Olive Films partnering with the UCLA Film and Television Archives program to restore the 1972 Samuel Fuller private eye noir film "Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street" for the April 19. 2016 Olive Blu-ray release of the film is a prime example of the Olive commitment to giving classic films a new life. On a less intellectual level, great anticipation exists regarding the May 2016 Olive release of the '80s Scott Baio/WIllie Aames teen comedy "Zapped."
"Pigeon" wonderfully starts by having the opening credits roll over a Mardi Gras style street festival in 1972 Germany and having the cast and several crew members appear as their names pop up on the screen. The film then gets right down to business with the gunning down of the titular deceased individual. This is turn leads to a wacky on-again-off-again hot pursuit that merits placing hard-boiled film auteur Fuller in a director's hall of fame.
These preliminaries in turn leads to American private detective in Berlin Sandy seeking vengeance for the killing and pursuing the related goal of solving the case associated with that incident. This effort leads to the proverbial making of strange bedfellows.
The underlying plot in both senses of the word is that Sandy is on the trail of a well-organized blackmailer who takes a revised page from the Bill Cosby playbook by drugging international power brokers and having these purely innocent individuals photographed in compromising positions. Getting his man requires that Sandy first ally himself with the woman who poses for the pictures and then adequately gain the confidence of both her and the proverbial Mr. Big to get a personal audience with the latter.
The intricate plotting, twist and turns, and hilarious capers all make for great entertainment. This culminates with one of the best ever climaxes and subsequent full-circle endings in any film.
The bonus feature in the set is a booklet with two short insightful essays on the film and its important role in film history.
The dynamic duo of Icarus Films and Distrib Films maintain their perfect track record with the September 22, 2020 DVD of the 2019 drama "The Girl With A Bracelet." This French film (complete with obligatory dance party scene but sans vehicular mayhem) depicts the murder trial of titular teen amiecide defendant Lise. The real crime is that this thought-provoking compelling drama did not get any amore de festival du film.
The following Distrib trailer for "Bracelet" highlights the related themes of Lise not being innocent even if she is not a killer and of her parents being the clueless ones in this case.
"Bracelet" bucks the trend of recent films commencing with trauma and drama only to soon shift the action to the onset of the series of unfortunate circumstances that bring us to that point. Wascally wabbit writer/director Stephane Demoustier provides a deceptive cold open in the form of neo-modern everyteen Lise, adorable younger brother Jules, and their 'rents enjoying a seaside idyll. The arrival of les gendarmes to escort Lise away shows that this is no day at the beach,
The action soon shifts to two years later. A typical sheepheaded Gallic teen chien du horn is sniffing around la maison of the family when the father of Lise tells the boy go, Diego, go, This leads to learning that a surprisingly outwardly blase Lise literally is under house arrest (as enforced by the titular ankle bling) and is about to stand trial.
Diego later showing up for a practice congenial visit is highly symbolic on a few levels. The same is true regarding the PERFECT final shot in "Bracelet."
The facts that soon emerge at the aforementioned judicial proceeding are that sleepover guest Lise apparently was the last person to see friend Flora alive before the mother of Flora discovers an especially gruesome murder scene the next afternoon. Although the murder weapon still is missing, the indirect evidence of guilt includes Flora filming and uploading a video of Lise fellating a teen boy simply because Lise is told to do so. The trial of the father of Lise includes having to watch that footage and having both the prosecution and the defense address its significance in open court.
The trial largely runs its course as expected with the exception of Lise not showing much emotion, This extends to it seeming that the death of her friend is a not a significant event even absent Lise being accused of that offense.
All of this culminates in the verdict in the trial; the cynicism as to this is that that outcome does not properly reflect the culpability of Lise as a member of society.
The bigger picture this time is that the fact that "Bracelet" could have been made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the US shows that parents everywhere really do not know how their teens spend their days and nights. A related message is that most parents always love their kids but do not always like them.
As the old joke goes, I would love to rave about the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont but cannot. Extensive fretting over how to approach an article on a recent three-day stay as this once (and future?)-favored destination led to deciding on a three-part series. This begins with current thoughts on reasonable hopes for ecstasy resulting in agony. Part two will give the hotel its due as to the property. Part three is an epilogue that discusses bigger issues as to luxury travel until Covid-19 is a distant horrific memory.
The big picture begins with booking a spectacular stay at a competing property in Massachusetts; my state still being on the Massachusetts "no-fly" list three weeks before my scheduled arrival led to discovering that I could travel to Vermont without both getting a swab to the brain and having to get the result within 72 hours. That led to booking a spa trip to the Woodstock Inn for the week before my scheduled trip to "Brand X."
An aside is that Massachusetts regulations prohibit many people from significantly contributing to the public fisc by paying lodging and meals taxes at a nearly empty luxury hotel where all take extensive precautions. At the same time, anyone from anywhere potentially can help spread Covid nationally and internationally under a provision that allows virtually one-and-all to pass through Logan or any other airport in the state.
A very nice young man with the Woodstock Inn reservations department provided 90+ percent certainty that he generously upgraded me to the Laurence Rockefeller Suite. His colleague verified this when I called to change my reservation to arrive a day earlier than planned. She said that “your room is my favorite” and also told me that someone was checking out of that room two days before my revised date. Among other things, both reservations agents told me that I would have a microwave. It seems that the two Rockefeller suites are the only accommodations with that amenity.
The second reservations clerk unequivocally told me that all rooms are empty two days between guests; I received conflicting information as to that policy on arrival and later was told that that was not the case. The rest of that story is that even a room that was empty the prior two days may only be cleaned right before the arrival of the subsequent guest.
A few factors for which the Inn is not responsible prompted leaving for the three-hour drive to the Inn at 5:15 a.m. These included excitement as to living like a Rockefeller and writing about that experience.
I thought that the room likely would be ready early due to the two-day policy. I also was prepared to be asked to wait.
I arrived at 9:15 a.m. to find that no one was at the front door, That was not a big deal, except for the fact that that allowed people to come and go without a temperature check. The first sign of trouble was the congenial desk clerk asking on which floor I wanted to stay. I mentioned the strong indication of the promise of the suite but got no response.
The desk clerk said that “my room” was empty and that he would ask housekeeping to clean it right away. I told him as I had told the two reservations clerks of my specific underlying hereditary condition that made a well-cleaned room important.
I returned an hour later to be told the room was not yet ready.
The problem started an hour after that on speaking with the front-office manager. He told me that the hotel had two rooms of the class to which I was upgraded and that neither were clean. His response on my mentioning the promise of the suite was that that goes for $1,600/night. NO word as to being sorry if I expected that suite.
I am confident that the reservation clerk did book me in the suite but that a manager overruled him. I will add that there were only 20 or so booked rooms of roughly 150 total rooms.
Because I had a 2:00 p.m. pool reservation and the athletic facility did not allow showers due to Covid, I was faced with either taking the lesser of the two rooms or not getting into the other one before my swim time. In hindsight, the FO manager could have offered to let me shower in one of the more than 100 empty rooms and check in after my swim.
The manager also could have offered to comp me lunch when I mentioned that I was tired and hungry. He DEFINITELY could have given me chocolates when I mentioned that the Inn website still lists them (and several other “paused” amenities,)
The FO manager did say that the better of the two rooms was at the quiet end of the hall. I did not know that my chosen one was across from the housekeeping closet and would have frequently slamming doors outside it.
My unhappiness at 11 a.m. prompted asking the woman in the gift shop to guide me to the executive office. Her response was to call that office. She learned that the general manager was off that day, but she took my cell number and told me that the reservations manger or another manager would call me. NO ONE ever called during my three-day stay or since even to ask if things were resolved.
On arriving in the room, it did not seem very clean. I also found two long hairs draped over the box of soap in the bathroom, On top of that, the dust on the base of the TV was thick enough to make my finger black.
This made me glad I brought Clorox wipes with me. I wiped down every surface.
The desk clerk was responsive to the issues and had housekeeping reclean the room while I was swimming. The room was much cleaner than before, and I actually could smell the disinfectant that I was told was used to blast the room between guests. On a related note, guests must sign a waiver acknowledging the heightened risk of Covid as to staying in the hotel.
On coming down the next morning, I overheard the desk clerk from the day before asking two women about their breakfast in the hotel restaurant and telling them that they had a surprise in their room. My assumption was that the women had had a check-in SNAFU and were comped breakfast and given a gift.
On going into the gift shop, I saw that Nancy the shop manager was there. Because she was a hotel manager, I told Nancy of my experience but asked that she not make an issue of it until I left so that I would not run the risk of being labeled toxic and required to leave. She made the generous gesture of later surprising me with a gift bag of Vermont goodies. I did not hear from a manager on the day of my check-out or since then,
I still paid roughly $450/night for my room; that is comparable to a night at the Mandarin Oriental, which prides itself on excellent service.
An Inn employee who would like to remain employed said “I fully agree” on my saying that the staff is wonderful but that management does not understand the current circumstances,
The Inn understandably has cut out housekeeping and turn-down service during the stay. At the same time, there is no reason that they could not leave still-promised chocolates in bags on the door each day. Additionally, they have not reduced their rates despite cutting way back on staff in ways that include no longer having a doorman back up the one bellman that works solo shifts.
The bottom line is that Inn management seems to be living up to the robber baron roots of the Rockefeller family that built the hotel and currently has the non-profit Rockefeller Foundation own it. Needless to say, the hotel is not currently run in a very charitable manner and is relying on its past to keep 'em paying a premium to come back despite a clearly stated risk to their lives.
This sucker definitely is not going to take another three-hour tour driving up there for quite some time.
Omnibus Entertainment does indie-film god parent Film Movement very proud as to the September 22, 2020 DVD release of the sublime 2018 quirky comedy "The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova." "Dombrova" is EXACTLY what we need today. It easily is the most witty and charming film that your not-so-humble reviewer has seen since watching the (reviewed) biodramedy "Stan and Ollie" in January 2019.
The well-deserved festival love for "Dombrova" includes Best Feature and Best Director honors at the 2019 Canadian Film Fest.
The following "Domdrova" trailer provides a moderate "Fargo" vibe as to the offbeat sensibility and the barren setting of the film.
Our story begins with squabbling siblings Aaron and Sarah fresh off the plane from Canada and seeking transportation at a Polish airport. Writer/director Zack Bernbaum expertly conveys their relationship early on by having uptight bureaucrat rely on the statement of an airport worker that there are no cabs only to have disaffected Sarah being right as to a nearby car meeting their uber need.
Additional early exposition establishes that our reluctant tourists are in Poland to fulfill a dying wish of their grandmother. Contrary to the assertion in "Seinfeld" that "In Poland, we all had ponies," the grandmother owned the titular prancing pooch. The grandkids are there to retrieve the bones of the dog so that they can be buried in Canada with the grandmother.
The driver, who becomes a friend and regular chauffeur, takes the visitors from The Great White North to the requested address. This figurative dead-end results in Aaron and Sarah finding themselves in a vacant lot where they are the subject of the vacant stares of the men who are sitting there.
The next stop is the guest house run by a tough-but-compassionate middle-aged woman whose cooking reflects the principle that no part of an animal should be wasted. Her sister provides the room service at the establishment.
The driver from the night before showing up with her teen son in tow introduces that scene stealer/detective of humanity to the film. The insights of that lad include that even a baseless charge of child molestation can be effective in meeting your goals.
This leads to civil servant Ian meeting his match at the local hall of records; that man shows that an expedited request is not always a timely one.
The subsequent wacky adventures include encounters with a local priest and with a peer of the grandmother who has a very old school attitude. Throughout all this, Aaron and Sarah gain a greater understanding of each other.
Bernbaum saves some of the best for last as things culminate in a final desperate measure that is proportion to the times. This involves the taxi driver showing the extent to which she is willing to take one for the team.
All of this shows that a relatable story in the right hands can delight and amuse.
The 8.9 IMDb rating for the 2019 Lithuanian documentary "Delta Zoo," which IndiePix Films has released on DVD in North America, reflects the interesting and creative manner that this film tells the real-life tale of the titular Lithuanian commando squad that contributes to the effort by their country to leave the Soviet Union. The melange of world politics, '90s action movies, low-tech video games, and the macho pride of wannabe super soldiers supports the theory that truth is stranger than fiction.
The following trailer aptly highlights both the retro style of the film and the aspects of the essential militia around whom the film is centered.
Our story begins with Lithuania being a trend setter in that it is the first country to declare independence from the Soviet Union; this leads to recruiting a Cobra Kai (COBRA KAI) style martial-arts expert to recruit and train our post-adolescent squad. Archival footage shows their rigorous and violent training.
Our talking heads who were there share their perspective of this band of brothers bonding over viewings of bootleg VHS copies of films such as "Rambo" and that largely consist of the Kung Fu fighting of Bruce Lee that the boys find so exciting; this portion of the film also demonstrates that our Karate Kids are fast as lightning,
This orientation to the group provides some of the most fun in the film in that heavily pixelated animation accompanies profiles, including the apt animal code names of each fighting boy. Individual ratings on attributes that include craziness and fighting skills are the icing on the cake.
The human perspective continues with the tale of these toy soldiers sharing a rural farmhouse ala a rock band holed up to produce its latest album. A cool aspect of this is mutual willful ignorance as to a group of Russian soldier who are the neighbors of the "Zoo" animals.
Anecdotes from this boot camp include an evening in town that leads to an inevitable bar brawl and accounts of machismo that include essentially walking off a broken leg. Of course, there also is the local woman who essentially becomes a team mascot/den mother.
The video game element continues with the boys going out into the field. The footage of exploring a government building evokes strong feelings of video games. This includes the discovery of secret rooms and the officials and the guests of the state who are left behind.
The message this time is the difference between men and boys is the killing power of their toys.
Virgil Films does a great man justice regarding the DVD release of "Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey." We get a truly intimate portrait of Rev. Graham by those who knew and loved him best.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Graham" provides a sense of the oratory power of this evangelist and the fact that he had friends in high places on both Heaven and earth.
Son of a preacher man Franklin Graham hosts this tribute to his father and joins the seemingly countless talking heads who share the importance of that man to them personally and to the world at large. It seems fair to say that Billy holds the world record for having the greatest positive impact on modern society.
One of the more interesting tales of Billy relates to his early years; this everykid is not a member of the Junior God Squad. His life-changing experience comes on hearing an evangelist speak essentially on a whim and deciding to devote his life to religion. His extensive travel while a member of a youth ministry truly is mind-boggling and does not let up for several decades.
Easily the most amusing story involves Billy being guilty of a wholesome youthful indiscretion during his first of many trips to the White House. This visit during the Truman administration provides Billy with a personal sense of the expression "Give 'em Hell, Harry." Another way of stating this is that Hell hath no fury like a president scorned.
We later see Billy criticized for travelling to Russia,
"Citizen Kane" fans particularly should enjoy the story that elevates Billy to his star status. This minister coming on the radar of William Randolph Hearst inspires the latter to put the power of his press behind the former.
We also see how a mourning nation and areas in distress turn to Billy for comfort; these tragedies include 911 and massive earthquakes in San Francisco and Guatemala. A personally interesting aspect of this is Billy meaning it when he states that he will go anywhere to preach and Billy wannabe/former child star Kirk Cameron alleging that he will speak to anyone yet completely ignoring several requests over a few years by your not-so-humble-reviewer.
The timing of this review also is interesting regarding the documentary ending with the 2018 funeral of Billy. This begins with an uncharacteristically civil Trump speaking at a U.S. Capitol service in which he notes that Billy is one of three private citizens ever to be honored with laying in state in the rotunda. This is in contrast with news reports of Trump being angry about not being thanked for his role in the funeral of John McCain.
One can argue that Billy can be lauded for being among an elite group capable of bringing out the best in Trump; it is inarguable that Billy was such a godsend (if not Godsend) that he brought out the best in virtually everyone.
The numerous DVD features in this true labor of love include a complete video of the funeral of Billy, his "God Loves You" sermon, and two other tributes to this guy who was unique for giving televangelists a good name.
God to lovers of the eternal musical-comedy series of the '60s and '70s Time Life awesomely follows up its (reviewed) "Best of Sonny and Cher" DVD set with the September 15, 2020 release of "The Best of Cher."
The new bonus-dripping 8 discs take us from the late-70s "Cher" CBS musical comedy series, which is comparable to Laverne keeping the laughs coming after Shirley bails in the final season of their sitcom, to the 2013 Lifetime "Dear Mom, Love Cher" documentary. The latter has our enduring living legend reminisce with mother Georgia Holt. One spoiler is that this one shows that the apple lands directly under the tree.
The fun begins with the February 9, 1975 pilot episode of "Cher." The titular entertainer stays true to form by opening the show belting out a tune while (barely) dressed in one of seemingly infinite outfits that Bob Mackie has designed for her throughout the decades. This leads a little bit of a downer opening monologue in which Cher comments on her no longer living a pro Bono existence.
An incestuous element of this series is that it is produced by George Schlatter; Schlatter also is the brains behind the (reviewed) late '60s-early '70s phenom "Laugh-In," which is out on DVD thanks to Time-Life. Schlatter contributes his two cents to "Cher" in a DVD bonus interview.
The '70stastic guests that help Cher get her groove back are Elton John, Bette Midler, and Flip Wilson. Highlights include Flip Wilson alter-ego Geraldine attending a class-reunion with Cher hilariously tacky alter-ego Laverne. We also get Elton John singing a wonderful rendition of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," joining Cher to rock out with one his classics, and doing a medley with Cher and Midler.
Guests in subsequent episodes include soon-to-be Cher spouse Greg Allman, "Love Boat" darling Charo. "Laugh-In" star Lily Tomlin, "Carol Burnett Show" fall-on-the-floor-funnyman Tim Conway, "Charlie's Angel" Kate Smith, and far too many other Disco Age A-listers to mention,
The wonderfully bizarre April 3, 1978 "Cher...Special" begins with a Cher monologue that turns back time to when she feels like an ugly duckling teen and segues to her performing numerous parts in an extended medley of songs from "West Side Story." This leads to performances that range from country queen Dolly Parton to new wave group "The Tubes."
The March 7, 1979 special "Cher... and Other Fantasies" finds our star the apparent prisoner of an impish creature played by Elliott Gould. The Gould character repeatedly sends Cher into rooms in an office building from Heck. The vignettes involve situations such as Shelley Winters, who essentially is forced to eat dirt and returns the favor, playing a woman who sells angst. We also get Andy Kaufman as a bizarre version of Adam just arriving in The Garden of Eden.
The aforementioned "Mom" does a good job keeping the story of gypsy and tramp (but not thief) Holt light and entertaining. We additionally get interesting insight into (almost aborted) life of Cher. A mug shot of our gay icon is one of numerous vintage images. Learning at the end that all of this is an infomercial for the new album of Holt does make the audience feel duped.
The "Mom" disc includes a fun 1987 "Superstars and Their Moms" segments that greatly overlaps Mom. The most fun of this is seeing Carol Burnett as we mostly likely have never seen her before.
An even more fun bonus on this disc has Cher and talk-show host James Corden playing truth-or-dare with some of the most disgusting food known to mankind. This one makes many of us wonder if we would emulate Cher in chowing down on a gag-worthy item to avoid saying one nice thing about Donald Trump.
Music takes center stage over comedy and nostalgia in the August 1999 recording of the Cher MGM concert.
The big picture this time is that "Best" preserves numerous highlights from the "Star Wars" of celebrities in that the woman of the many hours is a goddess to three generations (and counting) of fans. This truly is one that the entire family can enjoy while (largely thanks to Trump) essentially subject to house arrest for the foreseeable future.
Those of us who are familiar with the entertaining and insightful films of Lithuanian filmmaker/activist/righteous dude Romas Zabarauskas, who is the subject of interview on this site, have reason to rejoice as to the August 18, 2020 North America DVD release of his latest film. The thought-provoking "The Lawyer" reflects the evolution of Zabarauskas ala the early Woody Allen zany comedies transitioning to the more sophisticated New York yuppies "Annie Hall" era of his career.
"Lawyer" easily passes two tests as to a film being worthy of adding to your home-video library. The most general element is that it has a very strong live-stage vibe. The second is unique to gay-themed films; there almost always is an inverse relationship between the amount of nudity and the merits of a movie. This is not to say that seeing a nude self photo that Zabarauskas offered in a prior funding effort would be unwelcome.
The following "Lawyer" trailer provides a good sense of the life and love of the titular middle-aged corporate attorney. It also verifies that Zabarauskas has a successful stylistic sensibility.
"Lawyer" mostly focuses on the personal life of Marius. His socializing centers around friends who are a group that knows that they must somehow form a family to avoid being all alone. A "Cousin Oliver" is a bisexual woman who has completed her transition into a man. A dinner-party conversation regarding how relationships among gay men can simultaneously include varying degrees of friendship, love, lust, and romance should ring true to every member of the primary "Lawyer" audience.
Marius becoming infatuated with Syrian refugee/cam-boy Ali, who partially is for rent, coincides with the death of the estranged father of the former. The universal element this time is Mom being more accepting of Marius being gay but still being far from joining PFLAG. Zabarauskas PERFECTLY portrays that dynamic in a scene of a mother-and-child reunion that literally was a phone call away.
These game-changers prompt Marius to visit Ali in Belgrade only to learn that this object of his affection does have to live like a refuge. This prompts Marius to don his legal advocate hat by trying to persuade the powers-that-be to allow Ali to move out of the refuge camp ahead of schedule. A related scene in which our friends with benefits compare themselves to Cinderella and Prince Charming is a film highlight.
The interaction with a bureaucrat includes Marius learning of the brutal exploitation and abuse of a group of young male refuges. One can only hope that this incident is the product of the fertile mind of Zabarauskas.
Although "Lawyer" literally lacks a dull moment and expertly makes you feel the agony and ecstasy of Marius, Zabarauskas saves the very best for last. A scene near the end of the film simultaneously proves that the audience is heavily interested in the central relationship and is a perfect example of things not always being as they seem. We also learn that enjoying a happy ending can require taking matters in your own hands.
All of this amounts to a sincere deep hope for "Lawyer II" that chronicles the next chapter in the life of Marius.
The recent U.K.-based Macabre Pictures DVD release of the 2020 horror film "Coven of Evil" proves that low-budget does not necessarily mean poor quality. Writer/director Matthew J. Lawrence (who may or may not have brothers named Joey and Andy) makes good use of his on-location settings and casts actors who strike the proper balance between deadpan and hamming it up. The bigger picture is that Macabre provides another example of British productions kicking the arse of their counterparts across the pond.
Our tale of terror begins with the titular witches of Eastwick adjacent conducting a ritual sacrifice with potential to require an explanation involving a fondness for riding horses. This scene also reflects the family values that permeate the film.
The action soon shifts to aspiring journalist/boomerang kid Joe basking in the praise of his parents as to his recent article on the coven. The 'rents are barely out the door for a few days when coven head Evie shows up with criticism about the piece. She validly points out the holes in the research on which the article is based.
The accepted remedy is to have Joe visit the rural farm that the coven calls home/ritual central. The suspense includes whether Joe will buy the farm and the related uncertainty as to if the pen is mightier than the ritualistic sword.
The moderately subtle dark humor begins with head warlock Zander doubling down on not showing up to drive Joe to the farm by almost running him over on his way to his potentially final destination. This arrival includes the obligatory glimpse of the mysterious woman, whose presence initially is denied, in an upstairs window.
Joe then meets the rest of the family, which includes wonderfully quirky middle-aged healer Kissi and young rookie Talia. (we later learn that boys always will be boys.) Joe also soon learns of the magical spirit of the place.
Fun commences with a ritual in which Joe is paired with Talia ahead of a coupling in front of the group.
Alice enters the picture as the innocent/younger sister/Janet of Evie. Amusement comes in the form of Evie opposing the efforts of Alice to join the band. The narrative continues with Joe in the role of spoiler in a few senses of that word as he and Alice bond in a few senses of that word. This is not to mention the scarecrow who wishes that he only had a brain.
This action and subsequent events that constitute major spoilers lead to a ritual that is the climax of the film. The lesson that Alice learns as to her loss of innocence in a few senses of that word is that one should be careful when practicing wishcraft because you may get that for which you asked.
The fun continues with the guest-of-honor sending a bouncer, who contributes his two cents before admitting a member of the group into the club. In classic horror fashion, this awesomely is not the end of the story. The epilogue to all this must be highly relatable to parents everywhere who are at the seven-month mark and counting as to the kids being home all day every.
The bottom line here is that Lawrence shows that arthouse and Blumhouse can be compatible.
The Film Movement DVD of the quirky 2018 French film "Ulysses & Mona" perfectly highlights the charm of Gallic art house movies and the Movement love of all things international. The awesomeness of this one extends beyond the strong live-stage vibe to being a film that literally and figuratively is easily transferable to North America word-for-word and shot-for-shot,
The following Movement trailer for "Ulysses" provides a good sense of the odd sensibility that makes it so endearing.
Writer-director Sebastien Betbeder immediately catches our attention with an opening scene that has 20 year-old art student Mona and her adorable sheep-headed classmate in a nude-drawing class that clearly is not using this year's model. These future baristas who paint on the weekends have a highly amusing exchange about Mona not using the proper proportions as to her seemingly generous portrayal of the male subject du jour.
Meanwhile back at the estate, 55 year-old former darling of the art world/current recluse Ulysses Borrelli is spending most of his days hitting tennis balls flung at him from an automated machine. We quickly learn that the demise of his marriage is tied to his retirement from highly regarded career.
The worlds of our leads collide when the younger searches out the elder. The journey into the woods initially introduces Mona to misfit child Arthur, whose eccentricities include calling Ulysses Dracula.
Although initially rebuffed, things dramatically change on Mona taking another bite at the apple. She returns to find her idol in dire straits. This ultimately leads to an epic journey of Ulysses accompanied by Mona.
The purpose of the trip is for Ulysses to mend strained relationships in his life; the purpose of Mona accompanying him is to guarantee that he will go through with it.
The first stop is at the McJob workplace of 20-something Nicolas; suffice it to say that the reunion is not a happy one. Mona does help smooth the waters.
Our pair next drops in on ex-wife Alice, who clearly has moved on.
A relatively raucous night before returning home creates more excitement before coming home to find that Ulysses is a person-of-interest in not a good way. This, in turn, leads to another trip into the woods that leads to closure for all.
As always is the case as to Film of the Month Club selections, Movement pairs "Ulysses" with an apt short film. "Wolf Carver" has the titular grumpy middle-aged artist take his Mona on a road trip through Finland; in this case, the unpacking of copious baggage is highly symbolic.
The CBS Home Entertainment September 8, 2020 DVD CS set of the 2019-20 fourth season of the CBS legal procedural "Bull" provides an awesome smorgasbord for thought at a time that COVID-19 leaves most of us starving for intellectual sustenance. The oft-intriguing legal issue in the case-of-the-week warrants adding this set to your home-video library; revealing the reality of the American court system elevates "Bull" to must-see status.
These tales of the collaboration between the titular jury whisperer (Michael Weatherly of "NCIS") and trial attorney/ex-brother-in-law Benny Colon (Freddy Rodriguez of "Six Feet Under") are based on the real-life experiences of TV shrink/"Bull" executive producer Dr. Phil. The awesome cynicism as to this concept is that maximizing the number of jurors that are proven to be favorably disposed toward you and then presenting our legal arguments in a manner that keeps them in your camp and recruits other "peers" to your side is an effective means to achieve a positive outcome regardless of the applicable law.
A simpler way of thinking about jury selection and persuasion being a large part of your legal strategy is that doing so makes a trial more of a marketing campaign than a legal proceeding, A related note is that virtually every client of Bull getting him because he or she can afford the high cost of his services illustrates the extent to which the cavernous wealth gap in America affects the judicial system.
The courtroom drama in S4E1 revolves around the criminal prosecution of a young woman whom the prosecutor is seeking to hold liable for shooting deaths that occurred in the wake of the woman serving more alcohol to the shooter at the bar where the woman worked. This one awesomely demonstrates the "it depends" principle that law students learn when asking a professor about the outcome as to a series of facts.
The "meanwhile back at the ranch" drama in the season opener revolves around Bull trying to get Colon back on the team after S1 family drama. The impact that that resolution has on the ex-in-law relationship drives additional S4 action.
Separate drama includes a "Papa don't preach" story arc that has team member Chunk Palmer trying to be there for the college-age daughter with whom he has an "its complicated" relationship.
S4 E2 presents the intriguing legal issue as to intent. The case this time revolves around a woman actively seeking backers for an in-development water-filtration system. The fraud claim against her relates to her (most likely unrealistic) sales pitch that the system will greatly advance within 90 days. The relevant factors include whether this woman with a history or majorly misrepresenting her past genuinely believes that the system will reach the promised stage within the stated timeframe.
The icing on the cake is the financial motive of the man who blows the whistle on the woman.
A subsequent episode that involves Team Bull in the case of a man whose younger son shoots his older sibling also involves a basic criminal-law tenet. The discussion this time relates to the balance between the punishment and the rehabilitation purposes of an unfortunate incarceration.
Team McGraw saves some of the best for last. A late-season case that involves Anthrax attacks is era-notable in that members of Team Bull comment in the aftermath of those acts that it is odd not seeing people on the streets wearing protective masks.
The season-finale, which finds a member of Team Bull in the hot seat, nicely builds on the trope of diplomatic immunity to further comment on the aforementioned chasm between haves and have nots. The noble mission this time is to not allow the daughter of a one-percenter to get away with manslaughter. The blast-from-the-past is in the form of the O.J. element of looking to the civil courts when the criminal justice system does not provide for the desired outcome.
The special feature "Four Bagger" has Weatherly and the show-runners provide an anatomy of this Fantastic Four season.
Bullfrog Films, which services both the general and educational home-video markets, once more shines a spotlight on racial injustice in the Windy City by releasing "'63 Boycott" (2017) on DVD as a companion to the reviewed "Cooked: Survival By Zip Code" documentary on the 1995 Chicago heatwave. The titular civil disobedience is a protest against the blatant segregation of public schools by school superintendent Ben Willis to a degree that REQUIRES commenting "whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?!"
The impact of both "Cooked" and "Boycott" includes their topics sadly being highly relevant in this COVID-19 era that is exasperating the wealth gap in America. One comment in "Boycott" that hits this former prep-school boy particularly close to home is that white parents in Chicago escape the ills of public education by sending their kids to parochial or private schools.
"Boycott" mostly consists of modern-day interviews with the students and the activists that were there and of archival footage and interviews from the period of the titular demonstration. One of the most impactful interviews is with a black woman who was in high school at the time who received a harsh response to expressing her aspiration to be a research scientist.
"Boycott" furthers depicts an insult to the injury that black students of the day endure as to their schools being separate but not equal. The term "Willis Wagons" refers to students being assigned to classrooms in trailers in overcrowded schools despite better-funded white schools having excess capacity. A cute animated graphic clearly shows how schools even just across the street from each other can illustrate that contrast.
The plethora of DVD bonuses greatly enhance the "Boycott" experience. One feature is on students who stage a play and host the "old school" crowd in response to a screening of the documentary. Another notable extra is of the Chicago world premiere of "Boycott," which gives viewers a chance to ask the talking heads and the filmmakers about their experiences.
The big picture this time (as is the case regarding "Cooked" and many other Bullfrog releases) is that the powers-that-be continue to show callous disregard for the folks who have the greatest need for their support.
The CBS Home Entertainment S2 CS DVD set of the CBS reboot of the CBS '80s phenom "Magnum P.I." awesomely hits all the right notes as to the original, modern CBS procedurals, and reboots. The bright and bold shot-on-location Hawaiian scenery when many of use are entering our (seemingly eternal) sixth month of virtual home arrest helps slow our descent into almost-certainty madness.
Limited memories of "Magnum" OS hinders comparing it to the neo-modern version of the adventures of the titular security consultant/investigator Kato Kaelin, who lives rent-free on the estate of best-selling author Robin Masters, One blatant difference is that major domo/Magnum frienemy has gone from an uptight middle-aged British man to a younger and friendlier former MI-6 agent (Perdita Weeks). Additionally, S2 episodes lack OS speculation as to Higgins being an alter-ego of Masters.
The new Magnum/Higgins relationship takes a page from the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson partnership in the (reviewed) CBS procedural "Elementary." The S1 cliffhangers include whether Higgins will formally join Team Magnum in a partnership capacity. A subsequent immigration issue leads to the possibility of a green card marriage of our leads. The efforts to keep Higgins around are central to the S2 cliffhanger that S3 will address when the pandemic facilitates resuming the action-packed fun.
The most obvious parallel is between "Magnum" TNG and the CBS "Hawaii 5-0" reboot. The similarities extend beyond the common setting to both series having Eric Guggenheim and Peter M. Lenkov as show runners. This leads to the inevitable cross-over episode. The common thread this time is the threat that a list of undercover CIA operatives will be divulged. (The "Magnum" DVD set does include the cross-over "5-0" episode as a special feature.)
"Magnum" having a similar vibe as the CBS reboot of "MacGyver" is attributable to Lenkov helping to run both series. Both reboots are more of ensemble programs than the originals; this includes episodes of both often ending with the gang hanging around drinking beers and rehashing their most recent adventure. This is not to mention both Higgins and Magnum separately "Macgyvering" themselves out of tough spots by cleverly repurposing common items.
"The Man in the Secret Room" arguably is the best S2 outing if only due to having Larry Manetti of OS join former hunks Lee Majors and Corbin Bernsen as guest stars. This one involves a planned easy temporary gig for Magnum as a resort security director becoming not-so-easy starting with the violent death of a hotel guest. The fun begins with discovering the concept of off-the-books accommodations for very special guests. The "MacGyver" element shows that it is easy to check out if the seemingly pristine comforter in your hotel room actually is covered with stains from bodily fluids.
"Room" additionally follows the "Magnum" pattern of virtually every discovery leading our hero and his volunteer squad down a totally unexpected path. We further come to wonder how any real or fictional detective ever solved a case in the era before cell phones and the Internet.
The copious special features extend well beyond the "5-0" episode. We get deleted scenes galore, a gag reel, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. These include "Better Together," which gives even those who have a bit part (little more than a cameo) in the life of Magnum his or her time center stage.
The bottom line this time is that there is nothing to not like about a beautifully shot series about a charming bright guy and his equally appealing friends who strongly care about seeing that truth, justice, and the American way prevail.
The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment separate DVD and DVD/BD sets of the John Stewart ("The Daily Show") joint "Irresistible" (2020) provides a great chance to see a film that truly is one for our dystopian times. The extreme divisiveness regarding every aspect of American society screams now more than ever for the impish wit and charm of writer/director Stewart.
Casting "Daily" veteran Steve Carrell as prominent Democratic campaign manager/spin doctor Gary Zimmer is the icing on this tasty cupcake. This "Office" guy puts his deadpan wit and condescending arrogance/exasperation to good use as a DC insider essentially living a self-imposed exile in Hooterville. Think Michael Scott in a town full of Dwight Schrutes,
The quasi Mary Matalin to Zimmer's James Carville is his Republican counterpart Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne). This "Irrestistible" aspect aptly adds a '90s vibe to this film that is a a mash-up of the politicom "Wag the Dog" and films"loosely based" on the Matalin/Carville relationship.
The following "Irresistible" trailer provides an excellent "25-words-or-less" synopsis of the wonderfully cynical themes of the film; we also get good doses of the well-produced humor that make this one worth adding to your home-video library.
Our story begins on election night 2016 with the upset victory of Trump over Clinton; we all know how that worked out. Four years later, Zimmer finds a potentially game-changing online video of democrat/veteran/farmer Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) raising a fuss at a council meeting in his rural Wisconsin town, Zimmer makes the hastings decision that his getting that man elected mayor will be an important step toward turning that swing state to the Democratic side in the upcoming presidential election.
Hilarity ensues as we witness the political games that are par for the course inside the Beltway but not the Bible Belt. We also see the aforementioned patronizing attitude of Zimmer towards the "hicks," and said "real Americans" show up that city slicker.
The success of Zimmer brings Brewster to town to create bad faith as to Hastings. This leads to Zimmer v. Hastings: This Time It Is Especially Personal. The fun here includes a manufactured scandal and a perfect example of the risks of relying on general demographics. All of this makes Topher "Dumb Ass" Grace ("That '70s Show") being a member of Team Zimmer apt.
Stewart saves the very best for last ala a series of twists that are straight out of Golden Age Hollywood. This awesome cynicism shows that you truly cannot trust or underestimate anyone.
The copious home-video bonuses include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of "making of" features.
The CBS Home Entertainment August 25, 2020 three-disc DVD release of "Gunsmoke Movie Collection" is an awesome followup to the recent EPIC (reviewed) CBSHE 65th Anniversary "Gunsmoke" CS DVD set. The big picture is that the films wrap up a franchise that begins with a radio show (1952-61) and continues with the aforementioned 1955-75 television series.
The overall message is the same one that it is to every post on Western films and television series. This advice is "try it; you'll like it." Discovering that the genre is not boring and does not offer substance beyond saloon fights, high-noon showdowns, cowboy v. indian battles, and cattle rustling has greatly enhanced the life of your not-so-humble reviewer.
"Collection" begins with "Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge," the best of a stellar lot. Retired marshal Matt Dillon is enjoying his golden years when his noble instincts lead to the "Gunsmoke" theme of his being ambushed and left for dead, This leads to Dillon returning to his old stomping grounds to be patched up so that he can live to fight another day. This leads to former saloon owner/confidante/"its complicated" significant other Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) coming back from the Big Easy to reunite with the man who is the opposite of easy in every sense.
The regular "Dodge" and series theme of a man whom Dillon brought to justice coming gunning for revenge leads to one of many awesome developments in "Return." This leads to Dillon cutting his bed rest short to hit the trail in pursuit of justice. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the big bad arrives in Dodge to terrorize the town while he waits for Dillon to return.
"Gunsmoke" flashbacks reveals why these events highly upset Miss Kitty; her actions then and in the future reminds us that the tremendous appeal of Kitty includes her being just as tough as the men.
Dedicating "Gunsmoke: The Last Apache" to then-deceased Blake nicely reflects the love of both the "Gunsmoke" family and the fans to this "cousin" of Barbara Stanwyck. This excellent outing fills many squares on both "Gunsmoke" and "classic television" bingo.
Our story begins with once-again retired Dillon travelling to Tombstone, Arizona in response to a summons from lost-love "Mike" Yarnard (Micheal Learned of "The Waltons"). We (and Dillon) meet Mike in a "Gunsmoke" episode that finds her nursing a nearly dead and suffering from severe amnesia Dillon far from home. That story continues with a blissfully ignorant Dillon falling in love and enjoying a peaceful existence until his rude awakening that brings him back to his old life.
"Apache" finds Dillon arriving at the ranch of Yarnard only to find it destroyed, He also receives a special motivation to take off after the half-breed renegade who has run off with the daughter of Yatnard. The Dodge ending this time has Dillon get his man, and the girl.
"Gunsmoke: To The Last Man" is a sequel to "Apache" and is even more of a "ripped from the Old West" headlines film that the last one. The perspective of the indians in this one can be thought of as the white man has taken your land and confined you to slum conditions reservations; what are you going to do? I'm going to Disney World!
Of course, this involves Dillon hitting the trail in search of frontier justice with extreme prejudice. The body count this time is above average.
All of this shows that "Gunsmoke" star James Arness still has it after all those years in the saddle and that a quality Western never goes out of style. This is not to mention the franchise achieving the show business ideal of leaving them wanting more, much more.
The Corinth Films August 25, 2020 DVD/BD combo release of the 1979 BBC/PBS documentary "Einstein's Universe" fully is in the spirit of remote-learning during this Covid-19 era. This documentary based on the Nigel Calder book of the same name can be considered Einstein for Relative Dummies. The crystal-clear restoration further enhances this experience.
Host Peter Ustinov puts his charming quirkiness to good use as a dream team of physicists gather at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas to teach him (and the audience) everything that he ever wanted to ask about the theories of Einstein but was afraid to ask. The overall look at this film that equally entertains and educates is that of science-fiction of the era down to the futuristic-looking motorcycles.
The segment that resonates most with those of use who have ever been pulled over for speeding (sometimes right across from our own houses) is the one that shows how cops use the Einstein principle as to the sound that an engine make changes as a vehicle approaches Smokey to clock how fast it is traveling, The aforementioned motorcycles are an integral part of that demonstration that will provoke many variations of "thanks, Einstein."
Another portion of the film shows how Einstein is the father of weapons of mass destruction. The message, which includes the correspondence that starts all of it, once again is that even the best intentions can have unintended negative consequences,.
Ustinov seems to take the most glee in a demonstration on the slower rate of aging in space that utilizes him and his "twin." This also includes a brief tour of time and space,
Much of the focus is on gravity. A table-top model illustrates the pull of a black hole, and we learn of the potential for our moon to go off the leash.
The bottom line is that "Universe" teaches its lessons without insulting the intelligence of the viewer. The photos of Einstein at an age before it seems that he is too busy for a trip to Super Cuts provides additional entertainment.
The term "uncut and uncensored" fully applies to the DVD set of the sublimely ridiculous Del Shores joint "Sordid Lives: The Series" and partially applies to supporting cast member Jason Dottley. Disdain for Dottley does not preclude speculating that the camera adds 10 inches; another possibility is that Shores got his hands (pun intended) on the famous Dirk Diggler prosthetic. That full-frontal and other racy content suggests that these versions of the episodes did not air during the top-rated run of "Series" on basic cable.
This new addition to the catalog of DelShores.com provides a good chance to add a DVD of a series that is not widely syndicated to your home-video library. The general cred. of this one extends beyond auteur Shores putting his Freddie Mercury Players to good use.
"Series" additionally has a strong live-stage vibe, and Shores has enough faith in the intelligence of the viewer to not include a laugh track. The series highlights include GROSSLY obese convenience store clerk Vera of "32.09" fame falling on the floor and Shores doubling down by the next shot being the legs of Vera flailing above her counter.
All of this illustrates the Rule of Three as to television and film. The theory is that a single individual cannot produce, direct, and act well. Shores shows that there are exceptions to that rule,
Shores does follow the rule of Brticoms; that wisdom is that making 12 exceptional episodes a season is better than producing 22 mediocre ones.
The wish fulfillment aspects of "Series" extend well beyond providing a prequel to Shores' (reviewed) opus film "Sordid Lives." Both works depict the trials and the tribulations of the working-class rednecks of Winters, Texas whose local dive actually is called Bubbas. Their story continues with the (reviewed) "Lives" film sequel "A Very Sordid Wedding." One can only hope for "Sordid Lives: Electric Boogaloo."
Delkies know that the entire "Sordid" franchise is based on the life of son of a preacher man Shores. Delkers know enough to cringe when the pet of the neighbors of chain-smoking Aunt Sissy (PERFECTLY cast Beth Grant) gets the goat of that ripped-from-the-headlines "Mama's Family" caliber character. The same principle applies as a reference to a little person.
Soapcom "Series" aptly begins its continuing story, complete with episode-ending cliffhangers, on April 6, 1998. This death date of Queen of Country Tammy Wynette has a large impact on Queen of the Mental Institution Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Leslie Jordan). Brother Boy constantly dresses in drag as Wynette and amuses the maddening crowd by lip-synching to Wynette records.
It all comes together when Wynette daughter Georgette Jones sings along. That relates to a transvestite in a coma storyline. I know; I know; its serious. "Lives" removes any doubt at whether he will pull through. We all would hate anything to happen to her,
"Lives" provides the full exposition as to how Brother Boy finds himself to be a decades-long guest of the state. This cult classic also allows Jordan and Rosemary Alexander (as "Shrinkie Dearest" Dr. Eve) to fully play off of each other when Brother Boy fully digs in his stilettos regarding his "failure to participate in his own recovery." Whether resistance is futile as to this Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd dynamic remains to be seen.
Another strong prequel element occurs as to family matriarch Peggy Ingram engaging in a long-term sordid affair with Nolette spouse GW, whom Beau Bridges masterfully portrays in the stage and film versions of "Lives." Shores does friends of both Dorothies a HUGE solid by casting "Maude"/"Golden Girls" star Rue McClanahan as Peggy.
The icing on the cake is Shores helping McClanahan get a leg up (pun intended) on co-star/rival Bea Arthur, who is known for saying that she has done everything except rodeo and porn. The salacious content of "Series" warrants giving McClanahan, who has a few PG-13 sex scenes, the win as to one of those genres.
Considering that a swan dive that McClanahan takes in "Series" is highly significant to the franchise, it is apt that this show is her swan song. It is beyond awesome that Golden Boy Shores writes her such a well-suited role for her final regular gig.
Additional star power comes in the form of Shores recruiting his fan Olivia Newton John to reprise her role as honky-tonk singer/convicted arsonist Bitsy Mae Harling, who (like Sissy) has a cute and sassy real-life namesake. Seeing that Bitsy-Mae and Peggy are two-of-a-kind and that Heaven can wait because they're gonna get it right this time is another of the plethora of Southern-fried treats that Shores dishes out.
The "and the rest" fun of "Series" includes a prescription drug addiction, hilarious mutual spousal abuse between GW (who does not have a leg on which to stand) and Noletta, and a crazy ex-girlfriend, We also get Shores friend and confidante Emerson Collins (who is must-see in the (reviewed) Shores opus"Southern Baptist Sissies") as a hilarious psycho one-night-stand to the max whose money shot comes in the series finale.
All of this makes for an awesome marathon (rather than "binge") viewing accompanied by Lone Star beer, pork rinds, and deep-fried Twinkies.
The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Blu-ray (BD) release of the 1980 Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly musical fantasy "Xanadu" excitingly exceeds high expectations regarding this feel-good scifi musical fantasy comedy of the '80s. It is almost guaranteed that you will not check the time or see how much longer the movie has to go and will shake your self out of a near trance and say "it's over?" at the end of the movie.
A funny aspect of this review considering the magical element of the film is that your sometimes humble reviewer got the BD essentially for free when factoring in the value of a movie money promotion while shopping at a normally avoided big box store. Thinking that Kira the muse of the film is behind this provides pleasure.
The following YouTube clip of video for the titular song provides a perfect sense of the spirit and themes of "Xanadu." You simply cannot help but feel really good while watching it and the film itself.
One of the more prominent attributes about this highly infectious film from future Hollywood royalty Joel Silver, Brian Grazer, and "High School Musical" choreographer Kenny Ortega is that it (largely) adheres to an awesome philosophy that 80s comedy darling Tracey Ullman stated before the premiere of her '80s sketch comedy show that brought "The Simpsons" to life. Ullman declared that the musical numbers in her show would makes sense and not merely be people bursting into song in the middle of the street. "Xanadu" stays true to that with the exception of an elaborate song-and-dance number during a stereotypical "shopping for a new look" number at an '80s style boutique.
Other overall totally tubular (pun intended) aspects of "Xanadu" include "Tron" style neon special effects and an extended musical number with New Wave gods "The Tubes." These keyboard kids totally rock out in their orange neon jumpsuits.
The film opens with frustrated painter Sonny Malone, whom Michael Beck of the terrifically uber-violent literally banned in Boston film "The Warriors" portrays, throwing the pieces of his latest sketch out the window. This inadvertently summons the nine Greek goddess sisters who are the muses who inspire artists. This coming-to-life sets the scene for the first of several musical numbers featuring songs by ELO and/or Olivia Newton-John.
Sonny coming out to plaaay by roller skating a short while later has muse Kara, whom Newton-John plays with great spirit, literally bump into him for a quick kiss only to dash off. This (along with another magical encounter with Kira) inspires an ultimately successful pursuit of his dream girl. A later rollerskating scene features an amusing nip slip,
Sonny also befriending '40s-era clarinetist Danny McGuire (played by Kelly) puts the rest of the puzzle together. The need of Danny for help fulfilling his dream of opening a night club and the desire of Sonny for a feasible creative outlet provide a basis for their beautiful friendship. Kira covertly guiding the enterprise greatly contributes to the fun.
Classic movie fans further will enjoy the homages to the Kelly classic "Singin' In the Rain." On bringing Danny home with him, Kelly remarks that a a silent film star once owned the house. A later scene has Sonny and Kira putting an '80s slant on a classic "Singin'" number.
Seeing Danny and Sonny work well together and mutually enjoy the music from their generations is both charming and a nice reminder of friendlier times. Millennials typically see even Gen Xers as fossils, and those of that demographic often consider the "kids" of today as ADHD morons who lack a work ethic and spend their whole lives looking at their phones. As in all things, the truth lies somewhere between those extremes.
One scene in which Sonny tries a little magic of his own perfectly illustrates how "Xanadu" grabs you and is oh so different than the movies of today. Anyone with a heart wants him to succeed and thinks that he will do so. A modern film would have him literally fall flat on his back and obtain a positive audience response.
The arguably cutest scene is also one of the most memorable. A music video that animation legend Don Bluth (whose work includes "The Secret of N.I.M.H." and "Anastasia") draws has our young lovers start as human and morph into fish and fowl while retaining a great deal of their human characteristics. Birdie Sonny stumbling and falling is hilarious.
All of this amounts to a fun film that looks very dated but allows escaping into a bright sunny world full of music that looks and sounds wonderful in BD format.
The "making of" feature meets the definition of the best of features and the worst of features. Director Robert Greenwald, Bluth, Ortega, and many behind-the-camera folks offer interesting insight into the humble beginnings of "Xanadu" and share how the interest of Newton-John and initially less enthusiastic involvement of Kelly helped the film develop.
We also learn of the impact of limited distribution by the studio affecting the preliminary response to the film. It soon making the art-house circuit and later becoming a Broadway musical shows the American public ultimately knows a good thing when it sees it.
The "worst of " aspects involves the lack of participation by Newton-John and Beck. Even if Universal offered little or no money, it seems that our former young lovers could show fan love by taking a couple of hours to discuss the film. We always root for your characters and bought the BD (if not the Newton-John soundtrack), a little reciprocation would have been nice.
A review-ending invitation regarding "Xanadu" is that any muse who comes across this post should feel free to show up and do her thing. Some of us do still believe in fairies.
The inspiration for this detour into Blogland dates back several years; one thing that always has bothered me about "Superman" incarnations is that Lois Lane makes a big show of being so fearless but puts herself in precarious situations knowing that Superman will show up and save her. I always have believed that people should make their best effort to be self-sufficient before relying on the kindness of strangers.
Another pop culture phenomenon is highly relevant to the topic of good faith as to contending with the economic impacts of Covid. An episode/failed spinoff pilot of the long-running NBC '80scom "The Facts of Life" has post-adolescent prep school girl/doctor's daughter Natalie abandoning Westchester to live La Vie Boheme in NYC. The response of this sheltered girl to a financial crisis of one of her many roommates in a one-room apartment is that no one likes asking their parents for money but that it sometimes is necessary. The reply to that suggestion makes it VERY clear that not everyone can go running to Daddy when they lack money for last year's rent, this year's rent, next year's rent.
The recent expiration of the $600/week federal unemployment supplement is behind the current musings on reliance on a bailout. The unpredictable, rapid, severe nature of the shutdown justifies the additional benefit at a time that the consequences of losing a McJob are far more dire than merely getting comparable work at a competitor.
The July 31, 2020 cut-off of the additional amount reflects the belief of both the pols and the hoi polloi that our long national nightmare would have ended by then. Looking back two weeks, some form of additional aid seems reasonable.
The other side of the coin is that it is known that some people took undue advantage of the supplemental benefits to either not return to their former employment when doing so was an option and/or did not look for alternative work when it became available. It is equally probable that a large percentage of people relied on an extension of the extra $600 after July.
This is a factor both as to many unemployment recipients being in a tough position and many Republicans advocating a more tempered response to the current need for this aid.
Practicing what I preach has included cutting back and regularly taking short-term jobs during periods of unemployment. I also diligently applied for permanent work. I admit that even cold calling companies is better than a shift at McDonalds or WalMart. However, the principle of due diligence to earn a paycheck applies.
A side note is that I worked at Crate and Barrel style store and caterwaitered several times a week despite having a full-time job in the first few years after college. I did the extra work so that I could have some "wants" and would be in a better position if I lost my job.
The big picture is that the "us" versus "them" mentality that pervades modern culture is more powerful than kryptonite as to "killing" a superhero.
No one should have to beg for anything, but the same "kids" who often literally shout when they feel that the "adult" on the other side of the counter is asking for too much should realize that showing good faith in the form of demonstrating a willingness to do that part is a more effective way to get a raise in their "allowance" than sitting around texting and refusing to even try to do their fair share.
Bullfrog Films, which services both the general and educational home-video markets, provides substantial food for thought as to the DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Like Any Other Kid." The underlying theme of the "Kid" is the debate almost as old as time regarding the extent to which prisons should punish in contrast to rehabilitate the folks who are guests of the state.
"Kid" studies young offenders who commit a variety of offenses; the focus is on "The Missouri Method," which believes that sparing the rod does not spoil the delinquent.
The film visits several juvenile facilities that take the talking cure to heart; through this, we met both the troubled youth and the guards who are highly dedicated to finding out how they can reach their kids so that they do not embark on a life of crime.
One of the most entertaining scenes has two teen boys act out a "use your words, not your fists" improv that is as amusing to them and their peers as it is to those of us at home. Despite the flawed delivery, the message that asking for money owed rather than coming to blows (or worse) over the dispute is highly valid.
One excitable boy gets more screen time than most; he is distinguishable both for essentially "going over the wall" during a trust-based furlough and for subsequently breaking down in a discussion with guards and therapists. One of the guards previously having his time in the spotlight adds a good perspective.
The bigger picture, which is highly relevant at a time that COVID-19 has amped hostility among "us" and "them," is that "we" always respond better when "they" are reasonable and compassionate. A more basic way of understanding this is that one dog simply barking at an already agitated dog only will lead to both dogs increasing their volume and enhancing the possibility that one or both of them is going to walk away with a chunk missing out of his or her body.
Film Movement division Omnibus Entertainment reminds folks who realize we've come a long way, Baby where it all begin; this herstory lesson comes in the form of the DVD release of the 2018 documentary "Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives" by 4-time Emmy winner Jim Brown.
Readers to whom this release seems to be a case of herstory repeating herself may recall that "Near" has run on the PBS series "American Masters."
The following Movement trailer for "Near" provides a glimpse of both the star-power of the talking heads and the life, the music, and activism of the subject.
At the root (pun intended) of the matter, the Near style is a blend of country, folk, and gospel with a strong feminist message. The feature music includes a song about the love that Near feel for a woman decades before Katy Perry sings about kissing a girl and liking it.
"Hanoi" Jane Fonda discusses meeting Near when the later joins the former for a Vietnam-era anti-war traveling show that intentionally is the polar opposite of the Bob Hope USO tours. Clips of the Fonda revue shows the designing women who put them on had as much fun as the audience.
We also learn how Near develops a close friendship with legendary feminist Gloria Steinem after being among the first group that Steinem publication Ms. magazine honors as a woman of the year. The comments of Steinem extend to discussing how Near provides the feminist movement its anthems.
The arguably brightest star power in the form of Kevin Bacon inarguably is relative; his DVD bonus interview discusses how his cousin Holly making it big is his first introduction to show business. His segment in the main portion of the film includes a clip in which their family recently performs a show in which they cut loose, footloose. One spoiler is that they do not kick off their Sunday shows.
We get an glimpse of another family that sings together to help stay together ala a few clips of a guest appearance of Near as a pudgy feminist high-school classmate of Laurie Partridge on the '70scom "The Partridge Family." The self-depricating fat jokes that prompt smiles from the cast further show that we have come a long way, Baby, since the era of bell-bottoms and puka-shell necklaces. (Yes, at least one very young boy wore one because Keith Partridge did.)
The copious DVD extras extend beyond 30 minutes of interviews; we get live performances of the Near songs "One Good Song" and "Somebody's Jail."
The The Film Detective separate DVD and BD July 29, 2020 releases of the pre-Code 1933 melodrama "The Sin of Nora Moran" shows what becomes Golden Age legend Zita Johann ("The Mummy") most. The cred of this release includes it being a collaboration between Detective, film historian Sam Sherman, the independent-international Pictures team, and the UCLA Film and Television Archives.
This dream team shows both that the Sherman-owned print of "Moran" is in the right hands and that the pristine BD restoration, which looks and sounds crystal clear. is a labor of love. The BD being limited to a run of 1,500 copies screams to order yours today. One lucky cinephile will find a golden ticket that can be redeemed for a lithograph of the original theatrical poster.
As the bonus must-see Sherman-narrated original documentary "The Mysterious Life of Zita Johann" states, the elements that set "Moran" apart from its peers include the performance of the star, the numerous surreal techniques, and the noteworthy orchestration. This documentary also includes the tales of how "Moran" gets on the radar (and in the collection of) Sherman and how he coaches his friend Johann through her final film performance.
The BD has the additional treat of a booklet that provides further insight as to the film and the star.
The following Detective promo for the home-video releases of "Moran" provides a good sense of the classic melodrama noir style of the film.
The clever exposition begins with a highly distraught Edith Crawford coming to brother/DA John Grant with love letters from the titular tart to Edith spouse/governor Dick Crawford. A clalm and collected John enlightens his sibling on the special relationship between her husband and the former circus performer/current death-row inmate.
For her part, Nora is dazed and confused in her cell ahead of her impending execution for what inarguably is a crime of love. Her life flashing before her eyes and John telling his sister of the role of her husband in the events leading up to the imposition of the death penalty provide the framework for the film.
A series of unfortunate circumstances leads to a relatively content Nora knowingly becoming the other woman as to her relationship with Dick. The past of the former coming crashing in on her ends her honeymoon period with the latter. For his part, John both wants to fulfill his family duty and to not lose his political investment in his brother-in-law.
For his part, the feelings of guilt that John is experiencing extend well beyond his adultery. He knows all the facts regarding the crime for which Nora is about to pay the ultimate price and must decide the extent to which he is going to stand by his woman. A last-minute visit essentially from the Ghost of Christmas Past combined with a disconnect seals the fate of all concerned.
As touched on above, the surreal elements that depict the angst of the players are part of what make all this special. The aforementioned "haunting" evokes especially strong thoughts of the highly stylistic Shakespearean films of the era.
The bottom line this time is that "Moran" reminds us of the dividends that audiences reaped when studios did not place commerce above art. Further, Johann illustrates the difference between an actor and a movie star.
The Icarus Films DVD of the 2106 "ripped-from-the-headlines" French film "Down By Love" is a perfect example of the beautiful friendship between Icarus and Distrib Films from which North American audiences benefit. Like most Icarus/Distrib Films, this tale of the illicit affair between post-adolescent inmate Anna Amari and married middle-aged prison director Jean Firmino could be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the US.
The following Distrib trailer for "Love" offers a good sense of the apt level of drama that conveys the tale of this unusual triangle.
Our story begins with Anna en route to the facility run by Jean as the next stage of her unfortunate incarceration ahead of her trial for the offense of this young offender. She soon catches the eye of Jean, and they experience a form of love that dare not speak its name if they know what is good for them, An especially precious moment has Anna creating a fantasy world in which she and her "teacher" essentially move to Westchester together. The ambiguity as to the extent to which Anna looks to Jean for the forms of escape that should be higher priorities is part of what makes "Love" special.,
In true fashion as to this type of story. the truth comes out roughly halfway through the film. The surprising twist is the extent to which Jean risks his career and his family life to be with "the other woman."
One of the mot memorable scenes begins with Jean providing a form of wish fulfillment by taking Anna away during a weekend furlough; the ensuing awkwardness and tension illustrate the principle of being careful for what you wish.
All of this culminates in a not-so-grande finale with a neo-modern twist on a Golden Age trope. If nothing else, it shows that equality has been achieved.
The first impression of the July 21, 2020 Warner Brothers Home Entertainment DVD/BD/4K releases of "Scoob!" is a comment by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" during the late-90s "Renaissance" of mid-budget films based on television shows of the '70s and the '80s. Stewart observes that television series are television series because their concepts are not good enough to warrant making them movies. The perspective of the highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer that the "Scooby" productions that stay true to the campy and highly silly style of the '70s-era fare are the better one evokes thoughts of the line in the Woody Allen film ("Stardust Memories?") in which a fan tells the fictionalized version of Allen that she likes his funny films better than his serious ones.
The fault of "Scoob!" lies not within the stars but in the increasing WB emphasis of art over commerce. As to the animated world, this begins with WB essentially literally following in the footsteps of media mogul/former Jane Fonda spouse Ted Turner by purchasing the Hanna-Barbera library.
The embarrassment of riches as to this is the awesome Warner Archive line of DVD sets of Golden Age of HB series. The plain embarrassment is the Warner suits, who repeatedly prove that they do not know Jack, still struggling to squeeze blood from stone-cold franchises, such as "Scooby-Doo." The MBAs should let our beloved chidhood friends enjoy at least a dignified semi-retirement.
The following trailer for "Scoob!" illustrates much of the above beginning with the inexpensive CGI and showing the flat humor of the film. WB blatantly shows that it knows that there are enough "Scooby" fans out there to fill the presumed cineplex seats when the film was made to not worry about quality. Speaking from the perspective of a HUGE "Scooby" fan, seeing the trailer in September convinced me to wait for the DVD release after the presumed theatrical run.
"Scoob!" starts out very cute and relative strong with a pup not yet named Scooby-Doo on the run (and the lamb) from the law when he meets awkward friendless pre-adolescent Shaggy. The two soon bond over their love of "unique" combinations of food.
These BFFs meet the rest of the pre-adolescent Scooby gang while trick-or-treating. The game soon is afoot, and those meddling kids solve their first mystery.
An entertaining fast-paced montage, which pays homage to '70s-era "Scooby," brings us to the present. A now teen Mystery, Inc. has a solid reputation and is looking to bring things to the next level. This effort, ala "The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries" and the more recent "Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?," involves meeting with an animated version of "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.
Cowell acts true-to-form in bluntly assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the Scooby gang. The latter includes the determination that Shaggy and Scooby are dead weight. This, in turn, leads to a parting of the ways between that pair and the rest of their peers.
Subsequent events lead to HB '60s-era villain Dick Dastardly being desperate to capturing Scooby-Doo, who is integral to a dastardly (in both senses of the word) plot to open the gates of the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell). This scheme leads to our slacker and his not-so-little-dog too essentially travelling over the rainbow to team up with the son of '70s-era Scooby ally Blue Falcon (who has taken over the family business) and wonder dog Dynomutt. Of course, the band gets back together before the action fully gets underway.
The ensuing measures to stop Dastardly involve numerous too-fun-to-spoil HB Easter eggs; the failure to capture the spirit of the original makes sharing a cameo by '70s-era HB superhero Captain Caveman a non-spoiler.
The climax, like much of 3/4 of the film involves a moral. A member of the gang takes one for the team by literally going to Hell out of friendship and loyalty. This is on top of messages that include not letting other people make you feel badly about yourself.
Aside from the general flaws of "Scoob!," there are many dead spots. I hope that my attention span is greater than that of the children that are a target demographic, and I was terribly bored several times. This mainly occurred during tedious chase scenes that seemed prolonged in order to bring "Scoob!" to roughly the feature-film limit of 90 minutes.
The disappointment continues with the dearth of extras at least as to the DVD extras. This merely is a not-so-helpful tutorial on how to draw Scooby. One at least would have hoped for recording session outtakes or a classic "Scooby" episode,
The CBS Home Entertainment CS DVD set of the fast-paced and furiously funny S17 of the CBS procedural "NCIS" proves that that genre still has plenty of life left in the right hands. In this case, those appendages belong to'80s action-adventure series god Donald P. Bellasario ("Quantum Leap," "Magnun, PI"). Having still sexy '80s hunk Mark Harmon helming the series as Scott Bakula ("NCIS: New Orleans") style stoic team leader/father figure Leroy Jethro Gibbs does not hurt.
The underlying premise that DC-based Team Gibbs investigates crimes with a connection to the (primarily) Navy opens the door to a wide variety of felonies. It may be as tangential as a coincidental body dump on military property, the death of an active-duty or retired service member, or a lesser crime against one of the few and the proud who serve our country.
The two-part S17 premiere that resolves the S16 cliffhanger as to the sudden reappearance of presumed-dead former team member Ziva David is the first indication that S17 might have been the last one. The season ending with an episode (more below) that would have served equally well as a season or a series finale reinforces the idea that taps may have blown on this program, which will live to fight many more days in the 2020-21 television season.
Speculation as to the S17 finale is that COVID-19 MAY have cut the season a little short, and Team Bellasrio MAY have planned a cliffhanger.
Another sign that Team Bellasario may have been contemplated that S17 might have been its swan song is the personal growth reveals of members of Team Gibbs. A prime example of this is headshrinker "Jack" Sloane revealing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth regarding her college-era unplanned pregnancy and giving up her baby for adoption.
S17 soon picks up right where S16 ends with a "Back to the Future" / "Terminator" moment in which David breaks in on Gibbs in his basement and essentially tells him to come with her if he wants to live. The aforementioned fast-pace begins with the bad guys almost immediately storming the castle. The outcome as to that proves that Gibbs has MacGyver-style ingenuity and does not hesitate to use proportional force in response to an attack on his home. This fully sets the most deadly game afoot.
The trope elements in this excellent outing are worth mentioning because these tried-and-true narrative techniques regularly appear throughout S17 without impairing the quality of the episodes. The first been-there-done-that moment comes very early when David and a bloodied-and-battered Gibbs jack the ride of a low-level thief. Anyone who has witnessed a similar scene in a comparable context will not be surprised to see a rapid shift in action and "Eighteen hours earlier" appear in an intertitle.
The tropes continue with Team Gibbs soon piecing together much of the puzzle (including the resurrection of David), lying (with hilarious consequences in a subsequent episode) to the powers-that-be, and putting loyalty to the boss over following the rules. The reactions of those who worked with David and of those who only know her by reputation are part of what make this episode so special. This is not to mention David bringing baggage to her reunion.
A scene between David and quirky grandfather figure retired medical examiner "Ducky" (David McCallum of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") is a season highlight. David and new bad ass Torres (Wilmer "Fez" Valderama) on the block initially playing at going at it mano-a-mano before it gets personal is a perfect example of "NCIS" humor; Torres goes full Fez of the Foxcom "That 70s Show" as to the perception that a girl kicked his ass.
The twists in this one make it one of the best of the season; David unambiguously playing her former peers and ambiguously doing the wrong thing for the right reason supports the principle of not trusting anyone.
Business as usual resumes with the aptly titled "Going Mobile" episode that pays homage to fellow CBS procedural franchise "CSI." This one involves a body being jammed under the trailer of a truck that is making a delivery to a military installation.
The penultimate S17 episode has one of the most ultimate tropes ever. Anyone who has watched any genre of television can IMMEDIATELY guess what will transpire when medical examiner Jim Palmer, who presumably never appears on screen in just his briefs, and forensics scientist Kasie Hines are having breakfast at the team hangout at the same time that a trio of criminals are there just ahead of their robbery of the jewelry store across the street, This coinciding with St. Patrick's Day turns the highly predictable hostage situation in to an Irish Setter Day Afternoon. Hines gets another trope moment in the sun in an S17 episode that has her trying to prove the innocence of a close friend.
The series finale features a memorable guest spot by Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future," "Taxi") as a 95 year-old man whose claim of being on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack seemingly has more holes than that ship. The wonderfully gonzo performance by Lloyd proves that he still has it.
The truly special DVD features include "The Return of Ziva David," which provides perspective as to that notable occurrence. "Inside Season 17" has cast and crew share how they keep things going so well after almost two decades.