The first impression of the July 21, 2020 Warner Brothers Home Entertainment DVD/BD/4K releases of "Scoob!" is a comment by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" during the late-90s "Renaissance" of mid-budget films based on television shows of the '70s and the '80s. Stewart observes that television series are television series because their concepts are not good enough to warrant making them movies. The perspective of the highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer that the "Scooby" productions that stay true to the campy and highly silly style of the '70s-era fare are the better one evokes thoughts of the line in the Woody Allen film ("Stardust Memories?") in which a fan tells the fictionalized version of Allen that she likes his funny films better than his serious ones.
The fault of "Scoob!" lies not within the stars but in the increasing WB emphasis of art over commerce. As to the animated world, this begins with WB essentially literally following in the footsteps of media mogul/former Jane Fonda spouse Ted Turner by purchasing the Hanna-Barbera library.
The embarrassment of riches as to this is the awesome Warner Archive line of DVD sets of Golden Age of HB series. The plain embarrassment is the Warner suits, who repeatedly prove that they do not know Jack, still struggling to squeeze blood from stone-cold franchises, such as "Scooby-Doo." The MBAs should let our beloved chidhood friends enjoy at least a dignified semi-retirement.
The following trailer for "Scoob!" illustrates much of the above beginning with the inexpensive CGI and showing the flat humor of the film. WB blatantly shows that it knows that there are enough "Scooby" fans out there to fill the presumed cineplex seats when the film was made to not worry about quality. Speaking from the perspective of a HUGE "Scooby" fan, seeing the trailer in September convinced me to wait for the DVD release after the presumed theatrical run.
"Scoob!" starts out very cute and relative strong with a pup not yet named Scooby-Doo on the run (and the lamb) from the law when he meets awkward friendless pre-adolescent Shaggy. The two soon bond over their love of "unique" combinations of food.
These BFFs meet the rest of the pre-adolescent Scooby gang while trick-or-treating. The game soon is afoot, and those meddling kids solve their first mystery.
An entertaining fast-paced montage, which pays homage to '70s-era "Scooby," brings us to the present. A now teen Mystery, Inc. has a solid reputation and is looking to bring things to the next level. This effort, ala "The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries" and the more recent "Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?," involves meeting with an animated version of "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.
Cowell acts true-to-form in bluntly assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the Scooby gang. The latter includes the determination that Shaggy and Scooby are dead weight. This, in turn, leads to a parting of the ways between that pair and the rest of their peers.
Subsequent events lead to HB '60s-era villain Dick Dastardly being desperate to capturing Scooby-Doo, who is integral to a dastardly (in both senses of the word) plot to open the gates of the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell). This scheme leads to our slacker and his not-so-little-dog too essentially travelling over the rainbow to team up with the son of '70s-era Scooby ally Blue Falcon (who has taken over the family business) and wonder dog Dynomutt. Of course, the band gets back together before the action fully gets underway.
The ensuing measures to stop Dastardly involve numerous too-fun-to-spoil HB Easter eggs; the failure to capture the spirit of the original makes sharing a cameo by '70s-era HB superhero Captain Caveman a non-spoiler.
The climax, like much of 3/4 of the film involves a moral. A member of the gang takes one for the team by literally going to Hell out of friendship and loyalty. This is on top of messages that include not letting other people make you feel badly about yourself.
Aside from the general flaws of "Scoob!," there are many dead spots. I hope that my attention span is greater than that of the children that are a target demographic, and I was terribly bored several times. This mainly occurred during tedious chase scenes that seemed prolonged in order to bring "Scoob!" to roughly the feature-film limit of 90 minutes.
The disappointment continues with the dearth of extras at least as to the DVD extras. This merely is a not-so-helpful tutorial on how to draw Scooby. One at least would have hoped for recording session outtakes or a classic "Scooby" episode,
The CBS Home Entertainment CS DVD set of the fast-paced and furiously funny S17 of the CBS procedural "NCIS" proves that that genre still has plenty of life left in the right hands. In this case, those appendages belong to'80s action-adventure series god Donald P. Bellasario ("Quantum Leap," "Magnun, PI"). Having still sexy '80s hunk Mark Harmon helming the series as Scott Bakula ("NCIS: New Orleans") style stoic team leader/father figure Leroy Jethro Gibbs does not hurt.
The underlying premise that DC-based Team Gibbs investigates crimes with a connection to the (primarily) Navy opens the door to a wide variety of felonies. It may be as tangential as a coincidental body dump on military property, the death of an active-duty or retired service member, or a lesser crime against one of the few and the proud who serve our country.
The two-part S17 premiere that resolves the S16 cliffhanger as to the sudden reappearance of presumed-dead former team member Ziva David is the first indication that S17 might have been the last one. The season ending with an episode (more below) that would have served equally well as a season or a series finale reinforces the idea that taps may have blown on this program, which will live to fight many more days in the 2020-21 television season.
Speculation as to the S17 finale is that COVID-19 MAY have cut the season a little short, and Team Bellasrio MAY have planned a cliffhanger.
Another sign that Team Bellasario may have been contemplated that S17 might have been its swan song is the personal growth reveals of members of Team Gibbs. A prime example of this is headshrinker "Jack" Sloane revealing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth regarding her college-era unplanned pregnancy and giving up her baby for adoption.
S17 soon picks up right where S16 ends with a "Back to the Future" / "Terminator" moment in which David breaks in on Gibbs in his basement and essentially tells him to come with her if he wants to live. The aforementioned fast-pace begins with the bad guys almost immediately storming the castle. The outcome as to that proves that Gibbs has MacGyver-style ingenuity and does not hesitate to use proportional force in response to an attack on his home. This fully sets the most deadly game afoot.
The trope elements in this excellent outing are worth mentioning because these tried-and-true narrative techniques regularly appear throughout S17 without impairing the quality of the episodes. The first been-there-done-that moment comes very early when David and a bloodied-and-battered Gibbs jack the ride of a low-level thief. Anyone who has witnessed a similar scene in a comparable context will not be surprised to see a rapid shift in action and "Eighteen hours earlier" appear in an intertitle.
The tropes continue with Team Gibbs soon piecing together much of the puzzle (including the resurrection of David), lying (with hilarious consequences in a subsequent episode) to the powers-that-be, and putting loyalty to the boss over following the rules. The reactions of those who worked with David and of those who only know her by reputation are part of what make this episode so special. This is not to mention David bringing baggage to her reunion.
A scene between David and quirky grandfather figure retired medical examiner "Ducky" (David McCallum of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") is a season highlight. David and new bad ass Torres (Wilmer "Fez" Valderama) on the block initially playing at going at it mano-a-mano before it gets personal is a perfect example of "NCIS" humor; Torres goes full Fez of the Foxcom "That 70s Show" as to the perception that a girl kicked his ass.
The twists in this one make it one of the best of the season; David unambiguously playing her former peers and ambiguously doing the wrong thing for the right reason supports the principle of not trusting anyone.
Business as usual resumes with the aptly titled "Going Mobile" episode that pays homage to fellow CBS procedural franchise "CSI." This one involves a body being jammed under the trailer of a truck that is making a delivery to a military installation.
The penultimate S17 episode has one of the most ultimate tropes ever. Anyone who has watched any genre of television can IMMEDIATELY guess what will transpire when medical examiner Jim Palmer, who presumably never appears on screen in just his briefs, and forensics scientist Kasie Hines are having breakfast at the team hangout at the same time that a trio of criminals are there just ahead of their robbery of the jewelry store across the street, This coinciding with St. Patrick's Day turns the highly predictable hostage situation in to an Irish Setter Day Afternoon. Hines gets another trope moment in the sun in an S17 episode that has her trying to prove the innocence of a close friend.
The series finale features a memorable guest spot by Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future," "Taxi") as a 95 year-old man whose claim of being on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack seemingly has more holes than that ship. The wonderfully gonzo performance by Lloyd proves that he still has it.
The truly special DVD features include "The Return of Ziva David," which provides perspective as to that notable occurrence. "Inside Season 17" has cast and crew share how they keep things going so well after almost two decades.
'Corpus Christi' DVD: Oscar Nomination & 49 Wins for Tale of Young Offender Offenses Including Impersonating Priest
The recent Film Movement Blu-ray release of the Oscar-nominated 2019 Polish movie "Corpus Christi," which has 49 awards to its credit, further solidifies the pandemic-era sentiment of "cineplexes; we don't need no stinkin' cineplexes." A large portion of this love comes via the 2020 Polish Film Awards.
Most of this success is attributable to the spot-on performance of Bartosz Bielenia as 20 year-old former juvie inmate Daniel. The accolades for him include a Best Actor win at the 2019 Chicago International Film Festival.
The following Movement trailer for "Corpus" provides a taste of why this film, which looks and sounds terrific in Blu-ray, has such critical acclaim and why Movement deserves great thanks for making it highly accessible to audiences in North America.
Our story begins with Daniel serving the final days of his unfortunate incarceration. An opening scene in the facility woodworking shop graphically shows both the sadistic cruelty of the place and the kindness of Daniel.
More important exposition comes when Daniel attends Mass conducted by father-figure (no pun intended) Father Tomasz, who knows how to reach those kids. An amusing aspect of this is the universal valued treat of the promise of holding class outside. Tomasz telling Daniel that his criminal record precludes acceptance at a seminary provides the final element for what is to come.
Daniel is set to begin his probation-related job in a small rural community when a chance encounter that involves both pride and other elements that contribute to youthful indiscretions leads to telling the barely legal daughter of the resident church lady that he is a priest. A series of unfortunate circumstance soon lead to Daniel temporarily taking over the parish. The expectations-defying backstory there is one of many things that make "Corpus" so special.
The local drama into which Daniel becomes immersed revolves around a recent fatal car accident between a group of local kids who were out getting footloose and a middle-aged man with a history of alcoholism. This time the youth of Daniel plays a role as to the sanctioned hostility toward the widow of the man and the posthumous disdain for the guy, who was not proven to be drunk at the time of the accident. Daniel soon learning the rest of the story does not help calm the holier-than-thou waters.
One of the best scenes has Daniel hanging out Christ-style with his peers; this group of bored, young, broke townies engage in the behavior that is typical for such groups, This also involves one of the most memorable lines in the film as to one particular illicit substance being a gift from God. This observation adds a new perspective regarding church services involving overwhelming amounts of incense.
Daniel further makes waves by directly and indirectly taking pages from the book of Tomasz while preaching to the choir and the rest of the congregation. The message here is that all clergy should speak from the heart and show the same youthful enthusiasm as the new kid on the block.
It is not surprising that the past (and the subterfuge) of Daniel come back to haunt him. This relates to the only aspect of "Corpus" that requires blind faith regarding suspension of disbelief as to Daniel pulling off this fraud for weeks without even the regional church hierarchy becoming suspicious.
Daniel responding to the threat of exposure in a manner that is very true to his personal nature and his faith is another highlight. One almost expects him to hop up on a cross and hand his malicious accuser a hammer and a handful of nails.
Both the quality of "Christi" and it being filmed overseas reduce the chance of a Hollywood ending.
The Blu-ray extras include the well-matched short film "Nice to See You" by "Corpus" director Jan Komasa.
The not-so-brave new world regarding travel is prompting the increased frequency of Inn Credible New England posts on this site. These articles also are reflecting the cited principles in the first "Avoiding Getting Inn Trouble" musings in this ongoing series. The awful truth is that business, personal, and mixed-use travelers all are going to reduce their trips for the foreseeable future; this makes choosing wisely more important than ever before.
One huge spoiler is that aggressively bullying me into deleting my Trip Advisor review and making blatant threats of civil and legal proceedings in response to being vocal about my horrific experience is behind being this post being purposefully vague. Ala who dun Carly Simon wrong back in the day being convinced that they inspired "You're So Vain," guests who experiences mirror those described below surely will speculate as to the identity of the culprits.
The abundance of proof as this company having no business operating hotels is that a recent online "out of curiosity" search revealed the name of a new ownership company. The joy on discovering this was short-lived.
I quickly learned that the new company had the EXACT same leadership and owned the EXACT same properties as the place that caused extended trauma and drama. My conclusion is that the name change is to represent to folks who (as documented in Trip Advisor reviews) had the same distressing experience as me at one of those hotels that an non-existent change occurred.
A trip, which inspired the term "shabby broom closet," that will live in infamy checks all the right boxes as to a place that should be avoided like the plague. The owner being a behemoth corporate holding company is the starting point that years of experience shows warrants triggering a spidey sense. However, just as some attorneys are kind and ethical people, many for-profit businesses that offer boutique lodging are upstanding corporate citizens.
A starting point that past "Inn Trouble" posts do not address is a hotel not meeting pre-trip expectations. The hotel in question is a historic property with a modern addition, On speaking to an on-property employee, I was told that my preference for a room in the older part of the building would be honored. On arriving, I learned that the older building had been closed for months and that no one was even allowed in that area.
A combination of the trip being a celebration of a major milestone birthday and occurring in a very stressful period prompted mentioning the birthday in this pre-trip conversation. The clerk promised a room upgrade and strongly hinted about a small gift as to the birthday.
We arrived at the hotel to no mention of the birthday; we also discovered that, despite paying a hefty sum, we were assigned the shabby broom closet. Someone standing between the bed and the door literally had to jump on the bed to let the other guest get to the door. There also was no drawer space, no place to store luggage, and a tiny closet. This was on top of the television being mounted to the wall and the cables dangling down from it.
Bringing all this to the attention of the desk clerk fell on deaf ears; even a token birthday t-shirt would have been nice. The two of us spent $150 at the onsite restaurant and did not get so much as a free slice of cake.
This prompted a negative TripAdvisor review; that prompted a corporate executive with a distinctive accent (more below) to contact me and threaten action if I did not remove it. An odd part of that umbrage was unhappiness at my identifying that hotel with meeting space, a well-equipped business center, and a large dining room as a convention hotel. The executive went so far as to call (and successfully) bully me through removing my TA post after I told him that I could not figure out how to delete it.
I live roughly 45 minutes from the holding company corporate office and was in a post-hotel-stay trip to a store in that area when I recognized the executive from his photo on the company website. Hearing his accent on his alarmingly yelling at his child convinced me that that was the guy. I did not approach him.
The distress as to the hotel stay continuing to weigh on my mind prompted calling the hotel years later on learning that it had a new manager. That manager had someone on the corporate staff call me; in speaking to that person, I shared all the details (including the random nature) of seeing the executive yell at the child in the store. I did so to support my argument that that man bullied me.
I subsequently received a certified letter from the president of the company. That correspondence threatened civil and criminal action if I did not drop the matter and if I ever tried to stay at any of the hotels that the company owned. This document went on to accuse me of stalking the executive who happened to be at the same store at the same time as me and with whom I did not have any interaction.
The bottom line this time is that booking any hotel stay runs the risk of a nightmare. The tips in "Avoiding Inn Trouble" post can help put the odds forever in your favor.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 Hong Kong drama "I Miss You When I See You" follows the pattern of similar gay-themed Breaking films. The sad global truth is that teen (and older) boys who like other boys have it rough much more often than living a fairy tale (no pun intended) that precedes their (often) happy ending.
The following YouTube video of a highly stylized trailer for "Miss" showcases the art-house quality of this film about an "its complicated" relationship.
"Miss" opens in the 1999 school year of adolescents Jamie and Kevin. The former is a popular well-adjusted kid, and the latter is an awkward loner. The proper context for their character and friendship is a less extreme (and even more homoerotic) version of Zack Morris and Screech Powers, who have high-school sleepovers, of "Saved by the Bell" fame.
Opening scenes revolve around Jamie sneaking out of class to meet Kevin in a boys' room stall apparently only to discuss the new book in a pulp fiction series. We also see that their classmate named Wong is a wang.
The action then moves ahead 12 years as Jamie travels to Australia to visit Kevin at the long-term residential facility where he lives due to his depression. This leads to a boys' night out that is a treat for both guys.
Unbeknownst to Jamie, his visit prompts Kevin to follow his friend back to Hong Kong. The two become co-workers at the tutorial center that Jamie owns and operates with former classmates. They also become roommates at the apartment of Jamie. The especially creepy behavior of Jamie in the apartment shows that he has fond memories of a tender moment that experiences interruptus soon before his high-school-era move to Australia.
The rest of the story is that Jamie apparently is fully converted as his present-day relationship with girlfriend Elaine indicates. However, female intuition and a valid reason for asking Jamie to either fish or cut bait creates tension. One aspect of this is the price that giving the heart what the heart wants can cost.
History also is starting to repeat itself in the form of Kevin increasingly bonding with a troubled male student, who openly admits to being hot for teacher. This leads a a very bizarre and uncomfortable sitch for characters and audience alike dinner for Kevin, Jamie, Elaine, and the student. A more sweet aspect of this is that the boy feels real love, rather than merely lust, for his "daddy."
The artistry of "Miss" continues with a relatively anti-climatic climax. There are no tears and recriminations; Jamie, who is facing Kevin moving back to Australia, seemingly ends up with the one with whom he is fated to share his life until someone younger and cuter comes along.
Time constraints are behind not watching the almost-always included and always insightful and entertaining "making-of" featurette and cast and crew interviews in Breaking releases. The good folks at Breaking must determine if this warrants the still-used Chinese punishment of a bare-bottom caning. If so, it requires learning how to say "please Sir, may I have another" in Mandarin.
Being a HUGE fan of the public and private personas of writer/director/monologist/activist/chihuahua-lover/son of a preacher man/righteous dude Del Shores of (reviewed) "Sordid Lives " fame provides a good perspective for sharing thoughts on the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the 2012 Shores one (awesome) man show "Del Shores: Sordid Confessions." One spoiler is that this hilarious nowhere-ready-for-primetime special is far raunchier than the other Shores performances, all of which are subjects of posts on this site, that are available on DVD.
Shores discussing in "Confessions" that he is observed mentally filing away a sordid tale during a lunch largely sums up his style. His material is funny because it tells the truth about what fools these white-trash mortals be. This is especially true as to the latest (reviewed) Shores project "Six Characters in Search of a Play."
A sincerity and a willingness to name names when warranted are another large part of the appeal of Shores. A prime example of this is a "Confession" about working with gorgeous young actor Randy Harrison during the tenure of Shores as a writer on the Showtime gay-themed drama "Queer As Folk."
Shores gives Harrison credit for being co-operative on the set but dishes about this thespian regularly publicly criticizing the writing on the series. Shores discussing the writers getting their revenge evokes thoughts of a QAF scene in which a nearly naked Harrison is drugged and placed in a sling during an orgy. The only personal criticism of Shores is that the writers do not have that incident lead to what should have been the inevitable conclusion.
The raunch element particularly comes out (no pun intended) as to Shores, who has two wonderful daughters with his compassionate ex-wife, discussing his "slut" period in the wake of his marriage to a sordid man who majorly dun him wrong. The highlight of this part of the show is the tale of taking a relationship with a man glacially slow from the gay perspective only to discover that this guy has a cringe-worthy defect that will prompt every gay viewer to immediately Google images of that condition.
Being the righteous dude that he is, Shores still tries to please this Mr. Right (as opposed to Mr. Right Now) despite the seeming impossibility of turning a corner.
Additional hilarity ensues as Shores confesses his macro and micro (no pun intended) fetish regarding short people as to whom he uses the non-pc term "midgets". The account of one such man with a long "third leg" but short temper provides additional entertainment regarding this topic.
The big picture this time goes back to the same era as the filming of "Confessions." A timely post on a DVD of a stand-up performance by British comedian Russell Brand SLAMS Brand for "sins" that include his act being an extended highly whiny therapy session as to which Brand not only saves the co-pay for that treatment but likely makes millions from folks who pay him to endure that almost unbearable catharsis.
Shores openly and constantly admits that his "Mama's Family" style upbringing has provided him a career. The difference between him and lesser performers is that he knows how to tell his Bible Belt tales in a way that both entertains and lets us feel his pain.
Breaking does its usual stellar job as to DVD extras. We get a "behind-the-scenes" feature that includes Shores showing his inner circle what comes between him and his Calvins. This bonus further provides an inspiration for December 7 birthday gifts.
A more "naughty" extra is footage of the photo shoot of the "Confessions" poster, which also is the DVD cover. This both allows hearing the beloved dogs of Shores and proves that he is hands-on regarding getting things right in a manner that makes one want to scream "me too".
Bullfrog Films, which makes DVDs available to both the general and educational markets, inadvertently touches on a sadly timely topic as to the DVD release of the 2019 documentary "Cooked: Survival By Zip Code." The income-gap analysis as to the 1995 Chicago heatwave and the 2012 Superstorm Sandy holds just as true as to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A blogland detour before discussing "Cooked" begins with a long-standing comprehension that having enough money to offset the increasing ills of the world give "haves" an unfair edge over "have nots." Having a moderate income that makes an automatic back-up power generator, central air-conditioning, and monthly deliveries of bottled water feasible greatly offsets the impact of deteriorating national conditions. Owning a freezer and a pantry full of food, as well as roughly 150 rolls of toilet paper, in anticipation of the next corornavirus-related lockdown provides further peace of mind. Knowing that a large percentage of Americans cannot afford half of these luxuries is disheartening.
Filmmaker/narrator Judith Helfand framing her study of the heatwave around Sandy evoke thoughts of another recent example of how "haves" fare much better than "have nots." A combination of recent flooding rain that is behind a waterfall of storm water backup in my basement, a related threat of a reoccurrence of that incident, and the callous disregard of the local DPW as to all that is behind spending several thousand dollars to get a back-water valve installed. The insult added to that injury is that the retail value of that work is twice as much as the "insider" price for my project.
All within earshot have heard sincere lamenting as to the folks who cannot afford the valve having to endure flooding every time that storm drains cannot keep pace with a rainstorm.
The following trailer for "Cooked" conveys much of the above, provides a good sense of the non-sensationalist vibe of the film, and gives good reason to believe that this independent film does not provide a Hollywood ending.
The overall message, which COVID-19 validates, of "Cooked" is that Mother Nature keeps throwing one climate-change fueled disaster after another at us. The rest of the story is that the ability of the "haves" to acquire the necessary resources to escape or alleviate the impact of those event can allow them to live while the "have nots" literally die in large numbers. The footage of a fleet of refrigerated trucks storing dead bodies in 1995 Chicago evokes thoughts of similar measures in response to COVID-19.
The '90s-era horror stories include residents of low-income housing cooking-to-death as a result of keeping the windows in their apartments closed in order to avoid someone breaking in. The pictures of some of these small run-down events are worth far more than 1,000 words.
References to wealthy Chicago residents escaping to their vacation homes evokes thoughts of modern-day New Yorkers temporarily relocating to their New England second homes in response to COVID-19. The secondary story is that these callous one-percenters and those that approach that level have no concern about endangering the even one-percenter "haves" in those destination communities.
The "Zip Code" reference in the "Cooked" title shows the same indifference by city officials as my not-so-friendly civil servant blithely explaining as to my flooded basement that the heavy rain that is the culprit being akin to pouring too much water into a glass. The clear communication that the city is leaving residents all along the income scale vulnerable to future floods is behind investing in a private floodgate that is designed to keep my house dry while homes literally across the tracks a few miles away add an a tangible aspect to figuratively always living underwater.
[Editor's Note: The following article is a retro-repost of a November 2014 interview for Unreal TV 1.0.]
An awesome aspect of being invited to review the recently theatrically released film "The Historian" was the chance to interview Theater Hall of Fame member John Cullum, who arguably is best known for playing restauranteur Holling Vincoeur on the classic TV series "Northern Exposure."
The excitement regarding talking with Cullum extended beyond connecting with a beloved actor; he essentially confirmed that he is the person whom I thought that I recognized but could not immediately place while walking through an airport roughly 20 years ago. The big bright smile that Cullum bestowed on the lout who stared at him as they approached each other was as gracious as the insights that he shared yesterday.
Cullum on 'The Historian'
Cullum's Brigston Hadley in "The Historian" is the father of college professor Valerian Hadley, whom William Sadler portrays. Cullum did not share the sense that he and Sadler bear a strong resemblance to each other but stated that he played the father of Sadler's character on the wonderfully fun early-2000s scfi series "Roswell."
Cullum, whose earlier acting career includes several Shakespearean productions, also stated that he did not base his portrayal of Brigston on King Lear but agreed that the two characters possessed similar characteristics.
Cullum shared on a more general level that "I'm not a method actor in that I do not have to think of something that happened to me; I'm interested in the story and the dialog."
Cullum added that one exception to the approach described above was that he partially based his Tony winning role in "Shenandoah" on his father and his great-uncle.
Cullum also stated that he did not think that "Historian" writer/director/co-star Miles Doleac knew that Cullum had appeared in "Roswell." The plain-spoken actor added that Miles called him after signing Sadler up for the film and that Cullum concluded that "there weren't any reasons to say no and many reasons to say yes."
The reasons for saying yes included the shooting schedule in Hattiesburg, Mississippi fitting Cullum's schedule and his liking the script.
Comments related to the appeal of the script included noting that "father-son relationships have dominated drama back to "Oedipus (Rex)," and that "family relationships are the most powerful of all."
Tennessean Cullum volunteered as well that he liked the open unencumbered attitude that Doleac demonstrated and confirmed that Doleac being a fellow southern was a factor regarding their good working relationship.
Cullum on 'Northern Exposure'
The incredible enthusiasm that Cullum still feels toward doing "Exposure" in the '90s was music to the ears of this fan of that series. This clear regard for doing the show began with Cullum expressing surprise when asked if the "Exposure" producers had the cast attend a retreat to create the bonds that were so apparent among that group. Collum simply responded "They didn't have to."
Collum expressed particular affection for co-star John Corbett, who played spiritual ex-con DJ Chris Stevens. Collum noted that Corbett often improvised and shared an awesome story about watching the then long-haired Corbett pick up a pair of scissors in the make-up room for the show and cut off all his hair simply to see how it would look.
Cullum wondering what Corbett was currently doing prompted looking up the IMDb profile of the latter. Reporting back that Corbett had done some good things and some pretty lousy projects prompted Cullum to laugh and reply "haven't we all."
Along similar lines, Cullum stated several times that "Exposure" wife Cythnia Geary was gorgeous and noted that that show was her first major role. He added that she had trained as a singer.
A discussion of Geary's interest in singing led to reminding Cullum of the episode in which Geary's Shelly developed a condition that resulted in her only being able to verbally communicate by singing. Cullum noted that as an example of the "Exposure" writers writing for both the characters and the performers in those roles.
Similar to the research regarding Corbett, a look at a listing of Geary's recent work revealed a role in a 2012 made-for-TV Bigfoot film. Cullum was a true gentleman in learning about that one.
Cullum next stated that much of "Exposure" was filmed in the small town of Rosslyn, Washington and that that community had a restaurant that shared the name of "The Brick" in the series. In his typical style, Cullum had high regard for that community.
The only sad aspect of this discussion of "Exposure" was that Cullum did not express much optimism regarding the possibility of an "Exposure" reunion film but seemed very willing to participate in any such project.
Cullum on Cullum
The awesomeness of Cullum extended to his being one of the nicest and most genuine celebrities interviewed in an eight-year career writing film and television reviews. This particularly came across when commenting to Cullum that seeing "The Historian" on the marquee of the The Quad theater near his Manhattan home when the film opens there on November 28, 2014 certainly will not be a thrill after roughly 50 years as a live theater, film, and television actor.
Cullum replied "I'm certainly not blase about seeing myself in something I've done. I'm humbled by watching a performance."
This led to asking (and hoping) whether a Cullum autobiography was a possibility. This prompted the highly inaccurate response "I didn't feel that my career justified that kind of treatment."
Cullum added that the theater world has dubbed him "the legend" based on his longevity in that industry. However, his frustrating inability to recognize his greatness resulted in his adding that everyone in theater was known as a legend.
If working with Richard Burton on "Camelot" and "Hamlet," doing two plays with Arthur Miller, winning two Tony awards, still being an active working actor at 84, etc. does not warrant an autobiography, nothing does.
Cullum offered the consolation that he recorded a 90-minute podcast for the "Footlight Parade" series that "The Musical Theater Project" Artistic Director Bill Rudman produces and hosts. Cullum commented that he told Rudman at that time that "you have managed to do my biography ... and I liked it!"
A very gracious Rudman subsequently discussed the exceptional experience regarding talking with Cullum; when asked for a recording (which included Cullum singing songs from his shows) of their conversation, Rudman good-naturedly responded with a chuckle in his voice "that is my interview."
Cullum equally graciously declined a request to sing "Come Back to Me" from his Broadway production of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." He provided the ample consolation prize of performing a few lines from "Lear."
Cullum on the Future
On asked the shamefully lame chestnut "what's next for you," Cullum shared that he has returned to a project on which he has worked on-and-off for years. It is a musical version of the Appalachian folk stories that are known as "Jack" tales that include "Jack and the Beanstalk."
Cullum stated that these stories included "Jack and the Doctor" in which Jack of "Beanstalk" fame took on the challenge of convincing the titular physician that Jack is worthy of marrying the daughter of that medical practitioner. Cullum added that his plans include playing the doctor.
Regarding future television projects, Cullum expressed his trademark enthusiasm for an upcoming ABC mini-series titled "Member's Only." This production about the behind-the-scenes goings on at an exclusive country club is scheduled to air in February 2015.
Cullum described the 80-year-old retired U.S. senator that he plays in "Members" as "a womanizer and a drunk." He expressed special enthusiasm for his first grand entrance in his first scene in the series.
The described tableau was that Cullum's character drove his car up on the curb, knocking over a don't walk on the grass sign. This quickly led to telling the valet that he had not had a bowel movement in nine days and that the valet should ensure that the bathroom in the club was well stocked with toilet paper.
Cullum provided the additional spoiler that his character's trophy wife had left him for his son. The involvement of Cullum and the seeming similarities between "Members" and the uber-uber-awesome film "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" in which a son announces to the entire family that he has reason to believe that he is hung like a rhino compared to his father make "Members" worth checking out.
The only thing left to share regarding the exceptional hour spent talking with Cullum is that he definitely achieved the goal of a performer of leaving his audience wanting more. This is on top of solving a 20-year-old mystery regarding whether he was the gracious man walking through an airport.
The Indiepix Films DVD of the 2018 Mexican drama "Hypnosis to Be Happy" aptly centers around a standoff between the central characters, who equally aptly figuratively are the last two people on earth. As almost always is the case, the live-stage vibe of "Hypnosis" contributes to the enjoyment of the film. Dividing the scenes into chapters is apt as to protagonist Felipe being a rare-book dealer.
The following Indiepix trailer for "Hypnosis" highlights the aforementioned "You Are There" feeling. It also conveys the nature of the relationship that dominates the film.
The opening scenes of "Hypnosis" are very reminiscent of traditional Calvin Klein ads in that they are stylistic black-and-white images of Felipe and his object of adequate affection Pilar touring an art museum as voice-over narration tells of both of them seeking someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives.
Things become even more personal and philosophical when the action shifts to a restaurant where Felipe proposes after four dates. This predictably triggers a conversation about how well each of the not-so-significant others know each other and what makes them happy.
Felipe demonstrates his surprising power of persuasion in convincing Pilar to accompany him to the warehouse-like building from which he operates his business. The apprehension that Pilar feels on Felipe locking her is a valid reaction. This leads to inarguably the best segment of the film in that Felipe increasingly bares his soul to his intended and she softens regarding her arguable captor. This also involves a notable line as to no book being in the store that does not want to be there.
The action then shifts to a modified walk-of-shame. Despite looking a little shell shocked and still not being engaged, Pilar agrees to drive in the country with Felipe. The ride and a related discovery of a relic prompts Felipe to open up about his childhood and his relationship with his parents in a way that further thaws the heart of Pilar. This includes exposition as to the meaning of the title of the film.
All this lead to the tale of Felipe and Pilar ending on an ambiguous note that reinforces the modern sense that "happily ever after" is as much of a fiction in the real world as it is on the silver screen.
[Editor's Note: As of the posting of this article, Canyon Ranch Lenox is scheduled to reopen July 27, 2020.]
The beginning thought as to this second of two (and counting) posts on Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts is the pre-pandemic conclusion that initial sticker-shock regarding the roughly $1,000 per-night rate is unwarranted when considering the size of the bang for your grand. Pandemic-era factors have shown even more that the spa is well worth every penny.
The initial benefit as to a Canyon Ranch stay is a welcome gift that conservatively is worth $175; the stylish waterproof Canyon Ranch tote bag with red-leather trim alone retails for $129. Time will tell how many bottles of contraband Diet Coke will fit along with more traditional spa supplies, such as comfy spa sliders. Alas, the bag may be too small for the luxurious Canyon Ranch spa robe that will be put to good use during an upcoming stay.
Speaking of the spa, each package comes with a services allowance that seems to average out to $150/day, which is enough for one treatment. Your not-so-humble reviewer is scheduled for a coconut oil treatment, a 50-minute signature Canyon Ranch massage, and a 100-minute Canyon Ranch massage. This leaves a $20 allowance toward a fourth treatment.
This aspect of the stay warrants a shout-out to services specialist extraordinaire Angela, who is very intuitive as to which treatments are best suited to which guest.
The icing on this particular confection is daily access, including visit-long use of a locker, to the spa facilities. That conservatively is worth $100 each day.
Related goodness is a range of wellness seminars that most likely are valued at least $100 each.
The other benefit is a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks package that retails for roughly $100/day. A no-tipping policy enhances the value of this feature, as well as that of the spa services.
A ROUGH estimate of the value of the extras that come with staying a room that offers a 20-option pillow menu is that they total $500/day. This leaves the cost of the room equivalent to a visit to a Mandarin Oriental or comparable luxury hotel.
The rest of that perspective is that (in periods in which air travel is feasible) airfare plus airport transportation (or parking) cost ROUGHLY $1,000. Following the long-standing Inn Credible New England philosophy of spending what you otherwise would pay to fly somewhere to upgrade a vacation closer to home translates to a "fuzzy math" savings of $200/night as to a five-night stay for folks within driving distance of Lenox.
The starting point as to the added value of a 2020 Canyon Ranch stay is that this unprecedented event reasonably is causing intense stress for most folks who currently must venture out to deal with the public. The other side of this coin is that virtually all of us not venturing out nearly as much as we used to pre-COVID makes each poking of our heads into the real world a special outing as to which we hope that a good time is had by all.
A recent consistently positive experience with Canyon Ranch around the same time as equal glee regarding fabled personal-care products company Aesop prompted sharing the joy from those encounters. The response, which is more true than ever in these highly troubled times is that you get what you pay for,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement Blu-ray of the 1995 Salma Hayek film "Midaq Alley" has EVERY element that makes it a perfect film. This begins with a young attractive cast that has someone for everyone, a telenovela vibe that provides no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure, and high-concept in the form of being based on a novel by Nobel laurete Naguib Mahfouz. The IDEAL blend of humor and drama of both the melo and regular varieties is the topping on the fried ice cream. There truly is not a dull moment.
The crystal-clear images and audio (not to mention a behind-the-scenes feature and a written essay) in this restoration further make this one well worthy adding to your video library.
The impressive 27 festival wins for "Midaq" include several awards at the 1995 Ariel Awards in Mexico.
The below Movement trailer for Midaq Alley highlights the exceptional quality of every aspect of the film.
In addition to an awesome live-stage vibe, "Midaq" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly themed 2006-09 BBC serial series "The Street" that tells the inter-connected stories of the residents of a London neighborhood. Both productions do an excellent job keeping all the players in play and showing how their lives overlap.
"Midaq" centers around the neighborhood bar that Don Ru owns and operates. This watering hole truly is a place where everyone knows your name (and your business).
A brief glimpse of the life of Ru and of his 20-something son Chava is the tip of the iceberg that provides a good sense of the "Midaq" style. The blatant Freudian aspects of that relationship begin with Ru being disappointed with the poor work ethic of Chava, who obsessively dreams of moving El Norte.
The disappointment of Ru regarding his offspring is an element as to developing a friendship with benefits with a young clothing store clerk whom is closer to what Ru considers an ideal son. The extent to which Ru and this post-adolescent express their mutual affection contributes an ick factor on a couple of levels.
The desired traveling buddy of Chava is Abel, who is a local barber obsessed with local beauty Alma (Hayek). Of course, Alma drives plenty of drama herself.
The ripples extend from there to the opportunistic bartender, the horny spinster, the tarot card reader, etc.
The big picture this time it that "Midaq" is both compelling and funny because it is true.
The Olive Films Signature division of Olive Films June, 20, 2020 Blu-ray of the Milos Formam ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus") 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films.
This pristinely remastered Blu-ray presents the film in a scope and with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and barely falls short of the watching a live-stage production. Folks who are only familiar with the play will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.
The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine," "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.
The opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era. The Blu-ray enchancement greatly highlights the contrast between the bland childhood of the central Okie and the commencement of his literal and figurative rude awakenings.
Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)
The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.
In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.
The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.
The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)
The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.
The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.
The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.
The ending is very true to the spirit of both the play and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.
Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are damaged 50 years later.
Signature supplements all this with its standard high-caliber extras that make its sets true collector's editions. This begins with audio commentary by Williams as well as by assistant director Michael Hausman.
The 30-minute "The Tribe Remembers" has Savage, D'Angelo, and several tribe members reminisce about the film from the pre-audition to the post-release stages. The fun begins with the initial criteria for auditioning, continues with the "Chorus Line" style casting process, and ends with many cast members discusses this career-changing gig. The inarguably best story is that of the reaction of the repressed Texan mother of one of the lost boys watching her baby croon about oral and anal sex.
Other bonuses include famed (pun intended) "Hair" choreographer Twyla Thorp discusses her work, and separate features on the style and the finished product. There also is separate discussion of Forman and an essay on "Hair."
First but far from least, a post-lockdown Inn Credible New England trip to the Martin Hill Inn in Portsmouth, NH ended a week ago without contracting any trace of COVID-19. This largely is due to the Silkwood-shower level cleaning by Nantucket transplants/inn keepers Russ and Meg.
Regular readers will not be surprised that your-not-so-humble reviewer ran with Russ characterizing this stay, which was the first for the otherwise empty inn, as serving as a guinea pig. This extended beyond inviting Russ to call me Squeaky and my thanking him in advance for the clean wood shavings. I also promised to do my best to refrain from chewing the baseboards.
Aside from the broad appeal of this historic building and the exceptional hospitality of the hosts, Martin Hill offers the benefit of being the only genuine B and B in Portsmouth. The setting perfectly reflects the spirit of this historic harbor community. This is not to mention the large cookie-cutter hotels 1/2 mile away in the retail district all requiring valet parking your car in the city garage.
The glee began with parking in the easily located, spacious, and shady parking lot behind the inn. The roughly one-minute walk through the well-designed garden is almost ensured to include seeing the resident bird-seed addicted chipmunk. The pair of wild bunnies are a slightly more rare sight.
The COVID-era check-in involves picking up a welcome packet and room key in the drop box by the inn front door. Guinea pig duty has enhanced the amount of information, such as the WiFi password, that you receive. Russ seemingly responding to texts even before you hit "Send" facilitates asking questions that the packet does not cover.
The Noonday Suite in the guest house next to the inn offers the most relaxing option in this highly tranquil place that already is reducing its limited accommodations to support social distancing,
Noonday offers a private entrance through the exclusive fully enclosed sun porch that looks out on the koi pods; Russ is very accommodating as to allowing guests to feed (and talk to) the fish.
The living room and bedroom also have an entrance into the guest house, which is handy if you are traveling with someone staying in one of the other three options in that building. This unmarried man ventured in the front hall once looking for Mr. Goodbar to replenish the generous snacks in the Noonday living room.
The wow factor on entering the Noonday suite begins with seeing the Nancy Reagan red bedroom with comfy king-sized bed; a nice treat is discovering the mini-tower of personalized gifts that the innkeepers provide to "sweeten the stay" of guests during this Covid period.
The living room provides a nice way to read, use my iPad, and watch television without hanging out in the bedroom. The sun porch, where I ate the crave-worthy lemon ricotta pancakes and other breakfasts that were delivered due to Covid, was another nice spot in which to enjoy "just being" at the inn.
Russ and Meg do their visitors the solid of ensuring that every room has at least two comfy places to sit. This is on top of the game-and-book filled parlor that is open to guests and offers snacks under normal circumstances. There is a good chance that your not-so-humble reviewer will offer a discussion on films in that gathering spot one weekend that Portsmouth holds one of its many film festivals.
The experimentation as to staying at the Martin Hill a couple of weeks after New Hampshire gave most businesses the green light to reopen showed the value of having a place to "just be." Downtown Portsmouth, which was a pleasant leisurely 10-minute walk, was a surprising hodgepodge as to the hours that restaurants were open and the dining options. Many eateries only offering takeout or delivery was not bothersome; the few holdouts as to allowing you to eat your takeout onsite despite you needing to come into the restaurant to pick up your order were frustrating.
Most of the many Portsmouth shops were open standard (or close to standard) hours; the wait was a minute-or-two the few times that a store reached capacity.
There also are numerous other quaint towns, as well as beaches, within an easy 30 drive from the inn.
The one word of caution is to avoid the nearby Kittery outlet malls; the vibe there reflects that they are far from their former glory. The better news is that you can do as well or better shopping online.
Ending on a positive note, Russ and Meg stay VERY true to the spirit of their mid-19th century era inn and vastly exceed the exceptional hospitality of their predecessors from that era. You will be very glad that you came.
Breaking Glass Pictures takes a break from international queer cinema DVD releases that range from the flirty to the filthy to offer the highly compelling stylized 2013 Italian drama "Naples in Veils." This sophisticated sibling of Lifetime fare centers around coroner Adriana being a donna on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Some of the numerous accolades for "Veils" include a "Best Cinematography" win at the 2018 David di Donatello awards and "Best Actress" at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival.
The following Breaking trailer for "Veils" tantalizes with glimpse of the intrigue and the award-winning cinematography. You also see that Breaking gives a breeder boy a chance to show that he more than qualifies to flaunt it.
Early Euro drama commences with a flashback in which we see (presumably) Adriana as a child see (presumably) her mother (presumably) commit a (presumably) heinous act. This memory haunts Adriana as she watches a symbolism-dripping live sacrilegious performance of a bizarre variation on the Joan Rivers-Billy Crystal pregnant man '70s comedy film "Rabbit Test."
In true Lifetime fashion. Adriana invites fellow audience member Andrea back to her place without any pretense as to showing him her etchings. This beginning of a beautiful friendship with benefits turns into a one-night stand when Andrea stands up Adriana. His (presumably) showing up on her slab the next provides a (presumably) good excuse for ghosting (pun intended) her.
The first element of twin (pun intended) hysteria ensues on Adriana learning that the guy with whom she shares genuine intimacy after a brief conversation is not the guy whom she thought that he was. The follow-up is being convinced that she repeatedly thinks that she sees her short-time companion walking about after he shows up at her workplace.
The latter is soon explained by the object of the obsession of Adriana identifying himself as Luca, the essentially separated-at-birth identical twin brother of Andrea. Two spoilers are that Luca lacks both a goatee and an eye patch.
Adriana harbors the brother from the same mother while seeking answers as to the alleged nefarious activity of Andrea and the reason for his (presumed) murder. The indications that Adriana may have possession of either a coveted possession or information further keep her embroiled in the plot.
The highly symbolic Euro drama continues as Adriana and Luca pursue their "its highly complicated" relationship while Adriana seeks closure as to her relationship with Luca. The fact that insanity does not run, it gallops, in the family of Adriana does not help matters.
The strong quality of every aspect of "Veils" unambiguously is why it meets the high standards of Breaking; the incredible ambiguity and layers of meaning make it even more special.
This is not to mention the uncertainty as to both the cause and the effect of virtually every event; this begins with Adriana possibly scoring with Andrea solely based on his believing that she is the girl with something extra.
Breaking supplements this with deleted scenes and a "Backstage with Cast & Crew" special feature.