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Thursday, February 22, 2018

'The Finger Points' DVD: Clark Gable Tells Crooked Reporter That He Does Give A Damn

The Warner Archive February 7, 2018 DVD release of the 1931 pre-Code pulp fiction crime drama "The Finger Points" shows that "King Kong" is not the only time that Fay Wray is caught in a celluloid jam. This time she plays Lois Lane style girl reporter Marcia Collins, who is the object of the affection of two male colleagues.

Breckinridge "Breck" Lee is a big fish in the small pond of Savannah whose work there nets (pun intended) him a job on a larger Chicago newspaper. He is pure mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent on arriving on a train probably with Georgia clay still on the bottom of his shoe. Richard Baethelmess who plays Lee adequately is Hollywood royalty to get above the title billing in "Finger" and other films that include "The Cabin in the Cotton" and "The Noose."

Veteran reporter Charlie "Breezy" Russell (Regis Toomey) takes the new kid under his wing and has him tag along as he pursues Collins.

The reality check for Lee begins when he suffers a back alley beating after refusing a payoff to not write a story that leads to a police raid of a speakeasy. His $35/week salary being inadequate to pay his medical bills and his employer refusing to pick up the tab for that work-related expense begins the seduction of Lee to the dark side.

Lee then starts working both sides of the street by beginning to accept money from gangsters in exchange for controlling how his paper covers reports of illegal activity.

Clark Gable literally and figuratively enters the picture as middle-man gangster Louis Blanco; he collects the hush money from his associates and passes along a percentage to Lee. It is not surprising that competing forms of greed play a role in the end of that not-so-beautiful friendship.

The climax (no pun intended) commences with Breck committed to leaving the evils of the big city behind and starting over with his girl. However, his extra-legal activities threaten that exit strategy.

The events of the final 15 minutes of "Finger" leads to a wonderfully cynical ending that can be described as "it was beauty killed the beast."

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

'The Glass Bottom Boat' DVD: Doris Day Cold War Romcom

The Warner Archive August 2016 DVD of the 1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" offers a threefer in terms of combining a typical Doris Day comedy, a beach movie of the era, and an equally era-apt Cold War comedy.

The following YouTube clip of Day and co-star Arthur Godfrey singing the catchy theme from "Boat" provides a good sense of the fun of the film.

Day plays premature widow Jennifer Nelson, who is an entry-level public-relations worker at an aerospace research lab that roguish Elon Musk of the '60s Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) owns and operates. The film title refers to the tourist vessel that the father (Godfrey) of Nelson owns and operates on Catalina Island. An element of "com" enters in the form of Nelson supporting the family business by swimming below the boat while dressed as a mermaid.

Nelson and Templeton meeting under embarrassing circumstances while engaged in their typical weekend activities introduces the "rom" element. Later meeting at their day jobs enhances this element. More '60slicious fun come in the form of Dick Martin of "Laugh-In" fame portraying the playboy business partner of Templeton.

The Cold War aspect relates to the degree to which Nelson and Templeton develop their "rom" coinciding with the increased espionage activity related to a government contract. This provides the context for Paul Lynde to play a comically overzealous security officer who ultimately finds his job to be a drag.

The real fun begins when Nelson gets wind of Mr. Right and his colleagues suspecting her of treason. This girl subsequently seeking to turn the tables on her bosses finds her embroiled in genuine life-threatening intrigue.

The beach movie vibe relates to the catchy theme that Day sings, Templeton almost literally learning about the quantity of fish in the sea, and a couple of scenes in which a boat runs amok in a busy harbor.

All of this makes "Boat" a perfect example of an escapist '60s comedy. Day sticks to the independent woman whom Mother would love for you to bring home if being scorned is not causing her to "Hulk" out. There also is ample good clean slapstick and holding up the military-industrial complex to gentle but well-deserved ridicule.

Archive does equally well regarding the DVD extras; we get three entertaining featurettes related to the film, the highly stylized Chuck Jones Oscar-winning cartoon "The Dot and the Line," and the theatrical trailer for "Boat."

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

'The Wrong Man' BD: Hitchcock Tale of Innocent Man Facing Hard Time Provides 'Me Too' Context

The Warner Archive January 2016 Blu-ray release of the Kafkaesque 1956 Hitchcock docudrama "The Wrong Man" continues a series of reviews of exceptional Archive releases from the not-too-distant past. Hitchcock forgoing his usual Stan Lee style tongue-in-cheek cameo for a highly-stylized introduction is the first indication that this largely shot on location one is different.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer (which the BD includes) for "Man" features the monolgue that is discussed below. It also highlights the suspense and (also mentioned below) soundtrack.

This opening monologue stating that The Master of Suspense is shifting his focus from tales of murder and mayhem to the real-life story of the titular "innocent" Stork Club musician Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestero (Henry Fonda) is another indication of a deviation from the norm. "Psycho" co-star Vera Miles playing Balestero spouse Rose and composer of the peerless "Psycho" theme (and other music of that film) Bernard Herrmann doing his thing here provide a sense of business as usual.

A coincidental sense of continuity is that "Man" is one of three recently acquired Archive releases that includes a new DVD of the (soon-to-be-reviewed)1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" in which Day sings her signature song "Que Sera Sera" that she premieres in the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

The larger theme is a combination of a concept that makes Hitchcock so great and a related "it could happen to you" element of the work of Franz Kafka that Hitchcock often emulates. The Hitchcock formula for success includes moving terrifying events from the creepy mansion on the hill to the house next door. The source of fear this time is being wrongfully accused of a crime getting you wrapped up in a legal system that often is defended on the basis that it is the best alternative out there.

Readers are asked to consider the following discussion of "Man" both in the context of imagining themselves in the shoes of Manny and regarding the larger issue of the "Me Too" movement. The SINCERE disclaimer regarding this is that the discussion of "Me" is not intended to suggest anything other than the harm IF an accusation is false. No opinion is being expressed regarding the validity of ANY "Me" claim.

Men and women in power often abuse their positions and most claims of abuse by Hollywood power brokers are undisputed. Further, determining the truth in disputed cases involving 30 year-old events can be very challenging; this is not to mention one man's innocent hug being another woman's sexual assault

The other side of the coin is that "Me" is subject to abuse by someone who wrongfully targets a person with a solid decades-long reputation that is worth millions of dollars and that allows him or her to walk the streets without being the subject of active scorn.

In typical Hitchcock style, "Man" begins depicting the then ordinary life of Manny before it spirals out of control. He is happily jamming in the New York landmark that employs him, takes the subway home, checks in on his peacefully sleeping young sons, and then goes into his marital bedroom to learn that the pain of four impacted wisdom teeth are keeping Rose awake.

The everymanny sense of the main character continues with him and Rose discussing their poor fiscal health and options for funding the dental procedure that she requires. Their fateful decision the next morning to borrow from the life insurance policy on Rose triggers their nightmare.

Manny goes to the insurance company office later that day thinking that inquiring about the value of the policy as collateral for a loan is going to be routine. The reality is that a woman who works there mistakenly recognizes him as the man who robbed the business months ago.

A subsequent police report puts NYPD Blue on the trail of Manny; being a nice guy and believing that his innocence is his get out of jail free card prompts our innocent to fully cooperate with the detectives who literally knock on his door.

The cringing by viewers begins with the detectives questioning Manny without reading him the well-known Miranda rights that the U.S. Supreme Court establishes 10 years later. Their criminally negligent behavior continues with conducting numerous blatantly suggestive witness identification procedures that include having Manny walk through robbed stores without informing him of the purpose for doing so.

This leads to arresting Manny without even telling him of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent as the cell door slams. The detectives additionally still are telling their suspect that he has no cause for concern if he is innocent.

Hitchcock and Kafka fully merge in this black-and-white film as the shadow of the cell bars falls across the face of a terrified Manny. This leads to a memorable scene as he sits still while the camera spins around him in a manner reminiscent of several "Psycho" shots.

Audience sympathy grows for Manny as defeat repeatedly is snatched from the jaws of victory. This includes the highly improbable thwarting of every effort to establish what should be a solid alibi. This likely raises the thought of many viewers in this age in which many of us live alone and that DVRs and/or On Demand video (not to mention highly portable cell phones) are in virtually that PROVING that we are "home watching television" on a "night in question" may be very difficult.

The additional element that attracts Hitchcock to the story is the toll on Rose. The overall experience and the related thoughts cause her great angst with effects that last well beyond the truth coming out.

Archive supplements the film with the making-of documentary "Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and the Wrong Man." Peerless film historian Robert Osborne and genuinely acclaimed film director Peter Bogdanovich are among the talking heads who provide insight regarding this compelling docudrama.

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'Dare to Be Wild' VOD: Biopic of Acclaimed Irish Natural Garden Landscape Designer Mary Reynolds

Two recent VOD biopics from Canadian company LevelFILM provides more proof that the Great White North excels regarding indie films. The topic du jour is the January 9, 2018 release of "Dare to Be Wild." This docudrama tells the story of determined Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds

This beautifully-shot film that screams for a Blu-ray release begins with the magical childhood of Reynolds in the Irish countryside. Her connection to the natural world is clear from the start and will make some folks believe in fairies and similar special creatures asserted to inhabit those woods.

Wanting a chance to create gardens that reflect the natural wold prompts a 20-something Reynolds to move to Dublin. Her first adventure there involves working for a celebrity landscaper who is a "The Devil Wears Prada" style boss from Hell.

The inevitable shabby treatment from the aforementioned She-Devil prompts Mary to campaign to compete in the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. Prince Charles being an entrant provides a sense of the caliber of the event.

The desperate time crunches regarding meeting the application deadline and then creating a magical spot in the heart of London in a very short time leads to Reynolds begging dreamy Christy Collard and his fellow commune-style back to earth tree huggers to lend a hand and numerous other resources. There additionally is a strong suggestion of deflowering.

(As an aside, the Internet reports that Collard and Reynolds remain close friends and that he continues working with his family business Future Forests in Ireland.)

A highly amusing scene from the introduction of Reynolds to the highly enviro-friendly community from which she is seeking help involves a gathering at which a member requests a modern convenience. This alone provides entertainment; the manner in which the request is met is hilarious.

Proving her determination requires that Reynolds follow Collard to Ethopia where he is working on a variation of the terra forming of which many episodes in the "Star Trek" franchise are made. The amazing results show there is hope to put right what once went wrong.

Back in England, Reynolds and her motley crew get to work and overcome almost constant setbacks. Suffice it to say that anything that can go wrong does; this continues to the 11th hour during which the genuine oasis becomes an apt setting for a Lawrence Welk performance. The looming threat throughout is that the highly arrogant and fussy head of the contest will disqualify Reynolds for the slightest infraction.

Reynolds being charmingly ejected from her Garden of Eden near the end of the film and reading the "where are they now" blurbs provide good payoffs at the end of this feel-good film that has a excellent sense of its subject. It also shows that there still is a call for cute biopics in this era of superhero epics and shock value comedies.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

'Cern' DVD: Documentary on How Large Haldron Collider Studies Big Bang

The Icarus Films January 16, 2018 release of the 2013 documentary "CERN" provides those of us who do not know a proton from a neutron a chance to learn more about physics from the literally best and brightest in the field. An even cooler aspect of the film is that we get an extensive look at the ginormous Large Haldron Collider that the titular research organization operates on both sides of the French-Swiss border.

This film by director-writer Nikolaus Geryhalter begins with Blu-ray worthy images of this enormous facility; we see tons of fascinating equipment that most of us do not recognize in tunnels that seemingly go on forever. Similar footage throughout the film provides the same sense.

Geryhalter intersperses these looks at this massive machine and the infrastructure that keeps it literally humming with interviews with the physicists and other professionals at the facility. The scientists discuss using the collider to do related cool things that include the primary purpose of better understanding our universe, recreating the aforementioned totality of existence in the period just after it all starts with a big bang, and creating black holes.

"CERN" also discusses basics that include how the collider works, the enormous amount of power required to operate it, and allocating use of the machine among the four research projects at the facility. The only disappointment is no mention of pulling pranks with the gigantic magnet that is a crucial component of the star of the documentary.

The "Star Trek" vibe of the film continues with the spirit of international unity that is just as important as keeping the collider from running amok. The nature of the collaboration is apparent from the first interview in which a physicist explains that scientists from many countries work at the facility and speak the common langauge that she describes as "broken English." Her presentation and those of everyone else shows that she does not give them proper credit; each talking head speaks the mother tongue of Des Moines very well.

We also hear from a scientist whose husband works in a different area of the faciilty and whose daughter attends a nearby kindergarten. This woman additionally has a step-son and a brother-in-law who are on the payroll.

The elements described above make "CERN" a perfect film for our times. It both shows what international cooperation can accomplish and provides hope that the fruits of the experiments will improve the world.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'Macgyver' '16 S1 DVD: Prime Angus Beefcake

Properly reviewing the Lionsgate February 20, 2018 DVD release of S1 of "MacGyver" requires the analytical thinking needed to be on the payroll of the Phoenix Foundation as a member of Team MacGyver.

The good news is that this entertaining reimagining of the '80s action-adventure series about the exploits of hunky 30-something science-whiz-secret agent Angus MacGyver stays very true to the original concept; it also has an abundance of fresh elements that prevent undue deja-vu regarding the original.

The following YouTube clip of the Lionsgate promo. for "MacGyver" S1 provides a good look at the new faces in this franchise and includes plenty of action shots.

Lucas Till, who aptly plays young Havok in the "The X-Men" prequel films, has the good looks and boy-next-door persona that filling the shoes of hunky original star Richard Dean Anderson requires.

The reimagining includes replacing middle-age desk jockey handler Pete Thornton with younger and more active Patricia Thornton, who does not seem to be related to her Mac Universe predecessor. Further, longtime friend-colossal flake Penny Parker keeps her name and relative age to MacGyver but is a more frequent presence and is much less flighty.

Producers Lee David Zlotoff and Henry "Fonzie" Winkler also alter Nikki Carpenter. Her background is less fleshed out this time, and we meet her after she is the spy who loves MacGyver.

Nikki also reflects an element that requires the aforementioned analysis regarding the '16 series. Her apparent departure from the series in the pilot sends our hero in a tail spin that is an element for many S1 episodes. However, folks who are familiar with this genre in general and with the OS specifically can predict the subsequent developments. The same is true regarding the general plot line regarding allegedly literary-loving arch-nemesis Murdoc.

Thoughts regarding the recasting of recurring character buddy/irritant Jack Dalton likely are more controversial. A purely objective opinion is that the (arguably skilled) portrayal of that character by Bruce McGill is so loathsome that there is a memory of avoiding episodes in which he appears.

The same bias reflects liking the new Dalton, who appears in every S1 episode. Zlotoff and Winkler properly rely on the fan base of George Eads from his 335 episodes on "CSI" in casting him as the permanent sidekick of MacGyver. This likable Dalton plays up his good ole boy persona to entertain Team McGyver, always looks out for MacGyver rather than tries to con him, and actively puts himself in a position in which he may take a bullet to protect his buddy. For his part, Dalton makes an amusing joke that he hates nerdy CSI (i.e., forensic science) stuff.

Similarly, the aforementioned loved Murdoc is a more constant presence than his roughly once a season OS appearances. He first shows up mid-season as an assassin with a contract that is very personal to our group.

We further see bounty hunters/proposed spin-off stars the Colton Family get a makeover.

The aspect that requires the aforementioned perspective regarding this fast-paced series (which provides at least three lessons in how to MacGyver household items in each episode) reflects the difference in the television landscape between 1985 and 2016.

The OS was a "guy" show competing with the Monday-night sitcom lineups of CBS and NBC. Additionally, the relatively few cable networks of that era mostly either aired very specialized content or obscure reruns.

Conversely, network broadcast series of 2016 compete with 100s of basic and premium cable channels that mostly show original content. This is not to mention the numerous streaming services that do the same. One need not be a rocket scientist to realize that this makes going with a sure bet much safer then being experimental.

One only need to look at the new "Fuller House" and "Will & Grace," both of which seem to SOLELY exist to amuse the stars, and the upcoming "Roseanne" that likely will be more of the same to see that content providers are looking to the past to put butts in front of a screen in the present.

The '16 "MacGyver" outshines the other reboots by being completely free of smirks as the star does things such as use a Mylar balloon to lift a foot print and utilize common kitchen items to transform a wine bottle into a potentially lethal projectile. We further do not get any lame insider jokes regarding the former incarnations of the characters.

(A side note is that your not-so-humble reviewer is proud of once using a coat hanger to retrieve a kitchen sink sprayer hose from a bend in a drain.)

What we get are well-crafted stories that (sometimes repeatedly) center around cliched plots; this reflects a statement by Roseanne before the premiere of her OS that there are only 10 sitcom plots. A hilarious aspect of that is her saying then that she never is going to resort to the lower middle-class Conners winning the lottery.

At the same time, Tom and Jerry chasing and battering each other have entertained us for more than 60 years, and the Scooby gang has done the same regarding their pursuits of bad guys who try to scare off meddling kids and others. This demonstrates that a properly executed concept can be eternal. One should remember as well that some shows are crave-worthy comfort food, rather than rare delicacies.

The reason for mentioning this is that the (again entertaining and well-produced) 21 episodes in S1 of the '16 series packs in several seasons' worth of fan-favorite concepts. This includes Murdoc appearing in four of the twenty-one offerings.

We also get two episodes in a row in which a good person does a really bad thing because the real villain is holding a family member, two separate episodes in which a sort of a homecoming for MacGyver embroils him in intrigue, MacGyver not allowing a contract on his head to prevent him from going out in the field, Team MacGyver having a dangerous mole, and a season finale in which the bad guys obtain control of the Phoenix headquarters.

We further get a cross-over episode in which MacGyver and Dalton team up with the finest from the new "Hawaii Five-O" to save the day. Folks who recall the excitement of seeing folks from "Cheers" and "Frasier" visiting each other, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel reuniting a few times, the "Star Trek" crews merging, and even "CSI" teams joining forces can relate to the appeal of this one.

Two other plot lines pay homage to the "CSI" past of Eads. One episode finds him buried alive. Another one in which a hunt for a serial killer is personal for a member of Team MacGyver and requires especially heavy use of forensic science is another awesome nod to the CBS classic procedural that precedes "MacGyver."

The debriefing regarding this mission to provide a sense of '16 S1 is that "MacGyver" is unique in having a strong ensemble with a lead who appeals to viewers from 8-to-80. Further, a barrage of familiar elements in S1 often is needed these days to help ensure an S2. This site will review the DVD of that season in a year.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

'Dropping the Soap' DVD: Emmy-Winning Gay-Friendly Sitcom Shows Backstage Drama at Soaps Rivals Scripted Events

Gay-themed streaming service Dekko releasing the complete series of the 2015 online sitcom "Dropping the Soap" on February 20, 2016 provides a good chance to watch this homage to witty British television. The general similarity is that limiting the series to 10 episodes reflects the BBC philosophy of airing a few very good episodes, rather than 20-or-so mediocre or lousy ones.

The more obscure (but more direct) homage to the video fare from across the pond is "Soap" treading where a Britcom has boldly gone before. Each "Soap" episode begins with a cold open in the form of a scene from the daytime drama "Collided Lives" around which the series about producing that show revolves. The opening credits provide a transition to that backstage world.

The 2008 S1 of the Britcom "Moving Wallpaper" has the similar premise of the characters having production positions or roles on the soap "Echo Beach." Episodes of "Beach" that reflects the most recent events on "Wallpaper" would air right after that episode of that series.

The comparison extends to the term "moving wallpaper" referring to television series that are so bad that watching therm is like staring at wallpaper. "Lives" has all of the bad acting, dramatic close-ups, cheesy production, and cliched plots that mark unwatchable soaps.

The following YouTube clip of the official "Soap" trailer highlights all the comic drama from that series and from "Lives."

"Glee" star Jane Lynch, whose Emmy-winning portrayal of new "Lives" executive producer Olivia Vanderstein has all the gleeful (had to be said) ruthlessness of her cheerleading coach/high school administrator Sue Sylvester from her Fox series. Vanderstein is brought in to cure the many ills that are dragging down "Lives."

Character actor Paul Witten plays "Lives" star Julian Draker, who is an influential player both in front of and behind the camera. His primary concerns are to save his own job and to get rid of cast mate Kit Knockers, who gets her role via being the daughter of the now-vanished predecessor of Vanderstein. This nepotism extends to Kit sibling Donovan being the head writer.

The "Lives" drama include the character of Kit trying to wrest the character of Draker away from his on-screen wife. The backstage motivation is to give Kit, who has amusing leverage over Draker, more exposure on the series. Reel and real-life further collide as Draker orchestrates disabling storylines for the character of Kit.

Other backstage drama includes adding a young blonde stud to the cast as the son of the Draker character despite the two actors not having a significance age difference. We also get drama at a fan convention and learn that men are not the only ones with a casting couch.

Wonderfully quirky live and voice-actor Diedrich Bader shines in a few episodes as reporter Peter who has a past with Draker that Peter wants to bring into the future. The pair effectively being caught with their pants down prompts amusing damage control.

The appeal of all this can be considered the "Seinfeld" factor. "Lives" is so bad that (ala Jerry and his "friends") we get great joy watching what we dislike so much. The backstage aspects are more entertaining (and more Seinfeldian) in that the characters are so shamelessly amoral that the shock value is appealing and many of us wish that we had the guts to be so honest in our words and deeds. Setting this in the world of a television genre that appeals to every aspect of the lowest common denominator is a match made in Heaven.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

'The Star' Blu-ray/DVD: Oprah Among Those Bringing Animated Nativity Story to Life

The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment February 20, 2018 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2017 Sony Animation film "The Star" both allows a final dose of Christmas spirit and reminds some folks that their tree really needs to come down.

This retelling of the Nativity story from the perspective of a trio of animals is cute and widens the perspective of those of us who only know what happens from the time that Joseph faces the consequences of not making a hotel reservation.

Although possible presidential candidate Oprah provides the greatest star power in her VO role of Deborah the camel who is traveling with the three wise men, the film centers around Bo the "small but brave" donkey (VO veteran and "Walking Dead" fan fave Steven Yuan).

The following YouTube clip of a "Star" trailer shows the bright animation and family-friendly humor of the film. It also shows the "A List" caliber of the other VO actors.

Bo is an unhappy literal beast of burden of a miller at the beginning of the film. An escape attempt related to seeing the newly formed titular celestial object coincides with a "Christmas Carol" style event. An angel visits an unmarried (and surprisingly unfazed) Mary (Gina Rodriguez) to inform her that she is chosen one whom the Holy Spirit will visit and perform the immaculate conception that will make her pregnant with Jesus Christ. We then see that highly significant intercourse occur.

The action then moves ahead six months just as Mary is about to wed Joseph (Zachary "Chuck" Levi). The bases for the cold feet of the blushing bride include her never telling her soon-to-be husband that she has a holy bun in the oven.

The drama and the excitement for the very newly wed couple includes a surprisingly unfazed Joseph learning that he is step-father to be. Bo soon thereafter literally crashing into the honeymoon cottage of the couple further makes this a wedding day that neither Mary nor Joseph will ever forget.

Bo, along with Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Kay) and Ruth the sheep (Aidy Bryant), soon take on the role of protecting Mary and Joseph on their well-known journey to Bethlehem.

The primary threat to Mary fulfilling her destiny is an agent of Herod tracking her for the purpose of preventing her from giving birth to Jesus. The disclaimer at the end of "Star" regarding the artistic license related to the film addresses the aspect of talking farm animals repeatedly preventing this soldier from completing his mission; this is especially true regarding a herd of sheep flocking him up.

The logical (and actual) conclusion of "Star" is new-born Jesus peacefully mellowing in his manager as his four-legged, two-legged, and feathered admirers surround him.

The plethora of DVD bonus features include sing-along and dance-along shorts and a cute "Faith All Year Round" short with "Spiritual Success Coach" DeVon Franklin and a group of adorable children.

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

'Jesus Meets the Gay Man' DVD: The Gospel According to St. Barts

Breaking Glass Pictures fills the need for a thought-provoking and entertaining documentary on the theological issue of how Jesus really feels about gay men with the January 9, 2018 DVD release of "Jesus Meets the Gay Man." The spoiler is that the son of God is much more chill than widely represented.

A central theme of this (of course) Canadian film by Jean-Claude Lafond is that no one knows what Jesus actually says regarding any topic; the Bible is the work of established religion and represents the views of that institution. The related concept is that Jesus wants the chance to let us hear the gospel truth directly from the guy who creates it.

The official synopsis of "Jessus" nicely explains its uniqueness. "A story of reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal wrapped in Mony Python-like sketches and a jazzy dance number, 'Jesus Meets the Gay Man' is a fun documentary that will have you see Jesus in a new light, while at the same time convincing you to work on your abs."

The following YouTube clip of the "Jesus" trailer expands on the above recap of the film.

As mentioned above, much of the material is presented as skits; one of the more entertaining and insightful presentations directly relates to the title of the film. It is a slant on the Biblical story of Jesus being asked to heal a slave boy with benefits of a Roman leader. The skit has a very nervous Roman soldier urging Jesus to remotely do his thing, and our savior fully knowing the score and repeatedly providing assurance that he is cool with the situation.

The talking heads include clergy and lay folks with a horse in the race; some of the most compelling footage is vintage video of a televangelist who does not share the views of the Jesus depicted in the film.

The happiest images are from a Toronto Pride festival in which gay men revel in the freedom to celebrate themselves.

The terrific DVD extras that are a Breaking trademark include additional interviews and skits.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

'Wallflowers' DVD: 21st Century Web Series Version of 'Dear John'

The Dekkoo Films February 13, 2018 S1 & S2 DVD of the 2013- ? web series "Wallflowers" reflects a couple of modern television trends. The first is that most of the relationship-challenged characters in this show being straight follows the same broadening of the scope of the gay-oriented Dekko streaming service that virtually every basic cable network is undergoing. The second pattern is that the aforementioned characters belonging to a support group for New Yorkers with trouble finding and keeping a significant other being very reminiscent of the 1988-92 Judd Hirsch "must see" NBC sitcom "Dear John" reflects the increasing reboot of 20th century programs for the 21st century.

The accolades for "Wallflowers" include Best Web Series wins at the 2015 Indie Series Awards and the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards.

Being a Dekkoo series makes the choice to focus "Wallflowers" around openly gay former child star/now 30-something casting director Bryce Hunter predictable; his being the "straight" man among the central casting sitcom types is amusing. Although he is unlucky in love, Bryce asserts that supporting fellow group member/BFF since childhood/business partner Daisy Loeb is his motive for being in the group.

Much of the Bryce-related humor centers around his experiences in the gay dating world that are funny when they happen to someone else and horrendous when they happen to you. The best story line in the entire series relates to Bryce going on a blind date to appease over-bearing group leader/self-declared relationship expert Janice.

The date is with a Trust Fund Baby who trades comic books; that alone prompts great jokes that include Bryce predicting that that man yells "up. up, and away" during sex.

The real hilarity ensues when Bryce agrees to prolong the agony of their evening at a restaurant because of the potential for ecstasy in the apartment of this poster boy for the Peter Pan Syndrome. Despite Bryce going well above and beyond to be a good guest, the man does not respond. The climax of the evening comes after Bryce calls it a night, and a subsequent wardrobe malfunction requires that he endure one of the worst reel or real-life walks of shame ever.

Although the love life of Bryce dramatically improves in the second season, his deciding to post a profile on a fictional version of grind'r both creates more more embarrassment for him and laughs for us and forces the issue of when a relationship between two men should become monogamous.

For her part, Daisy becomes obsessed with an indie filmmaker whose intentions are unclear and whose schedule often takes him out of town. This brings Wallflowers" fully into "Will and Grace" territory with the highly emotional straight woman agonizing over every aspect of the current object of her affection and falling apart at every setback only to have her decades-long gay best friend offer compassion and sarcastic remarks.

Bryce reflects another sitcom cliche in that the character is recast three times; the series mines good fourth-wall breaking humor regarding the transition from Bryce #1 to Bryce#2.

Writer-director Kieran Turner also gets good gay-themed laughs regarding the group member who is an extreme fag hag; a scene in which several of her "boys" call right after each other to ask her to help with things such as being a wing hag is very amusing.

Middle-aged customer-service rep. Martin fills the lovable loser quota. He spends the first season pursuing a woman who breaks each of their dates. The second-season adventures of Martin revolve around increasingly bonding with a pregnant married co-worker.

On a larger level, Turner does a good job bringing the whole gang together in the S1 finale; intentional and inadvertent guests gather at Chez Hunter to discuss their lives while engaged in a mind-altering activity that will cause every viewer to see the '70scom "The Partridge Family" in an entirely new light. The S2 final scene is similar but is more "Facts of Life" than "Friends."

The final analysis of this show about people receiving peer counseling is that it honors the television shows of the '90s without looking dated.

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

'Static Shock' S3 DVD: The Hero in the 'Hood Fully Joins DCU

The Warner Archive January 30, 2018 DVD release of the third season of the 2000's WB Saturday morning cartoon awesomely brings us 3/4 of the way toward making the entire series available to eager fanboys. The pattern of "Static" releases suggests that we will see the S4 DVD the week before Memorial Day.

This urban variation of "The Flash" and "Spider-Man" has a "big bang" grant black teen Virgil Hawkins the ability to absorb and manipulate electricity; his primary foes consists of other (mostly teen) "bang babies" who become meta because of the same incident but use their great powers greatly irresponsibly.

The review of the S1 DVD release includes a primer on both the lore and the big-name voice-over actors of "Static;" the S2 review discusses the further adventures of this boy wonder, including his teaming up with Batman and Robin to battle The Joker.

The first adventure in this set reunites our hero with the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder; it also continues the "Static" tradition of relatively subtle teen-oriented fables. A troubled bang baby who is catfished into going to Gotham City in search of a cure for her affliction finds herself the reluctant partner-in-crime of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. This leads to Static teaming up with his aforementioned hero to save the day.

The epic two-part "A League of Their Own" does not include a reference to there not being any crying in superheroing but does introduce Static to several more DCU heavy hitters. The Justice League requiring the special talent of Static prompts them to visit him and sidekick/tech. guy Richie on their home turf of Dakota and bring them to the Watch Tower base in orbit over earth.

Our homeboys in outer space soon learn after being left unsupervised in the coolest space station ever that Brainiac is behind the technical difficulties that bring Static there. This super-genius making the rookie villain mistake of revealing his plans to his captives plays a role in his awesomely low-techish style defeat.

Part-two of "League" brings the action down to earth as Static must battle a Brainiac-washed Justice League.

Static continues his DCU integration with a joint adventure with Superman that involves a high-school teacher who is a living doll. The good folks at Archive awesomely add context to this episode by including the "Superman: The Animated Series" episode "Toys in the Hood" as a DVD bonus. This episode is a prequel to the "Static" offering.

The bigger picture is that "Superman" and "Static" are the product of Warner animation god Alan Burnett, who produces virtually all of the modern series and films from that division of Warner Prime. One can only hope for a "Krypto" movie.

A direct "Flash" homage occurs in an episode in which Static time travels back to the date of the death of his mother in an effort to put right what once went wrong. The episode also fills in missing pieces from the lore of the series.

The S3 evolution of Static as a superhero builds off of earlier season tension with Richie; this wannabe finally gets his wish to be a "real live boy" when an early-season development allows him to adopt the persona of sidekick Gear. His jet-powered skates and other tech. allows him to literally keep up with big boys.

"Static" also builds on tradition by following up an S2 appearance by AJ McLean of "The Backstreet Boys" with a hyped guest shot by teen rapper Lil Romeo; Lil Romeo becoming Lil Static leads to his actually saving the day.

Black power takes center stage in two episodes; the Hawkins family travelling to Africa both gives a Virgil a chance to not be "the black kid" and provides him a role model in the form of an African superhero. The season finale is a two-fer both in terms of discussing the civil rights movement and in providing the moral that there being snow on the roof does not prevent someone from being a superhero.

These episodes illustrate (pun intended) that S3 proves that the third time is the charm. S1 and S2 are very good, but S3 really shows that a black teen from a single-parent household can have a solid friendship with a white kid and can be just as big of a hero as any other "meta."

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

'the Kids in the Hall: The Complete Collection' DVD + Digital: Best Dark and Cross-Dressing Humor Money Can Buy

Mill Creek Entertainment stays true to its word in describing the February 13, 2108 DVD and Digital release of "The Kids in the Hall" as "the complete collection." This set includes every UNCENSORED episode from this 1989-95 five-season CBC/HBO Canadian sketch-comedy show, the 1988 HBO pilot, AND the entire 2010 reunion series "Death Comes to Town." The uncensored aspect is very clear from the foul language in many pilot skits and the nudity in a "Naked for Jesus" skit.

The accolades for the "Kids" include numerous Emmy nominations and several Gemini Awards (a.k.a. Canadian Emmys) wins.

The following YouTube clip of the Mill Creek promo. for "Collection" strikes a perfect balance between offering a look at the uniqueness of the series without unduly spoiling the fun within.

Mill Creek releasing this edgy series on the same day as a (reviewed) Blu-ray release of the 1974 family film "Benji" and a (reviewed) collection of film and television appearances of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis during their era as a comedy team and the period following their break-up provides some sense of the depth of the Creek catalog.

"Kids" consists of real troupers (and future mainstream stars) Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. These boys regularly dressing as a wide variety of women, portraying the most bizarre characters to come out of any sketch-comedy series, and baring all on stage in front of an audience results in their shamelessness being our bonanza.

The good news is that the Creek set allows getting all the goodness in one package and fills a gap left by previous "Kids" DVD sets being discontinued. It also provides current cool kids in their teens, 20s, and 30s a chance to discover this awesome alternative show. The bad news is that a traditional review ruins much of the impact of this discovery.

Much of the fun of watching edgy late-night television comedy, which can be considered forbidden fruit to a pre-adolescent, is coming across it on your own. Readers who are old enough to at least vaguely recall the Carter presidency likely remember the excitement of being up way past their bed times on the Saturday night that they discover classic SNL with jokes about sex and the television commercials that dare mock beloved household items; simply reminding this generation of the eternal line "Jane, you ignorant slut" should bring it all back.

This leads to discovering SCTV, which largely is a kinder and gentler version of the early SNL days. One exception is the "Happy Days" era Ron Howard monologue in which he chugs a brew and jokes about rumors of his being killed in Viet Nam.

Just as too much advance knowledge of these shows impairs the impact of seeing them for the first time, too many specifics about "Kids" ruins it for the "virgins" who have yet to see this program.

"Kids" is the glorious bastard child of SNL and SCTV. This CBC and HBO series outshines SNL in terms of frequent use of the seven dirty words that you could not say on broadcast television for many years and in terms of the unrepressed Canadian-style silliness of SCTV. As an aside, SNL once aired a hilarious skit to celebrate the word "penis" becoming acceptable for late-night television.

A perfect example of "Kids" humor occurs in the series finale at the end of the fifth season. In jokingly introducing scenes from skits that fail even loose broadcast standards, Foley and McDonald mention one titled "Hitler F**ks A Donkey." This cuts to a skit in which McCulloch is dressed as the German leader and mimics the titular act of beastiality.

The big picture is that the "Kids" have highly infectious fun. It is as if they are the mot inventive 13 year-olds ever and have a warehouse of costumes, make-up, and wigs available to act out the products of their fertile imaginations. In this regard, the "darnedst things" that those "Kids" say are the best part of the show.

Other good humor comes in the form of the "Kids" portraying stereotypical characters of all ages and genders to mine humor from the various flaws of people. These include secretaries crabbing about the grind of office work, flamboyant gay men, obnoxious teen boys, abusive husbands and their meek wives, etc.

The strong desire to minimize spoilers is behind offering what is believed to be a hypothetical example of a "Kids" skit but is so perverse that it might be one. Such a skit may be one of the many set at a table in the kitchen of a middle-class home. One cast member is playing the part of a young boy, and another "Kid" is fully in drag as his mother and is feeding him dinner.

This hypothetical skit begins with the boy asking why his classmates live in nicer houses than his and his mother responding that that is because his father is a worthless bum who cares more about paying whores for sex than buying the boy a bicycle.

The mother then goes on to tell her son that her husband has never provided for her material or sexual needs. The climax comes when the mother states that she has found a way for her husband to put food on the table, and the boy asks how. This leads to the mother picking a half-eaten piece of meat off the plate of the son and stating that it looks like that is off the leg of his father.

The "closing monologue" regarding all this is the "Kids" are more than alright and prove that good non-topical humor never goes out of date. It is almost certain that the herds of Helens who form a regular focus group throughout the series agree.

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

'Home From the Hills' DVD: Mitchum, Peppard, and Hamilton Do 'Dallas'

The Warner Archive January 16, 2018 DVD release of the 1960 Southwestern Gothic drama "Home From the Hill" is a perfect example of the bounty from the the Ted Turner era at Warner prime.

This MGM film is part of the catalog that Turner recognizes as Golden and Silver Age ore, and that he begins making readily available to watch at home. This treasures also remind us that that great films are not limited to the oft-broadcast ones during the prehistoric era of getting a television signal from an antenna on your roof.

Vincent Minnelli directs this movie that wins two National Board of Review, USA awards and that that organization deems to be one of the top 10 films of the year.

"Home" gets its title from an apt literary reference that generally refers to a man returning from a test of his masculinity. As the below shows, the film also has a coming-of-age element.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Home" provides a strong sense of the scope and the drama of the film.

The common elements of "Home" and the classic prime-time soap "Dallas" are obvious from the opening moments of the former. Family patriarch/local millionaire Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) does not return from a hunting trip with a shotgun marriage to a hillbilly wife but does follow the Ewing tradition of getting shot during that outing. The lone gunman does so out of revenge for Wade making a loved one of that shooter the latest notch in his bedpost. This shooting and seducing as well as a desire to pass down the family dynasty to son Theron (George Hamilton) makes Wade the J.R. of the Hunnicutt clan.

Hunting companion/underling Raphae (George Peppard) soon comes to the rescue; both the bond between the men that is clear from the start and subsequent developments make the reveal, which the DVD back cover spoils, that Raphae is the illegitimate son of Wade not very surprising. This makes stoic Raphae the Ray Krebbs of the group in that he is the bastard son who has a relatively good job and otherwise is treated well so long as he understands his status.

Seventeen-year-old Theron is the "good son" with some edge Bobby of the group. This ultimate rebel with a righteous cause starts out quiet and well-mannered is this film that largely is his coming-of-age story. His literally being taken on a middle-of-the-night snipe hunt provides a wake-up call that prompts him on his road to manhood.

Wade helps this quest by assigning Raphae to be a big brother to a (then unsuspecting) Theron. This includes shooting lessons that involve the most humorous moment in "Home."

Additional foreshadowing comes in the form of an early reference to an area of quicksand from which no one ever emerges; of course, the primary test of manhood for Theron requires that he enters that forbidden zone.

Matriarch Hannah Hunnicutt (Eleanor Parker of the highly entertaining (reviewed) broads-behind-bars melodrama "Caged") is a combination of Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen. She largely stands by her man throughout his philandering but has limits regarding the embarrassment that she will endure; she also has relatively good emotional stability but has limits regarding that as well.

Girl-next-door Libby Halstead (a.k.a. Pamela Barnes-Ewing) provides the final piece of this puzzle. She catches the eye of Theron, who initially is so shy that he convinces Raphae to do his courting for him with ultimately (largely) predictable results. The father of Libby holding Theron responsible for the sins of the father provides additional drama.

Theron strutting home at 2:00 a.m. with his open shirt revealing his (of course) perfectly tanned chest leaves little doubt regarding the night that Libby fully makes a man out of him.

"Home" remains true both to epicish films of this type and to "Dallas" in having the drama amp up in a manner encompassing every major element of the film in the final 15 minutes. An adulthood of adultery catches up to Wade, Theron resolves his daddy issues, and the role of Raphae is resolved. For her part, Hannah shows that that he is just as tough as all of her "boys."

The DVD extras include the epic-long four-minute theatrical trailer for "Home."

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

'Babes with Blades: The Flower of Sarnia' DVD: Amazon Woman on the Moon

The Breaking Glass Pictures January 2, 2018 DVD release of the 2018 sci-fi thriller "Babes with Blades: The Flower of Sarnia" shows fans of this purveyor of some of the best gay-themed indie films out there that we are not in West Hollywood anymore. The surprising quality of this low-low-low-budget "Xena" clone shows that we should trust the rich instincts of the Breaking boys.

The following YouTube clip of a "Babes" trailer provides a good primer on the lore of the film and includes plenty of butt whomping scenes.

The obvious shot-on-video quality and the opening scene in which the big bad Visray Empire fights and captures Sarnian warrior princess Azura (producer-director-writer Cecily Fay) provides a strong sense that we are in for as big of a world of hurt as the opponents of our super girl. Azura being forced into gladiator-style combat and having ice princess Visray Section Commander Sorrentine as her foe does not help matters.

The back story provides the first glimmer of hope. The Visrays conquering the Sarnian home world involves an almost complete genocide and fully devastates that once-thriving planet. That planet far from Hoolywood being uninhabitable prompts moving the action to the Draiga mining colony.

The challenges that Sorrentine faces includes quashing a human-led rebellion; like all good dictators, Sorrentine chooses punishing the general populace as the means of the empire striking back.

The titular flora contributes a "Beauty and the Beast" element in that is is a glowing adornment that is of great value to Sorrentine as the last living thing (other than Azura and any other "straggelers") from the Sarnian world.

Meanwhile back in the dungeon, Azura is bonding with a cute human who is a rebel mole. This contrasts with the less cute but still good-looking lad who has a past with Azura but seems to currently play for the other team.

For their part, the rebels are stepping up their game from raiding supply depots to planning a Death Star destruction level game-changer that is designed to end the tyranny of the Visrays at least until the sequel that one REALLY hopes is called "Chicks with Sticks."

This plan includes breaking out Azura and getting her to help them; this leads to the inevitable confrontation between the principals and learning the actual principles of the aforementioned guy who easily can either be friend or foe.

This battle royale causes the death of a person but importance, but death is not necessarily permanent in scfi. An additional giveaway regarding this is that Fay apparently is a Zac Snyder fan beyond creating a Wonder Woman style heroine.

The final payoff is a good one in that the universe is a better place thanks to the kids who take a stand. It further shows that with great power comes great responsibility to make more films reminiscent of the SyFy channel cheddar of the past.

The extras include footage of a vigorous fight rehearsal. We additionally get "Babes with Blades - Real Action Heroines' Showreel."

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

'Martin & Lewis Collection' DVD: Team and Solo Performances of Classic Comedy Team

Mill Creek Entertainment awesomely makes February 13, 2018 a lucky day for comedy fans; this is the release date for two Creek DVD + Digital releases of collections of the work of two great comedy teaming.

Our current focus is on "Martin & Lewis Collection," which includes team and solo performances of this classic duo. A review early next week is on the accurately titled "the Kid in the Hall: The Complete Collection." This one is a bonanza of material from the hilariously subversive cross-dressing Canadian comedy troupe of the late '80s through the mid-90s.

"Martin" additionally follows the (reviewed) February 6, 2018 Creek release "Hollywood Profiles: The Lucille Ball Collection." That tribute to that comedy legend includes a documentary,  and a plethora of films, TV episodes, and ads.

The centerpiece of "Martin" is a four disc (with digital download) set of 28 Martin & Lewis-hosted episodes of  the "The Colgate Comedy Hour" variety show. "Colgate" was "must-see" NBC fare during its 1950-55 run of live broadcasts. The "very special guests" in these episodes include future Martin's fellow Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, and surprisingly Burt Lancaster.

The volume of material in "Martin & Lewis" requires limiting the discussion of "Colgate" on the first episode in the set. This one gets off to a great start in having our stars literally make a grand entrance at a high society party. A granting of a request for an autograph hilariously leads to Lewis initially squirting ink on the pristine white shirt of a one-percenter. This leads to Lewis adopting his well-known high-voiced and anxious persona.

Another '50stastic skit has an announcer narrating Martin relaxing in his luxurious "Colgate" dressing room; this leads to showing that the dressing room that Lewis occupies next door essentially is a janitor's closet. The two then have a Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck style argument regarding Lewis reminding Martin of an agreement of equal treatment and Martin using his cool to try to convince his partner that they are receiving equal treatment only to then treat his "peer" as an errand boy.

The boys also keep vaudeville alive in a skit in which movie theater owner Martin uses his employee to try to seduce Lewis into buying a ticket to see a movie at that failing business. Suffice it to say that hilarity ensues.

The same interest in keeping this review a reasonable length that is cutting discussion of "Colgate" short is prompting a short cut regarding a triple feature of solo Lewis films in this set. This set of "Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River," "Hook, Line, & Sinker," and "3 on a Couch" is a recent individual Creek release. Readers who wish to learn more about this examples of pure Lewis hilarity are asked to check out the January 2108 review of it.

The Dean Martin double feature (DVD only) begins with the 1960 screwball comedy "Who Was that Lady?" that is a mash-up of a Martin and Lewis classic and a Hope and Crosby Road picture. Martin (who also sings the film theme) plays CBS network television writer Michael Haney, and Tony Curtis co-stars as his best friend/Army buddy/Columbia chemistry professor David Wilson.

The action begins literally from the start as a foreign exchange student enters the lab of Wilson and kisses him during the opening credits; almost immediately Wilson wife Ann (Janet Leigh) enters and goes mildly psycho in terms of slapping David and then rushing home to book a flight to Reno for the purpose of obtaining a quickie divorce.

A distraught and desperate David calls on Michael. The solution of this womanizing scribe is to concoct an elaborate scheme whereby David convinces Ann that he an undercover civilian FBI agent. The rest of the story is that the kiss in the lab is is in the course of duty.

The ensuing hilarity involves the real FBI getting in on the act, Michael utilizing the Rat Pack style cool of Martin to convince David to go on a double date, and all of this leading to Soviet spies (including one played by "F Troop" star Larry Storch) capturing our primary trio.

Martin and Lewis style wackiness fully takes center stage as Martin and Curtis wreak havoc in an escape attempt. This leads to our trio hitting the "road" as they stroll off arm-in-arm into the sunset just before the closing credits.

The 1968 romcom "How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life" is more Hudson-Day than Martin-Lewis; it further reflects the Swinging '60s.

The successful stud whom Martin plays this time is Wall Street guy David Sloane; his best friend/army buddy with marital problems in this outing is department store owner Harry Humphrey Hunter (Eli Wallach).

This one revolves a wacky misunderstanding regarding Sloane mistaking store employee Carol Corman (Stella Stevens) for the mistress of Hunter. The effort of David to help Harry not throw away his marriage for a woman whom David thinks has something of her own going on the side leads to David setting up Carol in a love nest for him and her.

An even greater element of "Three's Company" enters the picture regarding the apartment that David rents for Carol being next door to where Harry pays the rent for his actual mistress Muriel Lazlo (Anne Jackson). A crucial plot point regarding this is that neither of these kept women know about the connection between the men who are doing the keeping.

The Hollywood-style depiction of this era of free love extends as far as Carol having a full-size bed but her common-law marriage of inconvenience to David only approaching consummation.

The honeymoon ends when Carol learns the truth regarding the deception that David utilizes to avoid putting a ring on it. This leads to hilarity in the form of Carol becoming a She-Devil who shows David that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. He makes a valid point in stating that he is acting out of friendship for Harry and that pure vindictive revenge motivates Carol.

Of course, the right boy ends up with the right girl and everyone reverts to complying with the Hays Code of film morality.

The spectacular nature of all this is that it gives fans of Martin and Lewis as a team and as solo performers a good chance to relive fond memories of those stages in their careers. It also gives new fan a fairly broad perspective of this team.

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

'Benji' BD: Underdog Proves He is the Fast and the Furriest

The Mill Creek Entertainment February 13, 2018 Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack release of the 1974 family film classic "Benji" gives men whose significant others shave their legs and/or their faces a chance to be a Valentine's Day hero. This is not to mention allowing parents to score big with their special someones who are too young to shave anything.

This low-budget indie film looking pawtastic in Blu-ray is only the tip of the iceberg. This tale of  a mutt who already has the heart of a small town and goes onto outshine Lassie regarding two kids who have "fallen down a well"  genuinely appeals to anyone from 4 to 90.

Writer-director-producer Joe Camp, who goes on to make several other Benji movies, hits all the right notes with this film debut of this star of the '60s ruralcom "Petticoat Junction." The strongest selling point is the cuteness of the lead and his expressiveness that is obvious to both the people in "the business" and to the general population.

Camp shows further knowledge of psychology by centering "Benji" around a small creature to whom adults refuse to listen even when he has crucial information to convey. Virtually every child and many adults relate to futilely "barking" only to have authority figures ignore them and/or shove them out the door.

Camp demonstrates additional understanding of his audience by populating the cast mostly with stars from '60s and '70s sitcoms.

Patsy Garrett who plays neighbor Mrs. Fowler on the fantasycom "Nanny and the Professor" plays kindly housekeeeper/surrogate mother Mary at the abode with the two moppets where Benji eats breakfast every morning. We also get Frances "Aunt Bea" Bavier as "woman with cat" who has a love-hate relationship with our star, and former Benji (nee Higgins) co-star Edgar "Uncle Joe" Buchanan as a kindly diner owner. Casting against type has Tom "Eb" Lester playing bad guy Riley. Deborah Walley of "The Mothers-In-Law" joins Lester in trading her sweet young thing image to play fellow neer-do-well Linda.

"Benji" opens with the titular former shelter puppy going about his daily business to the accompaniment of the Golden Globe winning and Oscar-nominated song "Benji's theme" sung by country singer Charlie Rich. (A segment in the TV special "The Phenomenon of Benji" that is a DVD extra shows Benji being among those who go up to accept that award.)

The first sign of trouble is when the group of young criminals that includes Riley and Linda breaks into the abandoned home that serves as a large two-story dog house for Benji.

The worlds of Benji collide when the lawbreakers show up with the aforementioned moppets gagged with their hands tied in front of them. This being a G movie results in the kids not looking any worse for wear and not seeming exceptionally frightened.

This discovery prompts Benji to race to the home of the kids to alert their father (Peter Breck of the Western "The Big Valley") and the police about the whereabouts of the children; unlike Lassie, Benji is kicked out of the house. He soon discovers that none of his other human friends are any help.

The film title and this being a '70s kids movie ensure that Benji keeps trying until he succeeds. His next effort proves that his skills apparently include the ability to read a dog-eared note, which he brings back to the crime scene.

This second bite at the Kong is one of the best ones in the film; seeing defeat essentially being ripped from the jaws of victory is a surprising twist that is equally frustrating for the audience and Benji. We also thrill on seeing him overcome staggering odds to finally convince the adults to pay attention to him.

Camp deserves additional credit for avoiding cartoonish cliches regarding the inevitable chase of Benji back to the house where the kidnap victims are being held. There are no comic efforts by large bodies to fit in small places, no knocking pedestrians off their feet, and even a very limited element of an exasperated Benji waiting for the slow and clumsy humans to catch up with him.

Benji being happy with his current existence and even having a love interest whom he meets and courts in an adorable scene creates three possibilities for the mandatory happy ending. Either he returns to his standard routine of visiting his friends every day and spending his nights in his squat, or is adopted by the family whom he reunites and becomes an indoor dog, or his new life falls somewhere in the middle.

"Benji at Work," which then "Eight is Enough" moppet Adam Rich hosts, is another TV special in this two-disc set. While "Phenomenon" is a '70slicious tribute to the popularity of the dog of that century, "Work" focuses on "behind-the-scenes" footage of Benji doing his thing. Mill Creek additionally gives us the four-minute "Benji" trailer complete with audience reactions.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

'Line 41' DVD: Documentary on Holocaust Survivor Returning to Lodz Ghetto

The February 13, 2018 Film Movement DVD release of the 2015 German documentary "Line 41" is a companion to the (reviewed) 2016 Russian drama "Paradise" that Movement makes available the same day. The human faces that both films put on the Holocaust provides those of us with limited knowledge of that infamous period fascinating perspectives.

The following YouTube clip of the official US Trailer for "Line" provides an informative synopsis of the film that emphasizes the human element of the project.

"Line" gets its name from a still-running streetcar route through Lodz in Poland. The significance of this service is that it runs through the large WWII ghetto that is the childhood home of now 80-something Natan Grossmann. The compelling aspects of this include that the German and Polish civilian residents of the city would ride this tram through the ghetto to get from Point A to Point B and largely would turn a willingly blind eye to the deplorable conditions and immense suffering that they witness fairly literally in their own backyards.

Grossmann is the son of a Jewish shoemaker, who dies while imprisoned in the ghetto. Grossman also knows that his mother passes away during this period. His motives for returning so many decades later include learning the fate of his brother, who simply disappeared from the ghetto in 1942.

An amazing aspect of Grossmann finding the building where he and his family occupied a few rooms is that this structure looks the same in 2012. Hearing Grossmann speak lovingly about the German landlord of his family is even more surprising.

Filmmaker Tanja Cummings compares and contrasts the wartime experience of Grossmann with that of Jens-Jurgen Ventzki. Ventzki is the son of the Nazi High Mayor of the city. The inner demons of the younger Ventzki include coming to terms with his loving parent being a man with an active role in imprisoning and killing innocent Jews and gypsies.

The bigger picture is that Lodz is a planned city that is the product of Nazi propaganda that uses it as an example of the good quality of life under the Third Reich. Historic documents that "Line" discusses confirm that the father of Ventzki has a larger role in maintaining that false image.

An obvious message of "Line" is the scope of the hell that Jews and other "undesirables" experience under the noses of the general population during WWII. A less-obvious but more universal truth in the film is that propaganda never tells the real story.

Grossmann directly addresses the issue of propaganda in stating that his shoemaker father is not the wealthy Jew that fuels much of the hatred during WWII. He further chuckles in discussing the aforementioned German landlord being a very kind man who is good to the Grossmanns.

On the other side of the equation, the difficult truths that Ventzki faces include his father actively supporting the lies regarding Lodz. The news reports distort the nature of daily life there and completely disregard the large prison in the middle of the city where the inmates are kept until they become unable to work and either are gassed while riding in trucks or are crammed in rail cars to be shipped to concentration camps.

The final thought regarding this documentary is that the role of films such as "Line" (and "Paradise") includes helping ensure that the Holocaust remains in the public consciousness. This relates to the tried-and-true cliche that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

The special features include 25 minutes of bonus footage that includes unseen portions of interviews.

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

'#artoffline' DVD: Documentary Exploring Limits of Viewing Works Online

IndiePix Films provides great food for thought on a timely subject regarding the February 13, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 documentary "#artoffline." Director Manuel Correa artfully tackles the subject of the impact of viewing paintings and sculptures on the Internet, rather than up close and personal or even in a book.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for the documentary perfectly presents the issues around which the film centers; one of the most distressing prospects is the extent to which museums can adapt in order to avoid death at the hands of video.

Correa chooses wisely in opening "#artoffline" with the first of his many talking heads from the art world discussing being an art student in a class in which a slide of a painting is projected on the wall. The "punchline" is that subsequently seeing the actual picture illustrates (no pun intended) one misleading aspect of seeing an image of the work of art, rather than the actual object.

The critics, artists, and other experts who follow do equally well demonstrating that looking at an image on a screen greatly differs from standing in front of it; on a basic level, being in a gallery or a museum utilizes more senses than sitting alone viewing an image on a computer or a telephone.

Other segments focus on the ease with which even the most basis aspect of an image can be manipulated online; this is not to mention the limitation of lacking a full 3D version of art.

The most amusing aspect of "#artonline" relates to culture vultures who go to museums. Watching the manner in which they view the art is akin to sports fans who bring portable televisions to watch the game that they attend.

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

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

'Paradise' DVD: Artistically Putting Human Faces on the Holocaust

Film Movement particularly uses its power of selecting the best indie films from virtually every country for good regarding two February 13, 2018 releases. The (reviewed) documentary "Line 41" focuses on a Holocaust survivor revisiting the prison-camp like Jewish ghetto where he spent the war 70 years later; the 2016 Russian drama "Paradise" that is the focus for today provides an equally human but broader perspective regarding that genocide. "Paradise" having a strong live-stage vibe is one of many indications of the perfection of this film.

Movement shows equally good instincts regarding its following trailer for "Paradise." The chosen clips for this promo. expertly convey the themes and the style of the film.

The 16 festival wins and additional 14 nominations speak volumes regarding the the quality of "Paradise." These honors include "Best Feature" at the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival and inclusion in the "Top 10 of the Year" at the 2018 CinEuphoria Awards.

Although fictional, the highly stylized black-and-white "Paradise" has a docudrama feel in that much of the film consists of three main characters separately sitting at a table and recounting the incidents that play out during the film.

The film centers around stunning blonde Olga, who is a Russian countess working with the French Resistance. She and a friend are arrested for harboring Jewish children. This incarceration initially leads to Olga being jailed and undergoing interrogation by French collaborator Jules. The interviews and the depictions of the events provide a good sense of the characters that includes an extended look at the family life of Jules.

The interrogation scenes from this portion of the film are tense but not unduly dramatic. The dialogue rings true, and adding a perverse element of "Basic Instinct" has the intended effect on both the audience and Jules. All this further helps establish Olga as a tough pragmatist who refuses to give the Nazis the satisfaction of seeing her break down.

The third member of this group is the most interesting in that he is a SS officer who is not portrayed in an exceptionally negative light. Helmut is a handsome intelligent aristocrat who literally can be a poster child for the Aryan ideal that the Third Reich promotes.

The explanation of Helmut for joining Team Hitler early on makes sense and is in line with the bill-of-goods that that persuasive leader sells a desperate nation. The reasoning behind the antisemitism of Helmut is more flawed, but he tries to make it seem reasonable.

These views also reflect the initial ignorance of the German people regarding the extremeness of the views of Hitler. Helmut additionally illustrates the scope of the appeal of Hitler during his rise to power. In other words, the duped individuals are more than "sons of butchers and pharmacists."

The perspective of Helmut further gives the film its name; he and his fellow Germans truly believe that Hitler is going to make their country a Utopia.

The concentration camp scenes largely continue the neutral and human perspective of "Paradise." Helmut is a high-ranking camp official with a reputation as a rat with rigid standards. This does not endear him to the camp commandant, who justifies the corruption by officers as the value of their service to the Third Reich more than offsetting the loss from their theft and other abuse of power.

A particularly chilling scene has the commandant bragging about his ability to overcome production problems in terms of killing 10,000 prisoners a day and in fitting far more of them in barracks then those buildings are designed to accommodate. He sounds like a plant manager discussing the struggles of meeting a requirement that he manufacture a challenging number of plastic cups each day. This exchange partially illustrates the stresses on camp commandants and paints them in a different light than as monsters who gleefully murder millions of innocent people.

Olga working in a camp warehouse where prisoners sort (and steal) huge piles of possessions of prisoners adds a couple of additional perspectives to "Paradise." It provides a disturbing visual of the scale of the number of people brought to the camps and shows that the prisoners have their dark sides. One scene that discusses a method for finding hidden objects is particularly disturbing.

This assignment reunites Olga with Helmut 10 years after a largely one-sided love affair while they are enjoying what seems to be actual paradise in beautiful Italy; this leads to Helmut using his current position to better the existence of Olga without his being brutally oppressive with her.

All of this concludes with the story of Helmut and Olga ending on a realistic note and director Andrey Konchalovsky concluding the film on an aptly ambiguous note that validates the theory of many of us regarding the nature of the judgment that the characters face.

The big picture regarding all this is that Konchalovsky perfectly conveys the concept of most European feeling as if they are living a nightmare; the scary part of this is that it shows particularly regarding Helmut that Hitler is the devil in that he makes a believable case that he can create a heaven on earth all the time knowing that delivering his warped version of paradise will first require putting those who put him in power  (and literally prove to be good soldiers despite horrific conditions) and the millions of people who constitute collateral damage through Hell.

Film Movement shines just as brightly regarding its tradition of pairing a short film with the main release of the month. The aptly titled 2013 German drama "Red Snow" uses the contrast between the titular precipitation and several other white objects and blood just as effectively as Konchalovsky uses black-and-white to convey his message.

"Snow" is set in 1941 and focuses on the German occupation of Serbia; much of the power of this film relates to director-writer Luka Popadic basing it on actual events.

The macro concept this time is the Nazi policy of executing 100 Serbian civilians for every German soldier who is killed. This "law" becomes relevant when a grunt is shot while he and his members of his unit let their guard down in a field.

The commander of the leader of the killed soldier offers that lieutenant the deal that there will not be a mass execution if that officer can get the shepherd who witnesses the killing of the soldier to divulge the location of a group of resistance fighters.

The lieutenant getting blood on the bright white t-shirt of the shepherd is one of the aforementioned examples of the contrast described above. Popadic takes things further in having other dark-colored substances stain the underwear of the suspected resistance fighter.

Like Konchalovsky, Popadic humanizes all of his characters to help make his point. We learn that, but for the war, the Serbian would have studied electrical engineering in Vienna. We further can picture him and his torturer being friends in that city under other circumstances.

One spoiler is that Popadic ends "Red" on a depressingly cynical note; everyone ends up far worse at the end of the film than they are at its beginning. The most macro message regarding that is that any occupation is very rough on both the occupied and the occupiers.

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

Monday, February 5, 2018

'Trial & Error' S1 DVD: 'The Staircase' Meets 'Parks and Recreation'

The Warner Archive January 16, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 first season of the NBC comedy "Trial & Error" provides current fans a chance to catch up before the S2 premiere in a few months and gives folks who who have never seen it another bite at the apple. Bringing John Lithgow back to an NBC comedy and successfully combining two clever television concepts compete for being the most notable aspect of the series.

"Trial" additionally seems tailor-made for DVD in that the season-long story-arc complete with cliffhangers calls for the seamless marathon viewings that this format facilitates. Getting caught up in the plot and suddenly realizing that you have watched eight episodes is very easy. One can assert that this is the "OJ Syndrome."

The following YouTube clip of a "Trial" promo. tells you everything that you want to know about the series that you are not afraid to ask.

The element of "Trial" chronicling the efforts of the defense team in the high-profile murder case in which small-town poetry professor Larry Henderson is prosecuted for the death of second wife Margaret from crashing through a plate-glass window is an homage to the 2004 dramatic series "The Staircase" that documents a similar real-life case.

The mockumentary style of having the characters record video interviews throughout the series evokes strong thoughts of the NBC comedy "The Office," which introduces that concept to American audiences. However, setting "Trial" in the quirky small town of East Peck, South Carolina makes it more like "Office" follow-up series "Parks and Recreation" than the Steve Carell workplace comedy.

Considering "Northeastern" attorneys to be the chosen people prompts Larry brother-in-law/local tobacco tycoon Jeremiah Jefferson Davis to hire a New York law firm to represent Larry. That white shoes corporation sends young untested Josh Segal (who is "Northeastern" on the side of his father) to provide that counsel. Nicholas D'Agosto plays this legal professional fresh off playing District Attorney Harvey Dent on the Fox drama "Gotham."

A "Green Acres" element (complete with a New York attorney finding himself living among small-town rubes) is evident when Segal quickly discovers that his dream team consists of dim-witted investigator Dwayne Reed and essentially office manager Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd of an eponymous sitcom and several other series), whose many afflictions include a complete inability to recognize anyone no matter how often they meet or how many times that their paths cross.

This group finds themselves squaring off with ambitious prosecutor Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays of "Glee"), whose primary goal is to execute someone in order to advance her career. Her secondary goal is to examine the briefs of Segal.

Much of the best humor comes relates to Segal and his team planning the defense. Like Oliver Douglas of "Acres," Segal largely accepts the lunacy in order to avoid going crazy himself. Memorable segments include childlike excitement each time that the murder board is updated and the support staff suggesting absurd theories.

Lithgow is surprisingly sedate; he mostly seems more like a befuddled senior than a quirky intellectual or a pompous ass. He still plays his role well, but more always is better regarding Lithgow-style zaniness.

Veteran showrunners Jeff Astrof and Matthew Miller additional obtain comic silver from the absurdity of changing the persons-of-interest in the primary case and associated crimes that follow just as frequently as a cannonball is shot off in the East Peck town square. These "unusual suspects" include virtually everyone other than the main cast and even a couple of members of that ensemble. Including a one-armed man in that rogue's galley is particularly awesome.

The inevitable "30 Rock" mini-reunion is a "Trial" highlight. Astrof and Miller choose wisely regarding whom they bring back. Seeing Lithgow interact with this guest shows that they still have it and should get co-star in another series. Learning if Team Henderson discovers a Tommy gun requires watching.

"S1" ends on a cliffhanger that also can serve as a series finale that is typical for a show that is on the bubble; Segal still gives a hoot about Lithgow after his trial concludes, and this legal eagle takes on another ripped-from-the-headlines case that likely seems open-and-shut and almost certainly involves a great deal of baggage.

Just as is the case in a legal proceeding, judging the quality of "Trial" requires considering every relevant circumstance. The underlying satirical elements of the series are solid; each cast member does a respectable job with his or her role; America always love a trial that involves numerous scandals, and this show is much better than most sitcoms on broadcast and cable channels.

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