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Thursday, January 18, 2018

'Celling Your Soul: No App for Life' DVD: Very Timely Documentary on Only Communicating Digitally


[EDITOR'S NOTE: "Celling You Soul" currently only is available to educational markets but is being released to the general public in the not-to-distant future.]

The irony regarding abandoning the typical non-bloggy nature of reviews in this forum to get very bloggy regarding the Bullfrog Films production "Celling Your Soul: No App for Life" is that that film advocates inter-personal communication, rather than expressing yourself through digital forms that include online publications. More specifically, "Celling" writer/director Joni Siani (who is a Boston-area Media and Communication professor) instructs her students to conduct a digital cleanse that includes going cold turkey regarding online activity and texting. Candor requires being unable to not play online games, check Twitter, and conduct Google searches even while watching "Celling."

An amusing aspect of this is that the full-length version of "Celling" is 48 minutes, and the condensed version is 26 minutes. This reflects the text and vine-oriented short attention span of today. A two-hour movie is considered the general outer limit for length in the Nelson household; an agreement to watch a rare three-hour film often requires a pre-viewing agreement in which your not-so-humble reviewer consents to a mid-film break.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Celling" proves the adage about wisdom coming from the mouths of babes.


The root of this work by Siani is her realization that Millennials only know how to communicate via cell phones and the Internet. Her objectives include teaching the importance of face-to-face communication.

The spot-on analysis of Siani explains all this; the root of this evil largely relates to the need for community and for the instant gratification that online communication provides; I am confident that she will not "like" or "retweet" the 280-character online message related to this review and that her reason for doing is the pure one that she addresses in the film.

The next bloggy part of this post is a tale from roughly 2006. I had created a (subsequently deleted) Facebook account due to coercion by a techie friend. As he was inclined to do, this keyboard kid called my landline (which I still actively use) from his cell phone to say that he had posted an annual open-house style party that I attended every year and that he knew that I would attend that year. We went a few rounds of my telling him that I would attend and his demanding that I RSVP on Facebook. I ultimately relented but still believe that requiring that formal online response was absurd.

Of more relevance was hearing the college students of Siani and their literal or figurative high-school age siblings discuss texting being the highly dominant form of communication. An aspect of this was that making a call even on a cell phone was viewed as being limited to an emergency or other very rare circumstances.

Your not-so-humble reviewer feels that largely giving into the prohibition against making calls is losing one of the final battles to maintain civilization; the price of that was going from what once was a practice of short calls to what can be a seemingly endless round of "no, you hang up first" texts in which no one wants to be the rude dude who does not respond to a message.

A cautionary tale in "Celling" was one of the pure definitions of comedy in that it will forever be hilarious to every guy who sees the film and embarrassing to the one to whom it happened. This former high school soccer star/current college student started his story by stating that his former classmates would always know him as the guy who was expelled for sexting.

The brief story was that this guy was in high school when he sent his girlfriend an explicit photo of himself. The aforementioned humor related to the photo being sent to everyone, including under-age schoolmates, in his contact list. A hilarious aspect of this was this guy using the phone of his mother when the photo appeared on that device. The recipients also included his grandmother.

A more relateable story is of a guy who accidentally texted an unkind statement regarding someone to that person while in visual contact with that individual.

Happier stories include the success of the cleanse; being one who almost always succumbs to the temptation of going online on waking up at 3:00 a.m. envies the cleansers who report feeling more rested and having more free time than when tethered to their devices. The tragic story is that Siani will need to pry the Iphone from the cold dead hand of this online journalist.

Sorry Prof; folks who want to share thoughts regarding this review are strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Sorry again, but "likes" and "retweets" are valued. :-)




'Street Sharks' CS DVD: Jawsome Adventures of Teenage Mutant Ninja Frat Boys


Mill Creek Entertainment sinks its teeth into the campaign to introduce Millennials and Gen Zers to the spectacularness that is Saturday morning (and after-school) cartoons with the January 16, 2018 DVD & Digital CS release of the 1994-96 animated series "Street Sharks." This "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series for the older brothers of fans of those heroes on the half-shell are fintastic and should create a sharknado of excitement for fanboys everywhere.

The four titular shark-frat boys mutants are the Bolton Brothers, who are the sons of research scientist Dr. Bolton. These popular lads cover the gamut of post-adolescent males in having the studious genius, the jock, the slacker, and the skate rat.

The action-packed pilot begins with Bolton interrupting a nefarious genetic engineering experiment of university research colleague madman with an evil mind Dr. Paradigm. The ensuing confrontation leaves Bolton presumed dead only in the minds of folks unfamiliar with this scifi action-adventure super-hero animated series genre.

Paradigm then tricks our heroes into coming to his lab. He soon straps them down and continues his experiment with the goal of making them his super-powered henchsharks. Not adequately thinking things through results in these new mutants using their mad scientist given powers to break free and subsequently give Paradigm prolonged tremendous grief.

Following the scientific principle that each action has an equal and opposite reaction, Paradigm creates the first of two evil Seaviates to do his bidding. The third time is the charm in that the menacing Killamari (a squid hybrid who shoots lethal projectiles) soon joins his older brothers, who are a swordfish with a new-and-improved nose and a monster lobster. A late-comer to the party is more jawesome in that he is an eager volunteer with a grudge against our boys in sharkskin.

Although Paradigm/Moreau somewhat levels the playing field, he also learns that playing God involves a penalty. Unforeseen developments lead to his becoming the aptly named Dr. Piranoid.

Team Sharks also quickly gets some allies. Research assistant/double agent Lena continues working for Piranoid while secretly helping the boys. Honorary Bolton bro/valley boy genius Bends becomes the guy in the chair who invents the hi-tech gear (available in toy stores everywhere) that our heroes use in their quest to bring down their nemesis.

Future allies include a rocker who pays a high price for mooching and another pre-mutation Bolton chum who is the center of a cautionary whale of a tale about steroid use. Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that Dr. Bolton still is in the game.

The appeal of "Sharks" extends well beyond the amped-up college bros reveling in their new powers, such as shark dives that allow going underground and speeding down roads as their fins rip up the pavement above them. Most episodes are part of extended story arcs that compel marathon viewings. The first of these revolves around a Piranoid plot to literally poison the well (and the Kool-Aid) to create an army of Seaciates that he can control.

The S2 season-finale has the Sharks discover fellow good-guy mutants and get more news regarding their father. This sets the stage for things to get weird in S3. Copious time-travel is only the tip of the iceberg.

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








Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'My Art' Theatrical: Real-Life Mother of Lena Dunham Plays A Golden Girl of the Art World


Global indie film god Film Movement goes to the movies to bring the feature-film debut of acclaimed artist/real-life Lena Dunham mother Laurie Simmons to general audiences. The semi-autobiographical "My Art," which also can be considered "How Ellie Got Her Groove Back," currently is playing at the Quad Cinema in New York and opens in Los Angeles on January 19. Folks who cannot see "Art" on the silver screen can purchase the DVD starting January 30, 2018. One spoiler is that Darth Emo literally and figuratively is nowhere in the picture.

Producer/director/writer/star Simmons plays 62 year-old almost has it all artist Ellie Shine. She is a well-respected and well-liked New York art professor, has numerous good friends in the art world, and enjoys a mutual strong bond with her adorable aging dog Bing. The absence of a prominent career as an artist bothers her far more than never having had a human child or anyone putting a ring on it.

An early scene with Dunham both is very true to the persona of that "girl" and central to the theme of art. Dunham plays a highly successful former student of Ellie who is meeting this professor near the end of the academic year. The Dunham character complaining about the toll of being the current "it" artist clearly evokes mixed feelings in Ellie. This educator is very happy for her former student/current friend but also feel envious regarding not achieving the same fame.

This conversation also provides the context for the exposition that Ellie is spending the summer at the country house of one of her aforementioned celebrity artist friends. Her goals include artistic inspiration that is designed to reignite her soul and hopefully to garner her the 15 minutes of fame that has eluded her since the Carter administration.

Events early in the new adventure of Old Ellie shape the rest of the summer (and the life of our lead.) Watching vintage movies, meeting landscapers/actors Frank and Tom, and an "its complicated" relationship with romance-challenged attorney John inspire Ellie to focus her artistic energy on recreating scenes from classic films. The most bizarre of these odd videos aptly is from the Kubrick film "A Clockwork Orange."

Simmons puts her artistic talents and good film making instincts to good work in presenting this modified Midsummer Night's Dream in a positive light. Ellie brings a breath of fresh air to the small community and helps the repressed folks there greater enjoy their lives. This is especially true regarding the traditional euphoric end-of-the-summer blow-out before the real world invades.

"Art" deserves good credit for contributing to art returning to the movies; it is a character-driven story of a world populated by "real" people facing "real" issues. It also is thought-provoking in a positive sense regarding the role of older women in the art world and in general society. The main character seemingly following the philosophy that she needs a man as much as a fish needs a bicycle adds an interesting element.

This strong central woman and Simmons playing every major role on both sides of the camera further raises feminist issues. The fact that every woman in "Art" comes across better than every man (all of whom look foolish to a varying degree) may reflect the feminist viewpoint that women are the stronger sex or may be the response from watching "Art" from a male perspective. Of course, an alternate feminist perspective is that we all are equal. Either way, seeing "real" people on the silver (and 4K) screen is very nice.

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





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Teen Titans' S1 BD: Robin and His Merry Misfits

Warner Archive rewards fanboys who survived January 2018 super-villain level events in the forms of a Bombcyclone, record-smashing arctic blasts, and massive wildfires (not to mention a false missile alert) with the January 23, 2018 Blu-ray release of  the 2003 "Teen Titans" S1. As the awesome copious special features for this release illustrate, the best brains and the voice talent who bring this comic book about a quartet of adolescent super heroes to vivid life do it out of clear love for the characters. Voice actor god Greg Cipes IS beast boy.

The combination of putting fnaboys in charge and the concept of superheroes with stereotypical teen personalities is a recipe for success. Speaking as a clear Beast Boy who hates hurting feelings and who enjoys being the class clown, we see ourselves and our family and friends in the characters. This element and equally relatable incidents that include a prank war with collateral damage, arguments over losing the remote, squabbles regarding chores, etc. make "Titans" MUCH more than a show in which a super-villain hatches an evil scheme, the heroes spring into action, the tables turn in favor of the bad guy, and things work out in the end.

Former Batman sidekick/ward Robin leads this team that lives, loves, and squabbles in the T-shaped Titan Tower. He brings his leadership skills and mad martial arts skills to the table.

Star power having its privileges scores Robin the most prominent role regarding episodes that highlight our heroes. He is primary motive for a season-long campaign by (initially) mysterious super-villain Slade. This Vader goes as far as almost literally poisoning the well to get this young knight to embrace the dark side. A line in the epic two-parter "The Apprentice" in which Robin states while battling Slade that he already has a (apparently dead-beat) father says it all regarding these foes.

Alien princess Starfire fully reflects the Americanized anime style of "Titans." Her powers include flight and the ability to project harmful energy beams. Her squeaky-voice and innocent girl (including eyes that occasionally turn into hearts) persona evoke strong thoughts of Japanese cartoons. She offers good humor regarding limited understanding of English and even less comprehension of our expressions and mores. Her infectious glee at discovering that cotton candy is not made out of thread is a highlight.

Starfire gets her episode early on when the joy of her sister literally coming down to earth for a surprise visit turns out to not be a good thing. The "Brady Bunch" element of this is that Sis wins over the Titans at the apparent cost of their friendship with Starfire. The more serious threat is that the bad seed brings down literally cosmic justice on our naive group.

Aforementioned fave Beast Boy is the little brother of the group; this green guy who can transform at will into an land, aerial, or aquatic animal has the mentality and energy of a 13 year-old but the heart of a lion.

Beast Boy also gets a strong story in that a series of unfortunate circumstances leads to the group teaming up with dreamy Aqua Lad. This triggers intense jealousy by Boy, who considers himself the Prince of the Sea regarding his group.

Cyborg is the literal jock in the group. He is a former high school football star whose massive injury prompts (arguably misguided) paternal love to make him a super-powered half teen-half robot despite his futile resistance.

Cyborg putting the needs of his many friends above his individual need to literally recharge his batteries leads to him being rescued. The rub is that the well-meaning savior is intent on removing every human element of Cyborg. (A hint is that issuing the command "sleep" is not going to cut it this time.)

Raven is a goth who also literally is a demon; being a team player by using her black magic powers for good does not prevent her from being sullen or becoming particularly annoyed at the exuberance of Beast Boy.

Raven gets the most surreal "Heavy Metal" episode in that a spat with Beast Boy leads our emo boy to enter the forbidden territory of her room. This leads to learning much more about her than Boy ever imagined that he would and getting a sense of the wide scope of daddy issues.

The arguably best S1 episode incorporates the most entertaining elements of "Titans." "Mad Mod" finds the gang trapped in a psychedelic fantasy world in which the titular big bad is Hell-bent on brainwashing them. The numerous chase scenes (complete with music by theme singers Puffy Ami Yumi) through doors, halls, and stairways is a groovy homage to "Scooby-Doo." Having the cure to the brainwashing of Beast Boy involve wonderfully silly immature humor is spectacular.

On a larger level, "Mod" makes perfect use of what the behind-the-scenes folks describe as the the bugged-out eyes, greatly exaggerated expressions in response to stimuli, etc that reflect the classic style of Tex Avery.

Proving that imitation is the highest form of flattery, "Titans" sets the stage for Marvel to produce "Ultimate Spider-Man" in 2012. The same bickering and co-habitation issues face Spidey and his posse; even the Tex Avery style survives.

The aforementioned copious extras include discussions of casting the voice actors and directly hearing from the mouths of those equines. We further get Robin interviewing Puffy Ami Yumi and a separate feature of the music video for "Titans" by that duo. Archive ends this with the two-part pilot of the anime series "The Hiros" about a crime-fighting couple. The all-star cast in this one includes Grey "Daphne" DeLisle, Phil "Hermes" (and "Static")  LaMarr, and Tom "Spongebob" Kenny.

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



'All Yours' DVD: Rent Boy Becomes Indentured Sex Servant at Bakery


This entry in an ongoing series of reviews on vintage DVD releases from Breaking Glass Pictures hits the Breaking trifecta. The May 2015 release of the 2014 Belgian drama "All Yours" is edgy, tackles a controversial subject well, and shows that the gay experience is no different than that of the remaining roughly 90 percent of the general population.

The Breaking legacy of this film about 20-something Argentinian hustler Lucas using his mancam activity in his native land to seduce grossly overweight "daddy" Belgian baker Henry to pay his way to Belgium begins with the similarly themed (Unreal TV reviewed) "Bwoy" starring current "Star Trek: Discovery" lead Anthony Rapp; this commonality goes on to center around topics that are just as controversial as the loving gay brotherly incest in the (also reviewed) Breaking film "Godless."

The numerous accolades for "Yours" include best picture awards at the 2014 Cheries-Cheris festival and the 2015 Milan International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The primary relatable element this time is not sexual; it reflects the reality of families inviting feral 18-22 year olds into their homes to work as au pairs or support staff for a year in exchange for an opportunity to live for free in another country. The almost inevitable conflict quickly erupts when the student realizes the extent of the expected work and the family realizes that foreign post-adolescents are not any more responsible or hard working than their domestic peers. In other words, both sides soon discover their incompatible mutual goals of getting the largest possible benefit for the smallest possible investment of financial or sweat equity.

The central conflict in "Yours" is that Henry reasonably thinks that buying Lucas a plane ticket and pledging to provide him room and board purchases a partner in bed and a bakery apprentice. For his part, Lucas seems to think that he is adequately young and cute to get away with doing minimal work and occasionally having sex with Henry.

The figurative rude awakening for our boys comes on Lucas freaking out on discovering that he does not have his own bedroom as apparently promised. His first literal rude awakening comes in the middle of the night when Henry humiliating begs him just to sleep together; another rude awakening comes very early the next morning when Henry and Lucas must begin work in the bakery,

Reality once again sets when Lucas has a series of mishaps at the bakery; the most discouraging one for him to experience and for the audience to watch is to see him struggle with a huge mass of bread dough that may outweigh him. However, the award for best scene set at the bakery goes to a sequence in which a gleeful Henry sings about his love for military men while pirouetting around in a manner very reminiscent of the ballet dancing hippos in the Disney film "Fantasia."

The scene with the bread dough become particularly symbolic later in the film. Lucas finds himself massaging the mounds of fat on the back of Henry in an effort to appease that sugar daddy.

The many complications that strain this personal relationship based on money extend well beyond Henry lacking the sensitivity required to deal with a young prostitute who essentially finds himself imprisoned far from home. Lucas developing a friendship (and hoping for more) with young bakery cashier/single mother Audrey greatly complicates things.

Writer/director David Lambert truly shines regarding this triangle in a series of scenes set at an arcade. Henry rebuffing a request from Lucas for a nominal sum requires that this young man whom the audience already knows does not suck dick for the fun of it literally take a (very ugly) one for the team under exceptionally humiliating circumstances. This leads to Lucas making an even larger sacrifice to fund an evening out with Audrey.

The copious additional drama that ensues also affects the Henry/Lucas relationship in manners that often lead to one of the men being desperate enough to make a grand gesture to the other one. This culminates in a development that changes everything in a completely unexpected manner.

The impact of all this stems from the characters largely being real. Middle-aged people all along the sexual spectrum find themselves alone, and many of them crave the company of someone younger and cuter than them. For their part, these younger and cuter folk are willing to doing things to varying extents to get the benefits that older less cute people provide. Somewhere in the middle are folks who simply strive to provide their kids a good home and who feel that they must be careful about whom they let in their lives.

Breaking further stays true to form in including an apt short film with "Yours." The 2009 Lambert short film "Live a Bit Longer" opens with a cute young gay couple in bed only to have one of he boys have to get up to help his father downstairs in the family bakery. That leads to a scene in which the father walks in on the boyfriend at that worst possible time that is hilarious to the audience because it happens to someone else.

This rude awakening leads to the father and the boyfriend awkwardly bonding in a scene that involves very symbolic use of a scale.

Both films having strong live-stage vibes reinforces the skill of Lambert at communicating his vision to both his cast and the audience.

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







Monday, January 15, 2018

'Pump Up the Volume' Christian Slater Shows He Knows Jack About Pirate Radio


Warner Archive proves that it knows its fan-tastic audience regarding the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1990 Christian Slater drama "Pump Up the Volume." The same Gen Xers whose love of the Golden and Silver Ages classics that comprise a large portion of the Archive catalog comes from watching these gems on PBS and independent stations during the weekends in the '70s and the '80s loves discovering the outsider/Jack Nicholson persona of Slater in "Heathers" in 1988 that he repeats in "Volume."

This dark version of "The Breakfast Club" centers around transplanted New Yorker new boy in town Mark Hunter, who has a very unhappy existence in the obviously planned Arizona community where his father moves his family to take a job as the school superintendent. Picturing Jack Nicholson living in an neighborhood in which there is no divorce, every lawn is perfect, and a picket fence borders every identical lot provides good insight in to the psyche of Mark.

Bespectacled mild-mannered loner student Mark gets his outlet in a manner very consistent with the paranoia-inducing propaganda "Its 10:00 o'clock; do you know where your children are?" This Clark Kent by day and capeless crusader Hard Harry Hardon by night chooses this time to remove his glasses and fire up his shortwave radio set. (Harry does symbolically keep his glasses on for one broadcast.)  He then uses his illegal pirate radio signal to become the voice of his peers.

This free-wheeling show discusses the unhappiness of Harry in his new surroundings, standard topics of teen angst, and the sins of the administrations at Hubert H. Humphrey High where he quickly becomes a Triple H threat.

Additional entertainment value comes from playing music guaranteed to give Tipper Gore a fit and providing narration of frantic masturbation session by this announcer who chokes his lizard.

Teen idol Harry increasingly inspiring graffiti, questioning of authority, and other rebellious acts at school proportionately pumps up the campaign to pull his plug.

A somber aspect of this involves a tragedy regarding which Harry plays a role. This incident aptly sobers Harry but does not stop the signal for very long.

All of this escalates to a frantic chase between a then mobile Harry and FCC tracking vehicles. Seeing James Hampton of "F Troop" play aptly named overwhelmed FCC executive Arthur Watts is a fun aspect.

The appeal of all this extends beyond seeing Slater utilize the persona that best suits him to the film raising timeless issues and prompting thought. Further, the end is a mixed bag of successes in that not everyone gets a happy ending but some justice is achieved.

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



Saturday, January 13, 2018

'One Big Home' DVD: Tale of 'Natives' v. 'Immigrants' on Martha's Vineyard Good Guide for Newburyport


Bullfrog Films continues giving indie documentarians the forum their labors of love deserve with the November 2017 DVD release of "One Big Home" by Thomas Bena.

Bena engages in one of the world's oldest professions of going from carpenter to activist by trading in his hammer for a camera in response to his increasing distress regarding collaborating with transforming Martha's Vineyard from the natural retreat that compels him and many other people who fall fairly far on the counter-culture end of the societal scale to live there into a McMansion laden vacation spot for one-percenters.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Home" provides visual proof of the scope of the issue; what seem to be sandbags on the shore below one of the included large houses indicates the issue of the probability of this construction making it likely that the owner ultimately will own vacation property in Atlantis.


The best segment in this educational and entertaining film is a 20-minute bonus interview that is a DVD extra. While conducting a follow-up interview with local architect Peter Breese four years after completing "Home," Breese states the truism of any film of this nature that it raises valid issues but still is "documentary propaganda." This reflects the oft-stated Unreal TV tenet that even productions that support your perspective are propaganda.

An opening scene in which Bena makes a visit to a construction site seem like a wartime reconnaissance mission only to be chased on off in a moderately threatening manner is a prime example (and a Michael Moore staple) of the point of Breese. Another nice aspect of this interview is that it is civil on both sides, and Breese states that the film prompts him to reconsider his prior viewpoint that the client is entitled to what the client wants and that building a home of any size allows an architect to see his or artistic vision come to life.

The impact of "Home" should be greatest on those who share the love of the undeveloped and small-town aspect of Martha's Vineyard. The most relevant personal experience regarding this relates to a particular find during an August 2015 visit. This exciting discovery is a literally tree-lined street of relatively small early 20th-century cottages that a church group apparently controls. Most doors were open and most of the congenial occupants were on their front porches. This is the spirit of the island.

The overall build-up of retail shops is less good, but gems remain. One location allows fans of 50s-style grocery stores to see one. A sense of community comes in lining up 30 minutes ahead to buy ultra-fresh tasty tasty doughnuts from a local shop.

Maintaining extended eye contact with a seal in the harbor is another highlight.

The story of the over-development of Martha's Vineyard also is highly relevant to the same trend in Newburyport, which is an upscalish tourist destination/former long-term home of your not-so-humble reviewer. The fact that the mostly working-class folks whose history with Newburyport dates back to the '50s or early call the "rich jerks" who are responsible for gentrifying the town "immigrants" speaks volumes. They face the Martha's Vineyard problem of their ancestral community no longer being affordable for them and their children.

A second personal experience nicely illustrates a primary point of Bena and further shows that Father (often) knows best. I had found a house that I really liked but was concerned that it was on the outskirts of Newburyport and asked my father for advice regarding it. He asked in a friendly manner why I wanted to live in Newburyport, and my response included that it was because of the (now diminishing) quaintness of the downtown. He then responded that I wanted to live in Newburyport because it was not like every place else.

The conversation with Dad both prompted limiting my search to the historic district and ultimately to purchase a house roughly 1/2 mile from the aforementioned retail district. That aspect of moving is the second most missed part of no longer living there; not being able to visit dog friends at those business is first.

Ongoing efforts by Newburyport pro-development "Mayor-For-Life" Donna Holaday to facilitate a mixed-use development by the local MBTA commuter rail (i.e., Trans-Siberian Railroad) station perfectly illustrates the risk of this smallest city in Massachusetts further losing its appeal and the conflicting positions that are at the heart of "Home."

Many TSR stations have the proposed developments, all of which look very similar; the prospect of coming home from Boston to a station that looks like every other stop along the line was distressing. The current certainty of a large bus terminal right downtown is even worse.

The parallels between the Vineyard and Newburyport are obvious from the beginning of "Home." Bena documenting a protest targeted at preventing a MacDonalds on the island is comparable to a failed effort to block a Starbucks in Newburyport.

The Newburyport aspect of this review concludes with summarizing the efforts to curtail the same types of "evils" on which "Home" focuses. These undesirable practices include infilling by building a second home on a lot on which only one has stood for 100 years or more, converting single-family homes into condos, and demolishing historic homes to construct new ones.

The copious aerial maps in "Home" objectively show both how building the large seasonal homes displaces the more proportionate houses in the area and reduces the undeveloped portions of the island.

Many of the talking heads in "Home" are the friends (including fellow carpenters) and neighbors of Bena who share his views. His two heavy-hitter interviewees are seasonal residents Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" fame and director Doug Liman of "The Bourne Identity" and "Swingers."

Bena allows both sides to have their say and includes a segment on an "immigrant" who successfully restores rather than tears down and expands. We further see that the one-percenters are not evil and have many valid reasons for building their homes; it is arguable that an eight-car garage is excessive on a very walkable and bikeable island on which a ferry is the only means for bringing a car from the mainland.

The underlying conflict on Martha's Vineyard, in Newburyport and the numerous other communities facing the issue of the aspects that make a town desirable prompting development that hinders those elements is the right of the "haves" to use their wealth in a legal manner that gives them pleasure versus the privilege of the "have lesses" to maintain their quality of life. The fact that Bena and Breese calmly discuss the relevant issues provides hope that we all can get just along.

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


'Architects of Denial' DVD: Dean Cain & Montel Williams Documentary on Century-Long Impact of Denying Armenian Genocide


The December 12, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Architects of Denial" by Film Movement division Omnibus Entertainment deserves praise for shining a spotlight on the issue of the ongoing impact of of the titular failure to acknowledge the Turkish government 1915 genocide of Armenians. It should be indisputable that the mass killing of a population simply for being that population is reprehensible; it is equally true that most individuals and institutions continue engaging in malicious and horrendous behavior until adequate penal and preventative measures occur.

The star power behind this film literally includes Superman. "The Adventures of Lois and Clark" star Dean Cain is a co-executive producer with talk show host Montel Williams. The numerous talking heads include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

"Architects" goes above and beyond regarding its subject by doing more than providing the context for the central mass extermination and including the grisly footage that is an important element of this film. Director David Lee George shows how the value of good relations with Turkey motivates the governments of the United States and other world powers to go along with the leaders of that country in denying that the events of 1915 occurred and in asserting that Turks in Azerbaijan are not continuing the inexcusable murdering and raping of Armenians based on the same irrational prejudice in the 21st century.

Footage in "Architects" shows every president from at least Clinton through Trump courting the favor of the then-leader of Turkey; additional scenes show numerous members of Congress either denying the genocide or clumsily skirting the issue.

The proof that George presents extends well beyond the aforementioned disturbing images. Survivors of the 1915 genocide and subsequent attacks tell their stories, which include a rape purposefully committed in front of the mother of the victim. We further learn the results of scholarly research and see written proof.

A particular segment deserves special praise. Recent separate non-Movement documentaries comparing the evils of plastic products and of corporate-owned grocery stores to the atrocities of Nazi Germany has created strong feelings regarding that tactic. Thus, seeing footage of Hitler in "Architects" initially prompts dread; learning that he reasoned that the Turkish government successfully denying the Armenian genocide and never being held accountable for it emboldened him regarding the Holocaust tremendously justified playing that card.

The certainty regarding the topic extends to Turkey not being held accountable for these mass killings playing a role in them continuing; there also is concrete proof of a link with Hitler. Less certainty exists regarding the scope of this influence. It seems tenuous to argue that a group that is planning genocide relies on Turkey largely getting away with that tactic. One must remember that the Nazi defense of only following orders lacks a high success rate.

The larger issue is that the world continues turning a blind eye to some of the worst events in human history. The good news is that documentaries such as "Architects" increase the scrutiny of such collaboration; the bad news is that much of the world still only pays attention if the information is presented in a Hollywood blockbuster starring a hunky Hollywood A-Lister known for promoting social causes.

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







Friday, January 12, 2018

'Strictly Dishonorable' DVD: Warner Archive Double Feature of Two Films of Preston Sturges Play


Warner Archive terrifically goes old school in returning to its roots of (often simultaneously) releasing multiple versions of classic films; the November 28, 2017 single release of the 1931 and 1951 versions of the Preston Sturges film "Strictly Dishonorable" harkens back to the (reviewed) separate Archive releases of the Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer versions of "The Last of Mrs. Cheney." Both "Dishonorable" films are based on the Sturges Broadway hit of the same name.

The general "Dishonorable" story is that transplanted Southern belle Isabelle and loutish Jersey boy fiance Henry stop by a '20s-era New York speak easy only to have Isabelle stranded there at the mercy of the literally resident opera singer/Lothario. Although trying to decide which version is "better" is akin to asking a parent to identify a favorite child. The 1931 version likely is truer to the play, but the 1951 film is more amusing.

The 1931 "Dishonorable" has the live-stage vibe that reflects early films. Opening scenes have Isabelle and Henry bickering in a car and retired Judge Dempsey (Hollywood royalty Lewis Stone) arriving at the aforementioned watering hole with an intent to go to his upstairs apartment but succumbs to the temptation to stay downstairs for one drink. Our unhappy couple and famed opera singer Tino "Gus" Caraffa arrive in due course.

The ensuing hilarity leads to Isabelle recognizing Gus as her idol and ultimately infuriating Henry to the extent that she experiences the aforementioned dilemma. This leads to Gus convincing her to engage in the "dishonorable" act of sleeping in his upstairs apartment. This, in turn, prompts what is not necessarily an indecent proposal.

The 1951 version seems more typical of Sturges films that include the (reviewed) awesome "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and the even more spectacular "Sullivan's Travels." As the text on the back cover of the "Dishonorable" DVD explains, shifting much of the focus to the opera career of "Gus" reflects a desire to utilize the exceptional singing talent of Ezio Pinza of "South Pacific" fame. Casting Janet Leigh as Isabelle proves that she is equally adept at broad comedy and drama.

This one pays indirect homage to "Citizen Kane" in having Gus brutalize a horrible aspiring opera singer at the risk of incurring the wrath of her tabloid-owning husband, who does not hesitate to use the power of his press to ruin his enemies. The blatant yellow journalism directed at Gus is funny because it sadly is true.

Isabelle literally enters the scene as an extra whose case of being star struck leads to hilariously almost literally bringing down the house. This leads to her coercing Henry into driving to the aforementioned gin joint so she can apologize to Gus. Smelling a honey trap prompts Gus to play along to the extent of making an honest woman of Isabelle.

The twist this time is that Isabelle wants to stand by her man and enlists the aid of "Mama" in this campaign. Her obstacles include public opinion and a designing woman with a powerful friend.

Common memorable moments from both films presumable date back to the stage play. The strongest "true dat" scene has a now unlikable Henry comment that every man is on his best behavior until putting a ring on it justifies reverting to his actual loathsome self. On the other side, Henry also points out that Southern belles mistakenly believe that the sun only rises to please them.

The bigger picture is that both films are sufficiently entertaining and different to warrant an awesome double feature.

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



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Jerry Lewis Triple Feature Highlights Some of the Best Post Dean Martin Films


Mill Creek Entertainment goes above and beyond in its mission to celebrate the best of vintage entertainment regarding the January 16, 2018 "Comedy Triple Feature" release that includes three Jerry Lewis films from his post Dean Martin period. A particularly awesome aspect of this film festival is that it honors the '70s-era Sunday afternoon programming strategy of independent stations. These local wonders would run a triple feature of movies that often had a leitmotif.

Other awesomeness relates to these films being from an era in which Lewis (mostly) abandons his high-pitched hyperactive tween persona for that of an adult. He still has the wonderfully goofy charm that makes him an icon in France but tones things down.

"Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River" (1968) has Lewis playing American entrepreneur in London George Lester. This fast-talker convinces sophisticated British beauty Pamela to marry him but drives her away by devoting most of his time to his perpetual chain of get-rich-quick schemes. The most shagadelic enterprise has Lester turning his English manor marital home into a mod Chinese restaurant/swinging night club.

The central two-birds-one-stone scheme that Lester hopes will get his spousal bird to return home to roost involves an elaborate plot to steal a valuable innovation that the current significant other of Pamela owns. British national treasure Terry-Thomas (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World") plays the dirty rotten scoundrel who is the partner-in-crime of Lester.

This Lester's Two heist requires a hilarious break-in, torturing a dupe who serves as an unknowing mule, obtaining the purloined plans on the other side, and completing the sale to the chic buyer without literally or figurative losing their heads.

This being a Lewis movie requires that things fully go comically awry and have the tables turn a few times before Lester gets the girl and otherwise comes out as well as possible.

"Hook, Line & Sinker" (1969) is notable for many reasons that include the film using several sets from the classic sitcom "Bewitched" and for being a PERFECT example of a 60s-era screwball comedy. Much of this vibe is attributable to '60s TV god Rod Amateau of series such as "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and the (unfairly maligned) "My Mother the Car" being the writer. One aspect of this is the narrative beginning at the effective end of the story and the tale being told in the form of the Lewis character narrating the experiences that lead to the present.

Lewis plays burned-out mid-level insurance company drone Peter J. Ingersoll, who escapes the pressures of work, family, and home ownership by fishing most Sundays. His chaotic life is fully turned upside down when his physician/best friend Scott Carter tells him that he has a terminal disease for which Carter lacks a pill.

Ingersoll initially is elated when wife Nancy (Anne Francis of "Forbidden Planet" and "Honey West") convinces him to live his remaining days to the fullest courtesy of misuse of purloined corporate credit cards. The true motivation of Nancy that is revealed roughly halfway through the film will ring familiar to the scads of real-life spouses who experience the same situation.

Ingersoll goes on to live his personal bachelor's paradise of wine, women, and fish until he discovers that his life expectancy is much longer than believed when his journey begin. This leads to an effective next year in Tel Aviv scheme that goes awry in a manner that produces other change.

"3 On a Couch" (1966) is the one of this trilogy that best reflects the transition from the Martin and Lewis films to the solo career of our star. Lewis plays artist Christopher Pride who is the very recent recipient of a commission for a high-profile work in Paris. The wrinkle is that fiancee Elizabeth Acord, Ph.D., M.D. (Janet Leigh) is hesitant to abandon three women whom she counsels. The concern is that these patients are highly despondent on Acord regarding their prospects for meeting the man of their dreams.

The very Lewisesque solution of Pride is to transform himself into the ideal suitors for these desperate women. These personas are a ranch owner/rodeo champ cowboy, a jock, and a studious scientist. This ruse also requires adopting another character who is a real drag for Pride.

Even folks who have seen a sitcom episode that revolves around a main character juggling two simultaneous dates knows that Pride must increasingly alternate between his alter egos in an ultimately futile effort to avoid detection. The only question is whether Acord will go psycho on him or will follow him to the City of Lights.

As illustrated above, this marathon of Lewis films provides good reminders both that that successful comedian literally and figurative wears many hats in his movies and that the Silver Age of Hollywood is marked with comedies that do not always earn classic statues but that never fail to amuse and entertain. It is nice to be reminded that movies did not always rely on crude humor and/or outrageous personas of the stars to fill theater seats; creating an interesting situation and putting someone who knows his or her craft in the spotlight often was adequate.

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





Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'Food for Change' DVD: Documentary Chronicles Positive Impacts of Co-Ops


Best friend to socially conscious documentarians Bullfrog Films once again (overall) kindly and gently makes the general populace realize the errors of our ways with the DVD release of the 2014 movie "Food For Change." One particularly special aspect of this one is that active food co-op member Steven Alves practices what he preaches regarding this analysis of that form of grocery shopping.

The sole inadvertently hilarious (and equally anger-inducing) moment in "Change" requires mention before discussing the high quality of the rest of the film. Alves validly points out that the environmental harm and other ills of centralized food production and distribution helps make the case for co-ops. DIRECTLY comparing that system to Nazism AND including stock footage of Hitler both takes things too far and utilizes an EXACT same propaganda tool as the Third Reich.

A June 2017 post shows that Amazon buying Whole Foods upsets your not-so-humble reviewer more than the next guy. However, speculation that the Wicked Witch of the Pacific Northwest is going to greatly benefit Prime members who pay him annual tribute of $99 at the literal expense of the rest of us and certainty that he is phasing out Whole Foods offering the local goods that help small businesses and that provide desired uniqueness does not come at all close to the atrocities of the Nazis.

Having stated the above, Alves prompts fond memories for this former member of the Hanover Co-op in New Hampshire. The goals of these ventures are to provide more affordable and better-quality food while literally giving members a say regarding what goes on the shelves. A related purposefully humorous aspect of this are scenes in which members spend hours debating disputes regarding topics such as whether the store should sell pet food.

The comprehensive scope of "Change" includes the origins of co-ops as entities that primarily deal in more commodity-like products such as flour. More of the aforementioned intended humor relates to the rise of co-ops in the '60s and the '70s creating strange bedfellows in the form of conservative farmers dealing with hippies and other counter-culture types who are in the game to return the grocery shopping power to the people.

Alves does this alternative form of merchandising an even more solid by (with the exception of the aforementioned ill-warranted historical reference) presenting his topic in a supported and well-reasoned manner. None of his talking heads shout, and he does not assert that shopping at your local Safeway will be the direct cause of any health or societal ills. "Change" merely provides current co-op members more reasons to feel good about joining up and should prompt folks who patronize large chains to consider buying local.

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




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

'The Teacher' DVD: Praguematic Relationship Between Czech Educator and Parents Who Can Provide "Favors"


Film Movement fully embraces the spirit of releasing future classic movies in the winter with the January 9, 2018 DVD and VOD releases of the multi-award winning 2016 dark comedy "The Teacher." This funny-because-its-true tale of middle-school educator Comrade Maria Drazdechova trading high marks (pun intended) for "favors" is a hilarious commentary on the Soviet system, teachers abusing their power, and parents simultaneously squabbling amongst themselves and with the school administration.

A few of the aforementioned accolades are for the portrayal of Drazdechova by Zuzana Maurery and includes a Best Picture win.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Teacher" shows that that promo. deserves an award for these glimpses of films. It features snippets of scenes that perfectly communicate the themes and the plot of the film.


The future classic status begins with an early scene in which Drazdechova introduces herself to her students and instructs them to stand up and to state what their parents do as she calls their names. The audience quickly gets the picture (no pun intended) as the students announce that the occupations of their parents range from doctor and judge to more menial professions. The follow-up questions of Drazdechova remove any doubt regarding where this is going.

The strong live-stage vibe of "Teacher" is a solid indication of the quality of the film. Alternating the narration between a meeting in which the parents discuss the situation with the head teacher, the events leading to that confrontation, and some occurrences from differing perspectives are other elements that make this one special.

The best humor relates to the manner in which Drazdechova either directly requests favors from the parents or drops not-so-subtle hints regarding desired support. These include medicine, household repairs, and stating a list of enjoyed foods. Two separate particularly hilarious moments relate to Drazdechova having students clean her apartment and experience intense frustration regarding a parent repeatedly botching a repair job.

Much of the conflict in the film is particularly relatable regarding a disconnect of perceptions regarding the extent of the ability of someone to do a favor. Drazdechova asks an airline employee to ask a pilot or a flight attendant to transport a package to the sister of Drazdechova in Moscow. The two primary problems are that the accounting work of the father does not bring him in contact with flight crews, and the airline strictly prohibits the type of requested mule activity. Of course, the grades of the student of this bean counter suffer.

Additional drama comes in the form of this student massively feeling the effects of the unfair classroom situation on top of the other stressors in the lives of most teens everywhere. This incident provides significant motivation for the aforementioned meeting with the parents.

Additional Soviet-related hilarity ensues regarding a student who joins the class in the middle of the year having a mother who succombs to a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Seeing Drazdechova introduce the boy in a hilarious Soviet manner that includes stating that he is not to blame for his mother being the scum of the earth is a highlight of the film.

Global entertainment comes in the form of the parents becoming increasingly combative with each other as those who benefit from the current system fight just as hard to maintain it as those who are disadvantaged strive to effectively ship Drazdechova off to Siberia.

A Sovietesque element that facilitates the scheme of Drazdechova and that literally and figuratively frustrates the efforts of the parents to end her tyranny is that she is a prominent party leader. The impact of this includes the hesitancy of the school administration to act against her.

The entertainingly cynical outcome of the film reflects the harsh reality of any powerful institution. There is an appearance of responsiveness but an actuality of sweeping the matter under the rug; in other words, the parents are the ones who get schooled.

Movement further remains true to the traditions that make it great in pairing "Teacher" with an apt bonus short film. The extraordinary extra this time is the 15-minute 2015 French and Swiss co-production "Sacrilege." The titular act is an accusation that 20-something neighborhood leader/devout Muslim Saoud (nee Karim) is guilty of stealing $20 from his mosque. This leads to mob mentality in the form of his former admirers violently turning against him.

The plethora of themes and the handful of twists in this one scream for extending it into a full-length feature,

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











Monday, January 8, 2018

'Bad Lucky Goat' DVD: Corn and Rita's Excellent Adventure Following Their Bogus Journey


The Film Movement December 2017 Film of the Month Club selection (which non-members can purchase) perfectly reflects both the spirit of Movement and the club. This quirky 2017 film about effectively a day in the life of incompatible Colombian adolescent siblings who must work together after accidentally transforming the titular ruminant into road kill plays out like an tubular '80s teen comedy.

The opening scenes hook you from the beginning as we see rookie actor Vincent Van Goat display wonderfully bizarre behavior that is atypical for his species. We further see enterprising teen boy Corn providing a valuable service fairly literally for pennies.

Corn arriving home leads to interaction to which many of us (including your not-so-humble reviewer who calls his sister The Wicked Witch of the West End) can relate; he begins shouting back-and-forth with his sister Rita and destroys a cassette in a fit of pique.

The adventure that gives "Goat" the aforementioned John Hughes vibe begins with the no-nonsense mother of these fools sending them on an errand for their family-run tourist hotel. The pair soon damage the family truck on accidentally killing the goat.

Corn and Rita next dump the body to avoid having anyone know what they did that summer; realizing that the dead goat actually is a cash cow prompts them to effectively dig up the grave and do a variation of "Weekend at Bernie's" in an effort to raise the money to repair the truck before their parents learn of things going amiss.

The adventures of the day include a "Monty Python" style encounter with a butcher, materialistic Rita embarrassing Corn in front of his Rastafarian friends, and a pawn shop owner putting Rita in her place.

The Hughes vibe is particularly strong regarding the encounter with the goat putting the psychopathic owner of that livestock on the trail of the teens. A scene in which Corn finds himself in the place of his victim is particularly hilarious.

The quirkiness continues right to the end as getting the goat of so many people fully causes the chickens to come home to roost for the squabbling siblings.

Movement does equally well regarding its practice of pairing main club titles with a bonus short film. The feature-worthy drama "Miss World" has a 31 year-old woman now living in America returning to Taiwan to escort her father to jail.

The 24-hours in the life of the woman is an intriguing character study of both her and the general challenges of being an adult child. We meet her the morning after a very rough night, watch a hilarious effort to get her father his favorite cake (no file) the night before he begins his unfortunate incarceration, see her have a risky one-night stand, and then try an almost literal 11th-hour effort to achieve a better mutual understanding with her father in 20 minutes of reel-time.

The Movementness  of these films extends beyond their aforementioned indie flick quirkiness; they both tell universal stories that can be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot as a Hollywood film without losing an ounce of relevance or impact.

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


Saturday, January 6, 2018

'Laugh in' S2 DVD: SO Glad Time Life Socks It to Us


Time Life releasing the 1968-69 second season of the classic comedy series "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" on January 9, 2018 is the latest in the long (and rapidly growing) additions to the Time Life catalog that remind us of the awesomeness of comedy-oriented variety series of the era. Time Life releasing "Laugh In" S3 on March 6, 2018 provides even more reason for a sexy mod party.

The uniqueness of "Laugh In" extends beyond presenting its material as rapid-fire jokes that straddle the line between vaudeville and the more racy content of burlesque. A prime example of this is having the worth their weight in solid gold dancers Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne gyrate in bikinis with apt slogans related to the theme of the week body painted all over them.

A more blatant example of the "naughty" aspects of "Laugh In" is having future "The Partridge Family" star Dave Madden explain during his inaugural appearance in the S2 season premiere that he will toss confetti in the air anytime that he has an impure thought in any appearance. Suffice it to say that the real-life cleaning crew for the show does a great deal of sweeping.

Other raciness comes in the form of much of the clever PG banter between hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin; a typical exchange has straight man Rowan make an innocent comment such as commenting that he admires Martin for being progressive by hiring a woman plumber and Martin replying that she does a good job cleaning his pipes.

The notable aspects of the S2 season premiere extend beyond Madden joining the cast. Then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon makes his well-known appearance in that episode. This demonstration of a sense of humor both is credited with helping Nixon win that election and is notable for coming roughly 25 years before what pundits consider the historic event of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton playing his saxophone on "The Arsenio Hall Show" to enhance his populist image.

This episode additionally introduces the weekly "Fickle Finger of Fate" honor that Rowan and Martin award for absurd stupidity and/or waste. Designing a trophy that passes muster with the network censors does not diminish the impact of honoring the recipient with this distinction.

Politics also enters the picture via early versions of a news crawl that literally send a message; the first S2 one informing presidential candidate George Wallace that his sheets are ready for pick up shows that "Laugh In" barely holds its punches in this regard.

A more kind-and-gentle ongoing bit has cast members doing the classic schtick of joking about the names that celebrities would have if they married; a hypothetical example is Doris Day becoming Doris Day Jobs if she marries Steve Jobs.

Speaking of celebrities, "Laugh In" apparently attracts more stars than there are in the heavens. "Get Smart" star Barbara Feldon  is an obvious guest for the first S2 outing. Co-guest Jack Lemmon is a less obvious participant but is equally awesome. Film royalty Greer Garson and Otto Preminger showing up and fully embracing the spirit of the series a couple of weeks later is more surprising.

We also get Eve Arden indirectly insulting her sitcom of that era "The Mothers-In-Law" and the sons of John Wayne separately showing up regarding a bit centered around trying to get their father to appear again after being an S1 guest.

The numerous other A-listers (including several national treasures and "it" stars) reflects the same sense of the coolness of guesting on "Laugh In" that is associated with being on "Saturday Night Live" or "The Simpsons" in the early seasons of those series.

In addition to outdoing SNL in caliber and quantity of celebrities, "Laugh In" outshines the "Weekend Edition" feature of that son of that classic. The "Laugh In" news of the past, the present, and the future segment is largely self-explanatory. The aforementioned predictions focus on the far-off  year of 1988.

The spectacularness of "Laugh In" continues with the catch-phrases and characters that have never fully left the public consciousness and have found new life in these DVD releases. The aforementioned "sock it to me" is an eternal classic; watching the DVDs has triggered memories of the equally hilarious "look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," and the "very interesting" catchphrase of the German solider character of Arte Johnson. The awesome thing is that these references barely scratch the surface regarding the number of memorable characters.

It is equally nice that we only need to wait two months to get the S3 episodes in which then-new cast member Lily Tomlin introduces the world to Ernestine the "ringy dingy" operator and adorable little girl Edith Ann.

The bigger picture is an element of "Laugh In" that shows how it vastly outdoes all modern shows; in addition to lacking any filler, this series literally has the cast and guests pop in to keep the hilarity going until the final second of the closing credits.

Time Life doing this series proud extends beyond the high-quality rermastering of the episodes and including a bookket with detailed episode synopses. The special features are three 20-minute interviews with Dick Martin, series announcer Gary Owens, and cast member Ruth Buzzi.

Highlights of the Martin interview include his sharing how he and Rowan team up and how that partnership leads to small-screen gold; Owens similarly discusses how his fooling around leads to "Laugh In" having an announcer and the homage that that personality offers. Buzzi focuses on how her pre "Laugh In" career influences her work on that show and how she befriends a real-life inspiration for a character on the series.

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








Friday, January 5, 2018

'Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel' Theatrical:Gay Super Hero Returns to Save the World and Get the Boy


The Surge of Power Enterprises theatrical release of "Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel" is notable for the message that this film about out-and-proud gay superhero Surge sends. This arguably is the final frontier regarding gay-themed films that have broken the barriers regarding most genres. These movies teach the lesson that whom you love (or with whom you temporarily share your bed or the gym steam room) does not preclude having the same experiences and emotions as everyone else.

Folks in Los Angeles can see this film beginning January 5, 2018. It opens in New York (a.k.a. Gotham) on January 19 and subsequently has a broader roll out.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Sequel" trailer PERFECTLY highlights EVERY element that makes the film a good choice for escapist fun.


Fans of this franchise also can enjoy the television series "Surge of Power: Big City Chronicles" in which the titular hero interviews fanboy faves such as John Barrowman, Jack Coleman, and Kevin Sorbo.

A related note is that this awesome evolution means that a movie being gay-themed no longer should be a factor in deciding whether to see it; the aforementioned ubiquitousness now allows judging each production on the nature of the story and the quality of the production.

The appeal of "Surge" goes beyond proving that some ordinary and meta-humans who determine that fighting evil requires donning fetish gear prefer snails over oysters. It is an awesome throwback to the campy low-budget comedies of the '80s that provide numerous C-Listers with a day or two of work.

Both elements are prominent from the start as animated opening credits recap the events of the first film in the franchise "Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes." The glee-inducing cast list during the "Sequel" credits looks the lineup from the best ever "The Love Boat." The too-many-to-mention actors include Gil "Buck Rogers" Gerard, Linda Blair ("The Exorcist") Blair, Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno, Rex "Street Hawk" Smith, t-shirt wearing comedy writer/"Hollywood Squares" guest Bruce Vilanch, etc. The most exciting stars from a fanboy perspective are Nichelle Nichols and Robert Picardo of "Star Trek" fame.

Roth shows both his meta side and the influence of Kevin Smith in including scenes in a comic book store in which the "guy" there introduces a fanboy to the Surge comics and in separate scenes in which many of the C-Listers appear as themselves to discuss these comics.

Recently released from an unfortunate incarceration, super-villain Metal Master  (nee Hector Harris) goes to a Big City gay bar with symbolic thoughts of going straight in his head. He first reverts to his true nature by spiking the drink of our titular hero (nee Gavin Lucas) (producer/director/writer Vincent J. Roth) for a purpose that is more nefarious than nabbing an unwilling bed partner.

Mythical evil-doer Augur (Eric Roberts) subsequently recruits Metal Master to take a Vegas (i.e., Sin City) road trip to use his special powers to recover a comically-named rare crystal that a nefarious scheme of Augur requires. This requires both that Surge follows in lukewarm pursuit and that he wear his costume while driving. These scenes further establish that "the guy in the chair" who provide Surge intel. and other support hilariously looks at more than data and is similarly distracted while doing his job. This should make fanboys wonder what occurs in the Watch Tower when no one is watching the team player there.

Surge pursuing Metal Master into the desert outside Las Vegas literally puts a tightie-reddie clad smooth blonde 20-something fan in the arms of his idol. This leads to a cute courtship that should prompt Batman and Robin to abandon their facade that does not fool anyone.

All of this unfolds in the aforementioned low-budget campy style that ultimately shows that you should not send a mortal to do a god's job. We further get to see that Superman going for Jimmy Olsen over Lois Lane does not prevent facing the same relationship-oriented challenges.

All of this demonstrates that being light in the loafers and being friends with Dorothy does not impact an ability to kick ass and save the day. It further proves that the conflict between wanting to do good and to share your bed with someone special plagues every boy in spandex.

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








Thursday, January 4, 2018

'The Longing' DVD: Guilty Pleasures and Secrets of Gay Boys From Brazil


The apt diversity of  gay-themed DVD offerings from tla releasing, which is the (mostly foreign) indie film division of tla video, is well-illustrated in the 2003 Brazilian drama "The Longing." This one centers around hunky blonde 20-something German Erik (mostly) enjoying an extended vacation with Trust Fund Baby Cyrus and failed German rapper Tim at the luxurious vacation home in Brazil that the family of Cyrus owns.

Our boys of (mostly) leisure typically spend their mornings enjoying water sports, such as snorkeling and sailing. They take time in the afternoon to (ala the cash-strapped British blokes in the Unreal TV reviewed releasing film "Buffering") perform R-rated webcam shows to earn cash.

In the explicit telenovela spirit of "Longing," the fun and games take an abrupt dramatic turn one evening; an already moderately depressed Erik tries to lift his spirits (among other things) with a night on the town. His cruising nets him a local, but Mr. Right Now dies during their intercourse on a deserted beach. This provides an excuse for an extended montage in which a guilt-ridden Erik practically rubs himself raw in a Lady MacBeth style Silkwood shower complete with collapsing into the fetal position.

Erik additionally does not come clean with his friends with benefits who know that there's something about Erik but cannot determine the cause. The real and reel-lives of the group intersect when Erik meets Miguel, who acts on a soap that Erik watches.

The relationship between Erik and Miguel progresses nicely until Erik determines that a connection exists between his deceased trick and his current boyfriend. Erik is torn between longing to be honest with Miguel and not wanting to lose this love of his life.

This drama occurs in the background of race relations and the general status of black people in Brazil. Miguel, who is black, reinforces this by validating the belief of the three Germans that black actors are limited to roles that reflect stereotypes. These generally are athletes, rappers, and criminals.

In true telenovela style, Cyrus pursues his own surprising relationship and Tim goes native in his own manner. Meanwhile, Erik is going to great lengths to be with Miguel and to partially alleviate his guilt. All of this concludes with a degree of of telenbovelaesque ambiguity and a clear "to be continued" vibe.

The DVD extras include a "making of" feature.

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

'Space Ghost & Dino Boy' CS DVD: Classic Alex Toth Series for Hanna-Barbera


The separate Warner Archive December 5, 2017 DVD rereleases of the Saturday morning mid-60s action-adventure series "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" and (the recently reviewed) "Birdman & the Galaxy Trio" contributes to the mountain of reasons for which to worship Archive. As a special feature in the "Birdman" set states, Hanna-Barbera hiring legendary comic book artist Alex Toth to create fare for that legendary animation studio is in response to Spider-man and his amazing friends from many 'verses invading HB turf is a genuine game changer.

The most notable aspect of "Ghost" also relates to Toth; The separate release worthy "Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth" is approximately 90 minutes of the four children of Roth, current WB animation god Bruce Timm, future comic book artist legend Paul Pope, and a handful of other animation experts/Toth friends discussing this revered figure. We also hear recordings of Toth discussing his experiences.

"Ghost" follows a familiar Hanna-Barbera "and friends" format in having each episode consist of three shorts that separately feature the titular toon and the series with which it is paired. In this case, most episodes open with a "Ghost" adventure," tell a tale of the "Land of the Lost" like modern-day Dino Boy stranded in a prehistoric valley. and conclude with a second "Ghost." The format changes at the end of run by making "Dino Boy." which awesomely includes music from "The Flintstones," history to facilitate a third "Ghost" adventure.

The titular caped crusader uses a combination of special abilities and tech. to battle all manner of alien baddies. Roughly half of these adventures stem from teen "wonder twins" Jace (voiced by Jonny Quest himself Tim Matheson) and Jan and their space monkey Blip encountering trouble while cruising around.

The vulnerability that creates some suspense relates to Space Ghost heavily relying on the offensive and defensive capabilities of the power bands that he wears on his wrists. Often being constrained in a manner that precludes reaching the bands or having the bands taken from him provides a sense that the villain (including Zorak and Brak of the decades-later satirical series "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast") may win that round.

The spoiler in noting that the bad guys in "Ghost" have a surprisingly high success rate in getting away in the wake of their evil plot going awry is shared in the context of another memorable aspect of "Ghost." The series wraps up with an epic six-part "Council of Doom" adventure in which a Sinister Six create a legion for the sole purpose of making Space Ghost an actual breathing-impaired individual.

These episodes puts one or more nefarious character in the spotlight regarding a scheme to off Space Ghost. These outings typically conclude with a "Batman" '66 style cliffhanger that has our hero facing either certain death or a worse fate. A way cool element enters the picture in the form of super friends helping out.

The bigger picture regarding this release and "Birdman" is that they illustrate the benefit of the best form of synergy. Hanna-Barbera contributes the art and the commerce expertise that tremendously enhance the childhoods of Gen Xers, and Toth brings equal love and skill regarding super heroes. The arguably allows Hanna-Barbera to thrive in the strange new world of mid-60s Saturday morning programming.

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




'Birdman & the Galaxy Trio' CS DVD: Alex Toth Precursor to 'Blue Falcon' and 'Josie and Pussycats in Outer Space'


Warner Archive rereleasing the before-he-was-an-attorney-at-law 1967-68 animated series "Birdman & the Galaxy Trio" on DVD on December 5, 2017 shows the usual excellent Archive timing. This show and a (reviewed) "Space Ghost" rerelease is perfect viewing for frigid snowy Saturdays stuck inside. A word of warning is that repeatedly shouting the battle cry "BIRDMAN" in a rich manly baritone is great fun but can cause mild domestic strife.

Another interesting side note is that Michael "I am Batman" Keaton plays a quirky version of this winged superhero with Ra-given powers in the indie cult classic "Birdman" three years before playing The Vulture in "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

One of the best brains behind the (HILARIOUS) aforementioned satirical Adult Swim "Attorney-at-Law" series provides the best insight regarding "Birdman" in noting that it, "Space Ghost," and similar mid-60s super-hero fare are the response of Hanna-Barbera to the aforementioned friendly neighborhood web spinner and his amazing friends from several 'verses invading the Saturday morning turf of the folks behind seemingly infinite animated classics. Hanna-Barbera bringing in the big gun in the form of hiring legendary super-hero comic book artist Alex Toth to helm these projects shows that that studio did not take any prisoners.

"Birdman" sticks to tradition in following the three shorts format of many of its series. Each episode begins with a "Birdman" adventure, then has the companion program "The Galaxy Trio" offer thrills and excitement, and ends with a second "Birdman."

A typical "Birdman" outing has this winged and cowled do-gooder and his purple eagle Avenger fighting evil-doers who usually either are out to steal military secrets or to capture and/or kill our hero. The Achilles heel of this solar-powered man with god-given abilities is his need to constantly be in the sunlight (not to mention the spotlight.) The bad guys being aware of this weakness makes keeping Birdman out of the sun a central part of most nefarious schemes. Just as often, going toward the light is an integral part of saving the day.

Avenger regularly rescuing Birdman is a great example of the element of an animal being the hero that is an awesome part of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. This is especially true in the '70s classic "Josie and the Pussycats." Many episodes of this "Scooby-Doo" clone finds the villain of the week capturing the titular rock band and its entourage only to have Sebastian the actual cat use his claw to pick a cell lock or otherwise free the meddling kids.

Speaking of "Scooby," "Birdman" utilizing the dramatic and/or eerie music that is a classic of the subsequent series is terrific fun." Speaking of "Josie," "Trio" can be thought of "The Fantastic Four" minus one meets "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space," which itself is a variation of the live-action '60s cult-classic series "Lost in Space." The "Trio"/"Pussycats" similarities extend to space craft and other elements in the former showing up in the latter.

The origins of the aforementioned team of three capeless crusaders are unknown. Meteor Man has fists of granite and can grow to gigantic proportions when clobberin' time comes around; Vapor Man can convert himself to a vaporous form and emit all but the most predictable noxious gases when subduing the bad guys requires doing so; Galaxy Girl (who does not warrant the designation of "woman" in the inadvertently sexist '60s) can manipulate gravity and otherwise send out charges to help save the day.

Another awesome aspect of "Birdman" is that it arguably evolves to the Blue Falcon character in the mid-70s "Scooby" paired "Dynomutt" series. A less awesome aspect of this is the term "Blue Falcon" having a very negative meaning in military circles. Based on the initials BF, this expression describes a comrade-in-arms who betrays his band of brothers to an extent that warrants labeling him a buddy f***er.

Blue Falcon is the Batman to Birdman's Superman in that that millionaire caped crusader lacks any super powers and largely depends on the (somewhat reliable) gadgets install in his titular robotic K-9, who can be considered the Avenger of the series. Further, both heroes have epic battle cries and receive marching orders via an elaborate early video-conferencing system.

The love of Archive for this important piece of animation history extends beyond rereleasing it for a generation of kids deprived of Saturday mornings in front of huge console TVs eating Quisp cereal and watching the products of the best brains at Hanna Barbera. The remastering looks and sounds fantastic, and the aforementioned special feature equally entertains and informs.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Birdman" or "Space Ghost" is strongly encouraged either me to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. BIRDMAN!!!




Tuesday, January 2, 2018

'All Male All Nude' DVD: Documentary on Atlanta Gay Strip Club Shows Johnsons in Dancers' Levis


The December 5, 2017 Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 dickumentary "All Male All Nude" easily wins the 2017 award for the film title that best describes its concept. Like the vintage review on the Breaking release of the comic documentary on penis enlargement "Unhung Hero," this post on the film by Gerald McCulloch about the dancers at the Atlanta strip club Swinging Richards contains copious humor regarding male genitalia. The distinction of the club is that it is the only one in North America other than a similar establishment in Canada in which the men go Full Montreal.

The following YouTube clip of the official trailer for "Male" lets it all hang out and includes some of the best moments in the movie.


This pure cinema verite film free of any narration or talking heads (no pun intended) lets the performers and the guys whose jobs do not require dropping trou tell their tales; the main subject is mid-20s single-dad Sean, who is well-endowed with a strong sense of responsible. He shakes his ample moneymaker (which receives a great deal of screen time) at night to keep his five-year-old son in the style to which peer pressure requires that he become accustomed.

Sean discussing the hiring process at the club is one of the best moments in "Male" if only because it provides an opening for showing an actual ruler that is used when determining if a candidate is one of the chosen people. Suffice it to say that "ass" plays a role that extends beyond the rear end of the wannabe.

Sean repeatedly (but not offensively) states that he is not gay; he further shares that he is not the only stripper in the family.

We also meet younger guy Matt, who is in it for all the extras that the lucrative field of nude dancing can provide. He describes his sexuality as mostly straight with an element of what he asserts is universal curiosity.

What we learn about philosophical Steven during the "where are they now" portion at the end of "Male" makes him the most sympathetic of the lot. Beyond that, he has one of the best perspectives of the boys.

Other "magic" men include student Pierce and Dallas, who is in a committed gay relationship. The most wholesome and adorable boy is a guy whose career is due to his girlfriend saying that he has a hot body that can make him good money.

Like all good documentaries, "Male" educates as much as it entertains. Some of the interesting stories about the conflicts in this family are unexpected and provide good insight. An example is that it seems that an inverse relationship exists between the extent to which a performer is a big dick and where he measures up on the aforementioned ruler. We further learn of other bases regarding which dancers have jealous.

Pierce provides additional amusing information regarding regulating where dancers can place their garters for collecting tips; of course, gratuities cannot be placed near coin purses.

Hearing of the activities that provide training for the work likely will prompt many gay men who worshiped the top jock at their high school from afar to run (not walk) to the nearest all-male strip club.

A sad story reflects one of the traps of this work; we further only get a general sense of the extent to which customers take matters into their own hands or the proper response when these patrons get cocky, all of whom are a handful.

The manner in which McCulloch presents all this effectively communicates his messages. The first is that most guys who wear their birthday suits to work fall in the middle of the spectrum of society. They typically do not choose that work either out of dire desperation or use it as a facade to be an American gigilo. They simply do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that baring all is worth having more than the bare necessities. As a practical matter, an strong argument exists that earning at least as much dancing naked for a few hours as you would make flipping burgers for a week makes sense.

Getting to know these guys also gives men and women who enjoy looking at attractive men in various states of arousal dance naked the same cause to think as does remembering that female strippers have close family members.

The plethora of extras include the original uncensored (i.e., uncut) short and a few music videos. Highlights of the short include hearing how Pierce responds when he gets a hair across his ass and a shot of the hands-on approach of some dancers in preparing to go onstage.

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





Monday, January 1, 2018

Lithuanian Filmmaker Romas Zabarauskas on His Work and Campaign to End Sexuality-Based Discrimination


The blessing regarding the (mostly) guys who make indie films is that knowing their work provides a cool one-percenter feeling of being one of the elite relatively few who are in on the awesomeness; the curse is that the appeal of these labors of love and the men who make them elicits righteous indignation that the studio systems prevents them from making widely distributed films that have the integrity to which every director and writer should aspire. This particularly is true regarding young lion Lithuanian auteur Romas Zabarauskas.

The (reviewed) semi-autobiographical Zabarauskas film "You Can't Escape Lithuania" discusses the extent to which this triple threat producer/director/writer will go to get his vision in front of audiences. The reel-life Zabarauskas refers to the real incident of his sire offering a nude photo of himself as a crowd funding premium to make a movie. One cannot imagine Affleck and Damon issuing similar "junk" bonds if faced with a lack of funds for "Good Will Hunting."

On top of this, Zabarauskas uses both the media of film and the exposure (no pun intended) that his movies provide to further his cause of shedding light on the government-supported rampant discrimination against homosexuals in Lithuania. This is particularly so in the (also reviewed) superb 2011 film "Porno Melodrama," which is light on the former and moderately heavy on the latter.

Logistical considerations required conducting a recent interview with Zabarauskas over email. The American tradition of doing everything in a half-assed manner requires mostly just pasting the submitted questions and received answers below with minor editing.

1. You “escaped” the repressive culture in Lithuania to attend film schools in Paris and New York; why did you go back?

Think global, act local. As a filmmaker, I need to work with the context I know best, and at least for now it's the Lithuanian one.

It's also not a selfless choice. I feel happy by meaningfully contributing to positive changes here. And despite many challenges, LGBT+ community and culture is getting stronger and more colourful here in Lithuania. It's exciting to be part of it.

2. Can you provide any sense of challenges related to dating a more reticent man in such an oppressive culture considering your activism, your films, and posing for widely circulated nude photos?

My boyfriend accepts me for who I am, so it's all fine. And although our culture is indeed oppressive, I consider us both very privileged – we don't face any danger or abuse, we hold hands in the middle of Vilnius and rarely receive any insults for it. As for my "nudes", ya wish – it was only one photo and not widely circulated, simply sent for the backers of my last film to make the crowdfunding campaign more fun and eye-catching.

3. Your films address the above; to what extent are they auto-biographical?

It would spoil my secrets if I'd tell you which things are real and which aren't. Some of the craziest things in You Can't Escape Lithuania are true, I can tell you this much... And the shooting of this film indeed became surreal when reality and fiction started to mix. But perhaps that's a subject of another movie to make.

4. Your films indicate that your parents strongly support your art; has that enthusiasm waned regarding the controversial and explicit nature of your films?

No, my family stays truly supportive. But do you really think my films are that controversial? Rather tame I would say, by today's standards. At the same time, it's hard for me to imagine a film without some sexual exploration. Filming other people's feelings, thoughts, intimate moments – that's somewhat erotic in itself.

5. Speaking of which, have you had any concrete sense of your films (especially “Porno” and “Escape”) impacting reform in Lithuania? 

I don't consider my films educational or trying to make a straightforward point for tolerance and equality. But they certainly did contribute [to] promoting LGBT+ visibility and culture in Lithuania. Otherwise, I take credit for pushing some famous people to voice their support for the LGBT+ equality, and others – to come out. I do some social initiatives aside from my movies which might have contributed to changing attitudes more directly. For example, a year ago I published a book "Lithuania Comes Out: 99 LGBT+ Stories". That was truly groundbreaking – never before there were so many Lithuanians coming out so openly, and from such different backgrounds.

6. Do you think that a fear of being outed prevents gay politicians in Lithuania from being more supportive of reform? 

Might be! I think that in general most of our politicians are either truly backwards, or pretending to be – in order to be elected. Not much hope here, but it will still change for the better sometime in the future.
7. As a citizen of a repressive country, what do you consider the purpose of Pride? Is it to too show that there are many mainstream gay men and lesbian women who simply want equality and mean straight people no harm or is it an excuse for hairless 18 year-olds to roller skate only wearing Speedos and overweight hairy middle-aged men to parade in dresses? 

Well, I see nothing wrong in people expressing themselves in different ways! For me, the purpose of Pride is to commemorate [the] Stonewall Riots and continue the global campaign for LGBT+ equality. We need to remember our history and keep writing it further.

8. What are you working on, and what does your future hold? 

I'm currently working on my upcoming film The Lawyer. It will only be ready in 2019, so there is not much I can share with you now, but if you're curious – follow our page on Facebook and be the first to know!

Wrap Up

As the above responses demonstrate, Zabarauskas is a bright and committed guy who is committed to the cause and providing inspiration and a voice for his repressed brother. One can be sure that he will be an influence if the Lithuanian government fully joins most of the world in the 21st century.

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