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Monday, February 10, 2020

'Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts' DVD: Asian-Style 'Kill Bill'

Icarus Films once more shows the immense value of world cinema as to the DVD release of the 2017 Indonesian feminist drama "Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts." This compelling movie with a strong live-stage vibe shows that Quentin Tarantino does not have the monopoly on Amazon warrior revenge films.

The 17 wins and 25 additional nominations for "Marlina" show that director Mouly Surya has all the right stuff; these accolades include numerous honors at the 2018 Film Festival Indonesia and Best Cinematography at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

The following Icarus trailer for "Marlina" clearly shows the Tarantino and classic Western influences on this must-see film.


The titular felon is a relatively recent widow living in relative isolation on her farm; as is typical for good storytelling, the extent of her woes is revealed throughout the film.

The nightmare begins within the first moments of "Marlina." Bad hombre Markus shows at her door and immediately plays cat-and-mouse. The horrible truth is soon shared when the interloper matter-of-factly tells his hostess that his gang is on their way to steal all of her livestock and to rape her if they have time after that theft. He adds insult to those imminent injuries by ordering her to start cooking dinner for the group.

As the film title indicates, things do not go as planned. This leads to the second act that centers around Marlina taking the long journey to the nearest town to report the crimes and her response with extreme prejudice. This trip involves both "persuading" a bus driver to co-operate and an overdue pregnant woman with her own man troubles to join the crusade. 

The response of the police is true to factual and fictional patterns; any viewer with a soul will want to smash the typewriter of the cop who takes the statement of Marlina over his head. 

The long arm of the law coming up short leads to showing that you sometimes must send a woman to do the job of a man. The even more sad truth as to this is that it demonstrates the limited extent to which the phrase "you've come a long way, Baby" applies. 

All of this leads to a climax that brings the action back full circle to the beginning of the film; the sad messages as to this are that things never change and that you often much take matters into your own hands.

The bonus features include behind-the-scenes coverage and an interview with Surya.

Friday, February 7, 2020

'Dear Walmart' DVD: Documentary on High Price of Low Wages

Esteemed indie-flick company Virgil Films shows excellent instincts as to releasing the documentary "Dear Walmart" on November 19, 2019 ahead of Black Friday. This movie tells the tale of righteously disgruntled wage slaves of the titular grandddady of big box stores forming an informal union. 

The following "Walmart" trailer nicely introduces the concept of the film and puts very human faces on the effort to earn an arguably reasonable wage for an honest day's work.



The "Our Walmart" stems from an arguably reasonable "we're mad as Hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" attitude. This relates to the typical pay-rate, wealth-gap, and corporate-policy issues that plague most workplaces. A comparison between the starting pay at Target and at Walmart is a prime (no pun intended) example of this. 

We hear the horror stories of employees across the county; these include empty promises and the  especially egregious experience of a woman who is denied relied-on leave for the most flimsy of reasons. A separate sad story of a woman whose properly documented physical work restriction is aggressively disregarded shows the need to level the playing field as to labor relations at the largest retailer in America. 

The rest of the story is the need of Walmart employees to act somewhat like the World War II era French underground regarding carefully identifying themselves to each other and covertly communicating at work. The predictable reports of retaliation support the theory that just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is watching.

We also see the obstacles that organized labor encounters when it tries to get involved. Work stoppages at Walmart reflect that influence on Our Walmart.

The bigger picture is that America becoming a nation of "behemoth corporations" with callous cut-throat CEOs (I'm talkin' to you Corie Barry of Best Buy and Robert Iger of Disney) is resulting in abusing their "captive audience" of employees and customers; the sad truth is that both groups have little choice other than to bend over and take it like a man. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

'MacGyver' S3 DVD: Angus MacGyver and the Last Crusade

The Lionsgate January 14, 2019 DVD release of "MacGyver" (2016) S3 provides a good chance to catch up on the rebooted exploits of titular highly resourceful spy Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) ahead of the February 7, 2020 S4 premiere on CBS. As shown below, a primary S3 theme is out with the old and in with the new (sort of).

The season premiere finds MacGyver living in a small Nigerian village with a beard in the wake of resigning from The Phoenix Foundation, where his ability to rapidly think on his feet as to using available items to save both the day and his hide makes him a star. This lifestyle change is attributable to a rough S2 reunion with his estranged father. Ala the central relationship in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Jim MacGyver (aka "Oversight") has been rough (and secretive) with his boy for what he thought was best for his offspring.

The game-changer is Dad showing up in Africa to get MacGyver to come home to rescue best buddy/co-worker/protector/father figure Jack Dalton (George Eads) from a highly precarious situation involving gun-running with a one-who-got-away nemesis in Eastern Europe. This is ahead of a well-publicized mid-season exit of Eads from the series for "personal reasons." 

One of the more notable father-son adventures has them team up to hunt the hitman (Michael Des Barres, who plays Murdoc in the '80s "MacGyver") who is cleverly snuffing key witnesses in an upcoming trial. As our heroes do a couple of times in S3, our boys take a page from "Silence of the Lambs" by visiting  super-villain Murdoc at the deep black-ops facility where he is being held, The value of the this consultant is his knowledge that is very helpful as to capturing the predator of the week.

Things really get interesting when Team MacGyver learns the extent to which they expertly have been played. One lesson here is to never trust any psychopath.

MacGyver fully gets to do what he loves best in a couple of episodes that have him save innocents despite facing obstacles that involve extreme prejudice. One outing requires especially intense improvising when a mission to deliver crucially needed oxygen to critically ill hospitalized children.goes horribly awry. 

The similarities between the above episode and another in which a car accident diverts MacGyver from his original mission extends beyond an imminent life-or-death situation. He once again for the countless time learns that a seeming innocent may not be so innocent and that people often do the wrong thing for the right reason. 

A favorite moment for past and former student at all educational levels occurs in a "Back to School" episode that has the "kids" (sans "Dad") go undercover at a university to bust a terrorist who is radicalizing the best brains there. This highlight has Angus schooling a professor who tries to both shame him and make him look foolish. 

The rest of the 22 episodes are just as typically another workweek for a group that is tasked with putting right what once went horribly wrong. 

The appeal of this reboot extends beyond Till having the looks and the personality of a farmboy despite always being the smartest guy in the room. There never is a dull moment, and seeing how what is at hand always is enough to "git 'er done" is entertaining. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

'Imaginary Feasts' and 'Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944' DVD: Tales of WWII Survival

Icarus Films provides a sadly timeless lesson in survival as to its double-feature DVD release of the Anne Georget documentaries "Imaginary Feasts" and "Mina's Recipe Book, Terezin 1944." This message is that mentally escaping a harsh reality is an effective tool for surviving seemingly fatal horrific hardship.

"Feasts" provides a truly in-depth look at prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, Soviet Gulags, and Japanese prison camps discussing their favorite meals in order to survive near starvation and other atrocities as to their confinement. These include an American soldier and a woman who pays a heavy price for her unwarranted reliance on the principle of diplomatic immunity. 

The main focus is on female prisoners in a concentration camp who take thinking about their favorite foods to the next level; they risk heavy retribution to steal scraps of papers to write down the recipes for those treats. This extends to the contribution of each woman representing the cuisine of her region of her country. It is highly predictable that the French woman are the stars of this project.

A survivor, the ancestors of survivors. a historian, and a chef are among the talking heads who put everything in perspective. In addition to learning about these books, it is surprising to hear even more general information about concentration camps than many of us have known for decades. The relationship between the foods and their native regions is equally interesting.

"Book" tells about the pre-war life and the imprisonment of the author of that tome; we also learn of the post-war path of the book and the importance of it to the persons into whose hands it travels.

As indicated above, the larger impact of these films is how the prisoners used the books to survive when most of us would have chosen a run for the barbed wire as a relatively easy out as to a seemingly unsurvivable situation. It also provides perspective the next time that we endure an hour or so of hunger until our next meal, which likely will be exactly what we are craving at the moment. Even more importantly, fussing because a promised 30-minute wait at Olive Garden is at the 45-minute mark should be shame inducing, 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

'The Titfield Thunderbolt' BD: Keep Calm and Rail On

The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement pairing the recent Blu-ray releases of the 1953 British comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt" with a Blu-ray of the (reviewed) 1949 Ealing social-commentary-dripping comedy "Passport to Pimlico" provides an excellent chance for a taste of what the "Titfield" back cover aptly describes as the strong contribution of Ealing to the golden age of British cinema. The numerous comment elements of "Titfield" and "Pimlico" include legendary Britwit T.E.B. Clarke being the scribe of both. 

"Titfield" being the first Ealing film shot in Technicolor makes it especially apt for Blu-ray. The British countryside truly looks idyllic. 

Fans of '60scom "Petticoat Junction" will recognize many elements of "Titfield." A primary premise of both comedies is quirky good-natured small-town folk heavily relying on a rail line that operates between their community and a nearby town. Although the Hooterville Cannonball of "Petticoat" fame survives numerous attempts to shut it down, the effort to cease the operation of Titfield rail service succeeds. The rest of the story is that eliminating this competition profits a local bus company. 

The Titfield populace demonstrates their "keep calm and carry on" fortitude by deciding to run the rail service themselves. Getting the initial provisional approval is only the tip of the iceberg as to this titanic endeavor. 

The numerous obstacles as to actually running the train include a lack of necessary experience with the exception of a man who clearly does not work and play well with others. This is not to mention the opposition of those wanting to derail this effort. 

Hilarity soon ensues as to things such as first building up an adequate head of steam and subsequently preventing an overheating that threatens to turn a potential figurative train wreck into an actual one.

In classic film fashion, it seems that a combination of sabotage and ineptitude is leading to an inevitable bad end for the good guys. The ensuing hilarity begins with taking a page out of both incarnations of classic scifi series "Battlestar Galactica." 

This is the beginning of an extended climax in which the train being allowed to continue operating is conditioned on it making a monitored run on time. Of course, hilarity with a heavy dose of keeping "the suit" oblivious to the actual situation ensues. Suffice it to say that Clarke shows his awareness of a Hollywood ending.

The copious "Titfield" BD extras shows the same love for the film that Classic demonstrates for "Pimlico." A written essay provides great insight into the film, the bonus feature "Making 'The Titfiled Thunderbolt'" expands on that. We also get a handful of other "behind-the-scenes' features and the original trailer. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Apple Watch 5: B+ Product Makes A+ Gift

The apt starting point for this post on the Apple Watch Series Five is the 1999-2002 CW sci-fi teendram "Roswell." A central fine young brother from another planet is stressing over what to give his easy but demanding earth girlfriend for Christmas. He is advised to buy her something that she really wants but would not buy for herself; equally insightful but more amusing wisdom comes from similar series of the era "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The pithy remark from that show is "a gift certificate; like money, only less useful,"

Impetus 

The first part of the "Roswell" equation dates back to this summer; the panic of phoneous interruptus occurs when I realize just as it is too late to turn back that I have left my iPhone 8 at home. The consequences of this include cancelling plans to see a movie so as to not lose out on loyalty points by not being able to have the app for the chain scanned.

This incident prompts the first of many discussions regarding whether buying an Apple watch is worth it; a big pro for this guy who has always worn a watch since the seventh grade is knowing that I never would forget the watch. Related big pluses are not feeling compelled to always carry around the often bulky-feeling phone and the momentary panic associated with the phone not being in the remembered pocket. 

The cost and the inevitable forced obsolescence are big cons; another is the belief that having cellular service for the watch is an additional expense; time will tell if that is so.

The Unboxing 

Unwrapping a gift to find a gleaming white box is as exciting to lovers as tech. as discovering a robin egg's blue box is to a trophy spouse or significant other. Finding that said packaging contains the latest and greatest is even more thrilling. It truly is something that I really want but am unlikely to get for myself,

The same is true as to the AirPods with the charging case with which Apple gifted me roughly a year ago; I still use the wireless Beats headphones with which Apple gifted me a few years ago when flying.

Finding the watch in a protective pouch is exciting; finding the strap in two pieces in a separate sub-box is less enjoyable; it is understandable that some folks want to further line the pockets of Tim Cook by buying custom straps; it is less understandable that that requires the rest of us to suss out how to attach the provided straps in this age that greatly values instant gratification, Even being a "when all else fails, read the instructions" guy rather than a RTFM dude is not an issue when there is no FM.

The first few efforts to attach (and detach) the straps did not go well; even getting it right is not the end of the story. Fastening the watch to your wrist requires blindly lining up a prong on the lower strap with a hole on the upper strap; this is getting a little easier but evokes sympathy for women having to fasten bras. 

A cool element of the Apple watch for Gen Xers is that it looks like a Swatch; having one of those timepieces that is another great gift actually bought in Switzerland being destroyed in a very '80s way during my school days still evokes sadness. I ran it over when it fell out of my pocket when I got the keys to my Mustang out to drive home after renting "Ghostbusters" on DVD; yes, I was wearing Vuarnet sunglasses with a Ralph Lauren cologne and a polo shirt. (Of course, my feet were sockless and clad in Topsiders.) 

The Apple calculator working on the watch evokes thoughts of the nerd de rigueur accessory of the late '70s and eary '80s; the Casio calculator watch. 

Functionality 

The watch nicely pairs with an iPhone after downloading the watch app on the latter; however, not every app transferring to the watch is mildly disappointing; a little online research shows that Chirp for Twitter compensates for the Twitter app itself not being compatible with the phone.

An oddity is that the watch does not seem to be compatible with the Amazon or the Amazon Music apps but does display the Music song that you are playing on your phone; the lack of an app may be be attributable to the Notorious JPB trying to compel people to buy the Alexa that is designed for use in your car. 

A personal choice of having the time, the local weather, the phone, messaging, e-mail, and the battery life display on the "homepage" makes for an equally nice and practical display. The clear and adequately large display is nice for those of us whose eyesight is not-so-perfect.

Speaking of the battery life, it seems that moderate use sucks up 50-percent of the life each day. Also speaking of the battery life, it is disappointing that the watch simply does not have a port for the standard Apple charging cable. 

You must place the watch on an (admittedly cool) magnetic charging pad, which does quickly charge the watch. A big downside as to this effort to facilitate Tim Cook buying Greenland is that forgetting this charger on even an overnight trip (especially if you do not bring your phone) can create a big problem.

The better news is that the voice feature works very well as to both texting and telephoning with a technology that precludes butt dialing except for the occasions on which all of us speak out of that orifice. Although folks familiar with fictional detective Dick Tracy will think of his wrist radio, a very nifty thing is that you do not need to hold the watch very close to your mouth for it work. Further, the text feature is amazingly good at filtering out ambient noise such as music, television, and other people speaking. It would be nice if you could erase part of a message; rather than having to cancel and rerecord. 

One note is that watch technology not being especially widespread will earn you funny looks as people see you seemingly talking to yourself without holding a phone or having a bluetooth device in your ears. (AirPods work AWESOMELY with an iPhone.) 

The fun and functional Etch-a-Sketch style Scribble feature is a good way to avoid questioning looks. 

To Buy or Not To Buy 

Returning to the initial theme of the post, the gift of an Apple watch is guaranteed to thoroughly delight anyone with any interest in tech. It also is a stupendous way to treat yo self to celebrate a big win.

​At the same time (pun intended), this being a pricey luxury item that mostly is a substitute for another pricey luxury item makes running up a credit bill to purchase it foolish; in such a case, there are better uses for your money than trying to keep up with the Cooks. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

'Styx' DVD: 29 Wins for Film About Cruising for Ethical Bruising

The Blu-ray quality Film Movement DVD of the 2018 drama "Styx" proves that some do make 'em like they used to; aspects of this are showing that art and commerce are not mutually exclusive and that even a simple low-budget concept can be exceptional in the right hands, such as those of writer/director Wolfgang Fischer.

The well-deserved 29 wins and 18 additional nominations for "Styx" circumventing the globe shows apt love for this film about a solo sailing trip turned horrific ethical and moral dilemma. These accolades include Fischer getting the "New Auteurs" honor at the 2018 AFI Fest and several wins at the 2019 German Film Awards.

The following Movement trailer for "Styx" offers a strong sense of the multi-award-wininng perfect performance by Susanne Wolff in this essentially one-woman show, the aforementioned cinematography, and the compelling dilemma around which much of the action is centered.


The opening on-the-job scenes establish emergency-room doctor Rike (Wolff) as a compassionate and fierce medical professional; subsequently embarking on the aforementioned journey to what can be considered a Charles in charge natural paradise shows that her strong will and independence are not limited to her work. 

The first real obstacle on this trip is the most physically daunting; a warning of an impending storm does not deter Rike from literally and figuratively changing course. The ensuing tempest may not be perfect but does throw very rough weather at this fearless crew of one. Her tiny ship is tossed but not lost; nor does she run aground. 

The calm after the storm is disrupted when Rike encounters a ship in distress that is filled with people who do have to live like refugees. Rike wisely initially follows maritime protocol in alerting the authorities; conflict arises when the powers-that-be express less-than-hoped-for concern while strongly directing Rike to not come to the rescue. Part of this relates to not attempting a rescue that endangers the rescuer.

The next round of ensuing chaos relates to the passengers on the sinking ship seeing the sailboat of Rike as a sanctuary that prompts a literal swim for the figurative border. However, Rike does bring one of these passengers on board; the ensuing events epically proves that no good deed goes unpunished.

Fischer and Wolff expertly convey the mounting tension as the situation on the other ship becomes increasingly dire, the still-absent authorities amp up the intensity of their insistence that Rike not jump ship, and the now unwelcome passenger exerts strong pressure to come to the aid of his group.

It is predictable that everything comes to a head (no pun intended) near the end of the film as all act according to his or her nature; the surprising manner in which this occurs reflects the 29 wins for the film. 

Movement supplements this with the food-for-thought short film "Ashmina." The excellent pairing of this movella with "Styx" relates to the young girl at the center of it is like Rike in that she is caught between two clashing worlds and faces intense pressure to be a good girl and do as she is told. This is not to mention the girl having a similar third-world existence and aspirations as the refugees on the the "Styx" ship.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

'Passport to Pimlico' Blu-ray: Post-War Brits Get Gaul Up in Ealing Comedy

The Film Movement Classics division of Film Movement  December 31, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the 1949 Ealing Studios Oscar and BAFTA-nominated classic comedy "Passport to Pimlico" (paired with a (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray of the 1953 Ealing comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt") adds to the mountain of evidence that British fare kicks the arse of American movies.

The scope of this post allows sharing that "Pimlico" is an esteemed member of the genre of brilliant mid-century British political satires. Although not as well known as films such as "Dr. Strangelove" or the cult classic "The Mouse That Roared," "Pimlico" offers the same quality witty subversive social commentary. Suffice it to say that 10 Downing Street gets the royal treatment. 

The "go to your local library to learn more" endorsement in this space is in the form of encouraging anyone who enjoys quality comedy based on strong material and quality performances to read the essay and to watch the bonus features in this set.

Highlights of the latter include the insightful and entertaining video interview with BFI curator Mark Duguid. His discussion of "Pimlico" includes its inclusion in the Ealing trilogy that consists of that film, "Whiskey Galore, and the Alec Guinness classic "Kind Heats and Coronets." Duguid also touches on the notable career of "Pimlico" screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke, which includes the Guinness film "The Lavender Hill Mob." Another extra "You Are There" tour of the on-location shooting shooting of the film.

From a more modern perspective, "Pimlico" plays out like an early-season "Simpsons" episode in that surprising increasing hilarity/mayhem ensures from an everyday occurrence gone comically awry.  

The excavation of "the last unexploded bomb in England" (until another "last exploded bomb" is found) largely is a non-event in 1947 for this middle-class London community that has a Springfield-quality cast of quirky characters from every walk of life. This literal bombshell named Pamela becomes more newsworthy when a post-Blitz Bart Simpson and his pals engage in shenanigans that cause Pamela essentially to go nuclear. 

The first twist is that the explosion reveals an 500 year-old treasure chamber. The "special guest star" that plays a major role in things getting out of hand is Margaret Rutherford of "Miss Marple" fame. Lumpy Rutherford plays the academic historian called in to investigate the discovery; Professor Hatton-Jones indisputably determines that both the treasure and the surrounding environs are the property of Burgundy. 

The ensuing hilarity largely revolves around the once (and future?) Londoners in the community embracing living in Burgundy. Much of this glee revolves around these reverse-Brexit individuals determining that they no longer are subject to post-war rationing and other restrictions that the British government is imposing on them. This escalates to "border town" residents rushing to get in on the act in the same manner that Americans flees to Canada and Mexico for similar advantages.

A memorable moment in the interview with Duguid relates to his mentioning a scene in "Pimlico" in which a character comments that the community is defying the British government because that group believes in British principles. 

This revolting (pun intended) development triggers a hazy memory of Springfield and/or Homer Simpson declaring sovereignty either separately or in the same episode sometime in the 31 seasons of "The Simpsons." 

In true diplomatic fashion, each move by either the new residents of France or their British enemies prompts escalation on either side; this culminates in a siege in which the Brits try to isolate and starve out their former subjects. This culminates in a highly symbolic London ending that reflect the British attitude that many uproars ultimately turn out to be much ado about nothing.

​In this case, the play especially is the scene and all's well that ends well. Adding that where there's a will, there's a way is mandatory.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

'Toy Story 4' 4K: Proves the Rule of Three

A review of the theatrical release of Disney flick "Toy Story 4" aptly notes that "Toy Story 3" ends the adventures of Woody (Tom Hanks) et al on a perfect note that should have been the end of the story. This evokes strong thoughts of "Crystal Skull" being such a huge (and inconsistent) follow-up to the sublime "Last Crusade" in the Jones trilogy. Both "4" and "Skull" make one yearn for the days when big-screen tributes would consist of bigger, bolder, re-releases of the classics.

One of a two related general notes is that the once groundbreaking but now mature Pixar technology does not hold the same thrill as it does as to "Toy Story" (1995), which is the first Pixar feature film. Although "4" looks spectacular in 4K, it seems that even folks who could not color within the boundaries or draw a straight line but now can suss out how to operate an Apple watch can learn the Pixar system and do as well as (if not better than) the "pros."

The next related note is that a combination of having 4k at home and Disney sinking to the level of merely shamelessly rehashing old ideas has led to no longer seeing Disney films in theaters; it does not take long for 4K sets to hit the $15 mark, which is not much more than the price of a matinee ticket.

One of the biggest narrative flaws of "4" is that it quickly abandons the fun (tinged with some darkness in "3") of the original trilogy. Speaking from the perspective of someone who largely shares the views of W.C, Fields regarding kids (but not animals), "4" preying on the deepest fears of children is highly disturbing. This is aside from the creepy aspect of "Story" lore that the toys play dead whenever a meat suit of any age is around. 

The cold open of "4" lulls viewers into a false sense of security as to both quality and tone. It is a flashback to a simpler and kinder time nine years ago. Now college man Andy is a happy everykid, and his friends with active secret lives are a large part of his life.

Sheriff Woody leads a harrowing covert mission to rescue an RC car that is left out in the rain; the thoughts regarding "It" are moderate, Bo Peep plays a pivotal role just ahead of being boxed up and shipped out. Woody pursuing this soulmate provides foreshadowing of stranger things to come.

We then move to the present; the Freudian nightmare begins with a superficial room cleaning leading to an angsty Team Woody being locked in the closet of new owner Bonnie, The symbolism is apt as to Woody and his rival for the affection of Andy turned best buddy Buzz Lightyear. The horror continues when all but Woody, who aptly remains trapped in the closet, make a great escape. 

Woody soon takes (and mostly retains) center stage when he stows away in the backpack of Molly to support her during her kindergarten orientation; the activities of that day lead to Molly making new kid on the block Forky. Forky is a spork with googly eyes, a pipe cleaner for arms, and Popsicle stick feet. 

Forky being a dim-witted freak is perfectly fine, and the other toys welcoming him into the tribe sends a very positive message. The problems with this character extend well beyond his intense suicidal tendencies in the form of frequent aggressive attempts to throw himself into the trash.

Suspension of disbelief allows accepting that toys that at most are occasionally brought to school can articulately think and talk. The fact that they have ears allows accepting that they can hear. However, Forky can speak within seconds of his "birth" and does not have ears. 

A more annoying issue relates to big brother figure Woody explaining to Forky that the latter is a toy (rather than trash) because Bonnie writes her name on his feet. The first flaw in this logic is that the "Story" kids and their real-life counterparts do not "mark their territory" as to all of their playthings. There is no personal memory of ever having done that.

The even more annoying aspect of this is that, per Woody, the food that I would bring to work would come alive in the refrigerator. This is not to mention the beer that I would put in the counselors' refrigerator when spending college-era summers at a camp. The "Story" logic provides that I drank my friends and ultimately subjected them to an even worse fate. 

The illogical plotting fully take place when Bonnie takes her toys on a RV road-trip; Forky does not suffer any harm on jumping out of the window of a vehicle that is going at least 45 mph. The same is true as to Woody, who goes after his friend. Woody stating that he easily can catch up with the group when they stop 5.3 miles down the road builds on this frustration as to the lack of logic.

A less annoying aspect of this is the bigger plot point that the "good" toys repeatedly go to great lengths to prevent Molly from losing current favorite toy Forky. Once more returning to real life, I do not recall any soul-scarring trauma on getting separated from favorite toys. The angst of Molly relates to Millennials and the next generation always getting participation ribbons and having every whim indulged. 

Things turn truly dark on Woody and Forky taking a detour on almost reaching their destination; Woody finding evidence of Bo Peep prompts him to drag Forky into a dark antique shop. This leads to a fateful (and potential fatal) encounter with evil queen of the shop Gaby Gaby and her even more creepy ventriloquist dummy minions. 

The plot thickening agent at this point is that Gaby essentially wants to harvest a kidney of Woody in the form of replacing her defective voice box with his functional one. The rest of the story is that this plaything that makes Annabelle look like Raggedy Ann thinks that an ability to speak when her string is pulled will prompt someone to want to take her home.

Woody gets away at the cost of Forky becoming a hostage; this leads to a standard "Story" development of the toys embarking on a perilous mission. 

The most disturbing event as to the ensuing lack of hilarity would be a major spoiler that evokes thoughts of a #MeToo villain. The toys subsequently putting themselves at great risk solely to help psychopath Gabby is slightly less upsetting but makes absolutely no sense.

Another bothersome aspect of trying to find Gabby a good home reflects the same nth degree of corporate greed of Disney under Czar Robert Iger as does the film itself. 

Team Pixar clearly is trying to guilt parents into buying their little darlings every toy that they want; the idea is that the Forky (or the Sven the reindeer, etc.) on the shelf at the Disney store will be miserable until a child brings it home to love. Again, I still like toys and collectibles (and have shopped at Disney World stores) but have not blinked an eye as to leaving lion cub Simba collecting dust under harsh fluorescent bulbs. 

The bottom line regarding all this is that the cult of Disney is so pervasive that the above observations will not influence many people; however, these musings reflect that this childhood favorite studio is loosing its grip on those of us smart and insightful enough to see through the mouses**t.

Friday, January 3, 2020

'A Feast of Man' DVD: Who Wants to Eat a Millionaire

Indiepix Films fully lives up to its name as to its December 17, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 dark comedy film "A Feast of Man." This low-budget film that literally provides food for thought is textbook arthouse fare.

"Feast" centers around four childhood friends gathering at the upstate New York vacation house of a family friend. This quartet reunites with a hope of profiting in the wake of the announced death of peer/stereotypical trust fund baby Gallagher. The other members of this rogue's gallery are fiance Ted (aka have you met my friend Ted), quirky loyal butler James, and French trophy girlfriend Arletty, 

Attorney/executor/nepotism hire Wolf, Jr. is thrown back on arriving at the house to learn that Gallagher recorded a video will after making a traditional one. The shock and awe extends to conditioning Wolf and all the rest each inheriting roughly $1M on literally eating the deceased.

"The rest" are former flame/current Ted fiancee Judy and stereotypical wimpy TFB Dickie.

The concept and the look of "Feast" evoke strong thoughts of the highly similar '90s cult film "The Last Supper." That one has a group of intellectuals who share a home invite people whom they agree have no right to live to the titular meal for the purpose of killing them.

The "Feast" beneficiaries accept the terms of the will to varying degrees as they relive their past and consider their presents in both senses of that word. This, including unwarranted extreme cruelty to a "townie," shows that all of our gang fully stays true to type.

This leads to a wonderful perverse climax that includes a totally out-of-the-blue twist that proves that the rich are different. 

An element of this reflects the class divide. One million dollars is not chump change but is not enough to prompt many high-net-worth folks to seriously considering cannibalism, would likely prompt many middle-class people to consider expanding their diet, and would almost certainly prompt folks with McJobs who live paycheck-to-paycheck to ask where's the beefcake.

Indiepix supplements this with a clever main menu that labels the scene selection option "ala carte" and ironically title a fauxmmercial" "A Touch of Luxury."

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

'Ancient Aliens' S11 V2 DVD: Stargate: AA

UPS, rather than ET, is behind this post on the Lionsgate S11 V2 DVD of the History Channel series "Ancient Aliens" coming after a review of the S12 V1 DVD set; the first S11 V2 DVD set got lost in transit.

The primary concept of the "Ancient" documentary series is that brothers from other planets visited Earth during the dawns of numerous civilizations. More recent incidents, such as the Roswell crash, supplement the speculation as the events from the era of pyramids and cave drawings.

The S11 V2 set starts out strong with a "very special" 90-minute episode titled "Earth Station Egypt." Excitable manchild/"Ancient" co-executive producer/believer Giergio Tsoukalos avidly goes where very few modern men have gone before to share evidence that the Egyptian gods and pharaohs either are aliens or are the result of visitors from other planets who score while visiting here. This, along with theories regarding the building and the purpose of the pyramids. closely parallels the lore of the cult classic "Stargate" sci-fi television franchise.

Egypt even more closely channels "Stargate" in specifically arguing that the aliens from that era used wormholes (aka stargates) for their commute. 

S11 V2 E2 "Island of the Giants" (aka Sardinia) is a crossover; Marty Lagina of the (reviewed) History series "The Curse of Oak Island" takes a break from his years' long Canadian treasure hunt to join Tsoukalos for a European vacation. The common elements of their series extend beyond sharing a network; Emmy-winner Kevin Burns is an executive producer for both programs.

Tsoukalos and Lagina visit enormous tombs, discuss why no one has found the bones of behemoths, and otherwise offer proof as to Cyclopi once inhabiting the island for the benefits of the human inhabitants.

S11 V2 E6 "They Came From the Sky" focuses on terrestrials and extra-terrestrials using asteroids to transport tech. and organic manner. An aspect of this is terra-forming and the possibility that man evolves from Uncle Martin, rather than from Bonzo.

The next episode "The Artificial Human" more fully brings us back to "Stargate" themes. This study of artificial intelligence includes speculation as to the existence of self-replicating robots that are capable of duplicating at will. Speaking of Will, "Artificial" includes several clips of the current Netflix remake of the '60s sci-fi classic series "Lost in Space."

Things are taken further as to theorizing that humans are very life-like robots.

Other notable episodes in the S11 V2 set include one on alien abductions and one "Stargate" themed one that speculates as to the US and Russia colluding regarding preparing for first contact; that one looks like a job for the Space Force.

As the handful of posts on "Ancient" sets state, the credibility of this series includes the odds being against Earth being the only advanced planet in the universe. Believing that ancient structures and images are closely connected to aliens and that octipi are aquamen from another planet requires even more faith.
 

Friday, December 27, 2019

'Motel Mist' Neo-Modern Neil Simon 'Suite' Movie

Breaking Glass Pictures fully exhibits its love of perverse edge as to its DVD release of the twisted 2016 drama "Motel Mist." Although this tale of freaks and geeks at a "love motel" just outside Bangkok is adequate lurid, it being a variation of the Neil Simon "Love Boat" (complete with A and B List celebrities) '70s-era "Suite" films makes "Mist" that much more of a no-need-to-feel guilty pleasure. It also makes "Mist" more like BBC series "Hotel Babylon" than ABC '80s staple "Hotel." 

The following Breaking trailer for "Mist" highlights the atmospheric and kinky tone that makes it an entertaining walk on the wild side from the safety of your own home. 


Our rogue's gallery begins with typical outwardly respectable middle-aged Sopol, who maintains a lair at the titular hot-sheets Hilton; his current school girl who works in the oldest profession in the world is Laila. Their intercourse clearly shows that her pain provides his pleasure. 

This encounter taking an unexpected turn literally shows Sopol that karma is a bitch in a way that provides the audience particularly dark pleasure before the tables once again turn only to shift once more thanks to an even Stevens development. 

The partner-in-crime of Sopol is young hotel employee Tot, whose show business aspirations extend beyond his facilitating the real-life Bob Crane hobby of Sopol. Tot also is adequately unbalanced to fit right in with his guests. 

The fictional household name of the group is former child star Tul, whose personal path is textbook for former Disney Channel kidcom stars turned super freaks that you would never consider bringing home to mother. Tul is waiting for his alien friends to beam him up (and likely probe him). His adventures in coveted Room 5 include seeing a blue room and wanting to paint it black. This excitable boy going fully psycho near the end is a film highlight. 

Writer/director Prabda Yoon ends all this with an especially stylish sequence that shows that some dreams come true even for the not-so-pure at heart.

Breaking supplements this with a behind-the-scenes feature. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

'Ultraman Orb: Series and Movie' DVD & BD: Nipponese 'Captain Planet'/'Scooby-Doo'

Mill Creek Entertainment once again proves itself to be a fanboy god by separately releasing DVD and Blu-ray sets of "Ultraman GEED" and our current topic "Ultraman Orb" (2016) on November 19, 2019. These come on the heels of MCE October 2019 "Ultra" releases that are the topics of prior posts that can be found in the MCE section of this site.

Part of the genius of these "Ultra" series, which relates to the genius of their American cousins "Power Rangers" series, is that that they purposefully target actual 12 year-old boys and the inner 12 year-old boy in all of us. This consists of bright-and-bold action, truly hilarious broad comedy, and always bringing something new to the table while incorporating fresh elements. This is why this 50 year-old franchise (ala "Scooby-Doo") still is growing strong. 

Speaking of "Scooby," our central group of "meddling kids" investigate and report on X Files under the name "Something Search People." The game of three is easy as to this group in that one definitely would want to marry level-headed tomboy/den mother Cap, "mate" with adorable excitable boy Jetta, and snuff the brains/mad scientist of the operation Shin. 

Unbeknownst to the gang to varying degrees for varying periods, their buddy Gai is the titular main man this time; his old-school elements include relying on a power surge that last for three minutes to rise to the occasion and vanquish the evil alien monster that is the threat of the week. Suffice to to say that the source of his needed boosts are elemental.

Gleefully evil arch-nemesis Juggler contributes ample amounts of campy fun. Not having watched every "Orb" episode precludes stating whether Juggler ever actually steals candy from a baby.

"Orb" evokes thoughts of the Ted Turner ecotoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." The comparison begins with the elements of wind, fire, earth, and water separately being key aspects of the first several episodes. These begins with a variation of the films "Twister" and "The Wizard of Oz" as to the SSP crew getting caught up in a tornado in which they witness a battle between the monster behind that destructive force and a robot-like man whom they come to know as their superfriend. 

The "fire" episode is one of the most clever and dramatic. Ultraman temporarily saves the day as to a "second sun" that is massively speeding up climate change. This leads to his crashing to earth and convalescing with more than a little help from his friends. A cute and funny epilogue has Jetta getting worked up over a universal sin of a roommate only to quickly find that the culprit is honorable.

The "water" episode is a pure delight. The foul brother from another planet in this one is making water supplies incredibly malodorous. Jetta finds this out the hard way while taking a shower. Very family-friendly hi-jinks in a Japanese bath house provide additional charm.

The lore-establishing episodes lead to a delightful tale in which an alien lures a clueless Cap into a trap that is designed to capture her friend Kai. 

All of this culminates with the "Orb" movie that fulfills its duties to be even bigger and bolder than the series and to include an epic battle that results in an equally spectacular finale. An especially Scooby aspect this time is that much of the action centers around a mysterious mansion that provides the setting for a classic Scooby style chase through rooms and hallways.

That home plays a key role in an Earth-threatening plot by an evil alien sorceress, who essentially wants her precious. Juggler also plays a key and somewhat ambiguous role in the form of often doing the right thing while asserting that he is doing so for the wrong reason. 

Our other key player is an Ultraman who has a "Tron" like existence in that he is living in the most advanced Gameboy ever. He sets much of the above in motion by seeking out the SSP team because of their association with Gai. 

One of the most exciting scenes involves a revelation to which the boys have an infectious reaction.

The enthusiasm and skill with which the cast and crew produce these adventures make what could be cheesy effect and wooden acting a true delight that does the "Ultraverse" proud.​

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

'Sordid Lives' Blu-ray: Mama's Trailer Trash Family

A 'del'athon of posts on home-video releases of the films and performances of genuine wit Del Shores continues with the Mama of all his films; "Sordid Lives" (2000) is the one that makes Shores a household name in WeHo, SoHo, and many other Hos. The franchise includes the (reviewed) "A Very Sordid Wedding" and "Sordid Lives: The Series." 

An amazing surprise as to the blu-ray version of "Lives" is that the pristine video and audio and the depth of the images when watched in 4K greatly enhance the "live-stage" vibe of watching this film based on the play of the same name. 

This tale of a working-class family in a fly-over county aptly has 10 festival wins under its enormous silver belt buckle. These include the Best Feature honor at the 2000 Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, "best in show" honors for both Shores and the film at the 2000 Memphis International Film Festival, and "Best Feature" and Best Actor (Leslie Jordan) wins at the 2000 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.

The following SPOILER-LADEN aptly titled trailer for "Lives" shows how this film is a wonderfully raunchier and darker version of the southern-fried '80scom "Mama's Family (nee "The Family" on "The Carol Burnett Show.")



This sordid tale centers around Sissy Hickey (Beth Grant), who is forced into the overlapping roles of therapist and far-from-teenage diplomat in the wake (no pun intended) of the recent death of her sister Peggy under highly scandalous circumstances. Suffice it to say that the man who plays a role in that demise lacks a leg on which to stand as to escaping culpability.

Shores deftly orchestrates the inter-related (pun intended) action between four arenas of action before gathering at least most of the usual suspects for the climatic main event that is relatable to people of every socioeconomic group.

The abode of Sissy literally provides the "meanwhile" at the ranch element of this two days in the valley of the dolts. Even more epic hilarity ensues as her sibling Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Jordan) is enduring a decades' long unfortunate incarceration in a mental hospital. He is being treated for the twin "diseases" of being a homosexual and for a strong urge to go Full Minnie in impersonating Tammy Wynette and other first ladies of country music. 

The conversion therapy session between Brother Boy and "Mommie Dearest" style psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bollinger proves that Shores is the lover child of Tennessee Williams and John Waters. The battle of wills between doctor and patient is classic for reasons that extend well beyond an argument as to a failed masturbation experiment. 

Delta Burke of the classic southcom "Designing Women" steals the show as woman scorned Noleta Nethercott, who tracks down husband GW (Beau Bridges) at the local dive bar. Burke fully channels loose cannon Suzanne Sugarbaker in finding felonious inspiration from "Thelma and Louise." Although Bridges is well cast as a good ole boy forced to humiliating pay a litany of sins, armchair casting suggests that real-life Burke spouse Gerald "Major Dad" McRaney would have been a better choice. The appearances of McRaney on "Designing Women" show that he has wonderful on-screen chemistry with his equal half.

The final piece of the puzzle is the most autobiographical part for Shores. The death of his grandmother forces successful and dreamy gay  actor Ty Williamson (Kirk Geiger) to confront several conflicting emotions. He is happy and well-adjusted as to his life in Los Angeles but closeted and unhappy as to his relationship with the folks back home.

Most of the scenes with Ty occur during a session with a therapist who is much more compassionate and skilled than Dr. Eve (of destruction). Even many gay men who are coming-of-age in our overall more enlightened era of marriage equality and of being able to both ask and tell (not to mention show and tell) can relate to his family not fully embracing this adorable boy whom anyone would love to have live next door. 

All of this amounts to a film that, in addition to the similarities with "Family," can be thought of as a toned-down David Lynch movie about Mayberry. Shores provides needed warmth as to this nostalgia regarding a small town in which everyone knows each other, and whose own "quirks" allow finding amusement in the eccentricities of his or her fellow man and woman. 

The bigger picture is that Shores shows that excellent writing and a strong cast that fully embraces his or her role are important elements for a film that remains funny and does not look dated nearly 20 years after its release.