The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement expands a recent Eurocentric pattern that largely consists of vintage films from Ealing Studios and/or Alistair Sim, which are reviewed in the Film Movement section of this site, to separately release the French tragromcomdram "Serie Noire" on DVD and Blu-ray on April 14, 2020. Adding "Serie" to the incredibly broad Movement catalog provides a chance to see why Time Out considers it one of the 100 best French films of all time.
The '70stastic realistic grittiness of "Serie" looks especially good in the remastered Blu-ray edition right from the opening scenes of middle-aged door-to-door salesman Franck Poupart releasing his frustration before going to the seedy house of "la tante" in search of handyman/boxer Tikides, who is behind in his payment on a suit. This soon leads to Auntie bargaining with Franck to give her a quilted robe in exchange for a tryst with her niece Mona. It is clear that this is the not the first time that Aunty has engaged in this form of bartering.
The next scene in which Mona is resigned to taking one for the team but Franck is protecting the virtue of both his new friend and himself is one of the best in the film. It also is the start of a not-so-beautiful friendship between these two persons who are slaves in their own ways.
The additional desperate times that lead to the "Strangers On a Train"/"Throw Momma From the Train" style desperate measures revolve around Franck's wife Jeanne amping up her crazy and his boss Staplin taking a very hard line on learning that Franck has been skimming from the top,
This is not to mention things turning equally personal and violent as to Tikides.
The aforementioned plot revolves around Franck essentially using one stone for a murder of crows; this wicked deed largely goes off as planned but leads to wonderfully darkly comic fallout that involves all concerned.
The first awesome message of "Serie" is that you should never have an amateur do a job that requires a professional; a related message is that the boss always acts in his or her own best interest and never truly is the friend of an employee.
The home-video extras are the featurettes "Serie Noire, The Darkness of the Soul" and an interview with director Alain Cormeau and star Marie Trintignant (Moma). Classics also includes an always insightful written essay on the film du jour.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]
Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project."
Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.
The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE.
The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.
The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.
Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm.
Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see."
A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.
An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real.
Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.
The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler.
The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her.
The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.
America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.
"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks.
The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker.
The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey.
MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels.
The masterfully remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1983 Kirk Douglas/John Schneider action-adventure comedy "Eddie Macon's Run" is the type of film that we need most in this era in which temporarily being let out of our cages is not granting much freedom. Matt Nelson's recent run consisted of a three-hour round trip solely to get a haircut for the first time in eight weeks.
The spectacular shot-on-location southwest cinematography looks gorgeous in Blu-ray; on top of this, "Macon" is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of films of that era starring teen idol TV stars. These include the reviewed 1977 action-adventure comedy "Heroes" starring Henry "Fonzie" Winkler.
The small-screen stud this time is John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" fame; he plays the titular man, who aptly shows that his participation in a prison show is not his first time at the rodeo when he uses a cattle call to make a not-so-great escape in order to shorten his unfortunate incarceration in Texas. Kirk Douglas plays not-so-intrepid lawman Carl "Buster" Marzack, for whom recovering the fugitive is personal.
Much of the early portion of "Run" focuses on Macon makin' an actual run for the border. His early obstacles includes capture by two good ole boy redneck ranchers, who seem determined to provide deliverance that seems certain to utilize his pretty mouth and to make him squeal like a pig.
Meanwhile, Marzack remains one frustrating step behind his prey. The rest of the story is that the devoted wife of Macon is one step ahead of him and is paving the way for their planned reunion on the other side of the Rio Grande.
A fateful life-saving encounter occurs when Macon comes across black sheep Jilly Buck, perfectly portrayed by Lee Purcell, having trouble convincing Mr. Right Now that no means no. This leads to the con and the party girl starting their beautiful friendship with potential benefits.
The extended climax commences with Marzack catching up with his prey only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory; this leads to "Dukes" caliber car chase with a nice twist at the end.
The joy in all this is seeing Schneider put his earnest charm to good use in a role that may actually be tailor-made for him,.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1977 Henry Winkler, Sally Field, and Harrison Ford comedy "Heroes" is an awesome reminder of the gritty socially conscious films of that era. This release also is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of teen idol TV stars films; the soon-to-be-reviewed "Eddie Macon's Run" starring John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" is another example.
Winkler, who always will be best known for playing Fonzie on the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days," puts his Yale drama school education to good use as excitable Vietnam vet Jack Dunne. One of his best scenes in a movie full of notable moments comes at the very beginning; he outrageously disrupts a sales pitch at an Army recruiting center.
This exploit lands Dunne back in a VA hospital, where he is the Fonzie-caliber leader of his ward. This hospital stay getting cut short with a little help from his friends fully sets the film in motion; it also sets the stage for both arguably the most charming "prison break" and ensuing pursuit in film history.
A series of not-so-unfortunate circumstances leads to Dunne befriending runaway almost-bride Carol Bell; Field plays Bell essentially in the same manner that she portrays runaway bride Carrie in "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977).
Carol is headed to Kansas City to get away in the days before her wedding; Dunne is going in that direction to be part of the big worm rush in California. It is unknown if he plans to raise red wigglers, which are the Cadillac of worms.
The first leg of this journey gives Winkler a chance to shine in his good-natured harassment of their bus driver, who represents a typical authority figure on an ego trip. (Think Fonzie v. Officer Kirk.) The mutual open animosity between the two men is another "Heroes" highlight.
The aforementioned circumstances lead to Dunne and Bell taking to the open road and showing up at the dirt farm of Dunne's Army buddy Ken Boyd (Ford). Ford awesomely plays Boyd as a redneck Han Solo; Field makes a perfect princess for him, and Winkler nicely fills the role of emo sidekick.
The circumstances this time are less fortunate than the ones that set the stage for when Henry met Sally; Dunne is a last-minute replacement for Boyd in a race. This leads to the very "Smokey" development of Dunne and Bell using the muscle car of Boyd for the next leg of their journey; "Smokey" pulling them over in the wake of the vehicle taking the brunt of the injury in a bar brawl is another scene that makes "Heroes" '70stastic.
The subsequent adventures, including the obligatory trial-and-error separation, lead to arriving in California. This leads to a rude awakening in the form of highly distressing news for Dunne that provides Winkler one more chance to shine.
The bottom line is that "Heroes" earns the cliched praise that it deftly combines drama and comedy; the bigger picture is that the trauma of the actual wars in the decades following Vietnam and the intense stress of living through COVID-19 make this tale of a likable guy cracking under the strain and being desperate to live out his dream relatable. This is especially so ahead of your not-so-humble reviewer driving three-hours round trip solely to get a haircut two months after his last one.
The Film Movement Classics April 14, 2020 Blu-ray release of "Alastair Sim's School for Laughter" awesomely continues this division of art-house god Film Movement giving timeless British comedies their due. This release also expands the Classics catalog of Ealing Films that are reviewed in the Movement section of this site.
The scope of "Laughter" is akin to the recent (equally bonus-features laden) Classics BD collection "Their Finest Hour." This reviewed set of five films showcases Ealing WWII- themed productions that include the original version of "Dunkirk."
The following Classics trailer for "Laughter" expertly schools viewers in each of the films in a manner that showcases the wonderful deadpan humor of Sim, who arguably is best known for his standard-setting portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."
The fun begins with the wonderfully titled farce "The Belles of St. Trinian's" (1954). Sim plays the dual roles of the headmistress of the titular girls' boarding school and her neer-do-well brother. The success of Sim in pulling off this feat is one of many examples of this skills in this set.
The overall theme of the "Belles" is that the student body is comprised of a group of feral females that strikes fear in the hearts of the locals. For her part, headmistress Millicent Fritton must contend with both the wolves of Wall Street constantly at her door looking for loan payments and a faculty that is comprised of a highly disgruntled rogues' gallery.
These factors (in addition to the new "Eastland" girls) converge in a perfect comedic storm that drives much of the "Belles" action. A faction that figuratively has a horse in the race is competing with another faction that literally and figuratively has a horse in the same contest.
The central conflict results in there being a dorm resident who is a real nag.
Next up is the original "School for Scoundrels" (1960). This wonderfully dark comedy has Sim shining as Stephen Potter, who runs the titular "College of Lifemanship" that teaches decent folks who repeatedly are victimized by "scoundrels" to learn how to get the larger end of the stick.
"Scoundrel" Delauney (Terry-Thomas of "Munster, Go Home" fame) repeatedly being the Bluto (or Brutus) to the Popeye of Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) prompts the latter to engage in continuing education so that he can school his rival and regain the primary affection of "Olive Oyl."
Although the dead-pan classroom aspects of "School" are highly entertaining, the best scenes are the "before" and "after" ones between Delauney and Palfrey. Watching these men alternatively get the upper-hand over the other is timeless classic comedy.
The bonus features include an charming and insightful modern interview with a film critic.
"Laughter in Paradise" (1951) arguably has the most social commentary in this quartet. Sim plays one of four potential heirs in this variation of both versions of "Brewster's Millions." The right of each named beneficiary in the will to collect his or her share of the loot is conditioned on completing a 28-day task that is directly contrary to his or her nature.
The mission of secret pulp-fiction novelist Denniston Russell (Sim) is to commit an offense that will make him a guest of the Queen until 28 days later. Watching him question local law-enforcement as to what crime will result in that specific amount of time is amusing. A shoplifting effort that goes comically awry is hilarious.
Classics aptly wraps things up with "Hue and Cry" (1947), which is the first Ealing comedy. Sim once again plays a paperback writer, whose fiction provides the basis for actual heists by a criminal gang. This tale centers around a teen Hardy boy and his gang that must thwart the bad guys on their own.
The surprise ending truly is that. The less good news is that it involves a serious beatdown of our excitable boy, who already has experienced undue physical and emotional batterings in his quest for truth, justice, and the English way.
Classics supplements this with trailers and "behind-the-scenes" features on the films. We also get the usual, but far from typical, written essay on the topic du set.
The coronavirus pandemic has managed to do what Larry David, but not 911, could accomplish to an extent. Namely, a "Seinfeld" reunion.
Although David brought the band back together for a "Seinfeld" mini-reunion that drove much of the S7 action in the HBO David docucom "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the Four Horseman of New York have not had a full-fledged reunion since their iconic sitcom ended in 1998.
The proper context for reading about the reunion begins with taking things in the proper context and remembering that mocking evil reduces its power. Mel Brook and many other comedy writers making fun of Nazis perfectly reflects this concept.
Jerry Seinfeld and David announced today that they have begun work on a script for a 90-minute coronavirus-themed "Seinfeld" reunion. Production is scheduled to commence June 31, 2020. It is scheduled to premiere on the NBC streaming service Peacock on September 23, 2020, which is the 61st birthday of "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander.
Seinfeld and David explained that they realized that America needed their brand of comedy now more than ever and that the role of New Yorkers in making a horrible situation even worse provided a perfect premise for a reunion.
According to Seinfeld and David, the underlying premise of the reunion is that Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) returning from Italy with an salami triggers an heavily enforced lockdown of the apartment building in which he and fictional Jerry live. The rest of the story is that Kramer renting his apartment on Air BnB before his trip and cutting it short because of the pandemic forces Jerry to take him in.
For his part, Jerry is facing reel wrath that is comparable to the real hatred that Richards faced when lashing out at black audience members at a stand-up gig. Jerry is under fire for a pre-pandemic joke in which he observes that a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer is no match for the toxic environment of the New York subway.
For her part, Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is trying to convince her one-night-stand who is binge watching "Full House" during their joint quarantine that he is immune from the coronavirus so that he will go home.
The fun continues with unemployed hypochondriac George Costanza mistakenly being convinced that he is infected. This prompts George to max out his credit cards on comically extravagant non-returnable items.
Comments by David and real Seinfeld that include stating the reunion pays homage to the epic "Seinfeld" series finale suggests that Peacock special concludes with the gang hitting the road for a rural New England town only to find themselves sharing a large quarantine bubble ala The Bubble Boy of the original series.
The biggest joke regarding all this is that this post is an April Fool's Day joke; not that there is anything wrong with that. One can only hope that David and real Seinfeld truly give the public what we really need these days.
The Film Movement Classics division of indie-film god Film Movement March 10, 2020 BD double-feature release of "Whiskey Galore" (1949) and "The Maggie" (1954) (aka "High and Dry") once again proves both that funny always is funny and that the Brits kick the arses of Yanks when it comes to comedy. This release also is the third Classics BD of Ealing Studios releases. This site has already covered the Blu-ray of "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953) and reviewed the Blu-ray of the 1949 farce "Passport to Pimlico."
These four never-a-dull-moment films make a wonderful home-based classic film festival. The copious in-depth special features that accompany these UK gems aptly give them the royal treatment and are well worth watching.
One of the many common elements of "Whiskey" and "Maggie" is that the are both from Ealing director Alexander Mackendrick, who is better known for "The Ladykillers" and "The Man in the White Suit."
The following SPOILER-LADEN Classics trailer for "Galore" highlights the award-worthy restoration. This promo also provides a strong sense of the so-near and yet-so-far aspect of a small Scottish island that has its supply of the titular libation go dry at the same time that a ship with a large supply of that nectar rounds aground just off shore. Hilarity galore ensues.
Classics does "Maggie" equally proud as to the trailer for that film. The primary "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that wily boat captain McTaggart responds to desperate times by undertaking the desperate measure of deceptively getting the job of transporting cargo that is very precious to American businessman Calvin B. Marshall. Once more, there is copious hilarity.
"Whiskey" is well-acted movie about eccentric antics of quirky residents of a small Scottish island that evokes strong thoughts of similar fare of days of yore such as "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down A Mountain" and "Waking Ned Devine." This is a nice contrast to the modern formula of placing the matinee or teen-boy idol of the week in a film that relies on crude and/or slapstick humor.
The quaint old world setting this time is the small community of Todday. Although the year is 1943, the only impact of the war is the local pub running out of whisky and not having any hope of replenishing its supply any time soon. The lack of a more serious threat is not stopping the "Dad's Army" style local Home Guard officer from maintaining road blocks and otherwise exercising undue diligence. This textbook self-righteous fool is easily frustrated by the "incompetence" of subordinates and the absurd manner in which the military operates.
The daily life of the Sam Druckeresque postmaster/shop keeper is being complicated by his youngest daughter and earnest school teacher George Campbell wanting to get married despite the strong opposition of Mrs. Campbell, who is the mother of all mothers. The engagement of the older daughter to a soldier on leave is free of similar drama.
The conflict between the cold warring factions heats up when a ship that is transporting 50,000 cases of whisky runs aground off the shore of Todday. The locals want to salvage the titular beverage for their own use, and the Home Guard wet blanket wants to obey the letter of the law. This results in highly entertaining mad dashes on the land and on the sea, as well as hilarious scenes of concealing whisky bottles.
The humor and the action in "Whisky" is so well presented throughout that the film does not climax so much as it winds down. Some characters are a little wiser, others emboldened, and most quite a bit drunker.
An especially awesome of "Whiskey" is that it is funny because it is (somewhat) true.
"The Maggie" follows a similar figurative path; McTaggart encounters numerous obstacles in trying to deliver the goods, which is needed to literally keep his business afloat. This involves literal and figurative rocky moments; the real fun commences with Marshall literally (but not figuratively) comes on board after McTaggart evades earlier attempts to get things on the right course. The ending this time literally and figuratively is far from Hollywood.
The Mill Creek Entertainment February 11, 2020 Retro VHS-Style Blu-ray of the 1991 Bruce Willis action-comedy "Hudson Hawk" awesomely once more provides a second bite at the apple regarding unfairly scorned films of the '80s and '90s. The proper perspective regarding these no-reason-to feel-guilty pleasures is that they fill their purpose of providing roughly 90-minutes of escapist fun. The MCE section of this site includes copious posts on these vintage gems.
Other February 11, 2020 Retro releases include the Cyndi Lauper/Jeff Goldblum comedy "Vibes" and the Richard Gere/Kim Basinger noir film "No Mercy." Posts on each film are scheduled for the next few weeks.
Our story begins a long time ago in a country relatively far away. It is the Italian Renaissance, and Leonardo Da Vinci is simultaneously working on commissioned statue of a horse and a personal side project that he considers a golden opportunity. This sets the stage for the amusement that ensues in our era.
The primary story commences with the titular cat burglar (Willis) ending an unfortunate incarceration for which he is a fall guy. His parole officer derails the rehabilitation of Hawk by giving him the choice of resuming his profession or finding himself once more becoming a guest of the State. A New Jersey mobster, who has the obligatory dimwitted minion, soon makes Hawk the same offer that he cannot refuse.
This prompts Hawk and partner-in-crime (and comedy) Tommy Five Tone (Danny Aiello) to steal the Da Vinci horse. This equine soon proves to be of the Trojan variety in that it contains the true objective of the heist. The fact that it resembles the odjet d'art in the "Brady" living room is a bonus.
The rest of the cast of characters join the caper at the typical upper-crust auction where a horse of the same color is put on the block. These include the highly quirky (and seemingly majorly inbred) Darwin (Richard E. Grant) and Minerva (Sandra Bernhard) Mayflower and Vatican representative Anna Baragli (Andie McDowell), who getting into the act reflects her habit.
Hawk subsequently finds himself an a form of accidental tourist on a Roman Holiday as the aforementioned "patrons" and others with a horse (no pun intended) in the race coerce him into a obtaining everything that a golden opportunity requires. Much of the ensuing fun relates to just about every character discovering that he or she has put his or her trust in the wrong person or persons.
This portion of the film fully takes off as Willis gleefully goes over the top ala Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1993 action-comedy "The Last Action Hero" that is a fellow (reviewed) MCE Retro-style BD release. Highlights include a wonderfully dark decapitation, a bad guy being the victim of textbook poetic justice, and Willis going overboard as to his use of weapon of mass destruction.
All of this concludes with a climax that admittedly is a bit over extended. It is equally predictable that the bad guys seems certain to prevail and that there is a last-minute miracle.
As this post states at the beginning, the appeal of "Hawk" is the escapist thrill ride that it provides at a time that a global plague has descended on us, a large percentage of the population is experiencing a major reversal of fortune, and our overall future does not close to needing shades. This film (and its fellow Retro releases) are excellent medicine for our increasingly (and seemingly endless) dystopian times. All we can do is keep calm and view on.
Time Life more fully establishes itself as the king of DVD releases of '60s and '70s A-List celebrity variety shows with the February 11, 2020 DVD release of "I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher." This 5-disc set with a modern-era interview with Cher and other truly special feature joins epic sets of (reviewed) "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show" and (reviewed) "Laugh In" in the Time Life catalog.
Although "Burnett" and "Laugh In" are bigger hits, "Sonny" arguably better reflects pop culture and has greater influence over TV Land. This brainchild of lowest-common denominator genius Fred Silverman reflect the wisdom of "I Love Lucy." Ala Desi Arnaz, Bono puts his ego aside to let his more appealing and talented spouse be the main attraction,
On a related note, the playfully bickering husband-and-wife variety show format helps pave the way for similar '70stastic television fare that follows. The closest homage is "The Captain and Tennille," "Donny and Marie" also is very similar, and the influence extends to "Tony Orlando and Dawn."
Moving into the '80s, "Sonny" (ala "Lucy") ending when the stars experience irreconcilable differences also reflects "Happy Days"spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi" ending for reasons that include Joanie no longer loving Chachi.
The "Sonny" set beginning at the beginning lets us see the genesis of the series; subsequent episodes in the set show how it evolves.
Two constants are Mr. and Mrs. Bono coming on stage at the beginning to sing a duet and give Cher a chance to deliver short, Italian, and fat jokes that reflect the era in which people have a sense of humor. Cher asking Sonny if he is a horny toad after he shares a review that states that he sings like a frog also is typical. Copious related humor that makes it clear that Sonny will be handling his romantic urges pro Bono that night are surprisingly racy for network television of the era.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to "offensive" humor of the show. Much of this revolves around black ensemble member Freeman King, who does not seem to mind jokes that include him saying that he likes watermelon pie.
The first guest being Jimmy Durante both makes it clear that (ala "The Monkees") the Bonos are harmless hippies. This also shows that "Sonny" reflects the same wisdom as Burnett, who find that the best guests are the ones who can both sing and act.
The style of humor on "Sonny" much more reflects the rapid-fire and politically edgy style of "Laugh In" than the more extended (and kinder and gentler) sketch format of "Burnett"; not that there is anything wrong with that.
"Sonny" borrowing from "Laugh In" extends beyond incorporating a party scene in which regulars and guest stars fire off one-liners. "Sonny" regularly has Cher lead an all singing all-dancing group of troupers in a bit that intersperses short skits around a central theme. An example of this is the Art Carney episode that parodies Army life through the years; there surprisingly is no reference to Vietnam.
A variation of the above is the well-known regular bit in which Cher sings her "Vamp" song accompanied by skits that feature femme fatales throughout the ages.
The aforementioned bonuses include an interview with "Sonny" producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde; their reminiscences include future Congressman Bono saying at an early discussion of the show that he has more substance than his "stumblebum" TV persona. This is particularly clear as to an insightful Bono dominating the conversation in a 1970 interview for the talk show "Jerry's Place" that is another bonus feature.
The biggest takeaway from all this further borrows from Burnett; her wisdom related to her wit is that something this is funny remains eternally funny.
Reasonable expectations regarding both the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me" and its auteur make the November 2019 DVD of "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!" a major disappointment. One should be able to expect more of a guy who has proven that he so much better than this on EVERY level.
The solid asserted (but almost certainly pretextual) concept of "2" commences with a fast-food chain contacting Spurlock to appear in ads due to his documented "Super Size" attempt to only eat McDonald's food for a month.
This allegedly is what motivates Spurlock to start a new chicken restaurant from scratch (pun intended) and to document this effort. In other words, he profits from both the film itself and the publicity that it generates for new business venture Holy Chicken.
One not so-surprising spoiler is that the film prompts investors to approach Spurlock about creating a chain of Holy Chicken restaurants. Another spoiler is that your not-so-humble reviewer has adequate integrity to pledge to NEVER eat at any location regardless of how peckish (pun intended) he becomes.
Spurlock commences this venture with the effort that is the primary focus of "2.." The search for a source for chickens and a place to raise them sets the stage for an "expose" of "Big Chicken" that does not reveal any information that has not been relatively well known for decades. These include that the big boys, such as Tyson and Perdue, use their strong grip on the industry to harm both competitors and chicken farmers who end up on their bad side. We also hear the same (but still highly distressing) stories about inhumane conditions at the big chicken facilities.
Spurlock does deserve credit for some new information. We learn about the laughably low government standards for making assertions about chickens. For example, claiming that your birds are "free-range" essentially only requires giving the flock the option of going out on the front porch. A scene in which Spurlock fails to convince his fine-feathered friends to poke their beaks out the door is a "2" highlight.
The parallel effort of Spurlock to develop a theme and a menu for his restaurant is more interesting and insightful. His product development consultants introduce us to terms such as "health halo." We also hear the "awful truth" about grill marks on fast-food chicken and learn why crunchy replaces the industry "f-word."
Subjectively, a scene in which checking out the competition shows the Burger King "crunchy" chicken sandwich is hollow is a "2" highlight. Having the perspective of having had the college roommate from Hell, whose many sins include watching while I gulped a large glass from a water container that he had filled with vodka, makes that scene even better. That former student is now a Greek tycoon that inherited every Burger King franchise in Rhode Island from his father. No, those places (and the other Janco locations) do not get my business.
The bigger picture is the sloppy manner in which our veteran documentarian makes "2." This begins with repetition in the form of "sandwiching" the beginning and the end of the film with the same footage of local news promoting the new restaurant.
Spurlock further slides to the bottom by borrowing the old ambush the industry guy trick that fellow sadly diminished colleague Michael Moore puts in all his films.
An early scene has Spurlock "outed" as a guy with an agenda; this leads to a "leaked" memo much later in the film. This correspondence is from an executive with the chicken lobby warning chicken farmers (ranchers?) that the effort of Spurlock to acquire a flock as part of a nefarious scheme.
Subsequently, Spurlock arrives unannounced at the office of the "suit" to delver an invitation to the grand opening of Holy Chicken!. Of course, he is left waiting in the hall for several hours and ultimately is politely asked to leave. An inadvertently amusing aspect of this is baseless speculation early on that the prey is in the restroom.
The relatable aspect of this is that very few of us even let unexpected visitors who lack any adversarial intent into our homes.
Of course, the ultimate irony as to "2" is that it follows the Spurlock film "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" about product placement and similar forms of advertising. I literally am not buying it this time, Spurlock.
The Indiepix Films January 21, 2020 DVD release of the charmingly amusing 2018 Australian comedy "The Merger" reminds viewers of the appeal of timeless films that do not rely on shock and/or awe.
As the following trailer illustrates, "Merger" includes many elements of classic "small" films. The most obvious example is "About a Boy" that has a middle-aged manchild bond with a quirky lad. The aspect of a group of eccentric working-class blokes on a mission with heavy social commentary evokes thoughts of "The Full Monty."
"Merger" writer Damian Callinan stars as former football (which seems to be a combination of rugby and soccer) star/current town pariah Troy Carrington, who is living a life of semi-isolation in Bodgy Creek. The aforementioned youngster is Neil, who is perpetually clad in a chicken suit and is making an unauthorized documentary about Troy.
The "A Story" is that a series of setback threatens the local football team with the titular union with another local team; persuading Troy to coach is determined to be the lesser evil. Of course, Neil figuratively remains in center field throughout.
The "B Story" is that Bodgy Creek, which is experiencing an economic downturn that is attributable to Troy, is a refuge city with many foreigners who are escaping almost-certain death. Much of the conflict here relates to the competition for the limited number of jobs. These newcomers also become integral members of the team.
The aforementioned charm relates to these people who live simply and are not shy about speaking their minds or sharing their, wit, wisdom, and woes.
All of this provides Troy plenty of challenges as he tries to build a cohesive group; one of the most memorable scenes has him explain the boundaries of the field.
Of course, playing together causes the men from different worlds to bond as they come to better understand each other; this also provides exceptional humor.
It is equally predictable that all this comes down to the big game. Team Troy already has won in that they now are a band of brothers; this makes whether they have the highest score at the end of the day entirely irrelevant.
'Dad' and 'I'm Not Rappaport' Blu-ray: Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau Grumpy Old Odd Couple Double Feature
Mill Creek Entertainment further adds to its Blu-ray library of feel-good movies with the January 14, 2020 double feature of the 1989 Jack Lemmon/Ted Danson/Ethan Hawke film "Dad" and the 1996 comedy Walter Matthau/Ossie Davis comedy "I'm Not Rappaport." This coincides with the (reviewed) MCE BD release of the 2002 JLo/Ralph Fiennes romcom "Maid in Manhattan."
As indicated by being one of a handful of '80s and '90s movies (including "Nothing In Common" with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason) about an estranged adult son having to contend with his difficult elderly father, "Dad, " which is a Stephen Spielberg joint that Gary David Goldberg ("Family Ties") writes and directs, is the more substantive of the two films.
The figurative 25-words-or-less synopsis of the film is that literal Wall Street yuppie John Tremont (Danson) must return to his childhood middle-class LA suburban home to care for titular parent Jake Tremont (Lemmon) when mom Bette Tremont (Olympia Dukakis) has a heart attack.
Rather than a history of tears and recrimination, John and Jake merely drifted apart due to a combination of the "Cats in the Cradle" syndrome and typical generational differences. Member of "The Greatest Generation" Jake outwardly is content with his career consisting of a daily-grind job at (presumably) the same employer for decades; the career path of Baby Boomer Jake reflects a desire for more material and inner gratification, Gen X grandson Billy Tremont (Ethan Hawke) reflects the arrested development of his peers.
The reveal and impact as to the manner in which Jake has coped with a not very fulfilling adult life arguably is the most interesting aspect of this movie that easily holds the interest of the viewer throughout. This involves a fascinating twist on having a second family.
Everything aptly overall is Jake at the beginning of the film; John is agreeable to his role of temporary caregiver/home ec. instructor while Bette recovers in the hospital. The game-changer of the physical and mental health of Jake rapidly takes a massive turn for the worse is relatable to many folks with elderly parents.
The overall well-presented textbook tale involves John experiencing a mix of deep concern for his father and fully justified disdain for the health-care industry decades before it lowering the bottom to which it has sunk. The "B" story is John trying to understand Billy. This manboy is one of the more interesting characters in that part of him is a cool dude shacking up with a couple of buddies and a chick in Mexico and the other part is a dork who has much more than nothing in common with his grandfather.
The ensuing events that attempt hilarity by having the three generations of Tremont men gleefully act dumb and dumber either are highly entertaining or highly annoying. This is from the perspective of a guy who now gets along with his elderly father but considers family meals the home version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and cannot understand why relatives enjoy vacationing together.
"Dad" being a 20th-century Hollywood film by folks who do family-friendly fare right ensures that all concerned better understand each other and have closure by the end.
"I'm Not Rappaport" aptly has more of a live-stage vibe because it is based on the truly hit play of the same name. Playwright Herb Gardner directs and writes the screenplay for this adaptation.
Perfectly cast grouch/grumpy old man Matthau steals the show as Nat "Oscar" Moyer, who takes a daily break from boisterously stirring up trouble as to his advocacy for the little guy to hang out in Central Park with elderly building superintendent Midge "Felix" Carter (Davis), who merely wants to stay "invisible and not rock the boat. This relationship makes one hope that Gardner would have revised his play by making the Carter role one that would have been suitable for Lemmon.
The aforementioned activism of Moyer always involves his adopting a false persona to protect whom he considers the downtrodden; this includes causing a near-riot as the food prices at the grocery store or threatening the president of the tenants' association at the building where Carter works. One such incident has him both speak loudly and carry a big stick.
As is the case regarding friendship among people of every age, most of the interaction between Moyer and Carter involves Moyer going and on either about legendary union organizers or the role of Moyer as to those activities. For his part, Carter mostly keeps calm and carries on.
Much of the fun of Rappaport extends beyond the countless witty quips to relate to seeing Matthau stay true to his persona in a "Mom, Grandpa's doing it again" manner. Heavier substance comes in the form of the portrayal of Matthau of a character who realizes both that he is way past his prime and has not lived the life that he has desired; his coping mechanism as to that is comparable to how Lemmon's Jake has managed his daily routine for decades. Both are fortunate to have the love of a good woman ease their burdens,
The common lesson of both films is that growing old is not for the feint of heart. Carter perfectly describes the relatability of the themes by reminding the middle-aged yuppie that is pushing him out of his long-term job and home that that guy is not immune to old age,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement does those of us enduring a winter of discontent a true solid by releasing a literal picture- (and sound) perfect Blu-ray release of the classic 1980 coming-of-age teen romcom "Gregory's Girl" on Blu-ray on January 21, 2019. This Scottish film awesomeiy combines the best of "American Graffiti," "The Summer of '42," and John Hughes movies.
As critics and audiences alike acknowledge, "Girl" director Bill Forsyth ("Local Hero") hits the mark by depicting all of us in his portrayals of the titular lad (John Gordon Sinclair) and everyone else in his life. Those of us with one Y chromosome and one X chromosome are Gregory; the females of the species decide that our good points warrant putting up with our arrested development, which occurs in our tween years.
Formal accolades for "Girl" include the 1982 BAFTA for Best Screenplay.
Movement chooses wisely as to the selected clips for its "Gregory's" trailer; they perfectly show off the adorkable charm of the lead character.
The perfection of this truly eternal movie that is identified as one of the best-loved British films of all time begins with the opening scene of Gregory and his buddies peeping on a woman undressing; their interaction (including the first of several scene-stealing antics of everyteen Andy) is more entertaining than the inadvertent striptease; Forsyth adds to the fun as to the events in the immediate afermath of Team Gregory moving on.
The story fully gets underway on Gregory facing losing his star position on his school football (my people call it soccer) team; his cavalier approach to his coach sharing the bad news is another of countless memorable scenes in the film.
This game-changer paves the way for tomboy Dorothy to tryout for the team; the coach quickly learns that resistance to having a girl be one of the boys is futile. This epitomizes a sausage party ending.
This new teammate quickly becomes the object of the affection of Gregory, who illustrates why his condition is called puppy love, A scene in which Dorothy captures that lad in a particularly embarrassing moment in the locker room is another of the aforementioned highlights. Also, once again, subsequent events enhance an already perfect moment.
This leads to the film climax in which Dorothy agrees to a date with Gregory; the ensuing hilarity (and charm) clearly shows that Hughes learns from Forsyth.
As expressed throughout this post, the immense appeal of "Gregory" relates to the film keeping it real. Although the big night has its ups and down, the kids are alright (as well as a little older and wiser) at the end. This milestone also reinforces that Gregory epitomizes the related principles of dancing as if no one is watching and to thy own self be true.
Classics further enhances the enjoyment of the film by doing its usual extraordinary job as to copious bonus features. These include an insightful written essay, audio commentary by Forsyth, interviews with Forsyth, and the alternative US and French versions of "Gregory."
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 14, 2020 DVD/Blu-ray release of the 2002 Jennifer Lopez/Ralph Fiennes romcom "Maid in Manhattan" shows that a chick flick also can appeal to men. This largely is attributable to '80s teencom god John Hughes authoring this neo-modern Cinderella story; the 21st-century twists include hotel maid Marisa Ventura (JLo) being much more concerned with the glass ceiling than a glass slipper.
The following old-school style trailer for "Maid" equally highlights the "rom" and the "com" of the film in addition to the genre-obligatory K-Tel Records caliber pop tunes soundtrack.
Pop star JLo plays against type as working-class single-mom Marissa; highlights of her performance include not portraying this wage slave as a stereotypical feisty and out-spoken woman. Tyler Posey of the "Teen Wolf" television series fills the role of cute sitcom-style kid.
Fiennes plays Kennedy-light NY assemblyman Christopher Marshall with senatorial aspiration that the "wrong" romantic relationship may derail. Stanley Tucci fills the role of uptight buzzkill as beleaguered aide Jerry Siegel.
Natasha Richardson steals every scene in which she appears as to her Gwenyth Paltrowesque portrayal as evil "witch" /Sotheby's rep Caroline Lane. Her hanger-on frienemy is aging party girl Rachel Hoffberg (Amy Sedaris).
This stereotypical ensemble also includes the harmless hotel butler/father figure, who is the confidante and main supporter of Marissa. Rather than being outrageously gay, his sexuality may be along most points of the Kinsey Scale.
A largely unexplored but interesting aspect of "Maid" is the immigration status of Marissa and her mother; a scene in which Marisa gets upset as to having to provide her employer her social security number and the name of her mother indicates that our lead minimally is a dreamer.
Our plot centers around a series of amusing events related to Christopher mistaking Marissa for a fellow hotel guest; the plot thickens on Christopher inviting Caroline to lunch due an impression that she is the couture-clad woman who is the object of his affection. Needless to say, this is one big fish that Caroline is intent on keeping on the line.
A $2,500-a-plate fund raiser plays the role of the prince's ball as to the magical night for Marissa; of course a pop-song accompanied montage of Marissa and her "mice" transforming her into a princess precedes that scene. A walk-of-shame taking the place of having a carriage revert to a pumpkin is one aspect that makes this fairy tale neo-modern,
Of course, the honeymoon period is very short-lived at the hands of Caroline before she leaves the city; it is equally predictable that the moppet of the film helps true love prevail. This leads to the final pop-song montage that provides the "where are they now" element of "Maid." Of course, Marisa find both personal and professional fulfillment.
The appeal of this feminist fluff is especially strong as winter is reasserting itself with a vengeance in much of the US. You may not especially connect with any character but will recognize each of then and enjoy their Neil Simon style "Suite" antics.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement pairing the recent Blu-ray releases of the 1953 British comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt" with a Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1949 Ealing social-commentary-dripping comedy "Passport to Pimlico" provides an excellent chance for a taste of what the "Titfield" back cover aptly describes as the strong contribution of Ealing to the golden age of British cinema. The numerous comment elements of "Titfield" and "Pimlico" include legendary Britwit T.E.B. Clarke being the scribe of both.
"Titfield" being the first Ealing film shot in Technicolor makes it especially apt for Blu-ray. The British countryside truly looks idyllic.
Fans of '60scom "Petticoat Junction" will recognize many elements of "Titfield." A primary premise of both comedies is quirky good-natured small-town folk heavily relying on a rail line that operates between their community and a nearby town. Although the Hooterville Cannonball of "Petticoat" fame survives numerous attempts to shut it down, the effort to cease the operation of Titfield rail service succeeds. The rest of the story is that eliminating this competition profits a local bus company.
The Titfield populace demonstrates their "keep calm and carry on" fortitude by deciding to run the rail service themselves. Getting the initial provisional approval is only the tip of the iceberg as to this titanic endeavor.
The numerous obstacles as to actually running the train include a lack of necessary experience with the exception of a man who clearly does not work and play well with others. This is not to mention the opposition of those wanting to derail this effort.
Hilarity soon ensues as to things such as first building up an adequate head of steam and subsequently preventing an overheating that threatens to turn a potential figurative train wreck into an actual one.
In classic film fashion, it seems that a combination of sabotage and ineptitude is leading to an inevitable bad end for the good guys. The ensuing hilarity begins with taking a page out of both incarnations of classic scifi series "Battlestar Galactica."
This is the beginning of an extended climax in which the train being allowed to continue operating is conditioned on it making a monitored run on time. Of course, hilarity with a heavy dose of keeping "the suit" oblivious to the actual situation ensues. Suffice it to say that Clarke shows his awareness of a Hollywood ending.
The copious "Titfield" BD extras shows the same love for the film that Classic demonstrates for "Pimlico." A written essay provides great insight into the film, the bonus feature "Making 'The Titfiled Thunderbolt'" expands on that. We also get a handful of other "behind-the-scenes' features and the original trailer.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement December 31, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the 1949 Ealing Studios Oscar and BAFTA-nominated classic comedy "Passport to Pimlico" (paired with a (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray of the 1953 Ealing comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt") adds to the mountain of evidence that British fare kicks the arse of American movies.
The scope of this post allows sharing that "Pimlico" is an esteemed member of the genre of brilliant mid-century British political satires. Although not as well known as films such as "Dr. Strangelove" or the cult classic "The Mouse That Roared," "Pimlico" offers the same quality witty subversive social commentary. Suffice it to say that 10 Downing Street gets the royal treatment.
The "go to your local library to learn more" endorsement in this space is in the form of encouraging anyone who enjoys quality comedy based on strong material and quality performances to read the essay and to watch the bonus features in this set.
Highlights of the latter include the insightful and entertaining video interview with BFI curator Mark Duguid. His discussion of "Pimlico" includes its inclusion in the Ealing trilogy that consists of that film, "Whiskey Galore, and the Alec Guinness classic "Kind Heats and Coronets." Duguid also touches on the notable career of "Pimlico" screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke, which includes the Guinness film "The Lavender Hill Mob." Another extra "You Are There" tour of the on-location shooting shooting of the film.
From a more modern perspective, "Pimlico" plays out like an early-season "Simpsons" episode in that surprising increasing hilarity/mayhem ensures from an everyday occurrence gone comically awry.
The excavation of "the last unexploded bomb in England" (until another "last exploded bomb" is found) largely is a non-event in 1947 for this middle-class London community that has a Springfield-quality cast of quirky characters from every walk of life. This literal bombshell named Pamela becomes more newsworthy when a post-Blitz Bart Simpson and his pals engage in shenanigans that cause Pamela essentially to go nuclear.
The first twist is that the explosion reveals an 500 year-old treasure chamber. The "special guest star" that plays a major role in things getting out of hand is Margaret Rutherford of "Miss Marple" fame. Lumpy Rutherford plays the academic historian called in to investigate the discovery; Professor Hatton-Jones indisputably determines that both the treasure and the surrounding environs are the property of Burgundy.
The ensuing hilarity largely revolves around the once (and future?) Londoners in the community embracing living in Burgundy. Much of this glee revolves around these reverse-Brexit individuals determining that they no longer are subject to post-war rationing and other restrictions that the British government is imposing on them. This escalates to "border town" residents rushing to get in on the act in the same manner that Americans flees to Canada and Mexico for similar advantages.
A memorable moment in the interview with Duguid relates to his mentioning a scene in "Pimlico" in which a character comments that the community is defying the British government because that group believes in British principles.
This revolting (pun intended) development triggers a hazy memory of Springfield and/or Homer Simpson declaring sovereignty either separately or in the same episode sometime in the 31 seasons of "The Simpsons."
In true diplomatic fashion, each move by either the new residents of France or their British enemies prompts escalation on either side; this culminates in a siege in which the Brits try to isolate and starve out their former subjects. This culminates in a highly symbolic London ending that reflect the British attitude that many uproars ultimately turn out to be much ado about nothing.
In this case, the play especially is the scene and all's well that ends well. Adding that where there's a will, there's a way is mandatory.
Indiepix Films fully lives up to its name as to its December 17, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 dark comedy film "A Feast of Man." This low-budget film that literally provides food for thought is textbook arthouse fare.
"Feast" centers around four childhood friends gathering at the upstate New York vacation house of a family friend. This quartet reunites with a hope of profiting in the wake of the announced death of peer/stereotypical trust fund baby Gallagher. The other members of this rogue's gallery are fiance Ted (aka have you met my friend Ted), quirky loyal butler James, and French trophy girlfriend Arletty,
Attorney/executor/nepotism hire Wolf, Jr. is thrown back on arriving at the house to learn that Gallagher recorded a video will after making a traditional one. The shock and awe extends to conditioning Wolf and all the rest each inheriting roughly $1M on literally eating the deceased.
"The rest" are former flame/current Ted fiancee Judy and stereotypical wimpy TFB Dickie.
The concept and the look of "Feast" evoke strong thoughts of the highly similar '90s cult film "The Last Supper." That one has a group of intellectuals who share a home invite people whom they agree have no right to live to the titular meal for the purpose of killing them.
The "Feast" beneficiaries accept the terms of the will to varying degrees as they relive their past and consider their presents in both senses of that word. This, including unwarranted extreme cruelty to a "townie," shows that all of our gang fully stays true to type.
This leads to a wonderful perverse climax that includes a totally out-of-the-blue twist that proves that the rich are different.
An element of this reflects the class divide. One million dollars is not chump change but is not enough to prompt many high-net-worth folks to seriously considering cannibalism, would likely prompt many middle-class people to consider expanding their diet, and would almost certainly prompt folks with McJobs who live paycheck-to-paycheck to ask where's the beefcake.
Indiepix supplements this with a clever main menu that labels the scene selection option "ala carte" and ironically title a fauxmmercial" "A Touch of Luxury."
A 'del'athon of posts on home-video releases of the films and performances of genuine wit Del Shores continues with the Mama of all his films; "Sordid Lives" (2000) is the one that makes Shores a household name in WeHo, SoHo, and many other Hos. The franchise includes the (reviewed) "A Very Sordid Wedding" and "Sordid Lives: The Series."
An amazing surprise as to the blu-ray version of "Lives" is that the pristine video and audio and the depth of the images when watched in 4K greatly enhance the "live-stage" vibe of watching this film based on the play of the same name.
This tale of a working-class family in a fly-over county aptly has 10 festival wins under its enormous silver belt buckle. These include the Best Feature honor at the 2000 Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, "best in show" honors for both Shores and the film at the 2000 Memphis International Film Festival, and "Best Feature" and Best Actor (Leslie Jordan) wins at the 2000 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.
The following SPOILER-LADEN aptly titled trailer for "Lives" shows how this film is a wonderfully raunchier and darker version of the southern-fried '80scom "Mama's Family (nee "The Family" on "The Carol Burnett Show.")
This sordid tale centers around Sissy Hickey (Beth Grant), who is forced into the overlapping roles of therapist and far-from-teenage diplomat in the wake (no pun intended) of the recent death of her sister Peggy under highly scandalous circumstances. Suffice it to say that the man who plays a role in that demise lacks a leg on which to stand as to escaping culpability.
Shores deftly orchestrates the inter-related (pun intended) action between four arenas of action before gathering at least most of the usual suspects for the climatic main event that is relatable to people of every socioeconomic group.
The abode of Sissy literally provides the "meanwhile" at the ranch element of this two days in the valley of the dolts. Even more epic hilarity ensues as her sibling Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Jordan) is enduring a decades' long unfortunate incarceration in a mental hospital. He is being treated for the twin "diseases" of being a homosexual and for a strong urge to go Full Minnie in impersonating Tammy Wynette and other first ladies of country music.
The conversion therapy session between Brother Boy and "Mommie Dearest" style psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bollinger proves that Shores is the lover child of Tennessee Williams and John Waters. The battle of wills between doctor and patient is classic for reasons that extend well beyond an argument as to a failed masturbation experiment.
Delta Burke of the classic southcom "Designing Women" steals the show as woman scorned Noleta Nethercott, who tracks down husband GW (Beau Bridges) at the local dive bar. Burke fully channels loose cannon Suzanne Sugarbaker in finding felonious inspiration from "Thelma and Louise." Although Bridges is well cast as a good ole boy forced to humiliating pay a litany of sins, armchair casting suggests that real-life Burke spouse Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney would have been a better choice. The appearances of McRaney on "Designing Women" show that he has wonderful on-screen chemistry with his equal half.
The final piece of the puzzle is the most autobiographical part for Shores. The death of his grandmother forces successful and dreamy gay actor Ty Williamson (Kirk Geiger) to confront several conflicting emotions. He is happy and well-adjusted as to his life in Los Angeles but closeted and unhappy as to his relationship with the folks back home.
Most of the scenes with Ty occur during a session with a therapist who is much more compassionate and skilled than Dr. Eve (of destruction). Even many gay men who are coming-of-age in our overall more enlightened era of marriage equality and of being able to both ask and tell (not to mention show and tell) can relate to his family not fully embracing this adorable boy whom anyone would love to have live next door.
All of this amounts to a film that, in addition to the similarities with "Family," can be thought of as a toned-down David Lynch movie about Mayberry. Shores provides needed warmth as to this nostalgia regarding a small town in which everyone knows each other, and whose own "quirks" allow finding amusement in the eccentricities of his or her fellow man and woman.
The bigger picture is that Shores shows that excellent writing and a strong cast that fully embraces his or her role are important elements for a film that remains funny and does not look dated nearly 20 years after its release.
Deity to lovers of classic and/or obscure movies, The Film Detective fully puts the turkey back into Turkey Day with a pristine 4K restoration (complete with "Mystery Science Theater 3000" version) of the 1962 scifi cult classic "Eegah" on November 26, 2019. The Turkey Day tie-in dates back to '90s-era MST3K Thanksgiving marathons of the best episodes of this series that hilariously and relentlessly riffs on movies that are "the worst we can find."
An unintentionally amusing element of "Eegah" is that its 1955 Mexican release date is April 1.
The true MST3K gems are the ones such as "Eegah" in which the roasted fowl itself is highly entertaining and creator/head writer/host Joel Hodgson (later Mike Nelson, no relation) and the "bots" that join him in watching B-movies are fully on their game both in their riffing and the bumper skits. The voice of experience advises to not eat cereal while watching these frequent trifecta offerings; Apple Jacks will become airborne.
The ONLY complaints about "Eegah" are that the MST3K gang NEVER mentions the '70s cartoon "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" or the 1992 Pauly Shore teencom "Encino Man" and misses a chance for a PERFECT reference as to wannabe teen idol Arch Hall, Jr. commenting in "Eegah" that he is taking his beloved dune buggy off road. Even moderate MST3K fans are sure to yell out "Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads." Lesser sins of omission are not referencing Kristin Shepard or Joe Gillis in a climatic scene,
The MANY ways in which the almost non-stop clever quips more than compensates for the omissions include a clever reference to the 1963 star-laden comedy "Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
The "True Palm Springs Story" behind "Eegah" is just as entertaining as the action in this film about the titular caveman (Richard "Jaws" Kiel) looking for love in all the wrong places. As blonde surfer dude star Arch Hall, Jr. tells it in an interview for the blu-ray, he and his father simply decide to run a low-budget scifi film up the flagpole and see if any teens salute.
As Hodgson states in a separate DVD extra, the pandering to the target audience includes giving the kids all they love in the form of numerous elements that include rock-and-roll and a character who wants to be a Flintstone (a little baby Flintstone). Hearing about when Joel meets Arch years after brutally verbally bashing the latter is another interview highlight.
Our story fully begins after roughly 10 minutes of (sometimes comically obvious) exposition. Love interest Roxy is driving her two-seater convertible down a desert road when she runs into Eegah (name written in blood). She lives at least another day to tell her tale to father Mr. Miller (Arch, Sr.) and boyfriend Tom (Arch Jr.).
This soon leads to the "watch out for snakes" reference that is an all-time Misties favorite. Mr. Miller then makes a desert crossing that initially gives Tom glee in the form of getting to show off his speed buggy. Subsequent events show that a father and daughter reunion is only a booty call away.
Their unfortunate incarceration in the land of the lost allows the Millers to meet the parents and to ponce on the origin story of their host. (The missed opportunity here is the Sherwood Schwartz failedcom "It's About Time" that has two astronauts time travel to prehistoric times.)
It is equally predictable that a successful escape is not the end of the story; Our brother from another era fully finds himself in the modern world on coming in search of his bride. Needless to say that this blast from the past with a variation of a shotgun wedding does not lead to happily ever after.
The broadest appeal of this pleasure that does not provide any cause to feel guilty is that it is a strong example of the Saturday afternoon matinee fare that delights and amuses in a manner that keeps MST3K initially on the air for 11 years and has it find new life on Netflix. The next layer is that Arch Jr. has infectious youthful exuberance for his role. He literally is born to play an an OC everydude.
On a related note, this "lost episode" release comes two years after the final DVD release of every MST3K episode for which licensing is not a fatal obstacle. (Owning the quickly recalled due to licensing issues Volume 10 is a point of personal pride.) This makes "Eegah" comparable to fans of the classic '50scom "The Honeymooners" getting to own rare episodes of that series that are not part of "the original 39."
It is highly advised to pre-order two copies of the 1,500 copies of this limited-edition release. This allows keeping one for yourself and watching it on Turkey Day and giving the fanboy in your life the second one for a holiday gift.
The only proper way to end these musings is to say "push the button, Frank."
The coincidentally timely aspects of these musings on the 2014 DVD of the live-stage performance "Del Shores: Naked. Sordid. Reality." make it an especially good place to start a "del"athon of posts on Shores films and performances. This begins with watching "Naked" overlapping with belatedly beginning to read the May 2018 David Sedaris collection of memoirs Calypso.
The film and the auto-biography make it clear that these brilliant minor gay celebrities storytellers do not hesitate to rip the band-aids from scabbed over and fresh emotional wounds for the enjoyment of their fellow friends of Dorothy as well as the general populace. The overlap extends to Shores discussing his painful divorce and Sedaris writing about his highly significant other telling Sedaris out of the blue that he has not loved him since 2002,
The other coincidence is that particularly personal kindness and compassion by Shores comes at a time of announcing plans to shut down this site in late 2020 after more than 10 years trying to promote independent film and to prevent Millennials and Gen Zers from not knowing about Lucy Ricardo and Raph Kramden. This scheme to cease this genuine labor of love would not occur if not but for a Hall of Shame that includes arrogant young punks who should be grateful that they do not have to stand half-naked outside an Abercrombie and Fitch and a major studio that ironically knows Jack about not biting the hand that feeds its rapidly dying home-video businesses that should follow the Gospel According to Del.
The rest of this story is that much can change in a year and that the credible rumors as the upcoming death of Matt Nelson may be premature.
As indicated above, Shores gets much more personal in "Naked" than he does in his similar even more hilarious (reviewed) performance DVD "My Sordid Life." That one focuses more on tales from the set as to "Queer as Folk" and the Debra Messing Foxcom "Ned and Stacey." Further, a hazy memory is that Shores does not engage the "Life" audience nearly to the degree to which he makes the more intimate "Naked" fans part of the conversation, His very recent (reviewed) performance film "Six Characters in Search of a Play" falls in the middle of this Kinsey Scale,
An early stop in this journey into the mind of Shores is the typical reminiscing about his "sordid" chldhood as the son of a Southern Baptist preacherman. In this case, we hear about eccentric elderly members of the congregation that include an otherwise loyal widow woman who is dragged kicking and screaming to her final service. The lesson in Southern justice is the perfect climax to this segment.
We also get a story about the real aunt who inspires the HILARIOUS chain-smoking Sissy of the "Sordid" franchise. This one, which involves our favorite friend of Dorothy and his little dog too, is highly relatable to anyone with an elderly relative.
Dishing about a Hollywood lunch with a successful producer/friend of Shores and two Silver Age (female) movie queens fills the quota for the gossip portion of this performance. In true Shores style, the climax is a sordid detail that is close to a page out of "Lives."
Shores follows up with tales of two cities that perfectly illustrate the sordid scope of reality TV. Our host literally takes center stage to perform a one righteous dude show of an intervention of a hoarder who is a Mama June type; Shores particularly shines in his portrayals of the adult sons (and most likely nephews) of this woman whose riches are embarrassment.
Shores wraps all of this with the aforementioned baring of his soul; this logically leads to a noteworthy (pun intended) musical performance that reasonably can be considered a song by A"del"e.
The bittersweet conclusion to this that Shores leaves us wanting more; prior posts on his work and the remainder of this "Del"athon shows that he partially meets the bottomless demand for his wit and wisdom. Baby, you'r e the best.
Warner Archive once more proves that B-movies can have "a"ppeal with the recent DVD release of the 1934 musical-comedy "Harold Teen," which is based on the comic strip of the same name. This delightful romp also illustrates the cross-pollination that is prevalent in the first half of the 20th century and is still alive today.
Early 20th-century comic strips, as is the case regarding "Harold," have a proud history of getting films. radio shows, (sometimes hit Broadway musicals), and television series. "Harold" does fairly well as to getting two of these. In addition to two film adaptations, "Harold" gets a radio show.
A VERY cool thing about the silver screen Harolds is that a 1928 silent version stars Arthur Lake of "Blondie" fame. That strip gets a a radio show, a one-season wonder television series in which Pamela Britten of "My Favorite Martian," plays the lady of the lake, AND a plethora of films. One can only hope that Archive releases the earlier "Harold" film someday.
The following Archive trailer, which the DVD includes, of "Harold" perfectly conveys the entertainingly wholesome (with a pinch of innuendo) all singing and all dancing fun of this nostalgic treat for all ages,
The general vibe of "Harold" aptly is like fellow comic strip "Archie," which still is going strong in comic and television form today. Our titular approaching post-adolescent is an Olsen twin in that, like Jimmy Olsen of "Superman" fame, he is a goofy and clumsy recent high school graduate working at a newspaper.
In this case, Harold primarily writes witty snippets for the local rag of his hometown of Covina.
Returning to the Archie parallels, Harold rides around in a jalopy and follows the pattern of guys who peak in high school by still spending much of his free time at the local teen hangout. In this case, it is the Sugar Bowl ice cream shop that, like "Archie," is owned and operated by a man known as "Pops."
The "Betty" of Harold "Teenzy" Teens is graduating senior Lillian "Lillums" Lovewell; his "Reggie" is romantic rival "Lilacs."
This clearly Depression-era tale has the father of Lillums being unable to afford to send his daughter to college; he also is very concerned about a mortgage foreclosure.
Further, the real villain of the piece is aptly named new banker in town H.H, Snatcher. His relatively benign evil is in the form of duping cub (in two senses of that term) reporter Harold., This older man first takes advantage of that rube by handing him a statement asserting the "good" intentions of this newcomer. This executive further pretends to befriend the lad to ensure that the local press is positive.
A very creepy "Child Bride" element enters the picture when H.H. starts courting Lillums to the extent of buying her a wedding dress. Meanwhile, his partner-in-cradle robbing comes to town and is charged with getting Harold out of the way.
An interesting casting note is that Eddie Tamblyn, father of "West Side Story" star Russ Tamblyn, plays aptly named four-years and counting high-school freshman Shadow, Russ stars in the excellent (reviewed) "Son of a Gunfighter," which is in the Archive catalog.
Also in true Depression-era style, all this leads to the nicest kids in town planning (and performing as a grand finale) an elaborate "collegiate" musical, An amusing aspect of this is that none of these teens are enrolled in college.
Of course, the boy gets the girl and everyone who deserves a happy ending gets one. This Hollywood ending is desperately needed in a period in which our chief executive likely will find himself ousted without a golden parachute and that those who bring about his demise likely will learn the wisdom of the Chinese proverb about being careful about for which you wish, These days, it is likely that the new boss will be same as the old boss. BILL GATES IN 2020!!!
Although this may incur the wrath of Judy the Time-Life operator, this post on the Time-Life October 1, 2019 release of the five-disc condensed version of "Robin Williams" Comic Genius" has an excellent reason for advises forging this set of all five Williams HBO specials (plus a plethora of rare performance footage and other truly special features).
This rationale is that vast personal experience shows the wisdom of not making the mistake of buying a bargain version of something only to end up purchasing the more deluxe choice in the end. In this case, the mother lode is the (reviewed) deluxe collector's edition of "Genius."
The 25-words-or-less reason for this recommendation is that the five specials in the set that is the topic du jour will stir up such strong fond memories of Williams for current fans. New fans will get equally hooked and want the complete set as well,
The following channeling of Williams is a blessing to those of us who still mourn his August 11, 2014 death and is a curse to folks too young to remember when people put edgy comedy in context. Perhaps the problem is that no one currently around can present this "offensive" material as well as Williams.
The first response on seeing this 5-disc set is imagining Williams riffing on it being the Asian cousin of the massive 22-disc Negro collection. He then would likely do a bit about a DVD player asking if the smaller set was in yet and telling the larger set that it is too big too handle. Of course, Williams would incorporate the appropriate ethnic voices in this performance.
All of this shows the unparalleled appeal of Williams; he is a real-life (and equally frenetic) Bugs Bunny who is so zany and lovable that you cannot help but laugh as he engages in antics and makes outrageous statements that would earn virtually anyone else a punch in the nose.
The Olive Films May 29, 2018 DVD release of the 1959 film "A Bucket of Blood" that Olive describes as a "black-comedy-beatnik-culture-horror film" by a man that Olive shares is known as "The Pop of Pop Culture" is a wonderfully perverse cult classic with great significance.
This film enhances the Corman films in the Olive catalog by joining "Gas-s-s-s," "The Wild Angels," and the recent Olive release of "The Trip" starring Peter Fonda. The bigger picture is that "Bucket" is a precursor to the better known 1969 Corman black comedy "The Little Shop of Horrors."
Both "Bucket" and "Shop" feature a total nerd giving into an awesomely dark bloodlust in a bid to win the hot chick at work. "Shop" florist employee Seymour Krelborn provides carnivorous plant Audrey II the desired sustenance in a bid to win the heart of the babe for whom he names the plant.
Walter Paisley is a used and abused busboy at The Yellow Door coffeehouse, which is a beatnik hangout, at the beginning of "Blood." The object of his affection is cool cat Carla.
The same type of accident that is happy for the born loser and unhappy from the perspective of society that sets Seymour on the path to success in "Shop" involves a sacrificial cat in "Bucket." The poor kitty who uses up his ninth life is the beloved pet of the landlady of Walter.
Walter stupidly but accidentally killing the pussy leads him to conclude that making art is the best course of action when life gives you a dead mouser. The very avant-garde sculpture "Dead Cat" brings Walter instant fame (and an unfair portion of fortune) at the coffee shop.
Undercover narc Lou Raby (Bert Convy) making the rookie mistake of bringing a gun to a skillet fight inspires the second (and more grotesque) work "Murdered Man." The neighborhood whore subsequent learns not to tease any repressed psycho even if he is not one in Mom's clothing. We further get a local resident paying for what he saw.
The overall beatnik culture contributes much of the fun in "Bucket." The king of the scene embracing Walter to the extent of literally placing him on a throne provides further good period-piece entertainment. This is not to mention seeing the extent to which greed and an equal lust for celebrity outweighs morality.
Corman does even better presenting the truth literally beginning to reveal itself and the surface-thin cool composure of Walter melting away until the mob wants him in an undesirable manner. This leads to enacting the Corman form of justice.
The bigger Corman picture is that this genius fully embraces every element of the B-movies of which he is a master. This includes (such as in "Shop" and "Blood") shooting in black-and-white when not opting for lurid vivid color, using low-budget effects, and figuratively sticking to the script each time. He further is set apart from the makers of other guilty pleasures in that he sets out to create trashlicious garbage each time and greatly succeeds. This (along with the obvious drug influences) makes him the one-man Sid and Marty Krofft of the silver screen.
The blessing and the curse related to the August 2019 Del Shores film "Six Characters in Search of a Play is that there is so much good in it that knowing where to begin is tough. Starting from a highly macro level (and to borrow from another "minor gay celebrity") the real-life Shores is one of the most kind and compassionate people in "this filthy world."
"Play" is the lucky seventh performance of the titular one-man show of Shores. The comparison to fellow (deceased) highly literate storyteller Spaulding Gray begins with Shores explaining the classic work to which he is paying homage.
The meta concept of "Play" is that six real-persons in the life of Shores inspire a desire to insert them in work that will join this impressive body of work that includes (reviewed) "A Very Sordid Wedding" that is part of the hilarious "Sordid Lives" franchise of Shores, the MUST-SEE (reviewed) "Southern Baptist Sissies," and the (reviewed) Shores performance film "My Sordid Life" that ties the aforementioned (and much more) together.
This concept evokes thoughts of the reasoning of a summer-camp co-worker who made a big deal about not owning a television when such a s statement was considered a lifestyle. The conclusion of this woman was that the people in her life were more interesting than television characters.
The rest of this interlocking story is that the married middle-aged woman who co-owned the camp with her temporarily absent husband spent the summer openly having an affair with the gregarious hunky blond farm boy who ran the satellite camp.
The taking of liberties with the help proves the point of the counselor AND validates the long history of Shores including the "characters" in his life in his films and plays.
The extension of this is that "Characters" is funny because it true sans any exaggeration or other embellishment. Spoilers regarding these unique individuals. including one who blurs the line between fact and fiction, is mostly limited to discussing the first one. Hearing about the "loud-mouthed lower-middle-class Republican with a heart of gold" (and how a chihuahua upstages her) will require watching the film.
The truly enchanting evening that ends too soon begins with Shores reminiscing about chain-smoking character actress Sarah Hunley, who plays Juanita Bartlett in the "Sordid" films and the television series. Much of this centers around Hunley setting a highly relatable "send her back" style deadline as to filming "Wedding."
Our Gayrisson Keillor especially shines during this portion of the film when describing a frequently repeated ritual in which Hunley engages when he visits her Studio City apartment, Many of us who have called on older people can relate to strict routines greatly prolonging achieving an objective (not to mention an exit strategy).
The stories of Hunley and of the other five people who are varying degrees of near and dear to Shores prove yet another couple of points as to comedy. Carol Burnett is well known for saying that her classic skits work because truly funny material is timeless. Similarly, Burnett notes that she gets big laughs without resorting to blue humor.
NOTHING in "Play" is an more raunchy than Burnett coming out of stage with comically large breasts or Tim Conway silently expressing great pain from straddling a door knob.
Shores further emulates Burnett by presenting material that appeals to everyone from teens just starting to develop secondary sexual characteristics to folks who have reverted to wearing diapers and going to bed at 7.
All of us have these characters, including the guy who finds it necessary to hurl homophobic slurs based on a gas-station encounter, in our lives. Further, everyone in this demographic at least must smile on hearing about the Kum and Go; yes. they do sell Big Gulps.
Mill Creek Entertainment once more proves itself to be the champion of sofa spuds everywhere as to the August 13, 2019 DVD release of "Hart to Hart: Movies and Murder Collection." This four-disc set includes all 8 1993-96 made-for-TV reunion movies of the 1979-84 ABC light-hearted mystery series.
Having a handful of "B-listers" guest in each movie provides a wonderful hybrid vibe of "Murder, She Wrote," which gets its own set of made-for-TV reunions, and "The Love Boat." These celebrities include Joan Collins, George Hamilton, Alan Young, Mike Farrell, and Jason Bateman. The roster truly goes on and on and on from there.
MCE follows this up with a Halloween treat in the form of an October 2019 Blu-ray complete-series release of "Charlie's Angels."
The titular couple is an '80riffic "lifestyles of the rich and famous" version of one-percenter silver-screen amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Desmond of "The Thin Man" fame.
As the voice-over narration in the "Hart" series and movies reminds us, Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) is a self-made millionaire. This exposition includes that "it was murder" when Jonathan met "gorgeous" spouse/free-lance journalist Jennifer Hart (Stefanie Powers). The rest of this part of the story is that gruff but loving live-in servant Max (Lionel Stander) "takes care of them, which ain't easy."
A typical "Hart" episode finds a series of unfortunate circumstances embroiling the soulmates in a crime that often involves murder. It is just as likely that someone embezzling funds from a charity for which Jennifer is organizing a fashion show kills an assistant who discovers that crime as it is that Jonathan must clear his name as to Hart Industries being accused of nefarious business dealings.
The aptly titled first movie in the series is "Hart to Hart Returns." This one stays the closest to the spirit of the series while including a notable development that is too momentous to the lore to even remotely spoil. The central plot involves a pending business deal of Jonathan with an old friend prompting the corporate villains of the week to take desperate measures in response to the desperate times as to the aforementioned pursuit of profit.
The next one, "Home is Where the Hart is" arguably is the best one in that it virtually is a live-action "Scooby-Doo" mystery. The death of the mentor/first boss of then cub-reporter Jennifer brings our heroes to the small town where Mrs. H. begins her career.
The list of usual suspects and the spooky subterfuge that is concealing covert activity make one long to see family pet Freeway, Jr. speak English and Jonathan to pull a rubber mask off the villain. An "I would have gotten away with it except for you meddling millionaires" would have made this one purely sublime.
"Old Friends Never Die" is another memorable one due to both its campy fun and its homage to another genre; this time Agatha Christie books are taken to Hart. A publisher tells the couple that wanting to add Jennifer to his stable of writers is why he is inviting them to a weekend party at his lavish estate. The rest of the guests are eccentric scribes.
The plot thickens on Jennifer overhearing a detailed murder plot; the explanation that the conversation relates to a novel concept wears thin on life imitating alleged art. This culminates in the truth ultimately coming out, and the Harts finding themselves playing the most dangerous game.
More of the same occurs in the other films, which culminate in the aptly titled "Til Death Do Us Part." An early scene in this one indicates that Jonathan may be dyslexic in that Dog is his co-pilot.
The rest of this story is that the Harts travel to Germany so that Jennifer can donate bone marrow to a young cancer patient. The intrigue this time relates to our dynamic duo encountering a French woman who is a doppelganger of Jennifer. Of course, Powers plays this crazy pair.
"Death" ends on the same concept as the last several films in the series in that the epilogue involves the Harts in a fantastic or fantasy situation. These include this pair magically transforming into a couple performing a song-and-dance number on a stage or being transformed into lovers in a cuckoo clock.
Old and new fans should take all this to hart; the series and the movies are good cheesy fun that show that entertainment need not be edgy.