Category Archives: Uncategorized

Edgar Allan Poe dead? Nonsense. He’s “Buried Alive”. Just ask Denis O’Hare and Kathleen Turner

No wonder we love Edgar Allan Poe’s works . . . the Gothic gems deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead and mourning.

No surprise we ate PBS Distribution’s American Master: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive. Missed it on TV? It’s now on DVD. Written and directed by Eric Stange, this new documentary draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author.

Starring Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare  and narrated by Oscar- and Tony-nominated, two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner, the program explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. This caricature is thanks, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to re-invent American literature, Poe was an influential–and brutally honest–literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.

An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.

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Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, this program combines dramatized re-enactments with O’Hare of key moments in Poe’s life, readings from Poe’s works by O’Hare, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon and actor Ben Schnetzer, and interviews with authors including Marilynne Robinson, Matthew Pearl, Jeffrey Meyers and Zach Dundas, director Roger Corman and others who reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.

 

 

 

 

PBS Distribution offers a one-hour probe into the Worst. U.S. president. Ever.

How did Donald Trump transform himself from real estate developer to entertainer to sexual predator to the worse president? Through lies and hate. In Frontline’s President Trump, filmmaker Michael Kirk and his investigative team go behind the headlines to examine the key moments that shaped America’s 45th president—from his childhood, to his tumultuous career in the public eye.

Drawing on the critically acclaimed film The Choice 2016, the program features dozens of in-depth interviews from advisors, business associates, and biographers, and paints a revealing portrait of where Trump came from, how he leads and why he sought out one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

PBS Distribution has released the DVD; the program will also be available for digital download.

We’re not kidding: “I Have a Voice” features more than 75 Broadway children raising their voices to stop bullying

We have always given Broadway Records President Van Dean standing ovations . . . for his off-stage work. (For those who have never heard of him, please Google him instead of admitting your theatrical and charitable ignorace.)

We now raise the curtain on the exciting news that Dean has now joined executive producers Gina Holland and Michelle Shapiro and launched the charitable recording, “I Have a Voice” with 100% of the profits to benefit www.NoBully.org. The song and videos feature more than 75 Broadway kids from shows such as Matilda the Musical, School of Rock, Kinky Boots, Fiddler on the Roof, The Lion King and On Your Feet!  We must share other important news: The song boasts music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Robin Lerner and comes from the upcoming new musical The Song of Bernadette.

“In the recording industry, I often work with children and have seen how saddened they are by the increased bullying and intolerance in schools across the country over the past year,” says Dean. “The ‘I Have a Voice’ initiative is an opportunity for 75+ child performers from Broadway and beyond to express their own voice and let other children know they too, have a voice. I truly hope this song will inspire others to be more inclusive, tolerant and unite kids to celebrate our differences.”

“I am so honored and grateful for my music to be used for this cause, which as a father, is so very important to me,” says Wildhorn. “I believe music can heal and believe so strongly in its power to communicate. Being in the studio, watching and hearing these beautiful children sing Robin’s beautiful words was a truly inspiring moment, and one I’ll never forget.”

The digital download of “I Have a Voice” is $1.99 ($1.29 on iTunes) and is available for purchase at BroadwayRecords.com.

 

 

 

They are SuperBirds! Hummingbirds can fly backwards, upside-down and float in mid-air!

Hummingbirds are amazing creatures to behold. They are the tiniest of birds, yet possess natural born super powers that enable them to fly backwards, upside-down and float in mid-air. Their wings beat faster than the eye can see and the speed at which they travel makes people wonder if it was indeed a hummingbird they actually saw. They also are only found in the Americas. These attributes have both intrigued scientists and made it challenging to study the species, but with the latest high-speed cameras and other technologies, the program reveals new scientific breakthroughs about these magical birds.hummingbird_hero_roger_levien

See the magic in Nature: Super Hummingbirds (PBS Distribution). The program is also available for digital download.

Emmy-winning filmmaker Ann Johnson Prum  returns with her second film on hummers which presents new scientific discoveries such as how they drink a flower’s nectar so quickly or why they are able to thrive in the thin air at high altitudes. For the first time, viewers will see the birds mate, lay eggs, fight and raise families in intimate detail.

The program begins with the research of Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara, who returned to his native Colombia after getting his doctorate at the University of Connecticut (he’s currently a postdoctoral researcher at University of California at Berkeley), to determine how a hummer is able to lap up nectar inside a flower at a rate of 20 times a second. A hummingbird spends its days darting from flower to flower to drink the nectar so vital to fueling its metabolism to keep it in the air.

To solve the mystery, Rico-Guevara mounted a real flower onto a clear feeding tube containing the same amount of nectar found in a genuine bloom. After attracting a hummer to the test site, high-speed macro photography revealed that the hummingbird’s long tongue has forked tips that open as the tongue dips into the nectar. Grooves are created along the edges of the open tips that collect and fill the tongue with nectar. Identifying this highly efficient means to drink nectar so rapidly was a scientific breakthrough never seen before.

The program also chronicles a major discovery by Dr. Christopher Witt and his University of New Mexico team high in the Peruvian Andes where oxygen is 40 percent more scarce than it is at sea level. Tests were conducted on hummers living at high altitudes to determine how little oxygen they needed to fly and the results were impressive. For example, only when the oxygen level reached six percent did the Sparkling violetear reach her limit which is an altitude equivalent of 43,000 feet. Witt discovered that a protein called hemoglobin, which humans also have in our blood, has evolved in each hummingbird species to match its elevation. He also found that these flower feeders are able to fly at such dazzling speeds due to an ability to capture extra oxygen with every breath, a true super power.

In the rainforests of Costa Rica, Dr. Marcelo Araya-Salas of Cornell University has spent seven years studying and recording the vocal stylings and mating rituals of Long-billed hermit hummingbirds. As the film shows, male hermits gather in a place called a lek to attract and compete for females by singing and performing elaborate choreography. After shooting more than 2,000 hours of footage, Araya-Salas caught his first video of hummingbirds mating, one of the first times it has ever been filmed. The documentary then concludes with a life cycle of super hummingbirds, from the nest-building, to the motherhood, to the first flight!

Hummers may be the smallest birds in the world, but what they lack in size, they make up in speed and the ability to adapt in ways we’re just beginning to learn about as they continue to evolve.

 

The legendary book “Hitchcock/Truffaut” turns into a film that brings the pages to life

It’s been called “The Greatest Story Hitchcock Ever Told”. In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock, then at the height of his fame, sat down with acclaimed director Francois Truffaut, the rising star of the French New Wave, to reveal in detail the making of the long string of hits that earned him the title “Master of Suspense.”

The interviews became the basis for the book Hitchcock/Truffaut, one of the most acclaimed and widely read books about the cinematic process. Now, critic and filmmaker Kent Jones “brings the pages to life” (Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times) in a feature film that honors its source material while also serving as a moving and entertaining portrait of two great directors talking shop. Fresh off the heels of a successful theatrical release by Cohen Media Group, Hitchcock/Truffaut arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on December 20, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.unnamed-1

Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets and meaning behind Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Based on the original recordings of this meeting, Jones’ film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plunges us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and dozens of other thrilling masterpieces.
Jones has expanded on the original book by including insightful new interviews with many of today’s most renowned directors and Hitchcock aficionados, including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.
This is a fascinating journey between two geniuses.

John Turturro on HBO’s “The Night Of” . . . “the story was just reeking of the human dilemma”

Remember the night of when you watched a fascinating TV show that left you panting for me? Think The Night Of. The acclaimed HBO limited crime series that captivated TV audiences this summer has now taken up life on Digital HD an DVD and Blu-ray. Starring John Turturro in “a mind-blowing performance” (thank you, Wall Street Journal) and the “extraordinary” (kudos Boston Globe) Riz Ahmed, The Night Of is “an anthem to television’s unique power to turn a series of understated performances into sustained magnificence” (our pals at Los Angeles Times).

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John Turturro as John Stone
The series delves into the intricacies of a complex New York City murder case with cultural and political overtones. Pakistani-American college student Nasir “Naz” Khan (a brilliant Riz Ahmed), who lives with his parents in Queens, New York, takes his father’s taxi to go to a party in Manhattan. But what starts as a perfect night for Naz becomes a nightmare when he’s arrested for murder. The series examines the police investigation, the legal proceedings, the criminal justice system and Rikers Island, where the accused await trial.

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Riz Ahmed as Nasir “Naz” Khan


The ensemble cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams, Bill Camp, Jeannie Berlin, Poorna Jagannathan, Payman Maadi, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Paul Sparks, Ben Shenkman, Afton Williamson, Paulo Costanzo, Ned Eisenberg, Mohammad Bakri, Nabil Elouahabi, Ashley Thomas, Glenn Fleshler and Chip Zien.

Inquiring minds want to know Turturro’s thoughts, so HBO worked some magic.

What appealed to you about The Night Of as a story and a project?
I felt that the story was just reeking of the human dilemma. Any time you have a prison film or anything about a crime, it’s kind of a microcosm of society. It reminded me of a Russian crime novel. And I know that [co-creator] Richard Price always had a Dostoyevsky-feel for this stuff. I really loved that you see these characters, all of them, as people.

Did you research or take inspiration from specific sources to inhabit the role of John Stone?
I got a lot of it from the writing. I was introduced to a very competent and well-regarded defense lawyer, Terry Montgomery. This guy, who looks like Idris Elba, he’s a star. I met with him a bunch of times, and he was able to take me through everything that he goes through. I went to court and I watched different guys, but with Terry I thought, that’s the kind of guy that Stone would have been if he had the stomach for it. I looked at a lot of old Sidney Lumet films, and I worked on a big vocal warm-up. I’m from New York, but I thought the accent was more from the ’70s. Like in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, when they say “first,” they say “ferst.” That’s an older New York sound.

Did the initial casting of James Gandolfini as John Stone have any influence on your decision to take the role?
I was very good friends with James. And when they first mentioned it, I was like, this is maybe too difficult for me. But when I saw the pilot, James was barely in there. He still was interesting, of course — you see him with this big beard and everything — but he didn’t really talk very much, certainly not to Riz. I don’t think he knew yet what he was going to do, because he hadn’t done that much yet in the series. So for me, I didn’t have to erase that.

What did you make of the character’s eczema condition?
It’s an obstacle, and maybe it has something to do with John not being able to deal with everything because eczema does come out of stress. And then, it’s how it makes him feel and how it looks. When I had it on my face and walked around, some people looked away, some people were matter of fact. It’s another interesting element, and it also physicalizes. It physicalizes the world.

First Run Features offers a restored “Watermelon Woman” for its 20th anniversary

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Cheryl and Guinevere Turner in a sexy scene

First Run Features is always in first place. They make important moves, release important films. Check the case of the re-release of Cheryl Dunye’s landmark black queer film The Watermelon Woman.220px-watermelonwomanposter

Now remastered for its 20th Anniversary, with pristine 2K HD restoration overseen by 13 Gen, The Watermelon Woman will screen at Metrograph in New York City beginning Thursday,November 10. Following an international run on the LGBT festival circuit, the landmark film is connecting with a lively new generation of fans worldwide. First Run Features will then re-release the film on DVD and VOD January 31, 2017.

Set in Philadelphia, this is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a twenty-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive ’30s black film actress popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman.” While uncovering the meaning of Fae Richards’ life, Cheryl experiences a total upheaval in her personal life. Her love affair with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a beautiful white woman, and her interactions with the gay and black communities, are subject to the comic yet biting criticism of her best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker). Meanwhile, each answer Cheryl discovers about the Watermelon Woman evokes a flurry of new questions about herself and her future.


According to director Dunye, much about the character is autobiographical, but the historical references to the Watermelon Woman are fictional. “The idea came from the real lack of information about the lesbian and film history of African American women,” she explains, “Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

The Watermelon Woman features cameo performances by notable LGBT figures including controversial cultural critic Camille Paglia, African American singer/songwriter Toshi Reagan, Pomo Afro Homo performer Brian Freeman, African American poet Cheryl Clark and novelist/activist Sarah Schulman.

The Watermelon Woman was Dunye’s first feature film and the first by a black lesbian. It was made on a budget of $300,000, financed by a $31,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a fundraiser and donations from friends of Dunye.

The odd and queer, the eccentric and extraordinary, are spotlighted in “Atlas Obscura”

She’s not the kind of girl, yet Lena Dunham promises that “Atlas Obscura may be the only thing that can still inspire me to leave my apartment.”

She may be right.

When Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton set out to write Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide To The World’s Hidden Wonders (Workman, $35), their goal was to create a catalog of all the places, people and things that inspire wonder. As the team behind AtlasObscura.com, a vibrant online destination focused on discovery, wonder and exploration, the trio had access to an unrivaled treasure trove of secrets, mysteries, intrigues, phenomena and curiosities. The result is an unprecedented guide combining compelling descriptive writing with arresting full-color photographs, maps and charts to share over 600 of the most unusual and fascinating compendium of wonders across all seven continents.

Just think! Lena can venture out and see . . .

Galileo’s severed middle finger, displayed in a goblet accented in gold in Florence, Italymiddle-finger-830x623

The “Door to Hell,” a fire that has been burning in the Turkmenistan desert for over 45 years

A sealed test tube containing Thomas Edison’s last breath

An Alabama museum displaying finds from unclaimed airline baggage, including a 3,500-year-old Egyptian burial mask and Hoggle, the dwarf puppet from the 1986 film Labyrinth

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On display at the Mütter Museum , located inside the headquarters of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Along the way, Atlas Obscura  reveals the world’s deepest places, hidden tunnels, greatest self-made castles, notable arbotecture (the art of shaping a living tree in order to create art or furniture), giant Buddha statues, abandoned film sets you can visit, murder houses, dinosaur parks, lake monsters of the USA, historical methods of preventing premature burial, a guide to psychotropic drugs used to enhance religious experiences, abandoned nuclear power plants and so much more.

Each entry for the astonishing sites in Atlas Obscura includes location information, GPS coordinates, and tips on when and how best to get there—and, sometimes, how to best sneak past the guards.

Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky unveil a little-known, yet essential, chapter in Nazi history

 

Ken Burns in one word?  Genius. He has created a canon of documentaries that are as educational as they are entertaining, even when the topics are pretty sharp. Witness: “Defying the Nazis: Sharps’ War”, a new documentary Burns co-directed with Artemis Joukowsky. PBS Distribution releases it on DVD  on September 20. The program will also be available for digital download.

This is the story of a little-known but important mission by an American minister and his wife to rescue refugees and dissidents in Europe before and after the start of World War II.

 

The film tells the story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish and boldly committed to multiple life-threatening missions in Europe. Over two dangerous years they helped to save hundreds of imperiled political dissidents and refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe.

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Waitstill and Martha Sharp

The story is cinematically told through the letters and journals of the Sharps, with Tom Hanks as the voice of Waitstill and Marina Goldman as the voice of Martha. It features firsthand interviews with the now adult children whom the Sharps saved, as well as leading historians, authors and Holocaust scholars, including William Schulz, Deborah Dwork, Modecai Paldiel, Ghanda DiFiglia and Yehuda Bauer.

Joukowsky, a film producer and co-founder of No Limits Media, is the grandson of Waitstill and Martha Sharp and has spent decades researching their story. He is the author of a companion book to the film, featuring a foreword by Ken Burns, which will be published by Beacon Press and has been released.

In January of 1939, as Americans remained mostly detached from news reports of the growing refugee crisis in the escalating war in Europe, Waitstill received a call from the Rev. Everett Baker, Vice President of the American Unitarian Association, asking if they would travel to Czechoslovakia to help provide relief to people trying to escape Nazi persecution. He invited Waitstill and Martha to take part in “the first intervention against evil by the denomination to be started immediately overseas.” The mission would involve secretly helping Jews, refugees and dissidents to escape the expanding Nazi threat in Europe. If they were discovered, they would face imprisonment, probable torture and death. Seventeen other members of the church had declined. With two young children at home, the Sharps accepted. They expected to be gone for several months. Instead, their mission would last almost two years.

During this time, the Sharps would face harrowing encounters with Nazi police, narrowly escape arrest and watch as the Third Reich invaded Eastern Europe. Their marriage would be tested severely and the two children they left behind would be saddened by their parents’ absence. But dozens of Jewish scientists, journalists, doctors, powerful anti-Nazi activists and children would find their way to freedom and start new lives as a result of their efforts. To recognize their heroic sacrifice, Martha and Waitstill were honored at Yad Vashem in Israel and declared “Righteous Among the Nations.” Of the thousands so honored, there are only five Americans, including the Sharps.

A must-see, must-own film for everyone’s library.

Does “Arrow” have Cupid connections? Stephen Amell on why Oliver loves Felicity

An arrow we don’t mind aiming right at us: The thrilling CW series Arrow. Viewers can catch up with the show as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu-ray including Digital HD and DVD on August 30.  The show is so popular that it averages four million viewers weekly for each original episode; Arrow is The CW’s No. 3 show among Total Viewers, behind The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and the No. 2 series on The CW among adults ages 18-34. Yep, this Arrow hits its target every time.
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The box set contains all 23 exhilarating episodes from the fourth season, as well as The Flash crossover episode; plus more than an hour-and-a-half of extra content, including the 2015 Comic-Con Panel, never-before-seen featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

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Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen; Photo by Cate Cameron/The CW

To catch up: After defeating his most formidable foe to date and riding off into the sunset with longtime flame Felicity Smoak, Oliver Queen (aka The Arrow) left Star City with the hopes of beginning a new life. But will Oliver ever truly be able to leave behind his past as The Arrow, and, if so, what becomes of the team he has worked so hard to assemble? Will military vet John Diggle, Oliver’s sister Thea Queen, and lawyer-turned-vigilante Laurel Lance continue Oliver’s fight without him? And with Malcolm Merlyn having ascended to the top of the League of Assassins as the new Ra’s al Ghul, is anyone really safe?

Arrow, based on the characters from DC Comics, stars Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Willa Holland and Emily Bett Rickards, with John Barrowman and Paul Blackthorne.

Amell never tires of the role or show. No kidding around.

“I was at a convention recently, and my response got a lot of play because the question was very straightforward,” he recalls. “It was, ‘Why does Oliver love Felicity?’ I had to give a straightforward answer, because it was like an eight-year-old girl who asked the question! So it’s not like I could be flippant and sort of dance around the question and give a sort of humorous response. It was more, this girl was legitimately asking and wanting to know, and I didn’t know how literally she took the characters, so I had to give a very straightforward response. You get great questions all the time, and they almost always come from kids.”