We not josh: “Joshy,” Jeff Baena’s follow-up to “Life After Beth,” offers laughs and sadness

It’s been called “an intimate, star-studded comedy that functions like an indie blockbuster, but it feels too big to be considered a regular indie, with a massive cast and its appetite for humor more equivalent to a studio project than any Sundance film.”

Did someone say “humor?” Indeed. Joshy, the set-up for writer/director Jeff Baena’s follow-up to  Life After Beth may sound familiar: This is a film about a life-changing reunion at a rented house. But not right away: The space for the Ojai, California bachelor party for Joshy (a marvelous Thomas Middleditch) was rented long before he suffered heartbreak from a cancelled engagement, and now it’s become a guy’s weekend.

After his suddenly ends, Joshy and a few of his friends decide to take advantage of what was supposed to be his bachelor party in .  In their attempt to help Joshy deal with the recent turn of events, the guys turn the getaway info a raucous weekend filled with drugs, booze debauchery and hot tubs. As the film unravels, so do the laughs . . . and the sadness. joshyheader2

 

After earning lots of laughs at its Sundance Film Festival premiere, Joshy has arrived on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD from Lionsgate. Rounding out the hilarious cast is Adam Pally, Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate.

We refuse to say anything more, except Joshy is a must-see.

 

Adam Kirsch’s “The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature” is a winner

Jews have long embraced their identity as “the people of the book.” But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, $28.95) shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: The nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora.
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Author Adam Kirsch explores 18 classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestos of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, The People and the Books brings the treasures of Jewish literature to life and offers new ways to think about their enduring power and influence.

This luminous new work is an essential exploration of a rich literary tradition from the Bible to modern times. Can I hear an amen?

Say hello to the “Little House on the Prairie” with a trio of warm and fuzzy films

It may be a little house on the prairie, but the love inside is bigger than what’s found in those huge, cold mega-mansions. Lionsgate is celebrating the hit series that stole America’s heart now that Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Collection has arrived on DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD.9e89e3d5-1fcb-45b6-87e4-e4720764a697_1-c10e5b0940d564ec804c38444c575942

We offer you to say hello to the family fave as you prepare to say farewell to this legendary western drama with three movie adventures: Look Back to Yesterday, Bless All the Dear Children and The Last Farewell. These restored and remastered movies will be available individually on Digital HD.

The story of the Ingalls family concludes with this trio of heartwarming movies—newly restored and remastered for optimal sound and picture quality. Rediscover the timeless adventure of Little House on the Prairie as Albert displays courage in the face of a serious illness; Laura and Almanzo race to find their missing baby daughter; and the community of Walnut Grove unites to defend its town in these inspiring and exciting moments that fans will treasure.

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.

Esther Schor speaks volumes about Esperanto, the language that never was

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Honoring Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof on a 1987 stamp

When Esther Schor stumbles, she falls into the most fascinating subjects. Seven years ago, the author stumbled into the language and the world of Esperanto, with little sense of how it would change her life or how she would be gripped by the story of its creator, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof.

A Polish Jew, Zamenhof had the idea in 1887 of putting an end to tribalism by creating a universal tongue, designed to be a second language to the entire world, one that would compel its users to transcend nationalism. Basing his invention on rational grammatical principles that would be easy to learn, politically neutral and would allow all to speak to all, Zamenhof launched a utopian scheme full of the brilliance and grandiosity that characterize all such messianic visions.

In Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language (Metropolitan Books, $32), the first full history of a constructed language, Schor traces the life of Esperanto from its creation, through its turn-of-the-century golden age as the great hope of embattled cosmopolites, to its suppression by nationalist leaders and its resurgence as a bridge across the Cold War. She follows Esperanto’s fortunes in the present, where it lives vibrantly on the Internet and is seen by its users as an essential human counterpart to twenty-first century globalization. And she recounts the impact of this language—which changes the very way one sees others—on her own experience, leading her to upend her life in pursuit of fulfillment.
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Rich and subtle, Bridge of Words is at once a biography of an idea, an original history of the twentieth century, and a spirited exploration of the only language charged with saving the world from itself. It is also a story of personal transformation, as Schor travels the globe in pursuit of Esperantists and discovers not only a language but a better way of being.

A great book, and we offer the opinion of it by another noted author, Jonathan Rosen: “Esther Schor has crossed continents, tunneled under the Tower of Babel, brooded over the Twentieth Century’s darkest traumas and brightest dreams, and spoken endless Esperanto in an effort to understand how a language freighted with human tragedy still lives like a kiss on the lips of its speakers. This is a beautiful, mysteriously moving book by a fearless writer who set out to find the soul of a language, knowing full well that it was her own soul she was after all along.”

“Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season” makes Santa’s list chilling and thrilling

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The best way to make your Halloween happy? We treat you will the news that AMC’s fan favorite Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD on December 13 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Living in the same universe as The Walking Dead,  season one of Fear the Walking Dead explored a blended family who watched a burning, dead city as they traversed a devastated Los Angeles. In season two, the group aboard the Abigail is unaware of the true breadth and depth of the apocalypse that surrounds them; they assume there is still a chance that some city, state or nation might be unaffected . . . some place that the Infection has not reached.

But as Operation Cobalt goes into full effect, the military bombs the Southland to cleanse it of the Infected, driving the Dead toward the sea. As Madison, Travis, Daniel, and their grieving families head for ports unknown, they will discover that the water may be no safer than land.

  • In addition to show stars tarring Kim Dickens,  Cliff Curtis,  Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Rubén Blades, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie and Colman Domingo , Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season introduces new cast members including Dougray Scott, Arturo Del Puerto, Daniel Zovatto, Veronica Diaz, Danay Garcia, Carlos Segura and Alfredo Herrera.There. You have thrilling and chilling news to make your Halloween happy . . .  and a perfect guide to add to Santa’s list!

Rising to meet a truly Happy Halloween? Meet “Power Rangers Dino Charge: Rise”

Forget the candy, bags o’ pretzels and popcorn and those awful waxed lips. When we trick or treat this year, we want Power Rangers Dino Charge: Rise, the new Lionsgate DVD on which Saban’s Powers Rangers embark on all-new adventures.3d-power-rangers-dino-charge-rise-dvd-ocard In this spooktacular Halloween edition, the Power Rangers rise and take action-adventure to the next level as Tyler and Ivan put their differences aside to defuse a bomb; Chase races to free his friends from an underground tomb; Prince Phillip learns that he can’t buy his way into the Power Rangers; and Riley and Koda restore the team’s broken bonds of friendship. Now if we can only get them to melt all those waxed lips . . .

 

 

Holy Halloween! Candy factory Films triples the terror

Getting candy (wrapped preferred) on Halloween by the clown who answers the door is a treat . . . or so we hope.

When it comes to Candy Factory Films, they offer treats that are full of tricks. And terror. Make that terror tripled. On October 18, three thrillers, all from first-time filmmakers, escape on  Digital HD and On Demand on All Leading Platforms Including iTunes, Amazon,  Google Play and Vudu.

Let us prepare you:

Honeybee
From first-time filmmaker Nicki Harris comes this genre festival favorite, an award-winner at the 2016 International Horror Hotel Film Festival. Sixteen-year-old Hilary (portrayed by Connie Saltzman) has her head down, working hard to get good grades and just hoping to escape the small town life her family has lived for generations.  Just weeks before school is done for the year, her quiet town is jump-started by the arrival of an enigmatic family.  Hilary’s father is instantly charmed by Louisa, the statuesque mother, while she finds a strong connection to the middle son, Kadin (Garrett Richmond), ignoring her instincts.

And as the town’s inhabitants fall under the hypnotic spell of the two brothers, no one but Hilary sees the peculiar loyalty that holds them together and the lengths they will go to give their mother what she needs until it’s far too late. Dig the co-stars: Go-Go(er) Jane Wiedlin and Lorin Partalis.

Lights
Aliens and a decades-old secret government conspiracy may be at the center of the disappearance of Kurt (Keith Roenke) and his five friends who mysteriously vanished in the California desert one year ago. Lisa (Sara Radle), Kurt’s girlfriend and the mother of his child, has been driven to obsession to learn the truth.

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After being contacted by a retired sheriff haunted by similar cases, she heads to the desert with her brother Karl (Caleb Neet), guided by video footage recovered from Kurt’s tent.  And together, they hack through the lies, evasions and threats to unlock the dark mystery of “Majestic 12” in this sci-fi thriller, director Nils Taylor’s feature-length debut.

Burst Theory
After a colleague unexpectedly contracts a bird flu vaccine under suspicious circumstances, a biologist (Joseph Scott Anthony) at a remote research facility seeks answers.  Soon, however, he discovers his worst nightmares are about to become a reality with his life, and perhaps the lives of millions, hanging in the balance.
Hunting desperately for the truth, he spirals into a from conspiracy and is forced to question everything he once took for granted.  Including his own sanity.

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Zac pageWritten and directed by Zac Page, who won the Gold Reel Award for First Time Directors at the 2015 Nevada Film Festival, this official selection at the Canada International Film Festival, Virginia Independent Horror Film Festival and The Big House Los Angeles Film Festival also captured the Screenwriting Award at the 2016 Amsterdam Film Festival.

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.

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