The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 11. 2020 6-discs 24-episodes DVD sets of "Gunsmoke" S18 (1972-73) and S19 (1973-74) provide two more chances to enjoy the adventures of Team Dillon (James Arness) before fans must get out of Dodge at the end of the 20th and final season of this Western classic. These releases follow the CBS (reviewed) S15 V1 and V2 DVD sets of the series.
S18 is our topic du jour; a February 13, 2020 post will discuss S19.
As the following discussion of S18 episodes show, folks who reject Westerns due to a perception that they are all about saloon fights and cattle rustling miss out on wonderful thought-provoking fare.
S18 E1 borrows from other classic slice of life lore that is set in the late 19th century. US Marshal Matt Dillon cannot quite claim mission accomplished on recovering stolen loot from a bank robber early is the first part of this "very special" two-part episode, As often is the case, Dillon gets a cap in his person as thanks for upholding the law. This leads to his heading down the river on the raft of two young siblings who are playing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The rest of the early part of the story is that The Outlaw Charley Utter (Slim Pickens) and his gang of two.
Dillon and the kids soon find themselves at a rough-and-tumble small settlement where they connect with a poacher (Jack Elam) and his common-life wife, who brings home the bacon by running a crooked version of a roulette wheel. Dillon acting true to his law-abiding nature both shows him that no good deed does unpunished and leads to getting out a town that is far from his home turf of Dodge.
Part two involves the expanded motley crew that is piloting the raft trying to reach a destination that they hope will not be their final one courtesy of Utter. This includes good intentions regarding trying to create a win-win situation as to matching the new woman of the house who would benefit from motherhood with the unaccompanied minors. The rest of the story is a strong Finn-style aversion to being civilized. One spoiler regarding this is that you can lead a boy to church, but you cannot make him pray.
The next S18 adventure is equally Old West in nature. A travelling faith healer has his convictions tested when he bonds with a crippled all-American boy (Vincent Van Patten) on coming into Dodge. Substance in this one includes the power of positive thinking.
The next outing is an even more timeless tale that provides even more hearty food for thought. An ex-con rides into Dodge seeking revenge against the shiftless wife-beating pig farmer that dun him wrong. The first dilemma relates to whether an upstanding citizen/new father has a duty to endanger himself by harboring the pig farmer; the ensuing conflict relates to the extent to which the townsfolks and the pig farmer himself should allow the inarguably better man pay the price to thwarting the revenge of the man seeking to hold the farmer accountable.
The anti-Semitism around which the S18 season finale revolves is even more translatable to the 21st century. This story begins with a group of three brothers without brides harassing Jewish settlers fairly fresh off the boat from Russia. This escalates to the gang dragging the youngest son in the family behind a horse; this leads to the off-camera death of the boy. Richard Dreyfuss plays an older brother of the boy.
The subsequent Talmud-related refusal of the father of the boy refusing to help Dillon bring the neer-do-well siblings to justice prevents those men from answering for their crimes. The better assimilated siblings of the victim leads to a confrontation that leads to a surprising conclusion. One lesson here is that the old ways have merit.
The compelling nature of these episodes (that almost always feature at least one "Love Boat" caliber guest star) and the other S18 offerings shows why "Gunsmoke" still is on the air after 18 seasons and is surviving the relocation of most of TV Land to the big city in the '70s.,
Time Life more fully establishes itself as the king of DVD releases of '60s and '70s A-List celebrity variety shows with the February 11, 2020 DVD release of "I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny and Cher." This 5-disc set with a modern-era interview with Cher and other truly special feature joins epic sets of (reviewed) "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show" and (reviewed) "Laugh In" in the Time Life catalog.
Although "Burnett" and "Laugh In" are bigger hits, "Sonny" arguably better reflects pop culture and has greater influence over TV Land. This brainchild of lowest-common denominator genius Fred Silverman reflect the wisdom of "I Love Lucy." Ala Desi Arnaz, Bono puts his ego aside to let his more appealing and talented spouse be the main attraction,
On a related note, the playfully bickering husband-and-wife variety show format helps pave the way for similar '70stastic television fare that follows. The closest homage is "The Captain and Tennille," "Donny and Marie" also is very similar, and the influence extends to "Tony Orlando and Dawn."
Moving into the '80s, "Sonny" (ala "Lucy") ending when the stars experience irreconcilable differences also reflects "Happy Days"spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi" ending for reasons that include Joanie no longer loving Chachi.
The "Sonny" set beginning at the beginning lets us see the genesis of the series; subsequent episodes in the set show how it evolves.
Two constants are Mr. and Mrs. Bono coming on stage at the beginning to sing a duet and give Cher a chance to deliver short, Italian, and fat jokes that reflect the era in which people have a sense of humor. Cher asking Sonny if he is a horny toad after he shares a review that states that he sings like a frog also is typical. Copious related humor that makes it clear that Sonny will be handling his romantic urges pro Bono that night are surprisingly racy for network television of the era.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to "offensive" humor of the show. Much of this revolves around black ensemble member Freeman King, who does not seem to mind jokes that include him saying that he likes watermelon pie.
The first guest being Jimmy Durante both makes it clear that (ala "The Monkees") the Bonos are harmless hippies. This also shows that "Sonny" reflects the same wisdom as Burnett, who find that the best guests are the ones who can both sing and act.
The style of humor on "Sonny" much more reflects the rapid-fire and politically edgy style of "Laugh In" than the more extended (and kinder and gentler) sketch format of "Burnett"; not that there is anything wrong with that.
"Sonny" borrowing from "Laugh In" extends beyond incorporating a party scene in which regulars and guest stars fire off one-liners. "Sonny" regularly has Cher lead an all singing all-dancing group of troupers in a bit that intersperses short skits around a central theme. An example of this is the Art Carney episode that parodies Army life through the years; there surprisingly is no reference to Vietnam.
A variation of the above is the well-known regular bit in which Cher sings her "Vamp" song accompanied by skits that feature femme fatales throughout the ages.
The aforementioned bonuses include an interview with "Sonny" producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde; their reminiscences include future Congressman Bono saying at an early discussion of the show that he has more substance than his "stumblebum" TV persona. This is particularly clear as to an insightful Bono dominating the conversation in a 1970 interview for the talk show "Jerry's Place" that is another bonus feature.
The biggest takeaway from all this further borrows from Burnett; her wisdom related to her wit is that something this is funny remains eternally funny.
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 21, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray complete series sets of the Fox and Hulu sitcom "The Mindy Project" (2012-17) are perfect additions to both the MCE catalog of both traditional and too-cool-for-TV Land sitcoms (e.g., "Community" and "Happy Endings") and the growing MCE collection of Girl Power series. The latter includes the recent (reviewed) "Charlie's Angels" BD CS set and upcoming BD CS sets of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "30 Rock." "Rock" particularly can be considered the older sister of "Project."
IMDb perfectly describes "Project" by stating that the concept is that "a young Ob/Gyn balances her personal and professional life surrounded by quirky co-wokers in a small office." The rest of the story is that the series provides the relatable concept that someone whose personal life is a figurative and personal mess still can be a highly member of his or her profession.
This concept shows that titular Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling of "The Office") is whom fellow New Yorker head-comedy writer Liz Lemon in "Rock" would have been had she gone to medical school. The numerous parallels between the women include being chain daters (ala smokers who light up the next cigarette before finishing with the current one) whose romantic partners either are out of their league or are not good enough for them.
These career women also run into their exes far more than is believable and almost inevitable are doomed to repeat their histories with them. "Office" mate/co "Project" producer B.J. Novak particularly shines as a beau with an unusually close friendship with his female best friend; this leads to a double date that is a series highlight.
Striking a balance between completeness and a timely review requires stopping watching "Project" near the end of an especially strong S3. The list of not-so-gentlemanly callers (almost always portrayed by cult faves that include Bill Hader and Anders Holm) include an oral surgeon, two attorneys, an arts-and-culture journalist, and a pastor/DJ/event planner/sneaker mogul. This is not to mention cases of fellow doctors dipping their pens in the company ink.
The supporting cast also is particularly strong. Beth Grant of the "Sordid Lives" franchise shines as raunchy middle-aged support staffer Beverly.
Although the plethora of perfectly delivered TMI comments by Beverly greatly contribute to the show, her arguably best line is "its not a kiss unless its below the belt." A close second for the best Beverly moment is her very first appearance in which she doubles down on losing blood samples in an especially hilarious way by labeling those vials with vile descriptions of the patients.
Ike Barinholtz (currently of "Bless the Harts") also deserves special mention for his portrayal of oversized manchild ex-con nurse Morgan Tookers; his "Rock" counterpart is bizarre naive NBC page Kenneth,
The highly enthusiastic leap-before-you look Morgan largely is there to goad the doctors into toxic behavior outside their comfort zones. His redeeming qualities include an obsessive love of dogs and a seemingly incurable optimism. He also neither realizes nor cares when he is not welcome.
Although an S3 highlight is an episode in which the male doctors in the practice and Morgan have their good deed comically misinterpreted when they travel to Spanish Harlem to do free breast exams, an even better one follows a few later. Both Mindy and the current object of her affection are very anal about an expansion of their sexual activities. A joke about the clergy sex abuse scandal alone makes that outing memorable.
The appeal of "Project" is that it presents the taboo subjects referred to above, as well as MANY others that include race and religion, in an playfully inoffensive manner. The fact that this takes "Rock" to the next level reflects a positive evolution in television comedy.
A broader perspective is that both "Project" and "Rock" can be considered more realistic versions of their "grandmother" "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which centers around the mother of all career women who is one of the guys. Ala "Project," one can easily imagine not-so-pure Mary Richards having a Bob Crane style sex film of hers leaked to her colleagues or perhaps accidentally aired during the WJM News.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Reasonable expectations regarding both the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me" and its auteur make the November 2019 DVD of "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!" a major disappointment. One should be able to expect more of a guy who has proven that he so much better than this on EVERY level.
The solid asserted (but almost certainly pretextual) concept of "2" commences with a fast-food chain contacting Spurlock to appear in ads due to his documented "Super Size" attempt to only eat McDonald's food for a month.
This allegedly is what motivates Spurlock to start a new chicken restaurant from scratch (pun intended) and to document this effort. In other words, he profits from both the film itself and the publicity that it generates for new business venture Holy Chicken.
One not so-surprising spoiler is that the film prompts investors to approach Spurlock about creating a chain of Holy Chicken restaurants. Another spoiler is that your not-so-humble reviewer has adequate integrity to pledge to NEVER eat at any location regardless of how peckish (pun intended) he becomes.
Spurlock commences this venture with the effort that is the primary focus of "2.." The search for a source for chickens and a place to raise them sets the stage for an "expose" of "Big Chicken" that does not reveal any information that has not been relatively well known for decades. These include that the big boys, such as Tyson and Perdue, use their strong grip on the industry to harm both competitors and chicken farmers who end up on their bad side. We also hear the same (but still highly distressing) stories about inhumane conditions at the big chicken facilities.
Spurlock does deserve credit for some new information. We learn about the laughably low government standards for making assertions about chickens. For example, claiming that your birds are "free-range" essentially only requires giving the flock the option of going out on the front porch. A scene in which Spurlock fails to convince his fine-feathered friends to poke their beaks out the door is a "2" highlight.
The parallel effort of Spurlock to develop a theme and a menu for his restaurant is more interesting and insightful. His product development consultants introduce us to terms such as "health halo." We also hear the "awful truth" about grill marks on fast-food chicken and learn why crunchy replaces the industry "f-word."
Subjectively, a scene in which checking out the competition shows the Burger King "crunchy" chicken sandwich is hollow is a "2" highlight. Having the perspective of having had the college roommate from Hell, whose many sins include watching while I gulped a large glass from a water container that he had filled with vodka, makes that scene even better. That former student is now a Greek tycoon that inherited every Burger King franchise in Rhode Island from his father. No, those places (and the other Janco locations) do not get my business.
The bigger picture is the sloppy manner in which our veteran documentarian makes "2." This begins with repetition in the form of "sandwiching" the beginning and the end of the film with the same footage of local news promoting the new restaurant.
Spurlock further slides to the bottom by borrowing the old ambush the industry guy trick that fellow sadly diminished colleague Michael Moore puts in all his films.
An early scene has Spurlock "outed" as a guy with an agenda; this leads to a "leaked" memo much later in the film. This correspondence is from an executive with the chicken lobby warning chicken farmers (ranchers?) that the effort of Spurlock to acquire a flock as part of a nefarious scheme.
Subsequently, Spurlock arrives unannounced at the office of the "suit" to delver an invitation to the grand opening of Holy Chicken!. Of course, he is left waiting in the hall for several hours and ultimately is politely asked to leave. An inadvertently amusing aspect of this is baseless speculation early on that the prey is in the restroom.
The relatable aspect of this is that very few of us even let unexpected visitors who lack any adversarial intent into our homes.
Of course, the ultimate irony as to "2" is that it follows the Spurlock film "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" about product placement and similar forms of advertising. I literally am not buying it this time, Spurlock.
Former "The Young and the Restless" hunk/rocker/notable sitcom guest star Michael "Flyman" Damian once more puts his diverse background to good use in producing/writing/directing "High Strung Free Dance." An interview with Michael spouse/partner-in-filmmkaing Janeen Damian on the theater-quality GVN Releasing February 4, 2020 Blu-ray of "Free Dance" shows the extent to which art imitates life. The ONLY "complaints" about this sequel are that it lacks the term "Electric Boogaloo" and does not recreate the awesome violin bow duel from the (reviewed) original.
One can only hope that there is a "High Strung 3" and that the tag line is "this time its personal." It is very clear that Michael, whom the behind-the-scenes BD extra tells us loves to move the camera, is not close to being too old for this "stuff."
On a serious note, Damian also takes advantage of his decades of show business experience by following the general rule of making a sequel more grand than the original, He does buck the trend of a first sequel being horrible only to have the franchise rebound with the third entry. This creates great expectations as to the aforementioned next "High Strung" movie.
Damian (perhaps inadvertently) also reflects the wisdom of the mid-70s Saturday-morning series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that a fan base can handle a more mature offering than the series that brings them to the table. The post on "High Strung" notes that it seems to be geared to a tween girl audience but appeals to a broad age group,
The final aside before fully discussing "Free Dance" is that the "cast of 1,000s" listed as producers of this crowdfunded movie shows that it would be cool to see your name on the silver screen. These contributions to indie films that value art over commerce also help talented folks such as Damian continue to "rock on."
The following trailer for "Free Dance" highlights how it is brighter, grander, and more adult than its excellent predecessor.
"Free Dance" takes its name from the epic Broadway show around which the film revolves. The link with "High Strung" is that both films feature Jane Seymour as highly demanding dance instructor (ala Lydia Grant of "Fame" fame) Oksana in both films. One difference this time is that Oksana has a highly personal interest (and rocky relationship) as to central dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty).
The asides this time are that we know that Seymour is not an ex-wife of Henry VIII but do not know whether Oksana considers Anna Karenina her favorite author.
Damian pays a wonderful homage to the past by bringing the epic '30s musicals back in a much bolder and brighter fashion in the 21st century. This more than justifies the physical-media release opting for Blu-ray.
This ode to yesteryear includes Barlow initially not making the cut as a background dancer for the titular extravaganza of fabled choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas "Harry Hook" Doherty of the "Descendants" franchise). Barlow not taking "no" for an answer puts right what once went wrong.
Our classic tale continues with deli delivery boy/aspiring pianist Charlie (Harry "Vampire Boy" Jarvis) getting his first lucky break in terms of one chance encounter connecting him with a reclusive retired famous pianist. A subsequent series of fortunate (and one seemingly not-so-fortunate) circumstances leads to Charlie getting the gig as the on-stage pianist for the show, Barlow being his muse helps the production while contributing to backstage drama.
Related asides this time are that casting Thomas and Harry reinforce that Michael (who casts "handsome devil "Nicholas Galitizine in the first film) has a good eye for talented British pretty boys and that Jarvis shares in an interview for another outlet that "Free Dance" prompts him to resume his piano studies after a long absence. His exceptional playing proves that he is an apt pupil; his youthful exuberance in the behind-the-scenes feature further reflects the love for his role that his performance conveys.
Much of "Free Dance" centers around the trauma and drama of rehearsing for the show, The vintage-style shifting fortunes of Barlow drive much of the action.
All of this leads to the epic opening night; a twist during this frantic period will cause many viewers of this compelling film to yell out a word that rhymes with "witch" when it seems that nice guys once again finish last.
Damian fully delivers as to the final performances that include an truly grand finale. This fully leading to a classic Hollywood ending removes any doubt that Damian honors the past.
Music videos on the Blu-ray further show the love of the art.
The epilogue to all this is that the post on "High Strung" encourages folks to disregard embarrassment related to seeing a very good film that is geared to tween girls; there is ABSOLUTELY no cause for such concern as to "Free Dance."
The fact that starting this detour into Blogland by stating that it reflects intense frustration as to being subject to unreasonable treatment merely for being a "have" immediately will offend many readers proves the thesis of this article. I can meet all my "needs" and enjoy small "wants."
Going on to criticize Millennials will cause further ill will. Criticizing the Postal Service should win back a few hearts and minds.
Providing some context sets the stage for showing how the original run of "Roseanne" is responsible for much of this class war in our supposedly classless society.
A sincere disclaimer is that I sympathize with many "Have Nots" lacking my luxury of being able to work from home and not having to deal with the general public. I have stated many times that I would consider working at Wal-Mart to be Hell on Earth.
I also realize that many not-so-nice jobs require being outside in "mad scientist" weather and/or standing for several hours at a time. I further know that capitalism advocates paying the lowest feasible wage. Additionally, no reasonable person can deny that many "friends with money" have a sense of entitlement that warrants some ill will.
On the other hand, merely being the homeowner or the guy on the other side of the counter does not automatically make you the enemy or warrant punishing you for the misdeeds of others. There have been countless occasions on which I just have shown up or politely raised a small routine matter only to have a Starbucks barista splash a drink on me, a Target manager yell at me in front of a store full of people, a handyman tell me that his immigrant grandparents would have loved to have owned a house as nice as my mid-range one, etc.
The most recent example of this is asking my postal carrier, whom I have given a holiday gift every year and offer water on hot days, to please make a small (but very helpful) accommodation that other carriers have automatically made and to which he has agreed many times. I incorrectly thought that his boss accompanying on his route when I made that request would have brought me success.
Copious efforts to resolve the matter failed; the primary USPS response was that the carrier was not required to make the accommodation; the insult that was added to the injury was demanding that I (rather than the carrier) make the accommodation. That is what triggered thoughts of "Roseanne."
The bigger picture here is that postal carriers have some of the strongest job security and related union protection on the planet; the vast majority are very nice, but the rotten apples who do not want to exert an iota of extra effort (or even follow the social norms of saying please and thank you) are largely insulated from any form of reprisal.
Although many experts and laypersons blame Bart Simpson for the insolent and lazy attitude of Millennials, this fault lies with "Roseanne." The added insult to that injury is the aforementioned attitude is that the folks who keep you in business are the enemy that are fair gain for frustration related to your rotten day.
The alleged groundbreaking nature of the blue-collar tell-it-like-it-is "Roseanne," which premiered a year after "Married With Children," was intriguing. "Roseanne" lost me at the pilot.
One troubling aspect as to the initial outing was a caring and nice teacher, who hardly raked in the big bucks, calling in Roseanne out of concern as younger Darlene barking in class. Rather than thank the teacher or discuss a remedy, Roseanne yelled at the woman and told her that she did not want to be called out of work unless Darlene was seriously physically injured.
A later scene had one of the kids come to Roseanne for advice only to have her respond that she did not care. This set the stage for the parenting in the show.
On top of this, the periodic viewing of episodes before fully giving up on the series showed a constant hostile attitude toward anyone who was even barely doing better than living paycheck-to-paycheck. Such alleged "haves" were fools and/or snobs who lacked lacked any compassion for folks who often struggled to meet their "needs" and who rarely got a "want." Of course, America regaled in this attitude.
Of course, much of the joke is that Roseanne and at least the rest of the adult cast (if not the kids) had salaries that far outpaced even the current annual income of your not-so-humble reviewer more than 30 years later.
The bigger picture is that the same BROAD GENERAL principles that apply to discrimination based on VALIDLY protected characteristics should apply to bias based on income level. Your bank balance is not a valid basis for how others treat you. Having a cashier yell at you or a server ignore you for no good reason is far less harmful than being denied a home or a job but is an unnecessary evil.
The Indiepix Films January 21, 2020 DVD release of the charmingly amusing 2018 Australian comedy "The Merger" reminds viewers of the appeal of timeless films that do not rely on shock and/or awe.
As the following trailer illustrates, "Merger" includes many elements of classic "small" films. The most obvious example is "About a Boy" that has a middle-aged manchild bond with a quirky lad. The aspect of a group of eccentric working-class blokes on a mission with heavy social commentary evokes thoughts of "The Full Monty."
"Merger" writer Damian Callinan stars as former football (which seems to be a combination of rugby and soccer) star/current town pariah Troy Carrington, who is living a life of semi-isolation in Bodgy Creek. The aforementioned youngster is Neil, who is perpetually clad in a chicken suit and is making an unauthorized documentary about Troy.
The "A Story" is that a series of setback threatens the local football team with the titular union with another local team; persuading Troy to coach is determined to be the lesser evil. Of course, Neil figuratively remains in center field throughout.
The "B Story" is that Bodgy Creek, which is experiencing an economic downturn that is attributable to Troy, is a refuge city with many foreigners who are escaping almost-certain death. Much of the conflict here relates to the competition for the limited number of jobs. These newcomers also become integral members of the team.
The aforementioned charm relates to these people who live simply and are not shy about speaking their minds or sharing their, wit, wisdom, and woes.
All of this provides Troy plenty of challenges as he tries to build a cohesive group; one of the most memorable scenes has him explain the boundaries of the field.
Of course, playing together causes the men from different worlds to bond as they come to better understand each other; this also provides exceptional humor.
It is equally predictable that all this comes down to the big game. Team Troy already has won in that they now are a band of brothers; this makes whether they have the highest score at the end of the day entirely irrelevant.
Icarus Films continues a long history of making (mostly foreign) "provocative" films available in North America with the release of the 2017 Chinese film "Angels Wear White." The 26 wins and additional 41 nominations for this film about a public official sexually assaulting two middle-school girls verify that this is a special addition to the incredible Icarus catalog.
The aforementioned accolades include Best Film and other top honors at the 2018 Asian Film Awards. Closer to home, "Angels" receives similar love at the 2018 Nashville Film Festival and the RiverRun International Film Festival.
Our story begins with middle-school girls Wen and Xin arriving late at school; their positive and less-than-positive interactions with classmates indicates that things are the same everywhere.
The plot thickens on school authorities and the 'rents getting involved. It quickly is learned that the girls are the victim of a sexual assault at the motel where they spent the night. The perpetrator being a local government official complicates matters.
Director/writer Vivian Qu divides the action between the investigation and the two older teen girls who live and work at the scene of the crime. Similar to the dynamic between Wen and Xin, Lily is a lazy party girl who spends a great deal of time with smooth criminal boyfriend Jian; Mia is the country mouse who wants to do the right thing but is vulnerable because she lacks the documentation that legal status requires.
Attorney Hao is the conduit between the two narratives. She wants to protect the victims against police coercion and also is persuading Mia to tell the truth,
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Commissioner is using every weapon in his arsenal in an effort to try to protect his freedom and his reputation. This includes exerting pressure on a man with unclean hands regarding the attack.
We also get a highly cynical negotiating session; this harsh scene includes the highly symbolic message that an iPhone should be of adequately high value to serve as payment for allowing sexual assaults to go unpunished. The significance is that the average Chinese person cannot afford this luxury item that Chinese workers are paid very little to produce.
The conclusion of "Angels" is surprising and provides the last bit of commentary on modern Chinese culture. We see the extent to which the government will go to maintain a facade of an orderly society and to protect the men in power.
The numerous themes in the movie show that it is one to watch; it provides a relatable dilemma and paints what seems to be a realistic picture of China. We additionally get reminded of the perils of hanging out with a bad influence.
'Dad' and 'I'm Not Rappaport' Blu-ray: Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau Grumpy Old Odd Couple Double Feature
Mill Creek Entertainment further adds to its Blu-ray library of feel-good movies with the January 14, 2020 double feature of the 1989 Jack Lemmon/Ted Danson/Ethan Hawke film "Dad" and the 1996 comedy Walter Matthau/Ossie Davis comedy "I'm Not Rappaport." This coincides with the (reviewed) MCE BD release of the 2002 JLo/Ralph Fiennes romcom "Maid in Manhattan."
As indicated by being one of a handful of '80s and '90s movies (including "Nothing In Common" with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason) about an estranged adult son having to contend with his difficult elderly father, "Dad, " which is a Stephen Spielberg joint that Gary David Goldberg ("Family Ties") writes and directs, is the more substantive of the two films.
The figurative 25-words-or-less synopsis of the film is that literal Wall Street yuppie John Tremont (Danson) must return to his childhood middle-class LA suburban home to care for titular parent Jake Tremont (Lemmon) when mom Bette Tremont (Olympia Dukakis) has a heart attack.
Rather than a history of tears and recrimination, John and Jake merely drifted apart due to a combination of the "Cats in the Cradle" syndrome and typical generational differences. Member of "The Greatest Generation" Jake outwardly is content with his career consisting of a daily-grind job at (presumably) the same employer for decades; the career path of Baby Boomer Jake reflects a desire for more material and inner gratification, Gen X grandson Billy Tremont (Ethan Hawke) reflects the arrested development of his peers.
The reveal and impact as to the manner in which Jake has coped with a not very fulfilling adult life arguably is the most interesting aspect of this movie that easily holds the interest of the viewer throughout. This involves a fascinating twist on having a second family.
Everything aptly overall is Jake at the beginning of the film; John is agreeable to his role of temporary caregiver/home ec. instructor while Bette recovers in the hospital. The game-changer of the physical and mental health of Jake rapidly takes a massive turn for the worse is relatable to many folks with elderly parents.
The overall well-presented textbook tale involves John experiencing a mix of deep concern for his father and fully justified disdain for the health-care industry decades before it lowering the bottom to which it has sunk. The "B" story is John trying to understand Billy. This manboy is one of the more interesting characters in that part of him is a cool dude shacking up with a couple of buddies and a chick in Mexico and the other part is a dork who has much more than nothing in common with his grandfather.
The ensuing events that attempt hilarity by having the three generations of Tremont men gleefully act dumb and dumber either are highly entertaining or highly annoying. This is from the perspective of a guy who now gets along with his elderly father but considers family meals the home version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and cannot understand why relatives enjoy vacationing together.
"Dad" being a 20th-century Hollywood film by folks who do family-friendly fare right ensures that all concerned better understand each other and have closure by the end.
"I'm Not Rappaport" aptly has more of a live-stage vibe because it is based on the truly hit play of the same name. Playwright Herb Gardner directs and writes the screenplay for this adaptation.
Perfectly cast grouch/grumpy old man Matthau steals the show as Nat "Oscar" Moyer, who takes a daily break from boisterously stirring up trouble as to his advocacy for the little guy to hang out in Central Park with elderly building superintendent Midge "Felix" Carter (Davis), who merely wants to stay "invisible and not rock the boat. This relationship makes one hope that Gardner would have revised his play by making the Carter role one that would have been suitable for Lemmon.
The aforementioned activism of Moyer always involves his adopting a false persona to protect whom he considers the downtrodden; this includes causing a near-riot as the food prices at the grocery store or threatening the president of the tenants' association at the building where Carter works. One such incident has him both speak loudly and carry a big stick.
As is the case regarding friendship among people of every age, most of the interaction between Moyer and Carter involves Moyer going and on either about legendary union organizers or the role of Moyer as to those activities. For his part, Carter mostly keeps calm and carries on.
Much of the fun of Rappaport extends beyond the countless witty quips to relate to seeing Matthau stay true to his persona in a "Mom, Grandpa's doing it again" manner. Heavier substance comes in the form of the portrayal of Matthau of a character who realizes both that he is way past his prime and has not lived the life that he has desired; his coping mechanism as to that is comparable to how Lemmon's Jake has managed his daily routine for decades. Both are fortunate to have the love of a good woman ease their burdens,
The common lesson of both films is that growing old is not for the feint of heart. Carter perfectly describes the relatability of the themes by reminding the middle-aged yuppie that is pushing him out of his long-term job and home that that guy is not immune to old age,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement does those of us enduring a winter of discontent a true solid by releasing a literal picture- (and sound) perfect Blu-ray release of the classic 1980 coming-of-age teen romcom "Gregory's Girl" on Blu-ray on January 21, 2019. This Scottish film awesomeiy combines the best of "American Graffiti," "The Summer of '42," and John Hughes movies.
As critics and audiences alike acknowledge, "Girl" director Bill Forsyth ("Local Hero") hits the mark by depicting all of us in his portrayals of the titular lad (John Gordon Sinclair) and everyone else in his life. Those of us with one Y chromosome and one X chromosome are Gregory; the females of the species decide that our good points warrant putting up with our arrested development, which occurs in our tween years.
Formal accolades for "Girl" include the 1982 BAFTA for Best Screenplay.
Movement chooses wisely as to the selected clips for its "Gregory's" trailer; they perfectly show off the adorkable charm of the lead character.
The perfection of this truly eternal movie that is identified as one of the best-loved British films of all time begins with the opening scene of Gregory and his buddies peeping on a woman undressing; their interaction (including the first of several scene-stealing antics of everyteen Andy) is more entertaining than the inadvertent striptease; Forsyth adds to the fun as to the events in the immediate afermath of Team Gregory moving on.
The story fully gets underway on Gregory facing losing his star position on his school football (my people call it soccer) team; his cavalier approach to his coach sharing the bad news is another of countless memorable scenes in the film.
This game-changer paves the way for tomboy Dorothy to tryout for the team; the coach quickly learns that resistance to having a girl be one of the boys is futile. This epitomizes a sausage party ending.
This new teammate quickly becomes the object of the affection of Gregory, who illustrates why his condition is called puppy love, A scene in which Dorothy captures that lad in a particularly embarrassing moment in the locker room is another of the aforementioned highlights. Also, once again, subsequent events enhance an already perfect moment.
This leads to the film climax in which Dorothy agrees to a date with Gregory; the ensuing hilarity (and charm) clearly shows that Hughes learns from Forsyth.
As expressed throughout this post, the immense appeal of "Gregory" relates to the film keeping it real. Although the big night has its ups and down, the kids are alright (as well as a little older and wiser) at the end. This milestone also reinforces that Gregory epitomizes the related principles of dancing as if no one is watching and to thy own self be true.
Classics further enhances the enjoyment of the film by doing its usual extraordinary job as to copious bonus features. These include an insightful written essay, audio commentary by Forsyth, interviews with Forsyth, and the alternative US and French versions of "Gregory."
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 14, 2020 DVD/Blu-ray release of the 2002 Jennifer Lopez/Ralph Fiennes romcom "Maid in Manhattan" shows that a chick flick also can appeal to men. This largely is attributable to '80s teencom god John Hughes authoring this neo-modern Cinderella story; the 21st-century twists include hotel maid Marisa Ventura (JLo) being much more concerned with the glass ceiling than a glass slipper.
The following old-school style trailer for "Maid" equally highlights the "rom" and the "com" of the film in addition to the genre-obligatory K-Tel Records caliber pop tunes soundtrack.
Pop star JLo plays against type as working-class single-mom Marissa; highlights of her performance include not portraying this wage slave as a stereotypical feisty and out-spoken woman. Tyler Posey of the "Teen Wolf" television series fills the role of cute sitcom-style kid.
Fiennes plays Kennedy-light NY assemblyman Christopher Marshall with senatorial aspiration that the "wrong" romantic relationship may derail. Stanley Tucci fills the role of uptight buzzkill as beleaguered aide Jerry Siegel.
Natasha Richardson steals every scene in which she appears as to her Gwenyth Paltrowesque portrayal as evil "witch" /Sotheby's rep Caroline Lane. Her hanger-on frienemy is aging party girl Rachel Hoffberg (Amy Sedaris).
This stereotypical ensemble also includes the harmless hotel butler/father figure, who is the confidante and main supporter of Marissa. Rather than being outrageously gay, his sexuality may be along most points of the Kinsey Scale.
A largely unexplored but interesting aspect of "Maid" is the immigration status of Marissa and her mother; a scene in which Marisa gets upset as to having to provide her employer her social security number and the name of her mother indicates that our lead minimally is a dreamer.
Our plot centers around a series of amusing events related to Christopher mistaking Marissa for a fellow hotel guest; the plot thickens on Christopher inviting Caroline to lunch due an impression that she is the couture-clad woman who is the object of his affection. Needless to say, this is one big fish that Caroline is intent on keeping on the line.
A $2,500-a-plate fund raiser plays the role of the prince's ball as to the magical night for Marissa; of course a pop-song accompanied montage of Marissa and her "mice" transforming her into a princess precedes that scene. A walk-of-shame taking the place of having a carriage revert to a pumpkin is one aspect that makes this fairy tale neo-modern,
Of course, the honeymoon period is very short-lived at the hands of Caroline before she leaves the city; it is equally predictable that the moppet of the film helps true love prevail. This leads to the final pop-song montage that provides the "where are they now" element of "Maid." Of course, Marisa find both personal and professional fulfillment.
The appeal of this feminist fluff is especially strong as winter is reasserting itself with a vengeance in much of the US. You may not especially connect with any character but will recognize each of then and enjoy their Neil Simon style "Suite" antics.
Icarus Films once more shows the immense value of world cinema as to the DVD release of the 2017 Indonesian feminist drama "Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts." This compelling movie with a strong live-stage vibe shows that Quentin Tarantino does not have the monopoly on Amazon warrior revenge films.
The 17 wins and 25 additional nominations for "Marlina" show that director Mouly Surya has all the right stuff; these accolades include numerous honors at the 2018 Film Festival Indonesia and Best Cinematography at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
The following Icarus trailer for "Marlina" clearly shows the Tarantino and classic Western influences on this must-see film.
The titular felon is a relatively recent widow living in relative isolation on her farm; as is typical for good storytelling, the extent of her woes is revealed throughout the film.
The nightmare begins within the first moments of "Marlina." Bad hombre Markus shows at her door and immediately plays cat-and-mouse. The horrible truth is soon shared when the interloper matter-of-factly tells his hostess that his gang is on their way to steal all of her livestock and to rape her if they have time after that theft. He adds insult to those imminent injuries by ordering her to start cooking dinner for the group.
As the film title indicates, things do not go as planned. This leads to the second act that centers around Marlina taking the long journey to the nearest town to report the crimes and her response with extreme prejudice. This trip involves both "persuading" a bus driver to co-operate and an overdue pregnant woman with her own man troubles to join the crusade.
The response of the police is true to factual and fictional patterns; any viewer with a soul will want to smash the typewriter of the cop who takes the statement of Marlina over his head.
The long arm of the law coming up short leads to showing that you sometimes must send a woman to do the job of a man. The even more sad truth as to this is that it demonstrates the limited extent to which the phrase "you've come a long way, Baby" applies.
All of this leads to a climax that brings the action back full circle to the beginning of the film; the sad messages as to this are that things never change and that you often much take matters into your own hands.
The bonus features include behind-the-scenes coverage and an interview with Surya.
The Lionsgate January 14, 2019 DVD release of "MacGyver" (2016) S3 provides a good chance to catch up on the rebooted exploits of titular highly resourceful spy Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) ahead of the February 7, 2020 S4 premiere on CBS. As shown below, a primary S3 theme is out with the old and in with the new (sort of).
The season premiere finds MacGyver living in a small Nigerian village with a beard in the wake of resigning from The Phoenix Foundation, where his ability to rapidly think on his feet as to using available items to save both the day and his hide makes him a star. This lifestyle change is attributable to a rough S2 reunion with his estranged father. Ala the central relationship in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Jim MacGyver (aka "Oversight") has been rough (and secretive) with his boy for what he thought was best for his offspring.
The game-changer is Dad showing up in Africa to get MacGyver to come home to rescue best buddy/co-worker/protector/father figure Jack Dalton (George Eads) from a highly precarious situation involving gun-running with a one-who-got-away nemesis in Eastern Europe. This is ahead of a well-publicized mid-season exit of Eads from the series for "personal reasons."
One of the more notable father-son adventures has them team up to hunt the hitman (Michael Des Barres, who plays Murdoc in the '80s "MacGyver") who is cleverly snuffing key witnesses in an upcoming trial. As our heroes do a couple of times in S3, our boys take a page from "Silence of the Lambs" by visiting super-villain Murdoc at the deep black-ops facility where he is being held, The value of the this consultant is his knowledge that is very helpful as to capturing the predator of the week.
Things really get interesting when Team MacGyver learns the extent to which they expertly have been played. One lesson here is to never trust any psychopath.
MacGyver fully gets to do what he loves best in a couple of episodes that have him save innocents despite facing obstacles that involve extreme prejudice. One outing requires especially intense improvising when a mission to deliver crucially needed oxygen to critically ill hospitalized children.goes horribly awry.
The similarities between the above episode and another in which a car accident diverts MacGyver from his original mission extends beyond an imminent life-or-death situation. He once again for the countless time learns that a seeming innocent may not be so innocent and that people often do the wrong thing for the right reason.
A favorite moment for past and former student at all educational levels occurs in a "Back to School" episode that has the "kids" (sans "Dad") go undercover at a university to bust a terrorist who is radicalizing the best brains there. This highlight has Angus schooling a professor who tries to both shame him and make him look foolish.
The rest of the 22 episodes are just as typically another workweek for a group that is tasked with putting right what once went horribly wrong.
The appeal of this reboot extends beyond Till having the looks and the personality of a farmboy despite always being the smartest guy in the room. There never is a dull moment, and seeing how what is at hand always is enough to "git 'er done" is entertaining.
Icarus Films provides a sadly timeless lesson in survival as to its double-feature DVD release of the Anne Georget documentaries "Imaginary Feasts" and "Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944." This message is that mentally escaping a harsh reality is an effective tool for surviving seemingly fatal horrific hardship.
"Feasts" provides a truly in-depth look at prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, Soviet Gulags, and Japanese prison camps discussing their favorite meals in order to survive near starvation and other atrocities as to their confinement. These include an American soldier and a woman who pays a heavy price for her unwarranted reliance on the principle of diplomatic immunity.
The main focus is on female prisoners in a concentration camp who take thinking about their favorite foods to the next level; they risk heavy retribution to steal scraps of papers to write down the recipes for those treats. This extends to the contribution of each woman representing the cuisine of her region of her country. It is highly predictable that the French woman are the stars of this project.
A survivor, the ancestors of survivors. a historian, and a chef are among the talking heads who put everything in perspective. In addition to learning about these books, it is surprising to hear even more general information about concentration camps than many of us have known for decades. The relationship between the foods and their native regions is equally interesting.
"Book" tells about the pre-war life and the imprisonment of the author of that tome; we also learn of the post-war path of the book and the importance of it to the persons into whose hands it travels.
As indicated above, the larger impact of these films is how the prisoners used the books to survive when most of us would have chosen a run for the barbed wire as a relatively easy out as to a seemingly unsurvivable situation. It also provides perspective the next time that we endure an hour or so of hunger until our next meal, which likely will be exactly what we are craving at the moment. Even more importantly, fussing because a promised 30-minute wait at Olive Garden is at the 45-minute mark should be shame inducing,
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement pairing the recent Blu-ray releases of the 1953 British comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt" with a Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1949 Ealing social-commentary-dripping comedy "Passport to Pimlico" provides an excellent chance for a taste of what the "Titfield" back cover aptly describes as the strong contribution of Ealing to the golden age of British cinema. The numerous comment elements of "Titfield" and "Pimlico" include legendary Britwit T.E.B. Clarke being the scribe of both.
"Titfield" being the first Ealing film shot in Technicolor makes it especially apt for Blu-ray. The British countryside truly looks idyllic.
Fans of '60scom "Petticoat Junction" will recognize many elements of "Titfield." A primary premise of both comedies is quirky good-natured small-town folk heavily relying on a rail line that operates between their community and a nearby town. Although the Hooterville Cannonball of "Petticoat" fame survives numerous attempts to shut it down, the effort to cease the operation of Titfield rail service succeeds. The rest of the story is that eliminating this competition profits a local bus company.
The Titfield populace demonstrates their "keep calm and carry on" fortitude by deciding to run the rail service themselves. Getting the initial provisional approval is only the tip of the iceberg as to this titanic endeavor.
The numerous obstacles as to actually running the train include a lack of necessary experience with the exception of a man who clearly does not work and play well with others. This is not to mention the opposition of those wanting to derail this effort.
Hilarity soon ensues as to things such as first building up an adequate head of steam and subsequently preventing an overheating that threatens to turn a potential figurative train wreck into an actual one.
In classic film fashion, it seems that a combination of sabotage and ineptitude is leading to an inevitable bad end for the good guys. The ensuing hilarity begins with taking a page out of both incarnations of classic scifi series "Battlestar Galactica."
This is the beginning of an extended climax in which the train being allowed to continue operating is conditioned on it making a monitored run on time. Of course, hilarity with a heavy dose of keeping "the suit" oblivious to the actual situation ensues. Suffice it to say that Clarke shows his awareness of a Hollywood ending.
The copious "Titfield" BD extras shows the same love for the film that Classic demonstrates for "Pimlico." A written essay provides great insight into the film, the bonus feature "Making 'The Titfiled Thunderbolt'" expands on that. We also get a handful of other "behind-the-scenes' features and the original trailer.
The Cinema Libre Studio January 7, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 Laurence Fishburne drama "Imprisoned" provides equal portions of compelling action and food for thought. This is not to mention showing that revenge is a dish best served cold.
In true modern filmmaking style, the opening scenes of "Imprisoned" begin with the end of the story and lead to 90-or-so minutes that show how we get there.
In this case, former prison warden Daniel Calvin (Fishburne) revisits his old workplace just ahead of the imminent destruction of that structure. Flashbacks to an Attica-caliber riot help fill in part of the picture.
The plot thickens on turning back the clock 20 years; newly instated warden Daniel is at a local coffee shop to learn how to solve a problem like Maria. In this case, the trouble relates to that woman calling attention to questionable practices at the prison. The dual turning points are Daniel becoming infatuated with his new acquaintance and discovering that she is the wife of an ex-con regarding whom Daniel has an (arguably reasonable) enormous chip on his shoulder.
Aforementioned former guest-of-the-state Dylan fills in the rest of the story by telling Maria of the massive impact of his crime on then-prison-guard Daniel.
The reawakening of horrific memories prompts Daniel to plot against Dylan; this leads to a truly nefarious scheme that lands Dylan back in jail and Maria in the bed of Daniel.
These events play a massive role in the aforementioned prison rebellion. This is turn leads to arguably poetic justice.
The captivating appeal of all this is a well-written and acted story that is shot on a pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. That cinematography alone more than justifies shelling out a few extra bucks for the Blu-ray.
The plethora of bonus features include three deleted scenes, an interview with Edward James Olmos (who shines as the governor of the island), and an apt look at social-impact filmmaking.
The Film Movement recent DVD release of the 2018 Freddie Fox-narrated documentary "The Ice King" is an awesome follow-up to the Movement DVD of the (reviewed) more docudrama-style non-fiction film "Over the Limit." Both films expertly tell the tales of the lives and loves (and associated thrill of victory and agony of defeat) of nice young kids who train hard in pursuit of Olympic gold. These releases reflect the same principle of the NPR show "Only A Game" that being a "high brow" and a sports fan are not mutually exclusive.
In the case of "King," our hero is 1976 Olympics star John Curry. His stating that one does not train for decades simply to end up skating in a Bugs Bunny costume perfectly captures his edgy wit and wisdom that makes "King" an engrossing story even for folks with no interest in ice sports,
The following Movement trailer for "King" confirms that the story of the subject proves that truth is more compelling than most fiction; there also will be be no doubt that John will curry your favor. This is an addition to evoking envy as to seeing that this guy is blessed with equally strong talent, good looks, and a natural charm. You must watch the film to see his "Black Swan" side.
The strongest aspect of the convergence of truth and fiction relates to a strong "Billy Elliot" vibe that is triggered near the beginning of "King" and that lasts throughout the film. This includes a sense of the tragic trajectory that might have befallen fictional aspiring ballet star Elliot had he been born twenty years earlier.
Fox tells us of Curry, who is born in 1949, developing an early love of ballet and wanting to learn that art. Although the father of Curry is better educated and higher up on the economic latter than the father of Elliot, he still refuses to let his son study ballet.
The good news for the world is that the elder Mr. Curry agrees to the comprise of his son taking skating lessons. Although not explicitly stated, the clear message is that skating is acceptable to Curry Senior because it is less faggy.
The story of the first skating lesson of a five-year old (?) Curry is a "KIng" highlight. It truly is a portent of things to come on and off the ice.
We soon meet Heinz Wirz, who has the dual roles of being the principal talking head and the probable soulmate of Curry. The personal recollections of Wirz and segments of letters from Curry to that man fully show how their relationship is complicated. We also are reminded of the consequences of choosing Mr. Right Now over Mr. Right.
We also hear from the daughter of an early patron of Curry; she tells of Curry confiding in her while living with her family in NYC in the mid '70s. This surrogate sister also is a recipient of correspondence from Curry throughout his life.
Ice skater Johnny Weir directly provides a more modern perspective as an openly gay Olympic skater who has followed in the blade marks of Curry; indirectly, the friendship of Weir and fellow skater Tara Lipinski is reminiscent of the bond between Curry and fellow '76 Olympics star Dorothy Hamill.
AIDS provides the morality tale aspect of "King." We truly see how that epidemic ends the party for handsome, charming (bit with a major edge), talented young gay men such as Curry. Regardless of our placement on the Kinsey Scale, not many of us can relate to being as desired as Curry.
Most of us can relate to his excitement on someone who is out of his league making him the object of his affection. We can also relate to a limited degree when the honeymoon is over; only folks without a soul can consider a horribly lingering illness followed by a premature death an equitable price for the highly tempting availability of constant sex without any known consequences other than easily curable physical and emotional harm. One can only imagine how much better 2020 would be if we did not lose so many creative and caring people in the '80s.
The separate DVD extras include "On the Beautiful Blue Danube: Creating the Music of 'The Ice King'" and a Q&A with "King" director James Erskine.
A review of the theatrical release of Disney flick "Toy Story 4" aptly notes that "Toy Story 3" ends the adventures of Woody (Tom Hanks) et al on a perfect note that should have been the end of the story. This evokes strong thoughts of "Crystal Skull" being such a huge (and inconsistent) follow-up to the sublime "Last Crusade" in the Jones trilogy. Both "4" and "Skull" make one yearn for the days when big-screen tributes would consist of bigger, bolder, re-releases of the classics.
One of a two related general notes is that the once groundbreaking but now mature Pixar technology does not hold the same thrill as it does as to "Toy Story" (1995), which is the first Pixar feature film. Although "4" looks spectacular in 4K, it seems that even folks who could not color within the boundaries or draw a straight line but now can suss out how to operate an Apple watch can learn the Pixar system and do as well as (if not better than) the "pros."
The next related note is that a combination of having 4k at home and Disney sinking to the level of merely shamelessly rehashing old ideas has led to no longer seeing Disney films in theaters; it does not take long for 4K sets to hit the $15 mark, which is not much more than the price of a matinee ticket.
One of the biggest narrative flaws of "4" is that it quickly abandons the fun (tinged with some darkness in "3") of the original trilogy. Speaking from the perspective of someone who largely shares the views of W.C, Fields regarding kids (but not animals), "4" preying on the deepest fears of children is highly disturbing. This is aside from the creepy aspect of "Story" lore that the toys play dead whenever a meat suit of any age is around.
The cold open of "4" lulls viewers into a false sense of security as to both quality and tone. It is a flashback to a simpler and kinder time nine years ago. Now college man Andy is a happy everykid, and his friends with active secret lives are a large part of his life.
Sheriff Woody leads a harrowing covert mission to rescue an RC car that is left out in the rain; the thoughts regarding "It" are moderate, Bo Peep plays a pivotal role just ahead of being boxed up and shipped out. Woody pursuing this soulmate provides foreshadowing of stranger things to come.
We then move to the present; the Freudian nightmare begins with a superficial room cleaning leading to an angsty Team Woody being locked in the closet of new owner Bonnie, The symbolism is apt as to Woody and his rival for the affection of Andy turned best buddy Buzz Lightyear. The horror continues when all but Woody, who aptly remains trapped in the closet, make a great escape.
Woody soon takes (and mostly retains) center stage when he stows away in the backpack of Molly to support her during her kindergarten orientation; the activities of that day lead to Molly making new kid on the block Forky. Forky is a spork with googly eyes, a pipe cleaner for arms, and Popsicle stick feet.
Forky being a dim-witted freak is perfectly fine, and the other toys welcoming him into the tribe sends a very positive message. The problems with this character extend well beyond his intense suicidal tendencies in the form of frequent aggressive attempts to throw himself into the trash.
Suspension of disbelief allows accepting that toys that at most are occasionally brought to school can articulately think and talk. The fact that they have ears allows accepting that they can hear. However, Forky can speak within seconds of his "birth" and does not have ears.
A more annoying issue relates to big brother figure Woody explaining to Forky that the latter is a toy (rather than trash) because Bonnie writes her name on his feet. The first flaw in this logic is that the "Story" kids and their real-life counterparts do not "mark their territory" as to all of their playthings. There is no personal memory of ever having done that.
The even more annoying aspect of this is that, per Woody, the food that I would bring to work would come alive in the refrigerator. This is not to mention the beer that I would put in the counselors' refrigerator when spending college-era summers at a camp. The "Story" logic provides that I drank my friends and ultimately subjected them to an even worse fate.
The illogical plotting fully take place when Bonnie takes her toys on a RV road-trip; Forky does not suffer any harm on jumping out of the window of a vehicle that is going at least 45 mph. The same is true as to Woody, who goes after his friend. Woody stating that he easily can catch up with the group when they stop 5.3 miles down the road builds on this frustration as to the lack of logic.
A less annoying aspect of this is the bigger plot point that the "good" toys repeatedly go to great lengths to prevent Molly from losing current favorite toy Forky. Once more returning to real life, I do not recall any soul-scarring trauma on getting separated from favorite toys. The angst of Molly relates to Millennials and the next generation always getting participation ribbons and having every whim indulged.
Things turn truly dark on Woody and Forky taking a detour on almost reaching their destination; Woody finding evidence of Bo Peep prompts him to drag Forky into a dark antique shop. This leads to a fateful (and potential fatal) encounter with evil queen of the shop Gaby Gaby and her even more creepy ventriloquist dummy minions.
The plot thickening agent at this point is that Gaby essentially wants to harvest a kidney of Woody in the form of replacing her defective voice box with his functional one. The rest of the story is that this plaything that makes Annabelle look like Raggedy Ann thinks that an ability to speak when her string is pulled will prompt someone to want to take her home.
Woody gets away at the cost of Forky becoming a hostage; this leads to a standard "Story" development of the toys embarking on a perilous mission.
The most disturbing event as to the ensuing lack of hilarity would be a major spoiler that evokes thoughts of a #MeToo villain. The toys subsequently putting themselves at great risk solely to help psychopath Gabby is slightly less upsetting but makes absolutely no sense.
Another bothersome aspect of trying to find Gabby a good home reflects the same nth degree of corporate greed of Disney under Czar Robert Iger as does the film itself.
Team Pixar clearly is trying to guilt parents into buying their little darlings every toy that they want; the idea is that the Forky (or the Sven the reindeer, etc.) on the shelf at the Disney store will be miserable until a child brings it home to love. Again, I still like toys and collectibles (and have shopped at Disney World stores) but have not blinked an eye as to leaving lion cub Simba collecting dust under harsh fluorescent bulbs.
The bottom line regarding all this is that the cult of Disney is so pervasive that the above observations will not influence many people; however, these musings reflect that this childhood favorite studio is loosing its grip on those of us smart and insightful enough to see through the mouses**t.
The Blu-ray quality Film Movement DVD of the 2018 drama "Styx" proves that some do make 'em like they used to; aspects of this are showing that art and commerce are not mutually exclusive and that even a simple low-budget concept can be exceptional in the right hands, such as those of writer/director Wolfgang Fischer.
The well-deserved 29 wins and 18 additional nominations for "Styx" circumventing the globe shows apt love for this film about a solo sailing trip turned horrific ethical and moral dilemma. These accolades include Fischer getting the "New Auteurs" honor at the 2018 AFI Fest and several wins at the 2019 German Film Awards.
The following Movement trailer for "Styx" offers a strong sense of the multi-award-wininng perfect performance by Susanne Wolff in this essentially one-woman show, the aforementioned cinematography, and the compelling dilemma around which much of the action is centered.
The opening on-the-job scenes establish emergency-room doctor Rike (Wolff) as a compassionate and fierce medical professional; subsequently embarking on the aforementioned journey to what can be considered a Charles in charge natural paradise shows that her strong will and independence are not limited to her work.
The first real obstacle on this trip is the most physically daunting; a warning of an impending storm does not deter Rike from literally and figuratively changing course. The ensuing tempest may not be perfect but does throw very rough weather at this fearless crew of one. Her tiny ship is tossed but not lost; nor does she run aground.
The calm after the storm is disrupted when Rike encounters a ship in distress that is filled with people who do have to live like refugees. Rike wisely initially follows maritime protocol in alerting the authorities; conflict arises when the powers-that-be express less-than-hoped-for concern while strongly directing Rike to not come to the rescue. Part of this relates to not attempting a rescue that endangers the rescuer.
The next round of ensuing chaos relates to the passengers on the sinking ship seeing the sailboat of Rike as a sanctuary that prompts a literal swim for the figurative border. However, Rike does bring one of these passengers on board; the ensuing events epically proves that no good deed goes unpunished.
Fischer and Wolff expertly convey the mounting tension as the situation on the other ship becomes increasingly dire, the still-absent authorities amp up the intensity of their insistence that Rike not jump ship, and the now unwelcome passenger exerts strong pressure to come to the aid of his group.
It is predictable that everything comes to a head (no pun intended) near the end of the film as all act according to his or her nature; the surprising manner in which this occurs reflects the 29 wins for the film.
Movement supplements this with the food-for-thought short film "Ashmina." The excellent pairing of this movella with "Styx" relates to the young girl at the center of it is like Rike in that she is caught between two clashing worlds and faces intense pressure to be a good girl and do as she is told. This is not to mention the girl having a similar third-world existence and aspirations as the refugees on the the "Styx" ship.
The apt starting point for this post on the Apple Watch Series Five is the 1999-2002 CW sci-fi teendram "Roswell." A central fine young brother from another planet is stressing over what to give his easy but demanding earth girlfriend for Christmas. He is advised to buy her something that she really wants but would not buy for herself; equally insightful but more amusing wisdom comes from similar series of the era "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The pithy remark from that show is "a gift certificate; like money, only less useful,"
The first part of the "Roswell" equation dates back to this summer; the panic of phoneous interruptus occurs when I realize just as it is too late to turn back that I have left my iPhone 8 at home. The consequences of this include cancelling plans to see a movie so as to not lose out on loyalty points by not being able to have the app for the chain scanned.
This incident prompts the first of many discussions regarding whether buying an Apple watch is worth it; a big pro for this guy who has always worn a watch since the seventh grade is knowing that I never would forget the watch. Related big pluses are not feeling compelled to always carry around the often bulky-feeling phone and the momentary panic associated with the phone not being in the remembered pocket.
The cost and the inevitable forced obsolescence are big cons; another is the belief that having cellular service for the watch is an additional expense; time will tell if that is so.
Unwrapping a gift to find a gleaming white box is as exciting to lovers as tech. as discovering a robin egg's blue box is to a trophy spouse or significant other. Finding that said packaging contains the latest and greatest is even more thrilling. It truly is something that I really want but am unlikely to get for myself,
The same is true as to the AirPods with the charging case with which Apple gifted me roughly a year ago; I still use the wireless Beats headphones with which Apple gifted me a few years ago when flying.
Finding the watch in a protective pouch is exciting; finding the strap in two pieces in a separate sub-box is less enjoyable; it is understandable that some folks want to further line the pockets of Tim Cook by buying custom straps; it is less understandable that that requires the rest of us to suss out how to attach the provided straps in this age that greatly values instant gratification, Even being a "when all else fails, read the instructions" guy rather than a RTFM dude is not an issue when there is no FM.
The first few efforts to attach (and detach) the straps did not go well; even getting it right is not the end of the story. Fastening the watch to your wrist requires blindly lining up a prong on the lower strap with a hole on the upper strap; this is getting a little easier but evokes sympathy for women having to fasten bras.
A cool element of the Apple watch for Gen Xers is that it looks like a Swatch; having one of those timepieces that is another great gift actually bought in Switzerland being destroyed in a very '80s way during my school days still evokes sadness. I ran it over when it fell out of my pocket when I got the keys to my Mustang out to drive home after renting "Ghostbusters" on DVD; yes, I was wearing Vuarnet sunglasses with a Ralph Lauren cologne and a polo shirt. (Of course, my feet were sockless and clad in Topsiders.)
The Apple calculator working on the watch evokes thoughts of the nerd de rigueur accessory of the late '70s and eary '80s; the Casio calculator watch.
The watch nicely pairs with an iPhone after downloading the watch app on the latter; however, not every app transferring to the watch is mildly disappointing; a little online research shows that Chirp for Twitter compensates for the Twitter app itself not being compatible with the phone.
An oddity is that the watch does not seem to be compatible with the Amazon or the Amazon Music apps but does display the Music song that you are playing on your phone; the lack of an app may be be attributable to the Notorious JPB trying to compel people to buy the Alexa that is designed for use in your car.
A personal choice of having the time, the local weather, the phone, messaging, e-mail, and the battery life display on the "homepage" makes for an equally nice and practical display. The clear and adequately large display is nice for those of us whose eyesight is not-so-perfect.
Speaking of the battery life, it seems that moderate use sucks up 50-percent of the life each day. Also speaking of the battery life, it is disappointing that the watch simply does not have a port for the standard Apple charging cable.
You must place the watch on an (admittedly cool) magnetic charging pad, which does quickly charge the watch. A big downside as to this effort to facilitate Tim Cook buying Greenland is that forgetting this charger on even an overnight trip (especially if you do not bring your phone) can create a big problem.
The better news is that the voice feature works very well as to both texting and telephoning with a technology that precludes butt dialing except for the occasions on which all of us speak out of that orifice. Although folks familiar with fictional detective Dick Tracy will think of his wrist radio, a very nifty thing is that you do not need to hold the watch very close to your mouth for it work. Further, the text feature is amazingly good at filtering out ambient noise such as music, television, and other people speaking. It would be nice if you could erase part of a message; rather than having to cancel and rerecord.
One note is that watch technology not being especially widespread will earn you funny looks as people see you seemingly talking to yourself without holding a phone or having a bluetooth device in your ears. (AirPods work AWESOMELY with an iPhone.)
The fun and functional Etch-a-Sketch style Scribble feature is a good way to avoid questioning looks.
To Buy or Not To Buy
Returning to the initial theme of the post, the gift of an Apple watch is guaranteed to thoroughly delight anyone with any interest in tech. It also is a stupendous way to treat yo self to celebrate a big win.
At the same time (pun intended), this being a pricey luxury item that mostly is a substitute for another pricey luxury item makes running up a credit bill to purchase it foolish; in such a case, there are better uses for your money than trying to keep up with the Cooks.
Esteemed indie-flick company Virgil Films shows excellent instincts as to releasing the documentary "Dear Walmart" on November 19, 2019 ahead of Black Friday. This movie tells the tale of righteously disgruntled wage slaves of the titular grandddady of big box stores forming an informal union.
The following "Walmart" trailer nicely introduces the concept of the film and puts very human faces on the effort to earn an arguably reasonable wage for an honest day's work.
The "Our Walmart" stems from an arguably reasonable "we're mad as Hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" attitude. This relates to the typical pay-rate, wealth-gap, and corporate-policy issues that plague most workplaces. A comparison between the starting pay at Target and at Walmart is a prime (no pun intended) example of this.
We hear the horror stories of employees across the county; these include empty promises and the especially egregious experience of a woman who is denied relied-on leave for the most flimsy of reasons. A separate sad story of a woman whose properly documented physical work restriction is aggressively disregarded shows the need to level the playing field as to labor relations at the largest retailer in America.
The rest of the story is the need of Walmart employees to act somewhat like the World War II era French underground regarding carefully identifying themselves to each other and covertly communicating at work. The predictable reports of retaliation support the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is watching.
We also see the obstacles that organized labor encounters when it tries to get involved. Work stoppages at Walmart reflect that influence on Our Walmart.
The bigger picture is that America becoming a nation of "behemoth corporations" with callous cut-throat CEOs (I'm talkin' to you Corie Barry of Best Buy and Robert Iger of Disney) is resulting in abusing their "captive audience" of employees and customers; the sad truth is that both groups have little choice other than to bend over and take it like a man.
The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement December 31, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the 1949 Ealing Studios Oscar and BAFTA-nominated classic comedy "Passport to Pimlico" (paired with a (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray of the 1953 Ealing comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt") adds to the mountain of evidence that British fare kicks the arse of American movies.
The scope of this post allows sharing that "Pimlico" is an esteemed member of the genre of brilliant mid-century British political satires. Although not as well known as films such as "Dr. Strangelove" or the cult classic "The Mouse That Roared," "Pimlico" offers the same quality witty subversive social commentary. Suffice it to say that 10 Downing Street gets the royal treatment.
The "go to your local library to learn more" endorsement in this space is in the form of encouraging anyone who enjoys quality comedy based on strong material and quality performances to read the essay and to watch the bonus features in this set.
Highlights of the latter include the insightful and entertaining video interview with BFI curator Mark Duguid. His discussion of "Pimlico" includes its inclusion in the Ealing trilogy that consists of that film, "Whiskey Galore, and the Alec Guinness classic "Kind Heats and Coronets." Duguid also touches on the notable career of "Pimlico" screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke, which includes the Guinness film "The Lavender Hill Mob." Another extra "You Are There" tour of the on-location shooting shooting of the film.
From a more modern perspective, "Pimlico" plays out like an early-season "Simpsons" episode in that surprising increasing hilarity/mayhem ensures from an everyday occurrence gone comically awry.
The excavation of "the last unexploded bomb in England" (until another "last exploded bomb" is found) largely is a non-event in 1947 for this middle-class London community that has a Springfield-quality cast of quirky characters from every walk of life. This literal bombshell named Pamela becomes more newsworthy when a post-Blitz Bart Simpson and his pals engage in shenanigans that cause Pamela essentially to go nuclear.
The first twist is that the explosion reveals an 500 year-old treasure chamber. The "special guest star" that plays a major role in things getting out of hand is Margaret Rutherford of "Miss Marple" fame. Lumpy Rutherford plays the academic historian called in to investigate the discovery; Professor Hatton-Jones indisputably determines that both the treasure and the surrounding environs are the property of Burgundy.
The ensuing hilarity largely revolves around the once (and future?) Londoners in the community embracing living in Burgundy. Much of this glee revolves around these reverse-Brexit individuals determining that they no longer are subject to post-war rationing and other restrictions that the British government is imposing on them. This escalates to "border town" residents rushing to get in on the act in the same manner that Americans flees to Canada and Mexico for similar advantages.
A memorable moment in the interview with Duguid relates to his mentioning a scene in "Pimlico" in which a character comments that the community is defying the British government because that group believes in British principles.
This revolting (pun intended) development triggers a hazy memory of Springfield and/or Homer Simpson declaring sovereignty either separately or in the same episode sometime in the 31 seasons of "The Simpsons."
In true diplomatic fashion, each move by either the new residents of France or their British enemies prompts escalation on either side; this culminates in a siege in which the Brits try to isolate and starve out their former subjects. This culminates in a highly symbolic London ending that reflect the British attitude that many uproars ultimately turn out to be much ado about nothing.
In this case, the play especially is the scene and all's well that ends well. Adding that where there's a will, there's a way is mandatory.
UPS, rather than ET, is behind this post on the Lionsgate S11 V2 DVD of the History Channel series "Ancient Aliens" coming after a review of the S12 V1 DVD set; the first S11 V2 DVD set got lost in transit.
The primary concept of the "Ancient" documentary series is that brothers from other planets visited Earth during the dawns of numerous civilizations. More recent incidents, such as the Roswell crash, supplement the speculation as the events from the era of pyramids and cave drawings.
The S11 V2 set starts out strong with a "very special" 90-minute episode titled "Earth Station Egypt." Excitable manchild/"Ancient" co-executive producer/believer Giergio Tsoukalos avidly goes where very few modern men have gone before to share evidence that the Egyptian gods and pharaohs either are aliens or are the result of visitors from other planets who score while visiting here. This, along with theories regarding the building and the purpose of the pyramids. closely parallels the lore of the cult classic "Stargate" sci-fi television franchise.
Egypt even more closely channels "Stargate" in specifically arguing that the aliens from that era used wormholes (aka stargates) for their commute.
S11 V2 E2 "Island of the Giants" (aka Sardinia) is a crossover; Marty Lagina of the (reviewed) History series "The Curse of Oak Island" takes a break from his years' long Canadian treasure hunt to join Tsoukalos for a European vacation. The common elements of their series extend beyond sharing a network; Emmy-winner Kevin Burns is an executive producer for both programs.
Tsoukalos and Lagina visit enormous tombs, discuss why no one has found the bones of behemoths, and otherwise offer proof as to Cyclopi once inhabiting the island for the benefits of the human inhabitants.
S11 V2 E6 "They Came From the Sky" focuses on terrestrials and extra-terrestrials using asteroids to transport tech. and organic manner. An aspect of this is terra-forming and the possibility that man evolves from Uncle Martin, rather than from Bonzo.
The next episode "The Artificial Human" more fully brings us back to "Stargate" themes. This study of artificial intelligence includes speculation as to the existence of self-replicating robots that are capable of duplicating at will. Speaking of Will, "Artificial" includes several clips of the current Netflix remake of the '60s sci-fi classic series "Lost in Space."
Things are taken further as to theorizing that humans are very life-like robots.
Other notable episodes in the S11 V2 set include one on alien abductions and one "Stargate" themed one that speculates as to the US and Russia colluding regarding preparing for first contact; that one looks like a job for the Space Force.
As the handful of posts on "Ancient" sets state, the credibility of this series includes the odds being against Earth being the only advanced planet in the universe. Believing that ancient structures and images are closely connected to aliens and that octipi are aquamen from another planet requires even more faith.
Breaking Glass Pictures fully exhibits its love of perverse edge as to its DVD release of the twisted 2016 drama "Motel Mist." Although this tale of freaks and geeks at a "love motel" just outside Bangkok is adequate lurid, it being a variation of the Neil Simon "Love Boat" (complete with A and B List celebrities) '70s-era "Suite" films makes "Mist" that much more of a no-need-to-feel guilty pleasure. It also makes "Mist" more like BBC series "Hotel Babylon" than ABC '80s staple "Hotel."
The following Breaking trailer for "Mist" highlights the atmospheric and kinky tone that makes it an entertaining walk on the wild side from the safety of your own home.
Our rogue's gallery begins with typical outwardly respectable middle-aged Sopol, who maintains a lair at the titular hot-sheets Hilton; his current school girl who works in the oldest profession in the world is Laila. Their intercourse clearly shows that her pain provides his pleasure.
This encounter taking an unexpected turn literally shows Sopol that karma is a bitch in a way that provides the audience particularly dark pleasure before the tables once again turn only to shift once more thanks to an even Stevens development.
The partner-in-crime of Sopol is young hotel employee Tot, whose show business aspirations extend beyond his facilitating the real-life Bob Crane hobby of Sopol. Tot also is adequately unbalanced to fit right in with his guests.
The fictional household name of the group is former child star Tul, whose personal path is textbook for former Disney Channel kidcom stars turned super freaks that you would never consider bringing home to mother. Tul is waiting for his alien friends to beam him up (and likely probe him). His adventures in coveted Room 5 include seeing a blue room and wanting to paint it black. This excitable boy going fully psycho near the end is a film highlight.
Writer/director Prabda Yoon ends all this with an especially stylish sequence that shows that some dreams come true even for the not-so-pure at heart.
Breaking supplements this with a behind-the-scenes feature.
Indiepix Films fully lives up to its name as to its December 17, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 dark comedy film "A Feast of Man." This low-budget film that literally provides food for thought is textbook arthouse fare.
"Feast" centers around four childhood friends gathering at the upstate New York vacation house of a family friend. This quartet reunites with a hope of profiting in the wake of the announced death of peer/stereotypical trust fund baby Gallagher. The other members of this rogue's gallery are fiance Ted (aka have you met my friend Ted), quirky loyal butler James, and French trophy girlfriend Arletty,
Attorney/executor/nepotism hire Wolf, Jr. is thrown back on arriving at the house to learn that Gallagher recorded a video will after making a traditional one. The shock and awe extends to conditioning Wolf and all the rest each inheriting roughly $1M on literally eating the deceased.
"The rest" are former flame/current Ted fiancee Judy and stereotypical wimpy TFB Dickie.
The concept and the look of "Feast" evoke strong thoughts of the highly similar '90s cult film "The Last Supper." That one has a group of intellectuals who share a home invite people whom they agree have no right to live to the titular meal for the purpose of killing them.
The "Feast" beneficiaries accept the terms of the will to varying degrees as they relive their past and consider their presents in both senses of that word. This, including unwarranted extreme cruelty to a "townie," shows that all of our gang fully stays true to type.
This leads to a wonderful perverse climax that includes a totally out-of-the-blue twist that proves that the rich are different.
An element of this reflects the class divide. One million dollars is not chump change but is not enough to prompt many high-net-worth folks to seriously considering cannibalism, would likely prompt many middle-class people to consider expanding their diet, and would almost certainly prompt folks with McJobs who live paycheck-to-paycheck to ask where's the beefcake.
Indiepix supplements this with a clever main menu that labels the scene selection option "ala carte" and ironically title a fauxmmercial" "A Touch of Luxury."