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Saturday, February 28, 2015

airbnbeware: Reservations Required

Image result for Airbnb logo

I come neither to praise nor to bury web-based accommodation service airbnb; this critique is intended to highlight the risks associated with dealing with companies such as this that place (arguably undue) faith in humanity. The other truism is that aspects of this service support the theory that something that seems too good to be true probably is not.

The simple concept of the site is that someone who wishes to rent out space (ranging from a frat house quality sofa in a basement to a mansion) to travelers applies to post their accommodation or accommodations with the aforementioned company. Once the process of gaining membership in the herd of cash cows that provide airbnb revenue is completed, a listing for the offered space at a price of the choosing of the "host" is uploaded for the wary and unwary alike to view.

In turn, airbnb charges the property owner a five-percent fee to graze in the online pasture of that business. The (belatedly discovered) insult that is added to that injury is that the "guest" must pay airbnb an additional fee of roughly 10-percent when paying the full (and non-refundable) cost of booking a stay on the aforementioned beer soaked pile of lumps, the dream home, or something in between those extremes when making that reservation. This is despite airbnb not transferring payment to the host until the day after the check out of the guest. (In other words, neither the person providing the space nor the one using it has use of the money for it in the period between making the reservation and taking the trip.)

The further pound of flesh that the stranger in the strange land must provide comes in the form of a cleaning deposit that is an amount of the choosing of the host.

The other purpose regarding this post is to convey thoughts regarding a real-life version of the sitcom staple of a comically mishap-prone vacation; the annual "trip from Hell' episodes in the '90s series "Designing Women" are a prime example of this theme. It is amusing that the experience described below occurs relatively close to the Atlanta setting of "Women" in a community in which Civil War General George Sherman still is strongly and actively reviled roughly 150 years after his death. "Let it go" indeed.

The initial enthusiasm of your unwary reviewer for booking accommodations through airbnb waned on learning of the terms described above. Believing that the only cost would be the one advertised in the listing, that (like virtually every hotel in the United States) no more than a deposit equal to the cost of a one-night stay would be required, and that we would not be out roughly $800 in the event of one of the many "what ifs" in life turned out to be wishful thinking.

Problems began on said host not responding to inquiries (or even providing the address of the accommodation) roughly six weeks before our scheduled arrival at the condo that he apparently purchased to rent out through the service was the first sign of trouble; this lack of communication continuing until three days before our departure date unduly added to the stress of travelling that the record amounts of snow in the northeast had intensified. When reached, the host asserted that he did not receive communications that we sent via the same means that we booked the stay and that reached him before the aforementioned "radio silence."

Our high-end one bedroom "chic" temporary home turned out to be a mid-level efficiency with an upstairs neighbor who apparently was the aforementioned officer continuing his march across Georgia. We also learned at 12:30 a.m. both that there was a very popular bar that played very loud house music and that bars in this city remained open until 3:00 a.m. Not disclosing this known "nuisance" arguably was a no no by our host.

Further, and despite paying a cleaning fee that would have covered the cost of two "Silkwood showers" of the space, the cleanliness of our quarters left a great deal to be desired. The smiley face that a prior guest drew in steam on the bathroom mirror that still appeared when the bathroom steamed up during our visit and the dirty floor are two of many examples of the lack of housekeeping ahead of our arrival.

We had hoped to get an enhanced sense of privacy and a little more space than a hotel provided (and derived some benefits from our accommodations) but would have been better off opting for a comparably priced B & B that offered guests a large seating area and a tasty full breakfast.

On a happier note, we greatly enjoyed the activities and the restaurants that the city offered. A TV-related highlight was joking about the canine guide on a ghost tour turning invisible ala the titular pup in the '70s cartoon "Goober and the Ghostchasers." Fans of that awesome series know that that would have been ridicidicilous.

The bottom line is that our stay was neither the best of times nor the worst of times but should have been the better of times. It is hoped that sharing why helps others better understand this and prompts them to cautiously proceed with eyes wide open when dealing with airbnb.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding airbandb or the thinly disguised city that we visited is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

'The Hanging Gale' DVD: Fascinating Tale of 1846 Irish Potato Famine

The Hanging Gale DVD
As the recent Unreal TV review of the BFS Entertainment DVD release of "Troubles," which is about the turbulent political climate in 1919 Ireland mentions, the BFS DVD release of the BBC dramatic miniseries  "The Hanging Gale" is a good companion to that set.

The accolades for "Gale" include four BAFTA nominations and Golden FIPA Award wins in the "TV Series and Serials" and "TV Series and Serials: Best Actor" categories.

One of the nicest things about "Gale" from the perspective of an individual who has written 1,000s of reviews is that the the IMDB summary for this mini-series describes it so well that it saves a little time and effort regarding that post. This synopsis states "the four brothers of the Phelan family battle to save their farm and their family from the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine in 1846, and from an English land agent who takes a dislike to them."

"Gale" is notable as well for the McGann brothers (who apparently are the Baldwins of Ireland) playing the Phalen brothers and doing very well in their roles.

"Gales" opens with a dramatic scene in which the McGann boys play a central role regarding events that lead to aforementioned land agent Captain William Townsend moving to their community of Donegal Ireland. This opening segment clearly establishes the intense animosity that the Irish farmers feel regarding the English nobleman who owns their land.

The ensuing events depict the increasing animosity and desperation of the locals and the steadfast determination of Townsend, who makes some efforts to be receptive to the plight of the tenants, to enforce the terms of the leases despite the lack of food to sell or even sustain those farming it. The fallout from this conflict includes the death of at least one major character fairly early in the series.

One Phalen son being a schoolteacher and another being a priest further contributes to the drama.

Said desperation begets brutal violence in the name of justice, drives one brother to essentially become a reluctant barroom brawler for essentially a pittance, and results in two of our heroes becoming guests of the queen.

For his part, Townsend is caught in the crossfire in that he is obliged to carry out the directives of his employer but literally must face the destitute and suffering locals every day. This conflict is especially apparent regarding one abrupt eviction of a leading citizen of the community and a later similar ousting of a troublemaker.

These elements of the film put a human face on the famine and greatly increase the knowledge of the average layman regarding that event. Reading about people starving and facing other intense hardships more than 150 years ago is one thing; seeing skilled actors living through it in a seemingly realistic manner is far different.

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

'In the Land of the Head Hunters' BD: Awesome Classic Silent Film and Native Canadian Hybrid

Product Details
The newly restored Milestone Films Blu-ray version, which hits real and virtual store shelves on February 24 2015, of the 1914 silent film "In the Land of the Head Hunters" nicely demonstrates that the benefits of Blu-ray (and DVD) technology goes far beyond enhancing the effects of multi-million dollar blockbusters.

Acknowledgement of the cultural importance of "Land" includes the decision of the Library Congress to place it in the National Film Registry and the decision of the UCLA Film & Television Archive to actively participate in the restored version. The wonderfully composed music is recreated, and great stills are inserted in places in which the original footage is too damaged to include.

The comprehensive cheat sheet on the back of the two-disc release explains that photographer/filmmaker Edward S. Curtis made "Land" as part of his campaign to preserve Native American (and Canadian) culture. He worked with the Kwakwaka'wakw tribe of British Columbia and includes a plethora of their dances and other rituals and custom in this terrific melodrama that has shades of the Helen of Troy myth.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Land" nicely showcases the exceptional cinematography, perfect musical score, and overall excitement of the film.

The tale starts with Montana, who is the son of the chief of the tribe, going off of a rite of passage that is designed to both make him a man and to prepare him to serve as chief. A side benefit of this quest comes in the form of Montana meeting the beautiful Naida.

The Troy element comes in the form of Montana having an evil romantic rival absconding with Naida, thus requiring a rescue mission that is even more dramatic than the aforementioned test of manhood. Suffice it to say that the action includes silent-era melodrama staples, such as a struggle atop a cliff.

Curtis very artistically and entertainingly includes the aforementioned real-life rituals in the film. These cultural elements extend beyond meaningful dances to include the consumption of an unpleasant substance, paddling canoes, and engaging in other activities of life.

The quality of the filmmaking awesomely makes this documentary style movie as educational and informative as a pure example of that genre while making that story as exciting as the perils that befall Pauline in a better know classic melodrama from the same year as "Land."

The plethora of extras include a 1973 version of the film and several features on topics such as the restoration of "Land" and a "making of" film.

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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

'Enterprise' S4 BD: Series (and Franchise) Ending Episodes On Federation Beginnings

Product Details
These musing regarding the CBS Home Entertainment six-disc Blu-ray release of the 2004-05 fourth and final season of the series "Star Trek: Enterprise" wrap up the "Enterprise" portion of the Year of Trek reviews that Unreal TV is posting. A New Year's Day 2015 post on "Enterprise" S1 is the initial one in this series, and a March 2015 post on the BD release of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" S2 will transition these reviews to that series.

An initially interesting note regarding "Enterprise" is that the 2005-06 television season that follows the one after this show ended is the first season since TNG premiered in 1987 that lacks a new primetime broadcast "Trek" series.

An interesting note regarding the BD set is that feature-film quality sets, effects, and audio in "Enterprise" makes buying these sets in that format a no-brainer. The clarity of the images is astonishing to the extent that you can clearly see every blemish on every actor.

As is the case with the other "Trek" series, the CBS trailer for the BD set of "Enterprise" S4 provides an excellent sense of that season and the truly special bonus features in the set. The following clip of that trailer is courtesy of YouTube.

A highly abbreviated recap of the lore of "Enterprise" is that it depicts the early days of the earth-based (and U.S.-dominated) exploration of the universe in the "Trek" franchise. Series lead Captain Jonathan "Admiral Johnny" Archer, played by "Quantum Leap" veteran Scott Bakula, arguably is the most affable of the five (not counting Pike) captains in the "Trek" TV franchise history.

The S4 season premiere picks up immediately after the events that provide the cliffhanger at the end of S3. (An Unreal TV review of S3 BD recaps that season.) That two-parter pits Archer and his intrepid crew against a formidable human army and the alien allies of that force in a story line that involves the series-long Temporal Cold War plot.

"Enterprise" then shifts gears by  presenting numerous two-part episodes. An early season one has our crew teaming up with Dr. Arik Soong, who will later go onto create android officer Data of TNG, to thwart the evil scheme of the genetically enhanced "augments" (a.k.a. super soldiers) who are an early Soong creation.

The awesome lore (no pun intended Trekkers and Trekkies) that this storyline contributes includes details regarding the massive war that leads to the world unity that is central to "Trek" and the events that ultimately result in the aforementioned creation of Data.

Data portrayor Brent Spiner once again plays Soong. He also states hands-down the funniest line in any "Trek" series. On being called a son of a bitch, Soong calmly states the true nature of his maternal parent.

Several of the other multi-episode arcs revolve around tensions between the humans of Starfleet and their (mostly) allies the Vulcans. These range from efforts of the Vulcan powers-that-be to thwart a rebellious faction of their population to Archer et al getting involved in the long-standing conflict between the Vulcans and the Andorians. One such effort literally puts the titular starship directly in the line of fire.

The impending formation of the EU-style United Federation of Planets that is a core part of the aforementioned other five live-action "Trek" series is an underlying theme in the Vulcan-oriented episodes.

The two-part "In a Mirror, Darkly" episode very cooly brings the world of the original "Trek" series from the '60s to the "Enterprise" world. This homage extends well beyond evil doppelgangers from a parallel universe.

Two stand-alone episodes are notable both for being of especially good quality and for having a strong TNG vibe. One trek that brings the inventor of the "beam me up" transporter technology on board Enterprise involves both deception and a mystery involving a (not necessarily malevolent) being that is wreaking havoc.

The second of this group has an alien race figuratively putting the Enterprise crew under a microscope after affirmatively not warning our heroes about a life-threatening situation.

A story arc that nicely relates to both the OS and the TNG (as well as an earlier story line from "Enterprise" S4) has the warrior Klingon race "soliciting" the help of often affable Enterprise physician Dr. Phlox regarding a serious virus.

The less good news is that the last regular story arc before the uber-terrific series finale is one of the weakest in any "Trek" series. This one has a comical villain with a lair on the moon taking action that directly involves the Enterprise crew in his campaign to isolate earth from any involvement with aliens. This one very sadly is incredibly reminiscent of a low-budget Saturday kiddie matinee flick from the '50s.

The series finale fortunately makes up for all this starting with two very special guest stars (and a voice cameo by a third) from the "Trek" universe. These visitors get wrapped up in events that occur in the days before the planned formal commencement of the Federation.

This finale does a good job with the aforementioned fanboy gift in the form of the guests and in including the humor and addition to lore that mark a good "Enterprise" episode. This offering further is a nice reminder of the good old days in which cancelled shows had a chance to wrap up things, rather than leave more loose ends than a frayed bed sheet.

Similarly, CBS does not drop the ball regarding maintaining the high quality of the special features in the "Trek" BD sets. These include a series of extras on the end of "Enterprise" and the aforementioned demise of the "Trek" TV franchise and a documentary on "Mirror."

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

'Thundercats' CS BD:Back to Thundera and Beyond

Thundercats: The Complete Series (2011-2012)
The Warner Archive 26-episode two-disc complete series Blu-ray release of the 2011-12 Cartoon Network show "Thundercats" is a nice reminder that the scope of Warner reboots extends beyond high-quality additions to Scooby-Doo and DCU super hero franchises. As Gen Xers know, this "He Man" style animated series dates back to the mid  80s.

The terrific enhancement that BD provides regarding the American-style anime in "Thundercats" is one of the first things that requires mention. This format is tailor-made for the bright colors, detailed art work, and epic segments in the episodes.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a (spoiler lite) promo. for "Thundercats" includes the terrific exposition that opens the pilot and adds additional lore that provides a good primer.

This incarnation is a combination of the aforementioned dungeons and dragons style fantasy and "The Lion King" in that dramatic events in the first few episodes prompt relatively young literal heir to the throne Lion-O on an epic quest along the lines of the mission in "The Lord of the Rings." His companions on this trek include his brother Tygra (with whom Lion-O has the usual issues of siblings of any species in their situation), comic relief Snarf, a love interest in the form of a female warrior who can more than keep up with the boys, and a pair of sacherine "kitten" siblings whom even PETA would advocate subjecting to lab experiments.

The path toward achieving the heroic mission around which "Thundercatsts" revolves puts our band in contact with terrifically bizarre creatures. Their first encounter involves a very apt "Moby Dick" themed adventure that involves fish people who stand upright and wear clothing while sailing a ship across a sea made of sand.

The next encounter with odd creatures also provides Lion-O with a life lesson that is relevant to his current circumstances. The trek of his band through a forest brings them in contact with small literally flower people on a mission to return to their own land. Watching Lino-O play big brother to the smallest member of this group is very cute and greatly increases the impact of a poignant moment.

This pattern continues as our intrepid band makes good progress toward thwarting their enemies and otherwise fulfilling their destinies while learning lessons that are relevant in our world.

The good news is that this depth is nicely disguised in exciting well-animated stories that largely revolve a lion-man hybrid wielding an uber-powerful sword.

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'Drunktown's Finest:' The Type of Film for Which Redford Started Sundance

The Indion Entertainment movie "Drunktown's Finest" is a Sundance 2014 film by executive producer Robert Redford that has since hit the festival circuit and is soon coming to an art house theater near you. This run commences with a February 20, 2015 premiere at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

This film is set in the (apparently) fictional community of Dry Lake, New Mexico. The interesting but useless trivia regarding this is that "Dry Lake" is the original title of "Finest."

This beautifully shot low-budget non-studio film shot in the Southwest is a perfect example of the type of film that belongs at Sundance. The fact that "Finest" won a plethora of festival awards in the wake of the Sundance screening validates this observation.

The following mostly spoiler-free) trailer for "Finest" nicely showcases the Sundnaceness of the film.

The titular notables are a trio of Native Americans living in the titular community. The boy in the group is chronic delinquent Luther "Sickboy" Maryboy. His violent instincts, understandable resentments, and presence while his former partners in crime engage in illegal activity are only some obstacles to his impending enlistment in the Army for the purpose of improving his life and those of his younger sister and his live-in girlfriend.

Felixia is a transsexual who engages in the world's oldest profession while aspiring to have a modeling career. Like Sickboy, Felixia is finding her efforts to improve her life very challenging.

Good Christian coed Nizhoni rounds out the group and is the most sympathetic member of the trio. She is the adopted daughter of a white couple that opposes her efforts to learn more about her birth parents. This dynamic regarding the couple wanting to do a charitable act but not achieving an ideal level of compassion makes for great storytelling.

These characters, their setting, and the general approach to the film evokes thoughts of the hilarious 2006 film "Colma: The Musical." This earlier festival darling centers around the disenfranchised 20-somethings of a lower-income suburb of San Francisco. You will find yourself humming as you leave your television room.

The realistically understated manner in which "Finest" depicts the stories of this group provides a significant portion of its appeal. The situations are largely believable, there are no grandly staged confrontations, and there is only the slightest hint of a Hollywood ending.

The genesis of Sundance was to provide a venue for this type of film just as the first Comic-Cons were relatively understated events in which a relatively small number of somewhat disenfranchised few gathered to discuss a generally cult hobby. The inclusion of "Finest" at Sundance and the awesome participation of Adam West at Comic-Con nicely show that both events respect their roots.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

'Kill or Cure' DVD: '60s Sellars Style British Comedy Mystery

Kill or Cure (1962)
Warner Archive travels across the pond to add the wonderfully wry 1962 British comedy mystery film "Kill or Cure" to the awesomely obscure Archive DVD releases that make cinephiles truly manufacture shouts of joy. "Kill" further shows American audiences that its star Terry-Thomas gives fellow '60s British comic god Peter Sellars a run for his money.

Terry-Thomas plays the terrifically arrogant "snaps or snoops" photographer/private investigator J. Barker-Rynde, who would make a spectacular rival of Sellars' Inspector Clouseau of the "Pink Panther" film series. A summons from the wealthy Mrs. Clifford to conduct an investigation at the Green Gables health resort sets our story in motion.

The intake interview that camp employee Rumbelow, whom hilarious co-star Eric Sykes awesomely portrays, of Barker-Rynde is one of the best scenes of the film. Stating that the new arrival is reluctant to provide the requested personal information is an understatement.

The more classic British whodunit element of an unknown murderer slipping a fatal dose of poison in the carrot juice of Mrs. Clifford before Barker-Rynde can reach her sets the stage for Barker-Rynde to fully display his bumbling form of investigation. Subjecting him to freezing water showers, intense physical activity, and other indignities and discomforts as part of the regime at the camp further contributes to the ensuing hilarity.

Other terrific classic elements include the financially dependent nephew of Clifford being a prime subject, the loyal secretary/companion of Clifford incurring harm at the hands of the malfeasor, and blustering Detective Inspector Hooks (whom gifted veteran British character actor Lionel Jeffries has down to a T) lacking a clue in every sense of the word.

Rumbelow initially trailing Barker-Rynde and then collaborating (and greatly hindering) with his investigation is another element regarding the great success of "Kill." This portion of the film evokes thoughts of Gilligan and the skipper investigating their fellow castaways following a crime on their island.

The appeal of "Kill" further includes the mystery being of a caliber that any "Scooby-Doo" fan could solve. Like that highly successful franchise, the fun is in the journey (rather than the destination.)

The drawing room confrontation regarding this movie concludes with the reveal that "Kill" is a perfect melange of the aforementioned "whoduniut," classic comedy, and '60s style British satire.

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

'St. Vincent' DVD/BD/VOD: A Trust Grows in Brooklyn

Product Details
The February 17, 2015 Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company DVD/BD/VOD release of the 2014 Bill Murray/Melissa McCarthy dramedy "St. Vincent" nicely comes a few days after the television celebration of the 40th Anniversary of "Saturday Night Live" (SNL). One can easily imagine a trademark quirky Bill Murray character (or even Peter Venkman of "Ghostbusters") becoming the not-so-lovable grumpy old man Vincent MacKenna whom Murray plays in the film.

Another interesting coincidence is that rumor has it that McCarthy is slated to star in an upcoming female cast version of "Ghostbusters." On a related note, seeing McCarthy offer an under-stated down-to-earth performance in contrast to her typical over-the-top portrayals the past few years is very nice. She is very believable as a recently divorced middle-class working mom who is facing all the challenges that go along with those characteristics.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the theatrical trailer for "Vincent" does a good job laying out the basic plot and providing a sense of the characters.

The very "About a Boy" plot of "Vincent" has McCarthy's Maggie and her awkward 12 year-old son Oliver move in next door to Vincent. Our adult leads predictably clash on first meeting, and Oliver soon needing the aid of Vincent is equally easily anticipated.

The boys steal the show as Vincent increasingly tolerates his new young charge as said lad essentially requests "please Sir; may I have some more." At the same time, Vincent does not undergo a dramatic personality change.

Naomi Watts comes into the picture as pregnant Eastern European prostitute/pole dancer Daka. Although her relationship with Vincent is professional, they develop a father-daughter bond that is very creepy if you think about it even a little.

Cute moments between Vincent and Oliver include a memorable afternoon at the horse track and a car ride scene in which the subversive humor side of Murray breaks through the more indie film dramatic persona that he has developed over roughly the past decade. This contrast is akin to the difference between folks who think of Angela Lansbury as the movie star from her youth and those who remember her much different comeback role in the television series "Murder. She Wrote."

Similar to all this, the portrayal by Chris O'Dowd of a priest who teaches at the Catholic school that Oliver attends is far different than O'Dowd's hilarious performance on the Britcom "The IT Crowd." However, like Murray, O'Dowd briefly returns to his roots in a scene that involves a classroom discussion of the religious beliefs of his students.

The manner in which Vincent and Oliver influence the other and in which the latter better understands the reasons for the former not being the type of grandpa who tells jokes and regularly takes you for ice cream is nicely spread out over several weeks. Further, there is no grand Hollywood-style epiphany that changes everything with the exception of a medical emergency that arguably is introduced as a catalyst.

The title of the film refers to a not-so-predictable class assignment with a highly predictable outcome. This task requires that the students select someone whom they believe possess the qualities of a saint and write an essay that supports that conclusion. The extent to which Oliver shows that Vincent qualifies for this honor is a nice surprise that shows that people really do not know the curmudgeon next door.

On a larger level, "Vincent" offers a semi-realistic view of the dystopia that is a fact of modern life. No one is happy or thriving and most personal interaction is adversarial, but the few people who offer each other mutual support help each other contend with these challenges.

The special features include a segment on Murray and a separate extra with deleted scenes from the film.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

'Star Trek: Enterprise' S3 BD: The Year We Learn the Truth Out There

Product Details
These thoughts on the CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray release of the 2003-04 third season of "Star Trek: Enterprise" is the latest post in the "Year of Trek" series that Unreal TV is running in 2015. A review of the BD release of "Enterprise" S2 is the most recent entry in this labor of love.

"Enterprise" is notable for being the last of the five (must remember the '70s animated entry) "Trek" television series yet being a prequel one set roughly 100 years before the original "voyages of the starship Enterprise."

Following the "Year of Trek" tradition that the New Year's Day review of "Enterprise" S1 BD established, the video clip (once again courtesy of CBS and YouTube) for this post is of the trailer for reviewed BD release. Once again, CBS provides an excellent spoiler-free glimpse of the season and the wonderful look of the show in BD.

S3 of "Enterprise" is notable for being a highly ambitious 24-episode long story arc resolution of the S2 cliffhanger. These episodes entirely abandon the original mission to boldly "seek out new life and new civilizations" to achieve the virtually impossible task of thwarting the plan of new enemy Xindi to blast earth (and its inhabitants) into trillions of tiny pieces. The ambitious scope of this storyline includes tying into the element of the temporal cold war in the "Enterprise" pilot (no pun intended.)

This search-and-destroy mission requiring that Captain Jonathan (a.k.a. Admiral Johnny) Archer, played by "Quantum Leap" veteran Scott Bakula, take the titular relatively unsophisticated starship into the uncharted region of space known as the Delphic Expanse is part of what makes their effort to save humanity very difficult. The intensely adverse effects of the spacial anomalies in this outer space equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle on any vessel that travels into it severely threatens the physical integrity of these crafts and their inhabitants with a corresponding toll on the mental states of the latter.

The efforts of the Enterprise crew to counteract the impact of the anomalies, to better understand the cause of those hazards, and ultimately to eradicate them add terrific drama to these episodes and interesting entries into "Trek" lore. The special effects in the scenes in which this aspect of the S3 episodes is resolved is both of feature-film quality and tailor-made for Blu-ray.

The related efforts to locate the Xindi and prevent them from carrying out Phase 2 of their campaign against earth thrust our heroes into a series of adventures that are bizarre even from the "Trek" perspective. One of these has Archer and other crew members transforming into members of an alien species, and another forces Archer to become the villain of the story a manner in which he reluctantly abandons virtually of his personal principles and the values of his governing entity Starfleet.

The same apparent acknowledgement of Trekkers and Trekkies alike enjoying time-travel stories that is behind the temporal cold war storyline is reflected in a handful of S3 episodes. The most notable of this sub-genre has Archer and his crew meeting another "Enterprise" crew to whom they are closely related on a few levels. Another episode sends Archer and Vulcan science officer T'Pol (think love child of "Trek" favorites  Spock and Seven of Nine)  to 21st century Detroit to thwart a Xindi  plot that is designed to thwart the Enterprise plot to thwart the plot of the Xindi in the present from the perspective of the Enterprise crew.

The time travel fun continues with Archer and T'Pol living 12 years in the future, and Archer repeatedly being flung about in time throughout the season in a manner that likely prompts Bakula to reminisce about his "Leap" days.  This theme continues right through the S3 cliffhanger that (the soon-to-be-reviewed) S4 takes two episodes to resolve.

"Enterprise" further continues borrowing from fellow sci-fi franchise "Doctor Who" in having communications officer Hoshi Sato become the companion of a quirky alien; one difference between this pairing and those in "Who" is that the level of willingness on the part of the sidekick is much lower in the former than in the latter.

The final batch of episodes that correspondingly ratchet up the tension and the urgency regarding the Xindi plan make an especially good mini-series style group that screams for an uninterrupted five-hour home-video BD release. The twists regarding the internal politics of the Xindi societies, the shifting fortunes of those integral to the latest developments, and the increasing desperation of the force behind the impending attack on our planet is some of the best ever "Trek" content. A surprising reappearance of an old frienemy during this period is even more awesome than said fellow space traveler showing up with mixed motives earlier in the season.

The batch of exceptional extras this time around include special features on the temporal cold war and the related Xindi saga. We also get a profile of dreamy Connor Trinneer, who plays chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker; this spotlight is highly apt in a season in which we learn a great deal about the Trip literally from his birth to his present, he struggles to cope with personal loss, and he begins a relationship that is so unlikely that it is predictable.

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


Friday, February 13, 2015

'Troubles' DVD: 'Hotel New Hampshire' Slant on Personal Stories of 1919 Irish Strife

Troubles DVD
Purveyor of fine British video fare on this side of the pond BFS Entertainment continues demonstrating the wide range of its catalog in releasing the 1988 two-part miniseries "Troubles" based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by J.G. Farrell.

Pairing this release about the 1919 conflict between Ireland and its sovereign with a DVD release of the potato famine themed mini-series "The Hanging Gale" is one of countless examples of the awesomeness of BFS. (Unreal TV will review "Gale" in late February 2015.)

"Troubles" nicely uses recently retired Great War veteran Major Brendan Archer as the catalyst for telling the story of highly eccentric Irish British loyalist Edward Spencer and the residents of the once-grand Majestic Hotel that Spencer owns and operates. The individual performances of Ian Charleston of "Chariots of Fire" as Archer and British acting royalty Sir Ian Richardson as Edward and the on-screen chemistry between this pair alone make "Troubles" "must-see" British TV.

Archer initially comes to the (not-so) Majestic Hotel at the invitation of his fiancee Angela, who is the daughter of Edward.  Edward soon learns that, ala the classic John Irving novel "The Hotel New Hampshire," the Cary Grant quote "insanity doesn't run in my family, it gallops" applies regarding the family that he is poised to join.

Only son Ripon Spencer is a care-free type who is not shy about sharing his opinions. Twin daughters Charity and Faith are quasi-wild children who evoke slight memories of their counterparts in the horror classic "The Shining."

Equally eccentric local Catholic girl Sarah Devlin contributes to both the drama and the humor in "Troubles." She additionally stirs up turmoil of a more personal nature than national politics.

The shabbiness of the "majestic" accommodations, the deplorable service, and the pride of primarily domesticated cats roaming all over are additional notable elements of "Troubles." The vibe of the classic Britcom "Waiting for God" that the elderly residents of the hotel bring to the mix is icing on the cake.

Like many mini-series from both sides of the pond, "Troubles" takes its time during the first half of the program establishing the characters and their stories. The Catholics v. Protestants conflict and the character-driven drama in "Troubles" then develops a faster pace in the second half and culminates in a climax that is as good (if not better) than many American mini-series from the '70s and '80s Golden Age of that genre,

Highlights from the second part include an attempt at a grand ball that becomes a party gone out of bounds. Charity and Faith overindulging in champagne and another character experimenting with cross-dressing are only a couple of factors that make the event one that no one will forget as much as he or she wishes that that was possible.

For his part, Edward becomes increasingly upset with the discontent of his Catholic neighbors to the point that he engages in manic behavior that both makes him a primary target of that group and that results in an arguably unnecessarily fatal confrontation.

On a larger level, Richardson expertly conveys the emotions associated with having everything you value deteriorate around you. Any fan of "Downton Abbey" knows that Edward is not alone regarding this in the aftermath of the Great War.

The epilogue regarding these thoughts is that "Troubles" hides the "pill" of an important history lesson in a really delectable treat.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Seinfeld" Complete Series Set Perfect Gift for Your Special Sofa Spud

59% Off "Seinfeld...

 [Editor's Note: A hilarious coincidence regarding this revised version of a last-minute February 5, 2014 post that a combination of Valentine's Day approaching and a one-day sale of the "Seinfeld" CS DVD set inspired is that I prepared it on Friday February 6, 2015 and saw two days later that the CS set is a Deal of the Week from the same ginormous Seattle-based retailer that shall remain shameless that put the set on sale a year ago.]
The complete series DVD set of "Seinfeld" being the best TV on DVD set to give your Honey Boo Boo for Valentine's Day is an apt topic in this period in which the thoughts of  (not-so) young TV on DVD reviewers with significant others turn to love and to a short break from watching sets for reviews. Another awesome pop culture relic from the same era as that classic sitcom provides the root inspiration for this honor.

Arguably the most insightful offering from the mega-ultra-uber-awesome "Calvin and Hobbes"comic strip has rambunctious and wonderfully rude and creative six-year-old boy Calvin musing about love. His conclusion is that finding someone who tolerates you and whom you in turn can stomach is rare and glorious. It is a special bonus when you can revel in the same free-spirited silliness as Calvin and his beloved pet tiger Hobbes.

This philosophy of Calvin is particularly apt when love finds you both in your mid-30s or later and when years of mostly being on your own have largely allowed living your life without making many accommodations for others. Someone coming along who makes you want to compromise is a rare and wonderful treat but can also lead to the hilarity that Jerry Seinfeld and his friends portray so well.

The element of neuroses regarding interpreting what may or may not be signals also fall firmly in the category of "its funny because its true." A related element is the perceived significance of a relatively insignificant event.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the classic "shrinkage" scene from "Seinfeld" nicely illustrates the relatable humor of the series. Male pride requires sharing that this particular concern is not a personal issue.

One "ripped from 'Seinfeld'" experience from several years ago involves resorting to expressing a pro-Palestinian view to break up with a constantly aggressively "frissky" devout Jew with an equally strong refusal to break up.

Another relationship prompted coining the "Seinfeldesque" expression "chain dater." This referred to soon learning of the long and consistent history of a (not-so) significant other starting one relationship before ending a current one.

Another Seinfeldian break-up this time related to a significant other asserting that an overnight trip 100 miles away a month into the relationship was a "vacation" that signified too strong of a commitment. A stated dislike for '60s sitcom "Green Acres" not providing the pretext for the split was some solace.

More recently, and even more closely related to "Seinfeld" lore, the great Twinkie outage of 2012 related to whether if anyone who came around during those seven months was "sponge-cake worthy" regarding a frozen stash of those treats. That decision was never necessary, but my current significant other is even Suzie Q worthy.

"Seinfeld" moments regarding said special someone began with dropping a toothbrush on the bathroom floor very early in the relationship prompting a nanosecond debate about running it under hot water for several minutes and putting it back. Unlike "Seinfeld," this ended with replacing that toothbrush with a new one.

Another "Seinfeld" moment had one of us (whom it is is not important) causing us to miss a turn on a vacation due to using IMDb to find the name of a "Dynasty" character. This missed turn led to a long alternate route through some of the most boring terrain known to man.

Happier "Seinfeld" moments include discussions regarding the inanity of '70s pop song lyrics. Wishing well are not particularly prone to hauntings; the boredom of a long ride through the desert would prompt naming your horse; no woman in her right mind would want to date even a "treetop lover" who is badder than old King Kong and meaner than a junkyard dog, and a shared love of pina coladas and a corresponding dislike of yoga does not provide any more of a strong relationship than recalling that you "kinda like" "Breakfast at Tiffany's." (Yeah, the last one is from the '90s but is too annoying and has too horrible a video to omit.)

The following clip. courtesy of YouTube, allows embracing said torment.

Fortunately, mutual affection for each other and for "Seinfeld" and many other shows has allowed both for approaching a personal record of a nearly three-year relationship and disregarding the "Seinefeldesque" debate regarding the whiny Brady kids and the "The Partridge Family" with the dreamy David Cassidy and randy Shirley Jones. (The "Silver Spoons" vs. "Gimme A Break" dispute is another matter; agreement does exist regarding hoping to find we're two of a kind hoping to find the kind of love you just can't buy.)

One update is "Hot in Cleveland" has become so intolerable to your reviewer that that show is now banned. We additionally are awaiting to see the accuracy of a prediction that the series finale will reveal that the entire show is a dream; theory B is that it will turn out to be a novel by Valerie Bertinelli Van Halen.

Anyone seeking other DVD Valentine's suggestions or with questions or comments regarding "Seinfeld" or any of the nonsense related to this diversion into "blogland" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'Batman' '66 S2 P1 DVD: Most Influential Series of mid-60s

Product Details
The 30-episode 4-disc Warner Bros. Home Entertainment DVD set of "Batman" '66, which is available on actual and virtual store shelves beginning February 10 2015, is a highly anticipated release that greatly exceeds expectations. As an aside, it makes an awesome Valentine's Day gift for male couples regardless of whether they claim to simply be good friends or are true partners.

The awesomeness of this set, which fanboys on a a budget have been waiting for since the July 2104 announcement of releases of DVD and Blu-ray '66 sets, begins with the quality remastering of the episodes. The bright images are very clear, and the sound is very crisp. It seems further that the versions are the original broadcast, rather than edited for syndication, versions.

The bonus related to those of us who either watched the original broadcasts in the '60s or the after-school reruns in the '70s as children is that we recognize and appreciate the terrific humor and '60sness of the series as adults.  Having Dick Clark Phyllis Diller, and Sammy Davis, Jr. make cameos in the first few episodes of the set are prime examples of this.

Another early season cameo has Batman and Robin exchanging hilariously catty remarks with fellow television crime fighters the Green Hornet and Kato.

For the uninitiated, a typical "Batman" story arc starts with the outrageously campy villain of the week beginning his or her crime spree in a pre-opening credits segment. Said nefarious activity prompts our caped crusader (but hardly Dark Knight) and his boy wonder (but hardly Night Wing) sidekick into action.

We then are treated to the uber-awesome pop art opening credits. The next scene has our boys racing into action. This ultimately leads to said villain placing our heroes in the terrifically sadistic peril that provides the cliffhanger for the second part of the episode. Even casual fans know that that episode will air the next day at the same bat time on the same bat channel.

The pre-opening credits of part two has wonderfully clever and well delivered narration that recaps the first episode and that ends with the aforementioned peril. One spoiler is that the post-opening credits scene shows a great escape (often with the aid of a bat device) and an ensuing pursuit (and hilarity) of the nefarious malfeasor.

Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" starts the season off well with his depiction of "The Archer," who is an awesome hybrid of Robin Hood and the incarnation of Green Arrow in the current CW prime-time series "Arrow." Carney uses his traditional and weaponized arrows to initially rob from the rich and give to the poor.

This time it is personal in that The Archer is planning to steal a small fortune that Batman alter-ego millionaire Bruce Wayne is donating to charity in conjunction with his own form of income redistribution. Another cool aspect of this offering is the variation on the pop art animation for which '66 is famous during a fight between the dynamic duo and the henchmen of The Archer.

Fan fave Julie Newmar shows up in the second story arc as fan fave Catwoman in an offering that has her running a cat burglary school as part of a scheme to pull off a larger heist. Watching her flirt with a responsive Batman adds to the fun in the this one.

As an aside, Newmar makes a fun cameo in a later episode that is not set in psychiatric facility Arkham but effectively has the inmates running the asylum.

A later episode has screen legend Van Johnson play The Minstrel; the currently relevant scheme this time relates to manipulating the stock market.

A story arc that has a delusional Yale Egyptology professor who thinks that he is King Tut trying to revive ancient Egyptian scarabs trapped in amber has wonderful shades of "Jurassic Park." The exceptional level of wholesome hokeyness and comically fake crocodiles in this one further contribute to the fun.

The set ends with another wonderful Catwoman episode in which she targets real-life British rockers Chad and Jeremy. This is just as much fun as evil cousin Serena messing with singers Boyce and Hart on "Bewitched" during the same era.

On a larger level, watching just about every sitcom and other light television fare from the mid-60s clearly shows the influence of the mod look and campy style of "Batman." This is particularly apparent regarding the awesome action-adventure Stefanie Powers series "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."

The epilogue regarding this discussion of arguably one of the most entertaining shows of all times is that no show depicts its era any better and that no Batman captures the true spirit of that character as wall as series star Adam West.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

'That's Not Funny' Documentary: Study of Societal Shift From F**k 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke to F**ked If You Tell 'Em a Joke

The awesome recent award-winning documentary "That's Not Funny" by charming and highly knowledgeable die-hard comedy fan Mike Celestino is the perfect film for those of us who remember when people reasonably reacted to humor based on properly understanding the context of jokes. Simply using "blue" language in a controversial manner or mining humor from a subject that is very personal to some was inadequate to make you Public Enemy Number One in those good old days.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, expertly conveys the theme of "Funny" and provides a sense of the astonishing plethora of hilarious clips of comedy bits in the film.

The fact that your (occasionally) humble reviewer feels compelled to use asterisks regarding a word that every reader f**king well knows that he is using in the subheading of this post nicely illustrates the point of Celsetino in the film that he expertly narrates, writes, and directs and that he aptly describes as "a dead serious documentary about comedy."

As shown below, an even more relevant prediction from someone other than Celestino during the mid-90s is that the efforts in that era to unduly regulate Internet content included speculating that online references to a classic '60s sitcom would be to "The D**k Van D**e Show." This further illustrates the view of Celestino regarding the importance of understanding context.

Celestino nicely covers this form of undue censorship both with an overview of the uproar regarding the must-see Geoge Carlin "seven words you can't say on television" routine and the modern trend of using the term the "n word" in lieu of the word to which it refers.

The discussion of the former includes a clip of a wonderful early SNL skit from the good old days in which an interviewer whom Chevy Chase plays increasingly angers an interviewee whom Richard Pryor plays by using increasingly offensive racial terms.

A personal interest in "Funny" also extends to the sense of humor of your reviewer. One relevant example is stating on talking to friend within MINUTES of learning of the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria that a Nigerian prince had just emailed an offer to repay me with interest if I sent him money to pay the kidnappers ransom. I then added "too soon?" in making this joke.

My friend, who laughed and awesomely replied "its never too soon" understood one of the main points in "Funny;" humor must be understood in the context of the intent of the joke. It was clear in this case that the humor related to the flood of scam emails allegedly from African royalty, rather than the abduction of girls.

This example further demonstrates another well-presented point of Celestino; one must understand the REASONABLE sensitivities of the audience. I would not have told the joke to a friend or relative of a current or past captured girl.

Celestino starts this well-organized analysis of how comedy has reached the stage that folks with unduly sensitive natures regarding some topics are ruining it for the rest of us with a discussion of vaudeville and early films. This segment awesomely includes a hilarious skit from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in which the titular star performs a bit in which he derives huge laughs from repeatedly injuring himself while presenting a lecture that praises modern audiences for evolving to the point of not laughing at the physical pain of others. Oh, Rob!

A portion of the extensive look at the broad range of humor directed at Adolph Hitler that is designed to make that record-breaking mass-murdering maniac (of course, that is just one opinion) seem less menacing illustrates that aspect of the power of laughter. (Celestino earns extra points for knowing of the one-episode Britcom "Heil Honey; I'm Home" that did not go further for obvious reasons. The annoying Jewish neighbors are heilarious.)

The personal note this time relates to making jokes in the wake of watching a documentary on Hitler relatives in the United States. One example of this is a wife in New Jersey telling an irate man who wants to call the Hitlers down the street after their dog poops in his yard that he must let it go.

A more "ripped from the headlines" topic in "Funny" is the deadly violent manner in which some Muslims react to someone merely depicting Muhammad in even a non-offensive manner. This "chapter" in the film focuses on the "South Park" treatment of this subject several years ago and includes the hilarious manner in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone ultimately end the story arc.

The scope of "Funny" also includes specific high-profile scandals related to comedians such as Michael Richards and Daniel Tosh who find themselves the subject of public scorn.

The most satisfying clip has the late great Joan Rivers expressing justifiable indignation in response to a heckler. Her stating that the offensive joke is funny and that an assumption of the audience member is inaccurate makes one watching "Funny" want to stand up and cheer.

Celestino ends all of this with a wonderful sitcom-style "this is what we learned" statement that is truly insightful and not at all sappy. One can only hope that this can lead to being able to joke about reporting a burned out light bulb in a Warsaw hotel to see how many people come to replace it without ultimately having to apologize for that remark.

The special features include interviews with Greg Proops and other notable comedians on the topics in "Funny." The following clip, again courtesy of YouTube, of an alternate trailer for the film is full of terrific segments from these discussions.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Funny" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. The message to offended readers who drop this site based on my humor is that I am sincerely sorry that I unintentionally offended you but do not apologize for what I wrote. I (and many others) consider it amusing and (presumably like Celestino) understand the intent and context regarding it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

'The Story of London' DVD: Everything You Wanted to Know About the UK Capital but Didn't Know to Ask

The Story of London DVD

Awesome source for British video fare BFS Entertainment gives anglophiles and European history students alike a great gift in the 3-disc 6-episode DVD release of the beautifully filmed documentary series "The Story of London." The scope of the show spanning from several hundred years ago to the present makes the tag line "a modern city with a remarkable past" very apt.

Host Robin Bextor presents a tremendous amount of information in this series; the stories about seemingly every notable member of every royal family in the history of England alone provides enough material for an effort of this type.

The series starts off well with a fascinating look at the London Underground almost literally from the Victorian era digging the first shovelful of dirt to build this system to the vastly different Underground of today.

The many interesting facts that Bextor shares in this episode include a Titanic-like ticket system during the early days of the Underground. These levels are First Class, Second Class, and steerage.

Other tidbits include the influence of the Underground on the fabled British music scene of the '60s, the origins of the ubiquitous modern logo, and the histories of many individuals with prominent roles in building, expanding, and updating this vital service.

The next episode is on the River Thames; the portion of this episode on relevant architecture extends beyond a detailed discussion of building the London Bridge and associated problems to the history of Cleopatra's Needle and other notable landmarks.

An episode titled "Parks" does justice to the beauty and history of the titular open-air spaces but adds the bonus of centuries of gossip related to the royal residences that abut these genuine urban Edens. Much of this consists of ribald tales regarding not-so-happy marriages that also are less convenient than desired.

Examples of regal gossip include the royal whose debts prompt marrying a woman with a large dowry; the mistress who is a high-level member of the royal household, and the even more bizarre tale of the wife who makes Lady MacBeth seem like Marilyn Quayle.

"London" wraps up with "Royal London." This one starts with a segment on Westminster and goes onto discuss the commerce and political structure of England. Highlights include discussions on forming the Bank of London, literally uncovered evidence regarding the age of the building from which that institution operates, and the palatial home of the London mayor that makes Gracie Mansion look like a suburban split-level.

This awesomeness of this extensive labor of love goes beyond providing an opportunity to seem very smart to create a powerful urge to hop on the next flight to Heathrow. On a related note, this set should be compulsory viewing for anyone making that journey.

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

'Longmire' S3 'Dating Game' Inspired DVD Giveaway; Review of S1 and S2

Product Details
The trifecta regarding the Warmer Bros. Home Entertainment March 3 2015 DVD release (which Unreal TV will review) of the third and final season of "Longmire," Valentine's Day being around the corner, and the release of the "50 Shades of Grey" film inspires this racy giveaway contest. The reprint of the Unreal TV review of the Blu-ray release of "Longmire" S1 and S2 that follows the contest description provides a primer on the show and a "previously on 'Longmire'" recap to help prepare for the S3 release.

The aforementioned timing regarding the new "Longmire" release screams for an homage to the classic reality show "The Dating Game." The concept of this series is that three bachelors or bachelorettes whom the audience (but not the object of the affection of the contestants) can see answer questions with the objective of said object selecting them for a chaperoned date.

The variation on this game for our purposes is that anyone who would like a free copy of the S3 DVD release is asked to add a PG-13 comment to this post that describes what crime that he or she would commit to get Sheriff Longmire or Deputy Victoria "Vic" Moretti, played by Katee "Starbuck" Sackoff tpo lock up him or her and make said inmate his or her prisoner of love.

Please keep in mind that Unreal TV is an open-minded site and invites boys to express an interest in a jailhouse romance with Longmire and girls to show their love for Moretti. We just ask that any response from anyone not make us or your fellow readers, who will determine the winner of the giveaway set through their own comments, blush. Please also include your email address in the text of your entry to facilitate Unreal TV contacting the winner.

Contestants are asked to please submit their entries by 11:59 p.m. ET February 11, 2015. Voters are asked to submit their comments by 11:59 p.m. ET February 12, 2105. Unreal TV will announce the winner on this site and via @tvdvdguy on Twitter on Valentine's Day.

As mentioned above, the following is a repost of a review of the "Longmire" S1-S2 BD release.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the first and second season of the intriguing A&E police mystery series "Longmire" nicely coincides with the broadcast premiere of the third season of this series several weeks ago. The extenuating circumstances regarding the criminally negligent delay in posting this review include wanting to watch every 23 45-minute episode in the set before sharing thoughts on the program.

Another nice bit of timing regarding this release  is that it comes a few weeks ahead of the Archive double-feature DVD release of the Unreal TV reviewed '30 Arsene Lupin noir comedies. "Longmire" is based on the Walt Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson, and the older films are based on the Lupin novels by Maurice Leblanc.

The genuinely panoramic opening scene in the pilot episode of the series about rural Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire removes any doubt regarding whether buying the series in blu-ray is worth the money. Imaging any more beautiful scenery or clearer depiction of it is difficult.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an A&E promo. provides a tasty sample of the "Longmire" themes discussed below. The overall idea is that even Andy Taylor would need to deal with organized crime families if he was sheriff of Mayberry these days.

The initial offering is typical of the remaining ones from the first and second seasons in that it has someone who discovers a body calling in Longmire and his team to investigate. This extraordinary incidence of killings makes one wonder about how the murder rate can be so high in such an isolated  area.

The murder this time may relate to a mobile prostitution organization that features young native American girls from the local reservation; this aspect of the story provides a means to introduce the element of the regular theme of the adversarial nature of the relationship between Longmire and the head of the police force for the reservation.

Numerous other episodes that depict that animosity specifically and also often include the mutual general prejudice between folks whose ancestors were born in this country and those whose recorded roots begin in Europe address topics that range from white families adopting supposedly mistreated native American children, to race possibly playing a role in both the trial of white teens charged with raping a native American girl and a subsequent private campaign for justice, to manipulations by a tribal council regarding the distribution of casino profits.

More general rural-themed crimes include ones in which an illegal rodeo, fracking, and a medicinal supplement that has Elk innards as an active ingredient are factors.

Plots that relate to big city problems invading rural Wyoming include a murder of an exotic dancer, an investigation that uncovers the existence of a cult, and a gang that illegally sells prescription painkillers.

All of this shows that the titular sheriff must contend with the worst of all worlds in performing his law-enforcement duties. On top of this, the fall-out from the death of his wife makes things difficult.

Deputy Branch Connally is focusing on the impact of that loss (and the general reluctance of Longmire to embrace cell phones and other 21st century technology) in his bid to oust his boss as sheriff. On top of that, the circumstances regarding the death of Mrs. Longmire come back to haunt Walt throughout both seasons.

Truly international actor Robert Taylor does a nice job portraying the quiet and private nature of the titular hero; he truly seems like a 19th century lawman who is slowly but surely adapting to life in the 2010s.

The supporting cast is a fanboy dream come true. Sackhoff of "Battlestar Galactica" plays favored (transported from the big city) deputy Moretti as a less intense and aggressive (but just as vulnerable near the surface) version of Starbuck.

The scifi cred of Lou Diamond "La Bomba" Phillips relates to his starring role in "SGU Stargate Universe." His Henry Standing Bear in "Longmire" has him being a very stoic best friend/adviser/tracker to childhood friend Longmire.

Seeing Henry get embarrassed when a girlfriend calls a tapped line at his bar is one of the best scenes in the first two "Longmire" seasons. A related joke "at least we know that the equipment works" is indisputably the funniest line in these episodes.

The scifi theme continues with casting Cassidy Freeman of "Smallville" as Walt's daughter Cady; like the hard-nosed Tess, Cady getting a sense that her father is withholding information regarding the death of her mother prompts an investigation that costs her a great deal and contributes to the second-season cliffhanger.

The conclusion regarding all this crime and general drama is that the twist of throwing a troubled old school Wyoming sheriff into the filthy world that we all inhabit makes for highly entertaining television that should have everyone rushing to buy the S1 and S2 BD set and counting down the days until the release of S3.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Longmire is encouraged to use 21st century technology to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

'The RKO Brown and Carney Comedy Collection' DVD: RKO Version of Abbott and Costello

RKO Brown & Carney Collection
The two-disc four-film DVD set "The RKO Brown & Carney Comedy Collection" is one of the latest groups of the seemingly endless supply of under-appreciated cinema rarities from Warner Archive. The notable aspects of these movies pairing a highly vaudevillecentric team include their obvious similarities to the better-known Abbott and Costello.

Taller and thinner Wally Brown is the fast-talking slightly more intelligent Abbott to the shorter, heavier, and more anxious Costello-like Alan Carney. They respectively play Jerry Miles and Mike Strager in these four '40s era films.

The 1942 "Buck Privates" style "The Adventures of a Rookie" is the first film pairing of Brown and Carney and the first offering in the Archive set. This one has professional performer Miles and truck driver Strager become friends on getting drafted.

The vaudeville aspect of "Adventures" becomes very apparent in a scene in which Strager tries to explain the nature of an Army aptitude test question regarding A and B separately traveling from Chicago. Sharing that Starger asks Miles "A what" illustrates the "Who's On First" vibe of this scene.

One great example of '40s style military humor in "Adventures" has our boys regularly running afoul of a no-nonsense career man. Another example of this wit involves Miles and Strager responding to a request for volunteers with a show business background only to find themselves assigned to peel a mountain of potatoes.

The trouble that these boys encounter during their first days in the service include getting quarantined in a woman's boarding house during their first six-hour leave and later getting separated from their platoon.

The 1943 sequel "Rookies in Burma" is more a Hope-Crosby "Road" film than an Abbott and Costello comic adventure. This one has Miles and Strager stationed overseas only to quickly end up in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. Their efforts to escape and then rejoin their unit require the same style of fast-talking and Bugs Bunny inspired quick costume changes as Hope and Crosby employ in their joint films.

The historic elements of "Burma"  include horribly racist depictions of Japanese people that were very acceptable in the 40s. One spoiler is that these impersonations include slanted eyes and comically bucked teeth.

Brown and Carney keep the names of Miles and Strager for "Girl Rush," but transport those characters (who are not the performer and the truck driver of the "Rookie" films) to the 19th century California gold rush. This adventure has our boys heading an all-girl revue whom they agree (without the knowledge of their troupe) to transport the group to an all-male mining community to directly provide entertainment and indirectly to increase the odds of the miners finding wives.

The entertainingly predictable elements in this one include Strager mixing up drinks that they boys have drugged and our boys having to dress in drag only to catch the eye of the men who are out gunning for them.

The general theme of "Rush" is similar to the concept of the '60s dramedy "Here Come the Brides" starring dreamy Bobby Sherman.

The collection returns the boys more fully to their vaudeville roots with "Genius at Work." This one has Miles and Strager as radio detectives whom a criminal mastermind first manipulates and then must try to prevent from figuring out his true nature. Classic Dracula Bela Lugosi hamming it up as the especially evil sidekick of the wrongdoer contributes a great deal to the entertainment in this one.

The fact that vaudeville died decades ago provides a good reason for adding "Collection" to yours. These variations on classic gags are a great time capsule of a part of American culture that is increasingly difficult to find.

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

Tuesday, February 3, 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.