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Friday, September 30, 2016

'The Stolen Lyric' Amazon Video: Awesome Retelling of Robin Hood Focus on Corp Greed via Samples

The integrity and creativity that permeates the new Chase Peter Garrettson full-length animated movie "The Stolen Lyric" make it "must-see" for all ages. This virtue begins with this modern retelling of Robin Hood that transforms the titular hero into the lead singer of a rock band called The Merry staying true to its message of the evil of corporate greed by having literally all the dialog consist of roughly 12-second samples of 555 songs by 129 artists.

The scope of these tunes just as literally encompasses everything from country music legend Johnny Cash to several hip hop and rap artists that this not even pretty fly for a white guy does not recognize. The household names include "The Beatles," "Elton John," "The Cars," and "Pearl Jam." Fans of The Ramones will be particularly pleased despite getting the lyrics "I just want to have some kicks; I just want to get some chicks" stuck in his or her noggin.

The integrity of "Lyric" continues with Amazon Prime members being able stream it free; we peasants who resist paying Prince Jeff of Seattle the $100 "tax" for that service can also stream it free but for having to watch advertisements during it. 

An especially awesome aspect of "Lyric" for those of us whose childhood Saturday mornings consisted of eating (tragically discontinued) Quisp cereal and watching the first-run fare of les freres Krofft and Mssrs Hanna and Barbera is that this film extends on beloved novelty songs of that era. The concept of these tunes is that samples of popular songs are interspersed into a narrative. A hypothetical example of this is a voice actor pretending to interview former Georgia governor President Jimmy Carter about the energy crisis and the lyric "that's the night the lights went out in Georgia" playing in response to a question.

Visually, "Lyric" does great with the modern style of computer-generated drawings that have the sharp angles and bright colors of '60s cartoons. The overall grunge look and theme of idealistic but cynical 20-something rocker boys evoke great thoughts of the garage band "Mystik Spiral" from the late '90s MTV animated series "Daria."

A highly relatable aspect of "Lyric" dates back to the roots of the reviewing career of your not-so-humble host. Sharing thoughts on DVD and Blu-ray releases began with being recruited by a ginormous (and not so upstanding) corporate online site.

Delays of months and months in getting the miniscule compensation for those labors led to yours truly repeatedly referring to the company as Sherrod Forest in reference to the CEO of this company with an editor known in the industry as "Chainsaw McGraw;" needless to say, the suits were not amused. The good news is that Unreal TV Forest is a much happier place for this one-time leading voice for a third season of the CBS drama "Jericho;" yeah, I am behind sending all those apple pies to CBS.

The narrative in "Lyric" largely consists of Robin and his band trying to achieve commercial success while staying true to their music and not being robbed by the corporate fat cats. We also learn that they value their freedom and do not have the advantages of either being a "millionaire's son" or having a "rich daddy." Conveying much of this in the style of the groovy rock operas, such as "Tommy," of the '70s adds to the fun.

A good early scene has the band befriend a "suit" who is their age and having him sing about his yuppie lifestyle. A very memorable scene has a advertising executive using lyrics from the Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil" to seduce a recently transformed from rocker to suit-and-tie guy Will Scarlet to the dark side that the Nottingham and Nottingham agency represents.

The award for best segment goes to relatively graphic (no pun intended) energetic multi-position love scene between Robin and Maid Marion. The picking of songs is perfect (and often hilarious). It also puts songs of "The Cure" and other bands in a new perspective.

The award for best use of a song goes to an extended segment of "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, This comes out of the mouth of one of our babes in the Sherwood Forest while using drugs on a captive.

The same spirit of integrity behind spending so much time carefully crafting "Lyric" and properly communicating its messages requires candor regarding the things in the unique and well-worth-watching labor of love. The largest flaw is that Robin and his men seem completely interchangeable. Each uses songs from every generation and style to express himself.

Armchair film making makes it easy to suggest the change of giving each character his own voice while still using the same songs. Examples of this are having every '70s rock ballad come out of the mouth of Robin, giving Will the grunge tunes, and having LJ (a.k.a. Little John) belt out the hip hop and rap jams. The awesome thing about animation is that adapting "Lyric"  in that manner may not be so tough considering that the animation and samples are available.

A more minor note (again, no pun intended) is that the we get it element of using 12 second segments of each song often leads to getting into the tune just as it changes to another. This is the modern example of the countless times of being a passenger in a car and liking the selected song only to have the driver quickly (and repeatedly) change the radio station. 

The final note regarding all this is that "Lyric" combines the right modern elements to keep the centuries-old spirit of Robin Hood alive. Rock on, Chase; we look forward to The Canterbury Tales of John Lennon.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

'The Neon Dead' DVD/VOD 'Clerks' Meets 'Night of the Living Dead'

Wild Eyes Releasing continues celbrating the camp side of modern low-budget horror with the September 13, 2016 DVD/VOD release of the 2015 horror-comedy "The Neon Dead" (nee "Invasion of the Undead.") The highly compatible elements that set this one aside are the effectively creepy titular special effects that give the supernatural beings  a wonderful glowing blacklight appearance and the strong Kevin Smith "Jersey films" vibe. This is not to mention several "Ghostbusters" elements.

The film opens with hot chick/unemployed recent college graduate Allison hanging out in what passes for an ancestral home in the relatively new nation of the United States. A call (that does not come from inside the house) soon provides false hope in the form of an invitation for an interview for a badly needed job. Allison finding an aforementioned creature occupying her bathroom derails her plans for gainful employment.

The weirdness continues with the horror staple of a creepy young girl showing up at the door and calmly sharing her knowledge of the reputation of the house as a place of evil. Said tween further sets the stage for the Jay and Silent Bob style duo of "Neon" to join the action. Blonde and unabashedly brazen and insensitive Desmond and his quieter and more caring sidekick Jake are slacker video-store clerks who moonlight as paranormal exterminators. The opening scenes at their day job show fluorescent gas bright that "Neon" Torey Haas film maker is a major Smith fan.

The boys quickly find on arriving that the problem at the semi-isolated house extends far beyond the initial easily neutralized threat and a dispute regarding the fee for their services. A combination of a sinister grand plan by a deranged (but still present) ancestor of Allison, plot twists that are reminiscent of the British series "Randall and Hopkirk" about a detective and his recently deceased partner, and two separate undead armies keep the mayhem, the humor, and the gore coming in equal pats until the morning after.

Highlights include black comedy regarding a severed leg, Desmond and Jake bickering about the tools of their trade, and a grand final battle with a creature that resembles the art project of ninth grader.

All of this works because it reflects ironic respect to horror film staples, is consistent with the jaded perspective of Millennials, and adds the creepy bright features in adherence to the principle that modern takes on genres should offer something fresh.

The DVD extras includes commentary by Haas, bonus scenes, and a behind-the-scenes feature.

Anyone with questions or comments regrading "Dead" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

'Occupied' S1 DVD: LRP Russia Invades Norway

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This DVD set from Australia will not play on a standard U.S. DVD player; watching it requires an international player.]

The recent Madman Entertainment Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2015 first season of the Norwegian drama "Occupied" shows that Nordic Noir TV series extend beyond the (Unreal TV reviewed) original versions of "The Killing" and "The Bridge." Aside from being the only program in this trifecta of suspense dramas set in Norway and not yet having a North American version, centering around events other than a police investigation of a series of killing further distinguishes "Occupied" from the other two procedurals.

"Occupied" does follow the formula of the other programs by having a highly significant event in the season premiere expand into complex related developments that involve characters who represent various segments of society. The primary variation regarding this in "Occupied" is that this often is a family affair.

Another variation is centering each "Occupied" episode around a month in the titular Russian presence in Norway; this differs from episodes in "Bridge" and "Killing" typically focusing on a day in the investigation of the crime spree on which each season focuses.

The "Occupied" cred. includes genuinely acclaimed Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbro as a creator and writer and the show coming from the same folks behind the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Occupied" awesomely highlights the "24" style suspense and intensity that are integral to the program.

Prime Minister Jesper Berg fills the role of the politician-in-crisis that is an element of these noir offerings. In this case, he is more central to the plot than his "Bridge" and "Killing" counterparts. The series begins with Berg announcing at a press conference in the Norway of the near future that technology regarding the real-life element thorium is at a stage that allows having that energy source completely replace oil and gas. This announcement is in the context of sharing that Norway is shutting down its production and distribution of the traditional energy sources.

The rapidly ensuing drama leads to a complacent Berg announcing that Norway is resuming oil and gas production under the proverbial watchful eye of the Russians. This statement adds that this oversight will continue until said production reaches full capacity.

These developments lead to the noir staple of the central politician facing serious fallout related to the central events of the series. The twists this time include surprising support from a powerful source.

The initial drama prompts dedicated bodyguard Hans Martin Djupvik, who plays the role of the law-enforcement hero in this noir program, having an integral role in those events. His subsequent involvement in early season drama leads to his being tasked with protecting the not-so-popular Russians in Norway. The nature and extent of his loyalties sometimes being uncertain contributes good drama.

Djupvik spouse Andrea being a judge is one of many of the aforementioned familial elements of "Occupied." The public perception of Hans Martin being a Russian lover becomes an element in undermining the authority of his wife.

Quasi-renegade newspaperman Thomas Eriksen, who fills the noir role of the reporter whose meddling plays a significant role in the triggering events of the series, witnessing the crucial early incidents put him on the scent of the true story. This also puts him at odds with wife restauranteur Bente Norum. The dire state of her upscale eating establishment reverses on the Russians making it one of their favorites in their home-away-from-home.

Chechen immigrant Elbek Musajev and his clan, which includes teen son Iljas, play the noir role of the typical family who initially do not seem to have anything to do with the aforementioned central chaos. In this case, evidence that includes the activities of Elbek in his native land leads to his being arrested regarding an incident involving a Russian official. The fallout from all that radicalizes Iljas. One spoiler is that the idealistic angry young man is not alone.

All of this escalates to fairly intense chaos late in the season in a manner that is very true to the Nordic Noir genre (and our modern reality). The Free Norway resistance group is fully up and running, the Russians are responding in kind, and Berg is losing his patience with the uninvited house guests who have long overstayed their welcome.

S1 ends on a note that is true to American shows; the final episode makes an equally good series finale and cliffhanger if granted a second season. At this point, the prospect of more episodes is as uncertain as the additional time that the Russians will occupy this fictional version of Norway.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

'The Seventh Fire' DVD Candid Documentary on Indian Reservation Drug Culture

THE SEVENTH FIRE DVD & Online Streaming

One of the first impressions of the September 27, 2016 VOD/DVD Film Movement release of the documentary "The Seventh Fire" is that it very similar to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Movement release of the documentary "The Other Side." The former focuses on the impact of the drug activities of gang leader Rob Brown (a.k.a. Two Thunderbirds) on his Minnesota Indian reservation; the other documents the daily lives of the poverty-level citizens of a small Louisiana community.

In true documentary style, veteran filmmaker Jack Pettibone Riccobono merely turns his camera on Brown and lets him tell his own story. Watching this subject work in his drug lab teaches us a few tricks of the trade, seeing him interact with secondary character/quasi-aspiring drug lord teen Kevin (who is the Jesse to Brown's Walter) provides the element of the futility of changing things, and watching Brown play with his young daughter shows that he is a genuine family man.

Riccobono also awesomely provides essentially the life story of Brown in a few minutes by having the latter read a report on him while meeting with his attorney. This conference also offers good insight into the plea bargain process and results in aspiring poet/author/baby daddy Brown facing his fifth prison term.

For his part, Kevin is living his personal dream. He is well-connected and is enjoying himself. He further seems primed to achieve his ultimate goal of filling the void that the imminent unfortunate incarceration of Brown is creating.

At the same time, Kevin additionally is emulating Brown in that the younger man is evaluating his present life and pondering his desired future. This provides the context for Riccobono to share information about a center that helps young reservation residents such as Kevin start down a path that is better for both those young people and society.

The impact of "Seventh" is that it reminds the rest of us about the poor conditions and challenges facing the descendants of the the folks who beat us to the to the shores of the United States. The film also illustrates that change is not entirely impossible.

Movement provides a bonus bonus adding a second film to the typical short film that accompanies every selection in the fantabulous Movement (mostly foreign) Film of the Month Club and many standard features, such as "Seventh." Both "Killer" and "The Sacred Food" are by Riccobono. Each of these films can be considered separate halves of "Seventh" that combine to tell a similar story to that main feature.

"Killer" is a candid 1989 documentary on at-risk kids in New York City. "Food" is a voice-over narrated film that uses beautiful scenery to literally illustrate several hundred years of Indian lore in a few minutes. That one ends with a report on an effort to preserve that heritage.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

'Kamikaze' 89' BD: When 'Brazil' Met 'Dirty Harry'

The Film Movement September 27, 2016 Blu-ray release of the '80stastic 1982 surreal West German drama "Kamikaze' 89" is even more a labor of love than the scads o' other exceptional foreign films that most North Americans would never see but for Movement. A heartfelt Movement Kickstarter campaign is behind the film returning to the big screen in 2016 and then joining the Movement Classics Blu-ray library.

Stylistically, "Kamikaze" is a textbook example of the retro '50s New Wave look of several '80s films. Central renegade cop Jansen wears a a leopard skin suit, the women are heavily made up. a corporate reception area has a rotary dial Superman telephone, there are bright colors galore, etc. Throwing in the weirdness of New German cinema greatly enhances all that.

These garish and bizarre images and the overall surreal nature of "Kamikaze" evoke a strong sense of the 1985 Terry Gilliam film "Brazil." Scruffy Jansen playing by his own rules and driving his superior officer crazy brings the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" movies to mind.

"Kamikaze" is notable as well for the Berlin Inside Story of the film. Jansen portaryor 37 year-old Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a well-known bad boy of New German cinema and is the victim of a "premature death" form a overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills several months after completing "Kamikaze." "Kamikaze" writer/director/Fassbinder collaborator Wolf Gremm documents the involvement of Fassbinder in that project and in a movie that follows in the hour-long film "Rainer Werner Fassbinder" that Movement includes in this two-disc set.

Although "Rainer" focuses on that man, it also provides insights into Gremm that enhance the enjoyment of "Kamikaze." One example is how Gremm likes portraying scenes in elevators.

Movement also provides a bonus disc that has the roughly 90-minute 2015 documentary "Wolf at the Door" in which Gremm shares the story of a three-year bout with bone cancer.

"Kamikaze" opens with narration that explains the dystopian nature of the alleged Utopia of the Germany of the film. An element of this brave new world is a private organization called The Combine exerting a monopoly over all radio and television outlets. A spot-on prediction of the reality television shows that dominate American television in 2016 has a seemingly endless laughing contest be the big hit on German television. This aspect of the film enhances the vibe of the surreal '80s movie "Max Headroom" and the equally odd subsequent "Headroom" television series.

Jansen is called in when The Combine receives a bomb threat; the subsequent investigation brings him into contact with the unusual usual suspects, who include a former star and the nephew of the head of The Combine. He further obtains evidence regarding the existence and purpose of the mysterious 31st floor of the The Combine headquarters building.

Jansen facing an arbitrary deadline regarding this threat to his perfect solve record further contributes to the aforementioned '70s gritty cop drama feel to "Kamikaze." Throwing in beleagured subordinate Anton, whom Fassbinder frienemy/former lover Gunther Kaufmann portrays well, adds a nice touch to this aspect of "Kamikaze."

The scad o' wonderfully cynical touches that Gremm throws in include bizarre reactions to the bomb threats, a stereotypical empty corporate gesture of appreciation being integral to the plot, and the police using "Clockwork Orange" style tactics to get a confession.

An essay by journalist Nick Pinkerton in a booklet that Movement includes in the Blu-ray set nicely ties all of the above together. Pinkerton expands on the observations and inside scoop shared above with additional insight into the players, the German culture at the time, and commentary on the still-present fascism in that country.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kamikaze" or any other topic discussed above is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Moon Over Maine: A Coastal Town Sea of Tranquility

The eight-room bed-and-breakfast Moon Over Maine does not disappoint folks looking for a place to escape both the real-world and the far less hectic pace in downtown Ogunquit and the adjacent large sandy beach across the street from this Pine Tree State lodging facility. As a recent Unreal TV review of the nearby Ogunquit Playhouse production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" states, a desire to go home again is behind a recent visit to that area. Staying at Moon reflects the equally compelling objective of greatly desired downtime.

The inn gets its name from the interest in astronomy of the former owner. Each room has the name of either a planet or the moon itself. On a related note, the new ownership is a rare instance in which such a change enhances an inn.

Multi-talented (more below) innkeeper Rick Barber is young enough to recognize the importance of charging ports in each room and strong reliable WiFi but is old enough to remember the importance of amenities that most lodging establishments long abandoned. Examples of these features include clock radios and DVD players. Your not-so-humble reviewer aptly brought the Rhino Video DVD S1 set of the '60s sitcom "My Favorite Martian" to enjoy during some of the aforementioned downtime.

(Barber provides use of a DVD collection that ranges from Popeye cartoons to the art-house classic "Like Water for Chocolate" and am almost equally diverse library of books.)

The individualized accommodations have unique features that amplify the feeling of staying with a buddy from college. The numerous perks of Venus include a private entrance off a deck, a bathroom with the rare treat of adequate shelf space, and a work area. (Mars is equally nice, but this man very much enjoys being from Venus.)

Owning Moon truly fulfilling a lifelong dream for Barber is apparent from the moment that he greets you on your arrival. The aforementioned multi-talents further warrant comparing Barber to Vermont innkeeper/author/talk show host/(aptly) amateur psychologist Dick Loudon of the late '80s-early '90s CBS Monday night sitcom "Newhart." Barber is a professional photographer, real estate agent who actually does right by his clients, and world-class scone baker. (The chocolate chip and almond ones are personal faves.)

Fellow greeters resident dogs Hope and Ty join Barber in meeting guests on their arrival. The extent to which the pooches welcome you is up to the visitor; joining them on the floor for vigorous playing (including mutual barking and growling) is great fun. This pair also is around most of the time and eager for additional play sessions. (Ty loves giving you five and even ten.)

The photo below shows that Hope (lower left) and Ty also will visit your room for play dates if invited.

The second "B" in the designation of "Moon"delivers on its promise of a continental breakfast, The aforementioned home-made pastries are the centerpiece of the most important meal of the day. Additional treats include bagels and English muffins, cereal, freshly brewed coffee and assorted teas, and orange juice.

Barber enhances all this with exceptional knowledge and recommendations regarding restaurants, shopping, and anything else that suits your fancy.

The only negative aspect of staying at "Moon" is that you will not want to leave to until you have exhausted the weeks' worth of beaches, store, dining establishments, and other attractions that are within a hour drive.

Anyone who wants to learn more about Moon is encouraged to call Barber at 207-646-6666.

Friday, September 23, 2016

'Big Bad' Theatrical: Scooby-Doo for 21st Century

Big Bad

Indican Pictures lives up to its name regarding the midnight shows (starting September 23, 2016) of the 2016 horror-comedy film "Big Bad" ahead of September 26, 2016 VOD and DVD releases. This "teens-in-peril" film provides an even stronger "Buffy the Vampire the Slayer" "Scooby-Doo" vibe than "Buffy" itself.

Writer/Director Opie Cooper gets "Bad" off to a good start by simultaneously spoofing the accelerated pace of modern life and the horror flick cliche of starting a movie with a monster attack of several years ago. Copper opens with scenes of the small-town teens who make up the majority of the cast preparing for a party in an open field on a full moon night. A radio DJ provides exposition regarding that blow-out and the high school fundraiser that is to occur the following night. That charity event has students locked in an old jail until someone bails them out.

The first party centers around a very likable everyteen fresh off a breakup with a girlfriend who uses loving him like a brother as an excuse to stop dating. The fun keeps coming with this excuse providing awesome humor throughout these early scenes.

The exposition during this period also introduces the urban legend (old wives' tale?) of the ghost of the insane prisoner who allegedly uses the woods around the jail as a feeding ground.

Things soon look up for our sad boy when he meets the smart and sassy girl of his wet dreams. Sadness once again descends when the titular creature, which resembles a "Scooby" creature and a monster from early "Buffy" seasons, commits pre-coitus interruptus. 

The film then shifts to dorky second-string basketball player Donny manipulating his way into the fundraiser to be close to cheerleader/former girlfriend Chase. The basis of that break-up is Chase trading up. Nice girl Crystal rounds out this trio. 

Creepy science teacher Mr. Howelll (who sadly has no connection to the "Gilligan's Island" character of the same name) is along to watch after the kids. Co-writer Danny Dauphin does well in that role.

The monster once again rears his ugly head soon after Donny and the girls are locked in their cells. Said big bad chasing the survivors through the jailhouse not long after that creates hope for Donny to dress in a costume to confuse it and for the awesome chase music that is integral to every "Scooby" series and film to start playing.

Along the way, the gang encounters a sheriff who is equally parts Scooby dedicated and Buffy cynical and quirky. Discovering whether the big bad eats the sheriff but does not eat the deputy requires watching the movie.

The nature of the creature and the ultimate resolution provide nice twists. We also get healthy doses of teen drama that pop up even as the monster is bearing down on the millennials. 

All of this adds to a good film for a Friday night viewing of B movies or a tween girl slumber party, Like "Scooby" and "Buffy," the goofy fun greatly outweighs the horror.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

'Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?' Theatrical: Harper Valley NRA

The Vault and filmmaker Matt Cooper achieve the tough objective of making a quality independent film with mass appeal with the comedy "Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?" "Gun" is playing in New York City and is opening at Laemmie's Music Hall in Los Angeles on September 23, 2016 ahead of your local multiplex showing it.

The opening scenes of "Gun" establish Rockford, Texas as a comically exaggerated gun-loving small Lone Star State town. This extends to the old-school movie theater hosting a gun-oriented film festival that includes the farce "The Naked Gun." One spoiler is that you likely will become a Rockfordphile (it had to be said) before the final credits roll.

The stereotypes continues with the (mostly) typical ruralish men spending their free time engaging in guy talk under the guise of hunting trips and their wives using a book club primarily as a cover (pun intended) to discuss sex. Cloris Leachman steals the latter scenes in the persona of the outrageous old woman that she has played since portraying Eastern European grandma from Hell Ida on the 2000s Foxcom "Malcolm in the Middle." Leachman's Maxine is an outspoken lustful woman in her '80s whose sexual activity includes utilizing grandma's little helper. 

The wake-up call regarding the danger of guns comes when hilarious mayhem ensues on adorable everykid Lance bringing his father's gun to school. An important aspect of this important development is that this occurs despite Lance's parents Jenna and Glenn arguably exceeding the recommended precautions regarding keeping offspring away from guns.

Andrea Anders, who has a long history of playing the good girl in sitcoms such as "Joey" and "Better off Ted," plays Jenna. This relatively wholesome mom decides that withholding sex until Glenn agrees to give up his guns triggers (of course, pun intended) what can be considered a town-wide "Pussy for Pistols" Program.

The setting and the family-friendly racy elements of "Gun" evoke thoughts of the Barbara Eden '70s crusading comedy "Harper Valley, PTA" and the television series based on that film; the added aspects of the war of the sexes make one think of the Arkansas-set '90s Burt Reynolds CBS Monday night comedy "Evening Shade" 

The ensuing escapades include a sleazy representative of the National Gun Owners' Association stepping in with a plan to help the men take the edge off and the women using natural and pharmaceutical resources to get their men to cave in.

Greater depth exists in the form of the central conflict prompting Jenna and Glenn to revisit the issue of the large sacrifice associated with the former becoming a soccer mom, the various costs of sticking to your guns (of course, pun intended), and the nearly century-old question of the extent to which a teen girl should put out to please her steady fella.

On a larger level, "Gun" is the rare 2016 movie that keeps sexual content to a bare (no pun intended) minimum and relies on real people and (mostly) realistic situations for genuine laughs. Guns are dangerous even when precautions are taken, and sex is a valued commodity. Additionally, pride keeps all of us from giving in at times that doing so is the better course of action.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' Live

A highlight of a recent trip, which showed that you can go home again, to the Southern Maine coastal town of Ogunquit included both an exceptional (to-be-reviewed August 24, 2016) stay at the Moon Over Maine bed-and-breakfast and the equally enjoyable live performance of the 62 year-old musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" at the 84 year-old Ogunquit Playhouse. The appeal of production includes Broadway actors performing in a nostalgic summer stock setting.

The amazing history of the Playhouse includes beginning Depression-era life in a converted garage before transitioning to its large current home with a theater space that lacks any bad seats. Further, attracting the right leadership is allowing the Playhouse to thrive when many other live-stage spaces scrape by or close up.

Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney chooses wisely in selecting "Brides." Fond memories of the 1954 Howard Keel/Jane Powell film and the '70s Richard Dean Anderson (the Adam Pontipe with the one "e" is the one with no sense of humor) television series help make the current production appeal to both the significant number of gay men who love the Playhouse and the over-50 straight crowd who are the second largest segment of that population. The dreamy siblings spending the show in tight pants (and sometimes less) further attracts the not-so-silent majority among the patrons.

"Brides" runs through October 1, 2016 to make way for the rockin' production "Million Dollar Quartet." That '50stacular production centers around an actual recording session with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. The troupe then moves across the river to the equally spectacular Music Hall theater in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to give parents who are tired of "A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker" the option of taking their little ones to see "Beauty and the Beast."

The following YouTube clip of a promo for the Playhouse "Brides" production provides a tasty tease of rousing fun and humor of this show.

Seeing the elaborate forest set before the show begins is the first indication that "Brides" is far more professional than a production featuring college kids fresh off starring roles in their school production of "Into the Woods."

Big burly hunk (and Ogunquit virgin) Nathaniel Hackmann lumbering onto the stage in his Lewis and Clark style backwoods garb and soon breaking into song completely validates that first impression, Hackmann, whose Broadway cred includes roles in "Les Miserables" and "Paint Your Wagon," mightily projects whether speaking or singing and shows that he possesses the wide vocal range that the "Brides" tunes require. These songs seem to go from the deepest bass to the highest tenor.

Casting shorter and (still hunky and talented) less muscular actors as the brothers further establishes the hierarchy on the stage. Hackmann clearly is the Greg to the Peters and the Bobbys in the show.

Hackmann plays eldest titular brother Adam Pontipee; his opening scenes chores during a rare trip to the town below the isolated wilderness paradise that he and his six siblings share includes finding one of the titular spouses. His limited time and common sense logic convince him to locate and wed a wife in roughly 30 minutes.

Adam soon finding feisty and tough waitress Milly is good luck for him; the extent to which it is good luck for her requires watching the play.

Broadway veteran Analisa Leaming joins Hackmann in making her Playhouse debut in her role as Milly. The extraordinary stage presence of her leading man hinders properly assessing Leaming in the role. She has a good voice and is believable in her role but lacks the Annie Oakley or Molly Brown presence for which one hopes.

Prolific Broadway actor (and another Playhouse newbie) Colin Bradbury steals the show in an early scene in which Milly arrives at her new home and soon finds that she is more Snow White than Molly Brown. Bradbury plays third brother Caleb and gets huge laughs on nonchalantly appearing in a tree and stoically greeting his completely unanticipated new sister-in-law. He follows this up with making the most of the line "not close, here" when a flustered Milly looks up at Caleb and asks if he lives close by.

A personal vote for second favorite brother goes to Justin Schuman as youngest brother Gideon. This future Broadway star brings very apt sweetness and goofiness to the role. Bias toward him relates to seeing his performance coinciding with watching DVD episodes of the '90s Must-See NBC sitcom "Caroline in the City" featuring constantly rollerblading and hilariously dim-witted young courier/sidekick Charlie. Schumann, who is a shoo-in for Charlie if anyone stages "Caroline! The Musical," further particularly shines in pursuing his chosen bride.

All six younger brothers get their moment to shine on teasing Adam just before he heads up to his Honeymoon Suite on his wedding night; the excitable boys follow this up with an adorable reaction to an indication that Adam and Milly have consummated their union.

The first act largely focuses on integrating Milly into the family and her trying to tame her rowdy new in-laws. A highlight of this is Milly first getting the bros currently without hos to strip down to blankets around their waists and then trying to teach them the related arts of etiquette, courting, and dancing. A spoiler is that there is at least one wardrobe malfunction.

Act One ends in true musical style with the rousing well-known "The Music Man" esque number "Sobbin' Women," which also is the title of the short story on which "Brides" is based. This performance centers around Adam inciting his siblings to go into town and follow his lead by dragging their intended wives back to the cabin.

Act Two opens with a hilariously Looney Tunes style (accompanied by apt music) segment in which Adam and the boys sneak around snatching up their brides under the not-so-watchful eyes of the suitors and the parents of these females. This is slapstick at its best. A (later repeated) cat imitation is a highlight of this wackiness.

The ensuing marital discord drives much of the action for the remainder of the play. A highlight of this portion is an actual ballet by the gang of six and their counterparts during the "Spring Dance" number.

The humor, love, and music that abound in the final scenes will have you leaving the theater with a smile.

Anyone with questions regarding "Brides"or the Playhouse is encouraged to either contact those good folks in Ogunquit or to email me. You can also reach out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'High Noon' DVD/BD: Stanley Kramer '50s Classic Old West '24'

These musings regarding the launch of the Olive Films Signature collection including the September 20, 2016 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1952 Stanley Kramer classic "adult Western" "High Noon" reinforce the thoughts in the Unreal TV review of the simultaneous Signature releases of the 1954 Nicholas Ray (of "Rebel Without a Cause" fame) Western with equally mature themes "Johnny Guitar" that Olive wisely pairs the two. One cannot imagine a better weekend afternoon double-feature.

Part of the fun of "Noon" relates to regular references to a tin star; that badge is the title of the magazine article on which the film is based. 

The four Oscar wins for this Old West version of the Kiefer Sutherland drama series "24" include Best Actor for Gary Cooper in his role as perhaps the first lawman to have a horrible last day on the job Marshal Will Kane. The awesome Tex Ritter song "High  Noon (Don Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin')," which provides classic Western style (and '60scom "F Troop" spoofed) exposition is awarded Best Original Song for 1953. Other awards include several Golden Globes. 

"Noon" is also notable for being a Stanley Kramer joint. Kramer goes on to produce scads o' '50s and '60s classics. A woefully incomplete list of these films includes "The Caine Mutiny," "Judgment at Nuremberg," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

Grace Kelly rounds out this top three as Grace Fowler Kane (rather than Amy Farrah Fowler) , who is a Quaker whose honeymoon period with Will lasts less than five minutes. This actress who goes on to be one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes shows equally quickly that she is far more than just another pretty face. Her quiet strong will (no pun intended) and limited willingness to stand by her man make her an early film feminist hero.

Just as "Guitar" dramatically opens with blasting rock as part of a railroad expansion that is integral to that film. "Noon" commences with a gathering of outlaws ahead of their recently paroled leader scheduled to arrive at the titular hour. 

The action soon shifts to the closing moments of the Sunday morning wedding of recently resigned Marshal Will and Amy (Wamy?). The pronouncement of that union is barely out of the mouth of the presiding Quaker minister when a literally rude awakening comes in the form of  Will leaning that Frank Miller, who is a particularly ornery outlaw that Will arrested five years earlier, is paroled and is arriving in just over an hour. None of the assembled group doubts that revenge against Will and the other locals responsible for that not-so-unfortunate incarceration is the motive for that visit.

The ensuing real-time period between Will receiving the dual bad news and the anticipated showdown is sure to have fans of the aforementioned Sutherland series imagine a digital clock on the screen and hear accompanying ominous music. "Noon" director Fred Zimmerman, who also is behind-the-camera for dramas that include "From Here to Eternity" and "A Man for All Seasons," provides the effective substitute of still shots of a wall clock.

The "24" vibe continues with the lone wolf aspect and related betrayals of that series. We further get plenty of the moral dilemmas that contribute to Sutherland's Jack Bauer literally sleepless nights.

The Kramer-caliber substance of  "Noon" that separates it from stampedes and gunfights style Westerns also commences with the countdown to the titular time. Will must initially determine that staying to fight is the better course than running, try to convince the town folks to stand with him, and confront his past demons. The latter include incompetent interim Marshal (and former deputy) Harvey Pell, whom Lloyd Bridges perfectly portrays, and Will former flame/Harvey current love interest Helen Ramirez. The spot-on portrayal of  Ramirez by Katy Jurado earns her a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.

It seems that tough and independent saloon owner Helen inspires the tough and independent saloon owner Vienna whom Crawford plays in "Guitar." They both have a "past" about which neither is ashamed. An awesome scene in "Noon" refers to the history of Helen by having a hotel owner comment that Will knows the way when the former asks if Helen is in her room.

Another parallel exists in the form of the earnest boy who is eager to prove that he is a man. Turkey in "Guitar" is a barely post-adolescent who wants to prove that he is as tough as any man. One of the best scenes in "Noon" has a teen trying to convince Will that the lad has what it takes to be the Robin to Will's Batman. 

Kramer and Zimmerman also add their own artistic touches to the shootout that comprises most of the final 15 minutes of "Noon." Rather than merely being two foes facing each other on an otherwise deserted dusty street, the gun battle looks more like a modern police drama chase. A highly symbolic scene in this segment has an "in imminent peril" Will take the time to save a herd of horses.

The involvement of Kramer and "Noon" not being your typical kiddie matinee oater leaves the barn door open for the possibility of a finale that is not a typical Hollywood ending. Determining if Kramer adheres to the Hayes Code in having Frank Miller killed or jailed and Will riding off in the sunset with Amy requires watching the beautifully restored film; the semi-spoiler is that its complicated.

The booklet, which seems to be a Signature staple, that the (awesomely produced) Blu-ray set includes has an essay that offers more insight into "Noon" than one could hope for. This article expands beyond the themes discussed above to discuss the involvement of blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman and the relevancy of the film in this era of the Trump candidacy. We further learn of the parallels between "Noon" and the 1929 Cooper film "The Virginian," based on the classic 1902 novel of the same name.

The special features also include the theatrical trailer, documentaries on the editing of "Noon " and the awesomeness of  Kramer productions, and a Must-See "making-off" feature narrated by recently deceased young actor Anton Yelchin.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Noon" is strongly encouraged to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Monday, September 19, 2016

'Johnny Guitar' BD Joan Crawford Saloon Owner Shows Boys Not to F**k with Her

The new Olive Films  Olive Signature collection chooses perfectly in launching its DVD and Blu-ray releases with two '50s Westerns that are much more than shoot-em-up kiddie matinee fare. The 1954 Joan Crawford film "Johnny Guitar," which is our current topic, is an apt predecessor of the 1955 film "Rebel Without A Cause" by "Guitar" director Nicholas Ray. Our focus tomorrow shifts to the equally deep 1952 classic "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

As an aside, the spectacular (discussed at the end of this review) extras in both "Guitar" and "Noon" are a notable part of what distinguishes Signature releases from the lost treasures and other drool-worthy titles in the main Olive catalog.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Guitar" emphasizes the good sizzle over the even better substance of the film.

The elements that make adult Western "Guitar" Signature worthy are the aforementioned attributes that earn it the titles of "adult" and "feminist" Western, associated heavy symbolism in color and narration, having Hollywood royalty Joan Crawford star with fellow box office legends Sterling Hayden as the titular crooner/gunslinger and Best Actress winner for "All The King's Men" Mercedes McCambridge as the sexually repressed (and possibly bisexual) proper lady Emma Small, and the restoration of "Guitar" looking and sounding so amazing on Blu-ray that it does justice to the red rock scenery of the Sedona, Arizona shooting location.

Crawford stars as tough-as-nails saloon owner Vienna, regarding whom it is suggested spent a great deal of time on her back to raise the money required to get her business on its feet. The reasoning of this 19th century entrepreneur is that the relatively imminent expansion of the railroad literally to her formerly remote front door will bring the business to her.

The "crimes" of Vienna including her being a strong and independent woman in a strongly male-dominated society, having a relationship with an ambiguous amount of closeness with the Dancing Kid and a related triangle with ambiguous aspect with Emma, and welcoming the Kid and his gang that claim to be silver miners but are suspected of being outlaws into her business. This long list of offenses provide the catalyst for Emma and wealthy landowner John McIvers to use every arguable excuse to literally or figuratively come gunning for Vienna and to fabricate a rationale if none exist.

As an aside, the web verifies the sense from the clear animosity that Crawford and McCambridge direct at each other that Bette Davis is the first choice for the role of Emma; The story goes that Davis wanted too much money and that second choice Barbara Stanwyck also passed on the chance to battle Crawford on (and almost certainly off) screen. The expertly written insightful booklet in the Signature release shares both that Crawford and McCambridge do battle off-screen and that Hayden and that cast and crew side with McCambridge.

The fictional drama that sets "Guitar" in motion is a stage coach robbery in which the brother of Emma is killed; this loss and the aforementioned resentments bring Emma, McIvers, and the Marshal to Vienna's in the wake of an even more dramatic entrance of our titular character. Although the stated purpose of the newcomer for being there is to entertain the customers, it soon becomes clear that Vienna summons him based on their shared history and on his skill as a gunfighter.

The Old West elements continue with Vienna facing an effective order to be out of  town by sundown, a daring daytime bank robbery, a pursuing posse, a lynching, a few shootouts, etc. Anyone even remotely familiar either with Ray or "Guitar" know that all of this is merely the outer layer of the savory onion.

A coerced betrayal based on a false promise provides commentary by a blacklisted writer (who uses a front) who contributes to the "Guitar" script, the aforementioned history of Johnny and Vienna and a scene between the two is very reminiscent of Ilsa and Rick from "Casablanca," the unconventional reversals of the white hats and the black hats, a highly symbolic barrier, etc all show both why Americans who come expecting non-stop gun fights and little dialog are disappointed and Europeans embrace "Guitar" enough to have it inspire the New Wave directors.

A simpler way of understanding this is that the emphasis in this oater is much more on opera than horse. The stirring soundtrack (which makes great use of BD), the majestic scenery, and the flowing white dress and other costumes of the highly expressive Crawford evoke a stronger sense of the Met than the multiplex.

The plethora of Turner Classic Movie-quality extras in "Guitar" extend beyond the aforementioned booklet. Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese starts things with a Robert Osborne-worthy introduction to the film. Other features include a panel of film critics discussing the work, a short film on the McCarthy element, and the aforementioned SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer. Aside from being great retro fun, the non-enhanced trailer perfectly illustrates (no pun intended) the value of watching even '50s-era films that make great use of technicolor and related technologies in Blu-ray.

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

'The Edge of Marlene' DVD: A 'Paper Moon' for the 21st Century

The Edge of Marlene

Breaking Glass Pictures gives American audiences a savory taste of the talent of indie Canadian film makers for dark comedy with the September 20, 2016 DVD release of the 2014  film "The Edge of Marlene" (nee "Sitting on the Edge of Marlene.")  Wonderfully quirky Suzanne Clement plays the titular low-level con artist/mother/prison widow/manic depressive.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Marlene" provides a good sense of the overt and subtle symbolism in the film, as well as the overall art-house style of this genuine work of art.

We meet Marlene in the middle of pulling a con with edge of 16 daughter Sammie. The age of the old lost-bracelet grift that this pair is perpetuating makes the vintage look of both their clothes and the bar in which they are plying their trade very apt. We soon learn that earning enough money to get by until Dad is released from jail provides the impetus for this bring-your-daughter-to-work-day activity.

Subsequent downfalls, such as a con gone traumatically wrong, cause Marlene to spiral down toward one of the titular edges. Other drama comes in the form of Sammie both showing that the apple does not plummet far from the tree and that mothers showing the cute blond boy from your after-school "Jesus Camp" her dark side can be very embarrassing.

Said very trippy camp also wonderfully put Sammie in direct conflict with the Heathers/Mean Girls in the group. This climaxes in a wonderful cat fight in a very apt location. The final surprising (but partially satisfying) climax to "Marlene" is a apt ending to the tension that slowly escalates throughout the film.

Watching these Bizarro Universe Gilmore Girls battle the world, each other, and their highly related inner demons is compelling because it is not so far from true for many of us. Not thinking about how relatively close that many of us are to living lives of quiet desperation helps us get out of bed for own battles with the world, family members, and the dark thoughts swirling around in our brains.

We get the bonus of yet another cinematic peek into the lives of the petty grifters, who practices one of the oldest professions. The all-time greatest such glimpse being "Paper Moon," with father-daughter acting team Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, makes the parent-child in "Marlene" that much more entertaining.

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

'Under the Sun' DVD: Documentarian Calls Bullshit on Efforts to Censor Film on North Korea

  • Under the Sun
The September 20, 2016 Icarus Films DVD release of the 2015 documentary "Under the Sun" is a textbook example of the Icarus motto that it distributes "innovative and provocative documentary films from independent producers around the world." The official "Sun" theme of the daily lives of young Zin-Mi and her parents in Pyongyang, North Korea alone makes a fascinating topic; Russian director Vitaly Mansky highlighting the laughably blatant propaganda aspects of the film make it a "must-see" classic.

Zin-Mi is 8 and is newly chosen for membership in the elite Children's Union. The ceremony in which Zin becomes a member of that group coinciding with the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jung-un turbo amps up the propaganda level. 

"Sun" initially seems to be a standard propaganda that (considering where it is being filmed) not surprisingly is being made under the close eye of a government official. The first of several captions in which Mansky states that all is not as it seems is the first clue regarding the extent to which the supreme powers-that-be are distorting the truth to meet the desired objective.

Saying much more about the scenes in the film and the inclusion of proof that all literally is not as it seems would ruin the impact of "Sun." On a general level, we see happy school children enjoying academics and the arts and happy adults working in clean factories for very kind and appreciative bosses. In other words, Jung-un is making North Korea great again.

We further witness the extent to which former leader Kim Il-Sung is a combination folk legend/war hero. This includes stories of American forces trembling in fear before him.

On a larger level, even a warped view of life in this city is rare; both seeing how the people allegedly live and the extent to which the government controls those images is equally compelling and intriguing.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

'Rodeo and Juliet' DVD: Southern-Fried Shakespeare

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following review of star-crossed lovers set on a Louisiana ranch contains a plethora of horse-related puns that allow your not-so-humble reviewer to sow his wild oats.]

The Breaking Glass Pictures September 20, 2016 DVD release of the 2015 Hallmark Movie Channel style film "Rodeo & Juliet" provides a welcome break from both the dark and rancorous days leading up to the dreaded election day for president and from the equally dark (but very good) families in tremendous turmoil fare that has been dominating the webpages of Unreal TV for roughly a month. On a related note, "Rodeo" makes a great Sunday morning brunch film for adults and an even better Saturday night slumber party flick for tween girls.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Rodeo" provides a good sense of the Southern-fried sentimentality of the film.

The Juliet in this variation is a a New York high school student, who apparently has been held back several years, involuntarily sacrificing a Manhattan Christmas full of Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center to travel to Louisiana with her romance novelist mother Karen to prepare the ranch of her recently deceased grandfather for sale. In true Hallmark Movie Channel style, prolific (and loved) character actor Krista Allen plays Karen.

Wonderful inadvertent humor relates to easily 25 year-old actress Nadine Crocker playing initially pouty and then very whiny on discovering a lack of Wifi on the ranch 16 year-old Juliet. The attitude of this brooding mare greatly improves on meeting the titular horse, who seems to be a direct descendant of Mr. Ed of  early '60s television fame. "Juliet" being a certified family-friendly flicka, rather than a Catherine the Great biopic or a variation on "Equus," precludes the doomed romance being between that girl and that equine.

Dreamy 20-something two-legged stallion Monty, who does not even approach going Full Monty in this G-rated outing, plays the Romeo in this tale of two young people having family conflict stall their efforts for a stable relationship. Parents of the aforementioned tweens are warned to expect tremendous squeals on the first appearance of Monty.

The family feud this time relates to Monty being the nephew of Hugh, who is the boy whom Karen left behind on moving to New York to become the next Danielle Steel. Present day strife relates to Hugh asserting an ownership claim regarding the ranch.

The stakes this time extend beyond seeking what is sure to be true romance. Juliet covertly ropes Monty into training her for a riding competition with a prize that she needs to keep her little pony on the ranch.

"Rodeo" being much more Disney Channel than Globe Theatre ensures a happier ending than the outcome in the source material.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

'Matt Houston' S2 DVD: Houston, We Have Liftoff

Matt Houston - The Complete Collection

These musing regarding the second-season DVD set in the '80stastic Visual Entertainment complete-series set of the the mid-80s ABC Aaron Spelling (Shonda who?) action-adventure series "Matt Houston" are a follow-up to the series primer in the Unreal TV S1 review. The S3 review aptly is scheduled to wrap up these reviews as the leaves start to fall in 2/3 of the United States.

As an aside, future "The X Files" and "Supernatural" producer/director Kim Manners sits in the director's chair for several "Houston" episodes.

"Houston" chronicles the exploits of the titular "Magnum, P.I." clone/dashing oilman/private detective. Part of the fun of this anthology series is the plethora of "The Love Boat " caliber B and C-List celebrities that reflection determines is too cheesylicious to spoil in a review.

The special extended S1 premiere episode finds Houston uncovering a plot straight out of better known Spelling '80s series "Dynasty" on reuniting with his beloved father in Texas. This one starts with our urban cowboy being very frustrated regarding a strong sense of being stalked around his Los Angeles haunts. Soon discovering that the one-who-got-away also is being followed prompts Houston to accompany her back to Texas.

On arriving in Texas, the plot thickens to the consistency of black gold (oil that is). The stalking escalates to attempts on the life of Houston, a rival oilman exerting strong pressure on Houston to sell conservation land, and an evil twin is thrown in for good measure. The teaser regarding the guest stars is that this roster includes a true former Hollywood legend.

The deep-dark family secret that Houston learns during that visit and associated trauma that he experiences prompts abandoning his oil business and becoming a full-time investigator. 

The first case that Houston, PI takes on involves a former client of Houston attorney/right-hand gal/"its complicated" love interest C.J. Parsons. The first guest-star teaser this time is that an unconventional client whom events early in this episode haunt get Houston to work trying to prove that a former cop who is convicted of a drug-related murder is innocent. The second guest-star teaser is that the casting of an actor as a vice cop is awesome.

The next outing has an awesome "Lifetime Movie" feel to it; Houston finds himself the object of a fatal attraction by a casual fling with an ongoing history of severe mental problems. Sharing that said member of the bunny-boiling set ends up rolling around on the floor with Parsons is not much of a spoiler. 

The watching of the first few of the 22 S2 episodes for this review wraps up with the awesomely titled "The Centerfold Murders." This one has Houston trying to protect yet another former flame. This distress regarding this damsel is that she is a centerfold model in a contest with her fellow cheesecake cuties, who are being killed off in chronological order. The guest-star teaser (without requesting a penny for these thoughts) this time is that things are far from jake for a man with a fat stake in in the contest. 

As demonstrated above, the highly entertaining Spelling touch is very visible in "Houston." We get household names in awesomely lowest-common-denominator stories set in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. No one does any of the above better than him or quite like he does; Aaron baby, you're the best

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage' Live-Stage: Original Nordic Noir Rocks Hard '70s Style

The Trinity Repertory Company, which is the state theater of Rhode Island, in Providence chooses wisely regarding selecting the '70s-style rock musical "Beowulf: A Thousand Years" to open its 53rd season that is titled "Ghosts of the Past, Dreams of the Future." This musical based on a 9th century epic story/poem runs through October 9. Of course, Trinity is running "A Christmas Carol" from November 5 through New Year's Eve. They are sandwiching the classic-style dramedy "Appropriate" about a death forcing estranged family members to visit the spirits of their past in between these productions.

The repertorytastic quirky "Beowulf" is the creation of long-time collaborators Jason Craig and Dave Malloy, who offer their insights regarding this play in an interview for the Trinity program for the play. 

Trinity Artistic Director Curt Columbus amazingly perfectly assembles the multiple simultaneously rapidly moving pieces of "Beowulf." Having Danish king Hrothgar and his army of female warriors punked out Mad Max style complete with dyed and mohawked 'dos and football shoulder pads greatly enhances the production. Columbus also shows why he gets the big bucks in a very clever scene that uses an old-school overhead projector to literally (and hilariously) illustrate one of the major battles in the story/poem.

Big burly (but manscaped) Brown University theater program alum Charlie Thurston rocks in every sense as the titular early superhero. His hunky good looks, powerful voice, and hilarious parodying of meta-human swaggering make him the one you want to call to slay every form of  monster and dragon. He particularly shines in the song "Body," which sounds a great deal like a tune from a '90s alternative group and is quite violent without being femme.

Twenty-nine year Trinity veteran Stephen Berenson puts that experience to good us in his portrayals of Grendel and the alter ego of that creature. His spot-on comic timing makes his appearing in this space that began life as a vaudeville theater very apt.

Other fun comes in the form of the verbal and physical brass young stud versus cranky foul-mouthed old man battles between Beowulf and and Grendel. The wars of words evoke such strong thoughts of the awesome arguments between Joel McHale's Jeff Winger and nasty and crude old man Leonard of the sitcom "Community" that you expect Beowulf to shout "screw you, Grendel" in one scene.

Further, the timing of this production awesomely coincides with the series of Unreal TV reviews on the Australian DVD releases of Nordic Noir television series. Beowulf being from what is now part of  Sweden and being summoned to Denmark to slay the "monster" Grendel terrifically ties into the Danish/Swedish series "The Bridge," which has season-long cases that prompt police forces from Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen to work together.

"Beowulf" is also near and dear to the heart of Unreal TV due to an S1 "Star Trek: Voyager" episode in which the crisis of the week thrusts naive Ensign Harry Kim into this epic tale. The following photo is evidence both of Columbus providing the audience an art project during the intermission and of a Trekker who shall remain shameless paying homage to "Voyager."

It is clear from the opening scene that Craig and Malloy acknowledge that the original "Beowulf" is not so near-and-dear to the hearts of the millions of students who have had to read and analyze it during the last several centuries. The action commences with three middle-aged academics/Greek chorus straight out of Middlebury or another small but respected liberal arts college conducting an amusing seminar on the story/poem. The competing pronunciations of some Old English words and the bickering analyses of the play itself will prompt flashbacks to graduates of those institutions of higher learning.

The alternative take on "Beowulf" includes placing Grendel in a sympathetic light despite the massive malicious death and destruction attributed to that "villain." Both the academics, the creature himself, and the mother of that monster explain how he comes to be an excitable boy. 

The academics/chorus demolish the little that remains of the wall between themselves near the end of the play when one of their members directly challenges a now-older Beowulf regarding his compulsion to keep fighting. A highly frustrated Thurston shines once more as he howls (it had to come in somewhere) that he just wants to kill "the f**king dragon." 

All of this wraps up at the perfect moment at which both the audience and the incredibly hard-working cast are content to call it an evening. The latter does leave the former wanting more but also ready for a short break before battling the next f**king dragon. It is highly anticipated that "Appropriate" will provide a terrific opportunity to get engrossed in such a struggle.

Anyone with questions about Trinity or the musical version of "Beowulf" (sorry, I would not be any use with term papers on the source material) is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'Yours, Mine, and Ours' DVD/Blu-Ray Henry & Lucy Plus 18

Olive Films continues its DVD/Blu-Ray releases of '60s movies that are a staple of '70s Sunday afternoon UHF station schedules with the September 13, 2016 release of the original 1968 Henry Fonda/Lucille Ball comedy "Yours, Mine & Ours." This movie about recent widower Frank with 10 children marrying recent widow Helen with 8 children and that group somehow forming a family makes a great feature with the recent (Unreal TV reviewed) Olive Blu-ray release of the 1965 comedy "If It's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium."

The most recognizable co-stars of Fonda and Ball are then-Kurt Russell clone clean-cut teen actor Tim Matheson as the eldest son of the group and Tom Bosley of "Happy Days" as a doctor who gets in the spirit of being the physician of such a large family.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Ours" does a good job of showing everything that makes the film '60stastic, 

The spins that writers Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis of "I Love Lucy" and "The Lucy Show" fame put on this pre-"Brady" "Brady Bunch" style tale of one large family blending with another extend beyond the truly comical number of children to having the film focus far more on the parents than the kids. Having Helen and Frank separately narrate much of the film is another indication that the kids properly take a backseat in this one.

Amusing early scenes have Helen and  Frank experience a couple of very public coincidental encounters before going on out on a date in which a wardrobe malfunction is far from the only hilarity that ensues. Carroll and Davis further demonstrate their well-known ability to provide Ball a chance to shine regarding a hilarious scene in which she meets the kids at dinner at their house. Those little rascals openly showing their hostility and actually doing a variation of  Cosbying her is great fun.

Other humor relates to high-ranking naval officer Frank trying to create order out of the chaos surrounding the first night of the recently blended family in their new home. He soon learns that assigning 18 children bedroom spaces is more difficult than thought and that Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor.

On a more serious note, "Ours" has good related commentary on the value of adopting stepchildren and the unsympathetic rigid nature of nuns, Helen's young son Phillip runs afoul of the latter in scenes surrounding his logical conclusion that his mother marrying Frank automatically changes the last name of Phillip to that of his new step-father.

The bottom line is that Olive releasing "Ours" nearly 50 years after the theatrical release of the film shows that it withstands the test of times for reasons that include it still being relevant in 2016. This is especially so considering the almost infinite combinations that comprise modern families.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

'Captive' BD 1915 Silent DeMille Epic

The Olive Films September 13, 2016 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the previously lost Cecil B. DeMille 1915 silent romantic drama "The Captive" perfectly illustrates both the diversity of the Olive catalog and the dedication of Olive to film preservation. In those regards, "Captive" is an excellent follow-up to the (Unreal TV reviewed) January 2016 Olive releases of the previously censored John Huston documentary on WWII PTSD "Let There Be Light."

The incredibly restored print (complete with a new musical score) of the 101 year-old "Captive" provides a wonderfully clear chance to view a truly old school movie. The perfect music, the exaggerated (but not comical) expressions and gestures, and simple but effective sets are special rare treats.

"Captive" is set in 193 during a war between Turkey and the Balkans and opens with a scene of the lavish lifestyle of dashing Turkish nobleman Mahmud Hassan. The action then shifts to the impoverished existence of farmer Sonia, her older brother Marko, and her young brother Milo on their homestead in a village near Montenegro. The demands of war soon require that both Marko and Mahmud go off to battle.

A series of circumstances leads to a comically inept (but still dashing) Mahmud being a slave on the farm of Sonia. Fear and distrust soon leads to friendship, which leads to love.

The inherent conflicts related to war, nationality, and class all strain the relationship of our 20th century Romeo and Juliet. One of the most compelling scenes has Mahmud fighting for the life of the highly traumatized pet sheep of Milo.

These conflicts also provide DeMille context for epic battles that are as exciting as anything that Zack Snyder creates for his neverending superhero films. The cool thing is that DeMille elicits more feeling with a handful of extras and a few guns than Snyder achieves with every CGI toy known to manchild. It is difficult to imagine ANYONE in 2116 getting excited on discovering a print of "Suicide Squad."

On a deeper level, DeMille serves up good commentary on war, class, and the chipping away at the power of the aristocracy at the beginning of the 20th century. No one could ask for more from a film.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

'The Automatic Hate' DVD Kissing Cousins Learn Animosity is Highly Relative

Automatic Hate

The September 13, 2106 Film Movement DVD release of the 2015 drama "The Automatic Hate" proves (along with the other Unreal TV reviewed Movement September 2016 DVD releases of U.S. films) that the state of domestic cinema is far less dire than the offerings at the local multiplex suggest. Movement releasing "Hate" on the same day as the similar themed and styled and equal in quality (Unreal TV reviewed) "Take Me to the River" further validates that properly portrayed family dysfunction can provide exceptional fodder for a movie.

"Hate" premiering at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival shows that these forums have not entirely abandoned their roots and merely become a showcase for the aforementioned lamestream productions. This film not winning any festival awards illustrates that genius sometimes is denied its due.

Joseph Cross, a veteran of several series that include his hilarious and apt role as a bickering sibling/high school jock on the Comedy Central show "Strangers With Candy" that mines humor from dysfunction, stars as chef Davis Green. Davis immediately comes across as sympathetic in the opening scene that has him trying to soothe hysterical live-in girlfriend Cassie but being careful to not push hard.

Attractive, affectionate, and pushy blonde Alexis unexpectedly showing up at the door of Davis and Cassie during this period does not help matters. Alexis further stirs up things by asserting that she is the previously unknown cousin of Davis and that she wants to know the basis of the decades-long estrangement of her father Joshua (whom magician/grifter/David Mamet BFF Ricky Jay plays very well) and Davis sire Dr. Ronald Green. Richard Schiff of "The West Wing" and more than 100 other roles does equally as Ronald.

Intrigued Boston resident Davis digs a little deeper and soon decides to travel to the small upstate New York town where his newly discovered relatives live. What he discovers about about their lifestyle and his family history further intrigues him and amps up the drama. Humor comes in the form of the two sisters of Alexis being just as quirky as her and Joshua being very blunt in true Jay style. Symbolism comes in forms such as these kinfolk having an address of 411.

A tragedy that occurs early in the visit of Davis brings both Ronald and Cassie into the mix. This pair and the Joshua branch of the Green family tree learning of a more recent scandal intensifies the still simmering resentment between the brothers and strains the already troubled Cassie and Davis relationship. This incident, as well as a triggering event in "River," further shows the disturbing trend of family dynamics passing from one generation to the next.

The sad because its true element in both "River" and "Hate," which would make for a terrific double feature, is that they are not unduly exaggerated depictions of what can happen in the best (and worst) of families. Siblings often have widely differing personalities and values; almost inevitable feelings that parents favor the other one add fuel to this fire. Indications that the offspring of these brothers and sisters are repeating the pattern is an almost sure way for the past to rear its very ugly head.

The apt bonus short film that Movement includes this time is the 15-minute U.K. movie "Patriot." This one has the young daughter of an English family that is very proud of both its clan and area meet a gypsy boy when she runs off. The ensuing cultural clash prompts predictable drama and some that is unpredictable.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

'Commando Cody' DVD/Blu-ray '50s SCiFi Serial with Modern Relevance

The Olive Films September 13, 2016 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets of all thrill-packed 12 episodes in "Commando Cody"from the '50s makes this Saturday review of that kiddie matinee feature very apt. One spoiler is that that the titular Sky Marshal of the Universe gets his name from his daring wartime exploits, not from a habit of opting out of wearing underwear.

Although much of the initial excitement surrounding these full 30-minutes of awesome low-budget '50s scifi goodness relates to the late '80s-early '90s basic cable show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" often featuring the show, watching the expertly crafted Blu-ray set shows that the episodes are even better when you get to watch the whole story in one sitting and (albeit hilarious) sarcastic comments do not drown out the dialog.

The overall theme and feel of the series is that of the "Flash Gordon" serials. The jet-pack that Cody straps to his back and the bullet-shaped helmet and leather jacket that he wears while doing so are well-represented in the 1991 Disney live-action film "The Rocketeer."

Great cost-cutting elements include the pilot seats in the rocket ship of Cody being undisguised desk chairs of the day with seat belts, an alien compound clearly being a model, and a robot looking like the Halloween costume of a 12 year-old. 

"Cody" begins with a three-episode arc in which our hero and his team first learn of the existence of the alien villain The Ruler. The first nefarious attempt of this bad guy involves a fairly straightforward effort to conquer earth and enslave mankind. This also is the first time that The Ruler attempts to penetrate the cosmic dust barrier that is the creation of Cody designed to protect earth from alien threats. This Star Wars style defense and the attempts to penetrate it remain an element through the run of "Cody."

The modern-day elements of "Cody" extend well beyond having a defense shield that is intended to neutralize missiles and other harmful projectiles. The heavy eco elements include separate plots by The Ruler to create massive storms to cause catastrophic storms and to increase global warming to a degree (no pun intended) that the entire earth literally bakes.

Further, The Ruler with his Eastern European accent, spies on earth, and fondness for stealing secret plans and breaking the communication system of Cody add a wonderful Cold War feel to the episodes.

This all amounts to a chance to watch a vintage "one more" worthy Saturday afternoon matinee series without a theater full of screaming kids.

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

'Black Ops Advertising' Book: Survival Guide for Internet Users

This diversion from reviewing DVD and Blu-ray releases is an Unreal TV public service announcement on the extent to which big business uses stealth advertising techniques to adapt to the new media reality. "Black Ops Advertising," which awesomely progressive OR Books is releasing on September 13 2016, by marketing expert and professor of media studies Mara Einstein nicely trains the reader in the art of identifying the copious advertising that is camouflaged as news content and social media activity. Shew truly cannot do a little because she cannot do enough.

Individual excitement regarding "Ops" extends beyond learning of the general impact of this trickery on your not-so-humble reviewer. I learned of the new breed of deceitful advertising practices in a 2015 story by "Community" and "The Daily Show" veteran John Oliver on his HBO series "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver." (Apparent Oliver fan Einstein prints a quote from that story on the front page of "Ops.")

A more personal "Ops" experience relates to this site providing a respectable web presence that includes a decent community of Twitter followers. I repeatedly used the latter presence as a forum to express intense frustration (e.g., Apple CEO Tim Cook is not getting the "Jobs" done") regarding an unduly extended struggle resolving an iPad repair. The SWAG that Apple sent after a roughly two-month struggle included a $300 pair of beatssolo2wireless headphones.

Excitement regarding receiving a total of more than $400 in cool merch, and being appreciative of the grand gesture prompted taking an iPhone photo of the booty and posting it on Twitter within 15 minutes of it arriving. Dopey me just wanted to express that amazement and gratitude. "Ops" taught me that I am no Einstein in that I did not realize that Apple both determined that I was enough of a online player and that you kind folks who keep this site going adequately fall in the desired demographic to send this bounty, knowing me well enough to know that I would provide at least $417 worth of advertising. I truly am sorry readers.

Reading "Ops" has made me savvy enough to realize that the above few paragraphs unintentionally promote Oliver, his prior shows, "Last Week," HBO, and Apple. Once again, this is not my intent. However, drinking Bud Light is too severe a penance.

My intent is to provide you with my thoughts regarding "Ops" and to let you decide if you want to add it to your library.

The most disturbing reveal in "Ops" is the extent to which what almost no one can detect ads that are not news stories seeming to be such. Einstein uses egregious examples of publicity stunts that all of us who remember the reports regarding them recall them as being news. These "for instances" include the story of Robert Downey, Jr. committing the allegedly charitable act of strapping on his Iron Man arm to support a young hospitalized armless boy trying out his bionic arm.

"Ops" also discusses the copious sponsored content that appears on legitimate news sites that also fool most of us. A  PURELY hypothetical example roughly six weeks before Trick-or-Treat time is a link on a page of the Washington Post website to an article that promotes raisins as a healthy alternative to handing out candy that the marketing department at Sun-Maid raisins covertly writes.

The analysis of Einstein regarding all of the above and a great deal more shows that adapt or perish requires that advertising techniques be creative with little or no regard for ethics in an age in which print media is all but dead, DVRs and streaming platforms allow avoiding commercials, and other 20th century forums for advertising are equally endangered or extinct. As Einstein point out, some of the related problems are that these commercial messages are well concealed in the numerous way that "Ops" discusses and the public is duped into revealing personal information in covert ways about which most people who do not read the book will never know.

Proof that the ability of Einstein to get into the mind of the consumer but uses her power for good rather than for evil comes in the form of occasions on which a perfect storm prompts literally shouting "leave me the f**k alone" while surfing the web. This intense anger stems from the countless time that even brief casual searches for things such as a jacket from LL Bean or for hotel rates for a trip that never is going to be taken leads to ads for that EXACT attire or lodging appearing on the VERY NEXT unrelated website visited following that research. This can cause a feeling that Big Brother is exhaling hot foul breath right on my neck.

Einstein aptly describes her secondary message as there not being a "free lunch" or other benefit for nothing. The lesson this time is that we all must directly or indirectly pay for any utilized media. The problem is that we know traditional ads when we see them and can avoid. As "Ops" illustrates, McDonalds buying ads during "Happy Days" episodes in the '70s is a far cry from an even inadvertent click on a link to the McDonalds website leading to ads for chicken Mcnuggets haunting you for the rest of that web session.

Einstein goes on to predict the future of media and advertising that validates the (still growing) Unreal TV DVD library consisting of most likely more than 10,000 total TV series and films. The sad part of all this is that Einstein shows that Tomorrowland is far from the happiest place on earth.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ops" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Rest assured that this will not trigger any ads.