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Monday, June 30, 2014

'Killer Legends' DVD: Perfect Marriage of Horror and Documentary

Product Details
The documentary "Killer Legends," which Breaking Glass Pictures is releasing on DVD on July 1 2014, tells us everything that we want to know about urban legends but are terrified to ask. These include the tales of the maniac with the hook who targets teens on lovers' lanes, fatally tainted Halloween candy, psychos calling babysitters from inside the house, and child abducting bozos.

The following chill-inducing clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Legends" offers a good sense of the "its scary because its true" aspect of this documentary.

One particularly awesome aspect of this film is that it brings back nice memories of the first two seasons of the current proverbial long-running horror series "Supernatural." These early adventures focus on the dreamy Winchester boys investigating gory goings-on (including the "Everybody Loves a Clown" episode) that follow the pattern of the aforementioned urban legends. 

Joshua Zeman, whose credits include the horror documentary "Cropsey," and his partner-in-film Rachel Mills take a refreshingly retro approach to their investigations of the truth behind campfire and schoolyard stories.

Rather than make themselves the main focus or primarily offer a video slideshow of talking heads, this two-person Scooby gang uses a wonderful melange of interviews with the aforementioned experts, archival news stories and similar materials, visits to the scenes of the crimes of which legends are made, and clips from classic horror film based on that lore. In other words, "Legends" clearly shows that Josh and Rach do their homework. Further, in true documentary style, any embellishment of the truth is minimal.

The first tackled legend is the aforementioned tale in which a couple of horny high schoolers continue sweating up the Vega despite hearing creepy noises outside; the boy discovers on being a gentleman by opening the door on his chick's side of the car after driving her home that the prior disruption relates to the bloody hook hanging from the handle.

This segment of "Legends" tells the tale of the decades-old killing spree in Texarkana, Texas that inspires that folktale. The fact that the (never captured) perpetrator is known as "The Phantom" provides some sense of the authenticity of the related legend.

The look at the "The Candyman" legend related to the deception regarding identifying tiny pieces of  candy as "fun-size" extending to a psycho making those absurdly small morsels lethal is particularly disturbing. The circumstances regarding a real-life murderer who uses this technique should make even the strongest death penalty opponent want to personally fry this despicable individual.

The look at the basis for fearing clowns extends beyond actual cases of people being dressed as those characters while doing bad things to moppets to more basic reasons for crossing the street when seeing an Emmett Kelly wannabe approaching you. The interesting observations include that having clowns enter our homes through television transports these potentially creepy individuals from the outside world into our living rooms.

The plethora of extras on the DVD consists of special features that further discuss the legends that the film features.

The finding related to whether "Legends" is worth adding to your home-video library is yes. The subject appeals to the 12 year-old in all of us, and the manner in which Zeman and Mills present their research appeals to the Sundance/IFC/PBSophile in our current selves.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Legends" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvddguy.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Seduced and Abandoned' DVD: Jim and Alec's Excellent Cannes Adventure

Seduced and Abandoned (HBO)
The fairly recent Warner Archive  DVD release of "Seduced and Abandoned" from the uber-awesome HBO Documentary Films series is based on the fascinating premises of providing related behind-the-scenes looks at the Cannes Film Festival and the process of obtaining financing for big-budget Hollywood films.

Former film and "30 Rock" star (and current chronic ill-advised tweeter/airplane passenger) Alec Baldwin and producer James Toback conduct this through their efforts at the 2012 festival to obtain funding for a film project that Toback would produce and in which Baldwin would star.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Seduced" expertly communicates the themes of the film and provides a glimpse of the best scenes in it. The gorgeous images of Cannes are a nice bonus.

Additionally, the timing of the DVD release of "Seduced" is interesting on a couple of levels. Most directly, it roughly coincides with HBO announcing that it is reviving the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon reality series "Project Greenlight." This rare awesome reality show initially centers around the competition for funding for an independent film and subsequently the making of said indie.

Less directly, "Seduced" is coming out on DVD in the wake of an uber-fantabulous first-run theatrical documentary by regular "30 Rock" guest star Elaine Stritch. ""Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" both answers the question "what becomes a legend most?" and minimally triggers a desire to try uber-tasty  Bay's english muffins (which can be found in many grocers' refrigerated sections.)

The HBO film is further notable for having a title with an unintentional double meaning. The intended meaning refers to potential backers promising to various degrees of sincerity to invest in a film only to back out. The unintentional meaning refers to Toback and Baldwin creating an expectation of either a detailed look at their fund-raising campaign or at the insights of some of the greatest directors of the second half of the 20th century. Instead, we get an unduly free-flowing mixture of the two.

A scene in which Francis Ford Coppola or James Caan is discussing an aspect of making "The Godfather" may follow a completely unrelated segment on Toback and Baldwin discussing incorporating casting preferences or other changes that a potential backer requests. The logical transitions that exist are less numerous than hoped for.

Segments with dreamy Ryan Gosling are among the most entertaining and relevant in the film. He contributes some comments that relate both to the art and commerce of making films. One story about a director having Gosling and another actor simple wander the city streets is particularly interesting.

Other intersections of art and commerce relate to discussions both of the blurred genres in modern film making and the decreased importance of even labeling a film as belonging to a genre.

The directors who join Coppola in offering their thoughts on their craft include Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci.

As indicated above, the sad truth is that Toback and Baldwin set out to make two potentially great films and end up with one that is less artistically successful. Despite this, this rare opportunity to hear the thoughts of truly great filmmakers make the seduction worthwhile even with the subsequent abandonment.

Anyone with questions regarding "Seduced" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

'WPC 56' DVD: Cracking Brit. Police Drama Featuring Lacey Sans Cagney

WPC 56 - Series One DVD
The recent BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2013 first series (my people call them seasons) of the brilliant BBC police drama "WPC 56" is part of a bundle of great new titles from this purveyor of fine British television to those of us on this side of the pond. Reviews will soon follow of seasons of the equally good BBC dramas "The Indian  Doctor" and "The Village."

The title "WPC 56" has a dual meaning; it is the designation of rookie Woman Police Constable Gina Dawson and refers to her becoming the first female member of the force in her West Midlands hometown in 1956.

The lack of melodramatic histrionics is the most awesome thing about this spectacular series; the boys in blue degrade their new colleague but refrain from pulling out their billy clubs or engaging in other overtly crude behavior, and Dawson goes about her job with a quiet dignity. There are no angry speeches, and Dawson actually must encourage the men to subject her to the same hazing that male rookies endure.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from the "WPC" pilot provides a good example of the themes described above. It also offers a sense of the excellent casting that helps make this show special.

The fact that much of the opposition stems from both understandable ignorance regarding the proper role of female officers and logical concern regarding the impact of Dawson being in the field with the male officers add nice sensitive touches to a potentially heavy-handed show.

One of the more amusing scene in the first season has Dawson becoming the hero after essentially being told to be a good girl and wait in the car. Other humor relates to relegating this well-qualified officer to the role of tea lady.

The compelling police investigations come in a close second regarding the best elements of "WPC." A season-long investigation into an ice-cold case involving a 30 year-old disappearance of two young boys nicely ties into a much more recent series of particularly creepy attacks on women. Shorter story arcs enjoy comparable entertaining synergy.

Further, the well-presented historic elements of  "WPC" extend beyond the seemingly authentic clothes and other styles of the era and the out-dated attitudes toward female police officers. A season-long storyline that involves the personal life of a colleague of Dawson provides a glimpse of the shocking (pun intended) treatment of psychological problems in the '50s. Some of these scenes are more cringe-worthy than depictions of the police work, which includes brutal beat downs of suspects.

The end result of all this is that "WPC" is a "must-own" combination of classic British mysteries, "N.Y.P.D. Blue," "Hill Street Blues," and "Cagney and Lacey" without the preachiness and melodrama that partially characterize the American shows.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "WPC" is encouraged to email me. You can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, June 27, 2014

'Alice Adams' DVD: Katharine Hepburn is Starting to Happen

Alice Adams
Warner Archive releasing the 1935 Katharine Hepburn drama "Alice Adams" on DVD provides a fantastic chance to see this Hollywood royalty in a role that showcases the charm, dramatic ability, and overall awesomeness that makes her an all-time great. Having wonderfully talented Fred MacMurray co-star is a spectacular bonus.

"Adams" is a terrific George Stevens adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel of the same name. Our titular heroine, whom Hepburn plays, is the daughter of a clerk for the company of one of the movers-and-shakers in the typical small American town where they live.

The primary conflict revolves around the desire of social-climbing Alice to fit in with the elite of the community despite her lack of the assets that keeping up with the Lambs requires. Alice shows a Scarlett O'Hara style resourcefulness in keeping up appearances to the best of her ability. One spoiler alert is that Alice never resorts to making a dress out of curtains, with or without the rod still intact.

A variation of "Cinderella" near the beginning of "Adams" has Alice arriving at a society party in a jalopy, wearing last year's dress, and holding a very fragile homemade corsage. Her Prince Charming arrives in the form of MacMurray's Arthur Russell.

The courtship between Russell and Alice, who acts to deceive Russell about her financial status, coincides with Alice's mother stepping up her campaign of badgering Alice's father to actively seek to improve his station in life. The latter storyline supports the theory that behind every great man is an incessantly nagging woman.

These stories intersect when Mr. Adams succumbing to the Hyacinth Bucket level nagging of his wife causes him to act in a manner that has the reverse of the desired effect regarding the effort to have Alice climb the social ladder. Russell knowing of all this further jeopardizes the social future of our heroine.

All this leads to a classic scene in which Mrs. Adams has Russell over for a dinner that is either hilariously catastrophic or heartbreaking depending on your sensibility. Having Hattie McDaniel of "Gone With the Wind" as the help brought in for the evening is brilliant casting that adds definite humor.

The post-dinner scene is equally good and provides the proverbial happy ending in expected and less predictable ways. MacMurray's portrayal of Russell during the entire evening reinforces that Robbie, Chip, Mike (and Ernie) are all very lucky "Sons."

The final word regarding all this is that watching "Adams" definitely would have elicited a WTF response if Hepburn did not become a star in the following years.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Adams" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

'Blood Soaked'' DVD: Neo-Nazi Manson Sisters V. Scissor Sisters

Product Details
Wild Eye Releasing continues its awesome track record regarding DVD releases of the best in minimal budget horror films in making "Blood Soaked" available. This home-video introduction of this video-taped masterpiece follows the film earning the "Best Effects" award at the Jersey Gore Film Festival and comparable acclaim at similar events.

The uber-visual clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Blood Soaked" provides an excellent sense of both the story and the creepy vibe of the film. It also shows that this is a textbook modern midnight movie.

This genuine morality tale has a newly arrived college freshman quickly diving into the experimentations that are typical of the college experience (and nightmare of her overprotective mother) only to pay a very high price for her sinful ways. All of this comes in the form of a quickly formed friendship with an older student leading to attending a wild party in the desert, which leads to commencing a lesbian relationship between these coeds the next morning.

The penalty for being bad girls arrives in the form of encountering college-aged orphaned sisters who are perverse versions of the Olsen twins. These psychos derive great pleasure in making the new lovers victims of their evil scheme that involves killing innocents only to bring them back to life as uber-violent savages to serve as their Army that is designed to establish the fourth reich.

This all leads to highly disturbing psychological torture and cringe-worthy physical violence. The makeup is very good, and the extras do an equally wonderful job playing these incredibly primeval beings. 

Having the undead soldiers leashed and trailing their prey like bloodhounds is especially awesome; further, mutually tormenting them and their intended victim in another scene is equally well done.

It is exciting as well that "Soaked" has an exceptionally surprising ending that almost ensures a sequel. The possibility of seeing the psycho siblings march their followers into the nearby college town creates incredible anticipation.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Soaked" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

'The Boondocks' S4 DVD: Wonderful In Yo Face Adult Swim Animated Fun

Product Details
Watching the 10-episodes in the hot-off-the-presses two-disc Sony DVD release of the fourth and final season of the hilarious Cartoon Network Adult Swim animated series "The Boondocks" validates the conclusion of Time  magazine that this series is one of the Top 10 most controversial cartoons of all time.

The following SPOILER-LADEN clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the Adult Swim trailer for the fourth season of "The Boondocks" shows how it earns the aforementioned honor. Any show that mines terrific humor from slavery, prostitution, and the drug trade cannot be all bad.

"The Boondocks" coming in at Number 5 places it above "Family Guy," which experienced the miscarriage (of course, pun intended) of justice regarding having to pull the infamous "Partial Terms of Endearment" episode due to the controversial nature of this perverse tale of a partially unwanted pregnancy.

"Boondocks" fans also have the option of buying the equally hot-off-the-presses complete series DVD set.

The premise of this highly stylized show based on the comic strip of the same name is that African-American Robert "Granddad" Freeman, voiced by John Witherspoon, is raising his young grandsons Riley and Huey in an upscale and mostly white "Suburgatory" suburb. Regina King provides the voices for both boys.

Diminutive Riley is a wannabe thug who views himself as a pit bull but cowers like a chihuahua on encountering any form of moderate threat. The slightly older and more politically oriented Huey is more grounded and even-tempered but retains a streak of violence.

This season starts strong with having mild-manned next-door neighbor/attorney Tom reluctantly defending a R&B singer who makes Justin Bieber look like a promise-ring wearing Jonas Brother. The initial charge relates to a brazen convenience store robbery and escalates to offenses that include coveting Tom's wife.

The numerous unbleeped f-bombs in this one both show that this "The Boondocks" ain't no Saturday morning cartoon and make a comment by Riley in the series finale that a character who is frustrated regarding being bleeped must wait for the uncensored DVD set especially hilarious.

The social commentary in the season premiere is also very typical of others in the season (and the series). In this case, the spotlight is on the actual motives for the criminal activities of singers who have a gangsta image to maintain. Lesser commentary on wigger society is thrown in for good measure.

A later (and classic) fourth-season episode uses a faux-documentary format to show flashbacks that reveal how Granddad is the Captain Paramenter of the civil rights movement in that getting on the wrong bus leads to his involvement in that effort. This episode being released on DVD on the same day that PBS premieres a documentary on the real Freedom Riders is a hilarious coincidence.

Many other fourth-season episodes focus on the mortgage crisis specifically and the horrible economy more generally. Granddad refinancing his home loan with an ARM creates a reversal of fortune that forces this retired elderly cantankerous man to seek work in a tough job market. The fact that he lists "pork chops" as his greatest weakness on an employment application provides a sense of his employability.

This new normal additionally provides the setting for hilarious parodies of other series. One episode has circumstances conspiring against the efforts of Granddad to convince the boys that they are not like the Evans family of the '70s Norman Lear series "Good Times." Another outing that focuses on a desperate money-making scheme is a great take on "Breaking Bad."

The series finale is a perfect end to a hilarious show. The family once again finding themselves the target of absurd public scorn relates to the backlash regarding a viral video of Riley commenting that an effeminate classmate who is flamboyantly dancing on a table in the school cafeteria is gay. Part of the problem is that young Mr. Freeman cannot understand the problem regarding remarking that something that clearly is gay is gay.

This triggers a fall-on-the-floor series of contacts from groups who express outrage to capitalize on the underlying event and subsequent fallout. A botched forced apology and a classic parody of Ellen DeGeneres are only part of the fun.

The extras in the fourth season set are separate special features on the music of the series and the muses behind writing the exceptional Emmy-worthy episodes.

The sad fact is that there likely will not be another series that gets its themes and humor as perfect as "The Boondocks." There is no risk of buyer's remorse if you get a DVD set.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Boondocks" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

'After Office Hours' DVD: Newspaperman Clark Gable Frankly Gives A Damn

After Office Hours (1935)
Warner Archive does it again in releasing the 1935 Clark Gable/Constance Bennett comedy "After Office Hours."This film is a great follow-up to Gable's Oscar-winning role in "It Happened One Night" and provides a nice companion to the  (soon to be reviewed) 1958 film Gable/Doris Day film "Teacher's Pet."

This time Gable's stereotypical irreverent and tough crusader newspaperman is Jim Branch. Equally stereotypical millionaire playboy Tommy Bannister is already on Branch's radar when the murder of the soon-to-be-divorced socialite with whom Bannister is linked sets up ear-splitting pings. The strong evidence that widower of the victim is the killer does not stop Branch from trying to prove that Bannister is the culprit.

The romantic complication this time comes in the form of society reporter Sharon Norwood, whom the gifted Constance Bennett perfectly portrays. Her first meeting with Branch results in him firing her. Their second meeting results in him rehiring her in a hilarious scene in which Branch learns that Norwood has valuable connections with the masters of the universe that interest him.

Wonderful '30s character actress (and future Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz") Billie Burke does a spot-on job as Norwood's very social-conscious mother. Her performance in the final scenes of "Hours" is particularly amusing.

Numerous opportunities that allow Gable to demonstrate his charm and wit extend well beyond his scenes with Norwood, who matches him line for line. He shines in every scene in which he appears.

Norwood providing Bannister an alibi and standing by her man in defiance of the efforts of Branch to prove his guilt trigger the inevitable conflict with Branch that leads to their equally inevitable romantic involvement. Another great element of all this is the manner in which Norwood and Bannister show that hams and eggs is not always hams and eggs.

The final confrontation between Branch and Bannister has terrific slapstick and also provides Norwood a chance to show that she can play just as rough as the boys. This Lois Lane can handle herself pretty well without Superman.

All of this amounts to a well-produced film that is still relevant today; we all fall for the wrong person (and reject the right one) at least once in our lives, and there are many cases in which an murder investigation does not focus on the actual killer.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hours" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

'Without A Trace:' S7 DVD: Final Missing Persons Cases for Team That Knows Jack

Without a Trace: The Complete Seventh Season
The Warner Archive six-disc 24-episode DVD release of the 2008-09 seventh season of the  Jerry Bruckheimer procedural "Without a Trace" allows fans veteran and rookie alike to complete their collection of this well-produced drama without an extensive hunt.

These stories revolve around the cases of the intrepid Missing Persons Squad in the New York City office of the FBI. One not-so unexpected spoiler is that this team always gets his or her man or woman.

The season opens with former leader Jack Malone, whom Anthony LaPaglia plays, working in a lesser capacity as a punishment for his maverick (but highly effective) methods. Steven Weber, who seems to be the 21st century version of the show freshening technique of adding Heather Locklear to the cast, portrays the new boss.

The following clip, courtesy of both YouTube and an obviously avid "Trace" fan, provides a sense of the tension between the former and current team leaders.

Equally cool things about "Trace" are that the missing persons of interest, rather than the FBI agents, are the primary centers of attention and that every investigation takes at least one well-executed turn that realistically relates to the probable circumstances regarding the disappearance. The mixture of happy, sad, and in-between resolutions is another good feature.

It is also nice that the series ends after it provides a solid block of episodes but before it becomes either stale and/or absurd. There are no musical episodes, guest appearances by Charo, or searches for Jimmy Hoffa.

The season premiere centers around the search for a man who understandably goes off the rails after his daughter disappears when he turns his back on her for the proverbial second. The twist in this one relates to this man becoming actively involved in searching for another missing child.

One outstanding episode among this group of very good ones centers around the teen-age son of fed. who investigates counterfeiting operations. Learning of the degree of the covert activity of this boy and the unexpected ultimate circumstances related to his going missing makes particularly good television.

The episode that follows this one is also noteworthy for placing Weber's Medina in especially strong conflict with the team that remains loyal to his predecessor. Diverting virtually every resource from a search for a woman who is likely at great risk of serious physical harm to look for a more newsworthy subject does not sit well with the group.

Other cases revolve around an arguably over-ambitious member of a local news team, a teen girl with ample daddy (and mommy) issues, and the owner of  a religious statue that seems to miraculously cry.

The season (and the series) end on apt notes regarding both the case of the week and the personal stories of the agents. The final case is a particularly compelling one that starts with a man making an unusual (and creepy) find on a late-night dive and leads to a rather complex relationships and violent confrontations. 

The stories of the agents end with satisfying resolutions of their personal relationships and a sense that at least some of them will continue springing into action when someone vanishes off the streets of New York.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Trace" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

'Smartest Girl in Town"/"She's Got Everything" Double Feature DVDs: Great (Ann) Sothern Exposures

She's Got Everything/ The Smartest Girl In Town 2x
Warner Archive releasing the 1936 Ann Sothern/Gene Raymond comedy "Smartest Girl in Town" and the 1937 Sothern/Raymond comedy "She's Got Everything" in a two-disc DVD set provides a nice look at the hilarious Sothern 30 years before she plays the titular character in the Unreal TV reviewed unfairly maligned sitcom "My Mother The Car." 

"Smartest" is very witty film that has Sothern playing model Frances "Cookie" Cooke, whose primary goal in life is marrying a wealthy man. Her relationship with an eccentric baron has her well on the way to achieving that goal when a chance encounter with the more charming Richard Stuyvesant "Dick" Smith, whom Raymond expertly portrays, endangers her current romance.

The following scene, courtesy of YouTube, of when Dick met Cookie shows the great chemistry between the leads.

The twist in this entertainingly textbook '30s screwball comedy is that Cookie thinks that Dick is a struggling male model, rather than the dashing millionaire that is his true persona. Dick goes to great lengths (and expense) to maintain this facade in order to have Cookie fall in love with the man, rather than his assets.

This story provides Cookie and Dick many great opportunities for terrific banter and wonderful heart-to-hearts. The arguably perverse "must see" final scene sends an only slightly cynical mixed message.

Sothern's Carol Rogers in "Everything" is the opposite of Cookie. Carol is the daughter of a wealthy man who literally wakes up one morning to a very painful "heir today, gone tomorrow" lesson. This reversal of fortune relates to mismanagement of assets by her father that has creditors actually banging down the door to Carol's bedroom.

Carol is also unlike Cookie in that her approach to keeping a desired class of roof over her head consists of seeking employment, rather than trying to land a millionaire. Carol undergoes this task in ignorance of a Shakespearean scheme by her Aunt Jane and Waldo Eddington, who has a strong interest in having Carol pony up (this is hilarious to folks familiar with "Everything") the money that Carol's father owes him.

The pigeon that Jane and Waldo select for their plot is Raymond's Fuller Partridge, who owns a large coffee company. Our puppet masters soon have Fuller hire Carol, who is still ignorant of the ulterior motives behind this, as his secretary. Carol having such a strong aversion to coffee that it provides grounds (of course, pun intended) for termination provides great humor regarding this employment.

The action shifts into high gear after Jane and Waldo succeed in first conning Fuller into sending Carol, who remains ignorant of the scheming, to a resort. Great humor from this portion of the film includes chasing away a charming suitor and involving a vaudeville performer in a scheme that goes predictably but still hilariously awry.

Getting Fuller to join the party leads to the equally predictable development of his responding accordingly on learning of the scheme to get him to marry Carol for his fun and her profit. Watching a man turn cad and humiliate and otherwise torture a gold digger always provides good '30s style entertainment.

The clever closing scene, which indicates that money can buy happiness and anything else, ends this tale on an especially entertaining screwball note.

The best thing about these two films is that the Archive double feature facilitates watching (and comparing) them together. Doing so validates Sothern tooting her own horn in "Mother."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Smartest" or "Everything" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Provincetown: It Is the Best of Burgs; It Is the Not-So-Great of Burgs

Image result for provincetown images

Both a mixed bag of experiences during a 10-day visit to Provincetown, a.k.a. Ptown, Massachusetts and the benefit of the perspective of living in a quasi-comparable small city has prompted this lengthy diversion from TV and movie reviews.

The overall conclusion is that Ptown is a nice place to visit but sadly does not live up to the hype. Further, many Ptown veterans admit that 3 days there is ample to enjoy all that the community offers.

One disclaimer is that this review is written with full knowledge that 100,000s of folks consider Ptown a utopia and would sell their soul, sacrifice a limb, and/or give up their first born to live there. The positive aspects of the community merit that level of devotion; the problem is that the numerous shortcomings moderately tip the scales in the other direction.

These musing additionally are a follow-up to a review of the terrific live-stage performance "The Golden Gals," which ran in Ptown throughout the summer of 2014.

On a general level, the proverbial miles of unspoiled beaches in Ptown are uber-awesome. They offer incredible views, always friendly dogs and their often as cordial human companions, and surprisingly clear water. Further, folks who opt to take the walk or bike ride from town to the shuttle and car-accessible Herring Cove Beach will get good exercise and a chance to contemplate the large and not-so-large aspects of life.

Additionally, the dining lives up to the hype. The chances are very good that your repast will be excellent, be it a lobstah roll at a take-out joint or a truly five-star meal at one of the many gourmet restaurants. It is equally nice that the numerous mid-range places offer a wide variety.

The Box Lunch is an especially terrific mid-sized local chain that provides sandwiches that are worthy of your soul. There are veggie options, and carnivores will enjoy the most tender meat possible expertly prepared and served with a genuine smile and witty conversation.

Concern regarding putting a hot and a cold sandwich in the same bag if they were going to co-mingle for more than a few minutes was a nice touch. Additionally, owner Julie provides as much of a sympathetic ear and warmth as the best bartender when time allows.

Pepe's offers numerous vittles and potables on a deck that is literal (but untested) spitting distance from the ocean. Again, the food is terrific and the service friendly. Bantering with the jovial hostess regarding box wines adds to the fun.

More upscale places for special meals include Ross' Grill and the Mews. All that is stated above applies to these places.

Ptown additionally lives up to the hype regarding the retail establishments. The roughly one-mile concentration of galleries, gift shops, souvenir places, and handful of VERY tasteful places that sell sexy lingerie and fetishware truly has something for everyone and offers a welcome break from a stretch of national chains (no pun intended). In fact, the not-so-good folks at the Kiehl's body products outlet were the only surly ones in the bunch.

A highly annoying downside to this is that a large percentage of merchants impose (and heavily enforce) a minimum amount on credit-card charges. This seems to average around $8 but can be very irksome to those of us either looking to conserve our cash or who are not carrying much of the green stuff.

An especially ugly incident at gelato shop/bakery The Purple Feather, which came to personally be known by a similar six-letter word that also begins with "f," was particularly bothersome. The manager was adamant about enforcing a $7.50 credit card minimum regarding a $5.34 cupcake. Alternatively, opening my wallet to show that I only had a $5 bill on me did not prompt a break regarding the 34 cent shortfall.

The owner ultimately stepped in and begrudgingly offered a concession; conversely, the good folks at the uber-awesome Far Land provisions (which has a large parking lot) happily accepted my credit card for a uber-tasty $2.50 cookie and a 74 cent container of apple sauce.

As an aside, the cheese tortellini and the Jamaican meat pies from Far Land on another occasion were the best of either that I have had. Additionally, the clerk made sure that we knew how to heat them. The other prepared foods looked just as awesome.

A more serious downside of Ptown is the parking situation and related traffic headaches after potentially sitting in 30 miles or more of stop-and-go traffic on the secondary highway to reach this vacation spot.

Roughly 90 percent of people who drive to Ptown and stay in the downtown Commercial Street area must park in a municipal lot on the edge of town. This requires feeling like an Ellis Island refugee as you lug your possessions a half-mile or more from your vehicle to your lodging.

Personal experience regarding this involved arriving almost at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning in the early June pre-peak season and parking in the nearly empty lot of the business, which shall remain nameless, next to the condo. that would be home for the next 10 days. The plan was to rapidly unload the sedanful of clothing and supplies and then go to the proper lot.

The man whom the business owner actually put on the payroll merely to police the lot immediately demanded moving the car; agreeing to buy something in the store bought us the required few minutes to dump out stuff in the dirt and rush back in forth to get it inside. Needless to say, we physically went quite a bit out of our way to not shop at that store during our stay.

The related issue of traffic involves pedestrians competing with the cars, skateboards, pedicabs, and bicycles that clog the narrow (and not very well sidewalked) one-lane Commercial Street. It makes one wonder why the town does not close off Commercial Street to cars at least during peak hours.

The aforementioned 100,000s of Ptown devotees will likely assert that the ferry from Boston is a good option. The $88 round-trip fare, somewhat limited schedule, aforementioned Ellis Island experience, and these not-so-little boats not sailing on-and-on-and-on when the sky gos dark and the seas grow rough are considerations. The long and tedious bus ride to Boston that acts as a substitute during these times is not a great option.

Further, Ptown is as gay-centric and (generally) homo-friendly as advertised. However, there is also a surprisingly large number of straight couples and families. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the press strongly indicates that the town is an almost exclusively gay community. Folks looking for that will be greatly disappointed.

A few insiders have shared that heteros have validly be coming in large numbers over the past couple of decades after homos did a quasi-fabulous makeover of the town.

The fact that easily 75-percent of the straight men feel the need to firmly clutch their girlfriend by the shoulder, hand, or buttocks is very silly and puts a mild damper on the mood of the town. These (mostly young) guys strongly communicate both which team for which they bat and that they do not look kindly on what they would perceive as a recruiting effort for the other team. All this occurs before another fellow even offers a smile.

On a happier note, gay folks happily (but much less assertively) also stroll hand-in-hand with their significant others.

A related note relates to the heavily acknowledged fact that Ptown remains true to its roots as a working-class fishing village. These locals are generally cordial and never nasty but make it clear that tourists and summer residents are not the most welcome species that migrates to the area each summer. This is VERY understandable but also prevents Ptown from being the advertised ideal vacation spot.

Anyone with thoughts regarding this analysis of Ptown is strongly encouraged to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Please do keep things civil.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

'Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector' DVD: 'Big Bang' Cousin Discuss Obsession With Obsolete Tech.

Product Details
Although releasing the indescribably awesome documentary "Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector" (which is available on VHS) on DVD feels sacrilegious, an eternity of torment seems to be a small price to pay for the enjoyment related to watching this film.

It seems as well that a percentage of videocassette affeciendos who have not already gone blind either due to watching these treasures ad infinitum or because of the adult nature of a large number of them will lose their sight from repeatedly watching this movie. "VHS" will make you laugh, smile, and almost cry.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of scenes from "VHS" provides an excellent sense of the spirit and the scope of the documentary. The not-so-youthful exuberance that it conveys is simply spectacular.

Watching folks who remain obsessed with the VHS format discuss that love in an era in which streaming video has not yet killed the DVD star but has placed it in serious condition will evoke great memories among those of us who remember discovering those magic black plastic rectangles.

A personal dislodged memory relates to the first '80s-laden virgin outing renting a film on VHS. This involves wearing the new fashion of a Ralph Lauren polo shirt (and using the Polo cologne from the green bottle) and accidentally running over my Swatch with my '84 Mustang (while the Duran Duran greatest hits cassette was playing in the tape deck).

The main selection from the choices at the local general store was "Ghostbusters," which I had not seen in the theater. Watching this (and the accompanying film "The Philadelphia Experiment") was partially designed to avoid watching the dreadful sitcom "Life With Lucy."

Other strong memories relate to spending post-college Saturday nights popping in rentals from Erol's Video on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. after watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

The wide range of topics that the genuine "VHS" fanatics discuss extends beyond the excitement that they experienced on their family first buying a VCR, to addressing the rise and fall of independent and chain video stores, to the male-oriented topic of size matters regarding the number of cassettes in their collection, to lengthy discussions on both the thrill of the hunt and a tape that is the holy grail for these guys.

One collector expressing embarrassment related to divulging the large prices that he pays for some individual titles provokes thoughts of spending several pretty pennies to buy the third season of the '60s fantasy sitcom "My Favorite Martian" on DVD from Australia when it seemed that it would not be released in the U.S. and paying more than $100 for the complete series DVD set of the campy '60s Irwin Allen series "Land of the Giants." The heart sometimes simply wants what the heart wants.

The very adorkable Zack Carlson, who is the author of the great-sounding 2010 book "Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film," clearly steals the show. His doing the entire interview buried to his chest in a ball pit is enough to win you over.

Seeing this excitable boy talk about his grandparents buying a VCR when he is four and his intense decades-long excitement that follows in the wake of that purchase is infectious. This Zack Attack truly is a bodaciously righteous dude.

A guy who operates Bradco Video, which rents VHS tapes, out of his basement and uses a pre-mouse 1990 computer to operate that enterprise comes in a close second for star of "VHS." This store is a genuine (and uber-awesome) time capsule.

The message of hope on which "VHS" ends is another terrific aspect of this film. The band of video brothers point out both that companies are still releasing titles on VHS and that the once virtually dead vinyl format is making a comeback in the music industry.

The extras in the DVD release include interviews with "VHS" directors (and videocassette advocates) Dan Kinem and Levi Peretic and a plethora of other special features. The bonus shorts seem especially worth "eating."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "VHS" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

'Invasion of the Scream Queens' DVD: Masterful Look at Horror Hotties

Product Details
Exceptional camp horror film DVD distributor (and VHS seller) Wild Eye Releasing recently resurrecting the 1992 cult classic documentary "Invasion of the Scream Queens" on DVD is an awesome treat for fans of the bump and grindhouse B horror movies of the '80s and early '90s and the more general population that simply loves that era. This film is based on the book of the same name.

The clearly videotaped, rather than filmed, interviews and practically non-existent budget are perfect choices for this homage to the stars of films that high school and college students jeered during late-night viewings of the syndicated series "Elvira Mistress of the Dark" and that freaked out tween boys, who watched these classics on VHS during "big boy" slumber parties.

These members of horror royalty are likely responsible for 100,000s of parents and guardians washing one or more bodily substance out of Star Wars sleeping bags the day after these gatherings.

Especially entertaining aspects of these cheesy segments include the barely audible voice of an interviewer and one scene in which a ringing telephone is heard in the background of an interview that seems to be occurring in a cubicle. A handful of very rough edits also provide amusement.

Insights include many of these women coming across as surprisingly intelligent and respectable. They may play killer bimbos in movies, but many of them are far from brainless babes. Examples include studying at well-respected acting schools, having reasonable limits regarding on-screen nudity, and coming from upper-middle-class families.

These thespians additional speak of working with genuises, such as B-film king Roger Corman and art house veteran Paul Bartel. 

The plethora of clips from well and lesser-known classics include snippets from "The Hills Have Eyes" and "I Spit on Your Grave." The award for best clip must go to one that shows a hunky hairy-chested big-haired frat boy chained to a wall wearing only a tutu and being taunted by a woman who looks like a Solid Gold dancer.

The DVD extras on this 20th anniversary release include a 2013 interview with "Queens" director (and B-horror film veteran) Donald Farmer and additional footage from scenes in the film. 

All of this amounts to "Queens" being an awesomely nostalgic trip back to the '80s that offers plenty of gore, T & A, and goth humor. In other words, a dream come true for the 12 year-old boy in all of us.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Queens" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

'A Wife Alone' DVD: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Prostitute Scorned

Product Details
The well-produced 2012 psychological thriller "A Wife Alone," which is being released on DVD and VOD on June 17 2014, has the awesome vibe of indie films of this genre. These flicks show that making a good movie does not require big names in front of or behind the camera, elaborate scenes, a franchise, or multi-million-dollar pyrotechnics.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "A Wife Alone" is spoiler free and provides an excellent sense of the overall noir vibe of the film. It shows that it is tailor-made for art-house showings.

The film opens with our heroine Jane fleeing after apparently committing a theft; the story then flashes forward several months to find her enjoying domestic bliss with mild-mannered Park, who has enough insecurity issues to fill a "very special" two-part "Dr. Phil" episode.

Ashley Springer, who has a history of bit parts in productions such as "Nurse Jackie" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," is perfectly cast as Park. His entire demeanor and skinny, pale, nearly hairless body indicate that he would not only hand over his lunch money without resistance but would stand in line to buy your meal with those funds.

The action kicks into high gear when the fairly newly married Jane and Park go to visit Steve and Holly, who are the godparents of Park. The extremely cruel and manipulative Steve is a role into which Kevin Spacey would have slipped incredibly comfortably. Sean Patrick Reilly of "Sleepers" and "Howl" does an awesome job with the part.

Steve is particularly skilled at manipulating Park for the fun and profit of the former. A disturbing early scene in Steve's pool excellently establishes their relationship.

Much of the drama relates to the artful unfolding of the history between Steve and Jane; the impact of this extends beyond this pair to the highly intertwined personal and business relationships between Steve and Park. Watching these surrogate daddy issues play out during a Father's Day viewing was very apt.

Watching the outwardly mild Holly dominate the otherwise dominant Steve provides further dark entertainment. This henpecking is so extreme that one is surprised to not see beak marks all over Steve's torso.

As is often the case, the woman calls the shots. Jane manipulates both Steve and Park regarding a scheme that ultimately both gets her everything that she wants and provides her intense satisfaction in the process. Holly experiencing collateral damage does not prompt an iota of concern.

A particularly compelling aspect of all this is that it largely is very plausible. Steve is not unlike the huge population of men (and women) who do not hesitate to horribly abuse people to achieve a desired goal; Jane is merely a caricature of a strong woman with both a sense of justice and a cold heart regarding kind folks who can help her achieve her goal, and Park is the nice guy down the street who is prone to abuse by folks who prey on that kindness.

Everything conveyed above make "Wife" a great choice for an evening in which your taste runs more to "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" than "Neighbors."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Wife" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

'The Jetsons' S3 DVD: Great End to Classic Series About Model Space-Age Dad

The Jetsons: Season 3
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 10 episodes that comprise the syndicated 1987 third season of the classic Hanna-Barbera animated series "The Jetsons" rounds out the DVD releases of  this series.

Fans will recall that the first season ran in prime-time in the 1962-63 television season and that the show resurfaced in 1985 for a syndicated run in which first season episodes were interspersed with the new ones.

"The Jetsons" is similar to the predecessor animated sitcom "The Flintsones" with the twist that it puts a space age, rather than stone age, spin on stories about the everyday lives of typical American families in their era. Unreal TV has reviewed the similar Hanna-Barbera '70s Saturday morning cartoon series "The Roman Holidays.

The Jetsons are more of a nuclear family than the Flintstones in that they have two, rather than one, children and that George Jetson works in an office while Fred Flintstone toils away in a rock quarry.

The third season of "The Jetsons" kicks off with the family large flat-screen television picking up a video chat about a planned heist getting George thrust in the middle of the action. The futuristic 1980s-oriented references include a mention of the police drama "Hill Star Blues;" a later episode has the family watching pastel-clad detectives in "Martian Vice."

A surprisingly adult-oriented episode revolves around green-card marriages in a manner that folks who oppose marriage equality may start citing as an example of the alleged slippery slope related to same-sex marriages. One spoiler is that this episode does not involve any effort for a character to marry family dog Astro.

A particularly amusing outing has the family comically trying to circumvent limits of places where dogs are allowed. This effort relates to using the new skills of mega-mentally enhanced Astro for fun and profit. A game of a chess similar to the 3D version on "Star Trek" OS is a highlight of that episode.

Two other episodes involve scifi staples. The first one has George engaging in corporate espionage against Cogswell Cogs on behalf of employer Spacely Space Sprockets. The second has George having himself cloned so that that duplicate will fulfill family obligations while George goes fishing. Hilarity ensues in both (and the other eight) episodes.

The series ends with an episode that has George fulfilling his professional aspiration of becoming the head of Spacely. The reliance on an aptitude test in putting George in the corner office and the particularly ruthless business practices on all sides once he gets there provide wonderful commentary on the business environment in the '80s.

Other notable aspects of these episodes are appearances by "guest stars" from the original series and the unexpected amount of animated nudity for an after-school cartoon. One observation regarding the latter is that evolution apparently eliminates male nipples over the next hundred years or so.

The best things about these charming and amusing shows is that they provide a fun look at tech. that is a nice mix of outdated and "hoped for" items.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Jetsons" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

'The Golden Gals' Live Stage Performance at Provincetown Art House: Take of Classic Sitcom by Men in Dresses is no Drag

The Golden Gals

The numerous great things about the Provincetown Art House live-stage production "The Golden Gals," which runs through August 30 2104, make knowing which to address first a difficult (but nice) challenge.

The production is a hilarious take on the classic '80s sitcom "The Golden Girls," which tells the uber-awesome tales of four very different upper-middle-aged women who somehow form an incredibly supportive and loving family that virtually every gay man and a large percentage of straight people would sacrifice a limb to join.

The very talented Ryan Landry of the spectacular Boston-based Gold Dust Orphans theater troupe stars as the very masculine Dorothy Zbornak. In fact, Landry's Dorothy is more feminine than that of late and truly great Bea Arthur from the sitcom.
The absolutely fabulous drag goddess Varla Jean Merman of the film "Girls Will Be Girls" and seemingly almost as many stage shows as Liza co-stars as faded (and slutty) Blanche Devereaux. (Call me, Varla. I am in the book. :-))

Both Blanche and NOLA-based Merman show why New Orleans is known as the Big Easy. It is equally clear that "Gals" producer Mark Cortale has no cause to rue (of course, pun intended) casting Merman in the role.

Fellow cross-dressers Olive Another, who plays Dorothy's hilariously blunt mother Sophia, and Brooklyn Shaffer, who takes on the role of Betty White's sweet and naive farm girl Rose Nylund, expertly round out the main cast.

"Gals" consists of portrayals of two especially funny "Girls" episodes. Although largely true to the original scripts, adding some racier materials that bumps the rating from PG to PG-13 adds to the hilarity in a manner that makes it likely that there is not a dry seat in the house when these ladies of Ptown really get going.

The first episode revolves around a visit from Dorothy's long-time friend Jean, who is a lesbian but remains in the closet regarding Rose and Blanche for much of this act. Fans will very fondly remember this episode. A "full frontal" scene featuring Merman is a highlight of this portion of the play.

The second act focuses on Rose having a very bad experience the first time that she gets back on the horse since the death of her beloved husband five years earlier. This act begins with a hilarious scene in which she, Dorothy, and Blanche go condom shopping.

Merman once again steals the show; this time, it is a repeated unscripted (but G-rated) wardrobe malfunction.

Hilarious real and staged commercials are interspersed throughout the play. A Carvel commercial prompts fond memories, and at least one seemingly spoof ad is for a real product.

Every cast member plays her role to a T; it seems clear that they are huge fans of the show. As mentioned above, Merman makes a excellent Southern slut; Landry gets Dororthy's look and overall persona down to a degree that prompts renewed mourning for Arthur, and Another and Shaffer capture their characters equally well. Shaffer deserves special credit for her portrayals of Sophia's wide-eyed stare and shuffling gait.

Further, seeing a mostly gay audience loving virtually every line and enjoying terrific fellowship (of course, pun intended) is uber-awesome by itself. The memories that it evokes of men gathering at bars nearly 30 years ago to watch the sitcom makes this experience that much more special.

One can only hope that Corvale and his ladies take on the '90s sitcom "Designing Women" next. Being deprived of watching Landry rant about abortion rights and Merman pontificate on the need of men to constantly grab their naughty bits is torture.

Anyone with questions about either "Gals" or "Girls is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'The Street' S2 DVD: More Great British Anthology Tales of Crime and Punishment

The Street Complete Collection DVD

As promised in the first review of the BFS Entertainment complete collection DVD set of the 2006-09 BBC drama "The Street," coverage of this release is divided into posts on each of the three series (my people call them seasons) of the program. The current discussion is on the second season.

The overall theme of the hour-long episodes is the trials and tribulations of the working-class inhabitants of the houses on the titular neighborhood in Manchester, England. Although the first-season episodes focus on numerous issues that range from adultery to mandatory retirement, crime and the effort to avoid punishment for said offense is a common element of virtually every second-season offering.

The season opens with the effort of one resident to take the place of a twin who dies under circumstances regarding which said resident has some culpability. The unraveling of the deception and the end result are wonderfully clever and entertaining.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, shows the mix of humor and drama in the aforementioned episode (and the entire series.)

Another story about crime involving relatives has "Doctor Who's" 11th doctor Matt Smith playing a late adolescent who finds himself taking the fall for an offense that his cousin/neighbor commits. The extent to which Smith will cover for his cousin and how far the cousin will allow Smith to be considered guilty of the crime make for great drama. The conclusion regarding all this is equally satisfying.

The most though-provoking second-season episode does not involve any real criminal offense but does revolve around both adultery and the identity crisis that giving into long suppressed desire triggers. This one is especially guaranteed to inspire lively discussion around the dining room table.

Mail fraud under very quirky circumstances is at the center of another second-season episode. This one is more light-hearted than the other five of the season and ends on a predictable but particularly uplifting note.

The final point to address (of course, pun intended) regarding this season of "The Street" is that it further solidifies the reputation of British television surpassing that of American fare in quality.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Street" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

'The biggest bundle of them all' DVD: Robert Wagner's "Ocean" Caper

Biggest Bundle of Them All, The
Warner Archive shows especially good instincts regarding releasing the hilarious 1968 heist film "The biggest bundle of them all" at the beginning of the summer. This light-hearted Robert Wagner/Raquel Welch romp is at least as fun as anything starring Annette and Frankie.

"bundle" has the same wonderful spirit as the classic Frank Sinatra 1960 version of "Ocean's 11." The ragtag band, which includes uber-alluring sex kitten Raquel Welch, that is very loyal to Wagner's Harry Price is no Rat Pack but hold their own very well. This group is more akin to recruiting your drinking buddies from the neighborhood bar to form your gang.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an early scene in "bundle" is very typical of the fun and humor in the film.

"bundle," which is filmed on location in Naples and the environs, begins with Harry et al kidnapping retired mobster Cesare Celli with the objective of raising the relatively small amount that Price requires to get out a jam and avoid being put in a hole.

These elements add up to making "bundle" a wonderful example of a swinging '60s caper film. There are fashions of the era and wild action galore.

The kidnapping plot hilariously falling apart leads to Celli recruiting Price and his buddies to steal an upcoming shipment of precious metal from a train. On getting everyone "in" regarding the heist, Celli brings in a big gun (of course pun intended) in the form of the legendary criminal mastermind known as "The Professor." Legendary film gangster Edward G. Robinson plays that role.

Wagner, who makes this film in his "To Catch a Thief" days, does equally well as the charming leader Price; ultimately futile resistance regarding relinquishing some of that prestige to Celli provides especially good moments.

The primary tasks related to pulling off the heist consist of whipping Price's out-of-shape and overall gentle buddies into shape and planning the logistics of the heist itself. Needless to say, hilarity ensues on both fronts.

These efforts coincide regarding pulling a smaller job to raise the money needed to pull off the train job. This involves hilarity regarding a robbery of a busy restaurant.

The fact that hilarity also ensues regarding the big job itself is as predictable as things not going smoothly in the lead up to that caper. The fact that the gang must acquire both an airplane and a surplus tank provides some sense of the great humor regarding this climax.

All of this boils down to "bundle" being an entertaining well-filmed, written, directed, and cast film that is well worth going "in" on.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "bundle" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

'2 Autumns, 3 Winters' DVD: A Seasoned French Story of '30 (and 20)-somethings'

Product Details
The wide variety of (mostly foreign) independent films that Film Movement offers the general public and members of its uber-awesome Film of the Month Club is one aspect of this enterprise that makes it so special. You name the genre, and chances are excellent that it has already released a movie from that category and has more up its sleeve. It is equally certain that you will enjoy the selection.

The very Franco vibe of "2 Autumns, 3 Winters," which Film Movement is releasing on DVD on June 17 2014, makes it a perfect example of the aforementioned range of club releases. The proverbial basic premise is that early-30s hero/primary narrator Arman is an art school graduate who is still trying to find himself when he literally runs into slightly younger Amelie while they are separately jogging in a Paris park.

Arman experiencing amour at first sight based on this brief encounter has him both following up this inaugural exercise effort with regular sessions that are designed to meet (but hopefully not run into) Amelie again. This campaign provides some of the best humor in "Autumns."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Autumns" expertly conveys the "Frenchness" of the film and the universal themes of love, friendship, and death that it communicates.

The next meeting of our relatively young lovers is thoroughly unexpected and under very unromantic circumstances. However, the reaction of Arman to the situation upon which he stumbles leads to dating Amelie. This leads to the ups and downs that fictional and real couples alike experience.

The secondary couple in "Autumn" consists of Benjamin, who is a friend of Arman, and Katia. They meet when a freak stroke that young Benjamin experiences places him in the care of even younger Katia. A wonderfully surreal aspect of the tale of Benjamin is that the stroke triggers an ability to communicate in a brand-new way.

The fact that writer/director Sebastien Betbeder bases the characters on himself and those in his life during his 20s and 30s validates the sense that "Autumns" has a very real feel to it. It seems that we either have been (and perhaps still are) one of the characters or that they strongly remind us of someone for whom we at least would take a splashed puddle.

You almost certainly will laugh, may not cry, but will enjoy "Autumns."

The monthly bonus short film "Voyage D'Affaires" is a perfect companion for "Autumns." This fellow French film has a man checking in for a week-long hotel stay soon after learning that his girlfriend is leaving him for a man who is more spontaneous than our hero.

Soon after checking in, our hero finds a literal boudoir photo of a presumed prostitute with her telephone number printed on it. The desire of the hotel guest to prove his ability to be spontaneous prompts dialing the number and launching into a hilarious monolog about wanting to meet up with the woman in the photo. The final line of this 11-minute gem is fall-on-the-floor funny.

Le fin regarding these two terrific examples of  modern French cinema is that they continue the excellent track record of Film Movement regarding both scouring the globe for the best movies out there and pairing them with a well-match short.

Anyone with questions regarding "Autumns" or Film Movement is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

'The Last of Mrs. Cheney' DVD: Norma Shearer Version of a Classic

Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1929 Norma Shearer version of the film "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney" provides a good chance to compare it with the previously reviewed more comedic 1937 version starring Joan Crawford. As an aside, the musings regarding the Crawford version is part of a trilogy of reviews of her films.

A very cool parallel between the two versions is that future Sherlock Holmes portrayor Basil Rathbone stars as aristocratic playboy Lord Arthur Dilling in the Shearer version and Rathbone's co-star in that film series Nigel Bruce stars in the Crawford version.

The titular character in the "Cheney" films is a beautiful thief who uses her attractiveness and charm to gain access to the homes of the rich and famous for the purpose of a heist. The current caper revolves around a planned theft of a necklace during a weekend house party at the country home that belongs to the aunt of Dilling.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from the Shearer version offers a glimpse of her performance and one aspect of the style of the film. The expert use of shadows alone is a nice reminder of the awesomeness of black-and-white flicks.

The wrinkle that develops is that the one-sided affection that Dilling feels for Cheney becomes mutual, and that her good will spreads to the other members of the group. This affection prompts Cheney to reconsider her plan.

These developments lead to a classic final scene that is more understated in the Shearer one. Emotions and the animosity level are not quite as high as they are in the 1937 production. 

This different tone earns the aforementioned scene in the 1929 film a tie with an amusingly scandalous one between Cheney and Dilling in her boudoir as the best segment in this version. The tie in the Crawford version is between the final scene and the charity event, which occurs early in both movies.

Both films have enough additional variations to warrant watching both; the Crawford one has a few more scenes, and most of the common scenes are different enough to remain interesting. Further, the Shearer version being an early talkie results in the acting in that one being broader than in the later version.

It is not surprising that Shearer can deliver bon mots as well as Crawford but is also a kinder and gentler Cheyney. Shearer more prompts than demands attention when she enters a room and lacks the level of toughness that Crawford brings to the role.

As indicated above, the bottom line is that both Hollywood legends are well cast in the role of Cheyney and adequately imprint their personalities on the role to justify the label of classic that both versions enjoy.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the first or second "Mrs. Cheney" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

'Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch' DVD: Cute '70s Hanna Barbera Saturday Morning Car-Toon

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: The Complete Series
Watching the live-action Disney "Herbie" The Love Bug films (after running through all the Disney Dexter Riley flicks) from the late '60s and early '70s inspired getting the Warner Archive three-disc DVD set of the complete series of the 1974-75 Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon show "Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch."

Like Herbie, Wheelie is a VW Bug with a mind of his own and the ability to operate without any human assistance; unlike Herbie, but like the denizens of the universe in the Pixar "Cars" franchise, Wheelie lives in a world that is entirely inhabited by anthrophromorpic vehicles.

One mystery is why all the other vehicles can speak, whereas the vocalizations of Wheelie are limited to beeps from his horn. Having hearts and other images appear on his windshield further communicates his emotions.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Wheelie" offers a nice look at the great slapstick humor of the series.

Each of the thirteen "Wheelie" episodes includes three shorts that typically involve the titular Chopper Bunch attempting to either best our hero or cause him physical harm; the success in presenting variations on that theme evoke thoughts of a remark regarding the new "Tom and Jerry" series on Cartoon Network that there are a surprisingly large number of ways that a cat can chase a mouse.

The first outing for our gang has Wheelie and the Bunch competing in a road race that has a date with Wheelie's main squeeze Rota Ree as a prize. The sabotage attempts and other terrific animated mayhem bring to mind the even more classic 1968-69 Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series "Wacky Races."

Other adventures have the Bunch trying to scare Wheelie away from an inherited junkyard, to prevent him from winning a sports competition, and doing their best to prevent making a trip to the seashore a day at the beach.

An especially amusing short has a car with an old-style gangster persona land a gig as a consultant to the Bunch regarding their efforts to make Wheelie's life miserable. The manners in which these schemes backfire provide some of the best humor in the series.

The most funny line in "Wheelie" unintentionally earns that honor. Wheelie finishes his own yard work only to have Rota very sweetly ask him to mow her lawn.

"Wheelie" is also a standout for having a wonderfully primitive look that is not at all sloppy or amateurish; the bright and crudely drawn background are simply more rough than the more studio look that is typical of the scores of beloved Hanna-Barbera series from the '60s and '70s.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Wheelie" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

'ride report: 10,000 Miles to Rio' DVD: Doc. on Not-So-Easy Riders' Entertaining Vegas-to-Rio Trek

Product Details
The documentary "ride report: 10,000 Miles to Rio," which great indie film company Cinema Libre Studio is releasing on DVD on June 10 2014 and VOD a month later, is a dream to review. It is a tale told by an (often) idiot full of humor, human endurance, and the idiosyncrasies of Mexico and the nations south of the border of that country.

Another awesome aspect of "ride" is the relationship that it enjoys with the fantabulous Dances With Films program, which is a collaborative of up-and-coming filmmakers. Patrick Moote of Unreal TV readers favorite "Unhung Hero" is a fellow dancer.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "ride" trailer offers a chance to meet the subjects and get a sense of their adventures.

The simple premise of "ride" is that buddies/former film school classmates Matt (a.k.a. Mateo) Kendall and Tiernan Turner document  a roughly two-month 10,000 mile trip from Las Vegas to Rio to attend Carnaval. The related big questions throughout the trip are whether they will make it to Rio on time for the festival or even get there at all.

The boys make a good choice in selecting themselves as the subjects of their film; they are nice-looking and charming young men who the audience wants to succeed. Debate has likely already started regarding who is the dreamier of the two. Being a little cuter and much dopier gives Mateo an edge.

Our heroes further provide a primer on using web-based resources regarding adventures such as this one. allows the boys to find cheap digs and new friends. The online Adventure Rider motorcycle forum provides other resources and chums. Other help comes via Google maps and general searches.

These guys additionally offer nice scenery and good accompanying indie and alternative music regarding the segments that show them riding their bikes. These images, and the related informal geography lessons, makes one want to recreate the trip from the comfort of a "disposable" rental car with comprehensive insurance.

Many of the adventures are entirely believable. Our riders encounter very friendly and generous people and experience realistic apprehension when folks who assert a desire to help coerce them into following them to an alleged hostel, handing over their passports, and otherwise make themselves vulnerable in ways that make the audience feel angst. We further can accept that these guys charm both 20-something women and their mothers.

At the same time, "ride" has reality-show style drama that either is manufactured for that purpose or that shows that our boys can be total dolts. The biggest theme regarding this is asserting ignorance regarding visa and other requirements on entering a country.  One would think that these guys being relatively bright and Tiernan already making a motorcycle trip to Brazil would have prompted doing the proper homework in that regard.

Additionally, "ride" includes a few scenes in which the boys become separated in a manner that leads to one allegedly blindly searching for his comrade. This requires a suspension of disbelief regarding a lack of cell phones.

In closing, the best thing about this film is that none of the possibly staged aspect of this documentary detracts from the infectious enthusiasm that the subjects feel for their adventure or their good work in documenting it. Further, the famous quote that closes "ride" validates the sense of the purpose of the effort.

Anyone  with questions or comments regarding "ride" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.