The Warner Archive September 24, 2019 DVD release of the 1939 B-movie "The Man Who Dared" is among the latest proof that many titles in the Archive catalog are both universal and timeless. This tale of a typical middle-class American family facing the choice of being witnesses for the prosecution or playing it safe by having selective amnesia is almost identical to the (reviewed) 1931 Walter Huston film "The Star Witness."
Our "Man" story begins with the standard Golden-Age exposition device of newspaper front-pages reporting wide-spread corruption in a typical mid-sized American city. The action soon shifts to the office of crusading DA Palmer, who is on the cusp of finally bringing down the crooked mayor.
Meanwhile, Hizzoner is meeting with his goon squad to discuss how to silence McCrary, an investigator who is a not-so-easily intimidated star witness.
These worlds collide when corrupt police official Nick Bartel and his man-in-blue group pay McCrary a home visit with extreme prejudice. This trio breaking into the garage of McCrary to "Pintoize" his ride interrupts the dinner of the three-generation Carters, who gather at the window to watch what is going on.
McCrary and his wife inadvertently escalating the timetable creates a desperate time for the malfeasors that leads to the desperate measure of again preventing the Carters from chowing down.
The ensuing dilemma relates to the Carters paying a heavy price for doing the right thing. The self-important middle-class middle-manager head-of-the-family is duped into going with the bad guys, who then use escalating means of persuasion to convince him to change his story. This failing leads to to kidnapping all-American boy Billy Carter as an effort to silence his family.
One fly in this ointment is a rebel without a cause who does not recognize the irony of strongly speaking out against capitalism while enjoying a good lifestyle courtesy of a father who is happy to play his role in that system.
This leads to building tension as the central trial commences while patriotic Spanish-American War veteran Ulysses "Grandpa" Potterfield demonstrates the wisdom of the old fool. The clear message on many levels is that the old ways are the best ways.
The larger messages that remain depressingly relevant today are that absolute power corrupts absolutely and that the one with the gold makes the rules. This is even more true today when "tyrants" on all levels have well-stocked propaganda arsenals and extreme defamation laws that silence many whistleblowers even more effectively than a physical beatdown.
An increased sense that speaking out will only end in devastating tears and recriminations is a further nail in the twin coffins of free speech and promoting what should be American values.
Mill Creek Entertainment continues displaying diversity and a love of modern cult classics as to the August 13, 2019 additions to the MCE "Retro VHS" Blu-ray series that evokes thoughts of the pre-digital days of Blockbuster. The subject du jour is the "retro" release of the 1989 James Woods/Robert Downey, Jr. legal thriller "True Believer." The MCE section of this site includes MANY posts on "retro" releases and numerous other items in the MCE catalog.
An inadvertently amusing aspect of "Believer" is that then former teen idol/current box-office king Downey is largely extraneous. He plays idealistic recent law-school grad, Roger Baron, who gives up fortune (and perhaps fame) at a white-shoes law firm to be a first-year associate for faded civil-rights attorney Eddie Dodd (Woods), who now (barely) pays his bills making Constitutional rights arguments to keep drug-dealers out of jail. Dodds noting that he charges cocaine dealers and represents pot dealers pro bono is one of a few funny moments in this drama.
The pair makes a good low-key dynamic duo. Dodd is the battle-weary dark knight still fighting the good fight, and Baron being the naive boy wonder who is eager to learn from the master.
Meanwhile, guest-of-the-state Shu Kai Kim is eight years into a stay at Sing Sing for a murder conviction when he is coerced into killing a fellow inmate as a gang initiation. This prompts the mother of Kim to frankly ask Dodd if he will defend her son. Her response when asked "why him?" is another amusing moment.
This leads to Baron having one of his few significant scenes in "Believer;" he convinces Dodd to take the case.
The rest of this story is that this litigation once again pits Dodd against prosecutor Robert Reynard, who has a tough entry in the loss column thanks to Dodd. Kurtwood Smith of "That '70s Show" playing tough foul-tempered Reynard is sure to prompt many viewers to mentally insert the name "Dumbass" at the end of most lines of Reynard.
The intrigue comes ala Dodd uncovering increasingly compelling evidence that Kim is doing the time without having done the crime, A facially neo-Nazi attack on Dodd for defending Kim on the most recent murder charge fully thickens the plot. Our legal eagle (and his eaglet) soon learn how this is tied to the earlier crime; of course, these events also involve Reynard.
The "Marvel"ous history of Downey makes it ironic (no pun intended) that truth, justice, and the American way ultimately prevail.
Mill Creek Entertainment releasing a crystal-clear Blu-ray of the 1963 Marlon Brandon Cold War classic "The Ugly American" on August 13, 2019 along with an eclectic assortment of other titles shows that MCE can be considered the "man" for all seasons,
Fellow August titles include the (reviewed) Steve Martin/Darryl Hannah romcom "Roxanne," the (reviewed) ABC period primetime soap "Pan Am," the (soon-to-be reviewed) James Woods/Robert Downey, Jr. drama "True Believer," and the (soon-to-be-reviewed) collection of all eight made-for-TV reunion films of the vintage ABC mysedy series "Hart to Hart."
MCE will further earn the devotion of fanboys with an October 2019 bonanza of "Ultraman" fare,
"American" easily is the most substantive of the highly entertaining group of releases of which it is a member. Marlon Brando stars as rookie ambassador Harrison Carter MacWhite in this ripped-from- the-headlines tale of "fictional" Southeast Asian country Sarkhan.
The arrival of MacWhite coincides with a strong anti-American sentiment that a communist organization from the north is exploiting; this timely evokes thoughts of the similar 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel "It Can't Happen Here" about an American president who exploits fear to become a not-so-benevolent dictator.
Our story begins with the locals executing a well-planned sabotage of a highly symbolic American-back road project in Sarkhan. The propaganda of this rebellious act far outpaces the loss of life and property that it causes.
Meanwhile back home. MacWhite is the victim of other propaganda in the form of a contentious conformation hearing for his new job. His prior time in Sarkhan both qualifies him for his new post and raises potentially disqualifying concerns.
An aspect of both aforementioned arenas is the once-and-future association of MacWhite with Sarkhan native son/influencer Deong. The latter is very vocal regarding his anti-American views but cannot be proven to be a communist; MacWhite fully vouching for the guys has strong implications later in the film.
MacWhite and wife get far from a warm welcome on landing in Sarkhan on what is anticipated to be a quiet Sunday morning; stating that they encounter a mob scene is a gross understatement.
Virtually every person over the age of 30 can relate to what occurs when MacWhite and Deong reunite soon after the diplomat comes back to town. Just as the wild and crazy guy from college become a completely different person in the decade since not wearing anything under his robe at graduation, Deong and MacWhite soon conclude that the years have not been kind to the other.
The aforementioned road becomes one of many bones of contention between the men; this animosity reaches a boiling point when they find themselves the opposing heads of a violent "Yankee, go home" campaign. "American" being an early '60s major studio film requires that the conflict and the resolution strongly reflect a massive anti-communist sentiment.
The broader nature of the film requires that both of the friends turned foes be wiser but not happier at the end of "American."
The good news for audiences of 2019 is that this engrossing movie truly is one that they don't make 'em like anymore. This extends beyond skillfully telling an intelligent and thought-provoking tale, It reflects the type of strong political view that used to prompt people on both sides of the aisle to check it out, rather than incite the folks who find it offensive to (sometimes literally) get up in arms and vigorously rally for a boycott and an exile of all involved in bringing in to the (now tarnished) silver screen,
The Warner Archive August 20, 2019 DVD release of the 1965 Steve McQueen drama "The Cincinnati Kid" provides another chance to watch the PERFECT example of McQueen and his fellow young turks displacing Gold Age Hollywood royalty at various stages to becoming box-office poison. This largely is attributable to blond-hair piercing blue-eyed with bod from God McQueen oozing sexuality to which every man and woman all along the Kinsey Scale are vulnerable, NO ONE would choose the "kill" option in the game of three as to this macho man,
The back-cover liner notes for "Kid" include a review quote that aptly compares this film in which McQueen plays the titular card sharp with the 1961 Paul Newman film "The Hustler" in which that future real-life condiments king portrays pool shark Eddie Felson, who is out to dethrone Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Tom Cruise co-starring with Newman in the 1986 "Hustler" sequel "The Color of Money" continues this "video killed the radio star" pattern.
The following trailer for "Kid" showcases all off the above (and more) while demonstrating the gritty look of mid-60s drama that leads to even more urban elements of this genre in the '70s.
Director Norman Jewison of "The Heat of the Night" and "Moonstruck" maintains a good pace as we see The Kid clean up both at the poker table and in the bath tub; the latter centers around a notable scene in which McQueen and sex kitten extraordnaire Tuesday Weld (who plays good country girl blossoming into liberated womanhood Christian) surely makes some original audience members glad that they can smoke in movie theaters in 1965.
The third member of this triangle is sultry red-head Melba (Ann-Margaret); she clearly views The Kid as an upgrade from husband Shooter (Karl Malden), who is work friend of The Kid.
All this occurs in the background of The Kid being invited to join the big boys as to playing a game hosted by legendary (but aging) professional poker player Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson). The on- and off-screen symbolism of this could not be any more obvious.
Some of the rest of this story is that The Kid is facing a damned-if-he-does and damned-if he-doesn't dilemma. Losing to Howard blows a big chance; winning makes him a target for the next rising star looking to take down the king of the table, This is not to mention villain of the film Slade (Rip Torn) covertly having his own horse in this contest between thoroughbreds.
Joan Blondell deservedly wins a 1966 USA National Board of Review best-supporting actress award for her portrayal of tough old broad Lady Fingers, who has earned her place at the table,
All those in front of and behind the camera do award-worthy work as to the filming of the climatic final game. You will live the tension and smell the sweat. This is partially due to getting caught up in seeing the spectators become engrossed in the game.
The genius of "Kid" continues with the "win. lose, or draw" conclusions being equally plausible and satisfying. As mentioned above, The Kid cannot fully win regardless of whether he is instrument of Howard's end or proves that he currently lacks the right stuff of which true legends are made,
The bonus features include audio commentary throughout by Jewison and scene-specific commentary by "kid in the hall" Dave Foley and his "Celebrity Poker Showdown" co-host Phil Gordon.
We also get a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes extra that teaches cast members the art of the deal.
The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2018 gay-themed surreal drama "The Skin of the Teeth" presents a well-produced compelling story that even breeders will enjoy. On a large level, "Skin" follows the pattern of a direct relationship between the quality of the film and the strength of the live-stage vibe and the small amount of nudity and/or sex.
The horrific "a night in the life of" story begins with NY hedge fund guy John Burstner preparing for a stay-in date with less successful Josef King. Their back story is that these guys are trying to transform a Mr. Right Now hook-up into a Mr. Right relationship.
Josef being the younger and the cuter of the pair predictably leads to John being unduly grabby. John also makes the valid point that Josef having quickly given it up impairs the credibility of his claim that he wants to take it slowly.
Things settle down until the party once again goes out of bounds. This leads to the end of the life of John and the beginning of a Kafkaesque nightmare for Josef. The well-staged constant blending of reality and drug-induced hallucinations make an already interesting story even more compelling.
This textbook journey down the rabbit hole commences with the cops pounding on the door of Chez Burstner. these NYPD men in blue dragging Josef down the hall in front of all the neighbors, and our lead ending up in an interrogation room. Virtually all of the rest of the film occurs in that room as Josef fully gets caught up in the system while being questioned by a detective who has a hard on for him in not the nice way.
The ensuing humiliations include being made to strip in front of this detective and his female partner, getting caught in a lie about his age, and being subjected to harsh questioning regarding his sexuality. The aggressive unwanted sexual advance is the icing on the cake.
Film virgin Pascal Arquimedes does such a good job playing an innocent man who is on trial both for the death and every aspect of his life that we feel his pain. This extends to sharing his joy when it looks as the entire ordeal is merely in his head. The reality is that the perceptions of this date gone horribly wrong likely are a blend of fact and an altered state of mind.
Similar to other tales of "innocents" in peril, the "it could happen to you" aspect provides much of the impact of this ordeal. The surface level is the leap of faith that any of us make entering the home of an absolute or relative stranger. Going just slightly deep, all of us are vulnerable to being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plenty of prior and current guests of the state can attest to the validity of both statements.
All of this leads to an out-of-the-blue conclusion that is just as cynical as the rest of the film; pulling an ace out of a sleeve is game changer.
The Mill Creek Entertainment August 2019 DVD release of the 2011-12 ABC period piece dramedy "Pan Am" provides another bite at the apple regarding this show that reminds us that flying was not always the horrendous nightmare that it is today. This series also is notable for launching the career of Margot Robbie.
"Pan Am" must be put in context that is apt for its "Love Boat" style format of each episode centering around a flight that has passengers whom guest stars of varying calibers play. It is fluffy fun with a relatively strong prime-time soap vibe.
The following YouTube clip of an ABC promo. for "Pan Am" provides a good sense of the strong production values and the related style of this series set in the mid-60s. The network further reminds us that the cred. of the series includes "West Wing" and "ER" veterans.
On the broadest level, "Pan Am" follows the "Marshall Plan" that reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall notes that setting a '70s sitcom in the '50s prevents it from looking dated.
The opening scenes of the pilot (no pun intended) demonstrate the good balance between exposition and getting down to action that indicates that a show has good potential; fanboys think of this as "The Firefly Lesson."
We see our four central "stews" in their morning routines ahead of their inaugural flight on the maiden voyage of the brand-new Clipper jet of their titular employer. This montage helps establish the personalities of this '60s version of the "Sex and the City" quartet.
The Robbie character Laura "Charlotte" Cameron represents the mix of plausible and absurd that makes the 14-episode "Pan Am" the best of shows and the average of shows. It simply seems that the producers want to provide a little something for everyone in a show, with a strong girl-power vibe.
The closest to sublime element of Laura is that she is a bright, intelligent, and charming recent college graduate. The spring of her discontent relates (no pun intended) to seeing that rebellious black-sheep Pam Am flight attendant sister Kate "Miranda" Cameron (Kelli Garner) is enjoying the freedom and adventure that increasingly is available to their generation,
The gradual descent toward ridiculous begins with Kate showing up at the last-minute for the wedding of Laura to a nice clean-cut young man and facilitating the "Thelma and Louise" style prison break of the runaway bride.
This lead to the more improbable developments of rookie flight attendant Laura being at the right place at the right time in that a Life magazine photographer snaps an impromptu photo that ends up on the cover of that publication, This ultimately leads to an increasingly liberated Laura posing for "art photos" that end up getting very public exposure (pun intended) that catches the eye of a "pop" idol of the era.
The pilot adventure of Kate revolves around the CIA recruiting her to be a Cold War courier. This leads to increasingly dangerous adventures that ultimately involve aiding assets from behind the Iron Curtain, engaging in gun play, and helping expose a double agent all while maintaining the on-the-job poise, grace, and femininity that her day job requires.
French-born Collette "Carrie" Valois (Karine Vanasse) largely provides the perspective of someone who spent a childhood under Nazi occupation; this is especially prominent in which the flight crew attend the Kennedy "Ich nin ein Berliner" speech in Germany.
The entertaining absurdity of the Collettte story arc relates to a romance that becomes a royal disaster. A background check regarding her suitability for the relationship reveals both a surprise regarding her heritage and the existence of a relative about whom she lacks prior knowledge.
Last but not least is Maggie "Samanatha" Ryan, who is portrayed by Christina Ricci of "The Addams Family" movies. Maggie represents the liberated Bohemian woman of the era. She is a very feisty problem child who seems even more sexually liberated than European Collette.
The absurdity of Maggie relates to her radical (as in subversive, rather than awesome) boyfriend Max essentially throwing her in the arms of a Congressman, who essentially is a poster-child for the Republican party. We also see Maggie not hesitating very much as to throwing a co-worker under the jet when her wanton ways seriously jeopardize her job.
As is the case in every series that centers around a fantastic four group of women, the men are all deeply flawed and mostly are window dressing. Largely hairless WASPy pale farm boy Dean Lowrey lacks much personality and emotes so much about runaway fiancee/flight attendant Bridget that even men who eat quiche everyday likely want him to man up at least a little.
Co-pilot who considers himself a god Ted Vanderway resents his privileged background not providing enough pull to have him sit in the "right seat" has more of a personality. He has the same Daddy issues as many sons of a wealthy "master of the universe" type father. Ted also is a former "Top Gun" Navy test pilot who has a past "incident" that is why he no longer in the service.
All of this occurs in the context of the times that are a changin' in the mid-60s. We see prejudice against a black sailor who enters a friendship with potential benefits with one of the stews, get a lesbian woman who is looking to enter an open marriage of convenience, and even get a side trip to Haiti during great unrest on that island.
The broadest appeal of all this is showing they folks who think of the mid-60s as the beginning of the end regarding true style in America and others who consider that period as one in which the oppressed begin overthrowing the oppressors and the general population begins to get woke that the truth lies in the middle.
The first of many wonderful surprises regarding the Lionsgate August 6, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 second-season of the History Channel period-piece drama series "Knightfall" is that not having seen S1 is not a handicap. The S2 season premiere provides a nice S1 synopsis before picking up soon after those events.
It also is nice to see that having Mark Hamill play "drill sergeant" Talus, who molds recruits into full-fledged Knights Templar, is not merely a case of stunt casting. This hardened old soldier can be considered a much less kind and gentle version of Luke Skywalker.
The following "Knightfall" S2 trailer does a good job conveying the depiction of the early 14th-century in the series; it also provides a good overview of the testosterone-fueled soap-opera elements in this variation of "The Tudors."
The misdeeds of disgraced knight Landry (Tom Cullen of "Downton Abbey") are the root cause of much of S2 trauma and drama; the "fruit" of his cuckolding former friend King Philip strongly intensifies the hatred of the latter toward the brotherhood of the former. This leads to papalcide, not- so-holy crusades, and a related campaign to turn the hearts and minds of the people of France against "God's Executioners."
Our man without a country also faces the challenge of obtaining the forgiveness of his former knights. His deviating from the program and incurring the aforementioned wrath of the monarch get him ousted from his fraternity; one spoiler is that the cost of regaining his former status requires that he repledge this boys' club.
Meanwhile back at the castle, excitable boy Prince Louis is finding the task of producing an heir with wife Margaret inconceivable. Margaret also must contend with the covert resentment of Princess Isabella, who understandably is upset about her upcoming version of a crossbow marriage to Edward II.
Isabella and Margaret have INDISPUTABLY the best scene in the entire season. The two women delight in a feast of "cock" and even comment on the taste of that meat. This sets the stage for Isabella to Cosby her sister-in-law as the first step in having her disgraced.
All of these events lead to heightened emotions that result in Philip getting his ally ensconced as pope, and the knights having a long series of very bad days.
One of the most tense moments revolves around the holy soldiers already having their ranks depleted when it seems that their remaining numbers are destined to for horrific deaths. Whether a knight in not-so-shining armor rushes in to save them remains doubtful.,
Suffice to say, as is the case regarding the end of S1, the behind-the-scenes crew of "Knightfall" leave us wanting more.
The Icarus Films August 6, 2019 DVD release of the 2017 mystery thriller "The Girl in the Fog" adds to the mountain of proof that Euro cinema greatly outshines Hollywood fare. This tale of a 16 year-old gone girl is based on the novel of the same name by Donato Carrisi, who writes the screenplay and directs the film.
The formal accolades for "Girl" include a 2018 Italian Golden Globe for Carrisi for his screenplay and an even more deserved Best Actor Golden Globe for Toni Servillo for his perfect portrayal of police Detective Vogel.
Carrisi achieves an ideal balance of action, exposition, and tone by having the opening scene portray the title of the film. We see a shadowy village teen walk out of her Avechot home in the Italian ALps and disappear into the night. This little wander is outwardly good-girl Anna Lou Kastner, who never makes it to her stated destination of her fundamentalist church.
The quality of this film with frequent narrative time shifts is reinforced by following a variation of the modern movie staple of immediately moving us to the beginning of the end of the story without insulting our intelligence by including an intertitle that explains that jump,
This leap begins with a literal rude awakening for town shrink Dr. Augusto Flores (Jean Reno). He is called into his hospital office in the middle of the night due to an emergency related to a car accident.
On arriving, Flores is dually (and duly) surprised to see that his patient is unscathed physically (and seemingly mentally intact) and is Vogel, who is a local celebrity due to both the Kastner case and an earlier (and even more bizarre) crime spree known as "The Mutilator Case." The latter involves a mad bomber hiding explosives in containers for everyday items and putting them on grocery-store shelves.
This discussion between these two weary veterans of their professions provides exposition for the rest of the film, which mostly shifts among the events following the disappearance and the "whodunit" scene at the end of "Girl." These men further talk about the theme of connectivity that is a major element of the film.
All of this relates to Vogel being more interested in media relations and providing a resolution that satisfies the masses, rather than bringing the actual killer to justice. Ambiguity exists regarding the extent to which Vogel will go to achieve his objective. This is not to mention a television reporter showing that she can play the game as well as the boys.
New high-school teacher Prof. Loris Martini is at the center of much of the primary action. One lesson here is that just because you find yourself in a Kafkaesque nightmare does not necessarily mean that your are innocent; the second-part of this moral is that the guilty and the innocent alike face intense media persecution.
An "incident" has prompted Loris to move his (now unemployed) attorney wife and his (now sullen) teen daughter to the village. A media-whore girl does not help matters when she first persuades Loris to give her acting lessons and then distorts the nature of their extra-curricular relationship when he becomes the prime suspect in the Kastner case.
Circumstantial evidence of varying degrees of credibility creates a strong possibility that Loris will spend the rest of his life as a guest of the state regardless of his guilt. The important thing for some with a horse in the race is that Loris is an attractive suspect.
This initially culminates in revealing the full story behind the"accident" of Vogel and then what becomes of Anna Lou, who is a pet with her own secret life.
All of this amounts to "Girl" proving that quality intelligent thrillers still are out there and just require a little investigating to find,
Breaking Glass Pictures goes wonderfully old school regarding the May 2019 DVD release of the 2019 thriller "Dark Sense." The well-executed tried-and-true premise is that 22 year-old Scottish psychic Simon is on the trail of a serial killer, who has extreme prejudice against folks with the sixth sense. "Sense" further shows that Breaking remains committed to making edgy films (be it thrillers or artfully erotic gay-themed movies) that makes it so awesome.
The reason that the concept of "Sense" seems familiar to some folks who still read books is that it is based on the best-seller First and Only by Peter Flannery. Flannery presumably discusses his book in his DVD audio commentary.
On a broad level, "Sense" evokes thoughts of the tried-and-true joke that someone who is psychic should have seen something coming. This applies both to the peers of Simon who run afoul of our villain and to Simon, who should have foreseen the negative response that he received on contacting MI-5 to join forces.
The following YouTube clip of the "Sense" trailer offers a good glimpse of the story and the UK style narrative,
We meet Simon as an eight year-old lad trying to save the family priest/friend from a fate equal to death. Although Simon arrives in time and states the nature of the threat, he does not prevent the crime. The nature of the killing and of the presence of Simon is part of the copious religious symbolism in "Sense." We also see throughout the film that everything is relative,
The action shifts 14 years into the future, Simon knows both that the killer is out there and that Simon has big bullseye on his back. He does not know the identity of that psycho.
The extreme extent to which Steve connects with both the killer and his victims sets "Sense" above less creative psychic amateur-detective films. This aspect also perfectly ties into the other themes of the film.
Humor related to Simon making a senior MI5 official look foolish is a highlight of "Sense." Less humor relates to Simon first-hand learning that one of the three big lies is that I'm from the government; I'm here to help you. We do not learn if Simon has had experience with someone falsely telling him that the check is in the mail or asserting the third big lie.
Simon hiring a private contractor in the form of former soldier-of-little-fortune Steve also is very true to form regarding government activities. The job of Steve is to protect Simon from experiencing a fate equal to death.
It is predictable that Steve and sympathetic MI5 agent Sonia Chatham team up to come to the rescue when Simon finds himself in a perilous situation. How things ultimately unfold provide wonderful twists that provide a nice bonus in the form of social commentary.
The best part of all this is that "Sense" and SO MANY indie films prove time and time again that art and commerce need not be mutually exclusive. Hollywood MUST recognize that an audience exists for a film that is not part of a franchise, is not a vanity project that allows the inner-circle of an actor whose looks surpass his or her talent to play dress up, or that resorts to cheap thrills, gore, or broad humor to get butts in the seats at the multiplex.
The Breaking Glass Pictures May 7, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 mockumentary "Strawberry Flavored Plastic" again shows the Breaking talent for finding art-house films with mainstream appeal. A combination of "Strawberry" broadly following the formula of "The Blair Witch Project" and being set in real-life upstate New York town Peekskill, which is the setting of the sitcom "The Facts of Life," allows dusting off the 20 year-old joke "The Blair Warner Project." That humor relates to the name of a "Facts" character.
"Facts" also inspires a joke that sums ups a theme of "Strawberry." Fictional documentarians Errol and Ells do not think of a their film subject as a serial killer; they think of their film subject as Noel.
The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Strawberry" shows how well that the mockumentary genre can succeed in the right hands.
Errol and Ellis initially think that Noel is a one-trick-pony as to a murder of passion for which his debt to society is paid. By the time that they realize that their subject is a natural-born serial killer who still actively pursues his hobby, they are in very deep. They ultimately put both art and commerce forefront by continuing to make the movie.
Aidan Bristow does a wonderful job playing Noel as a guy who seems a little off but adequately harmless. This performance partially makes it believable that Errol and Ellis continue to hang around even after learning the awful truth.
A "bad dog" moment is a game-changer in that the filming of the show goes on in a revised manner. This rude awakening also increases tension that real-life writer/director Colin Bemis portrays so well that digging up his basement and checking out his refrigerator is not entirely unwarranted.
In true 21st-century film style, the beginning of the end is relatively anti-climatic. The best is yet to come in the final few scenes. This reinforces the "peace, love, and understanding" principle that everyone has something to offer and touches the lives of everyone with whom he or she makes a connection. We also get a sense of imitation being the most sincere form of flattery.
The special features include deleted scenes.
Warner Archive continues making the best movies of which you never heard available by releasing the 1932 thriller with social commentary "Roadhouse Murder" on DVD on June 11, 2019. Archive using the term "the deadly Dykes" in the back-cover synopsis enhances this joy.
The following YouTube clip of an Archive promo., for "Roadhouse" is of a pivotal sequence that wonderfully illustrates the vintage early talkie feel of this highly theatrical film. The flawed picture quality of this clip also highlights the much better images and sounds of the Archive DVD.
Like a full gamut of '30s films, our story begins in the bullpen of a newspaper; in this case, a disgruntled veteran reporter is expressing his job dissatisfaction in strong language for films of that era, We soon see the basis for those sentiments.
The toxic editor who inspires the ill will subsequently turns his wrath on cub reporter Charles "Chick" Brian. Chick does good by catching a loose woman red-handed with hot ice and by getting a photo of her in literal hot water. This dame having a friend in a high place kills both the story and the immediate potential for Chick to advance his career.
This blow prompts Chick to take secret girlfriend Mary Agnew, who is the daughter of homicide Inspector William Agnew, for a ride in the country, Things take a combined "It Happened One Night" and "Scooby-Doo" turn when a sudden deluge requires that this unmarried couple without any physical baggage take shelter at The Lame Dog Inn. The manner in which the innkeeper takes advantage of the assumed vulnerability of these guests is a "Roadhouse" highlight.
Things going bump in the night lead to our nice young people discovering the titular crime and knowing whodunit.
Rather than immediately finger the perps, Chick decides to frame himself with the idea that his story literally will be front-page news. The rest of this career-advancement plan involves entrusting Mary, whose name literally is kept out of the papers, with a figurative smoking gun. The rest of her job is to produce this compelling evidence before Chick becomes a permanent guest of the state.
"Roadhouse" then uses a technically advanced method for the era in a variation of using shots of newspaper headlines as an exposition device. This clearly shows Chick is both the story and the author of his tale.
The honeymoon ends on Chick being caught in the worst place at the worst time. This leads to the climatic courtroom scene that seems mandatory for most Golden Age films of every genre. A nice twist ensues courtesy of a chain-of-custody issue requiring that Mary (with help from Dad) does more than just stand by her man.
More fun comes via the cynicism that pervades "Roadhouse" creating the possibility that truth, justice, and the American way will not prevail.
The scoop regarding all this is that "Roadhouse" reminds us of the era in which even B-movies have strong merits.
Mill Creek Entertainment continues to celebrate the spirit of summer camp by adding a spectacularly remastered Blu-ray release of the 2003 made-for-TV movie "The Stranger Beside Me: The Ted Bundy Story" to a plethora of cheesetastic recent home-video releases. The "I Heart the '90s" offshoot of the equally good "Retro VHS" series from MCE is a prime example of this.
The only fault in "Stranger" is not in stars Billy Campbell and Barbara Hershey ("Beaches") or the good production. The not-so-fatal flaw is with the source material in the form of the 1980 true-crime bestseller of the same name by Ann Rule. The fact that the full name of "Strangers" begins with "Ann Rule Presents" further illustrates this annoying (and arguably unprofessional) approach to the subject. Bundy (Campbell), not Rule (Hershey), is the real star, This is especially so considering that Rule is slow on the uptake regarding the hobby of her pal.
Like many other successful biopics, "Stranger" acknowledges that most viewers already know the story and are interested in supplementing our knowledge. Thus, rather than starting at the beginning, "Stranger" commences with Bundy being pulled over in a 1978 traffic stop in Florida that both he and the majority of the viewers know will not end well for him,
Bundy then uses his one telephone call to phone a friend by reaching out and touching Rule, who is in Seattle. The action then shifts back to 1971 and Bundy and Rule working together on a suicide-prevention hotline. The good part of that scene relates to it illustrating the charm of Bundy that is an asset regarding his hobby; the bad part is that this also is used to provide exposition regarding former cop Rule being an insightful and talented true-crime reporter.
Worlds soon collide as a series of girls going missing and/or being found dead prompts Rule to take a hard-line with her teen daughter. We also see Rule offhandedly note that the evidence could point to Ted as the perpetrator.
The rest of this part of the story is that Bundy is involved in a serious romantic relationship and is preparing to move to Utah to attend law school. The lesson here is the common one that we and our significant others do not show our crazy until a ring is put on it.
This narrative continues with Bundy putting his intellect and his aforementioned charm to good use in luring his victims via a variation on the perverse tactic of child molesters getting their victims to look for a non-existent lost puppy. Another difference is that big girls are the ones in peril in this case.
We ultimately catch up with the present as law-enforcement co-operation leads to connecting Bundy with several murders in multiple states. Highlight in this portion of "Stranger" include Bundy aptly using the cunning of a zoo animal in an effort to no longer be a guest of the State.
Watching Bundy present his own defense at his murder trial provides reason to doubt the validity of the Twain expression that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. The related admiration of the judge for the courtroom skill of Bundy is another good twist.
This portion of the film further focuses on the cult-style celebrity status that Bundy achieves. It seems that the popularity of this guy is not so far from the level of fandom that the Beatles achieve in their prime.
"Stranger" further is due credit for pulling one more rabbit out of the hat near the end. We learn that there was cause for early intervention that might have produced a more favorable outcome for all than how things worked out,
The bigger picture is that "Stranger" provides especially good hot-weather fun by reminding us that stories that show that truth is stranger than fiction provide excellent fodder for broadcast and basic-cable networks.
The Breaking Glass Pictures June 18, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 "coming-of-age age war musical" period piece "Kanarie" fully demonstrates the regard of Breaking for the spirits of both Pride and the '80s. The film also shows that not learning the lessons of apartheid and government-condoned homophobia back them are condemning us to repeat aspects of both 35 years later.
The following YouTube clip of a "Kanarie" trailer does just as well highlighting all of the three seemingly incompatible elements of the film as writer/director Christiaan Olwagen does blending them.
"Kanarie" opens on a high note; 18 year-old Johan is having great fun wearing a wedding gown and clowning around with his sister. This glee leads to a dare for Johan to walk down the street of his small conservative town in that garb. The rest of the story is that the parents of that excitable boy/fan of Boy George and Depeche Mode are prominent pillars of the community.
All starts out well and leads to one of a few fantasy musical numbers that are straight out of the MTV of the era. Things come crashing down in a way to which all of us who have shed off our repressions and expressed pure joy only to have the real world provide an abrupt rude awakening can relate.
The expression "out the frying pan, into the fire" is very apt regarding the news that awaits Johan on his return from his walk-of-shame. He learns that his number has come up and that he must enter the South African army for his two years of service. The rest of the story is that this is an era in which the actual battle regarding apartheid is at a peak.
Johan receives less-than-anticipated relief when his musical talents earn him a spot in the titular South African Defense Forces Church Choir. That group travels around performing for the folks back home. The rude awakening this time is that the military is very effective at reminding the songbirds that they still are soldiers.
The next scenes evoke strong thoughts of the 1988 Neil Simon semi-autobiographical non-musical war movie "Biloxi Blues." That film has Brooklyn draftee Jerome (Matthew Broderick) traveling to the titular Southern city for basic training before being shipped off to show Mr. Hitler that the nephews of Uncle Sam have something to say about how The Little Corporal is running things.
Like Jerome, Johan boards a train for his first military home away from home. Both boys also travel with those who at least will be near (if not dear) to them for the foreseeable future. In the case of Jerome, this is rotund high-voiced hyper-active (queen?) Ludolf and their (not-so-little) corporal, whose behavior screams for him to become a victim of friendly fire.
One difference is that Johan and his band (pun intended) of brothers is headed to the Valhalla Air Force Base in Swartkop.
Beyond that, the similarities between "Biloxi" and "Kanarie" are so strong that one must think about whether come elements are from the former or the latter. An example of this is a white soldier in "Biloxi" concealing that one of his parents is black. Another "Biloxi" scene has two gay soldiers getting caught in the act prompting a witch hunt.
Johan and Ludolf soon meet and bond with Wolfgang Muller, who shares the enthusiasm of Johan for the pop music of the day.
Much of the good humor of "Kanarie" comes courtesy of scenes with the stereotypical host families with whom they stay while on tour. These include a motherly type and a Mrs. Robinson who clumsily tries to seduce the lads.
It is during this period that Johan and Wolfgang truly become brothers at arms. The problem is that Johan is uncomfortable about even accepting (let alone embracing) that he is gay. He puts this in the context that Boy George is keeping at least one foot in the closet.
Of course, all this leads to final act drama as Johan faces the dual pressures of being in the military and singing in a church choir. The means by which he receives at least a quantum of solace shows that there was more enlightenment than generally considered in the mid-80s.
The bigger (and highly relatable) picture this time is that virtually all of us experience a first or second coming-of-age on concluding our high-school career. We experience the larger world by entering college, enlisting in the military, or immediately becoming a wage slave. The common lessons that come with these experiences is that we must adapt or perish and that that does not always come with the luxury of to thine own selves be true.
Olwagen nicely expresses the times that are a changing in the South African in the '70s and '80s and what makes his characters from that era tick in an insightful DVD extra, This feature also provides good behind-the-scenes secrets.
The Mill Creek Entertainment June 4, 2019 "I Heart '90s" BD release of the 1997 Jean-Claude Van Damme action-adventure film "Double Team" reminds us that the multiplex fare of that decade extends beyond bright-and-bold teencoms, such as the "Heart" releases of "Excess Baggage" and "Opportunity Knocks." This also is the era in which musclemen, such as Van Damme and Schwarzenegger, revel much more in kicking ass than taking down names. These studs also make it clear that even not running out of bubble gum would have changed anything.
Dennis Rodman co-starring in "Team" further reminds us that several NBA stars tried their hand at acting in the '90s.
The following YouTube clip of a "Team" trailer provides a good sense of why the film appeals to the 12 year-old boy or tomboy in all of us. There potentially will be plenty of blood.
Our story begins with a cold open in which secret-agent man Jack Quinn (Van Damme) is recovering a massive amount of plutonium that criminal mastermind Stavros (Mickey Rourke) has sold to the highest bidder. These elements (along with other aspects of "Team") will evoke thoughts of the even-more guilty pleasure 1986 film "Never Too Young to Die" starring rockers John Stamos and Gene Simmons.
Quinn shows that his mission is not impossible, and the action shifts ahead three years as Quinn, Jack Quinn is living a quiet life of luxury with pregnant wife Kathryn at their "cottage" in the South of France. Just when Quinn thinks that he is out, "they" pull him back in to finish off Stavros once and for all.
The prep. for this new mission includes a visit to highly-Q flamboyant arms dealer Yaz (Rodman) to stock up on needed supplies. Of course, the pair clashes and trade barbs.
This leads to Quinn not taking full advantage of his second bite at the apple. His "punishment" consists of exile at the paradise of "The Colony," which ala "The Village" of the classic British series "The Prisoner," is where agents who have outlived their usefulness but are too dangerous to roam free are sent to live out the rest of their lives. "Team" even has a "Rover" like massive inflatable bubble, which aptly look more like a basketball in this film.
The rest of this part of the story is that Kathryn and most of the rest of the world think that Quinn is dead.
General tenaciousness and a strong motive prompt Quinn to plot a successful elaborate great escape. Of course, Stavros and Kathryn play prominent roles regarding this.
Quinn once again calls on Yaz to outfit him; one difference is that the latter tags along this time.
It is equally predictable (and fun) that the confrontations amp up as the opposing forces clash; this leads an awesomely old-school showdown in the coliseum. Of course, three men enter and two men leave. This leads to an effort to clean up a remaining loose end.
The appeal of all this is that the tried-and-true elements provide 90 minutes of escapist cathartic fun in which larger-than-life characters let us see their somewhat idealized world in which the hero bounces back at least until he has fully outlived his usefulness.
The accolades for the remastering of the Warner Archive June 25, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1944 Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer classic "Gaslight" is that it goes beyond looking and sounding pristine to having visual depth that rivals that of 4K. Praise for this masterful production of a live-stage hit is that even cinephiles/veteran Blu-ray reviewers can mistakenly recall this George Cukor as being a Hitchcock film.
Hitchcock blonde Ingrid Bergman EARNS her first of three Oscars for her spot-on portrayal of naive and vulnerable newlywed Paula, who falls victim to the long-game plan of scoundrel Gregory (Charles Boyer) if that is his real name.
Other notable casting includes a 17 going on 18 Angela Lansbury playing cheeky maid Nancy, the thoroughly delightful Dame May Whitty playing daffy elderly neighbor Miss Thwaites, and Orson Welles entourage member Joseph Cotten playing Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron with at least one form of personal interest in the perils of Paula.
The following YouTube clip of a "Gaslight" trailer PERFECTLY captures the 1895 goth vibe of the film,. This promo. strongly suggests that the film could be titled "The Bride of Jack the Ripper,"
As real-life (and equally attractive) Ingrid Bergman daughter Pia Lindstrom reminds us in a MUST-SEE modern behind-the-scenes BD onus feature, the legacy of "Gaslight" includes that term still being used to refer to someone trying to make us think that we are crazy. Minimally, all of us have had someone insist that they repaid an unsatisfied debt or that the now-gone last can of a highly desired beverage in the refrigerator was never there,
The bigger picture is that studies and anecdotes prove that we and the highly significant others in our lives do not fully show our crazy until a ring has been put on it.
A shamelessly shilled 1946 radio broadcast in which Bergman and Boyer reprise their roles provides yet another compelling reason to add this release to your home-video library.
Our prologue consists of the sensationalism in the immediate wake of the brutal murder of the opera-star aunt/guardian of Paula in her London home. The conclusion is that this killing is collateral damage in a failed burglary to purloin exceptionally valuable jewels.
The rocks remain unaccounted for when we catch up with our Victorian-era Patrick Dennis a decade later. Paula is in Italy studying with a maestro, but her new romance with Gregory is creating a sour note.
The audience is much more woke than Paula regarding her new husband soon manipulating her into moving into the long-shuttered scene of the crime that she fled 10 years earlier. An early bit of gaslighting involves a smoking gun that is very obvious even by "Scooby-Doo" standards.
The gaslighting and associated emotional abuse quickly escalate to the point that Paula is convinced that the gaslight in the fixtures lowering and raising and the things going bump in the night are all in her head. Lindstrom shares the lengths to which Mom goes to make that aspect of the performance convincing.
EVERY cat who has fallen on the floor while rolling over during a nap and every human who has had his or her stupidity thrown in his or her face can relate to the feelings of Paula when Gregory viciously berates her for the mishaps that befall her.
Meanwhile, Brian is monitoring developments and protecting Paula to the legally allowed limit. Nancy is becoming increasingly brazen in a manner that suggests that she soon will be the harlot of the house.
All of this climaxes in true Hitchcock fashion as every loose end is expertly wrapped up. However, this being a British film creates the possibility that there will not be a Hollywood ending.
An "Eureka" moment perfectly reflects the movie-going public service that Olive Films, which fully embraces its 'Cinema Lives Here' motto, provides. Frequent distress regarding the lack of any desirable options at the multiplex led to thoughts that well-produced thrillers were a dead art form.
Lamenting the loss of quality mysteries coincided with the arrival of the Olive Blu-ray of the 1987 John Schlesinger (MUST-SEE "Marathon Man") thriller "The Believers," which is being released on June 25.
Olive pairing this release with a (reviewed) Blu-ray of the cult-classic '60s beach movie "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" led to recognizing the Olive commitment to keeping discarded subgeenres alive. Those of us familiar with these perfect blends of art and commerce are infinitely grateful to Olive. "Virgins" literally do not know what they are missing,
The exceptional Blu-ray masters of every Olive release are a special treat to "sluts" who have only seen these films in more grainy versions both on the not-so-silver screen and on even HDTVs. You definitely will get immersed like you never have before.
Olive reminds us that the behind-the-scenes cred. of this tale of wonderfully creepy tale of Santeria in the Big Apple extends beyond Schlesinger. Screenwriter Mark Frost is a co-creator of "Twin Peaks." Aptly, a damn-fine cup of coffee is a major plot point in "Believers."
In front of the camera, Martin Sheen delivers a perfect performance as newly widowed and relocated psychologist Cal Jamison.
EVERYTHING about "Believers" screams Hitchcock. This begins with setting the eerie scares in everyday settings and centering the film around an everyman initially thrown into an somewhat unusual circumstance that develops into a terrifying new normal.
Our story begins with a typical morning for Minneapolis residents Cal, his wife, and their young son Chris. A common (and typically minor) household accident leads to a horrific death for the wife that Cal and Chris witness.
The need for change prompts Cal to relocate Chris to New York. The common Hollywood magic as to this is that Cal finds a large, bright, and immaculate two-story apartment on a clean and quiet street. On top of this, pretty and nice landlord Jessica lives across the street. It is difficult to imagine such a place existing and any one that does not costing far more even a psychologist can afford, This is aside from having a landlord so close who also perfectly maintains the place,
The opening scenes also include a very primitive Santeria ritual and a practitioner of that religion playing the Jedi mind-trick on a JFK customs agent.
The worlds first collide when Chris runs off during a Central Park outing. He scurries behind some rocks and stumbles upon the remains of a ritual sacrifice. The subtext of this scene is amusing to viewers who are woke regarding the ritual in which some young men engage in that area of the park.
Cal fully joins the party on police Lieutenant McTaggert consulting him as to the detective investigating a series of murders of boys. That investigator is convinced that the cult committing the crimes has a supernatural hold on him and is out to get him. Stating that the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is out to get you applies is not much of a spoiler.
Meanwhile, Cal entering a (perhaps bewitching) relationship with Jessica greatly upsets Chris, who also may be under a spell of his own. Ambiguity regarding both the incident that brings Cal back to New York and as to the reaction of Chris to his father becoming closer to Jessica is part of what makes "Believers" so awesome.
The final piece of the puzzle comes courtesy of the elderly academics who taught the dead wife of Cal; back in the day. ANYONE who has watched the MUST-SEE "Rosemary's Baby" or other similar films knows that any (particularly motherly) New Yorker who seems too good to be true probably is not so nice.
In true Hitchcock style, a perceived threat turns out to be a thwarted savior. We also get the common Hitchcockian element of the all-American boy in the film finding himself in peril and Dad rushing to the rescue. In this case. Chris becomes the chosen one in an unpredictable fashion.
The thrilling extended climax is pure Schlesinger. The unexpected twists galore are a treat in this era in which the conclusion of most movies is obvious in the first 15 minutes. Team Schlesinger goes above and beyond in upsetting the apple cart one more time in the final minutes.
The most important takeaway from "Believers" is that it is scary because it mostly could be true.
The Lionsgate June 11, 2019 separate DVD & BD release of S6 (a.k.a. "To the Max") of the Netflix women behind bars dramedy "Orange is the New Black" provides a good chance to watch this reformatting of this multi-Emmy winning series from the beginning, It additionally is a good chance to see all the action ahead of the July 27, 2019 release of the S7 episodes.
Also. aside from not having to worry about Netflix dropping episodes from its service, the enhanced BD images look and sound far better than the streaming versions. This is not to mention the awesome home-video special features that include "Litchfield to the Max" and a gag reel.
The following YouTube clip of the official S6 trailer introduces many of the copious primary themes of the never-a-dull-minute 13 episodes. It also shows why this series warrants comparison to the former Showtime boys behind bars dramedy "Oz."
Our (mostly) season-long story arcs begin one week after the quelling of the S5 riot. Our girls in orange aptly find that they are not in Oz anymore. This involves them facing the challenge of adapting or perishing in their new environments,
Said different worlds from the ones from which they come are the C, D, and "Florida" cell blocks at their new home. The Jets versus the Sharks mentality as to C & D begins with the C Block girls initially getting all the relatively good perks and privileges while the D girls are the low women on the totem pole.
The "Florida" residents mostly are the older inmates and include others whose mental states are adequately impaired to get them a spot in this coveted area. The rubs as to this include that some outsiders are willing to kill to create a vacancy in the Sunshine State. "Orange" fans should not be surprised to learn that popular character Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren ends up in Florida and constantly irks the Golden Girls.
A long-standing violent sibling rivalry between C and D block residents Carol and Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips) brings the aforementioned simmering bad blood to a boil. Flashback scenes of the joint crime that gets the sisters labelled "The Little Debbie Killers" and that lands them in the joint are season highlights. They also shine in all their ruthlessly violent interaction and hilarious dispute regarding an incident at a restaurant where they both worked during high school.
Other drama relates to investigations and related proceedings as to holding prisoners culpable for their actions during the riot and for holding folks on the other side of the bars accountable for what they did and did not do during those events. This is not to mention a hilarious run for the border by one inmate who gets away with a little help from her friend,
One spoiler is that the search for closure regarding the riot is just as likely to involve being satisfied with a convenient truth as it is to strive to meet the ideal of truth, justice, and the American way.
This is not to mention central "Orange" character Piper Chapman contending with the absence of her fellow inmate/fiancee Alex "Boss" Vause, addict convict Nikki facing renewed Daddy issues, and the guards creating a fantasy league that involves proportionately profiting from convict misbehavior of various degrees of seriousness.
All of this occurs in the context of season-finale kickball tournament that sets the stage for an epic rumble between the C and the D block inmates. In true "Orange" style, this does not occur as expected.
All of this amounts to "Orange" further fulfilling the theatrical ideal by leaving the audience wanting more; fortunately, S7 provides the payoff regarding that.
Getting over disappointment regarding the sadistically misleading title of the 1943 WWII propaganda film "The Gorilla Man" allows thoroughly enjoying the recent Warner Archive DVD release of this B movie. The titular primate is wounded warrior Capt. Craig Killian, who earns that nickname for climbing skills that he demonstrates in our story.
The textbook fun begins with Nazi agent Dr. Dorn, who uses his private sanitarium on the English coast as a cover, learning through his literal spy network that the ship carrying Killian's Heroes back to Mother England from a commando raid was sunk. The rest of the story is that that band of brothers is expected to come ashore near the aforementioned medical facility.
A series of seemingly fortunate events leads to an oblivious Killian becoming a guest of Dorn and the even madder Dr. Ferris. A subsequent reveal that Dorn has a stranglehold on his associate turns out to be very apt. The coercion of Nurse Kruger is more despicable.
The plot thickens on Dorn learning that Killian is desperate to give British General Devon important information about a Nazi incursion. This leads to a collateral damage scheme to discredit Killian so that his superiors literally will not take him at his word.
The insidious Nazi manipulation leads to Killian having his credibility increasingly impaired, trying to stay one step ahead of the London police, and racing to try to keep the body count low. His inadvertently repeatedly acting as his puppetmaster desires does not help things.
Director of 101 projects D. Ross Lederman and writer of 154 scripts Anthony Coldeway earn their filler feature an A with a perfect climax. The usual suspects all convene at the scene of the crime where Ferris does his thing for his fun and for the profit of Dorn. Meanwhile, Killian is on site thanks to his aforementioned talent. The general and his senior staff meeting to discuss the now-imminent threat from the Jerrys provide the final piece of the puzzle.
The real fun come when Dorn overplays his hand and the general's daughter shows that she is capable of far more than lying back and thinking of England; the final shot does strongly indicates that she will be doing that later that evening.; one can only hope that she gets a chocolate bar and a pair of stockings for her trouble.,
The Virgil Films separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 drama "Borg v. McEnroe" is one of many examples of those of us who are not sports fans missing out on a great movie because of bias against the overall subject of a movie. A personal example from this guy who has never watched "Raging Bull," "Bull Durham," or any "Rocky" film is that getting a review of the complete series of the Aaron Sorkin dramedy "Sports Night" corrected missing out on that terrific program.
As the title indicates, "Borg" centers around the genuinely historic 1980 Wimbledon showdown between the titular tennis stars. What the title does not indicate is that the movie provides strong insight into the psyches of the competitors and presents the main event in a very compelling manner.
An amusing aspect of "Borg" is having volatile Disney Channel veteran Shia LeBeouf play McEnroe, who is best known for having a short temper that results in throwing his tennis racket and verbally abusing match officials. One such incident evokes thoughts of the "Get That Pigeon" theme from the vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines," A scene during the heated titular showdown in which McEnroe first is entirely prone on the court and then gets on his hands and knees may prompt sadistic viewers to have "assume the position" thoughts.
The aforementioned insight comes courtesy of alternating scenes that show the competitors in the years and the days leading up to the main event. Seeing the famously cool and collected Borg lose it on the court in his early years of competitive training is surprising; seeing how he becomes the man that he is in 1980 is an interesting coming-of-age story,
For his part, we see the many quirks of McEnroe that demonstrate the pressure that he feels. We further feel sympathy regarding his valid sense that the entire world is against him. This does not stop us from laughing when he curses out the Wimbledon press corps.
The lack of interest in sports is behind fast-forwarding through roughly one-half of the climatic match. Seeing how that transpires prompts watching the rest of that compelling event with amazing shifting results. The stamina alone of the players warrants each of them getting a trophy.
The excellence continues through the "where are they now" epilogue just before the closing credits. The post-match paths of our subjects is worthy of another film.
The bonus features in the forms of separate interviews with LeBeouf, Borg portrayor Sverrir Gudnason, and director Janus Metz provide further noteworthy insights. Metz expresses the aforementioned sentiments in stating his initial lack of interest in the project because of the surface subject but then reading the entire script in one sitting.
The Warner Archive April 23, 2019 DVD release of the 1936 drama "Jailbreak" reminds us of the good old days when men talked tough and dolls stood by their guys. This is not to mention a smart mouth likely earning you a sock on the jaw or a kick in the pants.
The plot thickens from the opening scenes in which made man Ed Slayden bursts his way into the successful night club of former associate/current truly legitimate businessman Mike Eagen. Slayden is on the lam from a heist gone bad and demands help from a sheepish Eagen. Although he is no longer a baad man, Eagen slugs a copper with the idea that that the anticipated resulting 30 days in stir will keep him out of circulation long enough protect him from Slayden until the heat dies down.
The rub comes in the form of the adage related to the best-laid plans of mice and mobsters. Eagen runs afoul of a two-strikes mandatory-minimum law that results in a two-year sentence, On top of that, prison guard Dan Stone has it out for the new fish based on their prior dealings.
Things go from bad to worse when Slayden and his gang get collared, resulting in becoming fellow guests of the state with Eagen.
The better news is that loyal Girl Friday Jane Rogers and crusading reporter Ken Williams are on Team Eagen. Rogers is diligently keeping the club doors open and doing everything else that she can to help her boss; Williams is using the power-of-the-press to sway public opinion.
A combination of a prison killing and a treasure hunt further rock the institution and transform "Break" into a traditional whodunit. The latter includes adding to the body count and assaulting Williams in the course of his investigation.. This is not to mention Williams proving during a close approximation of a drawing room confrontation that he is much more than a pretty face.
The titular event barely even is a "B" story as a group of cons decide that they want a variation of an early release. They soon learn that successfully going over the wall is not always a good thing.
"Break" being a Hollywood movie from the era in which the Hays Code is enforced ensures that crime does not pay and that at least some good guys get a happy ending. Everyone else simply gets another day older and deeper in debt.
Wrapping up the four-part series of reviews on the uber-diverse Olive Films August 16, 2016 Blur-ray/DVD releases that has dominated Unreal TV this week with the very groovy psychedelic 1968 dramedy "Wild in the Streets" arguably saves the best for last. This is because this satire regarding granting the actual disenfranchised the vote is very relevant in what arguably is a satirical actual presidential campaign makes it the most relevant of the four.
"Wild," which has a wonderful LSD vibe sound track, opens with '60s style surreal scenes of the oppression/abuse and subsequent drug activity and related rebellion during the childhood and teen years of later counterculture rocker 24 year-old Max Frost. Dreamy Christopher Jones of "Ryan's Daughter" does a terrific job playing Max as someone mainstream enough to (initially) not scare parents while being enough of a rebel to be a teen idol in this era of free love.
Using what seems to be the living room set of the wholesome '50s sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" for the childhood home of Max is almost as awesome as casting top-billed Shelley Winters as his status-obsessed (and later borderline-incestuous) typical '60s housewife mother Daphne.
The action soon shifts to the palatial estate where multi-millionaire commodity Frost lives with his entourage/band. These include adorable 15 year-old Yale Law graduate/accountant/guitarist Billy Gage (who looks as if he is one of My Three Sons). Richard Pryor does well in his early film career role as hilariously named drummer Stanley X.
Classic TV fans will enjoy seeing Kellie Flanagan of the '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" as the young daughter of Fergus. As a first aside, Flanagan states during a May 2015 Unreal TV interview that "Wild" star Hal Holbrook is extremely caring and nice. As a second aside, Flanagan gets one of the best lines in the film during her final scene in which she takes Frost to old school.
"Youthful" 38 year-old California Congressman/U.S. Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (played by a wonderfully youthful Holbrook) recruiting Max and the band to play at a campaign rally gets those kids thinking about the real-world issue regarding 18 year-olds being eligible to be drafted and sent to Viet Nam but not being allowed to vote until they are 21. A related thought is that the majority of the American population is 25 or younger.
These events soon lead to Fergus losing control of Max, who begins an aggressive campaign to lower the voting age to 14 as shown in an awesome video courtesy of YouTube. This, in turn, lead to other satirical reforms that take the '60s concept of not being able to trust anyone over 30 to a hilarious extreme. The expert handling of this includes every scene with Fergus and Frost having the other appear much taller than the latter and looking like father-son interaction.
The related hilarity includes what can be considered weaponized LSD, an outraged senior in every sense U.S. Senator witnessing the free-spirited debauchery at Chez Frost, and the straight-laced teen son of Fergus engaging in the cutest form of rebellion ever.
Like all great satire, this exagerated version of reality in "Wild" works because it uses a talented writer and director to determine what likable and/or absurd characters say and do. Being given power is a fantasy of the young, and absolute power corrupts absolutely regardless of who yields it.
On a larger level, "Wild" is fun nostalgia for folks old enough to remember psychedelic cinema and a great look at the "ancient" past for folks who have never seen a corded telephone.
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto."
The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart."
This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving,
The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).
The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel.
The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.
Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.
Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case.
More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade.
Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it.
Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore.
Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore.
The recent well-remastered Warner Archive DVD release of the 1932 Kafkaesque crime melodrama "Night Court" once again shows that Archive rules regarding shining a spotlight on films that remain highly relevant more than 80 years after their premieres. The same is true regarding the Archive releases of the similar (reviewed) "The Star Witness" and the more campy but good (also reviewed) "Unashamed." These and numerous other Archive titles demonstrate that it is a crying shame that they don't male 'em like that anymore.
The prevalent social commentary in "Witness" and "Unashamed" is even more copious in "Court," which should not be confused with the "Must See" sitcom of the same name. This one based on a play co-written by syndicated columnist and film-producer Mark Hellinger has judicial corruption, a loose woman, and class warfare.
The pedigree of "Court" extends beyond Hellinger to include Oscar-nominated W.S. Van Dyke, whose 91 directing credits include the "Thin Man" films. The equally good cast includes Walter Huston as corrupt night-court judge Andrew J. Moffett and Lewis Stone as crusading member of the judiciary Judge William Osgood.
Our story begins with Moffett essentially having his pre-Code-enforcement kept floozy Lil Baker examining his briefs in his office before his version of a kangaroo court begins its session. A wonderful skeleton in the closet metaphor is a "Court" highlight.
These opening scenes establish both the blatant nature in which Moffett can be bought and the degree to which Osgood is targeting this man. Good humor from the swift administration of "justice" in the titular judicial venue stems from women being arrested for loitering on street corners. Poetic justice would result in fining them two bits.
Osgood closing in on Moffett prompts the latter to sentence Baker to hard-time in an apartment in a working-class neighborhood as part of a plan to hinder the investigation. Her role includes keeping a bank book for a secret account from falling into the right hands.
Both the melodrama and Kafkaesque portion of the film begin on Baker meeting her new neighbors. Mike Thomas is a blue-collar everyman who drives his hack all night while his loving wife Mary stays home with their bouncing baby boy.
Junior innocently taking a "smoking gun" from Lil and Mary inadvertently seeing that evidence puts a target on her back. Moffett initially sets her up for an unfair fall and seals the deal by having her appear in his courtroom. A proceeding that greatly exceeds the constitutional requirement for a speedy trial results in Mary becoming a guest of the state on the same day of her arrest. All of this occurs while Mike is driving his cab.
After approaching a grief-fueled approach to rock bottom, Mike learns the truth and begins to fight back. His lesson regarding the reach of the long arm of the law leads to him taking the law in his own hands.
This excessive trauma and drama culminates in the courtroom climax that particularly is a staple of Golden Age films. An unusual amount of dramatics result in proof that truth, justice, and the American way ultimately prevail. The reality helps explain why Hollywood is known as La La Land.
The Icarus Films February 5, 2019 DVD release of the 2017 Iranian drama "No Date, No Signature" adds more proof to the pile of evidence that world cinema eclipses even indie productions in the United States.
This release comes a few weeks after the announcement of the eight "Best Picture" nominees for the 2019 Oscars. Of this octet. having only seen "Black Panther" and solely doing so to keep up with the "Avengers" franchise reinforces that something is rotten in the state of California (and Wakanda).
On a lighter note, fans of the many (oft-reviewed) Icarus films will recognize the theme of a car striking a pedestrian that is an element of several movies in that catalog. It seems that a filmmaker who wants to increase the odds of Icarus releasing his or her production should have a character take one for the team.
Many of the 13 wins and additional 15 nominations being for rookie writer/director Vahid Jalilvand reinforces that that artist has excellent instincts. The fests that bestow that accolade range from the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival to the Fajr Film Festival the same year.
The following YouTube clip of the official U.S. trailer for "Date" further illustrate the merits of the film. It is a quality production of a compelling story. There is no reliance on the star power of the lead, and the story (mostly) avoids melodrama.
The opening scenes reflect Jalilvand striking a good balance between exposition and getting down to business. We see forensic pathologist Dr. Kaveh Nariman going about his business before getting in his car for the drive that changes everything.
Many of us can relate to the circumstances that lead to to Kaveh striking the motorcycle that Moosa is driving, These events also establish the theme of shared (and arguably ambiguous) culpability that runs throughout "Date."
Kaveh immediately does the right thing by offering medical care and monetary compensation; he also repeatedly urges Moosa to bring his injured young son to a nearby medical clinic. Moosa refuses the offered care and cash but indicates an intent to take his son to the clinic.
Anyone (i.e., all of us) who has experienced thinking that an unpleasant incident is resolved only to have it resurface can relate to Kaveh learning soon after the accident that the injured boy is DOA on arriving at the hospital where that medical professional works. The autopsy form listing the cause of death as unknown does not help matters.
The mystery for the co-workers of our Iranian version of Quincy is why he is so upset regarding the treatment of a boy that he merely identifies as the son of an acquaintance. The first part of the puzzle for Kaveh is whether the injuries from the hit without a run or the diagnosed botulism is the cause of the death of the deceased. A related issue is whether the boy would have fatally succumbed to the disease in a few days regardless of whether the accident occurred.
The survivor's guilt of Moosa manifests itself in his probable role in his child getting botulism. This prompts the distraught parent to confront a man with a role in those events. Suffice it to say that that exchange takes a heavy toll on both men.
All of this leads to resolutions that provide one-and-all realistic but not happy endings. The lessons are that many people can contribute to bad outcomes and that karma is the mother of all bitches.
The Breaking Glass Pictures February 12, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 supernatural mystery "Beyond the Night" shows that there sometimes is much more below the surface regarding himbos. Adrian Grenier of the hilariously rude, crude, and socially unacceptable HBO comedy series "Entourage" produces this small-town drama about a cold case heating up.
The bigger picture is that "Night" is part of a supernatural subgenre in which a youngish member of the military experiences eerie angst on returning to his or her rural working-class town. The review of the Breaking film "Lost Child" on this site describes it as a Gothic tale from the trailer park.
The seemingly obligatory dialogue-free opening scenes of "Night" has 30-ish soldier Ray Marrow rushing through hospital hallways to the bedside of his recently deceased wife. The copious deleted scenes that Breaking provides as a bonus feature puts this in perspective,
Ray next goes into the hospital room of his young son Lawrence; the first sense of the large red discoloration on the face of the boy is that it relates to the incident that lands him and his mother in the hospital. We quickly learn that this feature is a birthmark. Writer/director Jason Noto reveals much later that that distinction may be the source of Lawrence being the boy with something extra,
The first challenges that Ray faces on returning to the declining coal-mining town where he was born and raised are reconnecting with his son whom he barely knows and helping the boy deal with the loss of his mother. A kids say the darnedest thing moment provides further drama that drives much of the film.
Despite the pressures on Ray, a scene in which he fails to pick up a small mess that Lawrence makes in a grocery store is bothersome. Particularly a member of the military should have the courtesy to conduct the clean up in Aisle Four.
Strike one against Lawrence occurs during the graveside "party for Mommy." The lad persistently tugs on the dress blues of his father during the funeral.
Strike two occurs during the reception following the service. On being introduced to the mother of a 15 year-old girl who went missing several years earlier, Lawrence spontaneously says the name of that gone girl. This is despite the boy never having met June Rain or being told about her disappearance.
Those of us who have been on either or both sides of an "out of the mouths of babes" situation can relate to the "stuff" that hits the fan in the immediate wake (pun intended) of Lawrence invoking the name of she of whom one should never speak.
The plot thickens on indications that Lawrence may be the incarnation of June Rain. This greatly distresses folks with a horse in the race and locals who simply do not want to relive the unpleasant past. Meanwhile, Ray is trying to be a supportive parent in the face of his already "original" son calling even more attention to himself and making Dad the focus of the aforementioned scorn.
In the grand decades-long tradition of Lifetime movies, the powers-that-be with a role in June Rain evaporating already are nervous before Lawrence fingers one of them. The fact that the father of June Rain is well connected does not help matters.
All of this leads to a climax that begins with a western staple. The sheriff takes the person-of-interest into protective custody only to have a lynch mob attack the local jail, This leads to a revealing trip to the scene of the crime.
The bigger picture is that the truth reflects a few shameful tales as old as time about beauties and beasts. We see that the nature of man is not so respectable, that many wrongdoers would get away with it but for one or more meddling kids, and that those in whom we place out trust often deserve the level of trust bestowed on Rodney Dangerfield.
Breaking supplements this intriguing film with wonderful bonus features that extend beyond the aforementioned deleted scenes. We see Noto and a couple of stars interviewed on the red carpet at the Los Angeles red carper premiere of the film. This not including Grenier and his entourage is disappointing..