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Friday, July 31, 2015

'Stand' DVD: From Russia With Same Sex Love

Poster Art

The informal DVD of the month club that tla releasing, which is the international/independent movie division of LGBT film giant tla video, operates both shows the potential of queer cinema and supports the theory that other countries do a better job than Hollywood with all genres. The 2014 film set in Moscow (and secretly filmed in Ukraine)  "Stand," which is coming out (pun intended) on August 4 2015, enhances the respect for releasing that picked up traction with the recently reviewed "Boys in Brazil." In this respect, releasing is the younger gay cousin of Unreal TV international DVD distributor fave Film Movement.

The strong impact of "Stand" includes the real-life events on which this film about a 20-something gay man taking a stand against physically and emotionally brutal attacks is based. The largely realistic depictions of virtually every aspect of the film further contribute to this vibe.

The film is equally awesome regarding how it depicts central gay couple Vlad and Anton. (Yes, Vlad is "the impaler" in the relationship.) Each man in this wonderfully committed live-in relationship is attractive in an everyday (rather than doe-eyed twink) manner, is neither annoyingly flamboyant nor fiercely nasty, is very likable, and does a good job communicating their mutual love. Further, they have a group of equally affable friends with whom they are fully out of the closet. This portrayal is particularly nice in the oppressive setting of Russia.

Like many dramas from around the world, "Stand" begins with a random encounter that greatly changes the lives of the main characters. In this case, Vlad taking what may or may not be an accidental detour while driving with Anton results in them coming across an off-screen group of men savagely beating a gay man. Anton speeding off on the attackers turning their attention to him and his significant other abruptly ends a debate regarding whether they should help the victim.

Anton pursuing an investigation of the men who mercilessly torment and savagely beat other men merely based on the sexual orientation of those victims creates the danger of joining the ranks of the victims. This, in turn, jeopardizes his relationship with Vlad.

The level of tension between the couple escalates in proportion with the degree of danger in which Anton places himself in the course of his campaign to help ensure that the attackers are held accountable for their crimes. An especially harrowing scene involves Vlad losing contact with Anton while the latter is with a suspect.

The aforementioned repressive environment in Moscow makes Anton that much more of a hero. Just being a gay man (let alone having a live-in relationship with another man) makes him vulnerable to official and unofficial abuse. Making himself highly visible almost ensures that he will suffer serious pain on top of the strife that he and Vlad are experiencing.

"Stand" further stands (no pun intended) apart from both mainstream and gay thrillers by maintaining a proper tone throughout the film and by not promising a Hollywood ending. This realism further extends to a strong element of ambiguity that literally continues until the final second of the film.

As discussed above, all of this amounts to a film in which two central characters must decide the extent to which they are willing to take the titular position.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

'Danger 5' S1 DVD: Hilarious WWII Action Films Satire

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region 4 DVD set will not play in a standard North American DVD player. It requires a (well worth buying) Region-Free player.

Australian-based DVD producer/distributor Madman Entertainment outdoes itself with the Season One and Season Two DVD sets of the hilariously bizarre WWII action film satire "Danger 5." As the S1 promotional materials prominently advertise, the series is "set in a bizarre 1960s inspired version of World War II." The second season, which Unreal TV will review in August 2015, moves the action ahead roughly 20 years.

The titular international commando group in "Danger" consists of five inglorious basterds whose primary mission is to kill Hitler, who conveniently places himself in the line of fire in each episode. An unintentionally amusing aspect of this is that every member of the team looks incredibly Australian.

The roster consists of Jackson the slightly doughy American, Ilsa the busty Russian, Tucker the particularly hunky (and often shirtless) Australian, Claire the overall reserved Brit., and Frenchman Pierre. The colonel who commands them aptly is an eagle/human hybrid.

The wonderfully cheesy visuals alone make "Danger" a must-see. Every exterior and vehicle clearly is a model, and the terrifically bizarre creatures borrow from minimal budget horror and Japanese monster movies. A shark with legs is a personal favorite.

All of this will evoke thoughts of "The Thunderbirds," the '60s "Bartman" series, "The Venture Bros," "Scooby-Doo," and local cable station productions.

Each episode begins with allied forces encountering a nefarious scheme by Hitler or one of his high-ranking officials, who include Rommel and Mengele. This then prompts calling the "Danger" team into action with the dual objectives of neutralizing the threat and killing Hitler.

The fun starts with a Nazi plot to steal monuments in Allied countries with the objective of creating a massive tribute to Hitler. The second episode, which wonderfully channels the cheaply produced live-action Sid and Mary Krofft Saturday morning show "The Land of the Lost," has the Nazis using mind control to create an army of dinosaur soldiers.

Other equally terrific plots has Hitler and his gang using a virus to transform Allied soldiers into Nazis and separately creating the best anime-style live-action robots this side of "The Power Rangers."

S1 ends on a particularly strong note by marooning (it had to be said) the quintet in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. Highlights include pitting the group against their doppelgangers in one of the most unsentimental encounters ever of that type, a particularly brutal encounter with Hitler, and an epic season-ending battle that perfectly illustrates the spirit of the series.

Madman awesomely includes the five-part web series "The Diamond Girls" that gives birth to "Danger." It is less awesome that pure carelessness precluded watching these episodes before writing this review.

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

'Southbounders' Director Ben 'Sundown' Wagner Tells Us to Take a Hike

Ben Wagner Picture

The celebration of the recently reviewed VOD release of the 10th anniversary of the 2005 roughly "based on a true story" essentially docu-drama "Southbounders" continues with this post on an awesome telephone chat with writer/director/hiker Ben Wagner. The most groovy thing about this movie is that both folks who are familiar with the approximately 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) that provides the setting for the film and "goofers" can strongly to the beautifully filmed story.

The shared insights included the three stars of the film being college classmates of Wagner.

Happy Trails

Wagner, whose trail name was "Sundown," shared regarding his successful completion of the AT trek (i.e., thru-hike) that he "wasn't necessarily the fastest hiker." His primary advice for completing this arduous journey was that every hiker "must go at it with the idea that you are going to finish." These observations were consistent with the "hike your own hike" philosophy in "Southbounders."

Wagner also stated that wanting a big challenge on graduating from college motivated his thru-hike. He further emphasized that he considered Europe a perfectly fine continent but had a stronger desire to explore part of America than to backpack across the old country.

Highlights of this undertaking that "Southbounders" perfectly conveyed included "getting to know this broad spectrum of people" who hike all or a portion of the trail, and the fun of hanging out with "trail angels" who open their homes and provide other support. This realism extended to every actor other than the trio of thru-hikers around whom the film revolve either being a hiker or an "angel."

Wagner further had art imitate life in having lead character medical student Olivia bring a tent on her hike only to abandon it. Wagner shared that bringing a large tent that would allow stretching out at night was a primary indulgence (along with often buying cheese and peanut butter) during his trip. He added that he abandoned having solitary shelter due to the burdensome weight associated with that luxury.


Commenting that the aforementioned review of "Southbounders" advocated imposing "Deliverance" style mayhem on the highly annoying and intrusive lead character "Slackpack" evoked a valued chuckle from Wagner. The filmmaker added that "I did hike with someone like that," and that people on the AT "start protecting and caring for them."

Wagner further stated that "I pick on him [Slackpack] so severely, I needed to give him a happy ending." Those who have seen "Southbounders" can appreciate the humor in this sentiment regarding the highly unexpected elements regarding the final scene with Slackpack.

Behind the Scenes

Wagner declaring "what's special about this film" explained some of the aforementioned extraordinary realism regarding this fictional flick. When asked if a scene in which Olivia threw off her heavy backpack and pummeled it out of frustration was improvised was that the scene was staged but that the expressed emotion was genuine.

The staging extended to predetermining which settings to film, but the flexibility of taking advantage of an opportunity to film when the crew "happened on the right scene" while out in the woods was a large part of what made "Southbounders" special.

Asking about any off-screen romance between Olivia portrayor Amy Cale Peterson and Scott Speiser, who played dreamy thru-hiker Rollin, prompted the response that the pair were good friends who were like brother and sister in real-life. The gossip aspect of this response was that Peterson and Speiser were dating friends of the other at the time of filming.


Wagner shared regarding his 2010 single-take short "6:00," which lasted the titular amount of time, was that he intended that this tale of a woman cop battling a gang "to be a fun action experimental film." He added that the classic single-take Hitchcock classic "Rope" did not "really" inspire him and that that film greatly differed from his.

The cited inspiration was the recent film "Children of Men."

"Dead Within"

Wagner expressed intense enthusiasm regarding his  2014 "docu-style" horror film "Dead Within" that the synopsis for that film stated was about a couple that was living in a remote cabin in the aftermath of an outbreak confronting "the horrors that threaten them from outside and from within."

Wagner stated that he "loves the tension that you can build in long takes."

End of the Trail

Speaking with Wagner awesomely validated the sense that "Southbounders" was a labor of love that accurately portrayed both the AT and the human characters in the film. He also confirmed the speculation in the review of the film that that movie and the recent Reese Witherspoon film "Wild," which followed "Southbounders" by nearly a decade, had many common elements.

Wagner followed this up with the perfect statement that his film will inspire someone to attempt a thru-hike if that is something that you are destined to do.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Wagner, "Southbounders," or the AT is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

'An Honest Liar' DVD/BD: Astonishing Story of Life of Amazing Randi

Product Details

The recent separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2014 documentary "An Honest Liar" is the latest in a string of Unreal TV reviewed documentaries or docudramas based on historic events. These films show that fact often provides better fodder for films than franchise flicks and other schlockbusters.

The titular liar in this one is legendary magician/fraudbuster James "The Amazing" Randi. This modern-day Houdini is as skilled as that magic pioneer and shares his passion for exposing folks who use their talent for magic for "evil."

The too numerous to mention awards for "Liar" proves that the praise for this comprehensive look at the 80-plus years of the subject is not an illusion. The filmmakers pull off the tough trick of simultaneously entertaining and educating that is an ideal regarding documentaries.

The teaser that the following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-heavy trailer provides for "Liar" is worthy of its subject.

The horses' mouths that tell the story of Randi include the man himself, those in his inner circle, colleagues, and magic experts. The numerous clips include footage of variety show appearances of Randi, some of his numerous chats with Johnny Carson, and appearances by self-proclaimed psychic (and Randi nemesis) Uri Geller and other frauds that Randi exposed. Two of the most fun clips are of a Geller "Tonight Show" spot in which Randi prevents that guest from using deception and a "Happy Days" appearance by Randi, which he discusses in a great special feature.

Another notable segment has Satanic rock star Alice Cooper discuss hiring Randi to create an illusion. This scene includes Cooper aptly discussing hiring the best man for the job.

Other footage depicts Randi revealing that a faith healer is a fraud. The priceless "gotcha" moment here is must-see.

The personal and professional lives of Randi intersect regarding his mixing business and pleasure as to coaching artist Jose Alvarez to pose as a guru who is capable of channeling spirits. The reveals regarding this "May-December" pair provide great drama.

The bottom line regarding all this is that Randi uses his power for good and further utilizes it to thwart those who use their related skills for less noble causes. In this respect, as mentioned above, Randi effectively channels Houdini.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

'All American Bully' DVD: 'After-School Special' style Film Pulpier Than Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

Product Details
The 2011 teen-drama "All American Bully" is wonderful summer camp that (ala the original "Sharknado") is so bad that it is good. The fact that "Friday the 13th" actress Adrienne King is promoted as a primary draw despite having a small supporting role is very consistent with this. King plays ant-Belding hard-nosed high school principal Debbie Kane, who unloads her personal baggage all over students and faculty who innocently run afoul of her.

Thanks to the wonderful purveyors of C-movies of this nature Wild Eye Releasing, which includes "Raiders of the Lost Shark" in its catalog, you can enjoy all the bad acting and ridiculous developments of "Bully" from the comfort of your own home. The DVD extras include cast interviews,

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Bully" trailer terrifically makes the aforementioned point regarding the fun of "Bully." The campy dramatic background music is only one aspect of this.

"Bully" centers around whipped emo boy Devon, who lives with his well-meaning but frustrated father. This quiet lad spends virtually all of his free time in his basement lair either alone or with quasi-goth gal pal Becky and enthusiastically geeky Garrett. Seeing the 20-somethings who portray this trio engage is what they consider typical teen behavior that is par for the course for these guilty pleasure films contributes to the entertaining unintentional humor.

Devon both being shy and geeky and having an (easily guessed) secret history with slightly older delinquent John Brooks already places the former on the radar of the latter. A forced encounter escalates the strained relations between the one-time BFFs. The video recording (and subsequent uploading) of the beat-down and other humiliation that Devon suffers during the reunion escalates the conflict.

Becky, who has a not-so-secret crush on Devon, does her own coercing regarding getting him to co-operate with an apt revenge scheme. This plot teaches Becky that figuratively poking the bear might provoke the bear to literally poke back.

Throwing in (ultimately overwhelming) personal trauma for John elevates the camp level. This aspect of the story is unexpected but is another source of wonderful unintentional humor. Only having John use a G.I. Joe as a visual add would have improved this plot line.

All of this makes "Bully" a great choice when you are in the mood to mercilessly mock more serious productions regarding the related real problems of bullying and effectively using the Internet as a weapon. The same sensibility makes the Amy Sedaris sitcom "Strangers With Candy" an uber-awesome alternative to the ABC "After-School Specials" of the '70s and '80s.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interview With 'Woman in Gold' Director Simon Curtis Shows He Is Worth Weight in Platinum

Image result for simon curtis images

The exciting aspects of speaking with film and television director Simon Curtis, whose numerous projects included the recently reviewed Blu-ray version of "Woman in Gold," included that the sense that this talented and successful man shared the same perspective as your reviewer.

The only disappointment regarding our telephone conversation was that 15 minutes was allocated for a discussion that could have lasted hours.

Historic Reality

The observation that many projects, including the 2011 film "My Week With Marilyn" and the 2007-09 British drama series "Cranford," that Curtis has helmed were historic dramas prompted asking whether that genre particularly appealed to him. He very politely initially reminded me that he also worked on many projects set in contemporary times.

Curtis added that he liked good stories and that "many good stories are about the past." He graciously did not mention "Marilyn" or "Gold" but cited "The Imitation Game" and
"Argo" as examples of good recent films based on actual events.

Citing the "terrifying" development that Warner Brothers had a three-year timeline for releasing superhero films, Curtis further stated that "there is a crisis in fiction today." That comment supported the decision of that genuine auteur to look to actual events for material. One exception regarding that sentiment was that Curtis highly praised the recent film "Birdman." An awesome aspect of that was informing him of the '60s "Birdman" cartoon and doing a horrible version of the "BIRDMAN!" call.

(This post belatedly (and coincidentally) running on the opening weekend of the Marvel film "Ant-Man" supports the view expressed above.)

These observations led to my sharing that friends in the pre-reality show '80s stated that they did not watch television because their friends were more interesting than the people om television. Curtis responded that people enjoyed criticizing reality shows but stated that they were more interesting than current scripted series.

Good as 'Gold'

The above discussed elements further prompted Curtis to enthusiastically express the sentiment that "I am ecstatic to be having this conversation at a time that 'Woman in Gold' has been in the theaters for 14 weeks." He further described this film as "a love letter to America's policy of immigration" and more generally as "a great American story."

The shared bases for the above sentiments included the primary "Gold" character Maria being a young woman when she fled Nazi-occupied Austria and having the United States Supreme Court consider the merits of her case to recover possession of the titular portrait of her aunt.

This topic led to discussing the involvement of the family of the real-life Maria in making "Gold.' The story of the son of Maria crying while watching Helen Mirren portray his mother was known. Learning that the grandson of Maria made a very moving speech at the premiere of the film awesomely added to "behind-the-scenes" knowledge.

On a more general level, Curtis stated "we were very lucky that Helen and [co-star] Ryan [Reynolds] got along so well."

"Indian Summers"

The conversation concluded with discussing the television series "Indian Summers," which is the latest project of Curtis. He shared that the PBS "Masterpiece" will aptly begin airing episodes of that program about the final days of British rule in India in September.

Golden Rule

The insights of Curtis show that well-presented reality has a place in popular entertainment so long as 15 minutes of fame is not the objective.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

'Seek' DVD: Sleepless Toronto Twink

Product Details
The 2014 Canadian gay romdram "Seek," which is a recent addition to the tla releasing DVD catalog, is a nice example of the type of movie that this international film division of gay-themed media company tla video offers. The globally relatable story this time centers around up-and-coming (truly no pun intended) 20-something writer Evan pursuing personal and professional fulfillment (again, no pun intended.)

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "teaser" for "Seek" focuses on the erotic and absolutely fabulous elements of the film. Discovering the heart about this search for true love or the closest possible equivalent requires a combination of reading this review and purchasing the DVD.

Evan may not be Mr. Right, but is much more than Mr. Right Now. He is nice-looking, personable, reasonable intelligent and talented, shy without being wimpy, hits the gym regularly, and works hard. His job at a (presumably weekly and presumably free) gay magazine writing on topics such as the leather scene pays the rent of this boy. His aspirations include writing for a larger and more mainstream publication.

The aforementioned ambition of this blond gets him a freelance assignment writing a profile on successful party planner Hunter and the people in the orbit of that former flyer boy turned club kid.  Lounging on a couch and eating leftovers while watching Evan explore this world with a specific mission to inform folks who commute back to the suburbs right after work and are asleep while the events about which he writes helps that portion of the message of "Seek" hit home.

Much of this cute and entertaining film has country mouse Evan interviewing quirky folks for both his day and night jobs. These include a gay couple whose intimate activities revolve around a sports gear fetish, a straight couple in which the 100-percent straight man enjoys cross-dressing, and a pair of outrageous drag queens who sandwich Evan between them.

Meanwhile, Evan experiences real and fantasized encounters in his parallel quest for a meaningful relationship. For better or worse, this never rises (once more, no pun intended) beyond an "R" level. Gay men who have been on either (or both) sides of interaction between Evan and a man with roughly 20 years on him who wants to be "friends" can relate to Evan trying to be polite and the other man either being unable or unwilling to read the situation. On a broader level, this reflects the challenge of gay relations related to a general desire to be with someone younger and cuter than you. (For the record, even the slight straying into "Sex and the City" territory regarding the above observation caused slight nausea.)

"Seek" further explores the extent to which Hunter and Evan will connect beyond collaborating on the article regarding the business of pleasure. Suffice it to say, the film delivers with one set of unexpected developments and another equally satisfying climax (pun intended this time).

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Seek" is encouraged to email me (with the understanding that I am very happily spoken for). You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

'Amour Fou' VOD: Suicide Poets

AMOUR FOU DVD & Online Streaming

The recent VOD release (ahead of an October 2015 DVD release) of the 2014 Austrian docudrama "Amour Fou" from indie. foreign film god Film Movement hits another grand slam in the infinite innings all-star game regarding these movies. This real-life tale of a suicide plan of melancholy 19th century poet Heinrich von Kleist hits several relevant modern notes.

On a very broad level, the VOD release of "Amour" coming a few weeks before the VOD,  DVD, and Blu-Ray releases of the (recently reviewed) recent docudrama "Woman in Gold" prompts thoughts of a comment by "Gold" director Simon Curtis in a recent interview (which is the subject of an upcoming post) with Unreal TV. In discussing his apparent preference for directing films and television series that are based on historical events, Curtis essentially states that notable real-life incidents provide better material for productions than superheros and other fictional characters.

On a more amusing level, von Kleist remarking that his deeper-than-average understanding of life makes him prefer death over the alternative is an great variation of a statement by dark and cynical MTV animated teen Daria Morgendorffer. This self-referentialobservation is that "I am too smart and too sensitive to live in the world like this, at a time like this, with a sister like mine." Anyone who is aware of what is below the surface of society and cares enough about that knowledge to be unhappy can relates to the states of mind of von Kleist and Morgendorffer.

The insight into the workings of the beautiful mind of von Kleist come in the context of his relationship with Harriet Vogel, the stereotypical wife of a wealthy man. The appreciation of Henrietta for a particular piece by von Kleist is the beginning of a beautiful friendship that leads the latter to believe that the former is a kindred spirit. This belief prompts von Kleist to invite Henrietta to enter a murder-suicide pact that is designed to put his soon-to-be external mind at ease.

The developments described above set the stage for awesome character studies of our leads, who experience separate traumas that further influence the course of the final solution that von Kleist proposes.

Both the high regard of Henrietta for the imagery that von Kleist creates and the personal challenges that these potentially kindred spirits face join the aspect of understanding the world too well to be happy as modern elements of this Merchant-Ivory quality period piece.

All of the above drama occurs in the context of the inter-related changing social and political climate of 1811 Germany. The shifting power structure and efforts to reallocate income are very relevant to a 2015 audience.

The best part of all the awesome "ingredients" described above is that director Jessica Hausener artfully combines them into a tasty and healthy pastry,

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

'The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe' U.S. DVD & BD Premieres: Classic French Spy v. Spy Farce


The recently launched "Classics" division, which is also behind the home video release of the recently reviewed highly sensual Ewan McGrgegor drama "The Pillow Book," of the extraordinary independent and foreign film distributor Film Movement keeps the hits coming with recent separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of the hilarious 1972 French farce "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe." One can only hope that Movement also turns its attention to the 1974 sequel "The Return of the Tall Blond Man."

The numerous great things about the release of "Blond" extend well beyond this pre-hi-def film looking and sounding great in Blu-ray. Movement providing this chance to compare that film with the detestable 1985 Tom Hanks comedy "The Man With One Red Shoe" validates the theory that Hollywood almost always fails regarding remakes of the best from Europe. This is despite French national treasures writer director Yves Robert and writer Francis Veber working on both projects.

The awards for the critically and audience-acclaimed "Blond" include a 1973 Silver Berlin Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and a 1973 "Top Foreign Films" award from the U.S. National Board of Review.

The absurdity that sets the stage for the ensuing hilarity in "Blond" relates to a not-so-professional rivalry between two officials in the French secret service. This leads to ensnaring purely randomly selected violinist Francois Perrin in their game. This aspect of  the film and the callous disregard for the well-being of Perrin (as well as the more general elements of farce) evokes thoughts of the '80s comedy "Trading Places."

The false identification of Perrin as an intelligence asset leads to concurrent surveillance that would make the NSA proud and an equally amusing investigation directed at discovering what makes Perrin of interest to the French government. Throwing in a sultry blonde bombshell to seduce Perrin strongly contributes to the tres francasie vibe of "Blond."

The particularly hilarious moments are too good to spoil but center around overheard surveillance, the aforementioned seduction, a very funny effort to follow a bicycling Perrin, and the general mayhem that surrounds Perrin. The exceptional lack of awareness of that character regarding the surrounding chaos throws a nice sense of the classic "The Pink Panther" films into the mix.

Like other wonderful films of this sub-genre, "Blond" climaxes with escalating antics. The body count seems to escalate at the same rate as the laughs.

The special features include the original theatrical trailer and a new essay by film expert Nick Pinkerton.

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

Sunday, July 12, 2015

'Can't Stand Losing You Surviving the Police' DVD & BD: The Summers of Discontent

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Uber-awesome documentary film company Cinema Libre Studio continues the recent trend of releasing titles that show that truth is stronger than fiction. This validation comes in the form of "Can't Stand Losing You Surviving the Police," which is separately coming out on DVD and Blu-ray on July 14 2015. This chronicle of The Police guitarist Andy Summers is so closely based on Summers' memoir "One Train Later" that he reads from the work several times in "Can't."

Anyone with any sense of '80s music knows that The Police arguably is one of the top 10 groups of that decade. Although much of their music has an edge, "Can't" identifying this band (which consists of Summers, front man Sting, and drummer Stewart Copeland) as punk rockers seems to stretch the definition of that genre.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the hilariously absurd Police video for "Don't Stand So Close" is being provided to provide current fans fun nostalgia and to introduce future fans to the group. The goofy dancing alone makes this one "must see."

The following clip, also courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Can't" is designed to provide a sense of the "behind the music" and the auto-biographical aspects of the film. The unusually comprehensive nature of this short provides a glimpse of virtually every major theme in the film.

The comprehensive nature of "Can't" starts with the interesting circumstances of the wartime England birth of Summers and seemingly continues to the period right before the 2012 theatrical release of the film. Highlights for Police fans include documentation of the random circumstances leading to the forming of the band, the early days of the trio, the genesis (pun intended) of "Roxanne," their rise and fall, and the 2007 reunion tour.

The coverage of the pre-Police life of Summers includes his history with a successful '60s group, his subsequent rough times (including an unfortunate incarceration), and his active social life.

The aforementioned "behind the music" aspects of "Can't" largely focus on the dynamics of the group that have Summers and Copeland playing Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter to Sting's Suzanne Somers. The parallels with the "Three's Company" cast extend to having the three musicians record in separate studios.

Summers additionally shares terrific insights regarding being a rock star in the '80s; the segments (including totally tubular clips) that address the "video killed the radio star" MTV aspect of that era are especially entertaining. Watching him and his band mates charmingly joke through interviews even as Sting increasingly dominates the spotlight further contributes to the fun of this portion of the film.

Summers the person generally comes across as an ordinary bloke with a family and who feels the stress of a demanding job that requires a great deal of traveling. This candid portrayal presents him as someone with whom you would not mind sharing a pint, but not as a rock god regarding whom you would sell you soul to meet.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Can't" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

'Lord Montagu' VOD: Nobleman, Gay Rights Pioneer, and Entrepreneur

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This review of the 2013 documentary "Lord Montagu," which is a recent addition to VOD selections, follows a recent post on an interview with "Montagu" writer/director Luke Korem. The notable aspects of this film about a man who assumes his noble title when he is 2.5 years old and becomes a gay rights pioneer in his 20s during a period in which he also creates the "stately homes" tourist industry include that any of those elements of that extraordinary life provide ample material for one film. Korem achieves a trifecta in nicely incorporating all three of those stories in one production.

"Montagu" additionally is one of several recent documentaries or docudramas to find their way to Unreal TV. The notable aspect of this is that the seemingly increased flow of quality films from these genres support an observation and a related theory of (recently reviewed) "Woman in Gold" director Simon Curtis that very few modern non-fiction films are very good and that historic events provide wonderful material for movies. His cited examples of "Argo" and "The Imitation Game" terrifically illustrate his point.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Montagu" trailer additionally confirms that Curtis knows of which he speaks.

Using brief readings from the autobiography of Lord Edward Montagu is a good narrative technique that sets the stage for the following segment of the film. The well-chosen piano music that accompanies the interviews of relatives and other individuals in the life of Montagu, the archival photos and news items, and the wonderfully cheesy commercials featuring Montagu enhances those narrative techniques.

As indicated above, the life of Montagu (like the rest of us) becomes interesting in his mid-20s. His facing the same economic crisis that requires many other nobles to burn or otherwise demolish the stately home in which their family has resided for 200 years or more prompts the practical Montagu to set the trend of opening his home to the unwashed masses. The documented necessary evil of a combination schlock and crass commercialism is fascinatingly depressing. Seeing a box that sells a recorded statement by Montagu is particularly cringe-worthy.

The aforementioned gay scandal receiving far less screen time than the aforementioned opening the family estate to the public illustrates the relative importance of those incidents in the life of Montagu from his perspective. The former largely concerns his allowing a gay friend use said estate for a romantic encounter with another man; the latter concerns both allowing current and future members of the Montagu clan to avoid finding themselves out on the street and feeds the seemingly insatiable appetite of Montagu for the spotlight. His statement that selling the estate and spending the rest of his life lying on a beach was an option but that he felt obliged to keep the property in the family nicely illustrates the primary theme of the film.

Every aspect of the lifestyle of Montagu combines regarding his immediate family. The interviews with that group show that the prosecution and the enjoyment related to increasingly operating the family home as a carnival (complete with merry-go-round) made their seemingly charmed lives not so enjoyable.

The excellent instincts of Korem regarding his subject make all of the above a royal treat. You will learn everything that you ever wanted to know about Montagu but did not know to ask.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

'Next of Kin' DVD: BBC '90s Sitcom Proving Humor is Relative

Image result for next of kin dvd penelope keith images
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-4 DVD set will not play in a standard U.S. DVD player; it requires a (well-worth buying) international player.]

Australian DVD producer Madman Entertainment one again boldly goes where both U.S. and U.K. media companies fear to tread in recently releasing the four-DVD set of the three series (my people call them seasons) and the (not previously released on DVD) Christmas special of the mid-90s BBC Britcom "Next of Kin."

The concept of this series is that British borderline upper middle-class couple Maggie and Andrew are on the verge of achieving the dream of retiring in France only to learn on returning from a successful house-hunting trip there that their estranged son Graham and his wife have died. The impact of that tragedy includes Maggie and Andrew being the only living relatives (i.e., sole options for guardianship) of the three children of Graham.

Youngest child Jake, who is seven, is an annoying inquisitive child with a menagerie of small animals and an initial refusal to eat any kind of food. Brother Philip is largely agreeable but only eats Spam. Daughter Georgia is a strident pre-teen who shares the rigid views of her mother regarding vegetarianism, the environment, and several other causes.

The ensuing "sits" that provide the "com" in ""Kin" relate to Maggie accepting her duty to care for the kids but still feeling frustrated and the kids in turn feeling their own frustration and embarrassment regarding having their grandparents as their caregivers. At the same time, all this is civilized and lacks any element of the crude jarring nature of "Roseanne" from the same era.

In other words, the Brits once again prove their superiority over Americans regarding television comedies. "Kin" is wonderfully unsentimental with a slight touch of darkness without being at all strident or offensive. Much of this success is due to the tremendous talent of Britcom veteran Penelope Keith in the role as Maggie. She can be complaining to Andrew one minute, arguing with Georgia the next about cooking bacon or some other "atrocity," going on to badger (no pun intended) Jake about cleaning the cage of Henrietta the hamster, and yet be gamely leading a cub scout troop or competing against a group of much younger mothers in a foot race the next.

The "Kin" writers go even further in making Maggie seem like social-conscious (and climbing) Hyacinth in the Britcom "Keeping Up Appearances" by having her mourn the loss of the more privileged lifestyle to which she was accustomed before assuming the cost of raising three children. These scribes further have Maggie both endure the same types of humiliating experiences as Hyacinth and contend with the same types of undesirables. An awesome example of the latter is the surprise appearance of crude individuals on the family doorstep prompting a Julia Sugarbaker (of the U.S.'90s sitcom "Designing Women") style rant.

On a larger level, "Kin" includes an entertaining element of karma in that Maggie and Andrew seem to be paying a "triple penalty" for sending Graham off to boarding school and otherwise not actively parenting him during his childhood. Specific prices for this include now having to stand out in the cold watching a soccer match, trying to make a (fall-on-the-floor hilarious) locust costume, and enduring a fairly rustic vacation at a family campground painfully close to a palatial chateau at which Maggie and Andrew once stayed.

Additional karma comes in the form of neighbors viewing Andrew and Maggie as the form of disruptive family that used to bother them and our leads contending with the same type of distant parents that they were regarding Graham.

The first season largely focuses on the efforts of every member of the new family to adapt to their new reality. The fact that the mother of the children was critical of Maggie does not help matters. A quasi-dark early episode has Maggie and Andrew become the victims of a suspicion of child abuse.

Later episodes retain these elements but increase the degree of standard sitcom elements. These include Philip being concerned that Maggie and Andrew will embarrass him at a high school dance, Jake embarrassing Georgia in front of her boyfriend, the family needing financially burdensome car repairs, and parental responsibilities repeatedly conflicting with personal plans.

All of this ends on a nice note that shows that the group is somehow forming a family without getting unduly sentimental about it.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

'Human Capital' DVD: 'Rashomon'-style 'After School Special'/Social Commentary Hybrid

HUMAN CAPITAL DVD & Online Streaming

The very aptly named 2014 Italian drama "Human Capital," which is being released to the general public on DVD on July 7 2015, provides yet another reason to join the uber-awesome (independent and foreign) Film of the Month Club of "Capital" distributor Film Movement. Members often get these titles ahead of everyone else.

Knowing the greatness of "Capital" created expectations of finding award wins. Seeing that it has an astonishing 42 (mostly major) wins and another 29 nominations validates the future classic status of the film.

These awards strongly reflect the accomplishments of director/screen writer Paolo Virzi. He achieves perfection regarding casting, getting perfect performances from those actors, juggling several (often interacting) perspectives, and maintaining a perfect pace.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Capital" provides a wonderful primer on the themes and style of this exceptional film. The final scene in this preview contains a major spoiler that also arguably is the best scene in the movie.

The basic story of "Capital" is that Massimiliano "Masi" Bernachi, who is the roughly 18 year-old son of "one-percenter"  hedge fund manager Giovanni Bernachi and trophy wife/former actress Carla Bernachi is the prime suspect in a fatal Christmastime hit-and-run collision between his brand-new SUV and a bicyclist. It is almost certain that said automobile is the one that did the hitting and running; the mystery relates to whether an extraordinarily drunk Masi is culpable. As the liner notes for the DVD point out, the story unfolds through witnessing the relevant events via the shifting perspectives of the usual suspects and those who are near and dear to them. This is in contrast to the more traditional narrative of an investigator snooping around.

The larger story, which is both timeless and particularly relevant in our current economic times, revolves around the relationships between the Bernachis and the middle-class Ossola family. Serena Ossola having a "complicated" relationship with classmate Masi is the primary basis for the interaction between the families.

Dino Ossola, who is the father of Serena, becomes involved with the Bernachis on becoming a literally last-minute substitute tennis partner of his. This largely token overture emboldens Dino to assertively get Giovanni to agree to let him invest in which Dino believes to be the miracle investment fund. Anyone who has every seen a movie that has this type of relationship can predict Giovanni becoming increasingly annoyed regarding Dino being a puppy who refuses to take the hint after an intent to merely politely pat him on the head once and then send him away. For his part, Dino equally predictably sustains an unsustainable loss regarding his financial investment.

Each chapter of "Capital" depicts the events leading up to the aforementioned accident and the resulting fallout from the perspective of one individual mentioned above. This provides a good framework both for divulging new clues and learning more about the character around whom the story currently centers. Like any good mystery, the conclusion involves an unexpected but believable twist.

Another twist comes at another literally last minute regarding the full extent to which the term "Human Capital" applies to the compelling events. The ongoing themes include exploring the degree to which we value ourselves and others and whether someone would readily throw us under a bus (pun intended.)

In other words, Virzi turns what could have been a cliched story about two families with vastly different lifestyles into a true art-house film that artfully combine elements of the classic Japanese film "Rashomon," Italian cinema complete with moments of wild over-emoting, an "After-School Special," '80s style character dramas, and the aforementioned crime dramas.

Movement does equally well regarding the choice for the bonus short film that accompanies every Club selection. The wonderfully tense 9-minute German film "Job Interview" can be considered a Cliff Notes version of a lamestream cinema thriller.

Virtually all of the action in "Interview" occurs in the office of a mid-level manager. The seemingly benign candidate-selection process in that setting soon escalates into psychological terror that perfectly composed background music accompanies. The "Tales from the Crypt" dark humor adds a nice touch.

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

Monday, July 6, 2015

'Woman in Gold' DVD & BD: Establishing Golden Rule for Art Restitution

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[EDITORS' NOTE: Unreal TV ran an interview with "Gold" director Simon Curtis in July 2015.]

The Weinstein Company film "Woman in Gold," which is out on VOD and is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 7 2015, entertains while educating. The Blu-Ray version excellently shows the nice scenery in Los Angeles and the magnificent images of Vienna. You clearly see that the latter is spectacular.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Gold" nicely illustrates the drama and humor of the film as well as the Weinsteinness of the production. Unintentional humor relates to the blatantly showing the lack of even an award nomination any time in the career of one of lead. It is ass the stars are Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, and Justine  Bateman.

This true story of Austrian-American Maria Altmann literally taking on the government of Austria in the '90s to recover the titular Nazi-seized portrait goes beyond discussing the well-known violent antisemitism of that era and the slightly lesser-known effort to reunite the owners of seized artworks with their property to provide an easily digestible lesson on the applicable principles of international law.

"Gold" starts with a series of genuine coincidences that seem to come from the mind of a Hollywood screenwriter. The recent death of the sister of Maria gets her thinking both of the Klimt portrait of her beloved aunt Adele and of a desire to recover it from the Belvedere Museum in Vienna where it has hung since the war ended. One spoiler that illustrates the educational elements of "Gold" is that we learn that Austrian museums regularly made questionable mutually beneficial deals with Nazis infollowing the end of the war.

The triggered memories prompt Maria to contact struggling attorney Randol Schoenberg, who is the grandson of the Austrian composer of the same name and the son of a life-long friend of Maria. An initially reluctant Randol accompanies Maria to Vienna to get evidence to bolster her claim to the portrait and other family artwork, to present her case to the Viennese agency that considers such claims, and to speak at a conference that promotes art restitution.

This visit further triggers well-presented flashbacks for Maria, who has not returned to Austria since her daring 1938 daytime escape. The filmmakers depict the Nazi humiliation and other despicable abuse of Jewish people without resorting to uber-violent images and booming orchestral music. These artists wisely acknowledge that a 2015 audience knows of those atrocities. This nicely illustrates that recovering ill-gotten Nazi loot requires far more than showing ownership of the possessions at the time of the seizure.

Other elements of the backstory are that the portrait around which the controversy revolves is now a national Austrian treasure, and that the Belvedere has documentation that supports its ownership claim independent of that museum acquiring that art through the Nazis.

In both reel life and real life, the controversy ends up in front of the United States Supreme Court. Segments in this scene regarding Randol freezing while presenting his case and the federal government making an absurd international relations argument provides some of the best humor in the film.

The nature of the Maria/Randol relationship, the objective of this"odd couple," and the casting of Helen Mirren and Ryan "Berg/Hal Jordan" Reynolds in the roles screams for comparing "Gold" with the 2013 Judi Dench/Steve Coogan film "Philomena." The latter, which is also based on actual events. has a woman of mature years involve a journalist in her search for her adult son that a convent required that she give up within minutes of giving birth to him. Both films do their subjects justice and wisely cast true British treasures in the lead.

Mirren deserves great praise for portraying the many moods of Maria with her usual understated elegance. She also makes you feel that you are watching Maria, rather than Mirren. The only flaw in her performance is that the Austrian accent is not so strong at any time and often slips into her dialect as "The Queen." At the same time, the spectacular talent of Mirren and her genuinely awesome nature require overlooking the aforementioned imperfection.

For his part, Reynolds does a nice job in this role that does not have him playing his typical goofball. His acting is appropriate for the part of a low-key attorney.

Max Irons, who is the son of Jeremy Irons, deserves special mention for his excellent job in the small role as the young husband of the young Maria. Assuming that he actually does his singing, he has an incredible voice. He further portrays his character as someone whom you would want to literally have your back when facing peril.

The home video special features include the trailer for the documentary "Stealing Klimt," which depicts the story of Maria. We also get good images of the real Maria from "Klimt" in the excellent "making of" special feature. This one additionally has wonderful insights from Mirren, Reynolds, "Gold" director Simon Curtis, and the real-life Randol (who does not resemble Reynolds).

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

'The Goode Family' and Progressive Fascism of Plastic Bag Bans

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Considering that Massachusetts is the birthplace of the American Revolution, it is hilariously ironic that action by the modern-day (largely progressive democrats) Massachusetts legislature is motivating this July Fourth post on an absurd deprivation of freedom. As an aside, the thoughts in this post are consistent with the "FU MA" sentiment in a recent post on modern television depictions of the Boston area accurately depicting the sad commonwealth of affairs here.

The response to folks who suggest leaving the state if I do not like it here is that I am; the advantages of moving less than a mile across the border include buying a house for at least a third less than the price of a comparable one immediately across that line. Significantly lower taxes and health insurance rates are icing on that tasty tasty cupcake.

Said legislature is considering a statewide expansion of the plastic bag ban that plagues many communities in the state. This popular green effort is right out of the horribly maligned (and Unreal TV reviewed) 2009 Mike Judge failedcom "The Goode Family." The fact that this fall-on-the-floor-funny show about a family of extreme environmentalists lasted a small fraction as "King of the Hill" from Judge shows that politically incorrect folks can laugh at themselves far more than those on the other end of the spectrum.

A scene from "Goode" in which mother Helen juggles (and drops) groceries from a Whole Foods style store rather than endure the humiliation of getting paper bags is highly relevant. Witnessing a friend who is very active in the Green Party do the same (and his missing the sarcasm behind a  subsequent remark that his enormous tote is large enough for a week worth of groceries) verifies that "Goode" is funny because it is true.

A 2015 take would have Helen and her clan leading the fight for a plastic bag ban and (like their real-life Massachusetts counterparts) treating those who simply want to continue enjoying the convenience of plastic bags like the tree-decimating villain in "The Lorax."

Judge further would almost certainly include a "ripped from the headlines" scene in which the titular family would waste 1,000s of plastic bags in dramatic demonstrations designed to show the wasteful nature of plastic bags.

Judge going on to to do a holiday special in which the Goodes lead a campaign to ban real Christmas trees based on environmental concerns only to have the resulting increase demand for artificial trees prompt a company to clear a forest to build a new factory would be equally awesome.

As Judge would point out, the bag ban is largely hypocritical in that virtually every proponent is guilty of practices that are unfriendly to the environment. Environmentally conscious practices of your friendly neighborhood ban opponent include driving a coupe, always combining errands, drying laundry on racks, being very conservative with lights, etc. For that matter, most plastic bags serve the dual purposes of first being used for trash and then as the container for the "presents" that my cat leaves in the litter box.

One related element of this is that elected officials and other ban proponents suggest that dog and cat owners both use paper or reusable bags and buy plastic ones for their pet waste. They literally cannot accept the logic that this impacts the environment far greater than merely using plastic bags from the checkout line for the dual purposes described above.

The "Goode" style "independence" element of the bans is that those behind it are also the types who validly raise major fusses when rights that they value are trampled but seem to either be oblivious to or choose to ignore that they are doing the same. Most people recognize that plastic bags harm the environment and do not challenge the right of folks to not use them. The issue is that those folks lack the right to take that choice away from those of us who have used those bags for roughly 25 years. This further prompts a sentiment that extreme environmentalists must pull my plastic bag from my cold dead hand.

The same reasonable individuals described above would NEVER compare being deprived use of plastic bags to the never-before (and hopefully never-again) atrocities of the Nazis. However, imposing the ban as a means of exerting the will of those adequately in charge follows the same fascist principles. As a friend states, propaganda that supports your view is still propaganda.

The practical effects of a current ban include stockpiling plastic bags ahead of the effective date of that new law, belonging to the silenced majority that no longer shops in that community, and taking more bags than otherwise would be taken when shopping in communities that respect the right to chose your form of shopping bag. This suggests that imposing the ban both increases the demand for plastic bags and significantly hurts local businesses that are already financially struggling.

The final note is that personal rebellion related to the ban includes bringing plastic bags on the rare occasions that quickly needing just one or two items requires shopping locally. ONLY concern for the environment prevents advocating protest in the form of dumping reusable bags (which still must be manufactured and transported to stores and that should be frequently washed) in Boston Harbor.

Anyone with CIVIL questions or comments regarding this post is welcome to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

'Belle and Sebastian' DVD: A Boy and His Dog CharminglyThwart Nazis in the French Alps

The relatively new Omnibus Entertainment division of spectacular theatrical, DVD, and VOD foreign film company Film Movement hits a grand slam home run with the DVD release of the 2014 French film "Belle and Sebastian." This uber-awesome boy and his dog story, which is being released on July 7 2015, is the perfect summer family movie. It will also make every younger viewer (and many older ones) want to read the Cecile Aubry novel of the same name, which also is behind the Scottish rock band that shares the name of the film and the book.

Proof of the family-friendly nature of "Belle" extends well beyond the French version of the film having easy-to-read subtitles and Movement including an English-language version. It has a "Family-Approved" seal from the Dove Foundation and the "Common Sense Seal" from Common Sense Media. Further, director Nicolas Vanier won the "Films4Families Youth Jury Award" at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival.

A limited personal endorsment from a grandfather is that his granddaughter loves anything with a big dog and a little girl.

Other proof that "Belle" is a great choice for a family movie night is the following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer. The breath-taking scenery and the beautiful score provide the adults nice bonuses.

The titular six year-old boy Sebastian is the informal ward of middle-aged sheep herder Cesar but is largely allowed to freely roam the pristinely shot mountains and valleys that surround his home in the French Alps near the Swiss border. A clever narrative technique has Belle (a.k.a. Beauty) start as "the beast," whom Cesar suspects of killing several sheep.

A meeting between the boy and his dog leads to the start of one of the most beautiful friendships ever. It further supports the theory that there are no bad dogs, only bad "parents." This taming of the shrewd further shows that Great Pyrenees dogs, such as a special friend named Sam (a.k.a. Sammy), are a wonderful breed.

The WWII-era German occupation of the village where Sebastian lives is overall benign. Relatively non-threatening harassment of local baker Angelina with whom Sebastian lives and seemingly haphazard patrols that search for resistance activity in the form of helping Jewish people and other "undesirables" escape into Switzerland are the primary extent of enemy activity in the peaceful burg.

The two cutest resistance volunteers ever join the action when a series of unfortunate circumstances requires that Belle channel her inner Rudolph. In this case, our heroinc must lead a group to safety ahead of a not-so-menacing Nazi pursuit. One particular harrowing scene will have even folks not fortunate enough to have a Great Pyrenees in his or her life fear for Belle.

General kid-friendly and mother-approved messages in this awesome tale include the importance of community, friendship, bravery, and protecting the persecuted.  At the same time, the dissent even among the villagers contributes to the realistic nature of this film.

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