The Mill Creek Entertainment separate November 19, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of (reviewed) "Ultraman Orb: Series and Movie" and topic du jour "Ultraman GEED: Series and Movie" continues the "be true to your school" MCE principle of faithfully continuing to make entries in a franchise available, Today's releases follow October 2019 MCE DVD and BD sets (including AWESOME steelbook BDs) of (reviewed) "Ultra Q" and (reviewed) "Ultraman." This is not to mention an MCE steelbook of sci-fi classic "Mothra" from the good folks who produce the "Ultra" titles.
Watching all four "Ultra" series in Blu-ray removes any doubt that the pristine (often vivid) images and crystal-clear sound of that format is worth the upgrade from DVD. However, consistent experience with MCE allows confidently stating that those "Ultra" versions also are well remastered.
Like all good sci-fi and offerings that keep franchises alive, "GEED" does not break what does not need fixing. It also borrows elements from the genre to which it remains completely faithful.
The highly flawed but most relatable "GEED" perspective for American fanboys is that "GEED" is a mash-up between the "Power Rangers" and the current "The Flash" series. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The strong "Rangers" elements begin with the action sequences that almost universally pit comically odd and large monsters against one or more (often equally large) hero in "Rangers" style armor. The similarities extend to heavy doses of Japanese style juvenile comic relief. There are prat falls, excessive demonstrations of fear, and live-action anime antics galore.
"Flash" elements begin with our adorkable 20-something hero Riku Asakura initially having moderate meta abilities that he does not understand. He, ala Luke Skywalker, soon learns that his parentage blesses him with special powers that destine him for greatness.
The first member of Team GEED is cowardly snail-like alien Pega. Pilot episode developments lead to these friends/roommates discovering an advanced underground command center ala the headquarters of the titular "Torchwood" in that Doctor Who spin-off. This soon becomes their home with the help of their Gideon-style AI friend REM.
The "Rangers" aspect of "GEED" is especially strong in early episodes in which a possessor of a "little star" attracts the monster of the week by publicly displaying the power that that celestial object bestows on that chosen one. This leads to Riku transforming into the titular hero to come to the aid of the threatened innocent. This, in turn, culminates in the star transforming into a "super capsule" that Ultraman GEED adds to his utility belt as a tool against current and future evil.
These early episodes also have Riku assemble his avenging team of close friends that mostly are close to his own age. A strong "Flash" aspect of this is the group is his essential foster sister, who works for a covert "Men in Black" organization that eliminates alien threats with extreme prejudice. That woman reminding her potential rival of childhood shared baths with Riku shows the depth of her feelings for the group leader.
Bumbling corporate drone family man Leito "Cisco" Igaguri provides wonderful old-school elements and much of the aforementioned hilarity. Ala the "Ultraman" origin story, Leito severely injuring himself in a selfless heroic act is the start of a beautiful (and highly symbiotic) relationship with Ultraman Zero, who less selflessly needs a meat suit,
Leito is a classic Clark Kent down to the dorky horn-rimmed glasses. He stumbles and stutters through his daily routine until looming danger requires that this lovable humble shoeshine boy transforms into champion of justice Underdog.
The "GEED" film for the ones-season series follows the sci-fi spirit of seven seasons and a movie. This well-produced film provides copious "GEED" and Ultraverse lore. We see how it all began, witness one character have a change-of-heart, and have the treat of all of our heroes getting their chances to shine. This is not to mention Riku essentially hanging up his cape after an existential crisis that includes self-doubt after failing a "chosen one" test.
All of this tying into a literal earth-shattering threat and the Ultraverse version of The Green Lantern Corps helping out is a nice bonus. Of course, an epic final battle ensues.
The moral to this tale as old as time is to respect the voice of experience. The real-life Team Ultra has been doing their thing for 50 years when they produce this latest (but hopefully not last) entry in the franchise. They always do it right and are experts at respecting the past at the same time that they keep things fresh.
Mill Creek Entertainment once again proves itself to be a fanboy god by separately releasing DVD and Blu-ray sets of "Ultraman GEED" and our current topic "Ultraman Orb" (2016) on November 19, 2019. These come on the heels of MCE October 2019 "Ultra" releases that are the topics of prior posts that can be found in the MCE section of this site.
Part of the genius of these "Ultra" series, which relates to the genius of their American cousins "Power Rangers" series, is that that they purposefully target actual 12 year-old boys and the inner 12 year-old boy in all of us. This consists of bright-and-bold action, truly hilarious broad comedy, and always bringing something new to the table while incorporating fresh elements. This is why this 50 year-old franchise (ala "Scooby-Doo") still is growing strong.
Speaking of "Scooby," our central group of "meddling kids" investigate and report on X Files under the name "Something Search People." The game of three is easy as to this group in that one definitely would want to marry level-headed tomboy/den mother Cap, "mate" with adorable excitable boy Jetta, and snuff the brains/mad scientist of the operation Shin.
Unbeknownst to the gang to varying degrees for varying periods, their buddy Gai is the titular main man this time; his old-school elements include relying on a power surge that last for three minutes to rise to the occasion and vanquish the evil alien monster that is the threat of the week. Suffice to to say that the source of his needed boosts are elemental.
Gleefully evil arch-nemesis Juggler contributes ample amounts of campy fun. Not having watched every "Orb" episode precludes stating whether Juggler ever actually steals candy from a baby.
"Orb" evokes thoughts of the Ted Turner ecotoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." The comparison begins with the elements of wind, fire, earth, and water separately being key aspects of the first several episodes. These begins with a variation of the films "Twister" and "The Wizard of Oz" as to the SSP crew getting caught up in a tornado in which they witness a battle between the monster behind that destructive force and a robot-like man whom they come to know as their superfriend.
The "fire" episode is one of the most clever and dramatic. Ultraman temporarily saves the day as to a "second sun" that is massively speeding up climate change. This leads to his crashing to earth and convalescing with more than a little help from his friends. A cute and funny epilogue has Jetta getting worked up over a universal sin of a roommate only to quickly find that the culprit is honorable.
The "water" episode is a pure delight. The foul brother from another planet in this one is making water supplies incredibly malodorous. Jetta finds this out the hard way while taking a shower. Very family-friendly hi-jinks in a Japanese bath house provide additional charm.
The lore-establishing episodes lead to a delightful tale in which an alien lures a clueless Cap into a trap that is designed to capture her friend Kai.
All of this culminates with the "Orb" movie that fulfills its duties to be even bigger and bolder than the series and to include an epic battle that results in an equally spectacular finale. An especially Scooby aspect this time is that much of the action centers around a mysterious mansion that provides the setting for a classic Scooby style chase through rooms and hallways.
That home plays a key role in an Earth-threatening plot by an evil alien sorceress, who essentially wants her precious. Juggler also plays a key and somewhat ambiguous role in the form of often doing the right thing while asserting that he is doing so for the wrong reason.
Our other key player is an Ultraman who has a "Tron" like existence in that he is living in the most advanced Gameboy ever. He sets much of the above in motion by seeking out the SSP team because of their association with Gai.
One of the most exciting scenes involves a revelation to which the boys have an infectious reaction.
The enthusiasm and skill with which the cast and crew produce these adventures make what could be cheesy effect and wooden acting a true delight that does the "Ultraverse" proud.
A 'del'athon of posts on home-video releases of the films and performances of genuine wit Del Shores continues with the Mama of all his films; "Sordid Lives" (2000) is the one that makes Shores a household name in WeHo, SoHo, and many other Hos. The franchise includes the (reviewed) "A Very Sordid Wedding" and "Sordid Lives: The Series."
An amazing surprise as to the blu-ray version of "Lives" is that the pristine video and audio and the depth of the images when watched in 4K greatly enhance the "live-stage" vibe of watching this film based on the play of the same name.
This tale of a working-class family in a fly-over county aptly has 10 festival wins under its enormous silver belt buckle. These include the Best Feature honor at the 2000 Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, "best in show" honors for both Shores and the film at the 2000 Memphis International Film Festival, and "Best Feature" and Best Actor (Leslie Jordan) wins at the 2000 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.
The following SPOILER-LADEN aptly titled trailer for "Lives" shows how this film is a wonderfully raunchier and darker version of the southern-fried '80scom "Mama's Family (nee "The Family" on "The Carol Burnett Show.")
This sordid tale centers around Sissy Hickey (Beth Grant), who is forced into the overlapping roles of therapist and far-from-teenage diplomat in the wake (no pun intended) of the recent death of her sister Peggy under highly scandalous circumstances. Suffice it to say that the man who plays a role in that demise lacks a leg on which to stand as to escaping culpability.
Shores deftly orchestrates the inter-related (pun intended) action between four arenas of action before gathering at least most of the usual suspects for the climatic main event that is relatable to people of every socioeconomic group.
The abode of Sissy literally provides the "meanwhile" at the ranch element of this two days in the valley of the dolts. Even more epic hilarity ensues as her sibling Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Jordan) is enduring a decades' long unfortunate incarceration in a mental hospital. He is being treated for the twin "diseases" of being a homosexual and for a strong urge to go Full Minnie in impersonating Tammy Wynette and other first ladies of country music.
The conversion therapy session between Brother Boy and "Mommie Dearest" style psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bollinger proves that Shores is the lover child of Tennessee Williams and John Waters. The battle of wills between doctor and patient is classic for reasons that extend well beyond an argument as to a failed masturbation experiment.
Delta Burke of the classic southcom "Designing Women" steals the show as woman scorned Noleta Nethercott, who tracks down husband GW (Beau Bridges) at the local dive bar. Burke fully channels loose cannon Suzanne Sugarbaker in finding felonious inspiration from "Thelma and Louise." Although Bridges is well cast as a good ole boy forced to humiliating pay a litany of sins, armchair casting suggests that real-life Burke spouse Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney would have been a better choice. The appearances of McRaney on "Designing Women" show that he has wonderful on-screen chemistry with his equal half.
The final piece of the puzzle is the most autobiographical part for Shores. The death of his grandmother forces successful and dreamy gay actor Ty Williamson (Kirk Geiger) to confront several conflicting emotions. He is happy and well-adjusted as to his life in Los Angeles but closeted and unhappy as to his relationship with the folks back home.
Most of the scenes with Ty occur during a session with a therapist who is much more compassionate and skilled than Dr. Eve (of destruction). Even many gay men who are coming-of-age in our overall more enlightened era of marriage equality and of being able to both ask and tell (not to mention show and tell) can relate to his family not fully embracing this adorable boy whom anyone would love to have live next door.
All of this amounts to a film that, in addition to the similarities with "Family," can be thought of as a toned-down David Lynch movie about Mayberry. Shores provides needed warmth as to this nostalgia regarding a small town in which everyone knows each other, and whose own "quirks" allow finding amusement in the eccentricities of his or her fellow man and woman.
The bigger picture is that Shores shows that excellent writing and a strong cast that fully embraces his or her role are important elements for a film that remains funny and does not look dated nearly 20 years after its release.
CBS Home Entertainment gives folks who do not subscribe to CBS All Access a chance to watch the subject of the massive recent buzz from the Trekverse by releasing "Star Trek: Discovery" on DVD, Blu-ray, AND Blu-ray steelbook on November 12, 2019.
The excitement relates to the Discovery crew encountering the Enterprise and Captain Christopher Pike assuming command of the former. This plays a role in a search for Spock (who may have acted out of concluding that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few).
One spoiler is that "Trek" deity Bryan Fuller exceeds all high expectations as to all the above and so much more; seeing the tech. of this show set 10 years before the OS period being so much more advanced, brighter, and bolder than that as to the exploits of Team Kirk remains mind bobbling.
The following trailer for "Discovery" S2 highlights the feature-film production values, the aforementioned OS elements, and the underlying mission that drives much of the action. This is not to mention a taste of the charm and broad appeal of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets.
S2 begins with things being relatively back to normal after the S1 parallel universe adventures, conflict with the Klingons, and copious ship-board drama. Things change on receiving a distress signal from the Starfleet flagship Enterprise. Although the ensuing rendez-vous alters the execution of Pike taking charge, this ties into prior unfortunate circumstances leading to Pike being the new boss. Subsequent unfortunate circumstances lead to Pike staying in charge longer than initially anticipated.
These events set the stage for Discovery to take the lead in investigating the phenomenon of seven signals briefly appearing and heralding (pun intended) the arrival of a mysterious entity dubbed The Red Angel. Early indications, including separately finding a crashed Starfleet ship in dire need of aid and a group of humans being rescued and relocated far, far, far from home in the distant past of 2053, are that the angels provides what is needed ala the sapceship Destiny in the "Stargate: SGU" television series.
This presumed guardian also leads the crew to the especially alien homeworld of Commander Saru, who is fresh off a identity-changing incident. This trek involves both a family reunion and unvcovering a hidden historical truth.
Team Fuller expertly builds on this solid foundation by expanding on the themes of the series and the larger "Trek" lore. Much of this revolves around the relationship between Spock (who actively affirms that he likes science) and his adopted sister Discovery First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). S2 provides Burnham massive closure and related inconvenient truths. The lifting of childhood guilt that has haunted her to her present provides little solace.
Arguably the best treat revolves around the Pike lore; a sort of a homecoming awesomely ties into OS even more spectacularly than the "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The "previously on" episode-opening segment on this "Discovery" outing is must-see.
We also get heavy shades of "Terminator" as to Team Pike undertaking numerous "Trek" style life-threatening missions so that the universe can avoid a dark fate. These heroics involving copious amounts of time-travel and physics for dummies further elates the hearts of trekkies and trekkers alike.
The plethora of special features include two separate "Short Treks" that separately feature Saru annoyingly cheerful and flaky Ensign Sylvia "Neelix" Tilly. We also get "Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage of Season Two," "Enter the Enterprise," and "The Red Angel."
The insufferable Tilly warrants special notice in that she reflects an element of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." That series has the almost as loathsome teen genius/Class-A dork Wesley Crusher, who provides real-life adolescent misfits of science a role model. Tilly serves the important role of inspiring awkward science geek girls to pursue their dreams despite the social cost of doing so. Like Crusher, Tilly is a valued (and surprisingly liked) member of the Discovery crew.
Deity to lovers of classic and/or obscure movies, The Film Detective fully puts the turkey back into Turkey Day with a pristine 4K restoration (complete with "Mystery Science Theater 3000" version) of the 1962 scifi cult classic "Eegah" on November 26, 2019. The Turkey Day tie-in dates back to '90s-era MST3K Thanksgiving marathons of the best episodes of this series that hilariously and relentlessly riffs on movies that are "the worst we can find."
An unintentionally amusing element of "Eegah" is that its 1955 Mexican release date is April 1.
The true MST3K gems are the ones such as "Eegah" in which the roasted fowl itself is highly entertaining and creator/head writer/host Joel Hodgson (later Mike Nelson, no relation) and the "bots" that join him in watching B-movies are fully on their game both in their riffing and the bumper skits. The voice of experience advises to not eat cereal while watching these frequent trifecta offerings; Apple Jacks will become airborne.
The ONLY complaints about "Eegah" are that the MST3K gang NEVER mentions the '70s cartoon "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" or the 1992 Pauly Shore teencom "Encino Man" and misses a chance for a PERFECT reference as to wannabe teen idol Arch Hall, Jr. commenting in "Eegah" that he is taking his beloved dune buggy off road. Even moderate MST3K fans are sure to yell out "Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads." Lesser sins of omission are not referencing Kristin Shepard or Joe Gillis in a climatic scene,
The MANY ways in which the almost non-stop clever quips more than compensates for the omissions include a clever reference to the 1963 star-laden comedy "Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
The "True Palm Springs Story" behind "Eegah" is just as entertaining as the action in this film about the titular caveman (Richard "Jaws" Kiel) looking for love in all the wrong places. As blonde surfer dude star Arch Hall, Jr. tells it in an interview for the blu-ray, he and his father simply decide to run a low-budget scifi film up the flagpole and see if any teens salute.
As Hodgson states in a separate DVD extra, the pandering to the target audience includes giving the kids all they love in the form of numerous elements that include rock-and-roll and a character who wants to be a Flintstone (a little baby Flintstone). Hearing about when Joel meets Arch years after brutally verbally bashing the latter is another interview highlight.
Our story fully begins after roughly 10 minutes of (sometimes comically obvious) exposition. Love interest Roxy is driving her two-seater convertible down a desert road when she runs into Eegah (name written in blood). She lives at least another day to tell her tale to father Mr. Miller (Arch, Sr.) and boyfriend Tom (Arch Jr.).
This soon leads to the "watch out for snakes" reference that is an all-time Misties favorite. Mr. Miller then makes a desert crossing that initially gives Tom glee in the form of getting to show off his speed buggy. Subsequent events show that a father and daughter reunion is only a booty call away.
Their unfortunate incarceration in the land of the lost allows the Millers to meet the parents and to ponce on the origin story of their host. (The missed opportunity here is the Sherwood Schwartz failedcom "It's About Time" that has two astronauts time travel to prehistoric times.)
It is equally predictable that a successful escape is not the end of the story; Our brother from another era fully finds himself in the modern world on coming in search of his bride. Needless to say that this blast from the past with a variation of a shotgun wedding does not lead to happily ever after.
The broadest appeal of this pleasure that does not provide any cause to feel guilty is that it is a strong example of the Saturday afternoon matinee fare that delights and amuses in a manner that keeps MST3K initially on the air for 11 years and has it find new life on Netflix. The next layer is that Arch Jr. has infectious youthful exuberance for his role. He literally is born to play an an OC everydude.
On a related note, this "lost episode" release comes two years after the final DVD release of every MST3K episode for which licensing is not a fatal obstacle. (Owning the quickly recalled due to licensing issues Volume 10 is a point of personal pride.) This makes "Eegah" comparable to fans of the classic '50scom "The Honeymooners" getting to own rare episodes of that series that are not part of "the original 39."
It is highly advised to pre-order two copies of the 1,500 copies of this limited-edition release. This allows keeping one for yourself and watching it on Turkey Day and giving the fanboy in your life the second one for a holiday gift.
The only proper way to end these musings is to say "push the button, Frank."
Mill Creek Entertainment provides a chance to see a prequel done right as to the October 29, 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Thing" (2011), which is an awesome homage to the 1982 John Carpenter cult classic of the same name. As the "must-see" bonus feature "'The Thing' Evolves" clearly shows, the filmmakers meticulously follow the principle of the devil being in the details to the extent of recruiting actors in Norway to play the crew of the Norwegian research station around which this origin story is centered.
MCE deserves an even more hearty slap on the back for the expert job producing the BD. The panoramic opening shots of snow and ice are almost blinding, and the sound is so crisp that you will hear and feel every crack of ice. This is not to mention the depth of these and all other shots.
Our story begins with our modern-day Vikings searching for the source of a mysterious signal; discovering in one of the worst possible ways that a long-buried alien spaceship is the culprit figuratively (and almost literally) is the tip of the iceberg. These scientists learn that the last visitor from a distant planet to exit the craft left the door open.
Finding that careless individual encased in ice leads to paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) coming to the great white north because she thinks that it is a beauty way to go. Her companions include boyfriend Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) and his boss,
Jubilation soon turns to horror as our international group of friends soon become chum for the titular monster. Ala "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the ability of the brother from another planet to replicate and possess any living organism both creates reasonable paranoia and complicates the task of putting the genie back in the bottle,
Much of the rest of "Thing" takes on a perverse "Tom and Jerry" theme as the roles of hunter and hunter frequently shift. Inarguably the best scene in this film with award-worthy effects involves showing the extent to which the big bad is a karma chameleon. A still functional detached limb doing its thing at PRECISELY the right moment alone is worth "the price of admission."
This mayhem and increasingly frayed nerves related to it becoming increasingly clear that no one may be whom he or she seems to be leads to an inevitable "Alien" style showdown. The epilogue that plays out during the closing credits provides the missing link between the prequel and the main event.
The epilogue to this post is that the prequel provides valued closure more than 35 years after the release of the original. It also shows that classic scifi is timeless in style and substance.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2013 Italian Gothic psychological thriller "Ritual: A Psychomagic Story" awesomely takes the concept of "50 Shades of Gray" to an exceptional level and celebrates the true spirit of feminism.
Vulnerable Lia is catnip to controlling manipulative Viktor from the moment that they meet; one spoiler is that both display their crazy long before there are any thoughts of putting a ring on it.
Viktor supplementing his compliment of the self-designed dress that Lia is wearing by suggesting that she complement it with the shackle-like bling that he apparently carries around for such chance meetings is the first of many warning signs.
Things "progress" to insanely jealous Viktor exerting increasing control over Lia to the point that she literally drops her panties as his command. Further kink comes courtesy of Viktor blindfolding his willing victim.
Lia finding herself with bastard introduces further drama in the relationship. Viktor insisting that Lia terminate the pregnancy does not help matters.
The audience being a fly on the wall during therapy sessions that earn Lia portrayor Desiree Giorgetti at least a festival award provides further context for the dynamics of her relationship with Viktor. This relates to her premature introduction to womanhood being horrific for her.
A rude awakening convinces Viktor to reverse his denial of a request by Lia for a therapeutic visit with her aunt Agata, who lovingly raised Lia after the death of her mother. The icing on the cake is that Agata lives in the beautiful old family villa, The fly in the ointment is Viktor crashing the family reunion.
The rest of this portion of the story is that Agata is either a new-age healer or a witch depending on the mindset of the beholder, No one can dispute that she gets wonderful results for those who consult her.
The Shakespearean magic of this idyllic locale includes the nicest kids in town taking Lia under their wings. This offsets an highly psychological haunting.
All of this culminates in a titular rite that reinforces the girl power theme of the film.
The appeal of this character study is that Lia is a character well worth studying.
The Icarus Films DVD of the 2017 Chinese drama "The Widowed Witch" helps bring one of the most stylized and bizarre (not to mention honestly cynical) films in the past few years to North American audiences. Whether "Witch" casts its spell on you partially depends on whether you believe in magic (i.e., whether you believe that you believe that you do.) A related note is that if your mission is magic,your love will shine through.
The accolades for this bizarre comically tragic mash-up of the '60scoms "Bewitched" and "The Andy Griffith Show" include director/writer Cai Chengjie winning the coveted Tiger Award at the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival. Star Tian Tian equally deserves the Best New Actress trophy that she brings home from the 2018 Chinese Young Generation Film Forum.
The visually artistic elements of "Witch" extend beyond the very sharp cinematography to the shifts between color and black-and-white with some scenes having elements of both. The symbolical use of this technique expands on the use of it in the 1998 Tobey Maguire film "Pleasantville," which also has a strong connection with "TV Land" series.
The real action begins after a prologue. The camera is from the POV of the titular sorceress Er Hao, who newly is a three-time loser regarding husbands. She is paralyzed and initially silently witnesses the conclusion of the ritual that is credited with saving her life.
Er Hao soon learns of Husband Number Three dying in an explosion at his fireworks factory that also is the home of the couple. The ensuing violation is almost as sickening to the viewer as it is to Er Hao.
The rest of the story is that young Er Hao having buried three husbands is a major factor regarding the superstitious rubes in her rural village both believing that she is a witch and shunning her based on that conclusion.
A homeless Er Hao soon discovers that her only options for shelter involve requiring that she allow men who hold the keys to have their way with her, This is the first of many instances in "Witch" in which someone with something to gain does not mind consorting with a bride of Satan if that association involves a benefit.
These desperate times drive (pun intended) Er Hao and her deaf 10 year-old brother-in-law to take up residence in a panel van. It soon becomes clear that that downfall does not satisfy some angry villagers. An early confrontation indicates that Cai Chenjie is a fan of "Back to the Future III."
The interpretation of the results of a hilarious oversight by Er Hao in this portion of the film further establishes her cred, as a magical being; other humor relates to the aforementioned shifting sentiments regarding whether our lead is a good witch or a bad witch.
Er Hao fully plays the survival game when charged with ridding a home of a spirit; the rubes readily accept her statement that that ghost busting requires an extended stay in the house,
The best flip-flopping is saved for last; we really see that an irate mob has no shame when the locals come looking for help after inflicting a humiliating punishment on Er Hao related to the same manner in which they essentially asking that she twitch her nose and put right what once went wrong at the hands of the supplicants.
The nature of this film that is made far from California makes it just as likely that it lacks a Hollywood ending as it is that Er Hao marries a loving advertising executive and raises a family with him in the suburbs.
As indicated early in this post and as shown throughout, the primary appeal of "Witch" beyond the exceptional surface elements is the mirror that reflects every society. "Respectable" people are very quick to spit on outcasts until they almost inevitable require assistance from that undesirable.
Olive Films truly earns the superlative awesome regarding following up the Olive BD release of the previously suppressed 1946 John Huston documentary on WWII PTSD "Let There Be Light" with the BD release of the 1955 Oscar-nominated semi-docupic "Strategic Air Command." "Light" includes a real-life Army fly boy Jimmy Stewart hosted WWII-era recruiting film for pilots. "Strategic" stars Stewart as fictional retired Army WWII pilot/current baseball phenom Robert "Dutch" Holland, who gets called back into service.
The blu-ray enhancements to the then-state-of-the-art VistaVision that is used to film "Strategic" greatly adds to watching the epic scenes in this film that centers around aviation.
The following YouTube clip of the "Strategic" theatrical trailer nicely illustrates (pun intended) the aforementioned good cinematography and the apt dramatic style of the film.
Dutch is living the American dream at the beginning of "Strategic;" he is a star with the St. Louis Cardinals, is married to the lovely and loving Sally (June Allyson), and even has a wonderful relationship with his in-laws. All this changes when his former commander/Army buddy shows up with the bad news that Holland is being called into active duty.
The rationale is that maintaining the Cold War era peace requires that the titular branch of the Air Force constantly patrols the skies for the unstated (but clearly implied) red menace that threatens the American way of life. This logic includes that this program requires the skills of Stewart and others who flew during "The Big One."
The awesomeness of "Strategic" extends beyond building on the earlier Stewart film. Holland accepts his fate and does not make run for the Canadian border but also does not start waving the flag or otherwise exhibit an ounce of enthusiasm for his new career. The realism continues with Holland getting a less-than-warm-welcome at the front gate of his new base and soon learning that rank does not always have its privileges when it comes to military housing,
For her part, Sally is a dedicated military wife to a point. She contentedly uproots herself to live in the aforementioned fixer-upper accommodation and is supportive regarding the demands of the new job of her husband. However, she has her limits and reaches them.
Great behind-the-scenes insight in "Strategic," which is made with the cooperation of the actual SAC, include a scene surrounding a security drill and a separate segment that provides a detailed tour of the then-state-of-the-art B-36 bomber.
The B-36 additionally has a prominent role in the climatic final scene. Stewart suffers a disabling (and mission-threatening) relapse of a physical problem while commanding a rigorous mission on a B-36, and Sally is not a content spouse.
The effectiveness of "Strategic" extends well beyond the aforementioned realistic tone of the film; the filmmakers pull off a Hollywood ending that does not make your teeth ache.
The Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 documentary within a documentary "A Quest for Meaning" aptly is off a nature that makes writing about it a challenge for unenlightened souls. Fully appreciating the film that is the latest in a strong Icarus collaboration with Bullfrog Films requires abandoning a cynical view of the world that results from the "stinking thinking" that largely is responsible for most of us not being at peace with the real real world.
The following YouTube clip of the Icarus trailer for "Meaning" creates a strong hunger for more of the abundant food for thought in the film.
The aforementioned cynicism quickly enters the picture on learning about the tellers of the tale; the intent of 20-something narrator Nathanael Coste in sharing that he and his partner-in-filmmaking Marc de la Menardiere are wealthy Manhattan party monsters who are seeking deeper knowledge likely resonates with other Millennials. Gen Xers likely will be as turned off regarding this self-indulgent exercise in the same manner that this demographic responds to the college kid who works at Starbucks providing a greeting of Namaste.
Cynicism remaining regarding the messengers soon takes a backseat to the copious insightful messages that the film contains. The inconvenient truth is that many of us will not take those messages to heart.
These hardy boys begin our journey in India before going off to pick the best brains in France and other countries and then literally and figuratively bringing things home. A highly satisfying aspect of this is that the aforementioned more highly evolved individuals shame the "namaste" poseurs for not practicing what they preach.
A personal highlight is a talking head calling out people who meditate or practice yoga every day only to be nasty to his or her fellow man or woman the rest of the day. We also hear from someone who states that shelling out big bucks for yoga and meditation classes is a huge waste of money.
The valid but incredibly challenging concepts that seek to put right what once went wrong center around a few guiding principles. Achieving the ideal of only using what we need (rather than acquiring wants as well) is very tough in this highly consumer-oriented society.
A truth bomb regarding what we consider happiness and other emotions is especially eye-opening. This makes the strongest case for striving to live a life of peace, love, and understanding. At the same time, some people should avoid peeling back layers of the onion.
We additionally learn that true enlightenment requires a strong connection with both the earth and everything else in our macro and micro universe. Hearing a theory about the actual origin of man brings this home. Another aspect of this is taking recycling to the nth degree.
One of the most thought-provoking aspects of "Meaning" relates to an urban farmer who has incredibly cute and friendly goats. This man notes that his farm is now the envy of the neighborhood. There also are many stories of urbanites (ala attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas) growing vegetables in pots. All of these folks put those of us who do not plant gardens in our large yards to shame.
The big picture shows how we got to our present place. Most Americans grew up in households in which we wanted to show up the Joneses and in which we were not even encouraged to literally or figuratively get our hands dirty. It is hard to persuade us to strain our muscles growing our food when we can go online and get it delivered either for free or for a relatively low price.
The DVD extras include "Ego Not Bad," which is an extension of "Meaning." The narrowed focus this time is enhancing self-awareness.
The bottom line regarding all this is "Meaning" shows that fully embracing the concept of namaste when you say it and the other person being receptive to that message are good first steps toward being truly shiny happy people,
The coincidentally timely aspects of these musings on the 2014 DVD of the live-stage performance "Del Shores: Naked. Sordid. Reality." make it an especially good place to start a "del"athon of posts on Shores films and performances. This begins with watching "Naked" overlapping with belatedly beginning to read the May 2018 David Sedaris collection of memoirs Calypso.
The film and the auto-biography make it clear that these brilliant minor gay celebrities storytellers do not hesitate to rip the band-aids from scabbed over and fresh emotional wounds for the enjoyment of their fellow friends of Dorothy as well as the general populace. The overlap extends to Shores discussing his painful divorce and Sedaris writing about his highly significant other telling Sedaris out of the blue that he has not loved him since 2002,
The other coincidence is that particularly personal kindness and compassion by Shores comes at a time of announcing plans to shut down this site in late 2020 after more than 10 years trying to promote independent film and to prevent Millennials and Gen Zers from not knowing about Lucy Ricardo and Raph Kramden. This scheme to cease this genuine labor of love would not occur if not but for a Hall of Shame that includes arrogant young punks who should be grateful that they do not have to stand half-naked outside an Abercrombie and Fitch and a major studio that ironically knows Jack about not biting the hand that feeds its rapidly dying home-video businesses that should follow the Gospel According to Del.
The rest of this story is that much can change in a year and that the credible rumors as the upcoming death of Matt Nelson may be premature.
As indicated above, Shores gets much more personal in "Naked" than he does in his similar even more hilarious (reviewed) performance DVD "My Sordid Life." That one focuses more on tales from the set as to "Queer as Folk" and the Debra Messing Foxcom "Ned and Stacey." Further, a hazy memory is that Shores does not engage the "Life" audience nearly to the degree to which he makes the more intimate "Naked" fans part of the conversation, His very recent (reviewed) performance film "Six Characters in Search of a Play" falls in the middle of this Kinsey Scale,
An early stop in this journey into the mind of Shores is the typical reminiscing about his "sordid" chldhood as the son of a Southern Baptist preacherman. In this case, we hear about eccentric elderly members of the congregation that include an otherwise loyal widow woman who is dragged kicking and screaming to her final service. The lesson in Southern justice is the perfect climax to this segment.
We also get a story about the real aunt who inspires the HILARIOUS chain-smoking Sissy of the "Sordid" franchise. This one, which involves our favorite friend of Dorothy and his little dog too, is highly relatable to anyone with an elderly relative.
Dishing about a Hollywood lunch with a successful producer/friend of Shores and two Silver Age (female) movie queens fills the quota for the gossip portion of this performance. In true Shores style, the climax is a sordid detail that is close to a page out of "Lives."
Shores follows up with tales of two cities that perfectly illustrate the sordid scope of reality TV. Our host literally takes center stage to perform a one righteous dude show of an intervention of a hoarder who is a Mama June type; Shores particularly shines in his portrayals of the adult sons (and most likely nephews) of this woman whose riches are embarrassment.
Shores wraps all of this with the aforementioned baring of his soul; this logically leads to a noteworthy (pun intended) musical performance that reasonably can be considered a song by A"del"e.
The bittersweet conclusion to this that Shores leaves us wanting more; prior posts on his work and the remainder of this "Del"athon shows that he partially meets the bottomless demand for his wit and wisdom. Baby, you'r e the best.
The Cinema Libre separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the aptly titled 2018 highly realistic French drama "At War" once again proves that Euro cinema surpasses Hollywood in both substance and style. This timely and relevant portrayal of an white-hot labor dispute at a French auto plant hits close to home in both Europe and North America. Candor requires 'fessing up to thinking the film is "live," rather than "Memorex," on watching it.
The accolades for this clever mockumentary include the Best Screenplay award at the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival and the Best Film honor at the 2018 Palic Film Festival.
This "ripped from international headlines" fictional tale centers around Perrin Industries closing down its auto plant in a small French community two years after agreeing with the 1,100 workers to not close down the plant for five years in exchange for major concessions that include working some hours without pay and for forgoing traditional hours. The stated justifications for the closure include that the minimally profitable plant does not allow Perrin to remain competitive.
The ensuing battle in which plant union official Laurent Amedeo leads the campaign to get the attention (and the support) of the French government and of German CEO Martin Hauser is reminiscent of the Michael Moore documentary "Roger and Me" about the closure of a Michigan auto plant.
The similarities between "War" and "Roger" extend to footage of the "hero" effectively staging a sit-in after stonewalled efforts to meet with the big boss. We also get the ensuing strong-arm tactics to oust the interloper.
The comparisons extend to truths that relate to life in general. The first one is that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda. The other is that there is your story, the story of the other guy, and the truth.
Both Moore and "War" filmmaker Stephane Brize are highly biased as to portraying the workers as the good guy victims; no reasonable person can deny that they are sympathetic and face a tough immediate future.
The presentation of Brize (possibly purposefully) provides some sympathy for the devil; this compassion is inadequate.
The hypothetical "reasonable man" (or woman) should realize that no rational company disregards the impact of a plant closure on the employees. Further, very few could argue that any manufacturing industry in Europe or North America is thriving. Perrin additionally deserves the benefit of the doubt as to having good faith when entering the underlying bargain two years earlier.
Our hypothetical analytical thinker also should feel the pain of management when labor fails to grasp that more than 10 million Euros in concessions by the workers during the past two years did not go in the pockets of the executives; those saving went toward keeping prices competitive for the buyers of the goods that the plant produced.
The same figuratively blind anger behind the waived income prevents the workers from understanding the duty of the management to the shareholders. The bottom line is that poor profits and reduced stock prices harm management and labor alike by lowering the amount of invested capital in the corporation.
The workers have a slightly stronger case as to the high salaries of executives and those chats grosse getting raises while the workers are on the brink of poverty. Although one must understand that the demand for a world-class CEO keeps salaries in the stratosphere, it is hard to grasp that the expertise and the management skills of any individual are worth compensation that translates to $100s (if not $1,000s) an hour.
An extreme (but relatable) example of obscene CEO compensation is a Google search while writing this post revealing that Jeff Bezos earns $1.5 billion a WEEK while subjecting the customers who foot that bill to horrific overseas customer-service centers and arguably underpaying his warehouse staff. This is not to mention indirectly shaking down taxpayers by demanding major concessions to open new Amazon facilities in communities.
Another aspect of "War" is the striking workers not comprehending the role of the national government as to their plight. The sincere statements of a high-level official that the president of France feels their pain and is their advocate largely falls on deaf ears. The same is true as to that civil servant trying to get Team Laurent to understand that even the guy sitting in the French equivalent of the Oval Office cannot force Perrin to keep the plant open, a French court to reverse a decision for the corporation, or Hauser to meet with them.
All of this occurs among confrontations with outside groups, the "suits," and among the union officials.
All of the above shows that documentary vibe of "War" includes provoking as much thought and debate as well-produced films from the non-fiction genre. One can argue that artificially high labor costs and the related expense of complying with possibly undue government regulation is at the root of the problem; on the other hand, no one can deny that maximizing profits is a high priority for most businesses.
Breaking Glass Pictures once more goes where many men fail to measure up as to supplementing its DVD release of the (reviewed) 2017 Gerald McCullouch documentary "All Male All Nude" with the recent DVD release of the "exclusive uncensored version" of the 2019 McCulloch documentary "All Male All Nude Johnsons." One spoiler regarding the sequel is that the Johnsons club in Fort Lauderdale adjacent Wilton Manors is all male but only mostly nude; McCulloch compensates with copious footage from "Nude" and with scenes that show some Johnsons boys completely out of their Levis.
The following aptly named Breaking "teaser trailer" for "Johnsons" offers a glimpse of the nice boys who work hard for the money that dispel the stereotypes of male strippers; we also get several looks at the packages that they deliver. Not much may come between them and their Calvins, but many patrons make their best effort.
The common elements of "Nude" and "Johnsons" extend beyond the general subject matter. Both films center around professional bodybuilder Matt Colunga, who asserts that he requires a knee-high "sock" when required to stop just short of going Full Monty.
We meet male strip-club veteran Colunga in "Nude." This man who has done (and shown) it all at "Nude" subject Swinging Richards in Atlanta now is the owner/manager/public face/mentor of Johnsons. He truly looks out for the boys on the stage and in the audience. The former fully comes through in requiring dancers to pass a breathalyzer before leaving work.
We hear from plenty of the performers as to their financial motivations to put their money makers to work; no one can argue that those who have it would rather make as much flaunting it for a few hours than earn the same amount in one week at a McJob.
The rude awakening as to the aforementioned spectators is that the boys are just doing their job. They only pretend to be interested in our lives in hopes of liberating our bills from our pants; folks who hope to pull something else from their jeans will be disappointed. An amusing aspect of this is a scene in which we see how a boy who looks as if he may have a roll of quarters in his working clothes uses that state as a "seduction" technique.
The real star of "Johnsons" is 26 year-old Alexander, who spends his days entertaining at children's parties dressed as fanboy characters and his nights entertaining the dads at Johnsons. It is highly likely that watching Alexander make superhero-style costume changes in parking lots in broad daylight and do back flips in a skintight Spider-man suit will cause some viewers to shoot a sticky white substance out of their personal web slingers.
A more generally amusing aspect of this is the "Z Rock" pattern of some wannabe American Idols playing toddler events during the day and dive bars at night. Former Del Fuego (and Kitchenette) Dan Zanes now being a kiddie singer is a prime example of having the best of both worlds.
We also get a look at the business end of things that include the bureaucratic battle that Colunga endures just to open his club. We also see that no good deed goes unpunished and that some people can be not-so swinging Richards. It is reasonable to speculate that some naysyaers have left Johnsons blue in a part of their anatomy other than their faces.
"Nude" and "Johnsons" reflect the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational; the nature of the subject makes it difficult for the insights to equal the prurient enjoyment. We do learn that many male strippers are nice guys who reasonably utilize their good looks and other blessings as a shortcut to a better life. The fun that they have along the way is a bonus for both them and their biggest and more average fans.
The DVD bonus features include videos by Corey Tut.
The starting point of this latest in an ongoing series of articles on the unique aspects of regular visits to the modernized historic Exeter Inn in Exeter, NH is intense anticipation for this return in October 2019 prompting an almost uncontrollable impulse to inquire about arriving a week early. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder as to this refuge from this filthy world.
The genesis of this visit is an increasingly relevant emotional rescue in April 2019. A staycation at a nearby property that still has favored nation status had been repeatedly marred in ways that reflect the theme of this current essay, That equally historic property, which is independently owned but affiliated with a certain Mormon-owned global chain, remains highly desirable and overall unique but glacially is becoming a victim of "elder" abuse.
Sadly, like all mistreated "children," the ability of the other still-grand hotel to offset the "sins of the father" is limited. A "back-breaking" straw having NOTHING to do with that hotel on the last day of that stay led to a strong desire to not spend the final night there.
Several factors prompted not wanting to drive home under a figurative cloud that was as dark as the ones in the sky. The first hotel very graciously agreed to not charge me for that night if I left that afternoon.
Calling Inn manager/professional friend Derek Hunt resulted in getting a distressed friends rate for the fabulous Jacuzzi suite. Derek smiling and handing me a bottle of French wine on his desk (as well as personally going to the bar to get me a glass) on my seeing him to thank him nicely contributed to the sense that I was not in Utah that day.
The following photos of the suite help convey this euphoric blend of glee and bliss. The traditional furnishing convey that mother knows best in advising that a purple couch looks cool but soon leads to buyer's remorse.
That experience prompted booking the Jacuzzi Suite for the October visit before even going to the suite, Highlights of that stay included being warm and dry while wet sloppy April snow fell outside, and Bobby Bradying the Jacuzzi by filling it with tons of bubbles. (The non-corporate feel of the Inn extends to no announced plans to replace bottles of amenities with the bargain-gym style soap dispensers that are the latter-day norm.)
As Inn Credible New England posts mention almost as frequently as referring to the perpetually packed duffel, driving a couple of hours to get to a whole new world is much more pleasant than enduring the discomfort and high expense of flying, Even paying the full rate for the Jacuzzi Suite (or slightly less for other luxurious accommodations at the Exeter Inn) is much less expensive than airport transportation, airfare, and a cookie-cutter room at a corporate hotel. This is not to mention the ease with which you can fill your vehicle with the comforts of home.
Both Derek (who has a very liberal open-door policy) and the desk clerk were very nice and welcoming. Walking into the Jacuzzi Suite truly felt like coming home again.
Personal touches this time included easily hooking up a personal Blu-ray player (using a power strip from the duffel) to the living room television and plugging in an unnecessary white-noise machine in the bedroom. Of course, the Jacuzzi was getting filled during the unpacking process.
The avoided storm that time was a nor'easter/borderline bomb cyclone that did not so much as rattle a window.
Watching Derek and his clerks staff the desk further contributed to the sense of classic hospitality that begins with every reservation call coming to the hotel switchboard.
Hanging out in the parlor-style lobby while Derek very patiently dealt with a last-minute reservation that both tried to get him to accept a comically low online rate for an upgraded room illustrated the skill of this literal Southern gentleman. Virtually no one else would have offered the upgrades that Derek did for the price that he quoted.
All of this is in keeping (no pun intended) with the small-town setting of this oasis next to top-tier prep school Exeter Academy. There are plenty of nearby opportunities to walk in the woods or the beach, shop in independent bookstores or gift shops that feature local items, or feast at reasonably priced restaurants that offer cuisines from around the world, In this case, it is good that all of this is nothing like home,
The Icarus Films recent DVD release of the 2017 truly labor of love documentary "The Other Side of Everything" put a very personal face on the decades of turmoil that have plagued Belgrade, Filmmaker Mila Turajlic interviews her mother, who is political activist and retired professor Srbijanka Turajlic.
The accolades for this kinder and gentler version of classic shut-in documentary "Grey Gardens" include a Best Documentary award at the 2017 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival and a Best Director win at the RiverRun International Film Festival.
The strong historical drama vibe of "Side" begins with opening scenes of Srbijanka trying to open a recently rediscovered interior door in her dated and shadowy (but very clean) Belgrade apartment. This lead to Srbijanka discussing being a child living in that space in the building that her parents owned when the Communists took over.
This woman who has seen Belgrade repeatedly experience massive changes during several decades tells of a party official knocking on the door during the adolescence of Srbijanka to announce that the family now must live in very tight quarters. We also hear the tale of an effort to get the bureaucracy to allow the family to retain a slightly larger portion of their own property,
An especially creepy aspect of this is hearing Srbijanka reminisce about hearing but not seeing the other families that are uninvited residents of her family home.
We also get a sense of the aforementioned activism of Srbijanka, which includes her reaction to Sloboban Milosevic. A heart-rending aspect of the national politics is the story of some voters being denied the option of declaring their nationality.
The climax of the film is the highly symbolic opening of the door to the past; we get a literal view of how the other half lives. For her part, Srbijanka is reminded of long forgotten aspects of her life before everything changes.
The bigger picture is that "Side" shows that life does go on and that it often does not matter who is in charge.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2011 Danish drama "Room 304" facilitates North American cinephiles watching a recent (and great) addition to the drama (and comedy) subgenre of movies and television series that center around the lives and loves of hotel guests and staff, These range from the Greta Garbo film "Grand Hotel" to the Aaron Spelling '80s series "Hotel."
The following YouTube clip of the Movement trailer for "Room" aptly showcases the haunting atmospheric tone of the film.
The opening narration sets the proper mood for this engrossing dark drama by noting that the guests who laugh in a room may be staying in the same space where someone cried the previous night. "Room" further demonstrates its art-house cred. by following the modern indie film practice of often shifting the action between the present and the past in a manner that leads to a present climax.
The film centers around Kasper the adulterous hotel manager. We know early on that he uses his place of employment for nooners and that his partner-in-crime is Nina. We learn throughout "Room" that Kasper is dipping his pen in company ink and later discover the extent to which his relationship with Nina is complicated. An aspect of this is the depth to which we get in the mind of Kasper.
We also get Spanish stewardess Teresa, who takes a personal impromptu layover at the hotel in an effort to get her groove back. The manner in which her booty call with Mr. Right Now goes south provides one of the more alarming and compelling scenes in "Room." This encounter also provides a cautionary tale for those of us who fantasize about a hotel bar pick-up.
Sour and socially awkward but efficient desk clerk Martin is the most interesting member of this cast of characters. His response to being directed to smile more is hilarious.
We additionally get an Albanian couple who work at the hotel; their story involves the standard tale of the arrival of a guest with whom they have a past.
The two Filipino maids who serve as a Greek chorus round out the group. These young women additionally make frequent and infrequent travelers think about who cleans their rooms.
The filmmakers do an excellent job connecting all the dots in this maze; the audience further gets the delight of discovering how the glimpses of "Christmas yet to be" relate to visions of "Christmas present" that come later in the film.
As mentioned above, Kasper provides the common thread throughout these varying degrees of separation. This tortured soul further drives the complex web.
Although "Room' succeeds regarding its objective to prompt hotel guests to think about the history of their chamber, the film also touches on the larger picture of general privacy at hotels. You should assume that you are being filmed in public areas, but there is a history of real and reel reports of things such as cameras in hotel room televisions.
A personal philosophy regarding the latter is that adults know what goes on behind closed doors, and that someone who is watched engaging in any form of that activity should be comfortable in knowing that he or she is not acting in a shameful manner. The same cannot be said if the closed door is part of an elevator or a hotel linen closet.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.]
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Archive aptly team up to respectively release the first season of the Hulu 2019 "Veronica Mars" reboot of the 2004-07 CW series of the same name on DVD and Blu-ray. WBHE is the home of the latest and greatest Warner Bros programs, and the Archive catalog has the proverbial vast array of home-video releases of the best recent and not-so-recent series from the Warner studios.
The original concept of "Mars" is that the titular middle-class teen helps her private-investigator father with cases that frequently involve the one-percenter residents of their oceanfront resort community of Neptune, California. Much of the OS relates to a crime that transforms our live-action Daria/Buffy hybrid from a member of the in-crowd to an outcast.
The following trailer for the new "Mars" season highlights the wonderfully quirky tone and clever humor of this cult classic; it also reinforces that cast and crew have brought these characters back for enjoyment of the fans, rather than as a "willfully" ego project for the stars.
Our story begins with Veronica (Kristen Bell of "Frozen," "House of Lies," and "The Good Place") proving that you sort of can go home again. Veronica is working a typical case for a divorced real housewife of Neptune, who is being gaslighted by her ex-husband. The hilarious ways that our now 30-something Nancy Drew gets revenge on both her client and the man who dun her wrong reminds old-school fans of the justifiable general contempt that Veronica has for both men and for the rich and often famous.,
Meanwhile, not-so-gracefully aging Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni of "Just Shoot Me") is helping a struggling independent grocer foil a particularly insidious plot to drive away his customers.
The chemistry between Keith and Veronica and the still sharp writing of show creator/runner Rob Thomas alone make another trip to "Mars" well worthwhile.
One of the best scenes in any of the eight episodes establishes in the first offering that Veronica is shacking up with former classmate Logan Echolls, who is much more mature and even buffer than in his younger days. Logan is freshly back (and barely decent) from his latest stint playing Captain America at a global hot spot when Veronica "entices" him in front of drooling girls (and likely some boys) to help her more a large appliance.
The central event of a fatal bombing at a motel during Spring Break both drives most of the action and provides a context for numerous familiar faces to reappear. This group literally and figuratively runs the spectrum from the good, to the bad, to the ugly.
The nature of the crime creates almost endless possibilities regarding both whodunit and whydunit. Conclusions regarding which victim is the intended target, rather than collateral damage, change just as frequently as the certainty regarding the discovery of the smoking gun.
The central casting types include the beleagured motel owner and his daughter, the "hound" fratboy who is not above Cosbying the current object of his something that rhymes with affection, the genius nerd, the rich boy from the nationally prominent family and his "not our type" financee, and the nephew of a Mexican drug lord,
Subsequent attacks further complicate matters.
A strong "snobs v. slobs" element is pure "Mars." The small business owners and their employees heavily rely on Spring Break to pay their bills the rest of the years are actively fighting an organized group headed by one of he aforementioned "old friends" and his new "business acquaintance" that he met during an unfortunate incarceration. The "haves" are trying to rid the city of every undesirable element.
One spoiler is that good old-fashioned detective work drives the pursuit of justice; another spoiler is that great-great-grandfather of all consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes is vindicated in that the solution reflects the principle that once the impossible is fully eliminated the answer must be the (sometime improbable) remaining alternative. All of this ties to the broader reality that there is you story, my story, and the truth.
Investigative team Mystery, Inc. is represented in the form of one or more clues that seem insignificant ultimately lead to the culprit realizing that he would have gotten away with it but for one of our favorite meddling kids.
WBHE and Archive supplement this with a feature on the "Mars" 2019 Comic Con panel that is a sort of a homecoming. Seeing cast and crew express the mutual love that comes across is awesome; attempted humor by interrupting this presentation with reaction clips from the new season is less of a treat.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 Irish horror movie "Red Room" shows that former films about imprisoning 20-something women have barely broken the surface regarding the potential for the depth of depravity regarding this sub-genre. The essential theme is that the lasses who are guests of the state of terror stay chained up and brutalized as they await their close-up in the titular chamber.
The accolades for this creative success include Best Independent Feature Film and Special Jury Prize honors at the 2017 Underground Cinema Film Festival Awards.
"Room" centers around a single mother who pays a heavy price for a rare indulgence of her girls just wanna have fun side. This also relates to her learning that Mother does not always know best in that our future web star allows Gran to convince her to spend an evening at a club 10 minutes from their home.
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, our new parent bends down to pick up an apparently lost mobile phone that is ringing on the ground in front of a white-panel van. This leads to the inevitable.
On arriving, the new girl meets her chum. The orientation includes a recitation of "Fight Club" rules.Of course, each guideline gets violated during the film.
The audience soon leans both that this for-profit and perverse fun enterprise is a father-son operation with Father (and Mother) remotely calling the shots and Son running a small crew from the house that serves as an operations center. The rest of the story is that the dark webmaster is a slave to his work.
An inventory control problem coinciding with an expansion of the business in a manner that should be a cautionary tale to every annoying toddler out there combine to make things a bad day at the office for father and son alike. One lesson here is that good help is hard to find.
Much of the appeal of "Room" relates to perverse pleasure associated with seeing how deranged some seemingly average people are and discovering the callous viciousness regarding the behavior of folks who are willing to meet the need of that segment of the public.
The copious DVD special features include behind-the-scenes interviews and a deleted scene that is roughly the same length as a typical Bugs Bunny short.
The Virgil Films DVD release of the 2018 documentary "The Coolest Guy Movie Ever: Return to the Scene of 'The Great Escape'" continues the Virgil celebration of Bro Cinema.
This "True Hollywood Story" presentation of "Escape" is filmed at the German locations of the 1963 John Sturges directed tale of Steve "King of Cool" McQueen and other A-List macho men of the era planning a massive escape from the P.O.W. camp where they are guests of der Fuhrer.
The other aforementioned documentaries about guy flicks include the Virgil 2016 DVD of (the reviewed) "Outatime" about volunteers restoring the DeLorean from the "Back to the Future." The (also reviewed) 2018 Virgil title "I Am Paul Walker" celebrates the life of that deceased "Fast and Furious" franchise star. That one shows how Walker can be considered the modern McQueen.
The following YouTube clip of a promo. for "Coolest" honors the bro code of the film by taking less than two minutes to provide a strong sense of the theme and the style of the documentary.
Our host is Haynes portrayor Lawrence Montaigne; he explains early on that creating diversions is the raison d'etre of his character.
The quest to relive the past begins with a search for the location of the camp; the leave only footprints philosophy of the shoot hinders this in that permission to cut down hundreds of trees in The Black Forest is conditioned on a fulfilled promise to plant two trees for each that is removed. The current trees and vintage production photos help pinpoint this setting,
Other pictures and memories of locals help identify background locations. Prominent ones include the spot where the McQueen character strings a wire across a road to cause a German soldier to crash a motorcycle. Hearing from the stuntman who takes that fall contributes a nice perspective to "Coolest." We also see the field where McQueen makes his iconic jump and the train station where the Nazis obtain a small victory.
The copious "behind-the-scenes" stories extend beyond modern recollections to archival interviews with McQueen and co-stars James Coburn and James Garner. We learn from locals which of these men embraces the fandom and who is more aloof. A man who runs the former barbershop of his father tells the best tale of that contrast.
The keeping it in the family theme includes the current owner of a hotel sharing the registration forms of the stars and Sturges during the ownership of the parents of the man. This tour includes the actual rooms of the Hollywood royalty.
Having a film crew recreate elements of Nazi Germany during a "too soon" period is a particularly interesting aspect of the documentary. One can relate to anger on seeing reminders of that era in an area that does not find any element of The Third Reich at all amusing.
More general information relates to improvisation that limitations require. One of the most amusing stories regarding this is the need for McQueen to play dual roles.
The bigger picture is that "Coolest" speaks to hard-core fans of "Escape" in the way that "Outatime" resonates with dedicated "Future" fans. Both films compensate for the inability of those folks to witness the making of the delectable sausage.
The September 17, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 documentary "The Kids' Table" provides a good chance to watch an amusing old-school style film. This chronicle of four 20-somethings competing in the national bridge championship does for that dying card game what the 2002 documentary "Spellbound" does for the national spelling bee.
A fun aspect of the below trailer for this film about an activity that is tedious to watch and to play except for those who thoroughly enjoy it is that this promo hits most of the best moments in this film that achieves the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational. Director/team captain (and player) Edd Benda makes a great poster boy for this past-its-prime pastime.
"Borrowing" the well-written and concise summary of "Table" from the press materials for the film is in the spirit of one theme of "Table" that younger people do not want to take the time to learn how to play bridge. This seems akin to the adage that chess takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master. That aspect takes the fun out of playing with the "horsie" and the "castle."
The 25-words-or-more take of the official synopsis is "four millennial friends - filmmaker Benda, comedian Monique Thomas, Twitch host Stefanie Woodburn and actor Paul Stanko - bridge novices all, train and compete for a year on the National Bridge Circuit, going behind-the-scenes to better understand the game and its waning popularity. And as the millennials explore the world of competitive Bridge -- where the average age of their opponents is 73 - they discover the highs and lows of card-play, competition, and community while, hopefully, helping to build a strong foundation for the future of the game."
Benda shares his story of learning to play bridge as a child; the others largely seem to be along for the ride. Stanko is the scene-stealer in that he is the weakest link and has limited youthful exuberance for the game. All this makes him the one who seemingly needs the most coaching.
This quartet further entertains as we get caught up in the thrill of their victories and the agonies of their defeats. A high point for the players and the at-home spectators is the nicest kids in town scoring a highly coveted endorsement deal.
Another highlight is a figurative and literal tutorial on the rules of the game; this includes a frustrating electoral-college aspect that relates to the possibility that the team that wins the majority of the 13 rounds in a game still are branded the losers.
Benda additionally introduces us to two young teen boys, who literally are playing with the big boys. These lads charmingly admit their love of the game does not make them BMOCs.
Benda makes going along for the ride great fun and leaves us wanting more for our stars; it also prompts a desire to break out the bridge mix and help revive the game.
Breaking Glass Pictures provides horror fans a missing link regarding the recent DVD release of the 2016 film "Obsidian Curse." A fairly clever concept regarding an evil hex, adequate acting, and decent production values put this one many steps above the student-film quality of many lower-budget blood-and-gore movies.
"Curse" begins with a bit of a non-sequitur. Party girls are living it up while a demon who looks like something out of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series is feasting on a sacrificial lamb.
The action quickly shifts "One Year Later." Ex-con Blair Jensen is freshly sprung from the big house after serving a sentence on a drug charge. Baby daddy Roberto picks her up. His bad news for her is that new wife Yvonne is taking care of their daughter.
Blair having to go beyond being clean-and-sober extends to requiring that she obtain gainful employment. Desperation regarding a need for a job leads to trying to join the underground economy. That results in her obtaining the titular stigmatism, which makes her a babe-eater magnet.
The scene in which Blair meets the first member of her new fan club does a good job with many tried-and-true horror film cliches. A creature reaching out from under the bed and a comforter and sheet being pulled off a sleeping woman provides some sense of this portion of "Curse."
Blair going on the run sets the stage for other creatures of the night trying to get a piece of her; this results in her becoming the captive of an unexpected monster. Good dark and gory humor enters the picture in the form of "for tat" revenge for a betrayal.
All of this comes back somewhat full circle in that assistance comes from an unexpected source; this creates a sense of the lesser of two evils.
The middle-ground approach throughout "Curse" makes it fun for the whole family; you are spared chessy effects and deplorable performances.
The most important point to consider regarding the Film Movement DVD release of the 2018 documentary (which plays like a docudrama) "Over the Limit" is that the appeal of this telling of the tale of Olympic Gold medalist Margarita Mamun extends well beyond sports fans. Pointing out that Variety aptly compares "Limit" to "Black Swan" does not help this case much but illustrates that this is another overcoming adversity story in the same style as "Rocky."
"Limit" being a New York Times Critic's Pick and figuratively earning the Gold at the 2018 Krakow Film Festival further documents the quality of this film for the masses.
The following Movement clip of the official US trailer for "Limit" highlights the intensity of the film and of the central relationship between Magmun and coach Irina Viner. There is NO doubt that a docudrama of this story would NEED to be titled "The Devil Wore Talbots."
Much of "Limit" centers around Magmun either training for competitions leading up to the main event or actually competing. Viner literally is there every step of the way mercilessly berating the gymnast and almost as diligently ensuring that this athlete always stays on her toes. This aspect of "Limit" should make it mandatory reviewing for any parent or "participant" who thinks that a recreation league or school coach is too hard on the kids.
One interesting dynamic is watching the mother of Magmum be good cop to bad cop Viner. This plays out in one of the most notable scenes in "Limit." The two parental figures argue about the allowable level of support that actual Mom can show her little girl.
We also see a friendly rivalry between Magmun and a fellow gymnast; the conflict here is that only one can be the best. This kinder and gentler version of the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan dynamic warrants kneecapping jokes.
Although folks who already are familiar with the tale of Magmun know the end of "Limit" before it begins, seeing how she gets there truly is all the fun. Everyone will cheer for her and feel her agony and her ecstasy.
Movement supplements "Limit" with the bonus 11-minute short "Iron Hands." This "Rocky" story tells the tale of a plucky 12 year-old girl bonding with a groundskeeper with a "history" while the girl does her final training for her tryout for the prestigious traditionally all-boys Chinese youth Olympic weightlifting team. The twice-told moral here is to not judge a book by its cover.
The final commentary regarding this sports-oriented double-feature is that they make particularly good viewing for a quiet weekend afternoon.
Godsend to cult-film fans and pop-culture enthusiasts Virgil Films awesomely provides a glimpse into the world of "anonymous" Internet pranksters by releasing the 2017 documentary "Troll Inc." on DVD. This film looks at the community that does everything from telling the general population most things that the feds try to keep secret, to creating and exposing data breaches, to pulling online pranks simply because they can and because they are hilarious.
The following YouTube clip of a "Troll" trailer provides a glimpse of the equally amusing and (mostly) societally important escapades of central anti-hero Andrew "weev" Auernheimer. We also get a brief sense of his raison d'etre.
Auerheimer being the primary talking head allows obtaining much of the "Troll" information directly from the mouth of the equine. An early gleefully shared tale is of this prankster using a low-tech method to distort the story behind the scandal involving International Monetary Fund executive Dominique Strauss-Khan and a hotel housekeeper.
Even more hilarity relates to the involvement of Auerheimer in the subversive site goatse.cx. This "shock site" delights in containing content that is so sick and perverse that even John Waters likely cringes. A cited (but not shown) example is a man pleasuring himself while seated on a pile of feces,
Much of the focus is on the 2010 data-security issue related to iPad users having 3G service through then-sole provider AT&T. Auerheimer hacking into the Apple system and obtaining the e-mail addresses of the rich and powerful with those devices and that service is behind the feds saying enough regarding this man who already has person-of-interest status. The tale of his prosecution and unfortunate incarceration is the thing of which Hollywood blockbusters are made. One can imagine Zach Galifianakis playing the lead.
We also learn the tale of an exploit that thematically is between the Strauss-Khan incident and the Apple matter. Auerheimer being told of Amazon discriminating against gay-themed material prompts amusing action that ultimately shines light on this policy. The presumed connection between this and a fluctuation in the price of Apple stock demonstrates the potential impact of trolling.
We also extensively hear about a member of The IT Crowd who becomes a good friend of Auerheimer after learning about his activities. Self-described gay-Jewish man Mike Behr shows great loyalty toward his buddy and proves that some people still have a sense of humor in the 2010s. Our boys have an especially funny WTF moment when Auerheimer semi-jokingly accuses his friend of a serious betrayal.
The larger context is that "Troll" conveys the blessing and the curse of the Internet; the convenience of easily getting stuff that we want and being able to largely manage our lives from the couch comes at the price of our private information being vulnerable to folks whose intents are less than pure. Apple god Steve Jobs states it best in saying that there is nothing wrong with providing our information so long as it is done with informed consent.
Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the (reviewed) mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these scifi classics is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of "Ultra" programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Man" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Man" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"ULTRAMAN, a giant alien from the Land of Light in Nebula M78, enters Earth's atmosphere in pursuit of an escaped space monster. In the skies above Japan he accidentally crashes into a Jet VTOL piloted by Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (SSSP), an international research and defense agency that protects the world from monsters and aliens of all shapes and sizes.
To save Hayata, Ultraman merges his life force with the dying human and vows to stay and fight for peace on Earth. Now, whenever the Patrol faces a threat too great for them to handle, Hayata transforms into Ultraman to save the day!
ULTRAMAN was Tsuburaya Productions' first color series, a sci-fi action adventure drama that dominated the ratings during its initial 1966-67 broadcast run in Japan. The show was quickly licensed for release in America, airing in syndication for nearly two decades. Colorful, fast-paced, and packed with memorable heroes, creatures and incredible special effects, ULTRAMAN was the foundation for a phenomena that continues to this day."
Part of the rest of the story is that the Energizer bunny has something that the arguable father of the red power ranger lacks; the latter runs on a battery that only gives him three minutes worth of power.
The pilot of "Man" establishes the aforementioned lore AND reflects the cartoonish influence of "Batman" '66. A group of Japanese campers has the first of two close encounters of the second kind when they see a glowing blue object plunge into the nearby lake.
The incident prompts Hayata to pilot the aforementioned aircraft that looks like it is straight out '60s animation scifi series "The Thunderbirds." This leads to the game-changer mid-air collision,
Ala "Superman" and virtually every other superhero franchise, Ultraman comes on the scene at the eleventh hour and puts right what once went wrong.
The aptly titled second outing "Shoot the Invader" is even more comical; the ET with 'tude this time this a lobster on 'roids who seems to have a common ancestry with '60s superhero Multiman in that he can project several images of himself.
First contact gets off to a hilariously bad start, and things go downhill from there. The gist is that Earth gets a taste of being the planet chosen for the site of a civilization do-over.
"Science Patrol, Move Out" awesomely pays homage to "Q" (and "Godzilla") by having the intrusion of the "civilized" world on the natural one literally awaken a sleeping giant. The literal big bad this time enhances the threat by having very effective camouflage and by feeding on electricity.
Particular relevance this time is MCE releasing "Man" a week after a California electric company purposefully leaves a big chunk of that state in the dark for an extended period in order to achieve a greater good.
All of this lead to the epic 39th episode with a title that is a blatant spoiler. This one hits the trifecta of explaining a broad category of real-life unusual occurrences, having the heroes scramble to protect Earth from a seemingly undefeatable force, and providing sensational in both senses of the word conclusion to the series.
The most cool thing about "Man" is that is shows the beginning stages of the evolution of the "Ultra" franchise. The most cool thing about MCE is that it is making at least the next several stages of that progression coming out in the not-too-distant future.
A spectacular recent stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH) in Manhattan inspired writing about that terrific treat in the same manner that a visit to the aptly named Edgewater Inn in Maine roughly one year ago inspired a "very special" diversion from writing about DVD releases.
This Gotham adventure began with my highly significant other booking a room at the GPH to make "a sort of a homecoming" with college friends special for me. Picking this boutique hotel in a surprisingly quiet corner of New York near Union Square and a couple of stones' throws from Soho reflected my love of B & Bs and not so strong affection for the smelly, noisy, and crowded elements that detract from the 1,000s of wonderful things in New York City.
Both being a boutique hotel and not being part of an even upscale hotel chain results in the GPH providing special hospitality and extra touches that make B & Bs so desirable and that corporate-owned properties seem incapable of providing.
As alluded to above, this makes GPH a very welcoming spot for folks who have a bit more sophistication than the initially naive New York newcomer Gaylord Esterbrook that Jimmy Stewart portrays in the 1940 classic film "No time for comedy" but prefer fresher air and fewer crowds than exist in most parts of New York.
These qualities make the GPH the hotel-of-choice for A-to-Z List celebrities, who also enjoy haunting the Rose Bar in the lobby. Learning of Lindsay Lohan and Selena Gomez separately visiting there inspired joking about whether Hillary Duff has ever been a guest. (Alas, thoughts of visiting Waverly Place came too late to include that destination on the trip.)
The GPH experience commences with one of the "nice young men" who are stationed out front warmly greeting you and bringing your luggage to the very welcoming lobby.
The limited outside noises and smells of the upscale neighborhood completely disappear in this space with enough dark wood, stones (including a large fireplace), and dark velvet upholstered furniture to evoke thoughts of a perfectly preserved castle. There is also quiet background music and a nice spa-quality scent.
The greeting that Joe provided at the well-staffed front desk was so warm that learning that our room was not ready was not at all annoying. Immediately being asked for a cell number to call when the room was ready and having a bellman standing by to store our luggage in the interim further validated this choice of hotel.
The awesome hospitality continued with a "double upgrade" from the reserved Gramercy Queen Room to the indescribably wonderful 750 square-foot Park View Premier Suite, which is twice the size of many New York City apartments. This upgrade definitely is worth the additional cost.
The nearly sound-proof quality of the suite competed with the elegant furnishings, art from the famous Warhol-centric collection of the GPH, and oodles of extras for status of favorite feature. A very comfy spa robe/slipper set, an extraordinary secondary shower head that came to be known as the "bidet nozzle," and fabled Aesop brand amenities contributed a nice spa-like sensibility to the lodgings.
The heavy velvet curtains and French doors with thick glass that separated the bedroom and living room areas of the suite allowed watching DVD episodes of the "Doctor Who" spin-off "K9" without disturbing the nap of said significant other. (On a related note, three seems to be the tolerance level regarding responding to inquiries with the "K9" catchphrase "affirmative" in a robotic dog voice.)
This suite offered the additional benefit of a perfect view of the very serene Gramercy Park itself, use of which is limited to residents of the neighborhood and guests of GPH.
An unexpected "wacky sitcom" style treat regarding the park came early in the visit. On going to the front desk to ask a question, I overheard a woman and Joe discussing the availability of a higher-level room in the "four" tier of the hotel.
On hearing Joe state that all those rooms were occupied, I joined the conversation by stating that I was staying in 1104 and would help if I could. Joe then introduced the woman as "the mayor of Gramercy Park."
The name of the woman was Arlene Harrison, and she was the president of the amazingly active and effective Gramercy Park Block Association. She told me that her objective was getting good photos of the park in bloom.
Harrison was gracious and appreciative when I offered to let her in the room to take the photos. (Attempted humor in stating "yeah, right" when Harrison commented that I must be a New Yorker because I was so friendly fell flat.)
The aforementioned "wacky" events prevented Harrison from coming up for the photos. I subsequently learned that weather conditions turned out to be less than optimal for the photos anyway.
Returning to the room on Saturday night to find turn-down service that included refreshed supplies of the aforementioned uber-awesome Aesop amenities and a softly burning candle added to the enjoyment of the stay.
This terrific weekend further included a tasty Italian dinner at Maialino in the hotel lobby. The decor was quite nice, but background music and more subtle lighting would have been nice touches.
Our respective entrees of cod and pasta with pesto were well-prepared and flavorful. Further, we appreciated that our server advised us when ordering that the pasta required a little extra time.
The chocolate croissant bread pudding with hazelnut gelato was slightly disappointing. The bread pudding was less rich than the traditional form of that treat, and the gelato had the almost certainly related flaws of being more creamy and lacking as strong a flavor as true gelato. The fact that the flavor became a little sharper after several minutes suggested as well that the gelato was not being stored at an ideal temperature.
The GPH passed a couple of checkout-related tests on Monday morning. The clerk politely resolved a billing dispute in our favor, and we learned on contacting the hotel regarding a forgotten personal item that the hotel already mailed it to us.
All of this boils down to the GPH being the perfect choice for NYC visitors who want a conveniently located ideal oasis after enduring the smells, noise, and crowds of that metropolis to enjoy the scads o' well-known and lesser-known treats that more than offset those unpleasant experiences.