Apple Records has unveiled the most ambitious reissue of a Beatles title to date, with a “super deluxe edition” of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The May 26 release celebrates the 50th anniversary of the psychedelic music classic.
Highlights include a new stereo mix of the album, 5.1 surround via Bluray/DVD discs, a “lost” version of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and two CDs full of studio outtakes.
Sorry, it’s a “no” for the long-sought-after experimental Beatles track “Carnival of Light,” which dates back to the period.
Here’s what’s coming based on materials released April 4 and 5 by the Beatles’ label (updated content):
- A new mix of the 1967 album by Gils Martin and Sam Okell from the original master tapes.
- Two CDs of outtakes, with almost three dozen tracks, many titles repeated, all of them from “Sgt. Pepper” or the single that preceded it. For example, five takes of “A Day in the Life.” In chronological order of recording.
- New stereo mixes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” A new “Penny Lane” 5.1 mix and the 2015 surround version of “Strawberry Fields” (from “1+”).
- High-resolution versions of the new stereo mixes.
- A mono album with a “lost” version of John Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and five other tracks.
- A DVD/Bluray video package with “The Making Of” documentary. Restored promo films for “Strawberry Fields,” “Penny Lane” and “A Day in the Life” (4k).
- A 144-page book. Two posters and insert.
The set currently lists for $150 on a partial product page set up on Amazon.
“All of the Anniversary Edition releases include Martin’s new stereo mix of the album, which was sourced directly from the original four-track session tapes and guided by the original, Beatles-preferred mono mix produced by his father, (producer) George Martin,” the “Sgt. Pepper” press release says.
The set does not reissue the widely available standard stereo version of the Beatles album.
The extras on the CDs are said to be “a deeper dive with 100 minutes of outtakes, previously unheard and unreleased.” Much of the material has been previously bootlegged, however, as was the case with the last major archival release, the “Anthology” CDs. The official release undoubtedly will bring higher quality to the studio rejects.
Contrary to recent media reports and resulting rumors, the newly remastered “Sgt. Pepper” does not insert “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” into the classic album’s running order.
Apple also is offering a single CD ($19), double CD ($25) and double LP ($39) edition of the anniversary release. (Prices likely to drift a bit.)
As for the vinyl version: “Expanded 180-gram 2LP vinyl package features the new stereo album mix on the first LP and adds a second LP with previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album.”
“The Making Of Sgt. Pepper” was an official hourlong documentary that debuted in the U.K. in June 1992. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ring Starr participated, giving separate interviews. Producer George Martin also weighed in from the control board at Abbey Road. A slightly shorter version reportedly aired on the Disney Channel.
Tip o’ the hat to Psychedelic Sight for the above information.
EAGLE ROCK ANNOUNCES THE NEXT ENTRIES IN
THE FRANK SINATRA COLLECTION
THE TIMEX SHOWS VOL. 1 & VOL 2.
~ON DVD AND DIGITAL FORMATS ON MAY 19, 2017~
On May 19, 2017, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release another pair of titles in The Frank Sinatra Collection on DVD and digital formats. On license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), the definitive collection pulls together some of the finest performances on television and in concert from the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. The Frank Sinatra Collection brings together some of Frank Sinatra’s finest performances on television and in concert.
The Timex Shows Vol.1
The Frank Sinatra Timex Show / An Afternoon With Frank Sinatra
This release combines his first two Timex TV shows from the late ‘50s.
THE FRANK SINATRA TIMEX SHOW – First broadcast by ABC on October 19, 1959. This was the first of four Timex-sponsored television specials that Sinatra hosted. It’s a fun and energetic show that captures Frank Sinatra at the top of his game. Guests include Dean Martin, Mitzi Gaynor and Bing Crosby, who join forces for an opening rendition of “High Hopes” and later Jimmy Durante makes a surprise appearance.
AN AFTERNOON WITH FRANK SINATRA – First broadcast by ABC on December 13, 1959, ‘An Afternoon With Frank Sinatra’ was the second of Sinatra’s four Timex television specials. The show includes guest appearances from Peter Lawford, Hermione Gingold, The Hi-Lo’s, Red Norvo’s jazz combo, dancer Juliet Prowse and the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald. Sinatra sings such hits as “I’ve Got The World On A String,” “I’ll Never Smile Again” and duets on “Can’t We Be Friends” with Ella.
The Timex Shows Vol.2
To The Ladies / Welcome Home Elvis
This release combines his two final Timex TV shows from 1960.
TO THE LADIES – First broadcast by ABC on February 15, 1960, ‘To The Ladies’ surrounded Frank Sinatra with a host of wonderful female performers for his third Timex-sponsored television special. It’s a mix of comedy, opera, dancing and great songs. Guests include Lena Horne, Mary Costa, Barbara Heller, Juliet Prowse and special guest star Eleanor Roosevelt.
WELCOME HOME ELVIS – First broadcast by ABC on May 12, 1960, ‘Welcome Home Elvis’ was Frank Sinatra’s fourth and final Timex special. It marked Elvis Presley’s first TV appearance after coming home from military service. Elvis performs “Fame And Fortune” and “Stuck On You” then Presley and Sinatra join forces on great renditions of “Witchcraft” and “Love Me Tender.” Joining in the fun is Nancy Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
FULL TRACKLISTING INFORMATION
‘THE TIMEX SHOWS VOL. 1’
THE FRANK SINATRA TIMEX SHOW
1) High Hopes (Bing Crosby/Dean Martin/Mitzi Gaynor) 2) Day In, Day Out (Frank Sinatra) 3) Together, Wherever We Go (Frank Sinatra/Bing Crosby/Dean Martin) 4) Hurricane (Mitzi Gaynor) 5) Talk To Me (Frank Sinatra/Mitzi Gaynor) 6) Cheek To Cheek (Bing Crosby/Dean Martin/Mitzi Gaynor) 7) Wrap Your Trouble In Dreams (Dean Martin 8) Medley: Good Old Songs/Down By The Old Mill Stream/The Old Gray Mare/In Shade Of The Old Apple Tree/That Old Feeling/Down The Old Ox Road/Old Rockin’ Chair/Old Devil Moon/You’re An Old Smoothie/My Old Flame/Ol’ Man River (Frank Sinatra/Bing Crosby/Dean Martin) 9) High Hopes (Frank Sinatra) 10) Medley: Just One Of Those Things/Angel Eyes/The Lady Is A Tramp (Frank Sinatra) 11) Medley: Start Each Day With A Song/Inka Dinka Doo/Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (Frank Sinatra/Bing Crosby/Dean Martin/Mitzi Gaynor/Jimmy Durante)
AN AFTERNOON WITH FRANK SINATRA
1) Spend The Afternoon With Me (Frank Sinatra) 2) I’ve Got The World On A String (Frank Sinatra) 3) The Desert Is Calling (The Hi-Lo’s) 4) Comes Love (Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford) 5) There’s A Lull In My Life (Ella Fitzgerald) 6) It’s All Right With Me (Frank Sinatra) 7) Juliet Prowse Dance Routine 8) Too Marvelous For Words (Frank Sinatra/Red Norvo Quintet) 9) Here Is That Rainy Day (Frank Sinatra/Red Norvo Quintet) 10) Just You, Just Me (Ella Fitzgerald) 11) I’ll Never Smile Again (Frank Sinatra/The Hi-Lo’s) 12) Can’t We Be Friends (Frank Sinatra/Ella Fitzgerald) 13) Puttin’ On The Ritz (Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford/Juliet Prowse) 14) He Loves And She Loves (Ella Fitzgerald) 15) Love Walked Right In (The Hi-Lo’s) 16) Our Love Is Here To Stay (Frank Sinatra) 17) Love Is Sweeping The Country (Frank Sinatra/Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford/Juliet Prowse/Ella Fitzgerald)
‘THE TIMEX SHOWS VOL. 2’
TO THE LADIES
1) Here’s To The Ladies (Frank Sinatra) 2) I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Frank Sinatra) 3) Ouvre Ton Coeur (Mary Costa) 4) By Strauss (Barbara Heller) 5) Ring The Bell (Lena Horne) 6) Come Cha Cha With Me (Juliet Prowse) 7) It’s A Lonesome Old Town (Frank Sinatra) 8) But Beautiful (Lena Horne) 9) From This Moment On (Lena Horne) 10) Harold Arlen Medley: As Long As I Live/It’s Only A Paper Moon/One For My Baby/Accentuate The Positive/Stormy Weather/Get Happy/Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea (Frank Sinatra/Lena Horne) 11) My Heart Stood Still (Frank Sinatra) 12) Yours Is My Heart Alone (Mary Costa) 13) Afraid Of Love (Barbara Heller) 14) My Heart Belongs To Daddy (Lena Horne) 15) My Funny Valentine (Juliet Prowse) 16) High Hopes (Eleanor Roosevelt) 17) Here’s To The Ladies (Frank Sinatra)
WELCOME HOME ELVIS
1) It’s Nice To Go Trav’ling (Frank Sinatra/Joey Bishop/Sammy Davis Jr/Nancy Sinatra) 2) It’s Nice To Go Trav’ling (Frank Sinatra/Joey Bishop/Sammy Davis Jr/Nancy Sinatra/Elvis Presley) 3) Witchcraft (Frank Sinatra) 4) Come On Bess (Sammy Davis Jr) 5) Oriental Dance (Leona Irwin & The Tommy Hansen Dancers) 6) Gone With The Wind (Frank Sinatra) 7) Uh Oh! (Nutty Squirrels) 8) All The Way (Sammy Davis Jr) 9) Shall We Dance (Sammy Davis Jr/Peter Lawford) 10) Fame And Fortune (Elvis Presley) 11) Stuck On You (Elvis Presley) 12) Medley: Witchcraft/Love Me Tender (Frank Sinatra/Elvis Presley) 13) Medley: Witchcraft/Love Me Tender – Reprise (Frank Sinatra/Elvis Presley) 14) You Make Me Feel So Young (Frank Sinatra/Nancy Sinatra) 15) Let’s Dance (Nancy Sinatra)
About Frank Sinatra
Throughout his nine-decade career, Frank Sinatra performed on more than 1,400 recordings and was awarded 31 gold, nine platinum, three double platinum and one triple platinum album by the Recording Industry Associated of America. He extends his record to 57 for the most top 40 albums on the Billboard 200 with this year’s new Ultimate Sinatra release. Sinatra has had Top 40 hits on the charts for eight decades, which is as long as the Billboard charts have existed. He received nine GRAMMY Awards over the course of his career, including three for the prestigious Album of the Year, and an Oscar. Sinatra demonstrated a remarkable ability to appeal to every generation and continues to do so; his artistry still influences many of today’s music superstars. He also appeared in more than 60 films and produced eight motion pictures.
Sinatra was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Recording Academy, The Screen Actors Guild and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, he remains a legend and an inspiration around the world for his contributions to culture and the arts.
About Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE)
Frank Sinatra Enterprises is a joint venture between the Sinatra family and Warner Music Group. FSE owns Sinatra’s recordings from the Reprise era as well as a treasure trove of films, television specials and unreleased footage, photos and audio recordings, which collectively represent one of the foremost bodies of artistic work of the modern era. FSE also owns and manages Sinatra’s name and likeness rights and represents the artist’s rights to the Columbia and Capitol catalogues. FSE pursues innovative new product and venture opportunities with respect to the legendary entertainer’s name and likeness, as well as Sinatra’s audio and visual recordings. (www.sinatra.com)
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THE EVERGREEN REVIEW
VOLUME 1, NUMBERS 1, 2, and 3
“If it is impossible to imagine literature being labeled obscene in our time, it is largely because of the Evergreen Review.” —The Daily Beast
From the moment of its inception, The Evergreen Review pushed the boundaries of propriety and free speech. Authors like Allen Ginsberg, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Jean-Paul Sartre were for the first time introduced to a broad American audience, and the response was explosive: the Review and its contributors faced lawsuits and charges of obscenity. The role of The Evergreen Review in 60’s counterculture can hardly be overstated; at its height, the magazine reached a quarter of a million Americans.
Copies of the original issues of the magazine are hard to come by, and are sought after by collectors. Now, Foxrock Books—the publishing arm of the recently revived Evergreen Review—is pleased to offer carefully crafted facsimile paperback editions of the classic first three issues of the review.
These issues feature Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Mark Schorer, Henri Michaux, Baby Dodds, Michael Hamburger, James Purdy, Harold Feinstein, Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Dore Ashton, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, Albert Camus, and others.
Dale Peck, editor-in-chief of the relaunched Evergreen Review, is available for interview, as is John Oakes, publisher of The Evergreen Review and co-publisher of OR Books.
The Evergreen Review Volume 1, Numbers 1, 2, and 3
Publication date: May 18, 2017
Vol 1 Number 1 ISBN 978-1-682190-89-0 Paperback ($16)
Vol 1 Number 2 ISBN 978-1-682190-90-6 Paperback ($16)
Vol 1 Number 3 ISBN 978-1-682190-91-3 Paperback ($16)
What with the election of a narcissistic, reality TV star, pathological liar as a president, and faced with a cabinet composed of ultra-rich elites and white supremacists keen on feeding off the hands of corporate vested interests … all bent on dismantling everything that humanists have fought for decades (progressive environmental, gender, health, educational and social reforms), it’s time to rise to the barricades as we did in the 1960s. Protest. Write columns, letters, blog posts. Call your government representatives — on a regular basis. Here’s a sampling of sites and information sources with which to do battle.
Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, chairman of Common Cause, a co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality for All,” and the best-selling book “Saving Capitalism.”
Make your voice heard. Calling your Government on the phone can crreate the changes you want. Spend 5 minutes, make 5 calls. Calling is the most effective way to influence your representative. 5 Calls provides phone numbers and scripts so calling is quick and easy. Their phone app uses your location to find your local representatives so your calls have more impact.
AlterNet is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources. AlterNet’s aim is to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, health care issues, and more.
These are the times that try men’s souls.
From The Nation.
Toward the end of 2010, a small book by a 93-year-old man unexpectedly reached the summit of the best-seller list in France. Indignez-vous! by Stéphane Hessel sold more than 600,000 copies between October and the end of December. Stéphane Hessel, born in 1917, grew up in a rich literary milieu, authoring novels and translating Proust with the great German Jewish literary critic Walter Benjamin. He served in the French Army during the Battle of France and, like more than a million other French soldiers, became a prisoner of war. Following his escape from a POW camp, he joined Gen. Charles de Gaulle and his small band of Free French résistants. He worked with de Gaulle in London, parachuted behind Nazi lines in France, was captured by the Nazi, tortured, and escaped. After the war, Hessel became a diplomat and was involved, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Awards and honors followed, the most recent of which are the Council of Europe’s North-South Prize in 2004, the rank of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor in 2006 and the 2008 UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights.
Disturbed at what he perceived as a right-leaning trend in France (and the world), Hessel penned Indignez-vous! (Time for Outrage), which seems especially appropriate now.
Ninety-three years. I’m nearing the last stage. The end cannot be far off. How lucky I am to be able to draw on the foundation of my political life: the Resistance and the National Council of the Resistance’s program from sixty-six years ago. It is thanks to Jean Moulin that all the elements of occupied France—all the movements, the parties, the unions—came together within the framework of the National Council to proclaim their allegiance to Fighting France and to the only leader it recognized, Gen. Charles de Gaulle. I was in London, where I had joined de Gaulle in March 1941, when I learned that the council had put the finishing touches on its program and adopted it on March 15, 1944: a collection of principles and values for Free France that still provides the foundation of our country’s modern democracy.
We need these principles and values more than ever today. It is up to us, to all of us together, to ensure that our society remains one to be proud of: not this society of undocumented workers and deportations, of being suspicious of immigrants; not this society where our retirement and the other gains of social security are being called into question; not this society where the media are in the hands of the rich. These are all things that we would refuse to countenance if we were the true heirs of the National Council of the Resistance.
In honor of the new year, Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, his cabinet of misinformation, and the lies being propagated as truths (or alternate facts), we hereby reprint George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” from 1946. By the way, Orwell’s “1984,” as well as Huxley’s “Brave New World,” both staples of the counter-culture in the 1960s, have seen spikes in sales this year.
George Orwell: Politics and the English Language
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.
Cosey Fanni Tutti. co-temptress along with Genesis P-Orridge of COUM Transmissions, the quintessential 1960s/70s performance and mail art group, and co-founder of ground-breaking prototypical Industrial Music group Throbbing Gristle, has just announced her long-awaited memoir, Art Sex Music, which will be published in the UK in early 2017.
COUM Transmissions was a confrontational and subversive art group founded in England in 1969 and active until 1976. Their forte was challenging conventional ideas of art, manners, sex and behavior, earning them the disdain of much of the Britih press and chastised in Parliament by Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn, who referred to COUM as the “wreckers of Western civilization.” Their Prostitution show, which consisted of explicit photographs of lesbians, assemblages of rusty knives, syringes, bloodied hair, used sanitary towels, press clippings and photo documentation of COUM performances in Milan and Paris, was so outrageous that Australia banned the group from traveling there.
This didn’t prevent them from visiting Los Angeles in 1976 where, under the auspices of InterMedia Magazine, they gave two performances, one at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporry Art (LAICA), where, before the bewildered eyes of LA’s art royalty, they proceeded to do all sorts of nasty things with (fake) blood and urine, vomit, nails, glass, and milk. Members of LA’s elite walked out one-by-one. Performance-art eminence Chris Burden’s reported parting shot: “This is not art, this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen; these people are sick.” Conceptual-art bigwig John Baldessari was unimpressed.
Painful but Fabulous, an illustrated catalog/photo album of Genesis’ life in art, was published in 2003 and has long been out of print (and is selling for several hundred dollars at eBay). Cosey’s Art Sex Music is scheduled for a May 1 release in the States. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:
Art Sex Music is the autobiography of a musician who, as a founding member of the avant-garde group Throbbing Gristle and electronic pioneers Chris & Cosey, has consistently challenged the boundaries of music over the past four decades.
It is the account of an artist who, as part of COUM Transmissions, represented Britain at the IXth Biennale de Paris, whose Prostitution show at the ICA in 1976 caused the Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to declare her, COUM and Throbbing Gristle ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’… shortly before he was arrested for indecent exposure, and whose work continues to be held at the vanguard of contemporary art, some of which resides as part of the Tate permanent collection.
And it is the story of her work as a pornographic model and striptease artiste which challenged assumptions about morality, pornography and art.
Art Sex Music is the wise, shocking and elegant autobiography of Cosey Fanni Tutti.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Here’s a delightful, often overlooked gem from director Howard Hawks, starring a notoriously suave and daredevil Cary Grant and the always lovely, bewitching Jean Arthur, and featuring Hawks’ penchant for verbal wit and visual craftsmanship. “Only Angels Have Wings” (1939) stars Arthur as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for during a stopover in a South American port town. There she meets a handsome yet aloof pilot, played by Grant, who runs an airmail company, staring down death while servicing towns in treacherous mountain terrain. Both attracted to and repelled by his romantic sense of danger, she decides to stay on, despite his protestations. This masterful and mysterious adventure, featuring Oscar-nominated special effects, high-wire aerial photography, and Rita Hayworth in a small but breakout role, explores Hawks’s recurring themes of masculine codes and the strong-willed women who question them. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
“The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun” (2015 — France) is a very stylish psychological thriller about a beautiful secretary who uses her absent boss’ blue Thunderbird to go joyriding in the South of France but ends up involved in murder and intrigue — and begins to doubt her own sanity. After she shuttles her boss and his family to the airport where they depart on a short vacation, Dany (Freya Mavor) decides to take a fantasy joyride along the Mediterranean coast — but her trip quickly turns into a nightmare. At every stop along the way, people recognize her — even though she’s never been there before. And to make matters worse, a dead body is discovered inside the trunk of the car. Has she lost her mind? Director and comic book writer Joann Sfar (“The Rabbi’s Cat,” “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”) puts his graphic novel background to good use here with interesting dissolves, split screens, diagrams, flashbacks, flashforwards and flashsideways super-saturated colors and oblique camerawork. It’s a fun and mysterious ride, highlighted by the gorgeous lead whom the camera just loves. Co-stars Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano and Stacy Martin. The film is based on a novel by Sebastien Japrisot (“One Deadly Summer,” “A Very Long Engagement”); it was originally turned into a film of the same name in 1970 by Anatole Litvak with Samantha Eggar (as Dany), Oliver Reed, John McEnery and Stephane Audran. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
“Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson” (2016) is the new, must-see four hour documentary, directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, airing on PBS April 11 and 12. The documentary tells the story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who rose from humble origins to break baseball’s color barrier. Robinson waged a fierce lifelong battle for first-class citizenship for all African Americans that transcends even his remarkable athletic achievements. In addition to Rachel, Sharon and David Robinson, “Jackie Robinson” features interviews with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; former Dodgers teammates Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca; writers Howard Bryant and Gerald Early; Harry Belafonte; Tom Brokaw; and Carly Simon. Jamie Foxx is the voice of Jackie Robinson, reading excerpts from his newspaper columns, personal letters and autobiographies. In a two-disc DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This first of three sequels to “Star Wars” shattered box office opening-week records to become the highest grossing U.S. film of all time with over $930 million domestic, and the second-highest worldwide grossing film (behind “Avatar”) with $2.82 billion worldwide. Thirty years following the battle of Endor, the Resistance is still hard at work rebuilding the galaxy from the ashes of the Empire — but find themselves in trouble when Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, disappears — and remnants of the Empire, calling themselves the First Order, threaten to unleash the Dark Side on the universe. A young Resistance pilot (Oscar Isaac) teams with a scavenger from the planet Jakku (Daisy Ridley), an ex-Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to track down Skywalker, keeping one step ahead of the nasty dark warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the forces of the Dark Side. There’s plenty of new faces (including a new droid, BB-8, and a new Supreme Leader, Snoke, played by Andy Serkis) and old (in addition to Ford, Mayhew and Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher shows up as General Leia Organa) — there’s even a guest appearance by C-3PO. Almost a retelling of the original “Star Wars” saga, director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” infuses this myth — and the franchise — with new blood and energy. There are some faults, mainly the underwhelming performances by Ridley and Boyega, some cheesy special effects sequences (in particular the attack of the rathtars on the freighter manned by Solo and Chewbacca), and a bit too much buddy-boy gee-whiz excitement on the part of Isaac and Boyega. For the most part, though, this “Star Wars” is a terrific sci-fi joy ride with clear cut heroes and villains, fairly tight direction, and, aside from my quibbles above, good acting. The home video release is a class act, from the cool, jet-black plastic Blu-ray case to the plethora of neat bonus features. And don’t forget the best part of the film — the forever young Harrison Ford as Han Solo, still a wisecracking, hard-fighting, intergalactic hipster. Vitals: Director: J.J. Abrams. Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew. 2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 136 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $930 million, Disney. Extras: “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey” behind-the-scenes documentary; “The Story Awakens: The Table Read”; “Building BB-8”; “Crafting Creatures”; “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight”; “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony”; “ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force”; “Force For Change”: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the “Star Wars: Force for Change” initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others; deleted scenes.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Highlight of the week is the impressive five-disc set, “Chantal Akerman: Four Films.”
Among the many films that Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1955–2015, best known for her 1975 masterpiece “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels”) made over 40 years, four documentaries stand out. Beginning with “From the East,” filmed across Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, through “South” and “From the Other Side,” two films in the United States as relevant today as when first released, to her epistolary “Down There” from Tel Aviv (released for the first time in North America), Akerman’s documentaries combine her formal discipline with engagement and empathy. Disc 1: “From The East” (1993): A journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. Disc 2: “South” (1999)” The heart of this journey is the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. But this is not an anatomy of his murder; rather, it is an evocation of how this event fits into a landscape and climate as mental as it is physical. Disc 3: “From The Other Side” (2002): With technology developed for the military, the INS has stemmed the flow of illegal immigration in San Diego. But for the desperate, there are still the dangerous deserts of Arizona. Disc 4: “Down There” (2006): Akerman spends a brief period on her own in an apartment by the sea in Tel Aviv, contemplating her family, her Jewish identity and her childhood. Disc 5: “Chantal Akerman, From Here” (62 minutes, 2010): An hour-long, single-shot conversation with Akerman about her films and her directorial philosophy. In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles. From Icarus Films … Les Blank (“Burden of Dreams”) considered his free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, “A Poem Is a Naked Person” (1974), filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, Blank ended up constructing a unique, intimate portrait of a musician and his environment. Made up of mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing, both in concert and in the studio, as well as off-the-cuff moments behind the scenes, this singular film — which also features performances by Willie Nelson and George Jones — has attained legendary status over the years. It’s a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Blank’s cinematic daring and Russell’s immense musical talents. From The Criterion Collection … In director Delmer Daves’ psychological thriller “The Red House” (1947), Edward G. Robinson plays an aging farmer with a dark secret he’s trying to keep hidden. He and sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) have raised Meg (Allene Roberts) since she was a little girl, after her parents mysteriously disappeared. But now Meg is coming of age, and bringing a male friend from high school around to help with chores on the farm. The teens are warned against wandering into the nearby woods, where terrifying screams have been heard in the night emanating from an abandoned red house. But curiosity threatens to get the better of them … Features an original, eerie score by Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa. Transferred from 35mm archival film elements. On Blu-ray Disc from The Film Detective.