggested we put another nickel in the Nickelodeon so we could hear “music, music, music!”

Now Robert Redford steps up to the plate (or platter) by narrating American Epic, the essential that explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology captured the breadth of American music and discovered the artists that would shape our world. PBS Distribution has released this journey back in time to the “Big Bang” of modern popular music. 

In the ’20s, as radio took over the pop music business, record companies were forced to leave their studios in major cities in search of new styles and markets. Ranging the mountains, prairies, rural villages, and urban ghettos of America, they discovered a wealth of unexpected talent. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratized the nation and gave a voice to everyone. Country singers in the Appalachians, Blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, Gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas Mexico border, Native American drummers in Arizona, and Hawaiian musicians were all recorded. For the first time, a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coalminer in Virginia or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have their thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. It was the first time America heard itself.

Virtually no documentation of these extraordinary events survives and nearly ninety percent of the recording masters have been destroyed. A vital part of American cultural history has been lost.

Over three episodes, narrated by Redford, American Epic rescues this history. The remarkable lives of these seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage and photographs, and exclusive interviews with music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses to the era. 

 American Epic represents a 10-year odyssey undertaken by director Bernard MacMahon and producers Allison McGourty and Duke Erikson, and audio engineer Nicholas Bergh that involved tracking down countless long forgotten musicians, restoring the music that they recorded and reassembling the technology that created it. Along the way they brought some of the most important figures in contemporary culture to help them on their quest. Executive Producers Jack White, T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford have lent their support to what Redford calls “America’s greatest untold story”. 

The DVD also includes the feature-length film The American Epic Sessions for which the team has reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system from the ‘20s, and invited Jack White and T Bone Burnett to produce an album of recordings by twenty of today’s greatest artists. In this beautifully filmed musical feature, these artists are given the chance to pass through the portal that brought the world into the modern era.

Engineer Nicholas Bergh has reassembled this recording system from original parts and it is now the only one left in the world. The system consists of a single microphone, a towering six-foot amplifier rack, and a live record-cutting lathe, powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. The musicians have roughly three minutes to record their song direct to disc before the weight hits the floor. In the ’20s, they called this “catching lightning in a bottle.” All the musical performances in this film are live. The audio you hear is taken directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements. 

 

Diana Ross’ “new” album is (she promises) a “special gift”, sent to her fans “with love”

There ain’t no mountain high enough, but Motown/UMe has scaled pretty high. On November 15, they unleash Diana Ross’ “new” album, Diamond Diana: The Legacy Collection, a memorable music journey that celebrates her iconic legacy. The 15-song collection contains some of Miss Ross’ biggest hits of her career. The CD also includes a special gift to her fans: an exciting new dance club remix of her No. 1 hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Coos the 73-year-old Miss Ross: “I send this special gift to you all. This collection is from my heart to yours, and I send my love, thanks and appreciation to you for my joyous amazing journey. It’s so much fun.”

Ross will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Music Awards on November 19, during which the show will pay tribute to her remarkable career. Ross’ impact in music, film, television, fashion and popular culture is unprecedented. A renowned superstar, she is one of the most successful and influential recording legends and iconic entertainers of all time.

Diamond Diana: The Legacy Collection track listing:

  1. I’m Coming Out
  2. More Today Than Yesterday
  3. The Boss
  4. It’s My House
  5. Endless Love *
  6. Upside Down
  7. You Can’t Hurry Love **
  8. Touch Me In The Morning
  9. Love Hangover
  10. Take Me Higher
  11. It’s My Turn
  12. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
  13. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  14. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)
  15. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – The ANMHE ‘Diamond Diana’ (Remix)
    *   with Lionel Richie
    ** with The Supremes