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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

'Secrets of War' DVD: Preadolescent WWII-Era Netherlands 'North and South'

SECRETS OF WAR DVD & Online Streaming

The talented young cast, numerous subtle (and not so subtle messages), perfect pacing, beautiful cinematography, etc. make the 2104 Dutch drama "Secrets of War" outstanding even among the other exceptional international movies in the uber-awesome Film of the Month Club from Film Movement. The even better news is that Movement makes the DVD available to non-members.

The current accolades for "Secrets" include a trio of best film awards at festivals. Anticipated future accolades include referring to it when young star Maas Bronkhuyzen, who plays central character Tuur, breaks out ala Leonardo DiCaprio and River Phoenix. He has at least as much charm and talent as those two in their early days. (Sadly, we will never know if Phoenix would have suffered the same ultimate artistic fate as Leo.)

"Secrets" opens with a beautiful segment in which roughly 12 year-old Tuur and best bud Lambert are playing Army in the idyllic woods outside their rural Nazi-occupied village in Holland during their summer of '43. This scene is reminiscent of similar openings in "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," "The Empire of the Sun," and other films set in the WWII era in which a young hero initially is blissfully unaware of the war that surrounds him. However, a very brief moment of relatively intensity (and foreshadowing) in this one sets it apart from the other films.

Additional foreshadowing quickly follows in the form of older boys who are bullying the lads forcing the latter to flee to an extensive series of caves that they know like the back of their hand.

Other symbolism includes the boys delighting in playing with a train set, a real-life underground railroad, and Tuur reading a comic book version of a Charles Dickens novel.

The larger conflict develops in the form of the father of Lambert becoming increasingly involved with (and seemingly committed to) the Nazi cause while the father of Tuur tries to keep a low profile while supporting a competing effort. Manifestations of the collaboration include the older brother of Lambert being a leader of the local Hitler Youth group and Lambert experiencing increased pressure to enlist.

The lesser but related conflict comes in the form of new girl in town Maartje causing a rift between the boys. The initial resentment regarding this interloper morphs into more serious ill will that inadvertently brings the full reality of the war to the literal doorsteps of the boys. In other words, they ain't just playing Army any more. This element of "Secrets" brings to mind the pivotal moment of "Empire" in which sheltered young Jim (played by a presumably non-ranting Christian Bale) playing a game that has dire consequences.

The viewing of "Secrets" coincidentally coinciding with marathon (rather than binge) third viewings of the final season of the scifi television series "Stargate: Atlantis" shows the international and timeless themes of both, The lore of "Atlantis" includes predatory aliens called the Wraith literally consuming on the life force of the always fearful human inhabitants of the rural alien communities that are feeding grounds. Our earth-based heroes pursue the joint objectives of eliminating the purely evil predators and protecting the innocent victims. The ever-present threat of covert human collaborators increases the challenge of meeting those objectives.

Both "Secrets" and "Atlantis" setting much of the action in similar-appearing forests and regularly sheltering potential victims in caves provides an additional parallel.

Movement does its usual good job in pairing Club selection "Secrets" with the included short film of the month. The much-lighter American film "So You've Grown Attached" is a hilarious "Welcome to the Dollhouse" art-house variation on the equally hilarious Cartoon Network series "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends."

Tween Izzy becoming interested in the adorable literal boy next door and a general need for her to grow up combine to prompt pressure for her long-time imaginary friend Ex to retire from that role. This Calvin and Hobbes style duo resisting that separation complicates things in both our realm and that of the mind of Izzy. ( A David Berkowitz joke while watching "Attached" falling flat prompts recommending that you not try that at home.)

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

'The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson':' 2 Discs of Rarities from 'Thunderbirds' and 'Space:1999' Creator

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-4 DVD set from Australia will not play on standard U.S. DVD players; you will need an easily purchased international player.]

As the recent review on the documentary "Filmed in Supermarionation" mentions, the Madman Entertainment November 2015 2-disc DVD set of "The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson" is a companion release to the documentary about that creator of the titular animation process. The classic Anderson '60s series "Thunderbirds" is the best-known example of this uniting of marionettes and animation.

The concept of "Worlds" and the material that it contains evokes great thoughts of the (sadly discontinued) DVD compilations of Saturday morning kids' shows by Sid and Marty Krofft. Those releases that offer collections of things such as single episodes of shows such as "The Lost Saucer" and "Far Out Space Nuts" provide some consolation regarding no releases of complete series sets in any country.

The following YouTube clip of a "Worlds" trailer offers a great glimpse of the rarities and the similarities between Anderson et les freres Krofft.

The titular worlds are lost in the sense that they are rarities that awesomely showcase both the talent and range of Anderson. This group starts with a traditional roughly 30-minute travelogue that advertises a tour of Italy and Spain by the Blue Cars travel agency. This well-done film shows that Anderson does just as well coloring within the lines as he is at creating brave new realities.

A very cute (and equally bizarre) animated short "Here Comes Kandy" is an episode of an early Anderson series. The difficulty that befalls our very cuddly and sweet Koala Bear hero this time is trying to overcome the efforts of the very bizarre Teletubbies like Bunny Babes to thwart the efforts of Kandy to complete a home repair. The child-friendly sadistic revenge by Kandy and odd response of the Babes to this will highly entertain adults.

The next entry "The Investigator" incorporates elements of "Thunderbirds" and other Anderson supermarionation productions. The titular alien is a do-gooder who transforms (willing but presumably non-voluntary) American teens John and Julie into living Ken and Barbie dolls to make earth a better place to live. This live-action show is entertaining and well produced; leaving the dolls simply lying around when our Scooby duo is being stealthy or simply motionless provides great unintentional humor.

The spot-on animated film-noir spoof "Dick Spanner: PI" is a fall-on-the-floor funny short with puns galore. The first (and arguably best) wordplay  has our aptly named hard-boiled tool commenting on literally freezing his nuts off.

"The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity" (but not beyond) from 1975 deserves inclusion in the shouldabeenaseries sub-group of the TV pilots in the The Britannia Film Collection that Madman operates (and that Unreal TV adores). This homage to "Lost in Space" has British family the Bowens launch on a mission to Alpha Centauri. Unlike the Robinsons of "Space," the Bowens achieve that part of their mission before things go horribly awry in a manner that adds elements of "Star Trek: Voyager."

"Worlds" further encompasses the Anderson scifi creation "Space Police," which is an earlier version of the series "Space Precinct." The full-length pilot has our New York cop turned galactic crimefighter trying to thwart an evil scheme by a Jabba the Huttesque crime boss (complete with a Petee Lorre clone flunky). The bonus material on the second disc includes test footage and other material from that episode.

Madman deserves great praise for unearthing and awesomely unearthing these true auteur masterpieces. More work from someone who is as talented as Anderson is always a good thing.

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

'Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine':' Intimate Portrait of Reluctantly Public Figure

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The recent DVD release of this entertaining and educational documentary makes this holiday season a particularly apt time to repost the following review of the February 2015 theatrical release of the film. The story of involuntary martyr Matthew Shepard is a true Christmas fable. This nice young man inarguably did nada to deserve his brutal fatal beating, and the incident prompted an almost literal world of good.]

"Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine," which begins the jump from film festivals to mainstream theaters with a February 6 2015 opening at the New York AMC Empire Theater and a February 13 2105 opening at the Laemmle Noho Theater in Los Angeles, nicely achieves the dual documentary objectives of being educational and informative. The well-executed premise of this Run Rabit Run Media production is that filmmaker Michelle Josue offers an intimate portrait in the best sense of that term of a close friend, who is well known as the innocent victim of an especially brutal hate crime.

Josue stating at the beginning of the film that she wants to share how her friend Matt Shepard becomes Matthew Shepard for whom most of us weep appropriately sets the tone for the movie. A spoiler is that Josue nicely achieves this objective to the extent that she makes this reviewer mourn not having the opportunity to spend an afternoon drinking coffee with Matt (rather than Matthew) and having a wonderfully quirky conversation. 

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Shepard," is an appropriately non-sensational overview of this film about an ordinary bloke who becomes a victim of a sadly ordinary crime.

"Shepard," which has won numerous festival awards, is a true labor of love in which Josue gives us a look at the 20-something guy who is a textbook victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. For the benefit of folks who do not know this story, Shepard was a sweet young gay guy who approached two not-so-sweet (or so gay) young guys at a Wyoming bar one night and ended up brutally beaten and left to die while tied to a fence for the offense of trying to befriend them. 

Josue does her job well in not making any bias regarding her subject apparent; she merely documents the life of this all-American kid through sharing her own memories of this high school friend, home movies of our subject, and interviews with his parents and friends. 

We also see still photos of Shepard and hear Josue read writings of his that include a wonderfully goofy list of his favorite things. One spoiler is that said inventory does not include raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, or brown paper packages tied up with string. A related spoiler is that we learn of periods of disabling sadness in the life of Shepard.

Josue shares the characteristically quirky way that Shepard introduces himself to her while they are at a Swiss boarding school for American students. Anyone familiar with a prep. school knows that living with your peers often creates life-long bonds; the element of being several thousand miles from your native country can only enhance that connection.

Highlights of the film include learning of Shepard having a particularly treasured stuffed animal, watching a home video in which a roughly 13 year-old Shepard playfully expresses annoyance at his younger brother filming him, and hearing the father of Shepard discuss his surprisingly loving response to Shepard coming out. It is incredibly sad that the elder Shepard will never get a chance to be an awesome father-in-law to the sweet and kind man whom Matt seems destined to have married if not prevented from reaching that stage in his life.

Josue further redirects public attention to a prior brutal attack on Shepard that is eerily similar to the fatal one and that arguably leads to circumstances that contribute to his death. 

At the risk of this review becoming bloggy, a personal experience a few years before the attack on Shepard further shows how easily this type of thing can occur. 

A group of us who were in the Dallas area for a business conference were walking back from a Rangers game when a very straight and ultra-conservative colleague completely innocently put his arm across my shoulder. Not knowing the rules, I returned the gesture without comment from anyone in our group. Apparently one guy making this gesture is a show of friendship but returning it is gay.

A few minutes later, a couple of guys driving past in a pick-up yelled "FAGS!" This prompted me to instinctively respond "it takes one to know one." ("I know that you are, but what am I?" would have been equally apt.)

The driver then immediately slammed on his brakes and put the truck in reverse. We ran across a field and fortunately were not pursued.

It is worth noting as well that the story of Shepard is comparable to that of civil rights icon Rosa Parks; it is well known that a compelling desire to sit (rather than any intent to buck the system) is the only reason for the famous act of Parks. Similarly, a desire to be social seems to be the only reason for the incident that makes Shepard an international figure. Another common characteristic is that both individuals are someone who would likely give up their seat on a bus to someone who needs it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shepard" is encouraged to email me; anyone with hostile thoughts regarding Matt or the related views that this review expresses is asked to both please understand that that perspective is well known and to please refrain from expressing it. The folks who follow the golden rule are also invited to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

'Feral' Web Series: Memphis Gay Boys Version of 'Girls'

The worthy aspiration of the streaming service to be the gay Netflix and that site being home to the (oft-reviewed) uber-awesome International gay-themed art-house films from tla releasing prompted breaking a cardinal rule of Unreal TV to watch a web-series. This positive deal breaker is the eight full-length episode series "Feral," which looks to premiere on dekkoo in early January 2016.

The many nice things about "Feral" stem from the trials and tribulations of gay 20-something Memphis housemates struggling filmmaker Billy and almost starving artist Daniel being relatable regardless of your sexual orientation and where you live. Further authenticity comes from Memphis-based director Morgan John Fox filming in that city and making "Feral" semi-autobiographical.

Although 20-something viewers will only compare this show to the HBO series "Girls" and "Looking," those of us old enough to remember the early days of the Showtime premium channel will also view "Feral" as a more dystopian version of the early 2000s drama "Queer As Folk."  This groundbreaking show depicts the daily lives of a group of gay men making their way in a larger straight (and moderately oppressive) world.

The relatability of "Feral" commences with a highly erotic series opening scene in which Billy and equally adorable object of his affection Carl conduct a mirroring acting exercise in an increasingly playful flirtatious style that is sure to prompt a pleasurable response from every dekko subscriber. One spoiler is that the massive baggage slows down the journey on the road to this true love.

The central plot in the pilot in which Billy discovering evidence of drug use by housemate Jordan, who is living there based on Daniel vouching for him, results in Billy evicting Jordan. This, in turn, leads to a hilarious search for a compatible "gay or gay-friendly" roommate. The ensuing freak parade is funny because it is true.

The selected candidate being both an initially casual acquaintance who bonds with the boys artificially quickly as sometimes happens and having some ambiguity regarding the full nature of his sexuality at least through the end of the fourth episode is another "ripped from the headlines" element of "Feral." The sister of this newbie attempting subtlety regarding dancing around the subject while helping her brother move in adds to the fun.

On a larger level, Billy and Daniel must work McJobs and other find ways to acquire the necessities of life while pursuing their inter-related professional and personal dreams. The pursuit of the latter results in Daniel suffering serious consequences from waking up with Mr. Right Now but being completely lost. Folks who can say "been there, done him (or her)" can relate this time.

The final analysis based on the four streamed episodes is that "Feral" is an entertainingly accurate portrait of your life in your 20s with people who are most likely more attractive and witty than you and your friends playing your parts.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

'Hotel' S1 DVD: ‘The Love Boat’ meets ‘Hotel Babylon’

Product Details
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The portions of the below review that discuss the series "Arthur Hailey's Hotel" and the first-season episodes of that show are an edited version of n earlier review by your (sometimes) humble reviewer for a site that predates Unreal TV.  

Visual Entertainment awesomely recently re-released the first season of this classic Aaron Spelling '80s drama following the discontinuation of another DVD set of this season and returned the remaining four seasons to the light of day in a complete series set. Upcoming reviews of every season from the second one on will be entirely original and solely be based on the Visual set.]

"Hotel" is a member of a trifecta regarding '70s and '80s hour-long Aaron Spelling dramas with varying degrees of humor (with varying degrees of hilarity). Any sofa spud knows that "The Love Boat" is the first entry, soon followed by "Fantasy Island." However, "Hotel" has the best pedigree of the trio. It is part of an additional trifecta in that its genesis is a best-selling novel by "Airport" author Alex Haley. The book in turn becomes a 1967 film. Fifteen years later, Spelling moves the titular St. Gregory Hotel from the New Orleans French Quarter to San Francisco.

Spelling adapts his highly successful formula of having rising, flourishing, and fading stars guest star in stories that range from the sublime, to the ridiculous, to the sublimely ridiculous in a lush setting, In this case, a luxury hotel plays the role filled by a cruise ship and a tropical island in the earlier programs. the hotel staff fills the roles of the crew and the minions of Mr. Roarke in "Boat" and "Island" respectively.

In turn, all three series can be considered the predecessors of the fantubulous modern British dramedy "Hotel Babylon." This series adds an especially strong prime-time soap element to the "Hotel" formula of having stars from every end of the celebrity spectrum check in each week,

Although “Hotel” is an obvious “Boat” clone, it has more in common with "Babylon" Both these series even have supporting characters who are ex-convicts and currently hold positions of trust in the hotel but come under suspicion because of their pasts.

The "Hotel" pilot includes a typical Spelling plot that has "Happy Days" star Erin Moran as a na├»ve young singer whom a man posing as a theatrical agent seduces with a false promise of a booking. Moran does not sing with “Days” co-star Scott “Chachi” Baio, but Baio does appear in a later episode in this season of “Hotel.” This type of casting prompted  a friend whom I told that I was reviewing “Hotel” asking if regular  "Boat” guest-star Charo was in an episode. (It does not seem that Charo ever checks into the St. Gregory.)

Other S1 plots in which nighttime soap diva Morgan Fairchild appropriately plays a veteran prostitute who is raped by high school boys after their prom and in which fellow primetime suds star Heather Locklear portrays a beauty contest contestant sleeping with a judge in exchange for a promise of his vote are so over the top that they are funny.

Fairchild’s character saying that she is raped once a week and offering to repay hotel manager James “Mr. Streisand” Brolin in “trade” for his assistance is just absurd.

Checking out the California “Hotel” for the nostalgic fun of it is worthwhile, but you may never leave.

Emails with thoughts or questions regarding anything discussed above are very welcome. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

'Man About the House' DVD: 'Three's Company' as Film Version of Britcom

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Australian DVD release will not play in a standard U.S. DVD player. Watching it requires an international player, which typically costs roughly $65.]

The 1974 feature-film comedy "Man About the House," which is a follow-up to the classic Britcom of the same name, is a recent addition to this genre that Australia-based DVD producer/distributor Madman Entertainment releases under its Britannia Film Collection division. American sofa spuds know "Man" as the basis for the U.S. sitcom "Three's Company" about a 20-something man having a platonic living arrangement with two 20-something women.

"Company" holds much truer to "Man" than many other U.S. sitcoms do regarding their British parents. A striking difference is that Chrissy is the quieter and more cerebral brunette, rather than the blonde air-head, in the British version, Another difference is that the second woman is named Jo, rather than Janet, in "Man." Additionally, "Man" lacks any ego issues that result in replacing one of the stars halfway through the run of the show.

A further similarity has "Man" leading to the spin-off "Robin's Nest," which is very similar to the "Company" spin-off "Three's A Crowd."

Early "Company"esque scenes in "Man" include the roommates simultaneously conducting their morning grooming routines in their bathroom and their landlords, who share the surname of Roper with their "Company" counterparts, engaged in the typical "Company" banter related to Mrs. Roper having a libido and her husband lacking one. Mr. Roper referring to doing his "duty" on his wedding night provides a sense of that less-than-special relationship.

Other antics include a plan by male roommate Robin to get Jo and Chrissy naked going comically awry and a sultry Lanaesque cougar getting Robin in her lair. Other hilarity provides some insight regarding the extent to which Volkswagen beetles actually float.

True to the concept of films based on television series, the "sit" this time is larger than is typical in an episode. A developer purchasing property in the area as an initial stage of building office towers prompts the roommates to band with their neighbors to thwart this plan. Predictably, Mr. Roper being tempted to sell his building is one obstacle to preventing the demolition of the homes.

This issues-oriented offering, complete with a less-than-honorable local politician, is an interesting departure from every episode of "Company" and the similar personally watched few episodes of "Man." The manner in which this occurs adds a nice touch of traditional British political satire.

More highlights included a wonderful pop song ala Lulu that serves as an apt theme for the film and a wonderfully complex and evolving relationship between Robin and Chrissy.

The following YouTube clip of the opening title sequence for "Man" features the aforementioned tune.

The expected overall effect of "Man" the film on American fans of "Company" is that the roommates of that universe are living in a parallel existence. They are very recognizable to the extent that Jack/Robin is in cooking school and is a charming scoundrel living with a sweet dopey blonde and more level-headed brunette. This group also still lives above building owners the Ropers and hang out in the local pub-style bar. Things simply look and sound radically different.

The DVD extras include the theatrical trailer and a .pdf version of the script of the film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Man" is encouraged to email me, connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy, or come and knock on my door.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

'Amorous' DVD: Social Study of British Menage a Quatre

AMOROUS DVD & Online Streaming

The December 2015 DVD release of the 2014 British drama "Amorous" is one of the latest examples of New York-based Film Movement choosing provocative international films to distribute over here either as a general title or an addition to the uber-fantubulous Film of the Month Club that Movement operates. The simple premise of this incredibly erotic tale is that young Londoner Charlotte invites her boyfriend Max and fellow couple Charlotte and Jack to form a private free-love commune in the isolated country house that Leah owns.

The deeper layers to this film, which has a strong live-stage vibe, make the original title "Hide and Seek" very apt. Our young social experimenters are hiding from the world and are seeking fulfillment.

The narration in the following YouTube clip of the "Amorous" trailer nicely sums up the philosophy of the community at the center of the film. The accompanying images showcase the beauty and style of the movie.

This story makes "Amorous" a terrifically alternative Christmas story. The fantasy of an more idealized you and three other equally attractive, charming, and creative friends who have no hang ups regarding who hops into bed (or any other available surface) with whom and make it all work at least for the foreseeable future celebrates the spirit of love and community around which Christmas is supposed to center.

The threesome plus one spend their days involved in projects that include literally and figuratively building bridges, their evenings entertaining each other, and their nights involved in every possible combination of sexual activity.

The scope of the aforementioned entertainment includes very personal and emotional reveals, overall chaste fantasy play, and plain ole silly skits. One of the most entertaining skits, which features Jack adorakbly rocking a tiger suit, can be considered Chaplin and Hobbes.

The explicit depictions of the carnal knowledge that the group learns regarding each other includes a clear image of one of the girls watching one of the boys in the midst of an act of self-love or self-abuse depending on your perspective. Surprisingly, neither this nor any of the acts involving one or more persons create awkwardness at least for quite a while.

The arrival of Charlotte ex Simon disrupts the calm of this tranquility forest; his strong resistance to efforts to have him join in the reindeer games tremendously amps up the tension.

Charlotte is an element of additional drama late in the film in terms of a dual declaration of love and of the country retreat having run its course once again figuratively shaking the trees. This announcement effectively gets both the characters and the audience seriously thinking about the long-term viability of two men and two women forming a community that rejects most of the "civilized" boundaries.

The best part of all this is that it is both believable with the right group of people and provides all of us hope for an extended break from the feeling of never being alone, the unnecessary conflict with the majority of the people with whom we interact, and the toxic air that we breath.. This is on top of the bonus of being free to sexually (and sensually) express the love that we feel for those who are most special to us.

Anyone who feels "Amorous" at all is strongly encouraged to email any questions or comments. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'The Surface' DVD: Twink Seeks Love of Daddy

Product Details
The 2015 gay-themed drams "The Surface," which was released on DVD on December 15 2015, nicely presents the typical sensual/erotic elements of an LGBT film in the context of a coming-of-age (no pun intended) story from the early career of Keanu Reeves. Ironically named smooth a s a baby seal Australian model/actor Harry Hains, that The Advocate identifies as a person to watch in 2015, provides all of the sensuality and most of the eroticism in his role as former foster child turned kept college boy Evan.

Opening scenes of Evan swimming at the local public pool and not bothering to don a shirt on getting a ride home from affluent and relatively conservative live-in boyfriend Chris, who is roughly the same age as Chris, sett the tone for the film. The catalyst for the action soon comes (again, no pun intended) in the form of Evan insisting on stopping at a yard sale. He soon finds (and becomes obsessed with) both an old-style home-movie camera and the roughly 30 year-old films of Peter, who is the 40-something year-old son of the older man who is selling the items.

The predictable tension between Evan and Chris sets the stage for even more predictable events that begin with Evan meeting Peter and getting a job as his landscaper/pool boy. Peter telling Evan that he "can come once a week" and granting his request to use the pool should elicit laughs from anyone familiar with art house (as well as less respectable) gay cinema.

The pasts of Evan and Peter make their subsequent May-October relationship understandable. On the surface, the attraction of the former to the latter also reflects the reality that most of us are attracted to someone who is younger and cuter than us.

An unintentionally hilarious scene has long-haired not-so-bright Evan trying to fit in at a dinner party for the middle-aged friends of Peter, One can easily imagine our hero being seated at the children's table.

Not quite doe-eyed Hains does a good job conveying the vulnerability and unmet emotional needs of Evan. It is clear that both actor and character are more than a pretty face but need a little more maturing.

All of these elements combine for a pleasant viewing experience, especially as winter settles in across the U.S.

The special features include the interesting short documentary "Exploring the Surface." The scope of this includes some shifting of the actors and how the vision for the film becomes reality.

Anyone with questions or comments about "Surface" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

'Saturday Night at the Movies' DVD: Comprehensive Three-Part Ode to Australian Movie Palaces

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-Four DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. player; watching it requires an international player.]

The Madman Entertainment DVD of the PBS-quality three-part series "Saturday Night at the Movies" is one of the best examples of the awesome benefits of this Australian company including very U.S.-friendly international shipping policies. This documentary, along with the recently reviewed Gerry Anderson documentary "Filmed in Supermarionation," demonstrates the broad range of high-quality educational video fare that American audiences would otherwise largely be deprived. The title of "Movies" comes from a very catchy 1964 song of the same name by The Drifters.

The numerous talking heads in "Movies" include "Red Curtain Trilogy" auteur Baz Luhrmann and other notable members of the Australian arts community discussing their early experiences in the landmark theaters that provide the base material for the film. We also hear from theater owners, managers, and projectionists from the golden days of Australian movie watching,

"Movies" starts with the aptly titled "The Golden Era and the Empire Builders" episode. The focus (no pun intended) is divided between the grandeur of the movie houses of the '20s and the contrasts between movie audiences. Topics regarding the former include the elegance of both the buildings and the theater employees.

The segments that focus on the audience start with covering the Saturday afternoon kiddie matinees and all the chaos that accompany them. The photos of the crowds of toddlers provide good visual images of the mayhem; the former children reminiscing about ushers using flashlight beams (as opposed to the heavier objects that provide that illumination) as discipline tools provide amusing anecdotes. An awesome personal aspect of this is the viewing of "Movies" roughly coinciding with a conversation with a Baby Boomer about strict matrons keeping order in the Bronx movie theaters in the '50s.

The focus of "Movies" then shifts to adults donning their finest apparel to go to the movies on Saturday nights; the vintage photos confirm that this group seems more dressed to attend a Broadway premiere than the latest Hollywood fare. Stories of women with large hats blocking the screen provide terrific humor in this portion of this episode.

Middle child "The Theatre Beautiful, Drive-Ins and Flicks in the Sticks" augments the continuing coverage of the grand movie palaces with segments on the titular open-air and/or rural viewing venues. Fascinating tidbits regarding the latter include tales of the films literally riding the rails to get to less populated areas of the country/continent.

This episode additionally follows up on the discussion in the first episode regarding the transition from silents films to "talkies" with segments on the technological advancements that play a role in the movie-going experience being particularly spectacular.

This trifecta of a series brings things up to date with "The Coming of Television, Survival, and Restoration." The scope this time encompasses the creation of the multiplex, the mixed success regarding efforts to save movie palaces from destruction or conversion into grocery stores and similar businesses, and the threat that television and developments in home video present.

The technological advancement this time is the conversion to digital with the accompanying cost that is threatening the continued existence of theaters both in Australia and the United States. The trickle down of the enormous cost of the required conversion personally is prompting asking whether every film in which some interest exist is a "$10 movie;" the response most of the time is "no."

Bomus elements of each episode include discussion of the creation of the Australian film company Village Roadshow and other topics regarding the movie industry in that country.

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Grace Under Fire' S1 DVD: Chuck Lorre Roseanne/Jeff Foxworthy Mash-up

The Visual Entertainment complete-series DVD set of the '90s ABC sitcom "Grace Under Fire" (as well as the Visual complete series set of the '80s Aaron Spelling drama "Hotel") is an even better early Christmas present than anticipated. "Grace" illustrates the joy of DVDs in the form of liking a show even better the second time around than on the first on-air showings. (S1 of "Hotel," which personally is thought of as starring Mrs. Hinkley and Mr. Streisand because of stars Connie Selleca and James Brolin, is slated for an early January 2106 review.)

As an aside, great anticipation regarding 2016 Visual releases of the '70s sitcom "Angie," the awesome early 2000s scifi "Jake 2.0," and many other shows from the island of misfit series creates good hope that "Grace" and "Hotel" are the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Visual. Reviews of the upcoming releases and of seasons of "Grace" and "Hotel" will run throughout 2016.

"Grace" is a prime example of the standup-oriented sitcoms of the mid-80s through the '90s. Although "Seinfeld" arguably is the most successful effort to give a comedy club and "Tonight Show" favorite a series, "Grace" star Brett Butler and many others also succeed in presenting their voices in weekly 30-minute comedies. ABC siblings of Butler include Roseanne Barr, Margaret Cho, Tim Allen, and a pre-dancing Ellen DeGeneres.

"Grace" was enjoyed well enough during its network run but was never appointment TV. Further, the level of interest in the show was never high enough to watch it in syndication. Revisiting it on DVD shows what was missed in not watching it more 20 years ago.

Ironically named titular Southern-fried recently divorced mother of two young kids and a baby Grace Kelly is very much in line with the hard-luck (and living) stand-up persona of Butler.

The strong blue-collar vibe of "Grace" reflects the work of this inaugural show from creator Chuck Lorre, whose earlier work includes writing "Roseanne" episodes, and justifies thinking of "Grace" as "Roseanne 2.0." The modest houses in which the Kelly gang and the Conner clan reside are very similar, and oil refinery worker Grace has a comparable job to early seasons plastics factory worker Roseanne in her series. (One difference is the supervisor of Grace is not nearly attractive as "Roseanne" boss portrayor George Clooney.)

Next-door neighbor/long-time friend Nadine fills the same role of "Trixie" to Grace's "Alice" in the same manner as sister Jackie on "Roseanne." "Roseanne" star John Goodman making a cameo appearance in the opening minutes of the "Grace" pilot provides an indirect link between the shows.

Lorre adds in an element of standup-turned-sitcom star Jeff "You Might Be a Redneck If" Foxworthy by making the ex-husband Alabama-native Butler be a stereotypical heavy-drinking, poorly educated and plain ole stupid, dynamite fishing, deadbeat dad, etc hillbilly. The combination of these characters provides copious opportunities for jokes about cousin loving, hunting, and other staples of humor at the expense of rural Southerners. One of the best has Grace commenting that all six year-old girls loving housework is what Southern men love marrying them.

Another connection with "Roseanne" exists regarding the overall style of "Grace." Barr states in an interview in the period before her show premieres that there are only 10 basic sitcom plots and goes onto describe them. "Grace" largely follows this tried-and-true formula but adds enough twists and edge to keep things entertaining. The likely difficulty 20 years ago was that so many similar voices diluted it.

An early episode in which Grace has the blind date from Hell keeps things fresh by having guy pal Russell, played by "SCTV" vet. Dave Thomas, along with his own mismatched miss. Grace making several witty sarcastic remarks that go over the head of her comically cheap date and Grace and Russell later almost literally bumping heads in their attempts to escape their companions is very amusing.

Another memorable early episode has Grace ending up at a frat party during a rare night free from her children. A hilarious early scene has Grace trying to convince some of the boys that she is a mess only to have that provide a basis for bonding, Near hilarity ensues when our gals school the boys on many levels.

We further get wonderfully dark takes on toxic babysitters. One of the best has Grace ask an apparently stoned sitter if he has any experience watching kids and having him respond "only from my car."

Great prophetic Clinton humor includes a character commenting that Bill and Hillary have a happy marriage and Grace responding "give it time."

Seeing this amusing but relatively clean show come from current uber-raunchmaster Lorre is a nice surprise. It shows that he does not have to resort to cheap crass and utterly tasteless sex and drug jokes to get a laugh.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

'Full Moon in Paris' Blu-Ray: New Wave Auteur Eric Rohmer on Love V. Lifestyle

Film Movement Classics, which is the timeless movie division of fantastic foreign film distribution company Film Movement, serves up a tasty French treat in the form of a spectacularly remastered Blu-ray release of the 1984 Eric Rohmer film "Full Moon in Paris." The equally charming and somber elements of this tale of young interior designer Louise being torn between the Paris social life and her suburban-dwelling (and loving) boyfriend Remi evokes great thoughts of Audrey Hepburn films. The accolades for the film include a 1985 Best Film Award from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

The following YouTube clip of the Classics trailer for the Blu-Ray release shows that that that promo. deserves an award of its own for accurately conveying the story and the style of the film while keeping spoilers to an absolute minimum.

The Blu-Ray enhancements are apparent throughout this beautifully shot film and are particularly amazing in a scene in which the every small detail of a drop cloth is crystal clear.

The timeless (and international) element comes in the form of Louise loving Remi enough to move into his suburban home but being unhappy regarding not regularly spending evenings in Paris and Remi wanting to leave early when they do venture into that metropolis. This dilemma prompts Louise to initially secretly retain her Paris apartment as a pied-a-terre. A particularly Hepburnesque element of this is a near obsession with not allowing anyone else in the apartment.

The Audrey Hepburn/New Wave vibe continues with the happening parties that Louise attends; the nusic is wonderfully bouncy, and dance partners change more often than the bet. Further, the title of "Moon" has terrific symbolic meaning.

The overall conflict in this retro-style drama escalates in the form of Octave, who is married with child, assertively trying to escape the friend zone regarding Louise. This relates to the separate schedules of Octave and his wife preventing them from spending much time together.

Louise ultimately fessing up regarding her self-love nest results in a surprisingly frank and civil conversation with Remi. The gist of this talk is that Remi does not have any cause for concern, and that Louise will let him know if things change. Things later becoming messy is predictable; many of the details regarding those developments is not.

The genuine perceived threats to the central relationship come in the form of a female friend of Remi and an awesomely uber-French musician with whom Louise connects at one of the aforementioned swinging bashes. Louise thinking that she sees Remi and said friend out on the town is an aspect of one of the aforementioned twists.

For reasons that include "Moon" not being an American film, a Hollywood ending is not guaranteed (or expected). Like most great films from any country, the characters are wiser (but not necessarily happier) in the seconds before the closing credits roll. Also like all aforementioned great works of cinema, the audience can relate to the story and learn the same lessons as the characters.

The extra include an archive interview with Louise portrayor Pascale Ogier.

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lagunitas Brewing Company Dog-Themed Mason Jars Make Great Christmas Gift

Lagunitas Mason Jar Craft Beer Pint Glass - Pit Bull Dog 420

The inspiration for this Christmas-themed journey into Blogland appropriately stems from a holiday stroll, which generally can be considered Trick-or-Treat for adults. These early-December events consist of boutique-style shops in smaller (often upscale) retail districts enticing shoppers with sweet and/or savory treats and alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic beverages.

The purpose of this diversion from overall objective reviews of DVD and Blu-ray releases of movies and television shows is to share news of the below-described cool glasses , which are available for the low low price of $3 each (plus shipping and handling) from the Lagunitas Brewery Company. These glasses are virtually guaranteed to delight every dog and/or beer lover on your Christmas list.

As mentioned above, the below-described design of the glasses is awesome; the relative uniqueness of them makes owners feel a little special, and he thickness of these vessels helps ensure years of enjoyment.

Checking out the otherwise aforementioned craptacular stroll at which the food trucks parked on the blocked off street were a much larger attraction than the "festivities" in the shop ended with dinner at a local pub-style restaurant. Noticing what was believed to be a Labrador retriever (and turned out to be a very cute pit bull) etched on the Mason jar style glass in which my Diet Coke was served prompted serious thoughts of reverting to a high-school and college-era habit of liberating particularly cool glassware from drinking and/or eating establishments. (On "joking" about this, our waiter smiled and stated an inability to do anything if something disappeared.)

As an aside, "rescued" ashtrays from the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and from Clyde's restaurant in Washington, D.C. are enjoying long second lives as coasters.

An online search for the"doggy" glasses led to discovering that Lagunitas founder Tony Magee is the bad boy of microish breweries. His initial claim to fame is the yeast from his beer destroying the septic system of the Marin County community regarding which the brewery is the namesake. The translation is "Little Lake."

Additional reports related to this once producer of a "420" beer tell tales of weekly employee parties that often included smoking marijuana. There are no reports of Magee making a related bid for the Hostess snack food company during the bankruptcy period of that company.

It is hoped that anyone who is high on buying a set of these glasses for themselves or others is pleased with the purchase.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

'Filmed in Supermarionation' DVD: Documenting Career of 'Thunderbirds' Creator Gerry Anderson

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-Four DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. player; it requires a well-worth buying international player.]

Australian DVD producer/distributor god Madman Entertainment achieves the documentary ideal of being equally educational and entertaining regarding two recent DVD releases.

"Filmed in Supermarionation," which comprehensively tells the tale of '60s kids' classic "Thunderbirds" creator Gerry Anderson, is our current subject. A perfect example of the legacy of Anderson is the highly significant other of your (sometimes) humble reviewer saying "we've seen this before" on watching the first few seconds of "Filmed," and the response being "No, that was (the Trey Parker/Matt Stone comedy) "Team America World Police." The latter film itself is a perfect example of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. F**k yeah!!

A post on "Saturday Night at the Movies," which is equally comprehensive regarding the movie palaces and less grand venues in Australia, is scheduled for the week of December 20, 2015.

A related recent Madman 2-disc DVD release is "The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson." This one has a literal plethora of previously unseen animated and live-action productions of Anderson. These rarities include an early marionette production of Andersen and live-action films along the lines of "Space: 1999" and other Andersen sci-fi classics.

The following YouTube clip of an early "Filming" scene concisely (and humorously) summarizes the concept of the film.

Very aptly for the subject, the narrators of "Filmed" include the manufactured-English Lady Penelope and Parker from "Thunderbirds." These characters introduce each segment, which begins in the '50s with forming the team that Gerry leads for roughly 20 years. Having several members of the team reunite to reminisce puts almost a human face on our topic as Penelope and Parker.

Watching the meat puppets visit their old stomping grounds and relive their highs and lows is fascinating and provides the same sense of family as the team that Jim Henson creates to bring the puppets to life. The almost literally final insult that Team Anderson endures is almost literally heartbreaking.

Highlights from the coverage of the early days include Sylvia Anderson, whose personal relationship with and subsequent marriage to Gerry spans most of the life of the team, discussing first being hired and then pressed into service on a larger level (no pun intended). Gerry recalls the early monumental events that divert the direction of his work from live-action to animated productions. Wonderful rare clips, including footage from a hilariously odd marionette Western series, from those days awesomely further illustrate those roots. A scene in which the horse of an old-timey Western sheriff explains why he has a posh British accent is hilarious.

The segment on the '60s largely focuses on overcoming technical challenges and the leap to color and other enhancements. This portion of the film additionally provides an entertaining primer on the supermarionation form of animation that provides the title of the documentary.

Virtually each year of the '60s bringing a new marionette-driven show from Team Anderson provides a great format for this portion of the film. The gamut of these run from the early "Supercar" series and other lesser-known shows to the better-known series, such as "Thunderbirds" and "Stingray;" the color series have a particularly groovy '60s vibe. Their final (largely adult-oriented) effort "The Secret Service" is particularly special,

The scope of "Filmed" further encompasses the conflict related to the split of creative talent between live-action and animated projects. Gerry and everyone else being candid regarding this and numerous other disputes makes "FIlmed" the type of reality that the staged shows that assert to have that quality do not approach achieving.

The surprisingly numerous special features include a Sylvia BBC interview, a special effects reel, and additional rare footage. These alone make purchasing "Filmed" well worth it.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

'Xmas Without China' DVD: Chinese Documentarian Analyzes U.S. Yen for Cheap Products

Product Details
Distributor of "innovative and provocative" international documentaries Icarus Films literally and figuratively brings things home for the holidays with the December 8, 2015 DVD release of the 2103 U.S. documentary "Xmas Without China"  from environmentally-conscious media company Bullfrog Films.

The following YouTube clip of the "Xmas" trailer lays out the scheme around which the film revolves. It also nicely showcases entertainment that accompanies this education.

"Xmas" documents a stereotypical middle-class family (aptly named Jones) spending the month of December completely deprived of products from China while Chinese-American documentarian Tom Xia and his parents pursue the American dream of creating a Christmas yard display that can be seen from space. The charm of Xia comes through very early in the film in a scene in which he explains that he gave himself his Americanized first name directly from his love of "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

The depth of the documented experiment extends well beyond illustrating the dependency of Americans on cheap goods from the titular nation and the validity of perceptions regarding those products; we also see the assimilation process of the Chinese-born parents of Tom as well as his cultural identity crisis. The Joneses having pet ducks who would end up on the Xia dinner table if that family raised them is a memorable example of the culture clash.

The Joneses soon discovering that the scope of items from the forbidden nation extends the playthings of their children to the family toaster and hair dryer. This clan further soon learns that China seemingly has a monopoly regarding manufacturing some types of products and that some products from other countries are prohibitively expensive. Examples include am absurdly expensive string of Christmas lights and a $100 stuffed animal.

Equally appropriately for the holidays, the audience does not learn much that it does not already know. At the same time, the aforementioned appeal of Tom and the cruel laughter as the Jones clan futilely attempts to lead normal lives without using any products from China provide awesome entertainment.

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

'Blind' DVD: Erotic Diary of a Mad Norwegian Housewife

Product Details
Icarus Films stays true to the spirit of its mission of distributing DVDs of innovative and provocative international documentaries in releasing the steamy and thought-provoking 2014 Norwegian drama "Blind" on December 8, 2015. This aptly title stylish film tells the erotic tale of gorgeous blonde Ingrid dealing with the loss of her sight. The regular shifts in time and reality in this creative film guarantees viewers a surreal good time.

The too many to mention major awards for this initial stab at directing by talented screenwriter Eskil Vogt, who also writes the "Blind" script, reflect the unique style and the good substance of the film.

The following YouTube clip of the original (non-subtitled) trailer for "Blind" nicely communicates the beauty and (largely erotic) style of the film despite the language barrier.

The aforementioned non-linear nature of "Blind" make a traditional review of this film, which The Village Voice calls "a haunting puzzle of a movie," a challenge. Attempting to follow the sequence of events and whether they are real is part of the fun of watching this true art house production. The wide range of pornography and the less degree of erotic images of our heroine and her husband further keep the NC-17 experience interesting.

The overall concept of "Blind" is that Ingrid initially notices a slight abnormality in her vision that develops into a progressively severe loss, which leads to total blindness. A restaurant scene in which things take the proverbially bad turn for the worse awesomely illustrates the perfect blend of drama and humor in the film. One highlight is an oblivious Ingrid making conversation with lipstick smeared on her cheek.

The efforts of Ingrid to retain her visual memories of the places in her life prompt writing a memoir about those locations and her life in general. A combination of blurred memories (pun intended), using fantasies to escape her harsh reality, and general paranoia combine to create an unsettling reality. The final scenes in which the alternate realities of Ingrid collide lead to incredibly vivid and emotionally storytelling.

One of the more compelling scenes has Ingrid following her husband to a party only to realize one of her worst nightmares come true. She first interrupts him in the middle of a sexual encounter that proves to be increasingly kinky and subsequently becomes the oblivious object of ridicule by a participant in that tryst.

In many ways, the aforementioned elements make "Blind" the Scandinavian response to the television series "Lost" with the exception of none of the scruffy Norse-looking men being tan, thin, and uber-sarcastic.

The DVD extra is an interview with Vogt.

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

Friday, December 4, 2015

'Aladdin' Diamond Edition: Whole New World of Awesomeness

Product Details
The best news about the Disney October 2015 Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD release of the 1992 animated classic "Aladdin" is that the off-the-charts awesomeness of the film extends well beyond the comic genius of the late Robin Williams in his voice-over role as the genie.

The strongest endorsement is your (occasionally) humble reviewer laughing out loud in a few spots that do not even feature the genie. Even truly hilarious films and shows almost always only elicit a smile. After all, Vulcans do not dance even when fun commences.

A very incomplete list of said non-genie scenes include Abu the monkey (voiced by "Scooby-Doo" god Frank Welker) distracting a fruit merchant while the titular street rat steals an apple, the magic carpet behaving like a rambunctious puppy, and Princess Jasmine acting like a delusional flake to avoid trouble. Of course, Williams more than delivers.

The two Oscars and 23 other awards for "Aladdin" provide additional validation of the special nature of the film.

Further, buying this one in Blu-ray truly is a necessity. It arguably has the most vivid and elaborate animation of any film since the '30s and '40s glory days of Disney. Further, the sound effects and the spectacular Tim Rice soundtrack are wonderful in the enhanced Blu-ray audio format.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for the Diamond Edition provides a decent sense of the supercalifragilisric quality that truly must be seen to be believed.

Like all extraordinary Disney films, "Aladdin" borrows from great source material beyond the myth that provides its overall structure. In this case, the past and future homages work wonderfully well.

Disney pays exceptional tribute to the original "Indiana Jones" trilogy in having evil palace advisor Jafar essentially using a "Snow White" style mirror to find the purest in the land who is sufficiently noble to enter the Cave of Wonders (also voiced by Welker) to purloin the magic lamp that is the abode of the aforementioned genie. This puts Aladdin on the radar of this Dick Cheney of yore.

The following images allow you to judge the above comparison for yourself.

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Aladdin entering the cave elicits some sense of Indy. An act of greed while in there triggering a colossal booby trap shows that we clearly are in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" territory, complete with a "you throw me whip; I throw you idol" moment.

This plot roughly coincides with the aforementioned heiress to the throne scaling the walls of the aforementioned palace for the dual purposes of discovering "a whole new world" and avoiding the fate of marrying a prince before an impending deadline. This great escape leads to Jasmine meeting soulmate Aladdin. The latter being a 10 in both appearance and personality make her highness the envy of most female (and a large number of male) viewers. Our boy form the 'hood easily leaves every Disney princess in the dust.

The elaborate magic of the genie and elaborate magic-infused confrontations are clear nods to the classic Disney film "Fantasia." Further, Aladdin fighting/eluding a serpentine Jafar in treasure room loaded with mountains of old evokes great thoughts of "The Desolation of Smaug" in the "Hobbit" trilogy.

The movie having a clever twist near the end and the appealing leads having a well-earned happy ending are additional nice features of the film. It is further worth mentioning that the mercifully limited screen time of the so detestable that he is not even funny Gilbert Gottfried in his voice-over role as Iago the parrot alleviates concerns regarding having to tolerate his performance.

The Blu-ray extras alone make the Diamond Edition a good buy. A behind-the-scenes look at the staging of the "Aladdin" Broadway musical has all the heart and humor of the film. Insight regarding the technical difficulties associated with creating the flying carpet is one of the more interesting elements of this short; the bittersweet story behind adding the song "Proud of Your Boy" song that was cut from the film was a highlight. (A special feature on deleted songs includes an at least partial version of this emotion-stirring tune.)

The following YouTube clip of "Boy" features the Broadway Aladdin.

An even more emotional short is a tribute to Williams; the rapid-fire clips of deleted riffs and rejected versions of included bits is as hilarious as expected. The expressed sadness in this film for the passing of Williams is both genuine and gets eyes leaking almost as much as when writing an Unreal TV ode to Williams in August 2014.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Inspector Morse: The Last Enemy' DVD: More Classic British Murder Mysteries

Inspector Morse Set 3 DVD
These musing on the three feature-film length "Inspector Morse" episodes in the collection titled "The Last Enemy" from the "Inspector Morse 25th Anniversary Collection DVD," which itself is from uber-awesome Canada-based purveyor of British DVDs BFS Entertainment, resume the Year of Morse" reviews. This series began with well-earned general praise for the "25th" set.

In roughly 25 words or less, "Morse" is a very long-running British mystery series equally featuring the titular police detective and the Oxford region in which the episodes are set. John Thaw, whose other classic roles include leads in series such as "Sweeney" and "Kavanagh QC" (both of which are available through BFS), seems born to play Morse. The quirks of this character include as much love for an evening at the opera as for a night (or an afternoon) at the pub. His "Watson" is Sargent Lewis, who is much more of an everyman than his boss.

"Enemy" kicks off with "Last Bus to Woodstock." The action in this one begins with a 20-something woman on a mission hitchhiking in lieu of waiting for the titular transportation. The extent to which her demise soon after getting out of the car of the presumed good Samaritan who gives her ride is connected with that event propels a great deal of the plot.

The mission involves delivering a cryptic letter and an accompanying item to a woman who ain't talking. The ensuing investigation uncovers inter-connected extra-marital activity, a young man with a shady present, and other assorted nefarious activity.

In addition to the typical (but well above-standard) twists of a "Morse" episode, "Bus" has an exceptionally clever ending that is reminiscent of a classic Agatha Christie story. Like Christie, the masters behind "Morse" expertly pull off this trick.

The second of the three offerings in "Enemy," "Ghost in the Machine" does not involve the other famous Police of '80s England. This one centers around the death of a genuine aristocrat who is not a noble man. The "Morse" worthy elements this time include a theft of an erotic painting, academic politics regarding selecting someone for a high-ranking post, and inappropriate master-servant relations.

"Ghost" is as good as every other "Morse" entry but adheres more to traditional whodunit elements than the other episodes. Certain elements are very clear early on and motives for acts are just as transparent. At the same time, the twists keep it fresh.

"Ghost" further is notable for introducing a new coroner, whose relationship with Morse commences on a bad note. This conflict and their subsequent interactions provide wonderful humor. A scene involving the practice of Mores of not divulging his first name is a prime example of the nature of this entertainment.

The third offering that rounds out the group lends its name to the collection. "Last Enemy" commences with discovering a limbless and headless corpse, delves even deeper into inter-connected academic and governmental politics than the other two episodes, and offers a wonderfully cynical viewpoint of the hierarchy at an institution of higher education.

This "Enemy" additionally has a stronger element of psychological distress than other "Morse" episodes and the traditionally "whodunit" model that those shows follow. This diversion nicely enhances the story and helps put the crimes into proper perspective.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

'Roger Waters The Wall' BD: Shows '70s Rocker Still in the Pink

Product Details
The Universal Home Entertainment 2-disc Blu-ray edition, which is being released on December 1 2015, of the 2015 concert film "Roger Waters The Wall" being mind-blowing is an apt regaridng that performance of that wonderfully psychedelic and surreal 1979 Pink Floyd album of the same name. A desire to watch the film under black light is only partially joking. However, a household rule that requires eating meat before enjoying pudding is now strictly enforced.

The stunning visuals, which include dazzling pyrotechnics and a ginormous video display that makes anything that U2 has devised look like a 13-inch black-and-white set with a coat-hanger antenna, validate the decision to film the concerts in the titular 2010-13 world tour in 4K and buying the end-product in Blu-ray. The images truly are crystal-clear and the sound is incredibly sharp; you will almost feel as if you are part of the crowds.

The following YouTube clip of the very good "Wall" trailer provides an incomplete sense of the awesome sensory overload of the film.

The film intersperses wonderful footage of Waters respectively paying homage to his grandfather and father through visits to France and Italy. These trips allow the audience to see the extent to which Waters' grandfather dying during a World War I battle and Waters' father being a fatality of the World War II battle in Anzio influence "The Wall." They further nicely show Waters as an ordinary bloke with whom one would enjoy sitting down for a pint.

Further insight comes in the form of a scene in which Waters listens to a friend tell of a hasty retreat from Hungary during WWII and of the eerie discovery on returning after the war.

The press release for "Wall" the film artfully describes it as "an immersive and undeniably epic concert experience of the classic Pink Floyd album, a road movie of Waters' reckoning with the past and an anti-war protest film." This release of a few months ago understandably omits that the world events of the past several weeks illustrate the universal and timeless nature of the themes in the album.

Of course, a performance of the "Another Brick in the Wall" trilogy, complete with a children's chorus is a highlight of both the concert and the film. The performance of "Comfortably Numb" is equally spectacular and has some of the most intense visual images in the event. Waters provides old school Floyd fans a real treat in having 21st century Waters sing a duet of the classic "Mother" with film of Waters singing the song in a 70s-era London club.

The following YouTube clip of "Brick" provides a good taste of the above.

The concert audiences mostly consisting of 20-somethings who seem to know the messages as well as the lyrics is an encouraging indication that the kids are alright.

The plethora of extras in the BD EXCLUSIVE bonus disc include Hi-Def versions of the episodes that document the monumental staging of the "Wall" tour, a video of Waters performing "Comfortably Numb" at the O2 Arena in London, and outtakes from waht can be considered Waters' "European Vacation."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding

Monday, November 30, 2015

'Everlasting Love' DVD: Taking Bite Out of Gay May-December Hookup Myths

Poster Art

tla releasing, which is the foreign/art house division of LGBT video giant tla video, wonderfully pushes the boundaries of mainstreamish gay cinema regarding the recent DVD release of the 2014 Spanish drama "Everlasting Love." At the most basic level, this film is one of the most primal movies to come from any country in quite a while. Recognition of this includes the Outfest award for Best International Feature and the Young Jury Award at the Sitges International Film Festival.

Said primal elements include the relatively explicit scenes of hetero and homo sexual encounters in the wooded area that middle-aged language school teacher Carlos frequently frequents. A scene in which a jockstrap-clad incredibly hirsute, tall, and obese middle-aged "bear" is getting a blow job is a prime example of this and will either excite you or make you say "eeewwww" depending on your personal preferences.

The following YouTube clip of the explicit "Love" trailer candidly reveals the sexual, violent, and wonderfully bizarre elements of this unique movie.

Carlos encountering his male student Toni during one of these trips into the woods provides the basis of another fairly explicit scene and sets the stage for the primary conflict of the film. The "seduction" scene is a great melange of gay porn and art-house queer cinema. The primary missing elements of the former are that Carlos does not find Toni standing out in the rain and does not invite him back to his house to shower and hang out in a towel while his clothes dry.

Carlos telling Toni that their coupling does not make them a couple does not really stick. Suffice it to say that Toni becomes a figurative pain in the ass in the aftermath of experiencing a literal one. 

One universal truth regarding this that applies all along the Kinsey Scale is that one participant in a sexual encounter often experiences a higher level of affection than the other party to the interaction. This presents the individual who is just not that into his or her Mr. or Ms. Right Now with the challenge of figuring out how to be cruel to be kind in the right measure.

Anyone who has seen a romcom or sexcom knows that Toni breaks down the defenses of Carlos; the extent to which the resistance of Carlos to a relationship is futile is part of what makes "Love" interesting.

A parallel plot has a group of fine young cannibals with their own thoughts regarding the nature of love engaging in their hobby in the park.  Said recreational activity contributes another aspect of primal elements to "Love."

The two worlds wonderfully collide in a scene in which said cannibals come to the aid of a stranded Toni and Carlos; this leads to the entire group ending up at the home of Carlos. The equal parts erotic and primal conversation first lead to an expected (but not so well staged) encounter and then to a ending that provides an adequate surprise to sate most of the characters and the audience alike.

The impact of the above-discussed elements of "Love" is that the film will make you laugh and think. You further will see at least a little part of yourself in every primary character. Many of us have been either the younger and more naive or the older and more cynical one in a relationship that involves mutual nudity; we further have either experienced what we thought might be everlasting love or have thought about the nature of it.

As an aside, drinking Chianti and eating farva beans while watching "Love" may enhance the experience.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

'Fear the Walking Dead' BD: Z Nation Homage to L.A. Riots, Family Dysfunction, and Martial Law

Product Details
The strong element of family drama makes the Anchor Bay Entertainment December 1 2015 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the  first season of the 2015 AMC series "Fear the Walking Dead" surprisingly apt holiday presents. The accolades for this spin-off of "The Walking Dead" include the August 2015 premiere of this L.A.-set series being the number 1 show in cable television history.

Buying this show in Blu-ray is a no-brainer (no pun intended). The enhanced picture quality of this format awesomely highlights the feature-film cinematography of the series. This particularly comes through regarding a vivid image of a blood-soaked body bag.

The tie for nicest things about the six-episode S1 of "Fear" is between the series-long story arcs prompting memories of the broadcast network mini-series of the '70s and '80s and this season reflecting the "less-is-more" lesson of British television series. It additionally has more of a vibe of modern family-oriented disaster films such as "The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012" in which a flawed father seeks redemption by saving his clan against impending doom than a blood-and-gore horror series.

"Fear" centers around caring high school guidance counselor/widow/single mom Madison Clark and her late adolescent children Nick and Alicia. Johnny Deppish Nick is a semi-recovering addict with a long history of causing his family anguish. Alicia fits the contrasting stereotype of a good girl high achiever who is becoming increasingly tired of being a poster child for the American ideal.

Additional family drama comes in the form of Madison living with high school teacher Travis Manawa. The resentments of the ex-wife and son of Travis add fuel to the fire.

The "outsiders" are barber Daniel Salazar, his wife Griselda, and their feisty daughter Ofelia. This family comes into the picture on providing shelter during the early stages of rioting that comes on the heels of an assertive law-enforcement response to the outbreak of zombieitis in the city.

The initial police shooting that triggers (no pun intended) the protests and looting that comprise said riot both particularly ties "Fear" to the Rodney King era in Los Angeles and reflects our own sad time in which indications that race places a role in the police response to a perceived threat triggers (again, no pun intended) the same  type of violent response as "Fear" depicts.

All of this reflects the theory of suspense master Alfred Hitchcock, who effectively created terror by moving the threat from the haunted house on the outskirts of town into the split-level next door.

The spreads of the outbreak and the public opposition to the police response leads to establishing martial law. In typical television and feature-film style, the initial sense that the soldiers who are imposing order are doing a good thing deteriorates and leads to questioning their authority. One spoiler is that it turns out that these boys in green are from the federal government but are not here to help us.

Everything nicely comes to a head in the season finale. Our heroes directly confront both the soldiers and the zombies. The outcome reflects the modern practice of providing both a satisfying end to the series and a good starting point for a second season if the show receives one. In this case, fans will get a chance to see what happens when the second season premieres in (most likely the summer of) 2016.

The special features include films on both the characters and the series itself.

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

'Stink!' Documentary on Product Fragrances Shows Something Rotten in the States of America

Stink! Movie Poster millionaire/director/producer/narrator Jon Whelan performs a genuine public service regarding his documentary "Stink!," which Net Return Entertainment is opening in New York on November 27 2015 and in Los Angeles on December 4 2015. This film shines a spotlight on deceitful (and potentially fatal) practices regarding using fragrances in clothing and household products. Whelan does his homework, presents his talking heads well, and is a charming host. He further confirms the belief of parents of teen boys everywhere that Axe body spray is toxic.

The following YouTube clip of the "Stink!" trailer nicely conveys every attribute discussed above.

The aforementioned homework begins with discovering that companies lack any legal duty to disclose the chemicals that produce the smells that many of us like in our products. The applicable laws relate both to the regulatory classifications of the chemicals and the legal conclusion that the formulations of those ingredients are proprietary trade secrets that companies can keep sealed in their vaults.

The stonewalling goes to the extent of children's clothing manufacturer Justice essentially daring Whelan to pay for an independent chemical analysis of a pair of their pajamas and Whalen doing exactly that.

The documented harm from exposure to the aforementioned substances include substantially increased risks of obesity and cancer. The science regarding this is presented at an awesomely understandable fifth grade level, complete with animation.

The aforementioned talking heads are the typical private sector and government types who state their cases. One difference is that the elected officials with a highly profitable horse in the race fail to justify not supporting comprehensive labeling laws that allow consumers to make informed decisions regarding risks associated with using specific products. A personal example is continuing to use the higher-end Irish Spring body wash with "mint extract," which does not seem to include that substance but does have "fragrance," despite "Stink!" providing reason to believe that doing so might have ill effects.

The valid reason that Whelan presents for our elected officials advocating a "place on the market first, (perhaps) apologize later" industry standard is the effective lobbying by "big chemical." His best "gotcha" moment regarding this is confronting such a lobbyist/New York state office candidate who has a Planned Parenthood endorsement despite that organization opposing practices by the companies who are clients of said candidate.

Whelan addtionally does a good job showing how America is becoming a dumping ground for potentially harmful substances that even less-developed nations will not allow to enter their marketplaces.

The rookie mistake that Whalen commits regarding this initial stab at documentary film making is allowing his very valid personal motive for the project to take it in a frustratingly different direction. Whalen stating early in the film that his wife Heather passing away from breast cancer and leaving him to raise two young girls led to his inadvertently buying one of his daughters the toxic-smelling pajamas that motivated his quest was legitimate. Further, any viewer with even a trace of a soul sympathizes with the Whelan clan.

The problem is that Whelan ad infinitum unduly focuses on his personal circumstances. A man prematurely losing his wife to cancer and being left to raise their young children is a tragic story that is worthy of a film. However, this event has little place in a documentary on companies not divulging the presence of harmful chemicals in our clothes and household products.

One of numerous examples of the excessive intrusion of the personal tragedy is a loooong exposition (complete with several photos from a cross-country family road trip) of the role of that loss in Whelan purchasing the pajamas from the clothing store Justice. Merely stating that he bought the pajamas on the first Christmas after his wife passed away would have conveyed the sentiment. Another unwarranted scene is footage of the daughters sending balloons with messages to their mother on the first anniversary of her death. This one does not pretend to have any connection with the issue of the potentially toxic chemicals.

The primary impetus of this borderline rant is the manner in which Whelan ends "Stink!" The final scene in which his daughter calls Justice customer service to ask about the chemicals on the pajamas is tolerably cute. Predicting that further footage of talking heads or news reports might accompany the closing credits only to see non-narrated footage of the girls jumping on the bed evoked an excited utterance that Whelan certainly does not want them to hear.

Stating that the divergent elements of "Stink!" make it the best of films and the worst of films is a gross overstatement. Stating that Whelan epically fails regarding not making the reporter part of the story is not.

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