Thursday, January 31, 2013
The DVD Set, which Shout Factory is releasing on February 12 2013, of the third season of "The Hardy Boys" is the latest show of Shout's deep love for hardcore sofa spuds. It is also another example of Shout releasing additional seasons of an awesome childhood favorite after another studio only released a season or two.
Other, out-dated, news regarding Shout is that it is now the parent company of Timeless Media. Timeless shares Shout's love of classic shows and has great titles. These include the '60s Western "The Virgnian" and the "Hardy" era family show "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams."
"Hardy, " which was based on the uber-popular book series that produced more titles than Stephen King, was a mid-70s Sunday night must-see show for the tween set a decade before Fox launched its "21 Jump Street" anchored lineup that night. Incessant badgering was a proven technique for parents agreeing to forgo "60 Minutes" in favor of Frank and Joe's latest action-packed adventure.
Frank and Joe Hardy were a much kinder and gentler, and less homoerotic, version of Sam and Dean Winchester of "Supernatural." Dreamy teen idol Shaun Cassidy, who had a bubble gum pop music career similar to that of his dreamy teen idol older brother David from "The Partridge Family," portrayed Joe and eclipsed co-star Parker Stevenson.
Stevenson was perfectly dreamy and had his well-deserved share of coverage in "Tiger Beat" but simply lacked the puppy dog eyes and overall "it" of Cassidy. I, and many others, still would not kick Stevenson out of our ice cream parlors.
Before leaving this discussion of harmless heartthrobs, the oft-overlooked Cassidy bro Ryan deserves some ink. Ryan showed as much charm and rocked a shorty robe in a brief stint on the '80s sitcom"The Facts of Life" just as well as David and Shaun smiled and strutted around in barely buttoned shirts on their shows. It is difficult to imagine anyone not letting Ryan move into their attic even today.
Les freres Hardy spent most of their first two seasons investigating crimes and mysterious happenings around their New York state home ala the Scooby gang in the current "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated" series.
Frank and Joe did take road trips and teamed up with fellow teen sleuth Nancy Drew, whose show alternated with the boys' timeslot in the early season, in some first and second season episodes.
The third season began on a dark and unintentionally comic note with an episode in which Joe got engaged within five minutes only to have his fiancee killed in an accident ten minutes later. Frankly (no pun intended), Cassidy and the girl lacked much charisma.
The incident and the law's refusal to act as aggressively as Joe wanted caused that sweet innocent twink to try to act tough and go rogue with predictably amusing results.
Although the award for best line in the episode goes to Frank, who straight-faced (pun intended) and completely seriously says "you're beautiful too" to Joe during a discussion of Joe's dead fiancee, Joe's line "not when there's a fed around" when the bad guy offers him a doobie comes a close second. The elevator music version of the disco tune in the background adds to the entertainment value.
That episode also had a bit of "jump the shark" irony in that the first half ended with Frank being lured into surfing into shark-infested water. The spoiler alert is that he did not become chum.
The better news is that the series really rallied after the first episode, which made it seem that "Hardy" had jumped the shark.
It is possible that, like older brother David, Shaun had tired of playing things light and wanted to act (pun intended) more his age. He, and the producers, wisely abandoned that course. The show became MUCH better after the first episode.
The boys became federal investigators after Joe's visit to the dark side. The rest of the season had them traveling around the world where they locked lips with babes and crossed swords with nefarious criminals.
One particularly good episode had the boys posing as archeology students searching for the lost city of Atlantis in the Greek Islands. (Of course, any fanboy knows that Atlantis is now at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay under where Voyager will make its triumphant return home.)
Seeing Joe resent getting sweaty and filthy while a clean and comfortable Frank made time with the babe of the week was quite amusing; further, a true cliffhanger scene in which Frank faced imminent peril was genuinely suspenseful.
Other exotic locales included Hawaii and the South of France.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Shout Factory for Joy, soon to be renamed to reflect my regular reviews of Warner Brothers releases as well, is pleased to announce both the winners of my Warner Brothers sponsored giveaway contest and the release of what seems to be a great DVD set of classic Warner Brothers films.
The prize was a bundle of Blu-ray releases of the the Best Picture winners "Grand Hotel," "Mrs. Miniver," and "Driving Miss Daisy." The contest, which reflected my love of Warner Archives' releases of '70s Hanna Barbera cartoons, asked that contestants write a short essay on which of the three films mentioned above would best be suited for a cartoon series and why.
Both Ron and Jim chose "Daisy." Ron astutely pointed out that Morgan Freeman was an awesome, my word not his, voice actor and had shown his comedic side. Ron added that the friendship between Miss Daisy and her chauffer Hoke would allow for some great adventures and "fun mishaps."
Jim noted that "Daisy" provided a good chance to educate kids about the period from the 1940s to the 1970s that that film depicted.
Jim's great idea, which could have been executed in a properly "hip" manner, evoked memories of the feds quasi ruining Saturday morning cartoons in the mid-70s, well after "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids" and "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space", by requiring that kids' programming include educational content. I suspect that I would have started a "Keep Your Laws Off My Scooby" if I had been a little older in the '70s.
Jim also channeled the "Laverne and Shirley" early '80s cartoon series, which had the gals serving under a pig in the army, by suggesting the additional Southern element of adding the animated pig mascot from the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain in the series.
Good job guys! I hope that you enjoy the Blu-rays.
This contest winners announcement coincides with what seems to be another winning Warner release. The "Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection Best Pictures" DVD set hits stores tomorrow. I have not seen this one yet but will report on it more fully when I add it to my collection.
Warner divides the set into three chapters; the first, which is labelled "A New Era," spans the period from the introduction of "The Jazz Singer" and other "talkies" to the beginning of World War II." It does not include "Singer," which did not win Best Picture but that I recently reviewed, but does include "Mutiny on the Bounty" and other classics that are just as good as "Singer."
The second chapter leaps over the war years to the post-war period known as "The Golden Years." This portion begins with 1946's "The Best Years of Our Lives" and ends with 1959's "Ben Hur."
The set rounds out with the Clint Eastwood (insert your own imaginary world leader joke here) era dubbed "The New Classics." The Eastwood directed flicks "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby" are joined by the truly epic "Chariots of Fire," the wonderfully subversive "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" featuring Nurse Ratched, and a handful of other favorites from the '70s through 2006.
I cannot imagine Warner doing anything short of a spectacular job with the set but look forward to verifying that it is a must-own collection for this year's pre-Oscars period. Anyone with questions or comments regarding classic films is welcome to email me.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Warner Brothers' three-disc blu-ray release of the 1927 classic "The Jazz Singer" is so indescribably awesome that it make me regret choosing a bare-bones DVD of the equally timeless "Citizen Kane" over Warner's 70th Anniversary blu-ray release of that film about a boy and his sled.
"Singer" is best known for being cited as the first "talkie" film despite having most of the sound consist of tons o' really great music, rather than dialogue, and for spawning the 1980 Neil Diamond remake.
The 1927 version stars Al Jolson as Jake Rabinowitz, the son of a strict immigrant (insert your own "Coming to America" joke here) orthodox Jewish cantor who demands that his son follow his career of singing in the synagogue. Jake, on the other hand, wants a career singing secular songs in taverns and other "unclean" establishments.
A violent confrontation prompts teen Jake to run away, change his name to Jack Robin, and establish a career as a jazz singer. This defiance prompts Rabinowitz senior, played by Charlie Chan actor Warner Oland, to dramatically declare that he has no son and to forbid his wife from even reading letters from Jake.
The action quickly advances 20 years to just before Jack gets a chance to fulfill his dreams of pursuing both the girl of his dreams, who is not a store-bought woman but does make Jack sing like a guitar hummin', and a Broadway career.
Jack's return to New York stirs up drama with his father and presents Jack with a true Sophie's choice.
The story holds up very well and is timely nearly 90 years after its release. Also, the Warner wizards did a stunningly awesome job cleaning up the film for blu-ray.
The picture is very sharp for a non-hi-def film, and there are none of the expected scratches or dirt marks. Additionally, the sound and overall presentation is virtually perfect.
The expert presentation extends to the truly collectible bound book in which the three blu-rays are encased. The booklet starts with a TCM host Robert Osborne worthy recap of the introduction of talkies, goes on to provide stills from the film, and winds up with extensive promotional material from the film.
The second blu-ray in the set is a feature-length documentary, including clips, of the early talkies. I have not watched this yet but it seems very interesting.
I did watch some of the roughly 30 early "talkie" shorts on the third discs. Like "The Jazz Singer," most of the sound from the shorts from the 20s consisted of music and background noise. These evolved to full dialogue and musical numbers by the mid-30s.
One stand-out was a short titled "Night Court," which shared elements of the sitcom of the same name. The judge had a night club's performers do their acts so that the judge could determine if they were "risque" and otherwise illegal as charged.
The penultimate short was special as well because it had the hilarious Burns and Allen do a true vaudeville routine that broke down the fourth wall between them and the audience. Burns' straight man performance did not evoke hilarity that prompted shouting "Oh God" but was still great classic comedy.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Jazz Singer" is welcome to email me.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Although regular readers might think that Warner Brothers Archive's catalog is limited to "lost" '70s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, such as "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" and "The Funky Phantom" , this ginormous collection extends to a wide variety of enduring and cult television programs and films.
Examples from my extensive WB Archive collection include the film noir classics "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" and "The Public Enemy." A recent addition is the high camp series "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," which stars Stefanie "Mrs. H." Powers as a hip '60s superspy. The equally campy film "Torch Song Trilogy," which stars Matthew Broderick and Harvery Fierstein, and features very cute bunny slippers is on my wishlist.
WB Archive's sibling company Warner Brothers Home Entertainment (Home) is contributing to the effort to collect some of the best films ever made by offering blu-ray versions of several classic films. I look forward to this chance to watch enhanced versions of these productions that I enjoyed so much either on PBS or Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
My only negative comment is that the sets do not include introductions by the bodaciously awesome TCM host Robert Osborne. I would sacrifice the left anything off my anatomy to discuss classic movies with this gregarious filmophile.
Home is celebrating this next step in its evolution by sponsoring a give-away bundles of three of the Best Picture winner blu-ray titles in this group. They have allocated two sets to me, and contest details follow the descriptions of the prize package films.
The first title is the 1932 film "Grand Hotel" in which Garbo, and just about every other mega-star of the period, speaks. I do not recall if Joan Crawford makes an issue about wire hangers or dirty bathroom floors but am sure that she does not warn anyone about initiating unlawful carnal knowledge with her.
This highly superior inspiration for Neil Simon's "Suite" films, "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "Hotel," and "Hotel Babylon" tells the dramatic tales of the guests and staff of Berlin's Grand Hotel.
The second equally good film is 1942's "Mrs. Miniver." All that needs to be said about this must-see film is that it tells the tale of an ordinary English housewife who closely follows the principle of "Keep Calm and Carry On" despite experiencing horrible tragedies during World War II.
The lighter 1989 film "Driving Miss Daisy" rounds out the set. This truly modern classic always has me think of my favorite "In Living Color" sketch "Riding Miss Daisy." It has also often inspires me to be rude to friends who give me rides and to refer to a need to "make water" on virtually ever road trip.
This charming tale of mid-20th century small town Southern life depicts the evolving friendship between feisty Jewish widow Daisy Werthan, played by Jessica Tandy, and her black driver Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman.
Hoke is thrust (pun definitely intended) on Miss Daisy after age-related infirmities make it unsafe for her to drive. This aspect of the film evokes memories of my grandmother, who would leave parking lots through entrances if they were closer than the exits and would ignore stop signs that she did not feel like obeying.
In honor of both the wide range of titles in the Warner Brothers catalog, and the recent DVD release of V1 of the "Police Academy" animated series, I will award a blu-ray bundle of "Grand Hotel," "Mrs. Miniver," and "Driving Miss Daisy" to the two people who email me the best response to the question of which of these three films would make the best cartoon series and why.
Replies must be no more than 50 words and be received by 12:00 p.m. EST Friday January 25, 2013.