[Editor's Note: As of the posting of this article, Canyon Ranch Lenox is scheduled to reopen July 27, 2020.]
The beginning thought as to this second of two (and counting) posts on Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts is the pre-pandemic conclusion that initial sticker-shock regarding the roughly $1,000 per-night rate is unwarranted when considering the size of the bang for your grand. Pandemic-era factors have shown even more that the spa is well worth every penny.
The initial benefit as to a Canyon Ranch stay is a welcome gift that conservatively is worth $175; the stylish waterproof Canyon Ranch tote bag with red-leather trim alone retails for $129. Time will tell how many bottles of contraband Diet Coke will fit along with more traditional spa supplies, such as comfy spa sliders. Alas, the bag may be too small for the luxurious Canyon Ranch spa robe that will be put to good use during an upcoming stay.
Speaking of the spa, each package comes with a services allowance that seems to average out to $150/day, which is enough for one treatment. Your not-so-humble reviewer is scheduled for a coconut oil treatment, a 50-minute signature Canyon Ranch massage, and a 100-minute Canyon Ranch massage. This leaves a $20 allowance toward a fourth treatment.
This aspect of the stay warrants a shout-out to services specialist extraordinaire Angela, who is very intuitive as to which treatments are best suited to which guest.
The icing on this particular confection is daily access, including visit-long use of a locker, to the spa facilities. That conservatively is worth $100 each day.
Related goodness is a range of wellness seminars that most likely are valued at least $100 each.
The other benefit is a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks package that retails for roughly $100/day. A no-tipping policy enhances the value of this feature, as well as that of the spa services.
A ROUGH estimate of the value of the extras that come with staying a room that offers a 20-option pillow menu is that they total $500/day. This leaves the cost of the room equivalent to a visit to a Mandarin Oriental or comparable luxury hotel.
The rest of that perspective is that (in periods in which air travel is feasible) airfare plus airport transportation (or parking) cost ROUGHLY $1,000. Following the long-standing Inn Credible New England philosophy of spending what you otherwise would pay to fly somewhere to upgrade a vacation closer to home translates to a "fuzzy math" savings of $200/night as to a five-night stay for folks within driving distance of Lenox.
The starting point as to the added value of a 2020 Canyon Ranch stay is that this unprecedented event reasonably is causing intense stress for most folks who currently must venture out to deal with the public. The other side of this coin is that virtually all of us not venturing out nearly as much as we used to pre-COVID makes each poking of our heads into the real world a special outing as to which we hope that a good time is had by all.
A recent consistently positive experience with Canyon Ranch around the same time as equal glee regarding fabled personal-care products company Aesop prompted sharing the joy from those encounters. The response, which is more true than ever in these highly troubled times is that you get what you pay for,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement Blu-ray of the 1995 Salma Hayek film "Midaq Alley" has EVERY element that makes it a perfect film. This begins with a young attractive cast that has someone for everyone, a telenovela vibe that provides no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure, and high-concept in the form of being based on a novel by Nobel laurete Naguib Mahfouz. The IDEAL blend of humor and drama of both the melo and regular varieties is the topping on the fried ice cream. There truly is not a dull moment.
The crystal-clear images and audio (not to mention a behind-the-scenes feature and a written essay) in this restoration further make this one well worthy adding to your video library.
The impressive 27 festival wins for "Midaq" include several awards at the 1995 Ariel Awards in Mexico.
The below Movement trailer for Midaq Alley highlights the exceptional quality of every aspect of the film.
In addition to an awesome live-stage vibe, "Midaq" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly themed 2006-09 BBC serial series "The Street" that tells the inter-connected stories of the residents of a London neighborhood. Both productions do an excellent job keeping all the players in play and showing how their lives overlap.
"Midaq" centers around the neighborhood bar that Don Ru owns and operates. This watering hole truly is a place where everyone knows your name (and your business).
A brief glimpse of the life of Ru and of his 20-something son Chava is the tip of the iceberg that provides a good sense of the "Midaq" style. The blatant Freudian aspects of that relationship begin with Ru being disappointed with the poor work ethic of Chava, who obsessively dreams of moving El Norte.
The disappointment of Ru regarding his offspring is an element as to developing a friendship with benefits with a young clothing store clerk whom is closer to what Ru considers an ideal son. The extent to which Ru and this post-adolescent express their mutual affection contributes an ick factor on a couple of levels.
The desired traveling buddy of Chava is Abel, who is a local barber obsessed with local beauty Alma (Hayek). Of course, Alma drives plenty of drama herself.
The ripples extend from there to the opportunistic bartender, the horny spinster, the tarot card reader, etc.
The big picture this time it that "Midaq" is both compelling and funny because it is true.
The Olive Films Signature division of Olive Films June, 20, 2020 Blu-ray of the Milos Formam ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus") 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films.
This pristinely remastered Blu-ray presents the film in a scope and with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and barely falls short of the watching a live-stage production. Folks who are only familiar with the play will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.
The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine," "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.
The opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era. The Blu-ray enchancement greatly highlights the contrast between the bland childhood of the central Okie and the commencement of his literal and figurative rude awakenings.
Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)
The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.
In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.
The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.
The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)
The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.
The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.
The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.
The ending is very true to the spirit of both the play and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.
Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are damaged 50 years later.
Signature supplements all this with its standard high-caliber extras that make its sets true collector's editions. This begins with audio commentary by Williams as well as by assistant director Michael Hausman.
The 30-minute "The Tribe Remembers" has Savage, D'Angelo, and several tribe members reminisce about the film from the pre-audition to the post-release stages. The fun begins with the initial criteria for auditioning, continues with the "Chorus Line" style casting process, and ends with many cast members discusses this career-changing gig. The inarguably best story is that of the reaction of the repressed Texan mother of one of the lost boys watching her baby croon about oral and anal sex.
Other bonuses include famed (pun intended) "Hair" choreographer Twyla Thorp discusses her work, and separate features on the style and the finished product. There also is separate discussion of Forman and an essay on "Hair."
First but far from least, a post-lockdown Inn Credible New England trip to the Martin Hill Inn in Portsmouth, NH ended a week ago without contracting any trace of COVID-19. This largely is due to the Silkwood-shower level cleaning by Nantucket transplants/inn keepers Russ and Meg.
Regular readers will not be surprised that your-not-so-humble reviewer ran with Russ characterizing this stay, which was the first for the otherwise empty inn, as serving as a guinea pig. This extended beyond inviting Russ to call me Squeaky and my thanking him in advance for the clean wood shavings. I also promised to do my best to refrain from chewing the baseboards.
Aside from the broad appeal of this historic building and the exceptional hospitality of the hosts, Martin Hill offers the benefit of being the only genuine B and B in Portsmouth. The setting perfectly reflects the spirit of this historic harbor community. This is not to mention the large cookie-cutter hotels 1/2 mile away in the retail district all requiring valet parking your car in the city garage.
The glee began with parking in the easily located, spacious, and shady parking lot behind the inn. The roughly one-minute walk through the well-designed garden is almost ensured to include seeing the resident bird-seed addicted chipmunk. The pair of wild bunnies are a slightly more rare sight.
The COVID-era check-in involves picking up a welcome packet and room key in the drop box by the inn front door. Guinea pig duty has enhanced the amount of information, such as the WiFi password, that you receive. Russ seemingly responding to texts even before you hit "Send" facilitates asking questions that the packet does not cover.
The Noonday Suite in the guest house next to the inn offers the most relaxing option in this highly tranquil place that already is reducing its limited accommodations to support social distancing,
Noonday offers a private entrance through the exclusive fully enclosed sun porch that looks out on the koi pods; Russ is very accommodating as to allowing guests to feed (and talk to) the fish.
The living room and bedroom also have an entrance into the guest house, which is handy if you are traveling with someone staying in one of the other three options in that building. This unmarried man ventured in the front hall once looking for Mr. Goodbar to replenish the generous snacks in the Noonday living room.
The wow factor on entering the Noonday suite begins with seeing the Nancy Reagan red bedroom with comfy king-sized bed; a nice treat is discovering the mini-tower of personalized gifts that the innkeepers provide to "sweeten the stay" of guests during this Covid period.
The living room provides a nice way to read, use my iPad, and watch television without hanging out in the bedroom. The sun porch, where I ate the crave-worthy lemon ricotta pancakes and other breakfasts that were delivered due to Covid, was another nice spot in which to enjoy "just being" at the inn.
Russ and Meg do their visitors the solid of ensuring that every room has at least two comfy places to sit. This is on top of the game-and-book filled parlor that is open to guests and offers snacks under normal circumstances. There is a good chance that your not-so-humble reviewer will offer a discussion on films in that gathering spot one weekend that Portsmouth holds one of its many film festivals.
The experimentation as to staying at the Martin Hill a couple of weeks after New Hampshire gave most businesses the green light to reopen showed the value of having a place to "just be." Downtown Portsmouth, which was a pleasant leisurely 10-minute walk, was a surprising hodgepodge as to the hours that restaurants were open and the dining options. Many eateries only offering takeout or delivery was not bothersome; the few holdouts as to allowing you to eat your takeout onsite despite you needing to come into the restaurant to pick up your order were frustrating.
Most of the many Portsmouth shops were open standard (or close to standard) hours; the wait was a minute-or-two the few times that a store reached capacity.
There also are numerous other quaint towns, as well as beaches, within an easy 30 drive from the inn.
The one word of caution is to avoid the nearby Kittery outlet malls; the vibe there reflects that they are far from their former glory. The better news is that you can do as well or better shopping online.
Ending on a positive note, Russ and Meg stay VERY true to the spirit of their mid-19th century era inn and vastly exceed the exceptional hospitality of their predecessors from that era. You will be very glad that you came.
Breaking Glass Pictures takes a break from international queer cinema DVD releases that range from the flirty to the filthy to offer the highly compelling stylized 2013 Italian drama "Naples in Veils." This sophisticated sibling of Lifetime fare centers around coroner Adriana being a donna on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Some of the numerous accolades for "Veils" include a "Best Cinematography" win at the 2018 David di Donatello awards and "Best Actress" at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival.
The following Breaking trailer for "Veils" tantalizes with glimpse of the intrigue and the award-winning cinematography. You also see that Breaking gives a breeder boy a chance to show that he more than qualifies to flaunt it.
Early Euro drama commences with a flashback in which we see (presumably) Adriana as a child see (presumably) her mother (presumably) commit a (presumably) heinous act. This memory haunts Adriana as she watches a symbolism-dripping live sacrilegious performance of a bizarre variation on the Joan Rivers-Billy Crystal pregnant man '70s comedy film "Rabbit Test."
In true Lifetime fashion. Adriana invites fellow audience member Andrea back to her place without any pretense as to showing him her etchings. This beginning of a beautiful friendship with benefits turns into a one-night stand when Andrea stands up Adriana. His (presumably) showing up on her slab the next provides a (presumably) good excuse for ghosting (pun intended) her.
The first element of twin (pun intended) hysteria ensues on Adriana learning that the guy with whom she shares genuine intimacy after a brief conversation is not the guy whom she thought that he was. The follow-up is being convinced that she repeatedly thinks that she sees her short-time companion walking about after he shows up at her workplace.
The latter is soon explained by the object of the obsession of Adriana identifying himself as Luca, the essentially separated-at-birth identical twin brother of Andrea. Two spoilers are that Luca lacks both a goatee and an eye patch.
Adriana harbors the brother from the same mother while seeking answers as to the alleged nefarious activity of Andrea and the reason for his (presumed) murder. The indications that Adriana may have possession of either a coveted possession or information further keep her embroiled in the plot.
The highly symbolic Euro drama continues as Adriana and Luca pursue their "its highly complicated" relationship while Adriana seeks closure as to her relationship with Luca. The fact that insanity does not run, it gallops, in the family of Adriana does not help matters.
The strong quality of every aspect of "Veils" unambiguously is why it meets the high standards of Breaking; the incredible ambiguity and layers of meaning make it even more special.
This is not to mention the uncertainty as to both the cause and the effect of virtually every event; this begins with Adriana possibly scoring with Andrea solely based on his believing that she is the girl with something extra.
Breaking supplements this with deleted scenes and a "Backstage with Cast & Crew" special feature.
Robert and Michelle King put the same thought-provoking warped perspective that makes "The Good Wife" and the "Wife" (reviewed) spinoff "The Good Fight" such wonderfully dark fun to good use as to S1 of the CBS psychological drama "Evil." The CBS Home Entertainment DVD of this first outing of this latest King-sized offering hits real and virtual store shelves on June 30, 2020.
IMDb does reviewers everywhere a solid during these Hell hound days of The Summer of 2020 by providing a perfect synopsis of the "Supernatural"/"X-Files" mash-up that is "Evil." "A skeptical female clinical psychologist joins a priest-in-training and a blue-collar contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possession, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there's a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work." The frequent ambiguity as to this is one of many things that make "Evil" such a treat.
The series aptly examines the nature of evil; this includes whether it is the work of Satan and why some people turn to the dark side. We also get ample discussion of the extent to which someone invites that harmful element into his or her life.
The aforementioned shrink is Karen Bouchard, Ph.D. She goes down the rabbit hole in the pilot when her consulting for the NYC DA office has her evaluating a "baby" who has done a bad bad thing. This puts her on the radar of future man in black David and handyman Ben (the magnificent). Their common interest relates to whether the devil made the defendant do it.
The "excitable boy" playing a major role (with a little help from the not-so-good-son) in the final S1 episodes is one of many reasons that the 13 "Evil" S1 episodes are worthy of a marathon, but not binge, watching session. By George, you will want to keep the lights on for some of these episodes.
Many of the other episodes, including an exorcism apparently gone wrong, similarly involve story arcs. An awesome example of this is an evaluation of a purported prophet leading to an investigation of potent symbolism. This mission from the agents of God leads to a family reunion at a commune that practices what it preaches as to peace, free love, and understanding. Cosbying the sangria is a little more questionable.
The Halloween and Christmas specials are particularly awesome in that they are especially dark and have heavy elements of the highly entertaining impact of Karen often bringing her work home with her to the extent that she repeatedly must battle her personal demon. Halloween finds the annoying shrill and hyper four girls of Karen playing host to the weird neighbor kid, who is an especially bad influence. Christmas, which involves especially dark mass hypnosis by a Katy Perry clone, is a little more fun in that it is the one "Evil" episode that features the same type of animated music video that Team King does so well.
Michael Emerson puts his "Lost" training as a psycho-in-geek's clothing to excellent use as the yin to the yang of Karen; psychologist Leland Townsend really enjoys manipulating the weak-willed to do his bidding; revealing the boss of the Townsend agency is one of the best surprises of this series that is full of twists.
The S1 cliffhanger arguably is the most surprising moment in the series. At the very least, it sets the stage for Karen to present the arguably most interesting workers' compensation claim in real or reel history.
CBSHE first supplements this with deleted and extended scenes that indicate that Beelzebub was whispering in the ear of the editor who decide to exclude these moments. We also get the self-explanatory special features ""Evil: Season One: Genesis" and "Does Evil Exist?' The latter especially provides good material for water-cooler chatter if we ever return to our offices.
The starting point for this diversion into Blogland is that I am not asserting that some of my best friends are black. I am stating that I vehemently oppose mistreating anyone based on any physical characteristic or sexual orientation. I also believe that the terrifying police encounter that prompts this post would have been worse if I was black.
I have thought for many years that a typical beat cop is a former high-school thug who continues to delight in harassing the "good kids." This is from the perspective of a boy who single-handed ran the blood bank for two years and was recruited for the group that would help out with events such as parents' weekend and alumni events. Further, most faculty members who sought me out after losing their dogs found their pets with me. I still pet virtually every dog I met on the street and call him or her a good boy or girl.
I also believe that any form of police brutality against black people should be well publicized. An aspect of this is that I am frustrated that my being an unsympathetic victim hinders any scrutiny of mistreatment of me. I believe that this is why cops (sadly accurately) feel that they can get away with venting their frustration on us "goody two shoes" who do not smoke and rarely drink.
I am fearful of potential reprisals as to sharing my story but believe that it illustrates the scope of the problem. The story is true; the names have been omitted to protect this innocent.
My recent first foray into the real world for a stay that is the subject of an upcoming Inn Credible New England article sadly bore out the truth as to the average cop on the street. The tragic larger truth is that your average boy in blue whose mentality reflects a collar of the same hue abuses his power to assert his personal resentments. As stated above, a related note is that epic fear of retaliation on the streets and in the courts is behind keeping details of my run in with the abusive law purposefully vague. Despite loosened Covid restrictions, I am not going to venture very far from home anytime soon.
In my case, my appearance accurately indicates that, although I am far from a one-percenter, I do not live paycheck-to-paycheck and can afford one or two trips to the outlets a year. My relatively nice clothes, well-groomed appearance, and manner of speaking often get me labelled "fag" despite the other person having no idea where I land along the Kinsey Scale.
The larger "sin" these days is that I have the time to occasionally spend the day shopping while cops and "shop girls" must work in 85-degree heat while enhancing their chances of contracting COVID-19. I am sympathetic regarding this but have done NOTHING to warrant venting their anger at me. I very much am a "please, and thank you" kinda guy who automatically calls any service person of any age sir or madam. Further, friends of my parents are Mr. or Mrs. to me even several years into my adulthood.
The backstory is that I last was in the area where the incident occurred while on an October 2019 Inn Credible New England trip, (One spoiler is that I no longer will shop at that mall for deals that are comparable to bargains that easily are available online).
The horrendous treatment that I received at the hands of the sorority-like staff at a store went to the extent of one statuesque woman COMPLETELY ignoring me as I strained to reach jeans well above my head in an attempt to find my size. She watched as I strained to reach the higher shelves and did my best to fling the jeans back up. I repeatedly apologized for making a mess.
The tall clerk turned a deaf ear both to my comment "man, these shelves are high" and my request for a step ladder. I did not dare ask for help.
For the record, as also is relevant below, I am 5'8" and 160 pounds. I further lack any visible or concealed tattoos or piercings.
The icing on the cake in October was the woman at the register telling me that the discount on the jeans had expired the day before; she recanted that statement when I started walking back to the jeans to get the sign advertising the markdown. My "sin" was being persistent enough that corporate called these employees to task.
I returned early last week and hesitated to go to that store but did not want to be intimidated out of exercising my right to do so; I was not going to buy anything unless I really liked it and they practically were giving it away. I was curious as to if the staff had taken the "coaching " to heart.
I MERELY looked in the store window on arriving at the store and saw that it was closed; there were no posted hours, but I assumed that it was going to open 30 minutes later. I then had a friendly outside conversation with a maintenance man who saw me from the moment that I approached the store until I walked away to go to a nearby Starbucks.
On walking back to the store, I saw a police car pull up and an officer go inside. I assumed that there was an overnight break-in and that the store likely would be open for business while the manager provided the police report. The spoiler this time is that my walking over and sitting on a bench outside the store would have been criminally stupid had I committed the misdemeanor of which I soon was accused.
Within seconds of my sitting down, two additional police cars pulled up. A friend who expressed the universal shock-and-awe that my appearance would cause that level of concern pointed out that devoting three cars of this small-town force to keep me in line FULLY supports the defund the police sentiment. I was wearing shorts that clearly showed that I did not have any form of weapon.
One of the cops immediately asked if I was at the stores last week; I told him that I was not and volunteered that I lived roughly two hours away. I also offered to show him my license. We had a few more rounds of this, and he soon took my license.
This cop then asked me why I was in town. I told him that I was in the area to write an article and had just come to the stores to shop. He then asked when I was last at the stores; I TRUTHFULLY told him that I had been there in October and shared the entire story of that incident as evidence of the animosity by the store employees. That led to the cop repeatedly asking me if I was last at the stores in October, and my responding the same way each time.
By this time, I was on the verge of tears. Despite this additional evidence that I hardly was Al Capone, the cops did not acknowledge this reasonably highly agitated state. I never go up from the bench, never raised my voice, and moved very little. NONE of the cops wore masks.
Another highlight was my saying that I was not the guy they were looking for. One of the cops meanly chuckled and said that I was the guy that they were looking for. I later stated that I would walk away and not go into that store; I added that I would leave the area altogether. The comment that accompanied the mean chuckle that time was "no, you will not be going in" X store.
I then was accused of pounding on the store door, which I had never touched. I remain unsure if I was accused of doing so earlier that morning or the week before. I truthfully told them I had not done so.
I repeatedly asked the officers to find the maintenance man with whom I had spoken. They refused to do so and added that whether I had pounded on the door was irrelevant because the store employees reported that I had done so and had placed them in fear.
The insult that was added to that injury was that the incident that occurred several days ago while I likely was watching DVD episodes of "The Nanny" in my home had prompted the employees to arrange for a stakeout (likely involving lucrative overtime) in case I showed up.
My alleged criminal stupidity this time is that I drove 240 miles round trip two weeks to create mayhem, drove another 240 miles round trip to return to the scene of the crime, and walked right up the store despite seeing the cop enter the store.
In the midst of this, I was issued a criminal trespass order. I should have left the area altogether but really wanted to go to a few stores; I did cut the trip very short.
I saw the police car stationed outside the store more than an hour later out of an apparent belief that I would walk up after all that so that I could experience the joy of being arrested.
Especially while there, I was petrified that the store employees would make another false report that I went back and that I would be arrested. That fear lingers.
The town manager in this community that incredibly relies on happy shoppers has never responded to an e-mail with a detailed account of these events, a voice-mail, or a message from her assistant with whom I spoke.
I did speak to the police chief, who has a disingenuous message on the department website that he is concerned about the conduct of his officers and wants to hear about any misconduct. He shrugged off the possibilities that the officers acted on "bad information" or "misunderstood" what they were told,
This guy charged with keeping the cops in line also told me that my being a "frustrated customer," which I was in October, justified the criminal trespass order and the related treatment by his subordinates. He repeated the refusal to contact the maintenance worker who could verify my story as to that morning.
The chief also stated that he was not concerned about a false police report by the store employees.
The added injury to the injury was stating that a report of violating the order would only lead to my arrest if I was caught in the store or if a security camera captured me outside the store. The chief did not respond when I pointed out that the same camera that provided that proof could show that I had NEVER done anything improper there.
The kicker, which COMPLETELY disregards well-publicized Starbucks incidents involving black people, is the chief asserting that the retail store in his town can get a criminal trespass order issued against anyone for any reason.
I left a voicemail for the CEO of the store chain; I also e-mailed her a detailed account of the incident and my defenses. The corporate response was an e-mail from a loss-prevention employee, who added a claim of my yelling at the store manager and making unreasonable demands on the morning of the run-in with the police. This apparently was in response to the reports by the store employees falling apart. I was told as well that I now am subject to arrest if I go in any store in the chain.
This person soon said that she was going to hang up on me. She refused to reach out to my witness or to ask if there was video surveillance of me on the morning of the run-in with the police.
My criminal stupidity this time would be ensuring an arrest and jail sentence by going anywhere near the store or even the town. I will not even drive through it out of fear of the old broken tail light on the car trick.
The bottom line this time is that this incident adds to the proof that police misconduct is broad and goes unchecked. The sad truth is that the same law-enforcement folks who presumably lament a revolving door for actual criminals enjoy the same benefit when they abuse their discretion.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 drama "Drive Me Home" expands on a common theme in Breaking films. Many of the World Cinema indie flicks in the Breaking catalog are about gay teen boys or post-adolescents reuniting between 10 and 20 years after parting ways in a manner typically involving trauma and drama.
The following Breaking trailer for "Drive" showcases the edgy energy and the stylistic look of the film.
Early scenes center around Sicilian teens Antonio and Agostino dreaming of creating a Utopia (complete with a crocodile-laden moat) on the family farm of the former. Their paradise is lost when Agostino abruptly leaves literally without so much as a ciao to his BFF.
The fast-forward this time is roughly 15 years. Antonio tracks down Agostino in his big rig at a truck stop. Whether Antonio provides some combination of ass, gas, or grass for the subsequent journey (including a night at a bathhouse) remains to be seen.
The pattern of the main part of the film remains largely true to form. The chums catch up, obtain closure, and gain a deeper understanding of the other person. Agostino being able to fully express himself to his friend is a highlight.
Seeing Agostino play a (frequently exasperated) older brother role adds good charm to the film. This additionally verifies that he is the "adult" in the relationship.
The rest of the story is that the motives of Antonio extend beyond wanting to reconnect with arguably the most stable influence in his life. His now-abandoned homestead is about to go on the auction block to pay back taxes, and he is hoping that Agostino will buy the farm. This is akin to high-school boys who jointly run a summer business dreaming of that becoming their vocation.
The joy of this and the rest of "Drive" is that it keeps the realistic twists coming to the end, We further see how everything is connected and that life is a series of comprises.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes and a Sky TV interview with the director and the cast.
The Corinth Films June 23, 2020 DVD release of the 2016 Swiss drama "Dark Fortune" is a perfect inaugural Corinth outing for this site. This compelling movie checks the important boxes of having a live-stage vibe and being one that can be made shot-for-shot and word-for-word in the United States.
Child psychologist Elaine Hess is a Eurocinema stock character in that her devotion to her profession is making her daughters, especially wild child Alice, feel like the barefoot children of a shoemaker.
Our story commences with family drama quickly harshing the mellow of Elaine as to just receiving the published copy of her thesis, which is bursting with symbolism on many levels. The drama escalates on an emergency call requiring that Elaine go to the hospital for a session with young boy Yves; this site will go on record as predicting that talented Yves portrayor Noe Ricklin has a long successful acting career in his future.
The backstory is that Yves is the only member of his immediate family that survives a car crash, His immediate concerns include the welfare of his guinea pigs and who will get custody of him and his pets. Yves reacting badly to his aunt accompanying his grandmother to the hospital is an early sign of there being more than meets the eye.
The powers-that-be soon determine that Yves temporarily living withe Elaine is the best immediate solution. Suffice to say that Alice initially does not react well to Mom bringing her work home with her. A cute subsequent scene that involves the passing on a gift that welcomes the new child into the family shows a thawing of relations. On a less happy note, these events lead to the daughters of Elaine learning awful truths about their birth fathers.
The subsequent drama regarding Yves relates to once again uprooting him and a related triggering of thoughts as to the drama in his life with his parents. This leads to a well-executed climax that provides important exposition both regarding the car accident and the related (no pun intended) family dynamics.
The twofer big pictures this time are that death truly brings out the worst in all of us and that no one knows what goes on in the home of anyone.
The Icarus Films and Distrib Films collaboration as to the June 23, 2020 DVD release of the 2019 French based-on-a-true story drama "The Perfect Nanny" (nee "Chanson deuce") once again proves that Euro cinema far outshines Hollywood (and U.S. indie) fare across the board. This story of a governess with a dark passenger is a high-quality production that likely would have been a Lifetime-caliber movie if made here.
The following trailer for "Nanny" PERFECTLY captures the world-class work by director/writer Lucie Borleteau and the equally strong portrayal of titular caregiver Louise by Karin Viard.
The social commentary alone makes "Nanny" worthy of study in either a sociology or film class. This begins with voice-over narration by mother/attorney Myriam discussing adding infant Adam to her family that includes musician husband Paul and young daughter Mila. Speaking as the once parent of two littermate kittens after losing an "only child" cat, it is easy to understand Myriam feeling overhwhelmed after voluntarily becoming outnumbered. (Challenges includes one "kid" getting wise and hiding after my capturing the other to go to the vet and that same sibling constantly eating both his food and that of his brother.)
The next commentary comes in the form of Paul noting in response to Myriam expressing a desire to return to work that having a nanny would eat up the entire amount that Myriam would earn as a litigator, That is a more of a statement as to the value that yuppie couples place on delegating their childcare responsibilities than it is on the perceived worth of a legal advocate.
The next segment consists of the trope of comically toxic applicants, including a quirky college student, for the caretaker job until perfect candidate Louise shows up. One spoiler is that this is not a case that she is there to sell make-up but the father sees more.
The subtle manner in which Louise (with more than a little help from her friends) subsequently descends into madness is much of what sets "Nanny" apart from a basic-cable movie starring Tracey Gold. This starts out with things such as overreacting to an playground incident and arguing with Myriam as to giving the children yogurt that is past its expiration date. That debate alone is particularly apt in this era in which food is becoming more expensive and harder to find.
The creep factor really sets in when Louise increasingly treats older child Mila in a very adult manner; making up that five year-old in a grotesquely whorish manner is the tip of the iceberg as to that particular practice. Louise passing that off as a harmless game on being confronted amps up the creepiness factor.
That incident and many others introduce commentary in the form of the debate regarding whether to keep a clearly bad (and potentially dangerous) individual on the payroll and realizing that outwardly good help is hard to find. In other words, Paul and Myriam must balance endangering their children with the desire of Mom to feel fulfilled.
The seemingly innocent ways that Paul and Myriam inadvertently push Louise to the inevitable edge include confronting her about an embarrassing legal matter and a last-minute temporary substitution of caregiver. This leads to both disturbing scenes of the home life of Louise and the equivalent of a "boiled bunny" moment at the home of her employer. An amazing aspect of the latter is that even that does not prompt the couple to toss the nanny out on her fanny.
All of this leads to an exceptionally well-executed climax that really shows the chops of both Borleteau and Viard. You WILL avert your eyes.
The fact that "Nanny" is ripped-from-the-headlines shows that the story of Louise is sad but true; the fact that such incidents occur in many countries shows the almost universal aspect of the film. The final piece of this trifecta is that "Nanny" easily can be made line-for-line and shot-for-shot in the U.S.
The Virgil Films DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Maynard" joins the ranks of the numerous documentaries on prominent individuals in the Virgil catalog. Reviews of many of these can be found in the Virgil Films section of this site.
Watching the film shows the political star power of the talking heads and the incredible accomplishments of the subject. The notables who sing the praises of this guy who truly made a difference include Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.
The story of Maynard arguably begins with grandfather John Wesley Dobbs, who was a high-ranking Mason. It also seems that his father, whose profession as a minister increases the impact of a traumatic event, is a strong influence on this first black mayor of Atlanta. This career politician literally being a boy genius who enrolls in college at 14 further helps set him on the road to success.
A common theme among family, friends, colleagues, and admirers is that Maynard does not hesitate to strive for greatness. This includes beginning his political career with a 1968 failed long-shot bid for Senate. We also hear how this goes over at home at a time early in his marriage.
Our story continues with Maynard becoming the Number 1 of the Atlanta mayor but not being a good company man. A subsequent challenge to the boss for the corner office does not do anything to endear our young lion to his employer.
The tenure of Maynard as mayor alone warrants a documentary if not a Hollywood biopic. We learn of the handling of a personality clash with the mayor and a related cheating scandal regarding a police exam. This is not to mention Maynard serving during the mass disappearances and killings of young black boys in his city.
On a more positive note, we see how Maynard leads the effort to expand the airport that now bears his name. Clinton and others discuss how this man uses his trademark tenacity to make this happen.
One of the more amusing stories relates to the means by which Maynard persuades banks to place black people on their boards of directors. This issue truly proves the golden rule within a couple of meanings of that phrase.
Of course, the surface message of "Maynard" is that the subject is a trailblazer. This includes successors discussing the challenges that any Atlanta mayor who cares faces. The deeper lessons are that everyone should be judged based on his or her merits and that JFK is right in extolling folks to do the right thing because it is hard.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 gay-themed drama "Marilyn" joins the long list of docu-dramas that prove that you cannot make up this stuff. A "making-of" DVD special feature fully explains how fact and fiction merge in this tale of a teen boy whose interest in cross-dressing contributes to the woes of his hard-knock life.
The accolades for "Marilyn" include a "Best Feature Film" award at the 2018 Milan International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
The ways in which our titular teen (nee Marcos) is not like the other boys in his rural town begins with his caretaker father Carlos and his older brother doing most of the heavy lifting while Marcos spends much of time inside with his mother and dreams of taking computer classes.
Extremely blatant cattle rustlers already are making the demanding life of Carlos even more challenging when the arguable climax of the film occurs. Marcos fulfills his grandest desire by taking advantage of the anything goes Carnival spirit by having the time of his life attending that event dressed in drag. He obtains his titular nickname courtesy of a song to which he particularly shakes his groove thing.
The party fully ends with a foreshadowed confrontation by a local bully and his gang. Their brutal attack on Marcos is one of seemingly countless cases of boys who like boys being subject to unwarranted hostility, especially in small communities. Another sad aspect of this is that Marcos is relatively resigned to his fate until the pack fully asserts its dominance.
Marcos not returning home until the next morning further strains life back on the ranch, It also arguably sets up a downward spiral that leads to an extended reversal of fortune for the family.
The one bright spot for Marcos is mutual love at first sight regarding new friend with benefits and convenience Federico. Sadly, what should be a reasonable expectation for Marcos regarding the "meet the parents" moment does not go well. The arguable point here is that the timing of Marcos is not great regarding reminding his family about his not-so-embraced sexual orientation fresh off of that being a factor regarding the aforementioned stressful existence.
The final moments of "Marilyn" are very impactful and fully make the real story worthy of a film. It is tragic to see things get to the point that prompts Marcos to act as in the manner that he does, It truly should have been avoidable.
The always special Breaking DVD extra this time is a 30-minute making-of feature. It begins with clips of the film and the thoughts of director Martin Rodriguez Redondo. Redondo discusses how he learns of the story, why he does not tell the story in pure documentary form, and his efforts at authenticity.
We next hear from star Walter Rodriguez. An especially interesting aspect of that casting is Redondo commenting that he almost did not select Rodriguez to play Marcos because that actor gave an animated audition. A compelling aspect of the film is the numerous scenes in which a miserable Marcos and his equally unhappy family simply sit and stare without any expression on their faces.
The strongest endorsement of the film comes from the real Marilyn, who offers a wonderful perspective on the film.
All of this amounts to a well-produced and acted movie that speaks to most audience members either as a coming-of-age story, the tale of a rural gay teen having a very rough life, or a family on a fast ride to rock bottom.
Virgil Films contributes to its growing impressive non-fiction catalog (see "Virgil Films" section of this site) with the DVD release of the 2015 film "The Uncondemned." This documentary about three young Americans who are adequately woke to get involved in prosecuting a rape case in Rwanda adheres to the good documentary model of putting a human face on a larger story to teach viewers much more than we learn in news accounts.
The accolades for "Uncondemned" include a Social Justice award and a separate "Film of Conflict and Resolution" honor at the 2015 Hamptons International Film Festival.
The following YouTube clip of an "Uncondemned" trailer compellingly introduces both the human faces and the larger events.
Primary subject American attorney Pierre-Richard Propser promptly provides proper perspective. He recalls being aware of the genocide and the other atrocities in Rwanda in 1994 but seeing nothing but O.J. coverage on American newscasts. This compels this prosecutor to do a form of Peace Corps service by offering his services to the overwhelmed judicial system that is seeking to put the accuseds on trial for their charged offenses.
We similarly see recent law-school graduate Lisa Pruitt offer her services as an investigator, Her rude awakening in the form of an indication that no good deed goes unpunished fortunately is not the end of the story.
The human faces of the story also include the numerous women who very bravely volunteer to testify at the trial of a mayor who is facing war crime charges for his role in a series of rapes. Witness JJ steals the show for many reasons in addition to beer apparently being the only beverage that she drinks.
The O.J. element re-enters the film in the form of copious footage of the trial of the mayor. We see the same adversarial legal tactics and reversals for both sides that make "The Trial of the Century" so fascinating,
All of this ends with the verdict. The courtroom drama this time is that any outcome is noteworthy. A conviction clearly shows that the new sheriff in town will not let the sins of the recent past go unpunished. A finding of not guilty will show that justice massively has not prevailed.
The recent Film Movement DVD release of the 2019 drama "Temblores" is the perfect Pride Month movie for anyone over the age of 13 who is anywhere along the Kinsey Scale. Writer/director Jayro Bustamante not sugarcoating anything and opting out of a Hollywood ending alone make the film one to watch.
The 13 festival wins for "Temblores" further speak to the quality of this film that IMDb describes as follows. "The coming out of an evangelical father shatters his family, his community and uncovers a profoundly repressive society."
The below Movement trailer for "Temblores" highlights the live-stage vibe of this compelling story about upper-middle class middle-aged Pablo choosing a relationship with working-class Francisco over his life with well-heeled and well-bred wife Isa and their two children.
Our story begins on a highly melodramatic note; a clearly frantic Pablo rushes home and ignores the intervention-style gathering of relatives to lock himself in his bedroom. This, of course, prompts great concern by the assembled group. Many who are familiar with real or reel gay trauma and drama can predict that the cause of death-of-a-beloved level angst relates to a gay issue. Blatant symbolism as to this includes a literal tremor literally threatening to bring down the house as Pablo and his family contend with his new normal.
The resulting bedside confrontations range from heart-felt sympathy to not-so-righteous indignation as to Pablo being a fallen man in this particular sense of that term. The fact that that Pablo remains stricken and distraught without overdoing it is a primary example of Bustamante keeping it real.
The action then shifts to somewhat grungy bar where Francisco simultaneously introduces his new significant other into both his life and "the life." Although Pablo does not seem to have buyer's remorse, it is clear that he is experiencing an especially rude awakening. This relates to the frequent "Temblores" theme of many gay men not having it easy.
All this leads to Isa prohibiting Pablo from having any contact with his children; this coincides with a wolf in sheep's clothing not-so-subtly moving toward filling the Pablo-sized void in the life of Isa; truly no double-entendres are intended.
A relative calm in the middle of the film leads to a rebuilding of drama as the true sexual orientation of Pablo increasingly is seen as an addiction by his family. Intense distress as to all that he has given up prompts our family man to enter conversion therapy that ironically seems as if it would result in even the most straight man in the world to lose all interest in women.
This leads to the aforementioned not-so-happy ending in which Pablo decides the extent to which he will sacrifice the needs of the few to satisfy the needs of the many.
Movement supplements "Temblores" with the short "Black Hat," which is the Film Movement Award winner at the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. This less dramatic look at a family man on the gay end of the Kinsey Scale uses the titular head covering as highly symbolic as a religious item and the public persona of the man. The hat coming off allows him to be more true to himself.
Breaking Glass Pictures awesomely follows the trend of other theatrical and DVD studios regarding the DVD release of the 2018 indie drama "We Are Boats." These best friends to lovers of quality art-house films are further stepping up their game regarding making these hidden gems accessible to the general public.
The following YouTube clip of a "Boats" trailer nicely conveys the surreal earthy of the film and introduces the heavenly cast. It is nice to see charming formerly teen goofball Boo Boo Stewart play a fun and compassionate adult.
Our story begins with working girl Francesca being the victim of a type of harm that can befall members of the oldest profession in the world. This leads to her doing a walk without shame in the afterlife.
Writer/director James Bird of the (reviewed) fantabulous Breaking film "Honeyglue" puts his highly creative artistic talent to good use in making our not necessarily final destination look like Vermont in summer.
The first afterlife lesson that Francesca learns is that the sweet relief of death does not include no longer enduring job interviews. She must go through the selection process for the position of a variation of a guardian angel. We also learn that having a personal horse in the race still can motivate seeking particular employment. In this case, Francesca is desperate for closure with her still-living daughter.
This job entails returning to earth to help guide folks who are near death. One difference between this system and the more traditional one is that a death is not considered a loss. An even more cool aspect is the extent to which the presence of Francessca, who now is akin to a resident cat at a nursing home, is known to us mere mortals.
Francesca begins her first mission immediately on taking her quantum leap of faith back to earth. She very quickly hooks up in both senses of the word with Michael, who is a musician with an "its complicated" relationship with his wife. A more positive aspect of this is that Francesca helps ensure that Michael dies with a smile on his face.
Francesca then boards an LA-bound bus to do her best to prevent the new widow from quickly joining her husband in Vermont. This journey connects her with fatally ill older man Cliff (Graham Greene). He is going to The City of Angels to make peace with his estranged daughter. Cliff also mentioning that he is estranged from his son for philosophical reasons is one of many indications that Bird supplies regarding things to come.
Our LA story begins with Stewart playing aptly named Taylor, who works at the vintage clothing store where the widow brings the duds of her late husband. Taylor also is the partner of a man who performs at anti-meat rallies with a female bartender who is engaged to Lucas. Luke Hemsworth (who is the Stephen, the Clint, or the Frank of the Hemsworth acting clan) plays Lucas.
Lucas coerces a good friend from New York to assist with a plan that is designed to learn whether the bartender is keeping her no-charge dairy open in the days leading to the wedding.
Cliff showing up at the home of his daughter sets most of the action that provides the climax of "Boats" in motion. The ensuing trauma and drama validates the seven degrees of separation theory of life. This is not to mention the traditionally symbolic nature of the means by which those whose time has come move on to the next stage of existence.
Breaking supplements all this with deleted scenes and 30 minutes of cast and crew interviews that show that those folks had as much fun making the film as we did watching it.
The Virgil Films June 9, 2020 DVD release of the 2020 documentary "Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine" truly could not come at a better time. This propaganda for lifestyle medicine offers a way to avoid falling into the clutches of shamelessly greedy medical corporations (I'm talkin' to you Lifespan of Rhode Island) with laughable non-profit status at a time that every measure of national health is collapsing. The film also promotes going vegan at a time that meat-processing plants are disease ridden and the one package of steak that we are allowed to buy costs $15/pound,
The highly personal nature of the topic to narrator/activist Dr. Saray Stancic justifies a brief detour into Blogland to share previously private relevance. Your not-so-humble reviewer has a hereditary disease with a fairly definite expiration date. My highly significant other telling me soon after the diagnosis that only eating vegetables would be beneficial and my replying "yeah, like I'm gonna do that" alone directly speaks to "Code." Coincidentally then eating a bowl of magically delicious Lucky Charms speaks even more directly to the film. On a better note, I have maintained a long-standing habit of using my elliptical machine at full force for one hour a day every other day.
The big picture is that I am adhering to Agnostic Science in that I recognize the possibility that the disease will go away on its own.
Before returning to our regularly scheduled programming, I will add that the aforementioned avarice of Lifespan and its ilk is preventing getting monitoring and related treatment. Lifespan disregarding the coding of a blood test with a roughly $50 out-of-pocket price and conducting a $6,000 test for which it wanted (but did not get) $2,900 out-of-pocket is consistent with my experience with that company. Sadly my insurance company, which gets roughly $550/month directly from me, and my doctor repeatedly have stated that there are no means to prevent Lifespan from doing the same in the future. Sadly, that behemoth corporation essentially is the only game in town in The Ocean State.
Stancic expresses similar outrage by clearly expressing anger regarding the very valid point that doctors are not expected to live in poverty but are obliged to not pursue outrageous fortune at the expense of the quality of care that they provide patients.
The strong advocacy of Stancic for lifestyle medicine stems from an out-of-the-blue (no pun intended) MS diagnosis during the third year of her residency. The not-so-great prognosis begat investigating lifestyle medicine, which begat her activism, which begat "Code."
The early research of Stancic includes reading "The China Study" of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. Campbell appears in "Code" to discuss his analysis of the dietary habits of the people in several Chinese communities. His discussing the average lifespan of the studied population is akin to a '70s-era commercial that attributes the longevity of people in a Russian village to consuming large quantities of yogurt.
Another medical practitioner amusingly tells of a hospital gift shop selling cigarettes and of the heavy consumption of that product by the doctors on staff. Another general hospital tale is of the highly lucrative practice of performing bypass surgery. This relates to the not-so-hidden secret that doctors and hospitals alike amass large fortunes from operating (no pun intended) pill mills and performing assembly-line level medical procedures.
Stancic wraps up "Code" with a charming portrayal of the current crop of medical students that are embracing lifestyle medicine. This includes some future physicians taking a course in healthy cooking and a youthfully exuberant student sharing plans to pursue a career of teaching lifestyle medicine. Time will tell if all this idealism survives the burden of long hours in internships and residencies, as well as the lure of the numerous shiny toys that having M.D. after your name provides a chance to buy.
The bottom line this time is that Stancic shows how placing the wants of the few over the needs of the many are putting many of us in premature graves. She seriously is invited to reach out to me if she thinks that she can help.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement expands a recent Eurocentric pattern that largely consists of vintage films from Ealing Studios and/or Alistair Sim, which are reviewed in the Film Movement section of this site, to separately release the French tragromcomdram "Serie Noire" on DVD and Blu-ray on April 14, 2020. Adding "Serie" to the incredibly broad Movement catalog provides a chance to see why Time Out considers it one of the 100 best French films of all time.
The '70stastic realistic grittiness of "Serie" looks especially good in the remastered Blu-ray edition right from the opening scenes of middle-aged door-to-door salesman Franck Poupart releasing his frustration before going to the seedy house of "la tante" in search of handyman/boxer Tikides, who is behind in his payment on a suit. This soon leads to Auntie bargaining with Franck to give her a quilted robe in exchange for a tryst with her niece Mona. It is clear that this is the not the first time that Aunty has engaged in this form of bartering.
The next scene in which Mona is resigned to taking one for the team but Franck is protecting the virtue of both his new friend and himself is one of the best in the film. It also is the start of a not-so-beautiful friendship between these two persons who are slaves in their own ways.
The additional desperate times that lead to the "Strangers On a Train"/"Throw Momma From the Train" style desperate measures revolve around Franck's wife Jeanne amping up her crazy and his boss Staplin taking a very hard line on learning that Franck has been skimming from the top,
This is not to mention things turning equally personal and violent as to Tikides.
The aforementioned plot revolves around Franck essentially using one stone for a murder of crows; this wicked deed largely goes off as planned but leads to wonderfully darkly comic fallout that involves all concerned.
The first awesome message of "Serie" is that you should never have an amateur do a job that requires a professional; a related message is that the boss always acts in his or her own best interest and never truly is the friend of an employee.
The home-video extras are the featurettes "Serie Noire, The Darkness of the Soul" and an interview with director Alain Cormeau and star Marie Trintignant (Moma). Classics also includes an always insightful written essay on the film du jour.
The CBS Home Entertainment June 2, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek Short Treks" lets non-subscribers of CBS All Access enjoy these these charming streamisodes of "Star Trek: Discovery." Each of the 9 shorts allows characters great and small a chance to shine. A glaring omission is Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, whom everyone's favorite rent-boy Anthony Rapp seems born to play.
The icing on the cake is the truly special features, which include "making-of" bonuses, with which CBS pairs each short.
All Access awesomely does some of the heavy lifting for this post; it perfectly describes this series as follows. "'Star Trek: Short Treks' are approximately 10-15 minute stand-alone short stories that allow fans to dive deeper into the key themes and characters that fit into Star Trek: Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."
The following 2019 ComicCon trailer for "Treks" expertly conveys the strong production values and great underlying humor of these films.
The earlier shorts, which begin with quirky Ensign Tilly in an equally odd story, have strong merits that fully reflect the "Trek" spirit. However, the later ones that jump ship and move to the Enterprise are personal faves.
A favorite among this group is the fantabulous "The Trouble With Edward." Former Enterprise science officer Lynne Lucero is the new captain of a science ship when mad scientist in the truest sense of that term Edward Larkim (H. Jon Benjamin of "Bob's Burgers" and "Archer" fame) commences the trouble with tribbles. The morals this time are that you should not mess with Mother Nature and that over population can be a deadly problem.
Larkin easily has the best of countless memorable moments when he cops an epic "not my problem" 'tude despite being the architect of the threat.
"Q&A" awesomely has Ethan Peck (Spock) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) pair up as the latter greets the former on his arrival on the Enterprise to commence his service on that vessel. The best is soon to come when the "Treks" writers resort to the old "stuck together in an elevator" trope. Suffice it it to say that emotions do run high.
"Ask Not" is another very strong outing; this one features Captain Pike mercilessly testing an enterprising wannabe. It fully shows how it is determined if someone has the right stuff to serve on that crew.
The bigger picture this time is that "Treks" allows Trekkers, Trekkies, and the unenlightened alike a solid two-hours (plus extras) of stories that each are worthy of full-length episodes.
Breaking Glass Pictures amusingly is a good buddy to film reviewers regarding the DVD release of the 2018 Argentinian gayish-themed coming-of-age film "My Best Friend." Writing about movies that hold your interest and that include proper portions of humor and drama is a nice contrast to sometimes literally losing sleep over how to state something nice regarding films that you would not feed to a dog.
The big picture (pun intended) about this film by Martin Deus is that it follows the pattern of a correlation between the amount of nudity and other sexual content and the quality of the film. The most prurient element in "Friend" is brief full rear and very partial frontal nudity in a high-school locker room.
The more narrow perspective is that "Friend" (and the similar (reviewed) "Speed Walking") indicate that Breaking is softening its awesome edge as it enters its mature stage. A negative aspect of this development is that these films and others like them may give gay teen boys false hopes about getting in both the hearts and the pants of their best friend. A related element is that lovers of the full spectrum of indie fare from Breaking hope that any embarrassment of riches does not deprive of us the good, the lewd, and the brutally honest that characterizes many films from that distributor.
The two wins for performances and additional awards for "Best Narrative" and "Best Screenplay" at the 2018 OUT at the Movies Int'l LGBT Film Fest perfectly reflect what makes "Friend" special. The following YouTube clip of a trailer for the film validates those honors.
Our central character is everyteen Lorenzo, who is living a comfortable middle-class life with his loving parents and his adorable little brother Lucas. Lorenzo also is well-liked by both girls and boys and gets to hit it and quit it with the female object of his affection.
Trouble comes a knockin' when Lorenzo arrives home one afternoon to find Caito waiting outside with an expectation of a long visit. The rest of the story is that the father of Caito is a former football (my people call it soccer) star/ex-con, who is a childhood friend of the father of Lorenzo. This presumed defensive midfielder had called a few days earlier to ask if Caito could stay with the other family for a while because the step-brother of Caito was recovering from a bad motorcycle accident. This conversation did not seal the deal regarding Caito essentially becoming a foster child.
Lorenzo and the 'rents accept the situation and have Caito literally bunk with Lucas, who is surprisingly chill regarding the matter. This response also includes asking Lorenzo to subtly keep an eye on his new bro. Said dude not taking long to show that he is a bad seed prompts more surprising understated reactions regarding this development.
The rest of this story is that Lorenzo is quiet and studious; Caito is a tattooed relatively tough and sullen guy who is into sports. The boys connecting over a few common interests supports the theory that opposites attract.
A bonding scene that involves literal pillow talk creates high expectations for at least 10-percent of the male viewers; another tender scene creates ambiguity regarding whether Caito is demonstrating mercy or is playing for the same team as Lorenzo. These moments and others like them provide good context for the behavior of Caito.
Another memorable scene is between Lorenzo and his mother; she puts most other reel (and real) moms to shame in gently inviting her son to come out the closet if he is in it. This awesomeness includes respecting his wishes and not pushing the matter. This conversation further is contrary to the theory that every gay man has "a mother."
The most cute moment comes via the 'rents essentially telling Lorenzo that they are going to get rid of the bad puppy, whose misdeeds include running feral, unless Lorenzo agrees to take more responsibility for this pet. Watching the younger and smaller boy assume control over the willing older and larger guy is very amusing.
This warm-and-fuzzy film with an edge stays true to the spirit of the movie by ending with a whimper (and perhaps a bang) after a final round of trauma and drama. Mainstream Hollywood may not have presented the ending, but everyone at least is a little older and wiser.
Breaking further outdoes itself regarding the extras of which it always is proud. The highlight is the 24-minute Deus film "The Prisoner." This tale of high school boys slightly notches up the homoerotic meter from "Friend."
"Prisoner" begins with two boy scouts waking up with a pup tent. One of the lads, who is breaking his back, consistently calling his mountain companion "Sir" seems to be insincere until we soon learn that the expression of military-style protocol is genuine.
The action picks up on the boys finding a nearly naked younger guy tied up and leashed. This newcomer (no pun intended) literally plays for the other team in that he is on the side of two groups that are playing war games.
The pair becomes a trio as the new captors bring their prisoner along with them. This leads to additional adventures that relate both to trust and to the Stockholm Syndrome. An apparent betrayal of that trust concludes with scenes that show that boys will be boys.
Breaking also includes interview with Deus and his cast; a "Behind the Music" extra pays homage to the great soundtrack of "Friend."
Expert purveyors of thought-provoking documentaries Icarus Films and Bullfrog Films continue their long-standing beautiful friendship with the April 21, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 non-fiction movie "The Sequel." This one is a study of the life of futurist David Fleming. The Fleming opus "Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It" is sadly relevant in this era in which it seems that COVID-19 ain't ever goin' nowhere.
The message of "Sequel" is similar to (reviewed) fellow recent Icraus Film "System Error." "Error" both studies capitalism and provides reason to think that the good run for that model is reaching its end.
Like all good documentaries, "Sequel" stars strong; crystal-clear images of earth from space soon lead to a group of students in an Ewok-caliber forest (sans redwoods) getting an awesome ecology lesson. A measuring tape is used to represent the history of the earth from its beginnings to the present; major events get a 25-words-or-less explanation, and our highly industrialized society is seen at the end of the tape (i.e., rope).
We next hear from friends, colleagues, and devotees of textbook academic Fleming. The Great Man himself also enlightens us about the entertaining story that leads to the writing of "Logic." There is no doubt that Fleming pours his heart into that tome.
The basic idea is that we need a sea change in an effort to stop the polar ice caps from flooding us and/or to prevent another plague-level disaster from making humans either extinct or an endangered species. Another way of stating this is it is the end of the world as we know it, and it is up to us as to whether we feel fine.
A segment on the failure of Greece to rebound from its massive economic downfall is a particularly impactful example. The images of modern-day poverty and the dismal statistics as to the lack of wealth of the nature seem to be what will soon be the case in America.
The bottom line is that modern events show that the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject is right; whether we heed is message may well be a matter of life or death.
The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2017 Mexican drama "Seeds" (nee "Cuernavaca") shows both that everything is relative and that relatable growing pains can be traumatic. The accolades for this Dickensian coming-of-age tale include the Best International Feature Award at the 2018 Borderlands Film Festival and three honors at the 2018 Films Infest.
The following YouTube clip of a "Seeds" trailer provides a sense of the angst of central character Andy; the glimpse of the wonderful cinematography reinforces the hope of a future Releasing Blu-ray of the film.
Tween Andy is a Dickens stereotype in that he is small, quiet, pale, and classically blond. Sadly, nothing about him even early in the film supports the theory that people with that hair color have more fun.
Andy literally is clinging to a connection with his absent father in the opening scenes; his early interaction with his essentially single mother is very reminiscent of the parent-child relationship in "The Sixth Sense." This is down to Mom picking up a despondent Andy after a typically depressing day at school.
Rare mutual joy in the lives of Andy and his mother is short lived. Their grand afternoon out is continuing with ice cream when a "sliding doors" moment leads to Mom, rather than Andy, becoming the victim of a violent crime. This contributes to especially strong survivor's guilt.
The Dickens vibe initially picks up on the authorities being unable to locate the father of Andy to care for him during the hospitalization of his mother. This leads to the boy travelling to the titular rural suburb for a temporary relocation to the guava orchard of his firm but fair (functioning alcoholic) grandmother Carmen. The DVD liner notes state that Carmen portrayor Carmen Maura has a history of collaborating with Pedro Almodovar.
The eccentric members of the household include an aunt with Down's Syndrome, who provides a herd of cats with unnecessary ongoing medical care. There also is young fieldworker/kitchen helper Esmeralda, who essentially is child labor.
The guava of the eye of Andy is teen gardener Charley. Part of the artistry of "Seeds" is ambiguity regarding whether the younger boy sees the older one as a cool guy, a brother figure, a substitute father, or an object of carnal affection. Similarly, the feelings of Charley toward the boy are not very clear for much of the film.
One clear aspect of the Andy/Charley relationship is the latter taking advantage of the other. The boy being relatively wealthy, lonely, smitten, and otherwise vulnerable paves the way for Charley to con him. The aforementioned susceptibility to being taken includes Andy being desperate to reach his father to rescue him from his unfortunate circumstances. This includes the very Dickensian threat of boarding school.
Charley also provides context for the form of class divide that is common in Mexico and not unheard of El Norte. His modest home in his working-class neighborhood is just beyond a symbolic gate in an equally symbolic wall on the estate of Carmen. Further, Carmen heads an unofficial group of "respectable" members of the community that is seeking to run Charley and his kind out of town.
Twin drama ensues as Charley persuades Andy to fully betray his grandmother at a time that the prodigal son at least is back for a short visit. The two lessons here are to not invite the beast into the parlor and that a leopard never changes his spots.
The impact of all this on caring and trusting Andy is adequately heartbreaking to set "Seeds' apart from more cookie-cutter coming-of-age stories. Those films typically have the boy with at least strong gay tendencies end up with the right person and come out the other end of a traumatic experience wiser but not permanently sadder.
The first difference here is the nature and nurture combine to make Andy much more delicate than the typical emo twink boy next door who is starting to look at either his childhood friend or the new guy in school in "that way." Our lead seems destined either to spend his teen years locked in his room reading or shooting up the cafeteria at lunchtime. Either way, you cannot help feeling very sorry for him and hoping for the best.
'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band' Blu-ray, DVD, Digital: One More Waltz for Epitome of Folk Rockers
The star power in front of and behind the camera as to the 2019 documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" is enough to make the Magnolia Pictures May 26, 2020 Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital releases of this tribute to that quintet must-see for the broad demographic to which it appeals. The underlying blockbuster-worthy tale seals the deal.
The aforementioned behind-the-scenes talent includes executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and long-time Howard production partner Brian Grazer. Director Daniel Roher gives PBS darling Ken Burns ample reason to look over his shoulder.
The titular frontman is the tip of the iceberg as to the Hall of Fame musicians who make up the talking heads (sans David Byrne) in the film. We hear quite a bit from former "Band" member Eric Clapton, former frontman for the titular band of brothers Bob Dylan, and devoted fans Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.
The festival love that verifies that "Robertson" gets its material down pat includes a 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Best of the Fest award for Roher. The 2019 Whistler Film Festival expresses its regard via a World Documentary Award win.
The following compelling trailer for "Robertson" highlights the charm and insight of Robertson, who narrates the film. We also get plenty of PG stories of sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll that are de rigueur for any group of musicians.
Robertson awesomely starts his tale as a Toronto teen in the '50s; this early tales remind us that the adolescents of the Great White North are just the same as the kids living south of their border.
The "When It Began" (apologies to disgruntled father-in-law Dylan) tale continues with Robertson sharing how he and future fellow "Band" mate Levon Helm come to join the Hawkmen of Canadian idol Ronnie Hawkins. The admiration that Hawkins expresses for Robertson in the documentary is one of many examples of a mutual admiration society in this feel-good film in an pandemic era.
The "its complicated" nature of the relationship between Robertson and Helm drives much of the film; Team Scorsese chooses wisely in initially depicting Helm as an infectiously enthusiastic lad and going on to show how he succumbs to the Bieber Syndrome that seemingly infects every Disney Channel star.
The Dylan connection also makes for good entertainment; we see how domestic and foreign audiences react to that rock god putting Team Robertson on the payroll; the course of that relationship is another aspect that screams for Howard to make a big-budget biopic about Robertson.
We further learn of the history behind Scorsese adopting this project; a segment in "Robertson" focuses on the "Band" 1976 concert film "The Last Waltz," which turns out to be a swan song for that group, that Scorsese films. A memory of Clapton as to that event further proves that Robertson is a guy with whom one would enjoy sharing a Molson.
The big picture this time is that films like "Robertson" strive for the same goal as this site; namely, to keep American pop culture alive for as long as possible. We are very lucky to be able to hear from this guitar hero. He was there at the beginning, successfully kept up with the times as they were a changin', and is still around to coherently tell his tale. This sadly literally makes him part of a rapidly dying breed.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]
Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project."
Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.
The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE.
The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.
The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.
Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm.
Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see."
A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.
An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real.
Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.
The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler.
The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her.
The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.
America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.
"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks.
The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker.
The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey.
MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels.
The Icarus Films April 28, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 Florian Optiz documentary "System Error" provides an inadvertently timely look at the limits of capitalism at a time that a majority of Americans either have massive income insecurity or are on the verge of doing so. The most inadvertently amusing segment features massively failed White House Director of Communications Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci. One of the best things about the movie is that achieves the genre ideal of being equally entertaining and educational.
This film, which features numerous intertitles of quotes from Karl Marx, has talking heads from several countries weigh on whether the growth potential for capitalism is infinite. One of the most effective topics is the wide-scale development of the Rain Forest; a soybean producer who is doing more than his share to force monkeys out of their habitats is the ideal face for this.
One spoiler is that the film shows us that nothing is unlimited; a good example of this is the Flash Crash and the markets since that time.
The bottom line this time is that bad times traditionally do lead to good times, but all parties must end.
A recent NPR interview with a once (and future?) road warrior who is lamenting her job no longer requiring staying at hotels several nights a week hit home on many levels. These include once having a job that involved flying out every Sunday and returning home on Wednesday.
The NPR interviewee discussing the joy of sleeping in fresh and crisp hotel sheets is highly relatable as to years of personal and professional travel. One thing that she does not mention is the disadvantage of staying at cookie-cutter hotels, which presumably are her places of choice.
Consistency can be comforting, but much of the fun of travel is getting a sense of local culture; during my travel-laden work, I often would wake up in a room that could be in any city. Remembering where I was required thinking for a few minutes.
This hit home especially hard on these thoughts evoking memories of staying at the historic Lackawana Station Hotel in Pennsylvania on one job assignment. A Google search revealing that that hotel now is a Radisson with cookie-cutter rooms evoked an exclamation that is unfit for this family-friendly forum.
The broad context regarding this is face of hotel stays in this period in which we are being freed from our cages after being locked up for three months. The more narrow focus is on how an upcoming Inn Credible New England stay at the Martin Hill Inn in Portsmouth, NH perfectly reflects both this and the long-standing Inn Credible philosophy.
A post-trip article on Martin Hill will focus on the general advantages of this highly personalized small B&B over the cookie-cutter hotels in Portsmouth. The primary thesis du jour is how these boutique properties are a much safer bet on every level than larger places, A secondary theme is why the real-life Dick and Joanna Loudons who (often) literally shed blood, sweat, and tears in literally opening up their homes to us deserve our support in these unprecedented times.
At the outset, I trust the Mom and Pop who have their lives invested in their businesses to do a much more thorough cleaning than an underpaid hotel maid, who already is under undue pressure to clean a large number of rooms before Silkwood showering an accommodation became so critical.
The COVID-19 guide that Russ the Martin Hill innkeeper included with my reservation detailed the extensive pre-check-in cleaning procedure that exceeds state guidelines. These include having at least a 48-hour gap between occupancies and having an air purifier running that entire time. Further, the brass doorknobs throughout this 19th-century building will be polished within an inch of their lives.
Forgoing beloved turndown service will be a small price to pay for further assurance that I will not be hocking up a lung a week later. Having a custom-made breakfast delivered outside my room each morning, rather than making sure that I am presentable and engaging in the dining room, is fine by me.
Not having the room cleaned during my stay is not a big deal and alleviates self-induced pressure to vacate fairly early each morning for a few hours to allow time for that straightening up. This also allows me to leave my personal-care items on the bathroom shelf after I wash up, Fresh towels and other needed replenishments to be left outside the door are only a call or a text away.
Staying in the Noonday Suite in the guest house will provide the dual benefits of being in the smaller of the two buildings and of having a private entrance. A separate sitting area always is nice; current circumstances leading to spending an above-average time in the room when traveling even more of a priority.
Supporting local business already should be a priority; innkeepers who have so much invested in their places and inevitably have shoulder and dead seasons particularly deserve consideration. Their inventory is much more fixed than that of retail locations, and they lack the ability to have a steady (but lessened) stream of foot traffic.
Further, the business location that they are trying to keep going often is their home. They lack the luxury of merely closing up shop or moving to another location. A related factor is that they typically are precluded from much of the federal support for businesses because they often at most have one part-time employee.
The final note regarding this is that the same person who feels smug about opting for small shops over big-box stores and other chains should feel ashamed about choosing a cookie-cutter hotel over a B&B. A full-service on-property restaurant, the latest-and-greatest smart television (complete with camera recording your every move) with 100 channels, and charging stations are not necessities. Additionally, there is not much joy greater than opening the door to a personalized room that makes you feel at home while still providing you crisp clean sheets.