Allow the noted writer to take you on a tour of his bathroom in “Henry Miller Asleep & Awake”

Think of Henry Miller Asleep & Awake (IndiePix Films) as a cinema verité “dear John”. The quiet ticking of a clock gives way to the stirrings and rumblings of a lump hidden under the blankets. Pajama-clad, the lump throws back the covers, stretches, groans and grumbles. He rises and goes to his mirror in a tiled room he knows well.

The man is literary legend Henry Miller, the author of the infamous, groundbreaking Tropic of Cancer, and the room is his bathroom. It’s a miraculous shrine covered with photos and drawings collected by Miller over the course of his long and fruitful life. Graciously, in his raspy, sonorous voice, he points out the highlights of his improvised gallery speaking on various Buddhas, Blaise Cendrars, Hieronymous Bosch and Gaugin; several Japanese writers; Hermann Hesse; a stone carving by Jung; women he found attractive; his tendency to hear “celestial music” in airplanes; the relationship between Zen and sex; the fact that “most writers don’t look so hot” (because they spend so much time alone); and the question of identity, which “harasses” him.
This portrait from Emmy-winning director Tom Schiller, filmed in 1973 when the author was 81, is a voyage of ideas about life, writing, sex, spirituality, nightmares, and New York that captures the warmth, vigor and high animal spirits of a singular American artist.

Four words George Carlin would have proudly uttered: “George Carlin Commemorative Collection”

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

So said George Carlin, one of thousands of memorable one-liners.

OK, we’ll share one more: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Carlin devotees will relish the George Carlin Commemorative Collection (MPI Home Video and the George Carlin Estate), a 10-disc must-have DVD, CD and Blu-ray boxed set which features more than five hours of previously unreleased bonus material including rare performance footage from Carlin’s personal archive. The uncensored celebration hits shelves June 12.

George Carlin Commemorative Collection

“While digging around in dad’s stuff, we found a few gems that we just couldn’t keep for ourselves,” says George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, who helped compile material for the set commented. “ It’s amazing to think that ten years after his death, we keep finding stuff I’d never seen before!”

Carlin was not only one of America’s greatest comedians whose albums topped the charts, he was a pioneer of cable TV’s concert format that has become a benchmark of success for all humorists ever since.

And now, all of Carlin’s pointed, often controversial but always hilarious specials originally shown on HBO have been gathered for the first time in the George Carlin Commemorative Collection. Encompassing over five decades of his groundbreaking career, all 14 of the legendary funnyman’s Emmy nominated HBO specials are now available in one package–a remarkable set that also contains a previously unreleased HBO special entitled 40 Years of Comedy hosted by Jon Stewart plus Carlin’s posthumous audio release, I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die.

One of the key bonus pieces of material is Carlin’s first stand-up special from 1973, The Real George Carlin which has not been seen since it first aired. Additional bonus material includes APT 2C (a never-aired HBO pilot from the ’80s) plus two one-hour stand-up comedy club performances that features material performed by Carlin for the first time.  There is also never-before-released material from the 1960s–when Carlin was a clean-cut, suit-wearing guest on the variety shows such as Talent Scouts, The Jackie Gleason Show and Hollywood Palace. 

The box set features also includes both DVD and Blu-ray discs of the HBO specials Life Is Worth Losing and It’s Bad for Ya plus liner notes written by comedian Patton Oswalt.

Carlin, a fearless commentator on society and a champion of free speech, now finally gets the boxed set he and fans of great, enduring comedy deserve and the set represents the most complete collection of Carlin performances to date.

Bravo!

One “Debt Collector” we like meeting up with

We all have debts. now it’s time to meet The Debt Collector. Scott Adkins teams up with Louis Mandylor for this darkly hilarious and action-packed tale of a classically-trained martial artist (Adkins) who goes to work as a debt collector for the mob . . .  a job that seems easy enough until one “client” pulls him into a situation more dangerous and deadly than he ever expected. This  case of small-time enforcers find themselves in big-time trouble hits shelves on DVD and Digital June 5 from Archstone Distribution via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Paul Giamatti narrates a fluttery “Nature: Sex, Lies & Butterflies”

Fly high this summer with Nature: Sex, Lies & Butterflies, now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD from PBS Distribution. Butterflies have been flying around our planet for more than 50 million years, and today around 20,000 different species inhabit the globe. This program, narrated by Paul Giamatti, follows their lives from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the emergence of the full-blown, winged creature.

Explore their astonishing survival techniques, including 360° vision, deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry and fantastic flight. Through sophisticated macro-filming, look beyond the butterflies’ bright colors and fragile beauty to follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth.

It’s not tough picturing the Beatles, but for the record, “Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band” deconstructs the fab Four album by album 

Beatles fans will twist and shout when they get a gander at th beautifully designed and endlessly fascinating, Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band (Dey Street Books, $26.99). It’s  quite nifty to flip through; the illustrations and graphics are colorful and highly informative and entertaining. The data and infographics present a fresh and innovative new way of understanding Paul and John and George and Ringo.

y648.jpg (505×648)We realized why the magical history tour of the career of the Fab Four, explored album-by-album,  has that addictive “feel good” look: The authors, John Pring and Rob Thomas, are professional graphic designers with a slew of top tier corporate clients. Do you want to know a secret?  Having a successful Kickstarter fund for this book didn’t hurt.

“As designers, we wondered what it would look like to visualize The Beatles and chart their story—the evolution of their music, style and characters—through a series of graphics,” write Pring and Thomas in the introduction. “What might presenting the information in a totally different way, never done before on this scale, tell us that we hadn’t noticed or appreciated previously?”

Copyright 2018, from the book

Organized by album from Please Please Me to Let It Be, this stunning book deconstructs:

  • Song lyrics
  • Which Beatle carried how much of the songwriting load
  • Instruments used
  • Style evolution of their active years
  • Album designs
  • Track length
  • Who took lead vocals when
  • Success of singles across the world
  • Tour dates
  • Hairstyles . . .
  • And let is be said  lots more!

June is busting’out all over, and PBS releases a slew of must-see, must-own DVDs

June will be bustin’ out all over, and when it does, get ready for some exciting new DVD releases from PBS Distribution. Let us share some of the news . . .

Nature: Natural Born Rebels (available June 5)
From a promiscuous prairie dog to a kleptomaniac crab and an alpha chimpanzee who reigns with an iron fist, this three-part series introduces the most rebellious animals in the natural world. But are these creatures really breaking bad?

Across the world, new studies are uncovering an astonishing variety of rebellious animal behaviors, and despite how it appears on the surface, researchers are discovering the complex and fascinating science behind why these animals behave the way they do. In fact, being a rebel could be the key to success in the wild.

Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps (available June 5)
Hannibal, one of history’s most famous generals, achieved what the Romans thought to be impossible. With a vast army of 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 war elephants, he crossed the mighty Alps in only 16 days to launch an attack on Rome from the north.

For more than 2,000 years, nobody has been able to prove which of the four possible routes Hannibal took across the Alps, and no physical evidence of Hannibal’s army has ever been found until now. In this program, viewers will follow a team of experts–explorers, archaeologists and scientists–combine state-of-the-art technology, ancient texts, and a recreation of the route itself to prove conclusively where Hannibal’s army made it across the Alps – and exactly how he did it.

Chinese Exclusion Act (available June 5)
On May 6th, 1882, on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history, President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation.  Called the Chinese Exclusion Act, it singled out as never before a specific race and nationality for exclusion–making it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America–and for Chinese nationals already here to become citizens of the United States.

A deeply American story, this program examines the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity.

The Jazz Ambassadors (available June 19)
The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy, and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.

But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos, and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, this program reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most.

Nova: Decoding the Weather Machine (available June 26)
Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Pervasive heat. Extreme rainfall. It’s not hard to conclude that something’s up with the weather – and many scientists agree this trend in the weather is not just a coincidence. It’s the result of the weather machine itself–the earth’s climate changing, becoming hotter and more erratic.  Climate change is arguably the defining challenge of this century, yet widespread misunderstanding and misinformation has hampered the public’s ability to understand the science and address the issue. In this program, viewers will cut through the confusion and help define the way forward.

Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How will it affect the world through the weather we experience, and when? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the globe on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth and discover how they are finding that we can be resilient – even thrive – in the face of enormous change.

Going to War
War is the ultimate paradox. Filled with terror, pain, and grief, it brings exhilaration, and a profound sense of purpose. This program provides an insight that helps viewers make sense of this paradox and get to the heart of what it’s like to be a soldier in times of war. The film illuminates the experiences of training, battle, and coming home for soldiers across conflicts, revealing the universals of the warrior’s journey.

Leading the exploration are Sebastian Junger, bestselling author and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo, and Karl Marlantes, decorated Marine officer and author of the bestselling novel Matterhorn and the fearless memoir What It is Like to Go to War. Both men bring firsthand experience, hard-won wisdom, and an abiding commitment to telling the warrior’s story with insight and unflinching candor.

Just how queer does cinema get? Film Movement releases, for the first time on Blu-ray, Derek Jarman’s stunning “Edward II”

There are so many ways to celebrate Gay Pride, but nothing deserves first place other than Edward II, the new Queer Cinema landmark film that Film Movement is making available for the first time on Blu-Ray in a stunning digitally restored version. This special edition includes the featurette “Derek’s Edward” and an essay by filmmaker Bruce LaBruce with a prologue by Tilda Swinton. Celebrate the flick on June 12, when it flies into stores.

In 1593, Christopher Marlowe penned Edward II, based on the life of Britain’s only openly gay monarch. In 1991, legendary artist and director, Derek Jarman radically adapted the Elizabethan drama in a highly-stylized feature starring Jarman and Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton and Steven Waddington.
Jarman’s postmodern adaptation delivers filmgoers to the court of Plantagenet King Edward II (portrayed by Waddington), a weak gay monarch with a tenuous grasp on the throne. The stage is set for palace revolt when the King rejects his wife, Queen Isabella (Swinton), and takes a male lover, the ambitious commoner Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan) upon whom he bestows gifts and power. The spurned Queen and the sober court officials become enraged and the plotting begins in this festival favorite, a Golden Lion nominee at Venice, called “intelligent and striking” and a “phantasmagoric, outrageously stylized interpretation”. With anachronistic imagery, gay activists battling riot police and a rare film appearance by Annie Lennox singing Cole Porter’s 1944 classic “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” the story of Edward and the persecution he suffered is given contemporary resonance in one of Jarman’s most powerful and personal films. He died in 1994, at the age of 52.

Smithsonian Channel celebrates the greatness of American with two new DVDs

Oh say can you see . . .
Wait until June 12 and you will be able to see two great Smithsonian Channel  programs being released on DVD by PBS  Distribution.

A Star-Spangled Story: Battle for America
The Star-Spangled Banner is known by all, treasured for its powerful melody and stirring lyrics. And yet, only about 40% of U.S. citizens know all the words. And even fewer know their meaning. In this program, viewers can travel back to 1814, when Washington D.C. was under British attack during the “Second War of Independence,” and the very bricks and mortar of American democracy were reduced to smoking rubble.

Image result for francis scott key
Stamp out your ignorance of the lyrics!

The program examines the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to immortalize its final moments, then reveal how his poem transformed into an anthem.

They are studied in school and visited by millions. They are world-renowned symbols of the nation. But they are also shrouded in misinformation, mystery, and mythology. How much does America really know about its greatest monuments?

Finishing touches are made to the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln, which stands just inside the entrance of the Lincoln Memorial, prior to its dedication in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 1922.

From war memorials, to monuments honoring America’s founding fathers, to Arlington’s eternal flame, these soaring tributes in stone, steel, soil, and sky have amazing stories to tell. They are a permanent record of this nation’s history and evolution into the world’s greatest democracy . . .  a country of the people.

The cornerstones of civilization–war, religion, cities and trade–are explored in “First Civilizations”

The inevitability of war. A need for religion. The lure of the city.
A love of trade. Discover how our ancestors were motivated by the same impulses that persist today to create the first civilizations and empires.

Witness the facts in First Civilizations, available on DVD June 12 by PBS Distribution.

How did humans advance on the road to civilization despite having lived as mobile foragers for 99 percent of their time on Earth? How did they create villages, towns, cities and states and establish the blueprint for the modern world?

This series identifies four cornerstones of civilization–war, religion, cities and trade–and explores each in the context of different civilizations in Mesoamerica, the Middle East and the Indus Valley. Crisscrossing the globe, camera crews traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Oman, Morocco, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. They recorded the latest archaeological discoveries, tested new theories and uncovered original information.

Dramatic reconstructions and computer graphics are used to visualize the lost world of the first civilizations. In each episode, the ancient story is also complemented by a modern-day analog, with an expert interviewee connecting the dots between past and present. Their story is our story.

Honey, be alert! The buzz is building for the nifty “Turn This Book into a Beehive”

This book is causing quite the buzz! Flying in for inspection: Turn This Book into a Beehive! And 19 Other Experiments and Activities that Explore the Amazing World of Bees (Workman, $19.95),  an indispensable guide with a removable book jacket and tear-away paper nesting tubes that turn into a home for mason bees, with each “room” providing space for 10 to 12 mason bee babies!

Honey, bees abound. Most of us are familiar with the honeybee, a keystone species revered for its supreme pollinating skills and feared for its notorious stinger . . . a damn stinger that under my dog’s collar and stung poor Oona! (I killed that damn bee . . . with relish.)


But what about the mason bee, the unsung hero of the insect world? The mason bee pollinates as many flowers in a single day as 100 honeybees, and mason bees don’t sting, making them nature’s non-aggressive super-pollinators. So, how can we help sustain the lives of these friendly buzzing bees?

Packed with 19 sensory-driven experiments and activities that offer a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a bee, this nifty book provides an early introduction to environmentalism and offers inspiration for burgeoning conservationists. Readers can make a buzzer that replicates the noise made by a bee’s wings, trace back the ingredients and materials in their favorite foods and clothing to see just how closely mason bees influence our daily lives, and create safe sprays that will make everything from urban gardens to open yards a welcome, healthy environments for these super-pollinators.
Readers will even learn how to plant a bee-friendly garden!

The book also introduces readers to the complex social hierarchy of the honeybee world by showing how integral each player is to the beehive, from the forager scout responsible for tracking down flowers and other food sources to the esteemed queen, the largest bee in the colony responsible for laying all the eggs—about 2,000 in a single day! May we suggest that after you make a beehive, use the remaining portion of the book to kill those honey horrors?

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some