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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EXCLUSIVE Matt Damon & Ben Affleck Helm Boston-based Sitcom

A once-in-a-lifetime chance meeting this weekend presented this little site that generally can a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to scoop the big boys. Your (sometimes humble) reviewer and his oft-mentioned highly significant other were eating at the Newburyport, MA restaurant The Black Cow when we saw Matt Damon, his aunt (who lives in Newburyport), and other local members of the Damon family a few tables away.

Damon smiling and being done eating when I looked over prompted me to approach. The lack of any Jason Bourne style attack on reaching the table provided further encouragement to speak with Damon after several other Damons verified that the intrusion was alright.

The conversation  quickly turned to "Unreal TV" and the related campaign of this site to promote classic and neo-classic "escapist" sitcoms. Damon turning his smile up to the full wattage that we all know and love signaled that I had hit a nerve.

After pulling up a chair for me to sit next to him, Damon lowered his voice and shared previously undisclosed news of a joint project on which he and Ben Affleck were putting the finishing touches. He went on to state that he and Affleck discussed the same issues regarding the lack of good solid sitcoms over the Christmas holidays and developed a sitcom for which they subsequently dashed off  three scripts.

Damon next shared that NBC was at the beginning stage of casting the pilot and that the network had been keeping things quiet at this stage because of the recent run of failures regarding other high-profile sitcoms at that network. The aforementioned smile returned when Damon shared that even his paycheck for his cameo in Affleck's "Jersey Girls" earned him more than he was getting for the new sitcom but that it was a true labor of love.

The show is titled "Good Sports," but is not a remake of the 1991 Ryan O'Neal/Farrah Fawcett failedcom of the same name. It revolves around two high school buddies who are now in their mid-40s and co-own the struggling Good Sports sports memorabilia shop in South Boston. Damon promises that the show is full of Boston stereotypes but does not make them caricatures. Damon is mum regarding whether there are any references, ala "Good Will Hunting," to a character using a collectible baseball glove as a masturbatory aid.

Tidbits regarding the pilot include that former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein guest stars as himself and that a handful of jokes regarding Epstein being very young when he got that job are directed at Damon and Affleck. Epstein comes into the shop looking for change for a parking meter only to have our leads, named Patrick O'Casey and Frank Angelo, sell the sunglasses that Epstein leaves behind. Hilarity ensues when Epstein returns for the glasses, which he reveals belong to an undisclosed individual whom Red Sox nation despises.

The final spoiler regarding the "Good Sports" pilot and series is that this entire post is an early April Fool's Day joke. Travels in the Boston area never include Damon sightings, and it is highly unlikely that the Boston bromancers will ever develop a sitcom.

Anyone with thoughts or comments on this post is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

'Wolfy, the Incredible Secret' DVD: Awesome English-Language Version of Hilarious Animated French Film

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The recent Random Media DVD release of the 2013 English-language version of "Wolfy, the Incredible Secret" (nee LouLou, 'l'incroyable secret) is the rare children's movie that adults will love on the first two viewings, enjoy the next three, and tolerate the following twenty.

Accolades for this hilarious and well-drawn animated film include receiving the award for Best Animated Film at the 2014 Cesar Awards. The American theatrical run of "Wolfy" began at the recent New York International Children's Film Festival.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Wolfy" terrifically showcases the artful animation, fun humor, and intrigue of the film.

The titular canine is a highly civilized and soft-spoken member of a forest community in which members of that generally predatory species peacefully co-exist with the local rabbit population. In fact, Tom the rabbit shares a lifelong "The Fox and the Hound" style friendship with our hero.

This very cute and equally entertaining romp is based on the "LouLou" series of French children's books.

The events that lead to a testing of that friendship begins with an encounter in which Wolfy receives news of his long-estranged mother. This segment includes a hilarious bit of slapstick involving Tom.

Our friends then hop in a spiffy red roadster to drive to Wolfy's homeland of Wolfenberg in search of the aforementioned maternal figure. Getting lodging in the face of prejudice related to Wolfy being a nudist and Tom being a "no fang" turns out to be the least of their problems.

Tom faces further problems regarding his arrival coinciding with a gathering of predators of several species for an event that is a genuine blood sport. Whether this character avoids getting a hare out of place drives a significant portion of the action.

Meanwhile, Wolfy takes his rightful place among Wolfenberg society only to be caught up in palace intrigue that kids will largely follow and that adults will relish. One spoiler is that the plotters seem to fall just short of literally being wolves in sheep's clothing.

The drama, which is interlaced with plenty of terrific toddler-friendly humor, culminates in an well-crafted showdown in which family secrets are revealed and harmony is restored. It is equally nice that everyone ends up where he or she arguably belongs.

This tale further follows the tradition of awesome European animation that keeps things kid-friendly without dumbing it down, being strident,  or pushing an agenda. It simply entertains.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

'Star Trek:The Next Generation' S4 BD: From Borg to Klingons

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Returning to the series of "Year of Trek" reviews after diverting to bloggy style posts in the three-part "Back to Dystopia Days" series is very apt. A central theme of the entire "Trek" universe is is that civilization vastly improves following a period of despair and desperation. One can only hope that life imitates art.

This entry follows up the recent repost of a review of the Blu-ray set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" S3 is on the BD release of TNG S4. This season starts strong with the season-premiere conclusion of the S3 season-ending cliffhanger "The Best of Both Worlds." Every Trekker and Trekkie alike almost certainly remembers the first time that he or she sees the truly chilling finale scene in the S3 portion of this episode. (An Unreal TV review of the BD feature-film version release of "Worlds" discusses this episode in detail.)

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden trailer for the S4 BD set nicely features a prevalent season-long theme, highlights humor in S4 episodes, and demonstrates the incredible audio and video quality of those episodes in Blu-ray.

The aptly titled S4 second episode "Family" has Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard and Klingon security chief Worf experiencing tough family reunions. Picard finds himself dealing with old resentments while visiting his estranged brother, and Worf experiences embarrassment regarding his adoptive human parents visiting the Enterprise. The introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Rozhenko helps set the stage for later episodes in the fourth season and subsequent ones.

The Work story line in "Family" is also a portent of the relatively Klingon-centric element of S4. Much of this revolves around the fallout from an S3 development that essentially has Worf taking one for the home team. All this nicely culminates in the S4 season-ending cliffhanger "Redemption" that has Worf effectively transferring from the major leagues back to the minors. The complex political intrigue in this one rivals that of many classic British dramas. ("Trek" video releaser CBS Home Entertainment has released a feature-film BD version of "Redemption.")

The theme of family continues in the early S4 episode "Brothers." This one has android science officer Data participate in an impromptu family reunion that involves the standard sibling rivalry and the competition regarding whom Dad loves best that seems endless in most families of all life forms.

This theme is also the subject of an S4 BD special feature titled "Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation."

The themes of family and species-based torn loyalties continue in "Suddenly Human," which has the generally minor-phobic Picard becoming the surrogate father of an essentially wolf boy. Said Mowgli of outer space is a human teen who is raised by a non-Klingon warrior race on being adopted by a member of that species following a raid by those aliens on a human community. Suffice to say that the efforts of the Enterprise crew to literally reintroduce that lad (played by Tiger Beat cover boy Chad Allen) into human society do not go very smoothly.

Another pair of episodes nicely lay some groundwork for the upcoming "Trek" sequel series "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." "The Wounded" puts the Enterprise in the tough spot of trying to maintain a fragile peace with the DS9 bad guys the Cardassians in the face of a Starfleet captain making seemingly unprovoked attacks on Cardassian ships. The overall deceitful nature of the Cardassians and the more specific indicators that they are up to no good only complicates things.

A second less dramatic DS9-related episode has ship's doctor Beverly Crusher fall in love with a visitor only to find that the form of the object of her affection is a meat suit for an older symbiote known as a Trill that requires a compatible host to survive. The Trekky good dilemmas in this one include Crusher having to determine if she loves the meat suit or the small creature that inhabits it and whether she can love a substitute host.

All of this amounts to a good (if not exceptional) season with numerous episodes that achieve the dual "Trek" objectives of making you think while you ponder the prospect of a future that is much brighter than our present suggests that we will enjoy. It will also make you feel that we can all live long and prosper.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

'Back to Dystopia Days' How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015 (Part Three of Three)

Image result for happy days cunninghams images
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This post marks the end of concentrated dark dysptopia-oriented essays on this site; we resume our more upbeat regularly scheduled program with an upcoming review of the Blu-ray release of the fourth season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" this weekend.]

This wrap-up of this three-part look at our current dystopian society in the context of both the "Back to the Future" film trilogy and the '70s set in the '50s sitcom "Happy Days" touches on some current societal woes that the other essays do not address.

Part One of this series explains that the overall concept of these essays is that dystopia is rampant in 2015, which is the year in which much of the action in "Future" II is set, and shares related thoughts regarding how the Cunningham family of "Days" would fare in modern times.

Part Two focuses on the harsh economic realities that the Cunninghams would face in 2015. This clearly speculates that they would not be better off today than they were 60 years ago.

This (not-so-grand) finale shifts gears from a planned discussion on the state of the lives of secondary "Days" characters in 2015 to a more general "Days" oriented discussion of the national mood in relation to television series.

The sad fact is that the "reality" television that is prompting this site to promote "unreal TV" is so blurred with real reality that it seems that we are living in one of those bad '80s and '90s movies in which either fictional film or TV characters invade our world or folks from our reality get trapped in TV Land.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the hilariously spot-on spoof "The Real Housewives of South Boston" illustrates this point well, They are only missing one of the housewives slashing the tires of someone who moved her beer cooler out a shoveled out parking space and then parked there. (This vandalism is not funny, but is real reality.)

A friend expresses all this by stating that he does not watch reality shows because he does not want to spend his evening looking at the same lowlifes with whom he must deal in his everyday life. This goes to the point that watching the antics of the Cunninghams and most other classic sitcom ensembles provides necessary G or PG-level escapism that is largely absent from current original television fare.

A related aspect of all this is that the partisanship and general rancor that seem to have started with the controversy regarding the 2000 presidential election and that terrorist attacks, large-scale abuse of power by power-brokers on both side of the aisle, economic crises, etc keeping fueling in what seems to be a never-ending cycle a poisoning of the television well regarding "must-see" TV.

This dystopia is consistent with the depressing 2015 life of "Future" II lead Marty McFly, played by Michael J (Really A.) Fox. He lives in a dumpy house with a dumpy wife and dumpy kids, and makes ends meet by working a dumpy job. This seems to be the main thing that this film gets right about this dumpy year. (We will need to wait a few months to see if the Cubs beat the Marlins in the 2015 World Series.)

The Cunninghams would only make it on television these days if parents Marion and Howard were divorced, and the latter was a sleazeball who defaulted on his support obligations but spent a great deal on trashy new trophy wife Jenny Piccolo.  (Of course, hoots and hollers would accompany every appearance of Piccolo.)This would require that former housewife Marion become a sour "domestic goddess" who struggles to earn enough to raise their children Richie and Joanie.

Meanwhile, Marlon Brando/James Dean idolizing Fonzie would be a genuine gangsta who operates all manner of petty criminal activities from his garage and uses his friendship with the Cunninghams as part of his front for these "legitimate businesses."

All of this makes one pine for the idealized '50s of "Days" in which most people are supportive and kind, bullies are taken in perspective and receive apt comeuppance (rather than a brutal attack), and there is not a Kardashian or Honey Boo Boo in sight.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any dystopian-related thoughts is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

'Back to Dystopia Days' How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015 (Part Two of Three)

Image result for cunninghams happy days images
This post is the second of three entries on how our current dystopia would likely impact the typical middle-class Cunningham family of the '70s sitcom set in '50s "Happy Days." The first entry introduces the relevant themes, the current thoughts speculate about how the nuclear clan would fare in 2015, and the final entry will conduct that same exercise regarding secondary "Days" characters.

For several reasons, your (sometimes humble) scribe feels a need for a disclaimer in the form of announcing that he is politically moderate and is not a fan of Ronald Reagan, George Bush the sequel, or the Tea Party.

He, whose income has dropped dramatically the last several years while local "progressive democrats" have greatly increased his tax burden and who now pays $554.37 monthly for essentially worthless health insurance, simply has seen himself and numerous friends and colleagues fall victim to the current economic times that are largely attributable to Obama administration economic policies. We are the folks to whom pundits refer when discussing professionals who are unlikely to ever return to work in their field.

These musings are in the context of efforts to address the sound-bite friendly concept of "income inequality" compared to the '50s in which small businessmen built their companies through hard work and luck. On a related note, the employees of these Horatio Algiers improved their quality of life by earning raises and advancement up the proprietor or corporate ladder. (It seems that "Back to the Future II" would have gotten a huge laugh in 1989 at a mention of a 2015 high school student working as a burger flipper starting out at $15/hour.)

Starting our Cunningham analysis with family patriarch Howard "Mr. C." Cunningham, he owns a mid-sized eponymous hardware store in Milwaukee. Despite some business downturns, he manages to provide his wife and two kids (plus "disappearing son" Chuck) a good  life.

The 2015 Howard would not be able to compete with the large hardware chains and would be a department manager at one of them. Because his status as a manager exempts him from overtime, the corporation would require that he work 70 hours a week and skip most of his breaks.

The short amount of time allocated for the breaks that Howard receives, his precarious financial situation related to not receiving any career advancement or any raise above two-percent for five years, and an inexpensive fast-food restaurant being the only food establishment near his store requires that he eat that fast food for lunch and dinner every workday. That unhealthy diet, intense work-related stress, and having a bare-bones health insurance policy that does not cover diagnostic services results in Howard dying of a massive heart attack on his 60th birthday.

Prior to the death of Howard, 2015 housewife Marion "Mrs. C." Cunningham must work part-time as a home-based telemarketer selling Orlando time-shares to provide the family enough money on which to live. On the death of Howard, who foolishly previously obtained an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), Marion had to move from her single-family home to a one-bedroom apartment.

All-American boy turned professional journalist Richie cannot get a full-time news-writing job because of a combination of the massive consolidation of the media industry and the overseas outsourcing of much of the remaining work. He writes posts for an on-line news blog and supplements the $10/post that he receives from that work by working as a waiter at the Arnold's Drive In that his best friend Fonzie owns.

Rounding out the group, little sister Joanie is a teacher whose low salary in that profession requires that she live in a run-down studio apartment with her dead-beat failed musician husband Charles "Chachi" Arcola.

The bottom line regarding all this is that it is funny (or tragic) because it is true.

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

'Back to Dystopia Days' How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015 (Part One of Three)

Image result for cunninghams happy days images

The fact that "Back to the Future" trilogy hero Marty McFly travels from 1985 to 2015 in the second entry in that classic film series makes the dismal state of television in the 2015 of reality an interesting coincidence. A prior Unreal TV review on the wonderful documentary "That's Not Funny" and a more recent essay on the demise of the "Must-See" NBC Thursday night lineup communicate related thoughts.

The cultural impact of the first "Back to the Future" movie includes a newspaper article soon after the 1985 release of the film that comments on a scene from the 1955 portion of "Future." The author of that article discusses observing the audience hysterically laughing on seeing men in pristine white uniforms rush out to check the oil, wash the windshield, and gleefully perform other "extras" on a character pulling into a gas station to fill up.

The point of the article is that that level of service is comical in the self-service era of 1985. The larger theme is the overall decline of customer service in the 30 years since the '50s. A more recent personal memory is having to essentially beg a man who was literally staring into space to leave his booth to help with a malfunctioning gas pump two years ago.

Other personal media-related thoughts regarding these dark times in which we live involve speculation as to how the "average middle-class" Cunningham family of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days" would fare in modern times. Sharing these predictions with a friend and media colleague a year go prompted him to coin the phrase "Dystopia Days." (A friend with whom I discussed this article offered that darker observation that the Cunninghams of the '50s would be dead by 2015.)

The fates of the actors who portray secondary "Days" characters sadly largely coincides with the imagined current lives of their fictional counterparts. The ugly litigation regarding the effort of members of this group to obtain compensation for using their image on a slot machine is one example of this. It seems that fee-grubbing attorneys and a general adversarial national mood are major factors regarding all this.

"Days" fans and gossip mongers are also very aware that Erin Moran, who portrays sassy little sister Joanie in "Days," is essentially destitute and apparently has severe emotional issues.

This first entry in a series of three is designed to introduce the themes discussed above; the second entry will focus on speculation regarding how our nuclear family from the '50s would fare today, and the series will wrap up with speculation regarding the fate of the secondary characters.

One sign of this dystopia in TV Land is the Bill Cosby scandal derailing plans for a new sitcom featuring that former "Must See TV" star. This comes in the wake of the recent flops starring fellow "Must-See" veterans Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes. The amusing classic-style 2015 set in the '80s sitcom "The Goldbergs" likely becoming a victim of the edgy Fox drama "Empire" is yet another sign of this new dystopia.

The sad fact is that the worlds of 1955 and 1985 are things of the past in every sense of the world. Desperate housewives have left the rest of us desperate for quality escapist comedy in which the leads are not  toxically jaded broke young urbanites, morbidly obese folks who consider their condition one big joke, people who either get far more or far less sex than the average American, or families that are more likely to be at each others' throats than in each others' corners. It seems that going from Brady to Bundy paved the way for going from Keaton to Kardashian; the sense that we have been together for a million years and will be together for a million more is no longer a good thing.

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

'The Ghost and Mrs Muir' DVD: It Will Lift Your Spirit

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review is of Australian DVD releases of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," which has not been released on DVD in the United States. These releases require using an international DVD player; they will not play on a standard Region One U.S. player.]

These thoughts on the April 2104 Australian DVD releases of the first and second seasons of the 1968-1970 U.S. fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" are breaking news in the sense that a "fourth scene twist" a few nights ago prompted writing on this topic in favor of a (subsequently published) less positive three-part series titled "Back to Dystopia Days: How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015."

The aforementioned development was the bedside Scooby-Doo telephone of your (sometimes humble) reviewer ringing at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. On coming down to my home office the next morning with thoughts of dystopia in my noggin, I was thrilled to see that the call was from "Muir" child star Harlen Carraher. Carraher is the former tow-headed moppet who played the young son of the titular widow.

Carraher, whose last listed acting job aptly was a guest shot on "The Brady Bunch," kindly provided his private number weeks ago on learning of the great love of "Unreal TV" for "Muir." The call last night was the latest round in a game of telephone tag that a three-hour time difference and other factors have caused to last for months. An interview with Carraher will run after we connect.

As an aside, the incredibly gregarious Carraher asks that fans please not contact him at his current literal day job. Unreal TV is glad to pass along messages and ask questions that reach here before Carraher does.

Returning to our main topic, "Muir" is an all-time after-school reruns favorite that is a frequent subject of posts regarding series that are overdue for U.S. DVD releases. This love is behind spending roughly $70 total for the aforementioned Australian releases of both seasons. This follows spending an embarrassingly large amount on the Australian release of the third season of fellow '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" years ago following interminable delays in then-Warner division Rhino releasing that season.

The premise of "Muir," which is based on the 1947 film of the same name, is that Carolyn Muir (wonderfully played by Hope Lange) moves Jonathan and his slightly older sister Candy to Gull Cottage in the small coastal Maine community of Schooner Bay. The Muir clan soon learns on moving into that rented abode that original owner Captain Daniel Gregg (well portrayed by "Knight Rider" star/character actor Edward Mulhare) haunts the house and does not welcome "Others" living there. One spoiler is that this stalwart sea captain is not allergic to sunlight.

The following clip, courtesy of "YouTube" and a fellow "Muir" fan, of several moments from the series shows the wonderful slapstick element of this terrific program.

The pilot achieves an excellent balance between exposition and getting down to business in that it opens with a moderately spooky scene in which current owner (and Gregg heir) Claymore Gregg (perfectly played by over-the-top campy actor Charles Nelson Reilly) arrives at the haunted mansion to inform his ancestor of the imminent arrival of the Muir family. One dystopian note is that this scene explains the need to rent the house to prevent a tax foreclosure. This scene ends with a series staple of the titular spirit rousting the Mr. Chicken of the show out of the house. However, this night-time scene contrasts with the later consistently daytime expulsions of Claymore.

Another dystopian element of the pilot has freelance writer Carolyn telling her unexpected housemate that she cannot afford to move. That hardship and a growing admiration/love for this widow leads to a workable detente following a hilarious scene in which the Captain and the widow wrestle for control of the family station wagon.

The on-screen chemistry between Lange and Mulhare is not perfect, but each plays his or her part well. It is also nice to see that they are largely equals and that the Captain must accept the nature of a modern liberated woman while Mrs. Muir must understand (and respect) the nineteenth century sense and sensibility of the Captain.

A particularly hilarious scene in an episode has Carolyn asserting her independence prompting the Captain undoing his good deed after magically fixing a flat tire. This outing also has Carolyn establishing the rule that she will take care of people and the Captain can take care of the ghosts only for the former to (predictably) soon learn that having a supernatural man around the house is helpful.

A somewhat related (and even more amusing) episode has Carolyn trying to cure herself of the "delusion" that she is sharing her home with an increasingly friendly ghost. Watching this frustrate said spirit is must-see TV.

A more ripped from the headlines episode has the medicine that the Captain prepares for an ailing Mrs. Muir transport her back to the Gull Cottage of the nineteenth century. This led to (unrealized tongue-in-cheek) hope (no pun intended) that lightning would strike twice when consuming massive amounts of maximum-strength NyQuil during a recent personal bout with severe pneumonia. Alas, a very relaxing near comatose state was the only result.

Other memorable segments from the roughly 50 "Muir" episodes include adorable family terrier Scruffy announcing the presence of an invisible Captain only to have the latter exact incredibly cute revenge, a temporarily powerless Captain struggling to telepathically move a teapot, and uber-successful dreamy singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson play a dreamy young performer who seeks refuge at Gull Cottage after the Captain attempts to drive him off the nearby beach.

Other notable guest stars include Bill Bixby of "Martian" as a determined paranormal investigator, "Oliver" star Mark Lester as a love interest for Candy, Richard Dreyfuss as a newspaper editor, and comic legend Dom Deluisle as a bumbling ghost who gets haunting lessons from the captain.

On a larger level, this incredibly fun and entertaining series has a few elements that continue to delight. Your (sometimes humble) reviewer derived a laugh from his significant other when recreating the overhead wave that a beach-walking Lange uses to gesture to Mulhare in the opening credits during a scene in current theatrical film "Still Alice" in which Julianne Moore walks on the beach. We also crack up whenever there is a reference to matronly live-in housekeeper Martha (played by Reta Shaw) using her "sweet cherry pie" to coerce the dessert-loving local handyman to do her bidding. Martha withholding that treat prompts particular hilarity.

On an even broader level, "Muir" and its ilk (such as "Martian") are simply awesome "unreal" shows that provide great entertainment without dumbing it down or relying on sexual innuendo. Other than Claymore and a few small-town stereo types, no one really plays the fool.

Further, the respect and love that our lead characters feel toward each other clearly drives the show. Seeing the Captain wanting to get into the heart (rather than the pants) of the object of his affection flames the desire for a return to nineteenth century values (absent the rampant racism and sexism and anti-homosexuality hysteria).

As a second alas, the DVD sets do not include any extras. The picture and sound quality are very good, and the episodes seem to be the broadcast versions.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

'Traitors' DVD: Drugs and Rock and Roll (But No Sex)

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The recent Film Movement DVD release of the Moroccan drama "Traitors" further validates both the Movement slogan "bring home your next favorite film" and the "unreal" love of this site for that company. The aforementioned affection is especially strong regarding the uber-awesome independent film of the month club that Movement operates.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from "Traitors" nicely conveys the brutality that makes it powerful.

It is clear from the opening moments of "Traitors" that it has the same terrific vibe as gritty classic American New Wave films. Two of almost countless examples of the latter are "Midnight Express" and "Warriors."

The aforementioned opening sequence depicts Tangier native Malika, who fronts the titular girl-power punk rock band, rocking out on the catchy and subversive tune "I'm Bored With Morocco." This ditty largely focuses on the social inequality in the titular nation.

Malika soon connecting with a music producer who is in her corner but requires that the band pay for recording a demo. partially sets the action in motion. Early developments have Malika conning a poor sap who is looking to buy a date only to have the not-so-friendly neighborhood drug dealer with whom Malika is acquainted come to the rescue.

The need for money to advance her career and a concurrent family financial crisis prompt Malika to agree to a one-time gig as a drug mule. The toll regarding the ensuing harsh reality is a large part of the gritty goodness of this film.

Although Malika finding herself at odds with her new temporary employer is predictable, the nature of that conflict is not; the same holds true regarding the ensuing events. Suffice it to say, our heroine (no pun intended) learns to not underestimate those whom she has scorned.

At the same time, writer/director Sean Gullette keeps things overall realistic with the glaring exception of the police who are conducting road blocks seeming to unduly discount suspicious behavior. Other than that, you feel the desperation and overall sense of dystopia that leads to Malika going for the quick buck in pursuit of her dreams.

The Bonus Short film that Movement always includes in these releases is the most apt one ever. It is a 30-minute version of "Traitors" and shares the name of that feature-length film. This version largely consists of the aforementioned opening scenes but throws in new footage that contributes good exposition to both this special feature and the longer film. Pure speculation is that this condensed version is a demo. regarding which Gullette hopefully did not have to transport a coupe full of illegal drugs to finance.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

'Mondovino' CS: We Will Review No Doc.on Wine Industry Before Its Time

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The Icarus Films 4-disc 10-episode DVD release, which hits virtual and actual store shelves on March 17 2015 (a.k.a. St. Patrick's Day), of "Mondovino" provides an awesomely extensive and entertaining look at every aspect of the wine industry. It also provides a terrific follow up to the December 2013 Unreal TV reviews on the BBC "Big Wine" Adventures series starring James May and Oz Clarke.

The follow clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Mondovino" expertly conveys all that is wonderful about this documentary. These scenes provide a sense of the sharing of knowledge by top winemakers and the related humor.

This time, charming documentary filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter lets the subjects tell their own stories in this production that Icarus aptly describes as a "multi-generation, globe-trotting saga" that  Icarus notes "covers not only the entire gamut of wine making, but wine's place in a treacherously globalized and hyper-marketed world."

By literally turning the camera on his subjects (who represent the full range of views) and limiting the presentations to their statements, Nossiter truly provides unbiased looks at his topics. He additionally achieves the related documentary standard of entertaining and informing the audience.

The three episodes on which this review is based indicates that Nossiter especially focuses on the globalization and marketing aspects of the industry. The pilot is a feature-film quality telling of the uproar in a small community in the South of France in the wake of Napa Valley wine giant Mondavi entering a deal with the then-mayor to cultivate a large portion of the forest outside town.

Nossiter expertly conveys the strong feelings on both sides of the issue and the greater political forces related to the controversy. This is akin to the uproar regarding the efforts of Disney to build a theme park near the Manassas, Virginia Civil War battlefield in the '90s.

The great humor includes a local policeman who myopically focuses on the parking issues in the community. One can easily picture this civil servant organizing the deck chairs on The Titanic as that ships sinks.

Nossiter remains in France for the second episode and focuses on a family of wine-makers, including a daughter who arguably is sleeping with the enemy regarding working for the competing vineyard of the family of her then-husband. The family dynamics also involve issues related to a typical sibling rivalry.

These episodes nicely set the stage for the Napa-set third episode, which involves interviews with members of the aforementioned Mondavis and their own family issues. The audience also gets nice tours of the other two Napa vineyards that make up the "Big Three" in the region; this includes a discussion of what justifies selling a bottle of wine for $2,500 or more. As an aside, your (sometimes humble) reviewer, who refers to the products of Pacific Northwest U.S. micro-vineyards as hippie hot tub wine, is always content with "Three Buck Chuck."

The California segment additionally indicates the universal nature of labor matters in the wine (and general agricultural) industry. Unions and general working conditions are issues on both sides of the pond. One nice segment on this subject in the Napa episode has one vineyard owner tell Nossiter that wine is not part of the Mexican culture only to have Nossiter respond that Americans only started drinking wine 30 years ago.

This wonderful blending of universal elements results in a series that wine-lovers will adore but that will also appeal to anyone who can relate to family issues, the globalization of business and labor issues, or who simply enjoys watching well-filmed footage of beautiful areas.

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' S3 BD: Revisiting a Classic in 'The Year of Trek'

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This updated version of an April 2013 review of the Blu-ray release of the third season of  "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is designed to fill the gap between the previously posted review of S2 and upcoming S4 review in the "Year of Trek" series on this site. As an aside, the S3 set is the first BD "TNG" set that I acquired. Seeing what has changed and what has remained constant in two years was great fun.]

Stating that the CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray release, which Trekkers can use their latinum to purchase starting April 30, 2013, of the third season set "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (TNG) is beyond awesome does not begin to convey the incredible spectacularness of this set.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the CBS trailer for the S3 BD release nicely conveys the aforementioned awesomeness.

This indescribably exceptional set creates great confidence that (subsequently reviewed) the Blu-ray release, which is also coming out on April 30, 2013, of the "TNG" third season cliffhanger The Best of Both Worlds" will be just as good.

I am saving this re-edited version of "Worlds" that plays like a feature-length film for my extra-special viewing slot tonight. I will report on this one next week but expect that it will be sponge-cake worthy in that it will warrant digging into the stash of Twinkies that I froze in December.

The quality of the "TNG" third season Blu-ray release has convinced me to break my strict rule against purchasing Blu-ray versions of shows that I own on DVD. Despite having spent roughly $250 on the DVD releases of all seven "TNG" seasons, I plan to buy the Blu-rays of seasons one and two and to collect the remaining four seasons as Paramount releases them on Blu-ray.

(It is worth noting that the "TNG" BD sets have been the only ones to warrant the aforementioned treatment in the two years sine first posting this S3 review.)

Another personal rule is that I typically limit my use of foul language to painfully difficult customer service interactions but genuinely exclaimed "oh my (very bad word) god" when the opening scene of the third season season premiere appeared on my television.

The images of the glowing red planet and the U.S.S. Enterprise at the beginning of "Evolution" were far sharper than those in any other Blu-ray that I have watched. A subsequent scene that really brought out the blue in the eyes of guest star Ken "Dr. Bob Kelso" Jenkins prompted me to conduct the acid test of taking off my glasses. I was amazed that I could see the picture just as clearly with just two (non-visor enhanced) eyes.

Out of respect for the truly great "TNG" cast, I will refrain from identifying which characters do not look so great in hi-def. However, some of them really should have moisturized better and lobbied for a better make-up artist.

I did not notice much difference in the quality of the sound regarding the voices, but the enhancement of special effects and background sounds was incredible. Some of the rumblings as the Enterprise experienced various forms of distress truly evoked chills, which is unheard of for me regarding ANY television series.

I was equally pleased to see the "play all" feature on the Blu-ray release. Having to go through a couple of menus each time that I wanted to watch an episode on the DVD releases was my only gripe regarding that version.

Regarding the episodes themselves, watching them convinced me that "TNG" is what I refer to as a "house painting" series in that it is so good that it is worth starting to watch all over again after finishing the series. (Thus remains true two years later.)

I have watched each "TNG"episode on television at least five times and only finished watching the series on DVD last year but found the few BD episodes that I watched very fresh. Each offering typically includes so much that fully appreciating them requires several viewings.

The themes in "Evolution" included the theme of the right of a mechanical being to live that often related to series regular Data, who was the only android who was serving in Star Fleet, and the extent to which the newly returned (YAAA) Dr. Beverly Crusher was cramping the style of her teen-age son Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher. Reintroducing Crusher Senior truly can be described as the Gates of Heaven.

"Ensigns of Command," which was the second episode of the third season, had the uber-intelligent Data facing the challenge of serving as a diplomat despite his programming and training not preparing him for that role. Similar to his "Star Trek" the original series counter-part Mr. Spock (RIP Mr. Nimoy), Data had to adapt to the fact that humanoids were rarely logical. Data, like Spock, additionally indicated a rare tone of anger.

An ongoing dispute with extraordinarily toxic neighbors made the theme of abuse of the law, and disregard for its spirit, in "Ensigns" very relevant. Enterprise Captain Picard turning that tactic against the alien foe, who looked incredibly menacing in hi-def, was very satisfying.

Further, Picard's line "you're damn right I did" when another character commented that Picard had "hung up" on the alien was one of the funniest lines of the entire series. This episode further included a texting scene roughly 25 years before this technology hit the market.

Aside from "Worlds," the most memorable third season episode brought former Chief Security Officer Tasha Yar, who left "TNG" after a very unpleasant encounter with a genuine tar baby in the first season, back to the series. "Sarek," in which Mark Leonard reprised his role as Spock's father in the original series, is a close third only because it is more of a treat for original series fans that for "TNG" fans.

The Blu-ray release additionally includes a gag reel and new features that largely focus on the series' writers. Fanboy and (then) King of Primetime Animation Seth MacFarlane hosts a surprisingly reverential discussion with four "TNG" writers. The many fascinating reveals included the practice of allowing anyone at all who wrote a full script to submit it to the production staff for consideration for having that story filmed.

A companion feature was a tribute to "TNG" producer and writer, and all-around "Star Trek" god, Michael Piller. The sense of the comments by "TNG" writers and actors was that Piller ran a tight ship but knew what he was doing and was a tough to dislike despite practices that included rejecting scripts merely because he had difficulty providing notes on it. These traits seem to have influenced the characteristics of the Picard character.

I will end on those well-deserved notes of praise and invite fellow Trekkers to email questions or comments regarding any of the awesome "Star Trek" series.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

'Star Trek' OS 'Captain Kirk's Boldest Missions' DVD: Eight is Enough to Honor Classic 'Trek' (and Nimoy)

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This "Breaking News" entry in the Unreal TV "Year of Trek" series interrupts coverage of Blu-ray releases of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to share thoughts on the March 17 2015 (a.k.a. St. Patrick's Day) CBS Home Entertainment DVD release "Captain Kirk's Bold Missions." This release of these re-mastered episodes nicely comes a  few weeks after the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Spock Prime).

Thoughts of Ninoy living long and prospering and of constantly putting the needs of the many ahead of those of the few provides some solace regarding the loss of this "unreal" TV icon. Vulcans may not express sorrow, but humans sure do,

Each episode in "Boldest" shows Captain James Tiberius (not Thomas) Kirk, memorably portrayed by William "Get a Life" Shatner, at his boldest (no pun intended), posturing, and swaggeryist best. Of course, there is no doubt that Trekkers will debate the choice of episodes for years and that virtually none among this group will agree that the selected episodes comprise the ideal collection.

Excluding "The Trouble With Tribbles" is understandable; not including any episode with "Trek" staples the Klingons is more questionable. One also would have hoped for the classic early second-season episode "The Changeling," which has Kirk engaging in Vulcan-level logic to save the day.

The set starts out with the early S1 episode "The Corbomite Maneuver," which pits Kirk and his stellar (of course, pun intended) Enterprise crew against an alien whose bite is far worse than his true bark. The title refers to a tactic that Kirk uses in his battle against the aforementioned Balok.

"Corbomite" highlights include an unnecessarily shirtless Shatner strutting down the halls of the Enterprise and a very '60s dude style crew member whose death would be certain if he traded his yellow shirt for a red one.

The chronology of "The Conscience of the King" is that it immediately follows "Corbomite" in the "Boldest" set and comes a few episodes behind that offering in original airdate order. This perfectly good episode with subtle and not so subtle shades of Shakespeare arguably is the weakest of the lot. The primary plot revolves around whether the head of a traveling troupe of actors is the same man who is responsible for a widespread massacre 20 years earlier.

"Balance of Terror"  comes next on "Boldest" and a few episodes after "King" in the "Trek" timeline. This notable one introduces the Romulans, who look like the bad guys in a cheesy '50s scifi kiddie matinee serial in this incarnation, to "Trek" lore. The challenges that these warriors present Kirk this time includes resisting provocation that is designed to renew warfare between those folks and the Federation that Kirk and his crew serves.

Including fellow S1 episode "Space Seed" in "Boldest" is both a no-brainer and provides an opportunity to correct an omission in a "Year of Trek" review. This one has Kirk and his crew revive cryogenically frozen 1990s meta-human Khan and his crew only to face the threat of the latter take over the Enterprise. The Unreal TV review of the S4 BD release of "Star Trek: Enterprise" refers to a related episode involving this genetic engineering effort. However, those musings neglect to mention the connection between that episode and "Seed." The response of this site to folks whom this omission angers is "actually, mother was a political aide."

Fellow classic Trekisode "The City on the Edge of Tomorrow" has the trifecta of a notable guest in the form of future "Dynasty" star Joan "She's a bitch; everyone says so (Charlotte Rae)" Collins, the fan favorite element of time travel, and a dilemma that requires intense soul searching by a "Trek" captain. Said angst-inducing challenge this time requires that Spock convince Kirk of the importance of the aforementioned principle of putting the needs of the many ahead of those of the few.

A special feature has Collins and Shatner recording an (inadvertently skipped) introduction to "City."

Unreal TV does a better job regarding covering the "Enterprise" S4 episode that pays homage to the "Boldest" "Trek" S2 episode "Mirror, Mirror." This wonderfully campy parallel universe/goateed evil twin offering has Kirk and a few other principals finding themselves on an alternate universe Enterprise that follows brutal Klingon, rather than peaceful Federation, principles.

"Mirror" also includes one of the best ever variations of ship's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy's oft-stated decree that damnit he's a doctor, not an X in response to being asked to act outside his official duties. His statement this time that he is not an engineer awesomely has ship's engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott reply "you're an engineer now."

"The Doomsday Machine" comes right after "Mirror" on "Boldest" and two episodes after it in "Trek" chronology. This scifi take on "Moby Dick" has Kirk heroically putting the needs of the many ahead of those of the few in the face of the titular gigantic wood chipper style planet (and starship) consuming device.

Spock earns the award for memorable line in "Doomsday;" this highly stoic individual states on having a higher-ranking officer accusing him of bluffing that "Vulcans never bluff." This scene evokes a nice memory of "Star Trek: Voyager" Vulcan Tuvok declaring "Vulcans don't dance" in response to an effort to goad him into loosening up.

Fellow S2 episode "Return to Tomorrow" aptly rounds out the set if only because it features future "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Diana "Dr. Pulaski" Muldaur as a kinder and gentler member of the Enterprise crew. The cerebral theme this time relates to the concept that humans are the descendants of a highly advanced society; the campy goodness relates to Kirk, Spock, and Muldaur's character voluntarily lending their meat suits to the consciousness of survivors of the aforementioned highly evolved beings.

The neglect regarding this review relates to a flu-like disease so heinous that it must be a Romulan virus that is maliciously inflicted on Earth preventing watching the special features in "Boldest" in time for this review. These documentaries, which the track records for such extras strongly indicates are awesome, are short films on "What Makes A Good Captain" and on the importance of Kirk to the "Trek" universe. ("Enterprise's" Captain Jonathan "Admiral Johnny" Archer remains a personal favorite.)

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding "Boldest" or other "Trek" stuff is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

'Walter' Theatrical & VOD: Quirky Indie Dramedy About Lobby Theater Purgatory

'Walter' Review: Indie Puts Final Judgment

The image above for the eOne Films production "Walter," which is being theatrically released in New York City and Los Angeles and Paramount California (as well as VOD providers) on March 13 2015 clearly shows the influence of fellow indie film "American Beauty" on film director Anna Mastro. Mastro shows equally good instincts throughout this charming and amusing first effort at directing a feature film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Walter" awesomely communicates the indie but highly accessible tone of the film while concisely describing its theme. You also get a good look at the cast of cult favorites, which includes early 2000s bad boy Milo Ventimiglia as a hilarious workplace bully.

The titular quirky emo damaged 20-something is a highly regimented "failure to launch" guy who lives with widowed mother Karen (played by Virginia Madsen) and works at the local movie house in his suburban community. The aforementioned quirk is that our hero believes that he is the son of God (but clarifies that he is not Jesus, a.k.a. "the guy with the beard") and that his role in the universe is determining who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell when his or her time comes.

This rush to judgment sets the stage for several funny scenes in which Walter glances at people and simply declares "Heaven" or "Hell" while going about his daily business. The catalyst for the main action in the film comes in the form of Greg the ghost (played by quirky actor Justin Kirk), who asserts that he has been wandering the earth since dying 10 years early. The reason that this unfriendly ghost seeks out Walter is that the former wants to the latter to literally tell him where to go so that he can end his torment on earth.

The mutual frustration (i.e., central conflict) relates to Walter telling his new companion that his ability only works on people who still have a pulse. This prompts Greg to pledge to haunt Walter until the latter makes the requested eternal judgment call.

The angst that Greg is causing Walter prompts God's other son to seek counsel from Dr. Corman; scene-stealer William H. Macy wonderfully portrays the comically caustic Corman to the extent that he has some of the best lines in the film.

The arrival of Greg has a more positive influence on Walter in the form of prompting positive introspection that makes both Walter and most of the people in his life happier. Seeing Walter 2.0 emerge is awesome.

The nice pacing of reveals regarding both elements of the relationship between Walter and Greg and the events that made The Popcorn Kid the man that he is today contribute quality substance to this enjoyable film that will make you smile and occasionally laugh. Having a little something about which to think is a good bonus.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

'Star Trek: The Next Generation" S2 BD: Bringing Guinan, Pulaski, and Borg Into 'Trek' Universe

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These thoughts regarding the 5-disc 22-episode CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray release of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Season 2 moves the focus of the "Year of Trek" reviews on this site from "Star Trek: Enterprise" to TNG.

Many Trekkers and Trekkies consider TNG S2 a large improvement over the personally loved S1 offerings and as the start of the quality episodes for which the series is adored. It is undisputed that S2 introduces several notable TNG aspects.

The fact that a proper review of the TNG sets requires both watching every episode to avoid missing a memorable one while presenting the related dilemma of selecting which few to highlight further speaks to the exceptional nature of this series. It is equally amazing that these episodes remain fresh and highly entertaining after no fewer than 10 viewings. It is highly likely that these episodes will find themselves being watched again in a few years.

Similarly, the unparalleled remastering of sound and audio in the episodes makes buying these sets in BD a necessity. (Your reviewer is literally putting his money where his online account is regarding that final statement.)

Following the tradition of these "Year of Trek" reviews, the chosen YouTube clip for this review is the trailer for the S2 BD release. The good folks at CBS show their usual good judgment regarding selecting scene and special feature highlights while also demonstrating that it all looks awesome in BD.

Introducing Whoppi Goldberg as sage bartender Guinan, who works in the Enterprise lounge known as 10 Forward validates critics who comment that the interior of this version of that iconic spaceship looks more like the Pacific Princess of "The Love Boat" fame than a spaceship.

The second season also sees Diana Muldaur join the cast as Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Pulaski replaces former ship "Doc" Dr. Beverly Crusher, played by Gates McFadden. Considering the fate of the character that Muldaur later plays on "L.A. Law," a scene in which Pulaski avoids using the turbolift on the Enterprise is hilarious.

Guinan and Pulaski first appear in the S2 season premiere titled "The Child," which involves one of the most immaculate conceptions and shortest gestation periods ever.

An early S2 episode titled "Q Who" achieves a trifecta in terms of featuring the wonderfully evil impish titular being, introducing the Borg to "Trek" lore, and involving the "Enterprise" theme of concern that humans are unprepared to handle what they find while exploring the universe.

Fellow early season offering "The Measure of a Man" is validly included in the "Best of" TNG DVD release from a few years ago. This one has android officer Lt. Commander Data literally fighting for his life in an adversarial proceeding to determine whether he is "property" that can be dismantled contrary to his will or a "person" with the right to protection against being torn limb from limb.

Your reviewer is very remiss in forgetting to watch the extended version of "Man" that the BD set includes as a special feature. Indications are that the additional footage is well worth watching.

The notable aspects of "Man" extend beyond the well-presented philosophical issue to which the title refer to the element of pitting Enterprise captain Jean Luc Picard against his first officer Commander William T (not Tiberius) Riker. In this case, they find themselves arguing against each other in the hearing around which the episode centers.

Picard and Riker also face off in the lighter S2 episode "Peak Performance" that has Riker competing against a Picard-commanded Enterprise in a war game. Much of the humor relates to Riker improvising in response to the physical condition of his temporary craft being far inferior to that of his mother ship. Throwing in a psychological problem for Data is a wonderful bonus.

The season ending " (Not 50) Shades of Gray" is a clever clip show that takes us into the mind of Riker. Iconic TNG moments from this one include a look at the first-season episode that introduces the concept that no primary character is safe from being written out, the equally memorable first meeting between Riker and one of his shipmates, and a hilarious S2 scene between Riker and woman in purple Guinan.

The extras extend well beyond the extended version of "Man" to include a recent group interview with the cast and an extended version of "Q WHo."

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Liberty and Justice for None: Fallacies of TV Legal Dramas

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Your (sometimes humble) reviewer being both a fanboy and moderate history buff knows of numerous indicators that the early 21st century signals the decline of American civilization. Personal and national events of the past several years further validate that theory.

As an aside, Unreal TV pledges to write about any televised revolution.

One important element of all this is that the folks who state that the American system of government is not perfect but is the best option do not quite have it right. The system has merits but does not work at all when not administered in the intended manner.

The battle over Obama seemingly being very liberal (no pun intended) regarding issuing Executive Actions in a blatant effort to circumvent the legislative branch is an obvious example of not following the rules. At the same time, Congress holding the federal payroll hostage in negotiations does not adhere to the spirit of free and open debate that theoretically accompanies the lawmaking process.

It is equally important to note that issuing a presidential pardon shows a strong disregard for the judicial branch.

Similarly, the evidence that the U.S. Supreme Court improperly responds to political pressures includes the facts that support the theory that wanting to save his "street cred" for the issue of marriage equality was the motive of Chief Justice Roberts regarding casting the deciding vote in favor of Obamacare in the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of that law. For that matter, every president does not appoint the best man (or woman) for vacancies on the court; they put forth someone who can get the job done and is likely to favor the policies of the appointer.

All of this contrasts with traditional television fare in which our elected (and appointed) officials fulfill their duty of serving those who directly or indirectly put them in their cushy jobs. This coincidentally comes at the time of the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy, whose Spock made the ultimate sacrifice in the interest of putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few (i.e., special interest groups).

A spoiler regarding personal experiences in which justice is being denied is that the aforementioned reviewer is confident of fairly soon living life according to an integral principle of governing body Starfleet of the "StarTrek" universe (again, no pun intended.) Like the Starfleet officers and enlisted people who find themselves stranded in their past, which is out present, I am actively working toward finding an affordable isolated home in a small community in which to live out my days.

Rest assured both that any future manifestos will only address the decline of unreal TV series and that even trying to assemble something as simple a bookcase proves to be a daunting task that often results in chipped particle board and household pets fleeing from flung Allen wrenches that are simultaneously asserted to be made of a substance other than metal.

The primary aforementioned personal experience relates to the neighbors from Hell who receive occasional mention in this space. It has not been mentioned that the numerous nuisances and torment from these toxic individuals ultimately required calling local agencies in response to those actions. These include the teen son shouting curses while driving past yours (hopefully) truly and the family conducting extensive and disruptive construction projects without a building permit.

Said administrative complaints led to said neighbors seeking an anti-harassment order; they obtained it despite the undisputed evidence of my doing no more than making the aforementioned reports in response to the aforementioned reports. It also reflected the local attitude that folks such as your reviewer who lack roots in this quasi-rural suburb are "immigrants" who merely drive up property values and maliciously replace practical stores with upscale shops.

Predicting this outcome, the lawyer for the defense pursued the strategy of not presenting a vigorous argument out of fear of antagonizing the judge. In other words, the entire proceeding was pure show. Also, as shown below, these orders can be a virtual life sentence and definitely outlast the punishment for many felony criminal acts.

On a larger level, the anti-harassment law itself is intended to protect people from physical and emotional torment by someone with whom they either have an intimate relationship or has a one-sided desire to begin one. Extensive documentation shows that that law has been distorted to grant neighbors who clash with the folks next door the ability to virtually make them prisoners in their own home in that going out creates valid intense anxiety regarding encountering the person who obtained the order. (A report of a violation can result in jail time.)

The state judiciary seems unanimous in taking the approach that the person who engages in valid and non-harmful activity against the neighbors must be restrained to preclude escalating from not raking leaves from your tree that cross property lines to engaging in psychotic behavior. Using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito indeed.

The original order was for a year, and the only notice of the hearing regarding the renewal hearing was provided on the day of the first proceeding. This resulted in missing the second proceeding, which likely would have reinstated the order despite any right to have that restraint removed, and having a default judgment extending the order another two years.

Contact with the neighbors has been minimal in the three years since the issuance of the order, and there have not been any of the complained-of calls that exercised the right of every individual. As an aside, your reviewer also has not engaged in any "good neighbor" behavior that he otherwise would have and that would have greatly benefited the folks next door.

Speaking with an attorney, who quickly demanded a $5,000 retainer if I chose to proceed, regarding an upcoming hearing to once again renew the order showed that (like the Borg) resistance was futile. Rather than merely having to show that no conflict occurred in the three years of being restrained in my own home for truly never doing anything wrong, the shared standard was that I would need to convince the judge who issued the order that he made a mistake.

The attorney further shared that judges follow the principle, which is completely contrary to basic legal principles, that it better to restrain 100 innocent individuals than allow one guilty one to go free in fear of making life mildly unpleasant for the person who often provoked the incidents that brought everyone into court.

The probable outcome of all this will be not showing up for the proceeding, having the order extended in my absence, and allowing that cycle to indefinitely continue. It is hoped that a new address will be a reality before the next show in court.

Returning all this to the stated topic of TV legal dramas, the fact is that the crusaders for justice (or at least legal victories) in these series sadly are completely fictional. This also goes for the litigators who take on a client with a worthy cause out of an interest in preventing persecution.

The sad fact is that the general manner of practicing law these days involves a recognition that a judge has made up his or her mind before even reading the facts of a case but that that legal "advocate" is glad to charge you $350/hour or more to put on a not-so-good show.

Despite no personal experience regarding this, hiring a prostitute seems to be a little less expensive and to provide a MUCH better chance of a happy ending.

Anyone with thoughts regarding these musings is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'A Cry From Within' DVD: Horror Is Child's Play for Unsuspecting New Homeowners

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The March 17, 2015 Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the understated 2014 horror film "A Cry From Within" is an apt choice for a snowy or rainy evening of viewing pleasure.

Casting Eric Roberts, whose 379 IMDb acting credits may be a record for that site, as loving dad/husband Jonathan greatly contributes to the awesome '80s vibe of the film. A scary because its true element relates to director/co-star Deborah Twiss reporting that the story relates to a supernatural incident from her past. Having the film reflect the Hitchcock method of setting the terror in an everyday setting creates a trifecta regarding the modern classic horror film sense of "Cry."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the theatrical trailer for "Cry" offers a nice glimpse of the suspense and psychological drama in the film while avoiding spoilers.

The simple tried but true horror premise is that Jonathan and his career gal wife Cecile pack up the kids and leave New York City to move to a small Amityville of  "Horror" fame style Long Island town in the wake of a tragedy. In a simple twist of Hollywood-style fate, they stumble onto what seems to be the perfect new home.

Invalid Sophia owning the ordinary-looking abode and sharing it with her highly resentful never married adult daughter/caretaker Alice (played by Cathy Moriarity) introduces aspects of "Psycho," "Grey Gardens," and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." One spoiler is that the cringe-worthy scenes of Alice feeding the bed-ridden Sophia does not involve any rodents.

The nicely paced film builds the suspense as the new inhabitants experience increasingly creepy incidents that start with things such as closet doors not staying close and the family guinea pig escaping from his closed carrier. This escalates to hair-raising horror as the malevolent entity behind the eerie goings-on becomes an increasingly strong force that is feeding on the trauma of the new family.

The building of this tension coincides with both Alice becoming increasingly psychotic in her new home and the audience learning more about the reasons for her current state.

The predictable (but still entertaining) climax comes in the form of the resident unfriendly ghost going on an arguably understandable rampage. One spoiler regarding this segment is that no guinea pigs are harmed in the making of this movie.

The aforementioned "ripped from the headlines" aspect of the film and the deeper than typical psychological aspect of "Cry" distinguish it from both the current grindhouse horror titles and the less substantial suspense fare from the era in which Roberts was a matinee idol.

The special features include deleted scenes and cast interviews.

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I Want My 'M' TV: A Cry for Return of 'Must-See' TV

Image result for nbc logo images

Reading the March 2013 "Reality Stinks" manifesto on this site in preparation for this essay that laments the television industry abandoning "kinder and gentler" sitcoms shows both that that year seems to be the early stage of this decline and that the future does not require shielding your eyes, let alone wearing shades. They not only do not make 'em like they used to but are not even trying.

This theme will continue in a series of posts that are expected to end with a (not-so-surprising) announcement in May 2015. One spoiler is that nothing that is unreal can be expected to last forever or to beat the odds. Happier ways of thinking of such things are that they are unreal while they last and that reviewing/collecting TV and movie DVD releases for nine years allows amassing enough sets for two lifetimes.

Another way of evaluating this is "Warner? I don't see why I must."

The title of the current post refers to NBC recently fully abandoning its 30-year history of airing sitcoms in the Thursday night 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. slot. Watching particularly strong series (such as "The Cosby Show" (yeah, I know), "Family Ties," "Cheers," and "Friends") in the 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. slots and sandwiching lesser-known offerings (such as "The Single Guy") in the others was always a treat.

Further, those were the days in which we cared about the characters. An amusing memory from college relates to watching "Cheers" at a very low volume on a 12-inch black-and-white set with rabbit ears while the best roommate ever studied for a final.

An involuntary remark regarding the Sam and Diane related build up to the "Cheers" second-season cliffhanger prompted said roomie to say "turn it (the television) around" and to watch the episode with me. Of course, we watched the show that followed as well. (Yeah, he failed the final. Sorry Jay from Copagoppie (a.k.a. Copiague), NY.)

As an aside, the aforementioned fictional bartender and reluctant waitress introduced the "will they or won't they" concept to the television viewing public. Other pop culture contributions from these series include the "Rachel" hairstyle and the concept of "a break" from "Friends" and numerous "Seinfeld" sayings that include "yada yada" and "you gotta see the baby."

A more recent memory involves going to numerous stores to find enough Tweety Bird pez dispensers to serve at a "Seinfeld" finale party that also featured Junior Mints.

NBC breaking with tradition come on the heels of former "Tiffany" network CBS long ago abandoning a similar strategy regarding its Monday night lineup; an example of this is placing the unduly maligned "The Popcorn Kid" in the 8:30 slot on one schedule.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Kid" pilot allows checking out the '80stastic fun for yourself. One warning is that the theme song is uber-catchy.

Although maintaining the two-hour comedy block, CBS placing the raunchy "How I Met Your Mother" in the "family hour" 8:00 p.m. slot in the early 2000s clearly signaled the end of an era on that network.

This is not to mention ABC not maintaining its '70s and '80s tradition of mostly strong sitcoms through 9:30 and capping them off with often unwatchable failedcoms. Anyone else remember the 1985 series "Hail to the Chief," which IMDb indicates still has a chance of coming back?

One point to all this is that (despite any extreme threats to the physical or fiscal integrity of the homeland) the national mood seemed higher when we had "unreal" TV to which we could look forward to watching and the level of divisiveness and overall adversarial hostility was much lower. It is difficult to imagine anyone reminiscing about the winner of the current round of "American Idol" 20 years from now or even remembering much about the recent finale of "Two and A Half Men."

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