A recent disappointing experience at an inn that shall remain shameless has stirred longstanding thoughts about an article designed to avoid pitfalls regarding B&Bs and other small properties. Thoughts regarding how to present this led to fond memories of the (reviewed) Rabbit Hill Inn in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The busy bunnies there do it right; the contrast in accolades and associations between that terrific place and the more recent destination demonstrates the difference that this makes.
A brief background that helps explain the love for the Rabbit Hill Inn is that the first stay predates Unreal TV 1.0 and 2.0. The then significant other of your future not-so-humble reviewer was looking for a place to celebrate a milestone birthday of the latter. Knowing that I love animals prompted paying particular attention to the Rabbit Hill. The sharing of that find prompting an exclamation of "BUNNY!" sealed the deal.
The Rabbit Hill remained a fond memory until history repeated itself in the form of the current more highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer looking for a place for a do-over celebration of an even bigger milestone birthday at an even larger train wreck of an inn than the recent lodging establishment. As the aforementioned article discusses, resident innkeepers Brian and Leslie Mulchay more than made up for the epic fail at the aforementioned clip joint.
The most important aspect of picking an inn relates to the primary rule when literally or figuratively playing the home version of the game show "Jeopardy!." Always trust your first instinct.
When first contacting an inn, either not hearing back for several days and/or reaching an unfriendly person is a very bad sign that typically warrants looking elsewhere. This is even more true if the representative does not answer questions about the inn, the room. or the general area. However, the demanding nature of the industry makes a polite request to hold or to otherwise wait very valid.
Similarly, having your spidey sense tingle at any preliminary stage of a stay calls for taking all practical steps to find alternative lodging. It seems that just as many negative Trip Advisor reviews include the phrase "we decided to stay anyway" as do letters in another publication begin with "I never thought that this would happen to me ..."
Speaking of Trip Advisor ...
Trip Advisor and similar review sites have value but should not be taken as the gospel truth. In fairness to inns, some guests use these forums to grind unwarranted axes.
In fairness to guests, many inns manipulate these reviews. This requires taking positive and negative reviews alike with a grain of salt. However, properties such as the Rabbit Hill Inn that have more than 1,000 glowing reviews and very few even neutral ones usually are a safe bet.
The biggest problem is that less reputable inns coerce guests into removing negative reviews. The corporate owner (more on this below) of the train wreck whose name I dare not speak actually sent lengthy correspondence via certified mail thinly threatening legal action and more dire consequences regarding a subsequently deleted review, which was honest and provided specific examples. A bizarre aspect of this was wrath related to the review noting that this establishment (with meeting rooms and a business center) that advertised itself as a historic property seemed more like a conference hotel than a cozy retreat.
Trip Advisor will respond to reports of such coercion, but that sadly can enhance the claim of a property owner that negative comments are actionable.
On the other side of the coin, properties can unduly encourage positive reviews. The Rabbit Hill Inn and other gems invite guests to write online reviews; lesser places such as the recent not-so-grand hotel reward guests for these postings.
I confess that an offer of points in a loyalty program for the recent property prompted a pre-trip Trip Advisor review that reflected then-positive thoughts but that I slightly embellished to maintain a good relationship with that inn.
On a more general level, it is advised (pun intended) to look for patterns Most negative reviews mentioning the same flaws likely have credibility but should be weighed against your own priorities and travel experiences. Many B&Bs get slammed online for not having televisions and coffee makers in the rooms. Folks seeking such amenities likely will prefer a more cookie-cutter hotel.
At the same time, positive reviews that are posted soon after a negative one and mirror the criticism in the prior post have little credibility.
A personal anecdote regarding mirroring relates to staying at a place that was much more boarding house than upscale inn. I gave the property a negative review based on specified flaws; a five-star review praised the EXACT same elements. For example, my commenting about the only hanging space being two 50s-era cloakroom style hooks on the wall was praised as providing a historic touch.
An innkeeper responding to negative reviews is another good sign; such replies being personalized and appropriately apologetic is another good sign. Clearly rote language such as merely stating "we are disappointed that you did not enjoy your stay; please give us another try" is not a terrific sign.
The WORST response is attacking the guest. Even being the most obnoxious individual alive, requesting the impossible, and leaving the room in a state that looks as if a heavy metal band spent a week there does not warrant expressing that in a reply to a review.
The same humor related to a Fortune 100 corporation owning a subsidiary that makes what are marketed as home-style baked goods applies in a less amusing manner to the very personal art of running an inn.
On a positive note, the Mulchays do it right by living on the property and being available from before sunup to well after sundown. They further have an always well-qualified assistant innkeeper, chef, and copious support staff to free them up to be charming and to step in the very rare case in which something goes awry and the even more unlikely situation in which a staff member cannot handle it.
On a negative note, corporate ownership of an inn has rarely worked in my experience; even an absentee owner often does not make for a good stay. An owner typically is the only one with a strong interest in the property and the authority to make a necessary change. The exception is having an onsite manager who either grows up in a hotel-management environment or has a natural talent for his or her job.
The personal account this time relates to carefully selecting a room at a B & B but being assigned less desirable lodgings. Trying to be a good sport resulted in a sleepless first night and a request to move the second night; this also showed the benefit of bringing a printed copy of a reservation when booking an individualized room at an inn.
The resident owner initially denied the request to move but apologized and allowed it after his own records confirmed the error. It almost is certain that a manager would have denied the request and that even a non-resident owner (who almost always is in the game solely for the profit and refuses to take a role in running the place) would have ignored feedback regarding the matter.
The aforementioned individualized nature of rooms at most inns makes selecting the room that suits your needs very important. Having been in every room at the Rabbit Hill allows qualifying this statement with the comment that there is not a bad one in the hutch.
A related aspect of this is conducting a cost-benefit analysis; a no-brainer is spending another $25/night to avoid sharing a bathroom with one or more complete strangers. More thought is required regarding paying a slight premium if it makes a difference between spending your special weekend away in a shabby broom closet and having a better experience in a cozy but well-appointed room.
A related hint is that a great bargain through an online site is very risky. This increases the odds of getting the worst room in the joint. The anecdote this time is literally needing to hop on the bed at the aforementioned train wreck to allow the other person to get out the door.
Another aspect of this is that size hugely matters when the inn tries to rob Peter to pay Paul. One negative aspect of the recent stay was the bait-and-switch related to the inn keeping the door open to a gorgeous well-decorated room with a spacious and gleaming bathroom and our room likely being less nice than it was when the inn was a boarding house.
Conversely, a stay in what probably once was a broom closet at the Washington-Jefferson Hotel in Hell's Kitchen still was great. The single bed was very comfortable and had indescribably good linens and pillows; further the bathroom (which was larger than the bedroom) was just as luxurious as the facilities in many visited five-star hotels. I knew that I was getting a cozy accommodation, but the otherwise wow factor of the room more than compensated for the only drawer space being under the bed and having to store my suitcase on top of the smallish armoire.
Most of the above brings us to an aptly "TV Land" analogy regarding the ideal inn. The '90s sitcom "Newhart" about transplanted New Yorkers Dick and Joanna Louden moving to a beautiful but quirky Vermont town to run a B & B provides an idealized image of such establishments sans the lazy maid and scary woodsman brothers who drop by every day. The Rabbit Hill and its ilk greatly outshine this "How-to" author and his sweater-loving trophy wife.
The August 14, 2018 DVD release "Muppet Babies: Time to Play" provides a good chance to check out the adorable Disney Junior reboot of a genuine pop-culture phenomenon. The original 1984 8-season series is the first of many shows, which include "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" and "Flintstone Kids," that shave years off of popular characters. The hilarious "Community" parody of this concept is one of many examples of the success of this theme,
The bigger picture is that "Play" is further proof that Disney cable channels offer fare for all ages. This release comes on the heels of a reviewed DVD of the very bright series with a literal strong Latin beat "Elena of Avalor." Other recent Disney releases include the latest (also reviewed) set of episodes of the Disney XD reboot of "DuckTales" and the first set of the personal fave Junior series "Puppy Dog Pals" that centers around incredibly cute pug siblings going on missions. A "Pals" "Babies" crossover would be beyond awesome.
The following YouTube video of the opening credits of "Babies" illustrates (pun intended) the updated CGI look of the series. It also introduces the emphasis on using your imagination that is a central theme.
The core group that returns consists of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo the Great, and Animal. Summer the penguin literally and figuratively joins the band. Group caregiver Nanny is now Miss Nanny; she still only is seen from the baby perspective of the waist down.
Each half-hour episode consists of two or three adventures. Things typically start out with either Nanny initiating an activity that triggers a fantastic voyage of the mind or a mishap among the kids prompting the adventure du jour. Either way, viewers can count on a clever escapade and a rockin' music video. A song that be considered Muppet Beach Party is particularly fun.
The first outing in "Play" has Miss Nanny actually going into the closet triggering the muppets going in after her. The issue related to this quest is being afraid of the dark. The dual messages are that that phobia is valid and that the dark is nothing to fear.
A rather bizarre element in another outing has Miss Nanny planning to show her charges what clearly is the Olympics; she refers to the event as the Sport-a-thon for an apparent but unknown legal reason. The modern problem of the Internet going out leads to the gang staging their own games. The lesson this time is the importance of being a good loser. One spoiler that is refreshing in 2018 is that Miss Nanny does not issue participant awards.
A cute outing from the perspective of one with a childhood friend named Peter Potato has Gonzo bonding with an inanimate root vegetable. This one begins with hilarious sequences that show that the potato is not very good at games. This leads to Gonzo getting upset when his new buddy is ostracized. The lesson this time is of inclusion.
The copious special features begin with 10 Show=and-Tell shorts that likely are filler on Junior. The theme is one or two of our friends discussing show-and-tell presentations. We also get six music videos from the episodes in the set.
One of the best overall things about the new "Babies" is the same as the Disney approach to the "Star Wars" franchise. The new productions staying true to the source material helps make watching with the kids fun for the adults.
One general takeaway from the Icarus Films August 14, 2018 DVD of the 2014 docudrama "Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart" is that it shows that lesser filmmakers should be careful when telling reviewers to go ahead and try if they think that they can do better. In this case, former Cahhiers du Cinema critic Cedric Anger shows that those of us who watch and analyze more than 300 movies every year know of which we write. A side note is that Anger is a very apt surname for a film critic.
Anger management by the writer/director of "Heart" begins with the ripped-from-the-history-books story of actual gendarme/serial killer Alain Lamere, whose killing spree keeps him busy during the winter of 1978-79. The name has been changed to Frank Neuhart in absolutely no effort to protect the not-so-innocent.
The following YouTube clip of the "Heart" trailer perfectly conveys the drama of the film and the stone-cold nature of the killer.
The opening scenes of "Heart" establish the modus operendi of our excitable boy. Two teen girls are headed out on their Vespas for a night on the town not knowing that Neuhart is stalking them. He runs one off the road before shockingly and brutally attacking the other and then goes back for a second bite of the apple. The title of the film relates to his choice of her body part to shoot,
The next big shock occurs when Neuhart returns home, strips down, follows a bizarre rite, and then dons his gendarme uniform. Thus begins the most creepy aspect of the film in the form of watching Neuhart being a major player in the investigation of those killings and the subsequent murders.
A personal experience with a psychotically scary creepy respondent to a roommate ad being the same guy as someone presenting himself as very normal and once even denying being the other dude shows that Lamere/Neuhart has cousins out there. But for the brains of Nelson, the psycho would have had his address and done God knows what. But for the compassion of Nelson, this guy would have ended up with a roommate who would have put him on the receiving ends of the acts in which he desired to engage with your not-so-humble reviewer. The rest of the story is that local gendarmes scared this nutcase far away from Nelson.
An element of "Heart" that would be amusing in lesser hands but is chilling under Anger is the Superman aspect of the investigation, Neither victim, nor witnesses, nor fellow officers recognize Neuhart as the killer even when he is holding a very accurate police-artist sketch of the killer. One spoiler is that Neuhart does not bother putting on glasses in an attempt to conceal his identity.
Old-fashioned thinking even by '70s standards is almost as disturbing, Neuhart making a rookie mistake that prompts his "superiors" to suspect that one of their own is the killer illogically prompts focusing the investigation on the gay community.
The investigation taking that left turn is a meta reflection of an issue that early gay-rights organizations raise. These activists protest that films only depict homosexual men as limp-wristed sissies and/or vicious murderers. An interesting aspect of this is that Anger indicates that Neuhart is closer to the middle range of the Kinsey Scale than that not-so-macho man realizes.,
Other forms of l;aw-enforcement negligence include not seeing literally what is under their noses as Neuhart increasingly should be a prime suspect. This includes virtually catching him in the act and revealing his subterfuge.
A more fascinating aspect is that manner in which Neuhart suppresses his dark passenger while he goes through the motions of doing his job. It shows the extent to which people with severe mental issues literally can get away with murder.
The big picture this time is that "Heart" proves both that truth often is stranger than fiction and that a good story and talented actors can draw an audience into a film without giving them copious nudity and/or bloodshed. As mentioned above, the background of Anger teaches him that less can be more.
'OzLand' Blu-ray: Remastered Hi Def Version of Tale of Post-Apocalyptic Drifters Brings Film Over the Rainbow
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following review on the new Blu-ray release of this film is an updated version of the DVD and VOD releases.
A spectacular element of the Shendopen Films production "OzLand" is that the obsession that a central character develops on finding The Wonderful World of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum is comparable to the response that most people will experience on watching this film by producer/director/writer/cinematographer/prop artist Michael Williams. Folks already familiar with the (reviewed) Williams joint "The Atoning" will understand this enthusiasm; Williams being kind and gracious in real life is a bonus.
One person wearing so many hats in a production usually warrants jokes regarding whether they also build the sets, provide craft services, and clad the actor in their personal clothes. However, the 27 year-old Williams performs every function well and likely could have stepped in the role of drifter Emri.
Williams provide another treat in the form of the (separately sold) soundtrack of the country music in the film; these songs achieve the ideal of subtly helping set the mood. They sound particularly good in the Blu-ray version, which gives composer Keatzi Gunomney his well-deserved due in the copious special features.
The numerous festival accolades, including the Best Feature and Best Cinematography honors at the 2015 Magnolia Independent Film Festival, validates the high praise in this review. The must-see-to-believe Blu-ray version aptly highlights the cinematography. One scene in which Emri and younger and innocent Leif rest among debris includes orange rubble that is brighter than the most toxic version of Sun Kist soda is a prime example.
The following YouTube clip of the "Ozland" trailer is guaranteed to elicit the aforementioned excitement regarding the film.
"OzLand" opens with ruggedly handsome Emri and dreamy Leif walking through beautifully shot post-apocalyptic Kansas (with supplement "we're not in Kansas anymore" scenes when they get out of Dodge) in which virtually everyone else has dried up.
This modern-day George (Emri) and Lennie (Leif) from the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men are drifting through this world trying to make sense of what happened while following the advice of Horace Greeley and The Pet Shop Boys to go west in search of a better existence. Further, Emri is searching for something that eludes most of us. One spoiler is that he already has a heart, a brain, and courage. Whether he owns ruby-red slippers is his own business.
A horribly missed opportunity occurs when big brother figure George tells Leif to focus on survival; Leif not smiling and responding "I'm your lover, not your rival" is an almost painful omission. Alas, the awesome outtakes and deleted scenes in the Blu-ray version do not include that exchange. We do see a scene that Wlliams and company determine is nothing to crow about and another in which interlopers adorably ruin a shot.
The magic begins when a typical exploration of a devastated structure covered in thick layer of dust scores Leif a copy of Oz. This excited literate man subsequently reciting passages from Oz to illiterate Emri entertains him but does not prompt him to share the belief of Leif that the story is real and that these men are living it.
Although the optimism that Leif experiences is not infectious, the introduction to the wonderful world of Oz colors (no pun intended) the remaining adventures of our "leftovers." At the heart of it, the Depression-era tornado in the Judy Garland film provides an explanation for the substantial rapid decline in the population of the United States in "Ozland."
Watching the glee of Leif on meeting a tin man, finding the abandoned home of a lion and munchkins, encountering a scarecrow who is more Christ figure than lovable dope, and finding himself hot on the trail of Dorothy reinforces the sense of wanting to take a road trip with Leif portrayor Zack Ratkovich; his horrifying encounter with uberscary flying monkeys makes you want to protect him in your garret.
Ratzovich particularly shines in a scene in which Leif and Emri discuss what they want from the wizard. This provides further insight (and sympathy) regarding the character.
Emri portrayor Glenn Payne also plays his part well. He is a kind and patient protector of his naive little buddy; his special moments include comically acting out the grotesque version of the tin man that the 1939 film Disneyfies.
The Mice vibe is particularly strong in a scene late in the film; the boys are near death when Emri discovers that Leif has been holding out for a fantastical reason. Many of us would have killed Leif out of frustration and/or to protect him from an existence worse than a quick demise. It is all water under the bridge for Emri.
The climax provides an awesome end to a film with no bad scenes. Only one boy utilizes a chance to go home; post-viewing communication with Williams points out that this rapture involves a subtle element of ascension.
Williams takes a note from the DCU and the Marvel Universe in including a stinger halfway through the closing credits. Our survivor is continuing his journey with a new special companion who is very true to the spirits of both the ascended partner and Oz..
The literally final moment of the film is another reflection of the kind and loving nature of Williams; he dedicates the movie to 31 year-old crew member Casey Spradling, who dies soon after finishing "Ozland." One can easily imagine Williams and the rest of the team missing him most of all after separating to go on to their next projects. Spradling having a prominent role in much of the behind-the-scenes footage results in viewers sharing some of the paid of the principals.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The impact of reviewing this venture into Blogland four years after first posting it the day after the suicide of Williams embarrassingly still makes the eyes of your not-so-humble reviewer leak. (This is from a guy who loves making "it's too soon" jokes SECONDS after just about every tragedy.)]
This anniversary coming a few weeks after the death of "Mork" creator/producer Garry Marshall makes this post even sadder. Marshall did not evoke the same level of emotion but had an awesome talent for discovering folks who did."
Most celebrity deaths are a source of personal amusement to the extent that Natalie Wood jokes, the Jessica Savitch "The Date of Her Death, The Death of Her Date" t-shirt, and similar humor related to bizarre celebrity deaths from the '80s (and even Diana and much more recent bon mots along those lines) still evokes smiles. The fact that the very recent death of Robin Williams is quickly receiving so much press and that online comments seem universally respectful shows that this one is different.
Williams simply is the comedian of the earliest Gen Xers. I will never forget "Mork and Mindy" premiering on a Thursday in October 1978 in the dark days before even VCRs.
This was the day to which I refer to as the date of my shotgun bar mitzah, which involved conducting the bare minimum of a service and only doing that to appease my grandmother.
My parents wanted to take me to dinner that night, but I wanted to postpone that meal one night to watch "Mork." They prevailed, and I scanned the TV listings each week to ensure catching the pilot when it reran.
Writing these thoughts also evokes memories of getting chucked out of Hebrew School and having to get a private tutor for being unduly disruptive and irreverent in the former.
Responding that it was when all our detested relatives come over to mooch off us was not the desired response when asked what made Passover night different than every other night. Further, relentlessly challenging the logic of setting a place for a ghost at the table did not go over well. (This also involved several "there he is" and pointing to blank space moments.)
It is nice to think that these incidents would have made Williams proud. He once commented during "Mork" that Chinese people eat Jewish food on Christmas (or perhaps New Year's) day. He additionally remarked during a more recent interview for German television that the reason that there is no comedy in Germany is that they killed all the funny people.
Additionally, "Mork" fans will never forget Williams regularly calling co-star Pam Dawber a "shika goddess."
Another memory of the hipness of "Mork" relates to my mother coming in the room just as Williams comes bounding down the attic stairs wearing nothing but a shower cap and a towel in anticipation of attending a baby shower with Mindy in an early episode. The puzzled reaction of my mother must be similar to parents coming across their kids watching early SNL episodes a few years earlier. The fact that the "old folks" do not get the humor is part of what makes it cool.
A few years later, Jonathon Winters joining the "Mork" cast adds wonderful humor to otherwise dismal episodes. This development relates to Williams earlier stating that he did not feel guilty about stealing Winters' career because Winters was not using it.
Another Williams memory from that era relates to a prep. school classmate having the "Reality, What a Concept" album. Current thoughts regarding repeatedly listening to that recording in my friend's dorm room now creates thoughts that prior Perkins Hall residents sat around listening to George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, and Bob Newhart albums.
The next Williams memory relates to "The World According to Garp" being the first selection in the film club series to which I subscribed as a college freshman.
I felt very sophisticated sitting in a plastic folding chair in a room that reeked of beer and discovering that genuine classic film. Learning in 2013 that Warner Archive was re-releasing the previously discontinued DVD of "Garp" was even more exciting than learning a month ago that Warner Home Video is releasing the '66 "Batman" this November. The even better news is that, as the Unreal TV review shows, "Garp" holds up very well.
The final memory relates to an event during my first year in the real world. My roommate was fanatical about "Good Morning Vietnam" and very excited about seeing it for his fourth (and my first) time at the Bethesda (Maryland) Cinema and Drafthouse. This film seemed tailor-made for Williams, and this was the first of many trips to theaters that borrow the "pizza bowl" model for films.
Part of the genius behind all this is that Williams was brilliantly clever and truly understood the world. It is tragic in the truest sense of the world that this insight often makes accepting the world as it so difficult. The world, and not those who see it the way that is and care enough that it really bothers them, is what needs to change.
Following the example of an online comment that states "Mork signing off; nanu nanu" is apt but very sad. It is better to leave things at "Calling Orson; come in your blackholeness."
Lionsgate awesomely simultaneously goes old and new school regarding the August 14, 2018 3-disc S1 DVD release of the very recent "Power Rangers Ninja Steel" series. This release is part of a 25th Anniversary of the '90s phenom "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," which actually dates to August 28 1994.
Personal relevance of the OS includes still joking about sending naughty people off to a peace conference in reference to that plot point relating to firing an original cast member for a long-forgotten sin. Surviving cast members are known for joking about experiencing that fate is they misbehave.
The brilliance of the "Ranger" franchise extends beyond providing a showcase for mountains of merchandise. The OS using the cost-saving method of incorporating footage from the Japanese live-action series "Super Sentai" into a show that features clean-cut American teens with mad ninja skills and related secret identities is pure genius as the "Ninja Steel" and the other numerous spin-offs reflect.
The awesome box art shared above also contributes a strong retro vibe. The bonus booklet of "Rangers" art is just as collectibly special.
The "Infinity War" central concept of "Ninja Steel" is one of many ways that this series is new school while retaining a very old school element. Our story begins with boy with something extra Dane Romero peacefully living with roughly 10 year-old son Aiden and roughly 7 year-old son Brody. The Ninja Nexus Prism falling from the sky and landing on their rural property is a game changer.
One spoiler is that "Ninjs Steel" spares us a sickening "I don't feel so good, Mr. Stark" moment.
The prism contains six ninja stars that collectively grant the possessor unparalleled power. The rub is a limitation that is similar to the Excalibur lore of Arhurian legend; only those who are worthy can penetrate the force field that surrounds the stars in the prism. "Ninja Steel" further pays homage to the classic anime series "Speed Racer" in a manner that is too special to spoil.
Galvanax beaming down from the spaceship from which he broadcasts the intergalactic game show "Galaxy Warriors" fully sets the stage for "Ninja Steel." A battle with Dane ends with Galvanax taking both Brody and the prism back to his ship.
The action soon shifts 10 years ahead to our present. Appealing and cute Brody (William Shewfelt), his robot friend/comic relief Redbot, and quirky Mick literally jump ship with the prism and end up in the Summer Cove home turf of Brody. Brody soon becomes the red power ranger/leader and subsequently meets up with all but one ranger; the fate of the gold ranger remains up in the air. The story arc that addresses is that is a series highlight.
Mick uses the titular substance to create the tools of trade of our heroes. A cool nod to the eco-centric animated series "Captain Planet" allows the rangers to use the power of natural elements such as wind and water to combat the foe of the week that Galvanax transports down to battle the kids in an effort to collect their Ninja Power Stars,
The lesson of the week that is integral to "Ninja Steel" provides viewers of every age great fun. Veterans of "Saved by the Bell" and similar fare obtain particular amusement from these episodes; younger fans who experience this phenomenon for the first time get entertaining morals.
A textbook episode hilariously evokes thoughts of the classic "Bell" episode in which neurotic overachiever Jessie Spano becomes addicted to caffeine pills. All-American boy/yellow ranger Calvin Maxwell nervously confesses to his team that he is afraid to drive. The angst and fear associated with this reveal creates an expectation that Calvin is coming out or is admitting an addiction to alcohol or narcotics. The textbook aspect continues with the fate of the other rangers resting on the ability of Calvin to conquer his fear.
The nervous Unreal TV confession is that time constraints are behind only watching the first half of the season. The season finale being titled "Past, Presents, and Future" provides good incentive to keep going. The IMDb episode description stating "Sarah [pink ranger] teams up with Santa Claus to save Christmas and the Power Rangers from a time-manipulating monster" makes this one must-see.
The bigger picture this time is that "Ninja Steel" itself and this release celebrating the 25th "Rangers" anniversary shows that a viable market remains for good clean family fun that is in the middle of the bell curve between overly saccharine fare and stuff that seems too edgy to be ready for Saturday morning. One can only hope that "Rangers" continues for at least another 25 years.
The Warner Archive July 17, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 bio-noir film "Young Dillinger" is part of the recent biopics leitmotif of some new additions to the Archive catalog. These include the (reviewed) John Huston directed Paul Newman bio-western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean."
Nick Adams of the television series "The Rebel" stars as the titular Depression Era Public Enemy Number One who is a weak-willed young man in love when we first meet him. Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley stars as rich girl femme fatale Elaine, who starts our boy on his life of crime before becoming his moll.
These small-town young lovers ala Jack and Diane of the John Cougar Mellencamp song of the same name are dreaming of wedded bliss when Elaine suggests robbing the safe of her father to finance their elopement and subsequent new life. Her method of persuasion includes that Daddy will not prosecute them if they get caught.
One interesting aspect of this is the ambiguity regarding the motives of Elaine. She seems more interested in escaping a privileged but dull life and in sticking one to Daddy then in becoming Mrs. Public Enemy Number One.
A reluctant Dillinger goes along; the heist hitting a snag provides him his first taste of clearly liked violence., A subsequent confrontation with a not especially peaceful justice of the peace and his brutish wife turns Dillinger into a rebel with a cause. This also leads to the first of several police chases.
The honeymoon that Dillinger and Elaine are enjoying without benefit of marriage is cut short when the cops knock at the door and begin searching for their ill-gotten booty. Doing this without benefit of a warrant or a warning illustrates how search-and-seizure requirements have evolved since that era.
Dillinger once again proves himself to be a sap in agreeing to chivalrously take the full rap for the caper. The outcome justifies adding reassurances from a dame or her old man to statements regarding a promise of help from the government and pledges of agreeing to stop before completion if provided oral gratification to the list of particularly big lies.
Dillinger soon falls in with a bad crowd, who manipulate him just as effectively as Elaine does, This leads to his facilitating a prison break and subsequently going into business with "Pretty Boy" Floyd (Robert Conrad) and "Baby Face" Nelson. By this time, Dillinger is fully feeling the effects of the literal and the figurative hard knocks he is enduring.
Wonderful camp includes Dillinger meeting the brains of the operation, This portion of the film in which the gang plans their next job clearly shows where writers of pulp fiction and B-movies of the era get their inspiration.
Even tastier cheese comes when a sleazy doctor manipulates Elaine into taking morphine so that he can receive payment-in-kind for the procedure that he is performing on an incapacitated Dillinger.
Dillinger fared better regarding having one of the best ever reasons for not putting a ring on it; this involves reminding how making an honest woman out of his partner-in-crime likely will lead to a long-distance marriage.
The brilliance of all this is that "Dillinger" use a true story of a good boy turned bad as the basis for the type of social commentary film that addresses youthful offenders and related ills. The chases and gun fights simply makes it fun for the kids.
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: Paul Newman in Star-Studded John Huston Bio-Western of Hanging Judge Dispensing Frontier Justice
Warner Archive continues following leitmotifs with two recent releases of docu-dramas about nefarious types. A separate post on the DVD release of the 1965 bio-noir film "Young Dillinger" chronicles the progression of noted Depression-era gangster John Dillinger from lovestruck hick to hardened criminal. Our current topic is the exceptionally remastered Blu-ray of the 1972 bio-western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean."
Paul "Butch Cassidy" Newman plays the titular self-appointed jurist, who brings law and other elements of civilization to the frontier west of the Pecos River in 19th-century Texas. Comparing that territory to the unsettled land beyond the Appalachian Mountains during colonial days a century earlier provides a good perspective. Fellow Hollywood royalty John Huston directs.
The recent (personally mourned) passing of matinee idol (and gracious man who thanks reviewers for interviews) Tab Hunter warrants discussing his cameo as killer Sam Dodd. Hunter largely is physically unrecognizable under the dirt, hat, beard, and long hair. He is even less recognizable playing a guy who richly deserves hanging. His moment in the spotlight in the form of a voice-over monologue that many characters get is one of the best in the film.
The Hunter connection extends to his real-life former secret boyfriend Anthony Perkins playing Rev. John LaSalle. Perkins utilizes his quirky persona well in portraying this frontier minister.
The overall theme of this movie seems to be that any similarity between it and the adventures of the real-life Bean are purely coincidental.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN trailer for "Bean" nicely shows that westerns are much more than cattle stampedes and high noon showdowns.
"Bean" opens with a here come da judge moment in the form of the man of the two hours riding into Vinegaroon, Texas to provide his form of justice. His first case literally puts him in the position of judge, jury and executioner.
Newman soon better demonstrates his well-known gruff charm on settliung down a little bit in several senses of the word and setting up shop in the local saloon/brothel. He further makes this place a shrine to stage actress Lillie Langtry with whom Bean is obsessed.
The Langtry element is especially strong in one segment in which Bean travels to the big city of San Antonio to see her perform. She further has a perfect role in the epilogue that cleverly wraps up our story.
The early scenes also establish the unorthodox method that Bean uses to hire marshals. His issuing a judicial decision in what can be considered the Hos for Bros case has an element of the vintage television dramedy "Here Come the Brides." Future "Dallas" star Victoria Principal plays the booty call babe who becomes the lady of every evening after a form of shotgun wedding that involves a Mexican standoff.
Other exceptional casting has Roddy McDowall playing to type as perpetually uptight and peeved attorney Frank Gass with a valid claim on what essentially is an actual Beantown. Bean soon putting Gass in accommodations that only provide the bare necessities sets the stage for conflict that ultimately leads to a dramatic confrontation.
More fun comes via having Ned Beatty play barman/right-hand man/father figure Tector Crites. One spoiler is that none of the frontier justice that Bean dispenses includes making Beatty squeal.
Huston has a cameo as real-life historical figure John "Grizzly" Adams. The amazing on-screen chemistry between Huston and Newman makes their interaction one of the best scenes in the film. Adams becoming unbearable is a perfect touch.
Stacy Keach gets to play in the role of fictional psychotic gunfighter Bad Bob, He does make Tector squeal, and his literal calling out Bean for a showdown proves the truth of the saying "no guts no glory."
The combination of the richness of the copious source material and the talent of the "who's who" (and other stars) cast mentioned above is why "Bean" succeeds so well. The real Bean is larger than life, the wild west is the stuff of which fiction is still made of 150 years after this era, and Texas has an equally grand tradition of tall tales. This become actual gold in the hands of masters such as Huston and the worst form of fool's gold in the hands of one-trick ponies such as Seth MacFarlane, who rely on crude humor.
Foreign and indie movie god Film Movement fully shows what makes it (and its Film of the Month Club) spectacular with the August 7, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 German comedy "Bye Bye Germany." This film about Jewish Holocaust survivors in 1946 provides an interesting perspective about that period and shows that you can find humor in any situation.
The first bit of general good news is that "Germany" reflects the philosophy of Mel Brooks and his peers that laughing at Hitler robs him of his power. The second bit of good news is that the film proves that a German journalist who asked Robin Williams why there was no comedy in Germany was wrong about the lack of humor in that country. It is understandable that many do not consider the response of Williams that the Germans killed all the funny people to not be humorous.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Germany" shows how this film puts a Yiddish spin on "Glengarry Glen Ross"
"Germany" centers around concentration camp survivor David Bermann. The obvious good news for him is that he no longer needs to fear for his life every day. The first bit of less-than good news is that he lacks the necessary money to restart the linen business of his family to earn the money needed to emigrate to America. The worst news is that suspicion of Nazi collaboration is preventing him from getting a necessary license that the Americans are issuing German Jews.
Bermann entering a partnership allows him to get back into business; clearing his name requires a series of interviews with U.S. Army investigator Sara Simon. Stating that that pair gets off on the wrong foot is a large understatement.
This leads to Bermann dividing his time between joining his team in hilarious cons to get Germans to pay absurdly inflated prices for falsely hyped linens and telling Simon his story. A highlight of the former is a "Paper Moon" style scam in which Team Bermann falsely tells a recent widow of a large order by her husband before his sudden and untimely death.
The flashbacks of the time in the camp that accompany the sessions with Simon provide a fascinating (but not necessarily accurate) look at the life of the inmates. The general idea is that the camp commander catching Bermann in the act of telling a joke in the barracks leads to a command performance at a Christmas party for the guards, which leads to direct contact with Hitler. The only verified portion of the story is that Bermann receives the preferential treatment that puts him on the radar of the U.S. Army.
The middle ground is the depiction of the daily lives of Jews in the immediate period following the end of the war. One scene involves Bermann coming face-to-face with a former German officer who is responsible for the deaths of family members; another has a housewife trying to convince Bermann that the average German was unaware of the Holocaust while it was occurring.
Of course, there is one or more surprising reversal of fortune and other twists. The highly valid bases for resentment intensify them.
All of this concludes with the fairy tale vibe that is required to make any movie centered around these horrific events palpable. Not everyone ends up literally or figuratively where he or she expected but do get at least some closure.
The Bonus Short Film that accompanies every Club selection is "Strings" this time. This very clever animated film that uses a flowing white line against a black background is an homage to an Israeli violin maker who restores instruments from the Holocaust as a symbol of eternal hope.
The Warner Archive DVD release of the early Mark Hamill film "Corvette Summer" makes a PERFECT '70s film available to 21st century audiences. At the outset, this movie that is billed as a comedy is amusing but has the gritty look and dramatic overtone of similarly billed fare of the era. A good example of this is the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Archive release of the Peter Falk "comedy" "...All the Marbles."
Seeing Hamill play moderately sullen L.A. white-trash recent high-school graduate Kenneth W. Dantley, Jr. is amusing regarding his phenomenal fame as Luke Skywalker. Seeing that he has 321 roles on his IMDb profile compared to Michael Caine having 169 parts listed is amazing.
The opening scenes of "Corvette" evoke strong memories of the Sid and Marty Krofft live-action Saturday morning series "Wonderbug" for children of the '70s. Newly minted high-school senior Ken and his fellow auto-shop students (including a boy whom a slimmed-down Danny Bonaduce of "Partridge Family" fame portrays) are at a car graveyard looking for a car to spend the year rebuilding. A variation of divine intervention calls the attention of Ken to the titular Stingray, which is minutes away from being flattened. Of course, Ken rescues this piece of junk in the nick of time.
The '80s vibe of these scenes and of the subsequent montage and other action over the next 12 months of reel-time is of "The Greatest American Hero." That one also starts with a father-figure teacher to a group of under-achieving losers taking his kids on a life-changing field trip.
"Smokey and the Bandit" and "Breaking Away" moments come later in "Corvette."
Ken experiences the absolute worst nightmare of any new car owner when his wheels are stolen the first time that Teach takes the kids on a field trip to take turns driving the 'Vette on the strip, Ken much later learning more about the circumstances of the theft provides the best twist in the film.
The diligent efforts of Ken to find his baby leads to a tip that put him on the road to Las Vegas; the subsequent multiple ways in which he loses his innocence illustrates the meaning of the term "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." One disappointing aspect of the film for fans with less-than-pure hearts is that this coning-of-age does not include a "Midnight Jedi" experience for Ken. The audience similarly learns that yelling at Ken to use the Jedi mind trick is futile.
The Sin City adventure begins in earnest when aspiring lady of the evening (and afternoon and morning) Vanessa (Annie Potts) picks up a hitchhiking Ken on the road to Vegas. The best moments regarding Vanessa involve separate occasions on which Ken effectively pays two-bits for services rendered and she literally takes a whore's bath.
The arrival in Vegas finds Ken on his own and looking for his car; the good news is that he has reason to hope for a a reunion; the bad news is that his rite-of-passage includes living rough. His subsequent reunion with Vanessa further makes his life a little better.
This leads to Ken being persuaded to go over to the dark side; his Yoda not being a righteous dude increases the odds that our boy will not see the light.
This being a '70s film (rather that a light '80s teencom) makes it likely (but uncertain) that the final scenes will be of Ken and Vanessa running out of a Vegas wedding chapel and driving away in the Stingray with a "Just Married" sign on the back of the car and tin cans tied to the rear bumper. The sad truth is that real-life D students with deprived childhoods almost never get Hollywood endings.
The most awesome thing about the August 7, 2018 DVD release "Elena of Avalor: Realm of the Jaquins" is that it follows the grand tradition of introducing those of us without babies and toddlers to the joys of the fare on the Disney Junior cable network. A prime example is LOVING "Puppy Dog Pals" after reviewing a DVD set of that series. The warnings regarding "Pals" is that you often will find yourself singing "pu pu pu puppy dog paaaals" and will have even trips to the grocery store prompt singing "we're goin' on a mission, goin' on a mission; arf, arf, arf, arf."
The literally and figuratively fantastic worlds of Avalor and titular neighboring dimension Vallestrella alone are amazing. The surprisingly exceptional quality of the DVD images will almost make you want to wear shades while watching the adventures in this vivid universe.
The accolades for "Elena" includes a well-deserved Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding Casting for an Animated Series or Special." It also has an Imagen Foundation Awards win for Best Children's Programming.
The titular princess rules in the titular fictional Latin American country; she is subject to a legislative branch in the form of The Grand Council that largely is there to curb her enthusiasm. The rockin' Latin songs that every episode features and the adoration for this future queen both within and outside the palace walls evoke strong feelings of "Evita."
"Elena" saves the strongest star power for the villains. Former Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda voices evil sorceress Shuriki, who is still around after a lore-establishing major beat down at the beginning of the series. Lou Diamond Phillips gives perfect voice to scoundrel/thief Victor Delgado.
"Realm" begins with a special one-hour episode of the same name. The titular creatures who are jaguar/eagle hybrids are native to a dimension that can be considered the realm of Dr. Moreau in that the creatures who inhabit it are natural hybrids of two species. The peabunnies who look like rabbits but have elaborate fanned tails are one of the cutest examples.
The very cute toddler-friendly action begins with the trio of jaquins who hang with Elena and her cute harmless boy sidekick Mateo the wizard taking a rite of passage test. Success means getting to stay in Avalor to help maintain the peace; failure requires returning to the land of the butterfrogs.
The expression two out of three ain't bad applies to the text results; the desire of Elena for a second attempt at a trifecta leads to her traveling to the Jaquin home turf of Vallestrella to plead her case to the ruler of that kingdom. The obstacles include the mere presence of Elena violating an isolationist policy that has a valid basis.
The inadvertently triggered threat regarding this sort of a homecoming further justifies maintaining a strong border. The cooperative effort that puts right what once went wrong shows the value of international cooperation.
"Three Jaquins and A Princess" pays honage to the '80s Disney film "Three Men and a Little Lady." A variety of circumstances lead to Elena younger sister Isabel watching over a trio of Jaquin eggs, The triplets being preemies leads to comic chaos as Isabel tries to prove that she can handle these adorable flying infants. The lesson this time is that there is no shame in requesting help.
The third but not least full-length episode is equally cute. Elena defies The Grand Council and goes center-of-the-earth deep undercover to fulfill what she considers her royal duty. Mateo comes along in a manner that fully makes him sidekick Ron Stoppable to Elena in full Kim Possible mode.
Disney supplements the above offerings with 10 bonus shorts that presumably are filler on Disney Junior. The two main categories of these mini-episodes are "Adventures in Vallestrella" and "Scepter Training with Zuzo." Paws down the best in the group is the fairly self-explanatory "Peabunny Boogie."
The Icarus Films August 7, 2018 release of the 2016 Wang Bing documentary "Bitter Money" takes the subgenre of films about the conditions in the Chinese sweat shops that produce clothing to a fascinating new level. The intimate portraits of the shamefully exploited workers in the 18,000 clothing factories in Huzhou, China makes every viewer with a heart feel very guilty about finding values at the Gap.
"Money" goes beyond (reviewed) fellow Bing documentary "Three Sisters" in that the experience is much broader than the lives of natives of rural China. The former tells the stories of the human subjects in the larger context of the global garment industry.
Viewers who are familiar with the work of Bing and/or the theme of "Money" literally and figuratively know where things are going in opening scenes of two teen girls in rural China discussing government records that do not reflect their accurate ages.
Akin (pun intended) to the absent father in "Sisters," the girls in "Money" soon board an incredibly overecrowded train to begin factory jobs, Their discussions with their future co-workers provide subjects and audience members insight into the lives of the folks who likely make at least one article of clothing that you are wearing.
On arriving in Huzhou, the girls move into a shabby firetrap that serves as dormitory for the factory workers. If one of these dumps has not already made international news for rapidly burning down and killing 100s of people trapped inside, it is only a matter of time before such a tragedy occurs.
Watching a shirtless chubby man still badly suffering from the heat is one of many images that illustrate the poor environment,. Seeing a married woman who merely is trying to operate her sewing machine having to deal with a creep persistently hitting on her adds another dimension to the film.
Learning that the workers are paid per completed item, rather than hourly, is not surprising. The clearly unreasonable production quotas are a little more shocking. Seeing employees called into work at the last minute in the middle of the night is even worse.
The most compelling subject is young factory worker Ling Ling. This woman who does so much for such little compensation also must deal with an abusive spouse. The most powerful scene in "Money" has Ling Ling in the small store of her husband demanding money and having him repeatedly threaten her with a beating as his entourage and the camera crew look on. This man goes so far as to directly plead his case to the camera following this confrontation.
The more relatable aspect of "Money" is the impact of the work on the subjects. Many of them seem resigned to a life of barely getting by, others have unrealistic dreams of upward mobility, and some are fully delusional regarding living large.
Necessary constructive criticism must be viewed in the context of the documentary genre. Staying completely true to the form requires not editing the footage. However the 2:43 run time alone suggests that Bing documents too much. An example is that it does not seem that excluding a roughly five-minute scene of a card game on the floor of a train would have lessened the impact of the film.
The 16-page booklet, which includes a well-written essay by film critic Aaron Cutler, that Icarus includes provides interesting background information on both Bing and the film.
As Part One of this two-part post on an interview with former child star Harlen Carraher of the Unreal TV reviewed '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" promises, this conclusion to this series follows up the coverage of Carraher's "Muir" years with a focus on his life in the years following that experience.
The awesomeness that is Carraher fully comes across in his sincerely ensuring that anything that he shares that can be interpreted as being critical was not intended as such.
The aforementioned discussion of the "Muir" years includes Carraher explaining that his father being an advertising executive facilitated the acting career of the younger Carraher man. A related aspect of this is that the older Carraher being an alcoholic prevented him from working, thus making Harlen the sole supporter of the family.
Carraher stated very clearly regarding this that "my father was a loving, caring, wonderful father who just drank a little too much." Carraher further emphasized that his father never became violent or abusive in any manner.
The wonderful father-son memories that Carraher shared included the two of them riding a promotional old-style Global Van Lines truck that his father had designed to be displayed at Disney Land right out of that park.
Carraher acknowledged that the financial dependence of his family on him was "a big burden" that became more stressful when "I was no longer in demand." Carraher elaborated by stating that his voice changing when he was 13 or 14 and his beginning to lose self-confidence during that period effectively ended his acting career. This ever-cheerful man further clarified that "the whole acting experience was wonderful" until he reached that point.
Advice to Child Stars
Carraher candidly stated that the only money that he personally received from his work on "Muir" was the money, which he believed was 15 percent of his earnings as a child actor, that the child actor protection act known as Coogan's Law required placing in trust for him. He added that that money financed the education that he received in the engineering program at the University of Southern California.
Citing the drug-related death of '60s sitcom "Family Affairs" former child star Anissa Jones, Carraher strongly advocated that Coogan's Law prohibited distributing any money held under it until the actor reached the age of 21. He explained that most people are too immature to properly manage those funds at 18.
Related advice was that the family of these children save the money that these offspring earned.
On an associated note, Carraher responded negatively when asked if any current child star mentored him when he was cast in "Muir." However, he stated that such a support program was a good idea.
Carraher further praised the work of the non-profit organization A Minor Consideration. The website of that organization stated that its purpose included providing "young performers" "guidance and support." Fellow '60s sitcom star Paul Petersen of "The Donna Reed Show" helms this charity.
[A subsequent Unreal TV interview with Petersen did not go so well. He already was stressed and takes his work VERY seriously.]
A discussion regarding Carraher's children began with the surprising news that his acting career and "Muir" itself did not interest his 14 year-old son Rory, who is heavily into the Call of Duty video game, and the younger sisters of Rory. Carraher and I agreed that having a father who starred in a sitcom would have excited us.
Things took a more serious note in Carraher discussing Rory being diagnosed with a high-functioning level of Asperger's Syndrome. This proud and loving father further shared that Rory attends a traditional school.
This conversation regarding autism encompassed the book titled "Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism" that actress Jenny McCarthy wrote about her experiences as the mother of an autistic child.
Carraher stated both "I love her book," and "I really related to it." He added that he came very close to having an opportunity to have McCarthy autograph a copy for him.
Carraher went on to very calmly express that he considered the claims of McCarthy regarding a link between autism and a child receiving immunization shots "outrageous." Carraher further explained that he loved and respected McCarthy but that (like him) she was an actor rather than a scientist." He added that "I don't think that actors should talk about things that they do not know about."
Directing some of the love that Carrraher lavished on the people whose names came up in our conversation his way is the only apt ending for this abbreviated recap of his life. He did not let an experience that very few seven year-olds have go to his head, showed exceptional maturity when his career ended far sooner than it should have (he would have made an awesome Butch on "Nanny and the Professor"), built a terrific professional career, and became an awesome parent.
The best thing about the Gravitas Ventures road-trip comedy "Baja," which is a new On Demand and Digital HD film, is that it greatly exceeds limited expectations. What is anticipated to be a film-school quality movie with flat acting turns out to be an oft-amusing interesting story by writer-director Tony Vidal.
The "Saved By the Bell"/"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" vibe begins 22 year-old sporting-goods store management trainee Bryan being a relatively chill Screech. He lives in his childhood home and is a day away from beginning his mission of driving the $500,000 RV of his parents from San Diego to the titular resort destination.
As often is the case in "Bell," the Zack Morris of "Baja" instigates the primary action. Trust fund baby/party animal Todd roars into the store on his motor bike and begins his campaign of getting Bryan to stand up to those on whom he depends for his income and his housing.
The boys soon run into Todd friend Jessica, who is a Jessie type neurotic film student, and her "Kelly" friend Lisa. Pretty dark-haired Lisa spends her days tending to her abusive needy mother.
Todd uses his metapowers of persuasion to convince Bryan to take a detour and to take him and the girls along for the ride. Todd needs to make a run for the border to seal an important deal, Lisa wants to reunite with her long-lost father, and Jessica is coming to shoot an important project for school.
Discovering contraband in the storage space and a stowaway in his bed commences the amping up of the anxiety of Bryan and triggers much of the hilarity that ensues in the film.
The gang ultimately finds itself trying to pull off a comically absurd scheme effectively to get Bryan to the church on time and to ensure that Todd goes home with all of his appendages intact. Of course, these meddling kids almost get away with it but things still work out in the end and everyone both learns an important lesson and ends up with the love of his or her life.
Too especially cool aspects are how Vidal gives Todd a look at "Christmas Future" and temporarily turns this standard U.S. comedy into a telenovela.
It is equally cool that Vidal reminds us of the awesomeness of '80s teencoms. It is nice that some people still make 'em like that.
One of the best things about speaking with former child star Harlen Carraher over the telephone was finding a guy with whom I would enjoy sharing a wonderfully disgustingly sweet "secret menu" cotton candy frappuccino. For the benefit of folks who are not true classic TV fans, Carraher played elementary school aged Jonathan Muir on the '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." (Unreal TV has previously reviewed the DVD releases of "Muir.")
The tremendous charm of Carraher the adult relates to his kind nature, age-appropriate enthusiasm and awesome parental nature. Respective examples of this include persistently playing telephone tag despite not receiving ANY benefit from this interview, exclaiming "that's my favorite movie" on my speculating that he likes "Chinatown," and conveying his tremendous love for his fourteen-year old autistic son Rory and Rory's 12 and 10 year-old sisters.
Carraher sharing so much during our 90-minute chat requires breaking coverage of that visit into two parts. The current focus is on Carraher's "Muir" related experiences. The second part will shift to his thoughts on being a child star and other equally interesting aspects of his adult life.
Hopefully achieved objectives of this conversation included not asking the same questions that Cararhcr had been asked 1,000s of time and to provide some depth.
Carraher stressed that pursuing an acting career was his choice. He added that his father was an advertising executive with contacts that facilitated that activity. This career in that context began when Carraher was 18 months old. He also shared that he was the first voice of Sprout in the Green Giant television commercials.
Carraher described the casting process for "Muir" as a cattle call; he shared as well that he did not recall that anyone whom he beat out for the part went on to do anything big.
Carraher attributed looking like "Muir" star Hope Lange, who played the titular widow, and being able to remember his lines as primary reasons for his getting the role.
Even before discussing the background summarized above, Carraher asked that I tell co-star Kellie Flanagan, who played Carraher's slightly older sister Candy Muir on the series, that he hoped that she was well and that he was sorry that "I was a little brat" if I spoke with her, On being asked to elaborate regarding the second comment, Carraher explained that Flanagan was "like my big sister, and I was a typical little boy at the time."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The interest of Carraher in connecting with Flanagan and Flanagan expressing the same interest in an interview in another forum prompted tracking down the latter and providing her the contact information for the former. She is just as nice as her fictional brother, and hopes run high for an interview with her in this space.]
Carraher expressed similar regard for a pre "The Partridge Family" Danny Bonaduce in reference to Bonaduce guest starring on "Muir." Carraher nicely but strongly asserted that Bonaduce got the role based on his talent, rather than on Bomnaduce's father Joseph writing the episode in which Danny appeared.
Charles Nelson Reilly
The combination of the persona of "Muir" star Charles Nelson Reilly being so flamboyant and the even late '60s not being the most enlightened of times prompted asking if that characterization of highly anxious Claymore Gregg prompted any negative public feedback. Carraher responded "absolutely not."
Carraher then described Reilly as "very professional and very kind," that "I really enjoyed working with him," and that "he was perfect for the role."
Carraher added that Reilly was a horrible driver and ran down a boom man while filming one scene; this stage hand lived but broke his leg.
The brief discussion related to sexuality in the context of this topic included Carraher volunteering "I'm very straight myself" but expressing an awesome acceptance for gay folks. He is sincere in stating that some of his best friends are gay.
The conversation turned to Scruffy, the wire fox terrier who played the Muir family pet of the same name in the context of Flanagan commenting in an interview that Scruffy was paid more than Flanagan. Carraher responded that he did not recall that but stated that that would not surprise him. He explained that the animal trainer on the series was one of the best in that profession.
The bonus tidbit that Carraher shared regarding Scruffy was that the original intent was to name him Rusty in reference to the rust that formed on the hull of a sailing ship.
A question regarding whether any of props in the series were from the 1947 "Muir" film prompted the enthusiastic response "I don't know; I would be thrilled to know that it was."
Carraher elaborated by stating "I am a huge Natalie Wood fan." This was in the context of Wood starring in the 1947 film.
Carraher stated that Wood never visited the set of the "Muir" series and that he had never met her. He added that his brother appeared in the uber-awesome Wood film "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" but that Harlen never visited that set.
The portion of our conversation regarding "Muir" guest star Bill Bixby revealed that Carraher and I were on the same wavelength. A confession that "Muir" remained one of my Top 10 favorite shows but that I liked Bixby's '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" a little better prompted Carraher (most likely with a wide grin on his face) to state "me too."
Carraher stated that he did not recall Bixby discussing any techniques regarding the special effects on "Martian" but that Bixby was one of the nicest guest stars who appeared on "Muir." One aspect of this regard was Bixby being very gracious when seven or eight year-old budding photographer Carraher asked to take candid photos of him.
This lead to discussing personal aspects of the life (and genuinely tragic death) of Bixby that included his being a terrific father in real life. This in turn related to both a general discussion of Bixby's sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and comments in Unreal TV reviews of that series that Bixby seemed to be the kind of dad that many children of the '60s and '70s wished that they had. Carraher agreed and added that he loved "Father."
Carraher followed up by stating that future "Coach" star Shelley Fabares was equally gracious about Carraher taking her photo when she guest starred.
Carraher provided the best way to wrap up this portion of the recap of our talk early in that conversation. A mention of highly prolific singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson appearing on the show prompted Carraher to joyfully sing "you put the lime in the coconut and then shake it all up." This awesomely conveyed that Carraher thoroughly enjoyed acting on the show and retained the spark of childhood that all of us require,
The TLA Releasing DVD release of "French Kisses" provides a good chance to see a variety of styles and themes related to gay boys (and men) in love. These shorts also support the theory that the best movies are the ones with the strongest live-stage vibe.
The films about teen boys have their merits that extend beyond seeing seeing attractive young guys either often in deep thought or extreme joy. They reflect the angst that most boys who like boys experience when they discover that aspect of themselves. Mainstream cinema increasingly addressing this theme reflects its importance in society.
The films that focus on males who are adequately physically developed to shave at least every other day shows the wisdom of not sending in a boy to do the job of a man. In the case of the selection in "Kisses," the movies with the more mature themes in every sense have the most depth and the most compelling stories.
"Herculaneum," which is a highly symbolic title, arguably is the most relatable film in the set. It revolves around two 30-something guys who repeatedly hook-up through a web-based cruising site. The largest theme is the disparity that often exist regarding the attitude as to a sex act, especially when it comes (no pun intended) to gay men. No one should expect that a casual encounter will lead to a long-term relationship, but what is merely a bit of fun to one guy may have even a little more significance to the other.
The real truths come out in the climatic (pun intended) scene in "Herculaneum." Our boys finally are enjoying the intimacy of sharing a bed for the night after having at least two home runs. The pillow talk includes learning basic information such as the professions of the men that typically is shared before the genitals of one person are inserted in the orifice of another. A related aspect of this is the reasonableness of the expectation that a man whom another man allows him to penetrate him in the most intimate manner possible will have lunch with the pentratee.
The next most relatable movie is "Ruptures," This one initially seems to be a documentary by and about 20-something Gabriel largely is about relationships in the context of the relationships of his peers.
A "chance" encounter with ex Andre while these guys were boys in Brazil dramatically shifts the narrative in every sense of that term. Gabriel literally turns the camera on Andre to ask about his feelings regarding their relationship; the gist is that Gabriel hurts this nice guy, real bad.
Gabriel falsely stating that the camera is off allows the audience to witness the sex, lies, and videotape associated with the reunion of the young lovers. we further witness Andre turning the tables on Gabriel.
Most of us lacking personal experience regarding the final film in the set is a good thing. An evening in which a middle-aged man host a younger man for dinner proves that visits like that are fun until someone ends up duct-taped on the floor while the other guy tries to break into your safe. The surprising part is that this is in not the end of this tale of a rent boy turned rough trade.
A teen experience of a friend of a friend (REALLY) shows that such occurrences relate to some. The price that this closeted high school boy pays for bringing a hookup home while his parents are out for the evening includes the trick (pun intended) of being left tied naked face down on the bed in the master bedroom and the house being robbed. A valid perspective regarding this is that something that is devastating if it happens to you can be hilarious when someone else is the victim.
The Breaking Glass Pictures July 17, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 character study "Moss" is a perfect example of the indie films that Breaking helps bring to the massses. This shot-on-location film about how the titular North Carolina redneck (Calvin Klein model Mitchell Slaggert) spends his 18th birthday provides fascinating insight into the lives of such folks who exist day-by-day.
The following YouTube clip of a "Moss" trailer highlights the Southern Gothic vibe of this rapidly coming-of-age story. This includes a taste of the inner monologues that comprise a great deal of the film and of the aforementioned location shooting.
The aforementioned narrative technique quickly provides the exposition that the mother of Moss dies giving birth to him and that his father claims to be philosophical regarding that loss. We further get a variation of shooting fish in a barrel.
The special day next involves Dad not diverting much attention from making the driftwood sculptures that keep Spam on the table to acknowledge either the special day of Moss or his offer of breakfast. Dad ordering a resistant Little Red Riding Hoodie to deliver a basket of prescription drugs to his grandmother causes further tension.
Moss first taking a detour to visit his meth-head buddy Blaze to get high and eat a Redneck Special for breakfast while watching VHS tapes of nature films fully gets his big adventure underway. We also learn of the extent to which some people will sell (and buy) anything at a yard sale.
Moss gets his first real present in the form of spying 30 year-old camper Mary on the banks of the river. Although he uses one of the worst-ever pick-up lines, Mary lets him inside her tent. This leads to a From Here to Mayberry moment in which these new lovers embrace on the sand as waves roll over them.
The time with Mary takes up much of the day, which ends up Moas back at Che Blaze, who has family drama of his own in the interim. The gist of the childhood of both boys provides understanding regarding why they are not college-bound.
Meanwhile, Dad is showing that he does care about his son even after learning how Moss perverts a special gesture. One message here is that not much is expected from anyone literally from that neck of the woods.
The rude awakenings the next day include Moss finding himself on a floor other than his own and discovering the degree to which he does not deserve his grandmother. The response of Dad to all this is equally surprising to those of us in more urban areas.
The message of "Moss" goes beyond seeing how the lower-income half lives. We see how any kid can fall through the cracks and the extent to which that requires them to be self-reliant and pursue any form of happiness and/or escape.
Breaking does its usual excellent job with DVD features. Writer-director Daniel Peddle hosts an amusing 25-minute "making of" documentary that shows the kismet regarding the production and how it largely is kept in the family.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review is of Australian DVD releases of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," which has not been released on DVD in the United States. These releases require using an international DVD player; they will not play on a standard Region One U.S. player.]
These thoughts on the April 2104 Australian DVD releases of the first and secondseasons of the 1968-1970 U.S. fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" are breaking news in the sense that a "fourth scene twist" a few nights ago prompted writing on this topic in favor of a (subsequently published) less positive three-part series titled "Back to Dystopia Days: How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015."
The aforementioned development was the bedside Scooby-Doo telephone of your (sometimes humble) reviewer ringing at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. On coming down to my home office the next morning with thoughts of dystopia in my noggin, I was thrilled to see that the call was from "Muir" child star Harlen Carraher. Carraher is the former tow-headed moppet who played the young son of the titular widow.
Carraher, whose last listed acting job aptly was a guest shot on "The Brady Bunch," kindly provided his private number weeks ago on learning of the great love of "Unreal TV" for "Muir." The call last night was the latest round in a game of telephone tag that a three-hour time difference and other factors have caused to last for months. An interview with Carraher will run after we connect.
As an aside, the incredibly gregarious Carraher asks that fans please not contact him at his current literal day job. Unreal TV is glad to pass along messages and ask questions that reach here before Carraher does.
Returning to our main topic, "Muir" is an all-time after-school reruns favorite that is a frequent subject of posts regarding series that are overdue for U.S. DVD releases. This love is behind spending roughly $70 total for the aforementioned Australian releases of both seasons. This follows spending an embarrassingly large amount on the Australian release of the third season of fellow '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" years ago following interminable delays in then-Warner division Rhino releasing that season.
The premise of "Muir," which is based on the 1947 film of the same name, is that Carolyn Muir (wonderfully played by Hope Lange) moves Jonathan and his slightly older sister Candy to Gull Cottage in the small coastal Maine community of Schooner Bay. The Muir clan soon learns on moving into that rented abode that original owner Captain Daniel Gregg (well portrayed by "Knight Rider" star/character actor Edward Mulhare) haunts the house and does not welcome "Others" living there. One spoiler is that this stalwart sea captain is not allergic to sunlight.
The following clip, courtesy of "YouTube" and a fellow "Muir" fan, of several moments from the series shows the wonderful slapstick element of this terrific program.
The pilot achieves an excellent balance between exposition and getting down to business in that it opens with a moderately spooky scene in which current owner (and Gregg heir) Claymore Gregg (perfectly played by over-the-top campy actor Charles Nelson Reilly) arrives at the haunted mansion to inform his ancestor of the imminent arrival of the Muir family. One dystopian note is that this scene explains the need to rent the house to prevent a tax foreclosure. This scene ends with a series staple of the titular spirit rousting the Mr. Chicken of the show out of the house. However, this night-time scene contrasts with the later consistently daytime expulsions of Claymore.
Another dystopian element of the pilot has freelance writer Carolyn telling her unexpected housemate that she cannot afford to move. That hardship and a growing admiration/love for this widow leads to a workable detente following a hilarious scene in which the Captain and the widow wrestle for control of the family station wagon.
The on-screen chemistry between Lange and Mulhare is not perfect, but each plays his or her part well. It is also nice to see that they are largely equals and that the Captain must accept the nature of a modern liberated woman while Mrs. Muir must understand (and respect) the nineteenth century sense and sensibility of the Captain.
A particularly hilarious scene in an episode has Carolyn asserting her independence prompting the Captain undoing his good deed after magically fixing a flat tire. This outing also has Carolyn establishing the rule that she will take care of people and the Captain can take care of the ghosts only for the former to (predictably) soon learn that having a supernatural man around the house is helpful.
A somewhat related (and even more amusing) episode has Carolyn trying to cure herself of the "delusion" that she is sharing her home with an increasingly friendly ghost. Watching this frustrate said spirit is must-see TV.
A more ripped from the headlines episode has the medicine that the Captain prepares for an ailing Mrs. Muir transport her back to the Gull Cottage of the nineteenth century. This led to (unrealized tongue-in-cheek) hope (no pun intended) that lightning would strike twice when consuming massive amounts of maximum-strength NyQuil during a recent personal bout with severe pneumonia. Alas, a very relaxing near comatose state was the only result.
Other memorable segments from the roughly 50 "Muir" episodes include adorable family terrier Scruffy announcing the presence of an invisible Captain only to have the latter exact incredibly cute revenge, a temporarily powerless Captain struggling to telepathically move a teapot, and uber-successful dreamy singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson play a dreamy young performer who seeks refuge at Gull Cottage after the Captain attempts to drive him off the nearby beach.
Other notable guest stars include Bill Bixby of "Martian" as a determined paranormal investigator, "Oliver" star Mark Lester as a love interest for Candy, Richard Dreyfuss as a newspaper editor, and comic legend Dom Deluisle as a bumbling ghost who gets haunting lessons from the captain.
On a larger level, this incredibly fun and entertaining series has a few elements that continue to delight. Your (sometimes humble) reviewer derived a laugh from his significant other when recreating the overhead wave that a beach-walking Lange uses to gesture to Mulhare in the opening credits during a scene in current theatrical film "Still Alice" in which Julianne Moore walks on the beach. We also crack up whenever there is a reference to matronly live-in housekeeper Martha (played by Reta Shaw) using her "sweet cherry pie" to coerce the dessert-loving local handyman to do her bidding. Martha withholding that treat prompts particular hilarity.
On an even broader level, "Muir" and its ilk (such as "Martian") are simply awesome "unreal" shows that provide great entertainment without dumbing it down or relying on sexual innuendo. Other than Claymore and a few small-town stereo types, no one really plays the fool.
Further, the respect and love that our lead characters feel toward each other clearly drives the show. Seeing the Captain wanting to get into the heart (rather than the pants) of the object of his affection flames the desire for a return to nineteenth century values (absent the rampant racism and sexism and anti-homosexuality hysteria).
As a second alas, the DVD sets do not include any extras. The picture and sound quality are very good, and the episodes seem to be the broadcast versions
The awesomeness of the Film Movement July 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2009 French drama "You Will Be Mine" extends beyond this tale of a med. student being obsessed with her single white female roommate leaving expectations deeply in the dust. "Mine" further is notable regarding Movement pairing it with the (reviewed) French sex comedy "Three-Way Wedding"
"Mine" additionally passes the same acid test as virtually every Movement film. It could have been made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in America and still made perfect sense and had the same impact..
The following YouTube clip of a "Mine" trailer provides a sense of the cinematography and the performances that make the movie much more than a Lifetime-style film about one post-adolescent woman becoming manic over the girl who shares the expenses.
This almost literal year-in-the-life opens with a gleefully Marie Dandin and her entire family piling into the family station wagon to drive this piano prodigy to the gorgeous apartment that she is going to share with childhood friend Emma while Marie studies at the prestigious Lyons National Conservatory. The rest of the story is that M. et Mme. Dandin virtually idolize Emma for reasons that include her now-absent mother being an artist whom Mme. Dandin particularly admires.
Writer-director Sophie Leloy channels the best of the '80s obsessed psycho films in having the drama start subtly before the excitable boy (or girl) of the film goes completely cra cra. In this case, Emma begins her reign of terror by seemingly innocently suggesting to Marie that they restrict their socializing to the apartment and never have visitors.
The next portent comes when Marie convinces Emma to go to a restaurant; Emma subsequently is very uncool when cute Jewish boy Sami (who later shows one way in which he is one of the chosen people) and other classmatess of Marie run into the roommates and invite them to join them at a bar. Marie not properly interpreting the reaction of Emma ultimately makes a bad situation worse.
Emma soon making a very aggressive mood on a not entirely unreceptive Marie amounts to a rookie mistake that shows that the latter is unfamiliar with films such as "Fatal Attraction" and ""Single White Female." An increasingly aggressive Emma, mixed emotions regarding Sami, intense pressure at school, and having the limited financial resources of her parents limiting her options make Marie a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown by the time of her Christmas break, Her clueless parents inviting Emma, who charms the family, to come along does not help matters.
Spring semester drama includes Emma promising to behave and going so far as to invite Sami to move in with Marie providing a very short respite, A particularly creepy breakfast table conversation among the three roommates is a highlight. However, one of the best moments come via Marie trapping Emma in a major lie.
Leloy wraps all this up in a believable manner in which feelings get hurt much more than bodies.
The bigger picture this time is that Leloy touches on many overlapping themes that are relatable to large portions of the populations of many countries. The first is the extent to which people who lack close ties with blood relatives seek bonds with friends; the second is the gray area between a close platonic relationship and a sexual desire (particularly one involving a same-sex pair). Even more dangerous territory exists regarding someone who is closer to the homosexual end of the Kinsey Scale engaging in physically intimate activity with someone who is close to the heterosexual end. What is a combination of curiosity, horniness, and fun and games to one can mean more than that to the other person.
'The Men Who Built America: Frontiersman' DVD: Compelling Leo DiCaprio Produced Historic Figure Based Recap of 1775 - 1836
The Lionsgate July 31, 2018 DVD release of the History Channel docuseries "The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen," which is a prequel of the series "The Men Who Built America," aptly honors the spirit of summer school.
This Leonardo DiCaprio produced program communicates the material in an entertainingly informal manner. Much of this is attributable to the academics and numerous other talking heads who share their knowledge. The most recognizable contributors are former CIA Director David Petraeus and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.
The opening scenes of fur trapper Daniel Boone being chased by native Americans in the region beyond the Appalachian Mountains that serve as a border of 1770s America strikes a good balance between exposition and getting right down to action. This sets the stage for Boone returning to civilization after saving his hide by leaving those of the animals that he had captured behind.
This leads to forming the type of unlikely (and often uneasy) collaboration that is a theme of "Frontiersmen." Boone avoids debtors prison by heading back into the wilderness to figuratively pave the way for further American expansion. This leads to establishing Boonesborough.
This episode of "Frontiersmen" also introduces the "before they were stars" element of the series. This extends beyond Boone not yet being a legend to discussing the early career of future President William Henry Harrison. Fellow future POTUS Andrew Jackson similarly shows up early in the series.
The third regular element of "Frontiersmen" that dates back to the first episode is the aspect of showing how the portrayed incidents have an important role in more prominent events of the day. In this case, it is the strategic and symbolic importance of this particular wilderness to the British army during the American Revolution.
The next focus is on the events leading to the Louisiana Purchase that leads to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Cool aspects of this portion of "Frontiersmen" include copious personal information about the expedition leaders and their preparations for the trip, the full impact of their heading into literally uncharted territory, how they come to discover that there are no shortcuts regarding their venture, and the "True Hollywood Story" of native American guide Sacagawea. The bigger picture this time relates to the Brits still trying to restrain the Americans.
The strongest conflict comes during the final portion of "Frontiersmen," which focuses on "King of the Wild Frontier" Davy Crocket. We see how he literally holds his ground on learning that his views regarding the native American "problem" greatly differ from those of his masters. This leads to an even more heated confrontation with his former leader.
This dispute also provides context for the early days of the ugly political races that seem perpetual.
History fully repeats itself when Crocket joins the 1,000s of other Americans who move to Mexico-owned Texas for a combination of cheap land and freedom from what they consider the oppressive rule of the American government. Discovering that the new boss is the same old as the old boss prompts a mission statement in the form of the preparations to defend the Alamo that provide the final moments of "Frontiersmen."
One can only hope that History does not makes us wait long for episodes that bridge the gap between "Frontiersmen" and "Built." Eagerness to learn more about the exploits of Wilton Parmenter alone creates great expectations.
The Lionsgate July 31, 2018 separate DVD and enhanced Blu-ray releases of the first season of the Starz original series "Counterpart" provides a good chance to see the best current show that you have never seen. An initial endorsement is planning to subscribe to Starz when S2 episodes premiere in early 2019; an initial note is that the Dolby HD Blu-ray looks spectacular using a 4K player to watch it on a Sony 4K set.
The exceptional special features include a video for each of the 10 S1 episodes in which creator/writer/producer Justin Marks ("The Jungle Book") shares his insider perspective on that offering. His enthusiasm and insight prove his great love and regard for his creation.
The following YouTube clip of the official "Counterpart" S1 trailer introduces the lore of the show and awesomely proves that sadistic Schillinger of the 1997 - 2003 HBO prison drama "Oz" still lives in J.K. Simmons. A different fanbase knows Simmons from numerous roles that include his Oscar-winning performance in "Whiplash."
"Counterpart pulls off the neat trick of combining quality Cold War drama, the 1963-66 sitcom "The Patty Duke Show" in which the eponymous young star plays an everyteen all-American girl and more worldly English cousin, and the 2008-13 Fox scifi drama "Fringe" that shifts the action between our reality and a more totalitarian version of our world.
The "Counterpart" and "Fringe" parallel (pun intended) is especially close. Having equivalents of Walternate and Fauxlivia from the Fox series is the tip of the iceberg.
In both cases, the link to the Bizarro world is the result of a science experiment gone awry. The alternate dimension this time is the product of Cold War research in Berlin that creates a separate but equal reality. Restricted access between what can be considered East and West Berlin is via a heavily guarded subterranean tunnel.
The other primary element of the lore is that the general populace on both sides of the tunnel is completely oblivious to even the existence of the tunnel. The extensive symbolism begins with the lore that only person at a time can walk through the tunnel.
The larger (and more fascinating) theme is that the responses of our counterparts to the same incidents that we experience here shapes the personalities of both persons. An example is the differences between a woman who embraces a highly violent lifestyle and her other who better blends into society.
The rare occasions on which one encounters his or her mirror image are series highlights. They often make both persons wonder what might have been and prompt introspection by viewers.
Our story begins with the balance between action and introductory exposition that marks good series. The idea is that modern ADD audiences want to know what is going on but have little patience for being introduced to the setting.
The aforementioned opening scenes show the police in our reality in hot pursuit of Baldwin, an assassin from the other side. The manner in which this hired gun escapes sets a good (and sustained) precedence for the series.
We then move on to a day in the life of mild-mannered middle-aged UN spy agency desk jockey Howard Silk (Simmons). Boss (and personal fave) Peter Quayle (Harry LLoyd) has just passed him over for a promotion. On finishing his really boring job as an office clerk, Silk follows his evening routine of bringing his comatose wife Emily and the nurses at her hospital flowers and then reading to his spouse.
The proverbial game-changer comes on Silk arriving at work one morning to have Quayle let him in on the secret and introduce him to the titular Silk Prime (Simmons). Of course, the mousy wimp Silk disgusts the tough and stoic Prime. The only disappointment is that "evil" Silk does not have a goatee.
The rest of the story is that Prime is here because the Emily on this side is a target of Baldwin. The bigger picture is that a covert group on the other side is planning a coup.
The related efforts to save Emily and to capture Baldwin are the beginning of collaboration and a beautiful unlikely friendship between Silk and Prime. Seeing this pair interact and Prime slowly but surely mellow while Silk learns to man up provides great entertainment. A poker game between these studs arguably is the best scene in the entire season.
For his part, Quayle is the son-in-law of the big boss but is not a model husband. The rude awakening of this spy-master-in-training wonderfully reflects the themes of "Counterpart." Suffice it to say that Lloyd plays his role particularly well.
Additional entertainment comes as we learn more about the specific basis for the other side resenting us; this relates to a wonderfully complex conspiracy in which virtually everyone becomes a suspect. The manner in which people with whom a character has a close bond often does not hesitate to throw that person under a bus is awesome vicarious fun.
The Cold War elements also include prisoner exchange negotiations, such swaps going horribly wrong, the luxury on our side seducing tunnel commuters, the other side brainwashing children and preparing them to serve the cause, moles, etc.
All of this culminates in a season finale that wraps up the S1 drama and sets the stage for S2. The tightening of the noose prompts drastic action by infiltrators, friends getting trapped in hostile territory, and diplomacy failing. In other words, just like the real Cold War era Berlin.
Lionsgate also gives us the bonus feature "Season Outlook" in which cast and crew discuss the series and favorite moments.
The awesomeness of the seven-room Long Dell Inn B & B in Centerville, Mass. on Cape Cod extends beyond its perfection. The nature of that home run reflects the principles of the Inn Credible New England section of this website that determine if such a place hits one out of the park or is a swing and a miss.
Inn Credible Hosts
Innkeepers Marc and Donna are the rare breed that makes getting things right look easy, pass the test of vacation friends with flying colors, and manage to run the business together without tears or recriminations. Being there on their 15th wedding anniversary made things a little more special.
Former financial industry compliance guy Marc shares that the secret of the success of his partnership with former defense attorney with a heart of platinum Donna (who has a history of almost literally giving clients suits off of the back of Marc) is that each has individual areas of responsibility. Having their own on-site living space on the property is another cited basis for the personal and professional tranquility.
The story of how this couple comes to own this mid-century house with a roughly 120-year history of hosting guests is somewhat typical. A Goldilocks-style search for the right second-career after years of a bridge and/or tunnel commute from New Jersey to Manhattan ends with discovering this place that is just right for this couple and all those who discover it. This leads to the desired fairy tale endings.
Their hospitality begins with the telephone call inquiring about the inn. This includes ensuring that all dietary requirements and preferences will be met and that the breakfast that the rate includes will be to the liking of the guest. Marc bending over backward to please a particularly persnickety guest during our stay further illustrates this incredible service,
Finding what is behind the lime-green door on arriving reinforces the choice of hotel. Marc provides a brief welcome that includes an offer of the snacks and hot and cold beverages that are available 24/7. Fortunate guests get face time with shy puppy-mill rescue inn dog Lucky the coton de Tulear.
Marc next provides the best of both worlds that addresses the gripes of rookies who do not realize that virtually no B & B has someone to carry bags to your room. He politely insists on helping with the luggage and taking the heaviest items. He may rethink the latter offer after carrying the perpetually packed Inn Credible New England duffel. The "just in case" items in it include a power strip, snacks, toiletries, and surf shoes.
Inn Credible Rooms
The "just right" theme includes the Long Dell guestrooms. The nicest thing about the beachy chic Cape Cod vibe of the individually decorated rooms (all of which have private bathrooms) is that it lacks the cookie-cutter feel of large hotels. A personal peeve is staying in a room that looks as if it is as likely to be in any other city as the one in which you are staying.
On the other end of the spectrum, each room is so meticulously decorated yet homey, immaculate, and sunny that you need not fear the bait-and-switch that some B&Bs pull. Paying $200/night or more for a shabby broom closet when you have an expectation of a charming quaint room that does not require one person to jump on the bed to allow the other to pass (been there, done that) is worse than feeling that you are staying in the bedroom department of a mid-price furniture store.
The highly individualized art and other special touches by Donna in each room further enhance the warmth of the Long Dell.
Marc and Donna further provide the best of both world regarding bathroom amenities. Their desire to do their part for Mother Earth prompts having sparkling clean spa-quality body wash, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers. The cucumber body wash is a highlight.
This system supports the efforts of environmentally-conscious folks and allows the rest of us to avoid "please. sir, I want some more" moments. This relates to the desire to either rinse off the dust of the road or remove yeti-caliber stench on arriving at a hotel often requiring requesting a second bar of soap for the next morning. Of course, the aforementioned duffel bag has two bars of soap.
Inn Credible Happy Days
Having seen every room at the Long Dell allows ensuring readers that none of them remotely resemble a shabby broom closet. This includes the especially well-appointed Tradewinds Room, which was the reserved accommodation. Fortune smiled on us in the form of a last-minute cancellation for the coveted and particularly aptly named "The Nest." The following photos (which includes the oft-mentioned duffel) do not come close to doing this oasis justice.
The partner of your not-so-humble reviewer describing this suite (which includes a private deck) as an upscale Fonzie apartment nicely provides a sense of this room. The private entrance to this spacious option over two guestrooms in an addition at the back of the inn is one of many senses of isolation. Having a small refrigerator, counter-top microwave, and kitchen sink is further conducive to private relaxation.
This easily is the quietest room at a very peaceful property, and the sitting area is a great spot to relax after a busy day in the area.
Inn Credible Area
Speaking of the area, this Centerville property is centrally located to all that makes Cape Cod the destination choice of presidents who do not own golf resorts or family compounds. The general store and area-favorite Four Seas ice cream shop that are town highlights are a short walk away.
Large and sandy Craigsville Beach also is a fairly easy stroll, but driving facilitates bringing beach gear. A tip that Marc shares is that parking in the HUGE lot is free after the college kids who staff it go home in the late afternoon. The downside is that these scholars lock the bathrooms and the outdoor showers when they close up.
An amazing aspect of this is proving to this Northern New England boy that ocean water can be warm; this is adequately great to warrant the comment that the Pilgrims are dopes for not staying put on landing in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, rather than the almost universally accepted location of Plymouth. The note here is that the famed rock is not worth crossing the street to see.
The larger town of Osterville is roughly five minutes away. This is a haven for folks who enjoy boutique-style shopping. Those who are so inclined easily can go home with a stylish summer clothes, tasteful sea-themed decorations. nice drinking glasses, and gourmet cheese.
Fans of hamburgers are warned that the well-known Wimpy's restaurant in Osterville does not do especially well with that entree despite the eatery name indicating otherwise. They seem to do better with seafood. As in all things, the better bet is to heed the advice of Marc and dine at the mid-range flatbread restaurant Crisp.
The inn also is roughly a 15-minute drive to Kennedycentric Hyannis, which has a JFK museum next to the post office, The several blocks-long downtown has the basic restaurants. souvenir shops, and other businesses that one expects in a touristy beach town.
Inn Credible Advice
This trip reinforces the belief that personalized hotels generally outshine cookie-cutter properties. The ones, such as the Long Dell, that survives more than four years, are run by folks that know the business and value art over commerce. (The perspective this time was having to convince a hotel owner at a $175/night place to unlock a cabinet to take out a second fun-sized box of Rice Krispies.)
The best places feel like visiting relatives whom you like; in this case, Marc and Donna seem like the cousins who are the kids of the nice aunt. This also makes returning fun.
'Streets of Vengeance' Blu-ray: Awesome Homage to Trashy Fare of USA Up All Night & Debbie Rochon Films
Olive Films aptly takes us to camp with the July 24, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Streets of Vengeance." Olive captures the tone of of "Vengeance" in describing it as "a throwback to the gritty action-thrillers of the '80s." The bonus fun comes via this Slasher//video joint being presented in the format of a fictional basic cable show that is just as cheesy and tawdry as the real "USA Up All Night" that gave trashy films new life on weekend nights from 1989 to 1998. One difference is that the graphic sexual and violent content remains intact this time.
A more modern modern reference is to the oft-hilarious and always perverse films of 21st-century scream queen Debbie Rochon.
The brilliance of "Vengeance" is that ipurposefully making a twisted bad film elevates otherwise pure trash into an awesome guilty pleasure. An example of this is the phrase "choke on your own cock" not just being an expression this time. The only surprise is that the central vigilantes do not have a targeted misogynist suck a bag of dicks.
The larger reference thus time is to the mother of all bad movie showcases "Mystery Science Theater 3000." The best brains behind that '90s basic cable series spare intentional garbage by limiting their selections to movies that the filmmakers believe to be good.
"Vengeance" opens with porn star Mila on the verge of hanging up her G string at the same time that the San Francisco slasher is killing women who use their sex appeal to pay the bills,
A retirement party (sans gold garter belt) for Mila ends badly when a cult member grabs her outside the venue and brings her to his lair. This male chauvinist pig makes the common mistake of film villains by telling Mila of the cult objective of ridding the world of women who tease and otherwise abuse men with their slutty behavior. Suffice to say two damaged individuals enter, one porn actress leaves.
Mila subsequently initially teams up with muscle, who essentially acts as the pimp of the all party-girl army that Mila assembles to take back the street corner. In true revenge-film style, this battle of hos v. bros amps up in a manner that puts Mila on the radar of the cult leader, who is connected with a man for whom the battle is particularly personal.
This leads to the inevitable battle royale that leads to the inevitable mano-a-womano showdown between the cult leader and Mila. Suffice it to say this time, Mila shows that her stiletto-heel boots are made for more than walking.
Olive further enhances the "Vengeance" experience with a feature-length making-of film and a bushel of other Blu-ray extras. These include cast interviews, a blooper reel, a music video, and several trailers.
The concept of the Margin Films documentary "Gay Hollywood Dad," which premieres August 2 2018 at the New York Asian-American Film Festival a day before debuting on Amazon Instant Video, is laudable and has great potential. The sad truth is that 29 year-old filmmaker/titular single parent Quentin Lee sacrifices the opportunity to share his unusual experience to promote his career. "Dad" also suffers from being produced with eye toward being a reality web series.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Dad" shows how the film starts strong before becoming standard reality show fare. One can only fear Lee creating a series titled "The Real Toddlers of Los Angeles" featuring his son Casper.
The central concept of "Dad" is strong. As Lee states at the beginning of the film, his desire for a child that is biologically his prompts choosing surrogacy., We remain on course as we meet gestational carrier Crystal Primavera as she prepares to give birth in her home state of West Virginia.
The veering into reality TV territory roughly 5 minutes later is where things start taking a turn for the worse. The cast of stock characters include aptly named Adrian Ho, whom Lee identifies as his partner. The apparent reality is that Ho is not figuratively or literally prominently in the picture. His conspicuous absences include not accompanying Lee to witness the birth of the baby or on separate trips to meet the grandparents.
Further, Lee comments that Ho is more comfortable than him regarding going home with Mr. Right Now. All of this points to Ho being more fuck buddy than life companion.
The "plot" when the gang gathers at Chez Lee is that Lee wants a 100-day celebration of the birth of Casper. The explanation of the reason that Chinese people celebrate that milestone is interesting. The drama begins with debates regarding the venue and the budget for the event.
One uncomfortable TMI moment during the party involves Lee telling the group that his sperm was used in the process of that lead to the birth of Casper. This is contrast to the more appropriate option of stating that he is the biological father.
Lee comes across much worse minutes later as we see him in the back seat of a car sharing that he is too drunk to drive; he adds insult to injury by joking that he looks forward to Casper being old enough to be a designated driver. It also is presumed that this too polluted to operate a motor vehicle father of an infant does not have anyone staying at his home that night to help care for the baby.
The popularity of Lee further falls when he discusses not having as much time as desired to film babies on a prior film project. This creates an impression that his motives for having Casper include having as much time as needed with this "prop" for the upcoming horror short "In Halloween" that Lee heavily promotes to the extent of including most of that film in "Dad."
Things calm down from there as Lee brings Casper to Hong Kong to meet the grandmother of the child and celebrate her birthday. Not much drama ensues during that trip.
More drama ensues during a Christmas week Vancouver trip to meet the generally grumpy Grandpa. It is clear that this man is overdue for a visit from four ghosts.
Lee wraps up "Dad" with a discussion of taking Casper on the red carpet during a film festival. This ties into discussing the infant liking some restaurants better than others. Speaking as one who often comes close to grabbing a loudly beeping game console or a streaming device playing a children;s video from the hands of a toddler and smashing it on the floor at a restaurant, Lee should not drag his son to dinners as if the boy is a chihuahua in a Louis Vuitton purse. The general rule should be that no one under 10 should eat anyplace that does not advertise on Nickelodeon.
The bigger picture is that "Dad" is squandered on an affable man who clearly loves his son but seems to not have properly adapted to his new reality. An average 'mo with a 9-to-5 job and actually must let his bundle du joie greatly disrupt his life seems to be a better subject for this theme.
The Warner Archive crystal-clear July 10, 2018 Blu-ray release of the social-commentary laden 1962 period-piece drama "Billy Budd" fills the summer film void of an epic film with depth (no pun intended.) This adaptation of the Herman Melville novel of the same name tells the 1797 tale of the titular Shanghaied young sailor.
Peter Ustinov does yeoman's work in this Cinemascope film in that he directs and co-produces it in addition to playing Captain Edwin Fairfax Vere. The exceptional look of this shot-at-sea film and the perfect portrayal of Vere as a man who keeps his head under very trying circumstances prove that Ustinov is a genuine triple threat.
Budd (future General Zod AND Jor-El portrayor Terence Stamp) is a happy sailor aboard the merchant ship The Rights of Man to the extent of gleefully leading the crew in a rousing song when the British Navy ship the HMS Avenger shows up and asserts an effective right of scavenge in forcing Budd to literally jump ship and join Team Vere,
"Budd" then projects a mild vibe of a modern workplace in that Budd is the slightly annoying enthusiastic newbie who is immune to the cynicism of the "veterans" We also get strong Dickensian overtones that are particularly prevelant in separate scenes in which Budd puts a positive spin on the swill that the crew eats and casually discusses being a foundling.
The good nature of Budd puts him on the radar of gruff and tough Master-of-Arms John Claggart (Robert Ryan), who rebuffs the sweet and caring offer of friendship by Budd. The sense of a modern workplace enters the picture again on Vere granting Budd a fast-track promotion prompting Claggart to feel additional animus toward our teen seaman.
Things further escalate on Claggart maliciously making a false accusation against Budd that leads to Vere giving the lad a chance to defend himself. Expected shock and awe leads to a tragic accident regarding which the captain aptly expresses the flaw of most legal systems that requires basing a decision on the law rather than on justice.
This in turn leads to arguably the most powerful scene in the film in which the crew experiences one of the harshest realities of both life at sea and being in the military. The "but wait there's more" surprise comes just as things seem destined to reach a conclusion that is preordained from the beginning.
The bonus impact this time is the sad truth that things have not changed much since the 18th century setting of "Budd" or the 1962 premiere of the film. Further, the same likely will be true 56 years from now.
The special feature is commentary by Stamp and Steven Soderbergh.
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