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Monday, January 30, 2017

'teenage kicks' DVD: So-Called Life of Emo Eastern European Boy

The  2016 drama "teenage kicks," which is a recent DVD release from gay-themed art-house god tla releasing, arguably is the best coming-of-age film of any type in the past few years. It centers around Eastern European teen, who is just beyond the edge of seventeen, Miklos "Mik" Vargas. Mik lives with his old-world parents in Australia and is best friends with dreamy blond Australian surfer boy Dan.

A related notable aspect of "kicks" is that Mik is easy on the eyes but is not the doe-eyed twink with designed clothes and an over-scrubbed face that characterizes his cinematic older brothers in similar films of the '90s. In avoiding this dated cliche, writer/director Craig Boreham nicely follows the modern trend of recognizing that boys who like other boys otherwise often are no different than their buds who like girls. This is consistent with the laid-back attitude toward male intimacy that pervades "kicks."

The following YouTube clip of the "kicks" trailer offers a good look at the drama, themes, and artistic homoeroticism of the film.

"kicks" starts out well with Mik and Dan on the bed of the latter watching lesbian porn. In typical closeted gay-boy style Mik clearly is more interested in watching Dan engaging in the same under-the-pants jacking as Mik than the action on the screen. One can imagine similarly minded lads across the globe finding themselves in the same situation.

Mik literally keeping it in his pants in this scene is an early clue that "kicks" is much more substance than cheap thrills. The similar glimpses of nudity and largely non-explicit sex scenes reinforce this theme.

Mik is already tortured between his unrequited love and his even more family drama than a typical teen when he becomes burdened with information that he must keep secret regarding the accidental death of slightly older brother Tomi.

The nature of the accident and the bond between the brothers further prompts Mik to strive to literally and figuratively fill the shoes of Tomi. Boreham sensitively shows the basis of this love in flashbacks that illustrate the closeness of the siblings and puts the events related to the death of Tomi in context.

Additional drama comes in the form of Dan getting a steady Betty. The pair actively including Mik in most of their plans and the Sheila going out of her way to be nice to Mik does not stop him from feeling like a third wheel and a rejected lover.

Sticking to the script of every coming-of-age story, Mik losing the battle to suppress his feelings toward his buddy leads to a somewhat predictable confrontation. This encounter leads to a less predictable and more forceful expression of frustration. At the heart of all this is the universal truth that activity (such as mutual covert masturbation) that is merely roughhousing or youthful exuberance to a (mostly) straight boy often means much more to a closeted gay buddy. Indications that a partner-in-crime may be less straight than asserted can further complicate things.

Boreham provides a good ending to all this that largely is realistic. The boy may or may not get the boy, and Mik may or may not put all or some of his demons to rest. However, our hero does get a chance to express himself and otherwise try to work out the many issues that make his life more compelling than that of many of us. In other words, Boreham offers a character study of a real live boy.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

'Matt Houston' S3 DVD: Buddy Ebsen Uncle Roy is Heather Locklear of Show

These thoughts on the third-and-final season of the '80s Aaron Spelling private detective drama "Matt Houston" wraps up this three-part series on the Visual Entertainment complete series DVD set of the series. Season one finds our titular Magnum clone taking time from running his oil company to play amateur detective to help friends and former lovers; season two has him become a full fledged private investigator, and season three brings in partner-in-crime solving Uncle Roy Houston. "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Barnaby Jones" star Buddy Ebsen plays Roy.

Bringing beloved Ebsen into the show is an example of the oft-used tactic of Spelling and other television producers of the era to introduce a new character played by a loved "star" to boost an aging program. Heather Locklear typically is the go-to celeb for this role in both senses of that word.

Season three opens with a resolution of the season two cliffhanger in which a powerful adversary is perpetuating an elaborate evil scheme to discredit Houston. Houston having to go on the run in the S3 season premiere has him calling in WWII and Cold War era spy Uncle Roy. The "Manchurian Candidate" elements of this one make it especially fun.

Business returns to normal in every sense of the word in the Spellingverse with the second episode. A child molester kidnapping the young daughter of Houston ally/police contact Lt. Hoyt prompts Matt (short for Matlock) and his team into action. This one has every wonderful element of an issues-oriented TV Movie of the Week and provides the bonus of Matt struggling to keep Hoyt under control.

"Caged" wonderfully channels the classic "Angels in Chains" episode from the Spelling gem "Charlie's Angels." A car accident early in the episode has Matt attorney/sidekick/its complicated C.J. suffering from amnesia and subsequently being confined in a women's prison. Just as in "Chains," local law enforcement is using inmates as prostitutes at house parties.

The fun continues with several more episodes, which include Team Houston trying to free a young heiress from a cult and a flashback-inducing episode in which Hoyt getting shot triggers (no pun intended) Houston and his gang each remembering a memorable moment with the police detective, up to the Spellingtastic series finale.

The aptly named "Final Vows" has Matt going about his business when the return of a special love from an earlier S3 episode coincides with a psychopath who is emulating a famous serial killer acting on his ill will toward Houston. This causes Matt to struggle to balance his home and work life, and highly predictably transforms the belle du jour into a damsel in distress. All this culminates in a shoot-the-works finale that provides a satisfying end to the series.

This review roughly coinciding with the belated arrival of seasonal weather in the northeast United States provides a good chance to remind folks of the escapsist fun of watching shows like this when it is dark and chilly outside.

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

'Feral' S1 DVD: Memphis Gay Boys Version of 'Girls'

 tla releasing once again brings it home regarding the January 24, 2017 DVD release of the first season of the Memphis-based eight-episode web series "Feral." The worthy aspiration of the streaming service to be the gay Netflix and that site being home to the (oft-reviewed) uber-awesome international gay-themed art-house films from releasing prompted violating a cardinal rule of Unreal TV regarding streaming content by first watching "Feral" online ahead of the dekko premiere.

The awesomeness of "Feral" stems from the trials and tribulations of gay 20-something Memphis housemates struggling filmmaker Billy and almost starving artist Daniel being relatable regardless of where you fall along the Kinsey Scale and where you live. Further authenticity comes from Memphis-based director Morgan John Fox making the series semi-autobiographical.

The following YouTube clip of the "Feral" S1 trailer fantabulosuly showcases the sensitivity and related Millennialist vibe of the series.

Although 20-something viewers will only compare this show to the HBO series "Girls" and "Looking," those of us old enough to remember the early days of the Showtime premium channel will also consider "Feral" a more dystopian version of the early 2000s drama "Queer As Folk." This groundbreaking program depicts the daily lives of a group of gay men making their way in a straight (and moderately oppressive) world.

The relatability of "Feral" commences with a highly erotic series opening scene in which Billy and equally adorable object of his affection Carl conduct an increasingly flirtatious mirroring acting exercise that will prompt a pleasurable response from every dekko subscriber. One spoiler is that massive baggage slows down the journey on the road to this true love.

The central plot in the pilot in which Billy discovering evidence of drug use by housemate Jordan, who is living there based on Daniel vouching for him, results in crossing Jordan off the lease. This leads to a hilarious search for a compatible "gay or gay-friendly" roommate. The ensuing freak parade is funny because it is true.

The chosen one being both an initially casual acquaintance who bonds with the boys artificially quickly and having some ambiguity regarding the full nature of his sexuality at least through the end of the fourth episode is another "ripped from the headlines" element of "Feral." The sister of this newbie attempting subtlety regarding dancing around the subject while helping her brother move in adds to the fun.

On a larger level, Billy and Daniel must work McJobs and other find ways to acquire the necessities of life while pursuing their inter-related professional and personal dreams. The pursuit of the latter results in Daniel suffering serious consequences from waking up with Mr. Right Now but being completely lost. Folks who can say "been there, done him (or her)" can relate this time.

The final analysis based on the first four  episodes is that "Feral" is an entertainingly accurate portrait of your life in your 20s with people who are most likely more attractive and witty than you and your friends playing your parts.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'The Harrow' DVD: True Southern Gothic Psychological Terror

breaking glass pictures goes goth regarding the January 24, 2017  DVD release of the 2016 psychological thriller "The Harrow." This tale set in the South is a compelling psychological tale about an affair between a farmhand and the wife of a farmer gone tragically wrong. This future cult classic can be considered a cross between "Of Mice and Men" and "Psycho."

The following YouTube clip of the "Harrow" trailer offers a good glimpse of the mood of this highly atmospheric thriller.

Much of the action occurs ten years after the discovery of the bodies of Gale the aforementioned farm frau and her husband. Although it is determined that the husband killed the wife and then shot himself, much remains a mystery.

A desire for closure brings daughter Ruth back to town; her investigation soon identifies Miller, whom she learns is a farm hand from the time of the deaths, as a potential source of information. That then brings Ruth to the former slaughterhouse where Miller still lives.

Loner Miller predictably initially sends Ruth away; it is equally predictable that her visit stirs up unpleasant memories of the past and that she soon wears him down to the point that he (via flashbacks) gradually tells her the story as he remembers it.

This tale begins with the near-simultaneous arrival of Miller at the farm and the ignition of the spark between Miller and Gale. It also paints the husband as the villain of the piece.

The suspense largely relates to the events leading up to what the audience knows is the central deaths of the film. Additional drama comes in the form of the dredging up of the past causing Miller to increasingly become unhinged ala Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." The comparison extends to essentially a "Here's Johnny" segment near the end of "Harrow."

Another lead that gives Ruth reason to doubt the gospel according to Miller. Anyone who has ever seen a psychological thriller knows that Ruth has good reason for those suspicions. The ultimately revealed truth further proves the adage that there is your story, my story, and the truth.

Writer/director Kevin Stocklin nicely keeps the narrative coherent throughout the regular time shifts in the film. This technique nicely emphasizes the connections between the present and the past; it further highlights the element of some memories being too painful to accurately remember.

As well as Stocklin does with "Harrow" he truly shines regarding his two short films that breaking includes as special features on the DVD. "Eve" is an amusing variation on the Adam and Eve story as told by Eve herself." "The Position" is an equally good story about an accomplished woman undergoing grueling grilling regarding a job that essentially treats her as breeding stock. The twist at the end of this one is especially good.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Harrow" or the shorts is encouraged either to email or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

'Hooperman' S2 DVD: Strong Sophomore (and Sadly Final) Season for Bochco/Ritter Dramedy

The following musings regarding the Olive Films January 24, 2017 DVD release of S2 of the late-80s Steven Bochco dramedy starring John Ritter are a follow-up to a review of the S1 release on the same date. The prior post provides a primer on this series about the titular dedicated San Francisco police inspector/reluctant landlord/loving dog parent.

In the interest of ripping off the Band Aid in one painful swipe, this review will address the abysmal Ritter-produced failed pilot "Poochinski" that Olive provides as an S2 special feature before moving onto discussing the solid second season of "Hooperman."

The best way to put the following unusual harsh words in context are they are from a big fan of the failedcom "Mr. Merlin" (How about a release, Olive?) and the never-made-it-past the pilot "Danny and the Mermaid." In other words, it is rare that Unreal TV meets a sitcom that it does not adore.

The titular cop this time is recently deceased Chicago detective Stanley Poochinski, played by Peter Boyle, whose soul gets transferred into the bulldog whom he literally rescues and subsequently adopts soon before the aforementioned death. Boyle, charmingly goofy oft-Superman voicer George Newbern, and future Mrs. Ritter/ "Wings" star Amy Yasbeck sadly are not enough to save this show that deserves every dog joke in the reviews of the time. Olive does deserve thanks for the chance to see those talented stars in their "Howard the Duck" that makes "Turner and Hooch" look like "Old Yeller."

A shift from dram to edy in S2 of "Hopperman" begins with the titular officer facing delivering a eulogy for a despised old-school in every sense shoot-first, ask questions later style cop in the season premiere. The above-average circumstances under which this comes about and the manner in which Hooperman resolves the dilemma awesomely reflects the wit and edge of series creator Steven Bochco, who already has "L.A. Law" and "Hill Street Blues" under his belt.

Other sitcom plots in early S2 episodes have Hooperman engage in a slow-speed chase through hospital corridors after undergoing surgery for an embarrassing work-related injury and having him quickly regret renting an apartment in his building to a fellow officer.

An episode in which Hooperman faces the dual challenges of dressing in drag to capture a killer preying on transvestites on the day that Hooperman appears on a "The People's Court" clone to regain custody of feisty Jack Russell Terrier Bijoux soon returns the show to its S1 tone. The Bochco touch really comes through regarding special compassion for a closeted victim of the killer.

A surreal S2 offering has Hooperman experiencing a truly Hellish experience that is complete with fire and excruciating torture. The humor in this one includes trying to outwit the devil and making cute penance for a childhood act of genocide. Another exceptional early S2 episode with strong elements of "Law" and "Blues" has an arrogant teenage drug dealer knowing that a short stint in juvie is the worst punishment that he can receive for his numerous crimes.

Amping up the humor in some S2 episodes reflects the blessing and the curse of "Hooperman." Like the (subsequently lauded) failed Bochco 1990 musical police drama "Cop Rock," "Hooperman" is a little ahead of its time in combining grit and humor. Additionally, Ritter coming to the role after almost a decade of playing the goofy prat falling Jack Tripper makes the character of Hooperman a drastic change for his fans. One scene in which Hooperman adopts a Texas accent to characterize a faucet geyser as an oil strike is PURE Tripper.

The increased humor remains up to the final S2 episodes that close out the season; however, the Bochco touch also is awesomely enhanced in ways that include outdoing the classic "Law" S1 bit regarding a gorilla suit. One spoiler regarding the "Hooperman" variation is that building a cup into that costume seems advisable.

Other season-ending strong moments include Hooperman and his partner being forced to play a version of "Weekend at Bernie's" due to difficulty transporting a murder victim, and "Company" landlord Norman Fell playing a ventriloquist whose dummy is stolen in the season finale. That episode also finds Bijoux hilariously terrorizing Hooperman S2 love interest played by that that pretty blonde who was in that thing Daphne Ashbrook. One spoiler this time is that a pregnancy is a factor regarding the hostile acts.

The eulogy for "Hooperman" must note that, like Ritter, it met an untimely end. The range of comedy from a desk fire to Emmy-worthy wry one-liners that are a Bochco trademark combined with the grit of "Blues" earns the distinction of being the one that got away. It is equally sad that ABC did not give accept the offer of Bochco to play a more active role in producing a third season of the show. One can only speculate that renewing the show would have prevented renewing "Full House" or "Perfect Strangers."

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

'Hooperman' S1 DVD: 'Three's Company' + 'Hill Street Blues' + 'L.A. Law'

Image result for Hooperman DVD
Olive Films adds to its cult series cred. by adding DVD releases of S1 and S2 of the Steven Bochco (and of course Mike Post themed) '87 - '89 dramedy "Hooperman" to the Olive releases of the uberfantabulous sitcoms "Better Off Ted" and "King of the Hill." One can only hope that the mid-80s sitcom "The Popcorn Kid" about teens working in an old-style movie theater enters the Olive radar.

The focus below is on S1; a post in the next few days will wrap things up with a discussion of S2.

"He was robbed" Emmy nominee John Ritter plays titular San Francisco-based compassionate cop/reluctant and frustrated landlord Inspector Harry Hooperman. Sofa spuds everywhere know that Ritter takes this role fresh off portraying the far more goofy Jack Tripper for eight seasons of "Three's Company" and for one on the "Company" spin-off "Three's a Crowd." Ritter showing his ability to retain the charm of Tripper, the quick-thinking of a rising star attorney on Bochco's "L.A. Law," and the sensitive edge of a cop on Bochco's "Hill Street Blues" is a nice HA HA to anyone who thinks that the pretty boy known for slapstick comedy is not up to the challenge.

As an aside before delving more deeply into S1, it is worth noting that the Olive "Hopperman" releases evoke sad memories of the shockingly untimely 2003 death of Ritter. This, in turns, triggers new sadness regarding the numerous November and December 2016 celebrity deaths.

Speaking of deaths, the "Hooperman" pilot evokes strong feelings of the then fairly new hit "Law." The opening scenes show our hero waking up and preparing for his day only to have a water problem in his clearly "tired" apartment requiring creativity regarding rinsing shampoo from his hair.

The charm of Hooperman soon comes through in a scene in which he makes a date with his beloved elderly landlady. This scene also introduce Bijoux, a feisty Jack Russell Terrier who is a fan favorite.

The "Law" connection comes in the form of the death of the landlady changing the life of Hooperman by making him the new owner of the building and new parent of Bijoux. This unexpected event is comparable to the death of a partner early in the pilot of "Law" having significant impacts at the law firm around which that series centers.

Elements of "Law" and "Blues" also nicely come in during the pilot regarding Hooperman relying on the "testimony" of eye witness Bijoux to investigate a suspect as to the murder of the landlady. The "Law" aspect of this is particularly strong in that the extent to which a dog can be considered a valid witness in a criminal proceeding can be a real-life legal issue.

Additional early adventures of Bijoux include trying to masquerade as a drug-sniffing dog and responding as expected when Hopperman turns on a news cast solely to taunt her.

Real-life police elements in S1 include calling in Hopperman's literally resident psychic to help in a murder case and another episode in which our hero freezes when confronting a dog-faced scumbag.

"Law" and "Blues" also unite when Hooperman catches a brutal rapist soon after the commission of that act and has that perp voluntarily confess only to have that bad guy at least temporarily escape any punishment for that offense. This episode further illustrates the very Bochco element of the Hooperman code of fulfilling his law-enforcement duties even when doing so violates that character's personal sense of right and wrong. In other words, "Hooperman" is much more than a 30-minute sitcom and often provides substantive food for thought.

The Bochco style further comes through regarding the thoroughly modern cast of quirky characters who inhabit the (often overlapping) personal and professional lives of Hooperman.

"Blues" veteran Barbara Bosson plays aptly named police captain Celeste Stern, who tries to run a tough ship despite the boy's club mentality in the department and even though she has traumatic marital problems. A scene in which she and Hooperman confess vulnerable moments in their lives is hilarious.

The young rookieish cops are handsome macho openly gay officer Rick Silardi and his aggressively heterosexual partner-in-crime solving Mo DeMott. The "seduction" techniques of the latter regarding the former include annoying him with reports of what she is wearing under her uniform and trying to get him to at least be naked with her. One episode even has the mother of DeMott advocating a relationship between the two, reasoning that her daughter at least will be left in peace to sleep at night.

Other squad room stereotypes include 40-something inspector McNeil, whose age is starting to affect his job performance, and daffy but friendly dispatcher Betty Bushkin. The background noise in the form of Bushkin speaking with callers to the station provides much of the entertainment in the series.

On the homefront, Hooperman has a largely congenial "when will they" relationship with tomboy/untalented aspiring writer Susan Smith. Talented character actress Debrah Farentino perfectly portrays the tough exterior and not-far-from-the-surface soft interior of Smith. She also makes a good and equal partner for Hopperman in his effort to keep the building intact and to get the tenants to pay their rent without any pregnant pauses.

The exceptional blend of elements discussed above further proves the philosophy of Unreal TV; namely, that good quality fictional series are far better than reality shows and that DVDs have many advantages over streaming. There truly never is a dull minute in "Hooperman," which passes the "one more test" to the extent that you will want to watch the 42 episodes in the series in one sitting.

Further, both DVDs and streaming offer good chances to either discover shows missed during broadcast and syndicated runs or to give watched shows another look. In this case, current love of "Hooperman" far exceeds personal good regard for the series back in the day. Additionally, DVDs offer more flexibility than streaming and avoid the disappointments related to streaming services losing the rights to series before you are done with them.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

'Sabotage' BD: Pre-WWII Propaganda Apt for 2017

The Olive Films January 24, 2017 Blu-ray release of the charmingly wholesome 1939 drama "Sabotage" is a prime example of why the monthly Olive release date is a very special day. This day also being when Olive releases the (soon-to-be-reviewed) two seasons of the Steven Bochco dramedy "Hooperman," which stars John Ritter as the titular compassionate cop/reluctant landlord, makes this Tuesday particularly noteworthy.

"Sabotage" is notable both as a delightful portrait of Americana that sadly would be laughed out of the multiplexes of today and as a quasi-subtle propaganda film from the era leading up to World War II. The Jimmy Stewartesque everyman hero this time is 20-something Tommy Grayson, who is a machinist at the local manufacturing plant where his father Major Matt Grayson is spending his post-Army days as the nightwatchman. Veteran (pun intended) character actor Charley Grapewin brings the same warmth to his portrayal of Matt as he shows in playing Uncle Henry in "The Wizard of Oz."

Everything is Jake for Tommy in the early part of "Sabotage." He has a good job and is engaged to initially reluctant stage performer Gail. On top of that, the plant getting a new military contract to build planes is good for that business and its employees.

The trouble begins when a high-profile demonstration of a new plane ends in a fiery crash that looks terrific in the enhanced Blu-ray format and would look even better in a contrasting splash of color ala "Oz." The ensuing investigation rapidly concludes that Tommy is the culprit behind both this incident and similar mishaps.

The town believing that Tommy is responsible for the crash is enough to make him a pariah; the economic fallout from the accident and Tom being engaged to a woman who is judged to be loose solely based on her practicing a very old profession is enough to figuratively prompt a run on tar and feathers at the local dry goods store.

Family loyalty is enough to stir Gail and Grayson brother Joe to action. Matt encountering the real malfeasors while on the job provides additional certainty and related frustration regarding the plant owner not believing him. This amps up the propaganda in the form of Matt literally rallying the troops to prove that his boy is innocent.

Meanwhile, the audience learns that the crash is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to undermine the American way of life. Having the conspirators literally being friends and neighbors (as well as other folks that many of us would never suspect) enhances the propaganda element of the film. This is a precursor to (sometimes justified) paranoia regarding Nazi spies; this leads to the Red under your bed Cold War hysteria. The 21st century version of this is that every creepy basement-dwelling loner is a terrorist and every knapsack that is left unattended for five minute contains a bomb.

The fact that flimsy circumstantial evidence is enough to make Tommy a guest of the state is just as scary and relevant as the paranoia aspect of "Sabotage." This presumption of guilt is even more prevalent today and is predicted to only worsen.

Tommy having a Hollywood ending and the real culprits being brought to justice is no surprise in the film that strictly adheres to the Hays Code. The real artistry comes in the form in which the bad guys are coerced into 'fessing up. The multiple twists show that no one should be underestimated.

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

'Flight 313: The Conspiracy' DVD: Docudrama on Serious Health Risk of Flying

Monarch Home Entertainment continues expanding the scope of its DVD catalog with the January 24, 2017 release of "Flight 313: The Conspiracy" (nee "A Dark Reflection.") "Flight" evokes wonderful thoughts of the '70s and '80s star-studded "issues" TV movies of the week. The declaration on the back cover of the DVD that the movie is "inspired by true events" provides further airplane peanuts for thought. These films were the Internet of their day in that they raised awareness of their previously little-known subject.

The cred. of this film about dangerous carbon monoxide fumes entering the passenger cabin and the cockpit of large jets includes director/writer Tristan Loraine being a former airline pilot. The celebrity involvement includes Marina Sirtis of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as the wife of airline CEO Charles Jasper, who has orders from the top to hush up the matter. The nature of the relationship of the Jasspers and the boss add to the Troimendous pressure regarding the situation.

The following YouTube clip of the "Flight" trailer provides a good sense of the story and the drama, as well as the aforementioned retro TV Movie vibe of the film.

The opening scenes establish principal character investigative journalist Helen as a fearless and tough pursuer of the truth. She arrives home to England only to discover that a near-miss may end the air-traffic controller career of her highly significant other. Helen discovering evidence that carbon monoxide leaking into the cockpit from the engines may be the culprit for that incident and a similar one. The united elements of personal concern and professional interest make her an unstoppable force.

Much of the entertainment regarding this effort relates to debating with an editor regarding the time and other resources that Helen can devote to this story that essentially falls in her lap. The assets include an eager and charming cub reporter.

Meanwhile, the investigation of Jasper leads him in the same direction as Helen. The matter in which he resolves all the competing interests regarding the matter demonstrates one of the reasons that he earns the big bucks even if doing so comes at the cost of his honeymoon period.

This story being fact based contributes a great deal to the power of it; unlike a herd of snakes, carbon monoxide apparently presents a real threat to the air that airplane passengers breathe and to the alertness level of the pilots. Anyone who has smelled the unpleasant air on a flight easily can imagine that Loraine knows that of which he speaks.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TCM Classic Film Festival: Now is the Time, the Hollywood Roosevelt is the Place

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unlike virtually every review, which typically is of a screener that a studio or distributor provides, this post on the upcoming Turner Classic Film (TCM) Film Festival is a public service announcement. TCM has not provided a press pass or any other consideration for the following thoughts.]

A macabrely accurate way to think of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, which focuses on comedies and is being held April 6-9, that is headquartered at the truly legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the equally renowned Grauman's Chinese Theater (and scads o' other nearby venues) is that it is strongly akin to visiting an elderly relative before he or she passes away. The slew of celebrity deaths roughly a month ago is a sad reminder that the population of greats is rapidly diminishing. The fact that Debbie Reynolds no longer can discuss making "Singin' in the Rain," The Unsinkable Molly Brown," and her other classics is a prime example of this loss.

We fortunately still have the chance for filmmakers, such as 2017 festival guest Peter Bogdanovich, from the '60s and more recently to discuss their craft. However, even their stories are not as compelling as those from the Golden Age of Hollywood, which is a well-earned nickname. One can only hope that the festival organizers can persuade '50s matinee idol (and genuinely righteous dude) Tab Hunter to leave his Santa Barbara home to share some of his tales. His repeatedly thanking a "boutique" review site for interviewing him is solid proof that his beloved momma raised her boy right.

Highlights from the aforementioned awesome era include "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "The Palm Beach Story." Of course, the Hunter/ Natalie Wood classic that that pair knows as "The Girl With the Left Behind" also is an apt festival candidate.

A more recent event that is behind this break in the ordinary Unreal TV programming is the news this weekend that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is beginning the process of winding up business after more than a century of putting on shows. Citing the short-attention span of millennials as a factor is a bad portent regarding the future of the festival. One can only hope that the festival fares better in this era in which our president-elect communicates in 140-characters-or-less and far more eyeballs see six-second vines than most films during their theatrical runs.

The bottom line regarding all this is that the festival this year may be one of the last chances for big-screen showings of the films (including those mentioned above) that do not sacrifice art for the bottom line and that TCM spectacularly showcases. They also are the movies that many of us used to spend our Saturday nights watching in revival theaters and our Sunday afternoons viewing on UHF television stations. The chance to hear the actual true Hollywood stories behind these films is a no-brainer.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the festival is much better served contacting the good folks at TCM than emailing me or reaching out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. I do hope to see you at the movies and ask (considering that the lost greats include Siskel and Ebert) that you please save me the aisle seats.

Monday, January 16, 2017

'Seed Money: The Legend of Falcon Studios' DVD: A Portrait of the Young Man as a Pornographer

The October 4, 2016 DVD release of the film fest fave doc "Seed Money: The Legend of Falcon Studios" offers further proof of breaking glass pictures expanding its scope to include queer indie cinema. This film joins the good company of the (Unreal TV reviewed) theatrical film "Lazy Eye" and the (also reviewed) DVD release of the drama "People You May Know." "Money" also elicits strong thoughts of the (additionally Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "I'm a Porn Star," which entertainingly and informatively tells the tales of attractive young men who are either gay for pay or obtain a financial benefit from doing what they otherwise would do anyway.

The following YouTube clip of the "Money" trailer terrifically introduces every aspect of the film and provides a little (completely respectable) eye candy for the Falcon fans; not that there is anything wrong with that.

Although the stated center of "Money" is Falcon co-founder Chuck Holmes. the focus of the film is the history of the studio itself and the stable of colts from its early days. These include participators Jeff Stryker and Tom Chase. Famed Falcon director Chi Chi LaRue and godfather of alternative cinema John Waters also offer their two cents.

We do learn how Midwestern boy Holmes comes to head arguably the leading gay porn studio of the '70s and '80s. We also learn how Falcon produictions reflect the predilections of this erotic movie pioneer. The most amusing story relates to Holmes insisting that the "actors" not have dirty feet.

"Money" additionally discusses how Holmes introduces the clean-cut collegiate boy with manicured (or no) body hair to viewers of homosexual erotica. The clips of these boys and the interviews with their modern selves make viewers want to join them on the couch (or in the locker room sauna or shower) for a chat even if it does not lead to anything else.

This aspect of the film screams for a brief diversion into Blogland. Making eye contact with Stryker standing outside a theater promoting his one-man show a few years ago prompted him to call me over to offer a naked photo for $50. Asking him which of us would be naked prompted a seemingly genuine laugh.

More substantial industry-related topics in "Money" include the performers running the risk of prosecution under prostitution laws and other statutes related to engaging in sexually oriented activity for money, and Holmes and the other "suits" running afoul of obscenity laws.

The impact of the early days of AIDS on the studio is a sadder element of the film. This discussion includes the evolution of the Falcon policy regarding condom use; this leads to a distressing montage of obituaries of many of the fresh-faced lads who are seen smiling and having fun a few minutes earlier.

Much of the focus on Holmes himself relates to his long-term relationship with his partner, who is a major contributor to the film, and to the active involvement of Holmes in the gay community. This includes his leadership donation to the building of an LGBT Center. The most newsworthy element of this is the backlash resulting from naming the center after a man involved in a not-so-reputable profession and who arguably is an inadvertent contributor to the spread of AIDS.

The strong appeal of "Money" stems from the aforementioned elements and from the truly fair-and-balanced portrayal of the subject even by those who are most near and dear to him. He neither is a monster preying on desperate underage homeless boys nor is he is proverbial paragon of virtue. He simply is an ordinary man in the enviable position of getting to make millions of dollars in an industry that reflects his personal desires.

The extras include a deleted scene that is an extended interview with one of the out-and-proud Falcon boys. There also are extended interviews with Stryker and his fellow porn stars.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

'37' DVD: Docudrama on Rape/Murder of Kitty Genovese

Extraordinary New York-based indie art-house theatrical/DVD/Blu-ray foreign film company Film Movement brings it home regarding the January 3, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 drama "37." This docudrama tells the story that every high school or college sociology student in the past 40 years knows; the March 13, 1964 rape and murder of Queens resident Kitty Genovese that her literal friends and neighbors watch without doing so much as calling the police.

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2016 Moscow International Film Festival writer/director Puk Grasten puts faces to the names of the victim and to those who do not step in during the worst night of her young life. She does so by focusing on the tales of the latter in the day leading to the event that truly lives in infamy.

The following YouTube clip of the "37" trailer offers a glimpse of the drama of the film and shares the significance of the title.

Much of the focus is on the black family the Smiths; "The Wire" and "True Detective" actor Michael Potts plays Archibald Smith, whose upward mobility consists of moving his family from Harlem to the otherwise all-white apartment building in Queens where Genovese lives and to which she returns on the night of her fatal attack. Archibald is a stereotypical strong and proud man whose pregnant wife Joyce takes a much kinder and gentler approach than him regarding raising their young son Troy.

The next most prominent residents are the 60-something Jewish couple George and Florel Bernstein, who are raising their highly quirky tween granddaughter Debbie.

Getting to know the Smiths, the Bernsteins, and their neighbors puts their response (or lack thereof) regarding the rape in perspective. One can understand their reasons for not wanting to become involved.

Grasten nicely uses a properly restrained tone throughout. Other than the Smiths moving into a new home, the characters go about their daily lives with the same challenges with which they must constantly contend. These include the neighborhood children understandably (but still hurtfully) shunning Debbie and everyone dealing with the obnoxious rambunctious boys whose seemingly constant pranks include yelling "fire" in the hallways.

Potts and the rest of the cast delivers strong performances As indicated above, they provide a strong sense of ordinary people who are not evil or callous but have led lives that provide good reason to not step in to help their fellow man when doing so likely will prove the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding "37" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship: Memoir of a Highly Visible Man

The initial related related thoughts regarding the  OR Books January 10, 2017 release of the memoir "Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship by Grove Press founder Barney Rosset are that Rosset seems to consider himself the Orson Welles of the book world and the philosophy of a friend that boasting is not arrogance if you are that good. A passage in which Rosset compares leading an audience from one theater to another to a similar incident involving Welles validates the first impression; not knowing of the late Rosset before reading the book hinders determining if Rosset deserves what literally is his own press.

Putting all this in proper context, "Rosset" is an interesting read that provides a peek at the New York literary scene of the second half of the 20th century. It just would have been better with less namedropping and associated self aggrandizing.

Rosset largely takes a chronological approach to his story with frequent legitimate brief diversions regarding the relationship between events in his early life with ones that occur later. His early history includes having a grandfather whose role in the "Troubles" of 1916 are cited a s providing Rosset with some of the fighting spirit he utilizes in future censorship battles.

We also read of Rosset growing up the son of a Depression-era banker, whose influence in the WWII-era helps his enlisted son. This dogface/aspiring military spy spends most of the war in China.

The post war activities of Rosset largely involve building Grove and related movie and live-stage companies, dating and marrying several beautiful women who remain good friends after the divorce, and maintaining a close friendship with "Waiting for Godot" playwright Samuel Beckett, whom the reader clearly knows is "Sam" to Rosset.

The copious references to Beckett and their reported mutual admiration society is the primary for believing that Rosset is arrogant. An especially annoying story revolves around Rosset depicting himself as an unsung hero regarding lugging a television set and a VCR from America to France to allow Beckett to watch a videotape of a performance of "Godot" only to have Beckett decline an offer to keep the equipment.

On a larger level, it seems that Rosset refers to Beckett more than himself. This apparent obsession and somewhat less intense accounts of relationship with other writers portray our subject as a literary star f**ker.

The most relatable censorship battle surrounds the opposition to Grove publishing the controversial Henry Miller novel "The Tropic of Cancer." As is often the case regarding such controversies, the issue is whether the language and graphic scenes are obscenity or art. These legal proceeding further provide a good primer of the American court system, including the hierarchy and relationships of various judicial forums.

Other exciting and/or amusing tales include the activities of Grove prompting an occupation and more violent forms of expression, the company starting in modest quarters and changing locations several times, and behind-the-scenes looks at filmmaking.

Rosset comes across the most human and likable in discussing the changes at Grove late in his career and the next step in his life following those events. You probably will not like the man but should acknowledge his hard work and devotion to his industry.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

'Doobious Sources' VOD/Digital HD: Stoner "Bros" Take on Fake News

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Wonderfully eclectic indie-film company Gravitas Ventures (along with Doobious Sources, LLC) shows great timing regarding releasing the indie stoner-comedy "Doobious Sources" on VOD and Digital HD three days before the January 20, 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump. This film that centers around 20-something Harold and Kumar clones practicing neon yellow journalism in a period in which several states allow limited marijuana use and the scope of fake news extends from deceptively presenting advertising messages as current events to having an undisputed impact on the 2016 presidential election.

Another historic element regarding this film is that this review is likely the only one that will compare this low-budget minimal effects movie with the Orson Welles classic "Citizen Kane." The similarities relate to "reporter" Reginald "Reg" Block-Hunsleigh creating the news in the same manner as yellow journalist (and William Randolph Hearst impersonator) Charles Foster Kane loudly declaring that if his man provides the pictures, Kane will provide the war. This point is made to illustrate that '70s tabloids and "doobious" websites are only a small and recent chapter in the history of fake news.

The following YouTube clip of the clever and entertaining trailer for "Doobious" nicely tells you all you need to know about the film and provides an excellent sense of the style of this one.

The final opening note regarding this film is that watching it at 4:20 p.m. is apt and ingesting some of the aforementioned newly legalized substance may enhance the enjoyment of it. Speaking from the perspective of someone whom well-known pot-smoking '50s child actor Billy Gray once good-naturedly asked "you don't smoke, do you?" the pace of "Doobious" is a bit slow throughout much of the film.

An early scene has Reg and textbook frienemy/cameraman Zorn setting up a real estate agent who is crooked but against whom they lack any genuine evidence of malfeasance. This establishes the nature of their "Instant Karma" news service.

We further get the mandatory stoner comedy ordering drive-through fast-food while high scene. The nice twist this time is that the boys bicker about the order and use their constant paranoia-fueled video surveillance of each other to resolve the dispute.

All this comes during a high (of course, pun intended) period following a story by the boys on men who claim to be straight but use a Craigslist clone for motel hook-ups with other men. This expose makes our heroes the golden boys of the local television station that airs it. The related problems with the story are that Reg and Zorn set up the men and are the legal and extra-legal targets of one of the catfished men.

The television station, which does not know of the deception, soon hires the boys to work with a doofus reporter with his own agenda on a story about local government officials operating an illegal slush fund. As always, journalistic principles are not a large priority.

Much of the remainder of the film now has our trio riding around in a vehicle that arguably is the worst possible choice for covert activity, our doobious brothers learning more about the true motivation of their new loser colleague, and dealing with the increasing rage of the man whom they set up in the motel.

This wackiness leads to a good final 15 minutes that follows an awesomely warped neo-version of the Hollywood Code that requires that justice prevail in the end; this truly is the case in a manner that requires watching "Doobious."

Substance does exist regarding the objective of exposing malfeasance even if doing so requires dubious tactics. More entertaining cynicism comes in the form of only regretting underhanded reporting tactics if you get caught.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Talk with Producer/Director Nick Corporon Wraps up Nick & Tuc Portion of 'Retake' Series

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This post on an interview with producer/director/writer Nick Corporon of the gay-themed drama "Retake" wraps up this three-part series of articles on that film. Part one is a review of "Retake;" part two is an interview with star Tuc Watkins, who is best known as Bob Hunter on "Desperate Housewives."

A recent telephone conversation with producer/director/writer Nick Corporon regarding his new film "Retake" started on a terrific note; I alerted him that I had used my new Amazon echo dot (one of the most awesome things ever) to set an alarm to ensure that our chat did not run into an interview with "Retake" star Tuc Watkins.

Corporon mentioned that he, like I, had received the dot as a Christmas gift. (An amusing moment came later when failed efforts to stop the alarm led to my saying "Alexa, shut up." That did it, and the laughter of Corporon suggested that he had experienced similar frustration with this generally very helpful and fun item.)

Corporon further won a place in the heart of your not-so-humble reviewer by stating that he liked that I used pen and paper for notes during interviews. Corporon then explained that he was very tactile person.

A Trick By Any Other Name

The character whom Watkins plays in "Retake" being a middle-aged man who has hired a string of 20-something male prostitutes to meticulously recreate a road trip screamed for asking Corporon if that activity was why he named that character Jonathaon (a.k.a. Jon.) Corporon laughed and shared that others had asked the same question. He then said that was not why he selected that moniker and that "Jonathan" just jumped out at him when he was going through a list of names.

Nick and Tuc

Corporon casually mentioning that he was born and raised in Missouri prompted asking if he had known Kansas City native Watkins from his youth. Corporon stated that they had not met before this project and added that he grew up 30 miles from Kansas City but regularly traveled there to see movies and plays.

Corporon then stated that he was a fan of Watkins from his role on "Desperate Housewives" and that he wrote Watkins a letter expressing his interest in having Watkins play Jonathan.

The reasoning related to casting Watkins as Jonathan stemmed from the character originally being a lone wolf nerd who faded into the background. Corporon said that he decided that Jonathan being "very handsome and confident" would have created more mystery regarding that individual. Watching "Retake" clearly showed that Corporon succeeded.


Folks who have read the Unreal TV review of "Retake" know that it refers to the rent boy whom Jonathan hires as "Keanu" in reference to the early roles of Keanu Reeves in productions such as the must-see Gus Van Sant drama "My Own Private Idaho" in which Reeves displays the same characteristics as the American gigolo in "Retake."

The response of Corporon when asked about the similarities was an enthusiastic "Absolutely! 'My Own Private Idaho' was a huge point of reference for us. I love the movie; I love the characters."

Cordon also shared that he gave "Keanu" portrayor Devon Graye, whose history with Cordon dates back to the Showtime series "Dexter," the  "Idaho" novel and the film. The instruction was for Graye to do as he chose with the film. His portrayal of "Keanu" shows that he took it to heart.

A later portion of our conversation included Corporon sharing that "Devon is gay and out and proud."

'Lazy Eye' Syndrome

The conversation then shifted to the recent (Unreal TV reviewed) breaking glass pictures film "Lazy Eye," which revolves around two 30-something gay men reuniting 15 years after a summer romance traumatically ends. The question regarding this was whether both "Eye" and "Retake" revolving around gay romances in the early '90s reflected Pride reaching a level at that time that allowed gay couples to openly build a life together.

The answer was far better than expected. Corporon noted that he was surprised that festivals paired the similar "Retake" and "Eye." He then laughed and described the two films as "trapped in the past desert movies."

Further insight came in the form of Corporon stating that "Tuc and I really discussed why this guy (Jonathan) was as protected and guarded as he was; it was hard for him (Jonathan) to open up to the original Brandon (boyfriend) character."

The you've come a long way Baby response regarding the observation about Pride was that the gay rights movement has made a great deal of progress in the past 10 years.

Cock Socks

Having discussed the amusing difficulties related to appendages ending up in unintended spots while filming sex scenes with other directors and actors prompted asking Corporon about this challenge. Once again, his response awesomely exceeded expectations.

The initial reply once again was "Absolutely." Cordon went on to share that he had never filmed a sex scene before and had to film two of them during the first day of shooting. He referred to Jonathan auditioning another male prostitute in his hotel room before finding Keanu and the production schedule requiring filming the scenes with both rent boys back-to-back. That schedule calling for shooting 10 pages of script that day made that challenge even more daunting.

The rest of the true Hollywood Story regarding that day was that it was "a hot sweaty set" but that Watkins and Graye "were troupers."

The real fun regarding this topic related to Cordon initiating a conversation regarding the wardrobe for the sex scenes. He shared that it was determined that the actors should wear garments known as "cock socks." We did not elaborate on the nature of this "clothing," beyond Cordon describing it as "the most humbling thing you could ever wear."

The next bit of inside information was that valiant efforts to buy cock socks in Los Angeles shockingly failed; this led to the costumer making homemade ones for the boys. A related story was that those socks were not designed to stay on and fall off very easily.

Bonus tidbits included the previous experience of Graye allowing him to share that cock socks with Velcro were no good and that this thespian had a wardrobe malfunction with one while filming a scene for the series "American Horror Story." Cordon shared that the AHS scene called for Graye to kill a cow while naked, that the fake cow's blood caused the cock sock that Graye was wearing to fall off, and that Graye went full Moonty when the cameras stopped rolling.

Other Projects 

Discussing the film shorts, including "Barbie Boy" about a male youngster whose playing with dolls causes concern, that Corporon has made prompted asking if there were any plans to release a compilation of those movies on DVD. He replied that there no current plans to do so but provided some hope regarding a release of his 2009 film "Last Call," which was a graduate school thesis. This film centered around a recovering alcoholic having an apt Purgatory experience.

Corporon also stated that he was researching conversion therapy with hopes of that leading to a film and that he also was involved with a handful of other projects.

All this shows that Corporon surely will become an increasingly visible figure across the queer cinema spectrum in the next few years.

Monday, January 9, 2017

'My King' DVD: Modern Melodramatic Diary of a Mad French Wife

The uber-awesome Film of the Month Club of New York-based foreign film theatrical and home video company Film Movement starts the new year strongly with the January 10, 2017 DVD release of the Cannes-winning 2015 French drama "My King." The aforementioned award for Emmanuelle Bercot for her portrayal of desperately unhappy wife/attorney Tony reflects the depth of this story. "King" being a New York Times Critics' Pick further acknowledges the quality of the film.

The following YouTube clip of the "King" trailer is the best ever promo. at summarizing most of the film in 90 seconds without significant spoilers. You will feel that roughly a decade in the life of Tony flashes before your eyes.

Writer/director Maiwenn artistically shifts the narrative between the present in which Tony is undergoing intensive in-facility rehabilitation after a skiing accident and the past in which we see her begin a relationship with restaurateur Georgio and have that love affair become a melodramatic mess. In other words, Tony is like many of us in not knowing whom she marries until it is too late. Part of this is that Georgio learns that his best efforts to change are futile.

An early indication of trouble comes when Tony meets unbalanced former girlfriend Agnes, who continues rearing her physically beautiful and figuratively ugly head throughout "King." Suffice to say that Agnes takes neither her breakup with Georgio nor the presence of Tony well.

Other drama comes in the form of Georgio enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous too much, an unexpected reversal of fortune, and uncertainty regarding the extent to which love conquers all. They say that breaking up is hard to do. Now Tony knows; she knows that it's true.

The city-based elements of "King" centering on interesting professionally successful and personally highly flawed urbanites and their quirky friends and family make it the Parisian film that Woody Allen fails to get right. The only thing missing is the central amusingly neurotic character.

Maiwenn expertly contrasts this "real world" with the laid-back platonic relationship that Tony enjoys with her entourage of adorkable 20-something male fellow patients at the rehabilitation center. Their adventures include a freewheeling shopping trip to help one of the boys prepare for a date. She makes a good youngish cool aunt for the rambunctious lads.

The honest and universal nature of both parts of the story and the manner in which Maiwenn presents them helps the subtitled "King" pass the apparent "Movement" test of being one that can be filmed shot-for-shot and word-for-word in America and still make perfect sense.

Movement also starts 2017 well in selecting the 2004 Maiwenn short "I'm an Actrice" as the bonus short for this Club selection. This roughly 30-minute film centers around 10 year-old Baba, who has all the burdens of a child star without any of the professional success. Baba's mother Isabelle, whom Maiwenn perfectly plays, is a struggling pregnant/never-made-it actress/mother of all stage parents. The dysfunction of this relationship extends to Baba being the almost exclusive caregiver to her adorable younger brothers (who most likely will soon land on the acting radar of Mommy) and to having her pleas and demands to not pursue an acting career fall on completely unsympathetic ears.

Maiwenn the filmmaker and the actress perfectly sets the tone in the opening scene in which Isabelle blatantly and obliviously disrupts an aquatics class for pregnant women. The shock and awe is apparent to even the most casual observer.

Much of "Actrice" focuses around an audition for an English-speaking teenage temptress, none of which Baba is. Seeing her made up like a child prostitute evokes thoughts of Honey Boo Boo and of I'm ready for my close up Mr. Polanski. Watching Isabelle repeatedly assert a creepy lie and try to promote herself at the audition contributes a great deal to the impact of the scenes at the audition.

Hopefully the fact that Baba portrayor Shanna Besson is the real-life daughter of Maiwenn and writer/director/producer Luc Besson does not mean that this "Actrice" is a case of art imitating life.

Both "King" and "Actrice" demonstrate that Maiwenn knows the human condition and is very aware that it ain't pretty.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

'Desperate Housewives'' Tuc Watkins Candidly Discusses Role as Troubled Middle-Aged Gay Man in 'Retake'

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview with Tuc Watkins is part of Unreal TV coverage of the recent theatrical and DVD releases of the (reviewed) gay-theme drama "Retake." The Nick and Tuc portion of this series concludes in mid-January 2017 with a post on an interview with "Retake" producer/director Nick Corporon.]

Tuc Watkins of the 2017 film "Retake," which is an awesome character study of middle-aged gay man Jonathan hiring a 20-something male prostitute to recreate a road trip, took time from caring for his four year-old twins and his many other commitments to talk on the telephone. One of the nicest things about chatting with this nice man from Missouri is that he truly is a regular guy who happens to be a film and television star.

Before sharing what makes Watkins the kind of guy who likely literally would give you the shirt off his back, it is worth noting that he puts his live-stage experience and soap acting training to good use in "Retake." He conveys the related anguish and aggression of Jonathan so well that you often feel that you are watching a play.

Family Guy

The first indication that Watkins was not your typical celeb with his level of cred was that he was at the apartment in his native Kansas City where he and the aforementioned wonder twins Catchen and Curtis reside when career obligations do not require being in Los Angeles. Watkins shared that family support and the little ones having a good school in Kansas City makes that it the kind of place to raise your kids even though it is as cold as Hell. He added that "it is nice to be around family."

Watkins also immediately warned that the kids might disrupt the interview with shrieking. In other words, Watkins did not go the Hollywood route of hiring a nanny.

A cute moment came midway in the interview when the predicted wailing occurred. Hearing Watkins calmly tell his offspring "each of you can have three" (presumably cookies) further showed that he is a terrific dad.

The mention of possible discord prompted asking about sibling rivalry. Watkins good naturedly replied that the little ones generally got along but that one wanting to watching "Paw Patrol" and the other wanting to watch "Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks" could cause turmoil. (All turned out well in that both kids wanted to watch "Patrol.")

Early Watkins Work

A discussion of the early roles of Watkins included his first television role in an episode of the '80s sitcom "Growing Pains." Watkins stated that he played a towel boy at a gym where Alan Thicke's Jason Seaver flirted with a beautiful personal trainer. The rest of the story was that the scene in which Watkins had three lines was cut but the credits still included his name and he received residuals for that performance.

Despite being abig "Pains" fan, discussing Watkins' role as a gay soap star in the 1997 gay-themed comedy film "I Think I Do" was a larger thrill. "Think" is a long-time personal favorite for reasons that include it being the first comedy of its type that your not-so humble reviewer ever saw and it prominently features songs from the made-for-TV The Cowsills clones The Partridge Family.

Watkins stated in a tone that was consistent with his overall manner and principles that "Think" "was almost 20 years ago; it was a gay screwball comedy; it wasn't issue-driven (like many gay-themed films of that era), and we needed it at the time." The only apt response to that was Amen, Brother.

On a related note, discussing the "The Partridge Family" led to off-the-cuff speculation that Watkins would be perfect for goofy swinging bachelor/band manager Reuben Kincaid in a film version of "Partridge." Watkins immediately alleviated any concern about inadvertently insulting him by stating that he loved Kincaid. (Hey, Sony! Are you listening?)

Rehashing 'Retake'

Exchanging thoughts of "Think" nicely led into discussing "Retake." The connection was that the initial trauma that prompted Jonathan to hire rent boys to get a sense of putting right what once went wrong occurred roughly in the period in which "Think" was released. The relevancy was that the late '90s was when it was first becoming possible for gay men and lesbian women to be widely accepted as a couple and raise children.

Watkins agreed and stated that "I think that they (Jonathan and his former boyfriend) were on track to have the American dream." Watkins then elaborated about the hope of Jonathan to raise a family in the stereotypical house with the white picket fence.

Watkins added the insightful analysis that "life got in the way; it didn't work; that is part of Jonathan's experience." This led to Watkins really getting to the heart of the manner in a way that removed any doubt that he fully understood his character. He observed that the underlying thoughts that tormented Jonathan were that "if I had done this, or if I had done that things would have been different."

On a more general level, Watkins responded to the observation that "Retake" seemed like a live-stage production by stating that he and co-star Devon Graye worked on the film in the same way that Watkins worked when appearing on stage. He further noted the intimate nature of the film.

The Gay's the Thing

The current thinking among some people that the sexuality of the main characters in modern gay-oriented films often was irrelevant because people all along the Kinsey Scale could relate to the story opened the door to asking Watkins about the importance of Jonathon being gay. He first stated that the story of "Retake" is "love and lost, which are universal themes."

This, in turn, led to an awesome discussion regarding being a middle-aged gay man in 2017. Watkins noted that "we as gay people do have an intrinsically unique perspective on things; we mature differently than straight people of the same generation."

Watkins explained that many gay men of the Gen X generation did not come out until their 20s and that that was a later age than many straight people had their first serious relationship and even might have been married.

The relevance of this to "Retake" was that the late start of Jonathan regarding starting what he had hoped to be a lifelong relationship in his late 20s or early 30s led to his struggling to come to terms with the breakup with his potential soulmate at an older age than straight people who had already moved past the heartbreak related to the one who got away.

A related thought that Watkins shared regarding the uniqueness of being a gay man was that "straight friends can be sympathetic and empathetic as much as they can." He provided the perfect example of a (subsequently redeemed) girlfriend inadvertently insulting him on his coming out to her. This woman stated on getting the news was that Watkins being gay was a horrible waste because he was so desirable to women. The communicated message was that Watkins did not have to "settle" or sacrifice by building a relationship with a man.

These insights of Watkins scream for sharing two widely held theories in the general gay community. The first is that the maturity level of a gay man regarding his ability to enter a relationship is tied to his gay age, which is measured from when he comes out. So, a man who is openly gay at 20 is "older" at 40 than a gay man who comes out at 35 and is now 45.

The other theory is even more "dog years" oriented. This belief is that the tendency of gay relationship to not last as long as straight ones makes each homosexual relationship be considered to be twice as long as a hetero one. The example is that two men who have been a couple for three years have a six-year relationship.

Coming Out

The topics already discussed with Watkins and the fact that '50s matinee idol (and righteous dude) Tab Hunter spontaneously came out on "Ellen" provided an opportunity to ask Watkins about his experience coming out as an actor on the talk show of Marie Osmond in 2013. Watkins got the ball rolling by stating that he "sort of planned to come out on 'Marie.'"

Watkins went on to say that he wanted to use the show as a chance to thoroughly discuss how he became a father. He noted as well that real and reel-life had collided in that he began the process of finding a surrogate to carry a baby at the same time that his gay "Housewives" character Bob Hunter had begun the process for having a child.

The deeper insight this time was Watkins stating regarding his mindset at that time that "I'm a gay guy at the point in life who wants to stop being the most important person in my life; I wanted to have kids."

Art v. Commerce 

The conversation then shifted to the less personal topic of the current trend of movie companies making commerce a larger priority than art. The common-sense insight from Watkins on this subject was that "I think when you start focusing on the commerce, art goes out the window."

Watkins next volunteered that his theory particularly applied regarding comedy. He noted that that approach diluted the comedy. He went onto praise "Seinfeld" (not that there is anything wrong with that) as an example of art taking precedence over commerce, noting that it was "not a product made by committee" with a goal of getting "as many eyeballs as possible" to watch it.

Watkins further stated that programs, such as one of his favorites "Transparent," on streaming services and premium cable channels were current examples of shows that put art and commerce in the proper perspective.

Looking Ahead

The usual "what's next" question prompted the response that Watkins had accepted an invitation of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre to appear in a production of the former Broadway play "Constellations."

Watkins also noted that he was wrapping up his filming of the third season of the Netflix gay-themed drama "Eastsiders." As an aside, "Retake" co-star Kit Williamson is the writer/director/star of "Eastsiders."

Knowing that Watkins was a veteran of the "biz" and very briefly worked with the recently deceased Alan Thicke led to asking Watkins for his thoughts regrading losing so many beloved stars in November and December 2016. He replied that "2016 was not a banner year for the arts, culture, or politics" He went on to note the potential for improvement in 2017 and called for people on the progressive side to "fight more than ever to make things better."

Once more; Amen, Brother.

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

'Hickey' Theatrical/ DVD: "Breakfast Club' Begat 'Empire Records' Begat 'Hickey' and It Was Good

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The January 10, 2017 DVD/TVOD release (after a January 6, 2017 Los Angeles theatrical run) of the amusing art-house comedy "Hickey" helps establish Gravitas Ventures as the go-to source for such quality stuff that the multiplexes and larger home-video companies foolishly shun. The (Unreal TV reviewed) October 2016 Gravitas release of the Woody Allenesque comedy "Friends Effing Friends Effing Friends" is another prime example of the greatness that is Gravitas.

Adorkable brilliant MIT-bound Ryan "Hickey" Chess discovering on arriving at the small-chain car and home stereo store where he works with fellow quirky recent high-school graduates that their employer is destined for closure unless the business moves a seemingly insurmountable amount of merchandise in eight hours evokes strong thoughts of the felony-level under-rated 1995 film "Empire Records." The latter has a charming outsider who finds a home at the titular independent music emporium facing the challenge of avoiding an imminent sale to a Tower Records clone. Both films even feature an unrequited love and a hilarious frantic dance scene.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-DRIPPING "Hickey" trailer includes most of the best moments of the film while providing an accurate sense of what the movie offers.

Every child of the '80s knows that both "Records" and "Hickey" respectively are the son and grandson of the classic 1985 John Hughes film "The Breakfast Club." All three present teens that represent different stereotypes with a daunting challenge only to have them join forces and learn over the course of a day that no one really knows the person with whom they are thrown together and that all of us are not as different as we think. Don't you forget about any of them!

Ryan further must decide whether to move ahead with plans to move across the country for his free ride at MIT or attend UCLA to be closer to those whom he does (and hopes to) love.

The unrequited love in the case of "Hickey" is pretty and nice co-worker/aspiring musician. Chess has yet to make his move on her and will lose the chance to do so if the store closes for good on the day that may live in infamy. Having unfiltered best bud (and fellow geek) Jeremy on hand to goad him does not help matters. It does set the stage for a hilarious scene in which Jeremy coerces Ryan to drop trou allegedly for his own good after figuratively putting the ball in his court.

Other memorable scenes include a good-natured discussion on having Jewish traits without being one of the chosen people and having hyper skaterat Derek unrealistically gush about his upcoming college experience.

On a deeper level, Ryan is dealing with the mother of all smothers. Mrs. Chess is recently divorced and too quick to pin her hopes on Ryan. The nature of this relationship further prompts speculation regarding the timing of the divorce.

The other cast of characters is tough and scary working-class girl Ellen, wimpy and underappreciated manager Gary, and hilarious bully/disgraced former jock regional manager Brady. Brady making moves on Carly provides Ryan another obstacle to happiness.

The aforementioned fresh twists that writer/director Alex Grossman (who is the winner of the Best Director Award for "Hickey" at the 2016 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival) puts on the "Club" and "Records" formula while staying true to the earlier films makes "Hickey" work. Ryan is the brilliant and nice quiet boy next door for whom most people wish the best. His circle of friends are the kids who entertain us. Ready, Set, Go see this one.

Questions or comments regarding "Hickey" are welcome either as email or a Twitter connection via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

'Retake' Theatrical/DVD: Paying the Price to Relive the Past

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review is part of a series of posts on this film. The Nick and Tuc portion of this series consist of a published interview with star Tuc Watkins and an upcoming post on a chat with producer/director/writer Nick Corporon.]

Increasingly art-house gay-film oriented breaking glass pictures continues its run of releasing movies with central characters that are boys who like boys whose stories are relatable to everyone all along the Kinsey Scale with the topic du jour. "Retake" hits the big screen on January 6, 2017 and DVD on the following Tuesday. The beautiful Southwest scenery and the opportunity for a special date night make seeing it in a theater worthwhile.

The universal theme this time is in the form of the titular do-over relating to a strong urge to put right what once went wrong. In that regard, "Retake" is similar to the recent (Unreal TV released) glass release "Lazy Eye" in which two men reunite 15 years after an abrupt and traumatic end to their love-at-first-sight relationship.

The following YouTube clip of the "Retake" trailer nicely highlights the retro look and stylistic approach of this film in which the past plays an integral role.

The current character study centers around middle-aged top-dog Jonathon, who comes to San Francisco as the first step in his process to resolve anxiety regarding an incident from roughly 20 years ago The literal partner-in-crime that he requires is a rent boy who can play the role of a past love.

An unnamed hustler passes the initial test and agrees to accompany Jonathon on a road trip to the Grand Canyon for the right price. The long dark hair and valley boy persona of this street boy that brings to mind an actor whose almost interchangeable early roles include a part in the awesome 1991 Gus Van Sant drama "My Own Private Idaho" earn this "Retake" character the name "Keanu" for purposes of this interview.

"Desperate Housewives" star/soap actor Tuc Watkins does a good job as the distraught Jonathon whose quest for inner peace always gets thwarted. Textbook "the guy who was in that thing" character actor Devon Graye does equally well as the 20-something guy who adopts whatever personality a customer requires in order allow Keanu to avoid dealing with his own tortured past.

The clear (and of course ultimately vilated) rules of the trip are that Keanu must never break character in the role play that Jonathon requires, must never ask Jonathon a personal question, and must always do everything that Jonathon tells him to do. The last rule leads to Keanu having the best lines in the film. He first asks if "everything" includes wearing a diaper and another specific humiliating act and then states his willingness to do so.

As is the case in every good film, "Retake" slowly reveals the full story regarding Jonathon wanting to go to exceptional extremes to recreate a road trip from his youth. Keanu becoming increasingly intrigued and embracing his role more fully is equally interesting.

The drama amps up as Keanu comes closer to the truth and to becoming more of his own true self as he bonds with Jonathon, who is still struggling with his past. This aspect of the film reflects the truth regarding any sexual role play that the individuals in the room really are not the characters whom they are portraying.

Although typically less dramatic than the circumstances in "Retake" (but often comparable to the events in "Eye,") most of us have the one who got away whom we never stop loving and would go to varying lengths to get back. Additionally, many of us are fortunate enough to find a forever someone with a spark of the person who gave us a special (but too short) period in our teens or 20s.

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

'The Hollow' DVD: Exceptional Southern Gothic Noir

Image result for the hollow movie 2016 images

The January 3, 2107 Uncork'd Entertainment DVD release of the 2016 drama "The Hollow" demonstrates the potential for good-quality independent films with broad appeal. It further proves that a compelling story and good acting does not require elaborate pyrotechnics, extremely psychotic behavior, or the Flavor of the Month as the star.

The following YouTube clip of the "Hollow" trailer does a good job demonstrating the style and the drama of the film.

The gritty stereotypical fun of "Hollow" begins with corrupt Sheriff's Deputy Ray Everett, played to a ignorant redneck T by writer/director Miles Doleac, getting a partially voluntary blow job by high-school girl Kami King as Everett sits in his patrol car while on duty. A local man approaching the car to buy drugs from Everett barely slows down the intercourse with King.

Everett further shows his mean streak in directing a couple of outsiders to a secluded spot when they approach him to ask about a quiet place. The young lovers soon getting shot is only the start of the problems for Everett. The girl is the daughter of a Congressman.

The high profile nature of the case brings a pair of FBI agents who are a bizarro version of Mulder and Scully of "The X Files" fame; the personal relationship between agents Vaughn Killinger and Sarah DeSoto has already taken a toll on the personal and professional lives of those feds and continues to be a "complication."

The other "central casting" characters include mostly upright local sheriff Beau McKinney, whom William Sadler infuses with the spirit of his portrayal of Sheriff Jim Valenti in the early 2000s scifi series "Roswell."  Veteran character actor William Forsythe does equally well playing stock character small-town power broker Big John Dawson.

Writer/director Doleac distinguishes "Hollow" from being a USA network movie or a shoddy clone of a novel by Mississippi crime novelist Greg Iles by giving his characters substance and adding depth to the element of "everything is related" that pervades Southern Gothic works. An example is providing enough of the backstory of Everett to understand why he is the scum that he is and to generate sympathy for him.

Additionally, the story moves at a good pace. Killinger and DeSoto have decent success uncovering information even though it does not always bring them closer to their goal of proving that the truth is out there, the various elements of stress take their toll on all involved, and several characters gain insight into themselves. Further, the significance of the title of the film is revealed relatively late in the film and plays homage to Iles.

Behind-the-scenes Coleac does just as well with a wrap up of the case that is very true to classic noir. Several principals (but not necessarily the chief administrator with his own dirty secret at the local high school) have a tense confrontation on a dark country road. The extent to which anyone is standing when any literal and/or figurative smoke clears provides a good payout.

The final scene is even better both in coming back to a development during the film and showing that redemption and happy endings are possible.

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

'People You May Know' DVD: Gays of Our Lives

breaking glass pictures continues its run of gay-themed movies, including the theatrical release of the Unreal TV reviewed film"Lazy Eye," with the recent DVD release of the 2016 drama "People You May Know" by Spanish director J.C. Falcon. The believable nature of the central threesome make the tile very apt and elevate what could be mediocre twink fantasy film or lamestream romcom into an interesting character study of two guys and a girl (but no pizza place).

The formal accolades for this neo-modern love story include the Audience Award for Best Feature and the Festival Favorite Award for Best Director at the 2016 Cinema Diverse festival.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "People" provides an strong sense of the well-developed characters and their relationships that make the film a good choice for an at-home date night.

Central character Joe, played by Sean "Simon" Maher of the uber-awesome scifi series "Firefly," is a good-looking gay guy with a long history of one-night stands. His more meaningful relationships are limited to his long-term friendships with the also gay bespectacled Herbert (played by the very blessed Mark Cirillo of the Unreal TV reviewed film "The Last Straight Man), and former girlfriend Delia. "Newcomer" Rodrigo, who is the husband of Delia, rounds out the group.

The central event of "People" occurs when Joe and Delia revert to old habits after separate traumas in their lives. This intercourse leads to the latter becoming pregnant with the child of the former at a time that they are dealing with geographically and emotionally distant romantic partners.

For his part, Herbert is caught in the middle of the turmoil at a time that he starts dating a significantly younger man.

Romcom elements come into play regarding Rodrigo having to come to terms with a good friend impregnating his wife at arguably the worst possible time, Joe being manipulated by his domineering online lover only to find out that he really does not know him at all, and Herbert having concern about the age gap between him and his new boyfriend.

Mercifully, all this gets resolved without resorting to classic pop songs or grand gestures. Further, a very masculine Caitlyn Jenner style transsexual fills the role that the screaming queen traditionally plays.

Like "Eye," the story and "ordinary bloke" style of portraying that tale reflect the new normal in which committed gay relationships and marriage are prevalent and visible and the world realizes that every form of romantic relationship has the potential for the same forms of complications and related heartache.

As indicated above, the title of "People" reflects the veracity of the immediate-above paragraph. This movie works because we see ourselves and those in our lives in the characters.

The DVD extras consists of deleted scenes and a Qflix Q&A session.

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