Tag Archives: John Lithgow

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best DVDs of the Year

She remains my favorite Christmas Carol. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark TV institution, Time Life has released The Best of The Carol Burnett Show, which includes the best of the best, from all 11 seasons, together for the very first time.

The six-discs feature episodes that haven’t been seen since they originally aired, plus some of Burnett’s most beloved classics on 16 fresh-from-the-vaults episodes. Classic shows include the very first episode with Jim Nabors and the emotional, double-length series finale, as well as some of the best-loved, fan-favorite sketches including “Mrs. Wiggins,” “Carol and Sis,” “The Oldest Man,” “The Family,” As the Stomach Turns, as well as a marathon of movie spoofs, along with commercial spoofs and some amazing bloopers. Once again, I’m so glad we had this time together.

 

Sleeping single in a double bed? Join the biggest names of country music with the time-Life gem CMA Awards Life: Greatest Moments 1968-2015, an attractively packaged DVD collector’s set filled with 127 unforgettable performances from five decades of the nationally-televised ceremony.

Across the 10  discs, home audiences will discover a who’s who of country artists, including Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Trisha Yearwood, Dwight Yoakam, Barbara Mandrell and Tammy Wynette, who stands by her man. Music lovers will thrill to the memorable, once-in-a-lifetime performances including Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” as well as famous country duets and collaborations including “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” by Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire, and “Lady” by Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie. There’s also a nifty  year-by-year guide to 50 years of Award winners.

Universal has released a handful of must-have DVDs and DVD sets that are paramount to ever movie maven. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career, including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest, plus 10 episodes from his groundbreaking TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Featuring more than 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.  A shower anyone?

Screen legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in one of the most timeless holiday classics ever, Holiday Inn.  The film, in which Crosby plays a song-and-dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open only on holidays,  features the Oscar-winning song, “White Christmas”. Astaire plays his former partner and rival in love. Holiday Inn [Blu-ray]Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady (Marjorie Reynolds). ‘Tis the season for one of the most sensational musical comedies of all time! An extra gift: Holiday Inn 75th Anniversary Edition Crosby includes a new bonus disc featuring the all-new full-length Broadway musical.

Discover the true meaning of the holiday season with the live action adaptation of the beloved classic, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer reimagine one of the most enduring holiday stories of all time. Why is the Grinch (Carrey) such a grouch? No one seems to know, until little Cindy Lou Who takes matters into her own hands and turns both Whoville and the Grinch’s world upside down, inside out. . . . and funny side up. Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas [Blu-ray]Filled with dazzling scenery, special effects, makeup and costumes, this is an adventure even Scrooge would love. Grinch Deluxe Edition Combo Pack features collectible fuzzy green packaging.

Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection features 21 of the funniest movies from the legendary comedian. From his early days in vaudeville to his years as a top Hollywood box-office draw and star of radio, TV and live performances, Bob Hope’s innocent charm and lightning-quick wit have delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie CollectionCo-starring some of the Hollywood’s greatest stars (think Lucille Ball, W.C. Fields, Burns & Allen,  Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Jane Russell), this gem will entertain longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation to the unforgettable style of one of the most famous comedians of all time.
Hoping for more Bob? Time Life’s

Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials offers the most complete collection of his television specials ever assembled.  The set contains
19 discs, on which fans will find more than 37 hours of specials, including 20 that have not been seen since their original broadcast, as well as an incredible collection of celebrity guest appearances.

Paula Parkins is such a good girl. Make that was a good girl. She is one of those good-girls-gone-bad who leads her degenerate teenage hellcats down a path of gas station hijackings, pajama party orgies and cold-blooded murder Welcome to Ed Wood’s The Violent Years, an essential exposé on crime, gender politics and sweater-stealing; let us not forget the patently deranged dialogue to the scene where the gang performs a “man attack.”

This Blu-ray new 4K print escaped from Alamo Drafthouse’s American Genre Film Archive (the largest non-profit genre film archive in the world, and Something Weird) and we could not be happier. The bonus tracks are numerous, including gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault,  memorabilia scrapbook and a bonus movie, Anatomy of a Psycho, a new 2K scan from an original theatrical print.

Richard Simmons is still a show-biz heavyweight. For 30 years, he has been helping people lose weight (more than 3,000,000 pounds and counting) and get healthy with his unique enthusiasm, charm and encouragement.  Since opening his first aerobics studio in Beverly Hills in 1974, he has cemented himself in America’s pop-culture psyche with 65 fitness videos (selling over 20 million copies), dozens of infomercials, nine best-selling books, myriad parodies of his over-the-top persona, seemingly endless TV and film appearances and tabloid headlines digging the skinny on him.  Time-Life celebrates the glittery guru with Richard Simmons: Sweatin’ to the Oldies: 30th Anniversary Edition, an energetic six-disc set includes the complete collection of Simmons’ bestselling  workout programs. 

Pairing lively classics from the ’50s and ’60s with rockin’ low impact routines and Simmons’ humorous banter, encouragement and sparkly tank tops, the set offers 41 exercise routines set to rock n’ roll classics. Loaded with extras, this special anniversary set also includes 100 minutes of bonus programming featuring an exclusive interview with Richard, testimonials and success stories from Simmons’  students, a full-color 20-page album of rare personal photos and memories personally selected by Richard and a bonus disc of Love Yourself and Win–Six Steps to Self-Esteem & Permanent Weight Loss.

So what was the fuss about? Director Darren Aronofsky’s film mother! received good reviews, though many whined about the flick’s biblical allegories and depictions of violence. And the controversy continues. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star in  mother! (Paramount Home Media Distribution), the visually arresting psychological thriller that will leave your heart pounding and your mind blown.  The film also stars and Michelle Pfeiffer, and stunned critics and audiences around the world. The mother! 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include more 35 minutes of in-depth bonus content. Join Aronofsky and cast as they discuss the production of the movie and take us through its spectacular finale. Plus, check out the incredible makeup effects that made mother! a visual tour de force. We thought we’d share the reason Aronofsky so named the film: the title’s exclamation mark, he says, “reflects the spirit of the film” and corresponds to an “exclamation point” of the ending. “To find out why there’s a lowercase ‘m’, read the credits and look for the letter that isn’t capitalised. Ask yourself what’s another name for this character?”

It’s the series that out the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.   After breaking out from “The Family” sketches on The Carol Burnett Show, Thelma “Mama” Harper’s home-spun humor earned its own well-loved sitcom for six knee-slapping seasons.  Time Life invites all classic TV aficionados and sitcom lovers to spend some quality time (across 130 episodes) with Mama’s Family: The Complete Series.  Remember, Mama always knew best.

Celebrating the Original King of Late Night, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends The Complete Collections is the ultimate 10-disc set bringing together all the greatest moments and Johnny’s most legendary guests from the show’s 30 year, 4,000 episode run.  Carefully selected from the vaults by Carson archivists, this Time Life collection features more than 27 hours of classic Johnny–full, unedited episodes and original commercials from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.  Also included is a memory book filled with incredible and rare archival photos and nearly two hours of bonus features. Let’s say it together: Hereeeeeeeeeeeeee’s Johnny!

Paramount has made film fans an offer they cannot refuse:  The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition. Only 45,000 of these limited edition, numbered sets will be made making it a stunning gift for any fan. Celebrating its 45th anniversary, director Francis Ford Coppola’s opus is widely considered one of the most influential films in cinematic history.  Now the entire epic trilogy is available on Blu-ray in a spectacular 4-disc Omertà Edition, which includes the Coppola Restoration of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, as well as the remastered version of The Godfather, Part III. The set includes commentary by Coppola on all three films, a full disc of previously released in-depth special features, as well as exclusive new collectible Trivia Cards, Magnetic Poetry, an Anatomy of a Scene fold out and Quote Cards.

Porno for Xmas? And why not. Bat Pussy isn’t just porno . . . it’s considered one of the worst movies ever made. We’re not sure when it was made and released (possibly released in the early ’70s), but we do know it’s a spoof of the TV series Batman, and the film’s cult following relish the flick’s notoriously poor quality, technical flaws, bizarre dialogue, flaccid dicks, public urination, dildo demonstrations and unattractive stars.

Need more? The director can be heard giving actors directions, a crew member audibly belches during a sex scene and the dialogue includes gems such as My horoscope says “I’m going to fuck you in the nose!” Be honest: Even Mrs. Claus loves Bat Pussy, whose alter ego is Dora Dildo!

First Run Features always releases first-rate DVDs. A quartet of faves:
♥ Life on the Line: Season 3  This Emmy-winning series narrated by Lisa Ling that follows the medical journey of individuals fighting for their life. At hospitals around the nation, people face life and death situations every day. Episode 2: Ebola WarriorsLife on the Line zeroes in on one renowned academic hospital in Southern California. Loma Linda University Health serves one quarter of California and equips medical teams to travel around the world. From surviving Ebola in Western Africa to healing after one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on US soil, the series is an inspiring look into the resilience of humankind.
Ma’ Rosa Actress Jaclyn Jose took home the award for Best Actress at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for her powerful performance as Rosa in this riveting new film from director Brillante Mendoza. Exploring the widespread corruption and chaos of the Philippines in the Duterte era, the film follows Rosa and her husband Nestor, owners of a tiny convenience store who supplement their meager income by selling small amounts of “ice” (crystal meth).

Eventually the couple gets caught and hauled away by police, who are more interested in collecting bribes than eradicating crime. With their parents locked away, it’s left to Rosa’s children to scrounge together the money to pay off the police and free their parents, by any means necessary.
♥ Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe tells the story of the Austrian writer and his life in exile from 1936 to 1942. Zweig was one of the most famous writers of his time, but as a Jewish intellectual he struggled to find the right stance towards the events in Nazi Germany.Image result Driven to emigrate to South America at the peak of his worldwide fame, Zweig fell into despair at the sight of Europe’s downfall. This visually stunning and emotionally powerful film explores what it means to be a refugee, and exposes the difficult decision to speak out or remain silent in the face of tyranny.
♥ The Pulitzer at 100 This documentary by Oscar-winning director Kirk Simon celebrates the centenary of the Pulitzers–the revered national award for excellence in journalism and the arts. The riveting tales of the winning artists give an insider’s view of how these pinnacles of achievement are selected and how the award has the power to change lives and communities. The diverse stories explored in the film relate to immigration, race, gender, and above all freedom of speech–all issues that are ever more relevant in America today.

 Featuring interviews with notable prize recipients (including authors, journalists, playwrights and musicians such as Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Carl Bernstein , Wynton y of the man who created it, also brings Pulitzer-winning works to life through readings by John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, Martin Scorsese and Yara Shahidi.

American Genre Film Archive continues to scarce us (sometimes silly) with their gory gamut.  Some faves that will become yours:
♥ The Zodiac Killer Directed by Tom Hanson, who had once owned a chain of Pizza Man restaurants, made this flick in an attempt to capture the real-life Zodiac Killer. That plan didn’t work. Instead, we got the most outrageous and compelling ”tabloid horror” vortex in the history of planet Earth. And beyond.Zodiac Killer, The [Blu-ray + DVD] During theatrical screenings, Hanson constructed in-theater ”traps” to lure the killer from hiding. These included the use of an ice cream freezer filled with rent-a-cops and a raffle with a motorcycle as a prize. Shades of William Castle! This edition is a new 4K scan from the only surviving 16mm blow-up elements. Make sure you listen to Hanson’s commentary!
♥ Ruby No, this movie was not named after my mother. It’s a still relatively-unknown gem brimming with atmosphere and suspense . . . yes, there are enough creepy special effects and blood and gore to satisfy the most demanding genre fans.Ruby [Blu-ray + DVD] Most of it takes place at night, with all kinds of marvelous influences lurking in the shadows. Directed by cult-film director Curtis Harrington and featuring an impressive cast including Piper Laurie (as Ruby, fresh from her starring role in Carrie) and Stuart Whitman. This special BD/DVD combo is the definitive original theatrical version of Ruby, with a 2K restoration, two commentary tracks and more than hours of video interviews and special features.

We remain crazy over Patsy Cline.  She was a trailblazer who defined modern country music, and broke down barriers of gender, class and genre. In her music and her life, she set a standard of authenticity towards which artists still strive. After years of hard work to overcome industry biases and her own personal hardships, she achieved enormous success, only to have it punctured by uncanny premonitions and her untimely death at age 30 in 1963.

When Patsy Cline Was CrazyHer life and legacy is showcased in When Patsy Cline Was … Crazy (UMe), a DVD that collects the acclaimed PBS documentary, Patsy Cline: American Masters, and a wealth of exclusive bonus material comprised of themed additional interview footage and rare vintage performances.  An accompanying booklet includes classic photos of Cline.

Charles Castle, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, looks like he has it all. But his marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract. Studio boss Stanley Shriner Hoff isn’t taking the news too well, and he’ll do anything he can to get his man to sign on the dotted line, even if means exposing dark secrets. Winner of the Silver Lion at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife remains a great piece of film noir. The Big Knife (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] Based on Clifford Odet’s famed stage work, the film boasts a remarkable cast, including Jack Palance, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters, Ida Lupino, Jean Hagen and Everett Sloane.

Remember when fading film stars began working in schlocky films and/or TV shows? Some of these treasures exist. Yvonne DeCarlo, John Ireland and John Carradine stars in the hellish Satan’s Cheerleaders (VCI Entertainment). Benedict High School’s cheerleaders aren’t shy and sweet. The football team knows them well . . . and Billy, the school’s disturbed janitor, would like to. In the locker room, the girl’s shower and dress, unaware of the evil eyes which secretly watch them. They don’t know that a curse has been placed on their clothes. Satan's Cheerleaders [Blu-ray + DVD]And they don’t know that their trip to the first big game of the season might sideline them for eternity. Will the cheerleaders succumb to the dark ritual of sexual sacrifice and death that’s been plotted for them? Only those who dare watch will know!

PBS Distribution begins the New Year with a slew of must-have DVDs

The new year is a a mere fast forward away, but PBS Distribution has already a list of upcoming DVDs they are releasing that demand you to write “Save the Date” on your new 2017 calendar . . . and spend the you found in your money found in stocking hanging from the mantle.

Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge (Available now)
Three thousand years ago, the Egyptians were building the pyramids, but little is known about what was going on in Europe during this same time. Scholars have long believed that nothing nearly as advanced was happening in Britain. Could a new discovery prove historians wrong?
On the edge of Must Farm Quarry in an area southeast of Britain known as the Fens, archaeologists are uncovering the charred remains of a 3,000-year-old English settlement.


The program follows a team of archeologists, scientists, historians and specialists, as they shed new light on the ancient history of the western world. Perfectly preserved in mud, the prehistoric British Bronze Age Village–built at least one thousand years after Stonehenge–has been called the “British Pompeii.”
Because the site is so delicate, the experts have been working in secret inside the quarry. But now they are rushing to complete their work and map the site before the land is returned for its owner’s use. Have their findings forever changed what we know about life in Bronze Age Britain? What revelations about the villager’s lives can be gleaned from the cache of finds, unprecedented in number and quality, emerging from the marshy Fens?


NOVA: Treasures of the Earth (on sale January 3)
All around us is Earth’s bounty—spectacular mountains, Caribbean blue oceans and abundant, delicious food crops. But what we can see is only a part of the riches Earth provides. Its hidden assets are some of our most important natural resources and they have helped shape humankind.

The program is a three-part series that takes us on a journey deep inside the Earth to uncover the mysteries of how these treasures were created and explores how they have allowed humans to evolve and build great civilizations.


Projections of America (January 3)
 During the darkest hour of WWII, a team of idealistic filmmakers hoped the power of the movies could reshape the world. Led by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Robert Riskin, the filmmakers created 26 short documentaries about American life shown to millions of people around the world. The films told stories of cowboys and oilmen, farmers and window washers, immigrants and school children, capturing the optimism and messiness of American democracy.

The gorgeously crafted films were idealized versions of what America could be, created by politically engaged filmmakers who while fighting tyranny abroad, wanted also to fundamentally change America itself. But 70 years later, the films have disappeared. John Lithgow narrates this story of war, idealism and the power of cinema. This emotionally charged story is told through rare and evocative archival materials, including pristine new transfers of the propaganda films themselves, interwoven with interviews with filmmakers, audience members, and film critics.


FRONTLINE: Confronting Isis (January 3)
One of the biggest foreign policy challenges America’s next president will face is the battle against ISIS. Where does the U.S.-led fight against the terror group stand today?

In the special, FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith travels to five countries with key roles in the anti-ISIS fight—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey—to report on successes, failures and challenges as ISIS loses ground in the region but strikes out with attacks abroad. Beginning with the fall of Mosul to ISIS in 2014, the program deeply examines two years of American-led efforts to defeat ISIS, taking viewers step-by-step through a number of initiatives involving different regional players. Smith gains rare access across the region and beyond. In the process, he finds a fundamental problem: At times, the White House’s narrow focus on defeating ISIS hasn’t always aligned with the top issues faced by America’s allies—om how to deal with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to Saudi Arabia’s fears about Iran, to the war in Yemen, to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict.


Puppy Power (January 10)
This fun-filled DVD includes four puppy-packed Super Why! adventures. Join Woofster and the Super Readers for exciting adventures where they save other troubled pets, explore a comic book that Whyatt created called “The Missing Princess of Pet City,” and learn to concentrate by overcoming distractions! This collection of stories features tons of new furry friends and will inspire kids to go on reading adventures. Super Why! helps kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures. The program features a team of superhero characters with reading powers who jump into books to find answers to everyday preschool challenges.


AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Command and Control (January 10)
A cautionary tale of freak accidents, near misses, human fallibility and extraordinary heroism, the program exposes the terrifying truth about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal and shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us.

The film recounts, in chilling, minute-by-minute detail, the story of a deadly 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas. Through the first-person accounts of Air Force personnel, weapon designers and first responders who were on the scene, the film reveals the unlikely chain of events that caused the accident and the feverish efforts to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States—600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
On the evening of September 18, 1980, Airmen David F. Powell and Jeffrey L. Plumb were performing routine maintenance at the Titan II silo in Damascus, Arkansas. At the age of 21, Powell was considered a highly experienced missile technician; Plumb, who had just turned 19, was still in training. As the two stood on a platform near the top of the Titan II, a socket fell from Powell’s wrench, plummeted 70 feet and, shockingly, punctured the missile. A stream of highly explosive rocket fuel began pouring into the silo.
Nothing like this had ever happened to a Titan II before and the Air Force had no procedures in place to deal with the event. For the next eight hours, the leadership of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) frantically struggled to figure out how to prevent a massive explosion and retain control of the thermonuclear warhead—a weapon so powerful that it could destroy much of Arkansas and deposit lethal radioactive fallout across the East Coast.
A cautionary tale filmed in an abandoned Titan II missile silo in Arizona, Command and Control forces viewers to confront the great dilemma that the U.S. has faced since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do we manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?


Odd Squad: The Movie (January 24)
Odd indeed! This is the first-ever movie from the Emmy-winning live-action PBS KIDS series from The Fred Rogers Company. When a rival agency called Weird Team, led by Weird Tom, arrives on the scene with a gadget that fixes any odd problem, Odd Squad suddenly finds it doesn’t have any cases to solve and goes out of business.

The agents close shop and go back to their lives as regular kids. Using math and teamwork, they soon uncover that Weird Team’s gadget isn’t actually fixing the problems around town, but only covering them up. Olympia and Otis join forces with Olive and Otto to stop Weird Team–and save the world from destruction!


MASTERPIECE: Victoria (January 31)
Jenna Coleman stars as the young Queen Victoria at the outset of her epic reign, which set the stage for an entire era that would be named in her honor. Scripted by bestselling novelist Daisy Goodwin,  the series follows Victoria from her accession to the throne at age 18, through her education in politics, courtship and marriage, Victoria paints a portrait of a monarch who was raised to be the pawn of her powerful elders but who wasted no time in showing the empire who was in charge.


Goodwin imaginatively depicts what it was like for an ill-educated, emotionally deprived teenager to wake up one morning and find that she is the most powerful woman in the world. That it happened at all was practically a miracle. Victoria was queen only by virtue of ill luck and unfruitful marriages on the part of her uncles, who failed to produce legitimate heirs to the crown. Furthermore, her immediate predecessors were so disliked as kings that the institution of the monarchy seemed to be doomed.
Goodwin has been careful to stay faithful to the facts, while reading between the lines to fill in the gaps where the early Victorians were scrupulously silent. The result is a gripping historical pageant that reveals a side of Victoria that is at odds with her later reputation for prudery and a high moral tone.