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Saturday, September 30, 2017

'The Best of the Carol Burnett Show' 50th Edition DVD: Demonstrates What Becomes a Legend Most

Time Life aptly honors the best of the best in releasing the extras-laden 50th anniversary DVD set "The Best of the Carol Burnett Show" roughly 50 years and one month after the September 11, 1967 debut of this variety series. The October 3, 2017 release of these 16 episodes (including the very first one and the series finale) consist of 12 new-to-retail episodes and 4 all-time classics. Walmart is getting into the act by selling special editions of this set.

It is worth mentioning that this "Burnett" release and the many others of this show from Time Life make a great companion to the awesome Time Life complete series set of the six-season "Burnett" sitcom spinoff "Mama's Family" based on "Burnett" sketches about a wacky lower middle-class Southern family. The pedigree of "Family" includes future "Golden Girls" Betty White and Rue McClanahan (not to mention Burnett) being S1 cast members.

Giving "Burnett" itself and the recurring characters in the sketches proper due is well beyond the capability of an online review of a compilation of episodes. The primary points to make are that "Burnett" is part of the legendary Saturday-night lineup during the "Tiffany Network" era of CBS.

The 1974-75 lineup that starts with "All in the Family," goes onto "The Jeffersons" (which replaces "M*A*S*H" in that time slot), has "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show" next, and finishes with Burnett is representative of a CBS '70s Saturday night. The facts that the age-range of the  "Burnett" studio audience essentially is from 8-to-80 and that each of these lucky folks love every minute also speaks volumes about the show. Burnett, her cast (including Harvey Korman and Tim Conway), and the behind-the-scenes folks have incredible comic instincts.

The September 11, 1967 episode immediately starts things strong. Burnett begins with her standard (and oft hilarious) Q&A session with the audience. A wonderful exchange about the age of Burnett ends with her showing her tremendous ab lib skills in stating that her bust size is 26. A reference to this exchange and other moments in a subsequent sketch in which Korman plays a reporter interviewing former child star Shirley Dimples (Burnett) further shows the improvisation and exceptional chemistry among the ensemble members that make "Burnett" (and its fellow Saturday night CBS series) so special.

The close real-life friendship between Burnett and Jim "Gomer" Nabors make him an ideal guest star for this inaugural outing. Both of them put their singing and comedic skills to good use but particularly shine in performing duets and bits in a tribute to Broadway musicals. This performance leaves no doubt that they both do their best when taken off their leashes to freely romp with each other. The many subsequent appearance of Nabors on "Burnett" validate that.

Nabors further is an ideal example of the observation by Burnett in  a new interview for this release that her best guests were triple threat ones who could sing, dance, and do comedy. Burnett particularly praises also frequent guest Steve Lawrence (who also conducts an interview for "Best") for this; an anecdote regarding "Burnett" fans approaching Lawrence is hilarious.

The premiere episode also introduces the "Carol and Sis" sketches that are based on the real life of Burnett. Burnett plays newlywed Carol, whose teen sister Kris ("Burnett" star Vicki Lawrence) lives with Carol and constantly annoys new husband Roger. One of the best "Sis" sketches in the current DVD set has Carol and Kris team up to thwart the efforts of Roger to sell their house. The comedy is especially strong, and the twist near the end provides clever poetic justice.

Burnett aptly lauds the evolution of the talent of Lawrence in noting that that actress goes from playing the sister of Burnett in sketches to playing her mother.

Burnett is even better known for the aforementioned Southern "Eunice" sketches and for playing dopey comically inept secretary Mrs. Wiggins to business man Mr. Tudball ("Burnett" "newcomer" Tim Conway). The aforementioned two-hour series finale, which aptly is titled "A Special Evening with Carol Burnett," finds Eunice in therapy and Wiggins and Tudball reminiscing about how she comes to work for him. Both end on perfect notes for these characters.

"Best" additionally includes copious amounts of film and television parodies for which "Burnett" is especially well known. These include the classic "Lovely Story," which has Burnett and Korman play the absurdly devoted homely working-class coed and ultra-wealthy and handsome preppie couple from "Love Story." Another especially memorable sketch has Burnett as a typical housewife whose items come to life to recite the slogans associated with them.

On a larger level, Burnett shows an awesomely progressive attitude right from the first episode in which Nabors repeatedly mines humor from playing the part of a love-struck woman; a later episode in the set has Burnett laud a drag queen and has that up-and-comer perform her Streisand impersonation. This is on top of numerous good-natured gay jokes throughout the series.

Burnett shows her typical grace in the S1 season finale, which she dedicates to her cast to the extent of having them answer questions in the cold open. A similar theme pervades the series finale, which highlights the contributions of all. One of several special finale moments for Lawrence is a 1973 clip of her singing her gold record song "The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia" on the show; Lawrence joking regarding the clip that Burnett was kind to let Lawrence (rather than Burnett) sing the song on the show illustrates the aforementioned chemistry among the cast.

Additional nostalgia in the final episode comes in the form of Burnett showing the many looks of her and Nabors during the 11-year run of the series.

The best way to wrap up these thoughts is to paraphrase the comments of Burnett, which reflect those of the fans. She admits that not every sketch succeeds but states that the ones that do are timeless; she further notes that she shows that good humor does not require using foul language or raunchy themes. It is almost certain that most episodes will prompt laughing out loud at least once.

The aforementioned extras include an (of course laugh-a-second) blooper reel.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

'Flatliners' ('90) BD: Designated Survivor Kiefer Sutherland Leads Rogue Med Students on Live-Die-Repeat Adventure

The Mill Creek Entertainment September 26, 2017 Steelbook Blu-ray/DVD release of the 1990 Joel Schumacher version of the horror film "Flatliners" looks and sounds amazing and proves that this film aces the test of time. It also makes a great Halloween season companion to the (Unreal TV reviewed) October 3, 2017 Mill Creek 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release of "The Night of the Living Dead."

Many factors contribute to the appeal of this film that has Kiefer Sutherland play a med student who leads his classmates in experiments to determine what happens when you die. On a general level, folks who just check out "Flatliners" to see Sutherland and co-stars Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon probably will enjoy it more based on the film exceeding their expectations.

"Flatliners" additionally hits the "Baby Bear" sweet spot regarding the balance between art and commerce for which Hollywood studio films should strive. Hiring Schumacher of "The Lost Boys" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and the hot young actors (as well as Billy Baldwin and Oliver Platt) demonstrates a reasonable profit motive. Schumacher and his team doing well with a story that has depth provides a good dose of art.

"Flatliners" opens with ominous (perfect-for-Blu-ray) "Omen" style music as Sutherland's Nelson races across campus and peeks in the muraled abandoned room (spectacular in Blu-ray) where he is going to conduct his experiments.

These opening scenes also establish Roberts' Rachel as a compassionate practitioner obsessed with near-death experiences, Bacon's David as a rogue rebel who rappels from his apartment window down the side of his building and drives an Army surplus truck merely to show that he is a stud, Baldwin's Joe as a Lothario who secretly videotapes his do-'em-and-dump-'em conquests, and Platt's Randy as arguably the most egotistical medical student ever.

These introductions lead to Nelson approaching each of them to confirm their participation in the initial experiment that evening; the simple concept is that that team will perform a carefully orchestrated procedure that will very briefly kill Nelson and revive him. The objective is that he will recall what he experiences during his short dirt nap.

The essential dream sequence (which also makes perfect use of Blu-ray) during the death of Nelson opens with a gorgeous scene of young boys and a dog running through a field of yellow flowers. This soon turns to dark and scary woods (once more looking great in Blu-ray) in which the now-feral boys are pelting a terrified treed lad with rocks.

Nelson returns to the land of the living with total recall regarding the experience described above. The real terror begins when it seems that hitchhikers from the other side are haunting him on this side. The worst part of this is that the bullied boy is pummeling Nelson hard enough to inflict serious damage.

The experiences of the others similarly evoke thoughts from deep in their psyches and bring their own personal Hells literally and figuratively to life; these post-death terrors take the predictable tolls on the minds and the bodies of our heroes.

Cracking the code to putting the aforementioned demons to bed prompts Nelson to go to extreme measures to avoid all the impact of a beat-down by a super-powered nine-year-old boy; this prompts his team to take their own drastic actions. Suffice it to say, none of them come out unscathed.

The aforementioned depth extends beyond this vision of what happens when we die; ambiguity exists regarding the extent to which the experiences of the group are actual or simply reflect the greatest source of their guilt or other tremendous angst. That it turn raises the issue of whether our worst misdeeds/most severe traumas truly consume our thoughts in our last seconds of life. All of this would justify the tag line "Be A Freud, Be Very A Freud."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Flatliners" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

'All the Sins of 'Sodom' & 'Vibrations' BD: '60s Sexplotation Double Feature by 'Chekov of Soft-Core' Jospeh Sarno

Fans of Indie film god Film Movement (and of Unreal TV) already know of '60s and '70s artistic soft-core pornography god Joe Sarno through prior Movement releases. This relationship with the man dubbed "The Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street" begins with the (reviewed) Movement September 2014 DVD release of the documentary "My Life in Dirty Movie" about "Sarno." Movement follows this up with the (also reviewed) Film Movement Classics October 2016 Blu-ray double feature of the Sarno films "Vampire Ecstasy" and "Sin You Sinners."

The double-feature is the first release in the Movement Joseph W. Sarno Retrospective Series; a Classics September 26, 2017 Blu-ray release of a double feature consisting of the shot back-to-back Sarno '68 films "All the Sins of Sodom" and "Vibrations" is the second in this series.

Watching the black-and-white "Sodom" and "Vibrations" reinforces the aforementioned comparison to Begrman and a reference to Woody Allen in the "Movies" review. "Sodom" centers around the studio of photographer Henning, who specializes in sensually erotic images of women; the very hirsute Dan Machuen who plays Henning also is aptly billed as "hairy man" in "Vibrations."

Henning happily spends his days photographing nude and nearly nude women and his nights having sex with them only to discard them in both regards the morning after; this pattern changes in both regards in the 24 hours following model Leslie showing up for a layout. Maria Lease plays both Leslie and trouble-making sister Julie in "Vibrations."

Newly homeless model Joyce showing up the morning after Henning and Leslie seal their deal contributes the Sodom element to the sins that occur in the studio/home of Henning. Joyce portrayor Sue Akers does not appear in "Vibrations."

Morris Kaplan, who is the real-life still photographer for both "Sodom" and "Vibrations," also deserves a shout out for his roles in "Sodom" and "Vibrations." The performance of Kaplan as "Carlton the Doorman" style "elevator operator" in "Sodom" proves the adage that there are no small parts. He does even better in in the larger part of dreamy aspiring novelist Dick Parrish in "Vibrations."

Joyce the nymph in "Sodom" evolves from being a wildly self-pleasuring voyeur as Henning and Leslie have sex on the other side of a thin divider to being much more bold. Her overt adventures begin with seducing a reluctant female model, move on to actively striving to create the bad kind of friction between Henning and Leslie, and ultimately showing that three's company.

"Vibrations" centers around mid-west girl Barbara (Marianne Prevost who plays "Actress" in "Sodom") in New York to make it big as a writer but types manuscripts to pay the rent on her run-down apartment. This time, Barbara is the voyeur who hears her rich party-girl neighbor use her vibrator to pleasure herself and her friends in the apartment that this heiress rents solely for this purpose.

The trouble-making interloper this time is Barbara sister Julie, who forces her sibling to shelter her in the wake of Julie ending the latest in a long string of failed heterosexual relationships. Julie looking to live a highly irresponsible life on the limited income of Barbara is only part of the problem.

These sisters having the same names as the mid-west Cooper siblings in the Norman Lear '70s sitcom "One Day at a Time," and that Julie being the wild child to good girl Barbara makes one wonder if Sarno inspires Lear.

Julie is very aggressive regarding her desire to relive old times with Barbara, to join in the fun next door with the heiress and "hairy man" (and to get Barbara to be more neighborly in that regard),  and to get a man of her own. That third desire particularly hinders Barbara and Parrish living happily ever after.

The incredibly erotic bondagastic final scene in "Vibrations" screams for making the obvious reference to it being climatic. It further should prompt every adult female viewer to shout "Alexa, order a vibrator" and every man to wish that he could experience the intense pleasure that such a device apparently provides.

The effective smoking a cigarette after watching "Vibrations" is in the form of a interview with Sarno. A time constraint that required a virtual walk of shame at the end of "Vibrations" required postponing that pleasure for another day. "Movies," "Sodom," and "Vibrations" strongly indicate that that discourse is highly satisfying.

The "parting gift" from Movement, which always calls the next day, is a booklet that features liner notes by film expert Tim Lucas. The clear expertise of Lucas regarding both Sarno makes one look forward to the upcoming book by that author about that auteur.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

'Stay Dog' DVD: Doc. on Vietnam Vet/Biker/Dog Lover

The Icarus Films September 26, 2017 DVD release of the 2014 Bullfrog Films documentary "Stay Dogs" is the latest proof that the the partnership of these companies is a match made in Heaven. This cinema verite portrait of the titular Missouri Vietnam vet/trailer park owner/biker/step father to twin Mexican teen boys shows that you cannot judge a scruffy tattooed book by its cover.

The accolades for writer/director Debra Granik of the similar themed Oscar-nominated fictional film "Winter's Bone" include a plethora of festival awards. Highlights are Best Documentary wins at the Los Angeles, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Memphis Film Festivals.

The following YouTube clip of a theatrical trailer for "Dog" does a good job creating a portrait of the subject in roughly two minutes.

Granik chooses wisely in selecting Ronnie "Stray Dog" Hall as a guide to the modern rural South. His beard, tattoos, big belly, and overall dirty appearance fit right in with his world of bikers and trailer park residents. The surprise comes when you learn that this lover of small dogs and children alike is very sensitive and caring.

This makes a good subject because the South is part of the country known as the "fly over" region for a good reason. Most of us on both coasts know little about the people who inhabit the real America where there is not a Starbucks on every corner and the sources of aggravation extend far beyond gridlock and not having a strong cell signal.

On the Vietnam side, we see Hall regularly attend ceremonies for POW and MIA soldiers from that war. He also shows understanding for those of us who do not understand what those guys experienced over there. His largest show of support involves participating in the annual motorcycle pilgrimage to the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.

We further see Hall as a good friend to folks who include a buddy undergoing extensive dental care after ignoring his teeth for years; this compassion extends to a teen granddaughter, who is experiencing the dual challenges of being a Millennial and lacking a good education.

These aspects of the life of Hall provide the aforementioned interesting perspective of lower-class rural America; however, Hall having Mexican wife Alicia after several years of living alone with his small dogs is the most fascinating aspect of the film. These worlds fully collide on Alicia gently but firmly urging Hall to shampoo his beard and he being just as adamant about going no further than rinsing it out with water.

The love of Hall for his wife comes through very strong in scenes of him learning Spanish online. Her twin sons Jesus and Angel later using the same technique to learn English provides a nice sense of reciprocity.

Speaking of the sons, the cutest and funniest scene of "Dog" involves these adorable boys using a Spanish-English dictionary to look up a word that Hall regularly uses only to have the translation confuses them. A spoiler is that Hall is not referring to a small domesticated feline.

The boys telling the folks back home that America is not nearly as nice as Mexico offers another interesting perspective.

Granik provides satisfying closure in ending the film with a scene that reflects every aspect of the life of Hall and that of the rural South generally.

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

'Porky Pig 101' DVD: Awesome Collection of Swinest From Looney Tunes Superstar

The incredible numbers associated with the Warner Archive September 19, 2017 DVD release "Porky Pig 101" make doing this literally historic set justice impossible in a digestible online review.

The 101 theatrical  cartoons (presented in chronological order) in the 5-disc set total roughly roughly 12.5 of piggy goodness. They also span the period from the 1935 premiere of the Porky in "I Haven't Got a Hat" to his history-making 1943 cartoon "Porky Pig's Feat" in which he and regular co-star Daffy Duck make their first joint appearance with Bugs Bunny.

Watching the first several cartoons on each disc and finishing with "Feat" provides a good overview of the evolution of Porky while leaving plenty for subsequent viewings.

The aforementioned premiere "Hat" further is notable for also marking the first appearance of Beans the cat, who receives top billing. The premise of this one is that everypig Porky, tough-guy problem cat Beans, and their equally stereotypical elementary school classmates stage a recital. Stuttering from the outset Porky starts things off with a hilariously dorky recitation of the poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" complete with pantomime. For his part, Beans is expressing his pre-adolescent frustration by tormenting and otherwise wrangling with nerdy Oliver the Owl and other classmates.

The distinctions of "Hat" additionally include the appearance of Pork being far different than the pig whom we know and love today. Even as a grade-schooler, he is much taller and stouter than his more common incarnation. Further, his facial features lean more heavily to the porcine side, and he is not nearly as jolly as the fellow who is prone to wearing blazers and bow ties. The differences conclude with Beans having the honor of uttering "That's All Folks" at the end of the cartoon.

Beans and Porky team up a few more times in "101." The best of this good lot is "Gold Diggers of [18]49," which has Beans striking it rich in a very amusing manner prompting Porky and the other town folks to conduct a mini gold rush. Porky offering Beans a controversial reward in exchange for a coveted treasure ends with one of the best ever twists in a cartoon.

Porky is the aforementioned new pig by the time that he is first paired with regular girlfriend Petunia Pig in 1937; "Porky's Romance" starts out with Petunia literally slamming the door in the face of Porky only to invite him in on seeing that he comes bearing gifts; this leads to a harshly rejected proposal, which leads an incredibly dark moment for animated and live-action films alike. This leads to Porky getting a look at a possible future that prompts a highly satisfying change of heart.

Both the introduction of Petunia and the plot in "Romance" indicate the influence of the "Popeye" theatrical shorts of the same era. The titular sailor man and his main squeeze Olive Oyl could have starred in "Romance" word-for-word and shot-for-shot. A vague memory is that that pair star in a very similar cartoon.

The Porky/Petunia cartoon "Porky's Picnic" enhances the Popeye vibe by including baby Pinky Pig, who either is a nephew of Petunia or is proof that she is a fallen pig. The mischievous Pinky puts Porky in precarious situations that ultimately would prompt his naval counterpart to down a can of spinach.

The Tex Avery cartoon "Porky's Duck Hunt" has an evolved Porky gunning for an early crude version of Daffy Duck; "Hunt" also is notable for being one of the few Warner cartoons in which Barnyard Dog appears outside the Foghorn Leghorn series. The real payoff in this one comes when Daffy and his clan flock around simply to harass Porky.

As mentioned above, Porky and a fully evolved Daffy round out the collection with "Feat." This one follows the fairly standard pattern of the pairings of these characters in every sense of the word. Daffy showing his usual lack of impulse control results in the duo being unable to pay their bill at aptly named Broken Arms Hotel; this leads to comic mayhem as the hotel manager goes after these deadbeats to pay up.

The audio commentary by film director Joe Dante points out the minimalist style of the cartoon and the fact that the very clever cameo of Bugs Bunny marks the first appearance of these three members of the Lonney Tunes royal family in the same short.

The bigger picture this time is that they simply cannot make 'em like this anymore. The classic artists (including Avery and Ub Iwerks) and the voice talent (including Mel Blanc) sadly are gone. Further, killjoys no longer allow hilarity in the forms of knocks on the head and shotgun blasts to the face that represent the all-time best cartoon violence.

One can only hope that Archive gives Bugs, Daffy, et al. the same royal treatment in future releases.

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

'The Hidden' BD: 'Freebie and the Bean' Meets 'Starman'

The Warner Archive September 12, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1987 sci-fi cop-buddy thriller "The Hidden" awesomely shows Millennials that presenting a quality story about evil aliens does not require an astronomical FX budget. 

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Hidden" demonstrates an especially strong eye for highlighting most of the '80stastic best scenes in the film.

The opening credits cleverly showing grainy black-and-white bank surveillance camera footage of a robbery immediately establishes that "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2" director Jack Sholder knows his stuff; this scene leading to a destructive high-speed chase is the first of many indications that "Hidden" makes a good double feature with the (Unreal TV reviewed) Archive BD release of the '70s cop-buddy dramedy "Freebie and the Bean." Subsequent chase and other cliches of that genre throughout "Hidden" validate that pairing.

The bank robber absorbing a great deal of physical trauma before being subdued is the first hint that he is not from around here; another early scene confirms that suspicion.

Meanwhile back at the precinct, police detective Tom Beck (Michael Nouri of "Flashdance") coincidentally is a center of attention leading up to being assigned to assist Seattle-based FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher with investigating the robber. The numerous similarities between Gallagher and Dale Cooper of "Twin Peaks" make that "Hidden" role great training for Kyle MacLachlan to subsequently play Cooper. One difference is that Gallagher lacks an obsession with coffee. 

The powers-that-be planning the security for a speech by a U.S. senator who is preparing to run for president bellows foreshadowing; suffice it to say, the audience is not disappointed.

The asserted hook that brings the feds on the case is that the robber is a previously law-abiding citizen who recently suddenly goes on a crime spree that includes stealing expensive cars and showing no regard for human life.

Our detectives then engage in room temperature pursuit as the big bad remains one step (and meat suit) ahead of them. Scenes of mayhem at a Ferrari dealership during this portion of the film provide wonderful doses of both senseless violence and of the "me generation" aspect of the '80s. Additionally, recent real-life car buyers will realize that their dealer having free snacks is less generous than previously believed.

Another highlight is an "exotic dancer" who shows the boys that they better respect her; the best scene in the film has Gallagher demonstrate  a serious limitation regarding the tech. required to stop the carnage; we further learn that you sometimes must fight fire with fire.

MacLachlan does a good job providing an increasingly strong sense that he is hiding several secrets; this (of course) leads to his being taken off the case until escalating mayhem requires going rogue and putting him back in action. 

As indicated above, the climax of the film centers around the speech of the senator; our boys (of course) get their man. Additionally, Gallagher puts his special hidden talents to good use.

The always special Archive bonus features include audio commentary by Sholder and writer Tim Hunter; Sholder also separately narrates a compilation of special-effects production footage.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dinomite Chat With Kathy "Holly" Coleman of 'Land of the Lost' is Fanboy Dream Come True

A telephone conversation with Kathy Coleman, who is best known for portraying spunky teen tomboy Holly Marshall in the classic '70s live-action Krofft Saturday morning Jurassic Camp series "Land of the Lost," fulfilled a decades old fantasy.

Loving (and reviewing) recent Coleman autobiography "Run, Holly, Run" (title courtesy of co-star/'70s teen idol/surrogate big brother Wesley Eure) prompted reaching out to her. She awesomely immediately responded, and we gabbed the next day.

As readers of both "Run" and the sadly unavailable first Coleman (who prefers going by Kathleen) autobiography "Lost Girl" know, this natural talent is a survivor of a psychotically abusive ex-husband and decades of other horrific traumas. This on top of the celebrity curse of constant approaches by fans who feel entitled to invade her personal and emotional space reasonably make her a little guarded. However, her love of people and desire to delight them counters this by both making her very open about her life and a charming conversationalist.

The aforementioned candidness included Coleman stating regarding "Run" that she wanted that book to "open the curtains to the windows of my soul."

The "righteous dudette" moment that most Unreal TV celebrity interviews contain came after Colemen once more discussed how her life literally was an open book. This prompted showing a little reciprocity in sharing that a "Lost" episode with a wholesome element of sexuality regarding both Coleman and Eure was a favorite for that reason. Eure was shirtless and wearing cutoffs, and Coleman was wearing a Daisy Duke outfit complete with her own cutoffs.

Coleman awesomely replied with a story of common occurrences at fan events. She shared that she and Eure sit side-by-side and that a man walked up and said "I had a crush on you." Coleman then started talking to the man only to have him reply that he was speaking to Eure.

The next part of the story was a variation in that Eure would bat his eyes in response to other fans confessing to a crush only to have them state that they were talking to Coleman. Both stars having such a nice attitude regarding every aspect of that reinforces that what you see on screen reflects real life.

Portrait of the Artist as a Child Star

The accounts in "Run" on the early career of Coleman prompted asking about those years specifically and the life of a child star in general.

Coleman politely asserted that her mom was a stereotypical stage mother but that she "never forced me into the business; never took advantage of me."

The provided perspective was a variation of "Goldilocks" in the form of three siblings sitting in front of a television. One sibling was eating and not paying much attention to the program; the other one was watching the program, and the third one was dancing. "I [Coleman] was the kid who was dancing when I was watching TV."

Coleman added that she wanted to entertain people and that friends of her mother who saw both her zeal to perform and her talent encouraged a variation of "The Beverly Hillbillies" in urging the family to move from Massachusetts to Hollywood to allow Coleman to let her star fully shine. Folks who are familiar with "Lost" know part of the story of how that worked out.

This portion of the discussion included Coleman repeating a few times that her circumstances would have been roughly the same if she had worked delivering papers. This youngest in a family of 10 kids noted that whichever of those offspring worked contributed to the family to the extent feasible considering the employment.

Discussing whether Coleman ever engaged in obnoxious behavior based on her celebrity status earned the reply that her mother saw to that her daughter never got star treatment.

Hilarity ensued when Coleman shared that watching other kids in the business trying to cope a 'tude prompted her to try doing the same. She then laughed and stated that she was not as good at it. She noted that "to be a bitch is not natural for me" and added that she enjoyed making people happy.

Minor Consideration

A section in "Run" in which Coleman diplomatically discusses outreach by an unnamed group provided a personally golden opportunity to get the perspective of a former child star regarding an organization with which this site has a brief history. Anyone with any familiarity with the non-profit child star advocacy and support group A Minor Consideration could have deduced that that was the entity to which Coleman referred in "Run."

Online research years ago created a personal sense that Consideration (founded and run by former child star Paul Petersen of the 'Donna Reed Show' sitcom) was a bit heavy-handed; a subsequent interview with Petersen enhanced that vibe but did not create any desire to grind any axes. The chance to ask a former child star who seemed to receive unsolicited attention from that organization was a golden opportunity to obtain insight into the workings of what Unreal TV considers (and that Petersen agrees) is "the anti-Scientology."

Coleman began by saying that "I [Coleman] had my own experience with him [Petersen]." She added that she was "all for" the group if a current or former child star needed it. Her personal perspective regarding the challenges that members of that group faced was "I don't want to sit around saying poor pitiful me, show business did this to me."

This led to Coleman making the apt comparison to Alcoholics Anonymous in stating that not everyone realized that every person with a drinking problem needed to attend meetings of that group. She added that addressing her personal challenges related to drinking did not require hearing the experiences of other people who were facing comparable challenges.

Eure the Best

Coleman stating that she and Eure are "more like a real brother and sister than people can even understand." My referring to a hilarious story in "Run" in which Coleman tells of a fully clothed Eure jumping into the sleeping bag of an equally dressed Coleman and saying "Dad's gone" during a filming of a "Lost" episode elicited the exciting news that "Wesley still loves to tease me."

An example of this love extending to co-star Phillip Paley, who played the ape-boy like Cha-ka on "Lost" was learning that this trio had no objections when they had to share a hotel room while appearing at a fan event. Coleman stated that they would have a great time that included epic slumber parties.

Fans v. Fanatics 

An early exchange in the conversation with Coleman illustrated her aforementioned valid caution regarding people who approach her. I told her that I interviewed Eure years ago after he replied when I sent him my review of the then-recent complete-series DVD release (complete with lunch box!) of "Lost." I also asked that she please tell Eure that he and I had spoken merely thinking that Eure might say "Hey, I remember that guy."

Coleman very nicely replied without a touch of anger that fans wrongly assumed both that they knew celebrities based on watching their shows but that that experience did not provide that intimacy. She added "it is an obligation to give back" and that she enjoyed doing so.

I did not take any offense and assured Coleman that I fully understood her persepcctive and appreciated the time that both she and Eure gave me and then tried to assure her that I was not a stray kitten who took being given a one-time saucer of milk as an invitation to move in. I emphasized that I never would have knowingly put Eure on the spot.

This led to discussing fans (such as your not-so-humble reviewer) as opposed to fanatics. The response of Coleman to being asked about her weirdest fan was "in the years that I have been involved in this whole thing most people only have good wishes."

Coleman added that fans have shared some of the most wonderful stories; the best of these involved kids whom the show inspired to be archaeologists and scientists.

One amusing bad experience was the tale of a man who aggressively requested an interview and squandered the minute allocated for that exchange to ask Coleman if his shirt made him look fat and then showed her his ginormous stomach.

Here and Now

The final section of "Run" discussing the making of a modern documentary on getting the band back together prompted asking Coleman about the complications associated with that project. She provided little reason to hope that that film would be released. The better news was that Eure had simultaneously filmed the group on his smart phone and MAY release that footage.

Coleman perfectly brought things full circle in sharing that her reasons for writing her autobiographies were fans approaching her with misperceptions regarding a movie star having an easy life. Coleman shared that (as her books showed) her life was far from that of the public image of Hollywood royalty and specifically that "my life has not been any easier because of my career."

She added that she had not appeared in any movie until recently filming one. This project is the 2017 indie production "Fault" on the underground world of betting on professional tennis. Coleman stated that she did not know whether that film would premiere theatrically or on television.

Thanks for the Memories

As mentioned above, the chance to converse with Coleman was a treat in itself; learning both that she is as caring as her public persona and is not a "I only want to discuss my current projects" type made my eon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

'Sign Painters' DVD: Documenting the Art of Outdoor Advertising

The quartet of documentaries that Film Movement is separately releasing on September 26, 2017 is very true to the spirit of the international indie films that comprise the bulk of the Movement catalog. The common elements Movement films are that they provide insightful perspectives in manners that emphasize art over commerce. 

The range of subjects in the September 26 non-fiction films also reflects the broad scope of Movement films. "Bite Size" examines childhood obesity from the perspectives of four teens battling that condition; "Documented" is the even more fascinating story of  Pulitizer Prize winning journalist/undocumented American immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas. "In Country" shows that battle re-enactments are not just for Civil War buffs by telling the tales of folks who relive Vietnam War events.

The 2014 film "Sign Painters," which documents the lives of specialized commercial artists, is our topic du jour. The film opening with a montage of the "good stuff" that beautifies commercial districts provides the first sense that we are in for something good.

The broad brush approach to the topic encompasses the history of this art, the artisans who create the images that we see virtually everywhere we turn, and the impact of automation on this craft. These viewpoints additionally prompt greater appreciation of illicit cousin graffiti.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Sign" introduces the aforementioned topics and provides a glimpse of the artistry behind presenting them.

The history aspect is relevant today in that the early days of distinguishing the manufacturers of products (e.g., flour) 150 years ago that gives birth to sign painting is a significant leap forward in the grocery industry in the same manner that the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods is the start of a new manner in which the public obtains the consumibles with which to stuff its gullets.

Hearing veteran and rookie artisans discuss their craft surprisingly is much more interesting than watching paint dry. They all love their work, are a wonderfully supportive community, and have great stories. The tale of a 20-something woman whose career begins with the mother of a high school friend encouraging this budding artist by hiring this teen to paint a sign for her business encompasses most of the awesome aspects of the film.

This former high schooler is a novice sign painter struggling with one of her first professional assignments when a man on a bicycle rides up to offer advice, and pedals off into the sunset on achieving his mission.

Another memorable story is a kind and gentle account of the commerce of art. A veteran painter uses a direct comparison of his work to the (not much less expensive) products of two competitors to simultaneously show that you get what you pay for and that quality does not cost much more.

Demonstrating the impact of technology on the sign painting industry is another example of the film meeting the documentary ideal of equally educating and entertaining. The veterans discussing a lack of concern regarding the introduction of basic computers in the '80s hits home for many folks sharing early confidence regarding the inability of a machine to do his or her job. This subject then addresses how technical advances and a general desire to reduce expenses is behind sign painting being a dying art. An equally distressing aspect of this is showing how buying a sign with vinyl letters illustrates that you get what you pay for.

The bigger picture is that the aforementioned opening montage demonstrates the historic significance of sign painting. The name of a business or a product remains on the brick walls of many older buildings across the country sometimes decades after the proprietorship or company making the advertised good is no more.

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

Shot' Theatrical: Noah Wylie Compelling Take on Gun Violence

"ER" and "Falling Skies" star (and Thacher School alum) Noah Wylie puts his celeb status to good use in the indie drama "Shot," which hits theaters on September 22, 2017. Wylie, who also is a producer, plays sound engineer/gun violence victim Mark Newman.

The literally opening images of "Shot" are of an Old West shootout that creates an impression of watching the wrong film. The context is provided roughly a minute later on learning that under-the-gun (pun intended) Mark is working on a Western. The symbolism that begins with focusing on this genre that glorifies gun use continues with Mark enthusiastically promising to enhance the impact of the sound of the gun shots.

We next see Mark eating lunch with his estranged wife Phoebe; their major points of conflict include Mark wanting to take her espresso machine.

A completely random bullet hitting Mark as the pair leaves the restaurant sets the stage for an "ER" style dramatization. We see Mark bleeding out on the sidewalk, the frantic efforts to get an ambulance, the rush on the gurney to the operating room, the surgery, and the period following the surgery.

"Shot" parallels this with the sympathetic story of the shooter. Miguel is a bullied teen who valid angst extends well beyond being physically pummeled. He accidentally shoots Mark while holding a gun that he wants so he can have an upper hand over his bullies. A largely split-screen presentation shows a panicked Miguel dispose of the gun and work his way home as Mark deals with the consequences of being on the other end of the inadvertently fired weapon.

The audience sees Mark struggle with the emotional and the physical impact of his greatly altered life while Miguel has just as much trouble contending with his guilt.

A side aspect of this is the Mark/Phoebe relationship. Having one foot out the door when the once significant person in your life has an enormous setback requires the tough choice of whether to keep walking, stick around fully out of a sense of guilt, or rekindle the relationship based either on realizing that losing that person for good would be rough or on the experience making the victim a better person.

The understandable desire for revenge that Mark experiences climaxes when he and Miguel come face-to-face. Much of the power of these scenes relates to the inability of each character to fully understand the perspective of the other. However, they at least get to see the face of the person who is responsible for a large change in their life.

The impact of "Shot" continues to the very end with scrolled statistics on gun violence in the U.S. and information about addressing that issue.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

'Long Live Freedom' DVD: Patty Duke Show Style Farce on Italian Politics

The Icarus Films September 26, 2017 DVD release of the 2013 Italian policom Long Live Freedom (nee "Viva la Liberta") provides additional hope that this New York based distributor of "innovative and provocative" documentaries will continue increasing its catalog of equally stimulating fictional  European films to a level that equals the documentary catalog.

This tale of an Italian senator/opposition party secretary under siege having his twin brother with "issues" of his own is a fantabulous mash-up of "The Patty Duke Show" and the Peter Sellers movie "Being There" in which the wisdom of the fool whom Sellers plays makes him a respected adviser. On a broader level, the absurd view of the inner workings of national politics evokes strong feelings of the Emmy-laden Julia Louis Dreyfus sitcom "Veep."

The accolades this time are especially well-deserved and plentiful. They include a 2015 CinEuphoria Top 10 of the Year award for writer/director Roberto Ando and a 2103 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists award for the screenplay of the film. The cases in which "Freedom" is nominated is cause more to assert "they waz robbed" than that it is a honor to be nominated.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Freedom" highlights the Italian charm of this delightfully quirky film. It further reinforces that the movie could be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the United States and still make sense.

Italian film royalty Toni Servillo outdoes himself in his dual roles of Sen. Emrico Oliveri and Oliveri identical twin Giovanni Ernani. This performance begins in the opening scenes that show Oliveri initially tripping up his companions by stopping to tie his shoes en route to an obviously important event; this soon leads to a "you should have gone before we left the house" moment just before Oliveri is set to address the party loyalists whom he has let down.

This leads to Oliveri abruptly deciding to disappear for a while without providing even his close aides advance notice. The search for him leads to Ernani, who spontaneously and unexpectedly begins impersonating his brother. The twist is that this recent "guest" of a psychiatric institution does a better job than his brother. This largely relates to a talent for telling the press and the public alike what they want to hear. This culminates at a rally at which Ernani directly addresses a seemingly random audience member and accurately expresses the hopes and dreams of that Millennial.

The bigger picture is that Ernani effectively takes the controls of a party that is about to crash and burn in an upcoming election and thrusts it back to what may be new highs. In other words, the opposition no longer merely is "not the other guy."

Meanwhile, Oliveri is hiding out in the French home of his former girlfriend, her well-known film director husband, and their young daughter. Although remaining incognito requires not venturing out, Oliveri slowly increases his outside activity as he proportionately involves himself in the lives of his hosts. He further gets several reminders of the joys of a private life free from the intense scrutiny and related pressure of being a prominent politician. This includes a taste of what might have been for him.

A scene in which Ernani (posing as Oliveri) meets with the president of the Republic both is the most important in the film and the most wonderfully bizarre. An aide understandably is nervous that the president will discover the ruse, the president knows that Oliveri is much different than the man whom he knows, and Ernani reverts to his true nature in an incredibly entertaining manner that showcases the versatility of Servillo.

Ando does not disappoint regarding the ending of the film; everyone is a little wiser than he or she is at the beginning and ends up where he or she belongs. Meanwhile, the general populace remains blissfully unaware regarding the extent to which the power brokers deceive them.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

'Jesus' DVD: Dystopian Tale of Feral Youth Powerful Because True

The September 19, 2017 DVD release of "Jesus" further solidifies the leadership of Breaking Glass Pictures regarding art over commence festival and mainstream theatrical releases and DVDs of edgy with a message indie fare. The 2016 Chilean film by "Dog Flesh" director Fernando Guzzoni tells the ripped-from-the-headlines tale of the titular 18 year-old slacker whose daily routine of sex. drugs, rock-and-roll (with heavy doses of violence) abruptly changes on his participation in a brutal gang attack. This release follows an incredible festival run (including the Toronto International Film Festival) and a very recent general theatrical release.

This tale of feral boys struggling with the consequences of mindless violence being fun until someone loses a great deal of blood should seem familiar to folks who have seen the (Unreal TV reviewed) Breaking film "Sins of Our Youth." This one starring Lucas Till of the "X-Men" franchise and the "MacGyver" reboot has Las Vegas teens learn a tough lesson regarding reckless use of firearms. This similarity of films from different nations and settings illustrates the universal problems of letting teen boys run wild.

The fateful night in question in "Jesus" occurs in the wake of this excitable boy (who repeatedly engages in artistic X-rated sex along the Kinsey Scale) and his band greatly altering their consciousness after losing a competition. A "rabbit" running across this band of wolves in a dark cemetery leads to that innocent being horribly beaten and abused in ways that reflect that his most vicious assailants are having trouble accepting their true natures.

Greater symbolism exists regarding Jesus participating in this attack in the wake of telling (mostly absent) dad Hector a story designed to garner sympathy to get money for new eyeglasses and a new cellphone.

Jesus learning the morning after the wilding that the incident essentially is front page news leads to his confiding to his special friend (and more?) with benefits that Jesus is considering calling the police but properly placing most of the blame on the ringleader of the group.

The aftermath of this includes said leader coming after Jesus to "persuade" him to not snitch and Jesus looking to Hector for help.

The depth of the real-life material provides Guzzoni plenty of fodder. Throwing in the name of the main character who is facing dying for his sins and having a father who is struggling with the extent to which he is willing to protect his son brings the story into Biblical territory; this is not to mention the serious betrayal by a close and trusted friend even though the Bible does not indicate that Jesus and Judas engage in the same "sinful" behavior as our lead and his buddy.

The conclusion regarding all this is slightly surprising and a little ambiguous. We know what happens and why but not the motive. We further do not learn the ultimate outcome.

As both "Jesus" and "Sins" indicate, teen boys are wild beasts whom decades of films have shown us are likely to run wild if not provided proper supervision/love and related restraint. Accepting that there are no "bad boys" is tough, believing that these wild ones can at least learn to not indulge their every anti-social desire is easier. This also reduces the collateral damage to innocents, who suffer harm ranging from death to damaged or stolen personal property.

The even larger picture is that these themes reflect the Breaking philosophy of tackling provocative topics in a responsible well-presented manner.

The primary special feature is a 30-minute Q&A with Guzzoni at a Lincoln Center screening of "Jesus." A total of five-minutes of interviews in another feature provides a condensed version of his statements regarding the film and the thoughts of Jesus portrayor Nicolas Duran.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

'Three' DVD: When One Night Ménage Becomes Trois' Company

The recent TLA Releasing DVD set of the gay-oriented Dekko streaming service series "Three" provides food-for-thought for both hetero and homosexual couples who have gone from a honeymoon period to a daily routine. Folks with relevant experience know that this tale of a committed gay couple inviting a third into their home (and bed) is not drama-free because a threeway always leaves someone feeling left out.

The drama begins on the evening before the time-frame of the first episode of "Three." A distraught Dylan is pouring his heart and soul out to neighbor/aging queen Elliott about the horrendous behavior of Dylan partner of five years Patrick at the 40th birthday party of Patrick the night before. It ultimately comes out that the misdeeds of Patrick include chasing hot young things at the party to the extent of expressing a desire to build a nest of t-shirts to make a home for one of the young men in the guest room of the home of Dylan and Patrick.

A subsequent tough "morning after" talk reveals that Patrick still loves Dylan but wants to find a third man to join them for sex; a reluctant Dylan agreeing leads to a hilarious scene in which our boys go online to search of an interested man.

The preparation for the new friend provides additional humor, and the morning after that evening largely is drama-free.

The real problem begins when a very enthusiastic Dylan invites 23 year-old Jason over for an evening of socializing and whatever else might happen. Seeing this trio in bed together the next morning provides a strong sense of "whatever else."

Dylan and Patrick meeting multiple physical and emotional needs of Jason makes him a permanent presence in every room of their home in the same manner that feeding a stray cat makes him your new pet; this creates angst for Dylan, who both is unhappy with arrangement and wonders if Patrick is preparing to trade him in for a newer and sportier model.

Things come to a head in a surprisingly low-key manner in the final episode of the season; Dylan confronts both Jason and Patrick in a manner that requires that all three examine what (if anything) needs to change for them to achieve a reasonable level of happiness.

On a deeper level, "Three" reflects a few truths about gay men that is particularly true of the generations that predate the current era of widespread marriage equality and much less prejudice against boys who like other boys. The obstacles to being fully out and to having a traditional relationship is behind many such men mostly having casual encounters during their 20s. Finding "the one" and settling down is a big and desired change that does not always prevent wanting to once again spice things up a little.

The more general truth that boys generally will be boys also plays a role in that a third wheel intimately befriending a gay couple may turn that interloper into a homewrecker. The member of the couple who considers taking things in a direction that runs that risk must ask himself if embarking on what likely is short-term pleasure worth the risk of losing "the one" and likely ending up like a stereotypical lonely old queen.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

'MGM: When the Lion Roars' DVD: Epic Documentary on a Former Junk Dealer and His Empire

The Warner Archive August 29, 2017 2-disc DVD release of the 1992 made-for-cable three-part six-hour docuseries "MGM:When The Lion Roars" is the most meta item in the lemon-free Archive catalog. On a larger level, this 1992 Emmy winner for Outstanding Informational Series is cinephile porn that is must-own for ANYONE who even sort of likes Archive releases.

The meta element relates to host/narrator Patrick Stewart sharing in Part I (titled "The Lion's Roar") of "Lion" that movie-chain owner Marcus Loew financially backs essentially real-life "son" of a "Sanford and Son" "empire." Loew supports Louis B. Mayer deserting the family scrap-metal business to enter the movie business to provide Loew a steady stream of quality movies for his theaters. A big part of this plan is the commitment of Mayer to produce one full-length good-quality feature film a week.

A SPOILER is that this series ends with Ted Turner purchasing MGM primarily to acquire the film library that includes the oh-so-many classics that "Lion" lauds. A primary motivation of Turner is to acquire material for his cable networks ala Loew backing the studio decades earlier to have something to project on his screens. The metaness continues with subsequent events leading to DVD releases of MGM films heavily contributing to the ability of Archive to remain in business.

The final bit of commentary on this subject is that Turner buying MGM to air its films and cartoons on his networks blindingly outshines The Learning Channel providing "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a home and American Movie Classics filling its schedule with weekly television series. This is not to mention the complete lack of music on Music Television.

Another general theme that pervades "Lion" is the emphasis of Mayer on making films that provide escape from macro and micro woes; this is exactly in line with the Unreal TV philosophy that fictional series that range from the sublime to the awesomely ridiculous have infinitely more value than reality shows. A personal "Lion" meta element of this is you not-so-humble reviewer often turning to the (former Warner division) Rhino Video DVDs of the daddy of all '60s fantasycoms "My Favorite Martian" during a particularly stressful summer.

The aforementioned Roaring '20s history in Part I of "Lion" largely focuses on the role of 20-something boy genius/former Mr. Norma Shearer Irving Thalberg, who literally is with Mayer from day one. While Mayer is the expert at spotting talent (including Great Garbo) and keeping every MGM employee (some that you recognize and some that you hardly even heard of) in line, Thalbnerg is the logistics geek who largely is responsible for maintaining the aforementioned ambitious production schedule. He further can be considered the inventor of the modern focus group.

This episode additionally provides a fairly comprehensive history of the early days of the Hollywood system. We get the story behind the original "Ben Hur" and other silent classics, as well as learning that the impact of talkies on actors extends beyond ruining the careers of stars who demonstrate that they are to be seen and not heard.

Much of this comes from the horses' mouths in the form of MGM staffers and stars of the era in archival interviews and sessions filmed for "Lion." The most notable of theses is First Lady of the American Theater Helen Hayes.

The two-part "The Lion Reigns Supreme" starts with the '30s and largely focuses on the MGM stars of the era while giving the behind-the-scenes folks their due. The talking heads this time include "Tarzan" franchise star Maureen O'Sullivan, (Unreal TV reviewed) "Andy Hardy" franchise star Mickey Rooney, and (Unreal TV reviewed) "Dr. Kildare" film franchise star Lew Ayres discussing their roles in those series.

We further get former child stars Rooney, Jackie Cooper, and Freddie Bartholomew discussing their individual films and the overall role that Mayer expects his youngest contract players to perform. This includes never asking for a raise, always showing up for Sunday afternoon parties at Chez Mayer, and earning their keep.

The best wisdom in the entire series comes from the mouths of these former babes; Cooper discusses not taking his acting seriously until becoming 14 and seeing older boy Rooney showing that kids can perform well; a clip of Rooney that follows validates the statement of Cooper. Rooney shares that "I once lost $2 at the track; I spent $3 million trying to win it back."

The story of Judy Garland dominates the coverage of child stars; her "boys" (especially Rooney) express their love for her; the adults contribute the poignancy in segments that include Garland stating in her 20s that her only regret was not having a childhood.

This review being so long without even mentioning the suspicious deaths, celebrity rumaway bride, and other scandals in "Lion" or the segments on "The Wizard of Oz" and other epic MGM classics of the '30 provide a context for having to mostly limit coverage of Part III of "Lion" to the Turner acquisition. A thoroughly inadequate recap of the studio from the '40s to the '80s is that Vincent Minnelli and others take musicals off the stage into the real world, WWII greatly influences MGM and its actors alike, MGM adapts to the competition from television, seemingly endless power struggles, etc.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

'Sylvia Scarlett' DVD: Hepburn-Grant Comic Victor/Victoria Melodrama Merits an A

Warner Archive once more shows that everything old is new again regarding the August 22, 2017 DVD release of the 1935 George Cukor comic melodrama "Sylvia Scarlett." This first collaboration between Cukor, Katherine Hepburn, and Cary Grant is a mash-up of "Boys Don't Cry" and (the Unreal TV reviewed) "Victor/Victoria." Hepburn plays the cross-dressing titular daughter of embezzler Henry Scarlett (Edmund "Santa" Gwenn), and Grant plays to type as suave jewel thief Jimmy Monkley.

The broad picture (neither pun intended) this time is that "Scarlett" reflects its time in that it shows the fading influence of silent movies, which reflect the influence of live-stage productions. The opening scene in the small Marseilles apartment of Henry and Scarlett has an especially strong stage performance vibe, but the makeup is not as heavy as in early talkies and the emoting only borders the intensity of silents and very early talkies.

Our story begins with Sylvia and recently widowed Henry fleeing France for England to evade the arrest of Henry for "borrowing" funds from his employer. They meet Monkley on a ship to England while Sylvia is disguises as Sylvester Scarlett to as part of her great escape.

The Scarletts soon joining forces with an oblivious Monkley leads to a hilarious early attempt at a grift by Sylvester; their next scheme going better leads to them going "on the road" with new partner-in-crime Maude.

Hilarity (including an early screen girl-on-girl kiss) fully ensues on the troupe befriending noble in title alone artist Michael Fane, who takes an immediate liking to Sylvester and subsequently gives a damn about Sylvia. Loose woman Lily being in the picture complicates the latter relationship.

Much of the "melo" in the dramatic aspects of the film relate to Henry having addictions that make life rough for both him and his offspring. Lily contributes to this element in a pivotal scene that drives the final third of the film. Cukor saves the best hilarity for last regarding this development. We get the treats of Sylvia facing a form of deliverance and also going full Hepburn in defying a traffic cop only to find herself a guest of the king.

The final scenes provide a very satisfying conclusion in this film from the early era of the Hays Code. Everyone gets what he or she deserves, and the required number of feet remain on the ground when unmarried men and women find themselves alone in intimate surroundings.

Archive enhances all this with the apt short and cartoon that seem to be a staple of their DVD releases of Golden Age films.

The 1935 Travel Talk documentary "Los Angeles: The Wonder City of the West," which presumably played with "Scarlett" in theaters, is highly amusing to folks who are not fully hung up on political correctness and who recognize the era in which these films are made. This movie focuses on the influence of Mexico on the City of Angels. Scenes of a Mexican neighborhood in which every man apparently wears a sombrero is adequately amusing from the aforementioned perspective. A highly insensitive shot of a chihuahua sitting in a piece of Mexican pottery is hilarious from the perspective of someone in 2017 watching this 82 year-old film.

The 1935 "Happy Harmonies" (rather than "Silly Symphonies," "Merrie Meoldies," or "Looney Tunes")  cartoon "Alias St. Nick" presumably also accompanied "Scarlett" on the silver screen. This one that has a family of mice attacking a cat who is posing as a pseudo Santa is hilarious from the perspective of someone who has watched 1,000s of violent cartoons without so much as throwing a punch in his life. Mice turning holiday gifts into weapons and a cat ending up with firecrackers in the back of his pants is funny no matter what the killjoys assert.

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

'Freebie and the Bean' Blu-ray: That '70s Cop Buddy Movie

Warner Archive proves that it respects the Silver Age of Hollywood as much as the earlier Golden Age regarding the August 8, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1974 copcom "Freebie and the Bean." This one has James Caan as the ambitious rule-bending San Francisco police detective Freebie and Alan Arkin as his more sedate Mexican-born partner Bean.

The big picture (once again, no pun intended) this time is that "Freebie" is a perfect example of the gritty smash-em-up '70s police television and film dramas with heavy doses of humor. Indirect acknowledgement of this comes in a scene in which Bean compares Freebie to bigot Archie Bunker of the game-changing '70s sitcom "All in the Family."

"Freebie" further demonstrates a 70s-style candidness regarding homosexuality as to a clearly gay character. Our heroes interrogate a boy who likes other boys while he is taking a bubble bath but do not mistreat him any more than any other lowlife who crosses their path.

The following YouTube clip of the Archive promo. for "Freebie" aptly features one of the car chases for which the film is known.

The standard formula this time is that the compulsive determination of our partners to bring down crime boss Red Meyers leads to them arresting him on a massively trumped up charge. This leads to a bargain in which the powers-that-be agree to hold and prosecute Meyers for his actual offenses if our titular detectives can keep him alive despite a contract on his life until the police can track down the known witness who can provide a figurative smoking gun regarding their nemesis.

Serving as bodyguards and otherwise fulfilling their obligation to protect and to serve provides our boys in plainclothes plenty of opportunities for car chases with copious fatalities of the finest from Detroit. The best one has our boys crashing in on homeowners; the most wonderfully cynical chase ends with a truckload of Scotch tipping over and the upstanding citizens of San Francisco rushing to grab that cargo.

Of course, there are the obligatory gun fights. The most creative of these occurs between two glass elevators as they descend several floors.

The '70sliciousness of "Freebie" extends to featuring two leading ladies of the small screen of the era. Loretta Swit of "M*A*S*H" plays the wife of Myers, and Valerie Harper of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the spin-off "Rhoda" is Mrs. Bean. Harper shines in a scene in which she offers a series of absurd excuses when confronted with evidence of infidelity; this is akin to a real-life case of a hotel bellman claiming to need to attend Saturday-night funerals of his grandmother on at least three occasions.

"Freebie" continues following the successful formula of its genre right to the end; the climax centers around a large event and involves copious amounts of flying bullets and Buicks. It additionally includes many more twists and genuine surprises than its brethren. The PERFECT conclusion to all this mayhem provides an spectacular payoff.

The epilogue to this '70s police tale is that they don't make 'em like that anymore and that Archive deserves a citation from the chief for making 'em available,

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

'A Boatload of Wild Irishmen' DVD: Mother of All Documentaries on Father of Genre

The recent Icarus Films DVD release of the 2010 Irish documentary "A Boatload of Wild Irishmen" is tailor-made for the Icarus mission statement of distributing "innovative and provocative documentary films." This movie about "Nanook of the North" auteur Robert Flaherty awesomely analyzes the good, the bad, and the ugly about this undisputed father of documentary films. An especially intriguing look at Flaherty contracting Tundra Fever while filming "Nanook" offers legitimate evidence that non-fiction film is not the only offspring that Flaherty sires out of wedlock.

Although "Irishmen" does not directly address this contrast, the emphasis of the film on the technique of Flaherty using actors to depict actual events and customs differs from the cinema verite form of documentary that simply points the camera at the subject or subjects and typically lacks any narration.

"Irishmen" nicely establishes its theme in the opening moments with footage of the titular rowdies from the 1934 Flaherty documentary "Man of Aran." The footage shows the men out in a small boat during a storm. The narration for "Irishman" states that this a Flaherty-staged scene that effectively disregards the peril of the men for that sake of of "Aran." This incident in turn is the first of many examples of Flaherty staging "reality" to show that movies that depict everyday life can be as exciting (or more so) than fictional films.

Other early segments in "Irishmen" discuss the early life of Irish-American Flaherty and how he comes to make the truly game-changing "Nanook." Learning of the extent to which "Nanook" distorts reality is fascinating.

The skilled examination of the equally notable manner in which Flaherty manipulates life for the sake of his art must alter how any viewer looks at documentaries in the future. A related aspect of the film shows that the element of studios blatantly sacrificing art for the sake of commerce dates back several decades.

The Icarus release of "Irishmen" awesomely coincides with the Icarus 2-DVD set of the (Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "To Tell the Truth." The scope of truth includes a comprehensive exam of the issue of whether a film that tells the truth also can be propaganda. This question is particularly prevalent regarding the look at the Flaherty 1948 film "The Louisiana Story."

Flaherty makes "Story" under a contract with Standard Oil, which openly admits to funding the film to promote its business. The propaganda elements of that film extend well beyond the footage of a cute Bayou boy exploring a swamp with open amazement to Oil requiring that Flaherty include absurd narration with images that include mermaids and werewolves.

The elements of staging and propaganda merge regarding "Story" when failed efforts to fake a rig disaster result in rushing to take advantage of a real accident. "Irishmen" goes one step further in including footage of a cinematographer for "Story" depicting the need to go old school in capturing those images.

All of the reveals regarding the process of making "sausage" are wrapped in a loving tribute to Flaherty. As cliched as this term is, we see the lasting legacy of Flaherty. His actors become stars among their people, his films still regularly screen, and documentarians who come after him use his art as a means to equally educate and entertain while simultaneously enhancing their own commerce.

The Icarus extras include the usually provided awesome written essay on the film subject. The bonus features include the final filmed interview with documantarian Richard Leacock and reminiscences by the boy from "Story" and others familiar with the work of Flaherty.

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

'Wrestling Jerusalem' Theatrical: One-Man Show Provides 17 Perspectives on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The subject of the film version of the unique one-man show "Wrestling Jerusalem" of writer-actor Aaron Davidman makes the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Symphony Space the ideal place for  the  September 12, 2017 New York premiere of this movie. This production, which runs in New York through September 17 ahead of a larger rollout,  having 17 characters whom Davidman brings to life offer perspectives on the seemingly eternal Israeli-Palestinian conflict make good use of a venue named for a Jewish actor associated with a franchise that is well known for tackling tough social issues and equally challenging moral dilemmas; Davidman truly boldly goes where no man has gone before.

The following theatrical trailer for  "Jerusalem" demonstrates the scope and quality of the film; the passion of Davidman is equally clear and infectious.

Davidman channeling the literal and inner voices of Jews and Arabs, young and old, male and female, etc. alone is exceptional; recognizing that there is your side, the view of the other guy, and the truth is award worthy. A related concept is that propaganda that supports your position still is propaganda.

On a more general level, "Jerusalem" includes a primer on Jewish culture and prayers. This is particularly relevant to one whose response to a sign in a synagogue that prohibited opening the door when the ark was open was to ask if faces would melt.

Davidman shifts the action between stage, dressing room, and a desert setting that presumably is in Israel. An early scene in which he is on stage and begins his monologue with "A rabbi walks into a bar ..." is a rare moment of humor in this highly digestible fast-paced and insightful film.

This film by an obviously Jewish man surprisingly portrays several instances of heavy-handed tactics by the Israeli military that include daily harassment of a man who simply needs to commute back-and-forth from the West Bank to work. On the other hand, Davidman criticizes the Palestinians for not taking a deal that he describes as the best that they can expect.

On a more neutral note, Davidman notes that the Israeli military provides advance notice of bombings that have potential for civilian casualties. This reflects the acknowledged sad fact that some targets that must be taken out often are near things such as schools and hospitals.

Davidman additionally has several literal man in the mirror arguments with himself in which he debates both sides. This reflects (pun intended) the mixed feelings of many people. Jewish people have an understandable desire for a homeland in the face of centuries of other groups not treating them so well; at the same time, one can understand the Palestinians wanting what they consider to be their fair share of the region and recognition of their rights.

Davidman earnestly putting several human faces on the conflict further moves things from the abstract to the concrete. Hearing the thoughts of the only Jewish person on a bus going to the West Bank or the story of a young boy who is a victim of the conflict achieves the goal of enhancing the desire of the audience for a sustainable peace.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

'The Apology' DVD: Doc on Japanese Comfort Girls Seeking Justice

The Icarus Films September 5, 2017 DVD release of the 2016 documentary "The Apology" is a perfect example of the "innovative and provocative" non-fiction films that comprise most of the Icarus catalog; this one focusing on the 25 year-old struggle of the "grandmas" to receive an apology and reparations for their tenure as involuntary "comfort girls" during WWII provides the frequent element of social commentary in Icarus DVDs.

A synopsis of the issue is that the atrocities of the Japanese army during WWII include literally and figuratively grabbing teen girls as young as 13 off the streets of Japan and occupied countries and forcing them into service as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

The following YouTube clip of the "Apology" theatrical trailer perfectly conveys the themes and the tone of the film.

A valid desire  for justice prompts these woman (who currently are in their late '80s and early '90s) to begin holding very public weekly protests in 1982; these demonstrations are intended to get the Japanese government to formally apologize to the women and to award them reparations. "Apology" devoting a significant amount of time to the 2,000th demonstration a few years ago illustrates the fortitude of both sides.

Documentarian Tiffany Hsiung focusing on three of the grandmas, who include Grandma Cao in China, puts a very human face on the subject. Grandma Gil in South Korea tells of her angst relating of never telling her husband about that portion of her life before she dies; she also discusses being born and abducted in North Korea but ending up in South Korea and unable to reunite with her family.

Grandma Adela in the Philippines recounts her sudden abduction, She additionally provides a tour of the (now-dilapidated) building that is the site of her imprisonment. Hearing her tell the story of being 14 and confined in a dark room where soldiers would enter and rape her is horrific.

We further see these very fierce (in the good sense) women and their fellow rape survivors push their physical and mental limits to attend the demonstrations and other events that support their cause. This occurring in the face of counter-protesters heaping toxic verbal abuse that no senior ever should have to hear.

The film ends on the same mixed notes of  hope and sadness that reflect both the subject and the tone of "Apology." One hopes that the remaining Grandmas get some peace in the few years that they have left.

Friday, September 8, 2017

'Pitching Tents' DVD: 2017 Teencom About '80s-era Prince of Pennsylvania Coming of Age

The Monarch Home Entertainment August 22, 2017 DVD release of the 2017 Meritage Pictures teencom "Pitching Tents" further solidifies this Tennessee-based home-video company as a good source of indie coming-of-age films. This entertaining film is right at home with the (reviewed) "The Outcasts," and similar angst-with-laughs teen fare from Monarch.

The following YouTube clip of the "Tents" theatrical trailer highlights all the fun and adolescent challenges in this delight.

Considering both the amusing strong slacker vibe in "Tents" and the IMDb synopsis of the film perfectly describing it, it is apt to borrow that summary for this review. That overviews describes "Tents" in the following manner. "In a working-class town in 1984, a high school senior's future creates a tug-of-war between his no-nonsense father and his crackpot guidance counselor until an encounter with a goddess helps him uncover his true destiny."

The central adolescent is everyteen Danny (Michael Grant of "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"). We meet him in his final weeks of his senior year in the aforementioned blue-collar community in which employment at the local steel plant is the highest aspiration for most residents. Danny loves to sketch and is good at it but sees his destiny as joining his aforementioned parent at the plant.

The aforementioned guidance counselor (comedian Jim Norton) Mr. Mulligan enters the picture when this nasty as he wants to be school department employee learns that keeping his job likely requires getting more students accepted at college. This prompts Mulligan to call a contact at a local institution of higher education on behalf of Danny.

Danny receives the news that college is an option and that his father used his clout and made a sacrifice to get Danny a coveted job at the plant on the day before an annual rite of passage for seniors. "Trout Camp" is a blowout wilderness weekend full of drinking, smoking pot, and (hopefully) sex. Part of the mythos of the weekend is "goddess camp" full of beautiful women who apparently greatly desire wild intercourse with nervous inexperienced painfully horny high school boys.

The always entertaining Booboo Stewart of the "Twilight" and "Descendants" franchises plays Danny's charming pot-loving buddy Todd, who is responsible for a 20-something drug dealer crashing the party.

A disruption the first night of the weekend sends the group scattering in a manner in which Danny gets lost in the woods only to find himself in the company of the aforementioned deity. That provides the peace and serenity that he needs to decide whether his destiny lies at the plant, at college, or as an artist.

Some of the ensuing hilarity relates to Dad and Mulligan separately going into the woods in search of Danny. Gleefully burned out older brother Pete largely comes along for the ride.

The textbook coming-of-age ending has Danny initially being a dutiful son but ultimately ending up where he belongs and with Dad coming to terms with that.

All of these themes are very reminiscent of the 1988 Keanu Reeves indie film "The Prince of Pennsylvania." Like Danny, Reeves' Rupert is facing following his father into a life of rough blue-collar work in the Keystone State. The final scene of this one is one of the best of any film.

"Tents" additionally rocks a bodacious alternative soundtrack that includes "Senses Working Overtime" by XTC. The film directly addresses these tunes in a scene that has a buddy of Danny challenging a girl who still likes Rick Springfield in an era in which much more creative stuff is being released. Excitement over a Sony Discman CD player adds related retro fun.

On a larger level, "Tents" is a nice reminder of going to the video store in 1984 to select movies for a Saturday night film festival. The typical schedule was starting with light fare such as "Tents," following with a cool classic such as "Chinatown," and ending the night with something in between in the form of a comedy with some substance or a neo-noir of the era.

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