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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice' The Devil Is in Lack of Attention to Detail

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The only surprise regarding the expected loathing of the Warner Brothers schlockbuster "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is discovering scad o reasons for doing so beyond  the combination of the film being such a dud to warrant opening on Good Friday and the   pans of other reviewers.

The arguably best validation of the expressed views of those who have already shared their thoughts on the film is that resolve to keep my cell phone off during the movie dissolved at roughly the fourth literal "WTF" moment in the empty theater. This showed that the film was at the hour mark that others identity as the point at which "Batman" fully falls apart.

In further thinking about the film last night, it became very apparent that "Deadpool" does everything right that "Batman" gets wrong. Unintentional humor regarding this is having the former refer to the disaster that is the Warner Brothers "Green Lantern" film. "Batman" additionally blatantly borrowing from the worst elements of the "Hulk" film further compounds the errors regarding this attempt at a superhero epic.

At the heart of this, Team Snyder deserves a D for effort and should be given a semester of detention with an assignment to take the project seriously this time. This relates to the current state of affairs regarding Warner Brothers and other large studios almost universally (pun intended) putting commerce over art. True auteurs very vocally express this sentiment, and Unreal TV heartily agrees with it.

The aforementioned carelessness comes within seconds of the opening scene. Seeing that this was a "Cruel and Unusual" production prompted an out loud laugh. The current Warner execs demonstrate that they literally do not know Jack in not preventing this.

The sloppiness regarding the film itself begins roughly a minute later when Bruce Wayne uses his cell phone to call his office in the midst of the Superman/Zod battle that is the climax of the much better "Man of Steel." Even assuming that the nearby cell towers were not buried in rubble at that point, it seems that the network would be much too overloaded to allow Wayne to get through.

The absurdity continues with Wayne making that call to give the order to evacuate Wayne Tower. This apparently is in response to employee concern about having to burn a personal day for leaving work early.

An even larger related point is that Superman making Wayne Tower collateral damage in the aforementioned battle to protect earth from Zod provokes Wayne to place Superman on his bat list. This COMPLETELY disregards both that Superman does not negligently crash into the building while joyflying and that Wayne the earthling and business executive is better off (even considering the tragic human toll) with losing a skyscraper than facing the consequences of  a Zod victory.

Said outrage further COMPLETELY ignores the comparable devastation that Batman creates during his own epic battles. Similarly, Wayne taking offense at the vigilante tactics of his brother from another planet is a case of the bat calling the bird black.

Similarly, the absurd premise for the allegedly climatic battle involves trying to figuratively harness a juiced-up bull to squash an ant. The feasibility of much safer and easier methods to attempt the same objective makes the fight beyond absurd.

This same hypocrisy is true regarding the event that ends the titular fight in the movie. The revelation that essentially causes the heart of the Grinch to triple in size is thoroughly contrary to not considering that aspect of the aforementioned vigilante activity.

Please remember that the above are just the headlines regarding the amateurish writing in the film.

Moving to another disaster area, both the casting and characterizations are purely dreadful. Henry Cavill is an almost silent Superman and completely unlikable Clark Kent. Predecessors such as Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain portray Kent as an ordinary bloke with whom you want to share a beer or other beverage. The mostly humorless Wolverine in personality and body Kent that Cavill plays does not seem capable even of smiling.

Similarly, Amy Adams lacks the guts and bluster of Lois Lane. A subject of grilling by Lane remarking that she is feisty prompted the spontaneous utterance (again, in an otherwise empty theater) "No she isn't!"

The poor Superman side casting continues with having current "Blackish" sitcom star Laurence Fishburne play veteran editor Perry White. Though Fishburne is capable of playing fierce, he is merely dull here. He is neither the tyrant nor the Yoda of the newsroom. An even worse flaw is having this alleged news legend spout out rambling passive (rather than active) voice headlines. Nothing that he dictates comes close to "Dewey Defeats Truman" or the longer "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar."

Enough has already been written about Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor, Jr in the same manner as Adam Driver portrays Darth Emo to skip this topic.

On the Batman side, Jeremy Irons is a great actor who simply does not pull off the dry wit or latent love of Alfred the butler/father figure. Like the audience, Irons simply is bored in his scenes. John Cleese would have been an awesome traditional choice and John Lithgow a good non-traditional option.

The more than 30-year career of Ben Affleck and his current personal problems make him a decent choice for the "I'm too old for this shit" Batman of this movie. At the same time, he does not display enough personality or verve to make him at all likable or relatable. It is difficult to image even the most hardcore fanboy caring about the fate of either Wayne or Kent.

This extends to feeling absolutely NOTHING during the roughly last 15 minutes of the film. This is despite strong emotions in response to similar plot developments regarding the then-central character over roughly 30 years. The lack of soul-stirring music during these scenes or any other time during the film is a factor.

Returning to the high school metaphor at the beginning of this review, the blatant symbolism in this film evokes thoughts of Snyder being a youthful athletic supporter high school English teacher who dumbs down the material to allow the football jocks to pass. This begins with the title "Dawn of Justice," which obviously refers to the upcoming "Justice League" movies. Even "Another $50M for Zack" would have been better,

Other lowlights include the avenging angel in a stained glass window in the Wayne family crypt wearing blue and having a red cape, Luthor referring to demons coming from below rather than above, and Kent taking off his glasses during the one lust scene.

In the interest of not provoking Snyder and the other cool kids to the point of cornering me by the bleachers, I will refrain from sharing my additional criticisms of "Batman." Suffice it to say that offering everyone a refund truly would be the dawn of justice.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

'Chantal Akerman Four Films' DVD: Apt Homage to Belgian Documentary Filmmaking Royalty

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Icarus Films pays great homage to the legendary late documentarian Belgian Chantal Akerman in releasing the aptly named 5 DVD set "Chantal Akerman Four Films" on March 29, 2016. The fifth disc is the highly entertaining and insightful bonus film "Chantal Akerman From Here" that Icarus released (and Unreal TV reviewed) a few months before the 2015 death of the subject.

One element of the work of Akerman that is abundantly clear on watching any of her films is that she documents in the truest sense of the word. Most of each film consists of footage shot from a moving car or otherwise merely showing what is occurring without any narration or background music. In other words, Akerman merely lays out the subject for purely personal interpretation.

The first of the four films is the 1983 documentary "From the East." This cerebral travelogue takes the viewer from summer time Eastern Europe through the fall into an incredibly bleak period in Moscow that seems to be the basis for the phrase dead of winter. As always, Akerman "paints" a candid video portrait of her subject. These images include people sitting in their not-so-cheerful homes, a team of women harvesting what seems to be a potato crop, and the good people of Moscow very unhappily standing in the enormous lines that are so well known to those of us in the West. Cheerier images of that capital include scenes of domestic tranquility.

One depiction of family life in Moscow that includes an exuberant heavy-set blonde toddler provoked the comment "Honey BooBooski." Alas, nothing inspired asserting plans to get moose and squirrel.

The second offering is one of two that Akerman films in the United States in the set. "South" from 1999 examines the blatantly racial-based killing of James Byrd, Jr. in rural Texas. Images that presumably are of the route that the three white killers took while dragging the body of Byrd behind their truck provide a great deal of the impact of the film. The stories of both white and black locals regarding both that incident and the general past and (not greatly improved) then-current racial climate fill out the picture. A description of a lynching tree is one of the more graphic histories.

The fact that things are not much (if any) better in the roughly 15 years since the killing makes this film particularly relevant.

The 2002 film "From the Other Side" is even more relevant in 2016 than "South." This one largely consists of personal accounts of the Mexicans illegally entering California. An early story has a young Mexican man tell the story of the tragic fate of a group that gets lost in the desert after being abandoned by the "coyote" that is leading them into the United States.

The images of the wall between the United States and Mexico and the contrasts regarding the conditions on each side of that barrier add a wonderful perspective to those of us considering the immigration debate in the context of the current presidential election.

Icarus rounds out this collection with "Down There" from 2006. This one is particularly avant garde in that roughly 85-percent of the film is from the point of view of a Tel Aviv apartment that Akerman is renting. The viewer mostly sees the daily lives of the people who live across the street. Brief glimpses of Akerman and a couple of short telephone calls in which she discusses her daily life in Israel break up this voyeuristic film. One of the more memorable scenes shows a heavily dressed Jewish family walking along the beach during what seems to just be a routine outing.

The non-video bonus in the film is the type of booklet that Icarus does so well. This one consists of two essays that discuss the life and work of Akerman and provide awesome cliff notes on the films in the collection.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

'Nights With Theodore' DVD: Midnight in the Parisian Garden of Good and Evil

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These belated thoughts on the March 1, 2016 Film Movement DVD release of the mystical and magical French drama "Nights With Theodore" round out coverage of the trilogy of releases by that uber-awesome New York based purveyor of international films on that date. These films further partially demonstrate the immense genre and geographic ranges of the Movement catalog. The previously reviewed Australian comedy "Sucker" is a hilarious film that can be considered Harold and Kumar's Oceans 11. The also reviewed "Finding Gaston" is a Peruvian documentary on arguably the nicest and most socially conscious celebrity chef in the world.

"Theodore" is a wonderful modern take on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in that it throws genuine and possibly faux documentary elements into this tale of a young couple in love who fall under the asserted spell of the actual Buttes-Chaumont Park in Paris.

The film starts out in pure documentary style regarding the fascinating history of the park, including the (possibly false) lore regarding this urban oasis. The story of the park then gives way to the story of the titular proof-reader and his new girlfriend, Anna. The love at first sight at a party leads to impulsively hoping the fence at the park. This leads to spending the night there.

The initial night in the park leads to our young lovers being drawn there every night to the extent that impairs their ability to function during their daytime hours in the literal and figurative real world. These nocturnal adventures further prompt exploring that results in discovering what seems to be the central power source for the mystical energy of the park.

Fleeting glimpses of a fellow night-time occupant and footage of a group that seems to share the obsession with the park both show Anna and Theodore that they are not alone and contribute to the sense of the mythical vibe of this urban green space.

Having either a psychiatrist or someone who is not one but plays one in this film relay the story of a patient whose story seems to parallel that of Theodore is an awesome technique for either documenting the elements of reality in our story or further demonstrating the "The Blair Witch Project" aspect of the film. This ambiguity alone makes "Theodore" Movement worthy.

The ending both satisfies and pays uber-awesome homage to both the lore of the park and the quasi-classic film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." One difference is that, unlike everyone's favorite archaeologist, Theodore has little choice regarding whether he goes solo (of course, pun intended) and whether Anna can wake him up before she go goes. This largely comes down to the extent to which the curious power of love is stronger than the power of the gods.

Another amazing element of "Theodore" is that it achieves all of the above (and more) in 67 minutes. Filmmaker Sebastien Betheder putting the audience under his spell strongly enough to evoke a strong desire to fly to Paris and spend the night in the park in the same amount of time that baking a pie requires shows the identity of the true wizard here.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

'Dreams Rewired' DVD: Tilda Swinton Narrated Documentary on History of Mass Communication

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Icarus Films gives millennials an awesome wake-up call regarding the recent DVD release of the 2015 Tilda Swinton narrated documentary "Dreams Rewired." This film wonderfully showcases the kinder gentler side of the quirkiness that makes Swinton so special. Filmmakers Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart, and Thomas Tode achieve this by having Swinton provide witty commentary over a vintage images dating back to the 1880s. The basic theme of all this is that long-distance inter-personal communication and general connectvity (including its ills) far outdates Al Gore inventing the Internet.

Very true to the spirit of "Dreams," the following YouTube clip of the trailer for the film expertly summarizes the themes of this narrative while providing a sense of the plethora of images that perfectly illustrate those concepts.

The broad concept of "Dreams" is that people of more than a century ago experienced the same angst and unmet expectations regarding the introductions of new technologies as much as modern man does regarding the Internet. An early scene in which Swinton comically narrates footage of a woman being greatly disappointed on meeting a man with whom she conversed over the then new-fangled device the telephone nicely illustrates this.

A subsequent scene in which a train coming right at the camera startles an early movie-going audience partially illustrates anxiety related to that technology. Even more memorable footage shows that virtual reality dates back to the early 20th century. More surreal footage of the actual thoughts of a literal dreamer and the impact on those images further demonstrate the sense of a lack of privacy and related fears that comprise the titular revisions of perceptions of reality.

On a more general level, "Dreams offers looks at several classic early films. These include "Modern Times" by Charlie Chaplin and the fairly literally granddaddy of all propaganda films "Battleship Potemkin." In dosing so, the filmmakers show how films and television (like the information available on the Internet) both reflects and influences society. The rub is that many of us do not know that these images are doing the latter.

The DVD extra utilizes the centuries-old technology of the printed word in including a booklet with two essays that serve as terrific viewer guides.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Dreams" is encouraged to use 21st century technology to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

'Cowboys v. Dinosaurs' DVD: 'Tremors' Meets 'Primeval'

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The Monarch Home Entertainment DVD, which hit real and virtual shelves on March 22 2016, of the 2015 tongue firmly in cheek minimal-budget "horror" film "Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs" provides a good chance to see this awesome variation on the "Tremors" franchise. This future cheesy classic is a perfect example of the policy of the Best Brains" behind the '90s basic-cable series "Mystery Science Theater 300." Knowing that your movie is low-budget and poorly acted spares you from the brutal riffing that other films endure.

The following YouTube clip of the award-worthy "Cowboys" trailer provides a good sense of the awesomely off-kilter sensibility of the film.

Disgraced former local hero Val Walker, who aptly has the same first name as the Kevin Bacon character who engages in desert battles with a giant worm in "Tremors," stereotypically returns to his former community just as the mother of all mining disasters allows the titular colony of terrible lizards to run rampant. Stating that Walker Texas Roamer becomes the hero and wins back the woman whom he previously wronged is too minimal of a spoiler to warrant an alert.

The element of the dinosaurs finding a route from their reality into ours introduces a nice element of the awesome modern British scifi series "Primeval" and the less-awesome Syfy channel version of this series about different groups of prehistoric creatures using a shifting time portal in each episode. One actual spoiler is that the effects in both series is far better than those in "Cowboys."

"Cowboys" follows the pattern of starting with small-scale attacks in remote areas of the rural Southwest setting of the film. The most gratuitous of these involve a chomping of slutty post-adolescent women who tease horny teen boy viewers by asserting that they will skinny dip only to merely strip to fairly substantial bras and panties.

Other stereotypical developments include the powers-that-be initially disregarding the possibility of dinosaur attacks despite the strong evidence of such occurrences, the greedy mining executive disregarding the certainty of releasing more dinosaurs from their containment, and the dinosaurs using excellent judgment regarding whom they chomp. One highly entertaining surprise involves a triceratops. Another memorable scene that involves the mine manager is straight out of "Jurassic Park."

All of this amounts to 90-minutes of well-paced escapist entertainment. This enjoyment most likely equals the pleasure by those behind and in front of the cameras in the film.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

'Fear the Walking Dead' BD SE: All the Gore of Standard Edition Plus Cool Exclusives

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review of the March 22, 2016  Anchor Bay Entertainment Special Edition (SE) Blu-ray set of "Fear the Walking Dead" supplements the November 2015 review of the standard Blu-ray set of this series. The new coverage focuses on the exclusive SE special features. These enhancements begin with a wonderfully creepy lenticular cover.

As an aside, the 15-episode second season of "Dead" premieres on AMC on April 1, 2016.]

The accolades for the "The Walking Dead spin-off "Fear the Walking Dead" include the August 2015 premiere of this L.A.-set series being the number 1 show in cable television history. Buying this show in Blu-ray is a no-brainer (no pun intended). The enhanced picture quality of this format awesomely highlights the feature-film cinematography of the series. This particularly comes through regarding a vivid image of a blood-soaked body bag.

The Blu-ray enhancements are especially great regarding the SE feature of offering the pilot episode in wide-screen format. This particularly adds a feature-film quality to this offering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything nicely comes to a head in the season finale. Our heroes directly confront both the soldiers and the zombies. The outcome reflects the modern practice of providing both a satisfying end to the series and a good starting point for the April 2016 second season.

The plethora of SE exclusives include the aforementioned wide-screen version of the pilot. An "Inside Fear the Walking Dead" extra is a series of feaurettes on each episode in which the cast and crew discuss the developments in that offering.

"Five Things You Need to Survive" is a personal favorite extra. This has the cast and crew share the five items that they would utilize to make it through a zombie uprising. These hilarious range from a pork-and-beans diet to '80s action hero MacGyver.

"Fear: the Beginning" notably has virtually every cast member provide insight regarding his or her own character and offer entertaining thoughts regarding fans of the original series knowing more than the "Fear" characters. "Quarantined" discusses elements of the martial law aspect of the series.

The other features include five deleted scenes and the experiences of filming in Los Angeles and Vancouver.

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

'JInxed' BD: Dial the Divine Miss M for Murder

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The awesomely non-stop '80s fest by Olive Films continues with the March 22, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1982 Bette Midler light Hitchcockian drama "Jinxed." The proverbial 25-words-or-less synopsis of this film is that Oscar-nominee Midler puts her well-known persona to good use as brassy lounge singer Bonita, who is the long-term physically and mentally abused girlfriend of low-rent professional gambler Harold, whom Rip Torn plays with his trademark crudeness and aggression. Future television "Wiseguy" Ken Wahl plays the titular cursed blackjack dealer Willie. The nature of that dark cloud is Harold always being able to win big at the table at which Willie is working.

As an aside, "Jinxed" comes on the heels of the Midler classic film "The Rose" during which Midler arguably is at the peak of her career.

The as-of-yet unbroken pattern concerning our trio at the beginning of the film is that Harold making a big score at the expense of the Nevada casino where Willie is working prompts that gambling establishment to free Willie from his employment. Harold then tracks Willie to his new place of employment and essentially threatens to send Bonita to the moon if she does not get a job singing at the same place. The plot purpose of that gig is to allow Bonita to inform Harold of the work schedule of Harold; the real reason is to provide an opportunity for Midler to showcase the singing that is her second biggest asset.

In the spirit of the master who inspires "Jinxed," none of the overlapping nefarious schemes of the leads go off without a hitch, The twists begins n the form of Bomita being a crucial element in the scheme of Willie for a reversal of fortune regarding Harold. This leads to Bonita recruiting Willie to help her with a plot to send Harold to that big casino in the sky. The ensuing (largely unpredictable) events create minimal suspense but showcase the vaudeville style chutzpah for which Midler is famous, the uber-aggressiveness that is associated with Torn, and the hunky dopiness that suits Wahl well.

Memorable scenes include those depicting the hate-hate relationship between Harold and Willie, the final showdown between that pair, Midler visiting a prostitute with whom she shares a bond, and the unexpected ending that is consistent with the Hollywood concept of justice.

All this aforementioned scheming and betraying adds up to a film in which Midler and Wahl provide good campy fun.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

'Making the Grade' BD: The '80s Prep and the Pauper

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New Unreal TV darling Olive Films continues its ongoing (including an upcoming release of the Baio/Aames classic "Zapped") Blu-ray releases of totally tubular '80s movies with the March 22, 2016 BD release of the '80stastic 1984 Judd Nelson comedy "Making the Grade." This prep and the pauper tale has Nelson as drifter Eddie Keaton (no relation to Alex P.) , who agrees to impersonate trust fund baby Palmer Woodrow at the private boys' school of last resort Hoover Academy.

The supporting cast includes '80s character actor Dana Olsen as the aforementioned one-percenter, Andrew Dice Clay as the bookie to whom Eddie is indebted, and Gordon Jump of thhe '70scom "WKRP in Cincinnati" as the Hoover Academy headmaster. Jump also playing child molester Mr. Horton in a camp classic "Diff'rent Strokes" episode provides unintentional humor regarding his being in charge of a large group of teen boys.

Revisiting this film after so many decades shows that it has every wonderful cliche of '80s films, down to the topless scene with a bimbo. There is a rocking '80s anthem, the bad boy with a sad past in Nelson, the uber-youthful exuberant rich kid in Palmer, the stuffy older folks with a hidden wild streak, and the well-groomed preppy nemesis in Biff Hamilton and his buddies. We also get the brainy and the overweight nerds.

The opening scene in which a thoroughly obnoxious Palmer gleefully wallows in the half-eaten food and copious beer cans in his otherwise luxurious bedroom further perfectly depicts the excess that made the '80s so much fun for those living the lifestyles of the rich and famous and highly entertaining for the rest of us.

Eddie predictably starts out showing his true colors in every sense of the word only to settle down and get with the program equally in every sense of that word. He finds (endangered) romance with the pretty blonde WASP, engages in Popeye-Bluto style cartoonish battles with BIff, and has his big scene at the graduation ceremony near the end of the film. The manner in which he ultimately rides off into the sunset nicely reflects both the "me" generation and the seeds of social justice that take root a decade later. In other words, no one is really transformed or otherwise wiser as the closing credit music begins playing.

On a truly deeper level, "Grade" represents the silver age of film in which there always seemed to be at least one film of interest at the cineplex. "Grade" is an entertaining and relatively enthusiastic film that provides the intended form of escapism.

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

'The Trip' BD: Peter Fonda Drops Acid in Groovy Roger Corman Joint

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Purveyor of the best art-house and '80s movies out there Olive Films takes a groovy trip to 1967 regarding the March 22, 2016 Blu-ray (BD) release of the psychedelic Roger Corman film "The Trip." The enhanced picture and sound of the BD format are tailor-made for the bright and/or surreal images and apt soundtrack of this Corman directed movie of a Jack Nicholson script.

Fonda plays artistically unfulfilled television commercial director Paul Groves, whose other issues include an imminent divorce from wife Sally. This angst and a general curiosity regarding the effects of LSD prompt Paul to drop acid at the home of LSD veteran John (whom Bruce Dern portrays). John telling Paul that he will stay with him as long as necessary and otherwise preparing him for the titular journey is one of the  best scenes of this film full of wonderfully bizarre images that are very consistent with the Corman style.

The progress of Paul into his altered state seems authentic both in terms of his experience and Nicholson and Corman depicting the events. Paul starts out fascinated with an orange, moves onto pleasant erotic images, finds himself pursued by actual and figurative demons associated with his psyche, and has genuine wild adventures in the real world. A mind-blowing element comes in the form of several scenes in which both Paul and the audience cannot tell whether it is live or it is Memorex.

The apt comparisons to surreal master Fellini include a dwarf medieval character, black-hooded figures on horseback, copious nudity and related sexual activity, and nightmarish images that justify Paul asking for Thorazine.

The extent to which this textbook late-60s film accurately depicts the upper-class drug culture of the era is uncertain to the not-so-old and relatively innocent eyes of your not-so-humble reviewer. However, this opportunity to vicariously be fully free is incredibly appealing in these dystopian times nearly 50 years later in which virtually every segment of the population actively hates at least one other demographic and our next president is likely to either be a egomaniac who thrives on racial discord or a woman whose miraculous escapes from scandal seem to prompt her to ramp up her apparent disregard for the law.

On an even larger level, they don't make 'em like "The Trip" anymore or provide that many opportunities to see films that get it as right as this truly moving picture by a bunch of guys who know of which they speak. It definitely is much better than the more kid-friendly Monkees psychcom "Head" from the same era.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

'Finding Gaston' DVD: Celebrity Peruvian Chef Awesomely Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

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The 2104 Peruvian documentary "Finding Gaston" is part of a trifecta of March 1, 2016 DVD releases from New York-based international film giant Film Movement. The other titles are the (previously reviewed) Australian comedy "Sucker " and the (soon-to-be-reviewed) magical French film "Finding Theodore."

The numerous awards for today's movie about celebrity Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio include recognition as the Best Feature Film at NYC Food Film Festival and the Best Jury Documentary Film at the Bel-Air Film Festival. "Gaston" achieving the ideal of its genre in that it equally entertains and educates additionally should make it a contender for a best documentary award at your home.

The following YouTube clip of the "Gaston" trailer fulfills its mission of offering a taste of the film without any spoilers that will reduce the enjoyment of savoring this story.

Film subject Gaston Acurio being very congenial and amusing already places him ahead of his American peers. His personal story and his joint quest to preserve and promote Peruvian cuisine make him a great topic. An terrific scene that highlights all of these attributes involves him visiting a class of hilarious first graders.

Another wonderful school-oriented scene has Gaston rave over a sauce that a parent who is a huge fan prepares. Gaston sincerely paying this woman one of the highest possible compliments seems to be the high point of her current and next lives.

Gaston further nicely showcases his humanity in scenes in which he expresses great regard both for sea creatures and the men who catch them. The overall idea is that the person who prepares the bounty of the sea should fully appreciate the nature of the meal.

Master chef/storyteller Gaston tells the tale of rebelling against his father, who was a prominent Peruvian politician, by secretly learning his craft while said civil servant thinks that his son (who already has a major strike against him) is learning another trade. Gaston follows these salad and appetizer courses with a soup course in the form of an amusing anecdote on his method for raising the money to open Astrid y Gaston, which fans of classic American sitcoms can consider Gaston's Bistro.

Gaston shares his adult life story in the context of Peru (which apparently is the France of South America) repeatedly having outside nations take it over in a manner that threatens to eliminate the cultural heritage of his native land.

The "entree" in the story of Gaston consists of discussing his cooking school and other efforts to introduce people in Peru and other parts of the world to the cuisine that is so near-and-dear to his heart. Witnessing his rock star status among the general public and other highly regarded restaurateurs is the "seconds" in this portion of the film. Seeing Gaston receive one of the highest honors in the world for his profession provides the best possible "dessert"

The numerous scenes of the meals that Gaston and those with whom he works provide good evidence of the worth of his cause and his success in furthering it.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

'Sucker' DVD: Awesome Aussie Character Study/Caper Flick

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The first few seconds of the Film Movement North American DVD release of the 2015 Australian character study/caper comedy "Sucker" creates a fulfilled expectation of the movie being even better than the plethora of exceptional films in the Movement catalog. This heightened anticipation relates the studio credits showing that "Sucker" is a production of the uber-awesome Australian media company Madman Entertainment that, like Movement, enjoys well-deserved favored nation status with Unreal TV.

The following YouTube clip of the "Sucker" trailer nicely showcases the style and great wholesomish humor of the film.

John Luc (aka YouTube star "Mychonny") stars as Chinese student Lawrence whose derailed path to medical school puts him on track for a "Paper  Moon" style summer road trip with a con man known as "The Professor" and the daughter of the con man known as Sarah. Uber-awesome British classic/character actor Timothy Spall shines as the outrageous Professor.

The Professor awesomely instructs both Lawrence and the audience in the fine art of grifting. The tried-and-true scam that provides our trio with gas money and the price of motel rooms is almost as amusing as the failed effort of Lawrence to pull off his own con. This segment contributes to the already moderate (G-rated) "Harold and Kumar" vibe of "Sucker."

Like all good caper films, "Sucker" builds to an effort to pull off a climatic big score. In this case, it is an annual high stakes poker game in which Lawrence has an integral role regarding the plan of The Professor. Additional comedy comes in the form of a friend-turned-foe of the senior grifter causing turmoil on showing up at the game.

The relationship between Lawrence and his sister-in-crime also is complicated. She enters the relationship with what musician Mick of the Unreal TV reviewed Madman series "Offspring" would describe as "more baggage than a Qantas flight" and is torn between caring for her new "brother" and wanting to use him for her own (not-so-evil) plans.

The extent to which this film from so far away delivers a Hollywood ending provides additional good entertainment. Lawrence definitely is wiser but may not be any better off at the end of the film than he is at the beginning.

The fourth-wall breaching scenes that play over the closing credits nicely set the stage for the "behind-the-scenes" extra on the DVD.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

'The Tribe' BD: Awards Sweeping Ukrainian Sign Language Opus on Teen Dystopia

Product Details
The March 8, 2016 VOD.DVD/Blu-Ray releases of the double-digit awards winning 2014 Ukrainian drama "The Tribe"  from Drafthouse Films allows a chance to watch what truly will be the most unique film that you will ever watch. The dialogue entirely being in sign language (and there not being any voice translations or subtitles) is only the tip of the iceberg.

The aforementioned accolades include three awards at the Cannes Film Festival, a British Film Institute Award, and and American Film Institute Award. This reflects the performances of the amateur cast and the universal themes of the film.

The following YouTube clip of the "Tribe" trailer also uses shows that conveying the awesomeness of the film does not require words.

The film opens with teenage Sergey arriving at a Ukrainian school for the deaf only to have the leaders of the titular clan quickly torment and otherwise haze him. In other words, treat him just like the new kid at any type of high school anyplace in the developed world. This initiation extends beyond standard physical and (presumed) verbal bullying to pushing Sergey into the dorm room of the future love of his life and her roommate when one of them is half naked.

The portion of "Tribe" that shows that the movie is not just another teen movie involves Sergey being drawn into the robbery, bribery, and prostitution in which his fellow future leaders are involved. The gritty form of the world's oldest profession involves pimping the aforementioned female students at a local truck stop. The filmmakers also treat us to a horribly graphic scene that depicts the consequences of being promiscuous.

Sergey having a tough time adjusting to thug life creates conflict with his new friends and colleagues that drives much of the well-paced (and easily followed) drama in the film. The unexpected but understandable climax both is true to the classic Hollywood model of justice and shows that everyone has his or her breaking point.

Presenting all this via sign language in a manner that those of us who do not understand can largely follow pulls off a nearly impossible feat. It further increases empathy for deaf folks who must follow traditional films without the benefits of lip-reading skills and/or subtitles.

The copious extras include a director's commentary, the 2010 short film "Deafness" by the director, and an interview with an actress from the film.

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

'The Horror Network' DVD: '60s Style Anthology

Product Details
Gleefully D-Movie DVD horror film distributor Wild Eye Releasing effectively mixes old school and modern terror in the anthology film "The Horror Network." Eye blatantly acknowledges this in aptly comparing "Network" to classic horror television series such as "Tales From the Darkside."

The homage to the masters is evident from the outset; the pre-opening credits story has an unseen tormentor terrorizing a woman in an isolated country house. The time-tested elements include creepily menacing telephone calls and things going bump (and otherwise making their presence known) in the middle of the night.

"Edward," which is the first story after the opening credits, arguably is the best of in the film. It has the titular disturbed young man increasingly telling his Russian-born psychiatrist his deep dark thoughts and then moving on to increasingly taunt/torment that medical practitioner. The ultimate reveal awesomely ties things together in a manner that makes sense.

A very surreal foreign-language (with English subtitles) entry has the escalating abuse be by a husband and directed at his wife. This culminates with a truly Hellish/nightmarish experience that ranks a 10-plus on the gore scale. Said sequence easily is the most elaborate one in the film.

The filmmakers end on a high note with a silent black-and-white offering in which a typical suburban middle-aged man is revealed to have a pitch-black dark side; the final scene will repulse even the most hardened horror fans. Having cards with Bible verses provide the narration is the icing on the cake.

All of this amounts to a film that stays true to the aforementioned vintage genre. Whether they should make 'em like that anymore remains subject to debate.

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

Friday, March 4, 2016

'Grace Under Fire' S4 DVD: Penultimate Season Hits Great Stride

Product Details
This coverage of the S4 DVD set in the Visual Entertainment Complete Collection set of the '90s Brett Butler sitcom "Grace Under Fire" brings us close to wrapping up these reviews of the five seasons of the series. Watching episodes from every season over the course of a few months nicely shows the program has evolved from a funny dark comedy about a recently divorced working-class Southern woman with a baby and two young children trying to get over her marriage to a drunken wife-beating hillbilly to a woman with a teenager, a tween, and a four year-old enjoying relative stability and some genuine happiness. In other words, bitterness is hilarious but not eternal.

The S4 season premiere has Grace and the kids facing a forced move; although this occurring in the first season would have prompted jokes about living in the bus station, the solution this time involves moving into a (not-so-bad) fixer-upper not so far away. This development in turn literally opens the door for two supporting characters to move in.

S4 further is notable for having a rare laugh-out-loud episode in which the sailor pen pal of 10 year-old daughter Libby unexpectedly shows up at the front door. The "sit" that provides the "com" in this one is that Libby has been pretending to be a 38 year-old divorced mother of three. This, predictably, leads to a "Freaky Friday" plot in which Grace pretends to be "Libby" so that she can date the squid. Said enlisted man subsequently telling oblivious neighbor Wade that he enjoys dating Libby but usually goes out with younger women provides some of the aforementioned hilarity.

Another memorable episode clearly establish the new role for surprisingly quick "all grown up" older son Quinton, who is a very tall 15 year old. One of the best scenes in the episode in which mother and son come to an understanding regarding their own reality has a role-reveersal Grace telling Quinton that she is going out for a wild night. A later Quinton episode has him facing hard time for breaking into a country club for a late-night skinny dip. His solution to the dilemma regarding not wanting to rat out his friends but also not wanting to be their fall guy is a good one.

This season additional sees Grace move on from her job at an oil refinery in an effort to better herself. This move begins with a wonderful twist on workplace sexual harassment and leads to several good episodes.

We further see Grace try to get her college-age son to not let history repeat itself in a manner that jeopardizes his own bright shiny future.

These changes (and the many others) in "Grace" S4 are a nice reminder of the Silver Age of television in which many initially good shows further improve with age.

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

'Hotel' S5: Five Stars for Final Season

Product Details
These musings regarding the 5th and final season of the '80s Aaron Spelling celebrity guest star-driven series "Hotel" wraps up this series of reviews of the Visual Entertainment complete series DVD set of the program. (The reviews on the Visual CS DVD set of the five-season '90s sitcom "Grace Under Fire" are expected to wrap up soon.)

An initial note regarding these final 17 episodes is that the first two appear out of order in the set. We see hard-working bellman Eric Lloyd, played by Ty Miller who goes on to star in the Unreal TV reviewed Western series "Young Guns," dashing around the St. Gregory in San Francisco before getting his back story. The same goes for other new members of the staff. These include new reservations clerk/resident yenta Cheryl, played by Valerie Landsburg of the "Fame" television series. (As an aside, the S5 guests stars include "Fame" co-star Albert Hague.)

This finale season further sees big changes for the faces who have been there from the beginning. The most significant of these occur regarding married hotel workers Megan and Dave and repeatedly on-again-off-again hotel executives Peter McDermott, played by James "Mr. Streisand" Brolin, and Christine Francis, played by Connie "Mrs. Hinkley" Sellecca. The effectively two-part series finale provides a mix of conclusion and ambiguity regarding the future of Petie.

This season premiere also continues the increasing trend of the series to recruit actors from primetime soaps as "Hotel" guest stars. This one has Ted Shackleford of "Knot's Landing" hire an asserted psychic played by Ginger Rogers, who is among the gaggle of faded movie stars who appear on "Hotel," to contact his dead  wife, Another early episode has Tracy Scoggins of the Spelling sudsers "Dynasty" and "The Colbys" playing a rookie escort who works for a service that a "respectable businesswoman" whom Kate Mulgrew portrays operates from the hotel. The appearance of Mulgrew during the listing of guest stars in the opening credits prompting a chant of "Janeway, Janeway, Janeway" illustrates much of the fun of "Hotel."

The daytime soap star guests in S5 include dreamy soap hunk Vincent Irizarry as a scorned lover of a married woman; his perverse (and perverted) revenge scheme is pure campy joy.

The Christmas episode departs from the formula of the show by splitting the time between having stranded off-again couple McDermott and Francis try to get back to the titular lodging establishment and the folks back at the ranch welcome back special old friends. In true "Hotel" style, these guests arrive with a great deal of emotional baggage.

The final few episodes of the series also slightly break from "Hotel" tradition in a manner that is more true to the Spelling "Love Boat" formula. These outings have hotel employees get more closely involved with the drama in the lives of the guests. A prime example of this is an issues-oriented plot that involves date rape,

Another "very special" episode can be thought of as "Still Krause." This one has Inga Swenson of the '80s sitcom "Benson" as a 51 year-old guest with early onset Alzheimer's.

The fifth season additionally includes arguably the best episode in the entire series. Tippi Hedren, who is one of "Hitchcock's blondes," guest stars as an upper-middle-aged woman who is convinced both that she is a witness to a murder in the hotel and that the malfeasor is menacing her. The only problems are that there is no proof of either the foul deed or the alleged subsequent threats.

The icing on the cake in this outstanding episode is a parallel story in which '70s soft rock legend Gordon Lightfoot plays a washed-up alcoholic country music star. He arrives at the St. Gregory a few days before a scheduled comeback concert there. Matthew Labyorteaux of the '70s family drama "Little House on the Prairie" adds extra cheese in his role as the estranged 20-something son of the singer. On spoiler is that, regarding the acting of Lightfoot, he is a decent singer.

The most awesome aspects of "Hotel" are that it ends the era of the Spelling weekly guest star series on a strong note and is an awesome reminder of the good old days in which fine lodging establishments (and society in general) valued positive experiences over the bottom line. It seems that even the top undergraduate business program in the country is abandoning the Dale Carnegie principles.

McDermott continuing to battle his effectively evil twin over cutting corners at the expense of the guests is a sad portent of what is to come in an era of skyrocketing rates at woefully understaffed hotels. Those of us who love big fluffy pillows and tiny bottles of high-end shampoo lament this trend.

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