Tag Archives: First Run Features

First Run Features releases two great new DVDs . . . and all that jazz

Streisand wondered how do you keep the music playing? We wonder what does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano. He’s a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar and Madhattan institution. For nearly 40 years, Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the ’20s and ’30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments and more than 60,000 period band arrangements.

They take to the stage of Iguana (240 West 54 Street) every Monday and Tuesday evening. Three sets are performed from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). There’s a $20 cash cover charge at the door + a $20 food/drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 765-5454.

Can’t take the A train to NYC? We strongly encourages viewing Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards’’s There’s a Future in the Past (First Run Features), a beautifully-crafted documentary that offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO’s Grammy-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans.

The DVD starts swinging on July 11.

Also swinging that day from FRF: The Penguin Counters. Armed with low-tech gear and high-minded notions that penguin populations hold the key to human survival, Ron Naveen lays bare his 30-year love affair with the world’s most pristine scientific laboratory: Antarctica. The film follows Ron and his ragtag team of field biologists to one of the harshest corners of the planet, where they track the impact of climate change and ocean health by counting penguin populations.

What’s unique about this film is the verité style of filmmaking (by Peter Getzels, Harriet Gordon and Erik Osterholm) on a scientific quest in the Antarctic, skillfully embedding an important environmental message with a good yarn. Special permits allowed unprecedented access to remote penguin colonies–in all their chaos and splendor.

Haunted by the ghosts of fallen explorers and charmed by the eccentricities of feathered bipeds, the penguin counters’ treacherous, heart-warming journey poses the ultimate question in the world’s fastest warming region: What can humans learn from penguins on the frontlines of climate change?

“As Good As You” is a bittersweet, poignant and funny lesbian drama

First Run Features continues to live up to its name. What else were you expecting?

FRF offers the Los Angeles theatrical premiere of As Good As You on June 9 at Laemmle’s Music Hall. The lesbian drama/comedy—named winner of Best LGBT Film by Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival—marks the feature film debut of Heather de Michele. The screenplay is by Gretchen M. Michelfeld, executive produced by Michelfeld and produced by Reena Dutt. Another reason to celebrate Pride Week.

Laura Heisler leads an outstanding cast in this poignant and witty film about a bereaved woman searching for meaning and purpose in the aftermath of her wife’s death. Jo (Heisler) enlists her brother-in-law Jamie (Bryan Dechart) as a sperm donor in an effort to salvage her dream of raising a family. Along the way she leans a bit too heavily on her two best friends, a lesbian punk photographer named Lisa (Anna Fitzwater) and a straight male barfly named Nate (Raoul Bhaneja).

The film also features Peter Maloney, Karis Campbell, Elizabeth Herring and Annie Potts. The story is consistently tender in its portrayal of grief, even as the film becomes a kind of willful, triumphant comedy. Director de Michele navigates the tonal shifts with good timing, taste and craftsmanship.

Director Heather de Michele is a co-founder of the NY comedy troupe Lesbian Pulporama, which included playwright Michelfeld and her late partner. The film is inspired by Michelfeld’s own story and partly a tribute to her partner, also a performer in the troop who died in 2012, made by close personal friends. It is the first feature for both director and writer. In fact, de Michele’s partner plays Lisa in the film.

“Lesbian pregnancy, infertility, hormone shots, artificial insemination–these were subjects I hadn’t seen explored in film yet,” de Michele explains. “I told Gretchen she should get on that; then her partner got sick and it all stopped. Once she passed, too shortly thereafter, Gretchen dove back into her work. She needed to write. We were all grieving madly. The story of As Good As You became a hybrid of all of these experiences. It’s deeply personal for both of us. ”

IF YOU GO
Laemmle Music Hall
9036 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
310.274.6869
laemmle.com

 

First Run Features offers two first-rate documentaries

First Run Features offer two new titles that are, as usual,  first-rate features.

Some info to intrigue you:

Concrete Love (German with English subtitles)
Pritzker Prize laureate Gottfried Böhm is widely regarded as Germany’s preeminent architect. The son of a master builder of churches, he’s also the patriarch of a modern architecture dynasty to which his three sons, Stephan, Peter and Paul, belong. But with the death of Gottfried’s wife Elisabeth, also an architect and a key source of inspiration for all the Böhm builders, the family loses its emotional lodestone.

One German shares his take on Maurizius Staerkle Drux’s documentary: “Concrete Love tells a multi-layered tale of love, the passion for architecture and four generations of German history. With sensitive observations, intimate interviews and stirring filmic explorations of an extraordinary architectural legacy, the film creates a lasting impression of the buildings and the people.”

The Ruins of Lifta ( Arabic & Hebrew with English subtitles)
The village Lifta, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, is the only Arab village abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that has not been completely destroyed or repopulated by Jews. Its ruins are now threatened by an Israeli development plan that would convert it into an upscale Jewish neighborhood.

Filmmaker Menachem Daum–an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn–sets out to discover the story behind the headlines. He meets Yacoub, a Palestinian who was expelled from Lifta and now leads the struggle to save the haunting ruins of his village from Israeli plans to build luxury villas on the site. Learning that Lifta was once a place where Jews and Arabs got along, Menachem joins Yacoub’s campaign in the hopes that Lifta can serve as a place of reflection and reconciliation. This leads to a climactic encounter between a Holocaust survivor and a Nakba refugee amidst the ruins of Lifta.

Forget skyscrapers and sightseeing. “True New York” shows the real pulse of Madhattan

If you can make it there, you’d make it anywhere. No wonder it’s called Madhattan. First Run Features is off to a great New Year run with the DVD release of True New York, an anthology of five award-winning short documentaries about New York City and the amazing characters who call the city home

C-Rock (Director: Jordan Roth)
Featuring stunning cinematography and staggering footage of cliff-diving, C-Rock tells the story of a group of Bronx boys who leap off the 100-foot tall cliff known as “C-Rock” and into the Harlem River. A dangerous rite of passage going back generations in the Bronx, the film captures the rawness of youth while also revealing a wistful nostalgia for a changing neighborhood.

Taxi Garage (Director: Joshua Z Weinstein)
Forget Louie De Palma and Elaine O’Connor Nardo. This Taxi Garage is a powerful and touching look inside a taxi depot in Queens filled with classic New York personalities and a melting pot of immigrants with big dreams of making it in America. The film focuses on Johnnie “Spider” Footman, a colorful octogenarian who has driven a taxi all his life and is New York’s oldest taxi driver.

One Track Mind (Director: Jeremy Workman)
One Track Mind reveals the amazing story of Philip Coppola, who has devoted four decades to cataloging, archiving and sketching every station in the New York City subway system. Filmed over the course of four years, this is a portrait of a man consumed by a singular obsession as well as a loving exploration of the city’s unique artistic idiosyncrasies.

A Son’s Sacrifice (Director: Yoni Brook)
The award-winning film is a classic immigrant story and father/son tale. Imran is just another 27-year-old New Yorker struggling to take over his family’s business, which happens to be a halal slaughterhouse in Queens. Imran must confront his mixed Bangladeshi-Puerto Rican heritage and gain acceptance from his father’s conservative community.

Black Cherokee (Directors: Sam Cullman & Benjamin Rosen)
This film  focuses on street performer Otis Houston Jr., a self-taught artist from Harlem who performs before a captive audience of car-bound commuters along Manhattan’s FDR Drive. A meditation on family and inspiration.

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best DVDs and Box Sets (Part Two)

Johnny Carson defined late-night television.  For more than 30 years, America watched together, laughed together, and sang together on the couch with the Original King of Late Night.  Now, audiences will be able to enjoy the very best of late night, any night, with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series (Time Life). The singular collections, new to retail and available in multiple configurations, feature Johnny and the inimitable Tonight Show crew in full episodes fresh from Carson’s vaults, including commercials. The Vault Series gives viewers the opportunity to relive the incomparable magic of a night with Johnny, Ed and Doc.  These collections feature some of the best and most requested episodes from more than 30 years and 4,000 shows, including material not seen by the public since the original broadcasts.

Rex is a cab driver who has never left the mining town of Broken Hill in his life. When he discovers he doesn’t have long to live, he decides to drive through the heart of the country to Darwin, where he’s heard he will be able to die on his own terms; but along the way he discovers that before you can end your life you’ve got to live it, and to live it you’ve got to learn to share it. Share the ride with Last Cab to Darwin (First Run Features).

Think you’ve seen the antics of Groucho, Harpo, Chico and (sometimes) Zeppo? Wait until you see them in Blu-ray. The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)  boasts five restored Marx Brothers’ films–The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, the only five movies to feature all four brothers. The collectible set, filled with unforgettable comedy sketches, musical numbers, witty dialogue and plenty of gags, also includes all-new bonus features (such a feature-length documentary on the rise of the Marx Brothers) and audio commentaries for all the films.

To commemorate the 100thanniversary of Gregory Peck’s birth, Gregory Peck Centennial Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) features two of the actor’s most iconic roles in To Kill a Mockingbird and Cape Fear.

Sure to lift any “Fanshee” out of the doldrums, the 3-disc Banshee: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO) is  this action drama charts the final twists and turns that follow Lucas Hood, an ex-convict who assumed the identity of sheriff in the Amish-area town Banshee, where his former lover and partner-in-crime was living under her own alias, Carrie Hopewell. The final season set is packed with behind-the-scenes extras including audio commentaries, exclusive deleted scenes, episode recaps, “Banshee Origins” (which tells the story behind the story with eight prequel videos featuring the cast of Banshee), “Zoomed In Episodes 1- 8” (an on-the-set feature highlighting how key, adrenaline-filled scenes were created), and specially-created cast retrospectives on “Best Fight Scenes” and “Job’s Best Outfits.”

Cohen Media Group continues to amaze cinephiles with their restored, spectacular releases. This year’s tops: Two Films By Douglas Sirk. The set features A Scandal In Paris, starring George Sanders is at his debonair best as we see him climb from clever criminal through the ranks of French society in the early 1800’s, with seemingly nothing to stop him from the biggest heist of his career . . . except, perhaps, the charms of a young lady. The other feature is Lured.

A serial killer is on the loose in London, luring young women into his web through ads placed in the personal column.  Scotland Yard’s bait to ensnare the villain is a young American dance hall girl (played by a stunning Lucille Ball), who encounters a series of likely suspects, including the always dashing George Sanders as a sophisticated playboy and an unforgettable Boris Karloff as a mad fashion designer.
Then there’s Sudden Fear. In this rediscovered masterpiece of film noir, Joan Crawford plays a successful playwright who marries a mediocre actor (Jack Palance) with a troubling secret. She soon discovers that he not only married her for money but that he plans to murder her with the help of his lover (Gloria Grahame). This taut thriller also features a score by Elmer Bernstein that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Directed by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple, Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation (First Run Features) is a vivid look at America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine. Centered through editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, as well as an impressive array of passionate writers, the film is a journey into the soul of American Journalism.
With unfettered access and unfiltered honesty, Hot Type captures the day-to-day pressures and challenges of publishing a weekly magazine and illuminates how the past continuously ripples through and shapes current events. It is the story of The Nation-and the nation-evolving into the future as it is guided by its remarkable past.

It’s easy to name the HBO drama that has consistently been the top selling TV on DVD/BD for the past five years. Now fans can get the most recent season with Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO Home Entertainment).
The set features all 10 episodes, plus extensive bonus content. The cover is the best!

Disney’s adventure The Lion Guard (Disney) continues with Simba and Nala’s (from the classic The Lion King) second-born cub, Kion, and his Lion Guard team as they protect the Circle of Life! Follow our group of unlikely heroes: Bunga the honey badger, Fuli the cheetah, Beshte the hippo and Ono the egret. Join this heroic band as they use their unique abilities to protect the Pride Lands and maintain the Circle of Life. This series also features Simba, the spirit of Mufasa and the hilarious antics of Timon and Pumbaa.  You’ll go wild for all the ferocious fun, because whether the Lion Guard team is tracking a rogue leopard, foiling tricky jackals or facing stubborn crocodiles, Life In The Pride Lands is always “hevi kabisa”  totally intense! This new DVD, features five new episodes and is packed with laughs, music, beloved characters and heart, The Lion Guard: Life in the Pride Lands is a must-own. Bring home this heroic adventure on January 10. C’mon, Santa gave you $ in your stocking!

Poetic, riveting and moving, three-time Academy Award nominee Carlos Saura’s latest foray into the music of Argentina (First Run features) explores the heart of traditional Argentine folklore and its stunning musical heritage, from traditional styles to modern dance. Now 84, the legendary director states: “By beginning with the most beautiful traditional songs, I wish to explore the deep, telluric connection between song and soil, tradition and the future. I will create a film that is not only for aficionados but for all lovers of music and dance – as well as those who especially liked Carmen or Tango. My desire is to create a cinematic experience unlike any other.” Ole!

Time Stand Still (Rounder) This feature-length documentary film chronicles the final major tour for legendary rock band Rush. It is an intimate view of a historic moment from the perspective of the band, their fans, crew and management. Featuring interviews with the band throughout their sold-out 2015 40th Anniversary tour, the film also shows rarely seen backstage footage capturing the final moments of life on the road. Encore!

 

 

 

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

watermelon-woman
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.

First Run Features releases a slew of fascinating must-have documentaries

Everyone who knows our obsession over films, knows we always embrace the goodies released by First Run Features.  Let’s take a look at four recent must-haves.

When Justice isn’t Just
The film, directed by Oscar-nominated and NAACP Image Award winner David Massey, addresses the concept and reality of justice in the United States, particularly in regard to racial disparities in the American criminal justice system. Filmed in cities across the country, this dynamic documentary explores why so many unarmed black people have been targeted and killed by law enforcement officers, an issue that has taken center stage in the national consciousness. unnamed (2)The filmmakers talk to legal experts, activists and law enforcement officials who speak to the inequality within our criminal justice system. The film asks the crucial question of how to prevent more violence in this country, including Black on Black deaths. Activists, law enforcement officials, legal scholars, and the family members of victims offer a range of responses. At its heart, When Justice Isn’t Just confronts our broken criminal justice system, focusing on the incarceration rate of people of color. As the Black Lives Matter movement—and citizens nationwide—question the accountability of our justice system in cases of police violence, the film is an essential addition to the ongoing discussion about reform and renewal. Available September 13.

From the producers that brought us Persepolis and Delicatessen comes this family road trip comedy. Claire and Maurice, both survivors of previous marriages, have to take their whole family on a road trip to Claire’s father’s funeral. This tightly knit family is composed of Claire’s vegetarian son, Alex, who’s secretly fond of Maurice’s daughter, Lucie, the teenage rebel. Meanwhile Claire’s poet brother is along for the ride. unnamed (2)And of course don’t forget young Prune, Claire and Maurice’s daughter, who will develop a passion for France’s emblematic cows. Will this family of misfits survive the trip?

Weight
You beat the weight or the weight beats you–it’s the test every powerlifter faces when approaching the bar. But the weight that’s been pressing down on coach and gym owner Paul Steinman is something far more challenging than sport.  Bombing out on his squats at the 2012 American Open was just one more failure for Paul. It had been a bad stretch for him both in and out of the gym–now it’s time to make good.
unnamedOne year later, he’s back in the same place and competing at the same meet, with his wife and partner Rebecca at his side. As a super heavyweight Paul will lift in the day’s final flight, leaving time to sit and think about all that’s happened. What do you do when the weight feels heavy? Can you get up? Andrew Filippone Jr.’s Weight is a dramatic, character-driven documentary set in Brooklyn, following Paul and Rebecca over a challenging year.
DVD Extras: Epilogue • Biographies • Audio Commentary with Rebecca Steinman

Dark Diamond is a poised, stylish, assured thriller about a man who, out of retribution, vows vengeance against his relatives who abandoned him. Pier Ulmann comes from a family of powerful diamond dealers, who he believes are responsible for his estranged father’s death. To take revenge, he insinuates himself back into the family enterprise, with an elaborate caper in mind.unnamed (3)

The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West
A film by Barry Strugatz, The Professor is a documentary about Tai Chi and one of its great masters, Cheng Man-Ching, a man who brought Tai Chi and Chinese culture to the West during the swinging, turbulent ’60s. Featuring a rich array of vintage archival footage, the film tells the story of his remarkable life and features Tai Chi as a martial art and a spiritual practice.images
DVD Extras: Cheng Man-Ching performs his 37 Movement Form • The Origin of Tai Chi • Medical Science & Tai Chi: Interview with Peter M. Wayne, PhD, Harvard Medical School

Spring & Arnaud
Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight’s “artful and art-filled love story” (The Globe and Mail) is a documentary about two unique characters is also an unforgettable look at art, love and mortality. Influential photographer Arnaud Maggs, turning 85, embarks on a series of self-portraits that wryly depict his life’s work.unnamed (1) Spring Hurlbut at 60 is creating haunting works that evoke mortality while harboring the certainty that Arnaud’s time is limited. Together more than 25 years, each grapples with the nature of an artist’s creativity where the drive for invention and discovery resists life’s finite reality.
DVD Extras: Seven Short Films