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Monday, January 21, 2019

'Elves' DVD: Holiday Horror Combines 'Child's Play,’ 'Truth or Dare,' 'The List of Adrian Messenger’, & 'Gilligan's Island'

Uncork'd Entertainment fully embraces the spirit of holiday horror with the recent DVD release of the (reviewed) "Krampus Origins" and "Elves, which is our topic du jour. Both films provide an incentive to qualify for the nice list of Santa, Stating that there is Hell to pay for placement on the naughty list is not an exaggeration. 

"Elves," which is a sequel to the Uncork'd 2017 film "The Elf," sets the tone early on with two young brothers who are snooping around in the period before Christmas leading to one boy finding one of the titular dolls. This leads to a "Hansel and Gretel" moment.

The film follows the horror tradition of quickly shifting the narrative to another setting and (presumably) years after the incidents in the cold open. A group of slackers/recent high-school graduates is gathered in an abandoned warehouse. This party starts to go out of bounds when one of the women gets her friends to play a game that involves the guilty among them putting their names on a naughty list and admitting their sins. 

The explained lore is that the actual event long ago and far away is that there are seven visitors to the hay-filled maternity ward where Jesus is born; the rest of the story is that each of these admirers brings a gift that represents one of the deadly sins. This is akin to the theory that each "stranded" castaway on Gilligan's Isle represents one of these vices. 

The awesome mix of humor and horror begins with an elf doll popping up in front of the first victim. A peer aptly comments that the requirement that the current occupant of the hot seat either commit the heinous act that Santa's little helper orders or die is akin to the film "Truth or Dare" that revolves around the policy that you do the dare or the dare does you. 

This woman faces the dilemma of either running down a pedestrian or ending her life before life provides her a chance to appear on "Jerry Springer." She soon learns the lesson of the CW drama series "Supernatural" that evil entities are dicks. 

This prompts the gang to act in a manner akin to the campaign in the classic murder-mystery film "The List of Adrian Messenger." That film revolves around a combined effort to capture a killer who is targeting the men on the titular inventory and to save the surviving members of that group from a fate equal to death. Once again, discovering that the big bad at the heart of this carnage does not play by the rules complicates matters. 

All of this culminates in  a North Pole standoff that does not succeed in stopping the madness.

The bonus features include two entertaining cast interviews complete with a magic show and references to the making of this one and "Elf."

The neo-modern Christmas story ending this time is that "Elves" is a movie by Millennials for Millennials and anyone else who enjoys his or her horror with a heavy dose of awesomely perverse dark humor.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

'OUT on Stage: The Series' Streaming: Showcase for Comics With Queer Senses of Humor

The gay-themed Dekkoo streaming service adding the 6-episode inaugural season of the stand-up program "OUT on Stage: The Series" on January 17, 2019 is VERY refreshing because it is seemingly is the only current forum for performers are not afraid to go there. The career-ending "objectionable" humor of many performers makes it refreshing to see these comics boldly go where many men now fear to tread. This site describes this as society going from fuck 'em if they can't take a joke to fucked if you tell 'em a joke. 

Host Zach Noe Towers is a queer as fuck funny man who clearly loves his job. An amusing aspect of his role is following the seemingly obligatory gesture in the gay world of greeting people with a hug. The sincerity of this ritual with each guest reflects both the regard of Towers for him and the quality of the humor from that person.

Towers supplements his hosting privilege with a good set in the second episode. He shows good instincts regarding not beating a funny bit about "do overs" to death. His time on stage also includes a hilarious "trans-ginger" joke. 

The diversity and the quality of "OUT" starts strong with with the first set in the first episode. Asian-Jewish man Jared Goldstein is a gay man's Julia Roberts (whose appeal still remains puzzling decades into her career) in that he is so adorable that he can get away with saying anything. Unlike Roberts, Goldstein is actually likable and cute. 

The delight of Goldstein begins with this man who clearly has Asian features sharing that he is Jewish; he goes on to mine wonderful humor from his diverse background to the extent of commenting that his father is a typical Jewish man by marrying an Asian woman.

An unexpected omission is Goldstein not making a Kevin Spacey joke when discussing being a child in an adult world while performing on Broadway at the age of 12. For the record, your not-so-humble reviewer has a long-term online friendship with Anthony Rapp and has high regard for him as a person and an actor. At the same time, one can imagine Spacey arguing in his upcoming trial for groping a bus boy on a Massachusetts island that he just wanted to see if that 18 year-old was THE man from Nantucket. 

Learning just now that that the Twitter handle of second performer Ranier Pollard is @RanierstheBest assuages any bad feelings about disliking his set. The question of whom does he have to fellate to get a spot may be literal in his case. 

Pollard comes out in a muscle shirt and makes an obvious "gun show" joke. He then flexes and kisses his biceps. Much (if not all) of his performance centers around white people being afraid of black people. This includes asserting to be notorious and then stating that he is partially joking. There is no memory of any gay-oriented humor. 

Good ole Southern boy Kyle Shire (who does not mention the Dykes of Hazard) is the first-episode clean-up act. His message that gay men come in all shapes and sizes arguably is the most positive message in the two watched episodes. 

Shire  also provides amusing commentary regarding straight people simply being labelled as such and gay people not having it that easy. The breeders in the audience get educated about the wide category of animals to which gay men are assigned. This takes thing well beyond the hankie in the back pocket system of the '70s.

The second episode of "OUT" ends with hard-to-pin down Brendan Scannell, who plays Heather Duke in the "Heathers" TV series. Even in this age of gender fluidity, this guy who has an overall twink appearance wears nail polish seems to directly straddle the fence. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) He does a decent job, but Towers upstages him with a post-performance reference to a "pubes on the face" joke. A drum roll is apt in noting that Scannell should have seen that one coming (pun intended).

An entertaining bit from an unrecalled "OUT" comic about the limited fish in the gay dating sea and the clarity of that ocean perfectly describes the challenge of finding performers for "OUT." There is a limited population of gay comics. This is further narrowed by the folks who are willing to restrict their careers by being so out and proud.

​The numbers shrink further when limiting the pool to folks with an amusing way of sharing an interesting perspective. The program does a good job separating this wheat from the chaff. 

As mentioned above, "OUT" provides a good chance to watch edgy but inoffensive humor from the comfort of your own home. Friends of Dorothy will relate to most of the performances; folks who pride themselves on not being narrow both will have cause to feel good about themselves and enjoy enlightenment. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

'Last Action Hero' Blu-ray: Schwarzenegger 'Purple Rose of Cairo'

Mill Creek Entertainment once again does the '90s proud regarding the January 15, 2019 Blu-ray release of "Last Action Hero" (1993) in retro VHS packaging. This release, which coincides with a MCE retro BD release of the John Candy comedy "Who's Harry Crumb," is among many examples of MCE facilitating a very worthwhile additional bite of the apple regarding these films. This is especially true as to the recent release of the (reviewed) 1998 teencom "Can't Hardly Wait."

The largest context for "Hero" is that it is from the waning days of the Silver Age of Hollywood in which art still (barely) often wins out over commerce. It also falls within the period between 1985 -95 in which proverbially emerging computer technology allows filmmaking to be especially cool.

One example of Hollywood embracing new tech. is "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which takes blending live-action and animation beyond Disney fare, "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," and other productions that have live actors interact with 'toons. A related innovation is the expert merging of black-and-white and color in the Tobey Maguire comedy "Pleasantville." 

A more widespread example of this is morphing, which allows having a character radically change his or her appearance in front of the audience. This is heavily used in "Terminator 2," which is a showcase for "Hero" star/former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Another innovation is even more relevant to "Hero." This relates to computers allowing characters in programs and films within the movie to enter each of those realities. The 1985 Woody Allen comedy "The Purple Rose of Cairo" arguably is the best-known example.

"Hero" plays homage to "Rose" by having tween fanboy Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) enter the world of titular Dirty Harry style rogue cop Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). This adventure is courtesy of magic that a film projectionist/grandfather figure provides in a nod to Willy Wonka.

"Hero" additionally is from an era in which Schwarzenegger begins including more humor in his action-adventure films and does flat-out comedy. Comparing "True Lies" with "Kindergarten Cop" and "Jingle ALlthe Way" demonstrates which development is more successful. 

Part of the perspective related to watching "Hero" 25 years after its theatrical release is the relatability of Danny watching the Slater films in a once-grand movie palace that is now a run-down dump that is slated (no pun intended) to be converted into a multiplex. We also get a scene in which Schwarzenegger plays himself giving a red-carpet interview while future ex-wife Maria Shriver (a.k.a. Melania) stands in the background rolling her eyes. 

The final general note before discussing the merits of "Hero" itself is that the film looks great in Blu-ray. This extends beyond the scenes in sunny southern California looking bright and beautiful; this enhanced format highlights the differences between the grainy and often rainy scenes and/or darkness in the real world of New York and the aforementioned beauty of the reel world Los Angeles in the film.

The action aptly starts right away ala a "Simpsons" episode that begins with Bart watching a "McBain" movie. The first images are from "Jack Slater 3" and revolve around Schwarzenegger arriving on the scene in character to deal with a maniac holding elementary school children hostages as part of a grudge against Slater. This provides additional context from a 2018 perspective. The epidemic of 21st-century school shootings likely would preclude such a scene in a modern film. 

We then see Danny emerge from the theater into his hard-knock life in which he and his single mom Irene (Mercedes Ruehl) live in a slum; Dad is nowhere in the picture, and Irene must work hard at her menial dead-end job just to provide her and Danny minimal comforts. All of this establishes why Danny so highly values escaping into the world of Slater. 

The action fully gets underway when especially unnerving trauma and drama compel Danny to attend a verboten screening of "Jack Slater IV." It is all fun and games until the aforementioned magic drops Danny into the backseat of the vintage convertible of Slater during a chase scene. 

The real hilarity ensures after the chase concludes and Danny frantically tries to get Slater to believe him that they are inside a movie and that Slater is a Schwarzenegger character. This leads to great multiverse humor that includes satirizing buddy-cop films and includes alternative casting of a classic film role.

The aforementioned buddy-cop element leads to the stereotypical short-tempered police lieutenant (Frank McRae) assigning Slater to partner with Danny to investigate the drug kingpin (Anthony Quinn) who is making things personal for Slater. 

Things largely proceed as normal after that; our team closing in on their prey provides Schwarzenegger plenty of opportunity to deliver "knife to meet you" style puns as he battles bad guys.

Things soon turn very real when the action moves to the real world of "Hero." Slater learns about what it means to be human, and Danny is taught is even more tough truths about celluloid heroes. A bizarre Death (Ian McKellan) takes a holiday aspect of this likely is a reason for the unduly harsh panning of "Hero." Folks who still scoff should put this film in the context of recent ones such as "Tag," "Sausage Party," and even the big-budget train wreck "Batman v. Superman."

Another nice thing about "Hero" is that it largely puts right what once went wrong but is not unduly absurd regarding it. Slater does not have any life-altering experience beyond his relatively literal reality check, and Danny does not inherit the chocolate factory.​

'Inside Daisy Clover' DVD: Natalie Wood Channels Judy Garland

The Warner Archive November 20, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 Natalie Wood drama "Inside Daisy Clover" evokes memories of the gritty "tell it like it is" films, such as "Easy Rider" (1969) and "Five Easy Pieces" (1970). of the era. The larger picture is that "Daisy" arguably is a brutal semi-fictionalized portrait of Judy Garland and of Wood herself to a lesser extent. Wood being 26 when she makes this film about America's 15 year-old "little Valentine" is the smoking gun regarding this theory.

Although Ruth Gordon only receives an Oscar nomination for her perfect portrayal of the senile mother of Clover, that role nets her a Golden Globe. Cast member Robert Redford gets a Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer - Male" for his role as macho man movie star Wade Lewis, who is fond of beards. It is interesting that Redford is two years older than Wood but plays a character who is roughly a decade older than Clover. 

The following YouTube clip of a '60stastic trailer for "Daisy" uses an entertaining apt newsreel tone to convey the "True Hollywood Story" aspect of the film.



"Daisy" opens in August 1936 with Angel Beach, California tough street kid Clover telling the audience that it is her 15th birthday; the graffiti that she adds to the wall against which she is slouching reflects her disdain for her older sister Gloria; a latter scene establishes that marrying up is the chosen route of Gloria to escape the trailer-trash existence of Clover and their mother.

Other glimpses of the "before she was a star" life of Daisy include her hilarious fending off the advances of her horny teen boy friend. We also see Gordon just now reporting the disappearance of her long-absent husband. The rationale for this delay is one of the best lines in this well-written film by Alan J. Pakula ("To Kill A Mockingbird") and Robert Mulligan ("Mockingbird" and "Summer of '42".) 

Stardom literally arrives on the doorstep of the double-wide that Daisy and her mother share when Hollywood producer Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer) sends a limousine to deliver Daisy to a screen test in response to a record of herself that she submits as an entry in a talent contest.

The realities of fame soon set in for Daisy. Gloria swoops in to get a piece of the action; Ma gets shipped off to Shady Pines, and Swan invents a new life story for his latest discovery. This is not to mention coercing Daisy into adapting her private life to conform with her public image. A notable scene in which the studio goes well beyond having Daisy wearing a Kansas farm girl outfit and toting (pun intended) a terrier is one of the most memorable in this exceptional film, 

Redford showing up at just the right place and time leads to sweeping away Daisy; sadly, in true Hollywood style, the honeymoon period is cut short. Additional trauma and drama pushes our starlet closer to the edge.

All of this climaxes with the dam breaking; the final scenes truly show the price of fame. 

The appeal of all this is that both Daisy and the audience learn a moral. Resenting a celebrity for earning far more in a few months than most of us earn in a lifetime is reasonable. We must remember that, especially in this Internet Age and #MeToo era, that that compensation includes payment for sacrificing any privacy and for never dropping a facade, Tom Cruise deserves tremendous credit for never responding to a cry of "show me the money" by showing that moron the finger. 

Archive lightens the mood by including the 1964 Road Runner cartoon "War and Pieces" as a DVD extra. The epic name for this outing is apt based on it being the last Chuck Jones cartoon for Warner Bros until the '80s. The cleverness of the variations on the theme of traps backfiring on Wile E. Coyote are too amusing to spoil. Suffice it to say that Jones goes way beyond our villain holding a stick of dynamite when it explodes. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

'The Giant Behemoth' Blu-ray: Creature from B.C. Attacks U.K.

The Warner Archive leitmotif to which the January 22, 2019 Archive Blu-ray release of the 1959 movie "The Giant Behmoth" belongs is '50s sci-fi. Although very entertaining based on its own merits, the so-bad-they're-good stock footage and special effects greatly add to the enjoyment of watching this one. Further, the Blu-ray remaster of this low-budget cult classic looks and sounds good.

The addition of "Behemoth" to the Archive catalog follows the (reviewed) Blu-ray release of the Howard Hawks mainstream classic "The Thing From Another World." These releases (and similar fare) facilitate recreating the awesome Saturday afternoon marathons at movie theaters. Watching the films back-to-back on the evening of a horrible day was exactly what the cinephile ordered. 

The following YouTube clip of a Archive highlight video of "Behemoth" showcases the aforementioned effects that make the production values of the live-action Saturday-morning series "Land of the Lost" seem like something from a Merchant-Ivory film. A related depicted element is the cool way that "Behemoth" recreates the vibe of the WWII-era blitz. 



This "Godzilla" begins with Yank Steve Karnes in King Robert's Court to lecture on little-considered fallout from A Bombs; his topic is how the radiation affects sea life but does not specifically address fish developing a third eye. This scene is particularly notable for a clever narrative technique that identifies Karnes. 

Karnes is about to leave England for his home turf when a news report of sea monster who is far from lovin' and laughin' his life away prompts this science guy to head to the coastal scene of the crime. One of the coolest scenes from this portion of the film is discovering a radioactive element in a dissected fish.

Finding radiated Nemo allows narrowing the search for the titular sea monster. Rather than using a dory, our team boards a helicopter to search the targeted area of ocean. The arguably best effect ensues in the form of the Biblical beast swimming just below the surface. This scene arguably inspires similar moments in the awesome Brit series "Primeval" and "Primeval New World" that have prehistoric creatures respectively terrorizing England and Vancouver. 

The same in-the-know viewers who yell "don't go in there" during horror movies surely predict that the plan to lower the helicopter to get a better look is a fatal mistake. They may as well have had Henry Blake on board. 

The behemoth going on land and leaving behind physical evidence of (presumably) his presence leads to bringing in paleontologist Dr. Sampson. Sampson is a somewhat absent-minded professor who steals every scene in which he appears. 

The conclusions of Samson being spot-on does not prevent mayhem that arguably is the most hilariously cheesy scene in the film. Our monster attacks a ferry full of passengers with extreme prejudice,

All of this leads to a literal plan-of-attack that finds the proper balance between ridding the U.K. of the terrible lizard and taking a scorched-earth approach. The ensuing action revolves around getting the rampaging beast to take his medicine. 

Hilarity and drama ensue in equal measure as the potential saviors strive to complete their mission; consensus regarding this effort avoids any barney.

As indicated above, the silliness of "Behemoth" provides roughly 90-minutes of unreal entertainment. Ambiguity regarding whether this big guy is a teenage mutant sea creature or a long slumbering dino who is awoken provides a good discussion topic. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

'Hippocrates Diary of a French Doctor' DVD: Must-See Viewing for All Med Students

Icarus Films shows good timing regarding releasing the 2014 mockudramedy "Hippocratres Diary of a French Doctor" on January 15, 2019. This roughly coinciding with medical students returning to their studies provides a good chance to ease back into the rigors of these programs by watching this generally mockumentary-style story of newbie medical intern/legacy 23 year-old Benjamin Barois. Much of the sense of authenticity relates to director Thomas Lilti having trained to be a doctor.

The following YouTube clip of the "Diary" trailer provides a good sense of the drama and the humor about this look a life in a busy Parisian hospital. 


Lilti sets the perfect tone for "Diary" right from the opening scenes. We see a solitary Benjamin dodging large laundry carts as he wanders the halls in the basement of the public hospital on his first day of work. His projecting an image of a lost sheep on his way to be slaughtered extends beyond the unruly mop of black hair that seems required of every male French medical intern.

Limited success in obtaining a lab coat introduces Benjamin to hospital bureaucracy and his status at that institution; this is despite his father being a senior doctor there.

The next rapid succession of wake-up calls begins with Benjamin learning about the number of patients in the ward to which he is assigned; his "its complicated" relationship with more experienced intern Abdel begins with that older man arguably being unduly assertive in how he steps in when Benjamin has difficulty with a medical procedure.

The first real doctor's life lesson comes on Benjamin losing a patient. The circumstances of that death lead to that kid throwing Abdel under le bus and giving viewers a few more reasons to avoid hospitals. 

Benjamin survives to fight another day until facing his next major challenge, which also involves Abdel. The general consensus that an elderly cancer patient should be allowed to continue circling the drain becomes a bone of contention when the ICU team is called in to perform arguably heroic measures; Benjamin and Abdel stepping in to pull the plug on those efforts leads to a disciplinary proceeding with negative consequences for both men. Part of this involves Benjamin showing that he does not feel like working and playing well with others. This leads to a confrontation with even more dire consequences. 

We additionally get several looks at the daily lives of the interns; this includes enthusiastic meting out of punishment for talking shop during meal times, watching reel doctors, arguing about who should work on holidays, and a New Year's dance party at which hospital staffers rock out with their docs out. A message here is that guilty feet have got no rhythm.

As mentioned above, the camera being an unobtrusive fly on the wall as all the action transpires greatly contributes to the realistic sense of "Diary." This makes this film one from which both medical students and producers of reality TV shows can learn. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

'The Thing From Another World' Blu-ray: Howard Hawks Sci-Fi Classic

Seeing truly is believing regarding the pristine Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1951 Howard Hawks sci-fi classic "The Thing From Another World." The legacy of this tale of a broccoli from another planet terrorizing a group ar the actual Santaland includes the equally classic 1982 John Carpenter film "The Thing."

As indicated above, the video of this crystal-clear remaster of this '50s flick is amahzing. The same is true regarding the audio.

Hawks clearly shows his well-known diversity by hitting a home-run with this one that goes beyond sci-fi to also be a military buddy comedy, a romcom, and a morality tale. 

Our story begins with jovial Air Force Captain Patrick Hendry (character actor Kenneth Tobey) joking with his crew and with newspaperman Ned Scott (character actor Douglas Scott) at an Anchorage Air Force base. In a manner that is particularly familiar to fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Team Hendry soon is called in to investigate a weird occurrence at a North Pole research center; Scott convinces the crew to let him tag along.

The humor continues with the flyboys and what passes for ground control at the North Pole making light of hazardous landing conditions. One spoiler is that the plane and all souls safely land. 

The "rom" element soon enters the picture in the form of awesomely named office worker Nikki Nicholson; Nicholson portrayor Margaret Sheridan is known as the equivalent of a Hitchcock blonde in the eyes of Hawks (pun intended).

The onscreen chemistry and bantering between Tobey and Sheridan help elevate "Thing" from merely being kiddee matinee fare. Sheridan receiving top billing over Tobey, Nicholson being the one to hit it and quit it (and leaving a hilarious "Dear John" letter) in the relationship, and the nature of  playful light bondage clearly define that dynamic. 

The sci-fi element heats up on the newcomers learning that a UFO has crashed landed and is frozen beneath the ice; discovering the titular alien (James Arness of "Gunsmoke") at the Roswell North site compensates for a glitch while recovering the craft.

The sci-fi staple of a fatal mistake this time consists of bringing this outer-space equivalent of Encino Man inside to slowly thaw him. Inadvertently expediting this process allows the accidental tourist to explore his new surroundings sooner than expected. Suffice it to say both that first contact does not go as planned and that the man with that duty may as well have been wearing a red shirt.

The most awesome thing about this new threat is that it FINALLY introduces real conflict in the film; Dr. Arthur Carrington (character actor Robert Cornthwaite) plays the dual roles of "The Professor" who by far is the smartest guy in the room and the dick who regularly clashes with Hendry. The disagreement relates to accepting the reality that you need to crack a few skulls to make a scientifically important omelet. 

An early detection system provides our group an advantage in its effort to find and neutralizes this threat with a somewhat plausible basis for lacking any emotion or compassion. However, this proves to be little help regarding the final mano a mango battle. 

This confrontation at the North Pole really going south at one point adds good suspense that contributes to the classic status of the film. A mix of humor and potential for peril enters in the form of speculating about a previously unconsidered advantage of the rampaging rutabaga.

The bigger picture is whether mere mortals can defeat a creature that is bigger, stronger, smarter, and lacks any regard for human life. This provides the rest of the human population reason to anticipate fairly literally becoming cattle.

The epilogue to all this is that "Things" hits all the right notes and speaks to everyone. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

'Obamaland' DVD: Hopeless Alternative Future

The current angry openly cursing villagers and the literal Mexican standoff regarding the government shutodwn make the Breaking Glass Pictures December 4, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 satirical comedy "Obamaland" particularly timely. Portraying both the right and the left as thoroughly ridiculous reflects the wisdom of Don Rickles, who escapes criticism by making nasty jokes about everyone. 

The overall hipster/indie tone evokes thoughts of "Portlandia." This comparison extends to writer/director Greg Bergman playing community college Obamanomics professor Xander. One can easily imagine his students chanting "hey hey ho ho these racist teachers have got to go" with no valid provocation ala the real-life "students" at Evergreen Community Coillege. 

A more personal note is that your MODERATE not-so-humble reviewer HATES Trump and is no friend of Barry. He has used the term Obamanation since 2008; a side note is disgust that afternoon talk-show host Oprah essentially is responsible for the outcome of the 2008 election by endorsing Obama at a time that his campaign is failing. The final stop on this detour to Blogland is a long-standing hope that Bill Gates will run for the office of chief EXECUTIVE of the EXECUTIVE branch, 

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Obamaland" highlights the humor at the expense of both sides of the aisle. 


The underlying concept of "Obamaland" is that assertions associated with a vast right-wing conspiracy are true, The delusional FICTIONALIZED titular president is a Kenya native and a Muslim. He also is obsessed with equality to the extent of rearranging the heavens but apparently lacks any intent regarding Uranus.

The film is set in 2040, and most of the former United States is now Obamaland. The area formerly known as Texas is part of the Borderlands. A series of incidents that either are fortunate or unfortunate depending on your perspective are behind Obama being President for Life of the country that bears his name.

Xander already has reason to be disillusioned with the Otopia that Obama has created when this community educator is assigned to cover a concert in the Borderlands. This dream-come-true becomes a nightmare when he faces a rear attack that involves taking it like a man.

Deliverance comes at the hand of a Trumpublikan, who is displeased with the state of our union. The start of this beautiful friendship continues with that conservative taking Xander to the abandoned AppleCheeez restaurant that serves as a resistance headquarters. 

Xander then gets caught up in the plot to make America great again; the most amusing moment in the film comes when he remarks that every negotiation related to the plot to bring down Obama involves him having sex. A hilarious test that is designed to prevent the unworthy from entering the inner sanctum is a close second for most memorable scene.

All of this culminates in a free-for-all game changer. The lesson here is that things have gone to far for all of us to get along. ​

'Krampus Origins' DVD: Anti-Claus Is Comin' To Town

Uncork'd Entertainment puts its awesomely twisted slant on Christmas films with two recent DVD releases of holiday-themed horror films. The current topic is "Krampus Origins," which tells the tale of how Anti-Santa gets his groove back. The companion release "Elves" is a wonderful variation of "Truth or Dare" with the "Krampus" element of punishing bad post-adolescent boys and girls. A review of that one is pending.

Both films are delightfully low-budget and quirky. They also show both that there is no shame in appealing to the lowest common denominator and that trash heaps can conceal semi=precious stones. 

This story that can be considered a lost tale from the crypt opens during a raging WWI battle; a German officer is attempting to summon help in the form of the titular monster who is best known for carrying off naughty children. Doughboys interrupt this ritual with extreme prejudice before the guest-of-honor fully materializes. 

The action then shifts to a stateside Catholic orphanage that a nunzilla governs with an iron ruler. The early 20th-century Goth girl, a couple of horny teen boy bullies, an awkward lad, and a handful of everykids who live there show that things have not changed much in 100 years, This is not to mention the elderly alcoholic priest living out his remaining days purely as a figurehead.

The arrival of a pretty young teacher provides the catalyst for the ensuing mayhem; circumstances beyond her control put her in possession of the book that includes the ritual that frees Krampus from his unfortunate incarceration as a guest of the fairies. 

This book falling in the wrong curious hands frees the beast and leads to children disappearing. Once again, a little child leads them by informing the teacher of the inconvenient truth. This leads to a surprisingly civil discourse between beauty and the beast. This conversation also reveals that the reason for taking children extends beyond not-so-divine retribution.

All of this leads to a solution that shows that the personification of evil is not the sharpest #2 in the evil pencil box.

The fun of all this is that you will laugh and may cry. You further will learn that you should not leave Satanic tomes where children can get them. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

'The Karate Kid Part III' / 'The Next Karate Kid' Blu-ray Double Feature: Further Adventures of Daniel-San & Mr. Miyagi

The Mill Creek Entertainment January 8, 2019 Blu-ray double feature release of "The Karate Kid Part III" and "The Next Karate Kid" offers a chance for a fun escapist evening during the dark and cold weather that is settling in for most of us. The bright sunshine and corny plots full of teen angst and earnestness is the perfect cure for what ails us.

The best news is that rewatching the original 1984 "Kid" reinforces that it has many merits. The concept is that (somewhat ala the '70scom "Alice") teen Jersey boy Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) is uprooted when his mother takes a job in Los Angeles. Like "Alice," the family station wagon barely makes the trip. The other similarity that the family ends up living in a shabby apartment.

Ala '70scom "One Day at a Time," building superintendent Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) becomes a father figure. This handyman transform Daniel into the titular martial arts teen sans shell in response to that new kid in town being the victim of vicious bullying. 

The quality of the first film and the cuteness and the charm of Macchio in it make it worth watching. 

"Karate Kid II" commences in the immediate wake of the tournament that provides the climax of "Kid." Daniel and his sensei soon travel to the Miyagi birthplace of Okinawa where adventure and romance once again ensue for these friends.

"III" begins with flashbacks that briefly recap "I" and "II" before joining Daniel and Miyagi landing at LAX from their Asian trip, The context for the following thoughts on "III" are that it is so absurdly bad that it is good. The first problem is that Macchio is much less cute, charming, and naive than in the first film.

The comic-book nature of "III" relates to over-the-top villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). This grown-ass one-percenter has a ridiculous vendetta against Daniel and Miyagi for their provoked humiliation of John Kreese and the Cobra Kai "gang" of that once-respected karate master. Much of the unintended humor relates to our heroes having no idea about that animus.

A concurrent series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a premise for a sitcom in the form of Daniel moving in with Miyagi and becoming his partner in a bonsai tree store. The love interest is Jessica (Robyn Lively), who owns and operates a nearby pottery shop.

Silver recruits Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to goad a still-oblivious Daniel into entering the tournament that he won at the end of "Kid." The idea is that Daniel will lose to Barnes and restore the "honor" of Cobra Kai. 

This not-so-subtle persuasion leads to a cliffhanger that results in Daniel registering for the contest; Miyagi refusing to train him and pulling an inarguably dick move drives our still-clueless post-adolescent into the web of Silver. The "grand reveal" arguably is the best bad moment in "III." 

"III" winds up with a deja-vu all over again moment; Daniel is getting badly pummeled in his championship match with Barnes; it seems that all is lost until (of course) Daniel rallies and (perhaps literally) kicks the ass of the larger and stronger Barnes. Of course, this sends Silver and Kreese into hysterical in both senses of the word tailspins. 

"The Next Karate Kid" is a kinder and gentler movie that attempts to reboot the franchise. It opens with Miyagi attending a ceremony honoring his WWII Army unit; meeting the widow of his Anglo commanding officer leads to Miyagi visiting that woman, who is raising orphaned granddaughter Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank).

A series of unfortunate circumstances this time leads to Miyagi becoming the caretaker of troubled teen Julie. The love interest is hunky blond-boy Eric, who is not put off by the hostility of Julie, 

The Cobra Kai element this time is the ROTC/Hitler Youth style school group the Alpha Elite, which counts a reluctant Eric among its members. The dual catalysts for conflict are Alpha Elite teen leader Ned wanting to get in the pants of a reluctant Julie and related defiance by Eric getting him ousted from the group.

The rest of the story is that Miyagi takes Julie to a Buddhist monastery for karate training that is designed to teach her discipline and to improve her 'tude..They return home only to find that things have not changed much.

Excitable boy Ned ultimately pushes Eric too far in a manner that leads to a late-night rumble. We learn whether boys do cry and the extent to which a girl must be brought in to do the job of a man.

As mentioned above, the appeal of "III" and "Next" is the escapist fun of this continuation of a franchise that has a solid base. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

'Perfect Strangers' S6: Anatomy of an '80scom

The Warner Archive December 4, 2018 DVD release of the 1996-97 S6 of the ABC TGIF sitcom "Perfect Strangers" brings us close to the finish line for this 8-season classic and allows Millennials another chance to see a sitcom done right. 

This set, which comes relatively close on the heels of the (reviewed) Archive release of "Strangers" S5, chronicles (pun intended) the further misadventures of uptight Chicago Chronicle reporter Larry Appleton (Mark Linn Baker) and his freshish off the boat cousin Balki Bartokomous. Don't be ridiculous, of course they follow in the grand tradition of Oscar and Felix and Laverne and Shirley. 

The sitcom veterans, whose numerous prior credits include "Mork and Mindy" and the "Strangers" esque "Bosom Buddies" with Tom Hanks,  behind "Strangers" take a nice  "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the series. These pros begin with standard sitcom plots and amp things up to comic degrees that provide entertaining freshness.

We also get related "Easter egg" references throughout "Strangers." Earlier seasons include mentions of Cunningham Hardware of "Happy Days" fame. The S6 "very-special" two-part episode involving especially serious danger includes a "Laverne and Shirley" mention and a quick shot of the exterior of the Burbank apartment complex where those girls live in latter seasons. The boys go to La La Land on a newspaper assignment, and the encounters include meeting an ice-cream truck driver who claims to be a movie producer. 

The validation of the ability of Linn Baker and Pinchot to  deliver the goods include Lucille Ball being a fan. The Ball dynamic includes Larry and Balki often including their respective significant others Jennifer and Mary Anne in the fun. An S6 example is the girls working as waitresses when Balki greatly overextends himself regarding catering jobs. 

The fun this season begins with Larry behaving in character (pun intended) on overreacting to a relatively minor burglary. He gets a bank-quality security system installed in the mid-sized apartment that he shares with Balki. Yes, that leads to the boys getting trapped and facing punishment with extreme prejudice regarding being considered intruders, 

The show runners straddle the line between jumping the shark and having events follow their natural course by having Larry and Jennifer get engaged in response to a serious threat to their relationship. Largely keeping the engagement in the background throughout the season keeps things on the side of natural progression. Limiting the appearance of a rambunctious moppet to one episode shows the same restraint.

Additional restraint is shown regarding the seemingly obligatory episode in which a lead become a star. Creating rapper "Fresh Young Balki B" does not lead to fame going to the head of Balki; instead, we learn once again that you can take the boy out of Mypos but not the Mypos out of the boy.

S6 wraps up with arguably the most predictable episode of the season; Balki administers a compatibility test to nervous Larry and Jennifer. Although the test results and the responses of the loving couple are predictable, the journey to that point is a true joy ride. The bigger picture is equally pure sitcom in that a nottie without any fame or wealth almost  never lands a hottie. The perseverance that almost always pays off in TV Land almost always end with a restraining order in the real world. 

As oft stated in these posts but never meant more than in this instance, they don't make 'em like "Strangers" anymore. Modern sitcoms either have edge, cruelty, or simply no humor. Conversely, old-school series find decent to good "com" in a slightly exaggerated "sit" to the delight of most. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

'Mr. Novak' S1 DVD: 'Dr. Kildare' Style Rookie Teacher Gets Schooled

The recent Warner Archive 6-disc DVD set of the 1963-64 S1 of  "Mr. Novak" provides a good chance to start 2019 on the right note. This Peabody Award winning anthology drama about the challenges of the titular newbie English teacher shows us what good television drams used to be and can be again. 

We meet titular idealistic young educator John Novak on his first day as an English teacher at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Fellow newbies include once-and-future teacher (Ed Asner), who is returning to the blackboard jungle after leaving that profession to earn a more lucrative living. The very frank orientation that these rookie faculty members receive provides viewers an education regarding the perspective of the folks who try to cram knowledge into the heads of kids. These pearls of wisdom include observing that every teacher has at least one student whom he or she detests but still must instruct.

This pilot also establishes the mentor/mentee relationship that handsome young blond Novak has with older and wiser principal Albert Vane (Dean Jagger). This is comparable to the relationship between fresh-faced Dr. Kildare and crusty Dr. Gillespie in the film franchise and television series that feature that pair.

Speaking of Vane, we also get insight into the life of a principal. Not many of us think about how these men and women juggle the heavy demands on their time that largely involve meting out discipline that meets the best needs of the malfeasor, refereeing disputes, attending meetings, and ensuring that his ship stays afloat. 

The aforementioned first day starts badly before Novak even enters the school; his car is the victim of a hit-and-run by a student seconds after Novak parks that vehicle. The plot thickens on the guilty literal honors student being on the verge of dropping out and his father supporting that decision. 

Another early episode creates great expectations of a "Jessie's Song" episode; Novak catching an over-achieving science whiz cheating on an English assignment creates angst regarding whether to follow a procedure that will be very detrimental to the student. Although it is discovered that this model student is greatly over extended, it is disappointing that he does not turn to caffeine pills for relief, 

A particularly timely episode has national treasure Lillian Gish playing veteran biology/sex ed teacher Miss Phipps. She is coming under fire for telling the kids the facts of life. A student whom it is highly suggested is the wife in a shotgun elopement helps hit the point home this time. A "do stand so close to me" outing has a young teacher who is the object of a schoolboy fantasy share the affections of that lad. 

The first-half of S1 also has a twofer episode that includes the worst nightmare of any teacher. A student who already has a bad relationship with Novak gets injured while the teacher is breaking up a fight. The first part of the story is dealing with the school-related fallout associated with a faulty member using bodily force on a student. The second "fer" relates to the legal system tradition of taking the easy way out by paying a settlement without much thought to actual culpability. A reference to an attorney named Arnie Becker at an L.A. law firm adds to the fun.

The "Novak" writers especially torment Novak with a Friday from Hell that begins with parents (including a father played by Edward Platt of "Get Smart") getting very belligerent and that ends with this newbie getting schooled in the pitfalls of being tardy for committee meetings. A change of pace for Novak and the series occurs when he then accepts a last-minute invitation to a weekend party at the family estate of a wealthy former girlfriend.

Hours of abuse by the rich and powerful finally prompts Novak to give a speech to those privileged elite. This conveys exactly the right message to folks who do not think that teachers deserve much regard.

On the other side of the coin, another episode has Novak challenging the easy life of a teacher who gets by with jokes and helping students cheat. The fun in this one includes watching our fair-haired boy embrace the dark side,

Larger social issues include intense harassment of black students despite ABSOLUTELY no provocation, a problem child from a disadvantaged background,  and mainstreaming blind students. We also get looks at teachers battling alcoholism and otherwise contending with the stress of their profession, The message each time is that Novak is committed to putting right what once went wrong.

The value of series such as "Novak" is that they provoke thought and discussion in ways that largely stay away from being preachy. Our hero mostly strikes the proper balance between being a crusader and a realist. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

'Janie'/'Janie Gets Married' DVD: Adventures of '40s-era Gidget

The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 DVD double-feature release "Janie" (1944)/"Janie Gets Married" (1946) provides a much-needed tonic for our troubled times. The back-cover liner notes for this release share that these tales of the titular WWII-era All-American girl are based on a popular Broadway play of the same name. 

The opening scenes of "Janie" establish that Hortonville (a.k.a. Anytown U.S.A.) is a peaceful community where Charles Conway (Edward Albert), who is the father of Janie and "problem child" Elspbeth (a.k.a. Elspbitch), is the prosperous conservative publisher of the local newspaper. An indication of the aforementioned wealth is full-time servant April (Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel of "Gone With the Wind). 

The chaos at the opening of "Janie" is of the relatively wholesome teenage variety. Our "Gidget" is playing her Top 40 record too loud, tying up the only telephone line in the house with calls to friends, and is plotting to sneak out to a blanket party. Although that party has potential to be a swinging bash, it merely involves young lovers smooching on the grass.

Seeing Richard Erdman of "Community" play high school sweetheart/world-class doofus Scooper Nolan is great fun. This is particularly so when former Yale man/current Army private Dick Lawrence literally and figuratively enters this picture. His subsequent courting of Janie creates an awesome "screw you, Leonard" relationship with Erdman. For his part, Scooper valiantly tries to be a Dick blocker. 

The bigger picture is that Dick and his widowed helicopter mother are in town because of a new Army base; this provides hilarity in the form of Charles being up in arms regarding the threat of horny soldiers corrupting Janie and her peers.

All of this culminates in a development that is relatable to modern teens. Janie and Richard planning a quiet evening while her parents are out soon becomes a wild bash with high-school girls, their soldier-boy beaus, and seemingly every dogface on the base. Although no crystal eggs are casualties, there is ample property damage. A sad part is that we are denied hearing April say that she don't know nothin' 'bout throwin' no party.

Of course, everything works out well in the end with Charles having the proper perspective and even achieving a film-long goal courtesy of a bureaucrat whom Alan Hale, Sr. plays to a tee.

"Married" picks up two years later. Nineteen year-old Janie is all-grown up and is a newly-wed with husband Dick. Their twin beds being pressed closed together at the beginning of the film suggests that the honeymoon period is not over.

Dick has a clearly token job at the newspaper of his father-in-law. Taking care of their one-bedroom cottage seems to be too-much for stay-at-home Janie; "wicked witch" housekeeper Mrs. Angles (Margaret Hamilton of "The Wizard of Oz") seemingly comes every day to over-starch the shirts of Dick and to disregard each request of Janie. 

Voluptuous Army buddy Spud Lee (Dorothy Malone) coming for a surprise visit prompts most of the ensuing hilarity. That friendship beginning with Dick jumping in the foxhole of Spud does not help matters. Spud sofa surfing at Chez Lawrence really does not help. 

In true sitcom fashion, a jealous Janie dupes a clueless Scooper into helping her with her plan to get back at Dick. Of course, this goes comically awry. 

The culmination this time is Janie hosting an intimate dinner party for her family and for the straight-laced man to whom Charles wants to sell the newspaper. A put-out Dick, drunken Army buddies, a temporarily homeless soldier, and a wacky misunderstanding creates chaos that the typical last-minute miracle resolves.

The joy of all this is silly light-hearted fun that shows that good humor does not require shock and awe. We also see that teenagers and romantic problems have not changed much in 70 years,