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Sunday, October 14, 2018

'Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc' Blu-Ray: Before She Was A Star Musical About The Maid of Orleans

Icarus Films provides young girls everywhere cause to rejoice regarding the October 2, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 2017 French musical "Jeannette." One note for parents is that the moppet in your life likely will want to repeatedly watch this song-and-dance filled feature.

The aforementioned appeal reflects the practice of producers of action-adventure fare who include brave adventurous boys in their stories. Just as many tween boys of the late '80s fantasize about being 13 year-old Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," girls from 5-to-10ish may see themselves in  pre-Joan of Arc shepherd Jeannette before she gets the flock out of the pasture and literally fights for God and country. Modern-day Jeannettes will further delight in the simplistic songs and the dancing that largely consists of the same twirling and swaying in which they engage at home and recitals. 

Our story begins (and mostly occurs) in the pasture where Jeannette spends most of her time, She laments in song and to her friend Hauviette about the invading British forces. The primary dilemma is how to quell the invasion and restore peace without almost literally fighting fire with fire (no pun intended). Attempted intervention by local nun Madame Gervaise, and the appearance of three saints seals the deal. Anyone who has tried to get a young girl to put on her shoes so that you can go do something that she dislikes can relate. 

The next portion of the film moves ahead several years and has a teen Jeannette enlisting the aide of the brother of her father to be her ally regarding Pere at least not preventing her from joining a group of soldiers. Folks with even a moderate knowledge of history knows how this works out.

As mentioned above, "Jeannette" makes a historic figure very accessible and will encourage many young viewers to read more about Joan of Arc. It provides the rest of us a broader perspective regarding this righteous warrior. It further is beautifully shot and demonstrates that the mindset of 8 year-old girls has not dramatically changed since 1425.

The Blu-ray bonuses include deleted scenes and a feature on filmmaker Bruno Dumont.

Friday, October 12, 2018

'The Beverly Hillbillies' S5 DVD: Still Fresh and Funny

The October 2, 2018  DVD release of "The Beverly Hillbillies" S5 coinciding with the CBS DVD releases of the (reviewed) "The Love Boat" S4 V1 and the (soon-to-be-reviewed) "Boat S4 V2 sets starts October well for sofa spuds who are facing increasingly cold and stormy days at home. The facts that CBS recognizes the profitability of these sets and that "Boat" and "Hillbillies" remain in syndication decades after their original broadcast runs are the strongest endorsements of their staying power. One warning is that watching these episodes WILL result in subconsciously singing the themes to yourself. 

For the benefit of the folks who both are unfamiliar with "Hillbillies" and do not want to spend roughly 30 seconds watching the opening credits, the concept is that titular "poor mountaineer" Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen of "Barnaby Jones") moves his daughter Elly May and two other relatives (i.e., dim-witted nephew Jethro and feisty elderly mother-in-law Granny)  to the titular upscale community after he strikes oil.

TV Land history includes that the original title of the series is "The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills." That title appears in the opening credits of the pilot episode that the CBS S1 DVD set includes. 

Much of the "com" results from "sits" that either involve the backwoods folks not understanding city ways, clashing with "civilized" neighbors, or taking a page from "The Andy Griffith Show" by having rural-style common-sense win out over urban knowledge. Their urban friends comically greedy bank president Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) and his truly long-suffering Radcliffe-educated secretary "Miss" Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) do their best to keep all concerned happy. 

S5 gets off on an apt foot by having Drysdale return from vacation a few hours before Jethro and Granny get back from visiting the kinfolk back in the hills, The central "sit" that provides "com" in this one is the haul from the latter journey includes a crank telephone that Granny wants to connect to a party line in Beverly Hills. One spoiler is that it turns out that $60M cannot buy everything.

Things take a slightly dark turn in a "very special" two-part episode early in S5. This one revolves around a con that has a city girl masquerade as a girl from back home as part of a "badger game" that involves getting incriminating photos of Jed. Part of the fun relates to the grifters not realizing with whom they are dealing.

A series highlight comes roughly in the middle of S5. 1910s-'20s movie star Gloria Swanson plays herself in an episode that fully embraces the wacky misunderstanding aspect of "Hillbillies." A mistaken belief that Swanson is destitute prompts the clan to visit her with an offer of help. This leads to true hilarity in a "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Clampett" resolution.

Another S5 episode has John Wayne stop by as himself. The "sit" this time is that a peaceful dispute with an Indian tribe leads to involving The Duke to address what is believed to be a pending raid. 

Two separate episodes with a common element have the Clampetts believe that little green men have landed almost literally in their backyard and that a hippopotamus is a giant hog. This is not to mention another story arc that has a man in a gorilla suit pay the price for monkeying around with these hard-working folks.

The aforementioned longevity of "Hillbillies" primarily relate to the timeless humor associated with an "alien" not understanding how we live. It is easy to imagine Orkan Mork of (the reviewed) "Mork and Mindy" joining the Clampetts in identifying a large concrete basin full of water as a "cement pond." 

More guilty pleasure comes via those of us with toxic neighbors relating to the torment that those "dreadful hillbillies" cause next-door neighbor Mrs. Drysdale. Few (if any of us) must contend with farm animals destroying our yards or with fully noxious odors from cooking outside invading our space. However, nuisances such as frequently barking dogs and feral children that can be even more nerve-wracking than livestock make many of us want to rid the area of these undesirable clans. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

'Perfect Strangers' S5 DVD: Odd Couple Cousins Find Themselves in More Sublimely Ridiculous Situations

The Warner Archive September 25, 2018 DVD release of the 1989-90 fifth season of the ABC sitcom "Perfect Strangers" brings us over the hump regarding home-video sets of this eight-season show. This release also provides hope regarding every season being available as snow begins melting roughly six months from now. People interested in learning more about "Strangers" things are encouraged to check out the Unreal TV 2.0 review of the third season and post on the fourth one. 

The pedigree of "Strangers" producers Robert L. Boyett and Thomas L. Miller including the "Strangers" spinoff "Family Matters" shows that the team both knows what the public wants and has a talent for catch-phrases that delight fans and annoy less-enamored folks. Trust me; I know what I'm doing.

The S5 "Strangers" episodes provide the perfect context for discussing the talent of Boyett and Miller for producing a likable TV show that enhances tried-and-true elements with nice surprises. The tried-and-true begins with the odd couple roommates concept of high-strung 20-something Appleton, Wisconsin native Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) sharing a Chicago apartment with his laid-back and childlike fresh-off-the-boat naive cousin/co-worker Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). The writers deserve great credit for keeping the "Beverly Hillbillies" style element of "Strangers" fresh after four seasons. An example of this is an S5 episode that has Balki seeing a dentist for the first time.

We also get a nice twist on the evil twin cliche. Even fresher off-the-boat cousin Bartok (Pinchot) visits from Los Angeles, He is a smooth talker who quickly and repeatedly takes advantage of Balki. This adds a "Its A Wonderful Life" element to the episode in that we see how Balki may have turned out on moving to America but for relatively (pun intended) patient and kind Cousin Larry mentoring and supporting him.

"Strangers" shines even better than it knows regarding a very special two-part episode that offers a treasure trove of sitcom gems. The bonanza begins with Larry hoping to make his visiting father (a.k.a. Uncle Walter) proud of his boy. Having James Noble, who is best known of playing the governor on the fellow ABC sitcom "Benson," checks the box for having a popular actor guest star. 

The familiar elements continue with the underlying "sit" leading to the regular "com" in the form of Larry ignoring a warning of Balki leading to mayhem that includes two characters in conflict getting locked in a room. Having the "how many times have you ..." joke turn against Larry later in the episode is even more awesome. 

The placing of beloved characters in mortal danger that delights viewers comes when the boys and Dad get trapped in a basement that is filling with water. The bonus is an enhanced ticking time bomb in the form of a electrical box that will fry our friends when the water level reaches it. Several decades of television shows and the fact that "Strangers" gets an additional 3.5 seasons makes the fact that the boys escape not much of a spoiler. 

The episode title provides the presumably unintended bonus. The words "Father Knows Best?" obviously refers to the '50s nuclear-family sitcom of that name that lacks punctuation in its title. The tidbits from a vintage interview with "Best" star Billy Gray includes that "Dad" Robert Young wanted the title to include the question mark to indicate that his family guy character was not necessarily the smartest guy in the room.

The bonus fun in the interview relates to Gray, who is well-known for a marijuana bust, once laughing and saying "you don't smoke, do you?" The only admissions regarding that are once finding the pot holder in the kitchen of a high school friend hilarious and going to great lengths to avoid my mother on some Friday nights while living with her for a few months after college. 

"Strangers" fans further get the "Larry plans a vacation from Hell" episode. The well-intentioned amateur travel agent books the boys and their girls a stay at the worst-ever Caribbean resort. Of course, this includes a strong risk of not making it back alive,

Another outing sets the stage for the sitcom staple of a Rashomon episode in which characters tell different accounts of the events that lead to the interaction in the opening scene. In this case, the drama relates to a bad dude crashing a corporate retreat. 

The bigger picture is that the shrewd instincts that keep "Strangers" on the air so long (and warrant a tie-in to the HBO drama series "The Leftovers") include a respect for tradition that largely avoids the series looking dated. The absurd native garb of Balki is amusing in any era and the business casual attire of Larry is adequately timeless. Further, most plots avoid '80s (and '90s) centric references. As the few episodes described above show, the "sits" could mostly occur during any era. One exception is that Trip Advisor protects against staying at dumps,

The final word is time is don't be ridiculous, buy the DVD. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

'The Love Boat' S4 V1 DVD: That PERFECT '80s Show

The CBS Home Entertainment October 2, 2018 DVD set of "The Love Boat" S4 V1 is an apt Unreal TV 2.0 inaugural post on a CBS release in the wake (no pun intended) of many such reviews on Unreal TV 1.0. An amusing aspect of this is that a world-class publicist named Tiffany is a former representative of this division of the Tiffany network. 

An aside is that this simply mahvelous set (which includes an option of watching the always fun "next week on 'The Love Boat'" promo. that kept viewers excited all week) presents the episodes much better than the butchered and commercial-laden versions on MeTV. This huge fan of that series gave up on those reruns after two weeks but revels in the S4 V1 versions. 

Please stay tuned both for a review of "Boat" S4 V2 and for the Unreal TV 1.0 articles on CBS releases to make their way onto Unreal TV 2.0. The icing on the cake is an upcoming post on the CBS October 2, 2018 DVD release of "The Beverly Hillbillies" S5, which includes the series highlight episode with Gloria Swanson. 

Sofa spuds whose knowledge of "Boat" is limited to this mid-70s to mid-80s anthology providing large and small screen stars of Christmases past, present, and future current a higher profile are missing half the story. "Boat" essentially is a reboot of the 1969-74 comedy anthology series "Love American Style (which also has CBS releases) that does not limit the setting of its tales all across the relationship spectrum to a cruise ship that typically travels from Los Angeles to Mexico and back again. 

The general concept of "Boat" is that the aforementioned celebrities usually play passengers who typically board the titular Pacific Princess in one of three categories. Happily in love, in the period between love and goodbye, or single but not necessarily looking to mingle. These cruisers first bond with one of the crew members who are series regulars and then experience trauma and/or drama before ending the cruise at least wiser and often happier. 

Watching the 11 hour (or more) long episodes in the S4 V1 shows that this 1980-81 season is a particularly strong one, The bigger picture is that a TV writers strike is behind delaying the season premiere; this also is the broadcast season in which America learns "Who Shoot JR." A spoiler regarding that one is that resolution in "Dallas" provides good fodder for a cross-network crossover with "Boat."

The S4 season-premiere of "Boat" perfectly illustrates the fun and the themes that make this series '80stastic. Tom Hanks gets his second acting credit by playing a college friend of assistant purser Burl "Gopher" Smith just as Hanks' sitcom "Bosom Buddies" is premiering. The rub is that the former campus Romeo and current playah degrading Gopher prompts the latter to pretend that gal pal/cruise director Julie McCoy is his main squeeze. This charade stirs up feelings that may lead to the co-workers literally and figuratively docking in San Pedro.

The tables are turned in a later episode that has a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader recruit Gopher to help w her fend off an aggressive suitor. This storyline turns particular dark until the squad uses girl power to save their savior. 

Meanwhile in S1 E1, comedian Nipsey Russell plays a member of group of Korean War soldiers who are having a min-reunion with their rough-and-gruff sergeant whom Vic Tayback of '80scom "Alice" plays. This leader unduly reliving old days prompts the group to persuade a cabin cleaner (Doris Roberts then of the sitcom "Angie") to pretend to like him. Of course, the Roberts and the Tayback characters enter a real relationship that his learning of the initial deception jeopardizes.

The numerous highlights of the two-hour second S4 episode include it being one of several extended episodes in the set. It also is one of the two completely separate episodes that is filmed during a "very special" cruise that starts in St. Thomas before going through the Panama Canal and then back to the home port of Los Angeles. Both episodes will teach most viewers new things about the Canal.

The second episode also is one of two in this set with a unifying theme. This cruise has several engaged couples vying in a contest to win fabulous prizes. The other cruise has the ship transporting several two and four-legged passengers to a horse race in Acapulco. The disco group The Village People boarding to perform and to race their horse in that one that also has the aforementioned cheerleaders contribute to making that one especially memorable. Gopher racing the People singer who dresses as an Indian perfectly captures the spirit of "Boat." 

The episode with the engaged couples has "Happy Days " (yes, CBS has released ""Days" sets) star Erin Moran play an engaged woman whose mother comes on board to discourage her from tying the knot, Moran "Days" co-star Donny Most plays the best friend/best man of a preemptive runaway groom who is engaged to a character whom "Dallas" star Charlene Tilton plays. 

The Golden Age representation includes Debbie Reynolds playing a character who forms a friendship with potential benefits with Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLoed) after leaving her husband. MacLoed "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Ted Knight plays a man with sub-zero cold feet who has a comically frequent on-again-off-again engagements with a character whom Rue McClanahan plays in a break between "Maude" and "The Golden Girls." Fellow "Golden Girl" Betty White plays a character married to real-life White spouse Allen Ludden in the horse episode, 

Another highlight of the contest episode has Ann Jillian and Dawn Wells play fellow judges of Gopher who want to score with him on every level. Oft-divorced resident doctor Adam Bricker trying to push his buddy out of the way is equally pure "Boat." 

This brief discussion of a few episodes in this set should evoke fond memories by current fans and show "virgins" that the classic theme song accurately "promises something for everyone." Seeing the TV Land and silver screen celebrities in pure escapist stories is the perfect cure for an era in which literally every week brings a new event that risks the federal government imploding, "Boat" provided the perfect way to decompress on Saturday nights in the '80s and offers more intense therapy in in the 2010s. 

The final endorsement is that your not-so-humble reviewer gets a great deal of review DVDs and Blu-rays but pre-ordered the S4 Vi set to have it on his release date. He also has bought every previous CBS set of "Boat." 

Monday, October 8, 2018

'Papillon' '73 Blu-ray: 'Butterfly' McQueen Shows He Does Know Plenty About Birthing Devil's Island Escape Plans

The disappointment regarding the Warner Archive September 18, 2018 Blu-ray release of the epic 1973 Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman docudrama "Papillon" has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the quality of the film or the incredibly clear Blu-ray remaster. The negative aspect is that the titular boy with the butterfly tattoo (MacQueen) and his well-heeled counterfeiter friend/fellow prisoner (Hoffman) do not adequately bond with a third character to warrant a Devil's Island triangle reference. 

Archive continues its solid tradition of leitmotifs by pairing this Blu-ray with a DVD release of the (soon-to-be-reviewed) 1938 B-movie "Over the Wall" based on a story by real-life Sing Sing warden Lewis E. Lawes. "Papillon," which is a '70s sensation based on the film and the massively best-selling memoir on which is based, chronicles the incredible efforts of safecracker Henri Charriere to escape the aforementioned French Ghana prison camp. The nickname of this man relates to the aforementioned ink on his chest. 

Writing the book makes sharing that Charriere ultimately succeeds not much of a spoiler. However, like most film and television stories, the entertainment value is watching the compelling story of his prison break.

Adding horrific abuse that includes sadistic starvation of prisoners who must wear filthy pajama-like striped uniforms contributes a disturbing concentration camp vibe to this classic film. Of course, McQueen doing his usual excellent job portraying an obsessively determined tough guy and Hoffman channeling creepy scumbag Ratso Rizzo to play Louis Dega superbly bring the script by famously blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to life. 

The impact (which includes the concentration camp vibe) begins with the naked new fish assembled in a courtyard. They are instructed about what lies ahead before being told to dress just ahead of a heavily guarded walk of shame through crowded city streets. The spectacle/ritual aspect of this greatly establishes the tone of the film. 

Some of the limited but very good humor of "Papillon" relates to the conviction of that man. He is an admitted safecracker but is convicted for murdering a pimp. The response to that alleged crime makes it seem as if France puts men who keeps both whores and tricks in line on the same social level as Nobel Prize winners. 

The prisoners then board a sea-worthy vessel that evokes thoughts of a slave ship; they are herded aboard and crammed into locked below-deck cages; their bathing consists of a fire hose blasting water through the bars. We additionally see them being served what already likely is watered-down soup on the deck in in the pouring rain.

The savvy Papillon uses this time to begin plotting his escape; learning that Louis is a good candidate to provide the capital for that venture is the start of a beautiful friendship,. Louis realizing that Papillon can help assure living to bride guards another day seals the deal.

One of the best scenes in the film revolves a scheme for desired employment. Our boys are a heartbeat away from literally making the best of a bad situation when Louis experiences karma. Stating that Papillon and Louis end up to their elbows in alligators is not far from the truth.

Subsequent events result in Papillon experiencing a massively unfortunate incarceration; his adhering to the principle of snitches get stitches is what makes that particularly bad situation worse. These scenes additionally prove that McQueen waz robbed regarding not even being nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.

The nature of the extended absence makes the heart of Louis grow much fonder for his protector. Things quickly going awry with their Plan C for escape turns this film into a dark variation of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road movie, This also provides the context for additional beautiful travelogue scenery that makes good use of Blu-ray technology.

The end of this portion of the adventure will make you want to shout "that bitch" despite fully knowing that doing so ensures that you will go to actual Hell. The self-righteous betrayal of Papillon is bad enough; the insult that is added to the injury reinforces what virtually every Catholic school student has ever asserted. 

This leads to resuming the battle of wills regarding which the guys in charge seem to not realize that someone with nothing to lose has no reason to stop trying to get away. Making it clear that punishment, rather than rehabilitation, is the goal of the imprisonment does not help matters.

As stated above, this 20th-century Hollywood movie delivers a happy ending. Determining how Charriere becomes one of the few men to ever beat the house and whether Louis makes it as well requires watching the film. One hint is that Papillon shows that he is more resourceful than the professor of "Gilligan's Island" fame. 

The 12-minute bonus feature "The Magnificent Rebel" greatly enhances the "Papillon" experience. This making-of documentary from the time of filming the movie introduces us to the real Charriere and shows how the filmmakers boldly go where no man has gone before. We further get to see the state of the prison facility in the early '70s. 

The bottom line regarding all this is that the biggest reason that the film continues to thrive to the extent of warranting a recent remake is that all the folks in front of and behind the camera realize that the devil is in the details. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Hilton Garden Inn Hanover Lebanon Strikes Perfect Balance Between Boutique Hotel and Corporate Retreat

A strong positive impression from a (too short) two-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn (HGI) Hanover Lebanon near Dartmouth College in rural New Hampshire relates to a horrific experience with the far-less congenial ownership of a far-less nice property. That nightmare stay is the genesis of the phrase "shabby broom closet" that provides context in some Inn Credible New England posts on this site. 

The HGI, which opened in May 2018 and still is pristine, successfully provides vacation travelers an upscale place to rest and recreate while also allowing folks who are there on the company dime use of some or all of the well-designed 7,600 SF of meeting space that accommodates up to 315 people. The HGI getting EVERY aspect of hospitality right and equally embracing EVERY demographic sharply contrasts with the purveyors of the broom closet turning scary psychotic in response to my referring to their establishment as a corporate hotel. In other words, the good ones like HGI owner Cowen Hotels realize that sheep ranchers (i.e., leisure travelers) and cattlemen (i.e., business travelers) can happily co-exist and that calling a property a corporate hotel is not insulting. 

Inn Credible Welcome

The developers of the HGI property deserve a gold star; placing the building in the middle of a huge lot and having abundant green space surround it and the more-than-ample parking lots provides the tranquil sense associated with the area. The layout also is a treat for Dartmouth parents there to drop off students or business folks attending a meeting.

The large and mid-sized carts in the vestibule are convenient for getting the abundant luggage for which car trips allow; the mid-sized cart was great for the perpetually packed duffel that I always bring on these trips. The power strip, extra toiletries, charging cables, snacks, etc. get put to good use on every trip. 

The hotel has van service to the bus station next door, the municipal airport 5 miles away, and other area hot spots for folks who do not bring a car. This van additionally is available for chauffeuring gusts during their stay. Leaving my car in the lot my entire visit and getting a ride into downtown Hanover (a.k.a. Hangover) was a nice bonus; parking in that small city was limited during this move-in period for Dartmouth. 

it also is highly likely that one of the strapping young men who work at the HGI can help with physical baggage. These guys (and their female co-workers) additionally offer great hospitality.

A bartender showed INCREDIBLE restraint with a (seemingly sober) orifice who repeatedly asked for "special ice" that did not absorb bourbon. This idiot additionally made several requests for free bourbon to compensate for the absorbed amount. A highlight of the exchange was the bartender subtly and politely inviting that guy to take his drink to his room. 

Front Desk Supervisor Sarah Tillotson and her team literally will greet you a smile and be on top of your reservation; they additionally provide Hilton Honors members with a gift that is welcome at any hotel.

Right Said Fred

A chance to speak with Director of Sales & Catering Director Fred Dole provided good insight. He validated the emphasis of the HGI on equally catering to vacation and business travelers. His response to my expression of pleasant surprise regarding a Garden Inn being so upscale was that "Hilton is stepping up its game" as to that category of property. It is HIGHLY likely that the HGI not having every amenity of a full-fledged Hilton is the ONLY reason for the Garden Inn designation. 

My attending grad. school in the area was a primary impetus for the trip, and I noted that many new hotels had been built in the area since my graduation. Dole responded that "supply has caught up with demand." He added that Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, which was near the HGI, required this growth. 

No Room for Improvement

The guidelines in the  "Avoiding Getting Inn Trouble" article on this site state that spending a little more to upgrade a room often is worth the additional expense. This definitely is so regarding the HGI. Either way, you can count on a very clean room, a comfy bed, and perfect WiFi. The latter even supports a great deal of streaming that may include watching kitten cams on YouTube, 

Every category of room also has a refrigerator (but no freezer ) and a microwave. Although the fare at the 24-hour pantry in the lobby includes frozen pizza that tastes just like the delivered variety, shut-ins are encouraged to bring in food from any of the numerous local options. The Hanover Co-op five miles away has a wide variety of reasonably priced prepared foods AND does not lapse memberships even after many years of inactivity. A large cookie from the famous Lou's Bakery in Hanover nicely warms up in the microwave. 

The below photos show the bedroom area of every king room and the sitting area in a premium room. The sitting area particularly is good for wallflowers such as your not-so-humble reviewer who opt to lounge in the room in the evening after a full day enjoying the local attractions. Easily connecting a personal DVD or Blu-ray player (do not forget an HDMI cable) allows for an evening watching a movie or television program while resting up for another active day. You can do this in the bedroom area, but having the couch is nice, 

This upgrade also can avoid tension when travelling as a couple. One person being in bed while the other is doing his or her thing in the living area both provides a little alone time and prevents annoying each other. This is from the perspective of a guy who typically watches the Disney Channel on trips. The logic is that the tween sitcoms are amusing, and the only ads are promos for Disney fare.

On a larger level, the soundproofing is amazing. I did not hear any hallway noise. It is more incredible that you can see the relatively busy secondary highway roughly 1/4 mile away but will not hear ANY traffic noise. Folks concerned about this can request a room on the other side of the building, 

Towns For All Seasons

Although the current foliage season is a peak tourism period for the area, you can enjoy yourself year-round. The numerous quaint villages offer folk-art galleries, tasteful gift shops, restaurants featuring farm-to-table fare, etc. Further, the Miracle Mile shopping area of West Lebanon, NH has most of the big box stores and a Gap outlet with good bargains.

One hint is that the local markets sell the same maple syrup and maple treats as the gift stores but charge roughly 50-percent less. The same is true regarding the Cabot cheese. A related note is that a low-income grad. student can get at least two weeks worth of meals from a five-pound block of the very tasty Cabot sharp cheddar. 

Woodstock, Vermont arguably is the primary town with all of the above. A centerpiece is FH Gillingham and Sons, which maintains an old-timey feel while still seemingly going on forever. You can all of the aforementioned Vermont items (as well as some not-so-tasteful gifts). 

The Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock has a solid variety of books; going on a day that the Bernese Mountain dogs are working allows for a fun and raucous play date. They will leave you alone if you do not engage them. 

Hanover is a bit larger and offers more variety. Further, the students provide ample people-watching opportunities. You will see everything from the nicest kids in town to herds of arrogant WASPy frat boys who literally plow their way down the street. The makers of "Animal House" get theses guys exactly right regarding this and every other aspect of this Dartmouth-inspired film. It also reminds me of a joke from my college era that states "fraternities, only $20 a friend." 

The Dartmouth Bookstore has evolved into a Barnes and Noble that sells textbooks; the two stores that sell Dartmouth clothing and gifts remain locally owned. 

The aptly named International DVD and Poster has a wonderful selection of new and used DVDs; the latter can be purchased for 5 for $20 and come with a full guarantee. The variety ranges from art-house rarities to blockbuster hits. 

One of the nicer Hanover stores exclusively sells the wide variety of hand-blown glass products, pottery, and other wares of Simon Pearce in nearby Quechee, Vermont. Your not-so-humble reviewer owns (and loves) many of these items.

This recent trip to the Hanover store resulted in purchasing a Christmas present that comes ready to give in a stylish gift box tied with a tasteful white ribbon. Seeing such a box under the tree is not quite as exciting as finding a robin-egg blue one but comes close.

Vermont virgins are encouraged to visit the mill from which Simon Pearce operates; the store there is large and beautiful, and the casual chic restaurant offers very tasty fare. You additionally can watch the artisans at work. 

Hanover offers several dining options; a local secret is eating at the cafeteria that Dartmouth operates at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which allows anyone to attend the numerous art-house films and live performances there. The food is as good as any of the lunch places in town and is less expensive; further, you have the option of an adequately comfortable table for four. The cool kids have lunch or dinner at this eatery before attending a performance. 

There also is the Nugget Theater, which offers an alternative to cineplexes in fare and style. However, some blockbusters find their way onto the screens of this art house, 

Beyond this, you have the standard kitchen and gift shops of any small and/or college town. 

Having It All

This discussion of the HGI and the surrounding area nicely shows that you can have a trip that meets every need and reasonable desire. You will be comfortable and have most luxuries of a chain hotel while still feeling as if you are staying in at a boutique property.

Further, the area allows everything from literally getting lost in the woods to hunting for rollback bargains at WalMart and buying a $230 hand-blown glass pumpkin; sorry, Simon Pearce does not sell glass slippers. 

The bigger picture this time is that the locals who can help make or break a trip of this nature so awesomely reflect living in a beautiful and uncrowded area that preaches (and practices) peace, love, and understanding that they  greatly enhance coming here.

'Her Stolen Past' DVD: Babynapping, Family Secrets, and Murder, Oh My!

The Lionsgate October 9, 2018 DVD release of the 2018 Lifetime Movie Network film "Her Stolen Past" shows that the spirit of these films live on; the ONLY disappointment regarding this thoroughly modern melodrama is that it does not star an '80com actress or a lead in a procedural.

The delightfully campy premise this time is straight out of the Harlequin novel of the same name. The suspense, drama, and romance begins when newbie medical resident Sonya Daniels (Shanice Banton of "Degrassi: The Next Generation") comes home to attend the funeral of her murdered mother. What happens next is pure Lifetime and Harlequin. An observation regarding this is that it is a shame that Sonya finding true love requires a relatively high body count. 

The facts that Sonya is orphaned and that her beloved mother was murdered in an underground parking lot seem to not unduly phase her. Finding a mysterious diaper bag while cleaning out the home of her mother does trigger a relatively strong response that amplifies on finding a birth certificate in a pocket of the bag.

Romance enters the picture on Sonya hiring dreamy former cop/current private detective Brandon Hayes (Michael  Xavier of "Bitten") to investigate the decades-old kidnapping of the baby to whom the certificate relates. The rest of the story is that the mystery infant is the birth child of a local wealthy couple that owns a corporation that is on the verge of a major event. Of course, all this ultimately ties together, 

The dual sleuthing of Sonya and Brandon reveals that her mother is up to her elbows in the whole mess Discovering the circumstances of the kidnapping and the reasons for wanting to silence both Sonya and her mother are more surprising than learning the current identity of the child, 

An amusing aspect of "Past" involves Brandon spending the night at the inherited house of Sonya after a home invasion. Having Brandon fold the sheets on the couch the next morning clearly is included ONLY to show that nothing happened, This scene is despite the house having at least two bedrooms. 

All of this leads to a wonderful pulp fiction climax in which the blameless and the partially innocent are at the mercy of the villain and are about to meet their maker until the dashing hero crashes in and saves the day. The epilogue does include a nice twist. 

The primary appeal of all this is the ongoing guilty pleasure fun of Lifetime movies. The producers play it smart by figuratively keeping to the script, The production team further plays it smart by preventing "Past" from looking dated. The clothing and house styles are traditional but still look modern, and the use of tech. is limited. Further, there are not any era-specific references. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

'Testosterone V1' DVD: Almost Fantastic Four Gay-Themed Shorts

The Dekkoo Films October 9, 2018 DVD release of "Testosterone Volume One" aptly depicts treats and actual and figurative tricks regarding modern gay life, This scope of these four short films includes the bittersweet aspects of any first love, the agony and the ecstasy of being a boy who likes other boys, and a dark comedy about regicide of a queen.

The following YouTube clip of the Dekko trailer for "Testosterone" is a music video that provides a sense of the highly stylized and equally emotional themes of the films. 

The first film "End of My World" by Kamil Krawczycki is notable both for being the first gay-themed short film from Poland and the most relatable movie in the group, Dreamy 20-something Filip is very despondent regarding his recent break-up with arguable soulmate Eryk. Some of the angst relates to Eryk disappearing without a trace immediately after pouncing on an opportunity to end the relationship.

Filip claiming a mental health day leads to a montage of despair that prompts flashbacks of his life with Eryk. These scenes particularly ring true regarding all forms of first love but also apply to every relationship. Associated aspects are one person being more in love than his or her counterpart and failed efforts to salvage what no longer is a great thing.

The title of "World" reflects the feeling associated with a relationship ending; other themes are one ending leading to a new beginning and whether Mr. Right Now can become Mr. Right. The latter ties back to the issue of one person being more in love than the person with whom he or she makes the beast with two backs. 

The bigger picture this time is Poland being roughly 20 years behind the United States regarding gay rights. Societal acceptance seems to be at toddler stage, and young gay men are struggling with the extent to which they are comfortable coming out; we see how this option being so new can strain a relationship in which one boy is comfortable walking down the street holding hands and the other is at the stage that spending the entire night together is a big deal, 

"The Surf Report" is the most odd of the films. It continues the theme of a literal lost love. In this case, surfer "K" apparently hitches a ride to Rock Rock Rockaway Beach in New York where he has very surreal experiences. Meanwhile, the efforts of boyfriend to find this little merman aptly include visiting a psychic who has shades of Whoppi Goldberg in "Ghsot."

The time shifts and very creative cinematography in "Report" make the film especially compelling. 

Dekkoo continues  doing a good job with the continuum in having "It Gets Better?" This one starts out ambiguously with a clearly distraught middle-aged man watching a streaming video of a younger guy pouring out his heart regarding his distress related to being gay. A highly probable interpretation of all this is that the older man is the father of the younger one. 

We soon learn the story of the older man. The theme generally is that he is older, wiser, and somewhat happier than the Millennial. This narrative includes the most erotic (rather than pornographic) scenes in any "Testosterone" film. 

Dekkoo chooses wisely in breaking from the trauma, drama, tears, and recriminations in the first three movies by ending things on a light note. Describing the dark comedy "Killer Friends" as being student-film caliber merely refers to the indie and micro-budget vibe. Even before watching it, you know that writer/director Zach Noe Towers casts himself in the starring role.

One puzzle is why Dekkoo includes this not-so-good movie with the others. It seems that there must better comedic options than this short by this YouTube star, who is an unambiguously gay version of Jake Paul.

The premise of this film by Millennials for Millennials is that 20-something Jill is so fed up with former college friend/current roommate Scott that she recruits her boyfriend Brian and their mutual  friend Heather to kill Scott during a camping trip. A major plot hole is why Scott warrants this treatment rather than ending his roommate agreement with Heather and she and her friends merely becoming the ghosting trio,

The biggest flaw in this vanity project for Towers is that he both plays it so over the top that he way out Paul Lyndes Paul Lynde. Further, most of his line are very predictable regarding things such as repeating an absurd insult or revealing a secret just as the subject of that remark falters in  his or her conviction to kill him. One spoiler is that Scott is such a flamer that it seems that the others do not need to douse him in a combustible substance to Michael Jackson/Richard Pryor him.

This perhaps last-day-in-the-life-of film quickly becomes a Looney Tunes cartoon in that every attempt to snuff Scott boomerangs on the attacker. One fully expects Brian to order a cannon from Acme, to have that weapon arrive within seconds, and then to have the barrel flip around and fire in his face when he aims it at an oblivious Scott. 

The bottom line regarding "Testosterone" is that three out of four truly is not bad. Further, good intentions exist regarding including "Friends." As mentioned above, it ends things on a light note that contributes diversity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In Concert Encore' Blu-ray: Once More Paying True American Idols Homage in Spectacular Hi-Def & Crystal- Clear Sound

The Time Life September 21, 2018 2-disc Blu-ray release "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Encore" perfectly illustrates the evolution of this company traditionally known for '70s-era fare such as book series about World War II and albums featuring the music of the '50s and '60s. The television ads from that period further reflect the Disco Age by inviting customers to call Judy the Time Life operator on a toll-free line to place an order. "Encore," along with the reviewed Time Life "In Concert" Blu-ray set, fully proves that this is not your father's Time Life.

The participants in the 2010 - 2013 inductions ranging from ABBA to Tom Waits, and including The Hollies and Public Enemy, illustrates both the range of the inductees and that the programs have something for everyone from 8-to-80. A personal note that MUST accompany each of these Blu-ray sets is being a bunkmate of former Del Fuego/V.P. of Education for the Hall Warren Zanes; one spoiler is that that summer is entirely free of any Liverpool handshakes or even cries of "Farrah Fawcett." 

The rest of the story is that older brother/Del Fuego/current kiddie rocker Dan Zanes was a doo woping potato peeler with The Kitchenettes. A cassette of Dan and and autographed photo remain in one of several boxes labelled "stuff" in the basement. 

The bigger mandatory picture is that these ceremonies remind us that true American Idols are not people with the looks and the luck to win a three-month reality show contest. The Hall inductors and inductees remind us that the latter spend years working their way up to selling out stadiums. An inducrtor using slightly more colorful language in referencing one inducted band appearing on stage only wearing a strategically placed sock tempers the sense that hard work is the only way to hit it big. 

Randomly choosing the 2012 ceremony to watch for this review worked out exceptionally well. A keynote speech comments that the event marks a return to Cleveland after a move to New York. A shout-out to Ohio governor John Kasich in that speech prompting boos reflects the political divide that is far worse 6 years later. The speaker defending Kasich by noting his support for bringing the ceremony back to Cleveland shows that some people have the proper perspective.

An energetic last-minute surprise opening by Green Day starts things off on exactly the right note (no pun intended.) The song "Letterbomb" and the group both reminding the crowd that "this is fucking rock-and-roll" shows that music is one place where being unrestrained and uncensored is integral to the experience. 

Late bluesman Freddie King being the first inductee reflects the aforementioned diversity of the Hall; having Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hall of ZZ Top make the induction speech shows how genres can meld together and how music reflects a continuum in which the prior generation pays it forward by mentoring the new kids and giving them the break that sets them on the road to stardom.

The John (do not call him Cougar) Mellencamp induction speech for '60s folk-rock legend Donovan is the best from that category in the evening, The initial theme is the fan love that conveys sincerity and that expresses sentiments regarding which us mere mortals can relate. Mellencamp going on to discuss meeting Donovan in the midst of a literal recording session melee is hilarious and is a good "Behind the Music" story. 

This sets the stage (no pun intended) for Donovan to accept the honor in a fun and heartfelt speech. The Blu-ray liner notes share that this is only time that an inductee has read a poem in such an acceptance. 

Many fans also can relate to the pure fan-oriented induction speech by Chris Rock. Rock discusses getting turned on to The Red Hot Chili Peppers after attending an earlier performance of theirs instead of the concert of the intended group. Rock hilariously discusses wondering if the unusual look of the Peppers is standard for white groups. Black and white people with similar experiences can put themselves in the shoes of Rock.

The other inductees include the Ron Wood and Rod Stewart band Small Faces/Faces and The Beastie Boys. 

Aside from being outsiders with a better than front-row seat for the ceremony by musicians for musicians in what essentially is a grand-scale reunion and jam session back at the hotel after a gig, 

The best thing about these Time Life sets is reminding us of the bands that we loved growing up and of becoming fans of new groups from the first note. A strong personal memory is of being a high-school sophomore invited to join two seniors for ice cream; the excitement continued with the guy who was driving popping a cassette in the player of the family station wagon and commenting that it a great new group called The Police.