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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Time Life and Mill Creek Entertainment Releases Top Classic TV Comedy DVD Set Black Friday Suggestions

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A variety of circumstances regarding a delay in reviewing the Time Life November 7, 2017 release "The Red Skelton Hour in Color: Deluxe Edition" precludes formally including it in the list below. This "in progress" title earns that distinction based on the "never released" material and hilarious classic comedy of mime-extraordinaire Skelton and his show-biz legend friends who include Milton Berle and Tim Conway.]

One of many things for which Unreal TV is grateful this Thanksgiving is that new and renewed relationships in 2017 facilitate resuming the site mission of informing people about classic TV shows. New friends Time Life and Mill Creek Entertainment are particularly helpful in that regard.

This exciting development also is supporting the resurrection of the Unreal TV tradition of a Black Friday list of DVD sets to consider as holiday gifts for the special sofa spud in your life. The subjective ranking below reflects the excitement level that your not-so-humble reviewer/classic TV fan would experience on finding the sets in his pile o holiday loot.

The primary considerations are the rarity of the programs (i.e., have they been heavily syndicated), the packaging, and the bonus features. Each listing has a brief product description, an explanation for the ranking, and a link to the Unreal TV review of the release.

1.  'Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection'

The sturdy colorful box that hosts this Time Life gift set, the commemorative booklet, and the multi-disc sets that comprise this release one week before Black Friday alone is enough to grant it top honors. The comprehensiveness of this tribute to a man who starts out in vaudeville to become Hollywood royalty and have an equally successful 5-decade "second act" on television fully seals the deal.

2. 'Watch Around the Clock' (Black-and-White & Color)

The clever concept behind the separate black-and-white and the color editions of "Watch Around the Clock" by Mill Creek alone warrants high honors for 2017. The quality of the picture and the sound and the unique TV listings style DVD menu are icing on the cake.

Each set has 24 hours of programming (48 hours total) that simulates a broadcast day of an independent station that Unreal TV dubs WMCE. Each day starts with a block of cartoons, moves onto daytime fare, then offers primetime comedies that lead into overnight fare.

The vintage commercials that are interspersed in the programs is the first bonus; the separate bonus DVDs of holiday episodes of classic shows is another notable aspect of the releases.

3. 'Mama's Family' Complete Collection

Time Life does "Mama" proud regarding this Wal-Mart exclusive box set that has the original broadcast versions of all 130 episodes of the six seasons of this classic '80s sitcom. This spin-off of "The Carol Burnett Show" (see below) chronicles the hilarious misadventures of the titular irascible Southern small-town widow and her wacky family.

The numerous terrific special features include the "Eunice" TV movie that bridges the gap between "Burnett" and "Mama," a cast reunion, and "Burnett" sketches.

4. 'The Best of the Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Edition'

Speaking of "Burnett" and Time Life, this great source for DVD sets of classic TV fare does a great job with this multi-disc set that pays homage to this mother of all '70s variety shows; the numerous "very special episodes" include the series' finale.

The copious bonus feature include a great new interview in which Burnett validates that fans "get" the show.

5. 'Hooperman' S1 & S2

The separate Olive Films DVD releases of the "Hooperman," which finds creator Steven Bocho successfully straying from quirky edgy dramas with heavy humor to a quirky edgy sitcom with moderate drama, misses hitting the trifecta of DVD releases of TV shows by that much. "Hooperman" is a fondly remembered show and has a limited syndication history; however, this series that has John Ritter as the titular kind-hearted police detective/reluctant landlord only has the pilot for the failedcom "Poochinski" as a special feature.

6. 'Angie' Complete Series

The CBS Home Video (through a license to Visual Entertainment) of this Garry Marshall "blue blood marries blue collar" sitcom earns the award for most-anticipated release. Further, this series also has a very limited syndication run.

This series (which stars Donna Pescow, Robert Hays, and Doris Roberts) passes the test of time and evokes nice memories for original fans; the lack of any extras is a slight handicap.

7. 'Alice' Season 5

The always great Warner Archive deserves great credit for releasing a new season of this sitcom about a diner waitress/aspiring singer and her zany co-workers. Further, this strong season opens with "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" actress Diane Ladd and ends with southern tomboy Jolene joining the staff.

The only reasons for this last-place finish are that the strong syndication run of the series, the releases of the first four seasons already somewhat satisfying the appetite of fans for episodes, and the only extras being a few S6 episodes that the (presumed) next "Alice" release on December 5 2017 will include.

The fact that this release ranks six among the tons of releases of classic sitcom in 2017 adds additional perspective.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding this ranking or looking for help selecting DVD sets to give friends and family is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

'Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi at Rockwell Museum Brings True Magic to Stockbridge

The teen idol level crowds for the November 11 opening of "Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi" at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts illustrates the immense appeal (and talent) of the titular tween (and fanboy) idol.

On the broadest level, this exhibit notably is the first (but hopefully not the last) to feature art from Dungeons and Dragons (D&D); the reason for that prior omission is that that work has not previously been considered art.

Lovers of fairies, goblins, and dragons (oh my) have until May 28, 2018 to view this labor of love by DiTerlizzi and Rockwell world-class exhibitionist/tour guide Jesse Kowalski. Early influences of this exhibit include inspiring Kowalski to play marathon Dungeons and Dragons games and your not-so-humble reviewer getting into The Spiderwick Chronicles. The latter is equally thrilled to have scored some of the copious signed books and prints of DiTerlizzi while exiting through the gift shop after visiting the exhibit with Kowalski.

The favorite story about DiTerlizzi among the many that Kowalski shared related to the below illustration. The only stipulation regarding a commission for a cover for Dragon magazine being that the illustration include a dragon inspired DiTerlizzi to have the dragon engage in the non-dragon like activity of chess.

The visit began with visiting the original of the print that adorns both the exhibition catalog and the top of this article. Kowalski explained that DiTerlizzi painted this image with characters from all his books for the show. Kowalski also shared that the next project of DiTerlizzi was a book titled The Broken Ornament, which is coming out for Christmas 2018.

Kowalski next stated that the following three reasons were why a museum that centered around an artist known for mid-20th century depictions of Americana was hosting an exhibit of the work of an artist who was best known for fantasy-oriented work.

1. Rockwell is an inspiration for the art of DiTerlizzi, who is carrying on the tradition of illustrators. A cited aspect of that influence is Rockwell being a traditionalist and DiTerlizzi being very devoted to using old media. Another example of this is a young DiTerlizzi studying a volume of Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers.

The following YouTube clip of DiTerlizzi  discussing both the exhibit and his virtually life-long love for Rockwell further speaks volumes about thus match made in Heaven.

The exhibit including numerous drawings (including the one below) from the DiTerlizzi book Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-this-World Moon-Pie Adventure provides a great chance to see the influence of Rockwell (and Melies?). Kowalski notes that this tale of the titular '30s-era everykid travelling to the moon before venturing further into the Milky Way has a very Rockwellian style.

Kowalski goes on to share that the style of DiTerlizzi changes with each book, noting that such shifts are unusual for artists.

Another inspiration is clear in a sketch of the D&D character Nermal. This low-level wizard both shares the name of the adorable kitten from the Garfield comic and looks like human Jon Arbuckle from that world.

2.  The exhibit title "never abandon imagination" reflects that the work of DiTerlizzi inspires adults and children; Kowalski notes that a key aspect of that is "believing in fairies and goodness in the world."

3. The parents of DiTerlizzi encouraged him throughout his life and his teachers inspired him; a cool aspect of this is that the exhibit includes drawings (which include a map of the fantasy world of Gondwanaland) from these early years. Visitors can also see his D&D dice from his high school days.

A fascinating aspect of the wonder years of DiTerlizzi was that he he drew because he often was bored; Kowalski shared as well that that boredom additionally prompted DiTerlizzi to explore the wilderness near his childhood Florida home. A hilarious element of this was learning that that experience prompted DiTerlizzi to advocate that children be bored.

The next tale of DiTerlizzi was a variation of the '60s sitcom "Green Acres" and somewhat paralleled the history of Rockwell. DiTerlizzi was working for Dungeons and Dragons after persistently applying to that company following several rejections of submitted sketches when he moved to rural Amherst Mass., which is roughly one hour from the Rockwell Museum.

Kowalski noted that DiTerlizzi never would have created The Spiderwick Chronicles if he had not moved; the rationale was that those books required experiencing nature. The exhibit reflected this including nature sketches by DiTerlizzi, whose influences included nature artist John J. Audobon. Audubon additionally inspired Owlbear (who is in the show) that is a DiTerlizzi D&D creation.

This portion of the exhibit devoted to the hugely successful (and equally awesome) Spiderwick period led to Kowalski sharing that that popular work led to DiTerlizzi literally having his choice of classic tales to re-imagine. This master of fantasy passed on well-known works that included Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to create a new vision of The Reluctant Dragon in the form of Kenny & the Dragon. The image below is of the titular characters.

This immersive journey into the world of DiTerlizzi  ended with his latest (and most adorable) work, The Story of  Flea and Diva. The black-and-white image below is of our heroes, who are in living color in their book.

The big picture (pun intended) regarding both this the DiTerlizzi exhibit and this article is that this artist and his artful curator made all this possible for a trifecta of reasons; they want to inspire kids to read, to be creative, and to get them in the door to see the classic work of Rockwell. Your not-so-humble reviewer becoming a larger Rockwell fan and reading The Spidert and the Fly by DiTerlizzi shows that he and Kowalski should not be sad because two out of three ain't bad. 

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Rockwell or DiTerlizzi are better off reaching out to Kowalski but are welcome to try emailing me or connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Repatriation' Theatrical: Mega-Festival Award Winner About Former High School BMOC Learning You Cannot Go Home Again

RGB Films and Media Circus provide special holiday food for thought regarding the recent theatrical release of the indie drama "Repatriation." This "night in the life of" film follows Army uniform-clad 30ish man Chad (producer Ryan Barton-Grimley) on a "thank you for your service" bar crawl in his Midwest home town. Barton-Grimley plays this role so well that he almost certainly is a former high-school stud with a sordid past.

Folks who miss this one in the theater are encouraged to look for the DVD and VOD releases in a few months.

The scads of festival accolades for this exceptional character study with genuine surprises include Best Drama and Best Indie Feature at the Los Angeles International Film Festival Awards and Best Actor and Best Film wins at the London Independent Film Awards.

The following YouTube clip of the "Repatriation" trailer is equal parts teaser and Cliff Notes of the film.

This fable begins with Chad drinking with veterans; one of these men advising this fresh-off-the-bus "kid" to not overdo it by hanging around bars because he will be offered more "thank you for your service" drinks than he can handle prompts our "hero" to do exactly that. One spoiler is that Chad pays a high price for not listening to his elders.

The awesome linear narrative begins with our high-school baseball star running into his entourage from those days and finding that their lives are not nearly as exciting as his tales of being based in Luxembourg and serving in what presumably is Afghanistan. Chad also is reunited (and it feels so good) with slightly younger sister/idolizer Camille of a teammate.

This reliving of glory days that include reminiscing about Chad girlfriend Emily being the envy of every girl and the object of lust of every boy moves onto a bowling alley, where the shining armor of Chad begins to tarnish a little. He runs into a college classmate, who now is a boring family guy. This bowling party includes a woman who is not a member of Team Chad, but things remain overall congenial.

Things turn more ugly at the next watering hole; the patrons there include two young soldiers and the brother of Emily. These encounters and Chad starting to reveal his true nature shows that this guy is more Eddie Haskell than Wally Cleaver.

Chad then hilariously being put in his place by a burn-out working a convenience store graveyard shift is the first loose thread that starts to unravel the uniform of this hometown hero. This showing that the emperor has no clothes concludes at the house party that is the last stop on the crawl. On a larger level, all of us who are outsiders at such at gathering and become prey for the pack can relate to Chad being sent scurrying with his tail between his legs.

The final scene is even more revealing and adds the Thanksgiving-themed lesson that home is where they must take you in to the larger moral of this fable.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Repatriation" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

'In His Own Home' DVD: Lesser-Known Tale of Police Brutality of Black Man

The IndiePix Films November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 2014 documentary "In His Own Home" adds a thought-provoking element to the national discussion of how law-enforcement officers handle confrontations with black people. The 25-words-or-less description of the issue this time is that University of Florida officers shot a black graduate student on arriving at his apartment for a wellness check.

Kofi Adu Brempong is a Ghanaian doctoral student/instructor with an ongoing history of mental health issues when a neighbor calls the university police to report that Kofi is screaming in his apartment. The undisputed account is that the subsequent incident escalates from shooting a bean bag gun at him and tasing him twice to shooting him in the face in a manner that causes severe disfiguring damage. The only physical threat from Kofi during this incident involves holding an aluminum table leg.

The background information that director Malini Johar Schueller provides includes that the shooting comes a few days after a faculty-initiated wellness check on Kofi regarding the same issues that result in the screaming on "the night of." We further learn of a then-calm Kofi checking in with university police a few hours before the shooting.

We also discover that the officer who fires his gun that night is a former Gainesville, Florida police officer at the center of an incident in which off-duty cops throw eggs at black residents. This is on top of another local incident regarding a white officer arresting a black passenger in the course of a routine traffic stop.

The source materials for "Home" include news reports, footage of relevant proceedings, scenes from the hospital room of Kofi, and talking heads who include a student of Kofi and a community activist.

This pure documentary approach support the "Black Lives Matter" thesis of "Home." At the same time, it is important to remember that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda.

Schueller makes his point that there is compelling evidence of excessive force but does little to show that race is a factor. It seems that an essential rent-a-cop whose bad judgment is so egregious that a police union cannot save his job following a single incident is likely to be trigger happy regardless of the color of the person against whom tasing is ineffective.

One larger issue, which receives a little airtime, is that campus police forces and even municipal law-enforcement departments should not receive more firepower than they seemingly can handle. It initially is hard to believe that a campus cop needs to be armed with a lethal weapon and cannot call in the literal big guns when necessary.

An even larger issue is the one that the title of "Home" suggests; all of us should be able to feel secure that law-enforcement officials respect the constitutional protection regarding the sanctity of wherever we reside.

The DVD extras include the trailer that provides a good overview of "Home," and deleted scenes that includes an extended interview and separate additional footage of the aforementioned arrest during the traffic stop.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Home" is welcome to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

'the leftovers' S3: BD: Saving the Best Remnants for Last

The Warner Archive October 10, 2017 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the third (and final) season of the HBO drama 'the leftovers' verifies that producer/author Tom Perrotta and his "Lost" partner-in-production Damon Lindelof conceive each season in this exceptional series as a third of a trilogy. The S1 review summarizes the lore of this series that centers around the sudden departure of 2-percent of the population of Earth on October 14, 2011; the post on S2 discusses how the characters respond to a riot at the end of S1.

The trilogy pattern of "leftovers" begins with S1 being adequately compelling to draw in fans, S2 being interesting but still the weakest entry, and S3 providing big payoffs in terms of story and closure. One can only hope that Warner and HBO heed the lesson regarding not extending a franchise beyond a third entry.

Like S2, S3 opens oddly but soon makes sense. This episode further establishes the S3 pattern of montages set to an eclectic mix of music. These early scenes depict a group of 19th century Puritans anticipating a repeatedly delayed rapture.

The action then shifts back to Miracle (nee Jardeen), Texas where our leads call home. Peace is restored and reforms are in place in the wake of the conflict at the end of S2. Once and current police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is keeping the peace with (reformed) now 25 year-old stepson Tom. The aforementioned final entry payoffs include the story of how Kevin and Tom's mother Laurie (Amy Brenneman) somehow form a family.

Although Kevin and significant other/federal agent Nora Durst are still together, many other characters are in new (sometimes unlikely) friendships.

This season centers around a Biblical prophecy that predicts that the titular rejects will join the suddenly departed on the impending date of October 14, 2018. The significance of this date is that it is the seven-year anniversary of the central dramatic population contraction.

Minister/Nora sibling Matt Jamison stirs things up with his personal gospel that identifies the seemingly multiply resurrected Kevin as the messiah whom Matt and other believers want to accept the mission of preventing the upcoming end of days. Conflict regarding this is that Kevin does not believe that hype.

The most entertaining story arc revolves around Nora; she pursues an offer to undergo a process that reunites "leftovers" with loved ones who are two-percenters. Symbolism enters the picture in the form of Nora losing her husband and two children in the first culling and '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" star Mark Linn-Baker advocating the reunion procedure after being the only one of the three "Strangers" stars to not depart in the first wave. It is predicted that Linn-Baker and co-star Bronson Pinchot will do the dance of joy if reunited.

The homage to the work of Lindelof on "Lost" extends beyond the copious symbolism, heavy use of music, and regular temporal shifts in narration to have the main characters travel to Australia for reasons that include saving the world; this includes a necessary procedure (which involves the most hilarious moment in the series) in a fortified underground bunker. One difference is that Jack Shephard saving the world never requires that he whip it out.

Perrotta nicely puts his creativity to use in building the action to a perfect series finale; it keeps us guessing to near the end and follows the example of "The Sopranos" and "Cheers" of providing a sense of life (in some form) continuing.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "leftovers" is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection' DVD: More Classic Comedy Than One Could Hope for

The Time Life November 14, 2017 release of the gift set "Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection" shows what becomes a legend most. The excitement begins with the colorful sturdy box that houses the set, continues with discovering the booklet that begins with a love letter from Linda Hope to both her father and his fans and goes on to provide essays and photos that chronicle the career of Hope, and goes on with finding the four DVD sets that are the heart (in both senses of that word) of the collection.

The fun of the "Thanks" for boomers and for Gen Xers who develop a love of classic comedy early on is revisiting the Hope specials and Dean Martin roasts that are "appointment television" of the '60s and '70s. The treat for Millennials is expanding their horizons beyond the mostly edgy content of their formative and adult years. They will see folks who thrive on performing and who love and admire each other. Please remember that it is hip to be square.

The set by the numbers is that the 19 discs include 39 specials, which include 20 that are seeing the light of day for the first time since first airing. This collection is la creme de la creme of the 250 Hope television specials over five decades.

Rather than try to list the numerous stars who appear in these specials, it suffices to say that most big names from the '50s through the '70s show up at least once. They include edgy comedian Redd Foxx and the still sexy Raquel Welch.

The collection begins with the six-disc "Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials." The 13 specials from 1956 - '96 include the "in living color" October 1975 program "Highlights of a Quarter Century of Bob Hope on Television" in which Hope introduces clips from his specials dating back to his very first one with Dinah Shore and has his showbiz friends stop by to say hi.

A highlight of "highlights" include a skit in which Hope and the "I Love Lucy" cast appear in a "Love" skit in which Lucy goes to great lengths to conceal having a seal in a closet; we also get a clip from roughly 20 years later in which John Wayne plays an old west Archie Bunker reacting to Hope as his son telling his father about his "mixed marriage."

Other fun clips from past specials have Ingrid Bergman and Hope play a highly competitive Hollywood couple and Hope and Jackie Gleason as cops who don drag to catch muggers.

The January 1968 "Bob Hope Christmas Special" has Hope do voice-over narration of his 1967 USO Christmas tour of Vietnam; the stops include bases scarily close to the front lines and an air craft carrier that requires an equally frightening landing and takeoff.

This one particularly is a time capsule in having Hope include a liberal dose of conservative humor among his one-liners about military life and '60s-era celebrities. The right-wing humor includes joking that a chemical company makes asbestos draft cards as revenge against protesters.

An especially amusing aspect of these specials is watching Welch wildly gyrate around the stage regardless of whether she is singing a solo, performing a duet with Hope, or getting down with the soldiers.

A nice gesture that gives these guys in this tough war nice recognition includes rewarding soldiers by having them introduce Hope, having Hope call some men up to provide a greeting from home, or otherwise literally giving a grunt a moment in the spotlight.

A dual time capsule comes in the form of a September 1984 special titled "The Hilarious Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars." This set of clips of Hope and his guests flubbing their lines and cracking each other up reflects the love of (inexpensive to produce) "blooper" shows in the '80s.

The last special in "Thanks" aptly is the last chronologically of the specials. "Bob Hope: The First 90 Years" is a virtual night of 1,000 stars that celebrates the 90th birthday of Hope. The entertainment includes copious Hopeful clips.

"The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" of Hope that is a bonus disc is a great reminder of these very popular specials of the '70s. Two exceptional aspects of the roast are that they are much more good-natured than the current Comedy Central version of these events and they reflect an era in which the public has a sense of humor and takes things in context. The latter element prompts a disclaimer on the DVD box.

Great fun include Rev. Billy Graham joking about Hope trying to get that man of God to commit a sin regarding the golf score of Hope and both Martin and Jimmy Stewart joking about the on-screen stammering style of Stewart. We further get Wayne be amusingly open in promoting his most recent film.

The disclaimer largely relates to the monologue of black comedian Flip Wilson; Wilson joking about holding a golf tournament for black people and about not being allowed to play at the country club of Hope is one of the best sets. We further later get impressionist Rich Little and Wilson exchange takes on the Wilson drag character Geraldine; this leads to a hilarious joke that seems borderline risque for '70s network television.

The remaining two fun-filled sets in "Collection" are "Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops" (4 discs) and "Bob Hope: TV Legends (8 discs). These sets feature full-length versions of the USO shows and TV specials that Hope and his admirers/friends celebrate in "Thanks" and that earn him the honor of being roasted.

The message of Hope to take away from both this review and this set is that the man of many hours has a rare talent and inherent goodness that warrants the love behind the collection and the specials that comprise it. Bringing this love home provides a chance to relive the days of mostly wholesome comedy, singing, and dancing by folks who know what they are doing and love doing it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Collection" is strongly encouraged to email me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

'Sorority House' DVD: Dalton Trumbo Goes Greek

The Warner Archive September 2016 DVD release of the 1939 Anne Shirley/James Ellison drama "Sorority House" perfectly illustrates the Archive spirit; namely, an entertaining rarity with substance.

Famously blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo pens this tale of grocer's daughter Alice Fisher (Shirley of "Stella Dallas" and "Anne of Green Gables."), who discovers the good and the evil regarding the titular collegiate sisterhoods. The fun of this film also includes evoking great thoughts of a college roommate of your not-so-humble reviewer. This sentiment is "fraternities; only $25 a friend."

The well-known social commentary of Trumbo appears early in "Sorority." The kindly widowed "pop" of a mom-and-pop grocery store is Lew Fisher, whose banker suggests selling out to the larger grocery chain with a store on the outskirts of town before that corporation runs Lew out of business. The can-do response of Lew is that he might run the chain out of business.

Unbeknownst to Alice but beknownst to the audience, Lew is borrowing the princely sum of $1,000 to pay the tuition at dream school Talbot University for two years. This requires that shy but not sad Alice quickly prepare for this next chapter in her life.

Fresh off the train coed Alice soon learns of the prestige of sororities and of the effective social death of the rejected "dreeps" who do not make the cut. The better news for her is that an almost immediate chance meeting that involves a couple of slips has Alice catch the eye of BMOC med. student Bill Loomis (Ellison).

The action shifting to campus allows Trumbo to turn his critical eye to the sorority abodes that more aptly should be considered cat houses. Watching each group subtly (and not so subtly) promote themselves at the expense of the competition is hilarious. One sorority apparently unduly uses a swimming pool as a recruiting tool, and the top sorority the Gammas has the disgrace of seven year-old (heavily used?) mattresses.

Alice and her two roommates initially represent the three bears regarding pledging. Studious and plain Dotty rejects the system that rejects her, desperate-to-fit-in (and subject to intense family pressure) Merle makes a strong effort to make the cut, and Alice is ambivalent until she finds herself in demand.

Much of the fun regarding this is seeing the excitement as the current sisters first make the rounds inviting the elite few to parties that determine if they are going to move forward in the selection process; the subsequent handing out of pledge invitations creates even more fervor.

Meanwhile, Bill is using his status (and insider knowledge) to successfully manipulate the sorority system in favor of Alice; seeing the mislead snobbish leaders compete over this working-class girl is hilarious.

The Bill/Alice relationship also merits comment; the hilarity here relates to Alice initially not realizing that she is engaged. Wonderfully cynical speculation regarding the course of their marriage is that she will drop out of school to work one or more menial jobs to support him through medical school and the early years of his career only to have the effects of time and having a couple of kids lead to Bill divorcing her and moving in with the 20-something nurse with whom he is having a years-long affair.

Trumbo builds all this to an aptly "Stella Dallas" sequence in which Alice dishonors her past despite partial knowledge about the sacrifices behind her collegiate experience. However, our girl comes around only to discover that she has one more lesson to learn.

Despite the wit and wisdom of Trumbo, an even wiser sage deserves the final word regarding the Greek system. Groucho Marx says it best in commenting that he would not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sorority" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'the leftovers' S2 BD: Go West Middle-Aged Remnants

The following thoughts on the Warner Prime Blu-ray release of the second season of the HBO series "the leftovers" is the last in this series of reviews on this program before a post on the Warner Archive BD release of the third and final season of this show. As the review of the Prime S1 BD release explains, "leftovers" is based on the novel of the same name by series co-producer Tom Perrotta about the trauma and drama in the lives of those of us who are not among the masses who mysteriously vanish en masse on October 14, 2011.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Leftovers" S2 achieves its goal of providing a taste of the drama and the spirit of the season.

Co-producer Damon Lindelof clearly demonstrates his "Lost" experience right from the opening S2 moments by inexplicably shifting the action from suburban Mapleton, New York to more rural Miracle (nee Jarden), Texas. We soon learn that this Lone Star State community being completely spared the central rapture makes it a Mecca for folks seeking a Utopia.

The pilgrims include former Mapleton sheriff Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), his "steady" Nora Durst, and his teen daughter Jill. The second episode of this season establishes the high price that this family pays for a fresh start.

The early episodes further establish that Kevin cannot escape his demons. The past literally haunts him, and he gets wrapped up in a central mystery involving the unexplained drying up of a lake coinciding with the disappearance of teen neighbor Evie Murphy and two friends of Evie. We further learn during the season that there is evidence that people continue to go poof every so often.

The aforementioned haunting and other stress prompts Kevin to seek relief in the form of an alternative medical treatment. This triggers "Lost" centric events that lead to the dramatic series finale.

The "Lost" vibe is equally strong regarding fully breaking up the band and splitting much of the action into separate venues. The familial split of the Garveys at the end of S1 continues with psychologist/ex-wife/former Guilty Remnant cult member Laurie (Amy Brenneman) staying behind with early 20s son Tom to counsel other "fallen" members of Remnant. Laurie additionally is the author of a book about her Remnant experience.

Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston of "Doctor Who") also is in Texas; his motives for the move include hoping to improve the health of paralyzed wife Mary. The faith (and the principles) of Matt is severely tested when he is the victim of a brutal attack that threatens the ability of him and Mary to continue enjoying the refuge that Miracle offers.

In equally true "Lost" style, S2 ends with every main character in Miracle and having a role in the typical shocking turn of events that result in the season-ending cliffhanger.

The appeal of "Leftovers" extends beyond the strong cast and acting. On a large level, the series centers around the prophesied ascension of the righteous. On a more specific level, the show reflects current dystopia in which we either wait for the news of the latest disaster or deal with the consequences of a prior one.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Leftovers" is strongly encouraged to email me. You alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

'Night School' BD: Part-time Coeds Pay Heavy Price for Being Head of the Class

The recent Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1981 murder mystery "Night School" prompts mourning for the passing of the sub-genre of gritty urban-based thrillers (and moderate-budget slasher flicks) of the '70s and '80s to which this cult classic belongs.

An early scene in which Harvard-educated police detective Lt. Judd Austin parks his BMW in the middle of a historic street in Boston is an early indication that the authenticity of this film extends beyond it being shot on location. More importantly, we are spared the equally inconsistent and exaggerated Wahlbergesque accent that characterize most modern films set in the Athens of America.

The multiple apt quick cuts in the following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "School" perfectly conveys the tone of this '80s noir movie.

The opening scenes are part of what earns "School" cult status; a pretty young teacher's aide is enjoying a short break on a merry-go-round when an ominous helmeted figure in black dismounts a motorcycle and soon turns the playground equipment into a carousel of terror.

This crime having common elements with an earlier offense prompts calling Austin in on his day off, apparently because a Harvard degree makes him the only BPD detective capable of stopping the killer before (presumably) he strikes again.

Learning that the late head of the class is a night student at the women-only Wendell College (most likely, fictional version of Wheelock College) prompts Austin to visit that institution of higher education; the dean (who looks flushed) soon directs Austin to arrogant (Harvard-educated ?) anthropology professor Vincent Millett. Millett denying any personal relationship with Victim #2 and his prediction that Austin will not catch the killer earns this educator a place on the list of usual subjects.

Austin also meets student/research assistant Eleanor (Rachel Ward of "The Thorn Birds" in her film debut), who is the T and A of Millet. Eleanor soon features prominently in a suspenseful shower scene that is a slasher flick staple since "Psycho." We even get the payoff in the form of a circling the drain scene that is a clear Hitchcock homage.

The body count continues rising as Austin increasingly becomes obsessed with proving the guilt of Millett. This mania leads to a wonderfully steamy confrontation with Eleanor.

Another highlight involves light suspense regarding the whereabouts of a victim; the filmmakers have great fun setting up the audience multiple times before providing the anticipated payoff.

The beginning of the end starts with a hot pursuit that ultimately leads to another chase in which Austin is sure that he has his man only to discover a final surprise.

This good blending of multiple elements succeeds because they recognize that we have seen something similar while providing enough fresh elements to reward our knowledge of the genre and to keep things interesting.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "School" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

'Heartstone' DVD: Bergmanesque Gay-Themed Icelandic Coming-of-Age Tale

The 32 wins for the 2016 Icelandic coming-of-age drama "Heartstone" precludes summarizing those accolades for this recent addition to the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD catalog. Although the awards likely play a role in Breaking acquiring this film, this being a honest portrayal of teen boys struggling with their feelings toward each other and with life in general likely is why it makes the Breaking cut.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Heartstone" trailer shows why it wins so many awards; it further provides a brief synopsis of a tween summer to which many gay audience members who get their first of their sexual orientation at a relatively early age can relate.

"Heartstone" centers round tween boy Thor and his best friend (with potential benefits?) Christian in their small Icelandic fishing village. The many relatable challenges of Thor extend beyond his being smaller and less developed in every sense than his peers, being the only male in the house that he shares with disgraced divorced mother Hulda and two older teen sisters, and developing an "its complicated" relationship with classmate Beth.

Sister Rakel is a particular challenge; her worst torment of her brother includes teasing him about wearing a towel around Christian only to strip him of that covering and lock him out of the house. She further delights in catching her sibling engaging in an act of either self love or abuse depending on your perspective.

The domestic life of Christian is not better; the mixture of good and bad news is that his abusive father often is away from home. The rumored homosexuality of a local man apparently being the basis for a fist fight between that man and "Dad" does not help the situation of Christian.

Enlightened viewers get a sense of where things are going when Thor repeatedly gives the more attractive Christian the look, friends and family tease the boys about being a couple, and the horseplay between the boys advances toward an intimate level that may as well include the question "have you ever wondered about doing it with another guy?" The evolution of this relationship is one of the many aspects of "Heartstone" that warrant the aforementioned exceptional festival love.

The adventures of our boys include a highly secretive sleepover (complete with same-sex making out) with the girls, repeatedly contending with the local bully, and facing tremendous embarrassment regarding activity that is highly gay from any perspective.

This symbolically builds to the end of the summer of innocence in a manner that includes a meaningful early snowfall. Consistent with the overall bleak existence of our boys, the ending falls short of Thor and Christian publicly declaring their love and walking through their school holding hands accompanied by an uplifting Motown tune. Such things only happen in Logo movies.

The always special Breaking bonus feature include the actors who play Hulda and Thor discussing their roles. The boy who plays Thor shows surprising depth and sensitivity for a 14 year-old boy. We also get notable Icelandic folks discussing childhood memories of things such as confiding in friends and getting their first kiss.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Heartstone" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Saturday, November 11, 2017

'The Sissi Collection' BD: Trilogy of Fictional Films Chronicling Princess Di of Austria

The Epic Film Movement Classics October 31, 2017 BD release "The Sissi Collection" cements the ENTITLEMENT of parent Film Movement to reognition as a national art treasure. Merely browsing the Unreal TV reviews of Film Movement releases confirms that that New York based company is much more interested in the art of the game than commerce.

The 5 discs in this magnificent 2K digital restoration consist of the trilogy of '50s films by Ernst Marischka in which young Austrian actress Romy Schneider portrays real-life 19th century Austrian empress Elisabeth (Sissi), the 1954 Schneider film "Victoria in Dover," and a bonus disc of incredible extras.

The highlight of the special features is the 1962 Paramount film "Forever My Love." This 2.5 hour English-dubbed film by Marischka and starring Schneider can be considered the Cliff Notes of the trilogy; this film (with a Burt Bacharach theme) is a condensed version of the three "Sissi" films in "Collection."

The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer sharing that images of the real-life Sissie still prominently appear throughout Vienna provides a sense of the significance of this release.

"Sissi" from 1955 is a Cinderella story in a few senses of the word. The film opens with jocular Duke Max in Bavaria fishing with a few of his eight children in the idyllic wilderness around their castle. The group returns home to dine and is subdued by Duchess Ludovika (a.k.a. Mom).

An excited Ludovika (a.k.a. Vicki) soon summons daughter Helene (a.k.a. Nene) to privately share that Archduchess Sophie is summoning Nene to marry cousin/newly coronated Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph. A desire to conceal the purpose of this family reunion prompts bringing oblivious teen tomboy Sissi along.

The Cliff Notes of what follows is that an amusing wacky misunderstanding causes a bumbling security officer to mistake Sissi for an enemy of the state, Sissi and Franz meet and fall in love without fully realizing whom the other is, Nene and Sissi experience sibling rivalry, and our fairy tale couple have a storybook wedding complete with fireworks but sans animated woodland creatures.

"Sissi: the Young Empress" amusingly foreshadows the Princess Di story in that newly wed Empress Sissi is highly popular with her subjects and is at war with her mother-in-law. Two particularly large bones of contention relate to Sissi having a more lenient and supportive attitude towards Hungarian malcontents than Archduchess Sophie, and Sophie literally taking the infant heir to the throne away from Sissi.

The "incognito" element is particularly strong in "Empress." A spontaneous undercover second honeymoon soon after the (presumably) first one finds our couple staying at a small rustic mountain inn. Watching these young lovers freely frolic and literally spit shine boots is great fun.

Another particularly cute scene has Franz Joseph giving homesick Sissi a literal taste of Bavaria and distressing his mother (who comes across as the party pooper) in the process. Despite the grandness of this gesture, Sissi equally literally runs home to mother to escape the trauma and the drama of palace life.

Of course, this fairy tale epic reunites Sissi and Franz Joseph and ends with the grand spectacle that is a trademark of this trilogy. These final scenes additionally incorporate the nature scenes that enhance the films and make viewers want to visit the region.

Although time constraints prevented watching the 1957 film "Sissi: The Fateful Years" in time for this review, the synopsis of the film and other material share that it maintains the style and the quality of the other two films in the trilogy. The Di thread continues with mother-in-law problems and rumors of infedility. 

Classics offers another take on the Sissi story with the 1954 biopic "Victoria in Dover." This film (which also evokes strong thoughts of the Audrey Hepburn film "Roman Holiday") opens with Schneider playing young and sweet Princess Victoria in the period before she becomes the older 19th-century queen who often is portrayed as very rigid; the "Dover" portrayal of Victoria is akin to the Showtime series "The Tudors" centering around a dreamy young Henry VIIII.

Victoria soon literally inheriting the family business prompts her mother and other court insiders to determine that she must wed. This prompts the young queen to initially flee incognito to the titular locale with white cliffs ahead of sailing to France to learn about the nature of love.

In true romcom style, reluctant husband material Albert also is keeping a low profile at the same seaport inn as Victoria. The circumstances of his travels come close to making him and the woman whom we know that he will marry ships that cross in the night.

This rather Shakespearen tale follows the formula of Albert initially being an oaf who incurs the ire of the proper stranger who is not amused when he makes her look foolish. Meanwhile, the asexual middle-aged chaperones of the young not-yet lovers comically try to maintain order and propriety while constrained by the desires of the kids to maintain their secret identities.

The climax (TRULY no pun intended) comes when Victoria returns home to play who wants to wed a monarch. Our soulmates once again meet up and experience one more bump on the road to true happiness before beginning their well-publicized life together.

Another Bonus Disc highlight is a compilation of scenes from the 2006 documentary "Elisabeth: Enigma of an Empress."

The must-read essay in the booklet that accompanies the set comprehensively adds to the film synopses in this add-on and provides fascinating background information on the films, on Schneider, and on the real-life Sissi.

Anyone with any questions about this exceptional release is highly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Drivin' n' Cryin' 'Mystery Road' Expanded Edition: Rereleased Southern Country Rock Punk CD/LP/Digital Now at Buck and Call

The Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) October 6, 2017 CD/LP/Digital of the 1989 Drivin' n' Cryin' album "Mystery Road" continues going above-and-beyond regarding making rock classics available in the digital age without sacrificing the integrity of the music. Like the (reviewed) Rush mega-set "2112" that has a place of honor in the Unreal TV office and the (also reviewed) "The Supremes A' Go-Go," the UMe release of "Mystery" has extra tracks galore.

In this case, the bonus content is demo versions of songs by these Atlanta boys/R.E.M. openers. These special tunes include versions of the titular song (which is not on the original album) and the equally classic "Honeysuckle Blue."

The liner notes share that the love that UMe shows Drivin' includes using the album art that the is the first choice of the band; these notes further explain why that image does not grace the front of the recording in 1989.

The two strong endorsements of Drivin' include Peter Buck of R.E.M. supporting the band to the extent of producing the aforementioned demos and by giving these boys an adequately free hand to make the suits nervous. Other tidbits show that Buck is the best-ever big brother figure for which any band could hope.

An even more cool thing about this "no fail" release is that it is the musical equivalent of the New England weather. There is no cause to fret if a particular song does not match your personal taste; just wait three minutes and the style will change.

The liner notes and the press materials further confirm that there is plenty of reason to like Drivin', but that it is tough to label them (no pun intended). They definitely have a strong folk rock sound that evokes thoughts of the recently deceased Tom Petty. This is very strong in "Blue," which celebrates the natural beauty of the South while commenting on the despair of folks living there.

Starting the album with "Ain't It Strange," which has blue grass style fiddling and a hard-rock beat accompanying a Dylan/Joplin sentiment of a rich white guy looking to displace a Volvo by building a house provides a perfect introduction to the group.

Although none of the materials for "Mystery" mention Petty as a direct influence,  the written materials for "Mystery" repeatedly cite Aerosmith and the Ramones as the better-known of the numerous bands that clearly exert their impact. There is plenty of hard-rocking and clever lyrics.

The Aerosmith influence is incredibly strong in "Wild Dog Moon," which has enthusiastic licks and very fast highish-pitch lyrics. Given the role of Buck, it is cool that the next track of "House for Sale" easily could have been an R.E.M. song.

The weather analog particularly comes into play regarding "You Don't Know," which aptly does not sound much like any other "Mystery" sounds. This homage to personally beloved New Wave and alternative '80s music reflects the stated love of the band for that genre.

The following YouTube clip of a 2015 performance of "Know" shows that the boys (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) still rock hard roughly 30 years after "Mystery."

The wonderfully witty and catchy "Straight to Hell" is the most pure country songs among the original 11 tracks. This one is about a modern day Huck Finn (rather that Tom Sawyer), who delights in proving his single "mama" right regarding her prediction that he boy is destined to fry for an eternity.

The good folks at UMe share that the general love for "Hell" includes Darius Rucker of "Hootie and the Blowfish" teaming up with members of Lady Antebellum to to perform it on his new album.

The encore to this discussion of "Mystery" is that both the quality of the music and the integrity of the band regarding not selling out warrants buying this expanded edition.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mystery" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

'Mama's Family' CS DVD: 'Burnett' Spin-off Sitcom is Kinder Gentler 'Sordid Lives'

Classic TV royalty Time Life creates a made-in-Heaven marriage regarding granting Wal-Mart the exclusive right to sell the October 17, 2017 "Mama's Family: The Complete Collection" DVD set.

This 130-episode six-season series, which is a spin-off of the fan-favorite "The Family" sketches in the "Carol Burnett Show," revolves around feisty small-town Southern middle-class matriarch Thelma Harper and her dysfunctional family. The best way to think of this is to imagine Aunt Bee of "Andy Griffith" as more irascible.

It is equally cool that youthful Vicki Lawrence rivals Estelle Getty in her talent for playing a character who is significantly older than her. The age disparity between Vicki and Thelma warrants an aside that is highly relevant to this review. Vicki stated in an interview at the time of a 1988 S4 three-episode story arc in which the Harpers go to Hawaii that requiring that she be in character on exiting the airplane in our 50th state was moderately distressing.

"Mama" further can be considered a PG version of the more adult Del Shores "Sordid Lives" franchise, which revolves the eccentric middle-class residents of Winters, Texas. "Sordid" elements that are absent from "Mama" include a cross-dressing senior citizen, a gay white man married to a black man, and a philandering redneck who literally pays a leg (but not an arm) for his adultery with a significantly older woman. That is not to say that "Mama" may not include some or all of those elements if Lawrence et al film a reunion movie.

The "complete" set, which offers the original broadcast versions of the episodes, does Lawrence and and her co-stars particularly proud by including the copious extras that the end of this review describes.

The following YouTube clip of the Time Life promo. for this set provides a small overview of this perfect gift for yourself, for your mama, or for anyone with a sense of humor. Thelma would express this sentiment as good Lord, just go out and buy the damn DVDs already; what the Hell are you waiting for?

"Mama," which is the brainchild of "Burnett" and "Fact of Life" veterans Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, begins life as a 1983 mid-season replacement on NBC. This initial concept is that widowed housewife Thelma lives with slightly more sophisticated sister Fran (the late Rue McClanahan of both "The Golden Girls" and "Sordid") and dim-witted adult son Vint (Ken Berry of "F Troop.") Buzz and Sonja, who are the teen offspring of Vint, round out the original household.

Moderately sexed-up neighbor/supermarket cashier Naomi (Dorothy Lyman of "All My Children") quickly moves in after marrying Vint in a "very-special" two-parter early in the first season.

Burnett occasionally drops by the Harper household in her role as neurotic daughter Eunice. We more regularly see Golden Girl Betty White as snobbish daughter Ellen.

Like the four (highly popular) retooled syndicated seasons that follow, the two NBC seasons reflect the highly successful principle of not fixing what is not broken. Virtually every episode is pure '80s sitcom down to an outing in which the Harpers compete on the Richard Dawson version of the game show "Family Feud."

Another early episode has Eunice and Thelma working out their differences while sharing a jail cell; we further see the ex-husband of Naomi threaten her current marriage.

"Rashomama" is a classic episode in two senses in that it is one of the most funny "Mama" episodes and is a standard sitcom take on the Japanese film "Rashomon" that centers around conflicting versions of an incident. This one has Naomi, Ellen, and Eunice offer differing accounts of an kitchen accident in which Thelma gets knocked out.

The genuinely triumphant return of "Mama" to the airways in 1986 reflects the related increased demand for programming that newly widespread cable creates and independent stations and basic-cable networks giving cancelled broadcast series a second bite at the apple. "Mama" finding tremendous love the second time around is spectacular.

The third season opens in the wake (no pun intended) of the death of Fran; Thelma is keeping mum regarding the presumably embarrassing (and hilarious) circumstances of that demise, Vint and Naomi are almost literally drooling over the prospect of moving from their basement dwelling into the vacated room of Fran, and we meet middle-aged spinster neighbor Iola (Beverly Archer of "Major Dad.") Further, Ellen refuses to forgo a previously scheduled appointment to attend the funeral.

The related developments in this jam-packed outing are that Eunice and husband Ed now live in Florida and delinquent teen son Bubba (mentioned but believed never seen in "Burnett") is very recently out on parole from an unfortunate incarceration. Thelma et al return from the funeral to discover hilarious damage from Hurricane Bubba.

The excitable boy facing the decision that Thelma describes as "the old lady or jail" leads to the hi-jinks that comprise the final four seasons of this series.

An S3 episode offers a two-fer in that lonely Iola becoming an unduly frequent visitor to Chez Harper leads to the family using the '80s-era matchmaking technique of a personal ad in the newspaper to find her a beau. The two-fer enters in the form of Iola getting mad at Thelma when the gentleman caller transfers his affections to the widow Harper without any encouragement from this mother of all mothers.

An especially memorable S3 episode has even more hilarity ensuing after Iola freeze dries her cat after that feline uses up all nine of his lives; "Weekend at Bernie's" has nothing on "Mama" in this regard.

We further get two memorable instances of Thelma engaged in the sitcom staple of cross-dressing as a disguise. Her change of heart regarding sabotaging the effort of Vint to join a lodge has her don the garb of that organization to infiltrate a meeting; she further dresses as Santa and gets in the Christmas spirit after an upsetting incident destroys her holiday spirit. Of course, the episode ends with a miracle.

Another beloved sitcom could not provide better context for the timeless appeal of "Mama." One of the best moments of "Friends," which spawns the unmarried single urbanites hanging out sub-genre of sitcoms, has sarcastic Chandler comment on seeing an episode of "Three's Company" that that outing is the one with the wacky misunderstanding.

"Mama," "Friends," "Company," and other TV Land faves all have the common elements of good writers who can make familiar fare adequately fresh to keep it entertaining and the right actors playing entertaining characters who can make us at least smile on watching a variation of something that we have seen many times before. Good perspective regarding this comes from the late Garry Shandling, who was the master of making sitcom cliches hilarious.

Shandling states in his his late-night talk show character in the finale episode of "The Larry Sanders Show" that sometimes you get something special and sometimes you get "Company" failed spin-off "The Ropers."

The aforementioned plethora of extras is far too extensive to address here; one highlight is the surprisingly dark and dramatic TV-movie "Eunice," which airs in the period between "Burnett" and "Mama." This one is more Tennessee Williams than Sherwood Schwartz.

Bubba-centric extras include a hilarious "Burnett" sketch in which guest-star Maggie Smith is his teacher holding a conference with parents Eunice and Ed regarding the misconduct of their young son. We further get an interview with still energetic Allan Kaysar (who is a Columbine High graduate), discussing how he comes to play Bubba after moving to Los Angeles from Colorado to pursue an acting career.

Time Life also awesomely gets the band back together to sit around the Harper kitchen table to reminisce. Their topics include the break between the network and the syndication runs and actress/series writer Dorothy Van playing hilariously elderly aunt Effie,

It sincerely is hoped that devoting so much time and thought to writing this post on "Mama" triggers adequately fond memories by current fans and inspires enough interest in future fans to go to your neighborhood Wal-Mart to get a set. It almost is certain that you will not be disappointed. Two additional endorsements are that your not-so-humble-reviewer bought a set and "Mama" is one of the relatively few shows that has universal appeal in the Nelson household.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mama" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

TCM Classic Film Festival: Ignored Basic Event-Planning Principles

One message that this trilogy of reviews on the recent TCM Classic Film Festival hopefully has communicated is that these posts come neither to praise nor to bury the event but to have the organizers lend me their ears. The plethora of screenings and celebrity presentations are awesome; the rub is that an unfair caste system and related sloppy planning precludes folks who pay $799 or $649 a head merely for four nights and three days of those events from attending nearly as many of them as should be feasible.

The first entry in this series focused on how better planning would have alleviated disappointment related to not having a prayer of attending an arguably reasonable number of events; the second post addressed the practice of benefiting "one-percenters" and friends of the organizers to the extremely unfair detriment of the third-class citizens who paid as much as $799 to attend the event.

This third and final article discusses how the overall experience of the hoi polloi could have been enhanced without any additional expense.

This post also continues the practice of the prior entries in this series by centering it around a metaphor. Your not-so-humble reviewer was sitting in a grad-school seminar when a fellow economically challenged classmate opened his cable bill and declared that "I didn't watch $35 worth of TV last month." Somewhat akin to that statement, I feel that I should have received a better value for the $1,300 total that I and my highly significant other paid for Classic festival passes. I DEFINITELY was denied a fighting chance to attend $649 worth of movies during that weekend.


The prior posts in this series regularly address the NUMEROUS AVOIDABLE flaws regarding administering the "steerage" line consisting of holders of the Classic pass and the $799 essentials pass (which only provided the benefit of the chance to attend the featured opening-night film for the additional $150). The underlying issue was that the "one-percenters" who shelled out $2,149 for Spotlight passes and the friends of the organizers who received equally Hollywood royalty treatment unfairly disadvantaged the rest of us.

The missed opportunities regarding this were to at least entertain the masses and provide small tokens during their 90-minute wait for an event regarding which they faced the risk of not being admitted. Each event had a team of "salmon-shirts," who arrived 90-minutes before a screening but largely aimlessly milled around until handing out deli-counter style numbers for 10 minutes roughly one hour before the event started.

Personal experience with someone whose number should have been well above 100 but cut to the 7th position for one screening showed that the salmon-shirts did not even closely monitor that behavior. A reasonable use of their time would have been to entertain the crowd and distribute SWAG that could have consisted of surplus give-aways from prior TCM events.

These staffer also could have asked trivia questions, randomly distributed loot, or even played "Let's Make A Deal" in a manner that included giving the first person to produce items such as a package of breath mints or a flashlight key chain a prize. These literally small no-cost gestures would have helped pass the long waits for events and communicated that TCM valued the folks who spent significant money and traveled up to 1,000s of miles to attend the event. They conversely brought many of us to the period between love and goodbye.

Similarly, the ONLY flaw at the spectacular (reviewed) Hollywood Roosevelt that was the headquarters hotel for the festival was the limited elevator capacity that was fine except for when festival events ended. Long lines and proportionately surly festival goers resulted.

The common sense solution would have been to either have largely otherwise invisible organizers or two salmon-shirts at the elevators during this busy period. Either group of wage slaves minimally could have helped direct the flow of passengers and engaged those in line in conversation regarding the event; they could have gone one step further by using this as an opportunity to distribute SWAG.


Additional disappointment related to the advertised Classic pass perk of access to Club TCM; the primary appeal of this benefit was a chance to enjoy a respite in that space; one hint is that the adjacent spacious hotel lobby with the plethora of comfy chairs and couches meets that need without additional expense.

Although not promised, consistent experience with similar V.I.P. areas created a reasonable expectation that the Club would provide free snacks and soft drinks and would have inexpensive SWAG that included TCM pens and note pads. This was limited to bottled water that was available to every festival goer.

The added insult to this injury was that the description of Classic pass benefits explicitly included Club TCM events. We learned on arriving that the elite Spotlight passholders got a free breakfast buffet in the Club each morning but that the organizers did not consider that a Club event. The lesson this time is that it is nice to make someone breakfast the next morning after you got what you wanted from them the prior night. The walk of shame past the buffet each morning was not fun.

On a related note, TCM likely could have solicited fellow Atlanta corporation Coca-Cola or another large beverage company and a snack company to provide a large promotional supply of items for an event attended by folks whose interest in spending countless hours watching old movies on television was adequately strong to pay 100s of dollars to attend the festival.


This extensive analysis of the unavoidably poor planning of the festival wraps up with one of the most blatant examples of the elitism that pervaded the event. Both consistent prior experience and pre-festival communication created an expectation of a gift bag. Full disclosure requires sharing that TCM was responsive regarding this matter.

I learned a few weeks before the festival that only Spotlight passholders would receive gift bags. The basic analogy this time is that Holland America (and presumably other large cruise lines) gives every passenger an inexpensive tote bag so that they promote the line by carrying it around the ports.

The response to the argument that festival goers wearing their passes around their necks would achieve the same objective is that your not-so-humble reviewer only wore his pass while standing in line for and attending events. The oft-repeated rationale was to avoid looking like a doofus.

A look at the fantabulous SWAG that Spotlighters got showed that it could have been minimally downgraded in a manner that would have allowed spending the saved money on the aforementioned less expensive variety. As an initial matter, replacing the weather-proof bottom with a canvas one likely would have funded bags for all.

Further, either eliminating the zipper rubber (second) banana purse that contained banana-flavored taffy would not gone un-noticed and either could have gone in bags to Classic and Essentials passholders or used to fund buying refrigerator magnets for those unwashed masses.

Minimally, the lower-level bags could have contained the confections and the festival programs that the organizers handed out like candy.

One would hope that the lined canvas toiletry bag, the argyle socks, the flashlight keychain, etc would have satisfied the Spotlight passholders.

A related smart move would have been to give at least the Classic and the Essentials passholders certificates for t-shirts at the nearby TCM boutique that was completely devoid of customers and bursting with unsold merchandise the day after the festival. The shirt would have been a nice low-cost gesture and helped drive traffic to the store.


This final word regarding this epic coverage of a festival that might have been is the simple suggestion that a prominent television network that one of the largest media companies in the world owns know its audience and accordingly use its extensive resources.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding this TCM coverage is encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'The Settlers' DVD/VOD: Wandering Jews Assert Literal God-given Right to Occupy West Bank

The Film Movement November DVD/VOD releases of the 2016 Israeli documentary "The Settlers" is an awesome addition to the movies marking the 50th anniversary of the titular Jewish people becoming contentious residents of the West Bank. One cool aspect of this is that this issue provides fodder for story lines about similar occupations in several "Star Trek" series and films.

On a broader level, "Settlers" evokes thoughts of the (Unreal TV reviewed) Movement 2013 DVD release of the fictional film "Allyah" about a young Jewish man living in Paris who considers making Tel Aviv his new home. A exchange that should resonant with everyone who has survived a Jewish mother has the sister of the lead ask him if he really wants to live in a country where everyone is like their parents.

"Settlers" director Shimon Dotan takes a praise-worthy objective approach to arguably the most contentious issue of the 20th (and 21st) century; namely, Jewish settlers occupying the West Bank in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War. One of the titular residents taking exception to the titular term nicely summarizes the underlying issue; a talking head from the other side of the issue expressing having no problems with his Jewish neighbors so long as they are willing to play nicely proposes what seems to be a reasonable solution.

Dotan employs pure documentary style in chronicling the underlying dispute literally from its origins to 2015; he further allows his subjects on both sides to have their say. One of the most telling aspects of this is the societal branding of the enemy who goes on the attack as terrorists and placing folks on your side who create mayhem in a more positive light.

Dotan is particularly effective in introducing the audience to a settler who seems noteworthy for her large number of children; we meet her again in the context of her desire to get her son circumcised in a particular geographic location becoming a huge political issue and that boy being at the center of an even larger controversy a few months later.

The most amusing segment relates to a highway from the West Bank for the literal bridge-and-tunnel crowd who work in Israel. One commuter admits that driving at a specific high speed allows him to have a seven-minute commute.

Better-know subjects of the documentary include the leaders of the settlement movement and every Israeli prime minister in the past 50 years. Dotan clearly shows how the views of the government heads regarding the settlements are the sole determining issue regarding the support of the Jewish folks living in the controversial communities.

The objectivity of the documentary extends to not expressing any opinions regarding the merits of the arguments on both sides; nor does it actively purport to have a solution for what seems to be a never-ending situation.

The perspective of one who only found relative peace (but forever will be highly resentful) on moving after 13 years of battling a condo. board that provided no services/crucial repairs or ability to be heard despite a $450 monthly fee (and regular assessments charged without any prior notice) and almost as long having open conflict with neighbors whose literally psychotic teen is far from the only issue is that the settlers accepting a Plan B may be the only solution. Being forced from one's home is one of the worst experiences in life. However, either actively battling or having a new conflict disrupt very temporary peace precludes any hope of peace.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Settlers" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, November 6, 2017

'Tokyo Idols' DVD: Documenting Japanese Yen for Anime-Inspired Teen Girl Pop Stars

New York based international documentary film distributor Icarus Films shows good instincts regarding release the 2017 UK/Canadian film "Tokyo Idols" on October 3, 2017. This study of young and middle-aged Japanese men obsessed with the innocent school girl image that the titular teen and 20-something pop stars present is right in line with the observation of HBO talk show host Bill Maher that adult Americans dressing up for Halloween demonstrates that we are failing to properly mature.

On a deeper level that is very consistent with the Unreal TV tenet that tough times call for amusing escapist entertainment, filmmaker Kyoko Miyake notes that the idol phenomenon is a response to the prolonged Japanese recession.

The central performer is 22 year-old Rio, who fully embraces her image as a fun-loving but virginal high-school sophomore. This star who almost surely can afford new footwear extends her good-natured manipulation of her adoring almost to the point of being brain-washed male fans beyond songs that emphasize her school girl persona and that assert that her audience members are not losers to beg for new shoes while on stage.

We learn that Rio and her fellow girl power singers literally are the hardest working people in show biz in that they perform several times a week and act as modern dime-a-dance taxi girls by holding equally constant events in which men who buy their CDs get the bonus of getting to stand in line to have a Polaroid taken with the literal girl of his dreams.

Miyake illustrates the aforementioned obsession through interviews with men who gleefully discuss spending every cent not required for the basic necessities on concert tickets and CDs. More than one man admits to not even trying to find a woman to date, one member of this group states that this expensive hobby prevents him from buying a home, and another discusses essentially abandoning his parents in order to rock out in a crowd and amass a large collection of instant photos.

Coverage of the Rio Brothers, who are the fan club of the aforementioned siren, makes the bronies who are the adult men obsessed with the television series "My Little Pony" look like casual viewers. These men constantly sport yellow t-shirts that pledge their allegiance to their idol and gobble up every bit of encouragement that she feeds them.

All of this is in the context of an annual competition to select the lucky 30 singers who will be featured in a massive 300-member girl group for the next year. Seeing both the girls and their fans openly discuss contestants who are not fully developed having an edge over their more physically mature competition is very creepy.

Although the history of female humans manipulating gullible men is long and most likely eternal, "Idols" shows how dressing like anime heroines and performing catchy pop tunes can be huge business.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Idols" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, November 3, 2017

'Watch Around the Clock' Black-and-White: Another Whole Day of TV Land Programming Courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment

The Mill Creek Entertainment September 26, 2017 DVD release of "Watch Around the Clock" black-and-white is a great companion to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Creek "Watch" color release on the same day. Both four-disc sets awesomely provide a full day of time-slot appropriate small-screen gems (complete with vintage commercials) on what can be considered independent station WMCE.

The following YouTube clip of a Mill promo. for the B&W set is a perfect "As Seen on TV" style ad that provides a good sense of the variety of "Golden Age" programming literally for all ages.

Both "Watch" sets additionally include a different bonus volume of holiday episodes of of TV Land classics. The holiday set in the B&W collection includes offerings from "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Sherlock Holmes," and "Racket Squad."

Like the color offering, the B&W "Watch" set begins at 6:00 a.m. and goes through to the same time the following broadcast day. Watching the set straight through would be sofa spud heaven.

"Kid's Clubhouse runs from 6:00 a.m. to noon and transitions from cartoons, to kids shows, to kid-oriented action-adventure fare.

"Betty Boop" starts things off with the titular flapper getting her own Cinderella story and then telling a bratty tot a fable; we then get "Felix" the cat in adventures that include a research expedition to Africa.

The cartoons wrap up with the animated sitcom "Calvin and the Colonel" in which a schemer and his sidekick hit numerous roadblocks in an effort to conceal misuse of a car that is borrowed without permission.

Silly live-action fare includes the classic "Howdy Doody" and the Soupy Sales clone "Pinky Lee." Fun regarding "Doody" from a 2017 perspective is that creepy looking resident clown Clarabelle gives Pennywise a run for his money.

The greatly beloved "Lassie" and the George Reeves "Superman" series bring us to the end of the "Clubhouse" portion of our programming day.

"People Are Funny" with Art Linkletter kicks off "Daytime Variety." This very early reality show has Linkletter good-naturedly tormenting willing saps for our fun and their profit. Aspiring actor Roger Dollarhide (who has four IMDb credits) literally goes around the world pursuing an acting contract. We also get a 15 year-old girl tasked with getting a random person to stay on the telephone for three minutes. The profession of her figurative partner-in-crime greatly contributes to the hilarity of this segment.

Linkletter shows up again in "Art Linkletter and the Kids" in the 12:30 slot on WMCE. This variation of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" has Linkletter interviewing a quartet of tots. He goes on to have two of them participate in a challenge in which 7 year-old aspiring actor Norman Phillips is a live dressmaking dummy for a six year-old girl who aspires to marry at 16 because she thinks that 17 would make her an old maid.

Classic game shows that follow include "The Price is Right," "Queen for A Day," and the infamous "Twenty-One" that is at the center of the "Quiz Show" scandal.

Afternoon drama comes in the form of "G.E. Theatre" with host Ronald Reagan and guest-star Cloris Leachman and a "Four Star Playhouse" dramatic production starring David Niven and Carolyn Jones.

The "Prime-Time Favorites" that start at 6:00 p.m. begin with the westerns "Annie Oakley" and "Roy Rogers." This leads to "Dragnet," which leads to a large block of hilarious episodes of classic sitcoms.

"Make Room for Daddy" finds Danny Thomas struggling to be more tolerant of his kids, and "Ozzie and Harriet" finds younger brother/teen idol Ricky juggling two girls who are knitting sweaters to prove their love to him.

Mill especially shines regarding well-known episodes of heavily syndicated sitcoms. "Dick Van Dyke" has the hilarious outing in which the titular comedy writer must bring a duck to a vet; an animal also is the center of an "Andy Griffith" episode in which a goat eats dynamite. "The Beverly Hillbillies" has Dodgers manager Leo Durocher recruit Jethro as a pitcher following a LOL series of wacky misunderstandings during a golf game.

We then get future "Green Acres" Eva Gabor on the highly improvised "Johnny Carson" variety program. "Milton Berle" has sadly overlooked Gertrude Berg in character as the equally tragically forgotten malapropism-prone Molly Goldberg.

The six-hour "Midnight Movie Marathon" starts with its own under-rated classic. The very Dickensian "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" has Barbara Stanwyck as the titular woman whose role in the death of her wealthy evil aunt while Martha is in her teens ties her fate to classmate/future husband Walter (Kirk Douglas).

Martha and Walter live largely tolerable lives until bad boy Sam (Van Heflin) returns roughly 20 years after effectively fleeing the scene of the crime. This arrival prompts several concerns about the past returning to haunt both Martha and Walter. It also proves that none of us forget our first delinquent.

WMCE then has Jose Ferrer bringing his Tony-winning portrayal of "Cyrano De Bergerac" to the silver screen; The Frank Sinatra classic "The Man With the Golden Arm" rounds out both the "Marathon" and the WMCE broadcast day.

The large number of lengthy books on the subjects of the shows and the films in the B&W (and Color) "Watch" sets precludes giving them their due here. The absolute best thing that can be said echos Carol Burnett regarding a recent 50th Anniversary DVD release of several episodes of her variety series; Burnett essentially says that funny never stops being funny.

Regarding the films from the Golden Age of Hollywood that Mill awesomely includes, these movies are strong reminders of an era in which art and commerce were compatible. Stanwyck et al. were Hollywood royalty because of their talent, not just because of their good looks and definitely not for having outrageous personas.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding either "Watch" set is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.