The Cinema Libre separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the aptly titled 2018 highly realistic French drama "At War" once again proves that Euro cinema surpasses Hollywood in both substance and style. This timely and relevant portrayal of an white-hot labor dispute at a French auto plant hits close to home in both Europe and North America. Candor requires 'fessing up to thinking the film is "live," rather than "Memorex," on watching it.
The accolades for this clever mockumentary include the Best Screenplay award at the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival and the Best Film honor at the 2018 Palic Film Festival.
This "ripped from international headlines" fictional tale centers around Perrin Industries closing down its auto plant in a small French community two years after agreeing with the 1,100 workers to not close down the plant for five years in exchange for major concessions that include working some hours without pay and for forgoing traditional hours. The stated justifications for the closure include that the minimally profitable plant does not allow Perrin to remain competitive.
The ensuing battle in which plant union official Laurent Amedeo leads the campaign to get the attention (and the support) of the French government and of German CEO Martin Hauser is reminiscent of the Michael Moore documentary "Roger and Me" about the closure of a Michigan auto plant.
The similarities between "War" and "Roger" extend to footage of the "hero" effectively staging a sit-in after stonewalled efforts to meet with the big boss. We also get the ensuing strong-arm tactics to oust the interloper.
The comparisons extend to truths that relate to life in general. The first one is that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda. The other is that there is your story, the story of the other guy, and the truth.
Both Moore and "War" filmmaker Stephane Brize are highly biased as to portraying the workers as the good guy victims; no reasonable person can deny that they are sympathetic and face a tough immediate future.
The presentation of Brize (possibly purposefully) provides some sympathy for the devil; this compassion is inadequate.
The hypothetical "reasonable man" (or woman) should realize that no rational company disregards the impact of a plant closure on the employees. Further, very few could argue that any manufacturing industry in Europe or North America is thriving. Perrin additionally deserves the benefit of the doubt as to having good faith when entering the underlying bargain two years earlier.
Our hypothetical analytical thinker also should feel the pain of management when labor fails to grasp that more than 10 million Euros in concessions by the workers during the past two years did not go in the pockets of the executives; those saving went toward keeping prices competitive for the buyers of the goods that the plant produced.
The same figuratively blind anger behind the waived income prevents the workers from understanding the duty of the management to the shareholders. The bottom line is that poor profits and reduced stock prices harm management and labor alike by lowering the amount of invested capital in the corporation.
The workers have a slightly stronger case as to the high salaries of executives and those chats grosse getting raises while the workers are on the brink of poverty. Although one must understand that the demand for a world-class CEO keeps salaries in the stratosphere, it is hard to grasp that the expertise and the management skills of any individual are worth compensation that translates to $100s (if not $1,000s) an hour.
An extreme (but relatable) example of obscene CEO compensation is a Google search while writing this post revealing that Jeff Bezos earns $1.5 billion a WEEK while subjecting the customers who foot that bill to horrific overseas customer-service centers and arguably underpaying his warehouse staff. This is not to mention indirectly shaking down taxpayers by demanding major concessions to open new Amazon facilities in communities.
Another aspect of "War" is the striking workers not comprehending the role of the national government as to their plight. The sincere statements of a high-level official that the president of France feels their pain and is their advocate largely falls on deaf ears. The same is true as to that civil servant trying to get Team Laurent to understand that even the guy sitting in the French equivalent of the Oval Office cannot force Perrin to keep the plant open, a French court to reverse a decision for the corporation, or Hauser to meet with them.
All of this occurs among confrontations with outside groups, the "suits," and among the union officials.
All of the above shows that documentary vibe of "War" includes provoking as much thought and debate as well-produced films from the non-fiction genre. One can argue that artificially high labor costs and the related expense of complying with possibly undue government regulation is at the root of the problem; on the other hand, no one can deny that maximizing profits is a high priority for most businesses.
Breaking Glass Pictures once more goes where many men fail to measure up as to supplementing its DVD release of the (reviewed) 2017 Gerald McCullouch documentary "All Male All Nude" with the recent DVD release of the "exclusive uncensored version" of the 2019 McCulloch documentary "All Male All Nude Johnsons." One spoiler regarding the sequel is that the Johnsons club in Fort Lauderdale adjacent Wilton Manors is all male but only mostly nude; McCulloch compensates with copious footage from "Nude" and with scenes that show some Johnsons boys completely out of their Levis.
The following aptly named Breaking "teaser trailer" for "Johnsons" offers a glimpse of the nice boys who work hard for the money that dispel the stereotypes of male strippers; we also get several looks at the packages that they deliver. Not much may come between them and their Calvins, but many patrons make their best effort.
The common elements of "Nude" and "Johnsons" extend beyond the general subject matter. Both films center around professional bodybuilder Matt Colunga, who asserts that he requires a knee-high "sock" when required to stop just short of going Full Monty.
We meet male strip-club veteran Colunga in "Nude." This man who has done (and shown) it all at "Nude" subject Swinging Richards in Atlanta now is the owner/manager/public face/mentor of Johnsons. He truly looks out for the boys on the stage and in the audience. The former fully comes through in requiring dancers to pass a breathalyzer before leaving work.
We hear from plenty of the performers as to their financial motivations to put their money makers to work; no one can argue that those who have it would rather make as much flaunting it for a few hours than earn the same amount in one week at a McJob.
The rude awakening as to the aforementioned spectators is that the boys are just doing their job. They only pretend to be interested in our lives in hopes of liberating our bills from our pants; folks who hope to pull something else from their jeans will be disappointed. An amusing aspect of this is a scene in which we see how a boy who looks as if he may have a roll of quarters in his working clothes uses that state as a "seduction" technique.
The real star of "Johnsons" is 26 year-old Alexander, who spends his days entertaining at children's parties dressed as fanboy characters and his nights entertaining the dads at Johnsons. It is highly likely that watching Alexander make superhero-style costume changes in parking lots in broad daylight and do back flips in a skintight Spider-man suit will cause some viewers to shoot a sticky white substance out of their personal web slingers.
A more generally amusing aspect of this is the "Z Rock" pattern of some wannabe American Idols playing toddler events during the day and dive bars at night. Former Del Fuego (and Kitchenette) Dan Zanes now being a kiddie singer is a prime example of having the best of both worlds.
We also get a look at the business end of things that include the bureaucratic battle that Colunga endures just to open his club. We also see that no good deed goes unpunished and that some people can be not-so swinging Richards. It is reasonable to speculate that some naysyaers have left Johnsons blue in a part of their anatomy other than their faces.
"Nude" and "Johnsons" reflect the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational; the nature of the subject makes it difficult for the insights to equal the prurient enjoyment. We do learn that many male strippers are nice guys who reasonably utilize their good looks and other blessings as a shortcut to a better life. The fun that they have along the way is a bonus for both them and their biggest and more average fans.
The DVD bonus features include videos by Corey Tut.
The starting point of this latest in an ongoing series of articles on the unique aspects of regular visits to the modernized historic Exeter Inn in Exeter, NH is intense anticipation for this return in October 2019 prompting an almost uncontrollable impulse to inquire about arriving a week early. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder as to this refuge from this filthy world.
The genesis of this visit is an increasingly relevant emotional rescue in April 2019. A staycation at a nearby property that still has favored nation status had been repeatedly marred in ways that reflect the theme of this current essay, That equally historic property, which is independently owned but affiliated with a certain Mormon-owned global chain, remains highly desirable and overall unique but glacially is becoming a victim of "elder" abuse.
Sadly, like all mistreated "children," the ability of the other still-grand hotel to offset the "sins of the father" is limited. A "back-breaking" straw having NOTHING to do with that hotel on the last day of that stay led to a strong desire to not spend the final night there.
Several factors prompted not wanting to drive home under a figurative cloud that was as dark as the ones in the sky. The first hotel very graciously agreed to not charge me for that night if I left that afternoon.
Calling Inn manager/professional friend Derek Hunt resulted in getting a distressed friends rate for the fabulous Jacuzzi suite. Derek smiling and handing me a bottle of French wine on his desk (as well as personally going to the bar to get me a glass) on my seeing him to thank him nicely contributed to the sense that I was not in Utah that day.
The following photos of the suite help convey this euphoric blend of glee and bliss. The traditional furnishing convey that mother knows best in advising that a purple couch looks cool but soon leads to buyer's remorse.
That experience prompted booking the Jacuzzi Suite for the October visit before even going to the suite, Highlights of that stay included being warm and dry while wet sloppy April snow fell outside, and Bobby Bradying the Jacuzzi by filling it with tons of bubbles. (The non-corporate feel of the Inn extends to no announced plans to replace bottles of amenities with the bargain-gym style soap dispensers that are the latter-day norm.)
As Inn Credible New England posts mention almost as frequently as referring to the perpetually packed duffel, driving a couple of hours to get to a whole new world is much more pleasant than enduring the discomfort and high expense of flying, Even paying the full rate for the Jacuzzi Suite (or slightly less for other luxurious accommodations at the Exeter Inn) is much less expensive than airport transportation, airfare, and a cookie-cutter room at a corporate hotel. This is not to mention the ease with which you can fill your vehicle with the comforts of home.
Both Derek (who has a very liberal open-door policy) and the desk clerk were very nice and welcoming. Walking into the Jacuzzi Suite truly felt like coming home again.
Personal touches this time included easily hooking up a personal Blu-ray player (using a power strip from the duffel) to the living room television and plugging in an unnecessary white-noise machine in the bedroom. Of course, the Jacuzzi was getting filled during the unpacking process.
The avoided storm that time was a nor'easter/borderline bomb cyclone that did not so much as rattle a window.
Watching Derek and his clerks staff the desk further contributed to the sense of classic hospitality that begins with every reservation call coming to the hotel switchboard.
Hanging out in the parlor-style lobby while Derek very patiently dealt with a last-minute reservation that both tried to get him to accept a comically low online rate for an upgraded room illustrated the skill of this literal Southern gentleman. Virtually no one else would have offered the upgrades that Derek did for the price that he quoted.
All of this is in keeping (no pun intended) with the small-town setting of this oasis next to top-tier prep school Exeter Academy. There are plenty of nearby opportunities to walk in the woods or the beach, shop in independent bookstores or gift shops that feature local items, or feast at reasonably priced restaurants that offer cuisines from around the world, In this case, it is good that all of this is nothing like home,
The Icarus Films recent DVD release of the 2017 truly labor of love documentary "The Other Side of Everything" put a very personal face on the decades of turmoil that have plagued Belgrade, Filmmaker Mila Turajlic interviews her mother, who is political activist and retired professor Srbijanka Turajlic.
The accolades for this kinder and gentler version of classic shut-in documentary "Grey Gardens" include a Best Documentary award at the 2017 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival and a Best Director win at the RiverRun International Film Festival.
The strong historical drama vibe of "Side" begins with opening scenes of Srbijanka trying to open a recently rediscovered interior door in her dated and shadowy (but very clean) Belgrade apartment. This lead to Srbijanka discussing being a child living in that space in the building that her parents owned when the Communists took over.
This woman who has seen Belgrade repeatedly experience massive changes during several decades tells of a party official knocking on the door during the adolescence of Srbijanka to announce that the family now must live in very tight quarters. We also hear the tale of an effort to get the bureaucracy to allow the family to retain a slightly larger portion of their own property,
An especially creepy aspect of this is hearing Srbijanka reminisce about hearing but not seeing the other families that are uninvited residents of her family home.
We also get a sense of the aforementioned activism of Srbijanka, which includes her reaction to Sloboban Milosevic. A heart-rending aspect of the national politics is the story of some voters being denied the option of declaring their nationality.
The climax of the film is the highly symbolic opening of the door to the past; we get a literal view of how the other half lives. For her part, Srbijanka is reminded of long forgotten aspects of her life before everything changes.
The bigger picture is that "Side" shows that life does go on and that it often does not matter who is in charge.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2011 Danish drama "Room 304" facilitates North American cinephiles watching a recent (and great) addition to the drama (and comedy) subgenre of movies and television series that center around the lives and loves of hotel guests and staff, These range from the Greta Garbo film "Grand Hotel" to the Aaron Spelling '80s series "Hotel."
The following YouTube clip of the Movement trailer for "Room" aptly showcases the haunting atmospheric tone of the film.
The opening narration sets the proper mood for this engrossing dark drama by noting that the guests who laugh in a room may be staying in the same space where someone cried the previous night. "Room" further demonstrates its art-house cred. by following the modern indie film practice of often shifting the action between the present and the past in a manner that leads to a present climax.
The film centers around Kasper the adulterous hotel manager. We know early on that he uses his place of employment for nooners and that his partner-in-crime is Nina. We learn throughout "Room" that Kasper is dipping his pen in company ink and later discover the extent to which his relationship with Nina is complicated. An aspect of this is the depth to which we get in the mind of Kasper.
We also get Spanish stewardess Teresa, who takes a personal impromptu layover at the hotel in an effort to get her groove back. The manner in which her booty call with Mr. Right Now goes south provides one of the more alarming and compelling scenes in "Room." This encounter also provides a cautionary tale for those of us who fantasize about a hotel bar pick-up.
Sour and socially awkward but efficient desk clerk Martin is the most interesting member of this cast of characters. His response to being directed to smile more is hilarious.
We additionally get an Albanian couple who work at the hotel; their story involves the standard tale of the arrival of a guest with whom they have a past.
The two Filipino maids who serve as a Greek chorus round out the group. These young women additionally make frequent and infrequent travelers think about who cleans their rooms.
The filmmakers do an excellent job connecting all the dots in this maze; the audience further gets the delight of discovering how the glimpses of "Christmas yet to be" relate to visions of "Christmas present" that come later in the film.
As mentioned above, Kasper provides the common thread throughout these varying degrees of separation. This tortured soul further drives the complex web.
Although "Room' succeeds regarding its objective to prompt hotel guests to think about the history of their chamber, the film also touches on the larger picture of general privacy at hotels. You should assume that you are being filmed in public areas, but there is a history of real and reel reports of things such as cameras in hotel room televisions.
A personal philosophy regarding the latter is that adults know what goes on behind closed doors, and that someone who is watched engaging in any form of that activity should be comfortable in knowing that he or she is not acting in a shameful manner. The same cannot be said if the closed door is part of an elevator or a hotel linen closet.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.]
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Archive aptly team up to respectively release the first season of the Hulu 2019 "Veronica Mars" reboot of the 2004-07 CW series of the same name on DVD and Blu-ray. WBHE is the home of the latest and greatest Warner Bros programs, and the Archive catalog has the proverbial vast array of home-video releases of the best recent and not-so-recent series from the Warner studios.
The original concept of "Mars" is that the titular middle-class teen helps her private-investigator father with cases that frequently involve the one-percenter residents of their oceanfront resort community of Neptune, California. Much of the OS relates to a crime that transforms our live-action Daria/Buffy hybrid from a member of the in-crowd to an outcast.
The following trailer for the new "Mars" season highlights the wonderfully quirky tone and clever humor of this cult classic; it also reinforces that cast and crew have brought these characters back for enjoyment of the fans, rather than as a "willfully" ego project for the stars.
Our story begins with Veronica (Kristen Bell of "Frozen," "House of Lies," and "The Good Place") proving that you sort of can go home again. Veronica is working a typical case for a divorced real housewife of Neptune, who is being gaslighted by her ex-husband. The hilarious ways that our now 30-something Nancy Drew gets revenge on both her client and the man who dun her wrong reminds old-school fans of the justifiable general contempt that Veronica has for both men and for the rich and often famous.,
Meanwhile, not-so-gracefully aging Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni of "Just Shoot Me") is helping a struggling independent grocer foil a particularly insidious plot to drive away his customers.
The chemistry between Keith and Veronica and the still sharp writing of show creator/runner Rob Thomas alone make another trip to "Mars" well worthwhile.
One of the best scenes in any of the eight episodes establishes in the first offering that Veronica is shacking up with former classmate Logan Echolls, who is much more mature and even buffer than in his younger days. Logan is freshly back (and barely decent) from his latest stint playing Captain America at a global hot spot when Veronica "entices" him in front of drooling girls (and likely some boys) to help her more a large appliance.
The central event of a fatal bombing at a motel during Spring Break both drives most of the action and provides a context for numerous familiar faces to reappear. This group literally and figuratively runs the spectrum from the good, to the bad, to the ugly.
The nature of the crime creates almost endless possibilities regarding both whodunit and whydunit. Conclusions regarding which victim is the intended target, rather than collateral damage, change just as frequently as the certainty regarding the discovery of the smoking gun.
The central casting types include the beleagured motel owner and his daughter, the "hound" fratboy who is not above Cosbying the current object of his something that rhymes with affection, the genius nerd, the rich boy from the nationally prominent family and his "not our type" financee, and the nephew of a Mexican drug lord,
Subsequent attacks further complicate matters.
A strong "snobs v. slobs" element is pure "Mars." The small business owners and their employees heavily rely on Spring Break to pay their bills the rest of the years are actively fighting an organized group headed by one of he aforementioned "old friends" and his new "business acquaintance" that he met during an unfortunate incarceration. The "haves" are trying to rid the city of every undesirable element.
One spoiler is that good old-fashioned detective work drives the pursuit of justice; another spoiler is that great-great-grandfather of all consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes is vindicated in that the solution reflects the principle that once the impossible is fully eliminated the answer must be the (sometime improbable) remaining alternative. All of this ties to the broader reality that there is you story, my story, and the truth.
Investigative team Mystery, Inc. is represented in the form of one or more clues that seem insignificant ultimately lead to the culprit realizing that he would have gotten away with it but for one of our favorite meddling kids.
WBHE and Archive supplement this with a feature on the "Mars" 2019 Comic Con panel that is a sort of a homecoming. Seeing cast and crew express the mutual love that comes across is awesome; attempted humor by interrupting this presentation with reaction clips from the new season is less of a treat.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 Irish horror movie "Red Room" shows that former films about imprisoning 20-something women have barely broken the surface regarding the potential for the depth of depravity regarding this sub-genre. The essential theme is that the lasses who are guests of the state of terror stay chained up and brutalized as they await their close-up in the titular chamber.
The accolades for this creative success include Best Independent Feature Film and Special Jury Prize honors at the 2017 Underground Cinema Film Festival Awards.
"Room" centers around a single mother who pays a heavy price for a rare indulgence of her girls just wanna have fun side. This also relates to her learning that Mother does not always know best in that our future web star allows Gran to convince her to spend an evening at a club 10 minutes from their home.
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, our new parent bends down to pick up an apparently lost mobile phone that is ringing on the ground in front of a white-panel van. This leads to the inevitable.
On arriving, the new girl meets her chum. The orientation includes a recitation of "Fight Club" rules.Of course, each guideline gets violated during the film.
The audience soon leans both that this for-profit and perverse fun enterprise is a father-son operation with Father (and Mother) remotely calling the shots and Son running a small crew from the house that serves as an operations center. The rest of the story is that the dark webmaster is a slave to his work.
An inventory control problem coinciding with an expansion of the business in a manner that should be a cautionary tale to every annoying toddler out there combine to make things a bad day at the office for father and son alike. One lesson here is that good help is hard to find.
Much of the appeal of "Room" relates to perverse pleasure associated with seeing how deranged some seemingly average people are and discovering the callous viciousness regarding the behavior of folks who are willing to meet the need of that segment of the public.
The copious DVD special features include behind-the-scenes interviews and a deleted scene that is roughly the same length as a typical Bugs Bunny short.
The Virgil Films DVD release of the 2018 documentary "The Coolest Guy Movie Ever: Return to the Scene of 'The Great Escape'" continues the Virgil celebration of Bro Cinema.
This "True Hollywood Story" presentation of "Escape" is filmed at the German locations of the 1963 John Sturges directed tale of Steve "King of Cool" McQueen and other A-List macho men of the era planning a massive escape from the P.O.W. camp where they are guests of der Fuhrer.
The other aforementioned documentaries about guy flicks include the Virgil 2016 DVD of (the reviewed) "Outatime" about volunteers restoring the DeLorean from the "Back to the Future." The (also reviewed) 2018 Virgil title "I Am Paul Walker" celebrates the life of that deceased "Fast and Furious" franchise star. That one shows how Walker can be considered the modern McQueen.
The following YouTube clip of a promo. for "Coolest" honors the bro code of the film by taking less than two minutes to provide a strong sense of the theme and the style of the documentary.
Our host is Haynes portrayor Lawrence Montaigne; he explains early on that creating diversions is the raison d'etre of his character.
The quest to relive the past begins with a search for the location of the camp; the leave only footprints philosophy of the shoot hinders this in that permission to cut down hundreds of trees in The Black Forest is conditioned on a fulfilled promise to plant two trees for each that is removed. The current trees and vintage production photos help pinpoint this setting,
Other pictures and memories of locals help identify background locations. Prominent ones include the spot where the McQueen character strings a wire across a road to cause a German soldier to crash a motorcycle. Hearing from the stuntman who takes that fall contributes a nice perspective to "Coolest." We also see the field where McQueen makes his iconic jump and the train station where the Nazis obtain a small victory.
The copious "behind-the-scenes" stories extend beyond modern recollections to archival interviews with McQueen and co-stars James Coburn and James Garner. We learn from locals which of these men embraces the fandom and who is more aloof. A man who runs the former barbershop of his father tells the best tale of that contrast.
The keeping it in the family theme includes the current owner of a hotel sharing the registration forms of the stars and Sturges during the ownership of the parents of the man. This tour includes the actual rooms of the Hollywood royalty.
Having a film crew recreate elements of Nazi Germany during a "too soon" period is a particularly interesting aspect of the documentary. One can relate to anger on seeing reminders of that era in an area that does not find any element of The Third Reich at all amusing.
More general information relates to improvisation that limitations require. One of the most amusing stories regarding this is the need for McQueen to play dual roles.
The bigger picture is that "Coolest" speaks to hard-core fans of "Escape" in the way that "Outatime" resonates with dedicated "Future" fans. Both films compensate for the inability of those folks to witness the making of the delectable sausage.
The September 17, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 documentary "The Kids' Table" provides a good chance to watch an amusing old-school style film. This chronicle of four 20-somethings competing in the national bridge championship does for that dying card game what the 2002 documentary "Spellbound" does for the national spelling bee.
A fun aspect of the below trailer for this film about an activity that is tedious to watch and to play except for those who thoroughly enjoy it is that this promo hits most of the best moments in this film that achieves the documentary ideal of being equally entertaining and educational. Director/team captain (and player) Edd Benda makes a great poster boy for this past-its-prime pastime.
"Borrowing" the well-written and concise summary of "Table" from the press materials for the film is in the spirit of one theme of "Table" that younger people do not want to take the time to learn how to play bridge. This seems akin to the adage that chess takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master. That aspect takes the fun out of playing with the "horsie" and the "castle."
The 25-words-or-more take of the official synopsis is "four millennial friends - filmmaker Benda, comedian Monique Thomas, Twitch host Stefanie Woodburn and actor Paul Stanko - bridge novices all, train and compete for a year on the National Bridge Circuit, going behind-the-scenes to better understand the game and its waning popularity. And as the millennials explore the world of competitive Bridge -- where the average age of their opponents is 73 - they discover the highs and lows of card-play, competition, and community while, hopefully, helping to build a strong foundation for the future of the game."
Benda shares his story of learning to play bridge as a child; the others largely seem to be along for the ride. Stanko is the scene-stealer in that he is the weakest link and has limited youthful exuberance for the game. All this makes him the one who seemingly needs the most coaching.
This quartet further entertains as we get caught up in the thrill of their victories and the agonies of their defeats. A high point for the players and the at-home spectators is the nicest kids in town scoring a highly coveted endorsement deal.
Another highlight is a figurative and literal tutorial on the rules of the game; this includes a frustrating electoral-college aspect that relates to the possibility that the team that wins the majority of the 13 rounds in a game still are branded the losers.
Benda additionally introduces us to two young teen boys, who literally are playing with the big boys. These lads charmingly admit their love of the game does not make them BMOCs.
Benda makes going along for the ride great fun and leaves us wanting more for our stars; it also prompts a desire to break out the bridge mix and help revive the game.
Breaking Glass Pictures provides horror fans a missing link regarding the recent DVD release of the 2016 film "Obsidian Curse." A fairly clever concept regarding an evil hex, adequate acting, and decent production values put this one many steps above the student-film quality of many lower-budget blood-and-gore movies.
"Curse" begins with a bit of a non-sequitur. Party girls are living it up while a demon who looks like something out of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series is feasting on a sacrificial lamb.
The action quickly shifts "One Year Later." Ex-con Blair Jensen is freshly sprung from the big house after serving a sentence on a drug charge. Baby daddy Roberto picks her up. His bad news for her is that new wife Yvonne is taking care of their daughter.
Blair having to go beyond being clean-and-sober extends to requiring that she obtain gainful employment. Desperation regarding a need for a job leads to trying to join the underground economy. That results in her obtaining the titular stigmatism, which makes her a babe-eater magnet.
The scene in which Blair meets the first member of her new fan club does a good job with many tried-and-true horror film cliches. A creature reaching out from under the bed and a comforter and sheet being pulled off a sleeping woman provides some sense of this portion of "Curse."
Blair going on the run sets the stage for other creatures of the night trying to get a piece of her; this results in her becoming the captive of an unexpected monster. Good dark and gory humor enters the picture in the form of "for tat" revenge for a betrayal.
All of this comes back somewhat full circle in that assistance comes from an unexpected source; this creates a sense of the lesser of two evils.
The middle-ground approach throughout "Curse" makes it fun for the whole family; you are spared chessy effects and deplorable performances.
The most important point to consider regarding the Film Movement DVD release of the 2018 documentary (which plays like a docudrama) "Over the Limit" is that the appeal of this telling of the tale of Olympic Gold medalist Margarita Mamun extends well beyond sports fans. Pointing out that Variety aptly compares "Limit" to "Black Swan" does not help this case much but illustrates that this is another overcoming adversity story in the same style as "Rocky."
"Limit" being a New York Times Critic's Pick and figuratively earning the Gold at the 2018 Krakow Film Festival further documents the quality of this film for the masses.
The following Movement clip of the official US trailer for "Limit" highlights the intensity of the film and of the central relationship between Magmun and coach Irina Viner. There is NO doubt that a docudrama of this story would NEED to be titled "The Devil Wore Talbots."
Much of "Limit" centers around Magmun either training for competitions leading up to the main event or actually competing. Viner literally is there every step of the way mercilessly berating the gymnast and almost as diligently ensuring that this athlete always stays on her toes. This aspect of "Limit" should make it mandatory reviewing for any parent or "participant" who thinks that a recreation league or school coach is too hard on the kids.
One interesting dynamic is watching the mother of Magmum be good cop to bad cop Viner. This plays out in one of the most notable scenes in "Limit." The two parental figures argue about the allowable level of support that actual Mom can show her little girl.
We also see a friendly rivalry between Magmun and a fellow gymnast; the conflict here is that only one can be the best. This kinder and gentler version of the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan dynamic warrants kneecapping jokes.
Although folks who already are familiar with the tale of Magmun know the end of "Limit" before it begins, seeing how she gets there truly is all the fun. Everyone will cheer for her and feel her agony and her ecstasy.
Movement supplements "Limit" with the bonus 11-minute short "Iron Hands." This "Rocky" story tells the tale of a plucky 12 year-old girl bonding with a groundskeeper with a "history" while the girl does her final training for her tryout for the prestigious traditionally all-boys Chinese youth Olympic weightlifting team. The twice-told moral here is to not judge a book by its cover.
The final commentary regarding this sports-oriented double-feature is that they make particularly good viewing for a quiet weekend afternoon.
Godsend to cult-film fans and pop-culture enthusiasts Virgil Films awesomely provides a glimpse into the world of "anonymous" Internet pranksters by releasing the 2017 documentary "Troll Inc." on DVD. This film looks at the community that does everything from telling the general population most things that the feds try to keep secret, to creating and exposing data breaches, to pulling online pranks simply because they can and because they are hilarious.
The following YouTube clip of a "Troll" trailer provides a glimpse of the equally amusing and (mostly) societally important escapades of central anti-hero Andrew "weev" Auernheimer. We also get a brief sense of his raison d'etre.
Auerheimer being the primary talking head allows obtaining much of the "Troll" information directly from the mouth of the equine. An early gleefully shared tale is of this prankster using a low-tech method to distort the story behind the scandal involving International Monetary Fund executive Dominique Strauss-Khan and a hotel housekeeper.
Even more hilarity relates to the involvement of Auerheimer in the subversive site goatse.cx. This "shock site" delights in containing content that is so sick and perverse that even John Waters likely cringes. A cited (but not shown) example is a man pleasuring himself while seated on a pile of feces,
Much of the focus is on the 2010 data-security issue related to iPad users having 3G service through then-sole provider AT&T. Auerheimer hacking into the Apple system and obtaining the e-mail addresses of the rich and powerful with those devices and that service is behind the feds saying enough regarding this man who already has person-of-interest status. The tale of his prosecution and unfortunate incarceration is the thing of which Hollywood blockbusters are made. One can imagine Zach Galifianakis playing the lead.
We also learn the tale of an exploit that thematically is between the Strauss-Khan incident and the Apple matter. Auerheimer being told of Amazon discriminating against gay-themed material prompts amusing action that ultimately shines light on this policy. The presumed connection between this and a fluctuation in the price of Apple stock demonstrates the potential impact of trolling.
We also extensively hear about a member of The IT Crowd who becomes a good friend of Auerheimer after learning about his activities. Self-described gay-Jewish man Mike Behr shows great loyalty toward his buddy and proves that some people still have a sense of humor in the 2010s. Our boys have an especially funny WTF moment when Auerheimer semi-jokingly accuses his friend of a serious betrayal.
The larger context is that "Troll" conveys the blessing and the curse of the Internet; the convenience of easily getting stuff that we want and being able to largely manage our lives from the couch comes at the price of our private information being vulnerable to folks whose intents are less than pure. Apple god Steve Jobs states it best in saying that there is nothing wrong with providing our information so long as it is done with informed consent.
Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the (reviewed) mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these scifi classics is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of "Ultra" programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Man" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Man" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"ULTRAMAN, a giant alien from the Land of Light in Nebula M78, enters Earth's atmosphere in pursuit of an escaped space monster. In the skies above Japan he accidentally crashes into a Jet VTOL piloted by Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (SSSP), an international research and defense agency that protects the world from monsters and aliens of all shapes and sizes.
To save Hayata, Ultraman merges his life force with the dying human and vows to stay and fight for peace on Earth. Now, whenever the Patrol faces a threat too great for them to handle, Hayata transforms into Ultraman to save the day!
ULTRAMAN was Tsuburaya Productions' first color series, a sci-fi action adventure drama that dominated the ratings during its initial 1966-67 broadcast run in Japan. The show was quickly licensed for release in America, airing in syndication for nearly two decades. Colorful, fast-paced, and packed with memorable heroes, creatures and incredible special effects, ULTRAMAN was the foundation for a phenomena that continues to this day."
Part of the rest of the story is that the Energizer bunny has something that the arguable father of the red power ranger lacks; the latter runs on a battery that only gives him three minutes worth of power.
The pilot of "Man" establishes the aforementioned lore AND reflects the cartoonish influence of "Batman" '66. A group of Japanese campers has the first of two close encounters of the second kind when they see a glowing blue object plunge into the nearby lake.
The incident prompts Hayata to pilot the aforementioned aircraft that looks like it is straight out '60s animation scifi series "The Thunderbirds." This leads to the game-changer mid-air collision,
Ala "Superman" and virtually every other superhero franchise, Ultraman comes on the scene at the eleventh hour and puts right what once went wrong.
The aptly titled second outing "Shoot the Invader" is even more comical; the ET with 'tude this time this a lobster on 'roids who seems to have a common ancestry with '60s superhero Multiman in that he can project several images of himself.
First contact gets off to a hilariously bad start, and things go downhill from there. The gist is that Earth gets a taste of being the planet chosen for the site of a civilization do-over.
"Science Patrol, Move Out" awesomely pays homage to "Q" (and "Godzilla") by having the intrusion of the "civilized" world on the natural one literally awaken a sleeping giant. The literal big bad this time enhances the threat by having very effective camouflage and by feeding on electricity.
Particular relevance this time is MCE releasing "Man" a week after a California electric company purposefully leaves a big chunk of that state in the dark for an extended period in order to achieve a greater good.
All of this lead to the epic 39th episode with a title that is a blatant spoiler. This one hits the trifecta of explaining a broad category of real-life unusual occurrences, having the heroes scramble to protect Earth from a seemingly undefeatable force, and providing sensational in both senses of the word conclusion to the series.
The most cool thing about "Man" is that is shows the beginning stages of the evolution of the "Ultra" franchise. The most cool thing about MCE is that it is making at least the next several stages of that progression coming out in the not-too-distant future.
A spectacular recent stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH) in Manhattan inspired writing about that terrific treat in the same manner that a visit to the aptly named Edgewater Inn in Maine roughly one year ago inspired a "very special" diversion from writing about DVD releases.
This Gotham adventure began with my highly significant other booking a room at the GPH to make "a sort of a homecoming" with college friends special for me. Picking this boutique hotel in a surprisingly quiet corner of New York near Union Square and a couple of stones' throws from Soho reflected my love of B & Bs and not so strong affection for the smelly, noisy, and crowded elements that detract from the 1,000s of wonderful things in New York City.
Both being a boutique hotel and not being part of an even upscale hotel chain results in the GPH providing special hospitality and extra touches that make B & Bs so desirable and that corporate-owned properties seem incapable of providing.
As alluded to above, this makes GPH a very welcoming spot for folks who have a bit more sophistication than the initially naive New York newcomer Gaylord Esterbrook that Jimmy Stewart portrays in the 1940 classic film "No time for comedy" but prefer fresher air and fewer crowds than exist in most parts of New York.
These qualities make the GPH the hotel-of-choice for A-to-Z List celebrities, who also enjoy haunting the Rose Bar in the lobby. Learning of Lindsay Lohan and Selena Gomez separately visiting there inspired joking about whether Hillary Duff has ever been a guest. (Alas, thoughts of visiting Waverly Place came too late to include that destination on the trip.)
The GPH experience commences with one of the "nice young men" who are stationed out front warmly greeting you and bringing your luggage to the very welcoming lobby.
The limited outside noises and smells of the upscale neighborhood completely disappear in this space with enough dark wood, stones (including a large fireplace), and dark velvet upholstered furniture to evoke thoughts of a perfectly preserved castle. There is also quiet background music and a nice spa-quality scent.
The greeting that Joe provided at the well-staffed front desk was so warm that learning that our room was not ready was not at all annoying. Immediately being asked for a cell number to call when the room was ready and having a bellman standing by to store our luggage in the interim further validated this choice of hotel.
The awesome hospitality continued with a "double upgrade" from the reserved Gramercy Queen Room to the indescribably wonderful 750 square-foot Park View Premier Suite, which is twice the size of many New York City apartments. This upgrade definitely is worth the additional cost.
The nearly sound-proof quality of the suite competed with the elegant furnishings, art from the famous Warhol-centric collection of the GPH, and oodles of extras for status of favorite feature. A very comfy spa robe/slipper set, an extraordinary secondary shower head that came to be known as the "bidet nozzle," and fabled Aesop brand amenities contributed a nice spa-like sensibility to the lodgings.
The heavy velvet curtains and French doors with thick glass that separated the bedroom and living room areas of the suite allowed watching DVD episodes of the "Doctor Who" spin-off "K9" without disturbing the nap of said significant other. (On a related note, three seems to be the tolerance level regarding responding to inquiries with the "K9" catchphrase "affirmative" in a robotic dog voice.)
This suite offered the additional benefit of a perfect view of the very serene Gramercy Park itself, use of which is limited to residents of the neighborhood and guests of GPH.
An unexpected "wacky sitcom" style treat regarding the park came early in the visit. On going to the front desk to ask a question, I overheard a woman and Joe discussing the availability of a higher-level room in the "four" tier of the hotel.
On hearing Joe state that all those rooms were occupied, I joined the conversation by stating that I was staying in 1104 and would help if I could. Joe then introduced the woman as "the mayor of Gramercy Park."
The name of the woman was Arlene Harrison, and she was the president of the amazingly active and effective Gramercy Park Block Association. She told me that her objective was getting good photos of the park in bloom.
Harrison was gracious and appreciative when I offered to let her in the room to take the photos. (Attempted humor in stating "yeah, right" when Harrison commented that I must be a New Yorker because I was so friendly fell flat.)
The aforementioned "wacky" events prevented Harrison from coming up for the photos. I subsequently learned that weather conditions turned out to be less than optimal for the photos anyway.
Returning to the room on Saturday night to find turn-down service that included refreshed supplies of the aforementioned uber-awesome Aesop amenities and a softly burning candle added to the enjoyment of the stay.
This terrific weekend further included a tasty Italian dinner at Maialino in the hotel lobby. The decor was quite nice, but background music and more subtle lighting would have been nice touches.
Our respective entrees of cod and pasta with pesto were well-prepared and flavorful. Further, we appreciated that our server advised us when ordering that the pasta required a little extra time.
The chocolate croissant bread pudding with hazelnut gelato was slightly disappointing. The bread pudding was less rich than the traditional form of that treat, and the gelato had the almost certainly related flaws of being more creamy and lacking as strong a flavor as true gelato. The fact that the flavor became a little sharper after several minutes suggested as well that the gelato was not being stored at an ideal temperature.
The GPH passed a couple of checkout-related tests on Monday morning. The clerk politely resolved a billing dispute in our favor, and we learned on contacting the hotel regarding a forgotten personal item that the hotel already mailed it to us.
All of this boils down to the GPH being the perfect choice for NYC visitors who want a conveniently located ideal oasis after enduring the smells, noise, and crowds of that metropolis to enjoy the scads o' well-known and lesser-known treats that more than offset those unpleasant experiences.
Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the (reviewed) follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these series is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them out to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Q" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Q" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions. The first production under his new label was ULTRA Q, a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.
The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai, Ultraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan. These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future Ultraman shows and movies.
One of the most expensive TV programs produced in Japan up to that time, ULTRA Q was a ratings smash that paved the way for Tsuburaya Productions' first color series... ULTRAMAN!"
A "True Tokyo Story" aspect of "Q" from the aforementioned booklet is sure to delight at least one teen Swedish girl. We learn that the original title of this series is "Unbalance" and that it is intended to show how Mother Nature fights back when man disrupts the balance between the natural and the industrialized worlds.
On a more relatable note to mainstream North American audiences, "Q" evokes strong thoughts of the original "Twilight Zone" and the (black-and-white) first season of "Lost In Space" before the influence of "Batman" '66 makes the latter far brighter and more campy. This element of east meets west extends beyond all three series including exposition (and context) providing narration.
The look and tone of "Q" is very similar to that of "Zone" and "Space." The production techniques show that Irwin Allen of "Space" fame and his brother from another continent Tsuburaya are of one mind.
The aptly titled "Defeat Gomess" starts "Q" on a terrific note that reflects a timely "television killed the movie star" vibe by having a well-executed "Godzilla" theme. This story begins with construction of a train tunnel giving the titular beast both a rude awakening and an exit strategy.
This adventure includes a "little child" shall lead them element that is prominent in "Q" and "Man." A young boy takes an "it takes a Klingon to defeat a Klingon" attitude by being instrumental in inviting the arch-foe of Gomess to the party. The rest is pure scifi history.
Speaking of "Trek," "Q" (no relation) regularly having a boy hero seems to inspire a prominent feature in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of countless expressions of intense disdain for prodigy Wesley Crusher prompted a friend to agree but note that Wesley allows tween boys to fantasize about being respected members of the Enterprise crew.
"Q" next takes a wonderfully goofy turn in "Goro and Goro." This one has a monkey whisperer do his thing when a science experiment gone awry causes a simian to become a (non-grape) great ape, The humanitarian outcome is a nice alternative to having the "monster" plummet from a skyscraper.
The ironically titled "Gift From Space" has our not-so-favorite Martians respond to rocket scientists boldly going where no man has gone before. There never has been a more clear example of Yankee, go home.
The fun continues with variations of "The Thing" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" (complete with a vampire plant that literally can be thought of a a big prick). This leads to an imminent explosion of Mt. Fuji involving a bear boy and another slumbering monster whom the misdeeds of man has awoken.
"Q" wraps this up several episodes later with a "Dr. Who" style adventure involving a train that can travel through time and space. The "Zone" style destination in a land that is free from the consequences of incidents that shows what fools these mortal be.
The kicker to all this there is much more to discover and adore about "Q" and the entire franchise. MCE deserves high praise for doing such an exceptional job making this possible.
CBS Home Entertainment fully honors a primary purpose of physical media in releasing the complete '80scom "Life With Lucy" on October 8, 2019. DVDs are an ideal way to enjoy rarely syndicated shows; getting to discover that a program that you watched back in the day is better than remembered and deserves to be weighted due to its role in television is a bonus.. All this can be equally said about the CBSHE DVD release of the "Happy Days" spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi." "Joanie" is on the list of posts due to be copied from Unreal TV 1.0 to this current site.
The "Life" (as well as is recalled as to "Joanie") includes unaired episodes. In this case, it is five.
The "Life" release also is notable for coming on the heels of the (reviewed) must-see CBSHE August 2019 DVD release of 16 colorized episodes of "I Love Lucy." The labor-of-love extras in both "Lucy" sets are just as much see as the main event.
IMDb perfectly provides much of the premise of "Life" by describing it as "Lucy Barker is a grandmother living with her daughter's family while constantly getting into comedic predicaments." CBSHE brings us most of the way home by stating that widowed Ma Barker "has inherited half of her husband's hardware store with his business partner Curtis McGibbon (Gale Gordon). Things take a turn for the hilarious as Barker insists on helping out in the store despite knowing nothing about the business."
The rest of the story is that Curtis is the father of the husband of daughter of Lucy. Curtis and Lucy both move in with that nuclear family (complete with two central-casting sitcom kids) in the pilot. One spoiler is that Uncle Jesse keeps his bachelor pad.
The first of copious armchair quarterbacking while writing this post on a Monday morning is that acclaimed TV veterans Gary "Mr. Ball" Morton and Aaron Spelling apparently do not follow their usually good instincts by airing the pilot before the second episode instead of running an edited version of E1 later in the season.
Seeing Ball burst onto the set a decade after wrapping up "Here's Lucy" is a treat for sofa spuds everywhere. Further, we see her and Curtis separately move into their new full house. Further, Lucy reorganizing everything in the hardware store alphabetically is classic "Lucy." This is not to mention anyone who has seen a single episode of a "Lucy" series knowing what is coming as to a comically large fire extinguisher (and a leaf blower on a counter in a later episode).
The issue is that the second episode is even stronger than the first and more fully honors the spirit of the three prior series of Ball. It is almost certain that airing that one first would have helped "Life" last more than 13 episodes.
This second outing has John Ritter follow in the steps of comedians before him who do Ball a solid by appearing on her series. In this case (as often is as to the pioneers of television), Ritter also is paying back it back as to Ball having hosted a retrospective of "Three's Company" during the run of that series.
Staying true to form, Ritter plays himself coming to the hardware store looking for a hard-to-find item. His trademark physical humor and the decades-long track record of Ball as to injuring and humiliating her special guests stars makes Ritter a goner from the start. A mention of his then young son (now TV star) Jason Ritter is a sweet moment. Another aside is that Jason is the little boy who appears with Joyce DeWitt in "Company" opening credits at the San Diego Zoo.
Lucy double downs by bringing Ritter home with her after temporarily disabling him; this leads to her accompanying him to a play rehearsal. Another series of comedic unfortunate circumstances leads to Lucy being a last-minute replacement for the actress appearing with Ritter in the live-stage production. Of course, that pair plays this to the max.
An even more special treat comes midway in the season. Audrey "Alice Kramden" Meadows of the '50s classic sitcom "The Honeymooners" guests as the sister of Lucy. Her character is much more like her critical mother-in-law on the Ted Knight "Three's Comp[any" clone "Too Close for Comfort" than she is like Alice. That is not to say that there are not many times that Lucy does not want to send Audrey to the moon during their "Life" episode.
The "sit" that drives much of the "com" in the Meadows episodes relates to the arrival of Audrey stirring up sibling rivalry. These hurt feelings relate to Audrey showing that anything that Lucy can do, she can do better as to her niece planning a renewal of her wedding vows. Of course, a frosting fight/heart-to-heart between Lucy and Audrey makes everything better; "Life" doubles down this time by doing the same by trapping Lucy and Curtis in a tree house.
Along the way, we get a couple of occasions on which accidentally overhearing a conversation leading to hurt feelings. This is not too mention a variation on a chestnut by having a guard goose corner Lucy and Curtis in the store. "Life" deserves credits for solid unexpected twists in that one.
Probably as known by many even before reading his post, "Life" is not the strongest "Lucy:" series. Seventy-five year-old Ball already had had health issues that were apparent to varying degrees in the show. Further, as one critic noted, Ball was too old and had accomplished too much to be put through what this series demanded. This relates to personal disdain in watching the "TV Land" awards opening ceremony that had stars such as Jerry Mathers, Bob Denver, and Bernie Koppell fly around Peter Pan style despite all of them at least being around 70 years old.
The final commentary is that the premise of "Life" is not absurd for Ball. However, a more apt concept would have been the one of the early '90s Britcom "Waiting for God."
"God" has a strong-willed independent woman and her more laid-back male neighbor at an assisted-living facility strive to prove that they were more vital while scheming against their Colonel Klink in the form of "that idiot Baines" who administers the facility with a penny-pinching attitude that showsa complete lack of regard for the residents.
Morton and Spelling could have gotten there first and doubled down on this by having Ball and Gordon play the leads at a facility for aging actors. Meadows and other contemporaries could have played fictionalized versions of themselves.
The aforementioned extras are a three-part "Hour Magazine" profile and "Entertainment Tonight" segments that showed that Ball was the real McGillicuddy as to television comedians.
CBS Home Entertainment aptly shows that it has absolutely no intention to get out of Dodge by separately releasing "Gunsmoke" S15 V1 and V2 on October 1, 2019. This leaves only five more seasons to go as to being able to own this series that spans the period from the '50s to the '70s.
Comparable to the love that CBSHE shows a plethora of other "TV Land" shows, such as the (reviewed) "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the (reviewed) "The Love Boat" DVD sets, this studio expertly remasters ORIGINAL BROADCAST versions of "Gunsmoke" and includes episode promos.
Of course, the (reviewed) recent CBS massive epic "Brady Bunch" 50th anniversary set deserves a very special mention. This one includes EVERY "Brady" series and films sans the variety show and the reality series.
"Gunsmoke" is a prime example of the exceptional shows on which many of us miss out due to an unwarranted prejudice against westerns, The ignorant aspect of ignoramous fully applies to folks, which includes your previously unenlightened reviewer, who write off these dramas as not much more than excuses for saloon fights and high noon showdowns.
Much of the entertainment relates to comic relief part-time deputy Festus Haggen, who clearly is the Bany Fife to Marshal Matt Dillion. Dillion amusingly getting out of Dodge for several episodes allows his right-hand man to take the lead as to maintaining law and order.
The "Andy Griffith Show" vibe extends to a coming-of-age S15 episode in which Ron "Opie" Howard plays a teen boy coming to grips with his relationship with the indian woman who is the second wife of his father. The catalyst for this drama truly is a case of my boyfriend's back, and there's gonna be trouble.
Howard also is connected to "Gunsmoke" in that setting the series in the Old West reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall recognizes that setting a '70scom in the '50s and the '60s prevents it from ever looking dated.
Of the 14 episodes watched for this post, there was only one showdown. That one was an element of an old west mashup of the Hatfields and the McCoys. This time, the offspring of two feuding families in Dodge City planning to get hitched coincides with the arrival of a man who has gun, will travel.
The rest of this story is that an assumption as to who is going to be the newest resident of Boot Hill leads to twist that takes the episode in a new direction. All of us can relate to someone faster and overall better threatening our way of life.
We also get a still relevant life lesson in an episode in which three prisoners come to Dodge to work as as an alternative to remaining a guest of the territorial governor. Two end on the farm of a couple that seem to be Quakers. and the third gets his last-minute second-chance at the Long Branch saloon run by Miss. Kitty. The ensuing rehabilitation efforts show that some men can be saved and that others are irreparably born bad.
We further get social commentary in an episode in which an indian scout in both senses of that word makes a valiant effort at a mother and child reunion while on a mission from Grant. This surprisingly
candid adventure relates to the brutality that the woman experienced while being held captive by the tribe of her offspring.
One of the more intriguing episodes is a "what if" outing, Dillon is summoned to intervene in a kangaroo court murder trial occurring in a town that is a bizarro version of Dodge. The buildings and many of the townfoks are virtually the same. The primary difference is that the absence of a dedicated lawman such as Dillon allows a rich widow to run the community with an iron fist. Her comeuppance awesomely is a mix of frontier and poetic justice,
A more universal theme is that an actual or assumed stranger comes to Dodge City with a chip (but not a Chippewa) on his shoulder. This new kid in town may be gunning for Dillion based on their personal history, seeking vengeance against a former partner-in-crime who shows that there is no honor among thieves, or merely is there to deal with a family issue, One of the latter involves a scheme to compensate for a lack of alimony before heading for the border.
The only fitting way to conclude this tribute that easily could be of epic length to this timeless classic is to state "I told you so." The value of "Gunsmoke" clearly extends well beyond the stereotypes of its genre.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the EXCLUSIVE unrated director's cut of the 2017 gay-themed romcomdram "Everything is Free" has so many relatabele themes to folks other than those at the far hetero end of the Kinsey Scale that knowing where to begin is tough. Further, giving everything its full due as to this film about an out-and-proud gay 20-something developing a friendship with benefits with the younger brother of his best friend is beyond the scope of this post.
A full-frontal (and full arousal) shower scene in which writer-director-star Brian Jordan Alvarez of "Will and Grace" illustrates why Speedos are called banana hammocks illustrates a segment that apparently is exclusive to this unrated director's cut. This also dispels both clauses in the expression that there is no such thing as a small part, only small actors.
Speaking of Alvarez, his wonderfully flaky and clearly ad libbed introduction to the film that Breaking includes as a DVD bonus is must see.
The following trailer for "Free" perfectly captures the themes and the tone of the film. We get plenty of scenes of our trio of 20-something AF model looking guys loving, laughing, and emoting.
One of the nicest surprises as to "Free" is that it is an anomaly as the mostly universal truth that an inverse relationship exists between the amount of erotic content and the quality of the film. This one has plenty of adult themes but still has a talented successful cast tell an interesting story that stimulates the organ that is best equipped to guide men in their decision making.
An overall issue is the dynamic of a close platonic friendship between a gay man and a straight man. One aspect of this is the degree to which one or both of these guys want to be physically intimate. This can involve a mixture of love, lust, and curiosity. A related element is the extent to which the straight guy can accept his desire to expand his range of sexual activity.
The same genre of gay-themed films that heavily suggests that a hetero buddy is eager to see how the other half lives just as frequently suggest that the younger brother of that dude is just as available. The reality is that the friend/brother may have trouble accepting that his male sibling is gay or bi or may feel jealous that this relative is willing to act on feelings that run in the family or merely gets to bond with his friend in a way that is too scary to explore.
The bigger (and more realistic) picture is that EVERY straight guy has a line that a gay guy often does not know about until he crosses it. The possibilities are too numerous to explore. A real-world example is an extremely liberal guy who is an active member of the Green Party getting upset on his gay friend clearly joking when saying at a wedding venue that the two of them are engaged.
In true gayromcomdram style, American Ivan (Alvarez) is living the good life in Colombia before subsequent events fairly literally bring his world crashing down. He makes enough as an artist to have a nice home in Colombia and keep a second place in Los Angeles. He also seems to be a poster boy for the concept of happy-go-lucky.
The beginning of the end is when straight college buddy Christian (Peter Vack) visits and makes the arguably ill-fated decision to bring (presumably) straight little brother Cole (Morgan Krantz) along for the ride.
Glances and an arguable "teasing" in the form of late-night bed hopping only to retreat when things heat up lead to a friendship with somewhat covert benefits between Ivan and Cole. Meanwhile, Ivan has met a man who may be Mr. Right despite the presence of Cole affecting what is occurring right now.
The next major development starts out as the fulfillment of what may be a fantasy for a combination of Ivan, Christian, and some audience members. Christian makes Ivan a well-received offer to take their close long-term friendship to the next level; this takes an unexpected term that also may be a fantasy to guys with issues. This intercourse ends with Christian angrily warning Ivan to stay away from Cole.
The heart (and other body parts) wanting what the heart (and other body parts) wants leads to Christian catching Ivan and Cole with their pants down. The ensuing trauma and drama leads to Christian and Ivan cutting their trip short.
A heart-broken Ivan bonds with two new buddies; discovering that they also know "quirky" and androgynous Eli (Jason Greene) validates the theory that the gay world is a small one; it does not necessarily support the related belief that most of these guys have also had sex in various combinations.
Ivan further follows the textbook for young idealistic guys all along the Kinsey scale and visiting LA with his new entourage. His optimistic belief is that Christian will accept his relationship with Cole and that Cole will realize that Ivan is his soulmate at least until someone younger and cuter comes along.
It is predicted that the course of true love is not that easy; suffice it to say that things do not end with Ivan and Cole tying the knot and Christian being the best man.
The resolution of all this remains true to "Free" and the "queer as folk" reality that it depicts,
The pristinely remastered Warner Archive September 24, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1940 Bette Davis drama "The Letter" educates as well as entertains in that it provides a very basic primer on Criminal Law 101. This is in addition to a pedigree that extends beyond Davis to having this seven-Oscar nominated William Wyler joint being based on a W. Somerset Maugham play.
The peek inside a law school classroom begins within a few minutes of the opening scenes. The workers at the Chinese rubber plantation that Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall) operates are awakened by gun shots coming from the big house.
These men next witness visitor Geoffrey Hammond scurrying out the front door as Robert spouse Leslie (Davis) is emptying her revolver into him. This is quickly followed by the clouds clearing and Davis looking up at the moon with her signature crazed look that makes wonderful use of her fabled eyes that literally are the thing of song.
This is a prime example of an early lesson in the criminal law class that every new student must take. The professor tells the class that there is a dead body on the floor and asks the scholars what are the legal consequences. The correct answer, as is the case regarding every question about legal interpretation, is "it depends."
The plot thickens on Robert, attorney/close friend Howard Joyce, and the equally friendly local law-enforcement official gathering to hear the story.
Davis shows why she is an actress, rather than a movie star, in telling about how Geoffrey shows up unannounced and forces himself on her in a manner that requires fending him off with extreme prejudice,
Public and police sympathy being on the side of Leslie does not prevent her from being a guest of the state. The surprising thing is that she does not mind her temporary surroundings.
The titular correspondence comes to the attention of Howard before the aforementioned proceeding; this evidence that directly contradicts much of the story of Leslie in a manner that increases the chances of her taking a seat in Old Sparky.
The circumstances of the appearance of this "smoking gun" represents poetic justice in that scorned woman Leslie meets her match. Their showdown is a film highlight that perfectly portrays cultural conflicts that continue today.
Even including Geoffrey, Robert is whom comes out the worst for wear. He gets a rude awakening that also ruins his dreams. This is in the form of learning that the woman whom he thinks is his soulmate is a femme fatale,
This being a Golden Age film, no crime goes unpunished. However, full restitution is not made.
Archive further delivers by including an alternative ending to "Letter" as a Blu-ray bonus.
Filmmakers/husband wife/dancer and former rocker/soap star respectively Janeen and Michael Damian know of what they speak in "High Strung," which hits theaters on April 8, 2016. This variation of their early performing lives focuses on Ruby, who is a Midwestern girl on her own who comes out to New York on a dance scholarship because she thinks that the change will do her good. He (a.k.a. Johnnie Blackwell) is an ordinary bloke who is in the United States illegally and pays his bills by playing his violin in subway (a.k.a Underground or Tube) stations. Their Manhattan nights adventures make for good storytelling.
The New York worlds of classical music and dance and their street counterparts collectively comprise the main supporting character in the film. The Damians casting both well-known performers and choreographers from those worlds results in dynamic performances that range from dance battles, to ballroom scenes, to classical ballet.
The following YouTube clip of the "Strung" trailer achieves its purpose of drawing the audience into the film while showcasing Jane Seymour, whose favorite author allegedly is Anna Karenina, in her cameo role as a stereotypical demanding dance instructor.
The bonus YouTube clip below showcase (still hunky) Michael Damian doing a great job with his cover of the classic song "Rock On."
The film opens with Ruby meeting many performing arts school stereotypes during her first days in the big city. Her roommate/fellow scholarship student is a young woman whose interest in partying is jeopardizing her future at the school, the power couple of the institute for higher jete are a male violinist with arrogance that is comparable to his talent and a top ballerina who would be right at home in "Black Swan."
For his part, "downtown man" Johnnie develops friendships with the dance crew "The SwitchSteps" that use the apartment below his as a studio/crib.
All of these worlds collide when Ruby is present at a subway station during a dance crew battle that results in an already down-on-his-luck Johnnie facing a major obstacle to his abilities to keep a roof over his head and avoid being shipped back across the pond . The role of Ruby regarding this additional reversal of fortune sets the stage for a typical meeting poorly but falling in love story. You will want it to work for these crazy kids.
The film then proceeds through adequately plausible ups and downs that create the conflict that make every film interesting, All this leads to a film-ending climax in which the only suspense is whether Ruby and Johnnie will succeed the easy way, will initially fail but quickly find an "angel" who facilities them following their dreams, or they simply will keep pursuing their dreams on their own either as solo acts or a couple.
As mentioned above, the Damians make all this work because they know of which they speak. They also put their extensive show biz experience to good work in casting the film.
Real-life ballerina Keenan Kampa does a good job portraying wholesome farm girl next door Ruby. Nicholas Galitizine adds wonderful leather to the lace of Kampa regarding his performance as Johnnie. Little Nicky/Beelzebloke) also stars in the aptly titled 2016 drama "Handsome Devil," which chronicles the bonding of odd-couple roommates at a British boarding school.
If all of this seems like "Strung" is a movie for 13-year-old girls, it is because it is, Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Everyone who is man (or woman) enough to not care about what the other people at the theater (whom they will never see again anyway) think is in for a well-paced and entertaining film with likable leads and some great musical numbers and what the press materials accurately describe as a fantasy New York in which it is always sunny, students and other folks near the poverty line live in large clean apartments, and pawn shop owners have a heart.
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1960 light-hearted James Garner and Natalie Wood drama "Cash McCall" proves that Rock Hudson and Doris Day do not have a monopoly on films of that era that revolve around "it's complicated" romantic relationships. Speaking of monopolies, "Cash" centers on the titular mid-20th century swinging version of Mitt Romney who makes (and loses) fortunes flipping companies,
The "complication" stems from Cash being the Maine man that Lorey Austen (Wood) wants to do over her summer vacation. The audience (but not the parents of Lorey) knows what she does last summer. (What happens in Kennebunkport stays in Kennebunbkport).
Absence does make the heart grow fonder as to this master of the universe and the girl that he leaves behind. They mix business and pleasure when Cash unexpectedly shows up to buy the manufacturing business that Lorey 'rent Grant Austen (Dean Jagger) owns,
The primary disruptive force throughout is hard-nosed businessman General Andrew Danvers, who operates the company that provides Grant an almost super-majority of his business. Danvers is not asked but does repeatedly tell about a past deal in which Cash ethically and legally bests him. This adds a complication in the form of Cash learning that he can use his most recent acquisition as leverage (no pun intended) against Danvers.
All predictably hits the fan roughly halfway through "McCall" as Danvers and Cash go to war, and Avery obtains two pieces of insider information that provide good reason to believe that Cash dun him wrong despite giving Grant exactly what he requested for his company. Meanwhile, the romance with Lorey is on the right track until the arrival of a rival ironically with her flower intact.
Anyone familiar with the persona of Garner knows that he gives his best performance when he is being wrongfully accused and the odds are forever not in his favor. Being the maverick that he is, Garner exhibits a perfect degree of controlled outrages and determines the chance that he has to take.
In this case, the final climatic scene has Cash being a very unwelcome gentleman(?) caller. He tells all concerned like it is and reminds Grant that his hand are not spotless. Further, Lorey learns the truth of the saying as to assuming things.
This leads to an especially Hollywood fantasy in that resentment related to a sale of a business and as to a romance that concludes with an epic walk of shame is resolved in a manner that does not result in any tears or recriminations,
The rest of this story is that an exceptionally well-crafted film with a plethora of A-List stars makes "Cash" a very sound acquisition.
Archive supplements this with the 1960 Chuck Jones "High Note." This amusing and clever short that is equally musical and surreal tells the tale of a literal score to settle,
Warner Archive once more proves that B-movies can have "a"ppeal with the recent DVD release of the 1934 musical-comedy "Harold Teen," which is based on the comic strip of the same name. This delightful romp also illustrates the cross-pollination that is prevalent in the first half of the 20th century and is still alive today.
Early 20th-century comic strips, as is the case regarding "Harold," have a proud history of getting films. radio shows, (sometimes hit Broadway musicals), and television series. "Harold" does fairly well as to getting two of these. In addition to two film adaptations, "Harold" gets a radio show.
A VERY cool thing about the silver screen Harolds is that a 1928 silent version stars Arthur Lake of "Blondie" fame. That strip gets a a radio show, a one-season wonder television series in which Pamela Britten of "My Favorite Martian," plays the lady of the lake, AND a plethora of films. One can only hope that Archive releases the earlier "Harold" film someday.
The following Archive trailer, which the DVD includes, of "Harold" perfectly conveys the entertainingly wholesome (with a pinch of innuendo) all singing and all dancing fun of this nostalgic treat for all ages,
The general vibe of "Harold" aptly is like fellow comic strip "Archie," which still is going strong in comic and television form today. Our titular approaching post-adolescent is an Olsen twin in that, like Jimmy Olsen of "Superman" fame, he is a goofy and clumsy recent high school graduate working at a newspaper.
In this case, Harold primarily writes witty snippets for the local rag of his hometown of Covina.
Returning to the Archie parallels, Harold rides around in a jalopy and follows the pattern of guys who peak in high school by still spending much of his free time at the local teen hangout. In this case, it is the Sugar Bowl ice cream shop that, like "Archie," is owned and operated by a man known as "Pops."
The "Betty" of Harold "Teenzy" Teens is graduating senior Lillian "Lillums" Lovewell; his "Reggie" is romantic rival "Lilacs."
This clearly Depression-era tale has the father of Lillums being unable to afford to send his daughter to college; he also is very concerned about a mortgage foreclosure.
Further, the real villain of the piece is aptly named new banker in town H.H, Snatcher. His relatively benign evil is in the form of duping cub (in two senses of that term) reporter Harold., This older man first takes advantage of that rube by handing him a statement asserting the "good" intentions of this newcomer. This executive further pretends to befriend the lad to ensure that the local press is positive.
A very creepy "Child Bride" element enters the picture when H.H. starts courting Lillums to the extent of buying her a wedding dress. Meanwhile, his partner-in-cradle robbing comes to town and is charged with getting Harold out of the way.
An interesting casting note is that Eddie Tamblyn, father of "West Side Story" star Russ Tamblyn, plays aptly named four-years and counting high-school freshman Shadow, Russ stars in the excellent (reviewed) "Son of a Gunfighter," which is in the Archive catalog.
Also in true Depression-era style, all this leads to the nicest kids in town planning (and performing as a grand finale) an elaborate "collegiate" musical, An amusing aspect of this is that none of these teens are enrolled in college.
Of course, the boy gets the girl and everyone who deserves a happy ending gets one. This Hollywood ending is desperately needed in a period in which our chief executive likely will find himself ousted without a golden parachute and that those who bring about his demise likely will learn the wisdom of the Chinese proverb about being careful about for which you wish, These days, it is likely that the new boss will be same as the old boss. BILL GATES IN 2020!!!
The CBS Home Entertainment September 4, 2019 DVD release of the 2018-19 S5 of the CBS drama series "Madam Secretary" lets current and new fans alike catch up on this ripped-from-the-headlines series ahead of the October, 6, 2019 premiere of the sixth and final season. That one is set in the not-too-distant future of two years from where S5 ends. A big change is that titular Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni of the tabloid-based sitcom "The Naked Truth") has left her corner office for one that lacks any right angles.
Watching these episodes of this femalecentric series just ahead of diving into the CBSHE DVDs of "Gunsmoke" S15 for a post next week is a good reminder of the cost of judging a series by its cover. Only getting into Westerns in the past five years has prompted regret as to missing out on the compelling storylines that classics like "Gunsmoke" provide for so long. "Secretary" and the (reviewed) "Good Fight" show that soccer moms and cat ladies have good taste in television dramas.
Both "Fight" and "Secretary" present entertaining cerebral tales on topics that should greatly concern all of us. In the case of "Fight," we witness the grimy underbelly of out legal system in the context of "this filthy world" in which dirty politics rule the day. in "Secretary," we see fictional Hillary Clinton (who makes a cameo with two of her real-life predecessors) Elizabeth McCord try to avoid strong-arm diplomacy at the same time that she often must do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason.
The support system of Elizabeth includes spouse/former Marine/former CIA operative/former religious scholar/current presidential advisor Henry McCord (Tim Daly of "Wings"). She also has a diverse quirky staff of wonks who all bring things of value to the table in their own neurotic or otherwise odd ways.
The constant ripped-from-the-headlines vibe begins with a twofer in the season premiere. Elizabeth is trying to get India and Pakistan to enter a treaty at the same time that domestic terrorists that want to make America great again pull off a major attack that creates significant physical and national psyche damage. The international element of this both is not surprising and pops up in other ways throughout the season.
We also see Elizabeth doing her best to be diplomatic regarding overseas sweatshop labor, a magnificent gift that will require hardship-inducing upkeep, a regime change that seems sure to erupt into war, etc. The issue of legalization of marijuana both provides some of the best humor of the season and shows how it can aid good international relations.
A two-episode story that hits almost as close to home as the aforementioned attack is the issue of indefinitely detaining the children of illegal immigrants separate from their parents. This one sees Elizabeth taking an especially strong stand. The bonus is an interesting debate on the issue of states' rights.
"Secretary" creator/writer Barbara Hall skillfully pulls this off by keeping an even keel. No one really gets worked up in even the most tense moments, and we are spared piercing looks and overly dramatic moments.
We merely see people in a world that is otherwise closed off to most of us doing the job for which their natural intelligence, formal education, and extensive on-the-job learning has prepared them. The sad part is that their current real-life counterparts do not follow their example.
The bonus features consist of several deleted scenes.