Thursday, March 26, 2020


As we go into the first full week of many shut downs and closings due to the coronavirus even the entertainment industry is being hit by the disease. Not by people getting sick but by studios shutting down production and venues like theaters closing to insure large gatherings are not taking place. This is all part of the containment strategy or trying to make sure the disease doesn’t spread. So while these locations close and things like sporting events end for a period what is a family to do?

One things Universal studios is doing is offering some of their newer films almost day and date with their theatrical run on pay per view. Films like THE INVISIBLE MAN, TROLLS WORLD TOUR and THE HUNT will be available for $19.99. While that sound high the fact is it comes to about the same thing you would pay for two tickets to see it in the theater. And then the release of movies to disc is continuing as always.

Fortunately the majority of you have a nice sized collections of movies and TV series on disc you can watch. Or you can buy new ones. Local stores that stock both have them on hand and services like amazon are still delivering. I’m waiting on the first seasons of THE DOOM PATROL and TITANS to arrive at my house as I type these words.

One of the great benefits of having discs of your own is that you can watch what you want, when you want. If you have a favorite movies, one of those films that when you see it on TV while flipping stations you always stop for, you can watch it to your heart’s content on disc. If you have a series that you love you can watch it from start to finish or at least up until the last season on disc. And if you have a movie that you loved as a child you can share that experience with your own children or grandchildren.

It’s an amazing thing if you think about it. Growing up when you knew THE WIZARD OF OZ was going to be on TV the entire family would make popcorn and sit together in the living room in front of that “huge” 24 inch screen in anticipation. Now though movies like that can be enjoyed any time without having to wait a year for them to air.

With that though things changed. Those days disappeared. Families were too busy and had too many interests. They no longer gathered together for an event like that. Mom would read, dad would watch sports and the kids would be glued to handheld gaming systems. A family in the same home separated.

What does all this have to do with the coronavirus? We now find ourselves in a situation where sports are on hold and series are shutting down productions. We are in a situation where families are staying at home together, hopefully not going out to spread germs. Families are home together and somewhat confined. What better time than now to discover not just one another but those movies you loved, the ones you grew up with and the ones you could share with your kids?

Disney classic animated features like PETER PAN, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, CINDERELLA, BAMBI, SNOW WHITE and more are on disc and likely on dusty shelves forgotten in your home. E.T. and THE LOVE BUG can be shared for the first time with your kids if you haven’t already done so. The great thing is that you can get together as a family, pop corn like you did when you were a child and have a wonderful evening getting to interact with one another and share those memories you had as a child with your own children.

You can binge watch series or better yet go through entire film franchises over a week with your family. I remember waiting for the next PLANET OF THE APES movie to come out. Now you can sit down each night and watch them in order since they’re available together on disc. The same with the classic James Bond films. Those might even take you the whole month to get through.

The things is we live in a world where while one form of entertainment may stop for a while there is plenty more available. With the request to avoid crowds seems daunting at first, why not make it something worthwhile instead. It gives you the opportunity to connect with your family once, to share memories, to share movies, to share stories of growing up. It’s a silver lining in a dark cloud. Don’t be afraid, be hopeful. Don’t look for the bad, look for the good. As the Bible says “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.”

The time is now to stay safe, rediscover your family and your favorite films.


It seems these days that there are so many attempts to re-write history as it takes place. Rather than document what is actually transpiring historians have chosen instead to present their views on what is taking place. Facts no longer matter and feelings rule. Sadly that results in the facts being mislaid or altogether forgotten. Consider, for example, the number of young people who have no idea what the holocaust was. Hopefully they’ll find themselves exposed to historical moments and seek out the truth of what took place. Moments like the film THE SONG OF NAMES.

Told in alternating timelines the film tells the story of Martin Simmonds (played by Tim Roth and at earlier ages by Gerran Howell and Misha Handley), a musician and musical judge whose adopted brother disappeared years ago as he was supposed to play a concert for all to hear. When a student being judged plays the same way his brother once did, Martin goes on a hunt to find his long lost brother.

Dovidl Rapoport (played over the years by Luke Doyle, Jonah Hauer-King and Clive Owen) was a young sent to live with the Simmonds family in London during the war. A violin prodigy his family has sent him along knowing that the Germans will soon invade Poland. While the two young boys at first don’t see eye to eye, they soon become best friends and as near brothers as can be.

Dovidl is being raised in the Jewish faith as part of the agreement with the Simmonds family. Martin’s father is so impressed with the young boy’s skills on the violin that he helps continue his education as well as purchase him a rare professional violin.

As I said the film moves back and forth in time from the youth of the two boys to Martin’s search for his long lost brother. In 1951 a recording of him performing had been released and he was considered one of the best. The concert he was to perform was paid for by Martin’s father. As the time to begin comes and goes, it becomes apparent Dovidl isn’t going to show. Not only that, he disappears from the face of the earth.

The film is a combination of mystery, historical piece and drama, combining all three elements to perfection. Martin is certain that he can follow the trail of where Dovidl went all those years ago. That trail takes him to a street performer who taught the student he saw. He was taught by Dovidl years ago before Dovidl left for Treblinka where his family was taken. Treblinka leads him to New York. Each step of the way he learns more about what happened on Dovidl’s trip but not everything.

The historical aspect of the film deals with the death of Jews in Germany during the war. Without revealing too much the actual song of names is sung by a rabbi. It is an oral history in song, a way of remembering the names of those killed during the war so that they will not be forgotten.

The drama lies in the aspects of the young boy’s lives growing up in war torn London and the long awaited reunion. What transpires pulls together the final third of the film revealing what took place before the concert that never was. The bond between the two now grown men remains from what it was all those years ago. But time has changed both from what they once were.

Tim Roth and Clive Owens have always been solid performers when it comes to the roles they’ve been given and it’s no different here. While Owens has the smaller role of the two the torment his character faces is well portrayed. Roth as the brother tormented by the financial loss his father suffered as well as the loss of this friend is a match and his performance is more subtle here than most.

Director Francois Girard is no stranger to music and especially in film. Having directed a documentary about Glenn Gould, two films with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the critically acclaimed THE RED VIOLIN, he not only tells the story behind the music but delivers great music at the same time. A large part of that no doubt is the assistance provided with music by Howard Shore who has written music for film in the past for such films as THE LORD OF THE RINGS, GANGS OF NEW YORK and a number of TV shows. Together they bring the music to life here.

The film may be a bit dry for some with no car chases, explosions or scantily clad women but it offers a story that will make you think about the tragedies of war and how they affect all involved even in a distant way. It will also provide a starting point for some to look into history. The type of history that records facts and names rather than opinions. 


The TV series TWILIGHT ZONE was unleashed on the world by creator Rod Serling back in 1959 running for five seasons before it ended. While only around that long the series was a benchmark for creativity on television. In one form or another it remained on TV through reruns and later going so far as being a marathon event on SyFy network. In 1985 it was revamped and ran for only 3 seasons and again in 2002 for only one. Now the series returns with an equally adept host and executive producer on CBS’ pay station CBS ALL ACCESS with the first season arriving on disc.

Director/producer Jordan Peele has made a name for himself with two movies featuring that Twilight Zonish twist, GET OUT and US. He brings the skills he showed on those movies to this series, offering new stories as well as twists to some of the classic tales in the original. All of them are done exceptionally well and setting a high mark on quality programming.

Only ten episodes were created for the first season no doubt to find out if there was an interest in it. Happily there was and a second season has been ordered. But the interest wasn’t just out of curiosity, it developed because of the quality product offered. In addition to being quality fueled the new series also pays homage to the original with small nods of the head in bits and pieces. Little things in the episodes pop up that are reminders of that series.

A great example is in the second episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”. Not only was this in the original series and starring William Shatner it was included in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE with John Lithgow. This time they’ve taken that original idea and given it a new twist with

Being on a pay station allows the use of language that network wouldn’t allow but never to the point of being distracting. Instead it allows a more Adam Scott in the role. Instead of facing off against a gremlin on the wing of the plane something else is transpiring at 30,000 feet. The nod to the original is brief when we see the results of a crash and among the debris is a doll that is the gremlin from the original series. Those are the kind of things that pop up throughout.

Like the original series the stories here revolve around science fiction, a touch of horror and with a twist to make each episode unique in its own way. Peele takes on the Serling role of narrator/host, introducing and closing out each episode and does so with perfection. Like its predecessor this version may set the standard for anthology series to come.

While watching each episode I was pleasantly surprised at what a tremendous job had been done her. The only problem was that there were only those few episodes to enjoy. If you were a fan of the original trust that this one does it justice and be happy that the second season is ready or about to be as well. And then hope that somewhere, even if not here, there is a land beyond that which is known to man, a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, a middle ground beyond light and shadow, between science and superstition, that lies beyond the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge, a dimension of imagination, an area called…the twilight zone.