Breaking Glass Pictures awesomely follows the trend of other theatrical and DVD studios regarding the DVD release of the 2018 indie drama "We Are Boats." These best friends to lovers of quality art-house films are further stepping up their game regarding making these hidden gems accessible to the general public.
The following YouTube clip of a "Boats" trailer nicely conveys the surreal earthy of the film and introduces the heavenly cast. It is nice to see charming formerly teen goofball Boo Boo Stewart play a fun and compassionate adult.
Our story begins with working girl Francesca being the victim of a type of harm that can befall members of the oldest profession in the world. This leads to her doing a walk without shame in the afterlife.
Writer/director James Bird of the (reviewed) fantabulous Breaking film "Honeyglue" puts his highly creative artistic talent to good use in making our not necessarily final destination look like Vermont in summer.
The first afterlife lesson that Francesca learns is that the sweet relief of death does not include no longer enduring job interviews. She must go through the selection process for the position of a variation of a guardian angel. We also learn that having a personal horse in the race still can motivate seeking particular employment. In this case, Francesca is desperate for closure with her still-living daughter.
This job entails returning to earth to help guide folks who are near death. One difference between this system and the more traditional one is that a death is not considered a loss. An even more cool aspect is the extent to which the presence of Francessca, who now is akin to a resident cat at a nursing home, is known to us mere mortals.
Francesca begins her first mission immediately on taking her quantum leap of faith back to earth. She very quickly hooks up in both senses of the word with Michael, who is a musician with an "its complicated" relationship with his wife. A more positive aspect of this is that Francesca helps ensure that Michael dies with a smile on his face.
Francesca then boards an LA-bound bus to do her best to prevent the new widow from quickly joining her husband in Vermont. This journey connects her with fatally ill older man Cliff (Graham Greene). He is going to The City of Angels to make peace with his estranged daughter. Cliff also mentioning that he is estranged from his son for philosophical reasons is one of many indications that Bird supplies regarding things to come.
Our LA story begins with Stewart playing aptly named Taylor, who works at the vintage clothing store where the widow brings the duds of her late husband. Taylor also is the partner of a man who performs at anti-meat rallies with a female bartender who is engaged to Lucas. Luke Hemsworth (who is the Stephen, the Clint, or the Frank of the Hemsworth acting clan) plays Lucas.
Lucas coerces a good friend from New York to assist with a plan that is designed to learn whether the bartender is keeping her no-charge dairy open in the days leading to the wedding.
Cliff showing up at the home of his daughter sets most of the action that provides the climax of "Boats" in motion. The ensuing trauma and drama validates the seven degrees of separation theory of life. This is not to mention the traditionally symbolic nature of the means by which those whose time has come move on to the next stage of existence.
Breaking supplements all this with deleted scenes and 30 minutes of cast and crew interviews that show that those folks had as much fun making the film as we did watching it.
The Virgil Films June 9, 2020 DVD release of the 2020 documentary "Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine" truly could not come at a better time. This propaganda for lifestyle medicine offers a way to avoid falling into the clutches of shamelessly greedy medical corporations (I'm talkin' to you Lifespan of Rhode Island) with laughable non-profit status at a time that every measure of national health is collapsing. The film also promotes going vegan at a time that meat-processing plants are disease ridden and the one package of steak that we are allowed to buy costs $15/pound,
The highly personal nature of the topic to narrator/activist Dr. Saray Stancic justifies a brief detour into Blogland to share previously private relevance. Your not-so-humble reviewer has a hereditary disease with a fairly definite expiration date. My highly significant other telling me soon after the diagnosis that only eating vegetables would be beneficial and my replying "yeah, like I'm gonna do that" alone directly speaks to "Code." Coincidentally then eating a bowl of magically delicious Lucky Charms speaks even more directly to the film. On a better note, I have maintained a long-standing habit of using my elliptical machine at full force for one hour a day every other day.
The big picture is that I am adhering to Agnostic Science in that I recognize the possibility that the disease will go away on its own.
Before returning to our regularly scheduled programming, I will add that the aforementioned avarice of Lifespan and its ilk is preventing getting monitoring and related treatment. Lifespan disregarding the coding of a blood test with a roughly $50 out-of-pocket price and conducting a $6,000 test for which it wanted (but did not get) $2,900 out-of-pocket is consistent with my experience with that company. Sadly my insurance company, which gets roughly $550/month directly from me, and my doctor repeatedly have stated that there are no means to prevent Lifespan from doing the same in the future. Sadly, that behemoth corporation essentially is the only game in town in The Ocean State.
Stancic expresses similar outrage by clearly expressing anger regarding the very valid point that doctors are not expected to live in poverty but are obliged to not pursue outrageous fortune at the expense of the quality of care that they provide patients.
The strong advocacy of Stancic for lifestyle medicine stems from an out-of-the-blue (no pun intended) MS diagnosis during the third year of her residency. The not-so-great prognosis begat investigating lifestyle medicine, which begat her activism, which begat "Code."
The early research of Stancic includes reading "The China Study" of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. Campbell appears in "Code" to discuss his analysis of the dietary habits of the people in several Chinese communities. His discussing the average lifespan of the studied population is akin to a '70s-era commercial that attributes the longevity of people in a Russian village to consuming large quantities of yogurt.
Another medical practitioner amusingly tells of a hospital gift shop selling cigarettes and of the heavy consumption of that product by the doctors on staff. Another general hospital tale is of the highly lucrative practice of performing bypass surgery. This relates to the not-so-hidden secret that doctors and hospitals alike amass large fortunes from operating (no pun intended) pill mills and performing assembly-line level medical procedures.
Stancic wraps up "Code" with a charming portrayal of the current crop of medical students that are embracing lifestyle medicine. This includes some future physicians taking a course in healthy cooking and a youthfully exuberant student sharing plans to pursue a career of teaching lifestyle medicine. Time will tell if all this idealism survives the burden of long hours in internships and residencies, as well as the lure of the numerous shiny toys that having M.D. after your name provides a chance to buy.
The bottom line this time is that Stancic shows how placing the wants of the few over the needs of the many are putting many of us in premature graves. She seriously is invited to reach out to me if she thinks that she can help.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement expands a recent Eurocentric pattern that largely consists of vintage films from Ealing Studios and/or Alistair Sim, which are reviewed in the Film Movement section of this site, to separately release the French tragromcomdram "Serie Noire" on DVD and Blu-ray on April 14, 2020. Adding "Serie" to the incredibly broad Movement catalog provides a chance to see why Time Out considers it one of the 100 best French films of all time.
The '70stastic realistic grittiness of "Serie" looks especially good in the remastered Blu-ray edition right from the opening scenes of middle-aged door-to-door salesman Franck Poupart releasing his frustration before going to the seedy house of "la tante" in search of handyman/boxer Tikides, who is behind in his payment on a suit. This soon leads to Auntie bargaining with Franck to give her a quilted robe in exchange for a tryst with her niece Mona. It is clear that this is the not the first time that Aunty has engaged in this form of bartering.
The next scene in which Mona is resigned to taking one for the team but Franck is protecting the virtue of both his new friend and himself is one of the best in the film. It also is the start of a not-so-beautiful friendship between these two persons who are slaves in their own ways.
The additional desperate times that lead to the "Strangers On a Train"/"Throw Momma From the Train" style desperate measures revolve around Franck's wife Jeanne amping up her crazy and his boss Staplin taking a very hard line on learning that Franck has been skimming from the top,
This is not to mention things turning equally personal and violent as to Tikides.
The aforementioned plot revolves around Franck essentially using one stone for a murder of crows; this wicked deed largely goes off as planned but leads to wonderfully darkly comic fallout that involves all concerned.
The first awesome message of "Serie" is that you should never have an amateur do a job that requires a professional; a related message is that the boss always acts in his or her own best interest and never truly is the friend of an employee.
The home-video extras are the featurettes "Serie Noire, The Darkness of the Soul" and an interview with director Alain Cormeau and star Marie Trintignant (Moma). Classics also includes an always insightful written essay on the film du jour.
The CBS Home Entertainment June 2, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek Short Treks" lets non-subscribers of CBS All Access enjoy these these charming streamisodes of "Star Trek: Discovery." Each of the 9 shorts allows characters great and small a chance to shine. A glaring omission is Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, whom everyone's favorite rent-boy Anthony Rapp seems born to play.
The icing on the cake is the truly special features, which include "making-of" bonuses, with which CBS pairs each short.
All Access awesomely does some of the heavy lifting for this post; it perfectly describes this series as follows. "'Star Trek: Short Treks' are approximately 10-15 minute stand-alone short stories that allow fans to dive deeper into the key themes and characters that fit into Star Trek: Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."
The following 2019 ComicCon trailer for "Treks" expertly conveys the strong production values and great underlying humor of these films.
The earlier shorts, which begin with quirky Ensign Tilly in an equally odd story, have strong merits that fully reflect the "Trek" spirit. However, the later ones that jump ship and move to the Enterprise are personal faves.
A favorite among this group is the fantabulous "The Trouble With Edward." Former Enterprise science officer Lynne Lucero is the new captain of a science ship when mad scientist in the truest sense of that term Edward Larkim (H. Jon Benjamin of "Bob's Burgers" and "Archer" fame) commences the trouble with tribbles. The morals this time are that you should not mess with Mother Nature and that over population can be a deadly problem.
Larkin easily has the best of countless memorable moments when he cops an epic "not my problem" 'tude despite being the architect of the threat.
"Q&A" awesomely has Ethan Peck (Spock) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) pair up as the latter greets the former on his arrival on the Enterprise to commence his service on that vessel. The best is soon to come when the "Treks" writers resort to the old "stuck together in an elevator" trope. Suffice it it to say that emotions do run high.
"Ask Not" is another very strong outing; this one features Captain Pike mercilessly testing an enterprising wannabe. It fully shows how it is determined if someone has the right stuff to serve on that crew.
The bigger picture this time is that "Treks" allows Trekkers, Trekkies, and the unenlightened alike a solid two-hours (plus extras) of stories that each are worthy of full-length episodes.
Breaking Glass Pictures amusingly is a good buddy to film reviewers regarding the DVD release of the 2018 Argentinian gayish-themed coming-of-age film "My Best Friend." Writing about movies that hold your interest and that include proper portions of humor and drama is a nice contrast to sometimes literally losing sleep over how to state something nice regarding films that you would not feed to a dog.
The big picture (pun intended) about this film by Martin Deus is that it follows the pattern of a correlation between the amount of nudity and other sexual content and the quality of the film. The most prurient element in "Friend" is brief full rear and very partial frontal nudity in a high-school locker room.
The more narrow perspective is that "Friend" (and the similar (reviewed) "Speed Walking") indicate that Breaking is softening its awesome edge as it enters its mature stage. A negative aspect of this development is that these films and others like them may give gay teen boys false hopes about getting in both the hearts and the pants of their best friend. A related element is that lovers of the full spectrum of indie fare from Breaking hope that any embarrassment of riches does not deprive of us the good, the lewd, and the brutally honest that characterizes many films from that distributor.
The two wins for performances and additional awards for "Best Narrative" and "Best Screenplay" at the 2018 OUT at the Movies Int'l LGBT Film Fest perfectly reflect what makes "Friend" special. The following YouTube clip of a trailer for the film validates those honors.
Our central character is everyteen Lorenzo, who is living a comfortable middle-class life with his loving parents and his adorable little brother Lucas. Lorenzo also is well-liked by both girls and boys and gets to hit it and quit it with the female object of his affection.
Trouble comes a knockin' when Lorenzo arrives home one afternoon to find Caito waiting outside with an expectation of a long visit. The rest of the story is that the father of Caito is a former football (my people call it soccer) star/ex-con, who is a childhood friend of the father of Lorenzo. This presumed defensive midfielder had called a few days earlier to ask if Caito could stay with the other family for a while because the step-brother of Caito was recovering from a bad motorcycle accident. This conversation did not seal the deal regarding Caito essentially becoming a foster child.
Lorenzo and the 'rents accept the situation and have Caito literally bunk with Lucas, who is surprisingly chill regarding the matter. This response also includes asking Lorenzo to subtly keep an eye on his new bro. Said dude not taking long to show that he is a bad seed prompts more surprising understated reactions regarding this development.
The rest of this story is that Lorenzo is quiet and studious; Caito is a tattooed relatively tough and sullen guy who is into sports. The boys connecting over a few common interests supports the theory that opposites attract.
A bonding scene that involves literal pillow talk creates high expectations for at least 10-percent of the male viewers; another tender scene creates ambiguity regarding whether Caito is demonstrating mercy or is playing for the same team as Lorenzo. These moments and others like them provide good context for the behavior of Caito.
Another memorable scene is between Lorenzo and his mother; she puts most other reel (and real) moms to shame in gently inviting her son to come out the closet if he is in it. This awesomeness includes respecting his wishes and not pushing the matter. This conversation further is contrary to the theory that every gay man has "a mother."
The most cute moment comes via the 'rents essentially telling Lorenzo that they are going to get rid of the bad puppy, whose misdeeds include running feral, unless Lorenzo agrees to take more responsibility for this pet. Watching the younger and smaller boy assume control over the willing older and larger guy is very amusing.
This warm-and-fuzzy film with an edge stays true to the spirit of the movie by ending with a whimper (and perhaps a bang) after a final round of trauma and drama. Mainstream Hollywood may not have presented the ending, but everyone at least is a little older and wiser.
Breaking further outdoes itself regarding the extras of which it always is proud. The highlight is the 24-minute Deus film "The Prisoner." This tale of high school boys slightly notches up the homoerotic meter from "Friend."
"Prisoner" begins with two boy scouts waking up with a pup tent. One of the lads, who is breaking his back, consistently calling his mountain companion "Sir" seems to be insincere until we soon learn that the expression of military-style protocol is genuine.
The action picks up on the boys finding a nearly naked younger guy tied up and leashed. This newcomer (no pun intended) literally plays for the other team in that he is on the side of two groups that are playing war games.
The pair becomes a trio as the new captors bring their prisoner along with them. This leads to additional adventures that relate both to trust and to the Stockholm Syndrome. An apparent betrayal of that trust concludes with scenes that show that boys will be boys.
Breaking also includes interview with Deus and his cast; a "Behind the Music" extra pays homage to the great soundtrack of "Friend."
Expert purveyors of thought-provoking documentaries Icarus Films and Bullfrog Films continue their long-standing beautiful friendship with the April 21, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 non-fiction movie "The Sequel." This one is a study of the life of futurist David Fleming. The Fleming opus "Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It" is sadly relevant in this era in which it seems that COVID-19 ain't ever goin' nowhere.
The message of "Sequel" is similar to (reviewed) fellow recent Icraus Film "System Error." "Error" both studies capitalism and provides reason to think that the good run for that model is reaching its end.
Like all good documentaries, "Sequel" stars strong; crystal-clear images of earth from space soon lead to a group of students in an Ewok-caliber forest (sans redwoods) getting an awesome ecology lesson. A measuring tape is used to represent the history of the earth from its beginnings to the present; major events get a 25-words-or-less explanation, and our highly industrialized society is seen at the end of the tape (i.e., rope).
We next hear from friends, colleagues, and devotees of textbook academic Fleming. The Great Man himself also enlightens us about the entertaining story that leads to the writing of "Logic." There is no doubt that Fleming pours his heart into that tome.
The basic idea is that we need a sea change in an effort to stop the polar ice caps from flooding us and/or to prevent another plague-level disaster from making humans either extinct or an endangered species. Another way of stating this is it is the end of the world as we know it, and it is up to us as to whether we feel fine.
A segment on the failure of Greece to rebound from its massive economic downfall is a particularly impactful example. The images of modern-day poverty and the dismal statistics as to the lack of wealth of the nature seem to be what will soon be the case in America.
The bottom line is that modern events show that the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject is right; whether we heed is message may well be a matter of life or death.
The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2017 Mexican drama "Seeds" (nee "Cuernavaca") shows both that everything is relative and that relatable growing pains can be traumatic. The accolades for this Dickensian coming-of-age tale include the Best International Feature Award at the 2018 Borderlands Film Festival and three honors at the 2018 Films Infest.
The following YouTube clip of a "Seeds" trailer provides a sense of the angst of central character Andy; the glimpse of the wonderful cinematography reinforces the hope of a future Releasing Blu-ray of the film.
Tween Andy is a Dickens stereotype in that he is small, quiet, pale, and classically blond. Sadly, nothing about him even early in the film supports the theory that people with that hair color have more fun.
Andy literally is clinging to a connection with his absent father in the opening scenes; his early interaction with his essentially single mother is very reminiscent of the parent-child relationship in "The Sixth Sense." This is down to Mom picking up a despondent Andy after a typically depressing day at school.
Rare mutual joy in the lives of Andy and his mother is short lived. Their grand afternoon out is continuing with ice cream when a "sliding doors" moment leads to Mom, rather than Andy, becoming the victim of a violent crime. This contributes to especially strong survivor's guilt.
The Dickens vibe initially picks up on the authorities being unable to locate the father of Andy to care for him during the hospitalization of his mother. This leads to the boy travelling to the titular rural suburb for a temporary relocation to the guava orchard of his firm but fair (functioning alcoholic) grandmother Carmen. The DVD liner notes state that Carmen portrayor Carmen Maura has a history of collaborating with Pedro Almodovar.
The eccentric members of the household include an aunt with Down's Syndrome, who provides a herd of cats with unnecessary ongoing medical care. There also is young fieldworker/kitchen helper Esmeralda, who essentially is child labor.
The guava of the eye of Andy is teen gardener Charley. Part of the artistry of "Seeds" is ambiguity regarding whether the younger boy sees the older one as a cool guy, a brother figure, a substitute father, or an object of carnal affection. Similarly, the feelings of Charley toward the boy are not very clear for much of the film.
One clear aspect of the Andy/Charley relationship is the latter taking advantage of the other. The boy being relatively wealthy, lonely, smitten, and otherwise vulnerable paves the way for Charley to con him. The aforementioned susceptibility to being taken includes Andy being desperate to reach his father to rescue him from his unfortunate circumstances. This includes the very Dickensian threat of boarding school.
Charley also provides context for the form of class divide that is common in Mexico and not unheard of El Norte. His modest home in his working-class neighborhood is just beyond a symbolic gate in an equally symbolic wall on the estate of Carmen. Further, Carmen heads an unofficial group of "respectable" members of the community that is seeking to run Charley and his kind out of town.
Twin drama ensues as Charley persuades Andy to fully betray his grandmother at a time that the prodigal son at least is back for a short visit. The two lessons here are to not invite the beast into the parlor and that a leopard never changes his spots.
The impact of all this on caring and trusting Andy is adequately heartbreaking to set "Seeds' apart from more cookie-cutter coming-of-age stories. Those films typically have the boy with at least strong gay tendencies end up with the right person and come out the other end of a traumatic experience wiser but not permanently sadder.
The first difference here is the nature and nurture combine to make Andy much more delicate than the typical emo twink boy next door who is starting to look at either his childhood friend or the new guy in school in "that way." Our lead seems destined either to spend his teen years locked in his room reading or shooting up the cafeteria at lunchtime. Either way, you cannot help feeling very sorry for him and hoping for the best.
'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band' Blu-ray, DVD, Digital: One More Waltz for Epitome of Folk Rockers
The star power in front of and behind the camera as to the 2019 documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" is enough to make the Magnolia Pictures May 26, 2020 Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital releases of this tribute to that quintet must-see for the broad demographic to which it appeals. The underlying blockbuster-worthy tale seals the deal.
The aforementioned behind-the-scenes talent includes executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and long-time Howard production partner Brian Grazer. Director Daniel Roher gives PBS darling Ken Burns ample reason to look over his shoulder.
The titular frontman is the tip of the iceberg as to the Hall of Fame musicians who make up the talking heads (sans David Byrne) in the film. We hear quite a bit from former "Band" member Eric Clapton, former frontman for the titular band of brothers Bob Dylan, and devoted fans Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.
The festival love that verifies that "Robertson" gets its material down pat includes a 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Best of the Fest award for Roher. The 2019 Whistler Film Festival expresses its regard via a World Documentary Award win.
The following compelling trailer for "Robertson" highlights the charm and insight of Robertson, who narrates the film. We also get plenty of PG stories of sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll that are de rigueur for any group of musicians.
Robertson awesomely starts his tale as a Toronto teen in the '50s; this early tales remind us that the adolescents of the Great White North are just the same as the kids living south of their border.
The "When It Began" (apologies to disgruntled father-in-law Dylan) tale continues with Robertson sharing how he and future fellow "Band" mate Levon Helm come to join the Hawkmen of Canadian idol Ronnie Hawkins. The admiration that Hawkins expresses for Robertson in the documentary is one of many examples of a mutual admiration society in this feel-good film in an pandemic era.
The "its complicated" nature of the relationship between Robertson and Helm drives much of the film; Team Scorsese chooses wisely in initially depicting Helm as an infectiously enthusiastic lad and going on to show how he succumbs to the Bieber Syndrome that seemingly infects every Disney Channel star.
The Dylan connection also makes for good entertainment; we see how domestic and foreign audiences react to that rock god putting Team Robertson on the payroll; the course of that relationship is another aspect that screams for Howard to make a big-budget biopic about Robertson.
We further learn of the history behind Scorsese adopting this project; a segment in "Robertson" focuses on the "Band" 1976 concert film "The Last Waltz," which turns out to be a swan song for that group, that Scorsese films. A memory of Clapton as to that event further proves that Robertson is a guy with whom one would enjoy sharing a Molson.
The big picture this time is that films like "Robertson" strive for the same goal as this site; namely, to keep American pop culture alive for as long as possible. We are very lucky to be able to hear from this guitar hero. He was there at the beginning, successfully kept up with the times as they were a changin', and is still around to coherently tell his tale. This sadly literally makes him part of a rapidly dying breed.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]
Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project."
Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.
The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE.
The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.
The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.
Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm.
Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see."
A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.
An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real.
Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.
The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler.
The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her.
The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.
America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.
"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks.
The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker.
The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey.
MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels.
The Icarus Films April 28, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 Florian Optiz documentary "System Error" provides an inadvertently timely look at the limits of capitalism at a time that a majority of Americans either have massive income insecurity or are on the verge of doing so. The most inadvertently amusing segment features massively failed White House Director of Communications Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci. One of the best things about the movie is that achieves the genre ideal of being equally entertaining and educational.
This film, which features numerous intertitles of quotes from Karl Marx, has talking heads from several countries weigh on whether the growth potential for capitalism is infinite. One of the most effective topics is the wide-scale development of the Rain Forest; a soybean producer who is doing more than his share to force monkeys out of their habitats is the ideal face for this.
One spoiler is that the film shows us that nothing is unlimited; a good example of this is the Flash Crash and the markets since that time.
The bottom line this time is that bad times traditionally do lead to good times, but all parties must end.
A recent NPR interview with a once (and future?) road warrior who is lamenting her job no longer requiring staying at hotels several nights a week hit home on many levels. These include once having a job that involved flying out every Sunday and returning home on Wednesday.
The NPR interviewee discussing the joy of sleeping in fresh and crisp hotel sheets is highly relatable as to years of personal and professional travel. One thing that she does not mention is the disadvantage of staying at cookie-cutter hotels, which presumably are her places of choice.
Consistency can be comforting, but much of the fun of travel is getting a sense of local culture; during my travel-laden work, I often would wake up in a room that could be in any city. Remembering where I was required thinking for a few minutes.
This hit home especially hard on these thoughts evoking memories of staying at the historic Lackawana Station Hotel in Pennsylvania on one job assignment. A Google search revealing that that hotel now is a Radisson with cookie-cutter rooms evoked an exclamation that is unfit for this family-friendly forum.
The broad context regarding this is face of hotel stays in this period in which we are being freed from our cages after being locked up for three months. The more narrow focus is on how an upcoming Inn Credible New England stay at the Martin Hill Inn in Portsmouth, NH perfectly reflects both this and the long-standing Inn Credible philosophy.
A post-trip article on Martin Hill will focus on the general advantages of this highly personalized small B&B over the cookie-cutter hotels in Portsmouth. The primary thesis du jour is how these boutique properties are a much safer bet on every level than larger places, A secondary theme is why the real-life Dick and Joanna Loudons who (often) literally shed blood, sweat, and tears in literally opening up their homes to us deserve our support in these unprecedented times.
At the outset, I trust the Mom and Pop who have their lives invested in their businesses to do a much more thorough cleaning than an underpaid hotel maid, who already is under undue pressure to clean a large number of rooms before Silkwood showering an accommodation became so critical.
The COVID-19 guide that Russ the Martin Hill innkeeper included with my reservation detailed the extensive pre-check-in cleaning procedure that exceeds state guidelines. These include having at least a 48-hour gap between occupancies and having an air purifier running that entire time. Further, the brass doorknobs throughout this 19th-century building will be polished within an inch of their lives.
Forgoing beloved turndown service will be a small price to pay for further assurance that I will not be hocking up a lung a week later. Having a custom-made breakfast delivered outside my room each morning, rather than making sure that I am presentable and engaging in the dining room, is fine by me.
Not having the room cleaned during my stay is not a big deal and alleviates self-induced pressure to vacate fairly early each morning for a few hours to allow time for that straightening up. This also allows me to leave my personal-care items on the bathroom shelf after I wash up, Fresh towels and other needed replenishments to be left outside the door are only a call or a text away.
Staying in the Noonday Suite in the guest house will provide the dual benefits of being in the smaller of the two buildings and of having a private entrance. A separate sitting area always is nice; current circumstances leading to spending an above-average time in the room when traveling even more of a priority.
Supporting local business already should be a priority; innkeepers who have so much invested in their places and inevitably have shoulder and dead seasons particularly deserve consideration. Their inventory is much more fixed than that of retail locations, and they lack the ability to have a steady (but lessened) stream of foot traffic.
Further, the business location that they are trying to keep going often is their home. They lack the luxury of merely closing up shop or moving to another location. A related factor is that they typically are precluded from much of the federal support for businesses because they often at most have one part-time employee.
The final note regarding this is that the same person who feels smug about opting for small shops over big-box stores and other chains should feel ashamed about choosing a cookie-cutter hotel over a B&B. A full-service on-property restaurant, the latest-and-greatest smart television (complete with camera recording your every move) with 100 channels, and charging stations are not necessities. Additionally, there is not much joy greater than opening the door to a personalized room that makes you feel at home while still providing you crisp clean sheets.
The best praise for the Universal Pictures Home Pictures Blu-ray-DVD-Digital pack release of "Brahms: The Boy II" on May 19, 2020 is that this sequel is better than the eerily entertaining (but more bizarre and slower paced) 2016 movie "The Boy" that spawns it. Part of this appeal is making "Brahms" more suspenseful and relatable than the first movie. One of the best bonus features in the BD-DVD pack is an eight-minute alternative ending that arguably is better than the satisfying conclusion in the theatrical version.
The good folks at UPHE also give us deleted scenes and other alternate scenes; these treats reinforce hope for a director's cut release.
The basic lore (and lure) of this franchise is that the titular Victorian-era plaything is possessed and turns the real live boy who owns it to the dark side; this culminates in a homicidal rage before moving onto the next pre-adolescent minion. Of course, all this has shades of the "Conjuring" franchise.
The appeal of "Brahms" includes well-presented exposition as to the nature of the menace associated with making the doll-with-something extra part of the family.
"Boy" revolves around a middle-aged British couple whose flesh-and-blood eight-year-old boy is the victim of a tragic childhood at their estate in the English countryside; they hire a young American woman to take charge of Brahms as if she is one of the family. she quickly becomes in charge of all his wrongs and his rights to her extreme detriment. That's how she becomes The Nanny.
"Brahms" opens in London in the wake of the events of the first film. Liza (Katie Holmes), her husband, and their young son Jude (Christorpher Convery of "Gotham" and "Stranger Things") are living a very happy existence until a series of unfortunate circumstance lead to severe PTSD in both Liza and Jude.
Six months later, the family temporarily rents the cheerful guest house near the gloomy mansion where all of the events of "Boy" occur. Of course, the happy young family is blissfully unaware of that history.
A still shell-shocked Jude soon finds Brahms and tells his parents of the importance of following the "Gremlins" style rules that "Pinocchio" has established. The suspense builds as Brahms increasingly acts out in proportion to the extent to which he strengthens his grip on Jude. Of course, Mom and Dad continue to not believe Jude when he blames wanton destruction and other acts of aggression "on the dog." The events themselves and the reactions of Holmes and Convery provide the rest of us great entertainment.
All of this leads to the aforementioned theatrical and alternative endings that nicely bring things home in every sense of the word.
The amusing coincidence regarding this is that perverse minds behind the "Boy" franchise show that you can go home again at a time that most of us are prevented from leaving our residences.
The masterfully remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1983 Kirk Douglas/John Schneider action-adventure comedy "Eddie Macon's Run" is the type of film that we need most in this era in which temporarily being let out of our cages is not granting much freedom. Matt Nelson's recent run consisted of a three-hour round trip solely to get a haircut for the first time in eight weeks.
The spectacular shot-on-location southwest cinematography looks gorgeous in Blu-ray; on top of this, "Macon" is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of films of that era starring teen idol TV stars. These include the reviewed 1977 action-adventure comedy "Heroes" starring Henry "Fonzie" Winkler.
The small-screen stud this time is John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" fame; he plays the titular man, who aptly shows that his participation in a prison show is not his first time at the rodeo when he uses a cattle call to make a not-so-great escape in order to shorten his unfortunate incarceration in Texas. Kirk Douglas plays not-so-intrepid lawman Carl "Buster" Marzack, for whom recovering the fugitive is personal.
Much of the early portion of "Run" focuses on Macon makin' an actual run for the border. His early obstacles includes capture by two good ole boy redneck ranchers, who seem determined to provide deliverance that seems certain to utilize his pretty mouth and to make him squeal like a pig.
Meanwhile, Marzack remains one frustrating step behind his prey. The rest of the story is that the devoted wife of Macon is one step ahead of him and is paving the way for their planned reunion on the other side of the Rio Grande.
A fateful life-saving encounter occurs when Macon comes across black sheep Jilly Buck, perfectly portrayed by Lee Purcell, having trouble convincing Mr. Right Now that no means no. This leads to the con and the party girl starting their beautiful friendship with potential benefits.
The extended climax commences with Marzack catching up with his prey only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory; this leads to "Dukes" caliber car chase with a nice twist at the end.
The joy in all this is seeing Schneider put his earnest charm to good use in a role that may actually be tailor-made for him,.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the 1977 Henry Winkler, Sally Field, and Harrison Ford comedy "Heroes" is an awesome reminder of the gritty socially conscious films of that era. This release also is part of the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of teen idol TV stars films; the soon-to-be-reviewed "Eddie Macon's Run" starring John Schneider of "The Dukes of Hazzard" is another example.
Winkler, who always will be best known for playing Fonzie on the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days," puts his Yale drama school education to good use as excitable Vietnam vet Jack Dunne. One of his best scenes in a movie full of notable moments comes at the very beginning; he outrageously disrupts a sales pitch at an Army recruiting center.
This exploit lands Dunne back in a VA hospital, where he is the Fonzie-caliber leader of his ward. This hospital stay getting cut short with a little help from his friends fully sets the film in motion; it also sets the stage for both arguably the most charming "prison break" and ensuing pursuit in film history.
A series of not-so-unfortunate circumstances leads to Dunne befriending runaway almost-bride Carol Bell; Field plays Bell essentially in the same manner that she portrays runaway bride Carrie in "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977).
Carol is headed to Kansas City to get away in the days before her wedding; Dunne is going in that direction to be part of the big worm rush in California. It is unknown if he plans to raise red wigglers, which are the Cadillac of worms.
The first leg of this journey gives Winkler a chance to shine in his good-natured harassment of their bus driver, who represents a typical authority figure on an ego trip. (Think Fonzie v. Officer Kirk.) The mutual open animosity between the two men is another "Heroes" highlight.
The aforementioned circumstances lead to Dunne and Bell taking to the open road and showing up at the dirt farm of Dunne's Army buddy Ken Boyd (Ford). Ford awesomely plays Boyd as a redneck Han Solo; Field makes a perfect princess for him, and Winkler nicely fills the role of emo sidekick.
The circumstances this time are less fortunate than the ones that set the stage for when Henry met Sally; Dunne is a last-minute replacement for Boyd in a race. This leads to the very "Smokey" development of Dunne and Bell using the muscle car of Boyd for the next leg of their journey; "Smokey" pulling them over in the wake of the vehicle taking the brunt of the injury in a bar brawl is another scene that makes "Heroes" '70stastic.
The subsequent adventures, including the obligatory trial-and-error separation, lead to arriving in California. This leads to a rude awakening in the form of highly distressing news for Dunne that provides Winkler one more chance to shine.
The bottom line is that "Heroes" earns the cliched praise that it deftly combines drama and comedy; the bigger picture is that the trauma of the actual wars in the decades following Vietnam and the intense stress of living through COVID-19 make this tale of a likable guy cracking under the strain and being desperate to live out his dream relatable. This is especially so ahead of your not-so-humble reviewer driving three-hours round trip solely to get a haircut two months after his last one.
The CBS Home Entertainment May 5, 2020 S7 DVD of the Showtine drama "Ray Donovan" provides a good chance both for a special lockdown marathon viewing of a compelling series and to complete your home-video collection of the adventures of the titular "fixer" (Liev Schreiber) and his family.
The following S7 trailer is awash with teasing glimpses of the trauma and drama that largely revolves around the sins of the past that extend beyond the transgressions of the father,
The first central development as to many of the S7 events is the discovery of evidence of an especially gruesome S6 act by Team Donovan. This ensemble consists of Ray, his ex-con father Mickey (Jon Voight), not-so-bright younger brother Brendan "Bunchy" Donovan, up-and-coming younger (half) brother Daryll, and punch-drunk Parkinson's patient older brother Terry. This is not to mention Ray daughter Bridget and her cute-but-dumb husband Smitty. Watching befuddled puppy Smitty exchange clothes in a "The Prince and the Pauper" scene is an S7 highlight.
The gruesome discovery puts homicide investigator Detective Perry on the trail of the clan as hard as if they had stolen a loaf of bread; this takes the humorous turn of involving cute-but-dumb teen idol pop star Jonathan Walker Hanson in the plot to avoid a potentially life-long family vacation as guests of the state. One of many other pieces of this puzzle is the Bridget follows a pattern of behavior of interns for at least the past several decades. The price that she pays for that transgression shows that the punishment far exceeds the crime.
A concurrent storyline with equally good black humor revolves around Ray staging an already compromising situation for public figure Kevin Sullivan to look even worse for him. The numerous complications this time revolve around the father of Kevin having a long intertwined relationship with the Donovans that goes back to the childhood of Ray. This leading to a revenge plot and to Ray sleeping with the enemy is only the tip of the iceberg.
The copious flashbacks that show how Ray comes to be the man whom he is today also explain why many of the wounds are so fresh decades later.
All of this leads to an anticipated season-finale climax that has twists galore. Although many loose ends are tied up, there remains enough unresolved in anticipation of an eighth season that one can only hope for seven-seasons-and-a-movie. A failure to provide that fully screams for fixing.
The appeal of all this is portraying the stereotype of an working-class Irish family that the members either are at each other's throats or in each other's pockets in a manner that is far from a caricature and that does not insult the intelligence of the audience. This is due to the skill both behind and in front of the camera.
The DVD bonuses consist of a feature on Brendan portrayor Dash Mihok directing an episode and a self-explanatory feature titled "Deconstructing Ray" that provides insight as to how the Irish sausage is made.
A trifecta of influences is prompting these musings about television series finales. With the exception of discussing the classic final episode of "M*A*S*H," references will be kept vague so as to not spoil surprises for folks who have not watched the show stoppers. These triggering events consist of late May being the traditional season of TV series' finales, CBS Home Entertainment recently releasing the (reviewed) epic 20-season "Gunsmoke" DVD CS set, and a covid-related sense that there is not much to which to look forward in life.
A major pet peeve regarding the swan song for series is the fairly prevalent practice of every major character experiencing a life-changing event. It is realistic that one character has a significant transformation, and it is nice when something good happens to a likable "friend" whom we have "known" for several years. Having one character get a dream job within a few weeks of another getting the girl after a lengthy pursuit, another couple learning that a bundle du joie is on the way, etc. is way over the top,
One otherwise high-quality show, which reflects the wisdom that seven years is the proper lifespan for most series, blows its finale in a related way. It is realistic that the business around which a workplace comedy is centered is sold; it is less believable that every employee with one exception gets the axe for that reason.
A companion series of that TV Land classic handles things better by having a main character move onto literally greener pastures. With the possible exception of a vaguely recalled pregnancy announcement, the lives of the rest of the ensemble are unchanged except for losing a pal and a confidante.
"M*A*S*H," which is known for successfully breaking many TV Land laws, provides a valid exception to the above. The end of the Korean War is a realistic premise for the final episode. This also makes it very realistic that the doctors, nurses, and other personnel of the titular Army hospital go their separate ways to pursue their professions back home.
The perspective that COVID-19 provides adds to the credibility of the idea that a main character breaks under the strain of life on the front lines despite nearing the finish line. Having largely been confined at home for two months and having to worry abut supplies of things such as toilet paper, soap, baking supplies, and meat does not mean that the prospective of life largely returning to normal in three weeks will prevent a fist going through the wall.
Another TV Land classic deserves an honorable mention for a notable finale that earns a footnote in television history. That one centers around an event that has its origins in the pilot; there also may have been one or more contrived events at the B-story in the episode. Despite all that, the final scene clearly establishes that it is business as usual once the dust settles.
The bigger picture is that the near absence of any appointment television these days deprives the viewing public of the glee associated with the anticipation and actual viewing of the end of an era. Your not-so-youthful reviewer was away at school when the "M*A*S*H" finale aired and crammed in a common room to watch it on a relic of a black-and-white set with a coat-hanger antenna.
Many years later, I scoured grocery and drug stores in the pre-Amazon era of the "Seinfeld" finale to get enough Tweety Bird Pez dispensers to host a viewing party. I also served Junior Mints and big salads, not that there is anything wrong with that.
The must-be-seen-to-be-believed brilliantly remastered Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 DVD release of the 2000 Matt Damon drama "All the Pretty Horses" follows the MCE April 2020 leitmotif of BDs of films based on novels. This release coincides with the (reviewed) BD release of "Trapped," which is an adaptation of the Greg Iles thriller "24."
The accolades for this movie based on the Cormac McCarthy book of the same title include the 2000 National Board of Review, USA award for Best Screenplay. Each act in "Horses" playing out like a chapter in a book verifies that National Board of Review has chosen wisely.
"Horses" tells the post-war tale of West Texas presumed ranch heir John Grady Cole (Matt Damon), who gets a rude awakening on his grandfather buying the farm setting the stage for his mother to sell the family homestead to an oil company. Rather than packing up the truck and moving to Beverly (Hills that is), John and best buddy (with "Brokeback Mountain" style homoerotic undertones) Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) head out to be cowboys in Mexico.
A fateful encounter early in the journey is a game-changer that shows John that no good deed goes unpunished and that the riding trail to Hell is paved with good intentions. John is much more kind-hearted than Lacey on the pair meeting mid-teens runaway Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black) on a horse to which he has an arguable claim but that does not technically belong to him.
The excitable boy experiencing intense angst leads to a chain of events that finds him almost naked and afraid and John and Lacey figuratively at the end of their ropes. A spoiler is that past soon coming back to haunt our heroes puts them at risk of literally being at that end of their ropes.
In the interim, John and Lacey obtain gainful employment at a large Mexican ranch. The skill of John at taming horses earns him the favor of the owner; John being Matt Damon earns him the favor of Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), who is the daughter of the owner.
This near saga continues with paternal pride leading to John and Lacey being held accountable for the sins of another; this leads to a Mexican standoff that involves a South-of-the-Border form of frontier justice.
More trauma and drama ensues, leading to a sort of a homecoming on a few levels. The spoiler this time is that this neo-modern western does not guarantee that John will ride off into the sunset in the end.
The Mill Creek Entertainment April 7, 2020 Blu-ray release of the Kevin Bacon 2002 psychological thriller "Trapped" is one of the latest examples of home-video distributors being able to say "Cineplexes?! We don't need no stinkn' cineplexes." Greg Iles, aka the other Southern attorney turned best-selling crime-fiction novelist, masterfully adapts his book "24" to the big screen.
The action in the 1:46 drama mostly occurs over the titular period in the source document. Star anesthesiologist Dr. Will Jennings (Stuart Townsend) and his wife Karen are living the good life with with young daughter Abby (Dakota Fanning).
The nightmare begins within minutes of Karen and Abby going inside after seeing Dad off to a medical convention at which he is the keynote speaker. Karen quickly discovers that Abby is gone, and that serial kidnapper Hickey (Bacon) is an uninvited overnight guest.
The following exposition builds on the opening scenes that occur six months earlier. Hickey provides himself and wife Cheryl (Courtney Love) the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed by snatching the offspring of wealthy families and holding them for ransom for 24 hours. Hickey literally makes himself at home during that period to ensure that the 'rents behave and do not call the po po.
The current role of Karen, who seems tailor-made for the feral persona of Love, in the family business is to keep an eye on Will at the convention. For his part, Hickey is continuing his pattern of unduly taking advantage of the vulnerable mother willing to do "anything" to ensure the safe return of her child. This leads to a memorable scene with a ripped-from-the-headlines moment.
As he does in his novels, Iles expertly builds up the action and the drama on the three fronts of the literal homefront, the hotel, and the cabin in the woods where Abby is being held. These scenes also establish the backgrounds that make Team Hickey the people whom they are today.
All of this climaxes as the power balances shift back-and-forth as to the captors and the captives. The big payoff is a well-choreographed rescue attempt that includes a few nice twists.
The most fun of this enjoyable film relates to seeing typically good-guy Bacon once more allow his dark passenger to take the wheel. Equal entertainment comes from watching Love be Love.
The bigger picture is that "Trapped" shows creating Hollywood fare that appeals to critics and audiences alike does not require a current teen idol name. Michael Bay level pyrotechnics, or even especially lewd and lascivious content. A good story, competent direction, and a cast that understands its characters more than suffices.
Doing justice to the CBS Home Entertainment May 5, 2020 epic CS DVD release of the complete-series 65th Anniversary Edition of the 20-season "Gunsmoke" is impossible as to the limitations of these posts. As such, these musing are based on the first handful of the 1955 episodes and the Final Four from 1975. An awesome aspect of this is that last are just as sublime as the first.
Hope for a better tomorrow that is slightly easing Covid-related angst include thoughts of watching every "Gunsmoke" episode in a post-pandemic world that is more conducive for properly savoring gems from The Golden Age of Television.
CBSHE shows its usual overall integrity and its love for "TV Land" shows by simultaneously releasing "Gunsmoke" S20 on DVD on May 5, 2020. A major peeve of your not-so-humble reviewer is home-video companies releasing all but one or two seasons of a series and subsequently releasing that program in a CS set that REQUIRES either buying several duplicate seasons or forgoing the whole enchilada.
Sincere advice as to "Gunsmoke" is to treat yo self to the sturdy and stylish CS gift set and pass along individual season sets either to current fans or to "non-believers" who suffer from the past prejudice of your not-so-humble reviewer as to Westerns. "Gunsmoke" is a prime example of oaters being about so much more than cattle rustlers, saloon fights, and high noon showdowns.
The numerous timeless themes, such as prejudice and the conflict between the law and justice, in "Gunsmoke" evoke thoughts of a fellow TV Land classic. Comedy deity Carol Burnett has said in a recent interview that her eponymous variety show aces the test of time because funny always is funny.
"Gunsmoke" also reflects the wisdom of another couch potato god. The wisdom of Garry Marshall as to "Happy Days" is that a sitcom that is made in the '70s and the '80s that is set in the '50s never will look dated. The expertly digitally remastered "Gunsmoke" episodes that make even the S1 offerings look and sound crisp and clean validates the Marshall Plan.
S1E1, which is in awesomely sharp black-and-white and is 30-minutes. starts with an A-List endorsement that the syndicated version likely omits. The opening scene is of western movies legend John Wayne praising the work of James Arness, who plays U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon in all 20 seasons of "Gunsmoke," in this new series.
Another twist is that S1E1 next opens in a manner that seems to disappear within a few episodes. We hear voice-over narration of Dillon pontificating as he walks through the cemetery on the hill above his home turf of Dodge City, Kansas.
S1E1 then sets a tone to which the series remains true for two decades. This one revolves (pun intended) quick-draw Dan Grat facing justice for gunning down a man whom Grat did not know was unarmed when he acted with extreme prejudice. Grat going on to plug Dillon early in their first contact is one of likely hundreds of times that Dillon takes one for the team during the run of the season.
A young but still cranky Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), who is with "Gunsmoke" to the far-from-bitter end, is on hand to patch up Dillon and to fail to persuade him to let his wounds properly heal before returning to work. Long-time saloon owner Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who gets out of Dodge in S19, also is on the scene. Watching her pursue a largely unresponsive Dillon is odd from the perspective of their subsequent close relationship with probable benefits.
Although deputy Chester (Dennis Weaver) is on the payroll, it is surprising to see him be not-so-dedicated and to have a contentious relationship with the boss. Comic relief deputy Festus (Ken Curtis), who is the Barney Fife of "Gunsmoke," is not yet in Dodge.
The next few S1 episodes further test the value of Dillon and his inner circle. These include convincing "upstanding" citizens that a neer-do-well will receive justice of a variety other than the frontier kind to which he is most deserving.
The beginning of the end, which is brilliant living color and is a full hour, has Festus front-and-center when a prisoner transfer leads to his contributing sweat equity to the building of a church that an older pastor wants to build for members of a tribe that only recently has made peace with the settlers that oppose that project.
"Manolo" continues the long history, including an S19 episode about Jewish settlers sticking to their own values, of cultural sensitivity that is a common "Gunsmoke" theme. This time the story centers around a group of Basque shepherds maintaining a coming-of-age tradition that conditions a son becoming a man on administering his father a major beatdown. As we learn, this practice does not make any allowance for pacifists.
Team Dillon wraps up their saga-length run with the aptly titled "The Sharecroppers." This one also features Festus, who is conned into working the land despite being the injured party as to a duped innocent being tricked into buying the beloved mule of Festus. This truly leaves the audience wanting more and provides a strong sense that life in Dodge continues the same after the production team rides off into the sunset.
Much of the fun of "Gunsmoke" is akin to watching "The Love Boat" in that virtually every past, current, and future television star (as well as a few film stars) who is a SAG member during the run of the series guest stars. Bette Davis arguably is the most notable one; we also get Ron Howard, David Wayne, Joan Van Ark, Bruce Boxleitner, etc.
The plethora of special features include the CBSHE staple of episodes promos. We also get a tribute to Arness and a very special feature that is a discussion with "Gunsmoke" experts Ben Costello and Beckey Burgoyne.
The bottom line this time is that the truly do not make 'em like this anymore.
The Film Movement DVD release of the 2017 drama "Outrage Coda" wraps up the underworld crime series of movies by Takeshi Kitano. Based merely on this one, it is clear that Quentin Tarantino lacks a monopoly on over-the-top bloody "mob" movies. In this case, the yakuza system is front-and-center. The fault as to not fully following every twist in this fast-paced chess game of a film lies within your not-so-humble reviewer, not with Kitano.
The following Movement trailer for "Coda" showcases the aforementioned wonderfully perverse violence that far exceeds the expectations of the 12 year-old boy in many of us. Another way of thinking about this is that it brings the spirit of "Itchy and Scratchy" into the live-action realm.
Our story begins on a typically deceptive low-key note; South Korean made-man Chang is chatting with a younger guy about fishing; this scene sets the stage for a more violent depiction of the middle-aged man and the sea.
The story fully gets underway when Chang is called in to after yakuza middle-manager Hakuna is caught with his pants down during a tryst with a couple of prostitutes who do not want to play rough. Chang fully puts this blowhard in his place and sends him packing.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the yakuza boss sees the absence of Hakuna at an all-hands meeting as verification of his "I don't get no respect" attitude. Part of the basis for this is that this CEO has never been a guest of the Emperor or otherwise gotten his hands dirty.
The subsequent intertwined plots revolve around a desire for a management change and an effort to obtain maximum profit as to compensating Team Chang for the offense of Hakuna. The negotiations as to the latter are hilarious in a manner that proves that made men have a great sense of humor.
The better fun comes in the form of mob violence that often is staged to not be as it seems. Such attacks including one in a restaurant and another in a car show that the classics never go out of style.
All of this leads to a highly satisfying climax that provides a perfect conclusion to the film and the "Outrage" series. Hakuna learns a trifecta of lessons in the form of being doomed to repeat history when you do not learn from it, being careful about for what you wish, and the consequences of shooting off you mouth. Meanwhile, the fate of the yakuza boss depicts a fantasy for anyone who ever has had a toxic employer. One easily can say that his team is driven to this extreme.
Movement supplements this with a "making of" documentary and trailers of Takeshi films that Movement has released on DVD and Blu-ray.
The High Octane Pictures DVD of the 2019 gay-themed psychological thriller "Crisis Hotline" (nee "Shadows in Mind") shows that the fact that that it is not safe to go back in the theater is not a problem at all. This one has edgy fun for all ages and gender identities.
The following official trailer for "Hotline" provides a strong sense of both the style and the substance of this tale of an innocent young farmboy who realizes that he is not in Nebraska anymore.
This neo-modern gay soap opera/fable centers around member of The IT Crowd Danny, who gets a series of rude awakening on relocating to Silicon Valley for a dream job that turns out to be another day at the office.
As we learn throughout the almost film-long telephone conversation between Danny and support center staffer Simon, the reality is that the apparent embarrassment of riches as to the tech. job only allows for living in a shamefully shabby studio apartment and commuting an hour each way each day on the company bus.
The trauma that leads to the drama conveyed in the discussion with Simon begins with desperate times leading to Danny varying his method of his desperate measure of taking things into his own hands by going on either Grind'r or a reasonable facsimile thereof in search of Mr. Right.
This effort leads to meeting fellow keyboard kid Kyle. This pair waiting four dates to seal the deal either is a fairy tale (no pun or offense intended) or shows the new normal in the world of gay dating. It is realistic that waiting makes the intimacy more special.
The rest of the unfolding story is that Danny shares his plan for a murder/suicide with Simon.
The spidey sense of viewers is triggered more quickly than that of Danny as to Kyle being cagey regarding his clients who pay him well enough to live a lifestyle to which Danny would like to become accustomed.
A subsequent "meet the parents" scene has Danny as the man who came to dinner with Kyle to meet 30-something gay couple/pornographers Christian and Lance, who pay the rent for their boy Kyle. The evening starts out creepy and takes a darker turn that reasonably causes Danny to feel uneasy.
Danny becoming increasingly aware of the nature of the dirty business in which his highly significant other is involved proportionately prompts him to encourage Kyle to change professions. Anyone who has seen any film even remotely similar to "Crisis" knows that the odds are not forever in the favor of the young lovers as to their great escape plan. At the same time, that is a chance that they have to take.
The predictable last-minute obstacle to a happy ending comes in the unpredictable form of Kyle bringing his work home that is a Cos for concern. This triggers the events that lead to the call announcing plans to pull the trigger.
Writer/producer/director Mark Schwab pulls off the neat trick of pulling a rabbit out of his hat in the form of an 11th-hour plot twist that puts a completely new perspective on the entire film. The bonus is that it is a clever and realistic development that supports the theory that confession is good for the soul.
Thematically, the bigger picture is that the experience of Danny is relatable across the Kinsey Scale. As addressed early in the marathon call, every first love is almost certain to end in tears and recriminations. Further, in the immortal words of Keith Partridge, doesn't somebody wanted to be wanted like me? This is especially true when you are living a solitary existence in a shabby broom closet thousands of miles from home.
The bigger picture as to "Crisis" itself is that Schwab holds true to the modern style of indie filmmaking by keeping things real and having the performances largely be stoic even in the face of heavy turmoil. On a more narrow note, this film that borderline qualifies for a PG-13 rating reflects the rule in gay cinema that the amount of nudity has an inverse relationship with the quality of the film.
The DVD extras include commentary by Schwab and film expert Tim Sika. We also get DVD exclusive interviews with the cast and the crew.
A combination of the $3 trillion (and counting) cost of federal aid as to the COVID-19 pandemic and a related burnout as to writing film and television review after five weeks (and counting) of being in lockdown is inspiring this detour into Blogland. The topic du jour is replacing the federal income tax with a sales tax; fighting a desire to incorporate the word "Trump" in every sentence in a hope that it catches the eye of the guy with a solid track record of acting on impulse is tough.
The TV reference this time is the '60s fantasycom "I Dream of Jeannie." A fifth-season episode revolves around the newly wed titular magical being buying new husband Major Nelson a comical embarrassment of riches on credit. She explains to her agitated spouse that buying things on credit means that you do not have to pay for them; he replies that you do not have to pay today but must pay tomorrow.
The bigger political picture relates to intense personal exasperation as to the once (and future?) widespread support for "Medicaid for all" and for excusing student loans. The "tomorrow" aspect of this is that someone must pay for that largess in the future.
Similarly, although Steve Mnuchin could commit the catastrophically moronic act of "blinking his eyes" and printing $3 trillion (and counting), taxpayers are going to have pay for our stimulus checks, PPP "loans," payments to businesses great and small, etc. "tomorrow." Of course, this must come in the form of federal taxes.
Two aspects of a good tax system are that it is easy to administer and is fair. As shown below, a federal sales tax checks both boxes. One caveat is that medical expenses, non-prepared foods (i.e., most things other than junk food), clothing up to $300, and mortgage and rent payments would be exempt; exempt organizations would not.
At the outset, there is a HUGE gap in the current income tax system. On a very micro level, I do not pay the guy (who insists on cash) who plows my driveway enough to require reporting those payments to the IRS. The same is true as to the guy (who insists on cash) who mows my lawn.
Yet, the total income that these guys collect from all their customers does trigger a duty to report that income; it is highly unlikely that either of these guys or the millions of other people in America who do the same work, clean houses. babysit full time, etc. pay income taxes either.
A basic aspect of fairness is that those folks are subject to the same tax liability as the one with which those of us whose payments for our services are reported must comply. Completely setting aside the issue of the equality of the pay for folks who do the things that we do not want to do, it is unfair that taxpayers have had to pay higher taxes to help fill the tax gap for a whole century.
Class differences play a more positive role as to another aspect of fairness regarding a federal sales tax. I am among the relatively (and shrinking) few who is fortunate enough to not be living paycheck-to-paycheck and being able to afford a (shrinking) amount of wants.
I plan to replace my four-year old laptop with a new one before the end of 2020. I am budgeting $500 for that purpose. Someone with a larger income than mine would be more likely to spend roughly $1,500 for a MacBook. Some living paycheck-to-paycheck likely would spend $200 on a laptop.
The sales tax that each of us would pay on our laptops roughly would reflect our relative income levels and corresponding abilities to pay. The same is true as to other goods, such as televisions and cell phones, and services.
On a larger level, businesses of all sizes would incur roughly proportionate tax liabilities. A corner dry cleaner would pay a relatively small amount for hangers, cleaning products, and new equipment every few years. A branch office of a Fortune 500 company would pay much for things such as the large quantity of office supplies and business equipment that it requires to operate.
Although all deductions would be eliminated, the broader tax base would be expected to more than compensate for those lost benefits.
The most obvious aspect of ease-of-administration would be no longer requiring filing tax forms and estimated payments. Purveyors of goods and services already must provide the federal government records of their revenues.
Further, time-consuming, costly debates on tax policy would be a thing of the past.
A five-year roll out of the transition to this system would ease the change for tax professionals and laid-of IRS employees. Some IRS jobs could be eliminated through attrition; remaining IRS employees have a leg up as to applying for jobs with other branches of the federal government.
Ease as to federal budgeting is another advantage of a national sales tax. It makes sense as an initial matter to set the allowed range based on a thorough analysis. A hypothetical example is to set the minimum rate at 20-percent and the maximum at 30-percent. Come budget season, the bean counters would come up with a number that would be presented to Congress for a vote.
This, of course, is an cursory discussion of a national sales tax. However, the concept seems inarguably sound.
The Film Movement Classics April 14, 2020 Blu-ray release of "Alastair Sim's School for Laughter" awesomely continues this division of art-house god Film Movement giving timeless British comedies their due. This release also expands the Classics catalog of Ealing Films that are reviewed in the Movement section of this site.
The scope of "Laughter" is akin to the recent (equally bonus-features laden) Classics BD collection "Their Finest Hour." This reviewed set of five films showcases Ealing WWII- themed productions that include the original version of "Dunkirk."
The following Classics trailer for "Laughter" expertly schools viewers in each of the films in a manner that showcases the wonderful deadpan humor of Sim, who arguably is best known for his standard-setting portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."
The fun begins with the wonderfully titled farce "The Belles of St. Trinian's" (1954). Sim plays the dual roles of the headmistress of the titular girls' boarding school and her neer-do-well brother. The success of Sim in pulling off this feat is one of many examples of this skills in this set.
The overall theme of the "Belles" is that the student body is comprised of a group of feral females that strikes fear in the hearts of the locals. For her part, headmistress Millicent Fritton must contend with both the wolves of Wall Street constantly at her door looking for loan payments and a faculty that is comprised of a highly disgruntled rogues' gallery.
These factors (in addition to the new "Eastland" girls) converge in a perfect comedic storm that drives much of the "Belles" action. A faction that figuratively has a horse in the race is competing with another faction that literally and figuratively has a horse in the same contest.
The central conflict results in there being a dorm resident who is a real nag.
Next up is the original "School for Scoundrels" (1960). This wonderfully dark comedy has Sim shining as Stephen Potter, who runs the titular "College of Lifemanship" that teaches decent folks who repeatedly are victimized by "scoundrels" to learn how to get the larger end of the stick.
"Scoundrel" Delauney (Terry-Thomas of "Munster, Go Home" fame) repeatedly being the Bluto (or Brutus) to the Popeye of Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) prompts the latter to engage in continuing education so that he can school his rival and regain the primary affection of "Olive Oyl."
Although the dead-pan classroom aspects of "School" are highly entertaining, the best scenes are the "before" and "after" ones between Delauney and Palfrey. Watching these men alternatively get the upper-hand over the other is timeless classic comedy.
The bonus features include an charming and insightful modern interview with a film critic.
"Laughter in Paradise" (1951) arguably has the most social commentary in this quartet. Sim plays one of four potential heirs in this variation of both versions of "Brewster's Millions." The right of each named beneficiary in the will to collect his or her share of the loot is conditioned on completing a 28-day task that is directly contrary to his or her nature.
The mission of secret pulp-fiction novelist Denniston Russell (Sim) is to commit an offense that will make him a guest of the Queen until 28 days later. Watching him question local law-enforcement as to what crime will result in that specific amount of time is amusing. A shoplifting effort that goes comically awry is hilarious.
Classics aptly wraps things up with "Hue and Cry" (1947), which is the first Ealing comedy. Sim once again plays a paperback writer, whose fiction provides the basis for actual heists by a criminal gang. This tale centers around a teen Hardy boy and his gang that must thwart the bad guys on their own.
The surprise ending truly is that. The less good news is that it involves a serious beatdown of our excitable boy, who already has experienced undue physical and emotional batterings in his quest for truth, justice, and the English way.
Classics supplements this with trailers and "behind-the-scenes" features on the films. We also get the usual, but far from typical, written essay on the topic du set.
The broad appeal Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 gay-themed coming-of-age drama "Socrates" relates to it including several highly relatable themes. These include growing up rough, the pains of first love, and intense trauma related to the 'rents.
The back cover synopsis shares that "Socrates" is the first feature from the Quero Institute in Brazil. The rest of this story is that it is co-written, produced, and acted by at-risk teenagers from local low-income communities.
The remarkable 16 wins for this sensitive but not saccharine tale reflect the exceptional nature of each aspect of this film. The accolades include Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor wins at the 2018 Festival Mix Brasil.
The following Breaking trailer for "Socrates" expertly achieves its purpose of touching on each of the aforementioned themes that leaves the audience craving more.
The trauma and drama begin with the opening scenes; our hero finds his mother dead. This discovery sets all of the events in "Socrates" in motion beginning with a social worker telling Socrates that he must live under adult supervision.
Already desperate times that include being behind with the rent lead to desperate measures that include Socrates taking over the job of his mother cleaning a bus station, His search for gainful employment also includes working at a construction site. It is loathe at first site there as to a young male co-worker who quickly becomes a friend with benefits.
That its complicated relationship, which likely is the first love of Socrates, includes highs and lows. On of the latter is a bashing while enjoying an otherwise enjoyable day at the beach,
This ends with a rude awakening that involves Socrates discovering that he is the dirty little secret of his man.
The rest of the life story of Socrates is an estranged relationship with his father. One of the more dramatic scenes in the film is a hard-to-watch confrontation between these two.
As stated above, there are several big pictures here. Growing up almost always is difficult under even the best possible circumstances; having just about every odd stacked against you makes surviving adolescence almost impossible. "Socrates" stays very true to this by keeping things real in ways that include not having a last-minute miracle that allows the titular lad to live large,
Breaking supplements this with a few features on this successful inaugural outing.
Icarus Films comes close to boldly taking cinephiles where no man has gone before regarding the DVD release of the 2017 politically oriented supernatural-thriller "Jupiter's Moon." This tale of a Syrian refugee becoming the boy with something extra has something for everyone and must be seen to be believed.
The numerous accolades for this Palme d'Or-nominated film include a very apt Fantastic Features win at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest. The Best Film award at the 2017 L'Etrnage Festival is equally appropriate.
The opening scenes of aforementioned young man Aryan Dashni riding a bus in an effort to illegally enter Hungary strike a good balance between exposition and getting down to the action. A police raid leads to Aryan getting shot and left for dead in one of several visually stunning "Moon" sequences. He soon discovers that his rebirth includes an ability to levitate at will.
In traditional movie-narrative style, we also soon meet Dr. Gabor Stern. He is engaged in a rather shady ongoing money-based scheme with his colleague Vera. It is clear that money is not a factor regarding their romantic relationship.
World-weary police official Laszlo brings this marginally God and Jesus pair together in the aftermath of the raid. He and Gabor have an uneasy friendship with limited benefits. Laszlo looks the other way much of the time as Gabor facilitates patients at a refugee camp being set free in Hungary.
Aryan soon comes out to Gabor on their meeting at the camp; this leads to the pair beginning a beautiful friendship based on mutual profit. Gabor will exploit the talent of Aryan, and the boy will obtain limited freedom.
Much of the conflict relates to Laszlo proving that his Momma did not raise no fool. He accurately concludes that Gabor has absconded with Aryan but has great difficulty taking the stranger in a strange land back into custody. Gabor additionally plays the Gladys Kravitz role in the film by knowing that Aryan can fly but being unable to get anyone to believe him.
The plot further thickens on Aryan confiding in Gabor regarding a plan to reconnect with his father, who is a suspected terrorist. This leads to an exceptional sequence in which the Chosen One finds himself in the middle of a terrorist plot.
We additionally learn why Gabor needs a large amount of money. This relates to his effort to rebuild his life after a tragedy that can be considered punishment for his sins. The extent to which Aryan is sent from above to facilitate this salvation is ambiguous.
The expected grand-scale mayhem at the end of "Moon" ends on a note that is very surprising beyond the actual partial resolution that it provides. The positive and strongly religious final images leave one with much more of a sense of serenity than the entire film suggests would lead to the closing credits.
The bigger successful trick of "Moon" is presenting heavy political commentary in the form of a religious-oriented fable in a compelling manner without being preachy.