Friday, November 29, 2013
Monarch Home Entertainment's DVD release of the wide-appeal comedy "Running Mates" continues that distributor's great track record of making wonderfully quirky (and often Canadian) titles available. This film about a local boy made good returning to his hometown to run for mayor prompting his former classmate whose life did not turn out as well to joining the race is an wackier (and funnier) version of the Gene Hackman/Ray Romano film "Welcome to Mooseport."
The catalyst for this competition comes in the form of long-time mayor of Shoulder Bob Weatherbee, played by Henry "The Fonz" Winkler of "Happy Days" fame, deciding to call it quits after decades of hilariously clueless leadership ala fellow veteran actor Adam West's portrayal of Mayor West on the Fox animated comedy "Family Guy."
This role and several others that Winkler has played over the past few years nicely show that (like West) this Yale drama school grad and former personification of cool is unafraid to play the buffon for laughs.
Archie Fenton is the man trying to disprove Thomas Wolfe's well-known theory that you can't go home again by returning to largely working-class Shoulder in an undisclosed state that shares many characteristics of the Midwest. His wife Ronnie who is a minor celebrity based on being the face of her family's soy sauce company, is the driving force behind both the return to Shoulder and campaign for mayor.
Archie's reunion with former classmate Reg Rossi soon after returning to Shoulder temporarily reverts Archie to behavior that is often referred to as "youthful indiscretions" and prompts Reg, who has not matured beyond his "teenage dirtbag" years, to enter the race.
Graham Greene, who is perhaps best known for his roles in the film "Dances With Wolves" and the television series "Northern Exposure," is the third candidate. His Dilton Harper is a soft-spoken high school teacher who is demoted from teaching science to being a coach after teaching evolution.
Much of the film focuses on the hilarious highly different campaign styles of Archie and Reg. Archie essentially copies Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign down to his street-art sytle posters and a campaign slogan of "Sure We Could" that is an obvious variation of Obama's "Yes We Can" slogan.
Reg's slogan is "I Never Left," and his focus on the "townies" is very typical of the "natives" versus elitist "immigrants" attitude that pervades many smaller communities across the United States. This theme leads to an exceptionally funny campaign ad by Reg.
Other great humor relates to negative campaign ads and similar tactics by both Reg and Archie to the inevitable point that things go too far. This prompts the equally inevitable happy ending when everything is once again right with the world.
The final analysis of this film about small-town politics and the eccentrics that control it is that it always amusing and often hilarious. Further, seeing Winkler play a clueless bumbler is always a good thing.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mates" is encouraged to email me; you can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
As the recent review of the 31-series (my people call them seasons) Britcom "Last of the Summer Wine" promised, this review focuses on BFS Entertainment's DVD release of the first series of the equally good prequel series "First of the Summer Wine."
"Last" primarily revolves around the adventures of idle 60-something childhood friends who, ala "Seinfeld," largely wander around their Yorkshire village annoying those who lead more productive lives. The inaugural series of "First" brings these perpetual boys of summer back their 18th year during May of 1939; the impending world war replaces old age as the source of their musing about their lives.
The fun of this vastly superior quasi "Muppet Babies," "The Flintsone Kids," "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo," etc. show includes enjoying younger incarnations of truly legendary characters and particularly seeing Clegg as an awesome kid. The important elements of good writing, directing, and acting make this attempt to expand the "Last" lore truly "must-see."
Britcom god Roy Clarke, who created both "Wine" series, adds more of a touch of his fellow classic program "Keeping Up Appearances" to "First" if only in the form of the highly pretentious characters who this review will address.
Further, the frequent "mind the gate" directive in "First" is very reminiscent of the haughty Hyacinth Bouquet of "Appearances" constantly telling husband Richard to "mind the" horse, pedestrian, house, etc. each time that they take a drive. A friendly warning is that doing this even in jest can seriously irk a driver.
"First" is also similar to the early seasons of the classic nostalgic American sitcom "Happy Days" in that it does a nice job focusing on the daily life of an ordinary middle-class late-teens boys in a well-depicted prior era. In the case of "First," these tales are mostly from the perspective of "Last" central character Norman Clegg; Peter Sallis who plays Norman in "Last," plays Norman's father in "First."
Young Norman's life consists of living with his parents, working for the very officious (think Captain Peacock from the long-running Britcom "Are You Being Served") Mr. Scrimshaw in the "lino" department of the local co-operative department store, hanging with his co-workers and friends, and contemplating going to war.
Said co-workers consist of boil-infested lino department colleague Sherbert and gent's department salesman Seymour, who plays a central role in many "Last" seasons. Norman's friends include Compo from "Last," who raises ferrets and gleefully embraces his highly quirky hobo-like persona as much as he does in his adult incarnation; the primary difference is that Compo is more endearing as a teen.
Seymour's twin passions are his very cool three-wheeled red roadster and the somewhat pretentious Deborah Norbury, whose mother channels Hyacinth to an even greater degree. Great humor regarding Mrs. Norbury's attitude includes chastising the housekeeper regarding her handling of Deborah's gentleman callers and insisting that Norman park the delivery van down the street so that the neighbors do not see that Mrs. Norbury is purchasing items from the co-op.
The adventures of Norman and his entourage include hunting for (and messing with) Scrimshaw's secret supply of snuff, taking a fall-on-the-floor hilarious camping trip with current soldier-in-training and future veteran Foggy also of "Last," and talking their way out of trouble when Scrimshaw discovers their previously secret retreat in the store's basement.
The boys spend the rest of their time creating mayhem at the local movie theater, patronizing the fish and chips shop that will become the cafe where they hang out as adults, and engaging in their life-long habit of just walking through the town and the surrounding woods. Having "Last's" Ivy around adds to the fun.
The only proper way to wrap up this "First" review is to jointly express hope that BFS will release Series Two on DVD soon and lament that the BBC did not produce more series beyond that one.
Anyone with questions regarding "First" or "Last" is welcome to email me; you can also contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
[Editor’s Note: The following is a “lost” travel review of a Maine inn; learning of the scheduled February 2014 DVD release of the second season of "Newhart" coinciding with a desire for a homey diversion from DVD reviews for Thanksgiving day prompted publishing this review today.]
My highly significant other and I intended to have a grand day out in Boston in June, but anticipated heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Andrea resulted in planning to be spontaneous at noon on that Saturday. We decided at the beginning of that week that a last-minute getaway was a good “Plan B.” A “Plan C” and a “Plan D” also entered the equation.
The Hotel Tonight app listed great bargains at noon each day for hotels that night. We focused on Kennebunkport, Maine because it was only an hour from home, and because it is a quaint resort town. Additionally, I had determined that Kennebunkport is the real-life setting of Schooner Bay in the uber-awesome Hope Lange ‘60s sitcom “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” Jessica who?
We narrowed the lodging candidates to one hotel that was charging $199 and the Edgewater Inn, nee the Green Heron Inn, which offered a $139 rate. Joking in reference to my fiscally conservative nature, I immediately responded that I wanted the $139 option.
The Trip Advisor reviews for both properties showed that the Edgewater Inn left its competitor in the dust. Seeing the wonderful spa-like rooms, pet-friendly policies, and description of the truly sumptuous three-course breakfast on the Edgewater Inn’s website solidified a desire to stay there.
I actually groaned when learning that the Edgewater Inn offer was gone; I shouted “book it, book it, book it” when on being told a few minutes later that it reappeared. I was very pleased that our second effort succeeded.
The bright sunny reception area and comfy adjoining living room truly are welcoming and induce a nice feeling of calm. Having innkeeper Caroline Neish, who has the classic blonde looks of “Newhart’s” Julia Duffy but the warmth of that series’ Mary Frann, greet guests with a smile and a virtual hug enhances the experience. It feels like visiting the sibling who you like.
As an aside, this comparison was written long before having any hope of "Newhart" S2 ever being released.
As an aside, this comparison was written long before having any hope of "Newhart" S2 ever being released.
Toronto native and world-traveler Neish and her husband, Peter Ciriello, were long-time seasonal residents of Kennebunkport when they purchased the property in June 2012. Neish’s 25 years of hotel development experience for companies such as Starwood and Accor helped the inn’s $400,000 transformation from a “tired” facility to a spa-like boutique inn succeed. Future plans include building a brick-oven and creating a small private beach and bar area along the Kennebunk River behind the inn.
Each guestroom is painted in soothing creams or pastels and feature seascapes, which are for sale, by a local artist. Neish generously upgraded us to the corner Pemaquid Point room. The baby blue walls and dark Pottery Barn style furnishings go well with the dual views of the river and awesomely quiet environment at the inn.
Additionally, the queen-sized bed is very comfortable. The pillows achieve an ideal balance of firmness and softness, and the soft pure-white sheets encourage lingering in bed.
The Pemaquid Point room’s bathroom has a nice large stall shower with a rock floor and great Canadian-based Olive Branch Botanicals brand amenities. The soft, fluffy, bright-white towels are as nice as those of the many spas that I have visited.
A quick tour of the other nine traditional guest rooms confirms that they share the spa-like feel and great cleanliness of our room. A two-bedroom luxury suite in the main building and a two-bedroom two-floor cottage on the property are perfect either for two couples or a family that is looking for a mellow environment in which to unwind and contemplate life’s larger mysteries.
Personal “deep thoughts” regarding whether enough wishing wells were haunted to prompt Canadian-born easy-listening star Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr., to sing about that subject led to discussing the horror movie “The Ring.” As a related aside, I will never be convinced that liking pina coladas or “kinda” liking the film “Breakfast at Tiffanys” are enough to sustain a romantic relationship. That is not to mention the plethora of impossibilities in the song "Brandi."
Returning to our primary topic, Saturday afternoon was spent exploring the retail district of Kennebunkport, which is an easy fifteen-minute walk from the inn. That district is neat and sedate, and I imagine that everyone is off the streets by eight most evenings. Further, the shops are clean, and the merchants are friendly.
After dinner, we walked to the beach roughly one-half block from the Edgewater Inn. We enjoyed strolling out onto the point on the rocky shore, which was kept shipwreck free. Watching the sun set over the town was very nice, but my effort to urge a crab who was stranded in the parking lot back onto the beach only antagonized the poor crustacean.
Yet another great feature of the Edgewater Inn was that it fulfilled its promise as a boutique getaway spot by providing both a bed and breakfast. The first two courses of the Sunday morning three-course feast were tasty melon balls accompanied by granola and yogurt followed by wonderful honey corn muffins and tiny ramekins of a hearty cheddar and pancetta quiche.
I chose three really large buttermilk pancakes with Chantilly butter, medium-amber maple syrup, and bacon for my entrée. My hopefully longtime companion had the eggs benedict. We both loved our meals, and neither of us could finish them.
The chocolate and sea salt tea was an especially special treat. It tasted like a light hot chocolate, and it being tea allowed the delusion that it was healthy. The excellent server, who was attentive without even bordering on being intrusive, provided an additional treat in the form of the story of the seal who was rumored to live in the river.
The après-pig out walk on the beach led to discovering a beautiful one-room stone-and-wood Episcopal church right on the water. It seemed that the church might have once been a private chapel for the nearby Bush family Walker’s Point retreat.
Meeting Domino, a year-old mixed breed rescue dog, on the very canine friendly beach was another nice surprise.
The bottom line is that Kennebunkport’s proximity to Boston, the Edgewater Inn’s spa-like environment, and the affordable cost of venturing up there make a visit to that great destination very worthwhile for locals and a great stop for folks from outside the area to include in a New England adventure.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The British WWI drama "The Trench," which BFS Entertainment has released on DVD, has a wonderful live-action feel and could very aptly have been called "All Tense on the Western Front." It has the bonus of a great cast of which current Bond actor Daniel Craig is merely part of a talented and well-cast ensemble.
The following 56-second clip, courtesy of YouTube, does a mostly good job conveying the theme of this film. The only criticism is that the actual fighting takes up a HUGELY disproportionate proportion of this clip of a film about waiting months for something to occur.
Craig plays a typical battle veteran sergeant who faces the challenge of advocating for his men without damaging his relationship with his superior officer, who often is someone with greater theoretical knowledge, a more privileged background, and less practical experience than both his sergeant and many of the doughboys under his command.
Julian Rhind-Tutt of "The Hour" and numerous other British television series, compassionately conveys all of the above characteristics in a believable manner that both makes Lieutenant Harte (generally) likable and makes one wonder why Rhind-Tutt was not cast at the 12th Doctor on "Doctor Who."
The more literal and figurative grunts in the trenches receive more focus than Harte or Craig's Winter. Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who has appeared in the Christopher Nolan "Dark Knight" Trilogy and other American films, is arguably the best known member of this group to American audiences, but the others will likely be seen many many times in the future.
The highly effective stereotypes include a pair of brothers in which the younger one relies on the older one to help him through this ordeal and has a rough time when this older sibling suffers the consequences of boredom and peer-pressure induced carelessness. There is also the guy in the group who is always out to make a quick buck, the shy and heavy-set likable soldier, and the absolutely gorgeous lady killer with a terrific smile and enough confidence for five men until he suffers his personal trauma.
All of these elements combine to do a superb job portraying the boring and nerve-wracking elements of scurrying about in deep ditches while bombs are constantly bursting above you, enemy soldiers are not very far off, and you spend weeks waiting for an order to attack. Merely watching all this unfold makes those of us who get highly agitated simply waiting all day for the cable company wonder how the soldiers live through it without going absolutely mad.
Further, the few scenes of life outside the trench present an exceptional contrast to the world in that environment, and the scene that depicts the 30 minutes before the battle commences is one of the film's best.
Our friends at BFS enhance the release with special features that include a 48-minute documentary of the Western Front where the film occurs.
The final debriefing regarding "The Trench" is that it provides a great chance to learn more about life in the trenches as told by a cast that is equally at home on the stage and the sound set.
Anyone with questions regarding "The Trench" is welcome to email me; you can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Monarch Home Entertainment shows great instincts regarding releasing the 2012 Canadian romcom "Please Kill Mr Know It All" on DVD today because it is a great family choice for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Kids will enjoy the action, teens will like the humor, and adults will relate to the story. Further, the comic dark side is very apt for the home version of the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" that many families will play on Thursday.
The trouble starts when national exposure of the local advice column that Sally writes under the pseudonym Mr. Know It All leads to needing a male face for the work ala detective Laura Holt working under the name Remington Steele in the '80s series of that name. Rather than allowing a handsome and charming con man to front for her, Sally sketches the face of Albert, who she sees while out and about.
Hilarity and mayhem ensue when the aptly bearded Albert turns out to be an hit man who finds having his image liberally plastered about detrimental to his work. This prompts Albert to visit the newspaper that publishes the advice column in his effort to track down and wipe out the real Mr. Know It All.
Anyone who has ever seen a romcom knows both that Sally pretends to merely be the advice columnist's colleague and that she and Albert soon fall in love. This portion of "Please Kill" offers the "bonus" of two montages in which the brokenhearted Sally and Albert sadly sit on park benches and in coffee shops.
It also will not surprise anyone who is familiar with this genre that this film could be titled "When Albert Met Sally" and that it ends with a scene that occurs "one year later" than the film's true climax.
The best news is that this film from the genre that keeps the Lifetime and Hallmark Channel networks in business is far better than anything that Katherine Heigl has inflicted on the viewing public. The leads Lara Jean Chorostecki of "Cooper" and Jefferson Brown are easy on the eyes and the psyche. They play their parts very well and would be welcome at any couples' game or film night.
There are also wonderful humorous elements that include the target of a failed hit pathetically seeking revenge against Albert and Sally asking Albert if he has a gun in his pocket or is just happy to see her. Further, Sally's professional colleague and gal pal and Albert's literal partner-in-crime are well-written characters portrayed by actors who understand their second-banana roles well.
The final heartfelt outpouring regarding "Please Kill" is that it tells a pleasantly predictable story in a comfortably entertaining way and is the aforementioned good choice when you want a film that will please everyone who has gathered both for a big feast and using steely knives for stabbing implements.
Anyone with questions regarding "Please Kill" is welcome to email me; you can also contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Monday, November 25, 2013
One of numerous entertaining aspects of watching Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1958 comedy "The Matchmaker" is anticipating the absent musical numbers from the film version of "Hello Dolly," which is based on this movie based on a play by Thornton Wilder. Further, thinking of fellow Wilder classic "Our Town" prompts thoughts of several "buying the farm" jokes.
Like "Dolly," "Matchmaker" largely focuses on separate "grand days out" in turn-of-the-century New York for Yonkers store owner Horace Vandergelder and his two young clerks Cornelius and Barnaby. Cornelius' numerous references to not coming home until he kisses a girl is one of many occasions in "Matchmaker" on which one anticipates hearing the orchestra starting up and the singing and dancing commencing.
The titular Dolly is widow/matchmaker Dolly "Gallagher" Levi, who strives to ensure that each boy ends up with the proper girl. Her arrival at the famed Harmonia Gardens restaurant, which is based on real-life Manhattan fine dining establishment Luchows, creates an even stronger anticipation of an even more iconic musical number from "Dolly."
"Matchmaker" also goes one step beyond "Town" in breaking down the fourth wall by having the characters address the movie theater audience ala the Woody Allen film "The Purple Rose of Cairo" to the point that Cornelius starts macing on the females in said audience and other characters comment on the activity of going to a movie theater.
This interactive technique is very sweetly and nicely incorporated in the film's final moments, which include a fade out that is reminiscent of uber-classic '60s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies."
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Matchmaker's" trailer does a great job portraying these fun elements while keeping spoilers to a minimum. It it also fun to see this promo predict stardom for Shirley MacLaine, who plays Irene Molloy.
Comparing the "Matchmaker" and "Dolly" casts is another fun aspect of the former.
"Hazel's" Shirley Booth strongly channels that '60s sitcom character while portraying Levi. Both characters are equally lovingly meddlesome and just as assertive and stubborn regarding doing what is best for someone even when that person seems intent on not acting according to his or her own best interest. As an aside, the fifth and final season of "Hazel" is being released in January 2014.
"Dolly's" Barbara Streisand predictably adds more of a diva element to her portrayal of Levi.
Character actor Paul Ford (who is arguably best known for playing Col. Hall on "The Phil Silvers Show," does a good job as Horace in "Matchmaker") but Walter Matthau better captures the character in "Dolly." Matthau simply is more age appropriate for the role and brings more energy to it.
A wider gap exists regarding "Psycho's" Anthony Perkins as Cornelius in "Matchmaker" and "Phantom of the Opera's" Michael Crawford in that role in "Dolly." The role of a gangly frustrated and bullied young man seems tailor-made for Perkins even without the homicidal tendencies of Norman Bates in "Psycho."
There also is absolutely no comparison between the bright-eyed adorable performance by Robert Morse as Barnaby in "Matchmaker" and Danny Lockin, whose only other real IMDb credit is a guest spot on '60s sitcom "My Three Sons," in "Dolly." Morse of course of course (no typo) has gone on to many other roles, including that of Bertram Cooper in "Mad Men."
The grande finale to this review is a standard reprise of its first paragraph. "Matchmaker" is an awesome comedy that provides a nearly 60 year-old fresh slant on a classic musical comedy. It can fairly be said that, but for the greatness of "Matchmaker," "Dolly" would never have seen the light of day.
Anyone with questions regarding "Matchmaker," "Dolly," Thornton Wilder, or hilarious "buy the farm" jokes is welcome to email me. Please also feel free to reach out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Today's post continues a seven-year "Black Friday" tradition (only two on Unreal TV) of listing the top choices for complete series DVD sets that have been released in the current year for holiday gifts.
The basic criteria are well-produced sets of exceptional shows in gift-appropriate packaging; studios and distributors get extra points for creativity. Further, only reasonably priced sets are included.
This list is supplemented with a few notable releases in the $15 - $30 range.
Both because this year's list is so long and no one wants a novella-length post, each item gets a short description that includes a link to the prior Unreal TV review of it.
For the first time in seven years, there is a tie for best set. BFS Entertainment's complete series set of the British legal drama "Kavanagh Q.C." received a series of well-deserved rave reviews and comes in a truly heirloom-quality wooden box.
The wooden box is the reason that the "Kavanagh" set does not come in an extraordiarily close second to Shout! Factory's equally awesome "Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition" set that comes in a collectible tin and also receives mention in several reviews.
Shout!'s complete series set of the early '60s sitcom "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" comes in second for best set. Once again, the rave review of this excellent set explains why.
Shout!'s almost complete sweep of the top three continues with its complete series set of the incredibly awesome animated "Beetlejuice" show. Titling the review of this title "Perfect 10 for 100th Post" pretty much says it all.
Admittedly including TGG Direct's complete series set of the '60s fantasy sitcom "My Mother the Car" in this "Black Friday" list may be the first time ever that that badly under-rated show has received any positive honor. The review of this release states the case for doing so (and for placing it under the tree.)
Warner Archive's release of the little-known James Garner Western comedy "Nichols" makes this list despite the extraordinary episodes being the only distinctive element of this perfectly well-produced set. As the review states, the show is simply that uber-awesome. Further, giving someone what is easily one of the best shows that he or she has never seen provides a great chance for a genuine surprise.
Another terrific recent release from Warner Archive is the great Blu-ray release of the Doris Day musical "Billy Rose's Jumbo." As the review mentions, this movie itself is wonderfully fun and the special features are exceptional for a one-disc release.
The film buff on your list will also enjoy Archive's four-disc four-film DVD set of pre-code classics titled "Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7." The review includes a discussion on what makes these films such a fun time capsule.
An unreviewed trio of Sony's bargain-priced complete series DVD releases of the classic sitcoms "The Partridge Family," "Bewitched," and "I Dream of Jeannie" rounds out the "Black Friday" list of 2013 releases. Each set goes for roughly $30 and provides a good chance to own every episode of these true classics in a compact set.
This post wraps up with the annual endorsements of the complete series sets of the classic Mel Brooks' '60s sitcom "Get Smart," the equally classic '60s spy caper "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," and the '60s prime time animated series "The Flintstones." These sets combining the elements of an awesome series, exceptional special features, and wonderfully creative packaging established the standard for this list.
The fact that these sets have been out for several years allows you to get them for a much lower price than your humble reviewer happily paid when Warner Prime first released them.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding the many, many sets that this post discusses is welcome to email me. Please also feel free to reach out regarding other DVD suggestions for folks on your list.
Also, feel free to contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Warner Archive's Blu-ray release of the 26-episode complete first season of the 2008-2011 Cartoon Network original series "Batman the Brave and the Bold" is batastic regarding both the quality of the episodes and the sharp bright images and clear sound. Any fanboy would love to find it under his tree or in his stocking.
This series has the Dark Knight teaming up with fellow well-known and some lesser-known superheros on a mostly one-on-one basis to battle well-known and lesser-known super villains. Most of us know of Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Green Lantern; the media representatives of Blue Bettle and the Red Tornado do not do as good of a job representing their clients.
The show also benefits from an updated version of the modern animation style of the uber-awesome "Superman: the Animated Series" and "Batman: the Animated Series" that breathed exciting new life into those (hopefully) eternal characters.
Each pre-opening credits action sequence of "Bold" is a fast-paced Bond-style segment that teams the Caped Crusader up with a fancifully clad long-time companion who may or may not be his partner for the rest of the episode (feel free to read between the lines) in an adventure that may or may not relate to that episode. The only disappointment is that we do not see Batman reunite with Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Incorporated gang until an episode later in "Bold's" run.
The pilot episode gets things off to a good start by having Batman and the Spider-man (yes, this is a reference to a Marvel hero in a post about a show full of DC heroes) like teen-age superhero in-training Blue Beetle battle an outer space tyrant who viciously picks on innocent amoeba-like creatures. Watching the little guys go all Ewok on the big bad is awesome.
Another particularly fun episode has the Atom and a terrifically arrogant and dim-witted Aquaman enter Batman's body to wage an inner battle against the effects of said superhero's ingestion of toxic waste. A third camptastic adventure pits Batman and Green Arrow against each other to acquire Excalibur of Arthurian legend.
A very special holiday episode has the robotic Red Tornado seeking the holiday spirit while helping Batman battle mayhem that super villain Funhouse has created.
The holiday episode and one in which Batman goes toward the light provide a sense of his origin story and family bonds.
A thoroughly awesome two-parter that wraps up the first half of the first season has our primary hero travel to a "Sliders" style bizarro parallel earth in which the heroes of our dimension are the bad guys and our villains are the heroes. This makes for one particularly hilarious scene featuring Batman getting confused during a fight.
The second part of the episode has Batman dealing with an revised reality on our personal big blue marble and results in most of his crime-fighting chums banding together.
The genuine elan of the voice actors for their roles is part of what makes these adventures so terrific. "The Drew Carey Show's" Diedrich Bader nicely portrays a very Michael Keaton style Batman, but his distinctive voice and intonation makes not picturing his "Carey" character Oswald the doofus challenging.
Similarly, John DiMaggio makes a great Aquaman. However, this Aquaman's persona and DiMaggio being associated so closely with voicing "Futurama's" Bender has audience members waiting for him to instruct "Batman's" titular character to kiss his wet scaly posterior. This same association also adds to the fun of DiMaggio essentially asserting that Aquaman is awesome and the other superheros are losers.
The wonderful association of "Batman" voice actors having roles that evoke thoughts of their better known characters continues with sitcom "Boy Meets World's" and Disney animated series "Kim Possible's" Will Friedle bringing the Blue Beetle to life. Both Possible's Ron Stoppable and "Batman's" Beetle have wonderful shades of "Boy's" charmingly goofy Eric.
Although Spider-man voice actor Josh Keaton would have been a better choice than the very good Friedle for the Beetle role, Friedle remains the top choice for the best celebrity with whom to play a round of mini-golf despite the strong possibility that he comically cheats at that game.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the episode titled "Fall of the Blue Beetle," illustrates the great aspects of Friedle's performance and the series' awesome aspects of juvenile humor, superhero collaboration, and self-awareness.
The even better news regarding "Bold" is that it gets even more awesome in later seasons, which Archive will almost inevitably begin releasing in early 2014. It takes on an even stronger (and darker) Super Friends vibe and ramps up the hilarious high school style bickering among earth's greatest defenders.
As stated above, this is a great release of a terrific show; anyone with even a touch of fanboy sensibility will thoroughly enjoy.
Anyone with questions regarding "Bold" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
This review of Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the very aptly titled1933 Lee Tracy film "The Nuisance" is the promised follow up to Unreal TV's review of Tracy's 1933 "Turn Back the Clock."
One difference between these films is that "Clock's" Joe Gimlet is generally a nice guy, and the awesomely fast-talking Tracy's character in "Nuisance" is a literally ambulance-chasing attorney whose behavior and ethics warrant calling Tracy by the first name of a well-known fictional detective who shares that actor's surname.
"Clock" and "Nuisance" show that Tracy is one of the best actors from the '30s of whom most of us have never heard. He is as quick-witted and free-spirited as William Powell and shows incredible energy and joie de vivre.
Tracy's Joesph P. Stevens in "Nuisance" is an amoral attorney who puts all those "I don't get paid unless you win your case" lawyers who advertise on daytime television to shame. Anyone who has ever received a hefty legal bill for a 30-second conversation regarding an update related to legal representation can relate.
The shady shyster who Tracy portrays delights in falsifying medical evidence and otherwise creating and distorting the facts to win the cases of his clients whom he aggressively recruits from accident scenes and jail cells.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, in which an accident prompts Stevens to spring into action like a bizarro superhero expertly conveys the film's theme and Tracy's wonderfully deviant persona.
Stevens' focus on the "victims" of streetcar accidents prompts the local streetcar company to place a woman as its agent at the scene of one such event for the purpose of building a case against Stevens regarding his despicable practices.
The predictable romance blossoms between Stevens and one of Hollywood's best femme fatales. This pair engage in the break-up and self-sacrifice typical of this film but add the twist of using the law to their advantage and to thwart the plans of the streetcar company.
It is also amusing to see Stevens' all-out campaign against the streetcar company near the end of the film and a conclusion that lacks the undue sentiment of other girl essentially entraps boy tales of the era.
No ethical dilemma exists regarding recommending "The Nuisance" as a very amusing '30s comedy that make still-relevant commentary about attorneys who fail to meet the standards to which they should aspire. Even the aforementioned conclusion of the film is consistent with that cynicism.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Nuisance" is welcome to email me; you can also chase me down on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
As last week's review of '60s sitcom "My Mother the Car" promises, this post is on the 2-disc 16-episode DVD release "Best of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures." These releases cross two tiles of a DVD release wish list.
One can only hope that "Bill" and "Mother" distributor TGG Direct also discovers "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and "The Kids From C.A.P.E.R."
"Bill" belongs to the genre of '80s and '90s Saturday morning cartoon series based on teen comedies of the same (or very similar) name. These include the uber-awesome "The Real Ghostbusters," and the very entertaining "Teen Wolf" and "Back to the Future" series.
The simple premise of the "Bill" film is that the music of garage band Wyld Stallyns, consisting of high school boys Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan, provides the basis for a future Utopian society. Alex Winter and Keneau Reeves play Bill and Ted respectively and excellently provide their voices in the first season of the series.
The obstacle of Bill and Ted being slacker dullards at great risk of failing high school prompts the "future dudes" in the film and the series to send Rufus, played by George Carlin in the film and the first season of the series, to guide the pair and help them get out of scrapes.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Bill's" rocking theme song provides a great sense of the fun of the show. Sadly, the heavily ruling Wyld Stallyns does not perform this tune.
Anyone who scoffs at the film's concept should remember that a Chicago afternoon talk show host has greatly influenced American society for more than 20 years (including strongly impacting which books we read) and provided Barack Obama support that kept him in the running in the 2008 presidential election.
The first disc in the "Bill" DVD release consists of 8 of the 13 episodes from the first season; the second disc consists of 8 of the 9 second season episodes.
These episodes expand from the concept of the film (true fans do not acknowledge the most heinous sequel), which has our boys using a TARDIS-like time machine in the form of telephone booth to journey to any point in the past to acquire what they need to fulfill their promise as the future's guiding force. Alas, the telephone booth is not larger on the inside than it is on the outside.
The expanded concept has the boys making liberal use of the booth to get out of personal trouble. The pilot episode, which has the pair going to ancient China to replace a broken antique vase, is a prime example of this.
Arguably the best episode comes in the middle of the first season; "A Most Excellent Roman Holiday" has our boys traveling back to Rome of yore to obtain a translation for a most-hated Latin class full of "dweebs."
The scenes in which said dweebs gleefully delight in all things academic and the idiocy of their new classmates and in which Bill and Ted are clearly in their own personal hell alone make this episode most outstanding.
The scenes in Rome in which Bill and Ted outsmart gladiators (but not lions), participate in a chariot race, and inadvertently start a centuries-long fashion trend propel the episode into epic status.
The series also does a most bodacious job regarding the inevitable plot in which Bill and Ted reach a level of discouragement that literally begins shaking the foundations of the future. This prompts Rufus, who is undergoing a rapid "Benjamin Buttons"/Orkan aging experience to introduce the boys to a handful of historic figures whose success is based on intense perseverance.
In true Bill and Ted fashion, this review is being written without watching the season two episodes; the only significance regarding this is a desire to save them for a nice pick-me-up for a rainy day and/or Monday.
The time-traveling lesson from this release is that no one of any age should feel any embarrassment regarding enjoying cartoons like "Bill" that offer high-energy and animated in every sense fun. We need this escapism more than ever these days.
Party on Dudes and be excellent to each other.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding the "Bill" film or cartoon or Reeves' remarks regarding a new "Bill" sequel is encouraged to email me; you can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Warner Archive's DVD 4-disc DVD release of all 29 episodes of the '80s Polly Holliday sitcom "Flo" provides a good reminder that (mostly) no breakout sitcom character is a "Gilligan's Island." The disappointing general truth is that sitcom spinoffs often are more like "Joannie Loves Chachi" or "The Tortellis" than "Laverne and Shirley" or "Frasier."
The better news is that "Flo" neatly falls in the middle of those extremes. The highly successful sitcom team of Dick Clair and Jenna MacMahon, whose credits include creating the "Diff'rent Strokes" spinoff "The Facts of Life" put their skills to good use regarding bringing it to life.
Continuing this indirect discussion of "Cheers" spinoffs, "Flo" is a nice hybrid of that parent show and fellow '80s small-town sitcom "Mama's Family," which sprang from skits on the uber-classic "Carol Burnett Show."
"Flo" picks up roughly one week after the events in an episode in the recently reviewed fourth season of late '70s - mid '80s sitcom "Alice" that focuses on Florence Jean Castleberry departing from that show. Like the central character from "Alice," Flo is "just passing through" her rural hometown of Cowtown, Texas when she succumbs to the temptation of buying her favorite saloon and renaming it Flo's Yellow Rose.
This turn of events quickly makes Flo the "new girl in town" with "a fresh freckled face for the neighborhood." "If things work out, she's goin' stay a while." Unfortunately, the ratings do not work out well enough to keep Flo around for more than one-and-a-half seasons. It is nice to think that she is still holding court in the bar and flirting with truckers who were born in the '80s.
Most of the action in "Flo" centers around the activity at the Yellow Rose and often involves either a personal problem of her part-time rancher bartender, her piano player, her childhood friend/waitress/bookkeeper, or her regulars.
The primary regulars include the slick and generally disreputable banker Farley Waters, who holds the mortgage on the Yellow Rose, and young naive mechanic Randy.
Having George Lindsey, who plays young naive mechanic Goober Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show" play Randy's father/boss is terrific stunt casting; as an aside, "Griffith" spinoff "Mayberry R.F.D." is another example of a show of that genre that does not even approach the fame of the show from which it spins. Of course, "Griffith" spinoff "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." fares better.
One of the better episodes of "Flo" has her two worlds collide by hiring her prissy sister Fran, who is in her mid-30s and still lives with her and Flo's mother, to work in the Yellow Rose. Fran quickly creates comic mayhem by being a Diane Chambers on speed regarding strict adherence to laws governing saloons and by generally behaving as if the world's largest insect is residing deep in her colon.
A skunk who is living under the bar in another episode presents Flo with almost as serious an obstacle to her business' viability as Fran's employment. Seeing that animal battle Earl the bartender provides some of the best humor in the series.
The strongest connection with "Alice" comes in the form of having Flo's former boss Mel, played by Vic Tayback, stir things up when he comes for a visit. Revealing that Flo tells him "kiss mah grits" is not much of a spoiler alert.
Another carryover from "Alice" involves a "very special" two-part Thanksgiving episode in which Flo secretly invites her estranged father, with whom she reconciles in an "Alice" episode, to her family Thanksgiving dinner. "F Troop's" Forrest Tucker returns to once again play that role.
Another memorable guest star brings a handful of "Alice" elements to "Flo." Similar to country music star Jerry Reed (who was presented as Flo's former baby sitting charge) playing himself on "Alice," country music star Hoyt Axton plays himself in an episode in which truckers raving over the CB about Flo and her saloon prompts him to check out the scene.
Like Telly Savalas in an "Alice" episode, Axton actively participates in causing good-natured damage and offers to pay the expenses. A final fun element of this episode is that Axton, who sings the "Flo" theme song, offers an extended version of "Flo's" theme.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of "Flo's" opening credits and provide a good sense "isn't he the guy who was in that thing?"
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Flo" or "Alice" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1981 Walther Matthau/Jill Clayburgh equal parts comedy/drama dramedy "First Monday in October" belatedly brings a great ripped-from-the- headlines film to virtual store shelves everywhere.
This story about the president nominating the first female justice of the United States Supreme Court parallels Ronald Reagan taking that historic step in nominating Sandra Day O'Connor to that post. The similarities extend beyond the film's Ruth Loomis being a conservative from California and O'Connor being a conservative from the neighboring state of Arizona, which considers itself to be better than the rest of the nation regarding time changes. (Please consult review of "Turn Back the Clock" for context.)
Both Loomis and O'Connor are avid tennis players. A bit of trivia is that O'Connor used to play tennis weekly at the home of a grass widow of a member of the prestigious Cross family of Maryland.
The conflict around which "October" centers relates to the animosity that Loomis' appointment provokes in liberal senior associate justice Dan Snow, who refers to his new colleague as "The Mother Superior of Orange County." Snow very carefully points out that he does not object to a woman on the Court (and even favors cutting the stench on the bench with a little perfume) but strongly opposes Loomis' conservative views.
Matthau and Clayburgh do their usual excellent jobs in these roles that suit them very well. Additionally, Barnard Hughes is great as level-headed and diplomatic Chief Justice Crawford. This role is perfectly suited for Hughes' persona of a strong-willed but compassionate older man and may have gone to him because uber-awesome Ray Walston of "My Favorite Martian" was busy working on "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or the badly unrated "From the Hip."
Rounding out the primary cast with James Stephens as Snow's law clerk is another great choice. Stephens is best known for playing law student James Hart in the television series version of "The Paper Chase."
The ripped-from-the-headlines case that greets Loomis on starting her new job involves the state of Nebraska prosecuting a "filmmaker" for violating the state obscenity law. Said celluloid artist predictably asserts that the movie at issue is art. The scene in which the attorney representing Nebraska is one of the funniest in the film.
The justices' viewing of the aptly titled "Naked Nyphomaniacs" proves the well-known theory of real-life Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart that he cannot define pornography but knows it when he sees it. The refusal of Snow to attend that private showing of "Nyphomaniacs" gets him on Loomis' bad side and prompts a confrontation that is equal parts great legal debate and well-written and performed comedy.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, provides a great sense of the memorable scene described above.
Snow and Loomis additionally wrangle regarding another case that ends up being what anyone can recognize as a game changer.
The ONLY complaint regarding the plot of "October" relates to a New York Times review of a feature film from the summer of 2013 in which the reviewer laments that every film of that nature must include some form of sexual tension or romantic involvement between the man and the woman who are colleagues. It initially seems that "October" avoids this cliche.
A change in Snow's personal life in the second half of the film creates anxiety that he and Loomis might desire banging gavels, and our fears are realized late in the film.
The final unappealable (but appealing) verdict of this film is that it pulls off the tough feats of making the audience laugh and think while keeping us entertained throughout.
Anyone with any questions regarding "October" or any of the side topics discussed is invited to email me. You can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
BFS Entertainment recently releasing the complete first series (my people call them seasons) of the prequel series "First of the Summer Wine" prompted reviewing BFS' 4-disc 2-film and 6 episode set of the 1973-2010 31-series classic Britcom "Last of the Summer Wine." The presentations in the DVD set are from "Last's" first two series.
Unreal TV will post a review of "First" before the end of 2013.
Roy Clarke, who also brought us the classic Britcoms "Keeping Up Appearance" and "Open All Hours," created "Last." That program holds the record for the world's longest running sitcom.
The central theme for much of "Last's" run was the activities of three rather unlikable men who had been friends virtually all of their relatively numerous years and discussed mundane aspects of their lives and their community roughly 15 years before Jerry Seinfeld co-created his show about nothing.
The rather uptight leader of the "Last" gang Cyril Blamire is the Jerry of that group, and the very odd and crude in appearance and behavior ferret raiser Compo Simmonite is indisputably Kramer's counterpart; the parallel between the not-so-bright or compassionate George Costanza of "Seinfeld" and the quiet and sensible Norman Clegg is not as strong, but both are definitely more often than not the third wheel of the group.
Additionally, both the "Last" and "Seinfeld" groups spend a great deal of time hanging around a local cafe. The unemployed "Last" boys devote most of the rest of their days to wandering around their Yorkshire community simply conversing and wasting time.
Additionally, the "Last" gang enjoys teasing each other about their youthful indiscretions and other embarrassing moments growing up; Cyril being stiff even back then provides a great deal of fodder for those conversations.
A scene in which the "Last" group has a rather lengthy discussion in their cafe regarding whether referring to a man's "person" refers only to his sexual organ is one of the first clues that the program has elements of "Seinfeld." A scene from another episode in which Compo hilariously disrupts a visit to a historic home further validates this theory.
Another episode in which Norman tries to return a bicycle that he bought decades before also could have been a "Seinfeld" episode despite a fall-on-the-floor scene in which the bicycle goes wildly out-of-control while all three men are riding being much more reminiscent of "The Honeymooners."
The common element of a "get-rich-quick-scheme" that often snares Kramer and Kramden alike is an element in the cleverly titled episode "The Changing Face of Rural Blamire" in which Cyril's "scheme for full employment" ends up involving him and his companions peddling a clearly and uproariously funnily defective product; the final minutes of this episode are truly "must-see" TV.
Elements of the first "Last" film, which is titled "Bringing Sam Home," in the BFS set is reminiscent of another popular American comedy and does a perfect job introducing newcomers both to "Last's" main characters and the other locals in their village.
The first portion of the film is relatively low-key and involves the group both visiting the titular character in the hospital and consoling his long-term (not-so-secret) mistress who loves him but is not allowed to visit his sickbed. A scene from this portion of the film apparently inspired the famous "Basic Instinct" scene.
The middle portion of "Sam" involves hilarious scenes involving Sam's shrewish wife and the Gang of Three's efforts to sneak the titular character out of the house to visit his mistress on his first night home from the hospital.
Sam somewhat predictably dying in his mistress' bed then transforms the film into a wonderfully British-styled version of the cult classic 1989 American comedy film "Weekend at Bernie's," that largely involves two 30-something guys furtively dragging a corpse around.
That element repeats itself in a less gruesome manner in the "Who's That Dancing With Nora Betty Then" in which Compo's crush on a neighbor who is emigrating to Australia leads to the gang locating and then moving a piano to have it for going-away party for that woman.
The second film, which shares the program's title, seems to be three episodes strung together; a common theme regarding this is Compo's best buds trying to convince him that he is possessed. This leads to threatening a local woman with exposure of her affair, crashing a private function, and irreverent behavior in a church.
The fact that "Last" ran 31 seasons speaks for itself; BFS starting with a great "tasting" of this series, and hopefully will follow up with more releases provides a good chance to sample this classic vintage.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Last" is encouraged to email me; you are also welcome to contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Friday, November 15, 2013
"Momo: The Sam Giancana Story" DVD: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know but Were Told Was None of Your Business
Considering the subject, it is highly appropriate that the review copy of "Momo: The Sam Giancana Story," which is being released on DVD on November 19 2013, arrived in the proverbial plain brown envelope and on an unmarked DVD. Not initially knowing what was on the disc prompted several jokes regarding the horror film "The Ring."
This comprehensive and fascinating documentary on one of America's most famous mobsters literally starts at his birth; further, these opening moments explain the significance of the title. The obvious care and regarding telling this story further explains why "Momo" won the award for Best Documentary at the Monaco and Hollywood Reels film festivals.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Momo's" trailer provides a strong sense of the film but contains spoilers galore.
As the trailer showed, the filmmaker expertly combined the standard documentary techniques of talking heads, vintage photos, and video clips to inform the audience about a man who the film stated was involved with several significant events in American history and presented first-hand accounts that supported those assertions.
The film tells the story well and at a good pace, but you might miss something if you blink. Our primary guides through the life of an indisputably very tough and ambitious man are his daughters Bonnie and Francine Giancana and his grand-nephew Nicholas Celozzi. Their portrait of Sam is very reminiscent of the depictions of the domestic and professional lives of famed fictional mobster Tony Soprano.
A particularly strong parallel exists regarding one daughter discussing how a front-page newspaper story "outed" her father to her and Tony's daughter Meadow realizing that her father's business activities extended beyond owning small businesses.
The involvement of the Giancana offspring extends beyond depicting Sam as a crime boss to facilitate including clips from Sam's home movies in the film.
There truly did not seem to be a dull moment in Sam's life right up to his dramatic death. Further, he seemed to thrive by primarily letting business instincts (rather than personal feelings) guide his actions.
The portion of the film that addressed Sam's childhood demonstrated how he began on the road that ended in the same manner as many of his colleagues. These events led to his reported involvement in the St. Valentine's Day massacre and subsequent rise through the ranks of the Chicago mafia.
The documentary also explained how Sam's prominence facilitated developing high-profile friendships and connections that led to reported involvement in events such as a planned assassination of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, both the successful election and assassination of President Kennedy, and the death of Marilyn Monroe.
The bottom line regarding "Momo" is that does an amazing job of telling roughly 70 years worth of adventure, love, and personal tragedies into 90 minutes and easily passes the test for a good documentary; it informs and entertains.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Momo" is welcome to email me. You can also follow me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Anyone who wants to know anything else should be advised that I ain't sayin' nothin' else without my lawyer.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Warner Archive's DVD release of 1933's "Turn Back the Clock" within days of the nation except for those malcontents in Arizona turning its clocks back an hour is one of a few chances that Archive has provided modern audiences a chance to discover fast-talking '30s leading man Lee Tracy; Unreal TV will review the companion Tracy flick "The Nuisance" in the next few weeks.
"Clock" is a great example of a classic '30s comedy in that it has the "how ya doin' Pally" vibe of the era and nicely depicts the economic chasm and resulting attitudes that existed in the Depression era.
The film centers around Tracy's character "Average" Joe Gimlet, who is maintaining a decent lifestyle running a tobacco shop with his wife Mary, who is the harder working and more sensible member of their team.
Joe's world begins to turn upside down when his aptly named childhood chum Ted Wright walks into his store one day. Ted has the life that could have been Joe's in that he married the wealthy Elvira, who gladly would have married Joe, and prospered.
Joe's next step in his journey down the rabbit hole occurs when Ted offers him an investment opportunity during a reunion dinner. Joe is eager to blindly hand over the life savings that he and Mary took 15 years to accumulate, but Mary refuses to take that risk.
A subsequent fight between Mary and Joe leads to a turn of events that send Joe back 20 years in time with full knowledge of personal and national events that occurred during those two decades. The first scene from this portion of the film presents nice images of small-town life during an era in which horse-drawn carriages greatly outnumbered the sans equine variety.
Joe quickly (and cruelly) throws over Mary for the aptly-named from a modern perspective Elvira and uses his knowledge of the future to prosper. Scenes in which he confuses Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt and is considered crazy for stating that America and Germany will go to war are especially amusing and reminiscent of a personal experience of essentially being laughed out a college classroom in 1983 for spot-on separately predicting personal computers designed for children and teleconferencing.
Providing more spoilers would ruin the enjoyment of the film. Suffice it to say that the movie and Tracy do not disappoint, nice messages are conveyed, and Joe Gimlet does say to his bride when worlds collide that he will give her an adequate thrill.
The conclusion based on more than 20 years of watching films, including the torture that is the reviewed not so "Magic Mike," is that "Clock" passes the test of time. It is well-written and acted story that depicts several eternal truths without being preachy or relying on special effects that cost as much as the annual budget of a small country to convey.
Additionally, Tracy portrays Gimlet just as nicely as Jimmy Stewart brings George Bailey to life and Michael J (NO PERIOD; HIS REAL MIDDLE NAME IS ANDREW FOLKS) Fox provides a look at the life of Marty McFly.
Anyone with questions about "Clock" or any of the peripheral subjects in this review is welcome to email me; you can also contact me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.