The High Octane Pictures DVD of the 2019 gay-themed psychological thriller "Crisis Hotline" (nee "Shadows in Mind") shows that the fact that that it is not safe to go back in the theater is not a problem at all. This one has edgy fun for all ages and gender identities.
The following official trailer for "Hotline" provides a strong sense of both the style and the substance of this tale of an innocent young farmboy who realizes that he is not in Nebraska anymore.
This neo-modern gay soap opera/fable centers around member of The IT Crowd Danny, who gets a series of rude awakening on relocating to Silicon Valley for a dream job that turns out to be another day at the office.
As we learn throughout the almost film-long telephone conversation between Danny and support center staffer Simon, the reality is that the apparent embarrassment of riches as to the tech. job only allows for living in a shamefully shabby studio apartment and commuting an hour each way each day on the company bus.
The trauma that leads to the drama conveyed in the discussion with Simon begins with desperate times leading to Danny varying his method of his desperate measure of taking things into his own hands by going on either Grind'r or a reasonable facsimile thereof in search of Mr. Right.
This effort leads to meeting fellow keyboard kid Kyle. This pair waiting four dates to seal the deal either is a fairy tale (no pun or offense intended) or shows the new normal in the world of gay dating. It is realistic that waiting makes the intimacy more special.
The rest of the unfolding story is that Danny shares his plan for a murder/suicide with Simon.
The spidey sense of viewers is triggered more quickly than that of Danny as to Kyle being cagey regarding his clients who pay him well enough to live a lifestyle to which Danny would like to become accustomed.
A subsequent "meet the parents" scene has Danny as the man who came to dinner with Kyle to meet 30-something gay couple/pornographers Christian and Lance, who pay the rent for their boy Kyle. The evening starts out creepy and takes a darker turn that reasonably causes Danny to feel uneasy.
Danny becoming increasingly aware of the nature of the dirty business in which his highly significant other is involved proportionately prompts him to encourage Kyle to change professions. Anyone who has seen any film even remotely similar to "Crisis" knows that the odds are not forever in the favor of the young lovers as to their great escape plan. At the same time, that is a chance that they have to take.
The predictable last-minute obstacle to a happy ending comes in the unpredictable form of Kyle bringing his work home that is a Cos for concern. This triggers the events that lead to the call announcing plans to pull the trigger.
Writer/producer/director Mark Schwab pulls off the neat trick of pulling a rabbit out of his hat in the form of an 11th-hour plot twist that puts a completely new perspective on the entire film. The bonus is that it is a clever and realistic development that supports the theory that confession is good for the soul.
Thematically, the bigger picture is that the experience of Danny is relatable across the Kinsey Scale. As addressed early in the marathon call, every first love is almost certain to end in tears and recriminations. Further, in the immortal words of Keith Partridge, doesn't somebody wanted to be wanted like me? This is especially true when you are living a solitary existence in a shabby broom closet thousands of miles from home.
The bigger picture as to "Crisis" itself is that Schwab holds true to the modern style of indie filmmaking by keeping things real and having the performances largely be stoic even in the face of heavy turmoil. On a more narrow note, this film that borderline qualifies for a PG-13 rating reflects the rule in gay cinema that the amount of nudity has an inverse relationship with the quality of the film.
The DVD extras include commentary by Schwab and film expert Tim Sika. We also get DVD exclusive interviews with the cast and the crew.
A combination of the $3 trillion (and counting) cost of federal aid as to the COVID-19 pandemic and a related burnout as to writing film and television review after five weeks (and counting) of being in lockdown is inspiring this detour into Blogland. The topic du jour is replacing the federal income tax with a sales tax; fighting a desire to incorporate the word "Trump" in every sentence in a hope that it catches the eye of the guy with a solid track record of acting on impulse is tough.
The TV reference this time is the '60s fantasycom "I Dream of Jeannie." A fifth-season episode revolves around the newly wed titular magical being buying new husband Major Nelson a comical embarrassment of riches on credit. She explains to her agitated spouse that buying things on credit means that you do not have to pay for them; he replies that you do not have to pay today but must pay tomorrow.
The bigger political picture relates to intense personal exasperation as to the once (and future?) widespread support for "Medicaid for all" and for excusing student loans. The "tomorrow" aspect of this is that someone must pay for that largess in the future.
Similarly, although Steve Mnuchin could commit the catastrophically moronic act of "blinking his eyes" and printing $3 trillion (and counting), taxpayers are going to have pay for our stimulus checks, PPP "loans," payments to businesses great and small, etc. "tomorrow." Of course, this must come in the form of federal taxes.
Two aspects of a good tax system are that it is easy to administer and is fair. As shown below, a federal sales tax checks both boxes. One caveat is that medical expenses, non-prepared foods (i.e., most things other than junk food), clothing up to $300, and mortgage and rent payments would be exempt; exempt organizations would not.
At the outset, there is a HUGE gap in the current income tax system. On a very micro level, I do not pay the guy (who insists on cash) who plows my driveway enough to require reporting those payments to the IRS. The same is true as to the guy (who insists on cash) who mows my lawn.
Yet, the total income that these guys collect from all their customers does trigger a duty to report that income; it is highly unlikely that either of these guys or the millions of other people in America who do the same work, clean houses. babysit full time, etc. pay income taxes either.
A basic aspect of fairness is that those folks are subject to the same tax liability as the one with which those of us whose payments for our services are reported must comply. Completely setting aside the issue of the equality of the pay for folks who do the things that we do not want to do, it is unfair that taxpayers have had to pay higher taxes to help fill the tax gap for a whole century.
Class differences play a more positive role as to another aspect of fairness regarding a federal sales tax. I am among the relatively (and shrinking) few who is fortunate enough to not be living paycheck-to-paycheck and being able to afford a (shrinking) amount of wants.
I plan to replace my four-year old laptop with a new one before the end of 2020. I am budgeting $500 for that purpose. Someone with a larger income than mine would be more likely to spend roughly $1,500 for a MacBook. Some living paycheck-to-paycheck likely would spend $200 on a laptop.
The sales tax that each of us would pay on our laptops roughly would reflect our relative income levels and corresponding abilities to pay. The same is true as to other goods, such as televisions and cell phones, and services.
On a larger level, businesses of all sizes would incur roughly proportionate tax liabilities. A corner dry cleaner would pay a relatively small amount for hangers, cleaning products, and new equipment every few years. A branch office of a Fortune 500 company would pay much for things such as the large quantity of office supplies and business equipment that it requires to operate.
Although all deductions would be eliminated, the broader tax base would be expected to more than compensate for those lost benefits.
The most obvious aspect of ease-of-administration would be no longer requiring filing tax forms and estimated payments. Purveyors of goods and services already must provide the federal government records of their revenues.
Further, time-consuming, costly debates on tax policy would be a thing of the past.
A five-year roll out of the transition to this system would ease the change for tax professionals and laid-of IRS employees. Some IRS jobs could be eliminated through attrition; remaining IRS employees have a leg up as to applying for jobs with other branches of the federal government.
Ease as to federal budgeting is another advantage of a national sales tax. It makes sense as an initial matter to set the allowed range based on a thorough analysis. A hypothetical example is to set the minimum rate at 20-percent and the maximum at 30-percent. Come budget season, the bean counters would come up with a number that would be presented to Congress for a vote.
This, of course, is an cursory discussion of a national sales tax. However, the concept seems inarguably sound.
The Film Movement Classics April 14, 2020 Blu-ray release of "Alastair Sim's School for Laughter" awesomely continues this division of art-house god Film Movement giving timeless British comedies their due. This release also expands the Classics catalog of Ealing Films that are reviewed in the Movement section of this site.
The scope of "Laughter" is akin to the recent (equally bonus-features laden) Classics BD collection "Their Finest Hour." This reviewed set of five films showcases Ealing WWII- themed productions that include the original version of "Dunkirk."
The following Classics trailer for "Laughter" expertly schools viewers in each of the films in a manner that showcases the wonderful deadpan humor of Sim, who arguably is best known for his standard-setting portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."
The fun begins with the wonderfully titled farce "The Belles of St. Trinian's" (1954). Sim plays the dual roles of the headmistress of the titular girls' boarding school and her neer-do-well brother. The success of Sim in pulling off this feat is one of many examples of this skills in this set.
The overall theme of the "Belles" is that the student body is comprised of a group of feral females that strikes fear in the hearts of the locals. For her part, headmistress Millicent Fritton must contend with both the wolves of Wall Street constantly at her door looking for loan payments and a faculty that is comprised of a highly disgruntled rogues' gallery.
These factors (in addition to the new "Eastland" girls) converge in a perfect comedic storm that drives much of the "Belles" action. A faction that figuratively has a horse in the race is competing with another faction that literally and figuratively has a horse in the same contest.
The central conflict results in there being a dorm resident who is a real nag.
Next up is the original "School for Scoundrels" (1960). This wonderfully dark comedy has Sim shining as Stephen Potter, who runs the titular "College of Lifemanship" that teaches decent folks who repeatedly are victimized by "scoundrels" to learn how to get the larger end of the stick.
"Scoundrel" Delauney (Terry-Thomas of "Munster, Go Home" fame) repeatedly being the Bluto (or Brutus) to the Popeye of Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) prompts the latter to engage in continuing education so that he can school his rival and regain the primary affection of "Olive Oyl."
Although the dead-pan classroom aspects of "School" are highly entertaining, the best scenes are the "before" and "after" ones between Delauney and Palfrey. Watching these men alternatively get the upper-hand over the other is timeless classic comedy.
The bonus features include an charming and insightful modern interview with a film critic.
"Laughter in Paradise" (1951) arguably has the most social commentary in this quartet. Sim plays one of four potential heirs in this variation of both versions of "Brewster's Millions." The right of each named beneficiary in the will to collect his or her share of the loot is conditioned on completing a 28-day task that is directly contrary to his or her nature.
The mission of secret pulp-fiction novelist Denniston Russell (Sim) is to commit an offense that will make him a guest of the Queen until 28 days later. Watching him question local law-enforcement as to what crime will result in that specific amount of time is amusing. A shoplifting effort that goes comically awry is hilarious.
Classics aptly wraps things up with "Hue and Cry" (1947), which is the first Ealing comedy. Sim once again plays a paperback writer, whose fiction provides the basis for actual heists by a criminal gang. This tale centers around a teen Hardy boy and his gang that must thwart the bad guys on their own.
The surprise ending truly is that. The less good news is that it involves a serious beatdown of our excitable boy, who already has experienced undue physical and emotional batterings in his quest for truth, justice, and the English way.
Classics supplements this with trailers and "behind-the-scenes" features on the films. We also get the usual, but far from typical, written essay on the topic du set.
The broad appeal Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 gay-themed coming-of-age drama "Socrates" relates to it including several highly relatable themes. These include growing up rough, the pains of first love, and intense trauma related to the 'rents.
The back cover synopsis shares that "Socrates" is the first feature from the Quero Institute in Brazil. The rest of this story is that it is co-written, produced, and acted by at-risk teenagers from local low-income communities.
The remarkable 16 wins for this sensitive but not saccharine tale reflect the exceptional nature of each aspect of this film. The accolades include Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor wins at the 2018 Festival Mix Brasil.
The following Breaking trailer for "Socrates" expertly achieves its purpose of touching on each of the aforementioned themes that leaves the audience craving more.
The trauma and drama begin with the opening scenes; our hero finds his mother dead. This discovery sets all of the events in "Socrates" in motion beginning with a social worker telling Socrates that he must live under adult supervision.
Already desperate times that include being behind with the rent lead to desperate measures that include Socrates taking over the job of his mother cleaning a bus station, His search for gainful employment also includes working at a construction site. It is loathe at first site there as to a young male co-worker who quickly becomes a friend with benefits.
That its complicated relationship, which likely is the first love of Socrates, includes highs and lows. On of the latter is a bashing while enjoying an otherwise enjoyable day at the beach,
This ends with a rude awakening that involves Socrates discovering that he is the dirty little secret of his man.
The rest of the life story of Socrates is an estranged relationship with his father. One of the more dramatic scenes in the film is a hard-to-watch confrontation between these two.
As stated above, there are several big pictures here. Growing up almost always is difficult under even the best possible circumstances; having just about every odd stacked against you makes surviving adolescence almost impossible. "Socrates" stays very true to this by keeping things real in ways that include not having a last-minute miracle that allows the titular lad to live large,
Breaking supplements this with a few features on this successful inaugural outing.
Icarus Films comes close to boldly taking cinephiles where no man has gone before regarding the DVD release of the 2017 politically oriented supernatural-thriller "Jupiter's Moon." This tale of a Syrian refugee becoming the boy with something extra has something for everyone and must be seen to be believed.
The numerous accolades for this Palme d'Or-nominated film include a very apt Fantastic Features win at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest. The Best Film award at the 2017 L'Etrnage Festival is equally appropriate.
The opening scenes of aforementioned young man Aryan Dashni riding a bus in an effort to illegally enter Hungary strike a good balance between exposition and getting down to the action. A police raid leads to Aryan getting shot and left for dead in one of several visually stunning "Moon" sequences. He soon discovers that his rebirth includes an ability to levitate at will.
In traditional movie-narrative style, we also soon meet Dr. Gabor Stern. He is engaged in a rather shady ongoing money-based scheme with his colleague Vera. It is clear that money is not a factor regarding their romantic relationship.
World-weary police official Laszlo brings this marginally God and Jesus pair together in the aftermath of the raid. He and Gabor have an uneasy friendship with limited benefits. Laszlo looks the other way much of the time as Gabor facilitates patients at a refugee camp being set free in Hungary.
Aryan soon comes out to Gabor on their meeting at the camp; this leads to the pair beginning a beautiful friendship based on mutual profit. Gabor will exploit the talent of Aryan, and the boy will obtain limited freedom.
Much of the conflict relates to Laszlo proving that his Momma did not raise no fool. He accurately concludes that Gabor has absconded with Aryan but has great difficulty taking the stranger in a strange land back into custody. Gabor additionally plays the Gladys Kravitz role in the film by knowing that Aryan can fly but being unable to get anyone to believe him.
The plot further thickens on Aryan confiding in Gabor regarding a plan to reconnect with his father, who is a suspected terrorist. This leads to an exceptional sequence in which the Chosen One finds himself in the middle of a terrorist plot.
We additionally learn why Gabor needs a large amount of money. This relates to his effort to rebuild his life after a tragedy that can be considered punishment for his sins. The extent to which Aryan is sent from above to facilitate this salvation is ambiguous.
The expected grand-scale mayhem at the end of "Moon" ends on a note that is very surprising beyond the actual partial resolution that it provides. The positive and strongly religious final images leave one with much more of a sense of serenity than the entire film suggests would lead to the closing credits.
The bigger successful trick of "Moon" is presenting heavy political commentary in the form of a religious-oriented fable in a compelling manner without being preachy.
The Inn Credible New England philosophy that spending your travel budget on a spectacular experience within a comfortable driving distance from home typically is preferable to budgeting $1,000 or more on airfare and airfare-related expenses remains more true than ever during this worst of times that does not offer much hope of the best of times. The same concern that has kept me under house arrest with virtually no time in the yard for the last month and that will keep me close to home even when paroled in a few weeks is keeping me away from the not-so-friendly skies until at least May 2020.
More than ever, all of us who feasibly can do so should up our game by booking a trip that is guaranteed to offset income insecurity regarding toilet paper and hand soap in addition to being very tempted to hack away at hair ala a toddler hopped up on an entire box of Froot Loops. The trick to this is picking a spa-hotel where they are in it for the love of the game, rather than staying at a corporate hotel that has a small massage-and-facial (no pun intended) facility that is viewed as a cash cow.
A combination of doing as I preach and of putting my money where my mouth is behind booking a stay at the Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts during what is hoped to be a sweet spot between life largely being back to normal and les freres Winchester shoving me back in my cage next November.
Anticipation of my stay is a huge help keeping me from totally losing it these days. My "Shining" jokes stopped being funny a few weeks ago, and I often do not find anything of interest among my more than 10,000 DVD and Blu-ray sets. A sign of this is getting very annoyed that the "Gilligan's Island" gang does not call The Professor "Roy." He is not their teacher.
I will be the guy at Canyon Ranch talking about classic films and television while living in his spa robe when he not trying to shed decades of angst on the massage table or in the steam room. My having a smuggled-in Diet Coke in my pocket should not be interpreted as my not being ecstatic to be there.
"Students" who already are familiar with Canyon Ranch may go out to recess. You are among those who get it.
I have had nice stays at quasi-corporate properties with laudable spas and never wanted a day of pampering at a top-notch facility outside San Diego to end. I KNOW that none of that will compare to my three days at Canyon Ranch.
The "curse" that goes with the "blessing" of Canyon Ranch is that I likely will alienate friends by not shutting up about the place the next few months. They already have been subjected to hearing about the "Goldilocks" pillow menu that allows you to choose wisely, having your own spa locker with a code-lock while you are there, even the basic room having a good-sized sitting area with a comfy arm chair, every room having a DVD player, free washers and dryers so you are not stuck with stinky exercise clothes, etc.
The ONLY downside is that, although the amenities likely are as wonderful as the hotel and the spa, they do not have fabled Aesop products. Those personal-care items simply are the best and have been another lockdown luxury.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2016 Dutch erotic drama "Out of Love" adds to the mountain of proof that Movement provides regarding many themes being universal. A simplistic way of looking at this movie is that it a dark intense version of the Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner comedy "The War of the Roses."
The wider perspective is that "Love" supports the theory that many relationships fail because neither person reveals his or her crazy until after exchanging vows. Another aspect of this is the cliche that opposites attract, This is from the perspective of someone who loves "I Dream of Jeannie" living with someone who prefers "Bewitched."
"Love" opens on a charmingly flirtatious note as chef Nikolai and customer/manicurist Varya exchange increasingly intimate glances during her visit to his restaurant., This leads to a witty initial conversation that furthers enhances the live-stage vibe that runs throughout the film. The talents of our leads, who comprise most of the cast, further make you feel as if you are enjoying a night at the theater.
Our love birds still are enjoying their honeymoon phase when they move in together. A hilarious scene in which Varya has a bad reaction to a meal by Nikolai is an early indication of trouble in paradise. A (confirmed) early sense that Varya is a bit unstable comes when she massively overreacts to an innocent observation by Nikolai.
In fairness to Varya, Nikolai being assertively (rather than aggressively) persistent when told not now is a valid basis for complaint.
A less relatable aspect of "Love" is the profession of Nikolai being a factor. Although many of us fantasize about having a partner who equally passionate (and skilled) in the kitchen and the bedroom as well as being very easy on the eyes, the reality apparently is not-so-great.
The starting point of dissension is the long and the late hours of NIkolai. This leads to disappointments that include being left alone much of the time, Further, the inconvenience of eating dinner fashionably late is a legitimate gripe; the same goes for being served food that creates digestion issues.
Varya cracks first; the heat-of-the-moment reaction by Nikolai makes a bad situation even worse; the ensuing events nicely show that residual love often exists even when it is time to seek a restraining order. We also get a telling moment in which Varya expresses an odd form of sorrow,
The truth continues to the conclusion of the film. Our story ends on a note that does not fully resolve whether this couple determines they are happier being apart than they would be together. Folks who have reached that stage know that that answer can change even a few times a day.
CBS Home Entertainment truly provides a cure for what ails us by releasing the complete series Blu-ray of the 1982 sitcom "Police Squad!" on April 14, 2020. Watching it during the COVID-induced lockdown is almost as exciting as being able to buy toilet paper. One can only hope that the plans of CBSHE include new editions of the "Naked" Gun" film series that "Squad!" spawns.
Owning the older DVD version of "Squad!" allows stating that CBSHE does what becomes a comedy legend most as to its restoration of this cult classic.
"Squad" is the brilliant result of the Zucker Brothers of "Airplane!" fame doing for the ultra-serious Quinn-Martin procedurals, such as "The FBI," of the '60s and '70s what Mel Brooks does for the Bond films and other spy movies in the '60scom "Get Smart." Both series validate the theory of comedy god Carol Burnett that "funny always is funny." "Squad!" also stays fresh by largely avoiding topical references that would seem stale almost 30 years later.
"Airplane" star Leslie "Don't Call Me Shirley" Nielsen plays "Squad!" main man Frank Drebin, who is a detective with a generic police department in the State of Statesville. Statesville may include Townsville where pre-adolescent superheros The Powerpuff Girls reside.
A highly entertaining and informative interview with Nielsen that is one of several BD bonus features perfectly explains the blessing and the curse of "Squad!". Nielsen states that the series fails in his namesake ratings because copious sight gags and the sometimes subtle jokes require paying attention to the program. He goes on to observe that a large portion of the American viewing public uses television as ambient noise.
A real-life Twitter exchange with CBSHE as to this release PERFECTLY illustrates the Zuckertastic juvenile humor of "Squad!" The CBSHE team tweet refers to Drebin battling criminal elements; the response of your not-so-humble reviewer comments that Beryllium is nothin' but trouble.
The nature of "Squad!" makes an abbreviated anatomy of an episode an apt theme for conveying its strong humor.
Each week finds Drebin and partner-in-crime-solving Ed Hocken (Alan North) taking on a new case. Ala "Smart," these episodes included a combination of a variation on a frequent comedic concept and brand-new humor. The former begins with the opening credits that conclude with an announcement of the "Special Guest Star," who quickly meets his or her end, of the week. Les Freres Zucker save the best for next to last by having Florence Henderson getting to display her Wessonality for only a few seconds.
The audience then is treated to more good humor regarding the intertitle that announces the name of the episode. Suffice it to say that the carpets never match the drapes.
Each outing sets the stage for "sit" that provides the "com" by putting the nefarious scheme of the week in play. This leads to a scene of Drebin delivering an interior monologue complete with predictable (but still amusing to hilarious) sight gag as he drives to the scene of the crime.
The early stages of the ensuing investigation always involve a visit to CSI lab rat Mr. Olson. His contribution to the humor of the episode begins with giving young children increasingly dark scientific experiments, include showing how cats cannot breathe underwater, and going on to give these innocents perverse homework assignments.
This leads to the end of Act One, which leads to an amusing to hilarious intertitle for Act Two. This soon leads to Drebin engaging in a shoot out with the perp. The fun wraps up with an squad-room episode in which Drebin and Hocken recap their adventure while being the only ones in the room to freeze in place.
Each episode also has Drebin visit an informant who operates a shoe shine stand. This leads to (mostly) celebrities, who soon follow Drebin to ask the stool (pun intended) pigeon absurd questions. A highlight is '70s and '80s pop psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers inquiring about "The Cinderella Complex."
Although every episode is strong, the pilot (i.e., the person who flies an airplane but that is irrelevant) is the creme de la creme. "A Substantial Gift" revolves around a bank employee who falsely pins her robbery on a not-so-innocent person. Highlights in this one include a hilarious ballistics test regarding the angle of a gunshot wound and a bit that puts the Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine to shame.
The aforementioned Blu-ray extras also include an amusing Gag Reel and screen tests.
Cinema Libre provides an awesome twofer regarding the April 7, 2020 DVD of the wonderfully edgy 2019 Icelandic drama "From Iceland to Eden." This film shows that quality cinema still exists and that home-video more than compensates for arthouses and cineplexes facing the wrath of COVID-19.
The opening scenes strike the desired balance between exposition and starting the action. Nearly naked 20-something Oliver finds himself in a bathroom with equally compromised peer Loa. He is there on the run from the law, which is in the midst of raiding his supply of assorted illegal drugs; she is there sleeping off a wild night with her host, whom our near-future young lovers find dead from an overdose.
One of several film highlights courtesy of Oliver portaayor Hansel Eagle, whose credits include "Shirtless Dancer" on an episode of "Black Mirror," comes soon after this initial meeting. Oliver casually reciting the increasingly hardcore list of drugs in his inventory triggers Loa remembering him as a well-known drug dealer on the club circuit. An even better moment comes when Oliver expresses displeasure as to having imminently facing a hammer attack at one end and a "cock up my ass" at the other. The performance of the actor playing second-generation drug dealer/"Little Mermaid" fanatic Tumi adds great entertainment value as to that dual threat.
Oliver and Loa soon demonstrate the dual follies of youth and heavy drug use by scheming and dreaming of life in the titular paradise, which is Cuba in this case. This caper commences a development that is relatable to virtually anyone who has had a post-college roommate. Loa convinces her friend to harbor her and Mr. Not Right in the Head for one night despite the opposition of the other guy who shares the place. Of course, this turns into an extended stay.
The daring deeds of our dynamic duo, which including putting Loa at risk of losing what is left of her virtue, quickly escalate, This includes a not-so-bold grab of a stash and cash to a "one last job" plot to be armed and dangerous party crashers at Chez Tumi. Needless to say, things do not go as planned.
All of this culminates in a very surreal ending that both brings things back to the beginning of the film and offers proof that everyone has a soulmate.
The big picture this time is that all of us want a better life, and some of us must work a little harder toward enjoying that desired Utopia.
Being stuck at home virtually 24/7 for a month and knowing that this is going to last at least another three weeks is turning thoughts to good options for marathon (rather than binge) viewings of television series. There may be more of these postings as more sets come to mind.
The general criteria date back to the early days of building a home-video collection that now exceeds 10,000 sets; the overall standard is that the release is of a high-quality, not-widely syndicated series.
The links in the below discussions of each set are to the Unreal TV 2.0 reviews of each release.
The fact that many of these sets are from Mill Creek Entertainment reflects the oft-stated "you've come a long way, Baby" praise for that company in this site. The MCE roots as a producer of bare-bones sets of public domain series and films is a distant memory.
The top choice for Black Plague Friday is the award-winning desert-island worthy MCE complete series Blu-ray set of the gritty FX drama "The Shield." The extraordinary quality of the packaging itself makes this one an epic Father's Day gift.
"Shield," which is a perfect companion to (reviewed) overlapping FX hit "Rescue Me," tells the tales of the men and women who wok out of "The Barn" in the inner-city Farmington (a.k.a. Farm) District of Los Angeles. As indicated above, Vic Mackey and his team are more concerned with taking gaping and bleeding bites out of crime than following either police procedures or Constitutional requirements.
On a lighter note, the MCE complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" sitcom "Community" provides a chance for Human Beings who already are fans to relive the glory of this clever and not afraid to go there series by Dan Harmon of "Rick and Morty" fame. "Virgins" are in for an even bigger treat,
"Community" creator/star Chevy Chase nemesis Harmon truly hits comedy gold with the concept and the execution of "Community." The program centers around misanthropic and conceited disbarred attorney Jeff Winger (Joel McHale of "Talk Soup"). Being caught lying about his undergraduate education results in McHale experiencing what may be the only reel or real case of being sentenced to complete his education. His doing hard time at Greendale Community College sets the stage for interacting with his fellow misfit students and the comically inept faculty and staff and to contend with absurd bureaucracy.
The trifecta of MCE releases concludes with a sitcom that can be almost be considered "'Friends' After Dark" "Happy Endings."
"Endings" begins on a high note for the audience that is a low point for one of the friends around whom the series centers. Future food truckeuter Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton of "Flashforwrd") is standing at the altar with childhood friend/fiancee/failing boutique owner Alex Kerkovich (past literal cougar bait Elisha Cuthbert). The first of an almost "Community" level amount of pop culture references begin with nods to "Xanadu" and "The Graduate," A 20-something guy with an open shirt rollerblades down the aisle and turns Alex into a runaway bride.
The action aptly fastforwards a month to Dave living in the bedroom in the apartment in which gay "chubby" and slovenly college buddy Max Bloom (Adam Pally of (reviewed) "The Mindy Project") is couch surfing in his own shabby loft that has rats in the main living area and a belatedly discovered human squatter in a previously unknown attic space.
Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson of "SNL") is a childhood friend of Dave and Alex. Her dating Max in college seeming to be the highlight of her romantic history states quite a bit about this current fag hag. She and Max being the Karen and the Jack of "Endings" makes having Megan Mullally play her mother apt.
The fifth member of the sextet is Eliza Coupe of "Scrubs" 2.0 playing Alex sibling/ruthless ice queen/successful executive with an initially undisclosed profession Jane Kerkovich-Williams; the obvious joke comes late in the run of the series.
Damon Wayans, Jr. proves the truth of like father like son in his portrayal of the object of the jungle fever of Jane. His Brad Williams is almost as successful as his wife but is much more silly. His many shining moments include his role in a "Get Out" plot years that has the third Kerkovich sister engaged to a black man years before "Out" is released.
Moving onto fellow stellar home-video producer CBS Home Entertainment, the focus shifts to two sets that massively exceed expectations as to "old school" series.
The first season of the tremendous successful Jordan Peele reboot of the classic sci-fi series "The Twilight Zone" properly honors the original and far outpaces prior attempts to emulate Rod Serling.
The press materials for "Zone" expertly convey the style and the substance of this series from producer/narrator Peele, whose Oscar and Emmy bring him halfway to being an EGOT. "Originally airing from 1959 to 1964, 'The Twilight Zone' became a worldwide phenomenon as it used socially conscious storytelling to explore the human condition and culture of the times. The godfather of sci-fi series, the show explored humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices in meatphoric ways that conventional dramas could not."
Not-so-fond memories of less-than-successful colorization attempts make the phenomenal CBSHE collection of colorized "I Love Lucy" episode a true wonder to behold. The classic outings in this one include ones from the Hollywood and Europe story arcs.
The CBSHE complete series DVD set of the '80s Lucy series "Life With Lucy" deserves an honorable mention because it nicely restores this rare show and allows Lucy fans to complete their home-video collection of her programs.
The only way to conclude this post is to remind fellow sofa spuds of the importance of keeping calm and carrying on.
Omnibus Entertainment (which is a division of foreign-movie god Film Movement) wonderfully goes old school with the DVD release of the highly stylized 2013 black-and-white drama "She Wolf." This work of art visually and thematically evokes thoughts of French New Wave Cinema. The copious extreme physical and sexual violence against our damsel (who may not have a name) in distress alone surely precludes any Hollywood version of this story
This film opens with Damsel being the sub. in a relatively intense S&M sex session. The real climax of this encounter involves her poisoning Mr. Right Now; it soon becomes clear that this is far from her first trip to the rodeo.
Subsequently watching this predator in action proves that man is his own worst enemy. She merely throws out the bait by looking flirtatious; the chum always approaches her completely unaware of their fate.
The plot thickens on a neighbor confronting this praying mantis; he essentially tells her that he knows who she does all summer and that he is going to ensure that she is held accountable for her sins. Young and small relatively innocent Leo becomes the unlikely savior/buddy of Damsel.
Scenes in which the relative heights of Leo and his new girl shift provide some of the heavy symbolism in the film. The manner in which we effectively see the three faces of Eve is even more telling, As indicated above, "Wolf" is a far cry (pun intended) from "Basic Instinct." This dynamic extends to Damsel becoming a protector of Leo.
Damsel fully becomes the prey when an undercover cop gets on her scent; his inept partner provides needed comic relief. A scene in which the cop stalks his prey in her hunting ground of the subway system provides some of the best moments of the film.
Of course, this leads to the noose tightening; the question remains whether the beast will break loose in this film that holds absolutely no allegiance to the Hays Code.
The bottom line this time is that writer/director Tamae Garateguy aptly puts a neo spin on one of the most artistic film styles ever. This modern approach awesomely includes the statement that women are equally whore and Madonna and that having their reproductive organs on the inside does not prevent them from being as brutal as men.
Film Movement fully demonstrates its art-house cred. regarding the DVD release of the documentary "Narcissister Organ Player." This documentary about the titular performance artist reflects the spirit of this genre by provoking a strong or negative reaction.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Narcissister" highlights every element of the film. You get both a glimpse of the freakish theme of the performances and of the psychological bases for those works.
Love her or hate her, one must give Narcissister her due for her creativity and performance ability. The opening scenes demonstrate how she uses her trademark plastic mannequin masks and phenomenal agility to put on what even her biggest fans must admit is a freakish show, These displays are sure to provoke nightmares in small children, who are too young to watch an often topless woman pull items out of her vagina.
The extensive narrative by Narcissister puts her art in perfect context. The starting point is that she is the mixed-race daughter of a Sephardic Jewish mother from Morocco and a black father from Los Angeles, who is a certified physics genius. Growing up brown-skinned among beautiful blonde-haired and blue-eyed people in Southern California also helps make our subject the woman she is today.
A particular manner in which Narcissister makes her use of plastic masks a statement is her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. An element of this is the artist adoring the movie star during the youth of the former and having her parents inform her of the falseness of the idolized beauty,
A rather vivid piece in which Narcissister relives her birth is one of the most symbolic scenes in the film; we also see her live out her fantasy of being a lady who lunches; the bizarre twist at the end is pure performance art. On top of this, we witness a freaky scene in which Narcissister portrays a grunge teen boy only to have things once again go in an even weirder direction,
The strongest behind-the-scenes theme of "Narcissister" is the relationship between the woman of the hour-and-31-minutes and her mother. We extensively see and hear from the elder woman, who shows that the apple does not fall far from the tree. It is clear that Narcissister owes her maternal parent as much thanks for her fame as Christina Crawford owes Mommie Dearest for hers.
Mom also is the center of a childhood memory that will gross out anyone who has ever had a mother. Suffice it to say that the scene that a young Narcissister inadvertently witnesses should be far more traumatic than walking in on parents having sex. This ties with a piece (no pun intended) that is an actual depiction of a piece of excrement as the most disgusting moment in this inarguably provocative documentary.
The bonus features provide the litmus test regarding this particular fandom. Folks whom Narcissister leaves wanting more will delight in the extended and deleted scenes of her performances. Viewers whom she does not enchant will decide that they have had enough.
The Indiepix Films DVD of the 2014 documentary "Is Anybody Listening" sadly has become highly relevant in our dystopian times that being under house arrest has greatly exasperated. The film discusses the non-profit Listen to a Veteran that "Anybody" writer/narrator Paula J. Caplan operates to give veterans a listening post in the form of open pair of ears and a shut mouth. The overall concept is that veterans know that even civilians with the best intentions in the world cannot understand serving in combat or even being a member of the armed forces.
The following Indiepix trailer for "Listening" expertly conveys the solid theme and tone of the film.
Listen is the result of Caplan realizing after several retellings over many years that she merely was hearing her father tell the story of his experience as the leader of an all-black group of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Her valid reasoning is that picturing her father going through that is highly traumatic. One of those soldiers participating in "Anybody" adds a great deal to the film.
Caplan, who is a psychologist, also understands that veterans are unfairly stigmatized. She states that the conventional false wisdom is that anyone who wants to join the military does so out of a desire to kill. The rest of this inaccurate story is that having to kill and experience the other negative aspects of military life creates a mental illness. The stable and articulate veterans who participate in "Anybody" show that both perceptions are false.
One especially likable veteran discussing the impact of military life hits a highly personal note that is relatable to most of us. A friend has kindly stated as to my concerns regarding the perception of my behavior during a long period of torment that I was reasonably acting in response to an unreasonable situation, The epilogue to this is choosing my current home because it on a corner lot facing away from other houses; I drive into the attached garage and have nothing to do with the neighbors.
The bigger picture as to all this is that many of us avoiding "listening" to what we do not want to hear and that all of us need a caring judgmental person to take that hit.
The coronavirus pandemic has managed to do what Larry David, but not 911, could accomplish to an extent. Namely, a "Seinfeld" reunion.
Although David brought the band back together for a "Seinfeld" mini-reunion that drove much of the S7 action in the HBO David docucom "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the Four Horseman of New York have not had a full-fledged reunion since their iconic sitcom ended in 1998.
The proper context for reading about the reunion begins with taking things in the proper context and remembering that mocking evil reduces its power. Mel Brook and many other comedy writers making fun of Nazis perfectly reflects this concept.
Jerry Seinfeld and David announced today that they have begun work on a script for a 90-minute coronavirus-themed "Seinfeld" reunion. Production is scheduled to commence June 31, 2020. It is scheduled to premiere on the NBC streaming service Peacock on September 23, 2020, which is the 61st birthday of "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander.
Seinfeld and David explained that they realized that America needed their brand of comedy now more than ever and that the role of New Yorkers in making a horrible situation even worse provided a perfect premise for a reunion.
According to Seinfeld and David, the underlying premise of the reunion is that Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) returning from Italy with an salami triggers an heavily enforced lockdown of the apartment building in which he and fictional Jerry live. The rest of the story is that Kramer renting his apartment on Air BnB before his trip and cutting it short because of the pandemic forces Jerry to take him in.
For his part, Jerry is facing reel wrath that is comparable to the real hatred that Richards faced when lashing out at black audience members at a stand-up gig. Jerry is under fire for a pre-pandemic joke in which he observes that a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer is no match for the toxic environment of the New York subway.
For her part, Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is trying to convince her one-night-stand who is binge watching "Full House" during their joint quarantine that he is immune from the coronavirus so that he will go home.
The fun continues with unemployed hypochondriac George Costanza mistakenly being convinced that he is infected. This prompts George to max out his credit cards on comically extravagant non-returnable items.
Comments by David and real Seinfeld that include stating the reunion pays homage to the epic "Seinfeld" series finale suggests that Peacock special concludes with the gang hitting the road for a rural New England town only to find themselves sharing a large quarantine bubble ala The Bubble Boy of the original series.
The biggest joke regarding all this is that this post is an April Fool's Day joke; not that there is anything wrong with that. One can only hope that David and real Seinfeld truly give the public what we really need these days.