Random Media reinforces its love for the offbeat regarding the January 15, 2019 VOD & DVD releases of the 2018 musical dramedy "Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon." This tale of a 20-something (director/writer Luke Shirock) Walter Mitty with more issues than The New Yorker pulls off the tough trick of making a highly experimental film a delight. An even more notable aspect of "Tommy" is that it proves the merits of filmmaking that honors the tradition of valuing art over commerce.
Personal appreciation of "Tommy" relates to its similarities to all-time fave "Colma The Musical." That one has recent high-school grads in the titular working-class suburb of San Francisco sing and dance as they deal with poseurs and other harsh realities.
The following YouTube clip of a "Tommy" trailer highlights the surreal vibe that runs throughout the film; this promo. also demonstrates how this movie can be considered "Law and Order Rock." This is not to mention the glimpse of a hilarious scene in which Tommy turns a thrift store into his playground.
The symbolism in this mostly sung flick begins with the opening images of a full-frontal Tommy walking out of the ocean; his clothes magically fly to him and perform a reverse Full Monty.
The action takes off a few minutes later when a sleeping Tommy is awoken and quickly dragged Gestapo-style out of his home. He then is thrown into the stereotypical black sedan where he is driven to a court building for a perp. walk followed by the commencement of a trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Carolyn. The singing prosecutor, the warbling defense attorney, and the jury being a literal chorus provide the smoking gun that we are in for a wild ride.
Conflicting evidence regarding Tommy having accidentally shot his brother several years early provides solid proof both that we cannot believe everything that we see and that the subconscious mind of our main man drives much of the action, Subsequently learning about the real life of this reel character explains the confusion.
The presentation of evidence rehashes the course of the Tommy/Carolyn relationship from their cute meeting at the prom, through their impromptu "Young Hearts" fleeing from their childhood home, to their honeymoon period, and then to the stage between love and goodbye. This leads to the final exit that is the center of the judicial proceedings.
The nature of this nightmare dreamscape makes the heavy psychological elements very apt. It also reminds of the extent to which our childhoods shape us.
The narrative technique of making this a musical is equally appropriate. As folks who are familiar with the genre know, this form of expression typically expresses strong emotions such as the ones that Carolyn heading out into the city triggers in the man who is not deaf, dumb, or blind regarding this development.
As stated above, Shirock hits all the right notes in presenting this story in this manner. It is unlikely that you will find another quite like it and definitely not one that succeeds any better.
The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1974 musical-comedy "Mame" allows fans to judge this one for themselves. This film is based on the stage-version of the 1958 Rosalind Russell comedy "Auntie Mame," which based on a story by and about Patrick Dennis.
One sadly undisputed aspect of this film is that having Lucille Ball having a very raspy and deep voice at this point in her career should have precluded having her playing any role that requires singing. The same is true regarding Bea Arthur, who reprises her role as best frienemy stage actress Vera Charles from the 1966 Broadway production. (Yes, I know that God will get me for that.)
"Mame" begins at the end of the Jazz Age; the titular society girl is living it up and thinks that the party will never end until she receives an almost-literal wake-up call during The Crash of '29. This sets the stage (pun intended) for Vera to delver one of the best lines in the play by stating that she is glad that she never set aside any money.
The rest of the story is that The Crash also comes soon after prim-and-proper orphaned nephew Patrick and his frumpy nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell) come to live with his auntie. The foresight of his late father allows Patrick to attend a respectable boarding school and largely avoid the bad influence of his only living relative.
Meanwhile, Lucy puts her brand of comedy to good use as Mame is required to cut back and to attempt several jobs to keep the roof of her luxurious townhouse over her head. This quest for full employment brings her in contact with future husband/savior Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, "Music Man" Robert Preston, who is best-known to modern audiences for his role in "Victor/Victoria," excels in every aspect of his performance as Beauregard. He gets the bonus of performing "Loving You," which is written for the film.
Lucy again shines on her trip to the Burnside plantation to meet the mother (Lucille Benson) of Beauregard. Hilarity ensues when a woman scorned and general southern hostility toward damn Yankees combine to set up Mame for a fall. However, that New Yorker wins over the crowd by showing that she is more than a one-trick pony. This leads to the chorus singing the title song that lauds the titular free spirit.
A notable segment that follows is a montage that shows Patrick first growing from a cute and studious lad to a dreamy horndog high school boy and then a skirt-chasing college man. A very cute Bruce Davison of 258 IMDb credits plays that version of Patrick.
This maturity sets the stage for the final conflict. Patrick is engaged to textbook WASP woman Gloria Upson from Connecticut. This Junior League stereotype and her family are ultra-conservative to the extent of only barely concealing their prejudices. Of course, this does not sit well with bon vivant Mame,
Stereotype Lucy once again appears in a scheme near the end of the film. She hilariously exposes the nature of the Upsons both for personal satisfaction and to provide Patrick a wake-up call.
Of course, Mame and Patrick get a Broadway/Hollywood ending.
The special features include the theatrical trailer and an eight-minute promo. that celebrates Lucy starring in the film.
The epilogue is that a mediocre film starring Lucy and featuring Bea Arthur is better than the best film that is a showcase for virtually any current Hollywood royalty.
A delay posting this review of the Shout! Factory November 6, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "The Sound of Music Live" (SOM) is collateral damage from circumstances beyond the control of Unreal TV. Your not-so-humble reviewer ached to honor the spirit of NBC airing the Julie Andrews film every Thanksgiving, Speaking of NBC, a nice surprise regarding this production is that it is NOT the Carrie Underwood version that that network aired in 2013. This one far outshines that noble experiment.
The bottom line regarding this SOM is that it provides a good chance to compare it to the Andrews version and to compare the film and stage variations of the story. Of course, the movie having Penny Robinson and Spider-Man in it gives it a big leg up.
The better news regarding timing is that ample opportunity remains to give your favorite theater geek or child the the Shout! release for Christmas or merely to play it on an endless loop to keep the kids out of your hair. The FLAWLESS picture and sound (which look very 3Dish when played on a 4K machine and watched on a 4K set) screams to buy the Blu-ray version.
British television network ITV aired this SOM on December 20, 2015; the twofer aspect is the broadcast being part of both the holiday programming of the network and a desire to air "event" specials. It is reported that the objectives of creative director Corky Giedroyc include this version being closer to the original stage production than to emulate the movie. An aspect of this is maintaining the political aspects that center around the Nazis increasingly taking over Austria.
The following YouTube clip of an ITV promo. for SOM nicely conveys the spirit of both the production and the literally behind-the-scenes feature on the Shout! release.
The newer version is entertaining from stem to stern and maintains a perfect pace. Further, hearing all the classic songs provides a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia. "How Can Love Survive" is not in the film, but is in stage productions.
The infamous "you can't face" line in a scene in which Maria receives a reality check continues to amuse those of us who embrace our inner 12-year-old boy. It is a near certainty that EVERY actress who portrays Mother Abess focuses on very carefully enunciating that dialogue,
Two songs stand out in SOM. The "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" duet of eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl and current delivery boy/future fascist pig Rolf has good charm and humor. It seems that the affection between those all Austrian kids is genuine.
All the kids steal the show in the first presentation of "So Long, Farewell." They are being sent packing during a party at Von Trapp Haus and perform the song as their exit strategy. The choreography and the performances of the Von Trapp Singers this time actually outshines the film version. It is a bit more lively and amusing.
Describing SOM as understated is only intended to put it in context regarding the film. Kara Tointon ("Mr Selfridge" and "EastEnders") projects the same level of "Keep Calm and Carry On" emotion throughout; she also has a wonderful voice and seems to literally hit every note but does not put her heart and soul into the songs ala Andrews.
Similarly, Julian Ovendon (Downton Abbey) plays Captain Von Trapp with far less emotion and passion than Christopher Plummer. This sadly prevents feeling any connection with this central character.
As mentioned above, the bigger picture is the rise of Nazism in Austria. Watching this production as an adult in 2018 puts a whole new perspective on the story.
Being an adult in 2018 also screams for escaping the increasing level of fascism and dystopia in the world by watching a new version of a childhood favorite. Keeping the flame alive by watching it with a keyboard kid provides hope that memories of a kinder and gentler period will persist.
'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In Concert Encore' Blu-ray: Once More Paying True American Idols Homage in Spectacular Hi-Def & Crystal- Clear Sound
The Time Life September 21, 2018 2-disc Blu-ray release "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Encore" perfectly illustrates the evolution of this company traditionally known for '70s-era fare such as book series about World War II and albums featuring the music of the '50s and '60s. The television ads from that period further reflect the Disco Age by inviting customers to call Judy the Time Life operator on a toll-free line to place an order. "Encore," along with the reviewed Time Life "In Concert" Blu-ray set, fully proves that this is not your father's Time Life.
The participants in the 2010 - 2013 inductions ranging from ABBA to Tom Waits, and including The Hollies and Public Enemy, illustrates both the range of the inductees and that the programs have something for everyone from 8-to-80. A personal note that MUST accompany each of these Blu-ray sets is being a bunkmate of former Del Fuego/V.P. of Education for the Hall Warren Zanes; one spoiler is that that summer is entirely free of any Liverpool handshakes or even cries of "Farrah Fawcett."
The rest of the story is that older brother/Del Fuego/current kiddie rocker Dan Zanes was a doo woping potato peeler with The Kitchenettes. A cassette of Dan and and autographed photo remain in one of several boxes labelled "stuff" in the basement.
The bigger mandatory picture is that these ceremonies remind us that true American Idols are not people with the looks and the luck to win a three-month reality show contest. The Hall inductors and inductees remind us that the latter spend years working their way up to selling out stadiums. An inducrtor using slightly more colorful language in referencing one inducted band appearing on stage only wearing a strategically placed sock tempers the sense that hard work is the only way to hit it big.
Randomly choosing the 2012 ceremony to watch for this review worked out exceptionally well. A keynote speech comments that the event marks a return to Cleveland after a move to New York. A shout-out to Ohio governor John Kasich in that speech prompting boos reflects the political divide that is far worse 6 years later. The speaker defending Kasich by noting his support for bringing the ceremony back to Cleveland shows that some people have the proper perspective.
An energetic last-minute surprise opening by Green Day starts things off on exactly the right note (no pun intended.) The song "Letterbomb" and the group both reminding the crowd that "this is fucking rock-and-roll" shows that music is one place where being unrestrained and uncensored is integral to the experience.
Late bluesman Freddie King being the first inductee reflects the aforementioned diversity of the Hall; having Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hall of ZZ Top make the induction speech shows how genres can meld together and how music reflects a continuum in which the prior generation pays it forward by mentoring the new kids and giving them the break that sets them on the road to stardom.
The John (do not call him Cougar) Mellencamp induction speech for '60s folk-rock legend Donovan is the best from that category in the evening, The initial theme is the fan love that conveys sincerity and that expresses sentiments regarding which us mere mortals can relate. Mellencamp going on to discuss meeting Donovan in the midst of a literal recording session melee is hilarious and is a good "Behind the Music" story.
This sets the stage (no pun intended) for Donovan to accept the honor in a fun and heartfelt speech. The Blu-ray liner notes share that this is only time that an inductee has read a poem in such an acceptance.
Many fans also can relate to the pure fan-oriented induction speech by Chris Rock. Rock discusses getting turned on to The Red Hot Chili Peppers after attending an earlier performance of theirs instead of the concert of the intended group. Rock hilariously discusses wondering if the unusual look of the Peppers is standard for white groups. Black and white people with similar experiences can put themselves in the shoes of Rock.
The other inductees include the Ron Wood and Rod Stewart band Small Faces/Faces and The Beastie Boys.
Aside from being outsiders with a better than front-row seat for the ceremony by musicians for musicians in what essentially is a grand-scale reunion and jam session back at the hotel after a gig,
The best thing about these Time Life sets is reminding us of the bands that we loved growing up and of becoming fans of new groups from the first note. A strong personal memory is of being a high-school sophomore invited to join two seniors for ice cream; the excitement continued with the guy who was driving popping a cassette in the player of the family station wagon and commenting that it a great new group called The Police.
'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Concert' Blu-ray: Stories and Performances Honoring Actual American Idols
he spectacularly clear images and incredible audio of the Time-Life April 24, 2018 Blu-ray release "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert" requires watching it. The perfectly lit dark black background with the blue neon and the flawless enormous slides look fantastic, and the top-notch audio system could not sound better. This warrants inducting Time-Life in the Hall.
Stating that you feel as if you are in the front row is not hyperbole. The very user-friendly main menu easily allowing skipping ahead to a desired induction or specific song in a set (and then keeping the party going without forcing you back to the menu) is beyond awesome.
Two aspects of this set make it personally cool. The first is a link with the "friend from camp" sitcom plot. This storyline typically has a supporting character being unable to get a ticket for a rock concert only to have the lead share that a member of the band is a friend from camp.
The ensuing varying degrees of hilarity typically revolve around the lead being thwarted in efforts to get promised tickets and/or a backstage visit. The climax often involves the rock deity showing up to the intense delight of the starstruck character and equally excited studio audience or laugh track.
The relevancy of this is having shared a summer-camp cabin with former Hall "suit" Warren "Dave" Zanes, whose rock star cred. comes from being a member of the Del Fuegoes.
Current Z Rocker/former Del Fuego Dan "Ray" Zanes simultaneously worked in the camp kitchen and sang doo wop that summer. The Unreal TV archives include what may be the first recording of Dan singing.
Righteous dude Warren currently is literally opening the door to his Jersey home as part of online fundraising to get his latest album out. BTW, your not-so-humble reviewer can get all the tickets that you need when Warren plays Boston. :-)
The final aside regarding this experience is that learning about the copious sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll among the camp staff required returning to work a decade later. Personal experience regarding that trifecta related to one of the three.
The wider relevance relates to a long-term hatred of "American Idol." The two major peeves regarding that program extend well beyond it being a reality show. One huge bone of contention is that the hard-luck stories are valid bases for sympathy but should be completely irrelevant in a singing contest.
The more relevant basis for loathing "Idol" is an equally long-held belief that winning a contest that lasts a few months does not warrant the title of "idol." Many friends have heard my manifesto about the singers and the bands that deserve that accolade spending years playing dive bars and traveling in broken-down vans before achieving comparable fame to the latest "Idols." The speeches in the Hall induction ceremonies verify this statement.
The "Hall" set contains the full induction ceremonies from 2014-2017. One can only hope that Time-Life does not make us wait four years to see the 2018 event. The inductees ranging from Cat Stevens to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to Cheap Trick (which sadly disappoints regarding their set), to Nirvana, to Ringo Starr provides some sense of the range of the inductees. Honorees Joan Jett & The Blackhearts arguably deserve the award for the best set.
The first induction speech in the set also is the best one of all speeches. Chris Martin of Cold Play does an awesome job using good humor and fan admiration honoring Peter Garbiel. Hearing English boy Martin share the story of being blown away buying his first Gabriel cassette in Paris and then wandering The City of Light listening to it is relatable to every fan. A somewhat similar story is being a boarding school sophomore getting the twin thrills of seniors inviting me to sneak off campus and this covert adventure involving buying ice cream. An indelible memory is the driver putting in a cassette and telling us that it is a new band called "The Police."
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 gets the best line of any ceremony. He spends much of his 2016 speech discussing the hard-rocking elements of "Chicago" to the extent of expertly imitating that new inductee. This leads to him telling the audience members who label "Chicago" as their mother's band that he wants to (expletive deleted) party with their mother. An equally cool aspect of this is that 37,000,000 online votes is what get "Chicago" in the Hall. One can only hope that "Squeeze" fans demonstrate the same initiative.
Another highlight comes regarding Paul McCartney inducting Ringo Starr in 2015. His funny and heartfelt speech both supports the "Idol" theory and proves that time heals all wounds; whether it wounds all heels is another matter. Seeing McCartney perform with his former bandmate is the only way to end this ceremony; NOTHING could have followed that act.
The footnote to this discussion of the "Hall" set is that it includes music for virtually every taste, honors rockers who do not get money for nothing, and provides a chance to hear speeches that literally run from the sublime to the ridiculous. One challenge is to not hurl obscenities at Michael Stipe copiously bitching about playing in a band during his induction of "Nirvana."
The Olive Films February 27, 2018 DVD of the 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films. This release coinciding with separate Blu-ray releases of the very different Burt Lancaster films (the soon-to-be-reviewed) "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and (the reviewed) "The Hallelujah Trail" further proves this.
As a first aside, the Lancaster releases follow simultaneous Olive Signature extras-laden Blu-ray releases of the Cary Grant films "Father Goose" and (the reviewed) "Operation Petticoat."
As a second aside, this remastered DVD presents the film in a scope with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and is ALMOST as good as watching a live-stage production.
The third aside is that folks who are only familiar with the stage musical will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.
The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine, "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.
Director Milos Forman ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus") "Hair" opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era.
Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)
The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.
In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski the Okie to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.
The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.
The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)
The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.
The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.
The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.
The ending is very true to the spirit of both the musical and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.
Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are screwed up 50 years later.
The DVD extra is the extended theatrical trailer.