Three new books, two for Young Adults; one for the young and young-at-heart

Sometimes the holiday season goes so fast, perhaps faster than Santa at his maximum speed, that good things fall aside.

And so we have picked them up.

Think of this as a sprinkle of great news.
Kate Stempel has written her first children’s picture book, entitled Sprinkles, that was published by FriesenPress, Canada’s largest publishing services provider, at the end of September.  They say the book is meant for those ages 7 to 11, but I say it’s for everyone young and young-at-heart. Kurt Hershey has done the whimsical illustrations.

Sprinkles is a feel good story about Sky, a young baker extraordinaire (modeled after the author’s own daughter), who is selling her famous cupcakes (think yummies with double chocolate and marshmallow frosting; graham cracker sprinkles; and caramel drizzle) to raise money for the local animal shelter where she found her beloved dog, Cocoa. Everyone is crazy about Sky’s cupcakes . . . everyone, that is, except Mr. Conway.

So Sky and her mom begin mission impossible as they try to help a lonely elderly man find a reason to smile again. Join Sky, her mom and Cocoa as they explore how the smallest gestures in life–such as mini cupcakes, mini trees and mini moments of humanity–can sometimes have the greatest impact, and how friendship and responsibility come in all shapes and sizes and how such actions give back to a community. Sprinkles will delight girls and boys by teaching them to imagine, smile and show compassion. Just ask Mr. Conway.

Interested in more about the book? Visit sprinklesthebook.com.
One thing you will learn is that 10% of book sales are donated to Citymeals on Wheels, a New York City and area organization that delivers food to the homebound elderly,  ensuring they never go a day without a nutritious meal and a warm visit.

Another chapter you must begin: Castle of Concrete: A Novel (Young Europe Book) by debut YA author Katia Raina.

Through vivid imagery and compelling characters, debut author Raina creates a vision of Soviet Russia in the early ‘90s—a time of political upheaval, demonstrations, and divisive prejudice against Jews. In the midst of this turmoil, Sonya Solovay, a timid Jewish girl, leaves her babushka in Siberia to reunite with her once-dissident mother now living near Moscow, and to begin her New Life. When Sonya starts school, she finds herself drawn to Ruslan Valentinov, a mysterious muddy-eyed boy who may be an anti-Semite.

Castle of Concrete is a stunning debut novel with powerful messages and a vibrant narrative that combine to paint a picture of a different time and place. But ultimately, it’s Sonya Solovay’s own story that fascinates.

Visit katiaraina.com for more information.

And there’s a virus you just might want to catch: In C.B. Lyall’s debut YA fantasy The Virus of Beauty (Austin Macauley Publishers), 15-year-old soccer star Wilf Gilvary, living in present-day Hong Kong, wants nothing to do with magic despite his stern wizard father’s efforts to make his son use his gifts.

After his father’s sudden death, Wilf still refuses to explore his powers when his 20-year-old stepsister, Myra, insists that they leave the normal world for new lives in the Magical Realm. A visit from a repulsively ugly and desperate witch forces Wilf to reluctantly accept that he is indeed a wizard.

An engaging fantasy and just think: This is Book One!

Find more information @ cblyall.com

A violent crime boss. His ruthless henchmen. A mysterious female motorcycle courier . . . in real-time

Talk about intense. The Courier unfolds in real time as two embattled souls fight for their lives. Oscar winner Gary Oldman stars as a vicious crime boss out to kill Nick, the lone witness set to testify against him. He hires a mysterious female motorcycle courier (deliciously portrayed by Olga Kurylenko) to unknowingly deliver a poison-gas bomb to slay Nick. But after she rescues Nick from certain death, the duo must confront the sadistic crime boss’ ruthless henchmen in order to survive the night.

Lionsgate releases the film on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD and Digital January 21. Want a ahead start? The Courier is currently available On Demand. That face you know you know: Dermot Mulroney who plays as Special Agent Roberts.

Fishing for fun? Dive back in as “Bernie the Dolphin 2” make waves

Things have been swimming by so quickly we sometimes blink too often. And we miss really good flicks. Witness: Bernie the Dolphin 2, a heartwarming adventure for the whole family that has been released by Lionsgate. Starring Kevin Sorbo and Patrick Muldoon, the film is approved by the Dove Foundation for all ages.

So what’s the fuss? Kevin and Holly are thrilled that their dolphin friend Bernie has come back to the harbor. But so has their old enemy Winston (portrayed by Hercules he-man Sorbo), who’s just gotten out of prison. As the kids have fun with playful dolphin Rascal and sassy parrot Mango, Winston is forced by his old partner to help kidnap the talented Bernie.

Can Kevin and Holly uncover the scheme and save their splashy friend before it’s too late? This charming family comedy also stars Patrick Muldoon.

First Run Features is proud to introduce the legacy of Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the 20th century’s greatest classical musicians

New year, new first rate documentaries from First Run Features.

The first: The Cellist: The Legacy of Gregor Piatigorsky. It will hit January 20.

Piatigorsky was one of the 20th century’s greatest classical musicians, a beloved teacher and larger-than-life personality whose story may not be familiar to most audiences today. In 2015, with the blessing of the cellist’s family, filmmakers Murray Grigor and Hamid Shams began delving into the Piatigorsky Archives at the Colburn School of Music along with family materials, Piatigorsky’s autobiography and biographies.

Along the way they interviewed dozens of subjects–from Yo-Yo Ma and Zubin Mehta to a who’s who of former students. Incorporating footage spanning the musician’s life and times (everything from performances to home movies), photographs, annotated music sheets and some re-enactments, Grigor and Shams capture the vibrancy of the cellist’s life and adventures.

In 2015, filmmakers Murray Grigor and Hamid Shams embarked on an odyssey that led them from the Piatigorsky Archives at the Colburn School of Music to Los Angeles, New York, Moscow and beyond. Along the way they interviewed dozens of subjects, from Yo-Yo Ma and Zubin Mehta to a who’s who of former students. Unearthing a trove of material that span Piatigorsky’s life and times–including performances, home movies, photographs, annotated music sheets–they capture the vibrancy adventures and achievements.

Don’t take our praise for it. Coos Christopher Koelsch, President and Chief Executive of LA Opera: “An extraordinary achievement. What a huge pleasure it was to be in the presence of that towering individual, the awe he inspired and the joy he radiated. You can feel your admiration for the man in every frame.”

Bruce Willis moonlights for the riveting “Trauma Center”

We always love to see Bruce Willis moonlighting. In the action-thriller Trauma Center, he plays Lt. Wakes, a vengeful police detective determined to solve the murders of his partner and an informant.

Wakes joins forces with Madison (played by Nicky Whelan), a witness injured during the shootings, after the killers pursue her across the abandoned floor of a hospital and confirm Wakes’s worst fears: the two men are actually corrupt vice cops covering up a crime. As Wakes vows revenge, this heart-pounding action-thriller reaches an explosive climax.
From an executive producer of Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die HardTrauma Center also stars Tito Ortiz, Texas Battle and Steve Guttenberg. Save the date: It arrives on Blu-ray(plus Digital) and DVD February 4 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available On Demand.

Horror melds with fantasy in “The Siren”, an enthralling and creepy supernatural tale about cursed star-crossed lovers

Readers know one simple fact about scary movies: We love them. And we are often scared . . . Big Time. And we try not to reveal too much of the plot, just how many bloody moments will get you, who the next victim will be.

We’ve changed our mind.

This one time.

Witness The Siren. A man searches a secluded lake for the monster that murdered his husband, while that monster falls in love with an unsuspecting visitor in the fantasy-horror film from writer-director Perry Blackshear. It arrives on DVD (courtesy of Dark Sky Films) on January 28.

The Siren is an enthralling, seductive and creepy supernatural tale about cursed star-crossed lovers. Tom (played wonderfully by Evan Dumouchel) is a mute man from a sheltered, religious background who is haunted by the childhood accident that cost him his voice. While on a retreat at a lake house, he meets Al (MacLeod Andrews), whose husband drowned in the lake-one of many mysterious deaths there.

The area is marked by a local legend of a lovelorn spirit who haunts the surrounding woods and drowns anyone she encounters. The legend proves all too real when Tom encounters the beautiful creature. Drawn to her immediately, Tom knows he has found his soulmate in the seemingly human Nina (Margaret Ying Drake), who must battle to repress her demonic instincts when she feels the same toward him. Meanwhile, Al, possessed by vengeance, circles the pair, getting ever closer to tracking down the monster that destroyed his happy marriage.
Part dark fairy tale and part elegant nightmare, The Siren is a heart-wrenching story of passion and revenge that will take hold of you and never let you go.

“Clown Fear” is a fright fest, crammed with stranded women and sadistic, bloodthirsty clowns. Ouch!

Readers know one simple fact about scary movies: We love them. And we are often scared . . . Big Time. And we try not to reveal too much of the plot, just how many bloody moments will get you, who the next victim will be.

So with Clown Fear, we share only this: A runaway bride and her bridesmaids are stranded in a forgotten desert town run by sadistic, bloodthirsty clowns. The fright fest arrives on DVD, Digital and On Demand February 18 from Lionsgate.

Scared yet?

“Imprisoned” features a stellar cast and John Heard’s final film appearance

As long as Adolph Frump is misdirecting the country (for a few more months), we think of innocents imprisoned.

Now let us turn to Imprisoned, a powerful prison drama that stars Laurence Fishburne, Juana Acosta, Juan Pablo Raba and features Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, Jon Huertas, Ana Isabelle; this was the last film in which John Heard performed. It was filmed entirely in Puerto Rico in 2017, before Hurricane Maria hit, and premiered during the Cannes International Film Festival in early 2019.

Missed it? Imprisoned will be released on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming platforms (Amazon, Vimeo, Hoopla) starting January 7;  additional platforms (iTunes, Google, Vudu) to follow.

In the thriller, Dylan Burke (played by Juan Pablo Raba), attempts to move on from his former life as a criminal with his true love, Maria (Juana Acosta). He soon realizes that his past will continue to haunt him when he learns the new local prison warden, Daniel Calvin (Laurence Fishburne), has not forgiven him for a previously committed crime.

Calvin does everything in his power to make sure that Burke pays for his past mistakes, even going as far as to frame him for a murder he didn’t commit, landing him back in jail. When the prison erupts into a riot, Burke and Calvin are each forced to make a choice between righteousness and revenge.

The bonus features on both DVD and Blu-ray editions include three deleted scenes; an interview with Edward James Olmos; a discussion of social impact filmmaking with Equitas Entertainment Partners; trailers and closed captions.

“Hell on the Border” tells the incredible true story of Bass Reeves, the first black Marshal in the Wild West.

As long as Adolph Frump is misdirecting the country, there is hell on the border. So we will wait until November and look at a different kind of Hell on the Border. Based on the incredible true story, the film arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD and Digital on February 11 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available On Demand.

This epic, action-packed Western tells the incredible true story of Bass Reeves (played by David Gyasi), the first black Marshal in the Wild West. Having escaped from slavery after the Civil War, he arrives in Arkansas seeking a job with the law. To prove himself, he must hunt down a deadly outlaw (Frank Grillo) with the help of a grizzled journeyman (Ron Perlman). As he chases the criminal deeper into the Cherokee Nation, Reeves must dodge bullets and severe discrimination in hopes of earning his star—and ends up cementing his place as a cowboy legend.
This is a kind of hell worth every viewing.

The very funny “Britt-Marie Was Here” will give you a (soccer) kick in your ulnar nerve

Getting old(er) can be a laughing matter.

Really.

A middle-aged woman is suddenly forced to start her life over again and winds up accepting the last job she would ever have expected in the crowd-pleasing comedy-drama Britt-Marie Was Here. The second feature directed by actress Tuva Novotny and starring internationally acclaimed actress Pernilla August, this “lovely tale of reinvention” (as our ol’ pal James Verniere of The Boston Herald raves) comes to Cohen Media GroupBlu-ray and DVD, as well as digital platforms, on January 14.

The heartwarming comedy is based on the best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove. August plays housewife Britt-Marie, whose 40-year-old marriage has just ended because she learned her husband was unfaithful. Now, at 63 years old, she is faced with making a new start in life in the small Swedish town of Borg.
Told she is nothing but a nagging, passive-aggressive aunt, the only job Britt-Marie can find is a true challenge for which she has had zero training: to coach the town’s youth soccer team. She knows nothing about soccer or coaching, and the team is the town’s pride and joy, but she takes the job anyway. This will be the start of a journey filled with struggles and challenges but also humor, warmth and love.
Funny? very funny. Very, very funny!

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