The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 DVD double-feature release "Janie" (1944)/"Janie Gets Married" (1946) provides a much-needed tonic for our troubled times. The back-cover liner notes for this release share that these tales of the titular WWII-era All-American girl are based on a popular Broadway play of the same name.
The opening scenes of "Janie" establish that Hortonville (a.k.a. Anytown U.S.A.) is a peaceful community where Charles Conway (Edward Albert), who is the father of Janie and "problem child" Elspbeth (a.k.a. Elspbitch), is the prosperous conservative publisher of the local newspaper. An indication of the aforementioned wealth is full-time servant April (Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel of "Gone With the Wind).
The chaos at the opening of "Janie" is of the relatively wholesome teenage variety. Our "Gidget" is playing her Top 40 record too loud, tying up the only telephone line in the house with calls to friends, and is plotting to sneak out to a blanket party. Although that party has potential to be a swinging bash, it merely involves young lovers smooching on the grass.
Seeing Richard Erdman of "Community" play high school sweetheart/world-class doofus Scooper Nolan is great fun. This is particularly so when former Yale man/current Army private Dick Lawrence literally and figuratively enters this picture. His subsequent courting of Janie creates an awesome "screw you, Leonard" relationship with Erdman. For his part, Scooper valiantly tries to be a Dick blocker.
The bigger picture is that Dick and his widowed helicopter mother are in town because of a new Army base; this provides hilarity in the form of Charles being up in arms regarding the threat of horny soldiers corrupting Janie and her peers.
All of this culminates in a development that is relatable to modern teens. Janie and Richard planning a quiet evening while her parents are out soon becomes a wild bash with high-school girls, their soldier-boy beaus, and seemingly every dogface on the base. Although no crystal eggs are casualties, there is ample property damage. A sad part is that we are denied hearing April say that she don't know nothin' 'bout throwin' no party.
Of course, everything works out well in the end with Charles having the proper perspective and even achieving a film-long goal courtesy of a bureaucrat whom Alan Hale, Sr. plays to a tee.
"Married" picks up two years later. Nineteen year-old Janie is all-grown up and is a newly-wed with husband Dick. Their twin beds being pressed closed together at the beginning of the film suggests that the honeymoon period is not over.
Dick has a clearly token job at the newspaper of his father-in-law. Taking care of their one-bedroom cottage seems to be too-much for stay-at-home Janie; "wicked witch" housekeeper Mrs. Angles (Margaret Hamilton of "The Wizard of Oz") seemingly comes every day to over-starch the shirts of Dick and to disregard each request of Janie.
Voluptuous Army buddy Spud Lee (Dorothy Malone) coming for a surprise visit prompts most of the ensuing hilarity. That friendship beginning with Dick jumping in the foxhole of Spud does not help matters. Spud sofa surfing at Chez Lawrence really does not help.
In true sitcom fashion, a jealous Janie dupes a clueless Scooper into helping her with her plan to get back at Dick. Of course, this goes comically awry.
The culmination this time is Janie hosting an intimate dinner party for her family and for the straight-laced man to whom Charles wants to sell the newspaper. A put-out Dick, drunken Army buddies, a temporarily homeless soldier, and a wacky misunderstanding creates chaos that the typical last-minute miracle resolves.
The joy of all this is silly light-hearted fun that shows that good humor does not require shock and awe. We also see that teenagers and romantic problems have not changed much in 70 years,
Warner Archive releasing "The 13th Chair Double Feature" on November 13, 2018 continues the grand Archive tradition of releasing two (or more) versions of the same film. In this case, the titular double-bill is two very different approaches to the titular British murder mystery.
Folks who are familiar with "Freaks" and/or other Tod Browning films can accurately predict that his 1929 production is more atmospheric and lurid than the 1937 film by George B. Seitz, whose credits include "Andy Hardy" films. The latter is lighter in tone and gives this work originally presented as play more of a live-stage vibe than Browning.
This post will respect the assumed Archive intent of wanting viewers to get the full impact of the differences in the film. A modern example of this contrast is having Tim Burton and '90s-era Ben Affleck separately direct the same story. Part of this full enjoyment relates to not spoiling the very different casting.
Both films are set in Calcutta and occur in the aftermath of the murder of an expat Brit. who is no gentleman.
The usual suspects for this type of film begins with John Wales, who is the best friend of the deceased. His literally fatally flawed plan to obtain justice for his chum includes staging a seance. Like a good Englishman, Wales hopes that stacking the deck in his favor will result in the culprit becoming a guest of the king.
We also get a royal family in the form of the Crosbys. The secretary of Mrs. Crosby planning to marry into the family contributes to the angst among the group.
The portrayals of medium Mme. LaGrange in the two films are among the most significant differences in the versions. Both are highly entertaining in that this is a very broad character. Additionally, this quirky individual shares some tricks of the trade.
The subsequent seance that inspires the title of the play and the films produces drama that greatly thickens the plot. This results in deduction that leads to the typical drawing-room scene that results in revealing whodunit. A partial spoiler is that the final scene of the Browning film greatly outshines the conclusion of the later version.
The broadest appeal of this release is the aforementioned demonstration of how the same source material can produce radically different results. The narrower focus is that this is another example of Archive facilitating modern audiences getting to see how movies should be made.
The TLA Releasing September 11, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 drama "Sodom" is a textbook example of quality art-house gay cinema. It centers around a relevant relatable theme and has good humor. Other attributes include a strong live-stage vibe and most intimate scenes being much more erotic than pornographic.
"Sodom" commences with the highly symbolic scene of 20 year-old footballer (my people call it soccer) Will being the victim of a homoerotic prank by his teammates during a trip. He is heavily made up, stripped of even his socks, and handcuffed face-front to a lamp post on a relatively quiet street.
This image prompts the first of many societal observations; the comment this time is that it is amazing that all-male organizations such as fraternities and sports teams that outwardly project aggressive masculine heterosexual images often involve at least copious naked horseplay and regulalry impose actual sexual domination on group members.
A related aspect of this supports the gay fantasy that at least 50-percent of men desire sex with other guys; personal and societal pressures are the culprits regarding sublimating these urges into what they can consider acceptable outlets such as team showers and fraternity hazing.
An amusing personal experience regarding the hang ups of guys who identify themselves as fully straight involves a high-school friend. This guy being a star wrestler and enjoying running naked in the gym hallways should have been a tip off back then.
This buddy shared several years ago that he sees a dominatrix every week. Further pressing prompted confessing that these sessions involve a strap-on. Pointing out the enhanced pleasure and humiliation benefits of being on the receiving end of the real thing prompted a "he doth protest too much" freak out.
Our regularly scheduled post continues with well-off 30-something man Michael discovering Will on his way home after an evening out. A team effort gets a still cuffed Will partially covered and into the apartment of Michael. Some of the aforementioned eroticism enters the picture in the form of a fully dressed Michael having a drink with a barely dressed and shackled Will. As expected, this leads to completely consensual sex with the restraints intact,
Micheal and Will sharing not-so-intimate details of their lives after having sex reflects the odd truth of old-school gay hookups, It is amazing that a guy will volunteer every small detail related to sexual activity within minutes of meeting a potential "buddy" but will not even share general information about his work or where he grew up.
Will literally and figuratively gets an out but quickly returns for another erotic scene, The rest of the story that comes out is that Will is not. The story that is familiar to most gay men is that Will has a history of messing around with a buddy, is engaged to a woman, and has mixed emotions.
The initially revealed story of Michael reflects both the rushed nature of gay relationships and the sad experience of many couples all along the Kinsey Scale. Many years with a soulmate lead to things getting stale; this prompts Michael to look for love with too many faces in all the wrong places. This leads to the soulmate becoming the one who got away.
The sweet portion of "Sodom" has the connection between the boys seemingly being strong enough for Will to realize the wisdom of "to thine own self be true" and to seriously considering uprooting his life to build one with Michael, This relates to several experiences that many of us have,
Any positive new relationship is exciting and can produce a high; a strong connection greatly enhances that sense. On top of that, travel magically increases the impact of any experience and can make the impractical seem feasible.
For his part, the prospect of a life with Will makes Michael believe that there is a way that he can recapture his past happiness.
One spoiler is that "Sodom" not being a Hollywood movie and young and cute Will not being doe-eyed or completely hairless prevents the road to a happy ending from encountering more bumps. Will coming down from his high and starting to think more clearly creates some doubt regarding his willingness (no pun intended) to upset the Adam's apple cart in ways that include telling his teammates where he spent the night and informing his fiancee that he cannot marry her because he now plays for the other team.
The final round of commentary in this post begin with the sad statement this time that staying in the closet has such a long tradition because it allows many men to adequately have their cake and eat it as well. The collateral damage from that is that the "other woman" is denied the desired relationship.
The rest of the story is that one cost of the tremendous advances in gay rights is the form of angst of guys like Will and men like Michael who fully embrace the idea of literally or figuratively putting a ring on it. NONE of the advancements should EVER be reversed, but this requires that guys who suppress their desire for intimacy with guys man up and choose a side in a manner that minimizes the emotional pain of those whom this affects.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 gay-themed drama "Brotherly Love" offers insight into the mind of a nice 20-something guy on the cusp of taking his final vows as a Catholic brother. His dilemma is the extent to which his love of God conflicts with his love for his fellow man.
Another interesting aspect of this one is that it follows the pattern regarding the inverse correlation between the quantity of male nudity and the quality of the film; in this case, the limited amount of lewdness corresponds to this film having a solid mix of heart and humor.
The festival accolades for "Love" include writer/director/star Anthony J. Caruso taking home the Best Actor and the LGBT Film honors at the 2017 IndieFEST Film Awards. This 30ish guy plays Brother Vito Fortunato, who spends his days preparing to fully devote his life to God and his nights hitting gay bars with wild manchild best friend Tim.
The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Love" nicely summarizes everything that makes the film entertaining in ways that include taking a moderate tone regarding a subject with which many devout Catholics struggle.
At the heart of the matter, "Love" addresses an unfortunate side effect of relatively new societal and legal equality for gay men. Vito being able to be openly gay presents him with the issue of reconciling his option of having a full life with Mr. Right (or a night with Mr. Right Now) with his desire to fully devote himself to the man upstairs. His supervisor and his two peers accepting his sexual orientation is nice to see.
A related theme is that Vito knows that God does not hate fags; the issue is that this deity requites that those who fully commit to doing his work downstairs take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Vito, who has tasted his share of forbidden fruit, is having the most trouble with the first two requirements.
The internal struggle of Vito ultimately distresses him to the point of reverting to his old habit of consulting with his former teacher Sister Peggy. Her nun sense solution is for Vito spend his summer working at a Catholic facility for AIDS patients. The manner in which the stars perfectly align regarding this trip either is divine intervention or movie magic.
Caruso does especially well portraying the relationship between Vito (who brings tons of baggage on his trip) and cute volunteer gardener Gabe Rimes (whose last name seems to have an extraneous letter). Gabe is a sweet and relatively wholesome guy who is a stranger to the alleys of Austin. Whether having a full life is something that he can do without Vito (make it without him) takes center stage.
The prelude to Gabe inviting Vito to see his double wide involves the boys engaging in friendly bantering as Vito engages with the clients inside while Gabe spends long hours hoeing out back. Many of us can relate to the Saturday night of Gabe consisting of watching "Golden Girls" reruns alone. An aside regarding this is that that series provided a bonding experience for gay men in the '80s. They would gather at bars to watch it during that not-so-enlightened era.
Watching Gato have a low-key first date is equally sweet and charming. Although "Love" does not address it, this courtship reflects that relationships in which sex does not immediately happen have the best chance of long-term success.
We also get to see a relatable senior-citizen gay couple; their bickering is hilarious, and they follow the pattern of many committed couples across the Kinsey Scale in that they show that opposites attract. The story of how they met is a "Loving" highlight.
We further get a twofer in terms of the tried (but not always true) methods of persuading someone to share a shower and to sleep in a bed rather than on the floor. A related note is that sometimes an act of kindness just is an act of kindness.
The best news is that this Summer of Love shows that some form of guiding influence provides two righteous dudes the opportunity for a happy ending.
Breaking almost always includes at least one bonus feature; they do especially well this time with a Caruso-hosted "behind-the-scenes" look. A highlight of this is a festival trailer with several alternate scenes that include some actors and sets that differ than those that appear in the final version.
Icarus Films marks Oscar season by releasing the aptly hybrid film "Good Manners" on DVD on November 13, 2018. "Manners" is weirdly wonderful with top-notch twists.
"Manners" DESERVEDLY winning 24 awards and having an additional 18 nominations speaks to the quality of the film. These accolades include a "Fantastic Features" honor at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest and "Best Picture" at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Latin America Cinema and the 2017 Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Manners" provides a glimpse of the successfully eclectic style of this future cult classic.
"Manners" begins on a tone that reflects one aspect of the titular phrase. Clara is at the home of disgraced party-girl Ana to apply to be the nanny of the baby of this heiress when she delivers that illegitimate bundle of joy.
This portion of the film is laden with social commentary; Ana shamelessly exploiting Clara, who must grin and bear it, and Clara becoming the caregiver of flighty Anna reflects the system in most of the "civilized" world. We also get a strong sense of the feeling of entitlement on the part of Ana.
The first twist comes via Ana and Clara crossing way over employer/employee (and racial) lines. This is not to mention another relatively unusual aspect of their relationship. Ana sleepwalking and having odd dreams is the icing on the cake in this portion of "Manners."
Ana telling Clara the story of her not-so-immaculate conception is a highlight for two reasons; this tale is told via very stylized animation and sets the stage for the rest of the film.
All this leads to Ana giving birth to Joel, who clearly is not like other boys; a complication leads to Clara taking custody of the new-born and moving him to her apartment. The cover story that she subsequently tells him is straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
A montage covers the early years of Joel up to his seventh birthday. With the exception of literally and figuratively having a vegetarian diet, this cute and charming lad mostly is like his peers with the exception of several days a month. The days during this period are just fine, but he must spend the nights shackled in "the little bedroom" for the mutual safety of himself and the general populace. Part of the challenge for Clara is making her son understand why there are times that he cannot play reindeer games with the other kids.
Things come to a head when our excitable boy and his buddy run off to a mall for an overnight mission. This causes Clara even more angst than is typical in such situations; subsequent events show that she has good reason for concern,
This leads to a scene that is well known to horror fans; the resulting confrontation creates terrific ambiguity that ends this perfect movie on an ideal note.
As this posts and many other reviews discuss, the magic of "Manners" relates to the perfect blending of numerous themes and tones. We get the aforementioned social commentary, the drama of a single mother contending with a special-needs child, a fairy tale, and the overall theme of society being hostile toward people who are different. As "Frankenstein" address, the monster is not always the "freak."
Mill Creek Entertainment once again shows the value of going to the dogs regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital of the 2004 family dramedy "Benji Off the Leash." The abused boy who is at the center of this story is not the only element of this variation on "Benji" films that make it different than the '70s adventures of the titular everymutt.
Fans of the earlier fare will delight in the Creek releases of (reviewed) "Benji," (also reviewed) "For the Love of Benji," and the even-more recent (reviewed) "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story."
"Leash" begins with narration that describes a talent search for the new Benji; the action then makes a nod to the original film by shifting to an abandoned house that is similar to a home that plays a central role in that movie. The aforementioned lad Colby is using that house as a safe haven for a mother dog and her newborn puppies. The refuge is needed because his father (only known by his last name Hatchett) both is over-breeding the mother to a life-threatening extent and is intent on leaving a brown shaggy mongrel from the litter to die because the puppy lacks monetary value.
Other action in this film set in Gulfport, Mississippi centers around two comically inept dog catchers. Livingston and Sheldon are pursing their white whale in canine clothing. The pooch known as "Lizard Tongue" for an obvious reason is very skilled at evading the civil servants.
The two worlds collide on the substandard way that Hatchett operates his dog-breeding business putting him on the radar of Sheldon and Livingston. This coincides with the shaggy dog and Lizard Tongue enjoying puppy love.
Drama enters the picture regarding a need for emergency vet service and related pressure being exerted on Hatchett. All of this shows that the snooze button no longer can be hit regarding the wake-up call that Hatchett requires.
This being even a 21st-century "Benji" movie ensures a happy ending for at least some of the dogs and all of the kids. Additionally, adults who deserve a trip to the doghouse get it.
The appeal of "Leash" extends beyond keeping the Benji legacy alive; it shows that a wholesome movie with a bare minimum of edge can get greenlit.
CBS Home Entertainment continues serving Trekkers and Trekies alike very well regarding separate November 13, 2018 Blu-ray & DVD of "Star Trek: Discovery" S1. This release joins a complete set of CBS releases of every "Trek" series; it also allows those of us who either prefer physical media over streaming and/or do not subscribe to CBS All-Access to check out this neo-modern take on Trek complete with cursing, nudity, and an openly gay couple.
Seeing open hostility among crew members is equally awesomely honest and refreshing. Although "Discovery" definitely is not your daddy's Trek, he will enjoy it.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Discovery" highlights the darker and more atmospheric elements of the series that distinguish it from other Trek series. That is not to say that there are not shiny happy Starfleet personnel and tech.
One of the numerous nice things about "Discovery," which occurs a decade before the original series ("OS") and a century before "The Next Generation" ("TNG,"), is that the confusing and arguably flawed first two episodes lead to a series that a greater percentage of Trek fans can enjoy and embrace.
The pilot is rather difficult to follow. It opens with literally and figuratively dark scenes featuring aliens that do not look familiar to Trek fans. We quickly determine that this species is Klingon. It is not explained why they do not look anything like the Klingons from the "OS" era or those of the "TNG" period.
The action alternates between the activities of the Klingons and the crew of a ship that creates more confusion by not being named "Discovery." This is not to mention the opening credits including the names of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp and others even those they do not appear until the third episode.
A HUGE frustration regarding the first episode is that those of use who are not fluent in Klingon must have the subtitles on to understand what members of that species are saying; the problem is that subtitles remain on when the Starfleet personnel speak English; this requires turning the subtitles on-and-off. This flaw is corrected by the second episode,
Then-second-officer Michael Burnham is at the center of the action and remains there throughout S1. She is serving on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, which investigates damage to a Federation satellite on the edge of Federation space. This soon leads to Burnham taking action that escalates The Klingon War that has a prominent role in Trek lore.
The response of the Klingons incorporates an aspect of their culture that also is well-known to Trekkers and Trekkies. This leads to a battle that leads to a real game-changer for Burnham.
Burnham becoming the Tom Paris of "Discovery" on boarding the titular vessel is only the tip of the iceberg regarding her. Aspects of the life of Burnham that make her unique warrant a strong comparison to Spock and a lesser similarity to Worf and Seven of Nine. This relates to the role of Burnham regarding an aspect of Vulcan culture that also pops up in Trek series; this is not to mention an amusing "Dad always liked you best" element in her history.
"Discovery" definitely looking more advanced than the Enterprise that Kirk commands 10 years later alone is puzzling. This ship having tech. that is beyond that of the Enterprise of Picard 100 years later truly is surprising.
On the subject of comparisons, Trek vet and current guiding force Bryan Fuller provides plenty of Easter eggs and other nods to the franchise lore. This includes one well-known character being a regular, a list of prominent captains having familiar names and a lesser-known one, and an OS villain plaguing Discovery captain Gabriel Lorca.
On the subject of Lorca, Fuller further strays from traditional Trek lore by making this space cowboy less heroic and likable than his past-and-future- peers. He is almost perpetually grumpy and even less respectful of Starfleet rules and principles than the other guys on their best days. In fairness to this fearless leader, he is not himself these days.
Lorca gets his Picard moment in the form of extreme torture at the hands of an enemy. Both incidents even involve weaponizing light.
Fuller goes further in populating the crew with folks who are even more quirky than those of other Trek ships. This begins with literal space cadet Sylvia Tilly. Her overall unduly gleeful manner and extreme candid chattiness create an incorrect assumption regarding her referring to her "special needs" in her first scene.
We also get First Officer Saru, who is alien with a prey mentality literally encoded into him. In addition to being physically one of the most odd characters in Trek lore, his version of a spidey sense makes him fascinatingly unique.
Rapp plays Lt. Paul Stamets, who seems to have a mood to match every occasion. His uniqueness extends beyond developing a way-cool ability early in the season to being the first openly gay Trek character. His cute and charming relationship with ship doctor Hugh Culber make them the best-ever Trek couple.
Fuller again sticks to the script by having the Discovery chief security officer meeting a violent end setting the stage for the predecessor of this individual. In this case, it is dashing tall, dark, and handsome Ash Tyler. Tyler just as aptly has something in common with Voyager security chief Torres.
The adventures of this gang are even more serialized than those of a couple of season of the "Enterprise" gang. They simultaneously are contending with open warfare with the Klingons and both trying to properly utilize the unique tech. of their ship and to contend with friendly and not-so-friendly attempts to obtain it.
Highlights include trekking to a parllel universe and contending with evil twins sans goatees. The season finale is just as special by paying homage to "Enterprise."
The numerous bonuses include several "making-of" features, a season recap, and promos.
'Forever My Love' DVD: Cliff Notes Dubbed Version of Epic Trilogy Docudrama Trilogy on Life of Austrian Empress Sissi
The Film Movement November 13, 2018 DVD release of the classic 1962 period-piece romdram "Forever My L:ove" is an awesome present to both the general movie-going public and to your not-so-humble reviewer. This release of this English-dubbed condensed version of the trilogy of films known as "The Sissi Collection" allows folks who only have 2.5 hours to experience this epic to watch the version that is a holiday favorite.
This release also allows a holiday treat in the form of allowing regifting an edited version of a review of the Movement October 2017 Blu-ray release of "Collection," which includes "Forever." One disclaimer is that our topic du jour does not include every scene to which this post refers. Please consider these mentions a bonus regarding "Forever."
Folks whom this real-life fairy tale with strong elements of the Princess Diana story greatly intrigues are encouraged to purchase "Collection." The "Trekkies" (rather than "Trekkers") regarding this epic likely will be content with "Forever."
The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer sharing that images of the real-life Sissi still prominently appear throughout Vienna provides a sense of the significance of both "Forever" and the trilogy.
"Sissi" from 1955 is a Cinderella story in a few senses of the word. The film opens with jocular Duke Max in Bavaria fishing with a few of his eight children in the idyllic wilderness around their castle. The group returns home to dine and is subdued by Duchess Ludovika (a.k.a. Mom).
An excited Ludovika (a.k.a. Vicki) soon summons daughter Helene (a.k.a. Nene) to privately share that Archduchess Sophie is summoning Nene to marry cousin/newly coronated Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph. A desire to conceal the purpose of this family reunion prompts bringing oblivious teen tomboy Sissi along.
The Cliff Notes of what follows is that an amusing wacky misunderstanding causes a bumbling security officer to mistake Sissi for an enemy of the state, Sissi and Franz meet and fall in love without fully realizing whom the other is, Nene and Sissi experience sibling rivalry, and our fairy-tale couple have a storybook wedding complete with fireworks but sans animated woodland creatures.
"Sissi: the Young Empress" amusingly foreshadows the Princess Di story in that newly wed Empress Sissi is highly popular with her subjects and is at war with her mother-in-law. Two particularly large bones of contention relate to Sissi having a more lenient and supportive attitude towards Hungarian malcontents than Archduchess Sophie, and Sophie literally taking the infant heir to the throne away from Sissi.
The "incognito" element is particularly strong in "Empress." A spontaneous undercover second honeymoon soon after the (presumably) first one finds our couple staying at a small rustic mountain inn. Watching these young lovers freely frolic and literally spit shine boots is great fun.
Another particularly cute scene has Franz Joseph giving homesick Sissi a literal taste of Bavaria and distressing his mother (who comes across as the party pooper) in the process. Despite the grandness of this gesture, Sissi equally literally runs home to mother to escape the trauma and the drama of palace life.
Of course, this fairy tale epic reunites Sissi and Franz Joseph and ends with the grand spectacle that is a trademark of this trilogy. These final scenes additionally incorporate the nature scenes that enhance the films and make viewers want to visit the region.
The 1957 film "Sissi: The Fateful Years" maintains the style and the quality of the other two films in the trilogy. The Di thread continues with mother-in-law problems and rumors of infidelity.
The "Forever" extras include a making-of featurette and an excerpt from the documentary "Elisabeth [a.k.a. Sissi] Enigma of an Empress."
All of this shows that either "Collection" or "Forever" provide hours of beautiful scenery, a love for the ages, and a lesson in 19th-century European history.
'High Voltage' DVD + Blu-Ray + Digital: Horror-Comedy About Rock Band Paying Shockingly High Price for Year at the Top
Sony Pictures delivers a nightmare before Christmas regarding the November 20, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release of the horror-comedy film "High Voltage." This homage to cynically dark-humored films of the '80s provides the bonus of commentary on the current state of the career of star David Arquette (a.k.a. former Mr. Courtney Cox).
Arquette displays great self-effacing humor as has-been former rock god Jimmy. His opening narration provides the best line in the film in which he states that he is celebrating his 50th birthday for the third time, This leading to an unwelcome reminder of his former glory is another highlight.
That "Groundhog Day" style celebration sets the stage for the remainder of "Voltage." Thirty-four year-old musician/family guy Scott and 23 year-old singer Rachel crash the party. This pair showing Jimmy what they have leads to forming a band.
Arquette shows more shameless humor regarding his effort to launch his new effort. He must pay for his past sins by kowtowing to Rick (Luke Wilson), who is the son of the former promoter of the old band of Jimmy. Jimmy must play nice and make up for his prior sin of not treating Rick well back in the day.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Voltage" nicely conveys the style and the spirit of the film.
The first gig of the band is the night that changes everything. Then-insecure Rachel having a not-so-great debut prompts an impromptu band meeting regarding where to go from there. The car in which Rachel is riding sans boys being struck by lightening as she is leaving gives her both an entirely new perspective and "Static Shock" style power to harness electrical power.
This leads to Rachel not demonstrating such great responsibility regarding her great new power. The good aspect of this is using her new-found ability to get the band on the road to success; the evil aspect of this is that this electricity comes at the cost of frying not-so-innocent men. The oft-presented and almost never heeded moral of this is that the hot chick who shows interest in you most likely lacks pure intentions. The rest of the story is that you pay dearly for what at most is an hour-or-so of pleasure.
This leads to Jimmy and Scott having to decide the extent to which they can condone the behavior that is granting them fame and fortune. Being an older former teen idol prompts Jimmy to repeatedly remind Scott that he should be careful about abandoning his one-shot at stardom.
Of course, all this climaxes after Rachel gets fully high on her own supply; any harm to the boys is collateral damage.
An unintentionally amusing aspect of "Voltage" is that it is similar to the 1977 six-episode failedcom "A Year at the Top." The concept of this one is that aspiring rockers Greg (Greg Evigan) and Paul (Paul Shaffer) sell their souls for the titular 12 months of stardom.
The bigger picture is that "Voltage" reflects the nature of fame. The reel and real lives of Arquette show how popularity can ebb and flow; the nature of the current (no pun intended) high shows that any short cuts come with prices that can range from a lack of integrity to a more costly compensation.
Fasten your seatbelts, Readers. Its going to be a bumpy night. The infuriating vanity-project that is "Becoming Iconic," which is recently out on DVD and streaming from Random Media, requires diverging from the usual modus operandi at this site. Believe it or not, this post holds punches.
Your not-so-humble reviewer prides himself on being as kind as possible regarding films; largely staying out of Blogland is another source of self-esteem. Sadly, "Iconic" is not conducive to either policy.
The standard for claiming a Mulligan regarding a review copy of a movie or a television program is to only request a pass based on being unable to write anything nice about that production. "Iconic" does have several good points. The concept of some of the best (but not necessarily iconic) living directors discussing entering that field is interesting; further, those talking heads do not disappoint regarding their insights and anecdotes.
Hearing one director compare a first-time directing job with losing your actual virginity is an apt and amusing analogy. Hearing how young child-actor Jodie Foster learns that an thespian also can be a director is another highlight. This is similar to "Happy Days" producer Garry Marshall setting Ron Howard, who does not participate in "Iconic," on the path to his directing career.
The primary subject is the problem. Jonathan Baker is so obnoxious and has the arrogance to make himself a more prominent topic than the Hollywood successes that he recruits for his project that he literally becomes unwatchable. This is not mention hyping the hobby business of his wife and his sporting a dye job that does not seem to meet the standard of a bargain chain salon. It looks as if his stylist uses Thom McCan Black.
A related note that requires noting that referring to Baker as "that guy" reflects the aforementioned restraint. The same irresistible urge to fast-forward through much of "Iconic" at the 45-minute mark relates to commenting a variation of "not that fornicating orifice again" whenever Baker subsequently appears on the screen. The footage of the other directors from that point on remains solid. They all continue to present themselves well.
The following YouTube clip of the "Iconic" trailer perfectly illustrates the agony and the ecstasy of the film. We see Foster, Taylor Hackford, Adrian Lyne and their peers discuss losing their directing cherry. Baker largely is o.k. regarding discussing his 2017 film "Inconceivable." Describing this project about which many people do not know and that has a 5.2 rating on IMDb and 3i-percent Tomatometer status as iconic really pushes the envelope.
This discussion of that promo. further is a good point for sharing a major peeve with "Iconic." Many of the interviews provides a sense that they are not filmed for "Iconic," and that the directors are only discussing their directing careers and the general topic of their craft, Footage of Baker "coming out" to Foster and another director near the end of the film essentially verifies that impression The talking heads express great surprise that the interviews are for a film about Baker.
This is not to mention that Baker produced "Iconic." It seems that a true wunderkind does not need to finance a film about his rising fame.
The trailer including the inevitable conclusion of another scene at the end of "Iconic" relates to another bone of contention. We see photos of the aforementioned participants; these images shrink down and go off to the side as the group gets larger. This is until a much larger photo of Baker literally and figuratively appears in the middle of the screen.
Much of the offensiveness of Baker relates to over-hyping his relationship with Warren Beatty, whom it is believed does not provide an interview for the film. Baker makes it seem both that Beatty sells him his house based on the work of Baker and that he and Beatty are best buds to the extent that many viewers will scream a variation of "enough about fornicating Warren Beatty" at the screen. One can further imagine Beatty simply humoring this guy until they seal the real-estate deal.
An amusing side note is that Beatty is an inspiration for the Carly Simon hit "You're So Vain." It seems very probable that Baker would have had that honor if Simon knew him when composing that tune.
IF Beatty does not provide an interview for "Iconic," listing his name among the other participants on the movie poster is highly misleading.
Baker goes comparably overboard when discussing his independent childhood in New York; he repeats his story about being an a young accompanied minor on the subway at least four times. The same is true regarding his sharing that Marilyn Monroe (who was not a director) died the year that he was born and that he bought the burial plot next to hers.
These references to the obnoxiousness of Baker illustrate the major flaw of "Iconic." His work does not support his arrogance, and he does not display either enough likability or talent to make him a good film topic.
The Mill Creek Entertainment October 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of 2009-15 sitcom "Community" is the crown jewel in the recent series of releases of this type from this company that helps keep cult classics alive. The Creek section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes posts on BD CS releases such as "Happy Endings," "The Masters of Sex," "Rescue Me," and "The Awesomes."
As a practical aspect, the "Community" set (which looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray) provides an affordable means either to buy a first-ever set of this top-ever sitcom or to upgrade from the single-season DVD sets that take up more shelf space,
"Community" creator/star Chevy Chase nemesis Dan Harmon truly hits comedy gold with the concept and the execution of the series. The program centers around misanthropic and conceited disbarred attorney Jeff Winger (Joel McHale of "Talk Soup). Being caught lying about his undergraduate education results in McHale experiencing what may be the only reel or real case of being sentenced to complete his education. His doing hard time at Greendale Community College sets the stage for interacting with his fellow misfit students and the comically inept faculty and staff and to contend with absurd bureaucracy.
Additional context comes via the fairly recent explosion of claims of racism at Evergreen State College in Washington. The nature of that scandal and the manner in which the students respond provide strong proof that Harmon bases Greendale on that school.
Winger and his gang form a "family" in S1 by creating a study group for the Spanish class of woefully unqualified Senor Chang (Ken Jeong of the "Hangover" franchise). This evolves to taking on other classes and ultimately becoming a trouble-shooting committee that seeks to put right what once went horrible wrong.
The most notable member is naive pop-culture addict Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). His tying real life into movies and television series and his tendencies to escape into fantasy worlds when faced with stress drives much of the action. A prime example of this is the S2 Christmas episode in which our friends are transformed into stop-action holiday characters. We also have Abed be the center of an awesome alternate reality and other variations on the lives of him and his friends.
Former high school football hero/stud Troy Barnes (Donald Glover a.k.a. Foolish Gambino) has the dual characteristics of practically being joined at the hip with Abed and of being highly relatable as a person who peaks early in life. Harmon does him well by fulfilling his greatest fantasy.
Troy high-school classmate/obsessive perfectionist good girl Annie Edison (Alison Brie) nicely reflects the dark side of someone who tries too hard. She is best remembered as the den mother of Abed and Troy.
Unfiltered Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) is the pretty girl/object of the affection of Jeff who takes up the cause of the week. Her inability to get her life together and her horrible romantic choices provide great entertainment. A relationship with shirtless hacky sack playing slacker Vaughn (Eric Christian Olsen) is a series highlight.
The adults consist of middle-aged mother hen/devout Christian Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) and racist/misogynistic/classist senior Pierce Hawthorne (Chaser). Shirley is mostly there to express disapproval of the antics of the "kids," and Pierce largely plays the role of the grumpy old man who insults his friends and provides "oh Grandpa" moments. Constant references to metrosexual Jeff being gay is a theme.
Harmon does a great job skewering both the arrested development of Millennials and the frustratingly increase in public outrage that only is worse in the years since "Community" has fallen one season and one film short of its goal of seven seasons and a movie. Examples of the immaturity of the students include the loved paintball episodes and other outings in which the entire campus engages in fun-and-games that almost literally destroy the place. Another classic episode has a pillow fort overtake the campus.
We further get a wonderfully true-crime style documentary surrounding the ass-crack bandit who uses an unconventional coin slot, an awesome send-off for Pierce that has his nastiness massively backfire on him, and much more good dark humor. This is not to mention the numerous times, such as a scheme to deal in a stash of textbooks, in which group members hilariously turn on each other.
This clear willingness to go there via comically absurd lengths warrants comparing "Community" to the better seasons of "The Simpsons" and "South Park" absent the profanity of the latter. It also reminds us of the Golden Age of Chase by evoking thoughts of the early days of "SNL." Sadly, we get "fat" Chevy.
The numerous extras include some of the best-ever outtakes, puns, and gag reels that highlight the strong comic chops of the cast. We additionally get deleted and extended scenes that criminally are excluded from the broadcast episodes. This is not to mention behind-the-scenes features that demonstrate that the love for the series is mutual between those who make it happen and those of us who benefit from them "going there,"
As mentioned above, the special quality of the previously released and new material relates to the social commentary that is put in proper perspective; this is true of most of the aforementioned other shows that Mill Creek has released.
The level of public outrage regarding every fictional portrayal over what includes acts that are deplorable in real life but still valid fodder for comedy simply requires too high of a price these days. No reasonable person can assert that any modern "atrocity" is comparable to the behavior of the Nazis, but the principle of Mel Brooks that laughing at Hitler robs him of his power has great applicability.
The CBS Home Entertainment December 18, 2018 S1 DVD release of the Showtime animated-series "Our Cartoon President" proves the adage that you can laugh or you can cry. Unlike his subject, executive producer/Trump nemesis Stephen Colbert is not guilty of hyperbole in stating that this three-disc set of the 17 regular-season episodes and the November 14, 2018 musical "Election Special 2018" includes "world-class amenities."
Although the themes of "President" are similar to the 43-era live-action sitcom-parody series "That's My Bush" and the animated-program "Lil Bush Resident of the United States," the current series is more hard hitting and sticks c;loser to actual events. Being on a premium cable network provides the additional bonus of being able to say all of the seven words that George Carlin reminds us are unfit for broadcast networks.
The topics in "President" include the Mueller investigation, the threat of a federal government shutdown, the controversy regarding Confederate statues, funding for the wall, etc. We further get to see what fools these top administration officials and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle be. This includes the Chuck and Nancy Show sans a tinkling contest.
The following YouTube clip of the Showtime trailer for "President" is a sad reminder that it is funny because it is true.
The episode introduction by the creative team for the pilot provides a good sense of the evolution of the series; the insights include a last-minute makeover for one character, The aptly titled "State of the Union" centers around the angst of Trump regarding his obligation to deliver that speech.
The especially amusing "Media Strategy" has Melania struggling to suppress her "plaid-shirt guy) impulse to roll her eyes during Trump speeches. This relates to the overall "President" theme of the first couple having a loveless marriage; a meeting in which they seek the advice of the Clintons is hilarious.
"Wealth Gap" is pure Trump; this one has POTUS going to great lengths (and absurd expense) planning a second wedding ceremony for his third wife. Much of the humor relates to a desire to show off his assets motivating the event. Cartoonishly dim-witted Eric "Beavis" Trump taking the brunt of his father overextending himself is particularly hilarious.
The aforementioned special truly pulls out all the stops beyond having a few musical numbers. We get Team Trump desperately trying to keep their majorities in both house of Congress and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer proving their inability to relate to everyday folk. This is not to mention Trump trying to have his cake and eat it too, and Hillary literally going on rampages. In other words, business as usual in Washington.
Jared Kushner steals the show as the only attractive male in the inner circle and as the whipping boy of the group. Having this advisor-in-law dress up in humiliating costumes and enduring abuse from Eric and Donald, Jr. is only the tip of the wonderfully comedic iceberg.
The aforementioned amenities include a table read and a few episode introductions. We also get a clip of animated Trump appearing on "The Late Show."
The creative success of this political satire shows Colbert that revenge is a dish best served globally.
Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Tops Holiday Gift Guide in DVD/Blu-ray Renaissance
The response of studios great and still great but small to increasing incursion of streaming into the DVD/Blu-ray/4K market reinforces the belief of Unreal TV that physical media rules and online content drools. The primary principle is that having something physical facilitates being able to watch what you want when desired.
Discs eliminate any chance of buffering, content slowing down other devices, or a streaming service pulling the content. You additionally do not have the aggravation of having to subscribe to multiple services to get the desired content.
The aforementioned defense to the offense of streaming, which has value when you are away from home, is to make physical releases more special. On a basic level, this involves designing new packaging to makes a release look cool and to incorporate it into a series of releases, This marketing may apply to the '80s teencoms, classic horror films, or the CGI-animated movies of a a studio.
Holy Hi-Def, Batman!
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment October 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition is a PERFECT example of the renaissance in the home-video industry. WBHE has expertly remastered every episode in this 1992-95 series. We also get Blu-ray versions of the equally well resurrected (reviewed) "Mask of the Phantasm" and the (also reviewed) "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero."
The set packaging is very stylish, and there are special features galore. WBHE goes further by including three mini-figures, placing the discs in a collectible hard-cover book, and providing 7 lenticular cards with "original animation artwork." This is not to mention limiting the run of the sets to 69,048; I scored the relatively low number of 11,601.
A brief diversion into Blogland is that the TAS set is personally particularly special. It is reminiscent of the even-more special WBHE numbered limited-edition Blu-ray release of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy, which has better packaging and includes toy cars. This set was the first Christmas gift from the highly significant other who has tolerated your not-so-humble reviewer for six years and counting.
Olive Films Garden
Purveyor of Hollywood classics, cult films, and art-house fare Olive Films takes top honors regarding taking art-gallery-worthy DVD and Blu-ray packaging to the next level. The Olive Signature division of this company does particularly well regarding collector's editions that put a highly arrogant competitor to shame.
Many posts on Olive releases can be found in the Olive section of this new-and-improved site; several more are slowly but surely being copied over from Unreal TV 1.0.
The beautifully remastered collector's edition Blu-ray releases from Signature feature aptly high-end art. Olive supplements this with picture-perfect (no pun intended) remasters. The extra-rich icing on the cake is the copious PBS-worthy documentaries and other features in Signature releases The additional awesomeness is these being limited editions that make them that much more special.
Warner Archive Awesomeness
Archive always will have a special place in my heart. Lovers of television and film can thank Ted Turner buying the video libraries of several studios to provide his fledgling basic-cable networks content for Archive having a seemingly bottomless pit of resources 40 years later. These riches include classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, all-time favorites and forgotten big-screen gems from every 20th-century era of Hollywood, and some of the best sitcoms and dramas to hit television from the early days of that medium to the present.
Archive reflects the trend toward enhanced packaging by reproducing the theatrical posters for films on the DVD (and increasingly Blu-ray only) releases of those movies. Archive is even more fully getting with the times by fully stepping with special features.
The bigger picture is that Archive is embracing the idea of leitmotifs that scream for bundled gifts . A few of many examples include releasing Christopher Lee "Dracula" films. Hitchcock movies, Silver Age musicals, etc. within several weeks of each other.
Most new releases of Golden Age fare provide a full night at the movies by including a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short from the era. We also often get footage of the premiere of the main feature. Archive releases of films from the '40s through the '70s typically have wonderful making-of documentaries that feature film experts such as Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, and Peter Bogdanovich.
The Archive section of this site provides a taste of these releases, including the aforementioned sub-genres; copying over the other 100s of reviews on Unreal TV 1.0 will require years.
Mill Creek Entertainment Springs to Life
Mill Creek Entertainment earns a completely sincere and equally heartfelt "Most Improved" award. No one loved the MCE collections of public-domain content more than your not-so-humble reviewer. Getting to see childhood favorites, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" was great fun. This is not to mention the glee associated with watching less-frequently syndicated classic sitcoms that include "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Burns and Allen."
MCE began stepping up in 2017 with Blu-ray complete-series sets of programs such as "Quantum Leap" and "That '70s Show."
MCE built on the foundation of "Leap" and "Show" by fulling with other awesome complete series Blu-ray sets in 2018. The MCE section of this site includes posts of the Showtime series "Masters of Sex," the especially good release of the Hulu animated series "The Awesomes," and the one-of-a kind Denis Leary NYFD firefighter series "Rescue Me."
MCE also is getting into the enhanced packaging/awesome special features game regarding classic '80s and '90s films. The current catalog includes the original star-studded "Flatliners" and the rising-star-laden '90s teencom "Can't Hardly Wait." Mid-January "retro" releases include the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy "Last Action Hero" and the John Candy slapstick-comedy Who's Harry Crumb."
Aptly for this time of the year, the above discussion of the featured studios is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the gift-worthy releases from them. Everyone from a hard-core cinephile to an amateur sofa spud will delight in the initial thrill of seeing an artful set, will love the high-quality production, and will delight in learning more by watching the extras.
'Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's World War II Documentaries' Blu-ray and DVD: Acclaimed Director Tells GIs Why We Fight
The Olive Films separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's World War II Documentaries" make November 6, 2018 a date that will live in infinite joy. These beautifully remastered "Why We Fight" films that include entertaining in-depth insights by film historian and Capra biographer Joseph McBride are equally entertaining and educational. Watch your back, Maltin.
"Capra' stands very well on its own and is a PERFECT companion to the (reviewed) Olive release "Let There Be Light." Light" features the contributions of equally legendary film director John Huston to the war effort.
The McBride-hosted half-hour special feature "Frank Capra: Why We Fight" is must-see to fully understand and enjoy the propaganda-laden documentaries that comprise the bulk of this collection. We learn about the military service of Capra and the ways in which his public image is inaccurate. We further see how he comes to work for Uncle Sam and manages to produce films for a small fraction of the cost of his Hollywood productions.
McBride shares additional film-specific information in his introductions to each film; this context is just as fascinating as "Fight."
"Prelude to War" focuses on the event leading to WWII and on explaining the importance of red-blooded American boys joining the fight. A nice aspect of "Prelude" is that it does not dumb-down the material; the only animation is Disney-produced footage that illustrates (no pun intended) the incursion of Axis forces into other countries.
The scope of this one encompasses a discussion of WWI and the resulting international pact prohibiting waging war to settle dispute. This includes showing America reducing its military resources in reliance on that agreement,
The introduction to the two-part "The Battle of Russia" is especially interesting. McBride reminds us of the basis for the U.S.-Soviet alliance and tells us that Russia supplies Capra all of the footage for the film. That source material perfectly reflects Soviet propaganda.
The main theme this time is that the Nazis can be stopped from advancing and can actually be driven back. We also see a favored Nazi tactic used against the Germans. The symbolic value of Moscow is another theme.
It is indisputable that the propaganda level in this one is particularly strong. We see the vast resources of Mother Russia and her happy people working in the fields and the factories. We also hear about their heroic natures. The gruesome footage of dead German soldiers is less appealing.
McBride further shares that the purpose of "The Negro Soldier" extends beyond encouraging black men to join the fight. This film also is intended to have white soldiers feel proper regard for the black brothers-in-arms.
A "and the rest" film is "Tunisian Victory about the joint American and British effort in North Africa. The last but not least has Capra and Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) team up to help maintain the moral of folks who remain in Germany as occupiers after the war.
Watching these films both greatly expands an understanding of Capra and demonstrates the nature of propaganda. A perfect example of this "Soldier" omitting inconvenient truths. Chances to watch these films is rare enough; watching them accompanied by the comments of McBride is a unique opportunity that should not be squandered.
The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1974 musical-comedy "Mame" allows fans to judge this one for themselves. This film is based on the stage-version of the 1958 Rosalind Russell comedy "Auntie Mame," which based on a story by and about Patrick Dennis.
One sadly undisputed aspect of this film is that having Lucille Ball having a very raspy and deep voice at this point in her career should have precluded having her playing any role that requires singing. The same is true regarding Bea Arthur, who reprises her role as best frienemy stage actress Vera Charles from the 1966 Broadway production. (Yes, I know that God will get me for that.)
"Mame" begins at the end of the Jazz Age; the titular society girl is living it up and thinks that the party will never end until she receives an almost-literal wake-up call during The Crash of '29. This sets the stage (pun intended) for Vera to delver one of the best lines in the play by stating that she is glad that she never set aside any money.
The rest of the story is that The Crash also comes soon after prim-and-proper orphaned nephew Patrick and his frumpy nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell) come to live with his auntie. The foresight of his late father allows Patrick to attend a respectable boarding school and largely avoid the bad influence of his only living relative.
Meanwhile, Lucy puts her brand of comedy to good use as Mame is required to cut back and to attempt several jobs to keep the roof of her luxurious townhouse over her head. This quest for full employment brings her in contact with future husband/savior Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, "Music Man" Robert Preston, who is best-known to modern audiences for his role in "Victor/Victoria," excels in every aspect of his performance as Beauregard. He gets the bonus of performing "Loving You," which is written for the film.
Lucy again shines on her trip to the Burnside plantation to meet the mother (Lucille Benson) of Beauregard. Hilarity ensues when a woman scorned and general southern hostility toward damn Yankees combine to set up Mame for a fall. However, that New Yorker wins over the crowd by showing that she is more than a one-trick pony. This leads to the chorus singing the title song that lauds the titular free spirit.
A notable segment that follows is a montage that shows Patrick first growing from a cute and studious lad to a dreamy horndog high school boy and then a skirt-chasing college man. A very cute Bruce Davison of 258 IMDb credits plays that version of Patrick.
This maturity sets the stage for the final conflict. Patrick is engaged to textbook WASP woman Gloria Upson from Connecticut. This Junior League stereotype and her family are ultra-conservative to the extent of only barely concealing their prejudices. Of course, this does not sit well with bon vivant Mame,
Stereotype Lucy once again appears in a scheme near the end of the film. She hilariously exposes the nature of the Upsons both for personal satisfaction and to provide Patrick a wake-up call.
Of course, Mame and Patrick get a Broadway/Hollywood ending.
The special features include the theatrical trailer and an eight-minute promo. that celebrates Lucy starring in the film.
The epilogue is that a mediocre film starring Lucy and featuring Bea Arthur is better than the best film that is a showcase for virtually any current Hollywood royalty.
'A Beautiful Planet' 4K + Blu-ray + Digital: NASA & Jennifer Lawrence Team Up for IMAX-Enhanced Footage From ISS
Mill Creek Entertainment figuratively and literally goes above-and-beyond regarding the 4K + Blu=ray + Digital December 11, 2018 release of the IMAX film "A Beautiful Planet." Saying that you will not believe your eyes is not an exaggeration.
Having the upgraded Sony 4K television is a nice luxury; paying a Blu-ray price for a basic LG 4K player is a good bargain. Combining them to watch "Planet" is priceless.
The enhanced experience begins with a sample of the upgraded audio that actually sounds light-years better than the standard version even for 4K discs. The incredible initial panoramic views of space are awe-inspiring images that make the opening credits of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" look like footage from cheesy '50s scifi films.
MCE includes a Blu-ray player for folks who do not have 4K players. .
The following YouTube clip of the standard-def trailer for "Planet" provides a sense of the fantastic footage and a better indication of the themes of the film.
A special earth-bound aspect of "Planet" is that Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence who narrates the film has another 114 wins and 176 nominations. She puts that talent to good use in setting the ideal tone for the film; her soothing voice sets the perfect mood.
Director Toni Myers, whose IMAX credits also include "Blue Planet" and "Space Station 3D," divides her focus between the titular big blue marble and the bonding and other aspects of daily life on the International Space Station (ISS). The latter begins with three astronauts en route to the ISS and getting a very warm welcome on their arrival. The bonding further strengthening during that tour of duty provides hope for the future.
We then see how the astronauts perform daily functions in a zero-gravity environment. Highlights include learning how they sleep and conduct the equally critical exercise. We further experience Christmas in space and get a look at genuine international co-operation. Footage of a crew member bathing is the least sexy shower scene ever.
Scenes of the crew are work are even more compelling. We see them perform indoor chores and "yard work" alike. Hearing about the extreme conditions of the latter should be required viewing for every child who complains about mowing the lawn in 80-degree heat.
The literal and figurative bigger picture is the aforementioned incredible footage of space and earth. We see nature in all its glory and its sadly deteriorating state. The contrast between night and day is even more fascinating. As a crew member states, it is easy to imagine that the lights are out and that no one is home from 9-to-5.
"Planet" additionally sends numerous messages without preaching. An example of the images speaking for themselves is South Korea being brightly lit and North Korea being dark beyond the clearly defined border between those countries.
Nice elements of "Trek" expand beyond the mini-Federation that operates out of the tin can in space. We get a strong sense of earth being a spaceship on which all of us are passengers. An aspect of that is the need to keep this organic vessel healthy if we want to continue living.
We further hear the astronauts thoughts regarding the final frontier and the plans of space programs to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Two of the special features center around the astronauts. The more entertaining of the two discusses them learning to operate the cameras that are used to make the planet. The third bonus has Myers hosting a visit to a way-cool research facility that capture many of the images in the film.
The universal truth regarding all this is that is difficult to imagine any other film matching "Planet" in production and narrative quality. You will be amazed and amused.
'Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1' 1st Release of 14 Technicolor Adventures of Spinach-Loving Strongman
The Warner Archive December 11, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume i' is the latest example of Archive coming to the rescue. This first-ever release of the first two-seasons (1943-44 and 1944-45) of Technicolor "Popeye" cartoons comes several years after Warner Prime only takes this series of those theatrical shorts up to 1943 in three volumes. This is one of numerous examples of Archive "adopting" abandoned film and television series.
The titular squid is an everyman who temporarily develops super-strength and speed on ingesting spinach. The prelude to this typically involves Popeye stumbling into a bad situation and getting along without his 'roid until he finds himself badly defeated. This setback often comes at the hands of nemesis/antagonist Bluto (sometimes Brutus). The source of their conflict regularly is their concurrent courtship of lanky Olive Oyl.
"Her Honor, The Mare" is the first of the 14 beautifully remastered shorts in Volume One. This somewhat change-of-pace adventure has the Huey, Dewey, Louie, and my other brother Louie style nephews of Popeye first sneaking a horse into his house and then trying to coerce him into letting him keep their new pet. This arguably is the most cute one in the set and establishes that the first several cartoons are the "missing link" between the more crudely animated black-and-white offerings and the more polished color cartoons that many folks remember from after-school airings.
Up next is the "Marry Go Round." The notable aspects of this one include featuring Navy buddy Shorty and a "don't ask, don't tell moment" that is surprising for the '40s. The plot this time is Shorty helping his buddy wok up the nerve to propose to Olive.
This leads to the technicolor-popping "We're On Our Way to Rio." This first Bluto cartoon in "Volume One" has him and Popeye competing for nightclub performer Olive. This time, spinach helps Popeye by turning him into a dancing fool.
One of the strongest offerings comes fairly late in the set. "For Better or Nurse" is one of the first with the more polished look. This especially amusing tale has Popeye and Bluto simultaneously trying to get injured and prevent the other one from getting hurt. Their motive is to be admitted to the hospital where Olive is the titular health-care provider.
"Nurse" is notable for a few twists that all are too good to spoil.
The first side note is that these war-time productions surprisingly have virtually no propaganda; the second side note is that Pop-pie ala Mode sadly more accurately reflects the era. Insensitive depictions of stereotypes can be dismissed as reflecting less enlightened times; however, the presentation of dark-skinned cannibals who are duping Popeye with an eye toward feasting on him pushes the envelope even for the '40s.
The aforementioned vintage animation style and unique characteristics of the early 40s fully prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore. Sets like "Volume One" show we have reason to be glad that Archive brings 'em back.
The holiday engagement season openly including same-sex couples makes November 13, 2018 an apt release date for the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the 2018 comedy "My Big Gay Italian Wedding." The truth bombs and overall fun of this one make it a good gift for the boys in your life who either have tied the knot or who plan to go to the Chapel of Love where they're gonna get married,
This neo-modern rom-com begins with dreamy 20-something actor/Berliner Antonio narrating how he meets live-in boyfriend Paolo. This recap quickly leads to Antonio popping the question and an excited Paolo saying yes. The ritual of putting a ring on it is one of the first of many highly amusing moments.
The honeymoon period ends on Antonio discussing he and Bohemian landlady/roommate/fag hag Benedetta taking an Easter vacation to the small mountaintop Italian village where his parents live. This also is when Antonio learns that resistance is futile regarding not wanting Paolo to tag along. This relates to Antonio never actually telling that his parents that he is gay or that Paolo even exists.
Many gay men can relate to Antonia not being ashamed of his sexuality but not being particularly "proud" in that he does not have a rainbow flag outside his house or march in a pride parade. His comfort zone encompasses being out among gay and straight friends but not being ready to bring Mr. Right home to meet the parents.
Textbook comic relief enters the picture on middle-aged cross-dressing suicidal bus-driver Donato moving in with Benedetta and the boys. He soon becomes a pity addition to the trip.
Roberto the dad being the liberal mayor of the small community introduces an interesting twist. He is battling his council over his advocacy of 15 refugees who are living there. However, the tolerance of Roberto does not encompass his son being gay.
Momma Anna is much more supportive; her acceptance of Paolo and pushing him to invite his estranged mother to the ceremony reflects the brand of love of mothers-in-laws across the entire Kinsey Scale. This also makes those of us whose mothers have passed away happy about that in this particular context.
Anna asserts her motherly love to the extent of drawing a line in the sand regarding Roberto; suffice it it to say that he does not step up. Surprisingly stronger support by the local clergy is much nicer.
This leads to the typical hilarity that occurs in any film that centers around planning any wedding. We get the crazy ex booty call, a problem occurring with the venue, the whole party-planning going out of bounds, etc. Gay-themed obstacles include affirmative efforts to prevent the boys from walking down the aisle.
All of this (of course) climaxes with the big gay day. Genuine hilarity in these final few moments include a psychotic "I object" moment and Paolo attempting a "Three's Company" caliber ruse. All of this concludes with a scene that triggers PTSD memories of Katherine Heigl movies.
Breaking continues its solid track record by supplementing this comedy for our times with good extras. We see the actress who portrays Benedetta steal the show from her co-star who plays Antonio at a Q&A session following an opening-night screening at the 2018 Out Shine Film Festival in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.
We also get an "making-of" feature that shows the actual filming of scenes interspersed with comments by cast and crew.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1956 CinemaScope scifi film "World Without End" once again proves the Archive commitment to releasing DVDs and Blu-rays that fit in awesome leitmotifs. In this case, it is bright and bold CinemaScope scifi B flicks.
The recently reviewed Archive Blu-ray release of "The Queen of Outer Space" starring Zsa Zsa Gabor is another member of the low-budget sci-fi movies section of the seemingly endless Archive catalog. Of course, these releases make a great double-feature gift for fans of good bad '50s scifi movies. A related note is that the back-cover liner notes for "World" state that it is the first CinemaScope scifi thriller.
Warner does its usual excellent job remastering both "World" and "Queen" for Blu-ray. The flawless images are crystal clear and incredibly vivid; the audio literally would allow hearing a pin drop.
The numerous similarities between "World" and "Queen" are attributable to Edward Bernds directing both; he pulls double duty as writer on "World." A synopsis of the films is that red-blooded American astronauts crash their ship and get tangled up with space babes. This screams for a book on the psyche of Bernds.
One difference is that "World" has more of an Irwin Allen feel than "Queen." This begins with a strong lost in space vibe, continues with stronger camaraderie among the macho men leads, and includes the stronger cheesy creature element.
The four astronauts in "World" are on a data-collecting mission when a freak storm near Mars causes their ship to go wildly out-of-control. They awaken to find their vehicle stuck in the mother of all snow banks.
The formulaic fun begins with the quartet discovering a massive spider web and soon wrangling with the not-so-sweet Charlotte who is its creator. The manner in which the group fends off this comical mutant establishes their approach to defending themselves from every savage foe.
The next adventure is straight out of "Queen." The men in both cases pay the price for lacking the foresight to assign someone to stand watch while the others sleep in their alien environment. The rude awakening in "World" comes courtesy of mutated cavemen.
The ensuing cat-and-mouse game results in the astronauts seeking refuge in a cave; that temporary refuge becomes more permanent on this tactic leading to the group entering the fortified underground world of the civilized inhabitants. This leads to reveals regarding where the space travelers have landed in time and space.
The honeymoon period quickly ends on the guests learning that their very timid hosts are unwilling either to help them repair their ship or use the resources that allow establishing an outpost on the surface. The aforementioned eye candy is some consolation; the new arrivals being far more macho in mind and body than the wimps who rule the place further enhances their status.
Of course, things soon come to a head in a manner that requires that every male man up. This initially leads to a wonderfully campy power struggle. This results in which is a happy ending on the surface (pun intended) but is horribly wrong from a more enlightened 21st-century perspective.
The happy ending for us higher beings is that Archive allows us the treat of a "World" and"Queen" double feature. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
Mill Creek Entertainment goes above-and-beyond regarding the October 30, 2018 "Can't Hardly Wait: 20-Year Reunion Edition." Merely releasing this 1998 John Hughes style summer teencom allows many of us who passed on this under-rated semi-precious gem in the theater, premium cable, and (most-likely) the DVD bargain bin at Wal-Mart to experience it. Second, Creek beautifully remasters the film and provides fun extras that include a 2008 10-year reunion in which writer-director team/work spouses Deborah Kaplan and Harrry Elfont, the casting director, and stars and supporting characters discuss the fun and love associated with making the film.
"Wait," which roughly runs in real-time, begins with the graduation ceremony at upskcale suburban Huntington Hills High. A panning camera eavesdrops on the typical gossip among the graduates. The main topics are the seemingly inevitable guy who is completely naked under his graduation robe and cheerleader/homecoming queen Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) breaking up with long-term football-stud boyfriend Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli). The graduating seniors also discuss the upcoming evening gathering at the home of "Girl Whose Party It Is."
Love Hewitt and Facinelli provide a sense of the Hughes-caliber stable of current and future young stars. We also get Ethan Embry of personal '90s fave teencom "Empire Records" as moderate achiever/everyteen Preston Meyers; he attends the party that quickly goes out of bounds with best platonic friend/cynical bitch Denise Fleming (Lauren Ambrose).
Preston wants to kiss the girl in the form of declaring his unrequited love for Amanda and at least get to first base before leaving the next day. Of course, many obstacles stand in his way.
Ambrose "Six Feet Under" co-star Freddy Rodriguez plays Jock #3. Like most supporting characters, he gets his hilarious moment to shine. In this case, it is wonderful exuberance regarding upcoming sex with his girlfriend. We also get duped "Exchange Student" having an equally hilarious conversation with Preston.
Seth Green plays wigger Kenny "Special K" Fisher, who is a pale red-head acting as if he is straight outta Compton. Kenny adds a particularly strong "American Pie" vibe in the form of desperately trying to lose his cherry that night. Sadly, there is no cougar on site to help out in that regard.
Genius bullied nerd William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo) rounds out the group. He and his two "X-philes" buddies attend the party for the sole purpose of getting epic revenge on Mike for four years of intense physical and emotional bullying. William undergoing the rite of passage of having his first beer is his hilarious moment. A story in the reunion special about Korsmo being cast as Charlie is particularly interesting and shows how "Wait" may have been an entirely different movie.
William is one of the more interesting characters in that a mutual lack of interest often prevents even those of us with above-average academic records from getting to know the Sheldon Coopers in our class. William letting himself be a teen does wonders in that regard. A related lesson is that the excitement of graduation and the party that eventually ends re-introduces an element of the reality that bites.
The Hughes element begins with the teen stereotypes, which include "Reminiscing Guy" and "Yearbook Girl" (Melissa Joan Hart) , that are funny because they are true; it continues with a look at the impact of high-school graduation and the entertainment value of a completely bonkers teen party. We also get the aforementioned epilogues in the form of the day after those festivities.
Giving Hughes his due requires commenting that Kaplan and Elfont do not deliver the same level of depth; nothing approaches the essay and other insights of "The Breakfast Club," but we are reminded of our younger days in which we knowingly and unknowingly make fools out of ourselves and in which the nature of a relationship can dramatically change during a drunken evening only to have that magic quickly fade. The better news is that that bonding does have a residual effect.
The other special features include "Life of the Party," which has the cast discuss the appeal of teen movies. We additionally get deleted scenes and a "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby" music video that includes scenes from the film.
The Film Movement November 13, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2017 Japanese courtroom drama "The Third Murder" provides particularly strong proof that the best modern films come from overseas. This is not to mention that New York Times Critic's Pick "Murder" meets the Movement standard of being a film that can be remade word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the U.S. and still make perfect sense.
Movement is giving American audiences another treat by theatrically releasing "Shoplifters" by "Murder" director Hirokazu Koreeda in the not-too-distant future. IMDb describes that one as "a family of small-time crooks take in a child they find in the cold." That story makes that film more representative of the family dramas for which Koreeda is best known.
The six Japanese Academy Award wins for "Murder" further reflect the quality of the film. These versions of Oscars are for Best Film, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing.
The following YouTube clip of the official U.S. trailer for "Murder" provides a good sense of the compelling drama and the stellar performances that warrant the hype for the film. This promo. additionally provides a sense of the exceptional cinematography of the movie that REQUIRES buying the Blu-ray version.
The mastery of "Murder" begins at the outset. Although the opening scenes seem to leave no doubt that ex-con/factory worker Misumi is guilty of the slaying for which he is awaiting trial, the facts that emerge throughout the film show that things are not as they seem.
High-powered criminal-defense attorney Shigemori soon figuratively and literally enters the picture to help prepare for the trial of Misumi. The defendant has already pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery-murder related to killing the victim in the course of stealing his wallet. The frustration of the defense counsel relates to Misumi changing his story a few times in the course of the proceedings against him.
The rest of the backstory is that the father of Shigemori is the son of the judge who makes Misumi a guest of the state regarding a 30 year-old murder. The nature of that crime is increasingly shown to have relevance regarding the current charges.
The direct and indirect evidence that emerges in the weeks before the trial gives Shigemori increasing reasons to have reasonable doubt regarding the nature of the killing and the culpability of his client. These new facts including indications of collusion to an undetermined extent between Misumi and the wife of the factory owner. Even then, the proverbial smoking guns may lack the believed importance.
Things are further kept in the family when the teen daughter of the factory owner states that she has relevant information. This ties into the relationship between Misumi and his largely estranged adult daughter and the impact of the career of Shigemori on his 14 year-old daughter.
Doubt further relates to "Kung Fu" style wisdom that Misumi shares with his dream team. This includes his statement that some people never should have been born; that declaration not having the assumed importance is very consistent with the spirit of "Murder."
All of this builds to the climax of the trial, which provides plenty of courtroom drama. The pragmatic outcome validates the impression of traditional court system that is presented throughout "Murder." The impact of this includes providing good reason to not trust what even seems to be an entirely voluntary confession.
The literally bigger picture relates to "Murder" presenting a variation of arguably the most famous Japanese movie other than "Godzilla." "Rashomon" centers around four conflicting accounts of an incident. Just as is the case in "Murder," each of these tales has an element of truth.
All of this amounts to "Murder" being a compelling film with strong doses of social commentary and thought-provoking philosophy.
As is the case with every selection in the Movement Film of the Month Club (which are available to the general public), "Murder" is well paired with a short film. Movement aptly describes "A Gentle Night," which as the Best Short Film winner at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, as follows. "In a nameless Chinese city, a mother with he daughter missing refuses to go gentle into this good night."
The extras are a making-of "Murder" feature and "Messages From the Cast" of that film.
Old Lime Productions shows the big boys how it is done regarding the 2016 documentary "Ghostheads," which IMDb perfectly describes as "a look at the intense fandom for the ("Ghostbusters") media franchise." An interview with producer Tommy Avallone regarding his related film "Bill Murray Stories" reinforces that the guys behind the camera put their heart and soul into this film about folks who devote a great deal of their time and income celebrating the 1984 comedy and its sequel.
A personal perspective is owning all three films on Blu-ray. a long-discontinued deluxe collector's edition of the complete animated series being a desert island set, and recently buying a toy model of the Ecto-1 vehicle from the franchise. This is on top of regularly referring to not crossing streams, to dogs and cats living in harmony, and to telling a powerful evil entity who thinks that you are a god that you are one.
Additionally, a visit to the New York Public Library was a required destination during a Manhattan visit. Telling the lions out front to stay did not elicit any response from the jaded locals.
The high-quality of the Blu-ray version of "Heads" and the plethora of extras (including a HILARIOUS interview with "Ghostbusters II" star Kurt Fuller) screams for buying this release, rather than watching it on a streaming service that may drop it at any time. Taking shameless commerce one level further, a "Ghostbusters" fan WILL delight in getting this documentary along with the 4K releases of the original films.
The following YouTube clip of the Kickstarter promo; for "Ghostheads" PERFECTLY captures the spirit and the tone of the documentary. It will make you want to join your local chapter.
One of the nicest things about the profiled heads is that they keep their active fandom in check; none of therm are obsessed with "Ghostbusters" and do not wear their jumpsuits and proton packs on a daily basis. The furthest that some folks take things is to use their replica of Ecto-1 vehicle as their primary car.
The sense of moderation continues with one participant commenting that he is in the game for the sense of community, rather than out of love for the films. A man at the other extreme discusses the films helping him during a very emotional period.
The charitable aspect of the activity is another great aspect of this fandom; we see the local chapters suit and gear up to bring joy to folks who need it,
It additionally is awesome hearing from director Ivan Reitman, Dan Akyroyd, Harold Ramis daughter Violet, and others involved in the original films share their perspectives and memories.
The best segments have William Atherton, who plays the uptight bureaucrat in "Ghostbusters," and Fuller from "Ghostbusters II" tell their stories. Atherton shares the public still tormenting him based on that role; his successor Fuller tells a great Bill Murray story in the form of Fuller assuring Murray that Fuller does not mind a particular directed insult and Murray refusing to deliver that line because he wants to spare Fuller the abuse being heaped on Atherton.
The recent Paul Feig "Ghostbusters" movie gets its due; we see mutual love that extends to Feig flying Ghostheads to Los Angeles for a special event. Feig additionally goes above and beyond regarding helping two fans take their relationship to the next level.
All of this makes "Ghostheads" a genuine feel-good movie that achieves the documentary ideal of being equally educating and entertaining. You may not be ready to shell out big bucks for a proton pack but definitely will want to join those who do for a party-sized Twinkee. You also will receive confirmation that everyone connected with making the films have enormous regard and fondness for the projects.
The numerous extras extend well beyond the aforementioned Fuller interview. We get a tribute to a kind and sweet Ghosthead to whom the documentary is dedicated, a music video of the "Ghostheads" theme, and so much more.
Warner Archive goes all-out Nightmare Before Christmas in releasing a series of Christopher Lee Dracula horror films from Hammer Studios on Blu-ray in this period of Santa and candy canes. These include "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" and "Horror of Dracula."
The Archive Blu-ray release of "Dracula A.D. 1972" from 1972 is our current topic. The moderately well-known spectacular film chemistry between Lee and co-star Peter Cushing in all their joint projects is the tip of the wooden stake regarding the quality of this one.
Virgins in the context of "1972" are in for an exceptional treat regarding this film far exceeding all expectations. Anticipating an entertaining low-budget production that is equal parts cheese and camp leads to sheer delight in finding a well-crafted film with performances that range from good to excellent and a compelling story that makes sense in the context of Dracula lore. The one exception regarding the production values is a spurting blood scene that is reminiscent of a volcano that is a school science-fair project.
The jazzy soundtrack adds an element of unintended humor; this fast-paced music and the strong early '70s vibe of the film create an expectation of the words "A Quinn Martin Production" appearing on the screen.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that the usual expert Archive resurrection of classic and cult-classic films for Blu-ray releases makes "1972" seem as if it has risen from the grave and been entirely reborn. It truly looks and sounds mahvelous, simply mahvelous.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "1972" is notable for the opposite reason that the film is must-see. This promo. inexplicably underplays the quality of the movie. The narration is thoroughly cheesy and does not properly showcase the production values; it does include a good sense of the plot and the "Clockwork Orange" aspect of the production.
Our story begins in 1872 as a spokesperson narrates a battle between Dracula (Lee) and Lawrence Van Helsing; this high-stakes confrontation concludes with the defeat of Dracula.
We quickly jump ahead a century as a group of uninvited hippies are throwing a wild party in the home of a wealthy woman in London; the planning and the execution of the exit strategy of the young people provides good humor.
The plot begins to thicken on group leader/minor league Manson Johnny Alucard convincing the group to participate in a Satanic ritual at an abandoned church. The naivety of the gang prompts them to go along with this plan for what they think is innocent fun.
Young unwitting Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham of "Dynasty") is unaware both that the rite of passage is intended to raise Dracula and that she is his bride in an arranged marriage courtesy of Johnny. Her rude awakening comes when everything gets very real.
Other good humor enters the picture when Dracula acts like an ungrateful genie freed from a bottle; Johnny expects a major pat on the head and barely avoids a kick in the pants. Dracula finding that his fiancee is not his intended does not help matters.
Current Van Helsing patriarch Lorrimer (Peter Cushing) enters the picture on Jessica acting oddly and expressing an interest in the occult. The police soon coming knocking after finding the mangled body of the most recent Countess Dracula provides the final piece of the puzzle.
Hilarity and horror ensue as Lorrimer confirms to Johnny that you cannot trust anyone over 30. The relentless manner in which the man attacks the boy is highly cathartic for all of us who must deal with Millennials. We also a "Batman '66" style battle as Jessica is lured into a fiendish trap that is designed to get her to the church on time.
All of this culminates in the predicted battle royale between Lorrimer and Dracula that brings the film full circle back to the beginning.
All of the aforementioned aspects of this unexpectedly good film provide a good reminder that horror need not be unduly graphic, exploitive, or otherwise excessively perverse. You simply need good source material and adequate talent on both sides of the camera that can make the story seem plausible.
CBS Home Entertainment awesomely celebrates the best of the '80s with the recent DVD release of "The Love Boat: Season 4 Volume 2." This coincides with CBS releasing the (reviewed) S4 V1 set of "Boat." The broad appeal of this "TV Land" classic about the titular cruise ship (typically) making round-trip voyages between Los Angeles and Mexico include the A-to-Z list celebrities that guest-star each week. Watching the sun and fun while suffering through a polar winter is another strong benefit of the series.
A special two-hour outing that centers around a fashion show is the most notable episode among the truly strong offerings in this collection from the second half of the fourth season of "Boat." This begins with having virtually every top designer of the '80s (Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein apparently miss the boat) appear and have models show their creations. The A-List includes Halston, Geoffrey Beene, and Gloria Vanderbilt. We further get a cameo by celebrity pianist Bobby Short.
This episode additionally may be the only one that exceeds the three vignettes (four in the frequent 90-minute and two-hour episodes) format. We get a whopping five stories, which overlap to a greater extent than most plots in a "Boat" voyage.
These wonderfully silly stories are exceptionally true to the "Boat" spirit. They include McLean Stevenson (M*A*S*H) as the husband/co-owner of a modeling agency who is clashing with his wife/business partner (Anne Baxter) regarding an age-based decision to have firing a model walk the plank. The rest of the story is that the former "It" girl is romantically involved with Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLoed).
We also get Robert Vaughan ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") as a cosmetics company owner who may or may not be looking to hire the current object of his affection. This is not to mention the corporate spy who falls in love with a fictional designer whose sketches he is trying to steal. The fun continues with the daughter and the assistant of another fictional designer striving to prevent Dad from discovering numerous secrets that include their marriage.
But for the epic quality (including a grand fashion show) of the very-special episode described above, another S4 V2 offering would earn top honors for this collection. This one reunites Jane Powell and Howard Keel ("Dallas") of the 1954 musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Powell plays the formerly ultra-wealthy aunt of assistant purser Burl "Gopher" Smith; Keel plays a self-made businessman. The ensuing hilarity relates to the Powell character trying to hide her current position as maid to a nasty old woman (Mary Wickes) from both her nephew and current beau. A cute scene in which Gopher and his aunt have a heart-to-heart is an episode highlight.
The second episode in S4 V2 is notable for including regular guest-star Charo, who (like Florence Henderson) boards "Boat" 10 times. Each time, Charo plays April Lopez, who embodies the professional persona of her portrayor. The broken-English speaking April makes her debut as a stowaway who becomes a professional lounge singer.
The S4 story "April the Ninny" has this Mexican jumping bean hanging up her guitar to become the governess of the two rambunctious children who are on the ship with their negligent father (Larry Linville of "M*A*S*H). "Return of the Ninny" a few weeks later revisits the root of the Lopez lore. April and the kids come aboard to say goodbye to Dad but end up getting stuck on the ship.
The S4 season-finale is notable for setting the stage for one of the biggest real and reel events in "Boat" history. A romance for a crew member is the beginning of the end for the actor who plays that individual; this relates to a very '80s-style scandal. All of this leads to the very-special S5 season premiere that has the crew sailing to Australia.
Folks who are old enough to remember the incredible impact of "Boat" on the cruise-ship industry and the personal glee of coming inside from the dark and the cold to watch beautiful people enjoy the good life under bright skies do not need to be sold on these sets; Millennials who spend most of their time inside should trust their elders and believe that this is an ultimate entertaining series and that the S4 V2 episodes are especially good.
The anticipated response of fans to the aptly titled Time Life 22-disc release "Robin Williams: Comic Genius" perfectly reflects the spirit of Williams and the set. Said reaction relates to a classic "Mork and Mindy" episode that is not among the equally memorable (including the two-part pilot) offerings in "Genius."
The omitted episode centers around naive alien Mork (Williams) becoming a home shopping addict. A hilarious scene has him frantic to purchase more junk from that service. Straight woman Mindy (Pam Dawber) asks her roomie from another planet if he really needs the item. Williams responds by transforming into his hilariously manic persona and states that he does not "need" it but really really wants it. That is a very valid reaction to "Genius." The larger picture is that the collectibles in the home page photo of this site reflect the lifelong influence of the episode (and Williams) on your not-so-humble reviewer.
A personal memories post a few days after the August 11, 2014 passing of Williams further reflects high regard for that performer. An aspect of this relates to another classic sitcom. A scene from "Chuckles Bites the Dust" in the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" has the minister who is eulogizing the titular clown state that that performer would have hated people to cry and would have wanted them to laugh.
Having a clear (but not delusional) image of Williams telling fans to not be sad about his passing and then going into an improved bit about having his way with 72 virgins in Heaven both provides solace and makes "Genius" very special.
A still "too soon" aspect of the passing of Williams prevents watching the 2018 documentary "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind" that "Genius" includes. The excellent hype regarding that film indicates that it is must-see for Williams fans who can handle hearing about his life.
A "Mork" episode in "Genius" relates to the above. While "Mork Meets Robin Williams" could have been fully played for laughs (and is a bit sappy), it reflects the psyche of Williams that is an early warning of things to come.
Much of the humor of "Meets" relates to Mork being mobbed because fans think that he is Williams. The meeting of the reel and real Williams has a more serious note in that the actor tells the alien that giving so much exhausts him but that he hates disappointing people. Hilarity soon awesomely ensues when Mork then immediately asks Williams to give. Williams agreeing to do so reflects his character (no pun intended).
The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Genius" further reinforces the value of the set. The good folks at Time Life amazingly include clips that reflect most of the range of Williams. We see him go off script and off-the-rails during talk-show performances, do his HYSTERICAL cat marking territory monologue from his 2002 "Live on Broadway" special, gleefully add his own spin on the Bob Newhart telephone conversation bit, liven up award shows, etc.
We also get glimpses of the many celebrity interviews (including Dawber) who express their love for that wild and crazy guy.
The highlights of "Genius" begin with the 24-page "Robin Williams: Uncensored" book that almost is worth the price of the set. In includes publicity and candid photos interspersed with jokes and insights from Williams. We additionally get quotes from his fellow comedians and from Barack Obama.
The greatness of "Genius" continues with never-released material; examples are a 2007 stand-up performance at the MGM Grand Garden and a Montreal show on the final tour of Williams. We further get a meeting of comic titans in the form of Williams talking with David Steinberg.
The ONLY criticism regarding "Genius" relates to an omission; the seemingly countless clips of Williams making guest spots on television programs includes a special feature on a guest spot on "SCTV." This extra consists of a handful of skits in which Williams performs. We sadly do not get the hilarious "Bowery Boys in the Band" segment that is available on YouTube. The following clip fills that gap.
A clip of Jay Leno in the aforementioned trailer perfectly conveys the appeal of Williams; Leno essentially states that that genius has a charm that allows him to get away with being outrageous. A prime example of this is an interview for a German television program in which the host asks Williams why he thinks that Germany does not have any humor and he responds that it is because they killed all the funny people. This shows that Williams understood context in a manner that sadly is lacking in 2018.
This is not to mention the unparalleled improv. skill of Williams arguably making him the funniest man of the 20th century. Many others can skillfully deliver their own material or that of their writers; it is hard to think of anyone who both can think as quickly on his feet as Williams and is brave enough to say what comes to mind.