The genesis of a President's Day Weekend getaway at the Boston Marriott Copley Place was wanting a Minneapolis-style vacation closer to home. Ala the Twin City having skywalks connecting many downtown buildings, the Marriott Copley has climate-controlled access to the upscale Copley Square Mall of which it is a part.
Guests additionally can access the adjacent Prudential Center mall and Hynes Convention Center without going outside. This is not to mention a tunnel that connects to a station of the Boston subway system, which is part of the MBTA (aka "The T").
The weather averaging cloudy 40-degree days confirmed that the hotel was a good choice for a winter visit to Boston. The place teeming with families with young children at the start of a school vacation week showed that that weekend was not optimal for adults seeking a quiet break. The good news was that the hallways and the rooms provided a nice peaceful surrounding. The better news was that this weekend was an anomaly that going almost any other weekend would have corrected.
Getting to stay in the luxurious top-floor Presidential Suite was an incredible treat. Briefly camping out in a standard King room while the suite was being cleaned showed that even that accommodation, which was surprisingly roomy and had a comfy settee, was an option for folks not very "suite" on upgrades.
Having stated that, splurging for the Presidential Suite or even one of the lower-tier suites FULLY supports the Inn Credible New England philosophy that money that otherwise would be spent on increasingly exasperating air travel and staying in a cookie-cutter hotel (which the Copley Marriott is not despite its corporate ownership) is MUCH BETTER "invested" in a upscale experience closer to home.
Having stated that, a special upgrade always enhances a trip when circumstances lead to air travel. This is especially so when celebrating the graduation of a child who either excelled during his or her entire academic career or showed every sign of being a dullard as an infant. The same is true regarding a destination wedding of a beloved friend or family member. Having a spectacular place to escape the maddening crowd as to both types of events further is priceless.
Each of the below photos of the suite being worth far more than 1,000 words is a bonanza to this rejuvenated but still somewhat winter-weary dude, Fully appreciating the physical and mental comfort of the accommodation requires experiencing it.
The bed, complete with a sleep-inducing pillow mist, is the tip of the iceberg. A related hint is bringing spa-quality muscle-relaxing bath salts to use for soaking in the sunken tub in the suite master bathroom; the glass-enclosed shower in the 3/4 bath in the entrance hall is large enough for you and two of your closest (or newest) friends. Personal enjoyment of the suite did not include that.
A related note is that the bidet-quality shower head that "Inn Credible" articles often mention is supplemented by an actual bidet in this suite. That was another missed experience this trip.
This being an urban adventure required leaving behind the "perpetually packed duffel" that is a mainstay of "Inn Credible" trips. The good news is that the suite is so well appointed that not having the power strip and other "what if" items that typically make the duffel helpful did not diminish the stay.
Twenty years of regular solo travel are behind a universal preference for a suite. These trips often involve evenings alone at the B and B or hotel after an active day out and about; it is VERY depressing to have to eat take-out food sitting on a bed and then use that "table" to watch a couple of hours of television.
Suites have equal value when traveling as a couple, a pair, or a family. Three such trips involving having to either literally jump on the bed or press against the wall to allow other person free passage demonstrate the wisdom of an upgrade. Although the standard room at the Copley Marriott is neither shabby nor a "broom closet," each person being able to get a little extra space is nice.
In both cases, ample closet space is handy as to keeping things neat and avoiding tripping over luggage.
The below-depicted den area with the yellow leather sectional sofa was the spot of choice for unwinding while watching "Flintstones" DVDs with the Blu-ray player that I easily connected to the one of the three large-screen sets in the suite.
The more formal living room, complete with a sofa bed, was the choice for separately entertaining a friend and my highly significant other who came in for the afternoon.
The kitchen, complete with a wet bar and a mini-fridge facilitated having snacks and beverages handy.
There also a board-room style conference for literally getting down to business if that is an element of a stay.
The following photo of the 38th-floor panoramic view of The Athens of America and its sister city across the muddy water is the icing on the cake as to this "bucket list" worthy experience. Nor seeing it snow-covered or in the middle of a blizzard is equal parts blessing and curse as to this "Minneapolis" trip.
The figurative big picture as to this hot-laden post is that Boston is a city for all seasons, and the Copley Marriot either is within easy walking distance of it or is a short subway or Uber trip away.
Breaking Glass Pictures fully lives up to its reputation for edgy dark fare as to its its February 18, 2020 DVD release of the 2019 grindhouse-light film "Feedbacck."
This tale of a night of terror for an aging Chav who can be considered the UK answer to Howard Stern, can be thought of as a Blumhouse remake of the '70s com "WKRP in Cincinnati" about the zany staff at a struggling AM radio station. On a related note, one can only hope that Blumhouse does recreate the "WKRP" episode that revolves around a belief that turkeys can fly.
Outspoken Jarvis Dolan arrives at work bloodied but undeterred in the wake of a beatdown inspired by his strong opinions; his glee on throwing around his star status is short-lived when it soon becomes apparent that tonight is not like every other night. For on this night, some people die and others wish for that fate.
The terror for Jarvis and delight for the warped viewers who enjoy his torture begins with learning that his show has been hijacked and that the culprits are at least one step ahead of him. Things follow the standard course of Jarvis being warned against trying to get any help. He also discovers that he is his own captive audience.
Learning that the current "night in question" involves an earlier "night in question" with heavy shades of "WKRP" is far from the end of the story. Virgin feature-film writer/director Pedro C. Alonso does an excellent job keeping the twists coming in a manner that validates the theory that all memories are subjective.
Jarvis and his sidekick being forced to graphically confess their sins under incredible duress and in a highly public manner greatly contributes to the perverse fun of this one.
Alonso further shows his chops in the obligatory escape attempt scene. This one truly demonstrates sound and fury.
Of course, all this ends with the last men (if any) on both sides of the sadistic antics at the end of their ropes and thoroughly exhausted. The awesome thing this time is that all involved get exactly what they deserve,
Purveyor of awesome guilty-pleasure films Wild Eye Releasing continues stepping up its game with the recent DVD release of the smells like teen angst film "A Million Hits."
This B-movie aptly populated with characters to whom that letter can apply in a related context shines a light on the role of social media on coveted teen popularity. Even those of us whose high-school days predate the Web (dark and otherwise ) can relate to wanting to be one of the cool kids and to a literal or figurative party going out of bounds.
A broader perspective regarding all this is that any individual who hopes to profit from an online presence can relate to the less scrupulous among us using deceitful and/or lascivious means to increase hits. A personal point of pride is never "paying for it" and never sharing my naughty bits or behind-closed-door activities to attract readers. I will state that following @tvdvdguy on Twitter will give you a chance to find a chocolate bunny on your lawn on April 12, 2020.
Our story begins with Queen B Ashley administering a massive beat-down to frienemy Amy while sidekick Jess films the action. This escapade lands all three excitable girls in the office of the principal.
The first bit of humor relates to the school administrator invoking the over-blown terrorist threat policy of many K-12 institutions regarding the punishment for the incident. Watching Ashley play innocent and not-so-subtly bully Amy into verifying a claim that they were merely fooling around is hilarious.
The fallout from all this includes the '90s-era camcorder of Jess getting confiscated, and her abusive mother giving her hell for that allegedly valuable item being taken away. Jess manipulating an AV geek in an effort to recover the device also prompts smiles.
Much of the teen drama relates to Ashley responding true to character in both senses of that term on Jess having leverage over that YouTube star. For her part, Jess fairly simultaneously finds her true calling and her dream boy.
For her part, Amy represents the stereotype of a childhood best friend who is callously thrown aside for not thriving during puberty. The fallout from her sharing a video from the good-old-days is another highlight of "Hits."
All of this climaxes in a manner that solidifies that "Hits" is a neo-modern morality tale. One way of stating this it to paraphrase the Mark Twain quote that it is better to not film your misdeeds and be assumed to be a fool, rather than to post them and remove all doubt.
The Breaking Glass Pictures January 21, 2020 DVD of the 2018 documentary "Church & State" provides a look at an early days of the campaign for marriage equality. It also reminds us that the religion of the Osmonds and Katherine Heigel is evil.
The below trailer for "State" reveals the flaws that prevent loving it. Two of the biggest issues are that it does not break (pun intended) new ground and does address a (for now) moot point. A related observation is that the fight for marriage equality is so recent that the 10-percent have not forgotten the prelude to going to the chapel where they're gonna get married.
Further, as the film points out, marriage advocate Mark Lawrence is not a very appealing spokesperson. He acknowledges this in the context of the literal poster boys whom he chooses as the face of the campaign.
Additionally, directors Holly Tuckett and Kendall Wilcox provide PLENTY of talking heads and archival footage but no entertaining graphics or amusing clips from films and television shows. This does keep things dry.
On a broad level, "State" focuses almost exclusively on the passage of an anti-marriage-equality law in Utah and the subsequent legal battles to overturn it. Some mention is made of Hawaii legalizing same-sex marriage, but nothing is said of the lawsuits in Massachusetts and other states. Further, Team Tuckett does not touch on the numerous valid reasons that civil unions are not an acceptable option to marriage.
"State" deserves more props for addressing the need for a rush to the altar (or city hall) on the Utah court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. A related issue is legitimate concern as to having those marriages declared illegal either pending the outcome of an appeal of the decision or a reversal of it.
Personal experience is being on alert in Massachusetts to attend a wedding within minutes of a favorable judgment in the state in that case.
Discussing the principle of states' rights is another positive aspect of "State."
On a more narrow level, it is difficult to imagine anyone being surprised to hear either that the Mormon church is ant-gay or that it is controls the Utah legislature. This is reprehensible but is no different than any other "largest employer" in a state dictating the policy in that jurisdiction.
A clip of the Mormon pope does nicely illustrate a main point of "Church," This latter day saint has a huge smile on his face and is laughing while telling the tale of a Mormon elder who is physically beaten for propositioning his partner during their missionary position.
The mouth of the Mormon says no no regarding this punishment for the guy attempting to get into the magic underwear of his friend; conversely, the eyes of that chosen one say yes yes. A very sad aspect of this is that the Mormon faith holds that that guy will go to Heaven. For the record, your not-so-humble reviewer wants his next existence either to be in Dog Heaven or to be a vengeful spirit.
The bottom line is "so far, so good" regarding the Trump Administration not trying to undo marriage equality; as such, "State" is not so timely in any regard.
'The Miracle of the Little Prince' DVD: Classic Children's Book Gives Dying Cultures Royal Treatment
The Film Movement December 3, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 documentary "The Miracle of the Littlel Prince" serves the noble purpose of reminding us that so many world cultures have been lost as more dominate entities have moved in and taken over, The bonus is a multi-lingual reading of a WWII-era classic.
A benign relatable example in the United States is the massive numbers of children, especially from Asia, who come here with their families and speak their native tongues at home only to struggle with having to speak English at school even in this age of ESL and overall greater cultural sensitivity. Of course, a big difference is that the US powers that be are not trying to kill off any other cultures.
The following Movement trailer for "Miracle" expertly conveys the theme and the tone of the film. We see that the translations are as much of a labor of love as the movie itself.
Movement does just as well describing "Miracle" in writing as it does in the trailer. A passage from the text on DVD back cover states: "There are now versions of the beloved children' story in over 300 different languages. In this emotionally rich, globetrotting documentary director Marjoleine Boonstra travels to Morocco, Scandinavia, El Salvador, and Tibet to find people from diverse backgrounds and linguistic regions who have all chosen this cherished book to help keep their endangered languages and cultures alive."
The above also reflects the meta element of "Miracle." Making a film that highlights all but dead languages and their cultures helps prevent those things from entirely dying out.
Although every segment in "Miracle" is strong and unique, the El Salvador story is the most interesting in that it centers around a ground of older woman helping keep the translation in in their traditional language as accurate as possible. An example of that it that language being able to describe a red flower but lacking a word for rose. The horticulture history lesson as to that is that the Spanish explorers introduce roses to the Americas.
The engaging man who is heading up the effort to translate "Prince" in Tibet also achieves the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational. We also get a strong sense of the level of oppression in that country.
The true legacy of these efforts go back to when man first adequately evolved to communicate in a manner that helps keep early culture alive, We may have come a long way, Baby, but the folks featured in "Miracle" show the value of going old school.
The TLA Releasing January 28, 2020 DVD of "Leave it to Levi" fully embraces the modern tradition of gay-themed documentaries that fully show the naked truth. The titular model/porn star is Levi Karter; "Levi" is a production of Karter boss/CockyBoys co-owner Jake Jaxson that builds on amateur video by Karter that depicts his life.
The highly explicit opening scenes of Karter engaged in vigorous phone sex is misleading in that much of the film relates to more respectable aspects of the life of Levi. The latter, which is not the most "blue" content in "Leave," reflects the common theme of many films of this genre; the (usually young) pretty boys that we get to know largely are like everyone else with the exception that they use their good looks and sex skills for fun and profit.
Karter largely is a momma's boy, who loses Momma on her learning how her boy pays the rent; these developments are told in a highly amusing manner that has shades of the conspiracy theories regarding the JFK assassination. This dynamic further sets the stage for Momma to deliver arguably the most memorable line in the film; she states that she cannot imagine any parent wanting his or her child to grow up to be a porn star.
Aside from the incredibly adorable dog of Karter, the scene stealer of "Leave" is Karter roommate/colleague Liam Riley. This guy who personifies youthful exuberance adds incredible energy to the film. His most memorable moment revolves around discussing outdoor sex.
Things take an unexpected turn halfway through "Leave" when we meet Karter drag-queen alter-ego Sassy Frass. This reflects the gay-lesbian dynamic that is akin to cats and dogs. The basic conflict is that dressing in drag generally is consider the polar opposite of the dominant masculine theme of gay porn. This element of the life of Karter already strains the tolerance of Momma before Sassy has a sort of a homecoming; a scene in which Momma and son bra shop for the latter does lighten the mood.
The parental relationship and the fact that the Karter can be considered the Hannnah Montana of gay porn is a compelling angle that sets "Leave" apart from the more typical fare that shows that the guys go make a career out of going Full Monty truly are the boys next door. We also see how those distinguishing characteristics impact the "day job" of Karter.
The copious DVD bonuses include behind-the-scenes footage at the "Leave" premiere that shows that Karter also is a Daddy's boy who likely enjoys a good spanking.
The IndiePix Films DVD release of the 2016 drama "Agony" is a perfect example of a neo-modern psychological drama; the social commentary on the dystopian existence of Millennials is icing on the cake.
This fact-based tale of two Millennials centers around the quarter-life crises of law student/aspiring judge Christian and recent Army vet./rapper/boxer Alex. The actual collateral damage of the post-teen angst of one of these "we need to talk about" boys is a 20-something woman whose remains get spread all over Vienna.
Alex divides much of his time between training at his gym and hanging out with his best friend with whom he not-so-secretly would like to obtain benefits. Christian studies hard, frequents the local club, and has a girlfriend/chum.
Rookie writer/director David Clay Diaz fairly evenly divides the screen time between these fine young cannibals. The few seconds of blackness between the segments devoted to them provide segues.
Being boomerang kids who essentially have trouble paying the 'rent is a common characteristic of our subjects. The lord and the lady of their respective manors express frustration regarding failing to pull their weight,
Alex has it worse; his father is a cop, who is increasingly frustrated both regarding keeping his son in protein powder and this Peter Pan lacking a viable career path. The former having to literally bail out the latter does not help matters.
For his part, Christian generally is angsty and is contending with an important test. A tense "meet the parents" aspect and his girlfriend being clingy does not help matters.
The dual climaxes of "Agony" revolves around both boys succumbing to the pressures in their lives. One takes a stab at relieving that pressure; the other decides to bag it. Both endings show that the kids are not alright.
The numerous merits of the film begin with the strong relatability regarding this movie about two 20-something guys having difficulty transitioning from being boys to fully manning up. This extends to showing that even Millennials who seem to have their lives together face the same challenges as apparent slackers. This is not to mention the ills associated with being on both sides in a relationship with unrequited love.
The underlying social commentary that includes the concept of "if it bleeds, it leads" and the fact that any similarities between our excitable boys and any persons living or dead is not purely coincidental adds good depth. These elements, along with the production quality of "Agony," elevate the movie above being an "After School Special" or a Lifetime Movie,
The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 18, 2020 DVD and BD releases of S1 of the CBS All-Access original series "The Twilight Zone" proves once again that CBHE, All-Access, and this site are of the same mind; we all want to keep the Silver (and Golden) Age of Television alive in the public consciousness.
This joint effort includes recent (ongoing) (reviewed) CBSHE releases of the classic 20-season western "Gunsmoke" and (reviewed) releases of the All-Access original series "Star Trek: Discovery." One need not be a rocket scientist to predict that CBSHE will release DVD and BD sets of "Picard" S1 from All-Access this summer.
"Zone" premiering on All-Access on April 1, 2019 further proves that that streaming service pays the classics the respect to which they are entitled.
The press materials for our topic du jour expertly convey the style and the substance of this "Zone" from producer/narrator Jordan Peele, whose Oscar and Emmy bring him halfway to being an EGOT. "Originally airing from 1959 to 1964, "The Twilight Zone" became a worldwide phenomenon as it used socially conscious storytelling to explore the human condition and culture of the times. The godfather of sci-fi series, the show explored humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices in meatphoric ways that conventional dramas could not."
"Point of Origin" perfectly conveys the above and shows how Team Peele keeps things fresh. Ginnifer Goodwin of "Once Upon A Time" delivers an Emmy-worthy performance as a one-percenter "Real Houswife" who stands by as her South-of-the-Border maid/nanny gets dragged off by immigration. The subsequent insult to that injury relates to the Goodwin character bragging to her fellow Stepford Wives that she tried to fend off the feds.
A portion of the rest of the story is that Goodwin finds herself caught up in the same system as her mother's little helper; in true "Zone" fashion, twists galore ensue.
We get an even stronger "Zone" vibe in "Replay." This variation of "Groundhog Day" has the black mother of an incoming college freshman use a "Warehouse 13" caliber enchanted camcorder to repeatedly turn back time to find a way to avoid a fatal encounter with a racist Virginia state trooper, The final showdown is an awesome melange of the '60s-era Civil Rights Movement and the 21st-century power of social media. The sad overall commentary is that not every segment of American society has come a long way, Baby.
The following "Zone" trailer reinforces that this is your granddady's series but that Millennials will like it as well.
S1 E1 is a variation on the Billy Mumy OS classic "It's a Good Lfe" that revolves around the Mumy character banishing anyone who offends him into "the cornfield." The update has a struggling comedian develop the power to "Wonderful Life" anyone whom he desires out of existence; of course, he goes a little power mad. The standard (but always extraordinary) episode-ending twist is straight out of the OS.
The inarguably most entertaining S1 episode also has a strong "Village of the Damned" vibe with equally heavy overtones of "The Omen" and the AWESOME 1968 cult classic "Wild in the Streets" about a post-adolescent rock star running for president with ultimately SPECTACULARLY trippy "Zone" style results. The variation in "The Wunderkind" is that John "Harold" Cho plays a George Stephanopolous clone who ends up running the presidential campaign of 11 year-old Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay of "Room").
The first note as to "Wunderkind" is that it reinforces that Tremblay, who shines in "Room," has a long successful career ahead of him. The second note is that the "Wild" style music-video that CBSHE includes in the copious special features is a set highlight. On a more general note, this episode is a "Zone" style fable that reminds viewers of the evils as to electing a ego-maniacal celebrity president.
Arguably, no "Zone" rebooot would be complete with a version of the William Shatner classic "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet." This time, the gremlin is inside the plane; the lesson in this one with heavy shades of "Lost" and lesser ones of "The Lord of the Flies" is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
The season-finale is a perfect example of going out of an apt note. In the event that this is the end of the story, it concludes the series with a wonderful bang. In the event of a second season, which is the case, it leaves us wanting more.
It initially is business as usual, including Peele (per usual) stepping into the narrator shoes of Serling. Things take a meta left turn as it is revealed that Team Peele is filming a "Zone" episode. The focus then shifts to a current writer/childhood OS fan finding herself sucked into the series' titular dimension. The ONLY disappointment is that the identity of the titular Blurryman is so predictable that "Scooby" fans could deduce who is the "villain."
The aforementioned plethora of extras include behind-the-scenes features on each episode and the series itself. We also get "Remembering Rod Serling," which puts the OS in wonderful perspective.
The morale to all this is that they CAN and SHOULD make 'em like they used to.
The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 11, 2020 DVD sets of the (reviewed) S118 and S19 of "Gunsmoke" brings viewers close to the end of the trail as to this 20-season Western that is about so much more than high-noon shootouts and cattle rustlers battling sheep farmers. It is predicted that CBS will release an S20 DVD set no later than June 2020.
S19 E1 moderately departs from the standard formula of US Marshal Matt Dillon facing daunting physical (and sometimes philosophical/existential) challenges in trying to keep or restore peace in Reconstruction Era Dodge City with a little help from his friends. This entourage includes excitable quirky and illiterate deputy Festus (Ken Curtis), grizzled and caring Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), and tough but compassionate honest businesswoman saloon keeper Miss Kirty (Amanda Blake).
The first sign that we are not in Kansas anymore is the rare voice-over narration that sets the stage (no pun intended) for this "very-special" two-part episode. The exposition explains why renegade Indians, such as Union Army tunic-wearing Blue Jacket (Gregory Sierra) go off the reservation.
This ties into why these neer-do-wells drag off women either to keep for themselves or to sell to 19th-century white slavers. Dillon is on the trail of these partners-in-crime to rescue a Dodge City woman. This ultimately leads to Dillon trying to make an "honest woman" out of a cynical "saloon girl." A little girl who is along for the ride adds a "Cousin Oliver" element to the episode.
The next outing arguably jumps the shark by having Dillon, who is suffering from amnesia, falling in love with a widow (Michael Learned) when he is far from Dodge on the hunt for an outlaw (Victor French). Of course, this involves whether Dillon will hang up his gun and get hitched when his memory returns. This theme is repeated in the S19 season-finale in which Dillon does not quickly bounce back from a gunshot injury and in an S18 episode in which the former mentor (John Anderson) of Dillon now is a poverty-stricken traveling town drunk.
A Dexter Riley-era Kurt Russell guest stars in a S19 episode as a wholesome young guy whose plans for wedded bliss are detoured when his father is killed. One of many well-presented themes this time is that the adage that the man who is seeking revenge should dig two graves is especially true when a boy tries to do the job of a man.
The penultimate S19 episode is straight out of Tennessee Williams. The trouble begins when a widow (Louise Latham) with delusions of grandeur alienates her son by trying to coerce him into having more ambition as to his job as a bank clerk and regarding the "fallen woman" who is the love of his life.
Things take an actual tragic turn as to this yenta actively blocking a romance between her daughter and a nice young man in an effort to get the girl to marry the son (Parker Stevenson) of a wealthy landowner. Suffice it to say that all are wiser, but none are happier when it comes time to ride off into the sunset.
All of this demonstrates that relations largely are the same whether one lives in 19th-century Dodge City or 21st-century New York City. Family members remain relative problems; and the heart still wants what the heart wants.
The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 11. 2020 6-discs 24-episodes DVD sets of "Gunsmoke" S18 (1972-73) and S19 (1973-74) provide two more chances to enjoy the adventures of Team Dillon (James Arness) before fans must get out of Dodge at the end of the 20th and final season of this Western classic. These releases follow the CBS (reviewed) S15 V1 and V2 DVD sets of the series.
S18 is our topic du jour; a February 13, 2020 post will discuss S19.
As the following discussion of S18 episodes show, folks who reject Westerns due to a perception that they are all about saloon fights and cattle rustling miss out on wonderful thought-provoking fare.
S18 E1 borrows from other classic slice of life lore that is set in the late 19th century. US Marshal Matt Dillon cannot quite claim mission accomplished on recovering stolen loot from a bank robber early is the first part of this "very special" two-part episode, As often is the case, Dillon gets a cap in his person as thanks for upholding the law. This leads to his heading down the river on the raft of two young siblings who are playing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The rest of the early part of the story is that The Outlaw Charley Utter (Slim Pickens) and his gang of two.
Dillon and the kids soon find themselves at a rough-and-tumble small settlement where they connect with a poacher (Jack Elam) and his common-life wife, who brings home the bacon by running a crooked version of a roulette wheel. Dillon acting true to his law-abiding nature both shows him that no good deed does unpunished and leads to getting out a town that is far from his home turf of Dodge.
Part two involves the expanded motley crew that is piloting the raft trying to reach a destination that they hope will not be their final one courtesy of Utter. This includes good intentions regarding trying to create a win-win situation as to matching the new woman of the house who would benefit from motherhood with the unaccompanied minors. The rest of the story is a strong Finn-style aversion to being civilized. One spoiler regarding this is that you can lead a boy to church, but you cannot make him pray.
The next S18 adventure is equally Old West in nature. A travelling faith healer has his convictions tested when he bonds with a crippled all-American boy (Vincent Van Patten) on coming into Dodge. Substance in this one includes the power of positive thinking.
The next outing is an even more timeless tale that provides even more hearty food for thought. An ex-con rides into Dodge seeking revenge against the shiftless wife-beating pig farmer that dun him wrong. The first dilemma relates to whether an upstanding citizen/new father has a duty to endanger himself by harboring the pig farmer; the ensuing conflict relates to the extent to which the townsfolks and the pig farmer himself should allow the inarguably better man pay the price to thwarting the revenge of the man seeking to hold the farmer accountable.
The anti-Semitism around which the S18 season finale revolves is even more translatable to the 21st century. This story begins with a group of three brothers without brides harassing Jewish settlers fairly fresh off the boat from Russia. This escalates to the gang dragging the youngest son in the family behind a horse; this leads to the off-camera death of the boy. Richard Dreyfuss plays an older brother of the boy.
The subsequent Talmud-related refusal of the father of the boy refusing to help Dillon bring the neer-do-well siblings to justice prevents those men from answering for their crimes. The better assimilated siblings of the victim leads to a confrontation that leads to a surprising conclusion. One lesson here is that the old ways have merit.
The compelling nature of these episodes (that almost always feature at least one "Love Boat" caliber guest star) and the other S18 offerings shows why "Gunsmoke" still is on the air after 18 seasons and is surviving the relocation of most of TV Land to the big city in the '70s.,
Time Life more fully establishes itself as the king of DVD releases of '60s and '70s A-List celebrity variety shows with the February 11, 2020 DVD release of "I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher." This 5-disc set with a modern-era interview with Cher and other truly special feature joins epic sets of (reviewed) "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show" and (reviewed) "Laugh In" in the Time Life catalog.
Although "Burnett" and "Laugh In" are bigger hits, "Sonny" arguably better reflects pop culture and has greater influence over TV Land. This brainchild of lowest-common denominator genius Fred Silverman reflect the wisdom of "I Love Lucy." Ala Desi Arnaz, Bono puts his ego aside to let his more appealing and talented spouse be the main attraction,
On a related note, the playfully bickering husband-and-wife variety show format helps pave the way for similar '70stastic television fare that follows. The closest homage is "The Captain and Tennille," "Donny and Marie" also is very similar, and the influence extends to "Tony Orlando and Dawn."
Moving into the '80s, "Sonny" (ala "Lucy") ending when the stars experience irreconcilable differences also reflects "Happy Days"spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi" ending for reasons that include Joanie no longer loving Chachi.
The "Sonny" set beginning at the beginning lets us see the genesis of the series; subsequent episodes in the set show how it evolves.
Two constants are Mr. and Mrs. Bono coming on stage at the beginning to sing a duet and give Cher a chance to deliver short, Italian, and fat jokes that reflect the era in which people have a sense of humor. Cher asking Sonny if he is a horny toad after he shares a review that states that he sings like a frog also is typical. Copious related humor that makes it clear that Sonny will be handling his romantic urges pro Bono that night are surprisingly racy for network television of the era.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to "offensive" humor of the show. Much of this revolves around black ensemble member Freeman King, who does not seem to mind jokes that include him saying that he likes watermelon pie.
The first guest being Jimmy Durante both makes it clear that (ala "The Monkees") the Bonos are harmless hippies. This also shows that "Sonny" reflects the same wisdom as Burnett, who find that the best guests are the ones who can both sing and act.
The style of humor on "Sonny" much more reflects the rapid-fire and politically edgy style of "Laugh In" than the more extended (and kinder and gentler) sketch format of "Burnett"; not that there is anything wrong with that.
"Sonny" borrowing from "Laugh In" extends beyond incorporating a party scene in which regulars and guest stars fire off one-liners. "Sonny" regularly has Cher lead an all singing all-dancing group of troupers in a bit that intersperses short skits around a central theme. An example of this is the Art Carney episode that parodies Army life through the years; there surprisingly is no reference to Vietnam.
A variation of the above is the well-known regular bit in which Cher sings her "Vamp" song accompanied by skits that feature femme fatales throughout the ages.
The aforementioned bonuses include an interview with "Sonny" producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde; their reminiscences include future Congressman Bono saying at an early discussion of the show that he has more substance than his "stumblebum" TV persona. This is particularly clear as to an insightful Bono dominating the conversation in a 1970 interview for the talk show "Jerry's Place" that is another bonus feature.
The biggest takeaway from all this further borrows from Burnett; her wisdom related to her wit is that something this is funny remains eternally funny.
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 21, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray complete series sets of the Fox and Hulu sitcom "The Mindy Project" (2012-17) are perfect additions to both the MCE catalog of both traditional and too-cool-for-TV Land sitcoms (e.g., "Community" and "Happy Endings") and the growing MCE collection of Girl Power series. The latter includes the recent (reviewed) "Charlie's Angels" BD CS set and upcoming BD CS sets of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "30 Rock." "Rock" particularly can be considered the older sister of "Project."
IMDb perfectly describes "Project" by stating that the concept is that "a young Ob/Gyn balances her personal and professional life surrounded by quirky co-wokers in a small office." The rest of the story is that the series provides the relatable concept that someone whose personal life is a figurative and personal mess still can be a highly member of his or her profession.
This concept shows that titular Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling of "The Office") is whom fellow New Yorker head-comedy writer Liz Lemon in "Rock" would have been had she gone to medical school. The numerous parallels between the women include being chain daters (ala smokers who light up the next cigarette before finishing with the current one) whose romantic partners either are out of their league or are not good enough for them.
These career women also run into their exes far more than is believable and almost inevitable are doomed to repeat their histories with them. "Office" mate/co "Project" producer B.J. Novak particularly shines as a beau with an unusually close friendship with his female best friend; this leads to a double date that is a series highlight.
Striking a balance between completeness and a timely review requires stopping watching "Project" near the end of an especially strong S3. The list of not-so-gentlemanly callers (almost always portrayed by cult faves that include Bill Hader and Anders Holm) include an oral surgeon, two attorneys, an arts-and-culture journalist, and a pastor/DJ/event planner/sneaker mogul. This is not to mention cases of fellow doctors dipping their pens in the company ink.
The supporting cast also is particularly strong. Beth Grant of the "Sordid Lives" franchise shines as raunchy middle-aged support staffer Beverly.
Although the plethora of perfectly delivered TMI comments by Beverly greatly contribute to the show, her arguably best line is "its not a kiss unless its below the belt." A close second for the best Beverly moment is her very first appearance in which she doubles down on losing blood samples in an especially hilarious way by labeling those vials with vile descriptions of the patients.
Ike Barinholtz (currently of "Bless the Harts") also deserves special mention for his portrayal of oversized manchild ex-con nurse Morgan Tookers; his "Rock" counterpart is bizarre naive NBC page Kenneth,
The highly enthusiastic leap-before-you look Morgan largely is there to goad the doctors into toxic behavior outside their comfort zones. His redeeming qualities include an obsessive love of dogs and a seemingly incurable optimism. He also neither realizes nor cares when he is not welcome.
Although an S3 highlight is an episode in which the male doctors in the practice and Morgan have their good deed comically misinterpreted when they travel to Spanish Harlem to do free breast exams, an even better one follows a few later. Both Mindy and the current object of her affection are very anal about an expansion of their sexual activities. A joke about the clergy sex abuse scandal alone makes that outing memorable.
The appeal of "Project" is that it presents the taboo subjects referred to above, as well as MANY others that include race and religion, in an playfully inoffensive manner. The fact that this takes "Rock" to the next level reflects a positive evolution in television comedy.
A broader perspective is that both "Project" and "Rock" can be considered more realistic versions of their "grandmother" "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which centers around the mother of all career women who is one of the guys. Ala "Project," one can easily imagine not-so-pure Mary Richards having a Bob Crane style sex film of hers leaked to her colleagues or perhaps accidentally aired during the WJM News.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Reasonable expectations regarding both the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me" and its auteur make the November 2019 DVD of "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!" a major disappointment. One should be able to expect more of a guy who has proven that he so much better than this on EVERY level.
The solid asserted (but almost certainly pretextual) concept of "2" commences with a fast-food chain contacting Spurlock to appear in ads due to his documented "Super Size" attempt to only eat McDonald's food for a month.
This allegedly is what motivates Spurlock to start a new chicken restaurant from scratch (pun intended) and to document this effort. In other words, he profits from both the film itself and the publicity that it generates for new business venture Holy Chicken.
One not so-surprising spoiler is that the film prompts investors to approach Spurlock about creating a chain of Holy Chicken restaurants. Another spoiler is that your not-so-humble reviewer has adequate integrity to pledge to NEVER eat at any location regardless of how peckish (pun intended) he becomes.
Spurlock commences this venture with the effort that is the primary focus of "2.." The search for a source for chickens and a place to raise them sets the stage for an "expose" of "Big Chicken" that does not reveal any information that has not been relatively well known for decades. These include that the big boys, such as Tyson and Perdue, use their strong grip on the industry to harm both competitors and chicken farmers who end up on their bad side. We also hear the same (but still highly distressing) stories about inhumane conditions at the big chicken facilities.
Spurlock does deserve credit for some new information. We learn about the laughably low government standards for making assertions about chickens. For example, claiming that your birds are "free-range" essentially only requires giving the flock the option of going out on the front porch. A scene in which Spurlock fails to convince his fine-feathered friends to poke their beaks out the door is a "2" highlight.
The parallel effort of Spurlock to develop a theme and a menu for his restaurant is more interesting and insightful. His product development consultants introduce us to terms such as "health halo." We also hear the "awful truth" about grill marks on fast-food chicken and learn why crunchy replaces the industry "f-word."
Subjectively, a scene in which checking out the competition shows the Burger King "crunchy" chicken sandwich is hollow is a "2" highlight. Having the perspective of having had the college roommate from Hell, whose many sins include watching while I gulped a large glass from a water container that he had filled with vodka, makes that scene even better. That former student is now a Greek tycoon that inherited every Burger King franchise in Rhode Island from his father. No, those places (and the other Janco locations) do not get my business.
The bigger picture is the sloppy manner in which our veteran documentarian makes "2." This begins with repetition in the form of "sandwiching" the beginning and the end of the film with the same footage of local news promoting the new restaurant.
Spurlock further slides to the bottom by borrowing the old ambush the industry guy trick that fellow sadly diminished colleague Michael Moore puts in all his films.
An early scene has Spurlock "outed" as a guy with an agenda; this leads to a "leaked" memo much later in the film. This correspondence is from an executive with the chicken lobby warning chicken farmers (ranchers?) that the effort of Spurlock to acquire a flock as part of a nefarious scheme.
Subsequently, Spurlock arrives unannounced at the office of the "suit" to delver an invitation to the grand opening of Holy Chicken!. Of course, he is left waiting in the hall for several hours and ultimately is politely asked to leave. An inadvertently amusing aspect of this is baseless speculation early on that the prey is in the restroom.
The relatable aspect of this is that very few of us even let unexpected visitors who lack any adversarial intent into our homes.
Of course, the ultimate irony as to "2" is that it follows the Spurlock film "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" about product placement and similar forms of advertising. I literally am not buying it this time, Spurlock.
Former "The Young and the Restless" hunk/rocker/notable sitcom guest star Michael "Flyman" Damian once more puts his diverse background to good use in producing/writing/directing "High Strung Free Dance." An interview with Michael spouse/partner-in-filmmkaing Janeen Damian on the theater-quality GVN Releasing February 4, 2020 Blu-ray of "Free Dance" shows the extent to which art imitates life. The ONLY "complaints" about this sequel are that it lacks the term "Electric Boogaloo" and does not recreate the awesome violin bow duel from the (reviewed) original.
One can only hope that there is a "High Strung 3" and that the tag line is "this time its personal." It is very clear that Michael, whom the behind-the-scenes BD extra tells us loves to move the camera, is not close to being too old for this "stuff."
On a serious note, Damian also takes advantage of his decades of show business experience by following the general rule of making a sequel more grand than the original, He does buck the trend of a first sequel being horrible only to have the franchise rebound with the third entry. This creates great expectations as to the aforementioned next "High Strung" movie.
Damian (perhaps inadvertently) also reflects the wisdom of the mid-70s Saturday-morning series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that a fan base can handle a more mature offering than the series that brings them to the table. The post on "High Strung" notes that it seems to be geared to a tween girl audience but appeals to a broad age group,
The final aside before fully discussing "Free Dance" is that the "cast of 1,000s" listed as producers of this crowdfunded movie shows that it would be cool to see your name on the silver screen. These contributions to indie films that value art over commerce also help talented folks such as Damian continue to "rock on."
The following trailer for "Free Dance" highlights how it is brighter, grander, and more adult than its excellent predecessor.
"Free Dance" takes its name from the epic Broadway show around which the film revolves. The link with "High Strung" is that both films feature Jane Seymour as highly demanding dance instructor (ala Lydia Grant of "Fame" fame) Oksana in both films. One difference this time is that Oksana has a highly personal interest (and rocky relationship) as to central dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty).
The asides this time are that we know that Seymour is not an ex-wife of Henry VIII but do not know whether Oksana considers Anna Karenina her favorite author.
Damian pays a wonderful homage to the past by bringing the epic '30s musicals back in a much bolder and brighter fashion in the 21st century. This more than justifies the physical-media release opting for Blu-ray.
This ode to yesteryear includes Barlow initially not making the cut as a background dancer for the titular extravaganza of fabled choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas "Harry Hook" Doherty of the "Descendants" franchise). Barlow not taking "no" for an answer puts right what once went wrong.
Our classic tale continues with deli delivery boy/aspiring pianist Charlie (Harry "Vampire Boy" Jarvis) getting his first lucky break in terms of one chance encounter connecting him with a reclusive retired famous pianist. A subsequent series of fortunate (and one seemingly not-so-fortunate) circumstances leads to Charlie getting the gig as the on-stage pianist for the show, Barlow being his muse helps the production while contributing to backstage drama.
Related asides this time are that casting Thomas and Harry reinforce that Michael (who casts "handsome devil "Nicholas Galitizine in the first film) has a good eye for talented British pretty boys and that Jarvis shares in an interview for another outlet that "Free Dance" prompts him to resume his piano studies after a long absence. His exceptional playing proves that he is an apt pupil; his youthful exuberance in the behind-the-scenes feature further reflects the love for his role that his performance conveys.
Much of "Free Dance" centers around the trauma and drama of rehearsing for the show, The vintage-style shifting fortunes of Barlow drive much of the action.
All of this leads to the epic opening night; a twist during this frantic period will cause many viewers of this compelling film to yell out a word that rhymes with "witch" when it seems that nice guys once again finish last.
Damian fully delivers as to the final performances that include an truly grand finale. This fully leading to a classic Hollywood ending removes any doubt that Damian honors the past.
Music videos on the Blu-ray further show the love of the art.
The epilogue to all this is that the post on "High Strung" encourages folks to disregard embarrassment related to seeing a very good film that is geared to tween girls; there is ABSOLUTELY no cause for such concern as to "Free Dance."