The Wild Eye Releasing January 22, 2019 DVD release of the 2016 comedy-horror "Caroushell" is a prime example of the good that can come from friends contributing their individual talents to a minimal budget movie that is equal parts camp and scare. Learning the origin story of the film from co-writer Aleen Isley in the 45-minute interview reel on the DVD greatly enhances the entertainment value of this future cult classic.
The following YouTube clip of the official "Caroushell" trailer highlights all of the well-presented lowest-common-denominator elements discussed above that justify adding this one to the guilty pleasure section of your home-video collection.
The first of several clever twists comes very early in the film when we learn that the disgruntled amusement-park employee who is lamenting that he don't get no respect is Duke the plastic carousel unicorn. Do NOT call him a horse.
The action then shifts to the working-girl class home of late-teens Laurie, her tween brother Larry (a.ka. Lunchbox), and their single mother. The family casually talking about needing Laurie to watch Larry while Mom dances at a bachelor party provides good humor. A delusion regarding the absence of Dad is the icing on the cake.
Of course, these two worlds quickly collide. Laurie and Larry go the park where the latter rides Duke in a manner that proves his ability to join the family business in a few years. Although Duke has been suffering in relative silence, Larry pushes him to break free of the carousel and get his revenge on the boy. This initially leads to a few wonderfully low-budget slayings.
The action kicks into high gear as Duke tracks the siblings to a parents out of town party (complete with very amusing foreign students) that newly out bronicorn Preston is hosting. Writer/producer Steve Rudzinski steals the show as uptight, clueless, and frustrated pizza guy Joe. This holder of a classic McJob also is the surprising voice of reason in the film,
Duke gaining entrance into the house allows him to increase the body count before enjoying his role in what can be considered a Tijuana production of "Equus." He then eliminates the clutter before zeroing in on his primary prey.
The bro and the ho then literally run for their lives as the animated carnival ride zeros in for the final kill. The fun of this is that the filmmakers do not even try to make this absurd set-up very suspenseful.
All of this amounts to roughly 70-minutes of mindless fun that shows good instincts regarding when to end the party and send everyone home.
The DVD extend well beyond the aforementioned interviews. Wild Eye also includes a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and two trailers.
Regular readers of the Inn Credible New England section of my site know that the Wentworth by the Sea resort in New Castle, NH is a favored destination of your purposeful touron (tourist plus moron). This literally grand hotel satisfies every criteria on the checklist for inn credible experiences.
As a starting point, the Wentworth is a destination hotel that offers the level of luxury and comfort that supports the Inn Credible theory that rather than devoting your travel budget to fly to and stay at a mediocre property (and enduring the aggravation and incidental time and costs of flying), you should enjoy a high-end property within a few hours of home. One advantage is being able to fit much more physical (and much less emotional) baggage in your car than is feasible regarding air travel.
A recent two-night rejuvenation journey after a winter of bomb cyclones, extended subzero weather, and a battery in a three-year-old Honda CRV EX struggling to stay alive was just what the armchair psychiatrist ordered. The added appeal of doing this at the Wentworth for a second year in a row (and already looking forward to returning next April) is a a strong "you can go home" vibe of this special place.
Another mondo motivation for choosing the Wentworth for this badly needed period of calm and serenity was a sense of the angel in your life being better than the devil that you do not know, Most seasoned travelers have experienced enough shabby broom closets or equivalent spooky hell nightmares to have trepidation regarding venturing to a new destination. Further, even the best of virgin territory to you often has a settling-in period that can lead to a restless night in even the most awesome places.
Both knowing that the Wentworth does everything right and being booked in the same water-view suite that has been my home away from home at least once a year the past three years provided valued pre-trip peace of mind.
The photos below are of the aforementioned accommodation. These images each are worth 10,000 words regarding the aforementioned Inn Credible philosophy that a pro of close-to-home travel is treating yoself with an upgrade that greatly enhances the experience.
The welcoming sense literally began before entering the hotel. I stubbornly overloaded myself with my clothes and my tech. (including a treasured HP 360 hybrid laptop/tablet that was a perfect Christmas gift) rather than make two trips. One guest kindly opened the door for me, and two others offered to help ease my load.
Equally stubborn (and foolish) male pride precluded accepting the latter offer. Folks who choose to accept a little help from their friends can utilize the services of the congenial and strong bellmen.
The check-in was very smooth and friendly; arriving at the aforementioned suite that I have called home on five prior occasions did feel like a homecoming.
As a New Year's Day 2019 Inn Credible article indicates the Salt Restaurant in the hotel lobby offers a terrific "fun, local, lively" experience. The treats this time included a perfectly mixed Mojito while savoring a brick-oven sausage-and-pepperoni flatbread.
The sense that the percentage of guests who bring dogs to the hotel increases every year further adds to the homeyness of the hotel; these furbabies looking as happy as their pawrents is a great endorsement of the hotel.
A related perspective is often teasing the highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer about merely sitting around on visiting family in Phoenix and that clan largely doing nothing on annual trips here. The NH seacoast area is wonderful, but a day at the Wentworth is a treat in itself. Sleeping in, taking a swim, relaxing in the room, and meeting someone for dinner nicely filled one day of the trip,
All of this amounts to confidence in stating that virgins and "sluts" alike have no cause to dread staying at the Wentworth and are almost guaranteed to feel like friends and family.
The irony regarding abandoning the typical non-bloggy nature of reviews in this forum to get very bloggy regarding the Bullfrog Films production "Celling Your Soul: No App for Life" is that that film advocates inter-personal communication, rather than expressing yourself through digital forms that include online publications. More specifically, "Celling" writer/director Joni Siani (who is a Boston-area Media and Communication professor) instructs her students to conduct a digital cleanse that includes going cold turkey regarding online activity and texting. Candor requires being unable to not play online games, check Twitter, and conduct Google searches even while watching "Celling."
An amusing aspect of this is that the full-length version of "Celling" is 48 minutes, and the condensed version is 26 minutes. This reflects the text and vine-oriented short attention span of today. A two-hour movie is considered the general outer limit for length in the Nelson household; an agreement to watch a rare three-hour film often requires a pre-viewing agreement in which your not-so-humble reviewer consents to a mid-film break.
The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Celling" proves the adage about wisdom coming from the mouths of babes.
The root of this work by Siani is her realization that Millennials only know how to communicate via cell phones and the Internet. Her objectives include teaching the importance of face-to-face communication.
The spot-on analysis of Siani explains all this; the root of this evil largely relates to the need for community and for the instant gratification that online communication provides; I am confident that she will not "like" or "retweet" the 280-character online message related to this review and that her reason for doing is the pure one that she addresses in the film.
The next bloggy part of this post is a tale from roughly 2006. I had created a (subsequently deleted) Facebook account due to coercion by a techie friend. As he was inclined to do, this keyboard kid called my landline (which I still actively use) from his cell phone to say that he had posted an annual open-house style party that I attended every year and that he knew that I would attend that year. We went a few rounds of my telling him that I would attend and his demanding that I RSVP on Facebook. I ultimately relented but still believe that requiring that formal online response was absurd.
Of more relevance was hearing the college students of Siani and their literal or figurative high-school age siblings discuss texting being the highly dominant form of communication. An aspect of this was that making a call even on a cell phone was viewed as being limited to an emergency or other very rare circumstances.
Your not-so-humble reviewer feels that largely giving into the prohibition against making calls is losing one of the final battles to maintain civilization; the price of that was going from what once was a practice of short calls to what can be a seemingly endless round of "no, you hang up first" texts in which no one wants to be the rude dude who does not respond to a message.
A cautionary tale in "Celling" was one of the pure definitions of comedy in that it will forever be hilarious to every guy who sees the film and embarrassing to the one to whom it happened. This former high school soccer star/current college student started his story by stating that his former classmates would always know him as the guy who was expelled for sexting.
The brief story was that this guy was in high school when he sent his girlfriend an explicit photo of himself. The aforementioned humor related to the photo being sent to everyone, including under-age schoolmates, in his contact list. A hilarious aspect of this was this guy using the phone of his mother when the photo appeared on that device. The recipients also included his grandmother.
A more relateable story is of a guy who accidentally texted an unkind statement regarding someone to that person while in visual contact with that individual.
Happier stories include the success of the cleanse; being one who almost always succumbs to the temptation of going online on waking up at 3:00 a.m. envies the cleansers who report feeling more rested and having more free time than when tethered to their devices. The tragic story is that Siani will need to pry the Iphone from the cold dead hand of this online journalist
The TLA Releasing DVD of the 2018 film "Cola de Mono" likely wins the award for the most unusual and dark Christmas film ever. It combines the sexual awakening of teen boy Borja with heavy family drama and a very sad aspect of gay life.
The titular cocktail plays a major role regarding the central holiday celebration gone out of bounds in which secrets and repressed emotions come out. A few occasions on which text across the screen provides exposition includes a recipe for this beverage.
Our story begins on a relatively happy note on Christmas Eve 1986; Hyperactive cinephile Borja is driving both mother Irene and slightly older brother Vicente crazy. One family issue is that Vicente is the golden boy, and both Mom and Bro are frustrated that Borja is so immature.
This family moves onto a holiday feast at which Borja becomes a bigger nuisance in proportion to the number of Cola de Mundos that he consumes. This bratty behavior includes teasing Vicente about plans to go out to meet a "friend."
The family then goes their separate ways as Ireme passes out, closeted Vicente goes to a woodsy gay cruising area, and our excitable boy continues drinking and getting restless.
Borja shows that he hates closed doors more than cats by breaking into the room of Vicente. Surprising himself regarding his response to the porn that he finds makes him aware that he and his brother are more alike than he believed.
Vicente coming back from a negative cruising experience and finding his brother both spent and red-handed leads to one form of sibling drama that leads to additional bonding. Things then taking a very dark turn provides more proof that "Cola" is not a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.
The movie breaks with tradition by ending with a scene several years after the depicted events, rather than by beginning with those events and flashing back to the aforementioned celebration.
These scenes mostly are of the primary '90s venue for anonymous gay sex. They also show that things have come a long way since the '80s,
We then move to a scene that provides a few forms of closure regarding arguably the most memorable Christmas in the history of the family.
Aside from offering a compelling story, all this adds depth in the form of comments on the "nature v. nurture" debate regarding homosexuality and shows that history repeats itself.
The Warner Archive complete-series DVD release of the 1962-63 NBC legal drama "Sam Benedict" shows the value of good source material. Although the cases are fictional, the titular celebrity San Francisco attorney is based on real-life legal eagle/series consultant Jacob W. Ehrlich. The recommended companion release this time is the (reviewed) Archive complete-series DVD set of the 1963-65 drama "Mr. Novak." That fellow quasi-anthology series revolves around the titular rookie teacher typically trying to have a positive impact on a different student in each episode.
A particularly special aspect of this series is an early episode being in color. The best speculation is that this is part of an NBC promotion to encourage viewers to purchase color sets.
That guy who was in that thing Edmond O'Brien stars as essentially sole practitioner Benedict. Secretary extraordinaire Trudy Wagner is his Della Street. Rookie attorney Hank Tambor is more of a tenant than an associate.
The "Benedict" pilot perfectly reflects the spirit of the series. The first challenge facing Benedict is defending a client in a murder trial in which 12 angry men are a hung jury. This provides context for the presiding judge to lecture the "peers" and the audience about the nature of jury deliberations.
On a personal note, the sudden death of a friend presents our hero with a moral predicament. The spendthrift brother of the deceased wants his payoff before the dearly departed is put to rest. On top of that, this sibling is fighting the legal right of the adopted daughter of the dead man to get a piece of the estate. The well-know lesson regarding this is that death brings out the worst in people; the rest of the story is that procrastinating about keeping a will up-to-date can haunt your heirs.
Another early episode is especially Hitchcockian. Benedict is defending the daughter of a long-time family friend in a trial for the murder of her husband. The debate between client and attorney regarding whether to present an insanity defense provides context for discussing when a mental incapacity is a mitigating factor in a legal proceeding. The dramatic climax shows the consequences of repression.
Mental capacity also is an issue when a young widowed Japanese immigrant battles the parents of her late husband for custody of her unborn child. A primary issue here is the extent to which an apparent mental incapacity is attributable to limited English skills. Getting to the root of the problem is one of many instances of social commentary in this cerebral series that equally entertains and provokes thought.
We additionally get a case of a cop killing the college-age son of a one-percenter. The issue extends beyond the validity of lethal force to a more basic dilemma. This career cop must decide whether invoking his Fifth Amendment right to keep his doughnut hole shut is worth the price of definitely losing his job. We also get a taste of the perfect storm that can result when a hair-trigger cop on the verge of burnout conflicts with an arrogant young punk.
This opening statement on the merits of "Benedict" shows that the presented issues remain just as relevant and compelling more than 55 years later. The bigger lesson is that morons who do not learn from history are doomed to shell out big bucks to relive it in court.
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto."
The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart."
This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving,
The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).
The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel.
The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.
Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.
Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case.
More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade.
Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it.
Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore.
Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore.
Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs.
The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.
Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg." Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.")
"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."
The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage.
We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food.
The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land.
John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.
A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.
The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey.
Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.
All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.
'Conduct! Every Move Counts' Doc on Conducting Competition Shows Potential to Orchestrate Quality Reality Television
The Film Movement January 9, 2018 DVD release of the 2016 documentary "Conduct! Every Move Counts" should do for conducting competitions what the 2002 documentary "Spellbound" does for spelling bees. Both films make contests that most of us never think about compelling to the extent of putting us on the edge of our seats cheering for our favorites.
The even better part of "Conduct!" is that it creates hope regarding reality shows improving both their concepts and their participants. The stakes here are more honorable than marrying someone whom you know for a few months and is populated by people who are much more appealing than the folks on both sides of the judging table in series that promise instant stardom.
The manner in which the competition is presented is another breath of fresh air. There is a COMPLETE lack of prolonged hyped suspense regarding developments, a TOTAL ABSENCE of endless repetitive commentary on a trauma and drama-inducing incident, and almost no backstage turmoil.
The following YouTube clip of a "Conduct!" trailer illustrates every point made above. It additionally includes terrific music.
"Conduct!" centers around the prestigious biennial International Conductors' Competition in Frankfurt Germany. The 5 of the 24 competitors on whom filmmaker Gotz Schauder focuses seem to be selected based on a combination of what makes them good conductors and interesting people for positive reasons, rather than for being ruthless or for having a sob story.
Twenty-seven year old New Yorker Alondra de la Parra is notable for having formed her own orchestra. Her unemotional questionable assertion regarding studying her craft from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. borders on reality-style drama but is a one-time thing.
Despite conflicting reports that Aziz Skokhakimov of Uzbekistan is 19 and 20 years old, he still is the youngest competitor. Further, Skokhakimov clearly has a strong passion for both his craft and for classical music. His reality show moment includes sharing that his motivation for his career includes showing that traditional culture exists in Central Asia.
A segment on the judges selecting the competitors includes the most pure reality-show scene in the film. This is also the most amusing moment and plays a role during a performance by Skokhakimov.
Shizuo Z Kuwahara is another two-fer who has a couple of characteristics that make him fascinating. He returns to the competition after coming in second in the prior one; he also conducts with his hands for a reason that he discusses in his reality show minute.
Andreas Hotz from Germany is interesting as the hometown boy; his home field advantage extends to a strong familiarity with the orchestra that the competitors conduct.
James Lowe of Scotland is distinguishable as the nice guy in the group; this is particularly so regarding his coaching an opponent throughout the competition. This involving a cute thank-you gift is a charming moment that is absent from reality fare.
Much of the film centers around our fab five taking his or her turn rehearsing with the orchestra. All the associated dynamics and personalities are compelling. Further, many audience members will want to show a musician who cruelly berates one of the conductors that a bodily orifice can double as a sheath for a bow.
The bigger picture is that the insight that "Conduct!" provides regarding directing an orchestra is fascinating even to folks who think that Beyonce is one of the three Bs of classical music. We learn that the requirements for being a good conductor include something that seemingly is impossible to define but is known when it is displayed. This also helps explain why the best conductors of local orchestras are well-liked local celebrities.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate April 16, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2010-13 Showtime dramedy "The Big C" is just what the oncologist ordered. This Emmy and Golden Globe winning series about middle-aged high-school history teacher Cathy Tolkey Jamison (Laura Linney) getting schooled in the realities of stage four (stage five is death) melanoma shows that even the worst of times can provide the best of humor.
The most subtle humor relates to setting "C" in a Minneapolis suburb. Although Cathy lives in a typical TV Land attractive middle-class home, her life is a far cry from that of pioneering working girl Mary Richards of Twin Cities based "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
"C" is one of three unrelated recent Showtime series that have strong actresses playing courageous middle-aged suburban women in crisis. "The United States of Tara" has Toni Collette playing a woman with a severe case of split personalities. "Weeds" centers around Mary Louise Parker playing a housewife who must resort to selling the titular substance to keep her boys in designer duds.
"C" also is one of the latest additions to well-produced DVD and Blu-ray CS sets of off-beat shows that put art over commerce in the MCE catalog. Recent examples include a reviewed set of "Rescue Me," and a phenomenal award-winning release of "The Shield." The especially strong praise for the latter in a post on that release does not do it justice.
The accolades for "C" include Emmy and Golden Globe Best Actress awards for Linney and an AFI "TV Program of the Year" win.
Our story commences at the beginning of the summer. Cathy is at the final stage of acceptance regarding her grief; a spoiler is that she and her friends and family rotate through all five stages throughout the series.
Cathy is throwing money at the "rich people" problem of wanting a pool in her backyard and wanting it now. The rest of the story is that she wants to enjoy what she believes is a very limited time before her death. One of many rubs is that middle-manager husband Paul Jamison (Oliver Platt) and generally good 14 year-old son Adam do not know why the woman in their life suddenly is acting weird.
For that matter, Paul cannot understand why one display of juvenile behavior in two decades of such antics gets him ousted from the marital home. For his part, Adam is upset that he literally is pulled off the bus to soccer camp and that Mom is very clingy. A hilarious scene has Cathy interrupting a private moment and adding injury to injury by immediately using that moment for a highly embarrassing lesson about how to properly stimulate a woman.
The overall change is that Cathy is putting herself first much more than she ever has and is deciding to stop being polite and to start being real.
Like many cancer patients, Cathy is trying traditional and alternative treatments. Her refusal to undergo chemo. is very reasonable considering that the benefits of that procedure come at the cost of many ill effects. Early examples of alternative medicine include travelling to Canada to be repeatedly stung by bees and staying closer to home for a clinical trial.
The progression of the disease occurs in the context of reel and real-life situations that are exasperating even without piling them on top of a presumably fatal disease.
Cathy must contend with helicopter parents at school, her manic bipolar brother Sean, Adam having a very active puberty complete with a sexual encounter that leads to the entire family getting crabs, and Paul losing his job and being unrealistic about his prospects for new professional employment. This is not to mention the already feisty elderly neighbor lady with Alzheimer's and the self-absorbed former college classmate who re-enters the life of Cathy at both the best and the worst of times.
The bigger picture regarding all this in this era in which virtually all those who practice medicine are in it for the money is the frustration that even those of us with what should be decent health insurance experience getting anything beyond basic medical care. Just in the first two seasons, we see Cathy dealing with a doctor not returning her calls and with being denied approved treatment because of a problem related to notice of coverage. This is not to mention health insurance prompting Paul to take a job that he otherwise would not have accepted.
"C" further tackles the issue of the fine line between compassion and annoying levels of charity. Cathy wants people to be nice to her but does not want to be treated like a porcelain doll. Similarly, Adam quickly tires of being the kid at school with the mother who has cancer.
The nice thing about "C" lasting four seasons is that quality writing and a strong cast draw the audience into the lives of the Jamisons and the people with whom they interact. We come to share their joy and feel their pain right up to the series finale.
Warner Archive pulls a twofer regarding the DVD release of the 1979 original version of "Going in Style." We get a quality comedy that does not resort to sex or cheap laughs for entertainment. We also get a golden boys cast in the form of senior actors in both senses of that word. This dream ensemble is George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. This film also makes a great companion to the Archive DVD of the Carney/Lily Tomlin 1977 noir movie "The Late Show."
The entertainment value of "Style" alone warrants adding this well-remastered DVD to your collection, The clip of Burns and Carney plugging the film on an episode of the Dinah Shore talk show "Dinah and Friends" should seal the deal. This seven minutes in Heaven has Shore being her usual good sport when Carney does a classic Ed Norton bit. Burns perfectly setting up a story about Carney playing pocket pool in a "Style" scene should seal the deal.
Burns is semi-fresh off the success of the 1975 film "The Sunshine Boys" and more fresh off his bigger hit "Oh God." Carney also is basking in the glow of this Oscar-winning performance in "Harry and Tonto" (1974) and his "Show" fame.
Joe (Burns), Al (Carney), and Willie (Strasberg) are fixed-income roommates in a shabby Astoria apartment. They stereotypically spend part of their day feeding pigeons in the park.
Joe watching money wheeled into the bank as he cashes his meager Social Security check has him put two and two together in a manner reminiscent of the real housewives who pull a heist to make ends meet in the 1980 comedy "How to Beat the High Cost of Living."
Joe concludes that a bank robbery is no-lose situation in that the trio enjoys a better standard of living if they succeed and do not experience much of a reversal of fortune if they get caught. Al is a more eager accomplice than Willie, who largely is along for the ride. Willie also checks out soon after the caper.
The main event goes off without a hitch. This venture nets them both fun and profit. Watching Carney especially channel Norton as he grooves out to the tunes of a street steel-drum band is a highlight. Al and Joe subsequently hit Vegas to enjoy their new-found wealth.
Our boys experience reversals of fortune on their return home. Both the law and time are closing in on these senior versions of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton with much less yelling and despair than the originals. The better news is that the past-primetime players have fun and adventure before facing their new normal.
The delight of this "Style" extends beyond seeing Burns and Carney do their bit during their golden years. As mentioned above, this movie entertainingly tells a tale almost as old as time without sacrificing art for commerce. How sweet it is.
The fun for all ages April 16, 2019 Cartoon Network/Warner Brothers DVD release of "Steven Universe" S2 (2015-2016) begins with the way cool puffy Garnet fusion keychain and the equally awesome cover art featuring that Crystal Gem new leader of the band. This anime lite series is a bright and colorful surreal joy ride that should thoroughly delight the primary target audience and amuse those of us with secondary sexual characteristics.
Additional glee is attributable to the newly released S2 soundtrack and the separate "Karaoke" release on your favorite platform. The "but wait there's more" aspect of this is the "Steven Universe: The Phantom Fable" mobile game that is coming out on April 18.
The perfect series description on IMDb nicely helps put words in the mouth of your not-so-humble reviewer. That site describes the show as "a team of galactic warriors fights to protect the universe, but the combination of three highly trained beings and one quirky young boy leaves the team struggling to overcome the dangerous scenarios that are put in front of them." The reasons that this variation of "Teen Titans" seems similar in style to fellow CN series "Adventure Time" include that creator Rebecca Sugar (who bares a passing resemblance to Steven) is the best brain behind both shows.
The S2 episode "We Need to Talk" provides an overview of the "Steven" lore. Then-guitar god in his own mind Greg Universe is rocking out to an audience of a girl with something extra when love at first sight leads him to discover the ancient beachside temple that she and her fellow guardians of the galaxy call home. This ultimately leads to the birth of our titular half-alien half-excitable-boy who inherits the gem in his belly button from his mother's side of the family.
Our first adventure, which is titled "Say Uncle," also reflects this proud heritage. Steven literally is contemplating his navel and experiencing pre-adolescent angst regarding his inability to trigger his power of forming a protective shield around his body. An ill-fated cry to the heavens results in manic Uncle Grandpa arriving and causing chaos.
The theory of this visitor with no impulse control is that the shield will form when Steven faces an adequately serious threat to his physical well-being, Uncle Grandpa then launches a hilarious beezooka and other weapons of mass hysteria at the lad. This homage to Looney Toon cartoons results in the style of life lesson that Steven and his viewers typically learn from each adventure.
Body issues also are the topic in "Reformed," which finds feisty Crystal Gem Amethyst trying out new holographic forms as she battles a gem monster that is running amok in the temple. One moral this time is if ain't broke, don;t fix it."
A personal fave is a more down-to-earth tale. A very proud Steven is the artist of a comically crude poster promoting guitar lessons by his father. A series of fortunate circumstances leads to this boy teaming up with the cool teen son of the mayor of their home turf of Beach City.
These unlikely friends make t-shirts with that image; the problem is that Steven thinks that the general populace appreciates his artistic talent, but all fondness is of the ironic variety. Even given that, Steven cleverly turns the table in a the student becomes the teacher manner.
The remaining 18 episodes offer similar fare that makes many young boys fantasize about being Steven and older folks getting more than a little badly needed joy in their lives.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate April 16, 2019 Blu-ray releases of the Andy Sidaris films "Malibu Express" (`1985) and "Hard Ticket to Hawaii" (1987) provide good chances to enjoy the entertaining pillow soft R-rated porn of this master of mainstream-friendly sleaze. Think "Porkys" with adult-film quality production values and acting. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Our current topic is "Malibu;" "Hawaii" literally is a subject for another day.
"Daniel Boone" television series star Darby Hinton strays far from that wholesome fare to play hard-bodied, hard-loving, and hard-fisted Texas trust-fund baby Cody Abilene. Think a younger, buffer, and cruder version of '80s TV detective/Magnum clone Matt Houston.
The film title relates to an ambiguous tribute to the deceased mother of Cody that he creates at the entrance to the yacht where he lives. His Higgins is a stuffed shirt official at the yacht club where the vessel is docked.
Although the new bimbos next door do not hesitate to come a knockin' for a gang shower on a rare occasion on which the boat of Abilene is not a rockin', his aptly named race-car driver friend June Khnockers does not make a booty call during the film.
The still-timely plot device of Russian spies using personal-computers in the United States for nefarious purposes in this pre-Internet era prompts "Higgins" to recruit Abilene for a game of Stud v. Spy.
The first stop on this this thrill-ride is a visit to seductive and liberated friend with extensive benefits Contessa Lucianna (Sybil Danning). Said perks include a needed introduction to Contessa friend Lady Lillian Chamberlain, who is the stereotypical matriarch of a stereotypical one-perecenter household. Her effeminate nephew is a not-very-well closeted homosexual; his beard does not let her marriage vows slow down her extra-marital activity. Studly chauffuer/blackmailer Shane separately gives each spouse the same thing that he or she needs.
The plot thickens on Shane getting murdered as apparent revenge for the blackmail. Of course, Abilene both gets on the case and discovers a tie between that crime and the Russian activities.
The investigation heating up provides plenty of chances for car chases, shoot-outs, and fisticuffs. The latter particularly demonstrates the pattern of Sidaris casting professional bodybuilders in his movies.
The best surprises and most fun come near the end of "Malibu." Abilene proves that he is more than a pretty face when he conducts a very SoCal version of the traditional drawing-room reveals at the end of classic murder mysteries. This aptly leads to an equally Eureka State variation of the hero riding off into the sunset.
The auteur himself provides both a introduction to "Malibu" and extensive gleeful insights in a behind-the-scenes featurette.
The Breaking Glass Pictures March 12, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 neo-"Deliverance" film "Devil's Path" helps get horny gay sluts in the mood for spring; remember that (easily pulled down) short shorts and mesh belly-shirt season only is a few weeks away. On a higher level, this no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure tells an intriguing story and has some depth.
The accolades for this tale of two boys looking for a climax include a Best Supporting Actor award for Patrick portrayor JD Scalzo and a Best First Narrative Feature for writer/director Matthew Montgomery at the 2018 FilmOut San Diego festival,
The following YouTube clip of a "Path" trailer provides a good sense of the style and the themes of our central lost boys.
The setting of a wilderness area that gay men frequent in an effort to find Mr. Right Now is familiar to guys who look for love (or lust) in all the wrong places and in too many facials. Country mouse Noah and the city mouse currently known as Patrick meet near the trailhead (pun intended) of the titular danger zone. This provides early depth in the form of Patrick representing the common gay stereotype who quickly shares his sexual fantasies and almost as rapidly gets down to risky business but either lies about or refuses to tell less personal information such as his name and the general nature of his work.
Noah and Patrick then go into the woods with full knowledge of two men who enter that dark and forbidden area but never come out. The subsequent intercourse of our leads adds additional depth in the form of the declaration by Noah that he desires more than wham-bam-thank-you-Sir (or Daddy) and Patrick responding that the bears and the other woodland creatures are only there to hit it and quit it.
The plot thickens on Patrick about to dump Noah in favor of a good-time boy when Noah asks his new friend with potential benefits to hang back while he answers a call of nature. Patrick soon discovers Noah on the ground bleeding; the immediate aftermath of that incident prompts the local Yogi and BooBoo to take off in hot pursuit of Patrick and Noah.
Our boy in the hoodie revealing more about himself as he and Patrick play hide-and-seek for their lives provides additional depth. The lesson here is that the seemingly nice guy who is out cruising may have a not-so-hidden dark side,
We learn of the almost literally dog-eat-dog tortured childhood of Noah; this relates to his being in the forest to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his brother who took one for the team. A related reveal is that Noah likes to watch.
The truth that fully comes out is genuinely surprising and once again proves that you never really know the guy whom you meet in the woods to get you some. Of course, this adds a new dimension to the head games that that often involves.
The bigger picture this time is that "Path" validates the theory that the degree of sexual content in a film is inversely related to its substance. Virtually nothing about the Noah/Patrick relationship either is erotic or sensual. Further, any flash of naughty bits is of the "blink and you'll miss it" variety.
The special features include extended interviews with the cast, the crew, and crew members who are in the cast. Crew member Steve Callahan gets the best line in referring to his Park Ranger Tom being horrible at his job. Another spoiler is that our leads are as endearing in real life as they are on the screen.
An earlier post on the then upcoming Eighth Annual April 6-9, 2017 TCM (Turner Classic Movies) Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles expressed great enthusiasm for the event. The basic theme was that the clock was ticking on the chance to see surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood in person and for such an event to be economically feasible for TCM. Unfortunately, the event did not produce a Hollywood ending.
This three-part analysis of the festival begins with discussing the basic flaws in the scheduling of the screenings and the other events. Part two will look at the highly inequitable festival pass system, and part three will wrap up with observations regarding the event as a whole.
These posts will include apt metaphors beginning with a reference to the must-see "Westworld" parody episode in an early season of "The Simpsons." Siblings Bart and Lisa incessantly bugged their parents to take them to the Itchy and Scratchy Land theme park out a belief that that would be the trip of a lifetime only to end up fleeing that facility in sheer terror.
Attending the festival had been a long-time dream and required postponing a decades-delayed virgin trip to Europe. However, there were no expectations that the festival would top many memorable events in an overall good life. Further, being less happy than anticipated on leaving was a far cry from sheer terror.
The spoiler analogy is that deciding whether to watch a game live or on television requires considering every expense and inconvenience associated with seats along the 50-yard line or behind home plate. The added relevant insult to the injury of paying up to several hundred dollars to sit on small hard surfaces in unpleasant weather is that the "one-percenters" in the luxury boxes live it up literally over your heads.
The armchair quarterbacking conclusion regarding the festival is that is better to stay home and watch the movies on a smaller screen in a less grand venue than the festival provides and to watch the taped interviews (that you likely could not get into anyway) with the Hollywood royalty at the festival than "go to the game."
The good news is that the organizers superbly selected and presented scores of well-known classics and obscure "shoulda been a classic" films from the '20s through the '80s and recruited several household names that included Carl and Rob Reiner, Mel Brooks, Lee Grant, Peter Bogdanovich, Sidney Poitier, etc to give talks and/or host screenings of their films. Screening many of these movies at the Chinese Theater and other exceptional venues was a large part of this experience.
The highly disappointing news is that a combination of materially incomplete pre-festival information, poor planning, and an unfair caste system regarding both the general pass program and a select few corporate fat cats and other "friends" receiving deity status precluded even folks who paid up to $799 (your not-so-humble reviewer and his highly significant other purchased $649 Classic passes) MERELY to attend the screenings and the talks from enjoying conservatively 10 more events in which he or she otherwise could have participated.
The ninth time may be the charm for this event, but 100s (if not 1,000s) of us paying the $799 or $649 tuition for the organizers to obtain this corporate knowledge is too high a price. There no longer is a need to save me the aisle seat.
The information on the festival website in October 2016 listed several films that would be shown and provided what turned out to be materially incomplete information regarding the manner in which people needed to line up during that event for tickets only to regularly run a risk of being denied entry to a screening or a celebrity presentation. The second post in this entry addresses this issue in depth.
Continuing with the analog theme of these posts, the organizers tantalize potential attendees with a menu of roughly 75 tempting ice cream flavors despite the organizers (but not festival first-timers) knowing that there is no way that attendees have a prayer of experiencing more than roughly 12 menu items. It seems that most folks would rather have a choice of 32 flavors and be able to enjoy 25 of them.
The response to this is "but ya can allow people to see more films, Blanche; ya can." The first simple solution is to abandon the festival practice of having pass holders line up for up to 90 minutes to have an excellent chance to attend a screening only to miss a second film or have to dash to another theater to repeat that three-hour or more process at the end of the first screening. Even the TCM network airs films in its televised festivals right in a row.
A prime example would be to have a triple-feature of festival films "Arsenic and Old Lace," "The Palm Beach Story," and the original "Born Yesterday." This would save festival goers roughly three hours in line. As an aside, your not-so-humble reviewer wanted to see all three films listed above (and MANY more) but saw nada in this trio thanks to the oft-mentioned poor planning.
A further enhancement would be to divide sub-categories of pass holders into groups named after old Hollywood directors. Examples would be Hitchcock, Capra, DeMille. etc. Each group would consist of no more people than the seating capacity of the smallest venue. A reasonable assumption that not everyone would attend every event SHOULD ensure that everyone can get a good seat for every screening or event that he or she wants to attend.
The only additional work for the organizers would be to place photos of the directors on the already color-coded tiered festival passes and print an adequate supply of each type of pass to meet the need. A simple example is that yours truly was one of the first purchasers of an orange-tinted Classic pass. Assuming that Hitchcock was the director for early birds (no pun intended), his visage with an orange background would be on my pass.
Using the above example of the triple feature, the festival could air it for Hitchcocks on Friday morning while DeMilles enjoy a triple feature of "Bonnie and Clyde," "The China Syndrome," and "The Graduate." These groups then would see the films that they missed on Friday on Saturday.
The largest logistical issue would be the availability of the celebrity who introduced the film. The solution would be to ensure that each group got to see at least one such luminary live and watch the recording of the one whom they missed.
The organizers could use this system but merge groups as feasible for screenings at the larger venues.
The festival workers dubbed "salmon-shirts" for their pinkish uniform ts already regulate entry to the events; asking them to further identify attendees by a photo on their badges does not require much more.
THE GREATER GOOD
Similar to the above analogy regarding the sporting event, the chance to see far more films and not have to arrive 90 minutes early out of concern of being denied entry vastly outweighs the marginal burden on the organizers.
The CBS Home Entertainment April 16, 2019 DVD release of the seven-episode Showtime limited-series "Escape at Dannemora" can be considered the real-life equivalent of the Fox drama "Prison Break." The release coming a week after the CBS (reviewed) release of the sixth season of the "Sopranos" like drama "Ray Donovan" indicates the talent of the Showtime suits for knowing a good dramatic story when they see it.
This joint by executive producer/director Ben Stiller chronicles every stage of convicted murderers Richard Matt (Benicio Del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) going from stir crazy to busting loose from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in the titular upstate New York town.
An intriguing aspect of "Dannemora" is the prominent role of prison employee Joyce "Tilly" Mitchell in the 2015 break. Patricia Arquette goes from a medium to a large to play this simple-minded Canadian, who pays a heavy price "to get a nut." The superb job of Arquette scores her a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and a Critics' Choice Award.
The following clip of "Dannemora" trailer highlights the talent of Arquette and the chops of her company. It also provides a taste of the extensive soundtrack that indicates that Stiller has good taste in music.
Our story fully gets underway in the aftermath of Matt and Sweat making a run for the northern border. NY Inspector General Catherine Scott (Bonnie Hunt) is grilling Mitchell, who now is a guest of the state, about her role in the event. Much of the entertainment relates to clearly seeing both that Mitchell is her own worst enemy and that she is not the mastermind of the plot.
We then flashback to Mitchell working as the supervisor of the prison tailor shop; Sweat is her shop foreman/not-so-secret lover. Clearly equally dim-witted second husband/fellow employee Lyle Mitchell stands by his woman despite multiple credible reports of her frequent working-hours coitus with Sweat in a side room of the shop.
Sweat losing his sweet job and experiencing the prison equivalent of downsizing regarding his housing sets things in motion. Matt COMPLETELY fills the void in the shop and puts the escape plan in motion. The manner in which he does both shows who';s the boss.
The plot thickens as Matt seduces Mitchell into initially inadvertently and subsequently knowingly aiding and abetting the great escape. This begins with tricking her into providing a necessary tool and escalates to recruiting her to he a full-fledged moll. Much of the entertainment of this is watching Del Toro expertly playing a master manipulator. His persuasion includes painting an image of a paradise in which Mitchell has both Matt and Sweat essentially as her love slaves.
The next portion of "Dannemora" involves Sweat aptly contributing sweat equity to the venture. Matt is doing his part by ensuring that Mitchell is remaining with the program by filling her head with images of her prisoners of love making her life a paradise on earth.
One of the final episodes is a flashback that shows how our members of the devil's love triangle come to be in their current states of literal or figurative incarceration. We witness the crimes for which Matt and Sweat are doing the time and see how history is repeating itself in the case of Mitchell.
This leads to the lukewarm pursuit of the boys as their not-so-Bonnie accomplice deals with being left behind and with facing contending with the possible consequences of her actions. Suffice it to say that being a band on the run takes individual and group tolls on our fugitives.
Stiller nicely wraps things up by depicting the results of the manhunt and providing the standard "where are they now" updates at the end of the final episode. Putting very human faces on these members of "America's Most Wanted" adds an interesting perspective and makes the audience both wanting to learn more and to to see an "after Dannemora" series.
CBS bats .500 regarding the desire for more. A DVD extra is a combination "making of" and real-story special feature. We get footage related to the source material and see interviews with some of the real life cops and cons whom Stiller hires to ensures that his story is authentic. A particularly amusing story by a former Clinton guard is finding himself filming scenes with ex-cons whom he guarded back in the day. A "bygones" attitude by everyone helps maintain the peace.
The other feature is more like a page out of the Fox "Break." This extend anatomy of a scene shows all of the work and the multiple locations associated with the epic scene of the extended escape route. One spoiler is that this does not rise to the level of foulness in the "Shawshank" escape.
The bottom line is there is something about the Focker that makes "Dannemora" that easily passes the "one more" test of this movie that shows the extent to which reality bites for our central trio.
The true-to-comic-book spirit of "SHAZAM!" makes it by far the best entry in the current round of WB DCU superhero movies. This light-hearted romp is a wonderful diversion from the (often poorly acted and produced) dark live-action and animated fare with beyond gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity that the House that Jack built is churning out these days for far more profit than fun.
The following YouTube clip of a "SHAZAM!" trailer perfectly illustrates to Millennials and Gen Zs that this movie is their daddy's (or grandddaddy's) superhero flick. These kids also learn that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that.
The simple but brilliant concept of the source material that director David F. Sandberg and writer Henry Gayden expertly adapt to the big screen is that 14 year-old Billy Batson is the chosen one who transforms into he whose "marvelous" name that shall not be spoken and back to his original form by uttering the titular acronym. This largely is the only similarity between this film and the (reviewed) 1974 live-action Saturday-morning series of the same name.
Zachary Levi of the 2007-12 action-comedy series "Chuck" (five seasons! and a movie?) releases his inner-Bartowski in playing this half-man half-boy champion. He proves once again that he is adept at playing a lovable loser nerd who must adapt to a super-powered new normal. This one can be consider Chuck vs. The Seven Deadly Sins.
The most general thought regarding this tale of a boy who goes from being a delinquent foster child to becoming a mighty superhero in a 'verse in which The Justice League really is fighting for truth, justice, and the American way is that is akin to the limited appeal of another boy hero.
Wil Wheaton coming up in conversation a few years ago prompted my remarking that I hated his smug young teen genius (with shades of Hamlet) character Wesley Crusher on TNG. I mentioned as well that i considered it absurd that the highly skilled and equally experienced Enterprise crew members gave that arrogant punk a respected seat at the table. The wisdom of my not foolish friend was that young teen boys that watched the series fantasized about being Wesley. A desire for candor requires confessing to shouting "SHAZAM!" and hoping for the best when watching the '74 series as a young boy.
A more obvious comparison is to the 1988 blockbuster comedy "Big" in which Tom Hanks plays a tween who (presumably on a Friday) magically transforms into an adult. "SHAZAM!" makes one blatant homage to the film and another more subtle one. The confession this time is admitting to still saying "I want to be big" every time that I pass a Zoltar fortune-telling machine.
The '80slicioiusness continues with "SHAZAM!" having strong shades of the cult-classic action-comedy TV series "The Greatest American Hero." This early example of the importance of RTFM centers around the Mr. Kotter of the '80s Ralph Hinkley being the chosen one whom "little green guys" give a super suit. The primary idea is that these brothers from another planet being confident that Hinkley realizes that with great power comes great responsibility make him their guy.
Much of the humor in "Hero" relates to the titular Reagan-era Cold War Captain America both discovering the extent of his abilities and learning how to control them. "SHAZAM!" honoring this legacy extends beyond a very "Hero" like montage.
These fanboy homages begin with the opening scenes. The identified year of 1974 works very well for the 2019 theatrical release in which our time is identified as "the present;" however, this will seem more odd as time goes by. it is even odder later in the film to see a single school that apparently goes from grades 1-12 in the same building.
Fourteen year-old Thaddeus "Lex" Sivana is sitting in the backseat of the family sedan as his father (John Glover of "Smallville") is driving the boy and his older brother over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house. Dad (channeling his best Lionel Luthor) and the older sibling are engaging in their usual practice of berating the backseat boy when Thad finds himself transported to a spooky cave.
Ala "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Thaddeus meets the weakening ancient guardian of the "grail." Unlike Indie, Thaddeus does not choose wisely. He then is thrust back to his reality, where he quickly sets incidents in motion that do nothing to endear himself to his father and his brother.
The copious discussion of the proud history behind "SHAZAM!" precludes going much deeper into the plot of the film. Suffice it to say that Shazam and now-Dr. Sivana ultimately find themselves in an extended clash of the titans. The Team Shazam that our hero assembles to help fight his battle will come as no surprise to folks who are familiar with earlier incarnations of our central figure; this approach also is familiar to fans of Team Bartowski.
The team building, as well as the central plot, reinforces the "anyone can be a hero" theme of a film from a competing 'verse. It additionally reflects the "friends and family" aspect of admission into Mormon heaven and avoiding spooky Mormon Hell.
Those who agree that "Aquaman" stinks worse than three-day-old fish will find glee in a "SHAZAM!" stinger.
The Film Movement release of the 2018 docudrama "un Traductor" (a.k.a. The Translator) provides further proof that truth is stranger than fiction. Fellow recent Movement release "An Afghan Love Story" is another "based on actual events" movie that reinforces the above statement.
"Traductor" also is notable as a simple movie that greatly defies expectations. Our story centers around 30ish college professor Malin, whom Rodrigo Santoro of the HBO "Westworld" series perfectly portrays. This Cuban native is a Russian literature professor at the University of Havana when the film opens; he also is happily married to an artist and has an adored young son.
Everything changes when Malin arrives at work to discover that his department is disbanded, He learns on regrouping with his colleagues that they are reassigned to the local hospital to serve as translators for Chernobyl victims and their families,
Malin initially understandably balks at being stationed in the ward that treats children; his 'tude softens on helping with a "lost in translation" problem between the Russian mother of a sick girl and a Cuban nurse.
The heart (in both senses) of "Tradacutor" centers around Malin bonding with an especially sick boy and the father of the nino; the bonding and the angst include the father being a teacher whose Chernobyl assignment was a reward.
The schedule of Malin and his becoming more involved with his work creates additional friction at home as his wife gets a good opportunity and providing child care becomes increasingly challenging. A "home alone" situation developing greatly escalates the tension.
The larger context is that the Cold War is ending in ways that include the Berlin Wall coming down; also, Cuba is experiencing an economic downturn. Needless to say, this is not a good time for Malin.
Typical hospital insensitivity and a combination of bureaucracy at that institution and the Cuban government further complicate things on the micro and macro levels. In other words, the personal and professional worlds of Malin are experiencing tremendous stress at a time that his country also is enduring game-changing struggles.
All of this leads to inevitable fish-or-cut-bait moments; Malin must choose wisely regarding the next stage in his life. The fact that the audience connects with him from the start invests in the outcome.
As indicated above, the power and the appeal of this film is the same as all good docudramas. A sympathetic personal face is put on world events about which we learn much more than we absorbed through media accounts. In this case, it includes the new knowledge about Russian patients going to Cuba.
Movement provides icing on the cake in the form of the well-paired short that accompanies every selection in the Film of the Month Club of this purveyor of global films. The selection this time is "For Dorian." This film takes a sensitive approach to a man struggling with his teen son with Down's Syndrome demanding more freedom and generally experiencing the same symptoms of adolescent as every lad his age.
Lionsgate boldly goes where no man has gone before regarding separate DVD and Blu-ray April 9, 2019 releases of the recently concluded first season of the History Channel sci-fact docudrama series "Project Blue Book." The accolades for this Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future," "Forest Gump," "Contact") program about the real-life X-Files of Air Force Captain Michael Quinn and astrophysicist college professor Dr. J. Allen Hynek include Forbes magazine naming it one of the 10 most anticipated series of 2019.
The following YouTube clip of a "Project" trailer provides an excellent sense of the theme of this program that revolves around investigating reports of visitors from other planets. It also illustrates the strong production values that leave the laughably badly made recreation specials of the '90s in the dust. This high-quality video and audio call for buying the Blu-ray set, which looks very good when watched on a Sony 4K set and using a 4K player.
The broadest appeal of this series relates to it being a melange of two cult classics. The most obvious comparison is to the still-going-strong '90s Fox series "The X Files" that begins with true-believer FBI agent Fox Mulder teaming up with civilian medical doctor Dana Scully. Their investigations of initially (and sometimes permanently) unexplained occurrences generally parallel those of Quinn and Hynek. Additionally, both sets of odd couple partners come to like and respect each other.
The second cult classic is the Showtime series "Masters of Sex." The comparison regarding that one begins with both it and "Project" being set in the '50s. The similarities continues with the odd couple being based on a true-life team. "Masters" is a docudrama of the professional and the personal relationships of human sexuality researchers Masters and Johnson, and "Project" is based on the actual investigations of Hynek.
Also akin to "Masters," we get both a detailed look at the home life of a lead and a sense of the period. Hynek spouse Mimi is a stay-at-home wife and mother. Her son Joel is a young boy, who is obsessed with Flash Gordon and other sci-fi of the day.
Like Mrs. Masters, Mimi is dealing with the new normal of her husband being away more than he is home and becoming proportionately emotionally distant. On a grander scale, Mimi must contend with the fallout (pun) intended associated with the escalating Cold War. These new aspects of her life converge in ways that include her hands-on approach to building a bomb shelter.
We get a touch of both the beginning of the women's liberation movement and the FX series "The Americans" in the form of modern-woman neighbor Susie Miller. Susie is strong, independent, and ruthless. She also successfully manipulates Mimi in the course of covertly keeping tabs on Allen,
Other nefarious types include Army officers both with a horse in the race and a desire to keep the truth from getting out there. These include a secret missile program and experimentation on Army rangers. Related Soviet activities and a nefarious cigarette-smoking man provide additional intrigue.
If the dynamic between Quinn and Hynek evolves to the sexual element of the relationships between Master and Johnson and Mulder and Scully, one can image that it will be the most highly rated episode of the entire series.
Many of the 10 S1 episodes will seem very familiar to Xphiles., The pilot (no pun intended) revolves around an Air Force top gun who learns of the futility of engaging a U.F.O. in a dogfight. We also get separate incidents in which small-town folks experience seeing lights in the sky over the woods at night and having close encounters with the pilots of those craft. One of these incidents being a literally cruel hoax also reflects "Files." This is not to mention the Foo Fighters showing up.
All of this culminates in sightings over Washington, D.C. of which Hynek receives advance notice, Plausible Soviet denial helps the plot thicken ahead of a 2020 S2 premiere.
OThe CBS Home Entertainment April 9, 2019 S6 DVD release of the Showtime drama series "Ray Donovan" provides a relatively seamless good chance to catch up on all action (not to mention the trauma and drama) before the S7 premiere this year.
The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN trailer for the sixth season of this premium-cable show about titular fixer/blue-collar Boston native (Liev Schreiber) illustrates how dramatically the themes and the tones of this series have changed. What begins as a fairly light-hearted drama set in Hollywood now is gritty noir in New York. The symbolism of the descent (with a touch of redemption) into Hell is on the surface.
The incident that drives much of the S6 action occurs very early in the season premiere. A highly despondent Ray takes what he considers a leap-of-faith and that the rest of the world deems a desperate act. This leads to the start of a beautiful friendship with NYPD cop Sean "Mac" McGrath.
This pair first bond over having the same reasons to despair and soon learn of the mutual benefits that each can provide the other. This relationship ultimately requires that Mac make hard choices regarding his divided loyalty between his brothers-in-blue and his brother from another mother.
Ray largely is out of the game when ruthless media mogul Sam Winslow (Susan Sarandon) pulls him back in. A promised large return on her investment is prompting Sam to put the power-of-her-press behind mayoral candidate Anita Novak.
Anita putting her trust in the wrong man prompts Sam to recruit Ray to avoid "Gigologate" derailing the campaign. This escalates into a situation that Ray has putting his "cleaning" skills to use. This development also allows for a "two birds, one stone" opportunity to help Mac out of a tight spot.
Meanwhile, Ray's 20 year-old daughter Bridget is a New York college student shacking up with handsome and charming Jake Smith. The drama here begins with Bridget striving to break free from continuing to feel the impact of the fallout from the take no prisoners approach of the business of her father. Her subsequently becoming a bargaining chip in a high-stakes standoff proves that her instincts are correct.
Meanwhile, initially naive younger child Connor now is all grown up. This rookie Marine spends a few days in New York before headed to the Germany assignment that makes him a real-live jarhead. This is despite a Donovan curse that affects the men of the family who enlist in the military.
Father Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight) initially is not an active concern for his son, who otherwise must watch his back in this regard. The "Donovan" pilot finds Mickey ending a 20-year unfortunate incarceration only to immediately commence a campaign of revenge. This pattern continues in S6 regarding another form of early release from a stay as a guest of the state.
We also see Ray once again disregarding the lesson that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Our anti-hero hires a contractor to take care of family business only to get another reminder that doing something right requires doing it yourself. He further is once more schooled regarding the concept that Hell hath no fury like a parent scorned.
The reason that all this (and even more) seems familiar is that it is very reminiscent of "The Sopranos" on fellow premium network HBO. Mobster Tony Soprano spends most of the series struggling to keep his work and home life separate. He, like Ray, additionally is trying to overcome a traumatic childhood and an incredibly toxic parent. This is not to mention both men becoming so tortured that they seek psychiatric counseling despite having spent their whole lives in a "boys don't cry" environment.
The similarities also extend to the S6 setting of "Donovan" essentially being the home turf of "Sopranos." The homage continues with the ambiguous "Donovan" season finale evoking strong thoughts of the "Sopranos" season finale.
The good folks at CBS Home Entertainment go even more old-school regarding one DVD special-feature. "Ray Donovan: Inside New York City" is variation of a pop-up video. We get looks at some of the on-screen locations with pop-ups that provide information about those New York locales.
The press materials for "Donovan" do a great job describing the other special feature. This synopsis of "Rise, Rebuild, Reclamation" states "sit down with showrunner David Hollander as he discusses rebuilding Ray's emotional and physical self in a new city with new relationships and new complications with his family." We also hear from the mouth of the equine and get several clips regarding this,
The DVD release of "Shazam!: The Complete Live Action Series" provides lovers of good cheesy '70s shows another reason to thank the elders for Warner Archive. This release is nearly as exciting as getting the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" clone "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" from Archive a few years ago.
From a more objective perspective, "Shazam!" is similar to the late-80s low-budget syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy," which has the college boy of steel and his buds battle a buffonish Lex Luther and other baddies. That series also is in the Archive catalog.
The concept behind "Shazam!" is that mid-20s newscaster Billy Batson, played by dreamy teen idol Michael Gray, is the alter-ego of Captain Marvel. Dreamy Jackson Bostwick plays Marvel until being replaced due to an injury late in the second of the series' three seasons.
Billy and his sidekick/advisor Mentor spend their days traveling around in a motor home helping teens and post-adolescents out of jams largely of the younguns' own making. Each story is wrapped up with a moral, delivered by Bostwick through most of the series and by Gray in the final episodes.
Billy is granted his powers, and is guided by, six animated elders who deliver a cryptic message near the beginning of each episode.
The dual significance of "Shazam" is that it is the magic word that Billy, and at least one young and stupid boy in the greater Boston area, shout to transform from an average Joe into the super-powered Captain Marvel and also is the acronym of the names of the elders'. That group consists of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
The two restrictions on the great power that goes along with the great responsibility of being Captain Marvel are that only Mentor can witness the transformation and Billy can only undergo it when it is absolutely necessary.
Plots included a young blind teen and his slightly older brother recognizing the accommodations that the blindness requires and the capabilities that the blind boy retains after losing his sight. Another episode has Captain Marvel setting a good example for a young boy with a history of trespassing to ride a neighbor's horse by volunteering to go to jail for a crime of which he is innocent.
One of the more inadvertently entertaining episodes is a special two-parter in which Billy helps a girl who is trying to help her brother break ties with a middle-aged drug dealer for whom the brother is working. Seeing Billy deny being a "pusher" himself and watching the girl run around with a bag of what is clearly baking soda is very funny 40 years later.
Aside from the underlying message of "drugs are bad; ok," Billy teaches the girl that she should act responsibly by narcing on her bro. merely than by taking his stash.
The third season, which is presented as part of the "Shazam!/Isis Hour," is also fun by having Isis appear in a few "Shazam" episodes to help out Captain Marvel. This is similar to Scooby-Doo and the meddling kids helping the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt when they have a joint show. This wonderfully nostalgic show is also out on DVD.
The bottom line is that "Shazam!" is an awesome example of the fun type of show that broadcast networks used to air on Saturday mornings. This genre has plenty of action and wonderfully low-budget effects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shazam!" is encouraged to email me. I am especially eager to hear if anyone transformed into a super hero after yelling "Shazam!"
Warner Archive further shows ts range and the related seemingly bottomless nature of its catalog regarding two March 19, 2019 DVD releases of the 2001-02 Kids' WB anthology series "The Nightmare Room." "The Nightmare Room: Scareful What You Wish For" is our current topic; "The Nightmare Room: Camp Nowhere" is the companion DVD.
The valued review-writing shortcut this time cones courtesy of the mouth of the horse, The DVD bonus feature "The Nightmare Files" is an interview with Stephen King of the Clearasil set R.L. Stine, whose horror stories provide much of the fodder for "Room" episodes. The numerous insights that Stine shares includes describing the series as "The Twilight Zone" for kids.
"Room" also evokes thoughts of the 1991-93 kid comedy "Eerie, Indiana." This one has two tween boys investigating the regular weird occurrences in the titular town that they call home. Of course, "Supernatural" is the epitome of this type of series.
The titular tale stars former Disney Channel star/current highly damaged man Shia LaBeouf as excitable boy Dylan in a tale that can be considered a perverse version of "Toy Story." The growing pains of this lad who is graduating middle-school include having a life-size Buddy doll (fellow Disney Channel star Dylan "Zack" Sprouse) who is a real-live boy stalk him and demand fulfillment of a childhood pledge that the two be best friends forever.
Much of the fun of this one is the increasingly erratic behavior of Dylan not helping his efforts to convince friends and family that his new friend is not imaginary. This tale and the others not having a fairy-tale ending is very refreshing regarding children's fare.
The more amusing "Tangled Web" stars Justin Berfield of "Malcolm in the Middle" as a chronically lying teen. This notable one is a true fable.
Truth-impaired Josh has a strong track record of making up stories to avoid facing the consequences of his negligence. "Kung Fu" star David Carradine plays to type as a substitute teacher who schools Josh. This comes via making everything that Josh says come true.
Our prevaricator soon finds himself confronted by a psychotic version of juvenile delinquent Francis of "Malcolm," ninjas, escaped prisoners who are real Bozos, and other foes that his adolescent mind conjures. These include a very special guest star from a teen-boy perspective,
A personal fave in the set is "early" episode "My Name Is Evil." This story of teen angst has good-natured Morgan spending his birthday being the victim of a mean girl and having a carnival gypsy declare him to be a bad seed, The morning after finds a good friend of Morgan violating the bros before hos rule and said bitch convincing the entire school that Morgan is a much bigger jinx than Cousin Oliver.
This an episode in which you come for the teen drama and stay for the wonderful climatic twists.
The numerous extras extend beyond the Stine interview; a key to winning the interactive "The Nightmare Is Yours: Haunted Cave" game is to realize that Mike is a fucking idiot.
The appeal of "Room" to the target audience is that it makes them feel cool and does not talk down to them. The appeal to those of us who have not needed zit cream for years is that the stories are entertaining and feature child stars from our more youthful days.
The current analytical thinking that leads to detours from reviews into Blogland shows that the underlying premise of Unreal TV is flawed. Unreal TV 1.0, which has evolved into Matt Nelson Reviews, is based on the idea that we need "unreal" sitcoms and other non-fiction fare to escape our cold cruel world. The actual truth is that we need '70scoms as our model for life.
Anyone with even advanced-beginner knowledge of television history knows that '50scoms typically revolve around suburban nuclear families in which every member presents a mostly idealized version of his or her real-life counterpart. This leads to the mid '60s in which a combination of greater awareness of our society, the Vietnam War, and the increasing popularity of the counter-culture give rise to "freakcoms." The outsider may be a hillbilly living in a mansion, a New York lawyer living among hicks, a clan (or two) of monsters in suburbia, a struggling rock band living in a beach house, or a genie or a witch co-habitating with her fella.
The ''70s give rise to arguably the most realistic era of sitcoms. Our main man or woman is out in the workplace that typically is part of the story. Significant others who survive the TV Land purge of spouses are almost as likely to bring home some bacon.
The '80s represent the Cheese Age of television in which '70scoms jump the shark and become cartoonish versions of their former glory. The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer notes that this is the period in which the Norman Lear groundbreaker "The Jeffersons" largely has Louise Jefferson and neighbor/best friend Helen Willis play cheap copies of Lucy and Ethel.
The new kids on the block mostly are silly fun with little or no substance. Of course, Fox entering the picture in this era contributes to this.
The '90s become the era of urban "friends" living in apartments that their real-life counterparts can only dream of affording. The better news is that the subgenre of gaycoms paves the way for marriage equality and other 21st century advances.
The 2000s are the "Two-and-a-Half Men" and "How I Met Your Mother era of crass and crude sitcoms that rely on shock value for laughs. The 2010s seem to be a free-for-all.
The reason for this recap is to show that '70scoms are the only ones that (as intended) most realistically reflect the American life of the era. The bad news is that things have greatly changed for the worst; the good news is that that we can change back.
The two '70scoms that first come to mind when thinking of the fare of the era are "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show." It is interesting that the former Tyler Moore series "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of the first that literally and figuratively gives the workplace and the home equal time.
Starting close to home, it is nice to see folks who reasonably resemble the people in our lives. Further, reel-life friends and neighbors are not always so nice but at least are never toxic. The sad truth is that many people in 2019 start from a neutral stance but are quick to resentment and related anger. This is assuming that you even interact with the boy or girl next door.
A public encounter from the era of the 2000 presidential election that can be considered the beginning of the end of civility in America perfectly illustrates how far we have fallen since the ''70s.
I have worn red polo shirts all my life without incident until randomly wearing one to the Michael Moore anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 911." Despite paying money to see a movie that is critical of Dubya and not having uttered a syllable in the theater, I soon became the object of active scorn based on my attire.
The first absurd aspect of this is the assumption that the shirt is a declaration of being a Republican; the added insult is that this perfect stranger is a monster who deserves such an attack. The truth is that I am am independent who vocally advocates putting a moderate in the Oval Office. BILL GATES IN 2020!
Moving onto the workplace, it is nice to see a fantasy world in which most people get along and even foes co-exist in relative peace. An amusing real-life aspect is often joking to someone involved in long-term conflict with a co-worker is that the solution is to lock them together in the supply room overnight, The very apt reply is that the resulting ceasing of hostility only lasts a week.
The first part of the final act lesson regarding all this is that everyone should remember the importance of working and playing well with others that the aforementioned shows reflect. Part of this that these series also reflect is that you do not have to love thy neighbor or co-worker but must show that person common courtesy at least until he or she figuratively throws the first punch; even then, turning the other cheek is tougher but still is the best option.
The second part of the lesson is even more important; one big reason that we are in our current hostile state is that our candidates for federal offices increasingly run negative campaigns that greatly contribute to the divisive nature of our society. Hating someone based on a snap judgment that he is a Republican now justifies attacks based on a perception of being a "Have" even when not much actually is had.
A sadly amusing aspect of this is regularly overhearing employees at Target and virtually every other retail business complain about the "rich people" with whom they interact. The reality is that it is highly unlikely that anyone with incomes in the highest tax bracket even shop at these stores.
The relative (and mostly achievable) Utopia of '70scoms is a world in which your core group is your support system and rarely the cause of stress. Further, you are judged based on on your inherent qualities and usually are literally and figuratively invited to the party so long as you are a decent and caring person. Sounds good (and attainable) to me.
The Warner Archive March 12, 2019 DVD release of the ninth and final season of the 1976-85 sitcom "Alice" is the latest example of Archive both adopting TV Land shows that Warner Prime abandons after DVD releases of the first few seasons and seeing these series to the (usually not bitter) end. Of course Archive similarly is in the homestretch regarding sets of the (reviewed) 1986-93 sitcom "Perfect Strangers," don't be ridiculous.
"Alice" is loosely based on the much more serious film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Our kids-of-all-ages friendly version centers around New Jersey native/widow/aspiring singer Alice Hyatt and her son Tommy taking a seemingly permanent detour in Phoenix when their station wagon breaks down there on the way to Los Angeles in her an attempt to become the next American Idol.
Our titular chanteuse takes a job at greasy-spoon Mel's Diner to put snickerdoodles on the table. A "Three's Company" style revolving door regarding the third waitress working for gruff and cheap but inherently good-natured Mel finds southern-friend former trucker/tomboy Joleme hanging around to sling hash with mother-figure Alice and ditzy cinephile Vera.
The ninth season includes many staples of "Alice." A series of comically unfortunate circumstances results in the diner sustaining severe damage in one episode only to look in the next episode as if nothing had happened. We also get the annual self-imposed crisis of college-boy Tommy. In this case, our golden-haired boy succumbs to the temptations associated with attending top-ranked party-school ASU. This leads to the standard "Tommy, I'm very worried about you" hand-wringing by Alice.
We additionally get a threefer in a "very special" episode. This one begins with Mel once again facing crippling competition from another low-cost restaurant. A related development has the waitresses having to decide which of them gets a treat that cannot accommodate all three of them. Those two factors converge to Mel being resigned to losing the diner only to have a last-minute miracle save the day.
Another episode indulges the apparent fetish of series-star Linda Lavin to portray an alternative character. In this case she makes her final appearance as Debbie Walden, who is the stereotypical Jewish-mother former landlord of Vera. The "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that Debbie becomes the tenant of highly reluctant landlady Vera.
Finally, we get a storyline that gives Alice a reasonable basis for believing that she is getting her big singing break. In this case, a series of highly improbable circumstances leads to this show-tune lover appearing with essentially a country-bear jamboree.
The first conspicuous absence this season its the lack of an episode in which a present or former A-lister almost always appears as him or herself. This Hall of Fame includes George Burns, Art Carney, Robert Goulet, Dinah Shore, Joel Gray, Art Carney, Jerry Reed, Desi Arnaz, and Florence Henderson.
A parade of past and future B (and C) listers partially fills in the guest-star gap. Fred "Rerun" Berry plays a member of a break-dancing group that is scheduled to perform at the diner. We also get Jonathan Prince of the 1986-88 syndicated sitcom "Throb" (which also stars Jane Leeves and Paul Walker) as a new diner regular.
We additionally see Rue McClanahan of "Maude" and "Golden Girls" fame playing the sweet and wholesome owner of a daycare center next to the diner. "Girls" fans know that Blanche would have wonderful fun with the Bo Peep outfit and shepherd's crook of Mother Goose,
"Alice" S9 has has two treats for Trekkers. Robert Picardo of "Voyager" has a recurring role as cop who often stops by; Armin Shimerman of "DS9" makes a one-shot appearance as an unnamed man attending an auction at the diner.
Another obvious absence is that lack of an appearance by Hollywood royalty Martha Raye in her oft-recurring role as Mel's mother Carrie Sharples.
The series finale wraps things up in the traditional '70s to present-day sitcom model of having every major character simultaneously undergo a game-changing life experience. This prompts an essentially Paley Center style panel as Mel, the girls, and Tommy form a semi-circle facing the camera as they reminisce about many of the "sits" that provide the "com" of the series. We additionally get to see Tommy portrayor Philip McKeon go through puberty and move onto young adulthood in roughly 30 seconds.
"Alice" shows class in including clips of fan-favorite departed waitress Flo; many of these include her uttering her catchphrase "Kiss my grits." More love is shown in an earlier episode that makes a reference to the role of Flo portayor Polly Holliday in "Gremlins."
A slight occurs regarding the lack of any clips of interim waitress Belle, who can be considered the Cindy Snow of Alice. This likely is due to Diane Lad, who also portrays Flo in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," not working or playing well with Lavin during the relatively brief tenure of Ladd on the sitcom
This reasonably comprehensive review of "Alice" demonstrates that it is a fairly traditional workplace sitcom in which everyone generally gets along and rarely if ever even jokes about dipping their pen in the company ink. It is nice if this time capsule inspires similar fare of equivalent quality.