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Monday, August 3, 2020

Avoid Getting Inn Trouble V: Worst Hotel Stay Ever

The not-so-brave new world regarding travel is prompting the increased frequency of Inn Credible New England posts on this site. These articles also are reflecting the cited principles in the first "Avoiding Getting Inn Trouble" musings in this ongoing series. The awful truth is that business, personal, and mixed-use travelers all are going to reduce their trips for the foreseeable future; this makes choosing wisely more important than ever before. 

One huge spoiler is that aggressively bullying me into deleting my Trip Advisor review and making blatant threats of civil and legal proceedings in response to being vocal about my horrific experience is behind being this post being purposefully vague. Ala who dun Carly Simon wrong back in the day being convinced that they inspired "You're So Vain," guests who experiences mirror those described below surely will speculate as to the identity of the culprits. 

The abundance of proof as this company having no business operating hotels is that a recent online "out of curiosity" search revealed the name of a new ownership company. The joy on discovering this was short-lived. 

I quickly learned that the new company had the EXACT same leadership and owned the EXACT same properties as the place that caused extended trauma and drama. My conclusion is that the name change is to represent to folks who (as documented in Trip Advisor reviews) had the same distressing experience as me at one of those hotels that an non-existent change occurred. 

A trip, which inspired the term "shabby broom closet," that will live in infamy checks all the right boxes as to a place that should be avoided like the plague. The owner being a behemoth corporate holding company is the starting point that years of experience shows warrants triggering a spidey sense. However, just as some attorneys are kind and ethical people, many for-profit businesses that offer boutique lodging are upstanding corporate citizens.

A starting point that past "Inn Trouble" posts do not address is a hotel not meeting pre-trip expectations. The hotel in question is a historic property with a modern addition, On speaking to an on-property employee, I was told that my preference for a room in the older part of the building would be honored. On arriving, I learned that the older building had been closed for months and that no one was even allowed in that area. 

A combination of the trip being a celebration of a major milestone birthday and occurring in a very stressful period prompted mentioning the birthday in this pre-trip conversation. The clerk promised a room upgrade and strongly hinted about a small gift as to the birthday.

We arrived at the hotel to no mention of the birthday; we also discovered that, despite paying a hefty sum, we were assigned the shabby broom closet. Someone standing between the bed and the door literally had to jump on the bed to let the other guest get to the door. There also was no drawer space, no place to store luggage, and a tiny closet. This was on top of the television being mounted to the wall and the cables dangling down from it.

Bringing all this to the attention of the desk clerk fell on deaf ears; even a token birthday t-shirt would have been nice. The two of us spent $150 at the onsite restaurant and did not get so much as a free slice of cake. 

This prompted a negative TripAdvisor review; that prompted a corporate executive with a distinctive accent (more below) to contact me and threaten action if I did not remove it. An odd part of that umbrage was unhappiness at my identifying that hotel with meeting space, a well-equipped business center, and a large dining room as a convention hotel. The executive went so far as to call (and successfully) bully me through removing my TA post after I told him that I could not figure out how to delete it.

I live roughly 45 minutes from the holding company corporate office and was in a post-hotel-stay trip to a store in that area when I recognized the executive from his photo on the company website. Hearing his accent on his alarmingly yelling at his child convinced me that that was the guy. I did not approach him.

The distress as to the hotel stay continuing to weigh on my mind prompted calling the hotel years later on learning that it had a new manager. That manager had someone on the corporate staff call me; in speaking to that person, I shared all the details (including the random nature) of seeing the executive yell at the child in the store. I did so to support my argument that that man bullied me. 

I subsequently received a certified letter from the president of the company. That correspondence threatened civil and criminal action if I did not drop the matter and if I ever tried to stay at any of the hotels that the company owned. This document went on to accuse me of stalking the executive who happened to be at the same store at the same time as me and with whom I did not have any interaction. 

The bottom line this time is that booking any hotel stay runs the risk of a nightmare. The tips in "Avoiding Inn Trouble" post can help put the odds forever in your favor.​

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

'I Miss You When I See You' DVD: Coming of Age With the One Who Got Away

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 Hong Kong drama "I Miss You When I See You" follows the pattern of similar gay-themed Breaking films. The sad global truth is that teen (and older) boys who like other boys have it rough much more often than living a fairy tale (no pun intended) that precedes their (often) happy ending.

The following YouTube video of a highly stylized trailer for "Miss" showcases the art-house quality of this film about an "its complicated" relationship.

"Miss" opens in the 1999 school year of adolescents Jamie and Kevin. The former is a popular well-adjusted kid, and the latter is an awkward loner. The proper context for their character and friendship is a less extreme (and even more homoerotic) version of Zack Morris and Screech Powers, who have high-school sleepovers, of "Saved by the Bell" fame. 

Opening scenes revolve around Jamie sneaking out of class to meet Kevin in a boys' room stall apparently only to discuss the new book in a pulp fiction series. We also see that their classmate named Wong is a wang.

The action then moves ahead 12 years as Jamie travels to Australia to visit Kevin at the long-term residential facility where he lives due to his depression. This leads to a boys' night out that is a treat for both guys. 

Unbeknownst to Jamie, his visit prompts Kevin to follow his friend back to Hong Kong. The two become co-workers at the tutorial center that Jamie owns and operates with former classmates. They also become roommates at the apartment of Jamie. The especially creepy behavior of Jamie in the apartment shows that he has fond memories of a tender moment that experiences interruptus soon before his high-school-era move to Australia.

The rest of the story is that Jamie apparently is fully converted as his present-day relationship with girlfriend Elaine indicates. However, female intuition and a valid reason for asking Jamie to either fish or cut bait creates tension. One aspect of this is the price that giving the heart what the heart wants can cost.

History also is starting to repeat itself in the form of Kevin increasingly bonding with a troubled male student, who openly admits to being hot for teacher. This leads a a very bizarre and uncomfortable sitch for characters and audience alike dinner for Kevin, Jamie, Elaine, and the student. A more sweet aspect of this is that the boy feels real love, rather than merely lust, for his "daddy."

The artistry of "Miss" continues with a relatively anti-climatic climax. There are no tears and recriminations; Jamie, who is facing Kevin moving back to Australia, seemingly ends up with the one with whom he is fated to share his life until someone younger and cuter comes along.

Time constraints are behind not watching the almost-always included and always insightful and entertaining "making-of" featurette and cast and crew interviews in Breaking releases. The good folks at Breaking must determine if this warrants the still-used Chinese punishment of a bare-bottom caning. If so, it requires learning how to say  "please Sir, may I have another" in Mandarin.

Friday, July 24, 2020

'Del Shores: Sordid Confessions' DVD: Del-ightful Sins of a Minor Gay Celebrity

Being a HUGE fan of the public and private personas of writer/director/monologist/activist/chihuahua-lover/son of a preacher man/righteous dude Del Shores of (reviewed) "Sordid Lives " fame provides a good perspective for sharing thoughts on the Breaking Glass Pictures DVD of the 2012 Shores one (awesome) man show "Del Shores: Sordid Confessions." One spoiler is that this hilarious nowhere-ready-for-primetime special is far raunchier than the other Shores performances, all of which are subjects of posts on this site, that are available on DVD.

Shores discussing in "Confessions" that he is observed mentally filing away a sordid tale during a lunch largely sums up his style. His material is funny because it tells the truth about what fools these white-trash mortals be. This is especially true as to the latest (reviewed) Shores project "Six Characters in Search of a Play." 

A sincerity and a willingness to name names when warranted are another large part of the appeal of Shores. A prime example of this is a "Confession" about working with gorgeous young actor Randy Harrison during the tenure of Shores as a writer on the Showtime gay-themed drama "Queer As Folk."

Shores gives Harrison credit for being co-operative on the set but dishes about this thespian regularly publicly criticizing the writing on the series. Shores discussing the writers getting their revenge evokes thoughts of a QAF scene in which a nearly naked Harrison is drugged and placed in a sling during an orgy. The only personal criticism of Shores is that the writers do not have that incident lead to what should have been the inevitable conclusion. 

The raunch element particularly comes out (no pun intended) as to Shores, who has two wonderful daughters with his compassionate ex-wife, discussing his "slut" period in the wake of his marriage to a sordid man who majorly dun him wrong. The highlight of this part of the show is the tale of taking a relationship with a man glacially slow from the gay perspective only to discover that this guy has a cringe-worthy defect that will prompt every gay viewer to immediately Google images of that condition.

Being the righteous dude that he is, Shores still tries to please this Mr. Right (as opposed to Mr. Right Now) despite the seeming impossibility of turning a corner. 

Additional hilarity ensues as Shores confesses his macro and micro (no pun intended) fetish regarding short people as to whom he uses the non-pc term "midgets". The account of one such man with a long "third leg" but short temper provides additional entertainment regarding this topic. 

The big picture this time goes back to the same era as the filming of "Confessions."  A timely post on a DVD of a stand-up performance by British comedian Russell Brand SLAMS Brand for "sins" that include his act being an extended highly whiny therapy session as to which Brand not only saves the co-pay for that treatment but likely makes millions from folks who pay him to endure that almost unbearable catharsis. 

Shores openly and constantly admits that his "Mama's Family" style upbringing has provided him a career. The difference between him and lesser performers is that he knows how to tell his Bible Belt tales in a way that both entertains and lets us feel his pain.

Breaking does its usual stellar job as to DVD extras. We get a "behind-the-scenes" feature that includes Shores showing his inner circle what comes between him and his Calvins. This bonus further provides an inspiration for December 7 birthday gifts. 

A more "naughty" extra is footage of the photo shoot of the "Confessions" poster, which also is the DVD cover. This both allows hearing the beloved dogs of Shores and proves that he is hands-on regarding getting things right in a manner that makes one want to scream "me too". 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

'The Sequel' DVD: Futurist David Fleming Shows Importance of Being Excellent to Each Other

Expert purveyors of thought-provoking documentaries Icarus Films and Bullfrog Films continue their long-standing beautiful friendship with the April 21, 2020 DVD release of the 2018 non-fiction movie "The Sequel." This one is a study of the life of futurist David Fleming. The Fleming opus "Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It" is sadly relevant in this era in which it seems that COVID-19 ain't ever goin' nowhere.

The message of "Sequel" is similar to (reviewed) fellow recent Icraus Film "System Error." "Error" both studies capitalism and provides reason to think that the good run for that model is reaching its end.

Like all good documentaries, "Sequel" stars strong; crystal-clear images of earth from space soon lead to a group of students in an Ewok-caliber forest (sans redwoods) getting an awesome ecology lesson. A measuring tape is used to represent the history of the earth from its beginnings to the present; major events get a 25-words-or-less explanation, and our highly industrialized society is seen at the end of the tape (i.e., rope).

We next hear from friends, colleagues, and devotees of textbook academic Fleming. The Great Man himself  also enlightens us about the entertaining story that leads to the writing of "Logic." There is no doubt that Fleming pours his heart into that tome. 

The basic idea is that we need a sea change in an effort to stop the polar ice caps from flooding us and/or to prevent another plague-level disaster from making humans either extinct or an endangered species. Another way of stating this is it is the end of the world as we know it, and it is up to us as to whether we feel fine. 

A segment on the failure of Greece to rebound from its massive economic downfall is a particularly impactful example. The images of modern-day poverty and the dismal statistics as to the lack of wealth of the nature seem to be what will soon be the case in America.  

​The bottom line is that modern events show that the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject is right; whether we heed is message may well be a matter of life or death.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

'Maynard' DVD: Life Story of First Black Atlanta Mayor

The Virgil Films DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Maynard" joins the ranks of the numerous documentaries on prominent individuals in the Virgil catalog. Reviews of many of these can be found in the Virgil Films section of this site. 

Watching the film shows the political star power of the talking heads and the incredible accomplishments of the subject. The notables who sing the praises of this guy who truly made a difference include Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.

The story of Maynard arguably begins with grandfather John Wesley Dobbs, who was a high-ranking Mason. It also seems that his father, whose profession as a minister increases the impact of a traumatic event, is a strong influence on this first black mayor of Atlanta. This career politician literally being a boy genius who enrolls in college at 14 further helps set him on the road to success.

A common theme among family, friends, colleagues, and admirers is that Maynard does not hesitate to strive for greatness. This includes beginning his political career with a 1968 failed long-shot bid for Senate. We also hear how this goes over at home at a time early in his marriage.

Our story continues with Maynard becoming the Number 1 of the Atlanta mayor but not being a good company man. A subsequent challenge to the boss for the corner office does not do anything to endear our young lion to his employer. 

The tenure of Maynard as mayor alone warrants a documentary if not a Hollywood biopic. We learn of the handling of a personality clash with the mayor and a related cheating scandal regarding a police exam. This is not to mention Maynard serving during the mass disappearances and killings of young black boys in his city.

On a more positive note, we see how Maynard leads the effort to expand the airport that now bears his name. Clinton and others discuss how this man uses his trademark tenacity to make this happen.

One of the more amusing stories relates to the means by which Maynard persuades banks to place black people on their boards of directors. This issue truly proves the golden rule within a couple of meanings of that phrase. 

Of course, the surface message of "Maynard" is that the subject is a trailblazer. This includes successors discussing the challenges that any Atlanta mayor who cares faces. The deeper lessons are that everyone should be judged based on his or her merits and that JFK is right in extolling folks to do the right thing because it is hard. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

'Marilyn' DVD: Ripped-From-Headlines Tale of Cross-Dressing Teen Coming of Age

The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 gay-themed drama "Marilyn" joins the long list of docu-dramas that prove that you cannot make up this stuff. A "making-of" DVD special feature fully explains how fact and fiction merge in this tale of a teen boy whose interest in cross-dressing contributes to the woes of his hard-knock life. 

The accolades for "Marilyn" include a "Best Feature Film" award at the 2018 Milan International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

The ways in which our titular teen (nee Marcos) is not like the other boys in his rural town begins with his caretaker father Carlos and his older brother doing most of the heavy lifting while Marcos spends much of time inside with his mother and dreams of taking computer classes. 

Extremely blatant cattle rustlers already are making the demanding life of Carlos even more challenging when the arguable climax of the film occurs. Marcos fulfills his grandest desire by taking advantage of the anything goes Carnival spirit by having the time of his life attending that event dressed in drag. He obtains his titular nickname courtesy of a song to which he particularly shakes his groove thing. 

The party fully ends with a foreshadowed confrontation by a local bully and his gang. Their brutal attack on Marcos is one of seemingly countless cases of boys who like boys being subject to unwarranted hostility, especially in small communities. Another sad aspect of this is that Marcos is relatively resigned to his fate until the pack fully asserts its dominance.

Marcos not returning home until the next morning further strains life back on the ranch, It also arguably sets up a downward spiral that leads to an extended reversal of fortune for the family.

The one bright spot for Marcos is mutual love at first sight regarding new friend with benefits and convenience Federico. Sadly, what should be a reasonable expectation for Marcos regarding the "meet the parents" moment does not go well. The arguable point here is that the timing of Marcos is not great regarding reminding his family about his not-so-embraced sexual orientation fresh off of that being a factor regarding the aforementioned stressful existence.

The final moments of "Marilyn" are very impactful and fully make the real story worthy of a film. It is tragic to see things get to the point that prompts Marcos to act as in the manner that he does, It truly should have been avoidable. 

The always special Breaking DVD extra this time is a 30-minute making-of feature. It begins with clips of the film and the thoughts of director Martin Rodriguez Redondo. Redondo discusses how he learns of the story, why he does not tell the story in pure documentary form, and his efforts at authenticity. 

We next hear from star Walter Rodriguez. An especially interesting aspect of that casting is Redondo commenting that he almost did not select Rodriguez to play Marcos because that actor gave an animated audition. A compelling aspect of the film is the numerous scenes in which a miserable Marcos and his equally unhappy family simply sit and stare without any expression on their faces.

The strongest endorsement of the film comes from the real Marilyn, who offers a wonderful perspective on the film.

All of this amounts to a well-produced and acted movie that speaks to most audience members either as a coming-of-age story, the tale of a rural gay teen having a very rough life, or a family on a fast ride to rock bottom.

Friday, July 3, 2020

'The Uncondemned' DVD: Documentary on Trials and Tribulations of Prosecuting Rwanda Crimes

Virgil Films contributes to its growing impressive non-fiction catalog (see "Virgil Films" section of this site) with the DVD release of the 2015 film "The Uncondemned." This documentary about three young Americans who are adequately woke to get involved in prosecuting a rape case in Rwanda adheres to the good documentary model of putting a human face on a larger story to teach viewers much more than we learn in news accounts. 

The accolades for "Uncondemned" include a Social Justice award and a separate "Film of Conflict and Resolution" honor at the 2015 Hamptons International Film Festival. 

The following YouTube clip of an "Uncondemned" trailer compellingly introduces both the human faces and the larger events.

Primary subject American attorney Pierre-Richard Propser promptly provides proper perspective. He recalls being aware of the genocide and the other atrocities in Rwanda in 1994 but seeing nothing but O.J. coverage on American newscasts. This compels this prosecutor to do a form of Peace Corps service by offering his services to the overwhelmed judicial system that is seeking to put the accuseds on trial for their charged offenses. 

We similarly see recent law-school graduate Lisa Pruitt offer her services as an investigator, Her rude awakening in the form of an indication that no good deed goes unpunished fortunately is not the end of the story.

The human faces of the story also include the numerous women who very bravely volunteer to testify at the trial of a mayor who is facing war crime charges for his role in a series of rapes. Witness JJ steals the show for many reasons in addition to beer apparently being the only beverage that she drinks.

The O.J. element re-enters the film in the form of copious footage of the trial of the mayor. We see the same adversarial legal tactics and reversals for both sides that make "The Trial of the Century" so fascinating, 

All of this ends with the verdict. The courtroom drama this time is that any outcome is noteworthy. A conviction clearly shows that the new sheriff in town will not let the sins of the recent past go unpunished. A finding of not guilty will show that justice massively has not prevailed. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

'Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine' DVD: Food for Thought About Lifestyle Medicine

The Virgil Films June 9, 2020 DVD release of the 2020 documentary "Code Blue: Redefining the Practice of Medicine" truly could not come at a better time. This propaganda for lifestyle medicine offers a way to avoid falling into the clutches of shamelessly greedy medical corporations (I'm talkin' to you Lifespan of Rhode Island) with laughable non-profit status at a time that every measure of national health is collapsing. The film also promotes going vegan at a time that meat-processing plants are disease ridden and the one package of steak that we are allowed to buy costs $15/pound, 

The highly personal nature of the topic to narrator/activist Dr. Saray Stancic justifies a brief detour into Blogland to share previously private relevance. Your not-so-humble reviewer has a hereditary disease with a fairly definite expiration date. My highly significant other telling me soon after the diagnosis that only eating vegetables would be beneficial and my replying "yeah, like I'm gonna do that" alone directly speaks to "Code." Coincidentally then eating a bowl of magically delicious Lucky Charms speaks even more directly to the film. On a better note, I have maintained a long-standing habit of using my elliptical machine at full force for one hour a day every other day.

The big picture is that I am adhering to Agnostic Science in that I recognize the possibility that the disease will go away on its own. 

Before returning to our regularly scheduled programming, I will add that the aforementioned avarice of Lifespan and its ilk is preventing getting monitoring and related treatment. Lifespan disregarding the coding of a blood test with a roughly $50 out-of-pocket price and conducting a $6,000 test for which it wanted (but did not get) $2,900 out-of-pocket is consistent with my experience with that company. Sadly my insurance company, which gets roughly $550/month directly from me, and my doctor repeatedly have stated that there are no means to prevent Lifespan from doing the same in the future. Sadly, that behemoth corporation essentially is the only game in town in The Ocean State. 

Stancic expresses similar outrage by clearly expressing anger regarding the very valid point that doctors are not expected to live in poverty but are obliged to not pursue outrageous fortune at the expense of the quality of care that they provide patients. 

The strong advocacy of Stancic for lifestyle medicine stems from an out-of-the-blue (no pun intended) MS diagnosis during the third year of her residency. The not-so-great prognosis begat investigating lifestyle medicine, which begat her activism, which begat "Code."

The early research of Stancic includes reading "The China Study" of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. Campbell appears in "Code" to discuss his analysis of the dietary habits of the people in several Chinese communities. His discussing the average lifespan of the studied population is akin to a '70s-era commercial that attributes the longevity of people in a Russian village to consuming large quantities of yogurt.

Another medical practitioner amusingly tells of a hospital gift shop selling cigarettes and of the heavy consumption of that product by the doctors on staff. Another general hospital tale is of the highly lucrative practice of performing bypass surgery. This relates to the not-so-hidden secret that doctors and hospitals alike amass large fortunes from operating (no pun intended) pill mills and performing assembly-line level medical procedures. 

Stancic wraps up "Code" with a charming portrayal of the current crop of medical students that are embracing lifestyle medicine. This includes some future physicians taking a course in healthy cooking and a youthfully exuberant student sharing plans to pursue a career of teaching lifestyle medicine. Time will tell if all this idealism survives the burden of long hours in internships and residencies, as well as the lure of the numerous shiny toys that having M.D. after your name provides a chance to buy.

The bottom line this time is that Stancic shows how placing the wants of the few over the needs of the many are putting many of us in premature graves. She seriously is invited to reach out to me if she thinks that she can help. ​

Friday, June 26, 2020

'Temblores' DVD Sensitive Character Study of Middle-Aged Man Coming Out

The recent Film Movement DVD release of the 2019 drama "Temblores" is the perfect Pride Month movie for anyone over the age of 13 who is anywhere along the Kinsey Scale. Writer/director Jayro Bustamante not sugarcoating anything and opting out of a Hollywood ending alone make the film one to watch.

The 13 festival wins for "Temblores" further speak to the quality of this film that IMDb describes as follows. "The coming out of an evangelical father shatters his family, his community and uncovers a profoundly repressive society."

The below Movement trailer for "Temblores" highlights the live-stage vibe of this compelling story about upper-middle class middle-aged Pablo choosing a relationship with working-class Francisco over his life with well-heeled and well-bred wife Isa and their two children.

Our story begins on a highly melodramatic note; a clearly frantic Pablo rushes home and ignores the intervention-style gathering of relatives to lock himself in his bedroom. This, of course, prompts great concern by the assembled group. Many who are familiar with real or reel gay trauma and drama can predict that the cause of death-of-a-beloved level angst relates to a gay issue. Blatant symbolism as to this includes a literal tremor literally threatening to bring down the house as Pablo and his family contend with his new normal. 

The resulting bedside confrontations range from heart-felt sympathy to not-so-righteous indignation as to Pablo being a fallen man in this particular sense of that term. The fact that that Pablo remains stricken and distraught without overdoing it is a primary example of Bustamante keeping it real.

The action then shifts to somewhat grungy bar where Francisco simultaneously introduces his new significant other into both his life and "the life." Although Pablo does not seem to have buyer's remorse, it is clear that he is experiencing an especially rude awakening. This relates to the frequent "Temblores" theme of many gay men not having it easy. 

All this leads to Isa prohibiting Pablo from having any contact with his children; this coincides with a wolf in sheep's clothing not-so-subtly moving toward filling the Pablo-sized void in the life of Isa; truly no double-entendres are intended.

A relative calm in the middle of the film leads to a rebuilding of drama as the true sexual orientation of Pablo increasingly is seen as an addiction by his family. Intense distress as to all that he has given up prompts our family man to enter conversion therapy that ironically seems as if it would result in even the most straight man in the world to lose all interest in women. 

This leads to the aforementioned not-so-happy ending in which Pablo decides the extent to which he will sacrifice the needs of the few to satisfy the needs of the many. 

Movement supplements "Temblores" with the short "Black Hat," which is the Film Movement Award winner at the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. This less dramatic look at a family man on the gay end of the Kinsey Scale uses the titular head covering as highly symbolic as a religious item and the public persona of the man. The hat coming off allows him to be more true to himself.​

Friday, June 19, 2020

'Star Trek Short Treks' DVD and BD: Boldly Going Where No 'Trek' Series Has Gone Before

The CBS Home Entertainment June  2, 2020 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek Short Treks" lets non-subscribers of CBS All Access enjoy these these charming streamisodes of "Star Trek: Discovery." Each of the 9 shorts allows characters great and small a chance to shine. A glaring omission is Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, whom everyone's favorite rent-boy Anthony Rapp seems born to play.

The icing on the cake is the truly special features, which include "making-of" bonuses, with which CBS pairs each short.

All Access awesomely does some of the heavy lifting for this post; it perfectly describes this series as follows. "'Star Trek: Short Treks' are approximately 10-15 minute stand-alone short stories that allow fans to dive deeper into the key themes and characters that fit into Star Trek: Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."

The following 2019 ComicCon trailer for "Treks" expertly conveys the strong production values and great underlying humor of these films.

The earlier shorts, which begin with quirky Ensign Tilly in an equally odd story, have strong merits that fully reflect the "Trek" spirit. However, the later ones that jump ship and move to the Enterprise are personal faves. 

A favorite among this group is the fantabulous "The Trouble With Edward." Former Enterprise science officer Lynne Lucero is the new captain of a science ship when mad scientist in the truest sense of that term Edward Larkim (H. Jon Benjamin of "Bob's Burgers" and "Archer" fame)  commences the trouble with tribbles. The morals this time are that you should not mess with Mother Nature and that over population can be a deadly problem.

​Larkin easily has the best of countless memorable moments when he cops an epic "not my problem" 'tude despite being the architect of the threat. 

"Q&A" awesomely has Ethan Peck (Spock) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) pair up as the latter greets the former on his arrival on the Enterprise to commence his service on that vessel. The best is soon to come when the "Treks" writers resort to the old "stuck together in an elevator" trope. Suffice it it to say that emotions do run high. 

"Ask Not" is another very strong outing; this one features Captain Pike mercilessly testing an enterprising wannabe. It fully shows how it is determined if someone has the right stuff to serve on that crew. 

The bigger picture this time is that "Treks" allows Trekkers, Trekkies, and the unenlightened alike a solid two-hours (plus extras) of stories that each are worthy of full-length episodes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

'Seeds' DVD: Dickensian South-of-the-Border Coming-of-Age Tale

The TLA Releasing DVD release of the 2017 Mexican drama "Seeds" (nee "Cuernavaca") shows both that everything is relative and that relatable growing pains can be traumatic. The accolades for this Dickensian coming-of-age tale include the Best International Feature Award at the 2018 Borderlands Film Festival and three honors at the 2018 Films Infest. 

The following YouTube clip of a "Seeds" trailer provides a sense of the angst of central character Andy; the glimpse of the wonderful cinematography reinforces the hope of a future Releasing Blu-ray of the film.

Tween Andy is a Dickens stereotype in that he is small, quiet, pale, and classically blond. Sadly, nothing about him even early in the film supports the theory that people with that hair color have more fun.

Andy literally is clinging to a connection with his absent father in the opening scenes; his early interaction with his essentially single mother is very reminiscent of the parent-child relationship in "The Sixth Sense." This is down to Mom picking up a despondent Andy after a typically depressing day at school.

Rare mutual joy in the lives of Andy and his mother is short lived. Their grand afternoon out is continuing with ice cream when a "sliding doors" moment leads to Mom, rather than Andy, becoming the victim of a violent crime. This contributes to especially strong survivor's guilt.

The Dickens vibe initially picks up on the authorities being unable to locate the father of Andy to care for him during the hospitalization of his mother. This leads to the boy travelling to the titular rural suburb for a temporary relocation to the guava orchard of his firm but fair (functioning alcoholic) grandmother Carmen. The DVD liner notes state that Carmen portrayor Carmen Maura has a history of collaborating with Pedro Almodovar.

The eccentric members of the household include an aunt with Down's Syndrome, who provides a herd of cats with unnecessary ongoing medical care. There also is young fieldworker/kitchen helper Esmeralda, who essentially is child labor. 

The guava of the eye of Andy is teen gardener Charley. Part of the artistry of "Seeds" is ambiguity regarding whether the younger boy sees the older one as a cool guy, a brother figure, a substitute father, or an object of carnal affection. Similarly, the feelings of Charley toward the boy are not very clear for much of the film. 

One clear aspect of the Andy/Charley relationship is the latter taking advantage of the other. The boy being relatively wealthy, lonely, smitten, and otherwise vulnerable paves the way for Charley to con him. The aforementioned susceptibility to being taken includes Andy being desperate to reach his father to rescue him from his unfortunate circumstances. This includes the very Dickensian threat of boarding school. 

Charley also provides context for the form of class divide that is common in Mexico and not unheard of El Norte. His modest home in his working-class neighborhood is just beyond a symbolic gate in an equally symbolic wall on the estate of Carmen. Further, Carmen heads an unofficial group of "respectable" members of the community that is seeking to run Charley and his kind out of town.

Twin drama ensues as Charley persuades Andy to fully betray his grandmother at a time that the prodigal son at least is back for a short visit. The two lessons here are to not invite the beast into the parlor and that a leopard never changes his spots.

The impact of all this on caring and trusting Andy is adequately heartbreaking to set "Seeds' apart from more cookie-cutter coming-of-age stories. Those films typically have the boy with at least strong gay tendencies end up with the right person and come out the other end of a traumatic experience wiser but not permanently sadder. 

The first difference here is the nature and nurture combine to make Andy much more delicate than the typical emo twink boy next door who is starting to look at either his childhood friend or the new guy in school in "that way." Our lead seems destined either to spend his teen years locked in his room reading or shooting up the cafeteria at lunchtime. Either way, you cannot help feeling very sorry for him and hoping for the best.

Friday, June 5, 2020

'30 Rock' Blu-ray CS: SNL Meets MTM

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated post on "30 Rock" CD BD reflects the enhancement of this MCE release that a desire to timely post an article on prevented including in the original post.]

Mill Creek Entertainment aptly continues to show that it has come a long way, Baby as to the April 21, 2020 complete series Blu-ray set of the "Must-See" 2006-13 Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin sitcom "30 Rock." This release both follows comparable MCE releases of the woman-oriented sitcoms "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and (reviewed) "The Mindy Project." 

Aside from allowing freeing up valuable real estate that the older single-season DVD sets of "30" occupy, the BD versions  of the episodes are much crisper and clearer.

The Rock solid set also makes the MCE roots of producing bargain sets of public domain series a distant memory. This truly is not your father's (or mother's) MCE. 

The numerous Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention the copious nominations, for "30" reflect its talent for walking the tightrope between daring comedy and offensive content. Having a supporting character named "twofer" based on being black and a Harvard guy nicely reflects this.

The series centers around "The Girlie Show" (aka TGS) head writer Liz Lemon, who is an alter ego of Lemon portrayor/"30" creator/producer/SNL alum Tina Fey. Lemon is a neo-modern version of Mary Richards of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in that she is one of the boys in a male-dominated industry and workplace.

Lemon is quick to volunteer information about her unusual menstrual cycle and is equally candid about her horrific eating habits. Viewers also get to see a parade of male suitors that mostly are played by A-list celebrities that include Matt Damon and John Hamm. 

Alpha-male Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a much wealthier, more sophisticated, and more ruthless version of "Moore" boss Lou Grant. Donaghy being the head of both microwave ovens and network television is one of many ways that "30" lampoons General Electric ownership of "TGS" network NBC; the many ways that "30" doubles down on the subsequent Comcast acquisition of NBC includes pitting Donaghy against a equally ruthless teen rival played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

Much of the aforementioned "balancing act" of "30" relates to Donaghy being a poor Irish boy from Boston made good. Casting series regular/show business legend Elaine Stritch as his bigoted and cruel mother Colleen is a series highlight; an episode in which Jack backs his car over Mom is one of many that makes "30" "must-see." 

A "sit" that drive much of the "30" "com" is established in the pilot. A desire to expand the appeal of "TGS" prompts hiring loose-cannon black actor Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who can be considered the love child of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

An S7 episode in which Jordan dreams that he is Morgan is one of the many ways that "30" breaks the fourth wall; a hilarious S1 outing in which actual product placement is heavily featured in a debate about incorporating that into "TGS" is an even better example of the series keeping it real. 

Series executive producer Lorne Michaels also gets his lumps in ways that extend beyond "TGS" portraying the dark side of Michaels' series "SNL." A direct barb at the ego of Michaels further shows a lack of fear as to "30" biting the hand that feeds it.

The copious ethnic humor related to the outrageous personal life, work-interaction, and "TGS" characters  of Jordan is a prime example of "30" keeping the real-life NBC standards-and-practices team on its toes. One can only imagine the bargaining that must have occurred as to allowing a portrayal of Black Hitler. 

The numerous underlying causes of Jordan-related chaos include his arrival triggering hysterical (in both senses of the word) jealousy in former sole headliner Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). This actress whose talents do not justify her divatude fully shines as to her "Baby Jane" level demands for attention and alternating rivalry and partners-in-crime attitudes as to Jordan. One of her top moments involves purposefully acting out in response to a sense that Jordan is receiving better treatment than her. 

The entire "30" team earns extra credit for an S7 storyline that curses Lemon with a close ongoing relationship with two persons who hilarious emulate her work problem children.

America's Princess Carrie Fisher is a top contender for a best guest star among a large group that include Paul Reubens and Steve Martin. Fisher plays Lemon idol Rosemary Harris, who is a former female writer for a '70s "Laugh-In" style variety show. Suffice it to say that the decades have not been kind to Harris.

"Laugh-In" also is relevant as to what makes the appearances of Fisher and her peers so memorable. Ala Richard Nixon and other notable "Laugh-In" guests, the "30" visitors fully embrace the spirit of the series. This includes Hamm playing a boyfriend of Lemon who is oblivious to getting special treatment based on his good looks. 

The special appeal of all this is that "30" displays all this 20th-century spirit in a 21st-century era that is characterized by a distressing refusal to recognize the context of "offensive" humor. It aptly is beyond awesome that NBC (and MCE) do not consider that independent spirit a dealbreaker. 

The copious bonus features include a hilarious table read and a studio tour by the always entertaining Fey. 

MCE supplements this with a plethora of bonus features that include interviews and gag reels. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band' Blu-ray, DVD, Digital: One More Waltz for Epitome of Folk Rockers

The star power in front of and behind the camera as to the 2019 documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" is enough to make the Magnolia Pictures May 26, 2020 Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital releases of this tribute to that quintet must-see for the broad demographic to which it appeals. The underlying blockbuster-worthy tale seals the deal. 

The aforementioned behind-the-scenes talent includes executive producers Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and long-time Howard production partner Brian Grazer. Director Daniel Roher gives PBS darling Ken Burns ample reason to look over his shoulder.

The titular frontman is the tip of the iceberg as to the Hall of Fame musicians who make up the talking heads (sans David Byrne) in the film. We hear quite a bit from former "Band" member Eric Clapton, former frontman for the titular band of brothers Bob Dylan, and devoted fans Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.

The festival love that verifies that "Robertson" gets its material down pat includes a 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Best of the Fest award for Roher. The 2019 Whistler Film Festival expresses its regard via a World  Documentary Award win.

The following compelling trailer for "Robertson" highlights the charm and insight of Robertson, who narrates the film. We also get plenty of PG stories of sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll that are de rigueur for any group of musicians. 

Robertson awesomely starts his tale as a Toronto teen in the '50s; this early tales remind us that the adolescents of the Great White North are just the same as the kids living south of their border.

The "When It Began" (apologies to disgruntled father-in-law Dylan) tale continues with Robertson sharing how he and future fellow "Band" mate Levon Helm come to join the Hawkmen of Canadian idol Ronnie Hawkins. The admiration that Hawkins expresses for Robertson in the documentary is one of many examples of a mutual admiration society in this feel-good film in an pandemic era. 

The "its complicated" nature of the relationship between Robertson and Helm drives much of the film; Team Scorsese chooses wisely in initially depicting Helm as an infectiously enthusiastic lad and going on to show how he succumbs to the Bieber Syndrome that seemingly infects every Disney Channel star. 

The Dylan connection also makes for good entertainment; we see how domestic and foreign audiences react to that rock god putting Team Robertson on the payroll; the course of that relationship is another aspect that screams for Howard to make a big-budget biopic about Robertson.

We further learn of the history behind Scorsese adopting this project; a segment in "Robertson" focuses on the "Band" 1976 concert film "The Last Waltz," which turns out to be a swan song for that group, that Scorsese films. A memory of Clapton as to that event further proves that Robertson is a guy with whom one would enjoy sharing a Molson.

The big picture this time is that films like "Robertson" strive for the same goal as this site; namely, to keep American pop culture alive for as long as possible. We are very lucky to be able to hear from this guitar hero. He was there at the beginning, successfully kept up with the times as they were a changin', and is still around to coherently tell his tale. This sadly literally makes him part of a rapidly dying breed.