The irony is not lost on your not-so-humble reviewer in stating that a desire to remain on the Nice List of Santa and a related hope to find an Apple watch under the tree in a couple of weeks is behind the confession that starts this post on the well-produced thought-provoking Virgil Films recent DVD release of the 2017 drama "Walden: Life in the Woods." Merely looking at the site homepage photo, which is roughly 20 collectibles out-of-date, of my home office indicates a love of stuff with no practical worth.
This admission is that, although I LOVE walking around Walden Pond, I HATE HATE HATE HATE the style and related undue complexity of the book "Walden" that Henry David Thoreau writes while in seclusion by that body of water when he does not walk into town to visit friends and family and to restock the provisions in his austere cabin. This is not to mention the unintended humor as to the Boston-area Walden site charging $15 for pahking that also has a gift shop that sells a wide variety of goods with no practical value that extol the simplicity philosophy of Thoreau.
This loathing of the source material is the root of unfounded concern that "Walden" the film would completely consist of the prose that repeatedly ended up scattered all over my 10th-grade dorm room after repeatedly being thrown against the wall of that austere accommodation. This is not to mention reprimands for using "inappropriate language" while reading that book; a certain part of the anatomy of Thoreau would be incurably sore if an oft-repeated command to him was a reality.
The good news extends beyond this solid film saving viewers that fate almost as bad as death. This movie is a relatable fable for our dsytopian times. The laudable message is to not allow the stress of career and a desire for material goods to impair your happiness and ruin your relationships; in simpler terms, do not live above your means or allow your love of material possessions to trump (pun intended) your love of your fellow man.
The following "Walden" trailer highlight both the indie film and source-material philosophy of the movie. At the very least, "Walden" provides almost two hours of intriguing drama and serenity in our highly troubled and divided times.
Our story centers around middle-aged middle-manager Ramirez (Oscar nominee Demian Bichir for "A Better Life"), whose not very good day begins with having to tell his wife that the nursing home where he works has cut both his hours and his benefits. This hits particularly close to home when Ramirez learns that the cost of the medicine that his daughter needs for a chronic condition has significantly risen. His subsequent conversation with an overseas rep. of his insurance company is frustratingly relatable to all of us who regularly are there and do that.
Soon after arriving at his job, Ramirez is confronted by boss Charlie (wonderfully offbeat T.J. Miller), who tasks him with telling the maintenance guy/Ramirez buddy that that guy must become an independent contractor and reduce his hours if he wants to keep his job. The relatability this time is the many occasions that the low person on the totem pole is forced to knowingly put an unconvincing positive spin on a callous corporate policy.
The nursing-home "guests" include Alice, who largely mentally does not live here anymore, Her role in the really rotten not-so-good day of Ramirez is her high-strung grandson Guy, who gives the guy (no pun intended) who is not paid enough to put up with this "stuff" grief about using air freshener in the room of his grandmother.
This visit occurs just as Guy and laid-back boyfriend Luke are headed out for the titular hike/camping trip. Their stress extends beyond the boys disagreeing about how to interact with Alice to Luke arguing that the stress and the greed associated with Guy selling wealthy investors on the profits associated with wind turbines outweighing the social good of helping put those turbines in operation.
The strain on the relationship escalates in the woods and fully comes to a head when Luke springs a radical lifestyle change on his partner,
Meanwhile, the post-work-period of Ramirez that is not devoted to getting his daughter her medication is divided between buying a kitchen sink and convincing a bank to refinance his mortgage. These adventures first cause Ramirez to focus on the prices of the items in the Home Depot where he is shopping and to continue that exercise at home. This is reminiscent of a scene in one of the social-commentary films that Jack Lemmon makes in the '60s. In this one, he plays a top-level executive who calculates the total expenses that he faces simply on waking up each morning.
The impact of the day causes Ramirez to execute his own radical experiment while he is home alone; the scene in which his wife arrives and Ramirez and viewers are equally anxious as to her reaction to his actions aptly ends this film about focusing on the value of the natural world.
Virgil honors the Thoreau spirit by not including special features on the DVD.
The Virgil Films August 27, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 documentary "Tasteless" shines a spotlight on a grossly overlooked societal issue; baseless outrage regarding crude and offensive humor, As many of the comedians and comedy writers who participate in the film observe, merely saying a trigger word can prompt outrage before even telling the joke.
This relates to a post on beloved documentary "That's Not Funny," which focuses even more sharply on the issue of comedians and others having their lives ruined merely for telling a joke.
Similarly, this current post would be much more funny but for fear of incurring this wrath. An example is wanting to convey the theme of "Tasteless" by using the expression that essentially refers to calling a shovel a shovel as the subtitle of this article. Death threats and other stress is not worth that bit of humor.
On a related note, one topic that "Tasteless" does not discuss is the exclusive license of members of a minority group to make the jokes that have the rest of us viewed as monsters. A personal example is a one-time close Chinese-American friend dressing up like a knight for Halloween. He does this so that he can say that he is a chink in the armor.
The following official trailer for "Tasteless" expands on the above themes and touches on the '80s joke books Truly Tasteless Jokes that give the film its name.
Some of the best entertainment in "Tasteless" relates to folks 40ish and under who are introduced to the books through the documentary; the responses of these folks from an increasingly PC era relate both to the sick humor and someone publishing a book that almost certainly would not get published today.
Comedian Helen Hong fully embraces the spirit of "Tasteless" in a must-see deleted scene during the closing credits. She makes a hilarious mistake as to the number of books in the series and makes this moment sublime by stating on realizing that she made an error that she must be Polish.
We further get the fun of Dennis"Mr. Belding" Haskins refusing to read any of the jokes. He fully plays up his public image.
Filmmakers Jeff Cerulli and Matt Ritter provide an even bigger payoff both by revealing the true identity of author "Blanche Knott" and interviewing that person for "Tasteless." It is fascinating both to hear from that person and to learn how water-cooler jokes lead to extreme wealth.
Although a few cases of grossly disproportionate backlash get brief attention, the story of Canadian comedian Mike Ward receives several "Tasteless" minutes. This scandal begins with Ward joking as to a sick young Canadian boy who sings at the Vatican that many people make fun of the performance.
Ward then says that he defended the boy because he had a fatal disease. The public anger stems from Ward then expressing outrage as to the boy lacking the decency to die after Ward is kind enough to support him.
Ward subsequently faces a hefty fine for his witticism and still is fighting it at the time of the filming of the documentary,
The same buzzkills who are succeeding in taking away freedom of choice as to plastic bags and regarding speakers that are intended to promote the college ideal of provoking thought are not going to be easily persuaded that expressing humor that offends them should not be a figurative or literal death sentence. They should open their minds at least a little by considering an analogy to which they can relate.
Traditionally, restaurant customers have been advised to not complain about minor service issues because that usually would lead to the server being fired. The message here is that you should not comment on waiting five extra minutes for your food or the server forgetting to bring ketchup because that could cost someone his or her job.
The analogy here is that a comedian should not have a career ruined merely for a misfired joke or a slip of the tongue, Thinking about how you would feel as to getting canned for a minor error in your work or for not remaking the coffee after making the last cup.
The Virgil Films August 20, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 documentary "I Am Patrick Swayze" is a perfect summer-time addition to the Paramount Network "I Am" series. Reviews of many of these films are posted in the Virgil section of this site.
A common element of all these films is that the friends, relatives, and colleagues who participate clearly greatly love and miss the subject.
"Swayze" stands out from the rest because it reminds us of the broad range of talent of this triple threat who can sing, dance, and act. A glaring (and missed) omission is his hilarious SNL appearance in which this buff stud appears along grossly overweight cast member Chris Farley.
Brother Don Swayze and widow Lisa Niemi are the primary talking heads in this deserving tribute to one of the nicest kids in town. We also get several charming insights from "Outsiders" co-star Rob Lowe and "Road House" love interest Kelly Lynch.
Our story begins in Houston, Texas where Patrick's mother, who operates a dance company, starts his ballet training. This also leads to his meeting Lisa.
Lisa discusses the events that bring her and Patrick to Los Angeles; suffice it to say that Patrick is not an overnight sensation.
Lowe discussing both the casting and the filming process of "Outisders" provides great insight as to that classic film that either starred every top actor in his 20s at that time or was one in which a member of the actual and extended brat packs wanted a role.
"Road House" baddie Marshall R. Teague tells a great story of the mano-a-mano aspects of his big fight scene with Swayze. He also recounted how anyone who teased Swayze about his ballet training learned to regret doing so.
We further hear from Demi Moore as to filming "Ghost." Hearing how Swayze almost was not cast is the highlight this time.
Sadly, we are deprived of the wit and wisdom of Keanu Reeves as to filming "Point Break." We do hear from Don about how his skydiving experience helps his brother with that film.
Other topics include the impact of filming "Red Dawn" on Patrick and his response to the diagnosis of his fatal cancer.
This eavesdropping on personal reminiscing is as characteristic of the "I Am" films as is the deceased subject always being someone with whom you mourn never having any chance of joining for a beverage of your choice.
One can only hope that Paramount and Virgil keep 'em comin'.
The Virgil Films May 21, 2019 DVD release of the documentary "billion dollar Bully" is equally entertaining and educational regarding ALLEGED malfeasance by Yelp regarding sales tactics. Writer/director Kaylie Milliken hits the nail on the head in commenting on the opposing objectives regarding Yelp presenting a public image as site for objective reviews but being driven by sales revenue from having businesses advertise to have their companies more prominently displayed.
The most important context regarding "Bully" is that there is your side, the side of the other guy, and the truth. The numerous people whom Yelp is believed to have done wrong whom Milliken interviews seem sincere and mostly admit to lacking a smoking gun regarding their assertions.
At the same time, we do not hear from anyone who considers Yelp CEO/co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman a god. Personal bias enters in the form of assuming that Stoppelman being among the arrogant Millennial tech. guys who are too young to have the life experience required to properly run a country makes him a guy with whom you would like to have a cup of coffee so that you can throw it in his smug (actually) smirking face.
The above comment leads to the disclaimer that this post strays far more into Blogland than roughly 99-percent of reviews. As is the case regarding the other exceptions, this time it is personal.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Bully" illustrates the heavy propaganda element of the film. The reminder here is that even propaganda that supports your side is propaganda. This promo. supports this through a few shots of the outdated ambush technique in which the filmmaker sets up a camera in front of a corporate headquarters and either seeks a meeting with an executive or merely confronts employees as they enter and leave the building. One cannot blame a highly compensated person not wanting to interrupt his or her day to sucumb to an ambush or Yelp for not wanting someone who may be an assistant or an IT person speaking for the firm.
Milliken chooses wisely in opening her film with interview footage of an Italian man who owns a pizzeria and is to "Bully" what the quirky little boy who makes Young Sheldon look like Zac Morris is to the 2002 spelling bee documentary "Spellbound."
The restauranteur discusses the old country pattern of a "legitimate businessman" calling attention to the potential for "accidents," the business subsequently experiencing relatively small incidents such as thrown rock through the window, the "insurance" agent showing up again to offer protection against future harm, and the harm either escalating or stopping depending on the answer of the entrepreneur.
The asserted Yelp variation is the company making repeated solicitations and the Yelp ratings of the targeted business either rising or falling depending on the response to that unsolicited pitch.
Man (and woman) on the street interviews reflect the thoughts of many of us. Most comments relate to being sincere when writing online reviews and having faith that everyone else is doing the same. A personal filter is the consistency of both negative and positive reviews and if they jibe with personal experience at places that I have frequented.
Milliken does not address the other side of the coin. There have been numerous times that a business has gone on the attack in responding to a sincere negative Trip Advisor or Yelp review. That has risen to the level of one business threatening severe legal action if I did not remove a Trip Advisor review and the hotel that put me in the "shabby broom closet" that posts in the "Inn Credible New England" section of this site often mention not being far behind.
The true life personal perspective this time is a now-former friend commenting one night that he has not been charged for cable for years; the news the very next day is that his cable is turned off. I had not given the comment any thought and did not call the cable company. I fully suspect that the guy whose free ride abruptly ended will go to his grave thinking that I ratted him out.
Returning to our main story, the alleged manipulation of Yelp reviews begins with having Yelp employees barrage a listing with many negative reviews. That company also is charged with putting positive reviews in a hard-to-find filtered section of a listing. A personal search for a link to filtered reviews for several businesses failed. One advertised site has several posts that comment that the writer cannot understand the basis for the negative reviews.
Perhaps more importantly, we learn that any business cannot opt out of being listed on Yelp. An even more egregious claim is that Yelp must give an advertising company permission to alter the hours of operation or other basic information on a listing on that site.
Milliken adds highly relevant good humor via numerous clips from an episode of the social-commentary-laden animated series "South Park." This outing has citizens of the titular small Colorado town constantly shakedown local businesses for absurd preferential treatment. The direct threat is that a bad Yelp review is the price for non-compliance with an unreasonable request.
The big picture personal perspective regarding all this begins with my reaction on learning about Trip Advisor many years ago. I asked a techie friend what stopped someone from maliciously posting an unfairly negative review; his response of "nothing" said all that needed to be stated,
On another note, I accurately predict regarding my negative business reviews on any site triggers someone who has never written a review posting a glowing review that directly contradicts my post. A prime example of this is my fair review of a pricey B n B that states among other things that the only hanging space is two cloakroom style hooks and that the only hangers are two beat-up wire ones. A review that went up the day after mine was posted was from a virgin reviewer who praised the copious hanging space and commented about the nice hangers. The tone was EXACTLY the same as that of the inn keeper.
The dump which got those two reviews subsequently closing supports the thesis of Milliken that negative reviews (regardless of their sincerity) can break a place, The lesson for these Main Street moguls is to treat your customers right.
I am never malicious in a review (or in a post on this site), but often refrain from dipping my pen in any poison regarding a bad experience if there is a reasonable effort to make an experience pleasant. Trying to put right what once went wrong often earns a positive review,
The Virgil Films separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 drama "Borg v. McEnroe" is one of many examples of those of us who are not sports fans missing out on a great movie because of bias against the overall subject of a movie. A personal example from this guy who has never watched "Raging Bull," "Bull Durham," or any "Rocky" film is that getting a review of the complete series of the Aaron Sorkin dramedy "Sports Night" corrected missing out on that terrific program.
As the title indicates, "Borg" centers around the genuinely historic 1980 Wimbledon showdown between the titular tennis stars. What the title does not indicate is that the movie provides strong insight into the psyches of the competitors and presents the main event in a very compelling manner.
An amusing aspect of "Borg" is having volatile Disney Channel veteran Shia LeBeouf play McEnroe, who is best known for having a short temper that results in throwing his tennis racket and verbally abusing match officials. One such incident evokes thoughts of the "Get That Pigeon" theme from the vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines," A scene during the heated titular showdown in which McEnroe first is entirely prone on the court and then gets on his hands and knees may prompt sadistic viewers to have "assume the position" thoughts.
The aforementioned insight comes courtesy of alternating scenes that show the competitors in the years and the days leading up to the main event. Seeing the famously cool and collected Borg lose it on the court in his early years of competitive training is surprising; seeing how he becomes the man that he is in 1980 is an interesting coming-of-age story,
For his part, we see the many quirks of McEnroe that demonstrate the pressure that he feels. We further feel sympathy regarding his valid sense that the entire world is against him. This does not stop us from laughing when he curses out the Wimbledon press corps.
The lack of interest in sports is behind fast-forwarding through roughly one-half of the climatic match. Seeing how that transpires prompts watching the rest of that compelling event with amazing shifting results. The stamina alone of the players warrants each of them getting a trophy.
The excellence continues through the "where are they now" epilogue just before the closing credits. The post-match paths of our subjects is worthy of another film.
The bonus features in the forms of separate interviews with LeBeouf, Borg portrayor Sverrir Gudnason, and director Janus Metz provide further noteworthy insights. Metz expresses the aforementioned sentiments in stating his initial lack of interest in the project because of the surface subject but then reading the entire script in one sitting.
The Virgil Films March 26, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 documentary "I Am Richard Pryor" provides the latest proof that this distributor is the Rodney Dangerfield of film companies in that it don't get no respect, A review of the similar (and equally good) Virgil documentary "I Am Paul Walker" and a post on the highly entertaining "Outatime,” which documents the restoration of the "The Back to the Future" DeLorean, illustrate the awesomeness of the pop-culture documentary section of the broad Virgil catalog.
The following YouTube clip of a "Pryor" trailer provides a strong sense of the candidness of the titular comedian and of the numerous talking heads who participate in the film, The entire documentary providing the unvarnished truth is refreshing.
Opening scenes in "Pryor" of an early stand-up performance of Pryor for a white audience establish the contrasts in the life of this man that make his life so interesting. A recent assertion of a sexual history with Marlon Brando shows that our subject still can make headlines. (Yes, I have made several jokes along the lines of Brando making Pryor an offer that he cannot refuse the past few days; the ones involving the anatomy of a horse are inappropriate for this forum.)
The aforementioned stand-up routine revolves around Pryor discussing growing up in a black family living in a Jewish building in an Italian neighborhood. Folks who are familiar with the Pryor film "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling" (which "Pryor" discusses) knows that the truth is that Pryor grew up in the Peoria brothel that his grandmother owned and in which his mother was one of the working girls; his father was a pimp. A Pryor joke in which he discusses his early interaction with white men consisting of greeting customers of his mother shows that truth is funnier than fiction,
The larger theme is the need of Pryor to lighten up his material to appeal to white audiences of the '60s. "Pryor" properly points out that even those of us who are not particularly woke in 2019 both cannot relate to the real childhood of Pryor and do not want to hear the awful truth.
Comedy legend Lily Tomlin discusses her own personal and professional relationships with Pryor. Her story of accepting a '70s-era invitation by Pryor to go to a porn theater is one of the most amusing moments in the film and verifies that Tomlin is one of the coolest people ever.
Tomlin also is featured in a memorable clip of a skit that she and Pryor perform during a network special that she hosts. This is an edgy production in which Tomlin plays a diner owner and Pryor portrays a junkie/friend who is a regular and trusted customer. A poignant conclusion is one of many examples of the integrity of Pryor.
Tomlin additionally triggers a childhood memory of a controversy involving Pryor. He is appearing at a gay-rights benefit at the behest of Tomlin when he essentially tells the audience that they have it much easier than black people. He then essentially moons them and tells them to kiss his rich black ass.
A clip of a Pryor appearance on "The Dinah Shore Show" better illustrates the two worlds of Pryor, Folks familiar with Shore know that her image is as wholesome as they come. We see Pryor play with her regarding her discomfort with the word "nigger" and have the treat of Shore going along with the joke. The better message regarding this is the importance of understanding the context in which that word is used.
On-again-off-again wife Jennifer-Lee Pryor takes the lead regarding the dirty secrets and the not-so-secret scandals of Pryor. This includes his strong and varied sex life and better-known heavy drug use. The latter obviously includes his lighting himself on fire while freebasing; seeing Pryor tell a hilarious joke about that during a stand-up routine makes that witticism even more funny,
As mentioned throughout, the complex blend of Pryor shifting back-and-forth between playing it straight (no pun) intended to first pursue and then maintain stardom and remaining true to himself by allowing his real voice to be heard makes his story one well worth telling; Writer/director Jesse James Miller does this so well to the extent that he leaves the audience wanting much more.
The even larger truth is that most of the best comedy is born from pain. A popular theory is that every gay man has a "mother." Pryor, Jerry Seinfeld, and Ray Romano are three of many examples of the same being true of successful comedians,
The recent Virgil Films DVD release of the 2018 documentary "I Am Paul Walker" further solidifies the role of Virgil in the hearts and minds of pop culture fans. This love begins with the (recently reviewed) documentary "Outatime" about restoring the "Back to the Future" DeLorean and continues with Virgil titles that are subjects of upcoming posts. These include a modern indie film starring Ralph "Daniel San" Macchio and a documentary on "The Great Escape" featuring many people who participated in making that film.
The aptly titled "Walker" tells the tale of the personal and the professional lives of the titular star of the "The Fast and the Furious" franchise, The following YouTube clip of a trailer for this film shows how the folks who knew either or both incarnations of this guy who was equal parts stud and righteous dude always will mourn his death that occurred two months after he turned 40.
We first meet this All-American Midwest boy via home-movie footage of a childhood birthday party. This sets that stage for mother Cheryl Walker, father Paul Walker III, and siblings Cody and Ashlie to share stories of the man whom most of us only know through his television and film work. This guy always smiling for the camera, looking cute in his younger days, and being muy caliente even during puberty helps explain his decades of extraordinary success regarding auditions.
We also hear from two childhood friends who remained close to Walker until the end of his life. The talking heads who share memories from the professional side include a couple of directors, a manager, and "Fast" co-star Tyrese Gibson. A clip from a "Fast" movie showed that the stars were not acting regarding their on-screen relationship.
Everything indicated that Walker had a good heart and would give you the shirt off his back or the expensive racing car off his driveway so long as you exhibited what once was common courtesy. Learning that this guy best known for a film franchise that catered to teen boys also had a strong intellect and desire to use his star power for good, rather than for evil, fully ensured his place in the top two choices in the "or kill" game.
Hearing about the hair-trigger temper of Walker reflected his tough-guy heritage that included a paternal grandfather who boxed professionally and a father who was a Vietnam combat veteran. Arguably the most funny story in "Walker" began with our subject holding the door open for a man leaving a store with an armful of merchandise. That guy saying "Thanks, Bitch" earned him an epic beat-down.
We also learn that the similarities between Walker and fellow macho-man Steve McQueen extended beyond their ruggedness. Both men remained very handsome as they aged and had addict-level needs for speed. These attributes and the particular affinity for race cars earned Walker a comparison to James Dean.
The Dean parallel also extended to the death of both men while driving. The shared circumstances of the death of Walker within minutes of leaving a charity event was particularly shocking. One can only hope for the sake of St. Peter that that doorman of Heaven did not give Walker any grief on his arrival.
The bigger picture is that many of us to whom the "Fast" movies did not appeal got the treat of learning about one of the good guys in Hollywood who remained comically laid-back and was a contender for Father of the Year even after becoming Hollywood royalty.