Monday, June 29, 2015
The sense that independent films that are being released theatrically and on DVD in June 2015 are directed at your (sometimes humble) reviewer continues with the June 30, 2015 DVD release of the 2014 British drama "Still."
This exceptional character study of a man who recently suffered a tragic loss only to have a feral teen boy target him after a harmless random encounter is the latest entry in the spectacular (mostly foreign) Film of the Month Club that the equally great (and awesomely expanding) media company Film Movement operates. The good news is that non-members can also purchase this film, which Movement is releasing through the new Omnibus Entertainment division of that company.
Accolades for "Still" include winning the award for "Best International Film First Feature" at the Galway Film Fleadh and the "Festival Prize" at the London Independent Film Festival.
Although "Still" breaks from the Movement tradition of including a "Why We Love This Film" essay, it is almost certain that such prose would start with commenting on the artistry of writer/director Simon Blake in making this film seem like a live stage production and go onto comment on the universal themes of the film. The aforementioned personal experience this time relates to becoming the focus of years of terrorism by a savage 15 year-old boy for no reason other than that excitable boy "smells" weakness. The spot-on depiction of this inter-generational bullying in "Still" includes the realization that society is ill-equipped to deal with such "beasts."
The innocently tormented man in "Still" is photographer Tom Carver, whom Aidan Gillen of "The Game of Thrones" and "The Wire" has down pat, who is recovering from both the accidental death of his 15 year-old son and the impact of that tragedy on various relationships. Tom runs afoul of teen Carl merely by committing the sin of inadvertently occupying the exact spot that that boy desires at that moment and compounding that "transgression" by not expressing any remorse.
The circumstances that make this dynamic relatable are having the family from Hell (which shares a common outer entrance to our 2,000 sf townhouses in a nice section of a "resort" community) move in right next door. Suffice it to say that the sin here relates to trying to prevent the "wild dog" from marking my "territory" as his own.
Another real-world example of this brutality by America's future dates back roughly 40 years. A wonderfully kind and generous family who had recently emigrated from Portugal opened a terrific Portuguese bakery only to have hoodlums plague them by regularly climbing on their roof to steal the Portuguese flag that held tremendous symbolic value. The Portuguese husband ultimately shot one of the perpetrators, only to find himself at the wrong end of the law.
The torment that Carl inflicts on Tom, whose options for effectively "working within the system" are very limited, increases from intimidating behavior that includes constantly leaving heavy breathing messages on the answering machine for Tom's landline to a violent physical attack. Suffice it to say this time that this escalation reflects the course of the real-life events referred to above. As "Still" shows, these thugs simply amp up their torture until effectively told no.
The truisms in "Still" include the conclusion that any police involvement will be ineffective. This realization contributes to a vigilante effort that will make anyone who has suffered at the "paws" of a wolf boy cheer. The attitude of such a creature on being confronted additionally is true to form.
The only flaw regarding all this is that the drama occasionally strays into "melo" territory, especially near the end of the film. The intensity of the emotions during this period explains this, and the rest of the production more than compensates for it.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Still" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
The recently released uber-awesome Icarus Films documentary "Marcel Ophuls and Jean-Luc Godard: the meeting in St-Gervais" nicely complements the highly entertaining (and recently reviewed) Icarus documentary "Chantal Akerman: From Here." Both films come as close as possible to letting the audience into the minds of these three auteurs.
A small theater in Geneva is the setting for the dialog between Godard and Ophuls. The aptly passive moderator starts things by asking Godard about his experience watching the highly controversial 1969 Ophlus documentary "The Sorrow and the Pity." That film depicts the Vichy government of WWII-era France collaborating with the Germans.
This portion of "St-Gervais" prompts Godard to share his experiences related to his wartime fleeing from France to Switzerland as a young boy. The most delightful reminiscences regarding this journey consist of a charming act of defiance and discussing a relationship that triggers an interest in cinema in Godard.
The input of Ophuls regarding these topics include his own experiences as a German-born boy with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. Ophuls also discusses silly objections to "Sorrow."
The contrasts between an identity as a French person and a Jewish person next prompts Godard to comment on those differences. This wonderful insight is one of a handful of comments that clearly show that Godard has an incredible love of language.
An especially amusing exchange centers around a failed effort by Ophuls and Godard to collaborate on a project. Much of the humor relates to the "wacky misunderstanding" regarding the nature of the project and the apparent obsession that Ophuls has for sending faxes.
The discussion regarding the current approach to film-making (especially in Hollywood) wonderfully parallels the thoughts of Akerman in her documentary. This commonality further makes one hope for a "sequel" that has all three filmmakers in the same room.
Godard aptly notes that movies have gone from being about making art to generating the highest possible profits. His observations regarding this include that a "lawyer" is now the one calling the shots. Related observations include references to the films of Max Ophuls, who is the father of Marcel.
At the same time, Godard makes a handful of witty comments regarding both his sense that he is no different from anyone else who is hired to do a job and that a "One Dollar Movie" is feasible.
The overall vibe that makes "Ophuls" so special is that these two men truly love their work and have great mutual respect and affection. It further is wonderful to have this record of these masters.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "St-Gervais" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,
Friday, June 26, 2015
The highly stylized animated opening credits that use the '80s hit "The Look of Love" as the theme provides an excellent sense of the fun of the satirical comedy "L.A. Slasher," which hits multiplexes on both coasts and in flyover states on June 26 2015. This story of the titular knife-wielding psychopath directing mayhem at folks who are famous for being famous further is a violent representation of the objective behind naming this review site Unreal TV. Death to reality TV indeed.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Slasher" nicely showcases the camp horror vibe that evokes thoughts of the original "Scream" film.
The stereotypes begin with the titular villain or hero depending on your perspective. Quirky '80s and '90s actor Andy Dick provides the voice of this character, who vaguely looks and dresses like Michael Jackson.
Said slasher herds his victims into his stereotypical lair and literally turns the camera on them in an unflattering light in several senses. This "cast" of stereotypes includes a C-List actress (whom Mischa Barton of "The O.C." wonderfully plays,) the fabulous in her own mind socialite with the British accent, and a teen-boy pop star who former teen star Drake "Stinky Pete" Bell awesomely channels Justin Bieber to portray. The "and the rest" among these stranded castaways include the teen mom and the heiress. The credits solely listing these characters (including their captor) as well as many others in the ensemble by their designations further indicates their disposable nature.
The Slasher takes things even further by imposing his form of justice on non-reality show folks who experience their own unwarranted celebrity. The physical and psychological torture of a sleazy producer is particularly awesome.
This harsh commentary on reality goes on to have a TMZ-style host express great delight regarding the mayhem and the general public view the slasher as a folk hero. Folks who relish the following clip, courtesy of YouTube, in which a character whom Bieber plays in an episode of "CSI" gets riddled with bullets can easily understand the message of "Slasher." (No comment regarding how many hits of this clip are attributable to your reviewer.)
The appeal of "Slasher" extends beyond the vicarious pleasures associated with the candid portrayals of reality show participants to hiding the underlying important message in blood-soaked sugar. Satire truly is an effective form of communication.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Slasher" is encouraged to email me. You cam also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
The fascinating and hilarious 2010 documentary "Chantal Akerman, From Here" is one of two recent intimate portraits of legendary filmmakers to come out on DVD from purveyor of genuinely "innovative and provocative documentary films" Icarus Films. The other one, which is titled "Marcel Ophuls and Jean-Luc Godard: The Meeting in St-Gervais," is slated for an early July 2015 review.
Akerman the person is an award-winning Belgian director whose filmography includes the 1996 film "A Couch in New York" and the 2006 feature "La-Bas." "Akerman" the film is an awesome hour-long single-take documentary shot through a doorway.
The camera is focused on Akerman, who answers questions that an unseen interviewer asks about film making and her life. The politely assertive nature of the outspoken personality of the subject provides a great deal of the aforementioned entertainment that is too good to spoil in this post beyond sharing that the lady really likes her cigarettes.
Suffice it to say that a badly received initial question that asks Akerman to broadly comment on film making gets things off to an interesting start. She is more receptive to queries regarding her work and the influences that shape it. She further has terrific comments regarding the general manner in which film making has changed over the past several decades.
These comments on transferring an artistic vision from an internal to an external include wonderful remarks regarding watching the work of influential directors. Cinephiles can relate to being blown away by exceptional work.
Akerman being both a maker of documentary and fictional films both gives her a broader prospective than her colleagues who limit their work to only one of those genres. This further gives the spellbound audience terrific insight into the differences in making these types of film.
The varied nature of the career of Akerman provides the additional treat of hearing her discuss a specific effort to make a commercially, rather than artistically, oriented film. A related topic is her use of imagery in her art.
On a broader (no pun intended) level, "Akerman" provides a delightfully digestible lecture on a dying art form by a master of that means of expression. The expression "They don't make 'em like that any more" is exceptionally true in this case.
Icarus further provides the gift of a 16-page booklet that features an essay on Akerman and her work. The author, Marion Schmid, is a French Literature and Film professor and a biographer of Akerman.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Chantal" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
The only bad thing about the Brazilian tla releasing film "Boys in Brazil," which comes out (pun intended) on DVD on June 30 2015, is that tla is not making it available in time for Pride Month. A better aspect of "Brazil" is that it both makes a terrific Saturday night date or friends film and is a nice example of mainstream queer cinema.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden trailer for "Brazil" provides glimpses of the story lines via the most amped-up scenes in the film.
Thinking that "Brazil" will provide young guys (and girls) the same sense as "Think" is exciting and is an example of the motivation for this zero-revenue review site. "Brazil" is a nicely made and relatively low-key film with enough subtle touches of drama, camp, and suggestions of erotic (rather than salacious) male nudity to appeal to viewers seeking a guilty pleasure.
"Brazil" further evokes thoughts of the 2000-2005 Showtime drama series "Queer as Folk" in that the main characters are largely gay stereotypes without being caricatures. Eighteen year-old Mauro is a combination of enthusiastic twink Justin and flamboyantly outrageous Emmett. His more conservative and shy BFF Rodrigo is the Michael of the group. Mauro's gay uncle Vincente is the "Uncle Vic" of the group in that he is the mentor and role model for the boys.
Cross-dressing scene-stealer Silvetty Montilla is the "Brazil" answer to Michael's mother Debbie. Montilla's Dona Vera is a hilarious cross between Endora of "Bewitched" and Mrs. Roper of "Three's Company" in both personality and appearance.
The cast further includes a tough but feminine (i.e., Lindsay) videoblogger and her more butch girlfriend (i.e., Melanie).
"Brazil" opens with Mauro running through Pride like a puppy on speed with Rodrigo and Vincente in tow. Coming across thugs literally bashing the married and closeted Roger dampens the mood and requires that the whole gang become involved when Mauro enters fierce chihuahua mode.
The quartet retreating to the apartment of Vincente to tend to their physical and emotional wounds prompts a "pink pact" to leave the closet before the next Pride. The central events in the interim include Mauro actively pursuing an interest in drag, Vincente and Roger entering a challenging but loving relationship, and Rodrigo finding his first boyfriend in schoolmate Lucas.
The continued focus on the hardy boys indicates that "Brazil" is largely a well-done "After-School Special" for that demographic with enough variety to appeal to a broad range of queer (and otherwise) folks. Many young men who are discovering (and coming to terms with) that they like boys better than girls can relate to Rodrigo being nervous about even letting Lucas know of his sexual interest in him and subsequently acting on it and Lucas stating in reference to Mauro that he will tolerate the best friend of his future boyfriend.
One of the best scenes has a very anxious Rodrigo attempting to come out to his parents for a very sweet reason. The aspect of the response that states limited acceptance is both funny and realistic.
For his part, Vincente faces uncertainty regarding both the consequences of coming out at work and how to proceed with his relationship with the still-married Roger.
The final note regarding this tale of Pride before the fall is that teen gay viewers will find it uplifting, older gay viewers will relate to the story, and everyone else will simply enjoy a good film.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Brazil" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Monday, June 22, 2015
The genuinely indie flick "In the Treetops," which had a June 14 2015 world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival ahead of a general release, has the same terrific elements as the recently reviewed "Dances With Films" movies "In Stereo" and "The Last Treasure Hunt." All three productions are wonderful collaborations of folks with strong interests in the artistic aspect of film making.
"Treetops" is the first production of writer/director/star Matthew Brown. The other four actors met Brown at the North Carolina School for the Arts. This group shows that good film making requires no more than a well-presented universal story, a basic movie camera, a dedicated group, and folks literally willing to let you film in their backyard (and their living room).
"Treetops" occurs over roughly 12 hours during a Saturday night/Sunday morning of typical high school students. The opening scene in which the gang vandalizes Christmas lawn ornaments is the lightest and most amusing of the movie, which has a perfect mix of entertainment value and depth.
These elements make "Treerops" relatable in that audience members will either see themselves or folks whom they know in the film. A personally observed encounter involving a small-town high school girl snubbing a male classmate, the girl walking away, the boy asking his friends why the girl was angry, and one of those lads loudly replying "she's pissed about the blowjob" would easily fit exactly as played out in "Treetops."
Brown stars as William, who is the center of the group in that he owns the used car in which they are cruising and has a crush on Alexa. In true teen spirit, Alexa essentially gets stuck with the group based on that being her best alternative for the evening.
A tame hot tub party leads to drama in the form of a news of a tragedy, a scuffle between two of the boys, and related soul searching. A subsequent scene in which the boys candidly chat while the girls are in the other room and in which William solicits a condom "just in case" has good humor and particular charm. The fact that these guys are real-life friends comes through especially strongly here and in a hilarious scene that involves arguing about a jacket.
The evening winds down with the gang bedding down at the home of Alexa; this also provides a climax (no pun intended) regrading the William/Alexa relationship following it deepening during the previous few hours. This in turn helps drives (again no pun intended) the final scenes of the film.
The reveals between the potential lovers and the others in the group provide much of the aforementioned depth. These scenes show that we often do not know either what our friends (particularly those in their teens) face on going home or what thoughts are running through their heads. We all know that this beginning of the transition to adulthood is rough, but films like this provide good reminders that the daunting nature of that challenge has caused many of us to block out much of it.
The bottom line regarding all this is that Brown succeeds by following a basic rule of story telling; write about what you know.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Treetops" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An Unreal TV interview with "Southbounders" writer/director has been posted.]
The June 23, 2015 VOD release of the alternative-style docu-drama "Southbounders" enhances the sense that indie flicks hitting the market in June 2015 are directed at your (sometimes) humble reviewer. Examples include the relationship of the estranged adult siblings in the recently reviewed "The Last Treasure Hunt" and a savage boy essentially randomly targeting a man in the soon-to-be-reviewed "Still."
Fortunately, the association in "Southbounders" is extremely pleasant. This tale of 20-something woman Olivia attempting the six-month "thru-hike" of the 2,170 mile Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail (AT) has nice common elements with many nice day hikes along the AT and a wonderful summer working at the Pinkham Notch Lodge that the Appalachian Mountain Club operates at the base of Mount Washington in Gorham, NH. This stint includes being the guy with sprained ankle and shoulder (trail safety is for sissies :-)) helping people plan hikes.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Southbounders" trailer achieves its goal of conveying a sense of the spectacular scenery and the characters who inhabit it in the film.
The lure and lore of the AT that the story of Olivia and the AT motto "Hike Your Own Hike" reflect is that there are almost as many reasons that people attempt that trek as there are hikers. Real-life examples include surviving cancer, a "gap year" project between high school and college or between college and the real world, restarting life after the death of a spouse, wanting to lose a great deal of weight, etc. In the case of Olivia, her trip is in response to medical school related angst.
A personal AT experience that almost ended with abandoning male pride to the extreme degree of accepting an offer to become a human backpack of a Marine but that wrapped up with walking out solo is a minor example of the sense of accomplishment that thru-hikers seek.
A general sense of the (unseen) Reese Witherspoon film "Wild' strongly suggest that this movie is a variation of "Southbounders" for the reasons described above.
Although the majority of thru-hikers are "northbounders" who start in Georgia in March or April and finish in Maine in September or October, the titular trekkers in "Southbounders" take the opposite scenic route.
Olivia, whose trail name is remaining spoiler-free, soon encounters laid-back but obnoxiously chatty and intrusive "Slackpack." This hiker latching onto a clearly unenthusiastic Olivia makes it very clear that the supplies in his backpack do not include a clue. It also makes one wish for this oaf to become the victim of "Deliverance" style mayhem.
This pair soon encounters the more attractive and personable Rollin, as in "rollin' along." The initial meeting of this man and Olivia is a modern take on the legend of Androcles and the lion absence any actual thorns. They soon become the "parents" of the trio with the older and larger Slackpack playing the role of the obliviously annoying "Mearthlike" child.
The appeal of this should-be-a-classic film extends well beyond the chemistry between Olivia and Rollin' and the realistic path of their courtship that strongly parallels a real-life Pinkham Notch one. The AT is a character to the extent that "Southbounders" almost certainly is behind numerous folks lacing up their boots and hitting that trail.
Virtually every scene is beautifully shot either on the AT or the communities through which the AT meanders. Director/writer Ben "Sundown" Wagner additionally includes numerous elements of the AT community in the film.
Wagner provides a realistically excellent sense of community that thru-hikers experience on the trail, staying in the lean-to shelters along the way, enjoying the "luxury" of hostels, and both encountering "freaks" and engaging in personal "freakish" behavior. We further get a glimpse of the carefully planned mail drops along the way but do not see the '30s hobo style network that shares knowledge of folks who are prone to provide other forms of shelter and support along the way.
The end of the trail regarding this post is that "Southbounders" is an interesting artistic film that makes fiction look like an unbiased documentary.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Southbounders" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Friday, June 19, 2015
The July 2014 Unreal TV review of the BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2013 first series (my people call them seasons) of the BBC one drama "The Village" noting that that program being a current one would require waiting roughly a year for BFS to release the second series was prophetic in that that one came out in May 2015. The good news is that that wait was well worth it.
The brilliantly executed brilliant concept of "Village," which can be considered a variation on "Downton Abbey," is that modern-day 100 year-old Bert Middleton sets the stage for the events of his life. S1 focuses on Bert being a teen boy during the Great War (a.k.a. World War I) in the titular rural community. S2 has an early 20s Bert still living at home and working at the struggling dairy farm of his father.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, provides a good sense of the beauty and the aptly understated tone of this show while keeping spoilers to a minimum.
The literally violent class war and other intense turmoil that develops during S2 evokes memories of the aftermath of 911. Many New Yorkers expressed a desire that people stop being nice and get back to normal. The increasingly divisive politics, the occupy movement, horribly strained race relations, and other elements of our current dystopia that are also present in "Village" show that they have received their wish.
The end of WWI sets the stage for the village residents to no longer keep calm and carry on. A heated political race between a Labour candidate and a conservative contender is only one element of this.
The efforts of the wealthy Allingham family to prevent the locals from using their land for purposes that include getting from Point A to Point B and for "courting" is the center of other intense conflict that escalates into a confrontation with dramatic ripple effects. Like the political race in "Village," a class war is at the center of all this.
Romantic relationships are another source of S2 drama. A limited exception to that tome of those stories is that an element of the interest of Bert in a local bird both introduces a classic sitcom moment and leads to an adorable scene in the season finale that serves as a cliffhanger.
On a more dramatic note, the mother of Bert and the aforementioned Labour candidate develop mutually strong feelings that have their own ripple effects. Unhappy marriages, a socially intolerable relationship, and a strongly resisted request for a divorce largely round out this aspect of the lives of the villagers.
The manner in which the S2 action escalates near the end extends well beyond Bert trying to make a love connection. Long simmering resentments across all classes boils over, one character pays a pre-emptive homage to Virginia Woolf, and another nod to classic literature are only some of the developments. The most dramatic threat that modern life asserts against the burg threatens the very existence of the community in a manner that suggest that the person with the gold does make the rules.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Village" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
A telephone chat with "Lord Montagu" writer/director/producer Luke Korem regarding this artistically and commercially successful first stab at a feature film was perfect timing in the midst of Pride Month. This film, which recently hit numerous VOD platforms, about the aristocrat whose arrest in the '50s paved the way for recognition of gay rights under British law is a perfect example of the spirit of Pride.
Releasing this documentary roughly 60 years after Montagu became a guest of his friend the Queen for engaging in homosexual acts provides an especially important reminder of the past in our more enlightened times. A scene of a Springfield Pride parade in a "The Simpsons" episode from a few years ago is an especially terrific reminder of the progress since the era of "the Montagu Case." The response of Lisa to the chant of "we're here; we're queer; get used to it" is that the parade happens every year and that people are used to it.
In further homage to "The Simpsons," this review is taking a half-assed approach to providing a synopsis of "Montagu." The following well-written summary is directly from the production notes for the film.
"As the youngest member in parliament and sole heir to his family's 7,000-acre English estate, Lord Edward Montagu's life was rich and privileged. However, in 1954, Edward Montagu, then aged 25, became England's most infamous aristocrat when he was arrested for homosexual offenses and became the focus of a landmark trial known as “The Montagu Case.” His guilty verdict sent off shock waves and became the catalyst to overturn a centuries old law, butMontagu’s once pristine reputation and career were all but ruined. After serving a year in prison, Montagu rose back into the spotlight when he boldly transformed his private estate and family home into a public tourist attraction.
He created spectacles at his home, most notably Britain's first
motor museum, and thus invented a new form of tourism known as “the stately home business.” His showmanship and success inspired a new breed of aristocrats to open their
doors and transformed Edward Montagu into a prominent and esteemed national figure."
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Montagu" trailer nicely illustrates the care and artistry that Korem devotes to telling the above not-oft-told tale.
Basis for Witch Hunt
Korem shared that the Cold War era defections of homosexual spies Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean to the Soviet Union in the period before the arrest of Montgu for "conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons" played a role in the campaign against Montagu that led to his initial public shame and later status as a pioneer in the fight for gay rights in the U.K. Korem explained that the aforementioned defections "led to fear that those who were gay were also spies."
Korem added that Montagu being an aristocrat made his already scandalous circumstances an "absolutely explosive sex story" along the lines of a "Downton Abbey" plot.
Rosa Parks of Gay Rights
Statements by Korem that Montagu did not set out to be a symbol of the early gay rights movement and that "the [Montagu] case found him" prompted asking if Monatgu could be considered the Rosa Parks of the gay rights cause in that the act that brought Parks fame merely reflected a need to get off her feet. Korem replied that he had not thought about that aspect of the Monatgu story but that he saw the correlation.
Koren added that Montagu was "a great part of gay history and always will be" and that he never had the vindictive attitude that "people shouldn't have done this to me."
Another correlation existed regarding the involvement of Texas-native Korem with the Montagu story. A nephew of Montagu who was familiar with the work of Korem on advertising campaigns asked that he produce a short film for the Montagu family. That led to the current feature-length production that had Korem spending extensive time at the Montagu ancestral home and interviewing Lord Montagu and scores of other notable British individuals.
A purposefully silly question regarding whether Korem encountered any ghosts while staying in the centuries-old Montagu home prompted a light-hearted negative reply. He did share that the residence had "trap doors, secret tunnels" and several similar features that Korem described as everything that you would expect to find in a castle.
Korem went on to discuss how the early morning raid (which had common elements with the fact pattern involving observed sodomy in an Atlanta bedroom in the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick,) that led to the arrests of both Montagu and Daily Mail journalist Peter Wildeblood ruined the career of the latter.
The conversation regarding Wildeblood then focused on that man being who commenced the campaign that resulted in the aforementioned change in British law.
The only negative aspect regarding the discussion of this topic was that Korem stated that he had not had a chance to discuss the recent Irish vote in favor of marriage equality with Montagu. The perspective of a bloke who helped trigger the events that led to that win would have been fascinating.
The conversation with Korem ended with discussing his latest film "Dealt," which is a documentary on blind magician Richard Turner. The tone of Korem's voice in stating "I'm really excited about this next film" and that "it's an amazing story" conveys the sincerity of those statements.
Korem nicely reminds us there still are filmmakers out there with an non-sensational approach to telling important stories about notable events and persons of our past. He transforms Montagu from a man about whom most of us never heard into someone with whom one wants to fly over to join for tea before the opportunity to do so fades away.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
'The Last Treasure Hunt' Theatrical Release: Nice Dances With Films Variation on 'Goodwin Games' and 'Wings'
These musings on the awesome soon-to-released dramedy film "The Last Treasure Hunt," which premiered at the late May 2015 Dances With Films film festival is the second in a series of two posts on indie flicks from that great festival from the equally special "Dances" collaborative. An earlier review on the the Woody Allenesque "In Stereo" includes a primer on the purpose and activities of "Dances."
"Treasure" director Patrick Biesmans expertly expresses the "Dances" philosophy in stating that "filmmaking is a complete act of will. Not just yours, as the director, but the will of a team of people that is dedicated and invested in the story you're trying to tell."
Both "Stereo" and "Treasure" will hit a art house theater near you this summer; their attributes include offering a good alternative to the plethora of sequels and remakes at larger venues.
The theme of "Treasure" wonderfully evokes thoughts of the not-spectacular but unfairly maligned Summer 2013 Fox failedcom "The Goodwin Games." Both productions center around estranged adult siblings whose inheritance from their recently deceased father is contingent on successfully completing an elaborate scavenger hunt. The objective to have parental influence from beyond the grave relates to a desire for the children to reconcile their differences.
This theme also is prevalent in the pilot (no pun intended) and series finale of the '90s "Must See TV" sitcom "Wings." A similar scheme by the deceased father of rigid and level-headed Joe Hackett and his more free-spirited brother Brian brings the latter back home and plays a role in the wrap up of this long-running series.
In all three cases, the older sibling is the seemingly more stable and successful one and the younger one is the one still trying to find his or her proper place in the world. This relates to a joke in the CBS Monday night failedcom "The Popcorn Kid" in which one of the teens working in the old-style movie theater around which the action revolves observes that children are like cars in that the "owner" lavishes attention on the first one to come along and does not care about all those that follow.
Personal related experiences regularly referring to my London-dwelling older sister as the Wicked Witch of the West End and my elderly father expressing a desire that this "wicked" individual and I reconcile before he passes away prompts hope that none of the productions mentioned above inspire him.
The sniping siblings in "Treasure" are bookstore owner/soon-to-be first-time father Oliver Sinclair and his five-year track college student sister Lucy. Their joint venture is the same type of quest on which their father, who is just as eccentric as the heads of the Goodwin and Hackett clans, used to send them. This time, the objectives include prompting both introspection and evoking fond childhood memories.
The reality is that the forced physical and emotional proximity that Oliver and Lucy experience reopens old wounds of the latter variety. These include conflicting views regarding their mother.
Additionally, all but the most compatible siblings will relate (no pun intended) to the illogical new resentments regarding things such one sibling solving a clue solo prompting anger by the other.
Notable moments include Oliver expertly making an insightful speech about the nature of writing a book and the comic relief that Sinclair cousin Alfred, who has never left the childhood island home of the family, provides. A particularly awesome aspect of the latter is that it results in "Treasure" having a Cousin Oliver, who shows signs of being a jinx.
The final clue regarding "Treasure" is that it is thought-provoking and highly realistic. The message comes through without bludgeoning you on the head or whispering a cryptic phrase in your ear.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Treasure" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Knowing that the new "unromantic comedy" film "In Stereo," which hits theaters on July 3 2015, premiered at the Dances With Films Film Festival in late May 2015 should be enough to entice checking out this unsentimental look at youngish love in New York City. The unromantic relationship between "Dances," which both helps filmmakers develop the relationship that help them make films and provides a venue for those products, and Unreal TV dates back to the uber-popular October 2013 review of the documentary "Unhung Hero" by "Dances" participant Patrick Moote.
Additionally getting a preview DVD of fellow festival entry "The Last Treasure Hunt," which is the subject of an upcoming review, facilitated a nice mini-festival from the comfort of home.
The following clip. courtesy of YouTube, of the "Stereo" trailer nicely presents both the primary players and the events that make their lives tough and those of audience members a little more enjoyable.
"Stereo" earns its "Dances" cred by giving the great Woody Allen relationship films of the late '70s a grittier and more dystopian vibe that is very apt for 2015. Successful photographer David and struggling actress Brenda sabotage the good thing that they have going early in the film. The price that David pays for abandoning his adequately true love includes connecting with a younger woman who simultaneously displays intense jealousy and sleeps with his lifelong BFF. These events further trigger an artistic crisis that manifests in physical injury and an arrest for David.
These events further drive an increasingly gruff David to a psychiatrist as a means to provide much of the exposition in "Stereo." The exposition during therapy includes explaining the meaning of the phrase that serves as the name of the film. This aspect of the film contributes a nice element of the classic novels of modern music-oriented British author Nick Hornby.
The challenges that Brenda faces includes limited demand for her services and being difficult when provided an opportunity to practice her craft. These elements hilariously colliding during an audition for a commercial is one of the best scenes of "Stereo."
Brenda additionally finds herself facing the risk of homelessness due to the impending loss of the apartment in which she essentially has been squatting.
Casting "Sex and the City" veteran Mario Cantone as the highly excitable agent of Brenda further contributes to the non-sentimental New York relationships feel of "Stereo."
In true Allen style, older and wiser versions of David and Brenda connect near the end of the film. In more traditional romcom style, a wacky misunderstanding threatens to destroy any chance of a reconciliation.
Micah Hauptman and Beau Garrett respectively do good jobs as David and Brenda. They demonstrate appropriate emotions and portray their characters as folks about whom you would care as friends and be glad to otherwise have in your life. You also would be glad to see them make it as a couple but would not be heartbroken in they fail to launch.
In other words, our leads are ordinary New Yorkers leading ordinary New York lives.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Stereo" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Learning of the release of the documentary "The Yes Men Are Revolting," which hit VOD platforms on June 9 2015 and big screens on June 12 2015, was one of the most exciting bits of news to reach Unreal TV since learning of "The Yes Men Fix the World" in 2010.
One can only hope that "Men" Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum (nee Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin) do not wait five more years to release another movie; seeing them take on the 2016 presidential race would be too good to be true.
The best way to think of Bonanno and Bichlbaum is as the thinking person's Penn and Teller. These purely platonic kindred spirits have a 20-year history of (temporarily) successfully impersonating government officials and corporate representatives for the greater good. "Revolting" further explains this concept in a segment that includes looks at their greatest hits.
On a larger level, "Men" is a terrific franchise that makes those of us in the know feel cool about it and provides equal pleasure in turning other folks onto it. Those with the latter experience who also were at least a tween in the mid-70s will flashback to discovering the original SNL cast; the thoughts of younger folks will turn toward watching their first "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episode.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Revolting" achieves the dual purpose of such "shorts" in that it provides a good sense of the film and makes you want to run (not walk) out to see it. The fact that no aspect of this production is the least bit misleading speaks volumes regarding the integrity that Bonanno and Bichlbaum demonstrate behind the camera.
"Revolting" awesomely reflects the dystopia that both is an occasional theme of posts in this forum and that the documentary "That's Not Funny" addresses. A primary aspect of this is newly aggressive backlash throughout "Revolting." The phrase in the Unreal TV review of "Funny" that notes that society has gone from f**k 'em if they cannot take a joke to f**ked if you tell 'em a joke summarizes this shift. A textbook suit making a textbook ass out of himself in "Revolting" shows that this new hostility is funny because it is true,
"Revolting"further reflects the reality of 2015 by making pranks that are designed to highlight the already catastrophic effects of climate change the primary focus of the film. Our two men without a "half" companion presenting arguably the most concise and entertaining explanation of climate change is a nice bonus; animation truly is the best sugar to help any "medicine" go down.
The opening scene in which our dynamic duo introduce "survivor balls," which are described as a protective suit that is designed to allow people to withstand the effects of virtually any natural disaster, perfectly introduces the spirit of the film and the best brains behind it. The subsequent pranks, a.k.a. hoaxes, are less visual but equally powerful and relevant.
"Revolting" additioally reflects modern life by including a highly enjoyable reality show element into the movie. A total of roughly one-third of the film depicts the daily activities of Mike and his wife raising young children and a major lifestyle change of that clan, Andy facing challenges related to being a gay man, and the manner in which these aspects of those lives create professional and personal strife.
One bit of personal synergy is that the reaction of Andy to Mike having children and the related impact of parental responsibilities on what once was a more beautiful friendship illustrates some of the points in the recently reviewed documentary "Generation Baby Buster," which addresses the trend of many modern women choosing to either postpone having children or not engaging in that activity at all. One scene in which Bonanno and Bichlbaum very frankly discuss their feelings on this subject would perfectly fit in "Buster." Only Bonanno actually saying "you gotta see the baby" would have made this scene any better.
This "must-see" depiction of appropriately fraudulent responses to an inconvenient truth wonderfully wraps up with closing credit segments that briefly recap past pranks. One highlight is a false McDonald's ads that promises victims of police misconduct a free Happy Meal.
The bottom line regarding all this is that "Revolting" and the other "Men" productions depict the essence of comedy; their antics are funny when they are directed at someone else.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Revolting" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
An impending "escape" from the Boston area provides the impetus for this detour into "blogland" regarding how current television shows properly portray the decline of this once great city.
One spoiler is that thoughts to purchase the vanity plate "FU MA" are not entirely joking. Another spoiler is that Boston still is an overall pretty city with nice attractions. It simply is as if a mad scientist has polluted the water supply with a chemical that has made the population incredibly aggressive and unable to not relentlessly dig in their heels when hearing "no" as a response to anything that affects them.
Future entries will expand on the above theme.
A "Family Guy" cutaway from a recent season is the initial source of inspiration for these musings. Hub-area native Seth MacFarlane has "Guy" character Peter Griffin ponder how Boston could both be home to many of the best universities in the county and be entirely populated by dirt bags.
This joke is consistent with other recent televised portrayals of the capital of The Peoples' Republic of Taxachusetts. The hilarious web series, a YouTube clip of which is provided below, "The Real Housewives of South Boston" is one of the best (and most spot-on) examples of this development.
Televised depictions of real-life Boston-area events received even greater notice when national news stories noted that three Lifetime movies in a row focused on lurid incidents from that region a few years ago. That trifecta consists of the Craigslist Killer, the pregnancy pact of the female students at the high school in Gloucester, MA, and a third one that presently cannot be recalled.
As illustrated above, for whatever reason, the "slobs' have defeated the "snobs" in this city. One need look no further than the constantly humid and always reeking of urine subway stations, the plethora of very assertive panhandlers who accost you at every convenience store and Dunkin Donuts entry, and the increasingly Port Authority Bus Terminal like North Station to see this.
Speaking of the transportation system in Boston, the commuter rail system being known as the TSR (for Trans-Siberian Railroad) in my household long pre-dates the ongoing epic (and inexcusable) failures of that system and the general MBTA of this past winter.
The commuter trains have been filthy, crowded, smelly, and unreliable for years. A recent trip in which the floor was pig sty level muddy at the first stop on the first trip of the day (which was late despite the train having been at the station since the previous day) is one of many examples of this.
The sad fact regarding all this is that life is imitating art in an era in which the congenial blue and gray collar barflies of "Cheers" have become the thugs of current Beantown-based televised fare.
Anyone with CIVILIZED questions or comments regarding the above topic is welcome to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,
Monday, June 8, 2015
This post on the BFS Entertainment, which offers North Americans the best of British television, DVD release "Inspector Morse: Last Seen Wearing" is the latest in a series of reviews of BFS "Morse" releases. These articles began with the general overview of the uber-epic BFS 25th Anniversary "Morse" set of which "Seen" is the second set.
The three feature-length episodes in the "Seen" set comprise three of the four episodes in the second series (my people call them seasons) of this seven series classic British mystery series. The exceptional intelligence, observational skills, and myriad of quirks makes this titular police detective the Sherlock Holmes of the 20th century.
The episode titled "The Wolvercote Tongue" gets this second set of episodes off to a first-rate start. The titular item is an effectively priceless jewel that a wealthy ugly American brings to the Oxford turf of Morse. The simultaneous events that drive the subsequent action are the collapse of the woman on her hotel room floor and the disappearance of the jewelry.
As is typical for "Morse," the central investigation reveals illicit affairs, multiple motives and suspects, and the subsequent demise of central characters. A nice bonus this time relates to the hilarious whining by members of the tour group of which the jewelry owner is part and the disdain for those individuals by their tour guide.
The second episode, which shares its name with the set itself, revolves around a cold case regarding the disappearance of a teen girl several months before Morse takes on the tasks of determining her fate and the person or persons responsible for that outcome. The illicit affairs this time are both particularly illicit and numerous. One clue regarding the nature of some actual and suspected relationships is that the episode will get the The Police song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" stuck in your head.
This trifecta of episodes ends with a particularly clever and historically relevant one in which a femme fatale involves Morse into the action by preying on his weaknesses that include a strong love of crossword puzzles. This aptly named adventure, which is known as "The Settling of the Sun," involves very symbolic acts that are associated with a Japanese student with a yen (of course, pun intended) for studying in Oxford.
The excellence of these episodes (as well as all of the 33 "Morse" episodes) extends well beyond the entertainingly clever stories and perfect acting of star John Thaw and the entire cast, which typically includes at least one notable British actor as a guest star. The shot-on-location Oxford scenes are spectacular, and the overall production makes the roughly 90-minutes of each sail by.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Morse" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.