Expert purveyors of thought-provoking documentaries Icarus Films and Bullfrog Films continue their long-standing beautiful friendship with the April 21, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 non-fiction movie "The Sequel." This one is a study of the life of futurist David Fleming. The Fleming opus "Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It" is sadly relevant in this era in which it seems that COVID-19 ain't ever goin' nowhere.
The message of "Sequel" is similar to (reviewed) fellow recent Icraus Film "System Error." "Error" both studies capitalism and provides reason to think that the good run for that model is reaching its end.
Like all good documentaries, "Sequel" stars strong; crystal-clear images of earth from space soon lead to a group of students in an Ewok-caliber forest (sans redwoods) getting an awesome ecology lesson. A measuring tape is used to represent the history of the earth from its beginnings to the present; major events get a 25-words-or-less explanation, and our highly industrialized society is seen at the end of the tape (i.e., rope).
We next hear from friends, colleagues, and devotees of textbook academic Fleming. The Great Man himself also enlightens us about the entertaining story that leads to the writing of "Logic." There is no doubt that Fleming pours his heart into that tome.
The basic idea is that we need a sea change in an effort to stop the polar ice caps from flooding us and/or to prevent another plague-level disaster from making humans either extinct or an endangered species. Another way of stating this is it is the end of the world as we know it, and it is up to us as to whether we feel fine.
A segment on the failure of Greece to rebound from its massive economic downfall is a particularly impactful example. The images of modern-day poverty and the dismal statistics as to the lack of wealth of the nature seem to be what will soon be the case in America.
The bottom line is that modern events show that the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject is right; whether we heed is message may well be a matter of life or death.
The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2017 Mexican drama "Seeds" (nee "Cuernavaca") shows both that everything is relative and that relatable growing pains can be traumatic. The accolades for this Dickensian coming-of-age tale include the Best International Feature Award at the 2018 Borderlands Film Festival and three honors at the 2018 Films Infest.
The following YouTube clip of a "Seeds" trailer provides a sense of the angst of central character Andy; the glimpse of the wonderful cinematography reinforces the hope of a future Releasing Blu-ray of the film.
Tween Andy is a Dickens stereotype in that he is small, quiet, pale, and classically blond. Sadly, nothing about him even early in the film supports the theory that people with that hair color have more fun.
Andy literally is clinging to a connection with his absent father in the opening scenes; his early interaction with his essentially single mother is very reminiscent of the parent-child relationship in "The Sixth Sense." This is down to Mom picking up a despondent Andy after a typically depressing day at school.
Rare mutual joy in the lives of Andy and his mother is short lived. Their grand afternoon out is continuing with ice cream when a "sliding doors" moment leads to Mom, rather than Andy, becoming the victim of a violent crime. This contributes to especially strong survivor's guilt.
The Dickens vibe initially picks up on the authorities being unable to locate the father of Andy to care for him during the hospitalization of his mother. This leads to the boy travelling to the titular rural suburb for a temporary relocation to the guava orchard of his firm but fair (functioning alcoholic) grandmother Carmen. The DVD liner notes state that Carmen portrayor Carmen Maura has a history of collaborating with Pedro Almodovar.
The eccentric members of the household include an aunt with Down's Syndrome, who provides a herd of cats with unnecessary ongoing medical care. There also is young fieldworker/kitchen helper Esmeralda, who essentially is child labor.
The guava of the eye of Andy is teen gardener Charley. Part of the artistry of "Seeds" is ambiguity regarding whether the younger boy sees the older one as a cool guy, a brother figure, a substitute father, or an object of carnal affection. Similarly, the feelings of Charley toward the boy are not very clear for much of the film.
One clear aspect of the Andy/Charley relationship is the latter taking advantage of the other. The boy being relatively wealthy, lonely, smitten, and otherwise vulnerable paves the way for Charley to con him. The aforementioned susceptibility to being taken includes Andy being desperate to reach his father to rescue him from his unfortunate circumstances. This includes the very Dickensian threat of boarding school.
Charley also provides context for the form of class divide that is common in Mexico and not unheard of El Norte. His modest home in his working-class neighborhood is just beyond a symbolic gate in an equally symbolic wall on the estate of Carmen. Further, Carmen heads an unofficial group of "respectable" members of the community that is seeking to run Charley and his kind out of town.
Twin drama ensues as Charley persuades Andy to fully betray his grandmother at a time that the prodigal son at least is back for a short visit. The two lessons here are to not invite the beast into the parlor and that a leopard never changes his spots.
The impact of all this on caring and trusting Andy is adequately heartbreaking to set "Seeds' apart from more cookie-cutter coming-of-age stories. Those films typically have the boy with at least strong gay tendencies end up with the right person and come out the other end of a traumatic experience wiser but not permanently sadder.
The first difference here is the nature and nurture combine to make Andy much more delicate than the typical emo twink boy next door who is starting to look at either his childhood friend or the new guy in school in "that way." Our lead seems destined either to spend his teen years locked in his room reading or shooting up the cafeteria at lunchtime. Either way, you cannot help feeling very sorry for him and hoping for the best.
'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band' Blu-ray, DVD, Digital: One More Waltz for Epitome of Folk Rockers
The star power in front of and behind the camera as to the 2019 documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" is enough to make the Magnolia Pictures May 26, 2020 Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital releases of this tribute to that quintet must-see for the broad demographic to which it appeals. The underlying blockbuster-worthy tale seals the deal.
The aforementioned behind-the-scenes talent includes executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and long-time Howard production partner Brian Grazer. Director Daniel Roher gives PBS darling Ken Burns ample reason to look over his shoulder.
The titular frontman is the tip of the iceberg as to the Hall of Fame musicians who make up the talking heads (sans David Byrne) in the film. We hear quite a bit from former "Band" member Eric Clapton, former frontman for the titular band of brothers Bob Dylan, and devoted fans Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.
The festival love that verifies that "Robertson" gets its material down pat includes a 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Best of the Fest award for Roher. The 2019 Whistler Film Festival expresses its regard via a World Documentary Award win.
The following compelling trailer for "Robertson" highlights the charm and insight of Robertson, who narrates the film. We also get plenty of PG stories of sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll that are de rigueur for any group of musicians.
Robertson awesomely starts his tale as a Toronto teen in the '50s; this early tales remind us that the adolescents of the Great White North are just the same as the kids living south of their border.
The "When It Began" (apologies to disgruntled father-in-law Dylan) tale continues with Robertson sharing how he and future fellow "Band" mate Levon Helm come to join the Hawkmen of Canadian idol Ronnie Hawkins. The admiration that Hawkins expresses for Robertson in the documentary is one of many examples of a mutual admiration society in this feel-good film in an pandemic era.
The "its complicated" nature of the relationship between Robertson and Helm drives much of the film; Team Scorsese chooses wisely in initially depicting Helm as an infectiously enthusiastic lad and going on to show how he succumbs to the Bieber Syndrome that seemingly infects every Disney Channel star.
The Dylan connection also makes for good entertainment; we see how domestic and foreign audiences react to that rock god putting Team Robertson on the payroll; the course of that relationship is another aspect that screams for Howard to make a big-budget biopic about Robertson.
We further learn of the history behind Scorsese adopting this project; a segment in "Robertson" focuses on the "Band" 1976 concert film "The Last Waltz," which turns out to be a swan song for that group, that Scorsese films. A memory of Clapton as to that event further proves that Robertson is a guy with whom one would enjoy sharing a Molson.
The big picture this time is that films like "Robertson" strive for the same goal as this site; namely, to keep American pop culture alive for as long as possible. We are very lucky to be able to hear from this guitar hero. He was there at the beginning, successfully kept up with the times as they were a changin', and is still around to coherently tell his tale. This sadly literally makes him part of a rapidly dying breed.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]
Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project."
Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.
The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE.
The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.
The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.
Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm.
Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see."
A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.
An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real.
Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.
The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler.
The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her.
The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.
America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.
"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks.
The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker.
The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey.
MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels.
The Icarus Films April 28, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 Florian Optiz documentary "System Error" provides an inadvertently timely look at the limits of capitalism at a time that a majority of Americans either have massive income insecurity or are on the verge of doing so. The most inadvertently amusing segment features massively failed White House Director of Communications Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci. One of the best things about the movie is that achieves the genre ideal of being equally entertaining and educational.
This film, which features numerous intertitles of quotes from Karl Marx, has talking heads from several countries weigh on whether the growth potential for capitalism is infinite. One of the most effective topics is the wide-scale development of the Rain Forest; a soybean producer who is doing more than his share to force monkeys out of their habitats is the ideal face for this.
One spoiler is that the film shows us that nothing is unlimited; a good example of this is the Flash Crash and the markets since that time.
The bottom line this time is that bad times traditionally do lead to good times, but all parties must end.
A recent NPR interview with a once (and future?) road warrior who is lamenting her job no longer requiring staying at hotels several nights a week hit home on many levels. These include once having a job that involved flying out every Sunday and returning home on Wednesday.
The NPR interviewee discussing the joy of sleeping in fresh and crisp hotel sheets is highly relatable as to years of personal and professional travel. One thing that she does not mention is the disadvantage of staying at cookie-cutter hotels, which presumably are her places of choice.
Consistency can be comforting, but much of the fun of travel is getting a sense of local culture; during my travel-laden work, I often would wake up in a room that could be in any city. Remembering where I was required thinking for a few minutes.
This hit home especially hard on these thoughts evoking memories of staying at the historic Lackawana Station Hotel in Pennsylvania on one job assignment. A Google search revealing that that hotel now is a Radisson with cookie-cutter rooms evoked an exclamation that is unfit for this family-friendly forum.
The broad context regarding this is face of hotel stays in this period in which we are being freed from our cages after being locked up for three months. The more narrow focus is on how an upcoming Inn Credible New England stay at the Martin Hill Inn in Portsmouth, NH perfectly reflects both this and the long-standing Inn Credible philosophy.
A post-trip article on Martin Hill will focus on the general advantages of this highly personalized small B&B over the cookie-cutter hotels in Portsmouth. The primary thesis du jour is how these boutique properties are a much safer bet on every level than larger places, A secondary theme is why the real-life Dick and Joanna Loudons who (often) literally shed blood, sweat, and tears in literally opening up their homes to us deserve our support in these unprecedented times.
At the outset, I trust the Mom and Pop who have their lives invested in their businesses to do a much more thorough cleaning than an underpaid hotel maid, who already is under undue pressure to clean a large number of rooms before Silkwood showering an accommodation became so critical.
The COVID-19 guide that Russ the Martin Hill innkeeper included with my reservation detailed the extensive pre-check-in cleaning procedure that exceeds state guidelines. These include having at least a 48-hour gap between occupancies and having an air purifier running that entire time. Further, the brass doorknobs throughout this 19th-century building will be polished within an inch of their lives.
Forgoing beloved turndown service will be a small price to pay for further assurance that I will not be hocking up a lung a week later. Having a custom-made breakfast delivered outside my room each morning, rather than making sure that I am presentable and engaging in the dining room, is fine by me.
Not having the room cleaned during my stay is not a big deal and alleviates self-induced pressure to vacate fairly early each morning for a few hours to allow time for that straightening up. This also allows me to leave my personal-care items on the bathroom shelf after I wash up, Fresh towels and other needed replenishments to be left outside the door are only a call or a text away.
Staying in the Noonday Suite in the guest house will provide the dual benefits of being in the smaller of the two buildings and of having a private entrance. A separate sitting area always is nice; current circumstances leading to spending an above-average time in the room when traveling even more of a priority.
Supporting local business already should be a priority; innkeepers who have so much invested in their places and inevitably have shoulder and dead seasons particularly deserve consideration. Their inventory is much more fixed than that of retail locations, and they lack the ability to have a steady (but lessened) stream of foot traffic.
Further, the business location that they are trying to keep going often is their home. They lack the luxury of merely closing up shop or moving to another location. A related factor is that they typically are precluded from much of the federal support for businesses because they often at most have one part-time employee.
The final note regarding this is that the same person who feels smug about opting for small shops over big-box stores and other chains should feel ashamed about choosing a cookie-cutter hotel over a B&B. A full-service on-property restaurant, the latest-and-greatest smart television (complete with camera recording your every move) with 100 channels, and charging stations are not necessities. Additionally, there is not much joy greater than opening the door to a personalized room that makes you feel at home while still providing you crisp clean sheets.
The best praise for the Universal Pictures Home Pictures Blu-ray-DVD-Digital pack release of "Brahms: The Boy II" on May 19, 2020 is that this sequel is better than the eerily entertaining (but more bizarre and slower paced) 2016 movie "The Boy" that spawns it. Part of this appeal is making "Brahms" more suspenseful and relatable than the first movie. One of the best bonus features in the BD-DVD pack is an eight-minute alternative ending that arguably is better than the satisfying conclusion in the theatrical version.
The good folks at UPHE also give us deleted scenes and other alternate scenes; these treats reinforce hope for a director's cut release.
The basic lore (and lure) of this franchise is that the titular Victorian-era plaything is possessed and turns the real live boy who owns it to the dark side; this culminates in a homicidal rage before moving onto the next pre-adolescent minion. Of course, all this has shades of the "Conjuring" franchise.
The appeal of "Brahms" includes well-presented exposition as to the nature of the menace associated with making the doll-with-something extra part of the family.
"Boy" revolves around a middle-aged British couple whose flesh-and-blood eight-year-old boy is the victim of a tragic childhood at their estate in the English countryside; they hire a young American woman to take charge of Brahms as if she is one of the family. she quickly becomes in charge of all his wrongs and his rights to her extreme detriment. That's how she becomes The Nanny.
"Brahms" opens in London in the wake of the events of the first film. Liza (Katie Holmes), her husband, and their young son Jude (Christorpher Convery of "Gotham" and "Stranger Things") are living a very happy existence until a series of unfortunate circumstance lead to severe PTSD in both Liza and Jude.
Six months later, the family temporarily rents the cheerful guest house near the gloomy mansion where all of the events of "Boy" occur. Of course, the happy young family is blissfully unaware of that history.
A still shell-shocked Jude soon finds Brahms and tells his parents of the importance of following the "Gremlins" style rules that "Pinocchio" has established. The suspense builds as Brahms increasingly acts out in proportion to the extent to which he strengthens his grip on Jude. Of course, Mom and Dad continue to not believe Jude when he blames wanton destruction and other acts of aggression "on the dog." The events themselves and the reactions of Holmes and Convery provide the rest of us great entertainment.
All of this leads to the aforementioned theatrical and alternative endings that nicely bring things home in every sense of the word.
The amusing coincidence regarding this is that perverse minds behind the "Boy" franchise show that you can go home again at a time that most of us are prevented from leaving our residences.
The masterfully remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1983 Kirk Douglas/John Schneider action-adventure comedy "Eddie Macon's Run" is the type of film that we need most in this era in which temporarily being let out of our cages is not granting much freedom. Matt Nelson's recent run consisted of a three-hour round trip solely to get a haircut for the first time in eight weeks.
The spectacular shot-on-location southwest cinematography looks gorgeous in Blu-ray; on top of this, "Macon" is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of films of that era starring teen idol TV stars. These include the reviewed 1977 action-adventure comedy "Heroes" starring Henry "Fonzie" Winkler.
The small-screen stud this time is John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" fame; he plays the titular man, who aptly shows that his participation in a prison show is not his first time at the rodeo when he uses a cattle call to make a not-so-great escape in order to shorten his unfortunate incarceration in Texas. Kirk Douglas plays not-so-intrepid lawman Carl "Buster" Marzack, for whom recovering the fugitive is personal.
Much of the early portion of "Run" focuses on Macon makin' an actual run for the border. His early obstacles includes capture by two good ole boy redneck ranchers, who seem determined to provide deliverance that seems certain to utilize his pretty mouth and to make him squeal like a pig.
Meanwhile, Marzack remains one frustrating step behind his prey. The rest of the story is that the devoted wife of Macon is one step ahead of him and is paving the way for their planned reunion on the other side of the Rio Grande.
A fateful life-saving encounter occurs when Macon comes across black sheep Jilly Buck, perfectly portrayed by Lee Purcell, having trouble convincing Mr. Right Now that no means no. This leads to the con and the party girl starting their beautiful friendship with potential benefits.
The extended climax commences with Marzack catching up with his prey only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory; this leads to "Dukes" caliber car chase with a nice twist at the end.
The joy in all this is seeing Schneider put his earnest charm to good use in a role that may actually be tailor-made for him,.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1977 Henry Winkler, Sally Field, and Harrison Ford comedy "Heroes" is an awesome reminder of the gritty socially conscious films of that era. This release also is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of teen idol TV stars films; the soon-to-be-reviewed "Eddie Macon's Run" starring John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" is another example.
Winkler, who always will be best known for playing Fonzie on the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days," puts his Yale drama school education to good use as excitable Vietnam vet Jack Dunne. One of his best scenes in a movie full of notable moments comes at the very beginning; he outrageously disrupts a sales pitch at an Army recruiting center.
This exploit lands Dunne back in a VA hospital, where he is the Fonzie-caliber leader of his ward. This hospital stay getting cut short with a little help from his friends fully sets the film in motion; it also sets the stage for both arguably the most charming "prison break" and ensuing pursuit in film history.
A series of not-so-unfortunate circumstances leads to Dunne befriending runaway almost-bride Carol Bell; Field plays Bell essentially in the same manner that she portrays runaway bride Carrie in "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977).
Carol is headed to Kansas City to get away in the days before her wedding; Dunne is going in that direction to be part of the big worm rush in California. It is unknown if he plans to raise red wigglers, which are the Cadillac of worms.
The first leg of this journey gives Winkler a chance to shine in his good-natured harassment of their bus driver, who represents a typical authority figure on an ego trip. (Think Fonzie v. Officer Kirk.) The mutual open animosity between the two men is another "Heroes" highlight.
The aforementioned circumstances lead to Dunne and Bell taking to the open road and showing up at the dirt farm of Dunne's Army buddy Ken Boyd (Ford). Ford awesomely plays Boyd as a redneck Han Solo; Field makes a perfect princess for him, and Winkler nicely fills the role of emo sidekick.
The circumstances this time are less fortunate than the ones that set the stage for when Henry met Sally; Dunne is a last-minute replacement for Boyd in a race. This leads to the very "Smokey" development of Dunne and Bell using the muscle car of Boyd for the next leg of their journey; "Smokey" pulling them over in the wake of the vehicle taking the brunt of the injury in a bar brawl is another scene that makes "Heroes" '70stastic.
The subsequent adventures, including the obligatory trial-and-error separation, lead to arriving in California. This leads to a rude awakening in the form of highly distressing news for Dunne that provides Winkler one more chance to shine.
The bottom line is that "Heroes" earns the cliched praise that it deftly combines drama and comedy; the bigger picture is that the trauma of the actual wars in the decades following Vietnam and the intense stress of living through COVID-19 make this tale of a likable guy cracking under the strain and being desperate to live out his dream relatable. This is especially so ahead of your not-so-humble reviewer driving three-hours round trip solely to get a haircut two months after his last one.
The CBS Home Entertainment May 5, 2020 S7 DVD of the Showtine drama "Ray Donovan" provides a good chance both for a special lockdown marathon viewing of a compelling series and to complete your home-video collection of the adventures of the titular "fixer" (Liev Schreiber) and his family.
The following S7 trailer is awash with teasing glimpses of the trauma and drama that largely revolves around the sins of the past that extend beyond the transgressions of the father,
The first central development as to many of the S7 events is the discovery of evidence of an especially gruesome S6 act by Team Donovan. This ensemble consists of Ray, his ex-con father Mickey (Jon Voight), not-so-bright younger brother Brendan "Bunchy" Donovan, up-and-coming younger (half) brother Daryll, and punch-drunk Parkinson's patient older brother Terry. This is not to mention Ray daughter Bridget and her cute-but-dumb husband Smitty. Watching befuddled puppy Smitty exchange clothes in a "The Prince and the Pauper" scene is an S7 highlight.
The gruesome discovery puts homicide investigator Detective Perry on the trail of the clan as hard as if they had stolen a loaf of bread; this takes the humorous turn of involving cute-but-dumb teen idol pop star Jonathan Walker Hanson in the plot to avoid a potentially life-long family vacation as guests of the state. One of many other pieces of this puzzle is the Bridget follows a pattern of behavior of interns for at least the past several decades. The price that she pays for that transgression shows that the punishment far exceeds the crime.
A concurrent storyline with equally good black humor revolves around Ray staging an already compromising situation for public figure Kevin Sullivan to look even worse for him. The numerous complications this time revolve around the father of Kevin having a long intertwined relationship with the Donovans that goes back to the childhood of Ray. This leading to a revenge plot and to Ray sleeping with the enemy is only the tip of the iceberg.
The copious flashbacks that show how Ray comes to be the man whom he is today also explain why many of the wounds are so fresh decades later.
All of this leads to an anticipated season-finale climax that has twists galore. Although many loose ends are tied up, there remains enough unresolved in anticipation of an eighth season that one can only hope for seven-seasons-and-a-movie. A failure to provide that fully screams for fixing.
The appeal of all this is portraying the stereotype of an working-class Irish family that the members either are at each other's throats or in each other's pockets in a manner that is far from a caricature and that does not insult the intelligence of the audience. This is due to the skill both behind and in front of the camera.
The DVD bonuses consist of a feature on Brendan portrayor Dash Mihok directing an episode and a self-explanatory feature titled "Deconstructing Ray" that provides insight as to how the Irish sausage is made.
A trifecta of influences is prompting these musings about television series finales. With the exception of discussing the classic final episode of "M*A*S*H," references will be kept vague so as to not spoil surprises for folks who have not watched the show stoppers. These triggering events consist of late May being the traditional season of TV series' finales, CBS Home Entertainment recently releasing the (reviewed) epic 20-season "Gunsmoke" DVD CS set, and a covid-related sense that there is not much to which to look forward in life.
A major pet peeve regarding the swan song for series is the fairly prevalent practice of every major character experiencing a life-changing event. It is realistic that one character has a significant transformation, and it is nice when something good happens to a likable "friend" whom we have "known" for several years. Having one character get a dream job within a few weeks of another getting the girl after a lengthy pursuit, another couple learning that a bundle du joie is on the way, etc. is way over the top,
One otherwise high-quality show, which reflects the wisdom that seven years is the proper lifespan for most series, blows its finale in a related way. It is realistic that the business around which a workplace comedy is centered is sold; it is less believable that every employee with one exception gets the axe for that reason.
A companion series of that TV Land classic handles things better by having a main character move onto literally greener pastures. With the possible exception of a vaguely recalled pregnancy announcement, the lives of the rest of the ensemble are unchanged except for losing a pal and a confidante.
"M*A*S*H," which is known for successfully breaking many TV Land laws, provides a valid exception to the above. The end of the Korean War is a realistic premise for the final episode. This also makes it very realistic that the doctors, nurses, and other personnel of the titular Army hospital go their separate ways to pursue their professions back home.
The perspective that COVID-19 provides adds to the credibility of the idea that a main character breaks under the strain of life on the front lines despite nearing the finish line. Having largely been confined at home for two months and having to worry abut supplies of things such as toilet paper, soap, baking supplies, and meat does not mean that the prospective of life largely returning to normal in three weeks will prevent a fist going through the wall.
Another TV Land classic deserves an honorable mention for a notable finale that earns a footnote in television history. That one centers around an event that has its origins in the pilot; there also may have been one or more contrived events at the B-story in the episode. Despite all that, the final scene clearly establishes that it is business as usual once the dust settles.
The bigger picture is that the near absence of any appointment television these days deprives the viewing public of the glee associated with the anticipation and actual viewing of the end of an era. Your not-so-youthful reviewer was away at school when the "M*A*S*H" finale aired and crammed in a common room to watch it on a relic of a black-and-white set with a coat-hanger antenna.
Many years later, I scoured grocery and drug stores in the pre-Amazon era of the "Seinfeld" finale to get enough Tweety Bird Pez dispensers to host a viewing party. I also served Junior Mints and big salads, not that there is anything wrong with that.
The must-be-seen-to-be-believed brilliantly remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 DVD release of the 2000 Matt Damon drama "All the Pretty Horses" follows the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of BDs of films based on novels. This release coincides with the (reviewed) BD release of "Trapped," which is an adaptation of the Greg Iles thriller "24."
The accolades for this movie based on the Cormac McCarthy book of the same title include the 2000 National Board of Review, USA award for Best Screenplay. Each act in "Horses" playing out like a chapter in a book verifies that National Board of Review has chosen wisely.
"Horses" tells the post-war tale of West Texas presumed ranch heir John Grady Cole (Matt Damon), who gets a rude awakening on his grandfather buying the farm setting the stage for his mother to sell the family homestead to an oil company. Rather than packing up the truck and moving to Beverly (Hills that is), John and best buddy (with "Brokeback Mountain" style homoerotic undertones) Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) head out to be cowboys in Mexico.
A fateful encounter early in the journey is a game-changer that shows John that no good deed goes unpunished and that the riding trail to Hell is paved with good intentions. John is much more kind-hearted than Lacey on the pair meeting mid-teens runaway Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black) on a horse to which he has an arguable claim but that does not technically belong to him.
The excitable boy experiencing intense angst leads to a chain of events that finds him almost naked and afraid and John and Lacey figuratively at the end of their ropes. A spoiler is that past soon coming back to haunt our heroes puts them at risk of literally being at that end of their ropes.
In the interim, John and Lacey obtain gainful employment at a large Mexican ranch. The skill of John at taming horses earns him the favor of the owner; John being Matt Damon earns him the favor of Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), who is the daughter of the owner.
This near saga continues with paternal pride leading to John and Lacey being held accountable for the sins of another; this leads to a Mexican standoff that involves a South-of-the-Border form of frontier justice.
More trauma and drama ensues, leading to a sort of a homecoming on a few levels. The spoiler this time is that this neo-modern western does not guarantee that John will ride off into the sunset in the end.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the Kevin Bacon 2002 psychological thriller "Trapped" is one of the latest examples of home-video distributors being able to say "Cineplexes?! We don't need no stinkn' cineplexes." Greg Iles, aka the other Southern attorney turned best-selling crime-fiction novelist, masterfully adapts his book "24" to the big screen.
The action in the 1:46 drama mostly occurs over the titular period in the source document. Star anesthesiologist Dr. Will Jennings (Stuart Townsend) and his wife Karen are living the good life with with young daughter Abby (Dakota Fanning).
The nightmare begins within minutes of Karen and Abby going inside after seeing Dad off to a medical convention at which he is the keynote speaker. Karen quickly discovers that Abby is gone, and that serial kidnapper Hickey (Bacon) is an uninvited overnight guest.
The following exposition builds on the opening scenes that occur six months earlier. Hickey provides himself and wife Cheryl (Courtney Love) the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed by snatching the offspring of wealthy families and holding them for ransom for 24 hours. Hickey literally makes himself at home during that period to ensure that the 'rents behave and do not call the po po.
The current role of Karen, who seems tailor-made for the feral persona of Love, in the family business is to keep an eye on Will at the convention. For his part, Hickey is continuing his pattern of unduly taking advantage of the vulnerable mother willing to do "anything" to ensure the safe return of her child. This leads to a memorable scene with a ripped-from-the-headlines moment.
As he does in his novels, Iles expertly builds up the action and the drama on the three fronts of the literal homefront, the hotel, and the cabin in the woods where Abby is being held. These scenes also establish the backgrounds that make Team Hickey the people whom they are today.
All of this climaxes as the power balances shift back-and-forth as to the captors and the captives. The big payoff is a well-choreographed rescue attempt that includes a few nice twists.
The most fun of this enjoyable film relates to seeing typically good-guy Bacon once more allow his dark passenger to take the wheel. Equal entertainment comes from watching Love be Love.
The bigger picture is that "Trapped" shows creating Hollywood fare that appeals to critics and audiences alike does not require a current teen idol name. Michael Bay level pyrotechnics, or even especially lewd and lascivious content. A good story, competent direction, and a cast that understands its characters more than suffices.
Doing justice to the CBS Home Entertainment May 5, 2020 epic CS DVD release of the complete-series 65th Anniversary Edition of the 20-season "Gunsmoke" is impossible as to the limitations of these posts. As such, these musing are based on the first handful of the 1955 episodes and the Final Four from 1975. An awesome aspect of this is that last are just as sublime as the first.
Hope for a better tomorrow that is slightly easing Covid-related angst include thoughts of watching every "Gunsmoke" episode in a post-pandemic world that is more conducive for properly savoring gems from The Golden Age of Television.
CBSHE shows its usual overall integrity and its love for "TV Land" shows by simultaneously releasing "Gunsmoke" S20 on DVD on May 5, 2020. A major peeve of your not-so-humble reviewer is home-video companies releasing all but one or two seasons of a series and subsequently releasing that program in a CS set that REQUIRES either buying several duplicate seasons or forgoing the whole enchilada.
Sincere advice as to "Gunsmoke" is to treat yo self to the sturdy and stylish CS gift set and pass along individual season sets either to current fans or to "non-believers" who suffer from the past prejudice of your not-so-humble reviewer as to Westerns. "Gunsmoke" is a prime example of oaters being about so much more than cattle rustlers, saloon fights, and high noon showdowns.
The numerous timeless themes, such as prejudice and the conflict between the law and justice, in "Gunsmoke" evoke thoughts of a fellow TV Land classic. Comedy deity Carol Burnett has said in a recent interview that her eponymous variety show aces the test of time because funny always is funny.
"Gunsmoke" also reflects the wisdom of another couch potato god. The wisdom of Garry Marshall as to "Happy Days" is that a sitcom that is made in the '70s and the '80s that is set in the '50s never will look dated. The expertly digitally remastered "Gunsmoke" episodes that make even the S1 offerings look and sound crisp and clean validates the Marshall Plan.
S1E1, which is in awesomely sharp black-and-white and is 30-minutes. starts with an A-List endorsement that the syndicated version likely omits. The opening scene is of western movies legend John Wayne praising the work of James Arness, who plays U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon in all 20 seasons of "Gunsmoke," in this new series.
Another twist is that S1E1 next opens in a manner that seems to disappear within a few episodes. We hear voice-over narration of Dillon pontificating as he walks through the cemetery on the hill above his home turf of Dodge City, Kansas.
S1E1 then sets a tone to which the series remains true for two decades. This one revolves (pun intended) quick-draw Dan Grat facing justice for gunning down a man whom Grat did not know was unarmed when he acted with extreme prejudice. Grat going on to plug Dillon early in their first contact is one of likely hundreds of times that Dillon takes one for the team during the run of the season.
A young but still cranky Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), who is with "Gunsmoke" to the far-from-bitter end, is on hand to patch up Dillon and to fail to persuade him to let his wounds properly heal before returning to work. Long-time saloon owner Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who gets out of Dodge in S19, also is on the scene. Watching her pursue a largely unresponsive Dillon is odd from the perspective of their subsequent close relationship with probable benefits.
Although deputy Chester (Dennis Weaver) is on the payroll, it is surprising to see him be not-so-dedicated and to have a contentious relationship with the boss. Comic relief deputy Festus (Ken Curtis), who is the Barney Fife of "Gunsmoke," is not yet in Dodge.
The next few S1 episodes further test the value of Dillon and his inner circle. These include convincing "upstanding" citizens that a neer-do-well will receive justice of a variety other than the frontier kind to which he is most deserving.
The beginning of the end, which is brilliant living color and is a full hour, has Festus front-and-center when a prisoner transfer leads to his contributing sweat equity to the building of a church that an older pastor wants to build for members of a tribe that only recently has made peace with the settlers that oppose that project.
"Manolo" continues the long history, including an S19 episode about Jewish settlers sticking to their own values, of cultural sensitivity that is a common "Gunsmoke" theme. This time the story centers around a group of Basque shepherds maintaining a coming-of-age tradition that conditions a son becoming a man on administering his father a major beatdown. As we learn, this practice does not make any allowance for pacifists.
Team Dillon wraps up their saga-length run with the aptly titled "The Sharecroppers." This one also features Festus, who is conned into working the land despite being the injured party as to a duped innocent being tricked into buying the beloved mule of Festus. This truly leaves the audience wanting more and provides a strong sense that life in Dodge continues the same after the production team rides off into the sunset.
Much of the fun of "Gunsmoke" is akin to watching "The Love Boat" in that virtually every past, current, and future television star (as well as a few film stars) who is a SAG member during the run of the series guest stars. Bette Davis arguably is the most notable one; we also get Ron Howard, David Wayne, Joan Van Ark, Bruce Boxleitner, etc.
The plethora of special features include the CBSHE staple of episodes promos. We also get a tribute to Arness and a very special feature that is a discussion with "Gunsmoke" experts Ben Costello and Beckey Burgoyne.
The bottom line this time is that the truly do not make 'em like this anymore.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2017 drama "Outrage Coda" wraps up the underworld crime series of movies by Takeshi Kitano. Based merely on this one, it is clear that Quentin Tarantino lacks a monopoly on over-the-top bloody "mob" movies. In this case, the yakuza system is front-and-center. The fault as to not fully following every twist in this fast-paced chess game of a film lies within your not-so-humble reviewer, not with Kitano.
The following Movement trailer for "Coda" showcases the aforementioned wonderfully perverse violence that far exceeds the expectations of the 12 year-old boy in many of us. Another way of thinking about this is that it brings the spirit of "Itchy and Scratchy" into the live-action realm.
Our story begins on a typically deceptive low-key note; South Korean made-man Chang is chatting with a younger guy about fishing; this scene sets the stage for a more violent depiction of the middle-aged man and the sea.
The story fully gets underway when Chang is called in to after yakuza middle-manager Hakuna is caught with his pants down during a tryst with a couple of prostitutes who do not want to play rough. Chang fully puts this blowhard in his place and sends him packing.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the yakuza boss sees the absence of Hakuna at an all-hands meeting as verification of his "I don't get no respect" attitude. Part of the basis for this is that this CEO has never been a guest of the Emperor or otherwise gotten his hands dirty.
The subsequent intertwined plots revolve around a desire for a management change and an effort to obtain maximum profit as to compensating Team Chang for the offense of Hakuna. The negotiations as to the latter are hilarious in a manner that proves that made men have a great sense of humor.
The better fun comes in the form of mob violence that often is staged to not be as it seems. Such attacks including one in a restaurant and another in a car show that the classics never go out of style.
All of this leads to a highly satisfying climax that provides a perfect conclusion to the film and the "Outrage" series. Hakuna learns a trifecta of lessons in the form of being doomed to repeat history when you do not learn from it, being careful about for what you wish, and the consequences of shooting off you mouth. Meanwhile, the fate of the yakuza boss depicts a fantasy for anyone who ever has had a toxic employer. One easily can say that his team is driven to this extreme.
Movement supplements this with a "making of" documentary and trailers of Takeshi films that Movement has released on DVD and Blu-ray.