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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Ghostbusters' II BD: Feel Good Home Video Release of 2014

Product Details
As the review last week of the recent Sony Blu-ray (BD) releases of "Ghostbusters" promises, this review exclusively focuses on the concurrent BD release of "Ghostbusters II." The earlier review provides detailed information regarding both the lore of the franchise and the variety of the new releases.

"II" takes place five years in both film and real time after "Ghostbusters." The sequel begins on a rather dystopian note regarding the impact of the events in the original on our heroes and those near and dear to the their hearts, all of whom return (and are played by the original actors.)

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "II" offers a nice look at the action and comedy of the film. 

Former cellist (and current art restorer) Dana Barrett prompts a reunion of the band of exterminators of the supernatural on reporting an event that seems to involve a non-corporeal being. (Dana also once again finds herself the object of the affection of an especially weird geek.)

This variation on the plot in the original film leads to a similar variation in which the titular scientists rapidly discover the build up of an evil force that will soon culminate in a powerful evil being getting unleashed in New York before going on to take over the world. Once again, Dana is at the center of the action. Also, once again, the closing credits roll over the footage of the aftermath of the climatic battle.

Aside from being another successful outing in the franchise, "II" nicely incorporates the lore from the uber-awesome Saturday morning cartoon series "The Real Ghostbusters" that hits the airwaves in the wake of the first film. These include receptionist Janine and nerdy accountant turned attorney Louis commencing their personal relationship. Additionally, pet blob o' ectoplasm Slimer (who gets his own spinoff animated series) has a hilarious cameo in "II."

"II" looks and sounds just as good as "Ghostbusters" in BD; in fact, the crisp and clear sound shows how apparently skimping a little on the atmospheric music in "II" slightly diminishes it. A early scene involving the dreaded Vigo the Carpathian is plenty eerie but would be downright creepy if accompanied by the same type of music that plays over similar scenes in "Ghostbusters."

On a merely feel-good note, the ultimate lesson of "II" is a perfect video happy pill for the world-at-large and specifically New York City during an era in which the national mood has never seemed to have improved since September 11, 2001. Although delivered in a hilariously incredibly hokey manner, this lesson regarding both the power of positive thinking and the need for community is more relevant today that it was when "II" hit movie screens in 1989.

The extras include a special feature on director Ivan Reitman and star Dan Akyroyd discussing the sequel and future plans for the franchise. Though not watched before writing this review, it is likely that Reitman and Akyroyd discuss the announced plans to begin filming "Ghostbusters III" in 2015.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding either "Ghostbusters" film or the animated series is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

'Rude Dude' DVD: Showing 'Nexus' Between Personal and Professional Ups and Downs of Cartoonist Steve Rude

Product Details
Steve Rude, who is a genuinely acclaimed super hero artist (including being a father of hero "Nexus" a.k.a. Horatio Hellpop) provides the one line that the filmmakers indicate sums up his life and to which many of us in the documentary "Rude Dude," which tells the tale of the rocky road that Rude has traveled during his adult life, can relate. Rude comments near the end of the film that he is not living in the right world and that all but a select few of the individuals in this one understand him.

This sentiment is reminiscent of the classic line from the MTV animated comedy series "Daria" in which the titular high school outcast states "I'm too smart and too sensitive to live in the world the way that it is today." Moving closer to home, this sensibility comes through in a panel in which a despondent Nexus realizes that he is alone.

This upside to this sense of alienation (no pun intended) is that it helps create Nexus and other awesome super heroes. Two of numerous examples are that The Doctor and Superman are the sole survivors of their destroyed planets until the writers need another Kryptonian or Gallifreyan for dramatic effect.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a promo. for an animated Nexus series shows how Rude expertly combines old school scfi animation with a more modern style and humor.

Your chance to learn more about Rude and his art comes on October 7, 2014. This is the date that Garden Thieves Pictures makes the film available on DVD and VOD.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Rude" trailer provides a sense of how the film portrays the complex subject of this documentary.

The plethora of talking heads in the documentary includes Rude's wife, brother, and mother and his many collaborators and publishers. We also hear from comic art experts who discuss the talent/work of Rude and sympathize with his struggles.

Aside from being introduced to Nexus and learning of the challenges related to keeping him in the public eye, viewers are treated to spectacularly colorful and vivid art work that Rude has created of better-known superheroes. These spandex-clad champions of justice include Superman and Wonder Woman. 

The story of Rude extends well beyond the impact of his comic art on his personal life and vice versa to include his efforts to establish a career as a painter. These well-drawn artworks range from tasteful bikini-clad models to a very Norman Rockwell style illustration of his rambunctious but charming children. On a related note, Rude shares how his daughter comes to be in the wake of a period in which he could not conceive (of course, pun intended) of having another child.

All of this boils down to the likable Rude being a good subject for a documentary based on achieving professional success while maintaining artistic integrity.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Rude" is welcome to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

'The Great Race' BD: Blake Edwards Classic Live-Action 'Wacky Races'

Great Race, The (1965) (BD)
Warner Archive once again proves skeptics wrong regarding the value of releasing non-hi-def films on Blu-ray; the recent BD release of the 1965 Blake Edwards classic comedy "The Great Race" looks mahvelous simply mahvelous in that format. The images and sound are exceptionally crisp and clear, and the famous scene that takes a slapstick staple to an awesome new level seems tailor-made for Blu-ray.

Standing alone, this hilarious film that has Jack Lemmon hilariously hamming it up as stereotypically 20-style villain (complete with black top hat and moustache) as Professor (rather  than the helmet donning Doctor) Fate and Tony Curtis playing daring and dashing daredevil The Great Leslie is uber-awesome. The fact that "Race" inspires the classic '60s Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Wacky Races" makes "Race" that much more special.

"Races" Peter Perfect is as great an homage to Leslie as the more popular Dick Dastardly is to Fate and snickering hound Muttley is to Fate's human sidekick.

As a bonus, Unreal TV is sharing a YouTube clip of the 2006 Cartoon Network pilot for "Wacky Races Forever" before getting down to business regarding "Race."

"Race," which is set in the '20s, has Leslie and Fate soon becoming the only competitors in a 20,000 mile car race from New York City to Paris; they take the long route.

Intrepid (but disaster-prone) girl reporter Maggie Dubois, played by a very alluring (and buoyant) Natalie Wood, coming along for the ride adds a wonderful "Superman" vibe to the film; this is especially true regarding Maggie finding herself traveling back and forth between the Clark Kent like Leslie and Lex Luthor style Fate.

Maggie further contributes to the "Wacky Races" vibe by wearing a head-to-toe pink racing outfit with white gloves. "Races" Penelope Pitstop, who goes on from "Races" to star in the uber-awesome spinoff "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop," may have worn that outfit better, but Maggie wore it first.

Other notable stars in "Race" include a perfectly cast Peter Falk as Fate's henchman Max. The pairing of Falk and Lemmon is as good as Jonathon Winters teaming up with Robin Williams on "Mork and Mindy."

The equally talented Keenan Wynn does very well as Leslie's aptly named low-key assistant Hezekiah Sturdy.

"Lucy" sidekick Vivian Vance also shines as the increasing liberated wife of a New York newspaper editor. Aside from Vance doing a great job with the role, it is nice to see her play a character that does not require downplaying her personal beauty or acting neurotic and/or frantic.

Larry Storch of the classic '60s sitcom "F Troop" also deserves notice for hamming it up in a bit part that has him playing a gunfighter who finds Leslie with his girl when the race passes through a frontier town. No one plays broad characters better than Storch.

Archive deserves special praise for artistic integrity regarding retaining the theatrical overture and intermission of the theatrical presentation of "Races." These elements tremendously contribute to the '20s vibe of the film.

Despite this likely being considering cinematic heresy, the only flaw regarding "Race" is a segment that takes this 2 hour and 40 minute film from being a long one to one of epic length. Said (otherwise well-regarded subplot) has our trio getting caught up in literal palace intrigue in a small European monarchy.

Said segment is very clever and provides the benefits of allowing Lemmon to bring his hamming to a new high, Curtis to strip waist and swashbuckle with the best of them, and Edwards to show his talent for satire. At the same time, cutting it would not diminish the enjoyment associated with the main story one iota.

The Blu-ray-worthy special features include the theatrical trailer and a "making of" documentary.

The "finish line" regarding this review is that this edition of "Race" deserves a place in the home video library of ANYONE with an applicable interest in film. The Blu-ray-related enhancements make it a particularly good choice for a gloomy Sunday afternoon.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

'Bill Morrison: Collected Works 1996 to 2013" DVD and BD: Orchesteral (and Cinematic) Maneuvers in the Dark

Product Details
The difficulty regarding reviewing the recent indie. documentary giant Icarus Films combination BD/DVD release of "Bill Morrison Collected Works 1996 to 2013" is not because these wonderfully artistic and/or avant-garde "Fantasia" style blends of film and music are not spectacular; the challenge is that properly discussing the work and the man minimally requires a college course on this genius.

The better news is that the equally fascinating booklet that accompanies the four DVDs and one BD set goes beyond nice and detailed synopses of the films to include an interview with Morrison and a few short articles on his work. These discussions provide a good sense of the style and the artistic nature of these wonderfully unique movies.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of the man himself discussing his work against a backdrop of footage that is somewhat representative of his films. This "straight from the horse's mouth" approach conveys an excellent sense of the artist and his creations.

The simple (but comprehensive) booklet description of the 2002 film "Decasia," which is the Blu-ray disc in the set, both states it all and does not include a hint of a spoiler in referring to the work as "a legendary cinematic exploration of the beauty of decaying archival footage." Frequent Morrison collaborator Michael Gordon provides the symphonic score for this one.

Icarus shares that "Decasia" has the distinction of being declared "the most widely acclaimed avant-garde film of the fin-di-siecle (i.e., end of the century)." Watching it in Blu-ray supports that conclusion.

"Decasia" opens with grainy footage from the Middle East and goes on to offer a plethora of images from all over the world; the inclusion of  '50s era school children on a bus provides only a limited sense of the broad range of the footage in the movie.

The manner in which Morrison matches the images with the score is equally amazing and shows how music manipulates our mood. The eerie composition that accompanies the children both makes one think that those tykes could kick Damien's butt and makes the audience think that the students would merely seem depressed if Morrison paired the footage with sad music.

Another equally artistic (and painstakingly produced) film is "The Miners' Hymn" about the well-known coal miners strike in England; the wonderfully stark black-and-white images of the miners contrasts incredibly with the color footage of the mine location at the time of the making of "Hymn."

"The Great Flood" similarly uses apt music and historic footage to tell the tale of the devastation associated with the Mississippi River Flood of 1927. Once again, you will feel that you are there.

One DVD of spooky offerings includes a very Morrison take on "Frankenstein" and the perfectly titled "Ghost Trip." These make great choice for a cinephile Halloween bash.

A terrific selection of other creations from the minds of Morrison and his musical friends round out the "Collected" set.

All of this amounts to this set being a great chance to own some wonderfully produced art in a nicely presented format that includes enough background information to fully understand and appreciate what you are watching.

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

'Mike and Molly' S4 DVD: 21st Century Domestic Goddess Melissa McCarthy Takes Center Stage

Product Details
The particularly strong "Roseanne" vibe in the 22 episodes in the 2013-14 fourth season of hit CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly," which Warner Home Video is releasing on DVD on September 30 2014, is partially attributable to "Molly" creator/guiding force Chuck Lorre being a writer on the earlier classic show.

On a more general level, allowing Melissa McCarthy (who won a 2012 Emmy for her role as Molly) to take center stage in this season sandwiched between her box office bonanza films "Identity Thief" and "Tammy" evokes thoughts of Desi Arnaz stepping aside to allow Lucille Ball to shine in "I Love Lucy." The point being that, in both cases, the male lead puts macho pride aside in the best interest of the series.

Like virtually every other comedian over the past 60 years, McCarthy is no Lucille Ball but is one of the better comic actresses out there today. Her shining moments in S4 of "Molly" include battling chirping smoke detectors, fighting her way out of a hotel room, and struggling to resist the siren song of a pair of shoes.

The simple premise of "Molly" is that the titular pair is a fairly recently married overweight middle-class couple that struggles both to make it financially and as a couple. Mike Biggs is a Ralph Kramden style beat cop with limited ambition and a corresponding level of ability, and Molly Flynn is a 10-year veteran fourth grade teacher when the fourth season begins.

Much of the humor relates to M & M living with Molly's family. This group consists of the very talented Swoosie Kurtz as Molly's overtly sexual and wine guzzling mother Joyce, Molly's stoner and ditzy sister Victoria, and incredibly crude and dim-witted (but kind-hearted) stepfather Vince.

On Mike's side, his very religious and highly critical mother Peggy is very much in his life. He also spends a great deal of personal time with his neurotic and clingy police partner Carl, who shares an apartment with their buddy Samuel.

The episode guide pamphlet in the DVD set showing the cast in a grid that is very reminiscent of the style of the opening credits of "The Brady Bunch" is either an intentional or unintentional observation that this blended group somehow forms a modern family of equally dysfunctional relatives and friends.

On a similar note, "Molly" deserves a slap on the wrist both for portraying obesity as "cool" and funny and also for generally making fun of harmful addictions. Not being annoying preachy ala "a very special episode" is one thing and constantly laughing off moderate to heavy overeating and abuse of marijuana and wine is another.

In a well-publicized shake-up, "Molly" makes radical changes in the fourth season premiere episode. A hilarious meltdown in the opening scene ends with Molly very abruptly and dramatically quitting her teaching job to pursue a writing career. Several episodes in the season focus on that ambition.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube (and complete with subtitles in an Asian language), of a promo. for "Molly" S4 demonstrates both the focus shift and conscious effort to make the series "extreme."

Aside from both generally breathing new life into the series and providing McCarthy the aforementioned chance to take center stage, the shift seems to reflect the "marriage curse" that can affect a series when the primary couple settles down into a fairly tranquil existence after years of unresolved sexual tension or other conflict. In this case, dealing with Molly's new eccentricities and contending with the loss of a second income strains Mike's tolerance level.

Early escapades include Molly having Carl and a very reluctant Mike take her on a ride along to help inspire a story and Molly and Joyce engaging in a "Rear Window" style comic adventure regarding a neighbor whom they suspect of killing his wife. The latter episode is one the most amusing of the season for reasons that include a hilarious warning system regarding the neighbor approaching while Molly is sneaking around his house.

This season also has two cameo appearances by "Tammy" co-star Susan Sarandon as highly successful (and equally alcoholic/bipolar) novelist J. (Janet?) C. Small. Molly stalking said author after a chance encounter leads to each character getting wrapped up in the wackiness of the life of the other.

Sarandon particularly shines in scenes related to Mike and Carl coming across Small in the course of their work. These segments make one wonder if the contrast between the nutty Small and the relatively stable Mike makes for better humor than pairing her up with the wackier Molly.

The season ends with both the domestic chaos reaching an all-time high and Molly achieving professional success that essentially has Mike concerned about either ultimately losing Molly or effectively becoming Mr. Mike Flynn. All of this sets the stage for potentially good humor (and reduced participation by new film star McCarthy) in the fifth season.

On a final note, the possibility of McCarthy being less visible in the fifth season is reminiscent of Bob Newhart either being totally absent or essentially phoning in a brief appearance throughout most of the final season of "The Bob Newhart Show."

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'Come Morning' BD: 'Deliverance' With a Twist

Product Details
The 2012 drama "Come Morning," which Monarch Home Entertainment recently released in a visually awesome Blu-ray set, is most notable for the creative manner in which it presents the coming-of-age story that is a primary theme of the film. It is also set apart from many modern movies in relying on character and wonderfully filmed natural beauty over star power and pyrotechnics to convey its story.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the  trailer for "Morning" provides a nice sense of the themes and scenery of the film, as well of the relationship of the two leads.

The film, which is set in 1973 Arkansas, revolves around Frank taking anxious 10 year-old grandson D on his first hunting trip. The bonding and relaxation that ensue dissipate when the pair discovers that the deer that they thought that they shot is their neighbor.

The complication that prevents Frank from merely reporting the circumstances (including the neighbor walking in the woods on Frank's property without wearing an orange or reflective vest during hunting season) is that a long-standing boundary feud exists between Frank's family and that of the neighbor. In other words, a strong possibility exists that the law enforcement officials will not believe that the killing is accidental.

Frank soon convinces D that dumping the body deep in the woods is the only option and that never speaking of the incident is very important. Young actor Thor Wahlestedt does a great job conveying how all this affects D.

Using flashbacks to convey both the origins of the feud and incidents related to it is also effective. It is very clear that the two families agree that fences make the best neighbors but simply cannot agree on the proper place for building them.

Other good storytelling comes in the form of suspense related to the transporting of the body for burial in an actual shallow grave. A tense encounter with the sons of the shooting victim is particularly well presented; it makes the audience feel that they would not want to meet these men in dark woods under any circumstances.

As alluded to above, the shooting and the aftermath effectively requires that D "man up" much earlier in life and infinitely more quickly than virtually most of us. How he faces this challenge makes for a good roughly minutes of storytelling.

The extras in the BD set include behind-the-scenes and deleted scene features.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'Scandal at Scourie' DVD: Catholics v. Protestants

Scandal At Scourie (1953)
The 1953 Technicolor Greer Garson/Walter Pidgeon drama "Scandal at Scourie," which is a relatively recent Warner Archive DVD release, arguably is a perfect family film. The story of a little orphan girl finding new parents will appeal to girls, the hi-jinks of an obnoxious fellow adopted orphan will appeal to boys, the related plot points of religion and politics (sorry, no sex) will appeal to adults.

Further, "Scourie" has a plethora of classic film elements that extend beyond the Technicolor presentation. As Archive points out, this film is the ninth and final pairing of uber- "Mrs. Miniver" stars Garson and Pidgeon. Further, having Pidgeon's Patrick McChesney own a turn-of-the-century emporium and employ a nervous and naive 20-something clerk adds a wonderful "Hello Dolly" vibe to the film.

A more modern film vibe comes in the form of the soon-to-be-adopted Patsy and her fellow "reject" orphans traveling across Canada via train in search of homes in the wake of a fire that destroys their orphanage. The recent really spectacular "must-see" textbook dystopian film "Snowpiercer" takes this concept to an extreme.

The train o' orphans arriving in the town that Patrick and Victoria McChesney call home leads to a very cute scene in which Patsy and the childless Victoria meet and equally charming segments in which Victoria manipulates circumstances in a manner that leads to her and Patrick adopting the little girl.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the aforementioned meeting perfectly illustrates the sweetness and humor of "Scourie."

The fact that the McChesneys are Protestants and that Patsy is Catholic only becomes a real issue to the political enemies of  Patrick, who holds an elected office that is equivalent to the mayor of a town. The fact that the adoption coincides with Patrick making progress regarding an aspiration to hold a higher office intensifies the use of the expansion of the McChesney family as a political issue.

Needless to say the attacks cause Victoria to get her Irish up in scenes that include disrupting the quiet routine in a barber shop and an event that clearly shows that her temper boiling over.

Things literally and figuratively heat up when a fire, which is no burning of Tara but still makes good use of Technicolor, intensifies the scrutiny of the McChesneys and contributes to related drama.

The only real sin regarding all this would be passing on this chance to see a great quasi-obscure terrific film.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'Ghostbusters' BD: The Boys With Slime on Their Hands Are Back and Better Then Ever

Product Details
The recent Sony Blu-ray releases of separate single-disc editions of  the classic supernatural comedies "Ghostbusters" and "Ghostbusters II," a set with both movies, and the fantastic looking deluxe limited edition set of both movies and a gaggle of drool-worthy add-ons reminds those of us who first saw the original and the sequel in the 1980s of the uber-awesomeness of the films. These releases further offer the bonus of creating a new generation of fans.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for the "Ghostbusters" Blu-ray release nicely shows the humor and horror in the film. It also provides a sense of the enhancements.

Another cool thing regarding these releases is that they continue the home video evolution of this franchise. An Unreal TV post on a documentary about collectors of VHS tapes discusses "Ghostbusters" being the first videotape that your (often humble) reviewer rented roughly one year after the theatrical release of the film, the home video library of said reviewer includes the DVD sets of I and II, and it is anticipated that the next several big things in home video will include versions of the films.

This review of "Ghostbusters" and an upcoming review of "Ghostbusters II" are based on the  single-disc Blu-ray sets of these films. 

The latest incarnation of these releases easily join the deluxe complete series DVD set of the animated series "The Real Ghostbusters" on my desert island list. The wonderfully cynical take of "Real" on the classic "Christmas Carol" story alone justifies buying the "Real" series.

As an aside, the official online information regarding the "Ghostbusters" Blu-ray releases does not seem to support the pre-release statements of fans that the spectacular special features (which are discussed more below) include episodes of the animated series.

The premise of I is that disgraced paranormal researchers Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray in his BEST EVER Role), Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Dr. Egon Spengler ("Ghostbusters" co-writer Harold Ramis) open a supernatural pest extermination service during a period that a big bad from another existence is executing a plan that involves an army of ghostly and demonic minions spreading mayhem.

Our boys in gray literally and figuratively find themselves at the epicenter of this activity and must find a way to end the madness.

The terrific supporting cast includes Sigourney Weaver of the "Alien" franchise as a sophisticated love interest for impish slacker Venkman, "SCTV" vet Rick Moranis as the nerdy accountant who is in love with Waever's Dana, and Annie Potts of "Designing Women" as tough-talking and jaded Ghostbusters receptionist Janine.

On a lesser note, cameos by a dark haired Larry King and recently deceased legendary voice-over actor/radio personality Casey Kasem are great fun. The memory of Kasem also provokes recognizing his widow Jean in a fun cameo.

One of the best things that can be said about "Ghostbusters" is that it demands your attention. The action and dialog are so good that you will find that you must stop playing games and surfing the web on your iPad and texting on your cell phone to pay attention to the movie. You will also find yourself shaking out a daze at the end of the movie and both being surprised that it is over and wanting more.

Similarly, this film is a perfect example of the escapist fun that Unreal TV is designed to promote. Getting lost in the movie allows forgetting the intense aggravation in your life for at least the nearly two hours that "Ghostbusters" runs. A prime example of this is the fall on the floor funny scene comes in which Venkman delights in torturing a research subject.

Additionally, watching "Ghostbusters" again will evoke buried memories of the numerous great lines that extend well beyond "who you gonna call" from the very catchy theme song and the warning to "not cross streams." The only spoiler that will be provided regarding this is the classic utterance "Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES.""

The spectacular news regarding the remastering for the Blu-ray edition is that the enhanced sound adds tremendous value to the film. The memorable siren on the iconic ambulance in the film never sounded better, the creepy music during suspenseful scenes generates actual chills, and the previously unheard background sounds add a great deal to scenes.

The less great (but perfectly understandable) news is that the incredibly enhanced color does not quite live up to the "4K" hype. The color and images are greatly enhanced (and this 30 year-old film is not a hi-def or digital one), but the picture is roughly 85 percent as sharp as anticipated; having said that, it easily is 50 percent sharper than the DVD release.

It further seems that the Blu-ray editions include all the special features that the DVD versions offer. Added extras include a roundtable discussion with Aykroyd and director/producer Ivan Reitman and new alternative takes from the film.

All of this boils down to "Ghostbusters" simply being one of the most modern examples of "they don't make them like that anymore." The elements simply aligned correctly to make a film that will be relevant and not horribly dated another 30 years from now.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

'Raffles' Double Feature DVD: Colman and Niven Male Versions of 'Mrs. Cheyney'

Raffles (1930)/ Raffles (1939)
Warner Archive spectacularly follows up its DVD releases of the Unreal TV reviewed DVD releases of the Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Greer Garson versions of "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney" with a double-feature release of the 1930 Ronald Colman and 1939 David  Niven versions of "Raffles" from the same era.

Like the "Cheyney" films, the "Raffles" movies are based on a popular charming central character who ingratiates herself or himself with members of the British social elite to facilitate heists. In the case of "Raffles," he earns the moniker of the amateur craftsman and relishes the related notoriety.

The similarities continue with both Cheyney and Raffles experiencing pangs of conscience that make for good storytelling.

The titular Raffles is A.J. Raffles, who is a famous cricket player by day and sneak thief by night. One twist is that some of his crimes have altruistic motives.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, wonderfully captures the spirit and fun of the "Raffles" films.

In the case of the 1930 Ronald Colman version, Raffles has decided to go straight when a financial bind in which a friend finds himself prompts our hero to go to attend a weekend party at a British country house that can be considered Melrose Place for the purpose of one last job. A local police official getting wind of the impending theft adds to the fun.

Watching the titular scoundrel manipulate circumstances so that they are favorable to executing the crime, witnessing that offense occur, and savoring the ensuing cat-and-mouse game all make for great '30 styles sophisticated comedy fun.

Colman and Niven do equally well in the role of Raffles; the primary difference in the portrayals is that Colman plays the part a bit more broadly. This portrayal goes well with the more live-stage vibe of this version, which is made in the wake of the silent films that typically also have a live-stage sensibility and require broader gestures to compensate for the lack of sound.

The bottom line is that they simply do not make them like "Raffles" (or "Cheyney") anymore largely because they simply do not make them like Colman or Niven (or Crawford, Shearer, or Garson) anymore. It is difficult to imagine even George Clooney properly managing the role of Raffles.

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

'I'm A Porn Star' DVD: The Anti 'Unhung Hero'

Product Details
This review of the (of course, widescreen) September 2014 DVD release of the documentary "I'm A Porn Star" (which could have been titled "Getting to the Bottom of the Gay Erotic Video Industry") from Canteen Outlaws (which is a branch of gay video giant TLA Video) is an apt follow-up to a recent Ureal TV post on the documentary "A Life in Dirty Movies."

These films offer far different perspectives on the adult-oriented film industry. The former tells the bare truth regarding the current gay porn industry, and the latter is a more artistic look at a man who is considered a top auteur of the sensual film genre.

Another interesting aspect of "Star" is that it can be considered the anti "Unhung Hero." "Hero," the review of which is solidly in the all-time top three of Unreal TV posts, offers the related messages that the size of a man's "equipment" does not matter and that an assumed blessing regarding that part of the male anatomy can be a curse. Conversely, "Star" advertises that someone who is above average in that regard has a good chance of using it to his advantage regarding paying the bills as long as he does not mind appearing in all-male productions.

A related parallel between these films is that adorable "Hero" star Patrick Moote, whose Unreal TV interview is another fan favorite, commented that watching straight porn both provided a sense that his endowment did not measure up to theirs but that the larger versions surely must have hurt the "actresses" on the receiving end of those blunt instruments.

Getting to the meat (of course, pun intended) of the matter, one of the best things regarding "Star" is that trepidation regarding it was unfounded. Much of the fear related to the involvement of producer/director Charlie David of "Dante's Cove." This gaycentric series is the most hated of all programs that Unreal TV has ever reviewed.

Other concern was associated with predictions that "Star" would merely be a series of hardcore clips of the four featured performers interspersed with superficial insights. Not only is this not the case, the fact that any glimpses of the naughty bits of the boys are very fleeting seems absurd considering that anyone with any device that can access the Internet can quickly find images of our subjects in their full glory.

This is not to say that the entertaining (and charming in its own right) "Star" is award worthy; its value lies in both the unexpected insights that it offers and the overall appeal of the "fantastic four" who seemingly have learned that "eight is enough" regarding their chosen industry around whom the film centers.

"Star" opens with a brief (but highly explicit) history of gay pornography from the early days of photography up to the 21st Century expansion of the Internet, which has led to an obscene (of course, pun intended) number of porn sites that are as starved for content as fledgling cable stations were in the mid-80s. Enter (of course, pun intended) the boys to fill that need.

The following erotic trailer, courtesy of YouTube, for "Star" is more apt for "Cove" than the current film but provides a good sense of the fun-loving tone of the movie.

The underlying theme of the origin stories of Johnny Rapid, Brent Everett, Colby Jansen, and Rocco Reed is that they discover that individually falling along the scale of human sexuality at a point that makes them adequately comfortable releasing physical tension on film in an all-male setting is a good way to relieve financial tension. At least two of them are doing this to help pay for graduate or undergraduate school and/or to support their families.

One remark regarding this is particularly insightful; this comment observes that a man who is a straight as some "actors" assert is physically incapable of performing some of the on-screen acts in which these supposed completely "breeders" engage.

In this respect, "Star" evokes thoughts of the Florida high school boy who faced strong grief roughly a year ago after everyone at his school learns of his video for the Sean Cody gay porn site. (Of course, this story prompted at least 1,000s to find this short online.) Conversely, his mother praises him for going to such extreme measures to bring needed money into their home.

These experiences in this film industry niche leads one to wonder if (faced with such a choice) working at Wal-Mart is more unpleasant than being anally penetrated for the sole motivation of bringing home a paycheck.

Although "Star" does not offer any hard (of course, pun intended) numbers, the film strongly indicates that the compensation from a few days shooting a gay porn film exceeds the income from flipping burgers part time for several months.

Further, the boys all seem happy regarding the manner in which they start in the business; they range from the once completely straight Colby discovering on inadvertently falling in love with a transsexual that he enjoys a wider range of sexual activity than originally thought to another boy and the boyfriend of that lad quickly receiving a positive response to an inquiry about work in that field.

In other words, none of these boys were living on the street or in otherwise dire situations or hustling on the street corner. Additionally, the behind-the-scenes folks who make these videos seem just as respectable as the guys in front of the camera.

Learning of the acceptance that most friends and family provide the guys is another nice surprise. It is not all wine and roses, but the tears and recriminations seem relatively restrained.

All of this measures up (yeah, another pun) to a mostly positive look at a industry with a less than positive reputation. This shows that performing in gay porn may be a textbook example of not knowing whether you will like something until you try it.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

'A Life in Dirty Movies' VOD: Joe Sarno Shoot Me

Product Details
Truly global indie film deity Film Movement, which operates an uber-fantabulous Film of the Month Club, scores another bulls-eye regarding the incredible English-language Swedish documentary "A Life in Dirty Movies." This film about an 88 year-old talented softcore filmmaker can be considered "Joe Sarno Shoot Me" in that it is very reminiscent of the recent film about legendary elderly performer Elaine Stritch, who passed away soon after Film Movement mailed the review DVDs of "Movies."

"Movies," which won the Audience Award at the Cinekink Film Festival, hits VOD platforms and your neighborhood art house theater on September 19, 2014.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a (misleadingly erotic) trailer for "Movies" offers a nice look at the themes of this film and the style of Joe.

"Movies" opening with a very sensual and mildly erotic (but not at all pornographic) black-and-white scene of a male photographer showing two female models how he wants them posed from one of Sarno's classic '70s era films shows the aptness of Sarno earning the title "The Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street." It similarly allows cinephiles to predict the later statement of Sarno that Fellini is a major influence regarding his work.

Most of the film consists of 88 year-old Joe and his adoring wife/collaborator Peggy discussing both his earlier career and a current effort to produce a film of a script on which he is working. Seeing Peggy loving tease Joe about some corny dialogue in his latest effort is both one of the funniest and sweetest scenes in "Movies."

We also get to see this loving couple, who truly seem to be soulmates, travel from their primary home in New York City to their summer residence in Sweden and to host their charming son for an evening watching a televised sports game.

The audience is further treated to scenes of Joe and Peggy being honored guests at one of the increasing number of festivals honoring his work. These events do not seem to differ from similar ones that pay homage to other film auteurs, such as Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.  

The scenes from Sarno films and hearing Joe discuss his principles provide interesting insights into the seemingly endless debate regarding whether an artwork with an element of sexuality qualifies as art rather than pornography. The clear proof that Sarno movies do not appeal to the "raincoat crowd" subgroup of people who watched those films in Time Square theaters offers further proof of the artistic nature of the productions.

To use a cliche, an element of this awesomeness is that it dispels the cliched myth that producers of non-studio films with even a moderate amount of erotic content are low-life dirt bags. Sarno easily would be very welcome in any home and likely would insist on drying the dinner dishes.

All of this boils down to "Movies" going beyond achieving the twin ideals that a documentary both entertain and inform to introducing a terrific lesser-known public figure to a larger audience and to show that even generally substantiated perceptions can be inaccurate.

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

'The Big Land' DVD: 'Shane' Star Alan Ladd Shows He is no One Trick Pony Regarding Westerns

Big Land, The
The all-color, minimal singing, and little dancing 1957 Alan Ladd Western film "The Big Land," which Warner Archive released on DVD during the summer of 2014, is a wonderful follow-up to Ladd's classic 1953 film "Shane." This one has Ladd playing Confederate Army Civil War veteran Chad Morgan, who is on a quest that that he hopes succeeds better than his prior venture.

Much of the sense that "Land" is like the classic television westerns of the era is attributable to the (Archive provided) fact that a co-screenwriter is the creator of "Bonanza."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from "Land" wonderfully demonstrates the classic western vibe of the film. 

Morgan discovers the hard way early in "Land" that driving cattle a long distance in an effort to obtain a better price for them does not pay off. His stumbling on a small community prompts thoughts of a scheme with better potential for selling cattle; the lack of railroad access is one stumbling block.

Morgan and his team, including very quickly reformed town drunk Joe Jaegar (played by a perfectly cast Edmond O'Brien), then spring into action to build a town around the new railroad facility.

Evil cattle buyer Brog, who derives great profits from the otherwise unprofitable conditions under which cattle sales must occur, is the outlaw of the film. His sabotage, intimidation tactics, and other nefarious doings threaten the viability of the new venture and the nonviolent tendencies of the folks who are seeking peace and prosperity.

The tension and associated western-style violence nicely escalate in "Land" and culminate in the showdown that is a mainstay of this genre. The outcome is relatively predictable, but the body count that leads up to it is less so.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

'Years of Living Dangerously' CS DVD: Well-Deserved Winner of 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series

Product Details
The "inconvenient truth" regarding the well-produced environmental documentary Showtime series "Years of Living Dangerously" extends light years beyond how it depicts the role of human activity on the devastation-related climate change that creates "mad scientist" style weather conditions.

The cinematography, mega-watt star power in front of and behind the camera, and well-presented important messages demonstrate that "Dangerously," which Filmrise released on DVD and Amazon Instant Video in early September 2014, deserves the awarded 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction series.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Dangerously" is an uber-awesome "Cliff Notes" version of the series. It provides a taste of the crisp clear images, the devastation that affects the global population, and the dedicated pretty faces who lend their celebrity to the cause of spreading the word about all this.

Additionally, any program or film that inspires people to drive less, reduce their energy consumption, and get involved in environmental causes deserves praise.

However, one must always remember that even propaganda that supports your position is still propaganda. A related truism is that there is your story, the story of the other guy, and the truth.

The above ideas are shared in the context that "Dangerously" entertainingly presents a strip mined mountain full of a verified data regarding how carbon and methane emissions metaphorically are adding "weight" to the "blanket" in our atmosphere that is sealing in the heat in a manner that is exasperating weather events. These occurrences include Super Storm Sandy and severe droughts, which are among the plethora of topics that "Dangerously" expertly covers.

The rather dry (no pun intended) pilot episode on devastating long-term droughts provides an awesome example of the combination of the elements described above. An expert on such matters tells Harrison Ford that we ultimately can expect the temperatures in South Dakota to reach the 107 degrees Fahrenheit level that Phoenix experiences. As an aside, the other five (out of the nine in the series) episodes watched for this review had an appropriately moderate pace.

At the same time, properly understanding the complexity of the climate change issue requires far more comprehension than accepting the pat answer that significantly harmful activities such as coal-burning plants and deforestation deserve all but a small fraction of the blame for our wacky weather. "Dangerously" episodes touch on this in admitting that other factors play a role, but that side of the story is largely glossed over. In fact, it does not seem that anyone can accurately determine the proper allocation of blame.

The Hollywood veterans James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger who serve as executive producers also wisely get a gaggle of A and B List celebrities (including Schwarzenegger) in front of the cameras to get people to tune in; accomplished news professionals, including Lesley Stahl and Thomas Friedman, do the true heavy lifting.

The aforementioned actors largely do their jobs well and succeed best when they stay within their limits. Mayim Bialik being a neuroscientist and James Franco and Jodie Foster being among the large group of stars who have attended Ivy League schools demonstrate that star power and brain power are not mutually exclusive. However, the majority of these household names should keep their day jobs.

Dreamy Ian Somerhalder shows great instincts in largely serving as a pretty face and charmer in his segment that has the daughter of the man who now runs a variation of the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker empire trying to convince her father and other pastors to preach the gospel that climate change is man (rather than God) made and can be abated. Having Stahl do some of her typically excellent reporting in this episode provides a nice balance.

A segment in the second episode, which continues the Ford segment on the causes of droughts, of "Dangerously" perfectly demonstrates the risks of having celebrities try the heavy lifting. This scene has Ford acting EXACTLY like one of his rough and gruff characters in grilling an Indonesian official about allowing very harmful illegal activity in protected forests. One feels much more as if he or she is watching Jack Ryan than Harrison Ford.

True absurdity in this scene comes in the form of having the official speaking in subtitled (presumed) Indonesian and having Ford respond in English. The intended impression, which may be accurate, is that Ford understands Indonesian and is not using a translator.

A more annoying incident (which also illustrates the aforementioned bias of "Dangerously") of using celebrities as field reporters occurs during the sixth episode of "Dangerously." "Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera expresses intense umbrage regarding attorney and climate change naysayer James Taylor (not the '70s singer) asserting that he has scientific training.

The outrage goes as far as very strongly indicating that knowledge of law and science are mutually exclusive despite environmental attorneys and many other legal professionals needing understanding of scientific principles.

Ferrara additionally does an on-screen Google search that shows that the FORMAL education of Taylor includes at least one science class. With all due regard for Ms. Ferrara, this humble reviewer has no medical training but has read enough about opioids for prior work to speak very intelligently on that topic. This shows that learning extends beyond college graduation day.

The response of Ferrara also seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black in that her IMDb profile, which includes sharing which elementary school that she attended, provides no indication that she is a qualified investigative journalist. She does deserve the benefit of the doubt regarding being qualified to work as either a dragon wrangler or an assistant to a magazine publisher.

On a more mellow note, the herd of special features in the "Dangerously" DVD set includes tons of extra material regarding each episode.

The criticisms of this series are not designed to discourage anyone from purchasing this truly beautifully presented documentary. It does achieve this genre's twin goals of educating and informing, and many of the participating celebrities properly play their roles.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

'Ilo Ilo' DVD: The Nanny Does Just Fine

Product Details
The numerous accolades, including the Camera d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Critics' Pick honor from The New York Times,  for the 2013 Singapore drama "Ilo Ilo" support the theory that this is one of the best ever entries in the Unreal TV adored (international independent) Film of the Month Club that Film Movement operates. Non-members can buy the DVD of the film beginning September 16, 2014.

The brilliantly executed simple concept of "Ilo" is that the financially comfortable double-income one kid (DIOK) Lim family hires a live-in maid to help pregnant mother Hwee Leng contend with very unruly 10-year-old Jialer and the household duties of Hwee Leng. The selected candidate is 20-something Terry from the titular region of the Philippines. Setting this story during the 1997 Asian financial crisis adds to the drama.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden for "Ilo" nicely conveys the themes and tones of this film.

Like most of the club films, one thing that makes "Ilo" so special is that it could be filmed verbatim and shot-for-shot (and set in current times) in the United States and still be both as good and as relevant.

The prejudices that Hwee Leng shows in commenting at the outset that she does not want  a Malaysian maid and in immediately confiscating Terry's passport on the arrival of Terry in the household so that Terry will not bolt are very common in the United States. Hwee Leng shows further universal meanness in having Terry essentially sleep on a mattress on the floor of the bedroom of Jialer.

First-time feature film director Anthony Chen, who is on the Variety list of 10 Directors to Watch, does an excellent job portraying the daily lives of the family and the efforts of Terry to do her job and adjust to this difficult household. The performances, down to the subtleties in the facial expressions, are perfect. Further, the pacing is just right despite largely merely depicting the daily lives of a typical (initially) upwardly mobile family.

The parallel events that provide much of the drama in "Ilo" are the increasingly strong bond that develops between Jialer and Terry and the aforementioned crisis hitting increasingly close to home. Seeing the impact of both on Hwee Leng throughout the film makes is compelling.

Seeing the larger impact of the financial crisis on the family hits even closer to home during the current tough economic climate in America. Many previously financially secure households are facing having to make cutbacks that equal or exceed those of the Lims in the film.

The especially apt monthly short film is a very creative (and slightly creepy) animated production called "Blik" from the Netherlands. The silent movie tells the story of the new kid in town falling in love with a slightly older woman. The twist at the end is particularly cute.

Other special features include a "making of" documentary regarding "Ilo" and the theatrical trailer for the film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ilo" is strongly encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

'Golden Boy' CS DVD: NYPD Gold

Golden Boy: The Complete First Season
Watching every episode in the Warner Archive DVD release of the 2013 CBS drama "Golden Boy" prompts terrific memories of the more classic series about New York police detectives "NYPD Blue."

One nice variation is that titular blessed one Walter Clark, played by Theo James, is not the meathead rookie type that former teen idols Marc-Paul "Zac" Gosselar and Rick "Don't Call Me Ricky" Schroder play on "Blue." Hearing the Rickster say "absolutely" one more time would have triggered a psychotic break.

Another pleasant difference is that television veteran (including voice actor for Nick Fury in Marvel animated series) Chi McBride is a kinder gentler version of Sipowicz in his portrayal of Clark's veteran partner/"rabbi" Don Owen. Having Owen being two years from retirement adds an amusing cliched element to his character.

The overall successful concept of "Golden" is that Clark takes an unprecedented meteoric rise in the NYPD from patrolman rookie to police commissioner in seven years. Each episode opens with a scene seven years in the future in which Clark is giving an interview, making a speech, or otherwise engaged in activity that ties into the topic of the episode.

A broad example of the future-present theme is the interviewer asking Clark about a past acquaintance and the action then flashing back to the present to portray the relevant events. The episodes then end with a "back to the future" epilog.

The only real flaw regarding the aforementioned concept is that the audience knows that Clark does not die or become permanently disabled in any of the shootouts that are one staple of urban-based police dramas.

The only other real criticism of "Golden" is that the writers go a bit overboard in using a chase of a suspect ending in an apprehension as a pre-commercial scene-ending device and having an interrogation at the start of the post-commercial scene. This is adequately predictable that one watching this series in the pre-VCR era safely could have gotten up for a bathroom break on seeing Clark and/or his colleagues approach a suspect.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Golden" awesomely conveys everything that you need to know about the series in a proverbial 25 seconds or less.

The pilot expertly strikes the proper balance between exposition and getting right into the action in depicting the heroic act that earns Clark both his rapid advancement to the position of homicide detective and his titular nickname. He quickly further displays his ambitious nature regarding his first case.

This episode further establishes the basis of the adversarial relationship between Owen and (purple loving) hot-shot mid-career detective Christian Arroyo. The relationship between Arroyo and Clark does not go any better.

The second episode further establishes the lore of the series in having Arroyo set up Clark. The case  this time involves the indications that an "innocent" toward whom Clark feels sympathy may not be as free of guilt as our hero believes.

The remaining episodes similarly often involve elements that are personal to a member of the homicide squad. This more often than not is Owen, including one case in which the brother of a former informant is the subject of an investigation.

The dirty dealings of Clark's colleagues make up a large portion of the wonderful drama in "Golden." Arroyo acting to prevent Owen from receiving a promotion is at one end of the scale; a malicious frame-up of Clark is at the other.

In many respects the season (and series) finale is the best of episodes and the worst of episodes. Having the investigation by Clark of the one cold case that continues to bother Owen tie into a current case is well presented. Further, that case providing a format for showing Owen as the rookie whom a veteran officer is mentoring makes for good (if again cliched) television.

The negative aspect of this is having the flashback period revolve around the 911 attacks and placing Owen and his new partner in the middle of this in a rather contrived and predictable manner. No one disputes that the attacks were brutal and highly significant, but it seems that producers of modern NYC-based dramas go to this well far too often. Doing so seems more manipulative than a sincere homage to the impact of those genuine game changing events.

At the same time, the "Golden" characters are adequately intriguing and the cliffhanger sufficiently compelling to prompt a strong desire for at least a Made-for-TV (or DVD) Movie that wraps up the series and provides more insight regarding how Clark gets the corner office.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

'broad minded' DVD: Early Screwball Comedy Featuring Vaudeville Star Joe E. Brown

The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1931 B-movie comedy "broad minded" is nice in that it keeps the parade of rarities from the '30s coming from Archive. It is also interesting to see Bela Lugosi in a role that has him put his accent and menacing manner to good use in an moderately low-key comedy.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "broad" wonderfully starts with the hyperbole of promos of that era and goes on to show some of the best scenes in the film. These segments further demonstrate the wonderful early-talkies vibe of the film.

"broad" opens with a scene that seems more compatible with the Roaring 20s then the '30s in which even one-percenters tone things down a little. The action gets rolling with a creepy themed party that has a group of bon vivants dressed as infants and small children while whooping it up. Announcing the engagement of hostess Mabel Robinson to man-child Jack Hackett provides the justification for the festivities.

The next morning finds Jack's biological and sugar daddy upset enough to order his offspring to go off and get his act together. Enforcement of this edict comes in the form of having Jack's seemingly more responsible and mature cousin Ossie Simpson chaperone this trip.

Veteran comedian/vaudeville perform Joe E. Brown provides star power in his role as Ossie. He does a fine job with his expressions, physical humor, and comic delivery but lacks the spark that makes the greats great. Choosing Brown over say the similar Jimmy Stewart or other actors makes what could have been a great film simply good.

In the fine tradition of  "Go West, Young Man,"  our boys leave New York to drive to California. They first encounter (and run afoul of) Lugosi's Pancho Arango en route. One such meeting leaves our heroes stranded and subsequently rescued by the overall delightful Constance Palmer and Penny Packer.

This group soon forms a perfectly respectable foursome as part of the campaign of Jack to woo Constance. In true '30s screwball comedy style, this romantic effort requires overcoming the obstacle presented by Constance's aunt/protector.

The fairly predictable arrival of the jilted Mabel and a frantic chase through the hotel near the end of "broad" provides moderate hilarity in the forms of schemes to deceive and evade.

The mixed success regarding "broad" makes a final evaluation difficult. The film is good (and one hates to ever think ill of the generally spectacular Archive releases). However, this may be a case in which the Warner diamond mine from which Archive obtains its products produces a gem that lacks the quality of the typical find.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

'Nasty Habits' DVD: Conventgate

Nasty Habits
The copious Watergate anniversary events in August 2014 made this the perfect month for Warner Archive to release the 1977 post-Watergate Glenda Jackson comedy "Nasty Habits." This topical earth-toned film is a terrific textbook example of the comedies of the era.

This wonderfully creative take (right down to the highly predictable but very entertaining final scene) on the scandal that brought down the Nixon administration centers around the campaign for the position of abbess at a Philadelphia convent. Heiress apparent Sister Alexandra, whom Jackson perfectly plays, is not above using every dirty trick (and a few new ones) in the not-so-good book to ensure her victory over the younger and more charismatic Sister Felicity.

The hi-jinks include "plumbers" who come to the convent for a purpose that has nothing to do with pipes, a network of listening devices that both Nixon and Hogan and the boys at Stalag 13 would envy, a very amateurish break-in, and increasing mania on the part of Alexandra.

Particular highlights include a blackmail scheme incorporating hilarious cross-dressing, Anne Meara satirically playing a global-trotting Mother Teresa style nun, and the execution of the aforementioned burglary.

Additional fun comes in form of seeing some Hollywood greats playing Vatican officials who must now contend with issues related to the order in the convent being an odd mishmash (including Jesuit) of Catholic elements.

The inclusion of real-life '70s personalities, including afternoon talk show host Mike Douglas and newscasters Howard K. Smith and Jessica Savitch, playing themselves further contribute to the nostalgic fun. The appearance of Savitch alone evokes thoughts of the guilty pleasure joke "the date of her death, the death of her date" from the early '80s.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a highlight from "Habits" includes many of the elements described above. It also evokes thoughts of a similar scene that most likely occurred in the Nixon White House in the period after the more famous fateful break-in.

Stating that passing on this chance to watch "Habits" is a sin is shamefully obvious enough to be a sin itself, but the sentiment is valid enough to warrant a whack on the knuckles for expressing it. You will laugh and smile, as well as get a chance to derive more Watergate-related amusement.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Habits" is welcome to email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

'Beyond Westworld' CS DVD: Sending in a Robot to do an Anarchist's Job

Beyond Westworld
The Warner Archive complete series DVD release of the 1980 scifi action-adventure series "Beyond Westworld" is both a terrific follow-up to one of the best ever scifi films and a great companion to the Unreal TV reviewed Archive DVD release of "Wizards and Warriors" from the same era.

Another special thing about this set is that the listing for "Beyond" indicates that the final two episodes, which the Archive set includes, never aired. The "lost" episode  titled "Takeover," which centers around an effort to bring the science in the series up a notch, is one of the best of the entire run.

The film "Westworld," which is based on a Michael Crichton novel, tells the tale of an amusement park full of realistic androids run amok. "Beyond" commences in the aftermath of that disaster and explains in the pilot that mad scientist Simon Quaid is behind said mayhem. This exposition includes the logic behind that sabotage and the motive of Quaid for the robot-executed schemes around which the five "Beyond" episodes are centered.

The following scene, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from the "Beyond" pilot provides an excellent Cliff Notes version of the lore of the show and the style in which it is conveyed.IN many ways, it shows how this series is similar to the Unreal TV reviewed '70s scifi show "Search."

Private security executive John Moore in "Beyond" typically learns of the nature of the evil scheme of the week early in the episode. Much of the drama relates both to discovering which of the not-so-usual suspects is one of the robots that Quaid controls and the manner in which said automaton is to fulfill that nefarious deed.

A HUGE plot hole that likely plays a role in the premature demise of the series is that the arrival of the apparently disguisephobic Moore on the scene rapidly alerts Quaid to the threat to fulfilling his objective.

The pilot centers around Quaid replacing a member of the crew of a nuclear submarine with a robot for a fairly obvious purpose. This leads to a wonderfully campy showdown between the robot and Moore that is reminiscent of a similar scene in a May 1982 episode of "Mork and Mindy."

Believe it or not, the second "Beyond" episode is notably for adding soon-to-be "The Greatest American Hero" and "Hotel" star Connie Selleca to the cast as Moore's equally disguisephobic sidekick. Having her Pamela Williams go undercover as a cheerleader for a professional football team contributes a terrific "Charlie's Angels" vibe to this episode.

Considering that the third "Beyond" episode is the best of the lot, it is sad that it is the final one that airs. Wonderful unintentional humor relates both to the episode title "Sound of Terror" appearing over the featured totally late '70s/early '80s music playing painfully badly (DVD music rights issue?) and casting Rene Auberjonois of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Warehouse 13" as a stereotypical moderately successful rocker.

Overall fun in the series relates to the efforts of Moore and Williams to detect sweat and other bodily characteristics in their efforts to eliminate possibilities regarding the identity of the robot, using assorted weaknesses of the robots to level the battlefield, and watching Russell Johnson of "Gilligan's Island" play a scientist who lacks the ethics and morals of The Professor.

The well-blended terrific elements described above makes "Beyond" an especially appetizing cheese platter for fanboys and a nice treat for all fans of action-adventure shows and/or '80s television fare.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

'Escape me Never' DVD: Two Brides for Two Brothers

Escape Me Never
In releasing the 1947 Errol Flynn (who is the subject of the new documentary  "The Last of Robin Hood") quasi  "On the Road" film/dramedy "Escape me Never" on DVD, Warner Archive shows that that leading man can be roguishly charming even without brandishing a sword. As an aside, this film and the 1935 version are based on the Margaret Kennedy play of the same name.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a few pivotal scenes in "Never" provides an excellent sense of the film and the characters who make it so awesome.

Other great elements of "Never" include setting it in Venice of 1900 and including music that ranges from the contemporary style of that era to more classic compositions. Further, Flynn has two particularly strong actors backing him up.

True Hollywood royalty Ida Lupino plays scrappy down-on-her-luck widowed mother of a baby Gemma Smith. Gig Young, who also has a scene-stealing Oscar-nominated role in the Unreal TV reviewed Archive title "Teacher's Pet," does equally well as classical singer Caryl Dubrok. Caryl is the brother of Flynn's Sebastian Dubrok. The primary musical interest of Sebastian is composing.

A wacky misunderstanding that is worthy of a classic sitcom gets the action rolling in "Never." Struggling artist Caryl has recently enjoyed a special moment with his wealthy special gal Finella MacLean when Gemma is discovered in the private area in the MacLeans' palatial home. On being apprehended, Gemma includes the tale of her relationship with a musician named Dubrok in her sob story.

Mr. and Mrs. MacLean use this circumstantial evidence of infidelity by Caryl to pack up the family for a trip. A very puzzled Caryl soon discovers that his neer-do-well brother Sebastian is the aforementioned companion of Gemma. This realization leads to a family reunion.

The family reunion soon leads to the ragtag trio, who literally must sing for their suppers, hitting the road in pursuit of the MacLeans for the purpose of putting right what once went wrong. The expected bonding occurs on the way.

On catching up with the MacLeans, Sebastian further complicates matters by becoming attracted to Finella. This, of course, affects his already strained relationship with Caryl.

A related theme revolves around the efforts of les freres Dubrok to become respectable for the sakes of themselves and the women whom they ultimately select as their intended. In the case of Sebastian, this involves a real (but still uncertain) chance to have a composition produced.

The good folks at Warner Brothers do their usual excellent job making all of this highly entertaining. The casting is perfect, a proper blend of comedy and drama is achieved, and the directing is flawless.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Never" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

'Bronco' S1 DVD: Porn Star Style Portrayal of Ex-Confederate Soldier Being Valued Old West Ally

Bronco: The Complete First Season (1958)
The Warner Archive 5-disc 20-episode DVD release of the 1958-1959 first season of the Western series "Bronco" nicely introduces modern audiences to a lesser-known member of that genre several months after wrapping up the releases of the classic "Maverick" series with the Unreal TV reviewed set of the fifth season of that classic James Garner series. Further, the "Bronco" theme is comparable to the very catchy "Maverick" song.

A general interesting thing about "Bronco" is that, ala "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" roughly 20 years later, ABC alternated episodes of the first season of that series with episodes from the second season of "Sugarfoot." These earlier presentations aired under the umbrella of "The Cheyenne Show." Truly charming promos for the upcoming "Sugarfoot" episode that air at the end of DVD "Bronco" episodes add to the fun of watching the current set. Archive explains that it includes those promos in the interest of authenticity.

The titular cowboy in "Bronco" is a Confederate Army veteran whose current disgrace, which the fifth episode explains, is a factor in his wandering around and finding himself in a fix either by trying to help someone apparently in distress or doing odd jobs that also inevitably create trouble that Bronco must resolve.

The pilot has the titular character coming to the rescue of an uber-pacifist group of homesteaders who are literally under fire by a group of nefarious types. The refusal of the peace-loving flock severely hampers the efforts of Bronco to help them reach their land with their bodies fully intact.

A rather obvious indication of divine intervention merely sends a nice message, rather than adding an annoyingly preachy note.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of scenes from this episode provides a good sense of the series.

The second episode centers around a classic Western plot regarding train robberies and related justice. The involvement of an old Army buddy of Bronco adds to the fun.

The fourth episode adds an even more interesting twist to the tried-and-true plot of a big bad vowing to return to a town to shoot it up. In this case, the town provides reasonable justification for lawman Bronco and his deputies to allow the mayhem to ensue.

One of the more intriguing episodes has yet another town turn against well-meaning Bronco after a teller is killed in the course of a bank robbery. Particular animosity on the part of the son of the teller and the resulting frustration of Bronco add great value to this outing.

Nice humor in this episode relates to someone trying to call out Bronco for a gun fight, and Bronco essentially replying that he ain't comin'.

The producers save the best episode for last in having landlubber Bronco reluctantly agree to pilot a steamboat on an economically critical mission despite the son of the owner of the boat having an enormous chip on his shoulder regarding our hero. This one has every classic Western element, including a surprising show of support during a showdown.

The less good news is that the adequate appeal of New York City born series star Ty Hardin is largely limited to good looks and a body that prompts a clearly gratuitous shirtless scene in most episodes. He never really smiles and express very limited emotion.

Rather than coming across as strong and silent, our leading man simply seems not-so-comfortable regardless of the situation. Considering this acting style, it is apt that Bronco portrayor Ty Hardin has a name that is appropriate for an adult film star.

The less-than-stellar acting aside, "Bronco" is a fun example of the genre of television that helped that medium thrive in its early days. It is also nice to see a show in which justice prevails without the aid of unsavory tactics or unwarranted beat downs.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Bronco" is encouraged to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.