Mill Creek Entertainment shows good instincts regarding adding a DVD of the aptly epic 1997 mini-series "The Odyssey" to the MCE "Mini-Series Masterpieces" catalog on February 19, 2019. This month traditionally is a "sweeps period" in which networks broadcast their best productions in an effort to boost ratings. One very nice thing about this production is that it adapts the titular classic narrative in a manner that is not Greek to folks who are unfamiliar with the source material.
The accolades for this adaptation of the epic poem by the other Homer include a 1997 Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Mini-Series or a Special.
Armand Assante stars as brave and noble Greek warrior Odysseus. The star power behind the camera includes executive-producer Francis Ford Coppola.
We meet Odysseus on a day that is both one of the best and the worst in his life. He is racing to the side of wife Penelope (Greta Scacchi), who is in labor with their son Telemachus. The buzzkill is a development that requires that Odysseus travel to Troy to battle the Trojans over there so that he does not have to fight them "over here."
The Poseidion adventure begins with that god of the sea facilitating the ruse that gives birth to the expression to beware of men from the other Ithaca bearing gifts. The fabled Trojan horse meets its object of giving Odysseus and his men a huge strategic edge; the rub is that our hero also learns that Hades has no fury like a fellow god scorned.
Poseidion has such a massive hissy fit regarding Odysseus not thanking that deity for his assistance that The Man From Atlantis violates the principle of demonstrating great responsibility regarding great power. This man with a porpoise pulls the dick move of using his power to prevent the foolish mortal from returning to his wife and infant son.
This leads to our fearless crew om their greatly extended three-hour tour encountering strange new worlds and new civilizations on their far more than five-year mission. Another way of considering this journey is to think of it in terms of what a long strange trip its been. A related theme is that encountered perils reinforce the idea that dames ain't nothin' but trouble.
The first adventure does not involve women; the crew is near death when they think that they have found salvation in the form of a land teeming with food; their glee is short-lived when they learn that they are in the land of the giants (a.k.a. a cyclops clan). A sibling in this family developing a fondness for Greek food and wine is another mixed blessing on the road to Ithaca.
Our boys next become the guests of the sirens; Odysseus (with a little help from the goddess Athena (Isabella Rossellini)) once again uses a combination of brain and brawn to turn things to his advantage.
Odysseus subsequently feels the sting of being caught between the deep-sea threats of the Scylla and Charibdes. One spoiler is that his later adventure with the goddess Calypso (Vanessa Williams) has him hypnotized by her when he lingers.
We also see the crew snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Penelope is fending off potential suitors who are desirous of the woman and the other treasures of the long-absent lord of the manor. The frustrations of a now-teen Telemachus include his inability to oust this band of guests who have long overstayed their welcome. This almost literally is a wolves at the bedchamber door situation.
All of this culminates in a gloriously gory battle that once again involves paying the price for disobeying the rules of etiquette.
The appeal of this production extends beyond telling a tale that is as old time in a manner that caters to the American viewing public. Shooting on location, having a good cast, and including solid humor makes this release a good way to celebrate sweeps month.
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 8, 2019 DVD release "Secret Stories of Hitler" boldly goes where few have gone before. This 2-disc set includes a documentary that presents the titular leader as someone other than the most despised man of the 20th century.
A message that viewers MUST take away from the three films in this set is that even propaganda that supports your side is propaganda. Depicting Hitler as a nice and rational man who is kind to animals and small children should convince everyone to not believe everything that they see without checking out the facts from a source without a horse in the race. A related aspect is the even the most evil human has some redeeming qualities.
The highly controversial 1974 documentary "Swastika" is the highlight of "Hitler." This movie largely consists of footage from Nazi propaganda films and from home movies that First Frau of Nazi Germany Eva Braun shoots. A modern introduction by a former Harvard teaching assistant provides a good background on the film.
As MCE notes on the back cover of "Stories," the written prologue of "Swastika" clearly reflects the theme of this film. This prose partially states that "If Hitler is dehumanized and shown only as a devil, any future Hitler may not be recognized, simply because he is a human being."
"Swastika" opens with footage of shiny, happy urban newspaper delivery guys loading up their bicycles and pedaling their way through city streets; the images soon shift to arguably ironic footage of trains headed into the beautiful German countryside.
The rural folks include smiling milk maids and similar positive stereotypes.
One of the most surprising things about the subsequent footage by Braun that is interspersed throughout the film is that it is in color. It also is shocking to see Hitler always looking relaxed and mostly smiling; further, he almost always is in civilian garb.
This footage largely looks like any other home movie of that era and the decades that follow. Hitler is a jovial host at his country retreat. He is laughing and joking with the likes of Goering and Himmler. We also see Hitler seeming to enjoy talking with small children and playing with his dogs.
For her part, Braun looks and acts like any other woman of the era. She seemingly equally adores her dogs and Clark Gable and is very at ease among her notorious company.
It is even more shocking to see Hitler calmly delivering a rational speech to an assembled masses. There is none of the shouting, frantic gestures, and frenzied responses that characterize all Hitler speeches that probably every viewer has seen in archival footage.
A telling scene has Hitler criticizing Goering to other guests. However, he is cool and collected and is not ordering punishment.
Two segments in "Swastika" are the most blatant propaganda in the film. An interview with an American radio commentator has that man assuring German officials that folks over here do not believe the fake news about Hitler; this man goes on to pledge to set the record straight by broadcasting to America from Germany.
The scenes from "The Eternal Jew" are even more unsettling than the interview with the American. We first see heavily bearded men looking alien and menacing; we then see the same group seeming ill-at-ease after losing their beards and changing into mainstream clothes. The message is that Jews cannot be assimilated into the dominant culture. A similar scene issues a defiant challenge to prove that a single Jew has died during the rule of Hitler.
Horrific footage that will cause anyone with a soul to turn away from the screen at the end of the film both is more objective and puts the prior 90 minutes of "Swastika" in proper perspective, That brings things full circle back to the opening message that genuinely bad hombres can be difficult to identify until it is too late.
The bonus features also enhance understanding of "Swastika." One extra has the filmmakers discuss the nature of Nazi propaganda; this conversation includes noting the great extent of the censorship of that era. A highlight is footage that amazingly slips through a very narrow crack.
Another extra discusses Nazi propaganda expert Leni Riefenstahl. We first learn that this filmmaker gets more than a little uncredited help from her friends. We subsequently see that her claims of denial are far from plausible.
As other posts in the Mill Creek Entertainment section of this site does (and will) show, this month being a particularly busy one for MCE releases requires that a timely review of "Hitler" come at the expense of not watching the other documentaries in the set.
"Hitler: The Untold Story" seems particularly fascinating. This six-part series pulls the curtain back on the fairly well known progression of the rise to power by der Fuhrer. Similar to "Swastika," we see how maintaining a deceiving public image is critical to Hitler maintaining his status.
"U-Boats: Hitler's Sharks" focuses on the importance of the ocean in WWII. The intriguing perspective this time is speculation regarding the impact of an alternate history in which Hitler grants requests for additional submarines.
The importance of these documentaries and the materials that accompany them is a well-known adage that provides the best perspective of all; those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Mill Creek Entertainment goes fully old school regarding the January 8, 2018 2-disc DVD release "The Laurel & Hardy Comedy Collection." This extensive set of team and solo shorts and feature films illustrates how these film pioneers influence many duos who follow on the large and small screen.
A recent post on the fantabulous theatrical film "Stan & Ollie" expands on this theme of the legacy of the duo.
The scope of these 24 classic performances include the first pairing that has a sinister-looking Hardy appear in the 1921 Laurel short "The Lucky Dog." This early silent has Laurel starring as a recently evicted tenant who soon becomes the companion of the best friend of man; pure vaudeville ensues in the form of the character whom Laurel portrays inadvertently thwarting the hold-up by the Hardy character. Further hilarity ensues as the Hardy character attempts to recover his ill-gotten gain.
The 1943 color short "The Tree in a Test Tube" is an amusing pulp non-fiction PSA in which Laurel and Hardy discover that a surprising number of household goods are made of wood. We get another alternative format in home movies that show the pair clowning around with the children of Laurel.
A highlight is the classic feature-length film "The Flying Deuces." This one has a lovelorn Hardy get his buddy Laurel to join the French Foreign Legion to help the rotund Romeo forget a broken heart. The boys soon realize the reality of their situation and that walking away is less easy than expected. Of course, hilarity ensues in manners that include making authority figures look foolish.
The lesser-known feature "Utopia" from 1951 is darker and more cynical than "Deuces." This arguably reflects a belief that the fans of the team are a little older and interested in a story line that reflects that maturity.
"Utopia" commences with Laurel and Hardy travelling to London to collect an inheritance of Laurel; the pile of cash quickly diminishing because of taxes and fees is the first bit of "adult content" and recurs during the film.
Hilarity fully ensues as the team and two disenfranchised men hit the high seas en route to the tropical island that is part of the aforementioned legacy. A series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a shipwreck that reminds us that the legacy of the team includes Gilligan and the Skipper.
As oft is the case, a dame who is seeking her own escape from the civilized world coming on the scene creates mayhem. The quartet of men vie for her affections in oft desperate manners. Subsequent arrivals create more complications and hilarity.
The best part of all this is that this MCE release reflects the original mission of Unreal TV; this objective is keeping classic films and television programs in the public consciousness. It sadly is likely that this review is the first that those of the generation that reserve actually making a telephone call to dire emergencies have ever heard of the guys who set the standard for team comedy.
Mill Creek Entertainment once again does the '90s proud regarding the January 15, 2019 Blu-ray release of "Last Action Hero" (1993) in retro VHS packaging. This release, which coincides with a MCE retro BD release of the John Candy comedy "Who's Harry Crumb," is among many examples of MCE facilitating a very worthwhile additional bite of the apple regarding these films. This is especially true as to the recent release of the (reviewed) 1998 teencom "Can't Hardly Wait."
The largest context for "Hero" is that it is from the waning days of the Silver Age of Hollywood in which art still (barely) often wins out over commerce. It also falls within the period between 1985 -95 in which proverbially emerging computer technology allows filmmaking to be especially cool.
One example of Hollywood embracing new tech. is "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which takes blending live-action and animation beyond Disney fare, "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," and other productions that have live actors interact with 'toons. A related innovation is the expert merging of black-and-white and color in the Tobey Maguire comedy "Pleasantville."
A more widespread example of this is morphing, which allows having a character radically change his or her appearance in front of the audience. This is heavily used in "Terminator 2," which is a showcase for "Hero" star/former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Another innovation is even more relevant to "Hero." This relates to computers allowing characters in programs and films within the movie to enter each of those realities. The 1985 Woody Allen comedy "The Purple Rose of Cairo" arguably is the best-known example.
"Hero" plays homage to "Rose" by having tween fanboy Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) enter the world of titular Dirty Harry style rogue cop Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). This adventure is courtesy of magic that a film projectionist/grandfather figure provides in a nod to Willy Wonka.
"Hero" additionally is from an era in which Schwarzenegger begins including more humor in his action-adventure films and does flat-out comedy. Comparing "True Lies" with "Kindergarten Cop" and "Jingle ALlthe Way" demonstrates which development is more successful.
Part of the perspective related to watching "Hero" 25 years after its theatrical release is the relatability of Danny watching the Slater films in a once-grand movie palace that is now a run-down dump that is slated (no pun intended) to be converted into a multiplex. We also get a scene in which Schwarzenegger plays himself giving a red-carpet interview while future ex-wife Maria Shriver (a.k.a. Melania) stands in the background rolling her eyes.
The final general note before discussing the merits of "Hero" itself is that the film looks great in Blu-ray. This extends beyond the scenes in sunny southern California looking bright and beautiful; this enhanced format highlights the differences between the grainy and often rainy scenes and/or darkness in the real world of New York and the aforementioned beauty of the reel world Los Angeles in the film.
The action aptly starts right away ala a "Simpsons" episode that begins with Bart watching a "McBain" movie. The first images are from "Jack Slater 3" and revolve around Schwarzenegger arriving on the scene in character to deal with a maniac holding elementary school children hostages as part of a grudge against Slater. This provides additional context from a 2018 perspective. The epidemic of 21st-century school shootings likely would preclude such a scene in a modern film.
We then see Danny emerge from the theater into his hard-knock life in which he and his single mom Irene (Mercedes Ruehl) live in a slum; Dad is nowhere in the picture, and Irene must work hard at her menial dead-end job just to provide her and Danny minimal comforts. All of this establishes why Danny so highly values escaping into the world of Slater.
The action fully gets underway when especially unnerving trauma and drama compel Danny to attend a verboten screening of "Jack Slater IV." It is all fun and games until the aforementioned magic drops Danny into the backseat of the vintage convertible of Slater during a chase scene.
The real hilarity ensures after the chase concludes and Danny frantically tries to get Slater to believe him that they are inside a movie and that Slater is a Schwarzenegger character. This leads to great multiverse humor that includes satirizing buddy-cop films and includes alternative casting of a classic film role.
The aforementioned buddy-cop element leads to the stereotypical short-tempered police lieutenant (Frank McRae) assigning Slater to partner with Danny to investigate the drug kingpin (Anthony Quinn) who is making things personal for Slater.
Things largely proceed as normal after that; our team closing in on their prey provides Schwarzenegger plenty of opportunity to deliver "knife to meet you" style puns as he battles bad guys.
Things soon turn very real when the action moves to the real world of "Hero." Slater learns about what it means to be human, and Danny is taught is even more tough truths about celluloid heroes. A bizarre Death (Ian McKellan) takes a holiday aspect of this likely is a reason for the unduly harsh panning of "Hero." Folks who still scoff should put this film in the context of recent ones such as "Tag," "Sausage Party," and even the big-budget train wreck "Batman v. Superman."
Another nice thing about "Hero" is that it largely puts right what once went wrong but is not unduly absurd regarding it. Slater does not have any life-altering experience beyond his relatively literal reality check, and Danny does not inherit the chocolate factory.
A year-end rush is behind a criminal delay in requesting a copy of the Mill Creek Entertainment award-worthy December 18, 2018 complete-series Blu-ray release of "The Shield." Not getting a set in time to declare this set the top release of 2018 elevates the delay-related offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Stating that MCE greatly outshines itself and hits almost every Unreal TV criteria for an exceptional home-video release is not hyperbole. The lack of a play-all feature is the non-fatal flaw that prevents declaring that this CS set is perfect. The serial nature of the series makes this sin a little worse than it would be in other cases; requiring a little extra navigation in the main menu adds insult to injury.
The near-perfection begins with the design-award worthy packaging. The sturdy outer-cardboard box is the first indication of love of product and attention to detail. This opens and folds out to an image of tough-as-nail rogue L.A. police detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team around which "Shield" centers. This motley crew is accompanied by their colleagues who play by the rules to varying degrees.
The solidly bound book (complete with embossed shield) is encased in a holster that feature the very apt tag line "The road to justice is twisted." This reflects the Mackey philosophy that just about any means justify a proper end that includes savings his own flank. His not blinking as he brutally exterminates a rat with extreme prejudice in the pilot hits that point home.
The first page in the book is a love letter to fans by creator/producer/ "Angel" veteran Shawn Ryan, who bears a passing resemblance to Mackey. This correspondence nicely confirms that Ryan and viewers share the same high regard for the series; the answer to the question of whether "Shield" survives the test of time is a resounding yes despite the mentioned outdated tech. and references.
On a general level, having a rough average of 13 episodes in each of the seven seasons reflects the "less is more" philosophy of British series. The idea is that a handful of high-quality episodes is better than presenting 20-or-more mediocre outings,
Each subsequent well-secured page in the book includes a detailed episode synopsis and puts the corresponding BD disc in a slot that allows removing and replacing it without risk of scratching. We also get a description of the Bonus Features on the disc.
The two discs of Bonus Features are the icing on the cake. a 2018 reunion that includes Ryan, Chiklis, and other cast members that include CCH Pounder provides something to which to look forward when time permits. Theses copious extras also include an ATX Television Festival Writer's Room Panel in which Ryan also participates.
Another voluntary confession regarding this 2002-08 FX series is that an ongoing struggle to clear enough space on my two Tivos and to otherwise keep up with the many strong programs of that era are behind not watching "Shield" during its initial run; the current chance to remedy that sin of omission is another valued attribute of the MCE release.
The strongest accolade for "Shield" is IMDb users ranking it as #86 on the list of top-rated shows of all time. The series has an additional 15 wins and 58 more nominations that must include "they waz robbed" losses. One can only fantasize about putting the people responsible for those slights alone in a room with Mackey.
"Shield," which is a perfect companion to (reviewed) overlapping FX hit "Rescue Me," tells the tales of the men and women who wok out of "The Barn" in the inner-city Farmington (a.k.a. Farm) District of Los Angeles. As indicated above, Mackey and his team are more concerned with taking gaping and bleeding bites out of crime than following either police procedures or Constitutional requirements.
This theme requires a brief aside, The philosophy of Mackey reflects the dilemma that plagues law enforcement personnel. Prohibiting things such as beating a subject and many warrantless searches are in response to those tactics despite their solid results. Tying the hands of the police validly protects important rights of suspects at the expense of allowing many criminals to go free.
Another way of looking at this is that most people would say what is required to make a beating stop; we also would not want the police to knock down our front door, subject us to an extensive body search, or rip apart our car without an assurance that they have valid cause for doing so,
The cowboy tactics of Team Mackey at best earn them tacit approval; it also gets them the animosity of two colleagues who object to this coloring outside the lines.
Police Captain David Acevada is a competent Col. Klink in that he gets the corner office without spending any time in the trenches and in that his efforts to hold Mackey accountable for his misconduct (at least in S1) prove fruitless. Mackey is more like the Road Runner than Col. Hogan in that it seems that Acevada is destined to succeed until his plan explodes in his face at the last minute.
Partner-in-crime-solving Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach is another thorn in the side of Team Mackey. This nerd who seems to have a night stick shoved up his butt is in constant conflict with the jocks whom he hates for their Dartmouth frat boy approach to their jobs. Good hilarity related to Wagenbach comes in the form of comeuppance that he receives. Revealing the perpetrator of that prank is icing on the cake.
Wagenbach often getting his man and showing that he has game in bringing down a particularly elusive bad hombre shows that this honor student has chops and can school the cool kids.
The central crime in the pilot perfectly illustrates both the tone of "Shield" and the arguable merits of Mackey. Initially discovering that the young daughter of a murder victim is missing leads to learning that the girl ends up in the hands of one pedophile, who transfers her to an even more twisted child molester. These desperate times lead to the desperate measure of calling in Mackey with full knowledge of how he will interrogate a suspect. It is ironic that he does not phone it in.
The pilot further establishes the pattern of snitches getting stitches. A later "student" further learns of the collateral damage regarding such well-intentioned efforts.
What starts as essentially aside comments regarding plumbing problems developing into a hilarious disaster further demonstrates the genius of "Shield." The show is like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you will get.
One S1 episode that also proves the unpredictability of "Shield" has an almost literal smoking gun leading to breaking up the strike team. This disbanding the brothers leads to pairing them up with other "Barn" animals.
The most amusing reassignment gives loose cannon team member Shane Vendrell a dutch treat in the form of working with Wagenbach. As "The Breakfast Club" shows us, the hall monitor and the QB do not need to be at the throats of each other.
Mackey teams up with pragmatic detective Claudette Wyms (Pounder). His scene-stealing moment consists of proposing that they first do things her way and then his way. He notes that the order is based on the chivalrous principle of ladies first.
Chickens aptly come home to roost in a phenomenal S1-ending story arc. The numerous hilarious cock jokes greatly contribute to the fun.
The already extensive length of this post precludes delving into the interesting private lives of our men and women in plain clothes or even into the many more cases that provide them continuing on-the-job training, The overall message is that you should trust Ryan; he knows what he is doing.
'The Karate Kid Part III' / 'The Next Karate Kid' Blu-ray Double Feature: Further Adventures of Daniel-San & Mr. Miyagi
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 8, 2019 Blu-ray double feature release of "The Karate Kid Part III" and "The Next Karate Kid" offers a chance for a fun escapist evening during the dark and cold weather that is settling in for most of us. The bright sunshine and corny plots full of teen angst and earnestness is the perfect cure for what ails us.
The best news is that rewatching the original 1984 "Kid" reinforces that it has many merits. The concept is that (somewhat ala the '70scom "Alice") teen Jersey boy Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) is uprooted when his mother takes a job in Los Angeles. Like "Alice," the family station wagon barely makes the trip. The other similarity that the family ends up living in a shabby apartment.
Ala '70scom "One Day at a Time," building superintendent Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) becomes a father figure. This handyman transform Daniel into the titular martial arts teen sans shell in response to that new kid in town being the victim of vicious bullying.
The quality of the first film and the cuteness and the charm of Macchio in it make it worth watching.
"Karate Kid II" commences in the immediate wake of the tournament that provides the climax of "Kid." Daniel and his sensei soon travel to the Miyagi birthplace of Okinawa where adventure and romance once again ensue for these friends.
"III" begins with flashbacks that briefly recap "I" and "II" before joining Daniel and Miyagi landing at LAX from their Asian trip, The context for the following thoughts on "III" are that it is so absurdly bad that it is good. The first problem is that Macchio is much less cute, charming, and naive than in the first film.
The comic-book nature of "III" relates to over-the-top villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). This grown-ass one-percenter has a ridiculous vendetta against Daniel and Miyagi for their provoked humiliation of John Kreese and the Cobra Kai "gang" of that once-respected karate master. Much of the unintended humor relates to our heroes having no idea about that animus.
A concurrent series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a premise for a sitcom in the form of Daniel moving in with Miyagi and becoming his partner in a bonsai tree store. The love interest is Jessica (Robyn Lively), who owns and operates a nearby pottery shop.
Silver recruits Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to goad a still-oblivious Daniel into entering the tournament that he won at the end of "Kid." The idea is that Daniel will lose to Barnes and restore the "honor" of Cobra Kai.
This not-so-subtle persuasion leads to a cliffhanger that results in Daniel registering for the contest; Miyagi refusing to train him and pulling an inarguably dick move drives our still-clueless post-adolescent into the web of Silver. The "grand reveal" arguably is the best bad moment in "III."
"III" winds up with a deja-vu all over again moment; Daniel is getting badly pummeled in his championship match with Barnes; it seems that all is lost until (of course) Daniel rallies and (perhaps literally) kicks the ass of the larger and stronger Barnes. Of course, this sends Silver and Kreese into hysterical in both senses of the word tailspins.
"The Next Karate Kid" is a kinder and gentler movie that attempts to reboot the franchise. It opens with Miyagi attending a ceremony honoring his WWII Army unit; meeting the widow of his Anglo commanding officer leads to Miyagi visiting that woman, who is raising orphaned granddaughter Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank).
A series of unfortunate circumstances this time leads to Miyagi becoming the caretaker of troubled teen Julie. The love interest is hunky blond-boy Eric, who is not put off by the hostility of Julie,
The Cobra Kai element this time is the ROTC/Hitler Youth style school group the Alpha Elite, which counts a reluctant Eric among its members. The dual catalysts for conflict are Alpha Elite teen leader Ned wanting to get in the pants of a reluctant Julie and related defiance by Eric getting him ousted from the group.
The rest of the story is that Miyagi takes Julie to a Buddhist monastery for karate training that is designed to teach her discipline and to improve her 'tude..They return home only to find that things have not changed much.
Excitable boy Ned ultimately pushes Eric too far in a manner that leads to a late-night rumble. We learn whether boys do cry and the extent to which a girl must be brought in to do the job of a man.
As mentioned above, the appeal of "III" and "Next" is the escapist fun of this continuation of a franchise that has a solid base.
'And the Award Goes To .... : 80 Years of The Academy Awards' Doc Series Shows How Films Stretch the Envelope
Mill Creek Entertainment shows good timing regarding releasing the three-DVD set of the 11-episode documentary series "And the Award Goes to ...: 80 Years of the Academy Awards" on November 6, 2018. This coincides with the informal start of Oscar Season during which studios release what they consider "Best Picture" contenders. The logic is that releasing these films at the end of the year keeps them fresh in the minds of Academy voters when they select those nominees.
The title of "Award" alone reflects the subject matter; as an episode likely addresses, announcing who receives confirmation that Academy voters like him or her; they really like him or her evolves from the titular phrase of the series to "And the winner is ..." sometime in the '80s or '90s.
The series commences with the aptly titled episode "Birth of an Icon." Before getting down to the business of discussing the May 1929 private event that honors the best films of 1927 and 1928, the documentary presents a prologue that summarizes Hollywood history from the beginning until the '70s. This includes mentions of the relationship between films and society.
The episode then discusses how the first ceremony is an intimate affair with media coverage that is limited to local outlets. We further get images of the Hollywood royalty that attends and the films that they consider.
This episode also covers topics that include the transition from silents to talkies. The most fun subjects are the celebrities and their egos/feuds.
The titles and focuses of the next several episodes reflect the nature of the films of their eras. They begin with "The Golden Era" and move on the more enlightened and candid "Hollywood Comes of Age" period of the late '60s and early '70s.
The third disc, which is titled "Thirty Years of Winners," consists of six episodes that each cover four years periods starting with 1972. This arguably is when the ceremonies themselves become more entertaining. We get the man who streaks across the stage in the '70s, the 1989 train wreck in which Snow White and Rob Lowe rock out to "Proud Mary," and Jack Palance showing off his physical strength at the 1991 ceremony.
As the aforementioned prologue states, every actor wants to win an Oscar; those who do are the elite few among the relatively small population of thespians who make a working living as a film actor. These folks who typically work their way up the ranks, endure grueling production schedules, and experience public ridicule regarding both even (previously) private embarrassing moments and involvement with any film with less-than-perfect execution are the true American idols.
This is not to mention these folks smiling through fans yelling out the names and catchphrases related to roles regarding which they have not received a penny for years every time they step out their front door. It is amazing that Tom Cruise has not punched out some moron who has shouted "show me the money." I truly believe that I at least would have shown the moviegoer the finger and dearly paid for that indulgence for decades.
Mill Creek Entertainment once again shows the value of going to the dogs regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital of the 2004 family dramedy "Benji Off the Leash." The abused boy who is at the center of this story is not the only element of this variation on "Benji" films that make it different than the '70s adventures of the titular everymutt.
Fans of the earlier fare will delight in the Creek releases of (reviewed) "Benji," (also reviewed) "For the Love of Benji," and the even-more recent (reviewed) "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story."
"Leash" begins with narration that describes a talent search for the new Benji; the action then makes a nod to the original film by shifting to an abandoned house that is similar to a home that plays a central role in that movie. The aforementioned lad Colby is using that house as a safe haven for a mother dog and her newborn puppies. The refuge is needed because his father (only known by his last name Hatchett) both is over-breeding the mother to a life-threatening extent and is intent on leaving a brown shaggy mongrel from the litter to die because the puppy lacks monetary value.
Other action in this film set in Gulfport, Mississippi centers around two comically inept dog catchers. Livingston and Sheldon are pursing their white whale in canine clothing. The pooch known as "Lizard Tongue" for an obvious reason is very skilled at evading the civil servants.
The two worlds collide on the substandard way that Hatchett operates his dog-breeding business putting him on the radar of Sheldon and Livingston. This coincides with the shaggy dog and Lizard Tongue enjoying puppy love.
Drama enters the picture regarding a need for emergency vet service and related pressure being exerted on Hatchett. All of this shows that the snooze button no longer can be hit regarding the wake-up call that Hatchett requires.
This being even a 21st-century "Benji" movie ensures a happy ending for at least some of the dogs and all of the kids. Additionally, adults who deserve a trip to the doghouse get it.
The appeal of "Leash" extends beyond keeping the Benji legacy alive; it shows that a wholesome movie with a bare minimum of edge can get greenlit.
The Mill Creek Entertainment October 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of 2009-15 sitcom "Community" is the crown jewel in the recent series of releases of this type from this company that helps keep cult classics alive. The Creek section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes posts on BD CS releases such as "Happy Endings," "The Masters of Sex," "Rescue Me," and "The Awesomes."
As a practical aspect, the "Community" set (which looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray) provides an affordable means either to buy a first-ever set of this top-ever sitcom or to upgrade from the single-season DVD sets that take up more shelf space,
"Community" creator/star Chevy Chase nemesis Dan Harmon truly hits comedy gold with the concept and the execution of the series. The program centers around misanthropic and conceited disbarred attorney Jeff Winger (Joel McHale of "Talk Soup). Being caught lying about his undergraduate education results in McHale experiencing what may be the only reel or real case of being sentenced to complete his education. His doing hard time at Greendale Community College sets the stage for interacting with his fellow misfit students and the comically inept faculty and staff and to contend with absurd bureaucracy.
Additional context comes via the fairly recent explosion of claims of racism at Evergreen State College in Washington. The nature of that scandal and the manner in which the students respond provide strong proof that Harmon bases Greendale on that school.
Winger and his gang form a "family" in S1 by creating a study group for the Spanish class of woefully unqualified Senor Chang (Ken Jeong of the "Hangover" franchise). This evolves to taking on other classes and ultimately becoming a trouble-shooting committee that seeks to put right what once went horrible wrong.
The most notable member is naive pop-culture addict Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). His tying real life into movies and television series and his tendencies to escape into fantasy worlds when faced with stress drives much of the action. A prime example of this is the S2 Christmas episode in which our friends are transformed into stop-action holiday characters. We also have Abed be the center of an awesome alternate reality and other variations on the lives of him and his friends.
Former high school football hero/stud Troy Barnes (Donald Glover a.k.a. Foolish Gambino) has the dual characteristics of practically being joined at the hip with Abed and of being highly relatable as a person who peaks early in life. Harmon does him well by fulfilling his greatest fantasy.
Troy high-school classmate/obsessive perfectionist good girl Annie Edison (Alison Brie) nicely reflects the dark side of someone who tries too hard. She is best remembered as the den mother of Abed and Troy.
Unfiltered Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) is the pretty girl/object of the affection of Jeff who takes up the cause of the week. Her inability to get her life together and her horrible romantic choices provide great entertainment. A relationship with shirtless hacky sack playing slacker Vaughn (Eric Christian Olsen) is a series highlight.
The adults consist of middle-aged mother hen/devout Christian Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) and racist/misogynistic/classist senior Pierce Hawthorne (Chaser). Shirley is mostly there to express disapproval of the antics of the "kids," and Pierce largely plays the role of the grumpy old man who insults his friends and provides "oh Grandpa" moments. Constant references to metrosexual Jeff being gay is a theme.
Harmon does a great job skewering both the arrested development of Millennials and the frustratingly increase in public outrage that only is worse in the years since "Community" has fallen one season and one film short of its goal of seven seasons and a movie. Examples of the immaturity of the students include the loved paintball episodes and other outings in which the entire campus engages in fun-and-games that almost literally destroy the place. Another classic episode has a pillow fort overtake the campus.
We further get a wonderfully true-crime style documentary surrounding the ass-crack bandit who uses an unconventional coin slot, an awesome send-off for Pierce that has his nastiness massively backfire on him, and much more good dark humor. This is not to mention the numerous times, such as a scheme to deal in a stash of textbooks, in which group members hilariously turn on each other.
This clear willingness to go there via comically absurd lengths warrants comparing "Community" to the better seasons of "The Simpsons" and "South Park" absent the profanity of the latter. It also reminds us of the Golden Age of Chase by evoking thoughts of the early days of "SNL." Sadly, we get "fat" Chevy.
The numerous extras include some of the best-ever outtakes, puns, and gag reels that highlight the strong comic chops of the cast. We additionally get deleted and extended scenes that criminally are excluded from the broadcast episodes. This is not to mention behind-the-scenes features that demonstrate that the love for the series is mutual between those who make it happen and those of us who benefit from them "going there,"
As mentioned above, the special quality of the previously released and new material relates to the social commentary that is put in proper perspective; this is true of most of the aforementioned other shows that Mill Creek has released.
The level of public outrage regarding every fictional portrayal over what includes acts that are deplorable in real life but still valid fodder for comedy simply requires too high of a price these days. No reasonable person can assert that any modern "atrocity" is comparable to the behavior of the Nazis, but the principle of Mel Brooks that laughing at Hitler robs him of his power has great applicability.
Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Tops Holiday Gift Guide in DVD/Blu-ray Renaissance
The response of studios great and still great but small to increasing incursion of streaming into the DVD/Blu-ray/4K market reinforces the belief of Unreal TV that physical media rules and online content drools. The primary principle is that having something physical facilitates being able to watch what you want when desired.
Discs eliminate any chance of buffering, content slowing down other devices, or a streaming service pulling the content. You additionally do not have the aggravation of having to subscribe to multiple services to get the desired content.
The aforementioned defense to the offense of streaming, which has value when you are away from home, is to make physical releases more special. On a basic level, this involves designing new packaging to makes a release look cool and to incorporate it into a series of releases, This marketing may apply to the '80s teencoms, classic horror films, or the CGI-animated movies of a a studio.
Holy Hi-Def, Batman!
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment October 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition is a PERFECT example of the renaissance in the home-video industry. WBHE has expertly remastered every episode in this 1992-95 series. We also get Blu-ray versions of the equally well resurrected (reviewed) "Mask of the Phantasm" and the (also reviewed) "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero."
The set packaging is very stylish, and there are special features galore. WBHE goes further by including three mini-figures, placing the discs in a collectible hard-cover book, and providing 7 lenticular cards with "original animation artwork." This is not to mention limiting the run of the sets to 69,048; I scored the relatively low number of 11,601.
A brief diversion into Blogland is that the TAS set is personally particularly special. It is reminiscent of the even-more special WBHE numbered limited-edition Blu-ray release of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy, which has better packaging and includes toy cars. This set was the first Christmas gift from the highly significant other who has tolerated your not-so-humble reviewer for six years and counting.
Olive Films Garden
Purveyor of Hollywood classics, cult films, and art-house fare Olive Films takes top honors regarding taking art-gallery-worthy DVD and Blu-ray packaging to the next level. The Olive Signature division of this company does particularly well regarding collector's editions that put a highly arrogant competitor to shame.
Many posts on Olive releases can be found in the Olive section of this new-and-improved site; several more are slowly but surely being copied over from Unreal TV 1.0.
The beautifully remastered collector's edition Blu-ray releases from Signature feature aptly high-end art. Olive supplements this with picture-perfect (no pun intended) remasters. The extra-rich icing on the cake is the copious PBS-worthy documentaries and other features in Signature releases The additional awesomeness is these being limited editions that make them that much more special.
Warner Archive Awesomeness
Archive always will have a special place in my heart. Lovers of television and film can thank Ted Turner buying the video libraries of several studios to provide his fledgling basic-cable networks content for Archive having a seemingly bottomless pit of resources 40 years later. These riches include classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, all-time favorites and forgotten big-screen gems from every 20th-century era of Hollywood, and some of the best sitcoms and dramas to hit television from the early days of that medium to the present.
Archive reflects the trend toward enhanced packaging by reproducing the theatrical posters for films on the DVD (and increasingly Blu-ray only) releases of those movies. Archive is even more fully getting with the times by fully stepping with special features.
The bigger picture is that Archive is embracing the idea of leitmotifs that scream for bundled gifts . A few of many examples include releasing Christopher Lee "Dracula" films. Hitchcock movies, Silver Age musicals, etc. within several weeks of each other.
Most new releases of Golden Age fare provide a full night at the movies by including a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short from the era. We also often get footage of the premiere of the main feature. Archive releases of films from the '40s through the '70s typically have wonderful making-of documentaries that feature film experts such as Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, and Peter Bogdanovich.
The Archive section of this site provides a taste of these releases, including the aforementioned sub-genres; copying over the other 100s of reviews on Unreal TV 1.0 will require years.
Mill Creek Entertainment Springs to Life
Mill Creek Entertainment earns a completely sincere and equally heartfelt "Most Improved" award. No one loved the MCE collections of public-domain content more than your not-so-humble reviewer. Getting to see childhood favorites, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" was great fun. This is not to mention the glee associated with watching less-frequently syndicated classic sitcoms that include "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Burns and Allen."
MCE began stepping up in 2017 with Blu-ray complete-series sets of programs such as "Quantum Leap" and "That '70s Show."
MCE built on the foundation of "Leap" and "Show" by fulling with other awesome complete series Blu-ray sets in 2018. The MCE section of this site includes posts of the Showtime series "Masters of Sex," the especially good release of the Hulu animated series "The Awesomes," and the one-of-a kind Denis Leary NYFD firefighter series "Rescue Me."
MCE also is getting into the enhanced packaging/awesome special features game regarding classic '80s and '90s films. The current catalog includes the original star-studded "Flatliners" and the rising-star-laden '90s teencom "Can't Hardly Wait." Mid-January "retro" releases include the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy "Last Action Hero" and the John Candy slapstick-comedy Who's Harry Crumb."
Aptly for this time of the year, the above discussion of the featured studios is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the gift-worthy releases from them. Everyone from a hard-core cinephile to an amateur sofa spud will delight in the initial thrill of seeing an artful set, will love the high-quality production, and will delight in learning more by watching the extras.
'A Beautiful Planet' 4K + Blu-ray + Digital: NASA & Jennifer Lawrence Team Up for IMAX-Enhanced Footage From ISS
Mill Creek Entertainment figuratively and literally goes above-and-beyond regarding the 4K + Blu=ray + Digital December 11, 2018 release of the IMAX film "A Beautiful Planet." Saying that you will not believe your eyes is not an exaggeration.
Having the upgraded Sony 4K television is a nice luxury; paying a Blu-ray price for a basic LG 4K player is a good bargain. Combining them to watch "Planet" is priceless.
The enhanced experience begins with a sample of the upgraded audio that actually sounds light-years better than the standard version even for 4K discs. The incredible initial panoramic views of space are awe-inspiring images that make the opening credits of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" look like footage from cheesy '50s scifi films.
MCE includes a Blu-ray player for folks who do not have 4K players. .
The following YouTube clip of the standard-def trailer for "Planet" provides a sense of the fantastic footage and a better indication of the themes of the film.
A special earth-bound aspect of "Planet" is that Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence who narrates the film has another 114 wins and 176 nominations. She puts that talent to good use in setting the ideal tone for the film; her soothing voice sets the perfect mood.
Director Toni Myers, whose IMAX credits also include "Blue Planet" and "Space Station 3D," divides her focus between the titular big blue marble and the bonding and other aspects of daily life on the International Space Station (ISS). The latter begins with three astronauts en route to the ISS and getting a very warm welcome on their arrival. The bonding further strengthening during that tour of duty provides hope for the future.
We then see how the astronauts perform daily functions in a zero-gravity environment. Highlights include learning how they sleep and conduct the equally critical exercise. We further experience Christmas in space and get a look at genuine international co-operation. Footage of a crew member bathing is the least sexy shower scene ever.
Scenes of the crew are work are even more compelling. We see them perform indoor chores and "yard work" alike. Hearing about the extreme conditions of the latter should be required viewing for every child who complains about mowing the lawn in 80-degree heat.
The literal and figurative bigger picture is the aforementioned incredible footage of space and earth. We see nature in all its glory and its sadly deteriorating state. The contrast between night and day is even more fascinating. As a crew member states, it is easy to imagine that the lights are out and that no one is home from 9-to-5.
"Planet" additionally sends numerous messages without preaching. An example of the images speaking for themselves is South Korea being brightly lit and North Korea being dark beyond the clearly defined border between those countries.
Nice elements of "Trek" expand beyond the mini-Federation that operates out of the tin can in space. We get a strong sense of earth being a spaceship on which all of us are passengers. An aspect of that is the need to keep this organic vessel healthy if we want to continue living.
We further hear the astronauts thoughts regarding the final frontier and the plans of space programs to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Two of the special features center around the astronauts. The more entertaining of the two discusses them learning to operate the cameras that are used to make the planet. The third bonus has Myers hosting a visit to a way-cool research facility that capture many of the images in the film.
The universal truth regarding all this is that is difficult to imagine any other film matching "Planet" in production and narrative quality. You will be amazed and amused.
Mill Creek Entertainment goes above-and-beyond regarding the October 30, 2018 "Can't Hardly Wait: 20-Year Reunion Edition." Merely releasing this 1998 John Hughes style summer teencom allows many of us who passed on this under-rated semi-precious gem in the theater, premium cable, and (most-likely) the DVD bargain bin at Wal-Mart to experience it. Second, Creek beautifully remasters the film and provides fun extras that include a 2008 10-year reunion in which writer-director team/work spouses Deborah Kaplan and Harrry Elfont, the casting director, and stars and supporting characters discuss the fun and love associated with making the film.
"Wait," which roughly runs in real-time, begins with the graduation ceremony at upskcale suburban Huntington Hills High. A panning camera eavesdrops on the typical gossip among the graduates. The main topics are the seemingly inevitable guy who is completely naked under his graduation robe and cheerleader/homecoming queen Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) breaking up with long-term football-stud boyfriend Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli). The graduating seniors also discuss the upcoming evening gathering at the home of "Girl Whose Party It Is."
Love Hewitt and Facinelli provide a sense of the Hughes-caliber stable of current and future young stars. We also get Ethan Embry of personal '90s fave teencom "Empire Records" as moderate achiever/everyteen Preston Meyers; he attends the party that quickly goes out of bounds with best platonic friend/cynical bitch Denise Fleming (Lauren Ambrose).
Preston wants to kiss the girl in the form of declaring his unrequited love for Amanda and at least get to first base before leaving the next day. Of course, many obstacles stand in his way.
Ambrose "Six Feet Under" co-star Freddy Rodriguez plays Jock #3. Like most supporting characters, he gets his hilarious moment to shine. In this case, it is wonderful exuberance regarding upcoming sex with his girlfriend. We also get duped "Exchange Student" having an equally hilarious conversation with Preston.
Seth Green plays wigger Kenny "Special K" Fisher, who is a pale red-head acting as if he is straight outta Compton. Kenny adds a particularly strong "American Pie" vibe in the form of desperately trying to lose his cherry that night. Sadly, there is no cougar on site to help out in that regard.
Genius bullied nerd William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo) rounds out the group. He and his two "X-philes" buddies attend the party for the sole purpose of getting epic revenge on Mike for four years of intense physical and emotional bullying. William undergoing the rite of passage of having his first beer is his hilarious moment. A story in the reunion special about Korsmo being cast as Charlie is particularly interesting and shows how "Wait" may have been an entirely different movie.
William is one of the more interesting characters in that a mutual lack of interest often prevents even those of us with above-average academic records from getting to know the Sheldon Coopers in our class. William letting himself be a teen does wonders in that regard. A related lesson is that the excitement of graduation and the party that eventually ends re-introduces an element of the reality that bites.
The Hughes element begins with the teen stereotypes, which include "Reminiscing Guy" and "Yearbook Girl" (Melissa Joan Hart) , that are funny because they are true; it continues with a look at the impact of high-school graduation and the entertainment value of a completely bonkers teen party. We also get the aforementioned epilogues in the form of the day after those festivities.
Giving Hughes his due requires commenting that Kaplan and Elfont do not deliver the same level of depth; nothing approaches the essay and other insights of "The Breakfast Club," but we are reminded of our younger days in which we knowingly and unknowingly make fools out of ourselves and in which the nature of a relationship can dramatically change during a drunken evening only to have that magic quickly fade. The better news is that that bonding does have a residual effect.
The other special features include "Life of the Party," which has the cast discuss the appeal of teen movies. We additionally get deleted scenes and a "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby" music video that includes scenes from the film.
'Rescue Me: The Complete Series' Blu-ray: Hilarious Rude & Crude Dramedy About Lives and Loves of the Men of NYFD
The Mill Creek Entertainment October 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 2004-11 Denis Leary dramedy "Rescue Me" continues the solid Creek track record of producing complete-series sets of 21st-century cult classic television series on Blu-ray in time for the holidays. These collector's editions are notable proof of the "you've come a long way, Baby" evolution of Creek from producing basic DVD releases of public-domain content to becoming a first-class distributor of the best fare from this Streaming Age of Television.
The vivid colors and crystal-clear audio of the Blu-ray release does American Film Institute "TV Program of the Year" for 2006 "Rescue" very proud; the serial format, entertaining candidness, and lack of a single dull moment call for a marathon (rather than binge) viewing during the holidays.
The aforementioned cult classics included the (reviewed) release of the edgy Showtime docudrama "Masters of Sex" and the (also reviewed) criminally under-rated ABC neo-modern "Friends" sitcom "Happy Endings." A review of the complete series of the Daddy of all cult-classic sitcoms "Community" is scheduled for the not-too-distant future. Creek is releasing a deluxe Blu-ray complete series set of "The Shield" on December 11, 2018.
Anyone who wants to seem cool is encouraged to give the special offbeat Millennial or Gen Xer in his or her life one or more of these sets this holiday season.
Leary puts his textbook caustic wit and love/hate feelings regarding his Irish heritage to good use in playing veteran New York firefighter Tommy Gavin. An amusing related aspect of this is that Worcester, Massachusetts native/graduate of Emerson College in Boston Leary regularly inserts subtle and not-subtle references to his home turf in this Gotham-based series,
Fellow Massachusetts native Peter Tolan reunites with Leary after their work on the HILARIOUS shorter-run series "The Job," which stars Leary as an NYPD detective who essentially is Gavin with authority to have a gun. Tolan writes all 93 "Rescue" scripts. "Job" star Lenny Clarke also transitions to this series.
Giving the equally witty and compelling "Rescue" a portion of its due is well beyond the scope of a review that strives to remain below novella length; the series is a genuine original that most likely will never have an equal. This is ENTIRELY due to the genius-level dark humor and other quirks that make Leary a god.
The best mainstream comparison is to think of "Rescue" as a working-class version of "Seinfeld" that has the edge associated with being a 10:00 p.m. basic cable show. Thinking of Jerry as a foul-mouthed chain-smoking alcoholic with a fraction of his already limited morals is a good start. A ripped from "Rescue" example would be purposefully setting up George with a transvestite despite that good friend not knowing that she is the girl with something extra.
Centering "Rescue" around a fire station without glamorizing that profession provides insight into a world that is foreign to the general population; setting it in the post-911 era in which life is back-to-normal for most of us provides rich material for an ideal blend of humor and drama. This relates to Gavin and his crew seeing that indisputably tragic event as a figurative get out of jail free card and payment for anything that they desire for a seeming endless period perfectly illustrates this.
A hate-hate relationship with the NYPD is another entertaining theme. Watching Gavin wrangle with the boys in blue until he has a compelling reason to play nice is must-see TV.
The "Rescue" crew is populated with every working-class stereotype; the skill of Leary and Tolan avoids them becoming caricatures.
We have middle-aged Irish middle-manager Jerry Reilly; he is just as profane and dark as the younger guys. His at-home drama includes a gambling addiction and a wife suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
We also get young dim-witted stud Sean Garrity; he shines early in the season regarding a waxing of his naughty bits going hysterically wrong. It also is recalled that his is the firefighter who gets caught in a compromising situation regarding a cancer scare related to his pride and joy.
One of the more interesting characters is female firefighter Laura, who must endure more than her share of abuse from her peers. Watching her evolve from showing that she can take anything that they can dish out and is not afraid to assert her rights when necessary, to showing that she can dish it out as well, and finally becoming one of the boys is awesome.
Sweet and naive Mike Silletti is a personal fave. His joining the crew at the beginning of the series earns him the name "Probie" and requires that he do all the grunt work. His early shining moments including having to build a deck and provide the beer as his co-workers sit around and give him intense grief. His asserting his rights nicely illustrates how this puppy becomes a full-grown Dalmatian.
The aforementioned naivete also lands Silletti in the most amusing and/or interesting sexual situations. These begin with his initially being clueless about the motive of a man who is strongly pressuring him to go to dinner and even gets him to move in with him after unwanted sexual contact. Our boy then deals with dating an overweight woman with bulimia. A later relationship confirms the thoughts of some viewers and fulfills a fantasy of a subgroup of those fans.
The incestuous home life of Gavin is just as darkly amusing as his work life. His oft on-again-off-again relationship with wife Janet seems to perfectly reflect the lives of literal and figurative firefighter widows, who struggle to maintain the same level of intimacy that their men share with their co-workers.
The incest extends beyond the merging of work and home life via Gavin not allowing his desire to reconnect with Janet stopping him from "dating" Sheila, who is the actual widow of Cousin Jimmy. This intercourse provides the main context for informing the audience of a Bro Code that prohibits a relationship with the woman of a fellow firefighter.
For her part, Sheila alternates between man and women; her personal drama includes an emotionally and physically abusive relationship.
Teen Gavin daughter Colleen seems to take a cue from Sheila; she also has both boy and girl trouble.
Clarke steals the show as "Uncle Teddy," who provides Gavin plenty of angst. This three-hundred pound senior citizen with the mentality and the energy of a 12 year-old boy has no sense of moderation. Dragging his brother Michael (Charles Durning) (a.k.a. Dad) into his misadventures only fuels the fire from the perspective of Gavin.
Tatum O'Neal adds star power as quasi-estranged Gavin sister Maggie; many of us can relate to this sibling only showing up when she believes that doing so is in her best interest.
The copious special features provide additional reasons to buy the set; the blooper reels are predictably hysterical. We also get behind-the-scenes looks and hear from actual New York firefighters. All of this wraps up with "The Creators' Last Call."
The apt final note to this lengthy discussion of this once-in-a-lifetime (if not longer) series is that is from the last days of the American public having some form of sense of humor. It is very sad that scenes such as one in which dumb Mick Gavin and his crew gleefully hurl rapid-fire ethnic insults at each other to show that it does not mean anything likely would not even be allowed on premium channel series. The best way to put this in context is to predict that the current attitude of Denis Leary is to say get a fucking sense of humor assholes.
The Mill Creek Entertainment November 6, 2018 perfectly remastered Blu-ray + DVD + Digital widescreen release of the Emmy-nominated December 1978 television special "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story" provides a great reminder that cute and charming holiday specials outshine darker modern fare. "Story," which does not involve the titular dog desperately wanting a BB gun for Christmas, also continues the solid run of Creek releasing "Benji" fare.
A shameless commerce note is that any child or child-at-heart is sure to love finding a bundle of the four Creek "Benji" releases, three of which nicely tie together, under the Christmas tree or the Hanukkah bush. The reviewed "Benji" has our hero rescuing two children from kidnappers. The also reviewed "For the Love of Benji" has the dog star travelling to Greece with the former abductees. The (review pending) "Benji Off The Leash" moves things in a "Touched By A Pooch" direction by having our shaggy star help people who face proverbially daunting challenges.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Story" describes the concept of the special and offers a glimpse of the rollicking fun of the story.
Our story begins with Benji and his human co-stars Cindy Smith and Patsy Garrett from "Benji" and "Love" on a European publicity tour. We catch up with them in a charming Swiss village (which looks spectacular in Blu-ray) where Benji is scheduled to be the grand marshal of a Christmas Eve parade. The action commences when the trio meets the Kris Kringle (Ron "Fagin" Moody) who is going to drive the one-horse open sleigh in which they are going to ride. One fully expects that everyone will be laughing all the way.
Kringle tells a portion of the story in asking his passengers to visit some fans who cannot attend the parade because they are working. The group agrees under the condition that they are back in time for the parade.
The grand tradition of abducting innocents (e.g., "The Polar Express") to visit the workshop of Santa continues with Kringle escorting his guests through a Narnia-style portal that transports them to where he and his elves make the magic happen.
This portion of "Story" includes an equally entertaining and educational segment in which Kringle utilizes clever exposition to show Benji et al. the images that many countries have of the man whom whom Americans call Santa. This ends with a truly delightful surprise.
The aforementioned rest of the story is that the Santa alleges that an injury prevents him from going on his appointed rounds. He already is preparing the elves to fill in but asks his new friends to help out as well. This portion of the program provides a reasonable believable explanation for Santa being able to deliver so many toys on Christmas Eve.
The inevitable happy ending comes via a clever twist at the end of a rousing musical number that puts the talents of Moody to good use. He is wrapping up an energetic song-and-dance routine when the final piece of the puzzle falls into place. This leads to the characters (and the audience) being in a better place than they were when the "Story"commences.
The special features include the cute "Benji at Work" television special. This one has '70s child-star Adam Rich host a behind-the-scenes look at our star making a movie. We additionally get a photo gallery of our pin-up pooch.
The bigger picture this time is that "Story" is the perfect holiday treat for what ails us. It reminds us of a kinder and gentler time in which reel and real people were pleasant and smiling; this was an era in which speaking your mind did not prompt counter-protests, scorn, and ridicule.
The world was not especially harmonious, but people at least were mostly courteous and did not declare war following even minor offenses. It even was a time that anyone could eat at any desired restaurants with confidence that he or she would not be ousted and/or harangued by fellow diners.
The final comparison is that the term "whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding" is a lyric from an awesome song in the era of "Story" and a modern sense of what did happen to our regard for those who views clash with our own. Few can argue that this is one case in which the past is superior to the Christmas present.
'Nightwing' & 'Shadow of the Hawk' Blu-ray Double Feature: '70slicious Tales of Terror on Indian Reservations
Mill Creek Entertainment embraces the true Halloween spirit regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray double-feature release "Nightwing" (1979) and "Shadow of the Hawk" (1976). The common theme of both is terror on American Indian reservations. The other shared element is both shoot-on-location films greatly benefiting from the crystal-clear BD images showcasing the beauty of the Southwest and the the Pacific Northwest respectively.
"Nightwing" awesomely melds old-school horror with social commentary that remains relevant nearly 40 years after its theatrical release. The surprisingly strong pedigree of this entertaining B-movie includes director Arthur Hiller ("Love Story"), prolific composer Henry Mancini (original "Pink Panther" films), and star NIck Mancuso. The A-list continues with the film being based on a story by well-known thriller noveilst Martin Cruz Smith, who additionally is a "Nightwing" screenwriter.
The IMDb description "killer bats plague an Indian reservation in New Mexico" reflects the traditional "animals gone wild" element of "Nightwing." Hiller and Smith stick to the script by having the horror begin with discovering mutilated horses with mysterious wounds. That brings reservation lawman Youngman Duran (Mancuso) literally and figuratively into the picture,
The tried-and-true continues with scientist Phillip Payne (David Warner) arriving on the trail of the aforementioned air-borne threat. He has been tracking the caravan of that threat to homeland security from south of the border and has dire news for the locals. The immediate potential for harm extends to two-legged animals; the bigger picture is that this swarm is using the area to fuel up before going to more populated feeding grounds.
Of course, even Duran does not initially believe Payne but changes his tune after a comically campy attack on a group of not-so-good Christians. It is equally predictable that the rest of the population remains skeptical,
The climax regarding this comes down to Duran going on a risky mission that runs the dual risks of his becoming a bride of Dracula and having his plan blow up in his face. The one certainty is that he is in deep guano.
The new-school elements revolve around issues related to tribal politics; relative traditionalist Duran already is at odds with the leader of a more prosperous neighboring tribe that our hero believes has sold out to the white man. Discovering a valuable natural resource on the land of the tribe of Duran at the same time that the bats show up further complicates matters.
The fun of "Nightwing" relates to the variation on man v. weaponized spiders, or bees, etc. These films provide plenty of thrills and chills while making us wonder if mosquitoes ever will become more of a threat than being a highly annoying insect.
"Hawk" has a more eerie feel. Jan-Michael Vincent stars as fully assimilated American Indian Mike who is enjoying an office job and good lifestyle when his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) literally goes off the reservation to track down Mike and convince him to return to his roots. The rest of the story is that Hawk is tasked with keeping a legendary witch and her "monkeys" at bay; Hawk being convinced that he is about to die prompts a mission to get Mike to take his place regarding this effort.
This reunion leads to Mike abruptly leaving a swinging bash at his bachelor pad to escort his grandfather home. The aforementioned minions are in hot pursuit and drive the pair (as well as the love interest who largely is along for the ride) off the road and into the woods.
The eerie moments include Hawk and Mike each having several disturbing visions; we further get Mike engaging in a highly symbolic mission that culminates in an equally symbolic battle.
The fun of "Hawk" begins with the generation gap that the roughly 50-year age difference and greatly divergent world views exaggerates. The extra enjoyment relates to the American Indian beliefs/superstitions. This is not to mention the '70slicious fight scenes.
The bottom line is that they do not make 'em like these anymore. The cast and crew all know their stuff; the premises are entertaining, and the gore is minimally,
'Masters of Sex' Blu-ray and DVD: 'Ripped From the History Books' Saga of Mad Men Style Sex Researchers
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate August 21, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray complete series releases of the 2013-16 Showtime docudrama "Masters of Sex" coinciding with the (reviewed) Creek CS releases of the ABC sitcom "Happy Endings" provides Telephiles plenty of viewing pleasure while waiting for the new TV season.
Candor in the spirit of "Masters" is a factor in confessing that August being a particularly busy month for home-video releases and other factors are reasons for pulling out before completion in that this review is based on the first two of the of the four seasons in this series about real-life pioneer sex researchers Dr. Bill Masters and (twice-divorced) Mrs. Virginia Johnson. A desire to see what comes next is the excuse for not reading ahead, The real-life Masters and Johnson will agree that not providing complete satisfaction is a valid basis for complaint.
The fact that "Masters" gets 52 nominations and only 6 wins also reflects the spirit of this program about a highly passionate Masters striving to educate the public about physical aspects of sex and every factor that make it either satisfying or anti-climatic. The excuse this time is that the 100s of networks and overall good quality of television dramas the past few years make the competition much more stiff than back in the days of only three commercial broadcast options and PBS.
The majority of the wins deservedly go to future Oscar winner Allison Janney for her portrayal of Margaret Scully. The highly stressful marriage of Margaret to university official Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) makes that woman a '50s housewife a rebel with a very righteous cause.
Cursory on-line research shows that the series predictably stretches the truth regarding the main characters and their work but remains relatively true to the source material. An assumption is that the incidents in the lives of the supporting characters mostly are designed to entertain and to provide a context for depicting social issues of the day.
The pilot episode of "Masters" provides a strong sense of the direction of the show right from the beginning. The opening images are of inter-titles that state that Dr. Williams Masters (Michael Sheen) and former night-club singer Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) team up to publish a ground-breaking sex study in 1966. The next image is of an inter-title that establishes the year as 1956.
We first meet Masters working solo as a peeping Tom with a scientific purpose in a very basic version of his research. This leads to his using his clout (and a touch of blackmail) to move his work to Washington University Hospital where his literal day job includes star status. He initially hires Johnson as a secretary but more fully integrates her into the work and his life as the season progresses.
The S1 season finale predictably is climatic as an oblivious Masters presents his preliminary findings accompanied with intimate footage of study participants to his peers in 1957. Although not touched on very strongly, the perception of the film as lewd rather than as a valid element of scientific research relates to the issue of what is pornographic; part of the answer is that the determination must reflect the intent behind the making and the showing of the images. One spoiler is that this controversial production is not very erotic.
S2 begins with the fallout from the aforementioned presentation. Masters understandably considering the unwarranted outrage further enhances his inability to work and play well with others. This leads to the same conclusion that often applies regarding exceptionally intelligent and talented people that they do better working for themselves than being a wage slave.
The more unsettled nature of the study coincides both with a patient-of-the-week format and episodes with sometimes unduly preachy social issues. The first featured patient is a 20-something genuine nymphomaniac facing surgical sterilization. Many of the social issues revolve around race in the context of Masters working in a black hospital and his wife Libby having a young black woman help her around the house.
The season ends with CBS making a documentary about Masters and Johnson; related interesting aspects of this are dumbing down the material and the issue of the seven words that George Carlin informs the American public that cannot be said on television in any context. Modern relevancy is at "SNL" and "South Park" separately running with the concept when at least two of those words get approval for use over the air,
It is assumed that Season 3 addresses both the increased fame (or notoriety) associated with the documentary. We further can expect to see the personal relationship of our researchers evolve in the wake of Master showing Johnson great vulnerability in the second season. For her part, Mrs. Masters becoming a more liberated woman likely will impact the home front.
The more-than-three-hours of bonus material include behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and "The History of Sex."
The Mill Creek Entertainment August 21, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray complete-series releases of the early 2010s series "Masters of Sex" and "Happy Endings" is wonderful news for current fans of those series and for folks who have yet to experience the good quality of both programs. In what seemingly is backwards on a couple of levels. "Endings' is a review topic before "Masters."
The enhanced video of Blu-ray is tailored made for the truly vibrant and detailed colors that extend well beyond the red feathers of Tyler the racist parrot, The crystal-clear rich sound is a bonus.
"Endings" producers Joe and Anthony Russo also are the best brains behind the even more subversive cultcom "Community, which Mill Creek is releasing in separate DVD and Blu-rays sets in September 2018. Fanboys know that the Russo brothers go on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things in the form of "Captain America" and "Avengers" films.
The Russos particularly show that they know their stuff in not adding laugh tracks to either "Community" or "Endings." This reflects the wisdom of Alan Spencer regarding his '80s cultcom "Sledgehammer," which is about a cop who makes Dirty Harry look like Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. Spencer notes that viewers do not need to be told when something is funny. A related note is that the somewhat subtle but hilarious "Endings" joke "Rivers Thicke Johnson" likely would not have triggered the laugh track.
"Endings" begins on a high note for the audience that is a low point for one of the friends around whom the series centers. Future food truckeuter Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton of "Flashforwrd") is standing at the altar with childhood friend/fiancee/failing boutique owner Alex Kerkovich (past literal cougar bait Elisha Cuthbert). The first of an almost "Community" level amount of pop culture references begin with a nod to both "Xanadu" and "The Graduate," A 20-something guy with an open shirt rollerblades down the aisle and turns Alex into a runaway bride.
The action aptly fastforwards a month to Dave living in the bedroom in the apartment in which gay "chubby" and slovenly college buddy Max Bloom (Adam Pally of "The Mindy Project") is couch surfing in his own shabby loft that has rats in the main living area and a belatedly discovered human squatter in a previously unknown attic space.
Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson of "SNL") is a childhood friend of Dave and Alex. Her dating Max in college seeming to be the highlight of her romantic history states quite a bit about this current fag hag. She and Max being the Jack and Karen of "Endings" makes having Megan Mullally play her mother apt.
The fifth member of the sextet is Eliza Coupe of "Scrubs" 2.0 playing Alex sibling/ruthless ice queen/successful executive with an initially undisclosed profession Jane Kerkovich-Williams; the obvious joke comes late in the run of the series.
Damon Wayans, Jr. proves the truth of like father like son in his portrayal of the object of the jungle fever of Jane. His Brad Williams is almost as successful as his wife but is much more silly. His many shining moments include his role in a "Get Out" plot years that has the third Kerkovich sister engaged to a black man years before "Out" is released.
The "Endings" characters themselves and the overall series successfully combine the best elements of "Friends" and of "Seinfeld." The likability of our gang falls right between that of the group that sets the standard for this genre of television comedy, and Team Jerry, Especially in the first two seasons, the "sits" that provide the "com" in "Endings" are closer to the "nothing" end of of the plot scale than silly shenanigans that include scouring Manhattan for a carelessly lost baby or getting trapped in an ATM vestibule with a super model. This is not to mention the old chestnut of accidentally seeing a character of the opposite sex naked.
However, "Endings" specifically mentions "Friends" on a few occasions; the most direct connection is the group once discussing which of them is which "friend." This involving an existential crisis is pure "Endings."
We also get an outing in which Max and Amy rebel against being the "poor" members of the group, A broader connection is the habit of flashbacks that highlight poorly thought out fashion and hairstyle choices.
The "Seinfeld" connection is stronger. Like Jerry and Elaine, Dave and Alex are exes; one difference is that our current couple are on=again-off-again far more than their predecessors. We further get Max engaging in Krameresque escapades that include using his vintage limousine to conduct comically inept tours of Chicago.
"Endings" goes further back in an episode that has Alex, Dave, and Max playing "Three's Company." Dave wondering why his landlord is so obsessed with the sexual orientation of his tenant is a highlight of that one.
Notable episodes that fall in between "Seinfeld" and "Friends" include selfish reasons being behind the rest of the group comically trying to provoke Brad and Jane to fight. That couple playing along contributes to the hilarity. We also get the gang full entering TV Land to help save a struggling toddler play center.
One highly relatable episode has Brad using a pretense to avoid annual visits by a sorority sister of Jane. Once again, the awesome twists are "must-see" TV.
This new set seems to have the same plentiful bonus features as the (much-more expensive) DVD sets from a few years ago. They go beyond deleted scenes and outtakes to include a hilarious parody song and a fun joint interview with Pally and Wilson.
'Crime Time TV: Hot Streets & Cool Cops' DVD: 'Miami Vice,' Knight Rider,' and Greatest Crime Stoppers' Oh My
Mill Creek Entertainment fully embraces the spirit of summer reruns with the June 5, 2018 DVD collection "Crime Time TV: Hot Streets & Cool Cops." This set includes the full first seasons of the iconic '80s series "Knight Rider" and "Miami Vice" and a DVD set titled "TV's Greatest Crime Stoppers." The latter consists of episodes of vintage series that range from "treasures from the vault" such as "Man With a Camera" and "Mr. and Mrs. North" to more heavily syndicated fare that includes "Mannix" and "Burke's Law."
The popularity of the scruff look and the proliferation of linen suits with pastel t-shirts alone attest to the phenomenal pop culture impact of "Vice." Further, the copious montages set to the greatest hits of the '80s arguably make this series about two young Turks out to collar pushers and porn kings the first "Cop Rock" series.
An amusing aspect of the feature-length "Vice" pilot is the extent to which the pilot of the "fast and furious" action-adventure series "Fastlane" mirrors it 15 years later. We meet undercover cop Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and his then partner actively working to take down a cocaine godfather when an incident occurs that indicates that the partner is due to retire that day.
New Yorker Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) soon arrives and convinces Crockett and his superiors to let him in on the fun; of course, the extent to which the case is personal to Tubbs and to which he and Crockett are kindred spirits soon comes out. This leads to the unlikely partnership between a tough black survivor of the mean streets of New York and a good ole Southern boy who is a former football star.
The first regular season adventure pits our boys against a porn kingpin who preys on teen girls. Seeing "Modern Family" star Ed O'Neill play this video pioneer in his "Married With Children" era is fun. The "Fastlane" element is the team working with an undercover fed who may be on Team Darkside.
IMDb perfectly captures the spirit of the next episode with the following description. "Crockett and Tubbs must enlist the help of an unreliable petty thief to bust a drug operation run by a trio of bloodthirsty Jamaicans." The comic mayhem regarding the sting operation that leads to all that is an episode highlight.
"Vice" then moves onto a special two-parter that ties back to the pilot; it is business as usual from there.
"Knight Rider" is best known for making "The Hoff" a household name. The pilot finds undercover cop Michael Long (David Hasselhoff) investigating the '80slicioous crime of microchip theft. His case ending with very high prejudice leads to one-percenter Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart) giving Long the titular identity to go along with his new face and new crusade.
This new career involves Knight teaming up with K.I.T.T., which is a car that makes the Batmobile look like a Vega, to fight all of manner of injustice. Sadly, we do not get the evil twins this season.
Cliched early fun has Knight introducing K.I.T.T, to the concept of a vacation only to have the pair face off against a motorcycle gang that is terrorizing a small town; knowing how things will unfold doe not diminish the joy in watching the events.
The awesome nostalgia of "Crime Stoppers" fulfills the DVD purpose of getting to see classic series with limited syndication runs. The strong retro goodness of this collection makes it particular strong.
The first bit of fun of "Code 3" is that it reflects the successful formula of "Dragnet," which also makes the "Stoppers" cut, in that episodes are based on actual crimes. This one has a resentful redneck as the prime suspect regarding the murder of his wealthy father-in-law. The solving of the case provides equal amusement. More fun comes via seeing that the real-life sheriff of Los Angeles County of the day looks and acts like Floyd the barber from "The Andy Griffith Show."
The 1950-52 "Dick Tracy" TV series is notable for reflecting a media trend. This character and his universe begin life as a comic strip and evolve into a radio show before hitting the small screen. That series reflecting radio roots through extensive (but not annoying) exposition reflects a similar pattern regarding films. Early silents have the exaggerated gesturing as live-stage productions, and early "talkies" retain that technique.
"Mr. and Mrs. North" about amateur crime-solvers millionaire publisher Gerald and socialite wife Pam is the child of "The Thin Man" film series and the parent of the '80s "Hart to Hart" television series.
Other "lost" gems include "Sherlock Holmes," "Sea Hunt," and "I'm the Law."
Anyone with any questions about this sampler pack is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
'The Awesomes' DVD/Blu-ray/Digital: Seth Meyers and His SNL Buds Give 'The Justice League' Animated Series the 'Drawn Together' Treatment
The awesomeness (pun intended) of the June 5, 2018 releases from Mill Creek Entertainment includes the separate DVD and Blu-ray (both of which include codes for digital copies) complete series sets of "The Awesomes." This 3-season 30-episodes 2013-15 animated Hulu series joins (reviewed) DVD and Blu-ray releases of the fairy-tale-influenced mini-series "The 10th Kingdom" and a (soon-to-be-reviewed) DVD set that includes the complete first seasons of "Knight Rider" and "Miami Vice" as hot-off-the-presses additions to the Mill Creek catalog.
"Awesomes" is the brainchild of SNL alum and current "Late Night" host Seth Meyers and his long-time collaborator Mike Shoemaker with tons of voiceover help from friends who include Ike Barinholtz and Bill Hader. The end result is success where many others fail regarding a superhero spoof. The winning formula this time is placing the guardians of our galaxy in a setting that is very reminiscent of the 2004-07 Comedy Central animated faux reality show "Drawn Together" that has virtually every central casting type from Saturday morning cartoons and video games under one roof "Teen Titans" style.
The following YouTube clip of the "Awesomes" series trailer provides a good primer on the lore and the humor of the show. The even better news is that the Blu-ray version of the show looks much brighter than this promo. The best news is that the trailer includes the top moment from the series.
The pilot begins with Mitt Romney superpowered lookalike Mr. Awesome (Steve Higgins) announcing his retirement after 50 years of leading the titular league. Son Jeremy "Prock" Awesome (Meyers) convincing Dad to let him take over the family business leads to a unanimous walkout by the current squad with the exception of childhood friend Muscleman (Barinholtz). The only other leftover is low-level administrator Concierge (Emily Spiveey).
Desperate times in the form of losing federal government funding and other support if he does not rapidly form a new team prompts Prock (Professor plus Doctor) to recruit misfits who have exceptional abilities but are in the "reject" file because of severe flaws.
Frantic (Taran Killam) is an excitable boy who can run 500 m.p.h. Having the mother of all mommy issues strongly affects the ability of Impresario (Keenan Thompson), who can conjure up any tangible image with his mind. Eleven year-old Asian boy Tim (Bobby Lee) hulks out to a 600-pound Sumo wrestler with the slightest provocation. The remaining problem child is Gadget Girl (Paula Pell), who is a golden girl with a magic bag full of tricks and a lack of understanding that what is appropriate in the '50s is unacceptable in the 21st century.
A need to fill one more slot leads to hiring Hot Wire (Rashida Jones), who can manipulate electricity ala Static Shock. The issue regarding her is the strong possibility that she is a Trojan Horse.
Each group of episodes revolves around a season-long threat. This begins with Awesomes nemesis Dr. Malocchio (Hader) deciding that the retirement of Mr. Awesome provides a good chance for escaping from prison to implement a grand evil scheme. The fun of this includes that plot involving discrediting Awesomes 2.0.
Season 2 finds the surviving team members battling a Legion of Doom that another foe spends the season assembling from individuals whom our heroes offend in one manner or another throughout this season. An example of this is the team learning the truth regarding the saying that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
The series winds up with the final season-long foe hitting very close to home on many levels. The episodes remain strong, but the underlying premise of the story arc is weak in that the final episodes of the season (and the series) reveals that the wolf in spandex clothing goes to a great deal of unnecessary trouble to achieve his penultimate objective.
The most hilarious episode in the series is the S3 season premiere "Seaman's Revenge," which starts with the standard story of a day off leading to a mission to save the day. The aforementioned glee largely relates to an oblivious Gadget Girl responding to questions about her experiences with Aquaman clone former Awesomes member Seaman. One missed opportunity is not asking her whether she finds Seaman hard to swallow.
The next strongest outing is an S2 one in which The Awesomes agreeing to make a "Drawn Together" reality show goes comically horribly awry. A highlight this time is a team member making a coming out announcement to boost his profile on this show within a show.
Other fun episodes parody scifi and/or superhero staples. These include the gang meeting alternate superpowered versions of themselves, and Meyers and Shoemaker provide a strong outing in which the gang obliviously is leading normal lives. The only disappointment is that evil versions of the good guys lack goatees.
The series finale achieves the modern show ideal of serving equally well as a season finale or the last hurrah for the characters in the event that the series is cancelled. In this case, all is right with the world until a new threat appears in the final seconds. This creates hope for three streaming seasons and a direct-to-DVD movie.
The special feature primarily consist of a one-shot ComicCon panel and trailers and promos for each season.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate June 5, 2018 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the star-studded 2000 mini-series "The 10th Kingdom" provide fans of the recently concluded long-running ABC dramedy "Once Upon a Time" another bite of the poisoned apple regarding a fun melange of our world and that of fairy tales. It further has the same spirit as the 2007 Disney comedy "Enchanted" in which fairy tale folks experience Manhattan melodrama.
These releases provide everyone quality family entertainment that truly appeals to folks from 8 to 80. The bigger picture is that we have another reason to shout for joy regarding Mill Creek expanding well beyond its roots as a purveyor of compilations of public domain television series of the '50s and the '60s.
This epic and very colorful production filmed in a plethora of European countries additionally looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray.
The following YouTube clip of the Mill Creek trailer for "Kingdom" perfectly captures the beauty and the tone of the series.
The premise is that the titular realms are fairy tale monarchies that are tied to a specific fairy tale notable or creature. For example, the Fourth Kingdom where most of the action occurs is the Snow White realm and trolls rule the Fifth Kingdom. Red Riding Hood and Cinderella also have their own lands. Our reality is the 10th Kingdom, which is only accessible via a magic portal.
The other broad bit of lore is that the turmoil in the nine kingdoms 200 years ago is the stuff of which our fairy tales are made.
The action begins with Relish the Troll King (Ed O'Neill) breaking into the Snow White Memorial Prison to once again spring his three stooge-like offspring; this escape comes to extend to releasing Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) from her own unfortunate incarceration.
Another lucky break for the queen allows her to implement the first steps of a plan to prevent arrogant grandson Prince Wendell from ascending to the throne of his kingdom. Comic mayhem begins to ensue when the prince (who is a victim of a "Freaky Friday" style transformation) flees into our world.
A destined encounter between the prince and New York 20-something waitress Virginia Lewis brings her and her deeply cynical building superintendent father Tony Lewis (John Larroquette) into the action. Former guest of the queen Wolf pursuing the prince into Central Park is the final element that allows the story to fully develop.
The Lewises, Wolf, and the prince then essentially travel through the looking glass on crusades with overlapping objectives. Wendell claiming his crown and the Lewises acquiring the necessary means to return home involves battling virtually every fairy tale baddie known to man.
The queen puts the trolls and a huntsman (Rutger Hauer) on the tail of our group. They also square off against other foes whom they meet in their travels.
The ticking clock is the impending coronation which will result in the ersatz prince getting the corner office unless Wendell can timely revert to his true self. Meanwhile, every effort of the Lewises to find a way home ends in amusing disaster. These stories strongly merge in the fifth of the six episodes when Virginia and Tony learn that their connection to the kingdoms is much closer than they ever imagined.
The copious fun of all this begins with the concept that one man's fairy tale is another dwarf's reality; this goes on to non-stop action as our main group essentially follows a long and winding yellow brick road effectively to the castle of the wizard. The third big element is having a perfect tone that reflects modern cynicism and conflict while keeping things adequately light for the kids.
The bonuses include a grand 45-minute "making-of" feature that looks as spectacular as the series. We also get the insights of cast and crew regarding this successful ambitious production.
Mill Creek Entertainment does fans of '70s superdog star Benji a pawtastic solid in releasing the 1977 family film "For the Love of Benji" less than two months after the February 13, 2018 (reviewed) release of the 1974 film "Benji." Both releases looking great and coming out in DVD and Blu-ray with a code for a digital download eliminates any excuse for not buying both.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN "Love" trailer provides a good sense of the themes and the setting of the film.
Stating much about the underlying concept of "Love"also risks spoiling "Benji," which centers around the efforts of the titular lovable mutt to reunite kidnapped children with their father, "Love" opens with Benji being temporarily Shanghaied from a luggage conveyor belt on his way to board an Athens-bound plane.
The mission that this agent is not provided the option of refusing is to smuggle information to Crete. The ensuing mayhem commences on his missing his connection in Athens.
Benji making a break for it at the Athens airport sets the stage for the primary theme of "Love." Roughly 75-percent of this film that looks and sounds great in Blu-ray consists of Benji traveling the sites of Athens (including the Parthenon) in this modified "Lassie Come Home." The charm of the star and the beauty of the setting keep things interesting despite the relatively limited dialog and involvement of two-legged characters.
The good guys, the bad guys, and the guys with ambiguous intentions regarding Benji engaging in various degrees of pursuit break up our hero seeing the sites and making friends with a dog who hangs out at the Parthenon. This interaction shows that Benji is good boy and that he understands how to make friends and influence canines.
All of this leads to particularly exciting final 15 minutes. Both Benji and those near-and-dear to him are endangered. This sets the stage for this television and film star to once again save the day. This in turn leads to an expository epilogue that involves the happy ending that both family films and Hollywood require in the '70s.
Mill Creek also does Benji just as proud regarding the bonus features on "Love" as it does regarding the release of his first film. The earlier film includes two Benj television specials; "Love" has one special and the (sadly sans Benji) feature film "The Double McGuffin" by "Benji" and "Love" writer/director Joe Camp.
The wonderfully bizarre 1981 ABC special "Benji Takes a at Marineland" has marionettes that resemble the Krofft puppets of the era narrate the buildup to Benji preparing to be the first SCUBA-diving dog. The setting for this historic feat is Marineland in Florida.
The era-apt kookiness of this includes a puppet named Boris Todeath plotting to thwart the effort of Benji to make history. The nefarious scheme involves Boris stealing the specially-designed gear so that he can be the first to take this particular plunge.
This plethora of Benji is a great treat and shows that the purpose of a dog always has been and always will be to set a good example for us allegedly superior beings
The Mill Creek Entertainment February 13, 2018 Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack release of the 1974 family film classic "Benji" gives men whose significant others shave their legs and/or their faces a chance to be a Valentine's Day hero. This is not to mention allowing parents to score big with their special someones who are too young to shave anything.
This low-budget indie film looking pawtastic in Blu-ray is only the tip of the iceberg. This tale of a mutt who already has the heart of a small town and goes onto outshine Lassie regarding two kids who have "fallen down a well" genuinely appeals to anyone from 4 to 90.
Writer-director-producer Joe Camp, who goes on to make several other Benji movies, hits all the right notes with this film debut of this star of the '60s ruralcom "Petticoat Junction." The strongest selling point is the cuteness of the lead and his expressiveness that is obvious to both the people in "the business" and to the general population.
Camp shows further knowledge of psychology by centering "Benji" around a small creature to whom adults refuse to listen even when he has crucial information to convey. Virtually every child and many adults relate to futilely "barking" only to have authority figures ignore them and/or shove them out the door.
Camp demonstrates additional understanding of his audience by populating the cast mostly with stars from '60s and '70s sitcoms.
Patsy Garrett who plays neighbor Mrs. Fowler on the fantasycom "Nanny and the Professor" plays kindly housekeeeper/surrogate mother Mary at the abode with the two moppets where Benji eats breakfast every morning. We also get Frances "Aunt Bea" Bavier as "woman with cat" who has a love-hate relationship with our star, and former Benji (nee Higgins) co-star Edgar "Uncle Joe" Buchanan as a kindly diner owner. Casting against type has Tom "Eb" Lester playing bad guy Riley. Deborah Walley of "The Mothers-In-Law" joins Lester in trading her sweet young thing image to play fellow neer-do-well Linda.
"Benji" opens with the titular former shelter puppy going about his daily business to the accompaniment of the Golden Globe winning and Oscar-nominated song "Benji's theme" sung by country singer Charlie Rich. (A segment in the TV special "The Phenomenon of Benji" that is a DVD extra shows Benji being among those who go up to accept that award.)
The first sign of trouble is when the group of young criminals that includes Riley and Linda breaks into the abandoned home that serves as a large two-story dog house for Benji.
The worlds of Benji collide when the lawbreakers show up with the aforementioned moppets gagged with their hands tied in front of them. This being a G movie results in the kids not looking any worse for wear and not seeming exceptionally frightened.
This discovery prompts Benji to race to the home of the kids to alert their father (Peter Breck of the Western "The Big Valley") and the police about the whereabouts of the children; unlike Lassie, Benji is kicked out of the house. He soon discovers that none of his other human friends are any help.
The film title and this being a '70s kids movie ensure that Benji keeps trying until he succeeds. His next effort proves that his skills apparently include the ability to read a dog-eared note, which he brings back to the crime scene.
This second bite at the Kong is one of the best ones in the film; seeing defeat essentially being ripped from the jaws of victory is a surprising twist that is equally frustrating for the audience and Benji. We also thrill on seeing him overcome staggering odds to finally convince the adults to pay attention to him.
Camp deserves additional credit for avoiding cartoonish cliches regarding the inevitable chase of Benji back to the house where the kidnap victims are being held. There are no comic efforts by large bodies to fit in small places, no knocking pedestrians off their feet, and even a very limited element of an exasperated Benji waiting for the slow and clumsy humans to catch up with him.
Benji being happy with his current existence and even having a love interest whom he meets and courts in an adorable scene creates three possibilities for the mandatory happy ending. Either he returns to his standard routine of visiting his friends every day and spending his nights in his squat, or is adopted by the family whom he reunites and becomes an indoor dog, or his new life falls somewhere in the middle.
"Benji at Work," which then "Eight is Enough" moppet Adam Rich hosts, is another TV special in this two-disc set. While "Phenomenon" is a '70slicious tribute to the popularity of the dog of that century, "Work" focuses on "behind-the-scenes" footage of Benji doing his thing. Mill Creek additionally gives us the four-minute "Benji" trailer complete with audience reactions.
'Night of the Living Dead' Blu-ray: 50th Anniversary of Classic Commentary on Cold War and Race Paranoia
Mill Creek Entertainment awesomely gets into the Halloween spirit by following the (reviewed) September 26, 2017 Steelbook Blu-ray and DVD release of the (newly remade) 1990 Joel Schumacher thriller "Flatliners" with the October 3, 2017 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of the George A. Romero horror classic "Night of the Living Dead." The "Dead" release, which is the first U.S. Blu-ray version of this film, comes one day shy of the anniversary of the theatrical release of the film.
The outer layer regarding "Dead" is that it arguably is the best and most enduring zombie movie ever. The black-and-white cinematography (which looks great in Blu-ray) and solid pulp horror acting by the ensemble and the extras succeed in making these slow-moving respiratory-impaired monsters menacing. Further they seem to have more dexterity and individual physical strength than their walking dead descendants.
Seeing siblings John and Barbara arguing in their car while at the cemetery to visit the grave of their father evokes strong thoughts of a similar scene at the beginning of the musical-comedy horror spoof "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." A related creepy element is that John arrogantly complaining, Barbara trying to placate him, and the nature of their relationship being ambiguous for the first several minutes of "Dead" makes it just as likely that the couple is related by marriage as it is that they are blood kin.
This leads to the next horror cliche of a still-arrogant John trying to scare Barbara only to end up as the appetizer in what the zombies hope is a smorgasbord.
Barbara subsequently fleeing in terror sets the action discussed below in motion.
The next layer is an awesome vibe regarding the original "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. That one esalates national terror as an initially unidentifiable threat in a rural community builds as it is discovered that space aliens have come to conquer us. Romero pays homage to this both in setting most of the action in an isolated farmhouse far from the city and in having radio and television broadcasts provide exposition. This nod to the past continues both with having scientists in on the action and in tying the zombie outbreak with an outer space threat.
Going a little deeper, "Dead" blatantly reflects the Cold War paranoia of the era. The small group of survivors under siege in the aforementioned home both effectively are trying to ward off fallout victims and fear what they view as an invasion from a Soviet-style enemy that literally could include friends and neighbors.
Pretty young blonde Barbara is suffering from PTSD and spends much of the film looking terrified and fearing that the enemy is going break in any moment.
Even more symbolically, white middle-aged family guy Harry insists on barricading his wife and young daughter in the basement until the threat subsides. Those of us in the know predict early on that that course of action adds a touch of the '60s youth movement to "Dead."
Thirty year-old black man Ben is an equally symbolic character. He knows that hiding in the basement does not work and advocates peaceful resistance. One of the most distressing scenes has Harry literally slam the door in his face just after Ben attempts a daring mission.
The fate of Ben is a sad commentary on the lack of progress in the half-century since the release of "Dead." Recent real-life events prompt what is hoped to be an early cynical guess regarding the fate of this character only to have that prediction tragically come true.
Romero further deserves credit for showing that making a good horror movie with a message only requires decent actors, a stable of extras who can shuffle and groan, and a disposable house.
'Flatliners' ('90) BD: Designated Survivor Kiefer Sutherland Leads Rogue Med Students on Live-Die-Repeat Adventure
The Mill Creek Entertainment September 26, 2017 Steelbook Blu-ray/DVD release of the 1990 Joel Schumacher version of the horror film "Flatliners" looks and sounds amazing and proves that this film aces the test of time. It also makes a great Halloween season companion to the (Unreal TV reviewed) October 3, 2017 Mill Creek 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release of "The Night of the Living Dead."
Many factors contribute to the appeal of this film that has Kiefer Sutherland play a med student who leads his classmates in experiments to determine what happens when you die. On a general level, folks who just check out "Flatliners" to see Sutherland and co-stars Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon probably will enjoy it more based on the film exceeding their expectations.
"Flatliners" additionally hits the "Baby Bear" sweet spot regarding the balance between art and commerce for which Hollywood studio films should strive. Hiring Schumacher of "The Lost Boys" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and the hot young actors (as well as Billy Baldwin and Oliver Platt) demonstrates a reasonable profit motive. Schumacher and his team doing well with a story that has depth provides a good dose of art.
"Flatliners" opens with ominous (perfect-for-Blu-ray) "Omen" style music as Sutherland's Nelson races across campus and peeks in the muraled abandoned room (spectacular in Blu-ray) where he is going to conduct his experiments.
These opening scenes also establish Roberts' Rachel as a compassionate practitioner obsessed with near-death experiences, Bacon's David as a rogue rebel who rappels from his apartment window down the side of his building and drives an Army surplus truck merely to show that he is a stud, Baldwin's Joe as a Lothario who secretly videotapes his do-'em-and-dump-'em conquests, and Platt's Randy as arguably the most egotistical medical student ever.
These introductions lead to Nelson approaching each of them to confirm their participation in the initial experiment that evening; the simple concept is that that team will perform a carefully orchestrated procedure that will very briefly kill Nelson and revive him. The objective is that he will recall what he experiences during his short dirt nap.
The essential dream sequence (which also makes perfect use of Blu-ray) during the death of Nelson opens with a gorgeous scene of young boys and a dog running through a field of yellow flowers. This soon turns to dark and scary woods (once more looking great in Blu-ray) in which the now-feral boys are pelting a terrified treed lad with rocks.
Nelson returns to the land of the living with total recall regarding the experience described above. The real terror begins when it seems that hitchhikers from the other side are haunting him on this side. The worst part of this is that the bullied boy is pummeling Nelson hard enough to inflict serious damage.
The experiences of the others similarly evoke thoughts from deep in their psyches and bring their own personal Hells literally and figuratively to life; these post-death terrors take the predictable tolls on the minds and the bodies of our heroes.
Cracking the code to putting the aforementioned demons to bed prompts Nelson to go to extreme measures to avoid all the impact of a beat-down by a super-powered nine-year-old boy; this prompts his team to take their own drastic actions. Suffice it to say, none of them come out unscathed.
The aforementioned depth extends beyond this vision of what happens when we die; ambiguity exists regarding the extent to which the experiences of the group are actual or simply reflect the greatest source of their guilt or other tremendous angst. That it turn raises the issue of whether our worst misdeeds/most severe traumas truly consume our thoughts in our last seconds of life. All of this would justify the tag line "Be A Freud, Be Very A Freud."
Unreal TV 2.0 evolves from http://classictvdvdreviews.blogspot.com/ (which stillis up.) Both sites are labors of love dedicated to preserving the golden and silver ages of television and film and celebrating new content that values art over commerce. The same principle applies regarding boutique hotels.