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Monday, April 23, 2018

Former 'SGU' Last Star Fighter/Current 'Concessionaires' Star/Aspiring Drunk Celebrity Gaming Series Producer David Blue Tells Most

This post on a recent  telephone conversation with David Blue, who arguably is best known as gamer-turned-Last Starfighter Eli Wallace in the scifi series "Stargate: SGU" honors the spirit of that show by timejumping to the end of our chat and then going back to the beginning.

Blue stating "thanks for making it fun" perfectly captures this talk with a guy who clearly loves what he does. A bonus was speaking to someone who does not look at you funny when you comment that Atlantis is located at the bottom of San Francisco Bay.

The largely successful challenge in having the attention of Blue for 45 minutes was not talking "Stargate" at the complete expense of his current projects that reflect his fanboy nature as strongly as his place in the lore of a solid scifi franchise. Blue starring as aptly named Scott (presumably neither Tiberius nor Thomas) Frakes in the (reviewed) Stan Lee produced cult comedy "The Concessionaires Must Die" got him to the table.

Twin passion project Drunken Gaming, which is running a Kickstarter campaign, centers around Blue and his way-cool on-and-off the screen buds getting wasted and playing a wide variety of games. The prospect of watching Blue kick the ass of Robert Carlyle at Fortnite while both are one Jager Bomb away from hurling on their consoles should provide enough incentive to help make it so.

A desire to give "Concessionaires" the deserved focus is behind holding off sharing the scifilicious portion of the interview for a post of the "Gaming" effort. A tantalizing tidbit is that Blue is bi in that he loves both "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" but considers "Trek" his biggest fandom. His statement "I think everyone wants to be Wesley [Crusher]" also is a topic for another time. (A personal assessment is that young Mr. Crusher is the Jar Jar Binks of "TNG.")

Learning that Blue makes friends with co-stars and maintains relationships with them long after shooting ends reinforces that he is a nice guy. Hearing that he was up for the lead in the CW series "The Flash" but strongly praises the Grant Gustin portrayal of that titular Speedster proves that Blue is very gracious.

A Fool for Shakespeare

The time-shifting nature of this article continues with discussing the most recent film of Blue before delving into "Concessionaires." This man of a 1,000 facets gets top billing in "Lear's Shadow," which is a modern take on a classic Shakespeare drama.

Sharing that I was the Cordelia absent the vampire slaying in my family prompted asking Blue about his status regarding his two siblings in his clan. He first stated he probably also was Cordelia (complete with vampire slaying?) but indicated that he identified mostly with the highly loyal Earl of Kent.

Blue stated as well that "Shadow" premiered at the 2018 Pasadena International Film Festival where is was greatly honored with numerous nominations that included on for Blue. The film currently is seeking a distributor.

Making 'Concessionaires'

Knowing the backstory of Frakes helps understand the dream casting regarding having Blue play that role. This 30-ish Peter Pan/ultimate fanboy is a roughly 15-year veteran popcorn jockey at an independent single-screen movie theater where he fully embraces the fare of his employer and the camaraderie of his co-workers. However, reuniting with a classmate who is living an adult life coinciding with the imminent sale of the theater to a Megaplex corporation prompts introspection.

Particular obsessions of Scott are the actual "Last Starfighter," who is a titular '80s video game wizard whose skills get him involved an actual outer-space war, and the theory that fussy Hawaiian estate overseer Higgins really is estate owner Robin Masters on the classic '80s detective show "Magnun, P.I." The "Starfighter" connection particularly warranted comment.

Blue responded "I always say that there is a certain percentage of yourself in a character." With respect to the casting choice, the witty comment regarding director America Young was "God Bless America for letting me know about the film." A related "Stargate" note was that former Moonlight" co-star and current friend Claudia Black, who is well-known for her role as a former thief and current do-gooder on Stargate: SG1" praising the "Stargate" production team was a factor regarding Blue pursuing his "SGU" role.

Partial personal synergy existed regarding "Concessionaires." The aforementioned review of that film compared it to both the '90s musical-comedy film "Empire Records" and to the '80s CBS failedcom "The Popcorn Kid." That sadly maligned series focused on high-school kids working at a theater very much like the one in "Concessionaires." The "Kid" lead easily could be "Concessionaires" projectionist/Yoda Jon (who essentially dies at the end) in his early days.

Blue responded that he promoted "Concessionaires" as "'Empire Records' in a movie theater" during the making of his film and shared that he still has the "Empire" soundtrack.  His more general comment was that he described "Concessionaires" as "a fun movie for nerds by nerds."

He expressed surprise that he did not know about "Kid" and added that he believed that "everything that I see is from the '80s." We can talk after he has watched "Danny and the Mermaid."

Location Location Location

Blue shared that much of the filming occurred on location at the Warnor Theater in Fresno, which surpisingly did not host a premiere. He also commented on the bonding element of filming on location and noted that "with 'Concessionaires,' we had a good group and had fun on and off the set." The outtakes that run during the closing credits reinforce that assertion of chemistry among the cast and the crew."

Marvel-ous Producer

The aforementioned love extends to executive producer Stan Lee, whose screen presence awesomely extends beyond a cameo. One feels for Blue, who understandably desired more facetime with Lee, regarding that pop culture god playing his one scene with a younger version of Scott. That performance fully reflected the dual loves of Lee for family and for comics.

Commenting that Lee was 95 and that his "Concessionaires" performance likely being the last one that he filmed provided a perfect end to this career prompted an awesomely unpredictable response from Blue. This fanboy speculated that Lee would live to be 300 and that we would learn that he was an alien. One can only hope.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

'Nicholas on Holiday' DVD: Delightful Diary of a Gallic Kid

The Icarus Films March 27, 2018 DVD release of the charming 2014 French family comedy "Nicholas on Holiday" provides equally strong (and entertaining) reminders that spring is on the way and that the blessings and the curses of family summer vacations are universal. The bigger picture is that "Nicholas" joins the ranks of films such as "Dirty Dancing" that provide a look at resorts that cater to long-term stays by families. One difference is that nobody tries to put Nicky in a corner.

"Nicholas" opens with the titular pre-adolescent narrator about to be sprung from his Parisian elementary school for the summer. He learns early in this vacation that his family is going to break with their tradition of going to the mountains and are headed to the sea for a few weeks. Part of the cuteness relates to this trip requiring a separation from the figurative girl-next-door.

Copious amounts of the kid-friendly humor relates to "Granny" being an Endora-level thorn in the side of her son-in-law.  One of the best scenes regarding this comes early in the film. "Mere" makes the argument regarding taking her mother on the trip that making an elderly person spend the summer in Paris is cruel; "Pere" responds that he is glad to take an old person with them, just not Granny. Mere winning by having Granny come along is predictable to anyone familiar with the relevant dynamics in the reel and real worlds.

More hilarity ensues when great frustration regarding a traffic jam en route to the resort prompts Pere to take an ultimately ill-advised shortcut. Incurring the wrath of the masses regarding his detour is only part of his problem.

On arriving, Nicholas joins a group of stock character young boys. These include the annoying know-it-all, the almost albino nerd, the kid who will eat anything, and the younger kid who is a cry baby.

The primary complication comes in the form of weird girl Isabelle. The threat of a pre-teen romance prompts Nicholas and his posse to implement several plans to deter her. The most amusing of these include a comically botched effort to present a bad boy image and a separate act of sabotage that is designed to send the girl and her clan packing.

For her part, Mere gets a taste of stardom that causes Pere great distress. This also requires balancing pursuing literal fame and fortune with being a housewife.

For his part, Pere hysterically obsesses about his relationship with his boss. This leads to sitcom staple of writing a letter in haste and repenting at leisure. The manner in which Pere resolves this is another highlight of "Nicholas."

One common element of all this is that Nicholas is an everykid whose efforts to influence anything that effects him epically fail. This, in turn, leads to a textbook example of something being tragic when it happens to us and hilarious when it befalls someone else.

In the end, our family returns to their everyday life. Like all real and reel tales such as theirs, the titular vacation influences some aspects of this but mostly is a fond memory.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

'Last Seen in Idaho' DVD: To Live and Die in Hooterville

The Breaking Glass Pictures April 24, 2018 DVD release of the 2018 scifi-action-adventure crime thriller "Last Seen in Idaho" provides more proof of the appeal of low-budget indie flicks and that genres can peacefully co-exist. One aspect of both is an interview with an actor n a 30-minute "making-of" DVD special feature. He expresses glee regarding the "threefer" aspect of his character.

The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Idaho" nicely summarizes the concept of the film in a spoiler-light manner. It also highlights the suspense and the action of the film.

"Idaho" centers around 30-ish innocent with a past Summer (writer-producer Hallie Shepherd). Her fresh start centers around her job at am auto-repair shop in a rural community near the border of Washington State and the titular state. Witnessing nefarious after-hours activity throws a monkey wrench in this effort to become a respectable citizen. This involving her past returning to haunt her is the icing on the cake.

The malfeasors discovering that they are not alone prompts a hot pursuit that causes a fiery crash that puts girlfriend in a coma. Her awakening includes discovering that she now is the girl with something extra in that she has flashes regarding future peril to her.

The recovery period involves Summer trying to stay alive in the present, to make sense of the events on "the night of," and to put right what seems destined to go wrong. Her entering an apparently destined relationship with newly met Franco perhaps being a case of sleeping with the enemy contributes further drama. Ambiguity regarding whether this wise guy is a made man or is living a made-up existence enhances the mystery of "Idaho."

All of this culminates with a hostage exchange that leads to a rural equivalent of a drawing-room climax in a British murder mystery. This, in turn, leads to mayhem (complete with rolls in the hay) that would make Quentin Tarantino proud if the budget for blood capsules was larger.

Additional fun comes from casting Casper Van Dien of "Starship Troopers" as the unfriendly heavy. The other bonus comes courtesy of a small-town mayor who is an uncivil servant.

The bonus features that accompany the aforementioned "making-of" documentary include another behind-the-scenes short and a blooper reel.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

'Z-O-M-B-I-E-S' DVD: Delightful Disney Channel Take on Brown v. Board of Education

The Disney April 24, 2018 DVD release of the February 2018 Disney Channel movie "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" is a terrific reminder that the Mouse Factory still makes 'em like that. (This also coincides with your not-so-humble reviewer getting a stack of titles ranging from "The Sword in the Stone" to "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2" through a new membership in the Disney Movie Club; yes, this bounty includes both Disney Channel "Descendants" films.)

Disney Channel fare presenting an idealized version of even lower-income teen life and sometimes being a little heavy-handed regarding "very special episodes" does not diminish the fun of watching enthusiastic young actors perform their hearts out before evolving to a stage that they are very naughty to prove that they are all grown up.

The final diversion into Blogland is that Disney Channel tweencoms are the fare of choice while making Sunday brunch and during (reviewed) stays at the incredible Wentworth by the Sea Hotel. At the same time, the overall concept of "Liv and Maddie" still evades your not-so-humble reviewer; they just seem to be high schoolers going about their daily business without any "hook."

The aforementioned elan is very apparent in the audition footage of Milo Manheim, who plays lead zombie Zed. This segment is one of the scads o' DVD extras and shows Manheim bounding around the room like a puppy on coke as he delivers the expository narration that opens "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S." He is the boy that anyone would love to have live next door.

The scene-stealing/thin white dude/sidekick this time is Bonzo. This excitable boy staying true to his heritage includes refusing to speak the language of his oppressors. Zombie/hacker Eliza more strongly advocates actively fighting for equality.

The aforemtionted narration explains that a freak accident at a nuclear power plant in the community of Seabrook, which is a real New Hampshire city with a nuke facility, releases a cloud of toxic gas that creates the titular brain-craving walking dead. The better news is that scientific advancements in the 50 years since that incident have led to the zombies and their offspring having relatively normal lives thanks to wrist bands that suppress their feral nature.

The segregation at the beginning of "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" extends to a literal wall dividing the uberDisneyfied pristine world of the "normals" and shabby chic Zombietown. The catalyst for the film is a decision to have the zombie teens attend Seabrook High with the kids whose natural food cravings are less cerebral than their new classmates.

The Juliet to the zombie Romeo is perky unnaturally blonde freshman Addison, whose greatest desire is to join megaperky queen bee head cheerleader/cousin Bucky on the championship Seabrook High cheer squad. The audience quickly learns of her "flaw" that we also know will lead to a dramatic coming out near the end of the film.

Our "Maria" threatening to inflict a "low kick" to our "Tony" during their introduction to each other indicates that Disney acknowledges that we are in the 21st century.

The highly segregated integration of the teens from both sides of the wall initially prevents Zed from pursuing his dream of playing football. This changes when his demonstrating his mad gridiron skills earns him a spot on the team. The kicker (pun intended) is that being a star jock requires unleashing the inner beast.

All this leads to a more peaceful co-existence at Seabrook High until the inevitable reminder that the dark side of the neutered team mascot is near the surface. This, of course, leads to Addison standing by her man. He, in turn, proves his willingness to take one for the team.

A related message in all this is that evil comes in all shapes and forms.

The aforementioned gaggle of bonus features are all must see; they include hilarious outtakes, deleted scenes, additional audition footage, a music video, and a separate sing-along version of said video.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Z-O-M-B-I-E-S" is strongly encouraged to email me; you alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

'The Concessionaires Must Die!" VOD: Stan Lee Fanboy Film Is 'Empire Records' Meets 'The Popcorn Kid'

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A post on an Unreal TV interview with "Concessionaires" star David Blue will run the week of April 23, 2017.]

The April 17, 2018  Dauntless Studios VOD premiere (ahead of a DVD release) of the 2017 Stan Lee produced comedy "The Concessionaires Must Die!" shows the love of Lee for all things comic and pop culture a week ahead of a similar film with which he is associated. One difference is that this one relies more on story than on stunt casting.

The biggest homage to all things retro in "Concessionaires" is that this direct-to-VOD movie evokes strong memories of the direct-to-VHS and made-for-cable movies of the '80s. Our film is like the not-so-rare find from these venues that tells a fun story, benefits from a likable cast with good comic chops, and has good production values.

The following YouTube clip of the official trailer highlights the indie, pop culture, Millennial vibe that represents the best of fare that bypasses the multiplex.

The overall theme (ala the '90s musical-comedy "Empire Records") is of the small businessperson v. the "suits." One aspect is that this time it is really personal in a manner that is relatable to the people on both sides of comparble disputes. A very cool element is that the young cast being a closely bonded group at a dying historic single-screen movie theater is reminiscent of the unfairly maligned '80s CBS Monday Night failedcom "The Popcorn Kid."

A slimmed-down David "Eli" Blue ("Stargate SGU") stars as veteran snack bar jockey Scott Frakes. The theater is the site of his coming-of-age and projectionist Jon Dorn is a surrogate big brother if not father. The other significant relationship in the life of Scott was with his grandfather (Lee), who infected him with his love of comics and provided the legacy of a collection of highly sought-after editions.

Scott additionally is obsessed with all things pop culture to the extent of annoying one and all by repeatedly sharing a theory regarding "Magnum, P.I." A "Psych" vibe comes in via co-worker/best friend/sidekick RJ being a black guy with a shaved head and a geeky anxious nature.

The rest of the crew includes former child star/current drug addict Ashley and theater owner/cool boss Gabby. She inherits the theater and wants to honor the independent spirit of her father but also is tired of the struggles related to running that dying business.

Self-proclaimed nemesis of Scott/token bad guy Derek is leading the effort to purchase the theater while also trying to fully frakes up the life of Scott. The reveal regarding the offense that triggers that hatred reflects the incidents in our lives in which someone inadvertently seriously wrongs another to the extent of prompting a long-term grudge that remains a mystery to the offender.

Much of the ensuing wackiness relates to the antics of our 20-somethings and the malfeasance of the customers. We get the nerds who violate the no costume rule, the couple who cannot keep their hands or their lips off each other, and the tweens who repeatedly attempt to sneak into the theater. The manner in which the projectionist handles the kids is one of the best scenes and makes a case for naming "Concessionaires" "Jon Dies at the End."

Another good scene is a flashback between Lee and a young teen version of Scott. Lee seems to really be playing himself, and it is nice to see such a supportive parental figure play it straight in a comedy.

Much of the last half of the film centers around Scott taking steps to evolve as a person and to determine what really is important in his life. This involves making a large sacrifice that he does not consider as big of a deal as his friends and co-workers.

The final confrontation is nicely understated and includes a good twist. It further is nice to see a relatively believable happy ending. Even more joy comes regarding the hilarious outtakes that indicate that the cast is friends in reel and real life.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

'Hotel Berlin' DVD: Story of Germans Scrambling During Final Days of WWII Effectively 'Grand Hotel II'

The Warner Archive March 6, 2018 DVD release of the 1945 drama "Hotel Berlin" offers fascinating character studies of a broad range of Germans as their city literally crumbles around them. The bigger picture is that this film is a quality example of movies, such as the "Suite" movies of Neil Simon and the 1932 Berlin-set classic "Grand Hotel," that tell the (oft-connecting) stories of folks staying at grand and not-so-luxurious lodging establishments.

One reason that "Berlin" and "Grand" seem so similar is that they both are based on novels by the same author.

The blessing and the curse of "Berlin" is that this excellent drama lacks most of the anticipated camp associated with many movies that tell the tales of the Nazis. The only straying into over-dramatic territory is an official telling a woman that he has unpleasant ways of making her talk.

The compelling aspect of "Berlin" is that the depth that it adds to the stock characters makes the film compelling. We get a strong sense of who these people are behind their public faces, the reasons for their life choices, and how they respond when the chips are down. Strong elements of this are the survival instinct and the ambiguity regarding the actual team of many characters.

The central character is enemy of the state Dr. Martin Richter, who initially is cleverly hiding in the hotel before being flushed out into the main areas of the building. All of this occurs in the wake of his escaping after being a guest of the Fuhrer under horrific conditions. His allies include his former colleague Dr. Johannes Koenig (Peter Lorre), who is playing his own dangerous game.

Hotel "hostess" Tillie Weiller (Faye Emerson) is the most interesting character, who seems to be the one with the most connections to the rest of the ensemble. She is on hand to entertain the brass and only asks for things such as a pair of shoes (and presumably chocolates and nylons) in return for her bestowed favors. Her origin story that the second half of the film reveals provides some of the strongest surprises.

The other woman in the story is stage actress Lisa Dorn, who is under scrutiny because of her relationship with a general who participates in a Fuhrercide attempt. For his part, this man faces the choices of making a run for the border or facing an effectively back alley death. Both options are contrary to the court martial proceeding to which he asserts that he is entitled.

The paths of Dorn and Richter crossing creates much of the aforementioned ambiguity. The assistance that she provides him reflects several possible motives; the same is true regarding her apparent betrayal. The obvious message here is that desperate times can call for desperate measures that include sleeping with the enemy.

The bigger picture is that "Berlin" puts a human face on the enemy. The Nazis are responsible for some of the worst events in history and those who support them have culpability. However, the film reminds us that not every bad act stems from an evil intent.

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

'Alexander Hamilton' DVD: Period Piece Focused on First Treasury Secretary Is Not All About the Benjamins

The Warner Archive April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1931 period-piece drama "Alexander Hamilton" is at least the second recent addition to the Archive catalog that coincides with new takes on classic stories. The reviewed "The  Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection" roughly parallels with a new Drew series that should see the light of day no later than September.

To borrow (and paraphrase) a quote from the first "Lethal Weapon" film, personal satisfaction comes from Archive sharing that "Hamilton" star George Arliss brings the story of the first Treasury Secretary to life before the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda was an itch in the pants of his grandfather. In other words, creators of good works often get undue credit for being innovative.

Archive indicates as well that the film stays true to the production of Arliss and co-playwright Mary Hamlin.

"Hamilton" opens with the famous speech in which reluctant future president George Washington bids his troops farewell. This speech writing a check that the states (nee colonies) may be unwilling to cash is a primary catalyst for the rest of the film.

The action soon fast forwards several years and finds Washington ensconced in a non-oval office and Hamilton being an 18th century version of a telecommuter in his role managing the public fisc. The issues of the day include a debate that ultimately results in draining a swamp to build the permanent national capitol.

Hamilton is more preoccupied with getting Senator Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues to support a bill that requires divvying up the expense of making good on the promise in the speech by Washington. Reasonable arguments include that one state should not have to shell out dough to the soldiers of other states and that the federal government generally should not be too heavy-handed in running things.

Two events in the life of Hamilton come to have significant impact on his influence regarding this effort to spread the financial burden. Fired Treasury worker James Reynolds may have the distinction of being the first federal employee to be called out for being lazy and for putting his hand in the cookie jar.

The second development is that Hamilton spouse Betsy (Doris Kenyon) takes an extended trip to England. This departure literally and figuratively opens the door for allegedly estranged Reynolds spouse Mariah (a.k.a. Black Mariah) to arrive at Chez Hamilton late at night with a sob story and an extended hand.

Ambiguity exists regarding whether Mariah is in cahoots with James and the degree of the benefit that Alexander derives from giving her money. It is known that the presumable act of charity repeatedly comes back to bite this cabinet member in the drawers.

The threat of inquiring minds getting to know what is occurring behind the closed door of this public servant requires that Betsy, Jefferson, and the folks who determine whether the duty to pay the Revolutionary soldiers will cross state lines determine the extent to which they will stand by their man.

The cynical messages behind this are that the truly public minded often pay unduly high prices for their noble deeds and that even men (and women) of integrity have their prices.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

'The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection' DVD: Ersatz Judy and Mickey Solve Mysteries

Purveyor of Golden and Silver Age classics Warner Archive is particularly timely regarding the March 14, 2018 2-disc DVD release "The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection." This bringing these films from 1938 and 1939 back to life coincides with a new "Drew" series that likely will come to life either on NBC or Netflix.

Of course, future "Dynasty" star Pamela Sue Martin of the '70s "Drew" series always will be the only girl detective of that name for Gen Xers. Those of us who remain young-at-heart and the Millennials who follow us consider Veronica Mars of the CW series of that name the modern  equivalent of Nancy Drew.

The recent (review pending) Archive DVD release of the 1931 (non-musical) drama "Alexander Hamilton" is equally timely for obvious reasons. This one glosses over the humble beginnings of out first Secretary of the Treasury but provides insight regarding his scandal and related battle to get the states (nee colonies) to pay what he considers their fair share of the money promised the soldiers who fought in the Revolution.

One bit of trivia regarding the "Drew" novels is that "author" Carolyn Keene is the pen name of a handful of writers. There is conflicting evidence regarding one of those scribes also writing the companion "Hardy Boys" novels under the name Franklin W. Dixon.

The "Drew" movies can be considered a mix between the "Thin Man" series and Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films. The titular roughly 16 year-old girl (Bonita Granville) is the adored daughter of respected attorney Carson Drew. Her sidekick is adorkable and clumsy literal bot-next-door Ted Nickerson (Frankie Thomas), whom Drew hilariously manipulates and/or dupes into doing her bidding even when it leads to him donning drag or drop trou.

Nancy demanding "push harder Ted" in on one of the four films provides modern audiences a glimpse of the adult life of this current sidekick/future husband with a special male friend on the side.

"Nancy Drew: Detective" begins with our American sweetheart and her fellow students at her private high school celebrating a dowager announcing that she is giving that institution of learning a princely sum. The game is afoot when the lady vanishes.

Of course, Drew (and her personal Ron Stoppable) outsmarts her father and the po po regarding tracking down the bad guys. This film also establishes the pattern of one bad guy who is involved in the underlying conspiracy catching Nancy and Ted in the act of obtaining the figurative smoking gun; this leads to said malfeasor effectively putting the meddling kids on ice until he can permanently silence them.

Being trapped leads to Nancy, Ted, or a combination of the two devising a clever successful escape that typically has them see the light of day just as the Calvary arrives. This often involves a Wa Wa moment that involves humiliating Ted, who is appropriately dressed to nurse a grudge at the end of "Detective."

"Nancy Drew: Reporter" is up next. This one starts with out plucky teen competing to win a prize for writing the best story for the local newspaper. This leads to her trying to prove the innocence of a woman who is accused of killing her surrogate mother in order to collect an inheritance.

This one has surprising violence and peril for a B movie intended for younger audiences. The other distinguishing factor is that the obnoxious kid sister of Ted and her own boy sidekick torment our heroes throughout the film.

"Nancy Drew: Troubleshooter" has Drew father and daughter travelling to the country to help clear an old friend of Carson of a murder charge. This one deserves special credit for involving a clever plot point regarding a variation of the deceased pushing up daisies. "Troubleshooter" additionally expends extra expense and effort regarding the effects in the extended (but nor boring) escape sequence.

Things return to normal in every sense to wrap up things with "Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase," which is a well-known title of a Drew novel. This one has shades of "Detective" in that it involves a plot to prevent a pair of elderly sisters from fulfilling a charitable intent regarding which Nancy has a horse in the race.

The title of "Staircase" facilitates discovering how someone seemingly is coming and going from the home of the aforementioned intended donors.

No mystery exists regarding the appeal of these films; they have the aforementioned fun of the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films with the bonus of centering around a beloved literary character. One solved puzzle is that boys of all ages can enjoy these movies as much as the targeted audience of tween girls.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

'Romeu & Romeu' P2 DVD: Conclusion of Shakespeare-style Story of Star-Crossed Brazilian Boys

The Dekkoo Films January 21, 2018 DVD release of Part 2 of the gay-themed web series "Romeu & Romeu" wraps up the Shakespeare-style saga of two post-adolescent Brazilian boys in love. The Unreal TV review of "Romeu" P1 discusses how these boys from battling families meet and come to make the beast with two backs.

The primary appeal of this saga is seeing nice and cute guys overcome internal and external obstacles to starting and maintaining a gay relationship even in this era of "don't ask don't tell" and marriage equality.

The "Romeo and Juliet" element contributes additional entertainment. Even parents who accept that their son is gay often have trouble having the object of his affection sitting at the family table. Throwing in that boy being from a family that is a hated enemy contributes additional drama.

Part 2 begins our young lovers officially being a couple; things are easier for early Parkinsons patient Romulo, who already is out and has a mother who laments a relationship with a handsome young (but not Jewish) doctor not working out. This PFLAG poster child additionally is cool with her offspring sharing a bed with the member of a family with whom her clan has a long-standing feud.

Aspiring actor Ramon has a much rougher time of it; he already knows that his father is homophobic before coming out. The relationship with a member of a despised family adds further fuel to the fire.

The bloodshed that the P1 review predicts comes early in P2. A battle that is pure Montagues and Capulets (or Jets and Sharks) leaves Romulo sibling Thales badly injured and Ramon brother Samuel hurt even worse.

Our young lovers then flee to the sanctuary of the loving and supportive home of Ramon's gay uncle in Sao Paulo. Seeing our boys being adorable and happy is very nice.

Reality fairly literally crashing in on the bliss of the lads sets up the drama for the second half of the season; it further proves the adage about people who do not grow up in a loving and accepting family ultimately finding one that provides that support.

The melodrama that amps up in roughly the final third of "Romeu" makes it seem that series creators Arthur Chermont and Faell Vasconcelos are going to end their program on a note that is at least partially true to the source material. This commences with a distraught and missing Ramon absconding with high-grade pharmaceutical drugs after a traumatic confrontation with his father.

This leads to our potentially tragic figure fleeing to a site of great significance both to "Romeu" and the general lore of fiction. The fact that there is a clever surprise is fine; having the film resort to an ending that is straight (sorry boys) out of a Logo movie is mildly bothersome.

The better news is that we live in an era in which Dekko (and TLA Releasing) fare is readily available and generally accepted. This reflects our more enlightened times and provides teen and young 20s guys who are coming to terms with wanting to come out a good resource. Unfortunately society is not at the the point that most high school boys can comfortably sit down with Dad to discuss liking other guys, let alone sharing impure feelings about the boy next door.

Another sad truth is that boys who love boys often do not end up with "the one." The lucky minority who do very rarely get celebrated in the manner that lesser films employ. It is admitted that a grand show of love and support is more theatrical than a scene of two guys unpacking in their new apartment.

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

'Romeu & Romeu' P1 DVD: Star-Crossed Brazilian Gay Lovers

Gay-themed streaming service Dekko Films awesomely fully brings Shakespeare into the 21st century with the addictive Brazilian soap "Romeu & Romeu." The November 21, 2017 S1 DVD is the topic du jour; a review of the January 21, 2018 S2 DVD follows soon.

The modern touches extend beyond the star-crossed lovers of Verona, Brazil being two 20-something guys from families that have battled since a 1950 gay romance between young men from each family prompted murder and other mayhem. The Greek chorus consists of fierce drag queens, and the confidante of the boys is a highly outspoken maid.

The following YouTube clip of the "Romeu" trailer provides an entertaining primer on the series.

Romulo Campelo overall is an ordinary 20-something guy with the exception of being an early victim of a form of a Parkinson's Disease. Other drama relates to his intrusive mother Valeria aggressively trying to get him to reunite with handsome young (but not Jewish) doctor Patrick whom he used to date and who still has feelings for him.

On the other side of the equation is Ramon Monteiro; the challenges of this closeted gay boy extend beyond having a highly homophobic father to desiring an acting career despite his father having no regard for that profession.

Our boys meet when Ramon crashes a masquerade party for the birthday of Veleria. This also sets the stage for Patrick to connect with Maurcio from Team Monteiro. Ramon ex-girlfriend Luana hooking up with Romulo brother Thales is not the end of the crossing of lines among the post-adolescents around whom this series centers.

More drama centers around the conflicting views of our main boys regarding homosexuality than does around the probability of actual bloodshed if their families learn about their youngest generation sleeping with the enemy.

A scene in a late S1 episode has two of our secret lovers run into each other under highly compromising circumstances.

The theme to which many young (and not-so-young) gay men can relate is that not every boy who likes other boys is ready to let the whole world know about that aspect of his life. The broader theme in both "Romeu" and the real world is the range in significance of a man having sex with another man and whether both guys have the same feelings regarding that activity.

Mostly straight boys who only hook up with other guys are at one end of the spectrum; the next general level consists of men who feel an urge to act on an attraction to a specific man; this leads to a gay man who only desires sex with men but acts more out of lust than love; this leads to a gay man for whom sex with another man is an expression of love.

All of this shows that not much has changed since the debut of "Romeo" at the Globe Theater.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Apprentice' DVD: Son of Convicted Murderer Leans Ropes of Executing Prisoners

This belated review of the Film Movement May 2017 DVD release of the 2016 Asian drama "Apprentice" is more timely than it seems. This DVD is part of a December 2017 Movement three-film release to promote the fantastic Film of the Month Club of that distributor of international indie flicks. The other two DVDs are the particularly good (reviewed) "Bad Lucky Goat" and SPECTACULAR (also reviewed) "Glory."

The following YouTube clip of the official U.S. trailer for "Apprentice" highlights the drama and the character study elements of the film.

The titular trainee is 20-something prison guard Aiman. His starts the film guarding prisoners in a prison workshop. A chance encounter with resident executioner Rahim leads to Aiman beginning the titular trainee program.

The home life of Aiman consists of a stressful co-habitation with his sister Suhaila; we soon learn that Aiman cannot even go to the bathroom in peace. For her part, Suhaila has a serious boyfriend with strong ties to Australia.

The other piece of the equation is that the father of the siblings is a convicted murderer who still casts a shadow over them roughly 20 years after his execution.

The portion of "Apprentice" that focuses on Aiman helping prepare for the execution of a prisoner has several fascinating aspects. The most general element is providing both insight into this procedure and putting a human face on everyone involved. The more specific part of this is Aiman trying to learn more about the experience of his father leading up to his execution and related to the actual hanging.

This character study of this young man takes a dramatic turn when the past threatens to completely destroy his future. Although the resolution of this is not unduly surprising, it comes about in a very tense manner.

Although the story of Aiman alone provides good fodder for a film, the ambiguity that runs throughout "Apprentice" is what makes it Film Movement worthy. Examples include not knowing much about the dynamic between Aiman and Suhaila and also not being sure about every reason that Aiman wants to learn about conducting an execution.

As always is the case regarding Club selections, Movement pairs "Apprentice" with a well-matched short film. "The Casuarina Cove" is a serious-toned mockumentary that is based on actual events. The central character is a former military officer who is making a documentary about his experience (including the impact of his relationships with the father and his grandmother) being arrested after connecting with a man in a well-known gay cruising area. The impact of this incident includes media coverage of it.

Both films are prime examples of all fictional Movement offerings in that they easily can be remade word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the United States and still make perfect sense. These offerings having a live-stage vibe is another Movement trademark.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

'For the Love of Benji' BD+DVD+Digital: Shaggy Dog Rick Steeves Does Athens

Mill Creek Entertainment does fans of '70s superdog star Benji a pawtastic solid in releasing the 1977 family film "For the Love of Benji" less than two months after the February 13, 2018 (reviewed) release of the 1974 film "Benji." Both releases looking great and coming out in DVD and Blu-ray with a code for a digital download eliminates any excuse for not buying both.

The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN "Love" trailer provides a good sense of the themes and the setting of the film.

Stating much about the underlying concept of "Love"also risks spoiling "Benji," which centers around the efforts of the titular lovable mutt to reunite kidnapped children with their father, "Love" opens with Benji being temporarily Shanghaied from a luggage conveyor belt on his way to board an Athens-bound plane.

The mission that this agent is not provided the option of refusing is to smuggle information to Crete. The ensuing mayhem commences on his missing his connection in Athens.

Benji making a break for it at the Athens airport sets the stage for the primary theme of "Love." Roughly 75-percent of this film that looks and sounds great in Blu-ray consists of Benji traveling the sites of Athens (including the Parthenon) in this modified "Lassie Come Home." The charm of the star and the beauty of the setting keep things interesting despite the relatively limited dialog and involvement of two-legged characters.

The good guys, the bad guys, and the guys with ambiguous intentions regarding Benji engaging in various degrees of pursuit break up our hero seeing the sites and making friends with a dog who hangs out at the Parthenon. This interaction shows that Benji is good boy and that he understands how to make friends and influence canines.

All of this leads to particularly exciting final 15 minutes. Both Benji and those near-and-dear to him are endangered. This sets the stage for this television and film star to once again save the day. This in turn leads to an expository epilogue that involves the happy ending that both family films and Hollywood require in the '70s.

Mill Creek also does Benji just as proud regarding the bonus features on "Love" as it does regarding the release of his first film. The earlier film includes two Benj television specials; "Love" has one special and the (sadly sans Benji) feature film "The Double McGuffin" by "Benji" and "Love" writer/director Joe Camp.

The wonderfully bizarre 1981 ABC special "Benji Takes a at Marineland" has marionettes that resemble the Krofft puppets of the era narrate the buildup to Benji preparing to be the first SCUBA-diving dog. The setting for this historic feat is Marineland in Florida.

The era-apt kookiness of this includes a puppet named Boris Todeath plotting to thwart the effort of Benji to make history. The nefarious scheme involves Boris stealing the specially-designed gear so that he can be the first to take this particular plunge.

This plethora of Benji is a great treat and shows that the purpose of a dog always has been and always will be to set a good example for us allegedly superior beings.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

'Lucan' CS DVD: I Was a Post-Adolescent Wolf Boy The Series

Warner Archive gladdens the hearts of fanboys everywhere with the April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1977-78 ABC action-adventure anthology series "Lucan." More personal satisfaction comes regarding this set (as well as the reviewed recent Archive release of  S1 of "The  Mask" animated series) coming out in the wake of "Lucan" (and "Mask") apparently no longer being available on a streaming service.

Unreal TV always is pro DVD and generally is con streaming. Only having time to watch four streaming episodes of "Lucan" (and none of "Mask"), but now getting to pull DVDs of both series off the shelf anytime supports the philosophy of this site. The bonus is that DVDs are especially helpful regarding series such as "Lucan" that have limited (if any) life as syndicated reruns.

"Lucan," which stars hunky teen idol Kevin Brophy, represents the most fun aspects of mid-70s and early '80s television.

At the outset, a 20 year-old stud being a former wolf boy let loose in the "civilized" world after a decade of being taught how to act human is a prime example of the wonderfully outlandish bases for some action-adventure series of the era. Other examples are "Manimal," which centers around an amateur sleuth who can transform into any feral or domestic beast at will, and the young mutants of "The Misfits of Science."

Other '70slicious fun regarding this anthology series is that our titular hero aptly is a lone wolf who helps innocents whom he encounters on his series-long quest. In this case, the objective is to locate his parents so they might somehow form a family and he can learn how he comes to be the leader of the pack on going into the woods. This warrants comparisons to "The Incredible Hulk" and the "Starman" series of that era. Of course, all these follow '60s classic "The Fugitive."

"The Fugitive" vibe is especially strong in the second half of the "Lucan" run (no pun intended). A false accusation of a crime as a pretense gets our dogged hero on the scent of a two-armed man who can prove his innocence.

Vague memories from a tender age are that "Lucan" lacked a fighting chance to establish itself because it ran in the 8:00 p.m. Monday night time against a solid CBS comedy lineup and "Little House on the Prairie" on NBC. The folks at ABC further don't show "Lucan" no respect in airing the pilot as a TV movie in May 1977, airing the season premiere in September 1977, and airing the next episode the day after Christmas 1977 in this even pre-household VCR era.

The scheduling of "Lucan" also reflects that it is ahead of its time. Even five years later, either a basic cable network or a first-run syndication company almost certainly would have provided this series a home after ABC dropping it.

The pilot achieves a good balance between exposition and action by opening with researcher/father figure Dr. Don Hoagland (John Randolph) and his pet boy watching footage of the evolution of Lucan. Our boy with the charming smile bemusedly watches as he transforms from a feral beast, to a semi-civilized kid who is catching on, to a fully normal adolescent.

The catalyst for the series is a result of the squabbling that characterizes the leadership at every university. Hoagland advocates setting Lucan free in the wilds of southern California, but other academics assert that the risk of this lad wolfing out requires continuing to keep him effectively caged at the research center. A relatable element of this is all the good boys (and girls) with spotless records who are denied reasonable privileges during their senior year of high school.

Subsequent events prompt Hoagland to aid and abet Lucan moving to the urban jungle. This both is a step toward this all-American wolf boy becoming integrated into society and allows him to begin his search for his birth parents.

The typical element of being hunted comes courtesy of the university having hired-gun Prentiss (Don Gordon) become the bane of our wolf's existence by obsessively tracking him. This relates to the aforementioned stated concern regarding this dreamy stud being a threat to himself or others. His tendency to slightly revert to his feral nature when threatened somewhat justifies this action.

The initial transition to the real world includes a job at a construction site where our hero immediately learns that an alpha male who continues preying on weaker members of the pack even after proving superiority is not confined to the forest. Other drama relates Ned Beatty playing the construction company owner whom the district attorney has squealing in terror regarding liability for a collapsed building.

Lucan gets another lesson in human nature in the next episode in which a pre "Remington Steele" Stepahnie Zimbalist plays a Soviet gymnast whom our hero saves. This one can be considered pre "ripped from the headlines" in that it involves a Tonya Harding style plot by the husband of a fellow competitor. The motive for the knee-capping this time is more Cold War oriented then merely eliminating the competition. The general idea is that good citizens of Mother Russia should be willing to take one for the team.

The most exciting guest stars are in an episode in which Robert Reed of "Brady Bunch" fame plays the father of a character whom Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist portrays. An amusing aspect of this is that the boy is a jinx. Other memorable guest stars are Leslie Nielsen playing it straight as a corrupt sheriff with a conscience and Regis Philbin as someone who hopes to have good prospects.

Many subsequent episodes focus more closely on the search for Mr. and Mrs. Lucan. These include a particularly notable one in which Prentiss nets his prey, our wolf in grunge clothing once more becomes a guinea pig, and it seems that he is getting the mother and child reunion for which he longs. The bonus is that the element that Mom and Dad will need to skip town leaves the door open for the series to continue by having Lucan resume his tracking of them.

One amusing aspect of the final few episodes is that the apparent bid for a second season includes finding pretenses to have Brophy appear shirtless. These include frolicking on the beach and becoming a boxer. We additionally get an "Angels in Chains" episode in which Lucan purposefully incurs an unfortunate incarceration at a shady prison work camp in order to spring a wrongly convicted innocent in a story that has elements of both "not without my baby" and the black market for infants.

The pure camp fun of all this makes "Lucan" a genuine delight. Much of this joy relates to Brophy (who even has a slight unibrow) fully embracing his role.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection 4 CD: All of the Best Sung by the Best

The Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) March 16, 2018 4-CD release of "Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection" aptly celebrates the 70th birthday of a good friend of friends of Dorothy (and the rest of the world) by being of a scale that almost equals the tremendous (in both senses of the word) body of work by this living legend of both Broadway and the West End. It is equally cool that "Unmasked" comes to life at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

One cannot imagine any other compilation to be diverse enough to include a cast of 100s that ranges from Beyonce and the cast of "Glee" to Donny Osmond and Elvis. This is not to mention early soft-rockers The Everly Brothers, hard rocker Alice Cooper, and virtually every Broadway notable in even not-so-recent memory.

A sin of omission that warrants a slap on the wrist reflects the curse of these grand undertakings. Any effort to provide a "best of" inevitably bothers some by excluding a favorite. That offense in this case is seemingly not including ANY recordings that put star of stage, film, and television Betty Buckley in the spotlight. Her work arguably merits inclusion more than that of the "Glee" kids.

Not only is recent "Split" star Buckley a tremendous musical theater talent, she is a real trouper. The story of her Broadway stardom involves flying from Los Angeles to New York  auditions on weekends during her tenure filming the family dramcom "Eight is Enough." Only having Tommy and the Action backing her up would have enhanced this story.

Turning the tables, this obvious labor of love by UMe does a much better job honoring Webber than this review can hope to regarding this release. The apt total of 70 compositions is too overwhelmingly for meaningful discussion but deserve a decent effort.

At the outset, the scope of the shows runs from "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (mostly featuring Osmond) to the more recent creation "The School of Rock." The treatment of "Evita" arguably is the most cool in that it includes selections from the stage play, the Madonna film, the album, and a segment on the the Fox dramedy "Glee."

Disc One starts things well with a strong blend of opening numbers and many other popular songs from classics that include "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats,"  and (personal fave) "Sunset Boulevard." This aptly opens with "Superstar" from "Superstar," produces the aforementioned solid melange, and concludes with classic fan fave "I Don't Know How to Love Him" also from "Superstar."

Disc 4 can be considered a bonus in that it largely consists of overtures and orchestrations of other music from Webber musicals.

All of this comes in a sturdy hardcover book with a gracious note from Webber, detailed liner notes for every song, and written tributes from some of the aforementioned musical greats.

The bigger picture that makes the shows and "Unmasked" succeed is that Webber has fantastic visions that he successfully conveys to his casts and others who sing his compositions; these folks in turn do a great job getting the audience swept up in the spirit of these epics. Very few composers in any genre have comparable talent.

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

'Giant': Historian Don Graham Writes About The Making of a Legendary American Film

A desire to timely review the St. Martin's Press April 10, 2018 hardcover and Kindle releases of Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film requires basing this post on 3/4 of the book. The apt pause in this reading is the Hollywood royalty and the rest of the cast and crew boarding a train from the challenging location shoot in the small Texas town of Marfa to Los Angeles.

The strongest endorsement of this book is that it it will make you want to watch "Giant" and the Dean films "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without A Cause." The Unreal TV DVD library includes the good three-film DVD release of these.

University of Texas at Austin English professor Don Graham demonstrates his status as the "premier scholar and critic on Texas literature, films, and pop culture" regarding the scope of Giant. We get copious fascinating insight into the stars in front of and behind the camera, including their conflicts that reflect the dynamics of any family. He further puts the making of the film in the context of society-at-large.

Graham presenting the material well without dumbing it down indicates that he is a great professor, he is asked to please not grade this review.

The 1956 film "Giant" is one of at least two Warner films that clearly inspire the CBS primetime soap "Dallas." The other is the reviewed 1960 Robert Mitchum epic "Home From the Hill."

"Giant" is based on the "ripped from the headlines" Edna Ferber novel of the same name that tells the tale of Texas rancher Jordan "Bick' Benedict, Jr. (Hudson) bringing back a stallion and a filly when he travels to Maryland (Virginia in the novel) to buy a stud horse and falls in love with the daughter of the wealthy owner of that noble beast. Elizabeth Taylor plays Leslie Benedict, who experiences intense culture shock on moving to her ginormous house on the prairie. Culture shock for Taylor while making the film includes Dean openly commenting that she looks good enough to eat.

The third side of the triangle in the film and the book is white trash redneck Jett Rink (Dean), who experiences sudden wealth roughly halfway in the film. Demonstrating the extent to which the upward mobility of Rink reflects the power shift in Texas in the era of the film is one of many examples of Graham utilizing his extensive knowledge of Texas.

Early portions of Giant focus on Ferber and director George Stevens collaborating (and arguing) regarding adapting the novel to a sceenplay,  One passage with particular relevance discusses a clash regarding the amount of exposition in scene in which Bick gives his son (Dennis Hopper) a hat that is too large for him. Anyone watching the movie without even being aware of the book should agree that Stevens (who wins a Best Director Oscar for "Giant") correctly argues that that scene should not have any dialogue.

This makes compelling reading and evokes the sentiment of a modern author who comments regarding an film adaptation of his novel that he likes the movie but wants to know when the study is making one based on his book.

The section of Giant on the casting of the film provides good context for discussing the three stars. Graham shows good instincts in putting much of this focus on the boys because their backgrounds are more interesting than that of Taylor. She has her own issues then and later in life but has comparatively charmed personal and professional lives.

The study of Hudson is of particular personal interest because of the numerous parallels with fellow '50s matinee idol Tab Hunter. The most prominent similarity is both closeted homosexuals being the discovery and creation of openly gay agent Henry Willson. Both the Graham book and copious Hunter material discuss how Willson demands sexual favors from his stable of studs in exchange for stardom. Further, the book indicates that Hudson is as gracious as your not-so-humble reviewer knows Hunter to be.

One parallel that Graham does not mention is that Hunter picks up on a Method technique that Giant discusses Dean using. This trick involves an actor who is not the primary focus of a scene playing with a belt buckle or doing other small business to attract attention to him or her. We learn that this drives Hudson crazy when filming with Dean.

Dean also steals the show regarding the book. It proverbially delves into the speculation surrounding the actual nature of his sexuality. This includes discussion of S&M activity that earns this rebel the nickname "The Human Ashtray" among his intimates.

Other Dean topics includes his obsession with Marlon Brando that really comes through in "Rebel Without a Cause," the extent to which he is sullen for the sake of being sullen, and his publicly urinating on set before  "Dallas" star Larry Hagman adopts that practice during his years on "I Dream of Jeannie."

A less titillating but equally intriguing portrait of Dean in Giant are photos that depict his actual diminutive stature and wearing the glasses that Graham repeatedly states that this near-sighted star requires to see. Alas, the book does not include pictures of Dean engaged in his habit of wearing just tighty whities, a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots in the house that he occupies while filming on location.

The most compelling part of the Dean portrait is many of us seeing ourselves in this man with a tortured past who does not work or play well with others. A personal friend in the business whom Dean definitely would have liked expresses understanding of this by stating that he realizes that there a re reasons that difficult artistic people are difficult. In the case of Dean, those reasons include sometimes having better instincts than Stevens.

However, Stevens gets the best quote in at least the currently read portion of the book. We learn that his frustration working with Taylor on a prior movie leads to him very publicly and loudly declaring during that project that she is not filming 'Lassie Comes Home to a Separate Place."

Other topics include the long and successful history of adapting other Ferber novels into films, such as the reviewed "Showboat," and the typical battles between the bean counters and the filmmakers. This is not to mention the reactions of Texans to "Giant" and other insider information to which Lone Star notable Graham is privy.

The epilogue to these thoughts is that Giant greatly enhances the experience of those of us who have seen the film, makes "virgins" want to watch it, and reinforces the sense that a film set is like any other workplace with the exception of peeing in the reception area not being grounds for termination.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding anything in this post is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'Jasper Jones' DVD: This Australian Boy's Life

Foreign indie film god Film Movement continues its April mission of showing that this fare is not just for adults with the April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 drama "Jasper Jones." This addition to the Movement catalog comes a week after the (reviewed) release of the U.K. DVD of a video recording of a live performance of the children's tale "The Railway Children." Our subject for today further proves that American filmmakers cannot keep up with the foreign Joneses.

The titular adolescent outcast lives alone on the fringes of society in a small community on the fringes of Australian society in this coming-of-age story that is set in 1969. The boy who experiences that growth is 14-year-old Charlie Bucktin. His only friend is an excitable Asian boy named Jeffrey Lu. That heritage sadly has significance in this Vietnam era.

On top of this, Charlie's mother Ruth (Toni Collette doing her usual excellent job) and father Wes are constantly at odds. Ruth is the tough parent who wants to ensure that her son stays safe, and Wes is a writer who wants his offspring to enjoy life. Many mothers can relate to this dynamic creating a situation in which Ruth feels that Wes constantly undermines her and that she is raising two boys.

The worlds of Jasper and Charlie collide when the former appears at the bedroom window of the latter. The motivation for this nocturnal visit is Jasper discovering the body of somewhat rebellious teen girl Laura Wishart. The family connections of this dead teen include her father Pete being a community leader and her younger sister Eliza being an object of affection for Charlie.

Concern that his low status in the community will result in deeming him guilty for the death prompts Jasper to recruit presumably sympathetic Charlie to help him discover the truth. One sign of the times is that the prime suspect of these hardy boys is Viet Nam vet Mad Jack Lionel (Hugo Weaving). The backstory of this individual includes the belief that he still acts on the bloodlust that his military service allegedly triggers.

This mission that Charlie must accept creates intense pressure as he maintains a facade of normalcy while the town panics regarding only knowing that Laura is missing. This period also is a time of increasingly strong bonding with Eliza. Another aspect of this is Ruth becoming anxious regarding the perceived threat of stranger danger.

Meanwhile, Jasper requires that Charlie plays dangerous games for boys at a time that the sense of "It's 10 o'clock, do you know where your children are?" intensifies as more time passes without Laura showing up either dead or alive.

"Jasper" does not have a dull moment and greatly intensifies in trauma and drama in roughly the final 30 minutes. Charlie discovers a very upsetting truth about his mother, Eliza reveals that she is less blissfully ignorant than she alleges, the sickening circumstances of the death of Laura come to light, and Jasper learns the degree to which things are relative. Additionally, the audience gets a sense of the '60s philosophy that you cannot trust anyone over 30. A related message is that you sometimes have to send in a child to do the job of an adult.

The primary aspect that makes "Jasper" Movement worthy is that it reflects the related universal truths that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own special way, and no one knows what goes on even in the homes of the "best" families. Beyond that, it is beautifully shot film that screams for a Blu-ray release.

The bonus features consist of director and cast interviews.

The apt Bonus Short film that Movement includes with every Film of the Month Club is "Death for a Unicorn" This highly creative Tilda Swinton narrated movie tells the tale of  little Billy meeting the ghost of a girl named Myrtle (who does not moan) in the wake of falling out of a tree. This friendship provides the boy a nice respite from the tyrannical rule of his aunt and provides him reason to be grateful that the fall does not injury him more seriously.

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

Saturday, April 7, 2018

'Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century' CS DVD+Digital: Perfect Animated Blend of Past and Future

The futuristic scifi aspect of the 1999-2001 animated series "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century" makes the April 3, 2018 Mill Creek Entertainment CS DVD release including a code for a digital download very apt. The numerous reasons to love this one include Holmes material always being welcome, the clever concept being well-executed, and the theme song totally rocking.

This release also coincides with the spectacular Creek Blu-ray release of the (reviewed) 1965 live-action Holmes film "A Study in Terror." This one pits Holmes against Jack the Ripper.

The following YouTube clip of the opening credits of "Holmes" provides a good sense of the quality animation and overall well-done scifi elements of the series,

"Holmes" commences with a multi-story arc that perfectly ties traditional Holmes lore in with the fantastic (in both senses of the word) concept of the series. Police Inspector Beth Lestrade dealing with a previously effective process for literally eliminating the criminal element from the brains of neer-do-wells no longer working and this detective sighting the infamous 19th century Napoleon of Crime Professor James Moriarty prompts our feisty crime fighter to call in the big guns Jurassic Park style.

The effectively 400-pound T Rex this time is the body of Holmes, which has been preserved in honey in the period between his early 20th century death until 2123. This process goes smoothly, and the first consulting detective in the world soon is ready, willing, and able to work.

The next few episodes soon establish how a little help from his friends allows Moriarty to look so good for his age. We further witness a robocop transform into a reasonable facsimile of original Holmes partner-in-crime solving Dr. John Watson.

Getting everyone settled allows the space-age incarnations of Holmes, Lestrade, and Watson (with a little help from the junior squad known as the Baker Street Irregulars) get down to business. Many of these fun adventures are based on the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories that comprise pure Holmes canon.

These start with a moon-based version of "The Hounds of the Baskervilles." A Hell beast attacking teens prompts Holmes to investigate. As always is the case, employing "eyes and brains" and examining what remains after eliminating the impossible reveals the truth. In this case, the threat is far more serious than a scheme to probe Uranus.

These lead to a reworking of "The Adventure of the Empty House," which involves the typical episode element of using advanced science for evil rather than good, and a version of "The Crooked Man" that is more H.G. Wells than Arthur Conan Doyle. Two other notable homages that greatly respect the spirit of the source material are "The Red Headed League" and "The Sign of Four."

Deduction suggests that many parents will conclude that the most cool thing about this very cool series is that it diabolically encourages kids to read the Holmes stories while making them think that doing so is their own idea.

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

Friday, April 6, 2018

'A Study in Terror' Blu-ray: Expert Remastering of Perfect Holmes v. Ripper Film

The must-see Mill Creek Entertainment April 3, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1965 Sherlock Holmes mystery "A Study in Terror" is part of an April Creek Holmes homage. This also is the release date of the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Creek DVD of the  way-cool 1999-2001 animated series "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century."

Highly versatile actor John Neville IS Sherlock Holmes in this film version of the common fan (rather than slash) fiction that pits him against fellow Victorian notable Jack the Ripper. This real-life serial killer preys on the ladies of the evening who work the street corners of the red-light district of Whitechapel for the British equivalent of two-bits.

The well-filmed highly atmospheric (which look great in Blu-ray) early scenes shift between comical ones that show the Diary of a 19th Century Call Girl and POV shots that depict the titular angst as the Ripper does his thing. These scenes also establish that "Terror" largely succeeds in staying true to the era of the film.

As is almost always the case in Holmes tales, the world's first consulting detective enters the scene in the flat that he and partner to an ambiguous degree Dr. John Watson share at 221B Baker Street. A late-night exclamation by Watson while reading the newspaper prompts Holmes to act in the manner that makes him the most annoying roommate ever. He shows off his extraordinary deductive abilities rather than allowing his roomie the satisfaction of sharing the news of the sensational killing of a pro.

Good humor ensues when Holmes declares the element of the murder that warrants his attention. The arrival of a not-so-mysterious package further seals the deal.

Debatable deduction soon puts our dynamic duo on the trail of (former?) working girl Annie Chapman. The latest reports regarding this pretty woman include that she is married to nobleman/medical student Michael Osborne.

The ensuing investigation reveals the scandal involving nobility, blackmail, political scandal, and betrayal that particularly are trademarks of England of that era.

As is the case regarding a good mystery that is set in any era, the final 30 minutes rapidly build to the climax. One satisfying moment involves Mr. Smarty Pants missing important evidence that a true master of deduction would have uncovered. It additionally is amusing that his case goes up in flames in a reputation-threatening manner.

The final analysis is that Oscar-nominated director James Hill hits all the right notes in "Terror." The pacing and acting are very good, and he shows perfect instincts regarding injections of humor and other distractions. One especially good element is including bits in which marveling at feats of Holmes is akin to the dolts of Metropolis who do not realize that Clark Kent is Superman.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

'Puppy Dog Pals: Going on a Mission' DVD: Disney Junior's Secret Life of Pets

The challenge regarding reviewing the April 10, 2018 Disney DVD release of the Disney Junior series "Puppy Dog Pals" is conveying the extent to which this show about the titular young pugs is adorable and amusing. You really must see it to get a proper sense of this program that is almost is certain to create a legion of dedicated adult fans that rivals the obsession of the Bronies who go way overboard regarding "My Little Pony."

The following YouTube clip of the "Puppy" theme perfectly conveys the fun spirit of the series and will leave you wanting oh so much more.

Much of this praise relates to comedian/series creator Harland Williams, who also voices human father/inventor Bob, getting into the mind of a puppy. His stars talk and act exactly in the manner that globally endears baby dogs to people. Grey pug Bingo and his brother (perhaps from another mother) tan pug Rolly display perpetual elan.

The ridiculously cute scamps live with Bob and their older cat sister Hissy, who tolerates her younger siblings. Their family dynamic is fully established in the opening scenes of the first of the two adventures in the pilot.

The puppies are riding their skateboards and pretending to be surfing; they soon successfully beg Hissy to play along by pretending to be a shark. Candor requires confessing to regularly playing games such as "Space Cat" and "Abominable Snow Kitty" with a household pet.

The fun continues with so-cute puppies going nuts on saying good morning to Bob; their body language is clear, but Bob hears their words as adorable barks of extreme joy.

The typical charm continues with morning events prompting Bob to comment on the joy of walking on Hawaiian sand. He then leaves for work completely oblivious of the plans of the dogs to make their dad happy by traveling to our 50th state and be back before he returns home.

The boys then race to their mad tricked out dog house to the accompaniment of their "goin' on a mission" theme. Their prep. includes having a dome outfit them with utility collars that puts the belt of Batman (and Ace the Batdog) to shame. The enhanced cuteness continues with Rolly gleefully announcing that he is bringing an old sock because chewing on it makes him feel good. Bingo equally happily responds that everyone loves chewing on an old sock.

Similar outings include a day trip to Antarctica to remedy of dearth of ice at Chez Bob and an equally short trip to France to get bread for French toast. The Paris adventure is particularly true to the spirit of the recent film "The Secret Life of Pets," which depicts a particularly eventful day in the life of four-legged New Yorkers. The guest stars in this "Puppy" adventure include rats and pigeons.

An episode that hits closer to home in the Disneyverse is a variation of "Toy Story" starts with Bingo and Rolly damaging a favorite stuffed animal of Bob during "ruff" play. Their remedial efforts this time land them in a variation of Build-a-Bear.

Hissy fully gets into the action when her well-meaning bros take her along for a grand local day out. One spoiler is that a dog park is not as much fun for a cat as it is for man's best friend.

All of this amounts to a show that parental figures may beg their pre-schoolers to watch again and again and again. It is very relatable to pet lovers of all ages and lacks EVERY annoying aspect of most toddler fare. There are no shrill voices, encouraging children to shriek, or sickening morals. "Puppy" simply is pure entertainment that delights all from 3 to 100.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Puppy" is strongly encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

99.9 Percent of Us Are Roseanne

As often is the case, diverting into Blogland results from a convergence of reel and real life. The recent premiere of the "Roseanne" reboot coinciding with a relevant dispute with a toxic business is prompting these thoughts regarding the class war in America that neither the "haves" nor the "have nots" seem to be winning.

"Roseanne" lost me at the start in the '80s. The pilot included a teacher calling in the titular blue-collar everywoman to express concern about odd behavior by younger daughter Darlene. The remembered response by the self-proclaimed Domestic Goddess was anger at being called from work for something short of death. Either that episode or another early one had one of the three kids come to Mom for support only to have her repeatedly ask why they expected that she would care. These two scenes are neither humor nor class commentary; they are cruel.

The purpose of this post is to share that "Roseanne" 2.0 only tells part of the story. It presumably follows the pattern of the "classic" seasons in making "rich" people seem foolish and/or unreasonable.

Two truths are that most "haves" have far less in the 2000s than in the '80s and '90s and that this supposedly privileged elite is increasingly under unfair fire from the reel and real worlds. I recently expressed this to a friend, who has a graduate degree in a highly specialized field and has been a cater waiter for roughly ten years, as "the 21st century sucks." He agreed.

This same friend cited a 2010 article that stated that most Americans would need to reduce their standard of living by 30 percent. That is the direction in which many of us are headed.

The big picture relates to an issue from the 2008 presidential campaign. Then-candidate Obama based his proposed economic policies on classifying people with annual incomes of $200,000 as wealthy. An economics professor proved that, although that income provided a good standard of life, someone earning that much hardly was living large.

Your not-so-humble reviewer has never earned close to $200,000; a related note is that I am significantly worse off in 2018 than in 2008. I am more fortunate than the Conners in that I can afford my needs and some wants; however, "Roseanne" falsely presents to the world that you either are one paycheck away from poverty or light cigars with $20 bills. I and most others are closer to her end of the spectrum than folks (such as the real Roseanne) who literally or figuratively have money to burn.

Further, the recent concept of "white people problems" has exasperated this situation. Bad or abusive service is not as serious as facing homelessness but is a valid basis for unhappiness. Going to Target should not trigger intense (and very loud) verbal abuse merely for correctly showing an error at the checkout counter. One can easily imagine reel Roseanne being at the register and gleefully letting loose while her peers applaud.

The literal insult to the injury that "Roseanne" also perpetuates is the acceptability of mistreating someone based on being fortunate enough to have some money in the bank. Sharing even a small fraction of such incidents would fill pages. This is not to mention the at least monthly basis on which I overhear store employees use the term "rich people" in the same tone that many of us would use to refer to Nazis. An amusing aspect of this is certainty that the Kennedys, the Kardashians, and the Trumps doe not shop at my local grocery store or use the same bank.

An incident that one might actually see from the opposite perspective in "Roseanne" occurred at a gas station in a middle-class community. I was essentially coasting between the convenience store and the pumps when two blue-collar guys walked right in front of my car without looking. I did not honk or make a well-deserved gesture.

The guys walked into the store, and I went to the pumps. The gods must have been displeased with me because the payment system at the pump was broken. I almost left but was running late.

The following is a verbatim exchange with one of these guys when I went into the store to pay. Please remember that I simply wanted to buy gas.

"Why did you almost run us down?"

"I did not almost run you down, Sir. You stepped in front of my car."

"Don't call me Sir. I work for a living."

This man then muttered "Fag" as he left. This remark was merely based on my wearing my almost daily outfit of a button-down shirt and clean Levis. The clerk was polite enough to apologize.

One online reference to the new "Roseanne" also hit home; noting that Roseanne and husband Dan were sharing medication because their pricey bare-bones insurance did not allow them to afford separate medications. The big picture this time are consistent reports that even people in traditional employment situations are making large contributions to low-coverage and high-deductible plans.

The personal experience regarding this is having a $550/month premium for a plan with a $4,900 deductible and horrible coverage. Not going to the doctor for things such as three separate cases of the flu and a single occurrence of a badly sprained foot has escalated to not following the prescribed course for an ongoing condition. The related undisclosed expenses until the bill arrives and fights with the insurance company are not worth it.

The light treading that this delicate topic requires includes explicitly communicating understanding the pain of folks who barely get by. I fully acknowledge that cutting way back on "wants" is much less of a sacrifice then facing a threat of losing a home.

Further, being a customer in even a high-end store does not justify rudeness. The other side of the coin is that employees in businesses across the board increasingly seem to be named Tommy in that they apparently are deaf, dumb, and blind regarding reasonable and polite requests for help. These folks are asked to remember that most customers are not abusive.

The purpose of this article is to point out that the grass is not much greener on the other side of town and that the aforementioned reel and that being a "have" should not justify treating someone badly.

Anyone with civil questions or comments regarding this post is welcome to email you. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,