The The Film Detective separate DVD and BD July 29, 2020 releases of the pre-Code 1933 melodrama "The Sin of Nora Moran" shows what becomes Golden Age legend Zita Johann ("The Mummy") most. The cred of this release includes it being a collaboration between Detective, film historian Sam Sherman, the independent-international Pictures team, and the UCLA Film and Television Archives.
This dream team shows both that the Sherman-owned print of "Moran" is in the right hands and that the pristine BD restoration, which looks and sounds crystal clear. is a labor of love. The BD being limited to a run of 1,500 copies screams to order yours today. One lucky cinephile will find a golden ticket that can be redeemed for a lithograph of the original theatrical poster.
As the bonus must-see Sherman-narrated original documentary "The Mysterious Life of Zita Johann" states, the elements that set "Moran" apart from its peers include the performance of the star, the numerous surreal techniques, and the noteworthy orchestration. This documentary also includes the tales of how "Moran" gets on the radar (and in the collection of) Sherman and how he coaches his friend Johann through her final film performance.
The BD has the additional treat of a booklet that provides further insight as to the film and the star.
The following Detective promo for the home-video releases of "Moran" provides a good sense of the classic melodrama noir style of the film.
The clever exposition begins with a highly distraught Edith Crawford coming to brother/DA John Grant with love letters from the titular tart to Edith spouse/governor Dick Crawford. A clalm and collected John enlightens his sibling on the special relationship between her husband and the former circus performer/current death-row inmate.
For her part, Nora is dazed and confused in her cell ahead of her impending execution for what inarguably is a crime of love. Her life flashing before her eyes and John telling his sister of the role of her husband in the events leading up to the imposition of the death penalty provide the framework for the film.
A series of unfortunate circumstances leads to a relatively content Nora knowingly becoming the other woman as to her relationship with Dick. The past of the former coming crashing in on her ends her honeymoon period with the latter. For his part, John both wants to fulfill his family duty and to not lose his political investment in his brother-in-law.
For his part, the feelings of guilt that John is experiencing extend well beyond his adultery. He knows all the facts regarding the crime for which Nora is about to pay the ultimate price and must decide the extent to which he is going to stand by his woman. A last-minute visit essentially from the Ghost of Christmas Past combined with a disconnect seals the fate of all concerned.
As touched on above, the surreal elements that depict the angst of the players are part of what make all this special. The aforementioned "haunting" evokes especially strong thoughts of the highly stylistic Shakespearean films of the era.
The bottom line this time is that "Moran" reminds us of the dividends that audiences reaped when studios did not place commerce above art. Further, Johann illustrates the difference between an actor and a movie star.
The Icarus Films DVD of the 2106 "ripped-from-the-headlines" French film "Down By Love" is a perfect example of the beautiful friendship between Icarus and Distrib Films from which North American audiences benefit. Like most Icarus/Distrib Films, this tale of the illicit affair between post-adolescent inmate Anna Amari and married middle-aged prison director Jean Firmino could be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the US.
The following Distrib trailer for "Love" offers a good sense of the apt level of drama that conveys the tale of this unusual triangle.
Our story begins with Anna en route to the facility run by Jean as the next stage of her unfortunate incarceration ahead of her trial for the offense of this young offender. She soon catches the eye of Jean, and they experience a form of love that dare not speak its name if they know what is good for them, An especially precious moment has Anna creating a fantasy world in which she and her "teacher" essentially move to Westchester together. The ambiguity as to the extent to which Anna looks to Jean for the forms of escape that should be higher priorities is part of what makes "Love" special.,
In true fashion as to this type of story. the truth comes out roughly halfway through the film. The surprising twist is the extent to which Jean risks his career and his family life to be with "the other woman."
One of the mot memorable scenes begins with Jean providing a form of wish fulfillment by taking Anna away during a weekend furlough; the ensuing awkwardness and tension illustrate the principle of being careful for what you wish.
All of this culminates in a not-so-grande finale with a neo-modern twist on a Golden Age trope. If nothing else, it shows that equality has been achieved.
The Indiepix Films DVD of the 2018 Mexican drama "Hypnosis to Be Happy" aptly centers around a standoff between the central characters, who equally aptly figuratively are the last two people on earth. As almost always is the case, the live-stage vibe of "Hypnosis" contributes to the enjoyment of the film. Dividing the scenes into chapters is apt as to protagonist Felipe being a rare-book dealer.
The following Indiepix trailer for "Hypnosis" highlights the aforementioned "You Are There" feeling. It also conveys the nature of the relationship that dominates the film.
The opening scenes of "Hypnosis" are very reminiscent of traditional Calvin Klein ads in that they are stylistic black-and-white images of Felipe and his object of adequate affection Pilar touring an art museum as voice-over narration tells of both of them seeking someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives.
Things become even more personal and philosophical when the action shifts to a restaurant where Felipe proposes after four dates. This predictably triggers a conversation about how well each of the not-so-significant others know each other and what makes them happy.
Felipe demonstrates his surprising power of persuasion in convincing Pilar to accompany him to the warehouse-like building from which he operates his business. The apprehension that Pilar feels on Felipe locking her is a valid reaction. This leads to inarguably the best segment of the film in that Felipe increasingly bares his soul to his intended and she softens regarding her arguable captor. This also involves a notable line as to no book being in the store that does not want to be there.
The action then shifts to a modified walk-of-shame. Despite looking a little shell shocked and still not being engaged, Pilar agrees to drive in the country with Felipe. The ride and a related discovery of a relic prompts Felipe to open up about his childhood and his relationship with his parents in a way that further thaws the heart of Pilar. This includes exposition as to the meaning of the title of the film.
All this lead to the tale of Felipe and Pilar ending on an ambiguous note that reinforces the modern sense that "happily ever after" is as much of a fiction in the real world as it is on the silver screen.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement Blu-ray of the 1995 Salma Hayek film "Midaq Alley" has EVERY element that makes it a perfect film. This begins with a young attractive cast that has someone for everyone, a telenovela vibe that provides no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure, and high-concept in the form of being based on a novel by Nobel laurete Naguib Mahfouz. The IDEAL blend of humor and drama of both the melo and regular varieties is the topping on the fried ice cream. There truly is not a dull moment.
The crystal-clear images and audio (not to mention a behind-the-scenes feature and a written essay) in this restoration further make this one well worthy adding to your video library.
The impressive 27 festival wins for "Midaq" include several awards at the 1995 Ariel Awards in Mexico.
The below Movement trailer for Midaq Alley highlights the exceptional quality of every aspect of the film.
In addition to an awesome live-stage vibe, "Midaq" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly themed 2006-09 BBC serial series "The Street" that tells the inter-connected stories of the residents of a London neighborhood. Both productions do an excellent job keeping all the players in play and showing how their lives overlap.
"Midaq" centers around the neighborhood bar that Don Ru owns and operates. This watering hole truly is a place where everyone knows your name (and your business).
A brief glimpse of the life of Ru and of his 20-something son Chava is the tip of the iceberg that provides a good sense of the "Midaq" style. The blatant Freudian aspects of that relationship begin with Ru being disappointed with the poor work ethic of Chava, who obsessively dreams of moving El Norte.
The disappointment of Ru regarding his offspring is an element as to developing a friendship with benefits with a young clothing store clerk whom is closer to what Ru considers an ideal son. The extent to which Ru and this post-adolescent express their mutual affection contributes an ick factor on a couple of levels.
The desired traveling buddy of Chava is Abel, who is a local barber obsessed with local beauty Alma (Hayek). Of course, Alma drives plenty of drama herself.
The ripples extend from there to the opportunistic bartender, the horny spinster, the tarot card reader, etc.
The big picture this time it that "Midaq" is both compelling and funny because it is true.
Breaking Glass Pictures takes a break from international queer cinema DVD releases that range from the flirty to the filthy to offer the highly compelling stylized 2013 Italian drama "Naples in Veils." This sophisticated sibling of Lifetime fare centers around coroner Adriana being a donna on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Some of the numerous accolades for "Veils" include a "Best Cinematography" win at the 2018 David di Donatello awards and "Best Actress" at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival.
The following Breaking trailer for "Veils" tantalizes with glimpse of the intrigue and the award-winning cinematography. You also see that Breaking gives a breeder boy a chance to show that he more than qualifies to flaunt it.
Early Euro drama commences with a flashback in which we see (presumably) Adriana as a child see (presumably) her mother (presumably) commit a (presumably) heinous act. This memory haunts Adriana as she watches a symbolism-dripping live sacrilegious performance of a bizarre variation on the Joan Rivers-Billy Crystal pregnant man '70s comedy film "Rabbit Test."
In true Lifetime fashion. Adriana invites fellow audience member Andrea back to her place without any pretense as to showing him her etchings. This beginning of a beautiful friendship with benefits turns into a one-night stand when Andrea stands up Adriana. His (presumably) showing up on her slab the next provides a (presumably) good excuse for ghosting (pun intended) her.
The first element of twin (pun intended) hysteria ensues on Adriana learning that the guy with whom she shares genuine intimacy after a brief conversation is not the guy whom she thought that he was. The follow-up is being convinced that she repeatedly thinks that she sees her short-time companion walking about after he shows up at her workplace.
The latter is soon explained by the object of the obsession of Adriana identifying himself as Luca, the essentially separated-at-birth identical twin brother of Andrea. Two spoilers are that Luca lacks both a goatee and an eye patch.
Adriana harbors the brother from the same mother while seeking answers as to the alleged nefarious activity of Andrea and the reason for his (presumed) murder. The indications that Adriana may have possession of either a coveted possession or information further keep her embroiled in the plot.
The highly symbolic Euro drama continues as Adriana and Luca pursue their "its highly complicated" relationship while Adriana seeks closure as to her relationship with Luca. The fact that insanity does not run, it gallops, in the family of Adriana does not help matters.
The strong quality of every aspect of "Veils" unambiguously is why it meets the high standards of Breaking; the incredible ambiguity and layers of meaning make it even more special.
This is not to mention the uncertainty as to both the cause and the effect of virtually every event; this begins with Adriana possibly scoring with Andrea solely based on his believing that she is the girl with something extra.
Breaking supplements this with deleted scenes and a "Backstage with Cast & Crew" special feature.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 drama "Drive Me Home" expands on a common theme in Breaking films. Many of the World Cinema indie flicks in the Breaking catalog are about gay teen boys or post-adolescents reuniting between 10 and 20 years after parting ways in a manner typically involving trauma and drama.
The following Breaking trailer for "Drive" showcases the edgy energy and the stylistic look of the film.
Early scenes center around Sicilian teens Antonio and Agostino dreaming of creating a Utopia (complete with a crocodile-laden moat) on the family farm of the former. Their paradise is lost when Agostino abruptly leaves literally without so much as a ciao to his BFF.
The fast-forward this time is roughly 15 years. Antonio tracks down Agostino in his big rig at a truck stop. Whether Antonio provides some combination of ass, gas, or grass for the subsequent journey (including a night at a bathhouse) remains to be seen.
The pattern of the main part of the film remains largely true to form. The chums catch up, obtain closure, and gain a deeper understanding of the other person. Agostino being able to fully express himself to his friend is a highlight.
Seeing Agostino play a (frequently exasperated) older brother role adds good charm to the film. This additionally verifies that he is the "adult" in the relationship.
The rest of the story is that the motives of Antonio extend beyond wanting to reconnect with arguably the most stable influence in his life. His now-abandoned homestead is about to go on the auction block to pay back taxes, and he is hoping that Agostino will buy the farm. This is akin to high-school boys who jointly run a summer business dreaming of that becoming their vocation.
The joy of this and the rest of "Drive" is that it keeps the realistic twists coming to the end, We further see how everything is connected and that life is a series of comprises.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes and a Sky TV interview with the director and the cast.
The Icarus Films and Distrib Films collaboration as to the June 23, 2020 DVD release of the 2019 French based-on-a-true story drama "The Perfect Nanny" (nee "Chanson deuce") once again proves that Euro cinema far outshines Hollywood (and U.S. indie) fare across the board. This story of a governess with a dark passenger is a high-quality production that likely would have been a Lifetime-caliber movie if made here.
The following trailer for "Nanny" PERFECTLY captures the world-class work by director/writer Lucie Borleteau and the equally strong portrayal of titular caregiver Louise by Karin Viard.
The social commentary alone makes "Nanny" worthy of study in either a sociology or film class. This begins with voice-over narration by mother/attorney Myriam discussing adding infant Adam to her family that includes musician husband Paul and young daughter Mila. Speaking as the once parent of two littermate kittens after losing an "only child" cat, it is easy to understand Myriam feeling overhwhelmed after voluntarily becoming outnumbered. (Challenges includes one "kid" getting wise and hiding after my capturing the other to go to the vet and that same sibling constantly eating both his food and that of his brother.)
The next commentary comes in the form of Paul noting in response to Myriam expressing a desire to return to work that having a nanny would eat up the entire amount that Myriam would earn as a litigator, That is a more of a statement as to the value that yuppie couples place on delegating their childcare responsibilities than it is on the perceived worth of a legal advocate.
The next segment consists of the trope of comically toxic applicants, including a quirky college student, for the caretaker job until perfect candidate Louise shows up. One spoiler is that this is not a case that she is there to sell make-up but the father sees more.
The subtle manner in which Louise (with more than a little help from her friends) subsequently descends into madness is much of what sets "Nanny" apart from a basic-cable movie starring Tracey Gold. This starts out with things such as overreacting to an playground incident and arguing with Myriam as to giving the children yogurt that is past its expiration date. That debate alone is particularly apt in this era in which food is becoming more expensive and harder to find.
The creep factor really sets in when Louise increasingly treats older child Mila in a very adult manner; making up that five year-old in a grotesquely whorish manner is the tip of the iceberg as to that particular practice. Louise passing that off as a harmless game on being confronted amps up the creepiness factor.
That incident and many others introduce commentary in the form of the debate regarding whether to keep a clearly bad (and potentially dangerous) individual on the payroll and realizing that outwardly good help is hard to find. In other words, Paul and Myriam must balance endangering their children with the desire of Mom to feel fulfilled.
The seemingly innocent ways that Paul and Myriam inadvertently push Louise to the inevitable edge include confronting her about an embarrassing legal matter and a last-minute temporary substitution of caregiver. This leads to both disturbing scenes of the home life of Louise and the equivalent of a "boiled bunny" moment at the home of her employer. An amazing aspect of the latter is that even that does not prompt the couple to toss the nanny out on her fanny.
All of this leads to an exceptionally well-executed climax that really shows the chops of both Borleteau and Viard. You WILL avert your eyes.
The fact that "Nanny" is ripped-from-the-headlines shows that the story of Louise is sad but true; the fact that such incidents occur in many countries shows the almost universal aspect of the film. The final piece of this trifecta is that "Nanny" easily can be made line-for-line and shot-for-shot in the U.S.
The recent Film Movement DVD release of the 2019 drama "Temblores" is the perfect Pride Month movie for anyone over the age of 13 who is anywhere along the Kinsey Scale. Writer/director Jayro Bustamante not sugarcoating anything and opting out of a Hollywood ending alone make the film one to watch.
The 13 festival wins for "Temblores" further speak to the quality of this film that IMDb describes as follows. "The coming out of an evangelical father shatters his family, his community and uncovers a profoundly repressive society."
The below Movement trailer for "Temblores" highlights the live-stage vibe of this compelling story about upper-middle class middle-aged Pablo choosing a relationship with working-class Francisco over his life with well-heeled and well-bred wife Isa and their two children.
Our story begins on a highly melodramatic note; a clearly frantic Pablo rushes home and ignores the intervention-style gathering of relatives to lock himself in his bedroom. This, of course, prompts great concern by the assembled group. Many who are familiar with real or reel gay trauma and drama can predict that the cause of death-of-a-beloved level angst relates to a gay issue. Blatant symbolism as to this includes a literal tremor literally threatening to bring down the house as Pablo and his family contend with his new normal.
The resulting bedside confrontations range from heart-felt sympathy to not-so-righteous indignation as to Pablo being a fallen man in this particular sense of that term. The fact that that Pablo remains stricken and distraught without overdoing it is a primary example of Bustamante keeping it real.
The action then shifts to somewhat grungy bar where Francisco simultaneously introduces his new significant other into both his life and "the life." Although Pablo does not seem to have buyer's remorse, it is clear that he is experiencing an especially rude awakening. This relates to the frequent "Temblores" theme of many gay men not having it easy.
All this leads to Isa prohibiting Pablo from having any contact with his children; this coincides with a wolf in sheep's clothing not-so-subtly moving toward filling the Pablo-sized void in the life of Isa; truly no double-entendres are intended.
A relative calm in the middle of the film leads to a rebuilding of drama as the true sexual orientation of Pablo increasingly is seen as an addiction by his family. Intense distress as to all that he has given up prompts our family man to enter conversion therapy that ironically seems as if it would result in even the most straight man in the world to lose all interest in women.
This leads to the aforementioned not-so-happy ending in which Pablo decides the extent to which he will sacrifice the needs of the few to satisfy the needs of the many.
Movement supplements "Temblores" with the short "Black Hat," which is the Film Movement Award winner at the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. This less dramatic look at a family man on the gay end of the Kinsey Scale uses the titular head covering as highly symbolic as a religious item and the public persona of the man. The hat coming off allows him to be more true to himself.
Breaking Glass Pictures awesomely follows the trend of other theatrical and DVD studios regarding the DVD release of the 2018 indie drama "We Are Boats." These best friends to lovers of quality art-house films are further stepping up their game regarding making these hidden gems accessible to the general public.
The following YouTube clip of a "Boats" trailer nicely conveys the surreal earthy of the film and introduces the heavenly cast. It is nice to see charming formerly teen goofball Boo Boo Stewart play a fun and compassionate adult.
Our story begins with working girl Francesca being the victim of a type of harm that can befall members of the oldest profession in the world. This leads to her doing a walk without shame in the afterlife.
Writer/director James Bird of the (reviewed) fantabulous Breaking film "Honeyglue" puts his highly creative artistic talent to good use in making our not necessarily final destination look like Vermont in summer.
The first afterlife lesson that Francesca learns is that the sweet relief of death does not include no longer enduring job interviews. She must go through the selection process for the position of a variation of a guardian angel. We also learn that having a personal horse in the race still can motivate seeking particular employment. In this case, Francesca is desperate for closure with her still-living daughter.
This job entails returning to earth to help guide folks who are near death. One difference between this system and the more traditional one is that a death is not considered a loss. An even more cool aspect is the extent to which the presence of Francessca, who now is akin to a resident cat at a nursing home, is known to us mere mortals.
Francesca begins her first mission immediately on taking her quantum leap of faith back to earth. She very quickly hooks up in both senses of the word with Michael, who is a musician with an "its complicated" relationship with his wife. A more positive aspect of this is that Francesca helps ensure that Michael dies with a smile on his face.
Francesca then boards an LA-bound bus to do her best to prevent the new widow from quickly joining her husband in Vermont. This journey connects her with fatally ill older man Cliff (Graham Greene). He is going to The City of Angels to make peace with his estranged daughter. Cliff also mentioning that he is estranged from his son for philosophical reasons is one of many indications that Bird supplies regarding things to come.
Our LA story begins with Stewart playing aptly named Taylor, who works at the vintage clothing store where the widow brings the duds of her late husband. Taylor also is the partner of a man who performs at anti-meat rallies with a female bartender who is engaged to Lucas. Luke Hemsworth (who is the Stephen, the Clint, or the Frank of the Hemsworth acting clan) plays Lucas.
Lucas coerces a good friend from New York to assist with a plan that is designed to learn whether the bartender is keeping her no-charge dairy open in the days leading to the wedding.
Cliff showing up at the home of his daughter sets most of the action that provides the climax of "Boats" in motion. The ensuing trauma and drama validates the seven degrees of separation theory of life. This is not to mention the traditionally symbolic nature of the means by which those whose time has come move on to the next stage of existence.
Breaking supplements all this with deleted scenes and 30 minutes of cast and crew interviews that show that those folks had as much fun making the film as we did watching it.
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.
The CBS Home Entertainment June 2, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek Short Treks" lets non-subscribers of CBS All Access enjoy these these charming streamisodes of "Star Trek: Discovery." Each of the 9 shorts allows characters great and small a chance to shine. A glaring omission is Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, whom everyone's favorite rent-boy Anthony Rapp seems born to play.
The icing on the cake is the truly special features, which include "making-of" bonuses, with which CBS pairs each short.
All Access awesomely does some of the heavy lifting for this post; it perfectly describes this series as follows. "'Star Trek: Short Treks' are approximately 10-15 minute stand-alone short stories that allow fans to dive deeper into the key themes and characters that fit into Star Trek: Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."
The following 2019 ComicCon trailer for "Treks" expertly conveys the strong production values and great underlying humor of these films.
The earlier shorts, which begin with quirky Ensign Tilly in an equally odd story, have strong merits that fully reflect the "Trek" spirit. However, the later ones that jump ship and move to the Enterprise are personal faves.
A favorite among this group is the fantabulous "The Trouble With Edward." Former Enterprise science officer Lynne Lucero is the new captain of a science ship when mad scientist in the truest sense of that term Edward Larkim (H. Jon Benjamin of "Bob's Burgers" and "Archer" fame) commences the trouble with tribbles. The morals this time are that you should not mess with Mother Nature and that over population can be a deadly problem.
Larkin easily has the best of countless memorable moments when he cops an epic "not my problem" 'tude despite being the architect of the threat.
"Q&A" awesomely has Ethan Peck (Spock) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) pair up as the latter greets the former on his arrival on the Enterprise to commence his service on that vessel. The best is soon to come when the "Treks" writers resort to the old "stuck together in an elevator" trope. Suffice it it to say that emotions do run high.
"Ask Not" is another very strong outing; this one features Captain Pike mercilessly testing an enterprising wannabe. It fully shows how it is determined if someone has the right stuff to serve on that crew.
The bigger picture this time is that "Treks" allows Trekkers, Trekkies, and the unenlightened alike a solid two-hours (plus extras) of stories that each are worthy of full-length episodes.
The must-be-seen-to-be-believed brilliantly remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 DVD release of the 2000 Matt Damon drama "All the Pretty Horses" follows the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of BDs of films based on novels. This release coincides with the (reviewed) BD release of "Trapped," which is an adaptation of the Greg Iles thriller "24."
The accolades for this movie based on the Cormac McCarthy book of the same title include the 2000 National Board of Review, USA award for Best Screenplay. Each act in "Horses" playing out like a chapter in a book verifies that National Board of Review has chosen wisely.
"Horses" tells the post-war tale of West Texas presumed ranch heir John Grady Cole (Matt Damon), who gets a rude awakening on his grandfather buying the farm setting the stage for his mother to sell the family homestead to an oil company. Rather than packing up the truck and moving to Beverly (Hills that is), John and best buddy (with "Brokeback Mountain" style homoerotic undertones) Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) head out to be cowboys in Mexico.
A fateful encounter early in the journey is a game-changer that shows John that no good deed goes unpunished and that the riding trail to Hell is paved with good intentions. John is much more kind-hearted than Lacey on the pair meeting mid-teens runaway Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black) on a horse to which he has an arguable claim but that does not technically belong to him.
The excitable boy experiencing intense angst leads to a chain of events that finds him almost naked and afraid and John and Lacey figuratively at the end of their ropes. A spoiler is that past soon coming back to haunt our heroes puts them at risk of literally being at that end of their ropes.
In the interim, John and Lacey obtain gainful employment at a large Mexican ranch. The skill of John at taming horses earns him the favor of the owner; John being Matt Damon earns him the favor of Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), who is the daughter of the owner.
This near saga continues with paternal pride leading to John and Lacey being held accountable for the sins of another; this leads to a Mexican standoff that involves a South-of-the-Border form of frontier justice.
More trauma and drama ensues, leading to a sort of a homecoming on a few levels. The spoiler this time is that this neo-modern western does not guarantee that John will ride off into the sunset in the end.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the Kevin Bacon 2002 psychological thriller "Trapped" is one of the latest examples of home-video distributors being able to say "Cineplexes?! We don't need no stinkn' cineplexes." Greg Iles, aka the other Southern attorney turned best-selling crime-fiction novelist, masterfully adapts his book "24" to the big screen.
The action in the 1:46 drama mostly occurs over the titular period in the source document. Star anesthesiologist Dr. Will Jennings (Stuart Townsend) and his wife Karen are living the good life with with young daughter Abby (Dakota Fanning).
The nightmare begins within minutes of Karen and Abby going inside after seeing Dad off to a medical convention at which he is the keynote speaker. Karen quickly discovers that Abby is gone, and that serial kidnapper Hickey (Bacon) is an uninvited overnight guest.
The following exposition builds on the opening scenes that occur six months earlier. Hickey provides himself and wife Cheryl (Courtney Love) the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed by snatching the offspring of wealthy families and holding them for ransom for 24 hours. Hickey literally makes himself at home during that period to ensure that the 'rents behave and do not call the po po.
The current role of Karen, who seems tailor-made for the feral persona of Love, in the family business is to keep an eye on Will at the convention. For his part, Hickey is continuing his pattern of unduly taking advantage of the vulnerable mother willing to do "anything" to ensure the safe return of her child. This leads to a memorable scene with a ripped-from-the-headlines moment.
As he does in his novels, Iles expertly builds up the action and the drama on the three fronts of the literal homefront, the hotel, and the cabin in the woods where Abby is being held. These scenes also establish the backgrounds that make Team Hickey the people whom they are today.
All of this climaxes as the power balances shift back-and-forth as to the captors and the captives. The big payoff is a well-choreographed rescue attempt that includes a few nice twists.
The most fun of this enjoyable film relates to seeing typically good-guy Bacon once more allow his dark passenger to take the wheel. Equal entertainment comes from watching Love be Love.
The bigger picture is that "Trapped" shows creating Hollywood fare that appeals to critics and audiences alike does not require a current teen idol name. Michael Bay level pyrotechnics, or even especially lewd and lascivious content. A good story, competent direction, and a cast that understands its characters more than suffices.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2017 drama "Outrage Coda" wraps up the underworld crime series of movies by Takeshi Kitano. Based merely on this one, it is clear that Quentin Tarantino lacks a monopoly on over-the-top bloody "mob" movies. In this case, the yakuza system is front-and-center. The fault as to not fully following every twist in this fast-paced chess game of a film lies within your not-so-humble reviewer, not with Kitano.
The following Movement trailer for "Coda" showcases the aforementioned wonderfully perverse violence that far exceeds the expectations of the 12 year-old boy in many of us. Another way of thinking about this is that it brings the spirit of "Itchy and Scratchy" into the live-action realm.
Our story begins on a typically deceptive low-key note; South Korean made-man Chang is chatting with a younger guy about fishing; this scene sets the stage for a more violent depiction of the middle-aged man and the sea.
The story fully gets underway when Chang is called in to after yakuza middle-manager Hakuna is caught with his pants down during a tryst with a couple of prostitutes who do not want to play rough. Chang fully puts this blowhard in his place and sends him packing.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the yakuza boss sees the absence of Hakuna at an all-hands meeting as verification of his "I don't get no respect" attitude. Part of the basis for this is that this CEO has never been a guest of the Emperor or otherwise gotten his hands dirty.
The subsequent intertwined plots revolve around a desire for a management change and an effort to obtain maximum profit as to compensating Team Chang for the offense of Hakuna. The negotiations as to the latter are hilarious in a manner that proves that made men have a great sense of humor.
The better fun comes in the form of mob violence that often is staged to not be as it seems. Such attacks including one in a restaurant and another in a car show that the classics never go out of style.
All of this leads to a highly satisfying climax that provides a perfect conclusion to the film and the "Outrage" series. Hakuna learns a trifecta of lessons in the form of being doomed to repeat history when you do not learn from it, being careful about for what you wish, and the consequences of shooting off you mouth. Meanwhile, the fate of the yakuza boss depicts a fantasy for anyone who ever has had a toxic employer. One easily can say that his team is driven to this extreme.
Movement supplements this with a "making of" documentary and trailers of Takeshi films that Movement has released on DVD and Blu-ray.
The High Octane Pictures DVD of the 2019 gay-themed psychological thriller "Crisis Hotline" (nee "Shadows in Mind") shows that the fact that that it is not safe to go back in the theater is not a problem at all. This one has edgy fun for all ages and gender identities.
The following official trailer for "Hotline" provides a strong sense of both the style and the substance of this tale of an innocent young farmboy who realizes that he is not in Nebraska anymore.
This neo-modern gay soap opera/fable centers around member of The IT Crowd Danny, who gets a series of rude awakening on relocating to Silicon Valley for a dream job that turns out to be another day at the office.
As we learn throughout the almost film-long telephone conversation between Danny and support center staffer Simon, the reality is that the apparent embarrassment of riches as to the tech. job only allows for living in a shamefully shabby studio apartment and commuting an hour each way each day on the company bus.
The trauma that leads to the drama conveyed in the discussion with Simon begins with desperate times leading to Danny varying his method of his desperate measure of taking things into his own hands by going on either Grind'r or a reasonable facsimile thereof in search of Mr. Right.
This effort leads to meeting fellow keyboard kid Kyle. This pair waiting four dates to seal the deal either is a fairy tale (no pun or offense intended) or shows the new normal in the world of gay dating. It is realistic that waiting makes the intimacy more special.
The rest of the unfolding story is that Danny shares his plan for a murder/suicide with Simon.
The spidey sense of viewers is triggered more quickly than that of Danny as to Kyle being cagey regarding his clients who pay him well enough to live a lifestyle to which Danny would like to become accustomed.
A subsequent "meet the parents" scene has Danny as the man who came to dinner with Kyle to meet 30-something gay couple/pornographers Christian and Lance, who pay the rent for their boy Kyle. The evening starts out creepy and takes a darker turn that reasonably causes Danny to feel uneasy.
Danny becoming increasingly aware of the nature of the dirty business in which his highly significant other is involved proportionately prompts him to encourage Kyle to change professions. Anyone who has seen any film even remotely similar to "Crisis" knows that the odds are not forever in the favor of the young lovers as to their great escape plan. At the same time, that is a chance that they have to take.
The predictable last-minute obstacle to a happy ending comes in the unpredictable form of Kyle bringing his work home that is a Cos for concern. This triggers the events that lead to the call announcing plans to pull the trigger.
Writer/producer/director Mark Schwab pulls off the neat trick of pulling a rabbit out of his hat in the form of an 11th-hour plot twist that puts a completely new perspective on the entire film. The bonus is that it is a clever and realistic development that supports the theory that confession is good for the soul.
Thematically, the bigger picture is that the experience of Danny is relatable across the Kinsey Scale. As addressed early in the marathon call, every first love is almost certain to end in tears and recriminations. Further, in the immortal words of Keith Partridge, doesn't somebody wanted to be wanted like me? This is especially true when you are living a solitary existence in a shabby broom closet thousands of miles from home.
The bigger picture as to "Crisis" itself is that Schwab holds true to the modern style of indie filmmaking by keeping things real and having the performances largely be stoic even in the face of heavy turmoil. On a more narrow note, this film that borderline qualifies for a PG-13 rating reflects the rule in gay cinema that the amount of nudity has an inverse relationship with the quality of the film.
The DVD extras include commentary by Schwab and film expert Tim Sika. We also get DVD exclusive interviews with the cast and the crew.
Cinema Libre provides an awesome twofer regarding the April 7, 2020 DVD of the wonderfully edgy 2019 Icelandic drama "From Iceland to Eden." This film shows that quality cinema still exists and that home-video more than compensates for arthouses and cineplexes facing the wrath of COVID-19.
The opening scenes strike the desired balance between exposition and starting the action. Nearly naked 20-something Oliver finds himself in a bathroom with equally compromised peer Loa. He is there on the run from the law, which is in the midst of raiding his supply of assorted illegal drugs; she is there sleeping off a wild night with her host, whom our near-future young lovers find dead from an overdose.
One of several film highlights courtesy of Oliver portaayor Hansel Eagle, whose credits include "Shirtless Dancer" on an episode of "Black Mirror," comes soon after this initial meeting. Oliver casually reciting the increasingly hardcore list of drugs in his inventory triggers Loa remembering him as a well-known drug dealer on the club circuit. An even better moment comes when Oliver expresses displeasure as to having imminently facing a hammer attack at one end and a "cock up my ass" at the other. The performance of the actor playing second-generation drug dealer/"Little Mermaid" fanatic Tumi adds great entertainment value as to that dual threat.
Oliver and Loa soon demonstrate the dual follies of youth and heavy drug use by scheming and dreaming of life in the titular paradise, which is Cuba in this case. This caper commences a development that is relatable to virtually anyone who has had a post-college roommate. Loa convinces her friend to harbor her and Mr. Not Right in the Head for one night despite the opposition of the other guy who shares the place. Of course, this turns into an extended stay.
The daring deeds of our dynamic duo, which including putting Loa at risk of losing what is left of her virtue, quickly escalate, This includes a not-so-bold grab of a stash and cash to a "one last job" plot to be armed and dangerous party crashers at Chez Tumi. Needless to say, things do not go as planned.
All of this culminates in a very surreal ending that both brings things back to the beginning of the film and offers proof that everyone has a soulmate.
The big picture this time is that all of us want a better life, and some of us must work a little harder toward enjoying that desired Utopia.
The Film Movement Classics division of cinephile god Film Movement finds itself at the right place at the right time as to its March 31, 2020 release of "Their Finest Hour" coinciding with most of us entering at least a third week of house arrest; "The Shining" jokes stopped being funny several days ago.
"Hour" supplements a recent series of Classics Blu-ray releases of Ealing Studios comedies from the same era as the five WWII-related films that make up new releases. Posts on the comedies can be found in the Film Movement section of this site.
An important perspective as to "Hour" is comparable to an unfounded bias against westerns; just as tales of cowboys and indians typically are about much more than saloon fights and high noon showdowns, films that center around war-related events offer much more than battles.
The aforementioned cabin fever is a major (no pun intended) factor as to not reading the essay or watching most of the five-hours of special features in "Hour." There can be too much of a good thing when you spend at least eight hours a day watching movies everyday for a few weeks.
Similarly, a desire to not make this post a novella requires striking a happy medium between a 25-words-or-less synopsis of each of the five movies and writing a full review.
The collection begins with the 1958 version of "Dunkirk." Unlike the 2017 Christopher Nolan blockbuster, the Ealing version gives the events leading up to the civilian flotilla rescue of far more that seven stranded castaways on the titular shore roughly equal screen time as that exodus. We also get a much more in-depth look at the homefront aspects of those events than Nolan provides.
The Ealing short "The Young Veteran," which looks at WWII from the perspective of a post-adolescent literally and figuratively in the trenches, and a newsreel on Dunkirk are especially notable bonus features.
Classics tells us that the docudrama "The Dam Busters" (1955) inspires the central mission, aside from rescuing the princess, in the original "Star Wars." This compelling films portrays the efforts of a patriotic British engineer to develop a highly precise bomb to further the war effort; we also see the skilled RAF flyers who must meet very tough and equally specifics to allow the weapon of mass destruction to do its job.
"The Colditz Story" is a wonderful mash-up between "The Great Escape" and the '60s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," both of which almost certainly take inspiration both from the film and the events that inspire it. The central plot this time is that the Germans convert the titular castle into a POW camp for prisoners who escaped from other places where they had unfortunate incarcerations. A series of intertitles that serve as an epilogue provide good context that an include documentary on the castle enhances.
"Ice Cold in Alex" (1958) follows a traditional action-adventure film format; the titular brew is a "carrot" in much the same way that almost all of us look forward to a meal at our favorite restaurant once our own unfortunate incarcerations end. The reel challenge is driving a run-down Army ambulance across the Nazi-infested scorching North African desert.
"Went the Day Well" (1942) arguably is the "Hour" film that is closest to the Ealing comedies. This film, which is based on Graham Greene story, is about a rural British village that is duped in literally welcoming a group of German soldiers into their homes.
In typical Ealing style. the story commences with the daily lives of the villagers, whose existence is somewhere between the central character (reviewed) "Passport to Pimlico" and (reviewed) "Whiskey Galore." The aforementioned fascists soon arrive disguised as British soldiers.
The web of lies soon unravels, and the real drama unfolds when the Nazis figuratively show their true nature. The clear message is to not f**k with the British.
The Mill Creek Entertainment February 11, 2020 "VHS Retro Style" Blu-ray of the 1986 Richard Gere/Kim Basinger neo-modern noir film "No Mercy" joins the MCE "Retro" catalog of these films that proves that they do not make 'em even like that anymore. The hardish-boiled "Mercy" is at one end of the spectrum as to the February 2020 "Retro" release; the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Cyndi Lauper/Jeff Goldblum comedy "Vibes" is at the other end; the (recently reviewed) Bruce Willis action-comedy "Hudson Hawk" falls in the middle.
"Mercy" is a blatant "homage" to the 1984 Eddie Murphy film "Beverly Hills Cop," that has Murphy playing a loose-cannon Detroit cop going to the titular city on a revenge mission. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The similarities of "Those '80s Movies" begin with the opening scenes of "Mercy." Chicago detective EDDIE Jillette (Gere) is working undercover as a car wash attendant on his home turf; Ala "Beverly Hills," things soon go comically awry in a manner that (once more) incurs the wrath of the superior officer of Jillette.
An effort to salvage good from the botched operation leads to Gere and his partner meeting with mid-level criminal Losado, who is in the Windy City looking to hire someone to blow away a target. Losado moll Michel Duval (Basinger) is along for the ride.
Any Trekker knows that the partner of Jillette being a upstanding family guy screams for him to wear a red shirt to work every day. Sure enough, things quickly going sideways prompts Jillette to take an unauthorized trip to New Orleans to either put Losado in the pen (pun intended) or the ground.
It does not take Jillette long to run afoul of the local good ole boys or to reunite with Duval. Incurring the wrath of the NOPD takes a little longer. That involves the typical be on the next plane home or else moment that has equally predictable results.
While "Beverly Hills" largely centers around the relationship between Murphy's Axel Foley and Judge Reinhold's junior detective Rosewood, Jillette and Duval are the "Mercy" power couple.
This pair that is certain to become friends with mutual benefits start out with Jillette engaging with Duval by literally shackling her to him and dragging her through the bayou when the heat is on. This leads to discovering a business that is sleazy even by New Orleans standards and that explains the recruiting trip of Losado.
Along the way, Duval reveals the true nature of her relationship with Losado. Of course, things become very personal in a way that reflects that Losado gets angry when someone plays with his toys.
The inevitable extended mano-a-mano showdown between Jillette and Losado puts Popeye and Bluto to shame.
The "retro" appeal of all this is that "Mercy" is a prime example of film noir evolution to a stage that the femme fatale can dish it out and take just as well as the damaged hero who initially is out for her blood before (typically) having a change of heart.
The striking images and related spectacular cinematography in the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 drama "Holiday" alone justify adding this film to your home-video collection. It also makes one wonder why Breaking does not spring for a Blu-ray release.
The festival love for this entertaining tale of the trophy girlfriend of an abusive drug lord includes numerous top honors. These accolades include Best Picture at the 2018 Austin Fantastic Fest and Best Director at the 2018 Nordic International Film Festival,
The following YouTube clip of a "Holiday" trailer does not do the style of the film justice but does provide a strong sense of the misogynistic elements and the counter-balancing theme of material girls with blonde ambition considering the boy with the cold hard cash to always be Mr. Right despite the cost of the relationship.
Early scenes have our heroine (pun intended) Sascha getting called out on a damsel-in-distress routine on the cusp of the extended titular vacation with aforementioned pusher Michael, This trip is to pimped-out villa in Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera, Their travel companions are the business associates of Michael and the significant others and children of those legitimate businessmen.
Although lounging in the sun, playing games at the arcade, and clubbing is fun, Sascha soon learns the same lesson as her "sisters" that anyone who "marries" for money pays a high price for enjoying the lifestyles of the rich and loathsome. This includes having to put out on demand and dealing with a man whose temper (and temperament) essentially precludes finding someone to stick around out of love.
One of the best and most telling "Holiday" scenes has a bored Michael sitting in the bitch husband chair at a jewelry store while Sascha shops. This kept woman selecting emerald earrings aptly provides her a sense that she is not in Kansas anymore. Another way of looking at this is that it shows the intersection of her grasping greed and the combination of the lust of Michael and his desire to have a status symbol other than a tattoo on his arm.
More drama enters the picture when Sascha strikes up an unsanctioned relationship with a yachting type. Handsome and kind sailor Thomas shares an intimate moment with Sascha, and both of them want more than a one evening stand. This prompts a jealous Michael to lure Thomas to the villa under false pretenses. The feral aspects of that evening show the true natures of both men.
The climax follows when Sascha plays a booty call gone wrong on Thomas; this leads to her becoming a girl interrupted who truly is dazed and confused. This adds to the morality tale aspect of this beautiful and compelling film.
Film Movement fully celebrates the independent spirit of art-house films with the DVD release of the 2017 drama "I Am Not a Witch." Folks who prefer to download this tale of nine year-old Shula being sent to witch camp can do so through the Movement streaming service.
The sweet 16 accolades for "Witch" begin with the 2018 BAFTA award for "Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer." Many of the other 15 wins similarly honor the film itself and writer/director Rungano Nyoni.
The following YouTube clip of the Movement trailer for "Witch" casts a spell that compels you to want to see more of the guilty-pleasure absurdity and themes that earn the film so much critical love.
The fun begins with wonderful dual commentary on the nature of tourism and the treatment of the disenfranchised in any society. We see tourons (a.ka. tourists + morons) in Zambia traveling to a witch camp. Of course, a group member balks at the price of the experience.
On arriving at their destination, the visitors treat the not-so-beloved sorceresses like zoo animals. For their part, the women who endure that humiliation do so with supernatural stoicism. The education of the day trippers includes the explanation that tethering the women to white ribbons is intended to prevent them from flying away to go on a killing spree. One spoiler is that at least one witch reaches the end of her rope.
The primary commentary then commences in the village where unaccompanied minor Shula resides; our introduction to her shows the incident that leads to her being accused of witchcraft. That judicial proceeding provides a strong sense of the comparable Salem witch trials.
This leads to government official Mr. Banda bringing the girl to the aforementioned camp. A form of tiger repellent logic is used in convincing Shula that she either can consent to be tethered to a white ribbon or be turned into a goat.
Banda subsequently exploits the perception of an unenthusiastic Shula for fun and profit. This includes making her use her alleged power to catch a thief. We also see her sit quietly by as Banta and his partner-in-crime try to get her to play along with a scheme to show that she can literally be a rainmaker.
Meanwhile, the witches also profit from the perception of Shula. They additionally amusingly go about their lives as the bicker and do what is required of them. We additionally get further proof that people from "civilized" nations are clueless.
All of this shows both that every society has the same basic flaws and that all of us should be ashamed, very ashamed.
Movement supplements "Witch" with the Nyoni short-film "Mwansa the Great." We further get an interview in which Nyoni discusses visiting an actual witch camp.
Breaking Glass Pictures fully lives up to its reputation for edgy dark fare as to its its February 18, 2020 DVD release of the 2019 grindhouse-light film "Feedbacck."
This tale of a night of terror for an aging Chav who can be considered the UK answer to Howard Stern, can be thought of as a Blumhouse remake of the '70s com "WKRP in Cincinnati" about the zany staff at a struggling AM radio station. On a related note, one can only hope that Blumhouse does recreate the "WKRP" episode that revolves around a belief that turkeys can fly.
Outspoken Jarvis Dolan arrives at work bloodied but undeterred in the wake of a beatdown inspired by his strong opinions; his glee on throwing around his star status is short-lived when it soon becomes apparent that tonight is not like every other night. For on this night, some people die and others wish for that fate.
The terror for Jarvis and delight for the warped viewers who enjoy his torture begins with learning that his show has been hijacked and that the culprits are at least one step ahead of him. Things follow the standard course of Jarvis being warned against trying to get any help. He also discovers that he is his own captive audience.
Learning that the current "night in question" involves an earlier "night in question" with heavy shades of "WKRP" is far from the end of the story. Virgin feature-film writer/director Pedro C. Alonso does an excellent job keeping the twists coming in a manner that validates the theory that all memories are subjective.
Jarvis and his sidekick being forced to graphically confess their sins under incredible duress and in a highly public manner greatly contributes to the perverse fun of this one.
Alonso further shows his chops in the obligatory escape attempt scene. This one truly demonstrates sound and fury.
Of course, all this ends with the last men (if any) on both sides of the sadistic antics at the end of their ropes and thoroughly exhausted. The awesome thing this time is that all involved get exactly what they deserve,
Purveyor of awesome guilty-pleasure films Wild Eye Releasing continues stepping up its game with the recent DVD release of the smells like teen angst film "A Million Hits."
This B-movie aptly populated with characters to whom that letter can apply in a related context shines a light on the role of social media on coveted teen popularity. Even those of us whose high-school days predate the Web (dark and otherwise ) can relate to wanting to be one of the cool kids and to a literal or figurative party going out of bounds.
A broader perspective regarding all this is that any individual who hopes to profit from an online presence can relate to the less scrupulous among us using deceitful and/or lascivious means to increase hits. A personal point of pride is never "paying for it" and never sharing my naughty bits or behind-closed-door activities to attract readers. I will state that following @tvdvdguy on Twitter will give you a chance to find a chocolate bunny on your lawn on April 12, 2020.
Our story begins with Queen B Ashley administering a massive beat-down to frienemy Amy while sidekick Jess films the action. This escapade lands all three excitable girls in the office of the principal.
The first bit of humor relates to the school administrator invoking the over-blown terrorist threat policy of many K-12 institutions regarding the punishment for the incident. Watching Ashley play innocent and not-so-subtly bully Amy into verifying a claim that they were merely fooling around is hilarious.
The fallout from all this includes the '90s-era camcorder of Jess getting confiscated, and her abusive mother giving her hell for that allegedly valuable item being taken away. Jess manipulating an AV geek in an effort to recover the device also prompts smiles.
Much of the teen drama relates to Ashley responding true to character in both senses of that term on Jess having leverage over that YouTube star. For her part, Jess fairly simultaneously finds her true calling and her dream boy.
For her part, Amy represents the stereotype of a childhood best friend who is callously thrown aside for not thriving during puberty. The fallout from her sharing a video from the good-old-days is another highlight of "Hits."
All of this climaxes in a manner that solidifies that "Hits" is a neo-modern morality tale. One way of stating this it to paraphrase the Mark Twain quote that it is better to not film your misdeeds and be assumed to be a fool, rather than to post them and remove all doubt.
The IndiePix Films DVD release of the 2016 drama "Agony" is a perfect example of a neo-modern psychological drama; the social commentary on the dystopian existence of Millennials is icing on the cake.
This fact-based tale of two Millennials centers around the quarter-life crises of law student/aspiring judge Christian and recent Army vet./rapper/boxer Alex. The actual collateral damage of the post-teen angst of one of these "we need to talk about" boys is a 20-something woman whose remains get spread all over Vienna.
Alex divides much of his time between training at his gym and hanging out with his best friend with whom he not-so-secretly would like to obtain benefits. Christian studies hard, frequents the local club, and has a girlfriend/chum.
Rookie writer/director David Clay Diaz fairly evenly divides the screen time between these fine young cannibals. The few seconds of blackness between the segments devoted to them provide segues.
Being boomerang kids who essentially have trouble paying the 'rent is a common characteristic of our subjects. The lord and the lady of their respective manors express frustration regarding failing to pull their weight,
Alex has it worse; his father is a cop, who is increasingly frustrated both regarding keeping his son in protein powder and this Peter Pan lacking a viable career path. The former having to literally bail out the latter does not help matters.
For his part, Christian generally is angsty and is contending with an important test. A tense "meet the parents" aspect and his girlfriend being clingy does not help matters.
The dual climaxes of "Agony" revolves around both boys succumbing to the pressures in their lives. One takes a stab at relieving that pressure; the other decides to bag it. Both endings show that the kids are not alright.
The numerous merits of the film begin with the strong relatability regarding this movie about two 20-something guys having difficulty transitioning from being boys to fully manning up. This extends to showing that even Millennials who seem to have their lives together face the same challenges as apparent slackers. This is not to mention the ills associated with being on both sides in a relationship with unrequited love.
The underlying social commentary that includes the concept of "if it bleeds, it leads" and the fact that any similarities between our excitable boys and any persons living or dead is not purely coincidental adds good depth. These elements, along with the production quality of "Agony," elevate the movie above being an "After School Special" or a Lifetime Movie,
Former "The Young and the Restless" hunk/rocker/notable sitcom guest star Michael "Flyman" Damian once more puts his diverse background to good use in producing/writing/directing "High Strung Free Dance." An interview with Michael spouse/partner-in-filmmkaing Janeen Damian on the theater-quality GVN Releasing February 4, 2020 Blu-ray of "Free Dance" shows the extent to which art imitates life. The ONLY "complaints" about this sequel are that it lacks the term "Electric Boogaloo" and does not recreate the awesome violin bow duel from the (reviewed) original.
One can only hope that there is a "High Strung 3" and that the tag line is "this time its personal." It is very clear that Michael, whom the behind-the-scenes BD extra tells us loves to move the camera, is not close to being too old for this "stuff."
On a serious note, Damian also takes advantage of his decades of show business experience by following the general rule of making a sequel more grand than the original, He does buck the trend of a first sequel being horrible only to have the franchise rebound with the third entry. This creates great expectations as to the aforementioned next "High Strung" movie.
Damian (perhaps inadvertently) also reflects the wisdom of the mid-70s Saturday-morning series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that a fan base can handle a more mature offering than the series that brings them to the table. The post on "High Strung" notes that it seems to be geared to a tween girl audience but appeals to a broad age group,
The final aside before fully discussing "Free Dance" is that the "cast of 1,000s" listed as producers of this crowdfunded movie shows that it would be cool to see your name on the silver screen. These contributions to indie films that value art over commerce also help talented folks such as Damian continue to "rock on."
The following trailer for "Free Dance" highlights how it is brighter, grander, and more adult than its excellent predecessor.
"Free Dance" takes its name from the epic Broadway show around which the film revolves. The link with "High Strung" is that both films feature Jane Seymour as highly demanding dance instructor (ala Lydia Grant of "Fame" fame) Oksana in both films. One difference this time is that Oksana has a highly personal interest (and rocky relationship) as to central dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty).
The asides this time are that we know that Seymour is not an ex-wife of Henry VIII but do not know whether Oksana considers Anna Karenina her favorite author.
Damian pays a wonderful homage to the past by bringing the epic '30s musicals back in a much bolder and brighter fashion in the 21st century. This more than justifies the physical-media release opting for Blu-ray.
This ode to yesteryear includes Barlow initially not making the cut as a background dancer for the titular extravaganza of fabled choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas "Harry Hook" Doherty of the "Descendants" franchise). Barlow not taking "no" for an answer puts right what once went wrong.
Our classic tale continues with deli delivery boy/aspiring pianist Charlie (Harry "Vampire Boy" Jarvis) getting his first lucky break in terms of one chance encounter connecting him with a reclusive retired famous pianist. A subsequent series of fortunate (and one seemingly not-so-fortunate) circumstances leads to Charlie getting the gig as the on-stage pianist for the show, Barlow being his muse helps the production while contributing to backstage drama.
Related asides this time are that casting Thomas and Harry reinforce that Michael (who casts "handsome devil "Nicholas Galitizine in the first film) has a good eye for talented British pretty boys and that Jarvis shares in an interview for another outlet that "Free Dance" prompts him to resume his piano studies after a long absence. His exceptional playing proves that he is an apt pupil; his youthful exuberance in the behind-the-scenes feature further reflects the love for his role that his performance conveys.
Much of "Free Dance" centers around the trauma and drama of rehearsing for the show, The vintage-style shifting fortunes of Barlow drive much of the action.
All of this leads to the epic opening night; a twist during this frantic period will cause many viewers of this compelling film to yell out a word that rhymes with "witch" when it seems that nice guys once again finish last.
Damian fully delivers as to the final performances that include an truly grand finale. This fully leading to a classic Hollywood ending removes any doubt that Damian honors the past.
Music videos on the Blu-ray further show the love of the art.
The epilogue to all this is that the post on "High Strung" encourages folks to disregard embarrassment related to seeing a very good film that is geared to tween girls; there is ABSOLUTELY no cause for such concern as to "Free Dance."
'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,