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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

'The Narcissists' DVD: Tenants of Love in Brooklyn

The clear homage to quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen adds awesome irony to the studio named Gravitas Ventures separately releasing the 2017 Quincy Rose afternoon-in-the-life-of urban comedy "The Narcissists" on Blu-ray and DVD on September 3, 2019. The BD format adds a great deal to the travelogue quality of the cinematography of what looks to be late October footage of Manhattan. 

Folks who savor the "video killed the radio star" aspects of home video also can watch "Narcissists" on Prime Video or iTunes

The following "Narcissists" trailer provides equally strong senses of the Allen and the related "its funny because its true (and because it is happening to the other guy)" aspects of the film. The scenes of 30-something NYC friends discussing "nothing" additionally will evoke Seinfeldian thoughts; not that there is anything wrong with that. 



The aptness of the film title begins with the I bet you think this movie is about you (don't you, don't you) vibe of it, A personal example of this is having a friend whose financial status requires continuing to share an apartment (and a bed) with an ex-partner after a break up,

Hitting closer to home, "Narcissists" seemingly reflects the real life of Rose (Oliver), whose other "joints" include the (reviewed) "Miles to Go" and (reviewed) "Friends Effing Friends Effing Friends." Interviews with Rose and his castmates that blur the line between fact and fiction at the end of "Narcissists" reinforces that Rose personally knows that of which he writes.

As an aside, concluding "Narcissists" with the interviews is highly reminiscent of use of that technique in some episodes of the '60s musical kidcom "The Monkees" and the '80s Cybill Shepherd/Bruce Willis dramedy series "Moonlighting." 

Rose fully shows his genius by putting a spin on a seemingly compulsory expository technique for modern films. The opening scenes include Oliver standing on a subway platform opposite whom we soon learn is live-in (ambiguously on-a-break ala a classic sitcom NYC couple) girlfriend Cassi (Jessica DiGiovanni). The Rose variation on the common theme is only discovered at the end of the film.

The action then shifts to a voice-over of a meta-conversation in which Oliver and best bud Max (Zack Tiegen) are discussing the next film of Oliver. Their topics include confusion of Max as to the extent to which Oliver wants him to play himself or his character in the film within the film.

Although there is no direct reference to Rose muse Woody Allen, conversing about specific considered elements of the fictional project unambiguously refer to borrowing from the master of New York-based films. Good laughs come later as Oliver consciously adopts a do as I say, not as I do attitude. 

All of this leads to Oliver and Max and Casi and her best friend Letty (Augie Duke) spending the next hour separately wandering the streets of New York hashing out whether Oliver and Casi should stay together. 

Rose, who wears Allen-esque horn-rimmed glasses in real and reel-life,  particularly shines in a scene in which he slouches and stammers in a heavy New York Jewish accent in response to what he considers an offensive remark by Max. This should make the real-life '70s-era employer of the father of Rose very proud. 

The voice of Rose comes through more clearly in Cassi and Letty discussing a man who apparently is from Nantucket sustaining an equally embarrassing and painful injury while teasing a cat. Every male viewer is defied to not cringe at this (mercifully off-screen) image.

The impetus for the soul-searching accompanied by copious witty banter and wry observations is that the lease on the apartment that Oliver and Casi share is expiring. They must decide if their love is adequately strong to commit to staying in a place that neither can independently afford. This analysis includes a very close-to-home (no pun intended) observation (recalled as being by Max) about never living in a place that requires pooling financial resources.

As both Oliver and Rose observe, love in one's 30s is observed from a more practical perspective than in one's 20s.

The oft-mentioned realistic aspects of "Narcissists" ensure that the ending is neither especially happy nor unhappy. Both Oliver and Cassi will get on with their lives either way.

The bigger picture is that the strongest appeal of "Narcissists" is (ala his other films) the talent and the integrity of Rose. His aforementioned interview emphasizes that he values art over commerce and chooses making a quality (seemingly largely improvised) film with his own limited funds over potentially having to sell his artistic soul in exchange for being touched by an angel. 

The most apt final thought is one can only hope that Rose continues the grand tradition of the late '70s Woody Allen comedies that include "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." This relates to a scene in the brilliant semi-autobiographical 1980 Allen film "Stardust Memories" in which a fan tells the fictionalized version of himself that Allen plays that that admirer likes his older funnier movies than his more recent serious fare. ​

Thursday, September 12, 2019

BOYCOTT BEST BUY!: Modern CEOs Murdering Customer Service

Another horrific experience has called for deviating from the normal (mostly) non-bloggy style of which this site is proud; your indulgence is appreciated, and we will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow,

The micro element of this trauma and drama is a molehill of an issue with Best Buy absurdly turning into a mountain that is behind a call to boycott that company that has a virtually stranglehold on the US brick-and-mortar market for electronics.

The Best Buy media-relations department did not respond to several calls to discuss this article. 

The macro view is that new Best Buy CEO Corie Barry and her fellow new breed of "suits," including Kevin Johnson of Starbucks, have rewarded customers who have helped the companies that provide them multi-million dollar compensation packages by completely throwing them under the Geek Squad van.

The straw that becomes a major pain below the back of your not-so-humble reviewer is addressed below. It comes a few months after figuratively telling Johnson, who has willfully turned a callous blind eye to his public, where he can pour his grossly over-priced (and more-often-than-not improperly prepared) beverages. (I have saved $100s and lost a few pounds in the interim.) 

Even more spot on, a pledge to never contribute another cent to the income of Barry and her fellow equally insulated executives comes a month after reading a New York Tines article illustrating how corporations determine the point at which customers jump ship and how those models of capitalism come perilously close to crossing it. A cited example is a cell-phone service provider waiting until a long-time customer cancels her service before providing an incentive to not switch carriers.

Suffice it to say that I have been a very profitable customer of Best Buy for more than a decade.

BACKGROUND

Before sharing the tale of woe behind this radical move, I want to state that I have communicated it many times to people at Best Buy in telephone messages, e-mails, and even tweets to Barry (@Corie_Barry). Barry has not acknowledged these communications in any form.

The other efforts to have my concerns heard either were similarly ignored or directed to the senior customer-service rep., who has become far more of the problem than the solution. He continues taunting me as to he being the only one whom Best Buy will have address my concerns. Team Barry has ample notice of this.

This all began a few Saturdays ago when I went to a Best Buy to buy a wireless doorbell. The employee who helped me asserted that she was trained in that area. Both the outcome and a subsequent discussion with a store manager proved that that was not the case.

The next morning, I followed my Sunday routine of checking the Best Buy website for the weekly specials. I learned that the company was running a promotion in the form of giving away an Amazon Echo Dot (a.k.a. Alexa) with the purchase of the basic Ring doorbell that I had purchased. I also saw that that promotion was ending that day.

Experience during the reign of CEO (now Executive Chairman) Hubert Joly inspired confidence that Best Buy executive service quickly would make all things right with the world. I copied and pasted the product page (which included the offer) and mailed it to myself for good measure. I will add that no one has acknowledged an e-mail to Joly. 

On calling executive customer service, I got the aforementioned rep. He was unresponsive from the start and stated that I could have forged the e-mailed copied-and-pasted product page from the Best Buy site.

The rest of this story was that the issue of the rep. was that I did not include a weblink in the e-mail with the product-page that I sent him. I responded that accessing a link on Monday would not document an offer that expired the prior day. The rep. responded that the link would reflect the expired deal because it would go to my computer. He would not acknowledge that that was inaccurate.

I then asked to speak to the supervisor of the rep. The rep. refused that request, stating that he was the only Best Buy employee to whom I ever would speak.

I then called the store where i bought the doorbell; an hour later, the store acknowledged the validity of the offer and pledged to send an Alexa. They did so later that day.

I called executive customer service back to report the development with the store. I got a different rep. than the first one. He told me that he would have his supervisor call me back; that never occurred. That rep. also stated that the first rep. easily could have looked up the offer that had expired the prior day. 

The second rep, promised to confirm the offer and call me back; he never called back.

The first exec. rep. with whom I spoke called back two hours later and stated that the offer was to buy a doorbell that was $100 more than the one that I bought to get the free Alexa, which had gone down from $50 to $25 since Sunday. In other words, his solution was to spend $75 more than I needed to in order to get a free $25 item to which I had an undisputed right.

This time, the rep. seemed unable to grasp that the offer that existed on Monday differed from that of the day before. He again refused to have his supervisor get involved. I hung up.

All this led to the extensive aforementioned efforts to get someone at Best Buy to address both my frustration and the deplorable manner in which the first rep. handled the matter; the futility as to that led to this article.

My "demands" are a meaningful conversation with the VP of customer service for Best Buy, an equally substantive acknowledgment of the offer and the poor job of the first rep., and credible assurance that Best Buy will reasonably act in the future to put right what once went wrong. 

Armchair Management

Cutting back on customer service is understandable; murdering it is not. 

Easy solutions for funding better service include a little pain "today" in the form of cutting the pay of anyone earning more than $100,000 by one-percent in exchange for an additional personal day each year to avoid having to eliminate their position "tomorrow." 

Corporations also could expand tele-commuting programs by offering that option in exchange for offering eligible employees that option in exchange for a five-percent pay reduction. 

On top of this, Barry and her fellow CEOs could make the gesture of a 5% pay cut to help their companies remain viable, 

Epilogue

I likely have saved $100 in impulse purchases by not shopping at Best Buy or looking at its website in the past month. Unless and until things change, I further expect that I will save countless hours and massive levels of stress not fighting when the inevitable molehills surface.

I will splurge on a special treat if and when Best Buy announces a need to close numerous stores due to poor sales. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

'Arrow' S7 DVD & BD: Penultimate Season Hits Bullseye

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.]

The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment August 20, 2019 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 22-episode penultimate season of the daddy of all Arrowverse series "Arrow" provides plenty of time to either catch up on or review the series before the October 15, 2019 premiere of the 10-episode 8th season on your local CW channel.

It is clear early on that this action and lore-packed season is intended to be the last. We check all of the boxes as to the unmasking of the titular hero, an unjust imprisonment of that savior, old friends and foes showing up, and an epic finale that provides closure that leaves you wanting more. Team Berlanti provides more in the form of frequent flash-forwards 20 years in a storyline that very validly can be titled ""Arrow: The Next Generation." 

The following 2018 ComicCon trailer for "Arrow" S7 provides teasers galore (including toned-down "Ozesque"  scenes of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) in the prison shower) about the thrills and chills to come. On a related note, both the DVD and the Blu-ray have a feature containing the highlights of the DC TV panels at that Comic Con. This kicks off with Team Supergirl discussing their adventures.


As indicated above, the blessing and the curse of S7 is that the well-orchestrated developments are much to plentiful to properly present here. Two primary and heavily related themes are that the events are a continuum, and that virtually every character is trying to come to terms with his or her past. 

Our story begins with an unmasked Oliver out of the closet and in the big house as part of a deal related to revenge-obsessed nemesis Ricardo Diaz, Wife/Overwatch Felicity is in hiding with Oliver's teen son William Clayton. The rest of disbanded Team Arrow is trying (not always so well) to work within the system to do good in ways that include capturing Diaz for reasons that include an essential prisoner exchange of Oliver for him.

Urgency regarding this extends beyond Oliver being a fellow guest of the state who would not have that distinction but for him. A disgraced psychiatrist is giving Oliver an insidious form of electo-shock with impending dire consequences. 

Meanwhile, a new Arrow is taking over the role of illegal vigilante. Rene Ramirez (a.k.a. Wilddog of Team Arow) switch-hitting is only the tip of the iceberg. Oliver and company learning the reason for these most sincere form of flattery dredges up fairly ancient history and creates textbook conflicting emotions.

All of this begets super-villain Dante and his previously covert centuries-old society known as the Ninth Circle, This requires borrowing from another corner of the DCU by having Diaz and his version of the Legion of Doom (complete with an evil version of MCU hero Captain America) form a "Suicide Squad" clone known as The Ghost Initiative. The similarities extend to these desperate measures having bombs implanted in their heads. 

The 150th episode "Emerald Archer" centers around a documentary about this character and his not so merry men and women. Of course, reality (and associated conflict) intrude on this project.

The aptly titled episode "Confessions" is more of a traditional procedural than a super-hero action-adventure show. Team Arrow (plus an old friend) are persons of intense interest as to the killing of two innocents during a violent mission that is par for the course as to this group, The message as to this one follows the sci-fi principle that death is not always permanent; we also get a heavy dose of the aforementioned element of atonement.

In true Arrowverse style, all this leads to a story arc that leads to a climatic showdown in which inner and outer demons both face battles. 

The aforementioned essentially game-ender nicely ties in with the epic three-episode cross-over "Elseworlds" in which our reality is repeatedly altered for much more fun than profit but still involving global consequences.

​This always fanboy delight, which only is fully presented on the Blu-ray sets of the relevant "Arrowverse" series, is particularly awesome this time. It BOTH introduces Bruce Wayne cousin/Batwoman Kate Kane (who gets her own series this year) and drives significant action later in "Arrow" S7.

The special features extend well beyond the Comic-Con panel and the full presentation of "Elseworlds." The DVD and Blu-ray sets have the special feature "Villains: Modes of Persuasion" on DC super-villains, a feature on "Elseworlds," and a gag reel, 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

'NCIS: New Orleans' S5: More Hard Cases in the Big Easy

The CBS Home Entertainment August 20, 2019 DVD releases of "NCIS: New Orleans" S5 shows that that entry in that 16-year franchise is going strong. This release coming one month after the (reviewed) CBSHE DVD release of S15 of the still equally strong series "Criminal Minds" provides procedurals fans plenty to watch before the season premieres of each series in a few weeks, 

The press materials for "New Orleans" S15 describe the twist in this one as that the close-knit group of quirky law-enforcement experts operate a"field office that investigates criminal cases involving military personnel" in the titular city. That city, which is one of the most unique (and has experienced one of the worst natural disasters) in America literally and figuratively adds wonderful color to this shot-on-location series.

"Quantum Leap" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" veteran (and real-life righteous dude) Scott Bakula is perfectly cast as soft-spoken all-American boy team leader Dwayne Pride. The always off-beat CCH Pounder does equally well in her role as coroner/mother hen Dr. Loretta Wade. We also get real-life spinal-cord injury survivor Darryl "Chill" Mitchell adding good energy as wheelchair-bound Patton Plame, whom the press materials aptly describe as "an animated and talented hacker."

The casting of Mitchell provides a good opening to mention "Cosby Show" veteran Geoffrey Owens having a cameo as a Naval doctor. This casting follows a real-life attempt to shame Owens by posting a photo of him working at Trader Joe's on the Internet. Rather than making Owens a national laughing stock, it revitalizes his acting career. 

A variation of the "Cousin Oliver" tactic comes in the form of drafting Pride, who finds copious justifications to remain active in the field, for a desk job, This promotion leads to bringing in Hannah Zoury (Necar Zadeghan). She adds diversity that extends beyond bringing what hilariously tough-and-gruff Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) describes as balancing the boy girl ratio on the team. 

The action picks up in the immediate wake of what should have been a fatal shooting of Pride by a highly skilled (and equally determined) assassin. Our heroes split up to simultaneously try to capture that armed and dangerous foe and pull off the trick of keeping the boss out of her hands while still giving him desperately needed medical care. These outings in any series in which the prey is just as skilled and tough as the hunters are always fan favorites. 

For his part, Pride is having an outer-body experience that is reminiscent of "Leap" and "Enterprise." A woman from his past is urging him to go toward the light, while he rages, rages against doing so. In the end, he decides that his time on earth is not over.

This turn-of-events leads to a Pride becoming the boy with something extra in that having premonitions and reliving memories helps him put right what once went wrong. This also ties into the voodoo aspect of New Orleans culture. The icing on the cake is Pride conversing with a colleague who essentially is a hologram. 

As the charming DVD special feature "King Cake" states regarding the 100th episode, the new talent of Pride comes in particularly handy in that outing. We also share the frustration of Bakula as to his reminding us that "Leap" and "Enterprise" fall just short of the century mark. 

This aptly titled adventure "In the Blood" goes even further than the usual ones that are personal, The tie-in of a meet gone fatally wrong is that the crime-scene evidence includes a Hardy Boys novel from the library of a young Pride ala a possession of "Johnny Archer" showing up in an "Enterprise" episode.

This quickly leads to a reunion with ex-con and largely estranged father Cassius Pride ("New Orleans" semi-regular Stacy Keach). This turn shifts the focus to a frigid cold case involving a casino robbery. Another twist introduces a new character who becomes a reoccurring addition to the series. 

Hannah shines in the especially clever "Sheepdog" episode. She is pitted against an extreme student activist who is anything but radical. This one reunites Pride with an old friend who is a college professor whose message of peaceful protest does not sit well with the primary villain of the week. The old ticking time bomb aspect adds more drama and prompts an awesomely creative solution.

A lighter and more fun "The Spy Who May Have Loved Me" episode gives awkward genius Sebastian Lund (Rob Kerkovich) a chance to shine. He bonds with a clever and deadly MI6 agent, who may simply see him as an adorkable means to an end. Their cat-and-mouse game that continues right to the end provides plenty of solid entertainment. 

All of this culminates in an epic two-part season finale with shades of the S4 season finale. This centers around Team Pride that somehow forms a family taking their variation of a trip to Hawaii. They go far overseas to try to rescue a kidnapped FBI agent and of course find themselves in grave danger. 

CBS builds on the fun of "King Cake" with a plethora of other special features. We get the cast and crew discussing S5 and a few similar treats. The icing on these pecan rolls are the pilots of "SEAL: Team" and even more aptly of "Star Trek: Discovery." 

The debriefing regarding this release that does well by this strong addition to the "NCIS" franchise, which in turn does "father" "JAG" proud, is that cast and crew know what people who like quality procedurals with a "hook" want and deliver it. I garontee it. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

'Pinsky' DVD: Brookline, Ma. Memoirs

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2017 film "Pinsky" provides a chance to see the best movie about a hipster Boston 20-something lesbian with a domineering Russian immigrant grandmother having a quarter-life crisis that you will see this year. The accolades for this quirky indiecom include the Best Narrative Feature at the 2017 Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

Much of the appeal of this dysfunctional Jewish family film relates (pun intended) to it evoking thoughts of the Neil Simon semi-autobiopic "Brighton Beach Memoirs." That one tells the tale of an adolescent Simon living in a full house with his parents, his brother, and the rest.

"Pinsky" opens on a terrible, horrible, no good day for titular Millennial Sophia Pinsky (producer/writer Rebecca Karpovsky). Her grandfather drops dead in the street within hours of the live-in girlfriend of Sophia leaving her a Dear Jane letter. All of this is on top of Sophia still working at the Jewish grocery store that is her college-era employer. 

These worlds initially collide due to the death prompting Sophia to attending Shiva at the apartment of her grandmother (a.k.a. Bubbie). This is the first interaction of these women in several years after Bubbie cuts Sophia out of her life for moving in with her girlfriend. 

The rest of the story in this regarding is that family rabbi Bob Stern (Alan Blumenfeld of the Marion Ross Jewcom "Brooklyn Bridge"). We subsequently learn that Bob has a very personal interest in the activities of the Pinskys.

Bubbie first exerts her Yenta side in coercing newly single Sophia to move back into Temple Beth Pinksy. The fellow members of the congregation are Sophia's father, who is obsessed with his ballroom-dance partner, and aimless sibling Victor, who has delusions of qualifying for the Boston police force. One can give Victor credit for realizing that he lacks the right stuff for the BFD. 

The unavailability of an eligible Jewish doctor prompts Bubbie to aggressively promote the next best thing. She coerces Sophia into dating long-time family friend/medical researcher Trevor. Trevor agrees to play along despite having no romantic interest in Sophia and knowing that she prefers her phallic items to be of the plastic variety.

The final piece of the puzzle comes in the form of Sophia beginning a friendship that she apparently hopes reaps benefits. This object of her affection is Jessica Elliott, whose black skin is one of a few characteristics that distinguish her from the other patrons at the aforementioned Jewish market.

Jessica being an open-mic night regular introduces Sophia to the world; that leads to her aspiring to become a hipster lesbian version of Jerry Seinfeld; not that there is anything wrong with that. 

Families of every religion and nationality can relate to the developments in the wake (pun intended) of the death of the grandfather leading to comically extreme trauma and drama at a Shabbat (a.k.a. Friday Night) dinner. The Mogen David freely flowing may be a factor regarding the gefilte fish hitting the fan. 

Part of the gist of the listing of grievances is Bubbie laying the mother of all Jewish maternal figure guilt trips regarding her heavy sacrifices for her ungrateful family; we also learn that Trevor has his limits. 

The biggest picture is that "Pinsky" illustrates the truth of the expression that you can pick your friends but not your relatives. It also brings to mind a foreign film from a few years ago in which a nice young Parisian Jewish man is planning to move to Israel; his sister reminds him that his planned destination is full of people who are like their parents. A third perspective is the Seinfeld joke that Jewish men marry shiksas because they want a wife who does not remind them of their mother.

The always excellent Breaking DVD extras this time are an interview with Blumenfeld and a short clip of Karpovsky doing stand-up. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

'The Practice' CS DVD: Danny Thomas as That Short-tempered Grumpy Doc

Warner Archive goes old summer school regarding the July 16, 2019 DVD release of the 1976-77 Danny Thomas NBC sitcom "The Practice." This textbook '70scom, complete with an urban setting, largely divides its focus between cantankerous older Dr. Jules Bedford (Thomas) of the West Side struggling to help patients and battling with 30-something son Dr. David Bedford (David Spielberg) of Park Avenue over their different approaches to life and to providing medical care. It is unknown if any glass tables are harmed in the filming of "Practice,"

The legacy of "Practice" arguably includes the Henry "Fonzie" Winkler 2005-06 sitcom "Out of Practice." Winkler plays the head of a family of doctors who live in the same building. Further, Thomas plays a very similar role to that of Jules in a 1984 episode of the ABC sitcom "Benson." The "Benson" connection continues with Didi Conn playing a ditzy naive assistant in both series. Further, Danny son Tony Thomas works on both series.

The "dram" and the "edy" start out strong in the pilot. Arthur Jarvis (J. Pat O'Malley of "Maude") is the first in a continuum of long-time patients/close friends of Jules experiencing serious medical problems. In this case, both Arthur and David are much more accepting the seemingly imminent death of the former than Jules. 

Next up is Barbara Simms (Marge Redmond of "The Flying Nun"), who is equally distressed about her goiter and her husband recently leaving her for a younger woman. "Daddy" saying no regarding an operation prompts Barbara to ask "Son," who arranges for the procedure. We first see that Father knows best and that Barbara makes room for Daddy in the actual sense of that phrase.

Much of the "com" relates to Jules having to let Barbara down easily after purposefully giving her the wrong impression to ensure her recovery from her operation. 

Things get a little edgy when a terminally ill local drug lord (Vic Tayback of "Alice") demanbds treatment. The solution regarding whether letting this guy who does not know the meaning of "do no harm" die or honoring the Hippocratic Oath is creative and believable; one can argue that Jules should have taken things even further. 

One of the more amusing S1 episodes has David force Jules to go on a vacation only to have that dedicated physician treat hotel workers and guests in his room. Meanwhile, David gets comically overwhelmed as to taking over the practice of his father. 

Although a time constraint is behind not watching many more episodes for this review, the back-cover liner notes remind us of the star power during the rest of the "Practice" run. This begins with Mike Evans of "The Jeffersons" becoming a regular in the role of "Lenny ... a young, wisecracking medical intern."  

"Special" guest stars that surely contribute a great deal to their episodes include Lucille Ball and Edie Adams; Thomas daughter Marlo returns the favor as to her father appearing on an episode of "That Girl."

All of  the above illustrates the appeal of "Practice;" it is a relatable amusing mostly edge-free traditional sitcom that is akin to the scores of its peers that keep basic-cable networks, such as LAFF and Antenna TV in business. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

'Pan Am' CS DVD: 'Mad Men' Meets 'Love Boat'

The Mill Creek Entertainment August 2019 DVD release of the 2011-12 ABC period piece dramedy "Pan Am" provides another bite at the apple regarding this show that reminds us that flying was not always the horrendous nightmare that it is today. This series also is notable for launching the career of Margot Robbie.

"Pan Am" must be put in context that is apt for its "Love Boat" style format of each episode centering around a flight that has passengers whom guest stars of varying calibers play. It is fluffy fun with a relatively strong prime-time soap vibe. 

The following YouTube clip of an ABC promo. for "Pan Am" provides a good sense of the strong production values and the related style of this series set in the mid-60s. The network further reminds us that the cred. of the series includes "West Wing" and "ER" veterans. 



On the broadest level, "Pan Am" follows the "Marshall Plan" that reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall notes that setting a '70s sitcom in the '50s prevents it from looking dated. 

The opening scenes of the pilot (no pun intended) demonstrate the good balance between exposition and getting down to action that indicates that a show has good potential; fanboys think of this as "The Firefly Lesson."

We see our four central "stews" in their morning routines ahead of their inaugural flight on the maiden voyage of the brand-new Clipper jet of their titular employer. This montage helps establish the personalities of this '60s version of the "Sex and the City" quartet. 

The Robbie character Laura "Charlotte" Cameron represents the mix of plausible and absurd that makes the 14-episode "Pan Am" the best of shows and the average of shows. It simply seems that the producers want to provide a little something for everyone in a show, with a strong girl-power vibe.

The closest to sublime element of Laura is that she is a bright, intelligent, and charming recent college graduate. The spring of her discontent relates (no pun intended) to seeing that rebellious black-sheep Pam Am flight attendant sister Kate "Miranda" Cameron (Kelli Garner) is enjoying the freedom and adventure that increasingly is available to their generation, 

The gradual descent toward ridiculous begins with Kate showing up at the last-minute for the wedding of Laura to a nice clean-cut young man and facilitating the "Thelma and Louise" style prison break of the runaway bride.

This lead to the more improbable developments of rookie flight attendant Laura being at the right place at the right time in that a Life  magazine photographer snaps an impromptu photo that ends up on the cover of that publication, This ultimately leads to an increasingly liberated Laura posing for "art photos" that end up getting very public exposure (pun intended) that catches the eye of a "pop" idol of the era. 

The pilot adventure of Kate revolves around the CIA recruiting her to be a Cold War courier. This leads to increasingly dangerous adventures that ultimately involve aiding assets from behind the Iron Curtain, engaging in gun play, and helping expose a double agent all while maintaining the on-the-job poise, grace, and femininity that her day job requires. 

French-born Collette "Carrie" Valois (Karine Vanasse) largely provides the perspective of someone who spent a childhood under Nazi occupation; this is especially prominent in which the flight crew attend the Kennedy "Ich nin ein Berliner" speech in Germany.

The entertaining absurdity of the Collettte story arc relates to a romance that becomes a royal disaster. A background check regarding her suitability for the relationship reveals both a surprise regarding her heritage and the existence of a relative about whom she lacks prior knowledge. 

Last but not least is Maggie "Samanatha" Ryan, who is portrayed by Christina Ricci of "The Addams Family" movies. Maggie represents the liberated Bohemian woman of the era. She is a very feisty problem child who seems even more sexually liberated than European Collette. 

The absurdity of Maggie relates to her radical (as in subversive, rather than awesome) boyfriend Max essentially throwing her in the arms of a Congressman, who essentially is a poster-child for the Republican party. We also see Maggie not hesitating very much as to throwing a co-worker under the jet when her wanton ways seriously jeopardize her job.

As is the case in every series that centers around a fantastic four group of women, the men are all deeply flawed and mostly are window dressing. Largely hairless WASPy pale farm boy Dean Lowrey lacks much personality and emotes so much about runaway fiancee/flight attendant Bridget that even men who eat quiche everyday likely want him to man up at least a little.

Co-pilot who considers himself a god Ted Vanderway resents his privileged background not providing enough pull to have him sit in the "right seat" has more of a personality. He has the same Daddy issues as many sons of a wealthy "master of the universe" type father. Ted also is a former "Top Gun" Navy test pilot who has a past "incident" that is why he no longer in the service. 

All of this occurs in the context of the times that are a changin' in the mid-60s. We see prejudice against a black sailor who enters a friendship with potential benefits with one of the stews, get a lesbian woman who is looking to enter an open marriage of convenience, and even get a side trip to Haiti during great unrest on that island.

The broadest appeal of all this is showing they folks who think of the mid-60s as the beginning of the end regarding true style in America and others who consider that period as one in which the oppressed begin overthrowing the oppressors and the general population begins to get woke that the truth lies in the middle. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

'Knightfall' S2 DVD: Mark Hamill Goes From Jedi to Knight Templar

The first of many wonderful surprises regarding the Lionsgate August 6, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 second-season of the History Channel period-piece drama series "Knightfall" is that not having seen S1 is not a handicap. The S2 season premiere provides a nice S1 synopsis before picking up soon after those events.

It also is nice to see that having Mark Hamill play "drill sergeant" Talus, who molds recruits into full-fledged Knights Templar, is not merely a case of stunt casting. This hardened old soldier can be considered a much less kind and gentle version of Luke Skywalker. 

The following "Knightfall" S2 trailer does a good job conveying the depiction of the early 14th-century in the series; it also provides a good overview of the testosterone-fueled soap-opera elements in this variation of "The Tudors."


The misdeeds of disgraced knight Landry (Tom Cullen of "Downton Abbey") are the root cause of much of S2 trauma and drama; the "fruit" of his cuckolding former friend King Philip strongly intensifies the hatred of the latter toward the brotherhood of the former. This leads to papalcide, not- so-holy crusades, and a related campaign to turn the hearts and minds of the people of France against "God's Executioners."

Our man without a country also faces the challenge of obtaining the forgiveness of his former knights. His deviating from the program and incurring the aforementioned wrath of the monarch get him ousted from his fraternity; one spoiler is that the cost of regaining his former status requires that he repledge this boys' club.

Meanwhile back at the castle, excitable boy Prince Louis is finding the task of producing an heir with wife Margaret inconceivable. Margaret also must contend with the covert resentment of Princess Isabella, who understandably is upset about her upcoming  version of a crossbow marriage to Edward II.

Isabella and Margaret have INDISPUTABLY the best scene in the entire season. The two women delight in a feast of "cock" and even comment on the taste of that meat. This sets the stage for Isabella to Cosby her sister-in-law as the first step in having her disgraced. 

All of these events lead to heightened emotions that result in Philip getting his ally ensconced as pope, and the knights having a long series of very bad days.

​One of the most tense moments revolves around the holy soldiers already having their ranks depleted when it seems that their remaining numbers are destined to for horrific deaths. Whether a knight in not-so-shining armor rushes in to save them remains doubtful., 

Suffice to say, as is the case regarding the end of S1, the behind-the-scenes crew of "Knightfall" leave us wanting more.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'Lippy the Lion' and 'Hardy Har Har' DVD: True Hanna-Barbera All-Stars

The Warner Archive July 9, 2019 2-disc DVD release of the complete series "Lippy the Lion and "Hardy Har Har" (1962) awesomely contributes to the ecstasy that is the Archive continuous and seemingly endless revival of its classic Animation Domination. This Renaissance arguably begins with the MUST-OWN (reviewed) June 2019 Blu-ray release of "Jonny Quest" OS and continues at least through an August 2019 BD release of "The Jetsons" OS.  

The temporary agony as to this domination relates to "Lippy," along with the recent (reviewed) Archive release of "Wally Gator" only bringing literal and figurative children of the '60s and '70s 2/3 of the way toward owning all three series that make up the syndicated "The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series."

Pure instinct and youthful exuberance indicate that Archive will release "Touche Turtle and Dum Dum" before the end of September 2019. Buying "Lippy" and "Gator" will help make that a reality sooner rather than later. The bigger picture regarding this is that two out of three ain't bad, but a trifecta is much better. 

The release of "Touche" also would allow Saturday-morning sofa spuds with three DVD players to recreate each episode of "Series." 

Folks who are interested in learning more about the era of "talking animal" shows in this Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera are asked to please read the "Gator" review.  That post provides some insight into the productions that begat the action-adventure fare that begat "Scooby" and his clones, and it all was good.

"Lippy" is notable for having two HB all-stars voice the titular king of the jungle and his ironically named hyena sidekick, Daws Butler voices Lippy, and Mel Blanc voices Hardy. The rest of the story is that Butler uses the same voice for Lippy as he does for time-travelling Peter Potamus, whose '60s series also is in the Archive DVD catalog. 

Lippy is an always annoyingly gleeful optimist who almost certainly wears rose-colored contacts. His primary challenge is to get his equally always incredibly glum chum, who literally thinks that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and often is correct,  to be positive and to laugh. A semi-spoiler is that an episode in which Hardy laughs is the best moment in the series, 

The concept of "Lippy" is a little broader than most HB shows from any era and arguably is one that is closest to the spirit of "Looney Toons." Rather than rely on a single concept, such as the Scooby gang stumbling on an X-File or Gator escaping from the zoo only to find that there is no place like home, "Lippy" shows a bit more variety and is  even more rife with vaudeville-style slapstick. 

Each "Lippy" starts the same with our animated George and Lennie travelling the globe. The variety comes in the form of the reason for their wandering and the catalyst for their action. It often is survival, but may be part of get-rich scheme that Lippy is just as confident will succeed as Hardy is that it will fail. The latter always is expressed by the catchphrase "oh dear, oh my."  There also are times that the pair simply find adventure while on the road Kerouac style. 

The "Lippy" pilot "See Saw" sticks to the basics. Our pair is stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Hardy is lamenting their imminent demise when Lipppy uses spotting an island as a reason for Hardy to be optimistic. The combined bad news is that this arrival coincides with a pirate burying his booty and leads to Lippy and Hardy being Shanghaied.

An especially notable cluster of episode air early in the "Lippy" run. "Smile the Wild" finds the desperate time in the form of extreme hunger lead to the desperate measure of Lippy passing off Hardy as an escaped wildman from a circus in order to claim a reward. Of course, the real McCoy shows up and imperils the jungle boys.

"Film Flam" finds Lippy and Hardy vacationing in Hollywood. A cartoon-staple form of misunderstanding finds a film director mistaking Lippy for an actor in a lion suit. Hilarity truly ensues this time. 

"Gunflighter," which directly follows "Film," has Lippy passing Hardy off as the titular quick draw. The figuratively real McGraw showing up leads to an exceptional conclusion that highlights what Hardy brings to the table.

The "Hick Hikers," which is especially is especially looney toons in tone, finds Lippy climbing a previously unconquered mountain merely to accomplish that feat; Hardy is dead weight in tow and characteristically constantly bitching.

Our mountain-climbing lion achieves his objective only to find that a welcoming committee in the form of a ram is not at all sheepish about protecting his turf from interlopers. This leads to a hilarious game of king of the hill.

As virtually every post on animated and live-action Archive releases state, the fact that they do not (and will not) make 'em like that anymore provides reason enough to add "Lippy" to your DVD collection. This wonderful reminder of the era before killjoys take the highly entertaining violence out of cartoons is sorely needed in this era in which watching almost constant consequence-free knocks on the noggin is just what Dr. Patch Adams ordered. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Shire Woodstock: A Vermont State of Mind

Birthday trips to places such as The Shire Woodstock in Vermont are more than making for being a July baby precluding the large parties that the kids whose special days occurred during the school year enjoyed. An exceptional in every way dinner at the Red Rooster restaurant at the nearby Woodstock Inn provided the almost literal icing on the figurative birthday cake. An article on that meal is planned for next month.

A less positive role of the Woodstock Inn led both to the stay at Shire and added to the knowledge bank that continually enhances the Inn Credible New England section of this site.

I initially approached the Inn about a media stay. Suffice it to say that this luxury hotel, which has non-profit status despite charging what must be a highly profitable rate for its accommodations, predictably passed me off to its Manhattan PR firm. That firm equally predictably determined that my site was inadequately trendy to warrant any consideration. Being told no did not prompt resentment; the Inn itself not even looking at my site or considering my proposal did, 

On a related note, I was charged a resort fee on a prior trip to the Inn despite the Inn lacking resort facilities. (Guests can use the facilities at a not-so-close recreation center). I also was deprived use of the steam room in the spa because I did not book a spa treatment; the spa was empty at that time. 

A subsequent tip to contact Shire quickly led to the first of several greatly exceeded expectations. That interaction created a strongly validated sense that I was dealing with a place that embraced a Vermont, rather than a New York, state of mind.

Veteran Shire manager Barbara Sheehan was extremely friendly and said "we love travel writers." She booked us in the GINORMOUS Riverhouse Suite and fully comped us. All this was without accepting an invitation to check out this site. 

The below photos are of that deluxe two-bedroom accommodation, complete with a Jacuzzi that provides shoulder massages that will make you never want to get out of the tub.






Front-desk clerk Shannon provided a Vermont-quality welcome on our arrival at the main building, which is a motel that has been renovated into a upscale place to stay that combines the best elements of a B and B and a nice hotel without a 'tude. After checking us in, Shannon directed us to the adjacent Riverhouse. This two-story building is the home of the former owners that has been beautifully renovated to having the suite on the ground floor and guest-rooms upstairs. 

Entering the suite provides the desired "wow" factor. There is a spacious entry hall that leads to the rest of this palace. The enormous master bedroom, complete with gas fireplace and a door to the river-front wrap-around porch of the suite, has a walk-in closet that is almost as large as the "shabby broom closet" that Inn Credible articles often mention., 

This space, which easily qualifies as a mini-suite by itself, has a large en-suite bathroom with the aforementioned tub. Other highlights are the honey-based BeeKind amenities and a shower large enough for you and two of your closest friends.

Putting the shower gel in the Jacuzzi produced silky smooth skin; using two tubes of it evoked thoughts of Bobby Brady putting a box of detergent in the washing machine. Fortunately, the mountain of suds in the Jacuzzi did not overflow onto the floor.

The second bedroom is larger than most upgraded accommodations in cookie-cutter hotels. It, like the master bedroom, has a roomy seating area that is a treat for those of us who dislike having a bed being the only sitting option in a hotel room.

The bathroom for this bedroom is across the hall; however, doors at each end of that hall allow the person staying there complete privacy. 

An aside related to this is that even the happiest of couples can be even happier when having the option of separate bedrooms. Snoring, restlessness, nocturnal bathroom breaks, and late-night use of electronic devices all can disrupt the sleep of each better half. The suite bedrooms having their own highly effective climate-controlled systems is the bonus regarding this. 

The rest of the story is that this layout is PERFECTLY conducive to visits to the Woodstock area. Like most Inn Credible New England trips, the agenda involved heading out relatively early each day and spending much of the evening relaxing in the room.

Our days started with eating bakery muffins and having coffee (complete with real cream) and following the Inn Credible habit of watching a little "Kelly and Ryan" before heading to nearby Hanover, NH (home of Dartmouth College) on our first full day and not so nearby Brattleboro, Vermont on our second day. We also took advantage of Shire literally being on the edge of the quaint business district of Woodstock to tour the shops and the galleries there, 

We took moderate advantage of having a full kitchen (complete with a table that seats eight) and a large living room by having dinner in the night after feasting  at the Red Rooster. Grad school-era memories of the era elicited repeated chants of PIZZA CHEF PIZZA CHEF PIZZA CHEF throughout the trip that succeeded in getting our food there,

The good news is that Chef still puts only a moderate amount of its tangy sauce and an equally well-proportioned amount of its equally good toppings on its pizzas. The amusing news is that New York entered the picture in the form of being behind tourists relentlessly grilling the friendly 11-year veteran behind the counter about gluten-free crust, the type of cheese, and everything else. This prolonged absurd exchange almost prompted a Bronx cheer. 

A post-pizza chant of ROADHOUSE ROADHOUSE ROADHOUSE prompted watching that Patrick Swayze classic on Netflix on the 4K smart-TV over the gas fireplace in the living room. 

In other words, a good time was had by all, and Shire has well-earned most-favored nation status.

The bigger picture this time is this stay validating the invalidity of a bias against former motels that have been upgraded to good getaway hotels. A prior stay at a similar place (with a forgotten name) in the Berkshires of Massachusetts involved unwarranted trepidation. No such concerns existed regarding Shire, which has expertly renovated and improved the rooms in the main building. That place provides a solid option to the other options in town and greatly outshines every off-ramp palace anywhere in the US.

Final thoughts reflect simple Vermont wisdom in that Shire shows that you should not judge a book by its cover; passing up a place because it looks like a motel can cause you to miss out  on something good.