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Friday, November 15, 2019

'Star Trek: Discovery' S2 DVD & BD: Enterprising Search for Spock with Captain Pike

CBS Home Entertainment gives folks who do not subscribe to CBS All Access a chance to watch the subject of the massive recent buzz from the Trekverse by releasing "Star Trek: Discovery" on DVD, Blu-ray, AND Blu-ray steelbook on November 12, 2019.

The excitement relates to the Discovery crew encountering the Enterprise and Captain Christopher Pike assuming command of the former. This plays a role in a search for Spock (who may have acted out of concluding that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few).

One spoiler is that "Trek" deity Bryan Fuller exceeds all high expectations as to all the above and so much more; seeing the tech. of this show set 10 years before the OS period being so much more advanced, brighter, and bolder than that as to the exploits of Team Kirk remains mind bobbling. 

The following trailer for "Discovery" S2 highlights the feature-film production values, the aforementioned OS elements, and the underlying mission that drives much of the action. This is not to mention a taste of the charm and broad appeal of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets.


S2 begins with things being relatively back to normal after the S1 parallel universe adventures, conflict with the Klingons, and copious ship-board drama. Things change on receiving a distress signal from the Starfleet flagship Enterprise. Although the ensuing rendez-vous alters the execution of Pike taking charge, this ties into prior unfortunate circumstances leading to Pike being the new boss. Subsequent unfortunate circumstances lead to Pike staying in charge longer than initially anticipated.

These events set the stage for Discovery to take the lead in investigating the phenomenon of seven signals briefly appearing and heralding (pun intended) the arrival of a mysterious entity dubbed The Red Angel. Early indications, including separately finding a crashed Starfleet ship in dire need of aid and a group of humans being rescued and relocated far, far, far from home in the distant past of 2053, are that the angels provides what is needed ala the sapceship Destiny in the "Stargate: SGU" television series. 

This presumed guardian also leads the crew to the especially alien homeworld of Commander Saru, who is fresh off a identity-changing incident. This trek involves both a family reunion and unvcovering a hidden historical truth.

Team Fuller expertly builds on this solid foundation by expanding on the themes of the series and the larger "Trek" lore. Much of this revolves around the relationship between Spock (who actively affirms that he likes science) and his adopted sister Discovery First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).  S2 provides Burnham massive closure and related inconvenient truths. The lifting of childhood guilt that has haunted her to her present provides little solace. The same is true as to her getting the full LaForge as to an unexpected family reunion

Arguably the best treat revolves around the Pike lore; a sort of a homecoming awesomely ties into the OS even more spectacularly than the "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The "previously on" episode-opening segment on this "Discovery" outing is must-see. 

We also get heavy shades of "Terminator" as to Team Pike undertaking numerous "Trek" style life-threatening missions so that the universe can avoid a dark fate. These heroics involving copious amounts of time-travel and physics for dummies further elates the hearts of trekkies and trekkers alike. 

The plethora of special features include two separate "Short Treks" that separately feature Saru annoyingly cheerful and flaky Ensign Sylvia "Neelix" Tilly. We also get "Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage of Season Two," "Enter the Enterprise," and "The Red Angel." 

The insufferable Tilly warrants special notice in that she reflects an element of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." That series has the almost as loathsome teen genius/Class-A dork Wesley Crusher, who provides real-life adolescent misfits of science a role model. Tilly serves the vital function of inspiring awkward science geek girls to pursue their dreams despite the social cost of doing so. Like Crusher, Tilly is a valued (and surprisingly liked) member of the Discovery crew. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

'Eegah' Blu-ray: Captain Caveman Meets Joel and the Bots

Deity to lovers of classic and/or obscure movies, The Film Detective fully puts the turkey back into Turkey Day with a pristine 4K restoration (complete with "Mystery Science Theater 3000" version) of the 1962 scifi cult classic "Eegah" on November 26, 2019. The Turkey Day tie-in dates back to '90s-era MST3K Thanksgiving marathons of the best episodes of this series that hilariously and relentlessly riffs on movies that are "the worst we can find."

An unintentionally amusing element of "Eegah" is that its 1955 Mexican release date is April 1. 

The true MST3K gems are the ones such as "Eegah" in which the roasted fowl itself is highly entertaining and creator/head writer/host Joel Hodgson (later Mike Nelson, no relation) and the "bots" that join him in watching B-movies are fully on their game both in their riffing and the bumper skits. The voice of experience advises to not eat cereal while watching these frequent trifecta offerings; Apple Jacks will become airborne. 

The ONLY complaints about "Eegah" are that the MST3K gang NEVER mentions the '70s cartoon "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" or the 1992 Pauly Shore teencom "Encino Man" and misses a chance for a  PERFECT reference as to wannabe teen idol Arch Hall, Jr. commenting in "Eegah" that he is taking his beloved dune buggy off road. Even moderate MST3K fans are sure to yell out "Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads." Lesser sins of omission are not referencing Kristin Shepard or Joe Gillis in a climatic scene, 

The MANY ways in which the almost non-stop clever quips more than compensates for the omissions include a clever reference to the 1963 star-laden comedy "Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

The "True Palm Springs Story" behind "Eegah" is just as entertaining as the action in this film about the titular caveman (Richard "Jaws" Kiel) looking for love in all the wrong places. As blonde surfer dude star Arch Hall, Jr. tells it in an interview for the blu-ray, he and his father simply decide to run a low-budget scifi film up the flagpole and see if any teens salute.

As Hodgson states in a separate DVD extra, the pandering to the target audience includes giving the kids all they love in the form of numerous elements that include rock-and-roll and a character who wants to be a Flintstone (a little baby Flintstone). Hearing about when Joel meets Arch years after brutally verbally bashing the latter is another interview highlight.

Our story fully begins after roughly 10 minutes of (sometimes comically obvious) exposition. Love interest Roxy is driving her two-seater convertible down a desert road when she runs into Eegah (name written in blood). She lives at least another day to tell her tale to father Mr. Miller (Arch, Sr.) and boyfriend Tom (Arch Jr.).

This soon leads to the "watch out for snakes" reference that is an all-time Misties favorite. Mr. Miller then makes a desert crossing that initially gives Tom glee in the form of getting to show off his speed buggy. Subsequent events show that a father and daughter reunion is only a booty call away. 

Their unfortunate incarceration in the land of the lost allows the Millers to meet the parents and to ponce on the origin story of their host. (The missed opportunity here is the Sherwood Schwartz failedcom "It's About Time" that has two astronauts time travel to prehistoric times.)  

It is equally predictable that a successful escape is not the end of the story; Our brother from another era fully finds himself in the modern world on coming in search of his bride. Needless to say that this blast from the past with a variation of a shotgun wedding does not lead to happily ever after. 

The broadest appeal of this pleasure that does not provide any cause to feel guilty is that it is a strong example of the Saturday afternoon matinee fare that delights and amuses in a manner that keeps MST3K initially on the air for 11 years and has it find new life on Netflix. The next layer is that Arch Jr. has infectious youthful exuberance for his role. He literally is born to play an an OC everydude. 

On  a related note, this "lost episode" release comes two years after the final DVD release of every MST3K episode for which licensing is not a fatal obstacle. (Owning the quickly recalled due to licensing issues Volume 10 is a point of personal pride.) This makes "Eegah" comparable to fans of the classic '50scom "The Honeymooners" getting to own rare episodes of that series that are not part of "the original 39."

It is highly advised to pre-order two copies of the 1,500 copies of this limited-edition release. This allows keeping one for yourself and watching it on Turkey Day and giving the fanboy in your life the second one for a holiday gift.

The only proper way to end these musings is to say "push the button, Frank." 

Monday, November 11, 2019

'Ritual: A Psychomagic Story' DVD: Cinquanta Shades of Grigio

The Film Movement DVD release of the 2013 Italian Gothic psychological thriller "Ritual: A Psychomagic Story" awesomely takes the concept of "50 Shades of Gray" to an exceptional level and celebrates the true spirit of feminism.

Vulnerable Lia is catnip to controlling manipulative Viktor from the moment that they meet; one spoiler is that both display their crazy long before there are any thoughts of putting a ring on it.

Viktor supplementing his compliment of the self-designed dress that Lia is wearing by suggesting that she complement it with the shackle-like bling that he apparently carries around for such chance meetings is the first of many warning signs. 

Things "progress" to insanely jealous Viktor exerting increasing control over Lia to the point that she literally drops her panties as his command. Further kink comes courtesy of Viktor blindfolding his willing victim. 

Lia finding herself with bastard introduces further drama in the relationship. Viktor insisting that Lia terminate the pregnancy does not help matters.

The audience being a fly on the wall during therapy sessions that earn Lia portrayor Desiree Giorgetti at least a festival award provides further context for the dynamics of her relationship with Viktor. This relates to her premature introduction to womanhood being horrific for her. 

A rude awakening convinces Viktor to reverse his denial of a request by Lia for a therapeutic visit with her aunt Agata, who lovingly raised Lia after the death of her mother. The icing on the cake is that Agata lives in the beautiful old family villa, The fly in the ointment is Viktor crashing the family reunion.

The rest of this portion of the story is that Agata is either a new-age healer or a witch depending on the mindset of the beholder, No one can dispute that she gets wonderful results for those who consult her.

The Shakespearean magic of this idyllic locale includes the nicest kids in town taking Lia under their wings. This offsets an highly psychological haunting.

All of this culminates in a titular rite that reinforces the girl power theme of the film.

The appeal of this character study is that Lia is a character well worth studying. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

'The Thing' Blu-ray: Prequel Perfect Homage to Carpenter Classic

Mill Creek Entertainment provides a chance to see a prequel done right as to the October 29, 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Thing" (2011), which is an awesome homage to the 1982 John Carpenter cult classic of the same name. As the "must-see" bonus feature "'The Thing' Evolves" clearly shows, the filmmakers meticulously follow the principle of the devil being in the details to the extent of recruiting actors in Norway to play the crew of the Norwegian research station around which this origin story is centered.

MCE deserves an even more hearty slap on the back for the expert job producing the BD. The panoramic opening shots of snow and ice are almost blinding, and the sound is so crisp that you will hear and feel every crack of ice. This is not to mention the depth of these and all other shots. 

Our story begins with our modern-day Vikings searching for the source of a mysterious signal; discovering in one of the worst possible ways that a long-buried alien spaceship is the culprit figuratively (and almost literally) is the tip of the iceberg. These scientists learn that the last visitor from a distant planet to exit the craft left the door open.

Finding that careless individual encased in ice leads to paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) coming to the great white north because she thinks that it is a beauty way to go. Her companions include boyfriend Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) and his boss, 

Jubilation soon turns to horror as our international group of friends soon become chum for the titular monster. Ala "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the ability of the brother from another planet to replicate and possess any living organism both creates reasonable paranoia and complicates the task of putting the genie back in the bottle,

Much of the rest of "Thing" takes on a perverse "Tom and Jerry" theme as the roles of hunter and hunter frequently shift. Inarguably the best scene in this film with award-worthy effects involves showing the extent to which the big bad is a karma chameleon. A still functional detached limb doing its thing at PRECISELY the right moment alone is worth "the price of admission." 

This mayhem and increasingly frayed nerves related to it becoming increasingly clear that no one may be whom he or she seems to be leads to an inevitable "Alien" style showdown. The epilogue that plays out during the closing credits provides the missing link between the prequel and the main event.

The epilogue to this post is that the prequel provides valued closure more than 35 years after the release of the original. It also shows that classic scifi is timeless in style and substance.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

'A Quest for Meaning' DVD: Millennials Seek Literally Sage Advice


The Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 documentary within a documentary "A Quest for Meaning" aptly is off a nature that makes writing about it a challenge for unenlightened souls. Fully appreciating the film that is the latest in a strong Icarus collaboration with Bullfrog Films requires abandoning a cynical view of the world that results from the "stinking thinking" that largely is responsible for most of us not being at peace with the real real world. 

​The following YouTube clip of the Icarus trailer for "Meaning" creates a strong hunger for more of the abundant food for thought in the film.


The aforementioned cynicism quickly enters the picture on learning about the tellers of the tale; the intent of 20-something narrator Nathanael Coste in sharing that he and his partner-in-filmmaking Marc de la Menardiere are wealthy Manhattan party monsters who are seeking deeper knowledge likely resonates with other Millennials. Gen Xers likely will be as turned off regarding this self-indulgent exercise in the same manner that this demographic responds to the college kid who works at Starbucks providing a greeting of Namaste. 

Cynicism remaining regarding the messengers soon takes a backseat to the copious insightful messages that the film contains. The inconvenient truth is that many of us will not take those messages to heart. 

These hardy boys begin our journey in India before going off to pick the best brains in France and other countries and then literally and figuratively bringing things home. A highly satisfying aspect of this is that the aforementioned more highly evolved individuals shame the "namaste" poseurs for not practicing what they preach.

A personal highlight is a talking head calling out people who meditate or practice yoga every day only to be nasty to his or her fellow man or woman the rest of the day. We also hear from someone who states that shelling out big bucks for yoga and meditation classes is a huge waste of money. 

The valid but incredibly challenging concepts that seek to put right what once went wrong center around a few guiding principles. Achieving the ideal of only using what we need (rather than acquiring wants as well) is very tough in this highly consumer-oriented society.

A truth bomb regarding what we consider happiness and other emotions is especially eye-opening. This makes the strongest case for striving to live a life of peace,  love, and understanding. At the same time, some people should avoid peeling back layers of the onion. 

We additionally learn that true enlightenment requires a strong connection with both the earth and everything else in our macro and micro universe. Hearing a theory about the actual origin of man brings this home. Another aspect of this is taking recycling to the nth degree.

One of the most thought-provoking aspects of "Meaning" relates to an urban farmer who has incredibly cute and friendly goats. This man notes that his farm is now the envy of the neighborhood. There also are many stories of urbanites (ala attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas) growing vegetables in pots. All of these folks put those of us who do not plant gardens in our large yards to shame. 

The big picture shows how we got to our present place. Most Americans grew up in households in which we wanted to show up the Joneses and in which we were not even encouraged to literally or figuratively get our hands dirty. It is hard to persuade us to strain our muscles growing our food when we can go online and get it delivered either for free or for a relatively low price.

The DVD extras include "Ego Not Bad," which is an extension of "Meaning." The narrowed focus this time is enhancing self-awareness. 

The bottom line regarding all this is "Meaning" shows that fully embracing the concept of namaste when you say it and the other person being receptive to that message are good first steps toward being truly shiny happy people, 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

'Ultra Q' CS BD: Japanese Blend of 'Twilight Zone' and Early 'Lost in Space'

Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,

A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these series is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them out to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.  

MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.

Our discussion of "Q" (just ahead of a "Man" post) begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves. 

Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions. 

The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series. 

The following description of "Q" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave. 

"After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions. The first production under his new label was ULTRA Q, a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.

The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko SakuraiUltraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan. These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future Ultraman shows and movies.

One of the most expensive TV programs produced in Japan up to that time, ULTRA Q was a ratings smash that paved the way for Tsuburaya Productions' first color series... ULTRAMAN!"

A "True Tokyo Story" aspect of "Q" from the aforementioned booklet is sure to delight at least one teen Swedish girl. We learn that the original title of this series is "Unbalance" and that it is intended to show how Mother Nature fights back when man disrupts the balance between the natural and the industrialized worlds. 

On a more relatable note to mainstream North American audiences, "Q" evokes strong thoughts of the original "Twilight Zone" and the (black-and-white) first season of "Lost In Space" before the influence of "Batman" '66 makes the latter far brighter and more campy. This element of east meets west extends beyond all three series including exposition (and context) providing narration.

The look and tone of "Q" is very similar to that of "Zone" and "Space." The production techniques show that Irwin Allen of "Space" fame and his brother from another continent Tsuburaya are of one mind. 

The aptly titled "Defeat Gomess" starts "Q" on a terrific note that reflects a timely "television killed the movie star" vibe by having a well-executed "Godzilla" theme. This story begins with construction of a train tunnel giving the titular beast both a rude awakening and an exit strategy.

This adventure includes a "little child" shall lead them element that is prominent in "Q" and "Man." A young boy takes an "it takes a Klingon to defeat a Klingon" attitude by being instrumental in inviting the arch-foe of Gomess to the party. The rest is pure scifi history.

Speaking of "Trek," "Q" (no relation) regularly having a boy hero seems to inspire a prominent feature in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of countless expressions of intense disdain for prodigy Wesley Crusher prompted a friend to agree but note that Wesley allows tween boys to fantasize about being respected members of the Enterprise crew. 

"Q" next takes a wonderfully goofy turn in "Goro and Goro." This one has a monkey whisperer do his thing when a science experiment gone awry causes a simian to become a (non-grape) great ape, The humanitarian outcome is a nice alternative to having the "monster" plummet from a skyscraper. 

The ironically titled "Gift From Space" has our not-so-favorite Martians respond to rocket scientists boldly going where no man has gone before. There never has been a more clear example of Yankee, go home. 

The fun continues with variations of "The Thing" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" (complete with a vampire plant that literally can be thought of a a big prick). This leads to an imminent explosion of Mt. Fuji involving a bear boy and another slumbering monster whom the misdeeds of man has awoken.

"Q" wraps this up several episodes later with a "Dr. Who" style adventure involving a train that can travel through time and space. The "Zone" style destination in a land that is free from the consequences of incidents that shows what fools these mortal be. 

The kicker to all this there is much more to discover and adore about "Q" and the entire franchise. MCE deserves high praise for doing such an exceptional job making this possible. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

'Gunsmoke' S15 V1 & V2 DVD: 26 Ways to Delight in the Old West

CBS Home Entertainment aptly shows that it has absolutely no intention to get out of Dodge by separately releasing "Gunsmoke" S15 V1 and V2 on October 1, 2019. This leaves only five more seasons to go as to being able to own this series that spans the period from the '50s to the '70s. 

Comparable to the love that CBSHE shows a plethora of other "TV Land" shows, such as the (reviewed) "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the (reviewed) "The Love Boat" DVD sets, this studio expertly remasters ORIGINAL BROADCAST versions of "Gunsmoke" and includes episode promos. 

Of course, the (reviewed) recent CBS massive epic "Brady Bunch" 50th anniversary set deserves a very special mention. This one includes EVERY "Brady" series and films sans the variety show and the reality series. 

"Gunsmoke" is a prime example of the exceptional shows on which many of us miss out due to an unwarranted prejudice against westerns, The ignorant aspect of ignoramous fully applies to folks, which includes your previously unenlightened reviewer, who write off these dramas as not much more than excuses for saloon fights and high noon showdowns.

Much of the entertainment relates to comic relief part-time deputy Festus Haggen, who clearly is the Bany Fife to Marshal Matt Dillion. Dillion amusingly getting out of Dodge for several episodes allows his right-hand man to take the lead as to maintaining law and order. 

The "Andy Griffith Show" vibe extends to a coming-of-age S15 episode in which Ron "Opie" Howard plays a teen boy coming to grips with his relationship with the indian woman who is the second wife of his father. The catalyst for this drama truly is a case of my boyfriend's back, and there's gonna be trouble. 

Howard also is connected to "Gunsmoke" in that setting the series in the Old West reflects the wisdom of "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall. Marshall recognizes that setting a '70scom in the '50s and the '60s prevents it from ever looking dated. 

Of the 14 episodes watched for this post, there was only one showdown. That one was an element of an old west mashup of the Hatfields and the McCoys. This time, the offspring of two feuding families in Dodge City planning to get hitched coincides with the arrival of a man who has gun, will travel. 

The rest of this story is that an assumption as to who is going to be the newest resident of Boot Hill leads to twist that takes the episode in a new direction. All of us can relate to someone faster and overall better threatening our way of life. 

We also get a still relevant life lesson in an episode in which three prisoners come to Dodge to work as as an alternative to remaining a guest of the territorial governor. Two end on the farm of a couple that seem to be Quakers. and the third gets his last-minute second-chance at the Long Branch saloon run by Miss. Kitty. The ensuing rehabilitation efforts show that some men can be saved and that others are irreparably born bad. 

We further get social commentary in an episode in which an indian scout in both senses of that word makes a valiant effort at  a mother and child reunion while on a mission from Grant. This surprisingly
candid adventure relates to the brutality that the woman experienced while being held captive by the tribe of her offspring. 

One of the more intriguing episodes is a "what if" outing, Dillon is summoned to intervene in a kangaroo court murder trial occurring in a town that is a bizarro version  of Dodge. The buildings and many of the townfoks are virtually the same. The primary difference is that the absence of a dedicated lawman such as Dillon allows a rich widow to run the community with an iron fist. Her comeuppance awesomely is a mix of frontier and poetic justice, 

A more universal theme is that an actual or assumed stranger comes to Dodge City with a chip (but not a Chippewa) on his shoulder. This new kid in town may be gunning for Dillion based on their personal history, seeking vengeance against a former partner-in-crime who shows that there is no honor among thieves, or merely is there to deal with a family issue, One of the latter involves a scheme to compensate for a lack of alimony before heading for the border. 

The only fitting way to conclude this tribute that easily could be of epic length to this timeless classic is to state "I told you so." The value of "Gunsmoke" clearly extends well beyond the stereotypes of its genre.

Friday, October 11, 2019

'High Strung Free Dance' Theatrical: Wonderfully Reminiscent of '30s Musicals

Former "The Young and the Restless" hunk/rocker/notable sitcom guest star Michael "Flyman" Damian once more puts his diverse background to good use in producing/writing/directing "High Strung Free Dance." This sequel to the (reviewed) 2016 Damian joint "High Strung" opens theatrically on October 11, 2019. The ONLY "complaints" about this sequel are that it lacks the term "Electric Boogaloo" and does not recreate the awesome violin bow duel from the original. 

On a serious note, Damian also takes advantage of his decades of show business experience by following the general rule of making a sequel more grand than the original, He does buck the trend of a first sequel being horrible only to have the franchise rebound with the third entry. This creates great expectations as to a third "High Strung" movie.

Damian (perhaps inadvertently) also reflects the wisdom of the mid-70s Saturday-morning series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that a fan base can handle a more mature offering than the series that brings them to the table. The post on "High Strung" notes that it seems to be geared to a tween girl audience but appeals to a broad age group, 

The final aside before fully discussing "Free Dance" is that the "cast of 1,000s" listed as producers of this crowdfunded movie shows that it would be cool to see your name on the silver screen. These contributions to indie films that value art over commerce also help talented folks such as Damian continue to "rock on."

The following trailer for "Free Dance" highlights how it is brighter, grander, and more adult than its excellent predecessor. 


"Free Dance" takes its name from the epic Broadway show around which the film revolves. The link with "High Strung" is that both films feature Jane Seymour as highly demanding dance instructor (ala Lydia Grant of "Fame" fame) Oksana in both films. One difference this time is that Oksana has a highly personal interest (and rocky relationship) as to central dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty).

The asides this time are that we know that Seymour is not an ex-wife of Henry VIII but do not know whether Oksana considers Anna Karenina her favorite author.

Damian pays a wonderful homage to the past by bringing the epic '30s musicals back in a much bolder and brighter fashion in the 21st century. The choreography and cinematography require a Blu-ray when "Free Dance" is released on physical media.

This ode to yesteryear includes Barlow initially not making the cut as a background dancer for the titular extravaganza of fabled choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas "Harry Hook" Doherty of the "Descendants" franchise). Barlow not taking "no" for an answer puts right what once went wrong.

Our classic tale continues with deli delivery boy/aspiring pianist Charlie (Harry "Vampire Boy" Jarvis) getting his first lucky break in terms of one chance encounter connecting him with a reclusive retired famous pianist.  A subsequent series of fortunate (and one seemingly not-so-fortunate) circumstances leads to Charlie getting the gig as the on-stage pianist for the show, Barlow being his muse helps the production while contributing to backstage drama. 

Related asides this time are that casting Thomas and Harry reinforce that Michael (who casts "handsome devil "Nicholas Galitizine in the first film) has a good eye for talented British pretty boys and that Jarvis shares in an interview for another outlet that "Free Dance" prompts him to resume his piano studies after a long absence. His exceptional playing proves that he is an apt pupil.

Much of "Free Dane" centers  around the trauma and drama of rehearsing for the show, The vintage-style shifting fortunes of Barlow drive much of the action. 

All of this leads to the epic opening night; a twist during this frantic period will cause many viewers of this compelling film to yell out a word that rhymes with "witch" when it seems that nice guys once again finish last. 

Damian fully delivers as to the final performances that include an truly grand finale. This fully leading to a classic Hollywood ending removes any doubt that Damian honors the past.

The epilogue to all this is that the post on "High Strung" encourages folks to disregard embarrassment related to seeing a very good film that is geared to tween girls; there is ABSOLUTELY no cause for such concern as to "Free Dance." 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

'The Reflecting Skin' BD: Little Doll's House on the Prairie

The Film Movement Classics August 6, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1990 Ibsnesque dark familycentric drama "The Reflecting Skin"  once again provides an exceptional chance to see a high-quality film. that may of us miss the first time around. The opening scenes of the characteristic vibrant wheat fields and grotesque bullfrog of 1950s Idaho are the first of copious examples of this release being much closer to 4K than to Blu-ray, 

The festival accolades includes several awards at the 1990 Locarno International Film Festival and a win at the 1990 Stockholm Film Festival. 

The following Classics trailer for "Skin" release validate the universal sense that this is a haunting Gothic film; adding captivating to this list is mandatory.


Fully appreciating how this directorial debut of Philip Ridley is spot on in absolutely every regard from the script, to the direction, to the casting, to the cinematography requires watching it. It truly is not like much that you have seen before, and you never will forget it, 

Our central character is 8 year-old everykid Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper). His woes include his domineering  "witch" of a mother Ruth Dove (Sheila Moore) and his beaten-down submissive father Luke Dove (Duncan Fraser), who operates the dilapidated gas station next to to the isolated farmhouse that this unhappy trio calls home.

Lindsay Duncan steals the show as British widow/next-door neighbor Dolphin Blue. This creepy lady who is the regular subject of pranks/curiosity by Seth and his pals relishes in validating the belief of Seth that she is a vampire who stays young by stealing the youth of boys and objects of her affection. This Midwestern Morticia Addams has more credibility as to her claim of finding the husband who brought her to Idaho hanging from the rafters in the barn.

The appearance of a group of young guys who have stranger danger written all over them and subsequent disappearance of a peer of Seth fully sets our story in motion. 

An incident in the distant past of Luke that Ruth and the local sheriff will not let him forget makes him the prime suspect even before the boy is found in a condition that further points to Luke as the culprit.  This leads to a highly symbolic act by Luke that has just as large of an impact on Seth.

This leads to much older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen in an early role) cutting his military service short to return home to become the man of the house. His experience with the victims of A bomb testing gives the film its most direct symbolic value. The inability of vampires to see their literal mirror images is a close second.

Worlds fully collide in this universe with similarities to that of "Twin Peaks" when Cameron begins a romance with Dolphin Blue, a.k.a. Mrs. Robinson. This triggers great concern for his brother by Seth.

All of this lead to even more intense trauma and drama that leads to a conclusion that is far from a happy ending.

A 43-minute DVD bonus feature that discusses Ridley and the film adds wonderful context to the film. A written essay provides further insights. The joys of both are too special to spoil by saying more.

We further get audio commentary by the auteur himself.

The bottom line regarding all this is that it is difficult to imagine anyone not valuing the artistry, depth, and humor of "Skin." 

Friday, October 4, 2019

'Doom Patrol' S1 DVD & BD: Embraces All Things DCU & MCU

Editor's Note: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.

The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment October 1, 2019 separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of S1  of DC Universe streaming service series "Doom Patrol" nicely reminds us that the range (and legacy) of the DCU extends beyond the broadcast network friendly exploits of the Arrowverse shows, Common executive producer Greg Berlanti clearly lets his inner excitable inner boy out to play in "Patrol."

As an aside, the Warner Brothers section of this site has posts on the recently released WBHE BD sets of the 2018-19 seasons of every Arrowverse series except for "Legends of Tomorrow." 

The following DCU trailer for "Patrol" offers a good primer on the lore of the series and nicely conveys its awesomely quirky vibe. It additionally reinforces that spending a few extra dollars to opt for Blu-ray over DVD is well worth it.


he mandatory starting point is that "Patrol" is tailor-made for a streaming platform, which presumably can push the FCC decency standards even further than premium networks such as Showtime and HBO. One of numerous examples is that the f-bomb seems to be weapon of choice of the misfits of science that comprise the titular team.

The central premise is a wonderful mash-up between the Sci-Fi Channel series "Sanctuary," which stars Amanda Tapping of the "Stargate" universe as a woman who looks very good for her age and uses her enormous mansion to shelter and aid all sorts of disfigured and/or meta entities, and "X-Men." The wheelchair-bound men-of-letters scientist/protector is Niles Coulder/Chief (Dalton, Timothy Dalton). 

The central motley crew that struggles with their meta and their human elements evokes thoughts of the castaways on "Gilligan's Island" to the extent that both have a movie star in their midst. The members of both Team Gilligan and Team Coulder all have significant flaws but remain highly loyal to their "family" with whom a series of unfortunate circumstances have thrown them.

Former NASCAR star Cliff Steele/Robotman (Brendan Fraser) can be considered the brains of the organization in that this man whose War of the Roses with his equally toxic wife ultimately leads to his vital organ being implanted into a metallic body. His related angst includes not having been a good father to his young daughter and his effort to re-establish a relationship with her. 

Next up is dashing closeted gay test pilot Larry Trainor/Negative Man (Matt Boomer). His "something extra" is a space being who inhabits him but goes solo when his services are needed. Larry still struggles with his love for a male member of his flight crew (insert your own cockpit joke here) and more generally with being restrained from being true to himself.

The aforementioned B-movie actress is Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby); varying percentages of her body become a disgusting blob.

Last but not least is woman of 64 meta-personalities Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero). Jane often lacks any control when a resident of the "underground" portion of her mind exerts herself. Each of these temporarily dominant personalities comes with a special power that she does not necessarily use for good, rather than for evil.

The new kid on the block who fills the role of DCU star "slumming" with the B team is Vic Stone/Cyborg (Joivan Wade). Cyborg and his Dad/mechanic have a history with Coulder that leds to Cyborg playing the role of nerd who tries to assume leadership of the class when the teacher leaves for an extended period.

As arch-villain Mr. Nobody/Eric Morden (Alan Tudyk) states in his frequent (and witty) narration, he plays the necessary role of bad guy. The exceptional talent of Mr., Nobody to simultaneously gleefully play mind games and wage psychological warfare makes him a formidable foe and a source of intense entertainment for those of us who do regularly relive our worst moments.

This extended discussion of the intriguing lore of "Patrol" leads little time to share the wonderfully surreal S1 events . 

The band being assembled leads to an ill-advised field trip to the nearby town; Mr., Nobody subsequently captures old foe Coulder and imprisons him in a form of phantom zone. The search of the gang for their leader includes a (non-sexual) disgusting encounter with a donkey, a visit to an incredibly accepting (but shifting) talking street, the evil research facility known as The Ant Farm. and a visit to what can be considered the Justice League predecessors The Justice Society of America, 

Our folks who simply want to avoid their own demises also come up against a wonderfully warped cult that is going to use a (presumably) virgin sacrifice (who presumably reeks of Axe body spray) to bring about end times. They further must go "Magic School Bus" to enter the mind of Jane to return her to a relative state of normalcy.

This is not to mention The Brotherhood of Evil and the Bureau of Normalcy (nee the Bureau of Oddities) creating trauma and drama.

Things really get weird in the final S1 episodes. Our thoughts of suicide squad learn that Chief is the source of much of their discontent and has an "Alice in Wonderland" style ulterior motive for his outward peace, love, and understanding. This leads to a showdown with a true survivor and a sidekick with a "Princess Bride" style vendetta.

Much of the group being in "Wonderland" state at the end of S1 sets the stage for a spectacular S2. 

WBHE supplements all this with unaired scenes, a gag reel,m and an entertaining "Come Visit Georgia" PSA that shows how the versatility of the Atlanta area makes it a good place for location filming.