To Gild the lily? We know that means unnecessarily adorning something already beautiful. The expression is a condensation of Shakespeare’s metaphor in King John: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily … is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”
Thirty years after the Civil War, America had transformed itself into an economic powerhouse and was fast becoming the world’s leading producer of food, coal, oil and steel. But the transformation had created stark new divides in wealth, class and opportunity. By the end of the 19th century, the richest 4,000 families in the country—less than one percent of all Americans—possessed nearly as much wealth as the other 11.6 million families combined. The simultaneous growth of a lavish new elite and a struggling working class sparked passionate and violent debate over questions still being asked today: How is wealth best distributed, and by what process? Should the government concern itself with economic growth or economic justice? Are we two nations—one for the rich and one for the poor—or one nation where everyone has a chance to succeed?
The story is told in the riveting American Experience: The Gilded Age (PBS Distribution).
The Gilded Age, as it later came to be known, was dominated by larger-than-life men who wielded power across industrial and economic sectors. While the elite luxuriated in splendor, America’s cities were bursting with immigrants and former slaves looking for opportunity. A message resounded among the working class: Was America a land of opportunity or a closed system run by the few for their own gain? The program is a compelling portrait of an era of glittering wealth contrasted with extreme poverty.
NATURE never fools with Mother Nature. Instead, the acclaimed PBS program produces incredible, educational must-see programs that land on DVD. Here is a triumvirate of recent faves.
Charlie and the Curious Otters The program focuses on efforts to rehabilitate three orphaned river otters in Wisconsin, shows some ground breaking experiments using cool cameras and anatomical CGI, and captures other wild encounters. At the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Charlie is introduced to three orphan river otter pups and films their progress and training: from needing around the clock care and feeding, to being taught the crucial skills they will need in order to return to the wild. Despite the fact otters can swim nearly a quarter mile without coming up for air, baby otters do not start out as natural swimmers and they don’t really like water. So the center’s manager Mark Naniot assumes the roles of surrogate mother and teacher. Charlie films him coaxing the pups into a small pool for swimming lessons and later adding minnows which the orphans instinctively chase and catch.
The filmmakers also go to Florida Springs, Florida where a clear spring fed river provides Charlie with great conditions to capture rare shots of otters hunting underwater. At the Oakland Zoo, he films otters hunting fish in slow motion to determine how they detect and capture their prey so quickly. He also visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s head vet Dr. Mike Murray who explains that sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom which is a key survival asset both on land and in the water.
Naledi: One Little Elephant The program chronicles the life of the orphaned baby pachyderm as she grows up with the help of her friends. Kiti, a gentle elephant in Botswana, was in her 661st day of pregnancy, a normal gestation period, when she finally gave birth to a baby girl. For nearly two weeks, the staff of Abu Camp, a halfway house for orphaned and former zoo and circus elephants, had been passing the time by coming up with a list of possible names for Kiti’s offspring. Perhaps because the calf was born at night, they called her Naledi, which means star in the local language.
But six weeks after giving birth, Kiti dies from a prolapse of the large intestine, and Naledi is left an orphan. Although elephant families are close, the program shows how precarious it is for a newborn to survive once it has lost its mother. Naledi needs to be nursed, so when the herd’s matriarch can’t produce enough milk and doesn’t know how to care for her, Mike, Wellie, and other caretakers decide to take drastic measures before it is too late. The film follows the team as they separate Naledi from the herd, relocate her to another part of Abu Camp, make sure a caretaker is always with her around the clock, work to establish a bond, and finally entice her to take milk from a bottle.
H is for the Hawk: A New Chapter After the unexpected death of her photojournalist father, Helen Macdonald overcame her grief by training an adult goshawk, one of nature’s most notoriously wild and free-spirited birds of prey. She had trained birds before, but never this raptor which she named Mabel. Macdonald found healing in that cathartic experience which became the basis for her 2014 international best-selling memoir H Is for Hawk.
Now, 10 years after she trained Mabel (who died of untreatable infection just before the author finished writing her book), Macdonald is ready to take on the challenge again, prompted by watching how a pair of wild goshawks reared their chicks in an English forest. This film accompanies her on visits to the pair’s nest to observe the latest developments and follows Macdonald’s emotional and intimate journey as she adopts a young goshawk and attempts to raise it as her own: feeding, nurturing, and training her new charge in the hopes the months of preparation will culminate in a successful first free flight.
PBS Distribution has released the series Slavery and the Making of America on DVD and Digital HD. Produced by THIRTEEN/WNET New York, this landmark series documents the history of American slavery from its beginnings in the British colonies through the years of post-Civil War Reconstruction. The program examines the integral role slavery played in shaping the new country’s development, challenging the long held notion that it was exclusively a Southern enterprise.
Through the remarkable stories of individual slaves, the program offers fresh perspectives on the slave experience and testifies to the active role that Africans and African Americans took in surviving their bondage and shaping their own lives.
For months, reports of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have dominated the headlines. FRONTLINE: Putin’s Revenge (PBS Distribution) tells the epic, inside story of how Vladimir Putin came to see the United States as an enemy, how U.S. intelligence came to believe he targeted the 2016 presidential election, the fallout under President Obama and now in the Trump administration, and the implications for the future of American democracy.
The program draws on more than 60 interviews with heads of U.S. intelligence agencies, diplomats, Russian politicians, historians and journalists to trace how Putin went from low-ranking KGB agent to long-serving president of a newly assertive Russia with the ability to wage cyber-war in the U.S. and across the globe.
With in-depth reporting from Moscow and Washington, D.C., Putin’s Revenge is a riveting and revealing documentary that explores why Putin has sought to sow distrust in America’s democracy.
The first part of the program is a portrait of what makes the Russian leader tick, and the events that shaped his belief that the U.S. has sought to undermine Russia dating back to the fall of the Soviet Union. It explores how Putin came to power and then carefully constructed his image, cracking down on independent media outlets and opponents. It also traces key turning points in Putin’s relationship with the U.S. over the years, including how his fear of a U.S. policy of regime change intensified, and how he came to see Hillary Clinton in particular as an enemy trying to oust him–despite State Department insistence it was only promoting democracy, not trying to steer the outcome of Russia’s election.
The second half delves into the riveting story of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, and how and why the Obama administration struggled to confront Putin about both election interference and, before that, Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The program shows Donald Trump’s repeated praise of Putin, how Russia is believed to have weaponized hacked emails to influence U.S. news cycles and exploit the gulf between Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and how false stories picked up by Russian propaganda websites were then promoted by Russian trolls and bots on social media, and eventually found their way onto mainstream American news broadcasts.
Against the backdrop of investigations by the FBI and Congress into the role Russia played in the election, Putin’s Revenge is the must-watch, inside story of how we reached this point, what drives Putin, and what might happen next.
From lobster claws and dog teeth to bee stings and snake fangs, every creature depends on a weapon. But some are armed to extremes that make no practical sense—whether it’s bull elks with giant 40-pound antler racks or tiny rhinoceros beetles with horns bigger than their body. What explains giant tusks, horns and claws that can slow an animal down and even impair health and nutrition?
The answers are available in NOVA: Extreme Animal Weapons, coming to DVD from PBS Distribution on February 13.
Showcasing astonishing wildlife cinematography, the program investigates the riddle of outsize weaponry and uncovers a bold new theory about what triggers an animal arms race. In creatures as varied as dung beetles and saber-toothed tigers, shrimp and elephants, the same hidden factors trigger the race and, once started, these arms races unfold in exactly the same pattern. In this enthralling special, NOVA cracks the secret biological code that underlies nature’s battleground.
It’s tough being queen even for a day. Yet imagine what her “secret service” goes through. You can find out with the Queen Elizabeth’s Secret Agents (PBS Distribution) on DVD and Digital HD.
The documentary will be available on DVD on February 13; the program will also be available for digital download.
Discover the secret agency that helped Queen Elizabeth I while she was in power for more than 40 years. During a time when Britain and Queen Elizabeth’s realm was divided, unstable, and violent, the world’s first secret service was born. Run by William and Robert Cecil, this father-and-son team had the duty of protecting the Queen and the Country.
Leading historians study the period from different principals’ points of view. They dissect the minds and motivations of key players, to uncover an intricate, covert spy network, revealing how Elizabethan England really was. In three in-depth episodes, the program takes us through the biggest events of Elizabeth’s reign, the entrapment and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the capture and escape of catholic fugitive John Gerard and the most infamous terrorist conspiracy in British history, the Gunpowder Plot.
PBS Distribution is ready to thank him for the memories. They have just released American Masters: This is Bob Hope on DVD and Digital HD. During his eight-decade career, Hope was the only performer to achieve top-rated success in every form of mass entertainment: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, television, popular songs and personal appearances, including his annual USO Christmas military tours and hosting the Academy Awards more times than anyone else.
A comedy innovator, Hope invented the topical monologue that later became a late-night TV staple and comedy tropes like talking while backing up. He refined a spontaneous, conversational, improvisational style of comedy as a vaudeville master of ceremonies that created a blueprint for acerbic stand-up comics.
Written, directed and produced by John Scheinfeld, the documentary presents a candid look at a remarkable life. With unprecedented access to Hope’s personal archives, including writings voiced by Billy Crystal and clips from Hope’s body of work to reveal a gifted individual who recognized the power of fame, the documentary presents Hope’s handling of celebrity with extraordinary wit and grace, becoming a model for public service in Hollywood.
The program features new interviews with Woody Allen, Dick Cavett, Margaret Cho, daughter Linda Hope, Kermit the Frog, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Conan O’Brien, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Connie Stevens and biographer Richard Zoglin (Hope: Entertainer of the Century). Edited to evoke the fast, fun pace of Hope’s classic monologues, clips include highlights from numerous TV specials, his Pepsodent radio shows and classic films like TheCat and the Canary, My Favorite Blonde, his iconic Road pictures with Bing Crosby, and The Big Broadcast of 1938, featuring his signature song “Thanks for the Memory.”
PBS is world-renowned for their specials, documentaries, miniseries and films and TV fare . . . simple always first-rate. Some of our favorites released this year:
The best DVD set of the year? The Vietnam War, another epic miniseries by the master, Ken Burns. and Lynn Novick. In an immersive narrative, they tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film.
The epic program features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.
Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.
The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pete Seeger.
Second best: May we serve you a nice cup of tea? Imbibe, as long as the beverage isn’t being served by Mary Ann Cotton. Inspired by the book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by noted criminologist David Wilson, Dark Angeldramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.
Joanne Froggatt, who stole the hearts of millions of viewers as Anna, the loving and resilient lady’s maid on Downton Abbey, stars in a totally different role in the spine-tingling two-part drama. Dispensing death from the spout of a warm teapot, Froggatt plays the notorious Victorian poisoner. Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coalfields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving. Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.
For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day: typhoid fever and cholera. The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common—and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.
She’s back. And as spirited a teen as ever. Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars is the second installment of the classic best-selling Lucy Maud Montgomery story returns after the successful Thanksgiving 2016 premiere, which reached more than 3.2 million viewers. In this installment, Anne Shirley turns 13 and faces complex situations with friends, learns from inspirational adults, and experiences an escalating friendship with Gilbert. Her free-spirited nature is challenged by her perceived need to be sensible, a journey fraught with confusion and some unfortunate—albeit amusing—(mis)adventures.
The Real Jesus of Nazareth Starring no less than seven Academy Award winners, the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth was a global television event–one of the most celebrated TV biographies of Jesus ever made. Now, 40 years later, the actor who portrayed the Son of God, Robert Powell, is returning to the Holy Land to seek out clues to the real historical figure who inspired Christianity. Jesus of Nazareth featured a cast of blockbuster stars, including Anne Bancroft, Ian McShane, Sir Laurence Olivier and James Earl Jones, but for his lead character, legendary Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli chose the relatively unknown British actor–Robert Powell–who gave a performance for the ages. Since then, the series has become an Easter and Christmas television tradition for many–more than 90 million people have watched the series in the U.S. alone. Now, this new program will draw parallels between the scripted depiction of the biblical story and the real history behind it by breaking down the life of Jesus and the world he lived in–a world ripe for a radical message that would change history.
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author. The film, featuring Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare, explores the misrepresentations of Poe as an alcoholic madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. It reveals the way in which more than any other writer of his time, and even our own time, Poe tapped into what it means to be a human being in our modern and sometimes frightening world.
The Durrells in Corfu: The Complete Second Season This charming and hugely popular series returns to follow the further adventures of the eccentric Durrell family as they embrace life on the gorgeous Greek island of Corfu. Based on Gerald Durrell’s trilogy of Corfu novels, this latest series sees sparky English widow Louisa Durrell and her brood continue to put down roots in their dilapidated rented house, alongside an ever-increasing menagerie of animals brought home by youngest son Gerry. Doing their best to settle into the community, they must earn enough money to pay their aggressive new landlady Vasilia, who sees Louisa as a love rival for charming playboy Hugh. With the help of Spiro and Theo, the Durrells resort to selling typical British produce at the market. But accidentally poisoning the locals might not be the best way to start a new business?
Does George Warleggan finally have the upper hand against his archenemy, Ross Poldark? Can George’s growing power in Cornwall cement his control over the fate of his populist foe? Dream on! In Poldark: The Third Season, follow the latest thrilling exploits of Ross Poldark and his fiery partner, Demelza, as the intrepid eighteenth-century duo. The new season costars Jack Farthing as the dastardly George and Heida Reed as his bewitching wife, Elizabeth, now estranged from her first love, Ross—or is she?
Also enlivening the new season are a mysterious plague of frogs, a thwarted famine, and Aunt Agatha’s eagerly anticipated one-hundredth birthday party, which has a catastrophic catch. But the most stirring action involves the French Revolution, which manages to ensnare one of the program’s main characters in its Reign of Terror, prompting Poldark’s most dangerous mission yet.
Cook’s Country: Season 10 features the best regional home cooking in the country and relies on a practical, no-nonsense food approach where family-friendly recipes are scientifically re-imagined for the modern home cook. Join hosts Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison and your favorite chefs from America’s Test Kitchen as they uncover blue-ribbon specialties from across the country and classic fare in need of a makeover. The DVD also includes tips & techniques, food tastings, equipment tests, and printable versions of all 31 recipes!
The Gene Doctors
Every year more than one million babies are born worldwide with an error in one of their many genes. These errors, or mutations, can cause genetic illnesses that are often severe and can rob people of sight, breath, movement and life. Now, for the first time, doctors can take aim at the root causes of these diseases. Through intimate stories of families whose lives are being transformed, the program takes viewers to the frontlines of a medical revolution.
NOVA: Ghosts of Stonehenge
In this Stone Age detective story, archaeologists analyze the bones and piece together tantalizing details of the elite families who presided over Stonehenge. Remnants of huge feasts that fed the laborers at the site have come to light, including evidence that they traveled from far corners of the British Isles to raise the stones and celebrate the winter solstice. Yet Stonehenge’s place as a centerpiece of ancient culture was not to last.
Join NOVA as they reveal intimate details of the Stonehenge people and why their power began to fade soon after they raised the mighty stones.
NOVA: Secrets of a Shining KnightA knight in shining armor may sound like a character out of a storybook, but once upon a time, knighthood was serious business. For countless medieval fighters, their armor was what stood between their life and death. But what was it really like to live beneath the metal? How was that shining armor crafted and how strong was it? Could it withstand impacts from the most lethal weapons of the day, including crossbows, muskets and primitive hand guns?
The Story of China History lessons Greek to you? Welcome PBS’ offer of an unprecedented, six-part series exploring the 4,000-year history of China, home to more than a billion people and an emerging global superpowerwith Michael Wood. He brings a joyful curiosity to the series that is matched only by the warmth and enthusiasm of the Chinese people, suggests that to understand China today we must examine its past.
The all-new fashion-centric miniseries Masterpiece: The Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. World War II is over and stylish clothes are back as Paris recovers from the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Richard Coyle, Mamie Gummer and Tom Riley star as a family struggling to build a fashion empire at any cost. Set in 1947, The Collection captures a turbulent era in French history, when partisans hunted down Nazi collaborators and anyone with something to hide shunned the past and embraced the future. Fashion became the perfect expression of this impulse to look ahead. Wartime rationing, drabness, and erotic restraint gave way to alluring displays of color, form, and fabric in women’s clothes—for those who could afford them.
Teresa Brewer suggested we put another nickel in the Nickelodeon so we could hear “music, music, music!” Now Robert Redford steps up to the plate (or platter) by narrating American Epic, the essential that explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology captured the breadth of American music and discovered the artists that would shape our world.
Virtually no documentation of these extraordinary events survives and nearly ninety percent of the recording masters have been destroyed. A vital part of American cultural history has been lost. Over three episodes, narrated by Redford, American Epic rescues this history. The remarkable lives of these seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage and photographs, and exclusive interviews with music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses to the era.
We start a new chapter every time we get to read and cherish a new books. And we read and cherish many every year. It was tough, but we choose these as must-read, must-have for every library.
Walter and the Wallet (Eifrig Publishing, $14.99) Walter Whippingdale is having the worst day of his life. The girl he likes is making googly eyes at another boy in his class. He struck out during recess. He broke his favorite watch. A giant pimple appeared on his nose. And to top it off, he somehow managed to get mustard in his eye at lunch! Walking home from school, his head is hanging low. Which is precisely how Walter spots a wallet lying in the street . . . a wallet bursting with cash. Suddenly, his terrible day is about to change. But how? Cash in on this is a lovely, lyrical tale full of life lessons.
Ralphie, Always Loved (About Something Good , $14.99 or $7.99) will remind you of all that is good, and reaffirm your belief in love’s power to uplift and transform. Anyone who has felt a deep connection with their own beloved pet will find joy, kindness and light in Ralphie’s story; the book is perfect for sharing with little ones as well as friends and family. The cat’s meow! aboutsomethinggood.com/ralphie-always-loved/
The Global Warming Express (Terra Nova Books, $14.99) Whoever thought such an important issue could make for a fabulous kid’s book? We have placed the Earth in peril—through pollution, global warming, oil spills and our general disrespect and neglect of the environment. Those who respond first are the animals. There is The Fluff, a penguin; Creamy, a harp seal; Tomás, a black bear; Flora, a polar bear; and Lady Athabasca, a whooping crane, among others. The animals have all suffered from destruction to their habitats and neglect of the environment, and want to do something about it. They jump on a magical train powered by positive thoughts and take off to let others know about the problems Earth’s creatures are facing. This is the perfect book to begin conversations, educate kids and parents, and even help start up school programs in every neighborhood. terranovabooks.com/the-global-warming-express.html
Whenever the wind breaks, poor Argyle Fox has a tough time. With his signature style, he wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Wooosh! Mama Fox tells grumpy Argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do. Following his mother’s suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he works all the pieces of his day together and creates the perfect solution. Argyle’s story, warmly told in Argyle Fox (Tanglewood Publishing, $17.99) shows that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking, and an old-fashioned springtime activity. tanglewoodbooks.com/books/picture-books/argyle-fox/
We don’t usually recommend pop-up books for wee ones since inquisitive minds (and hands!) destroy such wondersl We make an exception with The Nutcracker: A Papercut Pop-Up Book (Thames & Hudson, $19.95), knowing parents and grandparents will protect papercut artist Shobhna Patel’s exquisite retelling of Tchaikovsky’s ballet using an entirely new pop-up technique featuring dazzling laser-cut illustrations that will enchant readers young and old. Patel has invented a new paper-engineering technique called the “paperscope,” which is used for the first time in this charming book. The book features four pop-up paperscopes that spring when the reader presses each paperscope down with their hand to reveal the scene hidden within. The effect is one of a magical series of stage sets, recalling the story’s origins as a ballet. Simply magnificent!
Public Media Distribution and PBS Distribution have enough great DVDs to fill 1,367 stockings and appeal to the young (and young-at-heart). Three faves: We loved Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small: Play Date With Miffy, an all-new DVD from the lovable and popular children’s Nick Jr. TV series. Children will enjoy watching Miffy and her friends Melanie and Grunty as they embark on adventures and new experiences, sing memorable songs and have fun–all the while learning about kindness, respect, and friendship. Miffy and friends jump in puddles, take a ballet lesson, play hide and seek and much more in these 11 fun-filled playtime adventures. We also loved Wild Kratts: Wild Winter Creatures! Join Martin Kratt and Chris Kratt as they embark on four snowy winter adventures from their hit PBS KIDS series. Chris and Martin continue to face Zach Varmitech when he kidnaps a polar bear cub and a walrus calf, and again when he threatens to use an entire walrus herd to mine precious pearls for Donita Donata’s fashion line. Entertaining and educational. Super Why: Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairytale Adventurestakes Super Readers on four classic adventures. You will especially love the Sleeping Beauty segment. The Super Readers travel into the famous story of Sleeping Beauty to speak with a Princess who loves sleeping just as much as Princess Pea loves tea parties!
Disney Book Group has oodles of nifty books for the wee ones. Disney Baby: My First Christmas($8.99)introduces Baby to the wonders of Christmas with Mickey and friends. From sticky candy canes to fluffy white snow, Baby will delight in the touch and feel elements of this engaging board book. Join Olaf on a fantastic adventure inOlaf’s Frozen Adventure Olaf’s Journey ($12.99), a board book featuring LED lights showing through every page. In The Twelve Days of Christmas ($16.99), Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-Winning Greg Pizzoli’s pitch-perfect humor gives this classic carol new life. As more and more gifts show up in the story, fans of Greg’s previous books will love identifying familiar animals. This hilarious interpretation with festive foil on the cover makes for a perfect holiday gift. When a series of animals come knocking at the door seeking a warm place to sleep, there’s always room for one more!William’s Winter Nap ($17.99) is the perfect read-aloud for a cold winter night. Linda Ashman’s playful rhymes, paired with Chuck Groenink’s irresistible animal illustrations, will have young readers cuddling up to this book with their favorite stuffed animals at bedtime. Celebrate the spirit of the season withMickey’s Christmas Storybook Treasury ($30), a collectible Mickey & Friends volume featuring four beautifully illustrated Christmas stories: “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s Christmas Wish,” “Donald’s Christmas Tree” and “The Gift of the Magi.” Bring home the timeless appeal of Disney storytelling and experience the magic again and again. Who doesn’t love the holidays? Twinkling lights, merry carolers, the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and the alien creature battling your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? Welcome to the exciting world of Marvel’s Super Hero Adventures!
In Deck the Malls ($4.99), the first book in the series, join Spider-Man and his amazing arachnid ally Spider-Gwen as they take on the alien menace known as Venom. Will Spider-Man outrun Venom before the creature can steal his powers? Will Spider-Gwen figure out Venom’s weakness before it’s too late? Will the spider-friends save the day in time to finish their holiday shopping? It’s anything but a silent night this festive season. Art of Coloring: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas ($15.99) These images are ideal for adding your own brand of color and style. Perfect for cultivating creativity, relaxation, and focus, these pages are filled with artwork evocative of the delightfully frightful world of Jack Skellington. Six Words Fresh Off the Boat captures hundreds of takes on the immigration experience, from every-day people as well as world-famous celebrities including Aziz Ansari, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Julianne Moore, Mario Batali, George Takei, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Billy Collins and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This book will have you thinking in sixes and challenging others to share six words about their lives. First premiering on Broadway in November 13, 1997, Disney’s award-winning “Best Musical” The Lion King celebrated its 20th anniversary in November. Now a veteran actor to the musical, Alton Fitzgerald White—the longest running “Mufasa”—reflects on his own life, career, and the rich lore of The Lion King, in My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance.
Inspired by the iconic series, Kim Smith’s adorable new picture book imagines what Scully and Mulder would be like as children camping out in a backyard filled with strange lights, sounds and… aliens? When it first aired, The X-Files was one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows in American television, lasting nine seasons and two feature films. With 2016’s revival season and production for the 2018 season of The X-Files set to begin this summer, excitement for the series continues to grow.
The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird (Quirk Books ($18.99) is a great way for parents to share one of their favorite TV shows and the picture book would be a great addition to any Halloween coverage you might be planning.
A bit (get it?) about apps. We know nada. We don’t even own a cell phone! But a very reliable source from way up North tells us about My Town Games, a company that has great and safe apps for kids. My Town: Pets is a purr-fect choice: It allows children to have fun adopting cats, dogs, birds and hamsters, caring for them, taking them to the vet–everything they would do with real pets–which will present the opportunity to learn animal interaction and responsibility that can carry over into their real lives. If they walk their dog at the park’s litter sand area, make sure they don’t just don’t forget to clean up the poop. An added bonus is connectivity of My Town games and with shared characters and places that can travel from one game to another, all part of the larger My Town family of apps. Another bonus: My Town: Pets received an endorsement from Kids First!, a program of The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, a national, nonprofit organization founded in 1991 whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media. So far, there are 22 titles in My Town’s library. Another neat app: My Little Princess: Stores. It allows children to open up a whole new digital dollhouse with new characters to dress up and test out the latest makeup trends and style. Find your characters’ best friend and go pick up food at the supermarket, or plan a party and pick up the items to celebrate with.
A trio of great games from (who else) Endless Games.
Name something everyone loves to play. If you said Family Feud, you’ve scored lots of points! Endless Games has released this nifty Family Feud 40th Anniversary Retro Edition Board Game, featuring the classic FF home version console. There are more than 500 survey questions, so every family will have ample chances to play . . . again and again and again. Richard Dawson’s kisses not included.
Remember that TV fave The Gig Short? What about that musical movie A Dorks Stink? No, we are not making typos. Nor are we losing our minds. We are simply having fun with Out of Order, a game in which film, TV, song and book titles are scrambled. Take away a letter here, add a letter there and in five steps the correct answer is revealed. So: The Gig Short = The Gig Shot = The Gag Shot = The Gang Shot = The Gang Show = The Gong Show. The Dorks Stink = A Dorks Sink = A Dorks Line = A Doris Line = A Chorus Line. Be the first to unscramble and identify the title to win.
The curtain has risen on series four of the popular Playbill Puzzles, a 1,000-piece jumble featuring Playbill covers of current Broadway plays and musicals. Even Mama Rose would would agree this family fun adventure is coming up roses . . . as long as the pieces fit.
Spinmaster continues to break the toy formula with these three marvel must-haves. Do your kids want a pet? A dazzling dog? A curious cat? A grunting guinea pig? Some frivolous fish? If your your apartment rental forbids such a childhood necessary or someone in the family is allergic, fret no more! Bring Zhu Zhu pet hamsters home. This battery-powered facmisle comes in nifty neon colors and the Hamster House Play Set is the perfect place for any Zhu to live. The set comes with an exclusive Winkie hamster and a slide and tunnel, making recreations of scenes from the TV show as A-B-C (or is it Z-H-U?). If he needs companions, add Mr. Squiggles, Roxie, Num Nums and the rest of the gang. Our pet favorite toy this season!
Kids can get ahead with the fun with the Airbrush Styling Studio. Tapping into the trend of online beauty tutorials, the Studio’s innovative cordless airbrush tool and colorful makeup sticks (washable markers) teaches them how to easily apply stylish hair and makeup on your very own model. Use the hair and makeup stencils to recreate your favorite looks from the Lookbook, and customize with gems and eye color stickers. Airbrush colorful highlights and attach the hair extensions wear the extensions in your own hair! Once the Lookbook styles are mastered, design your own using the free play templates and share your amazing Lookbook creations. Then, simply wash off to design all over again. It’s easy to create endless looks just like a real stylist with the Cool Maker Airbrush Styling Studio.
We spend way too much playing with M.A.X., a 12-inch tall advanced robot who is crammed with tons of fun, educational features. Designed for budding engineers and tinkerers 0 years and older, this robot-building kit offers a challenging yet rewarding build consisting of 332 parts. Once he’s assembled, M.A.X. functions as a friendly robot companion and personal assistant. He engages kids in conversation, learns from every interaction, remembers important dates, and more. He even features a built-in gaming platform. Customizable programming allows kids to personalize M.A.X. to meet their own specifications so that every assembled M.A.X. robot is truly one of a kind. And like all Meccano kits, M.A.X. can be reassembled into a huge variety of other robotics toys.
We have told you many times . . . many, many times . . . that the DVDs released by PBS Distribution are masterpieces. Another wonder: The all-new fashion-centric miniseries Masterpiece: The Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. World War II is over and stylish clothes are back as Paris recovers from the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Richard Coyle, Mamie Gummer and Tom Riley star as a family struggling to build a fashion empire at any cost.
The beautifully shot series won accolades during its UK debut in 2016, with The Telegraph calling it “possibly the most glamorous series on TV,” The Guardian finding it “captivating … glossy and murky at the same time,” and The Huffington Post praising its large cast as “first-rate from top to bottom.”
Focusing on the Sabine family, composed of business-savvy Paul (Coyle), his wealthy American wife, Helen (Gummer), and his brilliant but dissipated designer brother, Claude (Riley), the programalso stars Frances de la Tour as Paul and Claude’s overbearing mother, Yvette, who will stop at nothing to advance her boys’ careers—often to their dismay.
Set in 1947, The Collection captures a turbulent era in French history, when partisans hunted down Nazi collaborators and anyone with something to hide shunned the past and embraced the future. Fashion became the perfect expression of this impulse to look ahead. Wartime rationing, drabness, and erotic restraint gave way to alluring displays of color, form, and fabric in women’s clothes—for those who could afford them.
The Sabine family firm is at the forefront of this exciting but ruthless pursuit, and Paul has been chosen by the French government to lead the battle to reclaim the nation’s preeminence in the couture world. Widely regarded as the genius behind his studio’s stunning designs, Paul is in fact purveying the work of his brother, Claude, an unbridled sensualist who can’t restrain his amorous impulses. In free moments, Claude works in a frenzy to sketch new gowns, often consigning them to the wastebasket, where they are retrieved and turned into the Sabine collection’s latest sensations.
Into this superficially elegant universe comes hard-boiled American reporter Stan Rossi (Stanley Townsend) with suspicions about Paul’s past, but so far little to go on. Assigned to photograph a fashion story for Rossi, Billy soon parts company to become the Sabine studio’s official photographer. In the process, he elevates the worker Nina to be the signature model for the firm—much to the chagrin of the reigning top model, Dominique (Poppy Corby-Tuech, who plots revenge.
Adding to the turmoil, police Inspector Bompard (Allan Corduner) enters the picture when Yvette’s scheme to get Claude under control goes horribly awry, leading to an investigation that threatens the entire Sabine enterprise.
No wonder we love Edgar Allan Poe’s works . . . the Gothic gems deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead and mourning.
No surprise we ate PBS Distribution’s American Master: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive. Missed it on TV? It’s now on DVD. Written and directed by Eric Stange, this new documentary draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author.
Starring Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare and narrated by Oscar- and Tony-nominated, two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner, the program explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. This caricature is thanks, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to re-invent American literature, Poe was an influential–and brutally honest–literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.
An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.
Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, this program combines dramatized re-enactments with O’Hare of key moments in Poe’s life, readings from Poe’s works by O’Hare, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon and actor Ben Schnetzer, and interviews with authors including Marilynne Robinson, Matthew Pearl, Jeffrey Meyers and Zach Dundas, director Roger Corman and others who reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some