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Friday, October 23, 2020

'Star Trek Picard' S1 DVD, BD, Steelbook: TNG: The New Class

 

The CBS Home Entertainment September 29, 2020 separate DVD/BD/BD steelbook releases of S1 of the CBS All Access series "Star Trek Picard" truly shows what become a legend most. This is not to mention the titular once (and future?) Starfleet admiral and his rebellious alliance boldly going where (almost) no man has gone before in search of new life and a new civilization.

Although Covid-19 is delaying the painfully highly anticipated S2 premiere, All Access already has committed to at least three seasons. 

The following trailer pays wonderful homage to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" by featuring scenes of Picard, who only works in outer space, enjoying a peaceful existence at the family vineyard in France until duty once again harshes that particular mellow. The subsequent new faces and visits from old friends gives a sense of the "New Class" element. One spoiler is that Pulitzer Prize winning creator/head writer Michael Chabon spares us any appearances by Neelix, aka the Screech of the Trekverse.

The opening scene, which is far too awesome to even remotely spoil, immediately grabs Trekkers, Trekkies, and anyone who likes a good story. This first of countless love letters to TNG provides the perfect context for a central relationship that drives much of this perfect 10-epidose season that easily passes the "one more" test and leaves us wanting so much more, These payoffs include visiting Mr, and Mrs. Riker in their idyllic home. 

A true rude awakening soon comes for Picard when student Dahj visits in the wake of a puzzling attack. This ambush triggers an equally mysterious "activation" in Dahj that leads to kung-fu fighting in which she is fast as lightning. Although this is exciting; it is a little bit frightening.

The rest of the groundwork for the rest of the season is the 14 year-old incident that is behind Picard leaving Starfleet. His role in a controversial humanitarian mission to relocate "Trek" baddies the Romulans to Mars, which no longer needs women, leads to a catastrophic uprising by synthetic lifeforms that leads to a ban on their further development. This is akin to the "Star Trek: Enterprise" story arc as to superhumans; that one is memorable for the classic line "actually, Mother was a botanist."

An especially awesome aspect of this portion of the S1 saga is Picard following the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" philosophy that you need a Klingon to fight a Klingon. 

The reimaging of the "Trek" verse that the must-see home-video special features mention includes the Starfleet brass surprisingly rejecting the request of the man who saved the world (a lot) to reup and fulfill the humanitarian mission of the Federation. We also get tech. that is borrowed from the "Stargate" universe. 

This rejection leads to Picard taking the desperate measure of enlisting the services of the blatantly Han Soloesque Cristobal Rios to use his version of the Millennial Falcon to help Picard find TNG enemy turned research collaborator Bruce Maddox; the is the first of several time that this series drifts into "Wars" territory. The holograms that augment the skeleton crew awesomely evoke thoughts of the current "Flash" series.

The maiden voyage for this motley crew is to a planet to recruit fighters for the action to come. This reunites Picard with a 20-something Romulan who still has Daddy issues as to that father figure from his youth. This adventure ends with a sequence that has highly predictable elements with a surprising twist that reverses the awesome tradition of having TNG characters pop up on "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" ala Chrissie of "Three's Company" visiting former landlords the Ropers after they sell their apartment building. 

"Picard" also borrows from the ancient past by twice using "the old fake prisoner as a Trojan horse" trick from "Wars" and many, many, many, many other films and television series. 

All of this leads to an season-ending three-episode story arc that is one of the best in the entire "Trek" history. Picard is facing enemies on both sides as the events behind his leaving Starfleet begin to replay; of course, this screams for omnipotent mischief-maker Q to appear to further stir the boiling plot. Certainty exists as these events involving a strong element of the classic TNG series finale.

Team Chabon fully earns its pay as to how it wraps up these episodes that serve equally well as a season or series ender. Suffice it to say that we get Picard 2.0 and all is brought full circle. 

The aforementioned bonuses are too numerous to fully address; a personal favorite is one in which engaging (of course, pun intended) prop master Jeffrey Lombardi essentially shows us how the sausage is made. Great aspects of this includes looks at props from the TNGverse series, showing how technology has allowed making those toys even better, and meeting crew members who have been on the team since TNG days.

We also get a feature of Team Picard that clearly do not adhere to Starfleet protocol, a look at the Emmy-winning prosthetics and make-up, a tour of the sets. CBS augments (of course, pun intended) with deleted scenes and a gag reel.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

'Irresistible' DVD & BD: Stewart and Carell Together Again

 

The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment separate DVD and DVD/BD sets of the John Stewart ("The Daily Show") joint "Irresistible" (2020) provides a great chance to see a film that truly is one for our dystopian times. The extreme divisiveness regarding every aspect of American society screams now more than ever for the impish wit and charm of writer/director Stewart. 

​Casting "Daily" veteran Steve Carrell as prominent Democratic campaign manager/spin doctor Gary Zimmer is the icing on this tasty cupcake. This "Office" guy puts his deadpan wit and condescending arrogance/exasperation to good use as a DC insider essentially living a self-imposed exile in Hooterville. Think Michael Scott  in a town full of Dwight Schrutes, 

The quasi Mary Matalin to Zimmer's James Carville is his Republican counterpart Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne). This "Irrestistible" aspect aptly adds a '90s vibe to this film that is a a mash-up of the politicom "Wag the Dog" and films"loosely based" on the Matalin/Carville relationship.

The following "Irresistible" trailer provides an excellent "25-words-or-less" synopsis of the wonderfully cynical themes of the film; we also get good doses of the well-produced humor that make this one worth adding to your home-video library.​


Our story begins on election night 2016 with the upset victory of Trump over Clinton; we all know how that worked out. Four years later, Zimmer finds a potentially game-changing online video of democrat/veteran/farmer Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) raising a fuss at a council meeting in his rural Wisconsin town, Zimmer makes the hastings decision that his getting that man elected mayor will be an important step toward turning that swing state to the Democratic side in the upcoming presidential election.

Hilarity ensues as we witness the political games that are par for the course inside the Beltway but not the Bible Belt. We also see the aforementioned patronizing attitude of Zimmer towards the "hicks," and said "real Americans" show up that city slicker.

The success of Zimmer brings Brewster to town to create bad faith as to Hastings. This leads to Zimmer v. Hastings: This Time It Is Especially Personal. The fun here includes a manufactured scandal and a perfect example of the risks of relying on general demographics. All of this makes Topher "Dumb Ass" Grace ("That '70s Show") being a member of Team Zimmer apt.

Stewart saves the very best for last ala a series of twists that are straight out of Golden Age Hollywood. This awesome cynicism shows that you truly cannot trust or underestimate anyone.

The copious home-video bonuses include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of "making of" features.

Friday, August 28, 2020

 How Lois Lane Syndrome Exacerbates Covid Economic Impact

The inspiration for this detour into Blogland dates back several years; one thing that always has bothered me about "Superman" incarnations is that Lois Lane makes a big show of being so fearless but puts herself in precarious situations knowing that Superman will show up and save her. I always have believed that people should make their best effort to be self-sufficient before relying on the kindness of strangers. 

Another pop culture phenomenon is highly relevant to the topic of good faith as to contending with the economic impacts of Covid. An episode/failed spinoff pilot of the long-running NBC '80scom "The Facts of Life" has post-adolescent prep school girl/doctor's daughter Natalie abandoning Westchester to live La Vie Boheme in NYC. The response of this sheltered girl to a financial crisis of one of her many roommates in a one-room apartment is that no one likes asking their parents for money but that it sometimes is necessary. The reply to that suggestion makes it  VERY clear that not everyone can go running to Daddy when they lack money for last year's rent, this year's rent, next year's rent.

The recent expiration of the $600/week federal unemployment supplement is behind the current musings on reliance on a bailout. The unpredictable, rapid, severe nature of the shutdown justifies the additional benefit at a time that the consequences of losing a McJob are far more dire than merely getting comparable work at a competitor.

The July 31, 2020 cut-off of the additional amount reflects the belief of both the pols and the hoi polloi that our long national nightmare would have ended by then. Looking back two weeks, some form of additional aid seems reasonable. 

The other side of the coin is that it is known that some people took undue advantage of the supplemental benefits to either not return to their former employment when doing so was an option and/or did not look for alternative work when it became available. It is equally probable that a large percentage of people relied on an extension of the extra $600 after July.

This is a factor both as to many unemployment recipients being in a tough position and many Republicans advocating a more tempered response to the current need for this aid. 

Practicing what I preach has included cutting back and regularly taking short-term jobs during periods of unemployment. I also diligently applied for permanent work. I admit that even cold calling companies is better than a shift at McDonalds or WalMart. However, the principle of due diligence to earn a paycheck applies.

A side note is that I worked at Crate and Barrel style store and caterwaitered several times a week despite having a full-time job in the first few years after college. I did the extra work so that I could have some "wants" and would be in a better position if I lost my job. 

The big picture is that the "us" versus "them" mentality that pervades modern culture is more powerful than kryptonite as to "killing" a superhero.

​No one should have to beg for anything, but the same "kids" who often literally shout when they feel that the "adult" on the other side of the counter is asking for too much should realize that showing good faith in the form of demonstrating a willingness to do that part is a more effective way to get a raise in their "allowance" than sitting around texting and refusing to even try to do their fair share. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

'Like Any Other Kid' DVD: Documentary on 'Missouri Method' for Treating Juvenile Offenders

 Bullfrog Films, which services both the general and educational home-video markets, provides substantial food for thought as to the DVD release of the 2017 documentary "Like Any Other Kid." The underlying theme of the "Kid" is the debate almost as old as time regarding the extent to which prisons should punish in contrast to rehabilitate the folks who are guests of the state.


"Kid" studies young offenders who commit a variety of offenses; the focus is on "The Missouri Method," which believes that sparing the rod does not spoil the delinquent. 

The film visits several juvenile facilities that take the talking cure to heart; through this, we met both the troubled youth and the guards who are highly dedicated to finding out how they can reach their kids so that they do not embark on a life of crime.

One of the most entertaining scenes has two teen boys act out a "use your words, not your fists" improv that is as amusing to them and their peers as it is to those of us at home. Despite the flawed delivery, the message that asking for money owed rather than coming to blows (or worse) over the dispute is highly valid.

One excitable boy gets more screen time than most; he is distinguishable both for essentially "going over the wall" during a trust-based furlough and for subsequently breaking down in a discussion with guards and therapists. One of the guards previously having his time in the spotlight adds a good perspective.

The bigger picture, which is highly relevant at a time that COVID-19 has amped hostility among "us" and "them," is that "we" always respond better when "they" are reasonable and compassionate. A more basic way of understanding this is that one dog simply barking at an already agitated dog only will lead to both dogs increasing their volume and enhancing the possibility that one or both of them is going to walk away with a chunk missing out of his or her body. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

'My Best Friend' DVD: Siblings From Different Mothers Experience Brotherly Love

Breaking Glass Pictures  amusingly is a good buddy to film reviewers regarding the DVD release of the 2018 Argentinian gayish-themed coming-of-age film "My Best Friend." Writing about movies that hold your interest and that include proper portions of humor and drama is a nice contrast to sometimes literally losing sleep over how to state something nice regarding films that you would not feed to a dog.

The big picture (pun intended) about this film by Martin Deus is that it follows the pattern of a correlation between the amount of nudity and other sexual content and the quality of the film. The most prurient element in "Friend" is brief full rear and very partial frontal nudity in a high-school locker room. 

The more narrow perspective is that "Friend" (and the similar (reviewed) "Speed Walking") indicate that Breaking is softening its awesome edge as it enters its mature stage. A negative aspect of this development is that these films and others like them may give gay teen boys false hopes about getting in both the hearts and the pants of their best friend. A related element is that lovers of the full spectrum of indie fare from Breaking hope that any embarrassment of riches does not deprive of us the good, the lewd, and the brutally honest that characterizes many films from that distributor.

The two wins for performances and additional awards for "Best Narrative" and "Best Screenplay" at the 2018 OUT at the Movies Int'l LGBT Film Fest perfectly reflect what makes "Friend" special. The following YouTube clip of a trailer for the film validates those honors.

Our central character is everyteen Lorenzo, who is living a comfortable middle-class life with his loving parents and his adorable little brother Lucas. Lorenzo also is well-liked by both girls and boys and gets to hit it and quit it with the female object of his affection.

Trouble comes a knockin' when Lorenzo arrives home one afternoon to find Caito waiting outside with an expectation of a long visit. The rest of the story is that the father of Caito is a former football (my people call it soccer) star/ex-con, who is a childhood friend of the father of Lorenzo. This presumed defensive midfielder had called a few days earlier to ask if Caito could stay with the other family for a while because the step-brother of Caito was recovering from a bad motorcycle accident. This conversation did not seal the deal regarding Caito essentially becoming a foster child.

Lorenzo and the 'rents accept the situation and have Caito literally bunk with Lucas, who is surprisingly chill regarding the matter. This response also includes asking Lorenzo to subtly keep an eye on his new bro. Said dude not taking long to show that he is a bad seed prompts more surprising understated reactions regarding this development.

The rest of this story is that Lorenzo is quiet and studious; Caito is a tattooed relatively tough and sullen guy who is into sports. The boys connecting over a few common interests supports the theory that opposites attract. 

A bonding scene that involves literal pillow talk creates high expectations for at least 10-percent of the male viewers; another tender scene creates ambiguity regarding whether Caito is demonstrating mercy or is playing for the same team as Lorenzo. These moments and others like them provide good context for the behavior of Caito. 

Another memorable scene is between Lorenzo and his mother; she puts most other reel (and real) moms to shame in gently inviting her son to come out the closet if he is in it. This awesomeness includes respecting his wishes and not pushing the matter. This conversation further is contrary to the theory that every gay man has "a mother." 

The most cute moment comes via the 'rents essentially telling Lorenzo that they are going to get rid of the bad puppy, whose misdeeds include running feral, unless Lorenzo agrees to take more responsibility for this pet. Watching the younger and smaller boy assume control over the willing older and larger guy is very amusing.

This warm-and-fuzzy film with an edge stays true to the spirit of the movie by ending with a whimper (and perhaps a bang) after a final round of trauma and drama. Mainstream Hollywood may not have presented the ending, but everyone at least is a little older and wiser. 

Breaking further outdoes itself regarding the extras of which it always is proud. The highlight is the 24-minute Deus film "The Prisoner." This tale of high school boys slightly notches up the homoerotic meter from "Friend."

"Prisoner" begins with two boy scouts waking up with a pup tent. One of the lads, who is breaking his back, consistently calling his mountain companion "Sir" seems to be insincere until we soon learn that the expression of military-style protocol is genuine. 

The action picks up on the boys finding a nearly naked younger guy tied up and leashed. This newcomer (no pun intended) literally plays for the other team in that he is on the side of two groups that are playing war games.

The pair becomes a trio as the new captors bring their prisoner along with them. This leads to additional adventures that relate both to trust and to the Stockholm Syndrome. An apparent betrayal of that trust concludes with scenes that show that boys will be boys. 

Breaking also includes interview with Deus and his cast; a "Behind the Music" extra pays homage to the great soundtrack of "Friend." ​

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. ​