The Film Movement DVD of the quirky 2018 French film "Ulysses & Mona" perfectly highlights the charm of Gallic art house movies and the Movement love of all things international. The awesomeness of this one extends beyond the strong live-stage vibe to being a film that literally and figuratively is easily transferable to North America word-for-word and shot-for-shot,
The following Movement trailer for "Ulysses" provides a good sense of the odd sensibility that makes it so endearing.
Writer-director Sebastien Betbeder immediately catches our attention with an opening scene that has 20 year-old art student Mona and her adorable sheep-headed classmate in a nude-drawing class that clearly is not using this year's model. These future baristas who paint on the weekends have a highly amusing exchange about Mona not using the proper proportions as to her seemingly generous portrayal of the male subject du jour.
Meanwhile back at the estate, 55 year-old former darling of the art world/current recluse Ulysses Borrelli is spending most of his days hitting tennis balls flung at him from an automated machine. We quickly learn that the demise of his marriage is tied to his retirement from highly regarded career.
The worlds of our leads collide when the younger searches out the elder. The journey into the woods initially introduces Mona to misfit child Arthur, whose eccentricities include calling Ulysses Dracula.
Although initially rebuffed, things dramatically change on Mona taking another bite at the apple. She returns to find her idol in dire straits. This ultimately leads to an epic journey of Ulysses accompanied by Mona.
The purpose of the trip is for Ulysses to mend strained relationships in his life; the purpose of Mona accompanying him is to guarantee that he will go through with it.
The first stop is at the McJob workplace of 20-something Nicolas; suffice it to say that the reunion is not a happy one. Mona does help smooth the waters.
Our pair next drops in on ex-wife Alice, who clearly has moved on.
A relatively raucous night before returning home creates more excitement before coming home to find that Ulysses is a person-of-interest in not a good way. This, in turn, leads to another trip into the woods that leads to closure for all.
As always is the case as to Film of the Month Club selections, Movement pairs "Ulysses" with an apt short film. "Wolf Carver" has the titular grumpy middle-aged artist take his Mona on a road trip through Finland; in this case, the unpacking of copious baggage is highly symbolic.
The CBS Home Entertainment September 8, 2020 DVD CS set of the 2019-20 fourth season of the CBS legal procedural "Bull" provides an awesome smorgasbord for thought at a time that COVID-19 leaves most of us starving for intellectual sustenance. The oft-intriguing legal issue in the case-of-the-week warrants adding this set to your home-video library; revealing the reality of the American court system elevates "Bull" to must-see status.
These tales of the collaboration between the titular jury whisperer (Michael Weatherly of "NCIS") and trial attorney/ex-brother-in-law Benny Colon (Freddy Rodriguez of "Six Feet Under") are based on the real-life experiences of TV shrink/"Bull" executive producer Dr. Phil. The awesome cynicism as to this concept is that maximizing the number of jurors that are proven to be favorably disposed toward you and then presenting our legal arguments in a manner that keeps them in your camp and recruits other "peers" to your side is an effective means to achieve a positive outcome regardless of the applicable law.
A simpler way of thinking about jury selection and persuasion being a large part of your legal strategy is that doing so makes a trial more of a marketing campaign than a legal proceeding, A related note is that virtually every client of Bull getting him because he or she can afford the high cost of his services illustrates the extent to which the cavernous wealth gap in America affects the judicial system.
The courtroom drama in S4E1 revolves around the criminal prosecution of a young woman whom the prosecutor is seeking to hold liable for shooting deaths that occurred in the wake of the woman serving more alcohol to the shooter at the bar where the woman worked. This one awesomely demonstrates the "it depends" principle that law students learn when asking a professor about the outcome as to a series of facts.
The "meanwhile back at the ranch" drama in the season opener revolves around Bull trying to get Colon back on the team after S1 family drama. The impact that that resolution has on the ex-in-law relationship drives additional S4 action.
Separate drama includes a "Papa don't preach" story arc that has team member Chunk Palmer trying to be there for the college-age daughter with whom he has an "its complicated" relationship.
S4 E2 presents the intriguing legal issue as to intent. The case this time revolves around a woman actively seeking backers for an in-development water-filtration system. The fraud claim against her relates to her (most likely unrealistic) sales pitch that the system will greatly advance within 90 days. The relevant factors include whether this woman with a history or majorly misrepresenting her past genuinely believes that the system will reach the promised stage within the stated timeframe.
The icing on the cake is the financial motive of the man who blows the whistle on the woman.
A subsequent episode that involves Team Bull in the case of a man whose younger son shoots his older sibling also involves a basic criminal-law tenet. The discussion this time relates to the balance between the punishment and the rehabilitation purposes of an unfortunate incarceration.
Team McGraw saves some of the best for last. A late-season case that involves Anthrax attacks is era-notable in that members of Team Bull comment in the aftermath of those acts that it is odd not seeing people on the streets wearing protective masks.
The season-finale, which finds a member of Team Bull in the hot seat, nicely builds on the trope of diplomatic immunity to further comment on the aforementioned chasm between haves and have nots. The noble mission this time is to not allow the daughter of a one-percenter to get away with manslaughter. The blast-from-the-past is in the form of the O.J. element of looking to the civil courts when the criminal justice system does not provide for the desired outcome.
The special feature "Four Bagger" has Weatherly and the show-runners provide an anatomy of this Fantastic Four season.
Bullfrog Films, which services both the general and educational home-video markets, once more shines a spotlight on racial injustice in the Windy City by releasing "'63 Boycott" (2017) on DVD as a companion to the reviewed "Cooked: Survival By Zip Code" documentary on the 1995 Chicago heatwave. The titular civil disobedience is a protest against the blatant segregation of public schools by school superintendent Ben Willis to a degree that REQUIRES commenting "whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?!"
The impact of both "Cooked" and "Boycott" includes their topics sadly being highly relevant in this COVID-19 era that is exasperating the wealth gap in America. One comment in "Boycott" that hits this former prep-school boy particularly close to home is that white parents in Chicago escape the ills of public education by sending their kids to parochial or private schools.
"Boycott" mostly consists of modern-day interviews with the students and the activists that were there and of archival footage and interviews from the period of the titular demonstration. One of the most impactful interviews is with a black woman who was in high school at the time who received a harsh response to expressing her aspiration to be a research scientist.
"Boycott" furthers depicts an insult to the injury that black students of the day endure as to their schools being separate but not equal. The term "Willis Wagons" refers to students being assigned to classrooms in trailers in overcrowded schools despite better-funded white schools having excess capacity. A cute animated graphic clearly shows how schools even just across the street from each other can illustrate that contrast.
The plethora of DVD bonuses greatly enhance the "Boycott" experience. One feature is on students who stage a play and host the "old school" crowd in response to a screening of the documentary. Another notable extra is of the Chicago world premiere of "Boycott," which gives viewers a chance to ask the talking heads and the filmmakers about their experiences.
The big picture this time (as is the case regarding "Cooked" and many other Bullfrog releases) is that the powers-that-be continue to show callous disregard for the folks who have the greatest need for their support.
The CBS Home Entertainment S2 CS DVD set of the CBS reboot of the CBS '80s phenom "Magnum P.I." awesomely hits all the right notes as to the original, modern CBS procedurals, and reboots. The bright and bold shot-on-location Hawaiian scenery when many of use are entering our (seemingly eternal) sixth month of virtual home arrest helps slow our descent into almost-certainty madness.
Limited memories of "Magnum" OS hinders comparing it to the neo-modern version of the adventures of the titular security consultant/investigator Kato Kaelin, who lives rent-free on the estate of best-selling author Robin Masters, One blatant difference is that major domo/Magnum frienemy has gone from an uptight middle-aged British man to a younger and friendlier former MI-6 agent (Perdita Weeks). Additionally, S2 episodes lack OS speculation as to Higgins being an alter-ego of Masters.
The new Magnum/Higgins relationship takes a page from the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson partnership in the (reviewed) CBS procedural "Elementary." The S1 cliffhangers include whether Higgins will formally join Team Magnum in a partnership capacity. A subsequent immigration issue leads to the possibility of a green card marriage of our leads. The efforts to keep Higgins around are central to the S2 cliffhanger that S3 will address when the pandemic facilitates resuming the action-packed fun.
The most obvious parallel is between "Magnum" TNG and the CBS "Hawaii 5-0" reboot. The similarities extend beyond the common setting to both series having Eric Guggenheim and Peter M. Lenkov as show runners. This leads to the inevitable cross-over episode. The common thread this time is the threat that a list of undercover CIA operatives will be divulged. (The "Magnum" DVD set does include the cross-over "5-0" episode as a special feature.)
"Magnum" having a similar vibe as the CBS reboot of "MacGyver" is attributable to Lenkov helping to run both series. Both reboots are more of ensemble programs than the originals; this includes episodes of both often ending with the gang hanging around drinking beers and rehashing their most recent adventure. This is not to mention both Higgins and Magnum separately "Macgyvering" themselves out of tough spots by cleverly repurposing common items.
"The Man in the Secret Room" arguably is the best S2 outing if only due to having Larry Manetti of OS join former hunks Lee Majors and Corbin Bernsen as guest stars. This one involves a planned easy temporary gig for Magnum as a resort security director becoming not-so-easy starting with the violent death of a hotel guest. The fun begins with discovering the concept of off-the-books accommodations for very special guests. The "MacGyver" element shows that it is easy to check out if the seemingly pristine comforter in your hotel room actually is covered with stains from bodily fluids.
"Room" additionally follows the "Magnum" pattern of virtually every discovery leading our hero and his volunteer squad down a totally unexpected path. We further come to wonder how any real or fictional detective ever solved a case in the era before cell phones and the Internet.
The copious special features extend well beyond the "5-0" episode. We get deleted scenes galore, a gag reel, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. These include "Better Together," which gives even those who have a bit part (little more than a cameo) in the life of Magnum his or her time center stage.
The bottom line this time is that there is nothing to not like about a beautifully shot series about a charming bright guy and his equally appealing friends who strongly care about seeing that truth, justice, and the American way prevail.
The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment separate DVD and DVD/BD sets of the John Stewart ("The Daily Show") joint "Irresistible" (2020) provides a great chance to see a film that truly is one for our dystopian times. The extreme divisiveness regarding every aspect of American society screams now more than ever for the impish wit and charm of writer/director Stewart.
Casting "Daily" veteran Steve Carrell as prominent Democratic campaign manager/spin doctor Gary Zimmer is the icing on this tasty cupcake. This "Office" guy puts his deadpan wit and condescending arrogance/exasperation to good use as a DC insider essentially living a self-imposed exile in Hooterville. Think Michael Scott in a town full of Dwight Schrutes,
The quasi Mary Matalin to Zimmer's James Carville is his Republican counterpart Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne). This "Irrestistible" aspect aptly adds a '90s vibe to this film that is a a mash-up of the politicom "Wag the Dog" and films"loosely based" on the Matalin/Carville relationship.
The following "Irresistible" trailer provides an excellent "25-words-or-less" synopsis of the wonderfully cynical themes of the film; we also get good doses of the well-produced humor that make this one worth adding to your home-video library.
Our story begins on election night 2016 with the upset victory of Trump over Clinton; we all know how that worked out. Four years later, Zimmer finds a potentially game-changing online video of democrat/veteran/farmer Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) raising a fuss at a council meeting in his rural Wisconsin town, Zimmer makes the hastings decision that his getting that man elected mayor will be an important step toward turning that swing state to the Democratic side in the upcoming presidential election.
Hilarity ensues as we witness the political games that are par for the course inside the Beltway but not the Bible Belt. We also see the aforementioned patronizing attitude of Zimmer towards the "hicks," and said "real Americans" show up that city slicker.
The success of Zimmer brings Brewster to town to create bad faith as to Hastings. This leads to Zimmer v. Hastings: This Time It Is Especially Personal. The fun here includes a manufactured scandal and a perfect example of the risks of relying on general demographics. All of this makes Topher "Dumb Ass" Grace ("That '70s Show") being a member of Team Zimmer apt.
Stewart saves the very best for last ala a series of twists that are straight out of Golden Age Hollywood. This awesome cynicism shows that you truly cannot trust or underestimate anyone.
The copious home-video bonuses include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of "making of" features.
The CBS Home Entertainment August 25, 2020 three-disc DVD release of "Gunsmoke Movie Collection" is an awesome followup to the recent EPIC (reviewed) CBSHE 65th Anniversary "Gunsmoke" CS DVD set. The big picture is that the films wrap up a franchise that begins with a radio show (1952-61) and continues with the aforementioned 1955-75 television series.
The overall message is the same one that it is to every post on Western films and television series. This advice is "try it; you'll like it." Discovering that the genre is not boring and does not offer substance beyond saloon fights, high-noon showdowns, cowboy v. indian battles, and cattle rustling has greatly enhanced the life of your not-so-humble reviewer.
"Collection" begins with "Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge," the best of a stellar lot. Retired marshal Matt Dillon is enjoying his golden years when his noble instincts lead to the "Gunsmoke" theme of his being ambushed and left for dead, This leads to Dillon returning to his old stomping grounds to be patched up so that he can live to fight another day. This leads to former saloon owner/confidante/"its complicated" significant other Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) coming back from the Big Easy to reunite with the man who is the opposite of easy in every sense.
The regular "Dodge" and series theme of a man whom Dillon brought to justice coming gunning for revenge leads to one of many awesome developments in "Return." This leads to Dillon cutting his bed rest short to hit the trail in pursuit of justice. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the big bad arrives in Dodge to terrorize the town while he waits for Dillon to return.
"Gunsmoke" flashbacks reveals why these events highly upset Miss Kitty; her actions then and in the future reminds us that the tremendous appeal of Kitty includes her being just as tough as the men.
Dedicating "Gunsmoke: The Last Apache" to then-deceased Blake nicely reflects the love of both the "Gunsmoke" family and the fans to this "cousin" of Barbara Stanwyck. This excellent outing fills many squares on both "Gunsmoke" and "classic television" bingo.
Our story begins with once-again retired Dillon travelling to Tombstone, Arizona in response to a summons from lost-love "Mike" Yarnard (Micheal Learned of "The Waltons"). We (and Dillon) meet Mike in a "Gunsmoke" episode that finds her nursing a nearly dead and suffering from severe amnesia Dillon far from home. That story continues with a blissfully ignorant Dillon falling in love and enjoying a peaceful existence until his rude awakening that brings him back to his old life.
"Apache" finds Dillon arriving at the ranch of Yarnard only to find it destroyed, He also receives a special motivation to take off after the half-breed renegade who has run off with the daughter of Yatnard. The Dodge ending this time has Dillon get his man, and the girl.
"Gunsmoke: To The Last Man" is a sequel to "Apache" and is even more of a "ripped from the Old West" headlines film that the last one. The perspective of the indians in this one can be thought of as the white man has taken your land and confined you to slum conditions reservations; what are you going to do? I'm going to Disney World!
Of course, this involves Dillon hitting the trail in search of frontier justice with extreme prejudice. The body count this time is above average.
All of this shows that "Gunsmoke" star James Arness still has it after all those years in the saddle and that a quality Western never goes out of style. This is not to mention the franchise achieving the show business ideal of leaving them wanting more, much more.
The Corinth Films August 25, 2020 DVD/BD combo release of the 1979 BBC/PBS documentary "Einstein's Universe" fully is in the spirit of remote-learning during this Covid-19 era. This documentary based on the Nigel Calder book of the same name can be considered Einstein for Relative Dummies. The crystal-clear restoration further enhances this experience.
Host Peter Ustinov puts his charming quirkiness to good use as a dream team of physicists gather at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas to teach him (and the audience) everything that he ever wanted to ask about the theories of Einstein but was afraid to ask. The overall look at this film that equally entertains and educates is that of science-fiction of the era down to the futuristic-looking motorcycles.
The segment that resonates most with those of use who have ever been pulled over for speeding (sometimes right across from our own houses) is the one that shows how cops use the Einstein principle as to the sound that an engine make changes as a vehicle approaches Smokey to clock how fast it is traveling, The aforementioned motorcycles are an integral part of that demonstration that will provoke many variations of "thanks, Einstein."
Another portion of the film shows how Einstein is the father of weapons of mass destruction. The message, which includes the correspondence that starts all of it, once again is that even the best intentions can have unintended negative consequences,.
Ustinov seems to take the most glee in a demonstration on the slower rate of aging in space that utilizes him and his "twin." This also includes a brief tour of time and space,
Much of the focus is on gravity. A table-top model illustrates the pull of a black hole, and we learn of the potential for our moon to go off the leash.
The bottom line is that "Universe" teaches its lessons without insulting the intelligence of the viewer. The photos of Einstein at an age before it seems that he is too busy for a trip to Super Cuts provides additional entertainment.
The term "uncut and uncensored" fully applies to the DVD set of the sublimely ridiculous Del Shores joint "Sordid Lives: The Series" and partially applies to supporting cast member Jason Dottley. Disdain for Dottley does not preclude speculating that the camera adds 10 inches; another possibility is that Shores got his hands (pun intended) on the famous Dirk Diggler prosthetic. That full-frontal and other racy content suggests that these versions of the episodes did not air during the top-rated run of "Series" on basic cable.
This new addition to the catalog of DelShores.com provides a good chance to add a DVD of a series that is not widely syndicated to your home-video library. The general cred. of this one extends beyond auteur Shores putting his Freddie Mercury Players to good use.
"Series" additionally has a strong live-stage vibe, and Shores has enough faith in the intelligence of the viewer to not include a laugh track. The series highlights include GROSSLY obese convenience store clerk Vera of "32.09" fame falling on the floor and Shores doubling down by the next shot being the legs of Vera flailing above her counter.
All of this illustrates the Rule of Three as to television and film. The theory is that a single individual cannot produce, direct, and act well. Shores shows that there are exceptions to that rule,
Shores does follow the rule of Brticoms; that wisdom is that making 12 exceptional episodes a season is better than producing 22 mediocre ones.
The wish fulfillment aspects of "Series" extend well beyond providing a prequel to Shores' (reviewed) opus film "Sordid Lives." Both works depict the trials and the tribulations of the working-class rednecks of Winters, Texas whose local dive actually is called Bubbas. Their story continues with the (reviewed) "Lives" film sequel "A Very Sordid Wedding." One can only hope for "Sordid Lives: Electric Boogaloo."
Delkies know that the entire "Sordid" franchise is based on the life of son of a preacher man Shores. Delkers know enough to cringe when the pet of the neighbors of chain-smoking Aunt Sissy (PERFECTLY cast Beth Grant) gets the goat of that ripped-from-the-headlines "Mama's Family" caliber character. The same principle applies as a reference to a little person.
Soapcom "Series" aptly begins its continuing story, complete with episode-ending cliffhangers, on April 6, 1998. This death date of Queen of Country Tammy Wynette has a large impact on Queen of the Mental Institution Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Leslie Jordan). Brother Boy constantly dresses in drag as Wynette and amuses the maddening crowd by lip-synching to Wynette records.
It all comes together when Wynette daughter Georgette Jones sings along. That relates to a transvestite in a coma storyline. I know; I know; its serious. "Lives" removes any doubt at whether he will pull through. We all would hate anything to happen to her,
"Lives" provides the full exposition as to how Brother Boy finds himself to be a decades-long guest of the state. This cult classic also allows Jordan and Rosemary Alexander (as "Shrinkie Dearest" Dr. Eve) to fully play off of each other when Brother Boy fully digs in his stilettos regarding his "failure to participate in his own recovery." Whether resistance is futile as to this Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd dynamic remains to be seen.
Another strong prequel element occurs as to family matriarch Peggy Ingram engaging in a long-term sordid affair with Nolette spouse GW, whom Beau Bridges masterfully portrays in the stage and film versions of "Lives." Shores does friends of both Dorothies a HUGE solid by casting "Maude"/"Golden Girls" star Rue McClanahan as Peggy.
The icing on the cake is Shores helping McClanahan get a leg up (pun intended) on co-star/rival Bea Arthur, who is known for saying that she has done everything except rodeo and porn. The salacious content of "Series" warrants giving McClanahan, who has a few PG-13 sex scenes, the win as to one of those genres.
Considering that a swan dive that McClanahan takes in "Series" is highly significant to the franchise, it is apt that this show is her swan song. It is beyond awesome that Golden Boy Shores writes her such a well-suited role for her final regular gig.
Additional star power comes in the form of Shores recruiting his fan Olivia Newton John to reprise her role as honky-tonk singer/convicted arsonist Bitsy Mae Harling, who (like Sissy) has a cute and sassy real-life namesake. Seeing that Bitsy-Mae and Peggy are two-of-a-kind and that Heaven can wait because they're gonna get it right this time is another of the plethora of Southern-fried treats that Shores dishes out.
The "and the rest" fun of "Series" includes a prescription drug addiction, hilarious mutual spousal abuse between GW (who does not have a leg on which to stand) and Noletta, and a crazy ex-girlfriend, We also get Shores friend and confidante Emerson Collins (who is must-see in the (reviewed) Shores opus"Southern Baptist Sissies") as a hilarious psycho one-night-stand to the max whose money shot comes in the series finale.
All of this makes for an awesome marathon (rather than "binge") viewing accompanied by Lone Star beer, pork rinds, and deep-fried Twinkies.
The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Blu-ray (BD) release of the 1980 Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly musical fantasy "Xanadu" excitingly exceeds high expectations regarding this feel-good scifi musical fantasy comedy of the '80s. It is almost guaranteed that you will not check the time or see how much longer the movie has to go and will shake your self out of a near trance and say "it's over?" at the end of the movie.
A funny aspect of this review considering the magical element of the film is that your sometimes humble reviewer got the BD essentially for free when factoring in the value of a movie money promotion while shopping at a normally avoided big box store. Thinking that Kira the muse of the film is behind this provides pleasure.
The following YouTube clip of video for the titular song provides a perfect sense of the spirit and themes of "Xanadu." You simply cannot help but feel really good while watching it and the film itself.
One of the more prominent attributes about this highly infectious film from future Hollywood royalty Joel Silver, Brian Grazer, and "High School Musical" choreographer Kenny Ortega is that it (largely) adheres to an awesome philosophy that 80s comedy darling Tracey Ullman stated before the premiere of her '80s sketch comedy show that brought "The Simpsons" to life. Ullman declared that the musical numbers in her show would makes sense and not merely be people bursting into song in the middle of the street. "Xanadu" stays true to that with the exception of an elaborate song-and-dance number during a stereotypical "shopping for a new look" number at an '80s style boutique.
Other overall totally tubular (pun intended) aspects of "Xanadu" include "Tron" style neon special effects and an extended musical number with New Wave gods "The Tubes." These keyboard kids totally rock out in their orange neon jumpsuits.
The film opens with frustrated painter Sonny Malone, whom Michael Beck of the terrifically uber-violent literally banned in Boston film "The Warriors" portrays, throwing the pieces of his latest sketch out the window. This inadvertently summons the nine Greek goddess sisters who are the muses who inspire artists. This coming-to-life sets the scene for the first of several musical numbers featuring songs by ELO and/or Olivia Newton-John.
Sonny coming out to plaaay by roller skating a short while later has muse Kara, whom Newton-John plays with great spirit, literally bump into him for a quick kiss only to dash off. This (along with another magical encounter with Kira) inspires an ultimately successful pursuit of his dream girl. A later rollerskating scene features an amusing nip slip,
Sonny also befriending '40s-era clarinetist Danny McGuire (played by Kelly) puts the rest of the puzzle together. The need of Danny for help fulfilling his dream of opening a night club and the desire of Sonny for a feasible creative outlet provide a basis for their beautiful friendship. Kira covertly guiding the enterprise greatly contributes to the fun.
Classic movie fans further will enjoy the homages to the Kelly classic "Singin' In the Rain." On bringing Danny home with him, Kelly remarks that a a silent film star once owned the house. A later scene has Sonny and Kira putting an '80s slant on a classic "Singin'" number.
Seeing Danny and Sonny work well together and mutually enjoy the music from their generations is both charming and a nice reminder of friendlier times. Millennials typically see even Gen Xers as fossils, and those of that demographic often consider the "kids" of today as ADHD morons who lack a work ethic and spend their whole lives looking at their phones. As in all things, the truth lies somewhere between those extremes.
One scene in which Sonny tries a little magic of his own perfectly illustrates how "Xanadu" grabs you and is oh so different than the movies of today. Anyone with a heart wants him to succeed and thinks that he will do so. A modern film would have him literally fall flat on his back and obtain a positive audience response.
The arguably cutest scene is also one of the most memorable. A music video that animation legend Don Bluth (whose work includes "The Secret of N.I.M.H." and "Anastasia") draws has our young lovers start as human and morph into fish and fowl while retaining a great deal of their human characteristics. Birdie Sonny stumbling and falling is hilarious.
All of this amounts to a fun film that looks very dated but allows escaping into a bright sunny world full of music that looks and sounds wonderful in BD format.
The "making of" feature meets the definition of the best of features and the worst of features. Director Robert Greenwald, Bluth, Ortega, and many behind-the-camera folks offer interesting insight into the humble beginnings of "Xanadu" and share how the interest of Newton-John and initially less enthusiastic involvement of Kelly helped the film develop.
We also learn of the impact of limited distribution by the studio affecting the preliminary response to the film. It soon making the art-house circuit and later becoming a Broadway musical shows the American public ultimately knows a good thing when it sees it.
The "worst of " aspects involves the lack of participation by Newton-John and Beck. Even if Universal offered little or no money, it seems that our former young lovers could show fan love by taking a couple of hours to discuss the film. We always root for your characters and bought the BD (if not the Newton-John soundtrack), a little reciprocation would have been nice.
A review-ending invitation regarding "Xanadu" is that any muse who comes across this post should feel free to show up and do her thing. Some of us do still believe in fairies.
The inspiration for this detour into Blogland dates back several years; one thing that always has bothered me about "Superman" incarnations is that Lois Lane makes a big show of being so fearless but puts herself in precarious situations knowing that Superman will show up and save her. I always have believed that people should make their best effort to be self-sufficient before relying on the kindness of strangers.
Another pop culture phenomenon is highly relevant to the topic of good faith as to contending with the economic impacts of Covid. An episode/failed spinoff pilot of the long-running NBC '80scom "The Facts of Life" has post-adolescent prep school girl/doctor's daughter Natalie abandoning Westchester to live La Vie Boheme in NYC. The response of this sheltered girl to a financial crisis of one of her many roommates in a one-room apartment is that no one likes asking their parents for money but that it sometimes is necessary. The reply to that suggestion makes it VERY clear that not everyone can go running to Daddy when they lack money for last year's rent, this year's rent, next year's rent.
The recent expiration of the $600/week federal unemployment supplement is behind the current musings on reliance on a bailout. The unpredictable, rapid, severe nature of the shutdown justifies the additional benefit at a time that the consequences of losing a McJob are far more dire than merely getting comparable work at a competitor.
The July 31, 2020 cut-off of the additional amount reflects the belief of both the pols and the hoi polloi that our long national nightmare would have ended by then. Looking back two weeks, some form of additional aid seems reasonable.
The other side of the coin is that it is known that some people took undue advantage of the supplemental benefits to either not return to their former employment when doing so was an option and/or did not look for alternative work when it became available. It is equally probable that a large percentage of people relied on an extension of the extra $600 after July.
This is a factor both as to many unemployment recipients being in a tough position and many Republicans advocating a more tempered response to the current need for this aid.
Practicing what I preach has included cutting back and regularly taking short-term jobs during periods of unemployment. I also diligently applied for permanent work. I admit that even cold calling companies is better than a shift at McDonalds or WalMart. However, the principle of due diligence to earn a paycheck applies.
A side note is that I worked at Crate and Barrel style store and caterwaitered several times a week despite having a full-time job in the first few years after college. I did the extra work so that I could have some "wants" and would be in a better position if I lost my job.
The big picture is that the "us" versus "them" mentality that pervades modern culture is more powerful than kryptonite as to "killing" a superhero.
No one should have to beg for anything, but the same "kids" who often literally shout when they feel that the "adult" on the other side of the counter is asking for too much should realize that showing good faith in the form of demonstrating a willingness to do that part is a more effective way to get a raise in their "allowance" than sitting around texting and refusing to even try to do their fair share.
Bullfrog Films, which services both the general and educational home-video markets, provides substantial food for thought as to the DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Like Any Other Kid." The underlying theme of the "Kid" is the debate almost as old as time regarding the extent to which prisons should punish in contrast to rehabilitate the folks who are guests of the state.
"Kid" studies young offenders who commit a variety of offenses; the focus is on "The Missouri Method," which believes that sparing the rod does not spoil the delinquent.
The film visits several juvenile facilities that take the talking cure to heart; through this, we met both the troubled youth and the guards who are highly dedicated to finding out how they can reach their kids so that they do not embark on a life of crime.
One of the most entertaining scenes has two teen boys act out a "use your words, not your fists" improv that is as amusing to them and their peers as it is to those of us at home. Despite the flawed delivery, the message that asking for money owed rather than coming to blows (or worse) over the dispute is highly valid.
One excitable boy gets more screen time than most; he is distinguishable both for essentially "going over the wall" during a trust-based furlough and for subsequently breaking down in a discussion with guards and therapists. One of the guards previously having his time in the spotlight adds a good perspective.
The bigger picture, which is highly relevant at a time that COVID-19 has amped hostility among "us" and "them," is that "we" always respond better when "they" are reasonable and compassionate. A more basic way of understanding this is that one dog simply barking at an already agitated dog only will lead to both dogs increasing their volume and enhancing the possibility that one or both of them is going to walk away with a chunk missing out of his or her body.
Film Movement division Omnibus Entertainment reminds folks who realize we've come a long way, Baby where it all begin; this herstory lesson comes in the form of the DVD release of the 2018 documentary "Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives" by 4-time Emmy winner Jim Brown.
Readers to whom this release seems to be a case of herstory repeating herself may recall that "Near" has run on the PBS series "American Masters."
The following Movement trailer for "Near" provides a glimpse of both the star-power of the talking heads and the life, the music, and activism of the subject.
At the root (pun intended) of the matter, the Near style is a blend of country, folk, and gospel with a strong feminist message. The feature music includes a song about the love that Near feel for a woman decades before Katy Perry sings about kissing a girl and liking it.
"Hanoi" Jane Fonda discusses meeting Near when the later joins the former for a Vietnam-era anti-war traveling show that intentionally is the polar opposite of the Bob Hope USO tours. Clips of the Fonda revue shows the designing women who put them on had as much fun as the audience.
We also learn how Near develops a close friendship with legendary feminist Gloria Steinem after being among the first group that Steinem publication Ms. magazine honors as a woman of the year. The comments of Steinem extend to discussing how Near provides the feminist movement its anthems.
The arguably brightest star power in the form of Kevin Bacon inarguably is relative; his DVD bonus interview discusses how his cousin Holly making it big is his first introduction to show business. His segment in the main portion of the film includes a clip in which their family recently performs a show in which they cut loose, footloose. One spoiler is that they do not kick off their Sunday shows.
We get an glimpse of another family that sings together to help stay together ala a few clips of a guest appearance of Near as a pudgy feminist high-school classmate of Laurie Partridge on the '70scom "The Partridge Family." The self-depricating fat jokes that prompt smiles from the cast further show that we have come a long way, Baby, since the era of bell-bottoms and puka-shell necklaces. (Yes, at least one very young boy wore one because Keith Partridge did.)
The copious DVD extras extend beyond 30 minutes of interviews; we get live performances of the Near songs "One Good Song" and "Somebody's Jail."
The The Film Detective separate DVD and BD July 29, 2020 releases of the pre-Code 1933 melodrama "The Sin of Nora Moran" shows what becomes Golden Age legend Zita Johann ("The Mummy") most. The cred of this release includes it being a collaboration between Detective, film historian Sam Sherman, the independent-international Pictures team, and the UCLA Film and Television Archives.
This dream team shows both that the Sherman-owned print of "Moran" is in the right hands and that the pristine BD restoration, which looks and sounds crystal clear. is a labor of love. The BD being limited to a run of 1,500 copies screams to order yours today. One lucky cinephile will find a golden ticket that can be redeemed for a lithograph of the original theatrical poster.
As the bonus must-see Sherman-narrated original documentary "The Mysterious Life of Zita Johann" states, the elements that set "Moran" apart from its peers include the performance of the star, the numerous surreal techniques, and the noteworthy orchestration. This documentary also includes the tales of how "Moran" gets on the radar (and in the collection of) Sherman and how he coaches his friend Johann through her final film performance.
The BD has the additional treat of a booklet that provides further insight as to the film and the star.
The following Detective promo for the home-video releases of "Moran" provides a good sense of the classic melodrama noir style of the film.
The clever exposition begins with a highly distraught Edith Crawford coming to brother/DA John Grant with love letters from the titular tart to Edith spouse/governor Dick Crawford. A clalm and collected John enlightens his sibling on the special relationship between her husband and the former circus performer/current death-row inmate.
For her part, Nora is dazed and confused in her cell ahead of her impending execution for what inarguably is a crime of love. Her life flashing before her eyes and John telling his sister of the role of her husband in the events leading up to the imposition of the death penalty provide the framework for the film.
A series of unfortunate circumstances leads to a relatively content Nora knowingly becoming the other woman as to her relationship with Dick. The past of the former coming crashing in on her ends her honeymoon period with the latter. For his part, John both wants to fulfill his family duty and to not lose his political investment in his brother-in-law.
For his part, the feelings of guilt that John is experiencing extend well beyond his adultery. He knows all the facts regarding the crime for which Nora is about to pay the ultimate price and must decide the extent to which he is going to stand by his woman. A last-minute visit essentially from the Ghost of Christmas Past combined with a disconnect seals the fate of all concerned.
As touched on above, the surreal elements that depict the angst of the players are part of what make all this special. The aforementioned "haunting" evokes especially strong thoughts of the highly stylistic Shakespearean films of the era.
The bottom line this time is that "Moran" reminds us of the dividends that audiences reaped when studios did not place commerce above art. Further, Johann illustrates the difference between an actor and a movie star.
The Icarus Films DVD of the 2106 "ripped-from-the-headlines" French film "Down By Love" is a perfect example of the beautiful friendship between Icarus and Distrib Films from which North American audiences benefit. Like most Icarus/Distrib Films, this tale of the illicit affair between post-adolescent inmate Anna Amari and married middle-aged prison director Jean Firmino could be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the US.
The following Distrib trailer for "Love" offers a good sense of the apt level of drama that conveys the tale of this unusual triangle.
Our story begins with Anna en route to the facility run by Jean as the next stage of her unfortunate incarceration ahead of her trial for the offense of this young offender. She soon catches the eye of Jean, and they experience a form of love that dare not speak its name if they know what is good for them, An especially precious moment has Anna creating a fantasy world in which she and her "teacher" essentially move to Westchester together. The ambiguity as to the extent to which Anna looks to Jean for the forms of escape that should be higher priorities is part of what makes "Love" special.,
In true fashion as to this type of story. the truth comes out roughly halfway through the film. The surprising twist is the extent to which Jean risks his career and his family life to be with "the other woman."
One of the mot memorable scenes begins with Jean providing a form of wish fulfillment by taking Anna away during a weekend furlough; the ensuing awkwardness and tension illustrate the principle of being careful for what you wish.
All of this culminates in a not-so-grande finale with a neo-modern twist on a Golden Age trope. If nothing else, it shows that equality has been achieved.
The first impression of the July 21, 2020 Warner Brothers Home Entertainment DVD/BD/4K releases of "Scoob!" is a comment by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" during the late-90s "Renaissance" of mid-budget films based on television shows of the '70s and the '80s. Stewart observes that television series are television series because their concepts are not good enough to warrant making them movies. The perspective of the highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer that the "Scooby" productions that stay true to the campy and highly silly style of the '70s-era fare are the better one evokes thoughts of the line in the Woody Allen film ("Stardust Memories?") in which a fan tells the fictionalized version of Allen that she likes his funny films better than his serious ones.
The fault of "Scoob!" lies not within the stars but in the increasing WB emphasis of art over commerce. As to the animated world, this begins with WB essentially literally following in the footsteps of media mogul/former Jane Fonda spouse Ted Turner by purchasing the Hanna-Barbera library.
The embarrassment of riches as to this is the awesome Warner Archive line of DVD sets of Golden Age of HB series. The plain embarrassment is the Warner suits, who repeatedly prove that they do not know Jack, still struggling to squeeze blood from stone-cold franchises, such as "Scooby-Doo." The MBAs should let our beloved chidhood friends enjoy at least a dignified semi-retirement.
The following trailer for "Scoob!" illustrates much of the above beginning with the inexpensive CGI and showing the flat humor of the film. WB blatantly shows that it knows that there are enough "Scooby" fans out there to fill the presumed cineplex seats when the film was made to not worry about quality. Speaking from the perspective of a HUGE "Scooby" fan, seeing the trailer in September convinced me to wait for the DVD release after the presumed theatrical run.
"Scoob!" starts out very cute and relative strong with a pup not yet named Scooby-Doo on the run (and the lamb) from the law when he meets awkward friendless pre-adolescent Shaggy. The two soon bond over their love of "unique" combinations of food.
These BFFs meet the rest of the pre-adolescent Scooby gang while trick-or-treating. The game soon is afoot, and those meddling kids solve their first mystery.
An entertaining fast-paced montage, which pays homage to '70s-era "Scooby," brings us to the present. A now teen Mystery, Inc. has a solid reputation and is looking to bring things to the next level. This effort, ala "The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries" and the more recent "Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?," involves meeting with an animated version of "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.
Cowell acts true-to-form in bluntly assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the Scooby gang. The latter includes the determination that Shaggy and Scooby are dead weight. This, in turn, leads to a parting of the ways between that pair and the rest of their peers.
Subsequent events lead to HB '60s-era villain Dick Dastardly being desperate to capturing Scooby-Doo, who is integral to a dastardly (in both senses of the word) plot to open the gates of the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell). This scheme leads to our slacker and his not-so-little-dog too essentially travelling over the rainbow to team up with the son of '70s-era Scooby ally Blue Falcon (who has taken over the family business) and wonder dog Dynomutt. Of course, the band gets back together before the action fully gets underway.
The ensuing measures to stop Dastardly involve numerous too-fun-to-spoil HB Easter eggs; the failure to capture the spirit of the original makes sharing a cameo by '70s-era HB superhero Captain Caveman a non-spoiler.
The climax, like much of 3/4 of the film involves a moral. A member of the gang takes one for the team by literally going to Hell out of friendship and loyalty. This is on top of messages that include not letting other people make you feel badly about yourself.
Aside from the general flaws of "Scoob!," there are many dead spots. I hope that my attention span is greater than that of the children that are a target demographic, and I was terribly bored several times. This mainly occurred during tedious chase scenes that seemed prolonged in order to bring "Scoob!" to roughly the feature-film limit of 90 minutes.
The disappointment continues with the dearth of extras at least as to the DVD extras. This merely is a not-so-helpful tutorial on how to draw Scooby. One at least would have hoped for recording session outtakes or a classic "Scooby" episode,
The CBS Home Entertainment CS DVD set of the fast-paced and furiously funny S17 of the CBS procedural "NCIS" proves that that genre still has plenty of life left in the right hands. In this case, those appendages belong to'80s action-adventure series god Donald P. Bellasario ("Quantum Leap," "Magnun, PI"). Having still sexy '80s hunk Mark Harmon helming the series as Scott Bakula ("NCIS: New Orleans") style stoic team leader/father figure Leroy Jethro Gibbs does not hurt.
The underlying premise that DC-based Team Gibbs investigates crimes with a connection to the (primarily) Navy opens the door to a wide variety of felonies. It may be as tangential as a coincidental body dump on military property, the death of an active-duty or retired service member, or a lesser crime against one of the few and the proud who serve our country.
The two-part S17 premiere that resolves the S16 cliffhanger as to the sudden reappearance of presumed-dead former team member Ziva David is the first indication that S17 might have been the last one. The season ending with an episode (more below) that would have served equally well as a season or a series finale reinforces the idea that taps may have blown on this program, which will live to fight many more days in the 2020-21 television season.
Speculation as to the S17 finale is that COVID-19 MAY have cut the season a little short, and Team Bellasrio MAY have planned a cliffhanger.
Another sign that Team Bellasario may have been contemplated that S17 might have been its swan song is the personal growth reveals of members of Team Gibbs. A prime example of this is headshrinker "Jack" Sloane revealing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth regarding her college-era unplanned pregnancy and giving up her baby for adoption.
S17 soon picks up right where S16 ends with a "Back to the Future" / "Terminator" moment in which David breaks in on Gibbs in his basement and essentially tells him to come with her if he wants to live. The aforementioned fast-pace begins with the bad guys almost immediately storming the castle. The outcome as to that proves that Gibbs has MacGyver-style ingenuity and does not hesitate to use proportional force in response to an attack on his home. This fully sets the most deadly game afoot.
The trope elements in this excellent outing are worth mentioning because these tried-and-true narrative techniques regularly appear throughout S17 without impairing the quality of the episodes. The first been-there-done-that moment comes very early when David and a bloodied-and-battered Gibbs jack the ride of a low-level thief. Anyone who has witnessed a similar scene in a comparable context will not be surprised to see a rapid shift in action and "Eighteen hours earlier" appear in an intertitle.
The tropes continue with Team Gibbs soon piecing together much of the puzzle (including the resurrection of David), lying (with hilarious consequences in a subsequent episode) to the powers-that-be, and putting loyalty to the boss over following the rules. The reactions of those who worked with David and of those who only know her by reputation are part of what make this episode so special. This is not to mention David bringing baggage to her reunion.
A scene between David and quirky grandfather figure retired medical examiner "Ducky" (David McCallum of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") is a season highlight. David and new bad ass Torres (Wilmer "Fez" Valderama) on the block initially playing at going at it mano-a-mano before it gets personal is a perfect example of "NCIS" humor; Torres goes full Fez of the Foxcom "That 70s Show" as to the perception that a girl kicked his ass.
The twists in this one make it one of the best of the season; David unambiguously playing her former peers and ambiguously doing the wrong thing for the right reason supports the principle of not trusting anyone.
Business as usual resumes with the aptly titled "Going Mobile" episode that pays homage to fellow CBS procedural franchise "CSI." This one involves a body being jammed under the trailer of a truck that is making a delivery to a military installation.
The penultimate S17 episode has one of the most ultimate tropes ever. Anyone who has watched any genre of television can IMMEDIATELY guess what will transpire when medical examiner Jim Palmer, who presumably never appears on screen in just his briefs, and forensics scientist Kasie Hines are having breakfast at the team hangout at the same time that a trio of criminals are there just ahead of their robbery of the jewelry store across the street, This coinciding with St. Patrick's Day turns the highly predictable hostage situation in to an Irish Setter Day Afternoon. Hines gets another trope moment in the sun in an S17 episode that has her trying to prove the innocence of a close friend.
The series finale features a memorable guest spot by Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future," "Taxi") as a 95 year-old man whose claim of being on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack seemingly has more holes than that ship. The wonderfully gonzo performance by Lloyd proves that he still has it.
The truly special DVD features include "The Return of Ziva David," which provides perspective as to that notable occurrence. "Inside Season 17" has cast and crew share how they keep things going so well after almost two decades.
'Corpus Christi' DVD: Oscar Nomination & 49 Wins for Tale of Young Offender Offenses Including Impersonating Priest
The recent Film Movement Blu-ray release of the Oscar-nominated 2019 Polish movie "Corpus Christi," which has 49 awards to its credit, further solidifies the pandemic-era sentiment of "cineplexes; we don't need no stinkin' cineplexes." A large portion of this love comes via the 2020 Polish Film Awards.
Most of this success is attributable to the spot-on performance of Bartosz Bielenia as 20 year-old former juvie inmate Daniel. The accolades for him include a Best Actor win at the 2019 Chicago International Film Festival.
The following Movement trailer for "Corpus" provides a taste of why this film, which looks and sounds terrific in Blu-ray, has such critical acclaim and why Movement deserves great thanks for making it highly accessible to audiences in North America.
Our story begins with Daniel serving the final days of his unfortunate incarceration. An opening scene in the facility woodworking shop graphically shows both the sadistic cruelty of the place and the kindness of Daniel.
More important exposition comes when Daniel attends Mass conducted by father-figure (no pun intended) Father Tomasz, who knows how to reach those kids. An amusing aspect of this is the universal valued treat of the promise of holding class outside. Tomasz telling Daniel that his criminal record precludes acceptance at a seminary provides the final element for what is to come.
Daniel is set to begin his probation-related job in a small rural community when a chance encounter that involves both pride and other elements that contribute to youthful indiscretions leads to telling the barely legal daughter of the resident church lady that he is a priest. A series of unfortunate circumstance soon lead to Daniel temporarily taking over the parish. The expectations-defying backstory there is one of many things that make "Corpus" so special.
The local drama into which Daniel becomes immersed revolves around a recent fatal car accident between a group of local kids who were out getting footloose and a middle-aged man with a history of alcoholism. This time the youth of Daniel plays a role as to the sanctioned hostility toward the widow of the man and the posthumous disdain for the guy, who was not proven to be drunk at the time of the accident. Daniel soon learning the rest of the story does not help calm the holier-than-thou waters.
One of the best scenes has Daniel hanging out Christ-style with his peers; this group of bored, young, broke townies engage in the behavior that is typical for such groups, This also involves one of the most memorable lines in the film as to one particular illicit substance being a gift from God. This observation adds a new perspective regarding church services involving overwhelming amounts of incense.
Daniel further makes waves by directly and indirectly taking pages from the book of Tomasz while preaching to the choir and the rest of the congregation. The message here is that all clergy should speak from the heart and show the same youthful enthusiasm as the new kid on the block.
It is not surprising that the past (and the subterfuge) of Daniel come back to haunt him. This relates to the only aspect of "Corpus" that requires blind faith regarding suspension of disbelief as to Daniel pulling off this fraud for weeks without even the regional church hierarchy becoming suspicious.
Daniel responding to the threat of exposure in a manner that is very true to his personal nature and his faith is another highlight. One almost expects him to hop up on a cross and hand his malicious accuser a hammer and a handful of nails.
Both the quality of "Christi" and it being filmed overseas reduce the chance of a Hollywood ending.
The Blu-ray extras include the well-matched short film "Nice to See You" by "Corpus" director Jan Komasa.
The not-so-brave new world regarding travel is prompting the increased frequency of Inn Credible New England posts on this site. These articles also are reflecting the cited principles in the first "Avoiding Getting Inn Trouble" musings in this ongoing series. The awful truth is that business, personal, and mixed-use travelers all are going to reduce their trips for the foreseeable future; this makes choosing wisely more important than ever before.
One huge spoiler is that aggressively bullying me into deleting my Trip Advisor review and making blatant threats of civil and legal proceedings in response to being vocal about my horrific experience is behind being this post being purposefully vague. Ala who dun Carly Simon wrong back in the day being convinced that they inspired "You're So Vain," guests who experiences mirror those described below surely will speculate as to the identity of the culprits.
The abundance of proof as this company having no business operating hotels is that a recent online "out of curiosity" search revealed the name of a new ownership company. The joy on discovering this was short-lived.
I quickly learned that the new company had the EXACT same leadership and owned the EXACT same properties as the place that caused extended trauma and drama. My conclusion is that the name change is to represent to folks who (as documented in Trip Advisor reviews) had the same distressing experience as me at one of those hotels that an non-existent change occurred.
A trip, which inspired the term "shabby broom closet," that will live in infamy checks all the right boxes as to a place that should be avoided like the plague. The owner being a behemoth corporate holding company is the starting point that years of experience shows warrants triggering a spidey sense. However, just as some attorneys are kind and ethical people, many for-profit businesses that offer boutique lodging are upstanding corporate citizens.
A starting point that past "Inn Trouble" posts do not address is a hotel not meeting pre-trip expectations. The hotel in question is a historic property with a modern addition, On speaking to an on-property employee, I was told that my preference for a room in the older part of the building would be honored. On arriving, I learned that the older building had been closed for months and that no one was even allowed in that area.
A combination of the trip being a celebration of a major milestone birthday and occurring in a very stressful period prompted mentioning the birthday in this pre-trip conversation. The clerk promised a room upgrade and strongly hinted about a small gift as to the birthday.
We arrived at the hotel to no mention of the birthday; we also discovered that, despite paying a hefty sum, we were assigned the shabby broom closet. Someone standing between the bed and the door literally had to jump on the bed to let the other guest get to the door. There also was no drawer space, no place to store luggage, and a tiny closet. This was on top of the television being mounted to the wall and the cables dangling down from it.
Bringing all this to the attention of the desk clerk fell on deaf ears; even a token birthday t-shirt would have been nice. The two of us spent $150 at the onsite restaurant and did not get so much as a free slice of cake.
This prompted a negative TripAdvisor review; that prompted a corporate executive with a distinctive accent (more below) to contact me and threaten action if I did not remove it. An odd part of that umbrage was unhappiness at my identifying that hotel with meeting space, a well-equipped business center, and a large dining room as a convention hotel. The executive went so far as to call (and successfully) bully me through removing my TA post after I told him that I could not figure out how to delete it.
I live roughly 45 minutes from the holding company corporate office and was in a post-hotel-stay trip to a store in that area when I recognized the executive from his photo on the company website. Hearing his accent on his alarmingly yelling at his child convinced me that that was the guy. I did not approach him.
The distress as to the hotel stay continuing to weigh on my mind prompted calling the hotel years later on learning that it had a new manager. That manager had someone on the corporate staff call me; in speaking to that person, I shared all the details (including the random nature) of seeing the executive yell at the child in the store. I did so to support my argument that that man bullied me.
I subsequently received a certified letter from the president of the company. That correspondence threatened civil and criminal action if I did not drop the matter and if I ever tried to stay at any of the hotels that the company owned. This document went on to accuse me of stalking the executive who happened to be at the same store at the same time as me and with whom I did not have any interaction.
The bottom line this time is that booking any hotel stay runs the risk of a nightmare. The tips in "Avoiding Inn Trouble" post can help put the odds forever in your favor.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 Hong Kong drama "I Miss You When I See You" follows the pattern of similar gay-themed Breaking films. The sad global truth is that teen (and older) boys who like other boys have it rough much more often than living a fairy tale (no pun intended) that precedes their (often) happy ending.
The following YouTube video of a highly stylized trailer for "Miss" showcases the art-house quality of this film about an "its complicated" relationship.
"Miss" opens in the 1999 school year of adolescents Jamie and Kevin. The former is a popular well-adjusted kid, and the latter is an awkward loner. The proper context for their character and friendship is a less extreme (and even more homoerotic) version of Zack Morris and Screech Powers, who have high-school sleepovers, of "Saved by the Bell" fame.
Opening scenes revolve around Jamie sneaking out of class to meet Kevin in a boys' room stall apparently only to discuss the new book in a pulp fiction series. We also see that their classmate named Wong is a wang.
The action then moves ahead 12 years as Jamie travels to Australia to visit Kevin at the long-term residential facility where he lives due to his depression. This leads to a boys' night out that is a treat for both guys.
Unbeknownst to Jamie, his visit prompts Kevin to follow his friend back to Hong Kong. The two become co-workers at the tutorial center that Jamie owns and operates with former classmates. They also become roommates at the apartment of Jamie. The especially creepy behavior of Jamie in the apartment shows that he has fond memories of a tender moment that experiences interruptus soon before his high-school-era move to Australia.
The rest of the story is that Jamie apparently is fully converted as his present-day relationship with girlfriend Elaine indicates. However, female intuition and a valid reason for asking Jamie to either fish or cut bait creates tension. One aspect of this is the price that giving the heart what the heart wants can cost.
History also is starting to repeat itself in the form of Kevin increasingly bonding with a troubled male student, who openly admits to being hot for teacher. This leads a a very bizarre and uncomfortable sitch for characters and audience alike dinner for Kevin, Jamie, Elaine, and the student. A more sweet aspect of this is that the boy feels real love, rather than merely lust, for his "daddy."
The artistry of "Miss" continues with a relatively anti-climatic climax. There are no tears and recriminations; Jamie, who is facing Kevin moving back to Australia, seemingly ends up with the one with whom he is fated to share his life until someone younger and cuter comes along.
Time constraints are behind not watching the almost-always included and always insightful and entertaining "making-of" featurette and cast and crew interviews in Breaking releases. The good folks at Breaking must determine if this warrants the still-used Chinese punishment of a bare-bottom caning. If so, it requires learning how to say "please Sir, may I have another" in Mandarin.
Being a HUGE fan of the public and private personas of writer/director/monologist/activist/chihuahua-lover/son of a preacher man/righteous dude Del Shores of (reviewed) "Sordid Lives " fame provides a good perspective for sharing thoughts on the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the 2012 Shores one (awesome) man show "Del Shores: Sordid Confessions." One spoiler is that this hilarious nowhere-ready-for-primetime special is far raunchier than the other Shores performances, all of which are subjects of posts on this site, that are available on DVD.
Shores discussing in "Confessions" that he is observed mentally filing away a sordid tale during a lunch largely sums up his style. His material is funny because it tells the truth about what fools these white-trash mortals be. This is especially true as to the latest (reviewed) Shores project "Six Characters in Search of a Play."
A sincerity and a willingness to name names when warranted are another large part of the appeal of Shores. A prime example of this is a "Confession" about working with gorgeous young actor Randy Harrison during the tenure of Shores as a writer on the Showtime gay-themed drama "Queer As Folk."
Shores gives Harrison credit for being co-operative on the set but dishes about this thespian regularly publicly criticizing the writing on the series. Shores discussing the writers getting their revenge evokes thoughts of a QAF scene in which a nearly naked Harrison is drugged and placed in a sling during an orgy. The only personal criticism of Shores is that the writers do not have that incident lead to what should have been the inevitable conclusion.
The raunch element particularly comes out (no pun intended) as to Shores, who has two wonderful daughters with his compassionate ex-wife, discussing his "slut" period in the wake of his marriage to a sordid man who majorly dun him wrong. The highlight of this part of the show is the tale of taking a relationship with a man glacially slow from the gay perspective only to discover that this guy has a cringe-worthy defect that will prompt every gay viewer to immediately Google images of that condition.
Being the righteous dude that he is, Shores still tries to please this Mr. Right (as opposed to Mr. Right Now) despite the seeming impossibility of turning a corner.
Additional hilarity ensues as Shores confesses his macro and micro (no pun intended) fetish regarding short people as to whom he uses the non-pc term "midgets". The account of one such man with a long "third leg" but short temper provides additional entertainment regarding this topic.
The big picture this time goes back to the same era as the filming of "Confessions." A timely post on a DVD of a stand-up performance by British comedian Russell Brand SLAMS Brand for "sins" that include his act being an extended highly whiny therapy session as to which Brand not only saves the co-pay for that treatment but likely makes millions from folks who pay him to endure that almost unbearable catharsis.
Shores openly and constantly admits that his "Mama's Family" style upbringing has provided him a career. The difference between him and lesser performers is that he knows how to tell his Bible Belt tales in a way that both entertains and lets us feel his pain.
Breaking does its usual stellar job as to DVD extras. We get a "behind-the-scenes" feature that includes Shores showing his inner circle what comes between him and his Calvins. This bonus further provides an inspiration for December 7 birthday gifts.
A more "naughty" extra is footage of the photo shoot of the "Confessions" poster, which also is the DVD cover. This both allows hearing the beloved dogs of Shores and proves that he is hands-on regarding getting things right in a manner that makes one want to scream "me too".
Bullfrog Films, which makes DVDs available to both the general and educational markets, inadvertently touches on a sadly timely topic as to the DVD release of the 2019 documentary "Cooked: Survival By Zip Code." The income-gap analysis as to the 1995 Chicago heatwave and the 2012 Superstorm Sandy holds just as true as to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A blogland detour before discussing "Cooked" begins with a long-standing comprehension that having enough money to offset the increasing ills of the world give "haves" an unfair edge over "have nots." Having a moderate income that makes an automatic back-up power generator, central air-conditioning, and monthly deliveries of bottled water feasible greatly offsets the impact of deteriorating national conditions. Owning a freezer and a pantry full of food, as well as roughly 150 rolls of toilet paper, in anticipation of the next corornavirus-related lockdown provides further peace of mind. Knowing that a large percentage of Americans cannot afford half of these luxuries is disheartening.
Filmmaker/narrator Judith Helfand framing her study of the heatwave around Sandy evoke thoughts of another recent example of how "haves" fare much better than "have nots." A combination of recent flooding rain that is behind a waterfall of storm water backup in my basement, a related threat of a reoccurrence of that incident, and the callous disregard of the local DPW as to all that is behind spending several thousand dollars to get a back-water valve installed. The insult added to that injury is that the retail value of that work is twice as much as the "insider" price for my project.
All within earshot have heard sincere lamenting as to the folks who cannot afford the valve having to endure flooding every time that storm drains cannot keep pace with a rainstorm.
The following trailer for "Cooked" conveys much of the above, provides a good sense of the non-sensationalist vibe of the film, and gives good reason to believe that this independent film does not provide a Hollywood ending.
The overall message, which COVID-19 validates, of "Cooked" is that Mother Nature keeps throwing one climate-change fueled disaster after another at us. The rest of the story is that the ability of the "haves" to acquire the necessary resources to escape or alleviate the impact of those event can allow them to live while the "have nots" literally die in large numbers. The footage of a fleet of refrigerated trucks storing dead bodies in 1995 Chicago evokes thoughts of similar measures in response to COVID-19.
The '90s-era horror stories include residents of low-income housing cooking-to-death as a result of keeping the windows in their apartments closed in order to avoid someone breaking in. The pictures of some of these small run-down events are worth far more than 1,000 words.
References to wealthy Chicago residents escaping to their vacation homes evokes thoughts of modern-day New Yorkers temporarily relocating to their New England second homes in response to COVID-19. The secondary story is that these callous one-percenters and those that approach that level have no concern about endangering the even one-percenter "haves" in those destination communities.
The "Zip Code" reference in the "Cooked" title shows the same indifference by city officials as my not-so-friendly civil servant blithely explaining as to my flooded basement that the heavy rain that is the culprit being akin to pouring too much water into a glass. The clear communication that the city is leaving residents all along the income scale vulnerable to future floods is behind investing in a private floodgate that is designed to keep my house dry while homes literally across the tracks a few miles away add an a tangible aspect to figuratively always living underwater.
[Editor's Note: The following article is a retro-repost of a November 2014 interview for Unreal TV 1.0.]
An awesome aspect of being invited to review the recently theatrically released film "The Historian" was the chance to interview Theater Hall of Fame member John Cullum, who arguably is best known for playing restauranteur Holling Vincoeur on the classic TV series "Northern Exposure."
The excitement regarding talking with Cullum extended beyond connecting with a beloved actor; he essentially confirmed that he is the person whom I thought that I recognized but could not immediately place while walking through an airport roughly 20 years ago. The big bright smile that Cullum bestowed on the lout who stared at him as they approached each other was as gracious as the insights that he shared yesterday.
Cullum on 'The Historian'
Cullum's Brigston Hadley in "The Historian" is the father of college professor Valerian Hadley, whom William Sadler portrays. Cullum did not share the sense that he and Sadler bear a strong resemblance to each other but stated that he played the father of Sadler's character on the wonderfully fun early-2000s scfi series "Roswell."
Cullum, whose earlier acting career includes several Shakespearean productions, also stated that he did not base his portrayal of Brigston on King Lear but agreed that the two characters possessed similar characteristics.
Cullum shared on a more general level that "I'm not a method actor in that I do not have to think of something that happened to me; I'm interested in the story and the dialog."
Cullum added that one exception to the approach described above was that he partially based his Tony winning role in "Shenandoah" on his father and his great-uncle.
Cullum also stated that he did not think that "Historian" writer/director/co-star Miles Doleac knew that Cullum had appeared in "Roswell." The plain-spoken actor added that Miles called him after signing Sadler up for the film and that Cullum concluded that "there weren't any reasons to say no and many reasons to say yes."
The reasons for saying yes included the shooting schedule in Hattiesburg, Mississippi fitting Cullum's schedule and his liking the script.
Comments related to the appeal of the script included noting that "father-son relationships have dominated drama back to "Oedipus (Rex)," and that "family relationships are the most powerful of all."
Tennessean Cullum volunteered as well that he liked the open unencumbered attitude that Doleac demonstrated and confirmed that Doleac being a fellow southern was a factor regarding their good working relationship.
Cullum on 'Northern Exposure'
The incredible enthusiasm that Cullum still feels toward doing "Exposure" in the '90s was music to the ears of this fan of that series. This clear regard for doing the show began with Cullum expressing surprise when asked if the "Exposure" producers had the cast attend a retreat to create the bonds that were so apparent among that group. Collum simply responded "They didn't have to."
Collum expressed particular affection for co-star John Corbett, who played spiritual ex-con DJ Chris Stevens. Collum noted that Corbett often improvised and shared an awesome story about watching the then long-haired Corbett pick up a pair of scissors in the make-up room for the show and cut off all his hair simply to see how it would look.
Cullum wondering what Corbett was currently doing prompted looking up the IMDb profile of the latter. Reporting back that Corbett had done some good things and some pretty lousy projects prompted Cullum to laugh and reply "haven't we all."
Along similar lines, Cullum stated several times that "Exposure" wife Cythnia Geary was gorgeous and noted that that show was her first major role. He added that she had trained as a singer.
A discussion of Geary's interest in singing led to reminding Cullum of the episode in which Geary's Shelly developed a condition that resulted in her only being able to verbally communicate by singing. Cullum noted that as an example of the "Exposure" writers writing for both the characters and the performers in those roles.
Similar to the research regarding Corbett, a look at a listing of Geary's recent work revealed a role in a 2012 made-for-TV Bigfoot film. Cullum was a true gentleman in learning about that one.
Cullum next stated that much of "Exposure" was filmed in the small town of Rosslyn, Washington and that that community had a restaurant that shared the name of "The Brick" in the series. In his typical style, Cullum had high regard for that community.
The only sad aspect of this discussion of "Exposure" was that Cullum did not express much optimism regarding the possibility of an "Exposure" reunion film but seemed very willing to participate in any such project.
Cullum on Cullum
The awesomeness of Cullum extended to his being one of the nicest and most genuine celebrities interviewed in an eight-year career writing film and television reviews. This particularly came across when commenting to Cullum that seeing "The Historian" on the marquee of the The Quad theater near his Manhattan home when the film opens there on November 28, 2014 certainly will not be a thrill after roughly 50 years as a live theater, film, and television actor.
Cullum replied "I'm certainly not blase about seeing myself in something I've done. I'm humbled by watching a performance."
This led to asking (and hoping) whether a Cullum autobiography was a possibility. This prompted the highly inaccurate response "I didn't feel that my career justified that kind of treatment."
Cullum added that the theater world has dubbed him "the legend" based on his longevity in that industry. However, his frustrating inability to recognize his greatness resulted in his adding that everyone in theater was known as a legend.
If working with Richard Burton on "Camelot" and "Hamlet," doing two plays with Arthur Miller, winning two Tony awards, still being an active working actor at 84, etc. does not warrant an autobiography, nothing does.
Cullum offered the consolation that he recorded a 90-minute podcast for the "Footlight Parade" series that "The Musical Theater Project" Artistic Director Bill Rudman produces and hosts. Cullum commented that he told Rudman at that time that "you have managed to do my biography ... and I liked it!"
A very gracious Rudman subsequently discussed the exceptional experience regarding talking with Cullum; when asked for a recording (which included Cullum singing songs from his shows) of their conversation, Rudman good-naturedly responded with a chuckle in his voice "that is my interview."
Cullum equally graciously declined a request to sing "Come Back to Me" from his Broadway production of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." He provided the ample consolation prize of performing a few lines from "Lear."
Cullum on the Future
On asked the shamefully lame chestnut "what's next for you," Cullum shared that he has returned to a project on which he has worked on-and-off for years. It is a musical version of the Appalachian folk stories that are known as "Jack" tales that include "Jack and the Beanstalk."
Cullum stated that these stories included "Jack and the Doctor" in which Jack of "Beanstalk" fame took on the challenge of convincing the titular physician that Jack is worthy of marrying the daughter of that medical practitioner. Cullum added that his plans include playing the doctor.
Regarding future television projects, Cullum expressed his trademark enthusiasm for an upcoming ABC mini-series titled "Member's Only." This production about the behind-the-scenes goings on at an exclusive country club is scheduled to air in February 2015.
Cullum described the 80-year-old retired U.S. senator that he plays in "Members" as "a womanizer and a drunk." He expressed special enthusiasm for his first grand entrance in his first scene in the series.
The described tableau was that Cullum's character drove his car up on the curb, knocking over a don't walk on the grass sign. This quickly led to telling the valet that he had not had a bowel movement in nine days and that the valet should ensure that the bathroom in the club was well stocked with toilet paper.
Cullum provided the additional spoiler that his character's trophy wife had left him for his son. The involvement of Cullum and the seeming similarities between "Members" and the uber-uber-awesome film "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" in which a son announces to the entire family that he has reason to believe that he is hung like a rhino compared to his father make "Members" worth checking out.
The only thing left to share regarding the exceptional hour spent talking with Cullum is that he definitely achieved the goal of a performer of leaving his audience wanting more. This is on top of solving a 20-year-old mystery regarding whether he was the gracious man walking through an airport.
The Indiepix Films DVD of the 2018 Mexican drama "Hypnosis to Be Happy" aptly centers around a standoff between the central characters, who equally aptly figuratively are the last two people on earth. As almost always is the case, the live-stage vibe of "Hypnosis" contributes to the enjoyment of the film. Dividing the scenes into chapters is apt as to protagonist Felipe being a rare-book dealer.
The following Indiepix trailer for "Hypnosis" highlights the aforementioned "You Are There" feeling. It also conveys the nature of the relationship that dominates the film.
The opening scenes of "Hypnosis" are very reminiscent of traditional Calvin Klein ads in that they are stylistic black-and-white images of Felipe and his object of adequate affection Pilar touring an art museum as voice-over narration tells of both of them seeking someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives.
Things become even more personal and philosophical when the action shifts to a restaurant where Felipe proposes after four dates. This predictably triggers a conversation about how well each of the not-so-significant others know each other and what makes them happy.
Felipe demonstrates his surprising power of persuasion in convincing Pilar to accompany him to the warehouse-like building from which he operates his business. The apprehension that Pilar feels on Felipe locking her is a valid reaction. This leads to inarguably the best segment of the film in that Felipe increasingly bares his soul to his intended and she softens regarding her arguable captor. This also involves a notable line as to no book being in the store that does not want to be there.
The action then shifts to a modified walk-of-shame. Despite looking a little shell shocked and still not being engaged, Pilar agrees to drive in the country with Felipe. The ride and a related discovery of a relic prompts Felipe to open up about his childhood and his relationship with his parents in a way that further thaws the heart of Pilar. This includes exposition as to the meaning of the title of the film.
All this lead to the tale of Felipe and Pilar ending on an ambiguous note that reinforces the modern sense that "happily ever after" is as much of a fiction in the real world as it is on the silver screen.
[Editor's Note: As of the posting of this article, Canyon Ranch Lenox is scheduled to reopen July 27, 2020.]
The beginning thought as to this second of two (and counting) posts on Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts is the pre-pandemic conclusion that initial sticker-shock regarding the roughly $1,000 per-night rate is unwarranted when considering the size of the bang for your grand. Pandemic-era factors have shown even more that the spa is well worth every penny.
The initial benefit as to a Canyon Ranch stay is a welcome gift that conservatively is worth $175; the stylish waterproof Canyon Ranch tote bag with red-leather trim alone retails for $129. Time will tell how many bottles of contraband Diet Coke will fit along with more traditional spa supplies, such as comfy spa sliders. Alas, the bag may be too small for the luxurious Canyon Ranch spa robe that will be put to good use during an upcoming stay.
Speaking of the spa, each package comes with a services allowance that seems to average out to $150/day, which is enough for one treatment. Your not-so-humble reviewer is scheduled for a coconut oil treatment, a 50-minute signature Canyon Ranch massage, and a 100-minute Canyon Ranch massage. This leaves a $20 allowance toward a fourth treatment.
This aspect of the stay warrants a shout-out to services specialist extraordinaire Angela, who is very intuitive as to which treatments are best suited to which guest.
The icing on this particular confection is daily access, including visit-long use of a locker, to the spa facilities. That conservatively is worth $100 each day.
Related goodness is a range of wellness seminars that most likely are valued at least $100 each.
The other benefit is a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks package that retails for roughly $100/day. A no-tipping policy enhances the value of this feature, as well as that of the spa services.
A ROUGH estimate of the value of the extras that come with staying a room that offers a 20-option pillow menu is that they total $500/day. This leaves the cost of the room equivalent to a visit to a Mandarin Oriental or comparable luxury hotel.
The rest of that perspective is that (in periods in which air travel is feasible) airfare plus airport transportation (or parking) cost ROUGHLY $1,000. Following the long-standing Inn Credible New England philosophy of spending what you otherwise would pay to fly somewhere to upgrade a vacation closer to home translates to a "fuzzy math" savings of $200/night as to a five-night stay for folks within driving distance of Lenox.
The starting point as to the added value of a 2020 Canyon Ranch stay is that this unprecedented event reasonably is causing intense stress for most folks who currently must venture out to deal with the public. The other side of this coin is that virtually all of us not venturing out nearly as much as we used to pre-COVID makes each poking of our heads into the real world a special outing as to which we hope that a good time is had by all.
A recent consistently positive experience with Canyon Ranch around the same time as equal glee regarding fabled personal-care products company Aesop prompted sharing the joy from those encounters. The response, which is more true than ever in these highly troubled times is that you get what you pay for,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement Blu-ray of the 1995 Salma Hayek film "Midaq Alley" has EVERY element that makes it a perfect film. This begins with a young attractive cast that has someone for everyone, a telenovela vibe that provides no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure, and high-concept in the form of being based on a novel by Nobel laurete Naguib Mahfouz. The IDEAL blend of humor and drama of both the melo and regular varieties is the topping on the fried ice cream. There truly is not a dull moment.
The crystal-clear images and audio (not to mention a behind-the-scenes feature and a written essay) in this restoration further make this one well worthy adding to your video library.
The impressive 27 festival wins for "Midaq" include several awards at the 1995 Ariel Awards in Mexico.
The below Movement trailer for Midaq Alley highlights the exceptional quality of every aspect of the film.
In addition to an awesome live-stage vibe, "Midaq" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly themed 2006-09 BBC serial series "The Street" that tells the inter-connected stories of the residents of a London neighborhood. Both productions do an excellent job keeping all the players in play and showing how their lives overlap.
"Midaq" centers around the neighborhood bar that Don Ru owns and operates. This watering hole truly is a place where everyone knows your name (and your business).
A brief glimpse of the life of Ru and of his 20-something son Chava is the tip of the iceberg that provides a good sense of the "Midaq" style. The blatant Freudian aspects of that relationship begin with Ru being disappointed with the poor work ethic of Chava, who obsessively dreams of moving El Norte.
The disappointment of Ru regarding his offspring is an element as to developing a friendship with benefits with a young clothing store clerk whom is closer to what Ru considers an ideal son. The extent to which Ru and this post-adolescent express their mutual affection contributes an ick factor on a couple of levels.
The desired traveling buddy of Chava is Abel, who is a local barber obsessed with local beauty Alma (Hayek). Of course, Alma drives plenty of drama herself.
The ripples extend from there to the opportunistic bartender, the horny spinster, the tarot card reader, etc.
The big picture this time it that "Midaq" is both compelling and funny because it is true.