"Christmas in the Smokies" (2015) puts a strong down-home twist on the holiday miracle theme of the not-so-ghostly trio of yuletide DVDs from Imagicomm Entertainment and Insp Films. This series begins with the (reviewed) "Christmas on the Range" and will wrap up with "Christmas on the Coast."
The following "Smokies" trailer highlights the well-balanced humor and drama (as well of the obligatory scruff of the male frienemy) that are hallmarks of these classics that provide increasingly required holiday cheer.
The sit that provides the romcomdram this time is that Shelby Haygood (Sarah Lancaster of the reviewed Imagicomm joint "Blue Ridge") is battling the local evil developer for ownership of the well-preserved 40 year-old Haygood Farm. The rest of the story is that country-music star/high school sweetheart Mason Wyatt returns to his hometown in disgrace after a highly embarrassing performance on a Southern-fried version of "Dancing With the Stars."
A series of unfortunate circumstances result in Mason living in the Haygood barn for the month of December. Of course, relations between this good ole boy and the girl that he callously left behind thaw as the thermometer drops.
It is equally predictable that all of this climaxes with a Christmas Eve last-minute effort by Shelby to not lose her manger and the rest of her property. The uncertainty includes whether history will repeat itself as to Mason.
This one is distinguishable from the copious amount of basic-cable quality holiday fare (not that there is anything wrong with that) in that it overall is less over-the-top than many otherwise comparable movies and puts a nice twist on the end. Seeing Barry Corbin of "Northern Exposure" fame play a kinder-and-gentler version of Maurice from that cult classic is another nice treat.
Imagicomm also provides its usual gift in the form of separate "Behind-the-Scenes" and "Cast Interviews" features.
The dynamic duo of Icarus Films and Distrib Films take a detour in terms of both location and theme as to their October 20, 2020 joint DVD release of the "based on actual events" 2019 drama "Papicha." This movie set in 1997 Algeria during the civil war in that nation is a departure from the equally good typical Icarus/Distrib release of a film set in modern-day France. Another variation is our lead Nedjma dealing with present-day strife, rather than a struggle to come to terms with past trauma-and-drama that is a regular theme of these foreign gems.
The nine awards and seven additional nominations for "Papicha" validate the quality of this story that could be an overblown melodrama in hands other than those of writer/director Mounia Meddour. The wins include 2020 Cesar Awards for Most Promising Actress for Nedjma portrayor Lyna Khourdi and Best Firm Film for Team Meddour.
Our story begins with Nedjma and two classmates at her all-girls school sneaking out to go clubbing; the party temporarily ends on the girls having to scramble into traditional Muslim garb on being pulled over by the authorities. This encounter does not prevent the single ladies from getting their groove back at the club. That dance scene is comparable to the seemingly obligatory one in Icarus films.
Getting stranded when closing time does not require going home but necessitates leaving the club finds Nedjma and a friend accepting the kindness of two studly strangers. This contributes to the theme of the male/female dynamic in Algeria that is not unique to that repressed nation. This also is relevant to the theme of women who reject the old ways seeking escape from Algeria by almost any possible means. An unplanned (and exceptionally troublesome even for Algeria) pregnancy further reflects the pitfalls of willing to do anything to emigrate.
The aching of Nedjma for personal and professional fulfillment leads to her planning a fashion show of her largely covert business that has subjected her to both hostility and exploitation. A confrontation with a herd of uber-Karens derails those plans, A school official whose understanding of the repression of her students involves only partial willful blindness does not help matters.
Every element of "Papicha" being very far from California makes it far from certain that we will get a Hollywood ending in which the girl gets it all in the form of the man of her dreams and a high-profile career. It is assured that all of our leads are disproportionately older and wiser if not more happy. Sadly, the same is true for most of use during this global pandemic.
CBS Home Entertainment awesomely follows up its (reviewed) recent epic CS DVD set of "Gunsmoke" with the Dec. 1, 2020 CS Blu-ray release of "Mission Impossible" OS (1966-73). This 46 disc set with all 117 never-a-dull minute episodes is just what Dr. Fauci ordered for the latest round of Covid lockdowns. Additionally, you no longer need to think about what to give the Unreal TV fans in your life for Christmas.
The IMDb profile of "MI" perfectly describes it as "an elite covert operations unit carries out highly sensitive missions subject to official denial in the event of failure, death or capture." One spoiler is that the aforementioned disclaimer is abandoned on the famous self-destructing tape that sets the game afoot by the final season.
Another perspective is that you might see the team in Persia, maybe France. They could be in India or perchance you could be with them in Bangkok. They are involved in this or that, everywhere the action's at. You can come on and watch the good guys win,
The doctor's warning is that you will find yourself singing the classic "MI" theme; complete with the riff early in that composition. The good news is that watching a combination of "MI" DVD sets and this BD release for this post shows that the video is greatly enhanced. The better news is that the theme and the other audio is phenomenal!
The 19 awards for this series that launched 5 blockbusters and an '80s reboot series include several Emmys and three Golden Globes. MI is equally notable for being progressive as to casting black actor Greg Morris, who is the ONLY cast member to appear in EVERY episode as team member Barney Collier. Genius-level member of the IT Crowd Collier is the undisputed brains of the operations and otherwise is the equal of his colleagues.
The pilot has S1 team leader Daniel Briggs (Steven Hill) and his team go south of the border to retrieve nuclear warheads from a dictator. "Underdog" voice actor Wally Cox is the first of numerous consultants whom the team recruits for his or expertise. In this case, safecracker Terry Targo is brought in to help liberate the weapons of mass destruction from a hotel vault.
This also is the first of many times that we see spy-in-disguise Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) and others don a "Scooby-Doo" caliber mask and make-up to help pull off the con that is on. This also is the first time that real-life Landau spouse Barbara Bain shows that she is more than a pretty face in her role as femme fatale/it girl Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain).
Although strongman Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus) is only around to do the literal heavy lifting this time; MI wonderfully gives him a chance to show that he is equal parts brain and brawn over the 161 episodes in which he appears. This extends to often either supplementing or filling in for Collier as the tech, wizard of the week. There is at least one occasion that the mission requires freeing Willie.
Briggs disappears without exposition at the end of S1 to be replaced by Jim Phelps (Peter Graves). Landau and Bain depart at the end of S3 due to a contract dispute.
Not having watched all 171 episodes prevents declaring that the team never decides to accept a mission, Having watched every S7 episode allows asserting that there is at least one time that the personal nature of a crime that is more than a misdemeanor prompts the team to spring into action without being told to do so. The aptly titled "Kidnap" revolves around made men who recognize Phelps and Collier from their undercover roles in the S6 episode "Casino" kidnapping the former to coerce the latter into doing their bidding.
The S7 episode "Two Thousand" is a personal series fave. It is one of many "outings in which the team pulls of an elaborate hoax to trick a bad-guy du jour into divulging critically needed information. This "War of the Worlds" level trickery has a rogue scientist believe that it is the end of the world as we know it and that we do not feel fine. The finale is a wonderful homage to fellow '60s cult classic series "The Twilight Zone" that only would have been better if the malfeasor has broken his glasses.
Team "MI" also stays true to it roots in S7 by having a "Gaslight" episode that involves haunting a very masculine Ma Barker style crime boss who ices her traitorous son at the beginning of the episode. Our heroes haunt this mother of all hardened criminals by tricking her into believing that her son is visiting her from beyond the grave. An equally entertaining episode from an earlier season has a "family" guy seeing his dead wife, who triggers infighting.
There also are many times that Team Briggs or Team Phelps must stage the prison break of either an innocent or not-so-innocent, thwart a deal that will finance a nefarious scheme, bring an elusive fugitive to justice. A VERY timely early season outing has Collier taking the lead in a mission to thwart using a rigged voting machine to fix an election.
The series finale hits fills every square in "MI" Bingo. The accepted mission is to recover stolen crown jewels. The typically elaborate con has Collier prove his chops as a safe cracker and the independent contractor of the week use latex to pull off impersonating a fence. A twist this time it that Collier develops a Batman/Catwoman style relationship with his personal femme fatale.
The debriefing this time is that it is doubtful that anyone in 2020 could assemble the team of writers, true prop masters, and dream cast that emulating "MI" requires. As such, the only buyer's remorse as to this set is if you decide to not do so.
The recent Film Movement DVD release of the 2018 Czech film "Winter Flies" proves that the theme of "Tom Sawyer" is both timeless and international. In this case, the coming-of-age occurs during a road trip in a stolen Audi.
The accolades for "Flies" include 4 major wins at the 2019 Czech Lions awards.
Fourteen year-old stud Miara is commencing his odyssey when "quirky" armed and not-so-dangerous peer Hedus pops out and comes along for the ride. It does not take long for the Lennie and George dynamic to become apparent.
An early adventure has the lads rescue a dog from a highly abusive owner; Things get more interesting when "Becky" in the form of Bara, who lacks any physical baggage but has plenty of the emotional variety, joins the group, This leads to the predictable development of Hedus making an awkward play and Mara being the one to get some action.
The inarguably best dynamic in the film is between Mara and Officer Freiwaldova, who serves as a cool mother figure. The narrative in "Flies" regularly shifts between Freiwaldova trying to piece together the relevant events and those actual incidents. She greatly succeeds in getting that kid to understand.
All of this culminates in a climax that proves that there really is no getting through to teenage boys. Mara and Hedus remove any doubt regarding these guys being young, dumb, and full of "spunk."
The well-matched bonus short film "Jackie" deals with the same theme of strained parental relations as "Winter Flies."
Savior of cult classic cinema The Film Detective chooses wisely in opting for separate 50th Anniversary DVD and BD versions of "The Other Side of Madness" (nee "The Helter Skelter Murders") to kick off a series of releases on Wade Williams films.
"Madness" is available for pre-order ahead of the November 24, 2020 releases. The incredible video and audio quality of the BD release (complete with a CD of the Charlie Manson album also titled "The Other Side of Madness") make that one worth buying the upgrade. The Manson opus "Mechanical Boy" may not have a good beat and you may not be able to dance to it, but the lyrics of this essential beat poem will stick with you.
Speaking as one who has seen all of Tate murders films (and LOATHES "Once Upon A Time in America"), it should be undisputed that Williams puts the others to shame. This film that does not seem to deviate from its court documents and interviews provides a solid "you are there" sense. A Ballyhoo Motion Pictures MUST-SEE bonus feature that consists of an audio interview with Williams over "Madness" footage provides an awesome perspective regarding both the demand for authenticity and the emphasis of art over commerce.
Detective goes directly to the source by using the original theatrical trailer for "Madness" to promote the releases. This promo. PERFECTLY highlights the black-and-white photography that successfully conveys the mixed styles of newsreel and low-budget horror film that makes "Madness" so compelling.
The aforementioned interview validates the authenticity of the opening scenes of the Manson family at work and play at the movie ranch that operates under a Charles in charge system. This leads to the first of many courtroom scenes of the murder trial for the killing of Sharon Tate and of her friends who can be considering collateral damage. The testimony in that proceeding provides the exposition method for the re-enactment of that massacre and for explaining the philosophy of Manson. One of the most visually striking scenes transitions to color in a manner that aptly shows the audience that we no longer are in Kansas.
Very timely modern relevance relates to the underlying message of the impact of a cult figure that the general public considers deluded but followers see as charismatic and literally or figurative the word of God.
One of the more powerful non-Tate scenes shows two family members who clearly want to project a militant image burst into the home of a middle-class middle-aged woman and hold a gun on her as they carry off her not-so-valuable possessions. The mastery of Williams is very apparent in one segment in which it is clear that a pet bird either is going to get killed or carted off. The manner in which this is filmed will elicit sympathy in all of us who have not partaken of the Kool-Aid.
The black-and-white photography is especially effective in the oft-depicted scene in which a female family member ghostlike strides back-and-forth in front of a bedroom door at Chez Polanski/Tate. The Williams take on this outshines that of the other productions. Blatant departures from other films about that night show that many of us have been fooled for years.
"Madness" ending with intertitles on the evils of illicit substances provides a bad end to an otherwise excellent film. Drug use is not to be celebrated and can have a high cost, but it seems that (even in the late '60s) very few folks who inhale end up in a cult and even fewer go on a killing spree.
The personal perspective this time is having "Father Knows Best" star Billy Gray, who pays a high professional cost for a "seeds and stems" arrest, once laugh and tell your not-so-humble reviewer "you don't do drugs do you."
For the record, a handful of personal college-era experiences include incidents such as once finding the kitchen witch at the home a friend hilarious and another time cleaning the kitchen at the home of my mother at 11:00 p.m. to provide an excuse to not go upstairs to talk to her after an evening out.
Returning from our Blogland detour, Detective supplements "Madness" and the aforementioned Williams interview with another Williams interview that includes how he gets to visit Manson in jail. We also get the theatrical trailers for "Madness" and "Helter Skelter Murders."
ALL of this shows that ANYONE who does not buy "Madness" genuinely does not know what he or she is missing.
The November 10, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2020 third entry in the "Bill & Ted" franchise "Bill and Ted Face the Music" allows those of us who have not stepped in a movie theater since February 2020 to verify our low expectations of this film.
The disappointment is in the form of the laziness in which once (but not future) comedy gods Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon resurrect the titular valley boys guardians of the galaxy (and beyond). Although one can understand why Alex Winter (Bill) is on board, the mystery is why Keanu Reeves (Ted), who presumably read at least a script outline before signing on, agreed to this project.
The bigger impression is that "Music" either should have been released direct-to-video, on basic cable, or on a streaming service.
The following spoiler-laden trailer for "Ted" having copious clips from the scenes in Hell is apt as to the feeling of being that far south of the border while watching the film.
Our saga begins with the most bodacious film "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) in which George Carlin shines as time-traveler from the future Rufus, who is charged with helping our heroes make it through high school so that they can create the music that saves the universe. The aptly named "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991) has the boys battling evil doppelgangers while literally trying to cheat death.
Despite the clear ravages of time on the wannabe Lennon and McCartney, "Music" starts strong. After brief exposition on the decline and fall of our manboys' Wyld Stallyns, the action shifts to the latest wedding of trophy wife Missy to a relative of one of the guys. The not-so-best man speech has strong humor, and some literally and figuratively old faces have come to the party.
Things fall apart when the aging Stallyns rock out with an unbearably screeching song that is meant to further convey the current status of our past-their-primetime players.
The biggest bit of casting trouble comes when Kristen Schaal of the oft-hilarious Foxcom "Bob's Burgers" pops out of a time machine that is a significant upgrade from the old-school telephone booth that the boys use. One spoiler is that that vehicle is not bigger on the inside then it is on the outside.
The first problem is that Schaal is so tightly associated with "Burgers" and uses her distinctive voice from that series so closely that any "Burgers" fan cannot help but picture Louise Belcher to the extent of mentally saying "no you ..." every time that Schaal's character Kelly is told to do something,
The other problem is that Team Music unnecessarily makes Kelly the daughter of Rufus; the tween girl persona of Kelly (and oft of Schaal) can be considered the anti-Carlin.
The first of many nods to a more commercially and artistically successful franchise involves Kelly escorting our designated saviors back to the future; namely, 2720 San Dimas, California. The purpose of that mission that Bill and Ted have no choice as to accepting is to write the song that will save the universe ahead of already existing timey-wimey chaos fully erupting.
The men of a certain age opt for the characteristically easy way out; in this case, they set out steal the most-important song ever from their future selves. What one hopes would have been hilarity ensues.
Meanwhile the teen daughters of Bill and Ted set out on their own excellent adventure. These girls who support the theory that the apple does not fall far from the tree travel through time to (comparable to "Adventure") recruit the best musicians from several eras to become Stallyns. This dream team includes Jimmi Hendrix and Mozart.
The worlds of dads and daughters collide when (ala "Journey") the gang ends up in Hell and must contend with a grudge-holding Death. Of course, reports of the deaths of Bill and Ted are premature.
The "climax" provides a solid bookend to the aforementioned wedding scene. The boys figuring out the destined venue is slightly less clever than the "Partridge Family" style deduction (which includes an element of playing the tambourine) that saves the universe.
The closing credits, which both show great fan love and honor the noteworthy (pun intended) moral of "Music," are well worth watching. The best that can be said about the stinger at the end is that it hopefully puts the nail in the coffin of this once great franchise.
Team Ted further chintzes out as to bonus feature; we get just under 90 SECONDS total of clips of interviews and scenes from the film. TOTALLY HEINOUS!
The IndiePix Films November 10, 2020 DVD release of the 2010 documentary "You're Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don't" is the first film entirely shot in an Alzheimer's ward. Personal relatability is imagining myself ultimately as the grumpy old man who regularly makes a gesture that could indicate that this fellow patients are number one.
Documentarian Scott Kirschenbaum shows us a few days in the life of Lee Gorewitz, who fully illustrates the antics and mood swings that prompt calling old age a second childhood. This evokes thoughts of a quote that is believed to be from Mr. Rogers. This oft-disregarded wisdom is that adults feel good and bad things alike just as deeply as children, but we have learned how to not express those emotions.
Amusing "Live" moments include Lee having a sly look on her face regarding implausible deniability as to dirty dishes on a table. Her grumpy side comes out in a confrontation with the aforementioned alta cocker and similar encounters with others on the far end of the baby boomers scale. Her joy in dancing shows another side of this feisty old broad.
We also get glimpses of the sorrow as to a sense of being alone when you feel sad as well as the realization that the persons from your past are jumbled in your memory. A friend expresses this well by stating that modern medicine has extended the quantity of life but not the quality of it.
The impact of "Live" extends well beyond feeling the pain of Lee. As many of us have (or will) experienced as to parents and/or grandparents, Alzheimer's seems inevitable. "Shady Pines, Ma" is less funny when we must face putting a loved one in the west wing.
Indiepix supplements "Live" with the Kirschenbaum documentary "Jumor" that depicts the role of Jewish humor in nursing homes across the United States. A time constraint (and a related push to fully study Disney Channel humor before losing free Disney Plus access) requires saving "Jumor" for another day.
This first of three posts on not-so-ghostly DVD releases of spirited holiday movies from Imagicomm Entertainment and INSP Films discusses the 2019 movie "Christmas on the Range." This tale of cowgirl Kendall Riley trying to thwart the efforts of local evil land baron Brick McCree (Soap veteran A. Martinez of "Santa Barbara") to take over her land during the month of December has every hallmark of a charming seasonal movie.
The following trailer for "Range" shows that every live stock character is in place for the trauma and drama that precedes the cocoa and cookies of the most wonderful time of the year.
Our story begins with Kendall literally up to her elbow in the middle of the delivery of a calf that is going udderly wrong. Handsome vet Clint McCree shows up and tells Kendall to not have a cow just before taking matters in his own hands. This procedure ends up with mother and daughter happy and "grandma" smitten with the perhaps literally lifesaver.
The rude awakening comes on effeminate male friend Marcus and sassy ethnic friend Memphis dropping by. This pair, which provides copious comic relief throughout the film, tells Kendall that Clint is the son of Brick. The guilt both by association and being imposed before provided a chance to prove innocence is in the form of assuming that Clint is working with his father to force Kendall off once (and future) McCree land.
The bulk of the film has the relationship of Kendall and Clint build under the watchful eye of the Greek chorus in the form of the small-town gossips. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Brick is trying to rebuild his strained relationships with ex-wife Lilian (Lindsay Wagner of "The Bionic Woman") and with Clint. This, as well as the efforts to acquire the land of Kendall, relates to the unknown circumstances under which that parcel has changed hands from the McCree clan to the Riley family.
Another big piece of this puzzle is Kendall working hard to get her cattle operation certified as organic so that the she can get a premium price for her prime beef, The final inspection regarding that is one of the best scenes in the movie.
Everything fully comes to a head on the night of one of the biggest social events in the community in which all this action occurs. Clint is a no-show for his big date with Kendall, and the absence of the former facilitates the latest sabotage of her business. Of course, suspicions turn toward Clint.
Of course, all of this culminates in a handful of Christmas miracles in which literally and figurative fences are mended and everyone lives happily ever after in their homes on the range.
The DVD extras include cast interviews and a separate behind-the-scenes feature in which the stars discuss their characters,
Bullfrog Films does both the general and the educational markets that it serves a real solid by releasing the fair and balanced 2016 documentary "Rule of Law" on DVD. This tale of disabled defendant George Lane learning the relationship between justice being delayed and denied both educates and provides ample food for thought.
The following extended Bullfrog promo. for "Rule" provides a good primer on the players and the legal and moral issues around which the film is centered,
Our story begins with newly wheelchair-bound Lane, who has a moderate criminal record, once more being summoned to defend himself against charges in his rural Tennessee community. He arrives to learn that the lack of an elevator requires a humiliating trip up the stairs to a second-floor courtroom. The insult that is added to his dual insult and injury is to learn that he must appear again at a later date.
The piled-on insult is telling Lane that his least humiliating option for appearing at the second proceeding is to have court officials carry him up the stairs. That prompts Lane to call former prosecutor/current private-practice attorney Bill Brown for legal advocacy. The reasoning of Lane includes that Brown always treated him fairly while arguing that his misdeeds warrant making him a guest of the state.
In providing his perspective, Brown notes that being less sympathetic than other individuals does not justify denying Lane his literal day in court. Subsequently discovering a woman who has had a hard-luck life and faces the same challenge as Lane shows that he is not alone.
The State of Tennessee proves that our legal system is an adversarial one by asserting the legal concept of sovereign immunity; the basic idea is that the "sovereign" status of the government in this country that affirmatively rejected the concept of a monarchy-based form of rule more than 200 years ago greatly limits the types of legal claims that an individual can assert against a state.
This leads to Brown following the robber baron principle of reshaping his legal argument into one that the courts will hear. He is not initially on tap to appear before Team Roberts when the dispute makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Brown does end up traveling to Washington to state his case. The copious DVD bonus features includes audio recordings of that proceeding.
The film concludes with the outcome of the case, which provides some evidence as to the extent to which an ordinary person who wisely chooses his or her legal counsel can fight city hall.
The aforementioned extras include 2.5 hours of extended interview footage and .pdfs of court documents,
This diversion into Blogland follows a sleepless night checking the presidential election results; reading a summary of the late-night Trump we are damned if he wins and damned if he loses speech at 2:00 a.m. precluded any hope of even 20 winks. This angst extends beyond intense anxiety as to the prospect of another four years of an orange is the new black-hearted administration.
One aside is that Biden would not be my first choice to lead us, but I have full confidence in his ability to faithfully execute the duties of president. Obviously, he also is an indescribably better choice than the other guy.
As many who are more politically tuned in than your not-so-humble reviewer note, our house divided is in for a world of hurt regardless of whether Don Dastardly or Sleepy Joe occupies the White House. The personal onset of this dates to going to see the 2004 Michael Moore documentary "Fahrenheit 911."
I regularly have worn red polo shirts most of my life and had not given any thought to wearing one when going to the movie. Yet, wearing that "color" immediately got me labelled as a Republican by my fellow film-goers almost the point of a physical assault. For the record, the yellow shirt that I currently am wearing does not indicate support for former Philippines president Corazon Aquino; it merely reflects a desperate need for a light brightness on a very dark day.
Trump massively exploiting the "us" v. "them" mentality has added napalm to a fire that is almost sure to keep the inferno going until 2024. His blatant plan to have his buddies on the Supreme Court ensure four more years of Hell for children and adults alike both is consistent with the Trump style of not reflecting the balance of powers on which our republic is based but sends his deluded followers yet another message that rules are made to be ignored.
The most distressing aspect of this is that every rational-thinking person all along the Kinsey socio-economic scale must pay a high economic and psychological price for the "Jerry Springer" mentality of Trump supporters. A starting point for this is the inaugural post for Unreal TV 1.0 predicting roughly 10 years ago that a reality-show star would be elected president.
The (reviewed) S1 of the Showtime series "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" expresses this better in essentially stating that slack-jawed morons will get the architect of the downfall of civilization elected despite the opposition of those of us whose heads are not full of stuffin'. Having a Target employee aggressively vent class-related resentment at me is bad enough; having that bias result in an evil emperor occupy the highest office in the realm hurts the wage slave in the red shirt even worse than it does me and makes one wonder what that individual is thinking.
All of this boils down to the seemingly disregarded point that the President of the United States is the head of the EXECUTIVE branch. A guy who has consistently showed the business acumen of Ralph Kramden is not the right dude for the job. Speaking as someone who has known two people who have separately been in the same room (as seemingly moderate) Bill Gates, this guy arguably provides a model for someone who is best suited for the job. Both friends have reported that Gates has everyone around the table speak his or her mind and gives those opinions due regard.
One can only hope that we survive the next four years and enter an Age of Reason at that time.
The Virgil Films well-produced DVD of the Sight & Sound Theatres well-staged live performance of "Moses" provides a good chance to see an entertainingly breezy two-hour cradle-to-Exodus story of the titular chosen person. The details in this telling remind us of the stutter of Moses.
The grand sets and the decent special effects are in keeping with the Biblical proportions of the story. The copious use of incredibly well-trained sheep, a camel, and other animals that include a scene-stealing parrot add even more fun.
Our story aptly begins with the birth mother of Moses and his sister Miriam setting him afloat down the Nile. Inadvertent humor comes in the form of the journey looking more like Kal-El setting off for earth from Krypton than the beginning of the destiny of the man who leads the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.
As most of us know, a royal pardon saves Moses from the fatal fate of most Jewish babies that are found in denial. This soon leads to several years of care by a very special wet nurse until Moses not longer depends on mother's milk. This apparently taking five yeas contributes an ick factor.
Adult Moses goes on to live a life of luxury and privilege until a rude awakening leads to a live of slavery and a related (pun intended) reunion with sister Miriam and brother Aaron. Trauma soon arises in the form of a "Mom liked you best" conflict with the current pharaoh. The new voice of God makes the first of several "let my people go" pleas; these fall on deaf ears regarding the brother from another mother.
The sibling rivalry leads to the well-known plagues and the related (goofily portrayed) Passover story regarding a culling of the population of Egypt. It is not much of a spoiler to state that the brother of Moses ultimately cries "Uncle" but has a change of heart.
As indicated above, our story ends with the Dumbledore-looking Moses once again putting his magic staff to good use, He uses it to part the Red Sea; however, we do not witness the fate of the pursing horde that walks like an Egyptian.
The DVD extras include features on the Sight & Sound Theatres and on recording the "Moses" album.
A principle of even moderately successful reviewer is to check impulses to heavily criticize a piece of work and to carefully choose the words with which to do so when the occasion arises. The ONLY reason for treading into these dangerous waters regarding the Keith Publications release of the novel "She" by veteran travel writer Lucretia Bingham is to alert readers that what starts out as a not-so-well written piece of fiction soon gets much better and has many high points.
Your not-so-humble reviewer offers the above caveat to help readers who may share his initial impulse to abandon "She" after a few pages to hang in there; the payoff is worth it.
Passages that create the negative first impression include the following over descriptive sentences from the second paragraph of the novel:
"Ophelia took a deep breath and looked over the small seaplane to where turtles often popped up their heads to breathe, yachts bobbed at anchor, and the candy-stripped lighthouse stood sentinel at the very end of the narrow harbor. The azure water was stippled with the lavender shadows from cloud above."
A few short paragraphs lower includes the Harlequin Romance caliber text:
"Yet. like the jolt that threads through veins when poised to jump off a cliff into water far below, returning to Stuart and his daughters was a leap of faith. A combination of fear and joy galloped through her. The thought of being enfolded in her lover's arms once again throbbed deep in every part of her being."
In addition to providing a sense of the weak start to "She," the passages above are a brief prime to the plot of the book. Ophelia Sawyer is our heroine who has two adult daughters and is trying to determine if the love-at-first-sight between her and boutique hotel entrepreneur Stuart Winslow is adequately strong to somehow form a family with him and his four pre-teen daughters.
The challenge facing this potentially blended family extends beyond those of the "you're not my mom" and "do I love him enough to deal with his kid" variety. Our sextet is on an extended vacation/convalescence in the Bahamas following a severe physical and emotional trauma.
Achieving healing and a recognizing a need to move on in all senses of the word leads to Stuart bringing the girls and the girlfriend to Morocco. The business purpose for this trip is to pursue a business deal with co-venturer/friend Hassan.
The luxury and sense of security that Stuart et al experience in their exotic new temporary home is shattered when seven year-old Caroline is abducted in broad daylight while in the company of Ophelia and oldest daughter Sophie.
A combined desire to not let the trail cool any further and to take advantage of an offer of help by new friend/iPhone coveter Mohammed prompts Ophelia and Sophie to head out across the Atlas Mountains without first communicating with Stuart.
Stuart soon becoming concerned about the unexplained disappearance of half his entourage prompts him to gather up seven year-old Maggie and five-year old Abby to literally head into the hills with their own native guide.
The aforementioned kidnapping and rescue efforts result in alternating plots that revolve around Caroline apparently being prepared to become a child bride, Ophelia and Sophie enduring a grueling trek, and Stuart not having it much better.
This action occurs in the context of the out-dated Moroccan culture in which nomads travel across the desert, children are currency, and the wealthy are as close to a god as a mortal can become.
The titular female who is the protagonist of the book is even more of a deity than Hassan; a cool element regarding this she who must be feared is that Bingham provides an "Eureka" moment in which the identity of this person is easier to determine than the villain in a "Scooby-Doo" cartoon.
Making a likable young girl-next-door type the center of the "ripped from the headlines" element of human trafficking puts a sympathetic face on this deplorable practice. Bringing it home in this manner shows that it is more than a third-world problem.
As stated above, sticking with "She" pays off. It is a good lokckdown read, a grear for a weekend at the beach once we are fully sprung from our cages, or a post-pandemic flight for which you must buy reading material at the terminal gift shop.
The October 20, 2020 DVD release of the Imagicomm Entertainment and Insp Films joint joint "Blue Ridge" (2020) is the beginning of what promises to be a beautiful friendship between that joint venture and this site. Posts of a not-so-ghostly trio of charming Christmas movies will follow in the next few weeks.
The opening scenes in this beautifully filmed-on-location movie nicely set the stage for the next roughly 90 minutes. Fairly new-hire sheriff Justin Wise (Jonathon Schaech) is riding in his pick-up with daughter Maddie, who provides much of the motive for this move from the big city. Ex-wife Elli (Sarah Lancaster), who has moved back to her hometown in response to being the wife of a cop, also is a factor as to the relocation.
The game soon is afoot when a routine expedition to a general store leads to a showdown with robbers. The manner in which this ties into the primary plot is one of the best moments in this never-a-dull moment film that provides the right percentages of heart, humor, and homicide.
On subsequently arriving at a festival, Justin and Maddie manage to placate a distressed Elli when a deputy interrupts to inform the boss of the discovery of the body of local land developer Vivian McGrath-Keagan. A plan to convert pristine land into a golf course is a common factor as to the most obvious motives of the usual suspects as to that killing. One aspect of this is that the development would prevent a herd of cows from accessing needed water.
Discovering that the death has resulted in spouse Lem and father Cliff (Graham Greene) becoming the new owners of the land is only the tip of the iceberg. The death of one heir in the ensuing 72 hours would make the survivor the sole beneficiary. On top of that, the recent developments (pun intended) heat up a long-standing feud between the McGraths and a neighboring clan. This aptly leads to a cliff-hanger that effectively involves a Mexican stand-off.
In true murder-mystery style, a seemingly minor clue turns out to provide the smoking gun that holds the key to solving the crime. The unexpected solution makes perfect sense.
In true western style, our hero effectively rides off into the sunset with his best girl at the end of the film.
The numerous compelling themes as to all this extend beyond a developer paying the ultimate price for trying to ruin natural beauty for some fun and enormous profit. We are reminded both that malicious intent is not limited to urban areas and that rural communities are much more prone than cities to stick to the old way.
The DVD extras include cast interviews and a "behind-the-scenes" feature.
CBS Home Entertainment augments the copious love that it shows "TV Land" westerns with releases such as the recent (reviewed) EPIC "Gunsmoke" 65th Anniversary complete series DVD set with the October 27, 2020 DVD releases of "Bonanza" S11 (1969-70) V1 and V2. The dearth of new material, much of which lack much quality, during COVID-19 makes this an even better time to overcome prejudice regarding westerns and realizing that these entertaining shows are well-produced dramas that just happen to be roughly set in the Reconstruction Era.
"Bonanza" centers around truly benevolent one-percenter Ponderosa Ranch owner Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene). Ben, sons "Hoss" (Dan Blocker) and "Little Joe" (Michael Landon), and les freres Cartwrights' frere from another mere (no pun intend) "Candy" (David Canary). These "white hats" run the operation when they are not putting right what once went wrong in nearby Virginia City, Nevada and everywhere else that their business takes them. Those of us who come late to the hoedown do not know the third Cartwright brother from Adam.
The simple but brilliant concept of having various members of the Cartwright clan get involved with the lives of the (often "TV Land" notable) guest star of the week facilitates simultaneous filming of the pristinely upgraded S11 episodes.
S11 kicks off on a strong note with the "kids" seeing a man who is from nowhere near La Mancha rowing across a government-owned prairie that the Cartwrights lease as grazing land. This newcomer who delights in tilting at windmills is in town to highlight an absurd federal law. Getting the better of greedy locals is the icing on the cake.
Another early S11 episode with even stronger (and more timely) social commentary hits very close-to-home. Moderately ala your not-so-humble reviewer in June, Candy is peacefully going about his business when the local law in the town that he is visiting hauls him in for a crime of which he is innocent. The sheriff also turns a deaf ear to the assertions of innocence by Candy. The modern twist on this story is initiating the showing of my license and being 120 miles away watching DVD episodes of "The Nanny" in the midst of the lockdown when the first of two claimed offenses occurred. The doubling-down of refusing to locate a readily available witness at the time of the second offense made things even worse. This is on top of apparently massive stupidity in the form of sitting on a bench by a police car within minutes of allegedly causing mayhem.
Being proactively cooperative and the lack of any appearance of being at all a hardened criminal and the inability of the police to prove presence at the scene of that crime were completely ignored.
Returning to our regularly scheduled programming, Hoss is the victim of a miscarriage of frontier justice in the penultimate S11 episode. He learns that no good deed goes unpunished when his friendliness to two men that he meets on the trail leads to an unfortunate incarceration for a bank robbery as to which he lacks any culpability.
"The Law and Billy Burgess" stars teen-idol David Cassidy as the titular old west excitable boy. Related woes of Billy include great disdain for the local little school on the prairie and a hard-knock life with a hard-nosed stepfather. Cassidy providing an overly dramatic reading of his line that he does not need school because he wants to be a blacksmith is an S11 highlight.
The law part enters the picture when the teacher schooling Billy prompts the boy to make a threat; the educator subsequently being murdered and Billy confessing to the crime makes a bad situation worse. The rude awakening of Billy as to this is a nice commentary on the folk lore of the old west.
John "Gomez" Astin provides another notable appearance in the role of a literal gold digger that makes excellent use of his offbeat persona. Adams plays the titular prospector in "Abner Willoughby's Return." His crossing paths with Little Joe leads to the pair teaming up for a treasure hunt that literally finds Willoughby walking across roofs and scaling fences. The true innocent this time is a sympathetic widow who unknowingly is sitting on a figurative gold mine.
CBSHE supplements the S11 fun with a plethora of extras that include some original episode promos, extensive photo galleries of on-location and behind-the-scenes images, and a rare Chevrolet sponsor commercial starring Greene.
The big picture is that, ala ALL CBSHE sets of classic series, they don't make 'em like "Bonanza" anymore despite a desperate need for quality unreal TV during our every season of discontent these days.
The Film Movement Classics division of arthouse legend Film Movement fully goes above-and-beyond as to the Blu-ray restoration of the lost 1961 Peter Sellers comedy "Mr. Topaze" (a.k.a. "I Like Money"). This flawless upgrade of the 35mm prints in the BFI National Archive allows current fans of social-commentary laden offbeat comedy to watch the successful directorial debut of Sellers. This tribute to a great follows the (reviewed) Classics BD release of Alastair Sims films.
One spoiler is that the titular soft-spoken and quirky French school teacher (Sellers) is an early version of the Sellers character Chance the Gardener (a.k.a. Chauncey Gardener) in the MUST-SEE Sellers comedy "Being There."
The aptly quirky Movement trailer for "Topaze" validates that this is a film that only Sellers could make in front of and behind the camera.
We meet Topaze as a teacher of French descent at a small French school in a small French town; the opening scenes depict him leading his students through the street ala a mother duck. This concludes with a charming verbal quiz as to their field-trip destination.
The plot thickens on Topaze clumsily pursing the pretty young teacher, who is the daughter of the tyrannical headmaster, across the hall. This coincides with Topaze failing to convince musical-comedy star Suzy (Nadia Gray) to have her nephew enroll in the school. The final coffin nail is hammered in a hilarious scene in which Topaze shows that resistance is not futile as to his failure to bend to severe pressure to change the grade of a student even in a manner that allows the pretense that the upgrade is justified.
Meanwhile, Suzy and lover/corrupt council member (Herbert Lom of the "Pink Panther" franchise) Castel Benac find that the dupe on whom they are relying to allow Benac to secretly profit as to a government contract is not so stupid; suffice it to say that this guy knows the score and wants more than his share of the profits.
The writing on the wall is neon as to the pair of schemers discussing the need for a front who does not know his back from his elbow. This leads to the newly unemployed Topaze becoming the figurehead president of the company of Benac. The subsequent lesson as to the wisdom of the fool has some parallels with "There." The bigger picture this time is that "Topaze" is the first of many occasions on which Lom greatly suffers at the hands of Sellers.
The epilogue provides the best payoff as it becomes clear that the older and wiser Topaze clearly is the smartest guy in the room; this is not to mention the lesson that the loss of innocence can turn a puppy into a wolf of Wall Street.
The plethora of extras begin with a crisp-and-clear version of the 33-minute Sellers short "Let's Go Crazy" with "Goon Show" co-star Spike Milligan. Sellers plays numerous characters ranging from Groucho Marx to a elderly society matron in this zany film that is fully set at a night club. The highlights include musical performances by some of the top acts of the day.
"The Poetry of Realism" is a video essay on Marcel Pagnol, who is the playwright of "Topaze." A 24-page booklet has essays on Sellers and on the rediscovery of the "Topaze" prints at the BFI.
Olive Films further cements its place in the hearts of classic film lovers with the Olive Signature October 25, 2016 Blu-ray of the 1952 amusing change-of-pace John Wayne/Maureen O'Hara romantic dramedy "The Quiet Man." This story of retired boxer with a past Sean Thornton returning to the sod and experiencing love at first sight on laying eyes on feisty local lass Mary Kate Danaher is also a change-of-pace for Westerns director/frequent Wayne collaborator John Ford.
Olive expressing well-deserved favoritism for "Quiet" shows that that company awesomely is in the home-video business for the art, rather than the commerce. An upcoming releases of Orson Welles' "MacBeth" provide additional proof that Olive chooses wisely regarding adding films to its catalog.
The Best Director Oscar for Ford of the so much more than an oater Wayne/Jimmy Stewart classic "The Man Who Shoot Liberty Valance" further illustrates that his range extends miles beyond stampedes and shootouts. The Best Cinematography Oscar reflect the beauty of "Quiet," which looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray, shot in Ireland. It will make you want to hop the first flight to the Emerald Isle.
The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-DRIPPING theatrical trailer for "Quiet" showcases the charm and humor of the movie.
This boy-meets-girl fable begins with Wayne's Thornton arriving at the train station five miles from the village that at least two generations of his family called home and where he spent his early childhood. The locals who operate the railroad providing conflicting and misleading directions both gets the Irish charm of "Quiet" off to a good start and is reminiscent of the humor surrounding the Cannonball train in the '60s rural sitcom "Petticoat Junction." Comparable quaintness throughout the film comes in the form of a few Irish folk songs.
Thornton seeing O'Hara's Mary Kate in the field while riding in a horse-and-buggy to his destination accelerates the film to the nice leisurely first-gear pace that continues through most of the story.
One underlying conflict develops when Thornton visits the wealthy widow who owns the former Thornton homestead. In romcom style, Mary Kate sibling /Thornton land neighbor Will has been trying to buy that property for years. Their bidding war is one of the best scenes in a film that lacks any bad ones.
Thornton gets with the program better regarding agreeing to respect the local courting rituals. An early step in the process has his hiring drink-loving matchmaker Michaleen Oge Flynn (perfectly played by Hollywood royalty character actor Barry Fitzgerald) to conduct the necessary negotiations and to otherwise do things "properly." Of course, the Danaher brother does his best to show that where there's a Will, there's no way every step of the way.
Irish charm and cunning get our hope to be happy couple to the altar, but the honeymoon is over before the pair hits the wedding night sheets. The Will-induced distress regarding his unhappy bride strains the resolve of retired pugilist with a tragic past Thornton to not break his vow to engage in fisticuffs again.
All of this leads to a very satisfying climax in which both tradition, pride, and personal standards are adequately honored in a manner that is very true to the setting of the film. One can only hope that they rolled out the green carpet for the theatrical premiere of "Quiet."
The extras include a booklet with the aforementioned essay by Olive and great stills and theatrical posters. The tons of special features include commentary by a Ford expert, a Leonard Maltin "making of" documentary a tribute to Maureen O'Hara, and much more.
Time Life awesomely follows up its recent (reviewed) epic DVD release of concerts, television shows, documentaries, etc. of Cher with the even more phenomenal "Dolly: The Ultimate Collection" celebrating the 50-year career of Dolly Parton. This perfect gift for any of the numerous demographics to which the modern queen of country appeals is only available by visiting the Time Life website. Being able to get away with just sticking a bow on the sturdy decorative box is a nice feature.
The only disappointing aspect of the below well-produced and comprehensive Time Life promo. for "Dolly" is that it does not follow the company tradition of having the titles scroll across the screen over scenes of the American Idol of the hour belting out her hits and appearing in clips from the series and other productions featuring her that comprise this 19-DVD, 35-hour set.
The preaching to the choir aspects of this set are numerous episodes of the '70s daytime series "Dolly" and the '80s primetime variety show of the same name, the two '80s Christmas specials, and the concerts. This not to mention "Tonight Show" appearances and the seven episodes of "The Porter Wagoner Show" that provided Parton a big break.
Highlights of the '70s series include Parton peers/friends Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt appearing in one episode and the parents and 12 siblings of Parton providing the entertainment in another outing. A terrifically bizarre duet of the Tony Orlando and Dawn hit "Knock Three Times on the Ceiling" with Kenny Rogers in another episode is must-see.
The regular primetime "Date With Dolly" segment having Patrick Duffy and Parton co-star Burt Reynolds playing two of the gentlemen callers is just as much fun. This is not to mention the cold opens featuring the star in a bubble bath. Parton fully channels Carol Burnett with a twist by ending each episode with a witty Q&A session. The quick wit that Parton displays here fully reflect the spirit of her song "Dumb Blonde" in which this master of all media shows that she ain't no stereotype.
All of this (and the rest) is great fun for those of us who are more familiar with the mainstream hits, film roles, and big and busty persona of Parton. Seeing the wide variety of her work, learning that she wrote the Whitney Houston hit "I Will Always Love You," discovering that "Islands in the Stream" apparently is a gay anthem, shows that she once was the hardest working woman in show business is enlightening.
The bonus disc that includes the BBC documentary "Dolly Parton: Here I Am" is a personal favorite in this enormous set (truly, no pun intended). It fills in many gaps as to the tale of growing up poor with 12 siblings, being a child country-music star, and moving to Nashville at 18 to fully become a star.
An awesome "behind-the-scenes" segment tells the tale as old of time as to Wagoner getting jealous when Parton begins to eclipse him. The response of Parton makes it clear that she knows how to make her point without biting the hand that currently is feeding her.
The segment on the film debut of Parton in "9 to 5" is one of the most interesting in "Here." We learn how producer/star Jane Fonda gets the idea to recruit Parton for the film and also get the perspective of co-star Lily Tomlin. This is not to mention the extent to which Parton nails the titular theme.
The big picture this time is that watching even roughly one-third of "Collection" clearly demonstrates the perfection combination of charm, talent, shrewdness, and ambition that earns Parton the respect and admiration of even us damn Yankees.
Icarus Films and Distrib Films adding the October 6, 2020 DVD release of the 2019 light romdram "Someone Somewhere" to the ongoing extensive list of their collaborations shows North American audiences the potential for this genre. This tale of two young Parisians who constantly miss it by that much as to making a love connection rings far more true than any dreck starring Katherine Heigl.
The highly relatable overall theme of "Someone" is that potential spouse material can be under our highly oblivious noses. A secondary theme is that those around us often deal with the same "stuff" that plagues us even aside from a global pandemic that is greatly hindering meeting anyone for any purpose.
Our likable leads are Amabot warehouse worker Remy, who is "promoted" to answering customer service calls, and research assistant Melanie. The paths of these leads who live in abutting apartments constantly cross on the subway and in the neighborhood market where everyone knows their name. The parallels extend to going to the same pharmacy at the same time to get drugs for comparable sleep disorders that drive each of them into therapy.
This is not to mention parallel job stress and angst about going home for the holidays. Melanie resorting to online dating services provides the best humor in "Someone." For his part, Remy is involved in an "its complicated" relationship with a co-worker.
The only contrived common thread involves a pet project of each urbanite.
Aside from the quarter-life crises of Remy and Melanie, the "will they or won't they" meet drives much of the action in this film in which Icarus and Distrib eschew the typical car accidents of their French films for a series of near-misses involving the main characters. However, the obligatory dance party scene remains.
The big picture this time is that "Someone" shows that the downside of the urban anonymity that is behind Remy moving to Paris can prevent people from living happily ever after.
The CBS Home Entertainment September 29, 2020 separate DVD/BD/BD steelbook releases of S1 of the CBS All Access series "Star Trek Picard" truly shows what become a legend most. This is not to mention the titular once (and future?) Starfleet admiral and his rebellious alliance boldly going where (almost) no man has gone before in search of new life and a new civilization.
Although Covid-19 is delaying the painfully highly anticipated S2 premiere, All Access already has committed to at least three seasons.
The following trailer pays wonderful homage to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" by featuring scenes of Picard, who only works in outer space, enjoying a peaceful existence at the family vineyard in France until duty once again harshes that particular mellow. The subsequent new faces and visits from old friends gives a sense of the "New Class" element. One spoiler is that Pulitzer Prize winning creator/head writer Michael Chabon spares us any appearances by Neelix, aka the Screech of the Trekverse.
The opening scene, which is far too awesome to even remotely spoil, immediately grabs Trekkers, Trekkies, and anyone who likes a good story. This first of countless love letters to TNG provides the perfect context for a central relationship that drives much of this perfect 10-epidose season that easily passes the "one more" test and leaves us wanting so much more, These payoffs include visiting Mr, and Mrs. Riker in their idyllic home.
A true rude awakening soon comes for Picard when student Dahj visits in the wake of a puzzling attack. This ambush triggers an equally mysterious "activation" in Dahj that leads to kung-fu fighting in which she is fast as lightning. Although this is exciting; it is a little bit frightening.
The rest of the groundwork for the rest of the season is the 14 year-old incident that is behind Picard leaving Starfleet. His role in a controversial humanitarian mission to relocate "Trek" baddies the Romulans to Mars, which no longer needs women, leads to a catastrophic uprising by synthetic lifeforms that leads to a ban on their further development. This is akin to the "Star Trek: Enterprise" story arc as to superhumans; that one is memorable for the classic line "actually, Mother was a botanist."
An especially awesome aspect of this portion of the S1 saga is Picard following the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" philosophy that you need a Klingon to fight a Klingon.
The reimaging of the "Trek" verse that the must-see home-video special features mention includes the Starfleet brass surprisingly rejecting the request of the man who saved the world (a lot) to reup and fulfill the humanitarian mission of the Federation. We also get tech. that is borrowed from the "Stargate" universe.
This rejection leads to Picard taking the desperate measure of enlisting the services of the blatantly Han Soloesque Cristobal Rios to use his version of the Millennial Falcon to help Picard find TNG enemy turned research collaborator Bruce Maddox; the is the first of several time that this series drifts into "Wars" territory. The holograms that augment the skeleton crew awesomely evoke thoughts of the current "Flash" series.
The maiden voyage for this motley crew is to a planet to recruit fighters for the action to come. This reunites Picard with a 20-something Romulan who still has Daddy issues as to that father figure from his youth. This adventure ends with a sequence that has highly predictable elements with a surprising twist that reverses the awesome tradition of having TNG characters pop up on "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" ala Chrissie of "Three's Company" visiting former landlords the Ropers after they sell their apartment building.
"Picard" also borrows from the ancient past by twice using "the old fake prisoner as a Trojan horse" trick from "Wars" and many, many, many, many other films and television series.
All of this leads to an season-ending three-episode story arc that is one of the best in the entire "Trek" history. Picard is facing enemies on both sides as the events behind his leaving Starfleet begin to replay; of course, this screams for omnipotent mischief-maker Q to appear to further stir the boiling plot. Certainty exists as these events involving a strong element of the classic TNG series finale.
Team Chabon fully earns its pay as to how it wraps up these episodes that serve equally well as a season or series ender. Suffice it to say that we get Picard 2.0 and all is brought full circle.
The aforementioned bonuses are too numerous to fully address; a personal favorite is one in which engaging (of course, pun intended) prop master Jeffrey Lombardi essentially shows us how the sausage is made. Great aspects of this includes looks at props from the TNGverse series, showing how technology has allowed making those toys even better, and meeting crew members who have been on the team since TNG days.
We also get a feature of Team Picard that clearly do not adhere to Starfleet protocol, a look at the Emmy-winning prosthetics and make-up, a tour of the sets. CBS augments (of course, pun intended) with deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The Film Movement Shocktober 13, 2020 DVD release of the gothic thriller "Carmilla," which is based on the 1872 novella of the same name, is a great chance to enjoy Halloween-style fun during a time that it is not safe to go back in the water. This beautifully filmed equally atmospheric and symbolic tale awesomely tells a tale of inner and outer demons. Creepy spinster governess Miss Fontaine is the icing on the cake.
This tale of an infatuation that dares not speak its name centers around 15 year-old Lara, who lives a sheltered existence at the country estate where her father and Fontaine are her only companions. Youthful exuberance as to the anticipation of fresh blood in the form of a visit from peer Charlotte turns to disappointment as to learning that an illness is requiring postponing that event.
The story gets fully underway when the titular member of the carriage trade becomes an unexpected manor house guest on getting injured in an accident involving her apt transportation. The girls soon unexpectedly meeting in a shadowy room is one of the best scenes in the film.
An equally creepy scene that centers around the luck of angels as opposed to the luck of the devil is a close runner-up for the best scene in the film.
Those of us with a 21st-century perspective quickly grasp the underlying nature of the affection of the innocent Lara for her new friend. We equally rapidly figure out that Carmilla is a skilled seductress. Fontaine subtly encouraging Lara to follow her heart is a wonderfully modern twist.
The tale soon darkens on realizing the extent to which Carmilla seduces and abandons her prey. This leads to a compelling climax (truly no pun intended) in which Fontaine plays a major role.
The artistry in all this extends beyond the spot-on performances by the entire cast; this thought-provoking tale is highly symbolic as to the evil nature of seducing someone who is pure into acting on a desire for a same-sex relationship. This is very much in keeping with commentary on sin in the gothic genre in the same manner that sexual activity determines the order of killings in slasher flicks.
Movement pairs "Carmilla" with the 2006 short "Three Towers" by "Carmilla" writer/director Emily Harris. This artistic black-and-white film takes a poignant look at 911 from the bickering perspectives of a European old farmer couple that cannot agree as to whether two or three towers were hit. The broad appeal relates to most of us relating either to the wife who constantly harps or to the husband who is the victim of this criticism. The very-strong live-stage vibe of "Towers" further enhances the appeal of this one.
Movement augments all this with an entertaining and insightful 27-minute making-of feature (complete with audition footage) in which Harris and cast members discuss the film. Learning that the first two actresses to audition for the two leads do such a good job that they are quickly hired is one of the most delightful moments in this film that makes it clear that all involved were perfectly matched as to their on-screen and behind-the-camera roles.
Leo Tolstoy provides a good perspective for the Indiepix Films DVD of the 2017 drama "Family." Tolstoy observes that all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
The accolades for this Veronica Kedar famdram joint about 20-something Lily and her highly dysfunctional family include the Best Feature honor at the 2019 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.
The following Indiepix trailer for "Family" perfectly reflects the desperate times that lead to the desperate measures by Lily.
The action in this film with a strong live-stage centers around Lily making an unscheduled after-hours visit to the home/office of therapist Carmela in the wake of our excitable girl having done a bad bad thing. While waiting for her shrink to return, Lily raps with Carmela daughter Talia; that offspring reflects the irony of the children of a shoemaker going around barefoot.
The Ibsenesque story that comes out via flashbacks in that prolonged discussion provides portraits of each member of the family of Lily. This begins with Dad Avi,, who clearly shows that the kids get their crazy from Mom's side of the family. At the same time, Dad has literally and figuratively distanced himself from this about-to-go-nuclear family.
Mom simply is one of those women not cut out to be a mother and a wife; her level of crazy is low, but she is a toxic carrier of that disease. Her fate involves what can be considered Sarandon wrap in reference to the more comical dysfunctional family film "Igby Goes Down" that shows who in the Culkin family has the real talent.
Elder Sister Smadar, who cannot let it go, divides her time between causing chaos and being locked in her room for her own good and that of her family. Her hanging around provides a catalyst for arguably the most dark element of this deeply black tale.
Brother Adam arguably is the most interesting member of the clan; he has especially creepy incestuous desires that the attempts to satisfy for fun and profit. His ultimate fate proves the adage of like father, like son.
The "B Story" portrayal of the home life of Carmela shows that Lily is far from the only damaged soul under that roof.
The takeaway from all this is that those closest to us are the ones that are most skilled at pushing our buttons. The rest of the story is that we all have our breaking points.
The CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment separate September 29, 2020 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the first season of "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" proves that the failures of the powers-that-be and their misguided supporters to learn from the past doom the rest of us to repeat horrible histories.
This Showtime supernatural drama is set in late-30s Los Angeles and focuses on the dawn of WWII. A scene that explains how a "racist demigod" can be elected president is one of many elements that rings sadly true in 2020.
Another common theme is walling in the working-class Mexican population that is at the center of the action. Creator John Logan and his team doubles down by conveying how black people, Jews, and a laundry list of other "undesirables" are next.
The real sin is that the Showtime "suits" cancelled this must-see series after one season. One can only hope that streaming service CBS All Access gets with the program.
The following trailer highlights the BD-worthy cinematography and compelling concept of the aptly titled "Angels."
The creepy Doomsday monologue, which evokes thoughts of a more comedic version in the orginal "Ghostbusters' film, at the beginning of S1E1 perfectly sets the tone for the rest of this truly never a dull moment season. This exposition leads to a true good v. evil confrontation in which "evil" sets a field full of Mexican migrant workers ablaze and "good" spares a young boy who witnesses his father get engulfed in flames. The climatic end, which works equally well as a season or a series finale, perfectly bring things around full circle.
The traumatized boy grows up to be newly minted LAPD detective Tiago Vega, who is the first Mexican-American to have that position with that force. He is partnered with veteran Jewish detective Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) merely because Michener is the only person who is willing to work with him.
Tiago gets a literal rude awakening on the day before he is scheduled to start his new job. Michener abruptly disturbs his slumber to bring this rookie to the grotesque murder scene of the wealthy Hazlett family. The staging of the bodies and the literal writing on the wall strongly points to the perp or perps being Mexican.
The blatant order to close the case, rather than to actually solve it, is part of an abundance of cynicism by the LAPD that rings just as true in this Defund the Police era.
The apparent act of Mexican aggression occurs on the day before the bulldozers are set to begin freeway construction right through the run-down neighborhood where the mother of Tiago lives with his three younger siblings. For her part, mom Maria is the full-time maid for German doctor/literal closet Nazi Peter Craft and his alcoholic wife.
Meanwhile in another part of the city, weak-willed TFB Los Angeles council member/future mayoral candidate Charlton Townsend is increasingly goaded into working with more openly Nazis as to manipulating the freeway system to literally pave the way for Hitler to parade down Wilshire Boulevard.
This nefarious group is on the radar of Michener and his band of middle-aged Jewish civilians who are doing their best to thwart the Nazi incursion into Los Angeles County. Sadly, we do not get anything close to a "welcome to the OC, Bitch" moment.
The wonderfully dense plot thickens with the Hazlett investigation bringing Tiago together with evangelist superstar Sister Molly, who has had to contend with the mother of all stage parents for decades. The series finale showing the bottomless pit of that ruthlessness is one of many "Angel" highlights.
A more predictable memorable moment comes in the form of a scene that relates to the oft-discussed question of whether someone who has a chance to kill Hitler before his rise to power would do so.
The overall theme of the intense "us v. them" that strongly impacts every relationship in "Angels" shows that no good can come from the prophesized hatred and intolerance in which evil revels. One can only hope that these reel events and the real ones that have tormented us for seven months and are sure to do so for another seven stops the next racist demigod with asperations of occupying the White House not get another further than his or her deluded loyal television audience.
CBSHE supplements this with a plethora of home-video extras. These include a few "making-of" features, a look at the hard work behind the awesomely energetic and happy dance scenes, and documentaries on the highly successful efforts to recreate late '30s Los Angeles.
The recent Icarus Films DVD release of the 2019 Distrib Films documentary "Maguy Marin: Time to Act" wonderfully honors the Icarus roots of a catalog limited to thought-provoking documentaries. This one achieves the genre ideal of being equally entertaining and educational.
The "its personal" aspect this time is that the titular avant-garde choreographer is the mother of writer/director David Mambaugh. His numerous talking heads include Mom, who offers charming insight into her several decades' worth of work that ain't your granddaddy's ballet.
The following "Marin" trailer highlights the wit and wisdom of both the woman and her art.
Much of the documentary focuses on the Marin 1981 opus "May B." This artistically bizarre piece proves that not everything is beautiful at the ballet. It also shows that "Dance 10, Looks 3" does not always result in still being on unemployment and dancing for your own enjoyment. This work purposefully portraying the ugly truth being inspired by Samuel Beckett (the playwright, rather than the time-traveling physicist) awesomely leads to an amusing "Waiting for Beckett" story by Marin.
Vintage footage from the personal and the professional lives of Marin provides a portrait of the artist as a young woman and mother. The latter aspect includes home movies of David and younger sister Louise.
"May B' and the other featured works (as well as the words straight from la bouche de la cheval) shows how Marin consistently incorporates her political views into her work. As indicated above, the bigger picture as to this is that Marin is committed to art reflecting the real world.
Mambough saves the best for last by documenting how a dancer taking the expression "break a leg" a little too close to heart results in a production of "May B" becoming a family affair, This also confirms that Mambough is a triple threat.
Watching "Flintsones" DVDs (complete with spot-on Dino bark to entertain my cat) right before the live online presentation "Del Shores the 'Stuff' Stirrer" on October 4, 2020 was like going from 0 to 69 in two seconds.
Coincidentally watching an episode of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" spin-off "Phyllis" that afternoon provided a more apt aperitif before the Shores performance. The titular former Real Housewife of Minneapolis/current boomerang widow ensured that a "Gilmore Girls" style chat with teen daughter Bess covered the top three taboo subjects of sex, religion, and politics. Son-of-a-preacher man Shores took that theme to the next stratosphere.
The first aside is that Shores is very brave to work without an audience. Doing a monologue without audience feedback is very tough; there is no way to know if you still have the hearts and minds of the fans. As one who has stopped listening to a once-favored NPR show that used-to-be taped before a live audience and who gets much less joy from "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" these days, it is uplifting to sincerely write that Shores scores every time even without a net, He consistently shows that he is an Everygayman.
The second aside before getting down to business is a sincere apology to Shores if he is annoyed that I am not leaving the raunch to the professionals. A related aside is that the admission fee for "Stirred" is the best $20 that I have ever spent for an experience that did not involve physical contact.
The tremendous appeal of "Stirrer," which was streamed from the homey dining room of Chez Shores, began with a sense that our host was channeling Queen Dorothy Parker and her knights of the Algonquin Round Table. As the fully-clothed Shores stated after reminding audience members that the event was clothing optional (suffice it to say that your not-so-humble reviewer fully embraced the spirit of the evening), the evening was intended to be a virtual visit with friends. His warm nature made it very easy to imagine sitting around the table playing with his chihuahuas and eating cheesecake while sharing the details of our sordid lives.
As one who likes to think of himself as a member of the outermost edge of the inner circle of Shores, this intimacy (aside from any nudity) was very nice after seven months and counting of moderate-to- severe isolation.
Another big theme of the evening further evoked thoughts of "The Golden Girls." Shores scratched the surface by noting that his general outspokenness and ready willingness to discuss sex made him comparable to a Southern woman. The next level was the aforementioned vibe of the presentation; going a bit deeper watching the "Girls" at gay bars during its network run was serious business to the extent of turning off the music during the episode.
Shores subsequently delved deeper by sharing a temperate exchange in which he told his verbal attacker that gay men substitute the biological families that either reject or do not understand them with their gay friends. The work of Shores on the classic Showtime series "Queer As Folk" further proves that this self-proclaimed minor gay celebrity knows that of which he speaks.
On a lighter note, Shore amped up his typical candor with a monologue on the proper way to be the third wheel with a couple. The apt sordid confession of your not-so-humble reviewer that validates this wisdom of Shores is spending years hitting a spot for a friend that his husband could not reach. The related note this time is Shores hilariously reporting global statistics prompted an out-of-this-world ego boost that exceeds a perfect hands-free record.
The sharing continued with Shores telling about how shooting himself in the foot led to his becoming a Democrat. This was after Shores told the audience about his copious use of gun oil,
The title of "Stirrer" refers to Shores mostly gleefully but sometimes inadvertently engaging in Twitter wars. This begins with Scott Baio blocking Shores for the latter showing him who is in charge. The seeming cast of 1,000s also includes reality-show stars who reasonably and unreasonably take umbrage at remarks by Shores. The tie for best bit during this segment is between an awesome mea cupla by Shores and his offending Jerry Falwell, Jr. by offering to write a screenplay of the story of the sordid affair between Rev. and Mrs. Falwell and a pool boy who apparently can dive deep.
The G-rated portions of "Stirrer" proved the Carol Burnett theories that funny always is funny and that making people laugh does not require "blue" humor. A bit on the English teacher mother of Shores correcting the grammar of "Sordid" favorite Aunt Sissy equally entertains and educates.
Learning that the impish charm of Shores dates back to his childhood and that his mother has the PERFECT response to his mischief provided another bonding moment.
Shores wraps all of this up with wonderful tales of working the presidential primary in Mississippi. His speaking for all gay men extends beyond reminding the more moderate members of that 10-percent that any love for the Republican party is not mutual; Shores keeps his audience captivated in discussing door-to-door canvassing bringing him to the home of a shirtless hunk who apparently was welcome to stuff the ballot box of our righteous political activist.
The only apt way to end these musing is that Shores always del-ivers an insightful performance that stimulates the two most important male organs.
[Editor's Note: This post is being written more than two weeks after returning from the Woodstock Inn. So far your not-so-humble reviewer is living to tell the tale and has no outward signs of having contracted COVID-19.]
The first post on a recent trip to the once- (and future?) favored Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont discusses the tears and recriminations that greatly impaired that highly anticipated and needed trip, The second article gives the Inn its due as to the property itself. This final entry in the series takes a broader approach in sharing thoughts as to postponing even Inn Credible trips until COVID-19 is under control.
The starting point of all this is a major part of the problem. Being stuck at home most of the time under circumstances that often involve inarguably too much togetherness with a significant other sets a higher-than-usual bar for anticipation as to a chance to get out of our cages for a few days, On top of this, literally and figurative getting out of our (relative) comfort zones creates angst as to travelling to a (hopefully not final) destination and facing an even more enhanced chance of contracting Covid during our stay.
On the other hand, even excellent staff members such as the Woodstock Inn worker bees feel even more stress. Their risk of infection is far greater than ours; they must deal with higher-than-usual guest angst; often must adapt to having fewer peers and "superiors" to support them, and face the constant threat of reduced demand and/or enhanced state restrictions once again requiring a lay-off. All of this hinders efforts to be a shiny, happy person.
The "insult" that the suits add to the above "injury" is still charging pre-Covid prices for a Covid experience that reasonably does not provide daily housekeeping, amenities such as saunas and whirlpools, and other luxuries that make a five-star experience a five-star experience. This relates to a long-standing Inn Credible realization that hotels often rely on a reputation lag in charging "Golden Age" rates for "Silver (or Bronze) Age" experiences. A related sad aspect of this is the poor sucker who literally pays the price when the establishment regains its former glory.
The unsolicited advice as to all this is to provide guests small kindnesses that soften the blow of a lesser experience. One option is to provide a mostly symbolic 10-percent Covid-era room rate discount. A hotel also can give each guest a low-cost gift bag that includes a (marketing tool) t-shirt and a coffee mug. Further, the "suits" taking two hours once a week to help out by doing things such as working at the front door, answering reservation calls, and staffing the concierge desk shows both the staff and the guests that they care.
On a personal level, the robber barons at the Rockefeller Foundation owned Woodstock Inn could have softened the blow of not providing an almost definitely promised upgrade either by using one of the roughly 130 empty rooms to provide a comparable experience. Absent that, another even moderately grand gesture on being told of the reasonable expectation of living like a Rockefeller for a few days would have prevented a very restless night during the first 24 hours of my stay.
The bigger picture this time is that Covid calls for peace, love, and understanding by everyone much more now than it has for decades.