Most biopics or films based on real events take judicious liberties with the subjects and incidents they are portraying for dramatic or comedic effect, the makers of Howl instead stuck strictly to the source material. And for good reason as the film focuses on both one of the most dramatic pieces of poetry to come out of the 20th century, but also the controversy surrounding its publication in 1956. The publisher of the work, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, was brought to trial on obscenity charges after 500+ copies of the book coming in to the country from the printers were seized.
Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman, co-directors of Howl who are also responsible for the peerless documentaries The Times Of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet, take a non-fiction approach to bringing the poem and the trial to screen. They use actors for all the parts in the film, most notably James Franco who embodies the voice and diction of the late Allen Ginsberg, but all the dialog is taken from transcripts of the trial, and an interview with the poet from the same year.
Back in the days before HD broadcasts of concerts at movie theaters, live footage recorded for posterity on film was a rare treat for music fans. So, the release in 1974 of a full-length film of The Rolling Stones – then possibly the best rock band going – performing on their Exile On Main St. tour was something to shout about. This first DVD release of this incredible work proves that the shouting needn’t be dimmed by 35+ years.
American writers and producers have borrowed a great deal from British comedy, either outright adapting British shows for consumption by U.S. audiences or simply allowing a tone of discomfort and sparks of surreality to enter into their more traditional formats. But it has only happened fairly recently that American comedy minds have started to allow the absurd and the grotesque to enter into their creative lexicon.
When American Playhouse commissioned director Hal Hartley to make this film, the filmmaker was coming off one of the most impressive one-two punches in the independent film market: 1989’s The Unbelievable Truth and 1990’s Trust. Both announced Hartley as a true cinematic artist who filled his works with hyper-stylized dialog, perfectly mannered performances and a visual style that was equal parts ’70s grit and French New Wave shakiness.
In 1973, with the presidency of Salvador Allende facing fierce opposition from a variety of right-wing factions and outside forces, Patricio Guzmán and a skeleton film crew took their cameras the streets, factories and government buildings of Chile and recorded history as it happened. Only a few months later, Allende was dead, Augusto Pinochet took his place, and Guzmán was forced to flee to Cuba with his film stock to complete the most arresting piece of cinéma vérité ever created: The Battle Of Chile.
On paper, this seems like the perfect series for a television world that is packed full of procedural dramas and forensics experts solving crimes – as well as one where TNT’s popular Librarian movies captured the thrilling side of bookishness. Unfortunately, it manages to fail where so many of those programs have succeeded: making the intricate details of an investigation and an archeological dig seem positively tame and boring.
In the mid-’60s, some NBC affiliates offered a Sunday morning celebration of music and spirit called TV Gospel Time. Filmed in Chicago, the show featured the kings and queens of black gospel at the time, giving valuable air time to such icons as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ernestine Washington, the Blind Boys of Mississippi and James Cleveland, as well as community church choirs from around the Midwest. Unfortunately for gospel fans and scholars, episodes of this show were fairly hard to come by, usually found only on bootleg videocasettes or what clips were available on YouTube.
While Infinity Entertainment have saddled this program with a completely different name for its first legitimate DVD release, all thanks and praise must be sent their way for finally giving these programs a chance at reaching a wider audience. The unfettered performances found on this two-disc set are positively soul-stirring, simply because they feature no overdubs. So, every flubbed note, off beat clap and rough patch are left out in the open. But the spirit they put behind every note – even the ones that are wrong – puts the sanitized sound of contemporary Christian music to withering shame.
If you are only familiar with Rowan Atkinson through his fine physical comedy as the long-running character Mr. Bean or his appearances in films like Four Weddings & A Funeral and Scooby Doo, you are missing out on one of the great comedic talents from the UK. He was a proto-Jon Stewart in the early ’80s with the parody newscast Not The Nine O’Clock News, and through his work in both The Thin Blue Line and Black Adder took the character of the put upon authority figure who botches every keen plot he devises out of John Cleese’s hands and improved upon it before passing it off to Ricky Gervais.
This six-disc set compiles all of Atkinson’s appearances as the title character, which took him through four complete series and a few added specials from 1983 – 1989. The series, which puts Atkinson in the title role through four important historical periods of British history (the reigns of The Tudors and Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, as well as the first World War), and in each, the mores and practices of the time are sent up with loving detail thanks to the shows fine writers: Atkinson, Richard Curtis (who went on to write Four Weddings) and Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Alfresco). Continue reading
Ostensibly, the release of this three-DVD set was timed to coincide with Guy Ritchie’s recent reboot of the Sherlock Holmes story. A perfect marketing decision on A&E’s part. But while this set does provide a healthy reminder of the more traditional depictions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, there are some other interesting factors that bubble up when going through the five episodes of the series featured here. Continue reading
When John Cleese joined forces with the other members of Monty Python, he was the most recognized face in the bunch, having made his name on shows such as The Frost Report, Marty and At Last The 1948 Show. And by the time he parted ways with Python, he was a bona fide star. As you would expect, the BBC were willing to do anything to keep their comic actor bringing in viewers. So in 1975, they gave him free reign to conceive, write, produce and star in a new series. Continue reading