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Sunday, December 17, 2017

'The Tormenting' DVD: Ghost Story for a New Millennial

The Breaking Glass Pictures November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 horror film "The Tormenting" (nee "Poignant") is a recent example of the talent of Breaking for finding edgy movies with a special element. In this case, a film about a ghost haunting an innocent has surprising turns and substance as well as clever humor.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Tormenting" aptly highlights the horror aspects of the film while providing a teaser about what makes it a thriller with something extra.

The opening scenes (STRAIGHT out of "The Shining" and SO many other thrillers) of young medical researcher Amy driving on a windy rural road on her way to the abandoned building that virtually every audience member knows will trigger horrific experiences will create a different form of dread in audience members. The better news is that what immediately ensues is much better than anyone can anticipate; this leads to an even better film watching experience.

The focal point of the paranormal activity is an abandoned hospital that Amy is considering as the site of a healthcare facility; the aforementioned drive is to check out property with friend/potential investor Melissa and their entourage that includes the horndog/goofball brother of Melissa.

The aforementioned sibling is on the receiving end of the most intense initial brunt of the visit when his wandering off brings him in contact with the shadowy figure of a girl.

The next property visit intensifies in that the brother experiences the worst physical pain that can be inflicted on a man and obtains first-hand proof that the need to perform at least one bodily function survives death.

This follow-up transfers the attention of the spirit to Amy, who ultimately experiences horrific dreams that seem to be images related to the circumstances of the death of the young girl. The creepiest of these nocturnal intrusions involve what looks like a ritual rape.

Both a descent into madness and a desire to help the clearly restless spirit find peace prompts Amy to use this nightmares as the basis of an investigation.

This amateur detective work takes "Tormenting" in the aforementioned more unique direction; Amy learns that her going insane does not mean that she is crazy. A relevant missing persons report puts Amy in contact with a police detective with whom she works to crack a cold case.

The mixed end result provides the predicted closure regarding the circumstances of the death of the girl; however, we also learn that the kids of today are never happy.

The DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes feature with interesting insight into directing actors and staging a scene. We further get a look at what occurs beyond the range of the camera.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

'Time to Die' BD: South of the Border 'High Noon'

The Film Movement Classics division of indie and/or foreign film god Film Movement goes above and beyond regarding the November 14, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1966 Western with substance "Time to Die." This film based on a story by Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez and dialogue by fellow literary great Carlos Fuentes is one of many examples of "oaters" being much more than a series of saloon fights, cattle stampedes, and showdowns on a deserted main street.

Commenting on the beautiful 50th anniversary remastering of the film, which easily passes the "no glasses" test, is mandatory. You will not find a clearer or sharper image on any screen.

This variation on the classic Western "High Noon" opens with Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez of "The Magnificent Seven") returning to his home village fresh from an 18-year unfortunate incarceration for killing a ranch owner. The rude awakening for Juan is learning that Julian Trueba, who is the elder son of the slain man, is eager for revenge and that his younger brother Pedro also feels the impact of a lifetime of stories about Juan gunning down the father whom Pedro never knew.

Juan literally stands his ground despite his supporters almost constantly begging him to leave town to avoid what it considered an otherwise avoidable fate of ending up either in jail or the cemetery. Julian equally persistently psychotically hounding Juan supports that prophecy. This torment includes an element of "Carrie" that is equally disturbing and entertaining.

One of the most notable scenes in terms of plot and cinematography occurs early in "Die." Juan is sitting at the bar of the local saloon when the camera slowly pans behind him to his left to reveal the man whom we soon learn is Pedro sitting at a table. The significance to the story is that neither man knows the identity of the other, and a moderate kindness creates what soon is shown to be an unlikely friendship.

The homecoming of Juan also involves reuniting with lost love Mariana, who lives a largely sequestered life in a highly symbolic home. Much of her conflict centers around wanting to restart her life with Juan but realizing that doing so prevents her young son from having a proper life.

Meanwhile the girl next door who is dating Pedro is trying to persuade him not let Julian persuade him to kill Juan; she soon learns that a man gotta do what man gotta do.

All of this lead to a couple of showdowns that keep the artistic symbolism going to the end. These events show that there is no stopping fate and take the prediction related to jail and the cemetery to the next level.

The bonus features that meet all criterion for quality cinematic study include a video introduction by director Alex Cox of the cult classic "Repo Man," an fascinating in-depth written essay by film expert Carlos A. Gutierrez, and audio commentary by "Die" director Arturo Ripstein.

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

'Love! Valour! Compassion!' DVD: The Big Chill on Rainbow Pond

Warner Archive awesomely illustrate the positive evolution of Hollywood films regarding gay-themed stories with the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1997 dramedy "Love! Valour! Compassion!"

As the text on the DVD back cover notes, the secret to Terrence McNally bringing his Tony winning play to the rainbow screen was reuniting the band back and having Jason Alexander join the group as stereotypical middle-aged queen Buzz, whose quirks include believing that virtually every celebrity is gay.

The warranted comparisons to "Golden Pond" and "The Big Chill" prove a primary point of "Love!" and other modern films centered around homosexual characters; boys who like other boys (and girls who like other girls) have the same highs and lows as everyone else. The biggest difference (especially until the recent past) is that estrangement from relatives, the AIDS crisis, and remnants of discrimination that include marriage inequality contributed to gay men like those in the play bonding in groups such as the one around which the film centers.

Gregory is the center of the group in that he is their common thread and owns the country house in New York state in which they gather over Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day one summer. Gregory is a successful middle-aged choreographer and is the partner of younger and cuter blind legal assistant Bobby.

The standout in the cast is John Glover ("Smallville"), who plays aptly surnamed twins John and James Jeckyll. Accompanist pianist John is the unlikable pity friend of the group. He primarily is invited along out of sympathy for not having any place else to go for Memorial Day weekend. His bringing along hunky 20-something Latino dancer boyfriend Roman, who is not shy about stripping down to skinny dip and sunbathe, likely plays a role in this pair returning for the other two weekends.

Kind and gentle AIDS patient James Jeckyll comes on the scene on the Fourth of July; his sweet nature and strong contrasts with his brother quickly earns him the hearts of the gang; this leads to an unlikely (but tender) relationship with incestuous elements.

The remaining boys in the band are long-term couple/business consultants Arthur and Perry.

The Memorial Day weekend sets the stage (no pun intended) for much of the drama to come. The largest theme is the AIDS crisis, which divides the gay community as much as it does this group. Some members feel that it is important to discuss this, and others want to pretend that this horrible disease does not exist. The positive members of the group fear what is to come, and those who are negative still dread the worst.

Everyone in the group regularly thinks of people whom they have lost. An powerful aspect of all these elements is a character expressing resentment toward monogamous couple Arthur and Perry being spared the disease and these men responding in kind.

This weekend also involves an illicit tryst with a highly symbolic act related to the practicality of crying.

The second act over July 4th lets the audience and the characters catch up on the developments (including fall-out from Memorial Day) of the roughly six months since their last gathering. This also involves Bobby experiencing trauma to which most people can relate.

The end-of-summer third act includes much more symbolism as we learn a great deal about the fates of the men and they essentially cleanse their sins.

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

'Alice' S6 DVD: Three Waitresses Keep Each Other Company

Warner Archive gives fans of classic sitcoms an early Christmas gift (complete with a traditional Christmas episode) in releasing "Alice" Season 6 on DVD on December 5, 2017. This coming a few months after the (reviewed) S5 release several years after releasing (also reviewed) S4 makes 2017 an especially good year for fans of this '70s and '80s series about a widowed mother raising a teen son while working in a run-down diner in Phoenix and aspiring to be a professional singer.

Archive also comes through regarding a concern related to the S5 release; that set includes a few S6 episodes that initially were scheduled to run in S5; the S6 set inserts them in their proper chronological spot.

Noting the comparisons (including catchy themes) between "Alice" and fellow "TV Land" show "Three's Company" from the same era helps understand the former in general and S6 in particular. Both series are entertaining whipped cream on the more substantial dessert in the form of denser sitcoms that are part of a well-balanced television viewing diet. CBS often scheduling "Alice" with "All in the Family" and other Norman Lear fare perfectly illustrates this.

The parallels continue regarding cast changes. A well-known "True Hollywood Story" is that break-out "Company" star Suzanne Somers gets fired for being too demanding; this leads to the failed experiment of bringing "Cousin Cindy" onto the show only to fairly quickly replace her with Nurse Terri, who stays until the end.

Similarly, "Alice" gives its breakout star Polly Holliday her own (reviewed) spinoff "Flo" in "Alice S4; temporary replacement once and future waitress Belle lasts roughly one season worth of episodes before the Ellie Mae Clampett like Jolene comes on the scene in S5 and stays until the end.

The parallels continue with "Alice" and "Company" fizzling out in the late '80s as tastes change from whipped cream to more edgy and topical fare that the dramedies of that era represent.

"Alice" S6 awesomely has many of the most representative and/or memorable episodes of the season. The season premiere is a prime example of the numerous episodes in which restaurateur Mel uses the diner as collateral for a bet or other risky venture. The twist this time is that the waitresses (who have attended this rodeo before) consciously take a page from film of the era "9 to 5" in capturing and restraining their boss to prevent him from gambling the future of the group on a horse. The twist at the end is particularly notable.

The cleverly titled second episode "Guinness on Tap" has every element of a classic "Alice" episode. "Dingy" waitress Vera being despondent regarding having worked at Mel's for five years leads to the twofer in the form of one of the waitresses getting a shot at a better life and the standard sitcom plot of the era of trying to set a world record. In this case, Vera tries to tap dance consecutively for a longer period than anyone else on record. The 11th hour miracle this time involves a "special guest star" playing himself or herself. Past notables to do so include George Burns, Telly Savalas, Art Carney, and Dinah Shore.

Fun stunt casting comes two episodes later when "The Facts of Life" star Nancy McKeon guests on this show on which her real-life brother Phillip McKeon portrays aforementioned teen son Tommy. Several episodes later finds self-proclaimed icon "Nanny and the Professor" and "Witch Mountain" star Kim Richards as the teen niece of Mel.

The best stunt casting has Jay Leno and "Welcome Back, Kotter" star Ron Palillo as bikers who make the diner their new hangout. Much of the hilarity would not fly in 2017 in that it has the Leno character grab Alice and take her on an involuntary joy ride.

Regular special guest star Martha Raye shows up twice in her recurring role as the feisty mother of Mel; "Sharples v. Sharples" centers around a custody battle over a cookbook. The season finale "My Mother the Landlord" is more self explanatory; this one also is reminiscent of an S5 episode in which building manager Alice faces locking out a co-worker for not paying rent. (John Sylvester of "Kotter" is the stunt casting in this one.)

The aforementioned Christmas episode is the "Alice" version of "A Christmas Carol." Mel being particularly miserly at Christmas time earns him a Christmas Eve visit from deceased business partner Jake Farley, who takes on the task of showing Mel the evil of his ways.  A scene in which the waitresses and Tommy open gifts that are destined for the return counter has hilarious moments.

All of this works for the same reason that the wacky regular customers return to Mel's for breakfast and/or lunch most days; you visit entertaining friends who never disappoint.

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

'Rift' DVD: Gay-Themed Tale of Ex With Possible Actual Axe to Grind

The best of the many cool things about the Breaking Glass Pictures November 21, 2017 DVD of the 2017 gay-themed thriller "Rift" is that it combines every great element of Breaking films.

The theme of reuniting with "the one who got away" is directly out of (the reviewed) "Lazy Eye" and (also reviewed) "Retake." The central hardy boys finding themselves endangered in an isolated spot begs for a comparison to the (reviewed) great Hitchcockian thriller "BnB." Finally, the Icelandic setting is reminiscent of the (reviewed) Bergmanesque tale of teen boys in love "Heartstone."

The bigger picture (pun intended) regarding these Breaking releases is that they have the trifecta of elements that make the gay-themed fare from this company fantabulous. The central story easily could feature a straight couple; the film has a strong live-stage vibe, and the filmmaker does not use excessive nudity and/or sex scenes to compensate for a lack of story. Any dick shots and sodomy are important to the story.

The IMDb synopsis for "Rift" perfectly describes it as "two men in a secluded cabin are haunted by their dead relationship."

Many of us can relate to being on one or both ends of the conversation when a late-night call from ex Einar wakes Gunnar from a peaceful sleep with his current boyfriend. The timing of the call and the tome of the voice of Einar prompts Gunnar to drive out to the aforementioned vacation home of the family of Einar.

Seeing Einar somewhat alleviates the concern of Gunnar, who determines that the state-of-mind of his former significant other warrants spending the night in the guest room. These early moments also involve the feeling of unease that increases throughout this atmospheric film.

Melancholy Einar soon brings Gunnar out into a marshy area and relates childhood memories that include a near-death experience. This leads to a fun romp that turns menacing.

This segment only contains a portion of the aforementioned haunting; Einar clearly is not over the breakup and does not understand the reason for it. We further get eerie whispers, scary late-night visitors, and other things literally or figuratively going bump in the night. This is not to mention a childhood friend of Einar throwing a large scare into Gunnar.

One of the best scenes is a prime example of the aforementioned live-stage vibe of "Rift." Our boys are in a good place when that mood and an earlier conversation prompts Gunnar to deliver a monolog about his first same-sex sexual experience. The setting is right for the tale, and it elicits the desired response in all but the most perverse among us.

The sense of lost love, hope for rekindling, and threats from within and outside continue right to the end of "Rift." As he does throughout the film. writer/director Erloingur Otta Thoroddesn shows excellent instincts regarding when to end the story.

The special features include deleted scenes.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

'Nutcracker: The Motion Picture' BD: Ballet for All Ages in Glorious Color and Sound

The Olive Films December 12, 2017 Blu-ray release of the spectacular 1986 film "Nutcracker: The Motion Picture" proves two things. The first is that this timeless ballet truly is a production for all ages and genders; the second is that this cash cow is a perfect opportunity to cast scads of moppets in a bid to have their families purchase tons of tickets. This film (like most live-stage productions of this ballet) has far more performers under the age of 12 than over the age of 18.

The first impression of this production featuring the dancers of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra is that bright and surreal epic presentations with perfect scores such as this one by Tchaikovsky are the things for which Blu-ray is made. The second impression is that this film is an equally ideal means to get into the holiday mood.

The first revision by Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are and "Nutcracker" director Carroll Ballard ("The Black Stallion") is an opening scene in which we see Renaissance man Drosselmeier crafting "Nutcracker" characters. Moving onto the bedroom of teenage Clara Stahlbaum provides the context via her narration that Drosselmeier is her beloved eccentric godfather with an edge.

The action then shifts to the well-known party scene (complete with copious children) at Stahlbaum Haus where Drosselmeier presents Clara the titular toy. As fans of "Nutcracker" (and most parents of young girls) know, drama at the party traumatizes Clara in a manner that sets the stage for the action and adventure that captivates all.

A exceptionally well choreographed fierce battle between toy soldiers and rodents of unusual size then lead to even more surreal events involving a figurative cast of 1,000s of prepubescents. Although very grand and not objectively offensive, this portion of the production is particularly special because of uncertainty regarding whether modern productions further tone down the portrayals of various ethnic groups.

As is the case in most ballets (and several comparably classic Shakespearen productions), things wind down to a point at which all's well that end well. The closing credits set to the score help the audience adjust from this exciting surreal existence to out harsh reality.

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

'A Capitol Christmas V2' CD/LP/Digital: UMe Capital Idea of Marking 75th Anniversary With Timeless Stars Singing Eternal Classics

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) earn the gratitude of elves everywhere by further helping those with lovers of timeless music in their lives find gifts for that special someone; the (reviewed) "Elton John Diamonds" seemingly includes EVERY hit of Rocket Man (along with awesome collectibles) literally boxed up ready to give. Fellow UMe release "A Capitol Christmas Volume 2" has a "who's who" of '50s and '60s musicians put their own spin on Christmas classics.

"Christmas" pays apt tribute to the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records by having the aforementioned greatest put their marks on the songs that add so much to the holidays; the comprehensive liner notes on each of these (mostly) rarities provide interesting background information on both the performers and the songs. Including a mellow version of "White Christmas" and a more upbeat take on "Old Toy Trains" by Glen Campbell is particularly special considering his August 2017 death.

UMe gets thing off to a great start with Wayne Newton changing "Jingle Bell Rock" into a vintage Las Vegas style number and later similarly remaking "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." This is akin to The Beach Boys doing "Frosty the Snowman" ala surfing tunes on "Christmas."

A wonderful trap exists regarding Ray Anthony and his Orchestra doing "A Marshmallow World." You WILL get caught up in the gleeful silliness of it and minimally finding yourself singing "do do do do do do" (It is meaningless and all that's true) along with the group.

Learning about the controversy at the time regarding the lyrics to "I  Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (sung by 13 year-old Molly Bee) validates 2017 thoughts regarding wondering how they got away with that song in 1952. Highly immature thoughts regarding variations (which fit the rhyme scheme) of the song risk ending up on the naughty list and not finding a Sony stereo 4K player under the tree in a week.

Lena Horne steals the show with her rendition of "What Are You Doing Christmas Eve." Fans will be not be surprised that she nails the tone of this song about a woman with very wishful thinking about a special date with her soulmate.

The cute and most retro song is "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)" by Gordon MacRae; this lullaby about being grateful for what you have is guaranteed to lull you into a calm state.

UMe aptly wraps up the set with Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians doing an instrumental version of "Auld Lang Syne." In addition to ending things on a gentle and relaxing note, it provides relatives a clue that it is time to yank the kids away from their iPhones and get out.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

'Stage Mother' DVD: Early Talkie Musical Melodrama

The Warner Archive October 2017 DVD release of the pre-Code 1933 MGM musical melodrama "Stage Mother" provides further proof that things have not changed much in 85 years. This tale of the titular force of nature using her feminine wiles and other weapons to advance the career of her daughter is as relevant today as it was when it was made.

The opening scene of a vaudeville comic teasing audience members is an early indication that "Mother" is from the era of transitioning from silents to talkies. This also sets the stage (no pun intended) for the action to follow. Pregnant trouper Kitty Lorraine (Alice Brady of classics such as "My Man Godfrey" and "The Gay Divorcee") is on modified duty but is there to cheer up husband/showbiz partner Fred only to soon become widowed.

The challenges of being a Depression-era single mother and other desperate times prompts this "actress" to take the desperate measure of moving herself and infant daughter Shirley to the home of the proper Bostonian parents of Fred. The scene is which we meet the parents also has a strong silents vibe.

Things are relatively tolerable for the next four years until that extended period of repression causes Kitty to snap and rejoin the vaudeville circuit; the shot-from-behind four-year-old Shirley in this portion of the film either is an uncredited Shirley Temple or an excellent facsimile; Internet research did not resolve this question.

Kitty subsequently begins earning her titular description when enrolling an objecting Shirley in dance classes. Kitty not-so-subtly offering her body as an incentive for the refined and effeminate dance teacher to give Shirley special treatment is hilarious for a different reason in 2017 than in 1933.

This leads to the rapid rise of the career of Shirley with backstage help from her mother, who shows that there is nothing that she will not do to make her daughter the star whom Kitty failed to become.

Kitty temporarily being sidelined becomes a blessing and a curse for an adult Shirley, who enters a career-threatening romance with handsome and charming painter Warren Foster; these lovebirds are the center of a wonderfully suggestive pre-Code scene that indicates that Shirley now is a woman in every sense of the word.

Kitty learning of the romance through a typically underhanded method has her contribute to the disgrace of her daughter by manipulating Warren into no longer wanting to buy the cow.

The next stage in both senses of the word occurs in New York, where Shirley literally gets her name in lights on Broadway; she also enters the third ill-fated romance of which the audience is aware.

More ruthlessness leads to Stage Mommie Dearest and her offspring going to England, where history repeats itself but ends in a twist that shows that the apple as a symbol of sin does not fall far from the root of all that evil.

"Stage" offers further entertainment in the form of commonality with "Stella Dallas;" both titular women marry men from wealthy families only to find themselves struggling to provide what they think is the best life for their daughters, who view things differently. Each film further features a crude step-father figure.

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

'Christmas With the Andersons' DVD: White Trash to White Christmas Tale of Rags to Riches and Reversal of Fortune

Monarch Home Entertainment releasing actual and figurative Christmas-themed family-friendly fare Hallmark Channel fare is an early sign of the holiday season each year. The topic for today is the Monarch October 24, 2017 release of the 2016 Christy Carlson Romano and George Stults comedy "Christmas With the Andersons." An effort to stay on the nice list of Santa is motivating also at least covering the Monarch release of "A Puppy for Christmas" by mid-December. "Married for Christmas" and "A Cinderella Christmas" round out the 2017 holiday quartet.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Christmas" offers a fun glimpse of this amusing film.

Former Disney Channel princess Romano of "Kim Possible" and "Even Stevens" plays Caroline Anderson, who is living a modest lifestyle in Georgia with equally pink neck (and adorably effervescent) law student husband Michael (Stults of "7th Heaven") at the beginning of "Christmas." They are racing from their starter home to the hospital to avoid the white trash stereotype of Caroline giving birth to elder child Julia on the side of the rural two-lane road near that honeymoon cottage.

The action quickly moves ahead 10 years to the lavish annual holiday party that these modern-day Beverly Hillbillies hold in their southern California mansion for what they identify as disadvantaged families but whom seem like middle-class folks. This largese comes courtesy of Michael now being a ruthless corporate attorney/partner in the law firm of his father.

The party clearly establishes that the titular couple engages in the inadvertent snobbery that is characteristic of the rich and famous. Anyone with any familiarity with this syndrome from any perspective will find this interaction hilarious.

The holiday celebration continues with the family following the tradition of a wealthy man buying his wife a hobby business; in this case, Michael surprises Caroline with ownership of a boutique that sells high-end bath products. The "central-casting" aspects of this includes Micheal gleefully telling Caroline that she can hire people to do the actual work and spend her time having the fun of ordering them around.

The events that lead to the Christmas miracle that is central to these films are twofold. Michael loses his job, and the boutique is a colossal failure.

Although the couple hides their personal declines from each other for a while, the truth ultimately coming out leads to the humbling that is at the heart of "Christmas" in every sense of that word. "Aunt Pearl" in the form of uninvited long-term house guest free-spirited Aunt Katie (Julie Brown of "Earth Girls Are Easy" and "Clueless") from back home guides this transformation.

The climax of the film centers around the valiant efforts of Caroline to salvage her annual literally charity begins at home event one year after going from the Queen of Versailles to being down and out in Beverly Hills. Of course, a good time is had by all at the understated party. Additionally, the nuclear Anderson clan learns that happiness does not require having money.

Although the copious fluff and two adorable moppets make for a fun film. "Christmas" deserves praise for not pulling off a holiday miracle. Our heroes do not experience an 11th-hour surprise that restores them to their former glory, nor do they obtain evidence of the inherent goodness that dwell in all. They simply end up in a happy place that seems reasonably realistic.

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

'K-Shop' DVD: Middle Eastern Restaurant Owner Serves Human Flesh and Does Not Falafel

The Breaking Glass Pictures December 12, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 horror film "K-Shop" allows fans of comedic cannibalistic horror films an early chance to see this future cult classic. It additionally should inspire serving obnoxious relatives who visit over the holidays lamb sandwiches with fava beans and Chianti.

Accolades for this film by writer-director Dan Pringle with equal loves of dark humor and social justice about a student with an appetite for justice includes the Best Horror Feature award at the 2016 London Independent Film Festival and Best Feature Film at the 2016 Lund International Fantastic Film Festival.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Shop" offers a nice nibble regarding the dark tone of this film that mostly is set late at night.

Brother from an unspecified Middle Eastern country Salah is taking a temporary break from his university studies in England to run the titular ethnic fast-food joint while his father is in hospital. This interruption in learning becomes more permanent when Dad dies in a late-night altercation with thugs (who are "living for the weekend") whose violence has a racial element.

The lack of any hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice already has Salah in a bad mood when an encounter with an obnoxious club-owning "Big Brother U.K." star brings our boy closer to the edge.

The real fun begins when a group of college students violate the rule against leaving a boy behind after one of their own passes out at a table in the restaurant. This bloke (who deserves having his hand immersed in warn water while he dozes) ultimately finds himself in hot oil after first refusing to leave and then stepping way over the line.

A resourceful Salah finding himself with a corpse on his hands grills the scholar and leaves him stewing until the latest in a never-ending line of prejudiced drunken morons prompts feeding them one of their own. The satisfaction of doling out revenge as a dish served hot fully sets our modern-day Sweeney Todd in motion.

Much of the fun of "Shop" relates to seeing the sloppy drunk weekend party people risk becoming the Blue Plate Special by shamelessly provoking Salah through toxic insults, rude gestures, and peeing on his front door. The wisdom against doing so reflects the same principle as tipping the pizza guy a few dollars as insurance against the person who is alone with your food for 30 minutes doing something foul with it.

Of course, a good thing does not last forever; the shop being in a hot spot for missing persons calls attention to the area; further, Salah keeping livestock complicates matters beyond the obvious risks of playing with his food. This potential cash cow has a friend with a history with Salah and an axe to grind regarding him. Suffice it to say that another lesson in this moral-dripping fable relates to the wisdom of bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Of course, everything builds to a terrific climax in which Salah obtains terrific justice that only figuratively involves having a bone to pick.

Breaking also comes through regarding including the special features that enhance most of their releases. Seeing Salah portrayor Ziad Abaza discuss his role and the themes of "Shop" in a "Behind-the-Scenes" extra is interesting and shows how he thoroughly changes his persona to play his role. We further hear the fascinating insight of Pringle. The deleted scenes provide a peek of what could have been and leave us hungry for more.

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

'The Sea Wolf' BD: Sea Captain Edward G. Robinson Rules Over Hell in Jack London Tale of the High Seas

The Warner Archive October 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1941 drama "The Sea Wolf" awesomely continues the history of integrity regarding this film based on what most likely is a semi-autobiographical Jack London novel.

The "cheat sheet" on the Blu-ray back cover tells us that Jack Warner does not know Jack about Mr. London in fighting a lost battle to rename the film. This brief history of the film tells us as well that the success during the first theatrical run prompts releasing a shorter theatrical version in 1947 and that heroic efforts of Archive result in locating and remastering the lost longer version.

Edward G. Robinson stars as the titular ocean-dwelling sea captain with a lupine nature Wolf Larsen. His aptly named ship Ghost is the closest to Hell on earth that his (mostly Shanghaied) crew will experience, and that suits Larsen.

The tale centers around the stereotypical relationship of the main characters in most tales of adventure on the high seas (and some in tales of star ships that follow the naval model of chain-of-command). Larsen manages to keep his crew made up of the scum of the earth in line until exercsing the right of scavenge adds younger educated successful novelist Humphrey Van Weyden and woman with a past Ruth Brewster (Ida Lupino) on board.

Larsen quickly sequesters Brewster and just as rapidly delights in making the "fancy boy" the cabin boy on this vessel that makes The Filthy Whore look like The Queen Mary. The status of Van Weyden quickly elevates on Larsen recognizing an opportunity to become the hero in a Horatio Alger style story about a boy whop grows up very rough only to quickly become the despised captain of a rundown quasi-pirate ship.

For her part, owing her life to sailor George Leach (John Garfield) and having another bond that makes being on Ghost a better alternative than another fate leads to a shipboard romance despite Van Weyden being the most eligible bachelor for miles.

A scene roughly in the middle of "Wolf" perfectly captures the tone and the themes of the film. Miraculously sobering up prompts ship medic Dr. "Louie" Prescott (Gene Lockhart) to literally and figuratively clean up his act. He also asks Larsen to support his effort to get the respect to which he feels that he is now entitled. The cruelty and sadism associated with the manner in which Prescott is humiliated and then thrown to the wolves PERFECTLY illustrates life aboard Ghost.

The series of unfortunate circumstances that bring the men to the breaking point set the stage for an exciting extended climax; more cruelty and sadism has a role regarding an effort to jump ship; an effort to jump the captain also hits complications. This all leads to inevitable confrontations, tests of character, and scenes of Titanic proportions.

The bonus features are the theatrical trailer and a 1950 radio broadcast in which Robinson reprises the role of Larsen.

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

' Karl Marx City' DVD: Intriguing Documentary on East German Daughter's Search for Truth Regarding Suicide of Father

The special relationship between Film Movement and Bond/360 continues with the joint DVD release of the 2016 documentary "Karl Marx City." Like the recent (reviewed) joint release "Gun Runners," "Marx" is an intriguing true story that screams for a big-budget docudrama.

Filmmaker Petra Epperlein and her partner-in-celluloid Michael Tucker present a real-life political thriller in documenting Petra delving into the past of her deceased father following his 1999 suicide. This black-and-white film stays true to the Cold War-era subject matter by making most things seem highly bureaucratic and bleak.

The intrigue enters the picture regarding Petra having grown up in the titular East German "Utopia" and the evidence of the involvement of Dad in the East German secret police force known as the Stasi.

The Stasi takes center stage in the form of copious vintage surveillance footage, even more scenes of the extensive records in the former Stasi headquarters that now houses the archives of that organization, and of the documentation of the training of officers and the use of a huge army of informants. Stating that this is the stuff of which your worst Orwellian nightmares are made lacks any hyperbole.

Team Petra caps this off with an extensive interview with a former Stasi agent, who is the father of a childhood friend. The stories of this man verify everything that commonly is known about that organization. These accounts show the extent to which Big Brother is watching and equally illustrate that anyone who is approached to become an informant is much better off agreeing to do so at the outset; the lesson here is that that German organization shows the futility of resistance. It is even more distressing that all this is that most of the populace accepts this as the norm.

The aforementioned indications that Dad is at least an informant and that that activity plays a role in his decision to end his own life prompts much of the aforementioned digging; this leads to validating the nature of propaganda that there is the story of the other side, your pespective, and the truth. Much of the exceptional power of "Marx" stems from the truth being much more incredible than the other two accounts. This reveal further perfectly reflects the dystopia of East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and provides modern-day people that much more reason to not trust anyone.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Marx" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

'After Love' DVD: Gallic 'The War of the Roses'

Icarus Films continues an awesome expansion beyond distributing "innovative and provocative" international documentaries on DVD to offering global films that earn the same distinction with the November 21, 2017 release of the 2016 French film "After Love."

The well-produced international theme this time is that Boris continuing to live in the martial home after the crumbling of his 15-year marriage to Marie makes their relationship far beyond complicated. Throwing in Dad being the fun parent to their young twin girls and Marie believing that the one who has the gold makes the rules adds entertaining toxicity.

This winner of top honors at the Philadelphia Film Festival and the RiverRun International Film Festival hits home because every relationship at least has a temporary point during which you do not love the person who shares your bed; many other relationships have a period in which that dislike is strong enough to consider calling it quits but the other person is still there; "Love" focuses on the next level when it seems that the differences are irreconcilable but the other person still occupies a seat at the breakfast table. Further, any decent parent never divorces his or her kids.

The following YouTube clip of a festival trailer for "Love" perfectly conveys the tone of this realistic film about the aforementioned period when the honeymoon period is ancient history.

The mother of Marie sums up the entire dilemma by noting that we live in a disposable society in which appliances and other household items end up in the landfill at the first sign of trouble; committed relationships are not discarded quite so easily but the widespread social acceptance of divorce and the liberal laws regrading it facilitate ending up in family court after the toilet seat is left up one too many times.

The New York Times provides the large picture in an article from several months ago that states that we end up with the wrong person. The reasoning is that what attracts us to someone also is the root of his or her crazy, and we do not see that dark side show until after putting a ring on it.

Marie is from a wealthy family, and Boris has more humble roots. She and her mother paid the down payment on the marital apartment (my people call them condos), and Boris the contractor personally did all the upgrades in the home. These contrasts extend to Marie having a stable job and managing finances well while Boris works sporadically and owes bad guys a significant debt.

A central dispute of the film is reminiscent of the hilarious 1989 Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner black comedy "The War of the Roses" about a one-percenter couple who now violently loathe each other and who both refuse to vacate the family mansion. Although not this extreme, home-office dwelling Boris refuses to move until he gets what he asserts represents his equity in the home. This future ex-husband further infuriates his ex by not respecting boundaries and agreements regarding their living situation and their division of parental responsibilities.

Folks in the same situation can easily hear themselves in the conversations between Marie and Boris; the tough part is that both of their arguments have merit. Marie does pay the lioness' share of the bills and the parent who contributed to the down payment is on her side of the family. However, that contribution was presented as a gift to the couple as a unit. Boris has the additional valid point that his work on the home has value. One of his more telling heat-of-the-moment remarks essentially is that rich people are incapable of genuine generosity.

This film with a strong live-stage vibe plays out along realistic lines in that tempers ebb and flow, there is a temporary reconciliation, and the inevitable occurs at the end. This period between love and goodbye is what provides well-produced films such as this and "Kramer vs. Kramer" the drama that keeps them interesting.

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Gun Runners' DVD: Documentary on True Nairobi Story of Marathon Runners With Warrior Pasts

Film Movement does the seemingly impossible in topping itself through its partnership with Bond/360; this praise relates to the joint venture greatly enhanceing the already Herculean documentary section of the Movement catalog. The five recent fruits of this collaboration follow up on a quartet (including the reviewed "Sign Painters" about practitioners of this dying art form) in September 2017.

Coverage of this quintet begins with the compelling 2015 film "Gun Runners." This one sheds light on the titular Kenyan former cattle rustlers turned marathon runners whose criminal past includes literally sprinting while holding weapons that shoot bullets.

The following YouTube clip of a theatrical trailer for "Runners' provides a strong sense of the film in two minutes or less.

This cinema verite film is free from any narration and largely lets the two heroes of this fable and those in their lives do all the talking. The most amazing aspects of hearing Julius Arlie and Robert Matanda tell their stories is that they are very candid about their sins and that a Hollywood film about their lives would be an almost sure thing hit.

"Runners" sets the stage by showing that cattle ownership is a primary form of wealth in Kenya, and that "warrioirs" are modern-day rustlers armed with automatic weapons and heavy firepower who raid farms to obtain those literal cash cows. We also learn that chasing the cattle while the police are in hot pursuit requires running very fast.

Filmmaker Anjali Nayar shares as well that the governmental response to this activity includes a "buy back" program in which a warrior turns in his arsenal and goes straight in exchange for amnesty and a pair of running shoes.

A reformed criminal also has the opportunity to live and train at a camp that initially prepares him to run a local race that awards cash prizes. Men who excel there can move onto a more elite (and better equipped) facility where they train to compete in international races that include the New York Marathon.

Arlie is the first between him and warrior leader Matanda to trade in his piece for Nikes and subsequently convinces his childhood friend/fellow youth champion runner to move from his secret base in the bush to the running camp.

The paths of the men split when the talent of Arlie earns him a spot at the elite training center; he further is selected to travel to New York to run in a race and to appear at a UN session on the problem of the armed raids in Kenya. His pride regarding this honor includes meeting former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Meanwhile, the training of Matanda is not going as well. However, his leadership skills initially result in his becoming the head of a group at the camp and later almost literally putting all of his eggs in one basket regarding vigorously supporting a political candidate in exchange for a promise of a government position if that man wins the election.

The focus of Arlie on his running first qualifies him to run in the Prague marathon and later in the New York marathon. In true Hollywood fashion, the latter race essentially is do-or-die for him in the same manner that the election is very important to Matanda.

The families of the men provide another parallel. A scandal for which his innocent family pays a steep price is what propels Arlie to become a warrior; it is equally clear that his propensity to figuratively cut and literally run does not greatly diminish over time. This and other stressors are taking a heavy toll on his relations with his family.

Matanda is more of a family man in that he keeps his wife and children with him even when the threat of incarceration requires living in the bush. Hearing the extent to which his wife stands by her man demonstrates that she deserves a medal.

Much of the pressure on Matanda relates to paying the tuition at the private school that enhances the odds that his children will not need to follow in his footsteps. The campaign for the aforementioned government job being a big part of this is one reason that "Gunners" screams for a Hollywood remake.

The compelling events described above result in a modern Hollywood ending in which our flawed heroes achieve a portion of their dreams but do not experience an 11th hour miracle that rewards them for their hard work atoning for their sins and fighting hard to improve life for themselves and their family.

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

'All Day Thumbsucker Revisted' 2-CD/Digital: Rockin' Tribute to 50th Anniversary of Blue Thumb Records

The UMe November 10, 2017 2-CD rerelease (and first ever digital release) of the 1995 retrospective of Blue Thumb Records "All Day Thumbsucker Revisited" further shows the love of UMe for music that earn the distinction of being labelled (pun intended) alternative. "Revisited" joins the UMe (reviewed) October 10, 2017 rerelease of "Mystery Road" by REM-influenced Drivin n' Cryin' in the catalog of that company.

The highly informative press materials for "Revisited" share that the labor of loves aspects of this release include celebrating the 50th anniversary of founding Blue Thumb and marking the recent deaths roughly a year apart of company founders Boib Krasnow and Tommy LiPuma.

The must read liner notes from insider record producer Ben Sidran for the '95 release include the "they oughta make a documentary" story of Blue Thumb. Reading an admission of wanting a side of room service with the counter culture climate at the label was just as notable as the tale of a publicity stunt involving naked men providing human billboards in a fancy restaurant.

Listing to the 32 tracks on "Revisited" provides a good sense of the diversity of Blue Thumb. The styles range from "Dead" style folk rock, to many variations of jazz and the blues. You also get a few more mainstream sounding tunes.

"Retro-swing hipsters" Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks provide one of the best tracks; "Canned Music" is a equally well vocalized and orchestrated rockin' tune about the virtues of juke boxes versus live bands as seduction tools. Hicks provides the bonus tune "I Scare Myself."

Another highlight is the (now ironic) "I've Been Loving You Too Long" by Ike and Tina Turner. This one celebrates the sheer joy of a deepening love.

Additional tunes by household names are "Ride A White Swan" and "By the Light of Magical Moon: by Tyrannosaurus Rex and "How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side) and the very catchy "Yes We Can Can" by the Pointer Sisters.

The genius of the raison d'etre of Blue Thumb, the selection of tracks on "Revisited," and reviving both in 2018 is that is shows that art and commerce can simultaneously thrive and gives us non-Bieberers a reminder of the range of quality music that the now almost universally networked radio stations and other outlets have abandoned. We want our counter-culture "canned music," and we want it now.

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

'A New Leaf' BD: Grumpy Middle-Aged Trust Fund Walter Matthau Marries Spinster Elaine May Not for Love but For Money

The Olive Signature classic films division of fantabulous Olive Films pays homage to the spectacular PBS and independent stations Sunday afternoon movie marathons of the '60s and '70s with the December 5, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1971 Walter Matthau-Elaine May comedy "A New Leaf."  The first of many numerous notable aspect of this release is the amazing flawless remastering; this more than 55 year-old film looks as crystal-clear as a Blu-ray of a modern film.

The following YouTube clip of a theatrical trailer for "Leaf" terrifically reflects the '70slicious humor of the film.

Writer-director May puts her wonderful on- and off-screen comedic talents to good use in this tale of middle-aged trust fund baby Henry Graham (Matthau) whose reversal of fortune requires a shotgun marriage of convenience to a wealthy woman. These desperate times led to the desperate measure of marrying plain spinster heiress/botanist Henrietta Lowell.

Matthau steals the show from the opening scene in which he expresses great concern regarding an "illness" of a beloved patient. He then goes to great lengths to avoid reality and subsequently faces off with his pompous attorney. A hilarious farewell to his current life ensues from there.

Aided by gentleman's gentleman Harold (George Rose of "The Pirates of Penzance"), Henry has a few hilarious encounters with potential spouses before being a complete dirty rotten scoundrel in rapidly wooing and wedding Henrietta.

The film takes an awesomely madcap turn on Henry moving into the chaotic Lowell mansion; the comically excessive staff (including Doris Roberts as the ringleader) quickly learns that the new sheriff in town is ending the party.

The end of the festivities has as even larger impact on attorney Andy McPherson (Jack Weston), whom Henry is replacing as the primary object of the bounty of Henrietta. A scene in which this girl with the golden credit card innocently does the exact opposite of what a frantic McPherson desires is a highlight of the film.

The third act is the most surprising in the film in that our "its complicated" couple take an excursion that literally and figuratively takes many unexpected turns. We further learn the extent to which Henry has a heart; the copious dark humor indicates that that may not be the case.

May skillfully presents all this as wonderful commentary on one-perecnters. "Kids" have had to debase themselves to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed after squandering family fortunes for centuries; further, he (or she) who has the gold does not always make the rules but always is the object of the affection of have-nots who want to have.

Signature does itself equally proud regarding the Criterion-level Blu-ray special features. These include film director Amy Heckerling ("Clueless and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High") discussing "Women in Hollywood: A Tragedy of Comic Proportions"), and a discussion of the short story The Green Heart on which May bases "Leaf."

We also get a booklet with essays that include a terrific ode to May and Heart. The former opens with a hilarious tale of the wedding night scene with Henrietta and Henry.

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

Sunday, December 3, 2017

'The Red Skelton Hour in Color: Deluxe Collection' DVD: More Hilarity From America's Clown Prince

Time Life continues proving that it is the master of Those '70s (and '60s) Shows regarding the November 7, 2017 22-disc release "The Red Skelton Show in Color: The Deluxe Collection." This celebration of the Golden Age of Television Variety Shows and Specials joins similar recent (reviewed) releases of programs starring Carol Burnett and Bob Hope.

"Skelton" by the numbers is that it includes 130 remastered episodes, a biographical documentary on Skelton that includes home movies, and a collectible memory book.

The centerpiece of this "Best of 2017" set of a generous helping of the 20-season "The Red Skelton Show" is the 10-disc set "The Red Skelton Show" This collection of 31 rarely seen episodes both has a strong line-up of A-Listers of the era and has Skelton aptly clown around with his show-biz buddies. Segments in which he and Milton Berle improvise their lines and joke about stealing each other's gags is a highlight.

We further get Skelton regularly performing his classic characters Clem Kadiddlehopper (whose antics include playing the monster in a skit with Boris Karloff and Vincent Price) and street person Freddie the Freeloader, who joins a hippie family that includes Tim Conway. Skelton further tells many Vaudeville-era jokes featuring Gertrude and Heathcliff the sea gulls.

Each show ends with "The Silent Spot," which makes good use of the pantomime skills of Skelton. This bits include a man desperate for work and a nervous man staying near an airport.

The 8-disc/72 episode "Early Years" set focus on the era from 1952-54; the emphasis is on the characters but has very special guest stars; these notables include Berle, Ann Sothern, Charles Bronson, Jackie Gleason, John Wayne, and members of the Skelton family.

"The Farewell Specials" further celebrate the special comedy of Skelton including a literal "Royal Command" performance in which Skelton shows the royal family that no one does classic comedy better than him.

The most awesome aspect of this set is that it supports the Burnett theory that classic comedy has that title for a reason; it never stops being funny. Skelton lasting 20 years on CBS is a strong indication of that; silly setups and physical humor getting heavy laughs more than 65 years after the premiere of "Skelton" demonstrates that some things are timeless.

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

'No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarchism In Three Parts' DVD: Anarchy in the U.K. and Around the World

Icarus Films once more stays true to its mission of distributing innovative and provocative documentaries in releasing a 2-Disc set of  "No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarachism in Three Parts" on November 21, 2017. This immersive history of those malcontents ranges from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon founding this movement in 1840 up to the state of anarchism in 1945.

As filmmaker Tancrede Ramonet states in the essay at the beginning of the booklet in "Gods," the Occupy movement and numerous other modern organized protests demonstrate (pun intended) that anarchy is alive and well in the 21st century. Ramonet goes on to note that that relevancy has not prevented academic institutions and popular culture from largely ignoring the role of the many variations of anarchism in our past and our present. He then states his hope that "Gods" contributes to filling that gap.

The text on the back cover of the DVD for this three-part film PERFECTLY describes the common impression of anarchists and just as masterfully states how "Gods" shows that this is inaccurate. This paragraph declares that "anarachy is often used as a synonym for chaos and destruction, with anarchists seen as black-clad nihilists fomenting violence at peaceful protests. But No Gods, No Masters reveals the far more complex history of a revolutionary political current of the past 150 years, and of the men and women who devoted themselves to it."

"Part One: The Passion for Destruction (1840 - 1906)" devotes its 50 minutes to addressing the conditions in France that prompts Proudhon and his peers to found the titular movement. This includes discussing the objective of toppling the specific powers-that-be in the form of capitalism, a centralized government, and organized religion with a system that achieves the tough goal of achieving a proper balance between equality and freedom.

Another theme of this introduction to anarchism (and the other two parts) is the discord among anarchists regarding what constitutes the ideal and how to achieve it. We further learn how the response of the establishment to these malcontents prompts forming the forerunner of a powerful modern organization.

The scope of this presentation includes a group that believes that nudity is a central element of a more just and equitable society. At the least, this facilitates seeing whether all men truly are created equal.

"Part Two: Land and Freedom (1907 - 1921)" begins with the spread of anarchy to United States; much of the focus of this is on the labor movement and the related issues of strikes and the brutality inflicted on striking workers.

We later move onto Russia and the role of anarchists in the revolution in that country. The conflicts among the factions of anarchists there provide a good context for understanding the different views among those revolutionaries; much of the debate concerns whether violence or intellectual persuasion is the better means for furthering the cause.

"Part Three: The Memory of the Vanquished (1922 - 1945) documents the rise of communism in the post Great War era. It opens with a truism about any activist movement in that such "secondary needs" only are addressed when basic ones are met. This relates to the aforementioned conflict making daily survival such a challenge that ideologies are not a priority. Another aspect of this is that many of the workers who support greater equality and freedom are dying in combat.

We next learn that the post-war '20s are the apparent hey day of stereotypical bomb-throwing anarchist activity; the discussion of this period includes the tale of two anarchists who become folk heroes to the extent of posthumously gaining the support of Joan Baez; the story of these men is in the context of the propaganda movement (including a Walt Disney cartoon) that the establishment launches.

Much of the rest of "Vanquished" focuses on the early 20th century conflicts between anarchists, fascists, and communists (oh my). A guiding principle seems to be that the enemy of my enemy is a tolerable temporary ally. An amusing aspect of this is the scandal related to a rumor of an anarchist past by Mussolini.

Ramonet devotes a substantial portion of this coverage to the Spanish Civil War. Keeping in mind that all propaganda is propaganda, it seems that the anarchists do a pretty good job during their tenure in power. Word is that everyone is well fed and cared for and that reasonable equality is achieved. Any student of history knows that does not last very long.

The DVD special feature is a half hour of additional footage that includes an interview with Noam Chomsky.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

'Doc Hollywood' Blu-ray: 'Northern Exposure' Meets 'Green Acres'

Warner Archive continues finding leitmotifs regarding releases in bringing out "Doc Hollywood" on Blu-ray on November 28, 2017. This follows the Archive November 7, 2017 Blu-ray release of the (reviewed) "Summer of '42." The commonality is that "Summer" is based on the real-life memoir of lead character Hermie Raucher, and "Hollywood" producer/writer Dr. Neil B. Shulman bases that comedy on his novel "What? Dead Again?"

The following YouTube clip of the "Hollywood" theatrical trailer offers a good synopsis of the plot and includes wonderfully misleading spoilers.

Teen idol Michael J. Fox stars as titular hot-shot young surgeon Ben Stone, whose life plan includes rewarding himself for enduring medical school and two years in the chaotic E.R. of a Washington, D.C. hospital with a $500,000/year job as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. The Stone cold logic of that selling out is that providing the rich and famous expensive unnecessary procedures allows operating on other folks who really need it.

Some of the strongest symbolism in "Hollywood" comes early on when the excessive impatience of Stone to start his new life causes him to miss a literal and figurative on-ramp. This rush next soon plays a role in Stone being involved in an accident in the small rural community of Grady, South Carolina.

Akin to Dr. Joel Fleischman of the '90s CBS dramedy "Northern Exposure," Stone soon finds himself Shanghaied into "temporarily" filling the need of the town for a medical practitioner. Also like Fleischman, Stone learns that the job comes with use of a rustic cabin in the woods and transportation in the form of a battered pick-up.

Character actors of the era play most of the stereotypical local yokels who comprise the population of Grady. David Ogden Stiers of "M*A*S*H" is down-home mayor Nick Nicholson, who is leading the effort to make things work out so that Stone stays a while longer. Frances Sternhagen plays crusty on the outside but warm-hearted cafe owner Lillian; we also get Sternhagen co-star and Fox fellow "Must-See" star Woody Harrelson as unsophisticated insurance salesman Hank, who becomes a romantic rival of Fox. Barnard Hughes (who plays the titular "Doc" in a mid-70s sitcom) rounds out this group as the grumpy old town doctor.

The '80s vibe continues with the rock-ballad theme that plays over the opening credits as Fox sets out on his journey.

Julie Warner plays brash ambulance driver Lou, who is the love interest (and possible soulmate) of Stone.

Things begin predictably with Stone resenting his involuntary servitude and feeling frustrated regarding jeopardizing his dream job. However, he does his duty with minimal complaint.

The first day on the job has an especially strong "Northern" vibe as Stone meets his quirky patients. These include a farmer whose home remedy includes chimney soot and an illiterate pregnant woman who consults Stone for the sole purpose of having him read her a letter that she received.

It is equally predictable that relations between Stone and the town thaw and that his relationship with Lou heats up to an even greater degree. This medical practitioner adopting a pig both is a big step in this direction and enhances the "Acres" vibe of the film.

The twists near the end to keep things interesting as uncertainty exists regarding the outcomes regarding the overlapping triangles consisting of Stone, Lou, the town, and Hank. Of course, "Hollywood" being pure Hollywood ensures that things work out in the end.

This Tinsel Town aspect of "Hollywood" also helps explain the secret of its success and other Fox comedies; This likable actor does well when he plays to type, and these movies are warm and fuzzy escapes from the harsh reality of the real world.

Anyone with questions or comment regarding "Hollywood" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twittere via @tvdvdguy.

'Summer of '42' BD: Real-Life Nantucket Beach Memoirs

The Warner Archive November 7, 2017 Blu-ray release of the Oscar-winning 1971 drama "Summer of '42" is bittersweet in that it so nicely remasters this classic that it makes one long for an Archive Blu-ray release of the 1973 sequel "The Class of '44." Much of the effectiveness of this tale is that it is based on the largely accurate published memoir of screeenwriter Herman "Hermie" Raucher.

The bigger picture (no pun intended) of the momentous titular summer in the life of life of Raucher is that it is part of a '70s trifecta of similar coming-of-age period pieces.

"Summer" is highly comparable to fellow '71 film "The Last Picture Show" that depicts the trauma and drama of a close-knit group of teen boys living in a dying Texas town in 1951. An initially well-done small-screen adaptation of this concept is the '70s sitcom "Happy Days" about three teen boys living in the mid-50s.

Using "Happy Days" as a model, Hermie is the Richie in that he is an overall good everyteen who keeps his id under control.  Best friend Oscy is the Potsie in that he is more prone to immature antics and goads Hermie into walks on the wild side. Younger and nerdy Benjie is the Ralph Malph absent the corny humor; he largely is along for the ride and often misses out on the "big boy" activity.

Another common element of these productions is that parents largely are absent; this is highly true in "Summer," somewhat less so in "Last," and even less so in "Days." However, all three groups of lads still largely are left to learn life lessons on their own.

Three interesting production notes about "Summer" are that director Robert Mulligan ("To Kill A Mockingbird") provides the adult Herrmie narration at the beginning and the end of the film; the comment in the opening speech that Nantucket where the action occurs is more built up in the present relates to the island becoming so developed in the 30 years between the '42 and the filming that location shooting is not an option. The third note is that Maureen Stapleton has her own uncredited voiceover role as the mother of Hermie.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Summer" features the aforementioned narration and nicely conveys the nostalgic element of the film.

An early scene in which Hermie longing looks at the 22 year-old object of his affection Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) quickly establishes the reason for casting Hermie portrayor Gary Grimes; he is very expressive and sweet looking then and throughout.

Grimes also puts his adorkability to particularly good use in separate scenes in which Dorothy touching his calf almost causes him to have a cow (and a highly embarrassing orgasm) and in which he tries to buy a condom. Those of us in the know eagerly wait for the pharmacist to ask Hermie for specifics regarding that purchase.

The charm of the film is divided between Hermie trying to develop a relationship with Dorothy and discussing his changing body with Oscy; the boys getting their hands on an explicit "book of love" that includes a step-by-step guide to sex provides great fodder for much of that hilarity.

All of this culminates in a climatic (no pun intended) night for Hermie and Dorothy. He arrives at her home for a visit that he is selling as a casual drop by but that he hopes brings him closer to getting on base with the older woman; the reality is that Dorothy is in a vulnerable state that greatly complicates things.

The ensuing 15 minutes are one of the most tender and dramatic of any film; mutual affection exists between the couple and Dorothy literally needs a shoulder on which to cry and craves intimacy; the question is whether this can lead to more and whether Hermie allowing such an opportunity to occur is right.

A partial spoiler is that Dorothy expresses herself in writing Hermie the morning after, and Raucher uses the exact text of that letter in the film.

"Summer," "Last," and "Days" work because they are tender but not saccharine tales of boys becoming men to which former boys and the girls and women in their lives during their teens can relate. Those of us of the male persuasion have all made clumsy adolescent attempts to seduce either older or otherwise desirable women, and the ones who are worthy of that admiration have kept their mouths shut about seeing through our amateurish ploys or careless lies.

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

'Susan Slept Here' BD: Powell and Reynolds Do Christmas-themed Hudson-Day Romcom

Although the Warner Archive Blu-ray of the Oscar-nominated 1954 Dick Powell-Debbie Reynolds romcom "Susan Slept Here" dates back to April 2016, the Christmas theme of the film makes it apt review fodder in December 2017. The most special aspects of this present are that it provides a nice reminder of Reynolds roughly one year after her death and also reminds us that they sadly don't make 'em like they used to. The film further is notable for its uniquely statuesque narrator.

"Susan" further is a wonderfully refreshing alternative to the sickly sweet kids' films, crude comedies, and low-budget horror films that comprise current holiday fare.

"Sussn" is special as well because it has a strong live-stage vibe that largely is due to most of the events occurring in the apartment of commercially successful but artistically frustrated Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Christopher (Powell) in the short period between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Having a small ensemble cast playing stock characters further enhances this sense of watching a play. The copious amusing one-liners are icing on this cake.

The action begins when a vice cop who consulted on a Christopher film decides to kill two partridges with one lump of coal by showing up unannounced at the aforementioned apartment with 17 year-old delinquent Susan Landis (Reynolds) in tow. The logic of this public servant is that Landis spending Christmas with 35 year-old Christopher (Christ the Savior?) allows her to avoid spending the holiday behind bars and provides Christopher with material for his stalled screenplay about juvenile delinquents.

Reynolds literally arriving on the scene kicking and screaming while dressed in hillbilly chic evokes nice thoughts of her portrayal of Molly Brown.

Watching Christopher and angsty young P.A./best buddy Virgil (Alvy Moore of "Green Acres") squirm regarding the "17 will get you 20" risk regarding associating with an underage girl is a highlight. However, Christopher forming a plan that prevents both him and Susan becoming a Christmas Day guest of the governor prompts him to let her stay. This does not stop Virgil from fleeing in terror.

The aforementioned plan going awry leads to the titular situation in which Landis sleeps in the bed of Christopher; things become even more friendly when the pair enter a marriage that is much more convenient for Landis than Christopher.

Legendary gossip columnist Louella Parsons scooping competitor Hedda Hopper with news of the Christmas Day wedding causes Christopher fiancee Isabella (Anne Francis) to go from steaming mad over the telephone to boiling over and coming to confront Landis, who is not about to relinquish her title of Mrs. Christopher without a world-class bout. Meanwhile, the new husband is in self-imposed seclusion at an undisclosed location.

The next development of an apparent immaculate concept leads to further hilarity. Christopher comes home steaming mad and punches out the Virgil Mary before learning the truth about a wacky misunderstanding. However, this does not weaken the resolve of the playwright to annual his marriage.

The final homage to live productions comes in the final scene as Landis frantically tries to show her ability to be a good wife. The best hilarity regarding this is a rapid-pace exchange in which Landis counters every argument of Christopher regarding why this pair should not be legally wed. The highlight of this is seeing Reynolds being adorably dogged.

The true grand finale follows in that this witty "shouldabeen a holiday classic" tale is that it is the last silver screen performance by Powell before beginning his successful television career. Seeing this film literally end on a high note is a great way to mark this transition.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Susan" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via

Moon Over Maine: An Inn for All Seasons

The great success regarding a September 2016 visit to the Moon Over Maine B and B in Ogunquit required following the example of many guests by returning a year later.

Going in mid-October this time provided the dual advantages of the not-bad number of tourists from the year before even being lower and everything in town being open despite being past the truly end-of-summer milestone of Columbus Day Weekend.

The adventure began with a stop in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The claims to fame of this community include the John Paul Jones House and the historic recreation village of Strawberry Banke. The streets and the stores were active but free of large crowds.

The Kittery, Maine outlets on the New Hampshire/Maine border were the next stop. The "hits" this time in the hit-or-miss world of outlet shopping included $20 first-quality Saucony running shoes and a "samples" sale at the Brooks Brothers outlet. Getting a one-of-a-kind button-down shirt and an equally unique tie for good prices were highlights.

Traffic being light to moderate on the road to Ogunquit kept the trip moving along well. Arriving at the inn and parking in a favorite spot truly felt like coming home.

Innkeeper/photographer/realtor/community leader Rick Barber and inn dogs Ty and Hope being at their greeting spots in the front hall provided an additional warm sense of welcome.

Staying in "Mars" this time expanded the exploration of the Mooniverse that began with "Jupiter" and moved onto "Venus" last year. Mars aptly is painted red; the amenities in this room with a queen bed include a private balcony that also serves as a private entrance. Although your not-so-humble reviewer is a man, he has a slight preference for being from Venus over Mars despite Mars having a little more of a view.

No trip to the Moon is complete without having the scrumptious handmade scones for breakfast. Rick also provides bagels, yogurt, cereal, and other treats.

Spending roughly 24 hours in Ogunquit in mid-October shows that the inn and the community both are entities for all seasons. Although some inns close for a few months, most restaurants and stores seem to be open year-round.

Further, the Ogunquit Playhouse also operates far beyond the summer stock season. Another change is that the emphasis of the productions that used to center around '70s sitcom stars such as Sally Struthers and Eddie "Big Ragu" Mekka now entices current and future Broadway stars to strut their stuff in Maine. (The playhouse was presenting a band-new musical version of "From Here to Eternity" during this recent visit.)

A discussion about cooler weather activities prompted Barber to share news of the December 8-10, 2017 Christmas by the Sea celebration in Ogunquit; he noted that he is booked solid that weekend.

The bottom line regarding all this is that no one should have any reservations about staying at Moon. Your visit will be wonderful, and the area will offer plenty of choices to keep you busy and happy whenever you come.

Anyone with any questions about "Moon" or the area is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'Palace of Fun' DVD: Bi-Sexual Tale of Mr. Ripley's Cruel Intentions

The TLA Releasing October 31, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 drama "Palace of Fun" is a wonderful no-reason-to-feel-guilty pleasure that terrifically channels the more guilty 1999 pleasures "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cruel Intentions." Writer/director Eadward Stocks also throws in an element of "Fatal Attraction."

The following YouTube clip of the unusual trailer for "Palace" highlights the "Intentions" and the "Ripley" elements of the film.

"Palace" opens with rich recent university graduate Lily meeting adorable Finn at a Brighton night club. This encounter prompts her to bring him to the seaside Brighton, England home that she and brother Jamie are sharing while their parents are spending the summer in Italy.

The first hints of "Ripley" and of the gay theme that is prevalent in Releasing DVDs are a largely naked Finn trying on a shirt of Jamie without permission and the scrutable look that Jamie gives this stranger on catching him in the act.

Jamie already is unhappy about this interloper disrupting extended alone time with Lily; soon discovering a dark secret about Finn sets the stage for a diabolical plan that may or may not be accurately revealed at the end of the film; either way, Finn quickly learns that the price for continuing to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous requires doing the bidding of Jamie.

The plot thickens as the presence of Finn causes tensions to increase between the siblings, and Finn clearly shows his own true nature regarding his nefarious scheme.

The arguably best scene has Jamie initiate a drunken boys' night in in which he has Finn dress up and play act; things take an even darker turn as one of the boys has a serious drunken accident.

Little is left to the imagination as we see the boys once again bond near the end of the film; Lily subsequently is told all (some of which may not be true). This leads to at least one more surprise.

"Palace" succeeds on many levels that begin with "Intentions" and other reel and real-life stories making it believable that poor little rich boys and girls whose parents are not strong presences in their lives turn to each other for emotional support and other connections. It is equally believable that people with varying degrees of impure motives would latch onto a vulnerable rich girl for varying profit motives.

On top of this, each cast member plays his or her part well. Jamie portrayor George Stocks looks like he is fresh out of a Ralph Lauren catalog even before we see him at the helm of the family sailing yacht. Phoebe Naughton (Lily) looks as if she would be right at home at a summer afternoon garden party, and Andrew Mullen's Finn looks like a handsome opportunist whose talents include becoming an object of affection.

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