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Monday, October 31, 2016

'Men Go To Battle' DVD Kentucky Fried Look at Early Days of Civil War

The November 1, 2016  Film Movement Film of the Month Club DVD release of the 2015 historical drama "Men Go To Battle" facilities seeing a film that proves that quality does not always go unrecognized. The accolades for this story of two brothers in Kentucky trying to survive the early days of the Civil War; specifically from the latter half of 1861 through the waning days  of 1862, include the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Award for Best New Narrative Director and being a New York Times Critics Pick.

The tough economic times have Francis and Henry Mellon struggling to get by. Henry being a reckless knucklehead does not help matters. His early exploits including buying two mules who are beasts that will be a burden for at least several months, inadvertently killing off livestock, and pulling pranks that include setting the bed that he and Francis share on fire by firing his gun at a drowsy Henry.

Other foolishness gone awry leads to the siblings seeking out the local doctor one evening; this, in turn, leads to Henry making a move on the daughter of a local leading citizen; this leads to a disgraced Henry literally disappearing into the night.

We next see a not-so-happy Francis going about his daily life for several months until receiving a letter from happy Union soldier Henry. The joy of military life for Henry includes getting to eat all that he wants.

The next portion of the film largely focuses on Henry; a notable scene has his encounter with a rebel soldier being far less adversarial than expected. We further see this past manchild literally go to battle and witness the impact of it on him. The events in the wake of that experience further impact Henry (and Francis).

The simple but powerful nature of the story, the perfect choices in location and cast, and the timeless themes that include that family may be morons but they still are family.

Movement chooses particularly well in selecting the exceptional Swiss drama "Operation Commando" as the companion short film for Club selection "Battle." This one set in modern times has two close young brothers finding themselves on opposite sides of an overnight war game that their camp counselors take much too seriously.

The film begins with the lads finding that resistance is futile regarding challenging the decision to assign them to opposite sides of the pretend conflict. They then go through a process that is akin to the five stages of grieving. This leads to a tense showdown in which the talented young actors expertly portray their emotions regarding whether their loyalty and love to their sibling trumps their loyalty and love regarding their brothers-in-arms.

Both films offer strong senses of what it means to be a brother; pairing them shows that things have not change much regarding that in 150 years.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

'Half Brother' Modern Family Drama

Indican Pictures continues its (Unreal TV reviewed) roll of good art-house theatrical and DVD releases with the terrific 2014 dysfunctional family drama "Half Brother." This modern take on the '70s classic Meryl Streep/Dustin Hoffman drama has 30 year-old aspiring mad man Michael returning to stay with the second family of his father Robert following two major setbacks in the life of Michael.

"Brother" additionally is interesting in that it is a feature-length version of the 2013 short film "Michael Comes Home" by writer/director Anthony Grippa.

Grippa plays wonderful homage to the pilot episode of the mother-of-all dual-career professional couple in New York sitcoms "Mad About You" by having Michael and girlfriend Sarah get busy in the bathroom during a dinner party at the home of close friends who are getting married in a few weeks. The banter throughout these scenes get "Brother" off to a good start.

For his part, Michael is working toward fulling his dream of a career in advertising and is a few days away from moving into the apartment of Sarah. His first setback comes when Sarah breaks up with him based on a pretense that harsh reality soon shows to be false.

A damaged (and already generally emotionally immature) Michael receives a second setback regarding making a bad situation at his current McJob worse. The good portrayal of Michael by Stephen Plunkett makes us feel the pain of this nice guy as he digs himself deeper into a hole regarding his employment.

Quickly approaching rock bottom while exhausting better alternatives leads to Michael seeking refuge in the (seemingly Long Island) home of his father, his step-mother, and their two teen kids. This boomerang kid soon learning on re-entry that his father is in the final stage of initial divorce proceedings amps up the drama for both men.

Watching a grown-ass Michael relive painful childhood memories while once again getting caught in the middle of the break-up of Mommy and Daddy is equally intriguing and perversely entertaining. One of the best scenes in this regard has Step-Mom include Michael in the bedtime routine of 14 year-old half-brother/new bunk beds buddy Chris.

For his part, teen actor Dante Bruzzese steals "Brother" in his portrayal of Chris. Watching him chat, bond, and joke around with a sibling who is more than twice his age make "Brother" memorable. A very teen-centric bet-oriented basketball game is one of the best scenes in the film.

"Brother" enhances its impact through hitting the trifecta of divorce cliches. We see Robert trying to sneak monetarily and sentimentally valuable items out of the family home, animosity surround a minor breach of an agreement regarding a birthday celebration for Chris, and both parents use Michael to communicate with each other.

All of these elements combine to make "Brother" a modern tale of dystopia that is worth watching. The films of yore (a.k.a. the '70s and '80s) that center around latish in life divorce have the father fall apart and greatly disrupt the life of a stable adult offspring. These movies also have any children of a second marriage be the ones who look to older half-siblings for emotional support. The message here is that even children of the '80s through the early 2000s who do not fail to launch have unstable orbits that can deteriorate on hitting the slightest bump.

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

'Vampire Ecstasy'/'Sin You Sinners' BD Joe Sarno's NC-17 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'

The October 25, 2016 Blu-ray double-feature of films by '60s and '70s director Joe Sarno, whom Film Movement describes as "the master of psycho-sexual cinema," is an aptly art-house film way for the Classics line of indie/foreign movie legend Movement way to celebrate Halloween. Movement describing "Vampire Ecstasy"(1973) and "Sin You Sinners" (1963) that make up this release that Movement titles the "Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series" as "seminal films" of sexploitation god Sarno will make the 12 year-old boy in male viewers giggle. 

Fans of Movement and/or Unreal TV may remember Sarno from the (reviewed) Movement release of the aptly titled documentary A Life in Dirty Movies" about Sarno,

Movement deserves immense credit for releasing the lurid and highly erotic "Ecstasy;" easily 30 minutes of this roughly two-hour film has a coven of witches who gather in the basement of a castle writhing around clad only in sheer loin clothes. They augment their trancelike swooning with couplings, group caressing (and more) of a prone member of their group, and worship of phallic objects that include candles that realistically depict the form of the male sexual organ but are above average in length and girth. 

The "plot" of Ecstasy is that the coven head, who also runs the household, takes advantage of the presence of the descendants of the former lady of manor to also lure a creepy brother-and-sister duo to the castle. The nefarious plot involves bewitching one of the descendants and the brother to "bond" in order to resurrect a deceased vampire leader.

Fans of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" will love both the erotic horror themes and the siblings having to seek shelter in the castle after their car breaks down. "Ecstasy" provides plenty of opportunities for time warp and Magenta jokes. 

The mix of absurd, gothic, and erotic include inflicting unbearable sexual desire on a woman with a promise to relieve it on seducing the poor unsuspecting object of the coven's affection. For his part, the 20-something man with socially unacceptable tendencies has erotic dreams implanted in his head.

"Ecstasy" builds to a climax that satisfies aficionados of both erotic and horror genres. It is not one that you want to watch with your kids or your parents but is a great option for a guys' night in or a frat party.

On a larger level. "Ecstasy" provides a great opportunity to discuss the line between pornography and art that determines whether a film ends up on a adults-only website or in the catalog of an awesome indie film company. The presumably realistic depictions of Satanic rituals and related mind control favor classifying the film as art; Sarno forgoing the loin cloths and actually showing the insertion of the phallic objects in their female counterparts likely would have resulted in the film premiering at Pussycat Theaters around the country.

The wider appeal of "Sin" relates to it speaking to fans of the mother-daughter melodramas of the '50s and '60s, thrillers from that era, and the '90s cable hit "Mystery Science Theater 3000" that mocks both genres. This one has far less gyrating than "Ecstasy" and largely revolves around the conflict of a not-so-erotic dancer and her 20-something daughter.

The embarrassment of daughter Julie extends beyond mother Bobbi taking off her clothes for audiences that the film describes as drunken pigs; Bobbi also has the latest in a strong of middle-aged boy toys living with her and her daughter. The sins of this man include drinking, gambling (and losing), and going after Julie. 

A reveal halfway through the film is one of the best in the movie. Bobbi shores the lurid tale of how she comes to possess the doubloon that allows her to place the objects of her affection and of her dislike under her spell. This magic extends to making her seem younger and more attractive than her actual appearance, 

The campy fun continues throughout the  film and ends on a very apt note. The final performance of Bobbi is a highlight.

The bonus features include an interview in which Sarno shares the roots of his interest in horror and discusses the conversations regarding the proper balance of erotic and horror during the filming of "Ecstasy." His insights include showing how the same lighting can convey both horror and lust and 

The release also includes a booklet that features an essay on Sarno. This analysis shows how the childhood experiences of Sarno form and inspire his desire to show both the physical and the psychological aspects of human intercourse.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

'The Apostate' DVD: Renouncing Faith Requires Intense Devotion

Breaking Glass Pictures travels to Spain for its latest art-house release. The October 25, 2016 Glass DVD release of the 2015 Italian comedy "The Apostate" gives viewers the option of watching this selection from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival with or without subtitles.

The titular renouncer of faith is 20-something quirky guy Gonzalo Tamayo; his simple reason for wanting to break up with the Catholic Church is that he never consented to his Baptism and disagrees with the acts and the beliefs of the church. One of the best recurring jokes is that church officials keep asserting that Tamayo is not basing his request on the current beliefs of their organization.

Scenes of Tamayo battling a court-style battle with the church bureaucracy are interspersed with glimpses of his (often nude) daily activities. These include committing one of the worst sins in the Good Book, tutoring (and bonding with) the outcast boy in the apartment downstairs form his, and contending with the valid disappointment of his parents. These scenes consists of current, remembered, and surreal imagined incidents.

All of this provides a context for learning about the the rigorous process that the Catholic Church requires to allow someone to rescind his or her contract with God. The symbolism includes having your Baptismal record removed from the church documents and walking backwards out of the church.

Much of the controversy in the case of Tamayo surrounds a conflict related to the nature of Baptismal records. The determination of this is one deciding point regarding whether said documentation can be relinquished to the person to whom it pertains.

Writer/Tamayo portrayor Alvaro Ogalla creates a form of happy (and highly just) ending for his character. Director Frederico Veiroj artfully stages it an equally amusing and creepy manner that is very true to the Holy Spirit of the film.

The bonus features include two additional full-length films by Veirjo. Acne from 2008 tells the coming-of-age tale of a 13 year-old boy who has lost his innocence but is striving for his first kiss. The less universal but equally relevant for film lovers 2010 movie "A Useful Life" has a theater owner adjusting to the closing of the establishment at which he worked for 25 years.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

'The Beat Beneath My Feet' Theatrical/VOD Luke Perry's About a Boy

Level 33 Entertainment provides tween girls (and those with similar sensibilities) a double treat regarding the recent dual theatrical/VOD release of the shot-on-location British 2014 coming-of-age comedy "The Beat Beneath My Feet." The first impression of Hugh Grant/author Nick Hornby fans is that this fun movie starring "90210" bad boy Luke Perry and future woof -worthy (aptly titled "Handsome Devil"/(Unreal TV reviewed "High Strung" star Nicholas Galtzine is that it is an homage to the Hornby novel/2002 Grant film "About a Boy." The plot of "About is man-child platonically meets boys, man-child ultimately helps boy become cool, man-child and boy live happily ever after.

The YouTube clip of the fun theatrical trailer for "Beat" is terrifically true to the humor and the spirit of the film.

Pale, pasty, thin, bespectacled (and not even adorkable) Galtizine channels every underdog loser in '70s and '80s films in the opening scene of "Beat." He is doing his paper route while obvious fantasies of rock stardom bounce around in his head. He then goes home to the modest flat that he shares with his (of course) single mother Mary in a scene that establishes the quirky "The Sixth Sense" style mother-son relationship of this pair.

Perry soon comes along as reclusive and surly new next-door neighbor "Steve" who blares rock music night and day and refuses to pump down the volume. Former teen idol Perry understands the character well and does a good job conveying the prices of stardom. The press materials also reflect this in noting that Perry does the role for art, rather than commerce.

Music aficionado Tom soon learns the deep-dark secret that Steve is washed-up former guitar god Max Stone, who is presumed dead and has excellent reasons for not revealing that rumors of his death are greatly exaggerated.

The drama extends beyond the typical elements of Tom falling for the cool girl, the cool boy bullying Tom, and Max getting closer to Mary; Tom's father being a failed musician and worse-than-deadbeat dad understandably has Mary insistent that the son does not repeat the sins of the father despite the desire of Tom to rock out.

The deal that the boys in the hoodies strike is that Tom will not rat out Max in exchange for Max teaching the boy both to play the guitar and to overcome intense stage fright. The filmmakers mercifully spare the audience cliched montages of the progression of this musical education. The choose wisely in alternatively opting for stylized animated videos in which a a stoic Tom sings about the latest development.

The first video that centers around the lore of the crossroads deal with the devil is highly reminiscent of the uber-awesome similarly styled 2001 IMAX film "The Haunted Castle" with the same theme. The "Beat' version has Tom riding in the back of a limousine until he hits the literal and figurative end of the road.

Another good scene has a highly frustrated Tom go on a destructive rampage only to have Max comment on his room-trashing skills.

Any film fan knows that our pair encounters (surmountable) obstacles and that a Battle of the Bands is a climax. A nod to our more cynical times is that the ending is not quite as happy as that in films of yore. One spoiler is that Tom does not becoming the coolest kid in school or get a huge record deal.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

'The Quiet Man' BD John Wayne Resists Putting Up Dukes When Gets Irish Up

Olive Films further cements its place in the hearts of Unreal TV and other classic film lovers with the Olive Signature October 25, 2016 Blu-ray of the 1952 amusing change-of-pace John Wayne/Maureen O'Hara romantic dramedy "The Quiet Man." This story of retired boxer with a past Sean Thornton returning to the sod and experiencing love at first sight on laying eyes on feisty local lass Mary Kate Danaher is also a change-of-pace for Westerns director/frequent Wayne collaborator John Ford.

Olive expressing well-deserved favoritism for "Quiet" shows that that company awesomely is in the home-video business for the art, rather than the commerce. An upcoming releases of  Orson Welles' "MacBeth" provide additional proof that Olive chooses wisely regarding adding films to its catalog.

The Best Director Oscar for Ford of the so much more than an oater Wayne/Jimmy Stewart classic "The Man Who Shoot Liberty Valance" further illustrates that his range extends miles beyond stampedes and shootouts. The Best Cinematography Oscar reflect the beauty of "Quiet," which looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray, shot in Ireland. It will make you want to hop the first flight to the Emerald Isle.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-DRIPPING theatrical trailer for "Quiet" showcases the charm and humor of the movie.

This boy-meets-girl fable begins with Wayne's Thornton arriving at the train station five miles from the village that at least two generations of his family called home and where he spent his early childhood. The locals who operate the railroad providing conflicting and misleading directions both gets the Irish charm of "Quiet" off to a good start and is reminiscent of the humor surrounding the Cannonball train in the '60s rural sitcom "Petticoat Junction." Comparable quaintness throughout the film comes in the form of a few Irish folk songs.

Thornton seeing O'Hara's Mary Kate in the field while riding in a horse-and-buggy to his destination accelerates the film to the nice leisurely first gear pace that continues through most of the story.

One underlying conflict develops when Thornton visits the wealthy widow who owns the former Thornton homestead. In romcom style, Mary Kate sibling /Thornton land neighbor Will has been trying to buy that property for years. Their bidding war is one of the best scenes in a film that lacks any bad ones.

Thornton gets with the program better regarding agreeing to respect the local courting rituals. An early step in the process has his hiring drink-loving matchmaker Michaleen Oge Flynn (perfectly played by Hollywood royalty character actor Barry Fitzgerald) to conduct the necessary negotiations and to otherwise do things "properly." Of course, the Danaher brother does his best to show that where there's a Will, there's no way every step of the way.

Irish charm and cunning get our hope to be happy couple to the altar, but the honeymoon is over before the pair hits the wedding night sheets. The Will-induced distress regarding his unhappy bride strains the resolve of retired pugilist with a tragic past Thornton to not break his vow to engage in fisticuffs again.

All of this leads to a very satisfying climax in which both tradition, pride, and personal standards are adequately honored in a manner that is very true to the setting of the film. One can only hope that they rolled out the green carpet for the theatrical premiere of "Quiet."

The extras include a booklet with the aforementioned essay by Olive and great stills and theatrical posters. The tons of special features include commentary by a Ford expert, a Leonard Maltin "making of" documentary a tribute to Maureen O'Hara, and much more.

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

'A Better Place' DVD Boy Meets Hostile World

The October 25, 2016 Monarch Home Entertainment DVD release of the 2016 multi-award-winning scifi-teen-drama "A Better Place" evokes nice memories of the early 2000s CW scifi-teen-drama series "Roswell." The current take on the literally alien emo boy meets sweet teen-girl waitress and wraps her up in his drama is emo human boy meets sweet teen-girl waitress and wraps her up in his drama.

The well-deserved nine festival wins for this future cult classic include the Emerging Actor Spotlight award for Stephen Todt and the Best Narrative Feature award at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. These honors nicely acknowledge that (unlike virtually every other modern American film) "Better" values art over commerce.

Todt plays quiet blonde boy late teens Jeremy Rollins, whose mother has homeschooled him and otherwise kept him isolated on discovering during his childhood that anyone who inflicts pain on him triggers the impact of that injury on the person whom the attacker loves the most. An early example is the teen jock bully of the film beating Jeremy leads to a cut appearing on the head of the town sheriff/father of the BMOC despite that man being a significant distance from the beatdown of our hero.

A hilarious confrontation pits Jeremy against an unhinged egomaniac.

Virtually all of the drama in "Better" involves the death of the mother of Jeremy in the days before the roughly one-week time frame of the film. This unexpected passing requires that our shy and sheltered lad venture into the cold cruel world to meet basic needs such as a grocery shopping.

The puppy dog naivety of Jeremy regarding buying and preparing food and his gentle nature elicits the sympathy/attraction of Jess, who is a recent high school graduate dividing her time between slinging hash at the local diner and caring for her abusive dysfunctional alcoholic mother. The increasing bonding of our young not-quite lovers further inflames the aforementioned ill will of the adolescent stud and of Mommie Dearest.

Additional drama surrounds the stereotypical evil banker who involves the aforementioned lawman in his ongoing nefarious scheme essentially to toss widows and orphans out in the street;  the bimbo fiancee of said Master of his Universe contributes comic drama relief. The outward interest of the banker in Jeremy is that Mrs. Rollins was a bank employee. Reveals near the end of the film show that more is at stake than good will toward the orphan of an employee.

All of this leads to a climatic conflict that gathers the principals in one place. There is some shock and awe with a good dash of justice. The ambiguity in the final scene is equally apt.

As the aforementioned Best Actor award (and a companion one) reflect, Todt does a great job portraying Jeremy as a likable tortured outcast. This character clearly has issues and is shell shocked but avoids the cliched of coming across as a basket case who belongs in a padded cell. In other words, Todt displays perfect instincts.

On a larger level, "Better" has wide appeal. Tween girls will fall for our doe-eyed boy, drama fans will equally enjoy the scifi elements and the more more universal themes, and the rest of the viewers will like he humor and the overall good storytelling.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2016

'Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper' DVD: Modern Students Get to Know Jack

Breaking Glass Pictures gets in the Halloween spirit with the October 11, 2016 DVD release of "Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper." This modern homage to the 1959 classic "The House on Haunted Hill" has ironically named professor Richard Wise locking carefully selected students in a Victorian-era warehouse with a link to the titular pioneer serial killer for the stated purpose of participating in a contest to write a horror-film script.

Wise indirectly nods to "House" and its ilk by introducing members of the group through descriptions such as the cynic and the true believer. The center of this group (and the film) is Ruth Walker. Her cred. extends beyond owning a set of knives certified as belonging to The Ripper to include a past and a present of horrific nightmares and grisly images. These disturbing incidents come to feature members of her current group.

Much of "Razors" consists of our Millennials exploring their dark and creepy surroundings. This includes seeing the typical spooky shadowy figures, finding scary writing on the wall, experiencing increasing insanity, etc.

Writer/director Ian Powell elevates the film about the ordinary and the cliched in roughly the last 30 minutes by pairing up Ruth with unexpected help that makes sense. He further builds suspense regarding whether The Ripper is a figment of very scared imaginations, Wise or another prime "Scooby" style subject, or the ghost of the 19th century murderer. This payoff and the related surprising reveals turn an otherwise average atmospheric horror film into one that fans of that genre will not want to miss.

The special features includes a "making of" documentary, a short about the film itself, and a commentary by Powell and his cast.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

'Ugly, Dirty & Bad' Lincoln Center and BD/DVD: Shameless in the Slums of Rome

Reviewing the Film Movement Classics November 1, 2016 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the newly restored version of the wonderfully raunchy and perverse 1976 Italian comedy "Ugly, Dirty & Bad" provides a nice tiramisu walk after a few months of striving to convey the awesomeness of an (ongoing) string of exceptional films that Movement and other indie film distributors have been putting out there. Director Ettore Scola winning the Best Director award at Cannes for "Dirty," and the Film Society of Lincoln Center beginning 40th anniversary showings on October 21, 2016 in the wake of sold-out screenings this summer all show that this one is must see.

The Classics releases and scads of other (Unreal TV reviewed) DVD and BDs of comparably odd cult classic films from around the world further earns Movement president (and righteous dude) Michael Rosenberg a seat of honor with both the Lincoln Center society and the American Film Institute. These sets provide a badly needed alternative to the releases of the deplorable garbage that major studios dump on the American public.

Scola introduces us to the too-many-to-count members of the Mazzatella family as they are sleeping wall-to-wall and shoulder-to-shoulder in their they wish it was a shack home in a shanty town in Rome that looks like a village in an impoverished region of a developing nation. The proverbial (and cliched) 25-words-or-less description of this clan is that they literally are constantly at each other's throats and have their hands in each other's pockets. This is not to mention that they often get into each other's pants.

Early (and oft repeated commotion) that soon erupts revolves around patriarch Giacinto, who hits the trifecta regarding the adjectives in the film title, ranting about his relatives trying to steal the million lire in cash that he has a settlement for an accident that is responsible for losing an eye. A related complaint is that his wife, children, grandchildren, mother, and spouses of his children are freeloading parasites. Italian film royalty Nino Manfredi makes all this hilarious in his portrayal of Giacinto.

Much of the first half of "Dirty" gives Giacinto and members of his shameless clan their moment in the sun. Daughter Tommasina is a stripper/nude model whose mother proudly shows off a centerfold of her to a drooling pack of Vespa-riding late teens (including the especially crude brother of said working girl) boys.

The award for scene-stealing offspring goes to the unshaven transvestite prostitute brother who is ambiguously either gay for pay or bisexual. His antics include leaving his wig on and merely hitching up his dress to enter a willing sister-in-law from behind as she washes her hair in the middle of the one-room abode. The taunting by this woman is hilarious.

Growing resentment on both sides regarding Giacinto denying requests to share his wealth and this leader of the pack moving his mistress (who quickly discovers the realities of her new life) into the marital bed without moving his wife out leads to a plot to commit patricide. Things going comically awry during a related last supper only amps up the hostility and the hilarity.

The above-mentioned very strong feral elements of "Dirty" both fuel the exceptional humor and provide the shock value that makes the film the classic that it is. A final shot that highlights the contrast between the shanty town and not-so-far away downtown area of Rome both shows that a far different existence than the one that we know and tolerate is out there and is not so far away either geographically or behaviorally.

A middle-class father whose teen son begs him for the latest and greatest Smart phone may feel the same type of resentment as Giacinto experiences when a parasite looks for a few thousand lire for a small luxury; the only difference is that the white-collar guy does not actually physically lash out at the offensive offspring.

The special features include commentary by Columbia Film Studies Professor/New York Film Festival Director Emeritus Richard Pena and an essay by film scholar Ronald Bergen. The latter wonderfully summarizes how the film comes to be and notes how it reflects the politics and life in Italy as well as more universal truths.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'Villa Rides' BD A Bandit, A Profiteer, and a Peasant Girl

The Olive Films October 18, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1968 Yul Brynner/Robert Mitchum historical drama "Villa Rides" is a nice follow-up to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Olive August 2016 BD release of the Frank Sinatra/Cary Grant Napoleonic epic "The Pride and the Passion." Both films feature top stars of the day in grand films that center around foreigners getting embroiled in the real-life wars of other countries.

"Pride" has Grant as a British naval officer who reluctantly teams up with a group of soldiers to battle the army of Napoleon; "Villa" has Mitchum playing American fortune hunter Lee Arnold, who comes to Mexico to sell guns to the army battling the bandit/national hero Pancho Villa and winds up joining Team Villa. The two male leads in each film competing for the love of the same peasant woman is another parallel.

Olive aptly highlights the strong pedigree of "Villa" by noting that Oscar-winning "Chinatown" scribe Robert Towne and "he was robbed" Oscar-nominated writer Sam Peckinpah are the "Villa" scribes. Further, the cast includes Charles Bronson as Villa top aide Fierro and a slew of other actors (including Herbert Lom of "A Shot in the Dark") in other supporting roles.

"Villa" opens with Arnold making a dramatic entrance by flying his small plane into a group of soldiers who are fighting Villa despite their war with him arguably being over. On completing his gun-running transaction, said soldiers deny the request of Arnold for help fixing his aircraft. This requires that he ride into a village populated by people who do not actively support Villa but are sympathetic to him.

The first of several turning points in the film comes when the soldiers determine that not opposing Villa justifies a brutal attack on the village; for his part, Villa opts to not intercede as quickly as he could have. Villa shows more intense cruelty regarding his sadistic treatment of the prisoners that he takes in the wake of intervening in the village.

A combination of a profit motive and a determination of the lesser evil prompts Arnold to ally with Villa. Their ensuing adventures include hilarity involving flying the plane and a more serious escapade regarding hijacking a train. This segment of the film is arguable the best in a film full of good moments and amusing humor.

Similar to an epic battle near the end of "Pride," "Villa" features a confrontation between our hero and his military foes. This leads to a series of surprising (but believed to be historically accurate) reversals of fortune for Villa. For his part, Arnold undergoes major life changes in the final 15 minutes  of the film.

Seeing Mitchum and Bronson play tough-guy roles allows then to do what they do best and is the best part of this film. The scenery also is very good and looks nice in BD but is a little less spectacular than hoped for.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

'Strategic Air Command' BD: Jimmy Stewart Candid Air Force Propaganda Film

Olive Films truly earns the superlative awesome regarding following up the Olive BD release of the previously suppressed 1946 John Huston documentary on WWII PTSD "Let There Be Light" with the BD release of the 1955 Oscar-nominated semi-docupic "Strategic Air Command." "Light" includes a real-life Army fly boy Jimmy Stewart hosted WWII-era recruiting film for pilots. "Strategic" stars Stewart as fictional retired Army WWII pilot/current baseball phenom Robert "Dutch" Holland, who gets called back into service.

The blu-ray enhancements to the then-state-of-the-art VistaVision that is used to film "Strategic" greatly adds to watching the epic scenes in this film that centers around aviation.

The following YouTube clip of the "Strategic" theatrical trailer nicely illustrates (pun intended) the aforementioned good cinematography and the apt dramatic style of the film.

Dutch is living the American dream at the beginning of "Strategic;" he is a star with the St. Louis Cardinals, is married to the lovely and loving Sally (June Allyson), and even has a wonderful relationship with his in-laws. All this changes when his former commander/Army buddy shows up with the bad news that Holland is being called into active duty.

The rationale is that maintaining the Cold War era peace requires that the titular branch of the Air Force constantly patrols the skies for the unstated (but clearly implied) red menace that threatens the American way of life. This logic includes that this program requires the skills of Stewart and others who flew during "The Big One."

The awesomeness of "Strategic" extends beyond building on the earlier Stewart film. Holland accepts his fate and does not make run for the Canadian border but also does not start waving the flag or otherwise exhibit an ounce of enthusiasm for his new career. The realism continues with Holland getting a less-than-warm-welcome at the front gate of his new base and soon learning that rank does not always have its privileges when it comes to military housing,

For her part, Sally is a dedicated military wife to a point. She contentedly uproots herself to live in the aforementioned fixer-upper accommodation and is supportive regarding the demands of the new job of her husband. However, she has her limits and reaches them.

Great behind-the-scenes insight in "Strategic," which is made with the cooperation of the actual SAC, include a scene surrounding a security drill and a separate segment that provides a detailed tour of the then-state-of-the-art  B-36 bomber.

The B-36 additionally has a prominent role in the climatic final scene. Stewart suffers a disabling (and mission-threatening) relapse of a physical problem while commanding a rigorous mission on a B-36, and Sally is not a content spouse.

The effectiveness of "Strategic" extends well beyond the aforementioned realistic tone of the film; the filmmakers pull off a Hollywood ending that does not make your teeth ache.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

'Banning' DVD: Robert Wagner Plays Pro Pulling a Con

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. machine; playing it requires a well-worth purchasing international player.]

A large portion of the oft-praised awesomeness of Australia-based theatrical and home-video god Madman Entertainment is the series of DVDs that Madman releases. A recent example is the "Nordic Noir," which includes all three seasons of the (Unreal TV reviewed) original Danish version of "The Killing," that itself is the basis of a series of Unreal TV reviews. The 1967 Robert Wagner cheestastic drama "Banning," which is the topic du jour,  is part of the extensive Madman "Universal Vault" collection of (mostly '60s) movies that are a staple of '70s-era UHF station Sunday afternoon schedules.

The September 2016 Vault releases include the (future Unreal TV reviewed) original "McHale's Navy" movie and sequel "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force." One can only hope that "Munster Go Home" also appears on the Madman radar.

The wonderful unintentional humor regarding "Banning," which stars the widower of Natalie Wood extends well beyond the titular golf pro/playboy expressing a preference for a wood. Wagner future wife Jill St. John plays slutty/catty trophy (no pun intended) wife Angela. This movie further evokes thoughts of the awesome scene from the Wagner television series "Hart to Hart" in which a golf cart pursues the titular "self-made millionaire"/amateur detective whom Wagner portrays.

The simple but brilliant premise is that the character whom Wagner plays is a formerly successful tournament golfer who ends that period in his life after taking the fall for simple but brilliant cheating scheme. These events also prompt him to assume the name Banning and do his best to maintain his membership in the pro golf equivalent of the federal witness protection program.

The film opens with Banning coercing the president of a country club into hiring him for the created position of assistant golf pro. Drama related to this is that this essentially eliminates the deserved possibility of advancement for the employee who also is the roommate of Banning. Further, the washed-up has-been who is the pro knows Banning from the old days.

The past further haunts Banning in the form of a former backer essentially throwing him under the golf cart by having him face either paying a debt to the mob or being fitted for cement cleats and being tossed in the nearest water trap.

The aforementioned events (in addition to Banning engaging in dangerous liaisons with the kept woman of a rich and powerful man) all lead to a climatic golf tournament in which the past returns to haunt Banning. Like all good dramas (and tournaments), the suspense continues right to the final stroke on the eighteenth hole. This leads to an awesome (and equally classic) final shot (pin intended).

The larger level this time is that "Banning" is a great example of final remnants of the studio system in which established name and newcomers join forces to make films that nicely balance quantity and quality. In this case, stars such as Gene Hackman and Guy Stockwell work with St. John and Wagner to create a movie that keeps your interest and is well worth both a trip to the neighborhood theater in 1967 and an order to Madman in 2016.

The DVD extra is the very mid-60s style theatrical trailer for "Banning,"

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

'She Who Must Burn' VOD/DVD Pro-Choice Counselor Inflames Fundamentalists

Midnight Releasing artfully combines horror, dark humor, and political commentary in "She Who Must Burn." This 2015 Canadian indie flick is a recent streaming and DVD release.

Sci-fi/fantasy actor Sarah Smyth plays Angela, who is a counselor at a small-town health clinic Her liberal views regarding freedom of choice and other treatments result in the locals considering her anything but an Angela of mercy. Angela openly and proudly living in sin with her boyfriend does not help endear her to her new neighbors.

The drama begins with an opening scene in which a local fundamentalist shoots a doctor at the clinic where Angela works. Incidents that add fuel to the fire are a death that is interpreted as divine retribution for Angela allegedly defying the will of God by doing things such as strongly encouraging a woman to travel to another community to have a "procedure."

Filmmakers Larry Kent and Shane Twerdun stage this tension and the escalating conflict between Angela and her community in the path of a literal storm that also serves as a not-so-subtle metaphor for the situation in the rural community.

The warm front in the form of Angela standing her ground in the form of staying to support the women who need her care and the cold front in the form of the religious leaders who are increasingly annoyed at Angela actively opposing them builds to the point that a tempest in inevitable.

Mayhem ensues when one of the more "exuberant" members of the God Squad causes a death. This leads to a kidnapping, a chase, and a subsequent confrontation surrounding treating Angela like the witch that her foes believe her to be.

The escalation to the point of ignition nicely and stays true to the promise of "Burn." This is especially poignant in the days following the discovery of the plot in Kansas and the carried-out firebombing of the Republican headquarters in North Carolina. All of us are in the path of the mother of all political tempests and there will be (lots more) blood.

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

'Once Were Warriors' BD: Powerful Tale of Going from Tribal Royalty to Abused Slum WIfe

New York-based Film Movement Classics once again makes North Americans wondered "how did I miss that one" regarding the September 6, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1994 New Zealand drama "Once Were Warriors." This indescribably intense film centers around Maori warrior descendant Beth Heke, whose choice as a teenager to relinquish a prominent position (and a very happy life) in her tribe to marry slave descendant Jake Heke has her living a horribly traumatic life in the slums of Auckland 20 years later.

As an aside, Movement shows excellent timing regarding releasing "Warriors" in the same period as two modern (and excellent in their own right) American films centering around family dysfunction based on old resentments. The Unreal TV adored "Take Me to the River" focuses on a gay California teen becoming the victim of undue scorn on going to a Nebraska family reunion. The also Unreal TV loved "The Automatic Hate" has two recently discovered cousins stir up old feelings regarding the cause of a decades-long estrangement between their fathers.

The Best Film and eight other awards at the 1994 New Zealand Film and TV Awards and the thirteen festival awards provide some sense of the perfection of "Warriors." The overall situation and the abuse and other violence sadly are both very realistic and international themes. This success is likely why this masterpiece warrants a Movement release. Additionally, the strong visuals of the Auckland scenery and the brutality in the film make exceptional use of the Blu-ray format.

The opening scenes immediately provide a strong sense of the extreme poverty of the lives of the Heke family and their neighbors. The busy highway, graffiti-covered concrete, street people, etc show that this is a tough life.

Director Lee Tamahori and writer Riwia Brown also take their time establishing the life of Beth before showing the extent of the horrible hardships that she endures. Early moments have alcoholic abusive Jake bring home a seafood feast without initially mentioning that it literally is his severance package and that getting a new job does not concern him. We also see that 13 year-old daughter Grace is an aspiring writer and a good friend to a boy living in a dilapidated abandoned car. Oldest son Nig is a newly inducted member of a fierce and brutal gang, and middle boy Boogie is escorted home by police officers on the afternoon before a court proceeding regarding other juvenile delinquent behavior.

These events that seem to be a typical day for this Heke family well below the middle culminate with yet another evening in which a drunk Jake and a large group of intoxicated friends come to his home to keep the party going after leaving a local bar. An event during that revelry leads to arguably the most brutal and tough to watch spousal abuse in the history of film. Seeing the younger Heke offspring huddled on a bed during that assault is equally powerful. Our hearts go out to Beth even more on seeing her the morning after.

The ensuing events are just as compelling. Jake continues to alienate his wife and kids, the harsh reality of life ruins the few and far between happy moments in the film, and old resentments resurface. This is especially so regarding a tragic (but very realistic) plot regarding Grace. The emotions of the audience associated with events and the other horrors in the life of Beth are almost as intense as those that the characters experience.

The filmmakers remain true to the spirit of "Warriors" by not having the Hekes win the lottery or otherwise enjoy a dramatic enhancement of their standard of living. Seeing the extent (if any) to which their lives improve requires watching this exceptional film.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

'Trepalium' DVD: French Drama Series Literally Puts Wall Between Haves and Have Nots

The June 2016 Madman DVD release of S1 of the Gallic Noir series "Trepalium" provides good weaning off the fantabulous (Unreal TV) reviewed Madman releases of the Norwegian series "Occupied" and the original versions of "The Killing" and "The Bridge."

The not-too-distant-future France of "Trepalium," a term that translates to work, is one in which a decades-old system has the 20 percent of the population that works (a.k.a. "actives") enjoying a very regimented but comfortable life in "The City" that symbolically is known as "the south."  The conditions there sharply contrast with the slum-like standard of living in the area designated "The Zone," which is the fate of ANYONE who loses his or her gainful employment.

The near-future and societal focus of "Trepalium" make it more akin to the Russia-occupied Norway of the aptly titled "Occupied" than the crime-spree oriented "Killing" and "Bridge." However, all four have the same basic elements of everyday people in distress and governmental mischief.

The clan that fill the role of typical family this time is the Garcias. Ruben is a middle-manager at the huge and powerful water company Aquaville, his wife Thais is a low-level clerk at Aquaville and is facing an imminent threat of unemployment, and their young daughter being mute has that child labelled "flawed" and a degenerate. Silas, who is the father of Ruben, is a ruthless Aquaville executive who supports his family so long as doing so benefits him.

Personal and national issues intersect regarding Ruben becoming a candidate for a highly coveted management job at Aquaville at the same time that the newly enacted Job Security Act provides for 10,000 Zoners to commute to The City each day to work. Ruben is assigned Izia and initially does not have any task for her.

Thais soon disappearing because of her covert support of the increasingly aggressive Zone-based "Activists" presents Ruben with the challenge of presenting the image of having a happy and normal family that his desired job requires. This desperation leads to his convincing Izia to impersonate Thais both at home and at the office.

Prime Minister Nadia Passeron, who aptly sports a Joan Crawford hairstyle, plays the role of governmental official in "Trepalium." Her challenges extend well beyond getting actives to accept the new normal under The Act to keeping her increasing defiant daughter under control regarding the role of said daughter as a government public relations official. Nadia further must contend with the impact of an ordeal on her labor minister husband. This is not to mention the mounting threat of the wall figuratively or literally coming down in a manner that is very disadvantageous to Nadia.

Like all good European noir series, the events of "Trepalium" build to a dramatic climax in the final S1 episode. Panic and turmoil are rampant and various schemes are revealed with proportional consequences.

Like "Occupied," "Trepalium" works because it is plausible in a an increasing divisive world in which class war is well underway and a U.S. presidential candidate is calling to build a wall to separate "us" from "them." This makes it good watching in the month leading up to that election.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trinity Repertory Company 'Appropriate' Live Stage Modern American Gothic

Personal last-minute technical difficulties that have absolutely nothing to do with the Trinity Repertory Company, which is the State Theater of Rhode Island, in Providence are behind missing the opening night of the live-stage production of the modern comic-drama "Appropriate." This post on the production itself is designed to be a placeholder until a performance can be watched and a review post written. The play runs through November 6, 2016.

The "Appropriate" theme of past family trauma coming back to haunt a clan ala Henrik Ibsen or Tennessee Williams makes it a great choice for the "Ghosts of the Past, Dreams of the Future" motif of the 53rd season of Trinity. A superfantabulous (Unreal TV reviewed) production of a musical version (complete with psychoanalysis) of "Beowulf" kicked off the season. Barring any additional technical difficulties, Unreal TV will attend the November 5, 2106 opening night of what is sure to be a creative staging of "A Christmas Carol." The post on that one is scheduled for November 7, 2016.

The press materials for the Obie-winning "Appropriate" describe it as a "biting comic-drama" about estranged relatives returning to their dilapidated Arkansas estate after the death of the family patriarch. This synopsis adds that finding a "gruesome relic" leads to "an escalating series of shocks, showdowns, and revelations."

The following brief YouTube clip of the "Appropriate" production provides a glimpse of the cast.

In addition to perfectly fitting in the "ghosts" theme of the current Trinity season, "Appropriate" seems to be a good member of the modern genre of artistic indie dysfunctional family dramedies. Unreal TV favorites have been the DVD releases "Take Me to the River" about a child molestation charge during a family reunion stirring up old resentments and the similar "The Automatic Hate" about decades-old family trauma resurfacing and threatening to reoccur.

The reasons that these productions succeed artistically and are relatable is because they reflect the reality of the lives of many of us. These histories make most family gatherings seem like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" the home game.

The actions so your until-recently London-dwelling (and recently divorced) sister of your not-so-humble reviewer have earned her the nickname The Wicked Witch of the West End. This is aside from her husband being fined for violating securities fraud. Nelson family history also includes one aunt paying off the police to cover up a serious crime by the manager of her factory in a developing nation and a marriage to another aunt resulting in an uncle essentially being disinherited.

Please stay tuned for a review of "Apprropriate."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

'Boiling Point' Blu-ray A Vengeance League of Their Own

  • Boiling Point [Blu-ray]
As the Unreal TV review of the Film Movement Classics October 11, 2016 Blu-ray release of the aptly titled 1989 Takeshi Kitano gritty police drama "Violent Cop" promises, our subject for today is the companion Classic release of the slightly lighter 1990 Kitano film "Boiling Point."

The second film from that director has mild-mannered gas pump jockey/amateur baseball player Masaki getting caught up in the criminal activities of the local Yakuza. Both films sport (no pun intended) the awesome highly stylized cover art that Classics introduces with the spectacular BD release of the (Unreal TV reviewed) German film "Kamikaze '89," which is a wonderful combination of "Brazil" and "Dirty Harry."

"Boiling" opens with Masaki still getting abused despite trying hard at a game of his baseball team The Eagles. These scenes clearly establish that he is not so bright or a very good ballplayer but is very sweet and unassuming.

The abuse continues on Masaki arriving at his day job as a gas station attendant; his boss chastises him for being late coming back from the ballgame and then starts ordering him around. This leads to the fateful event in which Maski is instructed to wash the car of a member of the aforementioned Japanese crime family.

Proving that even the nicest guy has his limits, Masaki strikes back at the wiseguy in most senses of the word in a manner that is humiliating in a few senses of that word. This leads to the Yakuza member becoming comically enraged to the point of knowingly falsely asserting grievous bodily harm.

Failed early efforts to make peace with the legitimate businessman who employs the injured party sets the stage for the ensuing dark comic mayhem. This begins with a former Yakuza member who proves that you can take the man out of the crime family but not the crime family out of the man interceding with his former colleagues on behalf of Masaki. Suffice it to say, this does not go as planned.

The spiraling events lead to Masaki and a mixed group taking a road trip to illegally purchase a cache of weapons. This development allows Kitano to unleash his perverse dark side that "Cop" highlights so well. He further shines in his role as an outrageous member of this not-so-merry band.

Lighter hilarious moments during this journey include a desperate toilet paper substitute, arguably justified semi-public male rape, and other milder unwelcome sexual advances.

Assorted awesome bits include a cocky teen who thinks that he is too cool for helmets getting one expected slamdown and a bonus equally deserved one,  and a "Cop" style"  old-school end with poetic justice during a climatic showdown followed by a final scene that also stays true to the artistic style of Kitano and pays homage to a primetime American soap of the era. 

The insightful essay that Movement seems to include with every Classics release shares similar thoughts regarding the bizarre nature of Kitano and his literally comic alter-ego that the essay in "Cop" addresses. The writing in "Boiling" offers equal depth regarding the metaphor that the prominent baseball element contributes to the film. These thoughts both make all of us feel as if we are constantly playing America's favorite pastime and makes us want to metaphorically beat down the umpire who unduly is getting in our face.

Time constraints require saving what sure is the well-produced and fascinating documentary "Okinawa Days: Takeshi's Second Debut Featurette" on the "Boiling" BD for another day. The companion extra on the "Cop" BD is worthy of its own release.

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

'Violent Cop' BD A Rogue Japanese Detective with a Yen for Violence

Film Movement Classics continues its current trend of making the best bizarre foreign classic films available to American audiences on Blu-ray. The October 11, 2016 releases are the first and second films by Japanese director/actor Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi). His aptly titled first film from 1989 "Violent Cop" has him playing the Asian version of Dirty Harry Mr. Azamo. "Boiling Point," which has a mild-manner gas-station attendant/amateur baseball player getting wrapped up with the criminal yakuza organization, from 1990 is the subject of tomorrow's review.

"Cop," which makes a great companion to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Classic BD release of the German scifi-noir film "Kamikaze '89." begins with a malicious and violent attack by teen delinquents. This assault provides the setting to introduce the equally violent (and unauthorized) but effective law-enforcement tactics of Azuma.

Azuma and his new partner rookie/comic relief Kikuchi soon move on investigating the local drug organization around which most of the film focuses. This one has the typical gritty cop drama elements of Azuma annoying the boss of the organization enough to warrant that cop becoming a target of the killer on the payroll of that legitimate businessman, Azuma learning that a formal trusted colleague is in cahoots with the aforementioned crimelord, and Azuma being ordered to (at least temporarily) turn in his badge and his gun.

Like the aforementioned "Kamikaze," the genius of "Cop" is in the perverse details. The mayhem that Azuma and his foes create well may stray into NC-17 territory. There are blood splatters galore, and both sides in this tale of good vs. evil are equally likely to smash in a skull with a baseball bat or shoot someone apparently for the fun of it.

Additional depth and violence relates to the love of Azuma for his fragile sister. An early scene regarding this hilariously has Azuma enhancing the walk of shame of the one-night stand of said sibling by kicking and slapping him for several blocks and then demanding that said young man do right by the sister.

Said crime organization receives a much harsher lesson regarding the need to not mess with the sister when their response to multi-faceted humiliation/harassment by Azuma prompt them to make this personal. The ensuing climatic mayhem is one basis for the semi-domesticated partner of your not-so-humble reviewer to observe that "Cop" is incredibly cynical. Suffice it to say that not many (if any) folks live happily ever after.

The extras include the Classic exceptional standard of a documentary on Kitano and an insightful essay on "Cop." Both works discuss how this former comic with multiple issues (and perhaps just as a many personalities) comes to make this very gritty drama.

The 20-minute documentary, which is worthy of an independent release, particularly goes into depth regarding Kitano the man and the filmmaker. The two participants are a colleague from Kitano's days as a standup comedian and TV funnyman and the actor who plays Kikuchi. The latter provides fascinating behind-the-scenes insight regarding filming "Cop."

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

'Milton's Secret' Theatrical/VOD Dystopian After School Special

The recent theatrical and VOD release of the modern family drama "Milton's Secret" from enterainmentone subsidiary Momentum Pictures notably tells it like it is for pre-adolescents in the dystopian world of 2016. The titular everykid feels the angst of his real estate agent mother and businessman father in their lives in what seems to be a Pacific Northwest suburb. On top of this, a classmate who receives the brunt of the frustration of the father of said peer takes out the related frustration on quiet and shy Milton.

The themes and style of this mostly dairy-free product evoke great thoughts of the awesomely cheesy ABC After School Specials of the '70s and '80s. These Wednesday afternoon gems star young "before they were stars" actors such as Robe Lowe and Scott Baio in issues-oriented stories. These topics include teen drinking and pregnancy.

The folllowing SPOILER-HEAVY trailer for "Secret" offers a look at the sense and the sensibility of the film.It further shows that it a kids' movie that parents also will enjoy.

Giving Milton and the 'rents the surname of Adams awesomely reflects the anxiety of our hero, who feels so much like a freak that he imagines that he lives on Planet Fear. He further has dad Bill (played by veteran character actor David Sutcliffe) living on Planet Past where everything used to be better and mom Jane (played by veteran character actor Mia Kirshner) living on Planet Future where hope for things getting better exists.

The "Secret" filmmakers go old school in having the savior of Milton come from the sky in the form of his maternal grandfather Howard (played by veteran Hollywood legend Donald Sutherland) flying in for an extended visit ala Mary Poppins. The fairly recently widowed Howard now embraces Zen to the extent that he practices the art of maintaining his newly purchased motorcycle. He additionally has a new lady friend. In true family film style, none of these changes sit well with the daughter of  this previously traditional man.

The highly relatable financial woes of the Adams family include a tough real estate market compounded by related conservative lending practices, Bill being unable to take a hit it in the form of losing another client, and marital strife regarding both spending practices and the threat of a foreclosure on their house. 

Aside from the tough financial situation taking a toll on Milton, the impact of this on his parents has the lad near the edge of a nervous breakdown. Having a brutal beatdown recorded and widely distributed does not help matters. His solutions include attempting to get gold through alchemy. In true dystopia style, this only worsens matters.

Rather than soothe his grandson with corny sayings, Howard essentially teaches the boy how to live in the now and to disregard the past and the present. The manner in which he illustrates is great fun to all us pet lovers.

Old-school elements include Milton discussing his new philosophy making him the star of a school presentation near the end of the movie, montages of Howard transforming the family backyard into an Eden to the accompaniment of classic tunes, and Milton having a dedicated and cool teacher.

The ultimate lesson regarding all this is that "Secret" proves the feasibility of making a move that is geared to an everykid that also provides his or her parent a reminder of these importance of not having the fear related to the fairly new concept of widespread divorce that plagued the childhood of many Gen Xers with the fear of living in the streets that many young Millennials face.

Friday, October 7, 2016

'Friends' Effing Friends Effing Friends' VOD: "New Girl" Meets Woody Allen

The Gravitas Ventures October 11, 2016 VOD release of the 2016 comedy "Friends Effing Friends Effing Friends" is both a good companion to the August 20216 Gravitas release of the Millennial dystopia drama "There is a New World Somewhere" and the early '70s Woody Allen films on which the father of "Friends" writer/director/voice actor Quincy Rose worked. 

A personal cool element of "Friends" is finding on reading the statement of Rose in the press materials that thoughts regarding this movie coincide with his mindset while making it. Understanding the artistic vision of a film is always a good thing. This theme relates to the tangled relationships between friendship and sexual desire as well as the theory of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that essentially shows that man (and woman) is never happy despite how good he (or she) has it.

The Millennial vibe of "Friends" begins with the opening scene in the way cool retro-style bar that looks like the hangout in the 20-soemethings-oriented Foxcom "New Girl." BFFs from childhood openly (and hilariously) discussing their pre-adolescent mutual sex play to the amusement of Steve's live-in girlfriend Laura further establishes that our leads are open-minded close friends.

The catalysts for the ensuing moderately hot drama include Laura introducing freelance editor Jacob to friend/aspiring author Sarah and Steve pushing the limits of his "don't ask/don't tell" relationship with Laura by starting an affair with a woman who is more than Ms. Right Now. 

Having the proposed book by Saarh focus on the contributions of her grandfather to the "scale of sexuality" research by Kinsey is very apt for this film.

Good guy but relationship-shy Jacob quickly develops strong chemistry with Sarah but is attracted to her hot and flirty roommate Camille. The encouragement of Steve to pursue Camille does not help matters.

Roughly the next hour of "Friends" focuses on the titular activity of this group and their justifications for the associated directed and indirect betrayals. As Rose observes in the aforementioned statement, we all can justify doing what (or whom) we want to and (in true Allen style) fail to consider the impact of our actions on others. In other words, something feeling good does not always justify doing it. Said consequences adds a deeper meaning to the "effing" portion of the title of the film. It further proves that you can both "ef" 'em and tell 'em a joke.

Highlights include the very live-stage feel to all the dialogue, the brotalk between Steve an Jacob, and a very high school style discussion regarding trying to learn the extent of the sexy activity on a memorable night that three of our Gang of Five share.

This being 2016, the amusing ending reflects modern Hollywood. Everyone is a little wiser but not essentially a happier; one spoiler is that the film does not end with a wedding in which our quintet joins hands and dances or skips around accompanied by a Motown or '70s soft rock hit.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

'The Last Straight Man' DVD: Brokeback Marriott

  • The Last Straight Man
As the Unreal TV review of the recent tla releasing DVD of the 2016 gay-themed Mark Bessenger film "Confessions" notes, that release roughly coincides with this site learning of the tla DVD release of the 2014 Bessenger film  "The Last Straight Man." "Man" is much more revealing than "Confessions" both visually and in terms of titular breeder boy Cooper meeting up with his boi Lewis once a year for a night of passion. Suffice it to say, ample proof exists that Bessenger knows that of which he films and writes.

"Man" opens with the hotel suite bachelor party for Cooper on the night before his wedding to a woman; Lewis begging off when the stripper offers him a lap dance provides the first clue that he is not like the other boys in attendance.

Things take a stereotypical gay porn turn when Lewis hangs with Mr. Cooper after the party, and the latter prompts the two of them watching gay porn. A game of truth in which the dares come later further bring newly admitted biboy Lewis (who tells a tale that deserves a place in "Confessions") and clearly curious Cooper closer to the climax of the evening.

A good time being held by all leads to our stars meeting in the same suite every year for a night in which the boys catch up, reveal more about each other, and Cooper increases his knowledge of the joys of gay sex. The latter is fully in line with the theory that every man who has sex with another man has a "gay age" that reflect the timing and degree of his experience in that area.  Suffice it to say this time, an off-screen scene in which Lewis guides Cooper through having an enema is one of the most amusing in this highly entertaining film.

Bessenger expertly combines the erotic, the pornographic (suffice it to say that Lewis portrayor Mark Cirillo speaks softly and carries a big stick), the serious, and the silly. Our characters awesomely address this in a scene in which retail store owner Cooper suggests that romance novelist Lewis base a book on their story, and Lewis responds that that plot is better suited to a melodramatic play or a movie.

On a larger level, Bessenger awesomely presents issues of the Kinsey scale of sexuality, the related complicated aspects of feeling love for another man while being far enough at the gay end of that scale to have sex withhim but not far enough to abandon a heterosexual life style to be with him, and denying happiness for what you think is the greater good.

Having characters who are past their doe-eye days further adds substance to this story far beyond it being one in which Lewis lusts after Cooper based on high school showers and Saturday night sleepovers only to have a hairless emo Cooper bring him to Heaven only to later break his heart. Our heroes are big boys in every sense of the word and have spent enough time on the street corner to know the score even if they will not admit it to themselves.

The special features include (what surely are terrific) interviews and deleted scenes.

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

'RWBY' BD Steelbook Rooster Teeth Harry Potter Style Tween Girl Anime

The Rooster Teeth  three-volume steelbook Blu-ray set of "RWBY" is an entertainingly apt follow-up to the (Unreal TV reviewed) Teeth three-season Blu-ray steelbook Blu-ray set of 'Red v. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy." Both series, which awesomely can be watched in an uninterrupted movie format, show that the animation from the Teeth nerds is as stylized as it is creative. These qualities make both sets perfect for the enhanced picture and sound associated with Blu-ray. The starry nights in "RWBY" could not be any clearer if you were there.

The following thoughts regarding the plot of "RWBY" V1-3 come a few weeks before the October 22, 2016 premiere of V4 episodes.

Teeth principal (and wife of Unreal TV reviewed Anchor Bay film "Lazer Tag" star Michael Jones) Lindsay Jones provides the voice of titular "RWBY" heroine Ruby Rose. Ruby is a spunky teen girl who is apt to viciously kick ass one minute and pet a puppy while smelling a rose and eating ice cream the next.

Ruby calls Remnant her home; we meet her using her super-speed and her personally designed sniper-scythe to thwart a gang of evildoers led by very "Clockwork Orange" like Roman Torchwick from stealing a large quantity of the valued commodity dust. This substance plays a large role in humans retaining their superior position of their once (and future?) non-human oppressors.

The arrival of a huntress, who (along with other huntresses and hunters) protects the general populace from the numerous vicious and highly carnivorous creatures on their world, during the battle is significant in many ways. This encounter leads to child prodigy Ruby enrolling in the prestigious Hogwarts-like Beacon Academy, which trains hunters and huntresses, two years before the traditional age for admission.

A cool aspect of Beacon is that it is like any other high school in that it has every teen stereotype known to man and humanoid. Giving the boys some love, these everyteens include not-so-agile emo boy with a huge secret (no, not that one) Juane Arc (voiced by Teeth principal Miles Luna) and arrogant jock bully Cardin Winchester. The manner in which these two boys figuratively kiss and make up is the stuff of tween fiction everywhere. We further get to see one of them totally rock a strapless formal dress.

For her part, one of the girls at school has a secret of her own regarding both her ancestry and her prior activities. Another chick with a large secret is a genuine small wonder.

Other team drama includes angst regarding who is asking whom to an upcoming dance; stress related to otherwise extraordinary abilities not including an ability to rythmically move to music, and a dreamy surfer boy and elitish lad stirring up assorted emotions. in other words, typical concerns at every high school.

An early Beacon assignment sends the kids on a quest that is designed both to test their skills and to determine the configuration of their teams. Ruby is among those whose demonstrated abilities earn her a team leader position; thus leading to forming titular Team RWBY. The manner in which she highly annoys her crew, including older sister Yang and rich girl with something to prove Weiss, is one aspect of the element of the chosen ones.

Other drama comes in the form of teams traveling to Beacon to participate in a tournament, visitors with a less noble purpose showing up to pull a large dust robbery, and a controversial peacekeeping force. All this introduces more kids with issues, increasingly daunting challenges, and the role of the military in a time of tense peace.

Highly amusing events early in V1 lead to Team RWBY achieving their goal of what effectively is an internship as a cover to pursue the investigation that they begin in V1. It is equally amusing that the leader to whom they are assigned is far less dynamic than hoped for.

The girls do get their desired encounter with Roman Torchwick and his unlikely army. This leads to a quasi-steampunk adventure on what effectively is a runaway train. This in turn pits our heroines and their allies against a pack of the vicious creatures known as grimm. The aftermath of this battle closes out V2.

The "Harry Potter" vibe really amps in V3. Although the holding of the aforementioned tournament evokes thoughts of a somewhat kinder and gentler "Hunger Games," much of the focus is on the tactics and destiny of Ruby and her peers. This includes learning that a old folk tale is true and that the Beacon faculty has a deeper purpose than training the next generation of hunters and huntresses.

Relatives who come calling include Uncle Crow, who is the first trainer of Ruby and has a history (and a present) with several principals (no pun intended). We also meet Winter, who is the bossy older sister of Weiss.

Reveals near the end of V3 include that Ruby is even more special than believed and that the big bad of V4 (and beyond?) is someone believed to not be a foe.

The best way to wrap up this not-so-grand review of this epic series is to state that the Americanized anime, copious humor, and clever plotting make "RWBY" a good choice for anyone into adolescent saga and/or good old teen drama.

The extras include insightful behind-the-scenes features but alas lack the hilarious PSAs of "RvB."

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

UPDATED 'My Love Don't Cross That River' DVD: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following review is an updated version of the August 2016 review of the theatrical release of "Love." This update discusses the bonus short film and the special features in the DVD release.]

The October 4, 2016 (available to all) Film Movement  Film of the Month Club DVD release of the uber-awesome 2014 South Korean documentary "My Love, Don't Cross That River" allows folks who missed the August 2016 theatrical release of this perfect documentary to watch it from the comfort of home.

This high regard for "Love" reflects the same universal themes in that film that exist regarding virtually every (mostly foreign) movie in the Movement catalog. The Korean subjects of the film easily could be the nice retired couple next door to you.

As an aside, fans of exceptional Korean cinema can also check out the (Unreal TV reveiwed) "Sea Fog." This drama from the producer of the spectacular drama "Snowpiercer" tells the compelling tale of a fishing boat captain driven to transporting illegal aliens with catastrophic results.

The following YouTube clip of the "Love" trailer showcases the heart and humor that warrant the raves for the film.

The Movement publicity material shares that this labor of love is the result of documentarian Moyoung Jin devoting 15 months to capturing the lives of happily married senior-senior citizens Byong-man Jo and his wife of 76 years Gye-Yeul Kang. These materials also note that "Love" has the distinction of being the most successful independent film in South Korea. International acclaim includes winning the Documentary Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Virtually all of "Love" consists of capturing the daily activities that in turn capture the clearly deep love of our subjects. An early scene has Gye-Yeul good-naturedly complaining about the difficulty of sweeping up leaves only to have her husband tell her that he will do it. This soon leads to this 90-something man playfully initiating a leaf fight.

Other adventures for this couple that delights in dressing alike include a seniors' picnic, a romp in the snow, and an amusingly bizarre serenade.

We soon hear the story that Gye-Yeul is 14 when she learns that 19 year-old Byong-man is selected to be her husband; the extent to which this is an arranged marriage, rather than the result of a conclusion that Byong-man merely is a suitable husband, is unclear. The audience also is told that Byong-man is an exceptional gentleman both during his courtship and after getting married.

Other notable aspects of the lives of this couple is that they have had 12 children and love those who die young as much as the living ones with whom they have enviable relationships. One of the most charming scenes has the "kids" come for a holiday visit; the award for most relatable scene involves an entertaining argument during a birthday party for Gye-Yeul.

The other stars of "Love" are two cute little dogs named Freebie and Kiddo; each of these individuals have stories with strong emotional content.

The larger story is the realizations of our couple that the end is near for both of them and that Byong-man is likely going to be the first to go. Gye-Yeul seemingly being more concerned about how her husband will cope with the afterlife until she joins him than about how she will cope in this existence during that interim is very moving. This topic also provides Westerners fascinating insight into the religious beliefs of these old folks.

Everything the above paragraphs discuss and the tons o' delights to discover on watching "Love" make it truly "must-see" if only because you will recognize yourself and/or others in your life in the film.

The (as always apt) bonus short film that accompanies this addition to the Movement Film of the Month Club selection is the 19-minute film "Ed and Pauline." The titular couple is 1950s Berkeley (mostly foreign) art-house movie theater owner Ed Landberg and future legendary film critic Pauline Kael. Film makers Christian Bruno and Natalija Vekic provide expert concise early-life biographies of the pair and document the events that lead to their marriage and subsequent divorce. That break-up supports the conclusion of a recent New York Times essay that explains why we marry someone who is like us and why doing so almost surely leads to unhappiness.

The talking heads include Landberg, director John Waters, and "insiders" very familiar with Kael, Landberg, and the theater.

The special DVD feature is a group of deleted scenes.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Love" is implored to email or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy if doing so will help push you to buy the DVD.