A spectacular element of "OzLand," which is available on DVD and the streaming service that the Wicked Witch of the Pacific Northwest owns, is that the obsession that a central character develops on finding The Wonderful World of Oz is comparable to the response that most people will experience on watching this film by producer/director/writer/cinematographer Michael Williams. Folks already familiar with the (reviewed) more recent Williams joint "The Atoning" will understand this enthusiasm; Williams being kind and gracious in real life is a bonus.
One person wearing so many hats in a production usually warrants jokes regarding whether they also build the sets, provide craft services, and clad the actor in their personal clothes. However, the 27 year-old Williams performs every function well and likely could have stepped in the role of drifter Emri. The POSSIBILITY that this beautifully shot film will come out on Blu-ray is exciting.
Williams does provide a treat in the form of the (separately sold) soundtrack of the country music in the film; these songs achieve the ideal of subtly helping set the mood.
The numerous festival accolades, including the Best Feature and Best Cinematography honors at the 2015 Magnolia Independent Film Festival, validates the high praise in this review.
The following YouTube clip of the "Ozland" trailer is guaranteed to elicit the aforementioned excitement regarding the film.
"OzLand" opens with ruggedly handsome Emri and dreamy innocent Leif walking through the beautifully shot post-apocalyptic (presumably Shenandoah Valley) world in which virtually everyone else has dried up. This modern-day George (Emri) and Lennie (Leif) from the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men are drifting through this world trying to make sense of what happened while following the advice of Horace Greeley and The Pet Shop Boys to go west in search of a better existence.
A horribly missed opportunity occurs when big brother figure George tells Leif to focus on survival; Leif not smiling and responding "I'm your lover, not your rival" is an almost painful omission.
The magic begins when a typical exploration of a devastated structure covered in thick layer of dust scores Leif a copy of Oz. This excited literate man subsequently reciting passages from Oz to illiterate Emri entertains him but does not prompt him to share the belief of Leif that the story is real and that these men are living it.
Although the optimism that Leif experiences is not infectious, the introduction to the wonderful world of Oz colors (no pun intended) the remaining adventures of our "leftovers." At the heart of it, the Depression-era tornado in the Judy Garland film provides an explanation for the substantial rapid decline in the population of at least the southern United States in "Ozland."
Watching the glee of Leif on meeting a tin man, finding the abandoned home of a lion and munchkins, encountering a scarecrow who is more Christ figure than lovable dope, and finding himself hot on the trail of Dorothy reinforces the sense of wanting to take a road trip with Leif portrayor Zack Ratkovich; his horrifying encounter with uberscary flying monkeys makes you want to protect him.
Ratzovich particularly shines in a scene in which Leif and Emri discuss what they want from the wizard. This provides further insight (and sympathy) regarding the character.
Emri portrayor Glenn Payne also plays his part well. He is a kind and patient protector of his naive little buddy; his special moments include comically acting out the grotesque version of the tin man that the 1939 film Disneyfies.
The Mice vibe is particularly strong in a scene late in the film; the boys are near death when Emri discovers that Leif has been holding out for a fantastical reason. Many of us would have killed Leif out of frustration and/or to protect him from an existence worse than a quick demise.
The climax provides an awesome end to a film with no bad scenes. Only one boy utilizes a chance to go home; post-viewing communication with Williams points out that this rapture involves a subtle element of ascension.
Williams takes a note from the DCU and the Marvel Universe in including a stinger halfway through the closing credits. Our survivor is continuing his journey with a new special companion who is very true to the spirits of both the ascended partner and Oz.
The literally final moment of the film is another reflection of the kind and loving nature of Williams; he dedicates the movie to 31 year-old crew member Casey Spradling, who dies soon after finishing "Ozland." One can easily imagine Williams and the rest of the team missing him most of all after separating to go on to their next projects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ozland" or Williams is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Gravitas Ventures awesomely gets in the spirit of revving franchises with the October 17, 2017 separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2017 Del Shores comedy "A Very Sordid Wedding." This film picks up the Tales of the Town about rural Winters, Texas that the 2008 cable series "Sordid Lives: The Series" picks up from the 2000 film "Sordid Lives."
Writer-director-auteur Del Shores proves the wisdom of writing about which you know in sharing not-very-fictionalized characters from his past with us.
Shores does his usual outstanding job showing that he is the Woody Allen to Jeff Foxworthy's Tyler Perry regarding redneck humor. Shores deserves special credit for having much of "Wedding" address the death of Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, who plays Peggy Sue Ingram in "Series." This shows that Shores is a genuine southern gentleman.
The following YouTube clip of the official "Wedding" trailer includes numerous short clips that highlight the talents of Shores and his cast
The terrific ensemble includes aging Tammy Wynette obsessed/conversion therapy "failure" drag queen Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Leslie Jordan). He has gone from having the ghost of Wynette visit him to being haunted by images of conversion therapy practitioner Dr. Eve haunt him.
The adventures of Brother Boy revolve around his desire to perform his personal holy trinity in a drag show. This effort leads to a hilarious relationship with (most likely based on actual events) serial killer Billy Joe Dobson.
The always hilarious heavy-smoking Sissy Hickey is focusing on keeping up with the changing politically correct terms of American society. She laments "mulatto" going out of favor but learns that "African-American" is still acceptable despite some black people not liking that term.
Meanwhile, divorced Noletta Nethercott (Caroline Rhea) gets another round of revenge against adulterous ex-husband G.W. after having burned his two artificial legs in a previous "Sordid" adventure. Her current antics earn her the title of best-ever hospital visitor.
For her part, Latrelle Ingram Williamson (Bonnie Bedelia) is thrilled that son Ty (Kirk Geiger) and his black husband are giving her a grandchild via a procedure that fascinates Sissy. These boys are keeping busy promoting marriage equality but getting married in every state; Texas remains the Lone Star holdout regarding this effort.
All of this occurs in the context of a church group actively promoting inequality; the price of this campaign includes endless bad hair days. The benefit to the audience is a new taste of the southern-fried sitcom "Designing Woman" in the form of a handful of trademark Julia Sugarbaker rants against stupidity and/or intolerance.
Shores brings everything full circle with multiple celebrations that include a special celebrity cameo. The manner in which this occurs is fully in the slobs v. the snobs spirit of classic comedies such as "Caddyshack" and "Revenge of the Nerds."
The plethora of sordid DVD and Blu-ray extras include a "making-of" feature, cast interviews, and both outtakes and deleted scenes.
'Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol:' Rockwell Museum Exhibit Celebrates Not-So Unlikely Friendship
Applying the catchphrase "Trust me; I know what I'm doing" from the '80s sitcom "Sledgehammer" applying to the "Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol" exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through October 29, 2017 provides a nice tie-in to a site that celebrates unreal TV.
Former Warhol Museum curator/current Rockwell Museum Curator of Exhibits/Expert Exhibitionist Jesse Kowalski essentially requests that leap of faith regarding displaying the work of a leader of the Pop Art movement at a museum dedicated to an artist who is closely associated with wholesome institutions that include the "Mayberry" lifestyle, The Boy Scouts of America, and The Saturday Evening Post. Like the titular sitcom police detective, Kowalski proves that he is worthy of the requested trust.
Before delving into the surprising parallels between Rockwell and Warhol, Unreal TV would like to join the Rockwell Museum in thanking The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and the Hayseed Hill Foundation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts for being sponsors of this exhibit that extends beyond the art of Warhol to include his paint-splattered "skinny" jeans that warrant a Jonas Brothers joke.
The award for coolest item in "America" goes to an autographed publicity photo of Shirley Temple that she sent a young bed-ridden Warhol, who spent his childhood time contending with St. Vitus Dance amassing a ginormous collection of fan magazine and signed photos of celebrities. Kowalski shared that it was thought that the Temple photo was lost until it was surprisingly found among other possessions of Warhol.
The runner-up for best item is a subversive Picassoesque painting from the student days of Warhol. The personal aspect of this work that was banned from the competition for which Warhol painted it was the adviser of the grad. school thesis of your not-so-humble reviewer loving that analysis but advising sending it to a British scholarly journal (which published it) because it was too incendiary for publication in the United States.
Kowalski on Warhol and Rockwell
Kowalski shared that his interest in Pittsburgh-native Warhol (nee Warhola) dates back to the Kansas high school days of the curator. Kowalski noted that the nature of Warhol included that "he never gave any thought to the legacy of his work; he just went with the times."
Kowalski stated as well that his reasons for attending the highly non-traditional The College of That Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine included wanting to get far away from Kansas. He added that an internship at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh during his studies led to a job after he graduated.
Discussions regarding producing a Rockwell exhibit at the Warhol Museum provided a taste of things to come for Kowalski.
Other than the story of Warhol growing up poor in Pittsburgh, most of the biographical information that Kowalski relayed about Warhol demonstrated that this man who was known for purposefully looking and acting very odd lived a surprisingly Rockwellesque private life. These wholesome characteristics included living with his mother and a gaggle of cats much of his adult life. Learning that Warhol was a devout Catholic who attended Mass every Sunday and several times during the week was even more surprising.
Kowalski noted as well that the life of thrice-married (including one divorce) Manhattan-native Rockwell did not fully match his public image much more than the perception matched reality regarding Warhol. Kowalski further added that this dad of three who often painted scenes of fathers being active in the lives of their children worked every day of the year, except for taking one-half day off on Christmas.
As an aside, family guy Kowalski is a terrific father; his young son John was a delightful member of our party. A highlight of interacting with Kowalski Jr. was getting him to almost admit to that he would trade in his highly allergic older sister for a dog or a cat.
Resistance is Foolish
Kowalski stated regarding making his vision of a Warhol exhibit at the Rockwell Museum a reality that "Rockwell purists" initially opposed the idea. Telling these folks and others that "he [Warhol] built a persona that was not who he was" was the first step in getting support for the exhibit. This led to enthusiasm that Kowalski described as "by the end of it, they all loved Warhol."
Rockwell + Warhol
The expertise of Kowalski regarding the parallels between Rockwell and Warhol came through loud-and-clear during our discussion, in touring the exhibit, and in reading the exhibit catalog that Kowalski and Rockwell Museum Deputy Director/Chief Curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett co-authored. This show of knowledge began with Kowalski stating that Warhol never met Rockwell but liked his art to the extent of commenting during a 1962 exhibit of Rockwell paintings that he influenced the work of Warhol.
The catalog adds the context that Rockwell artistically made art for the common man out of high concepts and that Warhol transformed the ordinary into "high art." An awesome photo in the exhibit and the catalog shows a bemused Warhol with a cart full of Brillo pads, Campbell soup cans, and other household items on which he based some work in the aisle of a New York grocery store.
Kowalski shared as well that Rockwell and Warhol separately began their art careers in advertising; both his comments and the exhibit highlighted their different approaches to that work. Further, the catalog noted that the conservative button-down world of 1950s Madison Avenue not being a good personality match with Warhol did not prevent him from regularly winning major advertising awards.
One topic that the discussion with Kowalski, the exhibit, and the catalog all covered that perfectly illustrated (no pun intended) the contrast between Rockwell and Warhol was the portraits by each artist of a pre-Jackie O Jackie Kennedy.
The Rockwell painting (which Warhol owned and that the Warhol museum loaned the Rockwell for "Amercia") was a 1963 portrait that Rockwell painted in traditional Rockwellesque style several weeks before the JFK assassination. The Warhol portrait (which hangs next to the Rockwell painting in "America") is in the famous two-tone silkscreen style of that artist.
Kowalski noted that that subject and style reflected the art of Warhol of that era. This curator aded that Warhol painted a series of "Madonna figures," who were "women who either were dying or in grief." Other subjects included Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, but not Liza.
A cool "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" connection that Kowalski revealed was that the art instructors who taught either Warhol or Rockwell could be tied to an Italian artist from 1400.
Kowalski mentioning Warhol promoting his celebrity status in the '80s to the extent of appearing in the very special 200th episode of that Saturday night ABC anthology sitcom "The Love Boat" prompted watching that episode on YouTube. A truly awesome scene involved "Happy Days" co-stars Tom Bosley and Marion Ross (who played a very Cunninghamesque married couple) discussing the art of Warhol and the Bosley character commenting that the deceased Rockwell was the only comparable artist to Warhol.
A portion of "America" that sadly must remain unsung for the moment is "Remembering Uncle Andy," which is a collection of paintings by Warhol nephew James Warhola. In addition to the Warhol connection, this exhibit is apt because the combination of folksy style and Pop Art in the work of art make Warhola the artistic child of Rockwell and Warhol.
A highlight of the "Andy" art is a painting of a surprised Warhol opening the door of his New York factory to see his unsophisticated brother and family there for an unannounced visit. Kowalski noted that that was an actual case of art imitating a common real life event.
Fifteen Minutes of Fame
It is nice to think that the public Warhol persona would have enjoyed the exhibit if only because it disproved his cynical prediction decades before the reality TV population explosion that everyone in the future will have 15 minute of fame; "America" awesomely shows that the fame of that artist and Rockwell potentially is eternal.
The same can be said regarding the subjects of the upcoming Summer 2018 exhibit at the Rockwell titled "Wyeth, Parrish, and Rockwell: Keepers of the Flame."
On the subject of being eternal, this article on the exhibit and the related written portraits of the artists could reach that state. Once again channeling the spirit of Warhol in both senses of the word, readers are encouraged to adhere to the principle of RTFM and just go see the exhibit.
The Warner Archive October 3, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1978 epic "Superman the Movie: Extended Cut" follows the Archive tradition of treating fanboys right. This release comes on the heels of the Archive "one-to-watch" and a second to "one-to-keep-in-mint-condition" worthy (Unreal TV reviewed) Blu-ray release of "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm."
The good folks at Archive also include the "Superman" special edition that the back cover describes as the "definitive vision" of the film of director Richard Donner. The following review is of the extended cut.
It should be undisputed that "Superman" (and its sequels) is the Genesis of the big-budget superhero franchises that are going strong nearly 40 years later. The extended cut is an augmented-for-TV version that adds 40 minutes to this film that includes an origin story, a coming-of-age-tale, AND a heroic effort to save the world.
"Superman" opens with an almost certainly added cold opening about central newspaper The Daily Planet and then goes into the classic opening credits with the equally timeless John Williams score; it is interesting to note that both Donner and Williams learn their craft working on "unreal" classic '60s television series.
The credits lead into the scene on Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent home world/future space debris Krypton in which General Zod and two other lawbreakers get trapped in a mirror and hurled into space; one can only hope that Archive gives the further adventures of this trio the same treatment that "Superman" receives in this release.
The clarity and depth of the opening credits and the theater-quality sound of the Williams score provide the first sense that this Blu-ray looks spectacular on a 4K Ultra HD set; the literally glowing white uniforms of Kal-El dad/Kryptonian leader Jor-el (Marlon Brando) almost being blinding confirms that Archive knows its stuff.
Taking out the trash allows the leaders of Krypton to focus on the rejected assertion of malcontent Jor-El that Krypton literally is coming apart at the seams. This leads to that scampy scientist keeping his word that HE will not leave Krypton but putting infant Kal-El in a small space ship for a three-year journey to the primitive planet Earth. Like any good dad, Jor-El provides his son plenty of educational material for this extended journey.
This brother from another planet is very fortunate to crash land in a Kansas corn field just as childless couple Martha and Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford) drive by. Soon learning that this lad is the boy with something extra does not deter this American Gothic couple from bringing him home and raising him.
This leads to the teen years of Clark, who becomes a rebel with fulfilling his destiny as a cause. A scene in which he outruns a train is doubly awesome because it illustrates his power of being "faster than a speeding locomotive" and because Donner shooting one segment in which the train is headed for the camera is an homage to the birth of cinema in which a similar angle causes early audiences to scramble out of fear of the train crashing through the screen into the theater.
The real fun begins when our hero (Christopher Reeve) begins working at the Planet with hardened career gal Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). An early scene in which Kent must play the coward and cover up grabbing a bullet during a mugging highlights the comic abilities of Reeve.
Reeve further shows great humor in an early montage in which Superman handily apprehends petty criminals; it additionally is nice that Donner allows the action to speak for itself, rather than bury it under a '70s rock anthem. This is akin to purists who do not add laugh tracks to sitcoms.
This portion of the film also establishes villain Lex Luthor (an awesomely cartoonish Academy Award winner Gene Hackman) as a gleefully sadistic foe. The threat that Superman poses regarding a scheme of Luthor to literally alter the American landscape prompts the latter to lure the former into his lair.
This encounter triggers the events that lead to the legendary climatic scenes that even casual fanboys know by heart. A praiseworthy aspect of all this is that it is more clever and thrilling than the standard battle royale between hero and henchmen of a villain leading to the final showdown between the two protagonists.
The cleverness in "Superman" extends even further to includes foreshadowing that goes beyond Jor-El repeatedly warning Kel-Al to not interfere with human history. Suffice it to say that Superman prevents Luthor from anteing in.
Every aspect of "Superman" discussed above reflects the underlying awesome feature of it; the film stays true to the spirit of the Superman comics and serials that inspire it. Reeve and the behind-the-scenes folks show that telling a good superhero yarn does not require that the sex and the violence exceed family-friendly levels.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that the three-hour extended cut flies by and leaves you wanting more.
The super-sized collection of bonus features include audio commentary by Donner, several documentaries of the film history of Superman, screen tests, and deleted scenes.
The Warner Archive celebration of Halloween 2017 continues with the October 3, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 thriller "Wolves at the Door." This joins the ranks of (previously reviewed) recent Archive horror releases such as "The Green Slime," "The Hidden," and "Innocent Blood." "Within" is scheduled for tomorrow.
"Wolves" is the most creepy of this lot both because it is true and involves human (rather than alien or other supernatural) monsters.
The following YouTube clip of an early "Wolves" scene perfectly illustrates the tone of the film.
This docudrama about the Manson family begins with that cult terrorizing a couple at 3:00 a.m on a day in August 1969 apparently simply for the fun of it. The LAPD shrugs this incident off as mischief either by hippies or kids on drugs.
Moving the action forward to pregnant actress Sharon Tate (a.k.a. Mrs. Roman Polanski) throwing a going-away party for good friend/coffee heiress Abigail Folger at a restaurant on the evening before Folger is scheduled to return to the east coast provides foreshadowing for folks familiar with the Manson history. Celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring is the escort of Tate, and Folger boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski is spending his last evening with his girlfriend.
The quartet returning to the Polanski-Tate estate to keep the party going is reminiscent of the OJ case (complete with the a sketchy character occupying the guest house). The revelers initially remain blissfully ignorant as the audience sees the Manson clan arrive and initially direct their efforts at a guest of the aforementioned caretaker.
Director John R. Leonetti does a good job building the suspense as Charles and those of whom he is in charge set the stage for the subsequent blood bath. We see the shadowy figures on the lawn and in the house, the cutting off of escape routes, and the fear-inducing bumps in the night and other purposeful means of terrorizing the future murder victims.
This being "based on actual events" contributes to the terror; the fact that all of us are still vulnerable to a nut job with or without equally psychotic followers determining that we are worthy of their attention amps up the fear factor.
One particularly creepy scene clearly inspires the most effective element of the 1999 horror film "The Sixth Sense." Abigail sees a shadowy figure of one of Charlie's angels wave at her in a hallway and then walk in the bedroom suite of Sharon. The chills continue with that woman being nowhere to be seen on Abigail following her in the room.
Like both the real-life basis for the docudrama and most purely fictional horror films, the terror effectively builds to the inevitable blood bath that may have inspired the fictional versions of that carnage.
The strong creepy vibe and terrorized "innocents" throughout provide all viewers good entertainment; getting to know more about Tate (and the rest) who get slaughtered is a bonus to folks who know of the "docu" elements of this drama.
"Wolves" ending with a recap of the actual events (complete with footage of Manson and his family) awesomely reminds us that the movie is scary because it is true.
'The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas' DVD:: Jonathon Winters, Barbara Eden, and Garry Moore Oh My!
Time Life awesomely does it again regarding the October 24, 2017 DVD release "The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas." This collection of three episodes of that long-running '70s variety series comes on the heels of the four-disc Time Life (Unreal TV reviewed) "Best of " Burnett 50th Anniversary edition release. "Christmas" includes three holiday-themed episodes that have not been seen in more than 40 years.
The "Christmas" set opens with an S1 episode that reminds current fans of the greatness of "Burnett" and introduces newbies to most elements that warrant that praise. The specialness of this one begins with the guests being comedian Jonathan Winters and actress/singer Barbara Eden. Winters represents the A-List caliber of Burnett guests and the equally elite Eden illustrates Burnett especially loving stars who both can do comedy and perform musical numbers.
Eden shining in a scene in which she channels "Jeannie" to entrance "Burnett" announcer Lyle Waggoner shows her comedic side; a later song-and-dance number demonstrates the desire of Eden (and her mother) to be a musical-comedy star that she discusses in a (sadly lost) vintage interview with your not-so-humble reviewer.
Improv. master Winters steals the show as a boozing Santa in a faux interview in a segment in a "V.I.P." sketch that features Harvey Korman as an interviewer. The humor from a clearly missed cue is pure Burnett. Winters performing a political monologue about dolls is pure hilarity.
Winters and Korman later team up again in a mockumentary about prisons. Winters as an unconventional warden is a laugh-a-minute; a surprise guest later in the sketch is a special bonus.
Speaking of special guests, a big-name appearing in character surprising Burnett and the audience is a prime example of such versions of Easter eggs in the series; a similar cameo in the third episode in the set is another stocking stuffer.
The guests in the aforementioned third episode and the second one in the set include comedian Garry Moore, who is the former boss of Burnett on his own variety show. The pair fully relive old times in the sketch "The Trial of Mrs. Peter Piper" that is a Neil Simon piece that premiered on the "Moore" show.
Burnett both having the Bob Mitchell Singing Boys perform and interacting with two of the lads (who show that boys will be boys) demonstrates both her interest in highlighting lesser-known talent and giving the audience a chance to know them.
All of this amounts to more than two hours of a show that was "appointment TV" for most of the '70s and that aces the test of time.
'Waiting for Guffman' BD: Mockumentary About Small-Town Community Theater is a Best in Show on Guest List
The Warner Archive September 26, 2017 Blu-ray release of the Christopher Guest mockumentary "Waiting for Guffman" proves that there are exceptions to the rule that a comedy film cannot run longer than 90 minutes.
The 34-minutes of deleted scenes on the BD should make anyone familiar with the film to feel robbed regarding being deprived of those laughs. We can only hope for an art-house revival that reinserts those editing-room floor gems. Writer/director/auteur Christopher Guest particularly shines in a scenes in which his character Corky St. Clair discusses a favorite childhood story about a boy named Corky and a sperm whale. This monologue outConways Tim Conway.
The work of Guest and the improv. geniuses that he casts in "Guffman" and many of his other classic mockumentaries (including "This is Spinal Tap," "Best in Show," and the 2016 film "Mascots") provides enough fodder for several posts. One important aspect of this is that the earlier films predate the U.K. and the U.S. versions of "The Office" and other sitcoms that earn praise for the alleged innovation of producing TV comedies in the mockumentary style.
It also is worth noting that regular Guest star Fred Willard has a recurring role on the current TV mockumentary "Modern Family."
"Guffman" centers around the simple (in both senses of the word) and naive folks in the small-town of Blaine, Missouri. The overall concept of the film, the unique history of Blaine, the personalities of the citizens, and the bizarre murals that celebrate that odd past strongly indicate that this film is the father of the NBC "Must See" mockumentary "Parks and Recreation."
The preparations for celebrating the anniversary including presenting the play summarizing the history of the town around which "Guffman" centers. The very undistinguished New York theater background of St. Clair warrants him both local celebrity status and the "honor" of directing this extrazaganza.
Willard steals both the film and the show within the show as travel agent who only briefly left Blaine once in his life/community theater luminary Ron Albertson; fellow Guest collaborator Catherine O'Hara plays spouse/fellow travel agent/community theater co-royalty Sheila Albertson. Glimpses of this pair in past St. Clair productions (which include a stage adaptation of the film "Backdraft") are some of many highlights in "Guffman."
Guest regular and O'Hara "SCTV" and "Schitt's Creek" co-star Eugene Levy shines equally well as dentist/community theater newcomer Dr. Allan Pearl. One can only hope for the sake of Pearl that he never finds himself trapped in a paper bag.
Other characters in both senses of the word include Guest star Parker Posey as a 20-something who seems destined to work at a Dairy Queen the rest of her life, future "Middleman" Matt Kesslar as hunky Johnny Savage (who is hilariously oblivious to St. Clair perving on him), David Cross as "UFO expert," Larry Miller as the mayor, Bob Balaban as a high school music teacher, etc.
The film title refers to St. Clair receiving a positive response from a New York theater production company regarding an inquiry about sending someone to check out the show for a possible Manhattan staging. Producer Mort Guffman is the individual whom St. Clair and the cast anticipate attending their opening night performance.
Much of the film relates to the chaos associated with staging such a production; these calamities include a cast member dropping out at the last minute forcing St. Clair to assume roles for which he is hilariously miscast. Further, a conflict regarding the integrity of the production causes another walk-out.
This all leads to the hilariously awful play itself complete with sets that make actual high school musicals look like "Les Miserables." Only adding deleted scenes that center around a historic flood in Blaine would have made this portion of the film any more entertaining.
All of this ends in true Guest style in an epilogue that shows the lives of the characters a year after their literal night in the spotlight. A highlight of this is showing the extent to which the acting bug bites one of these nowhere ready for primtime players.
Suffering through a community production of "South Pacific" that required skipping the second act is a personal reference point for "Guffman." On a related note, the skill of Guest and his cast regarding acting so bad that it is hilarious takes real talent.
Other special features include audio commentary by Guest and Levy and the theatrical trailer.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1992 horror-comedy "Innocent Blood" continues a recent Archive trend of mining topsoil in the form of including moderate doses of newer movies with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Golden Age films. The primary claim to fame of "Blood" is that it is the follow-up of director John Landis to his 1981 cult-classic horror-comedy "An American Werewolf in London."
"Blood" additionally has an exceptional supporting cast. Insult comedian Don Rickles shines as a mob lawyer, and before-she-was-a-star Angela Bassett plays a tough U.S. Attorney. Other supporting cast members include Chazz Palminteri and Luis Guzman.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Blood" shows that the film earns being called both a horror and a comedy film.
"Blood" provocatively opens with a scene in which full Monty vampire Marie (French actress Anne Parillaud) is engaged in an inner-monologue on her needs for sex and food. Her response to newspaper headlines about mob activity establishes both her plan to satisfy her hunger and her policy of not ingesting the titular plasma.
This leads to Marie meeting a made man, making him her dinner, and blowing off his head with a shotgun to ensure that dead man tell no tales. This killing catches the attention of police detective Joe Genaro (Anthony LaPaglia), who both is deep undercover with the mob and already is a modern-day Prince Charming to modern-day princess-of-the-night Marie.
Mob boss Sallie (The Shark) Macelli (Robert Loggia) subsequently brings Marie home for a bite n boff. The conflicting agenda of Marie taking a turn for the worse triggers the primary action of the film. Macelli (who ruins several tony outfits in the film) becomes even more vicious than is common for him and goes on a rampage. The primary objective of this carnage is to create an actual underworld mob.
The pursuit of Macelli leads to a very odd form of buddy cop pairing in having Marie and Genaro team up to bring him down; this leads to wonderfully violent carnage and ultimately trying to bring down an on-fire Macelli once and for all.
"Blood" additionally answers the question of whether a regular Joe (no pun intended) cop from Pittsburgh can find true love and happiness with a French vampire.
Landis presents all this with an entertaining mix of high style and pulp camp. There is plenty of noir-style darkness and neon but additional large doses of cheesy effects and clearly fake blood. Loggia spending much of the film under a heavy layer of pancake make-up is a perfect example of the latter.
Archive provides a provocative trailer of "Blood" as an special feature.
As the Unreal TV review of the recent tla releasing DVD of the 2016 gay-themed Mark Bessenger film "Confessions" notes, that release roughly coincides with this site learning of the tla DVD release of the 2014 Mark Bessenger film "The Last Straight Man." "Man" is much more revealing than "Confessions" both visually and in terms of titular breeder boy Cooper meeting up with his boi Lewis once a year for a night of passion. Suffice it to say, ample proof exists that Bessenger knows that of which he films and writes.
"Man" opens with the hotel suite bachelor party for Cooper on the night before his wedding to a woman; Lewis begging off when the stripper offers him a lap dance provides the first clue that he is not like the other boys in attendance.
Things take a stereotypical gay porn turn when Lewis hangs with Mr. Cooper after the party, and the latter prompts the two of them watching gay porn. A game of truth in which the dares come later further bring newly admitted biboy Lewis (who tells a tale that deserves a place in "Confessions") and clearly curious Cooper closer to the climax of the evening.
A good time being held by all leads to our stars meeting in the same suite every year for a night in which the boys catch up, reveal more about each other, and Cooper increases his knowledge of the joys of gay sex. The latter is fully in line with the theory that every man who has sex with another man has a "gay age" that reflect the timing and degree of his experience in that area. Suffice it to say this time, an off-screen scene in which Lewis guides Cooper through having an enema is one of the most amusing in this highly entertaining film.
Bessenger expertly combines the erotic, the pornographic (suffice it to say that Lewis portrayor Mark Cirillo speaks softly and carries a big stick), the serious, and the silly. Our characters awesomely address this in a scene in which retail store owner Cooper suggests that romance novelist Lewis base a book on their story, and Lewis responds that that plot is better suited to a melodramatic play or a movie.
On a larger level, Bessenger awesomely presents issues of the Kinsey scale of sexuality, the related complicated aspects of feeling love for another man while being far enough at the gay end of that scale to have sex withhim but not far enough to abandon a heterosexual life style to be with him, and denying happiness for what you think is the greater good.
Having characters who are past their doe-eye days further adds substance to this story far beyond it being one in which Lewis lusts after Cooper based on high school showers and Saturday night sleepovers only to have a hairless emo Cooper bring him to Heaven only to later break his heart. Our heroes are big boys in every sense of the word and have spent enough time on the street corner to know the score even if they will not admit it to themselves.
The special features include (what surely are terrific) interviews and deleted scenes.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Man" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,
Discovering the exceptional in every way 1971-72 24-episode Western dramedy "Nichols" through the recent Warner Archive complete series DVD reveal is an ideal example of the awesome surprises that make reviewing DVDs worthwhile.
No surprise exists regarding the multiple clever concepts of this show luring James Garner, who plays a highly reluctant indentured local sheriff who sorely needs all the support that he can get, back to television after making "The Great Escape" and many other films in the nine years following his lengthy run on the classic Western "Maverick."
Series creator and writer Frank R. Pierson, who won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for "Dog Day Afternoon," came up with the perfect show for the era in which the networks were transitioning from rural comedies, such as "Green Acres" and "The Andy Griffith Show," and traditional Westerns to more urban and modern-issue oriented programs.
Pierson sets Nichols in the fictional border town of Nichols, Arizona in 1914. The opening credits scene in which a motorcycle rider comes up on the heels of a man on horseback is the perfect image of this era in which horseless carriages are just beginning to overtake the more traditional ones. Further, this final frontier of the continental United States has the modern amenities of telephone service and electricity. These changes additionally prompt many townspeople to desire a more civilized way of life than they led in the era before those luxuries.
Garner plays Nichols the man, who is from the once prominent family for which the town is named. Nichols is an Army officer when we meet him; becoming weary of Army life in general and warfare specifically prompt him to retire with dreams of living the good life where his family enjoys at least the same prestige as much of Massachusetts still grants the Kennedys.
The harsh reality that greets Nichols is that his family's fortunes and its members have both vanished. Things rapidly go from bad to worse when obtaining a debt that he cannot repay forces Nichols to become the town's sheriff in much the same way that repaying funding for medical school requires that "Northern Exposure" character Dr. Joel Fleishman spends several years treating the oddball citizens of Cicely, Alaska roughly 20 years after "Nichols" airs.
Also, like Fleishman, Nichols continues amassing the debt that makes him the town's indentured civil servant. "Nichols" not lasting long enough for that character to work out that period of servitude will disappoint everyone who watches this awesome rarely-seen series.
In an apparently intentional nod to another great CBS series, Nichols takes a cue from Sheriff Andy Taylor of "Griffith" in refusing to carry a gun. The difference is that Nichols is more cynical than Taylor in reasoning that he will feel obliged to use a gun if he carries one and does not consider very much to be worth killing for.
The great supporting cast also adds to "Nichols" appeal; Margot Kidder of the '70s and '80s "Superman" films does a great job playing free-spirited wild-haired crazy-eyed barmaid Ruth decades before Kidder temporarily went feral.
The playful flirtation/friendship between Ruth and Nichols is a great element of "Nichols," and a scene between them in the pilot is one of the series' best moments. Ruth asks Nichols if he can think of a way for a woman to earn a living in 1914 other than being a nurse or a teacher. Nichols responds by flashing Garner's trademark awesome smile and asking "legally?"
It is also fun to see Stuart Margolin, who plays the sleazy opportunist/lead character's good buddy Angel on Garner's later series "The Rockford Files," as sleazy opportunist/lead character's good buddy Mitchell on "Nichols."
Original "Dallas'" John Beck plays wealthy landowner/idiot and Nichols adversary Ketcham. The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, provides a good sense both of the Ketcham/Nichols relationship and the series' overall style.
Accomplished character actor Neva Patterson keeps Ketcham in line as his mother, who makes Granny of "The Beverly Hillbillies" look like a even-tempered Daughter of the American Revolution. Her chemistry with Nichols is the best of any character, and one of their many shining moments involves him asking Ma Ketcham if her visiting daughter who she wants him to meet is as much woman as Ma is.
The conflict mixed with mutual regard that characterizes the Nichols/Ma Ketcham relationship takes center stage in one of the series' best episodes, which also involves "Nichols'" common theme of white man/Indian (there was no such thing as native Americans in 1914 or even 1971) relations.
Early in the episode, Ma Ketcham forces Nichols to evict a man from his home and take most of his worldly possessions to help satisfy a debt that the man owes her. Ma Ketcham's response to Nichols' objections to taking the little that the man has to pay his wealthy creditor is that "business is business."
Nichols soon meeting an obviously well-educated Indian who most white men still view as an uneducated savage provides a chance for revenge. This man enlists Nichols' assistance evicting the Ketchams from land that the man states that the federal government granted his grandfather as a reward for serving as an indian scout. Nichols' response to Ma Ketcham's objections is that "the law is the law."
The scene in that episode in which Nichols and Ma Ketcham try negotiating a settlement that will avoid bloodshed is "must-see;" the episode's conclusion is even better.
Another good episode with a similar theme involves an Indian man hunting a deer two weeks before the hunting season begins. the younger Ketcham's motives for seeking to enforce that law include a desire to shoot that particular deer himself. This effort to ensure that "the buck stops here" (of course pun intended) raises issues related to the conflicts between white man's and indian's laws and their incredibly different views toward nature.
Despite heavy competition from actors such as M. Emmett Walsh and "M*A*S*H's" William Christopher, character actor Lou Wagner earns the award for best guest star on "Nichols." His awesome portrayal of a quirky and psychotic mass murderer utilizes the same highly entertaining oddball nature as Wagner brings to his largely silent role in the personal all-time favorite family comedy "Hello Down There."
The aptly named on many levels series' finale "All in the Family" is a perfect one for ending "Nichols" run if only for its shocking developments and being a textbook example of an episode that can serve as a season or series finale. This one opens with a confrontation between Nichols and one of the most ruthless adversaries that he faces in the series' 24 episodes.
The pre-opening credits segment ends with the fatal shooting of a main character, the first scene after those credits will create chills for Garner fans, the penultimate scene is somewhat predictable but still awesome, and the final scene brings the series full circle and pays homage to all great Westerns.
The "High Noon" conclusion regarding "Nichols" is that it truly has something for everything and is exactly the type of rarity that utilizes DVD technology well.
'Night of the Living Dead' Blu-ray: 50th Anniversary of Classic Commentary on Cold War and Race Paranoia
Mill Creek Entertainment awesomely gets into the Halloween spirit by following the (reviewed) September 26, 2017 Steelbook Blu-ray and DVD release of the (newly remade) 1990 Joel Schumacher thriller "Flatliners" with the October 3, 2017 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of the George A. Romero horror classic "Night of the Living Dead." The "Dead" release, which is the first U.S. Blu-ray version of this film, comes one day shy of the anniversary of the theatrical release of the film.
The outer layer regarding "Dead" is that it arguably is the best and most enduring zombie movie ever. The black-and-white cinematography (which looks great in Blu-ray) and solid pulp horror acting by the ensemble and the extras succeed in making these slow-moving respiratory-impaired monsters menacing. Further they seem to have more dexterity and individual physical strength than their walking dead descendants.
Seeing siblings John and Barbara arguing in their car while at the cemetery to visit the grave of their father evokes strong thoughts of a similar scene at the beginning of the musical-comedy horror spoof "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." A related creepy element is that John arrogantly complaining, Barbara trying to placate him, and the nature of their relationship being ambiguous for the first several minutes of "Dead" makes it just as likely that the couple is related by marriage as it is that they are blood kin.
This leads to the next horror cliche of a still-arrogant John trying to scare Barbara only to end up as the appetizer in what the zombies hope is a smorgasbord.
Barbara subsequently fleeing in terror sets the action discussed below in motion.
The next layer is an awesome vibe regarding the original "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. That one esalates national terror as an initially unidentifiable threat in a rural community builds as it is discovered that space aliens have come to conquer us. Romero pays homage to this both in setting most of the action in an isolated farmhouse far from the city and in having radio and television broadcasts provide exposition. This nod to the past continues both with having scientists in on the action and in tying the zombie outbreak with an outer space threat.
Going a little deeper, "Dead" blatantly reflects the Cold War paranoia of the era. The small group of survivors under siege in the aforementioned home both effectively are trying to ward off fallout victims and fear what they view as an invasion from a Soviet-style enemy that literally could include friends and neighbors.
Pretty young blonde Barbara is suffering from PTSD and spends much of the film looking terrified and fearing that the enemy is going break in any moment.
Even more symbolically, white middle-aged family guy Harry insists on barricading his wife and young daughter in the basement until the threat subsides. Those of us in the know predict early on that that course of action adds a touch of the '60s youth movement to "Dead."
Thirty year-old black man Ben is an equally symbolic character. He knows that hiding in the basement does not work and advocates peaceful resistance. One of the most distressing scenes has Harry literally slam the door in his face just after Ben attempts a daring mission.
The fate of Ben is a sad commentary on the lack of progress in the half-century since the release of "Dead." Recent real-life events prompt what is hoped to be an early cynical guess regarding the fate of this character only to have that prediction tragically come true.
Romero further deserves credit for showing that making a good horror movie with a message only requires decent actors, a stable of extras who can shuffle and groan, and a disposable house.