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Thursday, May 16, 2019

'Borg vs McEnroe' DVD & Blu-ray: Resistance Futile Regarding Film for Sports Fans & Non-Fans Alike

The Virgil Films separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 drama "Borg v. McEnroe" is one of many examples of those of us who are not sports fans missing out on a great movie because of bias against the overall subject of a movie. A personal example from this guy who has never watched "Raging Bull," "Bull Durham," or any "Rocky" film is that getting a review of the complete series of the Aaron Sorkin dramedy "Sports Night" corrected missing out on that terrific program.

As the title indicates, "Borg" centers around the genuinely historic 1980 Wimbledon showdown between the titular tennis stars. What the title does not indicate is that the movie provides strong insight into the psyches of the competitors and presents the main event in a very compelling manner. 

An amusing aspect of "Borg" is having volatile Disney Channel veteran Shia LeBeouf play McEnroe, who is best known for having a short temper that results in throwing his tennis racket and verbally abusing match officials. One such incident evokes thoughts of the "Get That Pigeon" theme from the vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines,"  A scene during the heated titular showdown in which McEnroe first is entirely prone on the court and then gets on his hands and knees may prompt sadistic viewers to have "assume the position" thoughts. 

The aforementioned insight comes courtesy of alternating scenes that show the competitors in the years and the days leading up to the main event. Seeing the famously cool and collected Borg lose it on the court in his early years of competitive training is surprising; seeing how he becomes the man that he is in 1980 is an interesting coming-of-age story, 

For his part, we see the many quirks of McEnroe that demonstrate the pressure that he feels. We further feel sympathy regarding his valid sense that the entire world is against him. This does not stop us from laughing when he curses out the Wimbledon press corps.

The lack of interest in sports is behind fast-forwarding through roughly one-half of the climatic match. Seeing how that transpires prompts watching the rest of that compelling event with amazing shifting results. The stamina alone of the players warrants each of them getting a trophy.

The excellence continues through the "where are they now" epilogue just before the closing credits. The post-match paths of our subjects is worthy of another film.

The bonus features in the forms of separate interviews with LeBeouf, Borg portrayor Sverrir Gudnason, and director Janus Metz provide further noteworthy insights. Metz expresses the aforementioned sentiments in stating his initial lack of interest in the project because of the surface subject but then reading the entire script in one sitting. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

'Jail Break' DVD: Guys and Dolls In The Big House

The Warner Archive April 23, 2019 DVD release of the 1936 drama "Jailbreak" reminds us of the good old days when men talked tough and dolls stood by their guys. This is not to mention a smart mouth likely earning you a sock on the jaw or a kick in the pants. 

The plot thickens from the opening scenes in which made man Ed Slayden bursts his way into the successful night club of former associate/current truly legitimate businessman Mike Eagen. Slayden is on the lam from a heist gone bad and demands help from a sheepish Eagen. Although he is no longer a baad man, Eagen slugs a copper with the idea that that the anticipated resulting 30 days in stir will keep him out of circulation long enough protect him from Slayden until the heat dies down.

The rub comes in the form of the adage related to the best-laid plans of mice and mobsters. Eagen runs afoul of a two-strikes mandatory-minimum law that results in a two-year sentence, On top of that, prison guard Dan Stone has it out for the new fish based on their prior dealings. 

Things go from bad to worse when Slayden and his gang get collared, resulting in becoming fellow guests of the state with Eagen. 

The better news is that loyal Girl Friday Jane Rogers and crusading reporter Ken Williams are on Team Eagen. Rogers is diligently keeping the club doors open and doing everything else that she can to help her boss; Williams is using the power-of-the-press to sway public opinion.

A combination of a prison killing and a treasure hunt further rock the institution and transform "Break" into a traditional whodunit. The latter includes adding to the body count and assaulting Williams in the course of his investigation.. This is not to mention Williams proving during a close approximation of a drawing room confrontation that he is much more than a pretty face.

The titular event barely even is a "B" story as a group of cons decide that they want a variation of an early release. They soon learn that successfully going over the wall is not always a good thing.

"Break" being a Hollywood movie from the era in which the Hays Code is enforced ensures that crime does not pay and that at least some good guys get a happy ending. Everyone else simply gets another day older and deeper in debt. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

'Nazi Junkies' DVD: High Times in WWII-Era Germany

Mel Brooks provides the most important perspective regarding the Omnibus Entertainment April 2, 2019 DVD release of the well-dubbed serious-toned 2019 English-language documentary "Nazi Junkies." This genius behind "The Producers" reminds us that mocking Team Hitler robs those maniacs of their power. Further, the idea of Herr Adolph "Uber-mensch" Hitler doing more drugs than a crackhouse whore is bizarrely amusing. 

The first of two other important related concepts to consider while watching "Junkies" is that even propaganda that supports your view still is propaganda. You must also remember that there is your perspective, the perspective of the other guy, and the truth. "Junkies" seems authoritative and is not unduly sensationalized but still likely only tells a portion of the story.

This two-part docuseries is based on the book Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler. The first episode focuses on the heavy use of illicit substances by Der Fuhrer. The broader scope of the second episode is on that activity by both the general German population and the members of the military.

The documentation of the drug use of Htler includes the records of personal physician/entourage member Dr. Theodore Morell, whose methodology strongly reflect a better living through chemistry philosophy. A particularly impactful scene discusses Morrell refusing to allow his patient to shoot up anymore because heavy drug use is the cause of the veins of the latter being completely scabbed over. This data and the other evidence of Hitler using every substance known to Hunter Thompson indicates that the birthday of Hitler being 420 is very apt.

The bigger picture is the discussion of Hitler being a man who does not understand the concept of just saying no relating to the turmoil in his life. He recognizes the need to present a strong image, is dealing with increasing dissension in the ranks, and knows that his 1,000-year Reich is going to fall far short of that goal. An especially interesting story is about Hitler going to extreme measures on suffering catastrophic injury hours before frienemy Mussolini is visiting.

Part II suggests that an Army travels on its Previtin, rather than its stomach. The general (no pun intended) idea is that the soldiers, the sailors, and the pilots are pushed to extreme physical limits that require them taking so many drugs that it makes "Jessie's Song" look like a Saturday-morning kids' show. A recently interviewed soldier discusses how the brass doses the chocolate of the unsuspecting grunts to achieve this. The rest of the story is records that show the extent to which the expression "The Rhine Valley of the Dolls' applies to 40s-era Germany.

Part II also includes one of the most horrific stories in this series that is rife with tales of Nazi atrocities. We learn about teen Hitler Youth members being boys sent to do a small man's job that NO ONE should do. These efforts involve being confined in an incredibly cramped space for an extended period to perform what "Junkies" describes as a Kamikaze mission.

The ways in which Parts I and II are tied include a discussion of the drug use in the military when Hitler is a young soldier. Seeing him look very youthful and sporting even odder facial hair then his best-known look is fascinating. 

The even bigger picture is that "Junkies" is akin to other documentaries that focus on the human aspects (and related frailties) of Hitler. The general idea is that seeing this super-villain as a man whose reality does not live up to his self-produced hype shows that even the worst monster ultimately is a "Scooby" bad guy in a rubber mask. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

'Three Men on a Horse' DVD: A Day at the Races

The Warner Archive April 16, 2019 DVD release of the well-remastered 1936 screwball comedy "Three Men on a Horse" is a good reminder that funny never stops being funny and that comedy does not require shock value. 

The cred. of "Horse" begins with drector Mevyn LeRoy, whose other credits include "The Wizard of Oz" and "Mister Roberts." In front of the camera, Oscar nominated wise-cracking vaudeville veteran Joan Blondell plays stock floozy with a heart-of-gold Mabel. Fellow vaudeville vet Frank McHugh plays henpecked greeting-card writer Erwin Trowbridge. 

The following YouTube clip of the fun-filled "Horse" trailer shows that they don't make those promos like they used to.

Our story begins with a wonderful look at 30s-era suburbia. Erwin and his wife Audrey live in a poorly constructed tract house in the development of her brother Clarence. Erwin is getting ready for his job, and Audrey is yelling for him to throw down his suit so that she can send it to the cleaner. 

The Lucy and Ricky vibe continues with Audrey finding a little black book in a suit pocket. Being convinced that the entries are names and telephone numbers of loose women prompts Audrey to call Clarence to come over. The stereotypes continue with Clarence quickly going into a tirade about Erwin being a louse and Clarence having warned Audrey not to marry him.

The plot initially thickens on Audrey and Clarence learning that the notes are horse-race winners that Clarence successfully picks on his daily commute. The suspicious minds are additionally schooled regarding Erwin not actually placing any bets. 

The added insult to the injury additionally is the straw that breaks the back of the camel. A COD package containing $48 worth of dresses requires that Erwin defend his male pride in front of Clarence by using money saved for other small luxuries to pay for the couture. 

This bad morning drives normally sober Erwin to drink; his bar crawl brings him to the watering hole from which professional gambler Patsy (Sam Levene of "The Thin Man" series) and his two stooges operate. Mabel is the wannabe starlet who is the dame of Patsy and helps keep the boys in gambling money.

Learning that easily duped Erwin is the boy with something extra prompts Patsy and the boys essentially to kidnap their new acquaintance. Much of the ensuing comedy relates to providing a conducive setting for picking the ponies. 

For her part, Mabel finds both a kindred spirit and a receptive audience in Erwin. This start of a beautiful friendship does not sit well with Patsy.

Meanwhile a distraught Audrey is lamenting over the disappearance of her husband, and his stereotypical fuming boss is irate over the absence of his employee. An oblivious Erwin merely is trying to please everyone. 

Of course, all worlds ultimately hilariously collide. The happy endings this time show that justice prevails in Golden Age comedies. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

'Hard Ticket to Hawaii' Blu-ray: Magnum XX

The Mill Creek Entertainment April 16, 2019 Blu-ray of the 1987 USA Up All Night caliber film "Hard Ticket to Hawaii" shows that sexploitation god Andy Sidaris follows the tradition of making a sequel bigger and bolder than an original. "Ticket" is the follow-up to the (reviewed) 1985 Sidaris "classic" "Malibu Express."

The even better news for Sidaris fans is that he states during a "behind-the-scenes" feature for the "Ticket" Blu-ray that that film is the first in series of 12. It is likely that MCE will release the other 11 films in the not-to-distant future.

Speaking of MCE, releasing the shot-on-locations "Malibu" and "Ticket" respectively highlights the SoCal and 50th State beauty of the cinematography.

The following YouTube clip of a "Ticket" trailer provides a perfect sense of the mid-budget '80stastic cheesy fun of this film that warrants a T and A rating. 

The titular yacht from "Malibu" makes a cameo in the opening scenes of "Ticket." "Malibu" lead character Cody Abilene apparently has lent cousin Rowdy Abilene (Ronn Moss of "The Bold and the Beautiful" and "The Bay") his love boat. Aptly named race-car driver June Khnockers apparently is not along for the ride either.

Although Cody is the main "Malibu" focus, Rowdy takes a backseat to busty blonde bimbo DEA agents Donna and Taryn. Donna especially looks as if she has spent time in Silicone Valley. She also is notable for being half of an homage to '80s busty blonde bimbo Donna Dixon.

Trained agent Donna and witness protection program participant Taryn work a cover job as pilots for a small cargo and charter service airline. (Insert your own cockpit and joystick jokes here.)

The primary action begins when the girls fly a honeymoon couple to a secluded spot that apparently is as accessible by Jeep as it is by airplane. They have just left the lovebirds to sunbathe and take sleazy Polarioids when they see a high-end radio-control plane land. The rest of the story is that that plane has smuggled diamonds that belong to a Bond villain stereotype who does not like doing things the easy way. 

This discovery results in the first of several shootouts that sets the game fully afoot. Highlights include a stereotypical evil drag queen, a slice-and-dice Frisbee, and a lounge-lizard Maire D. The latter provides some of the best humor when the response of a woman to an invitation to sit on the face of the host speculates whether his nose is larger than another organ of his.

Another highlight involves a psychotic skater armed with an explosive sex doll. 

A variation of a snakes on the plane plot is the B story in this delightfully C-movie with decent production values but porn-star caliber acting and a lace-thin plot. A stateside mishap leads to the girls transporting a rat-cancer infected snake. Of course, this reptile gets free and goes on a feeding frenzy. 

The noose tightens on Rowdy, Donna, and their sidekicks teaming up for a raid; their premature declaration of mission accomplished leads to a final showdown in which the good guys get unexpected help, This involves the best entrance in the entire film.

All of this amounts to "Ticket" being an even bigger dream come true than "Malibu" for horny teen boys whose parents are clueless regarding the nature of these new additions to the home-video library. The appeal to the rest of us is no reason to feel guilty pleasure regarding this nostalgia reminder of how the advent of direct-to-video facilitated making movies such as this.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

'Bigger Like Me' DVD: Smaller Than the Average Bear

Breaking Glass Pictures continues its limited dickumentary series with the April 9, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 non-fiction film "Bigger Like Me." This self-described extended director's cut of the 2014 film "Big Like Me" further chronicles the efforts of comedian Greg Bergman to remedy endowment-based angst. 

"Bigger" is most akin to the (reviewed) 2013 Breaking DVD release "Unhung Hero." That one involves actor Patrick Moote dealing with the same anxiety as Bergman and taking comparable remedies to improve the Marco Rubio-sized hand that he is dealt. Comparing the two films is akin to the decades-long "Bewitched" v. "Jeannie" and "Munsters" v. "Addams Family" debate, One thing that can be stated with certainty is that Moote is much safer than Bergman in the f**k, marry, or kill game. 

Although Moote is less crude and explicit in discussing his endowment and in showing what he is packing than Bergman, it seems clear that the latter has a couple of inches in both length and width than his "little buddy" at the start of their journey.

Another difference is that a size-related humiliating rejection of a marriage proposal motivates the desire of Moote to transform his earth worm into a water moccasin. Bergman being in an overall happy marriage at the beginning of "Bigger" shows that he is packing enough heat to  adequately satisfy his wife. That relationship becoming rocky later in the film reflects the wisdom of gay columnist Dan Savage in "Unhung." He states that angst about not measuring up can harm a relationship more than falling on the lower end of the bell-end curve. 

We also see that 32 year-old Bergman is his own worst enemy; he explicitly states that his natural endowment respectably falls in the "average bear" category regarding both length and width. This guy who spends much of the film naked or only wearing tiny briefs never addresses that losing 50 pounds both would make his junk look proportionately bigger and make him overall more attractive. This is not to mention how manscaping would benefit him. His aforementioned unduly assertive personality is another matter. 

Noting the SPOILER that Bergman succeeds in becoming a bigger man is done to show that this prompts him to fully embrace the "if you got it, flaunt it" philosophy. He repeatedly drops trou to his ankles in very public settings without receiving any encouragement to do so. A silly aspect of this is that having to artificially enhance size is not a point of pride. This sincerely is not to say that the chosen people should go around showing passers-by and new acquaintances how either God or heredity has blessed them.

Another way of thinking about this is that most men whose endowment is a valid point of pride generally follow the "speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy. There is something to be said for providing Mr. or Ms. Right (or Mr. or Ms. Right Now) a (hopefully pleasant) surprise during an initial unveiling in the boudoir. 

On a similar note, Bergman shows very poor taste regarding repeated displays of dildos. Having one frequently sticking out of his backpack is bad enough. Numerous woman on the street interviews in which he uses three of these devices in a "Goldilocks" style survey is MUCH more creepy than funny. 

A DVD bonus deleted scene in which Bergman engages in the above poll in an interview with a surprisingly willing and candid 16 year-old Mennonite girl clearly shows why this exchange does not make the cut even in the extended version. 

Scenes in which Bergman and his college-aged little brother openly discuss their endowments and repeatedly wave around the aforementioned marital aids is only slight less creepy than the aforementioned exchanges. 

A bigger pet peeve relates to statistics. Early in the film, Bergman joins an organized group of men who formally identify themselves as being among the 55 percent of the male population that is unhappy with their penis size. Bergman goes on to state the goal of every man becoming a one-percenter. The obvious flaw regarding that statement is that virtually every man packing a Magnum would make that size the norm, rather than the except to the rule. 

The bottom line regarding all this is that Bergman is sure to entertain fans of Howard Stern and other abrasive raunchy humor. He is a cautionary tale to the rest of us in the form of showing the perils of obsessing about a perceived physical flaw. Our "average Joe" would have been much better off accepting his lot in life and understanding the concept of "TMI."

Briefly returning to "Hero," Moote succeeds where Bergman fails because this presumed member of the "Fantastic Four" has a more legitimate issue than his fellow comedian. Further, Moote displays better humor and perspective. As the aforementioned reference to the game of three indicates, size is not the only thing that matters. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

'Sam Benedict' CS DVD: Tales of Compassionate Real-Life Trial Attorney

The Warner Archive complete-series DVD release of the 1962-63 NBC legal drama "Sam Benedict" shows the value of good source material. Although the cases are fictional, the titular celebrity San Francisco attorney is based on real-life legal eagle/series consultant Jacob W. Ehrlich. The recommended companion release this time is the (reviewed) Archive complete-series DVD set of the 1963-65 drama "Mr. Novak." That fellow quasi-anthology series revolves around the titular rookie teacher typically trying to have a positive impact on a different student in each episode. 

A particularly special aspect of this series is an early episode being in color. The best speculation is that this is part of an NBC promotion to encourage viewers to purchase color sets. 

That guy who was in that thing Edmond O'Brien stars as essentially sole practitioner Benedict. Secretary extraordinaire Trudy Wagner is his Della Street. Rookie attorney Hank Tambor is more of a tenant than an associate. 

The "Benedict" pilot perfectly reflects the spirit of the series. The first challenge facing Benedict is defending a client in a murder trial in which 12 angry men are a hung jury. This provides context for the presiding judge to lecture the "peers" and the audience about the nature of jury deliberations.

On a personal note, the sudden death of a friend presents our hero with a moral predicament. The spendthrift brother of the deceased wants his payoff before the dearly departed is put to rest. On top of that, this sibling is fighting the legal right of the adopted daughter of the dead man to get a piece of the estate. The well-know lesson regarding this is that death brings out the worst in people; the rest of the story is that procrastinating about keeping a will up-to-date can haunt your heirs. 

Another early episode is especially Hitchcockian. Benedict is defending the daughter of a long-time family friend in a trial for the murder of her husband. The debate between client and attorney regarding whether to present an insanity defense provides context for discussing when a mental incapacity is a mitigating factor in a legal proceeding. The dramatic climax shows the consequences of repression.

Mental capacity also is an issue when a young widowed Japanese immigrant battles the parents of her late husband for custody of her unborn child. A primary issue here is the extent to which an apparent mental incapacity is attributable to limited English skills. Getting to the root of the problem is one of many instances of social commentary in this cerebral series that equally entertains and provokes thought. 

We additionally get a case of a cop killing the college-age son of a one-percenter. The issue extends beyond the validity of lethal force to a more basic dilemma. This career cop must decide whether invoking his Fifth Amendment right to keep his doughnut hole shut is worth the price of definitely losing his job. We also get a taste of the perfect storm that can result when a hair-trigger cop on the verge of burnout conflicts with an arrogant young punk. 

This opening statement on the merits of "Benedict" shows that the presented issues remain just as relevant and compelling more than 55 years later. The bigger lesson is that morons who do not learn from history are doomed to shell out big bucks to relive it in court. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

'Cola de Mono' DVD: Christmas Tale of Sexual Discovery

The TLA Releasing DVD of the 2018 film "Cola de Mono" likely wins the award for the most unusual and dark Christmas film ever. It combines the sexual awakening of teen boy Borja with heavy family drama and a very sad aspect of gay life.

The titular cocktail plays a major role regarding the central holiday celebration gone out of bounds in which secrets and repressed emotions come out. A few occasions on which text across the screen provides exposition includes a recipe for this beverage. 

Our story begins on a relatively happy note on Christmas Eve 1986; Hyperactive cinephile Borja is driving both mother Irene and slightly older brother Vicente crazy. One family issue is that Vicente is the golden boy, and both Mom and Bro are frustrated that Borja is so immature.

This family moves onto a holiday feast at which Borja becomes a bigger nuisance in proportion to the number of Cola de Mundos that he consumes. This bratty behavior includes teasing Vicente about plans to go out to meet a "friend."

The family then goes their separate ways as Ireme passes out, closeted Vicente goes to a woodsy gay cruising area, and our excitable boy continues drinking and getting restless.

Borja shows that he hates closed doors more than cats by breaking into the room of Vicente. Surprising himself regarding his response to the porn that he finds makes him aware that he and his brother are more alike than he believed.

Vicente coming back from a negative cruising experience and finding his brother both spent and red-handed leads to one form of sibling drama that leads to additional bonding. Things then taking a very dark turn provides more proof that "Cola" is not a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. 

The movie breaks with tradition by ending with a scene several years after the depicted events, rather than by beginning with those events and flashing back to the aforementioned celebration. 

These scenes mostly are of the primary '90s venue for anonymous gay sex. They also show that things have come a long way since the '80s,

We then move to a scene that provides a few forms of closure regarding arguably the most memorable Christmas in the history of the family.

Aside from offering a compelling story, all this adds depth in the form of  comments on the "nature v. nurture" debate regarding homosexuality and shows that history repeats itself.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

'Kwicky Koala' CS DVD: Tex Avery Swan Song

Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs. 

The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.

Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg."  Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.") 

"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."

The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage. 

We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food. 

The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land. 

John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.

A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.

The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey. 

Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.

All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.

Friday, April 26, 2019

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned From '70scoms

The current analytical thinking that leads to detours from reviews into Blogland shows that the underlying premise of Unreal TV is flawed. Unreal TV 1.0, which has evolved into Matt Nelson Reviews, is based on the idea that we need "unreal" sitcoms and other non-fiction fare to escape our cold cruel world. The actual truth is that we need '70scoms as our model for life.

Anyone with even advanced-beginner knowledge of television history knows that '50scoms typically revolve around suburban nuclear families in which every member presents a mostly idealized version of his or her real-life counterpart. This leads to the mid '60s in which a combination of greater awareness of our society, the Vietnam War, and the increasing popularity of the counter-culture give rise to "freakcoms." The outside may be a hillbilly living in a mansion, a New York lawyer living among hicks, a clan (or two) of monsters in suburbia, a struggling rock band living in a beach house, or a genie or a witch co-habitating with her fella. 

The ''70s give rise to arguably the most realistic era of sitcoms. The lead is out in the workplace that typically is part of the story. Significant others who survive the TV Land purge of spouses  are almost as likely to bring home some bacon. 

The '80s represent the Cheese Age of television in which '70scoms jump the shark and become cartoonish versions of their former glory. The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer notes that this is the period in which the Norman Lear groundbreaker "The Jeffersons" largely has Louise Jefferson and neighbor/best friend Helen Willis play cheap copies of Lucy and Ethel.

The new kids on the block mostly are silly fun with little or no substance. Of course, Fox entering the picture in this era contributes to this.

The '90s become the era of urban "friends" living in apartments that their real-life counterparts can only dream of affording. The better news is that the subgenre of gaycoms paves the way for marriage equality and other 21st century advances.

The 2000s are the "Two-and-a-Half Men" and "How I Met Your Mother era of crass and crude sitcoms that rely on shock value for laughs. The 2010s seem to be a free-for-all.

The reason for this recap is to show that '70scoms is the only one that (as intended) most realistically reflects the American life of the era. The bad news is that things have greatly changed for the worst; the good news is that that we can change back.

The two '70scoms that first come to mind when thinking of the fare of the era are "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show." It is interesting that the former Tyler Moore series "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of the first that literally and figuratively gives the workplace and the home equal time. 

Starting close to home, it is nice to see folks who reasonably resemble the people in our lives. Further, reel-life friends and neighbors are not always so nice but at least are never toxic. The sad truth is that many people in 2018 start from a neutral stance but are quick to resentment and related anger. This is assuming that you even interact with the boy or girl next door. 

A public encounter from the era of the 2000 presidential election that can be considered the beginning of the end of civility in America perfectly illustrates how far we have fallen since the '70s.

I have worn red polo shirts all my life without incident until randomly wearing one to the Michael Moore anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 911." Despite paying money to see a movie that is critical of Dubya and not having uttered a syllable in the theater, I soon became the object of active scorn based on my attire.

The first absurd aspect of this is the assumption that the shirt is a declaration of being a Republican; the added insult is that this perfect stranger is a monster who deserves such an attack. The truth is that I am am independent who vocally advocates putting a moderate in the Oval Office.  BILL GATES IN 2020!

Moving onto the workplace, it is nice to see a fantasy world in which most people get along and even foes co-exist in relative peace. An amusing  real-life aspect is often joking to someone involved in long-term conflict with a co-worker is that the solution is to lock them together in the supply room overnight, The very apt reply is that the resulting ceasing of hostility only lasts a week.

The first part of the final act lesson regarding all this is that everyone should remember the importance of working and playing well with others that the aforementioned shows reflect. Part of this that these series also reflect is that you do not have to love thy neighbor or co-worker but  must show that person common courtesy at least until he or she figuratively throws the first punch; even then, turning the other cheek is tougher but still is the best option. 

The second part of the lesson is even more important; one big reason that we are in our current hostile state is that our candidates for federal offices increasingly run negative campaigns that greatly contribute to the divisive nature of our society. Haring someone based on a snap judgment that he is a Republican now justifies attacks based on a perception of being a "Have" even when not much actually is had.

A sadly amusing aspect of this is regularly overhearing employees at Target and virtually every other retail business complain about the "rich people" with whom they interact. The reality is that it is highly unlikely that anyone with incomes in the highest tax bracket even shop at these stores. 

The relative (and mostly achievable) Utopia of '70scoms is a world in which your core group is your support system and rarely the cause of stress. Further, you are judged based on on your inherent qualities and usually are literally and figuratively invited to the party so long as you are a decent and caring person. Sounds good (and attainable)  to me. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

'We Are Boats' DVD: Touched By A Working Girl Angel

Breaking Glass Pictures awesomely follows the trend of other theatrical and DVD studios regarding the March 26, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 indie drama "We Are Boats." These best friends to lovers of quality art-house films are further stepping up their game regarding making these hidden gems accessible to the general public. 

The following YouTube clip of a "Boats" trailer nicely conveys the surreal earthy of the film and introduces the heavenly cast. It is nice to see charming formerly teen goofball Boo Boo Stewart play a fun and compassionate adult.​

Our story begins with working girl Francesca being the victim of a type of harm that can befall members of the oldest profession in the world. This leads to her doing a walk without shame in the afterlife.

Writer/director James Bird of the (reviewed) fantabulous Breaking film "Honeyglue" puts his highly creative artistic talent to good use in making our not necessarily final destination look like Vermont in summer. 

The first afterlife lesson that Francesca learns is that the sweet relief of death does not include no longer enduring job interviews. She must go through the selection process for the position of a variation of a guardian angel. We also learn that having a personal horse in the race still can motivate seeking particular employment. In this case, Francesca is desperate for closure with her still-living daughter. 

This job entails returning to earth to help guide folks who are near death. One difference between this system and the more traditional one is that a death is not considered a loss. An even more cool aspect is the extent to which the presence of Francessca, who now is akin to a resident cat at a nursing home, is known to us mere mortals.

Francesca begins her first mission immediately on taking her quantum leap of faith back to earth. She very quickly hooks up in both senses of the word with Michael, who is a musician with an "its complicated" relationship with his wife. A more positive aspect of this is that Francesca helps ensure that Michael dies with a smile on his face. 

Francesca then boards an LA-bound bus to do her best to prevent the new widow from quickly joining her husband in Vermont. This journey connects her with fatally ill older man Cliff (Graham Greene). He is going to The City of Angels to make peace with his estranged daughter. Cliff also mentioning that he is estranged from his son for philosophical reasons is one of many indications that Bird supplies regarding things to come.

Our LA story begins with Steewart playing aptly named Taylor, who works at the vintage clothing store where the widow brings the duds of her late husband. Taylor also is the partner of a man who performs at anti-meat rallies with a female bartender who is engaged to Lucas. Luke Hemsworth (who is the Stephen, the Clint, or the Frank of the Hemsworth acting clan) plays Lucas. 

Lucas coerces a good friend from New York to assist with a plan that is designed to learn whether the bartender is keeping her no-charge dairy open in the days leading to the wedding.

Cliff showing up at the home of his daughter sets most of the action that provides the climax of "Boats" in motion. The ensuing trauma and drama validates the seven degrees of separation theory of life. This is not to mention the traditionally symbolic nature of the means by which those whose time has come move on to the next stage of existence. 

Breaking supplements all this with deleted scenes and 30 minutes of cast and crew interviews that show that those folks had as much fun making the film as we did watching it. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

'The Late Show' DVD: Carney and Tomlin Do Noir

The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto." 

The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart." 

This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving, 

The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).

The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel. 

The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.

Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene  Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.

Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case. 

More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade. 

Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it. 

Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore. 

Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

'Devil's Path' DVD: Horny Boys Face Peril in Wooded Cruising Area

The Breaking Glass Pictures March 12, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 neo-"Deliverance" film "Devil's Path" helps get horny gay sluts in the mood for spring; remember that (easily pulled down) short shorts and mesh belly-shirt season only is a few weeks away. On a higher level, this no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure tells an intriguing story and has some depth.

The accolades for this tale of two boys looking for a climax include a Best Supporting Actor award for Patrick portrayor JD Scalzo and a Best First Narrative Feature for writer/director Matthew Montgomery at the 2018 FilmOut San Diego festival, 

The following YouTube clip of a "Path" trailer provides a good sense of the style and the themes of our central lost boys.

The setting of a wilderness area that gay men frequent in an effort to find Mr. Right Now is familiar to guys who look for love (or lust) in all the wrong places and in too many facials. Country mouse Noah and the city mouse currently known as Patrick meet near the trailhead (pun intended) of the titular danger zone. This provides early depth in the form of Patrick representing the common gay stereotype who quickly shares his sexual fantasies and almost  as rapidly gets down to risky business but either lies about or refuses to tell less personal information such as his name and the general nature of his work.

Noah and Patrick then go into the woods with full knowledge of two men who enter that dark and forbidden area but never come out. The subsequent intercourse of our leads adds additional depth in the form of the declaration by Noah that he desires more than wham-bam-thank-you-Sir (or Daddy) and Patrick responding that the bears and the other woodland creatures are only there to hit it and quit it.

The plot thickens on Patrick about to dump Noah in favor of a good-time boy when Noah asks his new friend with potential benefits to hang back while he answers a call of nature. Patrick soon discovers Noah on the ground bleeding; the immediate aftermath of that incident prompts the local Yogi and BooBoo to take off in hot pursuit of Patrick and Noah.

Our boy in the hoodie revealing more about himself as he and Patrick play hide-and-seek for their lives provides additional depth. The lesson here is that the seemingly nice guy who is out cruising may have a not-so-hidden dark side, 

We learn of the almost literally dog-eat-dog tortured childhood of Noah; this relates to his being in the forest to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his brother who took one for the team. A related reveal is that Noah likes to watch.

The truth that fully comes out is genuinely surprising and once again proves that you never really know the guy whom you meet in the woods to get you some. Of course, this adds a new dimension to the head games that that often involves.

The bigger picture this time is that "Path" validates the theory that the degree of sexual content in a film is inversely related to its substance. Virtually nothing about the Noah/Patrick relationship either is erotic or sensual. Further, any flash of naughty bits is of the "blink and you'll miss it" variety.

The special features include extended interviews with the cast, the crew, and crew members who are in the cast. Crew member Steve Callahan gets the best line in referring to his Park Ranger Tom being horrible at his job. Another spoiler is that our leads are as endearing in real life as they are on the screen.