Stephen Hawking explains the universe in the 2011 documentary Brave New World. Okay, he doesn't explain the whole, entire universe, but he gets a good start. The five-episode doc covers technology (brain-controlled wheelchairs) and the environment (the power of atoms), machines (self-driving cars) and biology (cancer-eating bacteria). According to Hawking, what's happening in research labs around the globe today is going to make tomorrow a completely different place. Science, and the mega-brain scientists behind it all, are making upcoming technology bigger, brighter, smaller, less intrusive, more controlling, more effective, more efficient and -- at the end of the day -- more necessary. Before you ask, yes, there are robots. You don't have to be a lab geek to appreciate Brave New World. The experts do a good job of making the science understandable and relevant.
The two-disc set comes with a couple of extras including a 16-page viewer's guide and biographies of some of the presenters. Along with Hawking, naturalist David Attenborough, physicist Kathy Sykes and biologist Richard Dawkins appear.
Lemon Andersen's life story isn't usual: He went from Rikers Island to Broadway. He's a three-time felon and a one-time Tony Award winner. Yep, very not usual. A self-proclaimed hustler, Andersen found himself in front of an open mike when he was 20 years old. His poetry took him out of the Brooklyn-area neighborhood he grew up in and landed him in Russell Simmons's Tony Award-winning Def Poetry Jam. It was bright-lights-and-big-city time...until the show closed and Anderson was back in the projects. He spent three years writing his life story and taking it to the stage. That show, Country of Kings, once again lifted Andersen out of poverty and gave him a brighter future.
The documentary Lemon chronicles Andersen's unexpected journey. Extras on the DVD include additional performances by Andersen, outtakes and deleted scenes.
We have a few horror releases to mention today, including Christian Slater's horror feature Rites of Passage, about a group of anthropology students who make a trek out to an abandoned farm, the site of a former burial ground. Once they get there, they run into a psycho (Wes Bentley) and a dope-head (Slater), who start hunting down the kids.
Also out today is Mark Hamill's Airborne, about a group of people on a plane that's flying in the not-so-friendly-skies. The pilots have been murdered and something is turning the passengers into bloodthirsty psychopaths. Not only do the few remaining passengers have to figure out a way to escape from the deranged killers on board, they have to figure out how to land the plane.
Last on our list of horror features is the sexy Female Vampire. Starring Lina Romay and directed by Jess Franco (Romay's husband), Female Vampire follows Countess Irina Karlstein, a vampiress who, black-widow style, kills her victims just as they climax sexually. This leaves poor Irina lonely and unloved. The Blu-ray release includes both the extended, erotic version of Female Vampire and the shorter, horror version (Erotikill); the original trailer; a featurette, Destiny in Soft Focus: Jess Franco Remembers Female Vampire; and a tribute to the late star, Words for Lina.
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Making the move to Blu-ray this week is the Robert Di Niro family flick Everybody's Fine. Di Niro is a widower with an extended family that seems to be drifting apart. In order to reconnect with his adult children, he takes off on a cross-country trip to visit each of them, with surprising results.
New to the Blu-ray version is a featurette about the making of the film's theme song, "(I Want to) Come Home," by Paul McCartney, deleted and extended scenes.