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Saturday, December 30, 2017

'Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life' BD: The Girls Are Back in Town (and Quirky as Ever)

The Warner Archive November 28, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 2016 Netflix series "Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life" warrants a "Oh My Star's Hollow" both from fans of the original 2000-2006 CW dramedy about the adventures of former unwed teen mother Lorelai Gilmore and her currently teen daughter Rory (a.k.a. New Lorelai) in the aforementioned quirky small Connecticut town.

The nicest thing about this very good reboot is that it partially redeems Netflix for releasing the unwatchable "Fuller House." On a larger level, "Gilmore" arguably is no more worthy of additional stories than "Full House" (or "Will & Grace"), but the viewing public is better off for it.

"Life" winning the top "binge-watched" spot on Netflix further verifies that this "Downton Abbey" (i.e., a (mostly) well-done series with something for everyone) is "Must-See."

Having watched episodes both directly on Netflix and on Blu-ray allows emphatically asserting that buying the Blu-ray is well-worth it. The primary issue is that any streaming service can remove any content from the site anytime for any reason. Beyond that, the resolution and the sound on Blu-ray are light years beyond their streaming counterparts. Further, fastforwarding, reversing, and pausing on a Blu-ray are much easier than doing the same regarding streaming content.

The following YouTube clip of the Netflix "Life" trailer" offers an extended glimpse of the specialness of the series.

Much of the success of "Life" is attributable to creator/showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino and virtually the rest of the creative team and the cast being back. A notable aspect of the latter is seeing 13-season "Supernatural" veteran Jared Padalecki abandon his dark, brooding, and violent Sam Winchester persona from that series to play goofy and sweet former Rory boyfriend/first Dean.

Fans of broad (pun intended) crude and physical comedy will be equally thrilled to see "Girls" star Melissa McCarthy show up to play chef/Lorelai BFF Sookie. Folks who are not fans of the reinvented persona of McCarthy will delight in seeing her return to her kinder and gentler roots.

Sherman-Palladino borrows from the larger theme of the changing of the seasons and the dramedy film and sitcom "The Four Seasons" in dividing "Year" into four roughly 90-minute episode that revolve around the aforementioned cycles.

"Winter" immediately starts off strongly with the rapid-fire pop-culture laden dialog for which "Girls" is known. Lorelai greets 32 year-old Rory with a rambling welcome/guilt trip regarding a one-night visit on a break from the hectic freelance journalism career of this Eli.

This episode establishes that a decade has not brought many changes for the eccentric residents of Star's Hollow, who are fortunate to live in a town in which they are loved despite their extreme oddities. Lorelai and long-term companion/grouchy diner owner Luke still live in the awesomely eclectic Victorian house of Lorelai and still have the adorable shaggy dog named Paul Anka.

A nod to the 2010s comes in the form of Luke advancing from banning cell phones in his restaurant to giving patrons inaccurate wifi passwords.

Meanwhile, town leader Taylor still is annoyingly pursuing a project that is designed to better the community; his current focus on converting the area from septic tanks to a sewer system includes relentlessly soliciting horror stories regarding inadequate plumbing systems.

Abrasive man of a thousand failed ventures Kirk is the proud father of a small pig, who is a gift from the town as a deterrent against this excitable boy pursuing his plans to father a child.

A real-life development in the interim between "Girls" and "Life" prompts arguably the biggest change among the supporting characters; the death of Edward Hermann, who pays formal but loving father/grandfather Richard Gilmore in "girls," sets the stage for a series-long adjustment period for widow Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop of "Dirty Dancing") in "Life."

Freshish off the success of a (oft-mentioned) New Yorker article about highly unstable eccentric Brit Naomi Shroposhire (Alex Kinsgton of "E.R." and "Doctor Who"), Rory is spending a great deal of time in London meeting with Shroposhire about a memoir of the life of that woman; these trips provide the bonus of booty calls with Yale-era boyfriend/blue-blood Logan Huntzberger despite Logan being engaged and Rory being in a "its complicated" relationship with hilariously forgettable boyfriend Paul.

"Spring" finds Rory still seeking stability in her life and Lorelai dealing with existential crises regarding the inn that she owns. The elder Gilmore wants to expand the business but literally is hemmed in on all sides; she additionally finds that not even a real-life celebrity chef (sadly not Connecticut-dwelling Martha Stewart) can fill the toque of Sookie in the hotel kitchen.

Adoration of Archive and regard for "girls" make characterizing the almost unwatchable third episode of "Life" as a "cruel, cruel summer" distressing. This one begins with mother and boomerang daughter lounging around the municipal pool making not very funny critical remarks about their fellow patrons of this public facility; reasons that this falls short are that neither reasonably attractive mother nor daughter are cover girls themselves and because it hardly as if they are at a fancy country club that the hoi polloi have invaded. Additionally, "girls" is based on the concept that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way.

"Summer" deserves further criticism for dusting off a sitcom chestnut and beating that concept to death. A town meeting in which Taylor discusses the community staging a play that summarizes the history of the community is amusing and includes the highlight of cast member Sally Struthers of "All in the Family" commenting about "B-List" actors.

The initial scenes from the play are amusing and a proper length; stretching the joke of bad actors performing dreadful material in a minimal budget production joke into at least 15 minutes (and seeming like much longer) is painful. Sherman-Palladino inflicts further harm in milking a subsequent critique scene into dust.

"Fall" nicely gets things back on track; an attempt at a film-inspired journey to achieve inner peace has a new-and-improved Lorelai mend her most recently broken fence with her mother and make peace with Rory following a very meta disagreement. This leads to a big episode ending event that is very true to the "Girls" spirit; the same is true regarding the highly surprising very last line that provides a cliffhanger.

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

'The War Show' DVD: Documenting the Evolution of the Syrian War

The beautiful friendship between Film Movement and Bond/360 that is spawning a plethora of compelling documentaries includes the timely November 28, 2017 DVD release "The War Show," which focuses on the efforts to oust Assad from the Syrian equivalent of the Oval Office. Like all Movement-360 joint joints, the compelling aspect enters in the form of putting personal faces on the documented historic events.

The ordinary Jane who puts a human face on world events this time is radio host Obaidah Zytoon; as the press materials for "War" state, she and her friends film their involvement in the Arab Spring protests in March 2011 to maintain a record of the events.

The following YouTube clip of a festival trailer for "War" provides a strong sense of the candidness of the film.

Zytoon and her filmmaking partner Andreas Dalsgaard additionally provide profiles of the rest of the group. The informal leader is a dental student whom Zytoon credits for keeping the teeth of the friends healthy. There also are an architecture student and a veteran of protests who put their skills to good use.

The most appealing protestors are a couple who are very much in love; the thoughtful and exceptionally devoted man particularly is a dream come true for straight women and gay men.

The scene stealer is orphaned tiny dog Fifi. One of the best segments in "War" centers around bathing this group mascot.

Another memorable moment has a fierce tween girl whose desire to not symbolically "suffocate" prompts not joining the rest of the group in hiding her face while loudly and proudly chanting that Assad must go.

The next portion of "War" documents the actual fighting and the internal debate regarding the nature of the government that should replace the Assad regime; the primary divide is whether it should be based on religious beliefs or a secular system.

Other central themes of "War" are the related censorship and propaganda by the oppressive powers-that-be. It seems that carrying a camera is as serious (if not worse) offense than toting a gun. We further see how soldiers clear areas to present a false image that the populace is perfectly content with the state of the union.

An expected sad portion of the film near the end of "War" is learning the fate of the 20-somethings whom the audience comes to know and like. The majority of these folks who bravely step up to have their voices heard tragically fulfill the prophecy in the (reviewed) Film Movement release "Time to Die" that certain types of people end up either in the cemetery or jail.

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

4K Video Killed the Multiplex Star

Regular Unreal TV readers know that this review site prides itself on avoiding being bloggy; an example is that sharing an opinion on "Citizen Kane" does not require details regarding the viewing of the film or what wine is appropriate to drink during this activity. The corollary to this is that the rare diversions fully into "Blogland" only occur only when your not-so-humble reviewer feels that doing so greatly benefits the common good.

The final bit of housekeeping before mucking about in the aforementioned dicey neighborhood is to mention that Sony Electronics did not provide one iota of direct or indirect benefit for this article and did not even have any notice of it.

A desire to remain on the outskirts of Blogland as much as possible is behind not sharing many details regarding the increasingly regular customer service issues at multipleexes. This is on top of the standard downsides of paying $10/person or more for "bargain" matinees, either spending at least that much on over-priced concessions or experiencing feelings of being a drug mule by sneaking in contraband.

An amusing aspect of  the smuggling this was having a soda bottle fall out of a jacket pocket at the ticket counter; a less amusing anecdote involves being subjected to a tote bag searched and having Chex Mix discovered being considered finding several kilos of cocaine. One must wonder if theater chains are going to start training Milk Dud sniffing dogs.

This leads to going into a theater that almost always is either too hot or too cold and then goes too far in the opposite direction when the manager compensates. Introducing water vapor into the theater likely would create precipitation during this transition.

Additional joy comes in the form of fellow moviegoers gabbing throughout and creating a sea of glowing rectangles by using their phones just as constantly.

This overall experience repeating itself  yesterday while attending a screening that inspired stating DAMON (not a typo.), that's a PAYNEFULLY (again, no typo.) HORRIBLE movie prompted this article about downsizing your film watching experience.

The point to all this is offering a solution that ties back to the disclaimer regarding Sony. Both disappointment regarding two mid-priced replacement televisions in the wake of an electric storm taking out an awesome Panasonic set before its time and a windfall prompted purchasing a 42" Sony 4K UHD television several months ago. Not very subtle hinting resulted in Santa leaving a Sony stereo 4K player under the tree earlier this week.

Most folks know where this is going, but the final word before getting there is that this seems to be a case in which Sony is the only one to master the relevant technology. The company has a warranted reputation for charging unduly large amounts for products that are comparable to that of the competition. The current sad truth is that every other video electronics manufacturer has cut corners, leaving Sony as the sole one catering to the upscale market. It is worth mentioning that personal experience with Samsung televisions and Blu-ray players has been particularly negative.

The aforementioned point is that biting the bullet and purchasing a roughly $600 Sony 4K UHD set and a roughly $149 Sony stereo 4 player is worth the ultimately savings and satisfaction regarding only enduring the cineplex in the rare cases in which the technical and the narrative quality of a film warrant doing so.

Size does matter to an extent. The minimal benefit from marginally larger screen size did not warrant the $200 cost increase regarding the Sony. Similarly, even a 42" screen watched from six feet away is comparable to watching a much larger screen from a couple of hundred feet away.

The general point regarding this is that the highly recommended transition is an inevitable development in the evolution dating back to televisions being common in homes. It also reflects our current society in which we do not have to walk out the front door to get every consumer good known to personkind and easily can have people who are promiscuous by profession or personality stop by to satisfy both your vanilla and more erotic desires.

Even Blu-ray discs look and sound very rich and have depth that is borderline 3D when played using the aforementioned equipment. On top of this, the roughly $15 price for 4K discs a few months after they are released a few months after hitting the cineplex make them a good alternative to a date night, let alone a family outing. You further see the film when you want to and as many times as desired literally from the comfort of your own home.

I am eager to hear the thoughts of the converted and of folks who are committed to having their over-priced soda and popcorn pried from their cold dead hands. Please either comment below, email me, or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'Furious Desires' DVD: Five Short Films on Lust and Love

TLA Releasing goes full art house regarding the September 26, 2017 DVD release of the gay-themed 2017 Spanish short-film anthology "Furious Desires." These five short subjects address very aspects of longing and devotion with heavy doses of relevant messages for anyone even near the gay end of the Kinsey scale.

The following YouTube of the clever music video style trailer for "Desires" offers a glimpse of the good style and sensual aspects of the film.

"Daytime Doorman" strongly starts things with a tale of an openly gay man pursuing a friendship with benefits with a straight married doorman  at his apartment complex. The complications extend beyond the public sexuality of the doorman to issues related to class that include the doorman being good enough for flip-flop sex but apparently not good enough to socialize with the friends of the resident.

The smooth flow of the films begins with second entry "Xavier," which involves the father of a young teen boy noticing the longing glances that his son is directing at older boys. Watching the boy gaze adoringly provides great entertainment.

The very cute "The Tigers Fight" centers around an annual festival with a strong courting ritual. Much of the action involves discussion of one straight relationship moving to the next level; the climax involves two boys in adorable festival-oriented outfits facing off in an encounter regarding which one lad is understandably very nervous and the other is initially amusingly naive.

The series ends with the very strong "Loris is Fire." This one centers around a cute 20-something couple, A central focus of the action is one of the boys trying to hook up with a more experienced man for the sake of the aforementioned relationship.

The nice thing of all this is it younger guys should see themselves and those in their lives in the characters and older men will get a good sense of nostalgia.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

'After Image' BD: Fascinating Biopic of Avant-Garde Polish Artist Clashing with Communist Leaders

The Film Movement October 2017 Blu-ray release of the 2016 biopic "Afterimage" is an ideal melding of the traditional Movement releases of fictional foreign art house films and the release of fascinating documentaries of real-life individuals through a new partnership with Bond 360. Examples of this soulmate relationship include the (reviewed) "Gun Runners" about Kenyan criminals trading in their guns for training for marathons and the (also reviewed) "Karl Marx City" in which an East German woman searches for the truth about her deceased father.

Legendary director Andrzej Wajada chooses the life of equally renowned Polish painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski as the subject of his final film. Simply being a highly influential artist whose theory that objects that we see leave an imprint on our eyes provides ""Afterimage" its name warrants a biopic on the life of Strzeminski. His hugely uneven battles with the Communist regime in the wake of WWII makes the life of a formerly literally good soldier a story that must be told.

The regard for this film include it being the official Polish submission for best foreign film for the 89th Academy Awards.

The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN trailer for "Afterimage" highlights the intensity of the subject and the beauty of the film.

The Strzeminski at the beginning of "Afterimage" is a happy and beloved professor at the National School of Fine Arts in Lodz. Early scenes of him showing his jubilant nature includes frolicking the likes of which most students any where never see. This painter clearly is the Yoda to his young Jedis, whose devotion becomes increasingly clear throughout the film.

A highly symbolic scene regarding what it is to come also occurs early in the film; a frustrated Strzeminski slashes a huge propaganda banner that is blocking needed light from coming in his apartment window. This prompts a quick and aggressive response.

Strzeminski refusals to sacrifice his artistic and personal integrity to promote the new regime brings him additional pain; he is ousted from the union of which he is a founding member, has his work destroyed, and finds himself destitute and humiliated. Any relief that his students help him achieve is temporary before being sadistically wrested away.

The adoring students include pretty younger blonde Hania, who seems to be the pet of the teacher within a couple of meanings of that word.

The final scenes are the most dramatic as our artistic genius literally is treated as street trash; this contributes to the melodrama at the end as he is offered an opportunity to ease the pain from his broken body and spirit. The outcome whether Strzeminski cooperates or does not sacrifice his principles provides a powerful conclusion. Wajda either sends the dystopian message that resistance to the oppressive party regime is futile no matter how hard you try or shows that Strzeminski is a martyr who chooses almost unbearable suffering over allowing himself and his art to be used for propaganda.

The Blu-ray extra consists of a feature-length documentary in which Wajda discusses his work.

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Rabbit Hill Provides Guide for Not Getting Inn Trouble When Selecting a Small Hotel

A recent disappointing experience at an inn that shall remain shameless has stirred longstanding thoughts about an article designed to avoid pitfalls regarding B&Bs and other small properties. Thoughts regarding how to present this led to fond memories of the (reviewed) Rabbit Hill Inn in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The busy bunnies there do it right; the contrast in accolades and associations between that terrific place and the more recent destination demonstrates the difference that this makes.

A brief background that helps explain the love for the Rabbit Hill Inn is that the first stay predates Unreal TV 1.0 and 2.0. The then significant other of your future not-so-humble reviewer was looking for a place to celebrate a milestone birthday of the latter. Knowing that I love animals prompted paying particular attention to the Rabbit Hill. The sharing of that find prompting an exclamation of "BUNNY!" sealed the deal.

The Rabbit Hill remained a fond memory until history repeated itself in the form of the current more highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer looking for a place for a do-over celebration of an even bigger milestone birthday at an even larger train wreck of an inn than the recent lodging establishment. As the aforementioned article discusses, resident innkeepers Brian and Leslie Mulchay more than made up for the epic fail at the aforementioned clip joint.

"Jeopardy!" Principle

The most important aspect of picking an inn relates to the primary rule when literally or figuratively playing the home version of the game show "Jeopardy!." Always trust your first instinct.

When first contacting an inn, either not hearing back for several days and/or reaching an unfriendly person is a very bad sign that typically warrants looking elsewhere. This is even more true if the representative does not answer questions about the inn, the room. or the general area. However, the demanding nature of the industry makes a polite request to hold or to otherwise wait very valid.

Similarly, having your spidey sense tingle at any preliminary stage of a stay calls for taking all practical steps to find alternative lodging. It seems that just as many negative Trip Advisor reviews include the phrase "we decided to stay anyway" as do letters in another publication begin with "I never thought that this would happen to me ..."

Speaking of Trip Advisor ...

Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor and similar review sites have value but should not be taken as the gospel truth. In fairness to inns, some guests use these forums to grind unwarranted axes.

In fairness to guests, many inns manipulate these reviews. This requires taking positive and negative reviews alike with a grain of salt. However, properties such as the Rabbit Hill Inn that have more than 1,000 glowing reviews and very few even neutral ones usually are a safe bet.

The biggest problem is that less reputable inns coerce guests into removing negative reviews. The corporate owner (more on this below) of the train wreck whose name I dare not speak actually sent lengthy correspondence via certified mail thinly threatening legal action and more dire consequences regarding a subsequently deleted review, which was honest and provided specific examples. A bizarre aspect of this was wrath related to the review noting that this establishment (with meeting rooms and a business center) that advertised itself as a historic property seemed more like a conference hotel than a cozy retreat.

Trip Advisor will respond to reports of such coercion, but that sadly can enhance the claim of a property owner that negative comments are actionable.

On the other side of the coin, properties can unduly encourage positive reviews. The Rabbit Hill Inn and other gems invite guests to write online reviews; lesser places such as the recent not-so-grand hotel reward guests for these postings.

I confess that an offer of points in a loyalty program for the recent property prompted a pre-trip Trip Advisor review that reflected then-positive thoughts but that I slightly embellished to maintain a good relationship with that inn.

On a more general level, it is advised (pun intended) to look for patterns Most negative reviews mentioning the same flaws likely have credibility but should be weighed against your own priorities and travel experiences. Many B&Bs get slammed online for not having televisions and coffee makers in the rooms. Folks seeking such amenities likely will prefer a more cookie-cutter hotel.

At the same time, positive reviews that are posted soon after a negative one and mirror the criticism in the prior post have little credibility.

A personal anecdote regarding mirroring relates to staying at a place that was much more boarding house than upscale inn. I gave the property a negative review based on specified flaws; a five-star review praised the EXACT same elements. For example, my commenting about the only hanging space being two 50s-era cloakroom style hooks on the wall was praised as providing a historic touch.

An innkeeper responding to negative reviews is another good sign; such replies being personalized and appropriately apologetic is another good sign. Clearly rote language such as merely stating "we are disappointed that you did not enjoy your stay; please give us another try" is not a terrific sign.

The WORST response is attacking the guest. Even being the most obnoxious individual alive, requesting the impossible, and leaving the room in a state that looks as if a heavy metal band spent a week there does not warrant expressing that in a reply to a review.

Corporate Ownership

The same humor related to a Fortune 100 corporation owning a subsidiary that makes what are marketed as home-style baked goods applies in a less amusing manner to the very personal art of running an inn.

On a positive note, the Mulchays do it right by living on the property and being available from before sunup to well after sundown. They further have an always well-qualified assistant innkeeper, chef, and copious support staff to free them up to be charming and to step in the very rare case in which something goes awry and the even more unlikely situation in which a staff member cannot handle it.

On a negative note, corporate ownership of an inn has rarely worked in my experience; even an absentee owner often does not make for a good stay. An owner typically is the only one with a strong interest in the property and the authority to make a necessary change. The exception is having an onsite manager who either grows up in a hotel-management environment or has a natural talent for his or her job.

The personal account this time relates to carefully selecting a room at a B & B but being assigned less desirable lodgings. Trying to be a good sport resulted in a sleepless first night and a request to move the second night; this also showed the benefit of bringing a printed copy of a reservation when booking an individualized room at an inn.

The resident owner initially denied the request to move but apologized and allowed it after his own records confirmed the error. It almost is certain that a manager would have denied the request and that even a non-resident owner (who almost always is in the game solely for the profit and refuses to take a role in running the place) would have ignored feedback regarding the matter.


The aforementioned individualized nature of rooms at most inns makes selecting the room that suits your needs very important. Having been in every room at the Rabbit Hill allows qualifying this statement with the comment that there is not a bad one in the hutch.

A related aspect of this is conducting a cost-benefit analysis; a no-brainer is spending another $25/night to avoid sharing a bathroom with one or more complete strangers. More thought is required regarding paying a slight premium if it makes a difference between spending your special weekend away in a shabby broom closet and having a better experience in a cozy but well-appointed room.

A related hint is that a great bargain through an online site is very risky. This increases the odds of getting the worst room in the joint. The anecdote this time is literally needing to hop on the bed at the aforementioned train wreck to allow the other person to get out the door.

Another aspect of this is that size hugely matters when the inn tries to rob Peter to pay Paul. One negative aspect of the recent stay was the bait-and-switch related to the inn keeping the door open to a gorgeous well-decorated room with a spacious and gleaming bathroom and our room likely being less nice than it was when the inn was a boarding house.

Conversely, a stay in what probably once was a broom closet at the Washington-Jefferson Hotel in Hell's Kitchen still was great. The single bed was very comfortable and had indescribably good linens and pillows; further the bathroom (which was larger than the bedroom) was just as luxurious as the facilities in many visited five-star hotels. I knew that I was getting a cozy accommodation, but the otherwise wow factor of the room more than compensated for the only drawer space being under the bed and having to store my suitcase on top of the smallish armoire.

Louden Clear

Most of the above brings us to an aptly "TV Land" analogy regarding the ideal inn. The '90s sitcom "Newhart" about transplanted New Yorkers Dick and Joanna Louden moving to a beautiful but quirky Vermont town to run a B & B provides an idealized image of such establishments sans the lazy maid and scary woodsman brothers who drop by every day. The Rabbit Hill and its ilk greatly outshine this "How-to" author and his sweater-loving trophy wife.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

'The White King' DVD: This Boy's Miserable Life in Totalitarian State

The Omnibus Entertainment division of indie film god Film Movement notably contributes to the its-scary-because-it-could-happen-here dystopian lore of the 21st century with the December 5, 2017 DVD and VOD releases of the 2016 Jonathan Pryce drama "The White King." The immersive totalitarian state vibe begins with the Frank Miller graphic novel with a twist of Soviet propaganda style of the opening credits that show how the Homeland comes to power.

The next portion of the narrative shows 12 year-old Djata enjoying a blissfully ignorant existence in this 30 year-old dictatorship (complete with omnipresent security cameras) with his loving parents Peter and Hannah. The real-world crashes in when the authorities show up asserting a desire to bring Peter in for questioning, but that man and his wife know that he is about to take a one-way trip to a gulag.

Some of the strongest symbolism occurs early in the film when Djata and his friends are happily playing with a beloved soccer ball until two much larger brothers with highly symbolic names roar up in a "Mad Max" style ATV and horrifically brutalize the boys before taking off with the ball and daring Djata to come after it. The significance of this encounter extends beyond the all-powerful state imposing its will on the weaker members of society to illustrating how the actual government branding Peter a traitor throws Djata to the wolves.

Jonathan Pryce of two many timeless classics to mention enters the picture in the role of paternal grandfather/(retired) Colonel Fitz. His primary scenes revolve around Djata having an informal Bar Mitzvah on his birthday. The rituals include a too horrific to watch shooting lesson, hearing about how Peter pays several high prices for choosing Hannah over a phenomenal military career, and even more symbolically being charged with restoring the family honor.

One of the most wonderfully odd scenes in "King" has Hannah using a false pretense to meet with General Maude (veteran character actor Greta Scacchi) to solicit her assistance. Djata wandering the home of this military leader evokes a very strong sense of falling down the rabbit hole.

A scene that seems like straight out of "The Lord of the Flies" has Djata once again facing off against the brothers who delight in tormenting him. These older boys literally adopt a scorched earth policy to assert their dominance.

Yet another iconic tale comes into play as Djata travels to the mythical founder of the new society only to discover the true nature of the fabled amassed property behind the curtain. This triggers the final events of the film that provide some hope for the future while showing that any real improvement is far off.

Borrowing time-tested elements of real and reel-life gives "King" much of the power that makes it a "must-see" cautionary tale for our times. Propaganda is king and opposing sides seem to focus on crushing the opposition to first obtain and then maintain power.

If these comments warrant dragging your not-so-humble reviewer off in the middle of the night, the two requests are that "Kitty" comes along and that we are brought to The Village where "The Prisoner" lives; having a gorgeous villa with free maid and food service is not a bad life for a vocal malcontent.

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

'A Puppy for Christmas' DVD: Millennial Reporter In Downward Spiral Finds Holidays a Bitch

This article on the recent Monarch Home Entertainment DVD release of the Hallmark Channel style 2016 holiday romcom "A Puppy for Christmas" completes the plan that the review of the similar Monarch release "Christmas With the Andersons" outlines for making the nice list; one can only hope that Santa sees this and has an extra Sony stereo 4K player.

The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Puppy" perfectly conveys the cuteness and the humor of the film. Narration regarding "the surprises you never see coming" is an inadvertently hilarious element that makes this promo. even more fun.

Santa considerations aside, both films are tasty sugar cookies for the eyes and the ears. "Andersons" revolves around a nouveau riche couple that gets a 2010s reality check, and "Puppy" centers around 30ish modern-day Lois Lane Noelle, whose personal and professional downward spiral coincides with adopting adorable titular pooch Buster.

The movie begins with magazine journalist Noelle happyish living with persnickety yuppie "suit" Todd and making progress on an article about the secret to a long-term relationship. Her initial mild dislike of "outdoor man" adventure journalist Liam essentially seals the deal regarding those two.

Finding herself homeless and having a career crisis near the end of December prompts Noelle to accept the invitation of always cheerful Liam for her and the "Marley" like mischievous and destructive Buster to spend the holidays with him at his rural childhood home. This colonial in the woods is the Christmas tree farm of the grandfather who raised Liam and his assertive lesbian sister Joyce, who is attracted to the fresh meat.

Throwing Joyce in the mix adds a nice touch of edge to the typically very traditional Hallmark/Monarch fare. Her highlights include blatantly getting Noelle drunk on moonshine and riding a snowmobile into the woods to chop down a Christmas tree and come roaring home with it in tow like a large woodland creature whom she killed with a crossbow.

Additional spice comes in the form of a widowed cougar who likes 'em young and hunky. An arguably PG post-coital scene adds edge regarding this aspect of "Puppy."

Foreshadowing in addition to Liam and Noelle starting as friendlyish co-workers comes in the form of the farm facing a foreclosure that involves turning the property into a resort and there being a "rainy day" fund that no one can find.

It is equally predictable that Todd has a change of heart and attempt to reconcile with the one who got away; an additional wrinkle that further distinguishes "Puppy" from other Hallmark/Monarch fare is that he also plays a role regarding developments beyond his personal relationship with Noelle.

The Hallmark/Monarch pattern continues with Todd arriving on the scene just as Noelle and Liam are close to sealing their own deal; the entertaining extended climax involves Buster playing hero, a last-minute (predictable) treasure hunt, and an obligatory scene that makes Todd look foolish. An epilogue shows that the good guys predictably make positive changes in their lives (Joyelle?) and that Todd ends up where he deserves.

The aforementioned edges make this one a small fraction more adult than other holiday fare in the Monarch catalog. It is a bit more for folks 12-to-80 than 8-to-80.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

'Center of My World' DVD: Delightful Germanic Emo Gay Fairy Tale

An awesome aspect of the TLA Releasing DVDs of international films in which a confused and/or angsty teen boy in love with the boy next door is that these movies avoid the cliches of the Disneyfied Logo Channel versions of stories in which the lad with unrequited love has doe eyes and freshly scrubbed skin who gleefully (pun intended) gets the jock in the end (no pun intended) and is adored by all. The cast in the Releasing films typically look and behave more like the actual boy next door and just as often end up with the same heartbreak that everyone across the Kinsey Spectrum experiences.

This trend makes the Releasing October 10, 2017 DVD of the terrifically quirky 2016 German drama "Center of My World" an incredibly great surprise. Our narrator/emo teen is 16ish Phil, who tells us right off that he is like most quiet guys his age in that he enjoys reading and hanging out at home. Blonde and smooth Phil portrayor Louis Hoffmann would fit right in at Logo if his eyes and his smile were a little wider; his good looks, great humor, and caring nature would prompt many QBs to dump the head cheerleader and start playing for the other team.

Despite the aforementioned cliches and the Logo-style plot regarding the relationship with new boy in town Nicholas, "Center" is notable for retaining an edge that makes it more of a Grimm version of fully gay-themed "Perks of Being a Wallflower"  or "Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl" emo films than a Disneyfied version of such a story.

The following YouTube clip of a "World" trailer highlights the well-blended contrasts in the film; every scene of Phil with a beard made of candy sprinkles is met with a polar opposite image.

Phil first displays his full charm and wit when he describes his coerced three-weeks at language camp as being like someone who is allergic to cats spending that amount of time surrounded by felines. These early scenes also use stock footage, children's drawings, and other clever visuals to tell the story of Glass, who is the mother of Phil and twin sister Dianne, becoming pregnant without the benefit of marriage at 17 and leaving the baby daddy behind to move into an inherited "fairy tale castle."

Some of the most cute scenes have roughly six year-old Phil and Dianne trying to learn the identity of their father and hear their mother weave a fairy tale about him. Another notable scene on a similar theme has modern-day Phil once more using clever visuals to put his growing up in a house with two females and no permanent father figure into context.

Not very subtle symbolism also enters "Center" early in the film as Phil learns of a massive wind (rather than ice) storm that causes tremendous devastation while he is at camp. Any early sign that things have changed is that normally joined-at-that-hip Dianne is pleasant on their reunion but does not express an iota of the expected excitement on her reunion with her brother from the same mother.

Phil gets a much warm welcome from punkish outspoken fag hag Kat, who provides blatant foreshadowing by telling her BFF that aforementioned new boy Nicholas will be joining them in school. The response of Phil on first seeing his receptive Prince Charming is a cute aspect of this fairy tale about a prince and a princess living in a castle with a queen whose unconventional manner makes her the town outcast.

Additional cuteness with equally predictable foreshadowing has a roughly eight year-old Phil lose a snow globe with the most significance in a movie since its "Citizen Kane" counterpart on a chance encounter with a young Nicholas. Seeing the love in the eyes of Phil and the way cool response of Glass is adorable.

The fairy tale continues with Nicholas making the first overt move that advances the relationship from Phil admiring from not so afar to a gay teen fantasy encounter in the school locker room. This leads to our princes having to hide their love and have trysts in a "shed" in which many of us would happily live.

Some of the aforementioned edge enters the picture regarding the advice that Phil receives regarding telling Nicholas that he loves him. The voice of experience tells him that Nicholas not saying it back would hurt Phil and hearing those special words in reply would create doubt regarding if Nicholas is only providing that lip service to continue receiving a different form of that service from Phil. This reflects the larger issue related to any sexual relationship in which one person is in love and the other person primarily is in it to get some.

Those of us who have been on the wrong end of a lopsided relationship can relate to the rude awakening that Phil receives on witnessing his worst nightmare in the middle of an incredibly thoughtful gesture.

Even more Grimm-style darkness enters the picture regarding the developments in the Dianne B-story. The reveals near the end of "World" go beyond the believed ability of Dianne to communicate with domesticated and feral creatures. Learning the truth behind a tragedy in the past of our characters and how that story comes out is pure psychological thriller. An actual sleeping beauty being an element enhances the fairy tale vibe.

Disney and Logo do re-enter the picture in the final scenes in which a partially healed Phil moves on to his next great adventure that the audience hopes leads to fulfilling the prediction in "World" that this boy becomes a great man.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

'Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back' DVD: Italian Enfant Terrible of Museum Set is Artful Dodger

The Film Movement-Bond/360 December 5, 2017 joint release of the 2016 documentary "Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back" provides further reason to celebrate this perfect partnership. Like the recent (reviewed) "Karl Marx City" and (also reviewed) "Gun Runners" (plus a handful of other documentaries), what can be considered Film 360 introduces viewers to compelling individuals whose lives scream for big-budget biopics. One can only hope that a museum, library, or university runs a festival of these films.

The "character" this time is the titular native Italian conceptual artist, who is equal parts sculpture and con artist. We also learn that this "real live boy" who grows up in poverty has a strong interest in "Pinocchio."

Watching the following YouTube clip of the official trailer for "Cattelan" is a sure-fire way to want to get the film.

The related themes of "Cattelan" are that the our subject has an awesomely twisted sensibility and that you should never believe anything that this man whose nose must be miles long represents. Prime examples of the former are a piece in which a life-sized squirrel is slumped over a mid-20th century style kitchen table after committing suicide and a better known piece that depicts Pope John Paul II under a meteor. Hearing the back stories of the pieces from the sister of Cattelan and from an expert on him and his work provides very insightful context.

Despite the fun of hearing about these two pieces, not hearing much about a well-known work that has real and fictional heroes face off against evil counterparts is disappointing. Director Maura Axelrod compensates for this by including an interview with the first roommate of immigrant starving artist Cattelan.

The con artist aspects of the life of Cattelan are what transform "Cattelan" from an interesting film about a creative artist with a dark side to a movie regarding which one can imagine Christian Bale producing, directing, and starring. This starts with the young man as an artist who decides to eliminate the middle man regarding obtaining prominent exposure in the art world. Another early incident that involves a creative block provides "Cattelan" with its title.

The delight continues with a huge (but precedented) hoax on viewers that elicits equal laughter and a WTF response. This also shows that Cattelan knows how to influence people but is not so great at making friends. Part of the awesomeness of the latter is that he is not concerned about playing well with others.

A climax that works equally well as a reel-world highlight is a highly risky proposal for a retrospective exhibit of the work of Cattelan. The practical aspects of this could cause the exhibit (and the building housing it) to literally collapse on itself; this occurring in the real world means that a Hollywood ending (which is less interesting than the potential for massive destruction and for the wiping out of roughly 20 years' worth of work) is not guaranteed. A follow up that essentially is a big beefy middle finger at the folks who risk all in supporting this venture is fantastic.

Axelrod ends this portrait of this scamp on a perfect note; the final scene in the closing credits shows that she does not follow the pure documentary form. However, the charm of this outtake leaves you smiling.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

'OzLand' DVD/VOD: 'Of Mice and Men' Lyman Frank Baum Style

A spectacular element of "OzLand," which is available on DVD and the streaming service that the Wicked Witch of the Pacific Northwest owns, is that the obsession that a central character develops on finding The Wonderful World of Oz is comparable to the response that most people will experience on watching this film by producer/director/writer/cinematographer Michael Williams. Folks already familiar with the (reviewed) more recent Williams joint "The Atoning" will understand this enthusiasm; Williams being kind and gracious in real life is a bonus.

One person wearing so many hats in a production usually warrants jokes regarding whether they also build the sets, provide craft services, and clad the actor in their personal clothes. However, the 27 year-old Williams performs every function well and likely could have stepped in the role of drifter Emri. The POSSIBILITY that this beautifully shot film will come out on Blu-ray is exciting.

Williams does provide a treat in the form of the (separately sold) soundtrack of the country music in the film; these songs achieve the ideal of subtly helping set the mood.

The numerous festival accolades, including the Best Feature and Best Cinematography honors at the 2015 Magnolia Independent Film Festival, validates the high praise in this review.

The following YouTube clip of the "Ozland" trailer is guaranteed to elicit the aforementioned excitement regarding the film.

"OzLand" opens with ruggedly handsome Emri and dreamy innocent Leif walking through the beautifully shot post-apocalyptic (presumably Shenandoah Valley) world in which virtually everyone else has dried up. This modern-day George (Emri) and Lennie (Leif) from the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men are drifting through this world trying to make sense of what happened while following the advice of Horace Greeley and The Pet Shop Boys to go west in search of a better existence.

A horribly missed opportunity occurs when big brother figure George tells Leif to focus on survival; Leif not smiling and responding "I'm your lover, not your rival" is an almost painful omission.

The magic begins when a typical exploration of a devastated structure covered in thick layer of dust scores Leif a copy of Oz. This excited literate man subsequently reciting passages from Oz to illiterate Emri entertains him but does not prompt him to share the belief of Leif that the story is real and that these men are living it.

Although the optimism that Leif experiences is not infectious, the introduction to the wonderful world of  Oz colors (no pun intended) the remaining adventures of our "leftovers." At the heart of it, the Depression-era tornado in the Judy Garland film provides an explanation for the substantial rapid decline in the population of at least the southern United States in "Ozland."

Watching the glee of Leif on meeting a tin man, finding the abandoned home of a lion and munchkins, encountering a scarecrow who is more Christ figure than lovable dope, and finding himself hot on the trail of Dorothy reinforces the sense of wanting to take a road trip with Leif portrayor Zack Ratkovich; his horrifying encounter with uberscary flying monkeys makes you want to protect him.

Ratzovich particularly shines in a scene in which Leif and Emri discuss what they want from the wizard. This provides further insight (and sympathy) regarding the character.

Emri portrayor Glenn Payne also plays his part well. He is a kind and patient protector of his naive little buddy; his special moments include comically acting out the grotesque version of the tin man that the 1939 film Disneyfies.

The Mice vibe is particularly strong in a scene late in the film; the boys are near death when Emri discovers that Leif has been holding out for a fantastical reason. Many of us would have killed Leif out of frustration and/or to protect him from an existence worse than a quick demise.

The climax provides an awesome end to a film with no bad scenes. Only one boy utilizes a chance to go home; post-viewing communication with Williams points out that this rapture involves a subtle element of ascension.

Williams takes a note from the DCU and the Marvel Universe in including a stinger halfway through the closing credits. Our survivor is continuing his journey with a new special companion who is very true to the spirits of both the ascended partner and Oz.

The literally final moment of the film is another reflection of the kind and loving nature of Williams; he dedicates the movie to 31 year-old crew member Casey Spradling, who dies soon after finishing "Ozland." One can easily imagine Williams and the rest of the team missing him most of all after separating to go on to their next projects.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

'Galavant' CS: DVD: Once Upon A Time Into the Woods

Visual Entertainment awesomely expands its range from retro cult classics, such as the (reviewed) Garry Marshall '70s sitcom "Angie," to modern cult classics with the recent DVD release of the complete 2015-16 ABC musical-comedy series "Galavant."

This witty show with a clever concept is such an awesome example of the style of ABC parent company Disney that one can only hope that the prediction in an amusing tune by Disney songwriters Alan Menken (who makes somewhat of a cameo) and Glenn Slater that the series will end up on a basic cable network comes true.

The following YouTube clip of an extended ABC promo. for the series provides an excellent sense of the fun and excitement of this creatively successful venture.

"Galavant" centers around heroic quests by the titular knight (Joshua Sasse) in this 1261-set series with catchy show tunes as accompaniment; an S2 reveal regarding his first name is less monumental than learning the full names of MacGyver and Kramer but nonetheless is a fun moment.

The series opens with evil King Richard running off with love interest Madalena on the cusp of that damsel in apparent distress becoming Mrs. Galavant. That sends out hero into a downward spiral until princess with a secret agenda Isabella recruits this reluctant hero to travel with her to her conquered land of Valencia for him to reunite with Madalena and for Isabella to get her parents back on the throne to which their high birth entitles them.

Much of S1 revolves around this epic journey on which Galavant must build himself back up and survive perils that include a jousting contest and landlocked pirates to get the girl.

Arriving on the scene leads to several surprises for all and ultimately a planned duel that includes humor related to royals bravely making such a challenge knowing that they will have a disposable subject actually fight.

An especially rousing number is a highlight of the S1 finale that sees an unlikely couple literally sail off into the sunset together and another character facing an arranged marriage that arguably is perverse for reasons that extend beyond being between close blood relatives.

S2 takes on a strongish "Game of Thrones" vibe as events build toward a three-kingdom war that largely is instigated to amuse a royal. This all starts with another rousing musical number and soon leads to a stripped-down Galavant being at the mercy of a disco-loving new queen to enter the scene.

An awesome element of "The Princess Bride" enters the picture regarding an absurd war between giants and dwarves who are more alike than they realize. Throwing in a group of "mostly dead" characters and much anticipation regarding fun in storming a castle not inconceivably contributes to this vibe.

The writers visit even more well-known ground in comically delving into sibling and father-son relations. A pure classic sitcom episode has Galavant going along with the ruse while visiting the parents of squire Sid, who told his actual sire that he was the knight and that our hero is the servant.

Much of the humor in spoken and sung word relates to bringing a 2017 sensibility to the 13th century. Examples include Xanax the magician being an expert at getting people to relate. We further get several celebrity cameos that include John Stamos portraying a fellow modern-day hunk.

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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

'The Tormenting' DVD: Ghost Story for a New Millennial

The Breaking Glass Pictures November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 horror film "The Tormenting" (nee "Poignant") is a recent example of the talent of Breaking for finding edgy movies with a special element. In this case, a film about a ghost haunting an innocent has surprising turns and substance as well as clever humor.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Tormenting" aptly highlights the horror aspects of the film while providing a teaser about what makes it a thriller with something extra.

The opening scenes (STRAIGHT out of "The Shining" and SO many other thrillers) of young medical researcher Amy driving on a windy rural road on her way to the abandoned building that virtually every audience member knows will trigger horrific experiences will create a different form of dread in audience members. The better news is that what immediately ensues is much better than anyone can anticipate; this leads to an even better film watching experience.

The focal point of the paranormal activity is an abandoned hospital that Amy is considering as the site of a healthcare facility; the aforementioned drive is to check out property with friend/potential investor Melissa and their entourage that includes the horndog/goofball brother of Melissa.

The aforementioned sibling is on the receiving end of the most intense initial brunt of the visit when his wandering off brings him in contact with the shadowy figure of a girl.

The next property visit intensifies in that the brother experiences the worst physical pain that can be inflicted on a man and obtains first-hand proof that the need to perform at least one bodily function survives death.

This follow-up transfers the attention of the spirit to Amy, who ultimately experiences horrific dreams that seem to be images related to the circumstances of the death of the young girl. The creepiest of these nocturnal intrusions involve what looks like a ritual rape.

Both a descent into madness and a desire to help the clearly restless spirit find peace prompts Amy to use this nightmares as the basis of an investigation.

This amateur detective work takes "Tormenting" in the aforementioned more unique direction; Amy learns that her going insane does not mean that she is crazy. A relevant missing persons report puts Amy in contact with a police detective with whom she works to crack a cold case.

The mixed end result provides the predicted closure regarding the circumstances of the death of the girl; however, we also learn that the kids of today are never happy.

The DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes feature with interesting insight into directing actors and staging a scene. We further get a look at what occurs beyond the range of the camera.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

'Time to Die' BD: South of the Border 'High Noon'

The Film Movement Classics division of indie and/or foreign film god Film Movement goes above and beyond regarding the November 14, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1966 Western with substance "Time to Die." This film based on a story by Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez and dialogue by fellow literary great Carlos Fuentes is one of many examples of "oaters" being much more than a series of saloon fights, cattle stampedes, and showdowns on a deserted main street.

Commenting on the beautiful 50th anniversary remastering of the film, which easily passes the "no glasses" test, is mandatory. You will not find a clearer or sharper image on any screen.

This variation on the classic Western "High Noon" opens with Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez of "The Magnificent Seven") returning to his home village fresh from an 18-year unfortunate incarceration for killing a ranch owner. The rude awakening for Juan is learning that Julian Trueba, who is the elder son of the slain man, is eager for revenge and that his younger brother Pedro also feels the impact of a lifetime of stories about Juan gunning down the father whom Pedro never knew.

Juan literally stands his ground despite his supporters almost constantly begging him to leave town to avoid what it considered an otherwise avoidable fate of ending up either in jail or the cemetery. Julian equally persistently psychotically hounding Juan supports that prophecy. This torment includes an element of "Carrie" that is equally disturbing and entertaining.

One of the most notable scenes in terms of plot and cinematography occurs early in "Die." Juan is sitting at the bar of the local saloon when the camera slowly pans behind him to his left to reveal the man whom we soon learn is Pedro sitting at a table. The significance to the story is that neither man knows the identity of the other, and a moderate kindness creates what soon is shown to be an unlikely friendship.

The homecoming of Juan also involves reuniting with lost love Mariana, who lives a largely sequestered life in a highly symbolic home. Much of her conflict centers around wanting to restart her life with Juan but realizing that doing so prevents her young son from having a proper life.

Meanwhile the girl next door who is dating Pedro is trying to persuade him not let Julian persuade him to kill Juan; she soon learns that a man gotta do what man gotta do.

All of this lead to a couple of showdowns that keep the artistic symbolism going to the end. These events show that there is no stopping fate and take the prediction related to jail and the cemetery to the next level.

The bonus features that meet all criterion for quality cinematic study include a video introduction by director Alex Cox of the cult classic "Repo Man," an fascinating in-depth written essay by film expert Carlos A. Gutierrez, and audio commentary by "Die" director Arturo Ripstein.

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

'Love! Valour! Compassion!' DVD: The Big Chill on Rainbow Pond

Warner Archive awesomely illustrate the positive evolution of Hollywood films regarding gay-themed stories with the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1997 dramedy "Love! Valour! Compassion!"

As the text on the DVD back cover notes, the secret to Terrence McNally bringing his Tony winning play to the rainbow screen was reuniting the band back and having Jason Alexander join the group as stereotypical middle-aged queen Buzz, whose quirks include believing that virtually every celebrity is gay.

The warranted comparisons to "Golden Pond" and "The Big Chill" prove a primary point of "Love!" and other modern films centered around homosexual characters; boys who like other boys (and girls who like other girls) have the same highs and lows as everyone else. The biggest difference (especially until the recent past) is that estrangement from relatives, the AIDS crisis, and remnants of discrimination that include marriage inequality contributed to gay men like those in the play bonding in groups such as the one around which the film centers.

Gregory is the center of the group in that he is their common thread and owns the country house in New York state in which they gather over Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day one summer. Gregory is a successful middle-aged choreographer and is the partner of younger and cuter blind legal assistant Bobby.

The standout in the cast is John Glover ("Smallville"), who plays aptly surnamed twins John and James Jeckyll. Accompanist pianist John is the unlikable pity friend of the group. He primarily is invited along out of sympathy for not having any place else to go for Memorial Day weekend. His bringing along hunky 20-something Latino dancer boyfriend Roman, who is not shy about stripping down to skinny dip and sunbathe, likely plays a role in this pair returning for the other two weekends.

Kind and gentle AIDS patient James Jeckyll comes on the scene on the Fourth of July; his sweet nature and strong contrasts with his brother quickly earns him the hearts of the gang; this leads to an unlikely (but tender) relationship with incestuous elements.

The remaining boys in the band are long-term couple/business consultants Arthur and Perry.

The Memorial Day weekend sets the stage (no pun intended) for much of the drama to come. The largest theme is the AIDS crisis, which divides the gay community as much as it does this group. Some members feel that it is important to discuss this, and others want to pretend that this horrible disease does not exist. The positive members of the group fear what is to come, and those who are negative still dread the worst.

Everyone in the group regularly thinks of people whom they have lost. An powerful aspect of all these elements is a character expressing resentment toward monogamous couple Arthur and Perry being spared the disease and these men responding in kind.

This weekend also involves an illicit tryst with a highly symbolic act related to the practicality of crying.

The second act over July 4th lets the audience and the characters catch up on the developments (including fall-out from Memorial Day) of the roughly six months since their last gathering. This also involves Bobby experiencing trauma to which most people can relate.

The end-of-summer third act includes much more symbolism as we learn a great deal about the fates of the men and they essentially cleanse their sins.

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

'Alice' S6 DVD: Three Waitresses Keep Each Other Company

Warner Archive gives fans of classic sitcoms an early Christmas gift (complete with a traditional Christmas episode) in releasing "Alice" Season 6 on DVD on December 5, 2017. This coming a few months after the (reviewed) S5 release several years after releasing (also reviewed) S4 makes 2017 an especially good year for fans of this '70s and '80s series about a widowed mother raising a teen son while working in a run-down diner in Phoenix and aspiring to be a professional singer.

Archive also comes through regarding a concern related to the S5 release; that set includes a few S6 episodes that initially were scheduled to run in S5; the S6 set inserts them in their proper chronological spot.

Noting the comparisons (including catchy themes) between "Alice" and fellow "TV Land" show "Three's Company" from the same era helps understand the former in general and S6 in particular. Both series are entertaining whipped cream on the more substantial dessert in the form of denser sitcoms that are part of a well-balanced television viewing diet. CBS often scheduling "Alice" with "All in the Family" and other Norman Lear fare perfectly illustrates this.

The parallels continue regarding cast changes. A well-known "True Hollywood Story" is that break-out "Company" star Suzanne Somers gets fired for being too demanding; this leads to the failed experiment of bringing "Cousin Cindy" onto the show only to fairly quickly replace her with Nurse Terri, who stays until the end.

Similarly, "Alice" gives its breakout star Polly Holliday her own (reviewed) spinoff "Flo" in "Alice S4; temporary replacement once and future waitress Belle lasts roughly one season worth of episodes before the Ellie Mae Clampett like Jolene comes on the scene in S5 and stays until the end.

The parallels continue with "Alice" and "Company" fizzling out in the late '80s as tastes change from whipped cream to more edgy and topical fare that the dramedies of that era represent.

"Alice" S6 awesomely has many of the most representative and/or memorable episodes of the season. The season premiere is a prime example of the numerous episodes in which restaurateur Mel uses the diner as collateral for a bet or other risky venture. The twist this time is that the waitresses (who have attended this rodeo before) consciously take a page from film of the era "9 to 5" in capturing and restraining their boss to prevent him from gambling the future of the group on a horse. The twist at the end is particularly notable.

The cleverly titled second episode "Guinness on Tap" has every element of a classic "Alice" episode. "Dingy" waitress Vera being despondent regarding having worked at Mel's for five years leads to the twofer in the form of one of the waitresses getting a shot at a better life and the standard sitcom plot of the era of trying to set a world record. In this case, Vera tries to tap dance consecutively for a longer period than anyone else on record. The 11th hour miracle this time involves a "special guest star" playing himself or herself. Past notables to do so include George Burns, Telly Savalas, Art Carney, and Dinah Shore.

Fun stunt casting comes two episodes later when "The Facts of Life" star Nancy McKeon guests on this show on which her real-life brother Phillip McKeon portrays aforementioned teen son Tommy. Several episodes later finds self-proclaimed icon "Nanny and the Professor" and "Witch Mountain" star Kim Richards as the teen niece of Mel.

The best stunt casting has Jay Leno and "Welcome Back, Kotter" star Ron Palillo as bikers who make the diner their new hangout. Much of the hilarity would not fly in 2017 in that it has the Leno character grab Alice and take her on an involuntary joy ride.

Regular special guest star Martha Raye shows up twice in her recurring role as the feisty mother of Mel; "Sharples v. Sharples" centers around a custody battle over a cookbook. The season finale "My Mother the Landlord" is more self explanatory; this one also is reminiscent of an S5 episode in which building manager Alice faces locking out a co-worker for not paying rent. (John Sylvester of "Kotter" is the stunt casting in this one.)

The aforementioned Christmas episode is the "Alice" version of "A Christmas Carol." Mel being particularly miserly at Christmas time earns him a Christmas Eve visit from deceased business partner Jake Farley, who takes on the task of showing Mel the evil of his ways.  A scene in which the waitresses and Tommy open gifts that are destined for the return counter has hilarious moments.

All of this works for the same reason that the wacky regular customers return to Mel's for breakfast and/or lunch most days; you visit entertaining friends who never disappoint.

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

'Rift' DVD: Gay-Themed Tale of Ex With Possible Actual Axe to Grind

The best of the many cool things about the Breaking Glass Pictures November 21, 2017 DVD of the 2017 gay-themed thriller "Rift" is that it combines every great element of Breaking films.

The theme of reuniting with "the one who got away" is directly out of (the reviewed) "Lazy Eye" and (also reviewed) "Retake." The central hardy boys finding themselves endangered in an isolated spot begs for a comparison to the (reviewed) great Hitchcockian thriller "BnB." Finally, the Icelandic setting is reminiscent of the (reviewed) Bergmanesque tale of teen boys in love "Heartstone."

The bigger picture (pun intended) regarding these Breaking releases is that they have the trifecta of elements that make the gay-themed fare from this company fantabulous. The central story easily could feature a straight couple; the film has a strong live-stage vibe, and the filmmaker does not use excessive nudity and/or sex scenes to compensate for a lack of story. Any dick shots and sodomy are important to the story.

The IMDb synopsis for "Rift" perfectly describes it as "two men in a secluded cabin are haunted by their dead relationship."

Many of us can relate to being on one or both ends of the conversation when a late-night call from ex Einar wakes Gunnar from a peaceful sleep with his current boyfriend. The timing of the call and the tome of the voice of Einar prompts Gunnar to drive out to the aforementioned vacation home of the family of Einar.

Seeing Einar somewhat alleviates the concern of Gunnar, who determines that the state-of-mind of his former significant other warrants spending the night in the guest room. These early moments also involve the feeling of unease that increases throughout this atmospheric film.

Melancholy Einar soon brings Gunnar out into a marshy area and relates childhood memories that include a near-death experience. This leads to a fun romp that turns menacing.

This segment only contains a portion of the aforementioned haunting; Einar clearly is not over the breakup and does not understand the reason for it. We further get eerie whispers, scary late-night visitors, and other things literally or figuratively going bump in the night. This is not to mention a childhood friend of Einar throwing a large scare into Gunnar.

One of the best scenes is a prime example of the aforementioned live-stage vibe of "Rift." Our boys are in a good place when that mood and an earlier conversation prompts Gunnar to deliver a monolog about his first same-sex sexual experience. The setting is right for the tale, and it elicits the desired response in all but the most perverse among us.

The sense of lost love, hope for rekindling, and threats from within and outside continue right to the end of "Rift." As he does throughout the film. writer/director Erloingur Otta Thoroddesn shows excellent instincts regarding when to end the story.

The special features include deleted scenes.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

'Nutcracker: The Motion Picture' BD: Ballet for All Ages in Glorious Color and Sound

The Olive Films December 12, 2017 Blu-ray release of the spectacular 1986 film "Nutcracker: The Motion Picture" proves two things. The first is that this timeless ballet truly is a production for all ages and genders; the second is that this cash cow is a perfect opportunity to cast scads of moppets in a bid to have their families purchase tons of tickets. This film (like most live-stage productions of this ballet) has far more performers under the age of 12 than over the age of 18.

The first impression of this production featuring the dancers of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra is that bright and surreal epic presentations with perfect scores such as this one by Tchaikovsky are the things for which Blu-ray is made. The second impression is that this film is an equally ideal means to get into the holiday mood.

The first revision by Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are and "Nutcracker" director Carroll Ballard ("The Black Stallion") is an opening scene in which we see Renaissance man Drosselmeier crafting "Nutcracker" characters. Moving onto the bedroom of teenage Clara Stahlbaum provides the context via her narration that Drosselmeier is her beloved eccentric godfather with an edge.

The action then shifts to the well-known party scene (complete with copious children) at Stahlbaum Haus where Drosselmeier presents Clara the titular toy. As fans of "Nutcracker" (and most parents of young girls) know, drama at the party traumatizes Clara in a manner that sets the stage for the action and adventure that captivates all.

A exceptionally well choreographed fierce battle between toy soldiers and rodents of unusual size then lead to even more surreal events involving a figurative cast of 1,000s of prepubescents. Although very grand and not objectively offensive, this portion of the production is particularly special because of uncertainty regarding whether modern productions further tone down the portrayals of various ethnic groups.

As is the case in most ballets (and several comparably classic Shakespearen productions), things wind down to a point at which all's well that end well. The closing credits set to the score help the audience adjust from this exciting surreal existence to out harsh reality.

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

'A Capitol Christmas V2' CD/LP/Digital: UMe Capital Idea of Marking 75th Anniversary With Timeless Stars Singing Eternal Classics

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) earn the gratitude of elves everywhere by further helping those with lovers of timeless music in their lives find gifts for that special someone; the (reviewed) "Elton John Diamonds" seemingly includes EVERY hit of Rocket Man (along with awesome collectibles) literally boxed up ready to give. Fellow UMe release "A Capitol Christmas Volume 2" has a "who's who" of '50s and '60s musicians put their own spin on Christmas classics.

"Christmas" pays apt tribute to the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records by having the aforementioned greatest put their marks on the songs that add so much to the holidays; the comprehensive liner notes on each of these (mostly) rarities provide interesting background information on both the performers and the songs. Including a mellow version of "White Christmas" and a more upbeat take on "Old Toy Trains" by Glen Campbell is particularly special considering his August 2017 death.

UMe gets thing off to a great start with Wayne Newton changing "Jingle Bell Rock" into a vintage Las Vegas style number and later similarly remaking "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." This is akin to The Beach Boys doing "Frosty the Snowman" ala surfing tunes on "Christmas."

A wonderful trap exists regarding Ray Anthony and his Orchestra doing "A Marshmallow World." You WILL get caught up in the gleeful silliness of it and minimally finding yourself singing "do do do do do do" (It is meaningless and all that's true) along with the group.

Learning about the controversy at the time regarding the lyrics to "I  Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (sung by 13 year-old Molly Bee) validates 2017 thoughts regarding wondering how they got away with that song in 1952. Highly immature thoughts regarding variations (which fit the rhyme scheme) of the song risk ending up on the naughty list and not finding a Sony stereo 4K player under the tree in a week.

Lena Horne steals the show with her rendition of "What Are You Doing Christmas Eve." Fans will be not be surprised that she nails the tone of this song about a woman with very wishful thinking about a special date with her soulmate.

The cute and most retro song is "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)" by Gordon MacRae; this lullaby about being grateful for what you have is guaranteed to lull you into a calm state.

UMe aptly wraps up the set with Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians doing an instrumental version of "Auld Lang Syne." In addition to ending things on a gentle and relaxing note, it provides relatives a clue that it is time to yank the kids away from their iPhones and get out.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

'Stage Mother' DVD: Early Talkie Musical Melodrama

The Warner Archive October 2017 DVD release of the pre-Code 1933 MGM musical melodrama "Stage Mother" provides further proof that things have not changed much in 85 years. This tale of the titular force of nature using her feminine wiles and other weapons to advance the career of her daughter is as relevant today as it was when it was made.

The opening scene of a vaudeville comic teasing audience members is an early indication that "Mother" is from the era of transitioning from silents to talkies. This also sets the stage (no pun intended) for the action to follow. Pregnant trouper Kitty Lorraine (Alice Brady of classics such as "My Man Godfrey" and "The Gay Divorcee") is on modified duty but is there to cheer up husband/showbiz partner Fred only to soon become widowed.

The challenges of being a Depression-era single mother and other desperate times prompts this "actress" to take the desperate measure of moving herself and infant daughter Shirley to the home of the proper Bostonian parents of Fred. The scene is which we meet the parents also has a strong silents vibe.

Things are relatively tolerable for the next four years until that extended period of repression causes Kitty to snap and rejoin the vaudeville circuit; the shot-from-behind four-year-old Shirley in this portion of the film either is an uncredited Shirley Temple or an excellent facsimile; Internet research did not resolve this question.

Kitty subsequently begins earning her titular description when enrolling an objecting Shirley in dance classes. Kitty not-so-subtly offering her body as an incentive for the refined and effeminate dance teacher to give Shirley special treatment is hilarious for a different reason in 2017 than in 1933.

This leads to the rapid rise of the career of Shirley with backstage help from her mother, who shows that there is nothing that she will not do to make her daughter the star whom Kitty failed to become.

Kitty temporarily being sidelined becomes a blessing and a curse for an adult Shirley, who enters a career-threatening romance with handsome and charming painter Warren Foster; these lovebirds are the center of a wonderfully suggestive pre-Code scene that indicates that Shirley now is a woman in every sense of the word.

Kitty learning of the romance through a typically underhanded method has her contribute to the disgrace of her daughter by manipulating Warren into no longer wanting to buy the cow.

The next stage in both senses of the word occurs in New York, where Shirley literally gets her name in lights on Broadway; she also enters the third ill-fated romance of which the audience is aware.

More ruthlessness leads to Stage Mommie Dearest and her offspring going to England, where history repeats itself but ends in a twist that shows that the apple as a symbol of sin does not fall far from the root of all that evil.

"Stage" offers further entertainment in the form of commonality with "Stella Dallas;" both titular women marry men from wealthy families only to find themselves struggling to provide what they think is the best life for their daughters, who view things differently. Each film further features a crude step-father figure.

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