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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

'Girl in the Woods' VOD & Digital HD: Charisma Carpenter Plays Personal Demon


Candy Factory Films offers horror fans and Buffyphiles an early summer treat in the form of the June 3, 2016 VOD and Digital HD premiere of the Juliet Reeves/Charisma Carpenter film "Girl in the Woods." This intensely psychological drama can be considered The Blair Witch PhD Project.

The wonderfully warped candy man at the helm of "Girl" combines the young woman still traumatized by intense childhood drama with the helpless chick lost in the deep dark enchanted (but not-so-enchanting) forest horror subgenres. Our girl Grace comes under fire when she finds herself lost and alone in the woods while on an outing with her fiance.

The angst associated with the distress in which this damsel finds herself triggers memories (shown in flashbacks) of the psychotic and violent relationship of her equally distressed parents when she was a little girl.  The manifestation of this include visions of "Momma," wonderfully played in "Evil Cordelia" mode by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Buffy" spin-off "Angel" veteran Charisma Carpenter.

Much of the drama and horror relates to Grace reliving these memories while facing the trifecta challenges of trying to survive, not fall further into insanity, and find her way back to civilization. Obstacles to not falling apart include viciously personal attacks regarding her every action and being stalked by a being who is akin to her own worst enemy.

Creepy highlights include a wound taking on a life of its own, the climax of the childhood ordeal, and the exposition during the closing credits.

The larger appeal relates to the low-budget and the setting that begs comparisons to the '90s horror classic "The Blair Witch Project" and the intense psychological elements. The good news for fans of scary movies is that these elements do not  come at the cost of spooky predators, a not-so-slow descent into madness, and seeing Carpenter combine her "Buffy" and Lifetime Movie talents.

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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

'Mexican Men' DVD: Five Erotic South of Border Adventures

Product Details

The recent tla releasing DVD release of  "Mexican Men" consists of five short gay-themed films about the titular hombres. Common elements of each are attractive Latin men, tasteful nudity, and erotic themes.

The trifecta regarding this collection relates to it demonstrating the exceptional international nature of releasing, the spirit of both Pride and the gay film festivals that are part of that celebration, and the good depictions of universal truths that apply across the entire spectrum of the Kinsey scale of sexuality. We all have desires that are forbidden in one form or another, must do what we must to get by, and yearn to express ourselves.

"Tremulo" starts things off with an endearing tale that is the most traditional of the quintet. This wonderful blend of straight and gay has a 20-something soldier meeting a teen boy helper on entering a barber ship for a haircut. This leads to a wonderfully romantic night (with a peacetime element of "I'm shipping out tomorrow") followed by the harsh reality of the morning after.

The Latin America novel vibe of the title "Young Man at the Bar Masturbating with Rage and Nerve" extends to the theme of this one. Our hero in this fauxumentary short is an aspiring dancer who works as a rentboy to pay his monthly lease payments. Much of the exposition consists of his sharing his life story while we see him engaged in his dual professions. Suffice it to say, he is adept at both. Some of the best scenes involve his discussing his limits with his "clients."

"Wandering Clouds" also follows a fairly traditional narrative. This one has a sweet young man whose interest in his fellow speedo-clad boys at an indoor pool leads to the expected emotional and physical pain. Like the rest of the "Mexican" films, it is artistically filmed and sensitively presented.

"Atmosphere" eases the audience into the Calvin Klein avant-garde style of "To Live," which rounds out the group. The first of these two follows two guys and a girl during a pandemic that seems to be an analogy of the early days of the AIDS crisis.

The three pretty young things, who never speak, in "Atmosphere" inhabit deserted landscapes and hear constant reports of alerts to stay inside due to the threat of a virus of unknown origin that can have catastrophic effects on those who contact this air-borne plague. The prescribed means of prevention is to stay inside and avoid contact with any other people.

The 10-minute "To Live" is divided into shorter expressive statements that the Vimeo description for this film aptly describes as "To live is a dream. The fight to communicate and ward off loneliness. The story of ourselves."

In choosing these five films and presenting them in the selected order, releasing nicely guides the viewer into what each offers. Starting out with a traditional boy-meets-boy story and ending with a much more stylized and sensual production provides good foreplay for a highly satisfying climax.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

'Francis Durbridge Presents' V1 DVD Vintage PBS Style Mysteries

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Watching this Region-Four DVD set from Australia in North America requires a worth-buying international DVD player.]

These musings on the recently reviewed Madman Entertainment DVD set "Francis Durbridge Presents: Volume 1" correct the error regarding inadvertently watching (and reviewing) V2 of this set before turning attention to V1. These very popular serials, which can be considered the British version of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," are from the titular legendary British mystery writer.

The serials span from the '50s through the '80s,. The four offerings in "Volume One" are from the '60s.

"Desperate People" from 1963 starts things off with a tale that is pure Durbridge, Like many such stories, it begins innocently enough in the form of on-leave British Army officer Philip Martin arriving at the studio of his famous photographer brother Larry.

Philip cutting the visit short by announcing plans of a mission of mercy sets things in motion in the "things are not as them seem" style of Durbridge, The reality is that the life of Philip abruptly ends far from his stated final destination. His apparently nefarious dealings in the period before said demise further deepen the mystery.

On investigating the circumstances of said death, Larry learns that his brother has many secrets. An increasing Hitchcockian sense of not knowing whom to believe or trust develops as the story progresses. The nature of the body count and the evidence of the complex conspiracy throw in great elements of the classic 1963 John Huston thriller "The List of Adrian Messenger."

Larry uses unusual cunning and intelligence even for a Durbridge hero to sort out everything. This is not before more corpses show up, his own demise is imminent, and others actively attack his sanity.

Madman follows up "People" with "Melissa" from 1964. This one has more elements of an Agatha Christie drawing room "Whodunit" than a spy novel. It centers around unemployed journalist/aspiring author of the Great British Novel Guy Foster trying to solve the mystery surrounding the death of his wife. The evidence that Guy is the guy adds to the suspense.

Great stylish '60s elements come in the form of the best friends of the currently "comfortable" Fosters being the even more comfortable married couple Felix and Paula Hepburn. Hearing this catty pair gossip about the financial challenges facing the Fosters is highly entertaining.

Other amusement comes in the form of indications of Melissa having a secret live that includes a highly unlikely boyfriend, playboy friend Don Page apparently playing a role in the abundant malfeasance in the story, and nothing else being what it seems. The extent to which all this is a case is exceptional even compared to other Durbridge tales.

The third member of the Volume One quartet is titled "A Man Called Harry Brent," but also could have used the same title as the Hitchcock film "The Trouble with Harry." This one, which your humble reviewer has not watched as of posting this review, has the rivals in a love triangle find that every day is like survival when they get tangled up in investigating the death of someone close to the femme fatale object of their affection.

The also unwatched fourth member of this collection "A Game of Murder" has an especially apt title. The "fore" play in this one ends with former professional athlete Bob Kerry dying in an apparent golfing mishap. The detective this time is Bob's son Jack, who is a Scotland Yard detective.

The solution to the mystery regarding whether adding these Durbridge volumes to your DVD collection makes sense is "Scooby-Doo" simple. They are well-written and acted in a manner that makes many of them seem like a live-stage production. Further, the twists and other reveals are as good (if not better) than anything from the mind of Hitchcock.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

'Dusk' DVD: True Psychological Thriller With Awesome Twists

Product Details
Monarch Home Entertainment introduces audiences to "the one that got away" regarding the May 24, 2016 DVD release of the 2015 Dog Day Films psychological thrill "Dusk." The appeal of this future cult classic one is that it evokes thoughts of the type of film that provides material for the one-percenter pop culture humor of the on-again-off-again sitcom "Community."

The genius of "Dusk" is that it superficially looks like a "Scooby-Doo" level thriller but proves to be much more substantive and surprising. It further proves the adage about someone being his or her own worst enemy.

The premise of the plot is that on-the-cusp of middle-age everyman John Whitmore wakes up to discover that his wife Anne is gone without a trace. John then finds a cassette tape recording that informs him of a kidnapping of Anne. This leads to instructing John to get his life savings in cash and ride several hours with a man named David to a remote cabin in the woods to exchange the money for Anne.

The cliches that should not deter abandoning "Dusk" for the highly satisfying "wait-for-it" reveals including John first disregarding an instruction to not call the police and then calling best friend/slacker manchild Sam for help.

The preliminary events lead to John and Sam riding in the back of the distressed Winnebago in which David is chauffeuring them.

David zoning out throughout the film provides the context for scenes that show the course of his relationship with Anne. They also provide Scooby style clues regarding the identity of the kidnapper.

Suspense during the "Driving Mr. John" portion of "Dusk" includes attempts to turn the tables and reveals that provide reasons to suspect that Sam and the bad guys are in cahoots.

The aforementioned payoff comes when John arrives at his final destination and learns the true nature of the plot. Suffice it to say that he is not still John.

On a larger level, "Dusk" maintains a good pace throughout and makes you care about John and like the goofy Sam. Further, David nicely fills the role as the quietly menacing redneck who likely has a Confederate flag draped behind a gun rack in his pick-up. The only disconnect is the answer to "who's your daddy?" not being especially credible considering those traits.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

'The Sum of Us' BD: Russell Crowe Shines as Well-Adjusted Gay Aussie Bloke

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Olive Films provides a timely reminder of the spirit of Gay Pride (and the release of the new Russell Crowe film "The Nice Guys") regarding the May 24, 2106 Blu-ray release of the 1994 Crowe dramedy "The Sum of Us." Only having chants of "Wolverine! Wolverine!" during the opening credits of this Australian film fulfilled would have made "Sum" any more enjoyable.

In thinking about "Sum," it is equally important to remember that public attitudes about gay men were not nearly as evolved in 1994 as they are today. Along those lines, Crowe took a significant career risk playing an everybloke whom no one would guess engages in sex with other men unless he told you or you caught him in the act.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Sum" provides a good sense of the spirit of the film but errs on the side of making it seem like more of a comedy than it is. You will smile and may laugh but mostly will enjoy the characters go about their lives and try to change themselves and their loved ones for the better.

The screenplay by David Stevens winning numerous awards (including one from the Australian Film Institute) for this adaptation of his play of the same name is one of the best endorsements for "Sum." On a more prurient level, 1994-era Crowe wearing short shorts throughout much of the film and also appearing wrapped in an incredibly low-slung towel will provide the target audiences additional enjoyment.

Crowe playing gay 20-something plumber Jeff Mitchell may inspire additional fantasies regarding folks whose prurient thoughts involve tradesmen. This character lives with his awesomely accepting and loving retired father Harry in a more supportive and middle-class version of the '70s sitcom "Sanford and Son."

Harry being sincerely friendly to overnight guests of Jeff and buying gay porn magazines to better understand exactly the activity in which Jeff and these guests engage illustrate how the elder Mitchell is the dad that many gay men would want but that few have. Harry goes as far as to cater the morning-after breakfast to the taste of the guest.

Some of the best scenes in "Sum" involves Harry insinuating himself in the conversation (including preliminary pillow talk) between Jeff and probable Mr. Right Greg. The interaction of the three is hilarious, and the contrast between the blase Jeff and the more anxious Greg is highly entertaining. For that matter, playful "you show me yours, and I'll show you mine" flirting between the younger lads shows the chemistry between Crowe and Greg portrayor John Polson.

For his part, Harry dipping his toe back in the dating pool by meeting and establishing a relationship with conservative middle-aged divorcee Joyce propels some of the "dram" in the film. In this case, Harry gets to be the blase one and Joyce the flustered Fiona on abruptly learning that Jeff is gay.

Stevens nicely augments the entertaining interaction between the Miller men with Harry regularly breaking down the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience. This is especially well executed in that our first hint of what to come consists of Harry briefly smiling directly into the camera only to return to going about his business as if he is not being watched.

It is equally nice to see a gay character whose sexuality does not define him and is not much more of a big deal to him than it is to his father. Jeff does frequent gay bars, has had boyfriends (as opposed to one-night stands), and gossips with female colleagues about men but presents a naturally manly image and does not make a spectacle of himself at Gay Pride events.

Although Jeff is the center of "Sum," Harry steals the show as a not-so-educated man from an era in which closet doors were firmly locked from both sides but accepts his son for the reasons that the soliloquies that Stevens expertly crafts for him explains. As Harry would say, Jeff is encouraged to use Harry's rear garden to plow a bloke's backyard.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

'French Postcards' BD: Two Guys and A Girl Study Abroad

Product Details
Regular Unreal TV readers know of the related great love of this site for both Olive Films and the '80s movies and art-house films that comprise most of the Olive DVD and Blu-ray catalog (and that justify the Olive slogan "Cinema Lives Here.") An example of this include the recent highly favorable review for the Olive Blu-ray release of the 1982 Scot Baio/Willie Aames comedy "Zapped."

This affinity for the fruit of the Olive garden makes not loving the May 24, 2016 Blu-ray release of the dramedy "French Postcards" painful. The better news is that literally sleepless reflection reveals that the not-so-fatal flaws of "Postcards" stem from the not-so-inspired casting and less-than-stellar (and largely absent) background music that does not set the proper mood.

The better news is that the better portions of "Postcards" are funny because they are true, Up-close observation of an '80s-era camp director in a romantic relationship with a co-director/vile tyrant/modern-day college professor (whose name conveniently rhymes with "penis") bedding a young blond stud who essentially is her farmhand shows that that kind of thing truly occurs.

"Postcards" depicts the adventures and misadventures of American college students in the year-long program at the Paris-based "Institute of French Studies." Good humor relates to nasty Institute owner M. Tessier and his slightly more reputable wife/co-head Mme. Tessier having disdain for their students that rivals the greed of the couple for the tuition dollars of the students.

The overall vibe of "Postcards" is that it is one of the very special season-premiere episodes of '70s and '80s sitcoms that have the characters travel to an exotic location only to have a madcap adventure. "The Facts of Life Go to Paris" is the most relevant example with the episode in which the Keatons of "Family Ties" travel to England when elder son Alex gets a chance to study abroad being a close second.

A related point is that "Postcards" seems more apt for this type of episode, rather than a feature film. One can imagine the older Bradford siblings in the '70s ABC dramedy "Eight is Enough" filling the student roles in such an episode.

Scholarly and shy Vermont boy Joel spends his off-hours watching "Star Trek" reruns in French with the widowed owner of his home-away-from-home until beefy blonde Oberlin frat boy Alex convinces him to loosen up. Said loosening leads to a rocky relationship with French girl Toni, who arguably is a French version of  Cruise Director Julie McCoy of "The Love Boat."

Their most amusing moment relates to Joel being an inadvertent third wheel on his first date with Toni. The others in the group both pulling "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" style tricks on him and playing parodies of obnoxious Parisians is hilarious.

For his part, an overeager Alex is developing a close personal relationship with Mme. Tessier (a.k.a. Mme. Robinson). The scenes that depict the preliminary stages of Alex sealing la deal are among the most amusing if only because they show the contrast between the impatient 20 year-old horndog and his older and more sophisticated French cougar (a.k.a. "ami avec benefits.")

Returning to our primary subject, the "girl" who is studying with the "two guys" (sorry, no pizza place) is uptight overachiever Laura, who writes the titular correspondence to her boyfriend back in the states. She spends much of the movie alienating her peers before setting off on her misadventure to visit a Medieval festival. The slimy companion that Mandy Patinkin plays makes Laura (and the audience) want to go Medieval on his derriere.

The developments that follow the downs that follow the ups of our group take the film in interesting and unexpected directions. The problem is that the portrayals of these Americans abroad do not make them appealing. Each of them seems to be phoning it in.

The Rat Pack is too young in 1979 to play the roles, but it seems that their "older siblings" would have dona a good job. As mentioned above, having known characters fill the roles also would have helped.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

'Francis Durbridge Presents Vol. 2' : British TV Answer to 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Playing this Region-Four DVD from Australia in North America requires a well-worth-buying international player.]

User stupidity (rather than a Durbridge-style nefarious plot) is behind these thoughts on the recent Madman Entertainment DVD release of Volume 2 of the BBC television series "Francis Durbridge Presents" preceding a post on the concurrently released Volume 1 of this series. It simply is a matter of accidentally picking up Volume 2 first. A post on Volume 1 will appear by the end of May 2016.

"Durbridge," which the English mystery author for whom the series is named writes, is a terrific British cousin of the 1955-1962 American series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." The better-recognized British Master of Suspense behind that one truly does not better than Durbridge.

Two distinctions are that Hitchcock includes more wry humor than Durbridge, and the serial-style Durbridge tales have more chapters and are longer than the Hitchcock tales. One similarity is that the stars of the day and the future star in the anthology-style stories in both series.

"Volume 2" starts out with the aptly titled "Bat Out of Hell," which has an unsually high level of Hitchcockian dark humor, from 1966. This one stars well-regarded British actress Slyvia Syms and the better-known John Thaw of "Inspector Morse" fame.  Their respective characters Diana Stewart and Max Paxton respectively are the unhappy wife and the colleague of successful estate agent (my people call them realtors) Geoffrey Stewart.

The plans of lovahs Diana and Max to commit the perfect murder seemingly succeed until a caller credibly claiming to be Geoffrey rings up Diana and asks her to meet him. This is on top of the body of Geoffrey travelling around, a threat to the inheritance of Diana showing up, and abundant lack of honor among thieves.

"The Passenger" from 1971 also involves Durbridge/Hitchcock style manipulation. Toy manufacturer David Walker offering the titular pedestrian a ride results in his getting caught up in the subsequent investigation when said walker is reported missing.

The twists this time include an apparent suicide and related confession possibly not being what they seem, evidence of a prior close relationship between Walker and the aforementioned damsel in distress, and mutual relationships of the driver and the passenger being significant.

The 1975 offering "The Doll" puts a wonderful '70s spin on the classic Hitchcock tale "Gaslight." This one has Peter Matty becoming infatuated with Phyllis du Salle during a chance(?) meeting at the Geneva airport and a subsequent shared flight sans a Mile High Club adventure.

The pair reunites on Peter returning to England, but things get weird when du Salle disappears and her story is inconsistent with the reports of those to whom Peter speaks regarding that vanishing act. Highlights include a mysterious photo, a possibly not-so-honorable nobleman, and indications both that Matty frere Claude knows more than he is saying and that du Salle is involved in her own nefarious dealings.

Unlike the subterfuge of several Durbridge characters in the aforementioned episodes, your reviewer openly confesses to not yet watching the two "Breakaway" episodes that round out Volume 2. These revolve around murder cases that hit close to home in their own way during a time that Detective Superintendent Sam Harvey is looking to retire from that job to fully pursue his career as a children's books author. Highly prolific actor Martin Jarvis, whose IMDb profile lists 140 roles, portrays this investigator who is experiencing feelings that there is way out once they pull you in.

The bonus feature is a wonderful caper-style episode of the series "Paul Temple," which revolves around the titular best-selling author/amateur detective who is a Durbridge character. This offering begins with an aging movie star and his entourage, which includes the hunky young pretty boy who is close on the heels of the soon-to-be has-been, greatly annoying a vacationing Temple and Mrs. Temple.

Achieving a fragile peace leads to the entourage effectively kidnapping Mrs. Temple with her husband in lukewarm pursuit. This escalates the bon vivants ensnaring the Temples in their practice of involving innocents in dangerous games that are intended to amuse said party people.

A fed-up Temple creating his own challenge awesomely turns the tables and provides a good lesson regarding not always knowing which folks who are living off you truly are your friends.

The grand reveal regarding all these Durbridge tales is that they combine the cleverness of Hitchcock, the awesome quality of British television, and the stylized suspense of the '60s and groovy vibe of the '70s.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

'Zapped!' BD: Scott Baio '80s Comedy Demonstrating With Great Power Comes Great Irresponsibility

Product Details
Olive Films, which aptly claims "Cinema Lives Here," continues its awesome track record in releasing the 1982 Scott Baio/Willie Aames teencom "Zapped!" on Blu-ray on May 24 2016. This film is as much of a guilty pleasure as remembered.

"Zapped!" also is notable for belonging to the same class of '80s teencoms as "My Demon Lover" and "Like Father Like Son," which respectively star Scott Valentine of "Family Ties" and Kirk Cameron of "Growing Pains," that promote '80s sitcom "Tiger Beat" cover boys.

One can only hope that the Baio gangster spoof "Bugsy Malone" is on the Olive radar regarding future Blu-ray releases.

Sofa spuds of the era know as well that the comedy team of Baio and Aames go on to star in the sitcom "Charles in Charge," which centers around Baio as a college-age live-in manny for three children.

Baio plays genius but otherwise everyteen high school senior Barney, whose scientific expertise earns him a private lab in his high school. Aames' Peyton can be considered the wealthy and horny Eddie Haskell to the Wallyish Barney.

One of the most telling scenes has Barney engaging in an apparently regular habit of sneaking out at night. However, this is only to get a hamburger with his dog. (It is uncertain if either Arnold's Drive-In or Sid's Pizza is his hang-out of choice.)

Other '80tastic casting exists in the form of Felice Schachter of the first season of "The Facts of Life" as class over-achiever/Barney love interest Bernadette and Heather Thomas of the Lee Majors action-adventure show "The Fall Guy" as Peyton love interest Jane. One spoiler is that the closing credits state that Thomas uses a body double for her topless scenes.

An even greater treat comes in having Johnny Slash of the '80s teencom "Square Pegs" and son of Captain James Tiberius Kirk of "Star Trek" portrayor Merritt Buttrick in a cameo role as a punk (totally different head than new wave, totally) delinquent student.

The catalyst for both the primary action in "Zapped!" and the related telekinetic powers that Barney develops is a lab accident involving an accelerated growth formula. The R-rating related aspect of this is that Barney is using the formula in a Peytoncentric effort to grow marijuana in the lab. One spoiler is that the relatively wholesome Barney does not even light up, let alone inhale.

The comic mayhem that ensues largely revolves around Barney using his new power to amuse himself and Peyton and to a lesser extent to extricate themselves from tough situations. Much of the conflict relates to Bernadette playing the Gallant to Peyton's Goofus.

The aforementioned hi-jinks include propelling bullies, repeatedly getting revenge on the hunky blond frat boy and his "brothers" who are hassling Peyton, and freaking out the neurotic mother of Barney. Chachi, Chachai, Chachi indeed.

The climatic scene (absolutely no pun intended) occurs at the senior prom at the end of the film. Like the classic thriller "Carrie" that partially inspires "Zapped!," Peyton unleashes the full extent of his power. The results are far more comedic (and much more appealing to the aforementioned horny teen boy viewers) that those in "Carrie."

All of this reminds us that a large percentage of the teen movies of the '80s provide good fun with enough of an edge to prevent them from being corny. They also evoke thoughts of the appeal of the young stars of the day relating to their cuteness (as opposed to handsomeness or beauty) and natural charm. They further do not need to resort to outrageous behavior to get a laugh.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

'gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' DVD: Novel Approach to Biofilm

Product Details
The only negative aspect of the recent Icarus Films DVD release of the biofilm "gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia" is that it enhances guilt regarding unread copies of "100 Years of Solitude" and "News of a Kidnapping" collecting dust for years. The film further provides embarrassment regarding Bill Pullman/Bill Paxton style confusion concerning the late titular novelist and fellow Nobel Prize winning Colombian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. As an aside, "Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter" by Llosa remains an all-time favorite novel.

Icarus nicely times this release to coincide with the DVD premiere of "I Don't Belong Here: The Cinema of Chnatal Akerman." That (Unreal TV reviewed) documentary provides the same insight into the creative process of the titular legendary filmmaker as "gabo" offers regarding the workings of the mind of Marquez.

The aptly described teaser (courtesy of YouTube) below for "gabo" provides a small taste of the apt love and respect for this man by those who knew him best. Getting a full sense of that sensibility requires watching the film.

The comprehensive scope of "gabo" extends well beyond the literal cradle to grave coverage of the life of this novelist/journalist/mentor/political activist. It supplements interview footage of Marquez with reminiscences by friends, family, colleagues, a biographer, and potential First Husband Bill Clinton.

The approach that "gabo" takes regarding its subject is to demonstrate how the on-again-off-again rags-to-riches life of this genuine literary icon affects the novels that we either know and love or really should take off the bookshelf and read. The overall pattern is that Marquez transforms his real-life experiences into literary masterpieces that reflect his reality to varying degrees.

Perhaps the most highly relatable example of the approach of filmmaker Justin Webster is showing how the experience of an early childhood living with his highly superstitious grandmother and more level-headed Army officer veteran grandfather leads to the "magical realism" that Marquez creates in "Solitude."

We further see how both the reporting and the fiction writing that Marquez produces and his related life experiences prompt comparisons to Ernest Hemingway. Seeing Marquez respond to a reference to that comparison while in the company of frienemy Fidel Castro makes the film.

Speaking of Castro, Webster nicely documents how Marquez plays a shadow role regarding the leadership of Castro. We further see how Clinton utilizes that relationship.

It is sad that Marquez never has a chance to write about a national leader who must contend with both a domineering wife who is rumored to be having an affair with a sitcom actress at the same time that a serious indiscretion threatens to topple his administration. Your not-so-humble reviewer would put that Marquez novel at the top of his "to-read" pile.

An apt summary for this neo book report is that we clearly see how both the personal experiences of Marquez shape his psyche and his involvement with many important events (including the rise of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar) in South America. As such, 'gabo" provides the bonus of being a cursory study of the 20th century history of that region.

The DVD extras consist of deleted scenes.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

'Beautiful Something' DVD: 21st Century 'Queer As Folk'

Ariztical Entertainment nicely coordinates the May 17, 2016 VOD/iTunes release of the 2015 gay-themed drama "Beautiful Something" with when the thoughts of young gay men turn to Pride. All of the action centering around an evening in which four somewhat diverse gay men who are attractive in their own way prowl Pittsburgh in search of sexual and/or emotional satisfaction makes 10-percenters who are old enough to remember the early days of Pride think of the then-groundbreaking 2000-2005 Showtime series "Queer as Folk."

The "Folk" premise is that four gay men who are attractive in their own way prowl the streets of their Pittsburgh community seeking sexual and/or emotional satisfaction. One difference is that that series is far steamier than the film.

Just as many viewers have their favorite character in "Folk" and in other series that revolve are four leads who most likely would not be friends in real life, you will have your "Beautiful' favorite. Additionally, like their small-screen counterparts, each "Beautiful" man fulfills two stereotypes.

Brian is a scruffy 20-something novelist who is seeking both to break the writer's block that is hindering completing his contracted-for second book and a man who can meet his physical and emotion needs.

Drew is a stereotypical gym-rat black man right down to the shaved head and body by Nautilus. This famous sculpted sculptor is trying to convey his true feelings for model/live-in lover/aspiring actor Jeff.

The difficulties between Jeff and Drew send the former (who fits the boy-next-door stereotype) out on the streets for adventures.

Jeff encountering borderline sugar grandpa/bear Bob provides the most substantive intercourse in the film. The elder man, who evokes thoughts of George Segal, provides the twink with insight regarding the bad ole days of homosexual love and further essentially tells him to grow up. Additionally, their role play is highly entertaining.

The personal nature of the stories, equally personal nature of the people watching them, and the understated nature of every element of "Something" make the analysis of it tough. The increasingly vocal (and very substantial) majority of viewers who can relate to one or more character will enjoy the film more than the handful of folks whose experiences are not similar to the depicted action.

A scene between Brian and a former high school buddy perfectly illustrates the key to deciding whether to order "Something" or selecting another VOD title. Brian and said one-time friend with benefits currently find themselves at odds regarding the significance of their prior displays of youthful exuberance and their present-day feelings toward each other. This ending when Brian disregards a charming command of "down, Boy" both ends this encounter on an entertaining note and rings true to guys of his generation who exceed the limits of buddies whose willingness to take (or give) one for the team is limited.

In other words, the effort of writer/director Joseph Graham to provide something for everyone may "Queer" the deal for some.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

'Theeb' BD: Oscar-Nominated 'Empire of the Sun' in 1916 Arabian Desert

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The May 17, 2016 Blu-ray release of 2016 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee (and winner of scads o' awards) "Theeb" being just another day at the office for peerless foreign film distributor Film Movement speaks volumes about the awesomeness of that company. It also is a good endorsement for the Movement Film of the Month Club, to which "Theeb" is the latest addition. Using the Blu-ray format to present the breathtaking scenery and spectacular soundtrack shows equally good instincts.

Before beginning an actual discussion of "Theeb," noting that this film also is a "New York Times" Critic's Pick is important regarding understanding the merits of the film.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Theeb" provides perfect exposition regarding the concept of the film; it also offers a look at the aforementioned exceptional scenery.

The apt English translation of the name of the titular young Bedouin is "Wolf." We first meet this literal son of a sheikh when he, his older brother Hussein, and their brother are part of a group out in the Arabian desert in 1916 during the Ottoman Empire era.

The amazing parallels between "Theeb" and the 1987 Christian Bale/John Malkovich drama "Empire of the Sun" begin with Theeb and Hussein playing near an oasis and moving onto still low-pressure target shooting practice.

The mood remains light when our boys join their group at their campsite. The intrusion of the war that soon follows has ample tension but is less dramatic and initially less violent than the almost literal rude awakening that British boy Jim experiences during his WWII-era childhood in Asia.

Like Jim, the foolishness of Theeb leads to his embarking on a perilous journey. In the case of the latter, it involves stowing away on an expedition through an area that is prone to raider attacks.

Writer/director Naji Abu Nowar shows an awareness of "Star Trek" lore regarding the aftermath of Theeb (like Jim) becoming a guest of his enemy. Theeb and his adversary find themselves in a situation that requires cooperation that leads to further understanding of the experiences that are behind their current situation.

The surprise (but realistic) ending likely is a reason for Movement adding "Theeb" to its catalog. Although shocking, this conclusion arguably is perfect. (Viewers are strongly encouraged to read the liner notes for more insight regarding the thoughts of Movement and Nowar.)

The Bonus Short film that Movement (as it does with every Club selection) pairs with "Theeb" is a  Lebanese Cannes winning animated movie that depicts the inner thoughts of a boy living a challenging existence in post-war Beirut. The creatively  interspersed live-action footage and awesomely surreal fantasies of the teen illustrate the reason for the award.

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

'Rushlights' Unrated Director's Cut VOD/iTunes: Superb Neo Docudrama American Gothic Noir

The Vertical Entertainment VOD/iTunes release of the unrated director's cut of the "Based on True Events" 2016 Josh Henderson (of the TNT "Dallas" series) noir-thriller "Rushlights" shows that streaming is not just for previously released and not-ready-for-primetime material. This production demonstrates that this format can also be used to show the public the film that the studio suits do not want you to see. In this case, it likely is the full extent of the violence in a few scenes.

"Rushlights" writer/director Antoni Stutz states in the press materials for this release that "this cut of the film is closer to what I (Stutz) had in mind initially. Its [sic] edgier. 'The gloves are off' if you like." We like; oh yes, we do.

The sex, drugs, and violence in the following Vimeo video of a "Rushlights" 2.0 promo. arguably make it one of the most atmospheric and enticing trailers you will ever see. Many viewers who will not need a cold shower after it will crave a cigarette.

Stutz commences this sinfully delicious delight with the classic noir set-up of having Henderson's Billy meet fellow loser Sarah at the diner where she works as a waitress until something better comes along. Mutual flirting begats a hot-and-heavy R-rated lust scene, which begats panicked night-time contact from Sarah to Billy.

The get your booty over here call relates to the recent death of the roommate of Sarah. This begats Billy and Sarah travelling to a small Texas town to perpetuate a scheme to collect a large inheritance to which they lack a rightful claim.

Both leads play their parts well; the portrayal of Billy seems to be an audition piece for Henderson regarding his subsequent role as the grown-up John Ross Ewing on "Dallas."

This attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the (presumed) sheep-ranching community triggers the bulk of the aforementioned removal of the gloves. The amount of bloodletting and the creative manners in which Satutz achieves this should satisfy every fan of the modern form of thriller. A climatic scene near the end particularly does not disappoint in this regard.

Stutz further excels in adding twists that keep the audience guessing. Any noir fan knows that deceit permeates the Billy-Sarah relationship, but the reveals regarding this are unexpected. The same goes to a lesser extent regarding the sibling rivalry between local sheriff Bob Brogden (whom Beau Bridges perfectly portrays) and younger brother attorney Cameron (whom Aidan Quinn nicely plays).

Stutz additionally borrows from the horror film genre in providing a few false endings before finally putting everything to rest. The seemingly final carnage is only the beginning of the end.

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

'How to Plan An Orgy in A Small Town' Theatrical & VOD: Comedic Cluster F**k

Image result for how to plan an orgy in a small town (2015)

Gravitas Ventures adds another film to the list of comedies, which includes the Barbara Eden cult classic (and subsequent short-lived sitcom "Harper Valley PTA"), in releasing "How to Plan An Orgy in a Small Town" in theaters and through VOD on May 13, 2016.  The three Canadian Filmmakers' Festival awards for "Orgy" including the one for Best Costume Design adds additional humor in the context of the subject of the film.

Writer/director Jeremy Lalonde wraps this neo-Mayberry tale in the context of a neo-John Hughes teen dramedy. The opening scene has teenage Cassie Cranston suffer through an amusing series of events that begin with an attempted hook-up at a high school party going horribly awry and ending with a very prideful Lady Godiva style walk of shame. Her response to all this being a vicious article that leads to her current career as a sex columnist sets the stage for the modern-day portion of the film.

Cassie, whom Jewel Staite of the cult series "Firefly" and "Stargate: Atlantis" plays sans the wholesomeness of her characters in those shows, returns to her hometown Beaver's Ridge twelve years after the incident described above. 

Cassie discovers on returning in disgrace that not much, including the intense animosity of the town towards her, has changed. Further, aptly named mean girl Heather is still not so nice. One especially amusing (and telling) scene has Heather announce her full name on calling another character only to have that character state that she is the only Heather in town.

Aforementioned high school boyfriend Adam is now a wimpy attorney married to the domineering Heather. His talking to his old flame on the telephone while being "handled" by his new one ties with a latter one in which two characters are side-by-side engaging in outwardly similar but actually much different behavior as the most amusing "Orgy" moment.

Other potential "party people" include apparently very curious realtor Bruce, Bruce's promiscuous estranged wife Alice, and personal favorite adorkable record store employee Chester.

The ball (puns intended) starts rolling when Heather goads Cassie into using her assumed expertise to help the group plan the titular event. Heather outwardly wants to prove that she and the other folks who never left town are not uptight prudes as Cassie asserts. The truth is that Heather, like most of the other orgy candidates, has an hidden agenda that stripping down and getting it on will satisfy.

The understandable awkwardness and slightly less predictable residual high school attitudes of the group provide much of the humor. Topics of bickering include resisting coupling with someone who is considered undesirable for that purpose and the male-female ratio of the group.

As expected, much of the baring that occurs in "Orgy" is in the form of the soul. The spiritual happy ending that follows the physical one for each character is that they realize the importance of the adage "to thy oneself be true" even if they do not fully understand their true self when first considering getting it on with lifelong friends and neighbors.

Like most indie comedies, "Orgy" is not intended to be a laugh-a-minute or to include a line or a scene that pop culture adopts. Lalonde, Staite, and the rest of the cast do deliver an amusing film that is a nice break from the loud and crude comedies that tackle less risque subjects than orgies and often Melissa their mark. On another level, "Orgy" may encourage or discourage real-life counterparts of the characters to have the gang over for a bang one Friday night.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

'Crush the Skull' Theatrical/VOD Premieres: They Can Break In but They Can Never Leave

Product Details
breaking glass pictures aptly chooses a Friday May 13,2016 to premiere the horror comedy movie "Crush the Skull" in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland ahead of a May 17 2016 VOD release. The well-executed (pun intended) tried-and-true concept of this film is that some not-so-innocents find themselves trapped in a Roach Hotel Hell.

The accolades for this creative take on the aforementioned modern genre include the Nightfall Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival where "Skull" premiered and the Best Feature Award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

"Skull" opens with comically inept burglars Ollie and Blair breaking into an upscale home only to have things go amusing wrong. A partial spoiler is that this pair soon participates in a round of throwing others under the bus.

This failures leads to Ollie reluctantly agreeing to participate in the proverbial "last big job" that Connor, who is the inept brother of Blair, insists is a "sure thing." This leads to amusing bickering that reflects that Connor is no more eager to work with Ollie than Ollie is to pull the job. Said discussion leads to a hilarious take on the old "stay in the car" routine.

A series of unfortunate incidents leads to this trio (along with Connor sidekick Riley) getting trapped in the virtually bare "sure thing." The effort to escape leads to discovering the basement-level dungeon.

The maniac of the house discovering the would-be-thieves leads to out group finding themselves running in dark halls and getting trapped in various chambers in assorted groupings. The concurrent mayhem includes plenty of bloodletting and a very amusing beheading.

Writer/director Viet Nguyen of "iZombie" continues to delight with hilarious takes on the cliche of the po po arriving on the scene. Seeing this lawman get overwhelmed before suffering a fate that his deputy is spared is a highlight of "Crush."

Another hilarious element of the film has Blair announce that her cell phone is dead only to have the flashlight on that device continue to run long after that development.

The title of the movie makes great sense near the end of it and may prompt you to chant along with the characters. Suffice to say, this title reflects knowledge of the genre to which "Crush" belongs.

The skill of Nguyen regarding blending horror and comedy sets "Crush" aside. Fans of dark humor and light horror alike will not be disappointed.

The extras consists of the far different (but still recognizable) 10-minute short that is the first version of "Crush" and a a "Behind the Scenes" documentary.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

'I Don't Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman" Legendary Documentarian Documents Her Life

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Icarus Films displays its usual terrific instincts regarding which documentary films to add to its truly diverse DVD catalog in wisely choosing the 2015 Marianne Lambert film "I Don't Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman" for a May 10, 2016 release. "Belong" is the latest addition to the Icarus Akermanpalooza that predates the October 2015 death of that genuine citizen of the world documentary filmmaker.

The following YouTube clip of the "Belong" trailer showcases the nice "Inside the Director's Studio" vibe of the film.

The Akerman whom Lambert films is charming, more relaxed, and less entertainingly caustic than the Akerman of (the Unreal TV reviewed) "Chantal Akerman: From Here," which Icarus has released on DVD. Other (possibly related) contrasts are that "Here" has Akerman sitting in an uncomfortable chair during what seems to be an evening lecture, and "Belong" films her siting cross-legged on her bed on a bright sunny day.

Other parallels are that the films that Chantal discusses in "Belong" include some of those in the (also Unreal TV reviewed) aptly titled Icarus DVD release "Chantal Akerman Four Films."One theme of the remarks by Akerman is her reasons for her technique of extended sequences of narration-free footage. The accompanying footage from those fictional and non-fictional productions demonstrates that she chooses wisely.

We additionally learn more about the close relationship between Akerman and her mother that several films by the former reflect. These include Akerman explaining the genesis of a documentary in which she reads letters from her mother over images of New York City and discussion in "Belong" of the camerawork in a documentary that shows the mother going about her daily business.

Much of the aforementioned charm relates to a delighted Akerman reminiscing about her amusing mischievous antics related to making her films. A highlight revolves around her job in the box office of a gay porn theater facilitating an early film.

Akerman displays additional charm in sharing her responses to invitations to special-interest film festivals, such as Jewish and gay ones. The twinkle in her eyes that is prominent throughout "Belong" is in full force here.

Lambert additionally enlists indie film god in his own right Gus Van Sant to discuss the work of Akerman; particularly the influence of the latter on filmmaking.

We additionally hear from long-time Akerman editor/collaborator Claire Atherton. The most interesting remarks from Atherton center around she and Akerman being present for exceptionally disturbing negative feedback regarding an Akerman film.

The min takeaway from "Belong" is that it provides greater insight into the creative process of Akerman than she offers in the more formal setting of "Here," which has a broader scope. Both films are excellent, but "Belong" enhances the sense of mourning the loss of any possibility of sharing a croissant and a cafe au lait at a Parisian bistro with Akerman. Some solace remains regarding not having Akerman blow smoke in your face while openly defying anti-smoking guidelines.

The extra in "Belong" consists of 19 minutes of additional footage.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

'A Sort of Homecoming' VOD: Laura Marano Weighs Pros and Cons of Debating

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The nature of the textbook indie drama  "A Sort of Homecoming," which premieres on VOD platforms on March 10 2016, makes the plot revolving around high-school debate competitions apt for this review. Like any movie, there are arguments for and against watching it.

The hard-earned (and well-deserved) indie cred. of "Home" relates to the diligent efforts of writer/producer Lynn Reed to bring this semi-autobiographical story to life. This 20th century high school debate champion from Lafayette, Louisiana used the 21st century techniques of Kickstarter, screenings at secondary film festivals, and sponsored showings in movie theaters to get the film made and out to the viewing public. The VOD premiere is an additional element of this.

The following YouTube video of a scene from "Homecoming" provides a good sense of the art-house quality of the film. The jerky handheld camera work evokes thoughts of the cinematography in the updated "Battlestar Galactica" series.

The tween cred. of "Homecoming" stems from Laura Marano, who is the Ally of the Disney Channel kidcom "Austin and Ally," starring as young Amy in the '80s-era flashbacks that comprise roughly 90-percent of the film. An amusing aspect of this is that Amy is the quieter and more stable member of the debate team that is comprised of her and the cuter but less organized and more excitable Nick. In other words, Marano is the Ally to the Austin of Nick portrayor Parker Mack. The tween cred. of Mack relates to his role on the MTV comedy series "faking it."

One can easily imagine the Disney Channel airing an edited version of "Homecoming" that entirely consists of the '80s-era "Glee" style focus on working up to competing in a national high-school debate competition. Even a slower tempo version of the literal "Austin" theme that asserts "There's no way I can make it without you; do it without you; be here without you" would be very apt for this version.

Reed further embraces the "Austin" elements of the film by having Amy strongly resisting the efforts of pushy and aggressive debate-camp roomie Rosa to participate in the training exercise of singing her arguments. Alas, "Homecoming" lacks a hilariously charming and uber-goofy Dez counterpart.

Returning to the adult portion of our programming, "Homecoming" opens with adult Amy facing a decision regarding her career as a producer at a CNN-style cable news network. Receiving news that her former debate coach Annie is close to death and has granted Amy a power-of-attorney that requires immediately returning to Lafayette sets the action in motion.

This compulsion to return to the place of her birth regardless of whether you can go home again understandably triggers the strong memories of Amy that the bulk of the film portrays. The condensed version of this is that excelling in debate is very important to both Amy and Nick.

The obstacles that Amy faces include the lack of motivation by Nick and lack of support by her family. Nick having an abusive redneck roughneck father who actively opposes his son participating in debate competitions obstructs his path to a '80s-era future that is so bright that he has to wear shades. A school-district funding cut virtually on the eve of an important debate competition throws additional "Glee" style drama into this mix.

Reed shows good indie and 21st century instincts in providing a sort of a Hollywood ending. The kids end up alright but not completely in the anticipated manner, and 21st century Amy works out decades-old personal issues.

The "pro" arguments for "Homecoming" begin with it not making a parody of the '80s. There is a complete absence of neon clothes, shoulder pads and even bigger hair, and an almost absence of '80s tunes. The one Reagan-era song is out of place in that it is a Go-Gos hit three years after the release of of "Beauty and the Beat" and on the cusp of the band breaking up.

"Homecoming" additionally provides a look at the world of high school debate; learning more about this activity of which most of us know very little is interesting. Having the former debate partner/current co-producer of Reed play a demanding debate coach adds cred. regarding this aspect of the film.

Setting most of "Homecoming" in Louisiana and filming it on location contributes to the oft-mentioned indie cred. This is a nice break from the urban films that dominate the American film industry. Additionally, the visually appealing cinematography does New Orleans and rural Louisiana justice.

The primary "con" of "Homeconing" is that present-day scenes add little to the movie and are the weakest portion of it. At the heart of this, the premise that adult Amy must accept the role that Annie assigns her is flawed. Declining to do so is a very valid option.

The audience additionally does not get to know the Annie in the flashbacks well enough to care about the frail and dying Annie 30 years later. We also do not understand why Amy is the chosen one among the hundreds of students and close friends and relatives in the life of Annie.

The opening scene that reveals the career success of Amy and the modern-scenes being weaker than the flashback calls out for armchair directing in the form of advocating for a film that begins with the first flashback and that eliminates all of the modern elements with the exception of making a slightly edited version of the first scene the last one. The final suggestion is working in having someone hand adult Amy the postcard that provides important exposition.

The sort of conclusion regard "Homecoming" is that is earns a "7," with the oft-mentioned flashbacks deserving an "8" and the 21st century elements getting a "5." As always, pro and con arguments exist regarding this assertion.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2016

'Glassland' DVD: Toni Collette's Wonderfully Dystopian Irish Mother' Day Fable

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The 2014 Irish drama "Glassland" showing the intense (but finite) devotion of early 20s son John for his intensely alcoholic mother makes it very apt for the May 2016 selection for the always spectacular Film of the Month Club  (a subscription to which would make a terrific Mother's Day gift) of indie foreign movie company Film Movement. A theme of this one is the extent to which a son will take desperate measures when his mother creates desperate times.

As Movement explains in a liner note, Sundance selection "Glassland" has a strong indie feel. Much of this is attributable to star Jack Reynor, who plays the aforementioned rural Irish taxi driver. More established star Toni Collette does her typically excellent job portraying alcoholic mother Jean. These factors additionally create a sense of a live-stage production.

The following YouTube clip of the "Glassland" trailer goes beyond promoting the film to showcasing the exceptional beauty and intensity that set it apart from other notable movies.

The status of the parent-child relationship at the beginning of the film is that John is incorporating limited and minor criminal activity in his driving job. He also is feeling increasing frustration regarding both barely getting by and having to assume the parental role with Jean.

An especially bad incident with Jean early in "Glassland" requires that John get her not to rehab no no no but to hospital as folks from their region say. The subsequent negative prognosis regarding Jean increases the urgency that she does obtain intense rehab treatment. Jean resisting that treatment and John not having the necessary funds worsens this bad situation.

Reynor and Collette especially shine in scenes that demonstrate the extremes regarding being the adult child of an alcoholic. One has them gleefully drinking and rocking out. The other involves a figuratively sobering one in which Collette delivers a monologue on the related issues of her inability to be a fit mother and her alcoholism.

Other drama comes in the form of John feeling pressure to increase his illegal activity to earn enough money for the care that Jean requires. Suffice it to say, going down that road does not end well.

These universal real-world elements for which director Gerard Barrett successfully strives truly makes it a film for its period. The observation in the 1999 film "Fight Club" that 20-something men are the first generation raised by women is as true (if not more true) regarding millennials. One unseen aspect of this is that it often falls on these men to step up when these women require support.

The (as always) well-selected Bonus Short Film in the Club release of "Glassland" is the eight-minute French film "Aissa." This film is just as uncomfortably probing as the feature film in depicting the intense poking and prodding of a young Congolese woman who is facing deportation back to her native country.

The DVD extras include interviews with Barrett and Reynor.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Grassland" or Movement is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Friday, May 6, 2016

'Fursonas' VOD: 'Trekkies' for Furries (Alas, no Tribbles)

Fursonas Poster

First-time director Dominic Rodriguez is a manimal on  a well-executed mission regarding the documentary "Fursonas," which hits VOD platforms and iTunes on May 10 2016. This furtastic journey is designed to dispel the erroneous general impression that furries merely are fetish freaks who don animal costumes to have sex. As Rodriguez shows, that group simply is a subset of the furry culture. On a general level, this film is a great successor to the 1997 documentary "Trekkies," which depicts "Star Trek" devotees who fall on the upper ends of the Klingon fanaticism scale.

As an aside, folks who want background information on Rodriguez and the making-of "Fursonas" are encouraged to read an Unreal TV post on an interview with him.

The following awesome promo. (courtesy of YouTube) for "Fursonsas" provides a great overview of both the film and Rodriguez.

Rodriguez utilizes the pure documentary style of turning his lens on the interviewees and (mostly) staying off camera. He allows each individual to tell his or her story and often to discuss a controversy within the furry community.

Diezel the riding-mower operating raccoon, Skye the groove-thing shaking fox, and Bandit the dog who adopts that persona to honor a household pet of the same name seem to be at the lower end of the immersion scale in the furry culture. A (possibly flawed) memory is that Diezel is the furry who remarks that fursuits are much to heavy to consider wearing while having sex.

The more colorful subjects include the Pennsylvania man who is engaged in a court battle to legally change his name to Boomer to honor the titular canine star of an '80s NBC drama. We also meet a young gay couple who do have sex in their fursuits.

Another memorable segment has the owner of Bad Dragon discuss his line of dildos of real and mythical animals. This interview occurs in what seems to be the showroom of the company. One of the display items indicates that an aroused unicorn must be taken seriously.

The primary aforementioned controversy centers around Anthrocon organizer and yoda (sans costume) Dr. Samuel Conway (a.k.a. Uncle Cage) who does not appear in costume on film but dresses as a cockroach. Footage of a hilarious webcast in which a wine-drinking Cage rants against his fellow furries perfectly illustrates the basis for his being at odds with his detractors; this also shows that furries are like any other subculture (including families) in that it has factions with strongly held conflicting views.

The secondary controversy relates to the aforementioned widely held public opinion that furries primarily adopt that lifestyle for sexual reasons. This issue centers around Chew Fox, who is infamous for stating on "The Tyra Banks Show" that wearing her fursuit is an integral part of her sex life. The related issues are that Chew discussed that private aspect of the furry culture with the general population and validated the aforementioned erroneous general perception that sex is integral to the furry lifestyle.

Rodriguez presents all this in the proverbial entertaining and educational style that characterizes good documentaries. You will not learn everything that you always wanted to know about furries but were afraid to ask but will come pretty close. You also may want to order a bunny suit online and hop around your backyard on the weekend.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

'Fursonas' Director Dominic Rodriguez Shows Parallels Between Furries and Gay Pride

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV will run a review of the documentary "Fursonas" on May 6, 2016.]

Reading minutes before interviewing first-time director Dominic Rodriguez about his film "Fursonas," which hits VOD platforms and iTunes on May 10 2106, that Rodriguez is very candid about he and his boyfriend enjoying sex while dressed in their fursuits and that they incorporate dildos shaped like an animal phallus in their intimate activities resulted in the subsequent discussion being awesomely candid. Rodriguez passes the test of being someone with whom you would want to be share a beverage with flying colors.

The most significant consequence of the aforementioned revelations (and of the film being a "coming out" for Rodriguez) was discussing parallels between the furry community that "Fursonas" documents and the Gay Pride movement roughly 25 years ago. Rodriguez looking forward to the day that he can walk to his mailbox in his wolf suit 10 years from now without being embarrassed nicely illustrates this concept.

On a related note, Rodriguez talked about the initial surprise of encountering a high school friend at a furry convention. He then asserted regarding the size of the furry population population that "I'm sure there is a furry in your life; I would bet on it."

Although these discussions of the sexual aspect of the furry culture may seem to be sensationalistic, they merely reflect an important aspect of the film.

Background of Rodriguez

Knowing that many readers will conclude "I knew it" on learning of the genesis of the interest of Rodriguez in the furry culture requires stating the "Fursonsas" theme that furries are a diverse group of people who choose that lifestyle for numerous reasons and engage in a wide variety of activities while dressed as animals.

Rodriguez addressed his personal practice of the furry lifestyle by stating that being a furry is an identity for him and that "sexuality is part of an identity."

Rodriguez shared that searching the Internet for pornography when he was 12 led to discovering Furry porn. He added that discovery coincided with his "awakening into sexuality" and that that self-proclaimed introverted nerd focused that aspect of his life on looking at images on the Internet. This is opposed to dressing in animal costumes and interacting with like-minded folks.

This aspect of the conversation included Rodriguez stating that he was not his high school mascot. He again referred to his shyness and shared that he literally and figuratively did not get into a fursuit until many years after discovering his interest in the furry lifestyle. He described that appeal as relating to the concept of "animals with human characteristics" and stressed that liked the humanity aspect of that equation.

Rodriguez demonstrated this same charming shyness in noting that he disliked wearing his fursuit in the absence of other furries. When asked if he would wear that outfit at his wedding if he and his boyfriend ever married, Rodriguez replied that they had discussed that and decided against it.

Rodriguez being very candid on the topic of furries who incorporate that lifestyle into their sexual activity led to one of the best moments in our hour-long discussion. His stating that "foxes are more bottoms" prompted a joke that is inappropriate for this forum but elicited a nice laugh from Rodriguez. (Another joke in response to Rodriguez using the expression "the elephant in the room" also prompted an appreciated laugh by Rodriguez.)

Rodriguez stated on a more general level that the choice of an animal to emulate reflected "either what they (furries) are or what they want to be."

Background of Fursonsa

Talking to Rodriguez demonstrated the extreme degree to which "Fursonas" was a labor of love. He devoted four years to the project and undertook it to provide the general public accurate information about that culture. Namely, that not every furry incorporated that aspect of his or her life into his or her intimate activity.

Rodriguez further acted fully knowing that some furries would be upset regarding showcasing their community (and airing some of their dirty laundry). Rodriguez was equally aware that he was also damned if he didn't in the sense that some furries would be angry that he did not cover the activities in which they engaged.

Rodriguez addressed the latter by reasonably stating in a good-natured manner that his making the movie and devoting four years to doing so justified the chosen scope of the film. He added that any furry that wanted to make a film that expressed his or her perspective had the option of doing so.

Rodriguez demonstrated the film making instincts that make "Fursonas" so good in deciding at that outset to conceal his identity as a furry from his subjects, the audience, and even his crew. This reflects the principle of journalism that the reporter is not the story.

It was equally admirable that Rodriguez ultimately decided to "come out" in front of and behind the camera in a very understated manner. He described the process of making that decision as "organic" and stated that he "didn't want it to be my story but don't want it (his furry identity) to be a secret."

The Dominic effect of coming out demonstrated the ability of Rodriguez to keep his biases in check while illustrating that he knew his subject well. It also led to one of the most memorable moments in the documentary; we see Rodriguez sitting with the head of his costume at his feet after roughly an hour of not knowing his true nature.

Trekkies Comparison

The strong similarities between the 1997 documentary "Trekkies," which takes an unbiased look at "Star Trek" fans who take their fandom very seriously, and "Fursonas" prompted asking Rodriguez about that. He laughed and stated that he had heard that a lot but had not seen the other film.

This leading to discussing how furries differed from other fandoms; Rodriguez aptly noted that his group did not have any source material on which to base their culture.

Furry Pride

The characteristics of furry culture currently not being understood well and being the victim of many misconceptions (as well as the element of some male furries having sex with each other while dressed as animals) prompted thoughts of the aforementioned comparison with the beginnings of the Pride movement during which marching in a parade or putting a pink triangle decal on your car was a brave act. Rodriguez shared that a deleted scene from "Fursonas" had a interviewee state that "Pride parades are where you embrace (what society considers) the negative aspects of your self."

Future Plans of Rodririguez

Noting that the furry community already considered the very PG "Fursonas" edgy, Rodriguez expressed a desire to make a future film that thoroughly explored the sexual aspect of furry culture. He further hopes to make a web series "for furries by furries" so that those who view that content can fully understand the context.

Haters Gonna Hate

Both "Fursonas" and the conversation with Rodriguez showed that (like most members of the gay community) furries are a passionate lot. Further, (also like the aforementioned homosexual segment of the population) making all of them happy is literally impossible.

The best that you can do is turn the camera on as many factions as possible of them and let them have their say. There is no doubt that Rodriguez is the adorkable man for the job.

Anyone with CIVIL questions or comments regarding "Fursonas" or Rodriguez is strongly encouraged to either email or reach out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Bad doggies or kitties (or cockroaches) who make their way on the Unreal TV front lawn can count on having the garden hose turned on them.

Monday, May 2, 2016

'Grace Under Fire' S5: Little Grace Happy At Last

Product Details
This coverage of the 1997-98 fifth and final season of the ABC sitcom "Grace Under Fire" wraps up these posts on the Visual Entertainment complete series DVD collection of "Grace." These episodes leave the titular working-class single mother of three in a good place and producer Chuck Lorre and star Brett Butler enough material for the subsequent syndication runs of the show.

This post likely leaves Visual on the shelf until the releases of personally highly anticipated complete series DVD releases of the Donna Pescow '70s sitcom "Angie" and the Burt Reynolds '90s sitcom "Evening Shade" sometime in the second half of 2016.

Regarding "Grace," the former alcoholism (and related ex-husband) of everyone's favorite Dixie chick are now at most minor elements of the show. Further, every financial and personal setback no longer is a major crisis.

The season opens with Grace feeling the predictable strains regarding spending the work week at her big-city job and making the long commute back to her small community and her family on the weekends. This sets the stage for both her career that starts in the second episode and for the two new regular cast members.

Don "D.C." Curry plays aptly named construction company owner D.C., who hires Grace for the aforementioned new job. This work as the only woman and the only white person at this all-black company provides plenty of opportunities for good amusement. One of the best lines has Grace commenting that she thought that telling the men that she wanted to see them half-naked would have prompted them to remove their shirts.

Lauren Tom joins the cast as new hair stylist Dot, who also fills the role as new best gal pal to Grace following the departure of next-door Nadine. Dot dating best guy pal/pharmacist Russell further brings her into the action.

Another development that provides fodder for S5 episodes is the opening of a river boat casino. An episode in which a tornado blows through town is only slightly reminiscent of a early "Grace" episode and provides the basis for an ethical debate regarding what to do with a bagful of casino money that literally ends up on Grace's door.

For his part, 16 year-old Quentin starting a serious relationship sets the stage for stories involving his growing up. It also allows "Grace" to follow the '90s practice of adding former "Newhart" star Julia Duffy to the cast as an effort to freshen up a series. In this case, Duffy plays the former bowling-alley employee/current wealthy mother of the WASPy girl with whom Quentin is involved.

Oscar-nominated actress Diane Ladd earns the award for most notable guest star. She appears in the Christmas episode as the mother of Grace. The "sit" that provides the "com" in this one involves said maternal figure trying to feminize her happy to be a tomboy granddaughter Libby.

The award for best episode of the season goes to one in which gossip at which Grace is the center leads to rumors circulating like wildfire. The varying degrees to which these assertions are true provides terrific "com."

The season finale indicates that it is not intended to be a series finale in that it is neither monumental nor anti-monumental. It involves Duffy's Bev inadvertently disrupting the household of Grace on moving in an effort to return to her blue-collar roots. The "sit" this time is that Bev is oblivious regarding the impact of the high-class ways that have become second nature to her on the others with whom she is sharing her home.

The evolution referred to above demonstrates that future raunchmaster Lorre nicely guides "Grace" from a show with a great deal in common with the shriller and cruder "Roseanne," which also has the Lorre fingerprint, to one that largely accurately reflects the times. People go about their daily lives with most of their desperation being of the quiet variety.

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