Search This Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

'The FBI' S9: A Quinn Martin Swan Song

The FBI: The Complete Ninth Season
The Warner Archive 6-disc DVD release of the 1973-74 ninth season of the true-crime drama series "The F.B.I." wraps up this series with this collection of the final 23 episodes of the program. As the Unreal TV review of the Archive release of the eighth season states, these hour-long dramas are fascinating because they are true. Each offering in this Quinn Martin production is based on an actual F.B.I. case.

The constants in the final season extend beyond Inspector Erskine, whom Efrem Zimbalist Jr. seems born to play, engaging in at least lukewarm pursuit of individuals who commit a nefarious act at the beginning of the episode and generally end up in handcuffs at the end. These perpetrators, regarding whom any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is not coincidental, amusingly reflect the culture of the day.

Another (often hilarious) element is the narration near the beginning of each episode that essentially explains how local law enforcement weasels out of conducting an investigation by finding a flimsy excuse to pass the buck to the feds. An especially egregious example is a victim coming to rest just outside the fence around a military facility providing a basis for asserting that the underlying offense occurs on federal land.

The good folks at Archive show their usual good instincts in selecting the following clip, which comes courtesy of YouTube, from a ninth-season episode as the preview clip for this set. The nature  of the crime and the checkered suit that a character is wearing are perfect examples of the era and this season. Further, the narration both illustrates the exposition described above and evokes memories of similar exposition in the '66 "Batman" series that Archive is releasing on DVD on November 11 2014. 

The hippie-like anarchists and otherwise counter-culture types from earlier seasons have morphed into general outcasts, professional criminals, and plain old folks who break the law for assorted reasons. The depressed boozy suburban housewife survives the transition; a hilarious example from the ninth season has a sloppy drunk spilling her drink all over a very composed Erskine.

A big change is that William Reynolds, who plays Agent Colby throughout virtually the entire series, bows out this season. Shelly Novak picks up this slack in his role as Special Agent Chris Daniels. Phillip Abbott sticks it out to the end in his role as Assistant Director Arthur Ward, who is Bosley to "angels" Erskine and Daniels.

The season premiere also shakes things up a bit by focusing more on the investigation regarding an armored car robbery than on the actions of the bad guys in the wake of their offense. This unusually in-depth look at the mechanics of a manhunt is particularly interesting.

The second episode is wonderfully campy in that it guest stars Hal Linden of the '70s sitcom "Barney Miller" as a man who commits a kidnapping after snapping. The nature of his relationship with the mother of his victim and the hoops through which he forces the older woman to jump makes for great '70s-style cop drama. One could only hope that Starsky and Hutch or Baretta would team up with Erskine and Daniels to make this one a very special episode.

A wonderfully bizarre episode has a bank robber escape from prison to have his family help him pull off a job. The big dumb kid in the gang adds wonderful humor to this one.

The penultimate episode deserves a place in the list of Top 20 (if not Top 10) best "The F.B.I." episodes. This one has future "Newhart" star Mary Frann as a rookie F.B.I. agent who is called up to the big leagues to assist Erskine with a case involving someone who is attacking the members of a sorority. This episode seems to test the waters regarding a spinoff starring Frann, but nothing seems to come from it.

Another cool bit of casting has future "Hill Street Blues" star Daniel J.  Travanti co-starring with Frann nearly 10 years before they appear in a hilarious scene in "Newhart."

On a related note, Joan Van Ark proves herself to be the Charo of "The F.B.I." by making the fourth of her four appearance in this series. This title, which is aptly titled "The Vendetta," has Van Ark playing a moll who is caught up in a power struggle between two high-level mobsters.

The terrific final episode pits Erskine and Daniels against a psychotic criminal in a literal life-and-death struggle out in the wilderness. Watching said malfeasor constantly taunt an already on edge Erskine is almost as much fun as watching the latter march the former out into nothingness at gunpoint. Having Dabney Coleman guest star is only icing on this cake that makes a great dessert regarding this classic series.

Anyone with questions regarding "The F.B.I." is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Odd Man Out' DVD: Dark Tale of Bros and Their Ho

Indican Pictures provides fans of indie psychological thrillers an awesome Halloween gift in releasing the twisted 2013 Wolfclan Productions film "Odd Man Out" on DVD and VOD on October 28, 2014.

The first impression regarding this low-budget but nicely made film is that it seems to be how the Coen Brothers would have made "Psycho II" (or a film version of the '90s must-see sitcom "Wings.") This film opens with Mike Turner being released from a psychiatric hospital based on evidence that medication is controlling the effects of vivid flashbacks of events from Mike's life constantly tormenting him.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-free trailer for "Odd" provides a good sense of the creepy and gothic nature of this potential cult classic.

Ala Norman Bates of the "Psycho" series, Mike returns to his childhood home near the beginning of "Odd." Finding on arriving there that younger wheelchair-bound brother Matt has committed the highly symbolic act of replacing the house in which they grew up (and suffered) with a new one is one trigger for the ensuing mayhem.

Although Mike joining the household does not outwardly bother Matt, it does not please Matt's wife (and Turner brothers' childhood companion) Gracie. Gracie is none too fond of Mike to begin with and already must contend with living with the seemingly invalid mother of the Turner boys. For her part, Mrs. Turner does as well as Mrs. Bates sitting corpse-like in a chair.

Mike further invades the life of Matt in joining him to work at the cavernous antique store that their father started and that Matt owns and operates. The darkside of Mike manifests itself there in the form of delighting in tormenting uber-quirky special needs employee Orvis Scuttle. For his part, Orvis makes the common mistake of the bullied in responding to the taunts and other abuse by Mike.

Epic "Dragon Ball Z" veteran Chuck Huber does a great job portraying Matt as the trusting and naive character who downplays the concerns of the more knowing Gracie and Orvis until violently confronted with the truth regarding Mike. "Odd" producer Matthew Tompkins does equally well in portraying Mike as slowly resorting to his true nature.

A violent barroom confrontation that centers around the need of Matt for handicapped-accessible facilities is one of the first scenes in which Mike fully reveals his true nature. It soon becomes equally clear that there is no putting that ketchup back in the bottle.

The relatively slow buildup in "Odd" nicely pays off in the wonderfully perverse (and uber symbolic) final confrontation between the brothers and Gracie. A fully demented Mike forces his sibling and his sister-in-law to play a high-stakes children's game that includes genuine twists.

These developments result in a terrifically dark mix of adult-oriented family drama and psychological thriller in which the stereotypes have enough individuality to keep things interesting.

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

'My Straight Son' DVD: 21st Century After-School Special

Product Details
Canteen Outlaws, which is a division of LGBT home-video giant tla releasing, artfully expands the scope of its entertaining foreign films in which boy with girl finds that resistance is futile regarding new-found attraction to another boy to release the more mature and nicely presented 2012 Venezuelan drama "My Straight Son."

The following (largely spoiler-free) clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Son" pulls off the challenging trick of conveying a good sense of the characters and story without ruining most of the surprises in the film. This sense includes the well-known truism that we all have a family.

The interesting twist that "Son" offers on the standard story of the parents of a gay man rejecting their son on learning of his sexual orientation is that the hater is the titular 15-year-old offspring of well-adjusted 30-something Diego, who is in a solid long-term relationship with a man.

Aside from showing sexuality-based prejudice from a rarely depicted perspective, "Son" nicely straddles (no pun intended) several genre lines. The drama rarely strays into "melo" territory, the comedy is largely understated and does not involve much camp, and the mix of styles is well-executed.

Photographer Diego and his doctor boyfriend Fabrizio have a good (but imperfect) relationship that many gay, straight, and in-between couples should envy. They clearly love each other and are wonderfully playful together, but still have issues that largely relate to societal hang-ups.

An early scene in which the boys meet for dinner has all of the melange described above. They enjoy very playful G-rated role playing at the beginning, initially find the attention of a fellow diner amusing, and climax (pun intended this time) with a public act that removes any doubt regarding the nature of their relationship. All of this is very refreshing and delightful considering the varying levels of repression often associated with a gay couple enjoying an evening out in the primarily straight world.

The developments that soon ensue drive much of the action and strike the same nice balance between drama, comedy, and camp.

The first incident involves Diego learning of the imminent arrival of aforementioned son Armando, with whom Diego has never had much contact and has not seen for several years, for an extended visit. The complications include Armando not wanting to live with Diego and not knowing that his father is gay.

The sad truth is that there is a long history of teen boys mistreating their peers and men sometimes based on no more than the victim having an "girly" manner. It is equally sad that such cruelty often relates either to wanting to fit in or trying to avoid what can be a difficult truth to accept about oneself. These feelings also put a new slant on the line "the boys you used to hate, you date" from the classic "The Facts of Life" theme song.

The next event is a sudden encounter that leaves Fabrizio in a coma. (Boyfriend in a coma. I know; I know; its serious.)

Many viewers can relate to the obstacles that Diego faces regarding trying to visit Fabrizio in the hospital. Being barred from the sick bed of a highly significant other is one of the worst things that anyone can face.

This trauma also leads to Diego coming out to Armando and indirectly seeking compassion that the boy who already feels that he is has never been a high priority for his father is unable to provide. This ties into general unwarranted insecurity from which Armando suffers.

To the credit of the filmmakers, the tension and conflict between Diego and Armando is largely understated; on a similar note, a predictable meeting between a towel-clad Armando and a transsexual friend of Diego begins with a nice bit of humor but mostly consists of refreshing honesty and an equally notable lack of leering by Ms. del Rio.

"Son" further only veers into cliche country regarding plot developments that include Armando involuntarily getting a taste of walking in his father's Pradas, having Diego participate in a road trip with Diego and his circle of friends, and regarding how justice ultimately is achieved after a highly significant crime. The manner in which these stories develops mostly exceeds expectations.

All of this adds up to "Son" being a terrific 2010s fable that shows that gay men can be fun-loving and overall charming and witty without being flaming queens, that two men can form a loving and fulfilling relationship, and that the arguments for prejudices often crumble on becoming aware of reality.

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' Extended Edition BD & BD 3D: 186 Minutes of Non-Stop Hobbity Goodness

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Extended Edition) (3D/BD) Blu-ray 3D
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment demonstrates mixed instincts regarding releasing the Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D extended editions of the New Line Cinema and MGM production of the Peter Jackson masterpiece "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" on November 4, 2014.

On one hand, watching the extended version on that date for shire (yeah; this review is laden with "Hobbit" puns) will provide therapeutic "unreal" escapism from the inevitable election day related desolation for people on both sides of the aisle. On the other hand, watching the BD version earlier this week allows asserting that watching this film roughly six weeks before the theatrical release of "The Hobbit: The Five Armies" causes desolation regarding that seeming interminable wait.

Regarding "Smaug" itself, one of the nicest things about it is that it avoids the trilogy curse that often results in the "middle child" being a dud. "Smaug" has a slightly faster pace and a little more humor than the excellent "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."  The 186 minutes in the extended version truly fly by and leaving you wanting oh so much more.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for the extended edition perfectly illustrates how watching "Smaug" will make you a hobbitual fan of the trilogy and leave you hungering for more. It will also evoke terrific thoughts of the better and more epic films in the "Star Trek" and "Harry Potter" series.

"Smaug" further is nice in that it is a true epic in an era in which studios and filmmakers do not produce many "big" films, and less frequently devote the artistry and sheer love of the project that "Smaug" oozes from every pore.

No one drools over mega-million super hero sagas more than your mild-mannered reviewer, but two hours of costumed heroes and villains flying around and devastating Manhattan is a far cry from creating a Middle Earth that which one can believe exists alongside the almost as well-created Narnia from that trilogy.

This awesomeness extends to the performances. The cast, who are introduced below, speak of dragons and other mythical creatures and races so naturally and sincerely that they draw you into the fantasy that such sentient beings exist.

For the benefit of folks who are not familiar with the "Hobbit" films or the Tolkien book on which they are based, our titular reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins (expertly portrayed by "Sherlock" and uber-awesome Britcom "The Robinsons" star Martin Freeman) is a small and skilled burglar whom wizard Gandalf the Grey (and later the White) recruits/coerces to accompany an intrepid group of dwarves, none of whom are sneezy or bashful, on a quest to Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarf kingdom of Erebor.

Gandalf chooses wisely in that Bilbo is a hard hobbit to break and is not short on courage.

"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy veteran Sir Ian McKellan returns to the "The Hobbit" trilogy to once again play Gandalf. Another cool thing about this casting is that this co-star of Freeman and "Sherlock" lead Benedict Cumberbatch in "Smaug" plays the titular Victorian detective in the upcoming film "Mr. Holmes." The game truly is afoot (yeah, this is another Hobbit pun) when this trio gets together.

Another awesome aspect of "Smaug" is that the flashback that opens the film establishes the complete nature of the task for which Bilbo is recruited. This gem of a  reveal includes the reason that that task is so important and further sets the stage for  notable events later in the film.

Once "Smaug" returns to the present, roughly the the first two hours are similar to "An Unexpected Journey" and the "Rings" films in that Bilbo and his fellow travelers must fight or otherwise struggle their way through the formidable obstacles in their path even when our hero finds himself over a barrel. The hindrances in "Smaug" include attacks by the evil ogre-like Orcs, an encounter with giant spiders, and confrontations with other assorted unfriendly creatures.

It is equally cool that "Smaug" establishes much of the lore around which the "Rings" trilogy is centered. The scenes that involve Bilbo in this regard are especially precious and support the theory "like uncle, like nephew."

Aside from the exceptional effects that look and sound fantabulous in the seemingly especially enhanced Blu-ray video and audio of the releases, the instincts of Peter Jackson regarding the length of action sequences seems perfect.

Most films in this era of tweets and vines frustratingly cut chase scenes and similar depictions of mayhem so short that you often feel that you will miss them if you blink. On the other hand, some segments in "Rings" films and other epics make you feel that you will either turn grey or go from grey to white yourself before they conclude.

The longer versions, which add 25 minutes to the film, in the extended BD and BD-3D editions of "Smaug" do even better than the theatrical offerings regarding drawing you into the action; there truly is not a dull moment from the opening scene to the final blackout three hours and six minutes later. Seeing this version of this masterpiece will almost certainly make watching it hobbit forming.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, of an extended action sequence from "Smaug" nicely illustrates the instincts described above and the overall humor and style of the film. An additional memorable sequence is notable for the toilet humor to which Jackson makes the audience privy.

The final hour pits the survivors of the trek against the titular desolate creature, who truly is on fire; this leads to some of the best imagery and special effects to ever hit the big screen. As mentioned above, this all ends in a climax that makes the wait for "Armies" to open interminably long. The better news is that wanting for the final installment in this story orc definitely will be worth it.

The equally epic nine hours of extras in the extended-edition versions include the "making-of" documentaries "Into the Wilderland" and "The Journey to Erebor." The former focuses on the process of creating the film, and the latter shows how the sausage is made regarding bringing Smaug and his fellow Middle Earth inhabitants to life.

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

'The Young Guns' DVD: Juvenile Delinquents of the Old West

The concept of combining the Western genre with another film style that works so well in the recently released (and Unreal TV reviewed) Warner Archive DVD of the 1952 Robert Mitchum/Susan Hayward film "The Lusty Men" equally succeeds in the 1956 Western/juvenile delinquent film "The Young Guns." Having a sheriff as the stereotypical parental figure who is trying to keep our youthful hero in the latter on the straight-and-narrow perfectly illustrates the blend of genres.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of one of the best scenes in "Guns" provides an excellent sense of the aforementioned hybrid style of the film.

On a related note, "Guns" shares very little in common with the 1988 film "Young Guns" other than a similar name, an Old West setting, and a youthful cast.

Casting dreamy "West Side Story" star Russ Tamblyn (who nicely fills out jeans fore and aft) as main "gun" Tully Rice is very apt considering that the valiant efforts of that disaffected character to overcome the literal sins of his father ultimately prompt him to forsake respectable Chalmers, Wyoming in favor of the neighboring community of Black Crater. Modern examples of the feud between these burgs are the animosity between Springfield and neighboring Shelbyville on "The Simpsons" and Pawnee and Eagleton on "Parks and Recreation."

One difference between the two towns in "Guns" and the less dramatic variations regarding the TV Land communities is that Chalmers is peaceful and law-abiding and juvenile delinquents and other nefarious types rule Black Crater.

The drama extends beyond Tully being driven out of Chalmers to his peers not exactly welcoming him with open arms. Though sans switchblades and singing, the fight "dances" in "Guns" hold their own regarding comparable scenes in "Story."

Our young man effectively without a town ultimately finds himself facing the cliched dilemma of having to decide the locale of his loyalties regarding the two communities in which he largely is unwelcome. In true Western hero style, he achieves the best possible result.

The successful melange of already strong individual elements makes "Guns" particularly special and well worth adding to your home video library.

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Interview with 'Mona Lisa is Missing' Documentary Director/Writer Joe Medeiros

Joe Medeiros

One of the countless nice things regarding a telephone conversation with Joe Medeiros, who directed and hosted the recently reviewed uber-awesome documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing," is that he is just as nice and charming off-screen as he is in the film. Viewers truly get the real deal.

The Leno Years

Medeiros initially discussed the lucky (but well-deserved) break in 1988 that eventually facilitated quitting his day job in advertising to write for "The Tonight Show" and ultimately becoming the head writer.

The lore is that Medeiros got jokes that he had written for Jay Leno in Leno's hands on the evening of a Leno performance near Medeiros' Pennsylvania home. This led to an initially panic-causing telephone call a few hours later at 12:30 a.m. 

Rather than being a report of a catastrophic event, the call was Leno personally calling to say that he liked the jokes and wanted Medeiros to write for him. This led to gigs providing comedy legends such as Johnny Carson and Bob Hope material.

The joke that started all this related to the low television ratings that the 1988 Democratic National Convention received. The quip regarding that embarrassment was that Dukakis and Bentsen had no chance of beating Bush and Quayle if they could not even beat "Jake and the Fatman."

In talking classic sitcom characters, Medeiros shared that working in advertising did not make him feel like Darrin Stephens of "Bewitched" but that his "Tonight Show" work made him feel like Rob Petrie of "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

This rare opportunity to converse with the head writer of a late-night talk required asking about the accuracy of the Garry Shandling HBO comedy series "The Larry Sanders Show." An apparently amused Medeiros responded that seeing his industry portrayed was nice and that that series about the behind-the-scenes action at a Carson-era late night talk show captured the spirit of making such a program happen. He added that "Sanders" having  only two writers was inaccurate.

Medeiros additionally commented that the level of intrigue that involved Sanders and his staff was much higher than drama regarding Leno and his employees. The "lather, rinse, repeat" style description of the "Tonight Show" routine was that people did their work, there was a rehearsal, and the show was presented.

Making "Mona Lisa"

The connection between writing for Leno and working on the "Tonight Show" and making "Missing" extended beyond the earlier work helping hone skills that the current project required. As Medeiros mentioned in the film, his interest in the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa around which the documentary was centered dated back to his 20s in the late '70s.

Medeiros' first attempt at a script regarding the story was a fictionalized account of Italian laborer Vincenzo Peruggia who simply walked into the Louvre one day, took the painting off the wall, and walked out into the street with it concealed under his arm. Challenges related to finishing that project led to realizing that writing jokes was much easier than producing a 120-page script.

Actors who Medeiros has envisioned playing mild-mannered Vincenzo included Johnny Depp and Giovanni Ribisi. The stated edge that Ribisi possessed was having the same build and general appearance as Vincenzo.

Shared insider information included that the original name of "Missing" was "The Missing Piece: The Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story" and that a desire for greater marquee value prompted the title change. Medeiros also shared that he hoped to finish the film by the 2011 centennial of the theft but did not quite make that self-imposed deadline.

Another stated concern regarding the fiscal viability related to telling this story was that the subject matter was "almost too simple and undramatic to make it a salable feature." To the great benefit of cinephiles everywhere, Medeiros did not let this angst stop him. On a related, note it is difficult to imagine that anyone could bring the same passion to the project as Medeiros or do as well with the humor and other great elements of the film.

Medeiros cited discovering that the (now elderly) daughter of  Vincenzo was still alive as one motive for taking another shot at the story. As viewers of the documentary know, the involvement of Celestina Peruggia nicely ties together by allowing the story to center around a quest to discover the true reason for the theft.

Medeiros also demonstrated that the well-deserved luck that led to beginning the process of making "Missing" was holding in that part of his approach to the project was "trial and error" and that he "really lucked out." One on-screen example of that was the current occupant of Vincenzo's apartment coming along while Medeiros was filming and inviting our hero inside to film that historic location.

Documentaries in General

Because the special attributes of "Missing" went beyond being very informative and highly entertaining to avoiding the reality show feel of many modern documentaries that abandoned their original theme halfway into the film, Medeiros was asked to comment on that trend in nonfiction films.

The initially simple (and accurate) response was "because that's what people want these days." He added that documentary filmmakers had difficulty getting their films seen.

Closing Thoughts 

Medeiros awesomely wrapped up our chat by stating that he could relate to the desire of Vincenzo to leave his mark on society. Medeiros noted as well that Vincenzo was like many of us in "just always looking for a shortcut" regarding fulfilling our ambitions.

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



'Star Trek: The Next Generation 'Chain of Command' BD: Terrific Blend of TNG and DS9

Product Details
CBS Home Entertainment admitting Unreal TV to its federation of home video of review sites has netted the latter a review copy of the June 2014 Blu-ray (BD) release of the feature-film version of the classic two-part "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (TNG) episode "Chain of Command." Most trekkers and a large percentage of trekkies know that this episode first aired in December 1992 during the sixth season of TNG and roughly one month before the series premiere of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (DS9).

As an aside, the "welcome" package from CBS also includes the BD release of TNG S6. A review of that release is scheduled for November 2014. Joining the Federation at this time creates excitement regarding the prospects of  receiving the BD sets of TNG S7 and the feature-film version of the uber-classic series-ending two-parter "All Good Things" before their December 2, 2014 release dates.

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, a futile effort to find a spoiler-free trailer or clip of "Command" precludes providing this type of video tidbit regarding that release. Damn you Q!!]

The aforementioned Trek fans know that "Command" links TNG and DS9 by centering around the Soviet-like Cardassians who propel much of the action in the latter. This Cold War aspect of the Federation/Cardassian relationship makes for uber-awesome political drama that continues to the final minutes of "Command."

The action in "Command" commences with military power Starfleet ordering well-known Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the even better known flagship Enterprise to led a small covert operation that is designed to foil a Cardassian plot regarding which Starfleet has intelligence.

The effort being a "Mission: Impossible" style one regarding both the manner in which Picard and his team must execute it and the fact that Starfleet will disavow responsibility if things go awry requires that Picard relinquish command of his ship.

Good Trek drama unfolds regarding Starfleet choosing outsider Captain Edward Jellico, wonderfully played by highly seasoned character actor Ronny Cox, over well-liked and highly successful first officer Will Riker to succeed Picard. Jellico making drastic changes (including requiring that 'cheerleader in space' Counselor Troi wear an official Starfleet uniform), requiring an almost impossible level of work from the crew for no apparent reason, and not giving Riker or other Enterprise veterans much say in the matter does not help ease the unpopular transition. Whether resistance to the new ways of doing things is futile is uncertain through much of the episode.

This conflict leads to one of the best moments in the film that is reminiscent of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Suffice it to say, Jellico must recruit an Enterprise crew member to guide his "sleigh" under very difficult circumstances after excluding said individual from the "reindeer games" aboard the ship. One spoiler is that said individual agreeing to help neither prompts any shouts of glee nor contributes to that pilot going down in history.

Meanwhile, things do go awry for Picard and his band. The ensuing physical, mental, and psychological torment that our intrepid hero endures makes the prior ordeal that he endures in the (Unreal TV reviewed) TNG two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds" seem like a walk in the park.

The two episodes further have the common element of having CBS release BD sets of feature-film versions of these episodes. The incredibly sharp picture and sound of BD and in-depth "making of" special features in these sets alone are very special for Trekkers.

Being able to watch these stories, and other TNG two-parters that receive the same exceptional treatment, as unified wholes without even the "to be continued" line halfway through and a "previously on" segment and opening credits of Part Two of the episode is beyond awesome. It really allows watching these episodes in the manner in which the folks behind TNG intend that they be seen.

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

'1,000 Times Good Night' Theatrical/VOD Release: Every Picture is Worth a 1,000 Worries

Film Movement, which operates the uber-fantabulous independent foreign DVD Film of the Month Club about which Unreal TV raves at least once a month, is behind the October 24 2104 theatrical and VOD releases of the well-produced thought-provoking English-language Norwegian drama "1,000 Times Good Night."

The 25 words or less synopsis of this one is that highly acclaimed photojournalist Rebecca faces choosing between her family and her dangerous career when husband Marcus reaches the limit of his tolerance.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the clip for "Night" nicely includes the drama, the wonderful cinematography, and the discussion-worthy themes in a tidy package.

The well-produced action sequences that depict Rebecca on assignment and having mainstream stars Juliette Binoche and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau respectively play our leading lady and her hunky hubby contribute a multi-plex feel to the film; the well-portrayed low-key family drama, nice foreign feel, and universal themes contribute the standard Movement art house vibe. This hybrid makes "Night" a good choice to see on a big screen on a rainy afternoon or a cool crisp evening.

"Night" grabs the attention of the audience by immediately showing Rebecca at work under incredibly intense and dangerous circumstances. Her getting seriously injured to the extent that Marcus must make a long journey to collect her prompts him to finally deliver the aforementioned ultimatum, which reflects concern regarding making their school-age daughters worry that the day may come when Rebecca does not return from her journey down the highway to the danger zone.

In her defense, Rebecca has an altruistic motive for her work; she wants to show the world the harmful effects of war. The conflict (no pun intended) between that desire and wanting to be a good mother provides a great deal of the expertly presented drama in "Night."

A mid-film assignment that Rebecca accepts due to assurances that it does not involve peril prompts renewed domestic discord not only because things do not go as planned but because the manner in which our heroine responds to unexpected danger effectively causes her to bring her work home.

Fairly intense drama ensues, and Rebecca and Marcus must finally determine the extent to which the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. "Trek" lore and numerous modern films show us that that is not always resolved in favor of the few.

The journey to the aforementioned decision point makes for great cinema that is well worth enjoying.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Deliver Us From Evil:' Supernatural Thriller as Ebola Analogy

Product Details
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is providing perverse freaks of all ages a great Halloween treat in making the 2014 supernatural thriller "Deliver Us From Evil" available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD available beginning October 28 2014.

The fact that this movie about the biggest otherworldly evil to hit New York City since The Ghostbusters last strapped on their proton packs is based on the real-life experiences of NYPD Ralph Sarchie adds to the wonderful creepiness in this one. Having one of the scariest modern movie monsters does not hurt.

The pedigree of director Scott Derrickson including the modern horror classics "Sinister" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is further proof that the audience is in the hands of an expert.

The following clip, courtesy of "YouTube," of the trailer for "Deliver" is so creepy that it alone will cause chills to run through your body.

The film version of Sarchie, well portrayed by Eric Bana of the "Star Trek" and "Hulk" reboots, gets involved in the creepy action through investigations that involve full moon style insanity and a few creepy incidents.

Sarchie first meets our possessed villain in the aftermath of an incident at the Bronx Zoo that involves the aforementioned insanity and creepiness. The chase through a dark area inhabited with all manner of wild beasts is especially effective, and the ensuing threat is just as good.

Another great scene has a skeptical Sarchie making a disturbing discovery while searching a dark basement in a creepy house. Although this scene includes some cliches, the filmmakers nicely create suspense and keep the thrills coming. The same is true regarding a pursuit of the aforementioned ghoul in his apartment building.

Horror hits closer to home regarding the involvement of Sarchie making his young daughter a target; the familiar means of terrorizing a child are surprisingly effective.

The indications that the devil is making the affected persons commit their evil deeds brings cool (but rather unorthodox and imperfect) priest Father Mendoza into the picture. Mendoza offers great commentary regarding what justifies calling someone a saint and his commenting that he is like Sarchie and the other cops in that he works undercover is one of the best in the film.

Further, simply pairing a tough cop with an equally rugged priest makes for great storytelling regardless of the context in which they interact. Both getting the chance to save the bacon of the other and to attempt a Winchester boys style exorcism is icing on the devil's food cake.

"Deliver" additionally is inadvertently scary regarding the home video releases coming out in the midst of the Ebola scare. The common element is that the initial evil, which originates in the Middle East, infects "patient zero" only to have it spread through contact. Also like Ebola, the folks charged with dealing with the currently infected and with curtailing the spread are not especially qualified for their tasks.

All of this amounts to a well-produced film with old school horror elements of "The Exorcist" and the '70s and '80s films with badly warped human monsters but enough of an edge and neo-gore to keep the kids off their iPhones long enough to watch the movie.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Deliver" is welcome to email me so long as you do not assert that you are sending the message from inside the house. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

'On Strike! Chris Marker & The Medvedkin Group'' DVD: Fascinating Double Feature Providing Two Perspectives on the Same Labor Issues

Product Details

Brooklyn-based home-video distributor Icarus Films wonderfully adheres to the mission statement that declares that the company distributes "innovative and provocative documentary films from independent producers around the world" regarding the October 7, 2014 release of "On Strike! Chris Marker & The Medvedkin Group."  The awesomeness regarding the double feature in this release extends beyond the two films to the "if you think that you can do better, go ahead" message related to them.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Icarus, of a trailer for "Strike" offers a good look at the subjects of the films and the awesome '60s French vibe of the film.

The saga commences with filmmakers Mario Marret and Chris Marker making the 1967 subtitled French documentary "Be Seeing You" or "A Bientot J'espere." This film depicts a labor dispute at a textile factory in the French city of Besancon. Much of the roughly 40 minutes in this film consists of labor leaders yelling outside to stir up their troops.

Although these impassioned pleas and the more sedate discussions regarding the unwarranted exploitation of workers throughout France during the period of the strike are interesting, they get tedious after roughly 20 minutes. Additionally, the intense anger gets a little unduly volatile.

The workers in said factory having their own issues regarding "Seeing" prompt them to meet with the filmmakers to discuss their concerns. The gist of their comments relate to the manner in which Marret and Marker portray the workers.

Icarus nicely inserts a 12-minute special feature titled "La Charniere," which rough translates to "pivotal," that consists of audio of the reactions of the workers on "Seeing" in the DVD menu between "Seeing" and the follow-up film "Class of Struggle."

Icarus tells us that "Struggle," which is easier than "Seeing" to watch, is a collaborative effort between Marker and the workers. Icarus adds that this new organization is named The Medvedkin Group in honor of a Russian filmmaker whose documentaries focus on laborers in the Soviet Union.

"Struggle" is a kinder and gentler film than "Seeing." The focus this time is a labor dispute at a watch factory near the mill around which "Seeing" is focused. The overall tone is much less strident and uses a slightly broad range of narrative techniques.

Watch factory worker Suzanne Zedet is a wonderful focal point regarding the latter film; one can relate both to her less combative approach to representing workers than the boys at the mill, and the film properly documents the consequences of Zedet becoming involved in those efforts.

The examples of the lighter tone of the latter film include an amusing segment on the role of women in the watch factory and the advantages that they provide over their male counterparts.

Examples of the retribution include communication from management going from letters that strongly praise Zedet for her good work and that regularly increase her salary in the period before her efforts to organize her fellow workers to critical ones after that effort. They cut her salary, try to drive her out of the factory, and discipline her for direct and indirect organization activities.

Le fin regarding these three films and the mannerr in which they are made are that they provide a chance to see genuine historical documentaries within the proper context of those films. The only thing left to say regarding "Seeing" and "Struggle" is vive la difference.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

'Magic Boy' DVD: Terrific Blend of Anime and Hanna-Barbera Style Animation

Magic Boy (1961)
Warner Archive extends its reach beyond traditional classic and cult film and television fare in releasing the DVD version of the 1961 Japanese anime family drama "Magic Boy." The Archive insight regarding this one is that is "the first full-length animated feature produced in Japan to reach the shores of the United States."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Archive, of a scene from "Boy" provides a good look at the terrific animation style and lays out the basic story in roughly three minutes. It will draw you in and leave you wanting more.

This truly delightful and charming movie begins with titular lad Sasuke frolicking in the woods with his playful woodland creature friends when one of them is carried off and becomes a victim of a previously restrained wicked witch who breaks free and connects with a gang of bandits that is terrorizing the countryside.

The witch roaming free prompts Sasuke to seek out mountaintop dwelling wizard Hakumsai to begin a lengthy Luke Skywalker-style apprenticeship developing the magical skills that defeating the witch requires.

The overall setting prompts a strong impulse to comment that Sasuke has a yen for magic, and his walking down a mountainside at a perpendicular angle screams out for referring to the '66 "Batman" series. The final primary riffing opportunity comes during a catchy tune that rhymes "witch" and "ditch;" the word to add in the improvised line is quite obvious.

Further, "Boy" is very artistically animated in the old-school gentle anime style rather than the garish and frantic modern form with a history of inducing seizures. Think more "Kimba the White Lion" than "Dragon Ball Z".

Additionally, the English dubbing is expertly done in a manner that avoids the choppiness and poorly executed syncing between audio and video that characterizes a great deal of anime.

Every visually stunning sequence looks great; stand outs include an underwater scene and the very vivid expected showdown between our hero and his nemesis.

Additional magic in "Boy" relates to it telling the story of a youngster reaching his potential despite his doubts in a sweet but not teeth-rotting manner. It will make you believe that a boy can fly.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'The Last Supper' BD and DVD: The Art of War

Product Details
An especially notable element of the exceptional 2014 Chinese historical drama "The Last Supper " is that it is a beautifully filmed true epic in an era in which such movies (which were once a mainstream of the film industry) are few and far between. Watching (and hearing) the visually stunning and grand "Supper" in  Blu-ray alone justifies holdouts upgrading to this format. The good news for folks who lack this technology is that Random Media and Cinedigm have also released the film on DVD and VOD.

This grand depiction of Liu Bang, who is the first emperor of the Han Dynasty in China, reliving his past glories and not-so-proud moments in the final minutes of his live evokes terrific thoughts of classic Shakespearean drama. One can particularly see the Scottish play and "Othello" in the background.

Having these recollections lead to flashbacks illustrating these moments in the life of a man who rises from obscurity to create and lead an empire for decades prompts memories of the all-time classic film "Citizen Kane." It is nice as well that the former equals (if not surpasses) the latter regarding the artistry in telling its story despite lacking much of the technical cleverness of "Kane."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Supper" provides an awesome sense of the epicness and Chinese-style drama in the film. The selected snippets show that the cast of 1,000s in front of the camera and the lesser army behind all play their roles very well.

The intriguing origin story in "Supper" is that Liu uses all of his exceptional skills (and arguably undeserved reputation) to convince a literal power broker to back a campaign that is very important to Liu. As the promotional materials for "Supper" share, forming this alliance leads to a series of  fortunate and not-so-fortunate events.

The Shakespearen incidents that unfold include interrelated real and imagined betrayals, compelling variations on self-fulfilling prophecies, and Liu finding himself facing some of the same issues as (King, not Norman) Lear. A nice thing regarding these still-relevant occurrences is that they support the well-accepted theory that the works of Shakespeare are universal and timeless.

Another special thing regarding "Supper" is that it is a film regarding which writing much about the specific developments ruins the pleasure of discovering them through the lens of the director. It is promised that you will laugh, may cry, and will be entertained from the first scene to the last.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

'The Lusty Men' DVD: Old West Meets 'Peyton Place'

Lusty Men, The
The Warner Archive DVD release of "The Lusty Men" is one of at least two in a series of Archive releases that combine the Western genre with another type of film as expertly as the Mel Brooks film "Blazing Saddles" and the '60s sitcom "F Troop" blend oaters and comedy. The other Archive release of this nature is the Western-juvenile delinquent cautionary tale hybrid "The Young Guns," which Unreal TV will review in soon.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from "Men" PERFECTLY shows the combination of the hilariously fun-loving and HIGHLY sexist '50s and the more classic Western elements in the film.

The titular "Men" are broken-and-bruised former rodeo star Jeff McCloud and soon-to-be-up-and-coming darling of the rodeo circuit Wes Merritt. Veteran tough guy Robert Mitchum, who also stars in the recently released and reviewed Archive Blu-ray edition of "Out of the Past" wonderfully plays McCloud. The very prolific Arthur Kennedy does an equally good job as the ambitious and eager newly born star Wes. The always exceptional Susan Hayward provides one of her best performances as Wes' loving but highly concerned wife Louise, who sees the disgraced Jeff as a cautionary tale for Wes.

"Men" opens with "saddle tramp" Jeff wandering onto the spread that his family once owned and quickly befriending the Merritts. Jeff putting the prospect of Wes earning enough on the rodeo circuit for the latter to purchase said homestead soon leads to Jeff teaching Wes how to compete in said competitions.

Wes showing a natural aptitude for rodeo events leads to relative fame and fortune that in turn leads to the admiration of a lusty woman. For her part, Louise comes along to chaperone in an effort to minimize the related physical and emotional damage.

The aforementioned mix of genres relates to the soap opera style drama regarding the aforementioned impact of Wes' new vocation on Louise and the similar effect of rodeoing on the women of the men against whom Wes competes. This includes a notable scene in which one such rodeo widow dramatically disrupts a party.

The degree to which Louise will stand by (and fight for) her man and to which she and Jeff will bond further add a nice "Peyton Place" vibe to this film. They did not make many like these and do not make them anymore.

The facts that it is rare that any film has three leads who have the chemistry that Hayward, Mitchum, and Kennedy share and that blends two vastly different genres so well while also perfetly combining drama and comedy states a great deal regarding the exceptional quality of "Men."

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

'For a Woman' DVD: The French Family Connection

Product Details
The 2013 French drama "For A Woman," which is the latest entry in the fantabulous Film of the Month Club  that uber-fantastic foreign film distributor Film Movement operates further proves that Movement can do no wrong. Like the plethora of other Movement films from virtually every country, the themes in "Woman" are universal.

Both "Woman" and its companion October 2014 Club title "Cannibal", which is exceptional even by Movement standards, are available on DVD to the general viewing public on October 21, 2014. One common element of both films is that a tailor is a central character in each.

As an aside, Unreal TV reviewed "Cannibal" when it hit theaters earlier this year.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Woman" includes spoilers in conveying the spirit and themes of this terrific film. This is particularly true regarding the more dramatic elements of the stories that "Woman" weaves.

"Woman" centers around the efforts in the 1980s of 30-something filmmaker Anne to piece together information regarding the life of her parents Lena and Michel in post-WWII France. This research is mostly depicted in the form of well-presented flashbacks from the mid-40s.

Providing many details regarding the compelling aspects of the less-than-ideal marriage of our central characters would ruin the impact of each well-presented revelation. Suffice it to say that the union is more "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" than "Sleepless in Seattle."

Complications continue when Michel's long-lost younger brother Jean literally shows up on the post-war doorstep of the not-so-happy couple under circumstances that prompt well-founded suspicions.

This arrival ramps up both the marital conflicts and the larger intrigue in which Michel is involved and drags Lena. A wonderful aspect of all this is that much of it is very specific to that period in France.

Meanwhile back in the '80s, Anne is becoming increasingly involved with the fascinating life of her parents 40 years early while contending with the strained relationships with her father and her sister that add drama to the lives of many of us.

Additionally awesomeness comes in the form of showing those of us who think of our mothers as boring and mainstream individuals both that some of them have adventure in their past and that they do not always marry for assumed reasons. In other words, moms are people too.

Award-winning writer/director Diane Kurys nicely ties all of this together and keeps the action going until the final moments. She offers the additional bonus of giving "Woman" a title that delightfully has multiple meanings.

Movement deserves special credit as well for making a PERFECT selection for the bonus short film that accompanies every Club selection. The action in the incredibly fantastical and fantastic 20-minute French movie "Le Ballon de Rouge" starts in a French bar in November 1963 and weaves a modern-day folktale that spans several decades with scenes that seem very true to each depicted era. Further, the final scenes and literally last frame are perfect.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Blackbird' DVD/VOD: A Very Kafka After School Special

Product Details
Philadelphia-based indie film distributor Breaking Glass Pictures once again extends its scope beyond quality LGBT-themed DVD releases in making the good 2012 Canadian drama "Blackbird" available on DVD and VOD starting October 21, 2014. The low-key tone and performances in this film about an odd and troubled (but harmless) teen boy getting horribly hung up in the justice system is very appropriate for the modern versions of this type of film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Blackbird" overstates the drama in the film but nicely offers a sense of the themes. As our hero states in an included scene, he is "stupid, not dangerous."

The "wacky misunderstanding" that starts outcast Canadian high schooler Sean Randall, played by Connor Jessup of the TNT scifi drama "Falling Skies," on an After School Special style Kafkaesque nightmare is that he writes and posts a violent story online after the hockey jocks ramp up their animosity toward him several notches. The facts that Sean's father keeps loaded guns in their home and that Sean innocently uploads a video of said parental figure gutting a deer does not help matters.

Typical post Columbine and 911 paranoia leads to a dramatic arrest of Sean and ensuing not-so-fair judicial proceedings that lead to our quiet and quirky hero being incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility that houses young offenders together with little regard for the nature of their offense. Having someone who is locked up for joy riding sharing a cafeteria table with a lad who is serving time for murder illustrates the indiscriminate manner in which the portrayed judicial system treats a boy who finds himself facing hard time.

One spoiler is that the jailhouse brutality that Sean experiences at the hands of the more hardened guests of the queen does not involve becoming the girlfriend of one of them. However, these toughs clearly show their new victim who wears the pants in their community.

"Blackbird" also touches on other interesting aspects regarding the court of public opinion passing judgment merely based on an accusation of wrongdoing. Sean's father accurately comments on this in telling former goth Sean that the younger Randall learns the consequences of not blending in.

As mentioned above, the film conveys the above in a perfectly fine manner. A large part of this relates to Jessup doing his best work in scenes that require that being quiet and/or naive.

A more important aspect of the film is that it shows the harm from rashly acting out of fear in this era in which what often turns out to be a random scribbling on the wall in a boys' room in a high school can prompt a school-wide evacuation. Taking this drastic step in a good faith effort to avoid a potential horrific tragedy without apparently conducting any form of investigation seems akin to treating the presence of a peanut butter sandwich on school grounds as seriously as discovering a cache of heroin. 

As an aside, one general stated principle of the United States legal system is that a sufficiently threatening overt act is required before the po-po can slap on the bracelets and drag someone downtown in the middle of the night. "Blackbird" and numerous real-life examples show that the legal system has largely abandoned that tenet.

Bringing a weapon to school or writing a plan to create mayhem is one thing; a one-time non-violent expression of intense frustration should generate a far different response.

On a coincidentally topical note, it seems that the threat of Ebola further spreading in the United States may lead to every poor sap who coughs in the grocery store being locked up in an isolation ward for a week.

For the record, your (often humble) reviewer does not harbor any ill will regarding any high school student or teacher and is in good health. 

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

'Mona Lisa is Missing:' "da Vinci Code" Level Investigation into Little-Known Art Heist

Product Details

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review is the first of two postings regarding "Mona Lisa." Unreal TV will run an article on a terrific discussion with "Mona Lisa" director Joe Medeiros during the weekend of October 25, 2014.]

The documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing," which  Virgil Films & Entertainment is releasing on DVD on VOD on October 21 2014, wonderfully evokes thoughts of very entertaining and informative documentaries along the lines of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" and "Super Size Me" in an era in which many members of this genre seem like reality shows that paint with far too broad of a brush (of course pun intended) and merely present endless parades of talking heads. The fact that former Leno era "Tonight Show" head writer  Joe Medeiros pulls off the tricky trifecta of successfully writing, directing, and hosting the film makes it that much more special.

Aside from far surpassing many recent "documentaries" in artistic quality, "Mona Lisa" is notable for presenting its information in a very unbiased manner. Medeiros never hesitates to divulge the good, the bad, or the ugly regarding a topic that the audience can see is very close to his heart even without knowing that the event has interested Medeiros for years.

Recognition of this exceptional feat includes the award for Best Documentary at the Amelia Island Film Festival and for Best Historical Documentary at the San Antonio Film Festival.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Mona Lisa" nicely conveys the themes and style of the film. It also shows why the documentary deserves at least a large percentage of the acclaim that the painting receives.

The underlying event in "Mona Lisa" is a genuinely daring (if not unduly sophisticated) theft of the titular masterpiece. Although "whodunit"  and "howdunit" are known, Medeiros turns his focus on "whydunit."

Medeiros uses a terrific blend of archival footage and images, animation, and talking heads to entertainingly depict the unpleasant life of Italian laborer Vincenzo Peruggia in Paris and the events while there that seemingly play a role regarding the aforementioned theft. The study of this era also discusses the fate of the titular painting in the interval in which it goes wandering.

Medeiros appropriately and expertly extends his investigation into the motive behind the theft. Peruggia's (now elderly) daughter and many other people have believed that a combination of national pride and arguably justified ill will regarding Parisians are behind the heist. The aforementioned Celestina Peruggia and her children Silvio and Graziella are very active (and charming) participants in this film. Other contributors include high-level Louvre officials.

The search of 1,000s of pages of a HUGE variety of documents that Medeiros and his intrepid team of researchers unearth provided evidence that less lofty reasons exist for the heist, which "Mona Lisa" depicts in a manner that strikes a perfect balance between being comprehensive and prompting glances at the time.

As mentioned above, Medeiros never hesitates to present evidence that does not support the theory that Peruggia is anything other than a proud son of Italy. This information includes evidence that Peruggia is not even the perpetrator of the central offense.

The family elements of "Mona Lisa" greatly add to the fun. This aspect extends beyond the aforementioned terrific involvement of the Peruggia familia to the Medeiros family getting into the act in amusingly unexpected ways.

The plethora of  DVD release bonus features include a dozen shorts, such as a film on a "Swiss Mona Lisa," deleted scenes, and an alternate ending to the documentary.

All of this amounts to a film that easily could be titled "Everything that You Ever Wanted to Know About the Theft of the Mona Lisa but Were Afraid to Ask." The answers to any remaining questions might be found on the website for the film.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Loopy De Loop: The Complete Collection' DVD: Rare Vintage Hanna-Barbera Animated Shorts

Loopy De Loop: The Animated Series
One uber-awesome thing about the 48-cartoon 2-disc DVD set of the Warner Archive release "Loopy De Loop: The Complete Collection" is that it validates the theory that Archive is the "magic" Easter basket of DVD releases regarding vintage Hanna-Barbera (HB) cartoons. Just as you always find another jelly bean or chocolate egg nestled in the plastic grass of an Easter basket after thinking that you ate them all, Archive digs up another HB release after you think that that company has exhausted that supply.

Another awesome aspect of "Loopy" is that HB voice genius Daws Butler, who can be considered the Mel Blanc of that studio, provides the voice of the titular French-Canadian wolf. Butlers' long list of classic HB characters includes Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and the even more sexually ambiguous Snagglepuss.

The history of "Loopy" is that it is a series of theatrical shorts that HB produced from 1959 to 1965; HB re-released them as a syndicated television series in 1969.

The concept of "Loopy" is that the titular lupine is a self-declared "good wolf" whose attributes include kindness and charm. His motives behind his good deeds extend beyond wanting to help an innocent to include a desire to demonstrate that not every wolf is evil.

The following preview clip, jointly courtesy of Archive and YouTube, of "Loopy" provides a sense of the theme of this shoulda-been-a-classic. The sheep lust and the elements of "The Flintstones" regarding the overall look, looping (no pun intended) backgrounds, and music of this clip make it especially fun.

The wonderfully cynical message that underlies every roughly seven-minute "Loopy" presentation is that people are too narrow-minded and prejudicial to accept the goodness in individuals regarding whom they have a bias. "Loopy" demonstrates this theme both in having a character either panic or soundly thrash our hero on his merely offering to help or administering a beat down after such assistance is rendered and said "rescued" individual learns that a wolf is his or her savior. (For the record, the roughly 12 cartoons watched for this review do not have Loopy donning sheep's clothing.)

The aforementioned cynicism is especially prevalent in "Life With Loopy." This one has Loopy masquerading as a dog to be a pet for a single man. Despite Loopy (still in that guise) doing all the household chores and thwarting a burglary, his new master violently turns on him on Loopy "coming out."

Many other episodes have Loopy interacting with classic fairy tale characters, including Little Bo Peep and Hansel and Gretel, in an effort to dispel the bad images of wolves. These stories are especially cute.

An episode in which Loopy and Prince Charming compete to be Cinderella's hero is both particularly typical of HB fare and has one of the best lines in any "Loopy" cartoon. The humor regarding this relates to Loopy commenting that Charming is hardly in any position to derogatorily refer to anyone else as a wolf.

An episode in which Loopy tries to balance the competing needs of both Snow White and the evil queen has similar good humor. Needless to say, Loopy does not get another bite of the poison apple.

The fact that "Loopy" is at least as good, if not better than better known HB fare (such as the annoying Yakky Doodle shorts) makes one wonder why this series did not do better. Loopy would have been right at home with the do-gooders of "Yogi's Gang" and would have strongly contributed to the "Yogi Yahooeys" on "Laff-a-Lypmics." A possible explanation is that Hanna and Barbera share the same prejudice as those who clobber Loopy on screen.

As a bonus, Unreal TV is sharing the following fall-on-the-floor hilarious YouTube video of the "Robot Chicken" short that combines "Lympics"  with the film "Munich."

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Eternity: The Movie' Theatrical Release: That '80s Satirical Version of Hall and Oates

Image result for eternity the movie
The highly entertaining musical-comedy "Eternity: The Movie," which is initially being theatrically released in New York City on October 17 2014 and Los Angeles a week later in advance of a nationwide roll out has the satisfying vibe of a successful film based on SNL characters.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Eternity" offers a good look at the '80s style and the homoerotic humor of the film.

Barrett Crake steals the show as Daryl Hallesque naive dim-witted farm boy Todd Lucas, who comes to Los Angeles with dreams of musical stardom. His rapid meeting with John Oatesesque mcjob co-worker B.J. Fairchild, played by Myko Olivier, almost as quickly leads to the boys forming a duo that achieves proportionally overnight success.

Crake's hair, clothes, youthful exuberance, and perpetually befuddled (and highly effeminate)  expressions wonderfully bring back the '80s. Further, Olivier has the hustler look and attitude from the era down pat.

Also in typical '80s film style, the boys experience conflict regarding fairly literal girl-next-door who shares the affection of Todd but has an attitude that is closer to that of B.J.

The triangle, predictable professional challenges, and the fickle nature of the music business provide fodder for decent to highly amusing comedy. Further, Crake and Olivier may be more Franco and (fill in the blank) than a classic comedy team but do a decent job in this broad farce of an era in which the fashions and mores are easy targets.

Amusing moments include Fairchild's television-inspired sax performance early in the film, an orgy and the aftermath thereof involving our heroes, a rockin' '80s-style music video, and a very funny cameo by '80s star Eric Roberts. Additionally, the songs (which include the especially amusing "I Want to Make Love, Not Just Sex) contribute several laughs.

A more general nice thing about "Eternity" is that it succeeds where many SNL-themed films fail. Bombs such as "Coneheads" and "A Night at the Roxbury" demonstrate that concepts that make successful 10-minute skits often cannot carry a 90-minute film, and "Eternity" shows that a similar effort in the right hands can do better.

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